Spiritual Bonanza (6-30-18)

[WP] You recently became a God. You’re trying to get used to being omnipotent. It’s not going very well. [Link to post.]

“Oh.” Anderson Anderson blinked. Before he blinked he stood in the restroom of Bonanza Steakhouse, his favorite restaurant, washing his hands and looking forward to a meal. After he blinked, Anderson stood in the restroom of Bonanza Steakhouse staring at his reflection. He left the restroom, then left the restaurant. He walked through the parking lot and continued walking, leaving his car behind. 

He strolled through the city, his eyes focused on the sidewalk ahead of him. After a block, a wrinkled, silver-haired woman stepped out of an antique shop and fell into pace alongside him. Despite her obvious age, she kept up with him, without added support from a walker or cane. On the next block, Anderson acknowledged the old woman. 

“How?” he asked. His head remained trained on the path ahead, but he knew the woman would answer him. 

“What’s done is done. I think for something this big, the ‘how‘ just isn’t important. Don’t you agree?” she asked. Unlike Anderson, the elderly woman enjoyed the sights of the town as they walked along the sidewalk. She watched parents leading children along the strip, filing in and out of the shops. They carried bags and boxes in all shapes and colors. In the distance, she heard sirens. 

“Yeah,” he replied, still focused on the ground. They continued onto the next block before either of them spoke again. 

“Why?” Anderson asked. 

“It’s your turn,” the woman replied. “Lucky for you your name is near the top of the list, Anderson Anderson.” She chuckled. “Your parents did a great job with it.” They reached the end of the block, but instead of continuing ahead, Anderson crossed to his left. The woman followed him across the street, and they started walking back in the direction of Bonanza along the other side. The sirens sounded closer. 

“You can pass it on, of course. If you’re not ready,” she offered. 

“Thinking about it,” he replied. 

“The catch is, you can’t go back; your time is done here. If you pass it on, you yourself pass on,” the woman said, then smiled. “Of course, that doesn’t scare you anymore. You know the truth of the universe now.”  She poked a stiff finger against his arm. “This is just a container. It doesn’t matter, you’ll just get another one.” They crossed to the next block. Another block closer to the Bonanza. 

“What are you going to do, Anderson?” She asked. She spoke louder to contend with the blaring sirens rushing up from behind them. The pair continued walking while the people around them stopped to see where the sirens were coming from and where they might be going. The old woman walked around a young boy taking advantage of his mother’s distraction to pet a stray cat, and patted his head. 

“Thinking,” Anderson said. An ambulance roared by as they crossed onto the next block. They walked half the block in silence before either of them spoke again. 

“Oh, that’s lovely! I’m going to go in and have a look.” The woman noticed an antique apothecary table in a shop window. The shop sat across the street from the antique shop the woman exited to meet Anderson. “Good luck, Anderson. Whatever you decide.” The woman’s steps slowed, but Anderson kept walking. 

“I love you, mom,” he said, without looking up. 

“I know,” she said, then disappeared into the shop. Anderson’s mother passed away several years ago, but he needed someone to help him acclimate. Borrowing a soul for a chat is a minor feat for a God, and now she was back where she belonged until she received a new container. Anderson crossed to the next block and made a decision. He stopped walking and stared at the ambulance in the Bonanza parking lot across the street. The EMTs were loading a body bag into the back. 

Anderson did not like his mind being everywhere at once. He did not like having a constant tally in his mind of every single death and every single birth every single second. His mother was the only way he could focus long enough to make the decision. He chuckled and waved at the ambulance carrying away his old shell, and wondered what his new one would look like. 

“Not for me. Who’s next?” Anderson said aloud, then faded away into wisps of white smoke. 

B-Squad (6-29-18)

[WP] You have lived on earth your whole life. One morning, you wake up in the center of a modestly sized crater, as you look about you see fields of violet-tinted grass, a faint red sun in the sky overhead, and two moons in *much* closer orbit than our own. [Link to post.]

Lupe Villalobos standing around in a crater would not answer any questions. She reached up one of the sides gripping the violet grass around the upper rim of the hole. The texture of the violet grass felt the same as the green grass on Earth. The girl’s coppery hair shimmered under the moonlight that she was making a point to ignore. She scanned the large field, turning slowly and staring out along the grassy plain. 

“Whoaaaaa,” Lupe whispered to herself. Despite the situation, she marveled at the beauty of wherever she was. The sight encouraged her to face the two moons she purposely kept at her back. She turned around and found that she could still feel surprised. 

“Hi.” Underneath the two giant moons, she saw a beautiful, giant woman at least twice her size. The woman’s pale skin glowed in the blue moonlight and Lupe noticed a long red braid hanging over the front of her shoulder. She sat on a rock several feet away. The strange woman smiled at Lupe when she spoke. Lupe took a step toward her, then paused. 

“Hi,” she replied. “Where am I?” The woman chuckled, then turned her head to glanced at the twin moons. After a second she focused on Lupe again. 

“Earth,” she said with a smile. Lupe shook her head. 

“I’m from Earth.” She spread her arms wide to gesture at the field of violet grass. “It’s nothing like this.” 

“You don’t have grass?” She asked.

“Yeah. We have grass, but it’s not purple,” she said. Lupe reached down and grabbed a handful of grass blades and tossed them into the wind. Violet glimmers floated away on the breeze. 

“It’s violet,” the woman corrected her. 

“No, my grass is green. This isn’t Earth, so where am I?” The woman’s lack of hostility encouraged Lupe to step closer and she felt relieved when the stranger did not move. She decided to close the distance completely and kept walking. 

“Earth,” she repeated, then shrugged. “Just not yours.” Lupe stopped walking. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open. 

“Huh?” She looked around again, then stared at her. “No way, it has to be a different planet. Earth doesn’t have two moons and pur-violet grass.”Why am I here? It has to be you because you seem to know a lot and there’s no one else around.” The woman smiled. 

“Technically it is a different planet, but it’s still the Earth of this universe. You’re quick, that’s part of why you’re here.” She cocked her head behind her. “C’mon meet the others.” She stood with easy grace making sure she did not scare the girl away, then began walking in the direction she suggested.  

“You’re special,” she began to explain, but Lupe interrupted her. 

“How do you know that? Actually, how do you know anything about me?” She asked. The woman must have heard her footsteps halt in the grass because she turned to face Lupe. She sat again, in the grass, to put the girl at ease. 

“We brought you here to have a talk. That’s it. If you’re not interested we’ll put you back on your Earth, and go our separate ways,” she said. “We didn’t talk to you on your Earth because this way makes more of an impression. We’ve been watching you for a while, and you’re pretty quick to change. I put you in that crater to distract you with questions we have the answers to and force you to listen.” 

“You brought me to a parallel universe just to talk to me?”

“Alternate, not parallel,” she said. The smile remained on her face and Lupe found herself becoming more at ease with the woman.

“What’s the difference?” she asked. 

“Proximity I guess? It’s not exactly that, but that’s the best way to put it. If we were parallel with your Earth, the grass would probably still be green.” She looked up. “There’d definitely be only one of those. The further you are from your home universe the bigger the changes.” The woman’s focus dropped to Lupe again. “But that’s not why you’re here. Although If you do stay you’ll learn all that stuff.”

“Okay. You said I’m here to listen, so I’m listening.” Lupe walked to the woman and sat in the grass next to her.

“We want to invite you to a private high-school next year,” she said. Lupe burst into laughter. 

“You’re kidding! I’m in an alternate universe because I won a scholarship???” Her laughter died down as she took in the violet field again. “It is beautiful though. I guess thanks for not just sending a letter.” The woman stood again, with less care this time. Lupe felt comfortable enough with her that the tall stranger did not need to measure every movement. She walked away again, and Lupe scrambled up off the grass to keep up with her large steps. 

“This is just where we train,” the woman said. Lupe realized she led her towards an encampment in the distance. She recognized an orange glow and saw several figures seated around the fire. “I thought it’d be a good idea to show you where you’d spend a lot of time if you decided to join up.” The woman said. Lupe made up her mind during the walk. Once the pair entered the orange glow Lupe saw a group of four kids her age, two boys and two girls. Each of the girls wore a glassy visor on their faces. One solid black on a dark haired girl, and the other translucent purple on a blonde girl. 
As they approached the four kids stood from their seats and greeted Lupe and the giant woman. 

“I’m in.” Lupe blurted out when she saw the friendly faces gathering around her. She felt a hard slap on her back from the tall woman. 

“Great to hear!” she said. The four kids stood before Lupe. The tall woman stepped forward, turned, and extended a hand to Lupe

“My name’s Flutter,” the red-headed giant said, then she turned to introduce the rest. She pointed at the blonde girl, then worked her way down the line. “Purple visor is Eurys, black visor is Abby. Green board shorts is Todd.” She gave a dismissive wave towards the fourth boy standing at the end. “And Felix.” 

“Flux,” Felix said and stepped forward to offer Lupe a handshake. #46, El Sol.”  Lupe shook the boy’s hand but looked at him with confusion.

“46? What?”  She felt a reassuring pat from Flutter on her back. 

“We’ll get to that. By the way, you’re #47, La Corona.” 

OooooooooooooooH. (6-28-18)

[CW] A short story with a plot twist using the letter “o” exactly 15 times. [Link to post.]

“Fredericks!” the guard yelled at the cell’s inhabitants. A tall, plump man walked near the bars, his steps echoed in the cell.

“That’s me,” Lenny Fredericks said. The guard let him pass. 

“Lawyer’s here, this way.” The guard grabbed Lenny’s arm and guided him through the maze of walls that made up the station. He sat Lenny at a table facing a brunette woman in a black suit. 

“Mr. Fredericks, I’m the lawyer handling this case. My name is Erica Quintanilla.” The lawyer presented her hand, and Lenny accepted it with an eager shake.  

“Nice’ta meet’cha.” Lenny said. After they disengaged their handshake, Erica placed Lenny’s file between them, then started her interview while scanning the sheets. 

“Mr. Fredericks,-” she began.

“Call me Lenny,” Lenny suggested. She returned a friendly smile.

“Lenny, the victim was a friend, right?” Lenny’s head dipped slightly, and his blue eyes darkened. 

“Yeah. Me an’ Ellie been friends since I can remember. She was my best friend, we had a marriage pact an’ all that.”

“I see. The detective checked your alibi, and everything came up clean. But, we think you can still help with the investigation,” Erica said. Lenny’s head perked up.

“Anything!” he sat up straighter, eager. He jumped in his skin, and released a small yelp when he felt the guard lean against his shoulder with a heavy hand, he didn’t expect it. 

“Yes?” Erica’s gaze shifted as she asked the guard. 

“Uh,” He lifted his hand, then stepped back. “Just checking. Everything fine, Miss Quintanilla?” the guard asked. 

“Everything’s fine, Steve,” she replied with a stern face, then she faced Lenny again. 

“The detective thinks that it might help the case if we knew why she was there that night? Any ideas?” she asked. Lenny shrugged. 

“She had plenty secrets. I was fine with it, but I knew she had a shady side,” Lenny said. He wiggled in his chair, and he again felt a heavy hand. Luckily he didn’t jump. 

“Yes?” Erica asked again. 

“Uh, fine?” the guard asked with a slight tremble.

“Yes.” Erica replied sharply. “Tell me. Ellie’s shady side, share it,” she asked Lenny.

“Well,” Lenny wiggled in his chair. “It wasn’t half as shady… AS MINE!” Lenny left his chair and extended his still cuffed hands at Erica. Then he halted, with his fingers centimeters near her neck. Steve the guard stared at them with wide, panic filled eyes.

“DAMNIT STEVEN DID YOU READ THE FUCKING SCRIPT????!!!” Erica snapped and yelled at the guard.

“BOOOOO!” the audience grumbled.

Truth and Fries (6-27-18)

[WP] Survivors of the apocalypse are still fighting for their lives; Whataburger seems to be doing alright though. [Link to post.]

“And, why do you want to work at Whataburger?” Albert Guajardo, General Manager, asked the prospective employee, Rigo Reyes, while trying to size him up. The young man sat in the booth across from Albert, wearing his best protective gear. A set of high-school football pads, and heavily wrapped arms. His cracked football helmet rested on the table. 

“My girl’s pregnant. I can’t help rebuild humanity if I can’t provide for them,” Rigo said. It was not true, but it would be if he got the position. He did not have a girlfriend at the moment, but no Whataburger employee suffered loneliness for long. Even the perimeter guards that kept zombies out of the restaurant got paid enough food to support a family of four. 

“Can you start now?” Albert asked. Rigo nodded eagerly, but Albert explained the situation anyway. “Our cashier didn’t make it to work this morning, so we’re short-handed. To be clear, you can consider this a test. You’re not hired yet. You can work today, we’ll feed you of course, and if you do well enough I’ll hire you on full-time. Deal?” Alber offered a handshake, and Rigo shook it with vigor. 

“Deal!” he yelled. 

“Okay, c’mon to the back and I’ll show you the Barter list.” Albert slid out of the booth, then Rigo followed him behind the service counter. He pointed at a pictogram taped to the white counter, then to a scale next to it. “Use the scale to weigh their trade. 5 lbs of scrap is worth $10.00. Gas and water have their own values.” He pointed to a different pictogram taped behind the counter, out of customer view. “Those fluctuate.”

“What if they have money?” he asked. Albert shrugged and pointed the scale.

“5 lbs of scrap is worth $10.00,” he repeated. “But, I guess if they have money that means you can give them change,” he laughed. “There’s a gun under the counter, in case of trouble, but that’s unlikely.”

“You’re not kidding, those medics at the perimeter get,” Rigo coughed. “Thorough.” Albert nodded.

“You get used to it after a while,” Albert said. A buzzer rang, and a light over the entrance changed from red to green. “Customer. I’ll take care of them. Go introduce yourself to the other workers, and get a uniform on. Leah’s the shift leader, she’ll show you where they are.” Rigo walked towards to the kitchen to greet the cook standing by the flattop. A short, lean, balding man greeted Rigo with a smile.

“Hey, welcome aboard. I’m Chris,” he offered his hand. Rigo shook it and smiled in return.

“I’m Rigo, but I’m not sure I’m hired yet. Today’s just a test,” he explained. Chris dismissed the explanation with a wave of his hand.

“He says that to everyone. I’ve been testing for three months. Despite the glamour of the job,” Chris spread his arms wide and gave a slow twirl to show off his orange and white uniform to Rigo. “It’s still a hell of a commute. Some people are too scared,” Chris said. A beep drew their attention to a small rectangular box hovering over the fry pit. “Talk to you in a bit, man. I got an order.” He pointed to the back of the kitchen. “Leah’s in the office. She’ll get you set up with a uniform.” Chris turned his back to Rigo and threw two patties onto the flattop. He reached for fries while Rigo walked further back. 

He knocked on the office door, but the knock pushed it open further. He found an old woman with stringy silver hair sitting in a wheelchair. Her dark eyes lit up when she saw Rigo enter the office.

“A new face! Hello!” she said. “Need a uniform?” Rigo nodded.

“Yep. Hi, I’m Rigo. Albert said you could suit me up?” He asked. Leah backed her wheelchair up to go around the desk. Rigo realized the woman had neither of her legs below the thigh.

“Just need to take some measurements, and I’ll get started. It won’t be ready until tomorrow,” she pointed at a row of orange caps hanging from a line of hooks on the wall. “Just grab a cap for today.” She wheeled around Rigo while she spoke, pausing to use the measuring tape on his body at various points.

“Tomorrow?” Rigo asked.

“Yeah, I can’t sew a uniform in a few hours. I can, of course. But now that they need all that protective padding it takes longer,” she said while measuring his inseam. “Let me guess. He told you the first day is a test, right?” Leah asked. He nodded. “He says that to everyone,” she laughed. “Albert’s just a big ol’ softie. He’s big on humans helping each other. Oh, but don’t ever lie to him. About anything.  He takes that extra personally. Something about the world’s changed and we can only trust each other now,” Leah shrugged. “The last person he caught lying is definitely worse for it.”

“Oh. Yeah, totally. Perfect trust. That’s all we got,” Rigo said. As soon as he said that he felt a sharp slap on the center of his back.

“Doesn’t take that long to put a cap on,” Albert said loudly behind Rigo, but his booming voice also carried laughter. Albert walked into the office. “I’m just ridin’ you, it’s a slow day. Hey, did you tell Leah about your girl?”

“Oh, no. Not yet. She was just telling me that the uniform takes a day,” Rigo replied.

“Oh yeah. I always forget it takes that long, I guess you’re hired. No sense in making a uniform if you’re not. I just have one rule. Don’t ever lie to me,” Albert said. He placed a hand on Rigo’s shoulder. “To be 100% clear, I’m dead serious.” He smiled and pulled his hand from Rigo’s shoulder, then walked out the door. On the other side, he stopped and turned over his shoulder. “If you’re ever doubting it, ask Leah about her legs.”

What happened to Vegas (6-26-18)

[WP] Millennia ago a witch cursed your family with bad luck for 1000 generations. You are a child of the 1001st generation and the universe is trying to compensate for your ancestors’ misfortune. [Link to post.]

“… and here’s your room.” Mrs. Garza, a foster mom with short, dark hair, finished giving Victor the grand tour. She smiled down at the eight-year-old child. “Any questions?” Victor shook his head without taking his eyes off the room; the disturbed air rustled his fluffy blond hair. The walls were bare white, but one corner held a large wooden desk equipped with a top of the line computer. A 50″ TV hung on the wall in front of the bed. He looked up meeting Mrs. Garza’s dark brown eyes for the first time. 
“And I don’t gotta share??” he asked. Mrz. Garza patted his hair down. 

“All yours.” 

“Whoooooooaaa.” The boy ran inside the sparse room and leaped on the bed. He giggled while laying flat on the mattress and bouncing his body up and down against it. “Thank you!” he yelled between giggles. 

“Dinner’s in an hour, how does pizza sound?” she asked. The squeaking springs stopped immediately and the boy sat up with a giant grin. 

“Pepperoni!” he yelled, then relaxed his body to start bouncing again. Mrs. Garza laughed, then closed the door to Victor’s room as she walked away. She found her husband in the kitchen working on his laptop.

“I like him,” she said as she sat down next to him. Her husband responded without looking up.

“You like all of them, that’s why we do it,” he said. 

“No, but it’s different. He’s different. I want to adopt him.” He stopped typing, then took off his reading glasses and looked his wife in the eye. 

“He just got here,” he reasoned. She nodded, then reached for his hand. 

“He just got here, and listen.” She pointed to the ceiling. Mr. Garza heard faint squeaks. “He’s having fun. He ignored the TV and computer you set up for him. The bed excited him!” She smiled, but her husband’s brow furled slightly. He gave a faint nod.

“The matron did say he was a bit slow,” he began, but Mrs. Garza squeezed his hand hard until he stopped talking.

“That’s not what I mean!” she said with traces of fire in her voice. “He’s eight, and already had a harder, and more interesting life than most people.” She pulled on his hands to turn his full attention to her. His body shifted and they locked eyes. “His mom died while she was giving birth, who does that happen to?” she asked. 

“Lots of people?” her husband asked, unsure. 

“Obviously, but you know what I meant, idiot.” She slapped the side of his shoulder. “An injured gunman demanded care, and shot his mom while she was birthing him. In the hospital!” she said. 

“Sounds unlucky,” he chuckled cautiously. Enjoying the humor, but not wanting to make light of the situation. 

“Then he spent the first eight years of his life in the system. No one adopted him, we’re his first foster family. Eight years in a boy’s home, but now he’s here. I feel like he’s meant to be here. We can give him a good home.” Mr. Garza stared into his wife’s watery eyes, and knew she needed this. He never knew the reason, but after 20 years of marriage, he learned to understand her. 

“He just got here. Let’s see how we function as a family before we make any decisions. But,” he smiled. “It is on the table.” 

“Thank you!” Mrs. Garza smiled and leaned in to kiss her husband. 

“Is it an hour yet?” A small voice said behind them. “I’m hungry.” Both parents chuckled. 

“I don’t even think it’s been 10 minutes yet, honey,” Mrs. Garza said. 

“Forget the hour, I’ll just order now,” Mr. Garza said. He stood from his seat to grab his phone, when Victor tackled the tall man, stepped on Mr. Garza’s white snakeskin boots and wrapped his arms around his waist. 

“Thank you! I got new parents, a new bed, and pizza! I feel so lucky!” the boy said while smiling.   

AlterNet Update (6-25-18)

[CW] Tell a story that’s only told through patch notes. [Link to post.]

AlterNet 1.0: Commercial Release

      The AlterNet streams your consciousness from your body to a shell in an alternate universe. The AlterNet game world is an Earth populated by nanos, tiny programmable machines that can learn to be more efficient. Your AlterNet body is composed of a swarm of nanos that relay sensory feedback. You can touch, feel, and perform magic in the AlterNet! 

      Choose from 25 different races, and classes to customize your character the way you want. Endgame character customization and advancement exists in the form of the OverSoul system. Completing an OverSoul legendary quest will allow you to learn special abilities from one of nine races.

      The races include: Human, Orc, Troll, Goblin, Ogre, Gnome, Elf, Dwarf, Slime, Sappons(Frog humanoid), Naga, Mermaid, Angel, Demon, Fuan, Flora(Plant humanoid), Fairies, Minotaur, Centaur, Elemental, Jax(Cat humanoid), Gobois(Dog humanoid), Avennia (Bird humanoid), Gemmela(gemstone humanoid), Coldbloods(Reptilian humanoid)

      At launch, the nine OverSoul races available are: Dog, Bear, Cat, Unicorn, Dragon, Spider, Vampire, Cyborg, Skeleton. 

     The classes include: Knight, Healer, Bard, Thief, Monk, Ranger, Wizard, Necromancer, Druid, Paladin, Merchant, Craftsman, Hacker, Clown, Ninja, Elementalist, Dancer, Beastmaster, Samurai, Card Mage, Spellslinger, Gunslinger, Librarian, Berzerker, Swordmage.

     Crafting raids are available for endgame crafting guilds. Put on a royal wedding, celebrate a coronation, and more! Coordinate with merchants, smiths, bakers, tailors and carpenters to earn fantastic rewards. 

AlterNet 2.0: PvP Upgraded Framework Release

     Users can now create their own games using nanos. Players can challenge each other to games, and the nanos will enforce the rules. Please be sure to look over all the rules when accepting a challenge. We hold no responsibility for lost items if you agree unfair rules. To encourage experimentation 2.0 is launching with a set of ready-made new challenges.

     Introducing three core games: Roller Derby, Karaoke Jam Music Party(KJMP), and Towers & Assaults. Each of these core games has a flexible ruleset that allows them to be played on its own, or it can augment any other game (including other core games). Roller Derby is an action-packed athletic competition where competitors race around a track using power-ups. KJMP is a rhythm and dance game that requires lightning reflexes and a great ear for music. Towers & Assaults is a tower defense TCG. Use cards to summon monsters and cast spells to keep your Tower safe from the opponent. 

     Along with the three core games we are also releasing three mini-games. Combo Drop, a classic match 3 game. Pong and  Tic-ta-toe. Mix and match these with any (or all!) of the core games to show what you can really do. 

    The OverSoul system has been streamlined. OverSoul can now be chosen upon reaching maximum level and no longer require a legendary quest. However, the quests are still available, and will now offer appropriate rewards. 

     Halfbreeds are now available to all races. Now you can build that half-Minotaur half-Centaur rodeo Clown you’ve always wanted. 

     Due to consumer demand we will be launching a Zero-only server for players that do not wish to play with Unique Souls. More information on Unique Souls can be found in the Hugoverse Guidebook if you are not familiar with them. We recommend that all players read through the information to decide if they would like to choose a Zero-only server. 

     Unique Souls are able to physically travel to the AlterNet. They often have special abilities that are enhanced in the AlterNet. Please remember that you may face an unfair advantage if competing against a Unique. Please read all the rules before agreeing to a contest.

Bearly Immovable (6-24-18)

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

Previously on Dirge & Dread: Dirge began her search for her own Bard instrument and ran into a Zero with a chip on her shoulder. This week Dread starts her search for her beasts. 

Dread wandered through the bazaar searching for an animal vendor. She asked at several stalls, but each question was met with a shrug and an offer to sell her something else. After wandering and browsing the market for hours, Dread felt her stomach growl. She changed her questioning to ask about food and a friendly vendor pointed her to a run down hole in the wall named “Immovable”. 

Dread enjoyed a private smile when she found the establishment. Immovable reminded her of every other disreputable, gang-run, pit of trouble she found in almost every universe. She heard a cheering roar from the people inside and dashed in to investigate the commotion. A giant crowd of patrons surrounded a long, rectangular white surface in the floor of the diner. It reminded Dread of the derby track but only consisted of a single white glossy 15′ x 5′ strip.  On the left side of the strip Dread saw a giant, pale, red-headed woman. She faced a tall, but shorter than the red-head, lean man. The giant woman smiled at the man, then took a single step forward. 

“Challenger ready?” She shouted at the man. He tugged at the fingers of his brown leather glove to remove it, then held his hand up in the air. A golden tattoo of the number 34 glowed on the back of his raised hand. 

“I’m ready,” he said. A large golden bear, almost the size of the red-head. rose out of the white track next to the male challenger. A golden glow illuminated the bear’s outline, and his light brown fur shimmered gold as the beast walked next to its master towards the woman. She stopped walking at two large black footprints in the white field. A notification beeped, then the woman’s image appeared on a behemoth screen overlooking the white rectangle to give everyone a view. 

“Hey, what’s going on?” Dread asked the friendliest looking thug she could find and was pleased to receive an answer. She did not want to get caught up in a fight and miss the action. 

“That’s the owner,” the bearded man responded without taking his eyes off the two competitors. Luckily for Dread he did point out the gargantuan woman to clarify. “She’s immovable. Anyone that moves her gets a reward,” he said. Dread’s eyes lit up. 

“What kind of reward?” She asked. Neither the man with the bear nor the diner’s owner made a move. Dread wondered how the man was going to move her. She guessed he was a Beastermaster like her. She hoped to ask him where he got his bear after the challenge. 

“No one’s moved her. Never been a reward,” he responded, then chuckled. “He’s going to try ramming? That idiot’s going to knock himself out for a week.” The lean man began to run at the red-headed owner, with his bear charging next to him. Within steps of reaching the woman the bear dissipated into gold dust and gave the lean man the aura of a golden bear. 

“Hyper.” A deep male voice from the scoreboard announced a power-up used by the lean man.

“Bear soul!” The man yelled. His body changed with every step. He grew taller, rich brown fur sprouted out of every inch of bare skin. He resembled a man/bear hybrid by the time he reached the owner. He rushed into her with all his strength head first, then fell flat on the ground an instant later. Face down and unconscious. The bearded man howled with laughter, but Dread requested his attention again with a shoulder tap. 

“Beastmasters can do that?” she asked. The man nodded. 

“Depends on the spec. One of the paths focuses on augmenting yourself by bonding with your beast. He also happened to have a Bear Oversoul. Poor guy really thought he had a chance.”

“How’d he get the power-up?” Dread asked him.

“Ah, new to the SchoolYard. I see.” He turned his body towards her to grant his full attention, and he looked her up and down. “Here any game can be played any way, as long as everyone agrees to the rules. Immovable’s challenge lets you use any power-ups you want to move her.” Dread’s purple eyes sparkled. 

“I can move her,” she said. The stranger let loose another wheezing peal of laughter. 

“You’re just a kid. Aside from that, if you’re not a Unique you don’t stand a chance.” 

“#42. La Calavera.” She looked him straight in the eyes. 

“Oh. Yeah, you might stand a chance.” He looked from Dread to the owner, then turned back to Dread with a smile. “Tell you what. I’ll cover the bet, and we split the reward if you can pull it off. Sound good?” he extended a hand. Dread shook hands and they both walked towards the owner. The giant woman noticed them coming and walked to greet them. 

“Oh fun, I haven’t been double-teamed in a while,” the owner said. She winked at the bearded man, and he chuckled but put his hands in front of himself. 

“Just her. I’m covering her bet.” He pulled a gold coin out of the air and flipped it towards the owner. She caught it but sent it right back. 

“The kid can take a free shot,” she said. She turned back and walked to the two black footprints. 

“Tell me how to get the power-ups I want, and I’ll still split the reward with you,” Dread reassured the man. He nodded. 

“Thanks. It’s easy, you just have to know which ones you want when you step in the white zone. They’ll be there.” Dread nodded, then turned to walk to the other side of the white strip. The crowd noticed movement and began to gather around the arena again. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, a special freebie. The kid thinks she can move me. What do you wall think?” Laughter roared through the crowd. Dread stepped onto the track with her plan clear in her mind. Her black and gold helmet formed around her head and an icon in her peripheral vision notified her she had a “Hyper” power-up available. 

“Awesome,” she said to herself. She closed the distance between her and the giant owner, stopping about five feet in front of her. Dread was tall for a boy her age, but the red-head towered above her. The tips of Dread’s spiky white hair lined up with the woman’s stomach. 

“Challenger ready?” The owner asked. Dread nodded her helmet. “Go.” 

“Hyper.” The scoreboard announced Dread used her power-up.

“Tiger’s Roar!” Dread yelled, and channeled her own sonic scream into it. 

Previous Dirge & Dread chapter: Zero Cool
Next Dirge & Dread chapter: Friends with a Zero (link to new blog: Hugoverse.Info)

Lunch Jitters (6-23-18)

[WP] You are the greatest villain in the world. When you come face to face with your only rival, he says, “Do you want to grab a coffee before we start? I’ve haven’t eaten all day.” [Link to post.]

“I’m so glad you said something, I started late today too,” The Shade said. He patted the heavy, dark leather coat over his stomach, then leaned closer to whisper at SunKnight. “Kayla’s teeth are coming in, and Lucille’s out of town for that thing.” He shrugged, then pulled off his black, featureless hood. “I needed an extra 40 winks. Let’s do a lunch, meet me at the pizzeria in 20.” Keith Slinny, the man under The Shade’s mask checked his watch. The rest of his black costume dissipated from his body; black smoke wafted from him like steam escaping a body in winter. “At this point, we’ll end up putting it off until tomorrow so I need to book the babysitter now.”

“The wedding’s tomorrow, remember? Let’s take the weekend off and do Monday?” SunKnight asked. His armor faded from in a golden glow. 

“Right. See you in a bit.” A breeze disturbed the black smoke that formed Keith causing the man to fade away. Jorge Amaya walked out of the dark alley that had become their greeting place over the years. He decided to enjoy the walk to their favorite pizza shop. The stroll through his town filled Jorge with pride. He goes above and beyond other heroes. He does not only defend his city, he nurtures it. He helps improve it without anyone realizing it. Jorge arrived at Luca’s Pizza 15 minutes after he left Keith, but found the man waiting for him already when he walked in. His friend waved him over. 

“Food’s ordered already,” Keith said. He nodded at the second cup of soda on their wooden table. It sat in front of an empty seat. Jorge thanked Keith with a nod as he sat down in the booth.

“Thanks. Hey, since we’re postponing anyway, can we change the route a bit? I walked through the park on my way here, and their bathrooms are horrible.” Jorge asked. Keith nodded.

“Definitely. Kayla loves that park,” Keith replied. His dark brown eyes rolled upward as he tried to picture the area. “Uhhh. Oh, we can work it in between the bank and here.” He sat up straighter to check the area around them, then leaned closer over the table. He grabbed the salt and pepper shakers. “Bank.” He set the shaker on the table between them. “Pizza.” He set the pepper to the side, some distance away. Then he grabbed the parmesan shaker and placed it an equal distance from the two, in a triangle formation. “Park.” He pointed at the salt shaker. “After I steal the money I can blast you hard enough to get you to the park. After a tussle there you knock me over here for the finale.” Jorge nodded his agreement, then a middle-aged Italian woman approached their table carrying two large pizzas. She set them down, then grabbed their cups to refill.

“Ma, why are you wasting dough? I only ordered one.” Keith asked Luca’s owner, Ma Luca. She smiled at Keith with a shrug.

“Might as well use it up, I won’t have anywhere to put it once this place is wrecked,” she winked at Jorge.

“Oh yeah. Uh, Monday instead, okay?” Jorge said and flashed his best apologetic smile.

“But today’s the 31st.” Her voice dropped. She knelt at the table between them. “It needed to be today, or I have to pay another month’s rent.” She grasped their hands with each of hers. “I don’t have another month’s rent.” Keith checked his watch.

“Okay. Let us finish eating, then we’ll come back. We can just start here and work our way backward, right?” Keith looked across the table at Jorge. Joy poured into Ma Luca’s face through her glassy brown eyes.

“Thank you!” Keith shook his head.

“You will. In about an hour start cooking up all your dough, I’d love to eat pizza for the next week or so.”

“Thank you!” Ma said again, then walked away carrying their cups.

“So I’m going to punch you to the bank? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit suspicious?” Jorge asked once Ma left. He did not want to diminish her hopes. Keith shook his head.

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s fine, it’s Ma. We can hit the bank next month. We’ll just hit the park and here today.”

“Thanks,” Jorge said. He offered a hand across the table, and he felt glad when Keith shook his hand.

“It gets me pizza and saves me from paying from another day of babysitting. You’re doing me a favor,” Keith smiled at him.

“Consider it a wedding gift,” Jorge laughed.

“Please stop reminding me about it. I’m nervous enough.”

A Kind Death (6-22-18)

[WP] You Are Lord Death. After Eons Of Work, You Decide To Take A Vacation, And Let Your Assistant Take Your Spot In Your Absence. [Link to post.]

“Here you go, Mr. Grimm. Penthouse Suite.” The fair-haired desk clerk in a red blazer presented Joe Grimm with a white key-card, then gestured to the young bellhop eager to earn a tip. “Greg will show you the way.” Joe nodded, then followed after the young man whom already stepped into the elevator carrying Joe’s single black duffle bag. 

“Are you here for the festival?” Greg tried to fill the quiet ride to the top floor. Joe shook his head. 

“Not especially. It might be fun to watch from my room, but I plan to relax and enjoy my vacation. No work for me,” he smiled. 

“Work? At a festival?” Greg’s brown eyes clouded with confusion, but then it seemed as if someone turned on a light in his brain.  “OH!” He stepped closer and whispered. “Are you an entertainer?” A broad smile overtook Joe’s face. 

“Something like that,” he nodded. “I’ve been known to knock ’em dead in my time.” The elevator dinged, then the doors slid open to a beautiful penthouse view.  Directly ahead of the elevators sat a large infinity pool carved into the floor. From the elevator, it seemed like the edge of the infinity pool connected to the ocean’s horizon. Greg carried Joe’s bag into the room while the overworked man appreciated the view of the setting sun sinking into his swimming pool. Joe’s moment was interrupted by a gentle throat clear given by Greg. He once again stood in the elevator next to Joe and held a single palm out in a suggestive manner. 

“Oh sorry. I’m in your way,” He stepped out of the elevator, splitting his attention between the gorgeous view and the young man. “You know, I forget how beautiful the world is sometimes.” Greg nodded. “Got a girlfriend, Greg?”  Joe asked.

“Yes, sir. As a matter of fact…” Greg reached into his own pants pocket and pulled out a small red box. “After tonight she’ll be my fiancee.” He eagerly opened the tiny box to show off a golden ring with a diamond speck that he saved up three months for. Joe stepped forward, still smiling, and gave Greg a solid pat on the back. 

“Young love! It’s as wonderful as that view over there,” Joe pointed to the pool. “Greg, you don’t know how lucky you are that I’m in a fantastic mood.” He reached into the inside of his dark suit coat and retrieved his wallet. “You don’t want to propose on a beach, everyone does that.” He opened the wallet, pulled out his credit cards and driver’s license, then handed the bulging wallet to Greg. “Go tonight. Fly to Vegas and start your new life together tonight.” Greg found himself dumbstruck. Sounds of shock and surprise left his mouth, but he seemed to be unable to form words. His fingers slid through the wallet as he counted the money. 

“Two thousand dollars? Are you serious right now??” Greg asked with a high pitched tone in his voice. 

“Oh no, wait.” Joe grabbed the wallet from Greg’s hand, then pulled the cash out. He handed the wallet and the cash back to Greg. “Check again.” Greg’s eyes grew wide. He counted two thousand in his hands and found another two thousand in the wallet. “Keep the wallet.” Greg held the wallet upside down shaking $100 bills onto the marble floors. “But, you know. Be discreet.” 

“Right, thanks!  THANK YOU!” He whooped and cheered while hugging Joe. After a bit Greg managed to get back into the elevator and headed downstairs again, leaving Joe alone in the suite. He walked straight out to the balcony and sat in a chaise to enjoy the rest of the sunset. He fell asleep, then woke up to an orange sky and the sound of laughter. He looked over the balcony and saw a crowd of people standing around a flaming plane on the beach. It seemed to have crashed into the stage. Black smoke billowed from the broken wood and shattered jumbo screen. Strangers stood around talking and pointing at the plane, on closer inspection Joe noticed some of the beachgoers on fire, but no one seemed to be too bothered. He walked away from the ledge and retreated to the bathroom and started drawing a bath. 

“I’m on vacation,” he said to himself. Joe decided he was hungry while he waited for the tub to fill and ordered room service. “Just bring it in, I’ll be in the tub,” he added after ordering a pizza. 

“Room service.”  A knock on the door woke Joe from his tub nap. 

“Thank you, give me a sec.” He shouted through the door, then rose from the water to dry off a bit and don a white fluffy robe. He opened the door to find a young redheaded woman wearing the hotel’s red uniform. However, spots of it looked to be a darker, brownish red. She stood with her back to the bathroom but turned at the sound of the bathroom door opening. A large gash decorated her neck from ear to ear, still dripping blood over the front of her uniform. 

“Do you maybe want some medical attention?” Joe asked the bleeding woman. She shook her head with a smile. 

“Haven’t you heard yet? Death’s broken. No one’s dying!”  Joe brought his fingers to his face and massaged the bridge of his nose. 

“I’m sure it’ll catch up,” he said at last, then pointed to the wound. “You should get that looked at before it does.” She dismissed the advice with a handwave and walked to the elevator, without any sign of waiting for a tip. She pressed the button while she waved bye to Joe again. 

“Maybe tomorrow, but the festival just got amped up big time. It’s gonna be a blast.” She stepped into the elevator and smiled as the doors closed. Joe took a deep breath and closed his eyes. 

“I’m on vacation. He has to learn sometime,” he talked himself out of what he really wanted to do. When he opened his eyes a young blonde boy in green board shorts and a black hoodie stood in front of him.

“Dad, I think I messed up.” 

Petty Plant (6-21-18)

[WP]: ”Well, this may shock you,” your patient says. You don’t expect to be shocked, people come to you with the strangest ailments. He reaches to touch the fake plant on your desk. It withers and dies.
[Link to post.]

“So, that’s why I’m here. Can you help me?” the patient, Arnold Millwort, asked the doctor. After killing the fake plant he wrapped his arms around himself as if frightened of burly orderlies bursting through the door to lock him away for the rest of his life. Doctor Ellis looked from the withered plastic plant to Arnold several times. Her mouth hung slack, her green eyes grew wide with disbelief. Without taking her eyes off of Arnold her hand pushed the intercom button.

“Grace, can you step in here for a second please?” the doctor asked. Arnold heard the door open behind him, though his fear and unease kept him facing the doctor. He stiffened as he felt someone brush by him to get to the desk. It was a young girl with short blond hair wearing baby blue scrubs. Doctor Ellis lifted the dead plant from the desk and handed it to Grace. “Please check if Murphy can do anything to salvage this?” The blonde nodded, took the plant, then walked out of the room. Dr. Ellis gestured for Arnold to take a seat. 

“Mr. Millwort, I appreciate the emotions you must be going through; but, I assure you such demonstrations are unnecessary… My grandmother gave that plant to my mother, who gave it to me. They’ve both passed on now, and it’s one of the few keepsakes I planned to pass on to my daughter.” Red flush filled Arnold’s face, and he became uneasy in his seat. Dr. Ellis held a hand up to calm him down. 

“What’s done is done, but please don’t “demonstrate” on anything else, okay?” she gave him a friendly smile and he calmed down.

“Okay. No problem,” he nodded. “Sorry.” 

“Do you have any other symptoms?” Dr. Ellis used her pen to point at the empty spot on her desk. “Aside from killing inanimate objects?” Arnold shook his head.

“Sorry,” he apologized again. “No other symptoms. But you’re not shocked? This isn’t normal, is it?” 

“It’s not normal, but it’s starting to be. You’re not the first,” Dr. Ellis stood from her desk and walked to a filing cabinet behind Arnold. He stared at the white tile floor in front of his seat. “Times are changing, I guess,” she continued to talk while her hands flicked through the files. “Humans are changing.” After a few minutes, Dr. Ellis walked back to her desk, handing Arnold a clipboard and a pen on her way back. Then she sat down behind her desk and addressed Arnold. 

“I’m sure you’re aware, but I’m obligated to remind you that this is not a hospital. This is a privately owned treatment center, and we can only accept you if you admit yourself.” She nodded at the white sheet of paper on the clipboard. “If you agree, just fill that out and we’ll learn all we can about you.” She smiled. 

“So you’ve seen my particular thing before?” he asked. He scratched the pen across the paper, filling in every box without reading. Dr. Ellis nodded.

“Earlier I mentioned Murphy? He’s like you. It’s why I sent him the plant that you killed. Hopefully, he can reverse the damage. He’s been working with us for a while now, and has a decent handle on his abilities.”

“Sorry,” Arnold apologized again and handed over the clipboard and pen. Dr. Ellis looked it over to make sure everything was filled out correctly, then smiled at Arnold.  She pressed the intercom button.

“Grace. Please make sure we have a room available. Mr. Millwort has agreed to participate in the study.” She said. 

“Study?” Arnold asked while sweat gathered on his brow. 

“As much as we know, there’s always more to learn. Though I guess ‘Study’ sounds kind of scary doesn’t it?” she asked with a friendly smile. She stood from her desk and walked around it to comfort him. He nodded in response to her question. “‘Observation’ would probably sound less scary.” She said while she placed a hand on his shoulder. 

“Yeah, it does. Observation just sounds like you’re gonna watch me sleep, heh.” he chuckled to himself. “Ow!” he felt a pinprick to the back of his neck. 

“Don’t worry, this is just a sedative to help you relax,” She pulled an empty syringe from behind Arnold to show him. “It’s funny. The cure for your condition is a simple injection too.” Arnold heard the door open behind him, but the room began to spin around. 

“If you hadn’t killed my plant, you’d be on your way home by now.” she walked in front of him, then lowered her face in front of his and showed him a giant smile. “But, I’m petty.” Two burly orderlies lifted Arnold and strapped him to a wheelchair.