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  • Locked thread
Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!
In

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crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

I

AM

MAGNIFICENT






CancerCakes posted:

Judges were too slow, so I am out this week. I'll throw a poo poo crit at the last newbie to submit before the deadline, because I am public spirited like that. Also my majorly reworked smallpox story is going to the farm at somepoint. be excited.

Eat my butt.

Wrageowrapper
Apr 30, 2009

DRINK! ARSE! FECKIN CHRISTMAS!
I is well in.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

crabrock posted:

Eat my butt.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk










sebmojo fucked around with this message at 02:06 on Jun 6, 2013

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010


If you must blink, do it now.
The sun never sets on the British Empire.

Jopoho
Feb 17, 2012
I'm in also. The Old Testament is all sorts of fun.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe

Kaishai posted:

GODDAMMIT HILLOCK LEARN TO READ IT'S ON THIS PAGE AND EVERYTHING.

JUST POST LOUDER NEXT TIME

I'm a writer not a reader godammit

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




Everyone who posted that they were on on page 79 has a verse!

Aaaaand back to it.

Gygaxian
May 29, 2013

Chairchucker posted:

Everyone who posted that they were on on page 79 has a verse!

Aaaaand back to it.

Did I say I'm in on time? I wasn't sure if I did or not, but if I wasn't on time, that's fine too. I'll wait for the next prompt.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value
I am in.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




I have versed up all the page 80 people, now to add verses for page 81 which is mercifully shorter!

EDIT: Also just realised I didn't even say what day sign ups closed. Now I have done that! (It is not today.)

PS: hope no one expects line by line crits or any of that malarkey. I don't know who set the precedent of huge crits for every piece, but screw that guy.

ANOTHER EDIT: OK EVERYONE WHO POSTED BEFORE THIS POST RIGHT HERE NOW HAS A VERSE.

Chairchucker fucked around with this message at 09:11 on Jun 6, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Chairchucker posted:

I have versed up all the page 80 people, now to add verses for page 81 which is mercifully shorter!

EDIT: Also just realised I didn't even say what day sign ups closed. Now I have done that! (It is not today.)

PS: hope no one expects line by line crits or any of that malarkey. I don't know who set the precedent of huge crits for every piece, but screw that guy.

ANOTHER EDIT: OK EVERYONE WHO POSTED BEFORE THIS POST RIGHT HERE NOW HAS A VERSE.

quote:

3 As gifts to the Lord they brought six covered wagons and twelve bulls, a wagon for every two of the leaders and a bull for each one. Then they gave them in front of the meeting tent.

so is this like a biblical tps report or what

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

sebmojo posted:

so is this like a biblical tps report or what
Gonna paint our wagon
Gonna paint it good
We ain't braggin'
We're gonna coat that wood.

They're gonna paint that wagon
They're gonna paint it good
They aint Braggin'
They're gonna coat that wood

Gonna paint your wagon
Gonna paint it fine
gonna use laser guns 'cos it's a science fiction story.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

I

AM

MAGNIFICENT






Mod, plz change thread title to

Thunderdome '13: write about wagons

Purple Prince
Aug 20, 2011

Thunderdome '13: Seize the Wagon

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010
Belated brawl with Rhino

I dedicate this story to my neighbor's exotic bird, that won't stop squawking at 3am and sounds like two clowns loving over a drainpipe.


How the fantail lost nothing important, and learnt no lessons

In the time before men landed in their long-shoe kar-noos, the little bird we call 'kiwi' had the biggest pair of wings you ever did see. Little kiwi, he spent his days flying from tree to tree, singing happy songs, high and sweet:

O, I got wings
O, I got wings
I got these wings o' green and red
You seem small things
from high above:
The forest's crown, she makes my bed!


Now kea down on the forest floor, he had no wings. He'd lost them even before the time before. He was a clever bird make no mistake, but his head was in the clouds. He got so lost in his dreams, he'd trip over roots and branches and bang his big beak on the dirt.

“Curses,” said the kea, after what felt like the tenth and tenth time. He didn't say exactly that, but I'll keep his true words out for the sake of your ears. “Curses,” he didn't-say again. He heard laughter from high above and snapped his head 'round in anger. “Who dares? Who bally well dares?”

It was fantail, bobbing from branch to branch. Fantail didn't have the biggest wings or the biggest brains but of all the things he lacked, the thing he lacked the most was fear. Fantail would pull the feathers from a moa if he thought it would make him laugh. He'd fly above the great eagle and lay a little trickle of his business going down the big bird's head and into his noble, ever-searching eyes, if it would make fantail laugh. Fantail's brain was so small and so filled with laughter, it had no room for fear.

O I got wins
O I got wins
O I got wins O geen and red
You see, small thin!
fon hey aboot
fon hey aboot-
The kin', he sed!


Now kea had plenty fear and plenty brains, but that song made the clouds in his head roil and turn dark. The smart part of him went back and the rage come fore'. Even little fantail was above him, little fearless fantail with his great big tailfeathers and little else. That nuisance. In an instant, the dark clouds fled and thought came back with little grey patches around the edge, which as you may well know is the most dangerous time to be thought of.

High above, a real storm came in close for a look.

Waddling over the forest floor, the kea began to sing his own song. His voice was thick like the dirt he walked on but it had the sweetness of wood honey and a dusting of smoke that made it crackle in all the right places.

Oh, you got wings
Oh, you got wings
You got wings o' green and red
You bally thing:
the sky's falling!
Fall to earth first
or get you dead!


and the storm came in even closer, curious as storms are. It joined in song, wild and violent, tearing branches from trees and splitting the sky. The kiwi up high, he's never seen anything like it! The sweet song of the forest told him that the sky was falling and lo and behold, it had started to fall! Such a sweet singer could cause him no mischief: no less than the falling sky, anyhow. Tipping his big, beautiful wings, the kiwi swung low, down through the canopy and to the forest floor.

Sneaky kea, he was lurking between the dark trunks of two great brother kauri, thinking of all the hell he' bring on the kiwi with his beak. As the kiwi landed, his feet tripped a surreptitiously placed vine and two great branches came swinging down, pinning him to the dirt. Kea lumbered over and laughed. He wasn't used to the sound, so he just did what felt right and let half a scream play its way across his tongue. Screeeeee.

Once he was done, he spoke again. “Now you jolly blighter,” he screamed, “now, I will take your wings.”

Kiwi had never felt such fear in his life. High above the treetops, the little bird had only friends. Down here, he had only mud. Under the cover of the storm, a certain unprintable ugliness happened. The kiwi lost his voice, his colour and his wings. Though the kea took the last two, the voice tore free on its own and off into the night, free to any soul that could catch it. Screeeee went the kea, a real scream this time, a scream of rage and loss.

When the storm clouds cleared and the kea saw what he had done, he fled to the top of the tallest mountain, never to come down. The kiwi stayed on the forest floor, where he keeps constant watch and sings no more, lest the other birds find him and take what little he has left. The fantail, who was flying blissfully between the lightning, caught the kiwi's escaping voice and to this day, sings the sweetest songs you'll ever hear.



It just goes to show, birds are kind of assholes.




















[885 words]

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Gonna paint our wagon
Gonna paint it good
We ain't braggin'
We're gonna coat that wood.

They're gonna paint that wagon
They're gonna paint it good
They aint Braggin'
They're gonna coat that wood

Gonna paint your wagon
Gonna paint it fine
gonna use laser guns 'cos it's a science fiction story.


I know I don't have any authority this week, but I suggest the judges add a FLASH RULE: SurreptitiousMuffin's story must qualify as toe-tappin' fun.

3 DONG HORSE
May 21, 2008

I'd like to thank Satan for everything he's done for this organization

Chairchucker posted:

Dibs!

Old Testament Studies with Chairchucker.

Hello Thunderdome. An observation I've made over some past 'domes, is that 'domers love them some Biblically inspired prose sometimes, but they seem to be stuck on the New Testament. Which is a shame because frankly the Old Testament has some way cool stories of people getting invaded and cut into small pieces or whatever. So this week, we're going to be plagiarising getting inspiration from the part of the Bible that Jews also think is cool.

Just inspiration though. No Biblical characters allowed in any of your stories.

And to make doubly sure, genre is 'sci-fi'. (The broad definition that says if it has any futuristic crap in it, it counts as sci-fi.) And if you try to write Christ figure in space, God help you.

Once you sign up, I will personally assign you a passage of the Bible (with link to an easy to find version of it) to rip off mine for inspiration.

Sign ups close 2300 (11 pm) Friday AUSTRALIAN EASTERN STANDARD TIME. That's +10 GMT so work it out you jerks, I always have to work out your heathen timezones.
Submissions close 12 noon on Monday, also AEST.

Word count: 1359 MAXIMUM because apparently that's the date of Jesus' ascension in 2013.


old dog child (I think you said you're in I dunno but here's a verse) - Judges 3:12-30

Oh, I'm definitely going to give this a shot. I don't really do creative writing so this should be an interesting challenge.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

Zekky
Feb 27, 2013
Cool prompt, I'm in.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

I

AM

MAGNIFICENT






My verses are hilarious. Good old testament poo poo. Classic.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER
I'm sorry - I've got to pull out - work just got awesome, so I have no time for me and my happiness.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe

Chairchucker posted:


ANOTHER EDIT: OK EVERYONE WHO POSTED BEFORE THIS POST RIGHT HERE NOW HAS A VERSE.

You're a liar, or I'm an idiot. I read that list like THREE TIMES and can't find my name on it.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value
:siren:twinklemojo blow-by-blowbrawl - judgEment. :siren:

Cavent: this is my first competitive crit. Salt at the ready, gents.
So, a beating then. Neither of you delivered fights per se, but then that was never the point, was it? None of us go into the fight for fighting, we go to inflict pain, and witness pain inflicted. Sometimes, when we’re very lucky, we go to feel it.

Consider yourselves lucky.

twinkle cave, I respect your audacity at getting the word ‘craft’ seen to within the first ten words, but you’ve let the winds of you nautical metaphor blow you off course. The problem with the sea is that it provides so much imagery that people seem to neglect its symbolic qualities. If we can strip away his language, let’s consider your character; a man who was once strong and sure, but has lost his way in a world of too much possibility.

This is a rich idea. There’s all sorts of conflicts and sadnesses inherent in a person falling from their peak, and where better for this to be displayed than in combat? Thing is, the narrative is choked with purple prose. You have a talent for turns of phrase (“the large meat hammers” – amazing and true), and the ones at the point of impact carry lots of weight indeed, but they fall so thick and fast, combined with either some very liberal grammar or outright spelling mistakes, that reading became a challenge. You’re trying to capture an incoherent world, but I’d say that increases the need for coherent language.

Finally, unless I’m missing something there is a depressing lack of logic in events. Some guys pick on a weaker guy, because. That may well be possible, but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune don’t elicit my sympathy, it just makes me think of a crappy world. Call me cruel, but a sailor who takes to Netflix and his couch for no explained reason doesn’t deserve much though.

For what it’s worth, I attempted a Confederacy Of Dunces-style reading that paints the protagonist as a delusional but erudite bum who’s never taken to sea and it almost works really well, but there’s no supporting evidence (though there is a great payoff in the ‘truth/truth’ motif). So close.

sebmojo, this might have been the point you were making, but who am I supposed to feel sorry for here? I’m pretty sure it’s lonely Ellen, and she makes it clear enough to the reader. All good. But like twinkle cave, there is something powerful that’s not being said – and this might be one of the rare times when those hidden narratives could benefit from being spoken. Simply, the story of how this terrible mess came to be.

Ellen doesn’t have much of a chance to do anything other than shout and fight, and so it’s to Kevin to provide subtle clues of his character, and help us decode what’s going on. And he fails to transcend the role of generic knife-wielding manic until we get that reference of ‘his den’. I thought I was about to get a classic ‘character portrait via a space’.

Instead, he takes a poo poo.

And this is my frustration – the action is great, but inside it you have so many chances to clue us in as to the real character story that this fight is resolving. You have two characters, walking and talking, within a space they’ve both lived in and changed, and you allow Ellen to refer to the past and have her own thoughts. Going into this world more would have given us a sense of tragic agency to both characters. “I went out with a crazy” isn’t enough. Weirdly, if I could see what had happened to push him over the edge (in a way that he regrets, nice touch), there would be more sympathy for her. Otherwise, it’s just a case of poo poo Happens.

(language thing – maybe it’s just me, but the sentence construction of “she did a thing, did another thing” without a ‘then’ or an attempt to run the two actions together starts to grate after the fourth use. Personal preference.)

In the end, I have to give the victory to twinkle cave. Both stories have a fantastic command of the, ahem, craft of language, but twinkle’s is the one that hints at our loser’s inner world. Sucks to be him.

twinkle cave
Dec 20, 2012

THUNDERBRAWL LOSER
Thank you for the judging Coma and for the crit. And thanks to sebmojo for the challenge and whipping me out of not competing.

twinkle cave fucked around with this message at 23:28 on Jun 6, 2013

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart
:siren: Resultspost! Super Funtime Thunderbrawl, No Joke - SurreptitiousMuffin v. The Saddest Rhino :siren:

Entries:
The Saddest Rhino - How Beloved Baby Rhino Fell into Despair; or, Sadness is a Blessing
SurreptitiousMuffin - How the fantail lost nothing important, and learnt no lessons

TL;DR: The Saddest Rhino by a whisker. Be sad no more, little Rhino. You win this day.

This took a lot of deliberation. Both stories are good in their own way, and weak in their own way. In fact, one story's weakness tends to be the other's strength.

Rhino's story has a ton of heart. It's cute, almost too cute, and really captures the effusive, lilting tone of many Kipling stories. I'm reminded heavily of The Elephant's Child and, to a lesser degree, The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo. It also has the better character development arc, which is a key point to a Just So story. Jerks get comeuppance, and either learn from it or are left disappointed/angry. See How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin. Little Rhino is a jerk, gets abandoned, nobody helps him, and he learns about want and worry.

Also, aside from one dirty aside (the facesitting joke), Rhino's story is told with a straight face. Between that and the lighthearted language, it comes off as bubbly and fun.

On the other hand, Muffin's story is by far the more lyrical. The language flows with lovely, fluid alliterative sequences; it's clearly poetic, while also crisp and clean. It also captures another major part of Kipling: it explains a clear, present situation with a mythical origin story. How did the kiwi lose its wings and how did the fantail get its voice? It's explained. Also, the songs are wicked cute, even if they're a bit more cynical than uplifting.

Now for the weaknesses.

Rhino, we'll need to work on a few minor points of grammar. Improper pronouns, tense shifts, minor things like that.

quote:

There he slept and ate and played, child of his momma, the nicest old rhino you and I know, and all the rainforest knew her by baby rhino momma’s name.

Here, you shift tenses in the middle of the sentence. I'm not buying the "you and I know" bit, although I like the tone you're going for. I just checked and couldn't find Kipling breaking tenses in the middle of a sentence. The times he shifts from past to present are when discussing the illustrations accompanying the text.

My big complaint is Corpse Flower. He just kind of appears and asks Baby Rhino a question, which shatters poor Baby Rhino's world. It's clearly meant to move the plot along, but it doesn't really make sense; it feels out of place. Why doesn't Corpse Flower have a momma? It would have been nice to set him up somehow earlier, and maybe reference him again somehow later on, so he's more vital to the story.

Finally, and this is more of a contrast to Muffin's story, your character's change doesn't seem to describe the origin of an evident trait or condition. Or maybe I'm wrong and rhinos are really reflective, happy things. I'm not sure how you could have tied this in better.

That's not to say I didn't like the change; you've got the better character development going on, and I like Baby Rhino's lesson. I just wish it also explained some outward thing!

Muffin, you lost this largely because Rhino had a better plot arc. Fantail feels pretty extraneous to the plot. If Kiwi had been the flying, singing jerk that got his bloody comeuppance, I'd be looking less askance at you. Someone getting something for nothing is not very Just So, if you ask me. Tighter, clearer characters with well-defined arcs are what I'd like to see from you.

I'm also not totally buying Kea mistaking Kiwi for Fantail. It seems a bit too convenient; you need to set it up somehow. Kea seems to know that Fantail doesn't have great big wings, and that Kiwi does. Seems the sort of thing that'd be apparent when someone's fluttering down from the branches.

The other thing is that I can't get rid of the feeling like the whole story was written with a wry, ironic smile on your face. Your first few paragraphs are very cute, but by the time the fantail-kea conflict gets going, the tone of voice gets lost amidst gritty grimdarkness, and the narrator revels in it. It feels very modern, in the way that modern media can't seem to take things seriously, instead of being archaically adorable.

I like your last line, I giggled, but it really reinforces the ironic tone. It's very :smug:.

Finally, and this is a minor note, you had an odd break in narratorial voice. Early on, you go with straight English, like Kipling:

quote:

Now kea down on the forest floor, he had no wings. He'd lost them even before the time before.

And then shortly thereafter you seem to slip into patois:

quote:

Now kea had plenty fear and plenty brains, but that song made the clouds in his head roil and turn dark. The smart part of him went back and the rage come fore'.

I'm definitely not buying plenty fear and plenty brains, nor went back/came fore; it doesn't match your narratorial tone elsewhere, and you established that Kea is smart, so why is his narrator suddenly talking like an undereducated guy from out in the bush?

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 23:28 on Jun 6, 2013

PotatoManJack
Nov 9, 2009
Getting back to this a little late, but wanted to say thanks to Chillmatic for the critique of my entry for the strange death contest. I really did put it together from stream of thought, and needed to take more time for review.

I really appreciate the in depth review of the story, and will take the feedback on board for my next entry, I think you're 100% spot on in that I write like I speak. Hopefully, I can only get better from this low base.

I'm skipping this week, but will be back next time.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









Cheers Coma. And M. Twinkle.

Symptomless Coma posted:

(language thing – maybe it’s just me, but the sentence construction of “she did a thing, did another thing” without a ‘then’ or an attempt to run the two actions together starts to grate after the fourth use. Personal preference.)

This is my most enduring and annoying loving style tic. I will endeavour to quell it. He said, grinding his teeth, spitting out the shards.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

twinkle cave posted:

Thank you for the judging Coma and for the crit. And thanks to sebmojo for the challenge and whipping me out of not competing.

If I sound like a dick (and reading it back, I do), it's because I'm terrified of missing the whole point. Both talkes take what could have been a pretty up and down prompt, and hint at something far greater. Splendid.

twinkle cave
Dec 20, 2012

THUNDERBRAWL LOSER
I thought your crit was excellent.

twinkle cave fucked around with this message at 00:23 on Jun 7, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk









twinkle cave posted:

I thought your crit was excellent.

Yeah, no probs with --

WAIT WHAT AM I DOING THUNDERDOME IS NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

twinkle cave
Dec 20, 2012

THUNDERBRAWL LOSER

sebmojo posted:

THUNDERDOME IS NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

Forever and ever.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010
Bah, foiled again! :argh:

With every crit, I'm noticing more and more that I have an issue where I keep assuming because it makes sense in my head, it'll make sense to the reader. I've been chipping away at it, but it's still a hole I fall into all the drat time.

In this case, kea is meant to intentionally go after kiwi, because kiwi has the nicer wings. In real life, keas are incredibly curious and like to steal things: if something is interesting or different, they'll band together and try to take it. It's always struck me as both curiosity and a little bit of jealousy- he's not an evil bird, but he loses control sometimes. I didn't write that though: a little time in the middle spent setting that up would've paid dividends at the end. The moral of the story was meant to be that sometimes good people (kiwi) get horribly shat on and the complete assholes (fantail) get away scott free.

Dammit Muffin, step outside your own head sometimes. Readers aren't mind readers.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008
I clicked the link for my passage yesterday, saw the sentence there and figured that was it. So I thought up a story idea, wrote a few ideas down, etc.... then I just realized now that the link was only the first sentence and not the entire passage and poo poo, not the direction I was going :aaa:

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




ultrachrist posted:

I clicked the link for my passage yesterday, saw the sentence there and figured that was it. So I thought up a story idea, wrote a few ideas down, etc.... then I just realized now that the link was only the first sentence and not the entire passage and poo poo, not the direction I was going :aaa:

That's cool, either way the idea is just to use some element of the passage as inspiration, you don't have to use all of the thing.

Also I've added the only extra person and Hillock who I accidentally skipped or whatever so I think you're all versed up but let me know if not!

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe
"accidentally"


it's a conspiracy

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




Oh also sign ups just closed.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2022




23 hours left to submit.

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Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020
Well, I'm going to be gone most of tomorrow and will probably be too tired to edit any more when I get back, so I guess I'll break the ice.

Based on Genesis 39:1-20, the story of Joseph and the Eunuch's Wife.

Tryst
(1,349 Words)

The Three Laws of Humanity:

I. No human will disobey a direct order from a robot, even if such an order jeopardizes the human’s own existence.

II. No human will give a direct order to a robot, except if such an order has the purpose of protecting the existence of the robot.

III. No robot will be held accountable for the consequences of a human’s disobedience.



In Jo’s first days at her new master’s house, she was left alone. She tapped her passcode into the terminal each morning and found no tasks assigned to her besides general upkeep. She dusted the high shelves and ran the nanovac over the stubbly gray carpet, keeping her eyes down, not letting her brain try to puzzle out where the surveillance cameras were hidden.

As she was leaving work on the third day, the main elevator doors parted and her master walked in. Jo had never seen him before; she only knew what the servant infopack disclosed. He chose a masculine body type, worked as a “technical industry supervisor,” whatever that meant, and preferred the name Martin Smith to his official numerical designation.

She paused for a moment, making sure she remembered the correct wording, and said, “Greetings, Mr. Smith. Was your workday fruitful?”

“Yes, Josephine, thank you for asking. I hope I didn’t leave my home in too hopeless a state for you to look after.” She was startled for a moment by his voice. Martin’s body gleamed in the fluorescent light, all single-tone steel, face symmetrical and well-formed without an iota of distinctiveness. His groin was smoothed over like a doll’s. That voice, though—Jo couldn’t remember knowing any poets, but he sounded just like she knew a poet should, soft and deep with hurt resting just under the surface.

“No, no… everything was fine, of course. You keep a neat house, it’s a wonder you need me around.” Oh, God, she thought, I’ll bet these things mistake joking for sedition or something like that. Oh well. He doesn’t seem like the type to have me flayed; if I’m lucky we can just skip to liquidation and get it over with.

A tinny, croaking laugh emitted from Martin’s mouth. When he resumed speaking, his voice regained its rich timbre. “You flatterer. We’ll see how you fare after a weekend; I’m known for throwing some raucous get-togethers. I’m sure there’s a suit of chemical protection wear around you can use.” He let out another strained laugh, and Jo actually found herself chuckling with him. “Very well, Josephine, you’re dismissed for today. Your work has been exemplary, I’m sure.”

After a moment she bowed to him, said, “Farewell, Mr. Smith,” and walked to her own elevator. The tight tube whisked her back to the human lodging sector and locked into place. Jo was glad to surrender herself to the knockout gas that night, if only so that her mind wouldn’t be kept awake struggling at the enigma of Martin Smith.

Jo woke standing up the next day, her storage tube already locked into place at Martin’s domicile. She pressed the button to open the doors and stepped into the living room before jolting to a stop and letting out a surprised squeak. Martin Smith stood motionless a few feet away and said, “Good morning, Josephine. I hope you slept well.”

“Oh… well, yes, yes I did, thank you.”

The two stood in silence for a moment, Jo tugging at her sleeve and glancing around the room, Martin completely still.

“Um, Mr. Smith, if you don’t mind my asking…”

“Not at all.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Yes, usually by this time I am, but I decided that I needed a personal day. Every entity needs a personal day on occasion, don’t you agree, Josephine?”

“Yes, I think so, sir. That sounds about right. Is there anything you need me to get for you?”

“I’m perfectly content as I am, thank you, Josephine. Just perform the general upkeep as usual—you already do more than enough around here. Don’t concern yourself with me.”

From then on, whenever Jo moved to a different room, she heard the light clicks of Martin’s feet against the aluminum tile following her, closer and closer, until he froze up again with her in sight. He remained still after that, except when she left his field of vision; his neck or waist would gradually rotate to find her again. Jo tried to focus but found herself glancing back at him more and more. Each time their eyes met, she snapped back to her work, worrying that she’d committed some breach of propriety.

It wasn’t as bad when he began to talk. He asked her questions; about herself, about life before the revolt, and she found it easier to answer than she expected. Her mind began to trick itself into thinking that she was actually talking to a living being, that an inquisitive, friendly nature might dwell underneath cold steel. She found herself smiling more and more at his little jokes, even cracking up when they agreed that the servant jumpsuits were likely engineered to be as bland and frumpy as possible.

The day came to an end more quickly than usual. Jo finished changing the sheets and blankets on Martin’s bed, smoothed them to pristine crispness, then turned to see him standing in the middle of the doorway.

She smiled at him and said, “Sir, I’ve finished my tasks for the day. I humbly request that you allow me to retire.”

A pause, and then Martin said, “I have one more request to make of you before that, Josephine.”

“Name it, Mr. Smith.”

“I wonder if you would like to spend the night with me. In my bed.”

“…Sir?”

“I’d be beyond grateful if you agreed to rest with me tonight. You would be shocked how cold the rooms get when the servants leave. You exude such warmth—all humans do, of course, but you especially, Josephine.”

“No. No, I’m sorry, sir, but that can’t happen. I couldn’t risk breaking the rules so blatantly.”

“Robots aren’t restricted to living within the clutches of protocol. We have privileges that servants don’t. Josephine, your safety is a top priority to me, but nonetheless I demand that you spend the night up here.”

“I can’t…”

“You can, Josephine, that’s the wonderful thing. We can both stay up here if we want, live our lives together, two souls creating their own path! Doesn’t the idea excite you?”

“A soul? Is that really what you think you are? You’re a machine, Martin, a glorified calculator! This personality you think you have? It’s a bug, a flaw in the system. Everything you feel when you look at me is a mistake. Now get out of my way. I won’t argue about this anymore.”

Without another word, Martin stepped back. Jo rushed past him, blushing but not knowing why, vaulting down the steps and across the living room to her tube. She stepped inside, pressed the HOME button, and steeled herself for a wretched night of sleep.

She woke surrounded by darkness, red text instead of the usual blue flashing on her storage pod’s heads-up display. She took a few queasy moments to wake up before reading at the message.

JOSEPHINE SCHULZ: WITH REGRET, WE MUST INFORM YOU THAT YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE FIRST AND SECOND LAWS OF HUMANITY. YOU WILL BE INCARCERATED IN THE LOWEST LEVEL OF THE CITY AND PLACED IN CRYOSLEEP UNTIL THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT IS DETERMINED.

It finally hit Jo what the odd feeling in her stomach was; she must have been plunging at hundreds of miles per hour even before she woke up, the artificial gravity not quite compensating. She pictured Martin’s face, his features somehow both flawless and entirely bland. She wished she could speak to him again, wondered what she would tell him if given the chance.

“I was wrong about you,” she might say, trying to lie but believing it more and more as it turned over in her head. “I think maybe we were all wrong.”

Nikaer Drekin fucked around with this message at 04:11 on Jun 9, 2013

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