Sirius lay prone behind a wall. Fragments of plaster and stone dust rained down all around him as the gunmen at the other end of the hallway sprayed assault rifle fire toward his position.

Alarmingly many bullets made it through the wall, but it was thick enough that even the few that touched Sirius’s body didn’t have much momentum anymore and bounced harmlessly off his suit. Still, their enthusiasm in expending all their ammunition did force him to keep his head down, at least for the moment. He wouldn’t die from a direct hit or three, but a few of his ribs might break. Healing from that wouldn’t be an issue but would take a little time. Considering the amount of work he still had to complete after this hotel, however, he couldn’t afford that.

Ordinarily, he would’ve pushed himself a bit and dealt with his trouble on his own, but tonight, he wasn’t alone. The situation changed.

Suddenly, out of the six sources of gunfire aiming for him, one fell silent. The others also faltered, and in the momentary hush, Sirius heard the dull thump of a body toppling to the floor.Continue reading

“We’re there,” Wieslaw said solemnly from the driver’s seat.

Sirius, riding shotgun – a bit more literally than usual, considering the weaponry he carried – looked through the windshield and nodded, solemnly.

Behind them, in the back of the van, Nova… Nova solemnly played Tetris on the van’s wall of computer screens. There were 12 screens in total, 12 simultaneous games. Enough to toss out Wieslaw and Sirius’s names from the high score table and monopolize all its top spots.

Sirius looked back from his seat. “Nova, could you take this seriously, please? We’re about to start.”Continue reading

Nova lay atop her bed in Sirius’s house, waiting for the hour to come.

The briefing and subsequent debate on how they would proceed to best dismantle this organ trafficking ring had taken most of the afternoon. Since her two companions had vastly more experience when it came to such matters, Nova mostly let them make the decisions and only interjected when absolutely necessary.

Still, a growing sense of trepidation had sprouted inside her as she realized more and more starkly that she’d somewhat underestimated the balance between the two sides.

Three barely superpowered dumbasses against truckloads of armed gangsters. With victims – in other words, potential hostages – Sirius and Wieslaw insisted on saving.Continue reading

“Oh, a visitor? Invited by Mr. Antema, I suppose?” the teacher asked pleasantly. “Are you a prospective student visiting the campus?”

‘No. I’m an actress,’ Nova said, before tilting her head toward Sirius next to her. ‘This loser over here hired me to pretend to be his girlfriend for the day so that he could show off. Revolting, isn’t it?’

The stunned silence that met this shameful revelation of Sirius’s dastardly motives was glorious. Nova was very proud. Sirius, on the other hand, was quietly burying his face into his palms while muttering imprecations under his breath. The gazes of the other students aimed in their direction became heavy.

Or maybe they’re just wondering what kind of actress can neither emote nor speak with her own voice.Continue reading

Sirius always drew gazes when he traveled through the few subway stations separating his house from university. He’d always striven to ignore them – and to gently rebuff the girls who occasionally mustered up enough courage to come hit on him – but today was on a whole other level.

More specifically, most of the stares weren’t aimed at him, but at the young woman sitting next to him. Nova had warned him this would happen and suggested they call a cab, but Sirius felt this was overkill. There were only a few minutes of travel time until they reached their destination. Surely, nothing troubling would happen, especially with Sirius here to accompany her.

Indeed, no one had accosted Nova, yet, but Sirius could see that the eyes of every single other passenger in the wagon were inexorably drawn toward her.

There weren’t enough people in the train to consider it crowded, but when they boarded, all the seats were already occupied. Nova, making the most of her gifts, had managed to acquire a seat simply by staring for a few moments into the eyes of a young teenager presumably heading for school. She hadn’t said or done anything, but her unfortunate victim had blushed uncontrollably and readily offered her his spot. He’d looked proud and gratified when Nova nodded to him and sat down in his place, like she’d been the one to do him a favor, while Sirius could only helplessly shake his head. Now, Nova was sitting with her legs stretched out in front of her and her hands folded over her belly, looking so relaxed that she might soon fall asleep.Continue reading

Dinner with the Antema family was a peaceful affair. Even after the little commotion of Nova’s arrival, no one held it against her. Even Camilla, though she sulked a bit and clearly wasn’t too fond of Nova, didn’t snipe at her constantly. She was just a bit more taciturn than her parents and her brother.

Rana had produced some home-made burgers, which had the advantage of only requiring one hand to eat. This let Nova speak more comfortably and actively participate in the conversation. They were also delicious enough to please even Nova’s sensitive taste buds.

Still, eating burgers was not a trivial science. Nova had to juggle dozens of variables at the same time: the force of gravity on the stuffing of her burger depending on the angle at which she tilted it, the friction between the salad and the steak, the lubricating effect of the melted cheese, the viscosity and surface tension of the ketchup, the pressure her fingers applied to the buns, the collisions between ingredients when taking a bite rearranged their relative positions… Fortunately, after focusing 95% of her total brain power on the task, she did manage to eat the burger with elegance and dignity, a feat which once again proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had far surpassed human limitations and ascended to a higher plane of existence.

“So you’ll accompany Sirius to university tomorrow?” Rana asked with a warm smile as they ate. “You’ll follow him to his classes?”Continue reading

After disembarking from her private jet, Nova decisively vetoed the idea of using public transport and called a cab. Nova and Sirius took the passenger seats facing the front of the car, while Wieslaw sat across from them.

As soon as they were seated, Nova stretched out her legs and rested them across Sirius’s lap, to his distinct lack of amusement. Still, it didn’t seem very appropriate to start an argument at this time and place, so he bore with it stoically and allowed her to do as she pleased. It wasn’t like she was heavy, anyway.

Sirius was starting to doubt the wisdom of lending Nova a room in his house. She’d wanted to rent a hotel suite, at first, but Sirius had offered her the use of his home, more by reflexive politeness than any real desire to live under the same roof. Her immediate agreement, as if she didn’t want to leave him enough time to retract the offer, had already been a bad omen, but when he remembered her joke on the plane about asking his parents to approve of a marriage…

She wouldn’t say anything weird, right?Continue reading

“You don’t think it’s a good cause?” Sirius asked, his eyebrows rising.

‘It is a good cause. It’s also a pointless and thankless cause. I refuse to put my life on the line for such a thing.’

“Pointless?” Sirius said, bristling. “We are doing our very best to save lives. How could that ever be pointless? Even if we saved only one person, it would all be worth it.”

Nova’s left hand moved animatedly as she strove to keep up with the conversation. It was at times like this one that the work she’d put in improving her bracer paid off. She’d applied the knowledge she’d gained in her past life – and shored up in this one – in machine learning to create an autocompletion system with predictions far more advanced and accurate than before. And she could even use the bracer one-handed, now – it didn’t even require gloves or anything of the sort; it instead read the movements of her fingers through pressure sensors inside the bracer translating the way the bones, muscles, and tendons in her forearm shifted beneath her skin.Continue reading

Nova jumped off Sirius’s motorcycle as soon as it slowed enough to allow it without bone-shattering danger and barrelled through the front door of the Storm family’s house.

It had been a while since she’d visited.

She’d moved out to her lighthouse near the capital a bit more than a year ago, to make it more convenient to commute to the six different part-time jobs she’d simultaneously taken up – and to her therapist, too. Thus, she became an apprentice tailor, smith – using an old forge and everything, rather than more modern metalworking techniques, carpenter, architect, jeweler, and cook. Of course, since she had neither credentials nor education – not even elementary education, as far as official records were concerned – it had taken a healthy helping of money to convince each of these artisans to take in a potentially useless girl and teach her their respective craft.

Edea’s international calendar was a bit different from Earth’s; it worked with six days a week, four weeks a month, fourteen months a year, with sometimes a leap day or two at the end of the year to account for the planet’s orbit around its sun. With those six days, Nova barely managed to arrange a convenient rotation where she worked at a different place every day. It made her schedule somewhat cramped, but at least she was never bored.Continue reading

Sirius took the last turn down Altera’s famous Independence Street, where tens of thousands of citizens gathered to celebrate Altera wresting its newfound sovereignty from Amidonia’s hands, 159 years ago. In accordance with its reputation as a tourist destination, the place was quite picturesque, with buildings and houses of a distinctly different, quainter architectural style than the rest of the capital.

Sirius wasn’t a tourist, though, and his destination wasn’t Independence Street.

He continued until he found himself following the shoreline of Lake Baikan. Altera – the city, not the country – was built on the westernmost point of Lake Baikan, one of the most massive bodies of freshwater in the world. Most of the lake’s surface area wasn’t on even alteran soil, but instead stretched all the way from Altera to the middle-western highlands of Amidonia, bridging over the border between the two countries. It too was a tourist destination, and it too was picturesque.

Sirius was no more a tourist now than when he crossed Independence Street, but his destination was indeed Lake Baikan.Continue reading