Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

The Mirror Pt. 2

July 2, 2022

“A deal?” Kerzi asked. “What kind of deal are we making?” She kept her distance, standing on the opposite side of the wizard’s laboratory from her exact double. Well, not exact but very close. The differences became more apparent the longer Kerzi watched but an outside observer probably would not notice those differences. But Kerzi knew herself.

The Other Kerzi shrugged and smiled, trying to act nonchalant. “Nothing major, at least not for now,” she said. “Just a deal that keeps you from trapping me here somehow. I want your word on that.” She was acting neutral but there was a slight tinge of fear behind her eyes when she had mentioned being trapped.

“What do I get out of this deal?” Kerzi asked. “I mean, this was my face first. Now I have to share it with you. I’m not accustomed to giving away anything for free.” Kerzi had not let go of her knives and she flexed her grip to make sure her wrists did not get too tense.

“I can sympathize with that,” The Other Kerzi said. She stayed far out of the range of Kerzi’s knives. She had no weapons that Kerzi could see but that meant nothing. Kerzi had faced many unarmed opponents that were quite formidable.

“Can you?” Kerzi asked. “You’ve only been alive for only a few moments, right? How can you sympathize? How can you talk? How can you think?” She was still mystified by what was happening. Magic was not her specialty and this whole thing was still ringing alarm bells.

“I can’t pretend to know how this works completely but I sense that I got some of my faculties from you and some from,” The Other Kerzi said, pausing for effect. “Somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else, huh?” Kerzi asked. “What are you?” 

“I’d love to know that myself,” The Other Kerzi said. “Perhaps you can help me explore that question.”

“You still haven’t told me what I get from helping you,” Kerzi said. “I’m no hero. I’m a mercenary at best.”

“And the solving of magical mysteries isn’t profitable?” The Other Kerzi asked with more than a little mockery in her voice. “For starters, I can help you find the artifact you were sent here for. I can help you carry plenty of other things away from this place. We can be a team.”

“Splitting my pay in half?” Kerzi asked. “That sounds like an excellent deal for me.”

The Other Kerzi sighed. “How about a seventy-thirty split?” she asked. “Hells, I don’t even need much. I’ll take what scrolls I can carry as payment for this job and a few scraps of food. If I help raise your income, we renegotiate my pay.”

“You are not good at bargaining,” Kerzi said, almost with pity.

“I’m desperate,” The Other Kerzi said. “I don’t want my life to end just as it begins.”

“If we’re going to make a deal, you should have a name,” Kerzi said. “I will not allow you to introduce yourself as Kerzi. That’s me. Bad enough you have my face.”

“But it’s such a pretty face,” The Other Kerzi said. “I have no name. As you said, I was born moments ago.”

“Well, if you’re a reflection of me then why not Izrek?” Kerzi asked.

“A little clumsy,” The Other Kerzi said. “Call me Izzy.”

“I guess that works,” Kerzi said. “I suppose you’ve managed to present an attractive deal. Attractive enough.”

Izzy walked to the center of the room and stuck her hand out. “Shake on it?” she asked. “No tricks. I’m your partner. You can introduce me as your twin sister if you’d like.”

Kerzi walked up cautiously. She thought long and hard about it. “I guess that’s as good a story as any,” she said. She reached out to shake Izzy’s hand. “Deal.”

Kerzi flinched, half-expecting to find herself tricked into the mirror but there was her twin, smiling at her. What had she gotten herself into?

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Endgame Pt. 4

June 25, 2022

Rapunzel all but leaped into Eugene’s arms with a shout. The princess had never really been shy about expressing herself, especially when it came to Eugene. Thankfully, Flynn was physically able to catch her and she had a very light frame. He swept her up in his arms and pulled her close for a kiss.

“Oh my goodness, Eugene!” Rapunzel said. “It feels like I haven’t seen you forever. I’ve got so much to tell you.”

“The eternal optimist,” Eugene said. “I wasn’t as sure that I would ever see you again but I kept going just in case. I’m glad to be proven wrong.”

“I like proving you wrong,” Rapunzel said. “And I’ll always find my way back to you. I promise. You know how important promises are to me.”

“I do,” Eugene said. “One of the many reasons why I proposed. Your honesty and loyalty has really rubbed off on me.”

“Oh?” Rapunzel asked. “Have you been well-behaved?”

“Yes,” Eugene said. “But I didn’t have much choice. I was imprisoned by a witch.”

“Really!?” Rapunzel asked and stepped back to examine him. “Did she hurt you?”

“Not really. She was a very incompetent witch,” Eugene said. “She caught me off guard when I ended up in Hawaii.”

“Hawaii?” Rapunzel asked. “I like the name. Speaking of witches, Gothel is here.”

“Gothel?” Eugene asked. “Last time I saw her, she stabbed me.”

“I remember,” Rapunzel said. “She’s locked up in a cell, though. Everybody knows who and what she is so there’s nobody for her to manipulate here.”

“Have you seen her?” Eugene asked.

“No,” Rapunzel said. “I haven’t visited.”

“Do you want to visit?” Eugene asked. He stroked her cheek with his hand and she closed her eyes and pressed her cheek into his palm.

“No,” Rapunzel said. “I don’t think I want to revisit that chapter of my life. Besides, my hair is coming back in and she’s obsessed with it.”

“I was going to ask about that,” Eugene said. “Any explanation?”

“None,” Rapunzel said with a shrug. “As for Gothel, let the others deal with her. If I have to deal with her, I’ll cross that bridge then.”

“We will,” Eugene said. “Together.”

*         *          *

“Anna!” Elsa shouted. “There you are! I was so worried.”

“I wasn’t,” Anna said. “Ok well, I was a little bit. It got really bad there for a bit but I always have faith that we’ll find each other again. We’ve been through so much already. The long separation, the blizzard of Arendelle, the elemental spirits, the Enchanted Forest, the Jotunn, the flood, everything and we’re still standing.”

“I remember all of that, of course,” Elsa said. “But I like being there to protect you.”

“I should remind you that I’m a queen now too and that I can take care of myself,” Anna said. “But I also do like it when you protect me. I like being with you.”

“I never thought we’d be in this strange place,” Elsa said. “So far from home. I sent Mattias back to Arendelle to check on things.”

“I hope he’s alright,” Anna said. “I hope Kristoff is alright too. All of our friends and family are nowhere in sight.”

“I have a feeling that I would know if something permanent happened to Olaf,” Elsa said. “Kristoff can take care of himself usually and when he can’t, he has Sven.”

“True,” Anna said. “I’m sure he’s fine. I do wish the Grand Pabbie was here, though.”

“We seem to be in good hands with the fairies,” Elsa said. “They seem wise enough.”

“I never thought I’d see a real fairy,” Rapunzel said. “It was amazing.”

“The way our lives have gone, I thought it was pretty much inevitable that we would get around to fairies,” Elsa said.

Anna laughed. “I guess you’re right,” she said. “We seem to attract magic.”

“At least, I do,” Elsa said, a guilty look crossing her face

“Don’t go blaming yourself,” Anna said. “We’re in this together.”

Undead Reckoning Pt. 14

June 18, 2022

“Who are you?!” Talbot asked of the mystery woman. It came out louder than he had meant to but as he watched her, he imagined how she had been in the dream. Dying in bloody agony.

“You forget your manners, Sergeant Hawkwing,” Lord Blackrance said. “Perhaps you should sit down. You look a bit pale. We can get you some tea if you’d like.”

“Don’t try and change the subject, Blackrance,” Talbot said. “Who is she? Who are you, miss?” He kept seeing blood pouring from the gaping wound in her chest. He remembered holding her in his arms. He remembered her voice.

The woman looked both curious and amused but spoke calmly. “Please sit down, Mr. Hawkwing,” she said. “I will try my best to explain what may have happened.”

Talbot found a chair and sat down. His mind was racing as he imagined so many questions and possibilities.”

“Tea, Sergeant?” Lord Blackrance asked. “Perhaps something stronger considering your sudden fright?”

Talbot nodded. “Yes, Lord Blackrance, maybe we ought to go right on to coffee,” he said. “I suddenly feel very tired.”

Lord Blackrance gestured and Titus hurried off, presumably to fetch Talbot’s coffee. Blackrance sat back in his chair as if he was watching a stage play.

“Well, Mr. Hawkwing, do we know each other?” The woman asked, her eyes studying him. Talbot suddenly got the feeling that she studied people a lot with those eyes.

“I would answer with a no,” Talbot said. “I don’t even know your name but I have seen your face before. I have also heard your voice” 

“And where did you see my face and hear my voice?” The woman asked. She did not look entirely surprised. She was definitely a cool customer.

“I saw you in a dream,” Talbot said slowly, watching the woman’s face. “On the train ride here when I dozed off. When I saw you in the dream you -” 

The woman held up a hand and cut Talbot off before he could continue. “Please do not tell me what happened in the dream,” she said. “I’d rather not know. I already know too much. My name is Kare Coldlight and I am a seer. What you experienced was most likely an aftereffect of my abilities. When my abilities have touched on somebody, they can be entangled with my soul and I suppose that can come up in dreams. There is still a lot that I don’t know about my particular abilities. I apologize, Mr. Hawkwing.”

“It’s just Talbot,” Talbot said. “But thank you for not calling me Sergeant. I suppose that does explain things and I don’t need an apology, I guess. Why did you foresee me?”

“It’s not just you,” Kara said, glancing at Lord Blackrance. “It’s the others too. It’s everybody.”

There were footsteps on the stairs and Talbot saw that the dinner companions from the night before were coming downstairs. All of them were foreseen by Kara Coldlight, Talbot surmised. Things were starting to make a bit more sense but there were still a lot of questions.

“Yes, well, let me explain,” Blackrance said. “All of you, gather close. I want to thank you all for making the journey here. As you may have guessed, my name is Lord Callum Blackrance and I am the benefactor who has summoned you here. Some of you I have met before but others I know only through your reputations. You were all chosen through the gifts of Kara Coldlight, a seer in my employ.” He gestured toward Kara. “This is her.” Kara bowed her head as a greeting.

“When I have a wrong that needs righting, I call on Kara to seek out the best candidates with her second sight. She has chosen all of you.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Endgame Pt. 3

June 11, 2022

The portal opened, Enchantress beckoned, and everybody came through. Aurora came through first with her hand on her sword hilt as usual but relaxed when it seemed that everything was safe and calm for the moment. Jasmine was impressed that she walked right up to Jasmine and shook her hand as clearly, she was in charge. Aladdin was standing next to her but he did really exude royalty. This armor-clad woman exuded a lot of royalty.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” she said. “My name is Princess Aurora and I will do my best to use this sword to safeguard our cause and wellbeing.”

“Thank you,” Jasmine said. “I am Queen Jasmine, ruler of this land. Your oath is unnecessary but welcome. This scruffy man is my consort and husband Aladdin.”

“Nice to meet you,” Aladdin said a little too casually but Jasmine let it slide, of course. There would be time and energy for manners and etiquette later. Besides, that smile of his was impossible to be mad at for long.

Aurora turned as Adam, Belle, Tiana, Esmerelda, and Eugene walked through the portal together. Jasmine was relieved that none of them looked monstrous. Perhaps this would all work out after all. She reapplied her best smile.

“Welcome to Agrabah!” She called out. “All who come in peace are welcome. It is unfortunate that I am hosting you in this recently seized enemy fortress instead of the palace. It is hard to be so generous to guests here but we make do. We will find somewhere for you to sleep in private before we get to the matter at hand.” Jasmine turned toward Enchantress. “We have time to rest before, right?” But Enchantress was no longer there. Godmother looked just as startled.

“I will go find her,” Godmother said. “I’m sure there must be time to rest before the final battle.” Godmother vanished in a shower of sparkles. Somehow, the sparkles seemed as frustrated as Godmother’s face had been.

“She’s a lot to handle,” Belle said. “But I am pretty sure she means well this time.”

“Um, where is our prisoner?” Adam asked. “She was right here.” Yzma had been in chains among them. Enchantress had insisted and now the bony old witch had disappeared. She did not seem extraordinarily bright so it was a surprise that she had vanished.

“And I thought I was sneaky,” Eugene said, rubbing his chin in thought.

“Do you think she escaped?” Adam asked. “Is that even possible?”

“I don’t think so,” Eugene said. “I think we were robbed. I would know. I mean, I used to know. I mean, I know how that feels.” 

“I’m wondering if this is another thing to ask Enchantress,” Jasmine said. “That list is growing. I’m not exactly pleased.”

“Neither are we,” Adam said. “We’ll corner her later.”

Belle turned and looked at Jasmine and her cheeks blushed with embarrassment. “Oh!” she said sheepishly. “I’m sorry. We haven’t introduced ourselves. I’m Belle. Queen Belle, I guess.”

“Um,” Adam said softly.

“Is that not correct, dear?” Belle asked.

“To be determined,” Adam said. “We haven’t had time to investigate our status. Regardless, my name is Adam and I’m Belle’s husband.”

“All of this royal stuff can be kind of hard to navigate,” Aladdin said. “I still struggle and we both understand.”

“We do,” Jasmine said. “We really do.”

Esmerelda started to juggle and dance a bit to lighten the mood. “Esmerelda, of the Romani people, entertainer extraordinaire and voice of the people,” Esmerelda said as an introduction.. “At your service.”

“Wow,” Jasmine said. “You remind me a bit of Genie. You two should meet. Or maybe that might be too chaotic.” 

Aladdin looked over at Eugene. “And you’re a thief, right?” he asked.

Jasmine gasped. “Aladdin!” she said. “You can’t just say that!”

Eugene was startled and his eyes went wide. “Thief? That’s a hell of an accusation,” he said. “I’d be offended if it weren’t so accurate. Former thief. Now a prince. People call me Flynn Rider.” Jasmine relaxed and Aladdin smiled triumphantly.

“I was a thief too,” Aladdin said reassuringly. “I’m glad you also got the chance to turn it around, Eugene.”

“I’m trying,” Eugene said. “For example, my real name is Eugene. I’m still a prince, though.”

“Nice to meet you, Eugene,” Aladdin said. “We’ll have a lot to talk about.”

“Well, I guess I’m a princess too but I’m more of a restauranteur,” Tiana said. “Tiana is my name and Tiana’s Palace is my restaurant. If you point me to the kitchen, I can whip something up.”

“That’s not necessary,” Jasmine said. “You all probably need a rest. Leave the hospitality up to me and my people.”

“I’ll cook the victory feast then,” Tiana said.

“It’s a deal,” Jasmine said. “I like that optimism. Let’s get you all settled.”

The Mirror

June 4, 2022

Kerzi had taken the quest as a solo act. She had a team that she relied on but they were several days’ travel away and she could not wait while some other party of adventurers swooped in. She was territorial about this region of Gallia. She was building her own legend and it was necessary to be on everybody’s lips if you wanted to be a legend. She had crept into the old castle quickly enough, avoiding the front door. She never used the front door if she could help it. The window was convenient enough. She made her way through the dusty, moldy place which had formerly been home to Count Edgewater. It had since been claimed by the wizard Ilin. The wizard apparently did not like visitors as there were plenty of traps to get through. Still, she was an expert dungeoneer. She made her way toward what felt like the wizard’s study which she had been told was in the undercroft.

 Even though the legends called it the Cursed Mirror of Ilin, Kerzi had been surprised when she opened a door in the old castle and came face to face with her own image. She instinctively straightened her hair and wiped some oil from her cheek. The mirror had been briefly mentioned in her briefing, emphasis on brief. It had not been very important at the time since it was not her target. She shrugged and headed over to a trunk and quickly picked the lock. Once it was open, she started rummaging. She only stopped when she thought she heard a sound behind her. Had she missed some hidden, deadly trap? She scanned the room and saw no danger. She slowly stood up and walked back to the center of the room. Something was off. It took her a few moments to realize what it was. The mirror no longer held her reflection.

“What were you looking for in that trunk?” a familiar voice asked.

Kenzi whirled around and once again came face to face with herself. This time, it was not a mirror. It was an exact doppelganger.

“Who are you?” Kerzi asked. She pulled her twin knives and spun them both into a reverse grip. She was a scrapper in a fight but she usually preferred the element of surprise. She did not believe in fair fights. 

The other Kerzi laughed heartily but drew no weapon. “Who am I, she asks,” she said. “I’m obviously you.”

“You can’t be me,” Kerzi said. “I’m me. There’s only one Kerzi Graybluff, acquisition artist extraordinaire.” She could tell that she was nervous. She had not meant to spout her tagline but it had come tumbling out of her.

The other Kerzi laughed again. “But I am you also,” she said. “See with your eyes. Hear with your ears. Know with your head and heart. I am also Kerzi Graybluff and we are gorgeous.”

“Impossible!” Kerzi said, narrowing her eyes.

“Magic,” Other Kerzi said as if that explained things. It unfortunately did. Mostly.

“Wait,” Kerzi said. “If you’re me, then why did you ask what I’m looking for?”

“You’ve got me there,” Other Kerzi said with a shrug. “I must not be a perfect copy. I can only guess at the mechanics of my creation. Magic can be very tricky.”

“I don’t mess with magic if I can help it,” Kerzi said. “Too many complications.”

“Oh but magic is so much fun,” Other Kerzi said. “It led to my creation so I must say that I’m in favor of it. Maybe you should give it a chance.”

Kerzi shook her head. “No thank you,” she said. “You should go back inside of the mirror and stay there. I’ll grab what I came for and get out of here. I then drink to forget this ever happened.”

“I cannot simply fade from existence,” Other Kerzi said indignantly. “I have been born and it would be a waste for this much glory to be tossed aside.”

“And people say that *I’m* conceited,” Kerzi said. 

“I can’t guess why,” Other Kerzi said with a smirk. “How about I catch you unaware, knock you out, lock you up here, and return to town as you. It could be the start of brand new Kerzi, a new legend.”

“No way,” Kerzi said. “Not going to happen.”

“Then we must work something out,” Other Kerzi said. “Let’s make a deal.”

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Endgame Pt. 1

May 7, 2022

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Belle asked. “How are you going to bridge the gap?” She squinted at The Enchantress as she held Adam’s hand tightly.

“Would you stop picking at me?” The Enchantress said as she tried to focus on her magic. “It’s distracting.”

“What are you going to do about it?” Belle asked with a sly smirk. “Are you going to turn me into furniture?”

“I could, you know,” The Enchantress said. “You’re very brave now that I’ve promised not to use my magic on you. It’s kind of annoying.”

“Well, yes,” Belle said. “And I’m having a lot of fun.”

“Maybe we should have a little less fun?” Ariel asked, although she did look amused. “Maybe focus on the threat at hand?”

“Fine,” Belle said and shrugged. “I’ll stop torturing her. We’ve made amends and the matter is over.”

“But to answer your question,” The Enchantress said. “I am using my desire to help you heroes to guide my magic. I admit that desire is not entirely altruistic but it is real and it should help locate and connect to the other major point that is experiencing a higher level of portal generation.”

“I really hope that the people there are friendly,” Aurora said, holding the hilt of her sword. 

“My intuition tells me that a villain is not responsible for all of the portalling,” The Enchantress said. “I can feel it. There’s so much of it. They tried to conquer only four worlds that I’ve seen. That suggests that their forces are small. I think if they were invading more worlds then it would be slower. Merely conjecture, though.”

“A fair assumption,” Belle said. “Historically, invasions require a lot of preparation and amassing of forces. Of course, we’re dealing with magic here.”

“We are dealing with magic,” Adam agreed. “Tricky stuff.”

“Let’s remain optimistic,” Tiana said with a smile. “Okay, people?” She had grabbed a heavy iron skillet from the kitchen and was ready to use it if necessary.

“I agree,” Esmerelda said. “Optimistic yet practical. I mean, we can’t account for the unknown.”

“Yes,” Aurora said. “We go into the unknown cautious and prepared. Let’s hope that we’re meeting friends and not enemies.”

“This is exciting,” Ariel said. “It reminds me of when I was first headed to the surface. I’m so excited for you but I’m not going.”

“What?” Aurora nearly shouted which caused The Enchantress to wince slightly. “You’re our leader. You’re knowledgeable about magic and you’re smart.”

“We have plenty of people knowledgeable about magic that can go with you including The Enchantress,” Ariel said. “I need to dive down and explore Atlantica and make sure my father and his subjects are safe. I also need to find Eric. I know that sound selfish.”

“Not at all,” Belle said. “If anything, I’m hesitant to let you deal with a whole underwater kingdom by yourself. I would be curious to go with you if I were equipped to do so.”

“I’m not alone,” Ariel said. “With Ursula’s influence on the minds of my kingdom dissipated, I have plenty of hands on deck. I’ll be fine. If you want to visit Atlantica later, I’m sure some spell could make it possible.”

“I’d like that,” Belle said. She was eternally curious but the water was one area that she had very little knowledge in. She did not even know how to swim. At least, not very well. Still, it sounded like an adventure.

“But you can count us in,” Moana said. “Maui and I know all about the sea. We can help you. Afterwards, you can send us home.”

“I’m not a fan of being volunteered but sure,” Maui said. “You’ve got my hook.”

“Alright,” Ariel said. “Offer accepted. I’m begging the rest of you to go with The Enchantress and save all of our worlds. If the threat is truly not over, your skills will be needed. We will join you later if necessary.”

“It’s a deal,” Aurora said. “It was an honor serving alongside you, Queen Ariel.”

“The feeling is mutual, Queen Aurora.” Ariel said. “I have enjoyed having you all as guests and teammates for however long you’ve been here. Know that, if it is possible, you are welcome to visit here again.”

“So formal!” Tiana said and hugged her. “Come here!” Esmerelda hugged both of them. They laughed.

“I’ll bring the Festival of Fools with me,” Esmerelda said. “We’ll make it a party.”

“We deserve some fun,” Ariel said. “Everybody’s invited.”

“Are we all just about ready?” The Enchantress called out. “The door is about to open.”

“We’re ready,” Aurora said.

“For better or worse,” Belle said. “Let’s put an end to this.”

The Enchantress gestured and a portal opened up. “Let’s go meet our friends on the other side,” She said.

They walked toward the portal and stepped through one by one.

Zangief the Brave – A Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter Story

April 30, 2022

Sonya Blade parked her SUV and slipped on her sunglasses. They were a gift from Johnny but they were so useful on bright days. She checked her gun in its holster and then made sure her badge was tucked away. She wished that she could make herself look like an average woman but she had become military through and through. She was happy to move from hunting criminals to hunting down extradimensional invaders. She had been through fire and it had made her stronger but part of that was leaving behind a normal life. So be it. It had to be done.

“Thank you for coming along,” Sonya said, turning to look at Chun-Li Xiang. “All of this fresh blood is going to help us in the fight but I don’t know these people like you do.”

“Well, I investigated a lot of them for Interpol at one point or another,” Chun-Li said. “And I’m also a little better with people than Guile or Cammy.”

“Good,” Sonya said. “We need to recruit the best that you have for the next tournament and that might mean siding with some of your less savory acquaintances.”

“I understand,” Chun-Li said. “I understand the whole deal between us.”

Sonya nodded. “If you help us with this recruitment drive and the next tournament,” she said. “We’ll help you take down Shadaloo.”

Chun-Li nodded, excited by the thought of finally achieving her revenge. She could deal with anything to achieve that goal, even dealing with Outworld and its denizens.

“Well, we’ve brought in Ken Masters, Ryu, Edmond Honda, Luke Sullivan, Karin Kanzuki, Sakura Kasugano,  and Fei Long so far,” Chun-Li said. “We get connections to the US Air Force and MI-6 through Major Guile and Cammy White. We haven’t located Dhalsim or Blanka yet.”

“What about this stop?” Sonya asked, looking over at the bar they were about to enter.

“Oh, I think this one will net us two fighters,” Chun-Li said. “Inside that bar is one of the greatest fighters around. Sometimes he’s known as the Red Cyclone but most of us know him as Zangief.”

“The pro-wrestler?” Sonya asked. “I mean, I’ve seen pictures. He’s ripped but how good of a fighter is he?”

“He’s a really good fighter,” Chun-Li said. “Pro-Wrestling is his day job but he’s been in the street fighting circuit like the rest of us too. I would definitely want him on my side in a fight.  Besides, through him, we might recruit Rainbow Mika and El Fuerte.”

“More pro-wrestlers,” Sonya said.

“Hey, don’t underestimate them,” Chun-Li said. “Zangief has wrestled bears and gone toe to toe with Shadaloo as well.”

“Let’s go talk to him then,” Sonya said and climbed out of the vehicle. She scanned the street up and down instinctively and she watched Chun-Li do the same. It was impossible to push those routines away but they also kept you alive in bad times.

Chun-Li led the way and pushed open the door. She was dressed casually but she still had her hair up in ox horns. Sonya had her hair in the usual combat-ready ponytail and was dressed in all black. The inside of the bar was noisy and rowdy but Sonya and Chun-Li did not even flinch, knowing they could probably take just about anybody in a fight. Chun-Li approached the bar.

“We’re here to see Zangief,” she told the bartender. The bartender gestured to a door behind the bar and the two ladies made their way to the private back room.

Inside that room was the hulking form of Zangief, his shirt barely containing his impressive physique. Chun-Li was not sure she had ever seen him with his chest covered. There were a few burly men and tough-looking women surrounding the big man and a ton of bottles with varying amounts of liquid still in them.

“Chun-Li!” Zangief shouted. “An old competitor of mine,” he told his friends. “Do not be fooled by her size, she is very fierce. Show them your lightning kick.”

Chun-Li smiled. “Now’s not the time for that, Zangief,” she said. “We’ve got business.”

“Show them,” Zangief insisted. “Then business.”

“Fine,” Chun-Li said. “Glad I didn’t wear a skirt today.”

She picked up a bottle, threw it into the air, and suddenly her leg was in motion. It looked like she was kicking with multiple legs as they blurred in the air. The bottle was absolutely obliterated by dozens of kicks that impacted it within a split second. Zangief clapped and everybody else joined in, including Sonya. It was very impressive.

“Very good,” Zangief said. “Now to business. Everyone out, leave me to do business.” His voice was commanding and everybody cleared out before they pissed off the big guy. Zangief grabbed a bottle and poured out three shots. “We drink. To the fight!” He downed the shot in a flash. The ladies shrugged and followed suit. The vodka did not go down easy as it burned their throats and made their eyes water.

“Good stuff,” Chun-Li managed to choke out. “Zangief, this is my friend Sonya Blade.”

“Sonya Blade,” Zangief said, nodding. “Are you also a fighter?”

“Oh I’m definitely a fighter,” Sonya said. “I’ve seen fights you wouldn’t believe.”

“I’ve seen many fights,” Zangief said. “Many fights you might not believe either.”

“What are you doing outside of Russia, Zangief?” Chun-Li asked.

At the question, Zangief’s expression darkened and he shook his head. “I am temporarily out of Mother Russia,” he said. “I could not stand by as they committed atrocities. I was informed that if I did not remain silent, I would not be welcome. I could not stay silent. I continue to protest while abroad.”

“What if I told you that we need you?” Sonya asked. “Would you be willing to fight not for Russia but for Earth?”

“For Earth?” Zangief asked. “Please tell me more, Ms. Blade.”

You’re Doing It Wrong – A Hellblazer/Ghostbusters Story

April 29, 2022

John Constantine climbed out of the New York City taxi on Moore Street and handed the cash over and had the cabbie keep the change. He suddenly missed London and his good buddy Chas. Still, New York City had been his home away from home and it had accumulated as many dark memories as London had. It seemed that New York definitely had its own history of being a nexus for all sorts of nasty things. The demon Mnemoth in particular had made for a particularly nasty trip to the Big Rotten Apple. He wondered how much dust had accumulated in his old apartment. He had no time to think about that now. He had business to attend to.

He walked up to what used to be a fire station but now it had a big sign with a cartoon ghost with a big red line through it. Absolutely, ridiculous. The sign said “Ghostbusters” and these must be the people that John had heard about in the news. He had also felt the disturbance that these people had caused. He did not stop to ring the bell, he just pushed open the door and stepped right inside.

“Right, who can I talk to who runs this establishment?” Constantine called out. “I have a complaint.”

“Welcome to Ghostbusters. My name is Janine. Our service contract comes with a hold harmless agreement and we are not liable for property damage. Do you have a warrant or other writ?” A woman with red hair said almost in one breath like it had been rehearsed.

“I don’t bloody well have a writ,” Constantine said. “I’ve got a complaint.”

“What is the nature of your complaint?” Janine asked.

“You’re doing it wrong,” Constantine said.

“Excuse me?” Janine asked.

“You heard me,” Constantine said. “The name’s John Constantine. Who can I talk to?”

A serious-looking, bespectacled man walked into the room and stopped to look at Constantine.

Janine turned to look at the man. “Egon,” she said. “This man has a complaint. He says we’re doing it wrong.”

“I’ll talk to him.” Egon said. “I’m curious.”

“Should I call Venkman in too?” Janine asked.

“Dear god no,” Egon said. “We all remember how he ruined us with Peck. Could you go to Winston’s office and ask him to come to my office? Come with me, Mr. Constantine.”

Janine quickly walked deeper into the building while Constantine followed Egon to his office. John settled into a chair in front of the desk. They did not have to wait long for Winston to walk in. He took a chair and moved it to the side of Egon’s desk.

“My name is Dr. Egon Spengler, head of research. This is Winston Zeddemore, our head trainer,” Egon said. “Winston, this is John Constantine.”

“It’s Constantine, actually,” Constantine said. “It’s pronounced Constantine.”

“Right, Mr. Constantine has some critiques of our process,” Egon said.

“Is that right?” Winston asked. “I mean, we’re kind of the experts at this ghostbusting thing but we’re always open to new ideas.”

“I don’t mean to insult you blokes,” Constantine said. “But you’re doing it wrong.”

“You have a funny way of not insulting people,” Winston said.

“You said that before,” Egon said. “Enlighten me as to what that means.”

“Well, I’ve dealt with my own share of ghosts and demons but I don’t go blowing up buildings if I can help it,” Constantine said. “You’ve blown up at least two and that bloody statue.”

“This is the first time that we’ve met a competitor,” Egon said. “And you’re willing to compare notes? Are you using a similar proton stream?”

“What? Those glowy guns you lot used on the news?” Constantine asked. “God no, most of the time I solve the problem by conning them. When that fails, I use magic.”

“Magic?” Winston asked. “Really?”

“I would have dismissed such claims previously,” Egon said. “After Viggo, my mind has been opened somewhat. Still, I’ve yet to see a human being perform feats of magic.”

“I could show you,” Constantine said. “If you promise not to pull out your guns all willy nilly.”

The two Ghostbusters nodded and Egon gestured for Constantine to proceed. Constantine stood up to give himself room. He gestured.

“Exsurge, Sanctus! In nomine creatoris! Surge!” Constantine called out. There was a bright light and a brightly glowing ghost suddenly in the office.

Egon pulled out his PKE meter and scanned the ghost.

“That is definitely a ghost,” Egon said. “Impressive.”

“Where did he come from?” Winston asked.

“Thank you for not saying ‘it’,” Constantine said. “Instead of shooting first, why don’t we ask this poor bloke. Hey, who are you?”

“Albert Fleisher,” the ghost said. “I died in the subway below.”

“Well, Al,” Constantine said. “Would you like to move on?”

“Very much so,” Albert said.

Constantine gestured again. “In the name of the Creator, you are hereby commanded to leave this place. By the blood of Man, be not and be gone!,” Constantine called out. “Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine!”

The ghost faded away with a grateful look on his face.

“That’s the thing, gentlemen,” Constantine said. “There aren’t any good guys, and there aren’t any bad guys. There’s just us. people. Doing our best to get by. Most ghosts just want to move on.”

“Shit,” Winston said. “Would you be willing to consult with us?”

“Agreed,” Egon said. I would love to study your methods.”

“I think I can swing sticking around for a bit,” Constantine said with a smile.

Xinyan’s New Band – A Genshin Impact Story

April 28, 2022

Barbara focused her will on the charm in her hand and conjured up a wall of water. She took several deep breaths and focused on the rippling water. Bit by bit, the surface flattened and Barbara could see her reflection slowly form in the water. The magic of Hydro came so easily to her as it always had. What she saw made her blush a bit. Her costume was not her usual fare. These were definitely not the raiments of a deaconess for the Church of Favonius. They weren’t quite the clothes of an idol either. It was all spikes and sharp lines, different from her usual flowy cloth. She was also a bit overwhelmed by the thick makeup.

“I’m not sure about this new look, Xinyan,” Barbara said. “It’s not really my style.”

Xinyan had been tooling around with her guitar and looked up. “I think it looks great!” she said. “You’re definitely rocking it with that style.”

Barbara sighed. “I mean, thank you, but it’s really more your style than mine,” she said. “It feels like a lie.” She released her will and the water splashed down to the ground and started to soak into the Earth.

“I totally get it but if you’re going to be in the band, you have to have a little more showmanship,” Xinyan said. “We can’t have our lead singer dressed all churchy.”

Barbara had to laugh at that. “Churchy? I guess that describes my style but I do try to throw in a bit of idol style for flair,” she said. “You don’t see the nuns with the frills that I wear.”

“Gotta give it to you on that, you’re never boring Barb,” Xinyan said. “But that’s your everyday. When you’re in a band you have to wear show clothes.”

“You wear the same thing every day, Xinyan,” Barbara said pointedly. “So how does that work into your philosophy?”

Xinyan shrugged. “I’m always on,” she said. “My concerts can start anytime and anywhere.”

“Doesn’t it get tiring constantly running away from the authorities?” Barbara asked.

“The Millelith are totally too slow,” Xinyan said and laughed. “They’ll never catch me. They just don’t appreciate my music but the people do.”

“Maybe this band will change that,” Barbara said. “We could be big and, more importantly, legitimate.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Xinyan said. “I don’t want to lose my street cred, though.”

Barbara smiled. “You don’t have to be afraid, Xinyan,” she said. “This could be the start of something really good and if it doesn’t work then we can go back to what we were doing. If you don’t try then you don’t gain anything.”

“I’m not afraid of anything,” Xinyan said. “But I guess that makes sense. I do want to get my music out to more people.”

“Our music,” Barbara said, gently correcting. “Part of making music together is compromising. Give a little, take a little. Which brings me back to what I will and won’t be wearing.”

Xinyan laughed. “Alright, what are your thoughts?” she asked.

“Again, a compromise,” Barbara said. “I can design something a little flashier but less “churchy”. I’ll even show you sketches.”

“Alright, alright, it’s a deal,” Xinyan said. “I’m not going to make you do anything that you really don’t want to do. I’m just trying to push you out of your comfort zone a little bit.”

Barbara focused again and conjured water to wash the makeup from her face. She felt more like herself.

“What do you mean?” Barbara asked. “I’m comfortable.”

“Right now you are,” Xinyan said. “But everybody knows that you work too hard and play too little.”

Barbara raised an eyebrow. “Everybody?” she asked, a little embarrassment slipping into her voice. “Who is everybody?”

Xinyan realized her mistake. “We don’t all talk about you,” she said. “Some people have seen how you never get any rest. You and your sister Jean. You’re always helping people.”

“It’s a great honor to be of service,” Barbara said a little indignantly. “My family has always believed that.”

Xinyan sighed. “Don’t take offense, Barb,” she said. “We all want to help out as much as we can. As crazy as my life is, I still fight to protect Liyue and the people I care about. I’d fight for you too.”

Barbara blushed slightly. “I don’t doubt it,” she said. “You’re a good friend, Xinyan. You’re a good person.”

Xinyan grinned. “Thanks, not the point. The point is that too much of anything will run you ragged,” she said. “You have to stop working and cut loose now and then. Maybe I can teach you how to have fun.”

“I’d like that,” Barbara said. “And maybe I can teach you how to be a bit more serious.”

“I don’t know about that,” Xinyan said with a wicked grin. “But you’re definitely welcome to try.”

Venus and Jupiter – A Sailor Moon Story

April 26, 2022

Mina and Lita had driven up to University that morning for orientation and were busy unpacking in their dorm room. The two of them had decided to room together. It just made sense as they were the last to join their friend group. Of course, they were friends with all of the other scouts but it was clear that there was more history between Serena, Amy, and Rei. Besides, they got along famously.

“Maybe we should get a hot plate so that I can do a little cooking for us,” Lita said.

“But we have meal plans at the dining hall,” Mina said. “Isn’t that a bit of a waste?”

“It’s not the same as home cooking,” Lita said. “I wouldn’t cook all the time, just sometimes.” She sounded a little defensive and offended. She was proud of her cooking and did not want to be dismissed.

Mina did not have to look away from her unpacking to hear the tone in her friend’s voice. “Well, it might be a good idea,” Mina said. “I do like your cooking. Let’s check with the rules of the dorm, though.”

“True,” Lita said. “I wouldn’t want to get us in trouble.” She respected Mina’s adherence to the rules. Mina had been the most serious of the five friends but she had lightened up. Still, Lita wanted to keep her friend comfortable.

“Of course,” Mina said. “We’ll figure this out. Dorm life is different.”

She turned to look at Mina just as Mina pulled out a stylized red domino mask.

“No way,” Lita said. “You kept the mask? That’s so cool.” She walked over to get a closer look.

Mina smiled and held the mask in front of her face. “I could never get rid of it,” she said. “I’ll always remember my time as Sailor V. It’s a huge part of who I am.”

“Of course,” Lita said. “You were all we could talk about. You were the first of us in action. Do you ever miss it?”

Mina shrugged. “It was really exciting being a solo act before I knew about the rest of the scouts,” she said. “But I wouldn’t trade being part of the team for the world. I guess I miss London the most.”

“I’ve never been,” Lita said. “So I guess I’m kind of jealous.”

“It was kind of lonely,” Mina said. “At least, it was at first. I didn’t really know English and my parents were always working. Meeting Artemis and becoming Sailor V was the start of me coming out of my shell. I fought the Dark Kingdom and I eventually learned English in school and from Katarina.”

“The police officer, right?” Lita asked.

Mina nodded. “From Interpol,” she said. “Back before I learned that law enforcement isn’t really equipped to deal with the threats we’re up against.”

“Yeah,” Lita said. “They just get in the way.”

“Exactly,” Mina said. “Maybe one day the Scouts can take a trip to London and I can show you around.”

Lita nodded. “That would be great,” she said. “We’ll get Amara and Michelle to pay for it.”

“What?” Mina asked. “That’s a little presumptuous.”

“Their families are loaded,” Lita said. “We’d have to save up a long time to afford a trip to London.”

“I wouldn’t be opposed to them paying,” Mina said. “But I’m not about to suggest it.”

“Of course not,” Lita said. “I was just joking. Mostly. I like Michelle and Amara.”

Mina nodded. “How do you think it’s going with Serena and Amy?” she asked.

“Serena is probably making a mess unpacking,” Lita said. “Some things change but that girl is still a tornado.”

“And Amy is probably right there patiently helping her organize,” Mina said with a laugh. 

“Well, we’d all be a bit lost without Amy’s patience and organization skills,” Lita said. “Besides, if Serena and Rei had roomed together then they would be at each other’s throats already.”

“Sadly true,” Mina said.

“Do you think we’ll be alright?” Lita asked.

The question caught Mina off guard. “You and I?” She asked. “Of course. We’re going to be great roommates. I promise that I’ll always try to talk out any problems I have.”

“Oh, yeah me too,” Lita said. “But I actually meant the Sailor Scouts. We made it work in middle school and high school but this is college. Are we going to be able to fight evil and pass our classes?”

“Oh!,” Mina said and blushed slightly. “Good question. I think it’s going to be tough but we’ve been through a lot together. There’s no way we’ll quit.”

“Yeah,” Lita said. “Sailor Scouts never say die!”


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