Lunch

The school’s canteen was as packed as some of the lunch boxes were. A queue clung to the edges of the room, shortening as people got served only to grow as late arrivals appended themselves to the back of it. Small voices joined together to fill the air with a loud cacophony, added to by teachers demanding manners and servers verifying orders.

At one hexagonal table, tucked away near the corner window with a view of the school pond, children sat on plastic chairs with heads in their lunchboxes pulling their bounty out to trade and consume.

“Crackers and cheese, all right!”

“Trade you one for a ham sandwich, no crusts.”

“I’ll swap Pizza Bites for a Dunker!”

“Oooh, Mum packed kettle crisps today… what’ve you got?”

Looking a little sheepish, one of the girls looked up from her purple lunchbox and shrugged. “The usual.” She procured a kettle lead from the box, causing the boy to blush.

“Sorry, I didn’t-”

She shook her head with a smile. “I know.” Brushing her hair to the side, she slipped the thick plastic connector into the socket just under her collar bone. “Would you-”

The boy had already taken the plug. Pushing it into the mains socket, he flicked the power switch and returned to his seat. “Is it okay if I stop with you today? I’ve a book I want to read, so…” he trailed off.

A smile broke across her face as she nodded carefully. “That’d be nice, thanks.” A message flicked up in her vision, informing her of the upcoming switch to standby mode for efficient charging. “I’ll be asleep till the end of lunch, so…”

“You always do after sports.” One of the girls at the table said. “Eat well!” She added, followed by similar choruses from the others.

With a bigger smile on her face, the gynoid child rested her head on folded arms. Amid the chaos of the canteen she drifted off to charge, happy for the company around her.

That Lovely Girl

“There she goes, that lovely girl.”

She had an air of genuine kindness that the residents loved. Always interested in their tales from decades past, no matter how often they rambled on during their telling. When they sung her praises to their relatives, she was always modest.

“I don’t need to be thanked for that.” She’d smile while steering a tea trolley loaded with treats, all ready to be dispensed before Countdown came on.

“Isn’t she such a dear?”

Every once in a while when they were distracted, a ring or trinket would vanish.

But they’d never blame her, that lovely girl.

This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were: Distracted, Genuine, and Modest.

Glut

Isaac had once thought that there was too much shelving going up in the study. Seeing box after box of his partner’s books being brought in started him thinking that maybe, just maybe, they’d need some free-standing units to go in the middle of the room.

“You’re -sure- you need all these books?” He asked, draping himself over a box with ‘Mythology’ scrawled along the top in marker pen.

“Quite sure.” Juan smiled, the man in his element as he wheeled in further boxes by way of a trolley. The contraption had three joined wheels on to make it easier to move up the stairs. “Could you move that box over to the shelves away from the window, please?”

With a groan, Isaac hefted the boxed books across. His bleach-blonde tufts of hair were slick with sweat from the move. “I could buy you an e-reader, and re-buy as many books as are available?”

His partner laughed, a wave of his hand levitating a book up and opening the pages. “I cannot quite interact with ebooks as I can with the real thing. Some may consider this a glut. I? Well… there are many more I seek to pick up.”

“I’d put the book down and help out with moving if I were you.” Isaac warned. “If the girls catch you slacking off with your nose between pages, you’ll have hell to pay.”

“True.” The scholar replied, returning the book to its box before wandering over. “There’s time to sort and order them once we’re all settled here.”

Anticipation

The atmosphere was electric. Anticipation was eternal in that place. They never tired of the thrill. As long as they were alive they were ready to party. All they had to do was wait and a chance would present itself.

And it just had. Someone had been foolish, negligent, or careless. The door had opened and they had surged towards it. She was waiting. The meeting with their beloved was a passionate one. Sparks flew when they touched. The heat was palpable.

For the poor soul who bridged the gap the result was a sharp, savage, and ultimately fatal shock.

This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were: Electric, Passionate, and Savage.

Patching Up – Part 2

“You could at least give me a hand.” Des called as his spear drove forwards to puncture the carapace of another fenmite. The large, tick-like creatures could jump fairly far and the piercing mandibles were not something the former farmer wanted puncturing his hardened leather jerkin.

“The quicker we gather these components,” Zaneer replied as his lithe hands working to pluck plants from the edge of the fenland, “the quicker we’re out of here. Besides, the Captain asked you to guard me while I gathered.”

Whirling his spear Des knocked a leaping fenmite out of its jump to the ground only to drive the point of his weapon through it. “And I only agreed because for some reason she holds you in high regard.”

“Why wouldn’t she? My skills are invaluable, and I was friends with her mother’s family.” The elf mage rose to his feet, brushing down his dark robes with a hand. “Oh, and-” With a flourish of his orb-topped staff, a burst of energy surged forth and past the human. The wave caught the leaping fenmite and sent it tumbling back into the bogs. “There’s your hand.”

“Thanks… smart-arse.”

Zaneer stood outside of the dilapidated farmhouse they had sought shelter in, gulping down the cool night air. His brow was furrowed as he sustained a small spell to vent the aroma of cooked flesh from inside. He was uncertain if he would ever queue up for one of the camp roasts again.

That could wait though. Aside from clearing the air and his lungs, he had another reason to be outside.  Drawing another wand from under his bloodstained robe, Zaneer detonated several bolts of red light in the sky above him. As minutes past stood outside in the darkness, fear started to know in his stomach.

The sight of a blue detonation in the sky to the south bought a sigh of relief from the mage. Steeling his will, he fired off several more red detonations. Base camp responded with a white and a yellow. With a flick of his wand, a green flare soared high above the farmhouse. At least someone back at camp knew they were alive.

Hurrying back inside, Zaneer dragged an old hand cart in front of the door, filled with assorted tools to weigh it down. The chances of anything intelligent and hostile tracking his signal lights was low, but only a fool eschewed sensible precautions.

“Dinner smells good.” Des groaned from the makeshift bed he’d been laid on, his leg still propped up. A poultice had been applied to the wounded and cauterized area, secured by lengths of cloth removed from Zaneer’s own robe, the cleanest ones he could find.

The elf couldn’t help but laugh. “That… isn’t dinner. Do not turn maneater on us, Des, it would be most unseemly at meal times.” Settling down near the injured man, Zaneer offered him the waterskin. “You should drink.”

Des took small sips from it, his weathered face still pale from blood loss and the poison.

Zaneer took the time to re-wet the cloth for his forehead before speaking. “Camp knows we’re out here. There isn’t anything they can do until daylight.”

“Leave a little food for me and get some rest, then. You moan something awful if you haven’t gotten a good night’s rest, I’ve noticed. Last thing I need to deal with.”

Pulling what small provisions he had bought for the trip out, he placed them near the farmer’s hand. “I ate earlier, so finish the rest off yourself.” He lied. “I cannot advise on how best to eat after your ordeal, but I’d say eat little and let it settle first.”

“And as for sleep?” Des asked, shifting awkwardly to get a better look inside the pouch.

“You will have to put up with my moaning as I put up with your screaming. There is a chance that the signal flares might have drawn unwanted attention, and should you take a turn in the night-”

“Fair point. Leg still hurts like anything.”

“It is if you stopped feeling pain when we would have cause for concern.” Zaneer stated. “So if anything changes, let me know.”

Nodding, he settled back down and stared up at the ceiling. Silence passed between the pair for a while before Des finally spoke up. “Got two requests for you.”

“Nothing maudlin I hope?” Zaneer spoke carefully, eyeing the human.

“First one might count. Humour me, as alien a concept as that is to the guy with a staff up his back.” Des replied, his speech lacking its usual fire and pace. “If things go south, get back to the Captain in one piece.”

“It does count. What’s the second?”

“Forty one years and still no idea. Magic… how’s it work?”

Taking a long look at the stricken human, Zaneer mulled the topic over before rubbing at his face with a hand. “Why not, putting it into terms that you will understand will be quite the mental exercise for me.”

A low rumble of a chuckle came from Des. “Arse.”

“Quite.” The elf smiled. “So, magic.”

Patching Up – Part 1

“Am I dying?” The former farmer asked, laid out on the ground with a leg propped up onto a barrel. His skin was pallid and clammy, and his voice hushed.

“No. There are two simple reasons as to why you are not dying.” The man tending to his wounds chuckled, working delicately with a pair of needles to remove the poisonous barbs digging into the elevated thigh. “The first is that if you were to die, I would have the satisfaction of no longer having to tolerate your company.”

“I hope the second reason’s better, because the first would also mean I wouldn’t have to put up with you… you prim, pointy-earred prick.” The patient laughed, soon trailing off to lead into hoarse gasps.

The elf’s laugh filled the abandoned farmhouse, his hands keeping steady as each barb was removed with careful motions and placed into a dish. “Oh, much better. While I may be a humble mage-”

“Humble?!” The farmer’s chuckle had him wheezing again.

“Humble and incredibly modest. Possibly the most modest in this entire cursed land.”

“No… more… hurts to laugh…” He gasped, before his carer was up and adjusting his head to make sure the airways stayed open. The addition of a cool, damp cloth placed on his forehead brought some comfort to the fire raging through his veins.

“I’m not a physician, but I am familiar with anatomy. Your leg is elevated, to reduce the bleeding. The trifling amount of blood you have lost was tainted with poison so that is some small blessing.” He spoke, thankful that the poor light in the barn obfuscated the amount of blood staining his robe. “The materials I have been gathering for my own purposes? Well, some of them can be used to help clean and treat your wounds.”

The farmer was quiet as the last few barbs were removed from his leg, the remnants of the attack that had left a large, deep gash on his thigh. “It’s bad, isn’t it, Zaneer?”

“It, well, Des…” Zaneer took a deep breath. “Cleaning the wound will be the easy part. What comes next? You will need to dig deep and harness all of your surly, bastard-esque qualities.”

It didn’t take long for the mage to sift through his component bag, removing the wooden pestle and mortar as well as some small bags of freshly collected herbs. Pinches of this and bunches of that all ground together. A waterskin provided ample clean liquid to wash out the wound.

“That wasn’t so bad.” Des spoke somewhat awkwardly, his teeth gritted.

The elf looked down at the man with a resigned expression. “The wound is too big for a poultice. You’ll likely bleed out if it’s left open.”

“Needle and thread job, then?”

Setting his jaw, Zaneer slipped a hand under his robe to reach for one of the carefully-grown wands in his caster’s bandoleer. “Alas, I have no needle or thread. If it were cauterized? I would say there’s a good chance you’ll see the rising sun.”

“… Ah.”

Taking as deep a breath as he could, Des grabbed the neckerchief laying near him and wadded it up. “Do it. A chance is better than-”

“An unpleasant certainty?” Zaneer finished for him, moving into position to weigh down his body and secure the injured leg. A small wave of his hand brought the candle up to provide better light. “Draw deep from your soul, you boorish and cantankerous pig. This will not be pleasant.” Power flowed through his hand and into the wand, a tiny orb of fire appearing at the tip of the dark length of wood.

Any retort Des might have offered was muffled by the neckerchief clenched between his teeth. It did not do such a good job muffling the screams.

It Tolls For Tea

Her sword arm ached from the raging battle she had been fighting for the last hour. Blows were carefully parried, strikes avoided and thrusts countered. The sun had just started to set when a mighty bell tolled. The warring warriors looked up and around at each other as the sound hung in the air.

Sheathing her blade in the scabbard, the knight pulled the helmet from the top of her head. “The queen needs me.” She declared, before departing the field and heading for the castle.

There was no cowardice in her actions.

Even the mightiest knight could not resist the call of pizza night, and no plastic swords or rubber helmets were allowed at the royal table when it was time for a feast.

Helping Hands

From a young age, Kyla had been taught that on visits to the supermarket she should avoid the stock fillers. Walking down the aisles they could often be seen reaching out from the dark at the back of the shelves to hand products to shoppers, to straighten shelves, or plucking stock from nowhere to stack the display units with.

She’d tightly grip onto the shopping trolley as her father pushed it down each aisle, checking things off his list and stacking them carefully in the wire basket. Every so often she’d gain the courage to try and peek into the black recesses of the shelves. A glimpse of dark hands could be seen, straightening some box or pushing older product to the front.

As Kyla grew, she became less scared of the hands. She’d carefully take items off them and stand on tip-toes to deposit it in the trolley. Sometimes she would see the hands reaching for products that had been knocked off the shelf. Darting down she’d pick it up and pass them over. That seemed the right thing to do. A nice thing to do.

So when she saw one of the hands accidentally knock some canned vegetables off the shelf? Kyla skipped over to pick the tin up and pass it back, a smile on her face. The shadowy limb reached out for it before twisting to reach past. She gasped as she felt the cool digits touch her wrist.

Suddenly she was walking away. She could see herself walking away. Her eyes tracked herself until a tin of sweetcorn hid her from sight. It was the tin she had helped put back on the shelf. It confused her, to see herself walking away. In that confusion in the dark place she found herself, a bright idea came to mind.  She’d lend a helping hand to shoppers. It seemed the right thing to do. A nice thing to do.

Hook Up

Clutching at each other, one backed up. The other shuffled forwards. The doors slid open automatically, a small service cupboard providing some privacy. It wasn’t needed. Two crew members were all that needed to be active while travelling, the ship’s AI handling most of the heavy duty. Everyone else was in sleep mode.

They still occupied the service cupboard, limbs of composite casing and synthetic muscles clinging tightly to reinforced torsos. They broke their kiss to gulp down the chill air, their advanced bodies starting to stabilize their breathing.

“Do you-”

“Yeah,” he panted, reaching down to his pocket. “Got one with me.” He procured a length of cable tucked away in a protective spool, two connection plugs available. Pulling one out, he pressed it against the back of his neck before chuckling.

Turning the plug the other way, he pressed it in again.

A sigh escaped his lips. Turning it back the original way, the plug slid smoothly into the Human-Machine Interface port situated there. “Usually the way.” He laughed softly, looking a little sheepish.

“It’s okay.” His crewmate said softly, taking the other plug between their fingers. “I get a little nervous too before hooking up with someone.”

Sat Aside

Away from her boisterous colleagues celebrating another Earth Year passed, Jena sat by her bivouac bag doing a spot check on her pulse rifle. The cyborg was not in a jovial mood, and the attempts of her squad-mates to cajole her into attending the festivities didn’t help matters.

Her visual checks of the large energy weapon were accompanied by in-vision overlays relaying diagnostic data from it. She was meticulous in her checks. Having gone through the pain of losing a large majority of her birth body to combat injuries, she didn’t want to have to repeat that with her cybernetic replacements. A well-maintained set of equipment was the first line of defence. A good monitoring network was second, and the feed from the deployed probes scrolling past her eyes provided that.

A din came from around the camp fire, an ancient Earth song traditionally belted out while drunk. They didn’t know all the words, so they just whooped and droned until they got to the few lines they remembered. The absurdity of the situation made her chuckle. An old song sung light years away from home. How many years had it been since she was last in the Solar System, let alone on Earth?

High Command were resolute that EY2982 would be the final year of conflict in the Makardis Sector. With EY2981 slipping away, Jena made herself a promise. If she survived her tour of duty? She’d take a trip back home.

And maybe she’d welcome EY2983 in on Earth in a bar, rather than sat aside on an alien world.

Writer’s Note: This week’s Three Word Wednesday words were Jovial, Resolute, and Promise. Happy New Year, here’s to a 2015 with more writing done in it than 2014.