31st Century

“Welcome to the 31st century, where if you can dream it we can make it. Real companions are a thing of the past with today’s artificial companions. Available in any shape or form, we cater to your needs. Dynassus industries. We’re for the future.” The advertisement wakes me. Looking over at my clock, I groan as it reads 8.15am. With a wave of my hand, the clock turns off. Sitting up slowly, I come to the realisation I’m not alone. There are naked women on both sides of me. One has long black hair the length of her back and the other has blonde hair with blue tips around the same length. With a sigh, I get up and stretch without waking them. Well, waking is probably the wrong term, activating is more correct. The two girls are androids of a sort. The term that’s used these days is companions. Available in any shape or form, these two women are mine. Changing out of my sleeping pants into jeans, I walk to the dresser. A small device on top has a blinking green light. Tapping the light causes it to open revealing a hexagonal shaped blue crystal. Holding it up, I inspect it closely. A hairline crack runs down one side. With a sigh, I press the panel on my chest. Opening up it reveals a cage that the crystal fits snuggly into. Closing it, I wait for a moment as my HUD boots up. Revealing current power levels and a host of other information. Ignoring it, I move around the room, getting dressed. Moments later, a knock sounds at my door before it opens. Walking in comes a tall, broad-shouldered man, with short black hair. Carrying a tray with breakfast, he promptly walks over and places it down on my dresser.

“Morning Lance. What’s the latest?” Leaving the tray, he sets the room to rights as he replies.

“Well, boss, things are certainly about to get interesting. VDO has made their move finally. They’ve released their military grade hardware to the open market. Also, you received an Intel package from hospice. They found two more bodies last night. Same M. O as the previous ones. Bones badly broken and throat cut deep enough to partially sever the spine. And again they were both hunters and participants in the low levels of Halberds Arena. Apart from that nothing new has happened.”

Taking a sip of my coffee, I sit by the window and look out at the city. Across from me I see the Nexus building. Nexus, the foremost leaders in companion technology.

“Any word from Nexus on my order?”

“Hmmm, let me look. Apologies for missing it. Your order has arrived. They have a time slot free for this afternoon for fitment if you like.”

“Book it in. Hey lance, any idea about that?” As I finish, I point to the bed. Looking at the bed, his face turns red and anger etches his features. As if sensing his rage, both women sit up, the sheet sliding off their bodies. Looking over their shoulders, they both catch sight of the big man at the same time. Fear crosses their faces. They yelp and bolt out the door. With a humph, lance stomps out of my room after the women. Soon enough, the sounds of things being broken and yelling voices reach me. Smiling wryly to myself, I continue drinking my coffee and eating breakfast. After all, I was the one who didn’t want a boring life. It’s certainly anything but that theses days.

Music Fight

Setting on a bench listening to the roars of the crowd outside, a young woman runs her hand over the hexagon crystal in its holder on her forearm. Her fingers slowly chasing the inscription etched on one face. Outside her room, the crowd’s cheering reaches a crescendo and her heart begins to race. Getting to her feet, she walks slowly to the door of the room and waits.

“And the first of our next competitors. Runner-up in last year’s tournament, Kia Allesaar!” Walking through the door, Kia blinks as the lights blind her for a moment. Raising her hand in greeting, she steps out onto the top of a flight of stairs as the crowd roars around her. Making her way slowly down the stairs, she focuses on the platform at the bottom and her curved keyboard resting there. As she reaches the platform, the spotlights shift to the other side of the arena and the announcer’s voice booms out over the crowd.

“And facing up against her is the one and only Myelle Von Liesa. The victor of last year’s tournament. The rivalry between these two women runs deep and…” Ignoring the announcer, Kia focuses on the other side of the stadium as a woman with long brown hair and piercing green eyes takes the stage. Striding down the stairs, the purple crystal hanging around her neck catches the light and seems to glow. Reaching the platform, Myelle picks up her violin and bow and smiles across at Kia. As if someone had turned the volume to full, Kia staggers for a moment as the sounds of the crowd come rushing back. Looking up, she watches as the spotlights move to the centre of the arena and a man wearing a shiny suit and oversized sunglasses appears.

“Okay Ladies. Ready your devices.” Gesturing to the two women, he waits a moment as they get ready. Removing the crystal from her arm, Kia brings it to her lips and kisses it softly.

“Lets do this, Drakon.” In a single motion she slides the crystal into a slot on the keyboard, where it glows softly.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Both our contestants are ready. Let’s Begin. Round 2 of the greatest music battle in the universe begins now.” As he walks from the centre of stage a large siren sounds, announcing the start of the battle. Smiling, Kia strikes the keys of her keyboard and a low melody sounds from it. Flaring brightly, the crystal emits a line of energy that rises above Kia’s platform. Pulsing, the energy twists itself into a mighty dragon. Landing lightly on the centre platform, the dragon roars and lets out a burst of energy fire above it. From the other side of the room, the first draw of the violin can be heard and purple energy blossoms around Myelle. From the crystal in the base of her violin, a purple line of energy rises above her and twists itself into a broad shouldered, plate wearing knight. Clashing its sword against its shield, it lands heavily on the centre stage. As the two women look across the stage at each other, they smile and they both begin to move. Fingers sliding over a keyboard and the bow sawing across the stings, their music fills the stadium. As the music notes soar through the air, the knight and dragon charge towards each other, clashing in a burst of light.

Dragons in Plain Sight

Looking out over the city from my penthouses window, I sigh. Turning, I catch sight of the emblem embedded into the wall of the study I’m in. A very good likening to a dragon. And I should know, I am one. Humanity believes that Dragon-kind died out centuries ago. Some doubt that we eve existed at all and are nothing more than folktales and legends. But that’s not true. We simply changed with the times. We traded our caves for manors, and our hordes of treasure for cash. As beings of magic, taking on a human disguise was easy enough. We imitate families, and when it comes time, we take the role of the next generation. Always hidden in plain sight. Eventually the manors and cash gave way to penthouses and banks as the modern world took over. The skies which we once solely ruled are now shared with the humans. Not that we really spend anytime up there anymore. Turning away from the window, I take a seat at my desk when my intercom sounds.

“Mr Radiston. There a Miss Morgan here to see you.”

“Send her in Toni.” Waiting for the door to open, I look down at the article I opened moments before. Reading it carefully.

“I assume you’ve seen the news then?” Looking up at the woman who walked in, I smile at her.

“Just finished reading the article you sent. What’s going on Morgan. It’s not like you to take an interest in world affairs.”

“I take an interest when they pertain to us.” With a laugh, I get up from my seat and walk over to the bar. Pouring myself a glass of whiskey, I offer one to the woman standing in front of me. She shakes her head and moves over to the other side of my office, taking a seat on the guest lounge.

“What makes you think this has anything to do with us?”

“C’mon Arthur, there no way you’re that naïve. This has the Blacks written all over it.”

“The Black Dragons have kept to themselves for the last seven hundred years. Why would they bother moving into the open now? Why Morgan?”

“Because of her.”

“What’s she got to do with this?”

“Are you serious Arthur? After all this time, you’re still holding a torch for her, aren’t you? How can you, after everything that happened?” Taking a long sip of my drink, I sigh and turn to answer.

“I’m not. I’m just not so quick to condemn the other dragon races, that’s all. Why do you think Ravenna is involved?”

“I have reliable intel on this. Her and a few others are trying to break the seal that binds Ayrenth.”

“Why in god’s name would that want to unleash one of the leviathans?”

“From the way I understand it, they want to go back to a time when the dragons ruled and had a free rein.”

“Free rein? What we have now is as close to freedom as we’ll ever get. Freedom back then was an illusion. We were hunted and persecuted. Were it not for Uther and My father, we would have been destroyed millennia ago.”

“I know this Arthur. I know it’s how you got your namesake. But left unchecked, they could unleash a new dark age. A time that hasn’t been seen since Alexander.”

“What would you have me do? Assume the crystal throne and assert my authority over all dragon-kind? Such a thing cannot happen.”

“Why, because you’re a silver? The other races would stand behind you if you declared yourself king.”

“The other races. You ‘re dreaming. The reds do nothing but amass power. The blues have devoted their life to studying. Good luck getting one of those out of their books. Most of the greens have assimilated into the earth and the browns, well let’s not even get started on the browns.”

“You know, Arthur, you’ve been a lot of things over the years, but never a coward. It doesn’t suit you.” Before I can stop it, my power wells up inside me of me. For a moment shock covers her face, before she hides it.

“So that’s how it is. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“What would I say and how? This never happens. Dragons do not change their race.”

“What does it mean?” Turning to the window, I look out over the city once more.

“I do not know.”

Red Riding Hood

The soft clank of the weights moving up and down reverberates around his cell. Laying on the bench, he breathes steadily as he works the weights, a slight burn echoing through his shoulders. As he pauses for a moment, his ears catch the sound of boots walking down the hall. A moment later he catches the scent he knows. With a sigh, he sits the weight back in its holder and gets up off the bench. Grabbing a towel off his bunk, he towels the sweat off his head and turns as the man comes into view. 
“Hello Henry. It’s not time for our weekly game of chess so to what do I owe the pleasure?” Walking up to the cell door, the man opens it up.
“Yo Mr. W you got some visitors.” At the mention of visitors, his tail twitches.
“I have no friends beside you, Henry. And I’m a convicted felon serving a life sentence. Who would possibly, want to visit me?”
“I got no idea. Alls I know is they asked me to come get you.” Pulling a pair of handcuffs from his belt, the guard holds them out towards him.
“Sorry Mr. W but I’m going to haf to ask you to put these on.” With a growl in his throat, he holds out his wrists and allows the cuffs to be clipped on before following the guard from the cell.

Sitting at the desk, she looks over at the door and drums her fingers on the white folder in front of her. Before long, her impatience gets the better of her and begins to pace. The man sitting in the seat next to the one she just vacated looks up from his paperwork with a sigh.
“You didn’t have to come. I could’ve handled this.” Stopping, she turns toward the older man.
“Yes, I did. I’m assigned to this case same as you. Besides, it’s not as if I…” before she can finish a knock sounds at the door. Before she can retake her seat, it opens, and the guard walks in. Right behind him, the shaggy outline of the wolf fills the doorway. Slightly bowing his head, he steps into the room. At the sight of the girl, his golden eyes widen. With a gesture from the seated man, the wolf takes a seat opposite.
“Thank you Henry. We can handle it from here.” With a nod, the guard leaves, closing the door behind him. Looking over at the wolf, the older man scratches his beard before reaching into his jacket pocket. Pulling a badge out, he slides it across the table. 
“So your wolf are you. I’m Agent Casper, this is Agent Red. We’re members of the..” Cutting off the man by holding up his hand the wolf talks.
“I know who you are. I didn’t even need to see your badge. Your scent tells me everything I need to know. What It can’t tell me is why you ‘re here. What do you want?” Finally moving from where she was standing, the young woman takes her seat once more. Reaching inside the folder, she pulls out a handful of pictures. Sliding them over the table, she looks the wolf in the eye.
“I want you to look at these. They’re from a recent crime scene we were sent to investigate. We believe you may help with our investigation.” Taking his eyes from the girl, he picks up the photographs. Thumbing through the images, a growl rumbles in his throat. 
“That destruction looks like a wolf caused it. But that’s impossible.” Looking up at their questioning eyes, his nose picks up the scent of accusation coming from them. Throwing the pictures back down violently, he slams the table with his fists, denting the steel. Sliding their chairs backwards, the agents’ hands move their weapons. Growling, he replies angrily.
“I had nothing to do with it. I’ve been here since…” his words choke in his throat as he looks at the girl. Her red hair hanging in curls beside her face. Looking back at him, her eyes harden and she finishes the sentence.
“Since you killed my grandmother. I still see it in my dreams you know.” Her words begin to louder as she gets to her feet.
“I still hear the sounds of you tearing her throat out. I still remember the feel of the blood hitting my feet as it dropped from you mouth onto the ground. I remember it all. It’s burned into my memory like a damned brand!” Even though she stands a foot lower than the wolf, he shrinks against her onslaught. 
“It’s your fault they put me through the system. You took everything from me. I hope you burn in hell for what you did to me! Argh!” At her shout she hits the table and leans against it, breathing heavily. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, the wolf looks down at the ground. In a small voice, he answers.
“What do you want from me?” Pulling the girl back into her seat, the old man frowns at her before replying.
“We want you to help us catch the one who did this. Like you said, it appears to be caused by a wolf.”
“I also said that’s impossible. There are no more wolves left.”
“Whys that impossible. There are werewolves amongst the Demi-humans. And for all you know another of your kind could have done it.” With a roar the wolf snaps his hand cuffs and throws the table to the side. Drawing himself to his full height, he roars at the old man. Leaping backwards from their chairs, Casper and Red draw their weapons.
“Foolish human! Werewolves are like mere pups compared to us! And for there being no more of my kind I know this because I killed the last one myself.” Coming down, the wolf walks over to the wall and with a loud thump slides down the wall to sit, leaning against it.
“My kind were all destroyed in the black war.” Without holstering his gun, Casper pulls his chair out of the way and moves to stand in front of the wolf.
“What do you mean by that? The black war was over a hundred years ago. It’s impossible for you to have been there.” With a bitter laugh, the wolf talks once more.
“How little you know. My kind live for hundreds of years. Our natural lifespan far exceeds that of ordinary humans. That is why werewolves are nothing like us. Even though we live a long time, we can still die from a mortal injury. For centuries we kept to ourselves. Safe from the prejudices of humanity. Until the uprising began the black war. When the evil queens banded together to cover the world in darkness, many wolves decided they wanted to live in the open. So they joined the armies of dark. Amongst the armies of dark was a general known as the piper. They brought any wolf captured to him to have their mind broken and their will enslaved to the cause. I wanted nothing to with the war, but I became one of the unfortunates who were caught. After months of physical and mental torture, on the brink of death and broken inside, I was freed. By a young lady with red hair. A fighter for the light. She brought me back to the queens of light who used their power to heal my injuries and restore my strength. From then on I fought as hard for the light as I had previously fought to stay clear of the war. I quickly killed my kin on the battlefields of that war. In the last moments of the war I killed a wolf who I once considered my closest friend. He and I were the last of our kind. So it’s impossible for that to have been caused by a wolf.” With a sigh, he finishes speaking. Looking over the wreckage of the room.
“Here’s the deal. If you assist us in tracking down, whoever is responsible for this, the queen has agreed to pardon your crimes.”
“Why would I want to help? That means I need to go out there. Last time I was outside things didn’t work out so well.” Coming over to the wolf, red bends down in front of him. Meeting her eyes, his fill with sadness.
“You’ll help because you owe me.” Head sagging in defeat, the wolf holds up his wrists to have the handcuffs removed. As they hit the ground, he climbs to his feet. Knocking on the door, Casper has a quick word to the guard that appears there. As he runs off, he gestures to the wolf.
“Let’s go.” With a sigh, the wolf follows Casper and Red out of the room and into the world.

Ark Pilot

Testing the foot controls, he relaxes as he feels the armour shift around him. The pistons and hydraulics hiss softly and move the wings on his back a fraction. That is until a spanner comes flying over and bounces off his visor. Stomping up to his suit, a young brunette woman pushes a few buttons on a terminal nearby and, swinging around, picks up a large wrench as the chest cavity opens and the helmet folds back.

“I swear to god if you keep messing with pedals while I’m adjusting the wings, the next time I hit you with a wrench it won’t be in a place where your armours protects.” From behind the pair, deep booming laughter echoes around them.

“Give the kid a break Jess, it’s been weeks since he’s been able to get into his Arc, let alone fly it.” Rounding on a blond man as he comes into sight, she brandishes a wrench toward him as well.

“And it’ll be even longer if I don’t finish these damn adjustments. I swear to god Lloyd, you’re as bad as he is.” Turning away from the Lloyd, Jess ducks back behind the suit and continues adjusting. Walking over to the young man in the suit, he stops at edge of the frame.

“How you doing, Mik? Alright in there.?” Looking down to meet Lloyd’s eyes, Mikhail smiles before replying.

“I’m good Lloyd. Just keen to be out in the skies again.”

“I know, lad, but take it easy. It’s your first run back since it all went pear-shaped. Remember, if things go awry, I’ll be right there.” Turning from the young man, Lloyd turns away and climbs into his own suit nearby, smiling as the chest closes and the helmet falls down over his eyes. Coming from behind the suit, Jess drops her wrench and taps away on the keyboard. Within a moment the suit jerks and lands on the ground, finally released from the restraints.

“You’re all good to go, Mikhail. Take it easy. Break my baby and I’ll break you.” Leaving the area, she waves over her head as she walks away. Pushing the button on his hand, Mikhail smiles as the chest closes and his helmet slides closed, the visor locking into place. Within seconds the HUD appears, running through all its checks. After a moment air flows through the suit and vision comes to him as the cameras turn on.

“Ready to go, kid?” At Lloyd’s voice he responds and bends his knees, bracing himself as the energy levels normalise and all the flight modules activate. Leaning forwards, Mikhail kicks off of the ground and pushes lightly on the foot pedals in his suit. Instantly the wings fuel out and he shoots off into the sky, the wind roaring around him. Clearing the safety altitude, he clicks the pedal down another notch. With barely a sound, the wings snap back, and the energy propulsion system activates fully. Smiling as he shoots off, Mikhail swerves through the clouds and looks down over the lakes and grasslands near their mountain base. Bursting through a cloud with a scatter of war droplets, he thinks to himself, “this is the life for me. The life of an Ark Pilot.”