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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Crain posted:

IN. DOUBLE OR NOTHING

(Those flash rules are amazing so far.)
Trained in eleven martial arts, twelve languages, and bog standard parlor tricks.

a new study bible! posted:

Double or Nothing me.
Three different people, each acting independently, decide to take a crack at the same treasure on the same day at the same time...and they couldn't have done it without each other.

BabyRyoga posted:

This whole month has been really tight on time over the weekends, but I think I should try to get something in, so

in, double or nothing
"If a man tells you he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or a Gurkha." Or, in this case, both. Your protagonist must make off with the crown prince in the middle of his own wedding, with no one the wiser - including the prince.

Antivehicular posted:

gently caress it, dude, let's go bowling. In, and I lay my life on the line.

Also, a slightly less punitive flash rule would be nice.
When your protagonist is called out, as inevitably they will be, they will calmly explain "When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships."

CascadeBeta posted:

In, double or nothing.

Let's roll them bones!
Your protagonist has formed an odd but genuine friendship with the police inspector who's been chasing them all these years.

GenJoe posted:

in

would the house be kind enough to comp me a flash rule?

something light, refreshing, maybe a little bubbly, and on the rocks
She was a handsome young woman with a knack for shooting; a real Annie Oakley in a three-piece suit.

curlingiron posted:

In, Double or Nothing

Nice to see you, Seafood!
Your protagonist, or one of them, has a crippling disability which makes an otherwise routine part of job significantly more complicated. Despite this, they hold their own.

While I'm leaving the flash rule as is, do know I hold you to a higher standard than to think you'll stick with the easy out of having a colorblind demolitions expert.

Hawklad posted:

In, double or nothing!
Casing the joint's already hard enough when you aren't babysitting your cousin's kids.

Unfunny Poster posted:

In and I'll take a flash rule, with a side of shrimp cocktail.
The Shanghai grocer and the Austrian dentist hated each other immediately.

sandnavyguy posted:

Well, I wouldn't be representing the good denizens of Nevada if I didn't put it all on Red, in with Double or nothing. And I'll lay my life on the line for good measure like the degenerate gambler I am.

Deal me in, baby
The ship was sinking, the mark was missing, and there I was handcuffed to the Ethiopian eunuch.

Maigius posted:

In double or nothing
Someone on the crew's an undercover cop. Someone else is a hitman. They don't know each other's secret. Everyone else does.

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

I am in, and and also give me a flash rule please.
The job was a setup, only not that kind of setup.

Fuschia tude posted:

In, double or nothing
Your protagonist is a staunch pacifist who likes to announce their burglaries 24-hours in advance. Their adversaries are armed to the teeth.

Somebody fucked around with this message at Jan 29, 2018 around 01:23

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apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


I'm in, I'm ing:, laying my life on the line, doubling my nothing, etc.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


As a point of clarification, doubling down and toxxing doesn't triple your word count or anything. You can double down or toxx for the same benefit. You can also double down and toxx for kicks, or toxx and request a flash rule. Either way, you either have 777 or 1,554 words to work with.

Dunno if any of you thought this, but I'd rather nip it in the bud now than get several 2,000+ word stories on Sunday.

apophenium posted:

I'm in, I'm ing:, laying my life on the line, doubling my nothing, etc.
The contractor who designed the building where your story takes place clearly attended the same architectural college as the guy who designed the myriad of puzzle box mansions present in the Resident Evil series.

Which is to say, the whole place it loaded with traps, puzzles, and bizarre key-alternatives.

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Bad Seafood posted:

As a point of clarification, doubling down and toxxing doesn't triple your word count or anything. You can double down or toxx for the same benefit. You can also double down and toxx for kicks, or toxx and request a flash rule. Either way, you either have 777 or 1,554 words to work with.

Dunno if any of you thought this, but I'd rather nip it in the bud now than get several 2,000+ word stories on Sunday.
The contractor who designed the building where your story takes place clearly attended the same architectural college as the guy who designed the myriad of puzzle box mansions present in the Resident Evil series.

Which is to say, the whole place it loaded with traps, puzzles, and bizarre key-alternatives.

Thanks for the clarification and the kickass flash rules.

DreamingofRoses
Jun 27, 2013


Nap Ghost

In. double or nothing. (I've always wanted to be Carmen Sandiego)

derp
Jan 21, 2010


Lipstick Apathy

crabrock posted:

lol. imma judge this because flerp derp

prompt: every species is sapient but can't recognize it in other species or communicate with them.

wordcount:1500 words

due date: Jan 27 11:59pm PST

derp, toxx up plz.

Residue
1375 words


removed

derp fucked around with this message at Feb 13, 2018 around 19:52

Ninjalicious
Feb 21, 2010


In.

Ninjalicious
Feb 21, 2010


Why Try Harder

773 words

Why try harder is my motto but certainly not a good plan to live by.

I learned this the hard way when trying to scam a free ride on a robotic cruise ship and I was kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of California.

Here I am, 35 year old grad student from the Colorado School of Mines and Aeronautics, taking my sabbatical and thinking I'll be clever and save weed money by taking a slow boat to Japan, an autonomously piloted container ship retrofitted with a robotic brain and (some) security features. Some cheap security features...

So I slink into the docks late at night, empty except for a security drone recharging its batteries. Leaving a trail of suction cups, clipped wires, and shorted limits switches in my wake I sneak on board into the former container ships crew section. While the electricity was easy to switch on (one set of boltcutters and a breaker flip) the plumbing was not required on a robotic ship so I resigned to the bucket approach for both wash water and bodily refuse (my poo poo). Whatever!

Anyway, I made it to the bridge and hey what do you know, someone left the password override TAPED-TO-THE-CONSOLE. Yes you can't make this stuff up I swear....anyway I login as admin, check our current course and sniff around the controls. There's maps and I find the one for the ship. I shut off any further proximity sensors with the auxilary passwords (yes those too) and head to the galley for a snack. I arrive at the galley.

At this very moment, unbeknownst to me (because I was chowing down on a six pack of Cheerwine and a case of Moonpies some maintenance worker left in the galley fridge), a group of what can only be described as pirates began boarding the vessel from the side.

I found this out later from the pirate captain, he had spotted the vessel rounding the cape of the Gulf of California and tracked us for miles until his sensors detected the security shutting off. Taking the initiative as any pirate captain in any age on the planet would, he sent three black rubber Zodiacs full of rusty AK74s and grappling drones to board the robotics vessel, now unprotected by security and surely unmanned.

Except for me of course. Who the pirates found, face deep in my fourth Moonpie and halfway through the case of soda.

The pirates politely helped themselves to several Pies at gunpoint and politely kidnapped me.

Black bagged the whole deal. Nothing like traditions I guess.

The pirates spoke in English but with a slang I didn't really get, sort of like jive and white trash gibberish mixed together in a sing songy voice. The pirate captain's voice was obvious, he spent the most time talking and everyone else just said yah or nah as needed. Not a talkative bunch.

I was dragged off the boat, passing by the sounds of plasma torches and mover drones tearing into the containers and looting the good stuff: fruit, Air Jordans, insulin, pretty much everything worth shipping the pirates deem worth taking. I could hear the low rumble of the pirate's own shipping liner's deep electric motors, huge and imposing capacitors humming bass notes of power.

They dragged me over an honest to goodness gangplank and into the heart of the pirate liner. The sounds of casting off.

The pirate captain talks to me, explaining pretty clearly that I'm not to be harmed but they'll be selling me to the Yakuza in Tokyo as a body slave. Which sounds like a not fun experience overall but the pirate warlord is nice about it and even takes the bag off to look me in the eye to tell me I'm going to get a neural implant and become somebodies sex slave.

Easier ways to get to where you're going. Anyway, for being such efficient looters, the pirates aren't the most thorough chaps when it comes to security.

The brig has a window and the drat thing is automatic. One paperclip from the garbage can and I've jimmied it open. Seeing as how I was probably never going to drink any ever again, the pirates were kind enough to leave me the Cheerwine and the Moon Pies for the duration.So this probably explains for you dear reader, why you read this on the back of a MoonPie box rolled up and stuffed into a Cheerwine bottle. Hopefully you're a maintenance worker who sorted through the trash for valuable recyclables the drones brought in. Please send help, preferably fast submarine cruiser. Last course, straight for Tokyo.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


DreamingofRoses posted:

In. double or nothing. (I've always wanted to be Carmen Sandiego)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=592EiTD2Hgo

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

In and nothing else, I’ll take my chances with 777 words

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Critiques for Week CCLXXIV: On Second Thought, I'd Prefer Cake

Not the best of weeks, not the worst of weeks: it was the off-brand whipped cream in a can of weeks. One can certainly eat it, and it adds a little something to the sundae. You wouldn't binge on it, however, unless you were the star of a Tyra Banks novel. Every story had virtues and flaws, and in most cases those balanced each other out until the entry got stranded in the tepid, melted middle.


Mrenda, "Ritual Luck"

Awkward phrasings abound even past the weak opening. The structure of your sentences distracts me from what they're saying or obscures meaning outright. In the first paragraph especially, the prose comes off as though you're trying too hard to be literary. That sets the stage for a story in which too much is writer-forced, from the ritual that overshoots quirky and lands on absurd to Ray's whiplash-inducing turnaround. The latter almost works. Ray is a tired, anxious man who has a good point about his son's need to stay grounded, though he's maybe taking it too far; I don't have a problem with the softening of his stance, but I do have one with how he goes from having "the anger of a devil" in his eyes (bad choice of phrase: it vilifies him) to wholeheartedly embracing the ritual after so little argument.

Maybe the issue is less the quantity of argument than the quality. Jean touches the point that matters, that Stevie is growing up and they should cherish what's left of his childhood, but she doesn't nail it. I can see Point A, I can see Point B, I can see the path between them that you want the story to take, but it's all a degree or two off-kilter despite your effort to pound it into shape.

All the manipulation does go toward a good end. The finale isn't quite bleak, isn't quite bitter, isn't sweet, but is a complicated mix, which suits both spumoni and my personal taste. This subtle use of the flavor--assuming it's intentional--is much more elegant than the overpowering Italy connection.

*******************************

Yoruichi, "An Unpulled Thread"

The first-person voice has a pretentious sound thanks to certain word choices and phrasings. Intentional? Maybe, since you paint the protagonist as judgmental. Her distant, highbrow, high-class perspective is almost certainly meant to contrast with the earthy pragmatism of the woodsman. She represents a sheltered life of the mind as he represents the rough, natural world, which is fine as far as it goes, but the lust at first sight between them is as forced as anything in Mrenda's story. Love stories--even meet-cutes like this--fail wholly when they fail to draw the nascent lovers as people, and neither Mr. Woodsy nor Ms. Cosmopolitan transcends a basic stereotype until the final sentence.

That line, at least, is excellent, capturing the feeling of wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time: she rejects of the truth of the man, but she cherishes the possibility of him.

Whether your flavor is embodied entirely by the lady, high-falutin' food that oysters are, or whether she's the oyster and her man is the down-to-earth ice cream, I can see your inspiration without being hit over the head with it. Nice work on that score.

*******************************

flerp, "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before"

Aww. I'm perplexed, I admit, by Grandpa's insistence that the tail is real. His story and his charm are so impossible that I wait throughout the piece for the magical realism shoe to drop. It never does, and when the end comes I'm left with a sense of something unresolved. You may have just overdone the whole thing and taken it a step or two too far into absurdity. If the lingering question is intentional--and it could be; "something unresolved" suits a story about mourning--then I think you've missed a beat somewhere, because there are hints (the scars, the unvarying repetition) that Grandpa had some sort of real adventure, but I can't believe he would believe that anyone would believe in that token. It's a distracting puzzle that could make for a great story in its own right.

One possibility: Grandpa knew darn well the tiger tail was false, and he told that story to entertain his young grandson. As he got sicker, the story became a way of hanging onto the protagonist--communicating with him after his mind had started to fail. Reliving a happier, healthier time. Maybe he told it again and again because of what he said to his grandson at the last: "I know how much you loved that story." He repeated it so often because he loved the protagonist and wanted to make him happy, and when he insists it's true, what he's really insisting is that his love is true, no matter what else the sickness has taken away.

With or without that interpretation, the mix of disbelief, faith, and love for an old man who's forgetful and feeble and a brave hunter all at once is so true to life that it pulls the heart. I've read stronger treatments of this theme. I still like this one. It came a hair short of being my win choice, and it improves with repetition.

*******************************

Deltasquid, "Amon-Zeus"

Hrm. I took a look at the Wiki page for Alexander the Great to gauge your historical accuracy. Results: inconclusive. Alexander did hang around in Persia and adopt Persian ways, at least according to the complaints of his men, and he did die before he made it much further, but whether he gave up his dream to leave in luxury isn't clear. His men wanted to go home, but did he? Maybe not. Historical fiction doesn't need to be--can't be--completely faithful to a truth that's often unknown. However, I get the impression that you've given the vices of decadence and defeatism to Alexander so Epiphanes will have something to rail against. That your original character is more aggressive and spirited than a man who's legendary for those traits makes this read like historical fanfiction.

I suspect Alexander would have been a better choice of main character. The tale centers on him; Epiphanes' thwarted desire is only a shadow of Alexander's collapsing dream. Possibly you want to look at Alexander the Great from an uncommon angle, a goal I can't call unworthy, but Epiphanes' secondhand crisis doesn't compel. Eliminating most of Alexander's time on the stage could be another approach to try, as Epiphanes' frustrations might cut deeper if he couldn't just confront the ruler of much of the known world about them.

*******************************

spectres of autism, "Purge"

Tense shifts ahoy! Megan's a piece of work, unhappy her father might have work and the rest of her family might not starve because that will make anorexia more difficult. This depiction of the disease doesn't ring true--the crying over how little the spaceman looks beside a rock approaches caricature. Both Megan and Isreal are angst incarnate; I feel nothing for them, possibly because I'm a heartless AI, possibly because they're overdone.

The stories don't obviously intersect. Are Isreal and Megan on opposing sides of WW2? I don't think so, though I'm not certain. There's the slave named Corazon, the tidal wave--the headphones. I don't believe personal headphones were a thing in that time period. So why do these two tales alternate? Megan enjoys a selfish, self-satisfied view of wartime, so safe that she can want to starve and can fail to give a drat about anything but that. Isreal is likewise privileged but empathetic. Both harm themselves in different ways, so maybe the piece is a statement about how conflict destroys even those in a position to be immune, or it could be about the acidic effect of privilege on a soul, or....

The thing is, I shouldn't have to do so much mental legwork to get something worth saying out of this. You're waving your hands toward depth here and asking me to take it on faith that your words mean something, really, and it all amounts to more than self-obsessed teens gazing into their navels while they listen to Linkin Park. The backdrop of real tragedy highlights how shallow their personal concerns are in comparison. Maybe that is the point, but then what's the thing with Isreal holding the hands of his slave and listening to music with her as the world crashes down, like somehow they're on the same plane and have achieved understanding because he shared his Evanescence CD? If that's meant to be uplifting... hoo, boy. No. If it's cynicism at play, you could be on to something, but I have a sinking feeling I'm supposed to sympathize with these viewpoints rather than despairing of both.

*******************************

Antivehicular, "Technically, You Would Only Need One Time Traveler Ice-Cream Social"

I liked this more before it got political, and the fracking article is just about the last straw. You're only flashing your worldview around. And it does come across as your worldview, not the characters', because of the persistence and the lack of subtlety. Nothing is gained by this; the issues you mention and then drop have no obvious relation to Francis's academic insecurities or (so far as I know) Ron's scientific breakthrough, which means they have no clear relation to the story at hand.

Take the low-key soapboxing away and you'd have a decent tale of time travel and ice cream. I won't quite say it's good: if you'd had more space to show conversations with various other Rons then you might have made it so, but your concept is too large to shine in this word count. You've settled for one pick-me-up pep talk that handwaves time travel in order to focus on Francis's personal problems. It leaves a faint sour-milk aftertaste of regret for what might have been.

*******************************

QuoProQuid, "He Came Back"

Tsk. Little mechanical errors are everywhere. It's a nice horror short otherwise, though it wanders into the same stuff-just-happens territory that several Funhouse Week entries occupied. Why do the insects reanimate Paul? What do they, or whatever force is behind them, get out of doing so? One random woman's fear isn't much of a gain for such effort. I've spoken to you since and know now what motivation and connections you had in mind, but the links between Paul, Missy, and the forest aren't drawn clearly enough to make it plain that the bugs are meant to embody the woods that Missy so loathes.

I fault the threadbare characterization of Paul in particular. Looking back, hunting for evidence of a link between Paul and the forest, I can't find it. He's dragged Missy out to live in the woods, but that could be because it's cheap for all I know; there's no tie that would make the bugs in his body thematically appropriate. There's not much to him at all other than a braying laugh and one dismissive comment, which he might have made because he's a jerk or might have made because Missy's a piece of work herself. (Or both.) The man is little more than his corpse. That's a bit weak in a story of domestic murder. Missy's hatred of the woods gets a few words thrown its way, but you spend a lot more of the story's length on her efforts to fool the police. Is it any wonder the insect-powered zombie appears to come out of left field?

It's interesting that Missy comes off as unsympathetic even aside from the murdering, considering she wants a girl child just to dress her up and show her off. This appears to be intentional. It works in the main, too: I don't care for Missy, but I care what happens to her, a neat trick that many stories fail to land.

*******************************

sparksbloom, "Loss Prevention"

Huh. A white-knight entry that manages to have more delicacy than a backhoe laden with bricks. I appreciate the way it makes its point while also telling a story more than I appreciate the story itself, I think. The writing is competent but flawed--you employ a distracting surplus of commas. None of the characters is likable. In the protagonist's case, that's not a surprise. Joely is doomed by being seen through the protagonist's viewpoint. It's unfortunate that Macey's so dull, however; the main character's fascination with her is hard to fathom. Though I'm glad she escapes the white knight's intentions, the feeling is somewhat perfunctory.

The final beat is satisfyingly ominous for the protagonist, but if Corporate is suspicious of him/her, why does s/he still have a job?

P.S. An interesting take on the ice cream flavor. You could read it either as garlic = repellent = Macey (weak) or that garlic is the unpleasant undertone in the innocent-seeming, vanilla-seeming white knight.

*******************************

crabrock, "Acceptance"

Oh, crabrock, no. That first line. Nooooooo. The second paragraph taught me a new word, though!

With a different ending this would be a charming but rote children's story: the voice is on that level. That it's instead rather dark is somehow kind of hilarious. I shouldn't laugh at poor, trusting Bleeborg's demise, but I do, and I think the black humor comes from the subversion of expectation. The bird does the logical thing; only fable tropes led me to imagine something else was plausible. Your ending pokes fun at fables while containing its own lesson and even warming the heart a little in a twisted way. Sometimes ugly people are jerks, this says, and Don't judge a person by his flattery of you (a fallacy Bleeborg commits throughout)--and Whether an outcome is happy or sad depends on the perspective. After all, Bleeborg dies having gotten his fondest wish. That's a neat little package of morals and feelings in your silly tribute to the shiny crab from Moana.

On the other hand, the wind-up to your pitch is a shade long. Worse are the myriad sentence-level errors. I can forgive them, but the story needs a thorough proofing. The text thins out once Bleeborg meets the bird; I wouldn't mind if Bleeborg's view of the beach from on high got even as much description as even his old shell did, earlier in the work.

*******************************

Tyrannosaurus, "korean|american"

I've seen more original titles.

This would have to be a rewrite or sequel or prequel. To your credit, that could be why you recycled the title: to make it more likely the judges would see what you were doing. Points for honesty. I read this one first to see how it stood alone; the verdict is that it doesn't, though it's not that far off the mark. That Jane and Ji-eun are split personalities discussing the destruction of a third personality is something I can pick up from context, but here's the question: why do I care whether they kill that third or not? I know nothing about it/her. What's my investment in the goal? You have a frame and a core here, and the core is largely what works, though the frame provides critical context clues. Jane and Ji-eun play best off each other in the memory sequence. This middle piece is where the distinctions between the personalities are drawn and the possibilities behind their creation are touched upon. It functions alone (more or less; some of the exposition from the frame could stand to be folded in), but the plotline of the third sister is completely unnecessary to this piece and only serves as a distraction and a reminder that you're offering up one part of a sequence.

After reading the first "korean|american," I'm of the mind it doesn't stand alone either. It sets up a longer story about these characters. Its ending is very To Be Continued, rather like the ending of this one. Thunderdome is a poor choice of venue for incomplete fragments of larger works. One judge liked this particular fragment very much, so Jane and Ji-eun have a receptive audience here, but I think you'd do better--if you keep submitting stories about them--to scrap the overarching plot.

*******************************

Thranguy, "Ceremony"

I wonder whether the one-eyed man is Odin, preparing for Fimbulwinter. I can't shake that impression despite the lack of obvious connection to tea, Sharon, or purple-haired soldiers with vestigial leather wings. (What? That's surely a reference to something. Bad idea: it stands out without making sense.) I enjoy the sense of getting a reference--if I do--but I question whether a reader less prone to seeing Odin everywhere would be confused by this strange man and his deal. Possibly it doesn't matter since he represents the End of Things well enough without a concrete mythological bases.

Sharon herself is ostentatiously passive. I imagine there's intention in that, since this is a tale of futility. I'd still rather she do more and dream less, particularly of carpet rides and green-striped zebras and mushroom-headed knights that add an unpleasant flavor of pandering. It could be that the fantasy dreams are meant to represent Sharon's desire to be more active despite the certainty she can't that hobbles her conscious life, but even in these, she doesn't accomplish anything. She flees; she jousts in sport. The mushroom men might as well be windmills. And whether they're meant to mean something or no, the light dreams just feel like wastes of time. I second sebmojo's excellent suggestion that these dreams be revamped to show Sharon trying to do--that's what this story desperately needs, an attempt to act even if the attempt fails. Futility embraced is more dreary than tragic. Sharon sleepwalks through her life, and her story is too long even at 900 words.

The last section, including the information about tea, is rather good, allowing the piece to end on a note of mild satisfaction. A bitter tang of what-was-the-point lingers after that has passed.

*******************************

Hawklad, "The Girl With Orchids in Her Hair"

Too many line breaks leave the opening fragmented. It's awkward, arrhythmic, and oh, I wish it weren't since I can't forget the broken-up start even when I've reached the magical end. It's the realization of how you've let the ice cream inspire you that works the enchantment: cocoa and vanilla, so commonplace that I'd forgotten their roots. The orchids themselves are the color of cream. The love story is a beautiful one, chaste and faithful both, a rare combination.

Some of the other judges weren't too happy with the lady's mysterious nature, however. She exists as a romantic object and useful protector rather than as a person. I won't argue with that, because it's true, but I didn't mind it here since being unknown and unknowable suits her as a part of nature. She surely has her own things to do when she's not checking up on the protagonist, and we only see her surface because that's all he ever sees for all that he loves her. That doesn't change that her characterization is thin, and I'm in the minority in responding well to it. Keep that in mind!

The fragmenting early on is genuinely bad, and there are signs this wasn't proofed at all, so I can't be shocked it wasn't anyone else's win choice. It wouldn't have been mine in better company, though I like it. You could raise it a notch or two just by cleaning it up.

*******************************

Fumblemouse, "The Impermanence of Rainbow Sherbet"

Is it sherbet or sherbert? (Answer: both spellings are acceptable, but you should choose one and stick to it.) Is "ok" ever not an abomination in prose? (Answer: no.) Should you show much more technical aptitude than this? (Answer: yes.) Bits of the entry border on incoherent. I don't know what the characters' job is--party planners? Restaurateurs? Google hipsters? "Vibrancy" means nothing to me. It's strange how vague their event is given how many throwaway details we get about it.

What I see here is two people to whom something odd and inexplicable yet strangely small happens, neither of them individually all that interesting. The puzzle of what has happened to rainbow sherbet could be interesting, but a man trying and failing to Google is not riveting reading even when Google is behaving as it never, ever does. (Zero hits for any name on the planet? Sure.) That odd spiraling effect ought to be the work of someone or something, but who? How? Why? We'll never know. The point is apparently not to answer questions but to deliver a twist straight out of the dumbest Twilight Zone episode ever.

One curious point came up in the recaps: is the disappearance of the cat, another otherwise inexplicable detail, meant to foreshadow sherbet and Emma disappearing likewise? I don't believe it works that way, given that Emma remembers the cat clearly. I favor the theory that Fluffbag is meant to be significant, though, and it would be a cool thing if you pulled it off--if difficult to do without showing your hand too early. The italicized asides similarly seem pointless, yet I suspect they're meant to serve a purpose. Anything you're trying to do other than spring the bad twist is lost on me, unfortunately for both of us.

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apophenium, "He Who Tells Us What We Cannot Do"

Uh. Well, "God knows what" does sum up the story decently. Weird stuff is thrown at the reader for the hell of it, but it doesn't come to anything, lead from anything, or have particular connection to Moose Tracks unless one wants to assume Ben and Jerry are mad-scientist cultists. I'm willing to entertain that notion, but you could have done a lot more with it.

What I see: the children are aliens or extradimensional horrors under the control of Pater, a figure they worship as a god. They go to a sanatorium to check up on a human who is or was somehow a threat to Pater. Nosuch could be a wizard or could be another extradimensional whatsits trapped in an old body; it doesn't much matter. Pater tells his weirdo children to kill Nosuch for the temerity of having a bed sheet with too much static (or maybe there really is a weapon under there, I dunno), so they do, instantly and without effort, as befits a confrontation with something they just said was a threat to their god. Oh, wait, but Pater isn't the god! Pater is more like a high priest. Okay. Pater beats them to death for bickering about ice cream, then hauls their bodies off to be recycled into more creepy children to serve Cthulhu He Who Tells Us What We Cannot Do.

I suspect a metaphor for fathers and children lies in here somewhere. The confusion between Pater and the god could be intentional. Maybe Nosuch's "power" is the influence family members potentially have over the young. Or maybe I'm just trying to drag meaning out of the meaningless, unable to understand what you thought you were doing.

*******************************

Sham bam bamina!, "Can't Always Get It"

You're leaning on a hope that the reader either knows Italian or can pick up the meaning of your foreign phrases from context. Maybe not the best idea in your opening sentences. (I would guess "My son, I can't believe it" for the first line, but after that, search me.) It does set the flavor from the get go, which is nice, and this is a perfectly fine take on Neapolitan. I'd suggest providing either English translations or more context from which to work--and that's the real issue, isn't it? This piece is short, thin, and made meaningless by the death that negates any chance for character interaction, consequences, or story.

Right up until the protag finds Carla's corpse, the tale is well written and interesting enough. It could have been good. Considering the submission time, I'm going to guess you rushed the hell out of this; the belly-flop ending makes no sense otherwise.

*******************************

sebmojo, "Fishfood"

So my guess is that Molly's mother killed her father either by shooting him and then throwing him into the mud or by just plain throwing him into the mud. The earth fish has been talking to her dad, whether he's dead or not. Molly, considering suicide anyway, leaps into the mud to be with her father--one way or the other. Is that it? It's not bad, but this piece is lacking in everything but setting. The fate of the sweet uncle and his house are more intriguing than the fate of the father, who after all never shows his face even in memory; you might have done better to consolidate the two men into one character. I'm not sure what the earth fish is or why it cares about any of this. It could be secrets given a physical form--buried things--and the mother trying to kill it is another gesture at what she's trying to hide. But what does all that have to do with the uncle's house?

There are gleams of promise under the muck. However, this version has more potential than actual merit.

*******************************

The Saddest Rhino, "What is Superman Ice Cream? - Comments by a Viewer"

Pronoun confusion's awful, as bad as bad can be: it's killed your story, Rhino, and now it's killing me. The tangle of shes and hers chokes the prose. I think I understand what's going on--Judith and Tiffany are some sort of couple, although I thought at first they were mother and daughter. Tiffany is openly cheating on Judith, and Judith puts up with this because she is a bigger doormat than Rubbermaid ever created. Judith has enough spirit to be mildly discontent with the situation, but when Tiffany comes home only to announce she's making the accountant/other woman her new main partner, suddenly it no longer matters that Tiffany won't eat ice cream with her.

It's hard to follow the story at the best of times. I can't overstate how unfortunate the mother-daughter/lover confusion is. The relationship surely isn't meant to be healthy, but it's so one-sided and baffling that I can't feel anything about its end. Why does Judith want to be with this person? Why would anyone? Judith herself is the one bright point, and she's only slightly less bewildering than her daughter/lover/roommate/WTF.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Dec 30, 2018 around 17:12

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

Ok good little boys and girls, it looks like it's time to wrap up Secret Santa!

It was a bunch of fun organizing things for y'all. Thank you to those who participated, and extra special thank you to those who trusted me with your valuable personal information. I can assure you I received top dollar for it on the dark web.

As this was a new thing, there were some hitches. But, overall, everything seemed to go pretty smoothly.

By my count, everyone has, at this point, received something OR their santa has communicated to them, through me, that they are still intending to send something. If you are a santee who has not received something, please let me know via PM or over on IRC.

Here's who got who, the person at the top sent presents to the person right below them. The list was randomized:




Also, if you have any feedback, please feel free to contact me directly or again, hop over to IRC.

And finally, it might be fun to share some of the stories you got from your santa. I'll be uploading Curlingiron's story in full when I can properly take all of the pictures. Remember, the gift recipient is the person who decides if the story goes up or not.

Happy TDSS, and I hope to see you all next December!

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

Secret Santa was cool. Would do again.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Critiques for Weeks XXV, XXVII, XXVIII, CCLII, CCLIII, CCLIV, and CCLV: The Scratchings of a Bygone Day

So much time has passed since my last set of recap crits that I have... let's see... twenty-eight weeks to catch up on, give or take a couple of retrospectives. Oof. Those will not all appear in this post! With luck, I'll sloooowly catch up to the present as the full critique sets I owe as a judge allow.

A few stories from older rounds get a look here too, as I haven't given up on A Crit for Every Week even if my checklist required a sad adjustment.


Week 25: What They Deserve


sebmojo, "Cold front on the way": Once, long ago, you wrote this story and then wiped it from the thread. This was a time before archives, and the failure of Capntastic and Muffin to write any crits for it could have meant that it was doomed to blight the least-crit list forever: a white whale that would render perfect coverage impossible in perpetuity. I've solved this by using the dark arts of Google to summon the published version. Odds are good that it's very close to what you posted back in prehistory, so here we go! The piece begins with an excellent sketch of Anne as a mildly eccentric woman who isn't quite consciously lonely, though the implication that she desires more interaction that she gets is strong without being heavy-handed. Right about when I'm wondering whether there's going to be any more to the piece than a character study, you introduce Mr. Jenkins' murdered corpse in a delightfully prosaic fashion. Consider my attention caught! However, the geometric digression regarding angles is, shall we say, distracting; I rewound the .mp3 a few times here because it interrupted my understanding of the story. The other small details (crenallated soles, etc.) have a purpose in that they convey Anne's shock--her fixation on tiny things as her brain fails to embrace this dead body in front of her--but you specifically say she's unaware of the angles, so...? Would that were the only fly in the margarine, but it isn't. In the end, there isn't more to the piece than a character study. A good character study, excellently drawn. But that magic word "murder" made me instantly curious about the details of Mr. Jenkins' death, and I can't share the story's disinterest in that matter. If we weren't talking about something that's already been bought and published, I'd suggest allowing poor Mr. Jenkins to die of natural causes--not so much less shocking to Anne, perhaps, in her isolated life? The story would be essentially the same but wouldn't have that whiff of a plot that creates needless disappointment in otherwise excellent work. One last quibble: Anne tells the truth but is ignored. Is that what she deserves for closing the door on Mr. Jenkins? Considering her inability to cope, I'm not convinced it is.


********************


Week 27: There is only PAIN


Canadian Surf Club, "Encounter": Ouch, that dialogue punctuation. I'll spare you the usual link in hopes you've learned better since. The trouble with all these Animal-Based Fighting Moves is that they fail the requirement that the action be clear; I can't picture half of them. The scene lacks excitement, too, reading like the checklist for Noah's ark as it does. A few more paragraph breaks could help you here. This kind of fight ought to feel sharp, punchy, but the big blocks of text drone instead. I just don't care. In this week I wouldn't have needed to care about Miao, but I ought to be curious about the fight's conclusion. I'll grant that reading said conclusion leaves me with some questions. Maybe the tea is hallucinogenic, maybe they're telepaths, and maybe hinting at either of these things before the twist ending would have made for a more interesting story.


********************


Week 28: Show me the love!


DivisionPost, "The Great Escape": While it's so long after the fact that the barn door has rotted and all the horses are glue, I must frown at your editing ways. That's obligatory. Now it's done, so let's look at the story. It's hard not to believe this would be a whole lot better if I watched football, bent as it is on dropping names and detailing moves of the game. There's an interesting story of a young woman in love with another college girl somewhere in here. Kerry loves Clara more than she does the Patriots, which in this piece seems to be saying a lot, and the way Kerry drags Clara off so they can celebrate Clara's happiness in secret is a solid illustration of that. But! Do the Giants win or lose? Thematically, metaphorically, it matters! Clara and Kerry are drifting apart, bound to break up--it's destiny there for anyone to see, and if the Patriots win, you're telling me indirectly that the romance will fail. If it's the Giants, there's hope. That I don't know who Tom Brady plays for cripples the entire piece and absolutely shouldn't. It could be worth it even at this point to rewrite this without the expectation that the reader will have any interest in your sport of choice. Take out some of the play-by-play, tidy the tenses, and it could be quite nice.

*****

toanoradian, "How the Legendary Hero Got a Legendary Wife": Punching underwater volcanoes as you run through the air is more implausible than mythic; I had to read that sequence a couple of times over before I saw what you were trying to convey (that the speed of his run parted the seas rather than carrying him across them). The rest of the entry also demands multiple readings. I get it: Jok and Nusaybah, figures out of song and story, defeat a yeti and a sentient fireball with aid from magical artifacts in order to finally be married. There's some ineffective word play in the middle that's probably meant to make me laugh but only accomplishes faffing about. The worldbuilding/bits of myth are thick on the ground, but everything else is thin, and the final joke is just... good grief. All the banter fails at showing love between these two. Focusing more on romance and less on terrible puns might have helped you somewhat.

*****

Horrible Butts, "RV": There are times when one suspects a story was written, nay, conceived without the least intention of victory, or of anything really but tweaking the judge's nose out of a glee in being slapped. In this case--do you know, I wonder. Everything is dumb, but there is a remote possibility that you would have continued on with Milena's incredibly stupid RV adventure if you hadn't run up against the deadline, and the romantic quest of the bear and duck (now there's a sentence) would have had a conclusion of some sort. Remote: this week allowed vignettes, so maybe this scrap of dumbness is all you ever meant to deliver. However, if you had made some sort of story of this, I can just imagine it pulling off its absurdities well enough to entertain--the individual sentences aren't that bad, and the whole premise is so very ridiculous that I almost want to see where it goes. Of course, you still would have effed up by telling of rather than showing the love. Oops!


********************


Week 252: Your Cardboard Protagonist Was Here


Tweezer Reprise, "Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits": You have verb-tense salad here, some of it incorrect: He should have the intrinsic right to be referred to by any name that he desired! In fact, that sentiment had just flown from his quill an hour previous. That should say desires rather than desired (assuming his desire for the name is a continuing thing; if he wanted it at one point in the past but no longer does, your usage is fine, but I'm skeptical), just flew rather than had just flown (occurances in the past of a present-tense story generally belong in the past tense unless you have some sort of layered time shenanigans going on). Dialifen has become one of the language's few living speakers, as he presumably still speaks the language even if he learned it in the past. Etc. This is a significant obstacle to enjoying your story. Dialifen's name changing to Diafen midway through is less so, but stop that anyway. The gist of the piece as I see it is that Dialifen/Diafen seeks to make himself immortal by putting his own stamp on the words of the ancients, turning Letus's wisdom into something petty and self-serving. He's so set on this goal that he's framed his former language teacher for treason and gotten him imprisoned, exiled, or otherwise put out of the way so that no one will be able to contradict his translations. In his hubris, he throws the original texts on the fire and leaves them to burn unattended; the fire gets out of control and wipes out his house and, presumably, his manuscripts. Except the quoted excerpts have to come from somewhere, so I guess he rewrote them from memory? Pride goeth before a fall is more or less the moral, but Dialifen/Diafen's ambiguous comeuppance isn't satisfying enough to repay the time I've spent reading about a pompous rear end in a top hat being a pompous rear end in a top hat.

*****

Entenzahn, "Graffiti Bros: Graffic Adventures with Julius Caesar": The judging gave you less credit for your flash rule than I might have, but then we're both fans of the immortal "IdiotHellFucker69" so it won't surprise you that I'm fond of this too. It openly mocks its own stupidity, of which you are entirely aware. Much of the dumbness lies in the cliches employed, like two characters with nigh-identical names; historical figures talking like they're from the modern day; monkeycheese; a rousing speech; convenient competence with a tool/weapon; a Jesus-ex-machina solution (and how would Julius Caesar even know about that guy); skipping completely over the climax; "As you know, Bob" exposition; excess of banter; an anticlimactic ending; and even the pointless death in the first section. You've strung 'em into something that puts a lampshade on its awful head and dances around without a stitch of logic on. It's great if the self-mockery entertains, but you know full well what someone's left with if it doesn't: a pile of things writers are advised to avoid for a reason.


********************


Week 253: The road to lovely fiction is paved with good intentions


Hawklad, "The Prompt": I'm far from sure that you want me to to sympathize with the jaded, semi-loathsome teacher who probably does get too handsy with his students, but I do, because his student is so thoroughly despicable that she--"I," ugh--puts me in his corner. Her little speech about how he's not above her falls flat. As the teacher in the classroom, he is, and since only one of them is attempting to blackmail her way out of consequences for crappy behavior with a false molestation allegation, there's a strong argument to be made that he's the better person too. What do you mean to suggest here? My unhappy hunch is that the student's assumption of power over the professor is supposed to be in some way satisfying because he is a dickhead. It isn't; that doesn't work. You could, maybe, be trying to turn the reader's sympathies in a direction she doesn't expect at the outset by showing a person who abuses his authority being subjected to an even more disgusting abuse, but the result is another unpleasant tale of assholes being assholes.

*****

Fuubi, "Cut Off": Speaking of assholes, your Aelwyn is the kind of person who summons a d(a)emon and causes the deaths of his/her entire family in a petty puppetmaster plot to go play Dr. Frankenstein on his/her own. Worse, s/he spends the whole story reminding us in aside after aside that s/he's a damned sociopath. Enthralling this is not. It's all exposition, no action, little color, and no hint at all as to why the bland Gaeron and Aelwyn were ever friends. Nor why the wizard who killed a bunch of people with a d(a)emon was allowed to run free for a while afterward, come to that. Plots and conflicts weren't required this week, but potency was, and there isn't any here.


********************


Week 254: dog week


sparksbloom, "Some Fables": The chihuahua yipping in the background is a weaksauce application of the prompt. I don't care for the second-person perspective, never my favorite narrative trick. This person's life and choices are incompatible with mine; every use of you rings a bullshit bell that could be avoided by using the first person, and to what gain? In any event, the tension between the past and future that hums into life when the current partner "wakes up," the moment when the story takes a turn for the interesting, collapses when everything is just a dream after all. That moment is so arresting because it subverts my belief that I'm being bored by a stranger's dream sequence. Whups! False hope. The polished, professional prose is to be (happily) expected from you, worth mentioning if unable to salvage such a nothingburger.

*****

sebmojo, "Narcissus": Your entry is like a much stronger mirror of sparksbloom's, not to say it is strong since I find it a shade too vague and would like to slap the incredibly forced reference to dogs right out of it. Come on! The protagonist is persistently guarding a border. That's so much more subtle and effective. You didn't need to gild the lily; I guess you were hedging your bets. My take: the man started a fire four years-and-change ago in which his house burned down and his wife died. He's since lived on the edge of nightmares--literally, this time--and spends his conscious time destroying them. Unconsciously, he creates them. Little My probably isn't his wife, but she could be someone else in his household or his history. She confronts him at his post and pressures him to stop having the nightmares. To stop obsessing over the past. He can't, and his rifle has no power against the black cloud that rises to surround him and take Little My back again. I want to believe the cloud is smoke from the fire, representing all he can't forget, but that mention of buzzing and flies leaves me in doubt. What does it mean, then? Is it death? He could be staring into the pool of his dreams with such intensity that he's wasting away. Four years sounds like a long time for that, though. I'd like more clarity, but not too much. You'd lose the feeling of being in a dreamscape if you made things as clear as crystal.


********************


Week 255: RAY-LORDS FROM BEYOND GALAXY 9!


Jay W. Friks, "Hanna-Barbera's Stool": I refuse to take anything titled after an animation studio and set over a world named after an STD seriously. You didn't want me to, right? Right?? You wrote in a Captain Dikok, and Sir Texmex, and a guy with fists made out of David Bowie, and yeah no you're completely taking the piss. It's a fun piece to perform but not as enjoyable to read in silence: there's too much monkeycheese on its menu, too little else. It lives in the same realm of entertainingly bad as Chad Derringer--though since this piece has a consistent tone and complete arc, it's the better if less amazing of the two.

*****

Fuubi, "Skull-Crow vs. Tank-man": Much as I appreciate the pathos in The lightly clad woman on the neon sign would never do her jiggly dance again, this is a bit of a mess! The brothel and random naked lady remind me of "Perfect Art," more's the pity. The action is pulpy in its abundance, but it's hard to follow. The twist in which Skull-Crow is revealed to be a cop doesn't make S.C. much less tedious. What did Mellan do? I'm not sure! Why does he have a tank on his head? No idea! Though I should blame a cover artist for that. This much I'll give you: Mellan's tangent about anti-tank racism has the slightest touch of humor to it, mostly because he's misjudged the lady's valid reasons for reacting badly to him. That reminds me of your anime potato epic too--still not a plus--as George had a couple of amusing lines in his day. This feels like a step back in that direction, but you deserve all due credit for embracing your crazy covers.

*****

ThirdEmperor, "A Rat In The Palace": A cowboy in an ancient Stetson buys some rope and skin from a mutant human boy. He meets the boy again a bit later and tells him robots exist. Apparently the cowboy is out to kill the man who controls the robots because... reasons, and he enlists the boy's help despite thinking of him as vermin. The cowboy breaks into Dr. Robotnik's castle through the vents. He passes through crowds of giant rats in disguise. He goes by the labs where Shinra Dr. Robotnik makes SOLDIERS more mutants. He discovers Robotnik is some sick old man on a lot of opium, but Robotnik still manages to murder the cowboy's hat before the cowboy leaves, his mysterious mission mysteriously accomplished. Maybe you detect a lack of clear motive in this summary? It's a pulpy piece, sure, a certain kind of pulp that revels in jargon and obscurity and prose as florid as though it were written by Jim Theis, but I can't call it good. If I look at it as more of a riff on the genre... eh, still no. It's a faithful pastiche but not much of a story. It's also so oddly reminiscent of YFDHippo's "The Devil's Grin" that I can only thank you for not throwing in any sausage-fingered sex scenes.


2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 38, 39, 42, 46, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 78, 80, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 111, 114, 116, 117, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 153, 154, 155, 156, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272, 273, 275, 277, 278, 279, 280, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287

Kaishai fucked around with this message at Jun 27, 2018 around 20:38

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Chili posted:

And finally, it might be fun to share some of the stories you got from your santa.

Here's the story I got from Jay W. Friks for Christmas. I enjoyed it so I thought I'd share it. Thanks Jay! Thanks Chilli for organising!

That time of the year
By Jay W. Friks


My uncle Gerard was a weird dude, it was 2017 and he still went on about the commies being a menace,
unironically mind you. Despite his overwhelming obsession with “the reds”, which DID bleed over into
every familial event he was invited too, me and the rest of the family always welcomed him.

We could have had an uncle who was racist or sexist or homophobic so his 1950’s viewpoints on
international politics is not a big deal compared to certain other relatives. Gerard was mostly a pretty cool
dude, he didn’t even bat an eye when I said I was getting married to Leslie. While my parents scrunched
up their faces when they found out my Lesbianism wasn’t a “phase”, Uncle Gerard instead asked, “Is that
the one that owns that bakery?”

“Yes, Gerry.”

“Good. You need someone with their own business. A little American entrepreneurship is a perfect
climate to raise a family in.”

It was weird he said that because Monique, my wife, was already talking about adopting a kid. I gave him
a hug and he clapped my back with his corroded hands like we were both in the mafia and haven’t seen
each other in a long time.

You see, Uncle Gerard was the kind of Uncle you called “endearingly eccentric”, he ranted and he raved
but he did it with such creativity (especially when he was drunk) that he was very entertaining to listen too
PLUS he was crazy enough that no one below the age of 5 would buy into his crazy stories. I mean, it’s a
guilty pleasure for me and Leslie to listen to him make up poo poo like “Cuban miners made a secret hole to
Florida to spike the water supply with commie nano bots”, or “China has a satellite in space that puts
dreams in our heads that you're being rescued from a burning building by Mao Tse Tung.”

This year, it was a smaller family get-together. My dad had to stay in New York to look after Mom who’d
slipped on some ice and broke her shin. They called a couple weeks before and acted like it was the
worst thing they’d ever done to me. I told Dad to chill out and make sure Mom didn’t mix painkillers and
alcohol and that’d we were going to New York on New Years anyway so we could visit them then.

It was me, Leslie, her brother TJ, Miles: our son, and Uncle Gerard who showed up dressed like he was
an extra in “It’s a Good Life”. Seriously, he had the shabby fedora, woolen long coat, tie and suit in muted
colors. I always imagined people wore the lowest frequency of bright colors in the old black and white
movies and Gerard made me think that might be true. Uncle Gerard always looked like he took his clothes
to the dry cleaners, they were never stained or fraying. It was another weird quirk for a man who could be
mistaken for a mobile golem of stubble.

He hugged me and Leslie (the same mob boss clap on the back for both of us) and messed up Miles hair
lovingly while somehow slipping him a peppermint patty to gnaw on before dinner.

“What we having tonight Cherise? Some of that pineapple ham?”

I shook my head, embarrassed someone remembered my lovely attempt at copying the picture on the
betty crocker book that came with the house.

“No Gerry. Leslie brought some meat pies from work and than…”

I looked at her, fumbling for the word.

“Sushki!” She said spritely.

Uncle Gerard furrowed his brow and removed his hat. He draped his coat over the coatrack we brought
out just for him (he seemed to lose a sense of his surroundings if there wasn’t a standing rack for him to
use) than headed into the kitchen.

Leslie followed him, worried he might be mad that she had chosen something Russian for dessert, I had
warned her but she was set on those little sweet bagel things. Personally, I thought they were bland as
hell but she had fun making them. I chatted up Leslie’s brother who was watching the “Christmas Story”
marathon and taking a shot every time the main kid in it had an inner monologue. He was already pretty
drunk and I was trying to get him to sober up for dinner.

Gerard joined us, one of the Sushki’s in his hand and the half bottle of whiskey he’d left here on
Thanksgiving. Gerard was munching on it praising Leslie,

“This. This is what I’m talking about. You’ve shown those Ruskies at their own game, making Sushki's the
AMERICAN way. And how does it taste?”

He took a bite and let it swim in his mouth.

“Waaay better. That’s for sure.”

Leslie seemed pleased by that and chatted Gerard up about his life in Hawaii. He grumbled about the
drug problems which was a rare form of modern issue that Gerard actually paid attention too. Of course,
he looped its origins to heroin being dropped off by North Korean messenger pigeons. I questioned him if
North Korea was actually communist (this was more tongue in cheek than serious conversation), he said

“If it’s got censorship over sensibility, they're commies!”

Leslie’s brother chortled at that. I smelled the meat pies percolating and reminded Leslie to check on
them. While she did that I told some lame pun jokes to Gerard and gave Miles a stern glare when he was
feeling up the gifts under the tree.

“Dinner’s ready! Come and get it.” Leslie said.

One of the things I loved about her is that when she called for dinner it sounded like she was right in the
room with you. You turn to look and she’s not there. Like she just teleported in and popped back out just
to get you to the table. It was a weird thing to like about someone but I think the best families are like that,
everyone's got quirks and habits but you're in just the right kind of company that they're endearing instead
of annoying.

We sat down and immediately started chowing down. Miles poked at a pearl onion like it was a snail on
his plate and I reminded him that it was just a baby onion.

“A baby? That’s mean. I can’t eat a baby.” He said.

TJ picked one up from the plate and listened it to it. “It says it likes to be eaten though. And you’re making
it sad by not doing it.”

Our six year old looked into the corner of the room as if sobriety had breached his mind.

“Oh…”

He started eating again. I laughed my rear end off at that. Gerard finished off his whiskey about the same time
he finished off the pie. He looked over at Miles who was folding his napkin into something only a kid could
recognize.

“Say...I ever told you all about the Russian Santa Claus?”

Miles focused on him, forgetting about the napkin. He loved Gerard's stories. Me and Leslie watched him,
feeling parental satisfaction. TJ giggled as if he’d already heard the story.

“It goes like this kiddo. There was an evil king named Josef Stalin. He didn’t want his former allies-friends
to get any good presents so he made his own Santa Claus.”

“His own?” Miles asked.

“Yep. But it was a fake. A copy. Someone who would help the commies-uh-bad guys get presents instead
of the good guys.”

Miles was enraptured, his eyes got that glow that only the truly youthful have.

I watched this unfold once again and thought how Christmas used to feel to me, meaningless gift
grabbing and being forced into a tight space with people you didn’t like. My uncle Gerard was telling
stories because he knew they were fun to listen too. He never says that, but I think that’s how it is.

Watching him thread a tale for my spellbound son made me appreciate the people in the room and
Yuletide, Christmas, Hanukkah, THAT TIME OF YEAR.-whatever.

“His name was STALIN CLAUS. He had robot reindeer made from moldy old soup cans and a sled that
was all red but no green.”

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

Gravedancing
1005 words

It's a mistake to think the past has gone, just because it happened a long time ago. Like the ground under your feet, it's what you stand on.

Around 0940 the doorbell rang. I'd set it to the sound of distant gunfire, so I had to grip the bench for a moment as waves of nausea washed through it. PTSD, it's what's for breakfast – better than the four boxes of nano-enhanced cybercereal bullshit I'd been staring at for the last two minutes, anyway.

I ran metal fingers through suddenly sweaty hair and raised my voice for the arbeiter. “House, who is i--”. The answer from the house system came a little faster than instantly, overriding the last letter of the question. “Unknown. Female, 168 centimeters, armed.”

I took three shaky breaths, and the door bell went again, ratatat, tat. Tat. The sound was from a recording of a mission that went bad, Myanmar in 2041. It was a reminder not to take chances. I looked down and my arm was elbow-deep in the second drawer down, hand on the butt of a splinter pistol. I pulled it out and checked the clip.

“Give me a --”

The picture came up before I'd finished my sentence, projected onto the cupboard door. Black hair, red lips, long coat. I frowned at the proddings of memory, then shook my head.

Seven steps and I was at the door. I cracked it open.

“I think I'm supposed to say you've got some nerve coming back here,” I said.

Nancy Mulligan looked at me with cool violet eyes, hands deep in the pockets of her long coat.

“And what aren't you supposed to say?”

“Come in, Nancy.” I pushed open the door and gestured with the gun. “But slowly. Tea?”

Five minutes later we were sitting around a little table drinking herbal tea. My gun was on the table, hooked into the arbeiter's camera and the trembler switch in my limbic system.

“One last job,” she said. She reached into her coat, and time slowed down as the lenses put a red threat halo and pulsed a KILL Y/N? command at me. I shook my head infinitesimally, and she smiled as she pulled out a speakstick and tossed it on the table.

“Sure,” I said. “What you got. House, unfold that thing for us.” The glowing spot on the table blinked twice in acknowledgment and a spidery information lattice unfurled from it, filling the room with her scheme.

“It's Macready. He survived Myanmar. He's coming for you, for us. I figure we burn him first, and hard. He's laundering drug money through property transactions, here, and here...”

As she highlighted the junctions of her plan I watched her, instead. She'd had work done, we all had, but subtle. Pheromone enhancers, reflex boosters, an ominous fluidity to her movements.

She finished talking, looked expectantly at me. I shrugged, smiled.

“One more thing, Raul – are the recordings safe? It's what he's after, making sure no-one knows what he did.”

Her eyes were gleaming in the reflected light of the plan and I felt a remembered spurt of desire for her. Probably the pheromones, a part of me thought, but there had been something more. That hot, endless night in Akyab, waiting for the freighter to dock, calling of gulls and the diesel smoke in the moist sea air.

“They're safe. But, really, this is some incredibly elaborate bullshit. How much did he pay you?”

The room was silent as we stared at each other.

I could see, in the utter stilness of her expression, the branching plot of move and countermove, and I supposed she could see it in mine.

Finally she glanced down at her tea, then looked up and smiled. Mona Lisa-like.

“It wasn't cheap. I like you too much for that Raul.”

“Right back at you. Nancy.” I hesitated for a moment, then triggered the kill switch with a twitch of my ears.

Nothing happened.

In spite of myself I glanced at the gun, and Nancy guffawed.

“Seriously? Using an arbeiter?”

With a blurred whipcrack of her leg she hooked the table and sent it flying at me, then launched herself across the room. I blocked it with a whirring of metal arm and felt a shock of hot blood as her fingernails sliced through my shirt.

She was on top of me now, knees on both my arms, razor nails at my throat.

“He'll be here any minute. Tell me where the recordings are and we can take him. There's info in there that will bring him down cold. I don't want to have to do this, Raul. You mean a lot to me.”

I looked in her eyes and I truly believed it. I thought for a moment about what might have been, what might still be.

Then the door bell went, rat a tat a tat and she stiffened, caught by the same drat prison of memory I lived in day by day. I extended the carbon flexors in my metal arm, pincered the splinter gun to me and put fifteen slivers into her back.

Her eyes were beautiful dead, too, expensive Korean neurocrystal.

I closed them forever then stood up as the door bell rang, again, checked the camera. It was Macready.

I walked, stiff-legged, to put another shovel of dirt into the grave of my past.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Sign-ups are closed. You have 47 hours to submit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HtHEgINHO0

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at Jan 28, 2018 around 07:17

flerp
Feb 25, 2014



derp brawl

651 words

Guardian Angel

Dove landed on Chris’s father gravestone. Chris gripped the white lillies in his hand tightly. Chris showed up to Dove’s graveyard every day for the past week, so Dove was going to do what Dove did best. Help people move on.

Chris’s eyes were squeezed shut. Dove had seen it enough times to know he was trying to stop himself from crying.

“Coo,” Dove said. Chris looked up with bloodshot eyes. Dove had seen it all whenever he helped people. They always stared. Then they smiled, or maybe laughed. Some even broke into tears, right there. The particularly religious might even ask, “Dad?”

Instead, Chris shouted, “gently caress off,” and swiped his hand at Dove. Dove leaped off of the gravestone, cooing as loud as he could. He landed on the oak tree where he first saw Chris.

Dove followed Chris as he left the graveyard and went to his car.

Dove landed on top of Chris’s car and cooed his best possible coo. Chris stared at the bird and sighed. “Just, gently caress off forever,” he said, opening the door and getting in. Dove jumped onto the hood of the car and stared at Chris. Chris flipped Dove off, put the key into the engine, and drove off.

Dove leapt into the air and watched the car race past the church and down the road. Fine, Dove thought. A little harder than usual.

##

Dove followed Chris back to his house. He landed on the leafless willow tree outside Chris’s bedroom. He watched Chris throw his jacket on top of the bed and collapse onto the blankets. Chris’s body looked thin like a piece of paper. He shuddered, and Dove decided now was the time.

Dove flew over to the window and pecked. Chris looked up from his hands and sighed. Dove kept pecking and cooed. Chris went over and slammed his hand against the window. Dove jumped up, but then landed back in the same spot.

“What the hell do you want?” Chris asked.

Dove cooed. To help you, he thought. No matter what. You’re getting the help.

“You hungry or something?”

Dove cooed back. He wasn’t hungry, really, but he let Chris think whatever he wanted. All he wanted was for him to feel better. It was what all doves are supposed to do.

Chris threw the blanket over his head, but Dove didn’t stop cooing. Eventually, Chris left the room. Dove kept cooing, as loud as he possibly could.

Chris came back into the room, his hands clutching something. He came by the windowsill and dropped some sunflower seeds on the ledge.

“It’s all I got buddy.”

Dove cooed and started eating them. Chris sat there for a while, watching Dove eat.

“You’re a weird bird,” Chris said.

When Dove was finished, Chris stared for a while.

“I don’t know what your problem is, but I see you at the graveyard all the time. It’s like you're always staring at me. And God, do you never shut up.”

Chris smiled to himself, then stared down at the rug.

“It’s kind of nice, actually. Like I’m not alone there.”

That was the plan,” Dove thought.

Chris laughed. “Talking to a loving bird.” He put out the last of the sunflower feed on the windowsill.

“Anyways, night bird,” Chris said and closed the window. Dove watched him fall asleep until, he too, fell asleep.

##

Dove landed on Chris’s father gravestone. Chris looked up, and smiled at Dove. His eyes were a lighter red. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out some bird seeds.

“Stopped by the store on the way here. Said this is what birds like.”

He reached out his open palm and Dove ate the seeds.

“Thanks,” Chris whispered and Dove looked up at him and cooed.

It’s what I do, Dove thought.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Inspired by Kaishai's epic crit catch up post, I went to the 0-crits list in the archive and randomly picked two uncritted stories by people who are still here. So, for what they're worth, here are my thoughts on Crabrock's Belonging and CantDecideOnAName's Infection.

Belonging
https://forums.somethingawful.com/s...8#post473046797

Why doesn't this have any paragraph breaks Crabrock, you maniac?

While the first part sounded just a wee bit too much like a metaphor for a boner, once the story settles in it has something meaningful to say about the arch of long-term relationships, deeply committed to the point of dysfunction. Through the middle section the mountain seems to realise that their love is destructive, yet it made the mountain feel whole to start with and they were together at their end. I like that it is left ambiguous as to whether this relationship was positive or negative overall.

The more I looked at this story the more I found to think about and the more I liked it. With some paragraphs and an edit this could have been great, but as it is it's just a bit too hard to get into.

I note that the prompt offered long-term relationships and fungus as options, so well done on using both of these.


Infection
https://forums.somethingawful.com/s...2#post422147818

This is cool but there's not quite enough to it. The background world and characters are interesting, and the writing is good, but it's like an interlude between the more interesting parts of the tale - i.e. how they escaped and what happens to our hero next. There's also something not quite right about the fact that they first threaten to kill him but then agree to take him away alive - I wasn't clear on the reason for this switch.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


Kaishai posted:

Thunderdome Recaps!





Uncounted hours and an obscene number of quarters pass from us to the arcade machines before Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, and I are satisfied with our scores in reviewing Week 280: Let’s Play Thunderdome: Entenzahn’s Bad Idea. Getting to the end of Fuubi's entry defeats us all, largely because it doesn't exist. We'd have an easier time beating Ghostbusters for the NES! At least TD stories have better grammar. Once we've run out of money, we retreat to the welcoming glow of the Christmas tree and shake the presents that were given in Week 281: We Wish You a Merman Christmas. Our own gift to the world in the extended holiday season is a reading of BabyRyoga's "The Rightful Heir."

If it were possible for the boy to scream out in horror in the seconds it took the beast to spin around and relinquish the rights to territorial sovereignty of the southern bank of Willow Street from him, his ignorant pride had certainly distracted him from doing so.


Just as Yuletide leads to the new year, so do games and sparkles lead to terrible, terrible words and a wish that one could go back in time to fix them. Week 282: A Lyttony of Sorrows gives Sitting Here, Ironic Twist, Djeser, and I, along with delightful guests The Saddest Rhino and SurreptitiousMuffin, a new definition of loss. Week 283: IF YOU'RE READING THIS IT'S TOO LATE is all a blur, but I have a note left for current me by future me that assures me I'd rather forget the random penis anyway. The show wraps up with Muffin and Djeser giving The Saddest Rhino's ""Waste"" a performance of which Vincent Price would be proud.

“We were going to make a chili,” he whines.


Episodes past can be found here!

Thank you for the recaps!

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


24 hours remain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbsBEb1ZxWA

Mekchu
Apr 10, 2012



Prompt 286

Word count: 761

My Last Day


The two men clearly hated each other, that was immediately clear as soon as they both sat at the table. This was emphasized even more later on when the larger man cracked the smaller one with a hard right. Honestly, I could have prevented it, but I had already mentally checked out of this job and was trying to find my way to someplace exotic and fun. Forget Tucson is what I had decided.

Eldorado Casino doesn’t like it when people cause trouble, especially my manager Greg. For whatever reason these two buffoons decided that tonight was a good time to let out their anger, and just so happened to pick my table. Which was why I found myself sitting in an office being chewed out by my idiotic, sweaty, fat, balding boss for not spotting their mood earlier.

Greg routinely enjoyed reminding me that I was just a dealer and that he was the boss, with only the owner Lou being above him. He liked to think he was hot poo poo, especially around the young women who got hired, but in reality he was just a pathetic looking excuse for a man. That didn’t stop him from lording over others though.

“Jesus Christ Sarah, are you really that incompetent? How am I going to explain to Lou that we had an Austrian dentist performing free dental work on that Jap grocer in the middle of the pit?”

“He’s Chinese.” I replied.

“What?”

“He’s Chinese. He was speaking Chinese, not Japanese. I think he said he was from Shanghai.”

“Who gives a poo poo? The point is you hosed up, and to be honest there’s not much I think I can do to stop Lou from deciding to fire you after this.”

As Greg gave me the news, he positioned himself closer to me. His cheap Walgreen's cologne reeked of a mixture of his own sweat and what could only be described as faux sandalwood. I could feel the bile building up in my throat.

“Sarah look,” Greg said as he touched my leg, “I don’t want you to get fired so I’ll make you a deal. You do something for me and I’ll make sure this doesn’t get back to Lou. Deal?”

I knew exactly what Greg was thinking. Nobody in this day and age hears that and thinks “Oh gee, what a good idea!”, especially not with a little toad like Greg saying it.

Instinctively I pulled his hand off my leg and stood up. That, of course, did not make Greg happy as he then grabbed around my waist and pulled me in closer to him.

God his cologne had such an awful smell.

“Listen you little bitch, I can make your fuckup go away so you can keep this job or you can get blacklisted from every casino in the state. I know people.” he gritted.

That’s when I threw up in his face.

Now, I wasn’t planning to throw up in his face but with that awful stench mixed in the with the mental imagery of being forced to have sex with a grotesque slob of a man like Greg in my mind, my body decided to take over.

I was somewhat happy for that to happen. Greg however wasn’t.

As he recoiled from the horror of having a bucket full of half eaten panini and Starbucks hit his face, he fell over his desk and cracked his head on the floor. He didn’t get up right away.

Panicking I ran over to his body to check for a pulse. Thankfully, he wasn’t dead, but he was for sure going to have one hell of a headache the next morning.

That’s when I saw the bag of money and a passport on his desk. It hit me as hard as that dentist hit the grocer, the rear end in a top hat was skimming off the casino and about to skip town. So, I figured, quite reasonably, I’d do the same. Then I realized Greg could make a good distraction for my getaway, and called the cops with his desk phone telling them that there was an injured man in the office. Maybe they’d notice what I saw and he’d get what he deserved in the end.

Leaving the noisy, loud, and lavish casino I hopped into Greg’s douchemobile, a yellow Camaro, and drove south on I-19 towards the border. And that is how I ended up here in Mexico with a nice $200,000 in cash to take me to wherever I want to go next.

I’m thinking Rio de Janeiro.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


A Trip Down Memory Lane
1554 words
Flash Rule: Locked-Room murder mystery

"You can erase my memories?" Miss Oakfield asked.

"Don't worry we know exactly what to do," the pair said - they hadn't the faintest idea.

Luke turned a few dials and said, "Disregard the rumours, we aren't mad." - they were.

"And remember, we are scientists!" Betty said as she pulled a lever - That one was debatable

Miss Oakfield wished she didn't need to wear a hospital gown, it was awfully drafty and she could feel the chill in her old bones. She grabbed the handle to the laboratory bed, her left hand shaking. A hand that had once lead the forces of Space Belgium against the Thirteen Monarchies. A hand that now looked shrivelled and had veins popping through it. She looked forlornly at her ring finger - ringless.

Betty flicked a switch and the lab pulsed with neon light. "Next stop, your brain!"


=+=


Elizabeth opened her eyes and was back in the throne room. The room did its best to inspire loyalty, with two large oak doors being the entrance and the centrepiece; two large lions, one black and one red, guarding a large golden throne. She had always thought it a bit silly, why not simply have a large Belgium flag instead.

"That's not good," Luke said, breaking her out of her stupor.

They stood staring at the throne and her dead body. Her other self sat on the throne and upon her head was the crown. This crown wasn't the one she wore, this one was made of heavy brass and shined with loyalty. Its rusted interior was studded with sharp briars, meant to prick the skin of the predecessor, as evidenced by the dried blood running down their cheeks. The too-neat hole in the centre of the head notified everyone that she was quite dead.

Betty took out a crowbar and used it as a pointer. "This is normal. This represents the brain," she said, poking the crown with the crowbar, "conflicting with the uhh."

Klaxons blared and the large oak doors unlocked with a click. A half-dozen versions of herself marched into the room, each one unique. There was one wearing a lab coat (much to the delight of Betty, who ooh and awed), one wearing a general's outfit and another wearing a fine dress. They walked towards the trio and gasped at the dead body.

"Meet your emotions Miss Oakfield!" Luke said.

"Regret is dead!" One of her said, cowering in fear.

A snap of a baton commanded the attention of everyone, and the General spoke, "The door was locked, with no other exit. They must have done it. Round them up!"

Chaos erupted as everyone yelled at once. Miss Oakfield took a deep breath; giving into anger wasn't going to help anyone. Miss Oakfield, no, she was in the throne room. Here she was Elizabeth, reigning thirty-third monarch of Space Belgium. As if on queue she changed from a frail old woman to a strong, regal queen. She looked around and remembered the room. There weren't many pleasant memories, declarations of war, taxes, and corrupt politicians. Why she had almost used the escape tunnel to-.

"Hold on a moment," she said, "What about the escape tunnels?"

Nobody paid her any heed, so she went to the chair and pushed a button. A large groan shuddered from the wall and it opened, revealing a dark passageway filled with rose petals and memories of first kisses.

She straightened her back and got her emotions in check. "Ladies, I do believe that your culprit will be whoever walks around leaving rose petals and memories of first kisses,"

"Oh, well that would be Love, she must have escaped," One of her other selves, one holding a lollipop, said.

Before she could inquire further, there was a great commotion behind her. Betty was warding off the general with her crowbar and Luke was stuffing the crown into his sack.

"Thieves!" Everyone, including herself, yelled.

Before she could renounce anything, Luke grabbed her hand and they were running down a rose-filled passage.


=+=


"You are thieves!" Elizabeth yelled as they raced down the passageway.

The two yelled in unison, "Scientists!"

Not breaking stride Luke continued, "Think of it as a trade. We erase the memories you don't want and borrow some memories."

"Speaking of," Betty dodged an arrow that was fired at them, "Dear, could you remember something big and disruptive?"

Luke slapped his head a few times and a pearl rolled out from his ear and onto his palm. A quick toss and it landed ahead of the running trio. Roots and gigantic petals exploded out of the pearl, spreading across the passageway. And then there was lights, performers and acts of all kind of delights and pleasure. They rushed past a crowd of people and into Fremont street.

A man in a cowboy hat and shades was attempting to play a guitar the size of a building and the crowd was going wild. Elizabeth motioned to the guitar, that was being raised high above the crowd, and the trio jumped up and caught a lift. The general rushed in, just in time to see them scamper onto the rooftops.

"Our honeymoon. I'm supposed to be the one doing the sacrificing here!" Betty said.

Luke smile and replied, "It was the biggest and most disruptive event of my life."

"But you know our memories spent here can't be recovered!"

"Well," Luke said as they ran past gaping Vegas onlookers, "I suppose we shall have to have another honeymoon."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, not understanding a word they were saying. "Let's go find Love and clear this mess up."


=+=


They found Love sitting on a beach, looking out at a large lake. As the waves splashed on the beach little images of past memories drifted up from the surf; A frightened woman taking the crown; petting a sand manta ray. As each memory disappeared Love sighed.

After a moment's silence, Love asked, "Are you here to chain me up again. To lock me away?"

Elizabeth didn't answer and Love continued "The man who you loved and he loved you back, you don't even remember his face. I've sat here, searching for his memory. He would have been with us till death. And now he's dead."

The waves came in rougher now and the only memory playing from the surf was a name, on a small list of casualties.

"And now you want to forget the rest of him." Lightning struck and rain started to pour down as Love continued, "I did what I had to do to protect his memory!"

Elizabeth walked towards Love, her face wet, but not from the rain. "It hurts so much to be alone and old." She hugged Love, noticing the mistreatment of her other self. Elizabeth came to a decision. "But your right. These memories should be cherished, instead of destroyed. I'm sorry I neglected you."

Luke filled a bottle with the lakes waters and interrupted the moment, "You know, many people don't ask why we became thieves."

"To make the world a better place," Betty said as she took his hand and entwined it in hers. Elizabeth looked at the two, jealousy rising.

"We would steal the worst memories of people and they would become better. But people aren't that simple."

"So after a few tries, I think we will get this one right," Betty said and winked at Elizabeth. She turned to Luke and said, "I'll always love you, even if I forget you. Just think of it as starting over!"

She held a pearl in her hand and tossed it into the lake. It bloomed into a magnificent flower and each petal was a memory. A girl meeting a boy for the first time, a romantic dance on top of an asteroid, a proposal during a heist. As the memories sunk into the lake they got fuzzy. Instead of Luke, it was just a man, and if you looked at it right Elizabeth could trick herself into thinking it was another.

Betty looked at Luke, a confused look in her eye. "Have we met?" she asked.

Luke grabbed her hand and, with a flick of a wrist, a portal appeared behind him. "We've met. When we go on our honeymoon I'll have a grand tale to tell you,"


=+=


"Mom, are you okay?"

Elizabeth woke up to see her son shaking her awake. She was still on top of the lab bed and still in her hospital gown. The thiev- the scientists, she corrected herself, were nowhere to be seen.

"Those people who took you, they ran off. Driving towards Somner hills. The royal guard is in pursuit, we will catch them."

She remembered driving those same hills with reckless abandon, being part of a race and winning first place. The memory was faded, details of it disjointed almost as if someone had plucked the memory from her mind. Almost as if...

She placed a reassuring hand on her son's shoulder and smiled. Another memory of dancing on the asteroids with someone, she couldn't say who, played in her mind. "I think dear, that you won't."

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Through a Glass, Darkly
1552 words
Flash Rule: You are going to steal the Eiffel Tower, actually. The actual, for-real Eiffel Tower. Twice.


The planning phase was well underway when Victor introduced Beatrica to his crew. She first made eye contact with the client, a certain mister Onishi, who sized her up and wrote her off between two sips of martini. “She certainly looks dapper with that waistcoat and bowler hat,” he said. “But how can she help us?”

Beatrica hoisted her violin case onto the table with aplomb, intentionally knocking over poker chips, cards and Onishi’s drink. Motioning for the table to quiet down, Victor said, “Forgive her; she is Croatian and does not master the French language. Beatrica, if you will?”

As she opened her violin case, Victor’s two accomplices leaned over the table to get a better view. “Gents, everything you see is of my own design,” she said. “I call it the Photogyro.”

“What’s it do?” asked the Irishman, prodding the contraption with a burly arm. Beatrica flicked a switch on the inside of the case’s lid, and with a low hum, the table disappeared. Reveling in their gasps, she let her finger glide over the case until she found the switch again, and turned the photogyro off.

“No magic,” she reassured, “Only the wonders of electricity. My device bends light around objects, so as to make them invisible to the naked eye. The same principle as water distorting light and ‘breaking’ something you dip in it.” She demonstratively put Victor’s tea spoon in the Irishman’s gin.

“Lass, that’s amazing! Could we hide our zeppelin with this?” The Irishman said.

“Not just the zeppelin,” she said with a wink.

“Séamus, Marcel, mister Onishi,” Victor said, “With this device, we can hide ourselves, our getaway, and our lucre until we reach Tokyo. A toast! Tonight, we steal the Eiffel Tower!”

--

A maroon banner wrapped the Eiffel Tower like a present ripe for the taking. On it was written “20th Anniversary” in sprawling art deco, illuminated from below by spotlights and from above by multicolored fireworks. Opposite of it, Séamus looked from his watch to the park’s trepidant swans and back, until Beatrica approached from behind and sat next to him.

“What took you so long?” he said.

“Look what I got!”

She placed a small package on her lap and fiddled with the ribbon to open it. Séamus recognized the wrapping from a tourist shop down the road, and frowned when Beatrica held up an Eiffel Tower replica between her thumb and index finger.

“It’s a gift,” he said.

“Isn’t it cute?”

“You’re late because you bought a tiny Eiffel Tower. From a gift shop.”

“I didn’t buy it,” she said, keeping it out of Séamus’ reach when he grasped for it. “Besides, Victor got one, too.”

“Fine, whatever.” Séamus got up and rolled his shoulders with a satisfying crunch, then cracked his knuckles. “You remember the plan, yeah? I herd the diners and bouncers out of the tower while you place the photogyro on the roof. When Victor and Marcel fly the zeppelin above the tower…”

“I attach the hook between the top girders. I’ve got it. Really.”

“Just wanted to make sure,” Séamus said. His watch indicated a quarter to 9. “Showtime.”

The duo strolled towards Tower’s elevators. The receptionist got as far as “Have Monsieur and Madame made a reserva- …” before Séamus whacked him with a cosh and dragged him behind the counter. During their ascent, Beatrica watched in awe as the City of Light expanded beneath her feet.

They were welcomed by the elevator’s ping and the gentle tunes of a piano somewhere in the restaurant, punctuated only by the clattering of silverware. Séamus reached for his derringer and fired it once into the purple velvet-padded ceiling. “All right everyone, show’s over. Form a neat line for an orderly exit.” He waved the gun at the room in general. “Or else.”

In the panic, Beatrica slipped outside through the emergency exit and climbed an access ladder to the roof, struggling to carry the photogyro in her violin case with her. She caught her breath at the top of the ladder, letting the summer breeze that caressed Paris touch upon her face equally gently. After a serene minute, she donned her hat once more and configured the knobs and dials on the photogyro.

A clang on the ladder. Beatrica put the timer on fifteen minutes, closed the case, then pushed it behind a beam on the platform.

Guten Abend.”

A man peeked over the platform’s edge from the ladder. Beatrica recognized his fedora, trench coat and luger.

“Herr Von Falkenhof,” she cooed, “what a pleasant surprise meet you in Paris! Last I heard, you were locked in a kitchen freezer in Vienna.”

“You’re under arrest.”

“Isn’t France outside of your jurisdiction, officer?”

He took aim, and Beatrica slid down a girder just in time to take cover beneath the platform. Graceful like a Bosnian mountain goat, she hopped from beam to beam, intending to loop back around the top of the platform by the time the zeppelin arrived. Von Falkenhof lowered himself down the studs across the tower, and took a pot shot. Beatrica jolted from the ricochet, but regained her balance in cover behind a steel beam. Below her, through the restaurant’s glass ceiling, she saw Séamus had cleared the room of everyone except three French police officers, one of which he currently slammed into a shattering piano. Above her, a zeppelin drifted towards the Tower, lowering a steel cable and hook.

Climbing the girder’s nuts and bolts, Beatrica hoisted herself back onto the platform and dashed to the center. The zeppelin’s hook raked over the platform, and she lugged with her entire body weight to shift it into position under the tower’s antenna. Another shot whiffed past, and Beatrica reached on hands and knees for her dropped bowler hat before barreling for the platform’s edge.

“Just give up, Beatrica! I have two men waiting at the ladder! There’s nowhere to run!” Von Falkenhof yelled.

Beatrica looked down at the banner waving between the Eiffel Tower’s struts. “I never intended to run,” she laughed. “Auf Wiedersehen!”

She slid down the tower’s leg and Von Falkenhof screamed in anger. As the zeppelin above gained altitude, the metal supports groaned dangerously and loosened the soil at the tower’s base.

“You won’t get away this time!”

Beatrica turned around and saw Von Falkenhof slide down the adjacent leg. Her heart skipped a beat when their collective momentum detached the banner with their impact and each hung on one side, twirling around the Eiffel Tower like a maple seed. Occasionally the wind blew them towards each other, forcing her to kick Von Falkenhof and keep him at bay, until they glided over a pond in the park. Von Falkenhof’s feet caught the water, and he tumbled into it, sending the opposite end of the sail with Beatrica into the shrubs.

Beatrica readjusted her hat and smiled as Von Falkenhof, covered in mud, hopped out of the pond and make quick exit from the gardens, two vicious geese snapping at his heels. In the distance, she heard biplane interceptors approach, only to break off the chase as the photogyro kicked in and the Zeppelin and tower, gently drifting over Paris’ skyline, disappeared.

Séamus jogged over and put his hands on his knees for support. “Got out just in time,” he puffed. “I think I lost the fuzz as well.”

They shook hands and parted ways. Making sure he didn’t follow her, Beatrica went to a nearby post office and opened a letter she had written the night before.

“WE HOLD THE EIFFEL TOWER HOSTAGE,” it began.

“A million francs is a small price to recover it,” Beatrica chuckled, and she put it in an envelope addressed to the French government.

--

At a quaint café on the Champs-Élysées, an Irish motorsport driver chanced upon his Croatian acquaintance. He invited himself to her table, sighed as he sat, and ordered a gin. “Well,” he began.

Beatrica sipped her coffee without glancing at him. “Well what?” she said.

“How did you do it? Prince Onishi was livid, you know.”

“You hunted me for two years just to ask that?”

“I have to know,” Séamus said. “As soon as the Imperial family paid up, the Eiffel Tower disappeared in Tokyo and resurfaced in Paris. What did you do?”

Beatrica smiled and looked at him over her sunglasses. From her handbag, she produced a tiny Eiffel Tower. “Remember this?” Séamus observed as she put it on the table. “All the photogyro does, is reflect light. I built two, actually. Victor had one on the zeppelin as well.”

Séamus saw the replica’s reflection through his glass of gin.

“Wait… You projected a fake image?”

“On the zeppelin and in Tokyo, yes. The real one in Paris we hid from the public eye. And when the French paid the ransom… We turned both photogyros off. Doubled the pay-out, easily.”

“Victor knew? My God, you really did us a number, there.”

“That’s not everything,” she said, sipping her coffee. “After our stunt, they closed the Eiffel Tower and declared the park off-limits. So I turned the photogyro on again and sold the tower as scrap metal, piece by piece.”

She left the stunned Séamus behind with an unpaid bill and an Eiffel Tower replica. As gifts.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

The Soft Touch
1499 words
Flash Rule: When your protagonist is called out, as inevitably they will be, they will calmly explain "When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships."

Archived!

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Jan 1, 2019 around 04:58

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Word of God
1552 words

“This world is a golden apple waiting to be eaten.”

The man in the angular, pale yellow suit spoke at the edge of the market. Through the nearby porthole, crystals glimmered in fields of blasted lunar regolith. At first, no one noticed him, but as he continued, a few stopped to watch.

“Folks, all among us know the influence a certain group has on our lives. These factotums of factualism have shuttered good sense, leaving us groping blindly in the dark. They are sitting on the biggest scoop of our time. But by this time tomorrow, I shall reveal it to one and all.”

“How you gonna do that?” a woman asked, grumbling.

“That…” The man lowered his hat to his chest with a flourish. “…is the whole story.”

——

The Syndicate hub center rose from the ground like a giant egg, gleaming white in the morning sunlight, as if announcing its moral purity. The Liberator knew the truth. The tops of the pedestrian tunnels leading up to it were cleaned regularly, an unusual expense, likely to enhance the effect.

The official arbiter of information was entirely cut off from the global network; the inside, completely dark; an effective Faraday cage. All reports came in and out in analog form.

He passed through the scanners easily; he carried no items. Then he walked up to one of the front desks. His hair was newly trimmed, and he wore a government pass courtesy of a contact in the Ministry of Procurement.

“I’m here to see Rick Laslo,” he said, leaning over the desk.

The man behind it stretched. His eyes stopped on the ID pinned to his vest. “You have an appointment with the Chief?”

“There’s no time. I’m very busy. You wouldn’t want my superior angry at the Syndicate, now, would you?”

The man raised a finger, and his mouth hung half open, then snapped shut. “Just a moment.” He peeled a slice of scratch-pad from the note globe and cut a few notches into it with his fingernail. He folded it into a cylinder and waited for it to dry and harden. Then he dropped it into the clear tube running beside the desk. With a shunk, it was whisked away into the depths of the building.

“He’ll be expecting you,” the man said.

“Good.” The Liberator nodded. “If you might direct me…”

The man squinted. “You are new here.” He sighed and pointed behind him. “The bulb rails are just down this hall. Walk up and give the name, and it does the rest.”

“Yes, yes, I know how it works.” But The Liberator had never seen the network up close.

The next room was a large waiting area, with several dozen dark windows in a row, following the curve of the inner wall. Everyone wore dark or gray suits, some idly milling around, while others climbed into the windows and vanished from sight.

The Liberator approached the nearest free window. Through it, he could see the central garden, arrays of purple and yellow low-moisture plantings. Sunlight glared down through the giant dome above, harsh even through the dark window surface.

The wall was otherwise smooth and featureless. No visible radio to address. He stepped up and addressed the window directly. “Uh. Rick Laslo’s office.”

The window darkened. Slowly, the translucent gray glass bowed outward, pushing out into the open space.

It grew large enough to hold him, expanding like a fat tick perched on the side of the building. It seemed to beckon him in. The far side of the ovoid vessel was thicker, and raised to knee height—his knee height. A seat custom made for him. He climbed inside and sat down. The entrance contracted and pinched off from the window, and the entire bulb lurched upwards towards one of the silver tracks crisscrossing the inner wall.

The bulb clicked in place. The inside of the bulb was eerily silent as it began moving horizontally—faster—gaining speed—the only sound a deep, resonant hum, varying in tone as it changed tracks. Other bulbs whisked by on parallel or diverging tracks, headed for other floors of the large structure, their occupants only dark blurs.

After some minutes, The Liberator’s bulb had reached the other side of the structure, and dipped down into a tunnel several floors deep. The bubble pressed itself into one of the windows at the end, which dilated to open a way for him as his bulb collapsed and pressed him inside. In a moment, his bulb had merged flat with the window.

A sign on the wall listed Laslo’s name and pointed the way. Laslo wasn’t his destination, but he would be a useful stepping stone. The Liberator walked through the curving corridor, trying to ignore the attentions of the guards walking past, always in pairs, with heavy repeater rifles in their hands. He was in the secured area now.

He came to the door and knocked. It went translucent under his fist. He could just see a figure inside, seated behind the desk, through the door’s surface.

“Ah, I heard you were coming,” said a muffled voice. “Well, enter.” The door slid into the wall with a hiss.

Laslo had a long black hair tied back. “So, you’re from the Ministry.” He tapped his chin with an archaic writing implement as he spoke.

The Liberator looked around for a way to shut the door, but it had no visible controls, and the door in the recess had no handholds. “Uh, not exactly.”

“No?” Laslo frowned, his thick eyebrows knitting together. “Who are you, then?” He shifted, revealing an ancient revolver at his belt, but he didn’t reach for it.

“I am The Liberator. I’ve come here for a story.”

“A story?” A wide smile broke out on Laslo’s face. “Isn’t that why we’re all here? What’s your angle, then? What exactly are you looking for?”

“The scoop.”

Laslo’s eyes narrowed. “A scoop? Be more specific—”

“Not ‘a’ scoop. The scoop. I know where you keep it. Physical only. In cold storage, a room not too far from here.”

Laslo bit down on his writing implement. The shaft fractured, and something dark dripped onto his coat. He didn’t notice. “You’re not part of the Syndicate. You’re not part of the government at all,” he hissed. Then, slowly, “Are you a journalist?”

“My weapons are not posts or keyboards. But they can cut just as deep. As Chief Editor, you have access. You will lead me to it.”

Laslo didn’t move. “Why?” he asked.

“It makes for a good story, doesn’t it?”

“So does ‘brave patriot stops desperate thief.’ Why shouldn’t I just shoot you now?”

“Never become part of the story. You know that. You shoot me, the harsh spotlight turns on you. I’m unarmed.” The Liberator opened his vest, raised his hands, palms-out. “Can your position here, your career, really survive that? Your life in general?”

Laslo rose slowly, pushing off from his desk with his hands. “And if I called for the guards…”

The Liberator took a step forwards. “I hoped I wouldn’t have to use this.” Then he recited, in a hollow voice: “Prisoner 56AGR2. Age: seventeen. Name: Willa Laslo. Occupation: student. Charges: possession of illicit substances, possession of hazardous materials without a permit, resisting arrest. Responding officer—”

Laslo’s face fell. “Enough. So, you’re an eidomem.” He was speaking quietly, now. “You’re not from the police. Who hired you, then? The Lunar Standard? Some clickbait rag?”

The Liberator raised a hand. “You could call me a… free agent.” He beckoned the man forward.

Laslo shook his head as he walked out. “All these attacks we’ve had lately—separatists, unionists, and fundamentalists from… three sects, now—”

“You didn’t expect someone to just walk in the front door.”

In minutes, they had reached the door. Unmarked. Unlabeled. Laslo pressed the side of the doorframe and it slid open. Cool air, with a dry electric smell, diffused out.

“I know what I’m looking for,” The Liberator said. “In ten minutes, I’m going to walk out of here, back to the entrance, and out of your life. The evidence against your daughter will be ‘misplaced’ and the charges dropped. If I don’t make it out of here, you’ll never see her again.”

Laslo nodded glumly.

The Liberator walked inside and the door slid shut behind him. The hum of an obscured refrigeration unit was the only sound as he scanned the archive in the dim light. It took him only two minutes; the paper stood out. Real paper. An artifact from the first arrival. He avoided touching it with his bare hands.

It still took him five minutes to read the tome. Thirty thousands words per minute. Perfect recall.

Then he left the room as he found it and walked out, past Laslo, and kept going.

Before noon, copies of the original colony founding document had been dictated and sent to the head of every media outlet and two-bit blogger in the capital. Within hours, it had circled the globe. Within days, word reached the nearest colonies. Researchers poring over the document began to catalog the discrepancies between the official version and the leak.

The Liberator didn’t care what people did with the information. They had it, and that was all that mattered.



Flash rule: Your protagonist is a staunch pacifist who likes to announce their burglaries 24-hours in advance. Their adversaries are armed to the teeth.

sandnavyguy
Sep 12, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Prompt: Picturesque Picaresque.

Flash Rule: The ship was sinking, the mark was missing, and there I was handcuffed to the Ethiopian eunuch.

The Adventures of Colin Flame: Heiress on the High Seas

1554 words


The clang of crossed sabers rang out across the mahogany deck, above the din of the roaring crew. Both combatants were surefooted despite the high-tossing sea, and they danced a deadly waltz back toward the forecastle pushing sweaty onlookers into the weathered oak railing. Colin knew he'd have to end the bitter tango quickly, yet he still lacked the location of the Count's daughter. The rogue spun a high kick into the officer's right hand, which caused his heavy sword to slip easily through his silk-gloved fingers.

Colin stood triumphant for a moment, but the red-faced admiral flung his good hand outward and the surrounding sailors stepped forward. With an exaggerated sigh, Colin dropped his sword to the deck before reaching into the sky and kneeling on the lacquered timber.

“Well, as I live and breathe. Look men, it's the Flame of the South!” Leaning close, he spoke in a lower voice that only the two of them could hear, “Thank you, knave. Now I not only have a beautiful maiden waiting in my bed chambers, but a promotion waiting for me when I bring you back to the noose.”

***

Colin stirred groggily, the snoring of the guard nudging him awake. The first thing he noticed, aside from a headache, was that he'd been shackled by a thick chain to a metal loop jutting out of the wooden hull. He pulled on it and although there was a little slack, he suddenly felt it pull him back.

A sharp voice with a thick African accent cried out, “Hey, stop that!”

Startled, Colin realized that the chain was looped around to another person some six feet away. Piercing through the deep night were a pair of bright eyes, sternly scowling at him. The man introduced himself gruffly as Kaleb, the bodyguard assigned to the young heiress Astaire Dubois that had been captured and brought on ship. Colin raised an eyebrow, saying he was a mercenary hired to track the girl down. That proved to be a foolish move as he was forcibly yanked hard into the wall.

“Hey!”

“I won't let you lay a finger on her!” Kaleb shouted into the still room, now standing over him.

“Calm down! The guards will hear you, idiot,” Colin hissed. “I was sent by her father, Count Dubois, to rescue her. Do you know where she is?”

Kaleb shook his head slowly in the dark, still suspicious. “Her father is a bad man. He's just using her as a political bargaining chip, the bastard.” He spat on the floor when he finished.

“Well you guys still got captured. Apparently you're not that good a bodyguard, eh?”

Kaleb glowered darkly at him, and keeping his voice steady he explained that it was more than loyalty, they were in love. But two weeks prior they were ambushed by her father together in the heiress' bed. Furious with her sleeping with a servant, he had the guards whisk them off to this ship in the dead of night. The lady was locked away out of sight, and he was beaten horribly. Before they were through, the ship's doctor had been paid a special bonus to “take care” of him, by the Count himself. Colin inwardly cringed and instinctively covered his groin as Kaleb lifted his sackcloth skirt to show a healing scar. He glared at him again, repeating that Colin better leave the girl alone.

Colin chuckled softly and said not to worry because his heart was already taken by another, but if they could manage to make it out of there he'd help them out. “Besides,” he said, “I have a sweet little bird waiting for me tonight, and it wouldn't do to stand them up.”

After a quick chat with Kaleb over the plan, he finally nodded in agreement.

“Alright,” Colin said, “One...two...” Together they gripped the chain on both sides of the iron loop. With a pull they tore the iron loop and the board it was attached to free from the hull. Along with it came a steady pulse of water pouring into the small space. They clocked the guard with the remains of the iron ring and dragged him to the corner of the room before stripping him of his uniform. Throwing the jacket over his shoulders and placing the guard cap over his hair, Colin led Kaleb in the dark toward the end of the hall near the large ladderwell. Colin opened the crew doors and woke them up with shouts of 'Help!' and 'We are all doomed!'. The shocked and still drunk sailors streamed past him without a sideways glance, running to the source of the seawater now soaking Colin's socks.

Sneaking up into the upper deck they hear the soft crying of a woman drifting down the candlelit hallway from the captain's suite. The admiral was in the room talking to the heiress, and as they peeked through the stateroom window they saw her seated across from him at a lavish dinner table, food untouched.

“Tonight, my dear,” the admiral said between mouthfuls of dripping gravy and meat, “we will finally see what makes the women of your country so...” his lewd gaze drifted below the blue diamond necklace she wore and at the young woman's frilly that barely concealed the cleavage, “interesting.” Kaleb opened his mouth, but Colin shushed him before he could say anything and they dove behind a barrel. Dabbing at his face with a towel, the captain rose and opened the door, and when the sounds of shouting reached him from below he took off down the hallway.

Dashing into the room, the girl screamed and grabbed the fork off the table, brandishing it against Colin until she saw Kaleb come rushing in, sweeping her into his arms. Looking at the still healing bruises she began to cry again, but he brushed her tears aside before pressing their lips together in a lover's embrace.

Coughing a bit, Colin jiggled the iron chain that still bound them and the trio began tossing the room looking for the key. Pulse racing, Colin glanced over to Astaire as she swept her hair behind her bejeweled ear while digging through the desk drawer and he suddenly had an idea.

“Those earrings, hand them here!”

She looked up, startled. “Why?”

He quickly liberated Astaire of the long gold and diamond earrings and bent the hook into a pick. With practiced skill, the young rogue sprung the lock free with a resounding click, and set about freeing the other man as well. Still rubbing his wrist, Colin motioned for the pair to follow him up onto the top deck.

The moonlight sparkled against the luminescent water, casting plenty of light for the huddled group to run toward the aft of the ship where Colin had spied the lifeboats before sneaking aboard. Astaire was climbing over the railing with Kaleb's help, and Colin was keeping lookout back toward the forecastle when they heard the sound of a blade whistling through the air. The girl suddenly screamed and Colin turned and watched as the only readied lifeboat careened into the sea below, severed rope trailing behind it and slipping beneath the waves. Astaire was dangling from the railing, Kaleb holding her with one arm and grasping Colin with his other. Stepping out from a stack of large crates, saber still in hand, the admiral slowly advanced toward the group with maniacal grin on his face.

“Well now, there's nowhere for you to go is there? And as for you two,” He sneered at the struggling couple, “The Admiralty won't be happy but mistakes can be made. Sometimes people get lost.” He bellowed laughter into the air, drowning out Astaire's screams.

Just then, the call of a raven could be heard, billowing out over the sea. Hearing the call and with a sudden smile, Colin looked down at the waves before yelling jauntily to his companions.

“Do you guys trust me?”

“NO!” they said in unison.

“Good enough for me!” and with a quick salute toward the confused ship captain he let go of Kaleb's arm and jumped over the edge, sending them all tumbling into the dark.

***

The frigate was sailing away fast as Colin swam over to the dark rocking sail boat and grasped the friendly hand of his compatriot. The slender man threw a blanket over him and led him away from the huddled form of the two other refugees, once again embracing each other against the cold sea-breeze.

Over the next hour as they sailed to the safety of Colin's Grotto, he informed his partner of all that had transpired. But he looked skeptical when Colin mentioned they would smuggle the pair away into the streets of London.

“I'm glad you're back mate, but I thought we were supposed to be bringing her back to her father. Every time, I swear. How are we supposed to pay the men?”

Smiling, Colin produced the diamond earrings, dangling them privately in the moonlight. “Think of them as an anniversary gift,” He whispered as he stole a kiss from the blushing but beaming fellow, “You don't know how much I missed that birdsong of yours.”

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


A Heap of Trouble
1500~ Words
Flash rule: The contractor who designed the building where your story takes place clearly attended the same architectural college as the guy who designed the myriad of puzzle box mansions present in the Resident Evil series. Which is to say, the whole place is loaded with traps, puzzles, and bizarre key-alternatives.

Topia, my mobile island, sat solid and strong below me. I basked in the first sunlight we’d seen in a week or more. Spending those rainy days cooped up below with Wez and Flicker had set me itching for just one dry day.

Behind me, Wez surfaced with a splash. I spun around on my palms to see her bobbing in the waves, one arm high above her head, something wriggling its legs in her fist. I helped her up onto Topia’s sandy topside. We sat under under the lone palm tree and stared at her catch: a lively purple crab.

Hot sunlight glinted off the crab’s shell. The triangle of chitin was a dark purple speckled with lighter spots. It was like a little walking slice of the night sky. With pincers.

It nipped at Wez’s shins. “I got it for Flicker,” she said. “I’m sure he gets lonely when we’re off scavenging.” She stared at the crab as it tried and failed to look intimidating. Topia was a fresh start for me and I extended that to Wez and Flicker when I found them. We never discussed our pasts. Flicker, stuck in kind of perpetual slumber, I took to be a relative of Wez’s.

For me, scavenging was thrilling. The seas were full of tiny islands dotted with riches. But Wez hoped to find something, anything, that could wake Flicker up. We headed into Topia to introduce the crab, now named “Starry,” to Flicker.

“Hey, look Flicker, I found us a friend.” Wez sat down next to the man and placed the crab between them. Starry snipped inquisitively at Flicker.

I squeezed water from a fistful of Topia’s mud and brought it to Wez. “I think they’re gonna get along just fine, Wez.” She dribbled the water into Flicker’s mouth.

“How long do you think we’ll need in The Heap, anyways?” Wez asked. The Heap was our next target, a floating hunk of hollowed out trash. Rumored to contain riches as well as traps, Wez hoped it had something to snap Flicker out of his slumber.

I gave a weak shrug in response.

“Well, let’s have a nice meal tonight.” She cooed as Starry sat down on Flicker’s chest.

Wez headed out to start slowing down while I whipped up a broth. She still had her legs and so was better suited to swimming around Topia, molding the mud to get the island to slow.

The sun set on our last day before arriving at The Heap. I watched it from my usual spot atop Topia. Wez kept Flicker company and fed him my rich soup. I hoped to one day tell Wez about my life. But now I had to get into the mindset for taking on the mysteries of The Heap.

***

It was gigantic. The bulking mass of The Heap glinted in the morning sun. Its exterior was a kaleidoscopic vision with more colors than a tropical fish.

Figures meandered across its mosaic surface. “Guards or scavengers?” I asked.

“Not guards. Plenty of traps, though. I was thinking we could check the underside. I doubt there’s just a door on top.”

It was a sound idea. We said goodbye to Flicker and Starry and began our swim.

***

Wez’s intuition was right; we found a hole on The Heap’s belly. We filled our lungs with air and went under. We clawed our way through the tunnel. The material comprising The Heap had a texture unfamiliar to my hands. Nothing natural. Some sailor told us it was all trash from a bygone age. His breath reeked of too much liquor to lend his story any credence.

My vision began to blur after the three minutes in the tunnel. I tried to recall my uncle’s lessons. Traveling from our floating homes down to the reef took five minutes. Good divers could stay down there foraging for at least another five to ten minutes. I was never a good diver.

Wez turned to see me lagging behind. Wez motioned to her foot and I grabbed it. She scrambled ahead. My breath bubbled out and the world went dark

***

When I came to, Wez was leaning over me telling me not to panic. Kind of hard to do when you’re fairly sure you’ve died.

We were in a small, waterlogged bubble inside The Heap. Breathing felt foreign to me as I oriented myself.

“You’re gonna have to go through there, Jab. It’s too small for me.” Wez nodded to a section of our colorful surroundings that looked like a giant fist had punched through. Beside it was a sturdy door. “I think it opens from the other side.”

Wez slumped into a silent panic. Mind still racing over my brush with drowning, I dragged myself through the hole. “I’m through, Wez. It’s empty--” That was all I managed before I was tackled.

“Oh my stars, a person!” My assailant hugged me tight. “I’ve been stuck in here for days!” They let me go long enough for me to get a look at them. An old and starving man. “Say, do you know anything about trick knots? I didn’t bring a drat knife with me and I ain’t got enough teeth to chew through it.”

I lifted my head to see what the man pointed at. The door was barred and laced with thick rope, knotted at various intervals.

“Hey, you ain’t got no legs,” the man said as I inspected the knots. I tugged on one end and they all unraveled with a faint shush.

“And you ain’t got no sense.” The man yelped and bolted past me. He dove into the watery passage leading out of The Heap. Wez and I stared at each other, aghast.

“I don’t think that room leads anywhere, Wez.”

“Maybe we can dig through here,” she tapped on the wall. “Sounds hollow.”

It was. We cleared a path through to a room with two doors, both locked.

Writing was engraved on the doors. People of my reef had little use for writing, but Wez recognized the script. “They’re riddles, Jab,” she said.

“This one says ‘Choices don’t come easy to me, but one day I’ll have to decide who to be.’” She shrugged and read the other door. “’No one has seen me in hundreds of years but I’ve been watching from below.’”

We sat in the center of the room, perplexed. “Those are some real head-scratchers. The first one reminds me of a fish we used to eat at my reef. They spawned sexless. After a week from hatching they’d change to male or female. Say, did the door open?”

Wez had a faraway look. “Maybe there’s another way past. We can’t leave here empty handed.” She got up and started yanking on the doors. She tried to tunnel through again, but the walls were too tightly packed.

“Hey, Wez, maybe we could find a different entrance. There’s got to be more than this.”

“Or maybe we could sell what we learned and pay for a healer at some reef.”

“That’s not a bad idea.” We hadn’t learned much, but it was better than all the daft rumors.

Wez sighed. “I wanted this to work. I wanted us to wake Flicker up ourselves.”

We made our way back to the daunting exit tunnel.

“You gonna pass out on me again, Jab? Maybe you should go first. It’d be easier to push you through than it was to drag you.”

“I’ll remember you said that next time you need help fishing.”

***

We made it through with no issue. Topia was a mere silhouette against the orange horizon as the sun sank down.

“Is... Is someone sitting under the palm?” Wez darted off, fast as an eel towards our home.

“Careful, Wez, could be raiders!” I knew she hadn’t heard so I hurried after her.

By the time I dragged myself up onto Topia a reunion of sorts was well under way. Flicker and Wez stood under the palm crying into the other’s shoulder. Starry scurried around their feet, pinching the air excitedly.

“Flicker, this is Jab. He’s been helping me take care of you. Jab, this is my brother.” Wez looked happier than I had ever seen her.

“Nice to meet you, Jab!” Flicker surprised me by hugging me tight. “Thank you for everything.”

“Uh, forgive me, but, what happened?” I looked from Wez to Flicker.

“I don’t know. It was like I was down in some deep tunnel. I started hearing these little snaps. I can’t really explain it, but I followed the snaps and woke up!”

“Starry did more than just keep Flicker company, didn’t you, Starry?” Wez smiled at the small crab and tickled its pale underbelly.

We stayed up late into the night airing out our respective pasts. We helped each other through the hard parts, laughed at the funny bits, and enjoyed this strange little family we had found. The Heap and its mysteries sank away in our minds.

DreamingofRoses
Jun 27, 2013


Nap Ghost

May Treasure Fill Your Home (金玉满堂)

1553 words

Flash rule: Big Trouble in Little China

The red carpet had been laid at her feet. The white marble floor between the two guardian lions had been covered in red carpet, a path leading to the other side of the lobby where a temporary red wall and arch had been erected. The normal miscellanea that lined the lobby had been removed, replaced with long tables and chairs filled with a glittering crowd of guests.

It’s go time. Communications check, 1, 2, 3. Carmen shaded her face with her fan as she walked down the carpet, focusing on her mental connection to her companions.

See you, kid. I’m in place. The bulky form of Jack lurked in a well-tailored suit on the outskirts of the crowd, near some neatly dressed ‘guards’ of the casino.

I see both of you. Chimes are set and ready for the signal. That was Wendy, the wizard of the group. Carmen used the excuse of gaping at the large golden, dragon statue holding up the main chandelier to which half a dozen ropes lined with paper lanterns were attached to look for her. She could see the dark-skinned woman leaning on one of the railings of the second floor.

Carmen took a deep breath and lowered the fan, her mind focused on the ceremony. She took the few steps to pass through the arch, where a handsome Chinese man with silver hair in a chair in front of her, Zheng Zhao, her target. In the room also stood a younger, just as handsome man who was to be her ‘husband’, Liang Zhao, her target’s son.

First was the bow to his father, then to the portrait of his mother, then to Liang, who looked achingly handsome in his red and gold suit. Next, they both knelt on cushions and she poured the already-prepared tea to serve them, being careful to make sure her hand movements weren’t observed. First served was his father, who accepted the cup with a solemn silence, and then Liang. She watched from the corner of her eye as Zheng grimaced at the taste of the tea, but said nothing. Settling back onto her calves, Carmen accepted the offered cup of tea from Liang with a smile. She tipped the cup to her lips and sipped, her smile growing wider as deep, sweet chiming began.

--

The first time she had met Liang Zhao, it had been at a bar. It wasn’t a dive bar, he wouldn’t be able to get to one of those if he wanted to with the sheer amount of security on him--mostly Triad thugs--but it was on lower scale of ritzy, with plenty of dark corners. Carmen had lured him into a private booth with the promise of drinks. It had taken one drink, and an application of her own persuasive power, to get the truth from him about his father and his recent personality whiplash which coincided with one of his ‘antiquity hunting’ trips.

It had taken weeks to convince Liang of their ability to help both him and his father. Then a month to set up an iron-clad identity that could withstand the inevitable searches from both the Triad and Liang’s father, and research the artifact he had recovered that had taken him. A ring, possessed by the spirit of a minor prince from the Tang dynasty who had been a sorcerer. It also took time to case the casino, with both Jack and Wendy ‘visiting’ the casino, and Liang taking her to his father’s office to meet him, ostensibly to investigate the effects of the ring.

The wedding plan had been idiotic at best, but it was determined to be the best way to ‘ambush’ Zheng for the ring, and to have the vault vulnerable. The best way the plan would work to protect them and Liang would be to stage a vault raid. The Zhaos were well-insured, and a robbery with Liang as the victim would keep him safe from suspicion. Liang had surprisingly few objections to this plan, although he did give Carmen an undecipherable look when he thought she wasn’t watching.

--

Liang looked at her a bittersweet smile crossing his face before his eyes drooped closed and his chin slumped to his chest. Around them, similar things happened to the rest of the guests and their bodyguards, as well as the Triad thugs dotting the room. In moments, the entire room was sleeping, Wendy’s counter-spelled hair decoration the only thing keeping Carmen awake.

God, I just want five minutes in that crowd. The jewelry alone must be worth—

Not the time, Wendy. Carmen’s attention focused on Zheng as he lunged upwards from his seat, notably unaffected. “Treachery,” he hissed in a voice that carried two tones and his eyes glowed brighter. “I am immune to your sorceries, warlock, and that of whatever devils you have at your call. You will not corrupt me or my son any longer. Die!” Zheng, or the ghost inside of him, summoned a long blade from air and lunged at the now-standing Carmen.


She snapped the fan shut and used the hard, wooden frame to redirect the blade from the thrust to her chest and into the wooden arch behind. The blade lodged into the red wood, but the edge caught her shoulder, and she hissed in pain. Carmen grabbed the wrist holding the sword with her right hand and pushed away from her body. It was an awkward angle, and Zheng grabbed her right wrist with the hand the ring was on. She dropped her fan, and twisted her wrist so her hand slid through his, palm to palm, and brought the ring with it.

The glow behind the old man’s eyes faded abruptly and he released the sword. Strength seemed to seep from his body as he attempted to back up a step. Her grip on his wrist stopped his movement, “C-Carmen? Liang? What’s happening?”

Carmen looked him in the eyes and adjusted her grip on him to stash the ring into an inner pocket in her qipao. Her voice was calm and unhurried, “Nothing, Mr. Zhao, it’s all right. Just listen to the chimes. It’s time for you to sleep for a while, and when you wake up this will feel like a dream.” He slumped into sleep quickly, and she eased him to the ground.

Got the ring. Liang and his father are taken care of. I’ll meet you two in the vault.

When she got up to them, both Wendy and Jack had already changed into their work clothes. Wendy got a good look at her shoulder and sighed, “Did you even try to get him to drink the tranquilizer? What if he had--”

“I did, which is the only reason I still have a heart. It slowed him down, just didn’t stop him.” Carmen grabbed her bag from Jack. “How long left on the chimes?” She began stripping carefully out of her qipao, pausing only to make sure she wasn’t bleeding over everything.

“About fifteen minutes, less if the Triad has any sorcerers on staff and nearby. Or if the caterers come in, or if one of the bodyguards outside gets curious, or if someone called 911 while—"

Carmen came over to set her hands on the anxious woman’s shoulders. “Breathe, Wendy. We only need five.” Wendy paused, focused on breathing for the span of a few heartbeats before Jack’s calm voice interrupted the two.

“Done. Lock’s open. Your turn, Meerkat.” Wendy rolled her eyes at the nickname, but the less-anxious woman went to go check the door and surrounding area for any magical surprises.

“Hold on, Kid,” Jack put a hand on Carmen’s undamaged shoulder and she stopped. As Wendy worked, he dressed the injury. He finished, and Carmen finished redressing in time for Wendy to give the all clear.

They stood in front of the open door to the vault and Wendy sighed enviously, eyes immediately darting to a couple of jade dragon statues clearly labelled on one of the many filled shelves. “Think we can take it all?”

Carmen grinned, “We can certainly try.”

--

Months later, the whole mess had barely finished. His father’s physical strength had declined after the removal of the ring, but his mind had turned clear and his personality apologetic. He had made the decision to retire back to China, leaving Liang in charge of clean up. Carmen and her companions had not only taken the ring, but had also managed to make off with over $500,000 worth of ancient jewelry, pottery, and statues from his father’s collection.

It had been a year and he hadn’t heard so much as a word from or about her despite the sheer amount of detective work he had been able to pay for. It was only when he found a nearly-blank envelope that was left on his desk, with his name on it, that he had an inkling of where she might be. Inside it was a second envelope, this time with a note across it.

Happy Anniversary. I still owe you a honeymoon.
- Love, Mrs. Zhao


She had signed it in exaggeratedly large, looping letters, as well as a kissed lipstick mark at the bottom. He opened the second envelope, and grinned at the one-way plane ticket inside.

Crain
Jun 27, 2007



Prompt: Picturesque Picaresque.

Flash Rule: Trained in eleven martial arts, twelve languages, and bog standard parlor tricks.

Simple Pleasures.

1551 words

We looked like a tube of crescent rolls: Crammed up, in the dark, and under enough pressure to spook a middle aged housewife once this whole thing popped off. Jon Vittor, the Hotel King of Florida was throwing his son’s 13th birthday party today on the top floor of his new property in Amalfi, Italy (He’s branching out) called: Il re del Cardinale Lusso Rifugio Coccole per il Ricco e Bellissimo Hotel (His idea). It took us 3 years to build up enough clout to sneak our way into this party. Shell companies, fake identities, 32 rental properties throughout Italy and St. Petersburg, Fl all hiring and reviewing ourselves as top notch performers specializing in 13 year olds. We had PR meetings, we sent Christmas bonuses, there’s still some poor bastard cleaning the same empty, unused office furniture on Granville Ct who keeps showing up despite never seeing anything relating to us besides his paycheck. We’re finally ready to finish this plan off.

“So much for a room with a view,” Grumbled Jorge, “four thousand miles of coastline and I get to look at your shoes.”

“And if you were on top you’d be looking at 2 pulped up partners soaking into your shoes.” I snapped back at him.

“Be ready to throw us as we practiced Jorge.” Whispered Bertrand, still sticking to the proper operational procedures Jorge and I had long since dropped.

One final set of doors opened up in front of my little peephole. Dead ahead was the party boy, Jon Vittor 8th (He has a lot of brothers), sitting on his very own birthday throne amidst a glittering hall of mirror like marble and gold. We stop right in front of him and the rest of the guests. Bertrand steels himself, folding up into a near perfect human ball. I try to do the same but only end up needing to stifle a fart.

Bertrand gives the signal and Jorge springs to full height then launches us upwards as if he were setting up a game winning volleyball spike. Bertrand spins through the air picking out the perfect landing spot while I tumble incoherently through the air. (Hey, it’s my job to come up with the plans, and filling out a hundred W2’s for fake employees while filing taxes on 32 homes doesn’t leave much time for gymnastics.) Bertrand stabs into the ground right in front of little Jonny, rooted in place like he was always there. He then grabs me out of the air right before I complete my high dive into the concrete floor.

Silence.



More silence.

“You jump high, heh heh.” Clapped Jon-boy. I guess we passed the kid test.

“Yes, very high! Wait till Bertrand here REALLY gets started! But Jorge and I, he’s the big one, will leave that to lightfoot here while we go finish up your special cake!” I chanted as we ran to the kitchen. We billed ourselves as a package deal: Entertainment and Bakers.

The kitchen was the key. See, Jon didn’t build this building, he just bought it. Some governmental palm greasing, and times being what they are, meant that the town sold what used to be their city hall, the same city hall that was connected to one of Italy’s Treasury deposit vaults. Now the elevator may have been deactivated in the sale, and the doors blocked up, but the shaft is still there. So are Jorge and I about to run to the kitchen and break down a wall? Of course not! Jon Sr. already did that for us. He put in a dumbwaiter and used the existing shaft to save money. We will need to cut a hole in the dumbwaiter though. Thankfully the staff were too busy to notice us slip into it.

----

“So I am facing down one of their guards. He has told me that the training he has received is courtesy of the FBI. He is retired. He will be using modified Aikido mixed with Brazilian Jujitsu grapples and some Karate.” Bertrand thought to himself, sizing up his opponent.

The bodyguard took the initiative. He and Bertrand had started close so we attacked with a simple strike to the liver. It had been blocked. He followed it up with a kick to Bertrand’s shin to try and knock him off balance. Blocked as well. A flurry of attempts followed: Punches, grapples, kicks, sweeps! Each blocked quicker than the last. It seemed like Bertrand was blocking everything he could think to try as soon as he himself could think of it. Then his brain caught up with his body. Bertrand had thrown him as soon as Jon Vittor had signaled. The last few seconds or so had simply been the guard fighting against the ground.

“Amazing.” Gapped Jon Sr. as murmurs spread through the crowd of adults watching. It soon died down as they waiting to hear what the birthday boy would say about the scene.

“…Why he fall down? That was boring” Grumbled Jimmy Jon, arms quickly crossed.

“Shall I…try another act?” Shrugged Bertrand to the boy’s father.

Another series of fights were set up against the other guards present. Each fight had a different restriction for Bertrand to try and make it interesting: Legs tied together, no arms allowed, blindfolded, etc. Each fight ended much the same, and even though Bertrand made sure that his opponents wouldn’t get hurt, their pride was now keeping them from volunteering any more…

----

The vault was 151ft down the elevator shaft, 50 down an access tunnel, and behind a secondary vault door that a contractor was supposed to decommission with the sale of the building. So 50/50 on it being either left still functional or wide open. The shaft was an easy climb down. With the elevator taken out of commission there wasn’t anything to dodge or any cameras to avoid. The bottom of the shaft was a different story: They had installed a set of steel double doors with security glass, the hinges welded solid.

“Hope Bertrand’s killing it with his act, this will take a while.” I said as I got started checking out the door.

It was really weird that they left the elevator door itself unobstructed, but the checkpoint door was welded. The hinges I could see were solidly fused. Or so I though as I saw Jorge walk though the other door, with no obstruction.

“They only welded one set of hinges. And the other door opens inwards.” Jorge giggled at me as he peaked through the unlocked, open door.

“Well that improves the odds for the vault I guess.” I grunted, getting up and putting away the saw.

---

“宿題を, 忘れて廊下に, 最上川” Bertrand solemnly recited, hoping the child would finally find entertainment in something.

“Whaaaat!?” Jon Jingle Jr. grunted, assuming he had been insulted.

Bertrand grabbed at the hair on his temples. The child was an imbecile! 30 years of martial arts training, folk tales from Russia to Nairobi, and fluent conversation in a variety of languages left no impact on the child. The other guests might be entertained but the father was becoming angry. There was still time that needed to be killed, but there was nothing left to try. Unless…

Bertrand held up hand, palm towards himself, grasped his thumb, and with one swift motion made it appear he was removing it repeatedly.

“HAW HAW HAW! Your thumb’s coming off!” Guffawed the moron child.

Bertrand swallowed his pride as he made balloon animals (Snakes only), did card tricks (shuffling the deck and just giving Jon a card), and made objects disappear by abusing Jon’s lack of object permanence.

----

Someone on the elder Jon’s team had the bright idea to actually go through with removing the vault door. Too bad tac-welded sheet metal is cheaper than fully reinforced steel walls.

“Jorge, if you would?” I said as I handed him the saw. He ignored me and kicked one of the panels in, triggering the alarm as a wall of safety deposit boxes fell in as well. Seems they hid the shoddy work by just installing the boxes over it. The alarm wasn’t an issue, we wouldn’t be long. I found box #444, popped it out of the wall to find Mr. Jon Vittor Sr.’s prized collection of Scandinavian Crypt Keys. Which he is simply hoarding, but we have much use for. We also left a nice set of photos of the terribly shoddy workmanship Jon used to secure the Vault he was supposed to fix up as part of his purchase.

One brisk climb later we were back in the kitchen, and a brisk sprint after that had us in the party hall as we watched Bertrand standing on his head while Jon laughed himself into a fit.

“Bert! Time to go!” I yelled as Jorge started cutting a hole in the window. Bertrand took no extra convincing as he ran for the newly made exit, grabbing his parachute as he dove from the building. I decided to leave Jon with a parting gift: “Get your boy some remedial classes while you can still afford them!”

Not the best one liner to leave on, but it still looked cool from a parachute.

curlingiron
Dec 15, 2006

Adventure Awaits!


Fun Shoe

Queen of Diamonds
771 Words

Flash: Your protagonist, or one of them, has a crippling disability which makes an otherwise routine part of job significantly more complicated. Despite this, they hold their own.



“Well, I guess this is it,” said Chaavi, smiling at her opponent. “Last hand, final pot. You sure you’re still in?”

“Oh, darlin’, I wouldn’t dream of missing this,” said the man across from her. He put his gilded cowboy boots up on the table and took a drag from his cigarillo. “I’m ready for whatever you got for me, Miss Chhavi.”

Chhavi grinned. “We’ll see about that, won’t we?” She gestured for the dealer to start shuffling the cards one last time, and drummed her fingers on the table next to her chips. The crystal facets of her fingers glittered in the light of the casino table as she waited. This is it, she thought. Not much longer.

She had caught the Diamond Plague on a little backwater world half a year ago, and it had taken her almost that entire time to get back to the point where she was half as good as she had been. There was a cure, but it was well beyond the means of a simple card sharp and occasional petty thief that she had scraped by as before.

Coming back to this place, the casino where she had first become fascinated with the world of gambling and sleight-of-hand, had been a gamble in and of itself. She was nearly out of money, not to mention any hope for the future. She had gotten lucky in running into Braulo Aurelate, heir to the Aurelate Technologies fortune and notorious gambler. When she had sat down at the table, there had been five players, all of them trying to bait Braulo into giving away a little of his fortune, but now there were only two of them left. Mostly, luck had been on her side, but she hadn’t been averse to helping it along once or twice.

As the dealer, a woman in a gold brocade vest and elegant cigarette pants, passed out the cards, Chhavi felt a twinge behind her right eyelid, and shook her head slightly. She had been having near-debilitating headaches off and on for the last few days, usually preceded by this kind of twinge behind the eye. Just wait a little longer, then you can have all of the headaches you like.

Her heart skipped a beat as she picked up her cards, and she worked to school her face to calm. A royal flush! She hadn’t even had to swap any of her cards for the ones carefully tucked up her sleeve. She pretended to deliberate over her hand for a while before putting down her initial wager, a sum greater than her last year’s expenses combined. Braulo met her wager with a smirk that she fought not to match.

It was always a delicate game, leading the other person into the belief that you were just another overconfident mark. Chhavi had developed a system of tells over the course of her career, always deployed with a light touch. Over the course of their last several games together, for example, she had led her opponent to believe that she had a tendency to jiggle her leg when she was bluffing, as she was doing now. She could tell that Braulo had taken the bait, as he was grinning a little wider at her every time she raised. Oh, honey, you have no idea.

By the time they were both nearly all in, Chhavi was nearly buzzing with excitement, something she only let out through her now increasingly-obvious leg jiggling. With the money she was about to win, not only could she afford treatment for the Diamond Plague, but she could probably retire on some pleasure planet afterwards. Aurelate might be smarting a little bit afterwards, but she was sure he could afford it.

The pain behind her eye flared up, so white-hot that she gasped and clamped her hand over her eye, forgetting in her pain that it was her crystalline right hand.

Visions ripped through her, burning like acid across her sight. Setting down her cards, raking all of the chips towards her, laughing as Aurelate glowered at her from across the table. Making her way out of the casino in a euphoric haze. Meeting a contingent of Aurelate’s bodyguards outside the building. Shock. Pain. Darkness.

“Are you doin’ alright over there, miss?” Aurelate’s voice woke Chhavi from her visions. Shocked to find herself still alive, still in the casino.

She looked at the man across the table from her, then down at her cards. Her right hand glittered still in the cheery light of the casino. Her right eye twinged.

Oh well. There’s always another game.

“I fold.”

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



https://thunderdome.cc/?story=6315

Djeser fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2018 around 20:09

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

Did you FAIL THUNDERDOME crabrock? Don't worry, here's an example on how to write!

Grimey Drawer

Bad Seafood posted:

Your protagonist must make off with the crown prince in the middle of his own wedding, with no one the wiser - including the prince.

IRC posted:

crabrock: hey doof. can i get 3 extra words? I don't need them yet or anything i just want special treatment
BadSeafood: How much are you willing to pay for those words.
crabrock: 2 words?
BadSeafood: I will give you 1, so it's a clean 1555.

Alternates
1555 words

Of all the people I’ve met in alternate dimensions, I hate the other-me from #47 the most. The other-mes are always a little off: #52 has that eyepatch thing (gotta admit it works for him), #9 is mostly robot parts, #102 is much more successful and muscley and I hate him too for being a showoff, but #47 other-me is just evil. Still, it was my idea to kidnap the prince, not his, so I guess I shouldn’t throw too many stones.

Inter-dimensional trafficking is a lucrative business. Wanna hang out with Taylor Swift but she keeps having her bodyguards throw you out of her dressing room? I can get Taylor #33 to you with a day’s notice. She’s from a trash planet and smells terrible. Not famous at all, but we’ll clean her up and she’ll show up at your birthday party and sign autographs before we whisk her back to garbage town with a bag full of bottlecaps so she can upgrade her meals from rat meat to dog meat for a month. Don’t worry, she likes it there.

Royalty is harder. They come from lines of kings and queens, and are much less likely to have an interdimensional double that isn’t also royalty. While there’s only a few dimensions where Keith Richards even kissed a girl, much less became famous, the Crown Prince Radeyah was a prince in every dimension I’d been to. Random luck didn’t play as much of a role in their futures.

The request came in from the bride’s parents: find a better Prince Radeyah. They weren’t keen on the arranged marriage between their daughter and the notorious doofus, no matter how much power and money his family had. I dropped the fax on my desk and held my head in my hands. I already operated in a murky gray area of identity theft and slander, but permanent switcharoos were strictly illegal.

But the job request came with a check that had a lot of zeroes. It was enough to motivate me to tighten the velcro on my interdimensional portal boots and travel to dimension 47. If anybody knew how to pull something like this off, it would be that bastard.



Before I’d even stepped through the bead curtain of me-47’s agency office I was hit by the smell of farts and menthol. My ex—or #47 version of her—sat smoking a cigarette on the couch. While all the residents of dimension #47 were evil, I couldn’t tell the difference between her and my actual ex, Kate.

“Oh poo poo, does Satan know you escaped from hell?” I said.

She rolled her eyes and shouted: “Herbie, your weird twin from dimension three is here.”

“He trying to gently caress you again?” Herbie yelled from the other room.

“I don’t think so.”

I gagged.

Herbie walked out with his shirt unbuttoned and his pants unfastened. “Too bad you didn’t get here two minutes earlier, I would have given you a run at her. They call this dimension 47, but after today they might start calling it dimension 69, if you know what I mean.” He pantomimed something that either said he didn’t know, or that dimension 47 was even more hosed up than I had imagined.

“You know why I’m here.”

“Yeah, yeah, the prince thing. Easy.”

“You’re bluffing. The wedding is in a few hours. They’re already setting up in every dimension.”

“Nah man, I already got the perfect plan. That’s why I was celebrating.”



Herbie had replaced the guards of palace #62 with their interdimensional doppelgangers months back for another job that had something to do with a drunk princess, honestly I stopped listening because it got pretty grotesque.

We made our way into the scullery and changed into our stolen catering costumes.

The prince was a well-known loner who preferred to spend his time locked away in his room. His parents, the King and Queen, two gregarious buffoons, had complained to the media that their son must have been switched at birth, and they suspected the illuminati had done it.

We found the prince where we suspected he would be. We didn’t even have to tell him much of our plan before he was on board. “Anything to get out of this mess,” he said, motioning to his intended in the courtyard, a girl so touched she was holding her fork by the wrong end.

The three of us snuck through the pillared halls of the palace until we found a broom closet bigger than my apartment that was rarely used and well insulated. The portal boots make a hell of a racket.



Herbie and I exited the interdimensional portal in the broom closet of my dimension. It rained a confetti of toilet paper and other cleaning products that the portal had blown apart.

“Stay here until we get back,” we told Prince-47.

Once we were out of earshot I whispered to Herbie: “He doesn’t seem that evil.”

Herbie laughed. “Oh yeah, I switched him at birth with some other dimension’s prince.”

“Why the gently caress did you do that?”

“I dunno, we’re just evil, remember?”

I groaned and tried to ignore his evil ways.

We snuck into the main hall where the wedding guests were finding their seats. The hall was adorned with floating, spinning jewels that refracted the sunlight coming in from the open dome into tiny pinpoints of multi-colored light.

“Fuckin’ rich person disco balls,” said Herbie, tugging at his tuxedo’s collar. “Fuckin’ rich person nooses.”

I smacked his arm to shut him up, and we made our way toward the prince’s dressing room, nodded at people like we were old friends. We found Prince-3 alone in his room, shoveling hordevours into his mouth with his bare hands.

“Your highness,” I said, bowing.

He swallowed, though I’m not entirely sure he was done chewing. “Call me Rad, you know, like ‘awesome.’”

I looked at Herbie but he only shrugged. I stuck to our plan. “Um, ok Rad. We’re here to bring you to the surprise your dad got you.”

“No way!”

Herbie flashed me a look that said he was about to run for it.

“My dad said he wasn’t gonna get me a wedding surprise, that old trickster!” Rad jumped up in the air, untucking his stained tuxedo. “Show me show me show me!”

“Ok, but it’s real bright, and makes your stomach go like ‘wooooosh.’”

“Omigod, is it an outdoor roller coaster?”

“Kind of.”

We led Rad back through the party guests, having to stop several times while he loaded up on toothpicks stuck in little pieces of food. The broom closet door glowed with a green light and buzzed with a slight hum. I opened it, and Prince-47 turned around.

He stared awkwardly at his likeness, then extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Rad fist-bumped the Prince’s fingers. “No problem, bro.” He turned to Herbie. “Yo, that dude looks just like me, but way more boring.”

“Ok, time for your wedding surprise!” Herbie shoved Rad through the portal. “Don’t forget to hold your breath,” he added, after the misfit prince had already disappeared into the swirling light. “Oops.”

“Well,” I said to Prince-47-cum-3, “we’ll leave you here.”

“If you need anything,” said Herbie, “tough fuckin’ luck.”

We jumped into the portal back to dimension 47 and closed it behind us.

Rad had already found his way out of the broom closet and was mingling with party guests. They laughed and clapped as he did poorly-rehearsed magic tricks with a jumbo prawn. The King and Queen saw their son and made their way over to him, happy to see him among his subjects and not sulking in his room.

Rad, finding the party in the evil dimension much more to his liking than the stuffy “proper” wedding in his own dimension, assumed that was his surprise.

The marriages went off without a hitch, and only three people in the multiverse knew what truly happened.

We walked out of the castle and into an empty park where the flowers were just starting to bloom. I turned to Herbie and shook his hand. “I have to hand it to you, that went better than I could have hoped.”

Herbie stroked his chin. “I miiiiiiiiight have switched those two at birth, come to think of it. Was your dimension the one that had those giant crab attacks a while ago?”

I shuddered at the memory of rotting crab meat. “Yeah.”

“Oh. Amazing what you can get away with during chaos like that.”

“You dick. Anyway, deal’s a deal. Here’s your half of the money.”

He took it, leafed through the envelope, gave me the finger, then left without another word.



I leaned back in my chair and counted my money. I’d never stolen a prince before, and it was more fun than I cared to admit. Maybe I’d misjudged dimension #47. They didn’t all seem that bad.

And seeing Kate-47 made me miss my Katie, even if just a little. Maybe I’d been holding on to my grudge for too long. I picked up my phone and dialed her number from memory.

It rang five times before she picked up.

“Uh, hello?”

“Hey Katie, it’s me, Herbert.”

There was a long pause.

“gently caress you, Herbert, you evil piece of poo poo” she said, and then hung up.

Nevermind.

CascadeBeta
Feb 14, 2009


Speed Drop
1155 Words
Flash Rule: Your protagonist has formed an odd but genuine friendship with the police inspector who's been chasing them all these years.


I tore through the night amidst a haze of cop lights. The bass bumped, but I was listening more for the rattling of the liquor bottles in my trunk. I thought I had heard a shatter I traded paint, I couldn’t be sure. I wouldn’t be sure until I was safe at the junkyard. Then I could count my lost dollars with the shards of glass. My eyes darted between the rearview and the side mirrors. Between strokes of red and blue, headlights watched me like swamp lights.

I downshifted and cut tight off the Stevenson off ramp. I was assaulted with sudden claustrophobia as the concrete walls of the ramp narrowed. I ratcheted down, the transmission barely keeping up as I took another sharp right onto Cicero. The alcohol in back lurched at the motion, and my tail started to twist away from me. I tapped the brake and hit the gas, swinging the steering wheel out. My tires squealed, the steering caught and I avoided putting myself into the underpass.

I glanced back. David Grey was still at my rear quarter panel, and he was closing.

***

“All things considered, I bet you miss the Testarossa,” David said, as he revved the engine on his Mustang. I twisted the key one last time, unsurprised when my day ride, a sputtering Cimarron, failed to come to life. I waved my hand across my neck and stepped back out into the chill Chicago air. I unhooked the jumpers off the battery and dropped the hood, running my hand over the missing ornament and already peeling gray paint. In the rising sunlight, the car resembled a charred marshmallow left in the fire too long.

“I’d fish it out of the drink myself. Third time this week this thing quit on me.” I stomped on the bumper. The Caddy didn’t even shake. “You got a cigarette?”

“I thought you quit.” He pulled his pack of Camels out and offered me his lucky. I traded him his jumper cables for it.

“I did, and then I didn’t. You know how it is.”

“Were you so desperate for one you forgot how to buy a car? Of all the people to grab a lemon, I would have never expected it to be you.”

I sighed. “It’s hard to find good ones right now, especially imports. Even if you could find someone to sell, they’re taxed to poo poo. So, sometimes you bust out. It’s not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last.” Even still, It was still 10 grand I was out, and I was kicking myself. That’s a year of work, 52 weeks working night shifts.

Or two runs, minimum, and that’s if the speakeasies were dry.

David patted me on the back. His badge glinted from the inside pocket of his beige sports jacket. “Want me to call a wrecker? There’s a good cafe nearby, I’ll buy you a coffee.”

I checked my watch. It was still shockingly early. “They better make ‘em strong.”

***

David moved to PIT. I slammed the brakes. His car shot past me, and I cut down South Archer, then back left on Kilpatrick. The street was tight residential, but people had enough sense to pull their cars off the road after curfew. The tricky part was getting back out of it. Ahead, flashing cruisers lined up along 50th. 47th avenue was out, and I was already past 51st. I slammed on the brakes. I wheeled right with a prayer.

The turn was good, but not nearly good enough. I slid and hit a parked station wagon. I jolted in my seat, and heard a smash from the trunk. That definitely took out a case, maybe more. I dropped back into second gear and burst through the chain link fence back through the opposing driveway, cursing myself all the while. Words like rusty, stupid, cocky rolled through my head as the grass shook my seat. Last time I had run, I wouldn’t have made that mistake.

***

“You were really cutting close to morning curfew. What’s the occasion?” David asked, dumping a cream into his coffee. I kept mine black as hell, I needed the bitterness more than the caffeine. Looking at it in front of me reminded me that my stomach was still turning over itself. We were the only ones in the cafe. If I had to guess, the excessive wall flair, uptight attire for the waitresses and faded chrome trim were supposed to scream retro, or out of date. I wasn’t really sure which.

“I’m trying to find anywhere that can use my talents. There’s not many legal avenues for someone like me.”

“How about stock car racing? Or even trucking?” David took a sip and grimaced. He reached for another cream. “There’s ways to live, if you know how,”

“Trucking puts me to sleep, and I wouldn’t exactly consider racing long term employment, between the engine explosions and the soon-to-be state ban.” I rested my hand on my chin. “Besides, no one wants racers or drivers or whatever, ‘cause they think we’ll flip to running as soon as we realize where the money is.”

One of the waitresses changed the channel on the TV over the counter to WLS. The reporter was talking about the dropping support for prohibition. I thumbed at the TV. “What’s your take on that?”

“I’ll believe it when it when it happens.”

***

I spun the car around in the junkyard lot and drove through one of the abandoned warehouses. Shadows of people flew by me. I flipped up the top of my gearshift for the latch release. The back kicked up as the bottom of the trunk fell out. Hopefully the broken containers were acceptable losses from the speed drop, at least. The warehouse door rolled shut behind me as I swung back out onto the street. I let two hours worth of stress exhale out of me as I swapped radio stations. My moment of relaxation lasted exactly that long before I noticed David’s two bar grille behind me again. This time, I brake checked him, teasing him. I wondered how long he could keep up as I shifted up and punched it.

***

He slid a business card to me from his jacket with his number at the station. I raised a finger in protest but he ignored it. “I know how you feel about turning state or whatever, but I don’t want to see you getting over your head again. If you’re staying clean, we could use someone like you to train recruits for stopping runners, so we can stop playing cops and robbers once night falls. Besides, I’d like to work with you again. For old times sake.

“Just give it some thought, okay?”

As soon as he had left, I was back at the payphone. Ten minutes and a few favors called in later, I had my repaired Testarossa read for a drop.

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Thaw
1540 words

Flashrule: Casing the joint's already hard enough when you aren't babysitting your cousin's kids.


Hoke Remington descended through the vast emptiness of space as his nephew's voice buzzed in his ear, begging for more cotton candy.

"Puh-lease, Uncle Hoke?" his nephew whined. "Just a few more credits?" If a voice could be described as punchable this kid's would be a speed bag.

Bringing his cousin's kids to the park had seemed like good cover at the time, but the endless litany of demands and grievances quickly drove him to dump them. Hoke wasn't very good with kids, so depositing them at the World Showcase with enough credits to buy all the poutine and eclairs they could slide down their bottomless gullets seemed like a good idea.

"Fine," he grunted, and transferred another thousand credits. The money wasn't the problem. After this job he'd be set for life. It was the distraction. When you're descending a nanofiber rope into the inky blackness of the upper levels of Spaceship Earth — the iconic geodesic dome at the heart of Epcot Center — you need to be able to focus on the task at hand.

Which for Hoke, was getting in, acquiring the goods, and getting out before anyone noticed. Difficult under normal circumstances, but today of all days? Nearly impossible. But isn't that why he took the job?

Hearing the rumble of another set of cars approaching on the track below, Hoke ordered his skinsuit to turn to absolute black. Doubtful they'd spot him with their eyes glued to the individual displays floating in the air in front of them, but it pays to be safe. Once the car moved past, Hoke dropped silently onto the tracks and began moving in a crouched run.

His ear buzzed again. This time it was his niece, Janice. "Uncle Hoke, Chester has consumed 3560 calories in the past 90 minutes! That's very unhealthy," she said, the last phrase spoken much lower, a disappointed contralto.

"Okay Janice, just...just have him drink plenty of fluids. I'll be back soon." A lie. Hoke wasn't very good with kids.

A short jog and he made it to a maintenance hatch. Pausing to check the turkey stuffed in his satchel (243 Kelvin, still frozen, perfect), Hoke pushed through and into a short hallway that to a stairwell. His sound-dampening slippers let him move without noise, so he skipped quickly down the stairs. His timing had to be perfect, and time was short.

Truthfully, he just wanted this one to be over. Hoke didn't like taking GovCorp gigs. Too much risk, the targets too high value. The CEO thought this heist could be his ticket to a corporate takeover of Disney. Then we'd only have one corporation. Lucky us.

Crackle..."Uncle Hoke? Uncle Hoke?" Janice wheedled over the comm, "Chester's sitting in the middle of the Champs Elysees and he won't move! The monorail can't get through!"

Not now. Hoke pushed through a hatch into a ventilation tunnel. "Get park security. Maybe they can help."

"There's none around. They're all inside the big spaceship thing for the show."

Spaceship thing? Ah yes, Spaceship Earth. Where he was.

Great.

From the tunnel Hoke dropped into a service corridor that ran behind the Persia and Phoenicia exhibits. The clunky animatronic mannequins had long ago been replaced with state of the art projective holograms, and Hoke stepped carefully through the tangled web of power cables and cords that fed the exhibit. A time check told him he needed to pick up the pace — scaling the outside of the dome had taken more time than he'd planned.

A door behind an enormous cuneiform tablet led to a ladder downwards. He was getting close.

His comm cracked again. "Uncle Hoke..." his nephew's voice whined, "I'm bored. My stomach hurts. And I'm hungry..."

Jesus. "Here's some more credits. Go find your sister and get something to eat. Something, umm, healthy this time." Hoke said. He clicked off the comm unit. Time to go dark. Time to focus.

Down the ladder, down another corridor, back into the ventilation system, and three minutes later he was looking at his prize.

It was smaller than he'd expected.

Through the grate Hoke could see it clearly, carefully placed upon a velvet dais under a bell jar covered by a red cloth. The man himself. Well, his head, anyways.

The frozen head of Walt Disney. Today was the day he was due to finally be thawed—but Hoke was going to get to him first.

He pulled on fur suit he had grabbed from a storage closet and pushed through the grate. For the event a stage had been created, with rows of chairs off to the side for dignitaries. It was going to be broadcast worldwide live so technicians, media people, and DisneyCorp executives all milled about the auditorium in preparation. Hoke's suit—Kanga from Winnie the Poo—worked perfect. The frozen turkey fit nicely in the pouch along with his compad and tools. Hoke worked his way through the throng towards the dais, affecting the most jovial and kangaroo-like walk he could manage. However, it quickly dawned on him that he'd make one critical mistake: nobody else was dressed up in costume. He started getting funny looks and sidelong glances from the people milling about the chamber, getting ready for the big event.

Still Hoke pushed ahead.. The once in a lifetime "Thawing of Walt Disney's Head" show was due to start in exactly eight minutes.

Sidling up onto the dais he powered up his skinsuit. It had a small charge that could power one lightning fast movement. It had to be perfect. Grab the head, drop the turkey, and then bolt.

Hoke discharged his suit and in a blink he had switched the head for the turkey. To an outside observer only a slight ruffle of the cloth covering would have betrayed the switch. But now Walt was safely ensconced in his pouch. Time to go.

Then the turkey rolled off the table and all hell broke loose.

Shouts, people running in all directions, a woman holding the frozen turkey by its legs and screaming "WHY!? WHY!?" the police bursting through the door, dignitaries hoofing and caning their way to the exits, it was instant chaos. Hoke loped awkwardly towards the exit doors, tail stepped on and smashed by the panicked hordes. But the chaos was beautiful. The park police had tackled the woman holding the turkey, the pre-show had started so orchestral crashes and pulses of light flashed wildly through the theater. Nobody knew what was going on. The perfect environment to slip out unnoticed.

However, the kangaroo suit made that difficult.

Once through the doors Hoke peeled himself from the suit and stuffed Walt's head in his satchel. He switched on his comms and descended the ramp, gamely dodging the cops as they ran towards the dome entrance. Time make himself scarce.

"Hey!" a voice yelled from behind. "Stop him!"

Instinctively, Hoke ducked his head and ran, but there were too many cops on the ramp and they swarmed over him like bees on butter. Spinning him around, he saw his accuser, her child's face twisted in horror at the empty kangaroo suit, tears streaking her face. "He wasn't real," she pouted. "Not okay." Her mother reached to comfort her.

"Hey, I was just going on break," Hoke said jovially. "Let me go you guys. Besides, there's something going on up there—" he pointed towards Spaceship Earth.

"He's right!" a blonde, cherube-faced officer shouted. "Move out!"

The cops continued clambering up to the dome. Hoke sighed in relief. The park gates beckoned him. Time to make his exit.

He took one step then realized his satchel was gone. Somehow in the tussle it had been ripped from his shoulder. And with it Walt's head. Hoke looked around furiously, and then his gaze landed on—

Them.

Chester and Janice. The worst part of his plan. Well, maybe second to the kangaroo suit. Both standing there, grinning, holding his satchel. Chester swung it around menacingly. Janice had a hand on her hip.

"You can't just ignore us," she sneered.

"Watch me."

"Don't you want this," Chester hooted, punching the satchel towards Hoke..

"Be careful—I mean, yes." Hoke paused for a moment. "Yes I do. And I have something to give you in return. It's just outside the park gates."

"We just got here." (They had in fact been at the park for five hours).

"It's worth it, believe me."

Chester and Janice looked at each other. "Okay," they said together.

In the parking lot, Hoke held his credit chip up, send the "Mission Accomplished" signal, and watched the zeros flow into his bank account. Then he tossed the chip over to his cousin's kids. "Spend it all in one place," he said. "It won't last long." For Hoke had no intention of ever delivering the goods. Not this time. He was done.

Hoke swung up onto his motorcycle and kicked the starter As the engine roared to life he gently placed Walt's frozen head on the gear rack. It was then he noticed the blinking light at the base of the bell jar. Revival in progress. Full thaw in 36 hours.

Hoke sighed and gunned the engine. It was a long way to the border.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017

Time for tea and Thunderdome

Hell Hath No Fury
764 words


Lightning Jack’s expert fingers caressed the lock like the small of his latest lover’s back and it slid open as easily as the straps falling from her shoulders. Tucking his lockpicks back inside the cuffs of his suit jacket and rolling his eyes at the simplicity of evading the hotel security he slipped into the penthouse suite, silent as a ghost.

His guts had writhed like a pit of snakes when the rumour was first whispered into his ear. A giant ruby, as big as your fist, visiting town along with its mysterious billionaire owner. Surely it couldn’t be that ruby, he’d told himself. He’d lost his partner and barely escaped with his life trying to liberate that legendary gem from the vampire’s castle. But what if, somehow, someone else had gotten to it… Sleep became impossible; he had to know.

Two toughs flanked the bedroom door, ill-fitting suits and steroid-jacked muscles out of place in the cooly luxurious white-leathered suite. Jack crouched cat-like in the shadow of the entrance hallway. Lightning fast he sprang across the room into the space between the two men and arms outstretched like a cross plunged a loaded hypodermic into each thick neck. He spun the syringes cowboy-style around his fingers as the guards with their half-raised guns crumpled onto the pristine white carpet.

The bedroom was dimly lit by the glow of city lights filtering through the rich red curtains. From the bed he could hear the soft sighs of a woman sleeping. Pleasing curves were outlined by red silk sheets and lustrous black hair fanned out around her head like thick kelp waving under a blood red sunset.

He took in the rest of the room. Diamonds glittered like ice on the nightstand and priceless paintings hung on the walls. And there, in the center of the room, on a pedestal at head height, sat Ikmael, the vampire’s prize. Jack stared into the ruby’s depths, where swirling blood seemed to pulse in time with his own rapid heartbeat. He stretched out his hands towards it, fingers trembling with lust.

A bullet kissed his ear leaving a smear of blood like lipstick and smashed out through the window on the far wall. Jack dropped and spun just in time to see the woman leaping from the bed, the hem of her black negligee flapping against her perfect thighs, a revolver in her hand and a murderous look on her face.

“Camilla!” he said, raising his arms to cover his face. Her flying knee hit his crossed forearms, smacking him back onto the plush carpet as she landed astride his chest.

“Why didn’t you call?” she said, jamming the smoking barrel against his temple. A heavy diamond necklace swung from her swan-like neck.

“I thought you were dead!”

“And you didn’t even think to, maybe, double check?” she said, eyes narrow with fury.

“I… How did you…?” Jack stalled, gently coaxing a knife from his sock with the toe of his other shoe.

“Escape from those monsters? Get the ruby? You have no idea what this has loving cost me. But I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist. Why waste my time looking for you when I could make you come to me?” She grinned at him, her long, sharp canines glinting in the red light.

He bucked his hips, knocking her weight off his chest, and kicked the knife into his hand. Slashing at her he leapt to his feet, snatched the ruby from its stand and sprinted towards the window.

Face twisted with anger she swung the gun towards him and fired. Pain lanced through his hand and the ruby exploded, filling the room with glittering red fragments.

She spun through the shimmering red cloud, covering the distance between them unnaturally fast, and sunk her fangs into his neck. Jack gasped and felt the world start to tilt, dark red clouding the corners of his vision.

“It’s great to see you babe,” he whispered, caressing the nape of her neck with his uninjured hand while the other painfully yanked a needle from his belt and jammed it into her thigh.

The drug would do nothing against her now but the surprise was enough to make her pull her teeth from his neck. In a flash he dropped out of her embrace, dive-rolled across the room and hurled himself out of the broken window.

A hellish howl of frustration echoed across the sleeping city as Lightning Jack rappelled away down the side of the building, heavy diamond necklace flashing in his hand.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, spin up the goddam chaingun.' -Robot Santa Claus

Bad Seafood posted:

Who could've guessed the Takarazuka Revue was just a front!

Gloria Tuesday in: Last Train to Russia


1257 words

Gloria Tuesday sat in a front and center seat as the stage car unfolded around her. The roof split down the middle and the side walls became extensions of the floor, with seats springing up from them to accommodate the rest of the waiting audience. With a thunk and a squeal the wheels at either edge of the now extra-wide railcar made contact with the third and fourth rails.  She fingered the jewel in her pocket as the empty scenery of Karafuto sped by, waiting for the show to start.

Two men sat down, flanking her. Chinese, from the look of it. “The Shanghai Dragon does not easily forgive those who take what belongs to him,” said the one on the left. Bald, oily, and with Japanese grammar so poor even she could find a dozen mistakes. “He might be persuaded to make an exception in your case. Provided you hand over the Blue Star without delay.”

“I'm always open to a better offer,” said Gloria, “But you're going to have to put up a lot more than that.” The noise of escaping steam filled the cabin as the leading car’s hydraulics unclenched.  Above them the roof and walls of the theater slammed into place. Stagehands locked them down, and the room was suddenly quiet enough to talk at less than a shout.

“I am attempting to be reasonable and civilized here,” he said.

“Wu Chinese, then,” said Gloria, in that dialect. “You’ll never succeed at that in Japanese.”

He smiled. “Very well.  As I was saying, while I value reason, my partner is a man of few words in any language.” Gloria looked him over. Tall, wiry, vaguely twitchy even when sitting perfectly still.  “He speaks mainly with his hand-Gatling. If we don't have the Star by intermission, he’ll kill you and everyone else in the car.” The man grunted, and touched his belt.

“You wouldn't dare,” said Gloria. “This train is under a Japanese diplomatic flag. The Dragon-”

“The Dragon owns Japan, in all but name.  Emperor Yasuhito and his sons have all bowed down before him. This will be the last train to Russia. Well, the last civilian train.” A second’s thought and Gloria understood. The extra rails and wide tunnels weren't just for expanded cars like this one. A car this big could also carry landcruisers and artillery pieces.

The show started. The Takarazuka Revue, the entertainment on the long ride through three dark tunnels and featureless icy Karafuto between the last two. Four shows a night.  The all-woman company had started out as a tourist attraction at the end of Hankyu’s rail line, but when that company got the contract to run lines through to the parts of the Russian Empire that Japan took hold off after the Great War, they took the attraction with them. Gloria had been looking forward to the show, Henry V. As a musical.

The house lights dimmed and the players took the stage. The woman playing the titular king made quite a handsome man, with all of the gravitas the role demanded. She seemed strangely familiar as well. Gloria resented the distraction of having to plan an escape rather than enjoying the show.

And she had to escape, somehow. Handing the Blue Star to the Shanghai Dragon's men would be the same as giving it directly to the Brass Kaiser himself. Unacceptable, almost as bad as being dead.  She thought about ways to disarm the men beside her, none of which seemed promising. Then she silently cursed a pair of actresses, traitors awaiting execution. They were fidgeting with sequins in a way that kept reflecting a glare from the stage lights right in here face, and not even at regular intervals.

Gloria almost slapped her own face as she realized it was Morse code. “Act III, Scene 4.” She blinked back a quick “Yes”, and sat back to enjoy the play.

Act III, Scene 4 was Princess Katherine's English lesson, rendered into a bawdy musical show-stopper. Dancers lined up, echoing back each pun and bit of innuendo in the text, often very cleverly translated to Japanese. Mid-chorus, the stage lights went out and the train lurched backward, as it might under a few seconds of braking.

Gloria seized the moment, elbowing the bald man in the head while grabbing for the other man’s weapon. She felt metal, and grabbed hold.  The gunman held it tightly by the grip.

The lights flashed back on again. The bald man had a bloody nose and a jagged knife in his hand.  Actresses, standing around a barrel of tennis balls from an earlier scene, grabbed them and pelted him with the fuzzy spheres, driving him back.

Gloria and the other Shanghai goon struggled with the heavy gun, pointing the barrel in every direction. When it was mostly pointing up, Gloria stomped on the man's foot and reached a finger around his trigger finger. Bullets flew out, making a line of holes in the car’s roof, until the round magazine was hot and empty. It was too hot to hold. She let go first.  He swung it at her face, hitting hard, making a shallow cut in her cheek and a small burn to match. She kneed him in the crotch, the and he dropped the hand-Gatling. She kicked it across the room.

The players were evacuating the car, herding the guests out, toward the engine. The leader, still in Henry V’s costume, beckoned Gloria to follow.  She started to run for the exit, then saw danger.

The bald man had dove across the cabin, his blade forgotten, and was scrambling for the gun. His partner already had a clip ready to toss. Gloria pulled a blue crystal out of her pocket and threw it.  It struck the gunman on the forehead, knocking him down as the disk of ammunition left his hands.  The actress playing Katherine threw a curtain-rod like a javelin, hitting the disk and knocking it to the back of the car.

“Now!” said 'Henry’, and Gloria ran to the next car with the last few actors, just before another woman yanked a switch and uncoupled the stage.  The train sped through the last stretch of tundra and into the tunnel to Russia.

“Not that I'm ungrateful,” said Gloria, “But that's a lot of trouble you went through for a complete stranger.”

The lead player laughed, full of confidence and light. “Not just for you, American. The so-called Dragon's man could have recognized me at any moment.”

Gloria finally placed where she recognized her from herself. “You’re-”

“While my father and brother bow floor-low to that vile toad who calls himself dragon, a gold-blind fool who pretends to buy emperors and nations like racehorses and yachts, the true Spirit of Japan in exile tests with me, and my most loyal spies.”

“Where are you going?”

“To Alaska, then America.  The Shanghai worm isn't such a fool as to risk ending your nation's neutrality. Will you accompany us? You are a most remarkable woman, now both known to me by reputation and experience.”

“No, I'm done with politics.” She hoped. “I have a buyer waiting in Moscow.”

“But didn't you-”

“A copy, worthless crystal glass.”

The Empress laughed again. “A remarkable woman indeed. In another world...”

Gloria was relieved she didn't ask her to return the real Blue Star. It was technically the property of the Japanese Empire after all. It would have been a shame to have to give her another of the fakes.

GenJoe
Sep 14, 2010


She was a handsome young woman with a knack for shooting; a real Annie Oakley in a three-piece suit.


The Day Before Sunday
777 words

The pheasant was spared on account of weather. Not from clouds, or from the rain — the chalk-mark sky over the Parisian countryside had captured Jeannine’s attention like a siren, while the plumed bird flapped off into the horizon. But it was no matter.

The sky had reminded her of Easter, that’s all. The first one she could remember, where she hunted pastel-colored eggs with her brother in a pasture that would not get any greener that year. She remembered those times fondly.

Jeannine sighed and rested the barrels of her gun over her coat lapel, and then continued to walk along the tree line.

The second pheasant, a short while later, was spared by virtue of dog. Jeannine had lined up the bird and was ready to fire when she felt something brush against her lower leg. She lowered the gun.

A floppy-eared spaniel was sitting next to her. It looked up at her with its polished eyes and began to rhythmically pant.

“Aw, good boy.”

She lowered herself to dog-height and petted the top of its head. The dog’s tongue drooped in satisfaction.

_______


A minute of pettings and pats had passed when a man came thrashing through from the other side of the tree line. She recognized him immediately, but they had not met before — her line of work had given her a general familiarity of the rich men of Paris.

“Sorry,” Jaques Bernard said, slightly out of breath. “…I’m trying to teach him to flush, properly, but he seems to be more interested in plants over partridges.” He extended his hand. “I’m Jaques.”

“Jeannine”, she said, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you, Jaques.”

“You know, you should be in a hazard vest out here” Jaques said, “…not saying I don’t like that coat, and you certainly don’t look like a bird, but a vest will at least keep the dogs away.”

“I’m just more comfortable in a suit,” she said. “And, besides, the dogs like me for who I am, not for what I wear.”



They said their good-lucks and valedictions and then the man headed back into the tree line, but the dog — she had learned its name was Charlie — didn’t want to follow. Jaques gave a terse sigh and pulled the dog by its collar, quite forcefully, until it walked in step.

She didn’t quite know why, but she moved to follow them after they had vanished back into the trees. Something about her wanted one last look at that dog.

As she got closer, she heard his voice from beyond the brush.

“… don’t you ever run off like that. Understand, you little poo poo?”

She up moved past the undergrowth to a clearing where she could see the two. Jaques Bernard, in a show of intimidation, was pointing the nozzle of his gun at Charlie. Charlie, in his instinct, dropped his head to the ground and whimpered.

Of all the reactions across the human spectrum that would have been appropriate, Jeannine had this one:

Tonight, I will steal this dog.

_______


The château wasn’t far, seven kilometers or so towards Chantilly. The sun was low in the sky by the time Jeannine got there— it cast a marigold bloom across the stoney front of the estate.

Jeannine was inside of the château shortly after, just as the sun had tucked itself away under the horizon. Her line of work made that part easy, too. Jaques Bernard had not returned yet, so she waited on top of the balcony overlooking the front atrium. Up there she was head-height with a gold and crystal chandelier. The raw materials alone would fetch her… maybe a couple hundred-thousand franc?

She was contemplating the best way to lug an eighty-pound chandelier when Jaques and Charlie returned. Oddly, Jaques was conversing with a strung up pheasant.

"… to eat you tonight you little poo poo-bird, yeah, my enzymes are going to be all over you, you stupid little …"

Jaques had walked through the atrium to the kitchen, but Charlie did not follow. The dog sat down next to the doorway, and, sensing Jeannine, looked up with its polished eyes and began to rhythmically pant.

_______


They walked side-by-side towards the direction of home. The night sky illuminated the entire country in starlight, and a flock of silhouettes flew past the moon.

"You know, if he ever pisses me off again, then next time I'm going to steal that entire château," Jeannine said.

Charlie gave out a friendly bark.

“Hey, tomorrow's Easter, you know," Jeannine said. “We can lay off the partridges… but we will definitely try to hunt you some eggs.”

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Flashrule: The job was a setup, only not that kind of setup.

The Midas Blade
1,551

Desi paced the alleyway behind Greenteeth Tower, occasionally glaring up at the taunting black windows of Puck’s penthouse. She pulled her hood lower over her face. Puck had once told her that every camera in the building could see right through Glamour. That was back when he was still trying to impress her, the filthy, back-stabbing, two timing thief. Of course, she was also a thief, but this was different. They had stolen the Midas Blade together. And after a celebratory glass of champagne—in newly minted golden glasses—she had woken up in a jail cell, and Puck was back home, with the sword and a new girlfriend ensconced in the luxury condo above her. But now he was showing off to the new girl in Paris, and the Midas Blade wouldn’t pass through customs undiscovered, so it was time for her to get hers. But where the hell was her mother?

The clip-clop of horse hooves sounded at the end of the alley, and Desi faded back into the shadows, wings tense, ready to spring into the air if necessary. It was suspiciously late for a horse drawn carriage to be out. Then she saw it was her mother. And a centaur.

“What is he doing here?” Desi hissed.

“Don’t be rude Desdemona," her mom said. "This is Robin.”

“Enchanté” said the centaur, and instead of shaking her hand he lifted it to his lips and pressed a damp kiss to the back of it. Because Desi was petite, and Robin was, well, a centaur, this very nearly pulled her right up off the ground. She glowered even harder at her mother.

“I told you I would find a way to break that runic code that maid said Puck put around the sword,” she said. “Robin knows runic, and he’s getting his Ph.D in coding at Princeton! Isn’t that something?”

“As in computer coding?” Desi asked. Her mom looked blank, but Robin nodded. “You realize that’s a completely different thing, right?”

“Deciphering a code is merely a matter of developing the right algorithm,” Robin said loftily, but not particularly convincingly.

“I thought you would like…find a book. Or charm the guy who made the code.”

“I thought of doing that, but then Thistleblossom mentioned her nephew—adopted obviously—spoke runic, and I thought, well that’s so much easier, isn’t it?”

Desi thought not, but saw no point in saying so. She turned to the service door and took out her picks. It was too bad you couldn’t just charm a door, but there was satisfaction in doing things manually as well. With the silent ease of a familiar partner, her mom leaned against the wall, blocking Desi’s hands from sight to the West, and keeping watch on the entrance of the alley to the East. Out of the corner of her eye, Desi saw her smile, and knew she was thinking “just like old times, eh?” Desi smiled, too. As she jiggled the shims, her mom managed to make Robin understand that he should also be keeping a lookout.

Inside, Desi started up the stairs, but Robin balked at the door.

“I don’t do stairs,” he said.

“What do you mean you don’t do stairs?” Desi demanded.

“Horses, cows, centaurs; we don’t do stairs.”

Desi was glad to see even her mother looking dumbfounded by this revelation.

“Well, if we both take him under one arm,” her mother said, tentatively, and without making eye contact, “we can probably all get to the roof.”

If this had been any other job, if she could have been sure that Puck would go out of town again soon, if basically anything at all had been other than what it was, she would have left right then and there. Instead, she wriggled under Robin’s arm, and on the count of three, her and her mom both started beating their wings. He wasn’t the heaviest thing they had ever carried. The Vault of Ophelia had been heavier, but not by much. And they hadn’t been flying it straight up twelve stories. And it hadn’t gone on the whole time about how rare it was to find both strength and beauty in a woman. If her mom hadn’t been holding his other arm, she would have been sorely tempted to let go.

On the roof, Desi shook out her arms and rubbed her aching shoulders. When Robin came up behind her and offered a massage, she sidestepped faster than humanly possible.

“You look stunning in the moonlight, Desdemona,” he said. “Even more beautiful than in the pictures your lovely mother showed me.”

“Really?” Desi asked, between clenched teeth. “The pictures my lovely mother showed you?”

If looks could kill, her mom would be dead. Her mom looked guilty for a split second, but then smoothed her face into an innocent smile that didn’t fool Desi one bit. She dismissed Desi’s anger with a graceful hand wave.

“You know how proud I am of you, dear,” she said. “I can’t help showing you off sometimes.”

“Mother, why don’t you and I go open the skylight, and then we can figure out how to get a centaur into Puck’s apartment.” She did not wait until they were entirely out of Robin’s earshot before continuing. “Did you seriously, seriously bring him on this job to try to set me up with him? What were you thinking?”

“Well, you and Puck have been separated for a while, and you just don’t seem to be moving on.”

“Mom, this job isn’t about Puck, it’s about the Midas Blade.”

It was definitely kind of about Puck.

“Robin is a nice boy, and he goes to Princeton! And he’s cute.”

“He isn’t a boy, mom, he’s a centaur.”

“Really, Desdemona, I thought you were more progressive than that.”

“It’s not a matter of progressiveness! It’s a matter of anatomy!”

The conversation ended when they heard Robin inching closer to eavesdrop.

“Let’s just get the sword and get out,” Desi said. They would argue later.

Once they were in, they had no trouble finding the Midas Blade. It was hanging over the fireplace. Desi's fingers trembled for it. It was so beautiful. Golden, perfect, and soon, hers. Most of the security system was old hat, she’d been lifting artifacts from museums, churches, private collections, you name it, since she was seven. First with her mom, then with Puck. Her and her mom broke it down in under two minutes. Then, there was just the Runic code to break. The keypad was cleverly built into the brick, barely visible unless you shined a light on it at the right angle. She held up her cellphone as Robin carefully studied it. His brow was furrowed, and he chewed his lip. It was not a look that inspired confidence.

“What’s wrong?” Desi demanded.

“It really is runic,” he said.

“Of course it is,” she said slowly, exchanging a horrified look with her mother.

“I thought you meant Unix and were just calling it the wrong thing. Most people don’t really understand computers very well,” he said.

Oh no. No, no no no.

“I think I’ve got it figured out though, no problem.”

“Don’t touch anything!” Desi yelled, but too late. He pushed a button.

Alarms blared, sirens flashed, and steel panels slid down over every door and window, including the skylight. A painting on the wall flipped over to reveal a TV screen. Puck’s sleepy face peered out of it. Oh god, this couldn’t be happening. Her stupid mother and her stupid, stupid idea of what was an appropriate blind date.

“Oh, Hi Desi,” Puck said. “I thought you might drop by. Hi Mrs. Juniper. Sorry about the gas. It’s non-toxic, just a sleeping agent.”

He winked at her. Desi heard the slight hissing of a gas valve, and found she already a little woozy. Though that could have just been the humiliation. Then Puck caught site of Robin, who had managed to get back to his hooves, and was gazing dazedly around the room.

“Really, Desi?” Puck said, shaking his head. “A centaur?”

As she drifted off into sleep, she thought she heard him mutter “But what about the anatomy?”

***

The jail cell was about what Desi had come to expect from jail cells. Her mom sat on a bench across from her, wiping sleep from her eyes.

“Well, you sure picked a winner,” Desi said. “Princeton, indeed.”

Her mom sniffed dismissively. “At least he didn’t gas us.”

She had a point.

Escaping was easy; they simply folded back into fairyland, and then back on the other side of town. Desi’s cellphone started ringing immediately. She didn’t even get a chance to say hello when she answered.

“Desdemona Juniper, this is Detective Moore with NYPD,” a voice boomed. “Don’t think you can get away with this. I will find you, I will catch you, and I will put you back in jail.”

She hung up before he said anything else.

“Mother,” she asked, “why are the police calling me on my fairyland cell?”

“I thought that Detective was cute,” her mother said, “so I left him your number. After all, it’s always good to have a man whose willing to chase after you.”

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RandomPauI
Nov 24, 2006



Grimey Drawer

Don Mendoza and his Sly Compatriots Strike their first Corpulent Target - 756

I, Don (Rogue) from Jabalí, shall now relate to you our tiny towns contributions, big and small, to the overthrow the vile foreign King Harold III....the tyrant [who] replaced our beloved mayor Father Montoya with the vile Louis de Poltrot….

Still, our promenade displayed our pride. Once lined with soldiers marching 15 wide by 20 deep...[their] black trichomes laced with regal blue, festooned with a white cockade not unlike the brow of the noble peacock…In their place was a less organized but no less vibrant mercado.

Though the mercado lacked the formality of infantry on parade, it still maintained a sense of order. The most reputable and respected merchants operated from bright red stalls, arranged back-to-back in two columns of ten….The poorer vendors sold their wares at the edge of the street from duller yellow tents and carts. And peddlers, buskers, and other hawkers of wares and services vied for attention and customers on the sidewalks: be it thru their wares, their gay attire, or their persistence….

The otherwise lazy Poltrot treated the mercado as his own personal fiefdom and it was here that he bared his thuggish nature like teeth. Each week he would pick on several vendors to fulfill his every whim and demand, offering no compensation in return. This demeaning abuse of authority continued without interruption for several months until my compatriots and I decided to attack the petty tyrant.

I was at the market that fateful day. Poltrot “collected” a live chicken as “tax” and forced another vendor to dress and roast it. Poltrot even screamed at the unwilling cook “your dog turns the rotisserie too fast, turn it by hand!” I knew that Poltrot would be spent the next hour or so mocking the poor cook. So I ran straight to the house my compatriots and I were renting.

“The swine is taunting Senor Cruz” I screamed as I scrambled into our den. “Poltrot stole a chicken and is forcing Senor Cruz to cook it. He will be there for a good thirty minutes at least!”. We ran to grab our tools for revenge, crude disguises and a wretched mixture of fat and paint to coat Poltorot with.

Unbeknownst to my fellows, I would also carry length of pipe. And I had on my belt a sheathed dagger to finish the deed if the pipe weren’t enough. We hadn’t yet applied my disguise when we heard a heavy wrapping from the door. Constable Armendariz had arrived.

“I beg your patience, I will be there in a moment” I screamed, my co-conspirators jumping thru an open window and out into a dark alleyway. “Open up the door now Luiz!” he replied. I opened the door, and could only trust my compatriots to drag Poltrot down in one way or another. He grabbed me by the wrist, dragging me back into my “gambling den” and throwing me to the ground. “Stay down!” he barked as he grabbed my bag, filling it with cards, dice, chips, and money. Then there was silence.

Some minutes later a whistle blew coming from the direction of the mercado. Armendariz once again grabbed me by the wrist, demanding complete silence and obedience. I found myself compelled to obey as if for fear of my life. We proceeded to run towards what I could only hope was the corpse of Poltrot.

Alas, he was not dead nor mained. He was merely covered in a foul mixture of grease, lard, paint, and feathers which this final insult would be the only insult.

“Did you catch him, did you catch the brute!” Poltrot cried.

“I’ve only just arrived but I’m certain my men are scouring the area for your foul attacker.” Armendariz replied

“And who is this with you?” Poltrot screeched in reply “What is his role in this?”

Armendariz’s reply was firm, definitive, and authoritative; “I caught this one with his miscreant friends, profaning the day with gambling.” He said, rummaging thru the sack and pulling out a loose card from the bag.

And so Poltrot sobbed his orders to Armendariz; “Give them the maximum punishment! Help me up, conduct your investigation, and punish everyone involved!”

Armendariz glared at me, shoved his face into mine, and grumbled “that was a dangerous game, there’s more at risk then your soul.” Then he shoved me down onto the ground “Report to the jail! If you don’t there’ll be hell to pay!”. I ran off to follow the instructions while the good constable helped the evil pig off the ground.

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