Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’


June 3, 2023

The first thing that Fray saw when she opened up her god sight and looked at the outside of the bar was the hidden runes. They lit up like flares all over the place. Some of them were wards to scare away the worst creatures but some of them advertised the bar as a place where the magically inclined were welcome. It was rare to find places that accommodated the magic community these days. Technology was creeping in but more than that, there were too many pretenders. Fray often wondered what it would take to show the world real magic. Not that she would be the one to let that particular secret out of the bag.

 She walked up to the front door and pushed the door open. As she touched the door, she felt something or someone sensing her through a spell on the door. It must be some magical security system in place. Fray shrugged and mentally brushed the magic off of her slowly. She had very little to hide but she was also not giving up all of her secrets. When she entered, the bartender was already looking up at her and she met his eyes as she approached.

“It’s been a dog’s age since I’ve seen eyes like those,” the bartender said. “God-Splinter, are ya?”

Fray glanced down the bar and then back at the bartender with those silvery gray eyes of hers. “That’s what they tell me,” she said. “For what it’s worth.”

“Worth a lot these days,” the bartender said. “A lot of folks miss the Valar, myself included.”

“I didn’t think you were that old,” Fray said. “You look so young.” She smirked.

The bartender smirked back. “You really should know that looks are deceiving,” the bartender said. “Or would you like to look at me again?” He put enough emphasis on the word ‘look’ that Fray took his meaning.

“I’ll take your word on that,” Fray said. “I’d rather not open any doors tonight that I can’t shut again. See things that I can’t unsee.”

“Fair enough,” the bartender said. “Would it be foolish to ask that you not start anything in my bar? At least, nothing that ends with me or my bar in pieces. I don’t want any trouble.” His eyes were earnest and genuine.

“I’m not here to start anything,” Fray said. “And I only finish things when I have to. Usually, when other people start them.”

“Nobody starts things in my bar,” the bartender said. “So we’re bound to be safe.”

“Not even the troll drinking alone?” Fray asked. She glanced in that direction and the bartender followed that glance before looking back at her.

“Old Jorey wouldn’t hurt anybody,” the bartender said. “He’s usually too soused to see straight. Too many old war wounds besides that. No worries.”

Fray nodded and smiled. “No worries,” she said. “I like that. My name is Fray.”

“They call me Birgir,” the bartender said. “Seems as good a name as any. Can’t remember the old one. I’ve been here a long time. Came over with the long boats.”

“So did some of my kin,” Fray said. “Can I get a scotch? Straight up.”

The bartender poured her drink. “Sure,” he said. “Did they come over with the splinter?”

“No, the splinter found its way into me in the womb,” Fray said. “I’m the first of my line.”

“Haven’t heard of a new splinter in a long time,” Birgir said. “Wonder if that means anything.”

“I wouldn’t know but I would love to find out,” Fray said. “Hence my journey of self-discovery.” Fray sipped her drink carefully, savoring it.

“That’s a good thing to journey for,” Birgir said. “If you forsake the comfort and warmth of home, you ought to get something back in return.”

Fray had no home at present but she was not about to offer that up. She did not want to reveal too much vulnerability. There were already things out there that would want to rip her open to get the sliver of divinity in her. Of course, that was not how it worked but they wouldn’t know that.

“I agree,” Fray said. “Equivalent exchange and all that.”

“If self-discovery is something you’re looking for then you should seek out The Gray Woman,” Birgir said. “She doesn’t leave the Undermarket, though.”

“Then I’d have to go to the Undermarket then,” Fray said. “And I bet you can give me directions.”

Birgir smiled. “For a price,” he said. “A very fair price.”

“Well, then let’s talk about it,” Fray said. “I’m open to negotiations.”


Fair Fight

May 27, 2023

There was an overturned cart in the middle of the forest road. The merchant and his daughter were cowering as the bandits encircled them but clearly, the daughter had a fist clenched, wanting to do something but afraid for herself and her father. The horse must have run off somewhere but it could not have gone far. Iligo and Erron had extinguished their campfire and had come to see what the commotion was. They watched for a moment as the five bandits postured.

“Hand over any valuables you might be carrying and say your prayers,” the lead bandit said. “Of course, even the Gods won’t save you now that you’ve seen our faces.”

“That could have been fixed by wearing masks, you amateurs,” Iligo said as he stepped out into the open. “A competent crew would have taken the cart and the horse without a fuss.”

Iligo stood there confidently and with a look of disdain on his face. He had his long sword hung across his back and his right arm was in a sling. Erron calmly stepped out in the open and hung back a little behind Iligo but with a slight smile on his peaceful face.

“Wait your turn,” the lead bandit said. “We’ll get to you and your boy soon enough.”

“No, this is when the robbery stops,” Iligo said. “I won’t abide you terrorizing anybody else much less killing anybody.”

“Not much you can do about it,” the bandit said after a laugh. “You’re injured and the boy looks like a stiff wind would blow him over.”

“My name is not ‘boy’, it’s Erron,” he said. “And looks can be deceiving, you simpleton.” Erron had let his anger get away from him and he closed his eyes and took a deep breath to tamp it back down.

“We don’t care what your name is,” the bandit said. “I’d say they’ll care when they bury you but when we’re done, nobody will be able to identify you.”

“Absolutely frightening,” Erron said. “Are you two alright?” This was directed toward the merchant and his daughter as he took a few steps toward them.

“Take one more step toward them and we will end you!” the bandit yelled, tired of the dismissive attitude. “Just close your eyes and accept the inevitable.”

“You won’t make a move against any of them,” Iligo said.

“Who’s going to stop us? You?” the bandit asked. “You’ll only slow us down for a moment.”

“Don’t worry about them,” Erron said, gesturing at the bandits. “Are you okay? Do you require any healing?”

The two shook their heads, nervously glancing at the incredulous bandit leader. The bandits started to move closer, impatient about getting on with business before somebody else came down the road. Somebody like soldiers or guards.

Erron smiled. “Good,” he said. “You probably just need some soothing tea and a good rest to settle your nerves. Don’t worry, it’s coming.”

“Are you crazy?” the bandit leader asked. “I don’t care anymore. I’m going to personally pluck out your eyeballs.”

Iligo shrugged. “You can try,” he said. “Do you want to get started or are we going to talk all day? We want to get back on the road to the next town. I don’t want to sleep on the ground again tonight.”

“So damned confident,” the bandit said. “Look around, it’s five to two. You don’t have a chance.”

“Oh I’m staying out of this fight,” Erron said. “This is entirely his idea and I’m more of a healer than a fighter. You guys have fun, though.”

“Five on one,” the bandit said after too long of a pause. “Even better. Let’s go.”

“Enough talk,” Iligo said. “Time to fight.”

Iligo reached back and grabbed his sword hilt. He twisted it in such a way that he released his sword with the hilt still on it. The two-handed sword would be less effective with one hand and with the blunt hilt still attached but Iligo did not actually feel like killing anybody. The bandits started to laugh, obviously thinking that the hilt still being on was a blunder. They charged. Iligo was a whirlwind and moved quickly, striking at the bandits one at a time. He effortlessly dodged their strikes much to their surprise. One by one, the bandits fell unconscious on the dirt road. The look on the lead bandit’s face was especially satisfying right before Iligo kicked him in the face.

“That was amazing!” the daughter cried out 

Iligo slipped his arm out of the sling and stretched it out. 

“Your arms not injured?” the merchant asked.

Erron laughed. “I wouldn’t let him walk around injured like that,” he said. “He just likes to show off.”


May 20, 2023

Kethi and Taldia were walking through the old mines of Brosgate with some trepidation. Kethi held a torch but Taldia relied on her superior darkvision. Taldia was obviously used to being underground as a drow elf but she had also been exiled from her home for quite a while. It felt like a comfort to be underground once again which is part of the reason that she had chosen to be a dungeon delver. The two of them were for hire by anybody halfway decent who had the coin. This time, they had been hired by the new owners of the mine. They had probably bought it for a song with its reputation.

“What are we supposed to be expecting down here again?” Kethi asked. “I kind of got lost in the history lesson that guy was trying to give us.”

“I found it fascinating,” Taldia said. “Were there not enough pictures for you? Too many words?”

“Very funny,” Kethi said. “I’m not that dumb. However, I do occasionally need your help in directing me on who or what to hit.” She turned to face Taldia suddenly and the torchlight caused Taldia’s eyes to return to normal and she winced. Kethi quickly pulled the torch away.

“It is not always hitting,” Taldia said. 

“You of all people are going to give me the ‘violence is not always the answer’ lecture?” Kethi asked. “Our non-hitting options are limited without the bard around.”

“The bard has a name,” Taldia said. “It’s Fiona and she is still at the temple. She will rejoin us when or if Ioun and Oghma will it.”

“How likely do you think that is?” Kethi asked. 

“The Gods seem to have many plans and they need their agents to play those plans out,” Taldia said, pausing to think about it. “Perhaps they believe that Fiona can fulfill her mission alongside us, making us into instruments of their will as well.”

“I am nobody’s puppet,” Kethi said. “I will not be contained or controlled.”

“The Gods gave us free will,” Taldia said. “They only reward us for using our time alive for good.”

“I’ve been good,” Kethi said. “Mostly. I’m at least helpful more often than I am bad.”

“Not bad exactly,” Taldia said with a smile and a shrug. “I would use the term ‘disruptive’ instead. But that’s alright, I’m disruptive too.”

“I feel like we’ve both gotten better,” Kethi “We got rid of bad influences.”

“Your tribe and my people,” Taldia said with a nod. “I would agree. Some people are toxic. I think that the Gods would want Fiona to be happy and she was happy with us.”

“She was, wasn’t she?” Kethi asked with a smile. “We’ve had a lot of fun times together and we’ve made a lot of money.”

“Agreed,” Taldia said. “She will return to us. I have faith.”

“Was that a joke?” Kethi asked.

“What? No.” Taldia asked with a quizzical look on her face.

“Okay, moving on,” Kethi said. “Without Fiona, we’re down to mostly hitting and sneaking. You should probably commence with the history lesson.”

“Try not to zone out this time,” Taldia said. “This was a functioning silver and mithral mine for quite some time. A tiefling collective mined and sold the silver while the dwarves below mined the mithral. There was peace and cooperation.”

“I’m sensing from our surroundings that the peace did not last,” Kethi said.

“You are correct,” Taldia said as if she was speaking to a child. “There was a major invasion of goblins that hampered all mine activity. Many allies were called in to eradicate the goblins who were worshippers of Shar. They were actually mutated by dark magicks and were part Goblin and part bat.”

“Is that what we’re facing down here?” Kethi asked. “I hate bats. They’re creepy.”

“I once had a pet bat,” Taldia said. “He was my only friend.”

“That’s really sad,” Kethi said. “I’m glad you have more friends now.”

“Yes,” Taldia said with a smile. “As the goblin abated, a stranded dragon was found in a corner of the mines. Many people died.”

“A dragon?” Kethi asked with excitement. “I’ve never seen one!”

“The two of us are not remotely enough to slay even a juvenile dragon,” Taldia said. “The dragon was slain by Aveneil the Scarlet a long time ago. Aveneil was then corrupted by a dark spirit and became a dark dictator.”

“I have a feeling that Aveneil is also not still down here,” Kethi said. “Can we skip ahead to what we think is down here?”

“Actually, nobody is sure,” Taldia said. “Several scouts have disappeared without a trace.”

“That’s comforting,” Kethi said. “I’m sure that won’t happen to us.”

There was suddenly the very clear uttering of the word ‘echo’ from somewhere in the darkness.

“Did you say ‘echo’?” Kethi asked.

“No, and I assume you wouldn’t ask if you did,” Taldia said.

The voice said ‘echo’ again. Then more people said ‘echo’ in the darkness. A group of people stepped out of the shadows, their eyes solid black. They were all muttering the word ‘echo’.

“Time to get to work,” Kethi said.

“Lucky us,” Taldia said.

In the Wilds

May 6, 2023

“What is she doing out here?” Tynkla asked. “This is the middle of nowhere.” The gnome found it a little hard to walk around the forest since it was harder to lift her short legs over logs and other detritus.

“The gods know,” Sir Reeve said. “You know how druids are. They’re into all of this nature stuff. They can’t get enough of it.” The human was much taller and his strides were longer, so naturally he took the lead.

“I don’t understand it,” Tynkla said. “If you have to set up camp on the way to the nearest town, you are too far into the wilderness.”

“I don’t know,” Sir Reeve said. “I think it’s nice out here.”

“We’ll see if you’re still saying that when the first beast attacks us,” Tynkla said. “Try chirping about all this fresh air when a griffin is pecking out your eye.”

“You’re a very pleasant traveling companion,” Sir Reeve said. “Just sparkling conversation.”

“I’m sorry,” Tynkla said. “When I’m out this far, my fingers start to itch.”

“No pockets to pick out here, huh?” Sir Reeve asked. “Nothing to do but walk.”

Tynkla frowned. “I would act offended but what’s the use?” she asked. “I’m out of my element. At least you can still fight things out here.”

“I don’t only fight,” Sir Reeve said.

“Well, I don’t only steal,” Tynkla said. “But crime is what I’m good at. There’s no crime out here. There can’t be any crime where there are no rules.”

“There is really one rule out here,” Sir Reeve said with a grin. “Kill or be killed. That’s it. That’s all there is out there and I like that simplicity.”

“That’s not the only rule out here,” Silussa said, seeming to appear out of thin air. She was covered head to toe in leaves and dirt which had camouflaged her. “The only rule is ‘Don’t mess with Mother Nature’. Obey that or else.”

The thief and the fighter had flinched when the druid had appeared, both reaching for their weapons but relaxed when they heard the familiar neutral tones of Silussa’s voice. The druid always seemed to be nonplussed by everything, bereft of emotions. One of the many reasons that she got along with flora and fauna more than the races that walked on two legs. Those who knew her best had learned not to be offended by her demeanor or lack thereof. 

“Noted,” Tynkla said. “We defer to you on all matters concerning nature. I wouldn’t dream of contradicting you. How did you find us?”

“You talk so much,” Silussa said. “The birds told me about you. They were very concerned.”

“We apologize for causing the birds concern,” Sir Reeve said. “That was not our intention.” He was always so polite. It was what had both irritated and impressed Tynkla when they met.

“Don’t worry, I already let them know that you’re harmless,” Silussa said gently.

“In what world are we harmless?!” Tynkla nearly yelled. “Do you know how big the body count is between the two of us!?” The gnome’s face was incredulous. It was hard to tell if she was about to laugh or scream. She was a hazard when she chose to draw her twin blades or her crossbow. Harmless had to be a joke.

“We’re not here for the birds,” Sir Reeve said. “Let the birds believe what they want, Tynkla.” Always the voice of reason.

“Fine,” Tynkla said, taking a deep breath. “You’re right, that’s not what we’re out here for.”

“So you two are still in congress,” Silussa said. “Good to know.”

The gnome and the human paused and both tilted their head in confusion.

“Hmm?” Sir Reeve asked. “What do you mean?”

“You are still fornicating?” Silussa asked. She had always been very direct. Sometimes that bluntness was refreshing and sometimes it was not.

Sir Reeve blushed furiously. “What?” he asked. “What?” he repeated, unable to formulate another word for a few moments.

Tynkla laughed. “Why wouldn’t we be?” she asked. She had no time for shame or embarrassment.

Silussa shrugged. “I have not been in communication with you for some time,” she said. “I wondered if things were the same and your behavior has confirmed that your relationship status remains stable. It is good that some things remain the same.”

“Not everything is the same,” Sir Reeve said. “We do miss you and the others. It has been too long.”

“That’s why we tracked you down,” Tynkla said. “We want to get the band back together.”

Silussa looked confused. “But only Clyde played an instrument,” she said. “And Farron would sing but only when they were drunk and even then very poorly.”

“No no,” Sir Reeve said. “We want to get our adventuring party back together.”

Silussa shrugged. “I feel that we accomplished what we set out to do,” she said. “I defend this forest now. It needs me.”

“We respect your decision, of course,” Sir Reeve said. “We wouldn’t force you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with.”

“But a disciple of Nox survives,” Tynkla said. 

Silussa visibly bristled at the mention of the necromancer’s name. She had felt his corruption of the natural order from a long distance and had gone closer than ever to civilization because of that feeling.

“I have felt something,” Silussa said. “I was not sure what it was but now I suspect that it must be this disciple.”

“We have the expertise to deal with this,” Tynkla said. “We need to get everybody back together. We know where Clyde is. He’s not hard to find. We left Farron back in the library. We just need you and we need Urr and we’re good to go.”

“Please tell us you’ll come with us,” Sir Reeve said. “We need you.”

There was a long silence as the gnome and the human stared at the elf, waiting for a reply.

“I will help you find Urr,” Silussa said. “And I will also go with you. The disciple must be stopped.”

“Thank you,” Sir Reeve said.

“Let’s do this,” Tynkla said.

Zombie Beach Party – A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/ Veronica Mars/iZombie Story

April 30, 2023

Clive Babineaux was a little out of his element. It was not the supernatural elements surrounding him on a daily basis that was strange. It was the sun and surf of southern California that was alien to him. He had spent so much time in Seattle and then New Seattle. Neptune was an entirely different place but it seemed that they were experiencing similar problems to what he had seen up north. There were zombies here too but they seemed like a different kind entirely. They were not caused by Utopium and they did not retain their intelligence. That made things easier. Of course, there were far worse things than zombies around. Vampires, demons, werewolves, and so much more. It was a lot to adapt to even if Clive was good at adapting.

When things had started to go down in Neptune, Clive, Ravi, and Liv had been loaned out to help handle the crisis. The three of them had plenty of experience in chaotic paranormal situations. For example, at one point or another, all three of them had been zombies. Major Lilywhite had insisted on coming with them and Clive was not about to turn him down as long as he stayed out of the way and did not get them jammed up. He trusted all three of his friends but they were no longer operating under the radar. This was official.

“We’re almost there,” Riley Finn said. “Get ready. I don’t know what we’re going to find down there.”

“We’re going to find whoever set off that distress signal,” Major said. 

“For better or for worse,” Clive said. “I hope they’re still alive.”

“I choose to believe they are,” Major said. “We’re not going to be too late.”

“I agree with Major,” Riley said. “We have to stay positive. No good ever came from imagining the worst.”

“You’re right,” Clive said. “At least, I hope you are. We just have to be ready for the worst.”

“Oh we are,” Riley said. “All three of us are well-trained for this kind of operation.”

Riley had been shipped into Neptune from Washington, DC. He had explained that he worked for the United States Army in operations designed to keep the supernatural out of the public eye while also safeguarding humans. He was young but Clive could see that he had seen a lot of service. There was a loss of innocence that came with seeing a lot of violence and danger. Clive recognized that look as the same one he saw in the mirror sometimes. Clive guessed that there was more to Riely’s story than he was willing to admit but wouldn’t push unless it was necessary. It probably had to do with that Summers woman and her friends who had also shown up. Clive was sure that there would be a briefing as soon as things settled down a little.

Their truck pulled off of the highway and toward some bungalows that looked like they were usually rented by tourists and surfers. As soon as the truck stopped, all three men wordlessly climbed out and pulled out their firearms. They all had their thumbs on their safeties, ready to go. They walked toward the bungalows. The first thing that was apparent was the large amount of dead bodies lying on the beach, some of them halfway in the surf. It caused a truly terrible stench but nobody had the heart to complain about it. 

“Where do you think the signal came from?” Major asked.

“If it were nighttime I would say whichever place has their lights still on,” Clive said. 

“How about we check doors and windows,” Riley said. “If they’re not secured, it’s likely that somebody is inside who needs our help.”

“I like the way you think,” Clive said. “Sounds like a plan.”

The three of them started to make their way among the bungalows. They all had their guns held in front of them but pointed at the ground. They did not want to shoot anybody innocent or each other by accident. They kept checking the windows and doors and most of them looked broken. Finally, they came upon a bungalow that looked locked up tight. They all looked at each other and then Major and Clive looked at Riley. He was pretty much in charge here. Clive stood to one side of the door and knocked.

“US Army, my name is Riley Finn,” Riley called out. “We’re here to help.”

There was a long silence.

“Thank God,” a voice said. “I’ve been stuck here like for forever.”

“Sir, we need to get you out of here,” Riley said. “This area is not safe. We have a compound that we can take you to. We need you to open the door.”

“I don’t know,” the voice said.

“What’s your name?” Clive asked. “My name is Clive Babineaux. I’m a cop.”

“Dick Casablancas,” the voice said. “No offense dude but my family doesn’t have the best relationship with the law.”

“No offense dude but you don’t have a lot of other options,” Riley said. “We need to get out of here.”

“Too late,” Major said. 

He gestured over to the beach where they saw the dead bodies start to get up off of the sand. The mindless zombies started to shamble toward the bungalow. The three had no choice but to make a stand. They started to fire at the advancing horde. The going was slow but they were holding them off. Except there were so many of them, far more than any of them had imagined. This looked like a losing battle but there was no escape route to be seen. Just as they were making peace with going down swinging, a zombie’s head exploded. None of them had fired that shot. One by one, the zombies’ heads exploded from perfect kill shots. The three of them renewed their fight and it was not long before they were victorious. 

After it was all over, a man stepped out of hiding carrying a sniper rifle. The man had a grim, neutral expression. He was clearly all business and just as clearly an experienced combatant.

“Clarence Wiedman,” the man said as an introduction. He abruptly shot apart the lock of the bungalow. “We need to get moving.”

Shiny – A Harley Quinn and the Joker’s Daughter Story

April 22, 2023

(Based in the world of my movie pitch of Harley Quinn and The Joker’s Daughter Parts 1 and 2)

Margaret Pye snuck into the museum through a skylight. She had hooked herself to a belay line and a backup line and she slowly descended upside down into the grand hall. Once she was low enough, she started to swing herself slowly. She had to be careful not to stress the line too much. As she neared a wall, she used a strong suction cup to stick in place. She spray-painted the camera next to her. She pushed off of the wall toward the next camera and spray-painted it too. She kept swinging around the world to disable the cameras. Only after she was done did she descend lower. 

Margaret sprayed a mist below her and it revealed a network of lasers as she had expected. She descended further and landed tight against the wall near the security panel. She brought out a glass breaker hammer and smacked it against the panel, breaking the security glass. She carefully brushed aside the broken glass and plugged a USB drive into the panel. She waited for a few moments and then sprayed the mist again. The lasers were gone. She opened her backpack and pulled out a small device. She walked over to one of the double doors into the room and closed them before slapping the disc against them. That activated a strong adhesive that made sure the doors were not opening anytime soon. She did the same for the other doors.

She turned toward her prize in the very center of the room and smiled.

“Alone at last,” she said with a bright smile. “You’re coming home with me.”

She approached the case holding the Corinthian Sapphire and prepared to smash it open. This was her favorite part. There was such a thrill in grabbing shiny objects that she wasn’t supposed to touch.

“It really is nice to finally be alone,” a voice behind her said. “I thought this moment would never come.”

Margaret whirled around to see a woman in a leather jacket with red and black diamonds on it. Margaret could have sworn that there had not been anybody in the room when she locked herself inside. She looked toward the Corinthian Sapphire and saw a young girl in a mask standing in her way.

“If you’re wondering, we were hiding in the iron maiden,” the woman said. “It was a little cozy but we made it work.”

“Who are you?” Margaret asked. “Competition? I’m not giving up the sapphire without a fight and I’m not splitting it.”

“We’re not here to fight,” the woman said. “Let’s just keep calm.”

Margaret looked over at the young girl who had a baseball bat in her hand. Margaret said nothing but just vaguely gestured toward the bat.

“I just picked her up from little league,” the woman said. “We’re not here for a sapphire. We’re here for you. Let’s talk.”

“Oh I get it,” Margaret said. “You’re superheroes. Well, I’m not here to talk. I’m here to take and then I’m gone.”

“You’re the one they call Magpie, right?” the woman asked. “Master thief of jewels and precious metals? Alias of Margaret Pye with a juvenile record longer than my arm?”

“What’s it to you?” Margaret asked. “I got better at not getting caught.”

“You did,” the woman said. “Margaret Pye. Magpie. Very similar. It’s like you want to get caught. Of course, I’m one to talk. Harley Quinn. Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Also very similar.”

“You’re Harley Quinn?” Margaret asked, her eyes wide in shock. “Is this your territory? I can clear out.”

“I’m retired,” Harley said. “I’m here as more of a community service of sorts. I don’t fight crime. I leave that to the Batman and his family. I get to the root causes of crime. I’m a doctor. I heal. I help.”

“I don’t need any of your help,” Margaret said. “I’m doing great. I was about to make major bank, actually.”

“The police probably haven’t crunched the numbers but I know that you could be making far more bank,” Harley said. “Of the thefts attributed to you, a lot of the loot does not make it to the black market.”

“So?” Margaret asked. “Maybe I like to keep trophies.”

“Trophies are usually things that aren’t actually worth much except for their sentimental value,” Harley said. “Like maybe a brochure from the first museum you robbed or a salt and pepper shaker set from some rich dude’s kitchen. Stuff like that. Keeping pricey trophies makes no sense if you have even a good system of fences to sell everything. Stealing mainly for the thrill of it seems just plain reckless.”

“Who are you to judge?” Margaret asked. “You and the Joker did all sorts of crazy crimes.”

“That’s true,” Harley said. “But do you really want to compare yourself to people who were regulars at Arkham and claim that you don’t need help?”

“I’m not crazy,” Margaret said.

“I didn’t mean to imply that,” Harley said. “I don’t even like the word crazy very much. It’s dismissive. Kleptomania might be more accurate but I haven’t really sat down with you yet. It really does feel that there’s a compulsion at work here. What do you think?”

Margaret looked away, unable to meet Harley’s gaze. “Give it up,” she said. “I told you. I’m fine.”

Harley gave that a little room to breathe. She let the silence hang in the air.

“I’m a master thief,” Margaret said, grumpily. “Just leave me alone.”

“I don’t see a crew here with you,” Harley said, apparently ignoring Margaret’s request. “It has to get pretty lonely sneaking into these places alone. Even Catwoman eventually learned to work with others.”

“Other people get in the way,” Margaret said, looking down at her shoes.

“Do they get in the way or is it too difficult to talk to them?” Harley asked.

“What?” Margaret said, looking up. “I’m fine talking to people.”

“But it’s a struggle?” Harley asked.

“Maybe,” Margaret said.

“Look,” Harley said. “I’m here for your benefit. If you clear out, I’ll conveniently forget you were here if I’m questioned. If you want to stop by my office to talk, I can find a place in my schedule.” There was the sound of sirens outside.

Margaret wordlessly hooked back up to the cable and pressed a button to ascend back toward the skylight. “I’ll think about it,” she said as she left.

Redemption Rangers – A Power Rangers Story

April 21, 2023

Roxy Collins made her way into Grid Battleforce. It had been a while since she had actually visited the headquarters. She had so many memories of the place, both bad and good. This is where she had trained to be a power ranger for so long. It was also where she met and fell in love with her boyfriend Ravi Shaw. Then it was where she had been forced to deny a relationship with Ravi due to them both being Power Rangers. It had been against the rules for two rangers to date and neither of them wanted to turn down the assignment. It was also the same building she had gone into and came out of a coma while a villain wore her face. That last bit made her shudder. Therapy had helped with integrating those memories but it was still rough.

“Roxy!” A voice called out from behind her, causing her to spin around. “What are you doing here?” It was Ravi, her boyfriend and the blue ranger. Ravi was a loyal soldier with a secret artist’s soul. She could not keep the smile off of her face if she tried.

“Ravi, I actually don’t know why I’m here,” Roxy said, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Your mom, I mean, Commander Shaw called me in. I mean, she can’t really order me around anymore since i quit Grid Battleforce but she asked and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. Plus I thought I might run into you. That’s a bonus.”

“I wonder what she wants,” Ravi said. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“I wouldn’t want to distract you from your duties,” Roxy said. “Besides, I’m a big girl and I know the way to the Commander’s office.”

“True,” Ravi said with a smile. “I’ll see you after?”

“I’ll come and find you before I leave,” Roxy said.

“You’d better,” Ravi said. “I’ll probably be training with Devon.”

“Until then,” Roxy said. “Say hi to Devon and the team for me.”

“You got it,” Ravi said.

They kissed quickly and then parted. Roxy made a beeline toward Commander Shaw’s office before she could be interrupted by any other familiar faces. She loved seeing them all but she was already cutting it close. She arrived at the Commander’s door and was let in by her assistant. Inside of the office, Commander Shaw was sitting in her command chair and was talking to a man with fierce yet kind eyes. As Roxy entered, the man turned to look at her.

“Roxy Collins,” Commander Shaw said with a warm smile. “Welcome back to Grid Battleforce. I guess you must have mixed emotions about being back here.”

“To say the least, Commander,” Roxy said. “There’s a lot of history here. It’s nice to see you again.” She had never run into Commander Shaw outside of Grid Battleforce even though she was dating her son. She was a bit of a workaholic and she never really let her hair down. 

“It’s good to see you too, Roxy,” Commander Shaw said. “But I didn’t ask you back here for my own benefit or even for Grid Battleforce business.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Roxy said. “I guess it has something to do with you, sir?” That last bit was a question for the man who smiled in response.

“Where are my manners?” Commander Shaw asked herself. “Roxy Collins, this is Dr. Thomas Oliver.”

The man stuck his hand out. “You can call me Tommy,” he said. “Most people just call me Tommy.”

“Nice to meet you, Tommy,” Roxy said, shaking Tommy’s hand. “You called so here I am. What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Tommy said. “I’m putting together a team of Power Rangers and I’m looking for candidates. Your name came up.”

“What?” Roxy asked, shocked at the question. “I’m not a Power Ranger.”

“You were,” Tommy said. “From what I hear, you were pretty much a badass.”

“I was taken out of the fight almost immediately and all of my training was used by an evil copy of me to fight the actual Power Rangers.” 

“You still had that training,” Tommy said. “It would be a shame for all of that hard work to go to waste.”

“You don’t get it,” Roxy said. “I was linked to an evil avatar version of myself. I still have all of her memories. I was stuck watching her scheme while trying to destroy my boyfriend and the city I live in. Thinking about Avatar Roxy makes me sick.”

“No,” Tommy said. “I get it. Let me tell you a little something about myself. I was a Power Ranger too. Back in the day, my friends and I protected Angel Grove and then I went on to protect Reefside. I have been the Green Ranger, the White Ranger, the Red Ranger, and the Black Ranger.”

“Wait, I remember seeing footage of some of that,” Roxy said. “I mean, I remember seeing some of it when I was a kid and that was part of what made me want to be a ranger in the first place.”

“That doesn’t make me feel old at all,” Tommy said with a chuckle.

“We watched some of the footage again when we were in training,” Roxy said. “You guys were awesome! What happened? Where did you guys go?”

“It’s a long story,” Tommy said. “Maybe I’ll tell you although I did make a sort of documentary on it all. I’ve kept it secret and I probably should have released it to Grid Battleforce but things got in the way.”

“Well, I’m starstruck but my problem still stands,” Roxy said. “I spent more time as an evil avatar than a ranger.”

“That’s the thing I was trying to get to,” Tommy said. “I’ve been there. When I first morphed, it was because I was given a magic coin by our nemesis Rita Repulsa. I fought people who would eventually become my friends and fellow rangers. I was able to come back from that and earn the trust of people I’m still friends with. Your past does not define you. You could be a hero again.”

“I don’t know,” Roxy said. “I’m content in my relationship with Ravi and my job at Collins Industries.”

“What we’re doing won’t get in the way of that,” Tommy said. “I know how important love is. Still, once a ranger, always a ranger is something I believe in. There are people out there that you can help.”

“I’ll think about it,” Roxy said. She was already thinking about how she was going to tell Ravi. She felt a mix of excitement and anxiety inside of her. She did want to serve but was she still capable? Could she still be a Power Ranger? She had to think.

Queen of Ice – A Frozen Story

April 20, 2023

Arendelle was once again in mourning. The kingdom had collectively mourned when the king and queen had died at sea, never to return. That period of mourning seemed to stretch on forever as Queen Elsa and Princess Ana stayed cloistered inside of the palace. Neither ever appeared and instead ruled by proxy. Everybody was overjoyed when the gates finally opened again for Queen Elsa’s coronation but that was shortlived. The reveal that Queen Elsa was an ice witch had been startling and had caused chaos within Arendelle. It was then that a false winter came and froze the kingdom, threatening to kill the citizens and visiting dignitaries. Princess Ana had sought to calm her sister and save Arendelle while the visiting Prince Hans tried to enact a coup. In the end, Ana died and Queen Elsa had executed Hans on the spot.

Kristoff arrived at the palace late in the afternoon. It was the usual time when the Queen held court and would accept an audience with commoners. However, few people ever voluntarily went to the palace. They were all afraid and rightfully so. Kristoff paused as he looked up at the grand doors. He shivered and it only partly had to do with the cold. He looked at Sven and the reindeer looked back plaintively.

“I have to go in, buddy,” Kristoff said. “I know it’s dangerous but I’ll regret not trying.”

Sven kept looking at him. As usual, Kristoff spoke for Sven, aware that he was actually voicing his own inner thoughts. “But Kristoff, I don’t want to lose you,” the reindeer did not say.

“I know, buddy,” Kristoff said.

“You only knew her for two days,” Sven did not say.

“But she made an impression,” Kristoff said. “She had an indomitable spirit.”

“That’s a big word,” Sven did not say.

“Thank you, I try to educate myself,” Kristoff said. “Stay here, Sven. I’ll be back.”

Sven snorted as if to say ‘you had better’.

Kristoff walked up to the doors and looked at the two giant spiky snowmen guarding the door. They looked a lot like the abominable snowman that had chased Kristoff and Ana off of the mountain when they had first tried to confront Queen Elsa in her gigantic ice palace. The things were terrifying and Kristoff tried to remain calm. He was allowed to be here. At least he thought he was. At any point, Queen Elsa could change her mind about this being the appointed time for an audience and punish him. If that was how he went out, that would be it then. He was tired of being afraid.

“Let me pass,” Kristoff said. “I’m here to see the Queen.”

The snowmen looked at each other and then gestured at Kristoff. They had no gift for speech and their intelligence seemed to be limited. After a few moments, Kristoff got the gist of what they wanted. He opened his coat to show that he was carrying no weapons. Queen Elsa must have been nervous about assassination attempts since Prince Hans. Kristoff had heard that the Duke of Weselton had attempted a desperate assault as well but had died horribly. That was the rumor, at least. The snowmen seemed satisfied yet wary but they reached and opened the heavy doors up. Kristoff stepped inside.

It was even colder inside. It was perpetually winter outside of the palace but it had lessened somewhat into an oppressive reality. People were hungry but somehow the people of Arendelle struggled onwards. The command was for trade to continue with other lands and that meant that Kristoff was still employed transporting ice. There was always plenty of ice. Kristoff walked into the throne room and he was immediately struck by the tragic image of Princess Ana. An ignorant person might think that it was an ice statue but Kristoff knew that it was actually the body of Princess Ana frozen solid. She had been overcome by a curse inflicted by her own sister.

“Step forward,” Queen Elsa said. “Acknowledge your Queen.” Elsa’s gaze was stern and emotionless. Her face gave away no emotion and Kristoff was immediately on guard.

Kristoff stepped forward as commanded and fell to his knees and bowed so his forehead nearly touched the frozen floor. “I acknowledge you, Queen Elsa,” he said. “I appear before you humble and contrite.”

“Kristoff,” Elsa said with sudden apprehension as if she had not recognized him at first. “What are you doing here? What is your business here?”

Kristoff fought not to shiver as he looked up at Queen of Arendelle. “I came here to try and talk to you about ending the winter, my Queen,” he said.

“Because you were nice to my sister during her life, I will hear you,” Queen Elsa said. “However, you are bordering on impertinence.”

Kristoff’s gaze flitted briefly over to look at Ana but then he looked back at Elsa. “I did know your sister,” he said. “It was brief but she made an impression. I went up the mountain with her to stop the endless winter. She wanted the people of Arendelle to be safe again. Please consider at least lessening the cold so that the people can serve you better.”

“I am not concerned by how well they serve me,” Queen Elsa said. “I am concerned by how well they obey me. I want the people to fear me.”

“The people want to love you,” Kristoff said.

“On second thought,” Queen Elsa said. “You were not kind to my sister. My sister was naive and she latched on to a terrorist. Then she met you and you pushed her into an adventure that would end in her death.” She caught Kristoff starting to look over at Ana. “Don’t look at her!” she yelled. “You don’t deserve to look at her.”

“I’m sorry,” Kristoff said. “It’s just that those who don’t starve are fleeing the kingdom.”

“I don’t care,” Queen Elsa said. “Arendelle is mine and I will kill it if I want to. There is nothing here left to protect. Now get out of my sight and never return. I gift you your life, take it and go.”

Kristoff nodded and bowed again and then left without a word. He would soon leave Arendelle along with his adoptive troll family.

Psychic Badges – A Supernatural Story

April 19, 2023

Dean made his way through the Men of Letters bunker. He was getting a little antsy but he was following orders after he had busted his shoulder on a job. For once, he was happy to listen to reason and stay put in the bunker. The whole experience of going up against God had finally made him realize that he was not indestructible, at least not anymore. Still, he wanted to get back out there. Without Chuck writing the script, the monsters were less predictable and it was a whole new era. He wanted to be hunting again. He never felt himself if he stopped hunting for too long. It had only been two weeks and he was definitely getting the itch.

Dean went to the kitchen in search of a beer or two and food. He idly wondered if there was a pie on the premises. He would settle for just about any kind of pie but he was really in the mood for an apple pie maybe with some ice cream on top. That was another thing he missed from traveling. The easy access to a good diner pie. It was a reward for a good hunt or comfort food to steel oneself before the hunt. It was the only slice of a normal home he had left. Maybe that was corny and he would never admit it but it was true. He opened the fridge and leaned down to take a look.

“Should you really be up and around?” Jody asked Dean from behind. “You’ve still got that busted wing.”

“I’m aware, Jody,” Dean said, turning around. He almost hit his head on the fridge from surprise. “You’re really sneaky when you want to be.”

“That’s what happens when you become a hunter, Dean,” she said with a smile. “You know that.”

“I know that,” Dean said. “But you’re almost as good at surprising me as Cas is.”

“When is he coming back?” Jody asked. “He’s been gone for a while.”

“He’s just spending some time with Jack in Heaven,” Dean said. “He’s kind of forbidden from helping around down here but he has special permission to visit. I don’t know the exact deal.”

“I know you miss him,” Jody said. “I miss my family when I’m away.”

“He’s like another Winchester brother at this point,” Dean said with a smile. “Moreso than Adam was.”

Jody smiled. “You guys always did remind me a bit of the Three Amigos,” she said.

“Don’t you mean the Three Musketeers?” Dean asked.

“You’re lucky I didn’t say The Three Stooges,” Jody said.

“Very funny,” Dean said. “No offense but what are you still doing here, Jody?”

Jody laughed. “I finished checking into what I needed to in your library,” Jody said. “I’ll be getting on the road to get back to the girls. We’ve got our own problems.”

“It’s Sam’s library,” Dean said. “He’s the one who keeps it up to date.”

“Sure,” Jody said. “He’s out on a hunt, right?”

“Don’t remind me,” Dean said. “I wish I was out there with him but instead he’s with Garth. We keep trying to let Garth have a normal life but he was closest so he met up with Sam. I wish I was there.”

“Well, in the meantime, Charlie was looking for you,” Jody said. “She’s all the way in the archives.”

“Great,” Dean said. “At least it’s something to do.” He grabbed a beer and some beef jerky. “Provisions for the trip.”

“Right,” Jody said, rolling her eyes. “I’m a mom but I’m not your mom. Do as you please.”

“I always do,” Dean said. “See you, Jody.”

“Until next time, Dean,” Jody said.

Dean made his way down to the archives. Amongst the old and new relics they had made space for various people to practice their specialties. Charlie had a workshop down there so Dean headed in that direction. There was a lot of technology in her area and a bank of computers strung together for the purpose of hacking. It took a lot to get out of the bunker but she had managed to figure something out that had to do with a marriage of technology and magic. Dean had no idea how it worked but he did not need to know in order to benefit from it. He trusted this Charlie just as much as he trusted the first Charlie he had met. Charlie was not at her workshop so Dean started to poke around.

Dean heard some noise coming from an area of the archives that he would never admit that he was scared of. However, when somebody needed to go down there, he usually got Sam to do it. That was the area delineated for Rowena McCloud. It was there that she worked with powerful magicks to aid in the fight against monsters and evil in general. She had mostly reformed and helped the Winchesters in honor of her son Crowley who had sacrificed himself to save the world. Of course, Dean was still not sure that Crowley was actually dead. He half expected him to pop up at some point with a sly smirk and a “Hello Boys”. Dean pushed open the door.

“Charlie? You in here?” He called out.

“Right here!” Charlie called back.

“And I’m here too, Dean,” Rowena said in her thick Scottish accent. “Come in, I won’t bite.”

Dean cleared his throat. “Sure,” he said. “I heard you were looking for me.” 

“Well, since I got to this world, I’ve been binge-watching a lot of television and it sparked an idea,” Charlie said.

“You got an idea from television?” Dean asked. 

“She’s been showing me the Doctor Who program,” Rowena said.

“I think I’ve got a way to get around the whole FBI background check thing without having somebody manning a call center,” Charlie said. “Well, we have.” She held up a badge.

“It looks like a badge,” Dean said.

“Oh sweetie,” Rowena said. “I knew Sam was the smarter one.”

“Watch it,” Dean said.

“When you look at the badge, it makes you see what you need to see to feel reassured,” Charlie said. “So if you say that you’re from the FBI, they’ll see an impeccable FBI badge.”

“Magic,” Rowena said cheerily.

“I’m not sure about this,” Dean said. “But if Sam approves, we’ll give it a try. I don’t make decisions like this without his input.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Charlie said.

Outsiders of the Galaxy – An Amalgam Story

April 18, 2023

Grace pounded against the walls of her prison, she could feel the walls shake as her super strength impacted but nothing budged. The aliens who designed the prison must have accounted for super-powered individuals like her. She still could not believe that she had been incarcerated in the first place. It was a complete mistake. Grace had been on Earth living her normal life when she and her family had been caught in the crossfire of an attack by Thanoseid. The Titans of Genesis had transformed Grace into a being designed to combat Thanoseid and sent her into space. 

Every time she thought of Thanoseid, her blood boiled. She saw her family incinerated before her eyes and that made her angry but there was something more. The body she had been given cried out for Thanoseid’s blood. She did not remember much about her brief time with the Titans but they also hated Thanoseid. He was their kin and they wanted him dead. When Grace closed her eyes, she saw Thanoseid’s face. She needed to kill him. It was something she knew in the very core of her being even though it scared the hell out of her. She had never wanted to hurt anybody, not even the drunks she had tossed out of bars as a bouncer.

She had landed on a station where she decided on a whim to stand up for herself and some other weirdos. They had locked her away even though she was not the aggressor. Now she was stuck in a space-bound prison when she just wanted to go home and forget all of this. She wanted vengeance for her family but she never expected to get this far. She punched the wall again and almost thought she dented it just a little. Encouraged, she renewed her struggle and pounded at the wall again and again. She thought she heard something on the other side and so she stopped for a moment. Sure enough, there was also a pounding coming from the other side. She raised her fists again and attacked the wall. The wall suddenly exploded outward in a shower of flame. 

A man in a mask stepped into the opening and he carried two alien space pistols. Grace tensed as she anticipated getting shot by this maniac. After some of the smoke had cleared he pressed something on the side of his mask and it disappeared. The man had dark black hair and blue eyes. He smiled at Grace and then looked over his shoulder.

“Arsenal!” the man yelled. “You used too much again! I keep telling you and you keep doing it. Moderation!” He spoke with familiarity and humor and it immediately made Grace more at ease although she was still confused. What had she done to earn a prison break?

“Keep your pants on, Grayson,” a voice said. A raccoon carrying a very large gun jumped into view. “I know what I’m doing.” The raccoon was wearing a sort of armor and a jetpack. It was definitely not a normal raccoon.

“Who the hell are you?” Grace asked. “What are you doing here?”

“My name is Peter Grayson,” the man said. “But you might know me as Nightlord.”

“Who?” Grace asked. Was she supposed to recognize that name?

Peter groaned and the raccoon laughed. “I guess not,” he said. “This is Arsenal. He’s our demo guy. Expert at breaking out of places.”

“He’s a raccoon,” Grace said, still a little in shock.

“You take that back!” Arsenal yelled. “I’m not a raccoon!”

“Enough,” Peter said. “Maybe don’t use the R-word. You’re Grace the Destroyer?”

“I don’t even know where that name came from,” Grace said. “I don’t want to destroy anybody.”

“What about Thanoseid?” Peter asked.

“Yeah, you want to destroy him?” Arsenal asked.

Grace’s fists clenched. “What do you know about Thanoseid?” she asked. “You’re not with him, are you?”

“No way!” Arsenal yelled. “We’d never throw in with that punk.”

“I want to kill him,” Grace said. “I don’t think I can stop until I kill him.”

“My girlfriend was his adopted daughter and we’ve joined with her to stop Thanoseid,” Peter said. “We could use your help.”

“You could use a lot of help,” Grace said. “Do you really think that we can take on Thanoseid?”

“I believe we can,” Peter said. “We have the plan to make Thanoseid go hasta la vista, baby.” He said the last with a comically bad Austrian accent.

“Wait, where did you hear that phrase?” Grace asked. “It’s from the Terminator.”

“Terminator 2, actually,” Peter said. “I saw it before I was abducted from Earth.”

“I’m from Earth!” Grace yelled. “What are you doing all the way out here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Peter said. “But I fell in with a bunch of pirates called The Ravagers after my space shuttle conked out. I just haven’t been back to Earth since then. Nothing really back there for me.”

“I guess that’s true for me too,” Grace said. “My family died on Earth.”

“Mine too,” Peter said. “So I guess that means your free to join up with us?”

“I guess so,” Grace said. She did not even know who these people were but she still felt like she could trust them. Moreover, she did not really have a choice. Without them, she would be stewing in prison instead of fulfilling her directive.

“Well, if you’re coming, you better shake a leg,” Arsenal said. “We don’t have long. Starfire and the others can’t hold off the guards forever.”

“He’s right,” Peter said. “You’re either in or you’re out. We have to get a move on.”

“I’m in,” Grace said. “As long as I get to kill Thanoseid. He killed my family.”

“All I can promise you is that you get to have a hand in his destruction,” Peter said. “I don’t know who will get the killing blow but I’m not saying that it won’t be you.”

“Good enough,” Grace said. “Let’s go.”

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