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Two Swords: The Cursed Blade PT8Guardian of The SwordThe disadvantage of having an army was how long it took to traverse terrain that a smaller party could cover. That was why all armies had scouts, and the shoguns army was no exception. Though the dangerous job was made even more dangerous, the mountains were rightfully feared. “An Oni, a dead one.” The scout had reported to the shogun.The shogun had wanted to see it for himself. “A minor Oni. Seems he took a tumble down the mountain.” The scout bowed, “Look closer my lord.” The shogun frowned, “Broken arrow shafts. Tanka, you old fool. You actually sent your pawns to fetch it for you.” He turned back to the scout. “Back to your work, I shall tell the paymaster to increase your wage.” The scout bowed. “Be wary, it seems we’re not the only ones in search of our prize.” The shogun looked around before telling his bodyguards to remain put. Crossing to the shadows cast by the rocks he spoke.“It seems your playmates are ahead of us. Continue to stay close.” There was no acknowledgement, but the shogun knew he had been heard. **The party said their goodbyes to Tora as they left the sanctuary in the mountains. “Farewell, I hope you find what you’re looking for. But more importantly I hope you don’t die.” Tora waved them off.“Fine sentiment indeed.” Decius scoffed.The sellsword was in a bad mood having nearly died. Not even the strong coffee seemed to lighten his mood.The other members wisely stayed silent as they traversed up the mountain, stopping when it was safe to catch their breaths and acclimate to the air. “Tora told me what we seek has a guardian.” Narita piped up as they were moving.Decius blinked, “Why did you wait so long to tell us?” The girl fidgeted, “I sort of forgot with all the excitement last night.” “What did he say exactly?” Satsu questioned.“A swordmaster.” Takeshi raised a brow, “A single swordmaster to guard the cursed blade? He must be well renowned.” Takeshi was already looking forward to the confrontation, himself against the blade’s guardian. What sort of man devoted himself to protecting such a sword? What sort of man could resist the sword’s poisoned and honeyed words? Whoever they were Takeshi already respected their willpower alone. Or perhaps they had already succumbed and contented themselves with slaying whoever came to claim the sword? Takeshi pondered the possibilities, his mind already thinking of scenarios and counters. “A copper for your thoughts Takeshi.” Decius said.“Hmm?” Takeshi responded.Decius held up a hand, “Think I know already, you’re thinking about this guardian and maybe also if you could resist the sword.” Takeshi sighed, “We have traveled long together indeed. You are correct.” “Thought so, not to worry I’ve already drafted a strategy.” Takeshi raised a brow, “Please tell.” Decius grinned, “We could just have Narita shoot them from afar.” Narita looked uncomfortable at that, Decius took note of that. “Or perhaps not, she might choke. Still a tenderfoot. That’s why I have another option. Satsu is an artist with her polearm, as we know from experience a good fighter with a polearm has an advantage over even the best swordsman.”Satsu looked thoughtful, “So it’s not all just flattery with you. Interesting. But don’t think I’m swooning for you.” Decius smirked, “Oh, you’ll swoon eventually.” Takeshi grunted. Decius changed subjects,“Right. Last option I’ll fight them. There’s a good chance they’ve stayed here their whole lives, my style may be too different for them, giving me an advantage. But I think the best option would be if we all just attacked him simultaneously.” “That seems dishonorable.” Narita scoffed.“It’s practical.” Decius countered. Takeshi looked into the distance; crows were flying in the skies above. A great number of crows. It was an ill omen and the ronin gripped his katana tighter. “Something tells me we will be meeting this guardian very soon.” The crows were thick in the air, some dared to fly closer and the troop could see there was something not quite right with them. They had two sets of eyes instead of one. Finally the party find themselves at on a cliff, down below the mountain sloped upwards and there was even the whisps of clouds drifting about. But more eye catching was what lay ahead of them. A shrine had been erected and dotted about the incense sticks were the swords and helmets of many warriors. Decius noted that not all of the swords were of the native lands. He noted several straight bladed swords similar to his own, and of the Northern lands, the familiar helms of the west alongside those of many samurai and the curved swords of the desert lands. There were other weapons too, various polearms, bows, and bludgeoning weapons. Some of the weaponry looked old, stained with rust and tarnish. Others looked quite new, as if their owners had simply set them down and walked away. The strange crows sat perched around the shrine and cave watching the party silently. The only sound was that of bamboo windchimes. A figure with a dark cloak draped about their shoulders kneeled with their back to the group. Nothing was said as the adventurers stared at the figure, Satsu shifted her naginata and the assembled crows cawed.“I would advise against attacking me from behind.” The figure spoke in a male voice. Takeshi grunted, “Are you the guardian of the cursed blade?” “I am.” The figure got to its feet in one fluid motion. “No doubt you have come to claim it, like so many others before you.” Satsu spoke, “Lord Tanaka sent us.” The figure tilted his head, “Did he now? Most curious indeed. I thought he no longer wanted any part of it.” Finally the figure turned to face them, he wore robes common for physical training, but soon they all saw that the cloak he wore was no cloak. They were wings. His face seemed like a man’s but his nose was far too long, like a beak. When he blinked his eyes blinked like a bird. He wore a full daisho set in his cloth belt. Katana, wakizashi, and tanto. “I know what you are.” Takeshi hissed.The man tilted his head in a birdlike motion. “Do you?” In a blink of an eye his features changed to that of a crows. “Tengu,” Takeshi growled. “Do you see a man with a long nose and wings, or a bird? Both are correct, it is but a matter of perception.” Decius frowned, he recalled the vulture like people they had encountered before. “Is he like a Glarkie?” The tengu shifted to his somewhat human form again, before shifting back. “The Glarkie? We were once one people but we drifted apart. Us tengu devoted ourselves to the wisdom of the martial arts and qi, while our brethren sought out magic. Over time even our appearance changed, us to a crow and they to a vulture. “What of your flock here?” Narita asked.“Lesser creatures that serve me. You have more questions, I assume? Ask what you will, I have nothing but patience and so very little of those that seek the sword actually speak to me.”Takeshi huffed, “How is it a tengu came to be the guardian of this cursed blade?” “Ahh, I happened upon this cave and recognized this sword as one of Miyashi’s cursed swords. His sorceries do not affect one such as I. I knew others would seek this sword. I took it upon myself to guard it.”Narita frowned, “Out of altruism?”“No. For the challengers I knew would come. I must keep my skills honed. Such adversaries I’ve fought.” Decius grunted, “Seems like he and you have something in common Takeshi.” The tengu fluttered his wings. “I think we have tarried long enough. What shall it be? Swords? Any weapon you know, I am master of. I can fight you one at a time, or all at once. Perhaps you prefer unarmed combat?” “Give us a moment.” Decius said. He motioned the others close. “Takeshi, I think we could take him together.” “Or I could face him alone. I was the champion of Turgish’s Tournament of Blades.”“Only because I didn’t enter too. We should do this together.”“What of me?” Satsu stated. Takeshi regarded her. “I think Decius and I together have the best chance, we know how to compliment one another and coordinate.” The tengu made a clucking noise. “Have you reached a decision yet? Or have you decided to just go home?”“We’re ready for you. Two against one.” Decius stated.Takeshi nodded. “Very well,” the tengu said resigned. The creature drew katana and wakizashi and took a ready stance. Decius and Takeshi drew their own swords and faced off against the tengu. Satsu and Narita watched from the sidelines neither happy about being observers. Decius went low for the tengu’s left, Takeshi went high on the right. Both found their blades blocked. In a flash of speed the tengu disengaged and then went for Decius, making a series of slashes designed to disorientate the swordsman. Decius could barely keep up his defense, the tengu moved so swiftly. Takeshi moved in aiming to attack the tengu’s exposed back, but it was as if the creature had anticipated this and with a twitch one of its blades was protecting it back. Decius swapped grips on his sword to a halfsword and thrust for the tengu. Expertly the creature parried and with a spin sent both sellswords stumbling away. A flap of the wings and the tengu was swinging for Takeshi, the ronin grit his teeth and parried blow after below, he tried a feint but the tengu nearly chuckled. Decius readied himself to rush to Takeshi’s aid but then paused. The tengu was an experienced foe with gods only knew how much experience, every trick they knew it knew. Therefore the only course of action would be to do something completely unexpected. Decius set his sword down. “What are you doing?” Satsu scolded. “He’ll kill Takeshi if you don’t help!”“Quiet Satsu you’ll tip him off. Now grab some snow.” From the clumps of snow scattered about the sellsword quickly rolled and compacted the white material.Narita’s eyes lit up. “Decius. I know exactly what you’re doing.” “Yep, join in.” Decius flung the snowball at the back of the tengu’s head expertly. The explosion of powder and burst of cold startled the creature.“Whaaaat?” the tengu squawked. More snowballs pelted him in the wings and face. Takeshi pressed his attack as the tengu shook snow from his face as the ronin found an opening a delivered an expert kick to the creature’s chest and sent it stumbling over a rock and to the ground.Takeshi quickly kicked the blades away before raising his katana for the killing blow. All around the crow creatures cawed and warbled hopping about wildly. “Hold,” The tengu said. “Or I shall set the flock upon you.” Takeshi started to follow through.“They’ll attack if you kill me too.” Decius now with sword in hand strode over, “So you win even if you lose huh? I respect your deviousness.” The tengu growled, “All my years no one has ever thought to pelt me with snowballs while I’m trying to fight. It’s so unorthodox, it shouldn’t have worked. But it did. I shall grant you the sword. Be warned though, it is no prize but a curse.”“We’re aware.” Takeshi grunted.“Yet still you came?” The tengu questioned. “A word to the wise, the blade is safe within its saya, but if it should ever be drawn blood it will demand. One way or another.” Cautiously Takehi let the creature up, the tengu brushed himself off. “Beaten at last, and in an unorthodox manner.” It shook its head.“You’re not uh… going to impale yourself, are you?” Decius asked.Ten tengu tilted his head, “Ahh, the code would demand it yes? But then I would not learn from this defeat would I? No, I shall wander once more I’ve been in one place for far too long.” The birdlike head tilt again, “Ehh, seems you will be having guests of your own very soon. Or so my servants tell me.”There was an exclamation from Narita. “Look!” Down below like columns of ants they could see men making their way up the mountain. “That has to be the shogun.” Satsu growled. “How long before they reach us?”“By dusk I’d imagine.” The tengu said matter of factly.Narita spoke “We should leave while we still can.” “They’ll catch up with us eventually. We shall stay and fight.” Takeshi declared.His eyes were alight with the fire of battle. “We’ll lose, there’s four of us against an army!” Narita protested.Decius stroked his chin. “Actually, we might have a better chance than you think. Let’s secure the sword then I’ve got some ideas.” “This better be good.” Satsu huffed.Decius winked at her, “Trust me Satsu.”...
Two Swords: The Cursed Blade PT7Night On The MountainThe sanctuary was warm against the cold mountain nights, and more importantly healing waters had been stocked up which the battered adventurers greatly appreciated. Takeshi especially. A strong broth warmed the bones, though none thought to question their bakeneko host where the meat came from, or what it had been in life. All were afraid of the answer the feline would give.“A rat the size of a human you say?” Tora asked.“Yes,” Decius replied.“Wielding an axe?” Tora continued his questioning.“Correct,”“And you fought this pirate rat?” Decius nodded.Tora waved his paw about, “Preposterous, you are lying. Rats the size of humans, ridiculous.” Decius scowled, “Think what you want cat, it’s true.” Takeshi was already testing his sword arm as Satsu sharpened the blade of her naginata. Narita caught Satsu’s eye as she sat next to her adoptive sister. “You’re certain Lord Tanaka sent you on this quest?” Satsu asked.Narita rolled her eyes, “Ugh, you’re still going on about that? Could you find something else to bother me about? If he hadn’t sent me, that Oni would have crushed all of you.”Decius suddenly burst into the conversation, “Hey! We would have beaten him eventually. But you did alright. Don’t let it go to your head though.” “Yes, don’t let it go to your head. You’re lucky Decius was able to save you.” Satsu scolded.“Hey!” Narita shouted. Decius smiled at Satsu, “You’re welcome for that by the way.”“Thank you.” Satsu nodded. Decius grinned, “You’re most welcome, in fact….” Satsu cut him off. “That is all the thanks you’re getting.” Narita turned to Takeshi. “Will you at least defend me?” Takeshi narrowed his eyes, “You did well, but you also nearly died.”Tora watched the party banter with amused eyes. “I’m curious what brings the four of you out to this mountain. Is it treasure you seek? Or the demise of some beast?”The group looked at one another. “We seek something that many others seek, and it is well hidden.” Takeshi informed the bakeneko.Tora flicked his tail, “Well now. That could be any number of things. You’re all as secretive as a cat. Like me. Many secrets I know.”Decius had had his fill of the cat and strode away Satsu went back to cleaning her weapon. Takeshi moved to the far corner and meditated. Takeshi focused, focused on the fire within him, the fire that burned in every warrior. The flames hungered for fuel, and fuel he would provide. He was an inferno to purge his enemies. The thought brought him focus and with his focus the flames grew less wild, he was not an out of control wildfire he was a fire with purpose. The flames within him became less wild, like a bonfire. Takeshi recalled all the proverbs and phrases that guided his life, from Samurai, to ronin. For years he had no purpose, until he found a quest worthy of him, and then he would find purpose again, even if briefly. The sword, it called to him from the mountains its voice small and feeble but filled with venom. It promised the ronin dark things, but glory ever lasting, with it he would be an unstoppable warrior. The thought tempted Takeshi, he could see him wielding the cursed blade smiting through foes like a farmer with wheat. But in the vision he saw the truth, his arm was no longer his, his body was no longer his to command. He saw himself cutting down friends and foes alike. He had become the sword, another victim drawn into the blade. No, the promises were hollow, the cost too great.Takeshi opened his eyes with a growl. “You will not claim me sword. I will find you but only to prove to you that my will is greater than yours.”Narita had moved over to Tora.“You keep staring at me girl.” The bakeneko huffed.“I’m sorry you’re just so fascinating, and soooo cute.” Narita exclaimed.Tora flicked his tail. “Ohh, you think your compliments will get me to divulge the secrets I’ve learned?” Narita frowned, “I just want to pet you.” Tora chuckled, “Ha, it will take more than pets to get me to crack… ohhh! Oh yes, do that!” Narita was rubbing one of his ears firmly but gently, the bakeneko was embarrassed to find himself purring. “There’s a cursed sword in the mountains… it’s guarded well.” “Guarded?” Narita asked. “Dear me said too much… Oh! Oh, girl your puny claws are just perrrrfect.” Narita was down at the back of his neck.“The guardian knows his way around swords, a master swordmaster. Perfect guard for such an artifact. I shall not say more!”Tora scratched at the girl then and yowled. “Alright, alright, but can I just pet you a bit more?” Narita asked. Tora blinked, “Well maybe just a bit more…. But no more secrets will be divulged!”“Okay,” Narita smiled as she reached out for the bakeneko again.Decius had moved away from the group a porch area had been constructed and the sellsword took in the view of the night sky, the distant shrines, and the gazebo. A light frost blanketed the ground and the man could see his breath upon the air. It was a beautiful night and the scenery was breathtaking. It was almost hard to believe how dangerous it was, but just hours ago he and his companions had fought an Oni. It was moments like this that made his dangerous lifestyle worth living. Did the young boy he had been those years ago ever think he would be where he was now? Not just dreaming of travelling and seeing wonders but actually doing it.Decius shook his head, there was only one thing more beautiful than this night, and that was the beauty of a woman. He thought of Satsu, beautiful and strong, able to hold her own against an adversary. Her face was so cute all scrunched up when she was threatening his life. As he stared across the countryside he caught a curious sight. A woman dressed in a flimsy red kimono despite the cold temperature. Long dark hair cascaded down her back as she turned and seemed to notice Decius. She smiled radiantly a twinkle in her almond eyes as she strode to the gazebo beckoning to the sellsword with a gesture and wink. Decius gaped, in the back of his mind he knew there was something strange afoot but he found his face smiling and his feet walking on their own accord. Closer he drew to the mysterious woman until he found himself facing her. The two regarded each other staring eye to eye the woman a foot shorter than Decius, her face full of confidence. “You’ve traveled far, haven’t you?” “I have.” Decius replied. She set an arm gently on his bicep warmth seemingly travelling from her hand to his body. “Why travel so far, what do my lands have that you cannot find elsewhere?” Decius pondered the question his mind feeling like it was lost in a haze of steam. “Many things, I’ve seen such wonders every land has its own share of wonders. Danger, wealth, adventure.”She smiled radiantly again “You seek such things? You’re in love with danger.” He’d never thought of it like that before.“There are many things I love.”“Many a woman, I’m sure.” She said.Decius smirked. The woman cradled his head in her hands and lowered his head towards her, her lips paused just next to his ear as she whispered.“You wish to court something dangerous?”Chills went down Decius’s spine at the whisper in his ear. He soon found himself locking lips with her as her hands held his head in place, a fire burning within his flesh, her grip became tighter and Decius felt something soft wrapping around his leg. He hazarded a glance down to see a foxes tail wraped about his leg, in fact there were multiple fox tails belonging to this strange woman. Her eyes had turned bright yellow and there was a smirk on her face. Decius willed himself to move, to yell, anything, but he was firmly under her spell now. Grabbing his shoulders the woman shoved him down with surprising strength as she pinned him against the gazebo floor one hand pinning his wrists above his head as the other stroked his cheek. Her hands had become clawed and her face had morphed into that of a foxes, slathering jaws inches from his face.Decius found himself paralyzed unable to move as the kitsune gazed at him in triumph as her claws drew blood from his cheek.“Mmm, a foreigner tastes so much sweeter.” She spoke licking her claws. The jaws parted as she began to lean down when there was a blur of motion and the sound of a blade cutting through flesh. For a moment the kitsune stayed motionless, then her head rolled off. There was no blood, only a bright flash as smoke and sparks erupted from where her body had been.“Ahhhh!” Decius bolted up dusting himself off.Takeshi and Satsu were both there staring at the sellsword.Takeshi spoke first. “You fool! You were nearly a kitsune’s lunch!”“I’m sorry.” Decius panted.“You just can’t control yourself around a beautiful woman, did nothing about that encounter seem suspicious? Up here in these cursed mountains and you fall for that ploy.” Satsu spoke then, “Leave him alone, kitsune have power over men. Especially men like him.” “Men like me?” Decius questioned. “You know exactly what I mean.” Satsu snapped back.Takeshi huffed, before embracing his friend. Decius blinked in surprise Takeshi was usually never so affectionate. “Be more careful. I’m not ready to lose my friend.”“Sure, Takeshi.” Decius muttered. The Ronin stalked back to the sanctuary as Satsu eyed Decius. “Are you well?” He nodded. “Just shaken up, that was as close to dying as I’ve ever come in a long time, and I went to it willingly.” “As I said. Kitsune can twist your will to their desires.”Decius nodded as he too went to the sanctuary. Takeshi and Tora were talking to one another.“A kitsune? Right outside my house! They’re getting bold it seems. She must have caught sight of something she liked.” Decius shuffled in embarrassment. Narita was on him in an instant. “You go and lecture me about being careful and then you nearly get yourself killed!?” “Not you too.” Decius grumbled. “You’re going to listen to me! We all need to stay together on this quest, so you don’t go out and put yourself in danger!” She kicked his shin. “Ow! You little brat!” His anger was stifled as she hugged him close. “Promise you’ll be more careful!” “Alright, kid, alright. I promise to be more careful.” He hugged her back, glancing over at Satsu, Takeshi, and Tora. All of them looked amused. Having had quite enough Decius pushed Narita away.“I’m fine, I’m humbled, I will stay away from dangerous women from now on.” Takeshi scoffed. “Don’t promise something you know you can’t do.” Decius scowled. “I’m going to bed.” Tora regarded the adventurers. “You four are quite amusing. I shall miss you, I doubt I’ll see you again. Most travelers end up dead out here. But I’ll light candles in your honor.” “Touching,” Takeshi said drily. Gradually the group drifted away to their futons where they all had troubled sleep, worries about curses, shinobi, and kitsune all drifting into their dreams. When the dawn finally broke it was an unpleasant reminder that their brief respite had come to an end. More dangers were sure to await them.
Two Swords: The Cursed Blade PT6Denizens of the mountainIt was late morning, or so Takeshi surmised from the position of the sun. They had been travelling since the early part of dawn their path steadily becoming steeper and steeper, rocks and boulders becoming more common amongst the grass. Takeshi’s wounds were healing nicely thanks to Narita’s skills. The ronin’s face betrayed no hint of any emotion as he trekked. Of his confrontation with the Shinobi he had said but one thing and then never again. “I hope our paths cross again.” Now Takeshi led the way hand never straying far from his katana. Decius followed behind the sellsword’s eyes roaming across the new countryside in curiosity as they travelled. Behind him was Satsu, her Naginata alternating from being carried or laying just over her shoulder. “You never cease to impress.” Decius called to her.“Why do you speak to me?” Satsu grunted. “I was only going to compliment you.” Satsu scoffed, “Your flattery is not needed.”“No, no, I just wanted to tell you I’m impressed how you carry that polearm with you so effortlessly. I’ve seen professional soldiers complaining about having to march with a spear, but you carry yours with no complaint and so effortlessly.” Satsu’s expression softened, “Thank you, I’m just used to it.” Takeshi called for a rest by a large boulder, the trio settled down for a quick lunch of dried fruits and nuts. “We’re being followed.” Takeshi stated.“I was wondering if you noticed.”“The shogun’s men?” Satsu wondered.“Certainly not Takeshi’s nemesis, far too stealthy.” Decius observed.“Hmmph,” Takeshi grunted. “We’ll wait here and find out just who they are.”“Good idea,” Decius agreed.After finishing their small lunch the three hid themselves among the large stones and waited. The day wore on as the rock’s shadows stretched further and further, but their patience was rewarded as the patter of soft footsteps began to draw near. Satsu acted first, the agile woman springing from her hiding spot polearm lowered, and then she stopped in her tracks. “Narita! What are you doing out here!”Decius and Takeshi crawled out of their hiding spots, brows furrowed. Sure enough it was Narita yumi bow in hand, and quiver of arrows slung over her shoulder. A pack at her side. “I had to come too!” She protested.Satsu huffed, “You should be back at home attending to Lord Tanaka!” Narita shifted, “That’s just it, he… he sent me after you. Said he could mind things on his own just fine.”Satsu frowned, “You are telling lies. Now run home, this is no place for…. Narita cut her off, “Don’t you dare say child! I am not a child anymore! Tanaka sent me, because you need an archer.”“This is not like shooting your targets Narita. This is dangerous.” Satsu counseled. “I shot a Shinobi in the shoulder last night, I’m not helpless. You can’t play my big sister forever, sooner or later I have to grow up.” Satsu sighed relenting. “I still have my doubts Tanaka let you come, we’ll find that out if we return.” She rested a hand on Narita’s shoulder, “You should not be in such a hurry to grow up Narita. I fear you’ll regret that wish. I speak from experience.”Takeshi was silent as he watched the exchange, Decius too was uncharacteristically quiet. Finally, Takeshi cleared his throat. “It’s not too late to turn back.” Narita shook her head, “No, you need my archery, and my healing skills.” “So be it,” Satsu muttered turning away.Takeshi resumed his march. Decius shrugged, “Well, hope you can keep up tenderfoot.” Narita flushed crimson at that, “Tenderfoot?” “This is your first quest right?” Decius asked. Narita bit her lip, “Well yes.” “Then you’re a tenderfoot until you make it back alive from this quest.” Narita groaned, as Decius motioned her forward with a sweep of his hand. “I’ll make sure you don’t fall behind.” The archer grumbled a bit as she moved forward Decius smirking as he trailed behind her. The journey continued up the steadily steeper incline, vegetation becoming more and more sparse. “Ahh, mountain air how I’ve missed it.” Decius grumbled. The sun grew lower in the sky, painting the horizon red with blood as the tiny pinpricks of stars began to shine above. “We should call for a rest soon.” Satsu stated.“Just a bit further.” Takeshi countered.Decius spoke up then, “If we’re not careful we can fall off a cliff or something, there’s no moon tonight.” “Rest sounds nice.” Narita piped up. The group paused, and Decius immediately put a hand to his sword. “What is it?” Takeshi asked.“Shh, listen.” Decius replied. The other three frowned as they heard it, the pitter patter of feet crunching up the path towards them. Narita nocked an arrow, Takeshi eased his katana out a bit, Satsu took a ready stance with her Naginata. The footsteps moved closer, and then paused. Even with the darkness encroaching the group should have seen something, an outline of a figure or something. “Is it the Shinobi?” Narita asked. “If it was we’d be attacked already.” Decius grumbled.“Quiet,” Takeshi hissed. Again there was nothing, tentatively the group moved forward experimentally and then paused. The footfalls followed them again. “Ah!” Takeshi exclaimed. “I know what this is.” Moving to the side he waved forward, “Come ahead, come ahead.” Narita, and Satsu seemed to catch on as they did likewise. Frowning, Decius joined in. The footfalls resumed and passed right by the group, but they saw nothing. “What in the hells was that all about?” Decius asked. “It was a ghost, a harmless ghost that follows people unless told to go ahead.” Narita explained. “What a peculiar ghost.” Decius grunted.“They do not have such things in the West?” Narita asked.“Our specters tend to be malevolent, or sad.” Decius explained. Narita smiled, “Oh, we have those here too.” “Fantastic,” Decius grunted.Despite the ghostly encounter, which was sure to be the first of many upon the haunted mountains Takeshi had convinced the party to continue the journey. Night had completely fallen as Narita started to raise a complaint she was quickly silenced by a sound. It was like the rumble of thunder, yet not a stormcloud was in sight, nor a flash of lightning. “Move!” Satsu shouted.The group scattered as a massive boulder rolled past them. There was a deep laugh somewhere ahead and above them. “Someone rolled a boulder at us!” Decius snarled. “Not someone, something.” Takeshi grumbled. There was another chorus of laughter and another boulder bounded towards the group, the adventurers huddled where they were off to the side of the main path as the boulder rolled on. “Whatever it is, it will bring the whole mountain down.” Decius said worriedly.Takeshi gripped his katana “I believe I know what we face, we must work quickly. Two pronged attack.”“Right, you’re with me tenderfoot we’re the distraction. Let’s see how well you can shoot under pressure.” Narita nodded her paling face as Decius led the way to the side.Their laughing assailant let out another guffaw as Narita loosed an arrow. There was an angry grunt as the barbed arrow found its mark and another giant boulder was hurled in retaliation.“Seems it’s not so much fun when they fight back.” Decius remarked as he saw two shadows moving closer to the angry creature. “You’re going to have to do better than that!” He taunted keeping the creature’s attention diverted. The creature bent down to seize something. “Loose again. Keep his attention on us.”Narita nodded and let fly, there was another bellow of pain but the creature had what it sought in its hands. A large club studded in metal; a native design called a Kanabo. The creature thudded toward them its features becoming more prominent, its skin a dark blue, large tooth protruded from the bottom jaw like tusks, a pointed tail flicked angrily like a cat’s and white horns stuck up from a mop of dark hair. It wore the hides of animals over its torso, the creature seemed masculine in appearance. “Oni!” Narita shouted. As the lesser demon thumped towards its tormentors Takeshi and Satsu struck. The Naginata slashed in an upward stroke slicing aginst the creature’s chest as Takeshi struck for the leg. The weapons struck true but the monster was not so easily deterred growling in pain it struck with the kanabo, the small human figures scattering as the force of the blows sent them falling over. The Oni raised its arm to deliver the blow that would swat the pesky humans. An arrow struck the club arm, smoke blowing frim its nostrils the Oni stomped for Narita, it well remembered the cause of its original frustrations, and it would deal with that first.Narita managed to put another arrow into the Oni as it stomped on but this time it steeled itself against the pain and plodded on. Narita stood petrified. “Run tenderfoot!” Decius called as he readied himself to meet his foe. Narita nodded as she sprinted away, Decius stabbed forward with his sword the blade biting into the calf of his foe. Growling, the oni swatted the swordsman away Decius was sent sprawling against the rocky ground. Satsu and Takeshi attacked the Oni from behind sword and polearm carving into the creature who struck with his club, Satsu ducked but her naginata was jerked from her hands and the Oni promptly grabbed her by the head and lifted her up roughly prepared to send the human flying. Takeshi cut at the Oni’s leg, over and over before it kicked him away and then tossed Satsu into the ronin. The two landed in a sprawl Takeshi howling in pain as his shoulder was dislocated. The Oni turned to Narita and grinned, Narita ran as the monster chased her down the thuds of its giant footsteps growing louder and closer, its foul breath condensing on the girl as a humid mist. The Kanabo landed right beside Narita and the lithe archer lost her balance. She rolled to her back and gulped as the Oni regarded her with a cruel look in its eyes. Slowly and methodically the demon raised its club. Narita scrambled backwards on her hands and feet. The Oni brought its foot down towards her seeking to pin her in place. Narita screamed as she rolled, and then she saw the Oni’s foot slip on where she had just been. There was a howl and the Oni began to fall down the slope tumbling end over end. Narita breathed a sigh of relief which was cut short as she found herself sliding down the slope. Again she screamed, but then found her momentum stopped and her arm grasped in an iron grip. She looked up to see Decius holding her arm, his bloodied lips smirked and the side of his face was red but he held her firm.“I got you tenderfoot.” The sellsword pulled the girl up before he fell into a sitting position, Narita holding him around the shoulders and burying her face in his gambeson. “I’m so sorry, I fouled everything up.” Decius pat her gently on the back. “There, there, you did good Narita.” The mercenary stood up pulling the girl up with him. “Recover your bow, we’ve got to see how the others are.”“Right,” Narita nodded as she found her bow and what arrows she could recover. Satsu stood on wobbly feet a massive bruise on the side of her face. “We got lucky,” “Lucky that it was a lesser Oni, the more powerful of its kind can command powerful magics, and even the forces of nature.” Takeshi said through gritted teeth. His left arm hung limply. “That’s going to be a problem.” Decius remarked. “Pop it back,” Takeshi grunted.Decius grimaced, “Very well, brace yourself. This is going to hurt.” There was an anguished cry as Decius set the dislocated shoulder, and soon the battered party limped on Takeshi’s arm in a improvised sling. “We’ve got to stop now.” Narita said. “Finding shelter is the problem.” Satsu sighed. The mountain plateaued where the peaks of other mountains could be seen towering above. The air was chill, and the night quiet save for the wind. “Look,” Satsu shouted. A wooden pagoda house stood with a welcoming light within, shrines to the gods lay before it with offerings of other travelers.“Should we go in?” Decius asked.The howl of something and fiendish cackling answered his question. Anywhere was better than out in the open, especially after the thrashing the Oni had given them. The four hurried to the door which slid open and the travelers stood dumbfounded by what they saw. A small gray cat standing on it’s hindquarters and dressed in a little kimono waved at them with its paw. “Welcome travelers. To the last sanctuary you’ll find out here.” “What in the hells?” Decius asked. The cat blinked, “Ah, you are an outsider, you have not seen the likes of me before have you? I am a Bakeneko, once an ordinary cat now something more.”Narita squealed wanting to pet this talking cat, while Takeshi and Satsu fixed it with steely eyed glares. Decius just seemed dumbfounded.“What mischief do you have planned?” Satsu inquired.“How can we trust you?” Takeshi asked. The Bakeneko twitched its whiskers. “I am caretaker here, and sworn to provide aid and comfort to travelers that pass through these dangerous mountains. You can trust me, besides it doesn’t seem like you have any better options, Myeah?” “The cat has a point, we got thrashed out there.” Decius agreed.Satsu huffed, “Fine, but I don’t trust it.” “I think he’s adorable!” Narita cooed. The Bakeneko purred at that. “Why thank you, be welcome. Oh, and you may call me... Tora. Such name was given to me in jest. I am a little tiger.” The party entered the house, Tora regarding the outside with yellow glowing eyes before shutting the door behind them.
Hell's Cutest Bounty Hunter For Hire Ch. 4Chapter 4: Best Friend Killer?It was noon when a knock echoed on Rian’s apartment door. Despite how tired he was, he forced himself to get out of his bed and headed for the door. He answered it, and standing in front of him was his older brother JJ. “Hey man.” He said. “Hey JJ. Sorry my place is a mess, I wasn’t expecting any visitors today. Please come in.” JJ helped himself and walked inside. The front door was scribbled with graffiti that called Rian a variety of horrible things. They were half washed off, but a good portion of them still remained intact. The two brothers sat on the edge of Rian’s bed-- which was the only piece of furniture that could fit in his apartment. “So what brings you here?” Asked Rian. “I came here to check up on you. Nobody’s heard from you for the past month. You were fired from your job?” Rian remained quiet for a moment, pointing his eyes at the ground. “Yeah. They were afraid that I’d look bad for their image. I still hate what they did, but I think I would have quit my job anyway, given my reputation.” “Rian… you shouldn’t listen to what they’re saying.” “I’m aware of that, but I never liked being in public in the first place.” “You're gonna stay inside for the rest of your life?” “When you’re afraid that somebody might pull a gun on you for something you didn’t do, then yeah, what else am I gonna do?” “Won’t you get lonely, though?” “Who isn’t these days?” They both chuckled at the joke, but JJ brought the mood back after remembering why he came here in the first place. “Why haven’t you spoken to anyone?” “If you really wanna know… I’ve been trying to figure something out. If there really is a culprit responsible for all of this, then who was it?” “Rian.” “One thing is for certain. There’s something bad going on here and I…” “Rian.” “Wanna find out what it is. I wanna know what was so special about--” “Rian!” The apartment immediately fell silent. JJ sighed in sorrow. “Mina’s dead. You were there at her funeral. I think it’s time you got out and started having a life again.” Rian looked at him, feeling offended. “You need to leave.” Taken back, JJ respected his brother’s wishes and got up. “Take it easy on yourself, bro.” And headed out the door. Rian sighed to himself, regretting having cast aside his brother’s help. He was never the best at asking for help, let alone accepting it. He looked down at a newspaper article… of Mina’s obituary. The past few months weren't very kind to him…3 Weeks Earlier…Rian was being confined in an interrogation room with a hippo detective. He glared at the newspaper in front of him with the headline “Best Friend Killer?” and then back up at the hippo detective. “Now I’m not taking sides on the matter... “ The hippo detective began. “And these are just nothing more than rumors. You’re here to have a fair say in the matter. So… what really happened that night?” “I already told you. I just ordered some drinks for both of us, and then the next thing I knew she started choking on hers. I tried calling for an ambulance, asked for help, everything I could think of. You think that I would draw attention to myself like that after killing someone?” “Well you were the last person she was with.” “And?” “Well that speaks for itself buddy.” The hippo detective pointed at the news article. “You’ve caused quite a stir lately.” “You just said you weren’t taking sides.” “I never said I believed them. I’m just here to find the truth, so if you didn’t do it then who?” “I don’t know! Maybe the people at Subs Ain’t Sus poisoned her drink, but I don’t know why they’d want her dead, she was their best customer. Or maybe nobody was to blame, has anyone thought of that? Maybe she just got careless and drank too--” “Calm down, buddy.” The hippo detective patted his shoulder reassuringly. Rian still kept his glare and looked away. “I’ve tried to tell everyone, but no one will listen to me. Has anyone else been interrogated?” “Not yet, but at the moment there’s no one else to interrogate.” “So tell me. Do you believe me?” “It’s not my job to believe anyone, kid. I’m just here to listen to your point of view. So could you tell me what happened that night?” Rian grabbed the newspaper and ripped it apart. “Screw this! I’ve already told you the truth, and you’re still asking me the same question! I didn’t kill Mina!” “If you really are innocent, then you’re doing a poor job at convincing me.” Rian rose from his chair. “Then just arrest me already! I’m getting really tired of your bullshit!” A stunned silence filled the room. The hippo detective shook his head in disappointment. “We’re done here.” He stepped out of the room, leaving Rian to slowly sink back into his chair. He looked over at the shredded newspaper and saw Mina’s face in the obituary section.As Rian sat alone in his apartment, he stared at the same picture of Mina, smiling even in the picture she was in. But she wouldn’t be smiling at him if she saw him like this. He didn’t know a life without her, nor did he even get to tell her how much he really liked her. She was always there for him whenever he needed her, and he always had her back. But he couldn’t save her from this. His best friend… his only friend… was gone. How disappointed she must be that he failed her. Rian felt a tear run down his cheek. He didn’t care though. He allowed all of his tears to run down like a waterfall.
Sci-Fi - Chapters
Colorized Ghosts Ch. 1 - Unexpected ChangeThe moon stood tall above in the sky; its soft light illuminated the crowded alleys and streets of Armina."Woah, do you see what she's wearing?" She overheard as she slipped past the careless groups into the apartment complex. "No way, that is way above anything we can buy." It was a sleek and pristine jacket that sported a crimson red finish. Primarily it functioned as a raincoat but also served as an invisibility cloak. Her form was partly visible, with an odd refractive mist behind her; she appeared like a manifested apparition. At every corner stood a man; once far enough, he would disappear like a ghost and reappear at the next intersection. "What's wrong, Roxanne? You seem a bit tense?" Residents nearby would go pale with fear or outright just bolt in the opposite direction with the sight of the two. "Come on, take that silly hood off. I know you weaseled yourself away from the guards." He turned to look at her, then gestured his hand in front of the door. The electronic look released, and the door opened automatically; he gestured for her to enter first."Oh shut up, you're always having fun with your little holograms." She scowled at him briefly then entered his apartment."Hmm, true, but you gotta admit, the neighbors were pretty spooked today." He laughed at the thought. "Though I'm sure gonna get an earful about it tomorrow morning.." The carefree smile he had morphed into a frown as he sighed."Enough about the neighbors. I didn't sneak by just for nothing; I have a mission for you.""A mission... okay then." A wave of seriousness filled the room as they both sat on his couch."It's pretty urgent, I would go myself, but you know that current--" There was a loud knock on his door, Roxanne went utterly silent."Excuse me, sir, the matter is urgent." He overheard from outside. "Stay there, and let me take care of them." A gentle whisper slipped from his mouth and placed a hologram emitter in her hand, "exit out the back, I'll come up with something.""Sir, are you there? It's about Lady Roxanne.""Thanks, make sure you're ready." She activated the emitter and placed it on her belt. After a second, it synchronized with her cloak, and she departed from the balcony."Uh, yeah. Give me a second." He quickly took off his jacket and ruffled his hair, then pretended to be half awake. He slowly opened the door and yawned at the sight of the squadron at his doorstep."We're sorry to interrupt your sleep, sir. Lady Roxanne has gone missing and wondered if you've seen her?"He shook his head and seemed fully awake, "I've been crashed out since about two hours ago." Deadpan eyes stared at them as he scratched his stubby beard. "Tell you what, why don't you all take the night off, go rest, have a few drinks on me. I'll look for Lady Roxanne.""But sir, our duty is to protect Lady Roxanne." The squadron leader spoke up as blue hues of light emanated from their visors. Clad in what seemed ancient medieval armor, the sleekness was too modern for anything that old."Uh-huh, and you have a duty to off time as well. So get on with it. I’ll go look." He tossed them a small data cube."Thank you, Captain." The blue lights of their armor went out, and they departed without another word.The door closed and locked automatically, "Roxanne sure has them running in circles.." he thinks out loud. His attention crept at the wall in front of him while the projection at the door disappears.The living room wall was adorned with several paintings of varying size with an unorganized layout that bothered anyone that came to visit. While the pictures themselves weren't anything to write home about, most of them were made by his close friends and relatives.With a usual busy schedule, he took a few seconds to reminisce about the intentions and thoughts poured into these expressions. Before he slipped into other daydreams, he placed his hand on the wall.All the lights turn off while he removes his hand from a digital hand scanner on the wall. It slides inward and after to the right, which revealed an array of weapons, armor, and documents. Deep scratch indents and bumps marked the edges and insides near the guns and armor. Though the actual equipment and gear itself were spotless."Looks like it's going to be another busy weekend, buddy.." He looked at his warped reflection on the helmet's visor.There were a few hours left before dawn broke through, and the streets and alleyways were as busy as ever. Faded neon signs lead the way to rundown clubs and bars, street vendors sold about anything they could get their hands on. Anything from aftermarket prosthetics to piles of scrap with the rare oddity of times long gone. There was so much noise built up together, especially from the holographic commercials on the nearby buildings.One such hologram repeated the same sentence on loop, with a break in its monotonous harmony due to the technician stopped by to repair it. He wove through the crowds of tourists and locals quietly. Now and then, someone would smile and wave at him, but most just kept their distance and avoided the gaze of the armored enforcer. Still, he could feel the tension in the air, as whispers trailed as they walked by. Parents telling their children to stay away, with most in awe, at the glimmer his armor reflected.Vendors and store staff would wave at him to come by, but he just waved back briefly and continued onward. His visor was turned off, as to not intimidate anyone more so than they already were.A checkpoint came into view. Its automatic searchlights and defense systems were recognizable even at this time. Very few people came by to this area of town, afraid by the year-round watch it had with enforcer elites. Most of their gear was accented with a green finish, while the snipers up top were spec-ops, so theirs was blue.The checkpoint door was opened ahead of time, the soldiers on guard and break equally stood with a firm attentive salute. "Captain, we were informed that you were on your way.""Of course. Anyway, I don't have much time for chit-chat, so I'll come by once I've returned. Oh yeah, tell the royal guard that Lady Roxanne has been safely escorted by me back to her estate.""Yes, sir, I'll do just that." The senior in command replied as the soldiers relaxed and returned to their posts.The wind rustled from where he was, and the helipad came into view. Only members of the royal family and VIPs were allowed to board this express vehicle, but today there was an exception made for him as the matter was urgent."Right this way sir, Lady Roxanne said she'll forward the details once you are on route." Her assistant almost seemed to appear from nowhere. Such was her habit. She shook his hand and placed an old door key in his palm. "Once it's done, report back to her, use the underground evacuation route.""Alright, thank you." He slipped the key into an empty pouch and boarded the VTOL.Once aboard, he sat down on the closest seat. The metallic door slid into place, followed by safety clamps that locked onto the passenger. With the coordinates set, the aircraft entered stealth mode and cloaked itself. With a relatively silent takeoff, he was now on route to his assignment."Patching in an encrypted connection. Standby... Connected." A monotone voice echoed mildly from the speakers in the rear."Alright, as the nature of such missions we undertake, protocol GHOST is in effect. Only you are dispatched for this operation. As you may have guessed by the lack of support.""I figured as much. So fill me in on the details before I land.""You are to locate our operative that went radio silent in the area.--""That's it a simple rescue op? If it was just that, you could have sent in a three-man team to do a sweep instead of me.""--Once they are located, use the signal flare provided to the said operative. After that, you are to resume the investigation and only return once you are done.""As I said, you don't need me on a simple mission such as this.""That's enough, Specter! Need I remind you of the consequences of breaking protocol. Look, just do the job, and come back in one piece, alright?""..Yes, ma'am..." Specter sighed and nodded to himself. "GHOST protocol accepted, Specter out.""Connection terminated. Reaching LZ in three minutes."He shook in his seat repeatedly. The sturdy clamps scraped against the reflective armor. "Damn it, Roxanne..""One minute until landing.""Maintain high altitude coverage. When you pick up my signal on the scanners, come down and have the drones bring in the VIP." He ripped the clamps off and tossed them off to the side. From the emergency stache, he picked up two backup pistols and fastened them to his belt. Afterward, he pushed the emergency exit button and pulled down the handrail on the door."Warning. You are violating safety protocols. Please remain seated until the craft has landed. A fall from this height is lethal; please retreat behind the marked red line."The door slid open as Specter looked down to the forest below. Through the greenery, some ruins could be seen off in the distance. "Enough of protocols. Just do as I say, and once the VIP is secured, return to HQ. I'll find my way back.""Command accepted."With a final check of his gear and location, he jumped from the VTOL. He maintained a tight profile to reduce drag, then spread his arms and activated the thrusters on his suit. Metallic flaps slid outward as they let out a flash of white from his chest and knees.He maneuvered around the tall trees and thick branches. Once a few meters from the ground, he cut all auxiliary power. Blanketed by darkness like a star, he rolled swiftly and didn't spare a second to recover. A crimson light illuminated the way ahead as he zipped past any obstacles. His visor scanned the area repeatedly until finally, it detected something.He knelt. Several tracks were imprinted, one singled out as human while the rest were unknown. Though there were also claw marks on the trees nearby, and various branches snapped near the tracks. "Alone and outnumbered. I need to hurry." He said to himself and followed the prints on the visor.A very mild dread crept up his spine, followed by a tingle on the back of the neck. There was a slight chill on his arms and legs, but the suit status checked out normal. Still, on the move, bullet trajectories were projected; each was a miss. An empty pistol was tossed to the side in some leaves and dirt.The tracks were more frantic and irregular but continued ahead, with a blood trail that leads in another direction. Specter smiled and pursued the blood trail. In the distance, nestled between two trees and covered in leaves lied the operative."Get anywhere closer, and I'll shoot..""Relax, I've been sent here to extract you.""Shit... it's about damn time.."Specter approached cautiously. His hand gripped the handle on the rifle. With a quick sweep and scan of the area, he lifted the operative slowly. "Now, stay quiet. This is going to sting a bit..""Listen.. whatever you gotta do, hurry, cause they'll find us soon.""They? What do you mean?" Specter asked as he listened and continued to wrap bandages around her arm and leg."T-Those things, I don't know what they are..." She winced in pain and looked at Specter, "They killed Victor.."Specter helped up her back up, "...Director. Any research or details you have, forward them to me immediately. I'm sure Victor gave you his emergency flare, right?""Yes, he did... here take it." She trembled in intervals and handed him the flare."Thank you." He was about to light it, but she held onto his hand for her dear life."D-Don't.. it will draw them to us.""Hold still." He scanned her. "Dilated pupils, heavy breaths, paranoia.." He said under his breath and gave her one of his pistols. "Calm your breathing. Point and fire. Now, I'm going to signal your extraction. When it gets here, hurry inside. It's on sentry mode, and it's directed to take you straight back to HQ. Now, from here on, not another word, alright?"She nodded, pursed her lips tightly, and took the pistol.Specter tapped twice on his visor; its hue shifted to white. Afterward, he sent a localized signal to the VTOL. They moved in silence further into the forest toward the ruins, where the vegetation cleared up. Once there, the VTOL adjusted its course, and uncloaked, it landed in an uneven patch."Thank you, Specter. Here take your weapon back, and this as well." She returned the pistol and handed him a dirty hologram emitter.The VTOL’s turret lasers homed in on Specter, and he quickly retreated from her. "Step away from the VIP." She boarded the craft and waved to him. "Find Victor and return him to his family.."Once the craft departed, he set off toward the heart of the ruins. Grass and gravel laid about in the area, with segments of marble and glass that reflected the crescent moon. The marble floor cut off abruptly in what appeared to be a courtyard. At the center was a weathered fountain. A lady stood at the top with a dove perched on her hand with its wings outstretched. Her left arm was gone, while the crown at her head, lied in tatters. At the base of her feet was a golden plaque. The inscription said, "Our Beloved Queen, Armina.""Armina..?" He scanned it, and the results were zero. "I'll have to come back here later." He nodded and removed the vines and moss that covered the statue. "So long, Queen."Past the courtyard, a large part of the forest was devoid of anything but dirt. The trees on the edge of where vegetation was typical were bland and dead. While the soil itself was white as if covered in a thick layer of ash. There was a twisted aura to this place, ever since he entered, but in this section, it was magnified. An uneasiness rose from his stomach that made him shudder. With the continuous sensation that there were many eyes on him.It felt like several hands were pressed against his chest and back. Specter shook his head and regained his composure. Though the dread and madness had already taken their toll. In the darkness of night, shadows warped and reshaped themselves. Several silhouettes moved in a slow shamble at the tree line. After a glance, they appeared to be ordinary people caught in a trance. They chanted and whispered amongst themselves, all drew near to Specter."The liar.. the heretic..""A wicked sinner..."Wicked laughs ended suddenly as they all began to contort in place. Their bodies stiffened, bones snapped and popped back into place, feral growls rang throughout the darkness. A few extended their hands in moments of clarity. Their eyes pleaded to be laid to rest.Skin and flesh began to peel rapidly, gasps for air, and muffled shouts of pain followed afterward. Specter drew out a pistol and retreated a step back toward the courtyard. Semi-solid masses of darkness and light stood in front of him. They all had a silver glimmer in their chest and eyes that glowed lime green.Their stances were lowered, almost animal-like. They skirted on all fours and flanked Specter quickly. He kept his aim on them, though switched targets repeatedly and barely kept aware of all of them."Specter...""He who sees beyond...""...Join us.." Said one as it circled him from behind and lunged in.It pounced him with incredible speed, growled, and tried to claw at his helmet. He pushed it upward with his left arm and narrowly avoided any hits. With the pistol still in hand, he fired two shots into its head. The bullets ricochet with no visible damage, "What the fuck..?" He followed up with a directed discharge of his chest thrusters, which sent it into the air. Now free of its hold, he rolled away from it and holstered his pistol with haste.It landed on its back but recovered almost as fast. The others withdrew as if an acknowledgment of one worthy of being hunted. Specter hover-dashed into the air. He redirected the thruster output to his back with a deft swiftness, then kneed it with a decisive blow. With a matched ferocity jammed his rifle barrel in its mouth and then discharged a charged attack in that same instant. A black splatter covered the pale ground and Specter's armor as he stood in silence.A swift green trail darted to him; he instinctively rolled to the side. Only a glimpse of black claws was left in his place. The shadowy mass dissipated into thin air and continued its assault on him. "Damn it, what the hell are these things..?!" Specter said under his breath, now on the defensive as more of them started to attack as well.With no time to attack, he left the rifle on standby and holstered it. Three approached from the front and another from the back. With a firm stance, he inhaled and exhaled slowly. The worry and stress from battle faded. Only his rage carried him at that point. He sprung backward and deliberately withstood a head swipe. Sparks lit up his eyes with a fiery brown as the claws shredded into the metal. Its marks were left deep into the helmet, but he used that moment of recoil to tackle it toward the others.Specter affirmed his stance, swiped his hand near the sensor on the rifle, and tossed it aside. ToThe discharge bore molten red holes in them. In a mad frenzy, he threw one down, twirled mid-air with a thruster assist, and then tossed the other one.Like an angel that glistened in the night, he plummeted with them and dug his red hot fingers into another. He snarled at the rest and continued to the gaps in the distance. He lunged in like a wild animal. Most of the attacks passed right through them. He impaled one from behind with his hand and tossed it aside. Black blood dripped from his claws, he bolted to the rest in a predictable path. All of them dodged except one, and it held him in place, though his form dissipated into small lines of light. He sprinted in from behind, grabbed its head, and bashed it from behind with his knee.Four remained, but one retreated into the darkness of the forest. A mild set in as he panted, yet they observed attentively for any movements. "Damn it... I overdid it." The cold moonlight illuminated a sheathed sword on the pale ground among patches of dead grass. He grabbed it, slid it around his waist, which now rested on the right hip, and unsheathed the sword promptly.Its platinum edge glistened in the night; with light steps and small sways, he approached the three that stayed. There was a slight breeze and a dreadful silence that befell the area. Specter could only calm his breaths as he neared closer. With each step and sway, he could feel the tingle of pain that returned to his arms and shoulders.Years of practice and battle, he finally noticed how heavy the sword felt at that moment. He stopped about three meters from them while they formed a triangle formation. Without a sound, one after another, they sprung at him in unison. He swiped upward at an angle after an adjustment of his stance. The sword ripped into the abdomen of the first, and he methodically rotated the blade and slashed diagonally in a fast follow-up.After the second attack, one fell to his side, the sword weighed downward, as the second used the opportunity to run up the weapon's length. In an animal-like swiftness, it swiped the same area where the helmet was clawed earlier. Its claws ripped the left faceplate off and left three deep cuts on his cheek and eyebrow. Next, it pounced on him from behind. At that moment, he struck the sword into the ground and tumbled down. With its claws, it ripped off the thruster exhausts on his back and pinned him from the waist."You bastard.." He wriggled in place and tried his best to grab the being.He shook off his anger. Bits of metal and scrap landed around him. He managed to grab one of its wrists with luck, though afterward felt the grip and the weight on top of him disappear. Without delay, he redirected the power left to his chest and flew upward by a few meters. The being phased through him like it didn't exist. Still, he braced momentarily, rolled forward, and retreated a few steps.Its green eyes focused on him before it could attack, Specter, burst stepped inward. He maintained a series of short punches to keep it from materializing completely. Now back to where he was before, with a sword in hand once again. The bolt at the center of the blade charged up a snow-white, the energy exuded outward like a white flame. At the moment its head and torso solidified, he swiped the sword horizontally. The power quickly dispersed forward in an arc shape. The bolt of light impacted the being with a visible recoil.A silver gash could be seen on its chest and couldn't disappear properly anymore. The last attacker rushed in from his left; he stepped back and defended with the sword. With a slight twist of his position, he pushed the attacker back, and with an expeditious thrust, impaled it where the heart was.It screeched and clawed to no avail, then went limp in silence. Specter swiped upward as the moonlight reflected off the patches of black blood and platinum. Its sudden gaze lulled the injured being nearby into a trance. Specter observed the calm being as it approached him. Using the charm to his advantage, he added delayed after images to the sword with the hologram emitter. With a careful half-circle rotation downward, he rested the tip of the blade on the ground. His hands gripped the pommel carefully as the hologram took full effect.The being limped forward, its hand outstretched to the mirage. Black crestfallen eyes reflected the moon with a slight warp as a lone tear fell down its cheek. Specter had stepped backward and flanked from the left to its backside.He noticed its brief moment of humanity return and lowered his head. The sword rested near his left hip with the blade angled diagonally downward. Specter pursed his lips for a while longer while the hilt almost rattled in his hands. Once the outline seeped in the white energy, he returned his gaze to it with a sigh, "Forgive me, and rest in peace." Like a candle flame that danced before being put out, he pierced the sword into its neck with a quick and silent thrust. The white flames exploded outward like a small torrent and dissipated. Its head and body rested on dry grass, and both he and his double stared at the dead.Specter wobbled forward. With the bit of strength that remained, he sheathed his sword and used it as support. The visor was unusable, save for the small light it cast forward. Like an old man with a cane, he trudged through the forest in relative silence. The onlookers kept their distance and observed the lone knight.Through the dense thickets and shrubs could be seen an outpost up ahead. Its perimeter lights were on emergency power. As such, the turrets on guard were shut down. Black concrete walls lined the exterior, thick rolls of barb wire lined the top edge. The entrance was pitch black, the exterior laser grids were either ripped out or clawed to pieces. While the security door was jammed halfway with deep indents on the side. An odd puddle of blood lay at the door, with streaks that rapidly swirled to the darkness inside.A lone emergency light at the far end lit up the lab area. Light panels and cables dangled from the ceiling, patient beds lie scattered around twisted and mangled. Glass and black blood lay around the desks and chairs. Off to the side, in a cabinet, were medical supplies. He rushed over, sat down on a clawed chair, and opened a first aid kit. After a sigh, he removed his helmet then placed it and the sword to his left. The bottle of disinfectant alcohol shook in his hand as a bit streamed down his armor. The smell drove him back completely conscious, followed by the pain as he applied some to his wounds. Once his face was wiped clean, he continued and placed a few bandages on."Quite a beating we took, buddy.." He said in a whisper and put his helmet back on.He nodded to himself to spur onward and strapped the sword back onto his waist. Research documents and data pads lied about near where the emergency light shone. To the left, behind a wall panel, was a circuit breaker. The lever next to it was ripped off. He pried off the metal panel and flicked it aside. After a few seconds, he tripped the circuits back on. He used what was left of the lever and kicked the whole array back on. Half of the lights turned on, and all the security systems engaged came back online.He turned back and faced the entrance, and that's when he noticed what was propped up on the ceiling. He stood there in silence, unable to believe what he saw. Wrapped in cables around the arms, legs, and neck was his primary objective, Victor. Eyes frozen in a glint of cold and horror, black blood dripped from his mouth and ears. Victor's chest was wide open, layer upon layer of flesh, and twisted ribs were ornamented ritually. Blood, both red and black, spiraled from the bottom rib into a crooked crystallized spire.Upon a closer inspection, he noticed that Victor's spine and shoulder blades were elongated. The sharp protrusions were embedded deep into the ceiling and served to keep the body in place. Specter's blood ran cold as he saw a black mass that slipped out from the corpse. It spread the ribs further apart, then slipped out into a pool of shadow on the floor.It reformed itself and mimicked Specter's size. It had heterochromia, with one eye being scarlet red and the other being lime green. It grabbed the crystal spire and slid into itself. Then it turned to face the knight, "...Deceiver."He stepped back already in an attack stance, "...!""..." It retreated just like Specter did. In the distance from the forest, a slight bell echoed. At the mere hint of that noise, it lost all form and retreated into the darkness nearby.An electrical hum faded in and out as the lights began to flicker wildly. From the earpiece, a loud static blared through. Specter jerked to the side and collapsed his helmet in a hurry. The faceplate slid forward, split in half, and then both parts moved to the rear. His head felt like it was split open. Without any regard, he ripped half of the helmet off. Chunks of metal and black hair fell from his hand, then propped himself up with a chair.The bell's chimes drew nearer; the sounds it produced felt like they drove into his mind. He shook his head to no avail. The shadows and darkness warped along with the walls and light. His eyes darted around, not sure if it was real or an illusion. With heavy breaths, he walked back to the security door. The room croaked and stretched immeasurably, black hands and tendrils elongated from all around. He froze in place as the twisted darkness coiled up his body to his left arm.It forcibly moved his hand to the pistol holster, the metal rattled more and more, the handgun moved inch by inch. Dark edges began to take shape, thicker and thicker, into the outlines of people. Their hands pressed sharply against his chest and neck. He gasped for air and then clenched his mouth shut. Now materialized, he could hear them."Specter….""Join us..""Death is but a simple step." “Become us.”"We know you see." The last phrase was repeated by them all over and over without end.Wicked smiles had etched on their faces. Thin roots and vines of black swirled around Specter’s arm as well. The grip on him intensified, with the gun almost rotated completely toward his face. An uncomfortable warmth welled up within him. Muffled cries of anger and pain slipped from his lips like hisses.Their chant unified like a chorus, almost angelic like, they sang an ancient melody of death. Black wings engulfed his vision, encased in a sphere of oily shadow. The warmth from earlier magnified; it spread out to his held arm. Almost unnaturally so, his index finger slipped onto the trigger and fired a round.The bullet grazed his cheek and ear and sent off the neck guard into the air. Like a tuning fork, the impact sent out a reverberation of sound. It joined with the pain on his cheek and snapped him back to reality.Specter collapsed to the ground. Tears welled up his eyes as he coughed and wheezed. There were slight dents left behind in the struggle against himself through the wateriness. He was at a loss to what just occurred but was sure it was real. He tried to speak but was rendered mute.The strange silence was shattered by the last bell chime from outside the outpost. Several lasers and searchlights homed in on the target that approached. A hail of bullets and energy shots were fired, but all missed their mark. The metal rounds instead impacted a black field around the being and disintegrated. While the energy discharges were entirely absorbed by it.It simply kept onward without a single care. The laser grids activated, but they were refracted in all directions by the sphere. Specter took cover as trails of scorched material, and molten metal lay about as he peeked out.Cloaked in a black robe with silver vertical stripes, it wove through the clutter at the entrance. A warped pale bone mask rested on its head, with eyes that trailed like emeralds. It held a black staff that seemed like a mix of metal and shadow, with a colorless orb at the top. Underneath the tattered robe extended an arm of steel and wood, a force exerted onto Specter that gnawed on the edges of his consciousness.A voice rippled in his mind, both monotone and metallic, "Human." When it spoke, the edges of every object lengthened with asymmetrical and symmetrical cracks of void. An unspoken dread descended upon Specter’s every fiber. In that instant, there was only it and him in existence. The color of the world began to wither and decay, like paint that chipped off over time.It snapped its crooked fingers, the force inflicted on Specter lifted. He rushed backward and tripped over a patient bed. With his back against the wall, and wild-eyed he panted. A primitive fear gripped his heart, but he clenched his fists and tried to reply to no avail."Silence!" A roar echoed in his head; he then closed his mouth and nodded. It tugged at the strings of his very core. Deep down, he knew and didn't want to admit that it cradled his soul since birth but could quickly snuff out the flame that he was.“We have met many times before though you may not remember. Why our last encounter was when your father moved on."The fear and dread within were eclipsed slowly by the curiosity and anger in his eyes. "Did you cause all of-!"“Silence, boy!” Its eyes lit up brighter than before as Specter stood in a defensive stance and was brought down to one knee again. He fought against the oppressive waves of rage that weighed him down."Foolish! Utterly foolish! Your kind meddled with the unknown, and it has reached back in droves!"The voice boomed within, which grated his senses. Amid the stillness, he glared at the being with a palpable ferocity.There was a certain spark in Specter’s eyes that lit amongst the animosity. Once it had seen his mettle, it released him, “Do not worry about your friend, I have taken him to rest already.”Specter stood up again and nodded. “...Thank you.”“Prepare yourself, as you have only seen a glimpse of the other side. Then again, who knows, the next time we meet might be when you’ll rest with your father. Until then, farewell.”The world which was achromatized felt like it spun in reverse. The color bloomed once again, and the cracks of madness dissipated. Specter took his eyes off of it for a moment, and the next, it was gone and left behind only a familiar chime. Any uneasiness he felt was completely gone.Most of the terminals were destroyed, though a few somehow were unscathed. After a quick search for any mission-critical files, all were wiped clean. One data transfer was left unfinished and left the remaining files partially corrupted. One document brought up the subject of a mysterious artifact found, but after that, the rest were illegible characters and symbols.Metal glinted in the dim light as he pointed a pistol at the terminals and shot them. He walked once again to the rear of the lab.“If I remember correctly, most outposts have these in case of emergencies..”He knocked the wall a few times, then ripped out a white panel. It revealed a hidden compartment of emergency supplies and weapons. Coated in red shades, he stood vigilant. With both pistols holstered, he took a smoke and emp grenade from the stache.From a distance, he could hear the low hum of several VTOLs that approached the base. He stretched in place and activated the emitter once again. “Hopefully, I’ll get a day off for coming to do this shit..”The VTOLs hovered above the outpost as several groups of troops dropped in. All in total, there were about fifteen of them clad in black valkyrion suits. With one last soldier who swooped in silently, they wore a specialized white valkyrion suit. Several trails of blue moved in the dark along with a single solid streak of red. Metal footsteps rang in the complex and came to a halt at the entrance of the laboratory. “Oh good, finally some backup,” Specter spoke up, his back turned on the group.“Knight-Captain, Specter.” The man clad in white spoke up, “You are under arrest for treason of the highest order against Armina and her people.”“Uh-huh, I get it..” Specter nodded to himself, “So I go in quietly, then what?”“You’ll be interrogated and maybe serve a lengthy sentence. To be honest, I think it’s bullshit, but orders are orders.”“And if I say no?”“You can be processed cold or warm. It’s up to you.”“I suppose I can’t convince you to ignore that we ever met.”“Sorry, sir, but I have to bring you in.”“I knew you’d say that….” Specter sighed and glanced at them from the corner of his eye. He dropped the smoke grenade then rolled it toward them with his foot. It spun quickly as smoke shot out and covered the room.“Switch to infrared and engage the target!” The soldiers drew out their rifles and scanned through the smoke.Their visors highlighted seven targets that each ran out from the broken windows in different directions. The turrets automatically locked on and fired.“Split up and follow them! Remember, do not engage alone. I repeat, do not engage alone!” Said the officer while they ran out of the lab. Their armor shifted into flight mode, and they dispersed after the different targets.Stripes of blue weaved through the greenery, and passive bystanders perched on tall trees. The soldiers approached in pairs and hounded Specter and his copycats. Lasers painted the grass and roots as missiles flew out and bombarded the area. Debris shot out all over as the target faded into strips of light and static.“Target down. Heading to regroup.”“New orders from HQ, the target must not be allowed to enter the castle ruins nearby. Formation C is, in effect, blockade the entrance of the ruins!”“Yes, sir.” Ten of them flew off ahead of Specter.“The rest of you, on me. Link up and kill anything that moves. VTOLs engage search mode and illuminate the forest surrounding the castle!”A blanket of light spread across the flora and moats as the bystanders retreated into the darkness. A pair split from the row and went down to investigate the shadows. Gunshots and missiles were heard in the distance, then nothing.“Sir, there’s something else out here.”“Ignore the rest and only engage the main target!”Specter took cover near a tree and observed from the midst of dark and green. Trails of silver dissipated as the beings vanished into the castle walls. The holograms dissipated as the emitter lost power, which left only one in sentry mode.“Converge,” Specter spoke into the receiver.With a series of bursts, the hologram regrouped to him, soon after the commander’s unit followed with a hail of bullets and energy shots. Specter shielded the hologram with his back and returned fire with his pistols. The rounds ricochet off the metal with hit the back thruster on the commander’s suit. With an uneven thrust, he plummeted in a circular trajectory, but not before being caught mid-air.“Hard light mode activate!” Specter yelled as he ran with thrust assisted boosts up a tall tree.The hologram followed behind, though Specter charged upward and swiftly jumped off the tree. With the rest available power in the suit, he flew upward then fell as well. The hologram, now solid, caught him mid-spin and, with a thrust boost, launched higher toward the VTOL above. With his hand on a handlebar at the bottom of the craft, he drove his sword in its side. A glow of white followed as the VTOL powered down and glided down to the commander.Specter maneuvered himself atop the craft and leaped off above the soldiers at the entrance. A glint of silver and white flashed as he rained bullets down on them. They instinctively covered themselves and soon realized the attack stopped. An odd peacefulness descended on the area as the soldiers looked around and combed through the forest.A sudden dread befell them when they were bathed in crimson light. Specter stood behind them atop the castle wall like a demon in the night. Without a word, he tossed the emp grenade at one of the soldiers. Frantically he tried to grasp it only to realize what it was soon after. A pulse of white radiated quickly. The soldiers muffled screams were heard through their suits as they fell in the black puddle of night. Specter shot the flare in full view of the VTOL lights at the soldiers below.He took slow steps into the darkness with a depowered suit as the shadows flocked to the light like moths to a flame.
Cal and Naomi: (Part 4) RearrangementNow a proper husband and wife, Cal and Naomi were ecstatic. Like a dream had come true. Immediately after the wedding, Cal roared into the air, all three afterburners blazing. He rolled and twisted, performing loops and fast passes. His joy was immeasurable. He was over the moon and light as a feather. Naomi could only look on from the ground, wondering how liberating it must’ve felt to fly. He flew so fast. He could go anywhere in the world at any time and no one could stop him. Fuel was his only limitation. In the following days, Naomi had begun to feel a mixture of longing and disappointment. She wanted to fully understand him. Perhaps she could at least try to give him the life a female of his own kind could. But how? She couldn’t give him children. She couldn’t fly. She certainly didn’t have his instincts. She couldn’t live a life even remotely similar to his. It frustrated her to the nth degree. Naomi couldn’t dwell on her shortcomings for long. Their jobs and bills came first. Presently, it was early in the morning, just after sunrise. Having just returned from an express run to Guam, the NR-349 was rattled, weary, and about ready to keel over. At transonic speed, it took nearly 11 hours to fly each way, including a fuel stop in Honolulu. Allotted only two hours of sleep, he had to make an urgent express run to the Pentagon on the way home. Upon returning to Dulles after stopping by the Pentagon, he could hardly taxi straight. He’d essentially been awake for 24 hours. Despite making similar runs in the past, he never got used to them. As much as he loved the freedom afforded by flight and being able to fly fast for a living, the job could be extremely taxing on his body. Aircraft were capable of crossing oceans and continents without sleep. Be that as it may, they had to rest eventually. Being caught in a microburst and flying through severe turbulence over Oklahoma during the return journey didn’t help. Waiting to meet him, Naomi shook her head. His brown eyes were sunken. “Good lord, Cal.”Placing her hands on his nose, Naomi lightly nudged him, coaxing him to follow. Cal nodded a few times, only to jerk his front back up. “The sons of bitches in Guam didn’t let me sleep.” he mumbled.“That’s not fair to you. You just flew 7,000 miles.”Although he wasn’t supposed to, Cal made sure to tell Naomi where he was going on his international express runs. He didn’t want her to worry when he was gone for a day or two.“8,000. I got the sunrise twice.”That must’ve been cool to see. Naomi was more concerned about his lack of sleep.“Can you file a complaint? You’re the only NR-349 working for the government. They should be kissing your ass instead of running you into the ground.”“Oh, they do. If something’s marked ‘urgent,’ it has to go. No exceptions. They won’t let me sleep, but they’ll pay me time and a half. If they really want to get me out of bed, they’ll pay double.”Cal’s hangar was a nice space. Equipped with electricity, heating, air conditioning, and running water. Because of its location in Dulles, a busy international hub where space was limited, rent hovered around $20,000 per month. Fortunately, Cal made enough money to build savings. If his fuel and maintenance costs weren’t covered by the government, he’d never be able to afford such a place. He was paid based on the distance he flew, fuel consumed, urgency of his cargo, and where it was going. For the life of him, Cal couldn’t understand how it worked. Bureaucracy at its finest. He didn’t care so long as he was paid. For his back to back urgent runs to Guam and the Pentagon, he was paid time and a half and made $12,000. Most runs, especially domestic runs, paid far less. He made enough to live comfortably but he was almost always flying somewhere. Sure, Cal could make more money working as a courier for a private firm, but there was no guarantee of stable work and he’d have to cover all expenses he incurred himself. The government paid less but covered the basics and stable work was guaranteed. Cal preferred stability over profit. Being the only NR-349 working as a government employee had its advantages. Opening wide and flexing his tongue, he yawned repeatedly. His array of sharp teeth was on full display, shining in the hangar lights. Whenever he yawned, he released a low groaning sound, akin to a lion. His entire body ached, screaming for sleep. The instant he saw the bed, he flopped down with a grunted exhalation. Releasing a long sigh, Naomi closed the hangar doors and dimmed the lights. Kneeling by his front, he gave her a drowsy glance. Rubbing the top of his nose, he mustered a little smile. “Hey, Mimi.”Quietly shushing him, she kissed his plating.“It’s good to see you, too. Get some sleep. You’ve earned it.”Humming quietly and stroking him gently, Cal’s body relaxed. His eyes fell closed. There was no place he’d rather be than right here and now, with his Mimi lulling him to sleep. Just moments before he was claimed by sleep and slipped into a blissful slumber, a single word parted his lips.“Paradise.”His nostrils expanded and contracted with each strong, soft breath. Naomi smiled. He always looked so peaceful while asleep. The next time Cal opened his eyes, the sky was orange. Confused, he rose to his wheels. First, he extended his main gear, hiking his tail high into the air. Next, he extended his nose strut, raising his front. Moving his control surfaces and actuators to stretch them, he blinked a few times before throwing back his head, opening his mouth and releasing a loud, half groaning, half roaring yawn.“Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”Facing Naomi, he laughed lightly. His most pressing concern was in regards to the time of day. When he arrived, the sky was orange. It was still orange now. He could swear time had passed by.“Did any time pass at all?”“Yeah, the whole day went by. I let you sleep.”“Did it really? I guess I was more tired than I thought.”Embracing, it was evening. Maintenance wouldn’t take place until the following day. Meaning they had what little remained of the day to themselves. Deciding to watch a move, they settled on ‘Mouse Hunt.’ They laughed and sat together. Naomi brought him a watermelon, which he promptly devoured in one bite. Whatever she gave him, he greedily wolfed it down. Not only did transoceanic flights tire him, they also worked up quite an appetite. While he ate, he accidentally bit his tongue.“OW!” he barked with his mouth full.“Cal?”“Oh. Bit my tongue.”Cal tasted blood. Not much. He wasn’t too concerned. He’d bitten his tongue before. After he ate, he had a surprise for Naomi.“I’ve got something for you. Straight from Guam.”“Oh?”He presented a bag full of yellow mangoes. Her eyes lit up with wonder. Watermelons and sugarcane were his greatest vices. Naomi’s was mangoes, as he’d figured out. While it was technically verboten to ship personal items or gifts along with government materials or documents, a clause serving as a loophole to the guidelines allowed Cal to bring with him anything that would help accomplish his express run. So long as it fit within the standard cargo container affixed to his belly. He had a connection in Guam, a female Beechcraft King Air he once spent an afternoon with. She hooked him up with a local orchard that provided the mangoes straight from the tree. “Ohmigosh, mangoes!?”“A baker’s dozen straight from the tree.”Naomi gave Cal a big hug and tried one. Taking one bite, she giggled. So sweet! So delicious! She felt like a kid again. “I love you. I love you so much.”Cal shrugged. He knew she’d like them.“It’s no trouble. You made me happy, I made you happy.”“You sure did.”Scarfing down six mangoes, she intended to save the rest for later. As the movie progressed, Naomi dozed off by his side. With incredible grace and gentleness, he set her down and pulled a blanket over her and settled beside her. “Goodnight, my love.”Remaining awake for a while longer, Cal eventually dozed off. The next day, Derek and the maintainers arrived. In recent days, his rudder actuators were feeling stiff. As a result, he could barely yaw and his turns were sloppy. Needing to perform a more in-depth examination, Naomi stood atop his fuselage and nudged his rudder to check the gap between the forward edge of the rudder and his tail. First, she examined his rudder from the left side, then the right. “I don’t get it, Cal. There’s no obstruction. Do you feel anything? Anything abnormal?” she called.“No.” came the reply.“Could you try moving the rudder?”The actuator hissed and his rudder pitched from side to side. The movements were sluggish. Naomi wanted to check the actuator itself. Opened the access panels on his tail, she noticed a b-nut leading to his rudder actuator was overtorqued and had developed a crack. Being a newly installed component, the nanites had yet to assimilate and repair it. Hydraulic fluid was leaking. Not enough to be serious but enough to bleed pressure and limit the actuator’s movement.“What the hell?” she muttered.She showed the cracked nut to the other maintainers and Cal. Needless to say, she wasn’t pleased. His flight performance was adversely affected by a simple mistake. In charge of overseeing Cal’s maintenance, this made Naomi look bad and put him at risk.“This is why you follow the AMM’s and don’t gorilla torque the b-nuts. You end up with shit like this. What if Cal had to avoid something and he couldn’t turn? We’d be dealing with a lot more than a cracked nut. Come on guys, we’re smarter than this.”Changing the b-nut was faster than waiting for his nanites to assimilate it. Unfortunately, the flared end of the hydraulic line, where it seated against the actuator’s inlet, was also cracked. A three foot length of tubing had to be thrown out and a replacement fabricated. The airport’s machine shop was top notch, they could have a replacement finished by day’s end. Later that afternoon, after the others left, Naomi was still bitter about the damaged b-nut and tube. Cal thought she was overreacting. If they had the time to leave it alone, his nanites would’ve repaired it.“It was an honest mistake, Mimi. I don’t think anyone meant for it.”“That’s not the point, Cal. You couldn’t turn. What if something was happening and you couldn’t get out of the way in time or you lost control? You said you had trouble getting through the turbulence yesterday.”He understood now.“You still blame yourself.”“You’re my husband now. I almost lost you twice. I’m not losing you again.”He sighed. She still blamed herself for everything Vincent had done.“Hey. I’m alright, you don’t have to worry. I’m stronger than you think.” “That’s why I worry.”“Vincent poisoned and shot me, not you. If memory serves, you saved me from getting shot again. In the hospital, I was ready to give up. You brought me back. You know why I didn’t give up? Because I didn’t want to leave you alone.”“But I fed the tainted steaks to you in the first place, and I didn’t notice. I could’ve shot him sooner, but I didn’t.”“For god’s sake, Naomi. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not your fault. I’m not mad at you, nor do I blame you. I never did. You saved me.”Turning away from him, Naomi sighed and stood with her hands on her hips. She muttered something to herself. Cal couldn’t make it out.“What?”“I wish I was a jet. Like you.”“Why?”Turning around to face him, she threw her hands up in frustration.“That way I could, you know, give you the life you wanted. I could fly with you. I could go places with you. I could fully understand you. Maybe we could have kids one day, I don’t know. But I can’t! I can’t do anything for you. I couldn’t even catch an overtorqued nut.”Cal lowered his front, leveling his eyes with hers.“Mimi. I would never ask that of you. I love you just the way you are. You’ve done more for me than I could ever repay. You’re as brave and as loyal as any jet I’ve ever met. No jet ever treated me the way you do. No one was willing to take a chance with me and if they tried, I didn’t let them. Then I met you. I didn’t fall in love with you and marry you because you were a jet. I fell in love with you because you were you. You were all I ever wanted. I wouldn’t have you any other way.”He shrugged, tipping his wings.“I’ve been all around the world. I admit, I’ve slept around. Before now, I shacked up with someone whenever I had time or whenever I felt bored. More often than not, females sought me out. Sure, it felt good in the moment. But none of them brought me joy. None of them made me happy. You did. Its not because you were a jet. Its not because you were human. Its because you were you.”There was no lie in his eyes or voice. He accepted her because of who she was and because of her deeds, not because she was human. He never wanted anything from her, apart from her love. That was all she ever wanted from him. Their relationship stemmed from her desire to understand him. She wanted him to be her friend. Now he was much more than that. They’d overcome so much together within the past two years. Patting his nose, she smiled.“Thanks, Cal.”He purred softly. “I’m curious, Cal. How do you treat them?”Catching herself too late, her cheeks turned red. This was a very personal question, one that took Cal off guard. He could tell she’d been meaning to ask him for a while. Is this what was bugging her? A desire to know more about him so she could better understand how he lived?“I’m sorry, that’s probably too personal.”“No, no. You’re my wife. I think its fair you know more about me. I’ll tell you as long as you tell me a bit more about yourself.”She nodded. Cal prided himself on being a courteous lover. Although he never sought affection, he did thank a female for her time. Lacking hands, aircraft thrived on physical contact. Naomi knew this already. Grooming and nuzzling were basic means of showing affection or appreciation. Cal was no different. A bit of nuzzling on the nose and licking directly behind the canopy worked wonders. Every aircraft went crazy for it. It tricked the mind into believing one was being cleaned by their parent. The sensation triggered an aircraft’s first instinct.“Could you demonstrate?”“Sorry?”“I know this sounds ridiculous. Could you groom me? Is it like being licked by a dog?”Cal tilted his head in thought.“I’ve never been licked by a dog. I’ve seen it before….yes, I suppose.”He reached forward and licked her cheek with the rough tip of his tongue. Naomi squeaked in surprise. Cal jumped back.“Did I hurt you?”“No, silly. It tickles.” she said, rubbing her cheek.“Oh, does it?” Cal grinned.The first lick was followed by another. Then another. Pretty soon Naomi was on her back squealing with laughter as Cal stood over her. Playfully, she reached up and tried to push him away. He now licked across her forearms, face, and neck. Coating her with a film of saliva.“Cal! Cal, that tickles!” she gasped between laughs.Chuckling and highly amused, he’d never heard her laugh so hard. Both parties were thoroughly enjoying it. Now lapping across her entire upper body, Naomi’s voice went from happy to fearful in an instant.“Cal, STOP!” she shouted.Jerking away out of fear, had he hurt her? “Are you alright?”Sitting up, her work shirt was practically cut to ribbons. “My shirt’s been better.”His cheeks turned black in embarrassment. On the white center of his tongue were sharp, half inch long barbs. The barbs caught on her shirt and tore it apart. On autopilot, as it were, he went through the usual motions of grooming. If he’d persisted, he would’ve started cutting into her skin. A white undershirt and her cry to stop prevented that from happening. Guiltily, Cal backed away. For a few moments, he forgot she was human. He forgot his own strength and her comparative frailty. Aircraft skin was much tougher and thicker than human skin. If the barbs caught her face or neck, he could’ve killed her.“Oh. Oh, shit. I’m so sorry.”Standing up and examining the ripped shirt, it was wet with saliva. Feeling herself over, she wasn’t hurt.“I’m fine. Good thing I had an undershirt.”Coaxing him to open his mouth, she examined the barbs on his tongue. They stood up like little teeth. Naomi frequently rubbed his tongue. Having grown complacent, she’d forgotten the barbs were there. She should’ve known better. After all, he was a natural predator.“You’re not upset?” he asked after she stepped away.“No. We got carried away.”“We might have to tone it down from now on.”Naomi agreed.“Is that what it’s like? Grooming?”“Yeah. All aircraft love being groomed.” Cal went on to describe a few quirks of his body. One of which involved his engines. He could supercruise, fly at supersonic speed without afterburners. This conserved fuel and meant he didn’t produce as much noise. Blessed with three engines, he could shut down his center engine and run on his two outboard engines. This was ideal for maximizing range. He could restart his center engine at any time. Three engines meant more weight but granted him additional power and redundancy. His center engine came in handy more than once. He could fly casually and immediately transition into a serious speed demon. There was nothing quite like running at full speed. 1,500mph. At those speeds, he flew nine and a half miles up, high enough to see the curvature of the Earth. His entire body heated up due to air friction. It felt like he was flying through a liquid rather than air. The faster he went, the more things seemed to slow down.Flying all out at 50,000 feet, Cal was in his element. He was an interceptor, born to fly high and fast to catch his enemies. Another quirk was his ability to detect other aircraft from nearly 200 miles away while he flew. This ‘sixth sense’ acted like radar and tied into his predatory nature. Long before he made visual contact, he could tell the size, airspeed, altitude, and heading of anything flying in front of him. “I’ll put it this way. When I’m flying, I see everything.”There was another lessor known quirk, something he figured Naomi wouldn’t have learned in school. It was something only male A-5’s and NR-349’s possessed. Not spoken of in public, all aircraft knew of their quirk. She listened, fascinated. Like organic life, aircraft were full of their own variations and unique abilities. “My goodness. I guess that explains why you never had trouble finding a date.”“Yeah, they always found me.”“Did you take advantage of it?“I did.”Naomi smiled. At least he got to live a little. Cal confessed he wasn’t really living. Contrary to popular belief, there was a such thing as too much of a good thing. He affirmed his days of shacking up were over. He wanted to stay faithful to her. After revealing his quirks, it was Naomi’s turn to uphold her end of the bargain. He wanted to know what it was like to be human. How did humans express affection? What was something uniquely human? He already knew many things about human life. Such as haircuts, driving a car, going to the top of a skyscraper, or going through a cave. Cal had no hair, one less thing to worry about. He flew miles high, higher than any skyscraper. He didn’t have to drive, he flew himself. He already understood the human fascination with cars. It was a projection, an extension of themselves. He’d certainly never been inside a cave. He was too big to enter. Caves sounded like frightening places. Tight, dark, and cold, with no means of turning back. Similar to a long tunnel, only there wasn’t a light on the other side.Naomi’s experiences with affection came from her parents and Vincent. Cal wanted to growl at the mention of that name. He held his tongue and let her talk. Vincent used to kiss her neck and rub her shoulders. She went crazy for that. Humans hugged, shook hands, waved, and made numerous gestures with their hands. Most of human communication was nonverbal, similar to aircraft. Hands were uniquely human, as were legs and feet. Walking or climbing stairs was something Cal had never done. He rolled across the ground using his wheels, extending his struts to increase ground clearance. If he had to go up, he needed a ramp or elevator. Naomi mentioned an escalator. The word rang a bell, but he couldn’t quite place it. It was a human device, something he’d never actually seen up close before, let alone used.“What’s an escalator again? I know what an elevator is.”He surprised Naomi. Something she’d seen and used many times before was a completely foreign concept to him. “It’s a moving staircase. The metal stairs are on a giant steel belt that’s pulled up or down by a motor. You don’t have to walk up or down the stairs, the stairs move for you.”“Oh! Yeah, I know what that is. Like a moving walkway at an airport terminal?”“Sort of. It’s the same concept, only it doesn’t go up or down.”Cal listened with the same childlike curiosity she did when he described aircraft life. Runway and taxiway etiquette, fueling, acceptable behaviors outside, she understood that. What she had no grasp of was the ability to sense changes in the weather before they happened, sense the Earth’s magnetic field, align with it, or handle flight parameters. Aircraft brains behaved like targeting computers. Cal could solve complex math problems with no effort. She’d tested him before. His competence with numbers left her dumbfounded.“What’s nine times 1,286?”“11,547.” Cal said without blinking.“What’s the square root of 1,555,362?”“1,247.141.”Lastly, she asked him what 10,994,775 divided by 6,328,039.6 was.“1.737.”The answers were all correct. He was wired to process numbers to figure out where he was, where he was going, and figure out how he’d get there. The human brain simply wasn’t wired that way. Getting to the subject of shoes and exercise, Cal had never worn shoes. The closest thing he had to shoes were tires. Whatever rubber was worn away during landing, the nanites replaced it. If he had to change tires, the nanites in time assimilated the tires and they became part of him. As for exercise, he certainly couldn’t bend or flex his body. The only joints he had were for his control surfaces and landing gear. Much of his frame was rigid, although his endoskeleton did have some play. His wings and tail could flex slightly, to compensate for aerodynamic forces so they didn’t snap. Such simple, mundane things Cal and Naomi saw every day and paid no mind to were just the things they couldn’t relate to. They were so simple and so mundane, neither of them had ever given them any real thought until now. They both could’ve rambled on and on about how they were different and lived different lives. However, it was love, trust, and understanding that made them the same. It was what brought them together. Presently, Naomi felt a physical longing. She loved him. She knew he felt the same way, he had for some time. She set out two years ago to have him as her friend. At this moment, she wanted to be more than that.“Cal…”“Yes, Mimi?”“We’ve come so far in the time we’ve known each other. You’re the best man I’ve ever known. I thought Vincent was the one for me, but I was wrong. I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did. You saved me from him in more ways than one.”“Don’t forget, you saved me.”“Do you know why I did that? Why I didn’t leave you? You’re a terrific person, Cal. You’re my favorite person. I never expected us to go this far.”“How far did you think we’d go?”“I don’t know. I took the job right out of school because I wanted to meet an NR-349 up close. I wanted you to be my friend. I never thought we’d, you know, be more than friends. You’re very handsome, Cal. You’re honest, you’re loyal, you make me laugh, you’re true to me…I couldn’t ask for a better man.”“Aw, shucks.” he smiled, starting to blush.“I know how different we are. I’m tired of thinking about how we’re different. I’d rather think about how we’re alike. You gave me your wings. But there’s something I want more than your wings.”“What do you mean?”Looking deep into his eyes, she could tell he already knew. The feeling was mutual.Confessing from the bottom of her heart, she asked him “Cal, will you be mine? I’m crazy for you.”He gasped and backed away. Before, he’d only dreamt of this moment. He never thought it would finally come. Elated beyond measure, he nodded and started laughing.“Yes! Yes, I will. I’m crazy for you, too.”He paused.“Mimi. Will….you…..be mine?”Hugging his front and patting his plating, she nodded.“I will.”Cal’s jaw trembled. He blinked rapidly, feeling tears well up in his eyes.“God, look at me. You’re gonna make me cry.” he choked “I’m not such a big bad jet after all, am I?”“No, Cal. You’re the biggest, baddest jet of all.”“Oh, thank you. Mimi. I love you so much.” he cooed.“I’m happy you’re mine. You’re my big bad jet.” she said, hugging him tighter. “And you’re my Mimi.”Naomi found another shirt and threw the ripped one away. Taking a shower, she washed away the saliva from when he groomed her earlier. Because the nanites in saliva were activated by mastication, there was no danger of a breakdown. Before turning in, she wanted to go to the machine shop and grab the replacement hydraulic line and b-nut. She’d received a notification that the parts were ready and didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to install it. She could do it herself and put the access panels back on within ten minutes. It would be one less thing to worry about in the morning. Walking out of her bedroom into the hangar, Cal rested on his bed. He smiled very fondly at her. Smiling back, how could she ignore that face? He was her husband. Her big bad jet husband.“Hey.” she said.Coaxing him to raise his wing, she rubbed his white belly with her palms, right between his engine intakes. Rumbling and laughing blissfully, Naomi felt it in her chest. They both discovered how much he enjoyed belly rubs quite by accident. Between his engine intakes and aft of his throat was where he liked it best. Right at the center of mass, it was also a rather ticklish spot for him. His giddy, excited laughter made her smile. Unable to get enough, he chuffed indignantly whenever she stopped. Just to tease him, she stopped rubbing his belly. Cal chuffed. He knew what she was playing at. Rubbing again, he rumbled happily. Stopping again, he chuffed. Starting again, he rumbled.“My goodness, Cal. Do you like belly rubs or something?”He rumbled even louder in reply, enough to make windowpanes rattle. His eyes rolled back. He seemed to be melting. After a few minutes, Naomi’s arms were tired and she finally stopped. Cal didn’t chuff this time, he understood. She was such a tease. Resting her upper body on his nose, she hugged him and stroked his cheek with her left hand.“Ooh. You’re so cute. Can I keep you? Can I keep my big bad jet?”“Always, baby.”Cal had never in his life called anyone ‘baby’ before. Until today. He felt light as a feather. Over the moon. Naomi was his now, just as he was hers. They no longer had to hide their innermost feelings. He was proud to call her his mate at last. Pulling away, she made for the side entrance. Behind her, Cal whimpered pitifully. It stopped Naomi in her tracks. She’d never heard him make such a sound before. Like a tiny pup begging for his mother to come back. He didn’t want her to leave. Not right now.“Do you really have to leave?”“I just need to go to the machine shop. I’ll be back in half an hour.”Cal whimpered again. Returning to his side, his flaps stood up happily. “Oh, you big doof.”“I’ll…” he began to say, then he opened his mouth and yawned loudly “…go with you.”Starting to rise, Naomi lightly pressed on his nose, coaxing him to stay down.“It’s alright. Heaven knows you’ve earned the rest. You’ve got a stressful job.” “I suppose I do.” he chortled, knowing she was referring to marriage.“I could get some sugarcane stalks. They sell them by the machine shop.”Laughing with a giddy, childlike excitement, he said “My god, you wouldn’t.”“I could if you want.”“Yes. I’d love that.” he said, leaning against her.“I’ll do it on one condition. You have to buy me a few mangoes.”Cal smirked. He had a better idea.“If you buy me a dozen stalks, I’ll fly down to Cape Coral tomorrow and bring back a whole bushel of mangoes. I’ll pick out the yellowest, sweetest ones I can find.”Naomi laughed. He certainly knew how to drive a bargain. He talked about flying almost 900 miles to buy fruit like it was nothing. To Cal, it was nothing. He could fly to south Florida and back in less than three hours. She’d never know he was gone.“Deal.”Hugging him one final time, Cal sighed contently. He felt warm and fuzzy inside. What did he do to deserve her? She was perfect. She was his female. His Mimi.“You’re so good to me.” he said.“Probably because you love me so much. You’ve certainly been good to me.” Leaning against her, he would’ve held her so tightly if he had hands. He would’ve given anything to embrace her like a man.“Please. Please don’t ever leave me.”He said it as though he were afraid he’d lose her forever if he let go.“That won’t happen, Cal. Can you promise me something?”“Anything.”“Whenever you’re flying somewhere, stay safe for me. I don’t want to lose you for good.”“You won’t lose me, and I won’t lose you. I promise.”Patting him a few times, she broke the embrace.“I’ll be right back.”Halfway out the door, she heard him call after her.“I love you.”Stopping in the doorway, she looked back on him. Her husband. Her male.“I love you, too.”Minutes after she left, Cal yawned a few times and was claimed by sleep.Driving to the machine shop, hours had gone by since Naomi confessed her true feelings for Cal. She got a tingling feeling just thinking about the day’s events. It was the most incredible experience of their lives. Afterward, they spent a lot of time embracing. She scratched his chin, rubbed his tongue and belly, all the things he liked most. Cal started crying. He didn’t have to be lonely anymore. He was loved and accepted by another.“This is the happiest day of my life.” he said.Then they got to talking about life and what the future might bring. Asking him if he ever wanted to be a father, he wasn’t sure. If it were possible, he wanted nothing more than to have children with her. He didn’t want to adopt or think about raising a family. At the moment, Cal was content with Naomi. She rested by his side, petting his front. He quietly sang and hummed to her. He kissed her forehead. For all his size and weight, Cal was incredibly gentle and precise. She’d never seen this side of him before. He was as tender as any man. They soon dozed off. When they awakened, it was beyond midnight. She didn’t want to leave his side. Unfortunately, they still had a job to do. Replacing the hydraulic tube and b-nut could be done in minutes. Why wait until morning when she could accomplish the job now? Arriving at the machine shop, she found the normally loud and busy space empty. Everyone had gone home for the night.Looking around, she wandered past drills, saws, cutters, presses, and other metalworking tools and machines. Also in the shop were wing panels, fuselage panels, landing gear components, and a few jet engines from various passenger jets undergoing repair. She found the tagged b-nut and replacement hydraulic tube in the ‘outbound parts’ bin. The flared ends of the tube were properly formed and smoothed. No cracks were evident. Perfect. About to leave, Naomi still felt the tingling sensation. Only this time, it was different. It felt as though ants were crawling across her skin. She became very alarmed when the tingling was replaced by a burning sensation like poison ivy. It couldn’t have been something she ate. She hadn’t eaten in hours. Was it something in the air? A leak? Placing the hydraulic tube on a table, it stuck to her hand. Wrenching it away, she figured it was covered in oil, something sticky. To her bewilderment, it wasn’t. The tube was clean. On her hands were tiny flecks of silver. Thinking they were metal shavings, they didn’t brush off on her pants.“What the hell?”Holding her left hand close to her face, the tiny specks of silver expanded. Her skin felt stretched. What was going on? Finding the bathroom, she looked at herself in the mirror. Nothing appeared out of place until she felt a pricking pain on the side of her neck. Feeling the area with her fingertip, it was smooth. Too smooth to be skin. Turning herself to get a better look in the mirror, on the side of her neck was a patch of metal as big around as a pencil eraser. Poking at it with a fingertip, the metal slowly expanded to the diameter of a dime. Feeling the same pricking pain on her face, tiny silver specks appeared on her chin, forehead, and cheeks. They grew fast enough to be seen. Was this happening? Was she dreaming? She recognized the signs from textbooks and school lectures. A sense of bitter, guttural dread unlike anything she’d ever felt walloped Naomi. She backed away from the mirror until she hit the wall. A rearrangement. She was in the midst of a rearrangement! Unable to take her eyes off her reflection, Naomi’s skin and underlying tissues was being replaced by metal. If she was seeing it now, if the epidermis had been breached, the rearrangement had been going on for some time beneath the surface. Somehow, Cal’s platelet nanites had gotten inside her. His platelets thought her organic body was an injury and they were attempting to heal her. Pretty soon there would only be metal. Nothing organic would remain. How, her brain screamed. How could this happen? Hyperventilating, her mind raced. Platelet nanites were only found in blood. Cal wasn’t injured. He hadn’t bled on her. Then she remembered he’d bitten his tongue earlier. When he groomed her, traces of his blood must’ve mixed in with the saliva. She didn’t wash herself immediately afterward like she should have. She did so hours later, more than enough time for the nanites to begin breaking down her cells and replacing them with inorganic colonies of feverishly multiplying nanites. When the nanites breached the epidermis, the outermost layer of her skin, that signaled the rearrangement was in its final stage. There was no hope for her at this point. She was going to die. Within the hour if she were lucky. She felt so stupid. She’d been so careless! Everything she’d ever been told about the dangers posed by nanites. All the warnings. All the lectures. The books and films that stressed the importance of nanite safety. She ignored them and threw caution to the wind to spend time with her husband. She never thought Cal could hurt her. Unfortunately, his nanites, the very things that gave him structure and sentience, didn’t discriminate in terms of who or what they broke apart. Today was happiest day of Cal’s life. Now she was going to die a painful, inevitable death. Everything they’d overcome led up to this moment. Their life accomplishments. The trust they’d built. Coming to her aid when Vincent threatened her. Staying by Cal’s side while he lay dying of gallium poisoning. Defeating Vincent once and for all. Their marriage. Their future together. For Naomi, her 22 years of life. None of it mattered anymore. Everything they’d ever done or cared about was moot. She sobbed uncontrollably and turned away from the mirror. She didn’t want to see her humanity literally fall away. All her thoughts were of Cal. This was going to destroy him.“Oh, Cal. Cal…oh, forgive me….”Reading the textbooks and finding pictures out of morbid curiosity, she knew what happened to humans who underwent a rearrangement and were too far along to be saved. They were grotesquely disfigured and deformed. Like something out of a horror film. By then, death was a merciful release from the nightmare that was the rearrangement. After she died, Cal was going to blame himself. If he saw her body, that would finish him. He’d kill himself to be with her again rather than linger on alone and broken. She had to get back to him. If she was going to die, she wanted to be with him. At least then, she wouldn’t die alone. Walking out of the bathroom, her joints felt stiff. Walking became increasingly difficult. The nanites were freezing up her joints, making her rigid like an aircraft structure. It was late at night on a weekend. There was no point in yelling for help. Naomi yelled anyway. For someone. Anyone. Cal was fast asleep on the other side of the airport. He couldn’t hear her. No one could. Crying and forcing herself forward, she found a telephone. If she couldn’t get to Cal in time, at least she could call him. He’d come running. Picking up the telephone, nanites in her palm began to break apart and assimilate the shiny aluminum receiver before her very eyes. It grew brittle, broke, and wasted away in her hand. The metal became part of her hand, adding mass to it. Knowing she couldn’t call Cal, she had to get outside. Drive to him if possible. Knowing her life would soon end, she had to get to the truck. She had to see her husband, her big bad jet one last time. Like the T1000 after being frozen in liquid nitrogen, Naomi’s steps were slow and an intense struggle. Still, she soldiered on. The double doors leading outside were 20 feet away. Through the windows she could see her truck. It was right there! All she had to do was reach it. Every fiber of her rapidly deteriorating being was focused on getting back to Cal. If she could still speak by the time she got back, she wanted to say goodbye. She wanted more than anything to hug him, to feel his warm nose one last time. Staggering a few times, she placed her right hand on a roll of aluminum used for sheet metal repairs to steady herself. Trying stay standing, she reached out with her other hand and touched a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine undergoing repair for additional balance. The double doors were ten feet away. She was almost outside the building. Curiously, she couldn’t move her hands. Glancing left, then right, the nanites in her hands spread into the roll of aluminum and the jet engine. Like legions of ants, trillions of microscopic nanites were busy biting and sculpting. They spread through her arms and hands, coating the jet engine and aluminum roll with a silver film of nanites. They greedily broke down whatever metal they encountered and brought back new elements. Aluminum. Nickel. Titanium. Copper. Accumulating so much mass, Naomi could no longer stand and collapsed on all fours with a loud clank. The concrete floor cracked beneath her. It was a living nightmare. The pain was indescribable. As though her body were on fire. The nanites had worked all the way down to her bones, rearranging them into rudimentary stringers and ribs. Her voice changed. She now wheezed like a pair of withered bellows. The final remnants of her human self were gone. Her skin was now smooth metal. Yet she could still think, see, and feel everything. Growing significantly larger and heavier due to assimilated metal, her clothes were ripped off. She no longer walked or swayed on her feet. She sloshed, like a semisolid. A final human tear fell down what was once her now elongated face. Hopefully Cal never saw her body. If it could even be considered a body. She wanted him to remember her for how she was. His Mimi. Not this. Not a featureless metallic mass. Still somewhat in control of her movements, all her thoughts were bent on getting outside. Managing to rise, she still had enough solid structure to move. Naomi thrashed around, knocking over metalworking equipment and machines. In her haste, she contacted multiple rolls of aluminum and another Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine. The nanites aggressively assimilated nearly everything they contacted. In a final, desperate move, Naomi hurled herself toward the double doors. Crashing through the doorway and punching a hole in the side of the building, she collapsed in the parking lot and could go no further. Unable to speak, her last thoughts were of Cal. If only she could’ve seen him one last time. Everything went black.Cal felt someone pushing his front. Cracking open his eyes, he heard a voice saying his name. It wasn’t Naomi. Jumping upright and thrusting his nose toward the source of the voice, he snarled angrily.“Jesus Christ! Cal, its me! Its Derek!”His narrowed pupils widened in astonishment. Pushed onto his rear was Derek Jenkins, his second lead maintainer. He’d recognize that bald head and muscular build anywhere. Strangely, he wasn’t wearing a work uniform. Groggy and grumpy, Cal released an obnoxiously loud yawn and licked his dry lips. He still felt tired from yesterday’s exertions. Outside, the sun hadn’t risen up yet. The air was cool and misty.“Leeroy Jenkins? Sorry about that. You know I don’t like being woken up.”Derek stood up and attempted to reply but Cal paid little attention to him. He flexed his control surfaces and stretched his landing gear struts with a loud groan, raising his tail first, then his front. Glancing at the wall, the red digital numbers of a large clock indicated 5:42AM. It wouldn’t be sunrise for another half hour!“Cripes! You woke me up at six in the goddamn morning? Leave me alone.”Cal flopped down with a sigh and closed his eyes, trying to fall back asleep.“If you need something, take it up with Naomi.”Seeing the disheveled state of Cal’s bed, among other more obvious signs, Derek could tell something had gone on between him and Naomi. Derek himself was married and had a daughter. He knew what to look for. Unlike humans, jets were far from discreet about their habits.“I take it you two had fun last night.” he thought aloud.“That’s none of your business.” Cal replied sleepily, not opening his eyes “Go away…..”Breathing softly, Cal had fallen asleep! Shaking his head impatiently, Derek roughly pushed on Cal’s front. Grunting, he didn’t open his eyes. Inwardly, Derek was still afraid of this jet. He did everything he could to get on Cal’s side and not provoke him. Thanks to his experience with F-16’s and F-15’s, Derek knew how dangerous a jet could be. F-16’s compensated for their size with attitude and an eccentric nature. F-15’s by comparison were very prideful and boastful of their power, traits that were passed along to F-22’s, their sons and daughters. However, even the grumpiest F-16 and most insufferable F-15, of which Derek had met and befriended a few, was no comparison to an NR-349; something that made them all look tame. Long before he met Cal, F-16’s and F-15’s spoke of A-5’s and NR-349’s as though they were legendary creatures. Something to be feared and respected. For what he was about to do next, he prayed Cal would forgive him.Slapping his nose, Derek yelled “Wake up, you lazy bastard!”Opening his eyes, Cal leapt onto his wheels. He growled savagely and flashed his teeth. He didn’t want to be disturbed. Derek cast aside his fear and wasn’t having any of it. Cal employed scare tactics knowing Derek and the other maintainers would back off. He knew they still feared him and exploited their fear. It was a very stubborn behavior, something he got away with behind Naomi’s back. Derek wasn’t about to show weakness. Not this time.“Don’t give me that crap! I came here for a reason. When was the last time you saw Naomi?”Now wide awake, Cal’s anger evaporated. Why would he ask about Naomi? “Uh, midnight.”Peering through the windows into Naomi’s apartment, the lights were still on from last night, but no one was there. Had she not come back?“Why are you here, Derek? Where’s Naomi?”“Well…” Derek began “something’s happened at the machine shop. The police are calling it a robbery.”Police? Robbery? At the machine shop? A lightning bolt of primal terror jolted through Cal’s body. He flinched. His mind was flooded with questions.“What happened? Is she alright?”“That’s the thing. We don’t know what happened.”“What do you mean you don’t know?” Cal asked, raising his voice “Where’s my mate?”“’Mate?’”Realizing his slip of the tongue, Cal didn’t care. He catapulted outside and darted across runways and taxiways, not caring who got in his way. He nearly collided with two airliners, a LOT Airlines 787 and American Airlines A320. The police had set up a perimeter around the machine shop. Multiple Dulles airport police vehicles surrounded the building. Yellow crime scene tape fluttered in the breeze. Cal skidded to a halt, unable to go past the row of police vehicles. Parked in front of the machine shop was a white Ford F-250. Naomi’s truck. The double doors were no longer there. A huge hole in the wall took their place. Bricks, glass, and other debris littered the ground.“Where is she? Where’s my wife?” Cal called. Approached by a pair of officers, both men introduced themselves. Explaining who he was, Cal demanded to know what was going on. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell him much. Allowing him inside the police perimeter, he identified Naomi’s truck and glanced through the hole in the wall. The inside of the machine shop was a mess, as though a tornado had hit it. Metalworking machinery was strewn about and knocked over. To Cal, it looked like a fight had taken place inside. Adding to the mystery was the fact two PW4000 engines from a Boeing 777 and multiple rolls of aluminum sheet metal were inexplicably missing. Stolen. The engines were stolen from their steel cradles, which remained in place. The airport police were baffled. No one could make off with the rolls of aluminum and both PW4000 engines without their respective cradles, a large forklift, and at least two flatbed semitrucks. No flatbed semitrucks entered the airport last night or left. In total, over 37,000 pounds of material had simply vanished into thin air. Cal checked all the entrances to the building. None were damaged. There was no way an aircraft could enter the machine shop. None of the doors or loading docks were wide enough and there was no sign of forced entry. Somehow, a rather large aircraft had gotten inside the machine shop, trashed the place, perhaps aided in the apparent theft, then crashed through the front doors and left a giant hole in the wall. There was no other way to explain why the debris was blown outward, away from the building by a tremendous force. A large jet was found unconscious on the street outside the machine shop and taken to the airport hospital. Not assuming anything, the police intended to question the jet once they awakened. “What about Naomi? We know she was here.”Struggling to hold himself together, Cal was nearly hysterical. Why didn’t he go with her last night? Why did he stay behind? He promised to always come running. The officers fell silent. They showed Cal what had been recovered. Torn shards of clothing and shoes were found on the floor. Along with personal effects. Car keys, a leather wallet, cash, change, a debit card, an Airframe and Powerplant license, and a Virginia driver’s license. Everything had Naomi’s name on it. Cal recognized the torn clothes and shoes. Small spots of blood were found on the floor. The police concluded whoever was behind the theft encountered Naomi. A few things made no sense. Why were her clothes torn to shreds? If an aircraft mauled her, why wasn’t there a ton of blood, like when Cal killed Vincent? Why didn’t the perpetrators take her money or her truck? Nothing of hers was taken. The machine shop was built in the 1950’s and had no surveillance. No one witnessed what had transpired there. Regardless, it was a common consensus that Naomi was probably killed. To Cal, the world stopped. His heart shattered like a pane of glass. Hot tears streamed down his face. Backing away from the officers, he shook his head, raising and lowering his front with each unsteady breath.“You’re wrong. I don’t believe you. We’ve been through worse, she’s not dead. She’s not dead!”Storming off, Cal threw his head and stamped. Growling and roaring like a tameless stallion once again. He was inconsolable, in denial. No way. Not her, not Naomi. Not his Mimi. They’d survived it all so far. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he told himself she was alive. She’d gone to get him sugarcane stalks. He still had to buy a bushel of mangoes in Florida. The yellowest, sweetest ones he could find. Returning to the scene, he took a second look at the machine shop and Naomi’s personal effects. Her scent was present on the items and inside the machine shop. Strangely, he didn’t detect the scent of an aircraft. Whoever was there had covered their tracks astonishingly well. Cal couldn’t deny what was in front of him. Finally facing the facts, his realized his Mimi probably wasn’t coming back. He decided not to go with her, though he wanted to. In her time of need, he failed her. He didn’t come running. This was his fault. He should’ve been there. He didn’t realize when she walked out the door, that would be the last time they ever met. After the happiest day of his life, after learning he never had to long for love and acceptance again, she was gone. Staring straight ahead with a blank expression, he didn’t respond when the officers spoke to him. Derek couldn’t get his attention, either.All he said was “Call me if you learn anything else.”Returning to his hangar and closing the doors behind him, he stared at the wall ahead of him for some time. Nothing felt real. It felt like a convoluted, sadistic nightmare. She was his wife. His mate. His Mimi. He’d lost her. Dropping his front and breathing heavily, Cal trembled. Tears cascaded down his nose, dripping onto the floor. He broke down into choked, loud, writhing sobs. His nose practically dragged across the ground as he forced himself toward his bed. Collapsing onto it, he shook his head and moaned in anguish. On the bed were the pillows and blanket Naomi slept in. He’d placed the blanket over her, then she cuddled up to his side. Burying his nose in the blanket, he sniffed, breathing in her scent. Closing his eyes, Cal nuzzled the pillows. He kissed them and held them close to his side. Sinking to his lowest ebb, he was broken. He could still feel her touch and hear her voice. The same thought played over and over. Why didn’t he go with her to the machine shop alone? They’d just become a proper pair. Now his Mimi was gone.“Mimi…oh, baby. I’m sorry, baby. I should’ve gone with you. I should’ve come running. God, I broke my promise. Mimi, forgive me. Baby, I love you. I love you so much, you’re best person in the whole world! Why wasn’t it me? It should’ve been me!”His entire body quivering and lungs burning, he hadn’t sobbed with abandon since his older brother died 12 years before. Once again, he was left behind to mourn alone with no one to comfort him. Why did the people who loved and accepted him always die? First Miles, now Naomi. Was he not meant to be loved and happy? Was he meant only to exist? Cal’s parents never cared about him. He learned that early on. His brother loved and accepted him. He brought Cal happiness and wanted their parents to notice him. Then he died. Afterward, his parents finally noticed him. Only, they wanted to bring his brother back to life through him. Something he didn’t want and couldn’t do. They still didn’t love or accept him for who he was. Cal never sought affection after he moved out, thinking he’d never get any. Even when someone tried, he pushed them away. There’s no way anyone else’s affection was sincere. Female jets sought him out due to his anatomical quirk. They begged him to take them, and he did. Cal was 16 when he had his first brush. At the time, he’d run away from home for a week. Broke, desperate, and still mourning his brother, he wanted to feel better. He wanted to be loved. Above all, he wanted to forget his grief and the fact his parents rejected him. Too ashamed of himself even to this day, he never told Naomi about it. While he had no trouble getting a date in the following years, he was miserable and lonely. No other jet brought him joy or happiness. He crawled into his shell and never reemerged until Naomi came along. She didn’t run away. Her feelings were sincere. It was all Cal ever wanted. He’d never felt so attracted to anyone before. The changes were confusing. After yesterday, this was the happiest he’d ever felt. She was his now. He didn’t have to be lonely anymore. He was loved and accepted for who he was. At the back of his mind, he felt this was too good to last. Cal was secretly terrified of losing Naomi. If he let go for even an instant, he’d lose her forever. He couldn’t lose her, too. And yet, he had. He let her go alone when he should’ve been there to protect her, as he’d done in the past. He hated himself! He’d betrayed her. He let his guard down and she was gone. He would never bow to temptation again, no matter how strong. He was going to stay loyal to his Mimi. Burying his nose under the covers, he sobbed even harder.“It should’ve been me.”Naomi opened her eyes and squeezed them shut. It was so bright! Giving her eyes a few moments to adjust, she felt cold and disoriented. As though she’d downed an entire bottle of tequila and fought with Vincent again. She felt terrible. Glancing around, she deduced she was inside a room. A hospital room. Blinds covered the windows to her right and her view of the outside. Monitors flashed and beeped to her left. Strange. How did she get here? Gasping, she remembered. The rearrangement! Naomi remembered everything from her childhood, her 22 years of life, up until she entered the machine shop to get parts for Cal. Everything that happened next seemed too terrible, too nightmarish to be real. She still felt like herself but at the same time she wasn’t. She felt different. Weighed down, as though gravity had increased, or she was heavier. Her body felt stiff. Unyielding. Inching forward, she couldn’t feel her legs or feet. She seemed to glide effortlessly across the floor. What was going on? Was she hovering?“Oof….what the hell is going on?”Gasping, her voice! It was much deeper now.“Christ, my voice.! I sound like Sadie Adler!”Naomi was in disbelief. Somehow, the rearrangement hadn’t killed her. She was alive! But what did she look like? Was she a deformed, gelatinous metallic mass? If that was the case, she wouldn’t want to live. She didn’t want Cal to see her that way. Blinking a few times and testing what she could still move, she felt appendages moving. To her horror, she couldn’t feel her arms or hands. She couldn’t pick anything up. Although, she could stand up. Her legs felt strange. She couldn’t feel her feet. Glancing around the room again, she realized how clear everything was. Her vision was sharp. She could magnify her focus and make out every bump and rise on the beige wall in front of her. Listening, she distant heard footsteps and conversations, humming machinery, and the hissing of oxygen through pipes. If she could breathe and speak, she still had a mouth. Trying to breathe through her nose, Naomi was astonished. A plethora of scents was revealed to her. She saw her surroundings in an entirely different way. Sniffing a few times, she detected the presence of disinfectant. Floor wax. Sterile plastic tubing. Latex gloves. Hand soap. Rubbing alcohol. She also detected the scents of other humans, probably doctors had come and gone before she awakened. Some innate part of her told her to investigate the scents further to determine if the doctors were friends or enemies. She regarded them with suspicion. Her next thought was to ask why her senses were keener. Standing up, why did everything seem shorter? Had she grown taller? She had to be standing ten feet tall. At least. Sniffing the air again, she couldn’t see the sky but somehow, she knew it was going to rain later that day. Speaking of days, how long had she been here? Days? Weeks?“Cal must be worried sick.”Cal! She had to get back to Cal! But what did she look like? Could she present herself to him now? At the moment, she didn’t care. Wanting to leave the hospital, an older man in pale blue scrubs entered the room. Upon seeing her, he froze.“Oh, my!” he gasped, not expecting to see Naomi awake and standing.Naomi gazed at the man, instinctively regarding him with angst and suspicion. She made a sound she didn’t know she was capable of. A growl. A deep, throaty growl that surprised both her and the man.“Who are you? What do you want?” she demanded, watching his every move.“My name is Dr. Joseph. Henry Joseph. You’re at Dulles Airport hospital.”“How long have I been here?”“They brought you in last night. You were unconscious outside the machine shop. The police are saying place was robbed. Someone blew a giant hole in the wall.”Last night? Robbed? Hole in the wall? She remembered crashing through the double doors to get outside. That much was her doing. After that, nothing. She didn’t feel pain or discomfort. The rearrangement must’ve finished by the time someone found her.“Are you willing to answer a few questions?”Not letting her guard down, she didn’t see the harm in answering a few questions and hopefully getting answers to a few of her own. For better or worse, she had to trust him.“Shoot.”He asked her name.“My name is Naomi Hulley, my husband is Calvin Hulley. Everyone calls him Cal. We live at Dulles. I went to the machine shop to get parts for my husband.”Henry recognized Cal’s name but couldn’t place it. The police would want to interview her regarding the robbery. Henry himself was curious. No one knew how the theft was carried out.“Did anyone attack you?”“What? No. No one else was there. I don’t know why you’re saying the shop was robbed. I uh…”She hesitated, not wanting to mention the rearrangement yet.“What are they saying was taken?”He told her. Two PW4000 jet engines and huge rolls of aluminum along with assorted tooling. 37,000 pounds of material disappeared. Naomi realized what had happened. She touched the aluminum rolls and one of the engines to steady herself, then the nanites began breaking them down and bringing the material to her. Increasing not only her mass, but her size. Then she thrashed around and the nanites really went nuts. Almost everything she touched was broken down and assimilated.“Uh, this is going to sound silly. Do I uh, do I look deformed?”“No, ma’am. When they brought you in, we looked you over. You weren’t injured.”That wasn’t the answer she was looking for. What did she look like right now? She couldn’t be human anymore. Was she a cyborg or something, like something she saw on TV as a kid? Producers and screenwriters played on the phobia of a human surviving a rearrangement only to become a hybrid between a human and machine. One such series she vividly remembered was ‘Nanite Nat,’ where a man, a CIA agent, infiltrated a Soviet laboratory and was bitten by a deformed fighter jet, a nanite experiment gone wrong. Rather than die of his injuries, Nat was rearranged into a metal skinned man with foldable wings and a jetpack built into his back. The engines and wings granted him flight and superhuman strength and durability. He could use the nanites as a weapon, to assimilate new components, reshape his fingers into knives or keys to pick locks, and heal himself. He became a superhero, stopping bad guys and promoting the American way against the evils of communism and terrorism. While completely unrealistic, it made good television. Naomi collected the comics and knew all the intro and outro songs by heart. Is that who she was now? Something like Nanite Nat? She needed a mirror. Anything reflective. On the wall was a flat screen television, currently switched off. On the screen’s reflection, she saw Dr. Joseph and what appeared to be….“Cal?” she said and glanced around.He wasn’t there. Taking a second, closer look, Naomi realized she was looking at her own reflection. She was big. Silver. Her anxiety spiked. She needed a better look at herself.“Dr. uh…Joseph, was it?”“Yes.”“Can I have a mirror, please?”Rolling out a large rectangular mirror, large enough for a human to see their entire body, Naomi stared in disbelief. It was Cal! At least, it looked like him. Moving herself slightly, the reflection followed her movements. She began to hyperventilate and shake. No longer was Naomi human. She was a jet. An NR-349 with a grey topside and white underside, just like Cal. The only part of herself she recognized were her eyes, which remained as blue as ever. Somehow, she’d not only survived a rearrangement, she was rearranged into a jet.

Mature Content

Operation - Tunnelrats - chapter 4Chapter 4The helicopter had now left Puerto Rico, and the siblings and pilots were in it. The siblings were urged to stay put, although they felt they could become rigid if they did. One of the pilots said it would take a day to get to Vorkuta. Richard wondered if there was food here with them.- Well then, answered one of the pilots. Of course we have food. We don't eat until in three hours.- Okay. No problem, Richard said, giving a thumbs up.- I don't know if it's necessary to play cards, said Thomas and looked at the pilots. Are we allowed to do that? We have cards with us, so we can play cards.- Absolutely. It's going so well, the other pilot replied.Luckily, there was a table where the siblings sat, and the brothers took the opportunity to play twenty-one, while Vendela, who sat next to Richard, wrote a book about a male warrior, a dark fantasy story. Vendela had dreamed of being a writer. She was used to writing fantasy books.- Alright! said Johnny, putting the second on the pile of cards as he picked up a new card. Your turn, Thomas!Thomas nodded and took out a new card where he had fifteen first. He saw that it was a king, ten points too much, and he put away the eight on the pile of cards. Seventeen, he had counted.- Richard, he said and gestured at Richard.Richard took a new card where he had only twelve. Third, he had taken. He smiled.- Your turn, Johnny, he said and looked at Johnny who nodded and took a new card.After three hours it was time to eat. They got tuna sandwiches to eat and coffee to drink with either milk or sugar in. Except Vendela, of course. Besides eating the sandwich, she was the only one who didn't drink coffee but instead tea with the taste of lemon she had chosen.- Hey! shouted one pilot. Since we were going to Vorkuta, we have to land in the Azores, because it's quite a long way to Vorkuta to fly. In that case, we thought we would spend the night there in the Azores. Is that okay with you?None of the siblings answered, but they thought about whether it would be possible to either stay in a tent overnight or to book a hotel somewhere. Then Johnny said:- By the way, sir. The question is whether we can either sleep in a tent out there or book a hotel somewhere. What do you think?The pilots looked at each other without saying a word. Then one of them replied:- Actually, I think we should sleep over in a hostel.- Why? Johnny asked.- Therefore, it's free to stay there overnight, even when we get a fee, the same pilot replied. We call and arrange an overnight stay for us when we get there.Johnny sighed and understood what the pilot was talking about. He turned his head to the three and said:- Do you hear that? We are going to sleep over at a hostel. In one night, of course. The pilots call the hostel and arrange this.Thomas, Richard and Vendela looked at each other. Then Thomas said:- Sure! Why not? Then we do not have to stay in a hotel or so. Equally good to be at the hostel.- It's going well! exclaimed Richard, clasping his hands in joy.- Excellent said! said Vendela and smiled.After nine hours, the helicopter landed in an H-place among the trees in the Azores, and the siblings and pilots were in it. None of them were allowed to open the door until the helicopter had landed. And when it did, the door opened, and one of the pilots got out of the helicopter.- Yes! We have arrived! he shouted.The other pilot turned off the helicopter, and the siblings got out of it, and then the other pilot finally got out. He closed the door and locked it.- Follow me, boys and girl! urged one pilot, and the siblings followed him there through the trees.The other pilot followed them as he and the five had left the helicopter.After eight minutes, they arrived at a hostel that was located among other houses and a shop and at a parking lot where only four cars were parked.- Here it is, said one pilot and pointed to the hostel with his hand. This is where we will spend the night before we go on to Vorkuta.A man immediately came out and saw him and the five coming.- Hello there! he shouted, waving his arms in greeting. Welcome! Long time no see. I heard you would spend the night once before moving on. Where are you going tomorrow?He had a small mustache and a friendly face.- The six of us are going to Vorkuta tomorrow, replied one pilot. Have you heard of a space message? It has ended up in the wrong country, so it really should have ended up in Puerto Rico. But instead it is now in Vorkuta in Russia.The man looked puzzled. Then he realized what the pilot was talking about.- Oh really? he said in surprise. Yes, I saw the news that it has ended up there. Isn't that weird?Johnny nodded.- Yes, I think so, he replied. Our teacher told us about it.The man sighed.- Yes, yes! he said, clearing his throat. But come with us! There are beds available in some rooms. I'll show you where.He entered through the door, and the pilots and siblings followed him in through it. Then it was closed.
Comedy, Humor
Szentendre - chapter 44. How so? I have a cup of coffeeViktór and Jonázs had returned to the station. They went in the door and saw their co-worker, a woman with a pair of glasses and blonde curly hair named Teca, sitting at the reception desk, dealing with the paper to write. She looked busy, it was noticeable.- Sorry to disturb you, Viktór said without saying hello, but we have investigated two places now. One is the jewelry store, and the other the museum.Teca looked up at him.- Oh really? she said. I heard they were robbed. Like their owners.- Mmh, said Viktór. They said it was the same perpetrators who stole jewelry and 15th century stuff. Only four men, dressed in black. It had happened last night.Teca looked puzzled.- Absolutely incredible, then, she said, and groaned. But... What would I say, are you craving coffee?Viktór and Jonázs nodded.- Sure! No problem, Viktór replied.In the hall, he, Jonázs, Teca and their boss named Odön sat at the table waiting for Pisti to come. And after ten minutes Pisti came in to them and sat down next to Jonázs.- How good you came! exclaimed Jonázs and looked at him. Do you want coffee?- Yes, please! replied Pisti, receiving one of the mugs. Are there buns here?- Yes, there are buns here, so that's enough, Odön said and handed out the plate of buns so that Pisti could take. Go ahead!Pisti received the bun, and then Jonázs, Viktór and Teca. In the end, Odön took the last bun when he and the three each took a mug to pour the coffee in. Each one took the jug with the coffee in and poured it into each other's mug.- Speaking of the perpetrators, Viktór began. We could find out who they are, except that we describe their dress and appearance. Two men were shot dead outside the jewelry store, and technicians classified it as a murder.Odön coughed as he took a bite of the bun.- That's exactly what we need to know! he said. In any case, they must have been in middle age. Or aren't they?- We don't know yet, said Jonázs and sipped the coffee with the sugar he poured. Either they're middle-aged, or they're young, between twenty and forty.- Probably middle-aged, Viktór pointed out.- Yeah, so people who slept at night must have heard a lot of shots last night, Pisti said when he had taken a sip of coffee. Then it was the four who ravaged the whole town.Viktór snapped his fingers as he lit up.- Yes, exactly! he exclaimed. That's right! That was when they robbed the jewelry store and not least the museum.Teca cleared her throat.- Wouldn't you look for the four men when they're out somewhere? she asked. Or would you do it tonight?Viktór thought about it.- Well, uh... I don't really know, but..., 'he said.He thought of the day.- I think we can do it later after the coffee, he added as an answer.When everyone except Odön had finished their coffee, Viktór and Jonázs got up, while Pisti and Teca stayed with Odön who had the mug with the coffee in it.- You 're not done, are you? Teca wondered, looking at Odön.Odön turned his head to her.- How so? I have a cup of coffee, he pointed out. I'm not as fast as you. That's why I'm usually done last. I mean after you.He slurped coffee and shifted his gaze to Viktór's and Jonázs' direction.- So you leave, I see, he said.Viktór nodded.- Yes, we will, he replied when he and Jonázs left the room. See you, boss!He and Jonázs disappeared through the door, and Odön, Pisti and Teca sat there and talked.- Oh! What a lovely day! Odön sighed and looked happy.
Operation - Tunnelrats - chapter 2Chapter 2The plane had left Vancouver just after midnight, and all four siblings were in it and realized how tired they were.- Yeah, dear siblings! Johnny said as he yawned. When it is seven o'clock we wake up, and we have time to meet Dr. Manhem in Puerto Rico before nine.He sat by the window next to Vendela who sat between him and Richard.- Mmh, said Vendela. You understand Richard isn't as fast as we are. In the worst case, he doesn't like to be stressed. Right, Richard?She looked at Richard who didn't answer but slept and snore. He looked tired, she realized. Thomas too. She saw him sitting next to another man sitting next to his wife against the window as he and the two slept. She looked at Johnny.- Yeah, he gets to sleep what he wants, she assured low and yawned. Should we sleep now?Johnny nodded and started to sleep.- Yeah, I honestly think so, he said, closing his eyes. Good night, sis!- Good night! said Vendela and began to sleep too.Everyone except the pilots now slept, while the pilots and flight attendants continued the work without interrupting.At seven o'clock in the morning, the airplane arrived, and at the stairs the people began to get out of the airplane as they waited for the airport bus to arrive. Johnny, Thomas, Richard and Vendela were four of them and had their bags and backpacks with them.- We're not crowding, huh? Richard shouted and came down the stairs lugging among the people.- Sometimes we're crowding, but we shouldn't! cried Thomas among the people.When everyone had arrived, the airport bus came to them, and when it stopped and the door opened, everyone stepped into it. And then the door closed after them, and the bus drove off to the airport.When everyone had left the airport bus they were inside the airport now, and all four siblings followed them through the entrance to the luggage where they would collect their suitcases.- Not so fast! Richard shouted and walked quickly to the luggage hall.When he and the three arrived, they waited for their bags where the band went from left to right. After several seconds, the suitcases finally arrived, and the siblings waited until their suitcases arrived. The people received their suitcases, and after all, the siblings' suitcases arrived, and they quickly received them. Richard wasn't fast enough, but Thomas helped him receive his own.- Thanks, Thomas! Richard said kindly when he got his own suitcase.- No problem, said Thomas, receiving his own.It was time for the siblings to go out to get to the lab where Dr. Manhem was there. They hurried out of the airport, and they looked about how to get there to the lab. They were in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And they knew it. They caught sight of a taxi, and they got there.- Hello! Taxi! cried Johnny and waved.The taxi driver stood and saw him and the three approached him.- Hello there, good people! he shouted and greeted with a Puerto Rican break. Where are you going?- Take us to the laboratory, said Johnny as he and the three arrived. Do you know where it is? It's there our university master is.He pointed in another direction, and the taxi driver was able to nod.- Alright! he said, opening the boot lid to ask the four to let him take their suitcases to pack. Let me take care of your suitcases. You can go in and sit down.The four did as they were told, and they got into the taxi. Johnny sat forward, while Vendela, Richard and Thomas sat back. The doors were closed, and all four were wearing their belts when the taxi driver packed their suitcases in the luggage. He got into the taxi, sat behind the wheel, closed the door, put his belt on and started the engine to drive. Now that the taxi had started driving, it left the airport to drive to the lab.When the taxi arrived at the observatory, all five had stepped off it, and the suitcases were taken out of the luggage, and the taxi driver explained to the four that the laboratory was inside the observatory. Johnny and the three thanked him for it, and the taxi driver got in the taxi and drove off.- It went away, said Thomas when he had seen the taxi driving away.Richard nodded.- Mmh, he said. That's because I'm not as fast as you think.- Shall we go in? Johnny asked. Dr. Manhem is waiting for us.Thomas nodded and started to leave with his suitcase to the observatory.- Yes, we can do that, he replied.Johnny, Richard and Vendela followed him with the suitcases. When the four arrived, Thomas rang the doorbell. He and the three waited until someone came and opened the door. After ten seconds, the door was unlocked and opened, and there stood a woman dressed in a white robe with long brown hair that was wavy.- Hi! she greeted. What do you want?- Yeah, hello! Johnny greeted kindly and bowed. We would just greet Dr. Manhem. Is he there somewhere?- Yes, he's in the office room, the woman replied. Follow me!She walked away to the hall, and the four siblings walked in through the door with their suitcases and backpacks, and Thomas closed the door behind him when he came in last.He and the three followed the woman into an office room where Dr. Daniel Manhem was sitting at the computer looking through the paper he had in his hands.- Doctor, the woman began. Johnny and his siblings have arrived.Dr. Manhem suddenly jumped out of the chair until he accidentally dropped the paper.- Geez, what scares me, Jenny! he exclaimed, trying to straighten his glasses.- Sorry, doctor, 'said the woman named Jenny apologetic. It wasn't intentional. But they're here to greet you.Dr. Manhem didn't believe his eyes when he saw her and the four of them arrived with him. He took off his glasses and polished them with a cloth before putting them on. Then he got a clear vision and saw them now.- Yeah! Hi there, guys and Vendela! he greeted kindly. You're very welcome to us! What good you came! I and the other scientists learned about how the space message came to the wrong place.- Nice to meet you, Doctor! said Richard, bowing as a greeting.- We came at the right time, said Thomas and smiled.- Good for you! said Dr. Manhem. I have something to tell you about, except the space message, of course. Follow me!He left the office, and his siblings and Jenny followed him into the hall.
New Day - chapter 22Chapter 22In the evening, Yazo and Seppo were home when Ginekuto was with them, and all three sat on the couch and watched TV. Chanya and Ryuke would also watch it, even though they were busy cooking.- So, how could Masashi try to kidnap Pyuso to hurt her? asked Ginekuto. I don't understand why he did that. Had not Tsujimaru told us about him and Manabe?Yazo looked at him and nodded.- Yes, he replied, he did. I wonder if Manabe is still at large. But Tsujimaru hadn't told us that Masashi was Pyuso's half-brother.- No, said Ginekuto whose gaze was caught on the TV.- The food is ready in five minutes! shouted Chanya's voice.- Okay! shouted Yazo back.- Oh, wow! shouted Seppo and couldn't sit still when he saw a masked cowboy riding a horse attack a villain who was also a cowboy on TV. Now Cody defeats him!- Nice! shouted Yazo and applauded.Then the doorbell rang, and Yazo got up to rush to the exit.- I take it! he shouted and walked quickly out of the living room.When he arrived at the door before opening it, he peeked through the round crystal window to see who had come. Then he saw how Senji and his wife and children had come. He unlocked the door and opened it.- Hello! he greeted kindly. Nice to meet you! Is everything well?- Yes, it's something we were going to tell you about, Senji replied. May we come in?- Sure! Just come in! said Yazo, gesturing for him and the three to enter through the door.Senji, Kenta and the two passed him, and Yazo closed the door behind him.- Hello! shouted Senji. We're here to say hello!Yazo went after him and the three of them, and he passed by them.- Hello! greeted Ginekuto kindly and waved. Nice to meet you.- Uh... Hello! said Seppo, looking blushing.Chanya and Ryuke immediately joined the family.- Senji! Asami! exclaimed Ryuke, waving his arms in greeting. Welcome! We're about to cook food. Are you hungry?- No, that's good, Senji replied, waving his arm repulsively. We'd just talk about what happened, if that's okay.- Has there been an accident?? Chanya asked in horror.- No! Not an accident, assured Senji's wife named Asami. About my former co-worker who had to quit for an unknown reason.Yazo, Ginekuto, Seppo, Chanya and Ryuke looked surprised.- Really? said Ryuke.- We can go out and talk, Senji said and walked towards the exit to the garden.- Do you look after the children? Yazo asked, looking at Seppo, who was still sitting on the couch.Seppo nodded and asked the children to come to him.- Sure! he said. Come here, Kenta and Haruka!Kenta and the girl named Haruka came to him, while Yazo and the others went out the door to the garden. Ryuke stopped abruptly and turned around.- But the food then?? he shouted.- Yeah, that's right! I'm taking care of that! said Chanya and hurried into the hall and then to the kitchen.When she returned, she shouted:- The food is ready!She first looked at Yazo and Ryuke, and then Ginekuto, Senji and Asami.- Would you eat too? she asked.- Yes, I would, said Ginekuto and went in through the door past her. I have not eaten much. Just a sandwich. And a milk to drink too.- No thanks! Senji replied, waving his hand repulsively. We have already had dinner at home. But thanks anyway! We are happy to sit with you in the kitchen.When everyone had entered, Ryuke closed the door behind him.
Drama - Chapters
Devil's Triangle - Location Blips 5.2Proud and gleeful to have scored a date with Sandra, Thomas strutted down the road to his patrol car. He swept his gaze around the neighborhood, seeing his surroundings through rose-tinted glasses. He noticed little things like the flower buds among a bunch of weeds, the low hum of the bees... and a familiar mop of black hair sticking out of the shrubbery near Sandra's house. He raised an eyebrow in suspicion. Having an inkling about who it might be, his lips pressed into a thin line. His bubble of good mood burst as he altered course and broke into a jog towards the figure. The light airiness of his steps shifted to a pounding rhythm. Questions raced in his mind as he prepared to grill that boy - yes, he was quite sure it was him. Thomas gritted his teeth. Tamm wouldn't be happy with this if it was what he suspected. As he neared, the black-haired figure startled. Before he or she could run off, Thomas clapped a hand on the person’s shoulder. The person turned on his haunches - to reveal a stunned Shawn holding a digital camera. His eyes were wide open like a deer in the headlights. A mixture of guilt and fear flashed in his expression.“Shawn? What are you doing here? No extra classes today?” Thomas asked, keeping his tone light but with a sharp edge.The teen quickly recovered from his initial shock and got up from his crouched position. He dusted his jeans off and gave a plaintive shrug. “Nothing much. Just happened to be around the area.”It was an obvious lie. Thomas kept his calm, although his voice carried a touch of sarcasm. “So you happened to be around here with a camera?”“Yeah, why not.”“And you decided to kneel down behind bushes?”Shawn nodded. “Tying my shoelaces. Not exactly a crime, is it?”“No,” Thomas scoffed. “If that’s the case then, I can take a look at that camera.”Thomas stretched a hand out and beckoned Shawn to hand over the device. The teen scowled at him and after a moment’s hesitation, slapped the camera into his waiting hand. “Thank you, Shawn.” Thomas grinned.From the corner of his eye, he watched his nephew sulk and scuff his sneakers on the ground. Something was definitely up.He flicked the dial on the camera and the screen switched from a moving frame to a still picture of Sandra’s house. A chill ran down his back. He hit the back button. More stills of Sandra as she exited the house. Some stills even had him in it.His jaw clenched. He turned his gaze back to Shawn, anger lacing his tone. “Are you stalking Sandra? Is that what this is?”Shocked, Shawn threw his hands up in surrender. “No, no. This is not what it seems, Uncle Thomas. I swear.”Thomas held the camera in one hand and lifted it up pointedly. “Explain what this is then.”Shawn cupped his hand to his mouth and cleared his throat. “Valerie put me up to it. She only wanted a picture of Sandra today.”When Thomas raised an eyebrow in disbelief, Shawn hurried to add. “I got off some extra shots just in case I didn’t get what she wanted.”“What does Valerie want with the pictures?”“I don’t know.”Thomas fixed the teen in a stern glare. Under his scrutiny, Shawn shrunk, his lanky build curling up on itself.“Really, I don’t, Uncle Thomas,” Shawn pleaded, a ring of truth to his words.Thomas could tell from the tone and expression that his nephew wasn’t lying. That didn’t stop him from affixing Shawn with an intense stare that unnerved the young teen. He let Shawn stew in discomfort for a few more seconds before asking, “Is this the first time Valerie has asked you to do this?”Shawn bit his lips before answering quietly, “Second. First time was a few days back.”Giving a curt nod, Thomas folded his arm across his chest. He lowered the camera to chest level and stared down at the still of Sandra re-entering her house. He had no idea of what use this photo was to Valerie but he didn’t like this on several levels. Starting from the fact that Valerie seemed fixated on Sandra - in a bad way, and that she had enough of a hold on Shawn that he was helping her with it. Not to mention his disappointment with his nephew for not knowing right from wrong. And he wasn’t going to let that slip.He puffed out his chest, putting on a stern front as he chided his nephew. “I have to tell you, Shawn. I’m disappointed in you. You should know better than to stalk someone’s home and take pictures of them without permission. How could you not know right from wrong? I mean-”“Who are you to tell me what I can or can’t do?!” Shawn retorted, his hands balled into fists at his side. Eyes ablaze, he glowered at his uncle with renewed energy.Taken aback, Thomas was at a loss for words. His lips parted but before he could get anything out, Shawn pressed on. “You’re not my father, Uncle Thomas.” Shawn pointed an accusing finger at him. “Even my mum has no say in what I do, much less the likes of you.”Snarling, the teen's voice rose an octave. “So don’t you get all high on the moral ground with me.”“Wait Shawn-” Thomas started, his free hand reaching out to his nephew.Shawn jerked away from him and spun on his heels, running down the road to where his bike was parked. Thomas watched in stunned silence as the teen cycled away. With camera in hand, he stood there, dumbfounded.What had just happened?
Character Bios
Yasmin Saint Vil-Binh (Water Warrior) by MollyShine
Horror, Mystery, Thriller - Chapters
Planet Ark: The Undead World Ch. 14Chapter 14: A Storm is ComingA Unity wearing a navy blue outfit raced through the corridors of a ship as fast as he could. He entered a cabin and found Rann and Brittani inside. Rann was reading a book while Brittani was playing a video game, both bored out of their minds. "Rann!” Said the Unity out of breath. “We’ve just received urgent news... from one of the mercenaries." "What is it, Jensen?" Asked Rann, still bored. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… your teammate, Jessie... is dead. Robin killed her." The news hit Rann and Brittani hard. Brittani paused her game and clenched her heart, feeling like she was going to pass out. Regaining his senses and letting his anger grow, Rann threw his book aside and faced Jensen. "Give us one moment." "Of course." Once Jensen left, Rann went over to comfort Brittani. "I'm putting you in charge of the hunt. No more second chances. Robin is to be killed on sight." "It will be my pleasure." "Good. I will make contact with the Supreme Officer and inform him of the situation." "Do you think it's necessary to bother him with this?" "Oh, you let me worry about that. The new outpost we've just stablished nearby will also be yours to command.” He held Brittani's face much to her surprise. "I know that there's no one more deserving of this mission than you." He gently kissed her, and although alarmed at first, Brittani happily embraced it, wrapping her arms around his neck. It was the first true kiss she had in over a year, and it felt good knowing that it came from a teammate who remained loyal to her to the end. Rann broke the kiss off and looked into her eyes. "Rip that traitor apart."He later made his way to the jail cells. He approached one in particular with a mercenary opening the door for him. He entered the cell and sat across from its occupant, Ghost, who sat with a blank stare on his face. "Listen, I don't have a lot of time right now so I'll make this brief. Robin killed one of my teammates and Brittani is hunting him down. I won't be rooting for you but I still need a backup should something bad happen to her. And that's where you come in." Ghost scoffed at him. "If I ever did kill Robin it wouldn't be for you. Besides, I found the Undead World so I'm no longer affiliated with him." "Abraham O'Connell..." Ghost glared at Rann for using his real name. "This is a serious situation, one that you helped create. You need to figure out exactly whose side you're on." "I’m on my side and mine alone." Rann realized that this wasn’t going anywhere. So with a grin on his face, he walked up to Ghost and knelt down to meet his eyes. "Then how about this? I will honor whatever deal Robin failed to hold up." Ghost gave him his attention. “I'm listening." "We came here to arrest Robin, not you. My superiors don't know that you're here, so if you kill Robin before Brittani does then I won't report you to them. You can start a new life here." Ghost stared back at him, surprised by his generosity. But he didn't trust Rann to keep his word. Heck, he was actually starting to realize how much Robin didn't like him either. But, at that moment, he came up with a plan. "We have a deal, Rann. I will kill Robin for you." "Then it's settled." Rann said. He pointed to the door, which was left wide open the entire time. "Now get out of here." Ghost got up and brushed himself off. He headed for the entrance but stopped and turned around. "No gun to spare?" "I'm sure a clever man such as yourself can improvise." Ghost grinned in agreement. And with that, he headed out.Heading towards the communication’s room, Rann turned on a monitor screen. A man with white hair and a sleek figure appeared on the screen and looked right at him. "Supreme Officer Germain." Rann lowered his head with respect. The Supreme Officer formally dismissed him. "Did you capture Robin Steele?" "I'm afraid things are worse than we realized. We've managed to convince the mercenaries to work for us; it looks like all they wanted to do was survive. But Robin's already wiped half of them out and killed my teammate Jessie." The Supreme Officer sighed with discouragement. "My condolences to your fallen teammate." "Thank you, sir. Robin has become a very great threat. He's also made allies with some of the locals here. I'm afraid arresting him is no longer an option. Too many people already know about the existence of this continent." The Supreme Officer thought about this news for a moment. He then looked back at Rann and nodded his head. "Then I'm afraid we have no choice. I will escort the Law Unity to join you and bury that world for good." Rann raised an eyebrow. "Sir? You can't blow up an entire continent." "No. But I think you're aware of someone who can." Rann widened his eyes in realization. "As the leader of your team, you are gifted with the secret of Trithanas. And now it is more important than ever that we bury that secret for good."
Non-fiction

Mature Content

NSFW - Mature Content

Mature Content

Fanfiction 2
Chapter 4Hey guys! Fire here to give you a new chapter. More news be at the end., Chapter 4"I'M AM HERE! COMING IN THE CLASSROOM LIKE A NORMAL PERSON," Crona almost jumps out their sent and sees the man himself All Might dramatically coming into the class. Everyone was a cheer when they see him."It's All Might!""He looks cool in real life!""He's in silver age costume!"Crona had to turn off their Soul Perception. All Might's soul was just too bright. It was like the sun to them. This wasn't normal.'This is…,' Crona look up at the smiling man, 'The Number One Hero.' They look at him in awe and fear."This is going to be so cool!" Kirishima exclaims pumping his fist."Welcome to Hero Basic Training, or as it calls Heroing 101! Where we define what kind of hero will be!" All Might told the whole class. While some cheered but something in that speech stuck to Crona.'The kind of hero,' They look at their hand, 'I want to be?'"Get ready newbies!" All Might points to the student dramatic, "It's time for Battle Training!""Battle," Izuku gulp."Training!" Bakugo grins like a mad man.Crona was right there with Izuku…"Indeed! And you get to wear your costume!" All Might announces as he pulls out a device from his back pocket and presses the button, "And you need these! Your Hero Costume!" To the wall compartments with numbers begin to open up to the side."This is time to show off of our hero costume!" Mina cheers. Crona got up and Hagakure grab them to talk about Battle Training."This is going to be so fun!" Hagakure raves as she talks to Crona who was next to her. It's kind of a blessing that their desk was next to each other."Yeah.." Crona mumbles not paying attention."You sound nervous. Are you ok?" She asked them."It's just," Crona trying to find the word, "...not a big fan of fighting.""Really? But you so good at it!" Hagakure asks, which made Crona flitch and look down, "But I kind of understand." Crona looks right back up at her, "It's not the same but my quirk isn't really good for long terms fights. So when I was in middle school I decided to be a stealth hero instead. There is more to being a hero than just fight but we should learn how to take down villains. So think of it just take this as a stepping stone."Crona thought for a moment. What she saying is right and they do need to learn the laws of this world to cover…Crona nods, "Thanks Hagakure."While Crona couldn't see their face her cheerful tone told them that she was happy."No problem!"Bakugo glare at Crona who was talking to Hagakure and then look at Izuku who look nervous.'I'm going to roost these damn nerds today!' Bakugo thought in glee.Crona set out in the Battle Center B. They were the last ones to get ready because Crona was nervous but suck it up and got through it. Stepping out to the open and seeing all the different types of costumes that students come with were cool but some were weird in Crona's option. Not they will voice it."Stein!" Crona turn to where they heard Hagakure. Which was harder than it should be because all her hero costume was a belt and gloves. Wait does that mean she's...NOPE!NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT!"Is something wrong Stein?" Hagakure asks as she notices they are blushing."N-nothing!" Crona quickly said which made Hagakure confused, "Also you can me by my first name Crona. Stein sounds like I'm in trouble.""Oh ok! I like your first name better it's kind of cute." Hagakure told them cheerfully.'Cute?' Crona blush at that."Also Crona what's with your hero costume?" She asks them. Their outfit was a dress that was a purple-black and black rose pattern. Purple-black gloves that look like claws and a wire sticking from claws to the back of their neck. They also have a black helmet a which looks like it had two turfs on it making looks like horns or ears."It like kind of a villain," Hagakure explains not at all sugar-coating it. Crona feels like their self-esteem took a hit."Sorry. I'm not the best at making these types of things so I ask my friends to help me." Crona explains to her."They did?""This is hard," Crona grumbled as Maka, Soul, and they try to think of a design for their costumes."It is a lot better if someone didn't keep shutting down our ideas." Maka glared at Soul."Your design is not cool enough! Like really a dress Maka?" Soul huffed back."Why would Crona need spiky armor? Their black blood already protects them! It only wears them down." Maka points out."Your it's just a dress. Not one of those cool-looking ones either! Just plain dress!" Soul argues back. They went about this for a few hours with them arguing back and forth while Crona tried to block out the noise by covering their ears. They wish they stop fighting but they arguing too loudly for them to get a voice in."BLACKSTAR IS HERE TO COMFORT TO YOUR LIVES," Like a gift from Lord Death himself Blackstar and Death the Kid appears and stop the fighting, "Now what's going on here?" He said looking at Soul and Maka."We trying to make my hero costume but I'm having a hard time making it," Crona turns Maka and Soul, "Maka and Soul have been trying to help but we can't agree on a design." They explain. Blackstar grabs Maka's and Soul's drawings from a desk without asking and looks them over."Hey!" Both Soul and Maka shout at him."I like this one," Blackstar said as he holds up Soul's drawing."HA!" Soul laughed. Maka glared at him."Well, I think this one is a good starting point," Kid holds up Maka's drawing. Maka beams."Thank you Kid," Maka noted. Giving Soul a 'see what I told you to look.Blackstar laughed at Kid's choice, "How Crona is going to scare villains with a dress?" He pointed out.Kid fumed, "But it's not symmetry!"They argued back and forth for while Crona looked at the pictures. They look at Maka and Kid and back to Soul and Blackstar."Maybe we can do both?" Crona asked them. They stop their fight, looked at them, and then looked at the drawings."Actually," Maka grabbed the picture that Blackstar was holding."Hey!"Maka ignored him and walked over to Kid."Kid, you are the better artist here," Kid beamed at that while Blackstar pouted, "Can you draw something that compares these two ideas?"Kid picked the picture, "Hmmm," A lightbulb goes off in his head, " I believe I have an idea."Looking back at that, Crona realizes that maybe all of them should have thought of a better design…, "Stei-I mean Crona are you ok?" Hagakure asks them. Crona snaps out of their flashback."Oh yeah! I'm fi-""HEY PINKIE!" Crona flitches and turn around. Bakugo was stalking toward them with an angry look in his eyes."What did I do?!" Crona cries out in despair in their mind. Bakugo stops right in front of them and glares, "Can I help… you?" Crona asks. 'This guy was too close to me and I don't know how to deal with that.'"Better not get used to being number one." He jabs one of his fingers to their Crona, "Cause I'm going to knock down from your throne!" He declares which made Ragnarok pop out."Like we ever go all out with you!" Ragnarok shouted, "You're too weak to be taken seriously!"Bakugo snaps."YOU'RE FUCKING DEAD!" Bakugo went to smack them with an open palm. Remembering that this is one of his explore attack and Crona quickly smack it away with their hand cover in black blood. A loud boom sound and Crona feel the heat from the explore. Bakugo growls but Crona acts faster. They kick Bakugo in the stomach and push him off. Bakugo roar and haul himself at them, knocking Crona to the flood."Stop it!" Hagakure shouts she got in between them and push Bakugo away. Bakugo went back to charge at them but he couldn't see Hagakure Crona realizes. And if he couldn't see then…"Bakugo!" A gust of wind blew as Iida stepped in between them. His hero costume consists of a black one-piece suit with a high collar, over which he wears various pieces of armor, all in a bar of pale silver. He wears a helmet covering his entire face, its sharp bevor full of holes to allow him to speak and breathe easily, and its upper piece rounded over his head with two larger holes on either side, two curved horns just behind and a single spike sticking out of the back of his head."Stop this fight! Bakugo doesn't act like a villain! Stein didn't mean it. Ragnarok has a mind of his own-" Bakugo cuts Iida off."Then they should better control of their quirk!" Bakugo shouts at them."Big talk for we-" Hagakure quickly covers Ragnarok's mouth."You stop it too Ragnarok!" She scolds at Ragnarok. Who glares at her and tries to bite her. But Crona was faster and punch him.Silent…You could have heard a pin drop by how silent everyone was.Ragnarok blinks and then grabs Crona's nose."WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO LITTLE SHIT! I'LL-""Would you stop this noise?" A cold voice cut him off. They all turn and saw it was Shoto talking to them. Shoto is reasonably tall and well-built for his age. His hair is evenly split between two colors: white on his right side and crimson red on his left. His left eyes appear turquoise, while his right is a brownish dark gray. Additionally, he has a large burn scar on the left side of his face, which reaches from his hairline to halfway down his cheek. In his initial hero costume, he wears a plain off-white shirt with matching pants and boots, with two gold-colored straps going over his shoulders. He has what appears to be a material resembling ice covering his whole left side.His eyes look from Bakugo and then Crona. Crona didn't know how to deal with his staring. It was like they were studying them."All Might is calling us. He was about to pick teams." On cue, all of them head where other students were at. But Crona did notice that Bakugo was glaring at them. They sigh.What did they do to deserve that?Shoto keep an eye on Bakugo and Stein. He didn't want to socialize with his classmates because to him it's a waste of time but the way Crona was acting was….Fist raise again and Shoto feels like crying again. Why isn't anyone helping him? Why did his mommy had left? Someone, please-Ş̷̪̭̿̓o̴̝͋m̶̪͂̀͋̈́é̶͎͓̅̌͝ỏ̵̮́̏͆n̶̪͇̊͋͋͛e̸̡̩̝͋̓̋,̴̧̻͙̱̅͗̂ ̷̦̞̃̾͑̓͜ṗ̴̢͈͈̼̍͆̏ḻ̵̬͈̉̀ȅ̸̞̓̌ȃ̷͚ṡ̷͍͆ḝ̴̞̤̺̃́̅ ̸̯̼͍̦̾͌̊h̵̘̆e̶͈̯͌̀͝͠l̸͍͙͐̀p̴̛̥̩͚͓̐ ̸̭̜̻͗̎ĥ̴̡͎i̴̹̲͗̈͜m̴̨͌͛͐̈.̴̴̷͇̥̺̺͎̺͖̖͊̈́́̚͝Ş̷̫̐͒̐̑o̸͖͊͗m̷̫̘̝̼̔͋͗̕ḛ̵͗͆o̵̠̳̙͑ǹ̴͈̝͍̹̏e̷̙̋̉,̴͚̣̑ ̵̡̼͋p̴̫̲̒ĺ̶̠̓͜e̴̼̼͋̏̏́a̵̻̲͒̍̽͠š̵̫̭̳̐̿é̶̥̥ ̶͙̉̋̇h̵̤̓̓͒̆ȩ̴̤͙́̍́͌l̵̠̳̕p̴̹͚̃ ̷̡̛̦̖̜̏ḧ̵͉̎̽͠ị̶͎̆͘m̷̪̪̯͇̈́́̅̓.̷̴̷̡̧̲͎̝͚͕̣̆̀̐̄̌͂̅͠S̷͇̉̊ŏ̸̧͚̳̙̏̿̕m̵͉̳̰͂͆e̶̗͖̋̽ǫ̸̂ņ̸͍̙́ē̵̪̬,̸̨͐̄̽͝ ̴̱̱̲͐̈́p̶͓̊̈́̏l̶͓̯̔̊̿̈e̷̙̤͈̎͆̃͘a̸̖͒͑̾s̸̹̝͎̯͌e̵̥͂͗ ̷̞̪̰̝̂͋͠ȟ̵̪̬ȩ̸̛͓̦̘̅͗ḷ̴̛̮̉̌̊p̶̲͓̅ ̵̧̝̅͐̎͜ḧ̶̹͙͕̭̈̂̏i̴̤͆́m̵̠̀.̵̷̶̢̹͓͇͕̹̒͒̔̑̆̏S̴͚̹͌͐̔o̴̥̟͙̟̚m̷͎̪̐̉e̶̘͍̺̞̐o̴̖̙̎̊̾n̵̻̥̔͘ȇ̶̝̣͖̃̃,̷̰̝̇̇̏̉ ̸͖̮̭͐̓͛p̵̱̰̝̉̂̚͝ͅl̵̘̑̋̏̾ȩ̷̖̮͚̈́ȁ̴̼̩̜̀͠s̴̨̗͛̊̈́ȩ̶̡̯͑̎̅̋-̵̴̢͕͙̟͙͉̰̈̾̚͝͝͝Shoto shook his head out of that memory, 'Don't get emotionally here. You got a job to do Shoto.', "First up are Team A and Team D!" All Might announces and Izuku's fell while Bakugo grins. Crona falls pitying for Izuku so they and the other students left they tap on Izuku's shoulders."Good luck." That was all they could say. But oddly enough it seems enough to Izuku."Thanks."As they walk away with the other students Hagakure walk along with them."Dude you think he can deal with him?" She asks."Maybe," Crona replies. Bakugo was whole another beast to time with."A sneak attack Bakugo? What kind of a man does that?" Kirishima comments as the whole class watch Team A and Team D fight. Crona had to agree with him. While fights between students in DWMA were common it was rarely this bad…."Vile is maybe, it's a good strategy. He playing the role of the villain." All Might explains to him.'I can play a better role than him,' Ragnarok scoffs. Crona shook their head.'We no longer doing that remember Ragnarok.' Crona reminds him.'Yeah, yeah.', "Wait! Young Bakugo! Stop! You kill him!" All Might cry out in alarm."He is fine as long as dodges!" Bakugo shouts and Crona was taken aback. This was...so wrong! They look at All Might to see if he will call it off. But fiery explore flashes across the screen. Crona panic. They need to go. They need to help-"Young Stein! Stay here!" All Might orders them. That's when Crona realize that they were moving toward the door."B-but teacher...he's going too far! We have to do something!" Crona argues with him. All Might didn't say anything at first. His eyes lock on the screen. Then smoke was clear and Izuku was alright. He was burned and half of his mask was ripped off but he's fine!Crona breathes a sigh of relief. He's ok. Hagakure grabbed their arm and lead them back."It is fine Crona. All Might know what he is doing," She said to try to calm them down. Crona took a deep breath and watch the rest of the fight.At the end of it, Crona was scared of Bakugo even more and felt bad for Izuku way before he broke his arm. Like dear god what was Bakugo thinking…? Like Kid and Blackstar were rivals going on but they won't kill each other from what Crona could tell. But these two...well Bakugo wants to do more harm but Izuku doesn't.'What happened between these two?' Crona thought to themselves."You think they are ok?" They ask Hagakure."Oh don't worry All Might is alright checking upon them!" Crona tilts their head. All Might was just here- Crona look around and find All Might not in the room. They look up to one of the TVs and saw him talking to Bakugo. They didn't notice that All Might move. Crona wasn't even sure that they could have either way. Not with their soul that bright. Serious what was that..?After a couple of minutes of checking up on the team, All Might bring them back. Uraraka looks tired, Bakugo looks miserable, and Iida looks depressed but he was the MVP of this whole lesson."Does anyone know why?" All Might ask the class. Crona thought for a moment thinking of the answer. Izuku and Bakugo were the ones doing more of the fighting. But Bakugo was acting on his own and Izuku was reckless. Could have destroyed the building and killed himself. Crona when working with their Medusa they make sure to have a way to escape and think about their attacks. Uraraka was doing good but she laugh giving herself away. That leave…"Because he didn't break character and thought ahead of his opponents. Bakugo and Midoriya were acting too reckless and Midoriya hurt himself in the process. Uraraka was treating more of a game than a test which is why she almost lose." A student called Momo explains. She was is a tall girl with a spiky ponytail with a large strand hanging on the right side of her face. Her eyes are thin and sharp, dark in color, and paired with short eyebrows set in a determined expression. Her hero costume consists of a high-collared, sleeveless crimson leotard with silver lines at her waist and around her arms, which is open to expose her skin from her neck to just below her navel. She sports calf-length red boots with heels, which dip sharply down in the center, and two gold utility belts around her waist, another, thinner one around the top portion of her chest, below her shoulders. Overall her outfit made Crona look the other way. This was going to be hard to work with her.Uraraka flinched, Iida beams, and Bakugo still looks miserable."Umm All Might?" Crona pipes up."Yes, Young Stein?" All Might turn his gaze to him."Is Izu-Midoriya going to be alright," Crona almost forgot that Japanese people prefer to be called by their last names than their first ones."He is alright! He is with Recovery Girl! No need to worry over Young Stein." Crona sigh in relief."Now it's on to the next teams," He grabs the balls in the box, "And they are Team B and Team C!"Crona gulp and lock eyes with Shoto. He had a stern expression on his face while Crona look down. This was their first real fight. So got to make a good impression."Crash of the Titans… of Eltics," Tokoyami comments."Crona is beast on their own but Todoroki is one of the Recommendation Students," Kirishima comments as he looks at Crona and Shoto."But so is Momo remember?" Mina add."Team B will be the Heroes while Team C is the Villains." All Might told them, "Good luck to the both of you!""Come on Stein. We need to get ready." Momo said as she head to the door."R-right," Crona walks after her."Seem we going to work together," Shoji walks over to Shoto, "Against the top student, eh?"Shoto looks at the door where they disappear too."Yep."
Romance - Chapters
7 Let's Be a TeamSteven enjoys driving Viola around. He likes hanging out with her. Talking while they cook together. He’s very happy they are so casual and secretly hoping to hug her instead of catching her when she collapses. He rocks in his office chair daydreaming about it, ‘She didn’t seem to mind me kissing her on the cheek. She seemed into the idea on my birthday.’ He leans back onto his desk, 'But what’s with that girlfriend explanation? Maybe she isn’t actually that comfortable with me. Perhaps I should follow her lead,’ he thinks as he flips through different websites.It is only a couple of days till she pushes herself to exhaustion again during training. This time though she admits to getting a bit of nausea and being very tired recently. “Come on, you can rest in the office,” Steven offers before helping her off the bench. She wraps an arm around him as they walk towards the office.“Man, did you knock her up on birthday? That’s what took you so long!” the guys tease as they go pass causing Steven to turn tones.Viola plops down on the couch barely in enough time to hold her head. He pulls out an icepack out of his fridge and his coat. He covers her up, “Rest. I’ll check in on you.” He leaves the office.Viola’s eyes drift close as something catches her attention, “Is that a plant?”Viola finally twitches before stretching out. “How are you feeling?” a familiar voice asks. She looks up to see Steven sitting behind his desk.She smiles and begins to make way across the room. He greets her at the corner of the desk, taking the icepack and coat, ushering her into the chair, and leaning against the desk. “I’m feeling a lot better now thank you. I thought I imagined this,” she says picking up the African Violet. “When did you get a plant?”“On my birthday,” he promptly answers. She glances at him. “The guys like teasing me,” he bashfully explains. Viola takes the opening to tease him about taking better care of it if he wants to keep it. “Oh~ How do I take care of my violets?” he banters as he scoots closer to her. She gives him a dirty look but does answer how to take care of the plant, otherwise Mr. Marrigold will be angry at both of them. They chuckle for a moment at the comment as she sits next to him.Josh goes to tell Steven a delivery is there when he hears laughter through the door. He stops for a moment with a smile at the concept of his friend having fun when he hears a deep voice, “Do you want to tell them?”A heavy sigh comes through. “No, I get why you’re suggesting it really. But I don’t want it hanging over their heads. It is so nice to be around everyone right now. I don’t want to change that,” Viola explains.Josh’s mind begins racing as he tries to contemplate the meaning. The delivery driver startles him. Josh knocks on the door before going in, “Hey. There’s a delivery.”Steven and Viola turn around as though it is a normal day. “Ok. I’m coming. Do you need a ride home?” he asks before leaving the office.“I’m good now. I’ll head out,” Viola answers. Steven and Josh say their goodbyes before heading out to deal with the deliveries. She heads home.Josh heads home at the end of his shift but the conversation is looping in his mind. He starts making a list of things he recalls Viola doing and the times he notices Steven leaves early. A disturbing pattern begins to remind him of something but he still wants to do more research.Josh is not the only one with doing research. Steven continues his research at the library because everything online is overwhelming. He tries to scan the book spines to figure out what he needs. “You’re not looking in the right place,” a sharp voice shatters his focus. He spins in place at the declaration. “You want to know about her ‘condition’ correct?” Ms. Ivy leads him through the question.Steven straightens up but turns sideways, “I don’t know what you mean.”Ms. Ivy steps in front of him, watching his eyes go down to her breasts. He skims the book title under them, ‘History of Massive Muscle’. Steven’s eyes shot up. “So you do know something. When your ready to learn about that flower come back for another visit. Till than follow me,” Ms. Ivy shows him to the medical books.He checks out the books she indicates. ‘What did she mean by that? Why does she know?’ Steven leaves with more questions.After reading at home and online while at work his nervous energy grows. He starts hiding snacks for Viola at the gym in his office. Next time they met, he asks if he can be brought up to date on what the doctors say. Viola ruffles his hair before agreeing and telling him when the appointments are.Josh’s research confirms something is medically wrong with Viola. He starts bringing in healthier snacks to conveniently offer from the gym’s snack bar. Each time he speaks with her he wonders about her eating; at home or out. When he offers to refill Viola’s water bottle she grabs his ear, “What is bothering you?!”“What?” Josh squeals.“You are nagging me worse than family! Did Steven say something?” Viola glares at Josh.“No!” he chirps. He sees the glare. “Really he didn’t. You’ve just missed so many days lately,” Josh runs off quickly trying not to admit what he guesses. Viola’s gaze drop as she releases his ear. She turns away from him. “I didn’t mean to bother you..I just want to make sure you’re ok,” he begins. Her mouth opens. “Because it is nice to have you around,” he adds as he rubs her back.She shows a little smirk before turning away, “Here I was just guessing you were being a great wingman.”He gives her a soft pat on the shoulder, “Maybe. But I’m your friend too.” He squeezes her shoulder. She pats his hand. They separate just in time for Steven to return to coaching.The next day is a treatment day. Viola enjoys talking to her nurse. Talk is always playful and nice but as Viola is getting taped up from the injection the nurse smiles, “There’s a handsome thing waiting for you.”“Huh?”Steven’s leg is bouncing up and down faster than the clock can tick. His thumb flicks off his finger. When the nurse shushes him he tucks his hair behind his ear..before his leg twitches again. The treatment nurse rolls Viola out in a wheelchair, “Steven?” He almost leaps across the waiting area. “What are you doing here? You just asked to be kept up to date.”He grabs her hands as they move towards him. He rubs the pale hands in his thumbs, “I’ve been trying to learn a lot. But got a bit nervous.” He tries to smirk as he notices that she looks more exhausted than after a workout.“I’ll say,” lobby nurse interjects.The treatment nurse begins pushing her to the parking lot as he walks next to Viola. “You never message on treatment days so I thought maybe I could be your ride here too,” he suggests as they make to the parking lot. Viola is about to say something but he takes off to get his truck. She pouts and the nurse laughs.He pulls the truck up in the drop off zone. The nurse opens the door. Viola begins to get out the wheelchair but before she realizes it a pair of warm hands sweep her up. Steven is holding her in his arms for a moment before putting her in the truck. The nurse closes the door and waves them off. “Hey, listen to this!”“Steven,” Viola begins with a sigh. “You didn’t have to do this.”“I want to.”“What about work? Don’t you have other clients to take care of?” her tone begins changing.“Vi,” he starts glancing at her.“You shouldn’t neglect them.”“I’m not. They came in earlier today because of their schedule changes. Now stop trying to deflect,” he protests. He sees her twitch. “I know you’re mad. I can see it Viola. I know you-““Oh you know me!” she snaps. For some reason Steven could not put his finger she begins shouting everything; but for as much as she’s shouting tears begin rolling down her face. He just lets her rant whatever is bothering her. Afterwards the sound calm down as she collapses on her knees, “I hate this. I hate it so much. I can’t even be me anymore. I wasn’t supposed to be a burden here. Why.”He strokes her back they finish the drive. After he pulls into the driveway he opens her door. She looks at him when he takes her hands. “You’re not a burden. You’re part of a team now. Nothing wrong with asking for a little help,” he tries to encourage. He sees her about to protest again. “Plus this is where I want to be,” he smiles as he moves in closer.“Ok,” she sniffles. His about to cheer when she wraps around his neck. “But promise me this isn’t going to interfere with your work. I don’t want you to loss your dream job because of this too,” she requests.His eyes open as he realizes something new. He lightly hugs her, “I promise.” After a moment he slips her out of the truck, “Let’s get you inside. Then you can tell your routine for the rest of the day.” Viola nods. He spends the rest of the day with her going over the process, eating together, and mostly resting as they pass another hurdle.The days and treatments continue. After another round the doctor decides it is best to add something to Viola’s chest. Exhaustion comes more often for Viola now. Even in this state, she notices Steven gets quite attentive when he’s nervous. The nervousness grew from the instant she comes out with the bandage and even spreads to his work. Josh tries to talk to him about it because its affecting everyone. Only to have him stop under threat of calling Viola.Viola shows up a couple days later like usual but her head is under wraps. Most of them let her go without much question because of how she looks recently but then her wrap falls off, “Girl you are bald! What happen?”“You ever get overstressed, pass out, wake up and say FU to everything?”“pfft Giiiirrrrl, you know it. I’ll bring you something better for your head,” Athena acknowledges while waving her fingers. “Wreck anything else?”“Just some glasses and pans. Trashed a couple things I’ll fix later.”“‘kay.”“Probably should get a new pillow and toothbrush on the way home.”Athena snorts, “Really was everything huh?”“Yeah..”“Screw that! We’re going weave shopping after this,” Athena slaps Viola’s shoulder before returning to rowing.‘Weave? Oh right, weaves,” Viola thought to herself a moment. “Sure, why not,” she shrugs. ‘Has to be better than what Mr.Marrigold offered me this morning,’ she reminds the brightly colored large shaped wig.After a moment of silent agreement, “Oh! While we’re out we could get some stuff for a trip!”“Huh?”
Short Stories
A Halloween Head StoryA Halloween Head Story Salem Senior High School was something of a study in contrasts. It served one of the wealthiest towns in the state and consistently produced both above average test scores and winning football teams. A few student athletes would even go on to play in the pros. It also had an occasional reputation for cliquishness and bullying, particularly against those who didn't 'fit in' or refused to take sides. Oddly, while the guys could come across as jocks, sexual harassment seemed to rarely be a problem; it was the girls who most often would make local headlines for the wrong reasons, when a group of them decided to pick on someone for some reason, or no real reason at all. Sarah Howe was one student who cared little for the social scene. She took her studies seriously, yet neither conveyed a nerdy attitude, or the look. Instead, she was something of a looker who avoided the 'slob' look, liked to occasionally wear skirts or dresses to class, and spurned the heavy use of makeup some of her classmates embraced. It was that last item which eventually made Sarah the target of one group of girls, whose choice of clothing suggested little in common but who always wore plenty of makeup. A few weeks into the new school year they began nagging Sarah why she didn't wear as much makeup as they did. She would politely say she was not interested and they did not then press the matter, but that did not stop the group from asking her nearly every time they passed in the halls, which occurred once or twice each day. She tried to keep stoic about it, but the other girls' act got old pretty quickly. Eventually she complained to the school administration about what she was now perceiving as bullying, only to be met with a shrug. She got a much better, and unexpected, response from her parents when she complained to them about her problem at school. "Go see Uncle Matt. He can help you" they said. Matt was Mather Judge, and truth be told, he was not actually Sarah's uncle. Rather, he was a family friend of such long standing and regard he was eventually given the honorific title. He was also sometimes nicknamed 'the Wizard' for his apparent ability to solve most any difficulty, some of which had seemed unsolvable before he got involved. Now he told Sarah "Go see my sister Gretchen, you will know her when you see her..." Despite some misgivings she felt when Mather declined to give a description of his sister, Sarah went on Friday after school, to the address he had given her. Upon knocking on the front door of a rather ordinary looking house a voice from inside said "Please enter." Upon complying Sarah was greeted by a sight which she had not at all anticipated but which, oddly, did not spook her. Gretchen was all in black, long dress, long wavy hair, tall conical hat. Even her face appeared to be nothing but a featureless black shadow from which her voice emanated, as she greeted her visitor. "Please feel welcome, Sarah, I was expecting you. Yes, I am a witch, but remember, not all witches are evil, just as most mortal humans are not evil...I understand you have a problem for which you need my assistance in solving." "Yes, I do" Sarah now answered. At the witch's urging, Sarah related how the group of girls had been nagging her more and more about her refusal to wear lots of makeup as they did, the lack of support from the school administrators, and how she was ultimately referred by her parents and Gretchen's brother. The witch's hat occasionally nodded in response to things Sarah had said, then eventually offered a solution. "I like how you do not want to be like everyone else...most humans do thrive on variety...you would be surprised how varied we witches really are..." Gretchen proposed a solution for Sarah's consideration, and said "Neither your family, nor your true friends will be at all bothered by your change...you can change yourself back at will if and when you wish, but anyone with hostile intentions toward you will lack that option..." She now gave Sarah a choice of time periods those who committed hostile acts against her would be affected by their own changes. Sarah took a minute to ponder; her harassers had not really been nasty and perhaps as a result she did not feel particularly vindictive, but she was glad for the chance to impose a significant punishment upon them. "A week, if they do not do it anymore..." The witch's hat nodded in agreement, then her voice spoke once more from the shadow of her face. "Sarah, you are in luck. I do not have to brew a new potion for you...I must only chant my incantation, and dip my wand into the potion...and for you to inhale the vapor, to confer the change upon you...are you ready?" "I am" Sarah responded to the witch's query. The witch's hat tilted once more, then she poured a powder into a cauldron in the corner of the room. Soon a vapor began rising into the air, at which time she began chanting an incantation in a tongue which was indecipherable to Sarah's ears. She inhaled as Gretchen waved the tip of her wand through the vapor, then waved it above her client's head. Everything seemed to turn blurry before Sarah's eyes, before being replaced by a light which in moments became bright enough to cause her to close her eyes. When the glow she could see through her eyelids faded, she opened her eyes once more; everything appeared to be the same as before. "Sarah, please turn to face the mirror over there" Gretchen gestured with her wand, and Sarah complied. Her appearance was exactly as the witch had predicted, including the clothing she had worn to school that day; casual blouse, denim skirt, and moderate heeled shoes. She couldn't help but be impressed. "Wow..." "Remember, you can change back to your previous appearance whenever you wish..." Gretchen said. "Thank you, but I think I'll stay like this for now" Sarah replied "Halloween is coming up...I'd like to see those girl's faces when they see me like this..." None of Sarah's friends and neighbors who saw her that weekend, or who saw her at the bus stop Monday morning, which was Halloween, gave her changed appearance a second glance. Nor did the teachers and classmates who saw her in her first two classes of the morning. Not until she was on her way to her third period class did she finally encounter her makeup wearing tormentors. "Hey, Sarah, is that your costume?" one of them asked. "Nope" Sarah answered in a totally casual manner "I got tired of you bugging me about makeup, so I got rid of my head. See?" she now waved a hand through the air where her head would have been, and it was obvious there was now nothing there but air. "So, how can you see...?" "With this" Sarah now fingered a pendant she wore around the stump of her neck "It lets me see, hear, talk...maybe I'll stay this way until you graduate..." The foursome now confronting Sarah were all seniors, two years ahead of the subject of their less-than-fond affection. "Oh...?" one of the other girls now said, with a smirk on her face. She grabbed at Sarah's pendant, figuring yanking it off the stump of her neck would be the easiest thing to do in the world. No sooner did she touch it than she yelped in pain, as if stung, and jumped back. Before she or her friends could react any further, her head began to glow brightly, and when the light faded several seconds later it was no longer to be seen. She reached up with her hands, but all she found where her head should have been was empty air. Next, she groped toward her friends, clearly panicking, until one took her by the arm. "What did you do to her?!" the last girl in the group demanded. "Nothing, she did it to herself, because she was not being nice to me..." That set off the first girl, who now lunged at Sarah herself, and shortly afterwards was likewise groping about, unable to see, hear, or speak, and clearly frantic until the fourth girl took her by the arm. "Don't worry too much, they will be back to normal in a week..." Sarah now said, matter-of-factly. Her prediction indeed proved true, and when the two girls returned to class a week later, heads restored, neither they nor anyone else dared mess with her again. Having made her point, Sarah made no further attempt to rub salt into the other girls' psychic wounds; she was not a vindictive type. She also stuck with her early decision to remain headless until school had let out for the summer, having come to enjoy her uniqueness even more than she had anticipated. Though some of her more casual friends occasionally asked out of curiosity how she had come to be headless, she never revealed her secret, and her closest friends were just as tight-lipped whenever someone asked them...
Story Illustrations
Alien Faces: Dalmonok by AngelOfNope
Other
Prologue: A Shard's Transformation by novarose122001
Critique
The Treasure Hunters by mmpratt99
Scripts and Screenplays
ATM Sketch(A man stands in front of an ATM and slides a red credit card into the machine and puts in his number. The ATM tells him it’s an invalid pin. He groans with frustration and then hears a loud click and feels something hard push against his spine. He turns around and sees a masked mugger standing behind him.)MUGGER:Don’t be scared but I’m about to rob you.GUY: (smirks without looking behind him)I know that gun. Is that a .45 semi-automatic?MUGGER:That’s a very good guess. How did you know?GUY:I could feel it.MUGGER:No. Really?GUY:That’s a bit too much gun. Next time I’d suggest a snub nosed .38. Quicker on the draw.MUGGER:That’s a good suggestion, I’ll remember that.GUY:Is there anything I could do for you?MUGGER:I’d like to have all your money, please.GUY:I’d love to help you, but I can’t remember the pin.MUGGER:Oh. That’s alright. Take your time, we got all night.(MUGGER #1 hears a clicking sound and feels something hard push against his spine. A second mugger in a red-yellow mask stands behind the first mugger).MUGGER #2Give me all your money!MUGGER #1 turns around and smiles at Mugger number #2.MUGGER 2:Oh, great. It’s you again.MUGGER:Oh, hi Phil. How’re the kids?GUY:You two know each other?MUGGER #2What’re you doing, you know this is my spot.MUGGER:I got as much right as anyone else.GUY (TO MUGGER #2):Your voice sounds familiar. Did you ever do time in Albany?MUGGER #2Just shut up and empty your pockets!MUGGER:I’m flat broke. I was just about to rob this man. If you wait a minute, I’d be happy to oblige you.MUGGER #2 (sighs)Fine.MUGGER: (To the GUY)Try the number again.GUY: (put’s in the pin)Didn’t work.MUGGER:Are you sure you’re using the right card?GUY:Yes!MUGGER 2:God, we’ll be here all night!MUGGER:That’s a pessimistic attitude. I’m sure the next time he tries the pin he’ll get it. Go ahead.GUY:I got one attempts left, if it’s not right the machine will eat my card.MUGGER:Concentrate really hard, is the number your birthday?GUY:No, that’s too obvious.MUGGER:Maybe it’s your mother’s birthday?MUGGER #2Get off the birthdays! That’s not it!MUGGER:Do you have any money in your wallet you can give us?GUY:If I had money would I be here at an ATM?MUGGER #2:That’s a good point.GUY:I’m sorry, fellas. It’s not going to happen tonight.MUGGER:Oh, that’s too bad.MUGGER #2:Terrific!GUY:I’m afraid you’ll have to rob someone else tonight. Again, I’m really sorry.MUGGER:Don’t worry about it, these things happen.MUGGER #2There’s a cop coming down the street. I’m out of here.(MUGGER #1 and MUGGER #2 run in opposite direction. Another guy comes running down the street and stops in front of the GUY).Guy #2:Excuse me but did you see a man with a red credit card just stop by here?GUY #1:Can’t say that I have.(A cop car pulls up in front of the ATM and rolls down their window.)COP:What’s the problem?GUY #2My credit card has been stolen. I think someone just tried to use it.COP:Sorry, there’s not too much we can do about that.(Guy #1 ejects the credit card and briskly walks away.)

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After some deliberating, we've decided to give our group a new makeover! We have examined our overall gallery structure and submission processes and concluded that things are still pretty jumbled. Our plans are to remodel our gallery structure to make things easier for everybody who submits to it. There will be some new guidelines implemented as well to both prevent spamming and encourage improvement.

So hang tight folks! You'll be seeing some changes headed your way!

NOTE: You can still continue submitting your work as that won't be affected much for the construction's time period.
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:icongallerica:
Gallerica Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2021  Hobbyist General Artist
My submissions keep expiring, and I don't know how long the group is active. :/
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:iconwindmeister8:
WindMeister8 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2021  Hobbyist Writer
Sorry about that! I'm the only active admin now and I don't visit dA as often. (Plus with the way Eclipse allows group management, there's no notifications to tell you that there are group submissions - which sucks imo.)

I'm considering just changing submission setting so that it's automatically accepted instead. Hopefully that will help. :)
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:iconattheomnipotent:
ATTheOmnipotent Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2020  Student Writer
To those who might read my fiction: If you are interested in reading more about it, you can go and follow me, so you stay up to date with the latest chapters and news about Marvel's Renegades and any other of my upcoming fanfics!
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:iconmmpratt99:
mmpratt99 Featured By Owner May 27, 2020  Professional General Artist
Hello,

I'm about to upload a new story that's already in ebook form, and planning on publishing in paper form.  I was wondering is there any good group for criticizing last minute edits?  It's already been through grammarly several times, but I can't afford the advanced version where it correct everything. 
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:iconcinderunit:
CinderUnit Featured By Owner May 4, 2020
Hey im new to deviantart literature and im trying to decide if this is the best place to post this fanfiction i made
(Ultraman/Avengers XOver Fic) Take me higherThis is an OC character fanfiction "This is Quinjet 1 speaking, we're preparing to land on the Helicarrier, Over" said the pilot as he is preparing to land. The Quinjet was carrying a group of Rookies about to become members of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of them is Kent Bueller, who is enthusiastic to become part of a world renowned defense force and the best part is that he gets to fight along with the Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes. All he wants to know next if the guy behind the mask of Spider-Man is Pizza Maguire, That would make his day. "OK! Rides over rookies, now go out make some new friends while i read the Bugle!" Said the pilot as he reads the Daily Bugle Newspaper with the headline: SPIDER-MAN IS A DUMB IDIOT WHOSE DEAD AS HELL. As the rookies go out, They see a Samuel L Jackson lookalike who had his eye lost due to some filming accident from his last film. "Alright rookies, Listen up! I'm director Nick Fury and this tour guide better be quick cause is my least favourite part of this schedule! *in his mind* Coulson you motherfucker if only you didn't take that holiday!" Said Fury. "Director Fury, I'm Kent Bueller, I'll be looking forward to be part of your team" said Kent. "Kid, When did i say to introduce yourself and start yappin for attention? Rookies, Introduce yourself now!" Said Fury. First he didn't want to know names and now he does, In the end orders from the highest ranking will always be ordersTIMESKIPAs the tour progressed, They've reached the command center of the Helicarrier but something was missing. Where are the Earth's mightiest heroes? The ones Kent want to work with so badly? "Director Fury, I have a question" said Kent. "Motherfucker are you seriously the only one talkin here?" He's not lying, Kent seems to be the one talking to him the most. "Where are the Avengers? Aren't they supposed to be here?" Asked Kent." Suddenly a chewed bubblegum that was spitted out from someone's mouth went to the trash can right next to him. "The Avengers aren't available right now kid. On a roll to stop an Avengers level threat, I'm Erin, as you can tell i'm an agent like you." She seems like a cold stoic type of person, She's also busy writing some report on her desk. "Well i'm Kent, It,s nice to meet you." He tried to greet her by giving a handshake but she ignored it and continued working on her report. "Done talking Rookie?" Asked Fury. "Director, Are you sure it's a good idea to bring some kid like him as part of our team?" Erin asked. "Hey, I've went to some intense to get here! I've got the highest ranking in class and your expectations will sore once you see me in combat!" Kent answered. "Then what? Join the Avengers?" She asked another question. "Hey if we got some spy chick and some guy with medieval weaponary as part of some elite special forces unit that means i could do it too! All you have to do is belive in yourself" Kent exclaimed. The rookies however laughed at the thought. "Believe in yourself? This is reality not a kids show! Hahaha!" They laughed. "Reality? I've seen things WAY beyond reality!" Suddenly a man with the voice of Tobey Maguire comes down from ceiling with his webbing."Yo" Greeted Spider-Man. Kent and the Rookies saw him in awe. "Oh Spidey, Didn't expect you and the other Avengers are done with the mission." Erin said calmly. "I was in the neighbourhood" replied the web-slinger. Then, other Avengers start to appear. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, War Machine, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Hell thete could be more other Avengers other than them right now but lets just keep things simple for now. "Director, New Recruits?" Asked Captain America. "Yeah, these guys are recruits and one fanboy with intense training" answered Fury. "OH MY GOD ITS THE AVENGERS, can i touch your shield? Can i touch that arc reactor? Hey Thor do you think i'm worthy enough for that Hammer?" He asked them with full childlike energy. "Yep, I can already see how muvh of a fanboy he is, I feel sorry for him Nick" said Erin. "We'll see what happens on battle" said Fury.TIMESKIPDuring Mission Briefing, Kent's first mission is to invade an artificial island created by a Mad Scientist Doctor Wowee (A/N:no this does not take place in MVC universe i just wanted to some villain character). But things were not as simple as expected. During the mission they were about to reach the end the only problem is that they are being attacked by Gutsman tanks. Something they didn't expect earlier. "Damnit! We're taking heavy casualties!" Said Kent on the Radio. It also seems that Erin is acting as the commanding officer in his team as well. "Now what?" Kent asked her. "Kent once that tank reaches close to us i need you to throw this bomb under it and be careful this bomb has a strong explosive power got it?" Erin explained. "Roger!" He responded. He was on the ground waiting for the right time but the tanks laser weapons as making it a bit hard for him. "Crap, It's to risky!" He shouted worriedly. The Robot Tank locks on to him about to fire a cannon until suddenly a web blocked it. Spider-Man was right on time to prevent the tank from shooting him then Iron Man appears to blowing up the tank with his missiles. But its not over yet as robot soldiers appear to rush towards the good guys. "Hey, Age of Ultron is over! You're living in the wrong era!" Taunted Iron Man. Thor and Captain America collided their weapons creating a huge shock wave on the machines while Hulk....well Hulk Smash! "Huh guess i don't need this bomb do i?"said Kent. As he saw his heroes stopping the bad guys until all of them are gone. Then, A TV screen from a tower showing the Evil Doctor appears. "Ypu may have one tou can never catch me!" He shouted as he escaped the island with his Ship. "There! Shoot it" commanded Captain America as the quinjets try to shoot the Ship but energy shields appear to prevent it from getting taken down. The ship then escapes into safety. "Damn! awe should've just barged into his fortress" cursed Thor. "Banner are you...?" Thor checked on Hulk but he's still busy beating a dead horse i mean machine. "Still angry as always" said War Machine. Spidey on the other hand was a few meters away from them suddenly, A damaged machine got up and is right behind the web-slinger with its weapons still working. "My Spider sense are tingling!" He thought to himself. Kent saw this and is rrady to use his bomb "BEHIND YOU!" He shouted at Spidey while he hesitanty threw the bomb. Spider-Man webyanked the robot soldiers arm cannon but hadn't have enough time to avoid the bomb. The bomb blew up and threw him away like the time he fougut goblin the the 2002 movie except this he looked nothing like Tobey without the mask. It was just someone else. "Oh shit!" He cursed.TIMESKIPGood news is that Spider-Man isn't dead but the Bad news is that Kent is being scolded by Director Fury for his actions. "What the hell were you thinking trying to blow up a comrade in battle soldier!" Fury scolded in anger. "I'm sorry sir but i was trying to stop that hostile eneny from taking out Spider-Man! Please forgive me!" Kent pleaded. "Enough! You call yourself one of the best in training but you still act like in training! The next Quinjet leaves at 9" said Fury. "You mean i'm suspended?" He asked. Then Fury took his S.H.I.E.L.D Badge from him. "Now get out of here"said Fury. "Oof, grounded" said Stark. "Don't worry about it kid, Hey if you wanna hang out then maybe we'll see each other at cafe?" Steve Rogers offered, but the fired rookie ignored and just left. "Wait" A girl appears. "I'm responsible too. I was the one who told him to use the bomb on the Tank but i should've just taken it back. Director, punish me if you must" Erin tells the truth. "Erin you are one of the best S.H.I.E.L.D agents and now you think you deserve a punishment?" Fury asked her. "Please sir, Let me join him" She requested. "Fine the two of you are suspended" said Fury as he left. "Bow chika wow-wow" taunted StarkTIMESKIPThe Quinjet takes Kent and Erin to the city for their actions earlier. "Hey Erin, Sorry i had to bring you into this...i was trying to help" He apologized. "No, like i said its my fault. I should've never given you the order in the first place" She responded. "Do you think it's safe to spar while flying?" He asked. "What do you mean?" "I told you i went to intense training, but i never did properly show it in battle so what do you say?" He asked. "I got a gym back at home what about we try there?" She offered him. "Sounds good" and he agreed.MEANWHILE IN SPACEDoctor Wowee in space is now deciding what to do next "Perhaps i should build a moonbase" He thought. "Sir! Incoming flying object!" A robot assistant shouted. "What where?!" A giant creature suddenly hits him making his ship crash into the moon. There were two giants, One is a crustacean like monster and the other is a humanoid red and silver giant. The crustacean gets the upper hand and they both fall into earth while thethe other giant has his lamp on his chest blinking redBACK IN THE QUINJET"Director, i've spotted something going down from the sky. Requesting permission to investigate." Said the Pilot. "Go ahead and find out what it is" Fury authorized it on the radio. "Sorry but it looks like your flight home has been delayed" said the pilot. "We're going to investigate the glowing lights falling down the sky" said the co-pilot. The quinjet then heads to the area but it seems that it already fell into the ocean. "Well where is it?" Emerging from the water is the crustacean monster that fell down. Later it started to laugh like a maniac, "OHOHOHOHO" "Is that thing laughing?! Good lord its big!" Shouted Kent. H"Hey look the radio is receiving a signal!" Erin noticed it and the pilots try to know what it is. "I am a soldier of the Baltan Empire, Surrender your planet for continued existence" The monster later rises his hand up and is about to strike at the Quinjet. "SHOOT IT!" But then it vanishes!. "Where did it go?" Questioned the pilot. "Hey something's not right with the radio, quinjet to HQ come in!" But no response. Then out of nowhere, The monster calling itself a soldier of the Baltan empire appears behind Kent human sized and grabs on to him. "OHOHOHOHO" He laughed once again. "Kent! Let him go!" Shouted Erin at the Baltan. He listened to her so he destroyed the hatch and threw him into the sea. "BASTARD!" She shot him with her gun that she carried but it had no effect. The Baltan opens his claws a shoots an energy ball. She dodged it, but it hit the pilots losing control of the quinjet. The Baltan left and flew away. "Shit" She cursed as the plane is about to fall into the sea.UNDER THE SEAAs Kent was drowing a shining light suddenly emerged below him. The light revealed itself to be the Silver and Red giant. "Who are you?" He asked. "I am Ultraman Forsyte my mission was to stop the Baltan Empire for destroying other planets, During the my battle in Space i fell onto this planet and i cannot live longer due to the earth's different environment, Officer Bueller the only way for me to survive is that i fuse my body with you like a symbiote." Said Ultraman Forsyte. "Then let's do it, I disappointed my allies because of my actions and i want to redeem myself for it. I want to show them that i'm not useless, Forsyte lend me your power!" He begged him. "Then it's settled, Let us begin the merging process" Ultraman Forsyte begins merging with him by seperating and transfering his enrgy of light and eventually turn into one being. "Now rise and save your friend from dying Kent!" Said Forsyte. He rised up into a giant being and picked up the Quinjet that fell into the ocean. The two pilots may have died from baltan but atleast Erin lives. He then takes the Quinjet in a nearby shore.THE NEXT DAYErin wakes up in a hospital "ARGH! Where am i?" Erin qquestioned in an unfamiliar place. "Breathe easy, You're in a Hospital" Said Thor even some members of the Avengers are there in the room too. "Erin, could you tell us what happened?" Captain America asked. "There was a giant, It calls itself a soldier in some imperial army then he teleported inside and threw Kent and killed the pilots...Damnit i could've done something!" She explained the story. "Then how the hell did the Quinjet get to the shore?" Tony asked. "I don't know, I don't even know how that happened" She had no clue how it got there in the first place, Suddenly a huge earthquake occured outside. "What now?" Said Tony. They looked outside the window and it turns out it was Baltan attacking the city. "Avengers let's move!" Commanded Captain America."You think this is the giant that Erin told" said War Machine as he's flying while attacking Baltan with Stark. "Well its huge, Its big and pretty much fits the description" Tony replied. Even fighter jets appear to aid them but not even their weapons work. "HULK SMA-" Baltan then freezes hulk while he jumped but now Hulk is falling down but the freeze wasn't permanant. "Here's a classic trick" said Spidey who did not die from the bomb while he's trying to tie up Baltan's leg but he teleports out of there causing spidey to fail."Oh come on really!" Muttured Spider-Man. "I am Thor son of Odin and i will slay you by myself" Thor flew towards Baltan and he started cloning himself. "What! No it can't be!" Whatever is happening it gave Thor some kind of PTSD. Then again his brother did have this power. The brother that had to be killed. Baltan soon knocked him away. "Damn! Now what?!" Said Hawkeye as he was still on the ground. *BEEP BEEP* A Jeep appears. "Get in Avenger, or you'd rather be worm food" "Hey you're that Kent guy didn't you die?" Asked the confused Hawkeye. "I must have the devils luck""Okay Hawkeye, As soon as we get close to him, shoot his eyes or heart with your arrows can you do that?" Kent asked. "Accuracy is my skill, So let's do it" As the Jeep speeds up Baltan is now aiming his sights on Kent, He raised his claws and starts shooting energy balls. Kent is now making use of his training skills he did not stop until he reached close enough to Baltan. 10...meters...9 meters...8 meters..."Now!" Hawkeye shoots 3 arrows two of them are Explosive arrows and one is adamantium arrows. Explosives to the eye and metal to the heart. A david and goliath moment right there. "Nice shot Hawkeye! You really are one underrated Avenger!" Kent congratulated him. "Thanks" Hawkeye replied. "OHOHOOHOHOHO" "A fake body!?" Said both of them. The Baltan is still alive! "It must be using some exoskeleton!" Kent theorized. The Baltan then switches his claws to flamethrower mode and tries to burn Kent and Hawkeye. "FALLBACK" The two of them get seperated but to Kent that may be a good thing he went to some place to hide and grabbed a small metallic rod with a bulb and a button called "Forsyte Candle" He pushes the button and becomes ten stories high maybe higher than that.ULTRAMAN FORSYTE RISEUsing the Forsyte Candle Kent Bueller becomes Ultraman Forsyte! "Shheatch!" Grunted the giant. Baltan sees this and begins to fight his sworn enemy. The two go head to head on a fist vs claw battle. Crushing building unwilingly in a city full of small people. Forsyte grabs Baltan and threw him away to the sky but teleports to the ground. OHOHOHOHO. Baltan laughed. Meanwhile in the hospital, Erin is watching the news witnessing two giants fighting. "Could he be the one that saved me? Erin thought. Back in the city, The Avengers gather around to see them fighting. "What is that?"said Captain America "Maybe he's on our side" Spider-man guessed. Baltan shoots a single energy ball then Forsyte threw an energy sawblade. Both hit eachother then Forsyte rush towards him and so did Baltan but with teleportation. Baltan was later on top of Forsyte and started smacking him with his claws. Suddenly, The Device on Forsyte's chest starts to Blink. The energy Forsyte gets from the sun diminishes rapidly in Earth's atmosphere, The warning light blinks. If it stops blinking then it would mean that Ultraman Forsyte will never rise again. Time is running out. As Baltan is about to strike at him again, Forsyte grabs both of his claws, quickly repels them boh and shoots a small beam from both of his hands hurting Baltan. Finally he manages to get up and knocks baltan's head with both of his hands ultimtely stunning him. Forsyte jumps backwards, puts his left hand down and his right hand up to charge a strong finishing move. After finishing the charge he positioned both hand with a + sign and blasts the Baltan into oblivion. "Yes! He did it! Captain he did it!" Spider-Man cheered as the Avengers did as well TIMESKIP"All right let's see how Erin is doing...oh Director you're here too?" Said Captain America when he saw Fury. "Yeah gotta check up on how she's doing too" Nick and the Avengers walk in her room to fund Erin and Kent too who is alive? "WAIT WHAT?! BUT HOW DID YOU?" Everyone got confused except for Hawkeye "Well how did Spidey survived a blast to the face?" He replied. "Hey i've got powers and you don't!" He answered. "On the plus side, he gave me some huge flowers even with the monster fight outside" said Erin hapily. "Director Fury, I need you to have Kent joined S.H.I.E.L.D again. I saw him bravely rushing towards that monster, in fact he actually drove me there" said Hawkeye. "Well Motherfucker i'm actually getting tired of carrying this around." Fury later gave Kent the badge again. "You mean i'm a member of S.H.I.E.L.D again?" Kent asked. "As long as you don't act like a fanboy again" Fury replied. "Thank you sir!" The Avengers clapped their hands that Kent is once again a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Erin on the other hand was thinking about something. "That giant, who was he?" Erin wondered. "Forsyte, Ultraman Forsyte" Kent replied as he looked outside the window seeing Ultraman Forsyte flying to the sun to regain his energy.THE ENDQUESTION TIMEQ:Some Avengers appeared in the story but don't seem to talk, why?A:No idea what lines to give them, I mean there's so many characters
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:iconyomerome:
yomerome Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2020
Good evening.

I´ve been off deviant art for around two years, due racist attacks from memebers of the da comunity, among them are zefram and gluepaw.

Two days ago I saw an email by a friend telling me some of my stories were reported by DA. 

So right now I´m uploading them again with a mature content warning.

If you want me to upload a particular story, pleast tell me the name since there are around 20 of them removed.
 
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:iconsalyadarken:
SalyaDarken Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2020  Hobbyist Artist
I'm looking for writers to come join my forum and help bring it some life or light. lol
Link: www.taintedonez.taintedwingz.x…
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:iconshotaboy14:
shotaboy14 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2020
hey I'm new to the fiction network
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:iconvvulf:
Vvulf Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2019  Student Writer
Hello,

It looks like this group is inactive. I'm trying to kickstart a few new writing groups. Check them out if you're interested. :) 
Story-Specters
This is a writing critique group. It works off of a give-one get-one basis. Folders are routinely emptied to ensure critique requests are from active members.
Write-Fantasy
A Fantasy Literature showcase! Find fantasy writers or display your work. This group is organized by subgenre and offers dedicated folders for members' chaptered works.
Prompt-Write
New writing prompts every month!

***If this group is still active, sorry, and feel free to hide this comment 
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:iconwindmeister8:
WindMeister8 Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2019  Hobbyist Writer
The group is still active, but it's totally fine if you want to advertise some other writing groups too! :)
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