Cherry’s Skills

“CHERRY!!” Honey yelled through the crowd. It was a Saturday morning at the derby park with the golden sun hanging in the deep blue sky. A teenager in a blood-red hoodie turned around and waved at Honey as the young girl got closer. Honey noticed a girl, closer to Cherry’s age than her own, standing nervously next to Cherry. The girl had a bulging green canvas backpack with several colorful pouches clipped to its various zippers for more storage.

“Honey, meet Cassie,” Cherry introduced the girls once Honey was close enough. She shook Cassie’s hand. “What’s up?” Cherry asked after their greeting.

“Did you pick a class yet? The Luchadoras asked us if the Honeybees wanted to set up a practice match; I said yes.”

“I was just talking to Cassie about that,” Cherry nodded and grinned. “I think I’ve settled on Dancer.”

“Dancer?” Honey tilted her head. She hadn’t known Cherry for very long, but Honey felt she had a decent sense about her. “You know that’s kind of an active class, right?” she asked with a giggle. Cherry tended to have a laid back approach to life; it was hard for Honey to imagine her being as energetic as Dancers needed to be.

“It’s only as active as you want to make it,” Cherry said. “The only thing I have to do is touch the markers, right?” she asked.

“Yeah, but that’s kind of the point,” Honey said. “They’re all over the track.”

“You want to see something awesome?” Cherry asked suddenly. “I brought Cassie here to show her but you’re here too.”

“Sure, okay,” Honey was distracted by the new question. She felt she still had time to talk to Cherry about her class choice.

“Now, watch.” Cherry held both hands up at chest height with her palms outward. She raised both hands toward the sky and aligned her palms to face each other. From Honey’s perspective, it looked like Cherry held the sun in her hands. Then, Cherry clapped her hands together hard. Instead of dropping her hands she continued to hold them up with the sun ‘caught’ between her palms. Honey realized Cherry was counting.

“…3…4…5!” She said ‘five’ with volume then pulled her hands apart.

“What am I watching?” Honey asked, she heard Cassie giggle and assumed that she knew at least.

“Give it a moment,” Cherry said. “In the meantime, when’s this practice match?”

“Saturday,” Honey replied, then she turned her attention to Cassie. “Are you on a derby team? The Honeybees still have room,” she said.

“Thank you,” Cassie said. “but, I’m already in Star Brigade.”

“No way! That’s so cool, you guys should come practice too!”

“R..really? Can we?” Cassie asked. “Sure! The Honeybees formally invite Star Brigade to practice with us. You and anyone on your team.”

“Thanks! I know they’ll be excited,” Cassie replied. “I’m a Merchant, what class are you?” she asked Honey.

“Monk. And I guess Cherry’s going to be a Dancer,” Honey giggled. “Though, I can’t imagine it.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s no rule that says I have to embarrass myself skating up and down the track trying to touch all the markers.”

“But, that IS the rule! You need to touch the markers or we don’t get buffed.”

“Right,” Cherry smiled. “The only rule is I have to touch them, it doesn’t say how.”

“Huh?” Honey couldn’t see what Cherry was thinking. Cherry raised her right hand and wiggled her fingers to get Honey’s attention. Once she had it she slowly dropped her hand and slid it into the front pocket of her red hoodie.

“I don’t need to skate anywhere when I can just do this,” Cherry said. As she spoke a small black portal opened in front of Honey’s face. In an instant Cherry’s hand shot out, flicked Honey’s nose, then withdrew and the portal disappeared.

“Owww,” Honey rubbed her nose. It didn’t actually hurt, but the action gave her a moment to recover from the sudden surprise. Cherry and Cassie giggled.

“Okay, I see,” Honey said. “But can you keep it up for the whole game?” She didn’t know much about Estrellas like Cherry. She vaguely remembered hearing random Estrellas complain that portals take a lot of energy out of them.

“Cherry can swallow the sun! The game is nothing compared to that.”

“What?” Honey chuckled. “What do you mean ‘swallow the sun’?”

“Remember when I asked you if you wanted to see something cool?” Cherry asked. Honey nodded.

“It takes a bit over eight minutes for sunlight to reach the Earth. I think I asked you that about eight minutes ago, right?”

As Honey considered the question, the sun flickered out of existence. The sudden darkness made Honey realize what Cassie said was almost literal. Then, she heard Cherry counting over the growing mumbles of the crowd.

“…3…4…5!” On five, Cherry clapped once and the sun came back on. The other park-goers cheered momentarily then continued about their business.

“Whooaaa..,” Honey said in awe. She always knew Cherry was competent, but she had no idea how powerful she was. “You really did that. Wow,” Honey looked around the park. She knew most of the crowd were NPCs, but not all of them. She giggled.

“Wow, the sun disappeared for five seconds… and none of them will ever know why it happened.”

“You think that’s wild,” Cassie giggled. “Somewhere out there an Earth had two suns for five seconds.”

Handy Explanation

Morgan sat on the floor in the front room of a small house. The bay window behind her seemed more for decoration than illumination. The house itself was built from golden-tinged translucent bricks that gave the house a warm glow. Three new friends she made that morning sat around her, but she wasn’t nervous. Something about her new friends put her instantly at ease with them; she felt like she vibed with them all. Especially Cherry, the white-haired girl in a blood-red hoodie was the first one she met. After talking for less than half an hour she invited Morgan to join a guild. She was surprised to find this small house was considered the guildhall. 

“To traverse..,” Cherry explained. “…it helps to have an idea of where I want to go before I open the portal. Focus on what you want before you reach into the dark.” A black box with a hole in the side rested in front of Morgan’s crisscrossed legs; it had a thick black cloth folded on top.

“That’s it?” Morgan asked. Cherry nodded.

“Okay,” Morgan unfolded the cloth and draped it over the box and hole. She closed her eyes to concentrate. Morgan had skipped breakfast that morning, she hadn’t planned to be at the park longer than a couple of hours. She decided this would be the perfect opportunity to test her power and get something to eat. Cherry told her to aim broad; Morgan wanted something sweet. She took a deep breath, then stuck her hand into the darkness.

Morgan focused on something delicious and firm, if not crunchy. She wiggled her fingers in the darkness until her fingertips brushed something. She reached for it, grabbed, then pulled it out of the box.

“There you go,” Cherry grinned. Morgan opened her eyes as the rest of the group cheered for her. She looked down and found an iced sugar cookie in her hand. Pink letters on the white icing formed the initials S. H.

“That looks so good!” Honey, the guild leader, commented. She was only a 9-year-old girl, but she was literally the strongest person Morgan ever met.

“Taste it,” Morgan handed her the cookie; Honey accepted it without hesitation and shoved half of it in her mouth.

ITTHDELITHUS!” she replied through her mouthful.

“I’ll get more,” Morgan said. She reached back into the covered box several more times and pulled out three more one by one. She handed one to Willow, a fairy, then Cherry, and she kept the last one to herself. After she took a bit of her own cookie, Honey spoke up.

“Two more, please!” she chirped. “J.J. and Astrid, you haven’t met them yet.” Morgan nodded and retrieved an additional pair of cookies.

“Hold on, how is this not stealing from S.H. whoever they are?” She asked. Cherry shrugged.

“There are infinite universes out there,” Cherry said. “You could have pulled out any number of cookies, but you found those. That means whatever universe they were in, that universe decided they weren’t important. The Zero they belonged to might wonder where they went; but, they weren’t important to anything. Things get shuffled between universes all the time. People lose their car keys, TV remotes, money; but, the universe usually knows what its doing.” After her explanation, Cherry giggled.

“For all you know, the universe wanted to give someone an unsolvable case of missing cookies.” Morgan and the rest of the guild burst into laughter.

“Good luck, S.H.,” Morgan giggled then took another bite. 

Honey Pie

“I remember my first time,” Darcie said. She slid her black canvas backpack on and gave Linus a sly grin. Once the bag was secured on her shoulders she pulled her green apron off and handed it to Linus. “I didn’t get the same training you did. They just plopped me right on the A. Shift without a heads up or anything,” she chuckled. “I freaked out when a knight walked in wearing full plate armor. I think Mundo realized she should have said something when I screamed and hid in the walk-in.”

Linus joined in the laughter as he undid her nametag from the apron. He handed it to her then affixed his own tag before slipping the apron over his head.

“You’ll be fine,” she added. “Ninjas, gunslingers, samurais…,” Darcie shrugged. “…they’re people like you and me. They’re here for the food just like everyone else. If you get any troublemakers let Mundo know and she’ll take care of it.” She meandered toward the back door as she gave him her last bits of wisdom.

“Thanks, D,” Linus said. He nodded at her as she leaned on the door to open in. She returned the gesture then stepped out into the midnight darkness.

“See you later,” her voice said from the darkness; then, the door closed. Linus had just enough time for one deep breath before a jingling bell notified him of his first customer.

“I’m ready,” Linus mumbled to himself while he traveled through the kitchen to the front. “Whoever or whatever they are, I can handle it.” He expected to see almost anything except for what he found. A young girl with long blond hair sat at the counter eyeing the display of pies. She could not have been older than nine or ten. Linus looked around the rest of the restaurant for her parents, but there were no other patrons.

Mundo’s cafe was technically closed between midnight and 4:00 a.m.; the A. Shift. Linus did not know all the details yet, it was only his second week on the job. Mundo, his boss as well as the cook, gave him the impression that only certain people could enter the cafe during those hours. The shift was meant for the likes of travelers and adventurers from other eras and other worlds.

“Hi,” Linus said from his side of the counter. She turned her attention from the pies to him and smiled. “Ready to order or should we wait for your mom or dad?” he asked. The girl’s smile evaporated and her face settled into a neutral expression. She did not seem hurt as if it was a sore spot; Linus felt like that was the moment she decided she did not have to be nice to him.

“I’m by myself,” she said with full confidence. “I’ll take a slice of chocolate pie.”

“Sure thing!” Linus said with is best customer service smile. “Geeez I already offended someone,” he whined internally while he plated the dessert. Once he put the slice in front of her the door jingled again and someone else walked in. The new person was closer to what Linus expected. It was a woman wearing all black. A black leather trench coat obscured the rest of her dark clothing. Her purple hair was styled in a short crewcut. Linus gave a slight, involuntary shudder when he noticed her tattoo. A large, hairy tarantula was inked on her neck; a ’33’ showed on its abdomen in golden numbers.

The newcomer in black walked straight to the counter and sat on the stool next to the blonde girl. She glanced at the girl then at the pie.

“I’ll take some of that,” she said with a nod at Linus. The little girl looked up at the woman and smiled at her.

“Yes ma’am,” Linus nodded and prepared a slice for her. While his back was turned, the door jingled once; then again when he delivered the slice. An armored knight and a gunslinger entered separately and found seats. Linus went to the knight first; then the gunslinger. After their orders, more patrons came in and Linus was kept busy for the rest of his shift.

The four hours passed by in what seemed to be the blink of an eye. Once he got busy, Linus focused more on doing his job and less on who he was serving. He served hamburgers to samurais and milkshakes to cyborgs. What surprised him most of all was the fact that the blonde girl and woman in black chatted together for four hours. He served them each more slices of pie and a couple of milkshakes each. From the bits of conversation he heard, the blonde girl seemed to want the woman to play with her. She mentioned a “team” several times.  They were the first two to arrive and the last two to leave.

At 3:55 a.m. the blonde girl paid her bill, left no tip, then walked out of the cafe.

“That was not the night I expected,” the woman in black said while Linus wiped the counter where the girl was sitting.

“Well, she seemed to like your company,” he said. She nodded and stood from the stool to put her coat on.

“I came in here ’cause I was hungry,” she chuckled. “I ended up joining a guild.”

“Oh, wow. I didn’t know guilds accept children that young.” The woman nodded.

“They normally don’t without a parent’s permission. She doesn’t have any though.”

“Oh,” Linus felt bad again and tried to look on the positive side to cheer himself up. “Well, I’m glad she found a guild that took her in even though her parents are dead.” The woman shook her head.

“They’re not dead.”

“But.. you said-“

“I said she doesn’t have any parents…,” the woman sighed. “…because she never did.”


“Specimen 42 has escaped. Unique Guards to your stations. All other personnel return to your quarters for your own safety.” Howard jogged through the bright, narrow hallway as the message repeated. The mid-30s, pot-bellied janitor wheezed with strain as he rushed into his room. He locked the door and dragged a nightstand in front of it for the extra peace of mind it gave him. Howard hadn’t seen Specimen 42 yet, but all the experiments he was familiar with were incredibly dangerous. He did not expect the nightstand to do more than maybe trip 42; but, it was an extra second of life.

Howard grabbed his node from the nightstand then took three steps across the room to plop on the cot he called a bed. His room consisted of half the janitor’s closet. The closet was a 10′ x 15′ space filled with shelves and cleaning chemicals. There were several janitors once, but over the years Howard had been the only one that didn’t ask too many questions. The company rewarded loyalty. They trusted him and allowed him to move into the space. He built a wall to give himself some space from the assortment of colorful cleaning liquids.

“42..,” he repeated the number as he swiped at his node. He browsed through the employee information app read the entry.

[La Calavera: Physically speaking, Calaveras are the strongest of all Unique Souls. They are the sum total of all physical training across all their lives. B-class and above are able to destroy an Earth. Do not engage.]

“Alright, I won’t engage,” Howard chuckled to himself. As he laughed he heard a light clunk from the closet. It sounded familiar like when he let the mop handle bang against a counter. “Who’s there?!” He shouted from the cot, then regretted it. The last thing he wanted was to attract attention from a Calavera. After a few silent moments, nothing came tearing out of the closet. Howard let himself breathe again. He tried to distract himself with his node but the mystery noise from the closet kept bothering him.

Could it be a rat?” He ran down a list of possibilities in his mind as he stood from the cot and padded quietly to the cleaning closet. Howard kept his closet organized, there wouldn’t have been a noise without someone or something making it. He turned on the light a second before he pulled the door opened.

He looked at the mop hook first, it was broken. The mop he hung there a few hours ago was flat on the floor.

“Huh,” he walked into the room and looked at the hook. It was bent downward as if someone used it as a step, and it was covered with a sticky, golden substance. It looked and felt like honey, but he didn’t think it would be smart to taste it. Howard looked up at the vent directly above the hook. It looked undisturbed.

Working in a secret lab for 13 years taught Howard not to dismiss any little thing. He knew someone had been in his closet and looked around for more clues. Organization was also part of Howard’s success at the company. He had a place for everything including empty containers that he planned to re-use or recycle. He immediately spotted something wrong. A five-gallon water jug in the corner among the empty containers was filled with amber liquid.

Relax, you’re not dead yet,” Howard reminded himself. 

“Specimen 42 has escaped. Unique Guards to your stations. All other personnel return to your quarters for your own safety.” The announcement played again; Howard had an idea. He hoped to draw out the intruder without getting himself killed. The best part was that if it failed it wasn’t an immediate death sentence.

“I can’t take it anymore,” He grumbled loudly and shook his head. “I’m gonna have to quit. Today, if 42 doesn’t tear the place up first,” he complained to himself and anyone in earshot as he left the closet. When he was two steps out he heard a quiet voice behind him.

“I won’t…,” He expected the intruder, but he did not expect the intruder to be a six-year-old with dirty blonde hair. He was momentarily surprised when he turned around and saw the girl standing next to an empty five-gallon jug. He exaggerated a jump to feign surprise and met the girl’s eyes.

“You’re 42?” he asked. She nodded.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just don’t want to be here anymore. Like you,” she said. Howard nodded at the empty jug.

“Is it uncomfortable to be in that?” he asked. She shook her head and put her hand on the opening. Then, she flowed into it. Her liquid self moved as fast as cough syrup, not at all the slow viscosity of honey. Though her current moved fast she was still sticky, her form clung to one side of the jug as it poured in, then it climbed up the other side. She entered and exited the jug in one continuous golden ribbon. The end coming out did not connect to the end going in.

“Okay, great,” Howard smiled at her. “You stay in there in case anyone comes looking. In a few hours, they’ll think you escaped and cancel the lockdown. After that I can leave with my jug then quit.  Sound good?” he asked. Honey’s smile lit up the room and she nodded eagerly.

“Thank you!” she said as she flowed into the jug again. Howard waved at the jug, walked out of the cleaning closet and turned off the light.

[Specimen 42 located.] he sent a message to the security dispatcher and left his room to grab a snack.

[Your loyalty will be rewarded.] came the reply.

“I love my job,” Howard smiled to himself.

Slimy Friend

Willow fluttered into the adventurer’s hall with a purpose. Her black, flowy dress hung limp and hid her feet; she hovered ghost-like straight to the quest board. A set of long, veiny, translucent insect wings kept her five-foot fairy frame aloft. The bright pink quest card was still there. It stood out from the wall of drab yellow and off-white quest cards pinned to the board.

It showed up a week ago and immediately caught her interest. When she inspected it she only found a time and place. No other details were given, not even the name of the requester. Willow only recently discovered the AlterNet within the last year. She did not feel ready to handle the unknown. She settled for lesser quests and assumed someone else would take the pink one.

She was surprised to see the quest still on the board the next day; then, the next. A week later it was the day mentioned in the quest and no one had taken it. Something about that made her feel a bit sorry for the quest giver. NPC quests reset each day and most adventurers optimized their routine around them. The pink card couldn’t have been an NPC quest; it was missing all the important information. She hated the idea that she could have helped someone that needed it.

It could be a trap,” Willow considered the possibility as she stared at the pink card. “But it could also not be…” She stepped back and scanned the rest of the board. All the usual stuff was there, including Sue, the ungrateful hypochondriac. Willow hated the NPC girl, she was obnoxiously snotty. Figuratively and literally. It was an unreasonable hatred since the girl was a fictional character, but it burned in Willow just the same. She yanked the pink card off the board with a shrug and a sigh. “I’d rather get mugged than go see her again,” she decided.

An hour later she found a small house in the center of an open plain. Its size was somewhere between a children’s playhouse and a mobile home. The house was built with golden-translucent bricks. The roof seemed to be made of the same material in shingle form. The sun was reaching its apex and light forced itself through the bricks; Willow saw a small shadow moving around inside.

It doesn’t look too threatening,” Willow walked to what looked like the door. The golden, glassy squares were arranged in a different pattern on the front of the house. She knocked. A young blonde girl opened the door. She looked at Willow through narrowed eyes until the fairy flashed the pink card. The girl smiled instantly.

“HI! I’m Honey!” She stepped out of the house.

“You put this up?” Willow asked. The girl nodded. “What’s the quest?” Honey bit her bottom lip nervously and looked Willow up and down.

“Wanna be my friend?” she asked.


“I have a guild now,” Honey used her thumb to point at the house directly behind her. “But I don’t have anyone in it,” the girl sighed. “I have one friend but she’s too busy to play much.” She looked up at Willow with eager eyes. “It’s a high level guild! I stole it from a PvP server and they bought all the perks already.

“Maybe,” Willow said. She tried to inject coolness into her voice, but she already decided. She had been looking for a guild recently, but she wasn’t very social. A guild with only one other person in it would let her get used to the flow of things before they recruited too many others. Willow extended her wings and fluttered to give herself more height. Honey was already too close to her short stature. She pretended to be thinking.

“What’s the guild name?” Honey shrugged.

“Deathdealers or something dumb. I haven’t changed it yet. Oh! You can help me pick out a name!”

“Wait. You stole a guild? By yourself?” Honey nodded. She lifted a hand in front of Willow’s face. The light peach skin changed color. It became a translucent gold color that matched the house, then her thumb fell off. It pulled a long, viscous string and was still attached when it landed on the floor. Honey used her other hand to break the string and the golden fluid formed another thumb in its place. Her skin returned to its normal, fair color.

“Oh you’re a slime,” Willow said.

“Hey, don’t talk about my friend like that,” another voice said behind Willow. She turned to see a short girl, older than Honey, in a red hoodie. She was carrying a pink bakery box and wearing a smile despite her reprimand.

“Cherry!” Honey dashed past Willow to hug the new girl.

“Making new friends, huh?” Cherry asked with a smile. Honey nodded.


“Nice,” Cherry walked forward and held the box with one hand to offer Willow her other. “I’m Cherry, nice to meet you.”

“Willow,” she introduced herself.

“Thanks for coming,” Cherry said as Honey grabbed the box from her and ran inside. Once the girl was through the door Cherry lowered her voice. “Even the AlterNet can be lonely if you don’t have friends,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not the only one here for her birthday.”

Slimy Guild

A scrawny, young fair-skinned girl stepped barefoot out of the heavy, dark plume of dust. Her dirty blond hair was pulled back in a short, tight bun. She wore a black shirt with loose, flowing, yellow pants. A handful of spearmen formed a barricade between the warlord and the young girl. She looked around the room and noticed half a dozen archers on a balcony behind the throne, as well as a couple of wizards in black robes. The wizards mumbled and kept their hands moving; blue magical energy whirled in their grasp at the ready. She took one more step into the gathering hall and large red text appeared in the air.

[Contested] It read. As soon as the word appeared the wizards loosed bolts of electric magic at her; arrows rained. She did not move an inch. Blue streaks struck her repeatedly, but the magic had no effect on her. As the frenzied first assault died down the ‘C’ in the floating word changed from red to green with a low chime. The girl remained still with a bright smile on her face.

“Who are you?” The warlord asked with a low and raspy voice from behind his armed guards. “Who do you represent?”

“I don’t have a guild yet,” the girl smiled. “That’s why I’m taking yours.” Another chime sounded as the ‘O’ changed from red to green.

“Wait!” he said with a pleading edge in his voice. “All you want is a guild? Please! You can just make your own! If you don’t have the nanos for it I’ll pay the fee for you!” She shrugged casually.

“I know,” she said. The ‘N’ changed to green. “But your guild is already maxed out. It saves me a lot of trouble,” the girl took a step toward the guards. They extended their spears but still stepped back. “You’re the one that built a guild on a PvP server. Don’t complain when someone stronger comes along.” She took another step and one of the guardsmen panicked. He rushed forward and impaled the girl through her chest. The sharp metal head exited through her back. It came out coated with a golden, viscous liquid instead of crimson blood. A chime signaled the ‘T’ changing to green and the girl somehow smiled brighter.

The panicked guard released the spear and fell back. The blonde girl stood up straighter with the spear through her chest. She grabbed the wooden haft and pulled. Not out toward the guard; she pulled the spear through herself and out to the side under her armpit. It was coated in a thick, golden, translucent liquid. Her black shirt remained whole somehow.

“She’s a slime!” The warlord yelled upward at the wizards. Their hands immediately began to collect blue energy again; this time they released frigid torrents of liquid at her. The archers all switched quivers; their new arrows glowed with dim blue magic. The ‘E’ transitioned to green. Three green letters later the girl and the warlord were the last ones standing. The girl was standing, the warlord cowered on his knees by his throne. He wasn’t trying to defy her; he was frozen there by fear. She was impossibly strong and fast. At several points during the fight, he swore she was in multiple places at once. She dodged arrows and magic while efficiently taking down the spearmen one at a time.

“Thanks for the guild,” she said. The ‘D’ changed to green with a high pitched ding and the word disappeared. A translucent, smokey slate appeared in front of the girl and floated chest high. She swiped and tapped at the glass, then the warlord blinked.

He opened his eyes and found himself outside on a hill over-looking his former guildhall. Small gold text hovered in front of his vision.

[Honey has kicked you from the guild.]

Sticky Situation

“Well…,” Jenkins stared at the young, tanned, dirty-blonde girl while she doodled. “…shit.”  He sat in the mostly empty library and watched her from the table next to her. She and he were the only two at the cluster of tables. The blonde girl wore a light green t-shirt and sat at the table alone. She had been alone for the past couple of days that Jenkins watched her. The slip gave a name: Honey, a general description of the target and where they would most likely be found. Usually, it was a list of locations; but, her slip only had one suggestion: Library. Jenkins saw her drawing often over the past two days but this was the first time Jenkins caught a glimpse. It was a large number ’42’ that took up most of the sheet. She decorated it with rainbows and pink flowers.

Jenkins was glad he took his time; he knew she wouldn’t have been targeted if she were a normal seven-year-old girl. But he didn’t know why. Now that he saw the ’42’ it was obvious. Jenkins sighed; it was also obvious he could not handle her by himself. The moment Jenkins decided to call for help a tall, lean, bony man in a tuxedo came into view and headed straight for the girl.

Yeah, that makes sense,” Jenkins thought. “Of course I’m not the only one.”  He recognized the tall man as another assassin and realized he wasn’t the only one brought in. He discreetly caught the tall man’s attention with a gesture that the girl didn’t see. The man looked at Jenkins, smiled, and shook his head. He didn’t want to work together; Jenkins sighed. He wasn’t friends with the man, but he always hated to see a co-worker die. Jenkins closed his eyes as the tall assassin pulled a knife out.

“What the-,” Jenkins heard the man say. There was a quick ruckus, a moan of pain, then silence again. Jenkins opened one eye and saw the girl drawing again as if nothing had happened. The assassin was gone.

Help it is,” Jenkins thought. He quietly stood from the table; Honey did not look up from her drawing. He skipped a couple of rows then turned into the third row from the tables. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a solid black business card. He tossed it on the floor and it formed a wide black hole. A teenage girl with long white hair wearing a blood-red hoodie rose out of the hole and stared at Jenkins with crossed arms.

“Again? Assassins are supposed to kill people. Not ship them off to another Earth,” she said.

“Shhhh, We’re in a library,” Jenkins said. The girl shrugged, but she didn’t make any more noise. “I think she’s a Calavera…,” Jenkins shook his head. “….no one here can handle that. And she’s seven years old.” The girl’s pink eyes softened and she nodded.

“Fine. What do we know?” she asked. Jenkins smiled; if they were actually friends he might have hugged her.

“Thanks, Cherry! Blonde girl sitting at the tables over there,” he pointed through the books. Someone came up and tried to attack her, but I didn’t see what happened. I don’t know where the guy went. I didn’t see him walking away and I don’t see a body anywhere.”

“Name?” Cherry asked.

“‘Honey’ is all I got.”

“Fine,” the girl walked past Jenkins but he grabbed her arm. “And find out what happened to the other guy if you can.  He had a family.” The girl shrugged and kept walking.

“Sounds like he picked the wrong career,” she said as he turned around the corner towards the tables. Jenkins stayed behind. He probably could go back and sit down and no one would think anything of it. But he did not want to risk Honey connecting him to Cherry. She wasn’t a normal 7 year old and he had no idea how intelligent she might be. After a silent eternity that only lasted five minutes, Cherry walked back into the row with Honey following her.

“Hey Jenkins…,” Cherry said, completely exposing their familiarity. “Honey wants to learn about the AlterNet, so I’m going to take her.” A black portal opened in the air.

“Bye Mr. Assassin. I’m glad I didn’t have to kill you,” Honey waved then ran into the black hole and disappeared.

“You’re a life saver, Cherry,” Jenkins said with a smile. “Oh, did you find out anything about the other guy?” he asked. Cherry was already halfway into the portal but she pointed upward at an angle, then waved and disappeared. The black hole closed but Jenkins looked up where Cherry pointed.

The lean, suited assassin was stuck to the ceiling. He was completely encased in a translucent, amber-like substance. His eyes were shut and his mouth was open as if he were screaming.