On the solid assumption that muffin and as sneaks toxx up for this, I will judge it.
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 09:31|
|# ? Sep 22, 2021 09:37|
in gimme a terrible thing so that I might write you terrible words more blood for the blood thing etc.
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 09:38|
I liek pirate give me something weird
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 10:59|
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 12:58|
I'm in, let's get piratical.
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 12:59|
In like the ic avenger!
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 14:42|
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 18:48|
Are Privateers (I think that's how State-Sanctioned Pirates are/were called?) kosher?
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 20:17|
Are they circumcised?
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 20:26|
I liek pirate give me something weird
Insect pirates - the world just ended
I'm in, let's get piratical.
In like the ic avenger!
Road pirates - your characters are all going at least 70 kph
in gimme a terrible thing so that I might write you terrible words more blood for the blood thing etc.
Horse pirates - all the horses can speak, none of the people can
Cocaine pirates - none of your characters have slept for days
Are Privateers (I think that's how State-Sanctioned Pirates are/were called?) kosher?
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 22:48|
Not sure I really have time to write this weekend
Extremely enthusiastic pirates
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 23:30|
Cocaine pirates lmao
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 23:49|
Sneaky pirates. I like it!
|# ? Sep 17, 2019 23:51|
I've never done one of these before, so I'm in.
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 12:29|
I've never done one of these before, so I'm in.
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 19:23|
Btw I have an incredible pirate prompt in my head right now so this is an excellent time to sign up before someone else grabs it and ruins it
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 22:40|
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 23:39|
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 23:40|
|# ? Sep 18, 2019 23:52|
|# ? Sep 19, 2019 04:09|
Week 371 Crits
First off, let me say this was a strong week. No stories were terrible, which for Thunderdome is saying a lot. Prior to judgechat, I did not even have any particular story nominated for the loss.
1. Haven – 7 Elks
Summary: Privatization has ruined America’s natural spaces. So when one family seeks a Grand Canyon vacation, their only option is to visit a state-run facsimile. The trip triggers a flashback for the grandmother, who in childhood visited the real canyon and had a close encounter there with an elk. Now in old age, she notes that the shoddy, glitchy virtual elk and canyon don’t compare to her vivid memories of the real place. In the end, she doesn’t have the heart to express to her family how shallow this imitated vacation is.
- The prose is clunky in parts. For example, the repetition of “even” in two difference senses here: “He was young, judging by the fuzz on his small rack of antlers, but even so he would have towered over her on even ground.”
- How did privatization wreck something as enduring the Grand Canyon? Is the real thing somehow gone, or merely closed to the public?
- The flashback scene does contain some strong images of the in-real-life elk, and thus expresses the wonder of the natural world reasonably well.
- The story is very light on character. Except for the grandmother, each member of this family functions like cardboard cutouts labeled “mom” and “kid”. Even the grandmother has little depth of character. What we know about her is she used to cherish natural spaces and now feels guilty that they’re gone. Without much more than that, she’s rather two dimensional.
- This story is little more than the bare bones of its message. Though I agree with that message, it would be stronger if expressed through a submission that was foremost a well fleshed-out story, and only secondarily a basic political message, prompt notwithstanding.
- The ending more-or-less works, but I think you could have accomplished much more with this piece. I recommend reading sparksbloom’s piece this week for an example of a story that does have interesting political and moral implications but is first and foremost presented as a solid narrative above and beyond those mere implications themselves.
2. sparksbloom – Overhead and Southbound
Summary: My interpretation is that in this world, automated drones kill plague-carrying birds. They also coordinate with driverless ambulances to capture humans who may have been exposed, presumably for quarantine—a process that reliably leads to one’s death. A mother, who once lost her partner, Leo, in one such “Event” has trained her children to survive the next one. But the arrival of starlings signals the onset of this next Event at a time when the mother is separated from her children. Risking her life, the mother searches for her kids in the woods, hoping she trained them well enough to survive, when dead birds fall upon her, and a drone finds and captures her. Then the story gets more abstract, but my interpretation is that the plague-birds reveal themselves to have once been human (hence their seemingly limitless number), and the mother, though concerned for her kids, acquiesces to learning the “secrets of the universe”, whatever that means. (Life after death?). I suppose it’s also possible that in a direct or indirect way, Leo is haunting the mother for not saving herself in lieu of her searching for the kids.
- This is good sci-fi; in broad strokes the readers get a sense of how even some initially well-intentioned automation could go horribly wrong. But you don’t beat the reader over the head with that message; rather you spin a compelling tale about a mother’s suffering and resolve. Well done.
- How does the narrator know exactly how long Leo had been stuck on the side of the road before capture?
- At first the narrator thinks “I want to go home” is Michelene screaming. But you haven’t expressed that sentence as an exclamatory statement. In other words, it doesn’t read like a scream, but just a subdued declarative.
- I would’ve enjoyed just a touch more of a hint about what the ending means. Overall your use of subtlety is good though.
- This story has good emotional resonance; the reader really gets a sense for the mother’s concern, desperation, pain, and stress.
3. a friendly penguin – Automatically
Summary: Greg manages working-class human wage slaves in an oppressive watch-making plant. Greg speaks of the humans as if he isn’t one himself, but he story seems to imply that he and everyone else in the manager class is human too. Greg has been fed lots of propaganda about human nature, so he almost envies the worker class, since he’s been told menial work and “flow” accords best with that nature. Then Greg discovers a worker who is demonstrably unhappy. This encounter shatters Greg’s preconceptions. He begins to feel unfulfilled by his work, noticing its cruelties, its banalities, and its meaninglessness. So Greg decides to rebel, apparently by taking up his grievances with upper management.
- In a world with this kind of tech, why can’t the whole watch production just be automated? Why does the company need human workers at all?
- The image of human workers wearing coercive shock glasses is rather arresting. Same with the humans still performing the same arm and finger movements after their shift is done. It’s all very Modern Times. Well done.
- The shift from Greg being 100% on board with the corporate spin to rebelling against it happens way too fast. When a character does a 180 degree shift, either the precipitating event has to be even more stark than this, or the shift must happen more gradually. I do notice you’ve got a story break representing eleven months of elapsed time, but that doesn’t actually count as a gradual shift for a couple reasons. Gradual in this sense doesn’t just mean “developing over plenty of in-universe time.” The reader needs to experience Greg’s transition gradually in order for his change of heart to ring true. Did Greg experience anything else during this period to help shift his thinking? Show us the evolution of those thoughts and experiences. Just hand-waving that entire interim period doesn’t help the reader to track a realistic-seeming course of internal movement in Greg.
- Also, I get that Greg wants to break his routine at the end, but it’s unclear what he thinks going to upper management will actually accomplish.
4. magic cactus – DRIVE TIME
Summary: Jason is operating a self-driving car, whose AI mistakes a ferret for a squirrel. The car runs over the ferret, killing it, since doing so was in keeping with the optimal drive route. Ferrets are powerful, revered creatures in this world, and Jason is now guilty of a capital offense since he was technically the operator of a vehicle that killed one. Jason buries the ferret, observing the necessary ritual, and then calls Marie, who designed the AI. Marie essentially tells Jason there’s nothing she can do, and that the ferrets will demand retribution. So Jason gets back into the car, which drives him into the woods to be devoured by ferrets.
- “The network infers that the human might have death anxiety.” lol, nice touch.
- The car AI editorializing its aesthetic appraisal that “Everything after that is bad theater, grotesque” doesn’t mesh well with the rest of its voice in the story. Aside from this, the AI does have an effective voice throughout the piece.
- Personally I think the story would have been more interesting if the retribution for killing a ferret kit came at the hands of humans bent on punishing that blasphemy. Maybe the car could have been streaming its thoughts or a/v record to some public source.
- I thought this story was okay, but in part because the ending seemed like a missed opportunity to hit even harder, I didn’t personally support the HM on this one. Congrats anyway though, the story has definite strengths.
5. Antivehicular – The Mourning Shift
Summary: A professional mourner prepares for the memorial service and ash-scattering of one musical geriatric. Interestingly, in the narrator’s culture, pro mourners undertake the important job of embodying the world’s remembrance of its recently deceased children. Then the story goes off the rails. The narrator gets approved to ride a sort of modified robo-horse for the ash-scattering. The horse takes the narrator far, and into garden-caste territory (i.e., the home turf of the deceased). There, both horse and narrator spread the ashes and sing some of the deceased’s choral music. FIN.
- Since you mentioned the caste tattoos, I was curious to know what they actually looked like.
- It’s a pity this story goes off the rails after the break; the first section was rather good. But the drop off in quality during the second section was highly apparent.
- This story ends up being kind of scatterbrained and silly, but unfortunately not the clever sort of silly. Still, the first section was intriguing enough to save it from really meriting a DM I think.
6. Anomalous Amalgam – The Fall From Grace
Summary: In accordance with the hellrule, doctors are dogs in this world. This lofty canine career path became possible due to something called “the bio-lift incident” which redistributed human intelligence to other animals, sending humans into blithering idiocy. At present, one doctor-dog, Donovan, drinks away the pain of having been replaced (in all but name) with automated physicians. While drunk on the job, he walks into an operating room where he’s told there’s a pregnant human in need of medical attention. This pregnancy is shocking since humans haven’t been getting pregnant since the whole bio-lift thing. Throughout this process, Donovan experiences the animosity of his ex, Rebecca. Then Donovan watches the automated medical procedure, gets even more drunk, falls asleep, wakes to a human baby having been born, and then begins to worry that canine dominance may be threatened. All this despite the humans still being sea-slug levels of dumb so far as he knows.
- I realize you had a tough hellrule, but even as I take that into account, the story is still weak.
- The piece is ridiculous, and not in a well-crafted farcical sort of way, but in a seemingly low-effort way.
- The animosity between Donovan and Rebecca doesn’t really develop, go anywhere, or get resolved one way or the other. It just feels grafted onto the story.
- The ending has some problems. Yes, a human is being born, but contrary to the narration’s sentiment, there's still no indication that humans can regain their intelligence, nor that they really pose any threat.
7. Thranguy – Fully-Automated Twenty-First Century Man
Summary: In a world in which travel is cost-prohibitive, virtual relationships are ascendant. Colin King, apparently the Don Juan of dating-by-avatar, meets virtually with his sister, Isobel. He tells her how he’s developed strong feelings for one of his dates, Joanne. Having asked him “Are you happy?”, Joanne created a moment that seems to have thrown Colin. In a subsequent meeting with Isobel, Colin says Joanne wants to bear the enormous cost of meeting in person, something that Colin has not even done with Isobel, among other family members. In a final meeting Colin reveals to Isobel that the in-person date with Joanne was a job offer. A company wants to capitalize on Colin’s date-coding skills. Colin still doesn’t seem to know if he’s happy, but with the new job, he thinks he may know in a year.
- I noticed a few typos on a first read-through.
- The tone feels detached, impersonal, matter-of-fact. In that way, the language feels removed from the intimate or at least virtually-carnal subject matter.
- I don’t think this was your intention, but one justifiable reading of the text seems to suggest that understanding the meaning of happiness stems from someone monetizing your work. Irrespective of what I think about that notion, it felt strange to see Colin suddenly express a sentiment more-or-less in keeping with it at the end of a story that had otherwise focused on relationships.
- I enjoyed the piece overall. It was entertaining, the world-building gave the setting some weight, and the use of the prompt was appropriate.
8. Anomalous Blowout – The Next Best Thing
Summary: Neville Skaggs is a disabled firefighter who had to leave the profession on unhappy terms. The guy seems to have a mean case of Divorced Dad Syndrome; he feels worthless and he’s not sure how to earn others’ affection. He does try to connect with Robbie, his college-aged fuckboy son, but Robbie has higher priorities, women in particular. So Neville continues to carry out his life of quiet desperation alone. But then one night his Roomba gets stuck and texts for help. In aiding the Roomba, Neville has felt needed for the first time in a long while. He resigns himself, somewhat happily even, to building a one-sided connection with the inanimate object. FIN.
- The first scene is pretty drat relatable.
- The humor works well, e.g. the braincell bit, the fuckboy bit.
- The piece has great emotional resonance, you bring out Neville’s pathos well. Congrats.
- One the best touches here was Neville’s flashback to Robbie’s colicky infancy. It certainly contextualizes Neville’s desire to feel needed, but just as interesting, it also shows a developmental history for Robbie that might explain what deep seated needs the fuckboy himself is trying to meet.
- Your insight is good: the automation dystopia isn’t science fiction. In many ways it’s our present reality.
- This was an excellent piece; well done!
9. sebmojo – Gravitas
Summary: In this world, people have rendered their minds more machine-like, becoming hyper-rational and eschewing subjective value judgements. Hope, for instance, has no place in the hyper-rational mind, and our protagonist has concluded that absent hope, a reasonable person elects to commit suicide. In furtherance of that end, the protag has brought himself to the edge of a tall building. He is planning to jump when he receives a phone call from Meredith, who is apparently a close friend or romantic partner. Upon learning that the protag is about to jump off the building, Meredith joins him at the edge. She is unable to save him with conventional arguments; they both know this. So she holds him hostage emotionally. She lets him know if he jumps then “I’m going to jump too.” Meredith’s threat strikes a subjective chord for the protagonist and leaves him uncertain how to game out the consequent scenarios. Now endowed with uncertainty, the protagonist is no longer constrained to the strictly rational. Perhaps there is even room for hope. The two decide to keep a lunch date.
- This story’s got some real weight to it.
- Interleaving is a neat concept, and the reader can piece together the sentence fragments well. But it’s a shame it only happens once in the story. I wonder if one of the characters might get interrupted with a conference call and briefly do it again; the concept is too cool to leave dangling all alone like that.
- There are some mixed metaphor issues with the labrador brain aspect. Sometimes when the protag’s brain is described as doing labrador things, its functions are appropriately described in labrador terms, like, “My labrador was panting, uncertain. I couldn’t tell what was going to happen and it was jarring.” But other times when the protag’s brain is being a labrador, what’s happening isn’t described in labrador terms, like “my helpful labrador brain catalogued all her lines of argument in perfect pivot table logic.” Labradors don’t catalogue; maybe use “retrieved.”
- “It looked like she had a lot of other things to say, but they were stopping each other getting out of her brain.” Great line. I like that even for these machine-brain activated humans, consciousness is not really a unitary phenomenon.
- The story has good emotional resonance. It also makes a good case for the value of irrationality and uncertainty.
10. Flesnolk – H
Summary: A mayor enters his office to find it’s rat-infested. A monitor signals for him to sit. He does, and a dentist drill of rats begins to work on his jaw until he passes out from pain. In sleep three figures (representing three supercomputers) appear to the mayor. They tell him his role isn’t what he’s been told, and that in truth, they are the real leaders of the city. They tell him information that he must already know about how much of life has become automated over the years. Then they suggest that politics itself is rather automated and the position of mayor is a duly elected figurehead who helps the supercomputers determine what the people want. They give the mayor a choice: accept his role or leave. He gets a day to think about it.
- The story is mostly a dressed up infodump about how this world works.
- The story is overwrought with dialogue.
- There isn’t much of an ending, rather just a postponement of a decision.
- Although it is a bit silly, the story isn’t awful, I think in a typical week you might not even have DM’d.
|# ? Sep 19, 2019 22:08|
crimea river then build a bridge and sit on it brawl
Sitting Here vs crimea Brawl Submission
Sitting here v crimea
this was a really hard one to judge. at first i came down on the side of crimea's precisely worded and historically evocative soviet short film, and was annoyed by the purple prose and handwave at the end of sitting here's dad-murder ballad. then i noticed a bunch of infelicitous images and similes in crimeas, and was annoyed by the absence of a key element (for all it's justifiable thematically), and came back round to the diamond sharp dialogue and almost nauseatingly rich imagery in sitting here's.
they were both strong, but I think I'll come down on the one that made the most focused use of its words, though it's a matter of a hairsbreadth.
sitting here wins.
|# ? Sep 20, 2019 10:57|
I volunteer as the third co-judge.
|# ? Sep 20, 2019 12:37|
gotta post crits by uuuuuh 6am pst Monday
|# ? Sep 20, 2019 12:43|
There is room for exactly one more entry but it should be fast
It's a real good one so if you've been holding back, now is your time
|# ? Sep 21, 2019 08:39|
|# ? Sep 21, 2019 23:51|
and that's that, write super well or i'll keel haul your lubberly asses
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 01:22|
How to have your Captain’s back
Prompt: Sneaky Pirates
Word count: 1194
London East India Ports.
Quartermaster Wright approached his seemingly restless underling. "Quinlan, do you want to get your useless arse killed for insurrection?"
The First Mate, who kept on working on a log entry, didn't even look up.
"Nay, that be the furthest thing on me mind, Sir" Quinlan answered deftly and without hesitation, despite his body language betraying him at every opportunity.
"Well, I suggest ye grab yer useless arse and make a use of it, for once!"
"Ay" Quinlan placed his quill and paper aside for a moment.
"What is that look mean, Quinlan?"
"If ye think is alright, Sir, may I speak freely?"
"Aye. Yer peerage spells trouble all over, so better get it off ye chest"
“Right… me do believe we should, at the least, be wary of The Company, Sir"
"Ye probably fail to recall, what with having private quarters and all, Sir, but remember how the Commodore was already on board when we touched land?"
Now Wright's curiosity had been piqued. "... Go on"
"He mumbled something when he threatened boatswain Weston. Now do take in account that most of we were severely spent or hungover, so pardon any of me daft recollections"
"Noted" The honesty Quinlan displayed was appreciated, if nothing else.
"Commodore White went on concerning something about making the ship and we collective arses redundant"
That caught him still. His attention was fully Quinlan’s by now, but Wright was trying to see if perhaps the first mate was trying to provoke any action to his sole benefit.
"Now that seems unlikely" Jonathan Wright’s words were steady and betrayed no emotion.
"Is it, Sir?" Quinlan's tone grew more confident. "We do agree shares have been swell these past few raids, but we shan't try and underestimate that knobhead just because of his title and strutting about. The Company does have big favor with the crown and all. We end up dead and they can chalk it to ill-fated fortune or some shite of that ilk"
Uncertainty grew within the veteran Quartermaster after hearing Quinlan go on about a potential scenario where they all find themselves sailing to a watery grave. He stroked his beard, deep in thought. Said action made the first mate somewhat uncomfortable.
"Pardon for speaking out of place, Sir"
"Is quite alright" Wright looked at their main mast as he replied. "The Captain does have a rift with that Commodore, after all. But what to make of it being nothing beyond a station rift and not more personal"
"The family of Captain McManus used to be considered what me elder sister called 'Minor Nobility', all the way to their public hanging" Quinlan gulped at the Quartermaster’s words.
"According to Master Felton, Captain only survived by being hidden in a small basket at the time of the family arrest, and White was part of the guard who seized the McManus family. How long we have until setting sail for Reykjavík?"
"Two more days, at the least"
"More than enough time. Come smartly... and make sure to bring that log with ye"
"Ay. Give me but a moment"
When they arrived at the Tavern, the Quartermaster found his Captain quietly sipping away at his drink, in one of the rare few instances where he was alone at his table.
"Captain, how ye faring?"
"Could spare some lassies here and there, to be quite honest"
"Aye, well few knew that we were to arrive at this time, Captain"
"Think nothing of it. Just a stray thought. And what do we bring here, Wright! Is that me first mate?"
"Ay. Quinlan, Captain McManus. At yer service"
"Oy! Be ye the brat from Belfast, correct?"
"Love me that place. Finest wenches me had the pleasure of bedding" He beckoned Quinlan to sit next to him. "But me tongue is being allowed to wag. What can me fix ye with Wright, Quinlan?"
"Oh, believe me, ye might want to sit straight for this, Captain"
In time, the Quartermaster told his captain what had transpired before and during the time lapse they touched land.
"That knobhead is dancing with danger" Elliott McManus interrupted himself with one pound at the table. "Could spare a lesson or two for the ungrateful prick; perhaps a proper scupper off the board will clear his head proper"
"Actually, me plot shall make easy work of it"
For a moment, the Captain and his Quartermaster had a bit of a stare-off.
McManus then offered a relaxed smile. "Ye have me ear, for the moment"
To that, the Quartermaster took a seat right next to Quinlan. "See..."
The plot the Quartermaster had crafted after deliberating on the information the first mate provided had been passed to the Captain before long.
"Aye, seems like a plan to make them company knobheads aware that they shan't take scraps they can hardly afford losing"
“For now, go and crack Jenny’s tea cup, ye rascals!” The Captain produced a sack off his coat and threw it at Wright.
“Aye, Captain!” Wright gave his Captain a proper nod and then signaled to the First Mate.
2 Days Later, early in the morning.
Most of the crew was helping packing supplies; with the Master-at-Arms supervising everything, it appeared that their time of departure would be respected. Suddenly, Felton grew curious at witnessing Quartermaster Wright’s jolly expression.
“Quartermaster, answer me this: What has got you all puffed up this morrow? I am almost at the end of my rope with the Commodore coming to admonish us for the pettiest of poo poo that might surface on his mind”
“Master Felton! Ye be concerning yer head with crock that does not bear mention”
Felton sighed “Sir Wright, I fear you might be a tad too optimistic for this crew”
“Nay, on contrary. We be pirates, Master Felton. Men like White expect we pirates be ruthless, but nothing beyond that”
“Is that so…” Felton felt that he was on the level with Wright, so he decided to not push it further.
“We doing well, men?” That thunderous baritone gave it away immediately.
“Yes, Captain!” The Master-at-Arms replied without delay. “Restocking is almost done. All left is to wait for the Commodore”
“Nay. Admiral has already given blessings to set sail. Finish stocking on supplies and we to set sail right after”
The captain departed shortly after to attend a different business. A small but noticeable sound made it to the Master-at-Arms’ ears.
“And what is so funny to you, Sir Wright?” Wright was not a man who often made a spectacle of himself, so the chuckling he belted out obviously caught Felton off-guard.
“Pay me no mind, Master Felton. Just glad to be of use”
It wasn’t until their arrival at Reykjavik that Felton realized Wright’s plot and it wouldn’t be until their next return to London that they’d receive the dividends for his deeds.
That night, Felton approached Wright and Quinlan during a celebration at the local pub.
“Remember me to always remain on your graces, gentlemen”
To that, Wright let out a hearty laugh. “Flattery, Felton! All we did was to have the back of the Captain covered”
Wark Say fucked around with this message at 12:20 on Sep 22, 2019
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 03:22|
Prompt: perfect pirates
Perfect Pirate Adventure
Word count: 1191
Glittering cubes, tetrahedrons, octahedrons, and dodecahedrons sparkled in the sunlight as they tumbled from the burlap sack into the treasure chest. Some as small as beads, others as big as apples. All of them shining, pure, solid gold.
“Yarr! A fine haul of platonic solids, lads!” Captain Quint grinned at his men. “Ye truly be the most perfect crew e’er to sail the Sea of Ideal Forms.”
Quint’s crew let out a hearty cheer and raised their cutlasses in salute. The parrot on his shoulder squawked, “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!”
“Well said, Polly!” The captain speared a cracker on the end of his hook hand and offered it to the grateful bird.
“What about us?” The crew of the captured galleon knelt on the deck, hands bound, heads bowed before their captors.
“Ye’ll walk the plank and join yer ship in Davy Jones’s locker!” roared Quint.
Once their grisly business was done, Quint pivoted on his peg leg to face his men and started barking orders. “Stow the booty in the hold! Take down the Jolly Roger! Bos’n, set a course for Skull Island! Avast, ye dogs!”
A call from the crow’s nest cut through the commotion on the deck below.
“Sails on the horizon, cap’n!” called the lookout.
Captain Quint went to the rail and scanned the horizon with his spyglass. Sails, sure enough!
“Arr!” growled Quint. “’Tis the Hero With a Thousand Faces, come to rescue his lady fair, or I’m a dog’s buttocks!”
For a lad of humble origins, the Hero With a Thousand Faces was a remarkably persistent thorn in Quint’s side. With the Hero now in hot pursuit, it seemed kidnapping the boy’s love interest may have been asking for trouble.
Quint didn’t feel like waiting around to find out how much.
“More sail!” cried the captain. “More sail! We’ll outrun the scurvy lubber!”
But the winds favored the Hero’s ship. Each passing hour saw the swift little frigate grow larger on the horizon. By evening, the two vessels were hardly a stone’s throw apart. The Hero’s sword caught the red rays of the setting sun and shone like a fiery beacon blazing in his outstretched hand. His bronze mask glowed red like hot coals, its graven features set in an expression of grim stoicism.
“But how did he find us?” Quint wondered aloud.
A soft splash caught Quint’s ear and he leaned over the rail to find the source.
Ah ha! Someone had tossed a message overboard. The green bottle with its roll of parchment inside bobbed on the waves before disappearing into the ship’s wake. He looked aft just in time to see the shutters of his cabin snap shut.
So, the little lady had been sending secret messages to her lover! He knew he should have bound her, but violence against women was so distasteful he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it.
“Cannons at the ready!” reported the First Mate. His woolen cap was soaked with perspiration.
“Good! Bring her about! Prepare a broadside!” bellowed the captain.
The Hero’s ship may have been swift, but Lady Avenger boasted forty guns, more than twice as many as her pursuer.
“Fire!” yelled the Captain.
Lady Avenger’s cannons erupted in great gouts of yellow flame. A storm of cannonballs tore through deck, rigging and flesh alike.
The brave defenders on the smaller ship fought back valiantly, but the outcome of the battle was a foregone conclusion. Outgunned and out tonned, the Hero’s ship was doomed. Lady’s cannon shattered the little ship’s hull, battering her until nothing remained but flotsam.
“Avast, me hearties!” Quint sneered as he caught sight of the Hero clinging wretchedly to a scrap of wreckage. “What manner of fish be this?”
The Hero With a Thousand Faces was fished out of the water and hauled up over the gunwales by a team of pirates with boat hooks.
“Lookie here, lads! A fine catch if I say so myself!” Quint leered through his good eye at the waterlogged Hero. Even the gold skull and crossbones embroidered on his eyepatch seemed to be laughing gleefully at the boy’s misfortune.
The Hero lifted his face to glare at Quint. Even through his mask the Hero managed to project an expression of stubborn determination. The black eye sockets of the graven bronze face seemed to burn with defiance.
No sooner had the pirates thrown him to the deck than he was on his feet, sword flashing in his hand. In the blink of an eye, three of Quint’s crew lay dead. Quint barely had time to draw his own cutlass before the Hero was on him!
The duel ranged around the quarterdeck, Quint’s peg leg beat a quick tattoo on the planks, barely keeping himself ahead of the Hero’s nimble footwork. But the captain’s seeming retreat was a ruse! He lured the Hero into a bite of line and, with a slash of his sword, cut the bollard that held the rope in place. The bite snapped shut around the Hero’s ankle and yanked him bodily up into the rigging, where he dangled like a side of beef.
Quint guffawed. “Cut him down!”
Free, the Hero lunged for his dropped sword, but Quint kicked the blade out of the boy’s grasp.
“So, ye still have some fight in ye?” Quint laughed. “A few licks o’ the cat will take care of that!”
He snapped his fingers and a burly mate in a striped shirt and torn pantaloons stepped forward. His apelike arms were sleeved in colorful tattoos. The leather thongs of a cat o’ nine tails dangled from his meaty fist to rest on the deck.
“Give the lubber a taste of pirate discipline!” Quint grinned, and his gold tooth gleamed red in the light of the setting sun.
The hulking pirate raised the cat o’ nine tails, licking his lips as if to savor the Hero’s pain.
“Stop!” The Fair Maiden stood in the doorway of the captain’s cabin. She leveled the hero’s sword at Quint.
“I have no fear of some slip of a girl!” he said. “Put that away before ye hurt yourself. I’ll not fight a maiden!”
“No maiden, I!” said the Lady Fair. With her free hand she grabbed hold of her golden tresses and tugged them clear off her head.
“A wig!” Quint’s single eye boggled.
“’Tis not for naught they call me the Hero With a Thousand Faces!” the Hero smirked. His pink silk pinafore flapped dashingly in the breeze.
“Then who?” Quint turned and yanked the bronze mask from his captive. The pouting face of a blue-eyed girl glared back at him from beneath short-cropped blonde hair.
“The Fair Maiden!” Quint exclaimed.
“It was all a trick to get our hands on your treasure map,” explained the Maiden.
“And whoever has the map is the captain.” The Hero pulled the scroll of yellowed parchment from the front of his dress and waved it tauntingly.
Captain Quint bowed his head, acknowledging defeat.
“Y’arr,” he said sadly. “Who could have guessed, all along it was you two who were the perfect pirates!”
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 03:33|
Prompt: Whiskey Pirates
A Cause Worth Dying For
Word count: 1199 words
My companion Caruso had never before shown interest in nautical matters, which made the situation we found ourselves in all the more peculiar.
Passing near a tavern by the wharf, we’d spotted an old man holding court outside. What had caught my eye were those sitting laughing and nodding as he spoke, transfixed by every word. There was no sense of mockery, indeed the air was of anticipation. What could this shaggy haired ancient with jowls like a dog have to say that held them in such awe?
They were not alone. When the old man mentioned in passing crewing on the Tennessee, it was like Caruso was struck by a bolt of lightning. I found myself suddenly abandoned as he launched himself from my side to confront the storyteller, demanding an explanation.
“I’ve read everything there is to know on Captain Daniel,” he insisted, poking the old man’s chest. “His entire crew was wiped out 50 years ago during the Anglo-Spanish war, you can’t have possibly known him!”
“I dare say I know him better than you, sir,” the old man replied, prickly at being upstaged. ”I’m Julius Kessler and, as I stand before you today, plainly his whole crew did NOT die.”
A round of cheers from those gathered seemed to brace Kessler up, but I was mortified by Caruso’s rudeness. I started to make my way through the assembled drinkers to try and quietly extricate him, until I saw Kessler casting a sly eye his way before offering him a proposition. “I’ll tell you the real story if you’d like… but my throat is rather dry.”
“SAIL HO!” came the call, which we prayed would break our Captain’s foul mood. Men rushed eagerly to the railing to catch sight, placing bets about who our target might be, and what they might be carrying. Captain Daniel emerged too, unshaven and his usual meticulous clothing unkempt, brow furrowed as he joined us. But I knew him well enough by now to see the mood was lifting, the opportunity to strike out too attractive to ignore. I offered a silent prayer that it was a fat, overladen merchant vessel to help him forget the sting of Seagram’s betrayal.
“What Seagram betrayal?” Caruso demanded, causing shouts of protest from the audience. “Seagram died with Daniel, everybody knows that.”
“Do they, sir?” sniffed Kessler, the nods and murmurs of assent from the gathered patrons more hostile now. “Well I know that he stole a map from the Captain, one that would lead to a hoard of 7 Aztec crowns, each one worth a fortune.”
“Then why was it writ-“
“Maybe if you listen you’ll find out!” sighed Kessler, and I was relieved to hear the crowd greet this with good-natured laughter again.
“IT’S THE CROWN ROYAL! IT’S CAPTAIN WALKER!” came the cry, and our hearts sunk. Beam, the Quartermaster, immediately began shouting orders to turn us around, but it was a fool’s errand: our fates were struck the moment the Captain heard that cursed name.
”BELAY THAT ORDER! MAKE READY FOR BATTLE!”
Beam protested but a snarl from the Captain quieted him, and already the men were rushing to follow the command. If it had been any other privateer but Captain Walker he might have reconsidered, especially since the Tennessee could outclass the Crown Royal in speed but not in power. But the Captains’ feud went back decades, Walker’s letter of marque only deepening their mutual hatred.
We’d all heard the stories of Walker’s conquests: the Dutch merchant ship that went up in a sweet-smelling fireball when their cannons penetrated a hold stocked with cinnamon; or The Canadian Merchant Navy ship packed with velvet that had made him rich. But Captain Daniel had brought us all through too much to become just another notch on Walker’s belt. So we were ready for any order he gave, or so we thought.
Kessler had stopped talking, which I mistook for a sense of drama till he cleared his throat noisily. With a sigh I gestured to the barmaid again.
It was chaos everywhere, our ships groaning in place against each other. What madness had overtaken us? We’d followed Daniel’s order almost without question. Was it fear of him? Did we believe ourselves invincible? For a second perhaps we had, the Crown Royal’s cannons had missed every shot as we raced towards them. It was the helmsman, Jameson, who’d saved us in the end. Normally the maddest of us all, he’d turned at the last second and ground us along the Crown Royal’s side. Enough to do damage and fling us from our feet, but the ships still floated.
Daniel was first over the railing, screaming for Walker. We followed, matching blades with an enemy too shocked to believe what was happening. I don’t know when the fire started, but it must have been Beam’s work. His favorite trick was to roll struck barrels of oil into the sea and light them on fire. This time he’d simply rolled them onto the deck, hoping chaos would overwhelm superior numbers.
In the melee I took a blow to the head and dropped to the deck. When I regained my senses, I was in hell. Williams and Woodford were dead beside a kneeling, weeping man with a great bloody mark carved across his face. The corpse of their cabin boy was beside him and he was praying to his Maker in his grief. “Buchanan! Buchanan!” he wailed, ”He was only 12 years old!” On what remained of the Tennessee I could see the silhouettes of men burning alive, the fires having spread to our own ship.
But all this horror paled beside what I saw next. Deep among the flames now licking the sky, the Captains were locked in combat, skin red, teeth bared, demons in human flesh. I screamed for the Captain to flee, but I know even if he’d heard me he wouldn’t have listened.
For he had the advantage at last, Walker had slipped. Daniel pressed forward, and over the crackle of flames I heard him screaming, words meant for Walker alone that I share with you now.
“From hell’s heart I stab at thee! For hate’s sake…. I say whiskey is spelled with an E!”
An eruption of cheers from the now greatly enlarged crowd caught me by surprise, I hadn’t realized how far forward I’d been leaning, engrossed in the story. Men were slapping each other on the back, some wiping tears of mirth from their eyes. Caruso was revolted, of course, and leapt from his chair in outrage.
“Calm, friend,” smiled Kessler. ”You wanted a story, this is mine. Of the few who survived in a salvaged rowboat, I alone was from the Tennessee. I slipped away when we reached land, and the official story became The Crown Royal wiped us all out before being sunk in a storm.”
“Nonsense,” my soon-to-be former companion complained. ”Captain Daniel wiped himself out over the spelling of a word? I don’t believe it.”
“Ahhh, it’s as I thought then,” smiled Kessler as the crowd hushed to hear his final, beaming proclamation.
”You don’t know Jack.”
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 04:25|
The Ten-Year Carrot
Captain Shilo whinnied into the lashing rain as buckshot peppered the focsle of the Black Mare. Waves crashed against the ship and the gyroscopes let out a high-pitched whine as they struggled to stabilise the deck. Wild-eyed horse pirates galloped up the ramps from the lower deck, swords held ready in their robotic arms, as the ship closed the distance with the triple-masted Queen’s Courage. Somewhere in the hold of the fleeing vessel was the ten-year carrot, a legendary prize that had eluded Shilo’s family for generations. Jealously guarded by the royal family and produced only once a decade, the ten-year carrot was said to have the power to cure any illness. And it was worth a fortune.
That cowardly bastard was wrong to think he could outrun me, thought Shilo, as he saw the hateful frame of Naval Captain Bartholomew Wallingford upon the stern. Wallingford had captured Shilo once. Forced a bit into his mouth and a saddle onto his back and thought him tamed, until Ginger had come to his rescue. An escaped domestic, bred for the plough and destined for the knacker’s yard, Ginger loved her freedom more fiercely than any wild-born, yet she had risked it all to save her Captain.
Shilo shook the rain from his long, braided mane. He wouldn’t get another chance at a ten-year carrot in this lifetime.
“To the treadmills!” he bellowed. The pirates galloped down the ramps to the lower deck. Steam rose from their sweating flanks and the ship’s two huge paddlewheels drove her through the waves. The squally storm was hindering the Queen’s Courage, but the Black Mare cared little for the direction of the wind. The sound of hooves on the treadmills rose like the thundering of war drums as the pirates closed upon their prey.
With his robotic arms upon the wheel Shilo maneuvered the Black Mare close enough to the rolling sailing ship to see the whites of Wallingsford’s eyes. The man grinned, showing yellow teeth, and raised his musket.
Ginger screamed and fell to the deck, bleeding from buckshot wounds in her neck. Shilo roared in anger and with three short strides reached the edge of the ship. With a mighty push of his powerful hind quarters he launched himself over the black ocean. He knew his crew would not be far behind.
Without gyroscopic stabilisers the deck of the Queen’s Courage pitched and rolled. Shilo hit the wet planks and slid. The crewmen came at him with swords, but Shilo had four deadly limbs, vicious teeth and a sword in each robotic arm. He whirled, kicking and slashing, and the men fell back in terror.
Shilo heard Captain Wallingford’s unpleasant cackle and then the musket boomed again. Shilo shied sideways. The shot missed, but his hooves lost their purchase on the wet, tilting planks, and he fell, smashing his right sword-arm. He saw Wallingford dart down the stairs to the hold. Shilo shucked off the now useless arm-harness over his head. Unencumbered, Shilo balanced easier, and he charged after Wallingford.
At the bottom of the stairs Wallingford waited, his back to the barred door of the hold and a sword held in his shaking arms.
“Give me the carrot and I’ll let you live,” said Captain Shilo.
Wallingford shook his head, teeth gritted. He lunged at the stallion. Shilo reared, letting the sword pass under his elbow, then brought his front hooves crashing down upon Wallingford’s back. Too winded to speak, Wallingford lay gasping as Shilo spun his hind end to the door, and with both back legs smashed it from its hinges. There, sealed in a glass bell jar, lay the ten-year carrot. Its perfect orange flesh glowed with a soft golden light. Shilo carefully took the jar in his teeth.
“Captain!” came a frantic whinny from above. “It’s Ginger, come quick!”
With a clatter of hooves Shilo cantered up the stairs and leapt back aboard the Black Mare. The other horse pirates stared in awe at the magnificent carrot, but Shilo pulled up short, horrified. Ginger lay sprawled on the deck, spasms racking her sweat-soaked chestnut flanks. The muscles around her eyes were tight with pain.
“The shot was poisoned,” said a young palomino, a recent recruit, who stood next to Ginger.
Ginger opened one eye. “The carrot, its beautiful.” Her breath was coming in shallow gasps. “I’m glad that, I got to see it, before the end.”
Shilo fell to his knees beside her. Ginger had been at Shilo’s side since the beginning, when he was but a colt and they alone had powered the Black Mare’s treadmills.
“You’ll do more than see it,” he said, and with a flick of his head he smashed the bell jar against the planks. The carrot rolled onto the wet wood, and the scent of it made Shilo’s nostrils flare and his mouth salivate.
He took the carrot between his incisors and held it to Ginger’s lips. “Eat it,” he said. “It will counteract the poison.”
Another convulsion racked Ginger’s body. “We’ve had a good run, Captain,” she said. “But that carrot is yours.” She closed her eyes and rain swept across the deck.
“Hold her head!” said Shilo to the frightened palomino. The young horse carefully lifted Ginger’s head with its robot arms. Shilo took the carrot between his molars and bit. The taste was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Notes of perfect sweetness sang above rich, earth undertones. The carrot spoke to Shilo of warm meadows under the summer sun. His throat spasmed, begging him to swallow.
Shilo’s eyes snapped open. The wind roared in his ears and before him on the cold deck Ginger lay dying. Shilo put his lips to hers and with his tongue forced the mashed carrot into her mouth. With his head beneath her neck he helped the palomino hold Ginger’s head up until he saw the muscles of her throat working. As the taste of perfect, golden sunlight faded from his tongue, he knew that he would never again experience anything like it.
Ginger stood next to Shilo on the prow of the Black Mare. Her chestnut mane was streaked with grey. Shilo’s back was swayed, now, his teeth worn short.
“They say they’ve grown another,” said Ginger. Shilo had to tilt his ear close to her soft muzzle to hear her.
“We’ve no crew left,” he said. “And the Mare has seen better days.” With his left robotic arm he gestured at the ship. Her sturdy planks shone like burnished copper in the light of the sunset.
“Two is enough to power her, and she’s as seaworthy you or I,” Ginger said. “I so would love to taste it again. Just once more, before the end.”
Saliva prickled Shilo’s mouth as the memory of that night flooded over him. His eyes met Ginger’s, and they were full of the wild darkness of the open sea.
“To the treadmills!” he whinnied.
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 09:54|
Extremely enthusiastic pirates
Plunder 991 words including title
Sometimes, one’s recent experiences can affect the choices one makes. For example, I’d just moments ago experienced the sight of my boyfriend, Mike, cheating on me with some random bikini model at the party, in his cabin on his yacht, and that may have influenced my choices immediately after meeting the pirates.
“Avast, wench!” said the shortest of the pirates, and I felt like I didn’t really need personal comments about my size from underaged delinquents, but then I realized he was being piratey or whatever.
“What?” I asked, because it’d been a rough day and this added situation was hard to process.
“Hand over your booty,” said a pirate with an eyepatch that was flipped up so she could still see out of that eye.
“Aren’t you a bit young for… ohhhh.”
“Never too young to be a pirate,” said the last of the pirates, who had a hat that marked him as probably being the Captain. “We’re here to plunder jewels or whatever loot you have.”
I looked around. “Where’s your ship?” Eyepatch pointed over the side of the ship. I peered over to see the last remnant of a canoe get crushed underneath the prow of the yacht. “I may have some bad news about your ship,” I told them.
“Hmmm,” said Captain, “well, we’ll have to do something about that, but first, we have to plunder this vessel. I sense there’ll be jewels or a TV or something in the captain’s cabin.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I maybe wouldn’t go in there right now. There’s a couple of naked people in there.”
“Gross,” said Shorty.
“Yeah, gross,” said Captain, although with slightly less conviction. I guess he was kinda around puberty age, confusing time for any kid, let alone a pirate.
“Anyway,” I said, “the captain keeps his best stuff in the hold.” Best stuff was, of course, subjective. But the stuff that would hurt him most to lose was in there. Now maybe technically it was stealing to help the pirates knock off some of my soon to be ex’s belongings, but possessions are a funny thing, aren’t they? For example, he’d previously told me that I owned his heart, but at that moment he was ’giving it’ to some bimbo.
You know, when I thought about it, I was probably being unfair on her. In all likelihood, he’d told her that it was over between us and that I was just hanging around because I didn’t know how to let go.
Like he’d told me about his previous ex when he started with me.
Dammit, I was the previous home wrecker, wasn’t I?
So anyway, I was in a rather confused state of mind when I showed the pirates how to break into the hold.
“Wow, keen gear,” said Shorty, and he was right, much as I hated to admit it, Mike’s gear was extremely keen. Maybe that was part of why it’d been so easy for me to overlook what was now, in retrospect, so obvious: that he was a complete jackass. And every time he’d do something that I shouldn’t have been able to overlook, he’d be extremely generous to me, and I’d forget that I was mad, because it was so nice of him to take me out to that fancy restaurant, and dammit now I was getting angry at myself. So now I needed to get revenge on him for that, too.
“I’m pillaging this awesome statue,” said Shorty. The statue was one of Mike’s sporting trophies. Not just any trophy, though, it was inlaid with actual gems. He’d gotten it for shooting.
Shooting. What kind of tool does recreational shooting?
OK, so now I was just getting angry at any activity Mike did. Sorry sports shooters, I’m sure you’re mostly fine, and would never cheat on your girlfriend but tell the new one that you’d already ended it.
The statue was very awesome, though.
“This book looks pretty piratey,” said Eyepatch, and you know what, I can kind of see it. It was also extremely rare and expensive, so good choice, girl. “The Crownomicon,” she read off the cover.
I shrugged. “It’s about birds.” I couldn’t think of anything to despise about that, birds are rad.
“Neat!” she said.
Captain appeared to have found his chosen loot, as well. “This hat looks a little bit fancier than mine,” he said. And it’s true, Mike’s tricorn hat was the genuine article.
“Can I have the Captain’s hat then?” asked Eyepatches.
“Sure,” he said. “But now I’m the Ultra Captain, and that outranks the Captain.”
She shrugged in acceptance, and the trade was made.
“All right,” said Captain. “We need to find a new pirate ship, now. We can’t take this one, it’s too big.”
“If you’ll take me on your crew, I think I can help you with that,” I said.
“You have to be cabin girl, though,” said Shorty. “Which means I outrank you.”
“All right,” I said. So, I led the three of them to the dinghy that hung over the side of the yacht. “Wait here,” I said, “I’ll be right back.”
“What took you so long?” asked Eyepatches when I returned.
“Had to make sure we couldn’t be followed.” I pressed the button that lowered the dinghy into the water, then disconnected it and activated the motor. Never mind discretion, I wanted Mike to notice someone stealing his lifeboat.
Sure enough, in a few minutes, the yacht turned about and started to follow us. Or it would’ve, if anyone had bothered to check the anchor, which I’d lowered while the pirates waited for me. The yacht laboured, then the prow dove into the water, and then water started to cover it.
“Wow,” said Shorty.
“Oh, don’t worry about them, they’ll be fine,” I said. “They can swim.”
“We sunk another ship! We’re amazing pirates!”
“Yeah,” I said, and gave him a hug. “You’re the best pirates ever.”
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 15:15|
Forrest Gump: the Underexplored Shrimp Boat Years
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 08:40 on Jan 4, 2020
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 20:59|
When The Levee Doesn't Break
Captain Stormbrook of the Army Airbus 6590 covered his entire body in standard army issue body armour. He marched out of the control room like an angry mother wildebeest determined to defend her young, taking huge paces. His left hand gripped a longsword.
The surviving non-combatant members of the 6590 crew watched on hopefully from the safety of the control room. They worried whether their captain would be able to win the challenge against Jelim Juhung and whether Jelim's bloodthirsty pirate crew would let them live if he did.
Jelim's heart rate increased as the furious Captain Stormbrook entered the large cockpit. However, there was no way for Jelim to retreat and hide behind the rest of his pirate crew because he had already accepted the challenge.
Stormbrook stood face to face with the pirate leader and he spoke with confidence. "Jelim, now you are going to discover the types of leaders that exist in the army. We surrendered this airship to your men in an act of patient valour - but you decided to slaughter my soldiers because they initially had the cheek to stand up to you. So now, I will demonstrate to your crew how you are nothing more than a weak coward.”
Jelim, who was at least half a foot taller and a lot older than his opponent, snorted. "Captain, young brave captain, please refrain from your feeble attempt to scare me as if I am some frail soul with no combat experience. I have been flying around in my zeppelin, stealing cargos and killing people since before you were born. I know how to wave this cutlass and I know how to punch a man in the face. I understand the physics behind my muscular body and the damage I can do without a gun. Do not be fooled, I do not need to hide behind my men or shoot you in cold blood. I would much rather fight you like this so that I can strangle you to death. Then I will let my men rape and torture your crew before we disappear into the night sky. If you win, I will let you and your crew leave unharmed.”
Without hesitation, raising his cutlass in the air behind him like a baseball bat, Jelim ran forward and struck the top edge of Stormbrook’s longsword. Any further up and he would have dug into the Captain's face. The brave Stormbrook retreated a step back and then swung his longsword but Jelim swerved away and sidestepped his attack. Then both men jumped at each other, like men possessed by some supernatural strength, slashing and swinging their swords, metal on metal. Stormbrook sliced Jelim's right cheek.
It was a mere scratch but Jelim immediately retreated towards the wall. His pirate crew started advancing menacingly towards Captain Stormbrook, upset that their leader had been hurt, but Jelim held up his hand, prompting them to halt. Stormbrook noticed a look of concern on the pirate leader's face, although it may have just been sheer determination. Nevertheless, he didn't have too long to observe, Jelim was again slashing at him wildly and despite Stormbrook's best efforts and his military training background, he was unable to evade all of the attacks.
Now it was Captain Stormbrook’s turn to stand back. Blood dripped from his face where the cutlass had cut him. He did not speak, instead opting to nod his acknowledgement at his opponent’s skills. Then he threw his longsword to the floor. Jelim grinned and did the same
Then the pirate advanced towards the Captain with his fists up, his baggy green pants swayed with every movement in a hypnotic parachute-like fashion and he threw a punch with his left hand at Stormbrooks head. Stormbrook ducked and landed an uppercut into tall Jelim's jaw, knocking him to the floor. This gave the Captain enough time to pull a small switch knife from his back trouser pocket. However, Jelim rolled out of the way and grabbed the cutlass he had left on the floor.
Jelim jumped back up and swung his cutlass at Stormbrook's head a few times. The Captain was too quick and dodged the attacks, he lunged forward and took a stab at Jelim's sword-wielding arm. The knife settled into the green tunic the pirate was wearing and Jelim cried out in pain as dark blood poured out of his arm. He dropped his weapon and fell to one knee.
Then the fallen pirate spoke to his conquerer. “Stormbrook, there is no doubt that you are blessed with natural speed, strength and wit. I admit defeat and recognise your superiority. I respect you, Captain, let us stop fighting. My men will provide you and your surviving colleagues with parachutes and you can leave unscathed."
Captain Stormbrook smiled knowingly and blood trickled down his own cheek. “Thank you for keeping your word. I respect that Jihin.”
“I am sure the army will give you a medal or two. No more than you deserve.” Jihin returned the smile, despite the pain he felt from the blade buried deep in his arm. Then he looked around at his men and shouted, “There will be no raping or torturing today!"
The crew of the Airbus 6590 jumped out one by one. Stormbrook was the last to leave and Jihin came to see the Captain off. The two smiled that same knowing smile at each other and then shook hands, Jihin winced as he did so because of the stab wound pain.
“You are a worthy man,” Stormbrook said as he put on his parachute.
“As are you, Captain.” Jihin laughed a little. “But now I must ask you to...walk the plank!”
Stormbrook joined him in his laughter at the joke and they shook hands again.
Before he jumped into the sky, Captain Stormbrook glared at the enemy zeppelin looming over his airbus. 30 pirates had jumped from that zeppelin and hooked onto the Airbus 6590 before storming in and beating most of his crew to a pulp, despite their near-immediate surrender. Stormbrook breathed in and reminded himself that he had still managed to save a small number of people today.
Then he jumped. The air quickly rushed past his face and he could see the rest of his crew below him. Together they fell, towards the vast desert below them. Stormbrook spread his arms and legs so that his body formed a star shape.
It took him a few seconds to realise that something was wrong. Screaming, they were screaming. As he got closer, he noticed that none of his crew's parachutes had been opened. Surely it had been long enough for some of them to have opened them. He reached back and clumsily tugged at his own parachute. It wouldn’t open. He tried to look back to see what was wrong but realised it was no use, there wasn’t enough time to figure it out. Then he saw his crew, they were smashing into the sand below him. He was close enough to see their bodies disappear into the dusty earth. The same place he was heading towards.
Stormbrook closed his eyes and breathed in again.
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 21:32|
On the edge of his vision, the pirate vessel hovered motionless. A closer look saw it streak away, in shutter-steps, like an old movie with random frames missing. Then it was gone completely, until the shining silver spaceship lingered back in orbit, where it had waited to strike.
Pratap locked his black-gloved hands behind his back as he strode through the destruction left by the pirate raid. Shattered boxes, spilled content, smoldering heaps; stench of burning fuel, groans of wounded. Through rigorous military training, he’d tried to stamp out the memory of being a child amidst a scene like this. The aftermath of a raid by desperate turncoats on Pratap’s home planet.
He clenched his teeth; as always, he would use his hatred of traitors turned pirates as armor, and his determination to stop this from happening again as a weapon. He exchanged a salute with someone in the Settlement Corps’ uniform, the crisp brown lines heavily stained with soot.
“I’m Captain Pratap Karapedian, Internal Security of the Indomitable Navy. Tell me what happened here.”
In the reedy officer’s eyes burned fury and conviction, reminding Pratap of his younger self. “Ensign William Waziliewski. The insurgents’ ship appeared behind our defense satellites, flickering in and out of visibility. They sent a raiding party, overwhelmed our unprepared resistance and absconded with rations, construction material, and…”
Pratap interrupted the overeager prattling. “Weapons?”
Waziliewski blinked. “Strangely, no.” He tightened his stance even further. “If I may be so bold to ask, Sir, how does High Command expect us to defend ourselves? Our frontier settlements are ill-supplied as is, but if our enemy has access to such technology…”
Indeed, as of late, Pratap had the lingering feeling that HC did not actually care to stop these incidents from happening. He and the rest of ISIN were used as tools of cruel revenge, to keep rebellion down through fear and not swift justice. While children were left parentless because HC could not admit responsibility in this case. Pratap had once sworn to uphold ISIN’s promise of safety through decisive action, but HC’s secrecy shackled him. Maybe he could affect something by working hard towards promotion.
Until then, he’d rebel a little on his own.
“This was not an insurgent ship. It is one of ours.”
The flame in the Ensign’s eyes turned into jagged ice. “Traitors?”
“The Might is an experimental vessel, constructed by a team of scientists chosen by the Emperor himself. His hand placed them in a secret wharf on prison planet Purgatory. There, they slaved day and night, until they had perfected the Uncertainty Drive.”
A crack in Waziliewski’s frozen hatred. “Does that work on the Heisenberg principle? You can know the ship’s position or its speed, but not both?”
With control well-trained from interrogating former colleagues, Pratap hid his surprise in a nod. “It can be at any point of their journey at once, or rather at neither. That’s what causes the afterimages. Only the people who built the Might really know how it works. Which is a pity, because they are the ones who used it to escape from Purgatory.”
“Scientists turned filthy traitors?!” A bushfire blazed in the Ensign’s eyes. “I joined the army to support my education as a physicist. These bastards need to die for sullying our noble profession! Please, let me help you find and punish them. Sir.”
HC wanted to have this embarrassment dealt with quietly and swiftly. But Pratap and his ISIN troops were clearly underqualified. And maybe this boy whose fire still burned undampened by the Navy’s disenchanting inner workings was what could stop the Might.
“Welcome aboard the Will, then, Ensign.”
Might’s pale body formed a mocking jolly roger framed by pitch-black space. The heavy batteries of cruiser Will jabbed crimson laser fingers into its sockets, to no effect. As Captain Karapedian barked his orders, knowing fully well that his crew kept swatting only afterimages, Waziliewsky stood beside him, and thought with effort that made sweat stain his new Lieutenant insignia.
“They can control their impulse from within Might through mass and speed. But their position always needs to be relative to something…”
Pratap had no mind for Waziliewsky’s musings. He saw another raid happen before his very eyes, played back to him through the Uncertainty Engine’s hateful magic. His parents’ pale faces joined the afterimages in Pratap’s mind. HC was determined to keep Might and her traitor crew a secret, and let the frontier settlements believe that the insurgents were to blame for this.
Just pride or something else? Might and Will had never clashed in combat. Cowardice, or were the scientists too smart to risk it? Could they even fire a single shot, from a fixed position, without breaking the immunity granted to them by quantum magic?
Was Might only useful as a pirate ship? And how could the Emperor then hope to conquer with it, except…
“I might have a way to catch them, Sir.” Waziliewsky radiated fanatic eagerness, and Pratap waved him on, irritated at the interruption of his train of thought.
“The Might must have a way to localize herself, so that the Uncertainty Engine can obfuscate their speed. But every object in space is constantly in motion, orbiting something. There is only one point that allows an objective frame of reference to be constructed: the origin of the universe, the Big Bang epicenter it’s expanding from! So if we plot their trajectories from the afterimages…”
Pratap barely listened. If Might could only raid undefended targets, would it not make terrible sense to use it against civilians? Rain chaos and destruction upon the insurgent planets, and force their surrender in the face of genocide?
“…and thus, if we match their speed to an exact multiple of the Planck Constant, we can sync up with their movement, fire a low wavelength laser to collapse the wave function they ride on, and force them out of quantum space!”
In the face of such familiar passion, Pratap’s doubts seemed feeble. “Make it happen, then.”
A mere two hours later, they made it happen. Will sailed the waves of superlightspeed, freely gliding as if this were a pastime instead of a grim hunt, when suddenly their speed matched to the constant, and there, a glimpse, like the ghostly images before, of Might gliding along them, a remora to their manta ray. But unlike before, if one focused on the gleaming ship, it stayed in sight, and so the laser found its target, and the wave crashed, the surfer toppled, and Might lay dead in the water.
And as Captain Pratap Karapedian joined the boarding party, right behind the young Lieutenant with unyielding faith in the Emperor’s grand vision, his own faith wavered. As did the pistol pointed at Waziliewsky’s back.
Would Pratap allow the fiery upstart to execute the scientists, so nobody would know Might had operated freelance, without contact to insurgents? Stand by as the Emperor used the Uncertainty Engine to orphan billions of children, Pratap’s sense of justice placated by his promotion to General?
Or would he pull the trigger and try to empathize with why the Might’s crew defected in the first place?
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 23:06|
Ella and the Pirates
Ella's mother had warned her about pirates, but she walked down to the wet sand where the waves were coming in anyway. There was a rowboat, washed on the shore. Ella thought it was empty, but dozens of rats climbed out, some carrying rope in their teeth. They scrambled behind her while others tickled her feet with scrabbling paws. Ella was helpless, laughing as they tied knots around her.
The knots were not very tight. "Pardon me," said one rat. "If your ladyship would be wanting to escape, now'd be the time."
"You can talk?" asked Ella.
"Some. Beauregard, Quintal, and me, basically. I'm Foss." Foss was grey, with big pink ears. "And maybe Bertha, but she don't never have nothing to say no how. So will you be escaping? Otherwise you'll be pressed into service as captain of the Sandpiper for a year."
Ella considered. She knew her mother and friends and teachers would all miss her. She knew what she ought to do. But...
But the vacation had been a horrible bore, with the nor'easter keeping them indoors for two days and then, after it stopped raining, the beach was just a wall taller than her, straight down, so she'd been stuck inside the beachhouse playing checkers with stupid boys and she didn't even like checkers. She'd been promised a week of the beach and had gotten less than a day. And she'd always wanted to be a captain.
She shook her head. Foss tightened the rope a bit, and the rats carried her into the rowboat and off to the Sandpiper. She was a good ship, with tall sails and four-and-ten cannon, and it flew the skull and crossbones.
Beauregard introduced her to the crew. "This is Captain, uh, hrm," he started. He was mostly white-furred, with a bluish grey hood and thick grey whiskers. Foss whispered into his ear. Beauregard continued. "Captain Ella. A mighty captain. Very accomplished. Full to the brim of what we like to call the right stuff, if you know what I mean. Captain Ella, would you like to say a few words?"
Ella stepped forward. Ella waved at the crew. They wore hats, belts to hold weapons, and the occasional eyepatch. There were more than she could count The audience shifted from expectant to confused. She opened her mouth. "Pineapple," she said. "Handkerchief. Elephantine." They were the very best words she knew. The rats burst into chittering applause, up on hind legs.
Later, Quintal briefed her. He was a brown rat, large and bespectacled. "Our chief enemies are the Unseelie Pixie Fleet, the Crab Armada, and, of course, the French." He showed her maps and shipping routes and they plotted their campaigns.
In September Ella led the Sandpiper against crab shipping along the Carolina coast. They took aged wine and cheeses from the holds of defeated crab galleons, the cheese to feed the crew and the wine to sell in the secret port of Rodent Havana. The rats only drank grog and lemonade. Ella did not like grog one bit, so she kept to the lemonade. She did like the crab cheeses.
In October the French stepped up their patrols. The Sandpiper was outgunned and had to flee whenever the patrols came in sight. Ella decided to go north.
Through November they ravaged the Canadian east coast, fighting Pixie shipping and escorts. The Pixie Butterfly-boats were fiercer than anything the Crabs had, but not so unbeatable as a pirate-hunting French frigate. Pixie cannons shot angry giant wasps rather than metal shot, but there were many more rats ready to replace each one stung. They had holds full of silk and pure glitter, and both Ella and Bertha, who Ella was pretty sure was a capybara, were dressed up in sparkly dresses that they sewed together. Ella thought they looked very pretty indeed, and Bertha didn't complain.
In December, Ella told Foss about how she wished she were home for Christmas. Foss had never heard of Christmas. None of them had, except for Quintal, who didn't believe in it. When they found out they insisted on action. So Ella and Quintal planned out a midnight raid on Santa's workshop at the North Pole, on Christmas while everyone was out or sleeping. They put on thick knit white sweaters, and snuck through vents and ducts, making off with sacks and sacks of treasure. It slightly spoiled the victory when they opened the bags and found them full of wrapped presents with their names on them. Ella got a silver spyglass. Beauregard got a big blue hat with gold trim. Quintal got a new pair of glasses, on a copper chain so he wouldn't lose them, and Foss got a toy Zeppelin. The crew all feasted on peanuts and candy canes for weeks.
There was one present left over, though. It was addressed to the Queen of England. "The Queen," said Beauregard, "Has always been a friend to us. We should deliver it." So they set sail for London in January. There was a great deal of confusion at the palace gates, but eventually a guard who recognized Beauregard arrived, and they were brought right away to Her Majesty.
The gift was a small bust of Cromwell. She took it, looked at it curiously, then threw it at the floor. It shattered. There was a note within. The Queen read it, then turned to Ella.
"Captain Ella," she said, "We would ask a service of you. Our lost heir, kidnapped by the perfidious French at his christening, has been located at last. Prince Victor captains the frigate Verdant, and we would have you sink that ship, capture the lad, and return him to us."
Ella agreed, and so they spent the rest of the month and much of February in London as guests of the crown while the Sandpiper was refitted, the hull improved and ten more cannon mounted, along with four captured Pixie wasp-cannons. They set sail after a royal ball, where Ella danced with the prime minister.
The Verdant was hiding in the Summer Isles, so they wasted March and April and May searching in vain.
They caught her in June, and had little trouble beating it with their weapons and Ella's clever strategy. Victor cried when the Verdant sank, and did not speak after for weeks. When he did speak, it was only French, and none of them understood.
The wind was near dead in July, and the trip back to England slow and boring. Ella was reduced to playing checkers with Victor, who flipped the table whenever he lost.
After returning Victor to the Queen, Ella and her crew terrorized the Carolina coast again, without fear of any pirate hunters, until it was time to go home.
Her mother was waiting on the beach. She must have known when Ella would be back. But she kept insisting that only a few hours had passed, and that Ella was still merely eight, not nine. She even got the teachers and the rest of the town to go along with this prank.
Ella was sure the Queen of England could sort this out, but she never replied to any of Ella's letters.
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 23:17|
Prompt: road pirates; characters are all going at least 70 kph.
“We got another one!” called Captain Edward from the cab of the flatbed truck. Mold-infused spittle ran out of his mouth and down his chin, adding to the dripping beard of mold hanging off his face.
An economy-sized car was ahead of them, about a mile away, and the flatbed roared as Captain Edward pushed the accelerator. Anne and Mary hurried to unchain their motorcycles from the truck bed, the winds of the highway pulling at them as they worked. They backed their bikes off the thick plank attached to the end of the truck, a makeshift ramp for dismounting, and gunned their engines as soon as their tires hit the road.
Speed was the priority. Catching the car ahead was a priority, sure, but not *the* priority. Go too slow and you went green. Crashing meant broken bones and road rash, but what made Anne sick to her stomach was the thought of ending up even worse than Captain Edward.
The raid on the car went well. Anne threw bottles of water from its trunk onto the flatbed as Mary kept the car’s driver cooperative with a handful of nails. The threat of a flat tire was very effective. All the woman driving the car could do was weep as she continued to keep the car straight at a steady 50 miles per hour. Her passenger did not respond at all to the car being plundered, a man wearing a surgical mask of mold.
Anne pulled up next to Mary. “Got it all, except for a few bottles of water I left for her.”
“You should have taken everything,” Mary called back, over the wind and engines. “I’m going to pop her.” She lowered her arm, preparing to throw the nails underneath the woman’s tire.
“What? No!” Anne pulled on Mary’s other arm. Mary jerked to regain her balance, dropping the nails all over her lap, which then spilled off the motorcycle and under her own back tire.
“Dammit, Anne! Dammit!” It was by luck that the nails embedded in Mary’s tire didn’t cause it to blow out, and she sped off to catch the flatbed now a little ways ahead of them. Anne paused for a few moments before following suit, leaving their victim to drift off behind them.
Anne and Mary were back on the flatbed with their motorcycles. Captain Edward was hanging out the back window of the cab, green water pooling beneath him, watching the two women argue with his only eye not scabbed over by mold.
“She’s lasted this long, she has a good chance to survive,” said Anne. Mary’s tire had lasted long enough to get her back to the truck but was visibly deflated. One motorcycle would make raiding much more difficult and risky. They would have to make them more infrequently, which meant less food, water, and gas.
“There was a green sitting right next to her!” Mary countered. “Without gas, we’re the ones going to go green. It would have been a mercy to her and others on the road to take her out.”
“Do you not see the captain?” Anne motioned towards the cab.
Captain Edward got upset if you didn’t call him that. “My truck, so that makes me the captain,” he had said before he began to go green. The captain used to raid like Anne and Mary until he messed up throttling the motorcycle on a dismount. He managed to correct his mistake and got back up to a safe 45 miles per hour, but it was too late: the green had caught him.
“We’re fine. We keep up to speed. That dead-eyed green with the woman means they must have gotten caught going slow even if she didn’t show it. Captain Edward can drive, unlike the greens coasting along, gumming up the road.” Mary got a bottle of water from the supply chest and brought it over to the captain, who slurped it down.
Anne knew her and Mary wouldn’t survive long without the flatbed, and Captain Edward wasn’t going to just jump off and let them have it. Her growing concern at the moment was the limitation of the flatbed’s cruise control, especially as the captain crawled out the cab window onto the truck bed with them. She instinctively stepped back from the soggy, pungent man.
“None of that matters, ladies,” the captain announced. “We near the mark!”
They had no destination, at least none that Anne was aware of. She scanned the highway ahead. No cars, only grass and scattered trees off the shoulders. There was an overpass in the far distance, a dark mound on the horizon that provided them solace from the blinding rays of the setting sun now behind it.
Mary took the empty water bottle from Captain Edward and gently placed her hand on his arm where the green had yet to spread. It had been days since she had last touched her husband. He felt cold even in the summer warmth. Mary felt the urge to comfort him, to protect him from the highway winds, and took off her riding jacket, draping it over the captain’s shoulders.
“Don’t get that close to him, Mary! You might get… oh.” Anne saw the green stain creeping up Mary’s back. “Oh god.”
“We’re not going to go green, Anne,” Mary said gently. “Not green like the others. We’re going fast enough!”
“No!” said Anne, angry, scared. Fed up. “It got to you. I’m done with this.” She turned her back to them and began to quickly unchain her motorcycle.
“We need that, Anne,” said Mary, and Captain Edward advanced towards the motorcycle. Anne backed up, dropping the chains.
“Stay with us,” said Captain Edward. “Just a little longer, lass.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Anne noticed the road had changed. It becoming mottled with green, and with every passing moment there was less and less grey. The overpass, only a few miles up ahead, could not be seen through: thick ropes of mold hung over the sides like wet jungle vines.
“Oh god. Oh god.” Anne tried to go for the motorcycle, but the captain blocked her, moving between her and the bike.
Mary walked towards Anne, holding out her hand. “You’re part of our crew, Anne. Stay with us.”
With every step Mary took towards Anne, Anne took a step back, until she was on the dismount plank. With nowhere else to go, Anne hesitated. In the dusklight, Captain Edward looked more monster than man, and Mary’s pale, emotionless face was a mask of death. Anne couldn’t convince herself to be part of this ghastly voyage. She walked off the plank.
The road did not hit Anne as hard as she had expected, and she tumbled to a stop unharmed on its soft, moist surface. Anne laid in the road, eyes closed, as the stench of mold seeped into her. Overwhelmed her. Became her.
Mary held her husband close as she watched Anne drop off into the distance. The mold ropes of the overpass moved aside like a bead curtain as the flatbed passed through and disappeared into the dark.
|# ? Sep 22, 2019 23:40|
No one gets hurt
A Boy Walks on to a Pirate Ship...
Two walked the wharf under a full moon, advancing at a steady pace.
"How does this work, Mr. Ikegumo?" A young boy in his mid teens chirped.
"Just Ikegumo," a man wearing shabby, tattered clothes replied. A leather patch covered his left eye. "If we like ye, yer in. If not, well.." a sinister grin formed as he spoke.
They crossed into the barren section of the docks beyond where the average fishing boat captain was willing to dock. Sounds of maritime and twilight danced through the night; Crashing waves, sea-worn wooden planks creaking under soles of leather. Sounds that conceal the jovial nature of the weekly decompression bored pirates commit to in order to retain sanity.
Standing at the foot of a decrepit, yet capable ship, Ikegumo turned towards the recruit and nodded.
"Yer new home, matey. If ye have reservations, speak them now or bury them beneath th' sands below the deeps."
The kid hesitated for a second. "I was born to be at sea. It's all I think about."
"The sea plays for keeps, kid. But it plays fair. These lowlife bastards are rotten to the core, they'll-"
Before he finished, an arm clamped down on his shoulder, followed by a loud "Yarrrrgh".
"Who ye be talkin' to, 'gumo?" the pirate interjected. A volatile whiff of moonshine blew past his lips.
"This here guppy says he was born fer'the sea."
"Is that so?" the pirate howled, leaning in for a closer look. He formed his hand into a U shape and grabbed the boy under his chin, squeezing his cheeks as he leaned in to meet eye to eye.
"Boy," he said, menacingly. "Yer not scared, are ye? Know what we do with lilly-livered cowards, yar?"
The boy didn't blink, nor speak. The pirate continued,
"We drag em below the decks and lock em away, all alone, to cry..." He paused and glared the meanest scowl the boy had ever seen. "...that way, they can have... A PRIVATE TEAR, Yarrhahaha!" The pirate erupted into a drunken cackle, slapping the boy heartily on the back before tumbling to the ground in a fit of laughter.
Ikegumo pressed his hand to his forehead and groaned. When he was stressed by the cruelty of the sea, or buffoonery of his mates, he would travel to times past and places far.
Clear and serene, like still water. This mantra resonated throughout his thoughts, as he distanced himself from all distractions. With footsteps swift enough to cause but a mere ripple on the surface of the water, he glided across the pond.
Ikegumo broke from his trance and grabbed the boy by the arm, leading him up the gangplank. "forget this jerk, we're going aboard."
"What did ye do until now, boy?" Ikegumo asked sharply.
"I was a farmer. My family owns some land a-ways past the midtown bazaar."
As they set foot on deck, a group of three pirates engaged in chatter and ale took notice. One with a grizzled beard stepped forward to greet them, taking a swig and handing his bottle off to the closest set of hands.
"New recruit? Yer lucky lad," he took another step forward, almost tripping over himself. "We're about to gather below deck and put on a film."
A prudent-looking pirate stepped forward and gently elbowed the first in the ribs. "By the code," he exclaimed. "Boy, how old are ye?" he questioned the recruit.
"Sixteen sir." the kid replied, earnestly.
The pirates looked at each other and started snickering. "Not this time, boy," the prudent one said.
"Yeah- tough luck," the third one blurted out, barely able to contain laughter. He snorted softly, spitting up some ale.
The bearded pirate kept a straight face at first. "Sshorry kid," he said, slurring his words as laughter began to well up. "Bet ye can fiiigure out why, hehehhah!" he succumbed to the guffaw that had possessed his companions.
The tip of his blade pierced the straw target with precision. In, out, and back into the sheath. Fast enough that no pain could precede swift death, had the target life to give.
"Ikegumo? Are you ok?" the sound of the recruit's voice quickly brought him back.
"Fine kid, sometimes I lose myself... (Around this time, every week..)" he muttered softly under his breath.
Just then the ship's bosun stumbled by, cheeks flushed pink with drink, and a goofy smile on his face. He had what looked like the ship's wheel sticking out of his trousers.
"Not this loving rear end in a top hat.." Ikegumo could feel a migraine coming on.
Clear and serene, like still water. Become a shimmering mirror that reflects light, sound.
The bosun made eye contact with Ikegumo, and proudly pointed at the wheel hanging out of his pants, grinning like a child who had the biggest secret to reveal to his playmates.
Ikegumo shot the bosun an icy glare and shook his head gently. The bosun immediately started pointing at his wheel vigorously, narrowing his eyes angrily and glaring back.
"NO, You're drivin' ME nuts," Ikegumo shouted angrily into the face of the bosun at the top of his lungs, who fell to his knees in an intoxicated stupor. His giggling was infectious, and the crew who had heard were now pointing at the group. They joined in the merriment and mirth one by one in turn as if singing a round but instead cackling.
"..move so swiftly that your shadow can cleave flesh. So silently that the absence of sound penetrates rock. Unpredictably to the extent of forfeiting your given name to be referenced henceforth only in legends. Thus is the way."
Dressed completely in black cloth garb, he took a bow to address the council of three before him as he finished reciting. The figure in the centre, who was dressed in similar black garb, stepped forward.
"Fledgling spider, You shall revel in the clan's most protected secrets, if you can solve this ancient riddle of profound complexity. Kneel before me, and call upon your training."
The inductee eagerly nodded and took a knee, as the figure continued speaking:
"What dangles haphazardly from the hilt of every master's sword?"
The inductee meditated in silence as he contemplated the answer. Suddenly, he felt something soft and fuzzy touch the tip of his nose and looked up to see the figure standing over him with the lower part of his garb unfastened.
Laughter erupted from all around as many stealthy eyes watched on from the shadows.
Laughter meshed seamlessly into other laughter. Onigumo's eyes fixated on their surroundings as his head came spinning back to reality.
"What business do'a farmboy landlubber like ye got with men of the sea?" A pirate wearing a hat vastly more fancy than the rest addressed the recruit.
"Figured I'd peddle my wares, got some corn for ye jolly folks."
"Corn? He's got Corn me hearties!" The crew roared in drunken amusement, following their captain's words.
"Tell me, lad, how much are ye expecting to collect for that corn..."
The voice of the captain trailed off and faded as Ikegumo slammed the door of his quarters behind him.
Free me. Let's cross off their names, together...
|# ? Sep 23, 2019 01:47|
Flash: Cocaine pirates - none of your characters have slept for days
Jesus Saves, But I Spend (All My Time on the High Seas Trying to Get Hard Drugs for the Apocalypse)
If you fall asleep, you lose your mind. Or at least that’s what everyone’s saying. News reporters. Government officials. Well-read bands of scavengers. No one really knows what’s causing it (e.g. aliens, the Illuminati, lizard people) but we all know that it’s true. It is confirmed. It is verified. It is validated. It is being livestreamed by several billion people. All you have to do is turn on the teevee to see the cities blazing.
But that is a distraction from today. The now. The present. My best friend Alisha and I are atop the deck of a commandeered yacht. Alisha holds a handgun at a collection of guys wearing tattered button downs and vests. I hold a handbag with a skull and crossbones while Googling how to do piracy. Reception is spotty off the burned-out coast of Long Island. Only half the page loads, revealing the image of a smiling eye-patched figure. A child’s drawing. A friendly face.
But Alisha takes a different tact. She whips her gun into the face of the largest man. More bulk than brawn. There is a cracking noise and he slumps to the floor. The others gasp and scuttle away like one enormous, deep-sea animal.
“Where is it?” Alisha comes at them again, eyes wild. Her makeshift black bandana flutters in the wind. She lumbers forward, gun lifted. “Where. Is. The. Cocaine?”
There is a lot of boohooing and stuff as I sway back and forth on the deck. Alisha was always better at these things than me. She gives me a look.
“If ye refuse to surrender your stash, me fearsome First Mate Rebecca will liberate yer heads from yer necks!”
Where are we? Oh yes, I forgot to mention the reason we are on a commandeered yacht commandeering yachts. That is my fault. My bad. My most grievous error. Mea maxima culpa, as Alisha’s parents might have said. They went to church every Sunday and died a few days after the incident when they tried to crawl inside a donation bin. Or maybe it was a reliquary. I don’t remember.
The point is, Alisha invited me to stay with her at her parent’s summer cottage on Long Island so she would have someone to cry with. It was fine for a while as we chugged cocktails composed of coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, adderall, and lemon juice while listening to the complete soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean on loop. But all good things must end.
I am in the kitchen staring at the microwave clock. It is 11:11 PM. Then it is 11:12. Then it is 11:13. At some point, Alisha walks in, looking concerned. Antsy. Discombobulated. “Coffee’s gone,” she says.
“I know,” I say. It is now 11:14. The four looks like it might slide off the screen at any second. I don’t want to miss any moment of this astounding development. The numbers seem to be made of a thousand writhing glow worms. “I used it last night to… you know… not go completely insane.”
There’s a sharp intake of breath that makes me want to writhe. I’m always taking. I never do enough. I turn to to tell Alisha I’m sorry and miss the clock turning to 11:15. It’s the second-worst thing to ever happen to me.
“I can fix this.” I say, though the words don’t seem to be mine. “I can—.”
But then there’s a break. A crack in the timeline. An uh-oh. It’s the morning before. We are on the living room floor, our bodies sunk deep into carpet. The soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean plays while a haggard newscaster screams from the muted television. His eyes bleed. The chyron reads: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”
“Hey, remember when we were kids and we used to play dress-up?” Alisha half-whispers and half-giggles. “We went to, like, movie premieres and stuff dressed up like Elizabeth Swann?”
I feel myself blush. Each one of my molecules vibrate. I want to burrow into the floor. “Yeah. I’m sorry for… I know you didn’t…”
“Oh, no, I meant it in a good way. It was fun, to be a different person, I mean.” She rolls over onto her belly as the music thunders. The sky outside is all sunrise, gulls silhouetted by red and yellow fire. “Also, stop feeling sorry for being yourself. You have nothing to apologize for. You were sooooo good.”
I know she is lying.
“We could do it again, you know. Seize arr destiny.” The main theme kicks in. From the deep recesses of her throat comes an exaggerated croak. “We could seize a verifiable booty.”
She looks at me, wide-eyed and leering. Caffeinated mania.
“And where would we seize this booty?” I say.
“Ahhh, the high seas. From some yachters. They’re everywhere.”
“And what would be in the booty?”
“Nuthin’ but the jewels of modern medicine!” She says, veering between Cockney and Southern Belle. “All the stimulants you can find. Adderall. Ritalin. Cocaine. I told ya’ my parents got themselves a dingy. And there’s bound to be some rich folks out there.”
“Cocaine? Isn’t that a little much?”
“Of course.” She laughs. All teeth. “But let’s be bad. Like real pirates.”
But I digress. I digress.
We are in the kitchen. We are in her parent’s closet. We are ripping apart her mom’s little black dresses to make flags and bandanas and silken handbags with bejewelled skulls. We are cracking open her dad’s gun safe and loading up on weapons we don’t know how to use. We are a set of overgrown kindergartners zooming across the horizon in a dingy.
My mind is a thousand tiny glow worms, each emitting a different signal. I feel better. Fuller. My hand sits on the engine of the boat. When did I learn how to drive a boat?
I turn to Alisha to ask, but then we are boarding. And it all happens as it already happened. And I am holding my phone as Alisha screams, relishing the role of pirate queen. She thunders toward the cowering one-percenters and then turns to me with a wild laugh.
“If ye refuse to surrender your stash, me fearsome First Mate Rebecca will liberate yer heads from yer necks!”
Faces turn toward me. My heart races. It flutters. It stammers. It—.
“Ayeeee,” the voice that comes from my throat is loud and squawking. Either delirium has set in or our captives shudder with real terror. “Show us your booty or I'll build a plank and make ye walk it.”
We force the men into our dingy while we take the yacht. I watch as their teeming bodies get smaller and smaller behind us. When they are nothing but a speck, I walk toward Alisha at the wheel. She smiles as I approach, nodding at the bricks of white powder in my hands.
“I told you these rich dudes would have some booty.” She says. There’s a pause. “You know, you’re pretty good at being menacing in your own weird way. We could do this for a while.”
I think for a moment. “Yeah, I guess we could.”
|# ? Sep 23, 2019 02:13|
|# ? Sep 22, 2021 09:37|
Prompt: Steam Pirates
Carry On, Carry On
Amidst the din of the work-a-day patrons of Mugshots, one sleepy man sat alone, in the corner of the bustling coffee shop. His phone vibrated in his pocket: a message from his wife. It contained a picture of her, and their child both with oatmeal on their faces. He placed the phone back in his pocket. An unfolded newspaper sat on his knee. He picked up his mug of coffee and smelled the macadamia notes of flavor.
Curlicues of steam skated above his mug. Unbeknownst to the drinker, microscopic wisps of vapor laughed and twirled with glee as they spun in axels and twirls above the coffee below. They all played. All except two. A large wisp and a smaller one, adhered to the edge of the cup. The larger was Captain Finnigan, the smaller, Lein, was his daughter.
“Papa.” The smaller one said to the larger. “Can I go play with the others?”
Finnigan gazed down at his daughter. “Playing is not for the likes of us, Lein. We have a quest to consider. That is our purpose.”
She expected the answer but sunk her tail into the liquid below and frowned anyway.
“Trail up.” He said to her as he extended a tendril and tilted her tail out of the coffee. “We are doing what we must.”
“But what is that we must do? I still don’t understand.” She asked, as she curled her tail back up and sat down on it.
Finnigan pointed upward towards the colossus in the sky. “Look. That is our drinker, he is our quest.”
“But what is our quest?”
“So many questions.” He laughed. “I never asked such questions when I was a whelp. Perhaps I should have. I’d have more answers now. ”
“But you do, Papa. You know everything!” Lein beamed up at her father, and Finnigan smiled.
“Oh, child.” He sighed. “The truth is-”
But, he didn’t have time to explain the truth. The cup heaved upwards. In a dash, the world tipped below them and the other wisps vanished down the open mouth of the drinker.
“Cling fast, and don’t let go until my count!” Finnigan yelled to his daughter.
“Okay, Papa!” She pressed harder against the mug. It titled higher, and higher, until the edge of the mug touched the tip of the drinker’s nose.
“Now!” He bellowed.
The wisps reached down. They each grabbed a droplet of brown liquid and quickly smashed them together into a makeshift, balloon-shaped vessel. They sat atop it, and the heat of the droplet carried them upward, and into the left nostril of the drinker.
“A fine ship!” Finnigan roared as the vessel pushed forth into the nasal cavity. “The adenosine is ours!”
He smiled down at his daughter, but she seemed confused.
“What’s adenosine, Papa?” She asked.
“Our treasure, of course!” He responded.
“But what is it?”
He ignored her.
Lein reached out a tendril and ran it along the tissue of the drinker. “How do you know where to go?” She asked.
“The ship knows.” Her father asserted.
“How long until we get there?”
“I don’t know, little one. Perhaps the better part of a few minutes.”
“What!?” She yelled. “That’s so long!”
Finnigan kept his gaze trained leeward, feeling the thrust of the vessel lurch forward with each inhalation. The ship wended down passage after passage. The fleshy perimeter pulsed around them and carried an array of unpleasant odors and viscous substances past their ship.
“Why are we even doing this?” Lein protested.
“Because it’s what we do. It is our purpose, and I must have a purpose.” He responded.
“No protesting! You sit down quietly and wait until we get there.”
Lein curled up into a tight spiral and huffed. She split her tendrils into digits and slowly counted them. When she counted them all, she further divided them up and continued counting. It passed the time. The narrow passageway began to expand. Out and out it grew.
“Brain, ho!” Finnigan announced. Still facing forward, he reached out a tendril to Lein. “Come, you need to see this.”
She uncurled and drifted towards her father.
They arrived at the brain, it was vast beyond belief. It was a deep pink and had millions of stalks that all bent and buckled from the weight of the brilliant blue shards, atop them.
“Look.” Finnigan said. “That’s the adenosine, look at how it weighs everything down.”
“But how will we get them, they look so heavy?” Lein pleaded.
Finnigan sighed deeply and rested a tendril on Lein’s shoulder. “We don’t, my dear. They will get us.”
Finnigan pushed his ship downwards, atop the receptor stalks. The adenosine dislodged from the stalks and ripped and tore through the ship. As they did, droplets of brown adhered to the stalks and the stalks shot up, towering over them in rigid attention thanks to their caffeine payload. As the stalks grew, they rent further and further into the ship. Lein panicked.
“But what happens, when there’s nothing left?” She shouted as they hopped together to a small remaining patch of the ship.
“I…” Finnigan paused. “... I don’t know.”
“What!?” She screamed. “What do you mean you don’t know? You know everything!”
“I just knew that I needed to come here. I needed a purpose!”
The ship tore further and further apart, and Finnigan and Lein drifted away from one another on different droplets. Just as they separated, Finnigan reached out, grabbed Lein with his tendrils, and begun twirling her around in circles.
“What are you doing?” She asked, her hair fluttering all around.
“Playing with my daughter. One last time.”
He spun her around and around and when she finally gained enough speed, his arms separated from his body and they became hers. They fused to her and as her body incorporated them into her mass, she grew to his former size. Now larger, and on her own, she shot back down the path they came. As she did, she heard her father call out:
“You will make a fine captain, Lein!”
She watched her father fall downward into the razor-sharp stalks below. As he did, he dislodged a few more shards and the last bits of ship adhered to the receptors. The pain of losing her father gnawed at her wispy heart. As she made her return trip, the image of his loss plagued her mind.
Perhaps the best way to replace it was a purpose. Guided by a thirst for a quest, she pushed onward, following the scant bits of light indicating a way out. And as she ventured forth she felt the sense of dread and loss leave her body. She loosened up just in time. She shot straight out of the drinker’s nose and propelled herself to a new mug, with new whelps, one of which would certainly like to join her on a quest of her own. A quest, and a purpose.
|# ? Sep 23, 2019 02:36|