Inviting Sun

Minerva’s heart sank with the gavel bang. The court ruled her a witch and in an instant, the gathered townsfolk rushed at her like a rabid mob.

“BURN THE WITCH!” Minerva’s own mother yelled. The young woman couldn’t blame her though; she saw the pain in her mother’s eyes. She knew she was only doing it to take the blame off herself for birthing a witch at all. Not that Minerva was actually a witch. The accusation only came because she proved herself to be stronger than any man in the village.

It was a festive day full of friendly competitions; Minerva won them all easily. The mayor’s ego was particularly bruised when Minerva bested his son in a wrestling competition.

“She has unnatural strength! It’s magic!” he shouted. That was all it took to get her on trial. A trial presided over by the Mayor himself; she never stood a chance. Then, almost as quickly as it began, the ruckus died down. A brilliant, almost warm glow entered the room. Everyone, now quiet, sat down again and turned to face the newcomer. Minerva noted the crowd seemed relaxed and guessed they felt like she did; ready to nap on a beach on a warm sunny day.

“This woman is no witch,” the stranger said. She was tall, lean, and ghostly pale.  Her hair shimmered like polished metal as did her eyes.

“And you are, Ms.?” The mayor asked. His question came in a far more polite tone than Minerva had ever heard from him in her 20 years. It only made it stranger that he was addressing a woman. The rest of the townsfolk seemed content to sit quietly and bask in her warm glow.

“You may call me Chroma,” the woman replied. She continued walking towards the witness stand at an easy pace.

“And how are you sure that she’s not a witch?” the mayor asked. Chroma smiled at him, she was now directly in front of Minerva.

“Because I am,” she replied. Minerva’s eyes went in fear for the woman. She expected the crowd to rush Chroma just as ferociously as they did her; but, no one moved. The mayor only nodded his head.

“I see,” he replied. “Though, that doesn’t necessarily exclude her from being one. Witches belong to covens. How do you explain her magical strength?” Minerva was amazed that the mayor’s argument came out so peacefully. She knew it was due to Chromas glow, and she did not doubt for a minute that the woman was definitely a witch.

“What’s to explain?” Chroma shrugged. “Your boys are just weak; they should get more exercise.”

“Hmmm,” the mayor nodded again. “I suppose they have been getting lazy.”

“It’s a beautiful day outside, why is everyone in here?” Chroma asked. Minerva felt the sudden urge to run outside, but Chroma placed a hand on her shoulder to keep her steady. Another bang of the gavel drew everyone’s attention.

“Not a witch. Case closed. Let’s get back to the festival,” the mayor said. The townsfolk all stood calmly, then filed out of the courtroom. The moment Chroma and Minerva were alone, Chroma’s golden, sunny glow dimmed and Minerva’s head felt clearer.

“Are you okay?” Chroma asked her. Minerva nodded.

“Yes, thank you. Who are you? Why is a witch helping me?” 

“I’m not a witch exactly. I do use magic, but it’s not witchcraft,” Chroma replied with a smile. Minerva couldn’t help but stare into her mirror-like eyes. They were polished enough that Minerva was looking into her own green eyes.

“I helped you with the hope of convincing you to help me,” Chroma replied. Minerva nodded immediately; she was beyond grateful at this point.

“Whatever it is, if I can help you, I will,” Minerva replied. Chroma smiled. A tall black portal opened next to Minerva and Chroma nodded at it.

“Welcome to the Chrome Court. You’re going to help me save the multiverse,” Chroma then stepped into the void and disappeared. Minerva heard her voice from the other side. “Come along, Calavera.”

Sharp Looking Chrome

“And you forgot how to knock over the centuries?” The great mirror-polished wyvern glared at Spa worker. Their uniforms hadn’t changed much over the centuries. He wore the same white shorts and white polo shirt with red trim Chroma saw when she began her hibernation. But, it seemed the service took a noticeable dive. Chroma requested a wakeup call after about a millennia. Instead, she woke to find a man sneaking into her room unannounced.

“I know why you’re here,” she added. “I’m the one that paid for the service,” she grumbled.

“Yes, Ms. Chroma,” The nervous bellboy nodded. Then, he stood patiently, unsure of what to do next. He did not need to wait long.

“Just, Chroma,” the dragon said. Her voice only carried a minor exasperation. The bellboy nodded again, eager to please her. Chroma was one of the Spa’s original founders. Ever since Greg started his job, respect and awe for Chroma was drilled into him every day. He stood at attention waiting to fulfill her every wish. She stared at him for several quiet seconds, then sighed.

Her long, elegant neck swung gracefully around the room until her face hovered a foot in front of him. Greg could see his three-day-old stubble and slightly mussed hair reflected back in each of the mirror-like scales on her face.

“Well?” She asked.

“Uh.. Well what, Ms. Chr- I mean Chroma, ma’am?” Greg stumbled over his words. He was surprised and relieved when he noticed her give an amused eyeroll.

“I need some privacy to slip into something more comfortable; if you don’t mind,”

“Oh! Sorry!” Greg spun around, then shut his eyes for good measure.

“Catch me up,” Chroma said from behind Greg.

“Your aunt continues to maintain her restaurant, Donna Chang’s. She has repaid your investment in full, with six centuries of interest.” Greg said. “Sharp Development expanded into the afterlife before failing. Dana Sharp is dead. After the company dissolved you received 30% of the sale as well as shares of Heaven and Hell. Ruby has taken over as director of the Spa in your absence. Greg bowed his head even though he faced the opposite way.

“And she’s so busy that she couldn’t come and visit her mother?” Chroma said with a playful pout in her voice.

“She’s busy…,” Greg swallowed. He worked hard to earn the right to be the one to brief Chroma. Once he earned the right, things went downhill pretty quickly. He was supposed to have nothing but good news for her, but, the universe had other plans. “The Conquistadors are free,” Greg said. He felt a small hand grab his shoulder and spin him around. He opened his eyes to see a pale woman with chrome hair and platinum eyes staring at him. She was not entirely finished dressing yet. Greg caught sight of a silver sun tattooed just under her collar bone; a red number 46 decorated the center of the sun.

“All of them?” she asked. Greg nodded.

“All of them,” he repeated. “But, Sharp Development managed to get one. La Calavera. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about where it was kept before the company was dissolved.”

“Really?” Chroma pulled back in surprise. Then, she smiled when Greg nodded his affirmation. “Well, that’s different.” The cavern around her seemed to relax completely; Greg felt as if a great weight was lifted off his soul. The positive feeling was so sudden and intense that it bubbled up and escaped through his mouth as a light chuckle.

“Is that good? Even if we don’t know where it is?” he asked. Chroma nodded.

“Different is very good,” Chroma said. She walked past Greg toward the cavern exit with purpose. Greg smiled to himself. He felt like he did a good job; but, then a stray thought formed in the back of his head. He expected Chroma to be eccentric, but as he watched her stride away with confidence he realized he didn’t know why she was so excited.

“Different from what!?” he called out after her. She didn’t stop to answer.

Sharp Memory


“We’re closed!” Jenny shouted through the door without paying much attention. Someone knocked on the pizzeria door as she was rushing through a final check for the night. She was in a hurry to catch up with her friends for a party but needed to leave the restaurant in good condition. The person knocked again and stepped closer to the door so that the dim yellow light from inside the pizza shop fell on her pale, round face. Jenny sighed at the familiar face and opened the door.

“Hey, Melody. What’s up?” she asked. She had not had more than a passing conversation with Melody Sharp in almost three years. Jenny did not have any friendship left for the woman, but she respected her enough to see what she wanted. The woman’s face softened into a smile and she reached into the coat pocket of her black suit.

“Happy Birthday, Jenny,” she said. She pulled a red-translucent node from her pocket and presented it to the now 18-year-old girl. Jenny’s face brightened and she reached for it. “It’s from Dana,” Melody added. Jenny dropped her hand, not completing the exchange.

“How?” Jenny asked Melody through narrow eyes. The woman quickly shook her head.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said. Her lip trembled and Jenny noticed she was moments from breaking into tears. With a deep breath, Melody collected herself. “I wanted to try and… I don’t know… change your last memory of her,” she sighed. “Sorry, I put too much thought into it. It’s not from Dana… I just think she’d want you to have it.” The answer appeased Jenny; Melody had always had a blind spot for Dana Sharp. Jenny felt bad seeing that Melody still mourned Dana after three years and reached for the red node. She understood they were married, but at her end, Dana turned on Melody too. 

“Thanks, Melody,” she said sincerely. “But what is it? You wouldn’t give it to me if it was just a node.” Melody shook her head.

“It’s a key. To Dana Sharp’s secret lab, now your secret lab,” she said.

“Are you offering me a job?” Jenny asked. Melody shook her head.

“The lab has always been separate from Sharp Development. And I don’t expect you to be as nice to me as you are now, once you visit.” Jenny gave Melody a curious look, but the woman kept talking. “I don’t have the time to travel there regularly, nor staff that I trust enough, to keep it maintained. At least in your hands, it won’t be wasted.” Melody turned to leave but Jenny interrupted.

“What’s in there? You seem pretty confident I’m not going to like what I find.” Melody stopped at the door to answer, but she did not turn around.

“Dana had a lot of secrets,” she said softly.  “When I married her…,” Melody’s voice was trembling. “She’s not the only one that lied to you. I’m sorry, Jenny,” she said and pulled open the door to leave. She left quickly, leaving the teenager alone in the pizzeria again.

[Hurry up. Aury’s eyeing the cake. – Dread] the Whisper tickled the back of Jenny’s neck; it felt like Dread was breathing on her. Directly after that Jenny felt another Whisper vibrate in her ear.

[On your way? Should we start? -Aury] Jenny rolled her eyes and giggled to herself. Only Aury would start the party without the birthday girl present. She had a vivid vision of him lighting the candle and singing happy birthday to an empty chair just to get to the cake Jenny’s mom made. She pocketed the red node and planned to put it off for the next day. Tonight she wanted to celebrate her birthday with her best friends. Jenny raised her arm and wiggled her fingers at the air. She opened a black portal and disappeared into it.

Sharp Secret

“Hold up,” Aurelio raised his hands in a ‘whoa’ gesture. “Say that again, so you can hear what it sounds like.” Jenny shook her head.

“Oh come on,” she said. “We both know what Dana was capable of. Is this really that surprising?”

“But, Satan? THE devil himself is real.. and he gave Dana Sharp a project?” Jenny nodded. “Then…,” Aury grinned. “…is she in Hell? Oh man, I hope she is.” Jenny shrugged.

“No idea, but I’d say that’s a good guess. Anyway, let me finish,” Jenny took a deep breath and stared into Aurelio’s coffee-brown eyes. “I figured out how to do it.”

“Do what?” Aurelio’s brown eyes narrowed.

“The project she was working on. I know how to finish it.”

“Do you want to finish something for Satan?” Jenny nodded with a broad grin.

“She has two Uniques, both Sols, in her lab that have never been born into a body. The project’s goal is to birth both of them in the same universe.

“I know you’re smarter than she was, but how do you have it figured out after a couple of weeks when Dana couldn’t?” Aury asked. Then his eyes widened as he realized another possibility. “How do we know she’s actually dead, and not getting you to finish her work from the shadows?”

“The answer was at the tournament. I’m sure she realized it; if she was still alive she’d have done it herself.”

“The tournament?” Aurelio asked. “What’s the answer then?”

“Wonder,” Jenny smiled.

“Wonder? The Calavera from CyberRiot?” She nodded eagerly.

“She’s a Unique born naturally in the AlterNet. She let me run some tests, and I’m pretty sure I can duplicate the process that gave her consciousness using the two souls…” Jenny paused and met Aurelio’s eyes again. “…with your help. And, Oren’s.”

“Hah, good luck with that; no one’s seen Oren since the tournament. What do you need from me?”

“Your badge.”

“My badge? What badge?”

“You better still have it!” Jenny reached out and gave Aury a gentle shake. “Your mod badge, from when you worked for Dana. She has a private office in her lab that I can’t access without mod priveledges. I’m sure it’s full of helpful info, maybe even some leads on Oren. She always kept a close watch on him.”

“GUYS!” a sudden shout made Jenny and Aurelio jump in their seats. They turned to find a tall, pale teenager in black clothes; he sported a prominent widow’s peak. Then, Jenny turned to stick her tongue out at Aury before she greeted the newcomer.

“OREN!” she shouted using the same tone he did then followed it up with a giggle.

“Great news,” Oren said; he stood up straighter and puffed out his chest. “I’m celebrating my 18th birthday by having a derby tournament. I want you guys in it: say yes.” Aury and Jenny’s different answers came out at the same time.

“No,” Aury said.

“Yeah!” Jenny jumped out of the couch to hug Oren.

“Great! Help me spread the word: the winning team gets their own server.”

“No,” Aury repeated.

“Yeah yeah, Jenny already said yes. This is gonna be awesome!” Oren waved his hand at the air to open a tall black portal. “I can’t wait to tell my mom I have friends!” he jumped through the portal; it closed behind him leaving Aury and Jenny alone again.

“His mom?” Aury asked. “Did we know he had a mom? I mean, of course he has one but do you know who she is?” Jenny shook her head and sat down next to Aury again.

“No, but if you find your badge, I”ll bet Dana knew.”

Sharp Solution

Dana Sharp personal log:

The meeting with Satan went smoother than expected. To sum up: I was surprised. Hell asked me for a favor. The Devil was intentionally vague, but he did use the phrase ‘rules’ several times.  Considering the favor he asked, I don’t think he was talking about the usual soul-selling rules.

He asked me to sneak two unborn Unique Souls into the AlterNet as twin Sols. He can’t do it because it’s against the rules. But it seems to be okay if I break the rules. The good news is he’s not in a hurry. I’ll have plenty of time to play with clean, brand-new Unique Souls straight from the source. They haven’t been contaminated by mortal flesh yet.

I am going to continue forward. I’ve got my eye on another one of my Zeros, thanks to Melody. The steps are lining up before me, bringing me closer to my goal. Solving the universe just got easier.