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The Other Job · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by QuillScratch
Word limit 2000–8000
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“Lonnie, report?”

Kyle jumped, reaching for the hunk of rusty metal that balanced precariously on top of the storage cabinet, willing his muscles to stretch as far as they could; his fingers barely touched the cobweb-coated surface before gravity pulled him away. Behind him, he could hear Adora’s anxious pacing, and the crackling static from the useless old comms unit she had been given to coordinate their mission.

“We’re about halfway through this room, Adora.” Lonnie’s voice, calm and professional as always but muffled by the radio-hiss, sounded quiet. It wasn’t a word he’d ever associated with Lonnie. He wasn’t sure he liked it. “Rogelio’s cleared a solid third by himself, so I reckon we’ll be done well on time.”

Another jump. His fingers didn’t quite hook over the top, and he felt the metal brush against them, taunting him.

Adora’s pacing calmed. “Roger that. Have you seen Catra?”

“Not for about ten minutes. She’s probably snuck off to take a nap.”

This time, Kyle landed at an awkward angle. He stuck his arms out, flapping them desperately to maintain balance, as he wobbled precariously on one foot for a moment.

“Alright.” Adora sighed, loudly. “I ought to get back to work. Thanks, Lonnie.” A pause. The radio noise thunked into silence. “Kyle, what are you doing?”

“Uh…” Kyle glanced up, then turned back around to Adora. “Cleaning up? Like we’re supposed to?”

Adora walked over with a purposeful stride, hooked her arms around Kyle’s waist, and hoisted him up as high as she could. He barely managed not to yelp in surprise, waiting for Adora to steady herself before reaching out to the pile of trash, pulling it gradually towards him. It was slower going than he’d have liked, but it was worth it if he could avoid the wiry frames of dead spiders that littered the storage cabinet’s roof.

“Okay, but why spend so long trying to reach one beam when there’s plenty of trash on the ground still?” Adora didn’t sound angry with him, which was certainly an improvement over any of the Force Captains who had overseen their training so far, but she did sound disappointed, which wasn’t. “You could have gotten a whole trip to the incinerator done while I was on the radio, and then we could do this one together.”

“It was a larger portion of the work, and I thought I could do it myself,” he replied, craning his neck to check the top of the beam for spiders. “And sure, I was wrong, but I gave it my all anyway.”

He swore he could hear Adora roll her eyes. Very carefully, he placed one hand on top of the beam and the other below it, tugging it further off the edge of the roof a little at a time, until he could lean it gently downwards and use its own weight to slide it to the floor.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Adora said as she lowered him gently to the floor, “but I think you tend to overestimate yourself, like, a lot.”

“I thought we were supposed to strive to get better?” Kyle dusted the grim off his hands with the sides of his shirt. “That was the whole point of training, wasn’t it?”

“You’ve also got to know your limits. You can’t know you’re getting better if you don’t know where you are, right?” After a moment of contemplation, Adora hoisted the beam up on her shoulder, wincing slightly. “I’m going to take this to the incinerator. You gather up the next cartful while I’m gone, okay?”

Kyle nodded, and Adora shot him a quick smile before leaving. He turned towards the pile of junk that took up around half of the small room: mostly battered training armor and stun batons, though there were a few bust up pieces of furniture among the mess (Kyle could see at least one locker, and a handful of chairs.) Humming quietly to himself, he started to move as many of the smaller pieces of junk to the small cart Shadow Weaver had given them.

Tidying up the old educational facility was an odd training mission, that was for sure, but that didn’t make it any more interesting than usual. Kyle had been looking forward to the excitement of simulated missions since their induction, when they saw a group of fierce-looking cadets take on holographic princesses in the vast exercise hall, but so far the most interesting thing Shadow Weaver had them working on was a few obstacle courses and sparring. It wasn’t surprising—they were first-years with no skills, and if they weren’t yet any good with their weapons or their teamwork, how could they hope to take down even simulated princesses?—but Kyle still couldn’t help but be disappointed every time. Maybe he would be a little more invested if anything remotely exciting happened—


Kyle screamed, even as the skeleton that had so suddenly appeared beside him crumpled to the floor in a useless pile of bones, and stumbled backwards in horror, knocking over the cart and sending the contents flying across the floor. He was crawling away on hand and foot when Catra’s unmistakable cackle echoed through the room.

“Oh, man, Kyle! You shoulda seen the look on your face.”

Kyle snorted, shaking away his tension as he looked up at the girl he could only describe as his least favourite teammate. He pulled himself to his feet, and set the cart the right way up.

“Seriously, Catra? Skeletons are freaky. Where did you even find that thing?”

“This place used to be a buncha classrooms, right?” Catra swung her tail lazily as she perched atop the storage cupboard, examining her claws with idle disinterest. “I figure the one next door must’ve been a science room. They had all sorts of nerdy junk: goggles, white coats, Mr Bones…”

“Mr Bones?” It wasn’t really a question—Kyle fixed Catra with a flat glare. She rolled her eyes and jumped down, picking up one of the spilled helmets and plonking it back in the cart with her customary bored look.

“I figure the lil guy needs a name. And he’s harmless, so Mr Bones is a good fit.”

“He’s terrifying,” Kyle corrected her. “Especially when someone drops him next to you and yells ‘boo’ in your ear. He should be called something spooky.”

“Like what?”

“I dunno…” Kyle frowned in thought. “Skullmaster? Princess Cartilage? Skeletor?”

Catra snorted. “Those are all the stupidest names I have ever heard.”

“Says the girl who called a skeleton ‘Mr Bones’,” Kyle muttered, hoisting an armful of boots into the cart and glancing over at the still-huge pile of rubbish they had to shift. At the rate things were going, Catra finally showing up to help was going to make this a long, long exercise.

(For third year cadets, Wednesday afternoons were a rare opportunity for free time—well-earned after a long, painful morning in the exercise hall, they were often spent lounging in their dorms or locker rooms, talking among themselves and winding down before dinner. And it wasn’t that Kyle didn’t like spending his free time with his teammates, but there were some days that hanging out with them (with Catra) just didn’t sound all that appealing.

So he’d sneak out. Not anywhere he wasn’t supposed to go, of course—in fact, he always made sure one of the Force Captains knew exactly where he was heading, just in case anyone needed him—but he didn’t want the other cadets following him. It was nice to just have some time to himself: sometimes he’d spend that time reading books on Etherian history and folklore that he’d salvaged from the old education block; sometimes he’d set up a training dummy and practice his blaster aim, if he felt like he’d really underperformed that morning. Sometimes…)

“Skeletor, you fiend! Leave my friends alone!”

Kyle walked confidently up the grand hall, the hilt of his sword heavy in his hand. Opposite him, the horrifying monstrosity lounged on his throne, his skull shrouded in the shadows of his hood, his jaw twisted in a terrifying grin. By his side, Rogelio, Lonnie, and Adora lay helplessly in a pile, bound by rope.

“And what are you going to do about it, foolish boy?”

(One of the advantages of the Frightzone was the sheer number of unused buildings. Finding somewhere quiet, and where nobody was going to walk in on him playing make-believe—silly voices and all—was surprisingly easy.)

“I’ll take you down myself,” Kyle growled, raising his sword above his head. “You’ve made the wrong enemy today, Skeletor, for I am a mighty and powerful warrior. By the power of Greyskull!

Magic washed over him, his body transforming under the power of the magical sword, and in a flash of light he stood before Skeletor in all his true glory as He-Man, the legendary warrior. Skeletor sat bolt upright in his throne, his jaw slack with surprise.

“He-Man? No! How could it be?”

He-Man charged down the corridor toward his mortal foe, a war-cry on his lips. The fiendish villain stood to meet him, blocking the swing of the mighty sword with his magical staff. For a short while, the two traded blows, locked in a stalemate as they each tried desperately to find an upper hand in the battle.

(It was a really good fight, too—Kyle was getting really good at making the clashing noise when their weapons hit, and he got to do a few really good twirls with his stun baton.)

Soon, though, Skeletor started to gain an advantage, and He-Man found himself being pressured back along the corridor towards the gaping mouth of the throne room—a vast open window that looked out over the valley below. Panic rose in his chest as he found himself brought step by step towards a fall that would certainly spell his doom. Skeletor’s empty eye-sockets seemed to gleam with anticipation of his enemy’s defeat, and their blows came in faster and faster as the cruel tyrant took advantage of his enemy’s momentary weakness.

“Well, He-Man,” Skeletor said, smashing the magical sword from He-Man’s grasp with a powerful swipe of his staff, knocking the powerful warrior to the floor, “I can’t deny that it’s been fun. But this little game of yours has gone on long enough.”

He-Man stared up at his foe defiantly. “You’re right, Skeletor. It’s time to end this.”

As Skeletor stepped forward to push him off the edge, He-Man rolled to one side, kicking his leg out to trip the skeletal oppressor. Letting out a scream of defiant rage, Skeletor tumbled from the gallery of his own lair, vanquished at last.

He-Man took a slow, calming breath, before retrieving his sword and turning to his captive friends. He sliced open the ropes that bound them, and soon enough found himself surrounded by adoring, grateful hugs.

(He didn’t do voices for his friends. It was one thing to do a silly voice for Skeletor, but doing an impression of Lonnie or Adora thanking him for saving them felt weird, and Rogelio wouldn’t speak anyway.)

The tank rumbled as it drove, a lumbering, shaking mass of metal and electricity, and with every bump in the road that they drove over Kyle felt his stomach lurch. Rogelio squeezed his hand comfortingly, as Lonnie sat across from them, stern-faced.

Everything about the situation felt wrong. The tank felt empty, haunted by Adora’s absence, and a cloud of melancholy had hung around the three of them all morning. Their first real mission should have been a big day—and it was, still, but it felt like a betrayal, too. Adora was always the most eager to see real action, and now they were going on without her.

Kyle gripped his stun baton harder, feeling the cool hardness of the metal press against his skin. Not for the first time that day, he found himself wishing it really was a magical sword, like he used to pretend, in the stories he made up for himself about a legendary warrior to rival the warrior princess herself, a hero who wielded their powers for the good of Etheria.

No, he couldn’t let himself get dragged back into that. Not today. It might be fun to pretend to be a mighty warrior, but if Adora were here she’d tell him to be more aware of his own limitations. If he thought he could take down the armies of the rebellion by himself, he’d be nothing but a liability.

Kyle took a long, deep breath. Rogelio, eyes sparkling with a soft, quiet kindness, tilted his head, as if to ask, “are you alright?” Kyle shot him a half-smile and nodded as the tank shuddered to a halt, the door falling to the ground with a thud.

“Alright cadets, listen up,” Octavia called, and the three of them bounded to attention. “Thaymor is a key strategic location for the rebellion, heavily fortified by the princesses’ magic. Your duty is to protect the back line—none of you have the experience of the graduates who will be leading the charge, so you will be providing covering fire, and will be here to assist if things go south.

“This is not going to be like your training exercises. If all goes well, the lot of you won’t see any real danger today. But don’t let yourselves underestimate the importance of this role! Without your support, our front lines won’t be able to do what they have to. Do you all understand me?”

The three of them nodded sharply in agreement. Octavia half-smiled back at them. “Good. I’m going to prep the other cadets. Get yourselves ready, we move in ten.”

Kyle shrugged on his armor in silence, checking over the array of personal weapons they had brought with them. Behind him, he could hear Lonnie quietly muttering, and Rogelio grunting in response, but the words were muted. His hand lingered on his stun baton as he considered his options, before shaking his head and placing the baton gently—reverently—down on the weapons rack, and picked up a hand blaster.

This was a real battle. It was time to leave the imaginary world of magical warriors behind.
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#1 · 1
Kyle's kind of adorable in this, liked the references and I can definitely imagine the gang in the tank on their way to Thaymore feeling Adora's absence, good work!
#2 · 2
I really like this! Though it's just dipping into a few moments, I think it really fleshes out a characterization for Kyle that preserves his goofiness while also giving him some weight. That perspective makes the rest very sympathetic and even melancholic at the end. If anything, the third section is just a little bit weaker than the rest, but that's probably because I really like the more full interactions of the first two bits, and the point is that Kyle is having to put aside the things that make him interesting as a character (and person) in order to be a faceless horde soldier.

I sort of wish there was more, but I really don't know if there -should- be. I think the discomfort of the ending is kind of the point.
#3 · 2
Right away, I'm confused by where everyone is. The first line is addressed to Lonnie, but then Kyle's the one who reacts. The nature of the line makes me think Kyle's hearing this over the radio, but later it seems like Adora is saying it, and she's there with Kyle. That could be made clearer.

A few minor editing things and perspective glitches, but I'm not really making a point of copying that stuff out this round.

Nice Skeletor joke.

Though I'm surprised Kyle would know who He-Man was. He's on a different planet, and until recently, the princesses weren't aware of any other planets. Though I suppose the Horde would. I just think He-Man is recent enough history that that would have happened after Kyle got sealed away in this pocket universe.

I enjoyed this look at Kyle, but the different parts of the story felt disconnected. The last two have a good transition between him imagining himself as a hero, then coming to the realization that real war is something very different. The first two have the one connection about the skeleton and feeling useless. But those are two very different themes, and they don't flow through into a single, coherent narrative as well. Plus that last scene emphasizes how wrong things feel. Partly because it's not make-believe, but your first focus is on Adora not being there, yet she really hasn't been. She's there in the first scene, but that doesn't focus on how Kyle finds her presence comforting, for instance. She's simply there, which is unremarkable to him, she's not there for the fantasy battle, and then her absence is suddenly disconcerting to him. Make that all connect. I think the ending is the point you wanted the story to make, but the first scene isn't working toward that. This needs some thematic unity.

Good character exploration of Kyle, though.
#4 ·
In this house, we love and respect Mr Bones ☠

This was a cute entry. Kinda feels like a little dig at the fandom ("hey, remember all those theories that Kyle was He-Man back in S1?") but if it is, it doesn't come across as mean-spirited at all.

I do think this story needs more unity - I can kinda see how the last two scenes link, but beyond setting up the Skeletor joke I'm not quite sure why the first scene is there (though don't get me wrong - just as a standalone scene, I kinda love it. Bit messy, but cute and fun). The timeskips are relatively buried, too, which isn't a bad thing but it does make the story's structure a little murkier.

All in all, though, a decent entry with a solid idea behind it. I enjoyed it!