204 - Princess in Training

“Adam! Adam! I had the dream again!”

Adam smiles, and sets down his phone. Jordan always takes priority over email. “The princess dream?”

“Yeah! Yeah! And it was… uh… it was…” Jordan searches for words.

The dinosaur phase lasted awhile. For some reason, Jordan is now very much into princesses. Adam worries that this started suspiciously around the time Summer made her superhero debut as Radiance. But then again, princesses are less destructive than dinosaurs when you’re playing around the house, so maybe it’s best not to question it too much?

Jordan makes a verbal breakthrough. “There was a big ol’ ruined castle!” She spreads her arms this wide, probably not enough to accommodate a full castle but enough to get the idea across. “An’ there was these palace guards there! An’ a woman told me it was gonna be night soon, an’ I had to make a wish on the stars, an’ an’, then, she said, when I was old enough, I’d come back there! And reach up, and take a star out of the sky, and that would be my princess sword, an’ she’d make a tiara for me an’ it would speak to me an’ tell me how to be a good princess!”

A talking tiara? Sure, why not. “Super Mario Odyssey” on the Switch has seen plenty of play in the household, and that was a talking cap.

“I think you’ll make a great princess, Jordan,” says Adam with a brotherly smile. “Mom and Dad are gonna be out late, so it’s just us for dinner. What do you want to eat?”

Jordan bounces up and down. “Chicken tikka! Tikk-tokk, tikk-tock! Oh! We should invite Summer over!” The little girl grows cunning and conspiratorial in that way young kids can, when they know a secret. “I got stuff to talk with her about. Secret stuff.”

Adam rolls his eyes, but smiles anyway. Whatever makes Jordan happy can’t be a bad thing.

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Me: “Oh a cute story with Jordan.”
Me: Reads the description Jordan gives and then remembers The World of Swords story.
Me: :eyes:

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Adam has been good about “no powers in the house”. He doesn’t have to use them to read Summer’s emotional state. She’s pretty upset about something. Maybe dinner will let her forget about it for a bit.

“Do you need any help with anything?”

Of course Summer would ask that. Adam smiles and shakes his head. “I got everything taken care of. Just come in and sit down and relax.”

Summer makes for the couch, but not before dropping a tin of high-grade instant coffee on the kitchen counter. As a Halcyon cop, Adam’s dad works long hours, and all such donations toward keeping him awake and functional are appreciated.

Adam tries to bring a mango lassi to the living room, but Jordan intercepts him and tugs at his shirt angrily. She makes gimme-gimme motions with her hands, and Adam hands the drink over. And off we go, I guess.

“Malady!” Jordan announces. “I think you mean ‘milady’,” Adam suggests, and Jordan turns on him with a sharp glare and narrowed eyes.

“Ahem. As I was saying, milady.” Summer gratefully accepts, and Jordan hops up on the sofa next to her. “We are gonna talk about princess things while Adam makes dinner,” she announces, in a whisper loud enough for Adam to overhear without effort.


“D’you have a talking tiara?”

“Nope.”

“D’you have any kinda tiara?”

“Me personally? Um, nope.”

Jordan scowls. “Princesses don’t lie.”

Summer isn’t sure how to handle this. So she tries her usual tactic: compromise and diversion. “Well let’s stop talking about me, and talk about a princess like hmm, how about Radiance? The superhero?”

Jordan lets out an exaggerated sigh. “Fiiine. Does Radiance have a tiara?”

“Yes, she does.”

“How 'bout a sword?”

“She can make a sword if she needs.”

“Doesn’t she need a sword alla time?”

“Why would she?”

This gets Jordan thinking, which to Summer is always a good thing. “Um, 'cause a princess has to fight,” she says. “If everything was perfect, we wouldn’t need princesses. An’ she can fight with swords. An’ swords are cool.”

“Swords can be dangerous. And sometimes we’d rather befriend our enemies than fight with them, wouldn’t we?”

“I guess.” Jordan crosses her arms and leans back against the sofa.

“Hmm. Try this then. Can you spell sword for me, Jordan?”

“Uh… S-O-R-D?”

“Not quite. Do you want to look it up and try again?” Summer hands over her smart phone, already on the dictionary’s website.

“S-W-O-R-D.”

“Right. Now, sometimes we like using words, like talking, and that’s how we make friends with people. Can you spell word for me?”

“W-O-R-D.”

“Now spell sword again.”

“S-W-O-R-D.” Jordan sits up in realization. “Oh! They have some letters the same! Uh, does that mean, it means, um, that words… can be like swords?”

“In a way, yes. Words can cut, and words can hurt. But words can also be used by a princess to defend her land and her people.” Summer beams.

Jordan’s next question is a little more serious. “Summer, can I be a princess?”

Summer tousles Jordan’s hair. “You’re already a little princess. You’re not ready for all the responsibilities of the job, and not everyone knows your secret. But yes, Jordan, I know you’re going to be a great princess someday. Just… remember something important. Being a princess isn’t always what you think it is. Okay?”

“Okay!”

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The profound hypocrisy of the Concordance is the reason the Void Shadow Collective exists. The suppression of emotion doesn’t just make an emotion go away. It merely pushes it downward, past an invisible threshold. Like an iceberg in the ocean, more and more of what’s really there goes unseen and unacknowledged.

Sablestar hangs like a spider from the threads which form the Negamatrix - a secret mode of travel used by the Collective. Like the Concordance, she can travel through space thanks to strong emotional linkages. But to avoid detection, she and her fellows prefer the negative associations. The ones that linger, unspoken, unaddressed, that fester and grow and grow and grow, like a rhizome beneath the soil. Just as natural as the “positives” like love and compassion, of course.

Lately, she’s become aware that these linkages through space can also work through time - if someone else has traveled in time, Sablestar can follow them. She found one such, a truly potent node in the Negamatrix that has grown. It has branched off, replanted itself, and spread like kudzu across the emotional continuum.

She explored some of the branches once, and emerged to find herself emerging into outer space with Concord - that human Concordance agent! The fight was spectacular but risky, and she faced superior numbers. She was able to yank her enemies into a labyrinthine phantasm and landed on the other side of it, locking the dream-door behind her.

Her new surroundings had been pedestrian. A human home. A child asleep in front of a television, watching some kind of food preparation program. Sablestar had time. Why here? Why now? She’d examined the child’s mind and memories, and learned some very interesting things about Adam Amari, also known as Concord. Then she unwound her time transfer, returning to her own particular present in the cosmos.

Now she watches this “Jordan”, unseen in the physical world. The child has strong emotional bonds to two heroes - Concord, very much a nuisance to her personally, and Radiance, one of his allies. Could she simply kidnap the child, threaten her life, and try to compel Concord’s obedience and thus orchestrate his defeat thereby? Perhaps. But any Keynome wielder is inherently dangerous, and Sablestar is naturally cautious.

She thinks her current plan is better. She’s found other temporal linkages, followed them to times and places when Concord wasn’t around, laid down a foundation in the dreams of the child. Like eggs, they’ve only needed time to hatch.

And the woman who hangs from the emotional spiderweb, watching her creations ready to emerge, smiles to herself in proud delight.

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Well, you certainly answered that question and then some.

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The official rating for “She-Ra” on Netflix is TV-Y7-FV. Jordan doesn’t know what any of this means, other than she gets to watch it after begging her parents. “Sophia the First” does nothing for her, but “My Little Pony” has dragons, which are sorta like dinosaurs, so that’s okaaaay.

How do you prepare for being a princess? She asked Summer, who she knows is Radiance, she saw her transform and everything, but that’s apparently one of those secret identity things we’re not supposed to talk about. Dumb ol’ Adam has no idea about being a princess, even if he’s got a secret identity too. Not everyone in the family is cut out for princessing, clearly. But other than those two, it’s gotta be television, which is obviously made up but just as obviously all true! So she streams and streams.

Jordan has made the grand realization that princesses do stuff, so she doesn’t feel like she can just sit around watching television. She’s got a cardboard tube sword right now, which she uses to chase goblins away from the house, but shouldn’t she design a better sword for herself? Page after page of a spare sketchbook is devoted to sweet sword designs. She’s gonna be ready.

How about a frilly dress? Jordan’s not sure how she feels about that sort of thing, so she skips it for now. When she’s a princess, she can demand that Summer take her shopping or something. Some intuition tells her she’ll be grown up and can wear Summer-type things.

So forget dresses for now. Let’s talk about accessories! Those arm bands and necklaces and tiaras and other stuff? The talking tiara really got her thinking. She also saw the trailers for “Age of Sigrun” and “Quentin Quinn vs. the World Crime League”, and though her parents won’t let her watch those kinds of movies, she’s not unaware that Sigrun and Penny Quinn are kind of princesses, have a sword, fight evil, alla that! Plus! Penny can deflect bullets with her wristbands! That’s definitely going on the princess equipment list.

As it turns out, Mom’s scrunchies do not deflect bullets. Jordan isn’t 100% sure about this for real, but she doesn’t have any ability to find out for sure. They don’t really work against goblin arrows either. They’re not solid metal, so she just can’t imagine the arrowheads hitting and bouncing off. Another consideration she’ll have, once it’s princess time.

Jordan is absolutely sure all her princess preparations are paying off. After all, the dreams are getting stronger.

A woman, dressed all in black and looking spooky (Jordan recognizes this as the Light Hope type person from “She-Ra”), escorts her to the stone place underground. There’s columns and gems and stuff. She receives her sword and tiara, and then gets a mission. What’s the mission? Jordan doesn’t remember when she wakes up, but it sounds pretty important. She knows one thing about it.

She has to protect Adam from being destroyed.

Jordan is pretty sure that protecting big brothers is a princess thing. She’s gonna do her best, when the time comes.

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At last!

Jordan knows she’s dreaming, but she’s awake all the same. The woman is there, her guide, and there’s a wall of light. Jordan knows she’s supposed to step through.

Adam is off doing something or other for school, so he’s out of the house. Her parents are home, but asleep of course. They won’t mind, right? Every time she’s mentioned being a princess, mom and dad just nodded and smiled approvingly. They’re going to be so proud of her! Not everybody’s daughter gets to be a princess, right? They’re gonna like this.

She decides to leave a note anyway. The woman just smiles, and waits.

She steps through the glowing wall, and finds herself strangely changed. The floor is further away! Her arms look weird. Her hands too. She glances down at herself, trying to orient to this. Oh, duh, I grew up. Right! I knew that was gonna happen.

She feels herself walking forward, like she’s only partially in control of herself. Where is she? Oh yeah, she’s at the top of some hugely tall massive tower, like a lighthouse where the clouds are underneath you. Through gaps in the clouds, she sees a city that’s all yellow and orange and metallic. The sun is harsh and bright, and it’s the wrong color. Ohh, I’m gonna be made a princess on another planet, like Etheria! I got summoned here!

Jordan is awfully proud of herself for figuring this all out so fast.

“It’s ten years in your future,” the woman tells her. “The ceremony is ready. Do you know what you need to do?”

She hears herself say “I understand, and I am ready.” She’s not sure she does, but that questioning thought brings to mind the knowledge. She is gonna go through another light wall, and there’s gonna be a temple. That’s the big stone building underground. And when the time comes, she’s gonna reach for a star, and it’s gonna become her sword, if she’s worthy.

The light wall opens up again, and she steps through. What is she wearing, anyway? It’s not her jammies. Some kinda robe. The robe of an Acolyte, her mind prompts her. Whatever that is.

An Acolyte seeks the power of the Void, to fight for independence and freedom.

Sounds princessy, alright. What’s the Void?

A rush of memories come back. Of the day she was taken from Earth, years ago. She was trained, made ready, for the war against… who?

The Concordance.

So the Void is the good guys? But Adam is part of the Concordance, right? Adam is a good guy!

The Concordance hurt Adam. I can never forgive them.

Oh, they’re definitely bad guys then.


Jordan finds herself in the temple. She’s standing with other Ankle-ites. There’s some - who are these guys? - Wardens - there’s some Wardens nearby.

She watches the light of the temple change, and move. She watches the distant sky change. New stars slide into place.

One of them calls to her.

Jordan reaches out with her hand. “I’m here,” she whispers. “I’ll be your friend.”

The shaft of light descends.


Just like that, the ritual is finished. There wasn’t a transformation sequence or anything. Jordan feels a little cheated. But the - what is this called? - Continuum Sword - in her hand pulses with power. She knows, if it were important, that she could transform herself.

There’s a talking tiara, too. She feels it speaking to her.

I am Antares Alpha-One. I am the Heart of the Scorpion. I am your Shard, Agent Amari. You are my Host.

I’m a princess now!

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“You did well,” says the woman. Enora Dralis. That’s her name.

“Thank you. I’ll be a good princess,” says Jordan earnestly.

She thinks she ought to know what to do next. Princesses always seem to know. But Enora gestures, and another wall of light appears. On the other side of it, Jordan can see her bedroom.

“For now, return home. Your Shard will let you know when there is danger, and you must act.”

Jordan thinks she can work with this. She steps through.

She sees her normal self still in bed, asleep, still in jammies. She looks at herself again, remembers there’s a mirror on the door, and goes to look at herself. She sees someone that definitely looks Jordan-ish, but is scaled more Summery. She’s still wearing the Acolyte’s robes. The Continuum Sword is still in her hand. Her hair is a lot longer, but she can see something glowing on her forehead. Is that my tiara?

Hey, tiara.

I am Antares Alpha-One. I am the Heart of the Scorpion.

Jordan tries whispering aloud. It’s weird to think at your tiara. “Can I call you Anty or something?”

Designation Anty accepted.

“Okay. Um, Anty. I’m here. But I’m also in my bed. What’s goin’ on?”

The body you inhabit now is a four-dimensional projection extracted from your psychic profile and synthesized for the purposes of playing Host to a Shard. In other words, this form is a psychic proxy.

“I don’t understand any a’ that.”

I lack cultural referents to explain it in another way. Indicate any artifacts you possess that can provide a cultural context.

Uncertain, Jordan points a finger at the television. Very surprisingly, bolts of lightning jump from her outstretched fingertip. The set turns on, and Jordan sees her favorite shows flashing across the screen at super-high speed. She can’t make any sense of it, and it goes on and on, faster and faster!

Cultural referents have been obtained. The Void Shadow Collective sent your dreaming self to the future, where it possessed your older body like a ghost. During that process, you obtained a Shard. You may think of a Shard as a Kwami from 'Miraculous Ladybug'. I empower and advise you. The emotional link from your seven year old and seventeen year old selves allowed you to return here, to your present.

The TV set shuts off. This is still pretty dizzying, but Jordan thinks maybe she gets the idea? “Well uh, am I just gonna keep sleepin’ then?”

You may physically merge with your younger self, at which time your consciousness will return to that body and you will resume your regeneration cycle. During times of crisis, you may transform into your older self and wield your power at full strength.

“So I’m gonna be a princess now. Will you tell me when I can use the power to do princess stuff?”

I will inform you when the Void Shadow Collective has missions for you to accomplish. Until then, you will refrain from using your transformation or other abilities.

Hmmm.

"So… " Jordan thinks about this. “Even without the power, can I do princess stuff like helpin’ people in trouble and makin’ people feel better?”

You have always been able to do that, Agent. You may continue to pursue such activities at your discretion.

Jordan thinks pretty hard about that, even after she touches her younger self’s forehead and disappears, and does her very best to sleep.

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This particular story is at an end, but we will see what comes of Sablestar’s plans for Jordan in a future story! In the meantime, I’m interested in what people thought of this.

I love the story but I feel like this is such a bad situation. I couldn’t tell you why in any definite terms, but it all makes me nervous (in good ways). The fact that the Void Shadow Collective basically pulled the same thing the Concordance did with Adam but with considerably more hand-holding reminds me of a line from a book I read recently applies here: “You’re both playing the same game, you’re just on different sides.” To bad fair, the Concordance might have tried to hold Adam’s hand too had Solaris not been heavily damaged.

Also, when Momma Amari finds out both of her children have been empowered by warring alien forces, she is going to blow up.

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Do we have any questions about the setup or the metaphysics of the situation, e.g. whether Adam could detect what was done? Or is it better to say nothing?

I feel like there would definitely be a blind spot there for Adam. “Oh, Jordan is enjoying pretending she’s a princess again. Nothing new there.” That would probably go out the window the first time she shows up as Princess Jordan (or whatever she winds up calling herself). “Wait, I know that name… weird coincidence maybe… wait, I know those emotions?!”

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