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NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


I'm in and I'll take the Finland song "Sing It Away".

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge5iMzHc3cY&ebc=ANyPxKr5VPgjDFPdb57I_mOcNUIHgRLBUtzVEwOy_a5qTRv4cOPG__15HJd6EvxT92WkJ1ItgjhJ

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NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


Realism (1,097 words)

Ekaterina sat at the windowsill. She always sat at the windowsill. Every morning. Seven o'clock. She would sit, scribbling on some scrap of paper or another, with the same sort of unfocused but earnest glee that was the exclusive domain of the young. Crayons, with their points long dulled from her excited mashing, ground into the paper. Their wrappers, peeled back to expose more of the colored wax beneath. Drawing, always drawing. Ekaterina's "pictures" could barely be called that. A sort of pure expression of creative thought unbound by the restrictions of form. The point was in the making. The point was in the doing.

She had graduated to pencil. Ekaterina was currently attempting to sketch out her final design. Circles. Always start with circles. An oblong one, tipped on its side, with four straight cylinders jutting off it. Two on the left, two on the right. Then a smaller circle in the upper left, overlaid on top. Now she was getting somewhere. She started nudging in the shapes, cutting into them with concave angles, billowing out with convex ones. A tuft of hair here, a pointed ear there. A mane. A tail.


"...he main cafeteria," her orientation leader said perkily. She jerked out of the daydream. She hadn't been listening at all.

"So, let's split up into groups of five and introduce ourselves," Megan - Was it Megan? - continued.

This was the part of freshman orientation Ekaterina dreaded. Being an expatriate didn't help, but she was always an introvert. She always hated public speaking.

She slung her backpack on one shoulder and slouched off to a currently unfilled group, gathered around a set of desks in the far corner. They stood around, staring at each other. Shuffling from side to side, the dance of the socially maladjusted. Quick glances, that shifted away before one could even think to accuse another of being "creepy". Constant head-jerking, the attempts to seem casual and disinterested betraying how desperate they all were for initial acceptance.

A handsome boy with brown hair stepped forward. "I, uh...guess I'll start," he said uncomfortably.

"Hi. I'm Jeff Corden. I'm from Minnesota. I decided to go to Pratt because..."

He continued on, his voice fading away to a comforting drone.

Ekaterina sat, finishing up her horse drawing. A pretty good job, if she did say so herself. It certainly resembled a member of the equine family, at least, even if the legs were very spindly. She always had problems with extremities.

Time for the second half, the rider. She started the process all over again, a series of circles she overlaid onto the page. Finding her spacing, the locations for what would soon be a head, a torso, one arm, one leg. All facing left, since this was a side-on view. Soon after came the editing, defining out the amorphous blobs into human anatomy. The sort of relentless chiseling she learned from years of studied practice. This was going to be a good drawing, she could feel it.


"...jored in Literature," the black girl with the Mohawk to her right finished. Ekaterina had faded out again. She really needed to stop doing that.

The energy of the group was certainly different. The ice had broken - that's how the euphemism went, right? - and the bespectacled boy was whispering conspiratorially to the Asian woman next to him.

"Ah, thanks...Doreen?" Jeff said quizzically. Doreen nodded, half-smiling.

Jeff locked eyes with Ekaterina. A ball of ice suddenly formed in her stomach.

"So, what's your maj-"

Boom.

As she sat there, adding in the graphical flourishes, a thought struck her. She tried ignoring it, to focus on getting the details of his hat just so, the placement of the hand - she was very bad at hands - just right. Making sure it clenched into a loose fist, holding the invisible reins she hadn't bothered to draw in yet. Trying to describe a certain look to his features, a certain serene placidness that mirrored - No. She put her pencil down.

She didn't know if she was going to continue this hobby. It was becoming very near to actual work. The constant, daily nature of it. There was a certain joy that had been lost, replaced with cold-hearted determination. A certain mechanical, focused seriousness had seeped in. She liked drawing, she liked art, to be sure. But she didn't know if she actually wanted to put in the work to improve.

Ekaterina stood at the metaphorical crossroads of the adolescent, unsure of which direction to go. Although she didn't possess the vocabulary to express it, she was intrinsically aware of the importance of her decision.

Ekaterina stared at the half-finished drawing. It was a pretty good likeness of Giorgi on his mare, she had to admit.

Ekaterina looked up. Out the window. There they were, Giorgi and Mariam. Every morning. Seven o'clock. He nodded to her, just like he had done every morning. For the past three years, in fact. Every day, Giorgi would ride into town on his sad little horse. On his way to work, unless it was Sunday. Then it was Church. The old widower with the big bushy mustache and the newsboy cap astride his tired mare, living his provincial life. There was a certain paradoxical nobility to the whole thing, which is probably what influenced her to draw a portrait. Well, that and how he had, without fail, always nodded to her through the windowsill. The unspoken tenderness between two close acquaintances, formed over hundreds of days of seconds-long meetings.

Ekaterina raised her hand and wav-

Boom.


They all turned to look at the source of the noise. Well. All but one. The young skateboarder sheepishly extricated himself from the pile of garbage he had made. Glancing around at the dozens of people in the quad who now were staring at him appraisingly, he nodded in the universal sign of the apologetic before setting about cleaning up. Righting the trash bin. Picking up the rubbish splayed out in front of it.

"Huh," Jeff remarked. "Where was I? Oh, right."

He turned to her. "What's your major? Or are you undeclared like the rest of us slacker scum?" He grinned at the end of that line, to take the edge off the self-deprecation.

"Illustration," she responded in heavily accented English. Still a bit shaken up.

"Oh, jeez, I forgot to ask your name. Sorry."

"No, it's fine. Ekaterina."

"Ekaterina? Beautiful name." Jeff's eyes narrowed. She cringed internally, knowing his question before he asked it. "What is it, Russian or something?"

"No, Georgian."

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


In.

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


Invisible Hand

Inverting: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3758791&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=41#post459114588

1,152 words

The recruiter, a slim and balding man, was working his teeth into a particularly nasty hangnail when Hunter came in. He paused, and with slow comprehension, asked "Whaddayawant?"

"I'm...uh...here to sign up."

"'Kay." The man started to peck out some keys on the keyboard.

Hunter was a bit nonplussed, but rallied. "I've always wanted to join the Pan-American Collective, ever since I was a kid. Saw the warfront videos. I've been working out for months, and I'm down to a five-minute mile-"

"Don't care."

"I'm sorry?"

"Don't care," the man repeated nonchalantly. He resumed his typing. Hunter could see the headline "PANCO GRAND JURY CONVENES" screaming out in 72-point font on a small TV in the corner.

An old hologram shot out the back of the computer- but this was ancient, early twenty-first century quality at best. Nevertheless, it displayed a (flickering) text field titled "TERMS AND CONDITIONS". "Read and sign."

Hunter walked over to the hologram and tried to read it. The text was too small and the flickering was too frequent to make any headway, nevermind the obtuse legalese the document was stuffed with. After five minutes with no progress, Hunter cringed internally, scrolled quickly to the bottom (which took a solid minute), and signed his name.

"'Hunter Forrest'? Your parents were assholes, huh?"

"That's...well, yeah."

"Okay. 'Do you want to have any notices or special offers e or v-mailed to you?'"

There was a long, awkward pause.

"What?"

"'Do you want to-'"

"No! No, I don't! I just want to fight for my country! That's it."

"Well, okay." The recruiter looked uncharacteristically serious for the first time the entire meeting. "I need you to agree to this NDA. Standard stuff- under no circumstances can you disclose anything you learn while employed in the Pan-American Collective."

"Oh." Finally, an island of sanity amidst all the weirdness. "Cause of, like, opsec?"

"Yeah sure."

"Sounds good." Hunter signed the release. "So now what. When do I get shipped off to training?"

"Training?" the recruiter asked quizzically.

A glowing light engulfed Hunter, and he winked out of existence.

***

Hunter stumbled out of the teleporter, completely disoriented. A tough looking young woman was there to greet him. Hunter could hear the far off thuds of artillery fire.

"You Hunter?" she asked.

"Yeah. Wait- am I on the front lines?" Hunter realized.

"Don't tell me you didn't read the Terms And Conditions," the woman replied. At the look of puzzlement on his face, she sighed deeply. "Okay. I don't have time for this, we're already behind schedule. I'm your manager, Bridget."

"We gotta assault that bunker," Bridget continued, pointing to a nearby hill. She thrust an M-16 into Hunter's hands. "You've used a rifle before, right? Let's go."

"Wait! What are the tactics? Where am I? What's happening? Where's my laser gun?"

"Lasers are expensive. Just go with the flow, what's the worst that'll happen?"

"I'll die."

"Yeah. Exactly."

With that, Bridget started running at the enemy bunker. The flash of machine gun fire illuminated its interior briefly. Around him, Kevin could see many of his fellow Collective soldiers being cut down. Wasn't this supposed to be 2312? Why where they using - what, four hundred year old tech?

Hunter rushed over to where one of them lay. Turning him onto his back, Hunter saw that he'd been shot in the gut. His entrails where hanging out limply. The smell was horrendous.

"Okay, this-this hurts really bad. I need you to kill me," the man said, pale-faced.

"No! You'll...you'll be fine, it's...we can fix you up," Hunter reassured him, choking back a sob.

"Oh for...you didn't read the loving Terms and Conditions," the groaning man spat out angrily. "Look. Look at me. New guy. I'm going to come back. So shoot me in the head. It's just mercy at this point."

"Huh?"

"Didn't you hear him?" a voice from behind him interrupted. Bridget stepped out. "He said that he's going to come back."

She unsheathed her pistol and shot him. The nameless man lay still. She sighed deeply. "Maybe it'll be better if you see," raised the pistol, and shot Hunter in the head.

***

Bridget opened up the chamber. Hunter stumbled out, coughing.

"Okay, come on, we gotta go, we're on a suicide mission," Bridget continued curtly. Hunter opened her mouth to protest. "Before you ask, yes, you just died, and yes, I killed you. I'll explain on the way." The duo picked their way through the eerily silent battlefield.

"So, wait, where are we going? How am I alive? What happened? Where is everyone?" Hunter asked.

"Workday's over. I'm only out here because I'm being paid overtime." Bridget checked the news on her tablet. "'PanCo grand jury', huh? Shouldn't be an issue."

"Overtime?" Hunter asked querulously.

"Okay, so what do you know about the two sides in this war?"

"Uh, there's the Pan-American Collective and the European Corps-"

"Wrong. There's PanCo and EuroCorp. They're the two companies who've monetized this thing. Perpetual war means perpetual income, right?"

"Sure, I guess."

"Right. But what does an endless war need?"

"Endless soldiers," Hunter realized.

"Exactly. So they just transfer bodies whenever anybody dies. That's another profit stream too. I mean, you noticed the change, right?"

Hunter suddenly noticed the back of her hands. "Wait...I'm black?" She looked down. "And a woman?"

"Yeah, cheapest model. They charge you if you want to be any other race. White's the most expensive. And PanCo gets to lower your paycheck by thirty percent if you're female."

The duo loaded into the crusier, which quickly lifted off.

"So what now?" Hunter asked.

"Well, now we're going to crash this hunk of trash into the side of a EuroCorp base. Hopefully we destroy a couple of high-value targets and cost EC some cash in regeneration bills. If not, whatever."

As they settled into the descent, Hunter remarked, "You know, this is extremely hosed up."

"Eh, you get used to it." Bridget's tablet beeped and illuminated. "'PanCo' wait, no!" She climbed into the front and started desperately attempting to pull back on the throttle. it wouldn't budge.

"What's the problem?" Hunter asked, fear in her voice.

"PanCo CEO and board of directors just got indicted on collusion charges!"

"So?"

"'So!' 'So!' So what happens when your company gets indicted?!"

"Uh, they arrest you, they take your files, they freeze your assets...wait."

"Yeah, exactly. They freeze your assets. And who do you think pays our regen bills?"

"poo poo."

Bridget fiddled with the console. "Hmm, not enough fuel to fly away. Makes sense. Like how kamikaze pilots in World War II had exactly enough gas for a one-way trip."

An uneasy silence descended in the cabin.

"You know," said Hunter at last, "what made me join was videos of Captain Bridge and his Howling Commandos fighting on the front lines of V291. It was-"

The ship exploded.

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


In with copper pennies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auhByjWYOtQ

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


Stress Relief (1,140 words)

Marie crouched in the bush, vine hanging loose in her hand. It snaked along the ground, terminating on a stick which propped up one half of a cardboard box she had found while trying to make her way back to the campsite. Underneath the box was a single leaf of lettuce. About five feet away, a wild rabbit foraged for food.

She kept on thinking of that one Looney Tunes cartoon, the musical one with Elmer Fudd dressed up as a viking. How he'd go around singing "Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit" to Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries. Kill it indeed.

She never should've been in the woods.

Tomás was giddy as a schoolboy when they finally loaded up the tiny sedan and drove out to Yosemite, babbling endlessly about "roughing it" and "living off the land". They brought actual supplies, obviously, because Marie was going to be good and goddamned before she lived on nuts and berries for three days. The irony wasn't lost on her, since she had spent the past day and a half - ever since she got lost - eating only food she could forage.

She was desperate to have something actually filling in her stomach. She wanted meat.

Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit.

She may have grudgingly acquiesced to the trip, but she didn't have to like it. Tomás' excitement quickly evaporated in the face of her relentless scorn. She needled him all day over every little thing - the tent taking too long to set up, the hot dogs being undercooked, the water being too cold. Marie expressed her frustration at being dragged along on this whole adventure by making Tomás as miserable as she was.

Eventually, after her complaint that the s'mores were "too sticky", Tomás had had enough. "You're being a real bitch right now," he said.

The immediate look of regret on his face told the story before he had even opened his mouth. He had crossed a line, and he knew it. But the damage had been done. Marie stormed off into the woods, ignoring Tomás' shouted apologies, which quickly turned into a fearful treatise that she return. She didn't even have a flashlight, and it was the middle of the night. She could get lost.

Marie ignored his pleas, crying angrily at how he could call her "the b-word" when she had already sacrificed so much just agreeing to go on this whole stupid camping trip. He knew how much she hated the woods, he knew it. How dare he insult her.

It was only after she wiped her eyes when she realized that she had no idea where she was.

She remembered spending a couple hours wandering, desperately calling Tomás' name, hoping he would find her in the darkness. She remembered sleeping, shivering, until it was light out.

She remembered sitting in the clearing and wracking her brain. What was it Tomás had said, in all of those wilderness survival lessons she had half-listened to? Whatever you do...whatever you do. Whatever you do, make sure to find high ground, make a fire, and find fresh water.

She had immediately spied the highest landmark in the vicinity - a nearby mountain, which luckily had a stream running through it. She climbed it to a nearby outcropping, which led into a shallow cave. She had built a fire on the cliff - thank god for Tomás' insistence that they both carry a waterproof case of matches.

Marie then spent the next twenty-four hours either waiting by the fire or foraging. If you get lost, someone will come, Tomás always said. Another nugget of information that had bubbled to the surface of her mind. They'll find you. The only way they won't is if you wander around, and since Marie had food, water, and shelter there wasn't any need. Stay visible, keep the fire going, and you'll be rescued.

Marie stared out from her hidey-hole in the bush. She could see the campfire burning brightly above her. She had followed Tomás' instructions to a tee, and now all there was to do was wait.

Well, there was one other thing. She had noticed all the wild rabbits rooting around, but they had immediately run off whenever she tried to approach. But then she’d discovered the discarded cardboard box and, well, one thing led to another.

The rabbit had actually made its way over to the lettuce leaf. It stopped, skittered around the lone vegetable, then settled in to chew. Marie stared at it, then yanked on the vine. The stick flew out, and the box thumped on top of the rabbit.

She had done it. Unbelievable.

Marie got up, dusted herself off, and sighed. She picked up the large stick she had found - just in case - and ambled over to the box. Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit.

She could hear it trying to escape, could feel its fear. She opened up the top of the box.

There. in the corner. The rabbit stared back at her, ears flopped to its side. She lifted the stick over her head, ready to smash it down, to deliver the killing blow. Kill the wabbit, kill the wa-bit, Elmer Fudd kept thundering in her head. She wasn't killing it for fun, she was killing it to eat, to survive. Marie had the excuses lined up in her head but her arms just wouldn't...move.

She stared at the rabbit. So defenseless. What was she doing.

She tossed the stick to the side. She started to sob uncontrollably.

Tears streamed down her face. Marie reached in the box, and picked up the rabbit. One last pet before she-Ow.

In a daze, Marie looked at her finger. The bite mark was deep, it had drawn blood.

Her fingers grasped around its neck and she felt it paw in terror and she squeezed and she squeezed, its eyes bulging in fear, kill the wabbit kill the wa-bit, she shook it wildly and it started screaming and the screaming was so loud and it hurt her head, stop the screaming, make the screaming stop, the screaming was ice picks in her head, she felt the neck break in her hands and it was still screaming, even though it was dead, she had to mute the noise kill the wabbit kill the wa-bit, and she squeezed harder and harder and the rabbit screamed and screamed and its eyes bulged harder and harder until they popped and it stopped and it laid still.

Marie stared at the furry bundle in her hand for a long time before twisting its head like a corkscrew.

***

Marie looked up. The helicopter was hovering above her campfire. She tossed the legbone she had been gnawing on to the side, then stood up and waved her hands above her head.

NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


In with Tales from Suburbia.

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NieR Occomata
Jan 18, 2009


Sorry, gonna have to drop this one. I've been sick all week and been hoping to get better but I'm just starting to kick this cold. I'll make it up in the future. Apologies, again.

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