Chapter Two: A Long Intermission

The first half of Anya’s performance went off without any further interruptions. Sergei and Heath were seemingly everywhere, silently dragging anyone that even vaguely looked like they might be trouble off into the darkness. The night wore on as the aeriol - a piano-like instrument that played itself - played haunting melodies, and Anya’s voice eerily echoed in the small, but accommodating, club.

Anya finished a piece entitled “Echoes of Old Berlin”, taking a bow before exiting the stage as the curtains gently fell. Closing the door to her dressing room, she took a seat before a tall mirror encircled with dim, bare lights.

"Mm…why do you do this to yourself?" She asked herself this every time she performed. Was it worth the strain? Was it worth the privacy that she was giving up more and more as she became more well known? Was it worth losing her husband? Well…she hadn’t lost him yet, but it seemed like it might any day now.

"Dear sister…do you always talk to yourself in the mirror?"

Anya turned to face a figure that was seemingly enveloped by the cushions in the large beige chair hidden in a shadowy corner. She peered into the darkness, and couldn’t suppress the grin that was making its way onto her face.

"Eleanor! Where have you been!?" Anya jumped out of her chair and into the arms of her tall, golden-haired sister. They embraced for a moment, then Eleanor took Anya’s hands in her own.

"Oh, sister…" Eleanor’s accent was vague, and unless you knew her you wouldn’t be able to place it. The two sisters were born of two different mothers, in two different countries, almost two different worlds. Eleanor was born and raised in a part of the world that seemed untouched from the Soviet Expansion - northern Europe - and it was apparent. Standing nearly six feet tall, with the strength and beauty that was almost trademark to that region, Eleanor’s blonde locks were almost a halo around her soft features.

She went on to describe what had transpired since the sisters last met, several years ago. Anya cried upon hearing much of it - her sister had endured much, at the hands of cruel and unrelenting people - but Eleanor shushed her. It was, as she said, over now, and they were once again together.

A knock came at the door, and it opened slightly. Heath spoke from the dark hallway to let Anya know that it was almost time for the second half of the show. “Extend the intermission, Heath, please. I need some time to gather my thoughts.” Heath nodded and closed the door.

The sisters wept tears of both sadness and happiness. Their lives had not been easy, surviving hardships not unlike those of many in the world of United Russia. The night crept slowly into early morning, sisters reminiscing in each other’s arms. It was far too late for Anya to finish her song list, but little did she know this was, in fact, for the best.

As the patrons of The Velvet Cooler were herded out quietly into the street, one such patron lingered at the door for a moment. Touching the hard wood with a gloved hand, he looked intently at the smooth curtains at the stage. He shook his head. The opportunity had been lost tonight, but the request had been very clear, and he always completed a job. This one would be no different.

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Chapter One: The Velvet Cooler

Anya watched the woman in the white fur coat as she crossed the razorway. Who did she think she was, anyway? Running her fingers through her loose hair, she twirled them around her bright red curls and smirked. While she was furious that this mysterious woman was seducing her poor husband, she wouldn’t be a problem for too much longer, if things went to plan.

The woman’s name was unknown to Anya, but it was difficult to keep a secret in Armeer, the Grand City. Word traveled fast, and appropriate action was usually a shadow’s step behind. This time would be no different, and she knew this; Anya would be patient.

Her hair contrasting the dreary scenery, Anya quickly turned and headed the opposite direction. Her dear husband, Pavil, ran a club called The Velvet Cooler. This was where she would make her mark, and this is where her new life would begin. Anya was a beautiful woman, with a beautiful voice, and tonight, she’d prove it.

Arriving through the back entrance, she couldn’t help but notice that the bouncers were not in their usual places. Peering out from behind the tall, soft curtain, she gripped its crimson velvet fabric and watched as Heath - a burly import from South Canada - and Sergei - a mysterious man of few words - broke up a small brawl using a long cylindrical pipe with a narrow tip.

This was the zattaker. Illegal within city limits, this weapon was used by only the best bouncers, bodyguards, and even the more successful thieves in the city. Sergei gripped it firmly with his left hand while pumping the lever situated across the top with his right. Bolts of fiery lightning erupted from a small hole at the end of the zattaker, taking only a moment to engulf the biggest of the brawlers.

The man screamed in agony, and a moment later, his body was reduced to dust. The other brawlers looked up, noticing Heath taking aim in their general direction, and made a decision that would spare them the same fate. One by one, each quickly found an exit, leaving the club in peace. The other patrons returned to their drinks.

Heath chuckled, while a barmaid fetched a broom. This night would prove to be…interesting.

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Her face was wet as the patter of gentle rain ran down her cheeks. She’d left her umbrella at home that morning, but it wasn’t supposed to rain. At least, that’s what the weatherman had said.

She was young, perhaps in her early-twenties. Dressed head-to-toe in a soft, whitish-gray fur coat, a passerby would figure her to be quite well off. And they’d be right. As she’d left her apartment that morning, other women on the street eyed her with envy, and some, with anger. It was the year 1947, and a new era was on the horizon.

Unlike the world as we know it now, in her life, events had gone differently. There hadn’t been a World War II. The automobile had never been invented. People traversed the world on what they referred to as “razorrails”; a train-like system where the car hung from cables that stretched for miles, much like power lines. Most importantly, there had never been a United States of America.

In its place, she lived in a country called United Russia, which expanded all the way from the Florida of today at its southeastern tip, over Canada, and Alaska, and back into the lands of the Russia we know. Things had gone far differently in her world, and somehow, she knew it.

She lowered her chin and stopped staring into the wet sky. The day was dark, yes, but full of promise. She stepped off the curb, crossing the razorway with a slight skip to her step, and smiled.

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* The Premise

Worldforgers Living Novel is where you, the reader, help write the story. Here’s how it works:

1) The writer begins with a short prologue. This introduces the readers to the basic idea behind the story.

2) The readers submit their ideas for what should happen next; characters to meet, events to occur, plot twists, and generally lead the story forward.

3) The writer takes the submissions and crafts the next piece of the story from them.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 as necessary. That’s it! If you’ve ever enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure books or even felt like you could’ve told a story better than the author, now’s your chance to try something new.

The good part is, you don’t even have to enjoy or be good at writing. Simply submit what you think should happen next, and the writer will do all the heavy lifting, sorting through the replies and constructing the results for you, the reader, to enjoy.

Before we begin, a word on the formatting of entries. Non-story entries - such as this one - that describe things relating to the Living Novel but not actually progressing the story itself, will be preceded by an asterisks.

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