A Dirge for Chocolate

“Green light!” Threnody giggled and dashed forward as soon as she heard the words. Vegas stood at the other end of the living room with a giant grin and a chocolate bar. He watched Threnody take a few steps, then stopped her the moment she came within reach. “Red light!” he said.

Threnody froze mid-step. One little leg was lifted in the air while she wobbled unsteadily on the other. Her bright orange eyes never left the chocolate bar while her hands froze inches from it.

“GRE-” Vegas shouted the first part of the word, the stopped himself. Threnody was ready to move as soon as she heard the word; she toppled over trying to break her own momentum when Vegas didn’t finish the word. She landed face-first on the carpet then rolled over giggling. “Gotcha,” Vegas said with a laugh. He dropped the chocolate bar on her stomach. “What’s next?”

“MY TURN!” Threnody yelled. She grabbed the chocolate bar, stood up and ran to the other side of the living room. She set the candy down on the floor then stood in front of it waving her hands at Vegas.

“Alright, I’m ready,” Vegas said as he took a couple of steps back. He wasn’t a tall man, despite his blue mohawk, but his steps were still longer than hers.

“Green light!” Threnody yelled. Vegas managed to lift his leg before she shouted again. “Red light!” She wanted to catch him on one foot too. Vegas froze with one leg in the air for a moment, then he put it down.

“Whoa,” he said. His grin wasn’t as broad as it was moments ago, and he looked around the room as if checking it for something.

“Vegas!” Threnody whined.

“Shhh, hold on. Was that you?” he asked. Then, he turned around and headed toward the front door. “C’mon, shortcake!” he said. Threnody whirled around to grab her candy bar then ran after him through the open door.

Outside, the sun was disappearing below the house across the street; several shades of purple and orange painted the sky.

“See that?” Vegas pointed at a car that wasn’t moving, despite being in a traffic lane.

“Uhuh,” Threnody said.

“Say, green light,” Vegas suggested.

“Green light,” Threnody said softly. The car moved again instantly.

“Your first time stop!” Vegas crouched to pick up the girl then spun her around a few times in celebration. He set her down and winked at her. “Now try rewinding it,” he said.

“Okay!” she clapped excitedly. Then she looked at Vegas. “What light rewinds time?”  Vegas let out a loud guffaw and shook his head.

“That’s not how it works,” he said. “You can try rewinding later, let’s go back inside and talk.” They walked in and sat at the round kitchen table. Now that she was seated, Threnody took the opportunity to open the chocolate bar.

“You can control time, okay? Time is like a videotape and you can pause, rewind, fast-forward, and even set playback loops.” Threnody nodded while chewing. You don’t need to say red light or green light or anything. That’s just how your powers decided to show themselves,” Vegas chuckled. “You really wanted to stop me. But, you need to learn what you can and can’t control.”

“I control time,” Threnody said matter-of-factly, then took another chunk out of the candy. Vegas nodded.

“So if time is like a videotape, every Earth and all its Zeros are all one tape. Unique Souls are each their own tape; does that make sense?” Threnody shook her head slowly.

“Uh.. okay,” Vegas said. He thought for a moment, then tried again. “Every Earth is like a TV show and all the Zeros are actors. Everything is scripted out from the moment an Earth is created. Which Zeros are going to be born, when, what they’re going to do, how the world is going to end; the whole show is planned out. You with me?” he asked. Threnody nodded and kept munching away.

“The Zeros are acting the show out in realtime, but you and other Muertes can look at the whole thing. You can focus on any moment you want, past, present or future. Now, this is where it gets tricky; Uniques aren’t part of the script. We’re like random people wandering in off the street and messing with the actors. Anything you do to mess up the script is permanent.” Threnody’s eyes widened and she stopped chewing.

“I can’t fix it?” Vegas nodded.

“That’s the sticking point. You’re the only one that can. Pretend you draw a big picture of a pretty unicorn…,” Threnody’s eyes sparkled again and she resumed chewing. “…on the side of a building, then leave that Earth. Then, another Muerte comes along and sees the picture. They like it so much they decide to rewind time to see who drew it. They’ll never find out; as they rewind it’ll be there one second, then gone the next. If they try to fast forward it’ll reappear, but they’ll never see you doing it. If you hurt someone, you’re the only one that can rewind time to before they were hurt and not hurt them.”

“But why can’t other Muertes rewind time before they were hurt?” Threnody asked. A touch of sadness showed in her eyes, but Vegas guessed it was because she finished the candy.

“They can. But they can’t stop the injury from happening again when time returns to normal. Even if you’re not there, the injury is part of the script from that moment on. Like the Earth is a show, you are your own show, each Unique Soul is. Ours isn’t planned out though, we get to make up our own script. And you’re the only one that can change your script. Does that make sense? Did you learn something?” Vegas asked.

Threnody’s eyes narrowed for a moment while she processed the information, then they opened wide with realization.

“YES!” she squealed. Vegas felt the tingle of time moving around him; rewinding he guessed. He glanced around the kitchen to check for differences, then he saw Threnody with a freshly unwrapped chocolate bar in her hands. “I learned I can EAT THIS AGAIN!”

Vegas’ Friends

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.] 8-26-18

Dread froze at the sight of Ballisea in Vegas’ house. Her heart pounded in her chest and she clenched her fists waiting for someone to make a move. Ballisea focused her gaze on Vegas, the corners of her mouth stretched upward.

“Sammy! It’s so wonderful to see you again,” Ballisea said, then she cast an eye at Lauren. “…and one of you.” Vegas stepped in front of Lauren and stared up at the tall pale woman.

“She’s the same one, Balli. What do you want?” Ballisea’s smile straightened out and she moved to Vegas’ couch and sat down crossing one leg over the other. Dread felt everyone else in the room relax and she un-clenched her fist.

“I just wanted to give the little Calavera,” Ballisea winked at Dread. “A reminder. I’ve got your frequency now. I can show up anywhere you are. Any time. I didn’t expect to hit the jackpot.” The horned woman chuckled to herself.

“Honey,” Vegas said aloud without taking his eyes off Ballisea. “Take Threnny an’ Dread into the kitchen for a bit, alright?”

“C’mon girls, help me get dinner started,” Lauren said calmly. She disappeared into the kitchen without another word. Dread caught Dirge’s eye unsure what to do, but the curly haired girl nodded and slipped into the swinging door behind Lauren. Dread followed.

“We need to get Regal,” Dirge said. She was about to step into a portal that she just opened.

“It’s fine,” Lauren said. She began putting away the groceries that Dread left on the counter. “She won’t hurt him. And she won’t hurt me as long as he’s around.” Dirge sat down at the small round table. Dread noticed she looked worried and confused.

“Everyone’s always told me to run from Ballisea! Why is she just sitting in your living room!?”  She shouted at Lauren. The woman wrapped her arms around the seated girl.

“Listen. Keep running away from her. No matter how civil she might seem, that woman can slip into ‘kill’ mode in the blink of an eye.” The woman sat at the table and motioned for Dread to join them at the table, then she continued talking once Dread sat down.

“Remember what Vegas told you about Ballisea looking for her Zero?” Lauren asked. Both girls nodded. “She won’t hurt Vegas or me, because we have what she’s looking for. I’m the Zero he loves as much as she loved hers.” She sat up straighter and tried to repress her smile. “She taught Vegas how to use his powers, but she kept him imprisoned because he wouldn’t be with her. His luck keeps his frequency from her, but every now and then she’ll find us,” Lauren looked around the kitchen, then shook her head. “We’re not going to move this time.”

“Sorry,” Dirge apologized and stared down; she picked at a frayed edge of a red and white checkered placemat. Lauren reached for Dirge’s hand to console her.

“You better not even think of staying away to…,” Lauren flashed a grin and used air-quotes. “…’keep your uncle safe’. She already knows where we live, and she won’t hurt him. We’re as safe as can be.” She gave Dirge her most reassuring smile. The kitchen door swung open behind Lauren and the girls smiled when they saw Vegas stepping into the kitchen. Lauren turned in her seat.

“She’s gone. I got her to promise to use the door from now on,” Vegas shrugged. “It’s a start.” Lauren stood from her seat and Vegas sat down on it to let her sit down again on his lap.

“Already?” Dread asked. It surprised her how easily Ballisea left. Vegas nodded.

“She has other things to do, she just wanted to intimidate you. But don’t let her. She can show up anywhere any time, but she almost never does. Enough about her though,” Vegas turned to Dirge and smiled. “So, how you, gonna try to catch your carrot?” he asked. Lauren’s eyes lit up.

“You found your carrot!?” she smiled. Dirge nodded while her pale cheeks grew red. “That’s great news. Forget cooking, we’re going out.”

“Can we go to Donna Chang’s?” Dread asked louder than she intended to. She fell in love with the food the first, and only, time she visited it with Vegas and Dirge. Her hopes fell when she saw Lauren shaking her head.

“Sorry. She moved again, but we haven’t found her yet.” Lauren looked at Dirge. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’m just so excited for you.” She leaned over and gave Dirge another hug without leaving Vegas’ lap. “Like he asked, how are you going to catch it?”  Dirge shrugged.

“I don’t know. I was so excited that I figured it out, I came straight here,” the girl said.

“Well, what’s your carrot?” Lauren asked.

“I met a Zero that I wanted to be friends with, but Ballisea killed her. So I decided I want to meet as many of her Zeroes as I could and make friends with them,” Dirge explained her goal to Lauren, and the woman nodded.

“You met her in the AlterNet, right?” Lauren asked. It was Dirge’s turn to nod in response. “You need to get out there and play more to meet more people. It’s more fun with Dread now, right? The game isn’t meant to be soloed like you did when you were younger.” Dirge listened to the advice, but her mind seemed focused on something else. After a second Dirge reached into the pocket of her dress, pulled out a folded piece of paper then handed it to Lauren. After the woman read it she handed it to Vegas but smiled at Dirge.

“That’s definitely a great place to start,” Lauren said. After Vegas finished reading the sheet he handed it back to Dirge then added his own comment.

“If you girls are going to run Derby, I’ll introduce you to the best Derby coach I know in the AlterNet, his character name is Jelly_Jim,” Vegas said. “He’s a Borracho too.”

Rewarding Visit

[OT] Sunday Free Write (8-19-18)

“That’s a great goal. You don’t have a lot of experience with Zeroes, so let me give you a piece of advice,” Vegas said. He stepped to the side and gestured the girls towards the house. Dirge took the hint and headed towards the door. Dread followed. Vegas fell in step alongside them and kept talking.

“No matter how many of her you meet, you’ll never meet the same Glory again.” The reached the screen door and Vegas opened it to let the girls in. The group walked into Vegas’ living room and Vegas sat down on a brown leather loveseat across from a matching couch. Dirge and Dread sat on the couch and continued to listen. “A lot of Uniques think that every Zero is like its other copies, but each one is unique in its own way. If you’re looking to meet her again, just give up now. You won’t,” Vegas said. He wore a serious look that Dirge recognized as his “Listen to what I’m telling you.” face. She did not see it often so she made sure to listen when he had that look.

“How do you know?” Dread asked. “There’s infinite universes out there, right?” Vegas nodded.

“Yep, there are. But, Ballisea’s out there too…” Vegas started to explain, but Dread interrupted him.

“We met her, and we totally survived,” Dread puffed her chest out, and deliberately chose to leave out the fact that Ballisea let them live on purpose. Vegas chuckled.

“Well of course you did, she won’t kill Uniques ‘less they get under her skin. It’s Zeroes she goes through like popcorn. I wanna know what went down, but first lemme finish what I was sayin’,” Vegas said.

“I mentioned Ballisea was out there. Not as a warning, but because she’s still out there killing Zeroes. She kills every Zero she sees, hoping to spawn her husband again.” He explained. A noise distracted them. Dirge and Dread looked towards the entrance to see Lauren, Vegas’ wife, coming into the house.

“Hey girls! How’s it going?” she asked, excited to see the teenagers. “Staying for dinner?” she lifted a pair of shopping bags to indicate there was plenty. Dread stood from the couch and grabbed the shopping bags from Lauren without a word. “Thanks, Dread!” With her hands-free, she walked to the loveseat and sat next to Vegas. Dread came back from the kitchen, and Dirge looked at her for an answer. She nodded her head.

“Yeah, we’d love to stay, thanks!” Dirge said. Dread sat next to Dirge.

“You’re just in time, babe,” Vegas said. “The girls were gonna tell me about their run-in with Ballisea.”

“And Flutter!” Dread added. She stood from the couch and reached into her pocket to pull out Flutter’s golden scale. She held it up proudly for Vegas and Lauren to see.

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” Vegas said and stood from the loveseat. As a habit Dirge replied.

“Oooh oooh aah,” she giggled. Vegas and Lauren joined in, but it was the first time Dread had seen the interaction. “Cause he’s my uncle,” Dirge explained in a whisper to Dread while Vegas disappeared to the kitchen.

“Oh. okay,” Dread said. Vegas returned with a large, long, golden box.

“Bring that scale over here, let’s try something.” Vegas set the box on the table with a heavy drop. Dread walked over with the scale, Dirge and Lauren also moved closer to watch.

“What is it?” Dread asked.

“Well,” Vegas said with a grin aimed at Dread. “If that’s really Flutter’s scale you got there, then you can consider this a reward. This used to belong to Flutter,” Vegas pointed at a small black circle on the top of the box. “And only she can open it. But that scale should do the trick.” Dread stepped forward and pressed the scale against the black circle. It blinked a flashing green light, made a beeping sound, then the top of the box unlatched.

“Congratulations. Now thank your lucky stars that Flutter isn’t known for holding grudges.” Vegas opened the box. Inside a long sword with a wide green blade and a golden handle rested in a green silk-lined recess.

“Whoa…are you sure I can have it?” Dread asked. “Wait, what do you mean she doesn’t hold grudges? How do you know that?” Dread pulled the sword out while she waited for Vegas’ response. It felt heavier in her hand than her axe in the AlterNet. She gave it a couple of test swings and decided she liked her axe better.

“Flutter’s as gentle as a kitten, everyone knows that. That’s why I’ve been telling you to run if you see either of them. They won’t chase you,” Dread gave Dirge a side-glance when Vegas said that, because Ballisea seemed to take a special interest in them. Dirge giggled. “And if you get out of their way they won’t bother you.”

“If Flutter’s so gentle why’s she evil and killing Zeroes with Ballisea?” Dirge asked.

“She doesn’t have a choice,” Vegas looked at Dread. “You especially need to listen to this. Calaveras are as tough as they are because they’re meant to be guardians. Calaveras can form a link with a Celestial Unique that makes them both stronger, but that link is kinda like an open door between their minds. They’ve been linked for so long, and Ballisea is so powerful that she can pretty much run Flutter’s mind if she wants to. Luckily for everyone she doesn’t want to very often. The point is, Flutter will do anything Ballisea really wants her to do, and she’ll think it’s her own idea to do it. You can’t reason with her, can’t fight back against that kind of mind control. It’s best to stay out of their way,” Vegas said. Then he nodded at the sword in Dread’s hand. “But if you run into them, there’s nothing else that’ll hurt Ballisea as much as that sword.” Dread lifted the sword and examined it with newfound awe. She discovered nearly invisible intricate golden lines etched into the sparkling green blade.

“Is it enchanted?” Dread asked. Vegas laughed.

“Nah, nothing like that. Ballisea’s really petty and takes a lot of things personally. She hates that sword.”

“Yes I do,” Ballisea’s voice said from a corner of the room. Everyone turned to see her stepping out of a black portal into Vegas’ house.

Glorious Purpose

Sunday Free Write [Link to post.] (8-12-18)


“Hey,” Dread called Dirge’s attention. The two girls were on their way out of the Schoolyard to Jelly-Jim’s place. “Glory seemed cool.” She wanted to console Dirge but did not know enough about her or Glory to do it effectively. The shorter girl with raven curls nodded silently as they walked through the public square. After they passed through the crowded hub Dirge turned right instead of the left turn Dread expected.


“Did you get lost or is it me? I thought Jelly_Jim’s was that way,” Dread pointed down a stone road to their left.


“Do you remember Glory promoting me to Quartermaster before she died?” Dirge asked. Dread nodded. “She asked me to do something for and I need to get something from her shop to do it.”


“Okay.” Dread nodded and let Dirge lead the way. They walked a few more steps in silence before either of them spoke again.


“She was the first Zero I thought I could be friends with,” Dirge said quietly. “Ballisea said your mom was a Zero, right?”


“Yeah,” Dread nodded. “After I found Ballisea’s orbs, I hoped I’d find my way back home again. Even if I did, it would be to see my dad. My mom wouldn’t have lived that long.” Dirge stopped walking in front of a shop and walked into it. Dread tried to follow her, but any time she tried to cross the threshold nanos formed a barrier to stop her.


“Hey,” she called Dirge. The curly haired girl turned around in the shop surprised to see Dread still outside.


“OH! Sorry, the shop’s still closed,” Dirge said. She brought up a translucent square in front of her and swiped through it a few times. “Okay, try it now,” she said. Dread reach a hand up and pushed it past the door, then the rest of her body stepped inside the shop.


“So she gave you the shop?” Dread asked. She glanced around at all the instruments hanging from the walls and decorating the display table.


“Nah. I don’t have time to run it anyway. But she did ask me to find someone to give it to.” Dirge walked around the sales counter and crouched out of sight to search the lower shelf.


“Whoa. How’re you going to pick?” Dread asked. Dirge rose from behind the counter with a Node in her hand.


“With this!” Dirge inserted the Node into a slot on the sales counter. The surface of the counter vibrated slightly and then changed from sturdy wood to near-invisible smooth glass. Small-print text appeared in rows on the glassy surface. The text stretched from one edge of the counter to the other, and top to bottom. Dread realized the text was a long list of names.


“Is that her friend’s list?” Dread asked, but Dirge smiled and shook her head. She placed a hand on the counter and swiped to her left. The display moved, all the rows of names disappeared to the left while more came in from the right. Dirge swiped it again several times.


“It’s her Zeroes. The Alternet lets Zeroes form a group chat with themselves and she kept their info on this Node.”


“You have to give the shop to one of them? That looks easy, there’re thousands to choose from. We can do that before we go back to Jelly_Jim if you want,” Dread offered, but Dirge shook her head again, still smiling brightly.


“No way, I’m gonna take my time and do it right for her.” Dirge sounded excited. “But, we do need to make a stop before we go back to Jelly_Jim.” Dread shrugged.


“Okay, where to?” Dread asked, but Dirge was already half-way through a pitch black portal. Realizing she wouldn’t get an answer Dread followed her into the dark. She recognized the quaint house waiting for her on the other side.


“UNCLE VEGAS!” Dirge cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled toward the house. After a few seconds a short man with a blue mohawk opened the front door, then the screen door.


“Hey shortcake, why all the fuss?” Dirge dashed from the yard to run up the steps, then she leaped towards Vegas to wrap her arms around him.


“I FOUND MY CARROT!” she yelled while squeezing him. The attack hug caught him by surprise, but he settled into it quickly and returned the hug. They danced back and forth in joy while Dread approached up the steps.


“No foolin’?  That’s great!” Vegas smiled at the girl.


“When did you find a carrot?” Dread asked. She did not know what to make of the sudden joy, but she wanted to know why Dirge was so happy. Dirge shook her head.


“Not A carrot. MY carrot. It’s something Vegas taught me, and he made me promise I’d tell him when I found it,” Dirge explained.  Dread shrugged and looked at Vegas. He held up a finger to get her to wait, then he stepped inside the house. He returned after several seconds holding a small wooden rod, string, and a carrot. He held the stick up horizontally and the carrot fell partway until it pulled the string taut.


“A carrot on a stick is used to keep animals moving forward.” He held the rod above his head to dangle the carrot in front of his face, then he walked forward trying to bite it. “They’ll never reach it, but they don’t know that. A carrot is something that gets you moving, without worrying about the outcome. My daddy told me that if I found my carrot I’d have a life goal to work towards,” Vegas explained, then he lowered the stick. Dread looked back at Dirge.


“I don’t get it.”


“Might be easier to explain it with an example,” Vegas said. He also turned his attention to Dirge. “You came all this way, what’s your carrot?” Dirge pulled Glory’s Node from her pocket. She held it up to show Dread and smiled at her.


“I want to meet Glory and be friends with her. As many as I can.”

Adventures in Babysitting (5-9-18)

[WP] You’re babysitting. [Link to post.]

“You know where everything is, make yourself at home. And keep a card on you, just in case.” Robin, Threnody’s red-headed mother related instructions to the short man with a blue mohawk that held her daughter. Her husband, an imposing man named Posie, stood at the open door ready to leave. Vegas, the short man, nodded while bouncing the six year old dark haired child in his arms. 

“Awww don’t worry. We done this plenty of times, ain’t we Threnny?” Vegas said squeezing the child’s puffy baby cheek. Her orange eyes sparkled in the sunlight while she giggled. Vegas babysat Threnody Ingram three or four times a year, to give her parents a break. She was a special child and they needed it. 

“Bye daddy, bye mommy!” Threnody waved at her parents, almost rushing them out the door. Robin stepped forward and kissed her daughter on the forehead.

“Bye honey, we’ll see you in a week.” Posie stepped out of the house with a wave after Robin passed by him on her way out. 

“Bye guys, have fun.” Posie closed the door behind him. The second they were gone Vegas dropped the child to the hardwood floor of the livingroom. She was ready for it and landed on her feet.

“What’s it gonna be, Shortcake?” Vegas asked. He knelt down in front of the six year old. She met Vegas’ eyes and stroked her chin with her thumb and forefinger while she thought about it.

“First,” Threnody held up a single, tiny finger between her and Vegas. “I’m hungry. Can we go to Chang’s?” Vegas bounced his mohawk in agreement then stood to grab the child’s hand. 

“Donna Chang’s it is,” Vegas said. Threnody gestured at the air next to them with her free hand causing a vertical pitch black portal to open. Without hesitation Vegas stepped through, Threnody followed while they held hands. On the other side of the portal the two found themselves inside a walk-in freezer. 

“They musta remodeled,” Vegas said. He opened the door to a hot and busy kitchen. Three line cooks worked the woks while several other workers appeared to be doing prep work. Wait stuff walked in and out of the kitchen at regular intervals, but no one seemed to pay any attention to the short man and little girl that walked out of the freezer. They made their way to the front of the house where an elderly Asian woman, the owner Donna Chang, noticed them and greeted the pair with enthusiasm. 

“Vegas! So good to see you again,” Mrs. Chang said, then she turned her attention downward toward the young girl. “And Miss Threnody too!” The elder woman reached into the front pocket of her apron, slightly yellow with age and oil and withdrew her hand to offer Threnody a piece of dragon shaped chocolate candy wrapped in a red and gold foil wrapper. The little girl accepted the sweet with a smile.

“Sit! Order anything, free for you guys.” Mrs. Chang said. She guided them over to a booth, then wandered into the kitchen. Vegas slid into his side, Threnody sat on her knees and haunches across from him. 

“Can I get the Dragon Heart?” Threnody asked as she looked over the menu. The Dragon Heart was a secret item not listed. Vegas shook his head. 

“Nope, I didn’t sign on for that much trouble. Your usual’s good enough.” Vegas teased the young girl while he browsed the menu. She gave a slight pout and browsed the menu. After some time the waitress came and took their orders. The two enjoyed their meal and spent the rest of the time talking about what Threnody wanted to do after dinner. 

“Can we find an ending?” Threnody asked between bites of crispy sweet & sour chicken. Vegas shrugged.

“I don’t know about that, we only got a week,” Vegas said. As he spoke Mrs. Chang approached the table. 

“Everything okay?” She asked. Vegas nodded.

“Delicious as always, Mrs. Chang,” he said. 

“Do you know where we can find an ending?” Threnody asked the older woman. The woman smiled and nodded. 

“I do know of one right now. It’s only good for another week or so, I think.” Mrs. Chang said. Threnody jumped to her feet standing on the red booth seat. She bounced to the edge near the old woman and stuck her hand out. The grey haired woman grabbed the little girl’s hand and sent a pulse of golden energy up the girl’s arm. 

“Thanks!” Threnody said, giving the old woman a thumbs up gesture. Then she turned to face Vegas. “Let’s GO!” She bounced jumped in place on the seat. Vegas smiled at her then scooted himself out of the booth. He stood in front of Mrs. Chang and bowed his head slightly. 

“Thanks for the meal, Mrs. Chang. You’re the best.” The woman smiled and nodded. 

“Come back any time,” she said. Then, deciding the conversation was over she walked back toward the kitchen. Vegas grabbed Threnody’s hand. 

“Waitin’ on you,” he said. Threnody smiled and waved a gesture at the air with her hand to open another black portal, using the frequency Mrs. Chang gave her. The two stepped through the portal.  

They found a dark and cold Earth. Vegas could feel the cold dirt even through his white snakeskin boots. He still held Threnody’s hand and felt the little girl shiver. The cold air around him felt still, as if no one had so much as breathed on the planet. Threnody walked around the dark Earth, her orange eyes glowed with golden light. 

“It’s so pretty!” she said. Vegas nodded as he stared at the darkness. He did not have Threnody’s ability to see in the dark, it left him somewhat unsettled. He chuckled to himself that he felt safe with Threnody nearby even though he was the babysitter. 

“Can we stay the week? I don’t wanna miss it,” Threnody said. She continued to walk circles around Vegas staring out at the darkness, seeing things that she would be the only one to ever see. 

“I don’t see a problem with it, but let’s go get some supplies first.” Vegas wrapped his arms around himself and rubbed his arms up and down for extra warmth. “It’s cold.”

“Well duh,” Threnody said. She opened a portal in the air next to them, close enough where Vegas could see it. “The sun’s gone out. This universe is about to die, and we get to watch! It’s gonna be so awesome!” She ran into her portal eager to fetch supplies. 

Orientation (2-27-18)

[WP] “Excellent choice, we shall transport you immediately,” the voice says as you step back from the console labelled PERSONAL UNIVERSE RELOCATOR.[Link to post.]

“Hey, you hear that? I made an excellent choice,” Ricky said. He looked at the other occupants of the small room. His best friend, Hector, and two people he met six months ago for the first time. A short man with a tall blue mohawk who called himself Vegas, and a woman with short spikey black hair and golden arms named Jenny.

“It’s a recording. It says that no matter what you pick,” Jenny said. Hector chuckled

“Yeah man,” he said while still laughing. “Besides, you don’t even know what universe you picked. You just pressed buttons randomly.”

“Traversing in 3,” the console began a countdown. The lights dimmed, then Ricky and Hector took a step closer to Vegas and Jenny.

“Why are we using this? I thought you guys could do it without the equipment?” Hector asked. Over the past 6 months since Ricky and Hector met Vegas and Jenny, the strangers taught them a lot, and revealed some of their secrets.

“Jenny can,” Vegas said. “But it’s important for you to know how to use this, because we’re not always going to be around.” Vegas idly rolled a poker chip along the top of his fingers while they waited.

“1. Traversing,” the console said. The lights went out completely for several seconds, then they reignited. They still stood in the same small room.

“Everything still looks the same,” Ricky complained to Hector.

“Of course it does,” Jenny said. She took a step forward toward the door they came in through. “You guys are still *in the elevator*, you know? C’mon out and take a look.” Jenny opened the door and the fluorescent lights of the confining room were drowned out by red sunlight. She quickly shut the door again, and locked it.

“Nope, bad choice Ricky,” Jenny chuckled and back to the console. “Just a second, let me update this, then we can try again.” Jenny began typing on the console.

“What happened? Hector asked.

“This universe isn’t safe anymore, so it’s gotta be blocked outta the system,” Vegas explained.

“That can happen?” Ricky asked. “How?” Vegas shrugged and went quiet. He made an effort to study the bare walls while Jenny worked on the console.

“Usually it happens naturally. Some universes are really old, and we’ll know ahead of time that it’s going to die. Sometimes someone conquers a universe.

“There’s someone out there with that kind of power?” Ricky asked. Jenny nodded without taking her eyes off her work.

“Tons of someones. Remember, there’s infinite universes out there, and tons of [Unique Souls](http://hserratafun.blogspot.com/2017/11/hugoverse-guidebook.html). Not all of them are good,” Jenny said. “There, that should do it.” She took her golden hands off the keyboard and hit a button.

“Access to this universe has been restricted. Reason: Ballisea. Traversing in 3,” the console said.

“What’s a Ballisea?” Hector asked.

“A Unique. But, not a good one,” Jenny said.

“She was powerful enough to conquer a universe?” Ricky asked with awe in his voice. Vegas chuckled.

“Kid, you don’t know the half of it. Hey, what’s the biggest, definite number you can think of. Not infinity, it needs to be a hard quantity.”

“A one with a trillion zeroes behind it,” Hector answered.

“A one with a trillion *TRILLION* zeroes behind it,” Ricky gave his answer. Vegas nodded at both of them.

“Alright the biggest number, a trillion trillion zeroes. Even if we *doubled* that number, it would still be less than the amount of universes Ballisea has conquered,” Vegas said solemnly.

“That number is just for the Earths. The amount of lives she’s taken is staggeringly unimaginable,” Jenny added.

“Isn’t there anyone that can stop her?” Jenny and Vegas both lightly shook their heads.

“No single person can, but there is someone with a plan. His name is Regal, and you’ll meet him when you start school. He’s the principal at Toku-High,” Jenny said.

Soldier of Peace (2-19-18)

[WP] You pull the rusty knife out of your chest and watch you skin pull itself back together, “Hey not bad,” you say, “the last guy trying to win the bounty didn’t make it through the front door.” [Link to post.]

Paz stood at the sink washing her dish when a sudden loud crash startled her. She whirled around to find the door on the ground and two people standing in the doorway staring at her. A young woman older than Paz herself along with an even older, but short man. The man’s blue mohawk gave him some extra height, but he still appeared shorter than the woman next to him. He wore several gold chains around his neck and the gaudiest white and gold suit Paz ever saw in her young life. His white snakeskin boots only added to the tackiness. The woman wore a purple and gold hoodie, with the hood pulled down behind her head. Her short spiked hair glowed with bright blue light. Her hands were covered with black and gold gloves. Without a word the young woman’s hands moved in a golden blur, then Paz felt pressure on her chest. She looked down to see a purple, metallic knife handle sticking out of her chest. Paz pulled the knife out, and the two strangers watched through the hole in her shirt as her skin pulled itself together to seal the wound. She tossed the knife over her shoulder and it made several hollow clangs as it bounced around in the sink.

“Hey not bad. The last guy trying to get the bounty didn’t even make it through the door.” Paz smirked, and her dark brown eyes sparkled in the dim light of the kitchen. Paz clenched her fists and charged at the blue haired woman. She let her first swing miss the woman’s smiling face. Paz knew the strangers would underestimate her because of her age. Despite being only 14 Paz was a supernaturally gifted fighter.

The woman gripped Paz’s extended arm by the wrist and crouched. She turned in place to face out the door and yanked Paz onto her back. Then, she extended her legs heaving Paz over her shoulder to launch her out through the doorway. Outside the setting sun lit up the sky with orange and purple clouds.

Paz landed on her back in her front yard and admired the colorful sky for a second. The grass did little to soften her landing, but she felt no pain. She rolled to her right and jumped to her feet, ready for more.  

“Okay,” the woman said. Her smile grew broader and her hair glowed brighter. She unzipped the purple and gold hoodie to take it off, then tossed it to her short friend. The woman wore a purple t-shirt with a golden sun on it. After that she pulled her gloves off and tossed them on top of the hoodie. What Paz thought were gold and black gloves was a pair of black fingerless gloves. Now that her arms were exposed Paz saw that the stranger’s pale arms became gold at the elbow. Her forearms and hands appeared to be made of solid gold metal. She moved toward Paz and raised her hands to a fighting stance when she stood in range. They sparkled in the fading sunlight.

Paz saw the stranger’s weight begin to shift, and she managed to brace herself in time. The woman twisted her hips and landed a powerful kick on Paz’s right side. Paz blocked, but the force of the kick sent her flying again. This time she landed on her left side in the driveway. Paz’s arm left several layers of skin and a streak of red on the concrete. She jumped up again ready to fight. The strangers watched her arm heal itself. The young girl realized she underestimated the woman and decided to stop taking it easy on her.

Paz charged at the stranger again, faster than before. She punched empty air four times as the woman dodged every single attack Paz made. After the fourth punch missed Paz grabbed a handful of blue spikes on the woman’s head as she pulled her hand back. This surprised the woman, Paz saw her purple eyes widen. Paz pulled the woman’s head down hard, and lifted her knee in the same motion. Paz could not feel pain, but she felt the pressure of the woman’s skull against her knee.

“owww.” The woman grumbled. She yanked her head upward, free of Paz’s grip, but the young girl expected this. While the stranger moved backward Paz ran around behind her and wrapped her arms around the woman’s waist. She used the stranger’s momentum against her and hefted upward. Paz arched her back and pulled with all her might to smash the woman’s head into the driveway with a suplex. Paz released her and rolled away to jump to her feet again, ready to take on the short man.

“OWWwwwwwwah!” The woman yelled. The voice startled Paz, she assumed the woman was knocked out, or possibly dead. The young girl turned her attention back toward the woman and saw her standing up rubbing the back of her head. The blue glow disappeared completely leaving only dark black spikes. Her guard completely lowered. Instead of looking at Paz she glared at her partner.

VEGAS! NO FAIR!” The woman yelled while stomping toward the blue mohawk. Paz looked to the man to see him put his hands up in a shrug.

“Wasn’t me, Jen. Kid’s good,” he said. “You’re the one foolin’ around.” The woman stopped in her tracks and turned to face Paz again.

“Really?” She asked softly. Behind her Vegas nodded.

“Yep,” he said. Jenny’s bright smile appeared again.

“Awesome.” Jenny grabbed her hoodie from Vegas and slipped it on. “Okay, Paz. Let’s chat.” She waved the young girl over, but Paz did not lower her guard.

“Relax, we’re not here to hurt you,” Jenny said. Paz gave a loud scoff.

” ‘Tcha. Says the woman that introduced herself with a knife to my chest.” Paz did not move. Jenny giggled.

“Well? Did it hurt?” She asked.

“Uh, no. But you didn’t know that,” Paz retorted. Jenny nodded.

“Sure I did, that’s why we’re here. You’re special.” She walked forward while putting her gloves back on. She reached Paz and stuck out her hand in greeting.

“Hi, I’m Jenny.” Paz finally lowered her guard and shook the woman’s hand with a confused look on her face.

“You mean you’re not here for the bounty?” Jenny turned to look at Vegas. He shrugged, then she turned back to Paz.

“What bounty?” Jenny asked.

The Rundown (2-6-18)

You’re just an average guy with a passive super power – whenever something is about to hurt you, time slows to a crawl so you can escape to safety. You’ve been running for 5 minutes now, time is still moving like molasses. [Link to post.]

If nothing else, feeling like an idiot while running for your life is a new experience. I chalked things up to blind luck at first, but it kept happening. Whenever I was in serious danger, things somehow slowed down; it gave me time to find a safe spot. It did not take long until I took it for granted, and got lazy about watching for danger. But I never thought about it. I never said to myself, “Self. You should learn more about this awesome thing you can do.” I definitely regretted it. But if nothing else, running for the past five minutes has been educational. Now I knew why everyone I passed appeared to be standing still. I turned back to check if she was still following me. She was. 

The young woman kept up with me somehow. Her arms swung left and right as she skated close behind me. I’d never seen skates like hers. The wheels of her rollerblades left behind short golden trails. Thin ribbons of light of faded into nothing a couple of feet behind her. On those skates she was as fast as me. It figures I’d realize my power was super speed on my last day. Half an hour ago I sat in a pizza shop enjoying some lunch while studying, then she walked up to my table. 

“Hi, I’m Jenny.” She pulled off the hood of her gold and purple hoodie to reveal short spikey black hair. Then she reached a hand out a gloved hand to greet me. The glove was black with golden fingers. I grasped it and the golden parts felt like cool metal against my hand.

“Hi Jenny. I’m Frank.” Jenny sat down in the booth across from me. “What’s going on?” I asked. 

“Frank, I’ve been watching you for a while.” She leaned forward over the table. “I know what you can do.” She surprised me. I’d never really tried to keep my ability a secret, but since I couldn’t use it at will there was no point in showing it off. 

“So?” I asked. 

“*You* don’t know what you can do. It’s frustrating,” She flicked a crumb off the table. “I’m so bored here!” She whined at me like a kid sister expecting her older brother to fix the situation.

“So? Go find some entertainment. You don’t have to bother strangers.” I tried shooing her away, she laughed. 

“Your head is on pretty straight for a 14 year old. How about you entertain me?” She asked. I caught a sparkle of gold in her eyes, but chalked it up to a reflection from the intimate lighting in the pizzeria. 

“Can’t. Studying.” I turned my attention back to my laptop in the hope that she’d leave. 

“Wait.” She reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “I want to show you something.” She sat up straight and scanned the restaurant. Another couple in a corner sharing a work lunch were the only other patrons in the restaurant. The focused on each other, and couldn’t see us if they did look our way. 

Jenny held my right hand with her left on the wooden table. My palm faced up toward Jenny’s right hand; it hovered in the air above mine. 

“Check it,” Jenny said. Her eyes focused on the fingertips of her right hand. A thin golden blade appeared behind her fingers. 

“I catch you…” Time slowed down. I felt my power kick in while I watched her stab the golden blade toward my hand. I yanked my hand away just in time and she stabbed her own hand. I moved quickly to grab napkins for the blood. I expected her to scream in pain, but she finished her thought instead. “… I kill you.” She showed me the wound in her hand. I saw right through the hole, with no sign of any blood anywhere. The hole filled itself in until her hand was whole again. “GO!” She took another swing at me wit the knife, and I ran out of the restaurant. 

She chased me around the world, skating across the ocean on golden light. 10 minutes after we started I tripped. In some back alley in Las Vegas, some idiot left a small pail full of red and white dice in my way. Jenny was gaining on me, and I’d been splitting my focus. I tried to dodge the pail and stepped wrong. I twisted my ankle while running at top speed, and the pain forced me to the ground.  

“Are you okay?” Jenny ran to my side. 

“Stay back!” I tried crawling away backwards. I reached behind me to gain ground and grabbed something smooth, thin and scaly. It undulated like a snake under my hand.

“Ready to go?” I heard a man’s voice behind me. I turned and found my hand holding on to a white snakeskin boot. I looked up at the owner of the foot in the boot. He looked like a short guy, though he tried making up the difference with a tall blue mohawk. 

Vegas! I told you I could get him by myself!” 

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?”