In between Part 2H and Part 3H of The Curse of Day, Padparadscha goes home to collect her kickbike and gets much more than she planned on -- both from her parents, and from a stranger she chances to meet once she gets to the train station.

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A Serendipitous Encounter

Padparadscha left her parents’ house on her kickbike, toiletries and nightcap stuffed into the front basket along with her case of millinery supplies and a bakery-string tied box. She coasted down the sidewalk, carefully avoiding pedestrians, waving to the neighbors she knew.

Thinking back, her parents had been surprisingly awesome about her going off for an unknown amount of time in pursuit of legendary magical objects.

“That’s my girl,” her father had said, proudly, “always so quick to help people in need. You go save the world, princess, and come home when you’re done.”

“Be careful,” said her mother, “and make sure you eat and sleep well while you’re gone, okay, honey? I was just making some gingerbread; let me wrap it up for you.”

Her parents owned a small bakery that was so good that people came out from the city to eat there, and fresh gingerbread was Padparadscha’s favorite treat. Just as she was about to go, her parents, who had been whispering furtively, called her back in.

“Rasha,” her father said, “your mother and I have decided to give you your birthday present early, because you may want it on this trip.” Padparadscha was bouncing with glee by the time her mother produced a small, bright-colored package. She pulled off the ribbon and nearly tore the paper in her haste, and whooped in excitement when she saw what was within.

“Thank you!” she cried, embracing her parents together. “This is the best present ever.”

“Well, considering you’ve been babbling about the Lightning δ since it came out earlier this year, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what you wanted,” her father laughed.

“And this way, you’ll be able to call us from wherever you go,” her mother added.

After a few more hugs, kisses, and goodbyes, Padparadscha left her parent’s house on her kickbike. By the time she got to the train station where Taru-Na had directed them, her cheeks were hurting from all the smiling that thoughts of her new smartphone demanded. She sat down on a bench, tucking the kickbike between her legs, and pulled out her very own Lightning δ. She fumbled with the interface a bit, trying to figure out how to call the hospital where she worked to let them know that she would be taking some vacation time.

“Bother!” she said aloud, in frustration. The phone was sleek and modern and beautiful, and she had memorized the specs and product description, but her theoretical mastery of it translated into practical failure.

A woman who had been standing nearby turned to look at the source of the exclamation, and shifted toward Padparadscha.

“Excuse me,” the stranger, a tall, tawny fox-hybrid, said, “but is that a Lightning phone you’re having trouble with?”

“It’s a great phone,” Padparadscha said, defensively. The company that designed them, Landstorm Electronics, was on its way to being well-known by the general public, but it wasn’t there yet. “Lightnings are way better than Kablephones. It’s just,” she sighed, looking despairingly at the shiny piece of tech in her lap, “it’s brand new, and I’ve never had a smartphone before, and I really have to call my employers soon.”

The stranger laughed. “Now, don’t speak ill of Kablephones. Do you know that three out of four people have them? Of course, I’m the CFOO of Landstorm Electronics, so I’m glad to hear that you approve of Lightnings. I was actually asking because if you’d like some help, I’d be glad to do what I can.”

“You work for Landstorm Electronics?” Padparadscha was star-struck. “That must be so amazing!”

The CFOO gave another chuckle. “Work there? Kid, I built Landstorm Electronics from the bottom up. Landstorm is the genius behind the company, make no mistake, but he couldn’t market to save his life.” She came closer. “Now, my name’s Sho; how can I help you?”

“Uh.” Padparadscha closed her gaping mouth deliberately. “Could you help me get to the phone app? I just need to call the hospital where I work to let them know that I’ll be taking a couple of vacation days. Once I have time to go through the tutorial, I should be all set.”

“Okay,” Sho said, and easily showed Padparadscha how to place the call. She moved away to give the tortoise privacy while she was talking, but couldn’t help but overhear parts of the conversation. After Padparadscha hung up, she moved back.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to listen in, but did you say something about – moving minds?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Padparadscha said, like it was the most ordinary thing in the world, “Mentikinesis is my superpower.” Turning to look Sho directly in the eye, Padparadscha said earnestly, “Right now I just move people’s minds out of their bodies while they’re being operated on, and then put them back, but someday I’m going to put every person in the world into a body they designed.”

Sho was stirred by the young tortoise’s vision, much as she’d been stirred by that of a certain mouse she’s met a decade ago. It was a beautiful idea, and she thought she might have the means to facilitate it.

“You know, Landstorm is working on some kind of kooky dimensional travel project right now, but I’m sure he’ll give up on it soon. I’ll give you my number, okay? Call me in a year or so, and I’ll help you pitch that idea to him. It’s just the kind of thing he likes.”

Padparadscha was too stunned to speak as she let Sho take her phone and program in her number. Before she could regain her voice, a train pulled into the station, and Sho ran off to board it with a little wave.

Padparadscha had been given the object she wanted most, and it had led her to a door to her most treasured dream. She clutched the Lightning close to her chest, staring after Sho’s train long after it departed.

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