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Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in.

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Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


A Courtly Education, 500 words

"Emera, you are the Princess of Ladholt-"

"-Inheritor of the Realm, first of her name, my beloved daughter-" Emera said in unison, mocking her father's voice.

"-AND NOT A GODDAMN CHILD!" Her father yelled, slamming his sword against the pillar in a shower of sparks. Emera leapt back into a defensive stance, sword low.

"So why," her father continued, calmly now, "Are you being a little spoiled brat?"

She stepped forward, defiant. "Because I don't want to learn sword fighting. It's a waste of time when I could be learning Frankish, or practicing my dancing, or other proper things."

"Is that so? Frankish lessons are more exciting than swordplay? My daughter the scholar," he replied sarcastically.

"Of course not! I'd rather be running in the fields, or gossiping with the maidens, or playing with the dogs. But if I have to learn, it should at least be useful. How does a sword help me marry a prince? How does a warrior princess help the realm? Isn’t that what you’re always telling me is my duty?"

Father stood there silently, then sheathed his sword. "Fine. Go play. Just be in your room at dusk."

"Why?" Emera asked, and her father turned away.

At dusk, her father entered. She had been already for some time, curious and afraid. He was dressed strangely, like a commoner in travel clothes. "Here, put this on. Quickly! We need to leave immediately."

He handed her a travel cloak, a satchel, and a dagger. "No questions!" He hissed in reply to her look.

"We are leaving the palace. If we are spotted, you are grounded til winter. Do you understand?"

Emera nodded. "How do we get out the front gate?"

"We don't. It's time I showed you your home's secrets." They ducked down one corridor, then another, to a small plain door.

“The guards know these halls like their own homes,” Emera said.

“Falken, when he built this castle, had hidden exits included just in case. My grandmother showed them all to me, when I reclaimed this place. Not even your maidens know them all.”

“Why are we leaving? What’s this have to do with anything?” Emera asked.

Her father waited for a moment, then slipped through the door. “Your great-grandmother used these passages to escape when Tourans sacked the castle, after nearly a year of siege. She was a young woman at the time, only a little older than you now.”

Two guards passed, and he fell quiet. They were near the outer walls now, and her father opened a small hatch. “She was the only one to survive out of all her brothers and sisters.”

“And that’s why you want me to learn swordplay?” Emera said as she followed him down.

“Frankish may be what’s best for the realm, but you’re my daughter. When things fall apart, and the realm is gripped by chaos, well… honor is just a word when you’re defenseless. Do you understand now?”

Emera nodded. They were outside the castle.

“Good.”

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


In, please flash me.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I throw myself upon the mercies of the judges

Temptations, 995 words

Joshua stood in hidden in the dark alleyway. It was sheltered, somewhat, from cold driving rain, but he still rammed his hands into his pockets and shivered. He’d have to move soon, either out into light or back the way he came. The fires of damnation ahead, or the cold walk back to faithfulness. Staying here just meant he’d soak through, standing next to a dumpster.

He stared at the Marigold Theatre, old and rundown but still glorious. It had always captured his imagination, the way the gold trim and bright neon lights caught the eye. Even as a child, even as his father had warned him, he stared at it.

“Don’t step foot in that demonic place,” his father had warned him. “Not unless cheap thrills from those pornographic films are worth your immortal soul. Those gay Hollywood heretics will burn for their perversion, and you’ll burn along with them if you let them tempt you.” Joshua had never asked his father about the Marigold Theatre again. His father wasn’t a man to repeat himself.

He had believed his father for years. Everyone else saw the Marigold as gaudy place that showed old boring movies no one watched, and the occasional student film festival. He had been mildly embarrassed at the time, feeling ignorant and stupid.

Joshua took a few steps forward, out of the darkness. He didn’t see Rebecca, and wondered if she had changed her mind - a convenient excuse, a simple solution to the dilemma. No, she was probably waiting inside, wondering where he was along with everyone else. With exaggerated confidence, he strode forward.

He tried to ignore the old poster, with William Defoe wearing a crown of thorns.

“You made it!” Rebecca called out, sitting alone in the lobbby. “I was starting to think you’d stand me up and I’d see it all alone. Jeez, you’re soaked through!”

“Sorry,” Joshua replied. “My father- I couldn’t get a ride. I had to walk.”

“Well, I guess that’s a good excuse. You can hang your jacket up over there, Frank will keep an eye on it,” she said, pointing to a coat rack. “The rest of the Cinema Club was busy, so it’s just us. A shame, really, I wanted you to mee them. Oh well, I already got our tickets.”

“Oh, okay. I would have bought mine…” He started, but Rebecca waved him off.

“Free movie passes with one guest. One of the employee perks.” She grinned at him.

“Oh… I didn’t realize you worked here.” Joshua never had much of a poker face, and he didn’t have one now. Rebecca clearly saw whatever he was showing on his face. Disappointment? He wasn’t sure how he felt, about this young woman working in this ‘pit of sin.’ Why did he care?

She looked away, and lead him into the screening room. The place was empty besides them, and the quiet was oppressive. “Well,” Rebecca said, trying to break the awkward silence. “Uh, well. The movie should be starting soon. I’m sort of surprised you never seen it, actually. I thought you were a big Scorsese fan. You had a lot to say about his other movies yesterday.”

“My family is… very religious. Uh,” Joshua replied. He opened his mouth, trying to elaborate, to expand, explain why he shouldn’t be here in a way that wouldn’t offend her. “Yeah,” he finished meekly.

“Oh… I could see why that could be a problem,” Rebecca replied. “How did you…? Um, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“I saw Hugo with my nephew,” he said. “It was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater, actually. I asked my uncle about it, afterwards. Turns out he was a big fan too, I think his son was just an excuse. He gave me copies of Raging Bull and Goodfellas to borrow, all the classics.”

“Ha! Not a bad introduction to cinema, all in all. But not this one?” she asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Because the violence and profanity of Goodfellas made me queasy even as I loved every minute. I had nightmares about God judging me, I was so burdened by guilt, but I couldn’t stop watching and rewatching them. And when I read the name of the movie, I knew it was blasphemy, heresy beyond reason. I didn’t even ask my uncle if he had a copy, afraid that he’d say yes, afraid that my father had been right about him the entire time, that he was a godless man who had stolen my aunt away from the Lord,” he didn’t say.

“Like I said, my family is very religious,” he said instead. “I was pretty conflicted about watching it.”

“Well, I’m glad you came,” Rebecca said, smiling. “It’s one of my favorites.”

“You’ve seen it before?” Joshua asked, but the lights started to dim as the movie began.


“Are you okay?” Rebecca asked, concerned.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Joshua replied, desperately trying to wipe the tears away. “Just a little… I’m fine. Sorry, I’m sort of ruining things.”

“No, no!” She said, pulling a tissue out of her purse. “It’s okay! I’m sorry the movie upset you, I know it’s a bit much. I shouldn’t have suggested it. I mean, I know you’re religious.”

He took the tissue and breathed deeply, trying to get himself under control. “It’s not that. I’m just… It… it provoked a response, I guess. Sorry, I’m being pathetic.”

She slipped her hand into his, and squeezed it. “You don’t have to pretend to like it. I won’t be hurt.”

Her hands were so soft, so smooth. Something roiled inside him, making him feel sick in a way that was strangely pleasant. The devil would be attractive, his father always said. “I liked it. I’m glad I came. I wasn’t expecting it, is all.”

She squeezed again. “You should join the Cinema Club. I’d like it if you came. We meet after school on Thursdays.”

“Okay,” he said.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in. Give me TWO flash rules.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


come--along about sundown. He said Jubiter pestered him and aggravated him till he was so mad he just sort of lost his mind and grabbed up a stick and hit him over the head with all his might, and Jubiter dropped in his tracks. Then he was scared and sorry, and got down on his knees and lifted his head up, and begged him to speak and say he wasn't dead; and before long he come to, and when he see who it was holding his head, he jumped like he was 'most scared to death, and cleared the fence and tore into the woods, and was gone. So he hoped he wasn't hurt bad.

and

the importunities, the indelicacies, of which my desire to possess myself of Jeffrey Aspern's papers had rendered me capable I need not shrink from confessing this last indiscretion. I think it was the worst thing I did; yet there were extenuating circumstances. I was deeply though doubtless not disinterestedly anxious for more news of the old lady, and Miss Tita had accepted from me, as it were, a rendezvous which it might have been a point of honor with me to keep. It may be said that her leaving the place dark was a positive sign that she released me, and to this I can only reply that I desired not to be released.

The door of Miss Bordereau's room was open and I could see beyond it the


You, Me, and the Body, 936 words

“Oh poo poo, you killed me!” Frank said, staring at his body.

“No, I didn’t! You’re still breathing,” I muttered in reply. I reached down and felt his pulse. Weak, and unsteady. “Your heart’s still beating too.”

“Are you nuts? You busted my skull open. I’m bleeding all over the place. Why did you kill me?” He was yelling now, pulling at his hair. I ignored him, and pulled his jacket off. Pressing it against the head wound stopped the bleeding for a little bit, but I couldn’t move him and keep pressure at the same time. I really wished Luther was here now. The whole operation was hosed.

“Are you going to leave me there?” Frank asked. “Come on, man. That’s hosed. My kid lives over there.”

“You’re the jackass who deals right next door to his baby momma’s,” I muttered. I should leave him, cut my losses and take the consequences. I was already hosed, trying to recover was just going to put me further into the poo poo.

“I would’ve given you the stuff. You didn’t need to gently caress me up.” He was pacing around now, freaking out. I ignored him - self-evidently, he hadn’t given me the stuff, since I had a rapidly dying body at my feet. I fished the cash and the product out of his pocket, wrapped it in a plastic bag, and stuck it under the dumpster.

“Come on, man, at least call the police,” Frank pleaded.

“Shut up, I’m not leaving you. Just… loving shut up man, ‘kay?” I picked him up over the shoulders, just like they taught us in the service. He was skin and bones, dried out and empty from the dope, but a body is a body. I almost dropped him a few times before we made it to the car. I shoved him into the backseat, as best I could to keep his head secure.

Frank sat in the front seat and stared at me. At least he had shut up like I asked, but I could feel him bursting at the seams.

“The gently caress is it?” I said, sighing.

“Are you taking me to Doc Roy?” He asked. “Roy isn’t going to like this, you know.”

“gently caress no, if I was taking you to Doc Roy I should just leave you there. Sawbones isn’t going to do jack for you.” I looked back. He was still breathing, I think, and the head wound wasn’t bleeding as much. That didn’t give me much comfort, but better than nothing.

“Are you dumping me? Come on, man, at least let Roy try. Don’t just dump me!” He folded his hands, like he was praying to me.

“Shut the gently caress up, Frank,” I muttered. “I’m not dumping you. I’m taking you to St. Marg’s. Just… keep your mouth shut.”

And to his credit, he did. It wasn’t a long drive, maybe a mile of empty city streets. The red lights gave me enough time to contemplate, though. I considered texting Luther about the bag and the Dragon about the gently caress up, but didn’t want to risk it. I had sneaking suspicion that my phone was going to become evidence.

“You going to drop me off at the entrance and run?” Frank asked. I ignored him. There was always a cop on duty, waiting nearby, for poo poo like that. No, I was going have to face the consequences. At least my car was clean - and it was my car. Taking the lazy easy route was actually not loving me over for once.

“You’re a good guy, you know,” Frank muttered. “Most guys would have been too scared of my uncle finding out, left me there. I really appreciate it.”

“gently caress you, I’m the one who put you back there,” I yelled, thumb hooked towards the backseat. “And gently caress your uncle for making me do it.”

I regretted the words as soon as they were out of my mouth. Frank gaped, like I had just punched him in the stomach and he couldn’t get his breath back. The tears came next, ugly snotty things that disappeared into dust as they dripped off his face. He was silent, even as he sobbed.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered. “I shouldn’t have told you that.”

“W-why?”

I sighed. “He wanted you out of the business, for your own protection. He didn’t like that habit you had. So he figured a masked mugger putting you in the hole...”

“Jesus. JESUS!” He slammed his fists against the dashboard so hard they almost made a noise. “That lying bastard! The Dragon of Eastside, more like the loving RAT! How could he?”

“He wanted to protect you,” I said again. Frank shot me a look of pure disgust and annoyance. Lucky for me, we were at St. Marg’s already. I jumped out, arms waving frantically, as two EMS rushed over.

Frank’s eyes had a glassed over look to them, and he wasn’t breathing. The EMS did a good job of pretending it wasn’t a hopeless task, and wheeled him away. I took a seat and made myself comfortable.

“I’m not getting up, am I?” Frank asked.

“I’m not a doctor,” I replied. Then, “No, probably not. Sorry I couldn’t get here faster.”

“Should I… go with the body?”

I shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind the company. But, well, I don’t know. I’ve never been in your position.”

We watched the police officer talk to the nurse, then an EMS, throwing me an occasional glance. “What are you going to say?” Frank asked.

I shrugged again. “Any suggestions?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been in your position.”

rear end in a top hat,” I laughed.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


A bear? A BEAR? She has the GALL to call me a bear?! I seethed with hurt and rage, staring into her fearful eyes.

There had been no lies in this marriage, except the ones we told ourselves. But now I had two beautiful daughters, with their bright golden hair... golden hair that showed no trace of my dark brown fur.

I wanted to claw her face open, to maul her. Instead, I reached out with a gentle paw and brushed the wispy golden strands that covered her chin. I was a coward, more afraid of her than she was of me.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in, with my first story, from the very first round of Thunderdome.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Hi I'm back let me in :toxx:

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


sebmojo posted:

Next entrant gets labrynthine: cannot be set in a maze.
I'll take that one

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Game Reserve, 1200 words

I cannot recall what led me onto that bleak and dreary moor that night. I had been lost and wandering among the treacherous lands for quite some time, alone with my thoughts. I, like many knights, had been disillusioned by the Crusade - the countless brave Christian warriors, murdered by labyrinthine politics of lords and the Saracen blades. No, no glory had been won in the Holy Lands, merely death and dishonor. So, my own lord buried in a mass grave, and I being ignobly alive, I traveled alone to what had been my home.

I should have noticed the unseemly twilight, the strange and unruly winds - alas, regrets. I was focused on the ground in front of me, careful to avoid the bogs and treacherous marsh that made the moors a labyrinth of dangers. When I looked up, night had taken hold and I saw no place fit for resting. Fear crept into my soul, and a cold sweat washed across my shoulders. But I was a knight of Christendom, what had I to fear? My Holy Lord had overthrown death itself! I whispered a few prayers to myself, and continued on. An eerie, shining moon illuminated my path. The papacy may have abandoned us to that harsh desert, but God had not. I pressed on, warding off fatigue - although I was no longer a young, brash man, I wasn't aged yet. With a slow and steady pace, I made my way.

The moors were a desolate and lonely place, all but abandoned. And yet, I was shocked to notice a traveler to my side. With barely-hidden panic, I took stock of my companion - a small and thin man, bundled in rags the color of moss. I watched him as we walked, pretending I hadn't noticed. I thought him old at first, with his wooden cane and hunched posture. But he had a deft nimbleness to him - this was no decrepit grandfather. I saw no weapons, besides the cane, and he seemed to pay me little mind. My thoughts drifted to my grandmother's tales, of the Seelies and their lower courts.

I chased them from my mind - the pagan gods were heresy. There was only one True God, served only by His saints.

I turned to him and made to speak, but he just then he froze. I saw flashes of bright green eyes as he looked around. His rising alarm was clear, and my hand drifted to the hilt of my sword. We stood, I motionless while my companion turned one way or another. Then, over the steady winds, I heard a noise that turned my blood to water. It was the low thrumming of a hunter's horn, far across the moors, and I knew with unfathomable certainty that we were the prey. My companion grabbed the hem of my cloak, and quickly pulled me along.

He guided me along the labyrinthine paths between the bogs, further into the moors, and I senselessly followed. My strength and manly courage had fled from me with the sounding of that great horn, and I imagined the baying of infernal beasts on our trail. If my companion had been a puca leading me to my death, he would have had little trouble. I barely glanced at my feet as we fled, too focused on following his lead.

Suddenly, we stopped, and I realized we stood in front of an old and sunken barrow. My companion lifted up a small hatch and jumped inside, leaving the path clear for me. I stood there for a moment, doubting. A pagan grave seemed like an ominous and profane hideaway, and I considering running on. Just then, however, I heard the piercing sound of the hunter's horn - much close and heavy with ill omen. I quickly clambered in, and closed the hatch behind me.

The darkness was utterly complete, and not a single ray of moon light could been seen. I crouched, unsure and insensate, until I felt my companion take hand. He led me on, further and deeper. Whether we were in labyrinthine tunnels or a single passage, I could not say - the walls were made of dirt and irregular stone, and low ceiling forced me to scuttle along in a crouch. Finally, we reached a slightly larger room and my companion stopped. The darkness was oppressive, so I lit a small flame to see by.

With sickening horror, I managed my first clear look at my companion by fire light. He had been small, this was true, and hunched - but he was not old. In fact, his features were young and beautiful, unnaturally so. But what paralyzed me with fear was his moss-colored rags - in the fire light, I could see that they were a part of him, like furs. His skin was the color of peat, and his eyes glowed with some internal light. I had made camp with one of the Moss Folk, while Woden's Hunt caroused above us. My unfounded belief that the horn had been seeking us suddenly became as sure as stone. I prayed that God would protect me, and pulled out my rosary. My companion looked puzzled and made to speak.

The Bogle snarled and lept from the darkness. I felt the the hot sticky spray of blood as the unholy creature torn out my companion's throat, and two more quickly joined it in savaging the body. I pulled my sword from its sheathe, only to have one of the creatures immediately turn and seize my arm. Each fang felt like the bite of a giant wasp, and its breath scorched like fire. I screamed in pain and fear, certain that death awaited me. But no jaw fastened itself around my neck - instead, the creature loosened, then let go. Through my tears and agony, I heard a voice, authoritative and paternal. I looked up, and stared upon the face of Woden. The old god, that being of false beliefs, stood above me. The world seemed to warp and shape to fit his needs - despite the low ceiling of the small room, he stood straight in his massive height. He stared at me, and repeated himself in some ancient language.

I held up my cross and said every prayer I ever knew, hoping that Christ would protect me and ward off this pagan god. Instead, he leaned forward and plucked the holy symbol from my fingers. He examined it for a moment, perplexed, before placing it in a pouch and nodding towards me. I realized that, rather than warding him with the words of the One True God, this ancient and primordial being had misinterpreted it as a desperate offering from a defenseless man. He didn't even recognize Christ's symbol. Then he motioned me to my feet, and towards a door that had appeared. Wiping away my tears, I stepped through.

Countless realms, connected by an endless labyrinth of passages, flowed past me, and I saw the true size of Yggdrasil and the insignificance of our place within it. Then, I stumbled into the hall of my dead king's keep. I stumbled forward and collapsed into a weary and troubled sleep, filled with nightmares of what I had seen.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in, give me a good one.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Red Sun At Morning, 1200 words
Vehicle/This was supposed to be a simple job!

"Lagrange Two Station, reading all clear, please confirm permission to extend sails," Carl reported.

At this range, the delay was only a few seconds. "S-172, confirming permission to extend sails. Have a pleasant flight and see you next year."

Carl clicked the mic to acknowledge, and activated the sails. The golden panels expanded and refracted into huge gossamer wings, each with a magnitude more surface area than the shuttle itself. Like a celestial butterfly, escaping from a gray metal cocoon, until they locked into place with a final THUNK. Each sail would collect stray rays of sunlight, creating propulsion for the shuttle. It wasn't particularly fast, but it was the most efficient way to travel long distances.

"Only 12% delta-V, all the way from undocking to extension." Alexi, sitting in the other pilot chair, gave a whistle. "You're wasted out here on these supply runs, Carl. You should leave it to the old-timers."

"Naw, it's too busy in near-Earth. All that hustle and bustle," Carl replied while finishing up. "Besides, they don't have this view in near-Earth."

Alexi waved his hand at the window. "Of what? That little red speck of Mars? Stars? There isn't anything to see out there."

"No, there's Nothing to see out there. Endless, infinite abyss... Almost like you're truly alone."

"Hmph!" Alexi replied. "Well, enjoy the view by your lonesome, I'm off-duty. It's a drat disgrace they couldn't give us a full crew."

Carl smiled and didn't say anything. His first run had been part of a triplet - he had found the constant presence of a co-pilot slightly irritating. It was better to be on a duty alone with your thoughts, while the other crew member slept. Alexi floated out of the cockpit, and Carl settled into his shift.

---

Carl bolted upright. The shuttle had vibrated strangely, almost violently. That wasn't suppose to happen, not out here. There wasn't anything out here, halfway to Mars.

He was halfway into his emergency suit when the alarms went off, loud klaxons and red lights. What the hell was happening? Where was Alexi?

He was out of his bunk and down the long corridor to the cockpit, practically flying along without touching the walls. It was the longest minute of his life.

"Alexi?!" Carl shouted. His crew mate was in his chair, still firmly strapped in, but his arms floated weightlessly, almost as if the old man was asleep despite the alarms. Carl floated forward and placed two fingers against the old man's throat, but it was pointless. There would be no pulse - Alexi's eyes had the glaze of death. A stroke, probably - workers in space were unusually susceptible to them. Carl pushed off and flipped around to his own seat.

He flipped a few buttons and silenced the alarm - it was far too late. A solar storm had came and went, and the pulse had completely shredded the sails. Alexi had been dead for hours, then. Perhaps Carl had been still awake, reading in his bunk. Perhaps if he had been more social-

No.

No time for that now. "Bravo-Bravo-Bravo. I repeat, Bravo-Bravo-Bravo. Solar sails inoperable, emergency assistance requested." Carl beamed out the message both in front and behind him, and set about checking status of the rest of the ship. His SOS wouldn't reach the station at either Mars or near Earth for a couple minutes, and it would take them a few minutes to reply.

There didn't seem to be anything else damaged - just his sole means of propulsion. They had just about reached their maximum velocity. He'd be quite comfortable as he drifted off into the endless dark. How many hours had he stared into the dark, imagining himself alone? Now his eyes were drawn to the small red dot, slightly down and to the left - Mars. The last lonely outpost of humanity before... well. It didn't seem as romantic, now.

"S-172, sit report received. Why didn't you recess your sails before the storm?" A woman's voice, professional but slightly annoyed.

"Crew member on duty had died." He paused. "That's a stupid question."

The few minutes came and went, with no reply. Carl stared into the dark, thinking over his words. "Sorry, that was unnecessary, Ares Station. Please... please advise."

A few more minutes. "We're working on a course of action, S-172, sit tight. Prepare for further instructions in four hours." A pause of her own. "We're sorry for you loss. Try to get some sleep."

Carl clicked the mic. He turned to the body for Alexi, and the macabre task ahead. Company policy was storange in the freezer until transportation for a proper burial, if at all possible.

--

"Anya, I understand the math checks out, but this is crazy. There's absolutely no way. The tiniest mistake.. I appreciate the gesture, but I would be putting a dozen lives at risk. Even a few extra kilometers per hour would send the shuttle through the dock like a bullet. I couldn't ask that of them," Carl replied.

The reply-time had decreased as he got closer to Ares Station. "They volunteered, Carl, every single one of them. Hell, Command had to turn people down. We'd all like to believe that, if the situation was reverse, somebody would try to save us even if the chances were slim," Anya argued. The professionalism had gone out the window weeks ago. "Anyway, things are going to get real Pyongyang '36 around here without those supplies. So just go with it, okay?"

"Alright... fine. Let's go over the plan, step by step."

--

"Are you scared, Carl?" Anya asked. It felt like she was in the shuttle with him, these days.

"No... not really. I've been worrying about this moment for so long that it sort of... became normal, you know? Like worrying about dying - you just stop thinking about it after a while." Carl paused, staring at the barely visible moon.

"Don't tell me you've given up, have you?" Anya asked.

"No." He imagined her, her forehead wrinkled in worry. "God, no, quite the opposite. No."

"Good. We're coming up on the execution point soon. Good luck, Carl."

Carl clicked the mic in acknowledgement. He waited, tense and alert, for the proper timing, and... now! The first sail ejected, thrown free of the capsule. The reactive force slowed the shuttle down slightly, but had set the whole thing into a lazy spin. Now! The second sail flew free, opposite the first and halting the spin. So far so good... the last two would be more dangerous.

Now! The third sail had a far greater effect - in both regards. The centrifugal force was overwhelming, as the shuttle entered a tight and rapid twirl. Carl blinked back the black dots at the corner of his vision and focused on the panel in front of him. Had he missed it? Had he missed it?

NOW!

The final sail flew free, and Carl breathed a sigh of relief. The deceleration was sufficient. Now, with careful use of Delta-V, he'd have a small window to dock in. He double-checked the math, made sure he had enough fuel, before grabbing the mic.

"Execution successful, Ares Station. Anya, guide me home," he said, smiling.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


In

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Sorry, dropping out this week.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


ErowidRecruiter posted:

Life at Techshed includes company ski trips, wine tastings, beer Fridays, and work-abroad opportunities like our company trip to happyville.
I'm in.:toxx:

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Happyville, 871 words

Life at Techshed includes company ski trips, wine tastings, beer Fridays, and work-abroad opportunities like our company trip to happyville.

"Haven't you noticed, Frank? It happens every single time. People go off to that retreat, and they come back... different. Weirdly into the whole corporate culture," Eddy said quietly.

Frank swiveled around in his chair and looked at his cubicle mate. "I notice everyone who goes off to Happyville gets a promotion when they come back. Everyone. You think I'm turning that down, Eddy?"

"Like Kowalski?" Eddy said, tilting his head towards the Sales Accounts manager. "He's got a loving Masters, man. Why the hell is he still working a job like that? Hell, I'm more qualified for that job."

"Maybe he likes the benefits," Frank replied without much conviction.

"Maybe. Or maybe it has something to do that that weird hunted look he has in his eyes all the time. Like he's freaking out about something and trying to put up a strong front," Eddy said. He loved conspiracy theories, nothing in the world gave him more pleasure.

"Quiet now," Frank replied.

Kowalski was sauntering over, awkwardly, like someone who was supposed to act casual in a high school play. His grin was a little too wide, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. No, Frank couldn't help but notice his hunted eyes. Kowalski draped his arm over the wall of a cubicle in a way that seemed odd and slightly uncomfortable. "Afternoon, fellas! Looking forward to end of the work week? Ha, T.G.I.F., am I right or what!"

"Sure am, sir," Frank replied. "Just finishing up a few things."

"Say, Frank! Didn't I hear that you got invited to Happyville with the rest of the veeps? Must be exciting, but don't have too much fun!" Kowalski tried to give a conspiratorial wink, but ended up just blinking slightly out of sync.

"Y-yeah, I'm going. Mister Anders thought it would be good for me..." Frank said, trying to smile back.

"Hey, you know the corporate motto - "What's good for me is good for the company!" See you there!" Kowalski made a clicking noise and pointed a finger gun at Frank, and then did his strange awkward saunter off.

"I'm telling you man, don't go," Eddy whispered. "Seriously, that's not normal behavior."

"That's because Kowalski isn't normal. Maybe that's why he can't find a job anywhere else. See you on Monday, Eddy."

--------------

"Frank! So glad you decided to join us."

"Thanks, Mister Anders, I'm-" Frank started.

"Frank, Frank, Frank! No need for formality! You're among friends here. Call me Jacob, and let me introduce you to my friend Marcus here." Mister Anders - Jacob - had a wide grin on his face... but those same dead eyes as Kowalski. But Frank's attention moved away from that as he realized who 'Marcus' was.

"Mister Arcuras! It's a real honor, sir." Frank shook the offered hand.

"Call me Marcus, Frank! Here at Happyville, I'm not your CEO, I'm your friend. Isn't that right Jacob?"

"That's right, Marcus," Jacob replied. "But a few things first before we start this lovely weekend. Friends don't record friends having fun, you know, maintain our professional reputations. So if you could just put your personal belongings over in that locker there..."

-------------

The room was bare, with concrete walls and a heavy door. Frank was sitting in the middle of the room in a hard metal chair, with a single light hanging above him.

"What the hell...?" Frank tried to say, but instead all that came out was strange mumbles. There was something on his shirt... vomit, probably. He didn't remember that, or how he ended up here. His mouth was dry, and his head felt like it was full of cotton. For some reason, his eyes refused to focus.

Marcus opened the steel door and entered, followed by Jacob pushing a TV cart. Neither man was smiling.

"Good morning, Frank. Not feeling so good, are we?" Marcus said, his voice a mixture of smug and contempt. He handed Frank a water bottle, and the young man quickly gulped it down.

"What... what happened?" Frank managed to croak out.

Jacob pressed play, a hazy low grade video started playing. Frank realized he was watching himself, probably from last night.

"We drugged you. Apropril, a bit popular as a date rape drug, very illegal in the US. Makes you very suggestible." On the screen, Frank appeared to partying hard. Like a cliche, he was snorting cocaine off the rear end of, presumably, a prostitute.

"We got it all on video, Frank. And we'll use it if you ever stop being a good, loyal TechShop employee. We'll send it to your family, job recruiters, anybody and everybody. It's blackmail, Frank, and now we own you. You work for TechShop - and only TechShop." Marcus leaned in real close, and gave a predatory grin. "What do you say to that, friend?"

The action on the TV had proceeded - the prostitution didn't seem to be a willing participant.

"All of this... is just to keep quality workers?" Frank asked. "Jesus, I'm so relieved. I thought you were a cult or something."

"You...what? And you still came?" Marcus asked, perplexed.

"It's a tough job market out there," Frank replied with a shrug. "Glad to know you guys didn't look at my Facebook profile during my college years though."

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Zerbra23 posted:

In

A CLOWN wants to BE A PRIVATE EYE.
In.

A YOUNG MAN wants to NOT DIE IN THE WILDERNESS

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Gummyshoe, 1376 words

A CLOWN wants to BE A PRIVATE EYE

BOZO
THE
CLOWN

said the big happy golden letters on the door, followed by

B. Heisman
Private Investigator

in a smaller, black, and much less exciting font. Allen carefully opened the door and peeked inside - the voice onthe phone had told him to just come in. A man in clown make-up was sitting at his desk, smoking a cigar. His face was a resplendent white, with wide expressive eyes and a deep red grin. The grease paint ended at his shoulders - he was wearing an worn but clean wife beater. He saw Allen and waved him in.

"You must be the client that called earlier. Grab a seat. You don't mind if I smoke, right? Some clients get touchy about that stuff. Can't smoke in half of the five boroughs anymore."

"N-no, that's fine, go ahead," Allen replied. "I'm here to speak to Heisman, about a case...?"

"Right, we talked on the phone. Something about your missing wife, yeah?" The clown leaned over and pulled out a legal pad. Allen could see his name on the top, followed by some notes.

"I'm sorry... you're Heisman? The private investigator?" Allen asked.

"Bozo Heisman, the one and only," the clown replied.

"But... why the make-up?"

"Oh," the clown said, fixing him with a sympathetic look. "Does it make you nervous? I understand if you're scared of clowns-"

"I'm not scared, I just wondered-" Allen interjected.

"-Lots of people have a phobia, it's perfectly natural to be-"

"I'm not scared of clowns!" Allen interrupted loudly.

A pause. "Well, forget I mentioned it then," the clown said finally. "Let's focus on your wife, Jasmine right? You think she might be in trouble, got involved with some rough people."

"Yeah," Allen replied awkwardly, feeling like he was being pranked somehow. "She's been getting into a car driven by a, well, I think he might be a drug dealer. An Escalade with the license plate that says K1NGP1N. You know. Well, um, yesterday morning she left with him, and hasn't returned my phone calls since. I don't want to get the police involved, since.... well."

Bozo hadn't written anything down, and simply stared at Allen with a happy smile. "You know what I'm going to suggest, right?"

"She isn't cheating on me. I had asked her about it, and she told me that she was faithful, but I should leave it alone."

"And...?" Bozo asked.

"And I trust my wife. We... used to live a very different lifestyle, and I'm worried she got mixed up in the old crowd."

"Hm. Hmmm." Bozo stared at him for a bit, before grabbing his shirt off a nearby hook. "Alright, you've got me intrigued. Bozo is on the case."

-----

"Listen, I understand that you're the expert here, but when I agreed to hire you, I thought you'd do more... I dunno, investigating." Allen said. The car was hot and cramp, and smelled of stale cigar smoke.

"I tracked down your mysterious Escalade to here, didn't I?" Bozo replied. He was watching a warehouse down the street through a pair of binoculars.

"You googled the license plate. That hardly makes you Sherlock Holmes," Allen said.

"That so, kid? And what did you google before you agreed to hire me?" He waited for Allen's retort for a long moment. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Now, it looks like the Kingpin just drove off, and your Jasmine wasn't in the car. I'm going to take a look."

"I'm coming with you," Allen said quickly. And then, quietly after Bozo glared at him, "She's my wife."

"...Fine. Follow my lead."

The two men walked carefully forward, cautious of any surprises. Allen glanced through a window, and stared inside. Despite the outer appearance of an abandoned warehouse, inside was well-maintained. Burly men were moving around unmarked crates, and in the middle was a table. A small pile of mysterious white powder was sitting there - cocaine or heroin, Allen couldn't tell for sure.

"There's still people here," he whispered to Bozo.

"Yep," Bozo replied at a normal volume. "Don't make any sudden moves."

Allen turned with a perplexed look, straight into the barrel of a gun. The man behind the weapon was a short, mean-looking fellow, with cobwebs tattooed on his elbows and a tear drop on his face. Another man, tall and muscular, had a knife to Bozo's gut.

"I don't want any trouble," Allen said, as he slowly raised his hands. "I'm just looking for my wife, Jasmine."

The two men exchanged a strange look, and came to a decision. "Come on," the short one said. They pushed Bozo and Allen into a small storage closet, and moved to shut the door. "The boss'll take care of you later."

"Wait!" Bozo cried, falling to his knees and grabbing at the short one's jacket. "Puh-lee-lease let me go! I'm no threat, I'm just a clown. I promise I won't tell any one, I swear! I don't have anything to do with this! Just let me go!" He shuffled forward on his knees, clawing at the thug, until the man gave him a hard jab to the head.

"gently caress off!" The short man snarled, before slamming the door shut while Bozo sobbed on the ground.

"Thanks for sticking by me, man, I really appreciate it," Allen said with all the venom he could muster.

Bozo's sobs ceased without a trace. "Shut up, kid." The clown stood up, revealing a set of keys and the short man's pistol. "I don't really need any more of your poo poo."

"How'd you do that?" Allen asked. Bozo just gave him an annoyed look, and unlocked the door.

The two men stayed quiet, low, and lucky. Something was happening the warehouse - two groups of tense and heavily armed men were milling around, keeping a close eye on each other. In the middle of the room, two well-dressed men were discussing business over the pile of white powder. A woman was resting her hand on one man's shoulder, in a way that suggested comfortable intimacy.

"Recognize them?" Bozo asked.

Allen nodded. "That guy is the man in the Escalade, the kingpin."

"And the woman...?"

"My wife," Allen replied.

"She doesn't seem to be in much trouble," Bozo said quietly.

Allen stepped forward, and every gun in that warehouse turned to him. He tried to keep calm and ignore how afraid he was, and took another step forward.

"Allen!" his wife hissed. "Get out of here!" She strode forward, and the two groups turned their guns towards each other instead.

"I was worried... you weren't picking up-" Allen said.

Bozo fired his pistol into the air, and all hell broke loose. Allen dived forward, pulling Jasmine into his protective grasp. The air filled with screams and gunpowder, and the violence continued for an eternity. But eventually the last few gunshots died down, and Allen cautiously peeked his head up.

"You stupid loving idiot! You ruined everything!" Jasmine screamed as she stood up. "This deal was going to make us rich!"

Allen looked up confused. "I don't understand, I was trying to save you-"

"Save me? Save ME? From what, you dumb rear end in a top hat!" She was furious, and digging into her purse for something.

"The kingpin... he kidnapped you."

She pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Allen's head. He slowly raised his hands. "I'm the kingpin, you moron! This was my deal, and I was going to be rich - and you ruined it! You ruin everything!" Her finger tightened around the trigger, and Allen felt the bullet whiz past his ear. The gun clattered across the floor, and Jasmine shrieked. A knife was embedded in the palm of her hand, slick with blood.

"I love that little party trick," Bozo said, stepping out of the shadows. "You know, I used to be a carnie. You learn all kinds of things in the trade."

Allen didn't take his eyes off of Jasmine. Her shrieks had turned into quiet sobs, and she sank down to her knees. "What's going to happen now?" He asked.

"Now?" Bozo asked, as he pulled a half-smoked cigar from his coat pocket. "Now you figure out what you want to tell the police. And after that, you'll be writing me a check."

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


dmboogie posted:

Grudge matches ain't fun if your grudge is aimed in the wrong direction. :v:
No, no, that's fair. I'm like one of those mafioso who accidentally dropped a beer on a made man. Gotta take the baseball bat knee sometimes.

Name the time and place, T-Rex

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


:toxx:

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Errybody in the dome gettin' brawling

Don't be Sorry, 401 words

"I'm sorry," Anna said as she stared at the floor between them. Her father shifted, rattling his chains but otherwise silent. "I didn't mean to set off the alarm."

"No poo poo," her father muttered under his breath, barely audible over the sound of the prison van.

"But it was an honest mistake and I hope you can forgive me," Anna continued as if she hadn't heard. His father rattled his chains again, trying to get comfortable.

"I guess Mom won't be going to the casino this weekend," Anna said with forced levity. "She'll be a bit heartbroken."

"She'll be fine," his father replied. "We'll be fine too."

"I’m sorry-" Anna started.

"I heard you the first time," he interrupted gruffly. They sat quietly for a bit while Anna studied her shoes.

"We'll bribe the guard before the processing center. They'll be able to deny ever receiving us, so it'll be cheap," his father said finally. "But you can't rely getting lucky like this."

"I don't feel lucky," Anna muttered.

"You dropped a loving Monet thirty feet onto a ming vase. Luck had nothing to do with that."

"It slipped," Anna said quietly.

"You dropped it."

"Every time I mess up, it's my fault. Whenever things work out, it's luck!" Anna said.

"Yeah, pretty much," his father replied. "... Maybe you should go back to college."

"Dad-!"

"No, listen. I've made my way already. Me and your mom could be down in Boca right now. But you wanted to follow in my steps... I can't do this forever, you know. You're going to be on your own one day, alright?"

"Is that why you're doing this? Because you don't think I can take care of myself? Papa has to save the day?" Anna said heatedly.

"Don't talk back to me!" Her father's voice was as sharp as a knife. "But... yes. I worry. Fathers worry. You could be a doctor, or a lawyer..."

"I don't-! This is what I want to be, okay? This is where I want to be. I mean, not right here, but..." Anna said, looking around the prison van.

Her father was silent.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"Don't be," her father replied. "Be better."

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


I'm in by the way.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Thanks for the crit

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Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Okay I'm in

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