Stellar Invitation

Christine skated on the empty boardwalk at top speed. She enjoyed the bright sunshine and cool breeze of a Saturday morning. The 17-year-old could skate as fast as she wanted; no one else was around. Christine convinced the entire town that none of them wanted to visit the boardwalk on Saturday mornings.

She did not know how her abilities worked exactly, but over the years she narrowed down the procedure to a touch. She could control someone’s mind after a simple touch. Whatever it was that gave her control also seemed to be infectious. If a person under her control touched someone else, they both fell under her thrall.

Christine tried not to use it too often; she could ‘turn it off’ in people and give them free will again.. at least until Saturdays. It was the one day that she let herself flex her gift for a few hours so she could skate unimpeded. She enjoyed having a relatively normal life. She found enjoyment in doing things ‘the regular way’ without forcing anyone to give her anything.

She was so used to the barren boardwalk that she slowed to a stop when she spotted a girl heading in her direction. Even though Christine stopped skating, the dark-skinned girl kept moving toward her. The stranger had a pair of afro-puffs atop her head tied with bright golden ribbons that swayed with the breeze. She wore a candy apple-red windbreaker and a pair of denim shorts; then, Christine noticed the girl was on skates too.

“Hi!” The stranger rolled to a stop in front of Christine and offered a hand.

“Hi,” Christine replied with less enthusiasm, but she accepted the handshake. She knew one other person was not a big deal, but Christine preferred being alone, even in public. She had grown used to having the beach to herself and wanted to keep the trend. “You want to go home for a few hours and come back later,” Christine willed the thought into the girl’s mind.

“I’m Britt,” she said with a smile.  

“C-Christine,” she introduced herself with a stutter. It confused her that Britt introduced herself at all. “You need to go home,” Christine tried the suggestion again.

“Where is everyone?” Britt asked and spread her arms to gesture at the empty boardwalk.

“Uhh,” Christine shrugged. “It’s like this every Saturday,” she replied. She never needed to practice lying and felt glad that she could get by with a carefully worded truth.

“Awesome,” Britt said. She nodded and her smile grew from ear to ear. “Are you any good with those?” she asked with a glance down at Christine’s skates.

“I can skate without falling over?” Christine shrugged. The fact that Britt seemed immune to her ability bothered Christine more than she wanted to admit. Britt laughed a bit, then elaborated.

“I was thinking of something more competitive. Is roller derby a thing around here?” The question melted Christine’s unease in an instant. One of the more unexpected consequences of her abilities was that she won every game. Somehow even when her opponents had free will, they chose to let her win. She tried to lose dozens of times but still won. But Britt was immune and competitive and they had the whole empty boardwalk to skate on.

“I wish,” Christine replied; she finally added her own smile now that she felt comfortable. “I’ve seen some matches on TV and it looks like a ton of fun.”

“Hmmm,” Britt seemed to be thinking over Christine’s answer. “And what about the AlterNet?” she asked. Christine waited for a moment to let Britt finish her thought.

“Alternate what?” she asked once the silence started to make her uncomfortable. Britt giggled.

“You’d know,” she said. Britt stood up straighter, shifted her weight, and crossed her arms. She looked Christine up and down as if appraising her. “So you’ve only seen derby on TV and you’ve never heard of the AlterNet?” Christine shrugged. The questions seemed rhetorical and didn’t know what else to do. “I’m starting a roller derby team, how’d you like to be on it?”

“Yes!” Christine cheered and hopped in place with excitement.

“But there’s something I have to know first,” Britt said. “Are you fast?”

“Faster than you,” Christine replied with a broad smile.

“Oh yeah?” Britt asked. She moved to stand next to Christine; both of them faced the same direction. Britt crouched to a runner’s position ready to push off with her legs and gestured for Christine to do the same. “Show me.”

Starry Idol

“Maybe I’ll see you again!” Lee shouted with a wave. The pair of girls she defeated returned the gesture with broad smiles. Lee left the park on foot; she followed the ghost of an old road toward home. It wasn’t until after ten minutes of walking that she realized her mistake. “Duh,” her statement was joined by the sound of her palm slapping her forehead. After the smack, she pinched the air in front of her as if she selected a single sheet of paper. A glassy rectangle, her node, appeared between her thumb and forefinger as she pulled her hand.

“Show me the last game,” she said to the card-sized pane. Lee slowed her pace along the road while she focused on the node; she wasn’t worried about traffic. As far as she knew she was the only one that ever used the road and most of that use was walking. Light text appeared in the center of the glass. Both of her opponents’ names were highlighted in red to indicate they were not on her friend list. The path along the road was so dark the text appeared to be hovering in mid-air.

[ 2 on 1 Knockdown:

DeLorean – Gunslinger

Christine – Healer


General Lee – Thief

Winner: General Lee]

“Add DeLorean and Christine as friends,” Lee said. The game results updated instantly and the girl’s names changed from red to green. After that, she let the node disintegrate into nothing again and resumed her normal pace. Lee took several more steps, then froze. She heard the crunch of gravel but it did not come from her own footsteps; it sounded like it came from somewhere ahead.

A shadowy figure walked on the road toward Lee. Due to the darkness, she could not make out anything about the person but their eyes. Two brilliant golden stars stared at Lee as the person approached.

“You’ve passed the test,” the unknown woman said.

“Thanks! Bye,” Lee waved at the woman then changed her course to walk around her. She did not know what test the woman meant and tried to avoid the situation entirely. She kept her body tense and ready to move as she walked past the woman. Lee half expected the stranger to get in her way, requiring her to change direction again; but, the woman did not move.

“Don’t you want to know what test?!” she asked. “I’m trying to be mysterious!” she said playfully. The stranger’s joke shifted the tone and Lee immediately felt at ease enough to chuckle and slow her pace. She continued walking for several steps to leave some distance between them, then stopped and turned around.

“Alright, I’ll bite. What test?” Lee asked. The woman’s golden eyes grew brighter and Lee got the sense she was smiling.

“The test to join my Derby team,” the woman replied. Lee fought back every instinct that wanted her to yell, “YES!” at the offer. The entire reason she went to the Derby park as often as she did was to practice and be seen practicing. Her goal was to join a good team. She’d had several offers already; and, each one was almost impossible to turn down. So far, none of the teams seemed all that promising.

“What if I say no?” Lee asked.

“Then you’ll be stuck hoping some other team invites you to the Prom.” Lee felt her legs get weak, she almost fainted then and there.

“P-Prom?” she asked to be sure. “Oren’s tournament? That Prom??” Lee stomach fluttered at the thought. She had all but given up hope of entering the tournament. The deadline for team registration ended the next day. The golden stars dipped then rose again as the woman nodded. Lee had an inkling in the back of her mind. If her suspicions were true, she would agree then and there. If she was wrong, she’d need a bit more time to consider it once she learned about the rest of the team.

“This test that I passed, so it was like a try-out?” Lee asked. The stars bowed again. “Does that mean DeLorean and Christine are on the team too?” Lee felt it was the only reason she’d be approached that night instead of any other day. The woman laughed.

“You’re quick! And, you’re right. They are on the team.”

“Great! I’m in!” Lee jumped in place to give her excitement an outlet. “Who else is on the team?”

“Not sure yet, we need two more,” the woman replied. Lee felt her heart drop into her stomach.

“You don’t have a full team yet?” she asked. “Registration closes tomorrow…,”

“Don’t worry about it,” the woman said. Her right hand began to glow with a brilliant white light and she lifted it to illuminate herself better. “Oren owes me big time, I’m sure he’ll make an exception.”

The stranger was younger than Lee thought. She knew for a fact they were the same age, 18. Lee was a big fan of her new teammate and knew almost everything about her.

“TORQUE!” Lee shrieked with delightful surprise, then she realized she had agreed to be on Torque’s team and it was too much for her to handle. Lee fainted