Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Microstory 782: Sax

One of my favorite bands growing up was Sunday Think About It, in no small part because of their variety of instruments that they used. I listened to their debut album, I Miss U!! I don’t know how many times. You can imagine how excited I was when I won tickets on the radio to see their Hudson City show, which would be their only Usonian stop during their international tour. The package included, not only two backstage passes, but also the opportunity to hang out with the band after the show. My best friend, Daleka and I were so incredibly excited, but there was just one problem: we lived thousands of miles away, and we had no money, and no vehicle. Our parents were supportive of us going, but since we had no way of getting there, they obviously didn’t think it would be a problem, so maybe that wasn’t so genuine. Well, we sure showed them. Keep in mind that this was a time before cell phones and security camera facial recognition. Back in these days, if you were caught on a train without a ticket, the conductor would send a message to the next station, where a law enforcement officer would be waiting for you. Of course, if you had enough cash on you, you could just pay for a ticket without dealing with the authorities, but if you had the money in the first place, you probably wouldn’t have had to sneak on at all. We played it right, though. He came by to check tickets, and we pretended like we were looking for them, freaking out about having lost them. There were real tears, and everything. We put on a good show. Fortunately, we are on the express line, which meant the stops were few and far between, so it would be awhile before he could let us off. He took pity on us, and agreed not to involve the law, I kind of always felt bad about us manipulating him.
As far as we had gotten, we hadn’t gotten far enough. We were able to hitchhike a few more legs, but that soon got tiring, and people weren’t willing to take us very far without being paid. We needed better options, so we thought up a new approach. Daleka had brought with her a saxophone, hoping that the band’s saxophonist at the time, Lochana McGiddy would sign it for, oblivious to the fact that nothing writes well on brass. Neither of us actually played the saxophone, but I was a decent flautist, so I knew I could figure it out. Every city we went to, we would find parks with the most number of visitors, and perform for them. We realized our shtick was better off with humorous undertones, with me “purposely” playing poorly, and Daleka dancing ridiculously. Well, we made it to the concert on time, and it was great. Unfortunately, we never did get to meet the band, though, as there were some failures to communicate that were beyond our control. As it turns out, the radio people didn’t have everything in order. Then about ten years later, someone on the internet invented a website where you could post short videos. Someone else, in one of the cities that paid our way to Hudson uploaded some footage from our performance. In response to this, others realized they had seen the same act in their own cities, and uploaded our other performances. Somehow, the band members of Sunday Think About It at the time caught wind of this, and saw our morning show interview about it. Feeling bad for having failed to meet us those many years ago, they invited us to Austin; paid our way, and everything. We started a jam session, and well, granddaughter of mine, you can guess the rest. I spent the next twenty-four years as their saxophonist.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Microstory 781: Sawbuck

Jane Brown hated her name. At least if she had been Jane Johnson, or Jane Jones, it would have been alliterative, but this was the most boring combination her parents could have come up with. She suffered through it her whole childhood, witlessly playing into her own insecurities on the matter, which only convinced those around her that she herself was boring. She ended up being admitted to a college on the other side of the country, though, and decided it was high time she reinvented herself. So, she took a gap year to earn a little extra cash, and start the relatively slow process of legally changing her name. She knew it would take a long time in her case since she would have to convince the court to allow such an unusual change. She had landed on the name Sawbuck, for no particular reason, except maybe she saw an advertisement for a sawhorse earlier that day. She would never know for sure, but it sounded perfect for her, because she wanted to become someone interesting; someone people talked about, and asked after. By the time her first semester started, she had completed all the paperwork, and was fully approved. She was now Sawbuck. Sawbuck Honeyglider. Her classmates and dorm neighbors would ask her about it, and she would never tell them that she made it up. She came up with a lie to explain where her family came from, and every time she told the story, shed add more and more flourishes. She never contradicted herself, though, so if her victims spoke to each other about it, they wouldn’t catch on to the fib. She got so good at it that she realized lying was her true passion. If she could weave this one incredibly intricate story about herself, maybe she could do it with some other story. So she sat down at her computer, and got to work. She came up with plausible falsehoods, but she didn’t incorporate them into a novel or short story. She didn’t write films or plays. She just wrote lies, and she found a way to spread them on the internet. Using what she had picked up on about law when she changed her name as a foundation, she taught herself how to set up false identities, and plant information in such a way that it looked like her characters had always existed, and that they had gone through all these harrowing or tragic experiences. She created an entire secret history of the world, all from her laptop, generating belief amongst even the most skeptical in the world in random, pointless, and sometimes innocuous things. Her reputation began to spread along with the lies themselves, and certain underground peoples began asking her for her help. This was how Sawbuck ‘Plain Jane’ Honeyglider turned herself into the infamous Fabricator.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 21, 2167

The crew was in a depressive funk when the two of them returned to the timestream a year after Nerakali’s death. None of them particularly liked her—though Dar’cy did a little, because she didn’t have any history of hostility with her—but they were apparently right about the necessity of her virtual worlds. At least, the problems losing the worlds would cause was a self-fulfilling prophecy. They were going a little stir crazy being trapped in a tin can with hardly anything to do. The database was loaded with some mindless video games, but they quickly got old. There were some books and movies, but not all of it was good, and what was good, they had already watched or read over the last five years.
Nothing had gone wrong with the ship in the meantime. It was on course, and on schedule; Leona’s water filtration system was working perfectly; and Missy’s atterberry pods were functional, though they hesitated to use them. It took so much effort to convince The Emissary to allow the pods as backup in the first place. Though this was never stated explicitly by the powers that be, they had the distinct impression that the pods were not to be used just to pass the time quickly. In lieu of this, the organic humans spent an unreasonable amount of time sleeping, or just lying in bed with their eyes either opened, or closed. Brooke and Paige, the not entirely organic beings, did have a limited ability to go into a sort of power-saving mode that tempered the dullness of this life. They could not completely shut down, but it was a vital extension of a software feature used for regulating their conceptualization of the passage of time. At some point in the advancement of transhumanistic technology, developers recognized how horrifically tedious life would be when an individual with enhanced neural processing power perceived seconds as centuries. Thus, the temporal attenuator. Without it, people kill themselves purely out of boredom.
Right now, those two were in an especially deep hibernation, while Missy was performing more tests on Serif’s healing abilities. Dar’cy was the only one free to talk, and it looked like she desperately needed it. “I think it’s punishment for us letting Nerakali disappear to her death,” she said, almost completely unprompted.
“What is?” Leona asked, worried they had been in the middle of a conversation, and she just hadn’t been paying attention.
“My powers,” Dar’cy added. “I’ve not been able to use them all year. If Nerakali were still around, I wouldn’t need them anyway, but now they’re gone completely. I can’t even jump five minutes away.”
“Yeah, your father experienced the same thing on Tribulation Island. But that was Arcadia’s doing.”
“How did he get through it?”
“You mean, how did he get his powers back, or how did he handle life without them?”
“The latter.” She was tearing pieces of skin off her lips with her teeth.
“Well, life on the island was a lot more interesting, I think. They did have some arbitrary amenities, but they also had a lot of work to do. Hunting, fishing, repairing the shelters. Then again, I think he spent a lot his life up to that point using his powers, more than I imagine you have. I suspected too that somebody blended his brain with alternate versions of himself, so he was probably rather accustomed to having them. You know, I guess I don’t know how he managed to not go crazy. Eventually, he met your mother, though, so I’m sure that helped.”
“So, I should find a girlfriend?” Dar’cy gathered.
Leona looked around the room they were sitting in, which wasn’t any less empty than any of the other rooms. She and Serif were now staying in Nerakali’s quarters, since she no longer had use for them. “Well, your options are fairly limited.”
“You and Serif got any openings?”
They laughed for as long as they could, glad for a joke that took up the better part of twenty seconds of their long journey to Durus. But also Leona had a fleeting thought that they did indeed have an opening, like there really was meant to be a third person in the relationship.
“You just need to get creative. How about a play?” Leona suggested.
“Which play?” Dar’cy asked.
“Doesn’t really matter. On The Next Generation, crew members would rehearse and perform plays for each other. The characters weren’t generally actors, but they often filled their time in between missions with the performances. Sometimes they were even originals, written by one of them. They also played instruments, and put on concerts. That would take even more time, if you don’t already play.”
Dar’cy thought this over. “The only play I know that’s in the database is Waiting for Godot. I don’t know anything about it, but I guess we could do that.”
“Probably not that one.” It would make them even more depressed about sitting around and doing nothing.
“There’s also a musical called...um, Bridgedoom, or something?”
“Brigadoon?” Leona assumed. “Yeah, maybe not that one either.” That hit a little too close to home when it came to Leona and Serif’s real lives. “I’m sure you’ll find something in there, though. Ask the others for guidance, since they’ve spent more time on Earth, and know what would be in the library. You could perform it for Serif and me when we get back. Maybe you’ll even find something they created after our first time jump.”
“Yeah, that might be fun.” She didn’t look super convinced. She planted her face into Leona’s pillow. “Or I could just go back to sleep.”
Leona affectionately pulled her back to a sitting position. “No, don’t do that. Eight hours a night. Maybe nine. No more.”
“What is night? What is night when there is no day?”
“Do you hear that?”
Leona did think she could hear something as well.
“It’s like...like a metal blade cutting into something else metal. Or, soldering? Or a laser etching into something? What is that?”
It grew louder, and Dar’cy’s descriptions were pretty good. Then a light began forming on the floor. They jumped up on the bed, as if it were a mouse, and as if they were afraid of mice. The light started as a pinpoint, but grew larger and larger, as the sound intensified.
“Is someone taking apart our ship?” Dar’cy asked. “Are we being boarded?”
“The floor just leads to the deck below us,” Leona explained. “If we’re being boarded, they’re already in.”
The light continued, until it was large enough to reveal a portal, out from which came to hands than pulled a woman into the room. She struggled to get her feet all the way through. “Verdammt! Scheisse!”
Leona helped her the rest of the way through, while Dar’cy became combat ready.
The woman looked around and got her psychological bearings, then she took out the Compass of Disturbance, and tried to get her literal bearings. “Wo bin ich?”
“What did she say?” Dar’cy asked, still ready for a fight, even though the intruder looked like she was over sixty years old.
“I don’t know,” Leona said.
“Don’t you speak Russian?”
“That’s German, and no, I don’t speak either of them.”
“Obviously you do, because you know which language it is.”
“That’s not how that works.” Still. Leona tried to remember what few things she picked up in college. “Uhh....dein name?”
“Ida,” she answered. “My name is Ida Reyer.”
“You do speak English,” Dar’cy pointed out, suspicious of her.
“Yeah, sorry,” Ida responded, still in a German accent. “It’s not my first language, though. I still don’t think in it.”
“Ida Reyer?” Leona echoed. “I feel like I’ve heard that name before.”
“I got a Wikipedia blurb,” Ida said, only halfway proud of herself. She shook their hands. “I’m an explorer. From Austria.”
“You have Juan’s compass.”
“No,” Ida said. “Juan has my compass. I’ve yet to go back in time and leave it for him to find. The Weaver bequested it to me originally.”
“How far out of your time period have you gone?” Dar’cy questioned. “This is a space vessel.”
Ida nodded and inspected the bulkhead. “Yeah, it’s okay. Not the best I’ve seen. The first thing I did was go hundreds of thousands of years in the future, to a planet of two kinds of aliens called the Eloi, and the Morlocks. They themselves didn’t have any working ships, but I came across an ancient crash site or two while I was there.”
“The Eloi and the Morlocks?” Leona asked, wide-eyed.
Dar’cy had no reaction.
“Yeah,” Ida laughed. “My friend, Helena bastardized that story so the 19th century dum-dums could understand it better. Don’t worry, she gave me some of the proceeds from the book.”
That was a lot to unpack.
Ida went on, “anyway, you’re Leona, right? Which means I’m here on time. Looks like we have about of year to adjust heading just enough to avoid the cataclysm.”
“What cataclysm?”
“The 2167 gravity well.”
“It is 2167,” Dar’cy said.
It took a second for this to register with Ida. “Wait, what, are you serious?”
“Well, relatively serious.”
“Ah, crap, I’m late. She ran out of the room. “Shut off the engines! Shut ‘em off now! Plan B!”
“Computer,” Leona ordered, running out after her. “Awaken Brooke.” She ran into the cockpit to find Ida hastily tapping and swiping at the computer interfaces.
Brooke comes out of her standby and tried to get her off of her precious machines. “Hell you doin’?”
“Brooke, we have to stop right now.”
“What do you mean, we have to stop? You can’t just stop a vessel traveling at a hundred-forty-seven million miles per hour.”
“We don’t need to stop the ship, just attitude control and thrusters. And mostly everything else.”
“What are you talking about?” Brooke protested. “Who are you?”
“A really good friend of yours. I’m sorry you’ve not yet been introduced to me, but I implore you to trust me. If we don’t take systems offline right now, the sheer will tear the hull apart. We have to let The Warren fall into the well without resistance. It’s the only way we’ll break free of it.”
“Are you crazy, we’ve got a schedule to keep.” The computer had woken Paige up as well.
“You won’t be able to keep it. Better late than dead.”
“Miss Matic, who is this woman?” Paige asked.
“A famous explorer. She’s using the Compass of Disturbance.”
“Yes, thanks for reminding me,” Ida said, taking the compass out, and placing it on the interface table. Circles emanated from where the compass was placed, along with tangential and radial lines, the bridges connecting information between the two devices. Ida seemed to be able to read the data. “Okay, so we still have time, but we have to do it now.”
“Captain,” Brooke asked.
“I’m not doing it,” Paige said. “I don’t know who the hell you are, but I’m not compromising the safety of this crew, or the importance of the mission, for you.”
“Don’t you see,” Ida said, “that’s exactly what you’re doing. There’s a tower out there that Saga’s wife, Andromeda created. A choosing one used his power to levitate off the ground, and away from the planet, but it’s been gathering gravitational energy ever since.”
Paige wasn’t relenting.
Ida turned her face to stone. “Warren, override operations, authorization two-one-six-seven-plaintiff-temple-bachelor.”
“Transfer complete,” the computer responded.
“What did you just do?” Paige argued.
Idea ignored her. “Warren, shut down all operations besides life support, and minimal internal lighting.”
“No!” Paige screamed, but it was useless.
The lights dimmed, and the engines cycled down. With the gravdisk below them decelerating, they were lifted from the floor, and started floating around aimlessly. Not used to life without some level of gravity, Leona found herself hitting her head against the wall. And then nothing.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Void: Crusaders (Part VII)

As the wedding day approached, Saga and Andromeda were asked to meet with a woman named The Officiant. She operated at a level of law that goes beyond humanity, and real time. Any salmon or chooser they’ve ever met whose been married was married by her. That was her one and only job, she took it very seriously, and she never let anyone do it for her. Right now, she was sitting across her desk from them. They were in a Justice of the Peace-like office that could travel with her across time and space, and apparently didn’t quite exist in this dimension. She regarded them warmly. “Do you know who I am?”
“The Officiant.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“That you marry people.”
“What kind of people?”
“People with time powers.”
She nodded, but like she was still waiting for a better answer, or for the most dramatic time to learn them the truth herself. But, then she just seemed to move on. “How long have you two known each other?”
“Four years,” Andromeda answered.
“Four years?” the Officiant repeated. “You don’t think this is too quick?” Her tone was ambiguously judgmental.
“No,” Saga said plainly.
“Good. There’s no room for doubt here.”
“I understand you’ve been having trouble with the locals.”
“As far as my world has come in the last several years,” Andromeda began, “there is still a lot of prejudice.”
“Has nothing to do with your genders, right?”
“Oh, heavens no.” Andromeda shook her head. “That’s never been an issue here.”
“So, certain peoples are just upset about a Durusian marrying an Earthan.”
“Durune,” Saga corrected.
“Tell me about the, umm...” she flipped through her notes, “the Dawidux incident?”
“That was a long time ago.”
“You think two years is a long time?” the Officiant questioned.
“I guess time doesn’t really matter to people like us. For us, it was two years ago. For Leona or Serif, it would be two days. For you? Maybe a literal aeon.”
She smiled and nodded again. “From what I gather, the Dawidux people were just one group of many.”
“I wouldn’t say many,” Andromeda disagreed. “There are others, yes. But they’re mostly harmless.”
The Officiant shifted in her seat. “I’ve heard people say that about Earth, but I’ve never heard an Orolakian say it.”
Saga grinned. “This is true.”
“I don’t know what an Orolakian is,” Andromeda lamented.
“Seems like a big part of your life, Saga, that she should know about.”
“The aliens, sweetie,” Saga said to her fiancĂ©e. “Remember? We sort of...started a revolution. Vearden and I.”
“You still need to finish it,” the Officiant told her.
“What?” Saga asked.
“That story is not over,” she added.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your marriage. Your relationship with each other is...a problem for time.”
“For time?” Andromeda asked. “Time itself?”
The Officiant nodded.
“Time can get fucked.”
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded her.
“What? I don’t care what the powers that be want from me! Ain’t nobody gonna stop me from marrying you.” She turned back to the Officiant and added, “including you.”
“I’m not here to stop you,” the Officiant said defensively. “I’m just here to chat.”
“That’s what detectives say to persons of interest,” Saga spit.
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded again. “Be nice.”
Saga regained her composure. “You’re right. I just don’t like being questioned. I put a lot of thought into my decision to marry this girl, and I know that she did as well. I’m not true salmon. I can resist the powers that be’s whims. Is that the right grammar?”
“You can postpone them, to be more accurate. Do not underestimate their power, or their...mercilessness. No,” she said before anyone else could speak. “Cruelty. That’s the word I’m looking for.”
“This is happening,” Saga said clearly. “You can either help us with it, or we can find a Durune officiant. Most people here are supportive, and not on a crusade against our bond.”
“I’ll do it,” said the Officiant, embarrassed for having failed in her mission to instill them with confidence in her. “But you do need to understand the risks. Leona and Mateo were authorized. You’re doing this without that authorization. Make no mistake, lots of salmon marry people the powers didn’t explicitly approve of, and they end up fine. I’m not saying this can’t work, but don’t you dare think you’re safe. The Atlantians make the Dawiduxians looks like a basket of puppies.”
Andromeda nodded soberly. “We recognize the danger,” she said after a respectful moment of silence.
“Who the hell is Mateo?”
“Let’s hammer out some of the details,” the Officiant said, moving on once more. “Have you chosen your chief attendants?”
The two concordants looked at each other. “Hokusai and Loa,” Saga said.
“Yeah, you know them?”
She laughed quietly to herself. “Time, right? Any honor attendants?”
“Camden and Morick,” Saga imagined.
“And my mother.”
“My mother is going to be part of the ceremony, Saga. Stop resisting.”
“Do you not like her?” the Officiant asked.
Saga mindlessly examined her fingernails. “She asked me to help her daughter with her time powers a few years back. She wasn’t expecting us to fall in love. She blames me for all the...issues we’ve had with the Durune. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely woman, and she has no qualms with us being together. She’s not technically racist, but she’s one of those people—”
“Careful...” Andromeda warned.
Saga carried on, and repeated herself, “she’s one of those people who see racism in others, and think they’re helping by trying to get us to...avoid those situations.”
“She’s trying to protect us,” Andromeda reasoned.
“She’s victim-blaming,” Saga volleyed. “She wants us to change our behavior, when she damn well knows it’s everyone else who needs to change.”
“She just—” Andromeda didn’t want to have this fight again.
“She means well, and I know this, but I’m going to stand up for myself. You’re going to stand up for me too, and I would like—I feel I would like...her to do the same, instead of just saying we need to wait for others to wise up, and learn to do the right thing.”
Andromeda nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“You’re right, though, let’s not do this in front of company,” Saga acknowledged.
“No, this is important,” the Officiant said. “I can’t marry you if I don’t get to see what you’re going through.”
“You wanna see our baggage?” Saga chortled. How much time you got, doc?”
“Infinite,” she answered truthfully.
“That makes me think; they should make a time traveling therapist,” Saga noted, sort of off-topic.
“Yes.” The Officiant stood up and brushed the space dirt off the front of her pants. “Doctor Mallory Hammer. She’s very good, I’m sure you’ll meet her one day.” That didn’t sound so good. “Welp,” she continued, “looks like you two are ready to get married. I’ll be back next week for the ceremony.” She started handing them her business card, but then pulled it back. “Oh, wait, you don’t have phones here.”
“Uhhh...” Saga thought about it. “We do. Camden was carrying a sheetphone during the Deathspring. I’m sure it’s somewhere in our cottage. Battery would be dead, but we could find a way to charge it.”
“That’ll work,” the Officiant said. After handing the card over, she began to fade away, as did the rest of her office around them. They were left standing in the middle of the thicket.
“What is that?” Andromeda asked.
“Business card. Has her contact information on it.” Saga turned it over. “And a note. “Trust the ones in camouflage,” she read aloud.
“What does that mean?”
“It’s a warning from the future, for the future. I’ve seen these kinds of things before. The only decision we have to make is whether we trust the source.”
“I feel like we can trust her.”
“Then we’ll follow her instructions.”
That night, their cottage was attacked. A hate group dressed in black threw molotov cocktails through their windows, which Andromeda expertly sealed up with blast doors. Unfortunately, this was merely a distraction, for they were already inside the house. Camden, their most skilled fighter, was presently in the capital, consulting for a new law enforcement agency they were trying to get up and running. Andromeda tried to use her powers to build some structure that could help them, but one of the attackers knocked her out cold before she had the chance. Saga then tried to fight back the ol’ fashion way, but wasn’t strong enough. They must have knocked her out as well.
She woke up with her arms tied behind her back. Andromeda was already awake, tied up on the other side of the room.
“Finally,” the leader guy said. He removed his—what was that mask thing called, a baklava?—from his face, and grimaced.
They weren’t impressed.
“Do you not recognize me?”
“Should we?” Andromeda asked without fear.
“I’m the guy you dropped a tower on in Dawidux. Bet you didn’t think I survived, did you?
Of course, they did recognize him as the leader of the angry mob, but this guy survived on ego, and ego alone. They knew to not feed the trolls. “Honestly, I don’t remember you there,” Saga lied. “I remember that happening, but which one were you?”
This pissed him off immensely. “You stupid bitch.”
“Bite your tongue, assbutt!” Andromeda screamed, while clearly trying to use her powers against him.
“Not this time, sugartits,” he said to her. “This time your powers are being suppressed by an injection. You won’t be able to stop it with a knife this time.”
“What the hell do you want?” Saga asked derisively.
“I want a clean Durus. I hear you two are getting married,” he said with feigned excitement for their happiness together. Then he dropped the act. “We’re not okay with that.”
“Well, we would have asked you for permission, sir,” Andromeda said, besting him in the acting department by imitating a stereotypical obedient housewife, “but...who are you again?”
This man needed to find his center. His temper was getting worse. “I’m not going to try to show you the light this time.” He knelt down and wrapped his arms around Andromeda’s torso to cut her ropes apart. “You wanna be with your Earthan girl forever, then you got a deal.”
Now, this moment right here would have been a perfect opportunity to spit in his face, but Andromeda never did anything half-measure. On their upteenth date, she revealed to Saga that she had the ability to vomit on cue, which she decided to demonstrate again, this time for whatshistoes. Taking advantage of his absolute disgust, she snagged the knife from his hand, and totally jacked up his shoulder, then she prepared to fight her way through the other six men who had come into their home. Somehow, though, they had guns. A lot of them.
Firearms were incredibly rare on this planet. There were a healthy number of them in Springfield when it was sucked into the void, but few people around with the knowledge to make more. One of their terrible leaders was a man named Smith, who did have this knowledge, for he was a literal blacksmith. Overtime, however, production was able to cease, because he disappeared, or something, and had failed to pass his skills onto others. When a group of choosing ones started using their time powers to create mages, projectile weapons seemed too pedestrian to use, so they were locked up. They had been used on occasion since then, but not much. That these guys had them proved there was still at least one corrupt politician left in government.
“Sit back down!” one of the men with guns ordered. He then kicked the leader guy, who was now crying in pain, to his face. “Shut up, sir! I said sit down, you Earthanfu—”
He didn’t get to finish his derogatory term when a magical hole opened up in the ceiling. Above them they could see a hovering military helicopter. There were no helicopters on Durus. Soldiers wearing green camouflage dropped down on ropes and swiftly removed the terrorists from their respective waking states. The ceiling returned to its normal form. After the soldiers were finished, they turned toward the women. “We would love it if you could create a door for us. Our pilot would like to speak to you two. Please know you can trust us.”
“We know we can,” Saga said, disrespectfully removing the knife from the bigot’s shoulder, and wiping the blood off on his pants. “But she can’t make a door. Her powers have been suppressed.”
“Gadhavi?” she said to one of her soldiers.
Gadhavi stepped forward and held up a needle.
“Go ahead,” Andromeda consented.
He injected her with a serum that returned her powers to her, so she could recreate their front door. They walked out to find the helicopter on the ground. The terrorists who hadn’t made it into the cottage were all lying on the ground. The pilot was still finishing up a few things in his bird, but then he stepped out and removed his sunglasses.
Saga breathed a sigh of relief. “Sargent.”
“Nice to see you again, love.”
“How did you get here? Why?”
“We’re here to stop the New Crusades,” Adolphe Sargent, military strategist extraordinaire, said. “I also hear there’s gonna be a wedding?”

Friday, February 16, 2018

Microstory 780: Fever

It starts with a fever, just like any regular illness, but then it turns into something new. Something bad. Something you’ve never experienced before. It will not simply take your abilities away, which is something that’s already happened to you. Why, that’s what got you into this mess in the first place. They gave you this drug, and claimed it would enhance your abilities—which it ultimately did—and the only downside it was supposed to have was that you would lose them temporarily, while your body reworked itself into something even greater than it was when you were born. What they failed to tell you was that this drug was created by someone who failed to leave any notes or research. The people who gave it to you, not only didn’t concoct it themselves, but actually don’t know who did, so even if it had undergone extensive testing, there was no documentation for them to study. They didn’t realize at the time, but this enhancement drug had terrible long-term effects. Without treatment, if used more than once, the drug will cause your abilities to turn on you. Cosmo Drexler, who normally has control over the acceleration of moving objects, becomes trapped in a temporal bubble of sorts, unable to move beyond a snail’s pace. Tamra Shore, whose body constantly replenishes itself, while slowing her aging, develops rapidly progressing cancer. Pyrokinetic Diane Ghoti’s body overheats, Peyton Resin becomes stuck in rock form, and supervisor Valary Sela goes blind. Scientists began researching possible cures for the virus immediately, but have been unable to come up with an overarching cure. Though all anomalies will be affected by the pathogen, in some way, their symptoms will always present themselves in different ways. This means that, though a virus is what delivered the corruption to the body, in the first place, that is no longer the problem. Now your body has been genetically altered with the bad code. Even if they found a way to combat the virus, it wouldn’t help anyone showing symptoms, for the virus in them is already dead anyway. It’s their respective bodies they need to worry about now. Everyone gets a different cure, based on their abilities, and symptoms. And we all know whose cures they’re gonna work on first. Are you one of the elite?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Microstory 779: Duck

My name is Cora Graves, and I have one question for you. Have you ever wanted to be a duck? It may sound like an absurd question, but it’s a perfect example to illustrate my point. Ducks are magnificent, and versatile creatures. They can fly, they can swim on the surface, or underwater, and they can walk (read: waddle) on land. When making its nest, a mother-to-be duck will pluck out her own feathers, instead of just using material she finds around. Have you ever thought about pulling out your hair and making a crib? Now you’re all wondering, why am I even bringing this up? I want you take a look at this...can we zoom in on my hand? This is my personal assistant, Tilina. Say hello, Tilina. Tilina is presently about six deam tall, but she didn’t start out this way. She was born as an average-sized human, but we transferred her consciousness to this substrate, which we are calling her anchor. I know, she looks a hell of a lot like a fairy, and that’s for good reason. We modeled this product on the fairies, because they had the right idea about shrinking. This is what brings us back down to my question about becoming a duck. With an anchor, you could do exactly that, or you could become anything else you can imagine. As long as we have the necessary parameters, we can build you virtually any new body, and insert you into it via your anchor. No longer will you need these standard human forms. You will be the anchor, and the anchor will let you become anything else. Well...anything larger than the anchor, that is. We could upload your consciousness into a pea-sized object, but then you would have to rely on someone else to place you into any new form. Should something go wrong, forcing you to abandon your current form, you’re gonna want to be able to fly away and find another one, so the fairy form is the best option for an anchor; not too large, not to small, for most forms. Unless you wanna be a bug. I want to make it clear that you would not be driving your form, using your anchor’s motor components. Once the anchor is inserted, your consciousness will be integrated into the neural construct, allowing you to feel yourself as that animal, mythological creature, or hey, maybe even an airplane, if you’d like. Ladies and gentlemen, we were born with limits. We’re too slow, too short, too grounded. I’m here to tell you that those constraints no longer exist. Now you can realize your dreams, and become literally anything you want, be that the mighty coleobeast, or the humble duck.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Microstory 778: Pothook

There are several moves in boxing, most of which were created during the invention of the sport itself, for they were really just formalizations of moves that already existed for real hand-to-hand combat. Traditionally, boxing has been a male sport, with women generally gravitating towards the various forms of martial arts. One notable boxer was a woman named Siveda Gualerni. She was large and muscular, weighing into bargeweight when she was only nineteen years old. What she lacked in speed, she made up for in power, of course. She was nearly impossible to knock down. One of her most common moves was to just let the other boxer hit her as many times as they could before they were too tired to take much of a beating back. During one match, however, she discovered this tactic would not work. She was up against former military officer, Sergei ‘Deadvelvet’ Fannen, who was known for being able to hit pressure points just so. Since they were participating in a Mystery Showdown, she didn’t know they would be competing against each other until the very last minute, which meant she didn’t have enough time to strategize a plan. She tried to fight like she normally did, but this was proving unwise, so she broke formation, and observed a regular stance. Still, it was only a matter of time before Deadvelvet found the right series of pressure punches, and took her out. In a desperate move, Gualerni tried to send him a left hook, but lost her balance in the middle of it, and her right hand ended up on the other side of his head as her instincts were just trying to keep her upright. The result was a devastating blow to both of Deadvelvet’s temples and ears that had terrible repercussions for his inner ear. For the next several moments, he was unable to maintain his balance, which gave Gualerni the edge she needed to knock him down for the count. The audience and announcers were shocked, not that she had won, but that she had done so in such an unorthodox manner, using a move no one had seen before. Reporters would later refer to this as the pothook, suggestive of her holding pot on the other side of the opponent’s head. The International Boxing Council would come to refer to it as a violation after Deadvelvet was shown to have permanent hearing loss. Ashamed of what she had done, Gualerni quit boxing that week, and started pursuing a career in nursing, but she would always be remembered as the inventor of the pothook; the only move in history to be used once before being deemed foul, except for that time a boxer bit another’s ear off.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Microstory 777: Hector

Some might say that Hector Cubit’s nickname as The Protector is proof that we are destined to be who we later become. The truth is, though, that he could have just as easily been named Bobby, or been deemed The Guardian. Still, though he generally had little enthusiasm for rhyme, he was proud of his title, and adopted it happily. It was quite useful, too, to have something that remained with him always, since he barely had time to make his name in one job before he moved on to the next. Hector attributes his protective instinct to his mother, Joaquima, who was also famous for her propensity to save people’s lives. It would seem that danger was stalking Joaquima, for she constantly found herself in mortal danger. From bank hostage to boating accident survivor, Joaquima had no shortage of stories saved up to later tell her children, of which she would ultimately have none. What people didn’t realize, however, was that danger wasn’t following her at all, she was actually looking for it. There have been lots of people throughout history who have been born with special abilities, but most of these are associated with some subspecies of human. Ambers, anomalies, vampirs; these all have abilities, because they were genetically engineered to be different than standard humans. What they could do was the result of something being done to them, with very little of it being natural. The universe, however, also contains a mystery or two, one of these being Prophets. Unlike some fictional stories, prophets do not simply see the future. They do not gaze into crystal balls, or make judgments from tea leaves. Real prophets are simply those destined to lead the world through great sociopolitical breakthroughs, using radical forward-thinking ideas. Yes, it’s true that they often possess some connection to the fabric of the universe, but their real power is what they do with it. Joaquima Quintana could not literally see the future, but she did feel the push and pull of safety and danger. Another possessing this trait would use it to avoid perilous situations, and possibly some higher power controlling all this had that in mind, but that was not what Joaquima decided to do with it. She placed herself in the hazardous situations, using her intuition to prevent a tragedy altogether, or at least save as many as she could. Her husband, seeing her path to be of great value to the world, provided for them both with a steady job for decades. She retired from this life, and took a regular job, when she had Hector at a relatively old age, but not before, some believe, she passed her gifts onto him. Though he was never considered a true prophet, the reason Hector kept switching jobs was because he always had to be where he was needed most.