Posts Tagged ‘A to Z Challenge’

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Atlantica Pt. 1

April 18, 2020

Belle saw the sword raising up, ready to swing at her for a final time and there was little she could do. She had twisted her ankle and her head was spinning from a brutal blow. The mindless men and women who had her cornered showed no signs of giving her any mercy. She took a deep breath and made a wish but when the sword came down, it clanged against another sword. Standing there was a beautiful, young woman wearing a pink, green, and blue armored outfit. She whirled around and slammed the hilt of her sword into the side of the attacker’s head, dropping him instantly. She turned on the others and her sword clashed again. She used her leg to sweep a woman off of her feet and then ducked a sword swipe from another man and elbowed him hard in the back of the head.

The woman walked back towards Belle, barely breathing hard. She had a regal bearing that spoke of charm classes and high birth. Belle did not have the best history with other women her age. The woman offered her hand and helped Belle to her feet. Belle’s ankle held her weight but it really hurt.

“You really can’t be this close to the water especially at night,” the woman said. “You’re lucky that I was on patrol in the area. What’s your name?”

“Sorry. My name’s Belle,” she said. “Who are you?”

“Really?” the woman asked, her eyes going wide. “It’s been so long since somebody didn’t know who I was. I guess that’s humbling. My name is Aurora. Queen Aurora.”

“Nice to meet you,” Belle said. “Um, I’m technically a princess.”

“Technically?” Aurora asked, confusion swirling in her eyes.

“It’s a long story,” Belle said.

“Why don’t you tell me while I walk you toward safety?” Aurora asked. “Where can I take you? Where’s your home?”

“I don’t even know where I am,” Belle said. “None of this looks familiar. One minute I am being chased by some creature outside of the castle and then there was a loud cracking sound, a flash of green light and then I was suddenly here.”

“Like magic?” Aurora asked. “What did it feel like?”

“It felt like being swept up in a snowstorm but also like being dunked underwater,” Belle said. “It felt like magic. I have a little experience with magic but not like this.”

Aurora looked surprised again. “You’re one of the lost like me!” she shouted. “We have to get you to the castle. You’re with us.”

“Lead the way,” Belle said and they started to walk. “Thank you for saving me back there. I’m not much of a fighter. I’m more of a reader and my protector is missing.”

“I wasn’t much of a fighter either,” Aurora said. “but after my husband, Phillip, faced down a dragon for me, I never wanted to be defenseless again.”

“You mentioned being ‘lost’,” Belle said. “What does that mean? What’s going on?”

“This is not my kingdom,” Aurora said. “I come from another world. As far as we can tell, when all of this started, something broke and people started ending up in new places. I wasn’t in my kingdom anymore with Phillip but I was here instead.”

“Where is here?” Belle asked.

“This is Queen Ariel and King Eric’s kingdom,” Aurora said. “They faced down an evil sea witch named Ursula. Somehow she was resurrected along with the woman who terrorized me, Maleficent. They teamed up with some other baddies to take over all of the realms.”

“Sounds absolutely nasty,” Belle said.

“Ursula is here in this realm,” Aurora said. “She somehow stole the will of people near the harbor and are using them as her private army against us. Ariel calls them the Poor Unfortunate Souls or The Unfortunate for short.”

“What are we supposed to do?” Belle asked.

“We’re getting close to figuring out how to travel to the realms like our wicked opponents,” Aurora said. “Maybe you could help us.”

“Me?” Belle asked. “What can I do?”

“You said you’re a reader,” Aurora said. “Maybe you could help with the research.”

“Yeah!” Belle said. “I can definitely do that. Anything to get back home.”

One for All – An Equestria Girls AU Story

April 17, 2020

Rarity was pacing back and forth across the floor, the clomping of her designer boots was pretty loud on the wooden floor. Of course, Rarity would still be the height of fashion even in a warzone. Of course, it was weird to think of their home as a warzone. She stopped walking to check her pistols again, each one accented with pearl, bronze, and purple paint. The clips were still full. She thought about checking her makeup but there was no mirror close enough. She must look a fright but she would have to let that compulsion linger.

“Would you stop pacing so much?” Applejack muttered. “You’re more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs and you’re making me nervous. Well, more nervous.”

“Sorry!” Rarity practically yelled. “I mean, I’m sorry. You know nervous I get in these situations. I’m supposed to be a fashion designer, not a combatant.”

“Hey, I hear ya,” Applejack said. “I wish I was back on the farm but that aint’ where we’re at right now. Until Queen Chrysalis is defeated, nothing will go back to normal.

Pinkie Pie swung down out of the rafters. “When it does, there will be a huge party!” The noise was so sudden that it startled the other girls. “Anybody want a cookie?”

“No,” Rarity said. ” but thank you. I just couldn’t manage a bite. I wish we could go back out there and help Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. They’re out there on their own.”

“Not completely on their own,” Applejack said. “My brother, Shining Armor, and Trixie are out there with them. They’re keeping those crystal zombies busy elsewhere. We have to stay here and protect Twilight. She’s the closest thing we have to a princess until we can rescue Celestia, Luna, and Cadence.”

“I know, I know,” Rarity said. “We’ve already lost so much. We have to hold onto hope that Twilight, Sunset Shimmer, and Zecora can find the right spell to end this thing.”

“Of course they will!” Pinkie Pie said. “They’re absolute best. We’ve got nothing to worry about.” She went back to cooking. Since the conflict had begun in earnest, she had been forced to do a lot of their cooking. She could not just cook cakes and pies, she had to cook more nutritious foods which she found boring. Still, she would do anything for her friends.

“Nothing to worry about!?” Rarity said and sat down on a nearby chair. “I need to sit down. Queen Chrysalis came back out of nowhere and ruined Princess Cadence’s wedding. Then she proceeded to successfully summon Discord, then she killed him, and took his power for her own.”

“We know,” Applejack said. “Then she created the spell that turned a lot of our friends into her creepy crystal zombies.”

“Sorry,” Rarity said. “It just helps to say it all out loud sometimes. It helps to remind me that it’s all real and I’m not just going crazy.”

Applejack put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Pinkie’s right,” she said. “We’re going to get through this. We got through everything before. We stopped Nightmare Moon. We stopped Discord. We’re tougher than heck.”

“We are,” Rarity said with a smile. “and we look damn good saving the day. We’ll have things back to sunnier days soon.”

“We just have to stay strong,” Applejack said. She picked up her shotgun. “and kick some butt.”

“I need some tea,” Rarity said. There was a pause as she realized that nobody was going to get it for her.

“I have no idea how to make tea,” Applejack said. “I’m more of a coffee gal.”

“It’s exceedingly simple,” Rarity said. “All you have to do is crush the leaves, pour the water, and then get the balance of sugar and milk exactly right.”

“Real simple,” Applejack said. “Sounds like a lot for just one cup.”

“To each their own,” Rarity said. “I could never get used to the mud you drink.” She smiled, teasing Applejack just a bit. Applejack caught on and let it slide with a smile.

“The stronger the better,” Applejack said. “I’ve gotten up before the sun most days of my life.”

“That sounds dreadful,” Rarity said. “but, again, to each their own.”

The back door opened suddenly and Zecora and Sunset Shimmer helped Twilight into the room. She looked absolutely drained and needed the support of the other two magic users. Despite here fatigue, Twilight was smiling. The smile looked a little off-kilter and deranged but it was a smile.

“Twilight!” Pinkie Pie said. “You should eat something.” She put a plate down on a table and Zecora and Sunset Shimmer helped her into a seat at the table. Applejack quickly poured some water and set it on the table too.

“Sorry,” Twilight said. “The spells we’re using take a lot out of me.”

“She wouldn’t let us be the focus,” Sunset Shimmer said.

“She refused to stop,” Zecora said. “That is until she dropped.”

“It’s worth it,” Twilight said, weakly reaching for a fork to eat her food. Pinkie also started setting food out for Sunset and Zecora as well. Hospitality mode came naturally to her.

“Worth it?” Rarity asked. “Worth running yourself ragged? You poor thing.”

“I think I’ve figured it out,” Twilight said.

“You’ve figured it out?” Applejack asked. “What did you figure out?”

“How to beat them all,” Twilight said. “with friendship.”

Nidoking of the Block – A Pokemon Story

April 16, 2020

Freddie took a deep breath and put his key into the lock on the door, turned it, and then opened the door and walked inside. It had been a long road but this was Freddie’s first day as the Gym Leader of Charm City. He had entered into one of several tournaments in the city and won. Winning the tournament had allowed him to be nominated as a candidate for the job. He had worked under the previous gym leader along with the other candidates and had done a lot of battling and training. It was a far cry from the way he had come up but he took to it well. Finally, the day to choose had come and Freddie was surprised that he had been picked. He stood in the middle of the room and smiled as he looked around.

The door opened behind him and a young girl rushed in and almost ran into Freddie. Freddie turned and caught her arm gently. Freddie was a large guy so he had always been careful to be gentle.

“Sorry I’m late!” the girl practically yelled. “I…” and then she stopped and stared at Freddie. “Who are you?”

“I’m the new gym leader here,” Freddie said. “You can call me Freddie.”

“Mama Folashade retired?” the girl asked. “When did that happen?”

“On Sunday,” Freddie said. “We had a big party which started with Mama Folashade and I battling one last time. We closed for a few days and now here I am. Where’ve you been?”

“Mama Folashade sent me to study abroad,” the girl said. “I just got back last night. Then I overslept. I’m sorry that I almost ran into you. It’s always dark in here.”

“Well, it is a dark type gym,” Freddie said. “Mama always said that it made sense to keep it dark. But I also think her eyes were getting too tired for any bright lights. I don’t plan to change that or anything, at least at first. I need to get my footing.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine if Mama Folashade trusted you,” the girl said.

“What’s your name, by the way?” Freddie asked. He walked toward his office and gestured for the girl to follow.

“Janae,” she said. “I’ve been here for a year and I never saw you.”

“I’m relatively new,” Freddie said. “I’ve been trained, though. I’m legit. Besides, you were studying abroad. Where did you go?”

“I went to Alola,” Janae said. “Four months of sun and sand. I studied with Acerola and Nanu. It was pretty wild but it was hard work too.”

“I bet it was pretty different from being around here, huh?” Freddie asked with a smile.

Janae shrugged. “Definitely,” she said. “I mean we have the ocean here but it’s a harbor. It’s different.”

“I studied abroad too,” Freddie said. “I got sent by Ryan Douglas over at the Harbor Pokemon Center. He footed the bill. I was making money from battles on the streets when he found me. We fought in an alley between the apartment building I lived in and the one next door. Sometimes we moved up to the roof. Ryan plucked me up and set me on a bigger path.”

“Where did that path go?” Janae asked. “Where did he send you?”

“He sent me to the Galar region where I studied with Piers,” Freddie said. “There aren’t a lot of dark gym leaders out there. It was a lot like here, actually. Piers is legit from the streets too. He’s just a bit more rock and roll. Still, he’s way more chill and he taught me a lot and cooled me off a lot. He taught me that you have to find the joy in it and the chill or it will eat you up.”

“For real?” Janae asked. “That sounds pretty good. I think I changed my mind. You might be a good gym leader actually.”

Freddie laughed. “Thanks, I think,” he said. “Now that you’re back, what do you want to do?”

“I want your job,” Janae said.

Freddie laughed again. “You’re a little bit too young right now,” Freddie said. “But you could get this crown someday. If you really want it.”

“I really want it,” Janae said with a grin. “I’m gonna get it.”

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Freddie said. “Show me what you’ve got.” He gestured toward a nearby open space.

Janae pulled out a pokeball and tossed it. “I got this guy in Alola,” she said as an Alolan Rattata sprung forth from the ball. He climbed up onto Janae’s shoulder.

“That sucker is fast,” Freddie said. “I like him.”

Janae brought out a Purrloin next which hissed at the Rattata and the Rattata hissed back. “She’s got a bit of an attitude problem,” Janae said. “She’s getting better.”

“I did too,” Freddie said.

Finally, Janae brought out a Murkrow. “Like Mama Folashade started with,” Janae said.

“Perfect,” Freddie said. “But we have to get you more friends. Three is not enough. You need at least six.”

“Well, what do you have?” Janae asked. “Show me what you got.”

“I’ll show you,” Freddie said. “Let’s head to the battleground. I’ll show you exactly what I’ve got.”

Janae laughed. “Deal,” she said.

Music of the Sirens – A Witcher Story

April 15, 2020

Jaskier woke up in the middle night and could not get back to sleep. Something about the sounds that Geralt and Yennefer made him frustrated and restless. He could not get back to sleep. He decided to go on a little walk to clear his head. The noises happened a lot since the events in Rinde. Noises that Jaskier had made with many ladies but perhaps not so animalistic. It would not have been a problem if they were not roughing it. If they were in town he would have his own room or some pretty girl’s room and plenty of peace and quiet and maybe even a good time. Instead, they were off on one of Geralt’s adventurers which made some of the best songs but Yennefer had to tag along which left him as the odd one out.

As he got clear of the campsite, he heard the sounds of the forest again and he breathed in deep and let the breath out. He took a few more steps and he thought he heard music. He headed in that direction and then he was absolutely sure it was music. In fact, the song was very familiar. It was really old but Jaskier made it his business to know every song he could find in the world. He walked closer to the singing. He found it easy, each step felt like he was walking on air. He started to sing along with the beautiful female voice. His voice was joined with two other female voices in return. He happily headed that way to impress some young maidens.

Geralt pulled his clothes back on quickly, business-like as usual. Yennefer still lay on the bedroll on the ground, lounging luxuriously. She did not have the physical stamina that Geralt had so she was still on the ground for the moment.

“Was I that boring?” Yennefer asked. “You look like you’re about to run.”

Geralt let out one of his usual amused grunts. “Hmm. Jaskier is missing,” he said. “I should go and find him before he gets himself into trouble.”

“The little bard will be fine on his own for a little bit,” Yennefer said. “You indulge him too much. Have a drink with me.”

“He’s been gone for quite a while,” Geralt said. “Far too long.” He grabbed his sword and belted it on.

“You noticed him leaving during?” Yennefer asked, her eyes narrowing. Her pride was officially wounded.

“I notice everything during,” Geralt said. “Everything. A Witcher must remain alert always.” He was absolutely serious, not a hint of teasing in his voice. It made it sting all the more.

“I’ll have to try harder next time,” Yennefer said with a wicked smile. “I’ll make you forget the world.”

“Maybe later,” Geralt said with a slight smile. “For now, I have a bard to find and probably rescue. Stay here.”

“Stay here?” Yennefer said with a pout. “Do you know me?”

He started to move through the woods, looking for signs of Jaskier’s trail. He picked up the bard’s trail easily. Jaskier was not really subtle and he had left an obvious trail.

Meanwhile, Jaskier had joined the three beautiful maidens in the clear spring that they were bathing in. For some reason, it did not seem strange that they were bathing naked in a spring in the middle of nowhere late at night. He did not think it was strange that they wanted to sing with him and that they wanted him to join them instead of fleeing or covering their shame. He had plenty of experience with debauchery and he knew that he was quite handsome. He had slept with nobility and farmgirls alike. He was definitely well-traveled.

However, he was definitely confused when one of them seized him and started to drown him. The woman pushed him under the water as he struggled. She brought him up and passed him to another girl and then that girl shoved him under. They were laughing, nearly killing him over and over. These murderous harpies were having fun while he was choking on spring water. One of these times, he was going to go under and not come up.

Suddenly, the grip on him loosened and he surfaced to see the young woman being stabbed by Geralt’s silver sword. Blood sprayed everywhere and Jaskier scrambled for the safety of the ground. Geralt was already on the second woman and now Jaskier could see how monstrous they were. They were beautiful but they had scales and sharp teeth. Before the third woman could sneak up on Geralt from behind, Yennefer appeared and sucked the air from the thing’s lungs with a gesture. It was easy for Geralt to slit their throats.

“Sirens,” Geralt said simply, gesturing at the bloody bodies. Yennefer was standing behind him looking quite smug. Jaskier rolled his eyes at her.

Jaskier coughed up a little water and nodded. “You don’t say,” he said.

<Jaskier/Geralt/Yennefer was suggested by fellow BloggessFam member @aryooki on Twitter>

Like a Duckblur – A Ducktales Story

April 14, 2020

The Cloudslayer sailed peacefully through the sky. For once, nobody was nervous since neither Launchpad nor Della was at the controls. In fact, none of the grownups were on board. No Launchpad, Della, Donald, Beakley, or even Scrooge. The oldest person on board was Lena who was only a teenager. She was either sleeping in one of the chairs or pretending to sleep. Dewey was the one flying the plane as he had had the most lessons with his mother, Della. Webby was sitting in the co-pilot seat, vibrating with excitement as usual. Huey was looking over some charts in the cargo area. Louie was on his phone, looking bored but everybody knew that his brain was always turning.

“Isn’t everybody excited?” Webby asked. “I’m so excited!”

“Really?” Louie asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I don’t think any of us noticed. You’re subtle as usual.”

“This is our first mission on our own!” Webby said. “We’re finally getting to show what we’re made of.”

“Technically, we’ve gone off on our own dozens of times,” Huey said without looking up from his charts. “We do it all the time.”

“But this is the first time that we’ve done it with permission,” Webby said. “Without my grandma or your family looking over our shoulders. It’s a big step!”

“Guys,” Dewey said. “She’s right. This is a big deal.”

“Why are we doing this without Uncle Scrooge?” Louie asked. “I mean, we’ve done it without Mom and Uncle Donald before but usually Scrooge and Launchpad come along.”

“And Uncle Scrooge is always the leader,” Dewey said. “We need to prove to them that we can Dewey this on our own.”

Louie rolled his eyes and let his brother’s pun slide on by. “Ugh. That sounds like way more work!” he said. “Sliding in at the last minute and taking all of the credit is way easier.”

“Technically, this way nets us more profit,” Huey said, again not looking up from his calculations.

“What?” Louie asked, looking up from his phone at last.

“Well,” Huey said. “If we were to find any coins, gems, or artifacts then there are fewer people to split the profits with, right?”

“When you’re right, you’re right,” Louie said and went back to his phone.

Dewey shot Huey a grateful look and Huey smiled back and nodded. Sometimes their brother needed a little coaxing to get down to business but the three of them remained inseparable, bonded even closer together by adventure. Besides, Louie had seemed less money-hungry after giving Scrooge back his fortune. He and Scrooge really hadn’t talked about their solo adventure but Louie had seemed shaken by whatever happened.

Still, the boys had all grown a lot during their time living at the Scrooge Estate. Dewey had taken the lead in their little circle and had been labeled the Toughest of the Toughies by Scrooge but was learning how and when to act. Huey had always been the Smartest of the Smarties but he was gaining more and more confidence from his brothers. Louie was still the Sharpest of the Sharpies, a super observant guy who saw all of the angles. Webbigail had grown up looking up to her granny who just happened to be one of the most accomplished secret agents. She was learning to calm down a little more. And then there was Lena, a former loaner who was learning the superior power of friendship.

Lena yawned and stretched. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“Lena!” Webby cried out before realizing how loud she was being. “Sorry, did you have a good nap?”

“It was fine,” Lena said. “The nightmares have stopped for now.”

That statement went by without remark. All of them knew about Lena’s nightmares that sprung from her aunt Magicka de Spell. Lena had been Webby’s first real friend except for the three brothers. She and Lena had saved each other several times over during the long conflict with Magicka. Now Lena was fully on their team and, although she pretended she was not, she was excited to go on adventures with Webby and her family.

“Do you still sense the artifact?” Dewey asked. “We must be getting close.”

“Yeah yeah,” Lena said. “I have no idea what we’ll find when we get there but I know exactly where it is. I can feel it in my bones.”

“Well, according to Violet, the area is steeped in the occult,” Webby said. “The location of the artifact should be in an old abandoned castle.”

“All sorts of weird atmospheric phenomenon surrounds the area,” Huey said. “So far it’s scientifically unexplained but I’ll change that.”

“Guys,” Dewey said softly at first. “Better strap in for landing. Castle Duckula is straight ahead.”

Knight of Dresden – A Dresden Files Story

April 13, 2020

Preparing the sword had taken Afu a long time but it was definitely worth it. He had carved it out of whalebone he had scavenged from a beached skeleton. It had been a difficult material to work with but it had been a good project for practicing his talents. Afu had grown up on the island of Somoa but his family had moved to Hawaii when he was in his teens. He had taken to boating like everybody in his family going back generations. He spent a lot of time alone on the small sailboat he had built with his dad. One day a sudden squall had dashed the boat against an unseen rock and he nearly drowned until the water around him froze and he was able to climb the ice back to this boat. He was left shaken by the event.

Somebody had sensed the inadvertent magical spell and he was approached by an old man who called himself Jimmy V. Jimmy looked like an old surfer, often encrusted with sand and salt. He was a wizard, though, and sought to take Afu under his wing and teach him magic. Jimmy had insisted, saying that the White Council would come after Afu if he misused magic even accidentally. Jimmy could not bear to see that happen. So Afu would visit Jimmy’s shack or the two would go on day trips around the islands so that Afu could get practical lessons in wielding the forces of magic. While they were on one of these excursions, chaos erupted.

During the conflict with a group of demon-possessed humans and their demon mistress, Jimmy and Afu met a woman who introduced herself as Molly Carpenter. She looked human but her magical aura was like nothing Afu had ever seen. Eventually, she revealed that she was the Winter Lady, a faerie-touched agent of the Court of Winter. During the final conflict, Molly had been injured and decided to convalesce in Hawaii. During that period, Afu spent a lot of time with Molly and listening to her stories. She spoke eagerly about days gone by and the countless adventures she had been on. Afu had only known a fraction of the magical world but Molly had seen it all.

Molly spoke glowingly of her father, Michael Carpenter. He used to be a Knight of the Cross, literally a warrior in the service of God who wielded a legendary holy sword. Molly obviously had great respect for the man even though Afu could sense that their relationship was a bit complicated. Molly also talked a lot about a man named Harry Dresden. When that topic came up, Jimmy confirmed that he had heard both good and bad things about Dresden but had never met him.  He had merely felt the shockwaves that Dresden had generated when Jimmy was merely a child. But Molly had confirmed only that Dresden had been a good man. He had saved her from falling into darkness and both men had been a positive influence on her.

So Afu had been inspired by the stories to get himself a sword. His faith was not strong enough to seek out a Sword of the Cross. Besides, he wanted to forge his own path like Dresden had. That was when he had the idea for the sword. He slowly carved the sword out of one solid piece of whalebone. He then meticulously carved many offensive and defensive runes into the surface. He then filled each and every single carving with resin. He had created a powerful magical weapon and tool. However, he wanted to be a defender. He wanted to protect those he loved and the innocent of the world.

That was why he left Hawaii, traveling first to mainland United States to seek out those like-minded magicians to carry on Dresden’s legacy. The legacy of a free-thinker who always did the right thing and always sought out the darkness to end its threat to the world.  That world was a wide-open place and Afu was excited to explore it. He would travel first to Chicago where Molly, Michael, and Harry had been from. He wondered what he might find in Harry’s old haunts.

Jupiter and Mercury – A Sailor Moon Story

April 11, 2020

“I don’t know about all of this stuff, Amy,” Lita said. “How do you figure these things out?” She gestured to all of the technology lying around. Many machines and devices had been meticulously dismantled for parts and for study.

“I’ve always had a way with technology,” Amy said. “even before all of this. Early on after I accepted the power of Mercury, it seemed to adapt to that. It granted me the Mercury Visor and allowed me to make some sense of all of this. I understand technology more than I understand magic.”

“So our trip to the Moon must have been quite a trip for you, huh?” Lita asked.

“Well, it was definitely scary being among the ruins of an ancient civilization,” Amy said. “and the battle was incredibly intense.”

“It was majorly intense,” Lita said. “The doctors say that Mina’s arm will have to be in the cast for weeks.”

“How are your ribs?” Amy asked.

“Still really tender. Still fractured,” Lita said, she lightly touched her side and winced. The fractured ribs had been pretty nasty. “How is your leg?”

Amy glanced over and caught Lita looking at her leg and looked down at it herself. “The brace really helps,” she said and flexed her leg a bit with a smile. “I’m okay.”

“You’re like a cyborg with that thing,” Lita said. “All tricked out.”

Amy blushed slightly. “It’s just something I whipped up to keep me on my feet,” she said. “I could have done better.”

Lita smiled. “Don’t sell yourself short, Amy,” she said. “You’re super smart.”

“And you’re super tough,” Amy said which made Lita smile brightly. “and Serena is super optimistic, Rei is super determined, and Mina is super courageous.”

“We’re all super lucky the hospital bought our car crash story,” Lita said. “We didn’t need any more questions. That battle was brutal but we did it.”

“Barely,” Amy said. “We had each other and that’s the only way we made it through.”

“Luna and Artemis say that our magic should heal us quickly the same as always,” Lita said. “We’re fine. We’re the Sailor Scouts.”

Amy smiled and nodded. “We are,” Amy said. “Nothing’s going to stop that but I just think we could use some help. If I can utilize the Neo Moon technology we found with our current gear, we might have more of an edge against the next threat.”

“Really?” Lita asked. “You think that could work? That’s awesome.”

“Well,” Amy said. “I showed some sketches to Luna and we talked about it for a while. I think I can make something work.”

“So, why am I here?” Lita asked. “Other than bringing you some homemade lunch.” She gestured to the remains of the meal they had just shared.

“Thanks for that,” Amy said. “I kind of forgot to eat breakfast probably because I didn’t go to sleep last night.”

Lita looked worried, Amy pretended not to notice. “Amy, you have to take care of yourself.”

“I know,” Amy said. “I just get so caught up in things that I find it hard to stop. I’ll get some sleep after this. I promise.”

“At home?” Lita asked, pressing her friend for a promise.

“I promise,” Amy said. “Anyway, I invited you here because of your unique abilities.”

“My unique abilities?” Lita asked. “I’m guessing you don’t mean cooking or martial arts.”

Amy laughed. “No,” Amy said. “Those are good skills but I was talking about your lightning. I found some batteries and I need your help to charge them. Nothing on Earth is really doing the trick and Darian hasn’t scouted anything working up there.”

“Neat,” Lita said. “I can do that if you say I can.”

“Great!” Amy said and held out two cylindrical devices connected by thick cables. “Hold these and summon some lightning for me. Be gentle, please.”

“Gentle?” Lita asked. “I come on like a hurricane, Amy. I don’t really do gentle when it comes to lightning.”

“I think you can,” Amy said. “I think there are additional depths that our powers can reach. Just try for me. Take a deep breath and just be gentle.”

“Don’t I need to transform first?” Lita asked. “It’s kind of our thing.”

“I don’t think so,” Amy said. “I think at least some of the power is in us. I put out a fire the other day with a burst of bubbles.”

“Really?” Lita asked. “That’s so cool! Maybe I can jumpstart my mom’s car the next time it dies.”

“Maybe,” Amy said. “For now let’s focus on these machines, ok?”

Lita nodded and took a couple deep breaths. She focused on the place where the thunder came from. She whispered ‘Jupiter Thunder’ and she started to let the electricity flow. There were some sparks but nothing exploded.

“I think we’re in business,” Amy said, reading a meter that was steadily rising.

Iron Woman – An MCU Story

April 10, 2020

“I don’t want to be an Avenger,” Pepper Potts said. “I don’t think I’m comfortable with that.”

“You don’t have to be an Avenger,” Tony Stark said. “You can be whatever you want to be just like before.” He was working on calibrating the device he had installed on his girlfriend’s chest with plenty of care.”

“With this thing embedded in my chest?” Pepper asked.

“It’s slimmer than the prototype,” Tony said. “You do know who you’re talking to, right?” The device was fairly small, an innovation on designs similar to Stark’s own arc reactor with some major changes. The surgery had been fairly quick but complicated. Tony was pretty proud of the results and wished he had done as well on his own unit back in the day.

“Right,” Pepper said. “Sorry. I guess you do have experience with this.”

“It’s fine, you’re just cranky because you’ve been on bed rest for over a week,” Tony said.

“Is that what you call that?” Pepper asked. “It was basically a coffin.”

“It was a chamber,” Tony said. “I don’t like using ‘coffin’ and you in the same basic area code. That ‘chamber’ actually powered my lab that whole time. This device is going to do the same thing so you don’t Hulk out.”

Bruce Banner looked up from where he was studying a computer screen. “Hey,” he said. “I’m right here.”

“Sorry, Bruce, just a figure of speech,” Tony said with a shrug.

“It’s a figure of speech that’s my figure of speech,” Bruce said, shaking a mocking finger at Tony. “But Tony’s right, the device should safely siphon off the excess energy caused by the Extremis procedure.”

“It’s the best we could do since Maya died,” Tony said. “At least for now.”

Bruce had been eager to assist with this project since he obviously had his own experiences with managing radiation. Luckily, he had already been staying at Stark’s compound following the New York Incident. Tony and Pepper had moved in since Tony’s house had been blown up.

“Thanks, both of you,” Pepper said. “but now that this is done, I want to get back to work. I’m still CEO of Stark Enterprises.”

“Well,” Tony said. “You are going to be carrying around a lot of power.”

“I’ll be careful,” Pepper said. “How can it be any more difficult than dating you?”

“Ouch,” Tony said, putting his hand over his heart in a mocking expression of being wounded. “I meant that now that you’re a living reactor, you can maybe power something.”

“Power something?” Pepper asked. “Oh gee, what can I power? Maybe some hospitals? Maybe public housing?”

“I was thinking maybe armor,” Tony said. “but maybe it’s too soon.”

Pepper let out an exasperated sigh. “I told you that I did not want to be an Avenger,” she said. “Bruce, help me out here. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this.”

Bruce thought for a few moments. “I definitely sympathize,” he said. “I obviously didn’t want the big guy.”

“Thank you,” Pepper said. “Bruce gets it.”

“But,” Bruce said, holding up a single finger. “I spent a lot of time running from him. I spent a lot of time running period. Finally, in New York, I stopped running and it felt good. I finally did something other than run away. I wish I had done it sooner, maybe I could have done some real good. You do what you can to make the world a better place.”

Pepper thought about that and sighed. “I killed someone,” she said. “How could I be a hero after that?”

“To be fair,” Tony said. “His name was Killian, it’s right there in the name.”

“I’m serious!” Pepper yelled. “I killed a man.”

“Look,” Tony said, suddenly in a rare moment of seriousness. “I’ve done a lot of bad things. I was an unapologetic weapons dealer. I’ve killed people. Do I regret it? Sure. There’s a difference, though. What you did was to protect yourself and me. You did what you had to do in the heat of the moment.”

“Then why do I still feel so guilty?” Pepper asked.

“Because you’re still human,” Bruce said. “People should feel regret for killing. It makes sure you don’t start doing it lightly. I’ve done a lot of bad things as The Hulk but we’re learning because I’m teaching him and the Avengers are teaching both of us. You won’t be doing it alone. You’ll have all of your friends right there with you.”

“I’m already saving the world through my job,” Pepper said. “and all of the charities.”

“We’re not saying that you drop all of that,” Tony said. “Just maybe once a while you shed your heels and throw on some armor and help us save the world.”

“I’ll think about it,” Pepper said. “But if I do this then there’s no way that I’m going by Iron Woman.”

Tony blinked. “I think I’ve done a really good job building that brand,” he said. “I mean Rhodey just switched to Iron Patriot.”

“And then Iron Patriot tried to blow up the President of the United States,” Pepper said.

“Then Iron Man saved the President,” Tony said. “So you’re right that’s probably mostly a wash. You can call yourself anything you want.”

“Also,” Pepper said. “I get input on the suit’s design.”

“Are we really doing this?” Tony asked. “I guess I can concede to that point.”

“You’ll concede to all of my points,” Pepper said.

“You’re probably right,” Tony said.

HoloTek Programming – A Star Trek Story

April 9, 2020

President Adrienne Cocteau sat at her desk tapping away at the console embedded in her desk. She was a bit distracted and had not yet really acknowledged her visitor even though she had told her secretary to usher the man in. For her part, Judith Korben was happy to wait even though she was a little anxious about the visit. Getting hired at HoloTek Programming was a dream come true. It was definitely the place to work if you were interested in working with bleeding-edge holographic technology. Judy had been hired as an entry-level programmer but had quickly shown her skill and creativity when solving problems. She was a valued employee now and that is how she had requested and received a meeting with the big cheese.

Of course, Judy would have to actually get a chance to speak in order to make this worthwhile. Several minutes had gone by and her lunchbreak did not last forever. Thankfully, Ms. Cocteau’s secretary cleared his throat standing at the doorway which caused Ms. Cocteau to look up. Judy flashed the secretary a grateful look and then turned and smiled at her boss’ boss.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me today, Ms. Cocteau,” Judy said.

“Please, call me Adrienne,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I’m happy to meet with you, Judith. I’ve heard really great things about the work that you have been doing. You’ve increased our efficiency a lot.”

“I’m flattered to hear it,” Judy said. “It’s Judy, actually.”

“What?” Ms. Cocteau asked, confused in the moment.

“Judy not Judith,” Judy said. “It’s not a big deal, though.”

“Oh!” Ms. Cocteau exclaimed as she realized what Judy had been saying. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Judy said. “It’s perfectly alright.”

Ms. Cocteau seemed relieved. “Well,” she said with an easy smile. “What brings you to my office today?”

“I have a proposal for you,” Judy said. “I have a new direction to take our business which could make the company a lot of money.”

“Last time I checked, we are making a lot of money marketing our products to Federation and independent laboratories. Our revenue is higher than it has ever been.”

“Which is why I think we need to redirect that revenue for even further growth,” Judy said.

Ms. Cocteau’s curiosity had definitely been piqued. “What sort of growth did you have in mind?” she asked.

“Have you thought about entertainment?” Judy asked. “I think there are a lot of avenues that we can explore there. When I was little, I played a lot of video games. Actually, to be honest, I still play a lot of video games during my free time. I think we can adapt our technology to the world of video games.”

“I’m aware of video games,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I’m still not really seeing how this all connects. Also, with all of space to explore, why would people sit on their butts playing games?”

“I’m getting to that,” Judy said. “Ages ago there was a video game technology called virtual reality. Through the use of goggles and headphones, the player was immersed within a virtual game environment. With holographic technology, we could do this but make it way better. You would actually walk around and actually do things instead of manipulating a controller. We could create whole worlds within a single room.”

“This does sound interesting,” Ms. Cocteau said. “It sounds pretty complicated.”

“Oh definitely,” Judy said. “Each character within the world would be programmed separately and guided along by a dynamic and interactive script.”

“So you propose that we fill a room with holograms and each of them is controlled by a separate artificial intelligence program?” Ms. Cocteau asked.

“Guided by a voice-activated artificial intelligence. Yes,” Judy said. “Each game would have branching paths based on the player’s actions within the game.”

“That’s a lot of processing power, Judy,” Ms. Cocteau said. “It seems like there might be a high rate of hardware failure.”

“I think we can compensate for that,” Judy said. “Besides, I really only envision this technology being used on a planet or in space stations. Conditions there should be pretty stable and won’t be interrupted by the rigors of space too much.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Ms. Cocteau said.

“Oh, and there is some really interesting work being done with beams, fields, and replication which would be able to make everything feel real in the simulations.”

“That sounds like it has the potential for being dangerous,” Ms. Cocteau said. “Correct me if I’m wrong but video games can get fairly violent. That sounds like a recipe for injury and maybe even death.”

“We’ll install safety protocols,” Judy said. “If somebody is about to be hurt then the program will shut down. Like a killswitch.”

“I really don’t think we should call it that,” Ms. Cocteau said. “That sounds really iffy, Judy. This whole thing sounds like a huge liability risk.”

“I mean, that can be covered by waivers and warning labels, right?” Judy asked.

“I’m not so sure,” Ms. Cocteau said. “I appreciate your creativity and there might be something to all of this but I don’t think we’ll pursue it.”

“Oh,” Judy said, obviously disappointed.

“I’m sorry to bring you down,” Ms. Cocteau said.

“That’s ok,” Judy said as she brightened after thinking of something. “Do you mind if I shop this idea elsewhere?”

“I suppose I don’t mind,” Ms. Cocteau said. “Just keep me apprised of the situation. I’m very curious now.”

“I definitely will,” Judy said. “This is going to be huge.”

<Star Trek was suggested as a topic by my friend Vashti on Twitter>

Girls’ Night -A Harley Quinn Story

April 8, 2020

“You’re not going straight, are you?” Ivy asked. She was tending to a couple different venus flytraps but she was paying attention to the conversation. Mostly.

Harley Quinn laughed. “You know that I’ve never been anywhere close to straight,” she said and then she shrugged. “I’m not going all goody-two-shoes, Red, I’m just talking about kicking a little ass.”

“Criminal ass,” Ivy noted with a slight smile. “You’re talking about busting criminals. A lot of the people you worked alongside previously.”

“That was with Mr. J,” Harley said and then corrected herself. “Joker. I’m done with that, it always ended in tears.”

“It always ended in Batman,” Ivy said. “He would abandon you and then Batman or Robin or Batgirl or whoever would catch you. Batman always wins.”

“Exactly,” Harley said. “I don’t want to fight Batman anymore. I just want to do my thing.”

“What is your thing?” Ivy asked, turning toward Harley. “You don’t want to fight Batman and you don’t want to be with Joker anymore. Wait, that’s still the case right?”

“Oh Hell yes,” Harley said. “I’m done with him forever.”

“Because the only reason I allowed you to stay here was that you promised,” Ivy said sternly.

“Geez Red,” Harley said. “I’m done. I’m here with you now. I also don’t just ‘stay here’. I pay rent.” She said the last with a slight pout.

“Sometimes,” Ivy said with a smile.

“That’s going to change,” Harley said defensively. “I’m changing.”

The truth was, Harley had already changed a lot. She still had a lot of the chemicals that had ‘created’ her flowing through her veins. However, it seemed like some of the mania in her head had cleared thanks to the correct balance of medications. Ivy had helped to cultivate the correct treatment with consultation from Bane of all people. When Harley had finally broken with Joker, Ivy had taken her on a trip out of the country. That meant that Harley finally got some sun and stopped using facepaint. She had started to shake up her style now that she was not trying to please anybody but herself. She had abandoned her trademark pigtails and had gone with a sidecut instead. She died her hair multicolored and wore whatever she pleased. She was happier.

“Is that why you bought the armor?” Ivy asked. She gestured over at Ivy’s new acquisition which had been meticulously designed.

“It’s hardly even armor,” Harley said dismissively. “It’s just the chest piece and some leg plating. I can’t do all my flippy stuff if I’m weighed down too much but this stuff is bulletproof in case things go to crap.”

“Are you expecting that things will ‘go to crap’?” Ivy asked. “I don’t want you hurt out there.”

“These streets are rough out there, Red,” Harley said. “But it’s just in case. Everything is going to be fine.”

“Is it?” Ivy asked. “You still haven’t exactly explained your plan here.”

“Well,” Harley said. “I don’t really have anything against criminals. A lot of people get left behind and they gotta survive the best they can. What I don’t like are people like Joker, like Black Mask, like Scarecrow. The dangerous assholes. The killers. What I wanna do is take them out. While we’re at it, we might as well take their money. Maybe Batman will be grateful we’re helping him do his job.”

“I doubt it,” Ivy said. “but it is a fairly noble plan.”

“So are you in?” Harley asked. “Do you want to join the team?”

“Team?” Ivy asked. “Harley, you know I love you but I’m done fighting. I’m a scientist again now and I just want to develop things that are going to save the world with ecology, not violence. I’m just Ivy now, no poison. I’ll always support you, though.”

“That’s alright, Ivy,” Harley said and leaned in to kiss her. They shared a sweet but passionate kiss. “Like I said, I’m putting together a team for this. You can party with us anytime but you don’t hafta. I understand.”

“Good,” Ivy said. “I’ll always be here when you come home.”

“You’re so sweet, Red,” Harley said.

There was a sound in the living room and Harley spun around, she just suddenly had her oversized pistol in her hand by instinct. She pointed it at the door that led into the living room.

“Who’s there!?” Harley yelled out. “Show yourself.”

Catwoman walked into the room with her hands up and a confused look on her face. “It’s me, Catwoman,” she said. “You invited me here to talk over your proposal.”

“Oh yeah!” Harley said with a smile, setting her gun aside. “Welcome! Can I get you something to drink? Saucer of milk?” It was hard to tell if Harley was serious or just joking. Catwoman just decided to brush the comment aside.

“Cute,” Catwoman said. “I’m good.” She looked around, taking the place in with mild interest. There was nothing really to steal so it was kind of boring.

“Harley!” Ivy hissed. “You invited somebody to our apartment?”

“Yep,” she said. “I needed an out of the way place.”

“Without my permission?” Ivy asked.

“Oooh,” Harley groaned. “Sorry about that, Red. I wasn’t thinking about that, I was just so excited!”

“I know,” Ivy said. “I know how excited you get.”

“Maybe we should meet somewhere else?” Catwoman asked. “I know a few places that would work.”

The doorbell rang.

From around a corner, the porcelain-white mask of Anarky appeared. “Hey, is this the right place?” he asked. “Oh and Renee Montoya is at the front door.”

Ivy looked at Harley helplessly and Harley gave her an apologetic look. “Yeah,” she said. “We should go. Let’s go. Sorry, babe, see you later!” Catwoman slipped out of the apartment while Harley dragged Anarky out through the front door, past a confused Renee Montoya and Grace Choi. Ivy sighed and went back to work.

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