Djoric's Sandbox
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“Sorry about that. The nausea and headaches should pass in ten minutes or so. It’s just the Scranton dragging you back to a baseline reality state.”

“Yeah, yeah, just take your time. My name’s Rachel, by the way.”

“Okay. Great. Sorry for the trouble, but you were the best option Delta-T could find to deal with this.”

“Target is one Sigurrós Stefánsdóttir. Initially contained by the Foundation in 1996, then put in cold storage in 1998 after an assassination attempt. They thawed her out in 2010 to resume study. She’s a Level-5 reality bender, not sure what you guys would classify that, but it’s top of the spectrum. On top of that, she’s infected with a potent transmissible adaptive cognitohazard that plays hell with all sorts of records and media. It’s leaked into her powers.

“In layman’s terms, you’re dealing with a 14 year old girl who’s watched too much anime and is infected with contagious bad fanfiction. Who has ascended to godhood.

“Going to be honest with you guys, the world outside this room is…pretty much completely fucked.”

A woman ran down the cobblestone road, her sky-blue kimono flowing out behind her. Gently flapping wings, one snow-white and feathered, one black and batlike, leant a flightiness to her steps. A wide-bladed sword1 of ruby and obsidian and frozen quicksilver was held over her right shoulder, glimmering in the sunlight. Her pace was relaxed, despite the expanse she covered with each stride and flap of her wings down the tree-lined road.

There was nothing but her light footsteps, the gentle sound of her wings and the breeze carrying the cherry blossoms.

Then, something in the distance behind her.

A noise.

Growing louder.

A buzz.

Then discernible notes. Guitar twanging. Bass heartbeat. Stronger chords layered on top it, sharp-edged and solid.


Dum dumma dummmmm DUM DUM

Dum dumma dummmmm DUM DUM

Dum dumma dummmmm DUM DUM

Dum dumma dummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



A song, growing louder and louder until a beaten yellow Volga M24 screamed and screeched and swerved around the corner, left wheels rising off the pavement, black smoke belching from the exhaust pipe, music blasting from the speakers, llamas bleating just under the roar of the engine. Inside, the driver, a heavily-built black man argued over the cell phone with some unknown party in deep patois. In the passenger seat, Salah leaned out the window, trying to get a shot at the runner. On the roof, Mary-Ann clung like a mussel, rifle in one hand, wind roaring in her ears, and the sure and certain knowledge that everything had gone completely batshit bugfuck insane.

The following thoughts ran through Mary-Ann’s head.

1) Holy shit what is going on
2) Holy shit why am I doing this
3) Holy shit fuck
4) Holy shit holy shit holy shit
5) Fuuuuuuuuuuuck

She grit her teeth and tried to aim at the running woman, bracing herself as best as she could against the cargo bars. A llama sat by her elbow. This was insanity. Normal people died doing this sort of shit.

Granted, normal was an utterly meaningless term at the moment.

The swerving lessened enough for Mary-Ann to let off a staccato burst of gunfire, accompanied by the sharp periods of Salah’s pistol. The woman danced out of the way, not even slowing her pace. Bullets shattered panes of force like mirrors.

Come on, come on…stand still, you fucker…

A gigantic red tori gate loomed over the road. In the distance, a gigantic walled city filled the horizon, the tops of shining skyscrapers and Edo-era palaces looming over the white stone walls.

The woman took flight, wings unfolding. She spun gracefully, swinging wide her sword. A crackling wave of light cascaded down, tearing open the ground. Trees crumbled to ash, soil boiled away in clouds of dust. Geysers of molten rock shot up and splashed about. From the depths of the split earth leapt a horde of dust-shrouded figures.

Little girls with assault rifles. Thousands of them.

“Hold on!” the driver shouted. Mary-Ann did so. The brakes screeched as the tires burned and the car slid across the pavement. Mary-Ann felt her heart and stomach move up to her throat. Probably her liver, too.

The car skidded, flipped, bounced off of the road, and smashed into the first rank of gun-toting lolis.

“She’s basically re-written reality now. Everything’s operating off of qualitative narrative laws, rather than physical. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, it means you can use the same laws without most of the ritual stopgaps and shortcuts most people need. Downside is, it goes to your head – like how you guys were before I got here. I don’t know, how much training in this stuff have you already had?”

“Oh, wow, that’s a lot. So I guess you can see where I’m going with this.”

If there had been a photographer at that moment the Dial-a-Llama car crashed through the first row of pre-pubescent blood-balloons, this is what they would have seen.

Mary-Ann Lewitt in midair, knees tucked up to her chest. Hair bound back in an orange wool hair net. Blue arrows painted on her forehead and arms. Flame-patterned bikini top, khaki cargo pants, combat boots. M4 in her hands. Some obscene, oversized rifle better suited for taking potshots at tank factories slung across her back.

Salah beside her, wearing a suit of chainmail and a white surcoat, emblazoned with a yellow sun with a Mona Lisa smile. A quart bottle of orange juice fastened to his belt. An iron tetsubo, engraved with the words PAIN STICK.

A short distance behind both of them was a black llama. It too was in midair, but with far less grace, because it was a llama.

6) What the fuck am I even doing.

A thousand or so schoolgirls, all arrayed in tactical harnesses and sailor uniforms, brought their weapons around to aim at the two. The target was already flying away. Time froze in the billowing clouds of dust, under the watchful gaze of almost-certain death.

Only almost certain. In that briefest moment, Mary-Ann lowered her mental defenses, just as their fingers hit the triggers. A wave of greasy, clammy film settled on her mind. The girl’s influence, rewriting reality. Allowing just enough to make it all work.

Just like it did in the movies.

Mary-Ann dropped the M4 and swept her hands around her. Gunfire like rain on a roof, bullets trapped in the currents of air that shielded them. Release the sphere, shockwave, hit the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Salah’s club came down right on top of a girl’s head, which exploded like a water balloon filled with food dye.

Please don’t be a real person please don’t be a real person, please don’t be a real person.

A dim screech behind them indicated that the Dial-a-Llama driver had left, off to spend the money they’d paid him on booze to forget the events in question. Mary-Ann ducked out of the way of a knife swing, sent the girl flying with a blast of air. Salah intercepted, knocking her flying out over the ranks of girls like a batter hitting a pop fly to right field.

The rest of the girls attacked. The world filled up with bullets and flashing knives and gushing blood, and Mary-Ann felt her body acting on its own, as according to the dictates of that greasy patina in her brain. Part of her mind laughed at the absurdity of it all, how divorced from reality this fight was. Part of it was simply entertained that she knew magic kung-fu now. The third part loomed over the others with continued prayers that the girls were merely constructs, figments of their mistress’ imagination.


Mary-Ann drew up more gusts for crowd control, driving a wedge through their ranks. Salah following behind, taking swings at the mooks. Mooks, that was all they were, just mooks. A distraction, mooks were always a distraction. Not a threat, a distraction.

But a distraction from what?

In the distance, Mary-Ann caught glimpse of a small, shining form alight on top of the city’s wall. A sword was raised, then plunged into the stone.

The walls erupted in clouds of stone dust and far-flung hunks of masonry, and from within emerged, shoulder to shoulder, a line of skinless giants, each tall enough to gaze over the skeleton of the walls that imprisoned them. Each one grinned with a lipless mouth.

Oh. A distraction from that.


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