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Writing a Discordant History:

I feel like, if I actually make the topic here and set guidelines for myself, I can get something done on this piece (or at least the first book, Hunt Within the Stars), without cluttering up other help threads. Here's the first bit of that story, and the first part of the first chapter:


WARDEN 1.1—“You Know That”

Tracing the scar that ran along his stomach, Adam Warden looked at General Scales Delta and the colorful tome that he held in his arms. Adam laid his head back onto his pillow and sighed. “I guess now’s as good a time as any, sir. I should be fine.”

“Excellent, ” said the General. “Have all of your things ready in two hours. We’re preparing the spell at five o’clock.” Delta opened the tome and squinted at the page he was on. Flipping through its contents, he asked, “Do you wish to look through the tome? You might learn something.”

“No, thanks, ” said Adam. “I have a feeling I wouldn’t understand any of it.”

“That is precisely what I expected you would say, ” said Delta. “Read it. You will learn something, inevitably. Perhaps nothing will stick, but I wouldn’t blame you. Go ahead. Take a look.” With that, Delta handed the bright book to Adam. Adam focused on the cover, taking in its obscure inscriptions and its unfittingly delicate artistry; several circles adorned the furry fabric, forming patterns of alternating rainbow colors. Amidst the vibrant colors, he saw hundreds of tiny symbols, of which he could only recognize three. The shapes were simplistic, in hindsight, but Adam would have thought it ridiculous to attempt to memorize all of them. He did not even know what each one’s purpose could be.

Once he was no longer mesmerized by the cover of the tome, Adam opened up to the first page. It was stunning, even breathtaking, in its detail and its density. The hundreds of symbols on the cover were repeated dozens of times, and at least two-hundred new symbols could be picked out upon close inspection.

The second page was denser still. It took him two minutes just to find 347 different symbols cluttered amongst the many repeats. They were starting to become more recognizable; many of them were quite common, and the ones from the previous pages were beginning to stick in his head. His estimate of ten thousand magical letters on the page was in fact quite inaccurate; the true number was closer to seven thousand.

Adam was at first amazed at how someone could fit so many letters onto a single page of a book, and then he had an epiphany: every single one of those symbols had some sort of purpose. He simply could not wrap his brain around that fact.

A bead of sweat rolling down his temple reawakened him to reality, and he then felt his eye twitching. His head did not feel well at all. He clapped the book shut and lightly thrust it towards Delta. He could not open his eyes, for he was still processing data.

“This book . . . How?” Adam massaged his forehead. Delta took the tome from his hand and held it beneath his arm.

“Shit, ” said Adam. “Last thing I needed was another headache.”

“So, what did you learn from that, Adam?”

“. . . Too much. But too little, at the same time. Sir, what did I have to gain from reading that?”

“Honestly, not much. But that was merely an aside. I am here now, as you expected, because my team of Decoders has finally compiled all of the data presented in this tome and translated it so that it can be cast.”

“How long did it take, sir?” Adam asked.

“Oh, it only took us about three months to learn what all of the symbols stood for, as well as their relevance.”

“But it’s been five months since we recovered it, sir! Why have you waited for so long?”

“Adam, you’re the only man I can assign to this particular job. You know that.”

“Why not someone else? Like you, or Travers, or Grialda?”

“I have a job that’s far too important, and you’re hardly qualified for it at this point. I have to stay in this place, in the event that our plan does not work as we expect it to. And Travers and Grialda are neither powerful enough for your job nor competent enough for mine. You know that, so why are you bugging me about it?”

“If we had taken care of this sooner, Nanaisa wouldn’t be in the state that she’s in right now.”

“It was not possible, Adam. It simply was not. The plan was not viable as a course of action until know. You know that.

“. . . Very well, ” said Adam. “I will take two hours to pack my belongings, and then I will be there.”

“Splendid. See you then. Oh, and one more thing.” Delta scratched his balding head. “Have you heard about the ruffians that have been hiding away in that abandoned lot? It’s just about the only interesting thing that’s happened in a while. Apparently they’re giving the cops quite some trouble. Well, anyway, see you later.” Delta left the room without further questioning or expositing. He left Adam slightly upset and slightly thankful at the same time. He knows that I have no valuable belongings. He has quite clearly roped me into cleaning a house. But he knows that that won’t take long. He has also given me time to wrap up loose ends. For what that’s worth.


I'm partly making this topic so that I might motivate myself to keep writing this story, and partly so that I can get feedback on it. Thanks to anyone who pitches in in advance!
 
It serves as a great hook and the precise wording is stellar.grin

I actually don't have any criticism.surprised
 
Thanks! grin

I'll probably have the next part up either by Tuesday or today, depending on how I feel, since school has been canceled today.
 
The next part of the first chapter is ready (warning: the original portion of this document was twelve pages long):


WARDEN 1.2—Firebrand

Adam’s normal attire — a gray military uniform with numerous badges, white pants, and a red cloak — had not been worn in five months, as his prescribed bed-rest had not allowed him to leave his room in Polin’s Medical and Psychiatric Center. Adam had been waiting for the day when he could don his statelier clothes again, and now that he was, he felt like he could walk across the entire planet without stopping to rest. If only, he thought to himself. If only.

That day will come later. Undeterred, Adam strode out of the hospital with his usual trained rigidity. On the outside, exposed to unfiltered sunlight and natural air once more, Adam moved with a new confidence. He was back in action. Hiding thugs would be a cakewalk.

Those who were not aware of his recovery were astonished to see him moving again. Many were, honestly, quite afraid that he was once again on the outside, where his harshness could be seen and felt; few enjoyed looking upon the man with sickly grey skin, horns on his forehead, and stark, gaunt features. Many wondered why he wore his hair down to his shoulders — or why he was allowed to, seeing as he was a military man — but no one had the guts to ask him this to his face. As usual, he paid no heed to the gawking of commoners.

Adam had been told by Polin’s police chief that the thugs were last seen entering a dank, old house on the large hill near the lake, on the border of the town. The chief said that it would be recognizable instantly; while all of the other houses were up to the standards of the time, no one had wanted this house, and so it had fallen into disrepair and been used only by those who wished to remain unnoticed. Plus, it was on a giant hill.

Reaching the house took no time at all. Adam did not feel like dawdling; if he wanted to spend the day idling, he would still be in bed. Instead, he flew to the house using a simple flight spell, both to save time and to test his capacity for spellcasting in his current condition. As expected, his propensity for magic had not diminished during his recovery period. Polin, in its entirety, held no interest for Adam, and he flew over the town without even looking down once, except to glance at the lake.

Upon coming within fifty feet of the house, Adam felt a tremendous magical presence. He had felt worse, but he sure as hell wasn’t expecting something so immense to come from anyone in this town, let alone the thugs he had been asked to hunt down. He thought to himself, an ample test of my strength. As expected of the General. But then, the more logical answer that presented itself to Adam was simply that the police did not have the power to deal with this person, and someone with his power was needed to weed them out.

As his approach continued, the essence of this powerful person took a more definite shape; it was brash, fiery, and impulsive, which was to be expected of a thug, but it also held a sharp quality to it. Or at least, Adam had no better way to describe the potency of this aura than to say that it was sharp. It was canny and aware, and perhaps more sincere than Adam was expecting. That was the thing about dealing with criminals that was difficult; sometimes they had a personality that was hard to dislike. Sometimes they humanized themselves too much. Sometimes eradicating them felt wrong.

But Adam would not have had it that way. At the end of the day, someone needed to bring these people to justice.

He landed nine feet from the house and then used magic to send his voice into the house. He issued a fairly simple command: exit the house and surrender while you still have the option. He only had to wait for thirty seconds before a hoodlum with a mechanical arm stepped out of the house.

The arm was highly recognizable as that of an HMI-56, one of the standard-issue fighting machines that was commonly employed in Nanaisa’s military. Both arms of an HMI-56 came equipped with heat rays in the fingers, sound cannons in the palms, and lenses on the forearms that emitted blinding waves of brightness.

“Hey, guys, check this out!” said the thug. He turned his head back towards the house and shouted, “It’s the greyhorn that everyone’s been talkin’ about! He wants us! Ha! Can you believe that?” He turned his head back to Adam. “Hey, are you gonna try to arrest us, man? I wouldn’t advise that, myself. The chump cops of this town can’t stop us. What makes you think a single person can?”

“I heard there were twelve of you, ” said Adam. “Twelve sounds like a manageable number, given that I’m dealing with mere parts traders. Why don’t you give up now?”

“Are you serious, man?” The thug wasted no more time in opening fire on Adam, centering all five of his heat rays on Adam’s heart. He also unleashed a clap of thunderous sound for good measure.

Smoke permeated the air around Adam, and the boom of his sound cannon could be heard for two miles. The thug thought for sure that he had destroyed Adam on the spot. “Chump. Talking to us like that.” With that, a blade-like . . . something pierced his stomach. He had no time to tell. When he looked down at his wound, the protruding object, whatever it was, was gone, and a monstrous, blunt force threw him to the ground, crushing his spine on impact.

“If you thugs want to step out now, I can hold a dignified execution ceremony for all of you.” Adam looked inside the building to find six more thugs, all equipped with at least one robotic limb.

They all attacked the doorway, and Adam swiftly stepped back to the wall, casting an illusory spell to make the thugs think that they had hit him. In eleven more seconds, the lot of thugs saw that there was nothing remaining and then hollered down to the basement, asking someone to investigate the mess they had made.

Out came those six, as well as five more men. Only one of them really caught Adam’s attention; this was the one that had emanated the flaming aura from fifty feet away. His appearance caught Adam off guard in that he had more personality than most thugs (the better to distinguish himself from his lackeys, one might suppose), without even speaking a word; he was a sickly, gaunt man. He wore a woolen cap over red hair that came down to the small of his back. Its smoothness was quite feminine, and it moved beautifully with the wind, caressing his black leather jacket.

When he turned to face Adam, his green eyes shone with an almost angelic brilliance. His facial features were remarkably clean for a criminal, and his clothes were well cared for. A few years ago, Adam would have been surprised that a man who clearly cared so much about his appearance could fall in with a gang without being ridiculed, let alone leading the whole group. But then, he had seen the gap in sheer power between these types of people, and the thugs who relied on the craft of others to fight.

Adam remembered seeing this man’s face on a list of criminals before; he was one of the most wanted men in all of Nanaisa. Jones “Firebrand” Rossio was his name. What people knew of him was that he was capable of tossing gouts of sulfurous fire at the drop of a hat. He had chosen the name “Firebrand” for himself, and it was fitting in many way, Adam had to admit.

Adam had not been expecting to deal with one as infamous as “Firebrand”, but he saw no reason to cower.

“Hey, you” said Rossio. “You don’t think you’re getting away with this, do you? That was our bro you slaughtered. No one just strolls in and slaughters a bro, you know?” Rossio advanced on Adam, until he was face-to-face with the ghastly man. Adam did not flinch.

“You know why I’m here, Rossio, ” said Adam. “Why don’t you all cut the shit and hand yourselves in peaceably? It‘s less painful for everyone that way.”

“Oh, you bet it would be, ” said Rossio. “And no grey-coat, grey-skinned little shit gets away with callin’ me ‘Rossio.’ It’s ‘Firebrand’ to you, bitch.”

One of Rossio’s thugs stepped next to him and voiced a complaint: “Hey, Ross, you gonna kill ‘im yet or what?” This man had a HMI-56 arm and a semiautomatic rifle trained on Adam, trigger finger itching for a pull.

“Hey, Jonny, don’t worry, I have this all—” Rossio did not have time to finish his statement before Adam embedded his fingers in Jonny’s face. The damage was not immediately apparent to Rossio, as it merely looked like Adam was holding his head. That changed when he saw the gun that had dropped to the ground. Adam pulled Jonny off of his fingers and let him fall to the dirt, where he suddenly bled at a sickening rate.

“MEN! FIRE!” Rossio’s cry seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. No gunshots could be heard, nor did the temperature spike as heat rays vaporized their target. Adam instead stood face-to-face with Rossio, expression unchanged. “You little shit! Stop screwing around with my crew!”

“Ross—”

“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” Rossio’s cry was unpleasantly loud, but Adam still did not budge, even as Rossio snatched him by the flaps of his coat.

“Rossio, if you planned to live a life of fighting, you should have learned to remain aware of the battlefield at all times.” Adam, getting no response from the pissed-off thug in front of him, rubbed his nose between his fingers and said, “Look around.”

Rossio, finally getting a hold of himself, looked behind him and saw death in his comrades. Each one had his own puddle of blood beneath him, and some had quite clearly been dismembered, even the ones with mechanical limbs. They were all face-down, except for one whose throat and wrists had been slit.

Rossio sat stunned for a few seconds. Even having lived a life of crime and wanton destruction, he had never seen anyone killed with such animalistic intent. He had certainly never killed with the sole goal of maiming anyone; his explosive magic left his victims’ faces unreadable, so he did not have to see their pain.

“W-wha— You’re tricking me! I know you are! There’s no way you—” When Rossio turned to Adam’s face again, Adam was instead on the roof of the now-empty house, arms folded. “GET DOWN FROM THERE!”

Adam instead held his gaze on Polin’s buildings, some looking pristine as they stood, and some giving off smoke. “How do you think the town looks from this angle, Ross?” Adam glared down at Rossio, who then saw what Adam was talking about; he knew the havoc he had wrought on the town, but he had not seen it in one frame, from one vantage point.

Rossio smelled the scent of blood coming off of his lackeys and rushed over to one of them. He knelt down and held the man in his arms, to know that he was real, and not the fabrication of a talented mage. Feeling the rippling muscle of the man’s back, Rossio set him down again and said, “I can fix the damages. I can repay you somehow, I know it! Look, we have a shit-ton of money, man. I can give it all back! Just don’t kill me!” Rossio inched back, eyes fixed on Adam.

“Money? Sure, I believe that, ” said Adam. “Equipment? Sure, you could return what’s salvageable. But do you really think a piece of street shit like yourself could hope to compensate for the lives you’ve taken? . . . Really? No? Didn’t think so. Surrender while you still have the—” Rossio, in his mounting rage, tossed an elephant-sized ball of flame at Adam, scorching the empty house below.

“I haven’t fought someone with your power in a while, Rossio. You would have been a magnificent soldier.” Adam taunted Rossio from a safe distance away, to the side. Rossio turned and threw an even larger fireball at Adam, this one detonating on impact with the ground. “So much potential.” Adam spoke while standing on the air. Another fireball, this one still larger than the last, flew at him to no avail. “What a waste.” Rossio saw Adam coming this time, and a deafening lightning burst met Adam head-on, as he stood two inches away from Rossio, finger extended. Rossio had plenty of energy left, even as his lightning spell flared up to the heavens and left ten feet shaved off of the hill. The entire top of the hill was incinerated.

Panting, Rossio looked around again, seeing no steaming, charred body when there almost certainly should have been one. He spun and spun, seeing nothing but the smoke coming from his own body.

A jab of Adam’s finger shattered Rossio’s sternum and pierced like a bullet. Rossio fell, alive but paralyzed. “Well, it doesn’t have to be a total waste, I suppose, ” said Adam. “The General should like to see you brought to the labs.” With that, Adam carried Rossio over his shoulder and flew back to the town.


 
Finally finished the last part of the first chapter (not that I expect anyone to actually read all of this; knowing that, I'm mostly putting this here for my own sake):


WARDEN 1.3—Sulfurous Sky

Smoke trickled up into the cloudless sky. The charred remains of Rossio’s gang rampage were completely unpleasant to look upon, and the damage to Polin would come out to billions of coins. Even in his final stand, he committed mass destruction, granted that the only victims of that particular attack were an old house and worthless hoodlum corpses.

Adam flew over the pitiful town, grudgingly breathing in the sulfurous air. He always thought it was quite scary, the sheer disparity in power between people who were otherwise so similar. He had little to fear from the world, but he often feared for others. It was his job, in a way.

He was one of Nanaisa’s three Lieutenant Generals, as well as the head instructor at Nanaisa’s Specialized Military Academy, so he was used to positions of command. He took his positions very, very seriously, and he always made it a point to set an example.

He had time to kill before seeing the General about casting the spell, but he had nothing to do with it. There was no one who needed to know any more about his situation than they already did, and he did not have anything in mind that would bring him any great joy. Except, perhaps, for visiting one person. . . .

He now had something to do; he had not given a proper goodbye to Dana Harvey. She was an apprentice trained specifically by him, as she was also a greyhorn. People often picked on her for her appearance as well as her timidity, and she lacked the emotional fortitude to handle the stress of harassment every day, so she asked Adam to teach her about magic after normal classes, to avoid people like that.

Adam, having been confined to a hospital bed for five months, had not been able to be with her as often as he would have liked. He had not even been able to teach her for the first month of his recovery. Imagining her after teaching was often stressful for Adam, as she had few people to rely on and was reclusive. He was usually with her at all times, to protect her and to give her someone to talk to. Adam had missed her constant presence, though she visited every day during his hospitalization.

He knew that she was staying in a private dormitory on campus. That was the only place he could think of where he would make something of his day.

The building for those with special needs was ten times smaller than any other designated dormitory, colored with the same drab shade of grey as the rest of the buildings and otherwise identical, but with smaller and fewer windows. It made finding her much easier. Except he wouldn’t have to, because she was already in a hell of a mess when he landed on the tar.

Three of the men from his class had surrounded her outside her room, having somehow gotten past the security guards that had been placed at the gates of the dorm. One of them was, at that moment, shoving her into another, who then attempted to slap her on the buttocks. She spun to hit him, but he jumped back and then another reached for her chest, only to find his hands held in place as if by manacles.

“And to think, ” said Adam. “The last I heard, you guys were really stepping it up behaviorally. Well, I’m back for a while, so perhaps we should chat about this little . . . grievance.” With little effort, Adam mutilated all three of the boys who were harassing Dana; one’s radius was torn from his forearm and plummeted to the ground; another had his eyes slashed horizontally; and the last’s lungs were compressed. All with merely a thought. Such punishment was how Adam had gained not only his reputation, but the respect that should have always come with the position.

“This country doesn’t take kindly to you, ” he said. “Those who would jeopardize the emotional well-being of others are not tolerated. I thought we went over this more than enough times.” Adam was aware of the hypocrisy in his statement. Being a utilitarian country, Nanaisa held little value in the individual, save for those with great power, such as Adam and General Delta. Even so, it was severely frowned upon to torment your workmates, especially those who were stronger and more useful than you. Of course, few teachers could get away with torturing students into submission, as Adam did with problem students, but he could make the pain go away just as quickly. One pair of slit wrists was usually enough to terminate undesirable behavior in any student. Some could not get the hint, though, so he had to get more creative with his mutilation. Students who had earned their punishment from Adam frequently brought their complaints to the head of the educational department, but for some mysterious reason, none of the complaints ever made it past submission.

As the three boys screamed, Dana stared at them, taking a silent, cathartic pleasure in watching them bleed and writhe on the ground. She had dealt with bullshit from her classmates too often to care about their physical and emotional health anymore.

“Aside from this brief disturbance, how has your day been, Dana?” Adam walked over to her, at the same time undoing his brutal disfigurement spells. The boys still laid on the ground, rolling in grief, as Adam had not been kind enough to undo the nerve damage yet.

“It’s been fine, I guess, ” she said. “This is the first time I’ve left the dorm today. Figures I can’t even expect safety in the safe spot.” She had her arms wrapped around herself and was on the verge of tears. “Thanks again, Adam.” With that, Dana paused and stared at the ground for a few seconds before glancing back at him and saying, “So, Adam. You said you were going to leave soon, right? How soon? Do you know yet?”

“I leave today, ” he said. “The General has arranged everything that is necessary for this plan to commence. I came here partly to tell you that, and partly to check on you.”

“Adam?” Dana asked.

“What is it?” Adam crossed his arms, knowing that he wasn’t going to like Dana’s question.

“You wouldn’t be able to take me with you, would you?” Of course, Adam thought. I knew she was going to ask me that. To be fair, she’s arguably safer joining me on this mission than she is staying here without my protection. I would, but . . .

“Absolutely not. The General wouldn’t stand for it. He wants the mission completed as soon as possible, and it will be considerably easier if I don’t have to bring an apprentice with me.” Adam paused, giving her time to process his answer before saying, “The General still thinks of you as ‘dead weight.’ He wouldn’t want you weighing me down.”

“I’m not dead weight, though. I’ve been getting better. I’m better than any of the other students, at this point. I have been for a long time.”

“Yes, I know that, Dana. The General even knows that. But you still can‘t handle yourself in difficult situations, and this mission would be much easier if I didn‘t have to protect you the whole time.” By this time the boys who had been tormenting her were unconscious from the pain. They had been for a few minutes, but Adam had not taken notice of them. He reversed their nerve damage and sedated them will the same level of effort it took to bring them down.

“How hard can this mission even be, Adam? You’re hunting down a girl half our age. She probably won’t have developed her power yet. Would a tag-along really make this mission that much harder?” Adam was hoping she wouldn’t have come up with that answer herself; he had fully prepared himself for one last goodbye. But she might have been right, and she was one of two friends he had. He wouldn’t just leave her there when he could help it.

“I’ll tell the General that I’m taking you, no questions. Happy?” Adam slapped his forehead and then said, “Just don’t get in my way, okay?”

“Adam, we’ve all seen what you can do. I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Good. . . . Well, I guess we can head over now.”

- - - -

“Well, Adam, I don’t think this is your brightest idea, but I trust your judgment.” General Delta was chatting with Adam before the spell was cast. Adam and Dana stood within a circle made of various salts, all gathered from multiple regions of the world. The symbol within the circle, which he also stood inside, looked roughly like the head of an elephant. He didn’t question it, though. He had already taken a better look through the tome which held the spell.

“Mission:” said Delta. “Travel from the year 2747 to the year 2346, when the first definite appearance of Lucia Flores was documented., as given to us by the wind mage Aladyne, traitor to Flores‘s operations. Your mission is to kill her before she would attain the power that she has now.” With that, ten computers cast the spell that sent Adam and Dana back to a new world.


edited 27th Jan '11 11:44:53 AM by Everest

 
Finally finished the next section.


FLORES 1.1—Glum

A bed was all that Lucia needed at that moment. Just a warm mattress and fluffy blankets. Clothes were not even necessary for sleeping; just sheets and arms to cover her jutting breasts. Lucia’s hair had wrapped itself around her shoulders and chest as she rolled in the night, further warming her. Her leg was exposed due to the blankets’ shifting, but the rest of her body was cozy. She was awake, though. That needed to change. But she couldn’t. She had already slept for about twelve hours, and she simply couldn’t force herself to go back to bed; rolling into new positions didn‘t make her any more comfortable, and sticking her head under the pillow made it harder to breathe normally. It would be for the best to get ready for the day, she realized, so she took one of the smaller blankets and wrapped it around her shoulders, just barely covering her hips. She then rubbed her eyes some more and walked to the shower in the bathroom.

Once her body and her hair had been cleansed, Lucia found the most comfortable clothes she could find in the closet; a grey blouse, a black skirt, and underwear. Simple enough.

After eating breakfast, peeved that grandma had not been there to make it for her, Lucia used the family communication unit to send a message to her friend, Lloyd Freedman.

-Flores Residence: Hey Lloyd. If you’re there, let’s talk, okay? Thanks, bye.

He responded;

-Freedman Residence: sorry Lucia just preparing my sick new hairdo

She had to wait for twenty minutes before Lloyd arrived at her house. As she opened the door for him, her expression changed to one of nonplus, as his hair was very disheveled and unattended. For a reason alien to Lucia, Lloyd grew his hair out, usually keeping it past his shoulders, as if he were wearing a broom on his head. On this day, curled strands pointed every which way; at the sky, at the ground, at his nose, at Lucia, in his eyes, and everywhere else. And that was just the top of his head; the hair was still shoulder-length for the most part.

Lloyd seemed oblivious. “Uh, Lloyd, ” Lucia said. “Did you put your head in a blender to see what would happen? The hell is this?” She took bits of his hair between her hands, so that she could straighten it out to some degree. Instead, she found his hair nearly rock-hard. She did not continue to apply pressure for fear that she would snap chunks of it off.

“You mean you haven’t seen anyone with this hair already, Lucia? It‘s pretty popular now.” He posed with his hips pointing out, running his fingers along a particularly long piece of his hair, twirling the tip.

“But why? Is it supposed to be edgy? Who comes up with these trends?” She laughed and backed out of the doorway to let him inside the house. The couch in the living room was almost too cozy. Lloyd instantly laid out on it, ready to fall asleep again. Lucia sat in the chair facing the television. She began falling out of it, knees bent upwards.

“So, ” said Lloyd. “Anything you wanted to talk about in particular?” He waved his hair around, as it was apparently smoother now. “If not, that’s cool, but we might as well get important stuff outta the way first.”

“Not really.”

“Cool. So, have you seen anything, like, on the news or anything? I haven’t been watching it a heck of a lot lately, but I heard there have been signs of new ships on their way here. Do you think it‘s anything we oughta worry about, Lucia?” Lloyd meticulously fixed his hair some more, attempting to make it stay upright in the right spots and limp in the others. Lucia could not tell what his measurement of success was in this department, so she sat and watched his efforts.

After a minute of silence and finger-twiddling, Lucia said, “Eh. I’m not worried about those ships. I don’t know what they’d want with this town.”

“The ships?” said Lloyd “Oh, yeah, right. The ships.” Lloyd was so focused on his hair that he had forgotten about his own question. “I just hope they don’t actually mean to cause any harm.” He was satisfied with his hair, so he left it and returned his attention to Lucia.

She said, “Anything else important you’ve seen?”

“No. Wait a sec. You invited me here, Lucia? Why am I the one providing conversation material?”

“Is there something wrong with just hanging out?”

“No, but . . . We’re not really doing anything.”

“We could do . . . Something.”

“Oh, you mean something? About time.” Lloyd sat straight up instantly after hearing that.

“No, not that, you dolt.” Much to Lloyd’s disappointment, he and Lucia did not have anything resembling a physical relationship, aside from the hugs that accompanied farewells between friends. Lucia was satisfied with mere emotional attachment, and made it quite clear that she didn‘t want anything else to rise up between them. It made Lloyd feel better about himself that he was her only friend, if only so he did not have to worry about jealousy; then again, he was the only one who did not mind Lucia‘s . . . different physical qualities, so there was a slim chance of her interacting with anyone but him and her grandmother.

“I dunno, ” Lucia said. “We could see if there’s anything interesting going on in town.”

Deflated, Lloyd said, “Fat chance of that, Lucia. You know this place. It‘s glum, poor, uneventful, desolate . . . All sorts of things. None of them fun.”

“Fine. I guess we’ll just sit around then.” They did so for six hours, chatting about nothing and watching the sky become greyer.


 
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