Middle Management

[WP] You wake up in an unfamiliar and empty diner. You find you are clean shaven and dressed in a suit, which is odd as you know for a fact that you’ve spent the last six months homeless and without a job. You look outside and see that it is night and that you recognize none of the buildings. [Link to post.]


Ezekiel “Ezey” Yzaguirre awoke in a red leather booth, hunched over a white formica table. His senses kicked in as his eyes fluttered open. The first thing he noticed was a hunger inside him as if he had not eaten in months when he knew it had only been a couple of days. As his eyes adjusted to the bright interior of the diner he noticed what looked like a fresh hamburger on his table in a small plastic orange basket. Next to the hamburger was a pile of steaming hot french fries, with a tall glass of dark soda condensating next to the basket.


“Well, I guess I’m dead,” Ezey reached for the food without hesitation but noticed the dark sleeves of his suit as he pulled the food closer to him. He brought a french fry to his mouth, then looked down at his suit. He realized he did not feel any hair when he ate the fry and brought his hands up to feel his face.


“Not exactly,” a male voice said. Ezey turned to look for the source and noticed a man with a chestnut crewcut, and a suit matching the one Ezey wore, seated on one of the stools at the counter. Upon realizing he was not alone in the diner Ezey quickly grabbed the burger and bit into it. The man chuckled and stood from his stool to slide into the red booth across from Ezey. “Don’t worry, it’s not going to get taken away, and it’s free of charge.” The stranger’s hand dipped beneath the table. He brought it back up holding another burger basket with steaming hot fries. “As much as you like.” Ezey swallowed his bite, then washed it down with soda.


“What does that mean, ‘not exactly’?” he asked then took another bite of the burger. Though this time it was a smaller bite that he took his time chewing.


“It means you are. Unless you don’t want to be.” The stranger’s hand dipped below the table then returned with a white folder. He placed the folder on the table and opened it to reveal a short stack of papers. He lifted the top sheet and handed it to Ezey.


“I’m pretty okay staying here with the food,” Ezey grabbed the offered sheet and looked it over. His eyes widened, then he glanced at the next sheet in the stack. Without waiting for permission he grabbed the whole stack and leafed through them.


“Why do you have these?” he asked the man. A flash of anger coursed down his spine and his grip tightened around the sheets, crumpling the corner in his hand. “You’re the reason I haven’t found work in six months!?” The stranger gently shook his head.


“The originals that you filled out all went to the employers that you submitted them too, these are duplicates. They’re visual aids to help explain why you’re here.” Ezey turned to look at the diner around them, then he focused on the stranger again.


“Can we start with how I got here, before I ask you to explain where ‘here’ is?” Ezey asked. He calmed down enough to start picking at the fries again. The stranger nodded.


“You died. The details aren’t important, that life is over. However, we have a position open,” the stranger gestured at the white folder. “You aren’t the only one considering the position but given your eagerness to work, we came to you first.” Ezey’s mouth hung open enough to show a pale white ball of mush.  He closed his eyes, swallowed the frenchfry he was working on, then took a moment to take a breath.


“Am I working for Heaven or Hell?” he asked. A slight smirk crept up the left side of the stranger’s face.


“Neither, but both. We’re the Middlemen. We just sort people out and get them to where they want to go.” Ezey looked surprised.


“Where they want to go? Don’t you mean where they deserve to go?” Again the stranger gently shook his head.


“If you take the job, you’ll learn as you go. People are funny, but they always get what they think they deserve. Even if they don’t realize it.”


“What if I don’t take the job?” Ezey asked. The stranger shrugged, closed the white folder, then held it up to show Ezey. “You’re already filed into Heaven. If you don’t take the job you move on to there.” Ezey’s put another french fry in his mouth as he debated.


“I should tell you though, there’s no food in Heaven. There’s no need for it, you’ll never feel hungry.” the stranger said.


“Oh.” He finished chewing his fry, then swallowed it. “I’ll take the job, where do I sign?”




Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #212. You can find them collected on my blog. If you’re curious about my universe (the Hugoverse) you can visit the Guidebook to see what’s what and who’s who, or the Timeline to find the stories in order.

Mel Practice

[WP] A person is about to perform a very complicated surgery on another person. We don’t know if he or she is really a trained professional until the end. [Link to post.]


“Do all these people need to be here?” Doctor Garcia looked up at the second tier of the operating theater. The seats were filled with medical students grouped together by scrub color. A giant clear bubble kept the lower portion of the operating room sterile.


“No, but it’s a good chance for them to study,” the patient said. “I agreed to it.” He sat in a rigid metal seat that resembled a less comfortable barber’s chair. A horseshoe covered with a thin mint green cloth, “padding”, extended from the back of the chair to wrap around the man’s neck. A large transparent bib connected to the horseshoe protected his front. The doctor walked behind the man’s chair.


“Alright. Whatever you say,” Doctor Garcia said. “Scalpel,” he said.


“Scalpel? You haven’t even opened my skull yet,” the patient chuckled. The doctor’s fingers gripped the patient’s skull, and he attempted to pull it upward.


“Oh, right, I assumed that would have been done already,” Doctor Garcia glared at the rest of the staff, but they only shrugged in return. “Sorry. Uh, rotary saw? We got one of those?” The nurse handed a small electric handsaw with a circular blade. “Ready?” The patient nodded. “Well, but don’t move.” Doctor Garcia said. He heard a chuckle run through the audience of students above him.


“I’m ready, you may begin,” the patient said. He relaxed completely against the horseshoe; the rest of the chair did an excellent job supporting his weight, despite its awkward appearance.


Doctor Garcia activated the saw and flooded the room with a high pitched whirring sound. He touched an edge to the man’s bald head, slightly above his ear, and cut a steady line around the back of his skull. He walked a circle around the man at a slow pace to cut from all sides. Finally he turned off the noise and handed the saw back to the nurse.


He placed his fingers on the man’s skull and tugged upward again. This time the top of his skull came loose and separated from the rest of his head. He placed it on a nearby tray and held his hand out.


“Scalpel,” he said again. The nurse presented him a scalpel and he peered at the patient’s brain.


“Upper left,” the patient said.


“How do you know?” Doctor Garcia asked. The patient lifted his arm to point at a giant jumbotron style screen on the second tier.


“Oh. Thanks.” Doctor Garcia said. He inserted the scalpel into the man’s head, and made a cut.


“Nope, wrong one. I’m dead.” The patient said. Doctor Garcia dropped the scalpel to the floor. He ripped off his face mask, then gestured angrily at the crowd of students.


“I can’t work with an audience!” he yelled.


“Doctors need to learn to adapt. You can re-take the final next week.” The patient grabbed the top of his skull and placed it back on his head. Immediately his skin pulled itself together and the gash around his head disappeared. “Consider yourself lucky that you get to practice with a trained professional regenerator. Back in my day we didn’t get to make a mistake more than once.”



Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #211. You can find them collected on my blog. If you’re curious about my universe (the Hugoverse) you can visit the Guidebook to see what’s what and who’s who, or the Timeline to find the stories in order.

Sharp Interest

[WP] the hero will agree to go save the prince/ princess who has been kidnapped by a kingdom of monsters, however they have one condition: They get to live stream the whole thing. [Link to post.]


“There’s something interesting happening,” Melody said. She walked into the office of her boss, Dana Sharp, and immediately tuned the large wall display to what she wanted her boss to see.


A young girl in a dark blue and purple full body leotard skated towards a crowd of ogres and trolls. Her glowing roller blades left matching trails of blue light behind her as she barreled towards the crowd. The camera appeared to be following directly behind her.


“Who is she?” Dana asked Melody. She touched the display to switch the view. It showed the girl skating from a different angle, as well as a drone flying behind her; Dana guessed it was the camera from the first view.


“She’s a Zero,” Melody said. Dana did not take her eyes off the screen. The girl threw something at the crowd of enemies, then a brilliant flash of light blinded the camera for a second. When the view returned the girl was skating a circle around the mob while the drone that followed her attacked the ogres and trolls with machine guns. Melody switched views again and the screen showed the drone’s viewpoint as it fired into the crowd.


They tried lifting their shields and hiding behind each other, but the machine guns chewed through them. A dozen ogres and trolls fell to the ground. Their corpses disintegrated to dust.


After they all disappeared the girl skated to where the center of the crowd was. The drone followed her and continued to record. A large golden treasure chest appeared in front of her, and she touched it. The lid opened, and a young princess climbed out of the chest. Melody turned the display off.


“That quest isn’t supposed to be solo-able,” Melody reminded Dana. She was an amazing businesswoman, but sometimes the details of her product escaped her.


“Do we know how she did it?” Dana asked. Melody shook her head.


“She’s a Human Engineer with a Cyber soul. That would explain the camera drones easily enough, but we have no idea how she moved so fast. We didn’t detect any Inanimates either.”



“Are you sure she’s a Zero?” Dana asked. Melody moved to Dana’s desk and handed her a manila folder.


“Yes. We know one of her Zeroes.” Dana opened the file and glanced through the information. She picked out the relevant bits, closed the folder and winked at Melody.


“This is fantastic. Tell the test server to start pushing out camera drones for the engineer class, let’s get on this live streaming idea. Tell P.R. that I’m going to put together a derby team. Try-outs are for Uniques only. I want it promoted on her server,” Dana pointed to the blank display.


“But why are you making it Uniques only?” Melody asked. “She won’t show up if she can’t try out.” Dana shook her head and gave a soft chuckle. 


“A girl like her? She’ll probably look at it from the other end. She’ll be there because she can’t try out if she doesn’t show up.” Dana said. “After that, take the rest of the day off, you’ve earned it. And I’m taking you to dinner tonight, so be ready.” A light blush caressed Melody’s cheeks, it had been months since she and Dana had a date night.


“Where to?” Melody asked.


“Anywhere you like, except Donna Chang’s,” Dana said. “I don’t feel like relying on Janet for a ride.” Melody smiled.


“But she’s here now!” Melody said with her voice full of excitement. Donna Chang’s was her favorite restaurant, unfortunately, it was often on a different Earth. “I just granted her a permit last week.”


“Really? This day just keeps getting better. Alright, make the reservations, and I’ll see you tonight.”  Melody nodded and smiled as she walked out the door.

“Yes, Ms. Sharp.”

Ballisea -1. Glory – 0

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Each girl spun 180° to bolt away from Ballisea, and they all activated their escape skills. Dirge managed to open clear escape portals to a different AlterNet server about 10 feet in front of each girl. 


[party:{Valkyrie’s Retreat} Run! -Glory] “RETREAT!” Glory shouted as she pivoted on her feet to run away. Green sparkling nanos formed wings on the back of each girl as they sprinted away.


[party:{Gazelle’s Grace} Run! -Dread] Golden nanos formed a silhouette of a gazelle around each girl in the party. Dread felt strength surge through her legs and she reached the portal after two steps. 


[party:{Unique #05: El Paraguas (Shield)} Run! -Dirge] Dirge shared her shield with the group; a transparent force field surrounded each girl in a bubble as they raced to an escape portal.


“Don’t be in such a rush,” Ballisea smirked. Dread heard the woman’s soft voice behind her, but she kept her focus on the portal ahead of her. She could see through it to the server on the other side. As she stepped through the portal half a dozen small pitch black portals opened up in front of Dread on the new Earth. Bone hands and arms shot out from each portal as one; they braced against Dread’s bubble shield and pushed her backward out of the portal. Dread glanced at Dirge and Glory hoping one or both of them escaped, but she found them in the same situation as her. Skeleton arms blocked their exit.


Dirge looked at Dread with panic in her orange eyes, but Dread could only shrug at her in return. She watched Dirge release a sigh, then visibly relax. She let the escape portals close, but she kept the shields provided by El Paraguas active.


Then Dread turned her attention to Ballisea. She watched the tall, horned woman help Flutter get to her feet, and after a brief conversation between them Ballisea turned her attention to Dread. She walked towards Dread with a broad smile.


“If it isn’t the little Calavera that’s been feasting on my crumbs. I’d love to have a chat with you, but,…” Ballisea turned to face Glory. “…let’s keep it between us Uniques.” She walked to the green-haired angel.


“Glory!” Dirge yelled. Her bubble popped around her and she tried to dash forward to help Glory, but another group of black holes surrounded her before she took a single step. Skeleton hands shot out to hold Dirge in place.


“Calm down, she’s just a Zero,” Ballisea chuckled at Dirge over her shoulder. She reached Glory’s bubble then reached out to poke the bubble with her sharp, white, manicured fingernail. It disappeared.


“LEAVE HER ALONE!” Dread yelled. She charged at Ballisea, but Flutter stepped in to catch Dread’s bubble. It popped as soon as they made contact, but Dread’s momentum carried her into Flutter’s arms.


“You can’t help her,” Flutter advised Dread while holding the wriggling girl in a bear hug. A swarm of black holes appeared around glory; skeleton arms lifted her off the ground and spread her wings to hold her in place. Ballisea touched Glory’s forehead, and pulled a red glowing thread from her head.


[party: I had fun playing with you, Dirge. -Glory] Glory Whispered.

[party: Dirge promoted to Quartermaster. -system] Dread felt the system notice tickle her ear. She watched Ballisea open a black portal large enough for a person to walk through in front of Glory, then Ballisea stepped into it.


[party: GG. – Glory] [party: Glory disconnected from server. -system] Glory’s wings dissolved into dust, her body became a dark, charcoal black featureless mannequin. Ballisea returned carrying an unconscious green-haired woman on her shoulder.


“I thought you girls might like to see this,” Ballisea said. She dumped the woman’s body on the floor, Dread recognized her instantly as Glory. A ball of red glowing energy began to coalesce in Ballisea’s hand. Dread watched the energy and she realized it was coming from Glory. She looked down at the woman on the floor. Her skin appeared to be disintegrating into glowing red dust.


Dread watched Glory’s body become a white skeleton. Ballisea brought the ball of red energy to her mouth and swallowed it. She winked at Dread at the same moment a black hole formed under Glory’s skeleton and swallowed it before disappearing again.


“I love your hair by the way,” she said, indicating Dread’s short, spiked white hair. She stepped towards the girl held by Flutter, and mussed the girl’s hair. “I’m doing something similar,” Ballisea pointed at the set of twisting, bone-white horns that protruded from under her dark black hair.


“Now. Where did you come from?” Ballisea revealed a white strand of hair in her fingers. She sprinkled Dread’s white hair into the air causing a pitch black portal to open up around them. “Here? I remember this Earth,” Ballisea smiled. “I met a lovely Mundo and his Zero wife there. Then I killed them.”


Dread struggled harder to escape Flutter, but the large woman held her tight.


“Did you know him?” Ballisea asked with her left eyebrow raised. Dread realized she could not escape and relaxed against Flutter.


“He was my papa,” Dread said. Tears collected at the corner of her eye.


“Would you like to say hi to him?” Ballisea asked. She nodded at Flutter, and Dread suddenly felt herself hit the floor. Flutter stepped away to stand behind Ballisea.


“Can you do that?” Dread asked. Dirge appeared next to her to help her up; Ballisea must have freed her also. The one dream she never let herself hope for. She made peace with her father’s death centuries ago, but she still wished she could talk to him once more and explain who she was to him.


“If you like,” Ballisea said with a smile.



Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #209. You can find them collected on my blog. Dirge & Dread’s weekly adventures through the AlterNet are collected: here. If you’re curious about my universe(the Hugoverse) you can visit the Guidebook to see what’s what and who’s who, or the Timeline to find the stories in order.

For Queen & Country

[WP] As long as someone in the world is singing “Long Live the Queen”, the Queen will not die. But someone is assassinating them one by one. [Link to post.]


Edward watched the man’s blue eyes become dull and lifeless. He sat on the man’s chest using his weight to pin him down, but now that the man would no longer be fighting back Edward relaxed. He drew the small thin blade out of the man’s neck, then stood to begin the cleanup. His phone rang.


“Yes?” he answered it, then paced towards the balcony to admire the sunset. He expected the call to drag out, but felt no particular hurry. He cased his mark perfectly; he could stay the whole weekend and still manage to get away with it.


“Yes, he’s down. One left,” Edward said. He turned to glance inside the condo at the body he left on the floor. Another man in a dark suit sat in a nearby chair unconscious and tied to the chair. “No it won’t be hard, I’m looking at him right now. Just say the word.” Edward stared out over the balcony, he watched the sun dipping into the ocean while his client deliberated. Finally he received more instructions through the phone. He nodded.


“Okay, I’ll wait for your call.” Edward hung up the phone, then wandered back inside to begin the cleanup.  He carried the corpse out to the plastic lined trunk of his car, and found the other man stirring when he returned.


“Do you know who we are!?” He said loudly while straining against the zip-ties that kept him attached to the chair. Edward nodded.


“I know exactly who you are. That’s why I’m here.” Edward knelt on his hands and knees to clean the floor near the man.


“How could you do this to the Queen? You’re a traitor!” he yelled at Edward and made an attempt to spit on him. Spittle dribbled down his chin, but Edward ignored him to focus on his task of cleaning.


“The Queen is old, it’s time to bring in some younger blood,” Edward said.


“HOW DARE YOU!” the man made an attempt to kick at Edward, but he only succeeded in tipping his chair over, and smashing his face on the ground. “Owwwwww.” he groaned. Edward chuckled to himself, then stood from the floor. He walked over to the man then he sat the man and chair upright again.


“The Queen is human like everyone else, she’s probably dying…,” Edward chuckled to himself, and punched the prisoner on the shoulder for added amusement. “…for a break.” The man began to scoff at the thought, but Edward’s phone rang again.


“Yes?” He answered the familiar number. “Okay, one second,” he set the phone down on a nearby table without hanging up, then pulled up a chair and sat in front of the prisoner.  He leaned forward and pressed the phone against the prisoner’s ear.


“Someone wants to say hello,” Edward said with a smile. Without missing a bit the well-dressed prisoner yelled into the phone.


“LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!  I’m sorry, what?” Edward chuckled to himself.


“No, why are you doing this?” the prisoner’s head shook subconsciously. “I will always stand by my oath. Is there no other way?” Edward remembered asking that same question when he accepted the job. He watched the man go through the same process he did, until the man’s body relaxed completely. He accepted it much faster than Edward had. The man took a deep breath and nodded.


“I understand,” he looked up at Edward. “…asking for you,” he said. Edward cut the man loose, then placed the silver blade in the man’s hand. He took the phone, stood, and walked outside again.


“Yes?” Edward spoke into the phone as the sun dipped below the horizon completely. “It’s been an honor your Highness. Thank you, may you rest in peace at last,” Edward said. After a moment he hung up the phone, then walked back into the house to clean up the second body.


Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #208. You can find them collected on my blog.

Infernal Desires

[WP] I grabbed a pen and signed the pact. « So, what do you wish for? », said the devil. « I wish to replace you and become the new devil. » [Link to post.]

“I’m going to need a different set of forms, I’ll be right back.” The devil vanished in a puff of red smoke, but a second puff made him appear again before the first dissipated. He reached into the breast pocket of his dark suit for a dark red fountain pen, then handed it to Craig Fillmore along with an obsidian clipboard. He pointed out several X’s on the top form.

“Initial there, there, there, and signature there,” he said. Craig eagerly filled out the sheet and excitedly returned the clipboard to the devil. He took off the top sheet, then handed it back to Craig and pointed out another set of X’s. After Craig filled them out, the devil took the clipboard, smiled, and offered Craig a handshake.

“Congratulations, you’re a devil!”

“What do you mean A devil?” Craig asked as he stretched his hand to complete the deal. The moment he made contact with the devil’s hand he felt a whooshing plume of smoke push down on him. When it cleared he found himself in a small cubicle sized office surrounded by stacks of paper on every surface.

“You asked to replace me,” the devil smiled and gave Craig a friendly punch on the shoulder. Craig felt a warmth spread through his body from the point of contact. He looked down at his hands and watched his skin become dry, and dark red. He felt two spots tingling on the top of his head. The devil in front of him began to change also. Craig watched the man’s skin lighten from dark red to a smooth olive color and the two dark glassy horns on his head receded into his skull. He knew he was growing those same horns.

“I made the same deal a while back. The only way out is for someone to wish your job,” the former devil said. He opened the door to leave the small room.

“Wait!” Craig grabbed the man’s shoulder. “What do I do? I thought I was going to get to rule over hell?!” he asked. The man almost continued through the door, but he paused with a sigh.

“What do you think hell is?” He asked. He closed the door, swept a stack of papers to the floor then sat in the chair under it.

“Uh, you know. I sit around on a throne and make people’s lives shitty.” The former devil smirked.

“There’s your throne,” He pointed to a dark red leather high-back office chair, then he leaned down to pick a random piece of paper off the floor and handed it to Craig. “You can go make Woody Robertson’s life miserable.” He dropped the sheet, then reached down for another. “Or Clara Andrez,” he tossed the sheet up. “Any of them.” He shrugged at the sheet of paper riding the air down to the ground.

“But the devil rules the underworld! What about my legions of demons?” The former devil chuckled with a gleam in his forest green eyes.

“It started out like that, but Hell is a service industry like any other. We strive to give people what they want, and now everyone has their own personal Hell, instead of the communal vision of sulfur lakes and pitchfork wielding demons. These days devils are more like social workers than punishment enforcers.”

“What are you talking about? No one wants this,” Craig pointed out.

“No one thinks they want this, but we give people what they think they deserve,” he shrugged.

“So, what does that mean for Heaven?”

“Different branches of the same company,” Craig said. He stood from the desk and opened the door. “That’s what those people think they deserve.” He took a single step out the door.

“That’s all the advice I can give. As far as the actual job, you’ll figure it out. Just grab a sheet, and listen to what they have to say.”  He shut the door behind him leaving Craig alone in the small office. Exactly what he wanted.

Quest Accepted

[WP] You work for either NRA or NSA, and one day you pull up to work and notice that the sign on the building has been changed to the sign for the other place. [Link to post.]



“You sure this is the right one?” Phil, a short man in a dark businesses suit turned to his partner. He parked in his usual spot when they noticed the sign now read “NRA” instead of “NSA”. Fred, a tall man in a dark business suit, took off his sunglasses to glare at Phil with cold brown eyes.


“Yeah, I’m sorry,” he apologized for accusing his partner of a mistake that simple, then turned the ignition off. “Let’s go see what’s going on.” Fred put his sunglasses back on, and the two men stepped out of Phil’s black SUV.


“Double check,” Phil said as they approached the front door of the NRA. “It wouldn’t be the first time we got pushed.” He paused at the entrance to wait for Fred to double check their location.  The tall man lifted his hand in the air and splayed his fingers wide. A pulse of soft golden light radiated around his hand; after it disappeared he looked at Phil with a confused look on his face, and shrugged.


“See? Told you.” Phil reached inside his jacket, and returned with his gun. “Let’s go see if someone did it on purpose.” Fred nodded. He pulled the glass door open to let Phil enter the building first.  They walked into an empty pristine white lobby, each footstep echoed as they made their way through the lobby towards the elevator. Fred pressed the call button and the elevator dinged immediately. The doors slid open to reveal a tall man with a mane of wavy golden hair, and a well maintained golden beard. He smiled at the two men.


“Good morning, gentlemen. I’m sorry to spring this on you, but I’d like your help,” he said. Phil relaxed enough to holster his gun, then he moved to step into the elevator, but Fred placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him.


“What’s wrong?” To answer his question Fred reached up and knocked on the border between the elevator and the lobby. His knuckle bumped a solid, invisible barrier. Golden light radiated outward from the point of contact.


“I’m somewhat in hiding at the moment, I’m sure you understand. You’re welcome to stay there while we talk,” the man in the elevator said.  Phil nodded, and the two men took a step back from the elevator.


“What can we do for you?” Phil asked.


“I need you to investigate a woman, a Zero,” the blonde man said. Both men shrugged in their dark suits.


“Why us? If she’s a Zero, get the locals,” Phil asked.


“There are no locals, it’s Dana Sharp.”


THE Dana Sharp? Earth 1 Dana Sharp?”  The tall man in the elevator nodded.


“Still.  Why US?” Phil asked again. “A Sol like you can probably get any of a hundred other Uniques.”


“I’ve been watching hundreds of other Uniques. You two are the best qualified.”  Fred lifted his arm towards Phil for a High Five, but the short man dismissed it with a wave. “You’re the only agents with leveled AlterNet characters,” the stranger added.


“Huh, alright.” Phil chuckled to himself, and extended an arm to give Fred a High Five. The blonde man smiled at the sharp sound of their hands slamming against each other.


“Don’t let your guard down just because she’s a Zero. She’s got plenty of Uniques on her payroll,” the man advised. Phil and Fred nodded, both wearing goofy smirks on their face. “Thank you for your time, I’ll check in again,” he said. The interior of the elevator went pitch black for a second, but when the light returned the blonde man no longer stood there.  Phil and Fred turned around to walk out of the building.


“I told you it’d come in handy. Now we get paid to play a game,” Phil said once they reached the black SUV. “We should probably drop the car off first,” he added. Fred wiggled his fingers in the air to open a clear vertical portal in front of the SUV. Phil smiled and drove through the portal to park in his spot at the NSA building where they worked.

Sharp Feelings

[WP] Scientist have found that a person experiencing the chills is directly related to that person dying in one of the 1000 closest alternate dimensions to his or her own. With this discovery, you realize that you have been getting the chills every day at exactly 2:43 PM for the past 10 years. [Link to post.]


“Ms. Sharp is out of the office,” Melody explained into a cellphone while she walked into her boss’s office. “I can make an an appointment.” She flipped on the light switch and strode across the glassy floor toy to the large, dark glass desk. “I’m sorry, no. She has a standing appointment from 2-4. Okay, yes that’s available. Thank you.”


Melody hung up the phone as she sat in her boss’s high back leather office chair. She grabbed a yellow notepad from the neatly organized desk and scribbled the appointment out. She peeled off the bright square to stick it to Dana’s monitor, but before the sticky side made contact a freezing chill ran down her spine. The surprise caused her arm to flail across the desk; she wiped a set of folders off the desk.


“Damnit,” she complained to herself. She kneeled, full of anger at herself about losing track of time, to pick up the mess of strewn papers. Melody noticed a number in the corner of one of the sheets and realized they were numbered; then she started to collate them. Finally, she stood with the papers in the proper order to put them back into their folder, but she caught sight of her name on the front page.


“Melody Klink: Zero Attunement Project. 2:43 p.m. Earth 1 timezone.” She dropped the papers, let herself fall into the plush office chair, then took a deep breath.


“I’m sure she would have told you eventually,” a woman’s voice called Melody’s attention. She sat up straighter in the chair and looked for the source. Janet, a short, bald woman, sat in a chair in front of the desk. She appeared without making a sound.


“What’s she doing to me?” Melody asked. Janet shrugged.


“Exactly what she does; testing every single possibility. She’s been killing your Zeroes on the nearest 1000 Earths to see if you’d notice,” Janet explained. Everything made sense to Melody in that moment. 10 years ago Dana Sharp perfected a way to track soul signatures. The next day was the first time Melody felt chills the next day for the first time. She wiped away a tear that escaped her eye, and gave Janet a half-hearted nod.


“I did. I didn’t think anything of it, but I did feel it.”  Melody heard Janet release a heavy sigh.


“I know you’re going to tell her,” Janet stood from her seat to approach the desk. She leaned on it and looked at Melody right in the eye. “Love is stupid. All I can do is tell you to think about the repercussions a bit before you do. She’s been at it 10 years, you know she’s close to calling it a dead end. If she finds out she’s right,… ” Janet shrugged, and grabbed Melody’s file from the desk. “… she’ll go through countless Zeroes and Uniques to learn all she can. I won’t even mention your own suffering because I know you’ll bear it for her.”


“She loves me too!” Melody felt the need to defend their relationship, and Janet nodded in understanding.


“She does, I don’t doubt that. You’re the one Zero she won’t kill.” Janet wiggled a hand in the air next to her to open a pitch black portal.


“But, for your sake, you need to realize that no matter how much she loves you you’re not her goal. I’ve only been working with her for about a century, but even I see it. You’ve been with her long enough to know: if you’re not Dana Sharp’s goal, then you’re a step to it.” Janet shook the file folder at Melody. “You’re just another experiment to document,” she said, then disappeared into the portal. It closed behind her to leave Melody alone in the office with her thoughts. 

Trouble Blooms

[WP] A device was invented that allows people recovering from major surgeries to spend their recovery in the world’s ubiquitous VR platform to escape the pain of rehabilitation. Three months after your operation you notice the option to return to your physical body has disappeared from your console. [Link to post.]


Henry sat up in his bed with a start.  He’d been sleeping, but something felt urgent. His first instinct led him to call up the menu. A translucent slate appeared in front of him, it hovered above the blanket that covered his legs. He swiped the screen to scan through the icons to look for something, unsure what, several times. Finally, he stopped.


“Can’t find anything,” he mumbled to himself, then dismissed and turned to give sleep another shot. The second his head touched the pillow his eyes shot open. “NO!” he yelled, then urgently summoned the slate again.  He knew what he was looking for now, and swiped once to the right. A blank space at the bottom of the menu stood out like a black sheep. There should have been an option to log out, but it was no longer there.


[HELP! – Hank]  He immediately sent a Whisper to the one person that might help, and then gave her more information.

[I can’t log out? – Hank] He pulled his knees up to his chest, and sat patiently to wait for a response. Luckily she responded within a couple of minutes.


[Okay. I’m sorry. -Bloody] The Whisper tickled his inner ear canal. He “knew” the text of the message without having to read it.

[Be there in a sec. -Bloody] Hank hopped out of the bed and changed out of his pajamas into red Monk gear. A knock on the door called his attention the moment he finished. Hank walked through the small cabin and opened the door for his guest, a tall, thin, pale elf with long, dark, blood-red hair in a braid behind her. He opened the door to let her in, and the wispy elf walked straight to the couch to take a seat.

“Janet’s bringing me some equipment,” she informed Hank as he closed the door. He nodded and sat down next to her. The elf reached for Hank’s hands to comfort him.


“There’s no easy way to say it, but it’s already been confirmed. Your body died moments ago,” she said. Hank looked at the woman through wide eyes, he shook his head subconsciously.


“No. That doesn’t make any sense, how am I still here?” He stood to beat his fist against his chest. “If my body died, I’d lose consciousness.”


“You’d think so,” the elf nodded. A small black hole opened in the air next to the elf. A small black cat with a red face walked out of the hole while holding a small, transparent rectangle, about the size of a playing card, in its mouth.  The elf grabbed the Node from the cat, then the cat retreated back into the hole.


[notice: Party Invite – Bloody Sharp] Hank felt the notification tingle in his ear. He accepted it so that he could see whatever she wanted to show him.  When he accepted it, the elf stood from her seat then tossed the clear Node onto the floor.


When the Node touched the floor, the living room of Hank’s cabin changed. The floor became dark, moist soil. He recognized his body lying in the middle of the soil pit.


“This is the Mudroom where we put you to recover,” she said. The elf walked to the representation of Hanks body, then knelt next to it. She opened his shirt to show Hank a small green leaf growing out of his belly button. “I’m sorry your body died, but we could never have guessed this would happen,” she said.  By this time Hank knelt next to his own body to stare at the small green leaf.


“What happened? I’m a tree?” he asked.


“YES!” Bloody Sharp exclaimed. “Isn’t it amazing!?”


“NO!  I can’t go back to my body!” Hank clenched his fists several times to work through the anger.


“But you’re still HERE!” She pointed at the floor and the projection of the Mudroom around them disappeared, leaving his small in-game cabin. “In the AlterNet! Think about it, all your responsibilities left behind. And your family isn’t even out of reach, they all have characters. Here you’re a max level Monk, what were you back home?” Hank unconsciously reached up and rubbed the back of his neck as he considered her words.


“Football Coach,” he said, then added, “high school,” in a lower voice.


“You’re the first person this has happened to, and this Earth is just as real as the one you came from. Work with me, let me learn from you. You’ll never have another worry again,” she said.  She offered him a hand, and after several seconds he shook it firmly with a nod.


“Okay. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without you, I trust you,” Hank said.


“Okay, I need to go get started studying what happened. I’ll be back in the morning and we can talk more then, okay?”  She disconnected the moment Hank nodded his agreement.


[notice: Party disbanded.] The elf’s features disappeared, her skin darkened. In a moment only the swarm mannequin remained, then it disintegrated into a fine black powder that disappeared before hitting the ground.


[WP] You were born with a great gift. Whenever you see a person, you can think of a “statistic” and it will be unerringly shown above their head. In jest, you thought about “number of living beings killed”… when you noticed a nine digit number gently floating above someone walking in front of you. [Link to post.]


Terry Pines strolled through the downtown district with a smile on his face. The Saturday crowd gave him plenty of opportunities to play with his ability and, the sun shone brightly for the first time in weeks on this particular Saturday. The crowd moved from store to store, losing and gaining individuals as everyone went about their own business.


Lies told today,” he focused on the thought, then numbers appeared over everyone’s head. He enjoyed watching that stat in real time. He heard an argument nearby and turned to watch a couple in the middle of a heated discussion. The “10” above a man’s head ticked up to “11” while he yelled vehemently at the woman, with a “3” over her head, who seemed to not be listening. Terry chuckled as he walked by, and tried a different stat. “Number of people killed,” He looked around the sea of “0”s and “1”s floating above everyone’s head and chuckled. It surprised him at first, of course. However, once he realized that people have no grasp of how their actions affect others he realized all the extra ones and occasional twos don’t matter too much.


Terry turned a corner at the end of the block and began to consider his next stat. As he let the power fade he caught a glimpse of a number ahead of him fade out.


“What?” the surprise caused him to speak aloud to himself. “Number of people killed.” He focused on the stat again, and there it was. “999 999 999” in dark red letters floating above a short woman’s head. She was bald, but a red tattoo of a skull decorated the top of her head. The woman turned into an alley out of Terry’s sight, and his steps grew larger to catch up to her.


She did have almost a billion kills.” Terry’s mind reminded him before he turned into the alleyway. He looked around at the crowd flowing by, then up at the sun. “Broad daylight. Tons of people. I’ll be fine,” he decided. He stepped into the alley and saw the short woman ahead of him between two large buildings. The alley stretched about 90′, and the woman was almost at the other end.


Terry did not know how to follow her down the alley without being obvious, but she made a sudden sharp turn into a doorway on the right side of the alley and disappeared.


This is stupid.” Terry reprimanded himself, but his legs carried him through the alley towards the point she disappeared through. He reached an open arch in the side of the building to his right and peered in.  He caught sight of a different woman, pale and thin, wearing an elegant white business suit. She sat alone at a small picnic table in what looked to be a small garden. A black and red cat sat on the table facing Terry through the doorway.

“Come in, I’d like to talk to you,” the woman in white said. Terry looked up from the cat and realized the woman stared directly at him too. “You’re special, aren’t you?” she asked with a friendly smile.


Terry’s eyes went wide and he leaped through the door. He felt different his whole life, and his ability confirmed it. Somehow he knew there was more to learn about himself, but he never knew where to start. The moment he stepped through the door, something changed. The air around him felt different. He looked up and noticed the woman and the cat both had numbers floating above their heads, even though they did not before he stepped through the door.  “118 999 881” hovered in black numbers above the woman in white and “999 999 999” hovered above the cat.

He turned in a hurry, but his body rammed into the wall behind him.


“OW!” he fell backward and landed on the soft grass, but he rolled over quickly to stand up. “Don’t hurt me!” he said and pressed himself back against the wall as if he could force himself through it somehow.


“Hurt you? My dear Pino, I’m here to help you,” The woman in white stood from her seat, and slowly closed the gap between her and Terry. She stopped five feet away from him and held her palms up at to show she meant no harm. “You have no idea how much you’ve just helped me,” a broad smile overtook her face, showing her perfect white teeth. Terry remained pressed against the wall.


“How’d I help you?” What happened to the door that was here?” Terry asked. The woman gave a slight chuckle.


“Those are actually the same answer. Come, sit.” She cocked her head to the table, then walked back to her seat. Terry relaxed slightly. He was trapped for the moment, but she did not seem to mean him any harm at least. He took a deep breath then sat in the chair opposite the woman; in front of the cat. The moment he sat down the cat stood up to hop off the table.


“I work with unique individuals, like yourself. All of them have some sort of ability,” she winked at Terry but continued to speak. “But along with that, there are certain,” she paused for a second, then continued. “Tradeoffs, or rules I guess you could call them. I don’t have the time to go into too much detail at the moment, but let’s just say that you helped me break one of those rules. And as a reward, you’re going to get upgraded!” The woman in white smiled and stood from her seat.  “Janet, if you please,” she said.


“Who’s Ja-” The short bald woman touched the back of Terry’s neck and he immediately lost consciousness.