National Novel Writing Months has come and gone. I didn’t do daily posts on here like I did last year because things got crazy but rest assured, I finished for the eleventh year running! It was down to the wire with fifteen minutes to spare but that’s pretty standard for me. At any rate, here’s some of the best bits from this year.
From Riley Adams Gets a Life
“How do you call that a fighting style?” Darcy said watching her girlfriend throw a hefty punch into the stomach of her zombie.
“I don’t,” Mattie replied. “I just call it landing punches, which is more than you seem to be doing.”
“The Four Winds teaches that one well thought out and perfectly executed strike is better than a million sloppy punches.”
This was frequent argument between the two women. Mattie had learned to fight out of necessity growing up because, as she liked to put it, being a queer kid on the streets of Queens wasn’t exactly easy. Her style was scrappy and fast, like her. Darcy, on the other hand, had studied at the Temple of the Four Winds and had honed her skills while living with the monks there for a year. Her style was more refined and careful, stoic like Darcy herself.
Darcy sized up the zombie in front of her . She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, taking a moment to center herself. When she opened them again, she planted her feet, stared down the zombie and threw a punch right into the jaw of the zombie. The zombie staggered a bit.
“You calling me sloppy, Thatcher?” Mattie said, landing another punch.
“If the shoe fit, Cervantez,” Darcy shot back.
“I may be sloppy but at least I’m effective,” Mattie shot back, hitting her zombie with a punch to the jaw that knocked it down. Without looking she reached over and grabbed the Bowie knife from the back of Darcy’s belt and dealt a fatal blow to zombie’s neck. She turned to Darcy, flipping the knife and catching it by the blade. She offered the handle to her with a smug grin. “You were saying, babe?”
Darcy rolled her eyes before kicking her zombie in the stomach. It went down and she took the knife from Mattie to take it out. Tucking the knife back into her belt she said, “This isn’t over, Cervantez.”
“I’d be disappointed if it was, Thatcher,” Mattie said, sliding an arm around her girlfriend’s waist.
Darcy slung her arm over Mattie’s shoulders. “Why do I like you again?”
“Because I’m so cute?” Mattie answered. “Or is it my devastating charm?”
“Must be. It’s certainly not the way the you fight.” She kept a straight face but Mattie could hear the smile behind the light Irish accent.
“”I think you missed the part where I took a zombie out faster than you.”
“It’s not always about speed, mate.”
“Sounds like loser talk to me,” Mattie said, with grin.
“Fine. Next two zombies, we’ll see who can take them out faster.”
Artemis laughed. “True. Those two really are something. I guess sometimes opposites really do attract.”
“Like how some people say tea is better than coffee and their girlfriends still love them anyway,” AJ said with a grin.
Artemis gave her a sideways glance. “You’re never going to let that go are you?”
“Not until you admit you’re wrong, Marty.”
“You do know I’m from England, right? Tea is a way of life. There’s nothing like a good strong brew in the morning.”
“No, there’s nothing like a good strong cup of joe in the morning.”
Artemis shrugged. “Agree to disagree. Although there are quite a few good coffee spots in H City.”
“I’ll win you over yet, Artemis Bly.”
Artemis smiled. “I look forward to you trying.”
Riley opened the door to the garage and what she saw nearly made her cry. Instead of her beautiful, badass 1969 Shelby Cobra, her pride and joy, the love of her life, was…a Prius. Riley stared. She could take being married to Logan and the wardrobe change and even the job but this…this was too much. This was blasphemy, a personal insult. She was sure now that this alternate world, wherever she was, wasn’t a mistake. Someone somehow had stuck her here, in her own personal hell. And when she found out who it was they were going to meet the business end of her right hook.
She took a deep, angry breath and unlocked the door. Over the years, Riley Adams had had to do a lot of terrible things she didn’t want to do but this was going to be by far the worst. She got in the car and turned it on, cringing at the silence. She missed the roar of her Cobra’s engine, the feeling of power in the shifter, the rumble under her feet but the Prius…it was just nothingness. She let out another annoyed sigh and pulled out of the garage.
Riley decided to just go as is and wing it if she had to. That gave her some comfort. If there was one thing Riley Adams excelled at it was winging it. She was usually winging it in fights against vampires and ancient evils but she was sure she could apply those skills to any situation. Right now it was pretty much all she had.
“So this is real?” Artemis asked. “We’re stuck in some sort of alternate existence.?”
“Yeah, from what I can tell so far. I was hoping once I got you back to your normal self you could help me figure it out.”
“Wait a moment,” Darcy said. “Before we going any further just who are you anyway? And how do you know that this isn’t our real lives?”
“I’m Riley Adams,” Riley said. “In the real world I’m a paranormal investigator who keeps H City from destroying itself because the H City we all know and love, the real H City, is full of vampires and werewolves and zombies and everything else of that sort. You two have become part of my team. You’re my back up. Artemis, you’re a crack shot with that laser rifle of yours and I can always count on you to engineer anything when we need it. Darcy, you and Mattie make an explosive team, literally, and I can always count on you in a fight.”
Darcy and Artemis looked at each other and then back at Riley. “So we fight monsters and stuff?” Artemis asked.
Riley nodded. “Yup. In fact you’re both time travelers. Artemis, you’re part of a group called The Quantum Adventurers Society and you’ve spent most your life jumping around dimensions and time periods trying to stop pirates and demons before you came to H City. And Darcy, you do pretty much the same thing but for the government. You’re an agent with the Time Overwatch Committee.”
“Whoa!” Darcy said. “So if the whole town is under this spell or whatever, how come we’re getting flashes of our real lives? And what about you?”
“I think for you two it has something to do with your careers jumping around dimensions. As for me, I think whoever did this is doing it to get at me.”
Riley looked over at Artemis who had her eyes closed and was clearly thinking hard about something. After a few quiet minutes she opened her eyes and said, “That makes perfect sense. Time travelers are always out of place so we have to train ourselves to combat the side effects of time travel. That’s why we remember our lives. We’ve trained our brains to keep our own continuity.”
“That’s the Artemis I know!” Riley said with a big grin.
“I’m remembering more…” Artemis said. She looked down at her wardrobe. “This isn’t how I normally dress. And…” She ran her hand down her left forearm where her cuff full of gagets normally would be. “And I’m missing something…and I’m missing…AJ!”
“Yeah!” Riley said. “You’re head over heels for her.”
“I sure am. Where is she? Does she know what’s going on?”
Riley shook her head. “Not yet. I’m working on her. Maybe with your help she’ll come around.”
“Sure she will!” Artemis agreed, always the face of optimism. “I wonder if I can find my gear. It has to be somewhere, right? I mean, we are still in H City, aren’t we?”
“As far as I can tell,” Riley said. “But I only just woke up here this morning so I haven’t been able to figure out what, exactly is going on. But now that I have you and your beautiful engineer’s brain, maybe we can work it out.”
Artemis laughed and Riley couldn’t help but feel hopeful at the sight of her big, infectious smile, that one that took up her whole face and made the freckles across her nose dance. “You know I’m always here for you, mate.”
They both turned to look at Darcy who looked like she was mentally struggling with something. She closed her eyes and raised her hands in front of her, left fist inside her right hand. She took a deep breath and Riley was concerned for a second that she was about go all karate kid on them. When she opened her eyes, though, Riley could see the change. The spark was back. That spark that made Darcy Darcy. She gave them a lopsided smirk, the closest she got to a smile on most days, and said, “My name is Darcy Thatcher, Time Overwatch Agent, badge number 3405, formerly the commander of the Alpha squad, now on an indefinite solo mission in H City.”
Artemis let out a whoop and reached across the bar and gave Darcy a thump on the shoulder. “Good to have to you back, mate!”
“It’s good to be back,” Darcy said. “I can’t believe I’m just a bartender in this life.”
“Hey, bartending is a very noble profession,” Riley said. “I salute anyone who brings me a stiff drink. Speaking of bartenders, I haven’t found Ritsuko yet in this new existence we’re stuck in.”
“And we don’t know where Mattie is either,” Darcy added.
“Probably blowing something up,” Riley remarked.
“Without me?! She better not be!”
Riley laughed. “Don’t worry, we’ll find Cervantez. And everyone else.” She leaned in closer. “So now that we’re all in back in our right minds, any idea what might be causing this?”
“Some sort of quantum anomaly?” Artemis mused.
“Less sciency please,” Riley said.
“Something that sort distorts reality. Like when you look at something under water.”
“Gotcha. And that could cause this?” Riley asked, waving her hands around vaguely.
Artemis shrugged. “Probably.”
“Okay so say it is this quantum whatever thing, could someone make that happen?”
“Sure, if they had the right tech,” Artemis said.
“So we find the tech, we find who did this?” Riley asked.
“Yeah, that’s a good assumption.”
Riley nodded. “I can work with that. Okay, next up, where’s the rest of the team? Jane and Betty are working in my office, AJ is still at the paper and Logan is…well, Logan’s my husband apparently.”
Darcy burst out laughing. “You’re married?!”
Riley rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. It was a shock to me this morning too, trust me.”
“I never thought you one for marriage, Riley,” Artemis said.
“I’m not. Apparently Riley in this existence has made some terrible life choices. Can you believe I drive a Prius?! I can’t wait until my baby back.”
“Good to know you’re most concerned about your car in this situation.”
“Hey, my Cobra is like family to me. And speaking of family, we need to find the rest of ours. Any ideas where Ritsuko and Cervantez might be hiding?”
Coffee was one thing Riley could always count on no matter where or when she’d found herself. Coffee had gotten her through Occupied France, it had gotten her through 1922, it had gotten her through an alternate dimension outside normal time and space and it got her through every day otherwise. She took another sip, revealing in the familiar feeling as the caffeine hit her system. She could tackle this problem. Probably.