Do you prefer taking risks or having a safety net?
Sara stared at the little blue book in her hands and frowned at the words she knew she had to work with. Why hadn’t she just taken the time over the weekend to write a new short story with a character displaying their penchant for risky behavior or one nestled squarely away in their comfort zone? For someone with a preference for having a buffer, she sure was making a habit of writing on the fly every night. She sighed.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to take a crack at interviewing my characters,” she mused while watching the candle on her desk flicker, almost precisely to the beat of the music flooding her headphones. “I’ll ask each of them what they prefer. Maybe I’ve been writing them all wrong all this time.”
She closed her eyes and pictured a meeting room with a dozen chairs in a circle. That would be enough. There was a door along one wall and a window opposite it. She watched as her children filed in and took seats one by one. Ten different souls from three different worlds and timelines. How would they get along?
Sara cleared her throat, unsure of how to begin. After all, she had never gathered all her characters in one place before. Well, not since that one atrocious sketch back in high school, and several of those characters had gone by the wayside. “Thank you all for being here,” she said finally.
The affinité eyed each other warily, the siblings exchanged unreadable glances while the ninja and the pirate shared a secret grin, and the mated pair snickered. “We wouldn’t even exist if not for you,” the male half of that pair, Yuki, admitted. There were nods and soft agreements uttered around the circle.
“Yeah, that is true,” Sara replied. She took a hasty sip of tea to give herself a moment to think. Was she crazy to be talking to them like this?
“I wouldn’t say it’s crazy,” Ali said, startling the Readers. “It’s like talking to yourself, only in a productive way.”
“Is this really necessary?” her raven-haired twin, Sayuri, groaned. “You already know the answers to the question you are going to ask us, so why bother?”
“C’mon Sai,” Ali urged, “just humor her. It’s the least we can do.”
Sara was grateful for Ali’s presence. Sayuri still troubled her at times. She hoped to glean more about their relationship from these interactions, if nothing else. “Ok, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and ask each of you in turn. Since you hail from different stories set in different universes, I’ll give a brief intro so you can learn about each other as well.”
No one objected. She looked down at her notepad – had that been there at the start? – and decided to go down the list. “Ali, you’re my oldest character, both in actual age and in time spent wandering around my head.” That received chuckles from Kita and Nikkie, encouraging her to go on. “I like to think I know you best, but I learn more about you every time I sit down to your story. I think the biggest shock for me was when I figured out just how old you are.”
“It wasn’t that surprising,” Ali waved her hand. “I mean you knew how old Yoko was. Demons don’t age like humans do.” That elicited some nervous glances from the sea-farers and the apocalypse survivors.
“Don’t worry,” Sayuri crooned. “We don’t bite.” It would have been more reassuring if she hadn’t bared her fangs in that sinister grin. Blessedly, none of the demons were in their monstrous animal forms. The little folding chairs wouldn’t have held them well.
“Ok, I gotta ask,” Midge leaned forward in his chair and gestured towards Ali, Sayuri, and Mika. “Why are there three of you?”
Mika’s face turned bright red. It had long been a point of contention for her that she so closely resembled her mother. Ali spared her the need to answer. “Sayuri and I are twins. Mika is my daughter.”
“She might have been mine,” Sayuri snarled.
“That was never gonna happen,” Nikkie growled back. “Besides, I was the one who raised her.”
This was getting out of hand faster than Sara anticipated. Thankfully, Yuki intervened. “And she grew up into a fine young woman. But this is not a family therapy session, we’re here to help our creator.”
The wolf women all backed down bashfully. Sara was sure if they had been in their beast forms, their tails would all be between their legs. She coughed to keep from chuckling. She couldn’t hide her thoughts from the telepaths regardless, but they didn’t out her. “Yeah, so there’s drama aplenty in the YuYu Hakusho fanfiction universe. But I’ve had more than a decade to develop it, so that’s why there are twice as many of them as any of the rest of you.”
Lara and Shane had been uncomfortably quiet. Sara hoped they would actually speak when she got around to them. She looked back at the notepad. “Right, so, Ali. Would you say you’re more of a risk-taker or someone who doesn’t like to stick their neck out unnecessarily?”
“I certainly don’t stick my neck out unnecessarily, but I’m not exactly risk-averse.” She smiled at Mika. The daughter refused to meet her eye. “I definitely took way more risks in my youth than I did later on in life.”
Nikkie laughed. “Please Ali, we first met while trying to steal the same amulet from the same high risk vault. And when we met again years later, you were back to your old tricks. You’ve always been a risk-taker.”
Ali pursed her lips in a pout. “I totally mellowed out as a mother.”
“You wagered the fate of the worlds on the hope that I would somehow master and control a world-breaking power while struggling with the loss of someone I held dear,” Mika scoffed. “If that’s you being mellow, I do not want to imagine the havoc wrought by you being risky.”
Her mother didn’t retort. Sayuri cackled. “Oh she is definitely his daughter.”
Sara cleared her throat again. “Ok, so I think everyone agrees that Ali likes risky business. Nikkie, I think based on your description of your first meeting with her that you were a risk taker too?”
The dark-haired woman nodded her head. “Ali must have been confused. If either of us mellowed with motherhood, it was me.”
Ali shrugged, but nodded agreement. “I think the riskiest thing you did while raising me was to raise me and Yuri at the same time,” Mika chuckled.
Sara gasped. “Oh, how did I forget about Yuri? I should have brought her in, too!”
Nikkie, Yuki, and Mika all shook their heads. “There are enough of us here as it is,” Yuki said. “Besides, she’s probably off having fun somewhere.”
“Ok then Yuki,” Sara said, trying to remain focused so she could get through everyone. “You seem like a person who doesn’t ruffle fur.”
He laughed. “Definitely not. Someone has to be the sane voice of reason for all these crazy women.”
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Nikkie growled playfully.
“And Mika, you’re quite the troublemaker.” It was meant as a question, but Sara realized it came out as statement of fact. Would Mika contradict her?
“I don’t really think I am,” she replied. “I try to be careful and plan everything out in advance. Like when I went on my first mission for Koenma.”
Again Nikkie laughed outright. “Mika, my dear, just because you planned it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t the riskiest thing you could have done. Ali and I didn’t just do heists on a whim, they were very planned out.”
“Speak for yourself,” Ali interjected. “My very well-thought-out-in-the-moment plan to steal that amulet as a souvenir on my way through totally threw a wrench in your plans.”
Nikkie massaged her temple. “My point remains.”
“What was so risky about it?” Mika pouted.
Yuki coughed. “Need we remind you the injuries you sustained in your first fight against real enemies?”
Her face reddened again. “No.” That earned some raised eyebrows among the Kin, the ninja, and the pirate. “Ok, so I admit it was risky to go waltzing in there with this face. But how was I supposed to know their enemies would still recognize them after half a century?”
Sayuri inspected her nails and did not look up at her niece as she spoke. “I admit, I thought you were pretty ballsy to change your hair to look like mine.”
“It wasn’t my intention,” she muttered.
“No,” Sai replied, “but you should have accounted for it. Done more research before running off like a silly pup with no training.”
“Sai that’s enough,” Ali said sternly. “What’s done is done.”
Sara swallowed. Bringing in Sayuri had definitely been a risky choice. There was a reason the Makai demons feared her and attacked Mika when they thought Sai had returned from beyond the grave. But did she really take risks like the others? “What about you Sayuri?”
She placed one long-nailed finger along her cheek. “Any risk I take is calculated. When I want something, I take the least arduous path to get it. Do I prefer to take risks? No, but I will take them when they are a means to an end.” Her crimson eyes pierced Sara until Sara looked away.
“That certainly makes sense,” she stammered as she took note of Sayuri’s answer on the notepad. “Thank you.”
She was halfway through the list. She had started with the wolves because she felt she knew them the best. May as well move on down the list by order of story development. That meant Kita and Leo. She smiled relief. “Captain Leo Peaches and The Ninja Spaz, Kita. I have a feeling this will be very easy.”
The curly-haired captain tipped his tri-corn hat as the fire-haired masked woman nodded assent. “These two were initially conceived as alter egos for my best friend and myself,” Sara announced to the group. “Kita didn’t have an actual name for the longest time. I only knew her as the Ninja Spaz. Everyone knows that pirates and ninjas are mortal enemies, but what happens when a ninja who does not hate pirates meets a ninja who was raised by pirates unknowing of his true birth? Adventure, of course.
“Kita, you have always been an unconventional ninja. Where do you stand on the risk-no risk line?”
Crystal clear blue eyes sparkled from the hole in her mask. “No one ever lived without taking risks. Life is far more fun when you make it a challenge!”
“And Leo? What about you?”
“I captain a pirate ship. Every new treasure we seek presents some measure of risk.” He leaned back in his seat and folded his arms behind his head. “The greater the treasure, the greater the risk, but the greater the payoff. So of course I’m gonna take risks.”
Sara nodded. Of course, it was as she expected. It was too simple a question for them, really. There would have to be another interview session, but maybe one-on-one. This group interview was exhausting. With the sea-farers out of the way, that just left her youngest creations. She didn’t think this was a complicated question for them either, but their relationships were all nearly as complicated as the wolf demons had been.
“Ok, so now we have the affinité, the Kin.” The three mutants fidgeted uncomfortably under the stares from the older characters. “I know, they’re awful working titles while I iron out the kinks. Lara, Shane, and Midge are from a future where humanity was nearly wiped out by nuclear warfare. Something miraculous happened to end the conflict, everyone just put down their weapons and returned to their cities to rebuild. The world was nearly destroyed and unlivable so they built massive domes, arcologies that could self-sustain and shelter the remaining humans.
“The thing that made everyone lose their taste for fighting though, also caused a mutation in a small percentage of the population. These people gained invisible powers, affinities for knowledge or strength or elements. Psychics also emerged. Lara and Shane are both Readers. Midge is a Hero, his affinity is for agility and speed.”
Shane was not seated next to Lara and Midge. Kita and Leo separated them. Sara knew he had done this deliberately. She really wanted to know what he was up to. Could this interview shed any light on his motives? She shook her head. “Lara, this must be taxing for you. So many people in a confined space. We’re almost done, I promise.”
Lara smiled. Sara wasn’t sure she had actually witnessed that since the rift between her and Shane. “I’ve got it under control here. It’s actually kind of peaceful.”
Peaceful, huh? A dozen voices in her own head and the one that struggled to tune any out found this peaceful? Oh well. “So, do you prefer to take risks or do you like a safety net?”
She laughed and pointedly did not look at Shane. “I am definitely a big baby. I want that security blanket.” She shrugged. “I think I’m in the wrong line of work though.”
“That is probably true,” Sara agreed. She had never really thought of Lara as a baby before, but knowing that’s how Lara saw herself was enlightening as well. She grinned as she turned to the short ginger. “Midge. I think you take risks.”
He snorted. “I do not. I am not a hero,” he said.
Lara chuckled. “Midge the night I came to you, you had been out running laps in the fields despite knowing there were night workers doing maintenance. Your speed is the very definition of a Hero affinity.”
Sara raised her eyebrows and shrugged. “She’s right you know.”
“And you couldn’t wait to get Outside, even though it was hardly safe.”
“You were the one who goaded me out there,” he sulked.
She laughed. “I didn’t have a gun to your head.”
“No, but you did have a knife,” he smirked.
Shane rolled his eyes. It was a mistake to have the three of them in there together. Sara was sure he could shield his thoughts from Lara, he was much stronger than her after all, but she wondered if Ali could see what he was thinking. She glanced to the silver-haired woman and saw her smirk. She could read him loud and clear, but she wasn’t going to share a whit of it with Sara.
Well, there was only one person left to ask the question of. As fun as it had been having everyone all together interacting, it was also getting late and Sara was beginning to lose focus. “Shane?” Lara and Midge ceased their teasing of each other. Midge glared at him while Lara turned her gaze to her lap.
Shane’s face was stone. “I’m like the witch over there,” he said, extending a finger towards Sayuri. She gaped, incredulous. Sara brought a fist to her mouth to keep from gaping. “All risks I take are calculated. I do nothing without purpose.”
“Insulting a demon is a pretty risky move,” Sayuri crooned from the opposite end of the room.
“But calculated nonetheless,” he smirked.
Were… were they flirting? Oh no no no. That was not going to fly. Lara’s hair twitched and Sara felt her chair jerk. This had been a terrible idea. “Ok, thanks for helping me out tonight you guys! Time for me to hit the hay!”
She dissolved the mental meeting room before Lara could toss it with her telekinesis and once again her characters were confined to their own universes. That had been unexpected, but nonetheless enlightening. She was sure Shane was even more of an enigma now. She hoped Lara would be ok. Maybe she would write her a peaceful place all her own. Poor girl deserves it after all. Yes, she would definitely write some happiness for Lara.
Notes: So that was weird. Not really a whole heckuvalot to say about this one except, holy meta, Batman. This is what I get for being indecisive about which character I wanted to write a short story for. “Why not all of them?” Because, Sara, this is why you can’t have nice things.
Anyhoo. I definitely don’t prefer all these risky writing nights, but they’re certainly exciting. What about you? Do you take risks all the time? Are you a stick-in-the-mud? I hate that that’s literally the antonym for risk-taker. Not a pleasant connotation. But I digress.
Tuesday’s prompt: Complete this thought: “I wish I had paid more attention when…”
I wish I had paid more attention when I was looking ahead to see what my prompts for this week were gonna be. Oh boy. Well I’ll have another story for you tomorrow! Good night folks!