Justine’s Job

“Not that one!” J.J. stopped Maurice with a hand on his shoulder. She was rewarded with a pair of hands, from two different men, against each of her shoulders. Each of the men used their free hands to aim sidearms at her head. The tall pale man on the right had dark long hair and his eyes glowed red. The shorter, bulkier man on the left sported a bushy brown beard; his eyes glowed yellow.

“Why not?” Maurice raised a thin eyebrow. The gesture deepened the wrinkles already on his forehead. It was the only hint of surprise at anything happening in the empty bar. Three men, a woman with a purple crewcut, and a silent bartender were the only bodies in the bar. J.J. interrupted Maurice as he moved to sit on one of the dozens of unoccupied stools and it made him curious. He also took note that his men’s attempts at intimidation didn’t phase her at all.

“It’s a trigger,” she said. “It’s not hard, but we don’t need that kind of distraction right now, do we?” she asked. Maurice glanced down at the stool, then at the bartender. The late 20s man stood at the end of the bar wiping a glass while facing the other way. Then, he nodded.

“Fair enough,” he leaned forward and spread his arm to gesture at the vacant tables. “After you.” The two men pulled their hands off J.J. and she nodded. She turned and picked a round, wooden table that seemed built for two. Maurice sat across from J.J. while his guards remained standing on both sides. Once they were both seated Maurice gave a slight nod. The tall, pale henchman placed a golden glowing cube on the table between them; it was the size of a grapefruit.

“You have my request?” he asked.

“Yeah, about that…,” J.J. said. In an instant, the golden cube was gone from the table and Maurice was moving to stand. “Wait!” J.J. shouted. “I have it! I just don’t know how much you need,” she said. Maurice’s bottom hovered above his seat for a moment as he tilted his head at J.J.

“What?” he asked. J.J. nodded, and she gave an exaggerated shrug.

“Look, all cards on the table: I’m new. I don’t know the going rate for this stuff. I heard a couple of guys talking about it in a bar somewhere, and here I am.” An amused smile tugged at the corners  of Maurice’s thin lips and he let himself settle back onto his seat. J.J. relaxed when it seemed like he would stay and she sat back in her seat too.

“That cube looked like 100 million; how much is that worth?’ J.J. asked. Maurice appraised the short, pale woman. Her crewcut was a deep shade of royal purple. Her black duster covered most of her body  but he could see a white t-shirt underneath it and she had a large hairy tarantula tattooed on her neck. Her appearance wasn’t anything special, but Maurice had dealt with a lot of people to get to his current position. What impressed him the most was how at ease she was. She didn’t flinch when his henchman brandished guns. She was either naively honest, or actually unconcerned with the possibility of being swindled. The one thing he could tell for sure: she would deliver whatever she promised.

“How much do you have?” Maurice asked. J.J. maintained eye contact with an amicable smile on her face; but, she did not say a word. Maurice felt a brief moment of embarrassment, the first time in possibly a decade, when he realized her silence meant, ‘I asked you first.’ He’d used similar tactics in the past and her carefree attitude hinted that he did not stand a chance of winning that contest with her. He nodded again, the cube was placed on the table again.

“It is 100 million. That normally buys 250ml.” J.J.’s coffee-brown eyes widened; it amused Maurice to see something finally surprise her.

“100 million nanos for one cup!?” she asked. “That’s insane! What do you even use it for?”

“Alchemy,” Maurice smiled. “It’s one of the rarest substances in the multiverse and its properties are useful in a variety of formulas. I’m assuming you do have..,” Maurice chuckled. ” a cup’s worth of it for me? Otherwise, I don’t think you need to waste any more of my time.”

“Oh yeah!” J.J. nodded. “Gimme whatever’s on tap!” J.J. shouted in the general direction of the bar, then she turned back to Maurice.

“Just need to get you a container,” she said. In seconds a blonde waitress appeared to place a frothy mug on their table. Then she wandered off. J.J. lifted the mug and chugged the amber liquid in one go. Once it was empty, she took a moment to dry the inside of the mug out with napkins from the table. Then, she lowered the mug beneath the table and hid it in her coat.

“So how fast do you go through this stuff?” J.J. asked as she nonchalantly hid the mug on her lap.

“It’s so rare; I can never get enough,” Maurice replied. J.J. giggled.

“You keep saying it’s rare. But nothing in the multi-verse is rare; if you know the right people.” J.J. pulled the mug out from under her coat and placed it on the table. The mug was filled to the brim with a viscous, translucent blue liquid. J.J. shrugged.

“There’s at least a cup in there, I don’t have a measuring cup or anything,” she said.

“How…?” Maurice asked. He held his right hand out; the shorter, bushier henchman presented him with a long, thin, obsidian spike that ended in a needle point. He reached forward with a steady hand, gently touched the tip to the surface of the liquid, then, he pulled up. A thin wispy strand followed the spike upward as Maurice stretched it out like a strand of pizza cheese.

“How did you get so much liquid silk?” he asked. “The spiders are impossible to find and savagely ferocious.” J.J. smiled.

“I asked nicely,” she said.

Justine’s Jacket

“Damnit!” J.J. growled at the stranger next to her. He was surprised she interrupted him, and he leaned back on his barstool as she yelled at him. “I just want a drink. I’m not here for your stupid random event. Go bug another player,” she said. The stranger glanced around the bar, then leaned closer again.

“Well I was wonderin’ why they wanted you dead; but, I reckon it’s on account of you being crazy,” he chuckled and raised his hand to pat her on the back. Something about the way her black leather duster caught the light changed his mind. He kept his hand to himself. “I like crazy, I’ll help you anyway,” he said. J.J. replied by letting her head thud against the bartop, with a heavy sigh.  She took a moment to consider her options.

If she logged out, the NPCs would forget about her and whatever event she triggered would reset. But, logging out on an unfamiliar server made J.J. nervous. She’d heard that if Ballisea shows up, her presence might keep anyone from logging into the AlterNet. It was a rumor that she didn’t believe entirely, but the one thing she did know was that it wasn’t worth the risk just in case. She was waiting for someone that was already late, so she could not leave. She had to stay put and logged on.

“Big Earl’s the leader; you take him out and you’re golden,” the stranger said. He nodded at a towering, burly man leaning against the pool table. There was also a handful of thugs in boots and cowboy hats around him. J.J. did not pay attention, she continued to knock her head against the bar.

“But, you can’t go straight for him. Over in the corner there…,” he nodded at a dim corner; J.J. remained face down on the bar. “… that’s Tom Shivs; he’s the one you want to bring down first. The best way-,”

“SKIP!” J.J. sat up and yelled at the man. “I got it. Everyone’s trying to kill me. Start it up already!” She spun around on the stool and hopped off it. She ran her hands through her purple fauxhawk and glared at everyone in the room. “I’ve had a rough day,” she said. “If you’re not trying to kill me, you should leave,” as she spoke, her duster shimmered and disintegrated off her shoulders. It fell to the ground as a black pile of swarming spiders. The spiders spread out from the swarm and crawled out toward the nearest person.

No one left. Several of the patrons started pulling back from the swarm but a wiry, frail man screamed from the dim corner. He jumped on the table he was sitting at, then table-hopped his way to the bar while keeping his eyes on J.J. She sighed.

“Fine,” she mumbled and knelt down and reached her hand into the spider swarm while Tom took his time approaching. He pulled out two long daggers and did his best to give J.J. a menacing stare. J.J. pulled her hand out holding her coat. She shook it once to clear off the last few spiders, then held it up bullfighter style.

Tom froze in his tracks atop the bar. As J.J. held her coat up, a long, black, spindly leg shot out of the surface of the jacket. It was followed by another disturbingly long leg. A giant obsidian spider, almost as big as J.J. herself climbed out of her jacket and onto the bar. Its bulbous abdomen was about the size of yoga ball, with a red skull on it where a widow’s hourglass would be.

The huge spider crawled toward a terrified Tom; J.J. Turned around to face the rest of the patrons. She still held up her coat and another king-sized spider began crawling out of it.

Six minutes later the bar was calm but full of life again. The event didn’t give J.J. anything useful, and she went to the restroom to splash some water on her face. She came back, glanced at all the new faces, then sat back on her stool.

A different stranger came and sat down next to her.

“Everyone else in here is here to kill you. You need to li-,” his script was interrupted by J.J. banging her head against the bar again.

Justine’s Jenerosity

“You could’ve asked that over text,” Kara complained in a gruff tone. The 33-year-old woman sighed at the purple-haired woman immediately after, then apologized. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just really needed this.” The pair of women met in a quiet coffee shop after hitting it off on an app. J.J. nodded apologetically.

“It’s better if I ask in person. But…,” She looked at Kara up and down.  “…you needed this?” She pointed at the empty chair in front of her. “Let me apologize for wasting your time. Can I ask why you need it so bad?” Kara sighed. She didn’t have anything else to do; she cleared her whole schedule for this chance. Things didn’t work out as she hoped, but the woman did invite her to join anyway. She felt she could still salvage the situation.

“You’re inviting me to sit down, or you’re treating me to coffee?” Kara asked. “And a pastry,” she added quickly. J.J. grinned and nodded.

“On me. Go crazy, get dessert for the next week if you like.” After several minutes, Kara returned to the table holding a large cup of iced coffee and a translucent bag filled with assorted cookies and pound cakes. J.J. raised an eyebrow, but smiled. “Kids at home,” Kara said apologetically.

“So, why are you here meeting me, Kara?” J.J. asked. Kara gave her a forced smile and sighed.

“Kids at home,” she repeated. “Two and a half jobs isn’t enough to feed three kids, a dog, two grandparents, and myself.” She shrugged. “Three jobs would kill me anyway so…,” she trailed off.

“That’s it?” J.J. asked. “You’re short on cash?” Kara giggled.

“Short on cash,” she said sarcastically, then her eyes hardened and she glared at J.J. “We can’t afford to LIVE,” she said through clenched teeth. “Not all of us. My parents are always watching the kids already anyway because I’m working so much. If I disappear, nothing changes for them. Money still comes in even when mommy isn’t home.”

“How old are they?” J.J. asked.

“Nine, eight, and five. Boy, girl, boy.”

“Ohhh. That bites,” J.J. said. Before Kara could give the flippant young woman a piece of her mind a well-dressed gentleman walked up to their table.

“J.J.?” he asked. “I”m Wilson,” he waved his phone at her. “From DnnR?”

“Hey, Wilson.” J.J. waved. “I got a question for you first. What’s your favorite number?”

“33,” he replied. “You could’ve asked that over text,” he laughed.

“Alright!” J.J. clapped her hands together, then stood from her chair. “I’ll take you.” She grabbed her black leather duster from the back of the chair and slipped it on. After it was on, she reached into one of the interior pockets. She pulled out two black credit cards. She handed one card to Wilson.

“Be back here next Friday at midnight. Card’s tracked of course, but you don’t look like the type to skip out. 1.5 billion for you and your family.” Wilson nodded eagerly. He took the card, shook J.J.’s hand, then bolted out the door. J.J. turned her attention to Kara, she dropped the other card on the table in front of her.

“That one doesn’t have 1.5 billion. But it’s enough to get you through to next week comfortably.” Kara narrowed her eyes up at J.J.

“I know it’s how things work here, but I don’t like the thought of your kids growing up in a world where it’s too easy to sell yourself. Come back next week. With your kids and your dog and your parents,” J.J. smiled. “I’ll set you up on an Earth with fewer cannibals.”

Justine & Jerks

“I don’t care how many of you there are,” Erica glared at the tallest thug; he was obviously in charge of the shakedown. “Things are different on this Earth, you can have everything you need. You don’t need money, you don’t need to fall into old habits,” she said. She hoped she could lecture herself out of the situation. The tall thug shook his head.

“I know we don’t need to, but it’s fun just the same,” he grinned. “So pay up or-,”

“Or what?” a voice asked behind him. The group of henchmen turned and found a teenage girl about 17. She had short purple air and wore a long black leather duster. Each thug in the group turned pale and nervous almost instantly upon seeing the girl.

“N-n-nothing,” the leader said. “Just showing our new friend that things are different here. She doesn’t need to worry about thugs bothering her, there’s enough of everything to go around.” The teenager smiled as a furry brown tarantula descended from the ceiling and landed on the thug’s head. The spider’s abdomen alone was the size of a basketball; the thug didn’t dare move.

“That’s very nice of you, Paulie,” the girl said. “I’ll take over her tour from here though. You should go make yourself useful to someone else, okay?” The giant spider leaped off his head and landed on the girl’s shoulders, she reached up and tickled its head.

“Yeah, sure. No problem J.J.,” The thug signaled the rest of his group with a wave of his arm and they all walked away leaving Erica alone with J.J.

“Sorry about them,” J.J. said. “They work for the guards” Erica’s eyes widened with surprise.

“Thanks for the help, uh, J.J.,” Erica tested the name out hoping she didn’t come across as rude. Now that they started a conversation Erica realized the giant tarantula was nowhere to be seen. She last saw it on J.J.’s shoulder but didn’t see where it went after that.

“Why are the guards giving me a hard time? Do you work for Sharp Development too?” Erica asked. J.J. surprised her with a grin.

“Not at all,” she said. Erica noticed a brown, furry tarantula tattoo around the base of J.J.’s neck that wasn’t there the first time she showed up. “I was supposed to be lunch, like you, but I managed to talk myself out of that. And now I hang around here to help others avoid being lunch too,” she said.

“What do you mean lunch? Lunch for what?”

“Your favorite number is 33. As soon as you gave the guard that answer, it informed a whole bunch of people. Dana Sharp has a pet that most people don’t know about. A pet spider that eats people like you and me.”

“Because my favorite number is 33??” Erica asked. J.J. shook her head.

“Your favorite number is 33 because of what you are. Unique soul #33, La Arana – the spider. We can control spiders,” J.J. said. At her words, her black coat disintegrated into thousands of tiny balls with legs. The swarm crawled around her body before forming a leather duster again.

“Spiders get stronger if they eat other spiders, which is why you were marked as lunch. Normally, the thugs are supposed to give you a hard time until the guards come and rescue you. If you come with me I’ll teach you how to use your abilities. If you don’t, I advise you not to let the guards get you alone.”

Justine’s Jeopardy

“Whatcha doin’, spider-freak?” Ben asked the hunched over girl. She was alone in the middle of an overgrown field when Ben and his group spotted her on their walk from school. The girl, Justine, became the talk of the town the day she turned 16.

On their sixteenth birthday, all children get their familiar: a magical animal that can share its attributes with its master. Mammals were most common; lions and tigers and bears. Birds and fish were known to happen, but that had always been the extent of it. On her 16th birthday, Justine’s familiar appeared as a basketball-sized furry brown tarantula. The same tarantula that was on its back when Ben showed up; Justine was tickling its abdomen and giggling. Justine looked up at Ben and his two buddies, then she looked down again and resumed playing with her spider. It wiggled its spindly legs energetically.

“Freaky spider stuff,” Justine replied with a flat tone. Ben smiled and balled his fists.

“There’s no one around, Justine,” Ben sneered as he used the name. “I don’t even need an excuse.” He cocked his fist and borrowed the strength of his bear. Ben launched a bear-strong punch directly at Justine’s face; but, it was gone by the time his fist reached the spot. Without her body there to interrupt the blow, Ben punched a hole in the ground, then he screamed with fury.

Justine leaped out of the way as soon as Ben loosed his punch. She flipped over his head and landed behind him as his punch hit the ground.

“I hate that name,” Justine took a moment to remind the group, then she swept Ben’s legs out from under him as he screamed. He landed flat on his back. The heavy thud knocked the wind out of his lungs and interrupted his scream.

“Get her!” One of the two remaining thugs shouted. The heavyset teenagers charged forward and fell flat on their faces. Justine’s tarantula crawled over them toward. The pair of troublemakers struggled themselves to a sitting position to check their legs. Their feet were bound together by dense spider webs.

“Nice one!” Justine giggled while the spider crawled up to her shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. She took a single step away from the fallen trio then stopped in her tracks. Over a dozen black portals opened around the teens. Armored and armed soldiers walked out of dark holes with their guns aimed at Justine.

“Hey dumbass,” Justine said to Ben as he was pushing himself off the ground. “Are these dumbasses with you?”

“No. BORIS!” he yelled. A giant grizzly bear materialized next to him and roared at the approaching soldiers. A single one stepped ahead of the others.

“We’re only here for her. You guys are free to go,” the soldier said to Ben.

“Oh,” Ben said. “Cool.” Boris disappeared. Justine turned around to ask, ‘What the Hell?’, but she was met by a solid punch to the face. It knocked her unconscious.


Dale tensed when the woman walked into his bar with her black leather trench coat flowing around her. Her purple crewcut and the tarantula inked on her neck hinted to him that trouble tended to follow her. Not that she herself would cause any trouble. He was sure of that; 20 years behind the bar sharpened him into an excellent judge of character. He watched her move as she walked up to the bar. The long coat hid most of her movements but she moved with the spindly grace of a long-legged ballerina. Dale could tell that she knew how to take care of herself.

“Strongest bottle you’ve got,” she said when she reached the bar. She slapped down two hundred dollar bills on the bar; then, she lifted the back of her coat to sit down on a stool.

“Rough night?” He asked as he placed the bottle down on the counter with a short glass of ice. The bar opened at 11 and it wasn’t noon yet. The woman unceremoniously, and effortlessly broke the neck of the bottle to open it. She tossed the glass neck into a trash can behind the counter that made Dale wonder how she saw it. Then, she poured the dark golden liquid into the glass.

“I did something stupid,” she said. Dale chuckled. That phrase was like, “Once Upon a Time” for bartenders. He knew he was in for a story.

“Should I expect to be questioned by the police about your whereabouts?” he asked with his best smile. She pulled the now alcohol-free glass from her mouth and set it on the bar to refill it, but she shook her head.

“Nothing illegal, just,…” she lifted the glass to her mouth again, but held it there until she found the right word. “…uncharacteristic,” she finished her thought, then downed the drink.

“How so?” Dale asked. His bar did not get much in the way of a lunch rush; he didn’t serve any food. He was in for a slow few hours until business picked up in the evening and thought her story would help him pass the time. She took another swig then gave Dale the once over.

He was a bald, stocky guy, but his arms seemed out of proportion to the rest of him. His biceps bulged under his white bartender’s shirt, and he had a nice smile.

“You got friends?” she asked. Dale smiled.

“Yeah. My group’s pretty tight,” he replied. The woman shook her head.

“I don’t,” she sighed. “I didn’t, until last night.”

“Friends are good, right?” Dale asked.

“Not if you have a possessive boss that doesn’t like you having friends.” She emptied the bottle into her glass. “When I say ‘boss’, think supervillain,” she pointed to herself. “Henchman,” she said then emptied the alcohol. “It wasn’t an issue before,” she shrugged. “Didn’t need friends.” Dale narrowed his eyes trying to gauge her. She seemed sincere and honest; but, he’d never heard of a supervillain outside of fiction.

“So, what changed?” Dale asked. “Why did you suddenly need a friend last night?”

“I didn’t need a friend…,” the woman said. She added another hundred dollar bill to the bar and gestured at the empty bottle. Dale was quick to replace it, but he took the liberty of opening it for her first. He didn’t want to deal with broken glass. “…she did.” In the back of his mind, Dale congratulated himself for spotting her as a soft heart. He enjoyed the warm feeling of vindication for a moment until the door opened again. The trouble he feared earlier walked in.

Dale had a group of rowdy regulars that liked nothing more than giving women a hard time. It didn’t usually get bad, and he was quick to warn anyone they might target. Unfortunately, they would almost certainly target the purple-haired woman. Dale knew she could handle herself, but he was worried about the damages to bar while she did. Thinking quickly he grabbed a third bottle and placed it on the bar.

“If I give you this will you leave without damaging the place too much?” he asked. Just as the woman looked up to ask him why, she was surrounded by a pair of muscleheads in muscleshirts.

“Hi there,” the one on her right said. He leaned close enough to rub his elbow against her. “Why’s a pretty girl like you drinking so early?” he asked. “Maybe we should get some lunch in that stomach first.”

“How bout it, beautiful?” the one on her left asked. “Want to join the four of us for a nice meal?” She glanced up at the mirror behind the bar and saw two more meatheads grinning at her.

“Sure thing,” she replied. “But first, let me finish talking to the bartender, and I’ve got a couple of bottles to finish. As I was saying…,” she looked at the bartender. “My new friend asked me to join her guild, and I said yes. But first, I have to leave my current one; I need to ask my boss.”

“Quitting?” the thug on her left asked. He scooted his barstool closer to her. “We got a job for you,” he grinned.

“Your boss, the supervillain?” Dale asked. She nodded. “What’s he like? Superpowered or anything?”

“He’s a giant spider,” she giggled. “Bigger than this bar.”

“Hey, Earl,” the one on her left called the one on her right, talking around her. “Crazy broad thinks she works for a giant spider. Do we want her that messed up?”

“I don’t know, Jim,” Earl replied. He craned his neck around the front of her to try and see her clothing under her trench coat. “Hard to tell if that body’s worth it.”  Dale nudged the unopened third bottle at the woman.

“Please?” he asked softly. She winked at him, then spun in her stool to face away from the bar. She stood up.

“You guys want a better look?” she asked and began sliding her black coat off.

“Yeah baby!” they called. She pulled her arms out of the jacket but held it in place. She turned back to face them while still keeping herself hidden behind the jacket.

“Catch!” she shouted and tossed the jacket at them. Jim and Earl both collided together trying to catch it; and, immediately started screaming. As the black coat flew through the air it fell apart. It disintegrated into black balls and each ball had eight legs. A swarm of pitch-black spiders landed on Jim and Earl and almost blanketed them entirely. Their two friends that weren’t covered with spiders screamed and ran out the door while Jim and Early frantically tried to brush them off. Dale scooted back against the bar and watched with his mouth agape. All doubts about whether she worked for a giant spider or not were dispelled.

She walked to the bar, grabbed both remaining bottles and smiled at Dale.

“Thanks for the booze,” she said and turned around. The spiders climbed off of Jim and Earl as she passed them and started climbing up her. By the time she walked out the door, she was wearing a black leather trench coat again.