The planet of Draconis fell into their orbit long ago.
C.J. had been looking up at the planet for as long as she could remember. She always compared the light coming from the city above and the desolate grassy plains of their planet and wondered why they had to stay. The dragons came out at night, sure, but other than that the ground planet was...boring.
Then she would hear the battles raging above and she almost understood her parents' concern.
Almost. After all the army that called themselves the Society and the resistance couldn't be fighting all over the planet. Could they?
The morning of her eighteenth birthday which also happened to be her last day of high school she found herself looking up at the planet over her cereal. Her mother Sappho was filling her bowl again. She gave C.J. a big hug and kiss. "Oh my baby is growing up so fast."
Her other mother, Alex, frowned at her, having noticed her daydreaming. ""I know what you're thinking, kid, and no" she said firmly but gently.
"Cmon!" C.J. said "I want to see"
"Your mother said no" her father, Matt, said decisively. He ruffled her hair.
She looked at her mothers and father. They looked at each other.
C.J. pulled a quilt square out of her pocket. Everyone was born with one with words or a scene embroidered on it. Each gave the person a special power. Hers…
She pressed the square and a broadsword appeared in a flash of light. Except she misjudged the size. It swung around on its own power making her parents step back. It disappeared in a flash as soon as it appeared.
"My power is perfect for fighting! I can help!"
"Absolutely not, young lady" Alex snapped, but she held C.J.'s close.
Sappho, tears in her eyes, reached out as if C.J. would jump up and join the rebel army on the spot.
"You cant grow up that fast" she insisted.
"Draconis is...too dangerous" her father had said, finally. She knew there was a war on
Draconis. She knew her parents were involved in it. They were often away.
Cj had pouted and muttered the entire way to school that day. Great way to end high school she thought sarcastically. Guess what, you'll never get off this dump. Have fun. She wound her way through the sparse walled city. She passed an apartment built into the wall and her friend Glenn burst out, pushing their black hair off the dark skin of their brow.
"Last day of school!" Glenn cried happily, sipping hot chocolate from their thermos.
"Great" C.J. said with venom. She pulled out a book and read as they walked. Her parents always told her not to do that but she always did anyway. She was good at it.
It was a book called the Adventures of Sandy Dearn, a series about a hero who lived on Draconis a long time ago. She drank in every description everything unfamiliar, everything that wasn't the same things she saw a million times before.
That afternoon they were assigned to study hall. Glenn sat down on the rug doing math homework. C.J. sat on the rocking chair beside them, reading her book.
A girl with wild curly black hair approached the nearby shelf. She had unsuccessfully tried to tame her hair with hair ties. She looked angry about something. She aggressively pushed book after book aside. She growled, frustrated. "It was right here!"
"What book are you looking for, Abelle?" C.J. asked. The girl looked surprised to be addressed.
The girl still looked aggressive and weary as if she didn't trust anyone who dared to speak to her until she saw it was C.J. Her expression softened immediately.
"It's you! I didn't know they threw you in here today" she smiled affectionately. "Of course you have the book I want." she said softly to herself. She couldn't keep a far away look from her eyes and a blush from her face.
C.J. grinned, blushing herself and indicated she should sit on the rug. C.J. leaned down so they could both read.
"Don't talk to me, I hate algebra. And I hate hating things" Glenn groaned, tears in their eyes.
Abelle grinned "My senior prank got a little...out of hand. My homeroom teacher sent me here for detention."
C..J. laughed "Man detention on your last day. What'd you do?"
She grinned "i put viruses on all the computers in the lab"
"Isn't that illegal?"
"Oh they cant prove it was me."
After reading a few chapters the lunch bell rang.
in the lunch room they put the book between themselves as they ate their sandwiches. Glenn sat at the edge of the table chowing down on chocolate chip cookies.
"Your Letterman jacket is inside out" Glenn said without looking up.
"what? How did you? Oh" Abelle looked down at her jacket and over at Glenn idly tapping their
"One day I'm going to go up there" C.J said.
"Not if the dork patrol fails the final exam" came a sneering voice. A tall pale girl with bright red
hair smirked at them. Her friend scowled at them but tried to pull her away. "Stop, Scilla."
"For your information, Scilla. Beth. I have a super presentation planned."Abelle sneered back, taking one of Glenn's cookies.
"Shut it, Glenn. Get lost you two"
As they left, Scilla bared small fangs. C.J. shuddered. Thank God high school was over. Thank
God they wouldn't have to deal with them anymore.
"Do you have something good planned?"
"No!" Abelle cried, producing a scimitar. She had the same power as C.J. They had bonded over that when they had met in middle school.
The hall was cornfield in winter quiet. Abelle looked smaller than herself. Was this place always so big, always such open space? Slowly and steadily she pressed her hand into her quilt square producing weapons, the metallic sounds echoing like ages in the silent hall.
The lobby felt thunderous afterwords. Every relative, some she'd never seen since infancy roared their congratulations
C.J. charged her, the smile on her face drawing a rueful smirk.
Abelle made a little "Oof!" sound as she was tackled.
"You did it! You did it!"
"Course I did" Abelle said gruffly but pulled C.J. closer. C.J. suddenly clutched her chest. Her face flushed and she was sweating
"Is it your heart? Should I get your parents?" Abelle looked close to panic.
"No. No. It'll pass." In truth she had had more and more of these episodes that year. She had been dealing with that her entire life though, and Abelle was panicing
Later the bell rang, the end of high school.
Abelle bowled C.J. over. They fell to the soft grass laughing.
Still pinning CJ down, Abelle pulled a document out of her pocket.
"I got it. The deed for some farmland outside the city. We'll finally be up there!"
"It'll take a while to build" C.J. said "plus we have to finish college."
"Damnit Abe" Glenn yelled down the hall, after they had left school and were hanging out at C.J.'s.
"What?" Abelle called
"Did you drink the last beer?"
"Why did you do that?"
"Because i wanted beer, duh"
They stormed into C.J's room where C.J. was reading a book.
"Abe drank my beer"
"Since when am I Abe's keeper?"
"Um since we were twelve?"
Four years later...
Abel made her way to the hospital. She was carrying a BEST FRIEND
She tried not to think about it as she pushed her way in.
"Hey, sis" she sat up a little, grinning.
Her heart broke to see the pale ghost of her friend. Her chest was sunken, her eyes red.
"Hey" C.J. sat up a little, grinning.
She smiled tenderly down at her.
"It looks worse than it is" C.J. coughed. "The doctors patched me up"
Abelle sat down on her bed and stroked her hair.
"I'm really good. Honest."
Glenn came in with flowers and of course every sweet food imaginable.
"Sorry I was late the gift shop is a nightmare…" they noticed Abelle's expression.
"She will be alright" they said finally "You know that don't you?"
"No" Abelle said dully "No I don't know."
They pulled their friends into a hug.
four years after that...
Unfortunately C.J. was still grounded. Literally speaking. Abelle and Glenn had gone on ahead of her
and moved to Draconis while she was still stuck finishing up the last semester of her English
master's. She sat at an open air cafe watching the dark clouds and the planet that
held her family in the distance. She sipped her extra shot espresso and plowed away at an
essay about romanticism. She ruffled her close-cut black hair and worried her purple stud
Her quilt square turned into a phone screen that buzzed. Abelle and Glenn had been blowing up their text chain all day.
Abelle: You won't believe this city! It's like a year round festival!
Glenn: I won a fish!
Abelle: Glenn won a fish!
"Ow" she had been clutching the espresso cup a little too tightly. It shattered, slicing her thumb
She sucked it, looking up. She was thinking about how much she'd like to be up there with them.
Suddenly her thumb began to glow.
Her blood was glowing gold. "What? What?" She felt herself stretch as if she were turning into light. "Nonono ahhhhh!"
She felt like she was in the middle of an explosion. She crashed into the ground but she was no
longer at the cafe. Sitting up she was in the middle of a gutted airplane hangar full of tents. Some were simple canvas. Some were those fancy high-tech ones you get at sporting good stores. Hanging all over the walls were quilts and blankets with words embroidered into them
She knew exactly where she was.
She ran to the hangar door and threw open the cloth covering the door.
This was where space shuttles came into...
"Draconis" she whispered.
She walked into the sunlight onto a boardwalk city. People walked around drawing words into the air or embroidering words into quilt patches hovering above them.
Across the boardwalk there were normal attractions like ring toss or roller coasters. There were also more eyebrow-raising things like little green men with pointy ears with market booths. Or booths where people would sew a picture of an animal and its name into cloth and it would transform into a stuffed animal that would parade around on its own for little kids.
"Woah" she whispered. She pulled out her quilt square and opened the text chain.
C.J: Guys? Guess I'm joining you sooner than I thought.
"Fascinating" she whispered as one young man at a boardwalk cafe wrote orders on a notepad and the orders conjured in front of the patrons. She filmed the beachfront as she walked on, furiously making notes in her memo pad.
Her parents frequented a cafe in town where they stabled the family's horses outback. Now to find the farm outside town her family had bought.
A carny running the teacup ride gave her directions.
C.J. found herself on a small sliver of plains
She had taken her mother's most temperate horse but even he got a little spooked.
Old video players in various states of destruction littered the grass. Occasionally she saw something almost workable like a camcorder that wasn't broken into pieces and an old tape.
She even saw a gaming console that looked reasonably usable. She wanted to pick it up but the carny's instructions were clear: don't touch anything. She didn't need to hold the reins to guide the horse. She finished sewing the word sword into a cloth she got in town. It glowed for a moment before transforming into a steel blade in her hands
Cloth banners littered the field. The Society.
The banners had slogans like "control embroidery powers! Unify the city!"
The society Soldiers were patrolling the grassy knoll between the city proper and her new home. She cursed inwardly. If the Society had taken control of this part of the city, Abelle wouldn't let her go anywhere alone again. She sighed. Glaring she stretched her hand and the banners all ripped. Whoa. She'd never done that before.
"Hey! Woman!" a soldier yelled after her.
"Eep!" she gently kicked the horse's side and went galloping before the soldiers could follow.
At the farm she jumped from the horse who began unconcernedly eating grass.
The farmhouse had a simple wood frame and every inch of the outside walls instead of whitewash were embroidered tapestries and blankets and quilts. Gleaming and shimmering, they depicted momentous events in their lives. Her mothers and her father meeting. Her day long ago when her parents were just teenagers when their planet was threatened by an asteroid and their king used his power to move them galaxies away to the milky way.
Attached awkwardly to the back of the farmhouse was an old space shuttle, gutted and outfitted to live in.
C.J. turned her quilt square to video chat to check in with her parents at their home on the boardwalk.
On a blanket in front of the resistance headquarters, her mothers and father were preparing food.
Sappho was perfectly molding a dumpling while Alex was mangling hers. Alex was getting angrier and angrier, Sappho gently helping. Matt looked on sardonically. When he saw C.J. he beamed and left them to the chaos.
"Hello, sweetie, how was your day?" Suddenly stern "Wait, you're on Draconis? When did you get here? You didn't pick up games on the plains?"
Her parents still weren't in love with the idea of her being up there but she was too old for them to stop could still nag her, though
C.J. laughed, rolling her eyes "No, Dad. We're going into town after chores but first I want to find Abelle. She just made a spear and I want to see it. Plus I made this sweet SWORD!" she shouted the last word, displaying the blade proudly. The stitching must not have held though because it poofed! Back into a quilt square.
Sorry Moms, Dad, gotta go" she hastily shut off her phone.
Abelle ran out of the house, nearly knocking her over with a hug.
When she righted herself she could see Abelle was frantic and near tears.
"You forgot to study the manual for keeping the barn up to code?" C.J. smiled.
"I forgot to study the training manual for keeping the barn up to code!"
"Just like you didn't study for your embroidery tests. I had to memorize so much for you."
C.J. sighed, hugging her back "What am I gonna do with you?"
"I brought an offering in exchange" Abelle said.
"A bribe, you mean."
"Ok, yes. I was gonna give it to you for your birthday but I may as well give it to you now."
Abelle pulled a hardback book out of her backpack. C.J.'s eyes widened.
"Is that the omnibus edition of the Sandy Dearn books? I didn't know it was out yet."
"I thought we could read it together"
They sat on a blanket. With a pen from C.J.'s pack they wrote their names on the cover.
They took turns turning the pages. Abelle's manual lay forgotten.
"This book is so good" Abelle whispered.
C.J. laughed, looking at the way Abelle's eyes grew brighter and wider. She could watch Abelle read forever.
Abelle looked back at her and was startled to meet her eyes. "What? It's good" she laughed.
C.J. lay her head in Abelle's lap. "Hey, watch the book."
"Mmm" C.J. shifted. "Read it to me."
Abelle swatted her hand. "Dork" she whispered affectionately.
They poured over the map of Draconis on the front pages, a continent with a single continuous city along the coast.
"Well maybe this will finally encourage me to actually prepare for things" Abelle mused.
C.J. laughed "And I suppose you want to study the manual all night?"
Abelle nodded briskly, wiping away tears.
Abelle got up and ran to get them a couple of beers.
Glenn followed drinking a huge cup of hot chocolate.
"Do you have enough cocoa?" C.J. asked fixing their hair.
"Always" Glen drank deep.
"All that sugar cant be good for them" C.J. muttered.
"Living on the edge, that's me" Glenn laughed. They grabbed a can of beer and cracked it open. They, C.J. and Abelle toasted. C.J looked across their acres of farmland. The city.
"To the future" she said.
"To the future" the other two echoed.
"I'll take you in the van" glen said throwing their can the ground.
Abelle looked at it mournfully.
Glen's minivan was an ancient blue beast. Glenn called it squirt. Because it was a lemon. C.J. and Abe asked them to never call it that.
C.J. climbed up front and Abelle jumped into the back bench. A combination of study panic and too much funnel cake caused Abelle to crash right to sleep.
C.J. turned in her seat with a lovingly indulgent but sarcastic look.
"At least when I'm a mom, I'll be prepared. Being friends with Abe is like minding a toddler."
Glenn looked out the window, quickly glancing back at her nervously.
"Oh" they whispered "I though with your… other condition...you can't…sorry, it's none of my business."
C.J. raised her hand. "Glenn. It's OK. I know. Alex gave birth to me. Saph didn't, but she's still my mom too. So it's OK."
Glenn broke into a wide smile.
C.J. returned it. "You're alright. You know that, kid?"
C.J. ruffled Glenn's hair. Glenn grinned. "Stop, I'm not a little kid anymore, quit it."
They both broke into hysterical laughter.
When they stopped, Abelle jumped up, alarmed.
Pointing her new spear every which way, she asked "C.J.? Are you OK?"
After C.J. had been at the farmhouse for a few weeks, she was taking a beer from the fridge and when she closed it, Glenn was glaring at her, arms crossed.
"Ambush hospital visit?"
"Ambush hospital visit."
C.J. sighed. "Fine."
"I have to go to the cardiologist, Abe. Catch you later."
"Can I come too?"
"Why? It'll be boring."
"You're always saying you're scared of the EKG and I wanna" Abelle blushed deeply "I! I wanna have those hot dogs they have there! You told me about!"
"You wanna eat a hot dog and see me get an EKG?"
Across the boardwalk, another set of recent arrivals walked out of the space station.
"It's so weird to be back" Beth Blackwater said, looking around. "It's been, what?"
"Must be twenty years" Scilla said unconcernedly, kicking at a jug of water and looking at her nails. "I hear C.J. and Abelle are here too."
Beth's eyes gleamed. "I would like to get my hands on that spear of Abelle's."
She unfolded a map of the boardwalk. "But we have more important things to do. Like reporting to the Society headquarters."
Scilla grunted noncommittally. "We never worked with anyone before." she grumbled. She glared up at the sun. "Man, I'm hungry."
Beth, without missing a step, grabbed a piece of bread out of a beggar's bowl and handed it to Scilla.
"It's still just you and me, OK?" she pushed over a society banner. "We're just using suckers like we always do."
They almost missed it. The building looked like a family gym. Looking in the windows they saw a basketball court and a pool and even a daycare..
They showed their membership cards to an elderly guard who waved them in. They walked past the locker room and where one would expect a shower room was a carpeted office. In the middle of the room was a round table. A war room.
Beth grinned wolfishly. Scilla frowned and wiped her hand over the glossy oak table.
"You and me, right?" she whispered.