Frank stared at the black hole at the back of his empty locker and took a breath. He stepped back to scan the flow of students for anyone watching his locker, but no one seemed to notice him.

“WHO STOLE MY BOOKS?” he yelled. The crowd stopped moving for a second, long enough for everyone to give him an awkward look. Then, the students continued to their next class.

“I did! I’m sorry!” A girl squeaked. Frank turned to see a short girl with dark hair approaching him. She wore a violet, translucent visor over her eyes. “I thought this was my friend’s locker!” she smiled. As she apologized she wiggled her fingers at the black hole. It moved forward to the front of the locker, then disappeared. It left behind Frank’s notebooks and laptop. He looked at her and smiled.

“Honest mistake. I’ve got my stuff back, no complaints,” he lifted his arm for a half-hearted introductory wave. “I’m Frank, a Diablito.” The girl grinned and returned a wave.

“Eury, La Muerte.”

“What’s the visor for? Is it corrective?” Frank asked. Eury shrugged but nodded her head.

“Kinda. It keeps me from killing people when I look at them.”

“Move,” a different girl said. Frank saw a head of black hair push Eury forward toward him. He managed to sidestep out of the way then catch her around the waist as she stumbled forward. Once he helped her get steady he turned to the dark-haired girl opening the locker next to his. She wore a visor like Eury’s, except hers was opaque black.

“Hey,” Frank started to say something, but Eury placed a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay. Abby’s just rude,” Eury smiled at him. She tilted her head at the girl behind her. “That’s my friend, la araña. I thought your locker was hers,” she explained.

“Oh. Well, nice to meet you, Abby,” Frank waved. Abby faced him and he wondered how she could see anything through the visor. It was so dark she might as well have been trying to see through tar. She kept facing him but did not acknowledge his wave in any way. Frank lifted his hand in front of her face.

“I’m not blind,” she said.

“Sorry,” Frank apologized and pulled his hand away. “So does your visor keep you from killing people you look at too?” he asked.

“No. It keeps people from freaking out,” she said. Frank gave her a confused look.

“Freak out about what?” he asked. He saw one corner of Abby’s lip tug upward when he asked.

“Nothing. Let’s get to class Abs,” Eury interrupted. She grabbed Abby’s arm to lead her away, but she turned to wave at Frank.

“I’ll talk to you later, Frank.”

“Uh, okay,” he waved, unsure why they left in such a hurry. He pulled his node out of his pocket and called up the school map. A green arrow guided him through the school. Frank split his attention between following the green arrow and looking up to get his surroundings. The school was almost as big as the shopping mall in his hometown and he wanted to learn the layout as fast as possible. No better time to start than the first class of the first day.

He reached the highlighted room and the arrow disappeared from the display. The moment he stepped in the room he heard his name.

“Frank!” Eury called. She sat at a waist-high black lab table with Abby on one side of her. They were the only people in the bright, fluorescent room. Each table in the classroom had three stools and Eury motioned for Frank to join her table. He sat next to her and smiled.

“Hey, cool. I wonder how many classes we have together,” he chuckled.

“Four,” she replied. A loud, hollow thwack sounded when Abby smacked Eury on the back of her head. The only thing Frank saw was a blur of motion, then Eury immediately burst into nervous laughter. “HahahHA! Or more. Or less! Who knows? Could be any number. There’re lots of numbers.”

Forgotten Princess

“Guys, I need help with a quest,” Frank said. The 14-year-old boy sat on a metal picnic table in the school’s courtyard with his friends. Dozens of other students sat in their own groups enjoying their lunch hour.

“What quest?” Jasmine, a girl with long dark hair, asked before stuffing half a burger in her mouth.

“It’s on Oren’s server. We have to rescue a princess from a goblin cave,” Frank explained. Jasmine could not reply with her mouth full of half-chewed food and she pointed at another girl named Paz. Paz nodded and pulled her node out. She swiped at the small, clear rectangle until she found the reviews; then, she made a face that was half disgust and half annoyance. Her dark brown eyes narrowed in Frank’s direction, then she turned towards Jasmine.

“It’s a lowbie quest on a retro server. It’s easy, but,” she held up her node, “no one thinks the loot is worth it.” Paz shrugged as she reported her findings to Jasmine. Then, she turned towards Frank, “Levels don’t even matter anymore, anyone can solo it. What do you need help with?” She asked him.

“The princess that needs rescuing…,” Frank paused and looked around. He did not really know any of his friends yet. He was still a freshman and only met them that year. He guessed Jasmine and Paz would believe him. Hector, a short, sturdy teenager, might. Hector’s friend Ricky definitely wouldn’t, and Alanna hardly ever talked. Worst case two of them wouldn’t believe him. He decided he could live with that. “I talked to her. I think she’s real. A Unique.”

“Is she pretty?” Ricky sat up attentively. Hector slugged Ricky in the arm.

“Why do you think that?” Jasmine asked, then took another bite.

“She talked to me. I mean, she talked to ME,” Frank brought his hand to his chest and patted his green t-shirt. “Off script. She asked me for help.”

“Probably just a follow-up quest,” Paz suggested. Frank shook his head.

“I’ve been going back pretty regularly, she remembers me every time. If you guys meet her, you’ll see what I mean.”

“I’ll go,” Ricky offered.

“Me too,” Hector said. Jasmine and Paz also agreed to go.

“I can’t. Tutoring with Dirge,” Alanna shook her head. “But let me know what you find out,” she asked Jasmine. The girl replied with a thumbs up gesture, Alanna did not know if the girl had food in her mouth still or again.

After school, the five of them met in front of a dark cave as a group of adventurers. Frank was a monk clad in green robes embellished with gold thread. Ricky wore black necromancer robes, Hector was a bard in leather armor. Paz a plate wearing knight with a large battle axe strapped to her back. Jasmine wore a long-bow over her shoulder and leather armor in greens and browns.  Paz placed a heavy gauntlet on Frank’s shoulder and locked eyes with him.

“I want you to know I hate retro servers,” she shifted uncomfortably in her armor. “If it is just a follow-up quest, I’m gonna hit you. Hard.” Frank chuckled, but he caught sight of Jasmine nodding.

“She will,” Jasmine said.

“Trust me. C’mon,” Frank led the way into the cave. “There’s no monsters on the way in, but we’ll be ambushed on the way out,” he explained. He led them deep into the cave to a giant cage made from what appeared to be bones. The group saw a dark-haired princess standing patiently.

“She’s really pretty,” Ricky commented.

“Focus,” Frank said. He rushed to the cage and unlocked it. The princess stepped out and looked at the group.

“Thank you for rescuing me. Please guide me to the entrance of the cave. From there I can journey safely to my home,” she said.

“Can I hit him now?” Paz asked Jasmine.

“It’s okay,” Frank told the princess. “They’re here to help me. They know.”  The princess’ body relaxed from its tense posture and her eyes sparkled to life.

“Really? THANK YOU!” she stepped forward to hug Frank. Frank glanced at Paz and pointed at the woman hugging him as if to say, “see?”

“What do you know about yourself?” Jasmine asked the princess. The woman shrugged.

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “This stupid quest is all I can remember, but I feel like there’s more for me if I could leave the cave.”

“How long have you been here?” Paz asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t even think I was conscious until I met Frank,” she replied.

“Hmmm,” Paz’s iron gauntlet on her right hand disintegrated into white dust and formed her node. She began navigating it with her thumb.

“Oren’s server is about 900 years old,” Paz said. “If you’ve been here since then…”

“What?” The princess asked with wide eyes. She grabbed Paz’s metal shoulders and shook her. “What did you say??” Jasmine placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder to try and calm her down.

“900 years is a long time, but we’ll help yo-“

“NO!! The name!”

“Oren?” Frank asked.

A quivering smile grew on the princess’ face. Her crystal blue eyes began to water.

“I know that name!” she shook her head. “I can’t remember anything, but I know that name!!! Bring him! Please, can you bring Oren here???” Jasmine squeezed the princess’ shoulder and shook her head.

“No one knows where he is,” she apologized.

“I do,” Paz said quietly.  “Jenny made me promise not to tell anyone… but if I go alone, then I didn’t tell anyone, right?” Jasmine nodded.

“Is it something quick?” she asked. Paz shook her head.

“Not even a little bit.”

The Rundown (2-6-18)

You’re just an average guy with a passive super power – whenever something is about to hurt you, time slows to a crawl so you can escape to safety. You’ve been running for 5 minutes now, time is still moving like molasses. [Link to post.]

If nothing else, feeling like an idiot while running for your life is a new experience. I chalked things up to blind luck at first, but it kept happening. Whenever I was in serious danger, things somehow slowed down; it gave me time to find a safe spot. It did not take long until I took it for granted, and got lazy about watching for danger. But I never thought about it. I never said to myself, “Self. You should learn more about this awesome thing you can do.” I definitely regretted it. But if nothing else, running for the past five minutes has been educational. Now I knew why everyone I passed appeared to be standing still. I turned back to check if she was still following me. She was. 

The young woman kept up with me somehow. Her arms swung left and right as she skated close behind me. I’d never seen skates like hers. The wheels of her rollerblades left behind short golden trails. Thin ribbons of light of faded into nothing a couple of feet behind her. On those skates she was as fast as me. It figures I’d realize my power was super speed on my last day. Half an hour ago I sat in a pizza shop enjoying some lunch while studying, then she walked up to my table. 

“Hi, I’m Jenny.” She pulled off the hood of her gold and purple hoodie to reveal short spikey black hair. Then she reached a hand out a gloved hand to greet me. The glove was black with golden fingers. I grasped it and the golden parts felt like cool metal against my hand.

“Hi Jenny. I’m Frank.” Jenny sat down in the booth across from me. “What’s going on?” I asked. 

“Frank, I’ve been watching you for a while.” She leaned forward over the table. “I know what you can do.” She surprised me. I’d never really tried to keep my ability a secret, but since I couldn’t use it at will there was no point in showing it off. 

“So?” I asked. 

“*You* don’t know what you can do. It’s frustrating,” She flicked a crumb off the table. “I’m so bored here!” She whined at me like a kid sister expecting her older brother to fix the situation.

“So? Go find some entertainment. You don’t have to bother strangers.” I tried shooing her away, she laughed. 

“Your head is on pretty straight for a 14 year old. How about you entertain me?” She asked. I caught a sparkle of gold in her eyes, but chalked it up to a reflection from the intimate lighting in the pizzeria. 

“Can’t. Studying.” I turned my attention back to my laptop in the hope that she’d leave. 

“Wait.” She reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “I want to show you something.” She sat up straight and scanned the restaurant. Another couple in a corner sharing a work lunch were the only other patrons in the restaurant. The focused on each other, and couldn’t see us if they did look our way. 

Jenny held my right hand with her left on the wooden table. My palm faced up toward Jenny’s right hand; it hovered in the air above mine. 

“Check it,” Jenny said. Her eyes focused on the fingertips of her right hand. A thin golden blade appeared behind her fingers. 

“I catch you…” Time slowed down. I felt my power kick in while I watched her stab the golden blade toward my hand. I yanked my hand away just in time and she stabbed her own hand. I moved quickly to grab napkins for the blood. I expected her to scream in pain, but she finished her thought instead. “… I kill you.” She showed me the wound in her hand. I saw right through the hole, with no sign of any blood anywhere. The hole filled itself in until her hand was whole again. “GO!” She took another swing at me wit the knife, and I ran out of the restaurant. 

She chased me around the world, skating across the ocean on golden light. 10 minutes after we started I tripped. In some back alley in Las Vegas, some idiot left a small pail full of red and white dice in my way. Jenny was gaining on me, and I’d been splitting my focus. I tried to dodge the pail and stepped wrong. I twisted my ankle while running at top speed, and the pain forced me to the ground.  

“Are you okay?” Jenny ran to my side. 

“Stay back!” I tried crawling away backwards. I reached behind me to gain ground and grabbed something smooth, thin and scaly. It undulated like a snake under my hand.

“Ready to go?” I heard a man’s voice behind me. I turned and found my hand holding on to a white snakeskin boot. I looked up at the owner of the foot in the boot. He looked like a short guy, though he tried making up the difference with a tall blue mohawk. 

Vegas! I told you I could get him by myself!”