Chapter 1. The Hard Life of A Hero.

Daisy Nightingale watched the criminal through the window as she leant against a lampost opposite the small, semi-detached house he called home. He only occasionally came into her view, and at no point had done anything incriminating, but that wasn’t enough to put off a young woman like Daisy. She knew he was guilty, and was determined to prove it.

Daisy’s network of eyes and ears was vast, possibly the biggest in the world. She knew a lot, and was always eager to know more, but knowing alone wasn’t enough. She needed to be able to act. And so here she was.

She tapped the screen of her phone a few times then spoke.

“It’s time. Let’s find that evidence.”

A crackle of static answered her, accompanied by what sounded like a faint squeak.

“I’m going to have to ask Yamina to work on your gear. But that’s a job for later. Are you ready?”

Another garbled squeaking noise came from the phone. 

“Yeah, I don’t like it either. I’d much rather swap and be out there doing this myself, but I can hardly just waltz over there, can I? We have to be sneaky. Now, let’s have a better look at this house.”

Daisy tapped her screen again and a grainy picture of a fridge appeared. The image swayed slightly, then wobbled forward until the camera was at the foot of the grey plastic door.

“Focus! No, I don’t care that you can smell cheese. Look, I’ll buy you some afterwards, okay? Fine. You can have an apple too. Deal.”

The camera reluctantly turned away from the fridge, clinging to the edge of the room as it moved towards an open door that led into the living room.

“Attaboy, Brucie,” Daisy said encouragingly.

To most people, Daisy was known as a smart, resourceful, and very passionate girl, who had always dreamed of being a detective. She had been solving little mysteries since she could totter around on her own two feet. Although she could still hardly believe it, she was very close to finally achieving that dream too, but none of that was what made Daisy truly special. No, the thing that really set her apart from the rest of the world was a closely kept secret that only her best friend Yamina knew.

Daisy Nightingale could speak to animals.

At first she had thought that this was perfectly normal, and that everybody could do it. As she had grown older though, she had realised that nobody could understand animals. The creatures around her quickly noticed she was different, and very soon Daisy was always surrounded by birds and little critters of all types. Animals loved her, and she loved them all dearly.

In her childhood, she had been enthralled by movies of beautiful princesses who were friends with animals just like her, and she had tried to emulate them by getting the local animals to do her chores. Only, as it happens, squirrels can’t pick up plates, hedgehogs can’t reach the buttons on the washing machine, and birds poop all over everything. 

What the animals were good for though was gossip. They could go where they like and humans mostly ignored them. They could also reach places humans couldn’t. At first, Daisy had used them to get dropped items from behind furniture, or to find out what her classmates and teachers did outside of school, but from the moment she discovered crime scene investigation shows, her friends’ true potential finally dawned on her.

So here she was: hot on the trail of a notorious bike thief. The investigation had been simple. A social media post had reported a brand new red bike stolen from Maypole Avenue, so Daisy had taken the short trip over there and had spoken to a magpie in a nearby tree. Magpies love shiny things, so the black and white bird had taken an interest in the bike. He had described the thief and pointed her in the right direction. It had taken a lot of questioning to pin down the final location, but a tabby cat was eventually able to confirm that a man matching her description had returned to his house with a new red bike. Everything had been coming together.

She watched as Brucie slipped into the living room and hid behind the sofa as the bike thief crossed the space back and forth while talking on his phone. Compared with little Brucie, the man looked gigantic.

“Yeah, chief, I got it. Real beauty. Easily £300 from shops. I’ll sell it you for £200 if you come up here to collect it. Do we have a deal? Cool. See you in twenty minutes then.”

That confirmed that the man had the bike, but it didn’t tell her where it was. She needed to act fast. 

“Brucie, do a quick check of the ground floor. I’m going to make a move.”

She glanced around and quickly spotted a fat pigeon plodding across the grass of someone’s front garden. She made a cooing sound and the bird raised its head towards her before waddling closer.

“‘Ello, pretty lady,” the pigeon said with the characteristic bobbing accent of all his kind. Of course, he didn’t actually say those words, instead making the usual sounds you would expect from a pigeon, but somehow the coos made perfect sense in Daisy’s head.

Daisy reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of seeds. She held it out to the bird.

“If I give you these seeds, could you make a quick flight over that house there and tell me if there is a red bike in the garden?”

Unlike the bird, Daisy did speak in English. Most animals had an innate ability to understand humans to some level. They all seemed to understand Daisy perfectly.

“Seeds from pretty lady? Sure. Sure. I fly there. I excellent flier. The best. Yup yup. Just watch.”

The pigeon flapped his wings clumsily, seeming to struggle to lift his bulk off the ground, but he managed it and flew low over the garden fence before circling back around and landing heavily at Daisy’s feet.

“No red bike. Job done. You proud? You proud? Seeds, seeds, seeds!”

Daisy scattered the seeds on the ground for the pigeon, then checked back in with Brucie. There was nothing in the house either. That left only one place: The garage.

“Brucie, the bike has to be in the garage. There isn’t much time until the buyer gets here. Cause a distraction while I try to get in. Maybe it’s unlocked.”

The pigeon tilted his head and stopped eating. “You want distraction? Gilbert help! I be hero for pretty lady, yes!”

“I don’t have any more seeds on me.”

No seeds, no. I brave pigeon. Bravest. Hero pigeon known across lawn. I distract real good!”

“Okay, Gilbert, you’re in. I’m relying on you. Go do your thing.”

Daisy walked towards the house while watching the pigeon out of the corner of her eye. He flapped up into the air then glided past her while loudly cooing what she could only assume was a battlecry, before crashing straight into the living room window with a loud bang.

Daisy dove behind a hedge as she heard a shout of surprise through her phone, then a moment later saw the man standing at the window, staring at a pigeon shaped smudge on the glass.

“That dumb pigeon!” Daisy hissed to herself. “I need the man away from the window, not drawn to it. Brucie, you have to salvage this for me. Yes, I’ll throw in some grain too!”

A clattering of pans came through her phone and the man whipped around, disappearing back into his house. This was her chance. Daisy double checked her surroundings then jogged up to the flaking green door of the garage. She gave it a pull and felt it lurch upwards with a shrill squeal of metal scraping against metal that hurt her teeth. 

She paused and listened. From inside the house she could hear the sounds of shouts and bangs, most likely from the man’s attempts to catch poor Brucie. He hadn’t seemed to have noticed the garage. Daisy lifted it a little more, then slipped inside. 

The garage was dark and dusty. Piles of boxes and bulging bin bags filled the room, and there, in the middle of it all, was the bike.

“Bingo.”

Without hesitating, she grabbed the bike and wheeled it out of the garage, only stopping to drop a business card on the floor where the bike had been. It showed a photoshopped picture of a nightingale sticking its tongue out with the words “No crime escapes the Knightingale” printed below. 

As soon as she was on the street, she swung herself up onto the bike and began to pedal back towards Maypole Avenue. She fumbled with her phone as she tried to steer.

“Mission accomplished. Get yourself out of there, Brucie. Meet back at mine for your payment.” She thought for a moment. “Actually, see if you can watch the sale. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he realises the bike’s gone. Yes, of course I’ll pay you extra. Right, see you soon.”

It felt good bringing justice to the world. A thief wasted his time and the bike’s owner would be happy to have it back. All in all, it wasn’t a bad morning’s work. Daisy left the bike on the owner’s doorstep then ran as soon as she rang the doorbell. She didn’t stop until she got home. It was important to get her cardio in, after all. 

She unlocked her door then went straight to her room. Her parents were already at work so the place was quiet. Her room was small, and every surface was covered in books and DVDs. Well, all of them that weren’t taken up by the large glass tank that housed her snake, Beethoven. 

“Welcome back,” Beethoven hissed softly. “I take it you were sssuccessful?”

“Of course,” Daisy said, grinning happily as she collapsed onto her bed. “One crime solved before breakfast. Not bad, if I do say so myself.”

“Yesss. About that. Don’t you have a ceremony you’re sssupose to be at?”

Daisy froze. She felt panic flare across her body, pumping her full of adrenaline. 

“Oh my gosh, you’re right! Aaaah! It’s not even my first day yet and I’m going to be late! How can I be late to my own introductory event? Where’s my uniform? No! No! No!”

“The life of a sssuper hero isss never sssimple, eh?” 

“This is not the time, Beethoven. Look, no one’s home, please nip downstairs and fetch up some food while I get ready. I can’t be late! I’ll just prepare at double speed! Determination always succeeds!”

“Double ssspeed ssstill can’t turn back the five minutesss you’re already late by.”

“Eeeeeeek!”

Chapter 1. Cataclysm and Butterflies. (Insanity Nova)

The sharp click of the button was not the end or the beginning of events. It was the last step in a long process that led to the partial collapse of the very fabric of the universe. Beyond a sheet of transparent carbon alloy the infinite darkness of space shimmered. A million stars pulsed in unison and time itself shuddered with the uncertainty of a failing reality. 

“Kiss my living life goodbye

Embrace the fact that I will die

Know that all is but a lie

And never ask your maker why

Tomorrow comes tomorrow passed

Our shattered dreams are all that last

The dice of fate have now been cast

I know my birth of sleep draws fast.”

The singer had first heard that tune whilst still in her mother’s womb and would hear it again as they closed her tomb. She giggled uncontrollably. The world was just so damn musical. No matter what language or species, people made poetry and sang songs. Her own thoughts danced a merry jive through her head.

The words were from an old nursery rhyme. Like all good songs for young children, the topic was about as morbid as possible. Children seemed drawn to the darkness of the world like twisted mirrors of moths, seeking out that which killed them until their wings were clipped and their bodies wrapped in a cocoon of rules and culture before emerging as fat caterpillars good for nothing beyond eating and breeding.

 And here she was, Zorya Triumph, a caterpillar given wings. Wings that could tear the universe asunder. As such, she had named the ship Cataclysm and Butterflies. She laughed again, multi-shaded blue hair falling across her face as she rocked back and forth on her chair. The strands danced like blue flames. Continue reading