Stolen Peace

Theme Thursday – A New World

“Traversing,” an electronic female voice said. The lights in the small room dimmed for several seconds. Paz held her breath in the dark but released it when the lights brightened to normal again. The 14-year-old girl tightened her dark brown pony-tail, then she cracked her knuckles. She gathered her nerves and walked around command console to the closed metal door.

[There yet? -Jasmn] Paz jumped when the unexpected Whisper tickled her inner ear. She felt like the only one of her friends that minded the way nanos vibrated her eardrum. She closed her eyes to concentrate on her reply.

[Just got here. -Paz]

[Stay in touch. -Jasmn] Jasmine suggested.

[K. -Paz] Paz took a deep breath then opened her eyes. She leaned forward and pushed the green glowing button on the side of the door. The large, barn-style door made a whooshing sound as it rolled open.

She stared out at the bleak, jagged landscape and saw her destination in the distance. A mountain range glowed red against the dark purple sky. Jagged Obsidian spikes jutted out of the stone ground between Paz and the mountain range.

That princess better be worth it,” Paz thought to herself. Finally, she made up her mind with a solid head nod and stepped through the doorway. Heavy, full-plate armor formed around her body as she crossed the threshold. She emerged on the other side of the door wearing silver armor. She smirked and clenched her fists in the metal gauntlets.

[It’s a stupid retro server! -Paz] she complained to the only person she could.

[You can hit Frank later. -Jasmn] Paz smiled to herself as she shifted in her armor to get used to its weight again. Then, once she felt ready, Paz started the journey forward across the stone wasteland. The jagged towers slowed her progress, but after several hours the rocky, uneven ground ended. An amber wheat field danced in the wind at the foot of the red luminescent mountains.

She took one step into the field then stopped; a sudden high pitched clicking sound filled the air. Red glowing nanos filled the air above the wheat. The swarm condensed into a red glowing hourglass shape that hovered in mid-air. A flash of purple lightning arced across the sky, its violet light illuminated a giant black spider attached to the red hourglass. Paz smiled and equipped her weapon. A swarm of nanos formed a black, double-bladed battle axe in Paz’s hands. The spider charged at Paz, but the girl smiled and lifted her axe high.

“Stone Splitter!” she yelled. The spider charged at her, but Paz slammed her axe into the ground using all her strength. The weapon made a metal clink against the black stone ground and chipped out a small crack. Her expected skill did not activate. “What?” She had a moment to wonder before the spider lifted her off the ground between its mandibles. Her axe remained embedded in the ground while the spider carried her away.

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.”

Lucky Lee (1-18-18)

“Are you okay?” she asked. “No,” he said, “but I will be.” [Link to post.]

Jasmine Lee walked through the crowd searching for a mark. Any sucker that looked like he had a heavy wallet. She spotted a short man with his blue hair standing upright in a well kept mohawk. He wore gold chains and a dim look on his face. On his feet she saw the gaudiest white snakeskin boots she ever laid eyes on. Literal dumb luck, if Jasmine ever saw it. Elaborate tattoo sleeves decorated both arms. He walked next to a young woman in a purple and gold hoodie. Jasmine decided to follow them to try and get him alone. She decided to do some side jobs while she followed her blue payday.

Jasmine spotted a hurried man approaching from the other direction, almost shoving people out of his way and glaring at those around him. He wore an expensive watch, and Jasmine felt good about giving the jerk what he deserved. She changed her course slightly, then bumped into him. He looked ready to blow his top at her, but Jasmine smiled at him with a gleam in her eyes.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “but I will be.” The man’s anger melted into a smile and he nodded at her politely. Then he continued forward and Jasmine heard him whistle as he walked away.. She looked down at the watch and wallet she ‘found’. The wallet held a couple of bucks, and the watch was fake. She sighed and kept walking. She spotted the blue mohawk and kept following it. The girl still walked next to him. Jasmine pocketed the worthless items and searched for another victim. The lunch rush offered her plenty of opportunities, usually she only needed to work about an hour a day.
She spotted another jerk barreling through the crowd.

He almost shoved over a stroller in his way, and did not bother to apologize. She stepped into his path and shoulder checked him.

“Are you okay?” she asked with her practiced smile.

“No.” he said, “but I will be.”  He smiled at her and walked away at a more peaceful pace. She checked his wallet and found it loaded with 100 dollar bills. She looked up to check for the blue mohawk. He and the girl walked past a policeman and then stopped in front of a pizza shop a few stores ahead of the cop. The girl in the hoodie nodded and disappeared into the pizzeria while the short blue haired man leaned up against the wall to wait.

“Perfect!” Jasmine said. While walking she pulled a couple of hundreds out of the richer wallet and put them into the poorer one, then she pocketed the rest of the money. She did not understand her power, but she always felt an empathic flash whenever she used it. The first guy was in the middle of having a very bad day, and she felt guilty for making it worse. The second guy was an asshole through and through. She stopped and handed the wallets and watch to the police officer.

“I found these on the ground.” The officer looked at her with skepticism.

“Yeah right kid. What are you? 13? 14? So you picked some pockets and trying to ditch the evidence?” The officer grabbed her wrist. Jasmine did not want to miss her window with the blue haired guy. She stepped forward and bumped into the officer.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “but I will be.” The man walked away smiling. In a few hours when her power wore off he’d have some vague memories that the items were lost, but with no idea of where he found them. With the officer gone she walked towards the short man leaning against the wall. She walked towards him while trying to figure out how to best bump him. Him not walking made it a bit more awkward. When she walked near enough to make her move her ankle shifted. She stepped wrong on something and tumbled toward the man. She managed to think quick enough to activate her power as her body pushed the short man against the brick wall of the pizzeria. After the contact she looked at him.

“Are you okay?” she asked with her dazzling smile. The contact alone was enough to use her ability, but over time she learned that being personable helped it take effect faster.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” He pushed against her slightly to help her find her balance. “How about you?”

“Huh?” Jasmine panicked slightly. It was the first time her power did not work on a man. She  recovered quickly. “Yeah, I’m fine. I tripped on something I guess.” She looked back to where she took her misstep and saw a small red translucent cube. It looked like a dice, with no spots on it. As she looked back to the blue haired man she noticed he also had a pair of red dice tattooed on the back of his hand. The dice sat next to a golden beer bottle that showed the number 25 on its label.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” The man asked with a goofy smile. Somehow it was endearing without being creepy. At 14 she was used to creeps, and this was not the first time she’d heard that line from creeps. Usually a sinister smile accompanied the question. Something seemed different about him. Instead of telling him to mind his own business, Jasmine shrugged.

“I’m on lunch break, and I’m working to take care of my parents.” Both were true, though she never admitted it to anyone. Both parents were sick and unable to work. Jasmine’s lunch hour managed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, so they knew better than to ask where she was getting the money from. After she realized what she said she gasped, and her hand flew to her mouth to cover it. The stranger’s smile became friendlier. “Why’d I say that?” she asked.

“Feedback,” the man said. “My name is Vegas, by the way.”

“Feedback?” Jasmine’s eyes went wide. There was no way that was accidental. He knew exactly what he said, which meant he knew exactly what she could do. He nodded.

“Your power doesn’t work on people who are expecting it,” a female voice said. Jasmine turned to see the young woman in the purple and gold hoodie standing in front of them holding a pizza.

“I’m Jenny by the way,” Jenny said. She pulled her hood down to reveal her short, spiky hair glowing blue. Jasmine saw golden finger tips coming out of her black gloves. “Want some pizza?”