Las Luchadoras 4

“I see her,” Torque pointed at one end of the stadium with her right hand while she used her left to block her eyes from the sun. She stood on the smooth, white derby track with Jenny, Dirge, and Dread. Jenny saw Bailey coming through the gate and into the stadium. Her long, brown pony-tail bobbed as she jogged towards the girls.

“Awesome, we can get started,” Jenny said.

“Sorry I’m late, minor emergency,” Bailey apologized when she was close enough. “Did you guys run through your gear?” she asked. Torque and Jenny nodded, but Dirge and Dread shook their heads.

“I thought that’s what today was for?” Dirge said.

“No sweat, we can work on that too,” Jenny said. She smiled at Dirge. “I brought a few training scenarios we can try out on the track.” Bailey shook her head at Dirge.

“Saturdays are the only time we get the track. We can’t waste time doing tutorials,” Bailey said. She sounded stern but shrugged. “Can’t be helped, but from now on you’re expected to practice on your own time too. Clear?” She asked Dirge. Dirge pouted slightly and nodded. Her raven curls bounced as she bobbed her head. “Okay, we’ve got a match next week, so let’s make this practice count. First, I need to see what you all can do. Jenny’s the only one that actually tried out,” Bailey said. Jenny held up three nodes in her hand.

“Yeah, the scenarios I brought can,-” Jenny’s suggestion was interrupted by Bailey.

“I’ll look at the scenarios and see if we can use them at our next practice.” She grabbed the nodes from Jenny’s hand. “For now, let’s start with follow-the-leader. Log in.” Bailey stared at the girls but Torque was the only one that pulled her node out. Dread crossed her arms and stood up straighter.

“Jenny is the Captain,” Dread said.

“Yeah! Ms. Sharp said so!” Dirge added. Bailey let out a heavy sigh and brought her hand up to massage the bridge of her nose.

“I’m not going to waste practice time arguing about this. Look, it’s simple. We’re an exhibition team, right?” Dirge shrugged, but Jenny and Dread nodded. “Ms. Sharp wants publicity for the new AlterNet expansion. Anything she says in front of a camera is for the camera. I’m the team captain and Jenny is the attention grabber.”

“That’s not true!” Dirge stamped her foot in frustration. Bailey shrugged.

“She thought this might be a problem.” Bailey turned toward the nearest side of the stadium then yelled at the shadows under the mountain of seats. “JANET!” A black cat with a patch of red fur atop its head stepped out of the shadows and trotted to the group of girls. Jenny noticed the red pattern on the cat’s head resembled a skull when it stopped a few feet from Bailey. It sat and looked up at the girls.

“Kitty!” Dirge yelled, she rushed down to scoop it up.

“Please don’t,” the cat spoke with a gentle female voice.

“OW!” Dirge yelped when her head jerked back; Dread caught her by the hair to hold her back.

“Janet’s a Muerte. She’ll take you to Ms.Sharp,” Bailey turned her attention to Torque. “I’ll work with you until they get back.” Torque nodded. Janet swished her tail and a black hole tall enough for Dread to walk through formed in front of the three girls. Dread walked through first, followed by Jenny then Dirge.

On the other side of the portal, they stepped into a bright, white office. Cherry wood chairs lined a white frosted glass wall. A young woman sat at the receptionist’s desk across from the chairs. Jenny recognized her.

“Hi Melody, can we see Ms. Sharp?” she asked the assistant. She smiled and pointed at the row of chairs. “She’s with someone at the moment, have a seat.”

“Thanks!” Jenny nodded. Before any of the girls sat down a section of the glass wall behind Melody opened. A woman with shoulder length dark brown hair stepped out, followed by Ms. Sharp.

“Get some rest, Charlotte. He’s stable right now, and I have my best medics monitoring him,” Ms. Sharp rested a hand on the woman’s shoulder. The stranger brought a tissue to her eyes to dab away tears then nodded.

“Thank you, Ms. Sharp. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”  The woman turned away and headed toward an elevator that Jenny hadn’t noticed. Ms. Sharp turned her attention to the three girls and smiled at Jenny.

“Come in, let’s chat,” Ms. Sharp said. The three girls stepped forward, but Ms. Sharp held up a hand. “Let’s keep it between us Zeroes,” she added. Jenny turned and winked at Dread with a smile.

“It’s cool, wait here,” she said. Dread nodded and moved to sit down. Dirge sat next to Janet. Ms. Sharp disappeared into her office, and Jenny followed.

“Can I pet you?” Dirge asked the black cat.

“No,” Janet replied and hopped to another seat to put space between her and Dirge.

Jenny stepped into the office and discovered Ms. Sharp was already seated behind a glass desk. Jenny closed the door behind her and sat in the single chair in front of Ms. Sharp’s desk.

“Is Bailey team captain?” Jenny asked the moment she sat. Ms. Sharp smiled.

“Right to the point, I like that,” she nodded. “Yes. I’m sure she told you that you’re only ‘captain’ in public.” Jenny nodded. “It’s true. I’ve  already seen what she can do, but I can’t promote you to captain without seeing what you can do.”

“So, I’m just a token Zero on the team to draw the crowds?” Jenny asked. Ms. Sharp shrugged.

“Are you just a token Zero, or are you something better?” Ms. Sharp leaned forward over the desk and smiled at Jenny. “That’s your decision to make. You’re on the team because you’re good enough. However, with the upcoming expansion, I’d be stupid not to capitalize on having a Zero on the team. No matter how good you are, no one starts at the top.” Ms. Sharp leaned back and shrugged. “No one’s saying you can’t be team captain one day…” Ms. Sharp shrugged with a sharp smile. “.. but for now you have to start at the bottom like everyone else. Are you going to work your way up, or complain about not being there already?” Ms. Sharp raised her eyebrow when she asked Jenny.

“I’m gonna work,” Jenny said. She sat up straighter in her chair. Ms. Sharp smiled.

“‘Atta girl.” Ms. Sharp winked. “Bailey has the experience to run practices, and lead the team on the track. Learn from her and you’ll be the real team captain one day, I’m sure. In the meantime, don’t get caught up in titles. You’re all on the same team,” Ms. Sharp stood from her seat, then walked around the desk. “Anything else?” she asked as she moved towards the door.

“No. I guess that’s it.” Jenny said. Ms. Sharp opened the door.

“Don’t hesitate to see me if you need anything, us Zeroes have to stick together. I’ll assign Janet to be your guardian. If you ever need to see me, she’ll know where I am.” She gestured for Jenny to leave her office.

“I hope to see a great game next week,” Ms. Sharp said, then she closed the door. Dirge and Dread stood from their seats when Jenny walked out.

“Well?” Dread asked.

“Bailey’s the captain,” Jenny said. Then she smiled, “for now.” Dread shrugged.

“If you say so.”  Jenny smiled at the taller girl, then looked for Janet. The black cat sat in a chair waiting patiently.

“Can you get us back to practice, please?” Jenny asked the cat. Janet swished her tail instead of an answer; a black portal opened up for them. The girls walked out of the portal on the side, and into the stadium. Bailey and Torque sat on the penalty bench by the track, seemingly taking a break. Bailey stood when she noticed the girls.

“Everyone on board now?” she asked. The three girls nodded. “Great, let’s go over our strategy for next week. We’re facing off against the MagiKnights,” Bailey began.

“No way! They’re great!” Jenny interrupted. “They’re the top guild on the Violet server.” Bailey stared at Jenny in silence for several seconds, then started speaking again.

“That being said,…” Jenny shrunk back behind Dread. “…We’re up against their ‘A Squad’. Rook, Gremlin, LongArm, Grace, Infernal and Thumper,” Bailey paused and waved Jenny forward to speak up if she knew anything.

“Uh..,” Jenny stepped forward, and Bailey nodded at her. “Rook is a Fortress Paladin, and Gremlin is an armorsmith,” she said. She paused and glanced at Bailey, but the captain encouraged her to share more.

“LongArm: Justice Cardmage, Grace: Banner Knight, Infernal: Inferno Wizard, and Thumper is a Regen Healer. They’re very team-AoE focused.” Jenny moved away from Dread so that she could address all the girls. “Thumper and Grace have Unicorn souls for the AoE buff. Infernal too, so stay alert if he casts any spells. Gremlin is a metal elemental with a fire elemental soul. It’s also worth noting she’s a Nopal. She has access to metal, fire, and water at all times. Gremlin doubles Rook’s armor every three laps, so we should focus on the Paladin. We’ve got three laps to knock him out,” Jenny said. Bailey nodded.

“Thanks. That’s more information than I had,” she smiled. “But we’re going to bring Gremlin down first. They’re not team focused, they’re Paladin focused. If we break the buff chain everyone else is cake. Thanks to Dirge and Dread, Gremlin’s an easy target.” Dread moved to say something, but Jenny grabbed her shoulder.

“Bailey’s the captain,” she reminded Dread.

“Thanks,” Bailey sounded sincere enough for Jenny to smile at her. Bailey looked at Dirge and Dread. “I’m assuming you girls know the Silver Tongue combo?” she asked. Dirge replied to Bailey with a thumbs up gesture. “Great. Dread, how accurate is your roar?” she asked Dread.

“Any leaf on a tree,” Dread smiled.

“Show me,” Bailey said.

Escape Plan

[WP] You are a young rebellious teenage dragon, and you’re absolutely sick of being told to act and behave like a proper dragon. So one day, when your parent/sibling/whatever comes back with a kidnapped princess, you decide to… intervene. from WritingPrompts

“Your father brought you a princess, and you’re going to appreciate it. Go to your hoard, shift your scaly butt out of that stupid human form, and wait for her rescuers,” his mom said. Her large silver wings flapped at Victor’s short, bearded body. The resulting gust of wind blew his green feathered cap off. Victor knew better than to argue with his mother. He turned and walked away, stopping to bend over for his cap. He made a show of letting his bronze tail appear, to make her think he was turning back into a dragon. But, it disappeared again the moment he was out of sight, and he stayed human.

Victor moped through the giant castle towards his hoard in the north tower. He could have flown up to the top of the tower, but the walk gave him more time to be miserable. He reached his room, opened the door, and sighed.  A beautiful, unconscious, young woman occupied his bed. He grumbled to himself and walked to the beanbag chair filled with golden coins, his “hoard”.

“..don’t wanna eat knights..,” he mumbled to himself while he pulled out a loaf of bread he stole the day before. He glared at the woman while spite-chewing the stale bread. “…’at’s my bed,” he complained.  He made it halfway through the loaf before he heard her stir on the bed. He swallowed and rolled his eyes. “Here we go,” he whined. The woman bolted upright in bed and her gaze darted around the room in a panic.

“DRAGON!” she yelled. Her breath sounded heavy, but she calmed down when she saw a short, young, bearded man sitting on a black leather bag. He gave her a half wave with one hand and offered a half-eaten loaf with his other. “Dragon?” she asked. Victor shrugged and nodded. She tried to scoot off the bed in the opposite direction but rolled off the bed. She landed on the stone floor with a thud. Victor stood.

“Are you okay?” he asked. He raised his voice, but only to ensure the question reached her. He hoped to avoid scaring her more. She came into few again as she pulled herself up against the far wall. She tried to press herself through the wall and kept her eyes on Victor.

“What do you want?” she asked. She kept her back against the wall and spread both arms out to feel her way to some sort of exit. Victor let himself fall into his chair again.

“Nothing,” Victor took another bite of bread. Her eyes narrowed, but he noticed she relaxed somewhat.

“Why am I here?” Victor sighed, bread crumbs flew out of his mouth. He gulped down the wad of bread to answer.

“Bait, mostly. Maybe dessert.” Her eyes widened again.

“You said you didn’t want anything!” she shouted. Victor smirked.

“You asked two separate questions. My dad brought here as bait, but I don’t care if you leave,” he used his thumb to point to a large open window next to him.

“I can leave? Just like that?” she asked and inched her way towards the window, still pressed against the wall. Victor nodded.

“The sooner the better. Once your rescue party gets here my dad’ll finish them off even if I don’t.” The princess edged closer to the window, and she noticed Victor had not moved an inch to stop her.    The fingers of her left hand reached the open window and she rushed to look out, ready to jump. But she stopped and stepped back.

“That’s too far for me,” she said. “You knew that,” she realized she turned her back on him and whipped around expecting to see him sneaking up on her. He remained seated, but chuckled.

“Yeah. But it’s the only way out.” The princess glanced at the heavy wooden door that led to the stairs.

“What about the door?” Victor shrugged.

“Try it.” The princess began to shuffle to the door while keeping her eye on Victor, but she finally realized he was not going to hurt her. She willingly turned her back and dashed to the door. She opened and stepped out of the room. At the bottom of the tower, she saw a silver dragon waiting at the steps. She stepped quietly back into the room.

“That’s my mom,” Victor said.

“I just want to clear it up, for myself. You are a dragon, right?” the princess asked. Victor nodded. “But you don’t want to eat me.. or any of my knights?” Victor shook his head.

“No, humans are gross. Somehow they’re fatty and stringy all at the same time,” Victor shuddered as he fought back a wave of nausea. “I can’t deal with your texture.”

“Why are you in human form?”she stepped closer and asked.

“It’s comfortable. I hate walking around on my hands.”

“You don’t want to be here, do you?”

“No, but I’m a dragon, I’ve got nowhere else to go.” Victor sighed. “I can blend in with humans, but I don’t have any useful skills.”

“Useful skills? YOU’RE A DRAGON! Any kingdom would kill to have you on their side. You can fly out of here, right? Take my home and my father will make you a knight.” Victor perked up.

“Really? I can live with humans?” he asked.” The princess nodded. “I don’t want to be a knight though. I want to learn something else. Please?” The princess finally felt completely at ease, she smiled at the man.

“Sure, what do you want to learn?” Victor stood up and large bronze wings grew out of his back. He stepped towards the princess and wrapped his arms around her.

“You’ve got a royal baker, right?” The princess nodded.

“Of course, the best in the kingdom. Would you like to apprentice with him?” Victor nodded eagerly, then jumped out the window holding the princess.

“Yes please.”

Men and Monsters

[WP] Due to rules of diversity, workplaces will now also include horror monsters. from WritingPrompts

Julian tapped his foot to let out his nervous energy. He sat in a small office across from the large man he hoped would be his boss, if he got the job. The man nodded to himself at various points as he read down the sheet. After several minutes he let it fall to the dark wood desk and met Julian’s eyes.

“You’re certainly qualified for the position,” the man said. His low voice rumbled the air around Julian. “So tell me, what makes you more qualified than the monsters waiting to come in after you?” he asked.

“I’m not,” Julian said. The corners of his lips pulled upward into a broad smile, and he gave his practiced answer. “Yet. But I’m eager to learn, and grow with the firm. This is not a stepping stone for me, this is the career of my dreams. I believe I can bring a unique perspective and fresh ideas to the table,” he said. The man nodded, then lifted a manila folder from his desk and opened it to flip through the pictures inside. Julian sat up straighter. His chest swelled with pride as the man turned the photos this way and that to appreciate them from different angles.

“Your portfolio is…,” he paused. Julian inched forward on his chair, eager for the praise. “…interesting.” Julian deflated and sank into his chair, but the man continued. “Strictly speaking, your work doesn’t represent the kind of image we work for here,” he dropped the folder. His face softened and he smiled at Julian. “However, you do have potential, and an eye for the artistic. You might be right about bringing a unique perspective.” Julian instantly sat up straighter again. “With the right mentor, I think you’d be a great fit here.”

“Yes!” Julian cheered, then clapped his hand over his mouth. The interviewer chuckled and held a hand up to calm him down.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we have a few formalities to go through first. I know you saw the other applicants, but due to the newness of the legislation, I’m required to inform you of a few things. First, obviously, this is a Horror Act compliant business. As such you may interact with freaks, mutants, monsters, fae, zombies, or ghosts. We can’t guarantee your safety any more than an office that churns out disgruntled workers,” he shrugged. “But everyone’s trying to get through their own rat race.”

“Of course,” Julian nodded.

“Second, we take discrimination very seriously around here. All our employees are equal, and we expect anyone that joins the team,” he smiled at Julian again. “to treat coworkers with respect no matter their race. Alive or not, we’re all equal. Is that clear?” Julian nodded and smiled. His struggle to contain his excitement resulted in the grin staying on his face. He couldn’t wait to get started on his dream. The large man clasped his hands on the desk and leaned forward in a relaxed posture.

“Finally, before I formally offer you the job, I want to know more about you. Why does someone like you want to work here? Your education alone is impressive enough to net you almost any job, even if you left off your ‘special skills’.

Like I said, it’s my dream to be part of the industry. The education is a side-effect of channeling my frustrations into a ‘normal life’. Once the Horror Act passed, I realized I didn’t have to hide my true self anymore.” Julian shrugged and his grin shrunk a tiny bit. “I came out to my mom first, she had no idea.” The burly man nodded and tried to present an understanding face.

“How did she take it?” he asked. A high pitched chuckle, almost a giggle, escaped Julian’s mouth. He reached for his portfolio on the desk.

“I showed her the real me, for better or worse. Showed her what I was capable of.” He opened the folder and flipped through the pictures until he found a specific one. Then he handed it to the interviewer.  His eyes widened.

“That’s your mother?” Julian’s smile disappeared completely, but he nodded.

“She was.” The man stared at the picture. A woman’s corpse hung upside down. Her head sat inside the cavity of her disemboweled stomach with a pacifier in her mouth. Red, likely blood, flowers decorated her face around empty eye sockets.

“I knew the Horror Act would change things. Monsters working with humans is a great thing for our kind,” the man chuckled. He extended a hand over the desk. “But I never thought a human would want to work in the monster sector. Welcome aboard, Julian.”

Pineapple Bill

[WP] You’re the first person to enter a black hole and discover a new universe on the other side. from WritingPrompts

“Commander Williams, the people of Earth will not think any less of you if you have a change of heart,” a male voice said over the radio. Bill sat in his shuttle at the edge of the gravity well. “For all intents and purposes, this is a suicide mission. This is your last chance to step back.”

“Thank you, Sir. I understand, but I’m honored to have this opportunity. Commander Bill Williams, signing out and going in,” he said. He turned the radio off, stared at the abyss before him, and activated the ship’s propulsion. As the ship moved forward, he felt the hole’s gravitational force grip the ship to pull him faster. He maximized thrust and shot forward, still gaining speed.

Bill felt alone in a sea of black, his inner introvert loved the quiet darkness. He turned off all non-essential lights in the cabin and reduced the brightness on the displays he needed on to enjoy the solitude. He stared at the void and smiled. To him, it felt like coming home to a warm bed on a cold day. The trip to the center was the best 15 minutes of his life until that point, and he felt content. The moment he reached the center his ship rocked violently for several seconds, then it was still again. Blue light began to glow in front of him, he was flying straight towards Earth. He turned the radio on.

“Uh.. Mission Control? Are you there?” he asked

“Unidentified Spacecraft.. identify yourself,” a youthful, female voice responded.

“My name is Commander Bill Williams. I traveled through a black hole on a peaceful mission of exploration from Earth.”

“Your name is William Williams?” the voice replied carrying an obvious smile.

“It’s Bill Williams,” he corrected her. The response was a reflex at this point.

“From Earth? Which Earth?” the girl asked.

“Earth One I guess?” Laughter erupted through the radio. Bill felt insulted as the laugh carried on, it felt intentionally dragged out. After nearly a minute her laughter died down, then she asked him a random question.

“What’s your favorite fruit?” Bill flew through a black hole and was now approaching Earth, but the mystery voice did not seem the least bit surprised. He shrugged and decided to go with the situation.

“Pineapple,” he said.

“‘Kay, hold on.” After several minutes, each one drawing closer to the Earth, the voice came back.

“Okay, your home Earth is registered as ‘Pineapple’. Head towards North America,” she said. “Oh wait, do you guys call it that?”

“Yes Ma’am,” he replied.

“When you get close enough we’ll land you, and the medics will meet you on the runway.”

“It sounds like you’re well organized for this kind of thing. Can I ask how long I’ll be in quarantine?” As the Earth grew in front of him he felt his ship lurch forward like his run at the black hole, and he let go of the controls. They were guiding his ship now.

“Nah, no quarantine. It’s just a quick scan. Since you asked, I’m guessing our tech is totally better than yours. By the way, what’s your favorite number?” Bill shrugged in his seat.

“Never really had one I guess.” His ship shook as he re-entered the atmosphere. Bill sat up eager to see what this Earth looked like.

” ‘Kay,” she replied. He passed through the clouds, and his jaw dropped. The first thing he saw was a tall, crystalline spire. It seemed to be made of purple quartz. He followed the spire down to see a large purple castle made from the same translucent material. He looked across the landscape and saw several other castles dotting a lush green plain. Something glimmered in the air and called his attention. He thought it might be another craft, but he saw sunlight reflecting off the scales of a golden dragon. The dragon appeared to head in his general direction, but Bill did not think it was coming to him.

“Um,” he spoke into the radio but paused to gather his thoughts. He called on his years of military training to keep a level head. “I see a dragon. Is that normal, and am I in any danger?” A soft giggle replied, followed by a more direct answer.

“Yeah, it’s cool. That’s just the guild leader headed out for his dailies,” the voice replied. The purple castle drew closer. Bill’s ship headed towards a long, glassy white stretch of land. His ship slowed, and hovered over the smooth runway, and landed gently. He spotted two figures in white walking towards his ship, and he stood to lower the boarding ramp. He walked down the ramp and stopped in his tracks. He assumed the two figures were human, but up close he realized both were orcs. A light grey male and a mint green female, the pair smiled at him, and he realized he was staring.

“Sorry. I was expecting..,” he half gestured at himself, “humans.” The female orc nodded.

“It’s gonna take some explaining,” she said. Bill recognized her voice as the one that named his Earth “Pineapple”. The male orc made a gesture in the air and a smokey translucent slate appeared in front of him. Then, the male brought both hands to it and began moving his fingers as if typing on it, but Bill could not see anything.  He assumed he was being scanned.

“So, where am I? Does this Earth have a name? And is there anything I can do to change mine from Pineapple?”

“Aww man, you should’ve asked that before the scan,” she said. She shook her head but gave a faint smirk. “Now your frequency is in the registry, and it can’t be changed,” she shrugged. “Sorry. But yeah. This Earth is called AlterNet Server: Violet.”

“All set,” the male orc said. He made another gesture and the slate disappeared. He waved at Bill, then turned and walked away.

“Awesome,” she smiled at Bill. “Let’s go make your character.”

Family Vine

[WP] Today, you injured yourself and found out something: You aren’t human. from WritingPrompts

Bert sat on the aqua pleather, paper-lined examination table with his feet dangling over the edge. At 23 he was not a short man, but the table was high enough to keep his feet from the ground. He waited for the doctor while browsing the internet on his phone and fighting the urge to scratch. He waited in the room for an hour before a sudden knock at the door startled him. The doctor, a woman with a salt and peppered bob cut and laugh lines around her mouth, smiled as she entered.

“Mr. Hada, how’re we doing today? I’m Dr. Nielsen. What can I do for you?” She stood before him holding a clipboard, but her green eyes focused on his dark brown eyes. Bert lifted his left arm up to show her the sickly, dark green gash that ran up his forearm. “Oh, wow. That could be healing better. When did this happen?” she put on a pair of blue disposable gloves.

“Today, a couple of hours ago,” Bert replied. He grimaced slightly as the doctor touched and pushed at various points along the sides of the wound. After a few more prods she nodded, stood back, and removed her gloves.

“That recently? I take it back, you’re healing perfectly. The coloration and spread are somewhat different than what I’m used to seeing, but it all seems to be normal. I’m glad you came in though, you can never be too cautious,” she smiled. Bert did not.

“It looks like I have gangrene, that can’t be normal,” Bert shook his head. Dr. Nielsen nodded.

“Your immune system must be strained, usually the wound would be a brighter less putrid color by now. But it’s doing its best. Was one of your parents human by any chance? That would explain the coloration.” Bert’s face paled and his eyes narrowed.

“They were both human,” he said flatly. Dr. Nielsen shook her head.

“Oh my, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. The way that wound is healing, that’s fairy blood in your veins. You might want to have a conversation with your parents about,-“

“They died when I was eight,” Bert interrupted her. “Are you sure it’s not something else?” he asked. The doctor held up her hand in a “wait here” gesture, then left the room. A minute later she came holding a small vial filled with gold glitter.

“This is for our, uh… better insured, patients. But if you’re fae, we’ll find out right away. Arm please,” she said. Bert held his arm out. She opened the vial and tilted it over his arm to sprinkle golden dust on the wound. Seconds after contact with the golden particles dark green vines began to grow out of the wound. The vines grew outward, across the wound from each side. They formed a suture-like bandage over the injury and continued to wrap themselves around his forearm. Dr. Nielsen slipped the vial into her pocket and nodded.

“Definitely fairy blood,” she said. Bert stared at the green vines around his arm and sighed.

“Now what do I do?” he asked. “I mean, work and stuff shouldn’t change, I’m good at my job. But,” he gestured at the vines with his right hand, “how many other weird things can I expect? How do I know if it was my dad or my mom? They don’t have any family left for me to ask.” Bert felt himself on the verge of tears. He did not have anything against fairies or any of the other fae races. But, discovering he was one of them was more than he felt prepared to handle at the moment. Dr. Nielsen placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I have other patients, and your case is already resolved. The last piece of advice I can give you is to go have some Chinese food downtown. There’s a restaurant named Donna Chang’s; the owner will help you out. She regularly deals with fae folk and she can give you some advice if nothing else.”

Gracious Enemy

[WP] You have undergone experimental surgery to be one of the first soldiers equipped with a first person shooter-like HUD showing your health, weapon equipped, current missions, etc. But, they forget to remove it after you retire from service, and you find it surprisingly helpful in civilian life. from WritingPrompts

“…and some cream cheese,” Sabrina said. She kissed her husband, Blake, on the cheek. “Got all that?” Blake focused on the mission log displayed in the top right-hand corner of his vision.

Groceries:  

  • chicken breasts
  • bacon
  • cream of chicken soup
  • chipped beef
  • cream cheese

He nodded at her, brushed her red bangs out of the way then kissed her alabaster forehead.

“Got it, babe.” He glanced around the kitchen. A bright purple outline highlighted his car keys in a closed drawer, and he dug them out. “Love you,” he said on his way out the door.

“Love you too,” he heard her voice as he closed the door. He sat in his car and turned the ignition. Green text appeared in the center of his vision.

“Driving Mode.” A mini-map appeared in the bottom left-hand corner of his vision. It showed his location with a dotted line to the grocery store. Red dots, other cars, flowed along the road. He waited until there no red dots nearby, then backed out of his driveway without checking the mirror. Blake drove to the store without paying much attention to his mirrors, or even the road itself. His HUD gave him more than enough information about the cars around him, and the people in them. In the past, he managed to avoid accidents thanks to his HUD warning him that the drivers weren’t paying attention. He made it to the store without incident, then parked and exited his car. His vision shifted from “Driving Mode” to “Stealth Mode”. All text shifted to dim white, and his vision darkened slightly. The mini-map remained, several yellow dots walked around the parking lot. Vision cones extending from the dots informed Blake which direction they faced.

“Huh?” He said aloud, confused why his vision did not revert to his normal HUD. He glanced around the parking lot and saw a black car highlighted with a purple outline. Text hovered above the car: “Enemy Transport”   “Damnit,” he sighed. Blake hesitated for a few seconds, then shrugged and headed for the entrance. He grabbed a cart on his way in and stepped through the automatic doors. The mini-map changed to display the store’s interior. Dozens of yellow dots traveled through the store, with a single red one in the wine section. Blake moved towards the soup aisle at the opposite end of the store. He needed to pass the wine section to get to the refrigerated section, but he hoped the red dot moved out of the way by then.

Blake strolled through the store, going up and down each aisle to kill time. He found the chipped beef on the way to the soup aisle. The moment he grabbed a soup can his vision brightened up again, and text appeared. “Stealth section complete.”  He searched the mini-map, but the red dot was nowhere in sight. Blake sighed in relief, then picked up his pace. He breezed through the store to pick up the rest of the groceries and headed to the checkout. On the way, he passed the florist and pink text appeared.

“Bonus Mission: ‘Just Because’. 47 days since last completed.” He added a dozen roses to his cart and continued on his way.  After paying he stepped out into the parking lot cautiously. He needed to be sure the enemy left. He felt glad when his vision did not switch to stealth mode.

Most of the drive home was as uneventful, but the moment Blake turned into his neighborhood his vision dimmed again. “Stealth Mode”.  He pumped the brakes to slow down. In the distance, he saw the black car highlighted again, and a red dot stood where his house was on the map.

“Nonononono.” He panicked and reached for his cell phone. His wife answered.

“Groceries are bought, but I’m hungry now. Let’s go out tonight,” Blake said. “Right now.” He hoped to get her out of the house as fast as possible.

“You do remember that you told me about your HUD, right?” His wife said. “We’re going to have a nice dinner here at home, with my brother,” she paused. It sounded like she walked to another part of the house. Then she whispered, “I know it’s a pyramid scheme, but there’s no harm in letting him practice the pitch okay? We’re not going to buy anything, but he brought us some nice wine to go with dinner.”

Team Benefits

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

“Congratulations girls, you’re a team,” Melody said. Ms. Sharp’s dark-haired assistant approached the five girls carrying a white briefcase. She handed the case to Bailey, then she turned to Jenny. “Ms. Sharp would like to meet with you Monday afternoon,” she said, then she looked up to the rest. “Everyone else, be here early next Saturday. That’s it for today.” Melody nodded at Bailey, then walked away.

“Before we break, I’ve got to give you these,” Bailey said. She cocked her head and hefted the briefcase to get the girls to follow her. She walked to the edge of the stage then rested the broadside of the briefcase on it. She opened it, reached in, then turned around. She held five thin, translucent-purple glass bangles.

“Sorry, I didn’t get your name,” Bailey said to the girl with a pair of black afro-puffs atop her head.

“Torque,” she said. Bailey nodded then handed her a bracelet. She handed the rest out, one to each girl, before slipping her wrist into the last one.

[Party: Test. -Bailey]  Dread felt the Whisper tickle her ear drum.

[Party: Check. -Dread] She replied.

[Party: HI! -Dirge]

[Party: I’m here. -Torque]

[Party: Hey. -Jny] Once all the girls checked in Bailey seemed satisfied.

“Keep these on you at all times. We can Whisper to each other even if we’re not in the AlterNet, and no matter what universe we’re in. Be here at 6:30 Saturday morning,” she lifted her hand up to show off the bangle. “These also work as a timer to keep you sync’d up to this Earth. That’s it for today, you’re free to go.” Bailey turned to gather the white briefcase.

“Hey, you guys hungry?” Jenny asked the group.

“Yes,” Dread was the first to answer.

“Starving.” Dirge added.

“I could eat,” Torque said.

“Pizza? My treat. Actually, my parents run a pizza shop. So, I guess it’s their treat,” Jenny corrected herself.

“Please,” Dread said. Dirge and Torque agreed to the invite, but Bailey was walking away.

“You’re invited too, Bailey!” Jenny half-shouted at the girl. She shook her head and kept walking away.

[Party: No thanks. Busy. -Bailey] She replied in a Whisper without turning around.

“Rude,” Dirge commented under her breath, but Dread elbowed her in the side to quiet her.

“C’mon, follow me for pizza,” Jenny smiled at the three girls left and headed off the field. Jenny led them to the downtown area, only a few blocks away from the derby stadium.

“Hey,” Jenny said. The group walked in silence for the first leg of the trip until she broke the silence. She looked at Dread.

“Thanks for sticking up for me,” then she smiled at Dirge. “You too.” Both girls smiled at her.

“What’d I miss?” Torque asked.

“I’m a Zero. Everyone else was trying to give me a hard time about it, but they,” she gestured at Dirge and Dread, “didn’t.”

“Oh! You’re the Zero. Sorry, I don’t hate Zeroes, I just wanted to give the right answer,” she apologized. Jenny nodded.

“We’re cool,” she said. Jenny turned a corner, and the girls followed. Moments after turning, a high pitched shriek filled the air.

“OHMYGOD!!” Dirge squealed. Jenny and Torque turned to see what happened. Dirge jumped in place clapping her hands, and Dread wore a giant smile.

“What’s going on?” Jenny asked. Dread pointed at a building behind Jenny. She turned and found a red brick Chinese restaurant with a red neon sign that read: “Donna Chang’s”.

“What about it?” Jenny asked.

“It’s the best Chinese food ever. Let’s go there!” Dirge said. Jenny shook her head.

“Can’t. No money, but pizza’s free,” she said. Dread hooked Jenny’s arm in her hand and pulled her towards Donna Chang’s.

“It’ll be free too,” Dirge said.

“Uhh. me too?” Torque asked. She was not sure if they were only offering to cover Jenny’s meal, but Dirge nodded.

“Totally. C’mon!”

The girls reached the entrance and pushed the heavy glass door inward. A tinny bell over the door announced them as customers. A short, elderly Asian woman walked out of the kitchen and smiled at Dirge.

“Threnody!” she walked straight to the shirt girl and gave her a hug. Then the woman smiled at Dread and nodded. “Dread. It’s good to see you girls again.”

“This is Jenny,” Dirge pointed at the girl with black spikey hair. “And that’s Torque. We’re gonna hang out here a lot, okay?”  The woman smiled and nodded her head.

“Of course, your friends are always welcome here,” she said. “Sit,” she gestured at a large red booth with a wooden table in the center of it. “Order when ready,” Mrs. Chang said, then she left the girls alone.

“Free pizza and free Chinese food? This is the best team ever,” Torque joked. The girls giggled. Torque and Jenny each grabbed a menu to browse, but Jenny noticed Dirge and Dread did not grab theirs.

“Hey this place hasn’t been here very long, and I’ve never seen you two. How are you regulars here?” She asked.

“Mrs. Chang is a Unique and she takes her restaurant with her whenever she goes to a new universe,” Dread explained.

“Oh wow, I never thought of that,” Jenny said.  After browsing their menus for a few minutes Torque and Jenny let Dirge know they were ready to order.

“You guys want to see something cool?” Dirge asked. They nodded. Dirge leaned in toward the center of the table and waved them closer as if she was going to reveal a secret. Jenny and Torque leaned in and turned their heads slightly to listen.

“Takeru.” Dirge said. Her whisper was nearly inaudible to them.

“Yes, Ms. Threnody?” a deep voice sounded from behind her. Torque and Jenny jumped in their seats at the sudden sound. They looked up to see a large, tall man in a cook’s outfit. Various dragon tattoos in different colors decorated both of his arms.

“Sesame chicken for me, and orange beef for Dread,” she said. Then Dirge gestured at Jenny and Torque for their orders.

“Broccoli Beef,” Torque said.

“Sweet & Sour chicken,” Jenny ordered. The burly man nodded.

“Yes, Ms. Threnody.” Takeru nodded and walked away.

“Is he a Unique too?” Torque asked. Dirge shook her head.

“No, he’s just a dragon.”

Las Luchadoras 3

“When I was nine my parents ran a small restaurant,” Dana Sharp said. She stood at an elegant dark wood podium on a stage made from the same wood. The stage sat in the center of a high school football stadium that was filled to capacity. 14 cameras poked out of 14 individual small, black portals in front of the stage. Each camera broadcasted the event to a different Earth. A 15th camera sat on the field to broadcast locally. “Nothing fancy, just pizza. One night a group of Uniques, Celestials, came through and treated my parents like garbage. My father did his best to prepare delicious food for them, while my mother did her best to meet their needs.” Dana shook her head. “It wasn’t enough.” Dana paused to take a breath and her hand moved up to wipe something out of her eye.

“I don’t know if there was anything special about that group, or if it happened to be the final straw… After we closed up that night my mother cried in the kitchen while my father gave me a piece of advice that I’ll never forget. ‘We’re Zeroes,’ he said. ‘There’s a billion other versions of you out there. We’ll never be as special as Uniques.  But,’ he said to me,” Dana brought a hand up to her chest. ” ‘I want you to try and be the best YOU.’ ” She let her hand fall.

“I vowed that no matter how many more of me were out there, THIS Dana Sharp was going to be the best one. Every bit as good as any Unique out there.” Cheering applause flowed through the stadium. She lifted her arms to bask in the applause.

“Today I run a major corporation, Sharp Development, across 15 universes. My AlterNet is accessible from over a thousand universes. Today, Uniques work for me.” Dana paused for applause and looked at the side of the stage. A group of five girls stood huddled together waiting for the right signal.

“But it’s not about Zeroes or Uniques being better than each other, it’s about being equals. Starting today Sharp Development will be sponsoring a roller derby team. Our goal is to help foster teamwork and cooperation between Zeroes and Uniques, for the good of everyone! Let’s start the introductions, shall we?” After the applause died out Dana waved at the group of girls. The first girl to climb on the stage wore blue jeans and a green t-shirt. Her long, chestnut pony-tail bobbed as she crossed the stage to stand next to Ms. Sharp.

“Bailey Martin,” Dana introduced her. Bailey bowed for the crowd and stood back. “Bailey is Unique #06, La Sirena. In the AlterNet she’s a human cardmage with a mermaid soul, give her a hand!” The audience cheered. A dark-skinned girl climbed on the stage next. She wore red high-top shoes and a red skirt with a black t-shirt. Two small, black afro puffs sat on her head, one on each side. Dana introduced her as she crossed the stage.

“Britt Matthews, known in the AlterNet as Torque. Britt is Unique #35, La Estrella. Her character, Torque, is a human elementalist, with the soul of a fire elemental,” Dana said. Britt gave a casual wave at the crowd and stood next to Bailey. A girl with black ringlet curls wearing a black and orange gothic lolita skirt climbed on stage next.

“Threnody Ingram, Dirge in the AlterNet. Threnody is Unique #14, La Muerte. Dirge is a fairy bard with a unicorn soul.” Dirge clapped excitedly to herself and eagerly waved at the crowd until Bailey stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder. She fell back and stood next to Torque. Then, a tall girl wearing blue jeans and a red t-shirt climbed on stage. Her hair pointed upward in white short spikes.

“Dread Hansen. Dread is Unique #42, La Calavera. In the AlterNet, she’s a mermaid beastmaster with a tiger’s soul.” Dread was already standing next to Dirge by the time Ms. Sharp finished her introduction. She did not bother to acknowledge the crowd at all.

“And finally…,” Dana said. A girl with black hair that matched Dread’s hairstyle climbed on the stage. She wore blue jeans and a purple t-shirt.

“Jenny Minami. In the AlterNet, she’s a human programmer with a cyber soul. Out of the AlterNet, she’s a Zero like me. Like all of you.” Applause roared through the audience.

“Not only is this Zero good enough to be on a team full of Uniques, she’s good enough to lead them. Jenny will be the team captain. This hard-working young lady embodies everything we at Sharp Development are working for.” Jenny stood next to Dread, but Dana looked over her shoulder to wave the girl forward.

“This press conference was to introduce the team, but there is one more thing,” Dana said. She reached into the pocket of her white suit and pulled out a thin purple bracelet. She handed the bracelet to Jenny, then addressed the audience again.

“I mentioned earlier that the AlterNet can be accessed from over a thousand Earths, but I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels. Sharp Development has been hard at work on the next AlterNet expansion, and I’d like to give you all a peek at the fruits of our labor.” She turned her head and winked at Jenny. The girl nodded and put the bracelet on. Then she pulled her node out of her jean pocket.

“I made the AlterNet an even playing field for Uniques and Zeroes, but that’s just the beginning. I envision a future where Uniques and Zeroes are on an even playing field everywhere. Even where there’s no AlterNet access. Like this Earth for example,” Dana said. She stepped to the side to let the cameras focus on Jenny.  The girl held her transparent node high in the air. She looked straight at the camera, smiled, and said her login password.

“Jenny Rocks!” Violet light glowed from her node and everyone in the stadium gasped. Jenny inserted the node into the purple bracelet on her wrist and a purple flash of light consumed the stage. When it cleared Jenny was logged into the AlterNet. Her spiky black hair glowed with blue light. She wore a blue and gold body-suit with black fingerless gloves.

“Soon you’ll be able to access your AlterNet character from anywhere. Zeroes and Uniques on equal terms, everywhere.” A standing ovation resounded through the stadium.

Bone Picking

[WP] Everyone has failed so far. Scientists, humanitarians, world leaders… Time is running out. You approach the dark robed figure; a skeletal hand casually gripping a long, imposing scythe. The figure reclines behind a booth. Its sign reads "Humanity doesn’t deserve to live. Change my mind." from WritingPrompts

Carlos approached the booth and nodded at the robed figure. Its boney hand gripped the scythe tighter as he used it for leverage to stand. His black hood fell backward revealing his white skull.

“Change my mind,” the skull’s teeth chattered. Carlos chuckled; without lips Death’s mouth talked like a puppet. Its mouth opened and closed out of sync with the deep gravelly voice that came from somewhere within.

“How about you get back to work?” Carlos said. Death looked at his sign, ‘Humanity doesn’t deserve to live. Change my mind’ then back at Carlos.

“Do you understand what’s going on here?” Death chattered his teeth. Carlos nodded.

“Of course, I see it all the time. Some people get a little bit of power and it goes straight to their heads,” Carlos said. He shook his head and gave Death a stern look of disappointment. “You’re sitting out here because you’re lonely and want attention. You want people to rush up to you and say ‘oh no, please don’t kill us Death!’  Then you get to feel magnanimous for a little while. Quit wasting time and get back to work.” Death’s lower jaw hung slack on its hinges. He looked around at the small crowd of humans gathering around them. He pointed at a young woman in jogging gear. Her brown eyes dulled and she fell to the floor dead. The crowd stepped away from her, but grim curiosity kept them huddled around Carlos and Death.

“I’m,” his mouth clapped shut, then fell open again, wider. “DEEEEATH!” The gravelly voice said. Carlos nodded, then reached up and pushed Death’s jaw closed. It made a hollow “clack” sound.

“Death, let me ask you a question,” Carlos paused until the skull nodded. Carlos cleared his throat, then asked, “Then what?” Death’s jaw opened a tiny bit, then closed again as if he was re-thinking his answer.

“What?” Death finally asked.

“THEN.  WHAT?” he said louder and slower.

“What what?” Death’s posture loosened. He shrank ever so slightly and looked around at the still growing crowd. He caught several smirks and chuckles traveling between the humans.

“If no one changes your mind, then what? You reap humanity?” Death nodded and pulled his hood up to cover his head from the stares.

“Every single one of you,” he said.

“Then what?” Carlos asked again. “Then you sit around in an empty world until you fade away into nothingness.”

“I’m Death, I’m immortal.” Death chuckled.

“What’s going to happen when you’re out of souls to reap? When no more are being born? If there’s no one around to remember you, do you even exist? Like you said, you’re DEATH. You have exactly one job, and if you’re not doing it what’s the point?” Carlos said. “The way I see it, you’re a public servant. You work for us, and I’m telling you to get off your boney ass and get back to work.” Applause roared through the crowd for a split second before everyone, except Carlos, collapsed. Death pulled his hood down again and looked at Carlos.

“Congratulations, you’ve changed my mind. I’ll grant you one wish.”

“I wish to be Death,” Carlos smiled.

That’s Sad

[WP] A company known as Life™ has released a new bracelet that numbers how many sad moments you have left in your life. You decide to buy one and to your surprise, you only have one sad moment left. from WritingPrompts

Aaron stared at the flat, glass bracelet on his wrist. Blue glowing numbers, “01” appeared in the center, and he shook his head again.

“Damnit,” he grunted. He reached into a wooden bowl on his desk and grabbed a stress ball. Aaron glanced at the fruit filled bowl, grabbed an apple and squeezed it to vent his frustration. All “fruits” in the bowl were stress relievers. While he pumped the apple in one hand he used his other hand to press the intercom button.

“Chris I need a favor,” he said. Seconds later a shoe-less man in blue jeans and a faded green t-shirt walked into Aaron’s office.

“What’s up?” he asked. Chris sat down in the rolling chair in front of Aaron’s desk. Aaron pulled off his bracelet and tossed it at Chris.

“It’s defective. I factory reset it three times, but it still says I only have one moment of sadness left.”

“Oh.” Chris tossed it back to Aaron. “Not broken, it’s a known glitch. Just wear it until you get sad so it can attune to you,” he explained. Aaron put the bracelet back on and saw the “01” appear again.

“Man, I can’t wait,” He stood from the desk and walked around to stand by Chris. “Kick me in the shins as hard as you can,” he said. Chris laughed.

“You tryin’ to break my toes? It doesn’t work that way. You have to be sad not just crying. What’s the rush?”

“I’ve got a date tonight and she’s really into these,” Aaron lifted his wrist to shake the bracelet. “I wanted to have something to talk about.” Aaron sighed and turned to walk back to his desk. Chris stood and reached into his pocket for his phone.

“If you’re in a hurry, I know a guy. 200$ up front.” Chris smiled at him as his thumb hovered over the “call” button.

“Fine, but only if he’s here in half an hour.” Aaron pulled cash from his wallet and handed it over. Chris pressed the button and walked out of the room. Aaron sat at his desk and thought sad thoughts while squeezing his apple. Half an hour later Chris walked back into his office next to a tall bald man dressed like Chris, bare feet and all. The stranger carried a small black briefcase.

“This is my buddy, Lucas,” Chris introduced him. “Lucas, Aaron wants you to make him sad.”  The bald man nodded.

“May I?” he asked and gestured at the chair.

“Please,” Aaron nodded. The man sat down and placed the briefcase on Aaron’s desk. He opened the top and reached a hand in. Aaron watched a shiny, pink metal spider crawl out of the briefcase and up Lucas’ arm. A white heart decorated its large abdomen.

“What. Is. That?” Aaron asked trying to keep his cool. He wanted to bolt from his chair and run for the door, but he was afraid any sudden movement might provoke an attack.

“Don’t worry, it’s a robot. My invention,” Lucas explained. The spider did not move once it reached Lucas’ shoulder.

“What does it do?” Aaron noticed Chris give him a “thumbs up” gesture behind Lucas and relaxed. If Chris trusted him, that was good enough for Aaron. Lucas shrugged.

“I could go into detail about everything she does, but Chris said you were in a hurry. The short version is: you want to be sad? This will make you sad. Instant, short term. Enough to sync your bracelet.”

“Will it hurt?”

“Have you ever had a tattoo?” Lucas asked. Aaron shook his head.

“No. I’ve heard they hurt” Lucas nodded.

“Yeah, they do. This is gonna hurt more,” he chuckled.  Aaron looked at Chris.

“You said it doesn’t work like that!”

“It doesn’t, but I haven’t figured out a way to dull the pain that’s part of the process. Lift your shirt,” Lucas said. Aaron glanced at the clock on his desk and realized he was already running later than he’d like.

“Fine.” He lifted his black t-shirt and exposed his pale beer belly.

“Higher.” Aaron pulled the shirt all the way up to his neck.

“Hey Aaron,” Chris asked from behind Lucas. Aaron shifted his attention, and in that moment the pink spider leaped off Lucas’ shoulder. It landed on Aaron’s chest and its legs sunk into Aaron’s skin. After a moment the piercing pain gave way to a different feeling. Aaron felt a pressure around his heart.

“How long?” Aaron asked through gritted teeth.

“Just a sec,” Lucas said. He lifted his hand and Aaron noticed a thin blue threat in his hand. He followed it and found it originated from the spider’s spinnerets.  “Take a deep breath and hold it,” Lucas said. Aaron sucked in as much air as he could and nodded. Lucas yanked on the thread. The spider came off Aaron and landed on the desk. It skittered back into the open briefcase. Aaron exhaled and a wave of pure sorrow washed out of him with the breath. His body shook from heaving sobs as the last of the air left his lungs. His eyes watered, but the sadness passed quickly. The moment he took in a new breath he felt better.

“Whoa…” Aaron sighed. “What the hell was that?” Lucas closed the briefcase and stood with a smile. “Tugging at your heart-strings.” A beep sounded from Aaron’s wrist. His hand flew up to check the display. Blue numbers glowed around the circumference of the band.

“999999999999999999999999….”

“It’s still broken,” he said. He tossed it to Chris.  He looked at it, shook his head, and tossed it back.

“Not broken. You’re just unlucky.”