Danika Darke lay on her back in the grass. It was a very cool Fall night, but not freezing at this time of year. She was staring up at the stars and listening to music. Just soaring music within and soaring stars overhead. Nothing intruded.
She often did this to escape the world around her. Queen City was a bustling metropolis. Too many people with too much stuff doing too many things at once. She like these late night reveries.
A large quadrant of stars overhead blotted out.
She squinted and resolved a bulky silhouette with the hat of a police officer. The shadow waved at her.
She pulled her earbuds out.
“Came by this side of the park an hour ago and saw you. Came by about twenty minutes ago and you were still here. Just checking to see if you were dead,” he grunted.
“Yeah, pretty much,” she said. She knew his voice. Officer Bunch. Just passed middle-aged nice guy who often patrolled Lester Dent Park late at night.
“Want me to click on my flashlight? I know you don’t like it when I do. But, are you OK? You were laying longer in cloud meditation than your usual.” He chuckled. “You want to get up?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“No,” his voice changed and the cop was back in it, “I mean, you want to get up now.”
Danika sat up. “OK, OK. I’m up. Shouldn’t you be worried about crime? Or like hanging out at ‘Nut Holes? I see their HOT sign is lit.”
She scrubbed the back of her hair where it had been pressed flat. The underside and tips of her asymmetrically bobbed black hair were teal and magenta, giving her a shimmering peacock effect.
“So why you shoving me off?”
He cocked his head sideways and then looked around at the buildings nearby. “They don’t want anyone loitering around here any more. You hear about that battle the Knights had here a week ago?”
She perked up. She had seen the news reports. “Yeah. Some freaking monster downtown and the Merry Yeomen here. They said they had catapults or something and bombed buildings and destroyed Supreme Commander’s statue. What was that about?”
“I dunno. It was crazy, though! Never seen anything like. That mad dwarf scientist returned.”
“Atom Thumb,” she breathed.
“Yeah. He had some giant thing…it battled Solar Queen. It was insane! But anyway, the politicians are worried about people getting hurt and they leaned on Command to clear the parks and push out the homeless and riffraff.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You calling me riffraff?”
“Hey,” he said quickly, “you know better. I meant–”
She laughed and punched him in the center of the chest. “I know, stupid. Just fucking with you.”
He chuckled. “All right. Well, you know how it is. Politicians leaning on us. But hey, I gave you the whole hour.”
“I know. Much appreciated.”
He absent-mindedly slid out his night stick and twirled it. “Why are you always out here? You’re college age. Nice looking and smart… well, smartalec at least. Don’t you got anywhere to go?”
“I do indeed, boss. But, I like it out here. Lot more peaceful. Besides,” she stood up, brushing her bottom and, her eyes twinkling, “how else would I get to see you?”
He grinned rather stupidly and so she swooped in and pecked him on his gray-bearded cheek.
“Love you, Bunches!” she called as she always did and walked away. The pun fit. He was sort of like the kindly father of the park. One of the few policemen she didn’t mind. Most of them were overbearing, self-righteous assholes. Bunch was old school. He actually cared about the people in the neighborhood and spent his entire shift talking to people and actually listening to them. But they respected him because of it and would report privately to him and share tips. He kept crime down in his area more than most of the young cops ever dreamed of doing.
That was why she had tipped him on the devil dog fighting ring a while ago.
Danika stepped into a shadow and slipped into the deeper, blacker, ice-cold of the Shade. The Shade was the interstitial space between dimensions. It was dark, cold, and perhaps infinite. It was utterly empty, yet also full of…things. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. But she could naturally move through it. Her father, the world famous sorcerer Dr. Darke, had taught her how to easily enter and exit it without getting lost, or eaten.
To Officer Bunch and any other late night observer, the young lady seemed to just melt away into the darkness. He often wondered how she was capable of disappearing so quickly when she walked away. He was used to it by now. He shrugged and walked away. The younger generation was something of a mystery to him anyway, with their new electronic ways and interconnectivity. It seems they spent more time on the Web than in the real world.
Danika stepped out of a shadow across the street from the King Energy skyscraper. The uniquely shaped fifty-story building dominated downtown and had a magnificent light show along its sides. It was a modern architectural marvel and reflected its status as the headquarters of a multibillion dollar energy corporation.
She spent a few minutes admiring the building and then focused on the task at hand.
Time to get to work. Time to break into King Energy.