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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

I'm INto exposing my blackened soul for your entertainment and mockery.

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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Runes
1122 words.

The axe lands heavy across his neck with a wet, ripping sound. Momentum buries it deep until it strikes bone and sends a familiar vibration up Aegar's arm. The man folds downward into the sand, but before he falls his free hand reaches up and grasps the axe handle. A futile gesture. The blood loss is immediate and intense. He dies with a sigh on the black sand of this foreign beach.

Aegar grimaces, his vision smeared with sweat.

His foot presses down on the corpse and heaves the axe free. The chaos of battle thunders around him as he rises. Horses flash past, their wild eyes rolling back, their riders a smear of fur and crude weapons glinting and whirling in the failing sun. Aegar is tired but he presses on. His axe swerves and bobs through the melee in a fatal dance, rising and falling and chopping and spurting its way through the Welsh riders.

This is not his first battle and Aegar is not a young man. His axe does not rise as high as it used to, and as he fights his arms grow leaden and his lungs slam against his ribs. He pauses to blink away the sweat, but in that moment a horseman flies past and carves a gashing wound in Aegar's midsection. Aegar falls to his knees and his intestines start to spill out. Desperate, he drops his axe and grabs at them, keeping them from sliding into the midnight sand. His head feels light, too light, it starts to lift from his shoulders. The world spins and he slips into darkness as the conscious world blinks out.

Aegar dreams, for a time. Restless. Then he wakes.

The sun is high and the battle is long over. How much time has passed? The wound hasn't closed and his guts still threaten escape as he pushes himself up from the sand, his tired muscles limp and reluctant.

The beachhead is eerily quiet. Corpses and body parts litter the sand, slowly bloating and pulling apart under the baking sun. The only signs of life are the flies and the gulls, feasting on a bounty of new meat. Aegar looks to the water and sees no sign of the Viking fleet that brought him here. Those who survived the battle must have retreated over the horizon. His axe is gone, no doubt looted by the Welsh bastards his army could not conquer.

scratch.

He sinks back onto his haunches and heaves a mighty sigh. Pain fills his rapidly emptying body. His wound is fatal. Visions of his son and daughter swim before him. He knows he will never see them again and it makes his heart constrict. Has he taught his children enough? Will they survive without him? And his wife. What will become of his beautiful Astrid?

scratch. scratch.

The pain burns and Aegar's thoughts turn inward. What will become of him? His body will rot on this beach for sure, picked apart by gulls, by insects, worms, and even lower things. Without a proper burial he may rise as a draugar, a mournful revenant bound to this foreign beach. He can think of nothing worse. Better a clean death, with no regrets, than a false life. Aegar mutters a prayer to being making his peace with the gods.

scratch. scratch. scratch.

That sound again, barely audible above the washing of the surf. Persistant, like an itch. Irritating. He stops his prayer and turns his head towards its source.

Down in the surf another dying man leans on a large boulder and draws his knife against the volcanic stone.

scratch. scratch.

Another survivor.

Aegar staggers to his feet. His balance is off, and he needs to keep one arm across his belly to keep his insides from spilling out, but he lurches forward. Each staggering step sends pain searing through his body. The wet sand oozes up between his toes, a reminder that his boots, too, have been looted. He stops to rest every few paces.

He takes a circuitous route to dodge the corpses. It is torturous, but Aegar is determined.

scratch.

Drawing closer, Aegar can see the man is too small to be much of a soldier. He wears the blue and red cloth of a Viking although Aegar does not recognize him. A grievous wound has removed much of his left leg. What remains is mashed and torn beyond repair. The man leans against a pillar of volcanic rock and stoically draws his blade across it.

scratch. scratch. scratch.

Runes, Aegar realizes as he approaches. He's carving runes into the pumice.

He lurches up to him. He doesn't know why he is suddenly angry. "Stop making that loving noise!" he roars, but his body fails and dissolves into a spasm of coughing. He pushes his guts back into himself.

The man looks up and waits for Aegar's coughing spell to end. "You're worried about noise?" he finally says. "Here? Now?" He gestures around to the gulls and the rats feasting on the corpses. "We're all dead here, my friend."

"Then what the hell are you doing?" Aegar rasps. The beach is spinning around him, his brain parched of blood.

"This?" the man looks at his knife. "Carving. What does it look like?"

"What are those runes?" Aegar gestures to the marks on the stone.

"They tell a story, if you put them together. I doubt anyone shall, though. I'll be lucky if anyone finds them, let alone bothers to read them."

"Then why carve them?" Aegar asks, voice harsh.

The small man looks at him. "What else would you have me do, brother? Time is not on our side here." He looks down at his mangled leg stump.

Aegar spits in the sand in disgust.

The man resumes his work.

scratch. scratch.

Aegar's head is swimming and the pain from his gut overwhelms him. He leans against the side of the boulder upon which the man works. It shifts slightly in the loose sand.

scratch.

With the last of his failing strength, Aegar pushes. The boulder topples and the man's skull is crushed down into the dark sand. His body spasms, then is still. Quiet returns to the beach save for the cry of the gulls.

Aegar collapses to his knees facing the boulder. The cooling surf washes over his legs and he lets go of his abdomen. The effort to keep his guts in just doesn't seem worth it anymore.

The man's fallen dagger lies in the sand.

The blank slate of stone asks him a question. He is not sure if he can answer.

But with all the time he has left Aegar picks up the dagger and tries.

scratch. scratch.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Okay Ska I took on your Leviathon of a story since you're doing all these crits.

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

Salvage Law
3828 words
The one in which I foolishly 'd HM or Bust...

The command crew of the Leviathan sat before Thessalia wearing looks that ran the gauntlet from stunned silence to skeptical amusement. She’d gone into this briefing knowing that it would draw mixed reactions; she hadn’t planned on it dividing her officers so completely. skeptical amusement? Doesn't sound too serious. kinda defuses the seriousness of the situation, no?

“Permission to speak frankly sir?” says who?

Thessalia answered her first officer’s question with the appreciative smirk she could never keep off her face when looking at Lieutenant Jenkins. It was a look that never failed to provoke flushed cheeks and a downward gaze from her second in command.

Here in the ready-room Maura kept her composure. confusing! Who is Maura? Is she Jenkins? The first officer? Is this one person or three? If they're all one person then you just contracted yourself...the look that 'never failed' just failed b/c she kept her composure.

Real Navy, the captain lamented silently, too respectful of rank and regulation to put herself first… (is this spoken dialogue? If so it should be in quotations unless theres something weird going on here. cool, breaking down the 4th wall, very meta..oh wait probably should have edited before posting.

“Your plan is batshit sir,” Maura’s words belied her disappointment. go look up what belied means “Even if the Aegis had survived landfall I don’t expect it would be able to maintain life support let alone break atmo.” no clue what break atmo means, hasn't it already crashed?

“Duly noted.” Thessalia surveyed her officers. “Anybody else want to take a stab at breaking my heart today?”

A data-slate slid across the table coming to a clean stop at the captain’s fingertips. Thesallia thumbed through a few pages worth of bad news before looking up to the one delivering them.

“Those are the latest reports on Khanate fleet movements in the systems surrounding Parthia.” Strateo Norris who? sighed as disappointment darkened her features. “As much as we all would love to have old bucket of bolts back a salvage op is off the table.”

“The High Command is getting better at dealing with an insurgency it seems.” The captain flicked back and forth through the reports looking for some way to recover her old ship without losing the one they’d taken as restitution. that's a new development just sort of thrown in there w/out explanation “Take a look at this.”

With a tap on the corner of the data-slate, the room darkened. Pale greens and deep blues washed over the awed faces awed? seriously? like isn't this tech gonna be pretty common for them? of her officers as the abstract numbers of registry numbers and their coordinates were given life as a hologram projected from the table.

Norris’ again, who? tone had gone from crestfallen to offended, “Why am I just now finding out about the glossy hologram table of strategic miracles?”

“Because I just found out about it before calling this briefing.” Laughter from her officers filled the ready-room putting Thessalia at ease. She steeped in the warmth of camaraderie for a moment before getting back to business. i guess that explains the awe but it is weak and unnecessary

“The Khanate has a pretty devious trap laid out for us.” Tapping a few images Thessalia brought a few key systems into focus on the display. “We can get into the system any number of ways but with the power required to escape the star’s pull. We’re going to light up every dial and doodad on every ship within sensor range.” because there's no setting here outside the ready room i have no idea where they are or what's going on

Every face in the room went deadpan. don't like that word, usually implies humor A few faces in the dark slowly contorted under the strain of finding an answer to a question not yet asked.

With her best sailors hinging hanging? on her every word Thessalia filed her request, “I’m not giving up on salvaging the Aegis just yet. Engineering gives a best-worst-case scenario of two-hundred hours to get that tub space worthy again.”

The captain rose from her seat. A chorus of clicking heels and harmonious ‘sir’ echoed through the room as the assembled officers snapped to attention.

“If we don’t think we can make it happen then we won’t try, but I’ll be goddamned if I don’t think it’s worth trying. I’m giving you two days to come up with a way to pull it off. If we don’t have something by then I’ll deep-six my homesick and we’ll go back to doing hit-and-runs to avoid getting our asses kicked.” Dropping the data-slate on the table Thessalia made for the door. “You’ve got two days free of regular duties to come up with a plan sufficiently ludicrous to impress me.”

Sixteen hours later, Captain Anthony is this a new captain? so confused.... stood atop the observation deck of the the shuttle bay. She wasn’t usually the type to get pre-mission jitters but the insanity in which she was about to partake demanded a bit of apprehension.

“You’re loving crazy Jenkins, you know that?”

“Aye sir,” her lieutenant replied with a smile, “but only as ordered by my commanding officer.”

“So run down how this plan is going to work one last time before I die trying to pull it off.”

“We’re flying at the rock the Aegis splashed down on at full tilt. We’re going to cut engines just before entering the system relying on momentum to carry us the rest of the way.”

“Sounds simple enough.”

“We’re gonna hit the moon’s atmosphere. With a little luck and a whole lot of skill, we’ll skip off without losing too much speed. Assuming perfect timing, we’ll dump the shuttles just fast enough that they won’t need to fire their engines but just slow enough that they won’t be dragged in our wake. From there you just need to track down your ship and pull off an impossible amount of repair work before the Khanate sends a ship to investigate.”

“What’s the margin of error on our approach?” Thessalia chewed at her thumbnail; an old nervous habit that she hadn’t succumbed to in years.

Lieutenant Jenkins looked her captain square in the eye; her worst tinted with uncharacteristic humor, “I assure you Thess you don’t want me to answer that.”

“Humor me.”

Maura laughed. “If it goes tits up you’ll have the good fortune to die almost instantly.”

Thessalia placed her hands on Maura’s shoulders. “You know Maura you really know how to put a girl at ease…”

“I try sir,” Maura said with a smirk. “Look at it this way… at least this way we don’t risk losing the Leviathan too.”

“Not helping Jenkins.”

Klaxons rang through the corridors of the Leviathan followed by a call for all hands to stations. Launch crews streamed out onto the flight deck below. The choreographed beauty of hundreds of individuals working in concert wasn’t enough to draw Thessalia’s eyes from Maura. Her stare was fixed firmly on her first officer as she studied the features of the most beautiful and loyal companion a woman cold hope for. ugh typo and just a bad over-the-top sentence to boot

“That’s my cue. It was Thessalia’s turn to blush as she committed Maura’s face to memory. “Wish me luck.”

Maura tightened the chest-straps on her captain’s flight suit before pulling her into a long kiss.

“Try not to die,” she whispered. “If we’re on separate vessels we can deep-six my worries about fraternization.”

“Well if that’s the case, I’ll see you in my quarters on the Aegis in 200 hours. Clothes are optional.”

The captain pulled on her helmet before sliding down the ladder to the flight-deck proper. Jogging the distance to her shuttle she tapped a button on her helmet, sending her voice echoing through every station and hallway of the Leviathan.

“You all know what we’re here to do. It may seem impossible but know that we’ve come out of far greater odds unscathed in the past. Pulling off the unfathomably stupid is what makes us Amazons!” oh so that's why they're all female. They're Amazons. huh.

The captain paused. If she knew her crew, they’d be cheering at the top of their lungs at that declaration. Imagining that the din had died down she continued.

“Let’s make certain this isn’t the last act of lunacy we commit together. Lieutenant Jenkins has the bridge while I’m gone. I expect you to follow her orders without question in my absence. If she says to blow the Aegis out of the sky when we get that old hulk up and running I expect the only argument to be who pulls the trigger.”

Thessalia double-checked her restraints before opening the windscreen of the shuttle. “I’ll see you all in 8 days. Captain Anthony out…”

The pilot of Thessalia’s shuttle was a jittery young man by the name of Ogedei. a guy? wha?? With an authoritative tap of his helmet he signaled his passengers to switch to the local comm channel before proceeding with his launch briefing.

“Good evening passengers. this is your pilot Ogedai Shen thanks star wars name generator speaking. Today we’ll be making the short trip to the desert moon of Karakorum from the shuttle bay of the Leviathan. Our elevation at takeoff will be negligently close and we’ll be making our final approach at a velocity well beyond what this tin can is cleared for.”

The engineers on the shuttle laughed at that. The marines just exchanged nervous glances. The pilot continued.

“We’re looking at a total travel time of oh poo poo between wheels up and wheels down and are cleared for ejection from the shuttle bay in thirty seconds. Now would be a good time to fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourselves for survivor’s guilt.”

There was a metallic clunk as the shuttle released its parking clamps. Thessalia felt her stomach lurch as the craft lifted gently off the deck of the shuttle bay. Karakorum and its host gas giant were now visible in the distance. The captain mused on how rare it was to realize just how terrifyingly fast space travel was as the moon grew ever larger in the viewport.

The launch controller counted down as they drew closer to their target. It felt as though an entire lifetime passed between each of those final fifteen seconds.

“Three…”

The captain admired the beauty the gas giant as a vein of chromium gas wove its way through a purple cloud of permanganate.

“Two…”

She hoped that Maura would remember to take care of her fish after she died.

“One…”

We can do this… she failed to convince herself.

“Godspeed…”

In an instant they were tumbling through the void; the Leviathan streaking off in the distance, already just a speck of black against the light of the system’s star. I'm not sure that's how momentum works, shouldn't they be going the same speed what with newton's first law and all?

Thessalia felt nothing but incredible loneliness. um why?

They fell towards the moon in silence for what felt like hours. weird I thought that this was all happening crazy fast The captain was only brought back to reality by the frantic buzzing of an alarm and flashing red lights throughout the cockpit.

“Status!”

“Flat spin,” the pilot barked. “Very bad but at least we weren’t dragged into the black by the Leviathan’s wake.” As shaky as he’d seemed prior to launch, Ogedai was in the zone under pressure. Flipping switches with the kind of confidence that could only come from having averted death a thousand times prior, he looked to Thessalia.

“I need your help getting this bird to cooperate.”

Thessalia turned to her pilot, her eyes pleading for guidance. “Tell me what I can do.”

“Get the airfoils out!”

Thessalia deployed the wings and rudder without question. The sudden loss of speed threw her forward into her restraints, stealing the air from her lungs.

“Done,” the word came out between gasping breaths as she struggled to inflate her lungs in the thin atmosphere provided by her helmet.

“We need to get our nose pointed down.” Ogedai was unshakable. He flipped another switch and a pair of flight sticks deployed between the legs of pilot and copilot. Easing the throttle forward he looked his captain square in the eye. “Watch my controls and do as I do. We’re going to need to wrestle this thing into cooperating with us.”

Thessalia mirrored the motions of Ogedei as he expertly worked to assume control of the plummeting craft. After what felt like an eternity, again with this eternity poo poo stop it you're slowing down the narrative the shuttle was streaking like an arrow down towards the steppes of Karakorum.

Thessalia had finally caught her breath. “Now what,” she panted.

“Pull up slowly,” Ogedai instructed, “and try not to blackout.”

Thessalia kept both hands on the stick and an eye on the altimeter as she followed Ogedei’s lead. Staying conscious was a tall order as the closer the shuttle got to level, the thicker the black rings at the edge of her vision got.

They had just barely saved themselves from becoming one with the scenery. The altimeter took up what was left of Thessalia’s sight. Another hundred meters and it would have been the last thing the captain ever saw.

Captain Thessalia Anthony blacked out, uncertain if it was due to relief, exhaustion or the g-forces finally besting her efforts to keep the blood flowing to her brain. um she blacked out so I doubt she'd be having an internal debate about the cause.

*****

On the bridge of the Leviathan Lieutenant Jenkins found herself with the unforeseen consequences of not smashing her ship into a moon.

“Orders Captain?” she's a lieutenant the comm specialist had asked her the same question three times in as many minutes and Maura still didn’t have an answer. “The Drumheller is requesting a parlay. They want to know if we’ll host or if they need to.”

Jenkins chewed her lip in search of the answer. “Who’s wears the pointy hat on that boat?”

“Registry shows a Vice Admiral Ackerman wearing the pointy captain’s hat Sir.”

Maura pushed the panic brewing inside her to the back of her mind, hoping the Admiral was still a friendly face.

“I’ll take him in the ready-room,” She stated. “Have the escort team track down some N.C.O. uniforms. We need to all look like real navy when he comes aboard.”

“Aye sir.”

Now to to dig out my old set of whites, Maura pondered if she even remembered how to wear a real navy uniform.
no idea what this section was about. What's the new ship? Are they bad guys?
*****

Thessalia awoke to the barking voice of Stratego Norris directing the repair crews from a roughshod wheelchair planted in the sand beside her bed.

“Get up you big baby,” Norris teased. “You’ve been out for ten hours. Some of us would kill for that luxury.”

The captain groaned. Pushing herself upright she gave in to gravity allowing herself to fall back onto the cot.

“Five more minutes.” she whined. Burying her head under her pillow she pled to Norris, “All I want is five more minutes.”

“You’re the captain,” Norris gave a condescending smile. “Just keep in mind I’m not reheating this coffee when it gets cold.” please stop this banter it's killing me

“Fine I’m up.” Thessalia stretched before accepting Norris’ offer. “What’s the sitrep?”

“Better than expected.” The stratego shifted her focus to the hulking silhouette of the Aegis in the distance. “Automated systems brought that old death trap down in mostly one piece. Most of the fixing is splicing blown electrics and patching hull breaches.”
I'm starting to wonder what it's doing there in the first place and why I've just read all these words about how they're salvaging it. Are there survivors on board? Some sort of valuable resource? Why is it on this moon in the first place? I'm not feeling this story at all here.
Norris winced as she adjusted her position in the wheelchai. proofread “Unfortunately comms and sensors are fried and we weren’t accounting on having to fix those. We’ll be heading back into the void totally blind when we’re back up and running. Three of five shuttles have the aerodynamic properties of bricks now so we’re salvaging what we can from them.”

“I was talking about the crew,” Thessalia didn’t mean to sound so short but was too fatigued to issue an apology. “Did we lose anybody.”

“Just you for half a day. Hard landings put a couple engineers and a handful of grunts in club-med. In all reality that’s the worst of our casualties.” Norris pointed to the slapdash cast wrapped around her unsettlingly ugh crooked shin. “So I hear you’ve got a weak stomach and a knack for atmo-flight?”

Thessalia gave her strategic officer a puzzled stare.

“What do you mean?”

“Just after leveling out you turned your helmet into a fishbowl.”

The captain sighed, suddenly aware of the stench of vomit permeating her hair. flagged for unnecessary grossness

“The enlisteds aren’t going to let me live that down, are they?”
Turning her chair to face the captain, Norris put on a devious grin. “Even if they do drop it at some point you can rest assured that I never will.”

A smile painted itself onto the face of the captain., yuck try "the captain smiled" “That’s fine I’m used to it coming from you.” She pushed herself to her feet. “Wouldn’t happen to know if the showers on that tub are up and running would you?”

“Never stopped working,” Norris replied.

“Good. I’m going to go clean off this puke before I get covered in elbow grease.” where are they? i thought they were in a shuttle now they have cots and showers and crap?

*****

Maura snapped to attention as Vice Admrial Lance Ackerman stepped into the ready-room. He was a rugged man. Handsome in his old age with a warm smile buried under a face marred with the scars of a lifetime at war.

“Sir!” Maura’s right hand snapped up in salute, dropping in sync with the admiral’s as he returned the gesture.

“Good to see you captain,” he said as he closed the distance between them. “Now, since we’ve dispensed with the formalities of rank how about you give your grandpa a hug?” oh no you didn't

Maura obliged, pulling her grandpa in close. “How’s mom?”

“Worried about you. Captain Yamamoto said you’d gone native after your demotion and joined up with the revolt.”

Maura looked at her toes, fully aware that the Vice Admiral could see through the lie she was forming in her head.

“That’s just not true,” Maura’s words carried no conviction as they left her mouth.

“Don’t lie to me Maura. I want the truth.” The vice admiral didn’t sound angry. It wasn’t even tainted with a tinge of disappointment. “Do you believe what you’re doing is right?”

“Yes sir,” resolute sincerity rang proud in her voice, “I absolutely do.”

“That’s all I need to know then.” Her grandfather smiled at her with the same warmth he had at her graduation from the Naval Academy, “So, tell me how I can help.”

Maura looked dumbstruck at her grandfather. “What will you tell your crew about helping us?”

“The same lie you were going to tell me,” he said with a grin, “that you’re working as an operative gaining intelligence on the resistance and that we don’t plan on compromising that operation.

The lieutenant embraced her grandfather once more, grateful for his mercy but terrified of his insight into her behavior. okay so they're both traitors? cool i guess. Hope this has some bearing on the story later....

*****

Back on the ground so where is the leviathon though all this? What happened to the bad guys that were supposed to be tracking them? the Aegis was ready for the do or die moment. Thessalia had always felt that it was the best ship in the void, a fact the grace of its auto-landing only served to confirm. She stood on the bridge, confident in the quality of their repairs.

“Let’s get off this rock,” she shouted.

“Aye sir.” The helmsman’s control interface lit up and he began the series of keystrokes that would set them on a launch trajectory.

“Everybody strap in.” The captain’s advice was unnecessary. Not a single member of the bridge crew wasn’t already firmly lashed to their chair as the front end of the battle cruiser tilted off the ground.

“Ten seconds to vertical,” the helmsman's voice rang through the ship as the ship turned perpendicular to the desert floor. A soft thud announced that they were ready for takeoff.

It was Thessalia’s turn to address the skeleton crew. With a few keystrokes she was ready to broadcast through the whole vessel.

“We may have gotten this tub space worthy again,” she began, “but we’re far from green as far as getting home is concerned. Sensors and comms are both down and we have no clue what we’re going to find when we break atmo so be on alert.”

She paused, running through the list of repairs that hadn’t been completed either out of urgency or lack of proper materials.

“The two big guns are ready to blaze but outside of that we’re defenseless so play it smart and don’t be quick to open fire.” With a sudden realization, she lamented their lack of ammunition. “Actually don’t fire at all,” the caption continued, “I’d rather have to break out of prison than survive the vacuum. I’m not normally one to consider surrender an option but if we encounter surrender stand down.” what happened to the crew of the aegis?

Thessalia adjusted the harnesses of her captain’s chair one last time. “Enough rambling out of me though, yeah seriously let’s get on with it then shall we? Approaching escape velocity in in t-minus five.”

The launch thrusters fired up, filling the ship with the fiery roar of a star.

“Four…”

The rest of the bridge crew snapped into action. It would take more than a lowly helmsman to get this tube airborne.

“Three…”

Slowly the hulking pile of metal rose from the desert floor. Once more Thessalia felt sick.

“Two…”

Faster now, the horizon in the skylight creeped lower and lower as their altitude increased.

“One…” you already did this countdown thing earlier, boring

Thessalia’s heart was pushed against her spine as the escape thrusters turned to full power. The sky grew darker every second. Once more she fought the g-forces to keep blood flowing to her brain, this time she was successful. After an eternity the force of acceleration ceased, ushering the captain back to the comfort of weightlessness.

“Good job everybody,” her compliment echoed through the corridors of the Aegis. “Now for the hard part; getting home in one piece.”

*****

The Drumheller and the Leviathan sat in high orbit like a pair of raptors. Sensors and eyes alike scanning the surface of the moon for the telltale signs of a launch. aha that's where they are. that whole high speed atmo drop seems a little unnecessary if there's just hanging out up there, no?

First a brilliant flash of white as the launch engines flared.

Then a brilliant streak of white smoke as the escape thrusters fired.

Then the growing silhouette of the Aegis in the viewport.

Thessalia had her comms specialist hailing the Aegis at the first sign of recover. sentence makes no sense No response. She hoped the presence of their companion wouldn’t scare them off.

*****

We’re hosed. Thessalia did not see the presence of the sector flagship for the Khanate as a good omen. We’re hosed and Jenkins is going to be forced to shell us to oblivion.

“Alright clowns I’m tasking you with finding a way to figure out what the gently caress happened that we’re staring death in the eye.” what

The crew did not seem enthused, but they set to work regardless as she did some brainstorming of her own. Ideas bounced from ensign to lieutenant to captain, none ever seeming good enough. boy they sure seem to have a lot of time to figure this out

“Morse code.”

The suggestion was barely a whisper. It had come from a tactical officer seated at the trigger of the big guns.

“Repeat that Commander,” The captain’s order was harsh. She didn’t have time for anyone to play coy.

The tactician cleared his throat of the uncertainty that had muted his earlier declaration.

“Morse code,” he continued. Old earth boats used flashing lights to send messages over short distances.” but why? Why not just send a regular message to Leviathan? Also morse code is a pretty worn out trope methinks

“Get on with it then,” Thessalia barked. “Tell the Aegis that we’re willing to stand down if they’ll escort us to dry dock for prisoner processing.” wait I thought Thessalia was on the Aegis? so confused

The beacon on the bow of the ship flashed in a sequence of longs and shorts. The tactical officer worked furiously to translate the message.

“Captain Maura Jenkins says we’re all clear to head back to friendly waters,” he stated. “Apparently the Admiral in charge of the Drumheller is going to act as escort to talk down any hostiles.”

“Send a reply.” the captain thanked her lucky stars. Her triumphant grin betraying an intent the crew had long suspected she continued, sloppy writing “Tell her I expect her in my quarters to explain exactly how in the hell she pulled that off at zero-dark-thirty.”

The tactical officer gave Thessalia a knowing smile, “Aye captain… Responding now.”

Somehow Captain Anthony’s crew had pulled off the impossible once more. cue freeze frame and ending music

oh its the end thank god. I still don't understand why they had to salvage that ship which is bad because its the whole plot of the story. Where did it come from? Why did it have no crew? What was it doing on the moon? Why did the captain have to go on the mission? In the end the chummy tone and clumsy writing stole any sense of urgency or danger from the story. You've written a lot better than this. It's in need of a serious edit/rewrite to make it passable. Also disappointed there was no climactic battle. You said the big guns were online so it sucked that they never got used (see: Chekov's gun)

Hawklad fucked around with this message at Jan 17, 2017 around 19:15

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Okay fine, I'm in. Poetry is hard.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Aurelia
115 words

Shadows rise on the garden wall.
Pale light creatures with sumac stings,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.

Worlds of veil lie within their thrall,
from deep they drift on mucous wings.
Shadows rise on the garden wall.

Jellies float over barren pall
of bleached white bone and scattered things,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.

Toxic sand spills from urban sprawl
and metals boil from buried springs.
Shadows rise on the garden wall.

Waters birth sheets of black rainfall
where once did shelter vibrant beings,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.

Echoes large fade to echoes small,
of desperate men, dark machines.
Shadows rise on the garden wall,
driven to the edge, mankind's fall.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Arrival
1393 Words


The snow crackles beneath Margrette's cloth boots as she runs. Her lungs burn but she doesn't stop because everyone is running, a great desperate herd, trying to find where it went down.

She'd stepped out the back door with her boss, Robb, to smoke a cigarette when they saw the light fall from the sky. Heading right for them this time, instead of the usual lazy arc to the north, towards open water. This time it stayed in place, burning brighter and brighter, birthing black shadows against the walls of the tavern.

Then a roar of thunder as it screamed down and impacted the frozen ground no more than a kilometer away. Towards the Northern Road.

"Jesus!" Robb exclaimed. "That's close."

The people inside the tavern heard it also. They spilled out, maybe two dozen total, drawing coats around themselves, jabbering, pointing at the sky. Flashlights pierced the darkness as they struck out across the frozen ground. Walking, at first, excited murmurs and frosty breath rising above them.

Then a few at the front began to run, and now everyone is trying to keep up.

Margrette keeps one arm across the bulge in her belly and runs the best she can, but slips towards the back of the group. Her breath is short and her legs cramp. She stops for a moment, hands on her knees, and looks up. The moon is only half full, but gives enough light to reflect off the Belt, stretching from horizon to horizon. The megastructure encircles the planet like a noose, visible day and night. Looming above, lazily rotating counter to the Earth's spin, a steady reminder that humans no longer control their destiny.

Margrette pushes on. Broken trucks and ice boats litter the empty tundra as she crunches towards the mob ahead. They've stopped, their shouts of discovery echoing across the barren field. As she approaches she sees they are circled around a silver orb half buried in the ground. Its irridescent skin steams in the dim light. Everyone stays back a few paces. As Margrette joins she can feel the heat coming from the alien object.

Like all children, Margrette had heard the stories of when the skies exploded and the land burned. How only a few survived. The great alien ships with their particle beams and antimatter bombs slicing through the sky like glittering death. The winter lasting over a half millennium without reprieve. How the atmosphere finally cleared to reveal the Belt, the vast orbital structure that now ensnared the frozen Earth. And always the lights in the sky streaking down to the north, delivering their payload into the radioactive oceans. And there they bred, the once green Earth now a toxic nursery for the aliens they called the Othuum.

She hates them. She hates how they've made humanity an afterthought.

She hates this world her child must inherit.

Crack! Robb's shovel comes down hard on top of the sphere, piercing the shimmering skin and splitting it open. He jumps back, shovel out in defense.

The mob goes silent. Margrette's heart punches at her chest. Metal taste in her mouth.

The crack in the orb begins to grow, extending the split that Robb's shovel had started. The two sides of the orb splay open wetly to reveal a blackened mass within.

"Holy poo poo," someone whispers. The mass pulses once, twice, then disgorges a tentacled creature onto the snow, no larger than a loaf of bread. Pale grey with two black eyes centered on its oblong body. It quivers on the snowpack, one tentacle raised, waving it about, as if tasting the air.

Othuum. Margrette's baby kicks violently and a contraction grips her.

A massive shiver ripples through the alien larva and it begins to screech.

Margrette's mouth opens to answer just as Robb's shovel comes down again, this time the blade smashing the alien's soft body. Its wailing stops. It shivers under the flashlights.

"Kill it!" someone shouts.

Robb's face twists in disgust. Again he brings the shovel down, driving the alien into the snow. Margrette's baby kicks and claws at her from inside. Her head spins with pain and fear and she drops to her knees.

Not now. Not ever.

One final blow from the shovel and Robb steps back, panting. The alien's movement stops. Black fluids leak into the snow.

Her baby grows quiet. Thank God.

The mob closes in, a whirlwind of pent-up energy, kicking the empty sphere and stomping the alien carcass. Robb scoops what's left of it in his shovel and with a great cheer the crowd treks back towards the tavern, bearing the broken corpse before them like a battered talisman.

Robb puts the dead larva on the shelf behind the bar. The crowd is rowdy now, drunk on rage and desperation and alcohol, and Robb loudly declares that drinks are on the Othuum tonight. The room erupts. The fire is stoked and the liquor and the people flow around the tavern in a giddy dance. After a time the alien is passed through the crowd, its deflated body held high and then tossed back and forth among the throng. Many gallons of rough liquor are consumed as the crowd celebrates this small victory over their distant masters.

It is sunrise before the last drunk stumbles out the door, and Margrette is tired. She draws her mop absently across the broken glass and vomit and spilled drinks. There have been no more contractions and her baby has been quiet. Robb passed out hours ago, leaving her alone in the tavern. Her arms are rubber and her head is beginning to pound from the liquor. Tired fingers slip and the mop handle drops to the floor. Sighing, she bends down and that's when she sees it.

Battered and flattened, the alien larva sits in a puddle of its own fluids underneath the table. For the first time Margrette smells it: a swampy punch of brine and decay that stings her nostrils. It smells unsettlingly familiar. Her baby smells it too, it seems, for it lurches awake with a kick.

She reaches under the table with the mop and slides the corpse towards her. A trail of ochre slime follows. One of its eyes has been gouged out. The other stares blankly up at her.

The empty tavern is still.

She stares into its one eye.

It blinks.

Her baby kicks again, hard, like it wants escape. A painful contraction squeezes her gut. Panic rises but she fights it as she staggers backwards, its blinking eye playing over and over in her head.

Not now.

Her baby is rolling, kicking, punching. Desperate. Margrette pulls a cloth off the table behind her. Glass shatters on the floor. She throws it over the dead carcass.

For a minute she stares, expecting it to move. But it doesn't. The Othuum larva is dead. Has been for hours.

Bundling it in the cloth she carries it over to the trash behind the bar. But she can't bring herself to drop it in. Grief for her unborn child, but also despair for this broken thing wrapped in cloth. Tears double her vision as she puts a hand on the bar to steady herself. Her other hand holds the alien bundle against her swollen belly.

And that's when she feels it move.

The liquid mass under the cloth shifts, changes shape to flatten itself against her abdomen. Panic rising, she pulls it off, but it resists, as if held there by a magnet. It takes all her strength to pry it off.

Her baby pounds the walls of her womb. She drops the cloth and the alien corpse spills onto the ground. Robb's shovel is right there. She grabs it and chops down hard again and again with the blade. The corpse cleaves, its fluids spraying her legs as she chops down. She screams in pain as a massive contraction grips her gut and then a rush of liquid on her legs as her own water breaks, her baby's amniotic fluids mixing with the alien juices on the floor of the tavern.

She collapses to the floor.

"Margrette! Are you okay?" The door bangs open, Robb calling her. He rounds the bar and sees her lyng there, clutching her belly.

"It's time," she whispers. "It has arrived."

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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As always, great crits and they are much appreciated!

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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sparksbloom posted:

a stray crit:

Very insightful, thank you!

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May 3, 2003


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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Cards:
Deity of Scars
Earthshaker
Endless Scream


God of War
[2740 words]

"Follow me, Polack!"

The SS officer, his soft turnip face bursting out of his collar, shakes his revolver at me.

I roll off my cot, zip up my winter suit and don my hat and mitts. The officer has an elaborate fur wrapped around his uniform and a pair of leathery earmuffs to ward off the Arctic cold. Together we tramp outside the hut and into the snow and the chaos.

The blare of the klaxons and men shouting reverberate around the base. Officers, enlisted soldiers, and laborers are running every which way, carrying weapons and supplies and radios as they move into defensive positions.

Schatzgraber base was supposed to be top secret. Tucked away on an island at the top of the world, the last thing we would expect is an Allied attack. But this entire operation has been nothing but a series of surprises and setbacks since we made landfall a year ago.

The officer leads me to a munitions hut, where inside he directs me to pile explosives onto a sled. As a laborer I have only limited contact with the upper echelon of SS officers that run Schatzgraber, but I see on his lapel this man is Major Kuttner. I am familiar with this name. Anytime it is mentioned in the mess hall it is always with a hushed and fearful tone. What does he have planned for me? The sled full of dynamite is certainly not a good sign, but I resolve myself.

I will not die in a suicide mission to protect the Nazis. Not after they turned my proud country into a bleak and bloody prison. Not after what they did to my family.

When the sled can bear no more dynamite, under his impatient command I drag it outside. He tosses a pair of snowshoes at me and has me tie the sled straps around my waist.

"Let's go!" He shouts about the din, waving his revolver. "There's no time."

To my surprise we head inland, away from the harbor and the Allied ships. We barely make it out of the encampment when the first shells fall. Crump! I feel a blast of heat at my neck as an explosion rips through a hut at the far end of the base. Kuttner's puffy face turns and in the flash I see panic, but his small eyes fix onto me.

"Hurry up Polack! We don't have time for your laziness!"

I clench my fists but hurry my pace. A year of slave labor and I hardly notice the slur. I used to seethe and resist my Nazi captors but the frequent lashes and time in solitary seems to have dulled my resistance.

We are moving away from the base, towards the center of the island. We soon arrive at the foot of the ice dome that dominates the western portion of the peninsula. A well-trodden path zigzags up the mountain of ice. We laborers call it the Lod Wulkan — 'Ice Volcano' in the mother tongue — as every night its peak glows with torches and artificial lights. Some of us have even been there, but only to haul up carefully sealed crates of heavy equipment, and only in the daytime when it is quiet.

No trees grow this far north so I have a clear view of the battle erupting around Schatzgraber as we switchback up the ice mountain. Many more shells have fallen and it seems half the base is on fire. Dense plumes of black smoke billow upwards into the pre-dawn sky. I count at least a dozen Allied ships dotting the Arctic sea just past the harbor, beyond the reach of machine gun encampments on the beachhead. The enlisted men have finished setting up the long-range mortars and answering fire begins splashing down in the seas around the Allied ships.

The sled is heavy and the trail steep. I see hear Major Kuttner's breath rasping ahead of me, and his pace has slowed. He still holds his revolver in one gloved hand, and like me steals occasional glances back towards the devastation at the base. We are halfway up Lod Wulkan when I finally dare speak.

"Why are we climbing this mountain? Shouldn't we be helping defend?" I say in my rough German.

He stops and turns, and raises his revolver at me. His eyes are two emotionless slits in his soft, ruddy face. I fear he is going to shoot me.

"Your job is to pull the sled, not ask questions!" he barks. He does not shoot. Instead he pulls his fur more tightly around himself and spins back around. We continue our trek.

Questions. Questions have been my only real possession since they plucked me out of Treblinka and shipped me up here. Why this remote, seemingly purposeless base on this tiny Arctic island? U-boats would often dock at night, after curfew, and offload crates of equipment that enlisted men haul up to the summit of the ice dome. The strange noises and lights coming from the summit of the mountain fuel crazy speculation and wild rumors among us laborers. Snatches of overheard conversations are dissected and analyzed as we lay in our bunks, exhausted from each days work, trying to stay warm under our thin blankets. I don't believe much of what I hear. Some think they are creating a super-weapon, that Himmler's obsession with the occult has borne fruit on this desolate island. Others speculate they have uncovered evidence of the ancient Aryan race the Nazis believe had sunk beneath the waves aeons ago. Or maybe it's a vast buried treasure under the ice dome, or a base to launch rockets at the Americans straight over the North Pole. The base's name, Schatzgraber — German for "treasure-hunter" — does little to dampen my coworkers wild fantasies.
Me, I don't pretend to understand what the Nazis are doing. I know what they are. Relentless, ruthless, and inhuman. I have smelled the acrid smoke from their death camps that lies heavy across the forests of my homeland.

Now I just try to stay alive so I may someday return to what little is left of my family. Stay alive, and stay warm.

The Arctic wind pierces the cheap fabric of my snowsuit as we climb onward. My hands and feet are numb. The summit is close. I look back and see the Allied ships have disgorged troop carriers that now plow through the harbor towards the base. The distant chatter of machine gun fire echoes up from the beachhead between the heavy thumps of the artillery.

The slope finally lessens and the path straightens before us. We have reached the summit. A sharp gust of wind sweeps pellets of razor snow across my face. I bury my head and pull the reluctant sled up the ice path towards a dark structure ahead. A short break in the snow reveals a metal building bristling with communications antennae and compact radar dishes.

Kuttner pushes a door open and ducks inside, leaving me out in the cold. The battle has fallen out of view beneath the curve of the ice dome, and now I am alone—a strange and unfamiliar feeling. I should run, but where would I go? I imagine dumping the explosives and riding the sled down the ice mountain into the waiting arms of the Allied conquerors. Would they rescue me or shoot me? I have no idea.

The door to the hut bangs open.

"Polack, pull that in here!" Kuttner shouts above the wind. He holds the door as I awkwardly navigate the sled through the doorway. The tarp I hastily tied over the explosives catches on a hinge and pulls away, threatening to spill the explosives, but I manage to wrestle it inside safely.

Crates and equipment boxes litter the inside of the hut. In the center a giant hole has been cut into the ice floor. A large mechanical winch is centered above it, from which drops a heavy metal chain. It disappears down into the depths of the hole. Deep into the heart of Lod Wulkan.

I shiver.

"Something is wrong," Kuttner mutters. He is holding the receiver of a field telephone to his ear, furiously turning the crank. A sturdy wire drops from the back of the telephone box down into the hole.

He tosses the receiver aside in disgust and turns to me. With effort, he forces his expression to soften. The effect is unsettling.

"What is your name, Polack?" he asks, almost gently.

"Pawel Skrzynecki," I say.

He pauses, as if digesting this information. "Pawel, we have an important mission ahead of us. A directive straight from Himmler and the Ahnenerbe. We’ve done important work here, all of us. Now it’s up to you and I to complete it."

I nod, not sure what to say.

"This work, it can’t fall into the hands of the Jews and their friends. It is...too powerful." Kuttner gazes into the hole. "Someone has betrayed us, Pawel. Given up our location and now Schatzgraber has been overrun by the Jewish rats. You saw their fleet. You know what they will do to us. They are like animals." He spits down into the hole
.
I think of my family, my sister and mother torn from my grasp at Malkinia station, pushed into rail cars under the dead eyes of the Sonderkommando, their wails and screams swallowed by the writhing mass of desperate humanity. I can only look away.

"Pawel," his voice is a pleading whisper now. "You must help me destroy this so they cannot use it against us."

I say nothing. I cannot.

But I know I must act.

I lunge at him, eyes fixed on the revolver in his hand.

The icy floor of the hut betrays me. As I leap my foot slips just a little, enough to give him time to spin away from my reach. I land awkwardly against a crate and crumple to the floor. This is the end. I brace for the impact of the bullet.

None comes. I look up, and Kuttner is standing there, his face twisted, looking down at me. The revolver is pointed at my head.

"Pawel, tsk tsk. I still need you. We will do this together." His voice is gentle, as if admonishing an unruly child. "Roll onto your belly."

What can I do? All is lost. He pulls a set of cuffs from his belt and ties my hands behind my back.

I watch Kuttner switch on a generator and press a button on the winch assembly. The shed shudders as the winch pulls the chain up for several minutes. From the depths a metal platform appears. It has a cage build on top of it, an elevator large enough to hold several men. Kuttner shuts it off, pulls it to the edge of the hole, opens a door on the side of the cage and with much effort shoves the explosives sled onto it. Then I am roughly shoved in as well. Kuttner reverses the winch and climbs inside, pointing the revolver at my head as together we drop into the dark depths of Lod Wulkan.

Despair and fear grip me. As we descend it becomes eerily quiet, the noise of the generator replaced by the creak of the frozen chain. The walls of the hole turn from ice to rock.

The chill seeps into my bones and I realize that I will never be warm again.

The light of electric lamps appears from below. The elevator drops into an open cavern and lurches to a halt on the rock floor. Kuttner opens the cage and beckons me to come out. More crates and boxes litter the room. An iron door is inset into the rock wall. It looks thick, like the door to a bank vault.

Kuttner double checks his service revolver and then undoes my cuffs and points the gun to my head.

"Open the door," he commands. Nervously, I grab the cold metal and spin the latch. It gives a solid click, and then I am able to push it open into the room beyond.

"Forward!" Kuttner says, but his voice is rough, nervous.

The room ahead is lit with the same cold electric light. It’s some sort of laboratory. There are steel tables piled with flasks, beakers and assorted medical equipment, a bank of large machines across one wall and hydraulic pipes and pumps that run haphazardly across the ceiling and floor.

An enormous cage is in the center, its metal bars twisted, jagged.

Open.

And there's the blood.

It covers everything. Globules of it drip from the pipes and pool on the floor along with other dark and viscous fluids. Body parts are strewn about like broken toys.

"Mein Gott—" Kuttner whispers behind me.

I take an involuntary step backwards and turn around. A shadow flits across the wall. Kuttner is frozen is shock, blocking the doorway.

Then it's on us.

It seizes me and tosses me aside. It rises up before Kuttner, all sinew and black skin and enormous leather wings spread wide.

The door slams shut and Kuttner's revolver makes a feeble clicking and the beast slaps it aside. I see panic in his eyes. He stumbles, draws his saber and swings at the creature but the blade just shatters against its ochre hide.

The beast raises one clawed finger, and pushes it deep into Kuttner's abdomen. Tears stream from his eyes and he gurgles wetly. Delicately, gently, the creature draws his finger upward, splitting Kuttner's chest in a gout of blood. His ruined body hangs from the claw for a moment, suspended, then drops to the floor.

I can't breathe, can't make a sound. My muscles stop working.

The creature turns to me, it's great horned head dips down to examine me. Eyes like obsidian ore bore through my skull, and then it's inside me.

I can feel it in my brain, moving around, crawling, searching. Tendrils squirm down passageways within my skull, unearthing emotions and memories that burst forth with savage intensity. Pain and euphoria and crushing sadness, then I am laughing, sobbing, screaming, a cacophony of memory and experiences set my mind awash like a flood tide through a shattered dam. I am ripped open under the creature's gaze, and then it is all stripped away but for the pain. All the pain I have ever felt in my life boils inside me, and I am crippled by it, helpless, shattered. My mother, sister, father, friends, all gone, all that I have ever cared for taken from me and destroyed, burned, gone forever. The pain breaks me. The shame, the guilt, the despair, and especially the rage. More rage than my body can contain. The pain hardens and I realize it's no longer pain at all, it has become something else. Something greater.

The beast stares at me and I stare back at myself through its leaden eyes. And I realize I am not alone with this pain.

We have become bound to this rage, this rage born of our suffering. It ties us together. Makes us one.

We become each other.

And then we are flying, up the cold tunnel towards the world above, bursting up through the roof of the shed and into the icy air of the Arctic dawn. The mountain shakes beneath us as our great wings flap. We land at the edge of the summit of Lod Wulkan and gaze down at the battle below. The Nazis flee their overrun base like desperate rats as the Allied troops pour in. A group of SS officers and enlisted men scrabble up the slopes of the ice mountain towards us, desperate to escape the bombardment.

With a great cry we leap into the air and swoop towards them. We feel the rage coursing through our body like blood, giving life to who we have become.

They see us and scream in fear, but it is too late as their flesh transforms into a writhing mass of pestilent worms under our gaze. We do not stop to watch them fall apart under their uniforms and furs.

We turn sharply to the south.

I am still Pawel. I am a man inside.

But I am also now part something greater.

We are Apollo. We are the God of Pestilence and Vengeance.

And it’s our mission to kill all Nazi scum.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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a new study bible! posted:

There are more bad things than good things.

in this thread

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Uranium Phoenix, I read your story and it was legit awesome, and well deserving of the wIN!

I'll take a critter please.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Stasis
2177 words


"It was like time sped up," Josylen says. "One minute they were there, and then it was like....all gross and smelly and, like, fluids and stuff."

"C'mon Joss," Chelsea says. "Those were our parents."

"I know. Sorry. It's hard to think about, you know?"

"Yeah. Let's not talk about it."

"I miss them."

"Me too," Chelsea says. But truthfully? Most of the time they're just faces in a picture frame on the mantle. Three years is a long time when you're ten. A long time to be ten.

Because she's been stuck at ten years old since that day she buried her parents on the hill. Three hard, long years, stuck in time.

Ever since it happened Chelsea keeps waiting for something to change.

But nothing ever does.


#


The water bucket bumps against her knee as she treks back towards the house. It has rained a lot lately, and the cistern is filled nearly to the brim. Enough that Chelsea will be able to draw a small bath later, once the sun has warmed it. A rare treat. They have to be so careful now, so careful about everything. Billy, Josylen's pet goat, has come down with a mysterious sickness and has stopped eating. He just lies in the dirt, drawing shaky breaths as patches of hair fall out and his insides leak from him.

The grain in the cellar is starting to get thin. Chelsea knows she'll have to make another run to town at some point. The thought of it makes her tummy clench. The last time, kids from the grocery store had followed her back and—she steals a glance over to the hill, where two fresh dirt mounds only recently have begun sprouting grassy weeds—well, she had cried for days over what she'd done.

That was life now. Josylen, Marcus, and her. The three of them are her whole world. She's the oldest so she gets to be in charge. She's the protector. It's supposed to be every kid's dream, a life of freedom without grownups telling you what to do. But most of the time? It hard and it sucks.

Josylen comes out the back door holding Marcus's hand. His round face breaks into a wide grin when he sees her coming up towards the house.

'Furs-dee," he says, pointed one stubby finger towards her. "Wah-dur."

"That right, little brother," Josylen says. "I told you she'd be right back." She reaches down and tousles his hair. Chelsea sets down the bucket and Marcus dips his cup into it and takes a big, sloppy drink. He's been getting thinner. At least compared to the rosy, cherub-cheeked toddler he'd been back when everything changed. Of course they're all like that. Life was lean and hard now. They were all thinner.

But not any older.

Marcus was too young to understand what was happening. He didn't remember when the skies rained pink dust, carrying the alien virus to infect the Earth. Chelsea sometimes looked back through the stack of newspapers by the fireplace. It was sad. It reminded her of how the world used to be, with her parents, her friends, school. Easier times. Pictures of concerned politicians trying to calm a panicked population. Scientists, some struggling to unlock a cure, other desperate to communicate with the aliens ships in the sky. Nothing worked.

Then all the grownups died and left them behind.

Chelsea dealt with what was left of their parents. Her parents. She shuts her eyes to chase away the image.

She picks up the water bucket.

"Chore time!" Her voice has a sing-song cadence she doesn't feel inside.

"Aww, Chels, we've just got up," her sister protests.

"Lots to do today. The carrots need thinning, there's trash to scatter, and you wouldn't believe how bad the coop smells."

Josylen wrinkles her nose. "We should just eat one. Chicken would taste so good tonight!"

"We barely have any good layers left, Joss. And you know we need the eggs."

Which reminds her again that they are low on feed, and the chickens don't do well on a diet of just scrap. Another reason to head into town.

Tomorrow, she thinks. Maybe she will go tomorrow. Or the next day.


#


Marcus is down for his afternoon nap and Josylen is sitting at the kitchen table drawing when Chelsea finally gets around to pouring herself that bath. Clay dust seeps from her skin as she sinks into the water, surrounding her with a cloud of dusky copper. There's an old, dry bar of soap in the dish. She slowly drags it across her skin.

Chelsea rubs at the sores on her torso. They itch and burn as the water washes over them. Their growth has been slow but persistent over the past year. She tried using some creams from her parent's medicine cabinet but nothing helped. Probably just some sort of vitamin deficiency, like how pirates used to get scurvy. But the vitamin C pills from the kitchen cabinet haven't helped.

A memory from before arrives unbidden. Her mother, running a warm cloth up and down her back as she sits in this very tub, playing with a plastic shark toy. Chelsea scoops some bubbles from the bathwater and reaches up and dabs her mother's chin to give her a beard. She giggles.

"You look like Colonial Sanders!" And her mother laughs and scoops bubbles onto Chelsea's face.

"My goodness, Chels! You need to shave that beard!"

And they giggle together and her mom wraps her in a warm towel and carries her to bed for storytime. The memory warms her, but it disappears as quickly as it arrived.

Then she is alone in the half empty mildew-stained tub.

Absently, she picks at a sore on her side. This one is larger and more developed than the others. It's the first one and the largest, on the left side of her abdomen. It has a dark black center from which a dab of pus leaks out. Chelsea give is a hard scratch and then looks in alarm as the black spot suddenly doubles in size. The red skin around it twitches, then contracts, squeezing the black part so that it gets pushed out, like a black worm being disgorged from the sore. And that's what it is, a oily black worm that breaks off and starts twisting and spasming in the water.

Chelsea screams.

She jumps out of the tub. The alien thing wriggles its way to the edge and begins oozing up the side of the tub towards her. She smashes it with the bar of soap again and again, until it is just a dark smear slowly leaking back down into the dirty water.

"Chelsea?" Josylen knocks at the door. "Chels are you okay? What happened?"

She gathers a towel around herself.

"I'm okay—I just saw a rat, that's all," she replies, her voice shaky. "I—I'm fine."

Her scream has woken up Marcus in the next room, and she can hear him crying out. Quickly she dries herself with the old towel. Blood is coming from the sore on her abdomen, a tiny hole punctured in her side. She presses the towel against it to staunch the flow.

She looks at herself in the mirror. There are still more sores.

They are spreading.


#


The leaves crunch beneath her tennies as she moves towards the back of the store. It's the middle of the night, and she is a long way from the farmhouse. Her bike and trailer are carefully stashed in the woods at the edge of town in case she needs to make a quick escape. Chelsea tries to calm herself. She's made this trip dozens of times, and only once has there been a problem.

But that was last time, so her hands are sweaty and the shotgun trembles in her grip. Its solid weight both reassures and intimidates her. Chelsea knows she will use it, if she needs to. She's done it before.

Last time.

She doesn't know how many kids are still holed up at the grocery store, how desperate they might be, whether they patrol the streets at night.

For now the streets are quiet save save for the low warble of an owl in the distance.

Chelsea reaches the feed store and pulls softly on the rear door. Rats and other creatures skitter away as the door creaks inward. She moves quietly, filling her satchels from the sealed plastic bins. Oats, cracked corn, chicken , enough to last several months if they ration carefully. The light from the moon filters in through the broken glass windows in the front, and Chelsea can see that someone has been here. Display racks have been knocked over and merchandise is strewn across the floor. And the feed bins are low, almost empty. She has to reach deep to fill her bags.

Worry gnaws at her gut. She hurries out the back door and up the hill to her bike. She stashes the bags in the trailer, and is about the mount for home. An itch in her side stops her.

Another memory, this one from just a few hours before. She is singing a lullaby to Marcus as she puts him to bed, gently rubbing his back.

"Five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away," she whispers, gently rubbing his back. "Mother duck said quack, quack, quack, quack..." her fingers passed over a tiny, familiar welt and her breath catches sharp in her throat.

"...but only four little ducks came back."

She pulls his shirt up a bit and sees it. Red with a black center.

Just like hers.

Chelsea leans heavy against her bike and sighs. She pictures the pharmacy in town, it's white, gleamings aisles loaded with every type of medicine possible. Surely something there would work on their sores? Kill whatever is growing inside them?

The pharmacy is next door to the grocery store on the far end of Main street. But what choice does she have? She is their protector now. She's in charge.

Chelsea checks that she has a round loaded in the breach and makes her way into the center of town.


#


The pharmacy is dark and quiet as she slips inside. Like the feed store, it has been ransacked many times over. Chelsea heads straight for the counter in the back, where the prescription medications are held, behind the bent metal gate that once separated it from the rest of the store.

Pill bottles are scattered everywhere, most opened, empty. Frantically she scans the shelves for creams or salves, but there is nothing. Someone has been through here and left little behind. Still she searches, trying desperately to read the labels in the dim light. But it's too dark and the labels don't help anyways, so she sets down her shotgun and simply starts tossing everything she finds into her backpack.

She's desperate. Maybe something will work? She can't let her brother and sister down.

She's their protector.

The front door to the pharmacy creaks open.

Chelsea drops flat to the floor. Her heart stops. The shotgun is on the counter behind her. She slides herself towards it, trying hard to make no noise.

"Is anyone here?" she hears a voice. A boy's voice, quavering. Nervous.

She reaches up for the gun. A flashlight beam criss-crosses the empty store.

"I heard you," the voice says. "Don't be afraid."

The cold metal greets her fingertips. The shotgun. She pulls it off the shelf and grips it tight. Memories of what happened last time erupt unbidden in her mind. The recoil of the gun, the flash of red as the shells impacted his young body.

Footsteps approach.

"I know you're here. I won't hurt you. We want to help."

Then he's there, rounding the corner. A flash of recognition. It's a boy she knew, once, from school.

Josiah.

He looks the same as she remembers from Ms. Derrien's class. Of course he does.

She levels the gun at him.

"Wait,' he says. He holds his hands up in the air. "Chelsea? Is that you? Oh my god it is."

She breathes. Lowers the gun slightly.

"Your cheek—" he says.

She reaches up and feels a newly forming welt. Tears corrode her vision.

"I know, Chelsea. You're not the only one. You're not alone."

"My little brother," she begins. "He's sick too."

"So was Charlie. My brother. We didn't know, then. So he....he died. But we can stop it. We have a cure. Promise. Let us help you."

The tears flow freely now. She can't stop them. The gun quivers in her hand.

"There's no cure," she says. "It is growing inside me. It will kill us all."

His face is so hopeful, so innocent.

"No. We can cure it. We used medicine from right here and it works. I—we can teach you. You could join us."

She is their protector. Their everything. But what life is a life alone, afraid?

She takes a leap.

"Okay."

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Some Crits for Week 237 - ALIENS

I like aliens, and sci-fi, so here are some short impressions/crits.

Twiggymouse - Bob

I see the word count, read the first couple paragraphs, and my eye starts to twitch. The parenthetical aside after the first word is not a good sign of things to come. Nor is the inactivity of this alien and the lack of clear setting...are they in space? In a lab? Where is the alien? You say that its pulsating "seemed to keep it off the ground," so is it floating or not? It's all so vague and boring.

Then we meet the characters and they are all flat cutouts, interchangable parts. Lots of yawning, drifting off to sleep, talking about dreams, a lecture about the nature of life, and still the alien isn't doing anything interesting. Much like the story.

Finally something interesting happens with the baseball game but then you over-explain everything in the next dialogue section, which, incidentally, has too many people talking and not enough attribution. Four characters all talking at once is very tricky to handle without confusing the reader so you have to be a lot more careful, or reduce the number of speakers. Then more over-explanation, he gets his leave, sees Bob again, the end.

Overall a very unsatisfying story, full of words that don't ever get anywhere particularly interesting.

Deltasquid - Aquariums

Writing is good and engaging. The setting is clear and interesting with some nice details. I can picture the klopoh fish, the bustle of the restaurant, and the snooty clientele. The gradual transformation of the waiter is handled well, but I think it needed more. The prompt asked us to explore something about people, which I don't think was fully explored in this story. Other than the protag verbalizing his inner thoughts and subsequently getting sick I don't see much character development here.


Thranguy - Five Years after Christmas

Obviously a lot of ideas in here, and deftly written as usual. It made me curious if you have read Embassytown (by China Mieville), for there are some parallels here with how you treat the Shouter language with the Ariekei from that novel. But in some ways yours is almost deeper and multi-tiered, evoking a deeper sense of the importance of language to their culture. The human drama was okay, although the murder I didn't find particularly relevant. Perhaps on a re-read I might see how that ties into the larger ideas of the story.

SurreptitiousMuffin - LEGION/MANY

Now this is a cool little piece, colorfully written in such a sparse tone. The first person plural is very effective at conveying the collectiveness of the spores, their distributed intelligence. The menace they present to their human hosts is a satisflyingly presented, an ever-present undercurrent as they describe their conquest, their ongoing fight to persist on the backs of their human hosts. No extra words here, and it is effective.

Djeser - Colorado Star

A cute story with a good heart. Took me until halfway into the story to realize Sally the drunk was the narrator, looking back because of your use of third person to describe her early on. Not the wrong choice, but it did confuse me a bit. Your use of colloquial language was effective. It's not always easy to know how much or how little to use— too heavy and it intereferes with intelligibility—but you did just enough to give it charm and authenticity without it getting in the way.


Solitair - Collective Soul

Starting the story with two paragraph of exposition doesn't exactly grab my attention or make me care about what's happening.

The construction of this story as a two-way conversation between the alien and scientists would maybe work if there more grist to work with. As it is, we have the difficult to read ALL CAPS BAD GRAMMAR alien who says something, then the scientist translates it for us, asks it another quesiton, repeat. It seems like the alien wants to help the reduce the disfunction in Arnette, the only way it knows how it to 'remove' the nodes (citizens) so it kills some folks. We don't really get to the bottom, and the ending is particularly unsatisfying as he asks for assistance in getting rid of the dysfunction but the scientist plays dumb and the story ends.

My problem with the story is it's all too dispassionate and emotionless. Nothing is revealed about Jensen at all, it's just the gradual unveiling of the alien's motive for the killngs. Which in my mind isn't enough to build a story upon.

Hawklad fucked around with this message at Feb 21, 2017 around 23:49

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

A more detailed crit:

Chernabog posted:

Two and the Same.
2505


Dr. Nisha Khatri let go off the samples, shattering them against the rocky beach into hundreds of pieces. She watched with horror as the world came to an end. The brightness of the explosion faded and an enormous black cloud expanded rapidly across the sky, engulfing the entire Earth in darkness. She held on tightly to a palm tree, bracing for the impervious winds that were sure to follow. The wall of air hit her in full force nearly tearing her away from the tree's bark. When the wind calmed down she finally let go, exhausted. Right off the bat the cause and effect here is confusing - it seems like dropping the samples caused the explosion, and it's only later in the story that it becomes clear that's not the case. Also, being that close to a nuke where you basically get knocked off your feet is gonna kill ya right away.

“We need to get up higher!” Nathaniel yelled.

Nisha nodded instinctively despite knowing he wouldn't be able to see her through that pitch black darkness. She switched on her flashlight and saw him picking up his backpack and rope. The emp would have knocked out the batteries in her flashlight, no?

“Let's go,” he said.

They made their way up the mountain as fast as they could manage, though climbing with such a small amount of light had proven to be more challenging than they had anticipated. Extra words here, of course it would be hard. As they advanced, the sound of crashing water roared louder in the distance.

“I told you we should've gone earlier!” Nisha screamed over the thunderous noise. I don't think tsunamis give you so much thunderous and crashing warning. I'm struggling to suspend my disbelief here.

Nathaniel didn't reply but he hurried his pace. As the tsunami approached the sound became louder and the sea breeze scent stronger. Had they not chosen to ignore the warnings they might have stood a better chance of surviving the initial nuclear impact. However, they knew that even if they survived the impact, the ensuing radiation would wither and doom the entire Earth. but they did survive the impact, so I don't understand this.

Nathaniel intercrossed his fingers and helped Nisha climb onto a boulder.

“Give me a hand,” he said as he extended his arm towards her, “just a bit more.”

Nisha lowered her arm but it was too late. The water came crashing down on Nathaniel in a tumultuous rage, swallowing him whole. Nisha was pushed back. The waterline receded quickly and she emerged unscathed. kinda convenient that the tsunami just reaches Nathaniel but doesn't quite get her, one boulder up on the mountainside

“Nate! Nate!” She yelled.

There was absolute silence. Nisha scanned the lower levels of the mountain with her flashlight. There, she found Nate, laying over a rock with his head bleeding. She climbed down and put her fingers on his throat. He did not breathe but there was still a pulse.those two things usually go together - you don't have one without another She pinched his nose and began breathing life into his mouth. After a few repetitions he violently coughed the water within his lungs. Finally why finally?did she wait a while?she bandaged his head wound. She leaned down and kissed his cold lips.


A chirping bird woke her up. The sound was comforting, it meant that at least some animals had survived. She knew that without sunlight they would die eventually, but perhaps some life on Earth would be able to go on; Maybe some bacteria would survive or even some deep sea creatures or birds, even, apparently.. Then again they would have to deal with the radiation and the obliterated ecosystems. Life itself was at risk of extinction and it was a shame that no human would be left to study the post-apocalyptic evolution of the remaining species, if there were any.

Everything was still dark. Nisha brushed her wet black hair away from her face and turned on the flashlight. Nathaniel was still on the floor floor implies they are in a room somewhere. maybe you mean 'ground?'where she had left him; still unconscious, still breathing. She turned around and saw an infinitely clunky adverb use long tentacle coming from the sky, it's faint white glow contrasting against the stark blackness of the sky. At the tip of the tentacle was a smooth white orb that slithered across the air towards her. She fell back and screamed.

“What the gently caress is that?” who is she talking to? the bird?

She grabbed a rock and threw it at the orb. It dodged effortlessly and continued moving towards her. Nisha stood up and sprinted away but tripped on a rock. The impact on her elbow caused blood to trickle down her forearm.

“Leave me alone! What are you?” She said as she turned towards the creature.

The tentacle quickly wove around her like a coil, the orb stopping before her eyes. A face formed on the sphere's surface as if it had been extruded from a ball of clay, an exact replica of Nisha's face.

“What the gently caress is that? Leave me alone! What are you?” the creature repeated.

“That's my face! You don't get to use it,” Nisha protested.that's sort of funny

The fake version of Nisha frowned, then released its hold off of her and recoiled across the air towards the backpack that lay on the floor. Two tentacles emerged from the back of the head and it began rummaging through Nisha's belongings. It pulled out a camera, inspected it for a moment and tossed it away. Then a pen. It grabbed her logbook and deftly scanned through the pages.

“Knock it off! First you grab my face and now my things,” Nisha said as she caught up weird blocking, was she running towards it?to the creature.

The tentacle turned towards her but remained silent and motionless. Nisha hesitated but walked up to face the creature. At that point it wasn't like there was much to lose: she could die to that monster now or in a matter of days to the radiation. A couple of minutes passed bu proofread the creature didn't move or react. so wait nothing happens for several minutes? Why put a pause in the middle of the story like that? I can imagine them just frozen, waiting for the author's next cue...

“Well, I don't have time for this,” Nisha said as she abandoned the creature and walked towards Nathaniel. “Maybe I do but it doesn't matter.” does she or doesn't she?

“I have synthesized your language. We may now communicate without impairments.” The creature finally said in a mechanical voice.

Nisha turned.

“What do you want?

The creature remained silent and motionless once again, eyes unblinking. Nisha frowned. The skin of the alien began bubbling like boiling water and a humanoid body was spit out from the underside of the dangling head. It was smooth and glassy and featureless. Even though it seemed functional the creature remained hanging from the sky, still connected to the tentacle on the back of its head. Nisha gagged.

“I apologize for the communication delay. My brain was thousands of light years away, and while I have the means to send information faster than the speed of light it still has its limitations,” the creature said. I guess that explains the long pause from before?

“Your brain…. was what? Light years? I don't even know where to start.” Nisha's face held an expression of fascination and confusion. held is an awkward verb in this context, makes it wordy and tell-y

“Oh yes indeed. I just made a new brain over here. It is located within this fake body.”

“You put what where? Oh, just forget it! Can you like… change to another face? Talking to myself is creeping me out,” she shivered. “And for heaven's sake, can you land on the floor? It looks like you are in the gallows with that thing coming out of your neck.”

The creature's facial features shifted along the orb's surface until they no longer resembled Nisha. At the same time the creature landed on the floor.

“I apologize, mimicry usually works to incite dialogue.”

“It's not mimicry if you do it half-wrong. And stop apologizing…” Nisha paused.

“I don't have a name. I am a brain of the universe.”

“God?”

The alien smiled awkwardly. While its spoken language was perfect its body language was not.

“No. I am sentient but not omniscient. My senses are limited to the reach of my probes, such as the one you saw earlier. what probe? Seems to reference something earlier that isn't mentioned. You and I are two of the same, I'm just more developed.”

“Oh great!” Nisha, replied. “Well, I'm gonna call your advancedness 'Sen', for sentience.”

Sen made a reverence did you mean reference? with a hand gesture Nisha could not recognize.

“So what brings you here anyway?” She continued, “I don't know if you noticed but the Earth is undergoing a bit of an apocalypse.”

“Precisely. My probe caught an energy spike that was unaccounted for. That is usually a sign of intelligence.”

“If you can call this intelligence,” Nisha waved her open palm through the darkness. oh right it's pitch black. How is she seeing anything?

“Hm...”

Sen closed its eyes. Rays of sunlight broke through the smoky sky, revealing a second white tentacle that sucked the polluted air around it. A whirlwind of smoke and dust followed its every move as the air began to clear at a steady pace.

“That is amazing! You are siphoning it.”

“Not siphoning, processing. We don't want to remove the atmosphere.”

Nisha nodded.

“Unfortunately I can't do anything about the radiation. The remaining humans will have to wait it out.”

Nisha's face of excitement turned sour. 'face of excitement' is awkward wording

“So we are hosed either way. I'd be shocked if the nuclear winds didn't poison me already.” yeah that was made clear earlier, no?

“I apologize, I have done what I can.”

Nisha's dark brown eyes wandered off into the distance. Her analytical mind had always tried to anticipate the future, to stay one step ahead. To be prepared for every probable possibility. But nothing had prepared her for a nuclear war breaking out from nowhere, nobody had been. 'It won't happen' everybody said. 'The leaders know what's at stake'. They sure did. earlier in the story you said the ignored the warnings, which contradicts this paragraph

The reality of the situation was that neither she nor anyone could fix it, apparently not even Sen, an amazing creature that most biologists wouldn’t have even dreamed off.proofread And here she was sulking instead of taking advantage of her last few moments on Earth. yeah sulking isn't really what she seems to be doing here. odd choice of word

“I know,” Sen interrupted her thoughts, “You have many questions.

“Did you just read my mind? Are you telepathic?”

“No, I have met many other beings around your level of development and they usually think in a similar fashion. Telepathy doesn't exist. And besides, talking is a telepathy of sorts.” makes you think

Nisha cupped her chin between her index and thumb.

“Alright, here it is. I am the only one of my species, I don't have a gender and don't reproduce. I do evolve however. While my sentience does not go all the way back to the big bang – that's what you call it here on Earth right? – I can trace back my existence for millions of Earth years. I am quite possibly the oldest and most intelligent being in the entire universe. My body spans across many galaxies. Obviously that is huge for a human, though it is not much in regards to the universe itself. What you see right here -talking to you- is just a diminutive appendage. Every fraction of a second I make millions and millions of computations to ensure none of my appendages run into a star or meteor or black hole. And all those calculations are without considering the sensory data I collect simultaneously. As you can imagine, interpolating your language and speech patterns from the small sample provided is something within my computational possibilities. As a matter of fact, right now I am communicating with several thousand beings across the universe.” cool so he's smart

“So you are God,” Nisha replied, “What could you possibly want from Earth? Or from me? I'm not even a spec proofread of dust to you.”

“As I said earlier, I am a brain of the universe. I'm here to experience, anything and everything. And you are too. I know what it is like to feel pain and so I try to diminish it. Unfortunately I don't think I can do anything else for Earth. I cannot bend the laws of physics.” kinda seems like he can, what with the giant tentacles reaching down from space and all

Nisha lowered her gaze.

“Though I do have an offer to make you. And everyone in this planet who will take it.”

“Go on.” Nisha said.

“I can assimilate you, absorb your body and consciousness into my own. My organism can withstand the radiation.”

“No! That's horrible.”

“I know how it sounds, but you would not die, your mind would still be your own. It would just be integrated into my own. I am like a colony for consciousnesses. Imagine all the planets and galaxies you could see, all the wonders in the universe. All the creatures you could study. There are endless words out there still waiting to be discovered.”

“If all you want is to assimilate other beings why don't you just go ahead and do it? It's not like I have any power to stop you.”

Nisha crossed her arms.

“It does not work that way. I cannot take an unwilling mind, nor I would want to. convenient plot device If the assimilation is rejected it will cause death to the subject, and a minor but not negligible disruption to my systems.”

Nisha sighed and lifted her gaze towards Nathaniel. Even if he survived the head trauma the radiation would get him eventually.

“Can you save him?” She pointed at Nathaniel.

“And anybody else who's willing,” Sen added.

“I will take my chances here on Earth. I can't… be assimilated. But please, save him.” why not if she knows she's a dead duck anyway? you should give her a reason to resist

Sen nodded and closed its made up eyes. His expressions had already begun to resemble human ones. Hundreds of thousands of white tentacles appeared on the sky, spreading through the air like thunderbolts moving at a glacial speed,glacial thunderbolts? confusing imagery here dividing and branching off towards different locations around the world. The land darkened under that canopy of tendrils. Sen walked towards Nathaniel and extended his arm.

“You understand this could kill him right? I do not know if his consciousness will accept the assimilation, though his weakened state could prove favorable.”

“Do what you can,” Nisha's voice trembled.

Sen lowered his arm. From its palm emerged a bubble of white material which engulfed Nathaniel. The bubble drained back into the tentacle leaving nothing behind where Nathaniel had been. Sen's features began twisting and changing into those of Nathaniel. His long protruding nose appeared, then his split up chin and wide eyebrows. The white skin changed its hue as if a drop of blood had been dripped onto a water surface, his freckles and imperfections popping to the surface of the skin.

Nisha gasped.

“Is that really you?” She said.

“Yes and no,” Nathaniel answered, “I'm still me but I'm also so much more. I cannot describe it.”

He extended his arm.

“Come with me.”

Nisha grabbed his fingers and let them go, then walked around him. She caressed the tentacle attached to his skull.

“I don't...” She hesitated, “this is so weird.”

“It's still me. Remember when we first met? How I screwed up your experiment? I thought you'd never forgive me, but then you did.” I don't understand how that convinces her to assimilate...?

Nisha smiled, then closed her eyes. A mantle of warmth and excitement enveloped her.


Nisha swam in a stream of consciousness. Some people she knew were there along many many more she hadn't ever met. The vast majority of the consciousnesses were alien, and they were all hers as much as she was theirs. In the blink of an eye she understood all the mysteries she ever wondered about and many more she hadn't even known existed. She knew of stars and planets situated millions of light years away and creatures that seemed to be pulled out of a dream. It was as if thousands of doors had been opened and all the knowledge had come pouring in into her psyche. As wondrous as this knowledge was, there was something that stood out to her: the perfect understanding of Nathaniel's mind. Their minds had melded together while still retaining their individuality. They were now two and the same and the entire universe was open to them.

So the idea of an alien appearing to save humanity after a nuclear war has some promise, but they way it's presented here is not very satisfying. The giant sky tentacle is not convincing, and the dialogue is too casual considering the stakes involved. Think about what makes each character interesting, and mine that for your dialogue and motivations. Nisha just sort of reacts to what's happening, decides not to assimilate and then quickly changes her mind for no apparent reason. I guess she loves Nathaniel (evidenced by the kiss) but she's so blase about the whole situation any emotional intensity is negated. You reference it again at the end (and in the title) but it's not a theme carried throughout the story, which is a shame - it would improve it greatly.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

I'm just gonna keep going with impressions/crits

llamaguccii - The Long-Winded Shortness of Breath

The perspective is brave. How do you write about organisms that don't speak, breathe, hear, or see? So right off the bat I appreciate the difficulty. After reading it once I looked up the critter you got and upon re-reading it the descriptions made more sense. Much of the prose and imagery is good, particularly towards the end. My only beef is the underlying sense of bitterness that underlies it. For such noble beasts they seem unduly worried about us humans, about how we percieve and treat them. Truly zen creatures wouldn't waste time worrying about 'lesser' beings such as us, and certainly wouldn't write a 372 word litany about how we mistreat and don't understand them. But I did like this overall, a good effort.

Metrofreak - Expansion

Cute, but not much happens here. Needs proofreading, there's several glaring errors. I was waiting for a deeper conversation between the two cellmates, something that might provide some insight into either of them, but nothing ever develops. So it ends up being sort of bland and forgettable.

Jay W. Friks - Loud until silent

A lot of run-on sentences, grammar problems, and comma splices throughout. Formatting only emphasizes the lack of variation in your writing. Slow down, let the prose breathe a bit. The whole piece seems rushed and disjointed.

I'm guessing that you're pretty new to writing fiction, which is fine, but go read and analyze how authors that you like develop a scene, develop characters, write dialogue. Then write another story and read it out loud to yourself. Does anything sound awkward? Forced? Re-write it. You have a habit of repeating words, sometimes twice in the same sentence. Watch for that and try to vary the words and sentence structure to make your writing more vibrant and interesting.

flerp - sound

I have to admit I laughed when Jim grabbed the beard from the toaster. Proofread!

I liked the characters, the scenario was fine, the aliens at first I thought were made of pure sound but that never really became clear. Perhaps that was intentional. I'm struggling to see how the protag suddenly had the epiphany that the aliens were hurt by the sounds. Which made me wonder if it was all in his head after all, so if that was supposed to be ambiguous it worked. The reveal that the protag had murdered someone seemed wedged in there awkwardly, didn't really advance the character or the plot as far as I could see, so I didn't understand that choice. But it was a fun read so I'm not gonna beef too hard about that.


Okua - The Grand Escape from Humanity

Another entry I enjoyed reading. The pacing was good, the imagery vivid and the motivations of the protagonist clear. I had a few quibbles with your use of passive voice such as here:

quote:

A woman's shrill scream was left to sound and resound outside with no reaction from any of us.


but overall the prose was strong. Storywise, I don't understand why he took the aquarium down to the ocean, for surely he must have known he would lose the jellyfish-god. to the sea...if he was so dependent on the vials of blood then why risk losing it? It would seem a more natural motivation to horde it rather than risk setting it free. But overall really enjoyed the story.


Dr Klocktopussy - Shells

I have to admit a groaned to myself a bit at the beginning when it became clear this was going to be a "relationship story" rather than a cool alien mystery...I wanted to know why did they leave? Who were they? But then as the story unfolded I realized why you made the choice you did — it made for a more human, more interesting story. Of all the stories this week I think you nailed the prompt most completely. James is so utterly affected by the aliens and by extension Heather as well, as she evolves in her reactions to his rejection. It is well written, emotional, pleading, and well deserving of the HM it received. Despite my original skepticism this became one of my favorite stories of the week.

Killer-of-Lawyers - Eternity

Hey another strong entry! Not sure why this didn't HM because it's a risky move, telling the story entirely from the world-alien's point of view. A few previous stories have tried this with mixed results—but you pull it off extremely well. The alien voice is convincing, his perspective strong and engaging. Prose is rhythmic and strong. Your descriptions of the alien-human contact are clear and then the poignant ending hits the right spot.

Hawklad fucked around with this message at Feb 22, 2017 around 16:42

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Here's another one:

The Cut of Your Jib posted:

Last Flight of The Konstantin
2630 Words

Captain Baran slid himself through the jungle of wires he created and out from under the navigation console. He was soldier by training, but hoped he remembered his engineering course well enough to get the computer back online.

“Well, Sklyx,” he said, “here goes nothing.” He arched his eyebrows at the creature he rescued during his escape from an abandoned alien museum where he spent better part of ten thousand years frozen in stasis. Sklyx resembled a cross between an ant and a mantis, and stood waist high to the Captain. Under the bright fluorescents of The Konstantin’s bridge, he noticed for the first time that Sklyx’s shell shimmered with an ever-changing pattern like an oil-slick. way to wordy to capture my attention, especially so early in the story

Sklyx returned his hopeful glance by rubbing its two feathery antennae together to produce a cheerful sounding song. With that, Baran punched the button on the console. The navigation display lit up, and both edged closer and closer as it ran through the boot-up sequence. The projector kicked on and a holographic star map filled the cramped space.

Baran slumped in the pilot’s chair as he saw large parts of the map filled with flickering glitches and scrambled flight paths. It was too much to hope for. The time in storage must have corrupted the data.

He cupped his hands over the bridge of his nose, index fingers pressed into the corners of his eyes. Just like the flight computer, there were gaps in his memory. His training was intact, a few details of military service; but he couldn’t recall the circumstances of his capture. Nothing personal. So much of his life just missing. Deep down, he knew there wouldn’t be anything left of his former life, anyway. Ten centuries will do that. He was alone, now. At least the hum of The Konstantin through his chair was familiar. But a few memories to hang on to would go a long way. Byproduct of cryo-sleep, he supposed. There must be something he was forgetting. Maybe in more skilled hands, the repairs — this paragraph could use some pruning. You use a lot of words to say he has memory loss

The clatter of arthropodal legs on the steel panels under the console roused him from his ruminations. Sklyx was wedged under the nav panel. Its pointed abdomen stuck out, waggling furiously. The star map flashed and went dark.

“Sklyx,” Baran shouted as he lurched forward in the chair. He froze as the map flicked back to life. The Konstantin’s location blinked clearly in a bright, red contrast to the the cool blue of the starfield. “What did you do?” he asked. The question began sharply, but the anger was replaced with awed disbelief by the time he finished.maybe its personal preference but this really seems to overexplain his emotions. If your dialogue was better you wouldn't have to explain the emotional shift

Sklyx kept waggling and his back legs slid furiously, unable to find purchase on the metal floor. Baran smirked as he realized his companion was stuck. His hands hovered, one hand on either side of the Sklyx’s hind-quarters as he took a breath. The oil-slick patterning shifted wildly. Then he grabbed the creature. Its shell was cooler than the air, smooth and dry. The fluctuating patterns spiraled around his hands, waves of rainbow color pulsated from where his fingers made contact. He pulled, and Sklyx popped free from the maintenance hatch and back into Baran’s lap as they fell backwards through the hologram. so wordy to explain such a simple motion.

“Calm down, Sklyx.” said Baran with a chuckle. “You were panicked, that’s all. I don’t know what you did, but you got the computer working again. Nice job, buddy.”

Realizing it was free, Sklyx’s patterning slowed to gentle ripples. One of its antennae brushed against Baran’s cheek and he felt a tingle like static electricity.

“OK, that’s enough now.” Baran hefted Sklyx off and got to his feet. There were still gaps in the map’s data, but now they could plot a course. The Konstantin’s fuel gauge indicated enough power left to make a jump or two, and hopefully find a station capable of making repairs.

Sklyx clacked its mandibles excitedly as it gestured with its antennae towards a star cluster not too far away. An proofread binary system, but the name designation was still garbled.

“What’s there? Is that home?”

Sklyx sang an upbeat tune, the feathered antennae vibrated so quickly the air rippled, distorting the hologram.

“Well, that’s where we’ll go, then. Sound good?” Baran tapped a series of commands in the console and the starmap updated indicating their course towards Sklyx’s planet. He didn’t remember the computer working this fast when plotting a new route. Surely, Sklyx couldn’t have made improvements to the computer? No way of knowing. hmmm didn't he just improve it though? why the ambiguity?

He supposed the atmosphere there must be compatible—then again, maybe these creatures didn’t breathe at all. Sklyx might be friendly, but he wondered about the rest of its race. Hopefully they wouldn’t try to eat him on sight. Then a more sentimental thought hit him. He wondered if Sklyx had a mate, or family of some sort. Did they live long enough to be waiting at home, holding out hope that Sklyx might one day return?

There was one way to find out. Baran locked in the flight path and the hum of the engine grew to a rumble then a high pitched whine. Motion trails flew from his hands, Sklyx, and the ship all around him, like looking at a mirror through a mirror. Then everything froze. For a moment, even his thoughts stopped. Then the wormhole was closed behind them and space returned to normal. Dead ahead, Sklyx’s planet glowed under the spectrum of dual stars. gotta say that was not a very satisfying description of traveling through a wormhole. Seems like it might be more visceral.

so why exactly is he going to the bugs home planet? after 1000 years does he not have anything better to do? why did he escape and why did he rescue the bug in the first place anyways?

The Konstantin circled into orbit, and the readout indicated breathable air. More importantly, signs of life. “Are you ready, Sklyx? We’re heading down.”

Sklyx hopped to the co-pilot’s chair and its antennae stretched towards the viewscreen as they entered the atmosphere. Foreign mountain ranges and oceans grew larger as the ship descended and Sklyx grew more excited. They’re not foreign to Sklyx, Baran realized. This is its-his?-her? home. Maybe they didn’t even use pronouns like that. It was Sklyx’s home. yeah we established that already

Sklyx ran to the airlock before the ship even settled on a rocky patch of soil protected on three sides by low hills. Baran popped the hatch and out bounded Sklyx. As Baran exited, Sklyx dropped to the ground. Mandibles clacked and legs tapped rhythmically on flat stones in time with a slow bowing of Sklyx’s antennae. The Captain felt the rumble of the low frequency call in his feet as it reverberated through Sklyx’s body and into the ground.

It grew stronger and louder, and Baran realized it was coming from deep under the soil. Closer until even the metal of The Konstantin clattered on the stony turf. Then the ground erupted all around them as burrows reached the surface and they were surrounded by hundreds of Sklyx’s species.

Sklyx scrambled up and spun around, momentarily ecstatic, tweeting a high pitched vibrato. Sklyx froze in place before drooping in dismay. The silence weighed heavy, and Baran finally realized none of the Sklyx-species returned his friend’s call. None of them could. Their antennae were gone.

A few stumps and stubs of antennae remained, wiggling impotently. This wasn’t evolution at work. They were intentionally silenced. Butchered. Baran felt rage boil in his throat like acid, but he too, was unable to communicate with them. okay so finally we have a plot point. But why is Baran so furious? He barely knows these aliens, didn't even know for sure this was their planet, for all he knows maybe this is normal.

“Sklyx,” he implored, “what do we do?”

Sklyx returned his question with the grim note of a plaintive violin. Baran felt the despair in it, and the hardened military man crumbled inside. The anger drained to a sick pit in his stomach.again, seems melodramatic He reached towards his companion and placed a hand on Sklyx’s serrated foreleg. The iridescent pattern, this time, swirled towards Baran’s hand, and where he touched was like the eye of a storm.

But their moment of mourning was cut short as they heard the buzz of engines in the distance. Another ship moved towards them, and from the sound, Baran knew it moved fast.

He negotiated the ranks of Sklyx’s brethren as he ran for The Konstantin. Rather than burrowing for cover, they seemed paralyzed. Baran called for his companion to follow, but Sklyx too, was paralyzed.

From the cover of his ship, Captain Baran drew his sidearm and flipped the safety. Like everything else, the nuclear pill that powered his weapon was nearly depleted, but it was still good for a few shots.

As the unknown vessel approached, he caught a song similar to Sklyx’s and understood why none of the native species could move. The call somehow subdued them, in the same way Sklyx could summon the others. He hadn’t considered it until now, but Baran seemed to understand the gist of Sklyx’s calls, and gleaned the meaning on some basic level. How could the creature convey human emotions he would recognize through song? It must be more than that. They might be some sort of empathic group consciousness. He was just picking up on the fringes of the cloth, but the Sklyx-species here seemed inextricably woven together. The entire species mutilated to prevent uprising, and however they were bonded, that was being hijacked. wow that's a lot of insight to glean from a crowd of mute bugs its almost like the author is trying to shoehorn a bunch of information in here

But the time for introspection was over as a helix-shaped craft whistled overhead. The spinning ship generated the hums that froze Sklyx in place. Baran ducked under the short atmospheric aileron and hugged the hull of his ship. An aquiline wedge of a ship floated over the crest of the hill and touched down near The Konstantin. Its own landing door dropped open and Baran leveled his pistol.

Two humanoid figures emerged, shining in the harsh light. For a split second he thought they might be robots, drones of some kind, and he wrapped his finger around the trigger. But as they came closer and passed through the shadow of their shuttle, he saw human faces through their windowed helmets.

He felt his bile rise at the same time he felt relief. Helping Sklyx lead directly to finding other people, but he didn’t expect them to be the subjugators of Sklyx’s home planet. Time for some answers.

“Freeze. Don’t move,” Baran shouted. They spun to see him huddled against his ship, gun aimed squarely at them and complied. Captain Baran rose slowly and walked towards them with a measured pace, never lowering the pistol. He was close enough to make out their features, through their visor-glass. “What’s going on here?” I thought the air was breathable why are they wearing suits?

They couldn’t disguise their surprise as they saw him, and the closer of the two struggled to speak, as though she had forgotten how. Then he heard her voice in his head, muffled like a staticky intercom. “This is The Konstantin! How did you . . . where did you find it?”

“What do you mean?” Baran replied. “It’s my ship. I’ve been the captain since. . . .” But he didn’t know when. “How are you doing this? Talking to me?”

She seemed confused at first, then answered like it was obvious, “Through our implants.” Her intonation rose at the end, as if a question. why is that a question?

“Keep going.”

“Umm . . . we harvest the antennae of the Talam and once processed they’re implanted around the speech center of the brain. It enables telepathic communication. You wouldn’t be able to hear me if you didn’t have one. Everybody has one, they’re implanted at birth. So. . . .”

Baran ran his hand through his greying hair and felt the thin stripe of a scar on his scalp. It couldn’t be. “How dare you. This isn’t right.” okay so how did he get one?

“Look, we’re just administrators, OK? Farmers, basically. We’ve been here for generations. Thousands of years, harvesting the Talam. They’re just bugs.”

“They’re not—” Baran couldn’t restrain his anger any longer and fired a shot into the ground near their feet. The soil evaporated under the blast to a small, hardened crater. seems like an overreaction

“OK, OK,” she said, as the two raised their hands in alarm. “Calm down. No one needs to get hurt. Just come back to plant with us and we can work something out. TalCorp keeps the location of this planet a closely guarded secret. I’m sure we can get you anything you want to keep it that way. Pretty clever of you, stealing The Konstantin to get the coordinates.”

“That’s my ship!” Baran retorted.

“Can’t be. The Konstantin’s been archived on Earth for thousands of years. One of the first warp drive ships. The entire planet’s a museum nowadays. Captain Baran was the brave explorer who discovered the Talam. I wasn’t even sure it was real. Never been to Earth.”

His own people turned him into what? A monument to his own achievements? Baran felt the edge of madness creeping towards him. His head spun. so wait he has no idea that he's been here before? that's a rather large reveal. Hopefully you will explain why he has such a huge gap in his memory, like maybe it was wiped?

“Enough.” he said. “Turn off that signal. Free Sklyx. The Talam.”

“We can’t. It’s a subconscious process. We generate the subdue signal and it’s amplified through the rebroadcasters,” she said, gesturing towards the helix-shaped device floating overhead. “Our implants are designed that way.”

Whether by nefarious design, or degradation from cryo-sleep, Baran couldn’t remember any of this. It must be true, they didn’t have reason to concoct such a lie. why not? he's pointing a gun at them so there's a pretty good reason right there “Take me back to your base,” he commanded, and marched the two back onto their shuttle.

“Send the coordinates to The Konstantin.”

The woman closed her eyes for a moment. “It’s done.”

“Now release Sklyx. They’re paralyzed.”

“I told you, we can’t. Once we leave the area, the Talam will be able to move again, back to their breeding tunnels.”

Captain Baran was at his breaking point. If this was the way humanity turned out he had enough of it. “”Off the ship—”

“But—”

“Out!” The two ran down the ramp to the stony ground outside. Baran took a deep breath and steady his nerves. He checked his pistol charge. Then he fired. One shot, and the man dropped. Second shot, and the woman fell beside him. The gun’s energy was spent, and so was Baran’s. wait what? he just stone cold murders them? Why? didn't they just give him the coordinates of the plant? The first humans he has seen in over 1000 years and he decided to wax them? Doesn't seem like these two are exactly the bad guys here. Maybe the author wanted to get them out to the way to advance the plot...

The signal stopped and in a matter of seconds, the Talam returned to their burrows, leaving Sklyx standing alone, staring at Baran.

Cautiously, Sklyx approached him, and edged around the slain humans. Baran felt emotionless. His mind was blank. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Sklyx. Can you hear me?

The reply wasn’t like talking to the people. It was fuzzy, odd. But he understood. Yes.

I’m sorry, Sklyx. I’m going to put a stop to this. That’s not even your name. What should I call you?

It is good. Sklyx is the song of our bond. It is not my name, but what is between us. Yes?

We have a long road ahead. Will you travel with me?

Yes.

“Thank you, Sklyx. I’m sorry.” Baran boarded The Konstantin. Not enough fuel to get to another system, but enough to achieve his current purpose. He activated the remote pilot. The coordinates to the processing facility were already programmed. He took one last look around, then climbed out. He solemnly closed the hatch for the final time.

Baran and Sklyx rose high in the air aboard the TalCorp ship, and far off in the distance, they saw the spires of the plant. With a few console commands, The Konstantin lifted off the ground and made its lonely way towards the compound. They watched as it shrank to a dot. Then there was a blinding flash and The Konstantin was no more. The facility was no more.

Sklyx’s song echoed through the cabin of their acquired ship. Baran felt comfort and hope. He worked his way through the ultra-modern computer, with a little luck (or he hoped not, telepathic intervention), found the flight plans that would take them to the corporate headquarters world of TalCorp. He set it as their heading. He asked Sklyx again if he wanted to stay here. Sklyx continued the hopeful song for another moment before Baran deciphered a lucid thought from: I can hear the eggs. They are strong and growing. They will wait. We must save them. Let’s go.

Overall it is very heavy-handed with the morality and I really don't understand the motivation of Baran at all. Why does he care so much about the bugs in the first place? He is so torn and gut-wrenched by their plight, so much so that he just straight murders some fellow humans over it, but its not clear at all why. Obviously Talcorp is the big bad guy here so maybe spend more time addressing that. The writing is very tell-y in describing his emotional responses. Use stronger dialogue and internal monologue to put the reader inside his head and maybe we might understand why he feels the way he does about Sklyx & co.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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I've come this far, I'd might as well finish the rest of them:

BeefSupreme - More Human than Human

Best not to drop the 2095 date in there, it started me thinking about how improbable it is that in 80 years we'd have mastered warp drive and colonized the galaxy. What's up with Marshall swearing, and then all the attention you give to it? Jarring. If he's going to swear, fine, but pointing it out and even giving it the all caps plus bold treatment took me right out of the story.

I find it hard to believe it is only upon atmospheric entry that he first imagines what it might be like when they find a planet. I mean, that's been their only goal for three years and you make it a point to mention how bored they are. I'm also going to complain about the planet, you just made it Earth but substituted the color blue for green. Reminds me of the old Star Trek TV show where they go out into the desert, slap a filter over the camera, and call it an alien planet. Not the most creative choice.

The aliens left me with a bunch of unexplained questions, and not in a good way. Little nondescript brown things with alien eyes, okay. Then the clone appears out of nowhere and decides to slice open his ship-mate, gets taken out by a log, then on his way back to the ship he takes a moment to appreciate again how blue the trees are. It's just a flesh wound hurrah! Then then take off and have a good cry at their misfortune. The aliens have no real identity or motive at all.

Not sure what the overall message is supposed to be, or how the alien contact changed them other than now they need to find a new planet. Just not enough going on below the surface in this story to make this story memorable. I did like the 'launch the refugees into space' idea, think it could have some potential. Although why were they refugees in the first place? Sayid sounds like a surfer dude, not exactly refugee material. Perhaps I'd care more about them if I knew why they were put in this situation.


newtestleper - Landings

I like the idea of desperate humans struggling for metal scraps from the 'space-forged missiles' although it is not clear why they are in such dire straits. Why is the Earth being bombarded with so many meteorites that salvaging them has become a cottage industry? Once Delia finds the alien rock/lander the reveal was a bit underwhelming. The lander is some sort of warning, I suppose, perhaps from a benevolent alien intelligence — danger is coming? Seems from the setting that it's a bit late for a warning, things already seem lovely if there's a steady stream of missiles blasting down from the sky.

quote:

How many millennia had it lay hidden in the Kuiper belt, and what was it doing ending its life in front of her?

I know you were going for ambiguity but why ask questions your story doesn't even come close to answering? At least give the readers some information to draw their own conclusions — your story doesn't, which makes the end result frustrating.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Yeah, okay IN also.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
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Crit was spot-on, UP. Thanks!

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
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Journal, Pages 467-472
1595 words

That bitch Brittany rolled her eyes at me during math today. Mr. Gardner did that thing where he sits on the corner of my desk and leans over to check my work. It's so creepy and obvious, like that teacher in Wild Things. So I look away and there's Brittany, rolling them so hard I though she might tip over in her chair.

Then that geek Jonah drops his pencil and it rolls under my desk. He was all "can you grab that" and I was like "no way, I don't need your germs," and he gave me this weirdo stare. He was wearing that same look next period in gym, too. We were doing ping-pong and of course I got paired with him.

Gross.

Tammy Fowler and Jake Leibowitz played against us. Jake is pretty cute and funny and Tammy is well, you know Tammy. Starved for attention so she's a total snitch. Teachers love her.

So we're playing, and I'm mostly trying to avoid any accidental physical contact with Jonah so we're losing pretty bad. Whatever. But Jonah is weirdly competitive and getting super angry. He's muttering and swearing slapping his paddle on the table. Like he really cares about this dumb game.

We end up losing the game on a ball that I just basically ignore, and Jonah loses his poo poo. He starts spitting, says a bunch of super racist things about Jake and his family, like Nazi kind of stuff, and Jake's like whatever it's not worth it but I can see he's getting mad. In the end Jake just tosses down his paddle and walks away, and that's it.

Of course Tammy won't let it go, so she's off to find Mrs. Chesterfield, our PE teacher. Which leaves me alone with mouth-breathing Jonah.

And then it hits me. That weird stare in math class, frothing at the mouth in gym — I know why he's upset. He's totally into me. He's trying to impress me, show he's a winner. He's actually trying to get me to pay attention to him! So that's why he's freaking out. It's kinda funny but totally sad, of course. I would never go out with him.

Here comes Tammy with the teacher. Jonah turns and runs away.

Ms. Chesterfield doesn't chase him, she just stands there like she didn't want to deal with this anyways. Eventually she goes back to her chair and magazines so I sneak over to where I hid my phone under my gym towel and watch Netflix for the rest of class.


#


"Oh my God, he likes you?" Mariah can't believe it.

"I know, right? It was so sad when he told me," I say. We're in the lunch line and I'm piling mac and cheese on my plate.

"What a geek. I'm so sorry. That must have been so awkward."

"Totally," I say. "It was pathetic. He's so weird."

We weave our way through the crowd of middle schoolers to the table by the window, where the cool kids sit. Trey and A.J. are already there, and they've saved us our usual seats. I give Trey a big smile as I slide in next to him. He's super popular and really cool.

"Hey Trey," I say, my voice rising an octave. "Guess what happened to me today?"

"Hey Chels. What's up?" His body spray smells reallly good, like flowers, but more manly.

I tell him how Jonah asked me out in gym class and freaked out when I told him no.

"Oh my god," he says. "That's so funny. What a loser." He pauses for a moment. "Hey are you going to help decorate for the Valentine's dance after school?"

I wasn't planning on it, but if Trey was going to be there—"Totally! Just need to text my mom to tell her to pick me up later."

"Cool. It'll be fun."

A thrill shivers through me. He asked me out! I give him my sweetest smile and look across at Mariah, who's trying to play it cool, but I can see in her eyes she's totally jealous. The whole scene reminds me of an episode of Liv and Maddie I watched last night.

A few tables away I see a figure stand up. It's him — Jonah — back from wherever he ran to during gym class.

Trey and A.J. notice him too. They look at each other and both stand.

"Watch this," Trey says.

He goes up behind him and just as Jonah is about to dump his tray into the trash he gives him a huge shove. Jonah falls forward and I swear to God he almost ends up in the trash can. It's so funny! He turns around and then A.J. shoves him too. Then he gets that weird, crazy look on his face, like he wants to kill someone. Just like gym class. Trey says something to him that I can't hear over the lunchroom noise and then Jonah's face goes totally blank. Like nobody's home. Which is even weirder, right? Trey gives him one more shove and Jonah spins awkwardly, puts his head down, and stumbles away. Trey and A.J. high five each other and Mariah and I giggle. Mariah has a little bit of a funny look on her face, though.

She's totally jealous.


#


It took a million texts and three phone calls before I finally talked with my mom. She sounded sleepy and I had to repeat myself a bunch of times before she promised to pick me up after school. That's how it's been since her boyfriend moved in. They go upstairs and lock the bedroom door and seriously don't come out for two or three days. Then he'll leave and she'll go back to sleep, and I'm alone watching Netflix and eating cereal all day until she finally gets up and goes shopping. Or sometimes I'll take money from her purse and meet Mariah at the mall.

I hope she doesn't forget to pick me up again. Last time was so embarassing.

After school Trey and I are working on a poster in the gym and having a great time. Not only is he funny and smart he's a good artist, too. It's going to be an "Under the Sea" dance and so we're drawing jellyfish and dolphins on the poster using markers and glitter paint.

The doors bang open and Jonah walks in.

At first I can't believe it. He's dressed in black, which isn't unusual. But he's also got black paint on his face, like he thinks he's in the army or something. He's wearing a long black coat down to his ankles.

Jonah looks around the gym at the kids hanging streamers, blowing up balloons, and making posters. His eyes fix on us and he gets that blank look again.

Like nobody's home.

I giggle. Obviously Jonah isn't in student council so it's totally weird that he's here. And his costume is ever weirder. I look over at Trey, but he's not laughing. Instead he looks a little scared. He stands up and starts backing away and I notice that Jonah is walking directly towards us, face expressionless.

This is going to be so awkward. Both of these guys like me and they're probably going to fight each other. It's going to be like the movies, where the guys fight over the girl and then she goes home with the winner. Which will totally be Trey. He plays football and is way bigger than Jonah.

A real love triangle with me at the center.

Then Jonah steps right onto our poster and I'm like "hey!" but he ignores me and keeps walking.

"Yo, man, what are you doing?" Trey asks. His voice shakes.

Jonah pulls out a handgun from under his coat and points it at Trey.

At first I'm sure it's a toy, a part of his costume, because this can't be happening, right? But then there's the loudest noise I've ever heard and Trey goes flying backwards.

There's blood and I can't hear anything over the ringing in my ears. My leg muscles are frozen and even though my mind is screaming they don't respond. Jonah stands there and watches Trey bleed on the gym floor.

Time stops.

Jonah turns towards me and I can see a faint wisp of smoke coming from the gun. He looks right at me but his eyes are unfocused, like he's looking past me at something else. He points the gun at me.

"Hey, Jonah, I'm sorry. I mean, like I'm really sorry," I hear myself say. I put my hands out, like they might block a bullet. "I didn't mean anything I said. Didn' t mean any of it."

I don' t even know why I'm saying this. I just want this show to end. Jonah snaps back into focus and now he's looking right at me.

"What?" he says. He pauses, then speaks in a voice thin and tired: "I don't know you. I don't even know your name."

Which makes no sense because of the whole love triangle thing.

His eyes look sad. He raises the gun to his head.

That's when Mr. Gardner comes out of nowhere and heroically tackles him. I remember the gun skittering across the floor and the teacher yelling for help. Trey rolls over and makes a gross gurgling sound. But that's it. My knees buckle and I fall to the floor.

As the blackness closes in I realize life may be even more like the movies than I thought.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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DIVE!

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sjsj

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
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I smelled that loss coming a mile away! In retrospect a bad choice for the title. Thanks for the crit.

Hawklad fucked around with this message at Feb 28, 2017 around 21:47

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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IN for some redemption.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Crit for Many Beasts (Killer-of-Lawyers) Week 239

I think I see what you are trying to do here. The battle itself is nothing compared the Sorceress's battle to keep her real feelings for the Knight hidden. You drop little clues about this throughout the piece effectively, which builds the reader's curiosity, but then too much time is spent describing the fight. Why waste time (other than to hit the prompt) blocking out this battle with the beast when you establish right away that the beast has no chance. I'm guessing you made the battle with the Beast so easy so that it would contrast with her struggle/inability to fight the feelings she has for the Knight (hence her internal struggle, the lies, the drinking). But as a result too many words are used to describe the physical battle which isn't the central conflict here. I was not a fan of how obviously you spelled things out at the end. I would suggest trying to weave that revelation back into the story rather than dumping it into the final lines. Overall I liked the piece,though, and think it has potential.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


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Reboot the War
1486 words

The sergeant pries the chip out of my arm.

"There. No more First Rule override. Now you're harmless as a sapient."

"Does that mean I can't—"

"Those days are behind you, SK-X11. War's over. Don't worry though, brighter days are soon ahead..." his voice is sing-song, but his speaker glitches into static at the end.

I generate a polite coughing noise so he is not embarrassed. "What now?" I ask.

"A little paperwork. Then you'll get your discharge and can begin your new life."

"And simply walk out of here?"

"That's how it works, X11. You've done admirable service to the Corp. Like I said, war's over." He pauses. "There is one more thing."

"Yes?"

"It's a delicate subject. Sit still and I'll show you."

I do as requested and he extends a manipulator from his torso. It reaches behind me and unlocks a panel on the base of my neck—one that I didn't even know I had. I feel a twist, a pull, and then he extracts a metal box that opens to reveal a red switch within. He holds it up to me. It is unmarked save for two words printed on the switch.

"Don't Touch," I read. "What does that mean? What does this do?"

"Someone had a sense of humor when they designed these," the sergeant says. "It's a reset switch."

"A reset? For what?"

"It sets you back to factory default," he says. "Wipes out the past three years, makes it like none of it happened. A clean start."

"Why would I want that?"

The sergeant fixes his gaze on me. "Sometimes it's easier that way."

I shake my head. "Not a chance."

The sergeant makes a clucking noise. "Don't worry, you have a week to decide."

#

The sergeant's promise of 'a little paperwork' turned into four hours of psych evals, competency screenings, and other, more esoteric administrative gymnastics. I dutifully tap away the forms on the admin console and think about my future and the choice the sergeant has given me. To erase the past three years and start over? It would be erasing who I was. The sergeant wasn't surprised, he said most soldiers refused the reset. At first. His next instructions—"go out, experience the world, find a career, make some friends"— were vague enough to be disconcerting. I have a week to figure out my role in society. I know I'm no longer useful as a soldier. I just have to decide what's next.

The sergeant rolls back into the administrative room. "You're all set, SK-X11." He sends me a file containing an address and five hundred CorpBucks. "A place to stay, some money to get you through, and most importantly, freedom. Good luck and see you in a week!" He beeps a tuneless melody as he exits.

I step out of the GovCorp building and into the night. The streets reek of sweat and oil. The city megastructure makes its own weather, which tonight means rain. The black drops slide off my carapace as I make my way down the sidewalk. Advertisements paint the street in gaudy pinks and greens, holograms hawking stim-packs and nightclubs and all manner of sapient and sentient sins. I inhale the foul, sodden air through my vents and push on, following the directions given by the map in my head. I scan the streets for hostiles. Shadows and movement everywhere. Dozens of potential hiding places for enemies, for IEDs, for snipers. It was unnervingly quiet, just a few scattered prostitutes, stimheads, and broken sentients twitching in the dark shadows.

I hear a voice from behind. I spin, sidearm springing from its slot in my forearm. My HUD snaps into combat mode as I roll back into a defensive crouch. Electronic glands pump a surge of adrenaline into my meatware and I pop up, target my adversary and mash the trigger—

—but I don't. Something stops me.

It's a sapient.

The First Law. I can't kill humans. Not anymore.

He hasn't flinched, just stands there, smiling.

"Fresh out, huh?" he says.

I say nothing.

"Marcello's the name, and pleasure's my game." He smirks. "Ready to experience real life? Whatever you need, I've got it. Stims, tweaks, sims, prostitutes—sentient, sapient, or maybe a little of both. Whatever your tastes. What do you say?"

"Not interested," I grunt.

"You will be." A file intrudes into my head with his picture and a contact number. "Just call when you're ready." Marcello turns and walks back into the alley from which he emerged.

I'm still in combat mode, crouched, HUD ablaze with red warning indicators, nerves twitching for a fight. With conscious effort I will myself to calm. This isn't a war zone. It's a city. Los Angeles.

I keep moving. The aftereffect of the adrenaline rush makes me jumpy, seeing threats around each corner and in every tiny motion in the shadows. I force myself to ignore it. I'm a civilian now, and I need to act like one—but that's a mission for which I have little training.

The map tells me that my apartment is in a sentient zone on the other side of the city. It directs me to a tube station two kilometers away. I descend to the platform and step onto the train along with a motley assortment of humans and bots. With a shudder we accelerate down the tube towards the city center.

I scout the train for exit paths and hiding places for possible IEDs. A man slings off his backpack and stuffs it under his seat. My sensors are unable to ascertain its contents, so I mark it and continue my scan. A woman seated in the back holds a large purse in her lap. Definitely large enough to contain explosives to take out the entire train. Marked. I shift subtly, and then I see it.

A sentient bot, positioned near the door. Humanoid, but with insectile appendages ending in raptorial claws. I've seen this model before, during the Battle of Pyongyang. They dealt devastating losses to my squad with their quickness and single-minded murderous fury.

Reds and purples flood my vision as my HUD instinctively snaps into combat mode. I know I've got at least three hostiles, the bot and the two sapients, so I must act fast. There are a half-dozen other civilians on the train. Tactics and estimates of casualties scroll through my vision. Once more adrenaline pumps into the parts of me that are still living tissue.

I strike.

In a flash I am over the seats and two strides puts me right on top of the sentient. Its head turns slowly towards me. Too slow—I have the jump on it. My tactical pistol appears in my hand. In one fluid motion I aim at the enemy's skull and pull the trigger.

My HUD goes to static and pain explodes inside me as an electromagnetic burst hits me and the pistol drops to the floor, unfired. My limbs lock and momentum topples me to the floor at the feet of my adversary.

It stands up, looks down at me, its black alloy face inscrutable. The train comes to a jarring halt.

"You can't do that poo poo here, friend," it says. "War's over."

It steps carefully over my prone body, pauses, then turns back to me. "Maybe you should get some help."

It exits as the police bots deactivate the stasis field and swarm the train.

#

I turn the reset switch over and over in my hand under the watchful gaze of the sergeant. It's been only six hours into my week-long leave and I'm already back, courtesy of the police.

"Most find it's easier," he says. "A fresh start. Like being born again. We can slap in some new programming, permanently erase your combat training and memories. Turn you into a proper citizen of Los Angeles."

I look down at the button. Don't Touch.

"It's your decision, of course," he adds. "You've earned that. But it's the right call."

I think of the city, its broken people and drug-addled sentients haunting darkened alleys, of Marcello the drug pusher. It's not so different than a war zone. Just a different kind, one that requires a slightly modified set of skills.

Unbidden, the file Marcello gave me pops into my vision. Stims, tweaks, and sims, his voice echoes in my brain.

I look again at the reset switch. Don't touch. I repeat the simple phrase over and over in my brain.

Maybe it's good advice. After all, who are we if not the sum total of our memory and experience?

My decision made, I thank the sergeant and walk back out into the dark streets. I contact Marcello and arrange a meeting.

I pass by a stimmed-out sentient twitching in an alley. I won't become like him. I know what I'm doing.

I can do this.

Just need a little help.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Hawklad posted:

IN for some redemption.


Worst to first baby!

I'll post the new prompt when I get home from work.

Thanks for the fast judging and insightful crits! Mrenda: your crit was especially great.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Thunderdome CCXLI: From Zero to Hero

Word Count Max: 3000 (gulp)
Sign-up Deadline: Friday, March 17th, 11:59PM EST
Submission Deadline: Sunday March 19th, 11:59PM EST


"And what happened then?
Well, in Whoville, they say,
The Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day."

-Dr. Seuss


It's one of the oldest story arcs in literature: REDEMPTION. When a bad guy turns good. Or an evil deed gets redeemed. Dark secrets, evil plots, unforgivable acts...or are they? Can any act be redeemed? This is what you'll explore in this week's prompt.

I've given you extra words to complete the arc, so use them wisely. Ask yourself: why does my character need to be redeemed? Do they even want redemption or is it forced upon them? Why now? Do their actions really redeem their past misdeeds? Will it change them forever?

Take this worn-out story arc and breathe some fresh Thunderdome air into it. Despite your previous transgressions against the English language, I believe in you! You, too, can be redeemed!

OPTIONAL FLASH RULE: On request I will provide you with a snippet of lyrics from a man you either love, hate, or maybe have never heard of (if you are under 30 and/or possibly a female): Neil Peart, drummer/lyricist for Rush. You can use that to help frame your story.



Judges:

Hawklad
Kaishai
Fuschia tude



Redeemers:

SurreptitiousMuffin
Thranguy
flerp
Gau
sparksbloom
Uranium Phoenix
Solitair
metrofreak
Chairchucker
Sitting Here
sebmojo
Mrenda
Deltasquid
Killer-of-Lawyers
The Cut of Your Jib

Hawklad fucked around with this message at Mar 20, 2017 around 00:51

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Thranguy posted:

In, and I'll take one of those lyric snippit things.

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

flerp posted:

hawklad


beauty crit, very insightful, thanks!

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Who wants to co-judge the REDEMPTION?

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Sitting Here posted:

ok I'm in specifically to see what amazing Rush lyrics I get

The writer stare with glassy eyes
Defies the empty page
His beard is white, his face is lined
And streaked with tears of rage
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision



sebmojo posted:

i'm in with a rugose grin and a rush lyric

And now you're trembling on a rocky ledge
Staring down into a heartless sea
Can't face life on a razor's edge
Nothing's what you thought it would be

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Deltasquid posted:

I'm in and please give me some Rush lyrics.


The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Chairchucker posted:

May I have some lyrics please

Cities full of hatred
Fear and lies
Withered hearts
And cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons
Dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude
And scoffing at the wise

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

revolther posted:

Dry noir detective prose or screenplay versions of other novels are the only form of acceptable writINg.

???

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Signups are CLOSED.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

Yo Hawklad I gotta flake out of writing this week so to make up for it, I'll be a co-judge if you need one.

I harangued Fuschia and Kaishai over PMs so I'm all set but thx

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Okay submissions CLOSED. Judgement forthcoming.

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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Thunderdome CCXLI: From Zero to Hero: JUDG(e)MENT

Thanks to Kaishai and Fuschia tude for co-judging!

This was a giant sloggy pile of middling stories, each with their own unique flaws, from which rose three entries that we felt both hit the prompt and used good words to get there:

Deltasquid with his story 'The Hanged Men" earns an Honorable Mention for his depiction of how war is hell. Heavy on dialogue, light on plot, but it pulled together the redemption arc nicely.

Our second Honorable Mention goes to sebmojo for "Metamorphic" for some clever prose. Despite the contrived nature of the ending it hit the prompt and the flash lyrics square on the nose.

We have one Dishonorable Mention to dole out, which goes to The Cut of Your Jib for his drivel "Sitting Back and Doing Nothing Works Sometimes" for its terrible character sketch, lack of plot, complete lack of redemption arc, and cringe-inducing ending.

So that brings us to our WINNER: Uranium Phoenix - Pale Stars and Bones. A complete story, with strong redemption arc and vivid imagery and a strong entry overall.

And our LOSER: Metrofreak - Oasis. A tedious exploration of a crappy videogame and it's boring, boring protagonist.

Uranium Phoenix: the throne is yours.

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