Friday Flashfic: Careful

Again, with thanks to Tami for the prompt.

I lowered my head and charged straight at the lizard-man, hardening my skin as I went. When I collided with him my head and shoulders were solid metal, and he went flying.

My name’s Jake. I’ve got super powers.

The lizard-man didn’t seem too fazed by his fall, or by the fact that I’d already knocked out his buddy. He whipped his tail, flipping himself back upright and slashed down with wicked looking claws. They sparked as they glanced off my metal skin, but the force of the blow still bowled me over. I hit the parking lot pavement hard, and the lizard-man landed squarely on top of me.

I tried to shove him off me, but I didn’t have super strength, and a full-size lizard man totally outweighs one scrawny twelve-year-old, even one with super powers. But I had to defeat him. I had to prove that I was good enough to be a Super Ranger.

The lizard-man realized he wasn’t going to be able to injure me, not with my skin all slivered. But he could still make a clean getaway – he dashed off, away from the nearby shopping mall and toward the tree line. I tried to go after him but I’d had the wind knocked out of me – and superspeed isn’t one of my powers.

But before the lizard vanished into the trees, he was struck by a bolt of blue lighting. I whipped around, just in time to see a woman in a bright blue jumpsuit with black stripes jump down from the hood of a car. Tiny bolts of blue electricity crackled along her arms.

I pinched myself. Electra, here?? She was the leader of the Super Rangers team, and she’d won ExtraOrdinary Magazine’s Superhero of the Year award for three years running. She was amazing.

Electra glanced around the parking lot, noting the unconscious lizard-man by the shopping cart return. “Not bad, kiddo.”

I flushed bright red, though Electra wouldn’t be able to see it under my mask. I hoped. “Do you really – uh, I mean, thanks!”

“Will I see you at the tryouts next month?”

“Definitely,” I said, with a confidence I didn’t feel. I’d have to come up with some excuse for my parents – an overnight field trip, maybe, or a fake sleepover if I could convince Cyrus to help me out.

“Good.”

The Super Rangers were the top superhero team in the country, and they only took the best of the best as members and apprentices. They had tryouts once a year. If Electra thought I was ready for tryouts…

I tried to remember to breathe.

“Um, do you think –“ I was interrupted by my watch beeping. Damn, damn, double-dog damn. “Sorry, gotta go, late for something,” I gasped out, turning and running for the mall entrance. I could change in one of the bathrooms and go out the back door, where my bike was leaned up against the wall.

“Wait!” Electra called after me, but I ignored her.

Mom was just coming up from the basement, a basket of laundry balanced on her hip, when I crashed through the front door.

“You’re cutting it close,” she said, one eyebrow raised.

“I know, I know, sorry.” I kicked off my sneakers into the pile of shoes by the door. I didn’t see Ellie’s flats yet – I’d gotten here before my tutor. You’d think saving the world would get me a break on algebra, but I was too scared to tell my parents about my, uh, new extracurricular activity. I could just imagine them freaking out about it being dangerous and grounding me forever, and then I’d never get to be a Super Ranger.

“There’s yogurt in the fridge, and a new jar of peanut butter in the cabinet. Make yourself a good snack – you have to keep your strength up if you’re going to be ready for the Super Ranger tryouts.”

“Uh huh,” I said, shuffling toward the fridge. “Wait, what?” I realized what she’d said and dashed back into the hallway.

“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she was in the dark. Please don’t ground me.

Mom grinned, and pulled up her sleeve to reveal a formfitting jumpsuit: electric blue with a black stripe down the side.

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Friday Flashfic: Winter

Thanks to Tami for the prompt.

The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with it the snows that turned the mountainside, difficult to traverse even in high summer, into a prison as inescapable as any king’s dungeon.

If I was leaving, it would have to be tonight.

That was the last push I needed to step out of the doorway and onto the path, drawing my cloak tighter against the wind as I did so. My pack was a solid weight on my back: such food as I had managed to squirrel away without Father noticing; a spare set of boy’s cloths that my brother had outgrown; Mother’s books. Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: The Contest

While working on the WiP, I had my protagonist, Kel, say something of a throwaway line: “I can make anything into a competition”. But then I got to thinking about how it might actually be true…so here’s a little backstory episode from Kel’s youth (I imagine her to be around 12 or 13 here).

Kelisin slowed the movements of her needle and glanced up under her lashes. The library had fallen into silence, but it was not the companionable silence of siblings passing the cold winter hours indoors together. It was instead the sullen silence of four children forced into activities they loathed.

Mother and Father were both away, visiting one of the coastal towns, which had been devastated by a bad storm. Considering that it was past  Longnight and well into the coldest weeks of winter, most of the courtiers had gone home to be snowed in with their families.

That left Kel and her siblings in the care of –joy of joys — the lady Ainsley. Who had some unfortunate ideas regarding the appropriate occupation of one’s time. So Kel was embroidering, Athan and Leslin were reading, and Petar was doing sums set by his tutor. The lady Ainsley herself was writing letters. And as she was a firm believer in “quiet reflection”, none of them were allowed to speak. The only sound was the scratching of pens.

As Kel stared, Petar looked up from his parchment, meeting her gaze. Slowly, his eyes drifted toward each other, until they crossed entirely. Kel snorted, trying to hold back a laugh.

“Children,” said Ainsley warningly. Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: Donuts

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all students are food-motivated. Even when they’re studying alchemy.


“So if I titrate this solution with the asp venom, it should turn bright blue,” Margeaux finished.

Emmeline raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Or you could blow up the lab like you did last time.”

“…Or I could blow up the lab like last time. I admit, it’s a possibility.” Margeaux adjusted her goggles on her nose. “But I figure I’m due. I was getting used to having eyebrows.”

“At least she’s doing it in the fume hood this time,” Jasper put in. The hood was both specially ventilated to carry away dangerous chemical vapors and heavily warded to contain ‘happy accidents’.

“Okay,” said Margeaux. “Enough criticism, please. I’ll have you know I was in the alchemy library for a week reading up on this spell and the literature is quite definitive. So I’m doing it now.”

“All right,” said Jasper.

“And I’m going to get it right this time.”

“All right.” Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: Crow-Maiden

I saw a crow on my way to breakfast this morning. He hopped along beside me, brazen as you please, and cocked his head to regard me with one beady eye.

“Good morning,” I said, because I was raised to be polite.

By the time I left the hall a friend had come to join him, and they were preening each other up in the tree. When they saw me they flew down, and I tossed them the leftover pieces of my bread crust.

Three crows perched on the windowsill of the library as I pored over my books; four winged overhead as I walked back over the bridge toward College. I didn’t think much of it; in a place like this, the ancient stones hold ghostly memories of times past. Walking through the narrow streets steeped in history, magic doesn’t seem so far out of reach.

Five crows sat on the fence of the field and teased the cows. Six mobbed a hawk circling overhead. Seven sat in the trees that lined the footpath and called out in hoarse voices. Eight flew from traffic light to traffic light as I passed through the center of the city. Nine hopped along the cobble stones, a demented parade.

By now we were certainly drawing notice, but the stares didn’t bother me. I had no attention to spare. I could feel something stirring deep within me.

Ten crows browsed through the grass, and eleven chased off the college cat, poor thing. I dropped my things off in my room and went back outside. As the sun set, twelve crows stood in a circle on the grass, leaving one space empty.

Thirteen is a powerful number isn’t it? Thirteen is the sunset over the stones that have been standing since before your birth. It’s the cry in the dark, the locked door, the feeling of being watched. It’s the secrets that old books whisper to each other as they sit dusty on their shelves.

Thirteen is the feeling of feathers sprouting beneath my skin.

Friday Flashifc: The Lady Luck

Miranda slammed her hand down on the counter, startling the salesman awake.

“Huh? Whaddayouwant?”

She lifted two fingers, letting the blue glow of her credit chip peek out from underneath her hand. “I want to buy a ship.”

The man’s sleepy scowl melted into a smile. “Absolutely, Miz…”

“Captain.”

“Captain! Of course. Yer here for a ship after all. If you’ll follow me?” He came around the counter and led Miranda to the back door. “You came to the right place. Seeley’s Spacers has the best used ships this side of the Hub.”

Miranda snorted. Seeley’s was barely more than a junk lot. Bantam might be the biggest city on Martingale’s World, but Martingale’s World was in the ass-end of nowhere, as far as the rest of the Solarian Empire was concerned. Most of the junkers rusting in the yard were barely worth their weight in scrap. No one came to Seeley’s unless they couldn’t afford better.

Miranda could afford better.

Not much better, in truth. She’d hoarded credit for years to afford her own ship. But she could have gone to a used lot on any Empire world and gotten something decent. She didn’t have to come all the way back to the planet she’d grown up dreaming of escaping.

No, Miranda thought. I did.
Continue reading

Friday Flashfic: A Coin for the Ferryman

I stood on the riverbank and fought to keep my eyes open against its susurrus of a lullaby. Were I to close my eyes, relinquish myself to the Giver of Dreams, I would be easy prey for any of the creatures that prowled the banks of the Lethe. Or I might even sleepwalk into its embrace and lie down in the water. To be honest, the second possibility scared me more — devouring would hurt, but it would end, and I would find myself back on the riverbank, albeit in a less-than-corporeal form.

The Waters of Oblivion would wash away all that I was, until I was but another eddy.

Through the mists that swirled over the waters I could make out a dark shape approaching. That would be the Ferryman, come to bear me across. The pale outlines of people that drifted along the empty plain started to gather, drawn toward him like moths toward a flame. I stayed back, keeping my distance from the specters. If I drew to close they’d scatter. They knew what I was.

The ferry fetched up agains the bank, blackened timbers in sharp relief against the bleached white-gray of the land we stood on. The lost souls pushed against each other in their haste to board. The Ferryman looked up from under his cloak. A grinning skull stared out from beneath the folds. I suppressed my laugh. Did he imagine such a form would frighten me? Me, who had made my life’s work the study of Death?

“Back again, Necromancer?” Continue reading