Just a little cut from what I’ve been working on today, raw and unedited. Melanie meets the mysterious artifact Gizmo, during her investiture to the Executive Council of the Corporate Courts. It looks to be just a typical oath swearing but, given who Melanie is….
Bright green light flared around Melanie. White-hot pain shot through her, ten times worse than anything she’d experienced in a situational oath. Sharp needle points pricked up and down her arms while mild electric shocks twitched through her. Steady. Steady. Breathe. Relax. Don’t fight. Melanie closed her eyes, doing her best to think about skiing the High Reach on a bright bluebird day with fresh powder.
<INTRUDER ALERT!> flashed across her eyes in bright flashing red text.
Crap! Enforcer alarm! Forced virtual! Her eyes snapped open and she stared right into the green glare. A shadowy male figure reached for her.
“NO!” she yelled, projecting every ounce of Enforcer compulsion she could summon into her voice. “Back OFF!”
The shadow-wrapped figure startled back. It poked at her again, but this time she fended it off with raised hands. It stood still for a moment, then shot a ray of green light at her. She bounced it back.
More lights came at her. Like the dance game. One grazed her cheek, and it burned. For real!
Only this time failure meant injury, or worse.
“STOP!” she finally screamed. It never worked in the game, but maybe here it would.
:Submit: the shadowy figure intoned.
“No. Not until you reveal yourself,” Melanie gasped, bending over double.
The shadow moved closer. A single ray beamed from its hand and took on a rapier shape. The tip touched just under her chin, the point burning and poking at the same time. Pressure increased until she stood, chin raised.
:Submit: the figure repeated.
“No,” Melanie breathed, shaking but standing steady. “Reveal yourself first.” Could I use the blue light as a parry? She’d never used that blue light as a weapon before, but if those green lights had that power in this virtual setting, maybe her own tools might have a power they didn’t have elsewhere. She began to breathe the codes.
“No.” Damn it, did that break the code cycle?
She repeated the last sequence. The familiar tingle that meant she had blue light in her hands began.
:Submit or die: The point began to trace a line from her chin to her throat.
“Never!” Now how could she shape it into a tool? I just need something long and solid. Staff. Think of it as a staff of light.
Just as she thought of it, she felt the staff in her hands. Thrust it up, like she’d practiced with Nik. Knocked the rapier away from her body, slid her hands together and swung hard at the figure, sending the rapier flying.
Bright white lights around her. She knelt on the floor before Gizmo, gasping for breath, blinking hard. How the hell did I get here?