Mystery Box

Ronald pulled the small wooden box out of the cupboard to get a better look. The box was light-colored; it seemed to be made of bamboo and its lightness added evidence of that. He guessed it to be about six inches wide and long, with maybe a three or four-inch height. A bright yellow note stuck to the top said, “Please don’t open or else,” was written in elegant, blood-red letters.

“‘Kay,” Ronald shrugged and returned it to its dark corner in the back of the cabinet. Ronald preferred to keep his life simple. A lifetime of erring on the side of caution made it an easy decision. He closed the cupboard and went about unpacking the rest of his kitchen. The rest of the day passed uneventfully and he went to sleep at 8:30 p.m.

The next morning at 5:05 a.m., he wandered into the kitchen to start his day. An open cabinet door caught his attention as soon as he turned the light on; it was the same cupboard that held the box. He walked to it and found the light-colored box sitting at the front of the shelf.

“Huh,” was his only comment as he registered it wasn’t how he left it. He moved to push the box to the back again and caught sight of the written warning.

“Opening this is a bad idea,” it said in a lighter shade of red. 

“Gotcha,” Ronald pushed the box back to its corner and closed the cupboard again. He made his breakfast, coffee and eggs, then went to work. He loved his job; somehow it was reassuring to be one of hundreds of faceless employees. The office environment allowed him to make a living while keeping his head down. After 20 years, he was still considered an entry-level employee by choice. He was an excellent worker but always declined any chances to move up. Moving up entailed more responsibility; something he preferred to avoid whenever possible.

After work, he drove home and found the cabinet door open again. This time, the box was sitting on the counter above the open cupboard. He noticed the note changed again as he moved it back to its spot.

“You shouldn’t open this,” it said in royal purple lettering.

“Not going to,” Ronald chuckled, then closed the cabinet. As he finished his evening, he considered several possibilities. His new apartment might be haunted. The box itself might be haunted. It could be a prank by the landlord. It could bee any number of things, but he came to the conclusion he wasn’t in any immediate danger. And, ignoring things was a way of life for him.

His evening passed normally and he went to bed. The next morning, he found the box on the counter again.

“A small peek is okay,” a new note said. By this time, Ronald had already made a decision to not open the box. He returned it to the cupboard and started his day. After work, the box was sitting on his kitchen table.

“Don’t let him take me,” the note said. Before Ronald could wonder about the meaning, his doorbell rang. Upon opening the door, he found a tall, lean man that reminded him of a lion. The stranger’s lush golden hair resembled a mane that connected to his golden beard. His nose was flatter and wider than average, and his eyes appeared to be somewhat sunken in.

“Yes?” Ronald asked.

“Hello, my name is Regal,” the stranger said. “This might seem like an odd question, but if I’m right, you’ll know what I mean. Have you seen a suspicious box?” Ronald chuckled.

“That does sound odd, but you’re right. I know exactly what you mean, one second.” He left Regal standing at the door and returned to the kitchen. The box was no longer on the table, but the cabinet door was closed. Ronald checked and found the box in there with a longer note attached.

“Please don’t. Anything you want is in here. I’ll behave,” the note said as Ronald pulled it out of the cupboard. He walked to the door and unceremoniously handed the box over to Regal. The maned man glanced at the note and smiled at Ronald.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions,” he said. Ronald shook his head and shrugged.

“Not really. Thank you,” he said and moved to close the door.

“Wait!” Regal spoke up. “You resisted the temptation to open this box. Without knowing what it is, you can’t imagine how monumental that is. You’re quite special,” Regal said.

“Thank you, have a nice evening,” Ronald tried closing the door again, but Regal interrupted.

“Wait! You’re Uniquely special, and you don’t know how powerful you can be.” Regal made a quick gesture at the air beside him and a tall black portal opened. “If you come to work for me, you’ll see worlds that you’ve never imagined. It’s not just anyone that could resist this box.”

“I already have a job,” Ronald said as he closed the door. “No thank you.”

Regal Visitor

“Oh…,” The lean, well-dressed man looked startled when Candace flipped the kitchen light on. “You’re awake,” he said apologetically. He stood in front of the open fridge with a red can of soda in one hand and a container with leftover meatloaf in the other. He wore a black suit with a crisp white shirt visible underneath. A rich purple vest between the shirt and his coat matched his purple bowtie. He was almost as tall as the refrigerator including a thick, lustrous mane of golden hair atop his head. His gold sideburns connected to a full golden beard. Along with large sunken eyes and a slightly upturned nose he reminded Candace of a lion. He stood still, but it seemed more out of politeness than any worry about the shotgun pointed at him.

For her part, Candace held the barrel trained on him. She was dressed in a closed flannel robe and bunny slippers. It was her first night in a new apartment and she’d had some trouble sleeping. She decided on a snack when she heard movement in the kitchen. The gun was loaded and not in its cabinet because it was her first night in a new apartment.

“Who are you? Why are you in my kitchen?” Candace asked. The stranger shook his head and smiled.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he said. “You’re not in any danger,” he added. Candace nodded lightly but did not lower the weapon.

“That’s for me to decide,” she said. “How’d you get in?” He pointed at the wall on the far side of the kitchen. It was not a very big apartment and the kitchen was small enough that Candace could see the wall without taking her eyes off the stranger completely. She saw a black hole on the wall. “What the hell?” As she asked her rhetorical question her focus shifted to the hole entirely. To her surprise, the stranger walked out of the hole still holding the soda and tupperware. Candace looked back to the fridge. It was still open and a tall black hole hovered in the air in front of it.

“Like this,” the stranger called Candace’s attention from the wall. She looked back to him in time to see him walking back into the hole. She turned back to the fridge and began to feel like she was watching a tennis match. The stranger walked out of the black hole and stood in front of the fridge again.

“How’d you do that?” Candace asked reflexively. It was 2 a.m. and she’d had a long day of organizing her new place before she failed at sleeping. Her mind was cloudy and the best she could do was blurt out questions until something made sense. She did not feel threatened at all by the stranger; he seemed warm and genuine.

“Uh.. may I?” he asked and lifted the container of leftovers to get her attention. Candace rolled her eyes and lowered the gun. Despite the situation, her own stomach grumbled its complaints the moment she spotted him holding the container. The stranger had the ability to teleport somehow; she assumed he wasn’t a normal human. Chances are if he wanted her dead, she would not have woken to find him in the kitchen. He was probably hungry and that was something Candace felt she could make sense of.

“Save some for me,” she said as she grabbed a loaf from the breadbox on the counter. She joined him at her small round table with the bread and a knife. After a few quiet minutes they each took a bite from their own meatloaf sandwiches. The stranger’s eyes widened then closed slowly with a satisfying ‘mmmm’.

“Sho,” Candace said. Then, she grew self-conscious about her manners and paused to swallow the bite. “So, how’d you do that?” She tilted her head at the wall.

“It’s called, ‘traversing’,” he said with a half-shrug. “I don’t think there is a how exactly. Either you can, or you can’t. I think about where I want to go, then go through the portal and hope for the best.”

“It’s that easy?” Candace asked. She was about to take another bite but saw her chance to ask something else first. She held the sandwich by her mouth and took a bite immediately after her question. The stranger nodded while swallowing his own mouthful.

“It’s that simple, but it’s not easy. Imagine you got into a cab and told the driver where you wanted to go. But the trick is the driver gets to decide where he drops you off. Most of the time you’ll get where you want to go but sometimes you end up where the driver thinks you should be.”

“Is that how you ended up here?” she asked. “I don’t feel like you’re the type to break into someone’s house just to raid their fridge. With that trick of yours, you can probably go anywhere in the world.” She asked between bites. The sandwich was half gone already. The man shook his head.

“That’s another thing, I don’t get to tell it where I want to go; it’s more like a gut feeling. I have to have a clear goal in mind when I open the portal. And…,” he nodded at the wall. “…I can’t pinpoint anything I can’t see.”

“When you said I wouldn’t believe you,…” Candace asked with a hint of humor in her voice. “… it’s accidental? You were trying to traverse somewhere else? I kind of believe you.” The man smiled and swallowed the last bite of his sandwich.

“No,” he said with a shake of his head and rose from his seat. “I landed where I meant to.”

“What do you mean?” Candace dropped that last quarter of her snack and her eyes darted to the shotgun she left on the counter. She could not imagine any other innocent reason for him to be there than a mistake. If his presence was intentional… He smiled and disrupted her train of thought. The stranger pointed at the remaining sandwich on Candace’s plate.

“I’m working on something and got hungry. Specifically, I had a craving for the best meatloaf I could find. Thank you for your hospitality,” he said with a slight bow of his head and a black portal opened behind him.

“I.. I make the best meatloaf in the world?” Candace asked; she hoped she understood how his ability worked. She was disappointed when he shook his head.

“Apparently,” he sighed pleasantly and patted his stomach. “You make the best meatloaf across hundreds of universes,” he smiled and stepped backward into the hole. It disappeared taking him with it.

Regal Conquerors

“The devil?” Dutchess asked. She smiled with the same light condescension that one might have with a child complaining about monsters under the bed. The pale young woman shook her head; the tight red bun atop her head did not so much as wobble. She sat in a Chinese restaurant across from Lucas. He shook his head.

“I’m not the devil anymore than you’re a crown,” he said and patted his chest. “Unique #02, El Diablito,” he shrugged. “Apparently I have a talent for magic and if I got the tattoo I can control minds.” He looked at Dutchess. “What about you? What’s special about #47, La Corona?”

“He said conquerors can take over an Earth pretty easily,” she said. “If I get a 47, I’ll have strangers thrust themselves into my service like I was their monarch or something. Mostly regular people,” she giggled lightly. “I was a regular person this morning.” Lucas shook his head.

“Not looking like that you weren’t,” he smiled. She returned the smile but after he said it, Lucas felt the compliment was clumsy. He moved on. “Mostly Zeros, so some Uniques too?” he asked.

“That’s what Regal said.” She nodded, then she met Lucas’ eyes. “What do you think about him?”

“Regal?” Lucas laughed. “I think he looks like a freakin’ lion walking around in a nice suit.” Dutchess shared a short laugh with him. When it petered out Lucas nodded his head. “We saw him come out of an empty janitor’s closet. Then we followed him into the empty janitor’s closet…,” he spread his arms at the red and gold decor around them. “…now we’re here. I don’t know him well enough to say whether we can trust him. As far as magical ability I think that case is already made.” Dutchess nodded pensively.

“I plan to join him,” she said, then quickly amended her statement. “If Haste wants to.”

“Package deal?” Lucas asked. Haste was Dutchess’ twin brother. At the moment he was in a private room talking with Regal. Lucas hoped they were almost done; it was annoying to sit in a restaurant unable to order until the rest of the group arrived. Dutchess nodded.

“Kind of. He’s my kid brother, but… I’m kind of the only one that looks out for him.” Her eyes went wide. “And now I know why!” she almost shouted. “He would complain to me sometimes that he felt our parents didn’t seem to notice him. I’d talk to my parents about it and everything would be fine for a while, but it wore off.” She shook her head as if she was still processing some of the details of her past under a new light.

“Kid brother, huh?” Lucas asked. “How long after you?”

“Three minutes,” Haste said from beside their table. The pasty, chubby young man in loose jean shorts scooted into the booth next to Dutchess. The baldness on either side of his coppery red mohawk caught a shiny glare as he shuffled in. Neither of them noticed him walk up.

“Where’s regal?” Dutchess asked him. He shrugged.

” ‘Said we should eat. He’ll either be back in a bit or he’ll make sure we have a ride home. Food is on the house too.”

“What number are you?” Lucas asked.

“42, La Calavera,” he smiled. “I’m super strong.” Lucas grinned and shook his head in disbelief.

“It’s kind of amazing…,” he said. “…the things you don’t know about, I mean. This morning I was looking forward to Arcanum 101, but I still thought it was a joke. Now I’m having lunch in what I’m pretty sure is another universe,” he chuckled. “I can’t wait to see what else is out there.” Haste laughed, but it sounded like his humor wasn’t into it. It felt more like a nervous, fearful laugh. The tone caught Lucas’ attention. As he looked up he saw the twins have an intense conversation with their eyes and curt head tilts at Lucas. Haste gritted his teeth but Dutchess gave a firm, decisive nod that proved to be the last word. Haste’s posture slumped as he deflated and he nodded in agreement.

“What’s up?” Lucas asked.

“Uhhh…,” Haste started.

“What Haste is trying-” Dutchess tried to speak up but Haste held his hand up to interrupt her interruption.

“I got it,” he said. “So, um. Dutchess and I are… er..” he made stalling sounds as his eyes wandered around the mostly empty restaurant. Only one other table was occupied by diners. Hosts and wait-staff were nowhere to be seen. “… not human,” he said. Lucas nodded.

“Yeah, apparently we’re all Uniques,” he said with a chuckle. “You’re kind of slow for a guy named Haste,” he said in a tone that he hoped was interpreted playfully. Haste smiled at the joke but shook his head.

“Not that. We’re kind … of … like..,”

“Werewolves,” an ancient, short woman stood beside their table with a notepad in one hand and a pen at the ready. All three heads whipped around to her and she smiled at Lucas.

“Your friends trying to say they’re werewolves. Now you know. Ready to order?” she asked.

Mundo Memories

Forrest woke in a bright fluorescent hospital room. He blinked his eyes several times and examined his hands. He wiggled his fingers; he chuckled and grinned at the sensation of his joints. The door opened and admitted a matronly nurse with long silver hair. She smiled and her eyes widened when she realized he was awake.

“Mr. Bloom! Good morning!” she reached his bedside and smiled down at the mid-20s man with light brown hair. “Glad to see you awake.” Forrest nodded and returned the smile.

“I’m glad to be awake but, what happened to me?” Forrest realized that was the only question he had left. He felt like he could see everything for what it really was now. He noticed a faint purple aura around the nurse that she probably didn’t realize she had. He knew what it meant on an instinctual level, but he had trouble putting the thought into words.

“What a disaster it was!” she exclaimed and began to tell Forrest about the six-car pile-up that sent him to the hospital. He listened politely even though, ‘car accident’ would have been enough of an answer. The nurse seemed to take joy in embellishing her tales, and “disaster” seemed to be her favorite word. “One of ’em had a tiny piercing that we almost missed before she went into the MRI, that was almost a disaster and a half, let me tell you. Luckily I noticed a small sparkle,” she explained how she was the hero while taking his blood pressure. Forrest idly wondered how many times she’d said “disaster” in her life. Then he noticed purple numbers gather above her head. “30,728”

“And then after that disaster was sorted…,” she said. The number counted up. “30,729.” She put a thermometer in his mouth and kept talking.

Huh,” Forrest noticed the number changed. “I wonder how old she is,” he thought. The numbers above her head rearranged themselves into the number, “53”.

“Goodness I’ve rambled on too long, I wasn’t expecting you to be awake,” she said then glanced at the clock. “But it’s great that you are, your friend should be here soon.”

“My friend?” Forrest asked. No one came to mind. He lived a quiet, peaceful life and did not socialize much. He had work acquaintances but he could not imagine any of them visiting him in the hospital. Certainly not on a regular schedule. The nurse nodded and tapped Forrest’s forehead.

“He decorated your scar for you…,” she paused and suddenly looked worried. “37 is your favorite number, right?” she asked. Forrest nodded, he did not immediately see where her question came from. “Good good, well he should be here any minute now. I’m sure he has a lot to catch you up on.” She turned and left his room. Forrest sat in silence

Decorated my scar?” he wondered. His hand drifted up to touch his forehead where the nurse tapped him. he felt a dry, rough scab under his fingertip. Then he hopped off his bed and dashed to the restroom mirror. A small black “37” showed on his forehead, the ‘7’ was a crease of his scar filled in.

“Mr. Bloom?” A deep male voice called out from his room while Forrest was in the restroom. Forrest stepped out of the restroom; then, his arm flew upward to shield his eyes. The room glowed with intense white light. The light carried a warmth with it that he did not feel alone in his cold hospital room. “It’s okay, just give your eyes a moment to adjust,” the mystery voice said. Forrest nodded and lowered his arm but kept his eyes closed. he slowly lifted one eyelid to let in the tiniest amount of light. He inched his eye open a little bit at a time until, after several dozen seconds,  he was able to look at the stranger with both eyes.

He looked like a tall, humanoid lion, with a mane of thick golden curls and a beard to match. The man wore an elegant black suit with a gold vest, and every bit of his body glowed with dim golden light.

“Mr. Bloom? My name is Regal.” He walked to Forrest and extended his hand. “I’m a -” Forrest grabbed the man’s hand and shook it.

“You’re #46, El Sol. Forget ‘Mr. Bloom’,” he said as he released the warm handshake. “You can call me Mundo.” Regal nodded.

“I need your help, Mundo. I’ve heard that when a Mundo is awakened, they remember everything for a time before the memories fade away again forever. Do you remember?” he asked. Mundo nodded cautiously. He remembered everything but did not want to accidentally over-share information.

“I need to talk to a Middleman,” Regal said. Mundo sighed and nodded.

“Isla was my caseworker, I think she’ll meet with you.”    

Mundo Motives

“Almost!” Scott smiled and leaned all his weight back as gravity pulled him back down from the top. He watched the ground zoom backward under him and shrink while he pulled his weight upward against the chain swing. The ground looked farther than any time before. “This time for sure!” He leaned forward and dropped his weight.

Scott flew past the ground and into the sky, gripping the chains tight. A sudden rush of fear shut his eyes, but his stomach tumbled when he flew upside down and kept going forward. He opened his eyes as he straightened out and saw the ground rushing up towards him. “I did it!” he shouted loudly and kicked his legs to slow down. He jumped off the swing, tumbled once and stood with his arms in the air. “I DID IT!” He hoped to get a bit of his mother’s attention from his new sister in the sandbox, but they were gone when he looked up.

“Mom?” The park looked different. New, purple wood enclosed the sandbox. The sandbox his sister chose was built with ratty pink wood that needed to be replaced. The placement of some of the trees and sidewalks did not look like the park he’d visited since he was his sister’s age. He looked at the sky dropped his jaw in surprise. A light lavender color flooded the sky instead of the deep blue he expected. The sudden realization that he was alone squeezed his chest. He felt fear well up in his gut and made tight fists to get control.

Don’tpanicdon’tpanicdon’tpanic,” his father’s advice repeated in his mind. “Panic doesn’t help.” He found the nearest bench and sat down to think. He saw a police officer at the edge of the park talking to some kids. “Okay, there’s help if I need it. But what do I say?”  he mumbled to himself. Vocalizing helped organize his thoughts. “I’ can’t wait to tell him about this,” he shook his head and grinned. “I stayed calm, dad.” He clapped his hands to center his focus and looked around the park.

“Purple sky aside, this is a different park.” Scott nodded to himself and smiled. “This has to be another universe. Awesome. Forget the cop, I doubt 12-year-olds have more credibility here.” He looked around the park for someone else that might help.

If you wind up in an alternate universe, look for someone that doesn’t belong there either,” another piece of dad’s advice. Scott realized his father had been preparing him for something like this. He saw a large man in a dark suit sitting on a bench enjoying a cup of coffee. A golden mane sat atop his head and flowed down to his shoulders. His blond sideburns connected with a thick beard; Scott thought the man looked like a lion.

“No one else looks like a cat,” Scott shrugged. He stood and walked toward the man while trying to guess how much he could say. He also kept the cop in his peripheral vision in case he needed to run for some reason. The man looked up from his cardboard cup when he heard light footsteps approaching. Scott locked eyes with the man’s deep golden eyes and he noticed a smile tug at the man’s lips. He stared at Scott in silence for a second, then the boy realized the man wanted him to say something.

“Uh, hi.” He half raised a hand for a weak wave. The man sat up straight, he was taller sitting than Scott standing.

“Hello, young man. Is there something I can help you with?” Scott nodded.

“Maybe? Uh. I’m kind of lost,” Scott tried to keep it vague. The man nodded to the patrol car in the parking lot.

“There’s an officer right over there,” he said. Scott’s stomach sank, but he did not want to give up yet.

Might as well go all the way,” Scott thought. “Is the sky purple in your universe?” he asked. The man chuckled.

“No, mine was blue,” he said. Scott nodded.

“Mine too. I don’t know how I got here,” he shrugged.

“Ah, you’re not lost. You’re misplaced,” he gave a sharp grin that enhanced his feline features. “You don’t know how?” Scott shook his head.

“No. It happened when I was on the swing, but I closed my eyes.”

“You’re handling it remarkably well,” the man said. “My name is Regal, by the way.” He extended a large hand in greeting and Scott shook it.

“I’m Scott,” he smiled. “My dad always thought something like this might happen to me. I thought it was a fun joke until it happened.”

“Really?” Regal reached up to stroke the front of his beard. “What’s your favorite number, Scott?”

“35,” he giggled. “My dad always asks that too.”

“Really?” Regal repeated. His eyes roamed up and down Scott. “Does your dad have a favorite number?”

“37,” he answered with a grin. Regal nodded and gave a half shrug.

“I’m sure he has his reasons,” he said to himself more than to Scott, then he looked at the boy with a smile.

“Well, it was nice to meet you, Scott. You should get home before your parents start to worry.” Regal held a hand out, palm up.

“Touch my hand and think of your Earth.” Scott gripped Regal’s hand and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Ready to go,” he heard Regal’s deep voice and looked up. A circular, black portal hovered in the air next to Scott. He looked at Regal and noticed him pulling something out of the inside of his coat. He handed a small black business card to the boy. “If you ever get misplaced again, or need help use this to call me.” Scott accepted the card and looked at it. It felt like a smooth piece of black obsidian with the name “Regal” engraved in it in gold letters.

“Thanks, Mr. Regal!” Scott smiled and pocketed the card. He jumped into the black portal. He arrived on the other side and looked up to a blue sky.

“Scott!” He smiled when he heard his mom calling his name.

Quest Accepted

[WP] You work for either NRA or NSA, and one day you pull up to work and notice that the sign on the building has been changed to the sign for the other place. [Link to post.]

 

 

“You sure this is the right one?” Phil, a short man in a dark businesses suit turned to his partner. He parked in his usual spot when they noticed the sign now read “NRA” instead of “NSA”. Fred, a tall man in a dark business suit, took off his sunglasses to glare at Phil with cold brown eyes.

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” he apologized for accusing his partner of a mistake that simple, then turned the ignition off. “Let’s go see what’s going on.” Fred put his sunglasses back on, and the two men stepped out of Phil’s black SUV.

 

“Double check,” Phil said as they approached the front door of the NRA. “It wouldn’t be the first time we got pushed.” He paused at the entrance to wait for Fred to double check their location.  The tall man lifted his hand in the air and splayed his fingers wide. A pulse of soft golden light radiated around his hand; after it disappeared he looked at Phil with a confused look on his face, and shrugged.

 

“See? Told you.” Phil reached inside his jacket, and returned with his gun. “Let’s go see if someone did it on purpose.” Fred nodded. He pulled the glass door open to let Phil enter the building first.  They walked into an empty pristine white lobby, each footstep echoed as they made their way through the lobby towards the elevator. Fred pressed the call button and the elevator dinged immediately. The doors slid open to reveal a tall man with a mane of wavy golden hair, and a well maintained golden beard. He smiled at the two men.

 

“Good morning, gentlemen. I’m sorry to spring this on you, but I’d like your help,” he said. Phil relaxed enough to holster his gun, then he moved to step into the elevator, but Fred placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

 

“What’s wrong?” To answer his question Fred reached up and knocked on the border between the elevator and the lobby. His knuckle bumped a solid, invisible barrier. Golden light radiated outward from the point of contact.

 

“I’m somewhat in hiding at the moment, I’m sure you understand. You’re welcome to stay there while we talk,” the man in the elevator said.  Phil nodded, and the two men took a step back from the elevator.

 

“What can we do for you?” Phil asked.

 

“I need you to investigate a woman, a Zero,” the blonde man said. Both men shrugged in their dark suits.

 

“Why us? If she’s a Zero, get the locals,” Phil asked.

 

“There are no locals, it’s Dana Sharp.”

 

THE Dana Sharp? Earth 1 Dana Sharp?”  The tall man in the elevator nodded.

 

“Still.  Why US?” Phil asked again. “A Sol like you can probably get any of a hundred other Uniques.”

 

“I’ve been watching hundreds of other Uniques. You two are the best qualified.”  Fred lifted his arm towards Phil for a High Five, but the short man dismissed it with a wave. “You’re the only agents with leveled AlterNet characters,” the stranger added.

 

“Huh, alright.” Phil chuckled to himself, and extended an arm to give Fred a High Five. The blonde man smiled at the sharp sound of their hands slamming against each other.

 

“Don’t let your guard down just because she’s a Zero. She’s got plenty of Uniques on her payroll,” the man advised. Phil and Fred nodded, both wearing goofy smirks on their face. “Thank you for your time, I’ll check in again,” he said. The interior of the elevator went pitch black for a second, but when the light returned the blonde man no longer stood there.  Phil and Fred turned around to walk out of the building.

 

“I told you it’d come in handy. Now we get paid to play a game,” Phil said once they reached the black SUV. “We should probably drop the car off first,” he added. Fred wiggled his fingers in the air to open a clear vertical portal in front of the SUV. Phil smiled and drove through the portal to park in his spot at the NSA building where they worked.

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
Next Chapter: Shattered Bones

Deathly Giggles (2-17-18)

[WP] “Um, Honey, did you teach the baby Latin?” [Link to post.]

“Um, Honey,” Posie walked into the kitchen where his wife Robin searched the fridge for dinner options. “Did you teach the baby Latin?” Robin pulled her red head out of the fridge and stared at her husband. Posie stood in the middle of their kitchen swaying back and forth holding Threnody, their chubby baby girl. Dark wisps of hair rested on the baby’s head, inherited from her father’s full head of dark hair. The child’s orange eyes matched the shade of Posie’s eyes. Robin had no doubt their daughter would be as beautiful as her husband was handsome.

“I wasn’t planning on it. Why? Did you teach the baby Latin?” Robin smirked and closed the fridge. She did not feel like cooking and decided they should go out instead.

“No, but she spoke Latin.” Posie hefted the child upward and kissed her bulging cheek. “Didn’t you, Threnny? Show mommy your Latin.” He tried encouraging the baby. Robin stepped closer to the pair and kissed Posie’s cheek.

“Dear, you don’t even know Latin.”

“No, I don’t know it, but I know what it sounds like. E Pluribus Unum and all that.”

“Pluribus Unum!” Threnody said excitedly with sparkles in her orange eyes.

“See?!” Posie held baby Threnody out toward Robin as proof. His right eyebrow raised smugly. Robin smirked.

“She’s just mimicking you.” Robin took the small child from her husband and twirled around, swinging Threnody. “If she were a normal child she wouldn’t even be talking yet, but she is our daughter.” Threnody giggled as her mother swung her around.

“Veni Vidi Vici!” Threnody said. Robin immediately stopped, and kissed the child on her forehead.

“Okay, maybe you’re right.” Robin sighed. “I’d have preferred to get a birthday or two with her first, but I guess we should call Regal to see what we’re in for.” Posie nodded and took off his red and black t-shirt. He turned his back toward Robin to show her his tattoo of an orange and white koi fish with the number 50 on its scales. Robin stepped forward and pressed her hand against his back. It sunk into the tattoo and she pulled out a golden business card. Robin flicked the business card at a wall and it formed a pitch black circular portal.

“Regal!” Robin shouted at the black hole.

“Coming!” A deep male voice came out of the hole. Seconds later a black boot stepped out of the portal followed by the other. Then a pair of black slacks, then the rest of the man. Regal was a tall man with lustrous golden blond hair. The way it was styled reminded Robin of a lion, and his golden beard only added to that similarity. He wore a sharp white dress shirt with an elegant black vest decorated with thin golden embellishments. He smiled at them.

“Robin! Poseidon! Wonderful to see you again, how’s baby Threnody?” He stepped toward Robin with his arms outstretched, reaching for the child. Robin trusted Regal implicitly and handed her child over without hesitation. The blonde man made silly faces at the baby while jiggling her around.

“Well, Posie discovered that our daughter’s speaking Latin now.” Robin smiled at her husband. His name was part of the reason she loved him so much. His parents named him Poseidon, but it was a cumbersome name. Posie was an imposing man built like a brick house, yet he was comfortable enough with himself to use the nickname ‘Posie’. They both tried correcting Regal several times but eventually they realized he just thought the name Poseidon was cool, so he used it.

“Already?” Regal’s eyes widened ever so slightly. “I’m glad you called me. She’s obviously going to be powerful, so it’s best to learn how powerful.” Regal handed Threnody back to her mother and reached into his back pocket. “Great timing too. I’ve been working on a detection method, if you don’t mind of course?” His hand returned from his pocket with a blank white playing card.

“It’s not gonna hurt her, is it?” Posie asked. Regal shrugged with a half smile.

“Likely not. If anything it might sting a bit, like a vaccination. But she would be the first actual test, since we know both her parents are Uniques.” Robin and Posie met each other’s eyes, and took a moment to have an unspoken discussion. Then Robin nodded her head.

“Go ahead,” Robin said. Regal held the white card against Threnody’s head. He glowed with a golden aura as he gave the card a jolt of energy. Threnody giggled.

“Et Titillat,” Threnody said between giggles. Regal smiled broadly at the child.

“Apparently, it tickles.” The card began to glow. A golden number 14 appeared on it.

“Robin, Poseidon. Congratulations.” Regal chuckled. “Your daughter is Death, La Muerte.”

***

Previous Chapter: Love & Laughter
Next Chapter: Party Music

Regal Purpose (1-5-18)


If you’re about to kill someone you see what the world would be like without them. As a
hitman you think you’ve seen everything, but this kill surprises you. [Link to post.]

I aimed through the scope to center his blond head in my crosshairs, then held my breath.
I waited patiently for the Warning. Over the years I’d been able to nail the timing down. It
happened the moment I decided to pull the trigger, but before I actually did. I learned to
stay undecided until it was time. The target seemed like a decent guy. I’d been burned once
and never took dossiers at face value anymore. I did my own research before I took a job.
At 18 he was the youngest target I’d accepted, but the money was worth it. If it wasn’t his
18th birthday, I wouldn’t have accepted. I didn’t feel great about it, but I managed to stay
within my own shitty code of honor. The kid didn’t seem to be anything special or
important. Average grades in school, he lived in a stable home with both parents. His
family wasn’t rich, but he never wanted for anything.

“Nothing personal, Regal. But, happy birthday.” I made the decision, and braced myself.
The Warning generally didn’t hurt, but it affects all senses. Everything seems so real, it’s
easy to get disoriented. My vision went black and I felt cold. Then, I felt nothing. Then, my
sight returned. The duration of Warnings varies, but I’ve never encountered one that
was less than 10 seconds. This one lasted two. I stared through the scope at the young man
sitting on the park bench and chatting with his friends. “What?” I said in disbelief. The great
thing about Warnings is they can be replayed every time you intend to kill someone. Again
I decided to shoot him. My vision went black, and a shiver ran down my spine. After two
seconds I saw daylight again.

I set the rifle down and backed away from it. Something wasn’t right. I took a seat on the
rooftop and thought about what it might mean. It wasn’t hinting at my death, I knew that.
Once I learned how to control the Warnings, I of course needed to test suicide. Those were
the worst Warnings, because they actually did hurt. Your body feels the pain of your death,
without you dying. This was different, this was empty. Nothing. Despite all my research, now
I needed to talk to him. I’ve never met a mark before, but I must have missed something
in my research. I left the rooftop, taking only my pistol with me. I made my way down to the
park and walk towards Regal and his pair of friends. Two other guys that I decided to kill.
Their Warnings were unspectacular. The one on the left would have been a successful
businessman. The one on the right would was destined to massacre a church. Overall no
big losses. When I reached them, they looked up at me.

“Hi,” Regal said.

“Hi. I need to talk to you,” I replied. “Just you.” I shot both of his friends in the head. Regal
screamed and bolted away from me. I was ready and tossed binder at him. The silver ball
hit his back and exploded into straps that surrounded him. He fell to the ground, and his
momentum kept him rolling forward. He kept going, trying to get away, and I needed to
walk quickly to catch up to him. I caught him face up and put a foot on his chest.

“What’s so special about you?” I looked down at him and asked. He breathed heavily from
exertion and just stared at me, silently.

“Your Warning. It’s nothing. Why?”

“Awesome!” He smiled brightly, and it surprised me. I stepped off his chest, and he stood up
with ease, even without using his arms for balance. “You just confirmed my destiny!” He
seemed excited and hopped up and down, while bound.

“What?” I clearly didn’t do enough research on this guy.


“You can’t kill me, so you might as well let me go.”

“Of course I can kill you.” I brought the gun up to his head, and gave a visible shiver. He
smiled, and did his best to shrug with his bindings.

“Obviously you *can* but if you do, it’ll be the end of everything,” he said. He became
friendlier, more confident by the second. I shook my head.

“No. I’ve been doing this for a while, you’re not a Hope.” I’d only seen a Hope once. People
that can prevent various apocalypses. The one I found was destined to cure a plague that
hadn’t even started yet. That Warning was horribly bleak. The world became a wasteland of
bones. Plants, animals, humans. All gone. Hopes were off limits, and government protected.
Not that they really needed it. No one wants the end of the human race. He seemed to
have some clues about himself, so I decided to let him go. I could kill him any time if I
needed to. I pressed a button to release the binder. The coils disappeared back into the
ball and it fell to the floor. He waved his arms around, enjoying the freedom.

“I didn’t say the end of humanity, or the world. I said the end of EVERYTHING. My dad told
me stories, but I didn’t believe any of them. Not until you saw my Warning,” he said. He
stuck his hand out in greeting. “My name is Regal. I’m a Sol, and I guess I’m destined to
save the universe.”