Double down for one last job.
"This is it! This is where legends are made!" Ana bellows into an enormous, empty room lined with gloss-paneled walls. A single console plinth rises from the floor.
She turns to an underwhelmed Elsie. "Shaxx would yell that whenever we stepped into a new Crucible arena. Now they're all simulated here."
"What else can it simulate?" Elsie asks, hands at the console, mind opening to possibilities.
"A lot of things, I guess. You have to tell it what to make, and the directions need to be pretty clear, like a blueprint," Ana explains.
"Do you remember—" Elsie catches herself. "Here, let me show you something." She pulls a thin cable from her wrist plate and inserts it into the console, uploading her own blueprint.
The room digitizes briefly before solidifying into a small, nondescript sporting court. In place of the console is a countertop fitted with an oval disk of brass, etched with grooves forming orbital paths around a loose brass orb.
"This is a game called 'Sacra,'" Elsie says, fingers deftly running along the grooves. She taps the orb, which ascends and floats into the middle of the court. Red lines fizzle into the air around it, each one tracing a different path. Elsie swipes a brass groove, and a holographic pebble appears at her fingertips.
"That orb has its own gravity. You get five stones to throw into orbit. The goal is to align all five in a stack at an intersection point; then they'll fuse together. If they survive an orbit like that, you win."
Ana taps her chin. "Seems pretty math heavy."
"Math is one winning strategy. Rhythm is another," Elsie says. "Striking an opponent's stone head on destroys both. Anything else is just a nudge."
"All right, sis. Buckle up… because I'm gonna kick your custom-made butt."
Elsie cringes. "Thinking you have some instinctual skills locked away?"
"I fly a spaceship every day. I can do orbits."
They play over and over, becoming increasingly competitive, increasingly matched.
Still, each game ends in Elsie's favor. And each grates on Ana more than the last. She howls in frustration.
"We can stop," Elsie offers.
The sisters trace orbital paths and send their pebbles along them. On her fifth, Ana spots an opening and throws. Her stones' orbits align into a Sacra stack.
"I WON!" Ana bursts into the air amid the swirls of red.
Elsie eyes her own slow-moving stone approaching Ana's stack. "Have you?"
She points as it gently drifts onto a collision course, hitting and scattering Ana's pebbles.
"Damn it!" Ana sinks to the ground, pressing her face into her palms before lying flat on her back. "Am I at least better at this than I used to be?" she grumbles.
Elsie steps beside Ana, then slowly lies down by her side. "No. You're exactly as bad as you used to be."
Elsie's smile breaks first. Then Ana's, reluctantly.
Quiet contentment. Spontaneous… and genuine.
"But… this is better than it was before."
Category: Lord Shaxx