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Rated: 13+ · Other · Sci-fi · #1972741
My first round entry for the character tournament. . .
Jayce stood by himself on a hill. So this was the great contest. He had been deposited on this part of the planet with a device attached to his collar. "The collar," he had been told, "allows us to track you. Also, if you wish to withdraw from the contest at any time, tap on the collar."

From what he could see, this part of the planet was harmless enough. It was just a grassy field with some foothills. Still, as a marine, he knew better then to assume that anyplace was safe, so he kept his phaser drawn, as he inched forward through the hills.

Knowing that all kinds of people--and many things that weren't technically "people"-- were competing against him in the contest, he was ready for just about anything.

He wasn't ready to see a little girl.

And yet, that's what he saw as he came to the foot of another hill. She appeared to be human although her legs were rather long and spindly. Also her hair was colored an odd combination of yellow and brown. She was looking curiously at some flowers, but when she saw Jayce, she looked up. "Oh, Hello!" she said in a voice that was neither friendly nor hostile. "Are you looking for the woman?"


"The one with the purple eyes. She passed by here a little while ago."

Well, that was bad news. Jayce remembered seeing a woman with purple eyes during the qualifications. Her name had been something like Alexea. She had definitely impressed Jayce as one of his more dangerous opponents. If she was in the area, he would have to be careful.

Still, at the moment, he was more concerned about this girl. "Who are you?" he asked.

"My name is Nym," she said simply.

"Do your parents know you're here?"

"That question is confusing, partly because I do not completely understand the concept of 'parents'." Nym paused thoughtfully. "However, my education in genetics leads me to understand that I have two parents. One is the woman from whose egg, I was grown. The other is the fox whose sperm was used to fertilize that egg. However, I do not understand why my presence here would be of concern to either of those entities."

Creepy, thought Jayce. He decided to change the subject. "Aren't you afraid?"

"Afraid?" said Nym. "That is a concept that I think I do understand." There was a silent pause. Then Nym screamed, "The woman with the purple eyes is behind you!"

Jayce tightened his grip on his phaser and spun around, but there was nobody there.

"There," said Nym. "The way that you felt just now is 'afraid'. Am I correct?"

Actually, Jayce thought he should feel angry with the girl, but something about Nym's sincerity precluded that. So he just nodded. "You seem to have the right idea, but what are you doing here?"

"Just now, I was looking at these flowers. Do you think they might be poisonous or dangerous somehow?"

It was an interesting question, but the flowers looked to Jayce like ordinary daffodils. "I doubt it," he said. "Why do you ask?"

"For one thing, they do have an effect on me. When I go near them or sniff them, strange chemical reactions go on in my brain."

Jayce shrugged. "They are pretty and they do smell nice."

"I see," said Nym. "Then perhaps there is another hypothesis. Perhaps, those reactions occur because I am enjoying the beauty of these flowers. Do you think that's possible?"

"That could be it."

Nym began picking more of the flowers and sniffing them thoughtfully. "Yes," she said, "I think that is correct." Now her voice contained a small trace of enthusiasm. She stared at Jayce. "Your lips just briefly turned upwards by 5 percent. Is that also a reaction to these flowers?"

Jayce allowed his lips to turn upwards by a much larger percentage. "We call it a 'smile', kid and I think it had more to do with you then with the flowers."

Nym was puzzled, clearly not getting that she had been complimented. "Well," she said, "perhaps if they cause me pleasure, I should take some with me." She began gathering some of the flowers into a little black bag.

"It's an idea," said Jayce. Then, he thought some more about what Nym had said. "Look kid, did you tell me that that the woman with purple eyes passed through here?"

"Yes," said Nym. "I have been following her for the past few hours. The curious thing about her is that she also reacts to flowers, but I do not believe it is the same reaction as mine. Being in the presence of flowers causes her to become temporarily paralyzed."

That was hard to believe. "Temporarily paralyzed?"

"Yes, it only lasts .00015 seconds, but it always happens."

Jayce couldn't imagine what the cause of that might be. Still, he wondered if it might have some practical use. "Nym," he said, "just to put that in perspective. . .I'm going to pretend to punch you. Don't worry. I'll pull the punch so you don't get hurt. But I would like you to tell me how long the punch takes."

"Very well," said Nym.

Jayce let loose one of his favorite Gyango punches. It stopped with his fist just below Nym's chin. Nym did not even flinch. "That was .00019 seconds," she said.

Damn! thought Jayce. "Let me try it again," he said. This time he concentrated harder and was sure that he moved faster.

Again, Nym didn't flinch. "That was .00017 seconds," she said. "What is the point of this exercise?" she asked.

"I'm trying to decide if flowers will help us any, if we meet the woman with purple eyes. It looks like they won't," he admitted.

Nym did not respond to that. She turned and looked away from the hill. "Well," she said. "It looks to me like she is already nearby. Isn't that her over there?"

Jayce looked in the direction she was pointing. Well, there was definitely someone over there. Although, Jayce couldn't be sure of her identity from that distance. Nym's vision was unbelievable.

"Well, I guess I'd better check her out. You stay here." If flowers won't help, I'd better stick with my phaser, he thought.

He crept towards the woman slowly. As he approached, he saw that it was indeed the woman who called herself Alexea. Fortunately, her back was to him. This was going to be easier then he thought. "Halt!" he called out when he was within phaser range of her. Alexea seemed to freeze in her tracks.

"Now," said Jayce enjoying himself just a little bit. "Put your hands in the air and turn towards me slowly."

Alexea didn't budge. "What if I don't?"

That was an unexpected question. "I'll shoot you," said Jayce.

"And?" said Alexea.

Jayce groaned. Why, he wondered, was the universe so full of beings that lacked basic common sense? "It's a phaser. You'll die," he said out loud.

"Oh," said Alexea. "Very well. Well, I don't place too high a premium on life, so carry on."

This was ridiculous. Moreover, it was making Jayce uncomfortable.The truth was that he didn't want to kill someone in cold blood. "You know," he said out loud, "I'm a member of the Exorgian order."

"How wonderful for you," said Alexea sarcastically, "what does that have to do with the current situation?"

"Well, I suppose I should ask you if you've been saved and offer to share my faith with you, and give you a chance to come to the prophet before you die."

"Please don't do that," said Alexea. "Just skip to the part where you kill me."

Jayce sighed, reminded himself that he was a Marine, raised his phaser, and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

He tried again. Still nothing.

"Can't you hurry up?" called Alexea.

"Something's wrong with my phaser," Jayce admitted.

"Oh dear," said Alexea. Then, before Jayce could think what to do next. She ran towards him and kicked him in the head.

* * *

When Jayce came to, he was lying on his back under a tree. Standing nearby was Alexea Trang. "Oh good, you're conscious again," she said. "I was getting bored. Look what I found in the forest." It was Nym. Still holding her black bag. The funny thing was that she didn't look at all afraid.

"What are you going to do with her?" said Jayce.

"I thought you and I could use her for a game of Truth or dare. Did you ever play Truth or Dare?"

Sure, among other things Jayce remembered how in boot camp, he had played that game with Janice Whitlow and the other cadets. It seemed so long ago now.

"Now then," went on Alexea. "I'll start. I dare you to kill this girl right now."

"What? Why in God's name. . .?"

"Why in God's name? Not the name of that prophet which you Exorgians are so keen on?" Alexea smiled thoughtfully. "I'll make the dare a little bit more merciful. You don't have to kill anyone, just sit and watch while I kill her."

"Absolutely not."

"So you want Truth?"

"Fine, Truth." Jayce wasn't sure where this was leading.

Alexea paused thoughtfully. Finally, she said, "Tell me why you didn't try very hard to convert me to your Exorgian order."

"Because the order is too good for scum like you?" said Jayce with a sneer.

Alexea laughed. "I don't think so. I think that you are not really a member of that order, but I cannot understand why you would fake something like that. Tell me the reason and be honest about it or--" she made a threatening motion at Nym.

Jayce shrugged. "I don't think that information will really help you very much."

"Humor me."

I guess it doesn't matter if I tell her, Jayce thought. If I get out of this, I can always kill her and if I don't get out of it well. . .then it won't matter to me anyway. "I only joined the Exorgian order to infiltrate it. It's a spy mission if you will."


"So," said Jayce evenly, "Do I get a turn now?"

"A turn?"

"Yeah. A turn to either dare you to do something or ask you a question. We are still playing Truth or Dare, right?"

Alexea looked at him with disbelief. "You are still my prisoner, right? You aren't getting any ideas about daring me to let you go, are you?"

"I'm sure you'd tell me a lot of secrets before you did that," said Jayce.

Now Alexea's expression changed from incredulous to disgusted. "You're not just gonna dare me to kiss you or show you my boobs, are you?"

"Would a man in my position make that a priority?" asked Jayce.

"Maybe," said Alexea.

"That's ridiculous. You really have a high opinion of yourself."

"No," said Alexea laughing again. "Not a high opinion of myself. Just a low opinion of men."

"Yeah. Well. Anyway, It's not what I'm after. I just want to dare you to open that black bag which Nym is carrying and look at its contents."

"What?" said Alexea. "Why would you want me to do that?"

"Humor me," said Jayce.

"Very well." Alexea shrugged and snatched Nym's bag. She opened the bag and pulled out a fistful of daffodils. "Flowers?"

Instantly, Jayce leapt to his feet and sent a punch directly to Alexea's chin. She tumbled over in a heap.

Jayce looked at Nym. "How long did I take to make that punch?"

"Exactly .000145 seconds."

"Sweet!" said Jayce.

Nym still looked unaffected by the whole experience. "You," she said evenly, "have saved my life." Then, she stepped towards Jayce and threw her arms around his waist.

"What are you doing?" said Jayce trying to hide his pleasure.

"I wish to express my gratitude," said Nym. "Moreover. . .," she said, "I believe this action may also be making happy in itself."

"Me too," admitted Jayce, "but you'll have to stop for now."

Nym obediantly let go of him. "I still wish to show my gratitude," she said. Then, she reached into her belt and pulled out a gleaming dagger. "I could stab this woman to death, if it would please you," she suggested.

Jayce smiled. "Do you hear that?" he said to Alexea who was barely conscious. "She's offering to stab you to death. And I think that might be a good idea. After all, daggers don't just malfunction the way phasers do, so how about it?"

For the first time, Alexea looked nervous

"Tell, you what?" said Jayce. "We'll let you live for the time being if you answer another question."

Alexea nodded weakly.

"Why does being around flowers temporarily paralyze you for. . .How long is it, Nym?"

".00015 seconds."

"Right. Can you tell us the reason?"

Now, the nervousness on Alexea's face was replaced by sadness. "My Aunt," she said. "After my parents died, my Aunt raised my sister and I."

"What does that have to do with flowers?"

"She was a botanist, by trade. Whenever, I see flowers, there is a brief moment when I think of her."

Now Nym spoke. "You use verbs conjugated in the past tense when you speak of your aunt. From this, I infer that she is currently deceased."

"Not exactly," said Alexea. "She has a form of dementia. She no longer even recognizes my sister or me."

"How sad," said Nym still in that emotionless tone of voice. "Jayce," she said, "My brain is reacting to this woman's story. Stabbing her no longer seems like a good idea." She thought for a moment. "Perhaps, it is because I feel pity for this woman. Do you think that is possible?"

"Sure," said Jayce. "That would explain a lot." He turned to Alexea. "Hear that? The kid pities you, so maybe we won't kill you after all. Tell, you what? Withdraw from the contest. Get off this planet as quick as possible and we'll let you live."

Slowly, Alexea returned to her full height. "An intriguing offer," she said."Wouldn't you like to ask me one more question before I go."

"Not particularly," said Jayce.

"I'll ask it for you, then. Why were you unable to shoot me? And the answer is the same reason that this girl was unable to stab me."

"Pity had nothing to do with my reasons for not shooting you," snorted Jayce.

"That's not what I meant. Many years ago, I made a bargain with a voodoo priestess. I cannot be killed as long as a certain log on a distant planet is preserved."

"You can't seriously believe that," said Jayce.

"I do. I cannot be killed, but I can be bested. . .or pitied. I will withdraw from this contest. I no longer think it is my destiny to win this race, although I daresay that it was not a total loss. Knowing that the Exorgian order has a spy in its midst could come in useful in my line of work."

Then, she did a strange thing. She bent over and kissed Nym on the cheek. Before either Nym or Jayce could respond, she jumped on her bike and touched her collar.

After she had disappeared, Jayce put his arm around Nym, "How did that make you feel?"

Nym shook her head. "I-do-not-know."

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