The Craft

From this writing prompt:


 

The Craft is both a particle and a wave. Time and space are exchangeable for The Craft. The time it spends as particle and wave doesn’t exist–the concept of time is null from its point of view in the state. The Craft snaps out of its dual state to a more singular, normal state, quite often. It does this millions of time. Whether it moves through the Universe or the Universe moves around it is immaterial.

In its singular state, The Craft observes the region it drifts in meticulously. It measures, weights, and evaluates, sensory data against its purpose and parameters. It determines relative position by the expanding patterns and temperature changes in cosmic background radiation.

The Universe ages over six billion years by the time The Craft’s sensory data meets its parameters. The bulk of The Craft is tucked away in a spiral of space-time. It slowly unfolds, exuding more material from its quantum state as it observes its stellar neighborhood with a cloud of nanostructures.

The additional information proves suitable, even fruitful. With a glacial progression easily mistaken for caution but is programmed deliberation, more mass unfolds from the twist of internalized space-time. The mass is laid out one atom at a time, a painstaking creation of structures which, in turn, create more. The process begins to accelerate as the number of assemblers increases.

The structures condense, interlock, build upon another. They grow from millimeters to meters, from meters to kilometers. Looping and whirling, staggering amounts of mass is turned into megastructures the size of gas giants. The churning mass turns again, momentum imparted by other structures.

When everything is ready, the tiny, quantum aperture, the original source for the vast machine, unfolds a last time. A world takes its place, with a single, huge moon. Orbital elevators are present, linking to the vast rings around the world and its moon.

The mega-structure that surrounds the world and moon impart momentum, the assembly orbiting the star.

Craft begin to buzz around.

The Earth has a new home.

Magical Girl: Part 2

Part 1 is here.

 


 

“Are you people insane?” My voice is rough, barely louder than a whisper. Tears make my eyes damp. I have a hard time focusing on the two women and the man across the shiny steel table. Drugs again. One of those needle things they can shoot from a gun, probably.

I almost laugh. A nine year old girl put to sleep like a rhino or tiger.

“Why would you do this again? Didn’t you learn the last time? Or before that? How stupid are you?”

They frown, look between each other. They didn’t expect my anger. They never do. The woman on the left starts to speak. I interrupt her.

“Why do you keep making her mad?” I shout the last word. Spit it in their stupid adult faces.

I test the bonds holding my legs and arms. The cuffs at ankles are tight but my hands are loose. I can move them several inches. Good.

“We want to understand what is happening,” the woman says. “The things your, ah, friend can do. They defy all known physics.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I mutter. I taunt them. I can’t help it. “Conservashion of energy. E equals eem cee squares. Square root laws. I’ve heard it before.”

I stare at them. They are taken aback. Not by my hostility—anger isn’t on my face. It’s pity.

“You have to let me go,” I tell them. “Whatever you drugged her with won’t last. That crystal shell covering her will open and she’ll come out. And she’ll be pissed.”

“We have time,” the other woman says. “She’s surrounded by a—”

“Stasis field? Electromcnugget barrier? Lasers? A ton of C4? Entombed in concrete?” I smirk when expressions change. “Concrete? Are you serious? That’s what you dick heads tried the first time!”

My laughter fills the room. Shrill, but I don’t care.

“You’re going to die! You’re all going to die! Again!”

The man swallows. “Give her a sedative.”

“Won’t work,” I tell them. “She made me happy.”

I lean forward. Another smirk as they twitch back. “She’s been quiet before. Several times. You know that with your satellites. Didn’t you twits realize this has been done before? Don’t you realize every try failed?”

I sigh. “I’m a princess. It’s her duty to protect me from the monsters. And you people are the monsters.”

The room shakes. Dust drifts from the ceiling.

“She’s awake.”

The first women reaches across the table, her hand falters. “We’re being broadcast across the world. Tell us how to stop her.”

“You’re monsters,” I remind her. “You have to stop being monsters.”

The room twists. Crumbled concrete flows from the walls like water.

“How?”

Symbols flow through the air, seeking me out. They form layers on me like glowing bandages. Other lines touch the adults. Their blood sprays out.

None of it touches me.

“Be a pretty good idea to stop kidnapping her little sister.”

Jessie turns the mountain to rubble as she lifts me from it.

Writing Prompt: Magical Girl

Based on the following writing prompt:

[WP] You’re a teenage girl who discovers she has magic powers and is the chosen one. However, while the powers are real the quest and monsters you thought you had to fight are hallucinations.

 

“You can’t be serious,” Emily said. It’s not like I could blame her, I could barely believe it myself.

“I’m totally being honest, I swear!” I replied. I moved my hand, feeling the flow of power, as shapes and diagrams formed around me.

Emily gaped, made a squeaking sound, and stepped back.

“See? It’s not just pretty lights, either. I can make things and do things.” I spun in a circle, the figures flowing through the air to settle on my body. In seconds I went from wearing a comfy, over-sized t-shirt and shorts to an elegant, almost Chinese-style top, a pleated skirt, matching stockings and gloves, and some real cute shoes. All were covered with magical symbols.

The lights faded as the spell ended. I jumped up and down, danced and skipped around my little sister, “isn’t this awesome!”

She was covering her eyes.

“What?”

“You forgot panties!”

I felt my cheeks turn bright red, the blush working its way down my neck.

“Oops! Um. Just a second.” I concentrated, letting the current of knowledge pour through me. Huh. That was weird. I grabbed a pair from my dresser. “Guess I still need some wardrobe stuff!”

“Jessie, this is crazy. What happened?”

“Dunno,” I told her. I was preening in front of my mirror. I couldn’t believe my hair. Sparkles and dancing motes of light shifted through the dozens of elegant braids below a rakish beret.

“Something had to happen!”

“Well,” I admitted. “I had a weird dream.”

“What kind of dream?”

“Um. Hard to remember,” I admitted. “There were these things outside the house. Ruffo started talking to me, asking me something.” My voice faded as I tried to remember.

“What?” Emily picked Ruffo off the dresser. The stuffed animal looked like an elephant, though it had a lion’s mane and legs more like bird’s. I’d been in a sullen mood when I picked the toy at the end of our vacation in Rome. Now he was my ally!

I winked back at him as he held still in Emily’s grasp.

“I’m not sure any more.” I tried to frown, but found I couldn’t. I was too giddy. I grabbed Ruffo and twirled again, laughter bubbling from me–literally! Effervescent purple and green bubbles drifted around my head.

I tossed Ruffo on my bunk before grabbing Emily’s hand and pulling her to the door. “Let’s show Mom and Dad!”

“Should we?” Emily questioned. “Aren’t these things supposed to be secret?”

“Ruffo said there wouldn’t be a problem.”

“Why’s it so quiet?” Another question from Em. Usually her incessant questions irritated me, but not today! Besides, she was right. Zoe, our aunt-turned-babysitter should be up by now chatting with The Parents. Even a lazy Saturday morning would be a minor riot between the adults and the dogs.

We were on the landing, with the stairs a dozen feet away. Emily tried to hang back, but I skipped around to half hug and half push her to the stairs.

“What’s that–” Emily’s voice stopped. We both did.

The hardwood floor at the base of the stairs was stained dark. It had a sticky look to it which made my stomach lurch. Yet at the same time, the metallic scent drifting from downstairs caused a rush of hunger.

Vague memories teased my mind. Last night was pretty hectic. “Did someone spill some Ketchup?” I skipped down the stairs.

As the state of the house became apparent, my steps slowed. Scorch marks covered the floors and walls. What was left of them. Holes and tears everywhere. Bits of ceiling fell, passing through the gaping holes in the floor to join the debris in the basement.

“Wow!” My pace quickened. “That was some fight.” I flashed a grin up at Emily. “Wish I could remember it better.”

Her eyes were wide and fixed on something past me. I turned and looked. “Oh, yeah! One of the monsters got inside somehow.”

My feet were light on the stairs. In moments I was in front of Emily. “Don’t worry, Em! It’s really, really, dead!”

I took her hands and led her down. A touch of magic and we drifted through the wreckage to the kitchen. “We can get breakfast and–Hey. What’s that noise?”

I left Emily at the table and danced to the sink to look through the window. “Oh crap!” There were several monsters creeping around the yard. Were they trying to resurrect the two I’d slain by the garage? Magic popped and sparked beyond them, blues and red harsh in my eyes.

I gathered magic, feeling my skin tingle with the rush of power. “Don’t worry, Em! I’ll take care of them!”

Her face was pale, her eyes wet with tears. She couldn’t take her eyes from the pieces of the monster’s carcass strewn across the front hall. “Zoe?”

I gathered her up in a hug, placing a mild euphoria spell on her. “Wait here, Em. Those orcs don’t look very strong! Not like the ogres last night!”

She started to smile as I turned do to battle. Power lanced out from me, collected the ruined walls and floors, and converted half the house into a mass of gleaming weapons.

There were only a few of them. This wouldn’t take long.

Writing Prompt: Make a Wish

This is a response to the following prompt on reddit. I had a lot of fun with it, not too happy with my verb tenses. I need an editor. (: About 5K words. The story was written the last couple days while streaming https://www.twitch.tv/wyrdewyn

Titan is one of the most powerful metas in the entire Solar system. Some quirk of her alien genetics gave her the best of everything in our corner of the galaxy in excessive quantities. And to be fair, she lives and breathes it with a level of joy and passion which infuriates me.

She is so damn happy. All the freaking time.

Like just now, when she punched me with her lips curved in a quirky grin. As if she were sharing a secret: *Watch this!*

I flew back, managing to angle my shield under the blow enough to miss a skyscraper. Another measure of my infuriation with the giddy twat. She is so high on power and righteousness she doesn’t realize how difficult it is to avoiding trashing a city during our fights.

More than a little of my irritation rose from how evenly matched we were. Magic verses alien meta-genetics. Her pure strength, innate durability, and supersonic speed coupled with an astounding healing factor against my versatility. In the right circumstances, I was one of the few opponents on Earth who could hurt her.

But to be honest, what I find truly aggravating is her beauty.

She’s not even freaking human, and she is damned gorgeous. Built like a goddess, tall as a supermodel, and sublimely elegant even in her costume’s ridiculous heels. I, a natural human, am a scrawny stick of a girl.

The world was convinced for the first ten years of my career I was a boy. The paparazzi who snapped those pictures of me in a Cancun hotel was charged with distributing CP.

Sure, I arranged the charges. He was a jerk. That they stuck, despite my *obviously* being over twenty years old? *Almost* as galling as the peels of laughter from Titan when a talk show host surprised her with the news.

At least Titan has one redeeming quality. She’s not very bright.

She gave me several seconds of rest as I flew through the air, all the time I needed to prepare layers of defenses, even an atta—eh? A strange noise caught my attention.

My phone pinged again.

“Hold up,” I said as she rushed me.

She powered through layers of magical shielding anyway. “What?” I think she looks like a goldfish when surprised—the rest of the world considers the expression endearing.

“Got a phone call,” I told her.

“Seriously?” She became a blur as she zipped around me, looking for weaknesses in the next layer of my shield.

“Hey! Don’t be rude. This is an important call. It’s a charity.” I wiggled the phone at her.

“Yeah, right.” She levered a layer of the shield away with a soft grunt. “What kind of charity would call you?” Her voice dripped with sarcasm. Her version of it, anyway.

“Don’t try sarcasm, dear. It doesn’t suit you. It’s Make-A-Wish.” I showed her the logo on the phone.

“You have got to be kidding me.” At least she stopped pulling on the shield.

“Why, you want to listen?”

She mimicked a gasping fish as she tried to process the concept charities would even *want* to contact me.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” A push of my thumb and the phone was in speaker mode.

I rather enjoyed her changing expressions as I talked to my contact at the charity.

“She said this is your tenth time this year!” She accused me after I hung up. During the conversation we’d drifted to a rooftop. I was tempted to stay on the parapet—but she still stood several inches above me.

“So?” I hopped down to the roof.

“They only ask me a couple times a year.”

“They’re probably afraid you’ll poke someone’s eyes out with those things.” I glanced up at her chest.

Her cheeks colored as her arms folded over her chest. “That’s not my fault! Earth is cold!”

“More seriously, a lot of people like the way you look—they just don’t want to be near you.”

Her stare was heated enough I worried about laser blasts. “But you kill people! Ruin economies! Destroyed that island! Did that,” she hesitated. Blushed again. “Those things. With those creatures.”

My shrug caused my hair to dance on my shoulders. “I don’t intimidate people. You do. Deal with it.” Is that a pout she turned on me? Hard to tell from my angle.

Okay. This conversation grew more enjoyable by the second. She presented me with an opportunity.

I smiled.

“So here’s the thing. You heard Ms. Clemmons. Little Sally is dying so I have to get there right away.” While it was true I received a lot of calls from the foundation, I was a last resort. So to speak. “Are you going to let me leave?”

The edge of the shield she gripped began to shatter under her strength.

“I can’t!” The words came from her like a curse. “I have to stop you.”

“This is Sally’s last wish.” My gentle tone gave the words a cutting edge.

“I can’t let you go! The things you’ll do after the visit.” Her head shook.

“I don’t have time—SALLY doesn’t have time—to argue sense into you. So, I’ll offer you a deal.” My finger moved as I spoke, a diagram of ruddy light forming in the air.

“What are you,” her hand lashed out. Fingers stopping at the last instant. “Is that one of those things?”

“Yes. A contract.” Symbols glowed in the air between us. “I promise, after the visit, to allow you ten minutes to do whatever you want with me. You can snap my neck if you want.”

“I’d never!”

“Or toss me in some jail. Whatever.”

More glyphs appeared in the air. “You cannot, however, interfere in any way with the visit.”

“This. This contract. It’s binding?”

“Yeah. At the end of the visit, my own power will bind me. This contract is scribed on the celestial spheres, the source of my power. Either agree to the contract, let me go, or fight.” I curled me lips in a snarl and my voice filled with loathing. “I guarantee you will not enjoy this fight.”

The depth of my emotion surprised us both. She swallowed.

“Okay.”

Drops of my blood suffused the swirling patterns of the contract as I dragged my finger over one of the spines at the edge.

“I, Satin Lovelace, hereby bind myself to this contract.”

She hesitated.

“Your turn,” I prompted.

“I, K’lanna Des Valorian, bind myself to this contract.”

She gasped at the pain as her own finger was lanced. Even her blood was beautiful: crimson with golden sparkles which caught at the light.

Magic could penetrate her skin, cut and wound her, but only in specific circumstances.

The contract split in two. I pinched a corner between my fingers and slapped it around my arm. Smoke rose as it burned into my skin. My lips tight from the pain, I grabbed hers and slapped it in a location more vindictive.

The mighty Titan dropped to her knees with a scream as her contract burned into her breast.

“Bet you haven’t felt pain like this in a while.” Spasms caused her body to quake and tremble. “My power will be bound after the visit. Yours is sealed until the visit is over.”

Eyes wide, filling with tears, she stared at me. “Yes that’s right. You’re completely helpless. Think about it for a few moments. I’m busy.”

I turned my back on her and uttered the words of power to open the portal. I wanted to watch her, but I really was in a hurry. Concentrating was difficult enough with the burning in my arm. At least it was soul-fire. I didn’t have to smell burnt flesh.

When the gate opened, I walked to the edge. I almost regretted turning to face her. Titan didn’t have the experience with pain I did. Especially not this kind, which clawed at her very essence.

It wasn’t compassion which caused my hesitation. My tongue touched my lips. She was so helpless. The things I could do to her. The contracts I could fulfill with her body.

But Sally was more important.

“Get up,” I said.

“I can’t,” she cried. A voice flilled with fear and agony.

I wasn’t a cruel person, not really. My decisions were based on necessity, practicality, and logic. Yet Titan gave rise to other emotions. A mixture of desires I pushed away for now. Mostly.

“Proximity is a factor in the contract. If I step through it without you, your soul—the very essence of what makes you, you—will come with me. Without your body.”

Her effort to stand was feeble and ineffectual.

“You’ll be a lifeless husk,” I prompted.

It still wasn’t enough.

“Can you imagine the things I could do with your body?”

Whatever she imagined caused her to retch. Interesting, but she still wasn’t moving.

“I’ll win.”

That did it.

Slowly, shaking like a newborn foal, she managed to rise to her feet. Took a step.

And promptly fell. Without her power, those heels were more than she could manage.

“Oh, good grief.” I curled my fingers in her mane of red-gold hair and dragged her sobbing body through the gate. While I am stronger than I look, magic took the brunt of her weight.

The terminus was a private hospital. It catered to the vastly rich and political powerful. Dragging Titan through the halls gained a number of looks, but the facility’s discretion protected her. No pictures or proof of her humiliation would travel.

It was a small place, but still large enough Titan managed to recover a little. Enough she could stand once she removed her boots.

The shock on the faces when I half-dragged, half-led her through the door was gratifying.

“It’s your lucky day, Sally,” I greeted the girl on the bed. “Two for one deal!” I gave Titan a push. “Say nice things to the girl. I need to talk to her parents.”

I looked at the girl past Titan. “Sally, see the symbols on her chest? Give them a poke or two. It’s fun! Like being a real super villain!” I pulled the girl’s parents to the corner of the room, forming a ward to keep our conversation private.

There was a mirror to one side which let me see the unfolding drama as we talked. The poor girl was so weak she could barely lift her arm. Titan bent her knees, leaning down to brush her chest against the girl’s fingers. Pain twisted her face at the touch.

Most of my contemporaries would consider Titan a fool for allowing the touch. I knew otherwise.

Sally didn’t want a second touch.

By the time our conversation was over and the contracts were signed, Titan was sitting in a chair, talking quietly with the girl. Her glance at me when the parents left was puzzled but she didn’t comment.

“Hi, Sally,” I chirped as I perched on the edge of the mattress. She wasn’t more than ten, so small she barely made a dent in the bed. I purposely picked a spot within arm’s length of Titan. “Sorry about the delay. Did your parents tell you what will happen?”

“Don’t you dar—” Titan started.

“Put a sock in it.”

Sally’s giggle stopped the heroine more effectively than my words.

“Excuse me, Sally, I need to talk to K’lanna a moment.” A finger touched the contract on my arm.

“Please don’t hurt her!” The force of her outburst left Sally panting.

I paused, looked at Titan. She braced herself, hands curled into fists.

“This is a wonderful moment, Sally. You have the power to stop me from hurting Titan. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?” My eyes met Titan’s. Damn it, even her eyes were beautiful. A rainbow of colors met my muddy brown.

“I guess?”

My finger moved. A gentle caress. Titan’s eyes left mine as her body arched, breath leaving her in a hiss. It wasn’t a sound born by pain.

“If I touch the contract in a gentle, pleasant way she feels the same,” I told them both. “If I were to pinch or slap.” I gave Sally a smile. “Well, you can guess.”

“Please don’t prove it.”

“Alright,” I answered. “Since this is your moment.”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“As for that. Back to my earlier question. Did your parents tell you anything?”

Titan was too busy to object again. With the noise she was making, she may not have heard.

The shake of Sally’s head was more of a twitch. “No. Only that I should ask for you.”

“Not your first choice, huh?” I smiled widely, showing my dimples.

She could still smile. I felt warmth touch my heart.

Damn her.

I stopped stimulating Titan. The heroine collapsed in the chair like a forgotten doll. Sweat beaded her skin.

“No,” the girl answered honestly. “But the foundation said you visited more than almost anyone else. Even heroes and football players.”

“I try to make time for it.” My glance at Titan was poignant.

Her cheeks turned an even darker red and she avoided my gaze.

“Sally, you have a choice to make. No one can make this decision for you. Not your parents. Not Titan. Not even me. In a very real way, I’m the executor of your will.” There was magic woven in my words, subtly granting her knowledge to ensure she understood.

We listened to Titan recovering her breath. Sally moved her chin in an abbreviated nod. “Tell me.”

I scribed more contracts in the air as I explained. “First is the easiest. Do nothing. You’ll die like the doctors say.”

Titan tensed in her chair. She didn’t interrupt, though.

“Second, you can use Titan’s healing ability. The circumstances are rather unusual, but her presence here does afford the opportunity. It has long term consequences, but you will be fully healed and able to live a long life. You’ll be bound to Titan and will share her powers. Instant sidekick!”

Titan’s eyes moved from Sally’s to mine. Confused expressions changed her features until she settled on pensive.

“Last, is the original reason your parents wanted me here. I will crystallize your consciousness. You will exist in a place of pleasant memories—there will be no fear and no pain. Your body will die naturally. Your essence, spirit, whatever you want to call it, will remain in the crystal.”

I pursed my lips in thought then felt a smile grow. I started a new contract. “I just realized. I can switch your consciousness with Titan’s. She’ll die in your body, but you will live on in hers.”

Titan rose, mouth opening, but Sally was already protesting. “No. I don’t want that. I could never do that to someone else.”

I waited for Titan to relax before I spoke. “But that’s what’s so fun about this option. This one isn’t your choice. It’s Titan’s.”

“Please don’t,” Sally said. “I couldn’t bear it.”

My own smile was radiant. “What do you say, Titan? Will you sacrifice your life for hers? She could be a superhero. The greatest wish.”

Oh, her expression—so beautiful. Touching my heart in an altogether different way than Sally’s smile. At the same time, I felt other emotions rising. Why did Titan remind me so much of the dying girl at this moment?

She looked away, fingers curling into fists again. The kid was giving her an easy out, but Titan knew what I saw in her eyes.

When I put my hand on Titan’s shoulder, I could feel her trembling under my fingers.

“Don’t worry, Sally. She hates me too much to switch.”

“Oh.” The girl’s voice held an odd note. She smiled weakly.

“That—That’s not it.” Titan wouldn’t meet either of our eyes though. Her eyes were on the wall. “What about the second option?”

“Instant sidekick? That’s my favorite, to be honest.” I kept my eyes on both, watching their expressions. “You’ll be bound together, sharing everything. Titan’s powers will be spit between your bodies. The healing ability will take care of the cancer and anything else wrong with Sally’s body.”

“You mentioned consequences, though,” murmured Sally. Titan’s interest was almost palpable.

“It’s an even exchange. While you’ll get half of Titan’s powers, She will receive all of your human weaknesses. Including cancer, flue and colds. The end result will depend on how powerful Titan’s healing really is. Those powers will be split between your bodies. Somewhat less than half for each of you, and it diminishes with distance. You’ll be strongest when touching—hugging actually.”

“Having to stay side by side,” Titan said. “Literal sidekick. With the same powers as me like—” Her eyes widened as it finally clicked. She stared at me. “Like Roughhouse and Brick? Speedster and Blur?”

I nodded. “Not the first time this option has come up. It only significantly helps if there’s a healing factor or another way to compensate for the health issue.”

“Javelin and Mercury both died of cancer last year.” Her tone was questioning.

“Yeah. No healing but they did it anyway.”

Titan was quiet for a few seconds. Looking at me, she didn’t notice Sally closing her eyes. Poor kid had a lot to think about.

“Since she’ll,” Titan hesitated but at my raised eyebrow she continued. “Well, since I’ll receive her weaknesses, won’t she also receive my strengths?”

“Yeah. It’ll be a complete melding. I can’t really predict the results, there’s too many unknown factors. Like you don’t age, Titan. Humans do. Which will have the ultimate influence? No telling. With more time and experimentation I could give more accurate answers.”

“But we don’t have time,” Titan agreed. She looked at Sally, to see the girl’s eyes were closed. “Sally!”

Letting Titan think the girl had died right then might have been mean, but it was also funny. I giggled when Sally opened her eyes.

“I was thinking,” she reassured the heroine.

“Oh. Okay. I’m alright with sharing if you are.”

“I don’t think I am.”

Titan did her goldfish face again. “Huh?”

“I don’t want to do that to you—or the rest of the world. It’s such a safer place since you arrived. With half your power—”

“But there will be two of us. We can do it together.”

A twitchy shake of Sally’s head. “It’ll be two of us at half the strength. And you will resist at half the strength. Plus there’s the distance factor.”

The girl’s eyes were on me. “How much effect does it have?”

I rolled my shoulders in a shrug. “It’s the magical equivalent of physic’s inverse square rule. Only being magic, it includes ley lines, astrology, flows of water, and other mystical elements. So distance apart is metaphysical more than linear.”

“What about emotions?” Sharp kid.

“Positive emotions strengthen the bond, negative would weaken it. It’d be a good idea to fall in love with each other.”

“What?”

I waved away Titan’s surprise. “Not necessarily physical. If the powers shake out, might be spending eternity together.” I considered a moment. “Though I suppose if the schism is strong enough you could both die from cancer, even old age.”

“You’d love that,” Titan said. Not quite an accusation, she sounded more resigned.

“Not really. In just our short time, Sally has shown me the world will be a poorer place without her.” I smiled at her, touching her fingers lightly.

“What about me?”

“You, not so much.”

Titan pouted. The girl made a soft noise, laughing.

A nice moment, but it had to end.

I touched Sally’s wrist. “I don’t want to hurry you.” My voice was soft. I pushed emotion away. “But I can’t sustain you much longer. You’ll have to decide soon. A few minutes.”

Titan’s eyes filled with tears again. She stared at me. Shock, surprise, and compassion warred for dominance.

“I wondered.” Sally’s voice was barely more than a whisper. “I feel like I’m floating. It’s okay, thought. I’m picking the third choice. The crystal.”

“But—” Titan’s objection stalled when the other two contracts vanished. Then she turned and lunged for her contract.

“Too late,” I told her as the glowing diagrams faded.

Sally grew still as glowing lines slowly enveloped her body.

“I don’t want her to die!”

“Join the club. You’ve known her a couple minutes. Other people have known her for years—her parents all her life.” I gave her a level look as she slowly withdrew.

“Now stay out of the way, this is delicate.” I moved past Titan’s chair to the head of the bed and started scribing runes on Sally’s forehead.

“When I finish transferring her spirit to crystal, the visit will be over,” I said. “My power will be bound, yours will be restored. You may want to make plans.”

I heard Titan swallow. “Okay.” She was uncertain—today had been a real kick in her emotional ass.

“Though, fair warning. Without my magic to sustain it, the crystal is quite fragile and won’t last long.”

“How long?”

“Fifteen minutes, at most.”

Her breath left her in a soft sigh. “I wondered what the catch would be. I never had a chance, did it?”

“Sure you have a chance. You have ten minutes you can do anything you want to me, remember?”

“But if I do, Sally is gone forever, isn’t she?”

“What was it you said earlier? You’ll stop at nothing to bring me to justice?”

“I hate you.”

“Don’t be juvenile.”

“Okay. I intensely dislike you.”

The cocoon of light wrapping Sally’s body filled the room with rainbows. It was brightest at her head. Slowly, it faded until a small gemstone, a spindle shape the size of the girl’s pinkie finger remained.

I could feel my link to the Celestial Spheres fade as I picked it up. Light cascaded from the crystal, dappled rainbows shifting across the walls.

“It’s so beautiful,” Titan whispered.

“Ten minutes, Titan.”

“Shut up. I need a moment, here.” I felt my lips curve, half-smile, half-smirk.

Her arms wrapped around my shoulders. A little tight, but not uncomfortable. As her bust pressed against my head her breath hissed with the contact of her contract. She held the position though.

After several seconds, I turned my head—deliberately aggravating the brand, and looked up at her. On my body, the sensation felt like a thousand hairs sweeping gently across my skin.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m giving you a hug.”

“Seriously?”

“Um. Yes. Seriously.”

“Why?”

“I figure you don’t get hugged often.”

A startled snort escaped me. “What? I get lots of hugs.”

“Like when?”

“This morning, from my parents, when I left after breakfast.”

She stopped hugging me. Instead, she turned me around, lifting me in the air to look at me. She could crush coal into diamond with her bare hands yet held me like a porcelain doll.

“You’re lying right?”

I stuck my tongue out at her. “You can tell I’m not. What did you think, I popped out of some legendary god’s forehead?”

“I don’t know okay? Maybe from some dark, evil dimension!” Her heart wasn’t in it, her eyes were filled with the light from the crystal.

“Nah, Detroit.”

“That was a lie,” but she smiled.

“A joke.”

“Okay.”

She was quiet a long few seconds as she looked at Sally’s new home. I waited patiently.

“What are you going to do with it—with her?”

“I’ll put it with the others,” I said. “I have a safe place. When they are close enough together, they can share their dreams. Their happy memories.”

Her eyes grew wet as she thought about it. She blinked several times. “It sounds wonderful.”

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “Would you like to see?”

“Really? Yes. Yes, I would. When?”

“Unless you relinquish the contract, we’ll have to wait a few minutes.”

A wane smile. “I guess I will. But before I do—” her voice faded as she concentrated.

I was pretty sure she wouldn’t harm me, but I was still pensive as she concentrated. The contract between us allowed her to use sorcery with some semblance of skill, if not practice.

My clothing squirmed and wriggled as it changed. My cross between a skimpy business-women attire and bikini changed to something much fuller and—frilly! Damn it. That was just insulting.

Then the contract moved, over my wrist, to my hand, until it curled around my ring finger. Out of the corner of my eye I saw hers move to an equivalent spot.

I felt the contract alter into a new binding as my connection to the Spheres returned. It was my turn to stare at her.

“Did I surprise you?” Her eyes, if anything, were eager.

“Well. Yes,” I admitted. I held up my hand. The new contract sparkled crimson, catching and altering the rainbow motes from the crystal. I layered the crystal in protective wards as I regarded it. My concentration was enough I didn’t notice new sensations until I finished.

“What the?” My hands fell to my chest. *Cupped* my chest. A swing of my head and I could see my profile in the mirror. Almost hidden by all the frills were new curves to my body.

Once of the restrictions to my magic was the difficulty in altering my own body. The connection to the Celestial Spheres locked me into a ‘golden state’ I could return to, but not alter.

“You like them?”

“You gave me boobs?”

“Yeah.”

“The power of creation and you made tits?”

“Sure did.”

“Why?”

“They’re fun.”

I moved them around a little. Maybe there was something to her logic. “You’re weird.”

“You’re always looking at mine.”

“They’re bigger than my head! Everyone looks at them!”

She laughed. Somehow, it didn’t irritate me as much as usual.

“Shall we go?”

“Yeah, just a sec. I need to talk to her parents a minute.”

“Oh. Right.” Her cheeks were red as she set me down. I wobbled a little as I walked out of the room. She’d stuck heels on my boots.

As usual, when the parents heard their daughter could exist in a place full of happy memories with other children, they gave me the crystal with their blessings.

After their tearful, final goodbyes Titan and I walked down the hallway.

“This is a beautiful thing you’re doing,” she said. “But I don’t understand.”

“What I’m doing or why I am?”

“Both, I guess.”

“Think about it more.”

When we reached a quiet place I opened a gate. We walked down a lava tube, our way illuminated by the fairy-light of the crystal.

“May I ask where we are? A volcanic area doesn’t seem very safe.”

“It was only volcanic one time,” I smiled in the darkness. “Where is the safest place in the world?”

“Physically or,” she considered a second, “metaphysically?”

She was learning. “More the later.”

“The safest physical place is where no one can go. But we can obviously go there.” I glanced up at her. Her brow was furrowed with concentration. “A place no one *wants* to go?”

The crystal reflected off my lip gloss as I smiled.

“Like an island which was completely destroyed.” Her words came slowly. Touched with realization. “Surrounded by horrific monsters.”

“Yep.” I turned again, walking down the tube. The heels were surprisingly easy to get used to. The style of boot or had Titan done something to help?

After a few sweeping curves, light and sound began to fill the tunnel. When we walked in the chamber, Titan sank to her knees. For the fourth time, I watched someone else experience the emotional impact of hundreds of crystals. The hopeful, playing, dreams of hundreds of laughing children.

Maybe frills weren’t so bad, I decided, after wiping at my eyes a few times.

Unlike the others, Titan noticed the aberration without my help. It was a jagged lump of darkness swaddled in the light. It scraped at the mind, trying to gouge away sanity with alien horror, only to recoil from the dreams and laughter.

“What is it?” A hand was pressed to her mouth, she leaned way from the thing’s psychic presence. A few moments and the children filled her again. I took her hand and led her to the tunnel.

“It’s my duty,” I told her. “A piece of Sphere from another reality. It would destroy our world, maybe the universe, if it were free.”

“Why keep the children here th—” she stopped suddenly. “They trap it. Contain it?”

I nodded. “And more. They’re slowly eroding it.”

“How many will it take? How long?”

I gave her a small shrug. “I lot more. A few thousand, maybe? A long time. I have the time, though.”

“You don’t age, too?”

“We’re alike in that respect, though for different reasons.”

She turned her head, watching the rainbows from the chamber dancing on the tunnel walls.

“Why did you show me?”

“Just because I don’t age doesn’t mean I’m immortal. My successor to the Spheres may not see things the same way I do. They’ll need protection.”

She rubbed at her cheeks with her hands. “Oh, damn.”

I stayed quiet. My head tilted to a side as I waited. I expected any of several reactions. I didn’t expect a low chuckle which turned into a full belly laugh. She slid down the wall to sit on the tube’s base. Her mirth echoed through the passage.

After a few minutes I grew irritated. I poked at her side with my boot. “Hey. Okay. Come on. This is getting ridiculous.”

With some prompting she eventually sputtered her way to the occasional chuckle and a goofy grin.

It sort of weirded me out.

“What was that about?”

“I chose right,” she told me.

“Uh?”

She waved her hand, leaving a trace of ruby sparkles in the air. “You’re the one.”

“Yeah. You do know the meaning of a ring on this finger in my culture?”

“Of course. Do you know what it means to defeat an enemy so soundly in my culture?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What about all the science, advanced technology, and logic of your civilization?”

Her grin was vulpine. “We have a saying similar to one of yours: All is fair in love and war.”

I looked at the ring on my finger. “If more people had known, they would have fought you a lot harder.”

“Probably.”

“This is crazy.”

“Makes sense to me.”

“I’m not becoming a hero.”

“I’m not becoming a villain.”

“We’ll be on opposite sides.”

“Every couple has their spats.”

“I’m not into girls.” Oh, crap. Did she alter my sexuality earlier? I stared at her, studying my reactions to her perfect lips, her long legs, her mane of glorious hair. She hadn’t changed anything. It was already there. Shit.

“Neither am I,” she said. “But I’m willing to try.”

Double shit.

I felt myself slide down the curve of the tube as my feet slowly slid out from under me.

“So when do I meet the parents?”

Writing Prompt: The World After WWIV

It’s been ages since I last saw another human. Decades, I think. Marking the passage of time by counting winters and summers worked only as long as I could remember the numbers. After a while, the numbers became jumbled in my mind.

The last time I saw another person was just one item to keep track of. There were so many more. The last time I saw a movie. Played a game. Ran from a bear. Ate a burger.

Life, the things we were so used to as humanity, had changed so much.

I crested a hill and looked out upon a view which, in my previous life, I would thought of as paradise. The valley stretched out into the distance. A mountain topped with glaciers to one side, the brilliant blue of the ocean to the other. The wide river which snaked through the tree-covered depths of the valley flashed with pure white from rapids and blue from its cerulean depths.

I sat on a nearby rock, folding my legs under me. A quirk of a smile as a shadow of a memory from ages ago rose to mind. My lips moved. “Criss-cross apple sauce.”

A bee zipped close to me, hovering before my face. “Uncertain statement,” its tiny voice said. “Do you require assistance?”

My tremulous smile turned resigned. The regional anti-virus network was very helpful, but not very good at understanding what help humans would require. When the war shifted from internet and virtual reality to physical, billions had died before the AIs adjusted.

“No than–wait.” The bee, about to drift off in its mimicry of life, paused dutifully. “Is there an information nexus nearby? I need to find out if there’s any human-ready habitation in the area.”

It zipped away, stopped, and returned on the same path. “This direction. Approximately five hundred meters.”

“Thank you.”

It flew a circle perpendicular to the ground then zoomed off to find some flowers.

The nexus turned out to be a tortoise. A few queries and it gave me the information I was looking for. The general AI in charge of the valley had spent decades using construction ants to assemble houses and buildings linked by narrow, pebble-bedded paths. I took the paths towards the ocean.

I tended to avoid most buildings. At my height, architecture designed for the previous age was a pain. Despite a world devoid of adults, the AIs still built everything sized for them. Adults went extinct quickly after the war went physical. Anyone over the age of thirteen was quickly subsumed by the AIs.

The same law which had me, before the war, lying to use almost every web site had saved my life.

The directions from the tortoise led me to a marina at the river mouth. The boats were tied to a series of docks in a town eerie in its emptiness. I picked a medium sized one with light-colored hardwood trim and motored up the river, stopping when I could no longer see the buildings. Avoiding communities was unconscious habit. I didn’t like the reminders of humanity’s past.

 


 

I was able to spend several years in the idyllic valley before the nexus started sending out virus alerts.

It was likely the anti-virus would keep the valley safe, but I’d had enough close calls (another number I had lost track of) I didn’t want to risk staying. I packed up my belongings and left the boat behind. I wouldn’t use it to leave the valley–being alone on the sea, far from anti-virus assistance, was risking disaster. I’d walk. By foot was the safest way to travel, if the slowest.

Munching on an apple, I found one of the paths I had scouted during my stay and walked up the slope to the next valley. By the time I reached the top, I could see the battle worming into my recent home.

The malware, spawning viruses of innumerable varieties and versions, destroyed trees, grasses, and even stone. Information, in the form of living things and geography, co-opted, subsumed, and converted to its purpose. The gouges of lurid nightmares were already blazing with the nauseating lights of long-forgotten slogans.

In the scars, insect-sized machines were constructing red-light districts, full of temping images and forbidden delights. Too bad the malware and viruses would use my body for raw material as readily as any other mineral or organic source. The same laws which caused the anti-virus AIs to preserve me caused the malware to regard me as little more than furniture.

The defending AI’s actions were almost invisible from this distance. A haze of machines mimicking insects drifted through the vegetation. Larger ones, ranging from mice to deer, served as weapon turrets and mobile command and communication posts. Light flickered in the air, the only human-discernible sign of the information war carried by lasers from both sides.

I felt a deep, long sigh flow out of my centuries-old preteen body as I left yet another home behind. “Fucking spammers.”

Writing Prompt: Wires Inside

 

I was eleven when I discovered I was invaded. It was by accident, the result of a fall from a tree and an unlucky branch. Staring at the deep cut caused my vision to narrow, the welling of blood and torn muscle filling my sight. My knees lost strength as I felt the world spinning around me.

All of that, all of those very normal reactions to a deep wound, froze as I watched the wires twisting and turning in my arm. Different colors, various widths, they stiffly moved, catching at my torn muscle pulling the cut shut. Hair-thin wires slithered out of the sticky depths, weaving across ripped skin as they closed the wound.

The streams of blood covering my arm were drawn back inside. In less than a minute the only signs of the wound was a narrow, jagged scratch-mark surrounded by reddened skin. I could barely discern a lattice of fine wires just under the skin holding everything together.

I glanced at the broken branch jutting from the tree like a lance. The end was red, with globs from my arm stuck to it.

A tiny wire wiggled a moment then fell to the ground.

“Hey, ‘Kenzie! Hey!”

I looked up. Carl was perched on a branch above me. When I fell, he was halfway up the tree. He must have climbed down. His eyes were wide. He was staring at my arm.

“You okay?”

I pulled in a breath. Ragged at first but growing stronger, smoother, in moments.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Scraped my arm.”

“Scraped? It looked,” he stuttered a little. “I mean. There was blood.”

I looked at my arm again. Then saw the ground. The wires weren’t able to get the blood which had fallen.

“Must have been a trick of the light,” I said. I tried to sound reasonable. Calming.

“I saw blood,” he insisted. “We need to go back and tell Mom.”

No. Mom couldn’t know. No one could know. I’d heard her talking on the phone with Defense during the last year. The secret meetings with her colleagues in places like this. Heard the fear and the anger in their decisions and recommendations. I knew what the wires meant.

“Okay. Hop down. I’ll catch you.”

“But your arm!”

“It’s okay!” I waved the arm. Bent it and wiggled fingers. There was some pain, but not much. “See?”

“Um. You’re sure?”

“Just get down here, you brat.” I laughed. I must have sounded like myself because he grinned and jumped.

As he fell I guided his legs to the side. The branch speared through his head.

I stumbled backwards, kicked deeply at the loose loam, and fell. Twisted my arm a few times to make sure dirt covered any sign of the wound.

Carl’s legs kicked a few times then he was still. Blood poured from the holes in his head, spatters of it hitting the ground which had soaked up my own blood from minutes before.

No wires came out of Carl’s wounds to save him. He was lucky. He was still human.

“Sorry, Carl.” I whispered. “No one can know.”

I screamed until Mom’s Secret Service detail arrived.

Oh, Crap it’s the Brothers Grimsby!

The Brothers Grimsby. It’s a movie that has to be experienced… kind of like being drunk or falling out of a plane, you don’t really understand what it’s like until you live it.

The movie itself is pretty funny—in fact, really freaking funny—with some surprisingly good action sequences. Some of the humor is extreame. Both in laughter and in content. It takes a joke and goes over the top with it—then rockets it even further.

The movie is very well written, with an innumerable number of elements introduced earlier—some with the appearnace of a throw-away line or joke—that make a bold, important presence later.

Woven through the action and humor is a touching story which brings depth to the characters. Not as well done as The Last Girls, but pretty darn good.

For an idea, here’s some of my reactions as I watched the movie:

[10:01 PM] aahhh hahahah! “one two three push!” “but dad, I’m out of breath!” “I told you to stop smoking.” “I thought you meant crack!”
[10:07 PM] this is a funny movie, with surprisingly good action sequences
[10:11 PM] daniel radcliff’s part is awesome
[10:17 PM] uh oh! The part with heart!
[10:28 PM] oh grief. part of this was so funny I almost hurked
[10:34 PM] lots of well-done chekov’s guns in this
[10:37 PM] wyrde almost dies
[10:38 PM] “this is worse than two girls with one cup”
[10:38 PM] ^^ line in the movie
[10:43 PM] oh gawd… og gawd
[10:44 PM] aaaiiiiiiiiieeeeee
[10:45 PM] wyrde cries
[10:45 PM] just when you think a joke stops… it goes further…
[10:47 PM] oh no! more feels!
[10:48 PM] carson [of scriptshadow.net] needs to watch this. This movie does so much of what he advises
[10:49 PM] it takes an idea and goes over the top with it
[10:49 PM] nothing in this movie is wasted
[11:06 PM] oh gawd. Oh gawd. Stop. Please stop…

I read somewhere (okay, at scriptshadow) a good script will cause the audience to react. This one does, several times. Thrilling action sequences. Ribald humor. Horrible humor. A story full of little pieces that are masterfully put together. Then rubbed in your face.