Use It or Lose It

“OH COME ON!” Luna growled at the computer. It was general frustration, she knew the computer wasn’t at fault. She was in the middle of taking a personality quiz. She got as far as her name and favorite number before her ISP decided she did not need to be on the internet anymore. The 18-year old girl gave a huff and pulled her phone out to continue the quiz. An icon on the top right corner informed her that she had no service.

“Fine,” she grumbled and tossed her phone on the bed. “If someone…,” she glanced upward. “…doesn’t want me to communicate with the outside world, then I won’t.” She planned to pamper herself on her day off and realized she did not need to be connected for that. It was a rare day that she was off from all three of her jobs and she intended to enjoy it. She filled the tub and climbed in while thinking about her schedule for the rest of the week. Luna still lived with her parents and did not need to work at all, but she needed an outlet for her skills.

Luna had not quite solved her abilities yet and refused to take on more skills without careful thought and planning. The first set of skills she copied was from her mother, a prominent chef. She remembered thinking one day that she wished she could cook like her mom. The next morning, 10-year-old Luna made one of her mother’s most complicated dishes for breakfast.

Her parents were impressed, but also concerned about a child in the kitchen. They made her promise she would only cook with them there. After a month, they still had not found time in their schedules to let the girl cook again. As time went on Luna grew more agitated and short-tempered. One night, she couldn’t sleep. It felt like her body was vibrating.

Her parents woke up at 2 in the morning to find her crying and cooking everything in the kitchen. She had all five burners occupied on the range as well as a ham in the oven. There was also a roast in the crockpot and a turkey defrosting in the microwave.

It took a few more episodes like that for her to realize it happened when she didn’t use her copied skill. That notion also convinced her that she did copy her mom’s skills and she was determined to try it again. She went for things she was sure she could work into her everyday life. Her uncle was a talented programmer and one of her cousins was a martial arts instructor; they were easy choices. As long as she spent some time cooking, programming, and practicing her forms every day she was fine. She did not want to add too much to that list and end up without any time for herself.

45 minutes later, after a relaxing soak, Luna climbed out of the tub, dried off and dressed. As she entered the kitchen to cook up a delicious lunch a knock came from the front door. She wondered if her parents were expecting a package as she crossed the living room to open it. Instead of a courier, a lean, beady-eyed man in a cactus green leisure suit stood on the porch.

“Hi,” he smiled. “You don’t know me, but I just wanted to ask you a question.” Luna gave him a weak nod; she expected a sales-spiel. “What’s your favorite number?”

“23,” Luna said. The answer left her mouth before she even thought about answering. The stranger nodded and reached into the pocket of his green coat. After she answered his question, a paranoid thought danced across the back of her mind. She wondered if there was any connection between the quiz she was taking, her internet and phone losing connection, and this stranger. As he withdrew his hand, Luna spotted the black grip of a gun in his hand. She waited a moment longer to be sure. He pulled the gun out as quick as he could and pointed it in Luna’s direction. That was all the confirmation she needed.

She used her uncle’s martial arts skills to grab the man’s hand and point the gun away from herself. The moment she touched his hand she felt a tingle in her chest. Not on the surface, but deeper; in her soul. Then she felt tingling all over her skin. Her face, arms, and hands.

“OW OW OW!” The stranger yelled as Luna held his hand. “Let go!” He dropped the gun and yanked his hand away. He massaged it as he stared at her with wide eyes. Luna reacted quickly and kicked the gun between his legs; if he wanted it he would have to turn his back to her.

“I’ll show you, damn copy-cat!” he growled and thin black, cactus needles grew out of his skin. Luna glanced down at her arms and discovered the same black spines growing out of her skin. She looked at her palms and found blood-covered needles poking out of her skin. He threw a punch but she blocked it easily with her spined arms. She felt his needles poke her too but it felt like hers were longer.

“What do you want? Who sent you?” Luna asked. The suited man shook his head.

“It’s not personal,” he said. “They didn’t send me to kill you. They sent me to kill a Luna.”

“That’s me! How is it not personal?” she asked. The would-be assassin shook his head again.

“Your name doesn’t matter as much as what you are. Unique Soul #23, La Luna. That’s what I’m here to stop.” The sound of crunching gravel called both of their attentions to a minivan pulling into a driveway. The man in a suit sighed. He turned to leave, but paused and looked over his shoulder.

“They won’t send me again, but they’ll send someone. Find a Mundo if you want answers,” he took a step forward and crouched to get his gun from the ground. Luna’s father gave him an odd look as he walked away.

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