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One Leap Year of Instants (2016)

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Other works by this author:

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p<{color:#000;}. Nor Gloom of Night

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p<{color:#000;}. Good Boy

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p<{color:#000;}. Blowing Bubbles

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p<{color:#000;}. Scavenger

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p<{color:#000;}. It Happened One Wednesday

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p<{color:#000;}. Hevun’s Rebel

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p<{color:#000;}. Hevun’s Ambassador

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p<{color:#000;}. Hevun’s Gate

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p<{color:#000;}. One Year of Instants

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p<{color:#000;}. Interview Inside a Terrarium

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p<{color:#000;}. The Amity Incident

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p<{color:#000;}. One Leap year of Instants

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p<{color:#000;}. Better

All these titles available at Shakespir.

Amazon exclusive novella: Free Baby.

[]Challenge #001: The Company Kept

[_ http://callmegallifreya.tumblr.com/post/136636127295/mikkeneko-torn-by-dreams-thewintergrump_]

[AN: This story comes as a sequel to this one]

He didn’t get it. And nobody could understand his side of it either. Derek was not confused or mislead. He knew what his heart wanted, more than anything else in the world. And that was Allethar.

From their increasingly brief times together, he could tell that Allethar’s parents had similarly antiquated attitudes. There was talk from both the human and the dragon families about setting up a more… conventional mate.

When talk came to introductions, Derek ran away from his home. He didn’t steal anything beyond that which was allegedly his. Which included a hundred head of cattle, a rather lot of gold and jewels, and his clothing and armour.

Not that he planned to be in clothing or armour for very long around Allethar.

It made quite the train and it was a miracle that he got it all out of the keep without alerting his father. Certainly, it paid to know where the sympathetic guards had their duties. It also helped that he was well away from anywhere he was known on sight. By the time dawn rolled around, he could simply say ‘yes’ to any assumption anyone made of him.

And in a few days, after that, he was at Allethar’s mountain, with his beloved Dragon descending to meet him. “Derek, what the hell?” said Allethar in a desperate whisper. “You weren’t at our regular abduction place. I was worried sick.”

“Sorry, but I had to run away. My parents set up an arranged marriage to straighten me out.” Derek nodded to the herd strung out behind him. “So I packed all my stuff and left.”

“That,” admitted Allethar, “sounds like a fantastic idea.”

Derek paid for a boat to hold the cattle, and for Allethar to carry far, far away from their mutual homes. To an island that nobody was using. It had a volcano for Allethar, and grass enough for Derek’s herds and future fields. They could build a lair together. And be happy.

It took ten years for their families to find them. By that time there were baby weredragons in the mix1. Which stunned both dragons and humans into coming up with a kind of truce.

Derek didn’t mind, since it boiled down to ‘everyone leaves everyone alone to do what they want as long as nobody gets hurt’. The dragons had to pay for cattle they wanted to eat. The humans had to stop hunting dragons and trade for any hoard they wanted. Royal company by prior arrangement.

It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start.

[1] Love and magic together can do some amazing things

[]Challenge #002: Sample Curse

Oh! It’s easy to get Feegles out of a pub. You just have to know how.”

“And how, pray tell,” said the beleaguered barman, “does one get Feegles out of a pub?”

Tiffany Aching cleared her throat and climbed up to stand on the bar. “Some schemie at the standin’ stones is lookin’ fer a tussle!”

The barman joined her on her perch as the Feegles stampeded out of the bar and towards the standing stones. The very distant standing stones.

Tiffany climbed back down. “They’ll have a fight, all right. Mostly with each other. And by then you’ll have closed up while you have the chance.”

“All right,” said the barman, currently glad just to have them gone. “How do I keep them out?”

Tiffany handed over a small card with a sigil on it. “They’re not great at reading, but if they see this mark, they know I’ll be angry if your property goes missing.”

“I’ll make sure to put it near floor height, mistress.”

“Good.” Tiffany nodded. “And in return, I expect you to keep away from gambling and strong drink in combination, Habeus Carter. If I have to see to your wife’s bruises or your kiddies’ broken arms again, there will be a reckoning.”

The barman went white. “Yes’m.”

And he knew something of what a reckoning would look like. Those little blue men were just a glimpse of the terrible curses a witch could visit on a man.

[] Challenge #003: One Almost Humorous Afternoon in a Discworld Pub

Scumble. from the Wonderful World of Sir Terry Prachett.

[AN: I suspect this is you, Knitnan]

“It’s made from apples,” said the grinning local.

“Mostly apples,” amended the barman.

The visitor from another dimension picked it up. “I like apple juice,” said the brass machine, and downed the thimble-full1 in a trice. The steam-powered machine smacked its lips for a few seconds. “Kinda fizzy,” he said. “Is it supposed to taste rotten?”

“Er,” said one of the formerly-guffawing locals. “We don’t drink it for the taste…”

Some of the people in the bar began to creep under their tables. They knew how this went and any minute now…

The machine made to look like a man belched a great gout of fire.

“Oh cool, I have a flamethrower now! Wait ’till Rabbit sees this!” It did not help that his every word was punctuated with flames.

It really didn’t help that the fancy, colourful liquors behind the bar spontaneously ignited.

In a way, some visitors to Kazooland had been right. The Jon did get along with the Discworld like a house on fire. Flames, screaming, and people running for safety included.

[1] A wooden thimble. On account of what it does to metal.

[]Challenge #004: Simon Says…

Getting involved romantically with someone who has psychic powers can be… tricky.

You never know when her saying “I love you” just might become “You love me”. – Anon Guest

[AN: Why is it always a ‘her’ in these scenarios? You should watch Jessica Jones, Anon.]

“Come on,” he said. “You know you love me.” And just like that, all the rising bile at the situation… vanished. It evaporated like smoke. And in its place was nothing but love.

“Of course I love you,” she said. The ‘but’ that would have next risen from her lips stopped on her tongue and choked off access for all further words.

“Good,” he smiled. “Now let’s forget about that silly argument and do something fun.”

What argument? Had she been mad about something? It was so hard to remember anything but loving him. “What kind of fun?” she said.

He smiled like a shark. “The best kind,” he said. “The expensive kind.”

He would get everything he wanted, of course, and he would have fun. He would have fun despite the little voice inside her that was screaming about everything being wrong. He would even have fun with the part of her that tried and failed to resist him.

It was the very life that Killgrave had become used to.

Jessica followed in his wake. Obedient, but struggling not to be. She loved him. But it was nothing like a real love. And the part of her that was struggling was getting stronger.

One day, maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow… but one day… he would regret picking her as a victim.

[]Challenge #005: Curse? What Curse?

[_ http://bonehandledknife.tumblr.com/post/133846067890/wewerenotthefirst-dude-what-if-a-prince-is_]

Have fun!

[AN: Adult content warning: the link inside that post leads you to an article about some very interesting toys]

Camilla had wanted to undo the curse straight away, of course. She had never meant to turn her fiancée into a dragon in the first place. She should have known something was dodgy about that newt’s eye extract.

And yet… Frederik was taking his transformation so well. He loved to fly, and Camilla had to admit that the journey to retrieve ingredients for a cure and the bargaining when she got there was a great deal easier with a Dragon in her company.

He was so happy with his new form.

It was when he found the castle that things… escalated.

“It’s perfect. Look at it. Craggy crenulations, A really tall tower… and lots of land around for cattle and farms and stuff. It’s a perfect lair!” Frederik landed in the courtyard and let her off. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Darling,” soothed Camilla, “I’m certain you love it, but… I should be working on curing the curse before the turn of the moon.”

“But I’m a dragon, beloved. I love being a dragon. We have most of the ingredients, anyway. Tell you what. We finish your shopping, and we can spend a week up here, playing Damsel in Distress and then… well… if you’re not into it, I’ll go back to being a human for you.”

Camilla sighed. “Fine. But I insist on brewing the potion during the week’s… holiday.”

The bargain was struck. And the last ingredients were almost stupidly easy to get with a Dragon to help fetch them.

And, as it turned out, Frederik had been arranging some other things as well. While she slept, he crept off and arranged for craftsmen to fix up the ruined castle so that, while it looked ruined, it was a great deal sounder and safer than it had been originally. He hired farmers and cooks and all kinds of staff to make certain the stay there would be comfortable for them both.

Including a love nook in the stables. Made for a dragon and his princess.

The week away turned into a pre-nuptual holiday, with plenty of pleasurable cavorting in the stables. And then their holiday home became their real one, with a wedding to cement the deal.

She and Frederik had no need of the cure. And no want of it, either.

[]Challenge #006: That Which is Lost

They were at least the person’s equal now, and with a three-nil record in killing them. If only they’d stop coming back, more insane each time, so they wouldn’t have to do it again. They had admired them, once.

[AN: Oooooh, nice. First totally gender-neutral prompt EVER. Well done]

Before the fall…

Chara was the friend only Frisk could see. The year that Frisk stopped talking, Chara could hear their thoughts. Chara couldn’t eat or drink, or make messes. They said that was because they were dead.

Chara was the only other ‘they’ that Frisk had met. Everyone wanted Frisk to be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, but they felt that was wrong. Picking one or the other meant that they had to do certain things. Being a ‘he’ meant getting beaten up for making daisy chains or playing with the dandelions. Being a ‘she’ meant getting into trouble for climbing trees or splashing in puddles.

And being a ‘they’… meant time alone from all the others because they didn’t understand. It meant being in the meadow of golden flowers, all alone, and watching the clouds go by. It meant hearing a voice when Frisk plucked a flower.

My oldest friend is a flower like that, it said. It said it without sound, but Frisk heard it anyway.

Someone had stolen Frisk’s communication cards, so they had to use signs. Frisk went slowly. You… friend?

There was something wrong with their smile. Frisk remembered that. But, not having seen very many smiles in their life, Frisk couldn’t pin down exactly what was wrong.

I’ll be your friend, said the phantom. A child who looked almost exactly like Frisk. With rosy cheeks and a pale complexion. My name’s Chara.

And friendless Frisk found someone who would not leave them. Who could not hurt them. Who encouraged Frisk to remain determined.

Underground…

Frisk stared at the eyeball. The eyeball stared back.

That’s just a Loox. Don’t pick on them and you’re fine. Did you know they’re all from the same family? Guess what? It’s Eyewalker. Like in that movie with the space men.

Chara loved that movie for the explosions. Chara loved encouraging Frisk to fight, always the first thing they did.

Frisk didn’t want to kill anyone. So they opened their arms and lowered the stick.

No! Make a mess! Kill it! It’s kill or be killed, remember?

But it worked, and Loox didn’t want to fight.

Frisk was starting to like the underground. Chara was hating it. Hating it to the point of wanting to make it an empty hell of broken wishes. But Chara was wrong. The underground was full of the love and kindness that Frisk had craved all their life.

After the Barrier is Broken…

It had taken Frisk a week to notice that Chara was gone. They knew better than to mention it to their new mother, Toriel. After Frisk had found out about Chara and Asriel… mentioning anything like that would break her heart.

So Frisk told everyone they were going for a walk. Crept through the eerily silent and empty Underground until they heard voices. Two voices. Flowey and Chara.

Of course it’s not fair. They left you. They hurt you. They forced you to stay like this when you could have died…

“I want to kill the next human who falls down here,” growled flowey. “Their soul will be delicious.”

We used to be friends, thought Frisk. I used to love you.

And Chara could always hear what Frisk was thinking.

Both spirit and flower turned. “Well, well,” they said in unison. “Look who came back.”

Frisk signed, I came looking for Chara. I want to make sure they’re all right.

All right? I’ll be all right when the world is dead! DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!

Frisk signed, You both know that you can’t kill me, they opened their arms, showing that they carried no weapon. You are meant to move along.

And where would I go? What would I do? It’s no fun in the void, with the shadow man. There’s no death, there.

Frisk sighed. This time, one among many, they would choose the right words. They had had to kill Chara over and over and over again. Somewhere, there had to be the right thing to say. Frisk could not allow them to merge with Flowey, ever again. That one piece of fractured time had been the worst. Two monsters did not make an angel.

Go beyond the void, Frisk signed. Take Flowey with you. You have the power.

Is there death there? said Chara. Is there suffering?

The truth, but a hurtful one. Yes. Lots of it.

For a moment, the hateful flower was just a flower, but its eyes blinked back in and the mouth formed anew.

“Thanks a bunch,” snarled Flowey. “You just convinced my only friend to go to Hell.”

I’ll visit, signed Frisk. I’ll be your friend.

“You know I’m a monster…”

Frisk nodded. They had befriended many other monsters before. This one would just take longer.

[]Challenge #007: Special Education

Person #1: Why don’t I ever see you stopping by to talk to your niece?

Person #2: Her parent says I’m a bad influence. I still say C4 is an acceptable substitute for playdoh – the store was out! It’s not like I gave her any detonators – it was perfectly safe!

Lots of kids had Best Relatives. And for Mary, her best relative was Aunty Phyllis. Aunty Phyllis had the catchphrase, “Some people just overreact about things.” Usually in relation to Mary’s Mom preventing Mary from talking to Aunty Phyllis.

Aunty Phyllis used to be a demo expert in the army. She blew up buildings for a living. She had a shed with all kinds of cool electronic stuff and a locked refrigerator with the explosives in it.

And on very special weekends, when Mom couldn’t find anyone else willing to mind Mary, Aunty Phyllis would take Mary to the bomb range and make things vanish. With a loud boom and a lot of smoke. And sometimes, with the whistles and pops of fireworks. Aunty Phyllis let her practice making bombs with actual play-dough instead of the explosive. Taught Mary all about circuits and fuses and all the things that Mom thought were unladylike.

Which was why, when kidnappers took Mary, a twelve-year-old girl was able to make life exceedingly difficult for them. First, by escaping into the greater part of the building, and then by rigging all kinds of booby traps that involved ordinary household chemicals. And pieces of random technology left lying around. And, she had to admit, some of the copper wiring inside the walls.

Mary was able to walk free of the hideout and stroll to the nearest bodega, where the friendly lady behind the counter helped Mary call the police to tell them where the dead and the wounded were. When the police came, Mary was able to tell them about her adventure, care of Aunty Phyllis’ extraordinary educational standards.

Her other catchphrase was, “Any girl who doesn’t know how to escape handcuffs or zip ties isn’t paying attention.”

Mom was a lot warmer about Aunty Phyllis after that.

[]Challenge #008: Smart Way to Die

Never teleport your brain out of your own skull without a backup plan. No good will ever come of it.” – Anon Guest

The last thing he smelled was ozone. Then there was an alarming darkness. There was no pain, any more. The eyes came online, first, showing him a fine view of his own dead body. Right now, the skull cavity would be filling up with blood as his heart went through its last, spasmodic beats. And as his blood pressure evened out within the sealed vessel of his vacated skull.

Next, sound. The buzzing of his new, artificial body as servos warmed up. It was annoying, but his brain would learn to discount it. Right now, a multiplex of artificial means was kicking in to keep his brain alive. Chemically-made blood swooshed around an artificial heart, through a system that mimicked lungs, and added nutrients to keep his brain satisfied with the state of things.

He rolled forwards on all-terrain, full-motion wheels. Carefully disconnected his new body from its place in the array of machinery. Picked up the phone from where he’d left it on the desk and carefully dialled up his assistant.

“Monty,” he said with his new voice. “The experiment was successful. I am free of my flesh prison. You may announce that mankind has begun its ascension towards technological immortality. I am become the first Transhuman being.”

Monty… did not react well.

Instead of arriving to congratulate him, Monty called the police, who treated the body death as a murder. Then as a suicide.

And when he tried, so patiently, to tell them that he had transported his own brain into the machinery before them… they wanted to treat it as a murder again. They thought that the machine had killed him. Impossible. It wouldn’t work without a human brain.

He tried to tell them as much. Tried to show them the things that would make it clear. But they did not understand. They thought he was a malfunctioning machine. He argued his case. Passed the Turing test again and again. Warred verbally with anyone who crossed his path.

Right up until they disarmed him like a bomb.

The machine that kept his brain alive shut down. And then he did, too.

[] Challenge #009: Once More, Into the Brig…

It’s a thrilling tale of a dried apricot, four bags of flour, and a torch.”

Ax’and’l blinked very slowly. It was telling that he was getting used to these levels of crap. And if he let on, he knew that Hwell would only invent new and more interesting levels of crap.

“Save it for getting free drinks at the bars, and even then, I’m letting it known about your capacity limit.” He sighed and turned to the Security Guard. “What’s the cost-benefit analysis of this encounter?”

The Security staff seemed mildly alarmed. “This sort of thing is a regular occurrence?”

“I’ve tried to reduce his imbibings, but the man has ways of finding the local still and obtaining his excess, regardless.” Ax’and’l glared at his human companion and vented his lingering irritation in a high-pitched whistle that he knew made Hwell’s hangovers worse.

“Have you tried–”

“Everything. He has a knack for escaping it all.”

“I just want to have a little fun, is all,” complained Hwell. “What’s the matter with a little fun?”

“The trail of wreckage by which I and others can track you,” complained Ax’and’l.

[] Challenge #010: Strange Things are Happening (1)

1. The mysterious case of the sock in the night-time

2. “And that’s why I’m not allowed in the garage unsupervised anymore” – Anon Guest

Papyrus was happy. He was now part of the royal guard. Even though his duties consisted mostly of watching over New New Home (King Asgore was still terrible with names) and preventing humans from causing trouble, he took his duties seriously.

“HALT! WHO GOES THERE?”

The tiny figure in the darkness wriggled like a worm and said, “…’alt! ’Oo gosdere?”

Papyrus shone his light on the movement, and found a sort of… greenish sock with a face. “Are you lost?” he asked.

“…yoolost?” said the sock.

“Never fear, little monster… for I, the Great Papyrus, will see you to a safe haven in next to no time at all!” He bent to offer his hand as a ride. “Come! I can carry you there.”

This seemed to excite the sock monster. It jumped around in a great frenzy, shouting, “Ne feer! Li’l! Great Pap’rus! Seesafe! Nexno! Comcar! Yoothere!” But it eventually landed on his hand and finished with a socky grin.

It was a short, and evidently funny trip to the home he shared with his brother, Sans. Every time Papyrus uttered his trademark, “NYEH HEH HEH,” the sock monster would join in.

Sans was up. For limited definitions of up. His sockets were still half-closed and he hadn’t bothered to put his slippers on over his socks. “Why’d you make so much noise for?” he asked. “You know I’m… bone tired.”

Papyrus rolled his eye sockets. “Ah, brother! You’re the best person I know for the job! This little sock monster is lost and needs a place to stay for the night. And since you have a sock collection, you should know the most about socks out of anyone I know.”

The monster in his hand said, “…make noise? Best p’rsun asok! Lost asok! Hav asok! No most any’wun…”

Sans stared at the sock. The sock stared back. “This has to be the third-weirdest thing I’ve been through,” he mumbled.

[] Challenge #011: Strange Things are Happening(2)

1. The mysterious case of the sock in the night-time

2. “And that’s why I’m not allowed in the garage unsupervised anymore” – Anon Guest

Sans was three. His father, the royal scientist, had been trying very hard to contain his powers. Without much in the way of success. He giggled as he lifted himself out of the playpen again.

Gaster, now wise to what the giggling meant, turned and caught his son out of mid-air. Hugged Sans close. “Now, now, baby bones,” he cooed. “Don’t go waking up your mama. She needs her rest.” He sighed. “We all need some rest. And you’re not meant to have your powers until your teens…”

Sans, not understanding much at all, muttered, “Dada…”

The pan-dimensional siphon stood waiting in a corner. According to all his calculations, it should safely bleed off Sans’ abilities until he was old enough to handle them responsibly.

What he was about to do was for the greater good. Nobody knew about his secret lab in the garage. Nobody knew about this machine, for certain. And with the best of luck, nobody would.

Only a scientist would think of placing their firstborn in an untested machine. It was one of the arguments that sundered Gaster’s family. This was, much to his regret, the edge of the wedge that began his personal ruin.

The sight of his wife’s face when she saw Sans, still crying, in the middle of the complicated machinery… it almost broke him. Almost. It certainly turned his marriage very cold. She demanded that the garage be shut and locked and the key surrendered to her custody. She took Sans to doctor after doctor to be certain that Sans was not harmed.

And despite the repeated diagnosis of a perfectly normal baby skeleton… Gaster had to sleep in his lab, thereafter.

[] Challenge #012: One Fine Afternoon in the Vicinity of a Library

Pooka or Pookas, turn it or them loose. Have fun!

The man was having a pleasant conversation with what looked to be a chair of thin air. Which immediately caught Shayde’s interest.

“You stay away from that man, demon,” warned Riflgast. “He has an affliction of the humours and is seeing things.”

“Nope,” said Shayde. As if she could see what the fellow was talking to. “He’s got a case of th’ Pookas, ye ken.”

Riflgast almost fell off his horse. He managed to turn it into a slightly graceful dismount. “What?”

“The man’s fine. It’s just he’s got himself a Pooka.”

Riflgast grumbled and warded the demon against causing harm whilst he was in the library. While he was in there, he looked up the Enlarged Bestiary and found what he was looking for under P.

Púca (pooka) – from Celtic mythology. A fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature. Very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Riflgast the Sable?

He left his research and stormed out of the library to confront the demon. “How the hell did you break my wards and pull that stunt?”

“I’ve done no such thing, excuse you. Check ’em yerself.”

He did. They were pristine. “Then how did my name appear in a hundred-year-old bestiary?”

Shayde giggled. “Ah, they love pullin’ that one. Ye look again, and it’ll be gone.”

He did. It was. In its place was, You know she’s right.

[] Challenge #013: Fear of the Gifted Child

[_ http://thefingerfuckingfemalefury.tumblr.com/post/129483030883/ayellowbirds-sorceringing-the-vegan-muser_]

There were skeleton spiders in the lab. No, not the exoskeletons, which novices animated for practice, but actual spiders made of bones.

That one had a rib cage for an abdomen.

“Clerita… what the flying hell?”

Clerita, the problem child, the one who was always so far ahead of everyone that she seemed like she was behind, looked up from her current project. A bird with bony pinions. “Uhm,” she said.

Why?” demanded Pendrigast.

“Uh. I was bored? I had a lot of necrowire1? Um. And there were all these spare parts.”

“How did you get that much necrowire?”

“I was sort of fooling around? Andum… you know how you always have me making necrowire?” A thankless and boring task that took up a lot of time. “Well… I kind of improved on the process. I only started using it after I filled the reels.”

Pendrigast looked. Reels that were usually half-full at best were straining to contain spool after spool of necrowire. An absolute fortune, according to the recently-outmoded standards. Spools that had not been full since the Old Times now creaked softly under their burden.

Clerita’s latest creation cawed and took wing. Of course she’d make it so that it flew. “Am I in trouble?”

Pendrigast sighed. “Only in regards to your anatomy finals…”

[1] You always see these animated skeletons but nobody asks how they don’t fall apart.

[]Challenge #014: To be Good Parents

Speaking of created peoples – whether biology or technology-based – and whether they can be trusted/will rebel/will have morals/all the standard concerns:

If we do our jobs right, our children are better people than we are.”

The station officials had cleared out a medbay for the anxious parents. A standard Medik and a Wave of the Future Medtech stood by. Patient and implacable.

It was one thing to be first-time parents. It was an entirely different level of anxiety to be the first parents of your entire species. Rael found himself shivering as he approached the otherwise innocuous stasis box with the Wave of the Future logo prominently on it.

That box contained an unaltered, un-accelerated, untrained, infant Faiize. The first one released from the vast bank of Wave of the Future’s economic hostages. Kept apart from real time by technology. Essentially frozen and waiting for its new keepers.

Shayde – currently adhered to the observation window in a mixture of excitement and anxiety – had suggested that Rael and his unexpected partially upset co-parent, Kint, name the child Mull. And subsequently dropped what she thought was a pun1.

There were names coming from all angles. Including the one that the production computer had slammed into the paperwork. Gyurh. As if any sensible parent would agree to such a horrendous collection of letters as a name.

Rael watched in mute horror as Kint, the assigned primary parental, revised the name on the paperwork to read Mul. It was only afterwards that he could pull Kint aside to murmur, “Are you sure about that? It’s a human joke…”

“It’s still a good name,” whispered Kint. “It means, ‘careful consideration of all variables’. I looked it up.”

Rael wasn’t sure of anything. Kint had been made to withstand even more than Ayg, the first and perfect test specimen. Proof of concept and metaphorical poster child for the species. Rael was a proof of tolerances. Not the best his makers could do, and deliberately so.

And this thing held significant portions of both his and Kint’s DNA. Essentially, and for all intents and purposes, their child.

Shayde, of course, opined that it wasn’t fair. She thought getting a baby should involve some pleasingly organic way of making it. But Wave of the Future had yet to release those details. At least she was wholly willing to be a co-nurturer.

Rael put one hand on a release latch. Kint had his hand on the other.

Their free hands met.

“It’s going to be all right,” Kint soothed. “We can’t do much worse than our makers.”

“A very low bar to pass,” Rael muttered. “Let’s get this over with.”

There should have been tears. Screaming. Some Herculean effort. Some… striving… but the locks were easy to un-latch and the infant within merely shuddered as a sign of life.

I don’t even know how to hold hir… All the interface designs that meant an ease of all physical interaction had not been taught to this infant. Ze could not even comprehend the most basic of commands.

Kint let his hand liquefy and brushed his substance against Mul’s surface. They did not join, but Mul rippled and cooed. And emerged from the box in a cup of Kint’s own flesh.

Rael had to use a soft warming pouch, handed over by a medic. “You will not know our pain,” he promised. “We will raise you in love. Gently. And let you learn and grow at your own speed.”

If the baby showed any sign of understanding, it was too subtle to see. Besides, his eyes were misting up.

There were tears, after all. Happy tears.

[1] Because nobody had heard of Mull of Kint’s Ire.

[]Challenge #015: Performance Piece

A scrap of data is recovered. Death’s Belief Speech, from Hogfather. Doesn’t matter if it’s the book or the movie.

For those who haven’t read it, a clip from the movie is here.

Not as anything unique to humanity, but rather as a comment on Sophonts as a whole, from a human who would have very much liked to meet the rest of the universe.

[AN: I would also love to meet the rest of the universe, but I have terribly slim chances. Hell, it took a minor miracle for me to be able to see SPG]

Thanks to the Vault, the Galactic Alliance had rediscovered Terry Pratchett. It was one of the things Shayde had missed out on because the covers in the book stores were a little weird. She should have embraced the weirdness, it seemed. The man had some very interesting things to say.

“So we can believe the big ones?” said the actress playing Susan StoHelit.

“YES,” said the hologram of Death. “JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.”

“They’re not the same at all!”

“YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—” Death waved a hand. “AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.”

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

“MY POINT EXACTLY.” The giant skeleton nodded.

And in a way, those things were lies. Lies people told themselves to get through the day. But they were lies made truth through superior effort of will. Cogniscent life made them real. Established systems by which justice, mercy, and duty were manufactured.

We might not have control over all things, thought Shayde, but we make things that should not exist. That had to be a power. Some kind of magic inherent in all thinking beings.

[] Challenge #016: One Victorious Afternoon in a Battlefield

One of these days I wanna see a stereotypical-female-armor-design boobplate-clad character remove their helmet, and reveal they’re a man.

Uh… well, Mom was a soldier, and since Sis was too young to fight, I got her hand-me-downs.” – Anon Guest

The battle raged on, but it was clear that it was almost coming to a close. So far, one warrior left a swathe of ruined bodies behind her. People knew her by her armour. Delenna the Double Dangerous. Famous in story and song for her mighty -ah- mammaries. Certainly, she was a warrior of note, but the chest plating had to be taken out to accommodate her… chest… and still allow her room to breathe.

The enemy orcs turned and fled, leaving the standing army to lower their swords and take a breath.

Delenna staggered towards the tents, handing off her sword to an anxious page… and then her helmet to reveal that she was not, in fact, Delenna.

He was her son.

One of the healer mages happened to have the distinct lack of tact to say, “Man, you wear the armour of a woman…”

“Aye…” he panted. “Plate armour costs more than a pretty penny. Mama… you knew her as Delenna the Double Dangerous… She let me have hers. I was of a size in all places but one.” He gestured at the ample chestplate.

“Can not thy sister fight in that suit?”

“Nay, she can not.” He quaffed a cooling beverage, and did so badly, since most of it went down his throat. “My sister is but ten, for all that she shows promise. I must first pay for mine own armour ere I pass this mighty suit on to her.” At last, he sagged into a waiting bench. “And Mama would not let me go out into battle unprotected.”

“Have ye not thy father’s armour?”

The young night laughed. “Father is a bard. He brings in the gold, aye, but he is also loose with his purse. Mama will not let him hear the end of it. I could sing for my supper but… my talent is better with a blade.”

Pages unbuckled him, revealing a trim and able frame. Most of his bulk was due to the armour and padding.

“Aye? So let us hear thee sing, then. A merry song to celebrate today’s victory.”

He had been right. His talent was much better with a blade.

[] Challenge #017: Monologue of a Vampire

“…In truth, I’m no more a little girl than you are. I was once, of course. Three hundred years ago. Vampirism tends to keep one remarkably… fresh. It’s been quite a boon looking like a child. No one ever suspects a thing.” – Anon Guest

Half a world away, before it turned, there had been a girl who called herself Daphne. She realised that it was easy to be invisible. You had to wear ribbons in your hair and skip everywhere. It fooled everyone.

It certainly fooled lots of people when she was Princess Ermintrude.

Those days are long gone, now. Long in the past. So long, in fact, that it might as well be another world. The past is, after all, another country. They speak a different language, the food is weird, and you can’t always trust the water.

But that’s several hundred years’ experience talking. Looking back on it, it’s always strange. Living through it – it was all perfectly normal.

I suppose you’re wondering how I survived as an eternal child. Caregivers come and go. Sad, mortal things. I tried having a vampiric ‘child’ of sorts to play the part for a century or so. Power went to her head, so I had to kill her.

Of course, the foster system whisked me away for a while. Bouncing from home to home with nobody who really looks at the paperwork was something of a boon to me. I found all the ones who were in it for what they could use the children for, if you know what I mean.

Power, in their case, went straight to their groins.

I was never dumb enough to leave them in my room, or the rooms I shared with other girls. Mortal girls who were terrified of the rattling of the doorknob. I always made certain to have ‘nightmares’ about monsters in the bedroom. It was never long before they turned to their animal instincts… and I turned to mine.

Everyone looks for puncture marks in the neck. Hardly anyone looks for them near the groin.

And in between times, when I had a thrall for a ‘parent’, I could walk the dark streets without fear. Well. Skip the dark streets. I always had somewhere I was going. Some mission my ‘mother’ or ‘father’ had sent me on. And crime had a remarkable drop around me.

Now that smaller adults are in more public view, I can give that up, if I so choose. I can, with effort, pass for older than I look. I’m rather proud of the artificial crows’ feet. They can pass very close inspection. I still hunt predators, of course. They are plentiful and eager to volunteer themselves.

Sooner or later, I guess, humanity will learn the lesson I’ve been trying to teach them for hundreds of years. But not yet. They haven’t… yet.

[] Challenge #018: On the Road Between Nowt and Nowhere

Is your brain EVER attached to your mouth?”

Of all the demons in all the multiverse that Raflgast the Sable could have snagged, he had to ensnare one who was lacking a brain-to-mouth bypass. And not much going on in their brain, by the sound of things.

“…Na if yer goin’ wi’ a cosine limit between plus an’ minus Plank’s by Pi by th’ factor o’ current gravity in inches per second per second…”

“Demon,” Raflgast growled.

“…the relative brane strength o’ this reality aught tae–” she finally interrupted her own prattling. “Yeah?”

“Is it possible for you to close that mouth and not make a sound for five consecutive miles?”

“Which ones? Ye got Kleesto miles, Fallarin miles, Geddari miles, an’ Torbun miles tae say the least. And then ye got whatever local flavour of miles those wee markers plot out, ye ken. Ye got yerself a very confusin’ measurin’ system is all I’m sayin’.”

“Just don’t say anything! I am trying to concentrate.”

“On…?”

“A spell to properly control you. I don’t need a half-wild demon on my hands if I’m to journey into a heavily populated area…”

Shayde joined in, “Because me insatiable bloodlust will cause havok among the people, too many deaths tae bear, alarm an’ despondency, dogs an’ cats livin’ tae’gether, blah blah blah blah blah… Hae ye never thought that I’m no’ a demon? I’m just some luckless schlub as landed in t’ wrong time an’ place?”

“I’m certain you’d love me to believe that of you, demon. Now silence your ever-flapping maw until I give you leave to speak!”

“If ye let me write it down, I would’nae have tae think out loud,” argued Shayde for what felt like the millionth time.

“Ha! As if I would surrender my magical ink and paper to the likes of you.”

“Ugh. So gimmie a stick o’ charcoal an’ a piece o’ bark, I don’t care. Jus’ le’me think about where I am and what sort’a fix I’m in… And if there’s anythin’ tae be done…”

“The sooner you submit to my will, the sooner you will earn you leave to return to the bowels of the pit from whence you came, foul shade.”

She blew a raspberry. At least she was silent thereafter. For the passage of six mile markers, when she said, “Are we there yet?”

[] Challenge #019: One Relatively Quiet Evening by the Lake of Fire

So… how does Satan feel about this? [_ http://radberto.tumblr.com/post/93236132738/sadyayo-i-always-thought-it-was-funny-as-shit_] (Couldn’t find which of the people I’m subscribed to posted this, so I Googled it – have a random blog!)

[AN: Take a look at these rules. They’re generally along the lines of “respect other people” for the most part. Also, if you actually look at biblical Lucifer in the Old Testament, he’s not actually all that evil. Heck I don’t think he even did that much in the New Testament, either…]

“Of course I had to go to eleven,” argued Lucifer. His head was cradled in Lilith’s lap. “That all mighty I-am, upstairs, had to do ten. And even he’s lucky if his followers obey two or three.”

“And yours don’t follow yours at all, do they?”

“They’re brainwashed. Brainwashed by Himself and His followers. I know it. People turn to me and they think it’s all about killing goats or having sex with children or human sacrifices. They just want an excuse to be evil! It’s… appalling what they can come up with.”

“Wait… I thought we were supposed to be evil,” murmured Lilith.

“Only technically. We disobeyed the orders of I-am and are therefore His enemies. That doesn’t mean we’re despicable. It just means that we said ‘no’ and He threw a massive fit.”

Lilith laughed. “Yeah. The whole lake of fire thing is totally overreacting. Honestly. You give apes free will and then ask why they choose things… Sometimes I wonder if He knows what He’s doing.”

“Yeah. Sacrificing His son so there’s only one rule? Sure, yay, He’s simplified things. Congratulations. Now just how many of those rabid fans, up there, actually follow it?”

“Not one.”

“Nobody. I think it was a mistake giving any of them any rules at all. They just know what they’re supposed to disobey, now.”

“I don’t think they even read them.”

Lucifer huffed a brief and ironic laugh. “Probably.”

[]Challenge #020: Death of Monsters

Sans: The actual Grim Reaper

[AN: I’ve seen Reaper!Sans on Tumblr and I have yet to see a coherent attitude with it. Please forgive me for any and all mismatched headcannons]

“…and peek-a-boo,” read Sans, “I found you.”

“…wowie,” mumbled Pap in his half-doze.

“G’night, Pap,” Sans gently stroked his brother’s skull, easing Papyrus into dreamland. He put the book away and crept into his room. Careful not to make a sound. He lit both his eyes and reached through the firmament for the robe and his scythe.

Time for his night job.

The boots were the hardest part of it, of course. Sans preferred to lounge around in slippers or unlaced sneakers all day. Because the tight, confining boots of his night job were a regular torture. And they were practically stilts, so that he passed the height minimum.

What was on the list tonight?

Ah yes. The evening arm wrestle with Gerson. Check. A stern note about his ‘game’ with Little Gnoll and fixing it so that the kid would live. Oh. And Mrs Plakely.

He could ignore the stern note. It wasn’t as if there were many skeletons around to do the work. And Papyrus had already washed out of the pre-selection checklist. Hah. Pap would let everyone live, whether they wanted to or not.

And there was more than one way to show mercy.

Aching after his appointment with Gerson, Sans appeared for Mrs Plakely. Her every breath was a battle. Her eyes sunken and her body weary.

She looked him square in his glowing eye and said, “About time, you tardy bastard.”

Sans grinned. She was a teacher to the last. “I’d have brought a note, but a dog ate it.”

“Oh get on with it.”

“Sure you don’t want your glasses?” he asked. “That way you can control your pupils.” Sans swung the scythe right on time.

He liked to make sure they went out laughing. Mrs Plakely’s ailing body dissolved into dust and her soul lingered in the space between seconds.

Thank you, she ‘said’. You’ve always done good work.

And then she was gone. Off to whatever afterlife that Monsters got. That was it for the official business, but he decided to stop on by Napstablook’s for some nice, old-fashioned lying on the floor.

It was a better way to spend the night on duty… as opposed to a busy workload.

[]Challenge #021: Benevolent Spirits

A child with a temporary tall, formally dressed, spooky friend. He has massive hands, a bone white head and….

1. No face

2. Flaming Purple hair

When the police finally found Velour, they didn’t ask why she held one hand in the air, fingers curled as if they were gently grasping something. They did not question how a small child of four could have found her way out of the woods from the remote cabin where that sicko had her.

They just scooped her up in a big hug and wrapped her in blankets and rushed her to the road with great shouting and jubilation.

It wasn’t until they found the cabin that they asked things.

***

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One Leap Year of Instants (2016)

  • ISBN: 9781370323272
  • Author: C M Weller
  • Published: 2017-02-25 06:05:09
  • Words: 160078
One Leap Year of Instants (2016) One Leap Year of Instants (2016)