E01. Fending

“Hey, Ellica, you want your fifteen?” Ellica turned to see the face of the store manager, Alan Morganstern, peering around the corner. Alan didn’t usually work the night shift, but the assigned shift supervisor had called out sick and so he was filling in now.

Ellica heaved both a sigh and the case of beer she was holding onto the top shelf.  “Yeah, that’d be great, Mr. Morganstern.  Thanks.”  She shot him a grateful smile as she pushed the cart she’d been stocking from to the side of the aisle and wiped a bit of sweat from her forehead.

She’d just made it back to the breakroom when her handshell buzzed, the name ‘Mam’ on the screen. Her elven mother. Great. She shot a longing look at the wallshell she’d been about to throw some kittenvids on, sighed, and answered the call. Continue reading

C02. Feeling Out the New Place

The real estate agent they’d assigned to Cameron looked, just as Abel had, stereotypically Washingtonian. Loose, dark curls tumbled around her suited shoulders, her light brown complexion had been foundation-polished to a contoured, matte perfection, and her brown eyes sparkled with marketable good will.

Unlike Abel, she was clearly turning on the charm as high as it would go, and it was hard not to find it off-putting. Still, she was helping Cam find an apartment he could afford, and probably getting paid less for working in the public sector, so he was trying his hardest to respect that.

She was talking constantly as she led him along the sidewalk. “This next one is really affordable, and it’s lovely to boot! I have no idea how such a nice apartment is available for so low—you should jump on it right away, if you like it!”

“Sure, sure.” Cameron said, letting her lead him to the building, not saying no to anything till he had obviously, seen it first. Continue reading

E01.5. Forecasting

One of the most striking differences between working daytime shifts at the Securemarket and working a night shift was the nature of customer interactions. During the day, the social contract was more intact: everyone acted more or less like everyone else, to a greater or lesser extent. What’s more, the crowds were thick enough that there was no reason to spend too terribly long talking to regulars.

At night, those who preferred a little more space, a little more quiet, a little more of a direct connection with the employees came out of the crawlspaces. Most employees either loved this, hated it, or had deeply mixed feelings, and which camp they fell into was often a direct result of which customers took a shine to them. Continue reading

C03. Going Places and Getting Placed

This wasn’t the first time Cameron had been in a supermarket, thank goodness. Once he was out of the temporary housing, he needed to start buying his own food, and that meant going to the Citybasket a few blocks from his apartment.

It was very, very good that he’d had a dry run, because he’d all but had to pick his jaw up off the floor. Food, boxes, aisles, wall-to-wall products that he could just buy with a checkout kiosk, not even talking to anyone if he didn’t want to. It was overwhelming.

He tried to stifle that continued feeling as he walked into the Securemarket where he was hoping to be placed. It wouldn’t do to be visibly thrown by a place like that. He was wearing his nicest Washingtonian-style clothing: a pair of slacks and a button-up shirt.

Hopefully it’d do. Continue reading

I01. Cold Open

The Ethertech University Library was the home away from home for many a student, teaching assistant, hobbyist, and professional magic user, but it was especially so for Icaela Bancroft. Its inclusive environment, safety, and boundless sources of knowledge had been a source of safety and edification for her long before she landed a scholarship at the university, and now that she was pursuing her degree, it was even more so.

Today, she sat in the conference annex, at one of the small tables under a silence field emitter that could be switched on for relative privacy. It was 14:20 when Icaela spotted a familiar figure walk in: she was a woman in her mid-twenties, short and curvy and weighed down with a heavy backpack. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a messy bun from which unruly curls spilled, and a pair of rectangular glasses sat low on her nose. At her hip, an elaborate pistol frame of silver and wood jutted from a real leather holster.

The girl’s name was Madison Andershaw, and she was one of the most talented enchanters Icaela had ever met. Continue reading

C04-E03. Friends and Colleagues

“Cameron Owens, right?” The smiling young man standing before Cam had pale blue skin with darker blue spots all across his cheeks and down the sides of his neck. His hair was a deep blue, and his eyes were the same color from pupil to sclera, just solid blue. Cam knew about elemental mutants, but he’d never spoken to one up this close. “I’m Reg! Welcome to the night shift. Let’s go say hi to your supervisor.”

Cam nodded, following mostly quietly. “Nice t’meetcha.” he muttered, eyeing the store around him, the stark difference from the aisles and shopping areas to the managerial bits behind the scenes for employees.

Reg led Cam out of the stockroom, past the employee lounge, and out to an aisle where a dark-haired woman was running diagnostics on a tabletshell and peering up at the ceiling from time to time. Continue reading

I02. Fest in Snow

It wasn’t the first snow of the season, but it was the first real one, and Icaela couldn’t be happier to be out in the thick of it. As a flesh-and-blood human subspecies, she was hardly “immune to cold,” but something about a powerful snowfall lifted her spirits, made her feel full of energy and life.

Her brother was the exact same way, as she was reminded when she saw him bounding through the mounds of snow on the edge of the street toward her. After a few hops, he tripped, tumbling over the snow and into the street, laughing out loud. No one was driving today, even though the streets had been cleared: given the snow and the street blockages for the festival, taking the Rail was just way, way easier. Continue reading