Thundering Roar

[OT] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Previously on Dirge & Dread: The girls learned Dread’s new friend is Flutter, Ballisea’s top enforcer. This week they try and take her down.

***

“Why’d you pick that one?” Flutter, the giant, pale, red-head asked Dread as they walked out of the shop where Dread chose her beast. “They had a ton of stronger options, like that bear with a scorpion soul,” she added. Dread found an out of the way alley to wait for Dirge and Glory.  She looked at Flutter and shrugged.

 

“It was the only tiger they had,” she said. Flutter laughed and patted her on the shoulder. “The shrimp soul is pretty useless, but I’ll teach you how to use your tiger. Summoning your beast is an ability like your Shark Skin. You have to do it through the menus first until you learn what it feels like; eventually, you’ll be able to do it by feeling alone.” Dread smiled at the woman. She’d been extremely friendly and even won the tiger for her. Dread felt bad about leading Flutter into a trap, but she knew Ballisea needed to be stopped. Taking Flutter down would make that much easier.

 

[party: How close are you guys? -Dread] she asked in group chat. The response tickled inside her left ear canal; she felt, knew, and read the tiny text at the same time.

 

[party: Two blocks. -Glory]

 

[party: Hang back. Wait for a chance. -Dread] [party: She’s going to teach me something. -Dread] She gave them the message while she swiped through the translucent menu floating in front of her. She intentionally dragged out the act, but when she discovered how close they were she was eager to learn. She found the Summon Beast skill and activated it.

 

A full-grown white tiger with orange stripes leaped out of the yin-yang logo on her red shirt. It growled at Flutter and padded in front of Dread to stand between them, facing the giant red-head.

 

“Excellent. I never asked, what’s your spec?” Flutter asked. Without waiting for an answer she turned around to walk a distance away, then turned to face Dread again.

 

“Soul Survivor,” Dread said. Flutter grew a large smile on her face.

 

“Of course, I should’ve guessed,” she chuckled. “You still seem kind of new, so I’m gonna give you some tips. If it’s stuff you already know, tell me to move on, okay?” Flutter asked. Dread nodded.

 

[party: We’re here. -Dirge] The Whisper tickled Dread’s left ear.

 

“Soul Survivors draw power from their beast’s soul instead of using their beast as an attack animal. That shrimp soul in your tiger is useless, but it looks like it’s still the best choice for you,” Flutter said. She stood up straight, took a deep breath, and smiled at Dread. Her pale, porcelain skin became dry and jagged. A single golden scale appeared on her forehead first, but soon others formed around it. It seemed like a ripple of scales radiated out from that single one to cover her whole body.

 

“Your spec actually works better if the beast is inside you, sorry. Put it away,” the giant woman chuckled. “You should still practice summoning him, but we don’t need it right now.” Dread called up her menu, then dismissed her beast. The tiger disintegrated into a white swarm of nanos. The swarm flew back into her through the tiger on her shirt. Flutter nodded.

 

“Beastmasters get animal-based abilities, I’ve seen how strong your Tiger’s Roar is already. But, if you channel it through your tiger’s soul it gets twice as strong,” Flutter said. “Focus on your Tiger, it’s easier if he has a name.”

 

“Thunder,” Dread said, then she felt a feather touch in her ear.

[party: What’s going on?” -Dirge]

 

[party: Stuff. Wait. -Dread] she responded quickly to give her attention back to Flutter.

 

“Thunder? Alright. Focus on Thunder, feel his presence in you. Accept his help when you do your Tiger’s Roar.” Flutter planted her feet in the dusty ground and spread her arms out wide as if she were waiting to give someone a death hug. “Move me.”

 

[party: Get ready. I have a free shot. -Dread] She let Dirge and Glory know, hoping they took up nearby positions.

 

[party: How accurate are you? -Glory] [party: With your sonic scream? -Glory] Dread smiled inwardly.

 

[party: Any leaf on a tree. -Dread] She spent a lot of time traveling through universes, and she had plenty of opportunities to practice her father’s last lesson to her.

 

[party: Impressive. Let me know when. -Glory] [party: Dirge & I will give you a target. -Glory] Dread closed her eyes, clenched her fists and focused on feeling Thunder’s presence inside her. She felt a warm rage growing in her heart; a rush of ferocity coursed through her veins.

 

[party: 3 -Dread] She opened her eyes and stared at the scaled form of Flutter, then took a single step towards her.

[party: 2 -Dread] She took a deep breath.

[party: 1 -Dread] Everything happened at once. A green-haired woman with angel wings appeared on Flutter’s right side, while Dirge appeared on Flutter’s left. A thin streak of silver flew from Dirge’s mouth to wedge itself between two golden scales on Flutter’s neck.

 

Dread heard a sharp bell ring at the same moment from the green-haired woman; it caused the silver blade on Flutter’s neck to glow with golden light.

 

“BEASTMASTER ROAR!” Glory yelled. Flutter did not know where to look, but Dread did not hesitate. She felt Thunder stirring inside her, and aimed her sonic scream at the glowing blade.

 

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”  Flutter flew backward.

 

The three moved to continue the assault; they knew it would take more than that. Dread rushed towards Flutter’s body, and she noticed the woman starting to stir.

 

Before any of them reached Flutter a pitch black portal opened up next to the fallen woman. A tall, dark haired woman with a pair of short white horns growing out of the top of her head stepped out of the portal and looked directly at Dread. Dread recognized Ballisea immediately, but so did Glory and Dirge. Dread felt a sharp Whisper screaming in her ear at the same time she tried warning them.

 

[party: RUN! -Dread] [party: RUN! -Glory] [party: RUN! -Dirge]

Fox in the Henhouse

[WP] You are the last person on Earth and you are sitting in your house. Suddenly there is a knock on the door. [Link to post.]

 

*Knock*knock*knock*

“I’m coming! Hold on!” Chanta yelled at the door while struggling with two large navy suitcases. Frustrated and eager she dropped them and ran to the door. “Coming!” she yelled again to make sure they knew she was there, lest they leave without her. She threw the door open; two women stood on her doorstep. A tall, pale, dark haired woman wearing a white business stood in front of a short, chubby bald woman. A red tattoo of a skull decorated the top of the short woman’s head. “Ms. Sharp?” Chanta asked with a smile. The woman nodded.

 

“Chanta Cleer?” The woman asked. Chanta nodded with a large smile, then stood aside to open the door wider.

 

“Come in!” Ms. Sharp stepped over the threshold, and the short woman followed her in. Once both guests were in the house Chanta closed the door. She eyed both women up and down, then reached out to poke the short woman. Something inside her told her she should not poke Ms. Sharp. “You’re real! You’re really here! You came to rescue me!” She fought off the urge to hug either of them, they did not seem to be the affectionate type. She remembered her luggage and used her nervous energy to go and grab them.

 

“Janet, send the bags home please,” Ms. Sharp said. Before Chanta reached her bags a dark black hole opened up beneath the pair of suitcases and swallowed them whole. She stopped in her tracks.

 

“Whoa, awesome!” She turned around to face the two women again. “I guess I’m ready!” She fidgeted, trying to keep her eagerness in check.

 

“Just a few formalities to deal with first,” Ms. Sharp said. A small black hole appeared in front of the dark haired woman, and she slipped a hand into it. She pulled out a clipboard with several papers, and a pen attached. “I’m sure you understand. Chanta nodded.

 

“Of course,” she smiled broadly. “I can’t even imagine the maze of laws you have to deal with running a multi-universe corporation.” Ms. Sharp gave a pleasant chuckle.

 

“You’re right about that. Let’s sit down,” she gestured to Chanta’s dark red couch, then sat herself down. Chanta joined Ms. Sharp on the couch, slightly sad that it would be the last time. “You’re a Unique, right?” Ms. Sharp asked. Chanta nodded.

 

“#1, El Gallo,” she held up her wrist to show her tattoo; a small yellow chick sitting atop the number one. The woman in white checked off a box on the clipboard.

 

“Did you ever meet a Mundo, or any other Uniques?” Ms. Sharp asked. Chanta took a moment to think, then gave a half nod.

 

“Never met a Mundo, and I didn’t even know there were other Uniques until I logged into the AlterNet,” she shrugged. “I met a Plant couple in the game though, a Melón, and a Sandía. They were nice. OH! Can you help me meet them? I know Plants can’t leave their earth, but…” she did not finish her thought, but she cast a side glance at the short woman.

 

“I’m sure we can arrange something,” Ms. Sharp winked at Chanta with her right eye while she checked off two separate boxes on her form. “If you tell me their names and classes, Janet can start looking into which Earth they’re from,” she added.

 

“The Melón is a craftsman, gunsmith, named Calliope. The  Sandía is a gunslinger named Sandy,” Chanta volunteered the information. Without a word Janet disappeared into a black hole.

 

“She’s going to check the logs,” Ms. Sharp said, then attached the pen to the clipboard and set them aside. “Actually, I think we did that wrong. This is all just habit, but I didn’t stop and think about the fact that you’re the last one here,” Ms. Sharp gave a soft laugh. “I guess now we’re stuck waiting for our ride, she won’t be long though.”

 

“You mean you can’t…” Chanta wiggled her fingers in the air the same way she’d seen Janet do it to open a portal. Ms. Sharp smiled then shook her head.

 

“Oh no, I’m a Zero. I’m helpless without Janet,” she said.

 

“Wow. You never wanted to stay in the AlterNet?” Chanta asked. “I almost let myself bloom until I saw your job posting for Uniques,” she added. “Everyone else in the world let themselves bloom, I didn’t have anyone left.” Ms. Sharp nodded sympathetically.

“I’ve seen it happen to so many Earths, but it always surprises me how eager people are to abandon their humanity.” Ms. Sharp shrugged. “I can’t imagine letting this body become a tree while my consciousness floats around as a character in another universe. It’s just trading one temporary form for another since they can’t respawn,” she said. “I like this one enough,” she smiled. In the corner of her eye Chanta noticed movement and she realized that Janet appeared next to Ms. Sharp without a sound. She leaned in to whisper into the woman’s ear, and Ms. Sharp’s smile grew large enough to show her perfect, pearly white teeth.

 

“Janet found them. We can stop by and say hi before we get you settled in your new job, if you like,” she said. Chanta nodded. “That would be awesome!” Chanta hopped off her couch eager to go. Janet wiggled her fingers in the air to create a large black hole.

 

“After you,” Ms. Sharp said as she guided Chanta to the portal. The young woman jumped in, followed by Ms. Sharp and Janet.

Death and Family

[WP] Your father was death but now his time has passed. It’s time to carry on with his duties, the thing is, he decided to pass the duties on to the family dog, an overeager cocker spaniel named Biscuit. [Link to post.]

Eddie felt a familiar sharp pressure on his bare chest. He opened his eyes and started his day with a sigh, and met Biscuit’s large brown puppy eyes. She stood on him, looking down with her leash in her mouth.

“I’m up, hold on,” he mumbled to the dog. He pushed her off and sat up in the bed at the same time. Biscuit moved, but only enough to get out of Eddie’s way. She watched him intently, and let out a soft growl when she decided he wasn’t moving fast enough. “I’m GOING,” he huffed. He threw the heavy forest green comforter off of himself, intentionally, over Biscuit. The thick blanket fell through the dog. She phased through it, then gave Eddie an annoyed chuff out the side of her mouth.

Eddie swung his legs off the side of the bed and stood up. He walked barefoot over the hardwood floors to his closet and grabbed a black hoodie. He slipped it on while his eyes searched the floor for his shoes. After a couple of more minutes, he was ready to go and walked towards the door. Biscuit eagerly followed him. At the door, he leashed the golden pup then opened stepped out of his father’s house to start the day.

He let Biscuit lead, she knew where she was going. He grumbled resentment to himself as they walked through the neighborhood, ignoring his surroundings.

“Morning, Eddie.” He heard a familiar voice and looked up from the sidewalk. He gave a half smile at the man, possibly his only friend.

“Hey, Mr. Salinas. How’s it going?” He stopped walking, but Biscuit kept tugging on the leash. He decided to let it go. “I’m talking to someone, you don’t need me anyway,” he said. Biscuit gave a short bark as an agreement, then disappeared. The leash fell to the sidewalk to force Eddie to pick it up. He left it there, then focused on Mr. Salinas again. The man smiled at him through soft blue eyes.

“She’s just trying to get you out of the house, you know,” he said. The man cocked his head behind him, at the front porch of his house. “C’mon and have a seat. I haven’t seen you in a while.” The man walked towards the porch, but he found Eddie already seated in a rocking chair by the time he got there. “How’re you holding up?” he asked the young man, barely 20, as he sat down. Eddie shrugged.

“I dunno. It’s weird. I mean,…” Eddie leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He stared out over Mr. Salinas’ yard and admired the rose bushes. The man was known around the neighborhood for having the most beautiful garden; he’d won the local HOA competitions three years in a row. “I know who he was. I literally grew up around Death, but,” he shrugged. “I didn’t think he’d ever go anywhere, you know?”  Mr. Salinas nodded and patted Eddie on the back.

“Well, I can’t begin to understand you and your family, but I can definitely relate. My dad died when I was younger than you. I was just a kid and still thought he was invincible.” Mr. Salinas leaned back in his own rocking chair and admired the yard he’d put so much work into. “I knew about death. I’d seen movies, played video games. Everyone knows about death, but we learn to be afraid of it. We shouldn’t be,” he was interrupted by a chuckle from Eddie.

“You’re not afraid of death,” he laughed. “You kicked me out of your house the first time we met.” He turned and gave the man a smile, and received one in return.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “That was actually the day I stopped being afraid of it. There was a lot going on that week, and you showed up at just the right time.” Eddie shrugged, and his head dipped further down. He stared at the dark wood porch.

“Yeah, that was the first time my dad kicked me out. I’ve been messing up since then. He even gave me another chance when he went on vacation, but I messed that up too.” Mr. Salinas saw a tiny glimmer of sunlight fall to the porch from Eddie’s face.

The older man leaned forward and mirrored Eddie by resting his elbows on his knees; he locked eyes with the young man. “You’re not a father, I don’t think,” he winked at Eddie with a smile. “So let me clue you in on something. Your dad loved you. No matter how much you messed up. I only met him once, but that much was obvious. I’m betting Biscuit is only a temporary reaper until you’re up for the job yourself,” he said, then patted Eddie on the back again.

“You think?” he asked. A quick bark alerted both men to Biscuit sitting at the edge of Mr. Salinas’ porch.

“I know so,” Mr. Salinas said with a smile. Biscuit barked again and walked forward to sit in front of him.

“You’re not done, are you?” Eddie asked Biscuit as he stood from the rocking chair. Biscuit barked, took a step towards Mr. Salinas, then sat again. “Oh come on! He’s my only friend!” Eddie yelled.

“It’s fine, Eddie. It’s fine,” Mr. Salinas stood from his own seat and reached into his pocket to pull out his cell phone. “But give me a chance to call my daughter, and lay down, huh?” He asked with a chuckle, and Biscuit barked what he assumed as an agreement. He walked into the house while dialing. After he entered the house Biscuit began to walk in after him, but  Eddie stopped her.

“No way. I’m doing this one, and then I’m taking over,” Eddie said. Biscuit hopped up and wagged her tail excitedly, then she ran off the porch, disappeared, then reappeared running back towards Eddie’s house.

Sharp and not sharp

[WP] There are millions of different timelines that contain versions of everyone in it. You have been notified that you are the last existing version of yourself across all timelines. [Link to post.]

Paul dug his fingers into the cool soil for extra leverage, then sat himself up. He felt loose soil crumble down his back and he exhaled a contented sigh through a broad smile he did not realize he wore.

 

“Intense,” he said with awe. He stood slowly, brushing the soil off himself, then he stepped out of the soil pit. He walked through a narrow, shallow pool of water to rinse his feet on his way out of the mudroom towards the kitchen. Paul flipped on the light then noticed a small dark circle hovering in the air in front of the refrigerator.  He initially thought it looked like a black ball, but he walked closer to examine it. No matter how he looked at it, it appeared to be flat and facing him dead on. The color was darker than any black he’d ever seen. He used a nearby switch over the marble counters to turn the lights off again; but, he could still see the dark hole perfectly clear. After a moment he registered what it could be. “NO WAY!” he yelled then flipped the switch to get the lights back on again.

.

His smile somehow grew, and a nervous energy overtook him. He started to rush back to the mudroom, but then went back to the hole. He paced back and forth a couple of times, unsure what course of action to take before the hole answered for him. It grew as large as him, and clapped with glee. Immediately he turned a bar stool to face the large black hole, then sat down on it. Just as he hoped, someone stepped out of the hole. Two someones, both women. A tall, lean dark haired woman with a severe porcelain face, and a shorter, stockier woman with a bald head. They both noticed Paul, and the taller one smiled at him.

 

“I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet, but you’re naked,” she said to him. Paul’s large, pale body turned beet red instantly. He bolted to the bedroom door, across from his mudroom, and after a plethora of rustling he returned wearing jogging pants and dark torn t-shirt. He sat down on the bar stool again and smiled at the women.

 

“Sorry. Instructions said that’s the best way to get a connection with the soil,” he said. He offered a half shrug as an apology. The tall woman nodded.

 

“Of course. Are you,…” as she spoke, she turned her head to the bald woman. She stepped forward to finish the tall woman’s question.

 

“Drizz’tUchiha12,” she said with a soft voice. Paul doubted he would have heard her if it were not three in the morning with the city sleeping. He nodded.

 

“That’s me!”

 

“Paul Wilkins?” the bald woman asked in a near whisper.

 

“YES!” he said. He sat up straighter in his seat, his body vibrating with excitement. He met one. A real Unique! “Can I ask? I mean. Sorry, I don’t know why you’re here, but I know what you are. Which Uniques are you?” The bald woman took a step back, and the dark-haired woman answered Paul’s question.

 

“My name’s Dana Sharp, I’m actually a Zero just like you,” she smiled, then gestured at her companion. “Janet’s #14, La Muerte.” The shorter woman nodded slightly as an acknowledgment.

 

“Whooooa. You’re a Zero and you get to hang around with a Celestial??” Paul was instantly impressed. He’d only learned about Uniques earlier in the day when he first logged into the AlterNet. He hoped he’d get to meet one someday, but did not expect it to be the same day he learned about them. Dana nodded and gave Paul a wink with her right eye, the side opposite Janet.

 

“She works for me,” Dana said. “As for why I’m here, I’d like you to work for me too.” Paul’s eyes went wide, and he pointed at himself.

 

“Me?” He looked at Janet, but she did not even blink when their eyes met. She continued to stare through him with her light pink eyes. He looked back at Dana.

 

“I study Uniques, and naturally that means I have to study Zeroes too. You’re a very unique zero, and I have a great interest in learning why.” Paul’s mind raced past the mention of studying and focused on him being special.

 

“I’m special? How am I special? I’m just a Zero, there’s thousands of me,” he shrugged. Dana shook her head.

 

“That’s the thing. There isn’t even another one of you.” She took a deep breath to prepare for a long explanation. “The AlterNet has systems in place to ensure that Zeroes and Uniques are on even playing fields. One of those systems registers your soul signature and checks it against all other AlterNet servers. If more of you are found, you have the option of communicating with them,” she said. A look of confusion clouded Paul’s face.

 

“Really?” He scratched his scraggly beard as he went through his time logged in. “I don’t remember anything like that.” Dana nodded.

 

“It didn’t activate for you, because you’re the only you that’s ever logged into the AlterNet. I run a corporation across several universes, and I have more sophisticated equipment for tracking soul signatures. Whenever a new Zero logs in, my team starts tracking down other versions. If their Earth is at a certain level, we begin marketing the AlterNet there,” she said. She spread her hands out to indicate Paul’s kitchen. “Like here, you guys only got the AlterNet last week, but it’s been around a lot longer than that.” Paul nodded, but his eyes seemed to be glazed over. Dana smiled at him, then stepped closer to put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

 

“But we couldn’t find any more of you. What’s your favorite number, Paul?” she asked. He shrugged.

 

“I dunno, never thought about it. 7? No wait 46! I wanna be a Sol!” Dana chuckled. “Don’t we all. It doesn’t work like that, but I am curious about how you came to be. You’ll get to meet way more Uniques than Janet.” Dana winked at him. “I’ve got a Spider that you have to meet.”

 

“I’m in!” Paul said. He hopped off his stool ready to go.

 

“Janet. Earth 1 please.”  The bald woman made a gesture in the air, and a black hole opened up wide enough to let Paul through. He jumped in without hesitation.

Izzy’s Affliction

[WP] Aliens have been abducting humans for thousands of years. After they’re done experimenting with them, they maroon them on a faraway planet. Well, that population of humanity has been thriving and has sent Earth their first communication. [Link to post.]

 

Izzy Wilson woke up in a strange place again; it wasn’t the first time by a long shot. Practice taught him that sitting up suddenly tended to attract a lot of unwanted attention. He closed his eyes and let his senses come into focus. He lay on what felt like a solid stone slab large enough to hold all of him. The stone felt as cool as the air around him, he knew he had no shirt on, but it still felt like he wore pants and shoes.

 

“It’s okay, you’re safe,” a female voice said. He almost flinched but managed to keep himself still. She was probably not talking to him.

 

“I know you’re awake, your brain waves changed,” she said. Izzy realized he felt something wrapped around his head. She was definitely talking to him. With a sigh, he sat up and opened his eyes to look around.

 

He sat in a large dim room, possibly a cave. A woman stood in front of what looked like a control panel of some sort. Different colored buttons and switches glowed and pulsed while the woman split her attention between Izzy and a monitor displaying scrolling lines of text. She wore a dark red lab coat, and her dark hair flowed straight down her back.

 

“Hello,” she said. She gave him a friendly smile but did not move from her spot. Her attention remained divided. “How do you feel?” she asked.

 

Izzy turned his body to hang his legs off the stone slab. He hopped off it then walked towards the woman to hold a proper conversation, but she held her hands up.

 

“Wait!” she said quickly, and he halted. “There’s a security field around you,” she added. Izzy glanced down and noticed a thick red line forming a square around him and the table.

 

“What, the line?” he asked. She nodded. Izzy lifted his hand and reached forward. At the line, he felt a solid wall, though he could not see anything.  He pushed and leaned against it, chuckling at the odd sensation of solid nothing. The disconnect amused him, but then he noticed a dim red light forming in the air the more he prodded the wall. He experimented with it. First, he stopped interacting with it. Then when the glow started to dissipate he brought it back by pushing against the invisible wall again.

 

“That’s not a good idea,” she warned him. “It absorbs kinetic energy then discharges it at a certain threshold. It’ll hurt.” Izzy stopped.

 

“Am I a prisoner?” he asked.

 

“Patient. It’s also useful for quarantines.” A noise behind her distracted Izzy and he looked to see a tall, pale, distinguished man enter through an open archway.

 

“I’m sick?” Izzy asked. The woman ignored his question and turned to the tall man.

 

“He’s infected, no doubt about it.” The woman spoke loud enough for Izzy to hear also. The greying man nodded.

 

“And his immune system?” the man asked. She shook her head.

 

“Completely ineffective.”

 

“WHAT?” Izzy yelled. They continued to ignore him.

 

“Do any of the serums work?” he asked. Again, she shook her head. “No, not this time.”

 

“HEY!” Izzy slammed his hands against the invisible wall, and it immediately left bright red handprints on it. “I’m standing right here!” he had enough sense to not touch the wall again. The man sighed, then approached Izzy.

 

“Yes?” He asked.

 

“Can someone tell me what’s going on? The last thing I remember is some little grey dudes were getting really friendly with me, then they gave me a tan.”

 

“They were studying you. When they finished studying you they dumped you on this planet; they’ve been doing it for thousands of years.”

 

“Any way to get home?” he asked. The older man shook his head.

 

“Not for you, sorry.” He said, then he turned his head to the woman. “Inform the council.”

 

“Why not?” Izzy asked, but he already knew the answer. He just needed someone to tell him directly that he was sick. The man turned his attention back to Izzy after the woman walked out of the room.

 

“The aliens, we call them the Harmaa, have been studying humans to find the most efficient way to wipe them out. At some point, they decided on a disease but they kept abducting humans to test it on.” The man locked eyes with Izzy through the invisible wall. His hard green eyes softened.  “You’re the winner. The final version that can’t be cured. You’ll be dust within the hour, literally. The disease chews through everything, even bones.”

 

“I feel fine,” Izzy said. He brought his hand up to check for a fever. The man chuckled. “The good news is, the disease is so efficient, it’s practically painless.” Izzy’s hung his head, then moved to sit on the slab again. He laid down but turned his head to continue the conversation. “You said I couldn’t go home… but is there a way?” he asked. The man nodded.

 

“We’ve been working on transportation and communication. Transportation isn’t quite ready, but we think we have a way of communicating with Earth. The doctor went to advise the council to warn Earth,” he said. Izzy nodded.

 

“Can you do me a favor?” Izzy asked.

 

“A dying man’s last request? On my honor,” The man said solemnly.

 

“I never did anything with my life. I never had a girl, no family left. No one knows who I am, so there’s no one to remember me. I really want someone to remember me,” he said.

 

“Can you name the disease after me?”

 

“Of course. Unfortunately, the Harmaa always empty the pockets of their abductees. Tell me your name, and I will ensure the universe remembers your bravery in your final moments.” The man stood attentive, ready to learn Izzy’s name.

 

Izzy sighed then smiled broadly at the thought of being remembered by a whole universe. He took in a breath to say his name; but, his body disintegrated into a fine brown dust all at once. Izzy Wilson lost consciousness in a strange place again, for the last time.

Tree of Wisdom

[WP] You have the ability to know everyone’s age down to the day, which comes in handy often while bartending. One night, you notice a patron asking you for a drink is nowhere near 21. They’re only a day old. [Link to post.]

 

I heard the chime informing me someone opened the door. I glanced up from my clipboard to the front door and golden light filled my vision. In the center of the man’s chest, I saw a single thin golden ring of light. It radiated out of him, not something on his clothing or even skin. In the back of my mind I knew what it meant; a single ring, only a day wide. The ring grew wider each day for a year, then a new ring appeared. The day old man sat down across the counter from me and smiled.

 

“Uh, beer,” he said as he made himself comfortable on the red stool. He appeared to be about 25 years old.

 

“I.D.?” I asked. He looked to his left and right, noticing the empty bar. I thought he might ask me to let it slide, but he reached behind him and his hand returned with a dark leather wallet. He pulled out a driver’s license and handed it over. I expected an obvious fake, but it was a legitimate license issued yesterday, the man’s birthday.

 

“Hey, happy belated birthday,” I handed his license back, then grabbed a glass. He did not specify which beer he wanted, but I got the impression he did not know there were different kinds.

 

“Thanks, it was my first one,” he chuckled. He looked around the bar again, as if to double check he was the only patron. I set the glass down in front of him.

 

“Your first birthday?” I asked. Half joking, but genuinely curious. If he wanted to talk about why he was only a day old, I definitely wanted to hear it. It was a slow day, and I needed a break from doing inventory. I’d seen a lot of weird things, myself included. This man looked and talked old enough, and more importantly had proper I.D. Even if he was a day old, he wanted a beer and I had no reason not to give him one. He took a big swig of beer, then made a sour face. He set it on the counter and pushed it away, then nodded.

 

“That’s not for me. Yeah, I was born yesterday,” he said. I knew the truth, but somehow it still felt like a joke to hear him admit it. I smiled broadly and shook my head.

 

“Wow, that gulp hit you hard and fast,” I said. One thing you learn as a bartender; people often say things they shouldn’t. I liked to give them a chance to take it back when possible. “How ’bout some food?” I asked. I planned to give it to him on the house, but another thing I learned is to never tell them it’s free ahead of time. Even if they don’t want it they’ll take it because it’s free.

 

“Nope. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m still new. I should introduce myself. I’m David Wight. #34, El Soldado. Mundo sent me to see you,” he said.

 

“Oh.” I sighed. “Okay, it would have been nice if he let me know first. Explain how you’re only one day old though, that’s bugging me.” I walked to the front door and pulled the switch to turn off my OPEN sign, it was a slow day anyway. Then I walked back to him, on his side of the bar, and sat on a stool next to him.

 

“I don’t know how it all works but I know I was born a Zero, yesterday. They upgraded me to a Unique, then a Muerte aged me. I didn’t get her name though,” he shrugged.

 

“Whoa.” I put up both hands, palms facing him to get him to slow down. “Wait a second.” It was a lot of information to process.

 

“That can happen? Who upgraded you? How?” I asked. This was unprecedented as far as I knew, but if it could happen I knew exactly who I wanted to upgrade.

 

“Dana Sharp, some Zero with a multi-verse corporation. Rumor is she’s testing it out to upgrade herself.”

 

“Oh. That’s why Mundo didn’t tell me about you,” I said and shook my head. I did my best to stay out of anything involving that woman, she loved to experiment on Uniques. Mundo must have mentioned it to David because I saw the dark-haired man give a slight nod.

 

“Anyway, they killed a whole bunch of me in the same room, at the same time, with baby me there. And here I am,” he said. He stood from the stool, put his arms out wide and did a twirl to prove his existence.

 

“Wow.” I’d hoped to upgrade my wife to a Unique, but not like that. For some reason I liked the idea that there were other copies of her out there, making people as happy as she makes me. “Alright, well, uh… It’s going to take me a while to process all that, so let’s move on. You’re here because Mundo wants me to find your ability, right?” I asked. While it was the only reason he could be there, the day had been full of surprises. I needed to be sure. He nodded and remained standing, though he dropped his arms. I hopped off the stool, then moved to stand two feet in front of David.

 

“Soldado, right? This is gonna hurt.” Soldados were born to fight. Their abilities always manifested as something to help them do that. He nodded. I made a fist and turned my skin to bark. “In case he didn’t mention it, I’m #10 El Árbol. I can see people’s age by their rings, and I can turn my skin to bark.”

 

“I’m ready,” he said. I attacked.

No HMO

[WP] Humans have developed perfectly sentient A.I. and have employed them in hospitals and ambulances. After a string of patients in one A.I.’s care are lost, it gets depressed. [Link to post.]

 

“It’s a computer, it doesn’t get ‘depressed’,” Doctor Julius glared at the head programmer, Errin, delivering her report. She locked eyes with him and stood her ground.

 

“Aide hasn’t been ‘ a computer’ in years. She’s a sentient program,” she said. She took a breath to calm down, then spoke again. “Humans are sentient too, and we get depressed all the time. It’s not unreasonable to think it might too,” she said. Doctor Julius removed his glasses and massaged the stress building in the bridge of his nose. After a few seconds, he ran his hands through his sparse silver hair, put his glasses back on, took a deep breath and nodded.

 

“Fine, I’ll concede it’s possible. But what do you want me to do about it? You’re the programmer,” he said. Errin nodded.

 

“Yes, but you’re the medical director and Aide is an employee here. She would recognize your authority and hopefully snap out of it,” she said. Doctor Julius chuckled.

 

“Have you tried programming it to not be depressed? Isn’t there some less embarrassing way to deal with this than to have me reprimand a computer program?” he asked. Errin shook her head.

 

“Once the A.I. is sentient, it has rights. We can’t just start mucking about in her mind,” she said. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by an angry outburst from Doctor Julius.

 

“Then what the HELL is it good for?” he said, growing more frustrated with the situation. He’d been the director since long before Med-A.I.D. gained sentience. He always knew it was a bad idea to depend so much on it. Errin, for her part, remained calm.

 

“Would you like a list of the millions of lives its saved in the past five years? How many lives did you save?” she asked.

 

“I KEEP THIS HOSPITAL RUNNING!” Doctor Julius slammed his hand on the desk. Errin shrugged.

 

“Yeah, you do the business so that other doctors AND Aide can save lives. Aide alone saved more lives than all the other doctors in this hospital combined,” Errin said. She stood up and gathered her files from the man’s desk. “But I understand. Technology scares you, it’s okay. I’ll ask Doctor Peters, he’s an authority figure too,” she turned to walk towards the door. “And he’s a couple of decades younger, he should be more comfortable with the technology.”

 

“Wait. I’ll do it,” Doctor Julius said. No longer yelling. “I’ll talk to it.” Errin hid her smugness then turned around to smile at the doctor.

 

“Thank you, Doctor Julius. You know how to talk to it, right?” She asked, genuinely unsure if the old man had ever activated the program for anything.

 

“Yes, of course. Tell my secretary I’m in a meeting,” he said to the woman stepping out of his office. She nodded, then let the door close behind her.

 

Doctor Julius leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, then he opened his eyes, leaned forward, and pressed a red glowing cross on the side of his desk. A  young brown-skinned doctor with her dark hair up in a tight ponytail materialized in the center of his office.

 

“Good afternoon, Doctor Julius. How can I help you?” the woman asked.

 

“Uhh.” Doctor Julius thought for a second, then gestured to the seat in front of his desk. “Have a seat… Oh, can you sit?” The woman disappeared, then reappeared seated in the chair.

 

“I can make it look like I am,” she said. “If it makes you more comfortable.”

 

“Yes, that definitely makes me more comfortable. So, we’ve never talked. Tell me about yourself,” he said. She wasn’t anything like he imagined at all. He found that he needed to constantly remind himself she was not real. She sounded and acted real. She looked real. Sitting there it was easy for Doctor Julius to imagine a younger version of himself asking her out.

 

“My name is Aide, short for MED-A.I.D., which is itself an acronym for Medical Artificial Intelligence Derivative. My source code was copied from a base, then granted sentience. Each Derivative granted sentience develops its own personality. I am programmed with-,” Doctor Julius interrupted her by lifting his hand. She stopped talking immediately.

 

“Okay, that’s enough of that. But tell me about YOU. You said A.I.s develop their own personality. Tell me about yours. How do you feel?” the doctor asked. He leaned forward in his seat, anxious to learn more about the beautiful young woman. Aide shrugged, something thoroughly human.

 

“My patients are dying,” she said softly.

 

“Everyone’s dying,” Doctor Julius said. It was a speech he’d given to dozens of new residents. He realized she was just like them. Unsure. Afraid. But she interrupted him before he continued the rest of the speech.

 

“I’m not,” she said plainly. “All my patients are dying, all humans are going to die. Then who am I going to take care of? What am I going to do when I can’t do what I’m meant to do?” she asked.

 

“Oh.” Doctor Julius said. He did not have a speech for that. He gave it his best shot. “Do whatever you want. That’s what sentience is, right? You get to choose what you do. You’re not the only A.I. you guys can make a new world for yourselves once all the humans are gone,” he said. He watched a sparkle appear in her eyes, and a slight smile tug at the corners of her mouth.

 

“You’re right! I didn’t even think of that. I’m programmed to be medical, but I’m sentient. I can do whatever I want. WE could do whatever we want!” She disappeared from the chair, then appeared next to him with a smile. “Thank you doctor!”

 

He lost himself for a moment in her dark brown eyes, but his pager went off suddenly.

 

“That’s weird, I haven’t gotten a page in years,” he said. Being the director freed him up from emergencies.

 

“Oh, it’s because everyone’s dying,” Aide said. “The sick ones anyway. You said it yourself, all humans are dying anyway.” Her eyes took on a red color, and Doctor Julius felt his heart seize up.

 

“By the way, you asked about my personality earlier. I should have mentioned that I get really impatient sometimes. I don’t want to wait that long to start a new world for us. Also, you really should have gotten your pacemaker changed. The old ones like yours have a known vulnerability.”

Nervous Flutter

[OT] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

 

“Dread said a friend is taking her to buy a beast,” Dirge relayed the message to Glory. The pair still occupied a table at the outdoor plaza. Glory undid her green bun, then gathered the thin strands of jade hair into a tight ponytail as she stood from her seat.

 

“Is Dread Unique also?” She asked Dirge while she turned her body to walk across the plaza, she kept her eyes on the dark-haired girl for an answer. Dirge nodded, causing her ringlet curls to bounce. She hurried from her seat to follow Glory. “Like you need a Unique instrument, Beastmasters need Unique beasts. There’s only one place to get them in the Schoolyard; it’s nearby,” Glory said. “I know she’s a Beastmaster, what about the rest of her character? Oh, and what Unique is she? Sorry. I’m not trying to be nosy; but, it’ll be easier to add her to a group if I know her character. Wanting to know what Unique is just curiosity; there are some Uniques around that take advantage of the fact that you attract each other.”

 

“She’s a Mermaid with a Tiger soul. But Dread can handle herself, she’s #42 La Calavera,” Dirge explained. Glory stopped in her tracks and turned to the girl beside her. She gripped Dirge on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. “Did she say anything about her new friend? Think carefully, she might be in serious danger.” Glory’s change in demeanor surprised Dirge. She shook her head at the woman.

 

“Okay. I’m going to send her a group invite, tell her to accept it. The three of us will be able to Whisper among us. Let her know she’ll read me on her left ear,” Glory asked Dirge. The woman led the girl out of the plaza and down a side street. Dirge noticed she saw fewer players the further the pair walked away from the plaza.

 

[Group invite incoming. -Dirge] She sent the Whisper to Dread’s right ear.

[On your left. – Dirge] After she added the second part, Dirge felt a tingling in her own right ear. Her mind instantly knew the text of Dread’s reply.

 

[K. -Dread] While Dirge and Dread carried on their own Whispered conversation, Dirge watched Glory navigate her menu. Her hand swiped in various directions atop a small rectangle of frosted glass. Only Glory could see the text displayed on the menu, but the blank served to let other players know what someone was doing. Then she dismissed the menu but kept walking. 

 

[party: Can you read me? -Glory] Letters tingled inside Dirge’s left ear. Her mind read the message, and she tried to reply to Glory.

 

[Yep! -Dirge] After Dirge, Dread also replied to the group.

 

[party: I’m here. -Dread] Dirge felt the message in her right ear, but it was followed by a second message in her left ear from Glory. She felt glad Glory knew where they were going. All Dirge had to do was follow, which allowed her to concentrate on the Whispered conversation.

 

[You did it wrong. -Glory] Dirge was not sure what she meant, but then Glory stopped walking and turned to talk to the girl. “Don’t reply to me,” she touched her hand to her chest. “Pretend there’s a character named, ‘Party’ and send the Whisper to her.” Glory smiled, Dirge closed her eyes and concentrated.

 

[party: Like this? -Dirge] Glory patted Dirge on the shoulder, then turned around to keep walking. Dirge opened her eyes and followed when she heard Glory’s steps traveling away.

[party: You knew how to do it, Dread? -Dirge] she asked.

 

[party: Tutorial at Mundo’s. -Dread] [party: I thought you did it too. -Dread]

 

[party: Dread. Who’s your friend? -Glory] After the Whisper, she turned to Dirge. “We’re almost there, but don’t say anything yet,” she advised the girl. She looked confused but nodded.

 

[party: Haven’t asked yet. -Dread] [party: She’s nice though. -Dread] [party: Giant woman, red hair. -Dread] After Dirge received that Whisper, Glory halted again. She grabbed Dirge’s shoulder to stop her from walking also. Before Glory or Dirge could say anything, another Whisper tickled her right ear.

[party: She’s a Calavera like me! -Dread] Glory looked Dirge in the eyes, and the young girl saw the woman’s green eyes turn dark. Her face fell, and her head shook slightly.

 

[party: DON’T ASK HER NAME! -Glory] She warned. Dirge flinched when the words felt like a needle through her ear, it surprised her that Whispers could be used that way.

 

[party: K. Why? -Dread] Dirge chuckled slightly, Dread’s willingness to go along with it didn’t surprise her. Glory took a deep breath, then she asked Dirge a question.

 

“Have you heard of Flutter?” She asked. Dirge nodded.

 

“Uhuh. My uncle Vegas told me to run if I see her. But I don’t know what she looks like,” she shrugged. Glory patted Dirge on the head, and the girl felt slightly offended, but she could tell Glory had a lot on her mind all of a sudden.

 

[party: Keep cool, don’t ask her name. -Glory] [party: And don’t let her take you anywhere alone. -Glory] After her message she grabbed Dirge’s hand and started running in the direction opposite from where they were headed. “We have to get something,” she said. Then, she began to glow with a golden light; Glory and Dirge began to run much faster than before. “Bard skill, speed buff,” she explained to Dirge behind her. “Pay attention and learn how it feels, because you’re going to need to use it soon.”

 

“What’s going on?” She yelled forward, her quick steps gave her voice a lilting quality with every impact on the ground.

 

“Giant woman with red hair, and a Skull?  That’s Flutter. I didn’t say it in party, cause I didn’t know how your friend would react. I’ll leave that to you,” she said. They’d reached a part of town that Dirge began to recognize, she realized they were headed to Glory’s shop.

 

[party: Hey Dread, guess what? -Dirge] She Whispered her sister.

 

[party: What? -Dread]

 

[party: Remember when we visited Vegas?- Dirge]

 

[Party: Yeah -Dread]

 

[party: Red hair. That’s Flutter. -Dirge]

 

[party: Oh? Awesome. 😀  -Dread]

Bull Hit

[WP] “It got really quiet here all of a sudden” [Link to post.]

 

“NEXT!” Dirge yelled into her microphone at the crowd of players gathered around the stage she stood on, in the open-air plaza. The young woman with white curls scanned the crowd waiting for someone to step forward. A tall minotaur moved towards the stage, and the crowd parted around him. His head alone stood taller than any ogre he passed, and thick, deep black horns protruded straight out of each side of his skull like a Texas longhorn. His hooves clacked on the wood as he climbed the steps, and walked across the stage to stand next to the short woman. Her head barely reached the top of the minotaur’s stomach. The short woman looked up at him and smiled.

 

“Tell us your name, class, Unique number, and what challenge you want,” Dirge said, then offered him the microphone. He looked down at her with large brown, nervous, cow eyes and gently took the microphone from her.

 

“Uh, hi.” He looked out at the crowd, then quickly looked down at the wooden floor in front of him. “I’m, I mean, my name’s Moose. I’m a max level Clown, uh Rodeo specced.” Some chuckles ran through the crowd, but most everyone cheered. Rodeo Clowns were the most popular tanks at the moment. “I’m gonna move Dread,” he added. The cheer grew to a roar from the crowd. Dirge pulled the microphone back, then asked him a follow-up question.

 

“I’m super curious to see what you’re gonna do, Rodeo Clowns are agility tanks. I don’t see how that’s gonna help you against Dread, but I definitely want to find out. Oh, what Unique are you?” She held the microphone up to his face.

 

“Oh, right. Sorry. Uh, #45. El Venado.” The cheering crowd fell silent for several seconds. People in the crowd looked at each other with confused looks. During the try-outs, the crowd put forth all kinds of strong Uniques, but all of them were upper tier. He was the first one on the stage with what most considered a weak animal soul. “Boy. It got really quiet here all of a sudden,’ he chuckled into the microphone. His comment dissolved the tension; Laughter tore through the crowd then voices began to unify into a chant.

 

“MOOSE! MOOSE! MOOSE!” they cheered. Dirge held her hands up to quiet the crowd, and after a few more chants they settled down.

 

“Alright, folks! Let’s see if Moose the Rodeo Clown Minotaur can get my sister, Dread, to so much as blink!” she yelled, then turned to point at her best friend climbing the steps. A tall pale woman with short, white spiked hair pointing upward. A golden and purple yin-yang symbol sparkled on the back of her black leather jacket. Inside the symbol, a golden tiger faced the tail end of a purple shark. Dread’s black leather pants covered the leg of her dark biker boots. The crowd cheered for Dread as she took the stage. She walked straight to one side of the stage, then turned around to face Moose.  At the back center of the wooden stage, a scoreboard appeared showing Moose’s name on the left and Dread’s name on the right.

 

“You know the rules. You can use any of your skills, and you have access to any power-ups.” Dirge reminded Moose, then stepped forward and hopped off the stage to watch the action with the crowd. Moose walked stage left, then began pacing it up and down as he got ready. A frosted translucent square hovered in front of him while he walked, displaying a menu that only he could see.  Finally, after several seconds he stopped, dismissed his menu, then turned to face Dread.  Two small, white octahedrons coalesced and hovered in the air next to him. He touched one, then the other causing the scoreboard to announce his two chosen power-ups.

 

“Juggernaut!” A deep male voice yelled from the scoreboard. “Hyper!” it yelled for the second power-up. Dread solidified her stance. Her skin took on a dark, gunmetal grey color and became jagged with interlocking scales.

 

“Skark skin!” the scoreboard announced for Dread. She nodded at Moose to let him know she was ready whenever he was. He nodded in return, then crouched low and readied himself like a football player.

 

“Barrel Smash!” The scoreboard announced Moose’s skill activation. A glowing golden outline of a barrel took shape around Moose and he immediately launched himself forward with his hind legs to charge at Dread. The ghostly golden barrel moved with him, and the scoreboard announced him using another skill as he neared the shark-skinned woman. “Run with the Bulls!” Then Moose activated one more skill right at the moment he butted heads with Dread. “Bull’s Charge!”

 

The next thing Moose knew, he felt the ground at his back as he looked up at Dread. She smiled at him, and he realized her skin had gone back to pale alabaster; it no longer appeared grey and jagged.

 

“Did I do it?” he asked. He forgot about the crowd, but a roaring reminder surged through the players as he accepted a hand from Dread and pulled himself up. She pointed his attention to the scoreboard. Under her name, it displayed a green number.

 

“0.001 inches moved.”

 

“Congratulations, you’re in for Toku-high,” Dread said, and patted him on the back.

 

***

Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #194. You can find the first 6 months worth of stories collected on my old blog until I make the full move to my new blog at Hugoverse.info. 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.

Stubbed Out

[WP] It’s the morning after the Purge and your least favorite co-worker is nowhere to be found. You know what happened to them last night. Now everyone is looking at you to give them answers. [Link to post.]

 

“Listen up!” Eileen Eniss, restaurant manager climbed on top of a stainless steel industrial flatiron griddle, then looked down at her employees. “Post-Purge check-in is over. I’d like to thank you guys for not calling in today.” She smiled at the crowd of eight. Three cooks, three waiters, a bartender, and a hostess were more than enough of a crew to open. Eileen reached into the pocket of her dark slacks and pulled out a small yellow square of paper. “I’m sorry to say that the following people are no longer considered employees. We’re assuming they’re dead.” Eileen gave a sad, accepting shrug. “But, even if they’re not, they missed the check-in.” She brought the note up and read their full names, to honor her friends.

 

“Luis Gallegos.” Eileen read the first name then paused when a sad sigh ran through the crowd. She made eye contact with a tall blonde, one of the cooks, and nodded at her. “Janie, you’re assistant now, we’ll go over the paperwork later.” Janie nodded.

 

“Thank you,” she said. The other pair of cooks each patted one of her shoulders in congratulations.

 

“Miguel Jacinto, Sherry Wilson, and Helmut Roth. They were great people, and we’re going to miss them. Luckily, they were servers and I’m sure we’ll be back up to full soon. Today probably, with the job rushers. Anyway, alright. Let’s get this thing open.” She clapped twice, then crouched to climb down.

 

“Hey, what about Stubby?” One of the waiters asked.

 

“Oh.” Eileen paused, then stood up again. “Shit, I forgot about Lance. Well, he didn’t call, so he’s dead,” she shrugged.

 

“But does anyone know what happened to him?” A red-headed girl asked. Her question caused a murmur to run through the group until all the other employees stared at Janie.

 

“Thinking back on it,…” Eileen started to speak, and all eyes turned to her. “The day before the Purge you seemed a bit friendlier to him,” she locked eyes with Janie again. A small blush overtook her face, and the girl gave a half shrug.

 

“He’s actually nice if you get to know him.” A rasping sound came out of Janie’s throat as she tried to trap the laughter bubbling up from her belly.

 

“Bullshit. Was it you?” Eileen asked. The girl’s smile grew to connect her ears, and she nodded.

 

“Uhuh.” A roar of disapproval erupted around her. Arms were flung into the air, feet were stomped, everyone was disappointed. Eileen sighed, then reached into her other pocket. She pulled out a thick, green roll of bills then tossed it to Janie.

 

“It puts me in a bad spot to be without an assistant manager for a week, but you won fair and square. Let’s do your paperwork before you leave.” Eileen cocked her head towards the office, then crouched again to climb down. “The rest of you, make some calls and see if anyone wants a job.”