Las Luchadoras 1

Jenny shook her hands and kicked her feet to ease her nerves. The spiky-haired girl paced back and forth on the dewy grass whiles she stared through a chain link fence. She counted ten candidates, then eyeballed the rest of the group. 30 people showed up for the try-outs, more or less. A woman with short hair as black as Jenny’s stood on a wooden platform in front of the crowd holding a microphone.

“Thank you all for coming out today,” the woman started her speech. Jenny took a deep breath and walked through the gate to blend in at the back of the crowd. She found a spot behind a tall girl in a red shirt with short hair spiked upward like her own, but white instead of black. “Quite a few of you showed up, so we’ll be moving fast. Although before we get started, Ms. Sharp would like to say a few words,” the woman stepped aside to make room at the mic for a taller, pale woman dressed in all white.

“I have four slots available. I hope you’re ready to impress me,” Ms. Sharp said. She gave a curt nod, then walked to a seat on the stage. The first woman spoke into the microphone again.

“Please log in and join Bailey’s raid group,” the woman pointed to someone Jenny could not see at the front of the crowd. An arm shot up in the air and a girl with long brown hair, the owner of the arm, hopped on to the stage. “Bailey is team captain, and the reason we only have four slots,” the woman explained. Jenny ignored the introduction in her rush to log in. Once she logged in to the AlterNet she could pass for a Unique. Jenny pulled a node out of her pocket while the woman continued giving instructions. She almost docked it, but paused when she realized no one else logged in yet. She decided she did not want to draw any attention to herself by being the first one to log in. “The first phase of try-outs will be follow-the-leader. Once we get you down to a manageable number we’ll move on to proper games.” 

A flash of red light happened somewhere in the crowd. Someone logged in first. It signaled everyone else and brilliant colored flashes ran through the crowd. She smiled, about to say her password, when a commotion from the stage drew her attention. A black and green naga in leather armor slithered its way up on the wooden platform and pointed out at the crowd. Directly at the white-haired girl in front of Jenny.

“Uniques only, right? Can we toss that Zero out?” the naga asked. A murmur of confusion ran through the crowd as everyone tried to see who the naga pointed at. A short girl with black flowing curls next to the girl in front of Jenny turned backward. Jenny stared into the girls orange eyes as confidently as she could, and the girl gave her a friendly smile then turned back around. The dark haired woman looked out over the crowd, but asked the naga for clarification.

“Who?”

“Behind that Calavera in the red shirt,” the naga said. Jenny noticed the girl in front of her straighten her back to stand taller. The woman stared at the tall white-haired girl. 

“Hi, what’s your name?” She asked through the microphone. 

“Dread.” Jenny heard the girl’s response. 

“Dread, could you step aside please?” she asked through the microphone. Dread hesitated long enough that Jenny felt obligated to out herself. She threw her arms in the air behind the girl and began waving them around.

“I’m right here!” she yelled, and stepped out from behind Dread. The candidates around her, except Dread and the girl with the orange eyes, all took a step away to isolate her. Jenny looked toward the stage in time to see Ms. Sharp standing from her seat to approach the microphone.

“Why are you here, Zero?” Ms. Sharp asked.

“Because I’m good enough,” Jenny replied, full of confidence. The naga leaned towards the microphone to address Jenny.

“Go home, Zero. You’re embarrassing yourself,” the naga said. Jenny did not move. She stared at the naga defiantly until Ms. Sharp interrupted. 

“Do you have a problem with Zeroes?” she asked. The naga looked at her, and the green scales around her eyes seemed to brighten up as her eyes widened. 

“Nonono, not at all. Sorry, Ms. Sharp.” the naga protested with her hands as she inched backward on her tail. Ms. Sharp turned her attention back to Jenny.

“You think you’re good enough to keep up with Uniques?” she asked. Jenny nodded.

“I know I am.”

“Let’s find out,” Ms. Sharp said. “Get on the track. Right now,” she added. Ms. Sharp looked to the side of the stage. “Bailey? Try her out,” Bailey nodded and walked to the back of the stage to get onto the track. Once Bailey stepped onto the Derby track Ms. Sharp walked back to her seat, turned it to face the track, and waited. The first woman spoke into the microphone again.

“Knock-down contest. Three to win,” she announced the rules. Jenny nodded and held her node up in the air.”Jenny Rocks.” She said her password to log in. Immediately the small clear rectangle began to glow with purple light. She docked the node into a slot in the back of her hand. The instant her node made contact with the dock a swarm of nanos surrounder her in a bright flash of purple light. They wrapped around Jenny and formed a light blue body suit embellished with golden lines at each of her joints. Her black spiky hair began to glow blue. The crowd parted to clear Jenny’s path to the track. She walked through, meeting the eyes of as many of them as she could, but every face she saw glared at her with contempt. She walked around the stage to the track; a smooth white surface ten feet wide. It extended in both directions to form a giant circle two miles long. As her foot left the grass and crossed onto the track nanos formed wheels under shoes in a straight line. Her right foot landed on wheels and she pushed herself forward, stepping on wheels under her left foot by the time they were needed. Bailey seemed to be ready and waiting, she wore a forest green hoodie and black cloth pants. When Jenny was close enough a translucent rectangle appeared and hovered in front of her.

“Challenge from Bailey: Knock-down Derby. Standard Rules.” The menu displayed the game request for Jenny. She touched one side of the slate to accept the challenge, then the menu disappeared. Jenny offered Bailey a hand to say hi, but Bailey stared through her.

“Ready?” Bailey asked. Jenny pulled her hand back and nodded. A swarm of nanos gathered in the center of the circular track to form a large black scoreboard with Jenny and Bailey’s names on it. It counted down from three, then sounded a buzzer to mark the start of the match. Bailey bolted forward the moment the buzzer started, but Jenny did not start moving until the end of the seconds long buzzer. 

Jenny made a show of pushing her legs hard to keep up, but in reality she wanted to watch Bailey finish a lap first to learn more about her. Standard Derby rules required players to complete a lap before they could access their class abilities. Jenny pretended to get winded and she let the gap between them widen even further. She heard laughter coming from the crowd, but she grinned to herself. Their jeers would give Bailey a false sense of security. Jenny skated on the glassy white track, keeping her focus on Bailey the entire time. As Jenny neared the halfway mark Bailey approached the starting line. The crowd began booing the moment Bailey crossed the starting line. Eight green glowing octahedrons formed a single file line behind Bailey once she started her second lap. They hovered in the air and followed her like ducklings.

“A Cardmage? This’ll be easy,” Jenny smiled to herself. She picked up speed to complete her lap, but Bailey played her first card. One of the octahedrons disintegrated into nanos and disappeared.

“Zone: Fairy Forest,” the scoreboard announced Bailey’s play in a deep male voice. The smooth white surface of the track transformed around Jenny. The floor darkened and transformed into a bumpy cobblestone path. Trees and lush green grass shot out of the track along the edges. Jenny smiled to herself as she approached the starting line, she knew exactly how she was going to win.

Vegas’ Friends

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.] 8-26-18

Dread froze at the sight of Ballisea in Vegas’ house. Her heart pounded in her chest and she clenched her fists waiting for someone to make a move. Ballisea focused her gaze on Vegas, the corners of her mouth stretched upward.

“Sammy! It’s so wonderful to see you again,” Ballisea said, then she cast an eye at Lauren. “…and one of you.” Vegas stepped in front of Lauren and stared up at the tall pale woman.

“She’s the same one, Balli. What do you want?” Ballisea’s smile straightened out and she moved to Vegas’ couch and sat down crossing one leg over the other. Dread felt everyone else in the room relax and she un-clenched her fist.

“I just wanted to give the little Calavera,” Ballisea winked at Dread. “A reminder. I’ve got your frequency now. I can show up anywhere you are. Any time. I didn’t expect to hit the jackpot.” The horned woman chuckled to herself.

“Honey,” Vegas said aloud without taking his eyes off Ballisea. “Take Threnny an’ Dread into the kitchen for a bit, alright?”

“C’mon girls, help me get dinner started,” Lauren said calmly. She disappeared into the kitchen without another word. Dread caught Dirge’s eye unsure what to do, but the curly haired girl nodded and slipped into the swinging door behind Lauren. Dread followed.

“We need to get Regal,” Dirge said. She was about to step into a portal that she just opened.

“It’s fine,” Lauren said. She began putting away the groceries that Dread left on the counter. “She won’t hurt him. And she won’t hurt me as long as he’s around.” Dirge sat down at the small round table. Dread noticed she looked worried and confused.

“Everyone’s always told me to run from Ballisea! Why is she just sitting in your living room!?”  She shouted at Lauren. The woman wrapped her arms around the seated girl.

“Listen. Keep running away from her. No matter how civil she might seem, that woman can slip into ‘kill’ mode in the blink of an eye.” The woman sat at the table and motioned for Dread to join them at the table, then she continued talking once Dread sat down.

“Remember what Vegas told you about Ballisea looking for her Zero?” Lauren asked. Both girls nodded. “She won’t hurt Vegas or me, because we have what she’s looking for. I’m the Zero he loves as much as she loved hers.” She sat up straighter and tried to repress her smile. “She taught Vegas how to use his powers, but she kept him imprisoned because he wouldn’t be with her. His luck keeps his frequency from her, but every now and then she’ll find us,” Lauren looked around the kitchen, then shook her head. “We’re not going to move this time.”

“Sorry,” Dirge apologized and stared down; she picked at a frayed edge of a red and white checkered placemat. Lauren reached for Dirge’s hand to console her.

“You better not even think of staying away to…,” Lauren flashed a grin and used air-quotes. “…’keep your uncle safe’. She already knows where we live, and she won’t hurt him. We’re as safe as can be.” She gave Dirge her most reassuring smile. The kitchen door swung open behind Lauren and the girls smiled when they saw Vegas stepping into the kitchen. Lauren turned in her seat.

“She’s gone. I got her to promise to use the door from now on,” Vegas shrugged. “It’s a start.” Lauren stood from her seat and Vegas sat down on it to let her sit down again on his lap.

“Already?” Dread asked. It surprised her how easily Ballisea left. Vegas nodded.

“She has other things to do, she just wanted to intimidate you. But don’t let her. She can show up anywhere any time, but she almost never does. Enough about her though,” Vegas turned to Dirge and smiled. “So, how you, gonna try to catch your carrot?” he asked. Lauren’s eyes lit up.

“You found your carrot!?” she smiled. Dirge nodded while her pale cheeks grew red. “That’s great news. Forget cooking, we’re going out.”

“Can we go to Donna Chang’s?” Dread asked louder than she intended to. She fell in love with the food the first, and only, time she visited it with Vegas and Dirge. Her hopes fell when she saw Lauren shaking her head.

“Sorry. She moved again, but we haven’t found her yet.” Lauren looked at Dirge. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’m just so excited for you.” She leaned over and gave Dirge another hug without leaving Vegas’ lap. “Like he asked, how are you going to catch it?”  Dirge shrugged.

“I don’t know. I was so excited that I figured it out, I came straight here,” the girl said.

“Well, what’s your carrot?” Lauren asked.

“I met a Zero that I wanted to be friends with, but Ballisea killed her. So I decided I want to meet as many of her Zeroes as I could and make friends with them,” Dirge explained her goal to Lauren, and the woman nodded.

“You met her in the AlterNet, right?” Lauren asked. It was Dirge’s turn to nod in response. “You need to get out there and play more to meet more people. It’s more fun with Dread now, right? The game isn’t meant to be soloed like you did when you were younger.” Dirge listened to the advice, but her mind seemed focused on something else. After a second Dirge reached into the pocket of her dress, pulled out a folded piece of paper then handed it to Lauren. After the woman read it she handed it to Vegas but smiled at Dirge.

“That’s definitely a great place to start,” Lauren said. After Vegas finished reading the sheet he handed it back to Dirge then added his own comment.

“If you girls are going to run Derby, I’ll introduce you to the best Derby coach I know in the AlterNet, his character name is Jelly_Jim,” Vegas said. “He’s a Borracho too.”

Bag of Fish

[CW] Flash Fiction Challenge! Location: A Zoo | Object: Backpack

“Here you go.” Melody handed Dread a small black leather backpack decorated with a red scissor logo.

“Huh?” the white-haired girl asked. She lifted the bag up to inspect it, but she only held it for a second before Melody yanked it from her hands and gave the bag to Jenny instead.

“Here you go.” Melody looked at Dread again. “Just pick out the animal you want, Jenny’ll do the rest.” Then she looked at Jenny again. “You know how, right?” The girl nodded and smiled at the woman with a thumbs up gesture.

“No problem.”

“Gear is the last part of orientation.” Melody addressed Dread again. “After you pick a pet head to the locker room for the rest of your equipment. You’re just an exhibition team,” Melody cast a side glance at Jenny when she reminded them. “However, Ms. Sharp still wants you girls to have the best equipment available. I’ll see you at practice next Saturday. Welcome to the team,” Melody smiled at both girls. Then she gave them a polite nod and walked out of the Zoo’s lobby.

“Shark, right? Uh,” Jenny glanced up at the large map displayed at the entrance. “Aquatic this way.” Jenny took the lead and Dread followed. They reached a narrow hall flanked on both sides by large glass walls. At the entrance to the hall the girls stopped at a small podium that showed a lit display. Immediately Jenny began poking and swiping at it until she found what she was looking for.

“Okay, they’ve got three Unique sharks.”

“What souls?” Dread asked.

“Uh,” Jenny scanned down the list. “La Rosa, La Rana, and whoa. A human one, El Valiente! That’s the one you want, right? Gotta be.” She smiled at the taller girl. Dread shook her head.

“No.”

Rewarding Visit

[OT] Sunday Free Write (8-19-18)

“That’s a great goal. You don’t have a lot of experience with Zeroes, so let me give you a piece of advice,” Vegas said. He stepped to the side and gestured the girls towards the house. Dirge took the hint and headed towards the door. Dread followed. Vegas fell in step alongside them and kept talking.

“No matter how many of her you meet, you’ll never meet the same Glory again.” The reached the screen door and Vegas opened it to let the girls in. The group walked into Vegas’ living room and Vegas sat down on a brown leather loveseat across from a matching couch. Dirge and Dread sat on the couch and continued to listen. “A lot of Uniques think that every Zero is like its other copies, but each one is unique in its own way. If you’re looking to meet her again, just give up now. You won’t,” Vegas said. He wore a serious look that Dirge recognized as his “Listen to what I’m telling you.” face. She did not see it often so she made sure to listen when he had that look.

“How do you know?” Dread asked. “There’s infinite universes out there, right?” Vegas nodded.

“Yep, there are. But, Ballisea’s out there too…” Vegas started to explain, but Dread interrupted him.

“We met her, and we totally survived,” Dread puffed her chest out, and deliberately chose to leave out the fact that Ballisea let them live on purpose. Vegas chuckled.

“Well of course you did, she won’t kill Uniques ‘less they get under her skin. It’s Zeroes she goes through like popcorn. I wanna know what went down, but first lemme finish what I was sayin’,” Vegas said.

“I mentioned Ballisea was out there. Not as a warning, but because she’s still out there killing Zeroes. She kills every Zero she sees, hoping to spawn her husband again.” He explained. A noise distracted them. Dirge and Dread looked towards the entrance to see Lauren, Vegas’ wife, coming into the house.

“Hey girls! How’s it going?” she asked, excited to see the teenagers. “Staying for dinner?” she lifted a pair of shopping bags to indicate there was plenty. Dread stood from the couch and grabbed the shopping bags from Lauren without a word. “Thanks, Dread!” With her hands-free, she walked to the loveseat and sat next to Vegas. Dread came back from the kitchen, and Dirge looked at her for an answer. She nodded her head.

“Yeah, we’d love to stay, thanks!” Dirge said. Dread sat next to Dirge.

“You’re just in time, babe,” Vegas said. “The girls were gonna tell me about their run-in with Ballisea.”

“And Flutter!” Dread added. She stood from the couch and reached into her pocket to pull out Flutter’s golden scale. She held it up proudly for Vegas and Lauren to see.

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” Vegas said and stood from the loveseat. As a habit Dirge replied.

“Oooh oooh aah,” she giggled. Vegas and Lauren joined in, but it was the first time Dread had seen the interaction. “Cause he’s my uncle,” Dirge explained in a whisper to Dread while Vegas disappeared to the kitchen.

“Oh. okay,” Dread said. Vegas returned with a large, long, golden box.

“Bring that scale over here, let’s try something.” Vegas set the box on the table with a heavy drop. Dread walked over with the scale, Dirge and Lauren also moved closer to watch.

“What is it?” Dread asked.

“Well,” Vegas said with a grin aimed at Dread. “If that’s really Flutter’s scale you got there, then you can consider this a reward. This used to belong to Flutter,” Vegas pointed at a small black circle on the top of the box. “And only she can open it. But that scale should do the trick.” Dread stepped forward and pressed the scale against the black circle. It blinked a flashing green light, made a beeping sound, then the top of the box unlatched.

“Congratulations. Now thank your lucky stars that Flutter isn’t known for holding grudges.” Vegas opened the box. Inside a long sword with a wide green blade and a golden handle rested in a green silk-lined recess.

“Whoa…are you sure I can have it?” Dread asked. “Wait, what do you mean she doesn’t hold grudges? How do you know that?” Dread pulled the sword out while she waited for Vegas’ response. It felt heavier in her hand than her axe in the AlterNet. She gave it a couple of test swings and decided she liked her axe better.

“Flutter’s as gentle as a kitten, everyone knows that. That’s why I’ve been telling you to run if you see either of them. They won’t chase you,” Dread gave Dirge a side-glance when Vegas said that, because Ballisea seemed to take a special interest in them. Dirge giggled. “And if you get out of their way they won’t bother you.”

“If Flutter’s so gentle why’s she evil and killing Zeroes with Ballisea?” Dirge asked.

“She doesn’t have a choice,” Vegas looked at Dread. “You especially need to listen to this. Calaveras are as tough as they are because they’re meant to be guardians. Calaveras can form a link with a Celestial Unique that makes them both stronger, but that link is kinda like an open door between their minds. They’ve been linked for so long, and Ballisea is so powerful that she can pretty much run Flutter’s mind if she wants to. Luckily for everyone she doesn’t want to very often. The point is, Flutter will do anything Ballisea really wants her to do, and she’ll think it’s her own idea to do it. You can’t reason with her, can’t fight back against that kind of mind control. It’s best to stay out of their way,” Vegas said. Then he nodded at the sword in Dread’s hand. “But if you run into them, there’s nothing else that’ll hurt Ballisea as much as that sword.” Dread lifted the sword and examined it with newfound awe. She discovered nearly invisible intricate golden lines etched into the sparkling green blade.

“Is it enchanted?” Dread asked. Vegas laughed.

“Nah, nothing like that. Ballisea’s really petty and takes a lot of things personally. She hates that sword.”

“Yes I do,” Ballisea’s voice said from a corner of the room. Everyone turned to see her stepping out of a black portal into Vegas’ house.

Glorious Purpose

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.] (8-12-18)

 

“Hey,” Dread called Dirge’s attention. The two girls were on their way out of the Schoolyard to Jelly-Jim’s place. “Glory seemed cool.” She wanted to console Dirge but did not know enough about her or Glory to do it effectively. The shorter girl with raven curls nodded silently as they walked through the public square. After they passed through the crowded hub Dirge turned right instead of the left turn Dread expected.

 

“Did you get lost or is it me? I thought Jelly_Jim’s was that way,” Dread pointed down a stone road to their left.

 

“Do you remember Glory promoting me to Quartermaster before she died?” Dirge asked. Dread nodded. “She asked me to do something for and I need to get something from her shop to do it.”

 

“Okay.” Dread nodded and let Dirge lead the way. They walked a few more steps in silence before either of them spoke again.

 

“She was the first Zero I thought I could be friends with,” Dirge said quietly. “Ballisea said your mom was a Zero, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Dread nodded. “After I found Ballisea’s orbs, I hoped I’d find my way back home again. Even if I did, it would be to see my dad. My mom wouldn’t have lived that long.” Dirge stopped walking in front of a shop and walked into it. Dread tried to follow her, but any time she tried to cross the threshold nanos formed a barrier to stop her.

 

“Hey,” she called Dirge. The curly haired girl turned around in the shop surprised to see Dread still outside.

 

“OH! Sorry, the shop’s still closed,” Dirge said. She brought up a translucent square in front of her and swiped through it a few times. “Okay, try it now,” she said. Dread reach a hand up and pushed it past the door, then the rest of her body stepped inside the shop.

 

“So she gave you the shop?” Dread asked. She glanced around at all the instruments hanging from the walls and decorating the display table.

 

“Nah. I don’t have time to run it anyway. But she did ask me to find someone to give it to.” Dirge walked around the sales counter and crouched out of sight to search the lower shelf.

 

“Whoa. How’re you going to pick?” Dread asked. Dirge rose from behind the counter with a Node in her hand.

 

“With this!” Dirge inserted the Node into a slot on the sales counter. The surface of the counter vibrated slightly and then changed from sturdy wood to near-invisible smooth glass. Small-print text appeared in rows on the glassy surface. The text stretched from one edge of the counter to the other, and top to bottom. Dread realized the text was a long list of names.

 

“Is that her friend’s list?” Dread asked, but Dirge smiled and shook her head. She placed a hand on the counter and swiped to her left. The display moved, all the rows of names disappeared to the left while more came in from the right. Dirge swiped it again several times.

 

“It’s her Zeroes. The Alternet lets Zeroes form a group chat with themselves and she kept their info on this Node.”

 

“You have to give the shop to one of them? That looks easy, there’re thousands to choose from. We can do that before we go back to Jelly_Jim if you want,” Dread offered, but Dirge shook her head again, still smiling brightly.

 

“No way, I’m gonna take my time and do it right for her.” Dirge sounded excited. “But, we do need to make a stop before we go back to Jelly_Jim.” Dread shrugged.

 

“Okay, where to?” Dread asked, but Dirge was already half-way through a pitch black portal. Realizing she wouldn’t get an answer Dread followed her into the dark. She recognized the quaint house waiting for her on the other side.

 

“UNCLE VEGAS!” Dirge cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled toward the house. After a few seconds a short man with a blue mohawk opened the front door, then the screen door.

 

“Hey shortcake, why all the fuss?” Dirge dashed from the yard to run up the steps, then she leaped towards Vegas to wrap her arms around him.

 

“I FOUND MY CARROT!” she yelled while squeezing him. The attack hug caught him by surprise, but he settled into it quickly and returned the hug. They danced back and forth in joy while Dread approached up the steps.

 

“No foolin’?  That’s great!” Vegas smiled at the girl.

 

“When did you find a carrot?” Dread asked. She did not know what to make of the sudden joy, but she wanted to know why Dirge was so happy. Dirge shook her head.

 

“Not A carrot. MY carrot. It’s something Vegas taught me, and he made me promise I’d tell him when I found it,” Dirge explained.  Dread shrugged and looked at Vegas. He held up a finger to get her to wait, then he stepped inside the house. He returned after several seconds holding a small wooden rod, string, and a carrot. He held the stick up horizontally and the carrot fell partway until it pulled the string taut.

 

“A carrot on a stick is used to keep animals moving forward.” He held the rod above his head to dangle the carrot in front of his face, then he walked forward trying to bite it. “They’ll never reach it, but they don’t know that. A carrot is something that gets you moving, without worrying about the outcome. My daddy told me that if I found my carrot I’d have a life goal to work towards,” Vegas explained, then he lowered the stick. Dread looked back at Dirge.

 

“I don’t get it.”

 

“Might be easier to explain it with an example,” Vegas said. He also turned his attention to Dirge. “You came all this way, what’s your carrot?” Dirge pulled Glory’s Node from her pocket. She held it up to show Dread and smiled at her.

 

“I want to meet Glory and be friends with her. As many as I can.”

Dirge & Dread

April 20, 2018

[WP] “Tag you’re it!” She giggled. “See you in a hundred years!” [Link to post.]

Dread sat cross-legged in the dry dirt of a dying Earth, in front of a pitch black portal. She stopped “waiting” an hour ago and meditated to pass the time instead. A brilliant golden glow emanated from her body; its light kept an army of skeletons at bay. They surrounded Dread but made no other moves as long as her light filled the darkness around her. A pale girl with raven curls and orange eyes popped her head out of the dark hole in front of Dread, but she did not notice because her eyes were closed.

“Hi! I’m Dirge!” the girl said. Dread’s eyes popped open, then she stared at the head while she stood up and dusted her well-worn blue jeans off. The girl walked out of the portal. She was shorter than Dread; Dirge looked up and smiled. Dread extended her hand.

“I’m Dread.” Dirge accepted the hand and shook it, then she walked around Dread to appraise her. Dread felt self-conscious for the first time in a while; she could not remember the last time she felt that feeling gnawing at her. She stood up straighter, and ran her hand through her bone-white, short spiky hair. The curly haired girl grabbed Dread’s red shirt and pulled down the hem to look at the logo of a tiger and shark in a yin-yang formation in the center of her chest.

“I love your shirt!” Dirge said.

“Thanks. It was my dad’s.” At the mention of her father, a quick flash of remorse shot across Dirge’s face.

“Oh yeah, Regal was telling my parents about what happened when I came through. 400 years, huh?” Dirge asked. Dread nodded.

“He said Conquerors age at a slower rate when they’re not in their universe. One year for every 100,” Dread said. She felt the need to explain why she looked so young. She wasn’t used to lowering her guard and feeling inadequate, but somehow it came easy with Dirge.

“Yup,” Dirge nodded, she already knew of course. “And Celestials like me don’t age at all when we’re in a different universe,” Dirge said. She looked around and noted the skeletons forming a large circle around them.

“You’re a Celestial? What number?” Dread asked. She stepped closer and looked into Dirge’s bright orange eyes. She’d met lots of Uniques during her travels, but she’d never run across a Celestial until she met Regal.

“14, La Muerte,” Dirge said and smiled.

“Can you do portals yet?” Dread asked. Dirge nodded causing her curls to bounce.

“Yep! Since I was two,” Dirge smiled. A deep male’s voice that each of them recognized shouted out from the black hole.

“Threnody! Dread! C’mon back.” Dirge stamped her foot on the ground then stomped through the portal. Dread followed her to a nice white tiled kitchen on the other side. Regal stood talking with a couple. The woman had bright red hair, the man’s black hair and orange eyes matched Dirge’s.

“Daddy! Didn’t you tell Regal my new name?” Dirge asked. The man with the orange eyes gave her an apologetic look.

“Sorry hon, but we were kind of busy discussing your new sister,” he said, then he looked at the blonde, bearded man. “Threnody decided her name is now Dirge.” Regal nodded.

“Well she is her father’s daughter,” Regal laughed. Dread stepped closer to Dirge and whispered in her ear.

“What does he mean?” She asked.

“My dad’s name is Poseidon, but it’s too long, so he just goes by Posie.” Dirge shrugged. “Threnody was too long so I picked Dirge. It’s pretty much the same thing,” Dirge whispered an answer.

“Cool,” Dread said.

“How do you feel about sharing your room, Threnny?” Dread watched Dirge’s orange eyes roll upward in her head.

“It’s fine, mom. But can we go play first? I can make portals and Dread has been through a ton of Earths. She said we can check some of them out.”

“I did?” Dread whispered, but her only answer was an elbow in her side.

“How long?” Dirge’s mother, Robin, asked. Dirge shrugged.

“Till Dread’s birthday?” Regal leaned closer to the redheaded woman and whispered something in her ear. Robin’s eyes grew wide with surprise, but Regal kept whispering. When he stopped, her face changed. She nodded.

“Okay. Regal thinks it’s a good idea for you two to do some bonding. You know you can come home if you get bored.” Regal pulled out two black and gold business cards and handed them one each.

“Hold on to these. If anything happens you can use them to open a portal home. The each took their card, then Dirge waved a hand at the air. An empty black portal opened up. Dread started to walk through, but Dirge walked up behind her and shoved the taller girl through the portal.

“Tag you’re it!” she giggled, then she turned to her parents and waved as she stepped through the portal herself. “See you in a hundred years!”

***
Previous Dirge Chapter: Party Music
Previous Dread Chapter: Dreaded Homecoming
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Tutorial Start (6-10-18)

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

Dread’s black helmet dissolved into nothing, then she looked down at the bearded elf with narrowed eyes. He smiled up at her from the team bench beside the derby track.

“You know we’re Uniques?” Dread asked Jelly_Jim.

“You picked the Slime Soul just to hustle? At least it has a use,” Dirge added her own question as she handed a gold coin to Jelly_Jim.

“It was useful in beating you.” The elf’s green eyes rolled up and he turned his head away as if he embarrassed himself with the comment.

“Wait a minute…” Dirge said then reached for her Node. She pulled the transparent rectangle from the white dock that decorated her wrist; the rainbow in her hair faded to black and her black sailor skirt grew and became her favorite black and orange lolita dress. She made several swipes, then watched the Node intently. After a few seconds her jaw dropped and she looked at Dread.

“He cheated.” She looked down at the seated elf. “You cheated!” A hearty guffaw left his mouth followed by several more as he leaned over his stomach.

“You can’t cheat in the AlterNet, nanos won’t let you. It’s why you can’t use your Unique abilities,” Jelly_Jim said. He stood from the bench and stared at Dread. “Yeah, I know you’re Uniques,” he extended his hand. “#25 El Borracho, you can call me Jack.” Dread accepted his hand shake.

“I’m #42 La Calavera, and that’s #14 La Muerte.” Dread introduced them.

“This server in particular attracts more Uniques than Zeroes.” He shrugged. “After a while they get easy to spot.” Dirge continued watching her Node, then shook her head.

“Dread was powered up, how’d you knock her down?” She asked.

“As far as the system is concerned Dread knocked herself down,” Jack explained with a growing smile. He brought his hand up to show a small puddle of green translucent slime resting in is palm.  He poked it with his other hand, then his finger pulled back several viscous strands. “This stuff is sticky, and it gets everywhere. It’s not my fault you skated over some and didn’t clean it off.”

“But if she ‘fell’,” Dirge used air quotes. “why did you earn the point?”

“Because you didn’t read the rules carefully. If you check them you’ll see, ‘Friendly Fire’ enabled. And she counts against herself.”

“That’s a pretty slimy thing to do,” Dirge said with a small pout. Jack nodded.

“It’s effective.” He turned his attention back to Dread. “If I’m going to train you, I need to know what I’m working with.” He walked around her in a slow circle while examining her up and down. “What are you?” Dread felt her heart jump to action; it pounded on the inside of her chest and she clenched her fists.

“What?” She asked.

“There’s something unnatural about you,” Jack said. The moment he finished speaking Dirge responded.

“HEY!” She yelled at him with a sharp edge in her voice. Dirge used a bard skill to attack as she yelled, a small blade shot from her mouth at Jack; but, he caught it between his fingers.

“Don’t worry we’ll get to PvP later,” He said, then tossed the silver blade on the white track. It disintegrated into the surface. “You’re obviously a Beastmaster,” Jack focused on Dread again. “I can’t tell what race you are, but I know it’s not human. There’s magic disguising you.” Dread giggled in the back of her mind as she let out a sigh of relief. “Let’s just do it like this,” Jack said.

“I’m Jack, my character Jelly_Jim is an elf card mage with Slime Oversoul. Alright, you go.” He pointed at Dread.

“I’m Dread, my character Dread is a mermaid beastmaster with Tiger Oversoul,” she said.

“Your actual name is Dread? What kind of parents name their child Dread?” Jack asked while scratching his beard.

“Cool ones,” Dread said. Then Dirge jumped in.

“I’m Threnody, my character Dirge is a fairy bard with Unicorn Oversoul,” Dirge said. Jack nodded.

“Are you just a mermaid, or did you pick a variant?” Jack asked Dread.

“Shark variant,” she said with a nod.

“I’m going to guess that you don’t know how to access your beasts, or you would have used them,” he said.

“Beasts? I get more than one?” Dread asked.

“You are NEW, aren’t you?” Jack glanced at Dirge and noticed she wore the same lost look that Dread did. “Very well. In that case I’ll give you a primer on each of your characters.” He gestured to Dread. “The beastmaster of course gets a beast to fight alongside, however you picked an excellent combination. I don’t know if it was luck or if you planned it out. Shark mermaids have a racial ability that grants them a shark pet, no matter what class they are. Then, Cat Oversoul grants the ability to have a pet of whatever soul you get. On top of that beastmasters have a class ability that upgrades pets to beasts that can battle. BUT, you’re a Unique. Zeroes that log in from their own universes get a pet as soon as they make their character. Uniques that play beastmaster need to tame their own, real, pet and bond with it.” Jack focused on Dirge.

“You picked a great combination too. You can change your size as a fairy, and Unicorn soul doubles all your magic stats. That nimbleness is fantastic for a bard, you can hide and keep your team buffed.” Jack turned his back to them and walked away from them and the derby track without warning. The two girls decided to follow. After several steps he looked over his shoulder to check if they were following, then he started talking again.

“I can’t start training you until you’re ready.” He lead them through the main walkway, winding through the crowds around several different derby tracks. “I can’t train a beastmaster without her beasts, and I can’t train a bard,… ” Jack reached a green door in a black brick wall. “… without her instrument.” He opened the door and walked in. The girls found a small, messy office on the other side of the door. Jack gestured at Dirge, the last one in, to close the door. She did, then he sat down at a desk overflowing with papers. He opened one of the drawers and pulled out two black keys, then handed one to each of the girls.

“So go do it. Separately.” Dirge smiled eagerly. Dread thought about it, a corner of her mouth twitched. “I need to see how well you can can do without each other,” he said. Dirge burst out laughing.

“Dread spent 400 years vandalizing Ballisea’s property, and I’ve killed entire worlds. I think we can handle ourselves,” Dirge said. Jack burst out into laughter.

“Welcome to being a Unique, that’s kid’s stuff,” he gestured to them to make his point. “But those keys’ll give you a real challenge. You’re in the big pond now, girls.”

***
Previous Dirge & Dread story: Hitting a Wall
Next Dirge & Dread story: Zero Cool

Lullabye & Pizza (5-10-18)


[OT] Theme Thursday – Media Prompts: Female Vocals [Link to post.]


Alanna White bowed to the crowd gathered around her, and collected her tips from the sparkling green prop top hat with a black band and plastic golden buckle sitting on the cobblestone walk way in front of her. As she bent down her eyes glanced across the street to her right. They were standing there again. The two women, one tall with bone-white spiky hair pointing upward, and a shorter one with long draping curls the same shade of white. Alanna noticed them about a week ago, but she had no idea if they’d been watching her longer than that. 

“I’m gonna take a break folks!” Alanna chirped brightly to the crowd and they began to disperse. The previous night she lay in bed after putting her mom to sleep wondering at the what ifs. What if they were talent scouts? What if they wanted to sign her? What if they wanted to kidnap her? She decided the next time she saw them she would find out. That sunny Saturday afternoon in the crowded downtown district she found her chance. After a deep breath she pocketed the money and moved to cross the street. They seemed to notice her walking towards them. The shorter one wearing a white and orange gothic lolita type dress elbowed the taller one in the ribs. The tall woman wore blue jeans and a red shirt with a tiger and shark logo on it in a yin-yang formation. She turned and smiled at Alanna as she stepped closer. 

“Hi!” Alanna waved at them. The tall woman nodded, the short one smiled and waved in return.

“Hi!” she said. “I’m Dirge, this is Dread.” She gestured to the taller woman. 

“I’m Alanna,” the redheaded girl said. 

“Yeah, we know.” Dread said. Alanna nodded.

“I’ve seen you guys watching me for about a week. Something I can help you with?” Dirge elbowed Dread in the ribs again.

“See? I told you that’s when she noticed us.” Dread shrugged, but Dirge turned her attention to Alanna. “We’ve been watching you sing, and we have an opportunity for you,” Dirge said. Alanna squeezed her fists tightly as her heart leapt in her chest. 

TALENT SCOUTS!” she screamed internally, but she smiled at them and nodded her head. “What’s that?” she asked. Dirge cocked her head to the block of buildings behind them.

“C’mon, we’ll buy you lunch and we can talk,” Dirge said. Without waiting for Dirge to finish speaking Dread turned and began walking up the street. After she invited Alanna Dirge also turned and walked away assuming the ginger girl would follow them. She followed, reasoning that she could bail the second they tried to lead her into a blind alley or back of a van. They ended up walking into Alanna’s favorite pizzeria a block up the street. Dirge and Dread sat on the same side of a green and red booth leaving Alanna to take the other side. After the waitress took their order Dirge leaned over the table and spoke in a hushed tone. 

“You’re starting high school next year, right? We’re here to recruit you for a special, uhh, private school.” Dirge said. 

“You mean like a school for artists?” Alanna’s face lit up, but Dirge shook her head. Her white curls bounced as she made the motion. 

“No. More like a school for your other talents.” Alanna’s face went pale. 

“We could use a Banshee,” Dread said. Alanna wasted no time sliding out of the booth while Dirge elbowed Dread in the ribs again, this time hard enough to cause the taller woman to complain. “Owwww.” 

“Don’t go!” Dirge said. “Watch.” She opened her mouth and sang a simple, single low note; she held it steady while staring into Alanna’s emerald eyes. The tone sounded peaceful to Alanna, almost like a soft lullabye whispering in her ear. Dirge stopped singing as Alanna yawned. She pointed to the patrons at a table in the corner. Alanna looked towards them and realized they were both asleep. Her head jerked around as she eyed everyone else in the restaurant. They were all asleep. 

“Wake ’em up.” Dirge said to Alanna. “You can do it.” Alanna looked around at the restaurant then back to the the two women. Dirge smiled and nodded. Dread gave her a thumbs up gesture. Alanna opened her mouth and sang a note without thinking. Her note was a higher pitch than Dirge’s, and not quite as steady. She sang while she stared at a sleeping woman. In seconds the woman’s eyes began to flutter open and Alanna stopped singing. She took one more look around and realized everyone was awake again. She slid back into the booth. 

“So like a school for Banshees?” Alanna asked. Again, Dirge shook her head. 

“Not quite. It’s more like a school for heroes. You can do a lot of good with your skills.” Dirge said. At that moment the waitress walked up.

“I’m sorry. Unfortunately your pizza was burned and we have to make another one. It’s going to be a bit longer but as an apology your meal will be free of charge.” Dirge smiled at her.

“No problem, thanks!” Dirge said. Alanna used the interruption to think. After the waitress left Alanna spoke up.

“I’m in.” 

Gearing Up (4-22-18)


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

Dirge and Dread followed the skeleton marked by Dread until they found Ballisea’s shrine. It stopped on a hill overlooking something that resembled a stone gazebo. Black stone stairs led up to a pool of glowing crystal clear water. Five tall black pillars jutted out of the stone around the pool to support a large silver ring between them. In the center of the silver ring a beach ball sized orb of glowing red energy hovered, suspended over the water. Skeletons milled around the pool and on the ground floor in front of the stairs. Dirge and Dread sat down on a hillside overlooking the building and Dread explained what was in store for them. 

“This’ll be easy and awesome,” Dread said. She pointed at a small golden ball of energy orbiting the red ball. “That’s an Inanimate Soul. When we get the orb I’ll let you keep it.” 

“Alright! Loot!” Dirge stood up and cheered. “Let’s go get it!” Dread stood up, grabbed Dirge by the shoulder and pulled her back down out of sight.

“Hold on, you see that pool? It’s guarded.” 

“Oh by what?” Dirge looked at the pool intently. 

“There’s all kinds of different guards, though that pool means it’s #6, La Sirena.” 

“The mermaid? No problem, she won’t know what hit her.” Dirge smiled and punched her hand, anxious for a fight.

“I don’t want to kill her,” Dread said. Dirge’s face fell, but then she had an idea. 

“Did you know that if Uniques kill other Uniques, they can absorb their souls and get stronger,” Dirge said. “We wanna get stronger, right?” Dread shook her head. 

“Yeah. At least, I know that’s how Ballisea got so strong. I don’t like to kill, but I have a plan that always works against Sirenas.” The skeleton that led them there stepped closer to Dread, and she touched it with glowing hands. Thin golden vines grew out from the golden flower on the skeleton’s forehead. They decorated its face and ran down the rest of its bones, sprouting golden flowers where ever there was room. She released the skeleton and it walked down the hill into the crowd of skeletons. Each skeleton it bumped into began to glow with a golden flower on its forehead, then those skeletons bumped into others. In about ten minutes the entire ground floor of skeletons was converted by Dread, then they began to climb the steps. It wasn’t long before all the skeletons in the area glowed with golden flowers, they stood around the pool waiting.

“C’mon.” Dread stood up to head to the shrine. 

“But how’re you gonna get the orb?” Dirge asked as she followed Dread down the hill. 

“By climbing,” Dread said. She pointed to the skeletons. Some of them began to climb on each other’s shoulders, and they locked themselves together to form a ladder. Dread stopped before she stepped on the black stone of the shrine. The skeletons continued to build vertically, but a majority of them still stood around the pool.

“The second we step on the stairs the Sirena is gonna know she has intruders. So once the skeletons are in place we have to run up the steps and climb. When I say ‘Go’ the skeletons around the pool will jump in and lock themselves together, like a net, to keep her in the water. It won’t hold her forever, but once we get the orb we can go to the next Earth,” Dread explained. Dirge nodded.

“Okay!” She watched the golden glowing skeletons build themselves up high enough to reach the orb. She focused so much she did not hear when Dread said ‘Go!’, until she noticed Dread already halfway up the steps. The skeletons splashed themselves into the water as the two girls ran up the steps. They reached the skeleton ladder and climbed to the top of the giant silver ring around the red orb. Dread looked down to check on the Sirena. Dirge saw a flash of blue watery hair as the mermaid thrashed against the skeleton net that held her trapped. 

“She’s petty!” Dirge said. Dread nodded.

“Yeah. Anyway we’re gonna have to jump, but let’s wait until the Inanimate comes around again,” Dread reminded Dirge about the golden inanimate soul. They waited for the golden orb to circle a couple of times to get the timing down, then they leapt towards the red orb when the gold one floated in their path. Dirge touched the golden orb and her body absorbed the golden light, then the two girls touched the red orb at the same time. It disappeared into their bodies then a black portal opened directly beneath them. They fell through the darkness and landed butt first in a stream. 

“Is it always like that? I got of flash of Ballisea when I touched the orb. It was like a snapshot of when she set up the orb,” Dirge asked. She stood and began wringing the water out of her black dress. Dread stood up and walked out of the middle of the stream. She glowed with golden energy to dry her jeans.

“Yeah, you start learning a lot about her after a while. What Inanimate did you get?” Dread asked. Dirge held her hand out and made a golden flash. After the light dissipated she held an elegant white lace umbrella. 

#5, El Paraguas,” Dirge said. She looked it over in her hand, then made it disappear with another quick flash of energy. “Shield variant,” she said. “Thanks for letting me take it!” Dirge hugged Dread. 

“No problem,” Dread said. She looked around at the new Earth. “Let’s go see what’s going on here.” She picked a direction and started walking. Dirge followed. 


***
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Next Chapter: Mission Objective: Spider