“I’ve heard the settings here help you adjust so things like this will be easier to handle here than back home.  Come on and hang out with us.  There’s no point in regret at this juncture in life, ha ha!  That pun’s a killer.”

    “You’re a jerk!” Red says as she smacks his shoulder, only to find herself smiling at his pun.  She takes his advice and sits with the other victims of their own vices.  All around her, Red can see fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts and uncles.  She sees the scars of broken marriages, destroyed childhoods and much more.  She knows so many of these people.  Before all of this happened, they were her friends, but then they became her toys.  Now, they’re dead, and the ones they betrayed have to stay behind and pick up all the pieces to their mess.  Sin can be fun, but sin destroys, it always destroys.

    “Where’s John Scott and Darius?”  This is asked while Red looks around for Owan’s relatives, assuming they’re both dead as well.

    “Dad hasn’t made it here yet, which leaves me hopeful.  John is using the time to visit relatives here.”  Owan sees his friend twiddling her thumbs nervously as she continues to look at all the faces that shouldn’t be here.  “Where’s your helmet?  You were holding it a minute ago?”

    Trying not to look in his direction, Fire simply responds, “What helmet?”

    “Oh, don’t give me that,” replies Owan, waving his hand to summon the forsaken item from its place on the ground.  “You’re a System Guard.  You made a mistake, but it’s not your job to give up.”

    Between ignoring his lecture and seeing his new trick, Red asks him, “When did you learn that?”

    Chuckling, he admits, “It’s just a benefit of being dead.  You become an Infinite Warrior while you’re here, for the sake of the System Director avoiding a few headaches.  This means my gross laziness from the past year or so won’t matter so much now.”

    “My helmet won’t matter so much now.”

    Looking at this thing Red Fire has designated a token of her shame, Owan tries again.  “Why are you so determined that there’s no hope for you, eh?  Tell me your story.”

    Nearby, the Queen of Planet Leisure taps her husband on the arm and whispers, “Honey, he’s doing it again.  Just like he’s been doing with everyone else that’s come here, he’s going to help her like he helped us and our mentor get past what we did.  Listen.  Listen!”  The queen leans on her husband as she admiringly watches this precious scene unfold, and soon the king is watching as well.

    As Red begins her pitiful attempt at explaining her grief, she starts with, “What’s to tell, Owan?  I blew my chance at life.  Even if I go back, I’ll just return here or do something else that’s dumb.  You said we’re Infinites now, right?  Then, the first thing I’m going to do is change my hair back to how it was before I started looking like Ally to be more attractive.”

    Owan pleads, “Don’t do that yet.  I think it’s fine the way it is for now, if you don’t mind the objective opinion.  I do remember your original look though.”

    Basking in the good times, she exclaims, “My hair was so gloriously bright and shining, a beautiful head of fire to match my blazing name.  I’d like to think I wasn’t vain with my hair, but I enjoyed it, and everyone else did, too.  It’s just that I became obsessed once I gave my heart away, and now these black bangs remind me of how I sold my brain to be someone’s senseless lackey.”

    Moving his head and eyes like he’s searching for her brain underneath her hair, Owan asks, “Are you her mindless lackey right now?”


    “Then, do something about it,” he says.  “You’ve visited Juniper, haven’t you?  You can still interact with all your friends, and you can do it without worrying about going bad again.  Either this will all be fixed and it’ll be safe to send you home, or it’ll all be fixed but AB will have you stay here, which lets you live on Juniper with the coolest places and people in the universe, so it’s not like you’ll be miserable, unless you want to be.”

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