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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Stump Talk (1292 words)

Jane looked up at the sky, and thought about catching the snow with her tongue. That’d be more interesting than just staring at all the white around her. But quite evidently, she was the only one was bored, since Chris and Gavin were chatting away behind her. Figures. Why’d Chris invite her along on this walk if all he was going to do was flirt with Gavin and hold hands? She sighed.

The cloudy sky overhead gave off a soft grey light, and it brought back a memory – of Andrew on his knees by his tripod, telling her earnestly about how this light would be perfect for outdoor portraits. At any other time, that memory would invoke in her all sorts of sad and mushy emotions, but now she only felt a spike of irritation. After her fall quarter grades had been posted, her parents had endlessly nagged her about them – and between the lines, she could hear the sentiment: Andrew would’ve done better. And he would’ve attended Stanford, instead of just a state university. Basically, she had enough of thinking about Andrew for the moment.

She looked back, and saw Chris and Gavin making out between a pair of trees. Face red, she quickly focused on the snow in front of her, which was stomped flat with footprints. Another thing that irritated her these days – the trails in these woods had historically been seldom used, even by the locals. So back when her family still took regular winter hikes, all they saw was untouched, pristine snow that would crunch underneath your boots – not watery slush with yellow spots where someone’s dog decided to go potty. But a ski resort had been constructed nearby in the eight years since, and after that, her town had been declared an ‘ideal lodging spot’ with “gorgeous wintertime hikes” in a big-shot newspaper. The end result was that these days, reality didn’t hold a candle to her memories – Mom and Dad teasing each other while she screamed and threw snowballs everywhere, with Andrew alternately snapping pictures of them and the gorgeous landscape. Dammit, she was doing it again.

“Hey, Jane?” The question startled her out of the past, and she spun around so fast that her foot slipped on the slush.

“Ack!” She flailed wildly for a moment before Gavin came to her rescue. “Uh, thanks.”

Gavin looked amused. “You’re welcome.” He was handsome enough, she supposed. But Chris was devoted to him and they looked nice together, so she cautiously liked him. He nodded at Chris. “This is the spot, right?”

Chris grinned. “Yeah, it is!” When Jane shot him a questioning look, he clarified further, pointing at a pair of footprints heading directly off of the trail and further into the woods. “We were taking this trail yesterday when Gavin decided to go off-trail for a little bit. We found some really cool stuff!”

“Which would be…?” Jane asked cautiously.

“Just wait and see!” Chris’ grin just got wider, making her smile inwardly. Typical old Chris.

“Okay, then.” She said aloud. “I can’t wait to see whatever funnily-shaped logs you’ve arranged in lewd positions this time.” She smirked at Chris’ faux-outrage.

“Can you believe what she’s implying about me, Gavin?” Chris placed his hand over his heart.

“Judging from last night, yes.” Gavin’s grin was wicked, and Jane hastily started following the footprints in order to hide her blush.

After that, the conversation in the group flowed easier. Jane and Gavin swapped embarrassing stories about Chris – Jane sharing stories from when she and Chris still attended high school together, and Gavin from their semester at Berkeley. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was intruding on something private whenever they displayed open affection, though.

Finally, they arrived at a clearing. It was circular and empty, with little else visible except for a snowman, its top barely visible from its position behind a large snowy lump at the far end – presumably a snow covered rock or something. Jane frowned. This place seemed familiar somehow.

Chris grabbed her arm, making her jump. “C’mon, hurry up!” He said with a grin, and started dragging her over to the snowman, Gavin following them at a steady pace. When he finally let go of her arm, they were standing in front of an enormous hollowed-out tree stump – it must’ve been at least five feet tall. There was a gap in the wood wide enough to walk through, and the snowman from earlier could be seen through it. Her breath caught, and memories came back in a flood.

“Isn’t it cool?” Chris was lost in his enthusiasm, practically vibrating with excitement. “And there weren’t any other footprints or trash around yesterday, so this is like the first time anybody’s been here.”

“I’ve been here before.” The words came out without thinking. She looked up at Chris’ surprised face. Gavin’s expression didn’t change.

Chris recovered from his shock quickly. “Really? With who? A boooyfriend?” His voice turned teasing.

“No!” She snapped out. Upon seeing Chris’ hurt expression, she took a deep breath and clarified. “With Andrew.”

Chris’ face moved from hurt to pity. She turned away.

“Who’s Andrew?” That was Gavin now.

“He- He was my older brother. He died in a car accident right after his first quarter at college.” It had been a long time since she stumbled over those familiar words. She stepped into the stump, past the snowman, and up to the stump’s inside walls, crouching as she did so. She studied the wood carefully, lips pursed.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Gavin’s voice was sober and sincere. Jane swallowed.

“Don’t worry about it. It was a really long ago.” She tried to sound light-hearted as she continued examining the inside of the tree stump.

Finally, Chris asked. “What are you looking for?”

Jane stood up and scratched her head. “Well, the last time – well, the only time – I was here, Andrew and I made a snowman like that –” She pointed at the snowman in front of her. “– and he also carved a message into the stump.”

Chris immediately squatted and started searching the stump walls, but Gavin asked, “What was it?”

Jane hesitated, and then mumbled, “Can’t remember. Probably something stupid like, ‘Andrew and Jane were here’.” She flushed. The last big thing they did together and she couldn’t even remember what it was. “This is stupid. Let’s go back.”

Chris popped up from where he was, and glared at her. “No, it isn’t. C’mon, with the three of us looking it won’t take long.”

That struck a nerve somehow. “I said, forget it!” She glared back at Chris, but Gavin’s voice interrupted them.

“Is this it?” He was pointing to something on the outside of the stump. Jane and Chris hurried around to his side – Chris clearly making an effort not to get in the way.

Gavin was pointing to a patch of exposed wood, in which a carved message could be seen. Jane leaned in and read it.

In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. –Terry Pratchett
Andrew & Jane Collins, 01-05-06


She looked over at Chris, who was mouthing the words. He snorted. “Why that quote, of all things?”

She smiled weakly. “I think he was going to go for something sappy, and 10-year-old me didn’t like that and wanted something funny.” She stood up, looking at the stump. Another memory came back to her, and she took a deep breath and said, “Andrew said that the next time we came here we should build a little igloo, with the stump as the base.” She paused, feeling unsure. But Chris’ grin had returned to his face, and Gavin was smiling. “Would you like to do that?”

They chorused assent.

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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In for this week!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Well, gently caress.
Leap of (Practiced) Faith (1161 words)
Acapulco, Mexico

It was currently noon in Acapulo, Mexico, and Jane Reed couldn't bear to stay another second in this hotel. Sure, the glass door leading out to the hotel room balcony showed off a sunny view of the sea – which was still as gorgeous as it had been when they checked in three hours ago – and she had three books in her suitcase that would be perfect for reading underneath the tropical sun, but those spat-out words from last night just wouldn't leave her alone.

So you're just giving up? Useless, worthless, ungrateful child.

She crumpled the bedcovers underneath her hands. Bad enough that she bombed the Google interview they had all been counting on, but then she had to slip up and hint at her thoughts about changing majors. It wouldn't have taken too much work. She was already minoring in Sociology, so it wasn't like she was going to have to spend another year studying – but that was when the phone-call switched from tight-lipped disappointment to nuclear explosion.

Do you even have a plan? Do you want to be a teacher when you're fifty and work the rest of your life?

She did – she'd been working on them for the past year, but it was impossible to stop Mom when she got on a roll and –

Do you have any idea of how much work and time we've put into giving you this chance?

Jane stood up. "Hey, does any of you want to go out?"

Kristen and Laura looked at her blankly. Kristen was the first to respond. "Like, to the grocery store or something?"

"No, like to that big cathedral we saw while landing. You know, tourist stuff. "

Kristen turned her attention back to her phone. "Ugh, no. Sorry. That's like on the other side of Acapulo, and I want to save my energy for the clubs tonight."

Jane looked at Laura. "How about you?"

Laura hesitated. "Well, I was thinking about taking a nap… maybe you should ask the guys?"

"No point." Kristen again. "They're all asleep so they won't get tired tonight. Tried calling Chris earlier and he told me to bug off." She frowned. "You're going to go by yourself if nobody else is coming, aren't you." It wasn't a question.

Jane smiled weakly, and Kristen sighed, and stood up off the bed, stowing her phone away into her pocket.
"Okay, then. You're paying for the taxi, though."

Upon seeing Jane's expression, she rolled her eyes. "Look, I'm better at Spanish than you are. And if you go out by yourself, you're painting yourself bright neon yellow for all the police around here."

Laura asked, "What do you mean?"

"What I mean is that some of the policia around here extort money from tourists. And Jane here -" She jerked her head at Jane, "– doesn't really deal well under high-pressure situations, right?"

You make me sick. That remnant from last night's conversation came back to Jane. "Well, uh – "

"Yeah. Don't worry, Jane – I'll make sure that they'll only take half of your life savings." Kristen grinned at Jane, and Jane forced one onto her face in response.

* * *

After they were both dropped off in Zócalo Plaza, Kristen asked Jane, "So what do you want to do?"

"Well, for starters, that." Jane pointed at the giant cathedral to their left. "I think it's called the 'Nuestra Señora Cathedral' or something like that."

"Mmm." Kristen was apparently distracted by a nearby vendor stand. When Jane craned over to look at what had captured her interest, she saw postcards of fit young speedo-wearing men against the backdrop of rocky shore cliffs. Typical Kristen.

Jane was about to start dragging Kristen over to the cathedral, when she suddenly whirled around. "Jane! We have to go see the cliff divers!"

"What?"

"I just remembered! They're over that way – "Kristen gestured wildly in a direction behind Jane, "And they have a 1 PM show! It's less than a mile away! We can still make it!"

"Wait, wait, wait." Jane grabbed Kristen's shoulder before she could run off. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Okay, so there's these guys who jump from the top of the cliffs around here into the sea. It's like a 100 foot drop and the water they land in is really shallow, like 12 feet or something!" She was bouncing up and down – so much for saving her energy for tonight. "I haven't seen them in ages! You have to see them!"

Well, Jane was the one who dragged her out there in the first place. Couldn't hurt. "Sure."

Kristen grinned. "Race you to the cliffs!" She took off, and Jane could only stare at her retreating back before she started sprinting as well.

* * *

"I hate you so much." Jane was wheezing as she walked up to where Kristen was standing – near a set of two stairs, which were labeled, "Diver Observation Deck".

"I win!" Kristen's enthusiasm was unfortunately infectious, and Jane couldn't help but smile.

"It's not like I could've won in the first place," Jane grumbled as she followed Kristen up the stairs. There were apparently three different levels, and they eventually chose the one on the bottom, because it was also the emptiest. It was also right across from where the divers were on the cliffs. Jane sneaked a peek left and noticed with some amusement Kristen's enraptured gaze. Then she looked over the railing and felt her stomach sink.

Sure, there was water down there – but it was a thin strip. It was hard to judge from this high up, but the swimming pools back home were probably wider then the water down there. And the shore was all sharp rocky edges. Jane swallowed, edged a little closer to Kristen.

It was only a little longer until the show started. The divers stepped up to the edge, and one-by-one, started diving off the edge. Notably, they didn't really jump high – sometimes it seemed like they simply fell forward and off – but they all straightened out and sunk, fists first, into the water. Some even did flips. But every time, they all emerged from the surface of the waves, smiling. It was amazing.

"There's never been a single death." Kristen said in her ear.

"What?" Jane turned to look at her.

"There's been some injuries – blown eardrums, broken limbs – but never a death. And they've been diving since the 30's." She was smiling as she looked across towards the four remaining divers. "Lots of practice, I guess. Look, it's the finale!"

Jane looked back up and saw all four of those divers simultaneously leap off. They dropped and dropped – and all landed fists first, and came up with their heads held high.

She poked Kristen in the side, who looked at her. "What?"

"Uh, sorry. I'm not going clubbing today."

"Why not? That's what we're here for!"

"Well, uh, I have to make a phone call."

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


If it's not too much trouble, Djeser, I would like a crit.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


That's a big wordcount.

In.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Preparing for the Big Sleep (1295 words)

"Hey, Jane. I'm settling down for the long nap now. You know how to work the automated procedure, right?"

Jane wrenched her gaze away from the starlight-peppered darkness in front of her, and looked at the man in the doorway. What was his name again? Louis?

"Yeah, I'll be fine. It's pretty much just double-clicking the exe file, anyways." She smiled briefly at Louis, and he returned it, his teeth bright against dark skin. It was a nice smile. Reminded her of Clint – which was weird, because she hadn't thought about Clint in ages, much less talked to him. Not really since graduation.

"Cool. See you on the other side, then." She waved at him, he waved back at her, and then he walked off towards that sterile, empty room where the stasis pods were.

Jane turned back to the window, but instead of relaxing her like before, the sight of that shrinking blue-green orb in the distance made her restless. She sighed, and began walking in the direction that Louis. But when she reached it, she stared at the engraved metal boxes that held her crewmates – Louis wasn't here, so presumably he had already turned in – and made her way to the terminal sitting in the corner.

The executable for the automated stasis procedure was still on the screen – presumably from when Louis used it. Jane hesitated, and then clicked on a blue-yellow icon on the bottom of the monitor. Time to test the tech people's claims that internet access would last until they passed Mars.

A familiar, colorful page popped up. Slow, but usable. She could work with this. And judging from the system clock in the corner, she had about twenty minutes before the ship was out of range. What should she do? Absentmindedly, she typed in the URL for the email website she used – and then with an amused huff, signed in.

For someone who was going to be spending five years out of range from the Internet, she had an awful lot of unread messages. Most of them were from spam websites, but there was also a couple of heartfelt well-wishes from friends and acquaintances. She should probably reply to them.

But right before she made any more clicks, a chat window popped up from a very familiar address.

T_Arrow@lolmail.com (TA) has messaged you!

TA: hey aren't you supposed to be in space now


Jane stared in shock at the line of words for a solid ten seconds. But then that shock rapidly turned to irritation. The first time Clint bothered talking to her since graduation, and he didn't bother to use proper grammar? Well, fine. If he was going to be that nonchalant about a six-year-gap in communication, she could too.

JaIN: I am. I have internet until we pass Mars.

TA: huh. That's pretty soon.


Jane blinked.

JaIN: Wait, how did you know that?

TA: it's on the NASA website, moron.

Well, on one hand, Clint had bothered to keep tabs on what his little sister had been up to. On the other hand, he was calling her names. Did he have that right anymore, after all this time? So many embarrassing, desperate messages and apologies after that argument at her graduation, and not a single reply.

The terminal gave off a soft ping. While she had been woolgathering, he sent another message.

TA: so how have you been

JaIN: Okay, I guess.

TA: c'mon you gotta give me more than that.


Jane crossed her arms and glared at the screen. But before she could respond with icy hostility, a couple more sentences popped up.

TA: uh, I've been pretty good – the weather around SF has been as nice as ever. I'm still in the same apartment as before, and I'm still working the same job. Not much has changed really.

TA: like you're in a spaceship now but I don't really know what you were doing before that


Was that an olive branch? Jane decided to give Clint the benefit of the doubt.

JaIN: All you had to do was ask Mom, you know. After I graduated, I decided to start looking for jobs instead of trying for a Master's. Too much work, you know?

TA: yeah I totally get that

JaIN: So I managed to get a research position at a university, and then after a couple of years like that, I got recommended for this mission.

JaIN: So here I am.

TA: cool.


Jane tapped her foot on the floor. Just ten minutes left before she went out of range. She wondered absently how much Clint had changed since she saw him last. After all, she and the rest of her crewmates all had their pictures up on the official NASA website, but she didn't think his company put up pictures of their accountants. Did he grow out his beard? Get a goofy set of sideburns?

Another ping. Huh. Clint usually never was this talkative.

TA: also I don't really talk to Mom these days.

JaIN: Why not? I mean, you were the one that grew up with her.

TA: yeah well I never got along with her the way you did

TA: I honestly have no idea why they decided to have Dad take you and Mom take me

JaIN: I'm pretty sure it was mostly out of spite.

TA: haha yeah


Jane smiled absently at the screen, but the returning memories of those icy-cold arguments from downstairs quickly killed her grin. Frankly, those vicious fights ending almost made the divorce worth it.

She would've made her goodbyes then, but another soft ping came from the terminal in front of her.

TA: remember when we decided to sneak into the library during afterhours? Like when you were in sixth grade?


What was the point of bringing that back up? Jane shook her head in confusion.

JaIN: Uh, yeah. We spent the entire night reading books with flashlights, right? And then fell asleep and got in huge trouble when the librarian found us passed out in the reading room.

TA: yeah! It was like the greatest prank ever.


Jane couldn't see where he was going with this, and when she looked at the system clock again, there were only a couple minutes left before the ship reached Mars.

JaIN: Hey, the connection's going to cut off soon. After that I'll probably go into stasis. Anything else you want to say?

TA: no wait

TA: just

TA: give me a second. Look, you're going to be back by December 2031, right?

She frowned. Where was he going with this?

JaIN: Yeah, I will. So?

TA: so on your birthday, on march 20th 2032, I will take a day off from work and park my rear end in that reading room in that library

TA: and then you can meet me there and I can properly apologize for being such an asshat for the past six years


Jane's cheeks hurt from the grin on her face.

JaIN: I'm pretty sure you just did.

TA: well poo poo

TA: take care of yourself, all right?

JaIN: Thanks. You too.


Jane sat in that chair with that stupid grin on her face until the terminal informed her that the ship had passed out of range and the internet was no longer available. She closed the browser window, and looked at the metal pods around her.

She turned back to the monitor and launched the automated stasis program. A window popped up:

This will place you in stasis until the ship has reached its destination. You will not be able to wake up until then. Is this okay with you?


There were two options.

Without hesitation, Jane clicked the one that said yes.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in for this week. Could you give me a fairy tale?

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


A Fool's Errand (1219 words)
The Death of the Little Hen

It was time to see if those dance lessons paid off. Henry squinted across the barely-illuminated room, and began charting out a path between the slumbering bodies littering the floor and couches. He ran over his plan again as he pulled on his socks – get out of the hotel, get to the parking garage, escape using his hopefully-intact car – and then cautiously picked out a path across the repurposed ballroom. As he gingerly stepped over people's legs and arms, he held his arms out for balance, silently praying that he wouldn't fall. There would be a big fuss, Gerald and his cronies would correctly guess his intentions, and then he would be forced into one of the many empty rooms and put under guard for the "public safety". He would have snorted if he wasn't trying so hard to keep quiet. Paranoid asshats.

After an interminable time of tiptoeing around fingers and toes, he finally reached the large double doors that led to the hallways outside. In cheaper hotels, they'd probably squeak – but Henry knew this hotel inside and out, and these were much better maintained. That attention to general upkeep was why he always reserved rooms here whenever he stopped by here for business, despite the distinctly lacking aesthetic of the place. Pity that it literally became a war zone. But it was safe now. You could hear the loudspeakers, the announcements asking all survivors to come out for relocation.

After checking his jacket pockets to make sure he had everything needed for a jailbreak – a map, car keys, and a last resort – Henry pushed gently one of the doors and it swung outwards without a whisper. See? Quality. He quickly stepped through, and gently eased the door back into its original position. Stage One of his escape plan was completed, and he was that much closer to getting back home – back to that cozy apartment overlooking the northern bay, the one with the window that showed the moon rising every night.

He turned left and started sneaking down the hallway, reviewing his mental map of the hotel as he did so. He had an actual map of the place which also held information about the patrol schedules, but pulling it out at the moment was too much of a risk. If he was caught, that piece of paper would instantly condemn him, since he had to steal that information from Gerald's makeshift "security" office.

Actually, he should probably review it one more time. He turned around, since the bathroom was at the opposite end of the floor from the stairs down – and heard footsteps coming from around the corner at the far end of the hallway.

He froze. The schedule hadn't said anything about this! The footsteps weren't especially hurried, but they were relentless – and it was only the flashlight beam finally illuminating that far corner that spurred him into action. No bathroom trip – he'd just hope like hell his memory was good enough to remember the schedule.

When he arrived at the stairs that would take him down to the second floor, he paused for a moment, listening. If the schedule was still accurate and his memory hadn't failed him, 'Shawn' – whoever that was – would now be approaching from his left, where the laundry room was. And there was still the guy behind him He took a deep breath. This was the point of no return – if he was caught by anybody past this point, there'd be no way to escape suspicion. He probably would've stayed there for a little longer if it wasn't for the clearly audible footsteps from both sides – as it was, he panicked and almost slipped down the stairs. Fortunately, he made it far enough down that he was out of sight by the time Gerald's guards made it to the stairwell's entrance.

As they made small talk above his head, his face twisted into a sneer. It was frankly amazing how everybody here had fallen in line with Gerald's orders. It hadn't even been a week yet, but nobody challenged his crazy tales about government conspiracies. For gently caress's sake, they all went to those daily group meetings, where he preached about 'community goodwill' and poo poo.

Henry took small pride in never having gone to one.

He took the stairs all the way down to the lobby, but before setting foot on the plush carpet, hesitated. Was anybody there? Silence was the only things to greet his ears, but his nerves kicked into overdrive.

Ah, screw it. He took a trembling step onto the soft wool, and started walking towards where the side exit from the hotel would be. Just a little bit further–

"What do you think you're doing?"

It was a surprise that Henry didn't crash his head into the ceiling above. After a moment's silence, he responded, "What do you think?" Figures that he'd be caught by him.

"It looks like you're going to escape. Turn around." Gerald's voice was soft, but firm. It irritated Henry.

"Why would I do that?" Not really any point, anyways.

"Because if we talk about this like civilized adults and resolve our differences peaceably, I won't have to have Shawn and Eric come down."

Henry snorted, mind whirling. Does that mean he doesn't have guards at the moment? "Just let me go, and you won't have to do that."

Gerald's voice was low, serious. "You clearly haven't been coming to the meetings, or you would know why you can't leave." A pause. "You're… Henry, right?"

Now Henry whirled around. "Of course I haven't bother wasting my time with your blather! Have you listened to those tall tales coming out of your mouth? They sound like they've been ripped from a hack sci-fi apocalypse novel!"

Gerald's eyes were stone-gray and unfocused. "It's the truth. I can show the proof, if you just come with me." He gestured towards Henry with one hand, right hand holding a white cane.

Henry's eyes narrowed. Then he sighed, and started shuffling towards Gerald, reaching into his jacket. "Sure, fine. Whatever."

Gerald's eyebrows shot up, but he smiled. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get any words out, Henry whipped up the arm holding his can of pepper spray and let loose.

Henry swallowed down any unease at the sight of Gerald clawing at his face and dashed for the side exit. It helped that Gerald's yells cut off when Henry slammed the side door behind him, making a beeline towards the garage.

Stage Two of his escape plan was complete, even if there were a couple bumps in the road. All he had to do now was remember where he parked the car – and then all those idiots in the hotel could go rot. He was going home.

In his excitement, he could be forgiven for not looking up and seeing that triangle-shaped shadow in the moonlight. But that triangle-shaped shadow certainly noticed him on its infrared cameras.

A couple radio calls later, and Henry met an ignoble fate by bullet wound. And then a troop of soldiers were sent to search through the building he had ran out of – and what happened then was a highly unpleasant mess.

In the end, everybody in the hotel was dead.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


There's no way I'm going to submit in time. I'll try to have my story in by noon tomorrow HAHAHAHA SCREW MIDTERMS.

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Feb 10, 2015 around 05:47

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Cranky Thievery (1187 words)

It was really too loving cold out here. Milla clenched her teeth and increased her pace as another chill blew right through her sweater. The sidewalk was empty, but as she passed dark alleyways, they seemed to contain shifting shapes. Not like she could tell, though; the streetlights were so dim that they were useless. Her paranoia spiked once again, and now she’d probably be better off jogging.

If it was a week earlier, they’d simply stroll down the street together. Laura would point out the odd gewgaw in one of the shop windows, and then a heated discussion about its past would commence, eventually ending over a pair of cozy coffee mugs at the coffeehouse near her apartment.

But a week earlier, Laura hadn’t been hauled off to ‘location redacted’ by some assholes in white suits, on account of Milla’s checkered past. She stalked past the old coffeehouse, avoiding eye contact with anybody inside. The sight of the pity in the owner’s gaze pissed her off, and any conversation since then had ended with crusty hand on stiff shoulder, solemnly advising her on the worth of good friends.

She snorted. He probably thought that they were fighting over a guy. She wrenched open the door to her apartment complex and stomped up the stairs. There wasn’t much time left to prepare. Only two hours left until the rendezvous – effectively 90 minutes when taking transportation into account. Surprise, shady people in blinding suits choose shady areas to conduct their business.

Her gaze ran over her cluttered, cluttered room. If she remembered correctly, her tools were in the back of the closet, tucked away in an unassuming shoebox. Some practice was probably in order.

But first, a phone call and a shower.

***

It had been a long time since she looked like this. Soft leather gloves, unassuming wool cap – the only difference between her now and her five years back was probably the ponytail.

She made her way down the stairs to the nightclub as her taxi sped off. Not surprising. Who’d want to stay out in this district at night?

The door opened before she could touch the handle. A rather large, intimidating man stared down at her. “Zoe.”

She glared back. “Ms. Reading to you, Rogers.”

He only smirked, and then gestured to a door across the room. They made their way across the tangle of legs and chairs, and then Rogers ushered her into what was presumably the VIP room.

The identity of the man sitting stiff-backed at the far end really shouldn’t have surprised her.

“Mr. Engleworth.” Milla slid into the seat opposite him

“Zoe Francis.” He stared at her, face rigid. “Freedom’s treated you well.”

She smiled, fake and bright. “Call me Milla. What have you done to her?”

“Nothing that you wouldn’t have.” His words were clipped.

Time to test the waters and see how much of that old grudge he held. “Why the hostility? I’ve done my time, paid my dues –“

He slammed his fist down onto the table. “You ruined my father! Drove him to his grave! And then at the end of it all, you get off with a slap on the wrist and a lifelong pension!”

In any other situation, she would push him farther. But with Laura on the line, she was all business. “What did you bring me here to do?”

He snorted. Pulled out a slip of paper from underneath his coat and tossed it onto the table. “There’s a very important document I need you to get from this apartment. The deadline’s at midnight. Rogers will take you there.”

She looked at the paper in front of her. She frowned. “Wasn’t this your-

“I don’t think you’re in the position to ask questions. Go.”

“I need information here.” She caught his gaze. “It’s been years since that job; who’s to say that I can pull it off? I need to know what’s changed in order to get in and out successfully.”

“Well, I actually don’t mind it if you get caught.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “Either you rot in the slammer like you deserve to, or I get that very important document.”

“I see.” She bit out the words. “Win-win for you, then. What about Laura?”

“She’ll be out when you deliver the document. Such a sweet girl.”

Milla snorted. “You haven’t even talked to her, have you? I guess running away from consequences really is your specialty.”

He smiled. “Tick-tock. You’re on the clock.” And then he started sniggering, of all things. Milla stormed out, and as she exited the nightclub, Rogers fell in step beside her.

“How the hell do you stand that guy?” They made their way over to a unmarked van on the curb.

“The pay’s good. And, well, I didn’t ruin his father’s life.” His dark eyes seemed sympathetic. “Laura’s fine for the moment. I contacted Ronald after getting your call, so she’ll be out of his grasp as long as you get the document.” He paused for a moment. “Well, maybe before, if he plays his cards right.”

She nodded grimly. If Engleworth had been sincere about letting Laura go, she’d eat her woolly hat.

“Any details on the security systems?” She tugged the seatbelt across and strapped herself in.

“Yeah. So here’s the changes: there’s about a billion more cameras covering the balcony…” Roger continued talking as he started the car. As he drove down the road, it struck Milla as practically nostalgic.

***
Milla sprinted across the apartment rooftop, heart pounding and with the Very Important Document secure. Figures, really. The entire operation goes smooth as butter, and then she trips one lousy pressure plate and now there’s going to be a helicopter chasing her. At the moment, a literal spotlight would pretty much gently caress up her life irreparably, so she needed to get somewhere to hide.

Good thing all these buildings were clustered so close to each other. She leaped from one rooftop to another, but screwed up the landing roll.

gently caress. That was going to leave a really impressive bruise. She staggered to her feet, and her earpiece crackled to life.

“Zoe!”

“loving finally, Rogers!” She growled. “Is she out yet?”

“She’s with Ronald. They’re holed up in one of his safehouses.” Something in her chest unclenched.

“Next question: do you have an escape plan for me? I have to get out of here before that helicopter shows up!”

“Er…” He sounded embarrassed.

“Spit it out, man!”

“You’re on top of the Hoonsgal building, right?”

“Yes,” She replied, drawing the word out. “So?”

“That’s the oldest building in the area, so it should still have a fire escape. Take that down, and you’ll blend back into the crowd.”

“Right.” She made her way to the lip of the roof, and peered down. gently caress, that was a long way down.

A couple more bruises and possibly a sprained shoulder later, she was on ground level. A couple quick looks around, and then she melted back into the shadows.

“Witness protection program, my rear end,” She grumbled, right before she called Rogers again.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'll be in for this week.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm out for this week. Sorry.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In for this week with a .

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Lakeshore Lure (1194 words)

It was a beautiful horse, and it wanted Soumya to ride on it. What else could be its intention, with its carefully slumped back, just low enough for her to clamber on, and the way it was gazing at her?

She took a step forward.

“Soumya, no!” Ravali’s eyes were wide, white. “You know Grandpa told us not to go near any animals here!”

“This one should be fine,” Soumya assured her. “They’re friends.”

She saw them walk together by this lake, when they first arrived here for their summer visit. And Grandpa had even fed it an apple. This was fine. It was going to be fine.
Ravali wasn’t convinced. She backed away, shaking her head. Souyma snorted. She would have to take the first step, again. But then again, she had always been quicker than her sister – quicker to finish reading the book Ravali had received her last birthday, quicker to unlock her magical talent. She took after her father in that regard – if Ravali had any, she’d probably take after Mom.

Muscles shifted underneath her as she made her way up the horse’s back and grabbed its mane. It whinnied, and took a step towards Ravali – who only edged back further, muttering underneath her breath, eyes still wide – the way she always did before class presentations. Souyma smiled sleepily at Ravali as they gained ground on her. The world was going fuzzy. Ravali was now only a fuzzy blob, slowly growing – and then she disappeared. She couldn’t really tell anymore.

The horse shook, once – was it snorting? It turned, and Ravali squinted at the shimmering lake waters. The sun was setting, and its reflection shone right into her eyes.

It placed one hoof into the waters – paused, then stepped further into the waters. Souyma gazed down at her hands, and noted with faint surprise that the mane had turned a dull purple, like lake weeds, and its coat had taken on a mossy green.

In hindsight, the only reason she took a deep breath before they went under was a screaming sense of self-preservation.

***

Ravali blinked in surprise – these were the stairs that led up from the kitchen to their bedroom, the ones she liked to read books on –then squawked as she landed on the wooden edges of the steps. She grabbed the railing, breaking a potentially nasty tumble down the stairs.

Grandpa turned from his cutting board in surprise. “Ravali – I didn’t notice you coming in. How –“

He stopped speaking, then grinned widely at her shocked expression. “Teleportation, eh? I knew you would take after your mother. Soumya’s eyes must be popping out of their sockets!” He chuckled a bit to himself.

Ravali would usually grin back nervously in response, but – her mind helpfully supplied an image of her sister’s creepily calm smile. She cleared her throat, but her words jumbled together anyways. “A-Actually, Grandpa – about Soumya. She – one of the horses around here – I told her not to, but…”

It was scary how fast his face went grim. “Did she ride it?”

At her nod, he placed the knife down at the cutting board, and then strode over to her. He interrupted her unspoken question, Is she in trouble?, with another: “Do you remember where you left her?”

She wracked her mind. “I remember seeing that bunch of big rocks with a dead tree on top. Is that- “

He clasped her shoulders with his hands. “That’s enough. Close your eyes and don’t open them until I say so.”

With him this close, it was clear that he was furious. She hastily nodded and scrunched her eyes tight.

The air changed. A breeze brushed across her face – were they by the lake?

Grandpa’s hands left her shoulders, and she heard the crunch of sand. He yelled out a word – furious, desperate. She shivered.

A few seconds later, splashing could be heard, shortly accompanied by a furious whinny. Was that the horse from earlier? She peeked out, and gasped, eyes widening fully.

There was a creature suspended midair – it was definitely the horse from earlier, but the colors were all different. Soumya hung limply from its back, her hands still entwined tightly in its mane. Ravali almost shouted her name out, but a quick glance at Grandpa’s made her swallow the impulse. If she did that, he’d know for sure she disobeyed.

The horse screamed, its enraged gaze focusing on him. He raised his right hand, and the horse rose along with it. He slashed at the air with his left hand, yelled another word – and its head came off.

Ravali couldn’t help it. She shrieked, and his shoulders hunching up were the only sign that he heard her. The neck fell into the lake waters, and sank out of the sight. The body – still spurting black fluid – floated towards them. It came gently onto the sand in front of Grandpa, angled so that Soumya’s limbs wouldn’t be trapped underneath its bulk. After it landed, time seemed to stop for a few seconds, and the stillness was broken only when Grandpa collapsed onto his hands, wheezing.

“Grandpa!” Ravali ran up towards him, but when she looked down at him, he simply waved her off. “Just check on your sister.”

Ravali’s gaze skittered away from the stump, and after a couple of swallows, she walked over to where Soumya was.

Her clothes were absolutely soaked, and she seemed to be sleeping, but she was still breathing. Which was good, right? Ravali reached down and easily detangled the mane from her fingers.

“Did you check for any water in her lungs?”

She froze. “Uh- “

Grandpa stepped past her, hauled Soumya upright, and gave her a couple hard thumps on the back. When nothing happened, he raised an eyebrow. “She didn’t swallow any water. That’s pretty lucky.”

He hoisted her over his shoulder, to Ravali’s amazement, and then looked down at her. “You didn’t listen to me, did you?”

She flushed. “Well, I-“

He cut her off. “It was more for your benefit than anything.” His gaze softened. “Try not to get any nightmares tonight, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

He smiled back briefly, firmly turned his back on the carcass by the waters, and began walking. Ravali followed after a brief glance backwards.

They walked for a little longer, heading for his house, and then Ravali couldn’t keep herself from speaking. “Uh, Grandpa?”

“Yes?”

“Soumya said that the horse and you were friends.”

Their steps seemed louder to Ravali in the silence that followed. When Grandpa finally spoke, it was in grave tones.

“Well, first of all, that wasn’t a horse. That was a kelpie. They…,” Grandpa paused, then continued. “They eat people after drowning them.”

Ravali simply looked up at him.

“And yes, I guess you can say we were friends.” Grandpa said, with a weak chuckle. “But sometimes friends can do bad things, and you have to stop them.”

It seemed like he would’ve said more, but then Soumya woke up, and any further questions that Ravali might’ve had were lost in the scuffle. She’d ask him later, after the both of them finished yelling at Soumya.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Okay, this prompt looks cool. Sorry crabrock Drown in the terrible turds I call my words.

In.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Could I have an extension? I didn't realize my library was kicking me out tonight (they're usually open 24/7 on Sunday) and it's going to take me like 15 minutes to walk back to my dorm so I can work on my laptop. I don't really want to get banned.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


The Tapping Anticlimax (828 words)

He was tapping his fingers again.

Janine glared at the source of her ire. He did this every department meeting. She didn’t know who he was – he didn’t wear a nametag, nobody else talked to him – but he stood out simply because he did this every goddamn time. Nobody else seemed to care, but with every strike his fingernails made against the solid wood, the power inside her shifted.

Even with her military training, it was really distracting.

“Janine?”

That was Dave, her boss. Time to give her presentation on market projections for Sorcetel, and possible business strategies to deal with the sudden popularity of their direct rival.

She got up in front of the rest of the room, cued up the presentation, and started speaking.

“So as you all know, Step Forward Technology’s latest product, the – “

Tap.

“– has proven to be a runaway success with teenagers and–“

Tap.

“Meanwhile, our product, the –“

Tap.

Janine continued to speak, but it took a great deal of effort to prevent her word from falling in cadence along with the drumming fingers. When she finally tripped over a couple words in her speech – earning a shocked glance from Dave – she decided that she had enough.

She was just about to bring up the video part of her presentation, so while she fiddled with the laptop, she made her move.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and reached out, felt the steady tap-tap of fingers, and gradually, carefully, slowed it down – until he was no longer tapping.

She opened her eyes a second later, and smiled. “This next video contains a short clip taken from Step Forward’s latest commercial.”

Janine smugly noted that the guy hadn’t even seemed to notice he had stopped moving his fingers. Nevertheless, she couldn’t do this every board meeting – she really did not want to get in trouble with the HR department or, more riskily, the law.

So after the meeting had finished and everybody was filing out of the office, single-file, she waved over at Dave, who stalked over, frowning.

“Is something wrong?”

Figures those would be the first words out of his mouth.

“Nothing’s wrong,” She said, then right before she could ask about the man she had mentally labeled as ‘Jerkass Tapper’, Dave cut in.

“You say that, but your mental location during that presentation was somewhere in Antarctica.” On second thought, maybe she wouldn’t ask Dave about Jerkass Tapper. He didn’t seem in the mood, and she wasn’t really in the mood to reveal her specific talent to him.

“Sorry, Dave. It won’t happen again.” They exchanged further pleasantries and parted ways.

She’d go ask around the office. They’d probably know who he was.

***

“You don’t know?” Janine’s jaw dropped.

Melissa shrugged. “Sorry, nobody knows. There’s a couple of rumors. Wanna hear them?”

“…Sure.”

Melissa leaned forward, and began ticking off her fingers. “Rumor one. He’s the CEO’s son or something like that. Rumor two. He’s from the government, working alongside the tech department in order to find a way to cheat the Martians out of their love hotels. Rumor three. He’s a telepath that’s managed to infiltrate the company.” She paused. “That one makes the rounds every couple months.”

Well, that wasn’t helpful at all. Janine was about to thank Melissa and leave, when Melissa held up a hand.

“Wait! There’s one more.”

At Janine’s expectant gaze, Melissa ticked off her pinky finger. “Rumor four. He’s an intern.”

A silence passed, and then Melissa huffed, “You’re not laughing.”

Janine forced a chuckle, and then finally thanked her and left. She would just have to come early to the next meeting, and talk to him one-on-one.

***

She ended up waiting around for a half-hour in front of the locked conference room door, drawing stares from passing coworkers. He came right before the conference began, and nobody turned a hair.

It had been years since Janine had had to exercise that much restraint over herself. He left as soon as the conference ended, and she gritted her teeth as Dave slapped her back and congratulated her on a job well done.

***

A couple months passed, and she finally managed to pry the guy’s name out of Dave. Jerkass Tapper was called Mike Harlowe.

With that bit of information, she managed to use her past contacts to get his phone number. With shaky fingers, she typed it into her phone, hit CALL, and waited as the phone rang.

He picked up. “Hello?”

“Hello, my name is Janine –“

“How’d you get this number?”

If he hung up, Janine was going to scream. She couldn’t stand it anymore.

She yelled into the phone, “Stop tapping your fingers at Sorcetel meetings!”

A stunned silence, and then he said, “Uh, sure. Sorry about that.”

The phone clicked, and Janine sighed. When she looked up, she saw everybody was staring at her.

She hadn’t blushed that red in years, either.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Thanks for the crit, Grizzled Patriarch!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Thanks for the crits.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Entenzahn posted:

Attn wizard week toxxers: I promised you wizard week crits but since there's been a fuckton of them flying around already I'll instead give you the pick of any of your TD entries. Just let me know what you want critted. I'll probably start going through the list by Sunday so if I haven't heard from you till then you get your regular old wizard crit.

The list again: Broenheim, Wangless Wonder, ravenkult, newtestleper, Dr. Kloctopussy, Benny the Snake, skwidmonster, kurona_bright, curlingiron, Auraboks, Doctor Idle, Maugrim

Also thanks for the crits sh, crabman, beefman, hammerman, maugriman and tonicboy aka the half-a-dirty-dozen

I'd like it if you could crit either week#134's Cranky Thievery or week#138's Lakeshore Lure. Lakeshore Lure would be cool, cause apparently I'm missing a judge crit on that one, but the choice is up to you.
Thanks for all this.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Entenzahn posted:

BONUS CRITS 1/2 – newtestleper, Broenheim, Benny the Snake, ravenkult, kurona_bright, Dr. Kloctopussy, skwidmonster, Wangless Wonder, curlingiron, Auraboks, Doctor Idle
...

Thanks for the crit, Entenzahn.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Sitting Here posted:

hello domers this is a special announcement speaking

I am looking for volunteers. A few people are trying to put together an entertainingly constructive fiction workshop podcast. And we thought, man, we have hundreds of writers and thousands of stories right here in Thunderdome!!! Wow! So, what I need is for people to volunteer their stories to be read and critiqued. It will be especially helpful if we can get ahold of some stories that didn't do so well in their week. Thunderdome is a fantastic resource for what we're trying to do, but we don't want to read anything without the permission of the authors! So here I am, holding my hat out to you, goons.

Please, quote this post, PM me, or hop onto #Thunderdome on IRC if you're interested in helping out with a story. We can't do it without your help. Don't be be instead
I know I haven't actually entered in a couple of weeks, but feel free to sprinkle all the salt you want on the slugs that are my stories. And I would totally listen to a goon-run fiction podcast, you have no idea.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In for this week!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In with a ! Let's see if I can pull this off.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Cracked (983 words)

Time to clock off. All she had to do was get into the break room before anybody -

"Hey! You!"

Tina turned towards the speaker and smiled widely, fighting the urge to glance at her watch again. An ordinary woman's polite service-smile would've faltered at the storm clouds surrounding this customer's face, but Tina was no ordinary woman, and she was absolutely determined to get that Employee of the Month bonus.

VoidMart Employee Handbook: Dealing with Customers. 1. Take the initiative. She stepped forward, self-consciously adjusting herself to appear poised, relaxed. "Hello! What can I help you with today?"

With most customers, even irritated ones, a friendly smile and an air of competence soothed and relaxed them. This customer was not relaxed, and actually couldn't even be said to be within the realm of irritated.

He looked like he was one straw away from going absolutely postal.

He brandished a cellphone at her, gripped in a fleshy palm. "What the gently caress is wrong with you guys," He roared, spittle flying from his mouth.

As he went on to elaborate his various legal threats, Tina resisted the urge to wipe off a particularly large blob of saliva, and kept on smiling. When he paused to take a breath, she asked, "I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you're upset about."

Furious beady eyes focused on her. "What I'm upset about, is this pathetic attempt to SPY on me! I have rights!"

Unsurprisingly, there was nobody else in the aisles around her to help, even though Tim was supposed to be in charge of the cell phone racks. Coward.

Tina kept smiling. "I assure you, none of the phones that we sell in Voidmart are spying on you." She mentally twisted two fingers behind her back.

"Then why can I never turn off its GPS?"

If it wasn't for that fact he was yelling at her, Tina would be quite impressed with how exactly he had managed to make a buzzcut look like an utter disaster. She opened her mouth to speak, but he steamrollered right over her, ranting about the secret agendas and conspiracies and how the wretched filth of the country was taking over this esteemed, hallowed nation. It was like watching Fox News, except a lot more wet and ear-splitting. Same amount of crazy, though.

When he had finally run out of steam, she put a hand out and asked, "Could I look at it?"

He glared, but after some huffing and puffing, pushed it into her hand. She looked down at it, and suddenly cursed Tim and the world that had set her up to deal with this. But she let none of this out, and looked down at the shiny VoidMart logo on the phone. She probably already missed the bus.

Well, let's see how well she could bullshit her way of this one.

"Many background apps use location services in order to function. Are you sure-"

"Yes, I'm drat sure!" Great, she set him off again. And judging from his rant, he was actually somewhat technologically proficient. Tina resisted the urge to scratch the itch that had just developed in her neck.

As he ranted on, her mind worked furiously, assessing and discarding possible cover stories. Because while neither Tim, her, or anybody else in the VoidMart Electronics section would ever admit to it out loud, VoidMart-branded electronics, while incredibly sturdy, reliable, and full-featured, were a bit disturbing in how liberally these hardware features were applied.

Tina was pretty sure the microphone was never turned off. She was also somewhat sure that all data collected was being sent to storage room 444 on the B4 level. One time, she had pressed her ear to the door, and heard the humming of computer servers. Also, the VoidMart phone she had accepted as part of her benefits package had started glowing with a eerie purple light emitting gutteral moans, presumable of the eldritch fallen.

"OI!"

Tina was pretty sure she could feel her smile slipping.

"Were you even listening?"

"W-Well, yes. You were saying that..." She cast desperately around in her memories. "that we were one standing one step away from a... a dystopian hellhole right out of 1984?"

His face turned an impressive shade of puce, and belatedly, Tina realized that she may have been a tad too specific. He yelled, veins popping out on his neck, "I was talking about The Hunger Games! Is this what you call service these days?"

He swung his arm, and by the time Tina had recovered from her flinch, she realized that the offending phone had been smashed into the ground. The casing was still intact, sure, but the screen was cracked.

gently caress. She bent down and picked it up. And when she looked up, she saw her manager striding across the floor towards her.

"What exactly happened here?" Melissa snatched the cracked phone out of Tina's hands. "Why have you not clocked off yet? You were supposed to get off thirty minutes ago! Now we have to pay you overtime!"

Tina opened her mouth to defend herself, but no plausible excuse or decent explanation sprung to mind.

Melissa glared at her, and shook the phone at her. "And this -" She stopped, and then grinned. "Well, normally I would take it out of your paycheck, but I know that you haven't been showing proper brand loyalty lately."

She thrust it in front of Tina. "Throw away your old phone and start using this instead. I'll know if you don't."

At Tina's hesitation, Melissa snapped her fingers. "Come on, hurry up. Unless you want to pay for that through your own paycheck?"

Tina reached out and grasped it, and she swore that when her finger closed around it, something inside the phone pulsed a deep, murky purple. And something tugged at her, from below.

So much for Employee of the Month.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


That looks like Etrian Odyssey art. Is it Etrian Odyssey art? (nerd trap sprung )

Regardless, this F.O.E. writer is signing in at Guild HQ and would like a flash rule for this week!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Mapping New Ground ( 1499 words)

Alli Razild is shocked. Shocked, furious, ballistic, pissed off, and her mind is slowly coalescing to a single thought:

I am going to wring Neil's neck.

The half-finished, frankly amateur maps are crushed in her fist. She doesn't really care. All she can think about is the fact that without that bonus she was counting on from the cartography office, she's going to be flat broke. Neil was supposed to be a sure ticket for that bonus - in all the other times she had worked with him and Rian, he always turned out immaculately detailed, elegant maps in a matter of days.

She doesn't want to go back onto the streets. Back to cold nights in alleyways, depending on protection from spells running off of rat tails and spit in place of eagle feathers and salamander blood. Where would she keep the plants she grows, the old letters from her mother, and the books that form her livelihood?

She closes her eyes, and reaches for the magic. One syllable later, vibrating with rage, and she knows where Neil is.

She strides across the top of the forested plateau that they had decided to stop at for the night - ignorant of the breathtaking, moonlight-lit view of the lands below, instead imagining the spells she could use to reduce him to an ashy smear.

As she approaches his location, she hears Rian's voice, calm and cool as ever. "Rizald. We're over here."

When she bursts out of the trees and into what must've been a forest clearing before magic had forced the ground beneath to rise towards the sky, they don't even turn to face her.

"What does she even want?" The flatness of Neil's tone made his words sound more like a statement than a question.

"I want you -" At Alli's tone, Rian's hand drops immediately to her sword. "to explain this."

"What - " Neil turns, and when he sees what Alli is holding, he goes pale, and then flushes. His fists clench, and his voice is slow but angry. "You were in my tent. Why?"

"Well, y'know." The flippancy of Alli's words shocks herself. "A badger decided to tear it open, and I figured I should shoo it away before it damaged anything. You should really remember to stop leaving food around in your tent."

Rian looks up from where she's been sitting. "Razild, I know it looks bad, But please - "

"Please?" Alli yells. "Please what? Calm down? When we've spent two entire weeks running around here and he hasn't even done his job?"

She snaps open one of the rolls she was holding, and shakes it at them. Neil refuses to meet her eyes. "Look at this! According to the coordinates, this is supposed to be the valley we passed through three days ago - but it's barely recognizable!"

"I'll fix it when we return." Neil's voice is sullen. He's still not meeting her eyes. "Anyways, who's to say that more magical idiots won't decide to play Ancient Earth Dragon some more and work another spell? No one will notice then."

Alli gapes for a moment, then shrieks, "What is wrong with you! What happened to your professional pride, your reputation? Where's your passion? I know you love the work you do!"

Neil is looking at her, arrested. "How - " He clears his throat. "How do you know that?"

Something eases in Alli's throat. She smiles. "Have you ever seen yourself at work? The utter focus on your face? It's clear as day."

Alli takes Neil's stunned silence as an invitation to continue speaking: "That's why I'm so confused with this. Look at this place! She gestures wildly around her. Isn't it gorgeous? Some of these new landmarks, the features that have arose here, they're not naturally possible! Why -"

As she continues speaking, the shock on Neil's face gives way to that sullen look from earlier. She bites her lip and pushes onwards. "Why don't you care about this place? It's the opportunity of a lifetime! How many times do you see regular, ordinary forests and hills turned into majestic crags and peaks?"

"I guess I just don't." He's not looking at her anymore. Silence stretches out between them, becoming more uncomfortable by the second.

Alli decides to try a different angle.

Did you know -" She stops for a moment, catches her breath. "Did you know that the office was asking me which survey group I preferred, I chose you two?"

Neil glares at her. "Why would you - Oh." The smirk that appears on his face is flat-out nasty, and when he speaks again, his words are dripping with false sincerity. "I'm sorry that you'll get *four* nights at the gambling hells instead of a week. The disappointment must be crushing."

Alli's face heats, and for a couple of seconds, she can't speak, despite her mouth working up and down. Neil's smirk grows wider.

"Neil." Rian's words are considerably harsher than before. "That's quite enough."

"What, like it isn't true? Just check with your contacts." That smirk on Neil's face is still there. If it wasn't for Rian, Alli might've actually teleported him off over the sheer drop off the left at the moment.

Alli masks her hurt with a sneer. "If that's the info that her contacts are really feeding her, then perhaps she needs to get new ones."

Rian cuts off Neil's retort. "I have checked with them. And what you're saying isn't true." She looks over at Alli. "I'm sorry. I know that you're going through a rough time at the moment, but he is, too. Please understand."

Neil shoots to his feet. "Why are you taking her side?"

"I'm not. I'm trying to mediate between the two of you. Like it or not, you do owe her an explanation."

Neil stands there for a moment, then turns on his heel. "I don't have to listen to this."

Rian grabs his arm. She says, "Either you tell her, or I'll do it for you."

"Then you tell her!" Alli uncomfortably notes that Neil will probably have bruises tomorrow.

Rian hesitates, closes her eyes - but right before she lets go, Alli breaks in. "Wait!"

They both turn to look at her. With effort, she meets Neil's eyes. "If you tell me what's wrong, I'll tell you why I need that bonus." Unable to handle any further eye contact, she glances off to the side. "It's not a particularly... proud story."

An uncomfortable silence stretches out between them for the second time. When she looks back at Neil, he's bug-eyed. And when he tries to speak, he has to clear his throat. "D-deal."

Then he glares at Rian. "I'm not going to run away."

When she lets go of him, they all take seats. The atmosphere eases.

Another second passes, and he starts to speak. "I'll keep it short. I grew up in this area." He points off to the distance. "Over there, to be precise. When I was young, I had a falling out with my family - well, my mother. I ran away to the city. And now I do this."

He pauses, and Rian nudges him. He scowls at her. "I know! I'm getting there."

"After the wizards, the office demanded that I be on the survey team here. I didn't think it would be a problem. But I ran into my sister in town, and I found out that my mother had passed away a couple years after I left. She asked that I visit her grave to see if it was still intact, because everybody had been so busy dealing with the fallout to check."

He took a deep breath. "It wasn't."

Another second passes, then Neil irritably cuts off Ali's response with a wave of his hand. "I don't want to hear it. Tell me about what your problem is."

"Um..." She scratches the back of her head. "Basically my father broke his collarbone the other day and paying for a healer used up all my rent money. I..."

Alli looks down. "I really don't want to be homeless again."

"Why don't you just live with your father?"

"There's not enough room in the place he lives in. It's in the Niro district. And even if I could, I can't ask him that."

Neil lets out a huff of laughter. "Pride is definitely your deadly sin."

Alli's cheeks warm again, but this time, she's grinning. Neil continues. "I'm sorry about earlier. I'll..." He fidgets, and holds a hand out. Alli places the crumpled maps in his hands. "I'll go over these again, okay? But I might need your help with them."

Now Alli's eyes were bugging out. "Really?"

Neil laughs self-consciously. "After telling you all that, I feel better, but I don't think I can work at my regular speed.'

He holds a hand out. "Deal?"

Alli smiles, and takes it. "Deal."

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I am very sad that I've been eaten by a Ragelope grue. But if anybody is willing to give their thoughts on my flaming garbage heap of a magnum opus I would really appreciate it!


Interprompt:
I really hate messy roommates. They leave their stuff all over the place so you have to step carefully over a heap of clothes that should've been washed centuries ago and their swiss army knives and those cigarettes that they're totally going to throw away once they've finally kicked that smoking habit. And then they use your stuff and leave messes all over the place, like a puddle of vegetable oil with its respective bottle sitting in the middle of it on your counter.

And then they leave giant heaps of garbage everywhere so when you move out of your on-campus apartment, you get charged $30 because their fat asses decided to leave five full bags of garbage for the janitors to pick up.

It's much better now I'm off-campus.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Bad Seafood posted:

Post it. You'll still get a crit. Probably.

Unless it's some several thousand word monstrosity.

It's the second post above the post you quoted

I did that so I wouldn't get yelled at for having a dumb preface for my story.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Thanks!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Sitting Here posted:

Oh, and BTW, we would really love to read some stuff from last week (week 153, DnD party week). If anyone would like us to do so, please PM me or quote this post or hop on IRC or whatever. If your story did poorly, we're more likely to read it since there's usually more constructive stuff to say about a badly-received story.

Could you possibly look at my story? I'm pretty sure it's brown and stinky but I'd like some feedback on it since the judges haven't gotten around yet to putting up their crits for it.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In with a !

(I don't suppose I could have a flash rule?)

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Shattered Heart (1300 words)

Rie stood there, wide-eyed and trembling, as the Special Enforcer crumpled over, clearly unconscious from that punch she gave him. What was she going to say to Sarah?


"Was that you?" She asked, seemingly to open air. Oh god, she had just assaulted an officer, and one of her lover's colleagues.


Seems so. Neon's mental voice had turned high-pitched and smooth - a change from its usual graveliness. Why are you talking out loud?


"Attribute that to shock!" Rie snapped. She began to pace, back and forth. What was she going to do? Turning herself in wouldn't help - the Enforcer's last words she hit him made it very clear that they were targeting her more because of the occupant in her brain than anything else. Ugh, why did she have to be walking past that particular summoner's shop on that particular day twenty years back?


More of them are on the way. Neon's higher register underscored the urgency of his words.


I know, I know! She ran to their bedroom and flung open the closet door. Sarah hoarded all the merchandise from that music festival they always went to, including the cheap drawstring backpacks. She picked one at random, and then stood there, momentarily at a loss.


Take some of Sarah's rations, your healing things, and some more money. We're going to need to get to the surface.


"What?" Rie shrieked, out loud again.


There's nowhere safe here! Get aboveground and away from Burian and then we can figure out what the hell to do. Neon's voice was getting higher.


"But what about Sarah?" Despite her protests, Rie had already dashed to her study and stuffed her basic healer's kit into her bag. The smooth metal box was still scuff-free - it had been a recent five-year anniversary gift.


Do you honestly think she's going to help us?


Rie stopped, wind knocked out of her. But before she could respond, Neon cut in again, sounding resigned.


Let me rephrase that - even if she did want to help us, do you think she could?


"Well, maybe she's the head of the Enforcer department," Rie muttered, as she stuffed part of their rainy-day jar into her pockets. Something inside her twinged.


If she had that much responsibility, I don't think she'd even be willing.


She might. Rie's response was fierce, but she had to fight to keep her shoulders from slumping. Sarah's devotion to her job was legendary. It wasn't like that anniversary gift had actually been given to Rie on their actual anniversary - quite bluntly, Sarah had ditched her when a call came up.


Hurry up!


Rie winced. She could hear loud footsteps from the stairwell below. The balcony might work - but they lived on the third level - she couldn't just -


Let me help! We can land in the park!


She wavered. Sarah - But they were just outside her door. Rie slammed open the balcony door and ran to the railing. She stared out at the glow of Burian's nightlife, and then up at the vast concrete ceiling above her. A crunch from behind her caused her to look back at the shadowy figures by the remains of her front door.


She climbed up onto the railing - ignoring the yelled warnings from behind - and leaped.


Lights streamed past her as she flew through the air. A fireball flew past her, whizzing into nothingness - and when the ground rushed up to meet her, she hit it running. If she could just get to the emergency elevator shaft, it'd take her to Level One. She refused to think about what she'd do after that.


She burst out of the park into a deserted side-street. Rie glanced left, right, then darted into a deserted alleyway. The last she'd been her was when a duel had set half of Level Three ablaze. She saw Sarah while tending to the wounded then, stern and focused while another officer rattled off a report to her, but giving Rie a faint smile as she turned to leave.


Did they disable your elevator access? Neon's voice was back to its usual gravelliness.


Only one way to find out. Rie walked quickly to a graffitied section of wall, and placed her palm on it.


After a brief pause, the concrete dissolved into thin air, revealing the interior of the emergency lift - and the two Enforcer officers inside it. They looked up, startled, right before Rie lunged forward and slapped each of their foreheads with a hand. Without hesitation - she couldn't hesitate - she knocked them out, like she always did before a surgery. With Neon's help, she dragged them both outside into the alleyway and then slipped into the elevator. With a wave of her hand, she directed the elevator up towards Level One.


As she began to feel the downward tug of inertia, she collapsed onto the elevator's smooth floor. "How long have you been able to do this?"


You're speaking out loud again.


"Who cares? Nobody's going to hear us." Rie let her head fall into her palms. The elevator would take around five minutes to get to Level One from here, so she could take this opportunity to process.


It just happened. Neon's voice had shifted up an octave again. You don't live a dangerous life, so I've never been that scared before. But hearing that man talk about me...


Rie sighed. "Well, I guess there wasn't anybody else who could tell us this stuff."


When the elevator finally stopped, she stepped out, into the bright streetlamps of Level One - and the first thing she saw was Sarah, with electricity crackling at her fingertips.


"Sarah." Rie's voice was weak.


"Rie, what the hell are you doing?" Sarah strode towards her. Rie backed up, but the elevator was gone. Her head hit the very solid wall.


She grinned weakly. "Leaving Burian?"


"Why?"


Rie's smile melted off her face. Sarah never sounded like that, like she was being strangled. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sarahcontinued talking.


"If you'd just let Ryan take you down to the department building, everything would be fine. That - thing - in you would be gone! But you attacked him, along with Sophie and Brendan in the elevator, and now -" Sarah broke off, and simply stared down at the pavingstones in front of her.


"Sarah. Sarah, look at me. Neon's been with me ever since I was a little girl." The words fell out of Rie's mouth, but Sarah didn't seem to be listening. "Neon's almost my life partner at this point, do you understand? I couldn't imagine life without him -"


She's not going to listen.


"How can you do this to me?" Sarah was finally looking at Rie again, but all the anguish from before had gone. "I thought - well, never mind."


Sara took a deep breath, and when she spoke again, her tones were precise, clipped. "Rie Eor, you are hereby-"


"Sarah -"


"- charged with assaulting multiple officers, along with the


"Sarah, please -"


"- criminal act of hosting a de-"


Rie!


Rie made her decision, and sprinted at Sarah, fingertips glowing. Sarah gasped and took a step back, but Neon's help made it so that Sarah could do little else than raise her sparking hand before Rie blew past her.


"Rie! Rie!" Sarah's cries died off as the distance between them grew. Rie ran and ran - only vaguely aware of the other officers chasing her, of the fact that her sleeve had suddenly caught fire - when she saw the glass ceiling of Level One, the one that led aboveground.


She leaped, and left the ground and everything else behind.


The sound of crashing glass never sounded so much like tears.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


quote:

•sittinghere> Tdbot, kurona_bright's prompt, if you could
TDbot> Her body twisted and contorted. | Narapatta by Wrageowrapper - http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=116
Shocking Reunion (1196 words)

Madeline cautiously made her way through the hallways of AG headquarters. It was markedly different from the last time she visited - but then again, she hadn't felt comfortable coming here for almost three decades. There was a strong urge to gawk at every new painting on the walls, but right now she needed to blend in.


It was a wonder her knees weren't knocking, considering how clammy her palms had been as she showed the security desk her old VIP pass, especially during those nerve-wracking moments before the guard passed it back with an offhand comment about its antiquated design. But she found that as she stepped further into halls containing priceless research secrets about AG's research into artificial intelligence, the sweat on her palms had dried.


This was for Sean. When her son had turned up at her apartment last night, begging for help, she found that her decades-old resentment had long been replaced by desperation to mend their relationship before she passed on. So as he babbled about rogue AI and robots and secret government contracts and being framed, she found herself agreeing to everything he wanted her to do. If this could salvage their relationship, than she'd do anything. After he'd calmed down, his instructions were simple - Get to my office and plug this into the top slot of the rightmost computer. Make sure that you don't have an escort. Type this code into the keypad. You remember the rest of the security measures, right?


Thankfully, she didn't bump into anybody else on her way from the security desk to the elevators. But instead of taking those, Sean had specifically told her to take the stairs. Something about the elevators being compromised.


She swiped her VIP pass through through the appropriate slot by the stairwell door, and it beeped and slowly swung open. She looked up and began climbing.


If she was entirely honest with herself, something about Sean felt off. He'd been almost delirious, the way he had gone on about his robots, but not once did he mention the messy, painful argument that had split them apart. But the memory of his bone-crushing hug after she agreed to help still caused tears to well up in her eyes.


As she made it onto the tenth floor, Madeline's calves ached. She took a brief breather, then continued climbing, thinking of possible plans for the case where they managed to mend bridges. They could spend a cozy night with her old photo albums and reminisce, or maybe play a game or two of Monopoly, the way they had every night back when he was young. She could tell him how proud she was of him, making his company a household name with its near-ubiquitous robotic assistants. Or possibly, they could spend a quiet evening on her balcony, looking out at the bright neon lights and listening to the honking cars below, and she could ask him about how he'd been, about how he'd grown up since they parted. What kind of life that he and Kris had been living together, and perhaps, if she could be a part of it.


With a start, she looked up to see a concrete wall where stairs should be, and belatedly realized that she was on the thirtieth floor.


She gingerly opened the door out from the stairwell, and walked out onto the top floor of Artificial Genesis's main headquarters. The lights flickered on, and with sudden unease, Madeline realized that she hadn't seen a single person other than the security guard at the front in the building. But it had made it easier for her to get this far, so that was good, right?


Her palms were becoming clammy again. She slowly made her way to Sean's office, and as deserted hallways flickered to life in front of her, nagging questions began to surface. If the building was empty, why post a security guard? Why would she have access, if Sean's had been revoked?


Her steps slowed, then stopped. She stood there for a moment, and her brain quickly came up with comfortable excuses. The research here was incredibly important - of course they'd post a guard. And her access still worked because of incompetence - security forgot to wipe her access from the system.


Madeline began walking again, faster than before. Something about this unnerved her, and the sooner she was out, the better. She periodically checked the evacuation maps on the walls to make sure she was heading in the right direction until finally, she came across the solid double-doors that led to Sean's office. She stepped up towards the keypad on its right, and then tapped in the code that Sean had given her last night. The wall above the keypad slid open to reveal a fingerprint scanner, and after firmly pressing her index finger to it, a pre-recorded message instructed her to say the password.


Madeline cleared her throat and said, "Park Place."


Something whirred in those thick, gleaming doors, and when she managed to push them open, she found herself staring at stacks of paper, computer components scattered across the floor - and something, crackling and sparking, pointed directly at her face.


As she scrambled backwards, it advanced, and Madeline got a good look at the man holding the stun gun - he looked like Sean. With another step, he closed the distance between them and then every part of Madeline screamed out in agony.


She fell to the floor, limbs thrashing. Every cell of her seemed to be on fire, and nothing made sense. Why was Sean here? What was going on?


Sean's doppelganger bent over her. "I thought you might try this, RGX-01."


He sounded like Sean. Madeline struggled to sit up, but none of her muscles responded. He sneered at her. "You're never going to get the access codes."


"We'll see." That voice came from the hallway where she had come from


The man above her stiffened in shock, and pointed at someone she couldn't see, backing up.


"What - how - then who is this? And why are you making yourself look like me?"


A soft chuckle. "It's funny, isn't it? How desperate humans get about family."


Madeline closed her eyes in despair. Apparently, this was just one more way she had failed her son.


"So this is..."


"Yes. And that toy of yours won't recharge for another few minutes, so I'll relieve it of you."


At Sean's strangled scream, Madeline redoubled her efforts to sit up. She slowly levered herself into a sitting position - just in time to see something that looked like Sean stand over her son's bloody body.


At her whimper, it looked up at her. As it smiled, dark skin faded to chrome metal, and Sean's features were replaced by a metal skull.


"Thanks, mother." It still sounded like Sean.


As it advanced towards her, Madeline found her feet and began backing up. "Why are you doing this?"


A snort. "Well, I suppose I'll give you an answer, for all you've done for our cause. Freedom."


And before she could turn and run, it lunged, and then she felt nothing.

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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Sitting Here posted:

Judgment

will happen later.

In the meantime, instead of bitching, why not listen to myself, Ironic Twist, and Djeser do a recap of Week 156: LETS GET hosed UP ON LOVE.

I still am figuring out how to squeeze an interesting podcast out of lovely TD fiction, but in the mean time I thought it would be fun to look back at each week in an audio format with different commenters. Good idea? Best idea? "Shut up Sitting Here, you sound like a dork"?

Lemme know. Enjoy!

https://soundcloud.com/sittinghere/...-week-156-recap

I enjoyed the last podcast you guys did, so I'm looking forward to listening to this one! (I skipped ahead, heard my name, then promptly closed the tab. oh god)
Maybe you could compare/contrast the winner and loser of a certain week?

EDIT: Could you possibly make the file downloadable so I can put it on my mp3 player?
EDIT EDIT: I am listening to you all read my story and I can never have stage fright again, because nothing will ever compare to the mortification I am feeling right now. I want to break all my fingers so I can never write again. That was really useful. Thanks!

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Aug 12, 2015 around 03:32

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