🙂 As you know, “A Friday Fairytale” is still pre-edit. (That is, I’ve edited it of course but it hasn’t seen the professional editor yet.)
So here’s the next chapter. Take it as it comes pls. Enjoy.
(The story so far can be downloaded here:
Nadisda opened her eyes, wriggling with discomfort. Her hands felt cold, the handcuffs cutting into her wrists. She struggled upright, peering into the sunlit room – and into a gun. In the hands of superhero Connor McNaught.
“Damn you, girl!” rasped the cop. “So you’re connected to that hacker Mike Nickells? I should have shot you dead on the spot, yesterday!” He lowered his gun, shakily, unaware of the metal rose creepers of Nadisda’s anxiety that had begun to crawl up his couch from behind.
She stared at him, gnawing her lip, not knowing what to say.
“I found this,” he snapped, holding her memory stick aloft. “Had to go to the office to run it! Mike Nickells’ files! What have you done to my computer? The power point has burnt out!”
She studied him, his helpless rage that was bordering on… something else that she couldn’t quite pinpoint. And her fear turned to sympathy. Hero Hugo, ensnared in a curse she had woven. He wasn’t wearing his superhero vest anymore, but it was evident that he’d never changed his shirt, it was rumpled from a night of probably not even sleeping. An empty bottle of brandy stood on the coffee table between them, and a glass. So he’d been watching her and drinking, all night? Waiting for her to wake up so he could confront her? Instead of simply waking her up from her slumber?
Her sympathy was short-lived though when she remembered what he’d done to Mike and his game. Ha! If he knew. He was of course aware that his vile act of pirating the game had failed; but he couldn’t know that the original survived, on a backup drive of Nancy’s and on a wonky old computer. She was proud of Nancy.
“So now you’ll tell me who you are?” demanded Connor, but his voice was tired, as though his anger had lost its fire.
“I’m… Nadee,” she said, grabbing at the nickname Nancy had given her.
“And your connection to Nickells?”
“I know him through the game,” she said.
“So you haven’t known him for long?”
“Well,” she hedged, “he’s Valentine, so I guess I’ve known him for as long as I’ve been in the game.”
“And how long is that?” He narrowed his eyes. “Damn, I don’t believe it! You’re the one he gave the forest fairy avatar to! Yes! That must be it! You look exactly like that fairy! He actually made the fairy into an avatar just for you!”
She nodded mutely.
“So then you’re pretty special to him,” said Connor grimly. She noted a new inflection that she didn’t like. “Well, you’re staying in my custody, that much is clear.”
She nodded again, worried. What was Connor cooking up?
“Nickells has been arrested, just so you know,” said Connor matter-of-factly. And something softened in his features as he watched her look of dismay. “You didn’t know, hey, girl? You didn’t know he was a hacker and a crook? He breaks into people’s bank accounts and steals their money. Sorry to pop your bubble about your hero.”
“He’s a programming genius,” she replied softly, too angry to meet his eyes.
“I’ll give him that,” said Connor with a brief laugh, getting up off his settee. He holstered the gun. “I’m sorry, Nadee. You’re so young to have to learn such harsh realities. Excuse me while I go freshen up.” He left the room, and her alone – but still in handcuffs.
Nadisda got up and moved around the room, to see what she could do. She heard him close the bathroom door.
“Curse you, Hugo,” she muttered softly and cast an angry micro-spell. It wriggled like a glowing little worm, off towards the bathroom.
So her roses had managed to short-circuit the power point and then disappear. Capital! She strolled over to the window. She could escape if she could only open her wings. But as long as her hands were tied, her wings would not even budge. They remained hidden away. Of course there was another way…
She grimaced. Climbing down twenty-two stories on a vertical trellis of floral metalwork didn’t sound like the easiest solution. And he could always shoot her from above.
The gun! She should have thought of it! She crept into his bedroom and found the gun in its holster, and took it out.
The barrel grew closed with dense metal spiderwebs. The cock fused in place, and so did the safety. She should have done this right away.
And intricate metal inlays crawled along the barrel, beautiful rose creepers, and the words ‘With love from Nadee’.
What?? Nadisda stared at them. She hadn’t put them there on purpose! What on Earth could they achieve, other than taunt an already irritated cop? She stuck the gun back into its holster and removed herself from the bedroom, hearing his gasp of surprise from the bathroom. Aha! She was curious what the spell had done.
Connor McNaught gasped as the water suddenly turned icy.
“Damned geyser!” He glanced up and thought for a moment that the showerhead had turned into a mountain spring and the walls into rock walls. He shook himself free of that illusion. Too many hours online playing that game, stalking Mike Nickells. He hurried up washing himself and then turned that forsaken frosty stream off, reaching for the huge mossy towel. Fluffy towel, dammit! His mind was playing tricks on him. He realized that the game had become a bit of an obsession.
Well, it had led him to success. Last night, through his tip-off, the police in Detroit had arrested the youngster and his team. They should all be safely in the holding cells in Detroit; he’d arrange for their transfer to New York as soon as he could. First thing at the office this morning.
He regretted having to catch Nickells’ associates in the same net. They may be little crooks and thieves too, he wasn’t sure; but probably nothing serious. But Nickells and his sister – he needed to get them both back here under his eagle’s eye. It was critical. Things had been spinning out of control way too long.
But Nadee surely wasn’t one of the hackers. Maybe really just a player. She looked so innocent – rather, so untouched by reality, as though she’d come down from some star. Still she was a delinquent, at least by law: She had trespassed into a private apartment. And she must somehow be close to Nickells if the hacker had rewritten the game and given her an actual fixture, the forest fairy, as avatar! A cyber-affair most likely, thought Connor. Those happened easily. They were also easily broken, because they were illusions. He had to make that happen quickly, before she got too emotional about the young crook.
But how on Earth had she got hold of Nickells’ memory stick? Perhaps she was closer to the hacker than he, Connor, wanted to be true? Why had she broken into his apartment with that stick? It didn’t have a single virus on it, he’d checked it thoroughly – only plans for the game, old plans that were long implemented.
Whatever her connection to Nickells, he thought, it would have to be broken. He couldn’t risk that she should get hurt in the proceedings.
He emerged from the bathroom, got dressed in his uniform with a clean shirt, fastened his gun belt and put on his heavy-duty boots. And he opened the cupboard door to glower at his bulletproof vest which he had moved from the kitchen to its correct place in his wardrobe last night. That piece of armour plating intimidated her. He was not wearing it today. It was in any case going to be mostly office work if he was not mistaken. He had an uneasy feeling whenever he didn’t wear the vest for work; but maybe that needed to be addressed for the phobia it probably was.
He went into the study to check if there was really nothing he could do for his computer.
It didn’t look as though the computer had been damaged, just the power point and the plug, but he would only be able to tell once he switched it on. So the plug had to be repaired. Had the download finished in time? It occurred to him that if it had been interrupted, the whole game may be lost. Unless Nickells had backups. A professional like him? Of course he had backups! Connor resolved to find them and confiscate them, and rebuild the game from them. His virus had deleted the game off all the servers on the net, and seeing that Nickells was in custody, he’d have to wait. Or take an active hand. He was getting ahead of himself. Maybe the computer was intact and the download was complete.
He returned to the lounge where Nadee was standing at the window. And he stopped in the doorway, his breath going missing: Glorious morning sunlight was pouring over her like a blessing. She looked ephemeral, like a spirit, like an otherworldly being of pure magic. Untouched by harsh reality.
And his heart went into spasm. Damn! He realized what this was.
He hadn’t been in love before, if this was what the real deal was like. All he could think of was that wish – that burning wish – that she must feel the same about him. And now he also admitted to himself that it was that same wish that had driven him crazy, unable to sleep, the whole night as he had sat watching her over glasses of brandy. Not the fact that she had carried an illegal memory stick from a hacker right into his apartment and wrecked his download. That hardly featured, right now.
She turned, raised large, opalescent eyes at him.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
That did it. He was over at the window in a second, his hand digging in his pocket for the keys, his other hand grasping her wrists.
“Give here, girl, can’t keep you locked up!”
The look of surprise on her face was well worth it as he unlocked the handcuffs.
“Now you won’t run away please, will you?” he said as he stuffed the keys back into his pocket and the handcuffs into his belt. She shook her head, speechless, her precious lips parted. She looked as though she were going to vanish into thin air in a moment. He touched her face to make sure she was actually real; and before he could stop himself, he kissed her. The magic sunlight poured down on them both like a halo. Time stopped.
Nancy ventured out of her hiding place in the garage, dipping into the garden. She collected an armful of fruit off the trees and vanished back into the garage. It was dark, dank and dusty in here; but she felt safer. No doubt the friggin’ pigs would be crawling all over the house sometime today. She’d have to find another hiding spot, perhaps even take to the stormwater drains like the four of them had done during their first jailbreak. But she wanted to find Faff first and see if there wasn’t any wisdom the old dragon could impart.
There was the sound of cars parking outside. She was too late. She gathered up the Dell, the power chord and the external drive into the old briefcase, crept out of the back door of the garage, and escaped through the grove over the fence into the neighbouring garden – another deserted house – and from there, headed down the road trying to look innocent carrying a briefcase with her. Maybe she ought to go where they didn’t expect her to: The library. Mike had said something about that Nadisda had organised him some friendly relations there.
Nadisda was the first to break the enchantment. She freed herself from that spellbinding kiss and placed her hand on Hugo’s chest, dazed.
“Wait! This is wrong.”
That sweet, mesmerizing whirlpool had her in its currents, and all she wanted was to surrender to it. There was a real person in that dreadful blue uniform. A great heart beating, and currently beating for her. A history, a life lived so far, a character with strength and hopefully, the capacity for change. She realized it was too late; she was caught in her own spell. She’d fallen for him.
Hero Hugo gazed at her. She noted that his eyes were blue. And soft – as though she could reach in and hold his soul in her hand.
“Nadee!” he whispered, still holding her in his arms.
But she had warded against the spell! How could it still catch her? She glanced at the branches, the vines overhead; the whole grove had broken out in sweet white blossoms, decked out like a wedding reception. Birds were chirping sickening little melodies.
“Shoosh, yous!” she told them firmly. They shut up, giving indignant little chirps.
Hero Hugo noticed for the first time where they were. He gasped. “What the hell?”
“We’re in my home,” said Nadisda. “This was not supposed to happen. None of this was supposed to happen.”
“But we’re in my flat in New York!” objected Hugo.
She shook her head. “Not anymore. I don’t know how this worked.”
“We’re inside the game?”
She shook her head once again. “We’re in the Magic Realms, Hugo. The game is destroyed. Your virus ate it.”
“We have to find our way back and get you home,” she said sensibly. “You should not be here.”
“The Realms exist outside of the game?”
“We think so.”
“And you actually are…”
“The forest fairy. Yes. You see? This is wrong. We’re not even the same species!”
A stunned moment.
“I don’t care,” said Hugo.
“You ensnared me?”
She pulled a face and tried to break out of his grasp. “Not intentionally. Well, not really intentionally… at least, I didn’t think it would… I concocted a curse and it went wrong…”
He kissed her. The whirlpool claimed her this time; she had no more fight in her. Things would have to go any way they had to. She admitted to herself that she had deliberately brewed a love spell to trip up Hero Hugo without causing him the damage Valentine had intended, because evil intent was simply not a part of her. And now the spell had backfired on her. She had to find her way out somehow. She needed to find that moonstone.
“You’re not in love with Mike Nickells,” he muttered as he broke the kiss.
She shook her head. Her eyes said the rest.
“Nadee,” whispered Connor, holding her tightly.
It would be so easy to fall into this and simply let it happen. She closed her eyes and wished for a solution. Wished so hard that it trickled out of her eye.
“Hey!” Connor held her away from him, studying her in astonishment. “Why are you crying?”
“It’s still wrong,” she said despondently. “You’re a villain. You have destroyed an entire world and tried to steal it from its creator.”
Connor stared at her. From that perspective it certainly made sense. Here, he was no law enforcement officer chasing after young hackers by any means available to him. Here he was a guest, and one who had behaved badly.
“What can I do to make it better for you?” he asked.
“Get Mike and his sister and Benita out of jail,” she said. “And give him back his game – if you have it. The way it was.”
“I can’t get them out of jail,” he said. “It isn’t a simple matter of dropping charges. A criminal charge cannot be dropped because the prosecutor is the state. Only civil charges can be dropped.”
“But he’s turning over a new leaf!” said Nadisda, distressed. “I was coaching him nicely!”
“And I don’t know if I can give him his game back,” added Connor. “I don’t know if I have it. I don’t know how much my virus has destroyed, whether there are backups on some server somewhere…” He glanced around himself. “Though judging from where we are, there must be something that survives. It’s a matter of finding it.”
“Mike would be able to find it,” said Nadisda with conviction. “You have to get him released. Anything. On bail. Or on probation. Whatever. But not locked up. He must be able to get to his computers.”
“Those computers are stolen goods in the first place,” growled Connor.
“Then we go and pay the people they were stolen from,” said Nadisda. “We can fix it. He won’t hack into people’s bank accounts again, I promise it!”
“How can you promise it?” challenged Connor. “Are you going back to him?”
“Because,” said Nadisda, “he’s had a change of heart.” She sighed. “Wish you’d let it go. There are much larger things at stake here.”
Connor gazed into her eyes, trying to think about it and finding it impossible to think about anything except her.
This was insane. He was in love – as badly in love as he had never experienced before – with an illusion, a character from a game! His mind tried to find its way around that. How could she exist in the flesh, in the real world? She had to be a gamer. He had to get to the bottom of it.
And if she was indeed part of the game, there was no way he could hand back the controls to Nickells! What if the programmer changed her? Or deleted her? Damn, this was a desperate situation!
“You’re not leaving me,” he growled, holding her tightly.
Nadisda shook her head, infinite sadness in her eyes. “I’ll see this through to its end.”
“There is no end!” he argued. “This is a beginning!” He glanced around the grove. “So how do we get home?”
“Back to New York,” she corrected him. “I’d guess, the same way we got here?” And she kissed him, her wings opening subconsciously.
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