Maria Ciliega was sitting in the break room after her shift ended for the day. She was an average looking woman in her early twenties. She had blue eyes and wavy chestnut hair hanging down to her shoulders. She was wearing her uniform, a red shirt and black pants. The break room looked like any other break room: white tile on the floor, a refrigerator, and microwave. There was in addition, a television and two vending machines each one for drinks. Her friend and co-worker, Cheyenne, came in. She was a little heavier set. The two of them were friends since they first met in Kindergarten. She had shorter brown hair.
"Hey Cheyenne." Maria stated as she waved to her. Cheyenne noticed her and waved back.
"How are things going, Maria?" she replied as she walked over.
"I'm doing fine." Maria replied. "I, finally, get to leave for the day. Eight hours at a cash register is not fun."
"I hear ya." Cheyenne agreed. Then a voice was heard over the loudspeaker.
"Maria, please report to the back." the voice stated.
"Really?" Maria stated aloud. "I just punched out. Do I have to go to the back?"
"I don't know why you are being called to there." Cheyenne added. "If it was one of the offices it would make sense. But why are they calling you anyways?"
"I don't know." Maria replied not very happy. "Regardless, I'll head back and check. Then, I can head home."
She walked to the back area of the store. It was still inside. There were extra groceries ready to be put on the shelves of all kinds, so many boxes and packages. There were two areas for trucks to drop off their good and two compacters for trash. But with all these things, Maria didn't find the one that called her.
"That's odd. There's no one here." She thought. "It might be some sort of prank." But then, something odd got her attention. It was being covered with boxes. She moved them and found a ring. It was a large mark on the ground. A light olive green colored the outline. Thinking it was tape, she tried to pull it off but she couldn't find an edge to it. She tried to wash it off thinking someone had painted it there as a prank, but it didn't even faze it. "What kind of ring is this?" Nearby was a set of boxes stacked on top of each other. Because of the poor stacking, it came tumbling down with a crash. She looked up and saw what happened. She lost her balance and fell into the middle of the ring.
"Oh great. Just what we need, more damaged goods." she stated as she walked over the ring to get to the mess. But when she got to the center, the ring glowed brightly as she stood up. "What?" The entire surroundings turned into a dark violet starry space that Maria was floating in. "Okay, this has become completely messed up." She looked around.
"Hello?" She asked. "Is anyone there?" Out of the space, there formed a tall slender man. He had short brown hair and brown eyes wearing very formal attire fit for an important celebration. He formed from some of the smoke that was floating around.
"I am here." He said as Maria turned to him. "I've been waiting for you, Maria."
"Wait," she replied in shock. "Who are you and how do you know my name? And what is going on here?"
"I see this is a shock to you." He explained. "Your questions will be answered in time. Come back tomorrow and you will get something."
"Tomorrow?" she asked. "But I have my day off tomorrow."
"You will end up back here. I'm certain of it." He stated as he vanished.
"Hey you." Maria replied irritated about the fact she was alone. "Don't leave me here. I wanna get out."
"Maria. Maria." She started to hear Cheyenne's voice.
"Cheyenne?" Maria asked. "Where are you?"
"Maria," she replied. "Snap out of it."
She snapped back into reality. She looked around everything was back to normal. She saw Cheyenne looking at her with concern.
"Oh, Cheyenne." She stated. "I'm glad you're here. What just happened?"
"I came back to get you and I found you staring out into space." Cheyenne replied.
"Okay." Maria stated. "That was just a…" She looked down and the ring was still there. "It's still there."
"What's still there?" Cheyenne asked.
"The ring." Maria replied.
"What ring?" She asked. Maria pointed to the ring. "Maria, I don't see a ring, anywhere. Are you starting to get tired?"
"Yeah." Maria replied. "I must be tired from work. We should leave and go somewhere." Maria was trying to get what she saw out of her mind as she and Cheyenne punched out and left work.
They decided to go to the park. It was an early spring in the year 2038, technology hasn't changed. It was impossible to advance but people try and constantly fail and no one knows why. She and Maria sat down on an iron bench with pine wood by the sidewalk. The flowers have yet to bloom.
"This is sad." Maria said. "None of the flowers or creatures has come back yet."
"Yeah." Cheyenne replied. "But that's life, you have to keep waiting."
"I wonder what it'll be like." Maria stated.
"I'm not sure."Cheyenne replied. "This is the only green spot in the entire city. You can't get your hopes up."
"I'm also imagining what it would be like… you know in the old days." Maria asked.
"You can't be thinking about the past." Cheyenne replied. "It just a bunch of old stuff nobody cares about. You got to think about the now."
Just then, a pizza car was driving by and it hit a pothole. The tire blew out as the driver lost control of the car. It stopped in front of the girls.
"Hey watch it." Cheyenne replied. The car window rolled down and Maria's breathe was taken away. The driver was a slightly muscular man with blue eyes and had spiked short red hair. He was dressed in green shirt and blue jeans.
"My apologizes." he stated as he left the car. He checked the car and saw that his back right tire was blown out. "Damn, the tire's gone bad." He went to get the spare tire from the trunk and Maria walked up to him.
"Hi there." She said a little sheepish. "I'm Maria."
"Uh, hey." the man said. "I'm Brian. I'm sorry for scaring you."
"No, you didn't do anything wrong." she replied.
"Thanks." he replied. "I'll get this tire fixed and I'll be on my way."
"Hey, Brian." she asked. "Will we see each other again?"
"Possibly." he stated I work at the pizza shop.
"Okay. I hope to see you later." She said.
"All right. Same here." He replied.
"That was unexpected." Cheyenne stated. "A guy gets in an accident right in front of you."
"I know. That was unexpected." She answered in reply.
"Don't tell me you are fascinated with the pizza boy." Cheyenne stated but she saw that Maria was watching a chipmunk running around the tree.
"That's a cute chipmunk." Maria added.
"You never changed since Kindergarten." She answered. After spending some time with Cheyenne, Maria went home. But she was not ready for what was to occur the very next day…
The next morning, she realized that she forgot some of her things at work. She drove back and went to get the stuff. But while traveling through the store, she heard a load intrusion coming from the entrance.
"EVERYONE, GET ON THE GROUND!" She heard a guy shout. She heard gun fire too. The sounds of panic echoed throughout the store as Maria fled in fear into the back forgetting about the reason why she was there. She ended up in the ring again. As she was floating in that space, the strange man appeared again.
"You have decided to hide." He stated. "It is understandable. Fear is a basic human emotion. But there is more to this situation." Maria was scared.
"I understand completely what is going on." Maria replied to him irritated. "The store is being held up by who knows what."
"Little do they know, Maria." He added. "We have the upper hand."
"And how do we have that?" she asked.
"You have a great power that you have and you were completely oblivious on its existence…" He explained. "…until now."
"What power?" she replied. "I'm just a normal human being, not some mystical wizard." She noticed that he was not paying any attention. "Are you even listening to me?"
"Your power has rested for many years." He stated. "It is time for your power to emerge. AWAKEN, MAIDEN OF HUMILITY!"
Before she was able to respond, she was bathed in a bright light. Her clothes disappeared as an ambient wind blew around her. It was replaced with a violet sailor-fuku top and mini-skirt with a sailor collar. She wore long violet socks with red ribbon around them and red penny-loafers. In addition, she sported finger-cut gloves with red lining the wrist. Two silver hairpins appeared on her head; one on her left side and one on the right. The some of the ambient winds that swirled around her came to her forearms. In the right hand, it solidified and turned into a Roman sword (a gladius). On the left arm, it solidified and turned into an iron shield.
"Wait," she thought. "What is this feeling?"
"This is the power within you." he replied. "It is now awake and you can access this power when needed."
"Okay, so what do I do now?" she asked.
"When you leave, the police would have arrived at the store. But couldn't make any progress. The burglars will try to escape through the back." He explained. "Where we are currently are. You must prevent them from leaving that way."
"I have to fight them?" Maria nearly shouted from fright and shock.
"Another advantage is that they are unaware of your presence." He added.
"Before I leave and possibly die fighting, can I at least know your name?" Maria asked him.
"I am Jonathan." He explained. "My purpose is to guide you. For now, you must fight." He disappeared and Maria returned to the back room of the store. She still had her new look on.
"Okay, Maria." She said. "Get it together, girl."
"Hey, there is no way out of the front." A bandit from the other side of the door said.
"I'll head to the back and make an escape route." Another stated. A bandit ran through the door and saw Maria. "Out of the way, girly." Maria lifted up her hand by reflex and a powerful shot of air blasted him in the face stunning him. Seizing the opportunity, Maria headed towards him. He aimed the pistol and fired but missed every shot. A sword strike from Maria knocked him out.
"How did I do that?" Maria thought as she looked at her hand. "Well, at this point there is no going back now." She noticed another bandit coming so she hid.
"Hey, what's going on back here?" That bandit asked." He noticed the unconscious person. "Holy crap." He picked up a com-radio he had with him.
"Guys, we got company back here." he stated into the com-link. "I don't know what's back here."
"Well," a voice stated. "Find out what it is. I'll send back some more guys to aid." Maria hid in the shadows as more came. All of them came in with guns.
"Okay, spread out and search for anyone who should get in our way." the bandit said to the rest. "Then, either kill them or capture them for an extra hostage." A bandit went over to look for Maria. She was hiding and the bandit found her.
"I found a girl in a purple skirt." A bandit shouted.
"Capture her." the bandit leader said. "She'll make an excellent hostage and our escape will be easier. She brought up her sword as the bad guys began to surround her. The bandits didn't draw the guns not thinking she was an actual threat.
A bandit from the front charged and she bashed him with her shield. Another charged and she swung her sword and he got back from her. As this occurred, a dark violet mist (ectoplasm) formed at their feet covering the ground. A bandit from the rear tried to attack Maria, an arm formed from some of the mist. That arm lengthened and punched the attacking guy hard in the solar plexus knocking him back.
"What the hell is this?" that bandit asked. Maria didn't notice the strange arm but noticed the ectoplasm. From it, a silhouette of a man formed with glowing yellow eyes. He was behind Maria but looking towards the bandits.
"LEAVE THIS PLACE AND NEVER RETURN!" the silhouette shouted at the bandits behind her. The bandits dropped their weapons, screamed in terror, and ran away in fright. The silhouette turned to her. "Maria, go and fight. I shall protect your flanks and rear." She turned and saw the specter. From his voice, she knew it was Jonathan protect her.
"John, you look scary." She stated to him.
"Okay, since you put it that way. I'll possess cute little animals from now on." He replied. She brought her shield and sword up and fought the bandits. The bandits that didn't fight fled towards the front terrified and fled through the front door.
"RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" they shouted. "THE STORE IS HAUNTED!" The news had sent shivers down the spines of the employees. The bandit leader heard this and slapped his forehead.
"For crying out loud," he replied. "There is no such thing as ghosts." At that moment,Maria as the maiden of humility came in.
"Hey you," she stated to him. "You shouldn't be picking on these people." He saw how ridiculous she looked and busted out laughing.
"Are you, out of all people, going to stop us?" the bandit asked her.
"Uh… Yeah." she replied.
"Well then, I'll just have to kill you then." he replied. He pulled out a machine gun and started to fire at Maria. He brought up her shield and dodged behind a counter. She fired some wind blasts at him. The wind knocked out and jammed the gun as she advanced towards him. He pulled out a spare pistol and aimed. Maria got close enough and swung her sword before he could fire any ammo. The gun was thrown to the side. "I'm not going to give up that easily." He stated as he headed toward his pistol.
"Quick, use your finishing move." Jonathan said to her.
"I have a finishing move?" Maria asked.
"Yes." He replied.
"I don't know how to use it." she replied back to him. She threw the sword at the bandit leader. The blunt end struck the bandit's head knocking him out.
"That was not exactly what I had in mind." he stated. "But excellent job."
"Thanks." She replied.
"You better get out of here." he added. "The police will arrest you thinking you are with the other bandits." The police came in as she left through the back. Everyone was in confusion on what happened. People did get pictures of her fighting the bandit. Meanwhile, Maria and Jonathan were in the back storage room where the ring was.
"Can you promise me one thing?" Jonathan asked Maria.
"What's that?" Maria asked in reply.
"Never reveal to anyone that you are a magical maiden." he replied. "Never reveal that you were the one that fought the bandit."
"How come?" She asked.
"You would endanger yourself and those around you if you did." he explained. "This will not be the first time that you will become the maiden of humility."
"Okay." She said. "Now, now do I transform back?"
"Wait, don't transform yet…" he added. But it was too late, she transformed back but she was in the nude. Maria was embarrassed when she found out. Jonathan gave her clothes back completely folded neatly.
"Your clothes were teleported to a pocket dimension, so they could be stored for later use." He explained. "I asked you to wait so I can get them." She grabbed her clothes and hid behind a crate to put them on.
"If you weren't a ghost, I would slap you so hard for being a pervert." She stated as she put her clothes on.
"I really got to make a changing room for her and any future teammates." He stated breaking the fourth wall. Maria came out completed dress this time.
"Just what exactly are you anyway?" She asked.
"Like you said before a ghost." He explained. "The ghost of a man that used to be." Then, he faded away.
"Well, at least I don't have to worry about this anymore." she stated or so she thought.