Plasma Girly (work in progress)

Greedy bureaucrats will force Lee Jefferson to compete in a harrowing descendant of twenty-first-century combat sports, but for the moment, she just needs to beat the rain.

Storytellers & Artists: A. Lavas Lead 

Year: In Progress

Chapter Two - Years Later

A wave crashed loudly enough to coax Lee away from training. She moved to the edge of the flat stone outcrop to investigate, pushing ocean mist from her short black hair while peering into the dark, hypnotic waves below. They rolled and bashed against aged ruins of metal ships peeking through the surf in a small, forgotten anchorage. They were supposedly the remains of vessels that had carried her ancestors to Ever Rest Island, whose massive stone crests blocked an entire side's view of the ocean.

"Island, right," Lee muttered. Eight years later and she was still catching Pedagogue Caust's lies. The Decentralized Pirate Network had confirmed Ever Rest Island was a mountain, the most massive still above sea level since the great flood.

While holding her unlit plazsaw with one hand, Lee squinted through the fingers of her other to guard her face against splashing. Examining the shadowy waters, she noticed a sheet of metal partially sheered from one of the ship's remains and guessed a wave had cracked it hard against the neighboring stones. She lingered, waiting to see it happen again until thunder boomed.

Lee tilted her gaze skyward, stopping short of the jagged rock canopy above her. Black clouds churned above the eternal grey before flaring with cracks of light. Seconds later, another boom sounded. 

She pulled her smart-goggles down from her forehead and over her large, bright eyes. The circular lenses immediately displayed a priority weather alert in the space before her.



"Great," Lee grumbled, gesturing away the alert with her free hand. 

She retracted her plazsaw shaft into the grip with a satisfying snap, then pressed the compacted weapon into the harness under her coat beside her torso.

"Remos, what happened to my alerts?" Lee asked the smart-goggles and hit a button on a robotic training dummy, causing it to collapse into its base. "Remos?!" 

She pushed the compacted dummy toward a plasma-cut hole behind a tall rock on the side of the outcrop, then kicked the thing into a shielded box inside. A hard stomp closed the box lid and dislodged a chunk of raw vormanite from her boot.

"Remos, wake!" Lee called, realizing her device's brain was in hibernation.

"Here, Lee. Jeez," Remos' voice said in Lee's linked earbud, speaking like a spunky girl, per Lee's configuration.

"Scan for vormanite on me, Remos, and what happened to my alerts?" 

"Before training, you turned off audio. You said no interruptions." 

A musical chime sounded, then Remos continued, "In addition to what's at your feet, there is trace vormanite on you."

"Where?" Lee asked, running her black-gloved finger beneath the pliable band holding her smart-goggles on.

"It's too mild to pinpoint. Probably not worth the effort to find."

Lee reminded, "We're poor, Remos," digging fingers into the wrinkles in her green pleather jacket. "Every bit helps." She jumped up and down, hoping to loosen anything from the folds of her deep-pocketed utility pants, but there was nothing. 

Remos asked, "Do you want me to check the DPN for black market values?" 

"Sure," Lee said and shook her courier-pack fruitlessly. "Doquah," she growled, then traced around the small equipment anchored to her belt. "Yes!" With a smile, Lee pushed free a pebble-sized nugget that joined the larger one at her feet. 

"I've sent current exchange rates to your lens HUD, Lee, if you want to unhide it. By the way, shelter fee's are due — "

"Tomorrow, I know," Lee interrupted, mumbled a curse, then slung her courier-pack over her shoulders; if nothing else, it was lighter than when she began her deliveries that morning.

She added, "I'll get paid by Jose Dodd on the way home."

Another thunderclap shook the ground, urging the sky from grey dusk to full night.

"Remos, turn everything back on and scan for CCOs."

"Full system activation will reduce my power by — "

"Just do it. They'll be closing the surface doors soon." 

The audio bud in Lee's ear chirped.

Remos reminded, "Currently, punishments for unauthorized surface access include — "

"The scan, Remos!" 

"Right. Powering up."

Lee grabbed the vormanite from the ground and stuffed it in a shielded pouch on her belt. She walked across the rock outcrop, exchanging the stone canopy for the open stretch to the hidden path. While awaiting the scan, Lee gazed to her left, past the anchorage, at the enormity of Ever Rest Island. Though most of its mass was submerged, the great granite peaks above the water stretched upward in a tremendous scattering of cutting skewed lines and grey planes, reaching towards ominous clouds, leaving Lee feeling insect-like.

Remos announced, "Scanning."

In Lee's lenses, a white digital mesh pulsed from her position, virtually highlighting the rocky incline of the hidden path up to the dizzying Central Point Cliff, where two digital outlines appeared beside a comparatively huge horizontal rectangle. They were City Control Officers, milling in front of the massive entrance. 

"Remos, is there any mention of the Plaz being canceled?" 


"Because Charlie will be pissed off if it is. And add a flag to dial back your conversational realism when my situation is urgent. In particular, avoid asking why."

Remos confirmed, "Flag added. One moment for the update on the Plaz."

Lee began bouncing in place, preparing to run, saying, "Give me stealth." 

"When activating stealth, you asked to be reminded if caught with modded Remos-ware, your status will be downgraded to tier zero. As you requested, I have pre-set my hardware to auto-destruct."

"Deactivate auto-destruct and delete that reminder. I was in a bad mood when I asked for that, Remos. Add a flag to work on your sarcasm recognition."

"Flag added." Remos said, powering several internal mechanisms to block electronic detection. "Stealth active."

Lee sprinted up the narrow stone incline, vaulting an old pile of rock spilled from the craggy natural wall on the right, while staying mindful of the perilous drop to the ocean on her left. Between strained inhalations, Lee asked, "What's my viz?" Her legs and lungs burned, inflamed equally by the stride and the stakes, watching the CCO outlines above her grow larger in her lenses as she closed the distance.

Remos reported, "Ninety-seven percent electronic detection concealment."

After another half-minute of hard running, Lee slowed and lowered her body, approaching a tall boulder camouflaging the hidden path from the officers. She repeated her status request in a whisper. 

Remos confirmed, "One hundred percent electronic detection concealment."

Lee peered from her cover at the Central Point Cliff. It was a lengthy, flat precipice extending from an enormous rectangular opening, like some unnaturally flat tongue with a lit aircraft landing pad at the far end, perilously high above the sea. The opening spilled yellow light onto the two CCOs. Their duster-style overcoats flapped in increasing storm winds, revealing glimpses of their rugged armor and dangling shock batons. 

One of the officer's grumbled, "How long's it gonna take?" 

The second warned, "Give thanks for good fortune."

"Save it," the first replied, hawked, and spit. "I've got a front row seat at the Plaz tonight, and I wanna get out of here. The Resonator is fighting." 

"Vid the Resonator, huh. The boringest Plaz Champ ever."

"He's the best!" 

"Used to be, but he don't kill no one no more."

"That doesn't — " the officer stopped short. After a moment, he resumed, "Just got the word. Helimos were diverted to Chooyu Island."

The officers rush to positions on either side of the gigantic entryway.

"Ready?" one called from a set of door controls. The other affirmed with a contrarily quiet shout under the increasing storm winds. 

Lee felt intermittent raindrops. "Come on, already," she muttered while the officers turned their activation keys. The ground rumbled as tremendous doors of weathered steel slid from concealment within the stone on either side. 

The CCOs trotted in, talking unheard beneath the deep metallic rumbling as Lee scrambled in their wake toward the shrinking yellow light. Another thunder boom chased Lee through the narrowing space. Behind her, a downpour battered the Central Point Cliff until the clang of the gigantic doors coming together silenced it. 

She crouched, watching the officers walk away with their backs to her, debating the Plaz Champion in voices softening with distance. As they disappeared from view behind a row of aircraft belonging to Ever Island's elite, Lee's adrenaline crashed, and she dropped on her rear, leaning against the doors. 

Distractedly craning her head to the ceiling of the hangar, Lee lost herself in the grid of steel beams fixed to the mountain interior, adjoined with tracks on which dormant cargo craning systems rested. From there, she tilted her gaze to the stacks of rectangular metal shipping containers, then back to the airships, which, to Lee, resembled giant mechanical birds or insects with paralyzed wings and plastic and metal skin. 

With a grunt, Lee got to her feet, saying, "Remos, turn off stealth, pull up the news feed, and tell the bots we're coming through."

"Will do." 

Lee's goggle view flooded with text, imagery, and vormanite exchange rates.

"Woah! Locomotion layout," Lee directed, and the content transformed to icons, floating at a comfortable distance in Lee's lense margins.

Remos said, "The bots mentioned their next firmware update is in three days. After that, we'll have to reintroduce ourselves, and there's a three percent chance making friends will be harder."

I said, "I expect DPN will have countermeasures up in two days, so no worries."

"Right," Remos agreed. "Also, would you like me to message Jose Dodd you're on your way, and he should prepare your value payment?"

Lee walked into the flow of industrial robots performing upkeep on the air vehicles, saying, "He doesn't open my messages. I'll just show up for the val. Best way to keep him from stalling." 

Remos reminded, "You'll have to hustle. He tends to leave by — "

"I know. Add a flag to increase your awareness of redundant reminders."

As Lee pupil-navigated the information in her goggles, Remos said, "Flag added," then asked, "Did you want me to find something?" 

"Got it." Lee said, activating audio on a fight status notification.

An overly-exaggerated tough-guy voice said, "Get ready for arena action tonight in the Championship Plazilist Challenge!" 

Dramatic music, grunting fighters, and vorping plasma sounds underscored the voice. 

"A full fight card climaxes in a duel between Champion Vid the Resonator, and Mala Gitz, a V-Villetown contender with a five-fight winning streak. Tonight, only on the Plaz."

The voice changed to a sedate woman, saying, "Brought to you by The Solomon Effort, the campaign to deliver our City Chairman into the Makers."

"That's a relief," Lee said, approaching a wall opposite the surface doors, containing a massive mechanized portal for aircraft to access different regions of the mountain. Below it was an elevator with a security scanner.

"Why is it a relief, Lee?"

"Uncle Charlie."

"Oh yes. Cancelled fights make him yell."

"Exactly. How's train traffic on the Stretch?" Lee asked, thoughts turned entirely to getting paid and going home.

"It's dense on the Upper Top Side and congested at mid-stretch." 

"Okay. Plot me a quick flow to Jose Dodd's," Lee said, drawing her skeleton key access card from her coat.

"No need for the blot badge, Lee," said Remos as the elevator doors opened with a chime. "Our bot friends cleared us again." 

Lee turned and waved at the nearest industrial robot. 

It awkwardly waved its single utility arm in reply.