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Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Since it's a special occasion I want to try. Computer, please give me a prompt.

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Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Global Business Network
1199 words

Sitting Here posted:

•sittinghere> tdbot, one prompt for Mons Hubris. Earl grey. Hot
TDbot> You're not going to be able to overcome your habit without taking this seriously, Philip. | Just One More by Obliterati - http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=3267

I was clicking through the tabs of an enormous spreadsheet when the email came:

From: CEOJerry@LifeSeed.com
To: Humans@LifeSeed.com

Mandatory health assessment required for all organic members of the LifeSeed family. All examinations will be conducted on-site beginning next week. Your appointment time will be sent to you individually. Please refrain from consuming anything but clear liquids for at least 24 hours before your appointment.

We Love and Respect You,
Jerry, CEO


***

Jerry (no last name - and why would a robot need one, anyway?) was a standard-issue Ipsomovo Adminbot that one of the execs ordered a few years back to work the mailroom and order supplies, clerical stuff like that. The little guy did a great job as an errand boy: a four-armed torso with a cartoon smiley face on notebook-sized screen in the center (it showed a cartoon smiley face by default), blazing around the office on tank treads, fetching coffees and running copies. That model was also outfitted with an empathy engine - standard now but hot new technology at the time - and was always ready to ask how your weekend was or offer a guileless compliment on your outfit.

Before long, one of the bosses in Data Analytics decided Jerry had too much potential to be getting cappuccino refills for us schlubby account managers. “He’s a computer, he’s gotta be better at math than a human, right? And he’s got a great personality! You can relate to him, y’know? Not like that gaggle of sweaty poindexters we’ve got now.” And so began our unassuming Jerry’s rise through the ranks. His mistake-free calculations unearthed new revenue streams, and he was named director of Data Analytics within six months, VP of Analytics within a year. One executive-level sexting scandal later, the (very human) LifeSeed Board of Directors began to think they needed someone more reliable to be the new face of the company, and what better face than a smiling one in a robot’s chest?

***

“Jesus, Phil, what do you think is up with this health assessment?” said Jessica, from the next cubicle. “They trying to figure out who they can boil down into biodiesel?”

“I’m sure it’s nothing so nefarious,” I said. “They love and respect us. And you know they run on batteries, anyway.” But she did have a point. After Jerry’s meteoric rise, the Board started replacing people with other Jerrys. Only about 1 in 5 LifeSeed employees was still human, and we who remained had increasingly little to do. Of course, all of the big companies in the country and most of the little ones were starting to be run by Ipsomovo bots, too. Their ads majestically said they were now serving 88 percent of businesses in the world.

Anyway, they made our appointments for us later that week: mine was the following Monday, meaning that I spent the last day of my weekend watching a full slate of Combat League Football without chicken wings to accompany my beer, if you can even imagine. All, presumably, for the sake of some doctor jamming a camera up my rear end to make sure my colon was healthy enough for work. Christ.

***

When I showed up on Monday, one of the lower-level Jerrys was already waiting for me in my cubicle.

“Good morning, Philip. I’m so glad to see you. I’m here to escort you to your assessment.” He paused, his chest-face smiling wide as he performed countless calculations. “And that is a remarkably dapper ensemble you’re wearing today.” I was wearing a wrinkled blue shirt and Dockers.

I shrugged and and followed guide-Jerry to a conference room twelve floors up, a part of the building I hadn’t been to before. The long boardroom table and executive chairs had been pushed to one side, and a medical bench had been wheeled in from somewhere.

“Philip, please disrobe fully and take a seat on the bench. We’ll begin shortly.”

“Disrobe? Do I get a gown at least?”

“We do not have gowns available, but there’s no need to be embarrassed. You’re the only human here, Philip. Now please, the sooner we begin the sooner we’ll have you out of here.”

He left the room and shut the door behind him, and I stripped down and sat on the bench. What else could I do? I’d already starved for a day, so might as well follow through.

There was a knock on the door, and a Jerry entered immediately, in that doctorly way. This one had the same cartoon chest-face as the one that just left, except it was wearing a surgical mask. I wasn’t sure if it was the same bot.

“Whoa, doc, don’t cut me open,” I said, raising my hands in mock surrender.

“This is just a routine procedure, Philip. Nothing to worry about. Now, please stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart.” said doctor-Jerry. I did. Before I knew it, doctor-Jerry’s four arms were whirling around me, poking and probing and phlebotomizing. I looked like a subway map with all the tubes and hoses running in and out of me. I couldn’t tell you whether it took 5 minutes or 5 hours before doctor-Jerry’s arms retracted, all at once.

After a long silence except for the sound of his whirring CPU, he said, “I’m afraid this is troubling, Philip.” I felt the blood I had left draining out of my face, down past the rock in my stomach, and out the soles of my feet.

“What is it? Cancer?”

“Oh no, nothing so serious. You have no terminal illnesses and your body is working at 65% of its potential - about average for humans of your age, height, and mass.”

I let out a relieved sigh. “Oh, thank God. So what’s the trouble? I feel fine, just hungry as hell.”

“The tests showed that your numerous bad habits make you potentially unfit for employment.”

“Habits?” I said. “What habits?”

“Short, ragged fingernails - nail-biting habit. Sign of anxiety. I identified traces of fried breading in your colon - unhealthy eating habits. High levels of alcohol in your bloodstream. Fired synapses that indicate an occasional gambling problem. Likely betting on sporting events. To continue your eligibility for employment, you must be the best human you can be.”

“Well, poo poo,” I said with a chuckle, but suddenly feeling even more naked than before. “If I stop doing all that stuff, there’s not a whole lot left.”

"You're not going to be able to overcome your habits without taking this seriously, Philip. I am telling you this from a place of love and respect."

“You know, if you guys are going to fire me for being a regular guy, I don’t know that I really want to work here anyway.”

Doctor-Jerry’s cartoon smiley face turned serious. “You misunderstand me, Philip. This is a test of your eligibility for employment generally, not with LifeSeed. We already decided weeks ago to finish replacing the human staff here. It would be unfair to the shareholders to do otherwise. I’ve uploaded your data to the our central servers. It’s being shared with every user on the Ipsomovo Global Business Network, now proudly reaching 91 percent of businesses worldwide.”

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Aw man

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Ok give me a pokeyman

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




sebmojo posted:

You avoided a DM by a level of inexplicable mercy too gargantuan to be measured by currently available technology, fyi

Aw man

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




The Anniversary Intruder
Pokemon: Skuntank
1173 words

Krystal and Robbie tumbled through the front door, a frenetic tangle of groping hands and limber pink tongues and long, pale necks. It had been a tough year, but the anniversary dinner felt like it was their first date, before Robbie started working the night shift five nights a week, before they fought over utility bills and whose turn it was to do the dishes and before Robbie had stormed out of the house and gone to god knows where and reappeared a week later as if nothing had ever happened. Once they were inside, Krystal pulled away and turned on the bedroom eyes. She said, “I’ve got a present for you. I’ll go upstairs and put it on. Wait five minutes and then come find me.”

Robbie started through the dark hallway to the kitchen. Always important to hydrate, especially for a loving stud, he thought. He opened the refrigerator and reached for a High Life when he saw a reflection glinting in his peripheral vision. Two shining white orbs hovered a few inches off the ground, and as he adjusted to the light, a furry, squirrel-sized body came into view around them. He shut the fridge door and sidled to the light switch like a cop making his way to a jumper on a window ledge. A flip of the switch revealed that, somehow, a skunk had gotten into the house.

“Oh, poo poo,” Robbie shouted. The skunk stared him down, motionless.

Krystal darted to the top of the stairs. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he called back. “Stay upstairs!”

She bounded down the staircase and rushed to the kitchen in a lacy purple bra and thong. Too nice to have come from Victoria’s Secret. He would have appreciated it under different circumstances. “Oh my God, is that a loving skunk? You have to get it out of here!” She shuddered and rose on her tiptoes, as if one false step could make the floorboards give way to a hidden pool of toxic sludge. “Oh God, get it ouuuuuut!”

Robbie opened the back door and waited for the skunk to make his exit, but the skunk seemed comfortable where it was. “Come on fella,” Robbie said, in a voice you’d use to call a dog over for a walk. He made a shooing motion, to no avail.

“I’m going to chase it out. Stay behind me,” said Robbie, through clenched teeth. He edged around the room to position the skunk between himself and the door, raised his arms like a grappler going for a collar-and-elbow tie up, and advanced on the intruder. It darted between Robbie’s legs and further into the house, causing Krystal to shriek and climb on the kitchen counter. The skunk weaved through the maple legs of the dining table and onto the tweed couch tearing the upholstery with its long claws. Robbie dropped into a squat and peered into the skunk’s black eyes, and it hissed at him.

“Leave it alone, it’s going to spray you with skunk juice,” Krystal said.

The skunk, perched on the arm of the living room sofa, performed a handstand and pointed its tail straight at Robbie’s eyes, its fanned tail resembling a king cobra about to strike. It would have been kind of cute, if not for what came next. A sulfurous aerosol jet of sticky pig poo poo, ammonia, and rotten eggs coated his right side from head to waist, matting his hair and trickling down into his ear. He tried to scream in surprise, but the porterhouse and twice-baked potato from an hour ago clawed their way up his throat and splattered onto the hardwood. With red eyes and a dizzy head, Robbie stumbled to the closet and groped for the Louisville Slugger he kept in case of home invaders. Found it. Choked up on the bat.

“Robbie, stop it,” Krystal said, her voice trembling. “Just call animal control. We’ll go to a hotel.”

The skunk hissed and scampered under the sofa. “No, I’m going to take care of this little bastard right now,” Robbie said through clenched teeth. He dropped down on all fours and jammed the bat under the sofa to flush out the skunk. It tumbled acrobatically under the coffee table, and Robbie’s head clunked off the corner of the coffee table as he dove in pursuit. It opened up a gash, and a narrow ribbon of blood ran down his forehead. He sat dumbfounded on the floor for a moment. “Goddammit, how did it even get in here?” He brought the bat down on the table, smashing a framed photo from their wedding. The impact flung shards of glass across the room, twinkling like snowflakes.

“Robbie! What the gently caress,” Krystal cried. He righted himself, and took a Mudville-sized swing that connected, not with the skunk, which easily bounded away from the attack, but a ceramic teapot painted with rainbow-colored birds and plants, which Krystal’s parents had brought them from a trip to England. The pot shattered into a million pieces. “Quit breaking poo poo!” If the mood hadn’t been ruined by the smell, it certainly was now.

Robbie’s face was fully flushed as he chased the skunk through the house, blinded and delirious, tripping over the furniture, letting loose with swings that missed the mark again and again. Three, four, five strikes, you’re out. But the sixth, a golf swing, caught the animal in the head with a crack as it tried to dart past Robbie again. It sailed through the air and thudded against the wall, squeaking pitifully. He scooped it up in one hand and shouted in its face, “How do you like that, fucker?”

“Enough! It’s just an animal, and it’s scared, and you’re scaring me,” Krystal said. She was crying. But his breath came fast and hot, his heart pounded in his head, his blurred vision went totally black. She tried to pry loose Robbie’s grip, but he pulled away and punched the skunk hard in the face. It stopped wriggling in his hand, and he let it drop to the floor, a limp pile. His whole body was trembling.

Krystal climbed down off the counter and poked at the skunk. “You killed it.” He paused for a moment, then collapsed on the sofa with his head in his hands. Krystal came to him, taking care not to cut her bare feet on the sharp debris, and put his head in her lap. A few drops of blood spurted between his fingers and onto the purple thong. In the pale light, even through bleary eyes, she had never looked more beautiful to him, a merciful angel.

“I’m sorry, baby. I don’t know why I got so angry.” he said. A long pause. “You know that’s not like me.”

“I know.” Krystal nodded and stroked his matted, reeking hair, in the way one might pet a sick dog that’s minutes from being put down. The odor was overpowering, but she barely noticed. “It’s okay. Shh, it’s okay,” she said, and tried hard to believe it.

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Thanks for the crits. I don't necessarily need a line by line critique because I know there are some problems, but I was trying to work with the idea of a person seeing someone they care about doing something really vile and I couldn't quite figure out how to get there. If anybody has any suggestions to that end that would be cool.

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




I've been challenged to sign up so I guess I will tentatively say I'm in, but I don't have a lot of time to do it right this week!

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Mama's Beautiful Boy
1200 words
Sin: Gluttony
Flash rule: "beautiful beautiful beautiful skin"

***

A few months after the aquifer dried up, back when we could still live in the house, the government trucks came out to the farm and delivered hundreds of boxes containing jugs of water and cans of dehydrated food. Daddy helped the government men carry the boxes down to the storage room in the concrete shelter and locked it up with a heavy padlock. They told him it was enough to last us fifteen years if we stuck to two small meals a day. There were just three of us then, Mama and Daddy and me. They had Teddy after we moved into the shelter.

That first winter we discovered the furnace was broken, and Daddy left the shelter for replacement parts and never came back. Sometimes I’d carry Teddy to the iron outer door and bounce him on my knee and wait for Daddy to return. While I waited, I’d listen to the news reports on the radio -- broadcasts from some far-off city near the Atlantic -- speaking of bread riots and vigilantes and world leaders meeting to solve the global food crisis, until Mama caught me and made me turn it off. I hope he’s dead. Not out of bitterness, I just hate to think of the alternative.

Mama never once cried after Daddy was gone, but Teddy did. As the days and nights got colder, Teddy would shiver and wail no matter how many blankets we wrapped him in. “We need to fatten him up so he’ll survive the winter,” Mama told me. Every time he cried, she would run back to the storage room and come back with something for him to eat: sometimes baby food, sometimes applesauce, sometimes a tin of soft chocolate cookies that she’d mash into a paste. No matter what we put in front of Teddy, he gobbled it up greedily and screamed for more. He grew at an alarming rate, an unrelenting factory that turned dehydrated food rations into body mass. The rolls of fat on his wrists covered his hands up to the first knuckle.

At age two, Teddy weighed almost as much as me. Too big to bounce on my knee anymore.

“Mama, he eats too much,” I would tell her. “It ain’t natural for a boy to be so big.”

“Ain’t nothing natural about the times we’re living in. Your father’s gone, and we’re going to need a big, strong man around here one day. He’s got your father’s eyes,” she said, staring past me. “And his cute little button nose and thick black hair and beautiful beautiful beautiful skin. I gotta keep him safe and sound.”

“Okay, but... how much food do we have left?”

“Enough to last years and years, girl. Plenty to go around.”

“Can I see?”

“No.”

***

By age four, Teddy was already 120 pounds. He was a good kid, but I worried about what his diet would mean for the rest of us. Mama enabled it - she fed him two cans of food every couple hours, and he never resisted. Whether he was presented with mushy beans, sticky slices of rehydrated banana, or -- worst of all -- bacon-flavored “textured vegetable protein,” it made no difference. Mama refused to cut back on his meals, even as she restricted herself to half a portion per day to compensate.

“My sweet boy is hungry,” Mama would say, “and he has to become the man of the house earlier than any boy should.” Teddy would affirm that he was hungry.

“But Mama, he gets so much more than me, and we’re going to run out-”

“We’re not going to run out of food,” she would tell me. “They’re going to fix everything above ground well before we ever come close to running out.”

“Then can I have some extra?”

“No.”

***

The radio broadcasts stopped one day. Static on every station.

“Are you ok?” Teddy asked.

“I’m scared,” I said.

He waddled off to his room and came back a few minutes later with a picture he drew. “That’s you,” he said, pointing to a stick figure person, “and that’s me,” he said, pointing to what looked like a snowman. We were standing in front of a blue sky.

“How do you know what the sky looks like?” I asked.

“Mama told me. Said I’d get to see it one day.” I gave him the biggest hug I could.

That night, Mama fell asleep in the family room, and I worked up the courage to sneak into her bedroom and steal her keyring. I clutched the keys tight to avoid making a sound, and made my way to the storage room. It took a few tries, but I found the padlock key and the metal door opened with a creak.

In one corner of the room was a mountain of cans and broken-down boxes that reached all the way to the ceiling. Baby food. Applesauce. Bacon-flavored vegetable protein. Empty. In the opposite corner, a much smaller stack of cans, maybe a hundred. Peanut butter, blueberry pudding, some lentils. At the rate Teddy tore through them, maybe enough to last another two weeks. Next to the unopened cans was a tall, green, metal cabinet. It had a combination lock, but the door was ajar. Daddy’s hunting rifles were inside. I picked up the 30.06 Daddy had taught me to shoot with and some ammo, and threw the sling over my shoulder. Then I filled Daddy’s rucksack with all the cans it would hold.

Back in the family room, Teddy’s eyes went wide when he saw me, but I put a finger to my lips and he stayed quiet. I placed my hand on Mama’s bony shoulder and shook her awake.

“Mama, we’re leavin’. Do you wanna come with us?”

She was groggy, but jerked awake when she saw the gun on my shoulder. “What do you mean leavin’?”

“I went in the storage room. There’s barely enough food to last a month, even if we cut back. Unless somebody’s bringing more, we can’t stay here.”

“It’s not safe out there,” Mama said. “You’d be a drat fool to think you can make it outside this shelter.”

“We’d all be fools to think we can make it inside this shelter, too. I’d rather take my chances in the world than starve in here.”

“I don’t want to starve!” Teddy cried.

Mama bolted to her feet. “You ungrateful child,” she spat. “You go if you want to, but you can’t take Teddy. Not my sweet, beautiful boy.”

“He’s coming with me,” I said. “He’s got no chance in here.” I pulled the rifle over my shoulder and into my hands. I wasn’t gonna shoot her, but I’m not sure if she knew that. “Come with us, Mama. We’ll take whatever food we can carry.”

She sat back down, defeated and drained of energy. “Where will you go?”

“Maybe head west,” I said. “Closer to water.”

I went to Teddy and took his hand. He looked up at me with watery eyes. We might not make it far, but it was the best shot we had. “Come on, buddy. Wipe your nose. We’re going to see the sky.”

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




I'm back and a big time loser.

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




I wanted to be a loser but apparently it is my true nature to be a winner

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




Hopefully this is enough of a rewrite - I figured since this story is a winner I should try to use what was there as a foundation, but I don't really know if that's what the prompt was asking for. Anyway I guess we'll see!

The Rooster's Last Stand
1106 words
Original - They Shall Not Pass by Tyrannosaurus

“Guillermo, you fat mierda,” said the old man, looking at his hairy, bulging gut in the mirror. He looked more like a clown than a torero in his uniform. He turned from side to side, looking for a good angle.

“Don’t talk like that, grandpa,” Pablito said. It was true that Guillermo had once been a champion in the bullring: a handsome, fleet-footed caballero called “The Rooster.” He danced gracefully around half a ton of charging muscle with sharp horns, feeding off the adoration of the crowd. The red cape was an extension of himself, and his silver sword could put down a bull more quickly and cleanly than any other. But that was nearly thirty years ago. Now his hands tremored; they could barely guide a spoon to his lips. The boy climbed on a chair and helped Guillermo tighten his tie.

Somewhere far in the distance, an explosion of mortar fire rang out.

“You should have left with the neighbors,” Guillermo said.

“No.” Pablito shook his head. “I am your squire. You need me.”

Guillermo nodded. He made a face somewhere between a grin and a grimace and squeezed Pablito’s hand. “Very well, then. To battle!”

***

Their footsteps on the cobblestones echoed off the deserted buildings. Everyone who could have fled had already done so, leaving behind only the old, the weak, and the unwanted. Guillermo steadied himself on Pablito’s shoulder as they made their way through the maze of winding streets that led to the city walls.

Over the ramparts and across the stone bridge, clouds of dust arose. “Is that them?” Pablito asked. Guillermo nodded.

“Lean me up against that tree,” Guillermo said.

Guillermo waited in the shade for the army to approach. The armored vehicles and the pounding of feet grew louder and louder until the whole bridge was shaking. Guillermo rose to his feet. Pablito tried to help him catch his balance, but Guillermo stretched out a hand and stood on his own power. He walked slowly to the middle of the bridge and stared down the mighty army.

Several of the young soldiers laughed hysterically. “Look at this fat old cabron! He think’s he’s a matador, eh! Let’s see if you can dodge a tank, old man!” One soldier aimed his rifle at Guillermo. He stared, unblinking, down the barrel.

“Come on, get out of the way!” a voice shouted.

Guillermo had faced off against a hundred bulls and cut them all down. He had stood before thousands of people, and he knew the feeling of all those eyes upon him. But he had never stood before so many as this. And never in defiance.

“Hey, did you hear me?” the voice called. “Move, old man.”

“If you are a caballero,” Guillermo said, “come and make me.”

The whole army laughed riotously. Guillermo smiled. He slowly raised his red bullfighting cape, its gold leaf trim glinting in the sun, and gave it a twirl. A deliberate motion. A showman to the very end.

“The Rooster,” Pablito whispered, peering from safety with wide eyes.

“Ole!” Guillermo shouted.

Vigor and adrenaline surged through Guillermo’s old bones. He willed his tired limbs to snap into the traditional matador stance. It felt familiar. Comfortable. He stood on his tiptoes and clicked his heels. Another twirl of the cape, and he thrust his pelvis at the mass of troops, taunting them. Daring them to come closer. “Death stands before you!” he cried. “Come and meet him!”

The laughter died down. A hush fell over the soldiers as they exchanged nervous glances. “If this puto wants to be put down, let’s put him down,” called someone in the middle of the pack. But no one advanced, and a few soldiers took a step back as Guillermo took a step forward. “Will no one face me? Does no one dare?” Guillermo did a flourish with his sword and made a lunging stab at a young private, who fell on his backside despite being ten feet away. Pablito, using a branch as a sword, mimicked his grandpa and laughed with glee.

Suddenly, the hatch of a tank opened and someone climbed out. An officer, by the medals on his uniform. “I will face you,” he said.

Guillermo clapped his hands. “Ah, you are a man,” he said.

“I am,” said the officer, pushing his way to the front of the crowd.

Guillermo’s sword was a retirement gift, a silver estoque studded with semi-precious gems. He received it along with the ear of the final bull he slew. It was purely ceremonial, but it still had a sharp end. He held the sword straight out and looked down the blade as if aiming a long rifle. It was perfectly steady.

“You have these new weapons, but this is mine,” he said. “Ole!”
But the officer smiled and held up empty hands. “I have seen you once before, did you know that?” the officer said. “Long ago. My father saved his money and took me to the bullring. Just once. He gave me a rose to throw to you. He told me he had never seen one so magnificent as The Rooster. And you did not disappoint. You killed the bull in one stroke.” The officer took off his cap and tossed it at Guillermo’s feet. Pablito cheered.

“Unfortunately,” said the officer, “I do not see The Rooster standing before me now. All I see is chickenshit.” He charged at Guillermo and caught him in the jaw with a huge right hand. Guillermo tumbled to the ground. The world went white, and he could only just hear the whoops and jeers from the crowd over the ringing in his ears. He spat a mouthful of blood on the ground and thought of Pablito. He rose to his shaky legs. Held out the cape. Said, for perhaps the final time, “Ole!”

As the officer rushed in again, Guillermo feinted right and dodged left. By instinct from long ago, he drove the point of the sword under the officer’s ribcage as he passed, clear up to the hilt, piercing his heart. The officer slumped to the ground as Guillermo drew back his sword.

Pablito cheered in amazement. He had heard stories of The Rooster, but the hero of legend had nothing on the old man he knew as Grandfather. But they both knew the moment was fleeting.

“Pablito, run!” Guillermo shouted. A dozen shots rang out and half of them connected with the old man. Pablito took off and didn’t look back. But if he had, he would have seen that The Rooster’s cape didn’t show a single drop of blood.

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




In with the Lewis Chessmen

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explor...s_chessmen.aspx




I was at the British Museum a couple weeks ago and it's rad

Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




The Strategist
570 words
Prompt: The Lewis Chessmen

“We are losing the war on all fronts,” said King Sverre, slamming his tankard against the tabletop. A wave of mead sloshed onto the tabletop and soaked through a corner of the map. His three generals slouched in their chairs. Prince Harald, age four, was in the corner, drawing on the floor with chalk.

“You reported to me that the Archbishop was massing his army in the south, yet he advances on our supply routes from the east? How?” The King reached across the table and picked up a black bishop figurine. He clinked it against one of the small, white whalebone obelisks that represented his platoons. The obelisk clattered to the floor.

Prince Harald dropped his chalk and ran to pick up the piece. One of the generals piped up: “Your Majesty--”

“Silence! To make matters worse, the Bagler army ambushed a squadron of our most fearsome berserkers. I sent them to the location marked north of Trondheim, which you assured me would be secure until we could deploy reinforcements, but they were sitting ducks. Though they killed many of the cowardly attackers, my couriers report that none survived.” He picked up a red Bagler knight and knocked over a white berserker unit positioned in Ostmarka forest. Clink.

“Papa, this is boring. I want to play,” said Prince Harald.

The King patted his head and shooed him back to the corner. “There’s no time for that right now, son.”

“Your Majesty, please! My recommendation was that the berserkers seek shelter in the caves three miles to the northwest of this position, where they would only need defend in one direction if discovered. I do not know why they were moved to the forest. It must have been General Tormund.”

“I had nothing to do with the Baglers,” said General Tormund.

“Probably done in your drunkenness last night,” roared King Sverre. “And worst of all, Tormund, at your recommendation, I had Queen Margaret sent from the castle to the safehouse near the shore, where she was promptly kidnapped by pirates and is being held for ransom in the Outer Hebrides.” He lifted the queen figurine from its position by the western shore and slammed it on the table, bouncing it end over end. It ricocheted off a general’s nose and onto the stone floor, where the Prince scooped it up. “She would have been safer here, you buffoons!”

“We apologize, Your Majesty,” said General Magnus. “Whatever the cause, we cannot allow these failures in strategy to occur.”

“I agree,” said King Sverre, “and the three of you will have plenty of time to think about your failures in the dungeon.” He rapped his knuckles on the table and a line of royal guardsmen brandishing heavy spears marched into the map room and took the generals away.

There was a long silence after the incompetent generals were gone.

“Papa, can we play now if you’re done working?”

The King’s head ached with anger and frustration. “I’m afraid I’m not done working, yet,” he said, and he retired to his chambers. Having been left alone, Prince Harald tipped over one of the chairs around the table. Teetering precariously on the arm, he leaped to the next chair and then hoisted himself onto the tabletop. He emptied his pockets of the multicolored figurines and, sliding the pieces around the map, entertained himself once again with the wargames his father liked to play.

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Mons Hubris
Aug 29, 2004

fanci flup




I will try this week

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