the imperial core

Cohost writing prompt: @Making-up-Magical-Girls — Magical Girl Who Is A Reformed Steampunk

"Oh. Hey." It had been a long, long, night, filled with pulsating ooze-people and all kinds of bullshit; Unstoppable Joy Protecter Sandrine is fucking tired; and the three-team crossover necessary to contain everything has seemingly left every store in town stripped to the skeletal shop fittings like it's been set on by a frenzy of sugar-and-caffeine-focused piranhas. "Didn't you used to be more..." and she gives the other magical girl a bleary head-to-toe wave, "uh...cogs?"

The other girl, a head taller and looking like she handles no-sleep several times better than Sandrine does, takes her thousand-mile stare off the corner shop's empty drinks fridge. Sandrine wracks her brain, whic throws up a useless shower of verbal chaff — Victorious! Conqueror! Guardian! Vibrant! Glory! — and absolutely no fucking name at all.

"Makeover," the other girl says. "I would shank a granny for a Red Bull right now," she adds, "and Red Bull tastes like a bad robot pissed itself."

"I thought the whole...steampunk...was part of your thing."

"Yes and no. I don't have to walk around looking like the British Empire threw up a clock on me."

That specific combination of words tickles something ominous-feeling in the back of Sandrine's head.

"Yeah?" she says, doing her best to ignore it. "You know, I think there's another place a couple of blocks thataway we could try."

"Okay, cool, sure." The other girl gives a little shrug.

"So when did you decide on the new look?"

"Tristate Federated Magical Persons christmas party."

Ahhhhh haha yeah.

"So, " Sandrine says as casually as possible, "I came out to my parents like three hours before that, and then after they disowned me, me and my pal Mr. Tequila had us a night I still don't remember but lost us about half our friends. Which doesn't, like, get me off the hook, but I don't remember. Whatever I did."

"I got off light," the girl says, and crooks a tiny sideways smile. "You were on a tear. I walked out of the elevator with a three-day-old shiner while you installing new assholes for the entire Sunbow Battalion, and you just broke off long enough to go—"

Sandrine dimly remembers that the girl had had some kind of setting put around her magical gem, a sphere of interlocked gearwheels: "Guess violence came home to the imperial core," she says hollowly. "Jesus, drunk me is the worst kind of thinks-she's-clever."

"Stung a bit," the other girl says laconically. "Kept stinging for long enough for me to ask myself if maybe I was just being defensive, and if I was, maybe you might have had a point, even if you were just handing out free I Had A Bad Day prizes."

"Oh my god," Sandrine says, half forlorn. "You're actually the proverbial bigger person," and the other girl raises an eyebrow and plinks a finger off her magical gem. "Oh, no, don't go looking at me for that inner goodness stuff; I'm horrible."