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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

WHO LOVES BLOOD SODA?
KEL LOVES BLOOD SODA!


I do. I do. I do-oo.


boomtown and because im an awful flake, i'll in

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ADBOT LOVES YOU

BabyRyoga
May 21, 2001

THUNDERDOME LOSER

6th Anniversary Edition


I'd like in with The Zoo

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


Awww yeah who was a cojudge for SebMojo vs Flerp and didn't understand metaphors! THIS GUY!


Crits are here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing


You know when I co-judged I was thi-

sebmojo posted:

Write a good story first

nking that huh, brawls aren't all that tense. I mean of course, the top two mem-

sebmojo posted:

pick your monster you impossible whining giblet

e: better

bers of thunderdome are going to post a story. So what are we really putting on the line?

sebmojo posted:

jesus don't be such a snivelling weeble, crits are good, keep doing them, don't flounce


Huh, makes you think what else you could put on the line in a brawl to make it tense?

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


QuoProQuid posted:

boomtown and because im an awful flake, i'll in

Relationship: Grew up together back East
Relationship: Tradesman and customer (wheelwright, barber)
Relationship: Siblings
Location: The hanging tree, out in the hills
Object: A mortician's black bag and a jug of phenolic acid
Need: To get laid by an ambitious and beautiful saloon girl
Tilt: Pain, followed by confusion

BabyRyoga posted:

I'd like in with The Zoo

Relationship: The last two who know what really happened
Relationship: Volunteers hired as scapegoats
Relationship: Ape Escape keeper and Monkeyland keeper
Location: Steam tunnels under the zoo grounds
Object: Ill-trained raptor without its hood
Need: To get even in a way the whole city will appreciate
Tilt: Two people cross paths and everything changes

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat


Gravy Boat 2k

Exmond posted:

Huh, makes you think what else you could put on the line in a brawl to make it tense?

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Exmond posted:

Huh, makes you think what else you could put on the line in a brawl to make it tense?

lol

Yes, I will certainly brawl you to get my av back. You may choose the prompt.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Feb 22, 2018 around 02:25

starr
May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless


In with Jet City.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


sebmojo posted:

lol

Yes, I will certainly brawl you to get my av back. You may choose the prompt.

I'm in, Can we make deadline March 3rd?

Prompt is.. META YORK CITY whe-

Oh I just heard we got no judges

Prompt is a place where stories turn into characters, so take Death of a story but get rid of all the TD Meta references.

Winner gets a new avatar of their choosing

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

March 9th is better for me,

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Thunderdome Week 288 (Middle-School Jams Week): Crits

Before I do specific crits, I want to talk about a few mechanical issues that came up repeatedly last week. These are (or should be) old hat, but seeing them in multiple stories made me want to mention them again:

1) "It's," with the apostrophe, is an abbreviation for "it is." "Its," with no apostrophe, is the possessive of "it." I know this mistake is extremely easy to make when you're writing quickly, but "it's/its" errors are intensely irritating to me, especially when there are multiples of them. Please be careful with this.

2) Let's talk about dialogue tags and formatting, the TD issue that never dies! There are two big things here. First, if you're moving from dialogue to tag, please use a comma (or question mark or exclamation point, if appropriate) before the ending quotation mark. Don't use a period unless the sentence is actually ending without a tag, and don't just end the quotation without punctuation. If any of this is unclear, there are many good resources online for dialogue grammar help; please use them.

Second: when writing a conversation, every new speaker needs to be speaking in their own paragraph, however short their dialogue is. When the speaker changes, the paragraph changes. However staccato this makes the rhythm of your story, it is infinitely more readable than a giant paragraph of back-and-forth dialogue from multiple characters.

Yoruichi, "The Sun's Last Light"

The elephant in the room: this piece is basically fanfic. I respect that you've done your own interpretation of some of the elements of the song, but this is way too much of a rewrite of the narrative of your prompt song. Sorry.

The actual story, I think, is decent enough, if in a decidedly melodramatic mode -- I feel like I've read this "character tries to 'protect' a character who doesn't need/want protecting via a complicated misunderstanding, drama ensues" dynamic any number of times, and it'd be nice if there were a little more going on here than this well-trod ground. That said, if you accept that this story is not really dealing with emotional realism or novelty, I think it's a decent enough read. I appreciate that it's a dynamic story, with a lot of stuff happening and characters making decisions, and that things move along briskly. That said, there's way too much exposition in the first paragraph; it might have been better to show the way the EMP batons work in a fight scene, both to cut the exposition and increase the narrative heft of the action segments.

(Why are Yoshimi and Haruki sparring with live EMP batons, anyway? That doesn't seem like a good idea.)

Ninjalicious, "The Crystal Skull (etc.)"

Dialogue grammar. Dialogue grammar. Dialogue grammar. This story has a fair number of problems, but the issues with the dialogue are what really took it from being mid-low to being the loser. The entire section with the hiker and the hippy really sunk this; the dialogue is exposition-heavy, and the mechanical issues make it hard to read or parse, especially when you have a book title in quotation marks in the same paragraph with dialogue. If you're not clear on the mechanics, please, read up and get a grip on them before the next TD entry that has two characters talking to each other.

The other issue with this story is that pretty much nothing actually happens. This kind of shaggy-dog story, where a potentially interesting thing is set up and then doesn't happen (or turns out to be a dream -- "it was only a dream!" is considered a cliche bad ending for a reason), is extremely hard to do in a way that isn't irritating to readers, and I honestly don't think it's worth the effort. Note that "nothing actually happens" and "the skull isn't really magical" aren't synonyms here; you could easily have the skull just be an object and the vortex thing be bullshit and still have the hiker have an interesting or life-changing experience in the process of exploring them. It just didn't happen here. This story needed more of a presence from the main character, some kind of internal conflict or growth to contrast with the lack of any external development.

On that subject, a minor pet peeve: as one of the other judges pointed out, why exactly is the main character unnamed? If you're writing about someone in the third person, it helps the reader a lot to give them a name, even if it's not important.

On the positive side, I think there's some good descriptive language here, although I would caution you to use it in moderation. Heavy descriptive language works best when it's a spice, not the whole meal. The line about blazing sun reflecting like earthbound starlight should probably have been cut; it's a lot to lay on a reader before you try to describe the skull, which should be the focus. That said -- I really like your setting descriptions a lot, and I think you can do good work in giving a sense of place to your stories. I'd just like to see you shore up your characters and plot.

Jay W. Friks, "Heaven"

Here's the thing about this sort of complicated metaphysical story: there's a much higher burden on the writing to keep the reader interested and engaged. Esoteric material is naturally harder to follow, so the writing has to be better to compensate -- both to help the reader follow the story and to help the reader maintain focus and interest. What this means is that lines like this kill your story dead:

I erased it’s sound so I didn’t have to hear it’s whines.

Two "it's/its" errors in one sentence, early in the story, would be bad and dangerous for anything, no matter how engaging the premise. For a complicated premise that requires a lot of investment, and where I need to have faith that the writer will match my investment with their own skill? Fatal. I'd have stopped reading there if I weren't judging this week.

The other killer with this story for me is the POV changes. Changing first-person narrators, and then changing between first and third, can be tricky at the best of times, but when the action and characterization is already opaque, it's just too drat disorienting. I shouldn't be putting mental energy into figuring out who the hell is talking in a story that wants me to think about deeper things.

The action is a little confusing, but what I can piece together suggests it's also kind of threadbare. You've got the man, who has ascended (how?) into a sort of godhood that's either fundamentally limited by his nature or limited by his personal mental scope (which? how? why?), and his shadow-self, which he casts away from himself. He whiles away forever loving with his old self and environs, eventually failing to recognize that his subject is himself, and then his shadow rises up out of exile to pull him down into the dark, the end? There are some neat-ish ideas here, and I'm kind of curious about what's going on with this guy's godhood, but I'm not convinced it really adds up to anything aside from an incredibly basic story of hubris. If you want to go complex, go authentically complex; don't cloak very simple things under elaborate format screws.

Ironic Twist, "Spit in the Ocean"

I like this piece a lot. I feel like there's a very good use of the "spaces between" concept here -- both in terms of literal geography and in terms of the protagonist's emotional state. The end of relationships and romantic alienation is a pretty common theme, but this piece uses it well and feels real.

On a meta-crit level, I want to comment a bit on this story's use of twist/anticlimax compared to the Crystal Skull story above. On the surface, you can make an argument that this has the same problem as the Crystal Skull does: that the apparent buildup (the skull is magic, Gerry dies) doesn't actually come true, and the reveal (the skull magic was a dream, Gerry's alive and the bottle is filled with cigarette ash) is mostly a return to status quo. The difference, though, is that the events in this story matter and have meaning for the protagonist, even if they're not what we expected. (It helps that the reader's expectation and what actually plays out have a clear thematic connection -- Gerry being literally dead vs. Gerry being metaphorically dead to the protagonist.) We also get the interlude with the jogger and the ashes on the bridge, which is legitimately worth reading on its own, instead of the anticlimax of the nameless hiker just walking away. This story is a really good lesson in how to do this sort of limited-action/anticlimax story well, with strong themes and characters to carry the piece.

Exmond, "Story of a Muse"

This story is the trickiest of the low end for me, because while I think there's more good here than in the rest of the negative-mention pile, it also has a lot of different problems, some of them very fundamental. I found reading it to be a pretty frustrating experience, especially towards the end.

Let's begin by talking about Sara. My major issues with Sara can be summed up in one phrase: "Manic Pixie Dream Girl." The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a popular if oft-derided fiction archetype of a quirky, cheery female character who exists to bring joy and magic into another (resigned/cynical/tired, almost always male) character's life, generally with no personality beyond quirks and no character arc of her own. Sara fits this archetype uncomfortably closely. She has a dream, but it's extremely abstract and really only serves in the story to get her into the protagonist's orbit and justify her relationship with the protagonist; she has some broadly-defined ideals, but no real emotional depth, needs, or development. She's more a prop than a character, and it's impossible to get emotionally invested in her relationship with the protagonist when she's obviously just there for the protagonist's development. It doesn't help that her backstory, what little we get of it, is mostly confusing. She and the protagonist have a history, apparently, and she was the one who first inspired him... but she doesn't have any talents of her own? The other inhabitants of this whimsical homeless camp have to train her? What?

(Incidentally, I am not a big fan of the "whimsical homeless camp" thing. It's straight out of the cliche factory, right down to the extra-whimsical homeless person named Ol' Somethin', and it romanticizes a very real and painful societal problem. I realize your setting is a metaphor, but it ends up being more clunky and distracting than it needs to be.)

Sara being such an abstract non-entity really comes into focus during the scene where she and the protagonist are talking about the Big Ideas of the story. This scene is intensely tell-y; we've basically got the protagonist expositing his viewpoint, then Sara expositing hers, without any real characterization or attempt at demonstrating the ideals with concrete details. If the protagonist actually told the story of the dress and the seamstress, and Sara actually had a concrete goal to share to demonstrate why she wants to go to the city, the scene would probably be salvageable -- and those stories could be used for the making-the-jacket segment, as well, instead of the weird digression about laughter on Mars that as far as I can tell has nothing to do with anything else going on. It's a shame, because the jacket-making and the "tailor of tales" concept is the most interesting part of this story, and it'd be nice if it was more closely connected to the whole.

And then, of course, we have the ending, where the Manic Pixie Dream Girl becomes a Manic Pixie Dead Girl. The first issue here is that this is another manifestation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, which frequently involves the girl being terminally ill or otherwise disposable once she's changed the male protagonist's life; killing off Sara demonstrates very clearly that the story doesn't really care about her or her dream, just the effect she had on the protagonist. The next issue is that this really isn't foreshadowed at all. There's no implication prior to this that the alley inspiration exchange process is dangerous, so Sara getting shot there comes out of nowhere, and it creates that uncomfortable and stereotypical "welp, wrapping the story up, someone's gotta die" Thunderdome ending that many others have commented on before. Finally, Sara dying undercuts the themes of the story really badly. Sara has a dream, and she offers inspiration to a tired and cynical protagonist... and then she dies painfully and meaninglessly, nothing comes of it, and the protagonist's cynicism is vindicated. The end, no moral? Or is the moral "don't try and don't get your hopes up?" I know you mentioned in your livecrit that it's supposed to be about the process of creating and discarding ideas, but Sara doesn't read as an idea being discarded to strengthen a whole; she reads as a creator being killed by an indifferent world. Shades of the worst parts of Meta York City, the nasty bitterness and the sour grapes. Not a good look.

I have to be honest, Exmond -- like I said in that crit, I really am not sure the meta thing is working out. Writing about art and writing to an audience of writers, who all have their own opinions on art and craft, creates a very hard sell, and I feel like focusing on this sort of meta thing is distracting you from the emotional core of stories. If this story were about what's happening on its surface -- a world-weary character encountering an old friend/love who's trying to rise in the world again, finding inspiration from helping them, and then having to deal with their success or failure -- without any trace of the meta, it would be much stronger! (You probably don't want the dreamer to get gunned down, still, but ignore that for now.) Focus on fundamentals. Focus on selling a good story on its own merits, not meditating on Big Ideas About Art. Focus on character and arc. You can do better work than this.

SurreptitiousMuffin, "Fire-gilding"

To get the obvious out of the way first: this is more a vignette than a story and is more or less plotless. Reactions to this vary a lot, and I think that's fair, but personally, I think this works very well. It's a very brief piece, but what you have here gets across an intriguing setting and a few good snippets of character; I appreciate that the throughline of the old woman probably wasting the life she was so worried about isn't hammered in, because it works better more subtly. (I also appreciate, sincerely, that the Bad Clocks are just bad and not malevolent or spooky; it would have been very easy to go with a standard creepy beat here, but the fact that you didn't makes this story more interesting and subtle.) I enjoyed reading this, and it stayed with me; there's a lot to ponder and mull over in this short piece.

Chili, "I Am Melinda"

This is a story with a lot of nice little parts, but I'm not sure it adds up to much. I feel like a problem with it is that the setup fundamentally prepares the reader for a puzzle story -- what's going on with this weird narrator? What exactly is the deal with Melinda and her illness? Wait, is Melinda the symptom and not the sufferer? -- when the story itself isn't actually concerned with the explanations for this. The lack of explanation feels unsatisfying to the reader, because in a way we've been misdirected about the story's intentions. It really isn't considered with what's going on, just that Kima is starting to find herself and recover in a supportive therapeutic environment... which is nice, but it's not what the reader was hoping for. There are still some parts of this that I'm not sure I get -- the color perception issue? The lightning? -- and I'm not sure if they're red herrings or not.

Little bits that I liked: the bit with the balloon is clever, and I appreciate that the fat bully/adversary characters gets a name and a little sympathy. (In general, it's nice to see a psychiatric facility depicted as generally positive and caring, although I'm not surprised by this given that you're a professional in the field.) The "omniscient" Melinda voice is a little flaky and half-assed, but I think that's appropriate given the fact that Melinda isn't really omniscient, just the persona of a scared and overwhelmed adolescent. The animal facts do seem like things a kid would fixate on to demonstrate intelligence and global awareness, so I think that works.

Benny Profane, "A Te Deum"

This one left me a little cold initially, although I think it's a technically strong piece. To repeat my thought from above (which may become a refrain), I think I was expecting different things from this story than it was intended to deliver. I was expecting some kind of twist (which we sort of get, but at the midpoint) and for the Admiral to get some sort of comeuppance, since I found him so instantly unlikable... but, much like the Tom Lehrer song it's inspired by, this is really a story about illustrating a distasteful/scary concept, not about subverting it. Once I came to grips with that, this piece worked a lot better for me.

To me, the highlight of this is the well-observed small details. I particularly liked the chief cargo cultist's shell "medals" and the description of the sacrificial "observational" boats, but there's a lot of nice descriptive language throughout. It gives the story some character when it would be very easy for it to turn into cardboard.

Thranguy, "Options"

To continue with weird crit refrains... like "A Te Deum" above, this is a well-executed piece that initially fell a little flat for me. Also like "A Te Deum," I was looking for a twist, but in this case I'm a little more disappointed that it didn't come. The scenario here is very stock, and I felt like the options the protagonist was being given were also quite standard for the setup, as was his ultimate decision to walk away from both. I still worry that this story doesn't really bring a ton new to the table.

That said, Thunderdome is not always about novelty, and this story earned its HM on the strength of the execution. It's a good model of working at a good scale for a Thunderdome entry, which is slightly a cliche but also works: a small cast, a single evocative situation, and a meaningful choice to make. Not really any ambitious creative decisions here, but the creative decisions are probably the ones that are most appropriate for a tight-deadline flash fiction contest, and the actual execution is pure skill.

spectres of autism, "Chrystostomos"

The prose in this story is lovely, and I think it would have been a contender for a positive mention if I had been able to wrap my brain around the plot. This one stuck with me, and I gave it a lot of thought, but ultimately, I'm just still not sure what happens. The basic beats are semi-clear -- the protagonist, presumably Nahuatl, is fleeing from an enemy that has routed his tribe; a friend/kinsman saves him, only for them both to be killed/"killed?", then they're teleported to... an arena, or something? And made to fight? And they do? And the enemy is sort of described like they could be Spanish conquistadors, which would fit with history, but the conquistadors were not known for having interdimensional arenas? I really wish I could tell what the last half-to-third of this story is about, or what it means, because there's a lot of intriguing stuff here. The detail of the protagonist being driven by a "divine" voice that turns out to just be messages from his hunters/tormentors is particularly sad and evocative.

Man, I feel really stupid writing crit that's basically "I don't get this one," but I really don't get this one. I wish I did. What I get, or think I get, I like a lot -- it's just not enough.

curlingiron, "Promise of the Sky"

Boy, I like this one, and I'm worried I don't have a lot of concrete crit to mention about it. I like the striking visuals, and while I didn't want to make this explicitly an adolescence-themed week, I appreciate the way that the characters' age is used here -- the way that the events of the story parallel the progression of first love, from initial excitement and fear to that sinking feeling when you realize that your beloved is still a separate person from you, the magnification of differences until every one of them is a crisis, the way that things resolve or fall apart almost beyond your control. "Not everything happens for a reason," indeed. It feels very emotionally real, even as the situation itself is far from it. For characters who are mostly just broad sketches, Shannon and Ami have enough characterization that they feel realistic and their reactions feel appropriate and natural.

If I have critique of this story, it's mostly that I wish we'd seen a few moments closer up, instead of the broad overview that we get. It'd be nice to have some dialogue or a few more concrete actions from the girls. The treatment of time is also slightly wonky -- if they lose track so quickly, why do we then get a concrete reference to "the seventh day?" Better to go without, I think, or to have time more rigorously tracked throughout. (Or have that be a conflict -- something else from the old world that Shannon is holding onto and Ami thinks she would be better off discarding?)

That's all a little nitpicky, though. This story has beautiful surreal imagery and emotional realism, and that's delightful.

Fumblemouse, "The Edge of the Machine"

Of the two Dean and Simon stories this week -- and let's be honest, I'm not going to be able to crit either of them without alluding to the fact that they're clearly a pair -- this is the one that I think is worse-written but more independent as a piece. It works as a largely successful character sketch, although I feel like the humor occasionally falls a bit flat (the gag surrounding Simon's death is kind of wooden), and it feels a bit surface-level, albeit in a way I'm not sure isn't intentional. At least, I'm assuming that one of the points here is that Dean and Simon are living unexamined lives and often suffering for it.

There's a definite refrain of machines here, as a sort of framing device for the vignettes, and I'm kind of grappling with it because I'm not sure if I'm reading it properly. The impression I get is that, while Simon and Dean probably believe themselves to be trapped by the "machine" of society to some degree or another, a lot (if not most) of their problems are really of their own making -- the products of drifting through life, making bad alcohol- and drug-related decisions, and scraping by. If that's intentional, great! If the intention is more that their problems are caused by outside forces, you might want to reinforce that more, possibly by giving them more troubles that aren't "oops I got sloshed and hosed up" or "oops I'm drinking to forget that I live in society."

Overall, it's a decent piece, but I think I would have appreciated a little more depth. I get that Dean and Simon aren't quite the type to get philosophical, but if these are meaningful moments for them, why not show that off a bit?

apophenium, "Peak Performance"

This piece is a bit rough around the edges in general, but it's the ending that really sunk it. I'm of two minds about the ending, myself, but mostly negative. On one hand, I do appreciate that the protagonist doesn't die, which would be the easy cliche way to end this story... on the other hand, the way it ends is way too low-stakes, where the protagonist has a weird but generally positive/trivial experience. I feel like we honestly needed something in the middle, where the protagonist is meaningfully changed by his encounter with Equus Ferus Theater, and not just in a nebulous "they might call you back for more weird lucrative experiences!" way. A story can have teeth without being fatal. This needed teeth.

Other issues: the pacing is kind of strange. Why do we spend so much time on the buildup to the location? To establish that this thing is weird/far out, okay, but there's still too much emphasis here. I'm also wondering what's up with the monologue our protagonist gives, what's so important to him about this squire story that it's his big method piece, and that comes to the problem that the protagonist is a complete blank slate besides "ambitious (?) method actor." If you want a Twilight Zone story like this to work, the main characters have to have really obvious personalities and desires -- better to go too big and broad than to write ciphers, because nobody really cares what happens to ciphers in stories like this.

Finally... seriously, what's going on with the Equus Ferus director here? There's clearly not an actual show being cast, so is the point just to collect entertaining puppets? Is this all just about jerking people around? "Creative type goes to elaborate ends to jerk people around" is maybe a little on the nose for Thunderdome, I think, and it's also not really all that compelling. Twilight Zone antagonists don't necessarily have to have novel motivations -- hell, half the time they're just the Devil -- but they should feel a little clearer and less arbitrary than this.

sebmojo, "Boarded Up on Memory Lane"

This is another hard piece to write crit about, because in my opinion, its biggest weakness is that it's paired with the other Dean and Simon story and has more problems standing up on its own. Taken as its own story, it's decent enough but has some pretty weird leaps of logic, especially at the beginning, and ends in a somewhat disbelief-straining coincidence... but taken as the sequel to Fumblemouse's piece, presumably taking place on the day of Simon's funeral, and everything clicks into place, from Dean's nausea to Simon's convenient arrival at the end of the story. It offers a lot of the introspection that the other piece failed to deliver, too. As part of a matched set, it's brilliant. As its own thing, it's occasionally confusing, and there's a definite feeling of the reader not quite being in on the joke.

While I don't think the story is as successful as it could be, I do really love its response to the spaces-between prompt and its general musings on memory and old friendship. As with curlingiron's piece before it, there's something very emotionally real, but at the other end of the spectrum: a long-established connection that's more about shared history than about the present, as opposed to new connections and epiphanies. This one, curlingiron's, and Twist's pieces this week really hit what I was hoping for with this part of the prompt, so thank you for that.

Antivehicular fucked around with this message at Feb 22, 2018 around 03:49

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Grimey Drawer

Thanks for the crits, super helpful!

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


starr posted:

In with Jet City.

Relationship: Bigfoot hunters
Relationship: Hot shot and nobody
Relationship: Random hookup from The Stranger personals
Location: Artisanal cheesemonger's van
Object: Aluminum shorty baseball bat
Need: To get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness
Tilt: A good plan comes unraveled

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


Chili posted:

Thanks for the crits, super helpful!

Hell yeah, thanks AV

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


sebmojo posted:

March 9th is better for me,

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION

Exmond posted:

the top two members of thunderdome

oh drat there are rankings??? let me see them rankings

Sham bam bamina!
Nov 6, 2012

ƨtupid cat


Gravy Boat 2k

BeefSupreme posted:

oh drat there are rankings??? let me see them rankings
There are rankings, but neither sebmojo nor flerp are in the top two.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION


hell, i'm ranked higher than flerp

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

BeefSupreme posted:

hell, i'm ranked higher than flerp

I'm number one in failures and that's waht counts

e:

dammit

26 Failures Djeser
25 Failures sebmojo
23 Failures newtestleper
21 Failures magnificent7
21 Failures Phobia
20 Failures QuoProQuid
19 Failures flerp

ee:

VVVV DAMMIT VVVV

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Feb 22, 2018 around 09:03

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


sebmojo posted:

I'm number one in failures and that's waht counts

e:

dammit

26 Failures Djeser
25 Failures sebmojo
23 Failures newtestleper
21 Failures magnificent7
21 Failures Phobia
20 Failures QuoProQuid
19 Failures flerp

if you count my old username, im actually in the lead there

Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

In, Mission to Mercury.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Thank you to all the week 288 judges for their crits, much appreciated.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Chainmail Onesie posted:

In, Mission to Mercury.

Relationship: Shared faith
Relationship: Hard worker and layabout
Relationship: Two-of-a-kind misanthropes
Location: Peaks of Eternal Light, Chao Meng Fu crater
Object: Override codes for the teleoperated utility robot
Need: To get the truth about the locked box in the storm shelter
Tilt: A stupid plan, executed to perfection

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

Salem 1692, please

cptn_dr
Sep 7, 2011

It's just so good!


I'm in for my first ever Thunderdome. Throw it at me.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION

Exmond posted:

Oh I just heard we got no judges

idk what the hell this prompt is but i'll drop the hammer of judgment on this thing if you'd like

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

BeefSupreme posted:

idk what the hell this prompt is but i'll drop the hammer of judgment on this thing if you'd like

We will self judge, if we disagree your decision is final.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

crabrock posted:

i'll get neth's SS box out this week

did this

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Signups close in six hours or so. Join or don't!

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Salem 1692, please

Relationship: Former minister of Salem and his last tie to the town
Relationship: Master and slave
Relationship: Secret Catholic and close friend
Location: Barn loft where that boy died
Object: A board and 2 tons of heavy stones
Need: To be a good Christian by steadfastly resisting this temptation
Tilt: Love rears its ugly head

cptn_dr posted:

I'm in for my first ever Thunderdome. Throw it at me.

Dehumanize yourself and face to Pen Show!
Relationship: Calligraphers by day, drunk calligraphers by night
Relationship: Retired astronaut and paving contractor
Relationship: Millionaire collector and hundredaire collector
Location: Outside the hotel, beneath a dying apple tree in the moonlight
Object: Room key
Need: To get the pen and thereby get the boy
Tilt: An out of control rampage

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I won a rosette in the Thunderdome


Signups are closed. Stories are due in just under 48 hours. One judge slot remains!

apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


apophenium v. Exmond Brawl

The Ghoul King of Panoply
824 Words

The Ghoul King of Panoply eyed Madison as she did what most new ghosts did: “boo”ing, not “boo-hoo”ing. His lazy omnipotence had picked up on her plight years ago, before that diseased beggar had coughed on her. Daddy issues. Big time.

Sobbing, Madison said, “Father hasn’t come to look at my portrait at all since I died. It’s like he doesn’t even care.” Glowing green snot spilled out of her face.

Aprés put on his most soothing voice. “Now, now, my sweet. Tell me about it.”

“I don’t think my father loved me. Once mom died and he took on that new mistress--. Hey, who are you?” Madison turned to look at the Ghoul King. Her bubbling anger was like a wonderful fountain, mesmerizing the King.

“My name is Aprés. That’s a pretty portrait. Did you father pay to have it done?”

Madison’s eyes widened at Aprés’s question and her sobs ceased. “Yes, he hired the best painter in town.”

“Well now, he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t loved you.” Aprés moved beside Madison and took her hand. “Why don’t you come with me and visit my friends. You’ll forget all about your father.”

***

Aprés relished Madison’s awe at the sight of Panoply. He had made it himself over the eons. A perfect palace for all his perfect brides. Madison rushed up its stairs, knocked on its door. Aprés willed it open, giggling at Madison’s gasp of delight.

He lead her to her room, past all the others. Transfixed by the chandeliers, carpets, clocks, and chairs, she neglected to ask what was in the rooms. Once inside her chamber, Aprés began to explain the situation.

“Now that you’re in Panoply you will have no reason to ever leave. You are free to, of course. But-” He gestured and a shiny grand piano appeared. “You can pursue any and all interests you like. You wish is my command.” He spread his arms in a placating gesture. ”All you must do is love me.”

Having forgotten now about all her earthly troubles, Madison let her imagine run wild, having Aprés summon and create all sorts of things. Imaginary creatures, new books by her favorite deceased authors, a towering stack of pancakes. Finally exhausted by the depth of Aprés’ power, she confessed her love for the Ghoul King.

***

Aprés entered Madison’s chambers humming a ditty. “What are you working on, pet?” He glanced around at the canvases lining the room, eyebrows raised. She had taken up portraiture.

“Trying to outdo my dad,” she said, quirking her tongue out of her mouth.

“Do you love me, Madison?”

“Of course Aprés, now let me paint.”

Aprés retreated. Perhaps his other pets would be excited to see him.

***

A voice called to him while he slumbered.

“You don’t have us; you never did. We have you.”

The Ghoul King started up in a terror. Whose voice was that? He spent so much time worrying over his friends and all their desires. Who could be so cruel as to plant this seed?

***

“I think I’m losing my edge, Madison. You haven’t asked for anything but paint and canvases. I have so much love for all of you, but it doesn’t feel returned.”

“You do have us locked in here. You know that, right?”

Aprés shook his head, “No,” he said, “you can leave any time you want.”

Madison tilted her head and sighed. She sat down her palette and brush--her latest portrait showed her in warrior garb, triumphant and covered in blood and grime--and walked towards the door. Aprés blocked her.

“If I can leave, get out of my way.”

Face flushing with shame, Aprés gulped. “Okay, so that was a lie,” he said. “But it’s for everyone’s good! Otherwise you’ll be so preoccupied with what’s still going on on earth. You won’t be able to move on!”

Madison shoved him, then returned to her canvas.

“You should let us decide that for ourselves.”

***

Later, while sulking in the heart of Panoply, a knock came. He opened the door to see Madison and his other charges, all looking quite perturbed.

He blinked at them.

“We’re leaving,” said Madison. “Do you wish to try to stop us?”

Aprés hesitated, then said, “All of you?” They nodded in unison, 48 ghostly girls and women. “You’ll leave me with nothing?”

“We’ll leave you with a lot of growing up to do. You’d think you’d learn something in all your eternities here.”

Aprés sunk into a deeper pit of self-loathing. As the Panoply emptied, so too did his heart.

***

Aprés stared out of Panoply’s highest window. His ex-wives, concubines, lovers, had built a building to rival the majesty of Panoply. He longed to find out what evils went on there. So many ghosts came and went, glowing with smiles and laugh. He was stuck in a bitter rage, too ashamed to act.

Their happiness can’t last. That just wouldn’t be fair.

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


Exmond vs Apophenium Brawl


A Lady Of Resources And Spirit
787 words

“Lady, I want you to haunt someone to death!” a crying girl said as she ran into the abandoned classroom, slamming the door so hard that a wood plaque hanging on the wall clattered to the ground.  The girl walked over the plaque, dived into the only clean school desk and cried.

Lady Madison looked up from her desk, putting down a hot cup of tea, and rose from her rocking chair.  It was similar, if not reversed roles when they had first met.  Her, recently dead and afraid, haunting the halls of her classroom, and Elizabeth, an orphan breaking into places where she shouldn’t be.  Her ward needed her now and she would be damned if she wouldn’t try her best.

She reached out a reassuring hand to Elizabeth, and let out a frustrated sigh as her hand passed through the child, all the warmth and comfort that she tried to offer vanishing into nothingness.  Elizabeth let out another sob, ignoring the empty rocking chair, and continued to yell incoherently at the electronic device in her hand.  Lady Madison sat by the desk and looked out at the rows of empty desks and at her ward, concern over her face.  

“What’s wrong Elizabeth?” Lady Madison asked

In response, Elizabeth raised the electronic device in her hand.  Text messages garbled out on the screen, a weird mixture of text and numbers.  More akin to a scientific formula than communication Lady Madison thought.

Elizabeth wiped her nose with the sleeve of her jean jacket and managed to sob out  “J-Jimmy broke up with me so he could take Sara to the dance!”

Ah, a girls first heartbreak.  This was a matter of the heart, and the heart is a delicate thing.  Lady Madison put a finger on her chin and thought as she looked out at the chalkboard.  Today’s lesson plan may have to be skipped.

Hot tea, warm biscuits and even the special candies she dispensed when Elizabeth learned her numbers wouldn’t heal a broken heart.  Emotional comfort, not physical comfort, was what was needed.  And oh dear, as a ghost she could nary offer a hug of reassurance than she could leave the halls of the school.

Lady Madison rose up and looked at the crying child.  She couldn’t offer a reassuring hug, she couldn’t even touch her.  But what she could offer was truth, belief in her ward and the most important thing of all; love.

“Elizabeth Chalmers.  I have seen you grow up from alley mouse to a lady of spirit and resources.  And I know you will grow into a beautiful lady, one who will carry out things only dreamed about.   Had I the means of haunting this Jimmy, I would do so.  I would haunt him until he cried for forgiveness.”  

She did not speak as a teacher would to a student, nor as a parent to a young child.  She spoke as a lady would speak to another lady.  With respect and grace.

Lady Madison took in a breath she didn’t need and continued,  “But I do not have the means, and all I can do is stand here and be with you.  This is just one more obstacle, and it won’t pass easily, but I know you have the strength to overcome it.”  She leaned down and tried futilely to grab Elizabeth's hands in hers.  ”Know that I believe in you, and more importantly, love you.”

All she could offer was words, wisdom from a teacher who had died too soon, but words that were the truth.  Lady Madison stood there, looking at her ward.  Elizabeth let out one last sniffle and looked at the empty rocking chair.

“Do you have any biscuits Lady?”

Lady Madison nodded and inclined her heads towards the plate assembled by the teacher’s desk.  Perhaps today they would skip the numbers lesson and instead move onto happier things; hot tea and biscuits.

=+=

Elizabeth grabbed the last biscuit and looked back at the empty, dusty teacher’s desk.  She picked up the wood plaque and hung it on the wall, where it would be the first thing people would see.  

“Thank you, for everything Lady. Thank you for taking me in, for making those biscuits and teaching me numbers.”

Elizabeth hesitated as if wanting to say more, but curtsied and closed the door.

Madison looked out the classroom window as Elizabeth walked away from the decrepit schoolhouse. A sense of pride filled Madison's heart and smiled as she saw the wooden plaque adorned on the wall.

Lady Madison’s school for Esteemed Ladies,
Let those who pass find comfort and peace
And the strength to be a Lady, in all situations.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

SittingSupreme brawl submission

Tear of Avalokitesvara
850 words

Princess Wisdom Moon’s childbed smelled of tears when the midwives finally coaxed her from the queen’s womb. As soon as Moon touched naked air, all the cries of the world filled her mind. Assailed by unfathomable suffering, she forgot to scream out her first breath.

By the time Moon was twelve, she’d learned to stuff the cries of the world into the back of her mind by mentally reciting arithmetic and excerpts from buddhist texts. The queen was pleased by her daughter’s diligence, and so Moon was allowed to linger at her mother's elbow and listen during audiences with her subjects.

Most supplicants were minor nobles in possession of petty complaints, and Moon thought they must be very brave or very strange to worry over small inconveniences when the whole world screamed in agony around them. After the nobles came the peasants, mud-caked and gaunt, huddled in warry knots. These brought news of famine and war, blight and disease.

The queen, in her benevolence, would wave a bejeweled hand and summon servants bearing bags of gold, which were distributed among the peasants to the applause of courtiers and nobles. Moon watched her mother give out many such boons, but the cries of the world never diminished in volume. She wondered, in a detached, innocent sort of way, why anyone bothered to have children at all when all it did was add to the screaming.

One day, a peasant came to the queen with news of a severe blight that had destroyed even the hardy millet. The queen raised her hand to summon the invariable sacks of gold, but the peasant said, “Hold, my queen! Your gold lines the pockets of bandits and innkeepers, but has done nothing to heal your land. It is said that you do not properly honor the Buddha, and so have consigned the whole realm to your karma!”

The queen stilled the court’s indignant murmurs with a look. “I make an offering to the Buddha each morning, as anyone in my household will confirm,” she said.

“Then you do not offer enough,” the peasant said gravely.

The cries of the world leapt up in response to the peasant’s words, an anxious dog rising to meet a long-awaited master. Wisdom Moon clapped her hands to her ears, helpless as the day of her birth.

“Make an offering of me, mother,” she heard herself cry.

The peasant looked between the queen and her daughter, mouth agape, clearly taken aback by Moon’s outburst.

“The Buddha doesn’t abide child sacrifice,” the queen said kindly, reaching out to stroke her daughter’s hair.

Wisdom Moon recoiled from her mother’s hand, clawed at her own ears, trying to dig out the noiseless screams that pressed out from within her. All the while, she wailed and begged her mother to give her as an offering, so the world might finally stop suffering.

Moon was locked away in a disused wing of the palace for many years. She could no longer block out the world’s screams with arithmetic or prayers as she had in her youth. In the first week of her captivity, guards had to hold her down while the servants hurriedly removed anything with an edge from her quarters, for Moon had been found trying to sacrifice chunks of her own flesh to the Buddha.

Tales of Moon’s desperate piety reached a group of ascetic monks, who traveled for months to reach the palace. When the queen finally admitted them to Moon’s chambers, they were chastened by the sight of the princess, deep in meditation and gaunt as a desiccated corpse.

The leader of the monks turned to the queen, who’d insisted on supervising the visitation, and said, “Wisdom Moon’s spirit is on the cusp of enlightenment, but her mind and body are not sufficient for the task.” He averted his eyes and continued, “We will pray that she is reborn a man, that she might attain Buddhahood.”

The queen opened her mouth to rebuke the sentiment, but Moon spoke first, her voice moth-eaten from disuse.

“Cowards,” the princess rasped. “You seek to edify yourselves through enlightenment, to stand apart from the suffering of the world.” She graced them with a stiff, dark smile. “I sit beside suffering. I am its companion, not its enemy. Perhaps this ability is unique to women.”

“Y-you are most noble,” the lead monk stammered. “I meant only that--”

“Hear me now,” Moon said. She raised her bony arms as if she were addressing all the subjects of the realm. “I will not be reborn as a man, not in the next life or any thereafter. I shall be the constant companion of suffering, until suffering is no more.”

The Moon’s eyes went wide, for as she spoke, the screaming of the world momentarily subsided, as though suffering itself had set aside its toil to listen to Moon’s proclamation.

Moon made good on her promise and stayed beside suffering until its dying day; when it finally passed away, she wept for grief and joy, and all the liberated beings of all worlds in all universes wept with her.

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

Apophenium
You kinda swerved on me there in the middle. This story isn't about Madison. It's about the neckbearded Ghoul King and his inability to understand love. Did you run out of time? It feels like you ran out of time. This story lack cohesion. It's just little snippets cut out and glued haphazardly back together. The beginning meanders as you find your footing. It gets interesting around "now let me paint." Cut everything before that section and jettison or recycle it later.

Exmond
Okay so dumb things here:
1) "Her ward needed her now and she would be damned if she wouldn’t try her best." Unnecessary and messes up the cool set up you did with the preceding sentence.
2) "let out a frustrated sigh as her hand passed through the child" What? Did she forget she was a ghost?
3) The phone thing feels out of place. If you're trying to do some dichotomy timeline poo poo of a modern girl and an oldschool teacher it didn't work. Cool idea. But it didn't feel modern except for the phone and then the phone just felt out of place
4) She can't touch the girl but she can make biscuits and tea? How?
5) I'm pretty chill with prompts but man this isn't really about poor Madison being dead and finding or not finding love now is it?

Smart things:
1) Your use of language is much improved. Lots of little things "She did not speak as a teacher would to a student, nor as a parent to a young child. She spoke as a lady would speak to another lady. With respect and grace." Very good

Apophenium wins

Exmond
May 31, 2007


im doin it ma im writing

THUNDERDOME


Tyrannosaurus posted:

Apophenium
You kinda swerved on me there in the middle. This story isn't about Madison. It's about the neckbearded Ghoul King and his inability to understand love. Did you run out of time? It feels like you ran out of time. This story lack cohesion. It's just little snippets cut out and glued haphazardly back together. The beginning meanders as you find your footing. It gets interesting around "now let me paint." Cut everything before that section and jettison or recycle it later.

Exmond
Okay so dumb things here:
1) "Her ward needed her now and she would be damned if she wouldn’t try her best." Unnecessary and messes up the cool set up you did with the preceding sentence.
2) "let out a frustrated sigh as her hand passed through the child" What? Did she forget she was a ghost?
3) The phone thing feels out of place. If you're trying to do some dichotomy timeline poo poo of a modern girl and an oldschool teacher it didn't work. Cool idea. But it didn't feel modern except for the phone and then the phone just felt out of place
4) She can't touch the girl but she can make biscuits and tea? How?
5) I'm pretty chill with prompts but man this isn't really about poor Madison being dead and finding or not finding love now is it?

Smart things:
1) Your use of language is much improved. Lots of little things "She did not speak as a teacher would to a student, nor as a parent to a young child. She spoke as a lady would speak to another lady. With respect and grace." Very good

Apophenium wins

Good brawling Apophenium!

Chainmail Onesie
May 12, 2014


LoserWinner
of "Thunder Dome!

(here you go, word spaghetti)

A Dust Mote in Sunlight
(1517 Words)

“Go, child.”

Petra’s words ring and warble in the wake of the gunshot. Her voice is sharp and acrid on the external mic of her hardsuit, her rigid stance magnified by its sweeping limbs. “What we seek is at the top of the spire. Whisper an orison if you must, but go.

Argia shakes, no matter how she prays to be still. Her gaze fixes on the spent bullet casing, lazily turning end-on-end from the arm-cannon to the bay floor. Her thoughts cling to this sight, wonder vaguely how the gravity here is just a bit stronger than on Luna- anything not to think of the Rynn’s body, crumpled at Petra’s feet. Blue spacesuit synthetics streaked from the shoulders down with blots of blackening red, box helmet punched through by Petra’s arm-cannon.

The casing lands, rolls until it catches against a floorplate. Tears lens Argia’s eyes, held back by the fear of staining her face here, in this holy place.

The communicator bead in her ear crackles with a low, familiar giggle. “Better do as she says, Argia. You might never get me, otherwise.”

“Oh, we’ll get you alright, Earther,” Petra grates, reloading the arm-cannon. With her free gauntlet, she holds up a fistful of graphite access shards. “You haven’t a single entry code to the facility. No consoles, no hardsuits, no doors. How long do you think you’ll be able to hide?”

Argia stares at the shards. A hollow sensation grips her stomach as he notes how dully they shine against the sun’s glare.

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

“The first planet from our Sun also holds its closest communion,” Petra said softly, one hand on the viewscreen, the other around Argia’s narrow shoulders. Slender fingers encircled a tiny speck on the planetary display; a small conic form washed in fields of burning light. Clear-walled bays ringed a central spire that caught the light like a blade. “Our brothers and sisters built the station at the greatest focal point of that communion, where the Eternal Light resides.”

“Why are we going there?” Argia asked, pressing her face to the glass. “Why was the station left empty for so long?”

Voight giggled behind them, strange and low, as he and Rynn crossed the ship’s axial corridor.

“Do you two have something to add?” Petra sighed, hand tightening on Argia’s shoulder by tiny increments.

Voight shrugged, loping away. Rynn slowed her pace for a moment. Her eyes were cold, held no light. “Do you ever plan on telling the girl?”

Petra fell silent. Feeling the air grow heavy, Argia turned to the display again, vision swaying with the dance of the solar rays.

A while passed, Rynn long gone to tend to the ship, when Petra next spoke. “Something was left for us there, child. Found by Lunars. For Lunars.”

Argia hesitated. “But what is it, Petra?”

Petra glanced to the corridor, violence and focus compressed in her eyes like the edge of a scalpel. “I don’t know, but our Earther allies are sent with us to fetch it.”

“And they’ll help us bring it back to Luna?”

Her mouth pressed into a taut line. “Out here, our only allies are our faith and the Sunlight.”

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

Petra points to an empty hardsuit, one of many that line the bay. “Argia. Now.”

“I-” Argia falters, tugging at the sleeve of her skinsuit. Spotless nanofabric, catching the light that streams in through the bay’s silicate outer walls. The open hardsuit’s interior is dark, its splayed braces tinged with rust and grime. Its armour plating sits ridged with the Celestial Points and the sacred Lagrange sequences- all that Argia really sees are the fine trenches of filth that line each groove. “The Earth people-”

Petra steps forward, kicking Rynn’s corpse aside. Blood spatters across her armoured boot. “Forget them. Voight is the only one left, now. ”

“But, Voight-”

“Climb in. Did I raise a coward?” Petra snaps. Her footplates heavily scrape the floor, adding sting to the wound of her words.

Something dark and murky clings to Argia’s heart as she boards the hardsuit, wincing into shadow and the stink of old sweat.

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

The lights in the control deck were low when Argia woke, curled up before the nav console. She blinked sleepily at its blinking lights, feeling at the blanket that had been cast over her.
“Voight,” she mumbled, drawing her knees up beneath her chin. “You’re awake?”

“Little girl, I’m the only one awake,” sighed Voight from the other end of the deck. A tangle of braided plugs cascaded from the ceiling to his station, wiring his skull-jack to his console. “Rynn and Petra are on sleep cycle, and, uh, you…” he giggled.

“Hey, I tried to stay awake,” Argia protested, drifting over to Voight’s console. Opcodes trailed down the screens faster than she could read them. “Wow, that’s fast. Petra always says you’re lazy.”

She idly reached for the access shards piled up at one end of the console.

Voight turned carefully, the plug wires following the tilt of his head. “Applied laziness lets you do a tremendous amount with little effort.”

Argia held two of the shards to the light, geometrically identical and veined with copper. The one in her left hand was dull and smooth, missing its component studs. “Lunar orisons tell us that that labour and effort… wait, I remember… brings us closer to the true toil of the stars.

“Yeah? My orisons tell me the most effective work is done in small, effortless things that no one will notice.”

He grinned up at her. Argia found herself grinning back.

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

The hardsuit’s braces grip Argia’s limbs, her Lunar biosignature bypassing the access lock. Powering up, the helmet display jitters and focuses in time to show Petra jet past a whole row of empty hardsuits, unloading arm-cannon rounds into their helmets one-by-one. “Come out, Earther. You can’t have gotten far.”

Static and laughter on the comms line. “You think I’m still in the bay with you?”

Something flickers at the opposite end of the bay. An entire column of hardsuits have begun to power up, their optics shimmering faintly in the sun. A few hundred mechanised fingers flex in unison.

“Petra,” Argia stammers.

“Argia, go!” Petra whirls around to fire a shot at Argia’s feet. Argia’s wail of fear rises with the whine of her jets as she leaps away. Fear carries her into a second jump up from the bay, scaling the spire astride a gout of jetfire.

Her radio picks up Petra down below, sudden and urgent. “What? Where-”

Argia turns to look down, clinging to the spire. The bay is suddenly bristling with movement, rings of unmanned hardsuits surrounding Petra, convergent on her.

“Maybe,” Voight says slowly. “Maybe I’m holding all the access keys after all, the remote access too, and you’re about to get got.”

The hardsuits pounce. Argia flings herself away from the sight, soaring up the spire. Her sobs do little to dampen the shriek of metal and flesh below.

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

The hatch at the spiretop hangs open in the blinding light, revealing little more than a bare, light-shielded cupola. Within stands a great, glowing prism, its surface clouded and roiling.

The suit’s IR display finds Voight crouched in a corner, unarmoured, his skull-jack fixed with a handful of graphite shards. They shine like crystal in the light of Argia’s headlamps.

“There were four, then three,” Voight says. His lips purse and his eyes squeeze shut, but the giggle shudders out nonetheless. “Now two.”

Something dark and murky clouds Argia’s vision as she lunges the hardsuit across the floor. When her senses return, her gauntlet cages Voight’s throat. The bulk of her suit pins his body against the wall, the antenna module a shattered stub on his bloodied scalp.

“You killed Petra!” She shrieks, the mic grinding her voice with saturation.

“She killed Rynn,” Voight’s shrug is pained, mostly lost in the hardsuit’s grasp. “Lunars made the first move, Earthers made the next.”

The giggle sputters in his throat. “Lunars seem to be on top, after all.”

“What is this thing?”

His breath grows ragged. “No idea, but it must have scared the poo poo out of the first Lunars who abandoned it here.”

Argia’s body goes cold, as she feels the heat of a steady gaze on her back.

“You know, the Lunars sending a child all this way seemed strange to me,” Voight wheezes, teeth lacquered red in his grimace. “But I get the- the feeling that thing’s been watching me since I got here, you know? And it doesn’t seem pleased.”

Argia begins to shake.

The Eternal Light.

“Those first Lunars,” Voight repeats, choking. “Maybe they- thought they should… present innocence to it. Before it could find out what-what sorts of fuckups we all really are.”

He giggles, gurgles. “But then, I don’t think we have any innocent kids with us, do we?”

Sweat and grime and blood and tears cling to Argia. They sink deep beneath her skin in the silence that follows.

It is a small motion, impulsive and effortless, that closes the gauntlet on Voight’s throat.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

Beefsupreme you have until I get to my mod buttons this evening to avoid the ban on your brawl with sitting here

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


The Second City o' a Deid Empire
1495 words

In a dark, dank lane near Central Station in the centre of Glasgow, a shady woman stood alone. It was winter and a smattering of snow covered the cobbled street. She waited and waited, all the time shivering. Out of the shadows emerged another woman dressed in sporting apparel. She looked like she hadn’t slept for days.

“It’s loving baltic,” she said, “Why do we have to meet here? We look suspicious as gently caress.”

“Nae one’s gonna be comin’ aboot here.”

“Not unless there up to nae gud themselves.”

“Talking about nae gud, you’ve got snow on yer coupon, ya wee jakey stinkyhole.”

The woman dressed athletically rubbed her face without any real conviction, “Aye, very good. Whit ya wantin’ anyway? A’m busy as gently caress the now.”

“A'need to get ma maw’s laptop.”

“Whit? Are you blootered or sumthin? Whit fir?”

“Clatty Pat heard ma maw sayin’ that there’s sensitive information on it and that she’d be awfie annoyed if she lost it.”

“You still on that revenge shite, Elaine?” she said, now paying much more attention to her friend.

“Aye, that silly boot deserves it, Isa,” Elain answered with an acerbic tone.

“A’still dinnae know whit she did tae ya. For all a’know, she just sent you tae school in jakey clathes when you were a bairn.”

“Aye, well you dinnae need to know.”

“An’ a’dinnae care. Whit’s the information aboot? Is it aboot her business and all ‘at?”

“I dinnae know, but I hink there’s sumfin mehr embarrassing like. We’ll need tae get it first and then see,” Elaine said.

“Whit have a’got tae do wit it?”

“A’need you to ask Jimmy to help us. He wilnae speak tae me.”

“Nah, a’m nae askin’ him.”

“How no? He’s still awfie pally with ma maw and he likes you. A’hink ma maw would chib me with whatever she had in her haun if a’went near her hame.”

“A’could go.”

“She’d chib you faster ‘an me!”

“Ach, we’ll am nae askin’ Jimmy.”

“Come on tae gently caress, ya silly stinkyhole!”

“Simmer down. If you promise tae help me wit a problem a’have, I’ll ask him fir ya.”

“Whit problem?” Elaine asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Never you mind, a’ll tell you once we’ve got this laptop.”

****

Isa and Jimmy sat alone at a table in a crowded pub filled with men with grey hair and greyer beards. The old grandfather clock choked out some chimes. About 11 or 12. Once in a while a break in the dark clouds allowed a hint of sunlight into the pub that blinded everyone.

“loving hate it when it’s so sunny,” Isa said.

“You are a dreary bastard sometimes.”

“Aye well, sometimes life doesn’t let you be any other way.”

For sometime they sat hunched over their Guinnesses in silence. Isa wore the same cloths she had the day before, her hair disheveled, and her face ruddy and blotchy. Isa didn’t notice Jimmy open and close his mouth multiple times without uttering a word. She stared into her pint, wondering how to ask Jimmy about the laptop.

“You know whit Sleuterin’ Stuart telt me?” Jimmy asked.

Isa looked up from her drink and shook her head.

“That Clatty Pat heard Elaine’s maw talkin’ about her laptop and that it has important poo poo on it. Sensitive like.”

Isa scrunched her face, “Whit poo poo? A wee tape of the two of you creakin’ the bed like a pair of rabbits on the gear?”

“Oi! None of that here. Y’dinnae know who might hear.”

“A’m right though, eh?”

“Aye, maybe. I cannae let your sister know aboot it a’fore the divorce. But there’s mehr. There’s all her business information on it. Where her stash is, the money a’fore it gets sorted.”

“Naw? All o’it?”

“Aye, everything. If we can get her stash, you can sell it to your jakey customers, and we’d end up with enough to get oot o’here. And a’can leave your sister for gud.”

“A’was talkin’ to your previous wifey last night too.”

“I dinnae understand why you still deal with that slaverin’ stinkyhole.”

“Hard tae shake aff old pals.”

“Whit did she want?”

“The laptop,” Isa replied, “Wants yer help tae.”

“gently caress a’m helpin’ her.”

“She knows where the laptop is in her maw’s house,” Isa said, “Useful information, eh?”

“Ach, gently caress!”


***********


Outside of a semi-detached house in the middle of the night, rain relentlessly fell from the cloud-ridden sky, turning the snow into dirty slush. Isa and Elaine waited under trees in a nearby park, watching Elaine’s maw through the living room window. No light came from any of the other houses in the street except a couple windows.

From the opposite direction, they saw Jimmy, dressed to impress, enter the glow of a lamppost. He stopped, out of sight of Elaine’s maw, and looked around. His shoulders slumped and walked up to the door. The door flew open. Elaine’s maw grabbed a hold of Jimmy and squeezed the life out of him with an unbridled smile.

Elaine said, “A’ll give it a couple o’minutes a’fore a’go in. Make sure they’re awfie comfy first. A’ll grab the laptop and then we can leave that sleazy man tae his fate with that old heffer.”

“Aww, come on tae gently caress, you ungrateful twat. A’ll at least tell him when we’ve got that laptop.”

“Do whit y’like.”

The two woman saw Elaine’s maw and Jimmy sit down with wine in their hands. Elaine then crept across the road, cast a cursory look about the street, and carefully opened the door.

Her mum’s laughter was so loud. It stopped her while she suppressed her rage. She muttered some profanities as she crawled up the stairs.

Halfway up, she stopped. Alarmed. Silence. Nothing from the living room. But then her gut roared.

“Do you hear that?” her maw asked from the lounge.

“Just the pipes, Kathleen.”

The flirtatious chit-chat continued, and so did Elaine’s grumbling gut. She had to get to a toilet. Without delay. She scuttled up the rest of the steps and down the hallway. She paused, considering whether she should just go straight to her maw’s bedroom and get the laptop, soiled breeks or not. Dignity won and she rushed into the toilet.

She realised she couldn’t flush. She grinned at the thought of her maw cleaning it. Then she tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She tried and tried. But she was stuck. She called Isa.

“Whit y’go tae the shitter fir, y’cloun? Ach, a’m comin’.”

Isa shoved her phone into her pocket. She crossed the street without any discretion, shaking her head and muttering. She saw Jimmy and Elaine’s maw sharing saliva. She left the door open and marched up the stairs. She saw the toilet door and knocked quietly, “You in there, Elaine?” Nothing. Confused and angry, Isa entered the bedroom. She saw the laptop on the bed. She grabbed it and ran out of the house, slamming the door.

“Whit the gently caress was that?” Elaine’s maw shouted.


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


Elaine sat on a bench in a workshop. Tools and machines lay everywhere in disorder. Isa entered, scowling.

“A’ve got this stupit laptop. But it’s got a password,” Isa said.

“Aw for gently caress sake!”

“A’know who can get us past it. Ma sister is all techie these days. An’ means she’ll see whitever Jimmy didnae want her tae see as well. Sae gud!”

“Whit y’mean ‘whitever Jimmy didnae want her tae see’?”

“That was whit was sensitive, mate. Some foul adulterous shite.”

“Between ma maw and my ex-husband? He’s a wee shitstain.”

“Aye, he is.”

As if his name summoned him, Jimmy entered the workshop.

“A’m a shitstain! You two cunts left me to suffer at the hauns o'that awful woman. And one of you left some monstrosity in the toilet!”

“Y’tell him where we were meeting?” Elaine snapped at Isa.

“No she didnae need to. You two clouns aways gae tae yer da’s workshop! Now ge’ez that laptop.”

Elaine stepped in front of the table where the laptop lay, “Naw!”

Jimmy grabbed a screwdriver, “Ge’ez the loving laptop!”

Elaine and Isa both picked up nearby screwdrivers. All three stood facing each other with screwdrivers of varying sizes.

There was a crashing sound. Followed by more. All the time getting closer to them.

“Who the gently caress is that?” Jimmy asked, pointing to a naked man covered in dried blood.

The bloody man dashed towards the laptop, grabbed it, and ran towards the exit.

“gently caress, Isa, is this yer problem? He’s got ma laptop!” Elaine shouted.

Isa threw her screwdriver at the naked man. It slid into the back of his head, and he crumpled to the floor. The laptop crashed with him.

“For the love of Christ, Isa!”

The bloody man gargled his last breaths through a stream of blood. One last heave and he was still.

Elaine threw her screwdriver at the dead man, “You filthy stinkyhole! The laptop is hosed!”

Lazy Beggar fucked around with this message at Feb 25, 2018 around 22:22

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


Assigned stuff:

The Penthouse.
Relationship: Grave robber and dealer in antiquities
Relationship: Friendship ended after one humiliated the other
Relationship: Heartbreak
Location: Supply closet - rusting barrels are stacked to the ceiling
Object: Life-size pink marble statue of Superman
Need: To get out of this fire
Tilt: Death, right on time

1499 words

Three hours in Riyadh

9:52 PM

Aslan could not help but smile as he rolled into the penthouse garage, his grimy Toyota Rav4 clashing with the glitzy Porsches and Ferraris. A man in tuxedo and venetian mask, idly taking a drag from a cigarette, observed from the elevators as Aslan kicked sand all over the garage with a satisfying door slam.

“I hear Mount Damavand is beautiful this time of year,” the masked man remarked.

“Yo, Youssef,” Aslan said. He threw open the trunk and dragged a case to the edge.

“You were supposed to answer with ‘Yes, but I prefer Mount Fuji’.”

“Whatever, man. I recognized your voice and you recognized mine. Here, look,” Aslan said as he unlocked the box, carefully opening it as if it were the Ark of the Covenant itself.

“Excellent,” Youssef answered, inspecting the antique bust inside. Dozens of such boxes, varying in size from jewelry cases to coffin-sized, filled the Toyota like a high-level game of Tetris. “Did you have much trouble recovering these?”

“I had to ice two jihadis in Syria when they got suspicious of my accent, and the customs in Alexandria had to be thoroughly greased. Also, this car isn’t mine.”

“Not too bad, then.”

“I’ve had worse. Help me load these out of the trunk.”

For easy access during the auction, they stacked the crates in a supply closet near the elevator. Youssef, carrying a particularly long crate, tripped over the closet’s step and just barely caught his balance, slamming the crate against the floor. Inside, he could hear pieces roll around. Worry turned to curiosity, and Youssef opened it, revealing a disassembled assault rifle inside.

“Aslan, what gives?”

“Side gig,” Aslan handwaved as he closed the trunk.

“A hit?”

“No, no,” the Turk laughed, “merely riding our esteemed Sheikh’s coattails. His goons outside wouldn’t X-ray the crates because of the antiques, so I thought…”

“I doubt you thought anything at all, you imbecile. You cretin. You loving moron. Sheikh Bin Nasser agreed to auction art, not weapons.”

“Relax, it’s an easy job. Some Bulgar was passing through on the way to Cyprus and knew a guy who could use a gun or two. I’ll lead him down during the party and show him the goods, move ‘em to his car, and bam.”

“Just get it done before midnight. Wear this,” Youssef said, passing Aslan a hot pink rabbit mask.

“Seriously?”

“Be glad I’m even letting you inside.”

“Fine.”

They walked into the elevator. As the doors closed, a yellow Porsche rolled down its tinted window. Katarina Dragunova, world-renowned superspy and gentlelady extraordinaire, patched into Moscow HQ through her Rolex.

“Be advised, on-site procurement is proving a lot easier than expected. Permission to cause collateral damage?”

Moscow gave permission.

---

10:43 PM

Youssef had lost track of Aslan somewhere between smoking cigars on the patio and discussing American politics with the Sheikh’s cousin. He strategically positioned himself at the cocktail bar, where he threw anxious glances from the clock to the dance floor and back, on the plausible assumption that a hot-pink bunny mask would grab his attention of he surveyed the area long enough.

Youssef sighed. Inshallah, his idiot supplier might have found his contact and moved the guns by now.

A man with a red mask sat down next to him. “Waiting for someone?” he asked in a thick, Slavic accent.

“Yeah.”

“Say, didn’t we meet in Venice last summer?”

“What?”

“Oh, sorry,” the man hastily said, “I must have mistaken you for somebody else. Have a good evening.”

“Likewise,” Youssef said, and he turned back to the clock.

---

11:01 PM

Aslan bobbed and weaved through the blurry crowd. He was a good drinker – too good to be done in by champagne – but he had to admit that hitting the drinks before touching any food was nothing less than hubris. He barreled into the bathroom, towards a urinal, and relieved his bladder, leaning against the wall with his head to stay in balance.

Next to him, a blonde man smiled under his fox mask. “I think I saw you at the Milan fashion week,” he joked, nodding his nose in the direction of Aslan’s mask.

Was this the Bulgar’s code phrase? Aslan couldn’t remember the matching reply. gently caress it.

“Yeah, yeah, just a second. I brought the goods.”

“You did?” The man asked tentatively.

“All of it is in the garage. I’ll show you.”

---

11:39 PM

Youssef was sipping his fourth glass of wine. He checked the clock again.

“He’s late. I’m going to be late,” he muttered under his breath. No options left now, except going to the supply closet himself and checking every crate for weapon parts before the auction started.

A woman sat down next to him.

“Never thought I’d be happy to see you and your pet idiot again.”

Youssef recognized his ex’s shrill voice.

“Oh, come the gently caress on. Why are you here?” he asked Katarina. She wore a low-key purple mask, trimmed lace around the edges, but a scowl in between. How fitting, Youssef thought.

“Classified. But I suggest you leave the building between now and twenty minutes. It’s going to get hot.”

Youssef grimaced, biting his teeth to prevent anything more than a frustrated whimper from escaping his lips. “At least let me collect my payment?”

“For the auction?”

“The Sheikh is paying me a cut of 30% afterwards.”

“Wouldn’t count on it.”

She got up and disappeared into the dancing crowd. Youssef threw his hands up in resignation, catching the barman’s attention.

“What will sir have?” the barkeep asked.

“I honestly don’t care anymore. Just gently caress me right up.”

“One Chatham Artillery Punch, coming up.”

Retirement was looking better by the day, Youssef thought.

---

11:42 PM

Aslan lead the Bulgar to the closet, which was suspiciously open. “Wait,” Aslan said, “wait, wait. Where’s the boxes?”

“What boxes?” The Bulgar leaned over Aslan’s shoulder to look into the supply room, which was devoid of anything but janitors’ supplies.

“The boxes with the guns, drat it. We left them here!”

“Guns? I thought you were selling antiques.”

Aslan turned slowly. “You’re not the Bulgar?”

They sized each other up for a second, but the stranger was faster. With a hook to Aslan’s throat, he grappled the drunken Turk to the ground and choked him until he stopped moving. Then, the stranger patched in to Berlin HQ.

“This is agent Günther. I think our man may have been a red herring.”

---

00:12 AM

It was a terrible idea, but Youssef decided he’d be at the auction. He’d hang around backstage, wait for Katarina to do her move, and pick up the pieces in the chaos. Maybe just grabbing cash off the corpses would net him more than 30% of the auction.

He exited the elevator on the VIP floor, went through the goons’ pat-down, and headed for the office where he’d meet the Sheikh. To his surprise, the boxes from the closet were lined up on the table, with a few clerks struggling to open the locks.

“Ah, friend, you are late,” the Sheikh jovially greeted him.

“I, um, misplaced the boxes. Who brought them here?” Youssef said.

“Some lady claiming she works for you. Purple mask, long legs?”

“I know who you mean,” Youssef said, eyeing the room for cover. Through a one-way mirror, he saw the buyers discussing around a marble table. Wads of money lay between them.

“Open these crates, they’re waiting,” the Sheikh said.

Youssef opened the box with the bust, knowing it contained no gun parts. “I think this one will sell nicely. Description is on the pamphlet provided,” he said. To his relief, the Sheikh and his staff carried it off, leaving him alone in the office. He opened the long case, intending to assemble the assault rifle, but it now contained only the scrolls with which Aslan had put the parts.

“I guess Katarina got to it before me,” Youssef said, and he lit a cigarette in front of the mirror to enjoy the spectacle. Within minutes, Katarina kicked in the door of the auction room, a silenced M4 carbine at the ready.

“I never knew human bodies had so much blood,” Youssef said to himself afterwards. After she left, he entered the auctioning room, filled a case with as many wads as he could, and followed Katarina’s trail of destruction to the exit.

---

00:52 AM

Günther gingerly entered the office. Unlike most rooms in the penthouse, this one wasn’t littered with corpses. He looked into the boxes on the table. “HQ, I think I found our antiques. I’m exfiltrating the hot zone with the packages.”

In the garage, he bumped into a man with a red mask.

“Didn’t we meet in Venice last summer?” the man said.

“Haven’t been there in years,” Günther answered.

As he drove the highway out of Riyadh, Günther wondered what was up with that man. One of the unsolved mysteries of life, he thought with a smile.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Holes

1500 words

Prompts from News Channel Six

I should have been some kind of priest. Not that I believe in God or nothing, but just about every time I show a guy a good time, right after he pulls out and rolls over, they get this need to confess their darkest secrets. I don't think that's quite how the guys with the collars do it, but who knows what they get up to in those booths.

“Buddy Collins has a suitcase full of cash in his closet,” said Zak after some exceptional effort. “Twenties. Gotta be a million or more.”  Up until that minute Zak had just been a pure pity lay.

“Zak,” I said, “If you need somewhere to crash a few days, we have a free couch.”

“Really?” he said. “Great. Wait, who's 'we’?”

“Me and my brother,” I said. “You'll like him.”

That was the least I could do for the poor guy. That and the long screw in his beater Chevy’s back seat. After all, I had just gotten him fired.

* * *

I was waiting in line at the city utility office, paying by check because Jake's too cheap to pay the three dollars service fee for online payment. No matter how often I tell him we can afford the hit, he always gets so huffy about the 'principle’ that I end up here every month. Anyhow, I couldn't help but hearing the guy in front of me, this twentyish bleach-blonde in a Hawaiian shirt. (In Ohio. In February.) Zak, of course. He was complaining up a storm about his boss’ water bill, and I caught the amount, twenty thousand dollars, and the name, Buddy Collins. As in Mayor Buddy Collins, recently single and way too good looking to be just a Mayor here for long. The man had the face and shoulders of at least a Lieutenant Governor.

So I chatted him up, got a phone number and a selfie with him enough of the bill showing to work with. I took it to my boss.

“Hmph,” he said. “Interesting. I'll pass it on to Mel and see if she can do anything with it.”

“Wait,” I said. “I thought that this might, well, be my story?”

“Your story?” he said. “Geneva, you don't think you're actually a journalist, do you?”

“I-”

“I hired you because you've got a pretty face, a nice pair of tits, and you're literate enough to read the prompter without getting lost in the woods. You're doing a fine job at that, holding on to the media geeks poring over each evening's footage looking for a frame or two of a nip slip and keeping the teenage boys who aren't bright enough to get past the filters on their parents internet from channel-surfing past us to the shopping channels, and in this day and age those are our top two demographics. But leave the reporting to the professionals.”

So two weeks later Melanie has her big story about the mayor's water bill, parading through his house with her oversized microphone and phony green-tinted glasses, looking for what he’s doing with all that water and not finding squat. They even use the picture I took. They cropped me out completely, but left just a bit too much of Zak.

He found me after work, told me about how he got fired as Buddy's driver and errand boy. He was fighting mad, but I was too and by the end of two cups of coffee we were both bonding over being mad at Melanie and our bosses. We kept on bonding in the back of his car.

* * *

Jake looked up from the scribbles on his napkin. “A suitcase full of twenties, that's got to be about a million and a half. You're sure about this?”

Zak swallowed his mouthful of noodles and kung pao. “Sure as hell,” he said. “Had me get his suitcase for when he flew up to meet with his wife's lawyers. I started to grab the wrong one, but it was heavy as hell. I pulled the zipper and I saw the money.”

“And you weren't tempted to take a stack?” I asked.

“Wasn't time to be tempted,” said Zak. “Buddy started hollering about what was taking so long and I barely had time to zip it back up, and Buddy took back the closet key, so I couldn't go back for it.”

“So what do we want to do about this?” I asked.

“So long as Buddy gets what's coming, I don't care. Take it up with the feds, maybe? See if the IRS is paying for good tips,” said Zak.

“Maybe take it to Channel 11,” said Jake. “If the bosses at 6 don't see you as a real reporter, maybe the people there will give you-”

“You're both thinking too small,” I said.  “I say we just take it.” I grabbed the pile of napkins and Jake's pen and started making notes. I few minutes later I handed Zak a shopping list and a handful of cash.

Before we stopped being able to hear Zak’s car Jake had me mostly naked on the couch.

“You know,” he said, “I think I'd be into this even if you were my sister.”

We weren't related. We were a couple, practically married in some states. An open relationship, which meant I got to have fun when I wanted to, and whenever Jake's ex Carol was feeling lonely or horny he got to go to her and be miserable. We did the brother sister act whenever I took someone home.

“What do you think Buddy is doing with that much cash?” I asked.

“Who knows?” said Jake. “Bribes from crooked developers? Just hiding money from his wife and her lawyers? Does it matter?”

* * *

The first part of my side of the plan went easy. I'm enough of a local celebrity that I was able to get a date with Buddy and make him think it's his idea. And Buddy's not one of your wait until the third date traditionalists.

“Buddy,” I said. I timed it perfectly: his pants and jacket off, underwear and shirt still on, “You know what I've always fantasized about?”

Buddy paused, and muttered “What?”

“Doing it in a limousine,” I said.

“I'm between drivers right now,” he said as he snaked off his tie. “Can't really take you anywhere-”

“Oh,” I said. “It doesn't have to be moving.” I gave my best smile. He smiled back, and we traipse across the empty house to the garage.

At this time Zak was keeping the security staff busy, just by showing up and demanding they return his “stuff”.  Which was giving Jake the opportunity to get inside, get the keys out of Buddy's pants, and get the suitcase. I just had to keep Buddy busy.

The earth moved.

“My wife isn't-” started Buddy. Then the earth moved again. The back wall collapsed and the floor gave way and the limo slid down to the bottom of a brand new sinkhole, where water leaking out of some substandard contract plumbing eroded a hole in the ground.

* * *

Jake got away free and clear. Then he got a call from Carol and ran off with a third of the cash. She stage-managed a bar fight between him and her other boyfriend, which ended with the other guy in the hospital and Jake in jail, six months. And the police found and seized the money, and won't give it back unless he can explain how he got it.

I don't know what Buddy was going to tell me when the ground opened up, but his wife turned up dead, floating out of Baker Lake, two weeks later.  I hadn't seen him again, kept mostly to myself after being on the wrong side of the news (and on Channel 11, because they were the ones who could afford the chopper) and let the network’s lawyers hold off the police. There wasn’t that much heat. Buddy couldn't really complain about his bug-out bag getting stolen without looking even more guilty than he already did. I thought I was going to get fired, but it turns out weird scandal is almost as good for ratings as outfits that risk FCC fines if a piece of tape gives out.  Good enough that I'm quitting. Got a new job offer in Florida, one where I'll get to produce my own segments.

I took my share of the money. It's nice to have a backup plan. I thought about taking Zak's too. He left it with me, since he didn't think it would be safe in his car or at his parents’ house. He came by and took a hundred out every few days. I could have taken it all and he’d have barely noticed. He'd have had those sad puppy eyes, but I wouldn't have had to see them from Florida.

I could have taken Zak's share, but I decided to take Zak instead. I've always had a soft spot for puppies.

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apophenium
Apr 13, 2009

I am a real boy.


As the Storm Groaned Low
1110 Words

Bobbi stared at the door of the tornado shelter but saw the backseat of her car instead, smeared with blood and stinking in the heat of late May. Body parts, identifiable as belonging to her husband Todd, were scattered throughout the car. An arm stuffed under the seat, legs wrapped in a silvery sunshade… There hadn’t been time to truly take it all in; a howling siren signified an approaching tornado. Bobbi had fled to the storm cellar, sparing only a horrified second to see the carnage.

Bobbi blinked the scene away and turned to her ex-husband, Monte, who had been talking non-stop since they had hidden in the tornado shelter.

Todd’s son, Gregory, crouched in the far corner of the shelter, yelling at Monte to shut up. Monte’s words trickled to a stop under Bobbi’s glare.

“Monte,” Bobbi said, “This was supposed to be a mediation. I could have had you locked up for stalking. I hoped we could talk things through and you could move on.” She sighed, stretched out her legs. I must be in shock.

Bobbi continued, cutting off Monte’s retort before it began: “If you don’t stop talking you won’t have to worry about the tornado killing you; I’ll kill you myself.” She nodded at Gregory. “Or maybe he will. He loves those violent video games.”

“Don’t talk to me about him. You never wanted kids by me,” Monte said. His thinning hair looked even more pathetic in the harsh light of the tornado shelter. He moved to light a cigarette, but Bobbi smacked it out of his hand. To his credit, Monte ignored it.

“I got a new job now, Bobbi, a union job. I could give you everything you want!”

All I want is for you to apologize to us for killing Todd. Bobbi shivered and backed away from Monte, shaking her head. The rhythmic rattle of the shelter’s door reached a feverish pace, like a demented fairground ride, minutes away from falling apart. Gregory did his best to melt the back of Monte’s head with an irate glare.

Monte began spewing more placating filth, gesticulating, falling to his knees, professing an undying love; all just white noise to Bobbi’s rattled mind. Apologies had always been tough for him.

Bobbi became aware of the layered sounds of the storm. She sank into the cacophony like a numbing bath. The siren, the door, Monte’s words, Gregory’s tears, the storm itself.

“Todd was good to me, Monte,” Bobbi said, louder now to be heard over the wind and the rattle of the door. “I love Gregory and I loved Todd. And you loving killed him!” Saying the words while looking down at Monte, stained with Todd’s blood unlocked an incoherent rage in her.

With a small change of stance, Bobbi whipped her right foot upwards, cracking into Monte’s chin. Those three years as Manna High’s placekicker came flooding back in an instant. The impact shattered a bone in Bobbi’s foot. The pain made her feel like she was back on the field. So much pain back then. A few of Monte’s teeth tinkled across the floor.

Gregory bolted upright, “Holy poo poo, Bobbi!” he said. Bobbi knelt on the floor and held her foot. Lights swam in her vision. “What the hell!” Gregory knelt over Monte. Anger rushed out of him as soon as he witnessed actual violence.

Through clenched teeth Bobbi said, “We just have to wait out the storm. And if Monte wakes up, we’ll just knock him out. Okay?” She winced as she rocked backwards into a sitting position. “And don’t swear, your dad would kill me if I let you swear.”

***

The howls of the tornado morphed into a low drone as Bobbi, Gregory, and Monte waited it out. Blue light flickered through the cracks in the storm cellar door.

“Is that the cops?” Gregory asked, voice tinged with panic. Monte burbled quietly from the floor.

“Oh, hell.” There was a knock on the door. Bobbi limped to open the door.

“Hello, ma’am. Storm’s over. Didn’t even touch down.” The police officer was a squat man, eyes concealed by prescription sunglasses. “We didn’t find anyone in the hotel to ask, but, is that your Mercedes out front?”

Bobbi pointed down at the unconscious Monte. “No,” she said. “It’s his.”

The cop began shouting Monte his rights and shoved past Bobbi, retrieving his handcuffs from his belt. With a grunt, the cop hefted Monte onto his stomach and cuffed him. The cop muttered something into the radio on his shoulder.

“Did you harm this man, ma’am?” Monte’s face was a blue-green mass of bruises and cuts.

“Yes, sir, but he killed my husband. The boy’s father.” Bobbi moved to stand next to Gregory, who was crying anew, and shivering. Humid, clear-smelling storm air now filled the small room.

The cop’s mustache quirked. “Well, you’ll be all right now, ma’am. Ambulance and backup is on the way.”

Bobbi rubbed Gregory’s shoulder and glanced at him. His eyes got big then he let out a scream that echoed through the storm cellar. Gregory stumbled and then ran out onto the damp ground. Bobbi limped after him, hollering his name. The boy disappeared into the wheatfield behind the hotel.

***

“Is there anything you’d like to add?” Another police officer had just repeated Bobbi’s statement to her. Reliving the events solidified them in her mind. During the storm, while Monte was still in front of her, she tried to convince herself Todd was okay. That wasn’t really him in Monte’s Mercedes. The cop had not let her stay comfortable in that lie.

“Have they found Gregory yet?” The question came out dead of inflection.

“I’m sure he’ll turn up. Now that the storm’s passed he’s safe out there, anyways.” The cop closed his notebook and made to leave the room.

Bobbi said, “I’m gonna stick around ‘til they put Monte away, then I’m moving the gently caress out of Kansas.”

The cop tipped his trooper hat to her, said “Ma’am,” and left.

Bobbi stood up, took one step towards the door, forgetting her broken foot, and collapsed unconscious to the floor.

***

The trial garnered national attention. People tuned in to watch stoic Bobbi console Gregory as Monte divulged the details of his murder. His lawyers had went with a “crime of passion” strategy.

Bobbi’s testimony sent that plan straight to hell. Her good faith gesture of meeting at the Manna Hotel to work things through won the jury, easy. Monte ended up getting life, no chance of parole.

Bobbi took Gregory straight south to Cutter, Texas, where she set her sights on coaching the high school football team.

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