In case you've been wondering what's taking me so long working on Black Queen… Okay, yeah, this is part of the reason. I have needed something light and cheery for a while since Black Queen and Deal with a Devil were such darker works, and as a result I decided to try something new and run a quest. It didn't help matters that with my schedule, a chapter of Black Queen takes a week or more to write while this I can do in an evening.

I have a major backlog of chapters, so I'll be posting one chapter a day until this is caught up. If you decide you want to play, you can find me on Sufficient Velocity (dot com), same name and same picture. Or if you just want to read it here, that's fine, too.

Set Up! 1.1

January 3, 2011

"…And in other news, amateur astronomers were left dazzled last night when a swarm of – I kid you not – green shooting stars unexpectedly streaked across the sky over northern Portugal and Spain. Scientists have issued statements that the likeliest reason for the remarkable coloration is that the meteors in question had an unusually high copper content, but without recovering the space rocks themselves, which were predicted to have landed in the middle of the Atlantic, a definitive answer is impossible. Either way, the videos of the event that were loaded onto YouTube have become an overnight sensation. Back to you, Christine…"


January 29

You finger the tag hanging from the backpack unhappily. Twenty dollars isn't too exorbitant a price for a bag under normal circumstances, but this will be the fourth you've had to buy just since the start of this school year, and constantly buying new supplies is eating away at the meager savings you've stashed away. Add onto that price of new notebooks and the fees for replacement textbooks, and the two hundred dollars you have left don't look like much at all.

Pulling away, you shake your head. You spent all night washing out the paint the Trio poured into your backpack yesterday, but even though your notes and books were ruined, it is still technically serviceable. If you keep using it, it would be one less expense you have to deal with.

But really, what is the point? Those three girls have been tormenting you ever since you started high school, and no one ever cared to stop them. They get away with ruining your things, stealing your homework, harassing you in the hallways. They once even filled your locker with old tampons and congealed blood and locked you inside it until the janitor let you out several hours later, but did anything change? Not one bit. After spending two days in the hospital to make sure you didn't get sepsis, you came back only to find your desk filled with glue and dog shit as a 'welcome back' gift.

Sophia, the track star. Madison, the cute and innocent one. Emma, your traitorous ex-best friend, whose father is a lawyer. You're just plain, gangly, nobody Taylor Hebert; so long as it is you they are tormenting, they can quite literally get away with murder. They certainly gave it a shot already. Honestly, you're still surprised your dad managed to threaten them into covering the bills from your hospital stay; you expected them to deny any liability for any of it.

You tuck your hands in your pockets and step back into the sea of people filling up the Lord Street Market. You decided to start your shopping here rather than on the Boardwalk because the prices were always lower than they would further south – not to mention, the Enforcers always struck you as bullies, something you hated before high school and even more now – but if the wares here are already pushing your budget to its limits, there is little point to continue looking around. You'll keep using your backpack and clean off your pens, then all you need to buy here is another notebook or two, which should leave you enough to get a new math book at least. It depends on whether or not the secretary in the office is understanding enough to charge you at the wholesale price like last time.

Lost in your thoughts, it takes you a minute to realize you walked past the last stall in the Market a while ago. Now you are surrounded by empty storefronts, businesses that closed their doors when the shipping dried up to nothing before you were born. If you continue north as you have been, eventually those businesses will give way to decrepit apartments and warehouses, and then to the desolate Boat Graveyard. That is not somewhere you want to go with the sun setting like it is; the Merchants are known to hang around there occasionally, and of all the gangs that call Brockton Bay home, they are the lowest of the low.

A swing to the left takes you west, roughly in the direction of your house. If you want to get back home before your dad does, you'll need to hurry. He had already left for work by the time you woke up, and even though he's taken to working later and later since the Locker, you know he won't be happy if he returns to find you gone.

The Market vanishes behind a building, but you barely pay any attention to that as you notice something strange. You can hear… Is someone whistling? No, not someone, you decide; the sound is too high-pitched and constant to be a person. It sounds more like a tea kettle than anything, but still not quite right. What is it?

You creep forward, eyes shifting around just in case it does turn out to be a person with less than noble intentions, but the alleyway is completely abandoned. The sound is coming from behind that dumpster in front of you, and you peek around the corner.


The whistling stops as you stare at an ocean-blue jewel laying innocently on the ground just below a dent in the dumpster. As long as your thumb and just a little wider, it has already been cut into a diamond shape, and the four visible facets gleam in the dying sunlight. You pick it up as a smile grows on you face, the expression feeling strange after living so long without one. You just found the solution to your money problems.

"Nakecdan: haf ican."

You nearly drop the jewel in shock, its sudden glow gone again. Did it just talk?! Crystals don't talk!

…Not unless they're actually Tinkertech.

"Tufhmuyt: myhkiyka (mulym)."

If it is Tinkertech, you could sell it to the PRT! The only Tinkers in Brockton Bay are Armsmaster, Kid Win, Squealer, and Leet. If it is Armsmaster's or Kid Win's, you'll probably get a reward for returning it, and since it isn't an unholy amalgam of vehicles, it can't be Squealer's. As for Leet… You snort. If this is a working piece of Leet-tech, it should be even more valuable, if only because it's the first of its kind.

Then again, why would it be speaking in nonsense unless it was broken?

"Declaration. Salutations.
"Query. Identity (new user)."

"Um, hi?" you reply uncertainly. New user? "I'm Taylor. Are you… talking to me?"

"Query. Desire (Taylor)."

It takes you a moment to parse the robot-speak. "Query desire… You want to know what I want?"



"Declaration. Function (unit): assist (Taylor)."

"You just want to help?" you ask in confusion and, if you're honest, a little surprise. The first thing to care about you in the last year and a half, and it's a bullshit Tinkertech gemstone. You don't know if that's depressing or incredible. "Shouldn't you… I don't know. Go back to your creator or something?"

"Identity (progenitor): undefined.
"Identity (unit): undefined.
"Status (memory): corrupted."

That's… That's terrible. "You don't remember who you are?" Yes, 'who', you decide after a second's thought. This jewel, this whatever it is, is too intelligent for you to think of it as a 'what'.

"Query. Desire (Taylor)."

"Can you even give me whatever I want? What if it's something impossible?" you wonder. Already, you can imagine wishing for all the pranks the Trio have ever pulled on you to be visited back on them ten-fold, but you know that's not what you should want. You should be the bigger person; it's the kind of thing both your dad and your mom always taught you.

"Declaration. Desire: possible. Mechanism: magic."

Great. You shake your head with a sad little smile. Correction: the first thing to care about you, and it's a bullshit Tinkertech gemstone that believes it's a wizard.

Still, if it is telling the truth, if it really can give you whatever you want…

Desires for revenge are swept away as memories of your childhood dreams come to the forefront. Flying with Legend. Fighting crime with Alexandria. Making friends with the Wards. You sigh wistfully, "I wish I could be a superhero."

"Query. Function (superhero)."

"You don't know what heroes do?" Then again, if the jewel doesn't remember who it is or who its creator is, can you really expect anything else? It couldn't even speak English at first. "Well, they…"

Huh. That was actually a good question.

And there we go. I'll cut out the voting options because of FFN's rules (and also to keep people from trying to vote in reviews), but as you can see, I kept the second-person present-tense format because there's no way I'm going to waste time rewriting the entire story. See you with more tomorrow!

Silently Watches out.