Sharp Ruby

“I promise I won’t say anything!” Ken begged. The mid-40s archeologist sat in a brilliant, solid gold office. The walls, floors, and furniture all shined and sparkled. He noted the cushion on his solid gold chair seemed to be made with golden threads when he was escorted in by armed guards. After his promise to stay quiet, he took another sip of the golden liquid his host offered. He didn’t know what it was, but it was cool and delicious. Well needed after his trek to El Dorado.

“I’m sure you can see things from my position,” Ruby said. “It’s nothing personal; but, I can’t afford to take you at your word.” In her human form, Ruby resembled a young woman in her early 20s. But, her skin consisted of translucent, red crystalline scales. She wore a crisp white shirt with a red silk vest and matching bow tie. She eyed Ken through a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. “However, we do offer several different options for how you’d like to proceed.”

Ken glanced back over his shoulder. The pair of guards that found him were still in the room at attention. They wore white security uniforms and were human as far as Ken could tell. He was glad they told him he’d be meeting a dragon before he got there. He turned back to Ruby and chuckled nervously.

“Uh… do any of them involve me living through this?” he asked. Ruby smiled and shook her head.

“All of them do,” she said. “We’re not monsters; we just like our privacy.”

“We?” Ken asked. “Are there more dragons here?”

“Well, you’re already in on it. There’s no harm in explaining it further; you’re keeping the secret anyway,” Ruby smiled. “I know what it’s like to have unanswered questions.” Ruby lifted her hand and gave the guards a dismissive gesture. Ken turned and watched them exit the room and close the golden door behind them.

“My name is Ruby,” she said. “And, ‘We’ is a company named Sharp Development. I run one of their dragon spas.” She gestured at the golden room around them.

“A SPA!?” Ken blurted out. Ruby nodded.

“Dragons like to relax too, you know. Both Sharp Development, and our dragon clients value privacy. Unfortunately, I need to remove you from this Earth to guarantee continued secrecy.”

“You said I wasn’t going to die!” Ken whined. Ruby nodded.

“Sharp Development has branches on thousands of alternate Earths. It’s as simple as moving you to one of those. We will provide all your necessities while you find your footing on your new Earth. If you like, you’re even welcome to come work for the company.” Ruby pulled out a red crystal clipboard pre-loaded with forms and placed it before Ken with a pen. “It’s not anything you have to decide right this minute, but I do need you to sign this non-disclosure agreement before we continue finding a spot for you.”

“NDA?” Ken asked. He found the situation amusing and chuckled to himself as he signed it. Ruby nodded.

“Even if you choose to join Sharp Development, what we do here is to be kept secret from other Sharp Employees,” she explained the papers he didn’t read. “If word got out that we are a dragon haven, we’ll have hunters coming in from every universe.”  Ken tilted his head.

“Wait. I’m willing to believe there are alternate Earths… but, don’t they all have their own El Dorado?”

“It’d be considerably easier to find if there were one per Earth,” Ruby said. “The myth of El Dorado developed because the city moves around, we don’t spend too long on any one Earth.”

“You move the whole city…. to another Earth?” Ken asked. Ruby shook her head.

“I don’t, Ms. Sharp’s assistant does the move for us.”

“Oh,” Ken said. It was all he could say. He could point out that he was amazed the city was moved at all; and, didn’t mean to imply that she herself made the move. But, he was in awe that it sounded like the city was moved by a single person. It made him think the company was definitely something he wanted to be part of.

“So, let’s talk about placement. Where do you see yourself,” Ruby asked. “Tell me about the Earth you want to live on.” Ken shook his head.

“I want to join Sharp Development. What kind of jobs can I find?” he asked.

“Every industry you can think of and several you can’t imagine; it’s a wild multiverse out there,” Ruby smiled. “Too many to go through here. But, Ms. Sharp has a special recruitment server. It’s like a perpetual job fair so I’ll send you to take a look around.”

“Thank you, Ruby!” Ken said excitedly. Ruby smiled.

“Don’t thank me,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

Vanilla Visit

“Whoa…,” Billy sighed when Vanilla finished her tale. He looked out giant bay windows in the living room at the never-ending ocean. Glacier-like chunks of ice dotted the horizon. There was no trace of the mountaintop Vanilla claimed they were on, but he trusted her implicitly. “This is that Earth? Those are all your tears?” Vanilla nodded.

“What happened to them?” Billy stood from the couch and wandered to the window.


“Your dad, everyone on the Earth.”

“Nothing,” Vanilla shrugged and stood from her seat to join Billy by the window. “They’re still down there stopped in time from the moment first moment I stopped it.” Billy noticed her shake her head slightly. “I can’t undo it. Whatever I did, it completely derailed time. Besides…,” Vanilla wrapped an arm around Billy and gave him a gentle hug. “…at least this way he won’t ever die.” Vanilla’s long white hair tickled Billy’s neck and it reminded him of a different sensation.

“Hey!” he said and looked up at her. “Time’s stopped here, right?” he asked; she nodded. “Why can’t I feel it?”

“I just told you I broke time,” she said with a smirk. Billy shook his head.

“Right. Sorry, what I meant was at the lake after I took that guy’s soul, -“

“Steven,” Vanilla reminded him.

“Yeah, Steven. After that, I could feel time. It feels like there’s sand everywhere. And when it’s stopped it feels like walking through a sandpaper hallway. THAT was new to me. But I didn’t remember until I couldn’t feel it here.”

“Great question, C’mon.” Vanilla wiggled her fingers at the air and opened a tall black portal. “We’re going to visit a dragon,” she added as she stepped into the portal and disappeared. Billy followed. He found himself drenched in sweat the moment he exited the portal on the other side. He stood at the shore of a giant molten lake. Its bright orange glow was almost blinding if he tried to look directly into the lava. He looked around.

Dozens of figures lined the beach. They were gathered in groups and it wasn’t until a red-skinned young girl in a one-piece bathing suit ran up to Vanilla that he realized where he was. The girl’s long orange hair flowed through the air like fire as she ran; her red, scaled skin shimmered in the sunlight. The bright golden light reflected off her in a way that reminded Billy of a ruby; the girl’s skin was almost crystalline. The girl was a dragon enjoying a day at the beach with her dragon family. Several of the group she came from waved in their direction.

“VANILLA!!” the girl screeched as she dashed across the dark black sand. The girl leaped off the sand at Vanilla but the air caught her. The red girl hovered in the air; stuck inches in front of the tall white-haired woman. Vanilla reached up and grabbed the girl’s tiny hand. She pulled the girl along the shore like a balloon until she was at the lava’s edge. She stayed out of the way and started time again. Billy watched the girl’s momentum carry her into the lava.

The girl surfaced spluttering molten rock and giggling. She wiped the liquid fire from her eyes and looked up at Vanilla.

“Who’s he?” she asked and gestured at Billy by rolling her eyes in his direction while treading lava.

“He needs to talk to Flutter,” Vanilla replied.

“And?” the girl shrugged, then she swam forward and walked out of the orange lake.

“And it won’t be the last time,” Vanilla said. “Billy, this is Ruby,” she finally gave a proper introduction, then looked at Billy. “If you ever want to know anything about a dragon, Ruby’s family is who you ask.” She produced a small white silk pouch and opened it. “Information is expensive but…,” Vanilla pulled several golden coins and a couple of large sapphires from the pouch. “Ruby charges significantly less than her older family members.” Vanilla dropped the coins and gems into the girl’s small, outstretched hand.  “Where can we find Flutter?” Vanilla crossed her arms and asked formally.

“Inside!” The girl screeched then immediately popped the loot in her mouth and jumped back into the lava.

“That little sneak!” Vanilla cursed with a chuckle.

“Who’s Flutter?” Billy asked.

“According to Ruby’s family, and they know everything about dragons, Flutter is the strongest dragon they’ve ever seen.” Billy tilted his head at Vanilla and narrowed his eyes with a confused look.

“That sounds like someone we want to stay away from,” Billy said.

“We can’t, you need to talk to her,” Vanilla started walking up the beach.

“Me? Why?”

“To use her as a benchmark. If you can stop her in time, you can stop Ballisea,” Vanilla said.