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Saving the World

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“You know, those guys, they’re messed up,” Tabitha said, scowling. “They’re just…messed up!”

“Yeah, I know,” Constance said. “Tell me about it. I was over in Uruk the other day. Those temples they’ve got, you do not want to know what goes on in there. Trust me, you don’t, Tabs. You really don’t.”

Tabitha shuddered. “I don’t get why the big guy doesn’t just smite them. Or maybe let us do it. It’d be easy. Like that!” She snapped her fingers.

“Not that easy,” Constance said. “There’s the animals.”

“Look, I know a guy,” Tabitha said. “Good with animals. Not so bad himself. Got some kids. He can handle things. We take care of him, he gets the animals, we zap everything else.” Her eyes lit up. “Or, you know what, we flood ‘em!”

“Flood,” Constance said flatly. “Like with water.”

“Yeah!” Tabitha said. “Big ker-sploosh, all that water, everything’s clean! Bam!”

Constance shrugged. “I can talk to Angelic Command if you want. Make some inquiries.”

Tabitha nodded, a little nervous now. “Yeah. Why not?”

A few days passed. Then Tabitha’s halo chimed. “Hey, Tabs. It’s me. You’re a go.”

A week later, Constance missed Tabitha at the morning roll call. She went in search of the angel, and found her staring down through the clouds at the pouring rain. “I … really didn’t think it would be that bad,” Tabitha said. “Not like that.”

“Yeah, but you can start again now,” Constance said. “Make ’em better. Trust me.”

“You sure? And the Big Guy, he’s sure? He did give me the go, right?”

Constance looked down at the rain. “Sure. Yeah. He did.”

Tabitha smiled. “Thanks, Con.” She straightened her wings and flew off.

Constance sighed. Her halo chimed insistently. That would be Angelic Command, screaming to know what had happened, and how the whole planet had gone and gotten itself wrecked. “They’ll be better,” Constance insisted to herself. “They’d better be. ”

Battle of the Crosswalk

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It was dark in Edison City. It usually is, at three in the morning. One lone traffic light bravely glowed above the one-way straight, doing its best to maintain a small sense of order in the dark. The traffic light clicked methodically through its eternal sequence of green, yellow, red, then green, yellow, red. No one noticed, not that the traffic light cared. Order was preserved.

Then, someone came strolling up to the corner. They paused. The traffic light had, just at that moment, clicked over to green. Accordingly, the person on the corner should, by all the laws of the road, wait until the light clicked back to red before crossing. The night was silent. The dark figure looked left and right. Not a car was in sight, not even another human being. The man smirked, and started across.

He kept to the crosswalk, at first. Then, as if to compound his actions, he strode away from the pale white lines right into the center of the road. Still no car came. All was silent. He smirked again. There wasn’t even so much as the snap of an automatic traffic camera, just the disappointed green glow of the traffic light.

Then, a swoosh of cape. A black Starfleet-style boot slammed to the ground. A blast of flame scored the night air. Before the man could do anything, the new arrival had slammed him up against the traffic pole. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?” an intense voice said.

“Who the-“

“I’ll ask the questions. Who’re you?”

“I’m… I’m Phil.”

“Never heard of you. You’re not my usual. Crudmuffin I know. Behemoth Bob, Hiccup Holly, the Malevolent Med-Student, they’re all big leagues. But you’re new.”

“Maybe,” said Phil. “You know me by my big city name. Back home they called me… the Rogue Jaywalker.”

There was an audible snort. “You’re kidding.”

“It’s what I do,” Phil said defensively. “I’ve got no superpowers, I’m not a billionaire, I’m not a mad scientist, so…”

“Whatever. This is stupid. Just head on home, will you? And mind the signal.”

Phil was shoved away, in obvious dismissal. He turned back, one question still on his mind. “Hey, who the hell are you?”

” Me?” she said. “I’m Gaseous Girl.”

She took off in a blast of flame. Phil stared. The traffic light quickly clicked over to red.

Lesser Incarnations

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The bar was unusually empty for a Saturday night downtown in the city. Even the bartender, a gregarious man who normally enjoyed his shift, wanted very much to clock out early and get away. An undefinable air of gloom seemed to hang over the place. Even the jukebox kept playing sad little songs with wistful saxophones trailing off into minor key.

The front door banged open, and a woman in a red jacket stormed through. “Right, where is he?”

“Ma’am?” said the bartender.

“Guy in a fedora. Used to wear a cloak, I liked the cloak, but he’s gone all hipster now. Wears sunglasses indoors, even. Said he’d be here.”

The bartender pointedly tried not to look at a shadow huddled in a booth by the far wall.

“Ah,” the woman said. “Typical.” She marched over and sat down hard opposite the shadowed figure, slamming a thin sheet of paper down on the table. “What, may I ask, is this?”

The man slowly removed his sunglasses and folded them up with a neat, ominous click. “It is a complaint. I filed it with your department this morning.”

“I figured that,” she snapped. “But what’s it about?

“Did you not read it?” he said coldly.

“Says it’s classified!” she said. “So what’s it about?”

“You were on vacation last week.”

“Yeah? So?” she replied angrily. “Look, you’re Death, you’re always on the clock. But I’m only War. I figure I’m entitled to some peace every now and again. People’ve been fighting all over, I just got done with a big show in East Plaznik, and then there’s the big missile scare. I deserve a break once in a while, yeah?”

“Perhaps. But your deputy had the duty.”

War shrugged. “Revolution’s a good guy. Knows his business. What’s the problem?”

“Revolution called in sick. The duty devolved to one of the lesser incarnations.”

For the first time, War showed a trace of concern. “Who, exactly?”

“Monday.”

There was a long pause. Even the jukebox went silent. When War spoke, her voice was very quiet and very strained. “Monday.”

“Yes,” Death said. “The Incarnation of Monday was in charge of War.”

She sighed. “It couldn’t have been that bad…”

Death glared. “Oh, yes, it could have. And it was. Were you aware of what Monday usually deals with? People oversleeping their alarms. Traffic jams on the freeway. Terribly boring work meetings. These are not usually problems handled by War.”

“I still don’t see the problem.”

“Do you know how many people usually die because they were bored during a conference call?”

War’s left eyebrow quirked. “You’re upset because you didn’t have anything to do?”

“I found something,” Death growled, “but it was hardly dignified. There were no explosions. No uprisings. One person missed his alarm and in his hurry to make a meeting got hit by a bus. Another was poisoned by eating a pastry to which she was allergic. A third died as a result of an unfortunate stapler mishap!”

War giggled. “Oh dear.  That’s awkward.”

“Terribly.”

“Fine. I’ll make sure not to leave Monday in charge of War again. Deal?”

“At least Tuesday would’ve been appropriate,” Death said sullenly. “With being named after a god of war and all.”

“I’m curious,” War said. “If you went on vacation, who’d cover the department for you?”

Death looked uncomfortable. “We have made inquiries. No one particularly has been identified for the duty.”

“No one particularly? So you’re saying there might be someone?”

“There was a volunteer.”

War’s eyebrow quirked again. “Someone volunteered to play Death?  You have to tell me.”

Death sighed deeply. “Dysentery.”

There was another long pause. “Perhaps,” War said carefully, “You should plan on not going on vacation.”

“I don’t intend to.”

“Good.”

This story was originally written for a 2016 Yeah Write Super Challenge #2; I have resurrected it for the Yeah Write January 2020 Hindsight assignment.

An Attempt at Planet-Stealing

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“They’re not using it,” gurgled the First Mate. “It’s just a red blurry dot to them. So why can’t we take it?”

The captain shrugged, his eye-stalks blinking in the cold light of the starship bridge. “Well, we could… but they have landed on it. That counts for something, shouldn’t it?”

“Only robot landers,” the First Mate said. “Which don’t even work, most of them. They haven’t done a real manned landing yet.”

“Ah,” the captain said. “And you’ve checked with tactical? We could blast the thing, strip what we want, and get out of there with no trouble?”

“No trouble at all!” the First Mate said confidently. “Their weapons can’t match ours. They don’t even have light-speed drive!”

“Indeed,” the captain said, interested at last. “Well, then. Let’s go steal their planet.”

An hour later, the slim grey starship appeared above the surface of Mars. There seemed to be nothing in its path. A panel opened on its side, and a metal firing arm emerged. A green light shone ominously at the end of the firing arm. “You may fire when ready,” the captain said leisurely.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” a new voice said. Every being on the bridge turned. There, by the science station, stood what appeared to be a human, except this one had two flowing wings and a halo, which it was casually tossing in one hand. “Otherwise,” the figure said, “Things could get messy.”

“Who’re you?” spluttered the First Mate.

“Ron. Angel, first class. It’s complicated, you wouldn’t understand. Point is, this planet is under protection. So’s the next one over. You can’t have it. So I’d advise backing off, if I were you.”

The captain, alarmed as he was to find an intruder on his bridge, was not about to back off just like that. “Or what?” he demanded.

Ron let fly the halo. It flashed across the bridge and embedded itself neatly in a computer panel just below the forward viewscreen. The panel promptly exploded in a shower of golden sparks, and every panel near it lit up in wild rows of flaring lights. The alien officers responsible for the panels and lights ran about and flailed their tentacles in mad panic. In the midst of it all, Ron coolly walked over and retrieved his halo. “Or that. And more. Do I make myself clear?”

The captain sighed. “Fine. First Mate, reverse quilithium thrusters, full power. Course one-two-seven, mark four.”

“Aye, sir!” the First Mate said.

Ron smiled and disappeared. The spaceship slid away from sight. The red planet rolled on unharmed. The captain, meanwhile, slumped in his chair, his eye-stalks wilting. Perhaps, he mused, it was time to think about retirement.

Fighting Time

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“Sorry,” the admiral said dispassionately, “The fleet’s full.” With that, the viewscreen went blank. The room fell silent. The brown-haired woman sat stunned in her chair, staring at the screen where the admiral’s face had been.

Lucy was completely thrown. This wasn’t in the plan. Everything had proceeded to plan so far. She had worked her way through academy like a trooper, class after class, assignment after assignment. She had graduated academy with highest honors. Commendation from Skeever himself. Then, ensign on the Borpion. Then up through the ranks, month after month, ship to ship to ship, until she had finally made captain of a transport. She’d spent years slogging away on that thing. Even her choices of partners had been carefully planned, so much so that on one memorable occasion she had written out the moves and dialogue she intended her partner to use during an encounter that turned out to be a lot less romantic than she had hoped. Finally, after all her hard work, now she had the resume, the quals, the recommendations, even a potential first officer recruited, everything she needed. But the exploration fleet had turned her down flat. It made no sense.

“What do you mean the fleet’s full?” she said to the empty viewscreen. She knew the statistics by heart. Earth Fleet had enough ships to hold its own in a scrap, if it came to that, but there was a crying need for more fighters, not to mention more captains for them. The raids on the border planets kept getting worse with each passing year. It made no sense to keep her stuck as a merchant pilot when they had a surplus of those already.

“What,” said Lucy with rising fury, “do you mean the fleet’s frickin’ full?”

At that very moment her viewscreen came alive with an alert. Another raid. It happened to be one of the border planets closer to her. She made a few quick calculations on a pad. It would be hours before the nearest Earth Fleet fighters could get there. As it happened, her transport could beat them. She had a stock of emergency weapons. She had a crew. She was, if anything, over-prepared. But she would be in violation of at least five different regs. They’d never let her in the fleet if they found out.

Lucy smiled slightly. “If.” She picked up a comm. “Pete? Lu. Busy tonight? No? Swell. ” She paused. Heck, she’d gone this far, throwing her usual workman-like devotion to plan to the winds. “Incidentally, before I get to the main reason I called, you seeing anyone?” When he said no, a little startled ,she sighed. “Ah, well. Anyhow…”

She made her battle plans swiftly with Pete, then clicked off the comm, rose from her chair, and stalked out the door of her room, pulling on her flight jacket. “I’ll show ’em the fleet’s frickin’ full,” she snarled under her breath as she stormed down the corridor towards the lift. “I’ll show ’em.”

Heroic

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“”All right,” Maggie said, as her arm stitched itself together again, “What killed me this time?”

The raven-bot chittered a stream of information at her. Maggie swore. “They’re using lasers now?”

The raven-bot chirped an affirmative. Maggie sighed. She shrugged on her cape and started for the door of her small apartment. It was almost time to go on patrol again, and the bad guys were still out there, like they were every night in Edison City. “And now I’ve got to evolve some new shields too,” she complained to the raven-bot. “Because they’re using lasers now. Can’t stick with guns, now, oh no, they’ve got to step it up to lasers! The idiots!”

Working herself up into a fine bad mood, Maggie decided that the best way to defend against a laser was a solid skin of impenetrable diamond, and evolved herself accordingly. This took several minutes of concentration, and gave her a splitting headache, but at the end she felt like she could stand up to the lasers. “Right,” she said to her faithful raven-bot, her voice sounding tinny as she opened her apartment door, “let’s go pound some bad-“

Then she paused. Her head was still aching. What if the bad guys had figured out how to blast through the diamond? What if they came up with something else? She’d been doing the cape thing for a year plus, ever since the government had found about her superpowers and outfitted her with a uniform and the raven-bot. Yet, even with her abilities to resurrect herself and evolve super-abilities at will, even with her constant patrolling, the streets didn’t seem like they were getting any safer. There were always more bad guys, more crimes, more problems. Worse, she kept on getting herself killed. She was on her seventeenth murder now. Suppose one day her super-ability failed her and she stayed dead? What then?

“Screw this,” Maggie said, and turned on her diamond-skinned heel. She marched back inside, the raven-bot following hesitantly afterwards. “Power down, buddy,” she said. “We’re taking a break.”

The raven-bot dutifully powered down, and Maggie went in search of her microwave and a popcorn bag. For once, she was going to enjoy herself. Edison City could take care of itself, surely, for one night, couldn’t it?

Then she paused again. Maybe it couldn’t. The last time she’d been off duty for an extended period, the Rogue Jaywalker had struck without warning, wreaking chaos in the streets. She’d promised the government after that she’d always be on watch. She had a responsibility, didn’t she?

Maggie swiveled to face the outdoors. “Fine. We’ll head out again.”

The raven-bot powered back on in nervous excitement. “I don’t care if they’ve got lasers. Lasers can’t cut through diamonds, can’t they?”

The raven-bot beeped uncertainly. Maggie froze. “What do you mean they can?”

The robot flashed more data at her. Maggie swiveled back and forth uncertainly. “Carbon. No. Steel? Too clunky. Rock. No. Um. Graphene? Maybe. Erm….”

In the end, she whipped up some spider silk and looped out uncertainly into the dark.

Visitors

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This story is part of the Angel Chronicles, and relates to prior events in Incoming. The characters, however, are new.

“So I suppose you want to ask me why I left town,” Benjamin said hopefully, as the bus skidded to a stop.

“Not really,” Allison said coldly. “Now leave me alone, will you? I have a group. They’re from a British wizard community. Very important. Gotta go.”

She waved off the robed passengers from the bus and lined them up neatly on the sidewalk, conjuring up a bullhorn in her hand and giving it a swift tap with her hand. “Right, people? Everyone hear me? Okay. Hear we have the home of Linus Wistwickingham, founder of our beloved magical city. It’s been magically preserved to look exactly as it did the day he left it, moments before he inadvertently blasted himself into a quantum dimension. People didn’t understand magic quite as well back then.”

“And when exactly was that, miss?” one of the tourist wizards asked, raising his hand.

Allison neatly ignored him. “Moving on!” she said. “Next up, the statue of Reginald Cloud-Pomfrey, the only known wizard to have fought in the American Revolutionary War!”

As the crowd oohed and aahed, and Allison tried to remember exactly which side Reginald Cloud-Pomfrey had fought on, Benjamin attempted to catch her attention again. “Look, I had a reason,” he said. “It was important!”

“I don’t care,” Allison said, ushering the excited group down the street.

“But, Allison-”

She whirled to face him, forgetting entirely about the astonished tourists. “I don’t care, Benjamin! We were in danger from the Feds, we could’ve all been dragged off to a lab somewhere or had to fight it out with the military for heaven’s sake and you weren’t there! And you should’ve been!”

There was a long silence. The tourists looked awkwardly at their shoes. One of them coughed nervously. Finally Allison sighed. “Fine. I’ll ask. Just once. Where were you?”

“I wanted to see the aliens.” he said sheepishly.

“The what?”

“Aliens. There was a bunch of people who wanted to storm Area 51 to see the aliens and I wanted to see them too.”

Allison paused. “And?”

“Ah,” Benjamin said. “I had a nice talk with some Air Force people. Lots of guns. Very convincing. Also government guys in suits. More guns.They convinced me I probably shouldn’t stay around there too long.”

“So you don’t know if there are aliens there or not.”

“No.”

“Oh.”

The tourists gave up on the drama and started off down the street. Allison rolled her eyes. “Next time, make sure there’s actually aliens there before you run off to check ’em out, okay? We’ve got spells for that.”

“Right. Yeah. I’ll do that.”

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