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  • Locked thread
Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.


Jun 20, 2013
Injury Reserve
895 words

Marcus pushed his cart down the aisle slowly as he looked for the powdered mustard for the holiday roast. It was the first time he had gone shopping since going off to college last fall. The usually noticeable yellow tin was nowhere to be found. Agitated he went down to the next aisle in hops it was with the cumin and other spices. As he came around the corner he bit someone hard with the cart. An oomph came from the man as he fell hard to the ground, a bag of chips tried to break his fall but were smashed to bits.

“Oh poo poo. I’m so sorry,” Marcus offered his hand to the man.

“I thought once was enough Marc?” And the man swatted his hand. It took him awhile to get to his feet as he drug a lame leg underneath him. Marcus recognized the brace on his leg. Black metal with red leather straps that kept the knee in place.

“Oh Lou. I’m sorry man, I was off in my head. I didn’t hear anyone.” Marcus said with dread hanging off every word.

“I wouldn’t think you’d mean to hit me. You’re an rear end in a top hat sure, but you’re not a sadist.” Lou grimaced as he tightened the straps on his knee. A breath came hot and quick when he was finished.

Marcus hunched over to pick up as much of the spilled produce as he could. He hoped that Lou would stagger away, but instead he slowly crouched down with his bad leg hung loosely to the side to help grab a two liter of soda. The thought to say he didn’t need help crossed Marcus’ mind though he knew better. Lou would sooner have his other leg shattered than have Marcus pity him.

Marcus unloaded what he had could grab in the cart and waited for Lou to drag himself back up again. Eventually his lame leg found its way back under him and he dropped the soda in the cart.

“Merry Christmas Marcus.” Lou said as he walked off. Whatever dignity he thought he had kept was slowly being drug behind him.

A clerk came over to sweep up the mess of chips.

“What was that all about?” He asked. Expecting the answer as pay for the inconvenience they both created him.

“We used to be teammates.” Marcus said.

“Wait. Didn’t he say you hit him?” The clerk asked.

“He did.” Marcus turned to walk away from the clerk as he said this.

“Oh.” And with that the clerk swept the rest of the crumbs up as quick as he could, no longer interested in killing time with the customer who maimed his teammate.

Guilt stung Marcus as he went out to his car. As he loaded the groceries he looked down the road to see a shadow limping along. He hadn’t gotten very far in the ten minutes since he left. Marcus wondered how long he had left to go.

With a choke the engine came to life. Marcus steered the car down the road, slowly pulling up behind Lou.

“Hey Lou, where do you live?” Marcus hung his head and left arm when he asked. The December air flipped his black bangs over his head as he crawled ahead of Lou.

“Other side of town,” Lou added quickly. “But I don’t mind walking.”

“Hop in the car man. I can’t imagine the walking is good…” And Marcus winced as he caught himself. He cracked one eye up at Lou to see if he had by some miracle run away.

“gently caress you and Merry Christmas Marcus.” Lou said andquickend his pace. The only difference between his walk and his run was he nearly collapsed with each step in his effort to run.

“Merry Christmas Lou,” Marcus said and drove away slowly at first. A crash happened and his rear view mirror snapped off. Dumbstruck at his mirror now hanging by wires from his care Marcus looked back at Lou.

“I still have a better arm than you ever did!” He grinned as he shouted this.

“Get your rear end in the car Lou.” Marcus said. It took a minutes but he didn’t want to ruin the moment by backing up to get him.

“Thanks for waiting Marc,” Lou rubbed his hands and put them in front of the mirror. “Sorry about the mirror.”

“Nothing some screws can’t fix.” Marcus said. The car sped ahead from the twinkling bits of broken mirror on the ground.

“Huh. They said the same about my knee,” Lou gave a poo poo eating grin as he tapped his knee proudly. “I don’t think they put enough in is the problem.”

Marcus sat in silence and let the joke hang there.

“So how’s my scholarship?” Lou asked.

Marcus pushed the car even faster. Main Street in his hometown never felt so long.

Lou kept quiet after that. Either satisfied with reminding Marcus of the damage he had done or hurt again by opening those wounds back up. Lou told Marcus when to turn for his house.

They idled there for a while. Neither of them knew what the proper goodbye to being locked into a car with someone you never wanted to see again was. Finally Marcus said.

“Merry Christmas Lou. I hope the new year goes well for you.” and offered his hand to shake.

“Sure Marc.”

Jun 20, 2013
I'll also crit the first three people who ask for one.

Jun 20, 2013
One of my crits has been claimed by myself. There are two more. I go line by line, I'm not lazy with it.

Jun 20, 2013
I'll do your next one and your current one nubile.

And that's a good idea. I just like n to offer in case anyone really wants one. Thanks everybody.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Jun 20, 2013
Thank you for the crit Ent.

Jun 20, 2013
Thank you very much for the detailed crit hillock. Yours will be up sometime tomorrow.

Jun 20, 2013
Royal Blood - 357 words
Tehran, Iran

Yusuf flicked the fire selector of his AKM back as the rebels led the honor guard from the palace. He was hidden in the second story of the national mosque, a pace away from the window so the barrel wouldn’t stick out and give him away. Rebels dug their boots into the knees of his comrades and began to yell at the crowd that had gathered there around them. The hooded heads of the captives looked up. Covered eyes scanned the city to look for something familiar. Tehran was gone from them now. Courses that oriented themselves with the streets and locals were lost to them now. Overnight the Shah had been taken away. With him fled the hope of political freedom.

Gingerly he placed the barrel of the gun on the windowsill. Yusuf breathed in and out. He didn’t know where to go from here. The rebels still chanted their beliefs. Hollow words that echoed through the city. What they said no one in Tehran wanted but yet here the city was tearing itself apart so it could sacrifice its chance to be free, its chance to be legitimate in the eyes of the world. But these weren’t the thoughts that filled Yusuf’s head. He was focused on who to shoot first to rescue his fellow guards.

A noise filled his ears and made him tense. An inescapable vibration that moved his vision back and forth. Then silence. He noticed the AKM had been firing since that incredible noise filled his head. The familiar dog’s bark was nowhere to be heard. Astounded he saw the rebels in the street start to run. Their new AK74s stocks glittered in the sun as they fired at Yusuf.

A tank had to have fired somewhere nearby. Nothing else could have made such an incredibly loud noise. Then his attention turned to his friends. They bowed down, kissed the ground, and raised their hands towards him. Yusuf wanted to pose with his AK and feel every part the hero. He realized though that they still had the black bags over their heads.

Yusuf dropped his gun and to his knees.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Night of the Armies.

Jun 20, 2013
Night of the Armies

Black Sea - 603 words

Red limbs lurched from the stillness of the incandescent green night. Hulking figures with weapons held to their chest. Those who were hidden could be spotted by the steam of their breath floating from whatever piece of cover they were behind. Private Kryda adjusted his goggles to try and see if he could spot anyone else hiding in the treeline.

“There’s about a squad of men up there sir. Nothing heavier than a PKM.” Kryda reported.

“They’re hiding something up there soldier, that ridge looks over the rest of the valley. You can be assured they’ve got some ATGM or BMP waiting up there for us.” First Lieutenant Savage said and looked past his computer terminal to assure Kryda.

“When does the war start sir?” Kryda brought the rangefinder to his eyes again. The shapes were still huddled against their pieces of cover, occasionally one would reach a hand to their head and the steam would pour out of their mouth quicker. They know we’re here.

“Sir they know we’re here,” Kryda said this with a nervous glance back.

“Of course they do. You can see them right?” Savage said.

“Yes I can,” Kryda was immediately aware of how vulnerable they were. Eleven other men were cramped into the trench around him. Each contorted in a way that made them believe they’d be the last one the enemy would see to shoot. There was the hum of a Bradley in the distance but that was for the cavalry. The grunts were expected to hustle up the hill after the initial mortar barage.

A bright light streaked across the night. Kryda tore his goggles off in pain. His left eye burned with a deep purple when he tried to open it again. Around him there was no motion as everyone watched the missile move, not threatening to move because they all held the selfish belief that there was no way they could be possibly be hit. Overhead it went and the explosion came seconds later.

“To cover! LMG set up to engage the targets on the ridge. I’ll get the mortars here ASAP!” Savage barked and threw himself behind a rock. He raised the radio to his head and tried desperately to clear the radio net.

Kryda grabbed his gun and hurled into the trench. Green and red fireflies screamed across the sky. The light machine gun began to fire. The forest that the enemy had been hiding in started to chip and fall away. The barrel went red with desperation as they sprayed wildly towards the enemy.

Screams came from the sky. Thunder came crashing down on top of the ridge. Fire and splinters rained down on where the enemy was.

“Forwards! Let’s go! Take the ridge!” Savage screamed as he grabbed his M16A4.

Kryda’s feet were heavy as he ran through the open. The rest of the war opened before him. To the left a company of Abrams burped at the BTRs hiding in the forest. To the right a Littlebird looked desperately for somewhere to land. Its tail spun faster with each rotation.

In front of him though was an opening. The mortars and machine guns had cleared the forest better than any logging company could. The jagged path up the hill.

A shadow moved towards the top of the hill. A maroon figure that stepped closer towards the flames. It was illuminated by the AK firing in its hands. A scream came from behind him but it was quickly subdued by the mass of rifle fire that came forwards.

Training brought him the rest of the way up the ridge.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Jun 20, 2013
Also Muffin if you're itching to fight I'll take your offer to brawl, but with myself having the disadvantage. I know I'm not Mojo but I can take a punch and I'm looking for something to get me serious about improvement. I know I'm not supposed to suggest brawls since I've never won or HMed but I've brawled twice before.

Jun 20, 2013

Benny the Snake posted:

Dude, don't be his pitty brawl

Maybe I'd take you seriously if you spelled pity right. I'm furious with myself that I lost to you, the safety cushion that everyone who submits has to eek by the loss. So gently caress off with telling me what to do.

Jun 20, 2013

crabrock posted:

:siren: Your fighting flash rule is that your story must prominently feature a broken piece of glass with a mysterious stain on it.

Thank you.

Jun 20, 2013
Here is your first crit from way back in week one Hillock. Your second and SittingHere's will be up shortly. Sorry it took so long I was really busy writing awful stories.

Ranger Dan slipped the truck into four wheel drive just the wheels bogged down. Winter came late this year; or rather it had suffered a manic breakdown in early December. The permafrost had set in during a cold snap, but the quickly setting boreal sun wasn’t giving up its warmth just yet. The trails had turned to a half frozen slush; his daily patrols took twice as long because of it. He shifted down and blew a puff of cherrywood smoke out the open window.

This works well besides the part about the boreal sun. That reads a little too written in comparison to the rest of the paragraph.

If he’d been younger, he’d have been tempted to gun it and send a roostertail flying out behind the truck, wearin’ away the mud till the tires connected with frozen earth. Being almost forty, he enjoyed the finesse required of a real mudder. The truck slid forward, slowly. He made sure to keep it on a diagonal so the back wheels missed the ruts left by the front. A few kilometres later the mud turned to gravel and then he was roaring towards the ranger station at sixty miles an hour. Early morning sun glinted off the tinted windows of a luxury SUV parked outside.

This is probably one of my favorite paragraphs in the piece. You describe how someone who really loves to truck would actually describe it. I’m sure I’ve heard this before on a construction site somewhere.

“Who the hell is it now?” he muttered to no one in particular. His supervisor was off for the month and the park was nearly empty. He dreaded having to explain to another yuppie moron that no, he wasn’t in charge of cutting firewood and the nearest store was thirty clicks outside the park.

The last part of this paragraph pulls me out. Either you’re really subtly building up this character’s military background or your forgetting that the US uses imperial. I don’t think a park ranger would use clicks when the trails and all parts of the park are measured by miles on signs and such.

He parked his truck and hurried inside, making drat sure not to make eye contact with whoever was in the SUV. No sooner had he sat down at his desk he heard a car door slam.

“gently caress sakes,” he said, putting on a fake smile.

Now he knew he wasn’t supposed to use the word tranny no more, and to be honest he wasn’t sure that this person was trying to fake a gender. A poorly dyed and impossibly coiffed toupee (or was it wiry hair?) framed a face smeared with cheap foundation. Bits of makeup were caked into her widow’s peak, her eyeliner had started to run and her fake lashes were peeling. She fished a king sized Marlboro out of her fur coat and smeared lipstick all over her face trying to light it. Her hands were shaking pretty bad.

A good description but this large paragraph brings a lull into what is otherwise a quick and snappy piece. You don’t indulge in an explanation this long anywhere else in the piece so it makes this stand out quite a bit.

“You cold or something, lady?” Dan asked.

“,” she stammered, “I’ve had the worst night of my life, and I’m Rosa Flores!” she said.

“I’m Dan. Nice to meet you.”

“You don’t understand! I’m L.A’s foremost, premiere paranormal investigator! Do you know how many clients I’d lose if they saw me like this?” She finished the smoke and lit another one.

“Y’here on rehab?”

“No! of course not! I told you, I’m Rosa Flores! L.A’s…” he cut her off.

“I got it. Paranormal whatever. Great. Fantastic.”

“You really don’t get it do you? You go out there alone and you’re not worried?”she screeched.

“’Bout what? Got a gun for ‘em bears ‘n coyotes. Got me four-by for the mud. Been out here since I was twenty two, ma’am.”

The purposeful or on accident wordplay bothers me a lot. It brings me out of the story to think of the author smiling smugly by writing four-by for.

“The bigfoot! The aliens! The bigfoot alien holograms! These forests are FULL of spirits and the unknown!” She gesticulated wildly, sending cigarette ash all over the office.

“My client, I mean I was hired, well, you see…” she continued

“See what?” Dan asked.

“I’m looking for the spirit of a little girl. My client in L.A. wanted me to find his daughter and I’ve traced her spirit here. From L.A. Do you know what I saw last night? And the night before?”

“The northern lights?” Dan asked.

“BIGFOOT! I saw him with my own two eyes. He was down there!” she pointed out east towards the cedar bog, “he was there one moment and he disappeared the next. THEN I saw the northern lights.”

“I’m sure ya did” Dan said.

“THOSE TWO THINGS ARE RELATED! It’s like you’ve never even read Joan Ocean!” she shrieked, exasperated.

“Alright, tell ya what lady, how ‘bout I fill out this here Park Report Form and I’ll go have a look-see tomorrow morning?”

You do dialogue pretty well. This reads quick and establishes the characters. Also your dialect or slang for the ranger is one of the few times I’ve read something like that and it wasn’t done poorly.

She hovered over him as he filled out the sheet, writing Bigfoot Hologram – Possible UFO in the Complaints field and Paranormal Investigation in the Action Taken field. As a final courtesy he wrote down her number.

He looked her straight in the eye and said “Lady, if I don’t call ya by noon tomorrow it means ‘em aliens or bigfoots or what have you have taken me and I want ya to call the RCMP.” She nodded and turned to leave, dropping a business card on the table.

“La Florenzi Pasta Shoppe” Dan read aloud

“FLIP IT OVER!” she yelled from the door

On the back, in crayon, was written ROSA FLORES PANORONAL INVESTUGATOR, L.A., LOS ANGELES.


The first few rays of sunlight cut through the pea soup fog and lit up the cedar’s frosted branches. Where most would see bony fingers grasping at a barren sky, Dan saw tranquility and the promise of spring leaves. He crouched down low, looking for prints in the snow. He wasn’t much for believing in Sasquatch but he knew full well that other critters loved the bog near as much as he did. Grouse and deer and rabbits had all been out last night, meandering between the trees.

[b[This paragraph does what the one about Rosa did poorly right. It combines description with action and doesn’t feel like a bump in your story.[/b]

“Welp, if ‘em bigfoots are here least they don’t scare ‘em little buggers,” Dan said to no one in particular.

He followed the grouse tracks until his truck’s headlights had vanished in the fog. At least he could use this hike to keep an eye out for poachers. The trail ended in a freshly formed drift. Dan reached into his parka for a smoke.

Something rustled in the bush. He stood stock still. Seconds or maybe minutes passed before Dan realized the bog was deathly silent. Not even the crows were out today. Something must have spooked ‘em. He realized he was letting that Rose lady get to him, so he lit the smoke and breathed in real deep.

Something rustled again, louder and closer. Coloured lights flashed somewhere deep in the forest. Before he knew it he was off running. It was only when his boot caught a stray branch and sent him sprawling into the snow did he stop. He lay there for a few moments, letting the dampness and the sulphur bog-smell wash over him. He felt light headed, probably from the running.

“I gotta quit smokin’ ” he said, realizing his smoke had gone out.

The lights started up again. Blues and reds and yellows dancing between the tree trunks. He sat with his mouth agape. They were coming closer. He swore he heard deep panting and heavy footfalls. He didn’t feel the fear this time, instead a light-headed giddiness. If the bigfoots was gonna get ‘im, so be it. He brought the lighter up to the smoke and flicked it.

The world exploded in a flash of light. His body was burning, paralyzed with fear and alien rays. He could hear himself screaming. The alien bigfoots was beamin’ him up. His whole body shook. One name ran through his mind before he passed out: Rosa Flores.

[b[The second to last sentence made me laugh.[/b]


When he awoke the world was a shimmering paradise. Blue ocean water and endless beaches with sand white as driven snow. He broke the surface of this dream-ocean and flicked his dolphin tail. He was a merman now. He smiled as he watched his iridescent scales glowing in the purple sun. Everything he touched began to glow.


Rosa watched the clock, holding her phone in one hand. She had already dialled the first two numbers, and her finger hovered over the last digit. The clock flashed noon, she mashed the button, already hyperventilating.


The RCMP cruiser left the bog just as soon as it had pulled up. The fire crews were on their way, geared up for a methane fuelled forest fire. Rosa parked her SUV just off the access road, waiting to talk to the chief. She managed to flag him down when he was taking a piss in the woods.

“Officer! Officer! If you find bigfoot’s body I need to take a hair sample. It’s absolutely vital for my investigation!”

The chief sighed. “Lady, I’m not gonna tell you to get the hell outta here, but you should. This bog’s been offgassin’ methane worse than a borehole. You spend any time here?”

Rosa nodded.

“You familiar with what a low oxygen environment does to the human mind? Y’start seein’ things. Hearin’ things. Doin’ crazy things like running buck-rear end naked through the forest and settin’ things on fire like our friend the ranger did.”

“Thank you sir, I’m sorry to take up your time,” she said.

The fire chief nodded and walked back to the blaze.

Rosa furiously scrawled notes into her journal.

Official Report: Alien bigfoot hologram abduction, possible anal probing. Evidence destroyed; Suspect government conspiracy. UFO/spirit interference, investigation results inconclusive.

Jun 20, 2013
Thanks for the crit Maugrim.

And I thought since Flores was from L.A. it took place in hills of California. I suppose that's just my jingoistic American showing though.

Jun 20, 2013
Shifting Sands - 650 Words

Flash rule - a broken piece of glass with a mysterious stain on it.

A hollow wind drug itself through the town. Leonard could tell that this district hadn’t seen much activity. Sand frosted the few windows that hadn’t been blown out. He drew his coat a little tighter as he turned to walk against, the dull rattling of closed shutters softly coaxed him on. He was following the path he’d taken every day for years. Parts of his past were still around him but they were pockmarked with shrapnel. The fountain he’d stop at for lunch was green and bubbly. Part of the lip was cracked open and the sludge oozed from it like pus from a zit. From its puddle grew wild grass and some cat tails. Leonard shuddered at the thought of how polluted that water must be for life to grow in the middle of the desert.
Leonard walked past his old apartment. The corner room on the third story looked like how he left it years ago. Only difference was now the northern wall was blown and part of the ceiling had caved in. The rubble looked like it was going to spill out into the street as if the building was a body rejecting some foreign contaminant. The doorway through the butcher’s shop was shuttered and locked loosely with a chain and lock. He could lift the door just enough to see the interior. He knelt down to see what was hidden behind it only to recoil again at the smell. He pulled his sweater over his nose and looked inside once more. The display cases were still filled with meat. Hordes of flies buzzed over them and moved past the maggots that writhed their way through what was once a prime cut of meat.
He shut the gate hard and brushed himself off. He didn’t think that the city could fall apart this quickly only after three months. Signs with arrows pointed towards where the refugee camp was. They were defaced. Someone had sketched a lazy skull and crossbones over it, the skulls eyes were two bulletholes through the sign. The dark circles were lopsided and the left lazily followed Leonard as he struggled with the gate.
The camp lay before him. The olive canvas tents were caught in the concertina wire that surrounded the camp. Tent poles poked through where the wind had torn them apart. None of the vehicles that had brought food and water were still here. In their place were smashed open crates, many of them burnt on the outside. Leonard looked to the centerpiece of the camp, what everything had been built around. A stone church weakly stood above the forlorn front. The skeleton of stonework that once held its precious stained glass windows lazily stopped the sun from coming in.
Leonard tugged at his throat. A phantom weight shifted. He longed for the familiar feel of cloth against his throat. To unlock the doors and light the candles. But he knew what the church had become during the evacuation.
With a growing pain in his throat he brought himself close enough to peek through one of the windows. A light pierced his eyes as he brought up his guilty eyes to look. Part of the window was still there. Leonard snagged the piece and held it up. It’s color was ruined. It should have been the emerald green of a pasture but now with the glass held up to the sun it was a muddled brown. Streaks of a deeper stain criss crossed and made a lazy lattice on the side that was exposed to the inside of the church.
With the token of his journey Leonard turned and walked towards the gate his foot kicked a child’s toy across the courtyard. The muted lime body with cherry fins twisted a lazy arc. Leonard grabbed that too and with a lst look at the church he went back through the city.

Jun 20, 2013
Thanks for the crit Sitting Here!

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Uh I'd like to use Beowulf. Unless that isn't fairy tale enough.

Jun 20, 2013

Nethilia posted:

Not a Fairy Tale, that's an Epic.

I choose The Bronze Ring. An Arabic Fairy Tale.

Jun 20, 2013

contagonist posted:

Is it too late/am I disqualified from getting a critique? I haven't written anything in a while and want to see how I stack up.

Link me to your piece and I'll crit you.

Hillock and SH your critiques will be up tomorrow.

Jun 20, 2013
Thanks for the crit sebmojo.

Jun 20, 2013
Contagonist Crit

"What are you going to do when you see her, Miska?" Salasar asks as he pulls tight on his harness straps, his body sinking deep into the command chair. He's slotting a neural jack into his wrist, the long cable running out from a mirrored connector near the center of the monitors of the blossom-like glass cockpit. Monitors like polychromatic petals set into the spherical cockpit's front. He slides his visor down.

This is an alright opening. The dialogue I feel shouldn’t be there. The description of his actions are interesting enough to make me want to read without prompting from a question that is fairly obvious in its setting up of the plot.

"Dunno yet, I think I'll flip a coin," I say as I kick off from the cockpit and drift backwards into the cabin.

“Between flatlining her or kissing her? Second choice seems a bit hard, buttoned up,” Salasar adds.

“I'm about to jack you an orbital superiority vehicle. I like to think I'm resourceful.”

This is a fun little interplay between these two characters. Sets up who the protagonist is well.

Red light bathes two squads of boarders, suited for EVA and breach. Strapped to them are null-recoil rifles of a dozen different makes, and they trade chatter. The robotic drones not locked-in for the burn are crawling towards their slots – their sleek, insectoid bodies folding up, maneuvering jets firing to seat them into the hull. Soon, AR displays over every passenger read green, just as I find an empty seat and pull myself in.

Interesting enough. I’m curious to know more about the drones, do they fight or are they like UAVs? Let’s see if I find out.

“But, I might wind up doing both,” I say, pulling the harness overhead. Cold bodies and hot bodies all around me, squared away. AR reads everything's secure. “We're locked in Sal, prepped for boarding.”

“About time. We're dropping out of spacial disrupt in t-minus five minutes: in geosync, right on top of the O.S.V.” The circular door to the cabin lazily closes, the levers on it wheeling shut. “Venting atmo. If you're not sealed, you deserve to suffocate,” he says, as the HUD sensors verify dropping pressure with a sinking bar.

This sentence reads fairly clunky. It’s steeped with language that people familiar with Sci Fi would know or would they assume they know, but the jargon doesn’t help the flow. Describing what it is wouldn’t help either. I get that is what the characters would use since they are in universe, but as a reader it’s a bit disorienting to read.

Body to my right is named Lacam, and he's cracking his knuckles. Red diagonal lines run across the matte, dark gray of his ballistic plating. To my left, Asja, mouthing silent lyrics behind his visor, dark features lit by helmet readouts.

Alright you’re setting up some minor characters and Lacam is the brute and Asja is maybe the smart rear end or the coward? I like the description of Asja more than Lacam’s.

Nerve rituals, over the shrinking seconds. Mine's double-checking the cybernetics – eye lenses focusing, tracking my own fingers waved in front of me, musculature diagnostics running as slight twitches in my body. I hold off on the surge. Two minutes of waiting don't need to seem longer, even if they're my last.

The first sentence is a little unwieldy. If you say it aloud it doesn’t flow well.

“Mommaship says t-minus sixty seconds,” echoes Salasar.

At that, I reach for the NR Rifle, unlocking it from its rest, pulling it tight to my chest. “Salasar?” I ask, in those last seconds.


“Thank you. I owe you a fuckton,” I say, seeing the timer run through the thirty sec mark, the numbers flashing red. The hull shakes from final correction burns. Asja is holding his hands out, supplicating a power not here.

“Ha. Yeah, well,” Salasar replies, interrupted by a deep breath. “Nobody refuses Dead Pirate Queen Miska and lives for long.” Ten seconds, with a low frequency tremor, or hum ringing in my molars and the bolts in my bones.

I say, comms off, “nobody agrees with Dead Pirate Queen Miska and lives for long.”

So our protagonist is some badass pirate queen. I feel like you could add to her character a bit more with her “pre game” ritual to build this up.

“Outwarp! Brace!”

A shockwave of numbness pushes through me from back to front as the warp field collapses, my breath following it out of me. Before I can gasp back, a hard clank tremors through the dropship fuselage – magclamps disengaging – before I'm shoved via inertia into my seat. Engines roar to send the dropship spinning down towards the target. The boarders around me yell and whoop over prox comms. I'm breathing through clenched teeth. Smiling.

I like this. It shows even though she’s done this so much it still gives her the satisfaction of knowing she has survived when the dropship succeeds.

We're accelerating continuously from the park. G's tug at my softer insides, but the synthetic musculature and dermal weaving just sits there. For these moments, parts of me that felt a part of me for decades feel alien, invasive, and heavy.

You should remove the bit about the synthetic staying still. The next sentence does the same thing without being as showy.

“Getting chop! Shi-” ends Salasar as my visceral introspection ends and holes flash open through the foreward hull, flak lancing through the plating. Comms fill with screaming. Wall panels vanish in chunks as if devoured by ravenous creatures. Slamming my fist down into the emergency release button, the harness bursts off me and I kick out of my seat, pulling at a corpse's head to fling myself free of this larger target.

Naked freefall, with the world Iberya and rocket exhaust trails spinning around me. Guidance jets on my suit fire and I'm wrenched back into a more stable trajectory – almost lose grip on the NRR.

Don’t invest so much in thinking your reader still remembers that your word for a gun is NRR. If you can call it a gun just call it a gun.

Iberya itself is thousands of kilometers to my right, with my feet pointed down towards the dagger-silhouette of the target O.S.V – and I'm falling towards it. On my left also down, the kill-drifting dropship – glittering micro-bursts of jet fire signal drone dispersion and other survivors fleeing the wreck. I look up, and 'above' me is that industrial chimera that was once a warp-cradle and a dozen other freighters and combat vessels – Mommaship.

Your descriptions of where things are in relation to the character are a bit confusing. On my left also down, is a very hard statement to understand while reading a story. Maybe below me and on my left would work better.

Twitch the right way, and the jets on my back fire hard, accelerating towards the O.S.V.

“Reaver squad, Brigand squad, mission is still go,” I yell over comms and under silent rocket launches, from both the Mothership and the O.S.V. “Drones, hit point defense. Meat, rally at point bravo,” bravo being midcraft, nearest the CIC.

“Reaver and Brigand consolidating. If we want to take this ship, we move as one,” barks Antom, second down the chain on Reaver. Thrusters cut out when I hit a suicide velocity. “Drones are away. Where are you Miska?”

I like that you refer to the infantry grunts as meat. It’s a nice little touch.

I fly past their hardsuits. Fifteen boarders, with green IFF. “On the way,” I tell them, looking up, seeing them firing jets to follow. Shimmering dots, also with faint green auras, denote the drones already on their strike – either launching micromissiles to remove point defenses in brief flashes of fire and shrapnel or just slamming into them.

Okay I know what IFF is because I’m a nerd and play ArmA and Combat Mission, but your audience might not. Maybe explain what the acronym means Clancy style or use another way to describe it.

Orbital space around us grows laced with railcannon slugs and rocket fire – Mommaship behind us aiming for weapons emplacements on the O.S.V, and at Kinetic Support Vehicles further ahead and behind us, nearer the zenith and nadir, but the O.S.V. Is making killshots – trying to find a single bridge to hit and decapitate the vessel.

Again the heavy use of jargon pulls me out of what is supposed to be a cool scene of ships duking it. The kinetic support vehicles is what brought me out this time. Were they introduced earlier?

It looms ahead of us, no longer some delicately suspended stiletto, but a massive sword of Damocles hanging over the planet. Red collision warnings blink on my helmet and I twitch on the reverse thrust, engaging the mag-boots. Antom performs some haptic gesture, and the drones start consolidating around where we're set to hit – seven of them, crawling on the O.S.V's bleached hull, making a perimeter around the airlock.

This is slick. This is what more of your action scenes and descriptions should be like.

Bracing for impact, we hit the hull heavy, magboots holding us tight. The surviving of Reaver and Brigand move in for breach, and I open the access panel. Pulling an interface jack from the suit's wrist, I signal for them to get ready.

Jack in, drop the digital payload: an exploit-based ICE-Breaker lancing through the security systems and freezing the status changes. Malware tricks the system into giving us access clearance, and the airlock cycles open – the double-slab door with diagonal seam splits, a cough of lingering atmosphere spitting out. We file in silently – four drones, five troops from Brigand, me leading.

This is great! You introduced your new idea of ICE-Breaker unobtrusively and show it’s function without over detailing it!

“Make for engineering,” I order, “and look for the onboard server. Use your copies of the ICE-Breaker to gain access, then you can get control of power and manually control the thrusters.” Asja nods, still alive, drawing his rifle as pressure equalizes, and the door opens into the hull. Tubular access ways, filled with low-intensity white light. I take point.

No targets behind or ahead, and I wave clear, before pulling on a hand-hold and launching myself towards the CIC, fore, pulling two drones with me via silent comm command, and then directing them ahead. They obey, crawling on the walls as I drift down the corridor. Impacts rattle through the hull.

When I drift close enough to the CIC to hear the orders chatter and situation reports, I hit the surge. Time slows to a crawl, the drifting lazier, and every sound and motion sluggish – save for mine, cybernetic muscles keeping pace with the adrenal-analogue flush dumping ice over my nervous system. I pull the rifle up, micro-thrust balancing me out as I aim into the room – drones jetting inside.

So that is what surge is. Neat. This was a cool payoff after you mentioned it in passing during the prep for the drop.

The room is spherical, every surface either covered in digital screens or processor housing, chairs are held in position facing the walls of the chamber by struts jutting from between glowing monitors. Keyboards and control elements line arm rests, and the crew manning them are in uniform vac suits. Long, black hair flows subtly over the back of the Captain's chair, disturbed the moment one of the other officers yell.

He doesn't get the chance to finish a word – I fire a round through his shoulder, gas jets on the rifle pushing down and forward, to stay level. The drones jet into the middle of the room, barrels clicking out of their angled body housing.

“Cataliona?” I ask through the suit's speaker, from the entrance to the CIC, activating the mag-boots to stand on the access ring. That current of hair in the command chair shifts again, and her shoulder leads her head moving out from in front of it. Silver rank bars gleam on her epaulettes. And she has a scar now, right on her cheek, the rest of her face wearing something that's not shock or surprise, darkened against the bright monitors behind her.

A solid introduction to the character. I assume gave her the scar or led her to getting it.

“Miska?” she asks, in a whisper. “Miska, you bitch!” she yells, slapping the harness release and pushing herself out of the seat. She grabs the back of it and flips herself around, drawing a pistol. I pull the trigger before she can aim, another crack sounding in the chamber, her gun blasted out of her hand and slamming into one of the monitors, shattering it. The force twisted her finger, leaving it bleeding.

Her response seems a little childish given who she is as a character.

“I was about to tell you to not do anything stupid,” I say, glancing back at the other CIC officers – they stare, unmoving. I signal to the drones to cover the access corridor, and they rocket past me, leaving the glowing room and its drops of glinting blood. “Too late for that.”

“Oh, me not try anything stupid? You stage a single-ship assault on an O.S.V. In the middle of a planetary assault -”

“And now I have my hand wrapped around its throat, do I not?” I'm not sure if she even cares about the pain – nothing betraying injury, save for itself and micro-tremors in the arm. “I'm getting you out of here, before you write yourself into a bad chapter of history.”

“At least I'm writing it, now!” she yells back, pushing her thumb against her dark blue breastplate. “I have my life and a place in a newer order. You just keep dying, over and over. You loving zombie. Do you even have a face anymore? A heart?” She's baring her fangs, hot tears in her eyes. “Can you even bleed?”
Alright we’re getting to the heart of the story now. Cybernetics and what they do to humanity. I want to give you some credence by saying you did a good job of building up the tenuous relationship between man and machine.

I keep my gun trained on them, force a deathgrip to steady aim as I unseal and pull free my helmet. Eye to eye, now with only an ironsight between us.

“Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares?” I ask, letting the helmet go as another seismic rattle rings through the hull. “Better dead or alive than just one more tool. You're too smart Cataliona – you know they're going to put all the blood this unifacation war has spilled on your hands. Toss you out like a spent mag.”

“What option did I have? They offered me a pardon. A position! More than you and your frozen corpse did in a decaying orbit over Mandala!”

You’re dumping a lot of exposition right before the end of the story. It’s bogging down what should be the crescendo.

I pull a coin out from an empty pouch, as the heart I still have starts to get tight, empty. I fling it up against a flat surface – calling the sides silently, until it clinks off and ricochets back. I grab it, then look down, opening it – a leering bust of some long dead conqueror judging me.

I let go of the rifle, klick off the mag boots and kick myself towards Cataliona. She swings a punch at my face and I take the sting, water in my eyes burning before I shut them, grab her, and kiss. She struggles, with one arm. She bites my lip. There's the taste of metal.

“Stand down,” she orders.

Jun 20, 2013
Sitting Here Crit

Nasatya and Dasra first met in the eternal gardens on Brahma's chest, where the trees and flowers gently rise and fall with the eldest god’s deep, slumbering breaths.

An incredible opening. Very subdued but powerful in its simplicity.

They met again on Earth, as Woman-Like-Deer-Path and Tusk-Cutter-Man in the last glacial period. Their lives moved at the beautifully brutal pace of the paleolithic, sweating together on the hunt and between the bed furs.

Beautifully brutal reads a bit overwritten in comparison to the rest of the paragraph that is simple in its prose.

They met again as Hephaistion and Alexander of Macedonia.

They met again in December of 1914, as Niles York--British infantry--and Anselm Krause--a German Sergeant--during a football game in no man’s land. When the call was given to go back to the trenches, York slipped a pack of cigarettes into Krause’s jacket pocket. Neither saw each other again that time; neither survived 1916.

I’m really liking the idea here. Of two people who can’t be separated by time.

“In 1967, Nasatya was called Susie Sometimes. She was twenty-two years old and lived deep in the heart of Zeitgeist, America, working at a nicotine-stained watering hole. Dasra, known then as Jack Dallas, would stumble in every night with his malcontent and electrified posse of post-beat, post-Kennedy poets, and they would thump their chests and exhale stanzas like smoke. Once, Jack leapt up onto a tabletop and started reading an excerpt from Story of the Eye, stomping over table after table, spilling drinks until his worn leather boots were slick with beer and liquor.

You have an incredible command over description. Exhale stanzas like smoke is a beautiful loving line.

““...The horror and despair at so much bloody flesh, nauseating in part, and in part very beautiful, was fairly equivalent to our usual impression upon seeing one another,” Jack read in a voice like narrow thunder. As he finished and sank silently into his chair, the bar erupted with hoots and hollers and stomps. Susie Sometimes clapped fast and fervent. Jack noticed. When Susie bent over his table to gather the spilled glasses, Jack put a gentle hand on her wrist--”

I assume that the poem is supposed to be a bit empty because that is who the character is. Otherwise I’d tweak that a bit

“And then they sped off to Makeout Peak in Jack’s T-bird and vowed to go steady forever,” said Paris, and further silenced Helena with a kiss. Helena rolled away to the other side of the tousled bed, holding her notebook to her chest.

“I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” she said to the wall.

Paris scooted over, molded herself against Helena’s back. “You really wrote all that ‘cause of me?” she asked.

“You,” Helena said.

Paris waited. The afternoon light crept across the dingy room, making dust motes and cassette tape cases sparkle briefly.

The description as nice as it s kinda eats into the nice rhythm these two have going on. But I assume you want there to be an uncomfortable or otherwise elongated silence there and the sentence is a nice way to do that. But for me I’d like it more with if it was just Paris waited. Makes it seem more trying on her that way.

“You make me feel like I remember things that never happened.”

“Am I your muse?” Paris said, her lips brushing against Helena’s ear.

Helena rolled over so they were eye to eye, nose to nose. Their breath was a singular thing, heavy and damp. “You’re more like a map home.”

Their breath was a singular thing is a tired phrase when describing star crossed lovers. It’s commonimity doesn’t fit the rest of your unique descriptions.

Nasatya spotted Dasra by the green water at the Banganga Tank. The Mumbai skyline was a glass and gunmetal contradiction to the contemplative stone steps and placid waters in the foreground. Nasatya let her sandals clack on the steps as she approached Dasra. He didn’t look up from his tablet.

gently caress you’re good at descriptions, glass and gunmetal contradiction is excellent.

“It’s uncommon to see a young man come to such an old place,” said Nasatya.

“It’s a place to be away from my wife and stay out of trouble,” replied Dasra. His finger swiped lazily across the screen. Nasatya sat down several feet away.

“Have we met before?”

At that, Dasra looked up. Their eyes met. Nasatya breathed deep and felt the wordless rush of memories flow between them, as cutting and powerful as an underground river. It was the experience of catching up to a memory of the future, of tracing a wave’s path all the way back to the first shore it ever kissed.

Dasra frowned and went back to his tablet. “Sorry, don’t think so.”

Nasatya flinched like she’d been slapped. A stony cold crept down from her cheeks to her neck, and black spots swarmed at the corners of her eyes. “Are, are you sure?” she breathed. She’d watched him for weeks. She knew him. He was hers, and she was his.

I don’t feel this paragraph is as strong as the one above it. It feels a bit more hollow in comparison to the others.

“Are you going to faint?” He’d set the tablet down and was watching her with distant concern.

“I don’t know,” she said, leaning back against the step above her. The sky spun slowly on its axis overhead.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Dasra said. He was closer now. His arms were around her. He let Nasatya rest her head against his chest.

“Would your wife consider this trouble?” Nasatya murmured against the solid heat of his body.

I really like the understatement of this line, so much so I think the metaphor about wildflowers isn’t needed. Both we know and they know they are meant for each other cosmically. This highlights that so well.

Dasra stiffened, but didn’t push her away. After a long moment he said, “some think marital bliss is being together forever, never apart. You know wildflowers?”

Nasatya nodded.

“Well,” Dasra said, “try growing wildflowers if you’re always trampling down the soil. You’ll have a sad, barren garden. But let the soil stay loose, let it soak in the rain and the air, and your garden will surprise you.”

He gently detached himself from Nasatya. When their eyes met again, the alternating current of shared memory was still there, but subdued to a trickle.

“I leave my wife in the afternoon so she can surprise me when I come home in the evening. And she’s happy to see me after I’ve been gone, I think.”

Nasatya lowered her head. “It was my mistake,” she said.

When Dasra had gone, Nasatya sat for a long time by the Tank. Soon, night fell and hazy city light made the sky an inscrutable black blanket.

“Aah,” Nasatya moaned, her eyes closed. He was hers! She knew it the way her lungs knew air from water. She was his. He knew it, but was in denial.

The water in the Banganga Tank was black as the sky. She almost didn’t see the disturbance on its surface. Curious, she crouched down on the lowest step at water’s edge.

Enough, someone whispered in her ear from a thousand light years away.

Tears of relief poured from her eyes and fell into the growing whirlpool forming in the Tank. “My map home,” she whispered before springing headfirst into the churning water.


Natasha opened her eyes, found David already awake and watching her. The nanite and oxygen-laden isolation fluid drained away, leaving them slick and naked and still entwined in the dream tank.

Soft light and soft voices from beyond the plexiglass. The heaviness of her true body. The lingering sense of psychic overlap with David. Her mind processed these things at a snail’s pace, but David’s eyes were sharp and true and real, and they held her attention like a parent comforting a child after a nightmare.

The tank’s lid swished open. Soft towels descended from above, gently patting the pair dry. Any remaining nanites would, of course, have been remotely deactivated at the end of the sim, harmless as sand.

Natasha let soft-spoken caretakers help her up out of the tank and into a robe. She looked through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which afforded a penthouse view of the city beyond: whimsical towers with staggered floors and private forests for every household; the whole metropolis pulsing and thinking, alive with nanites. Nothing forbidden to anyone, no food or delicacy or entertainment out of reach.

In a word, paradise.

She looked back across the room, saw David accepting water from the caretakers. Already, her heart hurt to be near him again. She savored the feeling, the multitude of emotions. Romantic longing was a flavor she thought had left her palate when youth left her body.

David caught her watching him. Knowing passed between them, a private signal on a private frequency.

I had to reread this a couple times to get a feeling for what it meant. If this was added to work into the confines of the prompt I understand. But I personally feel like this part cheapens the entire piece. It makes me feel that the cosmic relationship between the two is fake and constructed, I get that it is. But the piece was much more interesting without this.

The garden on Brahma’s chest rises and falls; leaves flutter with his breath. Nasatya and Dasra duck mischieviously through the trees, an endless game of touch-and-go. Their laughter rises like incense to Brahma’s ears, and the eldest god smiles in his sleep.

Jun 20, 2013
El Toro Delgado - 1095 Words

The amber glow whirled around the room. Carlos spun the bronze ring and watched it hoping it would answer his questions. Even after all these years with him the ring had never lost its luster. Not once did he have to clean or polish it, even when he dropped it down the cliff and it roll and bounced all the way to the visitor center parking lot. Not even a scratch marred the ring’s perfect luminescence. it started to slow and he readied his hands to spin it again. The door opened as Carlos ripped his hands apart to set the ring on its precarious course again

“I found something i didn’t think I’d find at the swamp,” Larry said a bit out of breath. He hooked his foot around the door for his arms were full of tools. A machete, dungarees, a propeller to an airboat that was missing two of three blades, and Hurricanes baseball cap.

“What could that be? A body? A brick of cocaine floating in muck? Maybe a bar so we can finally stay drunk enough there to kill mosquitos when they bite us?” Carlos raised one eye from the ring to follow Larry dump the debris in the corner.

“The gators were awake,” Larry said matter of fact. He strode into the kitchen and lifted the door off a lime green fridge. The handle had been broken for months but neither one of them had enough in the fridge to care enough to fix it. He snagged a bottle of beer and popped it open against the refridgerator door.

“But it’s the middle of winter. How the hell can they be awake already?” Carlos was almost distracted enough by the news to not prime the ring to spin again.

“Well something stirred them up. Made real pissy too. They were after the airboat something fierce,” Larry said.

“You think it could be the boat?” Carlos’ eyes filled with greed at the mention of the word.

“Well either that or the government finally decided to clear out the debris,” And they both shared a laugh together.

“We’ll go tomorrow in the morning. Pack the survival kits too.” Carlos snatched the ring and went to ready himself for the trip to the glades.


Tires chewed through the bog as they bounced along the road to their cabin. Carlos clutched the ring in his hand. The truck bucked as the made their closer, their bags and gear would jump up only to be restrained by the cargo net tied haphazardly over the bed.

A small clapboard mound was barely visible through the trees. A camo tarp folded messily over some PVC was their carport. Carlos knew enough about his partner to untie the cargo net from his seat and wait. Larry whipped the truck into reverse and slammed the brakes right before the dock. Their gear spilled into the air boat ready to go. Larry gave a pleased smile and clambered out the truck.

They sped along the swamp, deftly missing as many logs as they could. And for those they couldn’t miss hoping they wouldn’t be the one that punched a hole through the hull. Carlos had the ring wrapped around his left hand like a knuckle duster and the other rested lamely above the trigger guard of a faded rifle. It was a habit he had learned when young when travelling the swamps to always have a rifle ready to shoot a gator if it jumped up in the boat. Not once did it ever happen to him or anyone he knew but he wasn’t going to let himself be the bad example for others to doubt existed.

“So how will we know when we find this marooned ship Carlos? Lots of boats gone missing here,” Larry’s hand moved erratically to move the yoke.

“Larry not many of those boats are a Spanish Galleon. It would be pretty difficult to miss. Even for you.” Carlos looked back at his buddy as he said this.

Larry bit his lip and squinted at the sun. Carlos still hadn’t seen the gators that his buddy had talked about. Maybe he hit the Mescaline a little too hard yesterday. The shimmering of the bog and hallucinogens never seemed to mix well for Larry. Time before last he crashed the boat into a tree thinking he has saved the president from getting T-Boned. It wasn’t until Carlos had him repair the hull that he finally understood why he didn’t have a medal.

Carlos felt himself slide towards the bow of the ship. Larry let out a swear in confusion. The bow had dipped down and now as it rose back up it brought a twelve foot fanged monster into the boat. Larry rolled out of the boat and tried to swim for the nearest mangrove in hopes he could climb it for safety. Carlos raised the rifle and pulled the trigger at the gator’s soft underbelly. The hammer fell flat and made a soft click. Terrified he brought the gun up into the creature’s belly in hopes to impale it The barrel tore through the softer scales and the gator whimpered as it fell into the boat limp. Carlos brought the ring above his head and slammed it into the gator’s skull. After a minute the fragments of skull stopped flying up in his face and he looked around for Larry.

“Larry!” Carlos shouted across the swamp.

“Boss! Are those gallon ships kinda like sail boats?” An echo whispered behind Carlos.

“They’re wooden and they have sails, though this one’s should probably be rotted!” Carlos looked around trying to place his friend. A faint rustle came from overhead. Carlos readied the ring for round two. Larry’s head popped out.

“Nice gator!” Larry was shimmying along a branch to drop into the airboat.

“Larry what was that about sailboats?” Carlos asked as Larry fell into the boat, his fall cushioned by the corpse of the gator.

“Oh I found this cool wreck over there. It has a big bull on the front of it,” Larry sat on what was the gator’s head and readied the boat.

The ring gave a warmth in Carlos’ hand. A bull masthead can only mean they found the ship. El Toro Delgado.

The airboat moved it’s way through thick mangroves. Carlos hacked at the roots with a machete with a spirit he never knew he had.

As they passed through the grove the light struck Carlos. There in front of him was a handsome bull, its nose ring clearly missing.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Jun 20, 2013
Thanks for the crit Neth. The gallon bit was an on purpose mistake, though I know it's hard to tell with me haha. I really appreciate the crit filled with effort!

Jun 20, 2013
Good Luck in All Your Future Endeavors - 963 Words

Emergency flares and neon lights gave the skyline a diluted sharpness as the invasion of Beirut began. Philip placed a hand on the window overlooking the city and tried to make sense of the past few hours.

He had failed a hit. A high up in the ultra nationalists who was gathering the protesters to turn violent. His objective had been to take him and smuggle him out of Beirut before sun down. The target wasn’t in the apartment complex. Instead Philip found himself in a gunfight with six under trained ultranationalists. This wouldn’t have been issue if the news crew hadn’t been prepped to crash the building. Now footage of an American man hulking over dead natives was being played on every TV that supported the nationalists, and secretly being watched in every bar that hated nationalists. This was the tipping point.

He didn’t care about the locals. His worries were instead focused back home. No doubt his handler knew he had failed even before the broadcast. Some last minute tip that the target had fled that didn’t reach him in time arrived just to tell him that Philip would not be successful. If Philip was ten years younger this wouldn’t be an issue. Salt and pepper betrayed his youthful physique. He was well past fifty, the normal age of retirement for most workers in his sector. He was worried about a file. One with his real name on the front. Thick and creased from years of work. A large stamp slamming it fat and in big red letters saying “Denied Asset”.

If they were quick his retirement could happen right now. A strobe of light flashing somewhere in front of him, then a softer sound than the crash of mortars would arrive. Finally a bullet would rip through his throat. If it didn’t entirely decapitate him, he’d have a precious half minute to wonder about who pulled the trigger. Ricky was somewhere in Laos, and though he bragged he always hit the head each and every one of his kills was IDed instantly. It’d probably Suzie, a tall woman with a tall gun. He hoped it’d be her anyway, she always shot clean.

Liquid splashed behind him and he remembered where he was. The penthouse bar of the Hotel American. A safe haven for every expat and wetwork agent in Beirut. He gave the shadow another second to take its shot before he turned away to the bar. The bartender was slow in getting to him. Plenty of other agent’s work had been ruined because of him so he didn’t get angry at being kept waiting. The bartender caught his eye and made his way over.

“Compliments of the lady at end,” and he placed down a Manhattan in front of Philip.

A cute choice for whoever would want to kill him. A last mention of his childhood home, where he went to school, of his family before the poison seeped into him and choked him slowly. Philip grabbed the drink and raised to here, mouthed cheers, and drank it in one gulp. Nothing too unusual, the same muted flavor of the barkeep watering it down. She smiled back. Clean teeth but not perfect, there was a chip in the bottom left canine. Her hair was mousy, though it fit who she was. Philip wondered if he knew her. All the “seductresses” were always changing, a deadly chimera. He hoped it was someone he knew. He had been kind to.

A few minutes passed and nothing got him. He moved seats near her and opted to get drunk.


Philip left the bar without his new friend. Not an act of nobility on his part of a want to keep her out of harm’s way. But rather he just wanted her to get him drunk so he could face the night ahead. Languid steps brought him closer to the elevator. A heavy stumble brought him into the cage. It caught him and he turned to look at the buttons. Usually he’d hold the close key and the floor he was going to so he’d skip all other floors and chances of being caught vulnerable. Maybe go up or down one if he was paranoid. Now he just watched it. Another opportunity for retirement walked in next to him.

“Three please,” the man in silk dress shirt said. No noticeable bulges or protrusions. Knuckles bore no scars. It would be a knife if he was going to retire Philip.

“Sure thing,” Philip pressed the button. The minute shift in weight to bring his body forward would be the perfect opening for the man to drive a blade into the small of his back. Then as Philip gasped and clawed at the door he’d bring the blade back out and drive it into the base of his skull, giving it a final twist to scramble the brain stem. It would be quick and clean. Philip appreciated the simplicity of it. Philip leaned forward and the man in the silk shirt drew snub nosed .38. The barrel looked ugly, thick and bulbous. Integrally suppressed of course.

“You were a good agent Philip,” the man said as he brought the hammer back. “But we all have to retire someday.”

Philip turned to him, palms turned towards him and arms raised.

“I know. You’ll be a legend for this.” Philip said.


The door opened to the lobby. An Israeli spy whose entire career had been ruined by the invasion of Beirut got on and pressed the button to go to the penthouse. The smell of disinfectant told him that a retirement party had just happened. The hotel didn’t have a custodial staff. The guests were more then prepared to deal with any messes they made.

Jun 20, 2013
In for this week.

Thank you Seb, Rhino, and Muffin for the crits!

Jun 20, 2013
Drowning in It - 488 words

One final effort brought the latch down and secured the faded green case shut. Now she was ready to leave. Everything she possibly cared about had been ransacked and promptly stuffed into the case. Only her thick rain jacket and scuffed boots were spared. They were both needed to survive the tempest outside. For days the winds have slashed through the cracks in the boards, with them torrents of freezing spray. The Lower Wharf was flooded and that meant her soon to be old home of the Upper Wharf was next.

She brought the raincoat tight against herself and tied her boots. Carefully tucked her socks and pants snugly so the water wouldn’t bother her feet. Cynthia grabbed the bulging suitcase and strode towards the door. The weight of the bag didn’t bother her as she turned to lock the door behind her. A cry fell from her as she looked at her hand. The ring was still there. The varnished silver marred with scratches. She threw the suitcase inside and closed the door behind her. It was louder than she intended and her upstairs neighbor slammed something hard into the floor in response.

Cynthia took the ring and weighed it in her hand. It’d bring her enough money to get a ticket to anywhere she wanted to be. All she’d have to do is take it to a pawn shop and haggle the suspicious clerk up a hundred dollars or so. She placed it on the kitchen table.

The strain of old wood whispered to her from the stairway. She clutched the suitcase and panicked. There was no way she could leave now. He’d come in, see her ring on the table, her clothes peeked from the inside of her suitcase, and lose it. Instead of standing there helpless she ran to the window overlooking the fire escape. She threw it open and straddled the windowsill. She didn’t hear the door as it opened over the strain as she lifted the suitcase out into the storm

Wallace stood there, eyes green with gin and lazily looked up to her. Confusion crawled slowly across his face. He took another step in and saw the ring. The confusion froze in his face. It became ice, hard and sharp.

He staggered to the kitchen table and picked up the ring. Cynthia recoiled as he walked towards her. She stood in the stairwell now, rain sluiced down her hood and over her suitcase. Wallace lunged through the window, his greedy fingers pushed through the rain. Instinctively Cynthia moved her hands up to cover herself. The suitcase covered her. Wallace clasped the case and started to twist. Her hands burnt as she tried to hold on. Slick metal slipped from her hands. Wallace lost his handle on the case too. Cynthia kicked him in his head and hurried down the fire escape. She hurdled over her clothes as Wallace wailed above her.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in for this week as well.

My god is a black wolf who lives in the forest that surrounds the capital city of a nation. This is the only city in the nation. She devours any outsider who tries to bring any ideas or technology the city hasn't arrived upon themselves yet.

leekster fucked around with this message at 04:26 on Feb 17, 2015

Jun 20, 2013
Kai I'm blown away. Thank you for caring so much to make me better. I've read it over three times now and have it saved to my desktop. Thank you tremendously for this.

And to repay a small portion of the kindness I recieved I'll line by line the first five to ask me. They'll be done in a week. No bullshit. I won't focus on grammar. But story, character, etc. I'll crit the hell out of that.

Jun 20, 2013
Cry of Progress
Seb's Ah and my Lidya
(564 words)

Lazy plumes stretched from the capital and broke amongst the trees. Lidya opened her mouth and tasted the air. Smoke made it harder to discern scents, but the smell of outsiders was distinct enough that she turned her head in their direction and padded towards them. it wasn’t that they smelled pungent and made her turn her head in disgust. Lidya enjoyed the smells of those from beyond. Some burned her nose with their sharp smell. Others she mistook for the river at times, mud caked onto them inches thick. No, Lidya did not hate any of these people. Everything about them was interesting. But they were dangerous.

They carried danger in their hands, forged by an anvil. They carried it in their pockets, weighted gold inscripted with whatever tongue they knew. They carried danger in their mind, every curve of the valley questioned to be flattened for growth in their eyes. Lidya’s little capital could not meet this danger. They needed to discover misery on their own.

The capital was none the wiser. Fables told of the great black wolf that guarded the forest. The midnight black nightmare that kept them crowded against the cliffside.

Lidya didn’t go hungry for new thoughts. Countless scouting parties reached her forest. They drove metal stakes in the earth to claim it for themselves. Or they’d measure trees and counted berries. The same shadow crept over all of them as fangs tore and gouged them.


Lidya bounded across the forest. Branches snapped as she bounced from leg to leg. Mounds of earth shot up from under her as she stopped. A new scent had arrived. This one carried with it a compelling force. Where the scent was an absence. No matter how hard Lidya focused her eyes on where the scent should be the source squirmed and shifted like trying to follow a single snowflake’s descent.

“What are you?” Lidya snarled. She sat down and curled her tail around her.

“I am the last mile of a race. The blood a fighter loses before his hand is raised. I am the moment in time when the mind clicks and things shift to make sense. I am Ah.” The absence shifted, or rather the environment where the absence was became clear again.

“What are you doing in my forest?” Lidya said. Tentative paws trotted right, the direction she thought Ah had gone.

“Many of my followers travelled here in hopes it would bring them closer to their end. All of those who were enlightened perished before they got there. I was curious to know what made this land so sacred as to stop them.” Ah chimed.

“My capital can’t be allowed to be exposed to the danger of those ideas. They’ll discover swords and other ways to construct their own unhappiness on their own. They don’t require assistance for that.” Lydia said.

“But the losses I’ve suffered here. They must be paid back to me. I am going to push your city to the edge of a great breakthrough. It is up to them to pursue it or not.” And with that the absence vanished.

Lidya boomed across her land and howled for Ah.


Lidya cowered in the strip of forest that remained. An army marched towards her. On their banner that hung high was the image of a black wolf that howled at the moon.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in.

Jun 20, 2013
Severance Pay
487 words

Rivets belched and groaned as metal crumpled. Puny metal discs shot off the subway and left hasty pockmarks on the scrubbed concrete walls. Rupert watched as the woman who had lit his cigarette bounced across the cabin, like a stubborn sock in the wash. He was puzzled over why he was free from gravity’s cruel punishment. When what he thought was right-side up would happen others crashed back down and proved him wrong. When the subway car finally moaned its relief from the crash, focus started to seep back into Rupert’s mind. A handrail had warped and pushed a wheel of his wheelchair through his leg. The dull metal reflected the blood that poured from timidly. Rupert was pinned to the ceiling of the car, like a mouse stuck in a prehistoric trap.

His head stooped low enough so that he saw through a warped window. Ahead of him a dank tunnel stretched until it disappeared into itself in a turn. An urge came from the darkness. A silent song whispered to Rupert. It begged him to close his eyes and just hang there. That relief would come if he just allowed himself to relax. These thoughts brought a warm trickle through Rupert. He rationalized it by thinking that if he tried to move it would only make the injury worse. He cursed himself for picking a con that he needed a wheelchair to preform. Crutches would have convinced the court just as easily.

Wind cried from the far end of the tunnel. Another train was headed towards him. Fingers worked their way into the groove of the wheel in his leg he tried to push it out. Blood made it an issue to keep a grip because it had slicked his entire leg. Light now wrapped itself from around the bend. The bullet train was too fast and too close to prevent catastrophe. Rupert found a rhythm with his leg. He spun the wheel back and forth to pull apart his hamstring that it was pierced through. Each spin brought his leg a little closer to the moment where it sprung free. A scream and he was finished. The wheel spun idly as he dropped head first into the pulp below him. A form crafted itself in the light. Sleek lines that brought themselves to a fierce point screamed towards him. Rupert cursed himself for a forgotten cane and pulled himself through the mush of the porter. His leg barely held itself together with the part of the quadricep that hadn’t been sheared in the crash.
Rupert spat out the shard of someone else’s bone and pulled himself up to the exit. A sign informed him that handicap exits are not operational in the case of power loss and to flip the hydraulic switch in the cabin if he wished to open the door. Rupert turned around and followed the train as it crashed toward him.

Jun 20, 2013
Those five crits I promised are nearly finished. Life snuck up on me last week.

Thank you for the crit fumblemouse.

Jun 20, 2013
I"m in and have never listened to this band. Please give me a song.

Jun 20, 2013
I'm in with a loser and a :toxx:.


Jun 20, 2013
Loser -

With Every Stroke - 884 words

Lena struggled to remember the French her sister had forced her to learn. Did “prêt” mean “start” or “ready”?

“Lane five, prêt?” the official called. Their bowman gave a furious look and went back to focusing on the start. Prêt meant ready.

Lane six was occupied by the Jesuit crew. Sponsored by Vespoli and JL Rowing, they never went a season without entirely new gear. Every part of the equipment had a dull, black radiance. Carbon fiber woven together precisely to keep them fast in the water. This double had beaten Lena and Rama at the Three Rivers Regatta. Three entire lengths of a boat separated them from success.

“Lane six, prêt?” screeched the official, his voice warped by the microphone. Cynthia Geffs gave the slightest nod of her head. She was the fastest female in the US. Every rowing camp had been competing to get her to row for them. She settled predictably in Ithaca. Yale had treated her well and paired her with another perfect rower.

“Lane seven, prêt?” And with that Lena felt the boat shift to port as her sister turned to nod.

“Êstes vous prêt? Partez!” The sound of fourteen pairs of oars prying into the water muffled the last word. Lena followed Rama’s plan for their start; one stroke at half length, another at three-fourths, and another at half to get the boat moving. Lena’s oars bent as if she were trying to pull herself out of the water. She cheated a glance at the Jesuit boat and thought they were maybe a few inches ahead. Now she and her sister had to keep that intensity for the remaining 1,970 meters. 6:17.3 was what the Jesuits pulled at the Three Rivers. Rama couldn’t stop stressing that they’d be faster because this is qualifiers for nationals. Everyone always pulled faster times for nationals.

A white shed passed Lena on her starboard side. She had spotted this landmark during practice and determined that it stood at the course’s five hundred meter mark. Another hurried peek over her shoulder to lane six revealed that she and Rama had pulled a full length ahead of Cynthia. Rowing is the only sport in which the competitor can watch their foes disappear in front of them. Lena savored watching that sleek black boat lag behind.

“Eyes forward!” Rama barked. Rama was hard on technique. She had her sister row with her eyes closed, feet in the water, and sometimes with only one oar so they felt the boat move through their combined grace. Rama was power: 6’6” with broad shoulders that gave her a reach with an oar that few could compete with. Rama always hungered to row the single by herself, but she was too much power for such a small boat. Grace is needed to control the power so the speed isn’t lost. Lena’s job was to keep the savage motions of her sister under control.

Limp flags waved at the rowers from the shore. Halfway through the race, and the Jesuit boat was now two lengths behind them. Cynthia’s head flicked back every few strokes to look out for obstacles. Lena liked to think she saw resignation on her face. Lena and Rama neither went to a camp nor rowed with a team. They were vagrants in rowing culture. They didn’t even own the boat they were rowing in. It was on loan from the local high school team, who needed it driven thirty miles to their race after they got off the water.

Motion bled into Lena’s periphery. A hard blink and the images still floated in her eyes. Motion meant that they were passing the stands. Five hundred meters left. A sprint and they were finished. Though her vision was narrowed, Lena saw Cynthia’s boat pulling towards them. Her hat grew brighter as each stroke threw meters of water behind them. Lena and Rama were tricked. Cynthia had them think that they burnt out halfway through the race so they’d keep sprinting. Now they were still rested, and a fourth of the race was left.

Oarlocks groaned as Lena pushed their strokes per minute up two.

She risked the balance of the boat for the higher speed, but the Jesuits were gaining, and she knew they couldn’t create a distance between them. They could only hope to keep their competitors from passing before the finish. Rama growled as the splash of Cynthia’s oars sprayed them. Now they were only half a boat ahead.

Cynthia’s boat pulled up flush with Lena. With only a few strokes left, their worth would be decided by inches.

“Finish!” an official screamed.

Their boat glided to a stop, and Lena doubled over her oars. A darkness clouded her vision, and she couldn’t sit up without her lungs feeling as if they were pierced. Her breaths sounded like they belonged to someone with a sucking chest wound. Rama stood up straight and looked to the official to wave his flag. It went down and up. Up meant they lost. The Jesuits would move on to Nationals and they would have to wait another year to compete.

Light slowly filtered into Lena’s eyes again. Through the brackish water she saw their bloody souls sink, softly spinning as they caught the current.

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