Our Powers Combined

Rowan Pierce
4 min readOct 13, 2022

The following is an extract from a short sci-fi story I was working on in 2019. I’ve since shelved this project, although I may revisit these characters for other works some time in the future. For now, I’m publishing it here for use as a writing sample.

Jay jolted awake as a high-pitched whistle screamed through the night, heart racing, chest tight. Another scream, accompanied by a bloom of red lights outside their window. Fireworks. Just fireworks. They sat there a while, arms locked rigid and bracing for the next wave, until they could coax themself into breathing, then untensing, then moving.

They made a few quick signs and their browser appeared in front of them, pale yellow text glowing softly on a dark holo-display. They set it auto-scrolling and watched the feed pass by. Everything sounded entertaining enough, but too frantic for right now. They had almost given up when they realised Tracy was online:

Spring cleaning time!! Keep me on task while I clean my apartment? TeaAndTrinkets streaming IRL (10 viewers).

They prodded the link and the browser vanished, Tracy’s cramped but enthusiastically decorated kitchen flickering into view before them. Cupboards washed in deep reds and oranges lined the room, kitschy decals of roosters and foxes jostling for space with neon-coloured pop-art posters.

“Love this new colour scheme… Less of a mess than before, too. Suits you.” The voice came from the dining table, where Nova’s anthropomorphized dragon avatar was lounging, showing off xer green scaly glory in a purple sequined crop top and the shortest shorts xe could get away with in a SFW stream.

She raised an eyebrow. “Less of a mess suits me?” She gestured broadly to the jumbled decorations, dirty laundry, and the spider webs collecting in the corners, before resuming her bustling with the mop.

“Sometimes my compliments are aspirational,” xe replied. Jay started typing, fingers moving rapidly across the holo-keys in front of them.

“It looks neat to me too! I like the cute fox ^_^”

“Hey there bud,” Nova said, turning towards them, “anxiety got you nonverbal again?”

Jay responded with a nod and a small smile.

“Man, I’m sorry,” Nova said with a sympathetic pout. Xe wrapped xer arms around xemself in a virtual hug, and a pink heart emerged from xer chest, glowing softly as it floated towards them.

Jay grinned in reply, and a warm feeling spread through their chest.

“Fuck a duck, it’s too early for this shit.” Kiara’s harsh expletives cut through the conversation from her seat by the kitchen counter. “This fucko won’t leave me the shit alone. Mouthing off about trans bodymods being ‘dehumanising’ and ‘perverting nature’, like, who the fuck asked you pal?”

“Might be a block and move on sitch, hon.”

“Maybe you’re right.” She resumed typing, fingers dancing across the air in front of her, eyes wandering back and forth between tabs like a cat following a fly. “Deadlines don’t wait-”

“Anyone fancy helping me out?” Aanan’s voice cut Kiara off as they appeared by the fridge, sounding out of breath. “Just got home, haven’t even had dinner and my AR’s blowing up with messages. Sis is seriously flipping out — she’s off her meds, can’t afford a new scrip, parents are going mental. They’re talking like they’re gonna get her sectioned or something.”

“Don’t y’all still have socialised health care in England?” asked Tracy.

Jay and Aanan shared a weary look. “Barely. Mental health was the first to get fully privatised, soo…” Aanan punctuated the end of their sentence with a grimace.

“Power to the Patients have a guide to getting emergency prescriptions at a discount — that might help?” Jay copied the link to the chat, and it appeared in a glowing bubble beside Aanan’s head.

“Thanks, mate”, said Aanan, flipping their AR glasses down. “I’ll grab an Uber and read on the way, yeah? Back to the hospital…should’ve stayed at work…” Their image winked out and was replaced by a static image of themself that buzzed and flickered occasionally, indicating that they’d switched to mobile before heading out the door.

“Sounds expensive, even with the discount. I got you. I’ve got some spare from the last commish.” Nova made a few lazy swipes through the air in front of xem, and a “Ka-ching!” sound effect played as a green dollar sign popped up beside Aanan.

“I owe you one, mate,” said Aanan. “Shit. She’s asking me to come and mediate, but they only give emergency scrips to family… I can’t just leave her — shit.”

“What about an advocate? I could get PttP to send someone over?” typed Jay.

Tracy looked sceptical. “Is anyone actually awake right now except you?”

“…Good point =\”, they replied. “I don’t think I could speak to strangers right now though, let alone convince them to let me help their sick daughter.”

“What if you had, like, a proxy?” asked Kiara, “Someone to talk through? I’ve got a bunch of UK followers who’d be down for this shit.”

“Yeah, that could help,” said Aanan.

“Alright, I’m on it. Then coffee.” Her already-frenzied typing intensified, eyes darting back and forth even faster than before. One final tap and her tweet popped into view:

Hey all you UK insomniacs! Who’s up for helping a friend in trouble? Hmu if you can keep calm around strangers and don’t mind a bit of light fraud for a good cause. Help if you can, RT if you can’t — thanks!

Jay watched as the retweets ticked up, scrolling ever faster as followers from Adelaide to LA pitched in to boost the signal. They would never understand how Kiara lived with that level of connectivity — all those people watching her at once, spreading her thoughts across the world to who knows where. If Jay ever got that amount of online attention they’d probably burn out within hours — but then, Kiara had always been a force to be reckoned with.

“Shit. Fuck,” Aanan’s exasperated swearing interrupted Jay’s thoughts, “Uber drove right past me. I swear you have to be as white as a meringue for those self-drivers to see you. Bloody facial recognition.”

“Typical”, said Kiara, sitting back down with a sigh, “I can’t even get a cup of coffee between crises.”

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Rowan Pierce
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Rowan Pierce is a freelance writer from the UK interested in video games, SFF, queerness and disability. You can learn more at www.rowanpierce.uk. They/them