*cough, cough*

Exhausted, Nova slowly crawled out of the water and collapsed in a panting heap, her eyes closed. She lay for a long time on the beach. It was made of coarse, gritty sand and pebbles, all of which poked uncomfortably at her. Her lower body was still half-submerged, the surf striking rhythmically against her legs. She’d discarded her helmet along the way; the thing had been so heavy and cloying while swimming it had almost drowned her.

Her limbs ached abominably. The fall hadn’t done her any favors, and then the swim back to shore had given her the coup de grâce. It hadn’t been the distance, so much as the difficulty of staying above the surface of a very disturbed sea, with tall, frequent waves doing the absolute damndest best to push her under.

Really, couldn’t the god-thing have made an effort and teleported all of them back to safety, instead of just the privileged few? How did it make sense for the weakest of the lot to go through the toughest challenges right off the bat?Continue reading

Nova was drifting along in zero gravity, what looked like 400 kilometers above Edea. She wasn’t wearing a space suit, but she did have a motorcycle helmet, which ought to be enough. She was pretty tough, after all. She could even reliably sleep in bed sheets that weren’t made of silk, nowadays! How much tougher than that could you possibly get? And anyway, a little bit of vacuum never hurt anyone.


No, vacuum wasn’t the problem. Through magical shenanigans of one sort or another, Nova could somehow breathe, and her blood wasn’t boiling in her veins. Hopefully, the magical shenanigans would remember to shield her from the radiation the sun was no doubt blasting at her body right now and hiking up her chance to die of cancer a few years from now.

The real problem was that she couldn’t control her flight.Continue reading

Angela Chapelle had died once, under a different name, on a different planet.

It was long ago; she could barely remember it, now.

Well, she could barely remember the details of her old life. The circumstances of her death, however, were still quite fresh in her mind. At 27, she’d suffered the explosive consequences of one of her failed inventions. She hadn’t exactly had time to study the causes of it before the blast devoured her, but Angela blamed faulty equipment. She couldn’t think of anywhere she might have made a mistake in her design.

But her death hadn’t been the end, unexpectedly.Continue reading

Nova woke up when her bracer started vibrating against her wrist.

Truthfully, by now, it wasn’t a bracer anymore. Recent advances in holographic technology had reduced it to more of a transparent, almost invisible bracelet fitting snugly around her wrist. A trio of pinpoint-sized projectors inside that bracelet handled the work of casting the screen into the air above her wrist and detecting presses and interactions with that hologram from her other hand. There was no need for a physical screen anymore.

It felt like a huge upgrade, and for the past week or two since she started wielding it, Nova was still kind of thrown off by the change, but the old design had been mostly the same for almost two decades. An overhaul was long overdue. She’d get used to the new model soon enough.

I wonder if Dad upgraded it to reward me for finally spilling the beans on the supernatural stuff. Maybe the upgrade was ready since a long time ago, but he kept it in reserve for a big occasion.Continue reading

The engines howled loud enough to shatter glass as the race car soared down the track like a berserk space rocket on wheels. The tires were already smoking from the speed and the heat, even though it had only been minutes since the race started.

The suspensions were pretty good, in that all of Nova’s bones had yet to shatter even though she sat right in the middle of this speeding coffin, but it still wasn’t comfortable. Demanding the same smooth ride she might enjoy in a proper vehicle, however, would be a bit much to ask in addition to record-breaking speed.

It was fortunate Nova’s ears were protected from the noise, though. Otherwise, she’d never have been able to drive the car. More likely, she’d have fainted the moment she revved up the engine. The thing was louder than a fucking flashbang, and it lasted for longer too.

But it was unavoidable. Ryner was pretty good at this. If Nova wanted to keep her lead and win, she couldn’t afford to slow down too much. Esfir, Lynn, Aaron, and even Marian had all already been eliminated. Just one more challenger and Nova would have won the Grand Storm Championship™, with all the bragging rights this feat entailed.Continue reading

Nova woke up to the feeling of a hand stroking the curve of her hip. The sensation was very gentle, the fingertips just barely grazing against her skin. It almost tickled.

It made for quite the pleasant wake-up call.

Nova didn’t bother opening her eyes; they were still heavy with sleep. Instead, she clumsily patted away the hand that had suddenly left her hip and launched on a journey toward more… adventurous territory. Her feeble resistance only elicited an amused chuckle from the warm and soft body next to her.

Warm…Continue reading

I open my eyes only to find myself suddenly assailed by a feeling of intense vertigo. Almost as if I fell asleep sitting on a chair balanced on its two back legs, and all of a sudden, it tilted backward, and the drop woke me up.

I look frantically around myself.

I’m… inside an iceberg. A toppling, splintering iceberg.

No, wait. Inside that gigantic ice spider of Akasha’s, rather. Except that it’s breaking to pieces. And lying right next to me, in a growing pool of blood so black I have goosebumps all over my arms and my instincts scream danger at me the moment I see it, is…Continue reading

A wooden valley, deep in the Karna mountain range that forms a natural border between the kingdoms of Athur and Selden. It’s roughly in the northeastern quadrant of the human continent, and nothing marks this place as meaningful in any way.

Few people know that beneath the valley’s floor lies one of the Emperor’s secret laboratories, where the Taint and the demons it produces are studied. Even the researchers working there have no idea where exactly the facility is located.

I, however, know. I escaped from it, after all. And though it was two centuries ago, my memories of that time have not faded. Not in the slightest.

Karim too knows. He’s the one who provided me with the exact maps, blueprints, and schematics of the facility. His last coded message also informed me that he suspected other labs were slated for construction in the near future, but the Emperor hasn’t shared their locations with him, yet. Perhaps, he never will.Continue reading

Three years spent on the run.

I was supposed to head to Alsomn, burn Adkins’s house down around him, and rescue my little sister from his clutches, in a feat of extreme and cathartic violence. I would give everyone involved a taste of their own medicine. I would plant their severed heads on spikes. I would free the captured princess. We would ride off into the sunset and live together, happily ever after, far from any danger.

It didn’t happen that way. At all.

The world is not that kind.Continue reading

Ten years after our escape from the laboratory, I think I can be forgiven for forgetting that we were ever being hunted. After all, there has never been any sign of the people after us getting close to finding us.

Those ten years were even quite enjoyable. They gave lie to the doubts and fears I harbored that day. It took a while to settle in, and it still ticks me off that I have to see Thelyron’s face every single day, but Akasha’s presence more than makes up for that.

Really, the only dark cloud hanging over our heads has been Akasha’s disease getting progressively worse with time. I harass Thelyron constantly to push him to find a cure before it’s too late, but this incompetent bastard still has nothing to show for it even after a decade of effort.

I can see it’s eating him inside. As well it should.Continue reading