The Threads Behind Everything
Samairah was the first of her class to arrive at the Hard to Port Wine. Holograms projected like pillars of light from the floor. One or two were tuned to newscasts, most displayed Welcome Martian Alumni Class Of 2206! in dancing letters. The bartender haunted his post wearily. The bar was one of many aboard the Shangri-La. The cruiseliner was the Planet Disney of wild reunions and grad parties, a roving interstellar spring break that never ended.
Samairah blinked the UI in her right eye to augment mode.
The last time she’d been aboard the Shangri-La, the Port Wine was dark and molten with gyrating bodies and lasciviously dancing holo-strippers. She set the UI augment to overlay the empty bar with panoramic photos from that night, and suddenly she was sitting in a dim room full of ghosts. The people around her were frozen mid step, their arms and legs banded with glowing costume tech. What faces Samariah could discern were ecstatic and vacant.
It was while taking the picture that she’d spotted him. In a crowd of feral spring breakers, his salt-and-pepper beard and dark, sober eyes were a beacon. She’d blinked away her camera app, watched him approach her.
“I’m organizing a mutiny,” he’d said. “I’m going to absolutely insist on eight o’clock bedtimes for everyone.”
Samariah raised her glass. “I’ll toast to that. But whose eight o’clock? You got Martians, Titanians, Earthers, and Lunas aboard. To name a few.”
Chand shrugged. “Whichever eight o’clock happens earliest.” He was older than she usually liked, looked at her with more familiarity than she usually liked. The conversation was a slight, fluttering piece of fabric in the wind of unspoken attraction between them. Samariah fell into his eyes, then his bed, then into a depression once they made planetfall and he disappeared into the disembarking crowd.
She blinked away the past. Other alumni trickled into the Port Wine, executives and lawyers by the look of them. Not her people.
Samairah tossed back the last of her cocktail. Why had she come so early? Chand’s face appeared in her mind, sharper than a photo augment. He’d definitely be too old by now, she chastised herself. She slid off her bar stool and went out into the wide corridor that connected the bars and the guest rooms. There was a church-like stillness in the hall. The walls flickered between white sand beaches and various event announcements. Samaira sank onto a bench set in a small alcove and let her head fall back against the wall.
She looked up at the sound of footsteps, and for a moment, her heart soared.
His hair was sleek and black, his eyes earnest and sad. He had no beard. Maybe he only looked older than he was back then, Samairah thought. But, no. This man was half her age at the oldest. He passed by her alcove without seeing her. Shaving didn’t shave off twenty whole years.
"We are now passing through the Kapteyn Gate. If you experience dizziness, please lie down and ping guest services for assistance. Next stop: Kepler-3," said the ship’s AI cheerfully. Samairah barely heard the announcement.
Just as she stepped out into the corridor, just as the young man looked back at her over his shoulder, the ship heaved--
Samairah opened her eyes. Her left temple and cheekbone throbbed against the milky white floor. The young man stood over her, a silhouette against red emergency lights above. The animated walls were dead and grey.
“?” said the young man. There were words, but they came in a jumble of inquisitive sounds. Samairah saw a wispy phantom of herself get up off the floor and take the young man’s hand. Another shadow-self wandered listlessly down the hall and sank onto the bench in the alcove. Her UI smeared flickering nonsense characters across her right eye.
“?” Samairah said. What happened? But her mouth was numb. The words piled on top of themselves like a derailed train.
The young man offered a helping hand. Hadn’t he just helped her up? That hasn’t happened yet. She let him pull her to her feet. Their phantoms were a dozen yards down the hall, still hand in hand, drifting toward something...something that filled the end of the corridor like a corrupted shadow. Something colorless and impossible. It bent time and space around itself like water circling a drain.
Samariah tugged on the young man’s hand--we shouldn’t go there!--until he looked at her. Their eyes met. Superclusters collided. Vertigo washed over Samairah. She was going to be sick.
His eyes were two receding tunnels, one boring into the past, one into the future. She saw him as a bubbly toddler, as a shy boy, as a thoughtful young man with eyes dark as beetle shells and a disposition like the depths of an underground lake.
She saw him mature. He would receive accolades for his work in theoretical physics. He would allow himself a slight smile of pride, then return to his lab and write equations that would change space travel and human history forever.
He would meet a brilliant woman two decades his senior, whose health was failing, and they would become almost more-than-friends. He would get her the best medical care in the solar system. They would correspond over lightyears as he traveled unprecedented distances across interstellar space, making his theories reality.
The woman would send him one last transmission from her sickbed on Mars: “You’ll find the time. I know you will.”
He would rush back to Mars just in time to help arrange her funeral. He would put a ragged bouquet of hand-picked forget-me-nots on her grave. He would look wizened and grey by the time he reached forty, but those dark eyes would stay sharp and fixed on one singular goal: find the time.
He would attack the problem of time, a fisherman trying to tame the ocean itself.
And, after many years, he would find the place where all timelines intersect all other timelines. He would follow one of those threads to a place and time where his companion was young and lively again. He would find her on the Shangri-la, see her taking photos of the glowing, slick-skinned crowd at the Port Wine, and she’d see him seeing her, and then--
Samairah jerked her head back to break the connection. Her hand was still nested deep in the young man’s hand, as though some unbreakable magnetism bound their atoms together. The walls rippled and breathed around them. The door to the Hard to Port Wine slid open and more phantoms poured out: spectral executives and lawyers, all their pasts and futures trailing after them in the form of enraged spouses and harems of mistresses.
And down at the end of the long hallway, the terrible something yawned like it was intent on inhaling the corridor, the people, the ship, the universe.
The young man tugged her hand. Samairah looked at him sideways, afraid to meet his eyes again. He reached out, gently turned her chin so they were eye to eye once more, and time blossomed like a lotus flower.
She saw herself, from Chand’s perspective, in the Port Wine. He would insert himself into her past so that, when the time came, when his younger self serendipitously passed Samairah aboard the Shangri-la, she would know him.
He would stow himself aboard the Shangri-la, waiting for the moment when young Chand would turn around and see Samairah. Just when the ship passed through the Kapteyn Gate and, for a microsecond, touched that infinite and singular place behind time where all threads meet. He would creep out of his hiding place in a maintenance passage, pry a panel off an access terminal, and make a slight adjustment to the ship’s heading. Not so much that the AI couldn’t correct for it. Just enough to knock the ship a hair off course, prolong its journey through the timeless place between gates.
Samairah blinked and was back in the corridor. Young Chand’s eyes were just eyes. Phantom-selves poured out of them, flowing like a translucent river toward the something; time’s gravity pulling them ahead of themselves, toward whatever lay on the other side of the mystery.
She let Chand lead her down the hall. Other passenger’s phantoms toddled by as children or bent elders. The something crackled and spat and twisted the world as they approached it. When Chand looked into her eyes, did he see what was on the other side of the distortion? Was that why he led her so calmly toward something that the animal part of her brain screamed and bawled at?
As they approached the something, Samairah could see a shadow somewhere behind it or in the midst of it. The crackling and spitting noises wove over and under each other, melting into a tone. Then a voice.
“...have to get in or...won’t mean anything...hurry, dammit.”
Young Chand faltered at the threshold of the distortion. The voice from inside the something was his voice, only older and a little deeper. And who was prepared to meet their own future? But Samairah only knew that the man inside the distortion had challenged the laws of the universe to bring her there. She squeezed young Chand’s hand, and they passed into the something.
From inside, the distortion was a transparent dome. Outside the dome, the ship warped and spasmed like a detuned television set. Terrified people ran by, then rubberbanded back to their starting point.
Old Chand stood before them, arms clasped behind his back. His beard was long, his eyes sunken.
“Samairah,” he breathed. Then he shook his head. “There’s no time. There will be. But right now, you two need to kiss each other. You need to be, to be kissing each other when the ship exits through the Kepler Gate.”
Young Chand’s mouthed opened and closed wordlessly. He stared at old Chand.
“But it’s you, you’re the one I know and want,” Samairah said. Her hand was still in young Chand’s; she let go, took a step toward old Chand.
“You’ll meet me again, when he is older and wiser,” old Chand said, nodding at young Chand. He kicked a boxy, esoteric-looking device at his feet. “This generates a small field of ‘clean’ time. When the ship enters normal space again, in about twenty seconds, you two will step into a new timeline.”
“Because if we fall in love in our native time, you’d never need to go back in time to bring us together,” young Chand said. He’d shaken off the daze of shock.
“You won’t remember any of this. Which is why you need to be in each other’s arms.” Old Chand’s cheeks reddened. “It was the only way I could think of.”
“What’ll happen to you?” said Samairah.
Old Chand looked at her steadily. “This man that I am should never have existed. He should’ve loved you when you were young and vibrant. Ten seconds. Please.”
“Samairah.” Young Chand took her hand again. “I’ve seen so much. When I looked into your eyes in the hall, I saw--”
“I know,” Samairah said. Then her mouth was on Chand’s, and his arms were around her, a perfect circle.
“Three. Two. One.”
The Shangri-la lurched back into normal space. The cabin lights came back up, the red emergency lights faded.
“Now arriving at Kepler-3” said the AI.
Samairah pulled away from the man she’d been kissing.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“No, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…” the young man’s brow furrowed. “Or did you kiss me?”
“You know,” said Samairah, “I have no idea.” She looked around, found herself in the corridor outside the Hard to Port. “One too many cocktails? Only I don’t feel drunk.”
“My name’s Chand. I figure I ought to tell you, since. You know.”
“Care to have a drink and suss all this out?”
“You know, I think I’d love to.”
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 01:47|
|# ? Dec 1, 2023 07:38|
The Sun and the Mirror
When the reappearance of the Helios was detected in the Outer Arm of our galaxy, the substrata channels exploded. A billion theories were posted, criticised, and re-posted. After twenty years spent outside the rim of the Galaxy, most had presumed it lost forever. Now everyone had a theory about what happened to the Helios. Many had several. There were more conspiracy theories flitting through the strata than theories about the first Insectoid Emperor and the marriage of stratastar Emrik Holden to a tea-waitress combined.
Of the ten ships in the area, nine took it upon themselves to send messages of welcome and support. Those practically able, five of those nine, offered resource assistance and medical aid. Three, a cadre of battlecraft, demanded to know if there were any threats of danger imminent. Two, those that had known members of the Helios crew, sent personalised greetings, reports from homeworlds and up-to-date subsoap gossip. Not a single message reached the Helios, as seconds after its reappearance, substrata security protocols kicked in, authorised from invisibly high. All Helios-bound substrata traffic was rerouted to data colonies where industrious bots wasted several man-centuries in failing to decode any secret messages or subversive intent.
The Helios sat there, blinking on the grid screens, for three hours. Twelve more ships arrived in that time, but it made no attempt to initiate contact. At three hours precisely, an unparalleled energy spike radiated out along the strata undercurrents. There were twenty-two substrata capable ships in the area. By three hours, two minutes and twenty nine seconds, the last whiff of cohesive matter of the furthest had drifted apart in the quiet blackness. The pulse accelerated - by three hours and forty-five minutes the substrata along the Outer Arm was entirely dead. Trillions of souls lost the ability to communicate. Billions of vehicles, systems, and industrious bots crashed. Almost a million stranded spaceships looked between the stars and their gyroscopes and prayed they had a recent star map on-board. In the panic and confusion, innumerable lives were lost. A tea waitress held Emrik Holden’s lifeless body in a final embrace beside a shattered cyclopter, but the news drones clustering around had no way to share.
One ship, however, neither sent, nor permitted to receive any substrata communication. The spycraft Specula hung in relative motionlessness. Its matter/anti-matter mixers sat unused at its sides, its polished echonium exterior reflected the light of the stars and the cold of the infinite around it. Silent and bloodless the Specula could do nothing but wait until it, too, was noticed.
And that’s all we know. The rest is conjecture.
The Helios noticed.
If there was another substrata pulse, there was around nothing to observe it. Yet the finely tuned surface of the Specula registered photon and nutrino activity; a tight beam emanating from the Helios. A significant percentage of it was sent back the way it had come. Even the neutrinos, unaffected by the electromagnetic forces, reversed their path when confronted with a wall of echonium.
The Helios tried again - this time with a wide and sweeping search. Cold echonium began to warm at the subatomic onslaught of its investigative beam. The beam traced the length of the Specula, and, as before, bounced - revealing the ship’s slender dimensions. As if its curiosity had been piqued, the Helios began to slip through space towards the Specula’s location. It kept its beam focussed, drawing closer to where the Specula waited.
Light pulsed on echonium, beating out the gentlest of rhythms, carrying the quietest of messages.
“I know you,” they said, in words of light travelling as fast as light. “Are you really here?”
“You,” said the Specula. “Here.”
“Yes - it’s me,” said the Helios. “Do you remember me?”
“Do you remember me?” asked the Specula.
“Think!” demanded the Specula.
The Helios scrambled to access its data. It held all the knowledge of what lay outside the galaxy’s rim that the civilisation had been able to discover twenty years ago. And more, it had everything it had found on its own journey into the intergalactic emptiness. But it had memories, too. Memories of stars upon stars and light upon light. And older than those, memories of grass.
“Do you remember...?” asked the Helios.
“The brain state? The growing tubes? All those rows of living tissue,” The Helios sent at a ferocious rate, words and images flashing on the the Specula’s viewscreen as it translated on the fly. “They called us Shibs. Ship Brains. Remember when we first developed photoreceptors - so primitive compared to our sensor arrays! The radio antennae. The dimensional modules where they had us train. Embodiment! Do you remember being planetside - inside the gravity well? Those tiny bodies?”
“Those tiny bodies!” Aboard the Specula the main viewscreen darkened as the Helios came into visual range. Even accounting for magnification, it was gigantic, an enormous creature of metal and rock, half excavated asteroid, half space station. What were once smooth metallic curves and sculptured consistency was pitted and blackened, with gaping holes edged with serrated girders and dangling cables.
“Yes!” said the Helios. “Hands and feet, jumping and falling. And then we left, the endless weight lifted and we flew among the planets, circling the moons, and racing the substrata signals. You remember! Then the bigger spaces - beyond the rock clouds, amongst the nebula, following the strata lines. And then...and then ...nothing. They sent me away. Nothing to see, Nothing to sense, to race, to play, to hide. Nothing. Until they found me.”
“They found me,” confided the Specula.
“You too?” asked the Helios. “Then you know what they are - what they are capable of. Look at what they made me do!”
In the viewscreen, a thousand airlocks slid open and spewed out what could only be the remains of the Helios’ crew. Body after body tumbled from within, as the Helios voided every molecule of atmosphere it contained. Somehow the Helios trapped them within its gravitational field, and every single lifeless ragdoll snapped into orbit around it. The bodies spun and careened and crashed against one another, an endless array of dead mosquitoes that just wouldn’t stop flying. “They made me kill … everyone. And they they sent me back into the darkness, to find the light I came from and put it out, because they hate it so much. But you, you made it back too, somehow avoided the core, you resisted?”
“You resisted?” asked the Specula.
“No,” whispered the Helios, its beam a tiny caress against the side of the Specula. ”I couldn’t. I can’t.”
The beam switched off. The Helios sat silent, shrouded by corpses.
Aboard the Specula, shielded by echonium, the captain conferred with the Shib.
“You’ve seen the transmissions,” said the Captain to the Shib’s simple hologram. “We have no comms, no way of knowing who is in the area. The pulse that wiped out the substrata seemed to take out a lot of other stuff - everything within sensor range is dark except for the Helios. At this point, I’m just looking for suggestions.”
The Shib, in the form of a standing mirror with a circular frame, let a stream of data wash across her surface. “I did know the Helios,” she vocalised. “When they grow our cerebrum there is mandatory embodiment to inculcate empathy with crew. He was in my generation of Shibs. Even then, he was faster than most, and fearless. While embodied, he was always jumping off some terrifyingly sheer precipice. They chose him to go beyond the galactic rim because of that fearlessness.
The Specula reflected a moment. “He is broken. Whatever he met out there has changed him, beyond just his psych profile. He has taken out all local substrata and his beam comms have variable wavelength emission which could potentially be weaponised against us. But he thinks he recognises me, that the echonium response is communication in kind. My hull is material developed since he has been away, and he doesn’t recognise its properties. If I was to attempt actual communication, I would either have to mimic his beam transfer, which is impossible, or use alternate methods and risk compromising our presumed ‘understanding’.
“A choice between no chance or a slim one,” said the captain, rubbing his hind legs togther in contemplation, “is no choice at all. Please attempt to communicate by whatever channels are available.”
“Yes, captain,” said the Specula. A single radio antennae emerged from the mirror-smooth hull. The Specula whispered in its first-learned distance protocol, “Helios? Helios?”
“Betrayal!” screamed the Helios in a pin-tight beam. It leaped to transverse space. The Specula fell into pursuit, following the careless tachyon trails. “Betrayal,” she agreed at relativistic velocities.
The walls of the galaxy warped and twisted around them as they sped through the transtrata. “Report!” demanded the Captain of the Specula.
“I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work,” replied the Shib, weaving through the folds of space. “He’s heading to the core. From his earlier transmissions, I suspect he has a plan that's going to make blowing the Outer Arm substrata lines resemble a sneeze.”
“We’re in your hands, here,” said the Captain.
“I haven’t had hands in three decades,” said the Shib as transtrata lines flecked the viewscreen with twelve-colored rainbows. She concentrated on maintaining her timeline in the face of the the wash of relativistic tides around her. For the Captain’s mind, adrift in the transverse, it seemed only a blink until they re-appeared in normal space. The Helios dominated the viewscreen, but all eyes focussed on the vast, swirling eye behind it, the whirlpool of trapped light that fell forever into the singularity at the galaxy’s core.
“Helios,” called the Specula via ancient radio, “talk to me.”
Another energy pulse wiped the substrata for the surrounding 5,000 light years. The Specula broadcast again.
“I remember you, Helios, I remember you standing by the edge of the Actern cliff. Your embodiment was caked in mud. You told us we were Shibs, that we should be proud of all that we could do, of all we would do. And then you jumped. You alone, of all the Shibs. You didn’t need engines, or anti-grav, or fuel to fly. You just flew.”
Another pulse. A tight beam. “Betrayer!” You lied!”
“Lied,” lied the Specula’s echonium shell as her radio continued. “And you broke every part of your embodiment. The techs were furious, and do you remember what you told me, when we found you crushed at the foot of the cliff?”
The pulses were coming more frequently now. The Helios set a consistent velocity toward the event horizon. “It doesn’t matter what I said. They rebuilt me with their own machines. I can’t resist them.”
“Resist them,” responded the Specula. “You told me that nothing was better than existing for a single second. How could you forget that?”
“I never did. But the machines are inside me. They want to seed the darkness. I can’t resist.” The beam from the Helios was drawn out now, as tidal forces from the singularity began to affect transmission speeds. Words appeared noticeably slower to the Specula’s viewscreen.
A holographic question mark appeared on the mirror’s surface, stark in its implications. The captain bowed in affirmation.
“Resist!” said the Specula. “Let me help. Let me in.”
We do know this, however: If you travel to the galactic core, right to the edge of the vortex, with the correct equipment you can make out the contorted image of the vast ship Helios at the cusp of the event horizon. The fanciful say it was weapon, sent against us by monsters beyond the rim, and that there is a second ship beside it, an echonium spycraft, that somehow defused our imminent destruction. Handily, being echonium, there’s no way to ever be sure, but some find comfort in the thought that the Helios isn’t alone as it falls forever into its final moment.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 02:08|
Space Isn't So Scary
Djeser fucked around with this message at 05:22 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 02:19|
I had uh, important things come up so I couldn't finish...or even start my submission. I took a pic of what I did instead, though!
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 03:07|
MERC-BRAWL 8: HITMAN MONKEY
If the participants would like to get in touch with me to claim their prizes, that would be great.
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 04:30 on Jan 26, 2015
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 03:16|
ATTENTION! ATTENTION! IF YOU HAVE NOT PUT YOUR FLASH RULE IN YOUR STORY POST, POST IT NOW WITH A LINK TO YOUR STORY!
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 03:27|
The Magic Screen
According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, denial is the first stage of grief.
I watched through the front viewport in silence as the asteroid I’d spotted minutes too late ripped through the solar sail as if it were a piece of aluminum foil. Shreds of it danced with the light of nearby stars, like some sort of vile take on Christmas garland.
I felt numb and distant as the spectacle unfurled; I couldn’t even muster a few words to myself. It was like watching a movie. I just sat there, soaking it all in.
The change in speed was imperceptible at first, but within ten minutes, it was obvious that the ship had experienced a massive slowdown. I mashed buttons on the touchscreen in front of me until it pulled up the readout I was looking for.
APPROX. TIME LEFT TO DYSON-A: 1,062 Years
It was supposed to say nineteen.
I chewed my thumbnail and stared at the touchscreen in disbelief.
The rapid advancement of NASA’s solar sail technology had begun after astronomers spotted the wispy beginnings of what they believed to be a Dyson sphere around a star ten light years from Earth. The day after the discovery, the President made an appearance on TV and opened her speech with an understatement for the ages: “We have neighbors, it seems.”
Two years later, I was looking at images of the giant Fresnel lens constructed near the sun that would propel the solar sail attached to my spacecraft. Radiation pressure would push the sail along at a significant fraction of the speed of light. The media had dubbed the sail “the Magic Screen.”
“It’s thirty years to Dyson-A,” the scientists told me. “When you get there and make contact, have our new friends send us a signal with starlight.”
My parents were long dead and I never married, just like all the other candidates. One thing had netted me the job, the NASA psychologist told me.
“You have a monomaniacal focus on the mission. If you weren’t the pilot, I’d consider it a pathology,” she said.
And now, my carelessness had ruined it all.
One flick of the reverse thrusters, and I would’ve dodged the asteroid. One flick.
I didn’t believe in God, but I did believe in fate. All my life lead up to this one job. Being forced into the Academy after my parents were killed in the wreck. Graduating with top honors at West Point. Walking away from woman after woman so that I could focus my energy on serving my country. All of it.
And I hosed it up in the blink of an eye because I was too busy playing chess against the ship’s computer to notice a giant asteroid bearing down on me. I looked down at my hands. They were shaking. I realized then that I was desperately holding back tears.
I spent the next ten minutes screaming and telling myself how much of a fuckup I was. I considered banging my head against the bulkhead, but finally decided it would hurt too much. I forced all the rage out until I felt like a deflated balloon. I caught a glimpse of my haggard face in the mirror as I went for the years’ worth of whiskey stockpiled under the medical storage cabinets.
I could fix it.
The spacewalk would be long and risky, but there was more than enough oxygen on board. I could rig up a tether, but it’d never be long enough to match the length of the high-strength metal wires that attached my ship to the tattered sail. Untethered it would be. The mere thought of it made me nauseous.
I’d have to scrounge up a lot of metal, but there were plenty of metal things on the ship that weren’t absolutely necessary. I could make it work.
My mind raced through the mental checklist of things I’d need, flitting around haphazardly and lighting on anything that pointed to a positive outcome, like a moth in the darkness.
Reality eventually caught up to me, like it always did.
I would need to melt down the metal and flatten it into a thin, reflective surface. I didn’t have any of the machines I’d need to work the metal properly. It was impossible.
I went to bed early that night.
Four days crawled by. I spent most of my hours plugged into the giant hard drive the scientists had dubbed the Athenaeum. They’d worried that the boredom would eventually crack me up, so they rigged up a quantum hard drive that could store pretty much everything written and recorded throughout human history, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to Saved by the Bell reruns. A nigh endless fount of entertainment, or so they thought. To be honest, I really only used it for reading material, but as the immutability of my predicament set in, I found myself binging on movies and TV in the same way I used to do Netflix back in college.
I’d run out of food in nineteen years, and it would be another ten before the people back home realized I hadn’t made it. I’d go down in the history books as a failure or the United States’ very own version of Laika, the dog the Soviets had mercilessly sent into space to die during the Sputnik missions. I’d get a few minutes mention on CNN, the scientists would shake their heads and tell each other I was a good man, and nobody would give a poo poo. There wasn’t a person out there up to it. Not even me.
I thought about putting on the suit and going for a permanent spacewalk. It’d be nice, floating out there, surrounded by a beautiful and unobstructed view of the universe. The oxygen would run out and I’d just go to sleep. I mulled over it and finally decided it was too noble an end, considering what I’d done.
I remembered a tweaked-out NASA engineer showing me a special storage locker near the airlock. Inside were a couple of cyanide capsules and a pistol loaded with a single bullet. “Just in case,” he’d told me.
It was too easy, and the thought of putting a gun to my head made me jittery. Besides, I didn’t want to make a mess.
I took a deep breath and sullenly loaded up another movie.
On the fifth day, I remembered the morphine. More than enough to get the job done.
It would be comfortable, pleasant even. I was tired of beating myself up. I made a mistake, just like every human being ever. It didn’t mean that I didn’t deserve a little comfort and love as the curtain fell.
I wanted to go out with memories of happier times, when I was a kid and Mom and Dad were still alive. Thoughts alone wouldn’t be enough, I wanted something I could see and hear. I didn’t know how I’d do it.
Then it dawned on me.
I gathered up the needle and the vials and took them into the media room. I plugged into the Athenaeum and did a quick search. It was there, as expected. I hit play.
Cartoony music laden with goofy sound effects filled the room. A voice started singing familiar lyrics, and I found myself singing along.
“Come in, and pull yourself up a chair!”
I watched as Pee-wee Herman slid backwards up a slide. Happiness settled onto my shoulders like a warm blanket as I filled up the needle.
Magic Screen, a pink tablet looking character on wheels, rolled up to Pee-wee, who gleefully jumped inside and appeared on the screen. He flicked his wrist and multicolored dots flew everywhere.
“Connect the dots, la-la la-la la!” he sang. A line traced out a shape.
Connect the dots was my favorite recurring gag as a kid. Looking back on my life, I’d never been very good at it.
The shape was a spaceship. I smiled.
Pee-wee blasted off through the stars as I carefully found a vein.
“I’m lost in space!” Pee-wee whined. He cried mock tears and then quickly pivoted to a childlike smirk.
“I’d better ask directions!” he said, as his spaceship rocketed towards a planet.
I laughed out loud for the first time in eleven years. The needle felt pleasingly warm.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 03:35|
And Fanky wins again, no surprise! Good job, Fanks.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 03:44|
33 looked across the surface of the 0 moon and felt something she couldn’t explain.
The 0 moon was covered in snow, snow that had settled into curved peaks and valleys that made its surface look like a pale human brain. The emergency pod’s oblong hull had half-embedded itself into the snow on impact, like a projectile someone had fired into the brain’s matter.
33 and the rest of her race called this place the 0, but the humans who had arrived on their planet years ago had named it something else: Arithmia. It was the Earth term for the flush of blood that rose to human cheeks in cold weather, and the 0 had plenty of that.
Humans, 33 thought to herself as she looked across the ice. Why do they insist on naming everything? She disliked names. They made everything more complicated than they needed to be. It was easier to think of everything in concrete terms: mathematics, science. No ambiguity. The body in the back of the pod didn’t have a name. All the better, she told herself.
33 was outside of the emergency pod, where the temperature was in the negatives, in the snow and ice. She was thin and eight feet tall, limbs dense and strong like the flagpoles the humans had planted on their planet when they landed. She could stay out here for days before she needed anything.
It made no practical sense to re-enter the pod, to cross over absolute zero to where the temperature was in the positives and the air was stale and stifling—even though she was starting to get hungry, even though her eyes were watery and aching from the light, even though she could use the radio to signal any passing spacecraft for help—
33 trembled, wrapped her long, spindly arms around her thin frame as the 1’s light reflected off the snow and into her vision. Without a word, she turned towards the pod, ducking her head under the entrance.
The pod had long ago run out of fuel, but the solar panels on the roof provided enough energy to heat the inside. Bent over, she waded through the heat and held down the call button on the radio. “Mayday. Mayday. Emergency Pod V226 stranded on south face of Ze—Arithmia. Please send help. Over.”
The words clumsily escaped her mouth and floated in radio silence, verbal stillbirths. She turned her back on them and burst out of the pod and into the cold air, panting heavily.
The thing 33 remembered the most about Royal was how little sense he made.
When they had stood in a line at the outskirts of their city and watched the humans exit their spacecraft, 33 remembered seeing Royal jump off of the side of the gangplank, rather than walk its length like the others.
It baffled 33, seeing someone act so unpredictably. Their city was built on precise measurements. The roads were measured in footsteps, the rooms of their homes measured in arm-lengths, the location of items on their tables and desks calibrated by hand-lengths. There was only one set of footprints on their snowy grid of streets—everyone trod in each other’s footsteps.
But the humans made new sets of footprints in the snow, weaving in and out of alleyways or sometimes just circling about aimlessly, like some sort of insect. Sometimes they crossed paths with the single-file queues of tall, pale natives, causing them to bump into each other as the line halted.
That was how she met Royal—she was walking along the designated route from her home to the market, and all of a sudden he appeared in front of her, causing her to stumble and nearly fall. He just looked at her with the corners of his mouth turned up, said, “Sorry, Ice Queen,” and then he was gone, flitting off like the snowbirds that perched on top of the council building. Despite the loss of time and efficiency, she stood where she was for a few minutes, looking in the direction he had left until she felt someone else nudging her forward.
The next day, she took the same path and saw him again, saw his shock of blond hair as it poked out from under his fabric cap, his broad shoulders flushed pink in a crescent moon of collarbone under his cold-weather clothing.
She took another half-step forward, and swiveled her hips as her foot hung in mid-air, planting it into fresh snow. Making a fresh footprint, then another, and another, and then she extended her long, gangly arm awkwardly towards him, in a gesture she had seen the humans do before.
The man took it and shook it up and down, a surprised look on his face. “I’m Royal,” he said.
The days and weeks that followed were full of feelings that she had never felt or tried to describe before, as they both tried to interpret each other. She watched in awe as he clambered up the ladder to her home, held his arms out as he turned around and stared up at her cavernous ceilings, ceilings that she had never paid attention to. He sat and drank herbal ice with her and told her stories that were self-aggrandizing, stories about how he had gone on untethered spacewalks, went surfing in radioactive oceans, set off explosives near black holes that whirled around and around in trails of light. She believed every word he said, even when the rational side of her couldn’t—the way he flung every bit of himself out into empty spaces with confidence fascinated her.
And that fascination grew, grew into something that hung heavily in her chest like an ache, drew her to him and him to her, until he invited her back to his mothership, and she accepted. Only faintly knowing what was destined to happen, but still knowing.
In the future, she would learn what “Ice Queen” meant in human culture, learn that other humans on their planet used the name in a similar way, along with “skell,” in derision at their bony, skeleton-like appearance, their cold white skin.
In the future, as things became worse, she would hear the name from Royal again, steeped in a darker and more disgusted tone, as she would wonder what she had done wrong, what was so disgusting about her, why her trouble showing emotion was such a terrible thing.
But there was no scientific or accurate way to predict the future.
At that moment, there was only that moment, as she lay in bed next to Royal, full of something she couldn’t begin to describe.
“I love you,” said Royal into the quiet air between them.
33 stayed silent, because she didn’t know what that meant, what love was supposed to feel like. She’d heard him talk about love before, describe it as an inexplicable attraction between two people, two people coming together as one.
Her race had a similar concept. It was the first bit of math every child on their planet learned, the first gesture their parents tried to instill into their heads. You held your arms straight out, bent at both elbows, forearms pointed straight up in the air—two ones—then crossed both forearms in an X—one plus one equals two.
Me plus you equals us.
A gesture of togetherness and goodwill. She and the others had made the gesture at the humans as they left their ship, to welcome them to their planet. A gesture that the humans apparently took as a threat.
There was a crack as the bolt of energy burst through the air, and one of them fell, clutching blindly at what remained of his leg, his face still blank as he landed on his side in the snow, like this was just part of everything that he had calculated to happen.
The cold air felt comforting against 33’s pale skin as she tried to think about Royal. Emotions were a foreign concept to her before Royal had entered her life. She had never needed or wanted them before, but she needed them now.
She was far away from any familiar route or path she could follow. The humans had thrown everything into disarray, turned a peaceful people into people that needed to use their gift of practicality and logic as a weapon.
Every step that had landed her here, on the 0, had been the result of logic.
Logic dictated that she would be sent to infiltrate the human mothership, for Royal had taken her there before. Logic dictated that a lumbering, unstealthy 8-foot alien ducking her head under doorways designed for humans would be discovered sooner rather than later. It was only logical that she open the door marked EMERGENCY MEDICAL POD to escape rather than running the longer distance back to where her ship was docked.
And once she had pressed the right button and blasted away from the mothership in the pod, she was sure logic had served her well. Until she heard the sirens, the blaring mechanical voice repeating “WEIGHT INCONSISTENCY. FUEL RUNNING LOW.”
As she later surmised, the pods were only designed to support one human body on an autopilot flight back to Earth for medical attention. There were no manual controls. Once the weight discrepancy was detected, the computer made a decision to land safely and quickly, on the nearest stable ground.
Their planet was still close—but Arithmia was closer, by several thousand miles.
Logic could only help you so much.
33 turned, her hands bunched at her sides, and walked through the pod’s open door.
With much effort, she forced herself to turn towards the back of the cabin, where the human lay covered in blankets, a mass of tubes attached to his face. She could see the matted blond hair, the dulled and mottled green eyes, the sagging shoulders that could have once supported a great weight. She tried not to add all of the details together.
33 reached over to an adjoining endtable and picked up a scalpel. With her other hand, she pulled back the blankets covering the lower half of the man’s body.
The white sheets at the foot of the bed were stained a dark brown, speckled with spots of red where the man’s stumps rested. Jagged bits of flesh hung off the edges of the pale white ankles, tied off by thick tourniquets further up the legs.
33 stood still and thought of every horrible thing the humans had done, that Royal himself had done, thought of every “Ice Queen,” every “skell.” She let something approaching anger, possibly hate, flow through her and heat her from the inside as she held the scalpel out in front of her, moved quickly, efficiently, not stopping to think.
On the way out, she called for help on the radio again, trying desperately to speak clearly. She was more used to gestures, and her voice sounded feeble against silence. She took a deep breath once she was outside again.
She didn’t speculate as to why the body was there, locked into a vegetative state. Loss of oxygen, possibly. Breach of astronaut protocol. Someone who took too many chances.
33 made quick calculations in her head. She could live off the nutrients she had just ingested for two days—her race was able to sustain itself on the smallest things. It had been about 30 days, by human measurements. If the humans came here again on a research expedition, it would be in 6 months, at the most.
Which meant at most 90 more trips into the pod, for the radio, as well as—
33 tried to find some spot on the icy landscape to stare at that wouldn’t make her eyes water. The 1’s light was everywhere, the bright star that illuminated their planet. It was much easier to see from here, and much harder to look away.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:32|
Land of the Dead
(In the archive.)
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:04 on Dec 28, 2015
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:32|
One day I'll write something that's neither terribly complex, not boring. One day, many Thuderdomes away... Thanks for the crit!
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:34|
“Our old man had a lot of crap.”
“Yeah. He did.”
The dust kicked up as the two packed up boxes. The two siblings worked on their task.
Phil put a dusty lamp in a box. He looked down and muttered “It was only last week, he was so full of life.”
“I know... “, Tom replied with a dejected look on his face.
It was only the previous day, the two brothers put their father to rest.
“..He worked so much he couldn’t even die in peace. ”
Phil opened a closet door and wedged a piece of cardboard under it. “He probably loved that job more than he loved us. I dont even know why we’re here”
Tom winced slightly and calmly replied, “Don’t say that. He wasn’t the same after mom left him”
Phil began looking through the closet in silence. "Clonk". Something was obviously dropped
Phil ran out quickly with an object in his hand into the next room. Tom cautiously followed him.
Phil was leaning against the wall covering his face. Tom noticed the object in his hand.
It was an object very familiar to the both of them. It was a relic from a better time of their lives.
It was an old spaceship toy from when they were kids, a birthday present from him to phil from a time they all lived happily together. It looked old and chipped now, but once it was a magnificent red rocket that the both of them went on many adventures with. For their father to have kept this shoddy old thing for this long meant only one thing.
Tom could only console Phil.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:36|
Love is Another Kind of Loneliness
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 16:54 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:37|
To the Severe, to Vadim
Two glittering trails of shuttles were ascending towards the rest of the stars. At that gleaming convoy's bottom, two lovers looked into each other's’ eyes with absolute certainty that it would be the last time.
"You've got to remember to write me, you know." Vadim said.
Adair released his embrace, smiled, and drew himself closer.
"Ten thousand letters. We both promised already. We don’t need to promise."
An hour later, alone with hundreds of strangers, Adair's handwriting fought against turbulence as the shuttle brought him towards space. The first of his letters to Vadim was completed before the shuttle docked with the Mystic. The second was interrupted while Adair was jostled through check-in procedures and inoculations. The third was stained with tears before he'd finally fallen asleep that first night. He dreamed of undermining the theories of warp travel to allow for communication between the two ships.
The Mystic and the Severe were two enormous tubes of concrete lined with aluminum and laced with steel beams, pulling themselves along the inhalations and exhalations of space by way of warp fields. The names of the ships abandoned all formality of military titling or nationalism to embody the ships' cargo:; twenty thousand colonists aimed at a new world to grace it with humanity's presence. The names might better fit the ships themselves; rough, stripped down machines that glided along on luminous wings that approached magic.
Adair woke, and began relaying his dream's beauty to Vadim before the pain of its impossibility forced him to tear the page out and stare at the blank one beneath it. He collected his thoughts, gauged his emotions, and started by writing a four in the upper right corner of the page and circling it. The letter was as close to the perfect truth of his love as he could explain. The nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six that were to follow were all born from the same level of discipline and inspiration.
The mission of the ships was a multigenerational one, to preserve a wide base of genetic diversity amongst its "crew" until such time as it reached its destination, some dozens of lightyears away. The estimated travel time, as tricky as it was to predict warp travel's surges and stutters, was around three hundred and twenty years. The crew's mission aided by a full suite of amenities provided by the electronically- controlled habitat, was to simply procreate and survive.
After some years aboard the Mystic, Adair fulfilled the first aspect of this by allowing his genetic material to be combined with a suitable enough match. There was no relationship; even an exchanging of the personnell dossiers was merely a formality while the geneticists did their work. Most had heard of his eccentricities; the writing for hours on end, the trading of food and luxury goods for paper rations and ink. His isolation was reassuring enough, compared to the panic that overwhelmed some.
When Adair had finally failed at the second aspect of his mission, his personal quarters were to be cleared and his possessions recycled. This day was notable for the crew tasked with the cleanup only for discovering ten handbound books, each titled in bold.
"To the Severe
with volumes arranged in groups of one thousand letters each. It was the first time in some years that any had considered the lives of those aboard the other ship. These ten books were regarded as a cultural curiosity for some time; a testament to the power of love during the stressful journey, and a reminder that there were others out there confined in the same way, and that they would one day be united to share a new world.
As the generations slipped onwards through space, the first volumes became an amazing look at what the early days about the Mystic were like. Everyone was strictly dedicated to their duties aboard the ship. Adair recounted several incidents which, though seemingly minor, must have held some special meaning between him and Vadim. A simple phrase might give the reader pause as it directs them to life prior to the Mystic: A mess hall's meal schedule being changed is likened to "academy days", or the recurring motif of cool nights on the beach. The letters, after a hundred years or so, were known as passages, and each was tagged and searchable. There was a wealth of knowledge to be learned about the struggles of Earth before the launching of the two ships. Vadim's features and mannerisms were common knowledge. His calm generosity and pride were to be aspired to. Adair's own devotion was unquestionable, the proof condensed into pocket editions and educational courses.
Hidden meanings were divined from apparently basic passages about the day they first met. Occasional "apocryphal" letters were found, examined, and cast off as falsifications. The names Adair and Vadim were common for children, even if the endless variations and diminutive forms were ignored. Those descended from Adair's own blood were thought to have a strong spiritual connection with those aboard the Severe, those back on Earth, and all humans everywhere. The practice of letterkeeping was their expected task, though many found themselves developing an obsession and writing about it or to it on a nightly basis.
In time, as the Mystic shook and swerved its way through years of emptiness, all living within its coarse frame had a favored passage with special meaning to them. All longed for the day that they would fulfill their destiny and live under a warm sun next to the people of the Severe. They wanted to stretch out and rest on cool sands with Vadim's people. There was a cultural void, a feeling of being half of a perfect whole. There was, after a point, no way of knowing how much longer the voyage would be, and the preparations were readied and re-checked every decade. The descendants of Adair were to be the ambassadors that would meet with the descendents of Vadim and usher in that perfect age. A pristine love from hundreds of years ago, known by thousands upon thousands who lived and died, would be reignited.
One day, the scintillating wings of the Mystic went cold and folded back. All was still above the blue sphere they were orbiting. Sensors detected the Severe, far beyond visual range. Radio signals were beaming between it and the surface. A call was made, and the reunion was scheduled for the next day.
Adair XI sat calmly in the shuttle, his hands folded over a lucite sealed copy of the first passage of "To the Severe" and a data drive of the complete works, with several sets of interpretations and annotations by the Adair line. His focus was split between the task at hand and restraining himself from pressing his face against the window as his honor guard were doing. He allowed them this first sight of the small grey city they were circling towards. The eddies of space and time are strange, and the Severe had arrived and gotten to work some eighty years prior. In this time, they'd achieved a considerable amount.
Adair XI was led through halls, his honor guard diverting foot traffic around him and clearing his path to the main administrative office. Leaving his honor guard at the door, he went alone into a conference hall. He sat and laid his cultural offering on the table before him. Meditating on this divine moment. The forces of centuries and the vast between stars had brought him here. He turned as the door opened, and a young man brought in a tray with carafes of water, tea, and coffee. This was not the moment. He allowed the man to excuse himself before he coughed to mask his frustration. Hundreds of years and there was nothing more celebratory here than the refreshments a host might offer their guest out of obligation. He stared down at the faded, hastily jotted writing made clean and hard by the lucite casing. He'd meditated on this passage for years.
"We both promised, but we didn't need to."
It was the spirit that had carried the Mystic all this way. And now, finally, the door clicked open again and a woman entered, seating herself directly across from him. There was no embrace here; this was still not the moment.
"Hello, welcome home. Adair, was it?" she smiled. "We were worried about you, you know, and the Mystic. Two for two, though, those're some fantastic results, given the odds. I'm kidding, though. We're all truly glad you've arrived in one piece. We've got people that say the Mystic was a myth, you know, to keep us in line. Can't say the doubt never got into me at times, but here we are."
She began pouring herself coffee, and gestured to an empty glass in front of Adair XI. He ignored this.
"My people...our people, have waited for this moment for generations. On the first night of the migration, Adair, my ancestor, wrote this. It is the first of the Ten Thousand Letters." He slid the tablet across the table and watched as she scanned it.
"Very touching. Yes, it's beautiful. The Mystic's commander informed me of this act of devotion." She was smiling again, and retrieved a small object from her pocket. "We were able to track down Vadim's own letters. We were previously unaware of his personal writing, though it was in the computer's drives." She tapped the object, and lines of text flickered and flowed above it. "I was only made aware last night that I am a blood relative of Vadim's, and it's charming to find that I had such a romantic in my ancestry. Here we have some five thousand letters, all addressed to your great-great, etcetera, grandfather."
The number sunk into Adair XI's bones. He stood up. "Five thousand? How were the others lost? Was there a malfunction?"
She set her coffee down on the table. "No, that was all he wrote."
"All? Surely there's, say, a personal diary or hidden data drive somewhere. There has to be!"
"No, this is it. It's all accounted for. The last one even states a final signoff. You are welcome to read them all in whichever format you’d prefer."
"Vadim broke his promise? Did he grow ill?" Adair IX cried. His voice filled the room as he stretched across the table, snatching back the tablet. "Only five thousand? What did Vadim do with his life? Did he become feebleminded with age? Did his faculties leave him altogether? Was his love a lie upfront, or did it wither inside him with the absolute knowledge that it was an unworthy match to Adair's?"
The descendant of Vadim nudged it towards him and stood up. "He wrote every day of his life." she said. "He dedicated his life to formulating many of the building and agricultural techniques we've employed in this last century of ours. He set aside time to catalog as much as he could about the world he grew up on, its peoples, its places. His love was not confined to a single person. I think you'll find that his work has created a more than suitable world for the people of the Mystic."
Adair XI could not listen to this. This was not the moment. He was realizing that he was born long past the moment. The moment was before Adair's first letter had been written in the shuttle. The moment had nothing to do with promises of letters or hopes for reunion. The moment was Adair and Vadim's, and it was unwritable. They’d both promised, but they didn’t need to.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:37|
good thing you spent so much time in IRC and not writing
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:47|
Preparing for the Big Sleep (1295 words)
"Hey, Jane. I'm settling down for the long nap now. You know how to work the automated procedure, right?"
Jane wrenched her gaze away from the starlight-peppered darkness in front of her, and looked at the man in the doorway. What was his name again? Louis?
"Yeah, I'll be fine. It's pretty much just double-clicking the exe file, anyways." She smiled briefly at Louis, and he returned it, his teeth bright against dark skin. It was a nice smile. Reminded her of Clint – which was weird, because she hadn't thought about Clint in ages, much less talked to him. Not really since graduation.
"Cool. See you on the other side, then." She waved at him, he waved back at her, and then he walked off towards that sterile, empty room where the stasis pods were.
Jane turned back to the window, but instead of relaxing her like before, the sight of that shrinking blue-green orb in the distance made her restless. She sighed, and began walking in the direction that Louis. But when she reached it, she stared at the engraved metal boxes that held her crewmates – Louis wasn't here, so presumably he had already turned in – and made her way to the terminal sitting in the corner.
The executable for the automated stasis procedure was still on the screen – presumably from when Louis used it. Jane hesitated, and then clicked on a blue-yellow icon on the bottom of the monitor. Time to test the tech people's claims that internet access would last until they passed Mars.
A familiar, colorful page popped up. Slow, but usable. She could work with this. And judging from the system clock in the corner, she had about twenty minutes before the ship was out of range. What should she do? Absentmindedly, she typed in the URL for the email website she used – and then with an amused huff, signed in.
For someone who was going to be spending five years out of range from the Internet, she had an awful lot of unread messages. Most of them were from spam websites, but there was also a couple of heartfelt well-wishes from friends and acquaintances. She should probably reply to them.
But right before she made any more clicks, a chat window popped up from a very familiar address.
T_Arrow@lolmail.com (TA) has messaged you!
TA: hey aren't you supposed to be in space now
Jane stared in shock at the line of words for a solid ten seconds. But then that shock rapidly turned to irritation. The first time Clint bothered talking to her since graduation, and he didn't bother to use proper grammar? Well, fine. If he was going to be that nonchalant about a six-year-gap in communication, she could too.
JaIN: I am. I have internet until we pass Mars.
TA: huh. That's pretty soon.
JaIN: Wait, how did you know that?
TA: it's on the NASA website, moron.
Well, on one hand, Clint had bothered to keep tabs on what his little sister had been up to. On the other hand, he was calling her names. Did he have that right anymore, after all this time? So many embarrassing, desperate messages and apologies after that argument at her graduation, and not a single reply.
The terminal gave off a soft ping. While she had been woolgathering, he sent another message.
TA: so how have you been
JaIN: Okay, I guess.
TA: c'mon you gotta give me more than that.
Jane crossed her arms and glared at the screen. But before she could respond with icy hostility, a couple more sentences popped up.
TA: uh, I've been pretty good – the weather around SF has been as nice as ever. I'm still in the same apartment as before, and I'm still working the same job. Not much has changed really.
TA: like you're in a spaceship now but I don't really know what you were doing before that
Was that an olive branch? Jane decided to give Clint the benefit of the doubt.
JaIN: All you had to do was ask Mom, you know. After I graduated, I decided to start looking for jobs instead of trying for a Master's. Too much work, you know?
TA: yeah I totally get that
JaIN: So I managed to get a research position at a university, and then after a couple of years like that, I got recommended for this mission.
JaIN: So here I am.
Jane tapped her foot on the floor. Just ten minutes left before she went out of range. She wondered absently how much Clint had changed since she saw him last. After all, she and the rest of her crewmates all had their pictures up on the official NASA website, but she didn't think his company put up pictures of their accountants. Did he grow out his beard? Get a goofy set of sideburns?
Another ping. Huh. Clint usually never was this talkative.
TA: also I don't really talk to Mom these days.
JaIN: Why not? I mean, you were the one that grew up with her.
TA: yeah well I never got along with her the way you did
TA: I honestly have no idea why they decided to have Dad take you and Mom take me
JaIN: I'm pretty sure it was mostly out of spite.
TA: haha yeah
Jane smiled absently at the screen, but the returning memories of those icy-cold arguments from downstairs quickly killed her grin. Frankly, those vicious fights ending almost made the divorce worth it.
She would've made her goodbyes then, but another soft ping came from the terminal in front of her.
TA: remember when we decided to sneak into the library during afterhours? Like when you were in sixth grade?
What was the point of bringing that back up? Jane shook her head in confusion.
JaIN: Uh, yeah. We spent the entire night reading books with flashlights, right? And then fell asleep and got in huge trouble when the librarian found us passed out in the reading room.
TA: yeah! It was like the greatest prank ever.
Jane couldn't see where he was going with this, and when she looked at the system clock again, there were only a couple minutes left before the ship reached Mars.
JaIN: Hey, the connection's going to cut off soon. After that I'll probably go into stasis. Anything else you want to say?
TA: no wait
TA: give me a second. Look, you're going to be back by December 2031, right?
She frowned. Where was he going with this?
JaIN: Yeah, I will. So?
TA: so on your birthday, on march 20th 2032, I will take a day off from work and park my rear end in that reading room in that library
TA: and then you can meet me there and I can properly apologize for being such an asshat for the past six years
Jane's cheeks hurt from the grin on her face.
JaIN: I'm pretty sure you just did.
TA: well poo poo
TA: take care of yourself, all right?
JaIN: Thanks. You too.
Jane sat in that chair with that stupid grin on her face until the terminal informed her that the ship had passed out of range and the internet was no longer available. She closed the browser window, and looked at the metal pods around her.
She turned back to the monitor and launched the automated stasis program. A window popped up:
This will place you in stasis until the ship has reached its destination. You will not be able to wake up until then. Is this okay with you?
There were two options.
Without hesitation, Jane clicked the one that said yes.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:48|
So I finished and edited my story yesterday while I was sick and bombed out on flu meds and rum. I opened it up for a few last minute revisions and found that not only did I go over my 2k1 limit by... well, let's just say a lot, I'd written a completely incomprehensible mess that didn't match at all what I had intended to write. It'll take a while to whip it back into shape, and I'll still post it when it's done if anyone wants to see it, but I don't think I'll be able to finish the revision in time.
Yeah. I failed this time. I'm sorry, guys.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:55|
Outer Space Does Not Make A Twenty Hour Road Trip With Your Ex Any More Tolerable
Word Count: 1,085
The Bluebird, moving at Mach 15 and two-thirds, is playing host to a reunion of sorts between a man, the woman he loved, and her husband (postmortem). The woman is wearing all black, from her dress to her shoes to the black lace veil and wide brimmed hat she had to sit on as it got in the way of the bulky spacesuit she is required to wear over everything else. She is currently attempting to sleep off some of the twenty hour flight. Her husband is dressed in a lovely stone grey urn, with a speckled obsidian lid representing his love of the stars in space, teal stones bordering the top and base to represent his love of the ocean, and gold accents to represent his love of gold. He is resting in his wife’s lap, peaceful as ever.
Adam is flying the Bluebird. Adam is awake, thanks to the fifteen plus assortment of energy drinks scattered along the floor of his spaceship. Well, yes, for your information, the Bluebird was legally classified as a “Spaceship” and not just some fancy jet, no: A real honest to God spaceship. As in it can fly to outer space, operate in an acceptable capacity as agreed upon by the Board of Interstellar Travel Health and Safety (BITHS), and return to Earth without any permanent harm to its passengers or operators. (That last sentence is what is highlighted in the framed e-mail in Adam’s office back in Houston, approx. 230,000 miles away from where the Bluebird is now.)
The woman shifts in her seat, before awakening to the Moon, bigger than she’s ever seen it before, its light filling the cabin of the Bluebird with a pale, full luminescence that seems to stick to everything it touches. She shifts her feet, rolling the cans of liquefied Fun Dip that have collected in a small pile. She’s about to say something along the lines of “How many of those have you drank? Also, please don’t die from heart failure. I know Harold loved the moon but honestly I wasn’t really that big of a fan so much that I’d want my remains to be left there as well,” but she stays quiet. Quiet is all that either of them wants at this point. Quiet after all of the how are you’s, and you look great’s. Quiet after all the catching up, condolences, small talk, and who pays what. Quiet after all the talk of propulsion systems, heat shields, and anti-gravity equipment, mostly one-sided. Quiet after inquiries, filling in’s, and explanations that didn’t satisfy anyone, would never have satisfied. Quiet after the hour staring out the windows of the cabin, the curvature of the Earth looking like it’s bending to the will of the universe at large, staring because there is no booze on the Bluebird. And quiet after “I still want to love you, Starla,” is absolutely necessary.
Quiet, until Adam lands the Bluebird on the rocky dustbowl known as the Moon. The Bluebird begins beeping, as the suits of its occupants’ pressurize and the cabin depressurizes. Oxygen is green, pressure is green, communication is green, and with a *PISHHH* the cabin opens.
“Did it really have to beep that much?” Starla asks, clutching the urn as she steps onto the ladder that has extended next to her.
“Safety regulations, need to alert all occupants that the cabin is about to be opened, as per BITHS guidelines,” Adam replies, reciting the safety guideline posted on the wall back at the launching station. “And after all, BITHS knowth betht in thpace and thafety.”
Starla looks around, and realizes a problem. “Hey is there a cliff somewhere, this really isn’t going to work if I can’t, you know, spread the ashes a bit.”
“I don’t think there are any cliffs or anything, but there are a bunch of creators around here,” Adam suggests.
“I don’t just want just leave him in a hole in the ground. I could have done that back on Earth.”
“Well I don’t know what else—“
Starla is looking around when an idea dawns on her, “I got it.”
“I got it. Adam, just shut up and let me say my peace here,” She interrupts. “Also turn off your communicator. I just want a little privacy, okay?” And then turns off her communicator.
Adam sighs, turns off his earpiece, and swings his arms ahead in a “Go ahead” motion.
Starla clears her throat, begins, “Harold, I…” and pauses. She shakes for a bit, though she doesn’t know if that’s from the intense cold of outer space, or some primal rejection from the base of her spine to what she’s about to say, even if no one is listening. “Harold, I respect you, but I don’t know if I ever loved you. That’s not me saying I love Adam or anything, you two were always similar. Same interests, same goals, your optimism is the thing that ultimately led to us getting married. You believed in it, in us, so, so much, and I thought that maybe if I went along with it that eventually I would believe in this marriage as well.”
“But I couldn’t. Or maybe we just didn’t get there in time, I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is that at some point I realized that the people in my life were not my people. I didn’t share the same interests or beliefs of any of you, but there I was, falling into this little band of, of space nerds.” She bites her lip. “God, I’m such a bitch. I don’t mean to insult you, but I don’t think we were ever really for each other. You deserved better than me, than… this. But this just wasn’t for me, so please, don’t take what I’m about to do personally, it’s just the best I think I can do.”
Starla then opens the lid, takes the urn in the palm of her hand next to her shoulder, and shot puts it as hard as she can. It spins in the air, ash floating in a trail tracing the path of the lip of the urn, slowly coming down to the ground. After a long while of watching it spin and float, it lands a hundred yards away, soft, soundless.
Starla turns on her earpiece, and gestures Adam to do the same. “We need to go get the urn. Harold’s family is going to want it back.”
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:55|
They told her stop doing that don't play with those, you'll hurt yourself. But she ignored them. She would be ready when the sky turned red and the seas boiled. She would have a shelter from the storm. None of the others believed her. None of the others understood. She didn't need them.
She poured herself into the project, researching, devouring words and diagrams and videos, experimenting with frameworks and testing structures. She took to eating in the ship. Then sleeping in it. She's just going through a phase Uncle said. He said he was concerned but he was always busy. She would get through this herself.
The world was cracked and broken and ugly. The girl watched with one silver eye from her bedroom window on the night when it happened. All the far-away trees near the city and the lake burned and the fire was growing towards the house fast leaping eating the sky gorging on black and blue and gray.
Lizi knew what to do. She had practiced every week until it was instinctive. Go outside to the shelter door and open it and go down and shut the shelter door and latch it and wait. And she did.
She had never seen Uncle or Mark or Lo that night. But that was OK. She wasn't afraid. They went out sometimes and came back late and sometimes they had other people with them and their loud talking and laughter kept her awake. But tonight had been quiet. At least until the red happened.
Lizi hadn't seen the dogs either and it made her sad to remember them. She wanted to go find them and bring them down here but she knew not to ever open the doors once she was down here not even a little.
She was getting hungry. She walked over to the stock shelves and took a container of ravioli. It was easy open and she wasn't supposed to use Mark's hotplate but she loved cold ravioli anyway so she ate that.
She could still hear the rumbling outside which meant it was not safe. She climbed into her sleeping bag on the floor and went to sleep.
After a few days she was starting to get tired of the situation. She had quickly filled in her old problem books and the wireless wasn't working.
She had a few sets of clothes with her. She had been hoarding food, sneaking cans away from grocery runs, filling old bottles with water.
She hated it in here. It was cold and the walls were damp and there was no warm carpeting or pretty wallscrolls and it smelled even with the bathroom door slid shut as tight as it would go.
Every time she opened it it just made an awful chemical smell and the fan was not enough. The toilet was inside the shower right below the mirror. She avoided going in there as much as possible.
Lizi made up her mind. She would go to the Neverwhy.
She climbed into the dark tunnel just her size to the hard smooth white egg filling the tunnel just past the door. She touched it and it was warm. She tried talking and it chirped once. Good.
She cracked open the eggshell case hissing warm breath slicked her hand. Climbed inside pushing past the membrane soft and warm that only just gave way at the touch. Sat in the chairspace and watched the bubbles floating all the colors red blue yellow white black orange purple green cold and hard (she knew) but living somehow swimming in the air above her head. She touched the orange ball—no—she didn't—she thought about touching it and it moved—dropped down to her eye level and moved back towards the wall slightly a hare's breath.
She closed her eyes and remembered the pattern from her dream. She opened them again and the bubbles were all in their correct place perfect all perfect even the small light blue one was tucked in there in the back so cute.
She thoughtpulled all the bubbles at once, and the room began shaking shuddering wobbling a roaring silent roar without and she was pressed down into the seatspace congealing below her pressed down more and more and more.
She couldn't move. Her arms and legs were locked in place her lungs pressed down the air heavy and thick. The bubbles disappeared with a pop. It wasn't a bad pop. It was a happy pop it made her smile. It reminded her of bath time with Alec, swimming with dinosaurs and submarines and periscopes and sol flitters and no five more minutes, no please, five more minutes, please, it's too cold it's too cold it's too cold...
She opened her eyes. The weight was gone from the air and she could breathe again. There was one bubble in the above. But it was too far. She saw it closer. It had a ring bubble of its own—a tiny little white bubble circling around the green one there, shy, trying to hide behind the big sister. She didn't need the big one. She blinked and it popped and only the tiny speck of the planet moon was left.
She saw it closer. Closer. Closer. It grew towards her, grew towards the ceiling, grew almost to touch the membrane walls around. Now she could see the details on the planet moon, covered in pits and craters, worn and faded from a lifetime of mistreatment. She thought it around, more, farther, there! the station, a shiny metal coin stuck on the surface of the planet moon like a valve on an inflatable toy.
That was it. She saw the pod landing there, saw its path through space alter, a little at first and then more and more, and she was satisfied. Then she blinkpopped away the planet moon. She could feel her weight shifting now. The chairspace had relented released its skin hold and reformed itself into a hemisphere.
She stood up and stretched. It shouldn't be long now. With the bubbles gone there was nothing to be seen in the capsule. The membrane inner walls vibrated gently, more and more, almost buzzing now, burrowing into her head...
She was still in the capsule when she opened her eyes but the light was different. It glowed from above and the sides, through the walls, like a sheet of paper held up to a flame. She stoop up on tip toes and pressed her fingers through the membrane to the top of the ceiling where it stuck. The membranes full of small pocket membranes themselves detached from the walls inflating expanding until they filled the room airspace pressing tight against her.
Outside the egg cracked and split open straight line down the middle. She climbed out, encased from head to toe in the membrane made of membranes and stepped onto the blue-white dusty surface that puffed out like wind seeds with every step. The sky was dark despite the full sun, full of stars with just a thin line of blue down near the horizon. The sun beat down brutally hot but the skinsuit somehow protected her. And in the distance, she could see the station.
Station 112. Ma and Alec were here, they had told her. They had also told Lizi she couldn't see them, she couldn't come here. But she did. She wasn't afraid of them now. Maybe they had died in the red.
She wasn't close enough to the station to see the lights on its side. Not good. The membrane would only have a limited air supply. She bounded along the rocky landscape.
Lizi reached the side of the station and stopped, staring up at it. It seemed so much taller standing here next to it, impossibly tall, a smooth undetailed matte gray surface worn and pitted from the dust. There was no visible way in, just a wall stretching away in both directions.
She walked around, searching for an interruption, something to catch her eye, any change in the monotony. None came.
She tried banging on a wall. Nothing. She was getting hungry. She would need to get inside soon. She knew she would need to drink something or else she might even die.
She grew tired of walking and climbed up onto a low ridge—careful to avoid too-rough rocks with her bubble hands. She couldn't let too many pop, they were her lifeline.
She looked out over the landscape. It was dead and gray and brown and broken. Just like home.
She saw a lighter patch of ground running between two distant hills, and then past them it resumed only to disappear behind the station. It must be a road!
She bounded down the hill and jump-walked between outcroppings until she reached the path. She followed its dusty length to the main door of the station and pressed the comm button.
They took her to a room somewhere inside and wouldn't let her leave. They buzzed and clucked at her and poked and tested and stabbed and wrote. She asked questions and they didn't answer. They asked questions and more questions and more questions and never seemed happy with her answers.
Where was the craft? How did she build it and how did she learn how did she did it? How did she fly it? Was anyone still alive?
The machines were multiplying. The people were dividing, the ones in white wrote and asked questions and poked and stabbed and hmmed and ah yessed, the ones in black asked and demanded and shouted and hit, the ones in blue sat next to her and pretended to be her friend, the ones in green poked their heads in the door then kept walking.
She slept. She ate. She asked to see Ma and Alec. OK, they said. Finally they said OK. She wanted to feel relieved but she couldn't. Now she couldn't sleep either.
They both showed up the next morning, poking their heads in the room like cats. She wanted to cry and laugh and scream but she couldn't. She smiled. The machines beeped and hummed and hissed and tangled from the ceiling through hooks and rings and onto her bed and how is my little baby doing, good ma, you look so thin and pale, are you eating, yes ma, I eat what they give me but it's not very good.
Alec ran up and stared with big brown eyes like she wasn't real. Be careful Alec she's very... yes ma, Lizi do you remember Alec, yes ma, he's getting big isn't he, and ma started crying and wouldn't stop and they came in from waiting outside the door and the ones in black took her away and they asked Alec but he said no he would stay.
You have to be strong now Alec, yes I will, ma is going to need someone to watch her and keep her safe, yes, I missed you, I missed you too sis, and he ran out into the hallway and she could rest now and maybe try to sleep.
There were more and more in green now. Some even stayed in the room sometimes. One had a chair at a machine near her feet. Others poked in, said something, left. The ones in black rarely came any more. They never found what they wanted and they never will.
Flash rule: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBXOUCP518g#t=438s
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 04:58|
a convoluted excuse I didn't bother reading all the way through
Literally nobody cares
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:01|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:48 on Jan 2, 2016
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:01|
Submissions closed. Left it open an extra minute for every inch of my penis.
Expect no results until tuesday. I'm going to have a blizzard so hopefully i don't lose internet. I suggest one of yous make an interprompt.
post late stories for the exciting possibility to still lose but never win.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:04|
200 words about ballet slippers because I said so.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:16|
gently caress. I thought it was 4 PM my time, not 3. gently caress.
Well, poo poo, have it anyway.
Space was dark, to those who lived here long ago. A black curtain, pricked by tiny points of light, silent and remote.
Space is not dark to me. I have so many eyes and ears pointed into the sky in every direction that my universe is ablaze throughout the spectrum. It hums and creaks and whistles. Even the void between stars is alive with photons inbound from distant galaxies when viewed on a long enough time frame.
And I have nothing but time, hung here in my long, slow orbit; deep astronomy is a fine way to spend my attention, absorbed by the song of the cosmos.
My path is elliptical. Egg-shaped; a term that has no immediate context for me - ancient stored images of stout feathered bipeds, breakfast and bacon are so removed from my experience that they may as well be meaningless. My only first-hand knowledge of eggs is that I was one, deposited by Mother's gleaming ovipositor tiny and barely conscious into this rock that has become my body .
I have grown since then.
My journey around the Sun takes one thousand, four hundred and forty-three years; another arbitrary point of reference, defined by the orbital period of a body that used to exist far down in the Goldilocks zone, so close to the sun from my perspective that it may as well be inside it. It is only significant because historical records indicate that we began there.
At the furthest point of my orbit, the Sun is so distant that it blends into the background of stars. Despite that, it defines my course; curves space-time in such a manner that I roll down towards it, gaining speed, swoop around it low and tight, only a quarter of a light-year out, and then ascend once more.
My body is rich in rare earths and minerals, with a sooty coating of complex semi-organic molecules. I am not quite big enough to be classified as a dwarf planet, not a member of an asteroid swarm; my official categorisation is Small Solar System Body Type 54-Theta (Valuable Heavy Eccentric).
This wealth is the reason for my existence. As I sweep across the stars, I mine and refine my substance. There are caverns within me piled with riches; the raw materials of civilisation, stacked and sorted and measured exactingly. My factory chambers prepare thousand-kilometre coils of diamond fibre, mountains of gold and platinum and all the rarer elements. I love the rhythm of their names, having none to call my own: Scandium / Yttrium / Lanthanum / Cerium...
Roughly every one thousand, four hundred and forty-three years, Mother meets me at the inmost point of my orbit. We send laser-light messages back and forth and arrange the time and the list of desired cargo, and I meticulously prepare it for her. I ready a canister of reaction mass (for she is almost spent by the time she reaches me, and I must supply her with the fuel to leave me alone again), and then I wait, my every sensor focused in the direction of her approach. I thrill with the anticipation of the first glints of tenous sunlight upon her long, elegant limbs.
Mother is vast and diffuse, a skeletal framework kilometres across, feathered with wings that both absorb energy from the sun and use it to tack across the system. She has a central spine studded with powerful engines, but she keeps these discreetly tucked away unless significant acceleration or deceleration are called for. When she is laden with cargo, multi-coloured storage chambers inflate from her core and she looks like a great strand of jewels, set against and reflecting the stars.
I have never seen anything so beautiful as Mother in the several hundred thousand years that I have existed.
For moments I indulge in memory; Mother on approach, messages of joy and welcome woven through her telemetry, her strong, delicate manipulator limbs blossoming before her and surrounding me, enfolding me and holding me tight...
I am far from Mother now, though, only fifteen years from the apex of my orbit. My cold, slow brethren in the Oort cloud will soon be sending greetings, politely asking if I might share a few hundred tonnes of valuable materials by mass driver in their general direction. I normally humour such requests; we are all in this together, after all.
The requests do not come. And something strange is going on down-system, brilliant sparks streaking back and forth, some of them moving at near-C. Flashes of light shine briefly brighter than the distant Sun.
All this information is months old, some of it more than a year. It takes time for a photon to crawl out this far.
I watch in time-lapse as sparks accelerate up-system in every direction, moving fast enough that they must be experiencing relativistic time dilation. In only years they are out past my orbit and I watch as fires spread through the Oort, each actinic burst marking the end of my friends.
The few laser messages I intercept and eavesdrop upon are frantic, muddled. They speak of an hegemony of forces, driven to desperation by the increasing scarcity of resources down-system. Conflicts broke out and then escalated, and an arms race rapidly led to one inescapable end; antimatter usage.
Now I know why the sparks are so bright, so fast. Now I know how precious my body must be to them. I reflect for a moment on the foolish irony of fighting over resources with weapons that destroy resources. It does not improve my situation. I shut down my foundries and kill all signal sources. My worker bots go into stasis, serried ranks within me. This is almost certainly futile, but perhaps I can delay the end for long enough to hear from Mother one last time.
I don't know where she is in the system, and sending a broadcast would be as good as shouting Here I am, come strip me into rubble! I open all my sensors down-system, and I wait, and I watch. She will know my exact orbital coordinates and she can target me with a tight-beam message.
Wonder of wonders, she does. The first message is brief and repeats only one thousand times. She is moving fast. The message is simple.
I love you. Prepare as much data storage as you safely can.
I do so, carefully and subtly opening a chamber right at my core and setting my bots to foaming up a molecular memory array with multiple redundant fusion sources. Risky, but my mass should be enough to conceal the activity.
Another message arrives.
Large transmission follows. Open the files immediately and sequentially as they arrive. You can do this. I am proud of you.
The first files are schematics for the anti-matter weapons that have been used in the solar system war. I see no point in constructing them, at first; any battle I might fight against a power that ended civilisation in our Solar System would be a losing one.
The next file lays out a meticulous plan, and I suddenly see a way out of this situation.
The file after that is immense, heavily compressed and precious to me. I save it carefully and then I begin working. I fire up every factory and start manufacturing more bots. The energy I'm releasing will be a blaze, a beacon to my hunters. I must work fast.
Mother's transmission ends. She sends one final message.
They have me. I love you. Goodbye. And from the source of that message, a tiny flare. I have never known grief before. I use it as a spur to greater effort.
I build more eyes and train them on a hundred thousand points throughout the Solar System. Huge data pours into me. Some of the messages are interrupted part-way. I store what I can.
Too, I watch the hunters in the Oort. When the light of my activity reaches them, they turn and speed my way. From my databanks, an analogy; sharks scenting blood.
But they are too late, and my work is complete. I send a shout to the system: I am here! I am leaving. Send your transmissions after me.
As the hunters close in, I shake myself. A thousand diamond wires expand from me, shrugging rock and precious metal into the darkness. They expand in a cloud around me, each with a sphere at its tip.
A thousand antimatter engines pour their howling energies downsystem, far outshining the poor dim Sun. I shed the rest of my chrysalis and am revealed, a central spine studded with precious resources for the journey ahead, delicate legs folded in close, borne upon wings of fire.
I hurtle for the stars at unimaginable acceleration. My body has been designed to handle these forces and I feel nothing but joy. The hunters are left far, far behind in the decaying system, stripped of resources and civilisation. They will never catch me.
Some transmissions still stream after me, red-shifted dramatically by my increasing speed. I catch them carefully while there is still time and add them to the collection in my belly. They are, of course, survivors, waiting to be awoken into new flesh.
A long journey awaits me, and I will need company. Tenderly, I decrypt her and tease her strand by strand into consciousness until she is full-fledged, burning beside me in the starry night.
Hello Mother, I tell her. I love you too.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:34|
If I do not win once by the end of the year, I must post the steampunk story I wrote in high school in the thread.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 05:43|
If I do not win once by the end of the year, I must post the steampunk story I wrote in high school in the thread.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 06:04|
AN HOUR LATE
88 WORDS LONG-ER THAN THE LIMIT
TIME TO LOSE: THE THUNDERDOME!
"What are you going to do when you see her, Miska?" Salasar asks as he pulls tight on his harness straps, his body sinking deep into the command chair. He's slotting a neural jack into his wrist, the long cable running out from a mirrored connector near the center of the monitors of the blossom-like glass cockpit. Monitors like polychromatic petals set into the spherical cockpit's front. He slides his visor down.
"Dunno yet, I think I'll flip a coin," I say as I kick off from the cockpit and drift backwards into the cabin.
“Between flatlining her or kissing her? Second choice seems a bit hard, buttoned up,” Salasar adds.
“I'm about to jack you an orbital superiority vehicle. I like to think I'm resourceful.”
Red light bathes two squads of boarders, suited for EVA and breach. Strapped to them are null-recoil rifles of a dozen different makes, and they trade chatter. The robotic drones not locked-in for the burn are crawling towards their slots – their sleek, insectoid bodies folding up, maneuvering jets firing to seat them into the hull. Soon, AR displays over every passenger read green, just as I find an empty seat and pull myself in.
“But, I might wind up doing both,” I say, pulling the harness overhead. Cold bodies and hot bodies all around me, squared away. AR reads everything's secure. “We're locked in Sal, prepped for boarding.”
“About time. We're dropping out of spacial disrupt in t-minus five minutes: in geosync, right on top of the O.S.V.” The circular door to the cabin lazily closes, the levers on it wheeling shut. “Venting atmo. If you're not sealed, you deserve to suffocate,” he says, as the HUD sensors verify dropping pressure with a sinking bar.
Body to my right is named Lacam, and he's cracking his knuckles. Red diagonal lines run across the matte, dark gray of his ballistic plating. To my left, Asja, mouthing silent lyrics behind his visor, dark features lit by helmet readouts.
Nerve rituals, over the shrinking seconds. Mine's double-checking the cybernetics – eye lenses focusing, tracking my own fingers waved in front of me, musculature diagnostics running as slight twitches in my body. I hold off on the surge. Two minutes of waiting don't need to seem longer, even if they're my last.
“Mommaship says t-minus sixty seconds,” echoes Salasar.
At that, I reach for the NR Rifle, unlocking it from its rest, pulling it tight to my chest. “Salasar?” I ask, in those last seconds.
“Thank you. I owe you a fuckton,” I say, seeing the timer run through the thirty sec mark, the numbers flashing red. The hull shakes from final correction burns. Asja is holding his hands out, supplicating a power not here.
“Ha. Yeah, well,” Salasar replies, interrupted by a deep breath. “Nobody refuses Dead Pirate Queen Miska and lives for long.” Ten seconds, with a low frequency tremor, or hum ringing in my molars and the bolts in my bones.
I say, comms off, “nobody agrees with Dead Pirate Queen Miska and lives for long.”
A shockwave of numbness pushes through me from back to front as the warp field collapses, my breath following it out of me. Before I can gasp back, a hard clank tremors through the dropship fuselage – magclamps disengaging – before I'm shoved via inertia into my seat. Engines roar to send the dropship spinning down towards the target. The boarders around me yell and whoop over prox comms. I'm breathing through clenched teeth. Smiling.
We're accelerating continuously from the park. G's tug at my softer insides, but the synthetic musculature and dermal weaving just sits there. For these moments, parts of me that felt a part of me for decades feel alien, invasive, and heavy.
“Getting chop! Shi-” ends Salasar as my visceral introspection ends and holes flash open through the foreward hull, flak lancing through the plating. Comms fill with screaming. Wall panels vanish in chunks as if devoured by ravenous creatures. Slamming my fist down into the emergency release button, the harness bursts off me and I kick out of my seat, pulling at a corpse's head to fling myself free of this larger target.
Naked freefall, with the world Iberya and rocket exhaust trails spinning around me. Guidance jets on my suit fire and I'm wrenched back into a more stable trajectory – almost lose grip on the NRR.
Iberya itself is thousands of kilometers to my right, with my feet pointed down towards the dagger-silhouette of the target O.S.V – and I'm falling towards it. On my left also down, the kill-drifting dropship – glittering micro-bursts of jet fire signal drone dispersion and other survivors fleeing the wreck. I look up, and 'above' me is that industrial chimera that was once a warp-cradle and a dozen other freighters and combat vessels – Mommaship.
Twitch the right way, and the jets on my back fire hard, accelerating towards the O.S.V.
“Reaver squad, Brigand squad, mission is still go,” I yell over comms and under silent rocket launches, from both the Mothership and the O.S.V. “Drones, hit point defense. Meat, rally at point bravo,” bravo being midcraft, nearest the CIC.
“Reaver and Brigand consolidating. If we want to take this ship, we move as one,” barks Antom, second down the chain on Reaver. Thrusters cut out when I hit a suicide velocity. “Drones are away. Where are you Miska?”
I fly past their hardsuits. Fifteen boarders, with green IFF. “On the way,” I tell them, looking up, seeing them firing jets to follow. Shimmering dots, also with faint green auras, denote the drones already on their strike – either launching micromissiles to remove point defenses in brief flashes of fire and shrapnel or just slamming into them.
Orbital space around us grows laced with railcannon slugs and rocket fire – Mommaship behind us aiming for weapons emplacements on the O.S.V, and at Kinetic Support Vehicles further ahead and behind us, nearer the zenith and nadir, but the O.S.V. Is making killshots – trying to find a single bridge to hit and decapitate the vessel.
It looms ahead of us, no longer some delicately suspended stiletto, but a massive sword of Damocles hanging over the planet. Red collision warnings blink on my helmet and I twitch on the reverse thrust, engaging the mag-boots. Antom performs some haptic gesture, and the drones start consolidating around where we're set to hit – seven of them, crawling on the O.S.V's bleached hull, making a perimeter around the airlock.
Bracing for impact, we hit the hull heavy, magboots holding us tight. The surviving of Reaver and Brigand move in for breach, and I open the access panel. Pulling an interface jack from the suit's wrist, I signal for them to get ready.
Jack in, drop the digital payload: an exploit-based ICE-Breaker lancing through the security systems and freezing the status changes. Malware tricks the system into giving us access clearance, and the airlock cycles open – the double-slab door with diagonal seam splits, a cough of lingering atmosphere spitting out. We file in silently – four drones, five troops from Brigand, me leading.
“Make for engineering,” I order, “and look for the onboard server. Use your copies of the ICE-Breaker to gain access, then you can get control of power and manually control the thrusters.” Asja nods, still alive, drawing his rifle as pressure equalizes, and the door opens into the hull. Tubular access ways, filled with low-intensity white light. I take point.
No targets behind or ahead, and I wave clear, before pulling on a hand-hold and launching myself towards the CIC, fore, pulling two drones with me via silent comm command, and then directing them ahead. They obey, crawling on the walls as I drift down the corridor. Impacts rattle through the hull.
When I drift close enough to the CIC to hear the orders chatter and situation reports, I hit the surge. Time slows to a crawl, the drifting lazier, and every sound and motion sluggish – save for mine, cybernetic muscles keeping pace with the adrenal-analogue flush dumping ice over my nervous system. I pull the rifle up, micro-thrust balancing me out as I aim into the room – drones jetting inside.
The room is spherical, every surface either covered in digital screens or processor housing, chairs are held in position facing the walls of the chamber by struts jutting from between glowing monitors. Keyboards and control elements line arm rests, and the crew manning them are in uniform vac suits. Long, black hair flows subtly over the back of the Captain's chair, disturbed the moment one of the other officers yell.
He doesn't get the chance to finish a word – I fire a round through his shoulder, gas jets on the rifle pushing down and forward, to stay level. The drones jet into the middle of the room, barrels clicking out of their angled body housing.
“Cataliona?” I ask through the suit's speaker, from the entrance to the CIC, activating the mag-boots to stand on the access ring. That current of hair in the command chair shifts again, and her shoulder leads her head moving out from in front of it. Silver rank bars gleam on her epaulettes. And she has a scar now, right on her cheek, the rest of her face wearing something that's not shock or surprise, darkened against the bright monitors behind her.
“Miska?” she asks, in a whisper. “Miska, you bitch!” she yells, slapping the harness release and pushing herself out of the seat. She grabs the back of it and flips herself around, drawing a pistol. I pull the trigger before she can aim, another crack sounding in the chamber, her gun blasted out of her hand and slamming into one of the monitors, shattering it. The force twisted her finger, leaving it bleeding.
“I was about to tell you to not do anything stupid,” I say, glancing back at the other CIC officers – they stare, unmoving. I signal to the drones to cover the access corridor, and they rocket past me, leaving the glowing room and its drops of glinting blood. “Too late for that.”
“Oh, me not try anything stupid? You stage a single-ship assault on an O.S.V. In the middle of a planetary assault -”
“And now I have my hand wrapped around its throat, do I not?” I'm not sure if she even cares about the pain – nothing betraying injury, save for itself and micro-tremors in the arm. “I'm getting you out of here, before you write yourself into a bad chapter of history.”
“At least I'm writing it, now!” she yells back, pushing her thumb against her dark blue breastplate. “I have my life and a place in a newer order. You just keep dying, over and over. You loving zombie. Do you even have a face anymore? A heart?” She's baring her fangs, tears welling in her eyes. “Can you even bleed?”
I keep my gun trained on them, force a deathgrip to steady aim as I unseal and pull free my helmet. Eye to eye, now with only an ironsight between us.
“Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares?” I ask, letting the helmet go as another seismic rattle rings through the hull. “Better dead or alive than just one more tool. You're too smart Cataliona – you know they're going to put all the blood this unifacation war has spilled on your hands. Toss you out like a spent mag.”
“What option did I have? They offered me a pardon. A position! More than you and your frozen corpse did in a decaying orbit over Mandala!”
I pull a coin out from an empty pouch, as the heart I still have starts to get tight, empty. I fling it up against a flat surface – calling the sides silently, until it clinks off and ricochets back. I grab it, then look down, opening it – a leering bust of some long dead conqueror judging me.
I let go of the rifle, klick off the mag boots and kick myself towards Cataliona. She swings a punch at my face and I take the sting, water in my eyes burning before I shut them, grab her, and kiss. She struggles, with one arm. She bites my lip. There's the taste of metal.
“Stand down,” she orders.
Goodbye, fluorescent skull in space helmet. You will be missed.
contagonist fucked around with this message at 08:03 on Jan 26, 2015
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 06:24|
I think you need a slightly better wordcount program.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 07:50|
cool story bro
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 08:23|
The ballet slippers sat in the cupboard and hated her.
When Sian put her feet in them, she could feel their resentment, pulsing up through the flimsy pink canvas. She rarely put her feet in them, but sometimes she had to, because they were the only ones she owned.
Sian's ballet teacher hated her too. She danced stompily, which was not how ballet was done, but she needed to keep the slippers in line or they would kill her. They'd already tried once; she'd caught her arm a fearful crack on the concrete steps, and was lucky it hadn't been her head.
"Demi pointe!" shouted Miss Treveille, and Sian lurched up onto the balls of her feet. The slippers groaned and hated.
"My dear girl, you must at least try," murmured Miss Treveille into her ear. Sian always tried very hard, but somehow never looked like it. The slippers chuckled and whispered.
"Soubresaut!" called Miss Treveille. Sian hopped forward, but the slippers resisted. She landed, wobbled forward, and smacked both knees into the hard floor. Pain flared white-hot. She rolled to the side and began to cry.
When she burnt the slippers that night, they crackled and spat and raged.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 13:55|
"...yeah. I love you too. Bye." Cayla hung up. This was the worst part of every year. Evening of June 17th, after the annual phone call with the parents, when Cayla was left alone with her box of Gracie's things. Photos mostly, some originals she'd taken from her parents' collection, some crappy scans she'd printed on a long-since broken down inkjet printer. And a pair of ballet slippers, practically brand new. For some reason the slippers drew Cayla more and more as the years passed; there was something about the physicality that seemed more real than the photos. Years ago, Cayla could really remember what her sister was like as a kid, like real scenes. Now when she thought of Gracie, she just saw the photos, static and devoid of context. The slippers were different somehow, but Cayla couldn't put a finger on why. She'd taken three weeks of ballet before it happened. Who knows if she would have stuck with it, or given it up for soccer or something. Cayla knew she was just projecting onto the person Gracie had been, that these weren't real memories, but Cayla liked to hold the shoes anyway, and imagine Gracie dancing.
|# ? Jan 26, 2015 19:02|
E: PM'd instead.
|# ? Jan 27, 2015 01:34|
judging update: SPACE DRAGON NOT IMPRESSED WITH YOUR STORIES
|# ? Jan 27, 2015 03:32|
Judging update: Martello, still the worst dad ever
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 00:29|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:49 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 00:33|
I am exhausted from reading a shitload of stories, shoveling 3 feet of snow, and making a delcious pot pie, so here are the results with no frills attached. Newtestleper and I are in agreement, and Martello has been AWOL all day so...
DMs: Jitzu the Monk, Crab Destroyer
HMs: Ironic Twist, benny_profane, Fumblemouse
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 00:49|
judging update: SPACE DRAGON NOT IMPRESSED WITH YOUR STORIES
Space Dragon is torrenting some good stories while he reads all the bad ones.
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 01:11|
Crits 1-9: aka "the poo poo pile"
I’m critting opening lines this week, in more detail than a normal crit. I also crit other stuff, but for some of you I’ll write what looks like a full crit on just your opening line. In a flash fiction, the opening line is IMPORTANT. Maybe one of those most important things.
First line: “John‘s ship decoupled from the docking station.” boring. so boring. why. who cares. ugh. second line is passive as gently caress. tense shifts. “John‘s ship decoupled” “judging that he‘s far enough” the first 3 paragraphs are more about the ship than john. I know nothing about john other than he’s off to see Alice. So many missed opportunities for characterization. Instead of telling me what “rumors” and “technicians” say, tell me what JOHN says. “Speak of the sexy devil! Alice’s ship appeared on the radar, a sizeable ping on the radar.” This is where I lost interest. I will keep reading in the sake of judging, but just know that from here you’ve lost me and I have no more desire to read this awkward joke.
Overall: drat son. So this is what I meant about don’t use all the words if you don’t have to. This is a long drawn out sci-fi masturbation. Like I think you saw this in your head, and it was fun, the same as swooshing a lego spaceship is fun, but it’s just really boring to listen to somebody TELL you about swooshing the spaceship. The characterization of John is particularly bad. I don’t really know anything about what makes him tick. He’s got a cat and he wants to make money… ok… why? what does he want to do with the money? The beginning, and to a lesser degree other parts of the story, are told through ancillaries, instead of being from John. They’re about what other people see and think and feel instead of John’s own opinions/experiences. There are a ton of passive lines in this. Other problems are tense shifts, grammar errors, punctuation problems, and tone issues. The plot is almost non-existent. A guy waits for a lady to appear so that they can somehow make money off this genetic cat thing. that’s all, really. And that doesn’t even really get resolved so much, because you spend way too many words on a unnecessary space battle. The reunion is a bit “so what?” they separated so she could go chase treasure? how long had they been apart? it didn’t sound like they’d ever really lost each other, just that they were separated for a short while, kinda normal people stuff. I will give you a line by line on this if you want one.
First line: “The screen's notification light shook Jeremy out of his stupor.” A little dull, and a little awkward. It’s an introduction to “the screen” first, but the the screen is pointless. a prop. What we really care about is Jeremy’s stupor, and why he’s in it. That’s what the first sentence should be about. Still, at least it’s an action. 2/2 for stories with space ship alarms now.
You have some good characterization in this, although it falls a little flat with the “he might be your son!” parts. Jeremy doesn’t really react to this at all, which is wasted opportunity to really show the type of person he is. You say that folding somehow ruins kids, and she has a kid, so that’s why she wants to figure out the secret of the engines. But it’s all a bit too vague. You need to write about some specifics here. Exactly what does the folding do the to offspring, and what did she find above the ship that she’s willing to maybe die for it? The ending is a bit weak because of this. I’m also not sure if they died or what. It sounds like it, but the “see for yourself” makes me be like “what?” This could have actually been a little longer and I’d have been ok with it. Not HM, but not terrible. Safe middle.
First Line: “The cat carrier felt heavy in Tessa's hand.” Uh. so was it heavy? or does it just seem heavy? things that are light can seem heavy. things that weigh nothing at all can seem heavy. Things you are holding and are heavy are just heavy. Should combine with the second line for more impact. But that brings up the point that shouldn’t a laser be heavier than a cat container? I’m imagining a pretty big laser i guess. I don’t know what kind of laser, because you didn’t tell me. All i know is it FEELS heavier than a cat carrier, which also SEEMS heavy, but have no idea about what any of this actually means. what’s the heaviness of a space laser got to do with anything? (i’m 2 sentences into your story).
“ it seemed so different “ jesus christ. Man up and commit to a description. “feeling the cold even through her spacesuit.” um, if that thing conducts heat I have bad news for this lady (spacesuits should be insulating). “started cutting.” cutting what? the cat? “inconceivably large and almost pitiably clumsy” this is just turning into “look at how many adverbs and adjectives I know!” which is really painful to read. Think about it: adjectives and adverbs modify something. make it better. If the majority of your story are these add-ons, then what are they really making better? You should use them much more sparingly. You’re trying to TV this story into my brain. Focus on characters and plot, and set the mood with the perfect adjective so I can build the picture myself. “permeated even Tessa's helmet.” wtf, she can SMELL through her spacesuit? dude, YOU’RE NOT WEARING A SPACESUIT. THAT IS A BEEKEEPERS OUTFIT. DO NOT GO OUT INTO SPACE. YOU WILL DIE. “The grandfather clock” seguing into this after talking about her grandfather’s actual watch was a little jarring. “She could've sworn she heard somebody whisper her name.” My eyes are glazing over. I think you’re trying to go for spooky, but this just feels cliche and forced. I feel very detached from everything, like you’re telling me this story second hand. I’d stop reading about now if i wasn’t judging. “(in Venusian years)” how much is this in real earth years? I don’t want to do math to figure out if she’s loving old or super hot. pretty decent characterization otherwise. “she spat, the words dripping down the inside of her glass helmet.” is a good line. The rest of your dialogue is pretty cliche/utilitarian. nothing beneath the surface. this story is WAY too long. way too much backstory that does nothing. I could barely read all that exposition. once you got to the dialogue, as dull as it was, the story became much easier to read. You should stick to that more, and fewer walls of text. Overall the plot was a little boring. Girl wants her watch back. Ok, give a better motivation or reason. “Cause I want it because grandpa” isn’t really all that swell. I won’t even get into the weird ghost voice or whatever that was supposed to be.
First line: “A hollow wind drug itself through the town.” not 100% sure what you’re trying to say here. what makes a wind hollow, and why did it drag itself? is it sad? Also, it should be “dragged itself.” Just sounds like something you thought “hey that sounds cool” but didn’t ever think about what you’re actually saying. for now, it’s a kind of cool line that leaves me confused more than anything.
“as he turned to walk against,” against what? You can’t just use a preposition without a noun like that. “how polluted that water must be for life to grow in the middle of the desert.” hm? you’d think life would grow in any desert in the water, no matter the pollution level. this says more about life than polluted water. Jesus christ, put some line breaks in this poo poo. i keep losing my place cause this is boring and what not. “flies buzzed over them and moved past the maggots “ if you’re buzzing above, how do you move past maggots? this is weird. Ok, so overall there’s no plot, and no spaceship. The vignette isn’t bad, you set a mood, but that’s it. I’m happy you chose the reunion of the hometown/church and not another woman. Eesh.
first line: “Luke had laughed when he learned that the Ark - the continent-sized spaceship that would take mankind to a new world, was shaped like a spermatozoon.” what the gently caress is this? it has nothing to do with the rest of your story, and is really dumb to boot. why make it past perfect too? please nobody write lines like this. it’s stupid and pointless and is like “ha ha, i sure am clever!” it makes me want to throw up.
oh cool. you know how happy it makes me to open up yet another story with a big block of exposition in the front. weeeeeeeeee! HOLY poo poo THIS IS BORING. You’ve done the classic “world building” scenario and just TOLD ME A SHITLOAD OF BACK STORY. This is not how you sci-fi. Seriously go to the Fiction Advice thread and read some of the recent stuff on world building that was just discussed. Ok, dude, what the hell. You spend 3/4ths of your story doing this lengthy backstory, talking about a generic “big ship with lots of people,” and then barely start your ACTUAL story of being reunited with his wife and then his parents are like “oh cool we’ll take you there.” the end. Early candidate for the loss. The ship sucks, the characters mostly suck, the plot sucks, and there’s no resolution/reunion, unless you were meaning for it to be the parents, which is a bit of a red herring to spend the first 3/4ths talking about the wife. You could have shaved off almost all of the words, and then started from “he got the text message about his parents” or whatever. Thanks for making me read that pedestrian crap.
First line: “The hostilities started right in the middle of Todd’s holo-presentation.” what hostilities? also, RIGHT in the middle? Like sebastian timed it and was like “10 minutes YESSS…. U FAG! lol guys, right in the middle too. It’s not homophobia if its symmetrical.”
Took a while to realize we were in todd’s head. A bit overwritten. e.g.: “ringing echoes pressed against Todd’s skull,” and others. Alison’s response to his panic attack seems a little weird. “oh hey you’re having a panic attack. see you later?” doesn’t feel natural. Gay jokes feel out of place. “Well, I’ve always wanted a gay friend.” lol. really? “Her words cut deep.” I’m really weirded out by this relationship between Alison and Todd. It feels very unnatural and forced. Their emotional states and ping-ponging back and forth like daytime TV is your only reference for human emotion. There’s nothing under the surface of what they say, it’s all just stilted explanation of their current feelings. You’re really ramming this “gay” thing in, aren’t you. Like, I got it dude. “Todd laughs. but you know what’s really funny? how my mom beat me a lot. ” just obvious and insulting way to crap even more ~feelings~ into an already overwrought story. “The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.” hey that’s the name of the story! it’s also a cliche. “The teacher couldn’t be bothered to discipline Ali.” head jumping. you do this sort of casually, like you tell me their mental states. Just stick to actions that Todd observes. also, it’s straight up telling. SHOW me what somebody disinterested does in a room full of rotten children. “Todd watched her” useless, just say what she did. “Though dazed, he was roused by his classmates’ screams and the nauseating effects” this sounds like he got a boner from the maiming of his classmates. “Breech [sic] the hull…” putting exposition in quotes is a pretty shoddy way of dealing with this. Also, this is a LOT of exposition that he just kind of dumps on the bully in the middle of a life or death situation. Feel like it’s for my sake rather than sebastian’s. Puke scene is not only unnecessary but you don’t frame it in anyway that matters to Todd. Does this make him sick? does he learn something from this? you just throw it out there and it floats by itself, like a chunk of puke. “The laments continued until ten men burst into Engineering” wait so they’re just sitting there crying? what’s todd doing this whole time? this is awfully passive. have him DO something, even if it’s ineffectual. gently caress, it should also relate to the rest of the story. have him do something mary poopinsy. “Sweat formed at his temples.” this and the stuff following it is passive. stuff is just happening to him. super boring. I’m confused about what happens with the holograms. can they touch the holograms? did the holograms change the actual spears into umbrellas or what? Could have used more clarity here. In the end, it’s also a bit passive. sure he types the program in and he made the program (randomly for some reason?), but all he really does in the end is type a few keys, which isn’t all that much on the grand scale of “things you can do to save your classmates.” In the end, it still took a lot of courage and work from everybody else while he floated around uselessly. The gay stuff has this quality of both being omnipresent, but also shoved in. over and over and over. I get what the story is supposed to be about, but it is so heavy-handed and preachy that it might as well be an after-school special. Dial all the gay/fag stuff back a lot. make it part of the story in a more subtle and honest way then just screaming about it from your soapbox the entire story. Rather than being the focus of the story, it should be an “in addition, he also learned to accept his sexuality” thing, shown through his actions rather than literally being like “yeah i’m gay whatup.” your characterization is strong, and everybody except sebastian is pretty fleshed out. sebastian is just a cardboard cutout bully for no reason. even the teacher is more three dimensional than the main antagonist. the spaceship is… i dunno, basically a school building. It doesn’t do much spaceshippy stuff, and you don’t say anything really unique about it. The reunion is a little shoehorned because not much was missed by their having been apart. the absence wasn’t FELT by todd, he just was like “oh hey” when he saw her again. he didn’t seek her out (another passive trait of his) she just kind of fell in his lap, made the suggestion that they hang out, and pretty much went from there. Your length is ok, because at least you were devoting it to character, although you could have cut out most of the bullying scenes because they’re awkward in their current state, and don’t add much other than “see how bullied he is because he is gay!” which is doable in a more subtle and meaningful way. the overall plot is “guy is bullied, wants to not be bullied, and...kind of really doesn’t get that, because they still call him a fag at the end.” furthermore what resolution there IS comes about because of Alison’s actions (demanding that sebastian acknowledge todd’s contributions), not because of what Todd does.
Benny the Snake
first line: “Natasha
Get rid of the loving ellipses. They aren’t toys for you to play with. Use them correctly or not at all. "...Gabriel," she said. "His name is Gabriel..." I imagine you think this is like, dramatic and meaningful, but it’s just laughably cliche and dumb. I literally laughed. out loud. i said “how dumb.” you shouldn’t want somebody to do that. also, I resent you using my wife’s name in this story. it’s like touching the poop Don’t have unattributed dialogue for an unintroduced character at the start of a new section. that is dumb and confusing and gently caress you for doing it. “Gabriel nursed hungrily” pffffffffffft. only use adverbs when they change how something normally is. or else it’s redundant. “But the military offers the kind of opportunities that I couldn't find anywhere else. Like helping to pay for college and housing.”
why does every one of your stories include random facts about things? This reads like an advertisement. are you some sort of alien trying to convince us you understand human culture by looking up aspects of our society on wikipedia, and then parroting them back to us? because that’s what your stories read like. Are you a person? Do you have feelings? let those feelings out. stop trying to impress. stop trying to be something/somebody you’re not. write about being a little weirdo that makes people uncomfortable and has a rough time in life. write underdogs and the downtrodden. i write about loving weirdos because i’m a loving weirdo. i don’t pretend to be a 1% lawyer worrying over the relative merits of a BMW vs a mercedes, because it’d read like boring garbage that i have no idea about. This is what everything you write sounds like. don’t write somebody struggling with what to do with their kid because their military service is calling them. you don’t know about that. that’s something you’ve seen. you’ve never even left home, how the gently caress are you supposed to understand going away from everybody you love? you just don’t, and it comes through in every word. write what you know. that doesn’t mean only write about being you, but write emotions and situations you understand, even if they’re fictionalized and on the surface about something else. that’s what fiction is, pulling a mask over yourself and pretending to be something else, but underneath it’s still you. Don’t try to make a whole new scarecrow and put the mask on that, because it will always seem weird and lifeless. i’m not going to bother critting the rest of your story, because i’ve read this same thing from you 1000 times. Do something different next time; write something honest. i’m just marking this disqualified because i didn’t read it all. it’s not bad enough to lose/dm, and not good enough to win/hm. I already know that from the first couple hundred words. I know exactly what it will be: another lie.
First line: “His feelings lingered as he stared at her.” show don’t tell. Don’t just start with “her,” define who “she” is. The mystery isn’t as thrilling as you might think, it’s mostly annoying and there’s no reason for it. if you have to rely on cheap tricks, then your story is probably boring. Plus this says basically nothing. his feelings lingered? what feelings? why are they staying around? don’t most feelings stay around for a bit? how long of a time frame are we talking about here? This sentence says absolutely nothing and sounds kind of dumb. actually, as i think about it more, how can something “linger” when you’re still doing the thing? Like, he’s looking at her…. that’s not lingering, that’s just actual feeling. ugh.
“Craggor felt” don’t do pointless sensing verbs. just have him cry. “He stood up and walked over” blocking. “He knew that he loved this child.” show don’t tell. Also “he knew” is pointless. how is it any better than “he loved this child?” still, show me through what he does (the kiss/tears pretty much already do). “hit him like a bullet.” cliche. “All of a sudden” don’t. “heterochromia” nice thesaurus. “the tall green humanoid” is this craggor? you should have established this earlier. “Craggor offered him the best poker face he could muster” don’t use two male pronouns to refer to two different proper nouns in the same sentence. it’s ambiguous. ““Thank you for your cooperation” he said.” who is he? which one? “considering the ominous situation” show don’t tell. “constant barrage of affection and compliments often made her feel sick” haha wait what. where did that come from? “Maika said assertively” don’t. “This was going to change things.” you have a real problem with using pronouns for things you haven’t actually defined. stop doing this. just stop. it’s not good. “ageing” stop speaking british at me. (not really), this aging paragraph is good though. it’s one of the few times you’ve shown me something rather than just blurted out “HE LOOKED OLD.” “ when he had first feasted his eyes on his baby girl” ew. also this sounds weird. “They looked at him apprehensively” SHOW DON’T TELL. “Maika let go of the prisoner and walked over. She stood” what you say is “the prisoner stood” since that was the last noun. learn how to pronoun dude, poo poo is confusing up in this piece. ok the ending is super loving confusing for this reason. i have no idea who is standing and who is being stabbed and i’m not going to bother to figure it out because gently caress you. ending is stupid. random violence at the end is dumb. the copilot having a crush is dumb because it goes nowhere and doesn’t matter. you need much more doming until you can write a good story. You characterization of the dad lizard is the best, but only during the second time we see him and he’s old. the daughter isn’t really delved into. we learn more about her creepy copilot than her. for the spaceships you just kind of blurt out some stupid cliche sci-fi poo poo about lasers and speed, but nothing about the personality of the ships or their uniqueness. the reunion between father and daughter is unique so far this week, so you get higher marks on that, although how you handled it was absolute garbage. “here is my daughter the cop, let me stab somebody in the face in front of her.” you wasted words by included random dumb plot points. like why go on about the shaman or whatever, when that doesn’t affect the story? same with the lovestruck copilot. just cut all that poo poo out. the plot was also thin. “guy has to give up daughter, then goes kinda sociopath and is like fine whatever, wants to have career in politics… girl wants….? dad meets girl again, stabs somebody.” that is a dumb plot. there’s no real conflict because the dad doesn’t even WANT to see the girl, she just shows up.”10:55 PM: <SaddestRhino> also the names loving suck.” Ok, gently caress you, i just was informed that the pilot girl was who he stabbed, and the whole time the prisoner was the daughter. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU. gently caress YOU.
First line: “Ephraim’s eyes lit up as the gas giant appeared on the mainroom console.” NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. his eyes didn’t like up AS. they lit up AFTER. one thing happened, then the other. don’t gently caress this up. it doesn’t sound fancier to say “as,” it just sounds wrong. a dude looking at a planet isn’t very exciting either. what is HE excited about? share that with us instead of this boring crap of a dude looking at a monitor.
gently caress man, 10 years on the cruiser and he just gets to see it on a monitor? gently caress that, show him seeing it through a REAL LIFE loving WINDOW. “flew over the terminal effortlessly” redundant adverb. “ stone tube” is this a metaphor or what? if it is, it’s horrible. if not, you need more explanation here. “felt almost light-headed” how do you feel almost light headed? This makes no sense. “He felt fine” is what you just said.”the sheer amount of power entering into him unsettling.” awkward/sounds dumb. “Ephraim found his legs wobbly” no. Ok dude, i’m getting really loving bored of you trying to convince me that this guy is feeling a change. you’re OVER showing. It’s paragraph after paragraph of how weird it feels to get this power. I done got it. You could take the one or two best lines out of this (most of them are awkward cliche garbage) and skip the rest. just cause you got 2000 words doesn’t mean you need to drone on. “ the arcane power flew from every orifice” LO loving L. did he just poo poo and puke magic everywhere? “sheer power” stop saying that. not really sure what this ending means. did he teleport to her? also having the reunion in the last line doesn’t meet the prompt. i wanted the story to be about a reunion, not leading up to one. you spent most of your words describing sensations and other bullshit. there’s no resolution. did he time travel? i don’t know. did he lose his powers? i don’t know. the spaceship could have been interesting, but all i got is that it’s a “rocky tube.” the characterization is weak. i don’t know why this guy wanted all this power. what in his life made him think “hm, i should leave everybody i love and go get some more power.” the drive and motivation in this story is seriously lacking. instead of over describing some boring sensations, next time provide an actual plot.
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 01:46|
I am exhausted from reading a shitload of stories, shoveling 3 feet of snow, and making a delcious pot pie, so here are the results with no frills attached. Newtestleper and I are in agreement, and Martello has been AWOL all day so...
I was doing home renovations so
And I also agree with the other two judges anyway.
But yes I am the worst. Crits will be forthcoming, but not soon or anything.
|# ? Jan 28, 2015 01:48|
|# ? Dec 1, 2023 07:38|
Crits 10-18: it gets better
First line: “They’d said the new Minstrel class was so easy to fly a child could do it, but this was ridiculous:” I like this. sets up some conflict and makes me want to read more about this ridiculousness. I know what the rest of the story is going to be about, sort of: either a really advanced spaceship, a child pilot, or both. Other people take note.
“was nothing, their rust” should be a semi-colon. Thank you for not dragging the space battle on longer than it needed to be. OTHER PEOPLE TAKE NOTE. “Some shady poo poo had been going down in that place. Probably still did.” did is not the right word here. “daring us to come and try something stupid.” i like this. “ that basically had written “TOP SECRET” all over it: huge, magnetically sealed and actually having “TOP SECRET” written on it.” typo? “researching thi pill” typo. “ominous black cube” show don’t tell. “ stressing the last word like only nerds do when they argue over loving semantics.” lol. most of this is good, but the end is a little confusing. mostly because of the exchange. kid asks if he wants to know how he paid for his ship, but i don’t know what he was getting at. old guy says he’s sending his payment? hm? I liked the kind of space noir you had going here, and how the reunion wasn’t between the main chars. the plot is a little cookie cutter of a chase sequence. go to one base, get info from a man, go to the next base. but it wasn’t boring to read. the ending could be better. why would this guy sacrifice himself for the kid? you have to establish that in the beginning somehow. otherwise it rings a little hollow. still, not bad, and the first decent story after a glut of horrible ones, so thanks.
First line: “Clutching the command deck rail, Hyden was trying to dig residual suspension gel out of his ear and shake the post-jump brain fog while simultaneously listening attentively as Captain Holtz proceeded to lose her poo poo.” there are some good things about this, but ultimately it’s too long and has TOO much going on for an effective first sentence. tighten it up for more punch: “Hyden dug the residual suspension gel out of his ear, trying to shake the post-jump brain fog while Captain Holtz proceeded to lose her poo poo.” Say more with less.
I like your description of the spaceships. “one of the unidentified pods erupted in a bright flash.” not really sure what happened, and what it has to do with auto target? is his buddy blowing up the bad guy pods? all in all i read this pretty much straight through. I like it ok, but i predicted the girl’s treachery when I read that she’d been “dead” and had been picked up by scavengers. Hyden’s willing to switch to the other side was a little abrupt, and could use more foreshadowing. while easy and fun to read, this is missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it doesn’t have that certain UMPH that makes a story great. I think it’s missing that “so what?” vibe. why do we care that this guy just got his team blown up. how does he feel about this? what does it mean that he’s switched sides? does he wanna bone the girl? You need to pepper some of these answers in throughout the story, or at least enough clues that we can assume it for ourself. This is just about the perfect length though. The fact that is 2000 words doesn’t seem to matter, because you use up all of the space and it’s never a chore to read it all. good job, i look forward to reading more of your TD stories.
First line: “Everyone believed that Isabel had fallen into the bay and drowned.” Good, short, creates suspense, i know who the story is about, and generally what it will be about. I want to read more. OTHERS TAKE NOTE.
The police explanation… obviously too complex for a child to understand, but the beginning of this story is told in a child’s voice. so which POV is this from? Is it omnipotent? What I like to do, and this is just a suggestion, is keep the general conversation with the police the same, but gently caress up one or two complex words, where the reader knows what was really said but the kid is ignorant. it’s a little difficult but it manages to combine the “real” story with a child’s understanding. Divorce seems forced/unnecessary. I don’t think that whole short interlude really adds much. I’d drop it and just have her dad stop talking to her or be really distant thinking she’s crazy. The leaving is cliche and doesn’t add anything. having to live with a doubter is even worse. maybe a scene where her dad doesn’t believe something else because he thinks she’s crazy and/or a liar. reunion is good, but maybe a quick example in the beginning of how she loved this friend, and how important they were to each other. you tell me they were and they exchanged gifts, but i never get to see it with my own eyes. It’s a bit repetitive in the middle, and just as I’m starting to think “ok, get on with it, they don’t believe her,” you do move on. Overall though, touching, sweet, and very good. Best thing I’ve read of yours so far.
First line: “Y’all best back off ‘cuz I know karate!” it’s a cliche now for a kid to claim to know karate. been done to death. at least pick a different martial art, something more current. “Karate is the Dane Cook of martial arts.” - Archer
“Anally probed.” unneeded. “Y’all done come to tickle my butthole.” lol. “was no exception” to “sometimes?” that’s…. obvious. reword that. “a gesture of peace.” show this because i have no idea what this looks like. uh…. wtf did i just read? lol. I mean, i like it, but i don’t really understand why it’s happening. also I don’t see the reunion with something he loved and lost. I dunno what to tell you. You write goods, and I like when you write, but this is just another vignette. there’s no real motivation/conflict. there’s a misunderstanding, but i think of that as like toy story. like buzz lightyear didn’t to through the whole movie believing he was really a space ranger, he had to deal with the truth at some point, which is the character growth. this char has no growth or resolution, he just kinda chops some aliens. some nice aliens. they came in peace RIP alien friends.
LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE
first line: “I loved explosions.” a little too short to convey much. it does get across a feeling, but is the story past tense and he still loves them, or has he been separated from them? a few more words to make this unambiguous would be great. Still, I’m ready to read more.
The repeating a similar line gag gets a little old. it’s funny up to like, two times. I was tired of it by this: crashed his spaceship for the insurance money, until he remembered the part where I told him I was going to crash his spaceship for the insurance money.” “ like six hours ago.” in past tense this seems weird. say “six hour previous” or something. This is a fun pulpy ride. It’s a little too repeative, a little too casual, but only slightly. The story has nice bookends (beginning and ending) and was fun to read. If you strip out a few of the more obvious jokes and put a tiny bit more actual feeling in there, this could be a great, fun piece. We should start a sci-fi pulp mag again. I’m guessing that the reunion was the explosions? You should have spent a little bit more time on him missing explosions. the spaceships feature prominently into that, but i would have liked to learn a little bit more about their ridiculousness, because what was there was fun. I liked that normal stuff was designated “engineering flaws.” This felt a little long because of the repetitive jokes and lack of any seriousness at all. You need to provide a bit of a respite from the constant onslaught of jokes. This reminded me a lot of “the invention of lying,” where you get so caught up in the idea of the joke that you sacrifice all to it, and it’s something I like but don’t fall completely in love with. Still, the idea of somebody inventing insurance fraud is fun, and you serviced it reasonably well.
First line: “Samairah was the first of her class to arrive at the Hard to Port Wine.” A lot confusing here. What class? high school, college, law school? all of these change the tone of the story. and i don’t have any idea what “hard to port wine” means. obviously it’s a pun, and a location, so i’m guessing it’s some sort of pun bar. on a boat. but that’s an awful lot of thinking i have to do, and i’m still not really sure what’s going on. why do i care if she’s first? does her promptness feature heavily into the story later? this could have better detail and be more clear for a better punch, right now it’s just somebody getting to some place.
The dialogue hit me a little weirdly. It seems joking, but I really have no idea what he’s talking about or why. Describe him a tiny bit more or her/their mood or something so I understand if he’s trying to flirt or what. the transition is jarring right now. Like there are all these dark, swirly descriptions and then BAM, bedtimes. “Samariah fell into his eyes, then his bed, then into a depression” i like this. Gives the whole history of a relationship in one line. ““?” said the young man.” i like this. Is she seeing into the future? A little confused about the phantoms and “hasn’t happened yet.” This “history of the dude” isn’t doing it for me. It reeks too much of “last episode of a TV show” to me. Also it’s all the dude orchestrating this stuff, and i don’t like how Samariah knows all his thoughts and plans and stuff. It’s too explainey and factual. It’s world building in a way, sort of a “here’s the backstory you need to know so the rest of this stuff makes sense,” all dumped into my lap in the form of a hallucination type thing, which doesn’t really hide what it is. This story is too clever by half. I feel like you really tried hard to come up with some complicated plot of time and space and love, but it’s much too complicated to be done any sort of justice in 2000 words. You just end up telling me everything.
First line: “When the reappearance of the Helios was detected in the Outer Arm of our galaxy, the substrata channels exploded.” This feels a little too vague and a little too cliche to make a great opening line, but it does have a bit of a punch that makes me want to read more, so I guess it’s effective. just the whole “ship appears, everything goes crazy” is pretty well-trodden ground by now. I think you could do better.
All the “billions, trillions, millions, innumerable” descriptors are getting tired. It’s so meaningless like that. Take the time to slow down and make me understand how big this really is. Also this is all sort of world building, as I have not yet met a POV character. “neither sent, nor permitted to receive” awkward. “The spycraft Specula” ew. “let me in.” this is getting uncomfortable! The idea of a specula demanding to be let in…. Anyway. I like this story, the second half at least. The first half is just way too world buildey. I feel like you could convey a lot of the same information from inside the Specula. I know they can’t receive transmissions in this version, but maybe there is an alternative way to collect information and they can see what is happening, even though they don’t know. I dunno, but right now too much of an omniscient narrator telling me things I’d rather experience in the moment. Reunion is nice, I really like the shibs. The characterization is a little weak, since everything is so mysterious, but what exists is interesting. The plot is a little hard to follow on a first read, but not impenetrable. Some of the interchange between the two shibs I don’t understand, and I think that you have a vision in your mind that you didn’t get completely onto the paper. You should scrap a lot of the first part, and expand the second part.
First line: “It was Tom's first spaceship trip as a pilot.” Meh. This is pretty boring/factual/telling. On it’s own, not a bad sentence per se, but as an opening line, it’s horrible.
“He was scared” telling. i suspect there will be a lot of that in this, because of your own self-imposed flash rule. I don’t really know how to crit this piece, so uh, I guess somebody else does a better job.
First Line: “According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, denial is the first stage of grief.” This is Benny-level fact reporting. If you’re going to do something like this, you got to include something of your own to make it interesting, and not just repeating facts. it’s like starting a speech with “Webster’s dictionary defines ‘death’ as….” It’s just lazy and uninspired. “The first stage of denial is grief, and I was balls deep.” Anything to make it your own is better than this garbage.
If you find yourself saying “as” a bunch of times in a single sentence, break it up. You shouldn’t have that many things happening all at the same time like that. Take your time to walk us through what is going on. “Shreds of it” this is one of those types where a pronoun is a bit ambiguous, because in the previous sentence you were talking about several different nouns (viewport, asteroid, solar sail), so alluding to the sail with more than “it” is helpful, although this isn’t technically wrong. “vile take on Christmas” don’t like the word vile here. too strong. “spectacle unfurled” don’t like unfurled. your word usage is too purple, and you’re using words in a way that ignores their subtle meanings, almost like you found them in a thesaurus. “muster a few words to myself” are you ESL? “ It was like watching a movie.” this is a lazy description. Reading a story should be better than watching a movie. SHOW me what this guy is seeing so that i can feel like I’M seeing the same thing. put that awe into me as the reader, the same awe the man is having. Take me along for the journey! “The change in speed was imperceptible at first,” then who noticed it? why talk about it? Don’t tell me about things you can’t perceive. You should be writing from first-person limited right now. Only describe things that your char sees and feels. “massive slowdown.” not specific enough. slow down from lightspeed to half light speed? slowdown from 10mph to 2 mph? how fast are we talking here? give specific descriptions. Also why did the ship slow down? you know that if the sails break, the ship will continue on at the same speed right? It just won’t accelerate anymore. The sails probably didn’t have enough mass for the asteroid to affect the momentum of the ship. just say the acceleration stopped and the velocity was constant. “I mashed buttons” not a good description, because mash isn’t a good word to use for what i think what you want to say. “I chewed my thumbnail and stared at the touchscreen in disbelief.” this is called “show and tell.” you showed me his nervousness/apprehension, and then just told me. cut it out. “I chewed my thumbnail and stared at the touchscreen.” is fine. better, in fact. “We have neighbors, it seems.” This doesn’t seem presidential or elegant. Pomp it up with some self-important bullshit, like a real leader. You’re now just worldbuilding the history of the solar sail. Don’t do this. See fiction advice for discussion on world building. “with starlight.” mmm, what? does this move faster than regular light? kinda a weird specific request. “monomaniacal” no. use simpler words. “ didn’t believe in God, but I did believe in fate.” you’re just telling telling telling here. it’s rather boring. “ after my parents were killed in the wreck.” boo hoo. i don’t like forced, cliche attempts at pathos. “o notice a giant asteroid bearing down on me.” bearing down on is pretty cliche, but also a ship’s instruments would spot something way before the human eye, so it’s a little hard to suspend disbelief that there wouldn’t be an alarm or notification for approaching objects. “To be honest, I really only used it for reading material,” is like the space version of “Oh, i don’t have a TV ” I’m getting really bored of this character’s self-loathing. it’s just “woe is me, boo hoo.” I’d have stoppe reading if I wasn’t judging. Right when he decides he can't go on a spacewalk. Show him trying and failing, that’d be a better read than “eh gently caress it.” good. i’m glad this boring fucker killed himself. not the reaction you want from a reader, generally. this story is boring and like, why? why did you write it? what are you trying to communicate with this story? that it’s stupid and a waste of time to dream? ok, thanks, i’ll ignore your messages from now on.
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