Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us $3,400 per month for bandwidth bills alone, and since we don't believe in shoving popup ads to our registered users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
«178 »
  • Locked thread
flerp
Feb 25, 2014



newtestleper posted:

shut the gently caress up

this but to everyone who responds to crits

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet


Broenheim posted:

this but to everyone who responds to crits

thanks for the posting crit

theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Lazy Beggar posted:

In. And can I get flash rule please.

Something turns up in an unexpected place.

Masonity posted:

In. I'll take a flash rule again. It actually helped me come up with my concept last time.

Your father's dying words have never seemed so relevant.

Screaming Idiot posted:

In, with a flash rule if you don't mind.

A chance encounter sets everything in motion.

Doctor Idle posted:

In with a toxx, flash me please.

She knows what you did last summer.

A Classy Ghost posted:

gently caress it I've skipped enough weeks, I'll be in for this one.

Also flash me because why noooooooooooooot

Someone is on a journey. They never reach their destination.

thehomemaster posted:

In, please flash me with your best.

It's back... but it's changed. For the worse.

hubris.height
Jan 6, 2005



Pork Pro

Broenheim posted:

this but to everyone who responds to crits

please always thank your crit people or have a meltdown but never in between imho

i'm the new guy tho

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

High marks for compassion, low marks for survival skills





Meltdowns are bad.

Thanks are good.

Silence followed by better writing is best.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.




In.

SkaAndScreenplays
Dec 11, 2013

by FactsAreUseless


HopperUK posted:

Iron Pony
Okay I want to love this because it's a kickass cyberpunk motorcycle chase. It also has a downbeat ending which I actually like because it feels like it fits. I like your protagonist too. It's just not quite enough. A bit more texture, perhaps, or a bit more detail as to what the exact stakes are, some more depth to the world. Still, not bad at all, was never in danger of a DM or anything.

Thanks Hopper - Appreciate the feedback.

Phobia
Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
MIAMI MUTILATOR
and the deranged degenerates who only want their
15 MINUTES OF FAME.


OCK.




, my submission will be about me finding a story this week.

skwidmonster
Mar 31, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Andele
WC: 799

It's a still night. Bucolic, you might call it. The moon is just a sliver or two away from full. The grass sways gently in a breeze that smells like hyacinth and river water. All is quiet.

A a woman, a vagrant, steps slowly, nonchalant, unhurried, about 30 feet away from and parallel to an empty highway.

A sound, like a bass drum rolling down a paved hill, pulls her attention north. Half a second later:

"fuckfuckfuckfuckFuckFuckFuckFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK--"

A blur of grey and black bowls past her. She doesn't even have time to register it as human. It's a streak of mean speed, and it comes nearly a foot from colliding with her head-on. It passes-- "FUCKFUCKFuckFuckFuckFuckfuckfucksorryyyyyyyy..." --and is gone in an instant.

The woman looks after the strange, puttering stream of fucks. She blinks.

An impossibly loud wind sweeps her from the ground.

It's Speedy Carmichael's last chance, and as always, he's late.

Millions of things are buzzing around inside his skull, most recently the regret for that poor woman he sucked behind him for about twenty feet. She'll probably be fine. Right? Right. No use dwelling on it now. That little worry pops right out of his head.

The city's coming up. He should probably skirt around since he needs to be on the south side.

He bowls through Maine Street, leaping most of the way but still trailing that mighty vacuum low enough to bowl a couple people over and rock some cars.

Whatever. They'll call it a sunspot or something tomorrow.

Fifteen seconds later, he's there. He skids to a stop in an alley and emerges with a confused look on his face, like Good Gravy, Was That A Tornado Or Something, How Peculiar and takes a left into a squat warehouse-looking building.

He enters.

"Knock knock," he shouts, and immediately someone brains him with a baseball bat.

...

He's up and running again in about a minute. Well, not running. Somebody's strapped him up with just way too many zip ties, like real overkill. The little plastic ends are poking into his back.

"You were supposed to be here at twelve fifteen."

He knows that voice. He hates that voice.

"It's not my friggin fault! I can only run so far til I hit population. And I was at my ma's, if I leave in the middle of a story she whines about it, and I'm not exaggerating here, whines about it for months."

A woman, about thirty, heavy set, completely bald, steps out from behind him.

"Shoulda planned better, Speedy. You lost the deal."

"Look, which way did they go? I can catch up to them."

The woman (Speedy calls her Mr. Clean, always behind her back and never to her face, he doesn't know her real name) laughs once. Her lips are two perfectly straight lines.

"That's not the principle of the thing, Speedy, you seem to constantly miss that point. The calibre of criminal we deal with, it's timeliness that matters, not talent. You were late, and they walked." She sounds like she's talking to a bank teller or maybe a hot dog vendor who's run out of mustard.

"So we lost the run?"

"You lost the run, yes. And any other day you'd get a third strike but this was the one. This was the Godfather. You missed him, and he walked, and now I won't be able to move my stuff in this city, or state, or maybe the country."

"Maybe you could get a job with Antiques Roadshow?" Speedy smirks. Mr. Clean gives him a little kick right in the teeth.

Speedy groans, spits, says "No, no, you're right. Terrible idea."

She kneels. "Here's what you're going to do." She's inches away from his face. Her breath smells like old radishes. "You are going to chase after him. You're going to take this knife," she flicks out a medium-sized hunting knife, "and you're going to gut him, the driver, and the two bodyguards. And you're going to come back here with the artifact in his trunk, show it to me, then take it to our buyer in Malasia. How's that sound?"

She waits.

"You got it, lady."

She cuts him loose and hands him the knife.

"You'd better be back before--"

Now Speedy isn't much of a killer, but he'd seen a prison shanking on HBO. Just stab as fast as you can, right? Well old Speedy, can stab pretty fast. He put about three or four thousand holes in her before his adrenaline slowed and he dropped the knife, not just covered but drenched in her blood.

Bodyguards?

Nope.

Why not?

She thought he was a coward, he guesses.

Not that she wasn't right.

Speedy split the scene just as speedily as he could, scared, pumped, and elated.

SkaAndScreenplays
Dec 11, 2013

by FactsAreUseless


New Batch Of Crits
Thranguy
Early Days Of A Wetter Nation
This is all exposition and history, I don't get a BLOCKBUSTER feel from it.
There's no real conflict, no discovery, it just feels flat and out of place in regards
to the prompt.

Enchanted Hat
U.S.G.P.
This could have been really interesting and engaging but there are too many issues with voice.
It seems like a fun concept, cop fights ghost pirates. It's just not presented with an engaging voice
things are happening but they don't seem to have any consequences. It isn't awful, but it doesn't stand
out either. The dialogue could have definitely benefited from some exposition. There's a large chunk where
I'm left to imagine that they're just standing there talking to each-other. There's no intimidation or dickwaving
going on that would indicate action.

Masonity
Double Oh Heaven
Prose is technically good. It's refreshing to see a submission that isn't all dialogue. The opening paragraph could have
been better with more of a buildup to the self destruct. It seems like all of this is run of the mill, but he doesn't react
much at all when the disarming of the self-destruct doesn't go as planned. The concept is entertaining if not a bit cliche.
The ending is kind of all over the place. On the whole the biggest issue for me is passive voice killing the narrative.

Mercedes
Born 2 Serve: Lob Harder
I like your character from the start, and I've got a lot of information from his actions and the narrative. I like the way
you handled the perspective changes, it doesn't feel forced and it fits in with the action. The dialogue, even with the crude
language that's being used isn't forced, and the jokes are subtle (mostly) and well written. There's a few technical/formatting
errors but nothing that really broke my immersion, and a few instances where the word-choice could be stronger or more accurate.
"Jet Stream" being the biggest offender. All in all though it was a fun read.

Megazver
BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR
I'm having trouble critiquing this one because it's just so different. It was fun and engaging, and I swear to you I pressed the
Inception button every time. It's good, and it could have been great...but I'm not sure how to improve it myself. I think
maybe the absurdity simultaneously made it a stand out, while preventing it from being the winner.

s7indicate3
It Was A Hot Day In June
Your first sentence is jarring to read. It's hard to follow, and also you used [i]moist[/u]. Personally I couldn't find a
gently caress to spare but it's one of those words that turns people off. As a gun-nerd it bothers me that one of your characters
adjusts his tripod to line up a shot because I know that ballistics are handled by sights/scopes.
Your POV jumps from past to present tense: Frequently. This is bad, and you shouldn't do it. I can't think of an instance
in anything I've ever read where this was intentionally done...let alone done effectively.
I don't feel like your characters had any real motivation, and the ending made zero sense to me.

Cache Cab
The Termolenator
This is Michael Bay camera work in prose form. By the time I'm processing a line I'm getting hit with three more. I'm not
bogged down by exposition but there are times where I want more than, 'A mole attacked me' not awful, but too absurd for
me to enjoy.
Not sorry for grievous misuse of Siren

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Masonity posted:

Double Oh Heaven
(1479 words) A time limit with deadly consequences must factor

“There I was, strapped to a table, a lazer [Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, I don't think it can be spelled with a z] slowly making it’s way between my legs, ready to slice me in half. Pretty basic stuff really. Naturally my training kicked in. I kicked my heels together, producing a small mirror from my left shoe. I deflected the beam to cut my wrists free, then began untying my legs ["untied my legs" might be better]. That’s when I first heard the countdown. Doctor Severus had activated the self destruct on the sub. I had two minutes to find the second escape pod. Nothing I hadn’t done a thousand times before. That rotter though [I did laugh], he’d jettisoned off [launched?] the second pod before escaping himself! Ah well, disarm the self destruct. Plan B. I worked my way to the control room, taking out a few oblivious flunkies on my way. [I smiled] One minute left, the darn thing announced. And what do I find there? [where? might be just me but after talking about flunkies and reminding us of the countdown, I wasn't clear that this was the control room] He’s only ripped the reset button out the wall! The man’s an all round bad sport. Of course I got straight to work trying to wire something together. Thirty seconds, thirty drat seconds… Just twist these two wires together and… What do you mean am I sure I want to cancel the self destruct program? Press the second button to confirm? What second button? Ten seconds left? I couldn’t find it anywhere. Five seconds, and Five seconds. I was in a real panic. I mean,[necessary? I was always out before they started with individual numbers. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Then everything went white... And that, my good fellow, is how I died. Done up like a kipper by that dirty rotter Doctor Severus.”

“I see”, my interviewer nodded, his face still [necessary?] shrouded in shadows “So, it’s clear you was were an exemplary agent, and indeed If this chap is meant to sound like a typically pompous British fellow, I didn't get that, but I guess that is what the otherwise unnecessary "indeed" is for, maybe "an exemplary agent indeed!" or in a similar emphatic use maybe "an exemplary agent. Indeed!" I hate that actually. Anyway, don't listen to me, especially on dialogue. I avoid it, I'm that bad with it.] you died in active duty, made your way back to base and was were recognised by one of our sensitives. But are you truly so committed to Her Majesty’s service that death itself couldn’t keep you away? Or are you simply after revenge?” I'm not sure I like that the afterlife is as partisan as this life, but I like what this adds to the story. I have one concern though about the ending when Bane forsakes paradise. The paradise aspect comes out of nowhere. Maybe something earlier on where Bane is asked whether he wants to face judgement or continue serving the Queen otherwise I think having some sort of redemption part at the end will jar. I could be wrong.]

“Well Sir, I really don’t know.” I said. “Ever since the whole incident I’ve felt empty. Less of a person. But I was always a loyal agent, and I can’t see what else I’ll do.” [I thought this response was a little limp considering he is being offered to be a ghostly agent. I like the uncertainty he has but I feel that overall it lacks the sort of emotion that someone would have upon finding out that there is life after death and he can continue being a spy. But then maybe he is just so accustomed to the spy/espionage game that this doesn't even surprise him.

“Luckily, we have the perfect test.” He said, stepping out of the shadow. Ah, I’d seen this guy around before. Way above my security clearance. Rumour had it he ran his own spook squad. “Your mission is to shadow your replacement. He’s being sent in to take down Doctor Severus and avenge the legendary agent John Bane. If you are only in this for revenge… Well, you’ll just fade away once it’s over. You get your closure, [Oh, I guess this is the mention of redemption. I didn't get that the first read through] we get to cross Doctor Severus off our list. Everyone’s a winner. If, however, you still feel you have more to offer, even after you watch the light go out in his eyes… Well, MI-0 may indeed have it’s newest agent. Welcome to the team, Bane. I hope we’ll be seeing more of each other. Please excuse me if I don’t offer to shake, it’s rather disconcerting when you chaps go all incorporeal on me!”

---

I spent the next week in the training room, getting used to my new incorporeal form. I could move objects; I found I had a particular affinity to lamps. I learnt to project myself, to allow non-sensitives to see me for a few fleeting moments, although this always left me feeling drained. Unfortunately my replacement, Mark, wasn’t a sensitive, so passing on information was a no go. He also wasn’t going to be told that I’d be along. I wondered how many times I had a ghost buddy watching out for me during my missions. I'm not sure this is needed, this question is sort of implicit throughout the rest of the story. It was to be quite a straightforward affair though. I don't like this sentence I’d already retrieved all the info, all he had to do was go in, kill the good doctor and on the off chance he had actually started the whole Doomsday Clock thing, well, either he fixed it or I’d suddenly have a few billion new friends. This needs to be expanded. In the last passage, the message was to avenge Bane but now the doctor has an evil plan to boot!

The mission started fairly predictably. Mark spent a while in a casino cozying up the Doctor Severus’s blonde, leggy assistant. I assume there was some sort of seduction, but please; I have some class! [Did you mean "Have some class!" or something along the lines of "At least I had some class!"] Either way, [necessary?] he managed to get an invitation on board the doctor’s new yacht. A few hours later we were out at sea, in international water. Mark decided it was time to strike.

I followed him as he made his way through the ship. Occasionally I’d make the odd noise, knock over a vase or slam a door to distract the guards, all the time wondering if some of the extraordinary luck I’d had in the past had been equally provided. Again, I think this is better left unsaid but that is just an opinion, especially considering the juxtaposition of this thought with an uncanny piece of luck.] On a whim, I decided to scout ahead to the control center. Habit forced me to cup my ear to the wall, even though I knew I could slip through it with ease.

“his way to us right now. [This confused me. I thought it was a typo or a piece had been cut out by mistake, then I realised it was Bane dropping his eaves in the middle of a sentence. I think you write something like "—his way..." ]The pills I slipped into his drink should be taking effect fairly soon though.” Doctor Severus’s assistant said. “Now Doctor, remember your part in this. The board are putting a lot of trust in you! We need to send those British fools a lesson. He’s to survive, but barely. Bane was a hit job, this is merely reputation enhancement. We want their eyes on you. When the program is complete, you’ll be duly rewarded.”

I gasped, stepping into the room. [Is the gasping due to his attempt to become visible to "unsensitives" or his surprise that Mark is badgered? Sounds odd that he would gasp into a room intent on saving the day. Not overly heroic.]

“Bane? You’re… But… Aren’t you… Dead?” She asked. Then the fear melted from her face as the realisation struck. “A spirit?” She made a strange gesture. “Avenus Munchus Sentinus!” Dark hands grasped at me, seeming to rise from the floor. “Poor poor Bane. First the good Doctor here killed you, and now I get to rip your soul to shre” [Again the break in dialogue confused me. I think you do the same thing here, using the em dash, someone who writes could confirm this. So it would be "and now I get to rip your soul to shre—" and I wouldn't have a line break or new paragraph so the interrupting action comes immediately after the break. Also I found her transition from terrified to terrifying odd. But I liked that there was a character on the other side privy to the ghostly services.]

The door crashed in. Mark strode over the bodies of unconscious minions. [Almost sounds like he did it knowingly which presumably isn't the case] “Sorry Jane, you were fantastic, but the Doctor and me have to discuss business. Leave now and I won’t have to feel bad about killing y… y… you” he said, his gun suddenly shaking in his grip. Her concentration broken, I felt the hands slip from me. I knew there was nothing I could do for Mark though, so I fled. [I like this scene, the oblivious Mark worked well for me with the tension.]

---

I hid in a wall just outside the control room, realising I had a choice to make. [This confused me. We don't find out until near the end of this paragraph that she had left.] The beautiful, dangerous Jane, if indeed that was her name, who seemed to be pulling the strings. Or my killer, Doctor Severus. I’d only be able to tail one of them. Every mote of my soul wanted me to stay. Take on Severus. Avenge myself. That, and stay away from Jane. Quite frankly, she scared me. What was that? And what would have happened if Mark hadn’t burst in? My training won out though. I silently stalked her, keeping myself concealed inside walls as often as possible. She headed up onto the deck, then lowered herself down into a speed boat. I glanced around, noticing only one over other speed boat and a handful of life rafts. Every last bit of my strength went into snapping the lines on the other boat before I slipped into the engine block, and stowed away. [I don't like this sentence very much. It confused me. Did he slip into the engine block so he could run it with his ghost powers? ]

A few minutes later I heard her call out. I counted to ten, then followed. [Again this confused me. I thought initially that she was aware of him following, but it turned out she wasn't. Are they not in the open sea? Where did he wait while he counted?] She had driven to a second, larger yacht. [Might have been clearer to start here.] I started searching the place, looking for some information on her employees, or partners. Then I spotted her. A glass of champagne in her hand, and what looked like a live feed of Doctor Severus’s boat on a widescreen TV. I watched as Mark managed to regain himself, then escape an ingenious trap involving band-saws, a pool of piranhas and a couple of poisonous snakes. He escaped the torture room, found his way onto the roof of the yacht, spotted Doctor Severus slowly floating away yacht awaiting rescue, then assembled his sniper rifle. I like how you show here that it isn't luck on Mark's part as Bane has failed as his guardian angel. Did Bane's guardian fail him? Did his failure mean that his luck had been due to a ghost helping him? Moments later a red dot appeared on the good Doctor’s head, then expanded rapidly as a rather fast moving piece of metal traveled along the light’s path.

There. I’d won. Revenge was mine. I could move on. In the distance, I saw the light. I turned to walk towards it when I heard Jane scream with rage. “This won’t do! That agent can’t survive!” she went down on her knees, pulling at a wooden panel.

The light was pulling me away. I took a step towards it, then glanced back. A rocket launcher. She was struggling to get it out of it’s hidden compartment.

It called me home. No more pain. No more work. Eternal rest. Paradise. [As I said above, this came out of nowhere for me. Might have just been the word "paradise" that I found a bit too jarring but the whole light malarkey seemed a bit out of place. Maybe using the man in the shadows words would have been better. "I felt myself fading away... blah." Who knows. I do like that he forsakes the easiest route though.

But no. I couldn’t let Mark die. I turned around. I rejected the light. I am an agent of MI-0. It didn’t take much to smash the lamp into the back of her head. It took a lot more to bring it down again, and again, as her pretty blonde hair turned damp and red. [I like the ending. The visual violence added a darker component that wasn't there throughout most of the piece and it stands out all the better for it.]



I really enjoyed your story. I chuckled and smiled at parts. I didn't intend to go though it as thoroughly as I did. I was just going to highlight the few typos and formatting issues I had seen but it proved easier to put my thoughts in that format too.

The opening section is the strongest part and the rest sort of rides on that, which is fair enough. Some of the action is described confusingly so it brought me out of the story. But I liked the narrator and felt like Bane was a fairly well developed character in my head. Jane's character was interesting but I think the reveal that she knows about the spectral force is a little off.

Anyway, I hope this crit isn't too shoddy. I thought I'd crit this story as it is already up, but I'm happy to do your next submission too.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012



In. I'd like a flash rule too, please.

theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Benny Profane posted:

In. I'd like a flash rule too, please.

A plant plays a significant role in your story.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME crabrock? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

Grimey Drawer

skwidmonster posted:

Andele
WC: 799

is this your brawl piece?generally you should say what you are posting for if it's not a story for the week.

skwidmonster
Mar 31, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER



crabrock posted:

is this your brawl piece?generally you should say what you are posting for if it's not a story for the week.


WherMonster Brawl

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


flerp
Feb 25, 2014



Additional Week 145 Crits

I'm bored and I'm not quite sure why, but there was a couple of stories in week 145 that I didn't crit and I really want to crit because they were/were not on my poo poo list for various reasons. So gently caress it, I'm going to do some more crits.

Addendum: Actually, I critiqued everyone I didn’t critique already. You can thank me later. Or better yet, don’t thank me in thread.

Jitzu_the_Monk and Something Else - The Monster in the Closet

I had this low because I really did not see the point of it. There's this weird monster thing that exists in your story but it's just the protagonist's lesbian tendencies? Then she has sex and the monster and the protag are like cool, being a lesbian is cool. The reason this story sits so low to me is that the entire story is "i want to have sex" and then "i had sex and it was p. cool" so it rings pretty shallow to me. Strip away the monster part and all this story is "I don't know if I want to have sex with this woman" to "I will have sex with this woman" then "I had sex with this woman." It just feels like the monster stuff is a waste of time and adds nothing to the story. It could've been interesting but the "monster inside me" is actually just being a lesbian feels lame. Also, there's "problematic" joke that I would make but gently caress that.

Ironic Twist and Blue Wher - Sculpting Perfection

This one I had high, so good work on that. I enjoyed this one for its fable-like tone but the ending kind of falls apart. I like the idea of sculpting something that you think will be perfect but it just looks hideous at the end (something that pretty anyone that has done anything creative will relate to) but that's about where the story stops working. You make your moral very heavy handed, as in, cleanly told directly to the audience

“She is your perfect woman because she is what your heart desired,” the voice said. “You think you want perfection, but such a thing cannot exist. Your heart desired more than beauty. You will soon realize this, and thank me.”

Also, I'm going to be lazy because I actual wrote about this in one of my criticisms of a fairy tale I had to write for college, so let me dredge that up because it might actually be relevant. "[You] forcing the moral into the story makes the story less entertaining as the readers (i.e. me) are being told what to feel about the story rather than being allowed to come up with their interpretation. Instead of the reader being an active participant in the story, they are relegated to being simple observers. The reader is not able to interact with the story" making it boring as poo poo (Broenheim 2). This gets into the showing not telling section of about every critique post. I understand the frustration that you would have if people wouldn't find your moral clear, but you laying it out in front of us is even more insulting to me then if I had never even found the moral in the first place. Then it kind of ends almost too perfectly. The god makes a point to criticize the dude, but then he leaves him with a girl that makes him happy. It just leaves a weird taste in my mouth. I wanted to HM this actually because I liked the fable tone, but I think I was too enamored with that that I was unable to see all the problems in the story.

skwidmonster and Posh Alligator - The Princess Ball

This one I also liked! But there were problems that I had initially and the judges brought up that made me reconsider HMing it. First, the opening was strange in that I was almost certain that the girl was actually the protag's daughter due to her stuck up, childish attitude, and that a Princess Ball sounds exactly like something a little daughter would love to go to, not some grown woman unless she was incredibly spoiled. Now that I think about it, this story reminds me a lot of my spoiled cousins. The whole complaining about going to a fancy place because it's not where she wants to be and disillusioning herself into believing she's getting what she wants. I liked the ending at first, but as I think about it, it doesn't make sense. The girlfriend, rather intentional or not, feels like a spoiled, stuck up girlfriend. She seemed so focused and obsessed with the Princess Ball that it just doesn't feel right that she shifts suddenly into being "well all I wanted was to be with you" cliche. This story could've been great if the girlfriend had been characterized better and not seemed like such a spoiled brat.

You know what, I feel bad, so I'm going to finish up my critiques for everyone this week. This is what you get when I can't fall asleep and have been going on a writing spree for these last couple days.

newtestleper and Jay O - Gifted and Talented

This was one of the stories where I just had no loving clue what to say. At first, I thought this was going to be a kind of cool interesting story about a demon baby that had the capacity to tell a funny story. You know, maybe an exaggerated possessed baby spews horrible apocalyptic nonsense while riding a wooden horse to resemble one of the four horsemen, but is then bested when he gets to see his favorite stuffed animal. You know, something silly. But this went somewhere odd. I was actually confused when you said "brothel to the stars" because I thought you meant it was a brothel for movie stars but I guess its for aliens and that they take care of alien babies? Idk that didn't make much sense. First, it felt like it was set in a suburban house, so idk how you can run a brothel in a three bedroom two bath house. Also, why do they take care of the babies if they run a brothel? This was just a weird ending. The beginning was far better, with a good sense of humor as well as some inclination of an interesting story. However, I think the ending missed the mark that the beginning set. Not that it was a total "gently caress you" to the prompt like other people did (looking at you Jitzu) just took it in a different direction then I expected and it didn't pay off. Newt, I think if you take your opening and expanded on it, it would be a nice little story that I would like to read. Jay O, idk, maybe you could flesh out the idea of a space brothel. It's an interesting concept that might be worth exploring without the constraint of the opening.

simplefish and Blue Squares - Leaving it all behind

I know Blue Squares you gave up on TD but I'm still giving you a critique. We talked about this in irc a little so it'll be short and I hope that I don't make the same points again. Honestly, I'm going to try to keep this out of the prompt. You kind of ditched the beginning, which I think was an actual good thing. That beginning was boring exposition that didn't really do much, so you were clearly at a disadvantage when it came to everyone else. You had 500 words, and you made them work though. You set up a conflict and you gave a nice resolution. Honestly, all the ill will had at the beginning of your story faded when I read the final scene. It was a cute, glowing moment that truly made me smile. Characterization was probably the weakest point of this story. I like the little foreshadowing you do, with the complaints going away and Vera having more stuff. You really could've made it be something darker, but you kept it light hearted by making her a beautiful circus performer. There is this though:

Vera led Jack out of the wagon and pushed him in the direction of the audience. He staggered into the crowd and faced the stage.

Vera emerged on stage.

This feels odd because there doesn't seem to be any time passage between these two, so she leads him to the stage then boom she's on the stage now. She works the trapeze ok, she's not a magician. I just think if you characterize Jake as more then a bitter man angry at banker this story would work a lot better. I would like maybe a bit more focus on Vera too, maybe add in a scene of some sort where she does something to help her dad to show that she is willing to do these things. I know that we had a bit of an argument in IRC about this, but I don't think this story was awful, just missed the prompt.

Posh Alligator - Unfinished Story

Yes, I will critique the DQed entry because I am a nice guy. Typo at the beginning (pulling his head over the grassy peak a an inch at a time). Oh are these supposed to be cheese puns? Fromage is a cheese, right? Is Gunn one too? At first I was actually kind of mad that you were talking about battle and fighting but then "Victory Cheese" got a little smile from me and it brought it back to the prompt. Not a bad opening. Generic fantasy with a little twist of cheese. I would like to have seen an ending that took this in sort of an ingenuity way, maybe like a fantasy heist story trying to steal cheese? That would be cool. I don't have a lot to say about this opening sadly cause it's hard to critique this, but I'll just base it off of whether or not I think someone could write a good story based off it. And I think they could! So good work!

Bluesquares and skwidmonster - 'Round Sundown

I’m not quite sure how to parse this story. So from my understanding, guy gets flower to give to his girl, but then pools some deer blood that the girl readily drinks and gives him a gift on of a deer? And that ending… did the wife want him to kidnap a real human child? Or… really, idk what to say about this story. Like, it wasn’t terrible, I like the main character kind of being a dope-ish, though that’s about his only trait. I just, really, don’t know how to feel about this. It wasn’t endearing or creeped me out. Really, I don’t know what this story wants me to feel. Am I supposed to care about this? I don’t know. I think the girl needed to be characterized better and clarity improved to make me understand exactly what these characters want. I don’t know this, just doesn’t sit right with me, but it wasn’t awful.

Benny the Snake - Unfinished Opening

Don’t plagiarize stories. Thank you.

Benny Profane and Ironic Twist - Prehistory

Really cool opening. It was just the right amount of absurd that it was endearing. Like the whole dialogue exchange is really, really funny. I just found myself chuckling through it all (this might be the pain pills talking so who knows). Then the ending happens and I’m just left wondering why? What’s the point? The funny dialogue kind of fades away to make room for “oh this intergalactic hero got scared once and for some reason 65 million years later people still remember that he was a pussy one day,” and I’m just left thinking that’s the punchline? Like why the gently caress do people remember that still? Anyways, it just wasn’t funny enough for me to enjoy it. Great opening, poor ending. Humor’s hard, and this just lands badly.

Sitting Here and Grizzled Patriarch - The Crucible

I thought, with this combination, you two would be unstoppable. It turns out I was wrong and we just got component, but not exceptional, fantasy. Generally when I critique I try to think what I think could be done to improve this story. I think if the strange woman had some kind of connection to the protag this would fit better. Magic feels a bit tricky to use because it can easily become lazy man’s way to solve problems. It takes the tension out of some scenes because it’s just like “omg she’s about to escape. oh wait magic nvm.” That’s why I feel like there needs to be constraint on magic in stories just to make it so that it doesnt become just a sort of get out of jail free card when your protag gets in trouble. Idk, this story just didn’t do much for me and honestly, I don’t think either of you will come back to this story ever so I might just be wasting my breath.

Blue Wher and Tyrannosaurus - Square Pegs are for Squares

This story feels weird because the solution is so obvious that it just seems like why the gently caress did I read this story? It’s like “hey, would this solution work” and then everyone is like “yeah that solution should work” and then “hey look that solution work!” It just feels so meaningless to read. There’s nothing really that gets in their way except their own stupidity, even though they don’t seem that stupid. This just felt like white noise - the story. There’s no real conflict, no real development, just kind of a waste of time. It had some cute dialogue, but I was just left thinking, “cool, what’s the next story I got to read?”

RedTonic and Pham Nuwen - Ring Quest

This had a pretty good opening that just failed at the ending. At the beginning the character felt like she was in a poor position but was working hard to try to get her out of it. But at the end, she starts getting horribly incompotent and all mopey and I was just like man wtf happened. Maybe there’s a good moral in that some people are nice, but it’s delivered ham-fistedly (look at Ironic Twist and Blue Wher’s Sculpting Perfection critiques up higher on why I think ham fisted morals are bad). The dialogue also starts to feel unnatural and really shallow, and then your protagonist doesn’t really do much. Badseafood said this pretty well so I’m going to do what he did in his critiques and say go read his again.

Jay O and Schneider Heim - A Better Place to be In

I really don’t have much to say about this. I mean, it doesn’t do anything awful, but it just feels like it’s not really trying to be do anything that interesting. It just present a scene that I have no real interest in. The crew is in dire peril and must turn to cannibalism but frankly I don’t give a poo poo because there are no characters to speak of. I think this story has the potential to work. If this was expanded on and we watched as a crew slowly descends into madness as they are forced to kill each other to survive, I’d read that if there were some interesting characters, but this falls flat, but that’s because it lacks the word count to really do that. Nothing awful, it was just another white noise entry that I just said “yep, not going to even talk about this in judge chat.”

Chairchucker and dmboogie - Trouble, Trouble

Pop culture references are funny amirite? Also what about those teenagers and their slang words? Funny too! Humor’s a tough thing, and I laughed at this for just being so stupid, but really, it tripped more than it landed. I think it was cute that she named the bad guys though, but idk, it just felt like you kind of created a stereotypical teenage girl but it just wasn’t that funny. The villains calling taylor tay tay is cute. It was kind of funny that it was an ex trying to kill taylor. Honestly, this feels like a family guy skit, more relying on pop culture references rather than actual funny jokes. It gets absurd, but it never quite becomes uproariously funny like I think it wants me to think it is. This is just kind of boring and doesn’t really do much for me personally.

Thranguy and JcDent - What A Twist (please no Ironic Twist fanficts tia)

I was almost worried that the opening paragraph would glance over what was actually in the trunk but it told us so thank loving god for that. Eh, the attempts at humor I think just don’t fit well with me. The whole sexually aroused saber toothed cat (which I can’t actually imagine because I have no clue what a sexually aroused saber toothed cat looks like) feels like lol random wacky comedy, and then the “thanks obama” feels like a meme thrown in without any tact. Man, I’m in two ways about the cats appearing. Sure, referencing them earlier makes them not seem so strange which I like, but it also makes it even more clear that you, the writer, is creating this story and I don’t like. So idk. #killercat. Why? Why write that? I’m lost. How did he escape? I thought he was in a traffic jam but he escaped by driving, right? That just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Seems strange to be worried about national guard catching him when there are literally saber tooth cats like two minutes away from them. Feels like they would have more important things to deal with then this guy. That ending was stupid. I don’t understand this story. Is it supposed to be funny. If so, please read AClassyGhost’s “Baby’s Day In” and realize that just because you make a wacky scenario does not mean that it’s actually funny. The writing was poor, character was stupid as gently caress and didn’t have anything going for him. He was just a vehicle to push along your stupid story where, at the end of the day, did nothing. I like to do this a lot, but I boil stories down into what they are into their essential parts. For this story it’s “dude is driving with a bunch of stuff that seems like an interesting story then sabertooth cats shows up, he runs away, crashes, then cuts right before he fights a cat.” I do this for you to understand why this story doesn’t entertain me in anyway. Sure, things happen, but they don’t matter. They don’t change your character in any meaningful. Sure, sabertooth cats, cool, I can get behind that. But that’s not what makes a story good. Just having a cool concept isn’t enough. You need characters. You need those concepts to mean something more than just “what would happen if sabertooth cats” came out of nowhere. It’s like zombies - if you focus on the zombies, it’s going to suck because who cares, they’re mindless and boring and watching them die over and over again is boring. But if you focus on characters during these situations, hey look at that, it actually becomes interesting because we force people into a situation that will really test them and see characters in a light we would have never seen them in any other moment.

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME Entenzahn? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

In.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


I offered to crit a couple of submissions this week. Already have Masonity signed up but anyone else want one?

If there are no takers, I'll just choose another one randomly.

Schneider Heim
Oct 17, 2012


Week 149 crits for Screaming Idiot, StealthArcher, Rap Three Times, theblunderbuss, Thranguy, Enchanted Hat, Masonity, Mercedes

This was an average week. I liked a few stories, but I didn't love them. The ones that fit the prompt like a glove turned out good (but not great), while the great stories didn't fit the prompt that much. Others were incredibly dull despite the prompt yelling at your face to make it exciting and wild. And of course a few stories had cool ideas ruined by terrible execution. You know who you are.

I don't loving know why some of you have to open up with boring scenes and not running in with guns blazing. It's a summer blockbuster! Have you never seen one? Start with action. A chase scene, fighting, something that pumps up the blood. Not boring talking or a paragraph describing the scene.

Screaming Idiot - Hank Armstrong: Metalsaur Slayer
This was fun and dumb in a charming sort of way. It doesn't take itself seriously, to its benefit. Not HM-worthy, but a solid read. Braun von Wurstaburger, Chinese terrorist mastermind, is too on-the-nose though.

Summer blockbuster rating: 4/5 explosions


StealthArcher - Potential
In a word, confusing. Your weird paragraphing doesn't' help. You open with dialogue and wait until the fourth paragraph to add context. We, the readers, can't really tell what the story is about if it starts with pure conversation. Unless it's something really memorable or outrageous, try not to do this. Also, you're writing prose, not some forum RP, so ease up on the *THUD* and write that out properly.

That said, I was actually lost with this story. I gather it's some Cold War tale with the missiles going off, but it's really disorienting overall. Try to be clearer. I had no sense of motivation or drive from the protagonist, and sometimes stuff just happens.

Summer blockbuster rating: 2/5 explosions


Rap Three Times - Baptism of Blood 1504 Words
I didn't like this story. Maybe it's the unlikable protagonist, the brutal fight scenes for the sake of violence, or the heavy-handed (literally) Catholic message. It's offensive as hell, but be thankful a whole lot of other stories are worse.

Summer blockbuster rating: 2.5/5 bloodsplatters


theblunderbuss - Honour Among Thieves, or Two Short Fights And Some Filler
Everyone read up, this is how you start a story. Protagonist's motivations are clear, and he's likable because of it. The action is punchy and the dialogue is smart. Characters got voices.

Summer blockbuster rating: 5/5 broken noses


Thranguy - The Early Days of a Wetter Nation
The idea of this story, some nobody realizing they're heir to the throne of a strange and wonderful kingdom, is completely summer blockbuster territory. The story itself is not.

Who told you it was okay to just tell us everything that happened without giving us actual scenes? I get that you crammed in as much plot as you could, but you could've done more by focusing on a few important scenes.

Summer blockbuster rating: 1.5/5 tridents


Enchanted Hat - U.S.G.P.
HUH. What was with that ending?? This would've been an HM candidate if they didn't abruptly stop fighting and make up. The rest is fun stuff but c'mon, what was up with that ending, really?

Summer blockbuster rating: 3.5/5 cutlasses


Masonity - Double Oh Heaven
Ugh please cut up your paragraphs. Otherwise, this was an average entry. I like the concept of ghostly secret agents shadowing their living counterparts, but everything else is so generic and by-the-numbers. Everyone is a stereotype.

Summer blockbuster rating: 2.5/5 bowties


Mercedes - Born 2 Serve: Lob Harder
Death Alien Tennis is a fun idea made even better with execution. You managed to make an interesting world in 1500 words. Good job.

Summer blockbuster rating: 4.5/5 tennis rackets

SlipUp
Sep 30, 2006

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019


Lazy Beggar posted:

I offered to crit a couple of submissions this week. Already have Masonity signed up but anyone else want one?

If there are no takers, I'll just choose another one randomly.

I'm interested in one as well.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


SlipUp posted:

I'm interested in one as well.

Done.

theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Sign-ups close in twelve hours.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Lazy Beggar posted:

I offered to crit a couple of submissions this week. Already have Masonity signed up but anyone else want one?

If there are no takers, I'll just choose another one randomly.

I'll take one. Any suggestions or critics welcome

Mercedes fucked around with this message at Jun 20, 2015 around 03:03

SkaAndScreenplays
Dec 11, 2013

by FactsAreUseless


I'm out this week. Getting sent out of town for work and won't be near a computer.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



In for this week.

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


In with a

theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Sign-ups are now closed.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Mercedes posted:

I'll take one. Any suggestions or critics welcome

Grand. So for this week that's:

Masonity
SlipUp
Mercedes

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


Just a friendly reminder. If you've won a week, got an honorable mention or brawled, you're eligible to rifle through the Prize Vault. Instructions are in the doc so hit me up for your free earned poo poo.

s7indicate3
Aug 22, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER

HalliburTown

Word count: 1200

Peter thought about how much he liked circles. He found them reliable. The rest of the world seemed to think the same thing although they wouldn’t admit it. Three world wars and no admission of a pattern.

Peter stared at the child in his arms. His name was Venn, his own second circle. Peter reminisced on the times when his name meant as little as his did. A logo without a strategy or a market. Limitless yet completely useless.

Peter is an ad man. He works a top-desk in the creative department for Ogilvy & Mather. Two names, Peter thought, that had transcended their humanity in order to attain immortality. If it weren’t for these transcendental beings he would not have thought as deeply about toilet paper, refrigerators, and fences as he once had. Peter was now glad he had. Glad because now, on his 51” LCD screen, was the regional premiere for the ad he created in the home it helped to build.

The ad opened with a fade-in of a dirty and carpet-bombed urban street where a bag exits stage left and then tumbles hypnotically across.

“Don’t you wish you could get away from it all?” a dreamy voiceover suggests.

The camera follows the bag across an abandoned train station, down a railroad and out across increasingly dilapidated landscapes until it collides with an ivory wrought-iron gate. The bag, as if knowing it has met its match, turns around and the camera pans out to reveal why. Large fluorescent green lawns surrounded by immaculately white picket fences act as moats for massive suburban homes with luxurious bay windows. Children of every race and creed the market research department could muster are playing together and a black man walking his golden retriever is greeting a white neighbour tending her garden.

It was then that Peter heard a crash.

“Welcome to perfected perfection. Welcome to HalliburTown™.”

##

Chloe stood over the kitchen sink cleaning the dishes as Peter basked in his own admiration.

Chloe’s sharp features, chocolate skin, and slender figure exuded black femininity. A femininity she recognized and idiosyncratically accentuated with elaborate body jewellery, bangles that resembled golden shackles, and a barbwire necklace. She told her employers it was slave-chic and that it was the next big thing. Her employers had banked on it.

Chloe, too, had worked in advertising. In fact, alongside Peter on many occasions. It was how they met. The job had required she travel around the world and note what people wore and research why they wore it. She would then compile a report and sell it to whomever was willing to bet she knew what she was talking about. She had been a cool-hunter. Her focus hinged on the idea of fashion as costume; an attempt to play a character that you wished you were in the hopes that you’d become it.

“Don’t you wish you could get away from it all?”

Chloe notices the jingle as she began to scrub a ceramic saucer with a frustratingly bright orange stain. The metal foam seemed ineffective, the stain was adamant it be noticed:

“You useless bitch.” it says in a nasally high-pitched voice.

Chloe begins to scrub harder.

“What the gently caress are you doing? You’ll ruin your nails.”

Chloe starts to scrub so hard she could hear the plates rattle around in the sink.

“Slave-chic huh? All I see is a slave-chick.”

The plate shatters on the ground. She had either thrown it or it had slipped out of her hands, Chloe couldn’t tell. Without the plate Chloe can’t help but listen to the slogan.

“Welcome to perfected perfection. Welcome to HalliburTown™.”

Chloe runs out of the kitchen, grabs her refashioned RAF aviator’s jacket and slams the door behind her as she leaves.

##

Venn begins to shriek and Peter finds himself standing tensely. Upon regaining his wits he ponders on what had just happened. Had it been a bomb? He looks out the window. The sun was out and the white clouds seemed to brighten the sky. Peter wondered how one perfectly perfect moment could just slip into chaos so abruptly.

It was then that Peter heard the door slam.

“God dammit Chloe!” he yells, causing Venn to shriek louder.

In a soothing tone Peter says “Come now, Venn. Surely you must get used to it eventually.”

Noticing that the water in the kitchen is still running Peter goes to turn it off. Seeing the shattered plate on the floor he decides against reaching over to turn it off with Venn in his arms. Peter then walks out of the kitchen, puts on his trench coat, a sweater on Venn and leaves the house.

##

Chloe is in the middle of lifting one leg over the picket fence in the backyard before she hears the front-door open. Startled, she falls forward causing her jacket to get caught on the pointed edge of the fence. She hears the sharp ripping noise of the quickly separating sleeves before she catches herself from hitting the ground. Now hanging in zero-gravity between her and her neighbour’s backyard she holds steady for fear of alarming Peter.

Several minutes pass before Chloe hears the car pull out of the driveway.

Finally clear Chloe unzips herself free and tumbles forward into the Hopkins’ yard. As she gets up and dusts herself off her eyes meet Jessica Hopkins’ and Chloe once again finds herself floating. Chloe stares helplessly into Jessica’s eyes, pleading vehemently with her but not saying anything. Jessica smiles, walks up to the window, and shuts the curtains.

“I’m not a loving runaway!” Chloe yells to no one.

Chloe doubles back over the fence and into her own yard to go back inside. There she begins to rummage through drawers to find the pen and the pad of paper Peter usually used to sketch out ideas for commercials. Finding it she sits down at the dining room table and begins to write, stops, and then rips it up. This continues for twenty minutes before she happens upon an emotionally satisfying note that she shoves into her pocket.

Chloe decides she should pack. She heads over to the master bedroom but stops short choosing instead to stand in the doorway of Venn’s room. She begins to cry. She walks up to the crib and takes off one of her golden shackles and lays it over the sheet before heading back out to pack her things. With tears still in her eyes, she leaves Peter and Venn.

##

Two and a half hours pass before Peter gives up searching for Chloe and pulls up onto the driveway. Getting out and grabbing a now sleeping Venn out of the back seat he notices a note taped to the front door.

“Dear Peter,
gently caress you.”


Peter rips the note off the door before walking though it.

Peter made good money. Peter could hire a maid. Peter had Venn.

Walking past the running sink Peter writes “buy dishwasher” on the magnetized to-do list stuck to the fridge before heading back into the living room to sit back down and stare at Venn.

“It’s better this way” he says to Venn.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007

The turtle moves.


Fun Shoe

An Old Friend

Prompt: The past returns; a chance encounter sets everything in motion.

Words: 1157


Laurence Barker was not a well man. He was old and bent, wracked with illness and a lifetime of war wounds and the ravages of alcohol. But he was also a stubborn man, and he clung to life with a white-knuckled grip and a scowl that could shatter stone and curdle milk.

Even now he shuffled about the room of his cottage that functioned as a combination bedroom, kitchen, dining room, and abattoir. A fire crackled and complained in the fireplace, hissing its hunger for more wood, and Laurence grumbled, dreading yet another trip to the tarp-covered woodpile stacked against the side of his tiny cottage.

There was a polite knock at the door.

"About time you made it," Laurence grumbled, not turning from his kitchen table as he carved a hunk of brown bread as hard as granite into gnawable chunks. "Have yourself a seat. Want some wine? Found a bottle under the bed."

"That'd be lovely," said the newcomer, a seemingly man as old as Laurence but a good deal less worn. "It's good to see you again, Laurence."

"You too, I suppose," Laurence admitted grudgingly as he retrieved two rough clay mugs from a dusty cabinet and filled them from a bottle of wine so old the dirt and crust coating its sides had practically fossilized. "It's been a while."

"Last tour, I recall. And when your wife passed, bless her soul," said Laurence's guest with a sad smile that showed surprisingly brilliant white teeth. "God, it's been decades."

Laurence let out a wheezing chuckle. "All I remember is that back then I thought I'd remember it forever. Now I have a hard time remembering what I had for breakfast yesterday morning."

"I remember," said the guest, his smile abating as his voice grew somber. "Hard times, the war. Too many men and women. And children."

"War's hell, I suppose," Laurence said as he set the mug of wine before his friend.

The guest didn't touch it. "No, my friend. War isn't hell. War is war. Hell is for the guilty -- the sinners. War is filled with innocents, and that makes it much worse."

Laurence paused to take this in, and sagged. "That sounds familiar."

"It should," his friend said, a little more comfortingly. "Those were your words. You always said my company tended to make men more philosophical."

Laurence scoffed and eased himself onto a rickety chair opposite his guest. "Some philosophy. Lost a lot of good friends, got hurt more times than I can count, and I can barely sleep without the dreams."

"Do you still blame me?" The guest met Laurence's gaze levelly.

Laurence turned away from those rheumy blue eyes. "I stopped blaming anybody years ago. No point. May as well scream at the wind."

His friend shivered. "I know the wind'll scream back, that's for certain. You can hear it in here. Feel it, too. Your son ever come by? He should have patched this place up long before winter."

"Little bastard can't stand me. His wife makes him check on me from time to time, but he does as little as he can get away with." Laurence let out a bitter laugh. "At least young Dylan learned something from me."

The guest studied Laurence's features. "You tried your best. You weren't a good father, but you did as well as you could."

"I don't know. At the time I thought I was doing my best, but not a day goes by where I don't see where I went wrong." Laurence tossed back his wine and coughed as it burned down his aching throat. "I wish he'd come to see me. I want to say I'm sorry, to tell him what I did wrong so he doesn't make the same mistakes with his own boys."

"It may be too late to apologize," said the guest in a kind voice, "but I'm sure he'd learn from your mistakes regardless."

"Perhaps, perhaps." Laurence coughed loud and hard, then spat something unpleasant into the dying remnants of his fire.

Both Laurence and his guest were quiet for a long time.

"Am I a bad person?" Laurence's voice was the quiet, hopeless tone of someone who asked a question whose answer they already knew.

"No," said the guest. "But you're not a good one either. Good men are rare, and then only in exceptional circumstances can they show it. But you're not a bad man, and that's what truly matters."

Laurence's expression slowly softened, and he looked as though a great weight had been lifted from those scrawny, hunched shoulders. Without saying a word, he sat on the edge of his bed and smiled at the empty room.


***


Dylan hammered at the rough wooden door to his father's grubby little cottage with irritation. He'd walked for miles through the snow with a pack of food and a basket of goodies packed by his gentle-hearted wife.

"He's your father," she'd begged. "You may not like him, but he doesn't deserve to starve and freeze in the middle of the woods all alone."

So he let her load him down with food and supplies until he was nearly as stooped as his father and he walked for hours through the knee-deep snow. When he arrived at the cottage, he looked up to see the shutters closed and the chimney free of smoke.

"Old bastard was too lazy to bring in more firewood. Typical. Don't know why I bothered chopping it for him."

After several more minutes of knocking, Dylan kicked at the door; ever-paranoid, his father always kept the door locked, but a good strong kick always popped it open readily enough. It did so now, and the door swung open into a cold, dark room. Dylan's breath caught in his throat.

He dropped the pack and the basket he carried and fumbled for a lamp and some matches on the table. Through the lamp's guttering light, he saw with mounting grief the stiff shape of his father on the bed. A touch confirmed that he was cold, and dead for hours.

"Oh god," Dylan said, unexpected tears coming to his eyes. "Oh dad, oh god, I'm so sorry-"

Dylan's apology died even as he gave it when he saw his father's face more closely. Dylan had expected horror or pain, or even a vague, neutral expression. What he hadn't expected was peace, and Dylan knew from years of shouting and screaming that his father had known no such feeling.

Despite his grief, Dylan felt a bittersweet warmth rise in his chest. His father suffered no more. The pain and trauma he'd seen was gone, and now after so many, many years he could finally rest.

Dylan arranged his father as respectfully as he could, then readied for the long trip home. He had preparations to make.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, spin up the goddam chaingun.' -Robot Santa Claus

They Say Fish Have No Word for Water

1105 Words

“Hey, Peg,” said my friend Cal, “You're a fool. A foolish fool.” I was both shocked and confused. Like any proper citizen I didn't know what the word meant, but did recognize it as a word on the level two proscribed list.

“So's your parent,” I snapped back, glancing warily at the streetlight. “What are you doing?” I asked him in a not particularly quiet whisper.

Cal broke out into a wide grin. “They've updated the lists. Put the baseball words back from level two to open use and moved 'fool' and variants up to level three. Noun and adjective forms only, open use.”

“Fool,” I said, feeling the unfamiliar syllable in my mouth. “Any idea what it means?”

“Not a clue. Want to go try and find out?” I could imagine nothing better to do on a tranquil spring firstday.

We came across Pete and a few of his friends that I didn't know. Pete was an attractive enough male, but his was the beauty of a thing or an animal rather than a person. Colder and more casually cruel than, say, Cal.

Just as Pete started to speak to us, the loudspeakers announced that Proctor Cameron was a great fool.

“Any of you know what that word means?” asked Cal.

“Well,” said Pete, “It's got to be something bad, right?”

“But not too bad,” I said. “I mean, if it was as bad as a traitor or a terrorist they'd have also said Cameron had been purged.”

“Maybe that's coming next,” said Pete.

“Nah,” said Cal. “When a Proctor gets purged they say that first and tell us why later.”

“Could be,” said Pete. He looked at Cal, then to the space a bit above and to the side. “Tonight?”

“Maybe tomorrow,” said Cal.

We figured that adults would be more likely to remember the word, and we saw a group of them talking excitedly among themselves. When we reached them, though, we found out that their animated discussion was bouncing between three issues: whether the final run of the last World Series, eight years ago, should or shouldn't have been called back; what each of them had or hadn't done during the World Series Riots; and if the Proctors would bring the game itself back in their lifetimes. We couldn't even get a word in edgewise. Some of them dropped the word 'fool' into the conversation, but tentatively, without any sense of it meaning more than 'bad person' describing whichever player, umpire, or rioter they didn't approve of.

“We could try the Zones,” said Cal.

“Let's not,” I said.

“Wait,” said Cal. “You've never been near the Zones, have you?

“Sure I have,” I lied. Cal was having none of it.

“Oh, we've got to go now,” he said.

The Zones were painted off squares far away from residences or any proper part of town. There were two long lines leading up to them. Two people stepped into the square and yelled gibberish at each other, probably level one and level zero proscribed words that could only be defined in terms of each other. Cal and I could barely even tell where one word ended and the next began. I suspected many of the people in the square didn't know either. Eventually the pair would get tired and step outside the square. Then they'd either start brawling or loving. Then the next two people in line would get in the square and it started over again. We watched five different pairs take their turns. It was fascinating but not particularly enlightening, at least not concerning the meaning of 'fool'.

We weren't the only people who had come to watch the displays of sex, violence, and inappropriate language. One of them, an bareheaded male with legs longer than most, approached us. “You don't seem like the typical Zone audience.”

I realized I had been staring at the latest round of post-zone activity (which was not a fight) and turned bright red from undiscussible emotions. Cal snickered. “We'd been hoping,” I said, trying to make him stop, “To find someone who knew what 'fool' meant.”

“Been wondering that myself. You'll find no knowledge here, though.” He frowned, rubbing his scalp. “That one's been proscribed since before my time. Sorry.”

I had one more idea. Curfew wasn't far off, so I took off at a run, letting Cal follow behind, until we reached the pensioner houses. I quickly started to have a good feeling about this one. The centenarians were calling each other “fools” with gusto, and unlike Cal and the baseball enthusiasts, they sounded like they knew what they were saying.

“Excuse me,” I said with all of the deference I could muster. “Can any of you tell me what 'fool' means?”

“Sure I can,” said one of them, a male of poor posture and leathery skin. “It's a person with a missing finger or toe.” I was disappointed and likely showed it. “Ha!” he said. “Fooled you!”

“That meaning's still proscribed,” said another pensioner, a pink-haired female.

“Report me, then, and they can take the penalty out of my pudding rations,” the first one said. Turning back to me, he continued. “Made a fool of you, then. It means someone who believes things that aren't true.”

The loudspeakers announced that Proctor Cameron had renounced his foolish ways, and pledged to be less of a fool in future. Then they sounded the final fanfare before curfew.

We had to run full out to make it back to our neighborhood . “I am, you know,” I said to Cal when we reached place where we'd have to split to reach our respective homes.

“You are what?” he asked.

“A foolish fool,” I said. He tried to say something, but I continued. “I know about you and Pete.”

“What?” said Cal. “I mean, we haven't exactly been hiding it, you know.”

“Oh, God,” I said. The streetlight flashed blue and red for blasphemy and public display of religion. Ten unit penalty, in total, half the week's allowance down the drain, but I didn't exactly care much about that right then. “You don't even know, do you?”

“Don't even know what?” asked Cal. He immediately answered himself. “Wait, you didn't think you and I...”

“One day we'll laugh at this,” I said, trying not to cry right then, feeling foolish but taking a slight comfort in the fact that there certainly seemed to be a great many of us around.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Clap Happy
1199 words
Something turns up in an unexpected place.

Last week in Austin I walked past a comedian and I didn't want to kill him.

***

When I was younger people used to say, "You should try stand-up comedy, Frank!" So one day I did. My signature sardonic humor fell flat on the stage. Afterwards I brooded at the bar guzzling beer. The comedian who came on after me, with his "women are so quirky" jokes, was a hit. I hated his gesticulating hands. I loathed the laughter. And all that loving clapping!

I saw him perform often after that. I never tried again. I hated him. He didn't know me. But I had a joke to tell: after another successful set, I killed him. This amused me greatly, but I couldn't share the joke. I took his money and buried him. As I dug his grave, it dawned on me that I should take some sort of trophy like the pros. So I decided to take his hand. I only had a small knife, so soon I regretted my decision when I saw that I had only begun to dent the bone. However, I persevered.

I happily continued in this vain for a few years.

One day I was putting away my latest trophy alongside the previous twenty-five. This one was a left hand. I alternated which hand I took each time. I bet this would have baffled the forensic psychologists something rotten. The truth was I liked to force the them to clap when I retold jokes of their previous owners. How I laughed at those clapping hands. After a forced round of applause, I was arrested by a sickening hollow feeling expanding in my stomach. I grew to know this as loneliness.

The feeling developed and a more conventional life began to seem appealing. I remembered the company of others more fondly than I had before. I wanted a job, a wife, a family, and perhaps even friends. So after my thirty-first kill, a pleasingly arbitrary number to end on, I shaved off my beard, moved to the east coast, and got a job.

I became a bank manager. There was a remarkable amount of cross over between my new job and my old one: both needed strong organizational skills and a ruthless lack of empathy.

I actually enjoyed my work. A mortgage refusal in the morning could keep me happy all day. And how I laughed in the evenings when recalling the confused faces of the paupers when I told them I would allow them to accumulate more debt when they failed to make repayments on their current debt. The hands clapped at that one. I had garnered a small group of acquaintances, but my belly still felt empty. I wondered if a family might fill it.

Before I started courting potential brides, I cleared out my hands. I crossed ten state lines with a full trunk and buried them in Nevada, not far from Reno. I returned east with tears in my eyes. A year later, I got married.

I had married a waitress. She was impressed with my job and the money that came with it. I think having a house to move into clenched the deal. She rarely made jokes and she laughed at mine. She wanted to continue working so we hired a cleaner. I had my normal life.

But in only three months my wife showed her true self. I think she felt less impressed by me the more she saw me naked. She was always screaming about nothing. She hated me and regretted marrying me. Any attempts to rectify her mysterious problem compounded her rage. Then one day she told me she was pregnant. The random shouts stopped. And after the birth she was tolerable again. They are quite quirky after all.

After seven years of seamless fatherhood and cold marriage, I lost my job.

We had some money saved but I needed to find a new job otherwise we would soon default on our mortgage. My wife no longer held me in any esteem at all. She had began to enjoy her derisive commentary of my life a little too much. I missed my hands.

One day our kid ran into the kitchen panting, "Dad! Dad!". Against my better judgment, I begrudgingly inquired what he wanted. "Listen to this joke I heard at school!" Now the loving kid was grinding me down. I sighed. My wife chipped in at this point, "Sigh, sigh, sigh. Can't you do anything other than sigh? Words maybe?" I had a retort primed, but then there came a scream from the garage. "Go see what Mary is screaming about, Frank? Can you do that?" I sighed again then went to the garage. The cleaner was backing away from something. It was a hand. A familiar one. Twenty-six, if I wasn't mistaken.

I convinced the cleaner not to notify the police and tossed the hand in the trash before my wife could see it.

The next day I managed to get Mary sectioned. We couldn't afford to pay a cleaner anyway. It was terrifyingly easy to get her into an institute. Although, Mary had put on a convincingly hysterical performance: she was genuinely confused whether she should mention the hand or not and so kept changing her story.

I no longer slept. It had taken a while to sink in but when it did, it sunk deep: someone must know about the murders.

Hands started turning up everywhere. Hand eleven in the fridge. Six in my socks' drawer. It was remarkable that my family never saw them before I did. So remarkable that I started to suspect my wife was privy to something I was not. But who in their right mind would stay in a house with someone they knew was a killer? And also keep your child in the same house! Was he in on it too? Was the boy making jokes to goad me?

Three days later on a Sunday afternoon, I was disturbed by a loud scutter as I tried to sleep on the couch. I got up and approached the kitchen cautiously. Another hand! The first one I had taken. I went to pick it up. It scuttled away! What was this madness! It went out to the backyard. I followed it, intent to catch it before my wife came downstairs to see what the commotion was. In the middle of the lawn, it stopped. It turned and as it did, thirty more hands came out of the foliage. They began to clap in pairs. Clap. Clap. Faster and faster. Clap. Clap. Clap. I ran into the house chased by the menacing applause and straight out of the front door and down the street.

***

I've been living in Texas since then. I haven't seen any more unexpected hands nor have I heard from my family. I think the two problems sorted each other out. I still carry an emptiness with me, but it is quieter than it ever has been. I enjoy my solitude again and sometimes I can even walk past a comedian and not want to kill them. I only have ten hands so far.

theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Submissions close in twelve hours.

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME Entenzahn? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

All That He Was
1196 words

His name was John Johnsson, and he had been fairly unremarkable until the day he found the guitar in his attic. It had been his father’s, and now he remembered the sessions they’d had, back when these things were still legal, before the singularity and the knowledge explosion.

You couldn’t just make music these days. You had a job. It’s all you were.

John pulled a stool from under his father’s dusty workbench and sat down, resting the guitar on his lap. It smelled of old wood and polish, and rusty steel strings. He grabbed the easiest chord he remembered – E minor, just two fingers on the fretboard – muted the strings with his right palm like his father had shown him, and dragged his thumb across the strings, softly, so that the neighbors wouldn’t hear.

It sounded like poo poo.

And yet, something in him stirred. This lovely sound was something he’d created, not a piece of code, not some sleek new routine to process photon-computed security mechanisms at optimal efficiency, nothing by the book, but something rough and imperfect, and his.

He waited. No police came crashing down his door, so he silently tuned the guitar and played another chord, and then more came to him, old songs, patterns he silently strummed, melodies he plucked, carefully, like picking mute notes out of the air.

Before he knew it, it had turned midnight.

He played again the next day, and the day after that. Mostly from memory, of the old days or of songs he’d heard on the government-approved radio channels. Every evening he came home and the first thing he did was to play up in his attic, in his own world. His work performance deteriorated. John was an engineer, and the field he worked in was a subset of quantum physics so retardedly difficult it had taken him years of intense studies to be ready for his job, and more years to come to a level of feigning understanding that approximated that of his coworkers.

These days everyone spent their entire lives revolving around one single field of occupation, studying, honing their knowledge, perfecting themselves to one single end. Learning other skills was strictly disallowed. No competitive nation could afford distracted citizens. Musicians were still there, but only the most virtuous of them were mandated to play. If you hadn’t mastered at least ten different instruments by the age of four, and three of them simultaneously, you might as well not have bothered.

Now every day when he was supposed to be home and read up on the newest developments in photon computing, he played the guitar instead, starting with ‘just one song’ and then playing into the night. And he got good. Really good. But at work, he wrote routines that were suboptimal. Slower than everybody else’s. Outdated.

Bad to a point where the police inspected his home. Not that they found anything. He’d taken all his government-issued medication. His house was in perfect order. There were only dusty old things in his attic: a workbench. A guitar case. Obviously not used. They gave him the number of a government-approved general practitioner, thanked him for his time, and left.

He called in sick the next day. It wasn’t just the shock of the raid. The muted sessions in his attic began to depress him. He wanted to play the guitar properly. Loudly. He wanted to hear it. Maybe he even wanted it to be heard.

The police search in the attic had turned up an old kabuki mask. Dusty and forgotten. He’d been allowed to keep it, as memorabilia. He put it on now, and a wide, flat-brimmed hat on top, and he put on his longest coat and grabbed his guitar and went out into the sun.

Few people paid him any mind. Most artists had taken to masking themselves these days. Government mandates were hard to get, so musicians always lived dangerous, especially when someone with musical kids got close to them. John told himself he was no different. Just another high-profile musician. Incognito.

The town square buzzed with activity, people singularly minding their tasks: acquiring household goods, maintaining storefronts, patrolling the street for evildoers. Some looked at him expectantly. He swallowed. He’d never played properly. It might actually sound horrible.

He sat down at the water fountain and tuned his guitar. People stopped to look. Street musicians were a rare sight. He plucked a few cautious notes at first. The guitar sounded bright and vibrant. He got into it, played more forcefully, lost himself, filling the air with a forceful melody, strumming riffs that made even ordinary citizens bop their heads and tap along with their feet.

John finished his song and flushed with pride. The hesitant cheers satisfied a craving in him that he hadn’t known before and it felt drat good.

Then came the second song, and things went wrong.

“The guitar again?” a voice from the audience said.

“Doesn’t he know any other instruments?”

“What the hell?”

John apologized briefly, explained that he was a specialized guitarist – which resulted in more outraged complaints – and started playing. Some people just left. Others stood there, unbelieving.

Probably thinking, why was such a meddler granted a government-mandate?

John slipped. His chord came out wrong, and he went off-beat. His fingers had been replaced with fat, sticky sausages. Someone booed him. He took his hands off the guitar, recomposed himself, and reached for the fretboard again when the policemen stepped up and requested his certificate.

He nodded. The patrol reached for his guitar. Numb with shock he gave it away.

Then he ran.

The guards followed. He wouldn’t outrun them. John dodged around corners, avoided turns where he saw additional policemen down the street, ran and ran. The chase lasted seconds. Maybe a minute. They surrounded him at Harmony Bridge. Guards sprinted at him from all directions, batons drawn. He didn’t know what would happen if he got caught. He didn’t want to find out. The rumors were bad enough.

The world around him turned wobbly, slanted. He barely noticed himself leaning over the railing. Far below him, waves rippled across the water. He could probably make that jump. Jump, or risk… whatever they’d do. They still didn’t know who he was. He could make it.

It was bad enough they had his guitar.

The guards were almost on him. He jumped.

###

“Another suicide?” the assistant said.

“Body washed up on shore in a torn-up coat and Kabuki mask,” the mortician said. “Fits the description of a mandate breaker the police have been hunting.”

“The sucky guitar guy?”

The mortician shrugged. He moved towards the door, wiping his hands. “You know how it is with these people.”

“Who was he anyway?”

“Check the tag.” The door fell in behind him.

The impact of the water surface had broken the man’s body: bruised and swollen its color had turned blueish in the water, and a bizarre purple where the impact had been hardest. The assistant fished the tag off the body's foot.

John Doe.

Just another nobody.

He slid the body into the cooler compartment and closed the lid.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011



Up Back Medium Punch Down Forward Heavy Punch
1170 words

The characters of Rage Fighter II wanted to escape the game. They could only do it if you beat the secret boss after the 10th round.

Tom had been told this by Jack, a kid he knew from school. Jack was fond of ripping off other kids’ trading cards in uneven trades, a practice he could get away with because he targeted kids a couple grades younger. Around a mouthful of candy, Jack said that he had totally seen Bruce “The Tank” Wilson (a former marine, according to his backstory) rip his way out of the machine when his cousin beat the game in the dingy arcade.

“Being trapped in that game compounded my P.T.S.D.,” Wilson had said, tossing off a perfect salute.

Tom didn’t believe it at first. But it didn’t matter. He was obsessed with Rage Fighter. He would spend all day at school getting bullied, and having his lunch money taken was a regular occurrence. But Tom’ backpack had a secret pocket sewn into the inner seams, and in it he would keep just enough change for a few games on the creaky machine after school. As he played, he would mentally affix the faces of his tormentors to his opponents, and relish in the cartoon blood sprays whenever he connected a combo.

The secret boss would only appear if you inputted a special code after you beat the last opponent. Tom had gleaned the combo from Jack after bribing him with his rarest trading card. That didn’t matter. Cardboard Monsters was kids stuff. You had to be mature to appreciate Rage Fighter II. The crisp graphics, the intense storyline, the adult themes. Rage Fighter II was about sex and death, which as far as Tom had figured out, was pretty much what real life was about.

Once you entered in the combo, your character, in the midst of celebrating his victory, would suddenly get a look of despair and anguish on his face. Dark energy would begin to swirl around him. The vortex would make the whole screen glitch out until your character found himself in the Hell Stage, facing off against his Dark Self.

The character Tom was trying to liberate was Konichi “The Dragon” Hamachi. He had been left as a baby at the Temple of Ba’az, who trained him in their special technique of magical kung-fu. This enabled Hamachi to do special moves such as the Burst Breath Beam, which could take off a third of his opponent’s health. Since childhood, Tom thought, Hamachi had never known anything but fighting. He, more than anyone, deserved to go out and see the world.

But Dark Dragon was really hard. He hit for twice the power of normal Hamachi and had a merciless A.I. In addition, Hamachi, exhausted from 10 rounds of intense combat and his dark self being ripped out of him, started the fight with only half health. Tom could barely last ten seconds before the Dark Dragon finished Hamachi by punching right through his stomach, or kicking his head clean off. And instead of freedom, there was only the infinite void of null data, or wherever video game characters went when they died, before they were reborn to do it all over again.

And Tom eventually stopped playing. He told himself he was growing out of it, that this was the next stage in his evolution. Flesh and blood girls suddenly seemed more interesting than digitized sprites. But maybe it was just that he couldn’t stand to see Hamachi die over and over again, powerless to stop it. The Dark Dragon laughing, evil defeating good so completely in an endless lopsided cycle.

Tom grew up, got married. Became an accountant, settled down in a nice little house in the suburbs. And he should have been happy. But he began to feel trapped. A path stretched out before him, a flat plane, here was where he started and here was where he would end, and there were no surprises and especially no deviations.

He felt like this until he ran into Jack on that street corner.

He had seen Jack many times, but through the matted hair, full beard, shabby clothes, and general hobo aura had never put together who it was. But now, waiting for the light to change (his reflexes trained after all these years to go at the split second the walk signal appeared), Jack was in his face, and he was still chewing candy and trying to talk around it, no doubting that it was him. And, while saying various incoherent things, he had shoved a copy of Rage Fighter II Redux (Home Edition) into Tom’s hands. And not knowing what else to do, Tom had slid it into his briefcase and continued on his way home.

When he got home, he went straight for his wife’s computer. The cheery picture of their pet cat installed as the background was soon replaced by the hyper-kinetic flashing visuals of the Rage Fighter opening graphics. “ARE YOU READY FOR PURE RAGE?!” the announcer bellowed, while various characters spun kicked their way through the intro.

He picked Hamachi from the character select.

It was slow going at first. He was rusty after all these years and unused to using a keyboard to control the character. But after Hamachi’s face was mashed in a few times, he began to pick it up. He was already feeling that strange kinship with the character that he remembered from childhood. By the time it was Hamachi mashing faces in he was feeling pretty good.

Then before he even fully realized what was happening, the tenth round was over and he was inputting the cheat code. Hamachi’s face seemed to freeze in that expression of pain before the screen began to glitch.

“SECRET BOSS!” yelled the announcer. “DARK DRAGON HAMACHI!”

And this time, there was a purpose to his playing. He wasn’t just fighting for Hamachi. He was fighting for himself, too. Dark Dragon Hamachi was everything that had ever made him feel drained, or tired, or numb. He was keeping it close when Nisha, their pet cat, stumbled onto the keyboard in an attempt to get his attention.

“Oh, gently caress, no”, he said, because the cat was squishing keys and he couldn’t see the screen...

“HYPER COMBO!” yelled the announcer. “SUPER ADVANCE BURST BREATH BEAM!”

He pulled Nisha off and watched in amazement as Hamachi disintegrated his opponent’s skull.

And no one knows what happened after that. Is it true that Tom’s victory created a portal between the Rage Fighter dimension and ours? Did Hamachi really climb out of his computer and give a stiff bow before wandering the earth to find his destiny?

Or was it Tom that left home and began to wander, leaving material things behind and mildly annoying his wife? At any rate, they say there’s a new person hanging around the arcade, and I’ve heard that he’s the best, that no one can beat him.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Telemachus
1194 words

Gerard settled his rifle sling onto his shoulder as he considered the respirator mask hanging on the wall. With a sigh he took the mask; it had been calm lately, but this time of year often brought nasty dust storms. Dust from the west blew from the remains of Sacramento, carrying the alpha emitters that got in your lungs and irradiated the tissue and made you die like Volker had, coughing up blood as the tumors grew.

"I'm going up the north slope, I saw some deer there yesterday," he called to his wife Sarah, who was trying to grind corn and read a book at the same time.

"OK," she replied, not taking her eyes off the page, "Pick your shots, we're getting low on bullets."

Gerard navigated the inner and outer door seals quickly, emerging from the dim interior of their home to the bright May sunlight. Their place looked just like all the others from the outside: a steep-sided hillock, the underlying log structure visible only on the entrance side, scavenged solar panels on the southern side. The dirt walls insulated from the cold of winter and kept out the poison ash and dust that blew from the west. He avoided Volker's empty hut as he walked through the Village and the corn fields. The old man had been Gerard's mentor at the lab. Later, when their camping expedition was interrupted by the war, he got them settled, sacrificed his own health to find respirators and build shelters. Billions had starved, but Volker's group survived.

Night fell before Gerard finally gave up on the deer and turned back to the Village. He paused at the edge of the fields to look up. The skies were never so clear before the bombs, he thought. You could even make out little dim things, like that satellite.

Wait.

There weren't any satellites anymore. The military ones blew each other up, and the civilian satellites either got shot down too or just gradually lost orbit. Nobody had seen anything moving up there in over a decade.

Yet there it went, twinkling gently as it moved across the sky.

"I just saw a satellite out there!," he panted to Sarah, out of breath from running back to the house. Picking up a flashlight he started searching the back corner of the house.

Sarah followed him. "How? We checked a few years back, remember? Without station-keeping, they should have all come down by now."

"I don't know! Maybe it was in a really high orbit and moved automatically? Maybe there's still somebody out there controlling it!"

Gerard found what he'd been looking for--a dusty laptop and a little handheld radio. He'd brought the radio on their camping trip so long ago as a backup in case of emergency. It was a cheap Chinese outfit, line-of-sight only. He hadn't heard a thing on it since the bombs went off.

"Do we have any stiff wire? Like coat hangers? Perfect."

An hour later, Gerard and Sarah sat on the grass roof of their home, their equipment spread out and wired into the solar storage batteries. He aimed a hastily-assembled antenna at the satellite, tracking the point of light as it sped across the sky. At the laptop, Sarah fed commands to the radio, scanning frequencies and looking for known protocols.

"I think I found it!" she said, "Keep on it! Yeah, they have a backup control system listening around 140 MHz. We're going to need some time to get in, though."

--

It took five weeks to break into the control system. Sarah worked on weather satellites before the war, so it wasn't completely unfamiliar. The breakthrough came a few hours before dawn on a cool June night.

Poking a finger at the screen, she explained, "Here's why it just showed up one night--it wasn't a satellite, more of a returned probe. 'TELEMACHUS IV'... I don't remember that one, but it's been a long time. Anyway, you take over, I need some sleep."

Gerard picked up the laptop. The online help for the control system was pretty terse; they'd only managed to figure out commands for diagnostics, orbital adjustment, and radio control.

Radio control. If he could reach the satellite, maybe other people could too, if anybody was listening. On the next orbit, he set up a simple command: constantly transmit a text-only message containing the satellite's access codes and how to change the transmitted message. If anyone was listening, they could talk back now.

After a few days, messages started to trickle in:

NYC GONE WE R @ BUFFALO SEND FOOD

HF COMM IMPOSSIBLE WE ARE 53 PPL IN DENVER

THIS IS NEW ZEALND GOVT SURVIVORS PLS GROUP @ -39.3914486,174.1115591

"It's not just us left, Sarah!" Gerard shouted, "They're all over the place! I got one from Japan this morning, they're doing ok up in the mountains, and some guy in Oregon said he saw a ship last week!"

"That's great, but I don't know if we should have given them the login information. What if somebody locks us out or moves the satellite? We should have been more careful."

Gerard scratched his neck absently as he replied. "Yeah, I know, but I can't figure out how to let people use it without giving them full access. You know it was never designed for this sort of poo poo. Anyway, I gotta weed the corn, been neglecting it lately."

--

In the burning sun of a Sierra Nevada July, Gerard scraped out irrigation furrows with a hoe made from an old street sign, his mind just barely ticking over as his body worked automatically. Gradually a roaring sound filtered into his consciousness, starting faint as a gentle wind but then building to a level of noise he hadn't heard since the bombs dropped.

Whirling around, he caught a glimpse of rocket blast just before the engines cut out and the parachute deployed. An oddly-shaped lump of metal the size of a minivan (Hah! How long had it been since he'd seen a minivan?) drifted slowly into the forest just east of the Village.

He shouted for Sarah but she was already out of the house and running toward it. He sprinted to catch up with her.

"Is that TELEMACHUS? Why's it here? The hell's going on?"

Sarah kept running, not looking at him. "Sorry, Gerard, I had to de-orbit it before someone else realized how valuable it is. I mean think of the solar cells! And the metals, you can't get that poo poo up here in the mountains!"

"But we were finally communicating with everyone out there! There's a family up near Tahoe that wanted to come join us!"

"Doesn't put food on the table. Our batteries are getting worn out, and if any more people show up... Look, somebody else was going to figure out the orbital controls sooner or later. Now let's go!"

Gerard slowed, dropped to a walk. Sarah ran on unheeding. She's right, he thought, but--contact! It had been so good to read those voices, to know that other people remained.

"God drat it," he muttered softly, but he jogged after her anyway.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012



http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...Shiny+Red+Apple

Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at Dec 30, 2015 around 19:25

  • Locked thread
«178 »