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Error by Erika Lance

To Nicole who submitted through the website. I hope you enjoy!

Geocode was not successful for the following reasons: ERROR

Martin looked at the screen again. This couldn’t be correct.

The data within the system had taken years to gather. It was the most in-depth analysis of humans that had ever been undertaken. Every other sector’s numbers had computed perfectly.

Martin, as the humans had called him, tried again: ERROR

He pulled up the zone in question on the map. It was an affluent neighborhood in the state of California in the country called the United States.  As he scrolled though the information, he also began the diagnostic protocol.

If there was any chance of zeroing in on the error and getting off this planet which was at the farthest end of the galaxy, contained behind a rather formidable asteroid field, then he would have to find and correct this ‘ERROR’ and submit his information.

As the images rolled past, one in particular caught his eye. He scrolled back and pulled it up. At first glance, it seemed fairly mundane.  Small children played in an area of grass and sand. One of them was using some kind of plastic item that was launching soap in the shape of circles in the air. He knew what they called them… Bubbles!

He zoomed in on the bubble that had just been launched. There in the reflection he saw not a small earth child standing there, no, this was something different. This had gills.

At first, a smile crept across the human mouth he was wearing. He had found the error. Then almost as quickly as it had appeared, the smile vanished.

These were not humans.

A feeling of dread began to build within him. Was this possible? he thought to himself.

He knew that this planet had been studied before; it was a terribly good resource for certain mineral components and the inhabitants were still behind in technology that any time they saw a potential visitor it was dismissed. This is what made the idea of full planetary reaping so appealing to his high ruler. But here it was, right in front of him.

He moved to the genetic samples that had been taken from that region. Although they were ‘mostly’ human, there were other markers.  When he broadened the scan, he found them to be traces of Reedbarnt gene sequences.

They were hiding here. How?

He had to submit this right away.  This was above his pay-grade.

Pulling the arm-sleeve of flesh from his right hand, he extended his small gathering of tentacles to the screen. Although he was mandated to leave the human covering on for the length of his mission, he knew that what he had to gather and send would take hours if he had to use the small human appendages.

He gathered all the evidence and sent it to his superior. He then reattached his arm-sleeve and paced up and down the ships data storage area. This was a human habit, but he knew that he could not remove the whole flesh suit without it deteriorating.

It was many earth hours before he received a reply.

It said only one thing: Abort!

 

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Inky Spells by Lisa Barry

For my dear friend, Court – May we ever be pleasantly surprised. Heart you.

“There were too many pens to choose from…”

“So, you didn’t get any? How am I supposed to write down the spell without a pen?” Dan asked.

Lorna’s shoulders shrunk lower. “A pencil?” she smiled hopefully, being about the size of his hand, it was a little hard to tell.

“Do you have a pencil?”

Pressing her lips together, Lorna shook her head. Her purple hair floated around her head like candy corn. Dan wanted to be angry, but he only had to look once at Lorna’s small, stooped figure as she stood on his worktable, a miserable expression on her face and it was basically impossible to exert any anger. Instead he went to his desk for the third time and rummaged for some utensil, any utensil to write with. As he came up empty handed as expected, he glanced at the clock.

There were only 45 minutes left. He stared out the window as his mind contorted thought in such a way that a solution was not evident.

He glanced Lorna once before and thought of a leaf.

“Of course!” he exclaimed. Lorna’s head whipped up. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this an hour ago!” Dan grabbed something from the counter and rushed out to the back yard. He ran straight toward the black raspberry bush in the far corner.

A slam to his face and knees brought Dan hard to the ground. The containment spell had gotten smaller. Lorna twitted around his face, calling out frantically, her wings buzzing noisily. Dan waved a hand feebly. It held a small plastic bag.

“I’m ok. Fill this with the raspberries.” Lorna grabbed the bag and zipped away. Dan waited for the ache in his knees to subside before pulling himself up again. His nose throbbed, and he wondered if it was broken.

A blur near the raspberry bush, Lorna filled the bag quickly. She dragged it along the ground, it being too heavy for her to lift, and once she was through the invisible line that held Dan back, he lifted it and blew her a kiss.

“As promised, once this spell is broken, I will build you the best pixie house you have ever seen!”

A delighted squeak made Dan chuckle. If Lorna hadn’t come around that morning, Dan would have been perished in the ever-shrinking containment spell.

Back at his workshop, he hurried to make the ink need to create a banishment spell to counter his hidden prison. With just moments to spare, he finished the last flourish with the quill pen. The parchment sat, his calligraphy a beautiful deep purple. He looked at Lorna. She sat on the edge of a pot filled with daisies. Her hair had settled over her in thick waves. She must have felt his intention as her eyes glanced up, a sparkling gold. She gave him a meek smile.

A perfume of raspberry took over his senses. The ink on the parchment was smoking. Dan smiled at Lorna. “It’s working,” he whispered as though afraid of scaring the spell to sleep. Lorna buzzed into the air and silently clapped her hands.

When the last of the ink had vanished from the page, Dan felt a strange bout of dizziness. His body ached everywhere but his back seemed to be the most pained. The room twisted along with his stomach. He grabbed the counter and held on until the feeling passed. Then he went outside. He expected the force field to be gone. He expected to be able to continue life as usual, but things never seemed to work out that way.

Dan blinked as he looked around. He’d always been a decent wizard, maybe not the best but certainly not the worst. Today he was definitely on the lower rung. The trees were so high, he couldn’t see where they ended. The flowers were so big he could use them as umbrellas. A glint of white sparkled in his peripheral and he was pretty sure he had wings.

Motion pulled his attention to the right. He was rewarded with the most breathtaking face he’d ever seen. Perfect lavender skin, bright golden eyes and a glorious smile. And she was his size.

Lorna took his hand and Dan forgot about this new world, his new size and especially, Dan forgot about too many pens.

 

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Ted the Accountant by Lisa Barry

For Remi Paquette, I hope you enjoy it!

Ted, the accountant walked out on stage and looking over the assembled gods realized that this was not going to be a fun presentation.

Clearing his throat, Ted nodded at the crowd and then turned to his laptop, already connected to the big screen before them. He cleared his throat again and tried to steady his hand before turning back to the crowd.

He gave a weak smile as he fished the laser pointer from his pocket and aimed it at the pie chart on the screen.

“Thank you all for coming today,” Ted said and cringed as his voice boomed by some god’s will over the colosseum.

“I am one of the forensic accountants for Athena.” The crowd turned to look at her where she sat demurely at the end of the second row on the left. She had a small smile on her face but ignored them all.

“As I am sure you all know, most gods take a portion of the collection from the various churches dedicated to their name and use it for their whims on the various planets,” Ted continued. “Madame Athena is no stranger to these practices. Since the advent of the digital world in three of those planets, we have recently upgraded our own systems to track things this way and several gods have even taken classes in the many accounting practices so as to be as knowledgeable as any planetary creature in this nature.”

Someone laughed in the crowd and tried to cover it up with a cough but everyone turned to glare at Hermes. He scratched his eyebrow, middle finger up, his lips quirked.

Ted continued hesitantly. “It has come to the attention of Madame Athena that there are some unusual expenditures on the Earth region. Some of you haven’t dealt with Humans in half a millennium but someone of you are active and visit even now…”

“And we know who you are,” Athena’s voice blanketed the crowd. Ted cringed slightly before continuing. He pointed his laser to the screen. It reflected off a number.

“There are 30,116 visiting gods on earth at any given time…”

“Lies!” someone shouted from the back.

“Put a grape in it, Ares,” Hera shot back, “We all know our procreation is out of control there.”

Hermes choked out a laugh before the room once again gave Ted their attention.

“The problem is not so much the expenditures, odd though they are, but the issue is more with the amount of earth dollars being spent.” Ted cleared his throat again before continuing. He removed his glasses and wiped them with a handkerchief before replacing them and continuing.

“The total of all the various god collections on earth does not even cover the amount that is being spent. What that tells us is that at least one god is,” Ted stopped for a moment and looked at Athena. Her eyes narrowed. Fear rolled over him but he pushed through it. “Living on earth and either earning or stealing to create the funds.”

“How can you prove this,” shouted a deep voice. Thanatos. Ever since Hades started getting so much attention, the daemon tended to be a constant voice at any meetings with more than five gods in attendance.

“What if you live there less than six months of the earth year?” a soft, polite voice asked from seemingly everywhere. Ted thought it might be Hecate.

And he was stumped. He couldn’t recall any law against such a thing. He saw Athena change positions in her chair. Ted started to sweat again. He was supposed to be the expert. Pulled from earth almost year ago, Ted had been sent to the libraries to learn every law on finance and exchange that could be found. Every scroll unrolled, every tablet translated. He had been given the gift of all language by Athena herself and had been content until she forced him to attend the gods in this manner.

Ted gave a silent prayer but after seeing the sudden smirk on Hermes face, his backbone straightened slightly.

“If you were to refer to earth laws, specifically the rules of the Unites States of America, then a person living in one state for more than six months constitutes a homestead. However, there is no law requiring homestead for someone living there for less than six months. From all the tombs I’ve read here in the library of Asgard, I find no reference for or against living somewhere for such a time.”

Ted stared at his feet and waited. The purpose of his presentation was to weed out the gods living on earth and potentially wreaking havoc on their economy. He risked a glance at Athena who was definitely the instigator. She sat, thinking he thought.

It was Hecate who spoke again. Her voice crept in from the sides making you query if she was beside, behind or in front of you. “I have been spending much time in this place called Vegas. I like it. Reminds me of the old days.”

A chuckle from the back. Was that Odin? Ted scanned the back. Odin generally was front center but he seemed to be staying clear of these notions of Athena. Ted scrunched his brows as he guessed why. Perhaps Odin too was enjoying Vegas periodically.

“I too enjoy earth for longer duration,” a calm voice floated easily over the crowd. Several gods and goddesses turned around to stare at Lokey. “What?” His eyes shined with mischief, “It’s fun. I’m fond of the gambling, the smokey rooms, the hot girls, the thieving, the whoring…”

“Enough!” Athena’s voice echoed hushing everyone as it went before it cut off like someone had pulled the PA plug. There was an odd noise and then the end of Athena’s sigh echoed around the room.

“Ted, why don’t you go ahead and pack up. Please leave your slides as I would like to review them again. Directors of the Board, I request your presence in Valhalla for brunch and discussion on the handling of this overage we are experiencing in the mortal realm.

There was some muttering, a few boos and a cat call. Ted wondered the purpose of the cat call and then remembered present company and gave up. He packed everything up quickly and left the stage. Ten minutes later he slipped into his apartment, a small but suitable affair just off the Garden of Eden replica and near the Pool of Life. He grabbed a bag of popcorn and sunk into his favorite chair. He had survived another day. His contract would be up in one month, two weeks, three days.

Ted flipped on the TV and with a toss of popcorn into his mouth, he prepared to outsmart the contestants of Jeopardy again.

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Why It Had Begun by Lisa Barry

For Shelley Martin; enjoy.

 By the time it ended she would understand why it had begun.

Marla blinked at the fortune teller and turned to her friend. Becky was big eyed and nodding in agreement with the fortune teller like she had understood his cryptic telling.

“What a crock of shit,” Marla commented and stood. “You may believe it, but I know better.”

She walked out of the tent and met the dusk with a glare. So much of the day had been wasted at this stupid carnival on her sweet 16th. She looked around for her boyfriend. He’d said he was going to try to win her a prize. She was thinking about making her sweet 16th very sweet and invite him to visit her room later. It would be an amazing top off to this oddball day. Her own parents had left for a bowling tournament in the next town and forgotten her special day. The devil-may-care attitude could sometimes get old. At least she got to take dad’s car. Becky came out of the tent just as Marla spotted Chris.

“That was very rude,” she said but when she saw the look on Marla’s face she paused and turned her head.

Chris was leaning against the seven mirror maze. He was embracing a petite blonde. Becky winced when she saw that it was the kind of embrace you don’t want to see your boyfriend having unless you were having an out of body experience and watching yourself.

Becky turned to console Marla but stopped with her hand out-reached. The blood had faded from Marla’s face and she stood, stony faced and emotionless. Her fisted hands gave away the stark anger that seemed to pulse from her.

A strange wind started up, dusting the dirt up at their feet at first and then whipping through their hair. The haunting carnival music stopped abruptly. A few pieces of hail hit the blonde in the head and she startled away from Chris. He threw an arm over her and looked around a bit frantically.

The wind continued, pulling itself into funnel and sucking up debris only to shoot it up and out. The ground shook in waves.

Becky giggled with glee. Marla’s lips quirked slightly, but she pulled her frown back and squeezed her fists tighter.

People were starting to scream and run around. The seven mirror maze shook, the sound of breaking glass echoing the wind’s roar. Marla yelled and flung out a hand. The maze broke apart and swept Chris and the blonde in before closing back up, pulling in the wind behind them with a whoosh.

Marla let out a contented sigh. Becky giggled again. The music started back up.

“Feel like joining me downstairs to mete out some vengeance?” Marla asked Becky.

Becky nodded but spoke up for the blonde, “she probably didn’t know you existed, ya know.”

Marla shrugged, “By the time this ends, she’ll understand why it begun.”

Becky giggled again. “See? Some of those guys really know how to tell a fortune.”

Marla rolled her eyes before sinking downstairs.

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It Can’t Be by Lisa Barry

From Spencer –

OH GOD. No. It can’t be. I’m HUMAN!

Moorh thought.

Watching the blood dribble from the hole on the human arm at his side, Moorh’s mind raced. The pain hit as he searched his memory, the sensation running through his nerves and to his brain letting him know the extent of the injury.

He slumped into a chair and covered the hole with his working hand. His mind screamed at him while he surveyed his surroundings and tried to take back some semblance of normalcy.

It seemed he was in a doctors waiting room. All the walls were white. There was a typical beach scene framed on one wall above a row of simple chairs of which one he was sitting in. Another wall held a rack of pamphlets and yet another held a window looking into the reception area and a small door. The last wall was a double door entrance. Moorh stood and headed toward the doors.

“Mr. Stodgant?” A pleasant voice called. Moorh turned to see a beautiful yet human nurse standing at the reception door. She smiled. “I think you might want to get dressed before heading back to the office.”

Moorh glanced down and his lip curled in disgust. His skin was a soft white color, not the bright blue he was accustomed to. Gone was his leather breast plate and dagger, his kilt and boots. Instead, a soft, weak body, held his mind. An anguished noise escaped a mouth he’d never used before.

The nurse came near, reaching for his arm. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Stodgant. It happens sometimes that the simulator is so real, people can have a hard time coming back to the real world. Why don’t you come with me and I can show you your things and fix up your nervous system patch-in? It seems you ripped out the cable.”

Moorh paused and looked around again. He had known it was a doctor’s office hadn’t he? He lifted a hand, his face a grimace as he viewed the lines in the skin and the veins buried within. He glanced back at the nurse just as a deep stabbing sensation cut into the side of his head.

His hand found the wall and he hunched in pain against it, head lowered to his chest.

“Oh, dear, sweetie. Let’s get you to the back, I think you may be having some post-simulation difficulty.” He felt a hand on his arm but it was coarse and firm.

Lifting his head, he could barely make her out through the agony. One of her hands was near his head and the other on his arm. Her skin was more yellow than white. Her head larger than it should be.

Cybertrolls.

Moorh bent to hide his emotion. He blinked trying to clear his head. His feet were blue again, wrapped in leather boots. Then white with odd looking shoes.

“Which?” he whispered.

“Don’t worry sweetie, I’ll take good care of you.”

Moorh moved, a heavy hand to her head. The snap gave him no pleasure but the pain in his head subsided when she slumped to the floor.

He slumped to the floor and breathed in several long heaves before squinting around.

A bulbous canary skinned fellow stood in the doorway.

“Bravo,” the creature said and clapped mildly, “such a lovely game.” Moorh stood slowly and reformed his hand into a mallet.

“I don’t like games,” he snarled and lunged.

By Lisa Barry 04 August 2016

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Fire Doomed by Lisa Barry

For Erica Allbee, my fiery redheaded friend…

The fire burned hot.  So hot I felt it singeing the depths of my lungs with every breath I tried to draw in.

I hugged the blanket closer, pulling it over my entire head as I pushed myself farther into the room finally hitting the wall. My hope drizzled from me, saturating the tears that leaked from my closed stinging eyes.

The fire licked the doorway of the small room as I huddled in the corner. I felt it then. The headiness, my weakened heart. My breath was so shallow now I knew if my eyes were open they wouldn’t see clearly.  It was no different than drowning really. Suffocation feels the same anywhere I guessed. It was the heat that made this worse.

I hadn’t really thought about how I would die this time, but I certainly hadn’t wagered on fire. Sure, I’ll probably pass out before I actually burn, but the idea of it wasn’t a comfort. I was pretty sure this was the worst way to go.

My body slumped unmoving. Damn it.

Russo was going to get it for this. I will absolutely kill him with fire next time. As I floated above my latest vessel, I couldn’t help but feel a loss. I had really liked that one.

 

I woke and I was so comfortable I was tempted to roll over and bury my head in the luscious pillow beneath my head. But I was also rather excited to find out what my new body was like. We never get a choice. It’s really a crap shoot. Usually the bodies we get inserted in are from coma victims whose owners are long gone, leaving their bodies far behind. You have to get them when they’re fresher. Bodies in comas for too long don’t work so well.

I took a moment to feel. Putting attention on extremities and nerves to see what I was up against. There was a dull ache near my right temple and a throb on my left shin. Felt like road burn. Otherwise, the body felt pretty good. Really good if I had to be honest. I’d gotten another female which was nice.  I felt more comfortable as a female, though I could run a male body around just as easily.

I took in a deep breath and let my eyelids flutter before opening them to check out my surroundings. I would have to meet my new family, friends, and loved ones soon. Had to go through the spiel; What happened? How did I get here. I don’t remember anything. As always, they’ll be happy I’m alive.

“She’s waking up!” a woman screeched nearby. Yeesh. There was some activity and then someone took my hand.

“Lana, baby. I am so happy you’re coming back to me!” The woman sounded like she smoked a ton of cigarettes, but I didn’t detect the foul stench of them. I focused on her then. She had a curly white permed halo around her head and bright blue eyes surrounded by wrinkles.

“It would have been the end of me to outlive you, girl,” she chided though a tear leaked from her eye. It was always weird. I don’t remember ever having anyone care about me like that and yet so many times I had woken with someone there who was so pleased, so loving. Of course, I’d had the opposite too. Where someone had wished I was dead, was hoping for the will to kick in, or just a general jerk of a family member.

For some reason, I liked this lady right away. She continued, her voice strict, “You had better not ever ride one of those killer machines again.”

I blinked. “I love motorcycles.” My voice was a rough whisper. I thought it sounded kind of cool. Her eyes widened in fear. Before she could say anything, a Greek God appeared over her shoulder with a boyish grin on his face. He pushed passed and leaned in, his scent filled me with masculine musk and before I could even think about swooning, he leaned in and kissed me full on the mouth.

I know; What! Today my luck was in the one thousandth of epicness. He pulled back and a large hand wiped a tear from his eye and then ran a finger down my cheek. He smiled and opened his mouth to speak but just closed it again and kept smiling and touching my face.

This man loved me. Or at least he loved whoever used to live here.

And I liked that. Very much. I had been floating for so long.

“I don’t remember what happened,” I said softly my voice recovering slightly. “I don’t remember me. But I remember I love you.”

He coughed and tried to cover up his emotions. “I’m so glad you’re back,” his gruff voice was music to my ears. “I love you, Lana Croft.”

My mother was weeping softly near the foot of the bed. I looked over to her. “And you too.” She snorted and continued to cry though she smiled.

 

It was days before they let me check out. Once everything had been checked and re-checked, I was finally able to see my new body and get dressed. I stepped in front of the mirror and gasped.

I looked just like the Tomb Raider lady. I was hot, I mean smoking. What planet was I even on? I cleaned up and stepped out only to have a doctor pop in for a final check.

“And are you all set, Ms. Croft?” the doctor asked with a calm smile. I stared at him. Each set of eyes was different and it took me a moment to realize who I was seeing. I glanced around before answering.

“What do you want, Russo?”

“Hey,” he waved a consolatory hand, “I’m Dr. Solarly for now.”

“I call truce,” I said quickly. I wasn’t attached to any machines so he couldn’t kill me that way.

“It’s cool,” he said and I think he really meant it. “I’m having fun. Never been a Doctor before. I think the Establishment wanted us to take a break. They even inserted the medical information into my memory so I fit in. Check yours, you probably know all about motorcycles, right?”

I stopped to think and realized he was right. I knew how to take apart most motorcycles and put them back together like a normal person would brush their teeth. I could apparently ride the shit out of them too, seeing as how I lived through a bad accident.

Russo, Dr. Solarly, held out his hand. I reached out and shook it. “Well, little bother, break time it is.”

As our hands separated, my incredibly beautiful boyfriend came to collect me. I was so ready to go home and get me some of that. I took his arm and waved to Dr. Solarly knowing if break time ended, Russo was gonna burn.

~~~

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