Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer

Molly padded along a short alleyway, and emerged out onto a wide street. She was approaching the centre of Night City. High above, the slow beat of the topcity’s vegetable heart could be felt rather than heard, one beat every few minutes. Night City’s pulse was carnivore, rapid and arrhythmic, like the city itself. The road never saw traffic. It had never been designed for that. A tight crowd were advancing down the street. They were coming Molly’s way.

Even if the glittering sparks had not lit up the air, putting a crisp, clean edge on the night, Molly would have known who was at the centre of that tight knot of life. Night City’s mascot. Night City’s Queen. The Queen of Sparks. Molly heard the laughs of the group, heard the sound of a single clap, and was bathed in the violent, vibrant golden light that emanated from that majestic figure in the middle of the road. She drew back into the alleyway, not wishing to intrude and only wishing to watch this spectacle. The Queen whirled round, laughing merrily, touching her entourage on the hand and on the head, and everywhere her fingers landed, a spark of colour stayed, casting bright electric blues and deep forest greens. She occasionally made a throwing motion, and up overhead, a tiny sun of orange or yellow flared into life. The entire procession, the performance, was redolent with life and joy – a celebration that could barely control itself.

They passed Molly’s shadowy hide, and continued on. One man, towards the back of the group, turned away from the shining figure that was so captivating to everyone else. A spark that had been planted on his hand flickered and died. And Molly saw him draw the gun from inside his jacket.

Without thinking, she broke from her hiding place, and ran towards the man at the back. He was walking towards the Queen, purposefully, without the smile that graced the faces of the rest of the group. Molly pushed herself faster. The man pulled someone else aside, clearing a sightline between himself and the Queen’s back. He raised the gun, steadying it with his other hand. With a kind of nerve that can only come from harsh self-discipline, Molly ran into him. A foot on his calf, a hand smashing down on the elbow of his gunarm, then a shove that sent him to the ground. It was all over in seconds. The gun discharged once, and then she kicked it away.

Everything stopped. The colours died, only to be replaced by an almost painfully bright, white light. Molly was kneeling over the would-be-assassin, putting pressure on the arm she’d smashed, making him wince in pain.

“What’s your name?” Someone asked, presumably addressing Molly.

The voice was smooth, and cultured. In those moments, in that light, neither the heart of the topcity, nor the heart of Night City, nor Molly’s own seemed to beat.

“Molly, highness.”

The Queen of Sparks looked down at her. Almost absentmindedly, she drew a knife from the sheath at her hip. A trio of bells tied around her wrist sounded as she moved her hand. A smile spread across her features, an idea blossoming into her mind. She quickly replaced the knife, and between thumb and forefinger, twisted one of the bells on her wrist. It came away like a ripe fruit. She closed her hand around it, and closed her eyes. She squeezed the bell, muscles all along her arm tensing. After a moment, she opened her hand again, palm up, and extended it to Molly.

From the slit in the bell, a soft purple light shone.

“The light will last as long as I do. Take it, with my thanks.”

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