Chapter Eleven: The Greatest Lie

2 May

[I'm sorry about skipping the last two or three weeks. Had a bunch of school shit to attend to. Over now, though.]

[Refresher: Cirno is trapped in a room with the ghost of Purple Steve at the demons' stronghold. A voice from an intercom prepares to ask Cirno some questions. The intercom's dialog is written in black, and Purple Steve's dialog is in purple.]

3 hours later.

“I talk to him more than anyone about what I’m feeling, you know? It’s like… no one really knows how to take shit seriously.”

“Or rather, they don’t want to.”

“Right. They can’t handle it. Like it’ll make the world so much harder if they admit they can think.”

“That’s deep shit. I like that.”

“Thanks. That can be my, like, life quote or whatever.”

“Naw, don’t settle too easily, I’m sure you’ve got an even better one in you.”

“Word. Maybe.”

“So that Mark guy, what’s he do?”

“As in…?”

“Like, for a living.”

“He works part-time, but he’s only thirty. In our race it takes thirty-five years to fully reach adulthood, so he’s still living with his parents.”

“Okay, so you’re both basically teenagers.”

“Right.”

“See, that’s sort of the issue here. It’s not a problem to have a peer as a mentor, but having an older, more learned mentor can make you evolve faster—mentally, or as a person. Not that I think you’re mistaken in learning from him, but it’s always worthwhile to learn from multiple people. And part of it’s also that Mark himself doesn’t have an older mentor. He’s got a lot of knowledge, clearly, but once you catch up to him, you’ll both need to learn on your own.”

“Yeah, that’s true. I think he gets a lot of what he knows from researching people he admires and just the way he looks at life.”

“Mhm. I mean, again, it’s nothing wrong—that’s how you’ll do most of your learning anyway; but just having someone to reconcile your ideas is great. And it doesn’t need to be one guy—people who know their shit can come in all forms. Growing up, my brother was mostly the one who taught me everything, but after he died I had a more diverse group of people I came to for advice.”

“Seems like you have a lot of interesting friends.”

“Yeah. I owe some of that to my brother—well, really, a lot of that to my brother—because I knew older people through him—like Claire. There were also some cool older guys in my D&D group from high school.”

“I really wish I had some friends like that.”

“Well see, what’s great about cool older guys is that a lot of them really like helping younger people, especially if they see a lot of potential in them. If you don’t act like a dumb kid around them and get serious with them, then they’ll see that in you.”

“But how do I even run into someone like that? Like… in my everyday life, I don’t run into anyone like that.”

“But that’s the point; you want to change your everyday life, right? If you remain stagnant in your lifestyle, then you can’t expect to change your mindset either.”

“Mm.”

“Steve’s right, you gotta get out there, and it’s not even really that hard. For one thing, you ran into me just in your daily life, right?”

“True.”

“And see, when you’re young, something like this seems like a once-in-a-lifetime meeting, but as you start talking to more smart people and put yourself out there, you’ll end up having those encounters all the time and really meet some amazing people.”

“Word.”

“My suggestion is, just be adventurous, and don’t be afraid of awkwardness. Strike up conversations with that guy who you’ll be sitting next to for the next fifty minutes before work or something, especially if he seems friendly. Or go to places where you can meet people who share your interests, so you can connect over that and then strike up a friendship from there. Claire’s always talking about how the internet is a great place to meet people, but she always seems pissed off at the ones she talks to—but that’s just her, and it’s always worth a shot if you’ve got access to a computer. Do you?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a Windows ’98. My dad’s pretty up-and-up on things like that.”

“Awesome! See, that’s the kind of opportunity you can exploit and take some chances. I mean, even if it doesn’t work, you won’t lose anything.”

“Right. Man, you’ve got me excited now, I already wanna try it!”

“Haha, I’m glad to hear that. Hey man, I should give you my phone number or something; we can talk about this further, maybe help you through the steps once you get started.”

“That sounds amazing—yeah, I’d love it if you’d do that for me!”

“Cool. Bring me a paper and a pen and I’ll write it down for ya.”

“Alright.”

The intercom went silent.

Cirno motioned with his head, signaling to Purple Steve.

About a minute later, the door opened and a big red demon stepped through the frame. Before he had time to open his mouth, there was a loud crackle and pop as electricity shot through his body, paralyzing his nerves and causing him to fall to the ground.

“I just stunned him. Let’s get out of here.”

“Cool shit.”

On his way out, Cirno took the pen and paper from the demon’s hand, wrote down his name and phone number, then stuffed them into the demon’s pocket before hurrying down the hall.

“There’s an elevator that barely gets used which can take you to where I am. Make a left at the corner, then straight shot ahead.”

“Cool fuckin’ shit.”

Chapter Ten: Lights Out

13 Apr

How the hell did this happen?

It was my mistake, having assumed that the demons’ plan involved attacking major corporations, rather than inhabiting them. I wasn’t surprised when a pair of cops had approached me after walking into the Chase Tower and telling the receptionist that demons were planning to attack it, but I was definitely surprised when the cops turned out to be the very demons I spoke of.

Said demons promptly stripped me of Purple Steve, passing him to a nearby office worker, and hauled me into an elevator, then took me up about forty floors and shoved me into the emergent hallway. One of them opened the first door on the right—which happened to be gigantic and made of metal—then goaded me (with significant force) to enter.

I can’t tell you if the room was fashionably designed or not, because immediately upon entering it, the absurdly heavy door was slammed behind me with a sound that you’d find familiar if you’ve ever been bitch-slapped by Odin, and there was no light to speak of.

[Mental note: if I ever make a band, I'm calling it Bitch-Slapped By Odin.]

The room I’d so raucously entered was very small—about two Purple Steves long on either axis—and devoid of decoration (unless it was painted or something; my eyes never quite adjusted). It took me no time at all to realize that I’d been imprisoned.

Luckily, I’d been in situations like this before. About ten years prior, I’d gotten into a fight with my best friend, Fullmoon Scarlet, and he’d locked me in a dimly-lit room with the gored and decaying bodies of his parents for a week. Once I got used to it, the experience actually became quite relaxing and gave me time to come to terms with with the deaths of my own parents. Ever since then, whenever I got emotionally distraught over things, like my brother’s suicide, the double-homicide of my twin younger sisters, and my first girlfriend getting pulverized by a giant boulder, I would lock myself in a small, dark room (decaying bodies not necessary, but recommended as an audience and as sustenance for the unpracticed), and meditate on it for a week or two.

Because of those experiences, I was well-acquainted with the procedures necessary to survive in a tiny dark room for however long I’d need to. My only worry was that every other time I’d been imprisoned, it’d been by myself or a friend, so I could count on escaping at any time. These guys probably weren’t going to give me such courtesy.

Knowing that panic would be counter-productive, I calmed myself and assumed a meditative position while considering the possibilities. Some three or four hours later, I was surprised by a sudden voice echoing from the walls.

“Cirno! I finally found you!”

“Purple Steve?! Are you here? No, then I’d be able to see; where are you?”

“I’m in another part of the building—one of the basement floors. They’ve got me on some sort of sterile operating table along with a lot of other weird-looking weapons.”

“How come I can—”

“Hear me? Because I’m disembodied energy. I can pretty much be anywhere.”

“Shouldn’t the walls be glowing or something?”

“Don’t misunderstand the nature of my being—I’m not a lightning bolt at all times. While I can remain in the form of a lightning bolt and travel as one through conductive elements, I can also leave that form and travel elsewhere.”

“So right now you’re in the walls? Can you control the door or anything?”

“No, god damn it, pay attention! I don’t just ‘control’ physical objects. It wouldn’t be in this door’s nature to simply open by itself, so I can’t cause it to do so. Lightning is a unique case where controlling the amount of energy being poured into it can strengthen or weaken it.”

“Okay, I think I get it now.”

“I’ve tried to melt this table, but whatever it’s made of doensn’t fuck around. It isn’t conductive, either. As a pole covered in lightning, I’m currently immobile.”

“Damn. And I haven’t been able to think of an escape plan yet, either.”

“Same here. I’m totally stumped on this one.”

The room fell silent as Purple Steve and I returned to our thoughts.

Not five minutes later, I was slightly-less-surprised by yet another sudden voice echoing from the walls.

“Cirno Excalibur.”

“Yyyyeeesss?”

I figured there must’ve been a speaker installed in the ceiling, but I couldn’t tell.

“Good, we can hear one-another. I’m going to be asking you some questions.”

I smiled wryly—it all came to me in that moment.

I know how I’m going to get out of here.

Structure Change

8 Apr

Note: Cirno and Purple Steve has been accepted onto Web Fiction Guide (online novels, reviews)!

From now on, CAPS will only be published once a week as opposed to twice weekly for a number of reasons. The first is that I’d like CAPS to run for at least a year—if things go according to plan then the story will end much earlier at this rate, which I don’t want. Secondly, I want to make the individual chapters longer, as well release more of them on-time, so I’ll be publishing them on Monday, giving me all week to work on them. The point of publishing twice weekly in the first place was so that I could quickly establish the base of the story, so with that now accomplished, I feel I can slow things down a bit.

Additionally, I’ve made some edits to the earlier chapters. All of Purple Steve‘s dialog is now in purple and Blue Bob‘s dialog is now in blue. Also, I didn’t do my research during chapters three and four, wherein I wrote that Cirno roared down Route 66, which I thought was the road that leads into Las Vegas. Because CAPS is supposed to begin in Nevada, and not, oh, California, this has been changed to Route 95. I apologize for the confusion (but not for the other confusions).

I guess while I’m at it I may as well spell it out for those who hadn’t yet figured it out or been told: CAPS takes place in 1998.

Chapter 1°R: Content To Play Villain

4 Apr

Kelvin McGruder expected to die in the snow.

However, he certainly didn’t expect his hiking staff to start speaking to him.

By all rights, climbing a mountain during a snowstorm on purpose, he deserved to die—even just for evolutionary purposes. It’d been hard for him to even reach the snowy part of the mountain, given his decision to climb it using only a staff for a tool.

Theoretically, people could survive under those conditions for a decent amount of time if they came prepared, knew proper emergency procedures, and could find a way to get help.

Climbing a snowy mountain in shorts and a t-shirt met none of those criteria. Kelvin was dead in about fifteen minutes—

—that is, until his staff happened to come to life and electrocute the living shit out of him.

His heart jolted back to life and his body suddenly became warm as electricity surged through his veins. His eyes opened upon the glowing blue stick in his right hand.

“What the devil..?”

Unexpectedly—unless you’re a Cirno and Purple Steve fan—the staff responded.

“‘Sup, brohaha?”

“Er… did you just speak to me?”

“Uh…… yeah. Uhhuhuhu.” His laugh was strangely deep.

“Why am I alive?”

“‘Cause I’m made of lightning, beyotch!”

“Well, would you mind re-killing me?”

“Uh…… why?”

“I kinda came out here to kill myself, if that wasn’t obvious already.”

“Dude, brutal! You could try getting your hand off of my shaft, uhhuhuhu.”

Kelvin let go of the staff and his body flinched as it was disconnected from the electrical current. However, the heat from the super-charged staff was still enough to keep his body warm.

“You’re making it too hot.”

“Uhhuhu…… gay.”

“Can’t you turn it off or something?”

“I’m lightning, man. I can’t help it. You’ll have to, like, move somewhere else or something.”

Kelvin let out a long sigh.

“I can’t bring myself to get up.”

“Dude, why do you wanna kill yourself?”

Kelvin was silent for a second, then turned to look at the staff, ignoring its lack of a face.

“I don’t see the point of it all. I spent so much time trying to figure out what I want to do, and at the end, I didn’t want to do anything. I figured the best way to get it over with would be to just die on a mountain somewhere.”

The staff waited a second to respond.

“That’s weak, bro.”

“Oh, fuck off, I’ve heard enough of that ‘don’t do it’ spiel.”

“Naw, man, like, you don’t even know. You’re gonna miss like the coolest thing this planet will ever see.”

“…go on?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m here, bro. I was sent here ’cause these crazy alien demon dudes are gonna destroy the world and stuff.”

“That sounds like a load of shit.”

“Bro, you’re talking to a lightning-bolt-staff-thing.”

Kelvin stirred a little.

“Well, what do I care about all that? I don’t really care if the world gets destroyed.”

“Duuuuude, who said you had to fight against it? It’s not my job to help save the world or nothin’—I’m just here for the show!”

“So, what, you want me to help the alien demon things to take over the world?”

“Yeah, man, it’ll be wicked cool! Those guys are way stronger than your guys—it’ll be like just chaos on Earth. If you’re plannin’ to die anyway, you might as well go out in the middle of all that, man!”

Kelvin mulled over this for a second, but then shook his head angrily.

“But I’m weak! I don’t have any special abilities to fight an intergalactic war!”

“BRO. SERIOUSLY. MADE OF LIGHTNING.”

“You’re saying I can use you to fight with?”

“Actually, that’s your only option, bro. Thanks to you killing yourself, your heart doesn’t work regularly anymore. You gotta have me around to keep you alive. BUT! Like, I can make you super-strong and give you super-powers and stuff.”

Again, Kevin gave it some thought.

“…I guess I could give it a shot…”

“Yeah, man! It’ll be great! We’ll travel all over the country and find the demon dudes and do crazy stuff! It’ll be way cooler than killing yourself.”

“How will we find the demons?”

“I can sense ‘em, man. All you gotta do is walk around with me and I’ll find ‘em. You won’t even have to eat or drink or take a dump or sleep or anything you have to do normally, ’cause I’ll be takin’ care of all that.”

Kelvin slowly took the staff in his hand and rose to his feet. The snow flurries that would’ve bombarded him melted before they could reach his body. He felt more energized than ever before as the electricity coursed through his body.

“My name’s Kelvin McGruder. What’s yours?”

“Uh….. my bros call me Bob.”

Thus, Kelvin met Blue Bob.

Chapter Eight: Fantastic Pace

2 Apr

We loaded Claire’s entire roomfull of weapons and computers into the back of her giant grey van and headed for Narita Izaya’s place.

Izaya was among the older members of the Dungeons and Dragons group that I hung out with up through high school. He’d always been a conniving bastard, though none could argue his intelligence—nor his sadism. Over the past few years, he’d worked as a black-market information dealer, running his operation from the take-out window of a former Wendy’s restaurant. We pulled to the window to place our order.

“Hola! If it isn’t Cirno! And Claire also.”

“Yo, Izaya,” I greeted from the passenger’s seat. Claire had a distinct hatred for Izaya, so she tried to pretend that she wasn’t there. “We’ve got some stuff to ask you about.”

“I assume you’ve got the big green question mark to punctuate that stuff?”

“Of course. Usual fee.” I tossed him a stack of bills wrapped in a rubber band. He pocketed it instantly.

“Alright, gimme the scoop.”

“I need you to have a look at these maps and see if you can tell me what they mean. The context is, ‘bad shit going down here.'” I handed the maps over to Izaya, Claire having to lean out of the way of the exchange.

“You know, Claire, you could say hi,” Izaya teased.

“Do you still insist that I’m a man?”

“Of course. You dated Cirno’s brother, after all.”

What Izaya meant is that my brother was gay. This was certainly a fact, which made it perplexing that he’d gotten engaged to a woman. Since she acted so manly anyway, a lot of people made fun of her over it.

Of course, Izaya spoke as if he truly believed that Claire was a man, and given the way his brain is twisted, I wouldn’t be surprised if he honestly did believe it.

“I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say anything,” Claire responded, “so that I won’t have to jump through that fucking window and beat the shit out of you.”

“Oh? Not like your fat ass would fit…”

“WHAT?!” Claire’s entire body ignited and she tensed up with a glare that could make a strongman shit his pants. Izaya ignored it entirely.

“Anyway, Cirno, I’m having a glance at this map, and I can’t help noticing this peculiar writing all over it. Care to explain what that is?”

“It’s demon writing.”

“Ah, so you know that much. Alright, I’ll fill you in. Each of these cities is home to a corporate building of one of the world’s biggest corporations. The ‘demons,’ as you call them, are planning to use these corporations as a springboard to take over the world. Whatever your plans may be involving the demons, you’ll definitely find them at those buildings.”

“And why do you know all this?” Claire interjected, suspicious.

“Heh. I’m an information broker. I’ve gotta know everything that’s going on in this world. But more importantly…” Izaya reached into his jacket and suddenly produced a gigantic handgun, pointing it right at me through the window of the van. “I was told I’d make a bonus for eliminating anyone that knew about the demons.”

No sooner than Izaya drew his gun and said his line, Claire grabbed him by the wrist, dragged him through his window until his whole forearm was in the cab of the van, and then with a powerful blow from both sides, she broke his bone.

At this, Izaya burst into maniacal laughter.

“Ahahaha!!! I’m just kidding! No need to get so upset!”

Claire stripped the gun from his limp hand and tossed it into the back of her van, then let go of him.

“Well, Cirno, good luck with your little adventure!” As Izaya spoke, he tugged on his arm, seemingly adjusting the break in the limb. “Make sure this crazy Amazon bitch doesn’t cause you too much trouble!”

“Fuck off!” Claire barked in return, slamming her foot on the gas.

“Seeya!” I hollered as the van sped off. In the rear-view mirror, I could see Izaya waving us goodbye with his broken arm.

***

Once Cirno’s party had driven away, Izaya lifted a phone on his desk and made a call.

“Clint. Expect trouble in Houston tomorrow or the day after.”

<<Good work. We’ll forward a payment to your account.>>

The person on the other end hung up. Izaya smiled wickedly as he did the same.

Chapter Negative Forty-Four: Roulette Dares

29 Mar

At some point in the sixth grade, I realized that my only friend, Fullmoon Scarlet, was absolutely insane.

I don’t remember what my first hint was, but I recall him coming to school with fresh blood stains on the arms of his shirt and wearing cut-up clothes like he’d just been in the middle of an intense swordfight. No-one else seemed to notice.

At the tender age of eleven, my life hadn’t been very exciting yet. The biggest thing that’d happened in my life was my mom accidentally getting run over by a tank. Besides that, I spent my days indoors, playing The Legend of Zelda and drawing up plans for a video game which was exactly like The Legend of Zelda.

I was mature enough at the time to realize that I’d need to make a choice. I could stay somewhat casual friends with Fullmoon and maintain my satisfactory everyday life, or I could become closer friends with him and be dragged into an entirely new world of insanity.

—I thought it was choice, anyway.

“Hey Cirno,” Fullmoon called to me after school one day in a voice that was always low and quiet, despite sounding like a child. He was staring at me in his usual manner, wherein his face was angled just a tad lower than it ought to be, yet his eyes were glaring right into mine. (If that doesn’t sound creepy enough, then you should know that Fullmoon has scarlet-colored eyes and messy black hair, and that he always wore white, button-up, long-sleeve shirts with a black bow-tie under the collar.) His sentence concluded, “wanna come over after school?”

Yes, I did technically have a choice. Fullmoon had always shown himself to be a reasonable person, so I certainly could’ve turned down his offer. But these were the circumstances:

1. I had no plans that day

2. I wasn’t thinking about it in the heat of the moment; and

3. Curiosity over what Fullmoon did after school had been gnawing at my brain for weeks.

“Sure,” I replied. We lived on the same block, so we got on the bus together and decided I’d get off at his stop.

The rest of that hour was very straightforward. Besides my anticipation until arriving at his house, there was no buildup or foreshadowing. I didn’t get left in a room while he “made some tea,” nor see a strange-looking object in a room down the hall, nor hear a muffled heartbeat from under the floorboards. I simply walked through the front door and found that the entirety of the living room was covered in blood. Floor to ceiling, furniture, everything, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood; maybe an organ or two here and there—my memory’s hazy and the room evolved a number of times over the years.

“Say, Fullmoon? Is, uh… is that blood?” I asked, very shaken, but still resolute enough to humor myself.

“Yes, Cirno. Yes it is.” And with that, he stepped into the room, took off his shoes and backpack, and plopped himself down on one of the crimson sofas. “Come on in,” he beckoned.

Upon sights like this, some people are unable to retain their rational mind. They think, “my God, this child is the spawn of hell!” or, “I’m going to be killed!” or simply, “AAAAAAAAH!!!” These, however, were not my reactions.

Sure, at first sight, I was shocked, felt my fright mechanism kick in, and started sweating a bit. But I didn’t shut down—no, rather, I was thinking more quickly than I normally would.

Okay. So.

One thing—lots of blood. What does that mean?

Fullmoon definitely killed something. I expected that.

No, a lot of things.

Okay. What? Animals? Humans? Both?

Why?

Is he crazy? Yes. Crazy how?

Is he going to kill me?

Even though we’re friends?

I didn’t have an answer to that question, but what could I do? I’d already made it clear that I had no excuse to leave. If I ran, it would be obvious that I was scared of him, and then if it turned out that he wasn’t planning to hurt me at all, I’d just look like a huge douche and ruin our friendship. Or worse, he’d decide he wanted to kill me because I ran away. No matter what, there was a high chance I could get killed, but it made more sense to stick with the option wherein I could potentially keep a good friend and not incur his wrath any further than I might’ve already.

I crossed the frame and stepped into the living room.

“What did you have in mind for us to do?” I asked, since at that point I had no clue what to do with myself. Fullmoon put his hand to his chin and seemed to be deep in thought for a second.

“What do you usually do when you visit a friend’s house?”

“Well, actually, I’ve never been to a friend’s house before.”

It was true. Throughout the early part of elementary school I was picked on because of my uncle having infamously raped and killed a girl, then gotten into a city-wide police car chase, gunning down five officers before eventually being cornered and shot over fifty times. Everyone knew he was my relative (even though I’d never spoken to the damn guy), so I never heard the end of it.

Then, when my family moved to a new town to escape the bad press while I was in the fifth grade, the aforementioned tank accident occurred, and I spent most of the year acting rather distant. Visiting the homes of friends was something I only understood from TV sit-coms.

“I see,” Fullmoon responded. “Well, what do you do at your house?”

“Mostly play video games and draw pictures.”

“Mmmmm. Sounds boring.”

“Yeah, it’s not really something to do with a friend. But instead, why don’t we do something you usually do?”

Fullmoon looked up at me (though his head was still tilted in that weird way) and flashed a smile so wicked, Malcolm McDowell would’ve been jealous. I’d seen this smile before, so it didn’t surprise me. (Fullmoon’s face only had two modes—depressingly downcast and frighteningly ecstatic.)

“Are you aware of what I do in my free time?”

“Nope.” (But I had a pretty good idea.)

“I play with knives.”

He didn’t say this with the sadism that his expression implied. I don’t think he was even aware of his face—he spoke normally.

“Exactly what do you mean by that?” I asked. I truly hate ambiguity.

“By that I mean that I have a knife, and I sharpen it, kill people with it, carve with it, et cetera.”

I couldn’t help but notice how “kill people with it” had been casually inserted into his explanation.

“Is that where all the blood comes from?” I finally asked, relieving a lot of tension in my shoulders.

“Mm, yeah, I guess. I’d say they’re two separate things, like, I enjoy playing with knives, but I also enjoy looking at this deep shade of crimson, so one hobby kind of lends to the other.”

“I see…”

“But anyway, I’m guessing that kinda stuff’s not your thing, so that’s why I didn’t say we should do it.”

Again, where I’d briefly stiffened with fear, his reasonableness calmed me back down.

“Alright; well, uh… what do you wanna do instead?”

He thought for a moment.

“Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons?”

My eyes must’ve lit up with excitement.

“Yeah! I love D’n’D! I think we’ll need a bigger group of people if we want to play, though.”

“That’s fine—I have some acquaintances I can call and get a game together quick. Are you allowed to leave the neighborhood? Just a block down the road to a comic shop.”

“Yeah, I’ve just gotta call my mom first.”

As those words left my lips, a thought occurred to me.

Fullmoon was dialing his phone as I asked, “hey, where are your parents at, anyway?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah. They’re dead.” He said this and then put the phone to his ear, cheerily conversing with his gaming buddy.

That night, for the first time, I hung out with a group of people—whom, for the next eight years, would be my closest friends. We played Dungeons and Dragons for three hours. Fullmoon was the dungeon master. It was the greatest game of D’n’D I’d ever played.

My life was never the same.

Chapter Seven: The Other

23 Mar

Warning: The narrator is not Cirno!

[What the fuck did you just say to me you fuckstick bitchMcNugget?!]

<<You’re a fucking loser. I bet you’re some forty year-old fatass jerking off while you pretend to be a woman.>>

[FUCK YOU I WILL PUT MY HEAD THROUGH THIS FUCKING MONITOR AND BITE YOUR GOD DAMN TORSO!!!]

I quickly shut down my top-of-the-line PC before I could get too pissed and chuck it out the fucking second-story window of my apartment. Whether I’m excited or not that the internet will take over the world in the next ten years, I’m not sure. The potential excites the shit out of me, but those fucking bastards that started shitting all over everything the minute they found out they couldn’t get in trouble made me want to grab the Internet itself by the throat and strangle the fucker to death.

Anyway, I’ve already gotten in trouble for hacking the shit out of guys like that, so I’m trying to keep my anger under control by shutting everything down before I blow a gasket.

Having four computers set up on my big-ass desk doesn’t really help matters, though. In the thirty-six hours I’d been awake, I’d already gotten into fights on all four of them and shut each down in succession. Usually, it wasn’t until reaching that point that I managed to get any sleep.

I rose from my seat and adjusted my tank-top and underwear. —I’m not trying to be saucy or anything by saying I was in my underwear—it’s just a necessity when you work with computers, because you don’t want to conduct static electricity. Mentioning this online is what began the argument over whether or not I was, in fact, female. I promise you that I am.

Having risen from my chair, I crossed to the other gargantuan desk in my room, which was absolutely covered in firearms. Actually, my entire room was covered in firearms from the floor to the walls, and even this bitchin’ fifty-cal rifle that I’ve got hanging from my ceiling—the same one that my ex-boyfriend of six months unfortunately used to take his own head off. How the stupid bastard pulled that one off remains the greatest mystery of my world.

After checking up on a Deagle that I’d been distracted from repairing earlier by a sudden viral attack, I decided to leave it for tomorrow and hit the bed, since it was already 5:45 AM.

Sadly, no bed was to be struck, as the doorbell then murderously chimed deep in the core of my brain. It met with the reply, “who what the fuck?!”—a product of everything inside my head having just ground to a halt in expectation of the rest it so greatly desired.

“It’s me,” said clearly the most genius fucking person, who just assumed I’d be able to recognize even my own mother’s voice at that hour of day. I guessed by the word choice it was someone I at least knew well enough to invite in, so I did (insofar as “damn, IN” was an invitation).

Who strode in with the notably evening sun behind him was none other than my baby brother, Cirno. And apparently it was 5:45 PM—my mistake.

“Claire, we’ve gotta go on an adventure,” was the complete sentence that Cirno uttered before so much as greeting me this fine evening.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I grumbled.

“I’ll give you the details later, but what matters is you’ve never seen a weapon like this before.”

Oho?

I shot up, fully awake, like I’d just taken a sip of God’s magical coffee blend, and fixed my eyes on the immediately apparent purple glowy thing in Cirno’s hands.

“Is that a fucking lightsaber?”

“No, it’s Purple Steve.”

“What’s it made of?”

“It’s a garden hose attachment that got struck by purple lightning while I was holding it.”

“…what’s that all about?”

“Long story. I recommend consulting Chapter Two.”

“Later. What can it do?”

“Hey, guys? It’s kind of, uh, awkward, you talking about me like I’m not—”

“It can speed up its particles and become super hot, allowing it to cut through just about anything.”

“Amazing. Is it like a sword?”

“More like a chainsaw.”

“Fuck. A. Duck. Fantastic.”

“Also, it can talk.”

“Fuck a duck? I’ve honestly never heard that one before.”

“Is that why it’s named Steve?”

“Yes. Full name Steven, technical name Purple Steve.”

“Is that what that is?”

“Can I hold it?”

“Go ahead.”

“Look, I know I’m technically genderless, but I really do prefer more humanist pronou—”

As soon as Purple Steve reached my hands, I spun in an arc and slashed him through the air, attacking a broadsoard that was hanging on my wall. The sword was melted through like butter. I whistled with admiration.

“It’s like one of the prog knives from Evangelion. I’ve always wanted one of those.”

“Steve isn’t for sale, but you can spend some time with him if you go on this adventure with us.”

“What kind of adventure are we talkin’ about here?”

“Well for starters, check this out.”

Cirno produced a big, rolled-up poster and unfurled it to reveal a map of the USA with big red Xs marked in various places.

“The long and short of it is, demons from another dimension have come to Earth and plan to conquer it, and their plans involve the cities marked on this map. I’ve got some other maps, too, but I’m gonna take them to Narita to figure out what they mean. Anyway, me and Steve are gonna track them down and put a stop to their plans!”

Whilst considering this proposition, I produced a cigarette from a pack on a nearby desk and lit it up.

“I never took you to be a moralist, Cirno.”

“Hm? I’m in this for the fun, Claire. You should know that.”

“Right, sorry. Well, that’s something I can get behind. I’m guessing you want me to load all my shit in the van and drive you guys around the country?”

“Yes. Especially that.” Cirno pointed to the rocket-propelled-grenade launcher that laid on my bed, the only weapon important enough to sleep with me every night.

“Am I gonna get paid for this?”

“No. Why, do you need it?”

“Naw, I’ve still got way more than enough of what your dumbass brother left behind. Just wanted to feel like I was getting something out of this.”

“You get to play with Purple Steve.”

“God, that sounds so disturbing…”

“Alright, I guess that’s good enough. Here,” I tossed him a key ring. “Bring the van around and let’s load this bitch up!”

CLAIRE ITOU HAS JOINED THE PARTY!

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