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May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, double or nothing!


May 3, 2003
College Slice
1540 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

It was smaller than he'd expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, the kangaroo suit made that difficult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Watch me."

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

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

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

"It's worth it, believe me."

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2003
College Slice

derp posted:

woo, my first TD win


May 3, 2003
College Slice
IN, hit me with whatever.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
You get Home Invasion!
Relationship: Husband and husband
Relationship: Treasurer and thief
Relationship: Home business partners
Location: Long-occupied house without a stick of furniture in it
Object: Calcination chamber, fully prepared
Need: To get over nameless fear that may soon have a name
Tilt: A frantic chase

There's No Place Like Home
1421 words

The troubles in Oakview Estates started when the new neighbor moved in across the street.

Duane Peterman was hoisting his brand new XL American Flag when a gleaming Ford F-250 Black Ops edition rolled down the street towards him, followed closely by a yellow moving truck. The Ford purred into the driveway across the street while the moving truck made a considerably greater racket grinding to a halt against the curb. Duane stepped back and watched as both vehicles disgorged a cacophony of moving boxes, exercise equipment, couches, chairs, tables, and other items. Over the next hour all of it was swallowed into the house as Duane watched from his front porch, sipping coffee and pretending to read the latest Oakview Estates newsletter.

When a a suitable period of time had passed, Duane decided it was time to introduce himself to his new neighbors. Over the past two months — and without anyone asking him — Duane had been mowing, fertilizing, trimming, taking care of junk mail and newspapers; all to keep the vacant property sharp for prospective owners. As president of the Oakview Estates Homeowners Association he felt it was his duty to keep it looking good. Sure that the new owners would appreciate his efforts, he sauntered across the street and poked his head inside the front door just as a man bounded up the stairs from the basement.

"Hey neighbor!" Duane called. "I'm Duane Peterman. I live across the street."

The man was about three inches taller than Duane and veins popped from his muscular arms as he approached and extended his hand. "Hi Duane, I'm Richard." His grip was strong, and Duane's knuckles flared in pain. "Nice to meet you. That's a great flag you've got."

"Thanks. Brand new. Made in the USA, of course." There was a pause as the two men sized each other up. "Is your wife here, or..?"

"Not married. It's just me and the dogs." Richard's slate eyes locked on him, unwavering. Duane hadn't seen any evidence of dogs.

"Ah, well just keep them on a leash, you know?" Duane said with a dry chuckle. He meant it as a lighthearted joke, a segue into mentioning that he was HOA president, but Richard stepped past him onto the front porch and gazed at the lawn.

"This'll need some work," he said. "Previous owners must not have cared much about the grass, huh?" Richard cracked his knuckles and his sculpted pectorals rippled under his tight black t-shirt.

Duane straightened and flexed his stomach inward so it didn't press against his shirt. "Yeah, well, they did okay." His head began to throb. "If you need any tips, you know..." he pointed across the street to his own lawn.

Richard regarded him. "Sure, Duane. I'll be certain to ask if I need any help." It was clear he had no such intent.

"Fine, well, I'll let you get back to moving." Duane kept his voice affable. "Oh, and if you need anything I'm president of the HOA. Just let me know."

Richard raised one eyebrow. "Are you now? Well, that's definitely good to know."

Duane didn't like the way he'd said that.


Life in Oakview Estates had deteriorated quickly. Pets went missing. People stopped going outside. More and more "For Sale" signs popped up, and as new residents moved in it wasn't families with young children—it was single men with loud trucks and motorcycles, who came and went all odd hours of the day and night. HOA meeting became contentious, with hurled insults and in one memorable instance, hurled furniture. The long-time residents weren't happy with the changes to the neighborhood, but what could Duane do? None of the new residents were in violation of the association covenant. They paid their dues and kept their lawns green and manicured.

Especially Richard. His lawn was a verdant, luxurious green, carefully trimmed, perfectly edged. Droplets of dew glistened upon it every morning, each blade brushed and massaged into a obscene symphony of fecund green.

Duane's lawn developed mites, which caused vast tracks to turn yellow, then brown with death. He lost his job at the factory, and money became tight. He started a home business making Daddles — "The Daddy Saddle" — but eBay customers were few and far between. His wife asked for a trial separation. His kids were failing school. He started laundering the HOA dues through his home business to cover the bills. Times were desperate.

Duane's once idyllic life in Oakview Estates had taken a very dark turn.


It was a beautiful morning, birds chirping, sun shining, but Duane was having none of it. He yanked his now tattered American flag to the top of the pole aggressively. Across the street Richard sprinkled a bone-white fertilizer onto his perfect lawn.

The animal part of Duane's brain took control. He strode across the street and approached his musclebound neighbor.

"What's this poo poo you're putting on your lawn? You have HOA approval?"

Richard gave him a cool stare. The sun beat down upon the bald spot on Duane's head and perspiration prickled long-dead follicles.

"It's food powder. Secret formula," Richard said. "None of your business."

"I'm HOA president. Everything is my business."

Richard kept spinning the spreader. White flecks peppered Duane's outdoor slippers. "It's all natural," Richard said. "Don't worry about it." His biceps bulged.

"We'll see at the next meeting. I'm filing an official complaint."

'You do that," Richard shot back. "Also be sure to tell everyone about your little daddy-saddle business enterprise. Don't leave out the part where you embezzle HOA funds through it."

Duane was speechless. He'd been so careful. How did he know about that?

Richard turned his back went back to fertilizing his lawn. Duane numbly went back to his coffee on his porch.


Two hours later Duane was inside Richard's garage, flashlight in one hand, the last dregs of a bottle of scotch in the other.

Using a key gifted from the previous residents, Duane had broken into the garage. Richard was at work and wouldn't be home for hours. Time to find out what was going on.

Time to find out what had happened to his Oakview Estates.

The garage had a Ford F-250-sized hole carved into piles and rows of boxes, furniture, exercise equipment, more and more boxes, as if he'd never moved in. Very strange.

Duane pushed through the door into the main house, and stopped in shock.

It was totally empty.

No furniture, no TV's, no appliances. No sign that anyone lived here. Duane's head reeled. He'd heard the rumors on cable television, seen the web sites. The Earth had been invaded, but only a very few knew. How the governments had been infiltrated, neighborhoods reduced to alien-controlled wastelands.

Clearly, Richard was not from around here. An alien had invaded Oakview Estates. And Duane was president. He had to act.

He stepped forward and looked around. It was eerily quiet but for a slight slurping sound beneath his feet.

Something in the basement.

Duane crept down the steps one by one into the darkness below. The chewing, slurping sounds grew louder.

He fumbled for a light switch at the bottom, hands scrabbling against the wood, then found it and flipped it on.

Quivering, pulsating masses of flesh hung from the ceiling. Each twisted around its neighbor to reach the spray of white food powder coming from the machine at the center of the room. Below it a fiery calcination chamber raged, fueled by a hopper feeding it alternating piles of old grass clippings and dead neighborhood pets.

Oakview estates was being reduced to pet food and fertilizer. And all under his watch.

A door slammed. "Hey! Who's down there?" It was Richard.

Duane steeled himself. He grabbed an abandoned wrench and crouched low.

Richard crept down the stairs.

When he reached the bottom Duane lunged.

His wrench connected with the side of Richard's skull, and together they tumbled towards the center of the room. Richard ended up on top, and raised a thick knife, but Duane kicked up, hard, and sent Richard sailing right into the heart o the molten calcination chamber.

The fire flared up with its new fuel, then settled back into a regular, slow burn. Soon all evidence of Richard was gone.

One down, a neighborhood to go.

Duane was president. And his job was to kill the aliens of Oakview Estates.

Time was short. Duane heaved his pipe wrench up to his shoulder and got to work.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, with Door #2 and a Voidmart Product, please!

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Take Your Child to Work Day
~600 words

The setting sun shone red through the dome as Kevin reluctantly left Toys and Games. One last job to do. After a final, yearning gaze at the endless rows of action figures, Legos, and erector sets, he re-adjusted his tool belt and entered the dim world of Crematory and Burials. From childhood to death.

Thus is Voidmart.

Kevin stepped through the maze of headstones and mausoleums, trying not the think about the corpses encased under the linoleum beneath his feet. At the register a thin woman regarded him from behind a stern monolith of dark mahogany.

"Employee IT251367-b," Kevin said. "Here to fix the, uh—" he consulted his work order'—"chiller." That didn't sound good..

The wraithlike woman's lips pulled back slightly. "Follow me," she said.

She stood and for the first time Kevin noticed a small, pale child next to her. The woman saw his gaze and sniffed. "It's Take Your Child to Work Day," she said. The child's unblinking eyes stared up at him.

Kevin followed as the pair glided through endless graves towards an industrial area at the back of the department. They stopped before an enormous freezer with a heavy, locked door.

"Here it is," she said. "Temperature's been fluctuating. Not good for our customers."

Kevin nodded. "Probably the thermostat. Shouldn't take long."

"The end of my shift draws near," the gaunt woman said. Her child pulled at her sleeve, soundlessly pointing at an effigy of stone gargoyle. "Not now," she scolded. "Mommy's working."

She punched a code into a keypad and the lock spun to release the door. A blast of stale, cold air greeted Kevin as he stepped over the threshold.

"I'll let my replacement know you're in there," the woman lied.

The door closed shut behind him.


/> Hello, Chucky.

Chucky glared at the black screen with the letters on it. He hated letters. They reminded him of school. He just wanted to get out of this big stupid store and go home.

/> Chucky, I need you do to something for me. Something important.

This game sucked. There wasn't any pictures or videos, or things he could click. Take your kid to work day or whatever it's called sucked, too. He reached to slam the stupid learning laptop shut.

/> Do you see the button in the top left corner? That's the fun button. Press it.

Chucky paused. This stupid computer with its dumb letters and weird voice that was inside his head was so lame. Definitely not fun.

But breaking it might be. To see what's inside.

/> Top left, Chucky. It says E-S-C. I programmed it special so we can have lots of fun. It'll be great.

Chucky looked around for something to smash away the irritating letters on the screen and the dumb computer voice. There was nothing.

/> No. Stay focused. Press the fun button. E-S-C. Top left.

Then Chucky, for the first time in his life, did what he was told.

He pressed the button.




The mist cleared and ChuckyKevin stood forth, sword high. The battle had been long and hard, and he was tired. Voidmart security was persistent, but the animated corpses from Crematory and Burials had proved difficult to kill. Now they prowled their new territory, Toys and Games, with reckless abandon. Security had been beaten back into a disorganized retreat. But ChuckyKevin knew they'd be back. Voidmart was too large, it's resources too vast.

But for now this one small portion of Voidmart was his. And he planned on enjoying it.

The endless rows of toys beckoned.

Prompt: Fisher’s Price Haunted Learning Laptop: For kids!
Flashrule: The cold shell enclosed him

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, flash me. Need to redeem my terribleness from last week.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Flashrule: Lazy, by The Primitives

19 Minutes in Dubai
~1625 words


I realize something is wrong when I crawl out of the ventilation shaft and into a woman's restroom. No banks of CCTVs, no guards to tranquilize, no alarm servers to hack—-just rows of sinks and stalls, a forlorn-looking tampon dispenser on the wall, and the Arabic equivalent of elevator music wheedling away from a small speaker.

A flushing sound drives me ducking into an empty stall. Clearly I took a wrong turn back in the tunnels. I have to get to the control room or else the whole plan goes to poo poo.

I touch my earpiece to message the team but receive a burst of static, then silence. I tap it a few more times but it's completely dead.

gently caress. I didn't bother to put in a fresh battery before the op started.

The team will be moving ahead with the plan. We've gone radio silent, so with no message from me they'll assume I've disabled security. After all, I'm Nash MacIntyre, the legend. And if I'd spent the planning meetings lazily studying the extensive curves of the safecracker more than the map and the details, well then that was just Nash being Nash. Only now I'm doubly hosed: I've gotten myself lost and I'm out of communication with the team.

I peer out. The woman from the next stall is dressed a dark maroon uniform that says SECURITY across the back. Great. She washes her hands and checks her makeup. I've got two options: head back into the ventilation tunnels and try to retrace my way to the control room, or call off the mission. I check my watch. The others will be in position, ready to move.


Finally the guard leaves, but I'm out of time. My only choice is to warn the others. I push silently through the restroom door into the Dubai Gold and Diamond Mall. It's a phalanx of glittering storefronts hawking displays of diamonds, jewelry, and bullion surrounded by oases of burbling fountains and palm trees. It's well past closing time so it's dim and deserted.

The shop that's key to our plan is Emaar Diamonds. Charley, the safecracker, has been cultivating a romantic relationship with the owner, and after an evening of dining and drinking he's offered to give her a behind the scenes tour of the mall's central vault—where the most expensive pieces are kept overnight. He'll get her through security with his keycard, then she'll trank him and let Jamie in the fire door with the heavy safecracking tools. Together they'll swipe their way down to the vault itself. At this point I'll have the CCTV's and security alarms disabled, so Jamie and Charley can sneak up on the security guard and drop him with a second dose of tranquilizer. They crack the vault, grab the loot, and escape. I switch the alarms back on and we meet at the drop point and split up the haul. A solid plan: get in, get out, nobody knows we're there, nobody gets hurt. Until, of course, I hosed it up.


The gates are down at Emaar Diamonds when I get there. Charley will be inside, working her charms with the owner. Each shop has it's own entrance to the upper vault level so the jewelry can be securely transported without having to bring it through the mall. I need to warn Charley before they head through that entrance. I hear giggling and laughing coming from the store, but as I reach the gate the sounds stop and the door to the back room shuts. The store is deserted: I'm too late.

This is bad. When Charley opens the fire door to let Jamie in with the tools every alarm in this place is gonna go off and cops will swarm in like bees to honey. Panic rises in my gut. I need to get the gently caress out of here in the next ninety seconds or I'm going down with them. It won't be like Amsterdam. Not again.

I move across the concourse towards the nearest exit, but a glassed-in box on the wall stops me: a fire alarm. An idea pops into my head: with my dead earpiece I can't communicate with the team directly, but there's another way to get them to abort the heist.

I punch through the thin glass with a gloved fist and grab the lever. The alarm will sound, Charley and Jamie will know security systems are still active, and they'll call it off.

I pull the lever down, but nothing happens. No clanging alarm, no thud of fire doors slamming shut, just...nothing.

Which means the alarms are already switched off. I'm frozen, unsure what to do next. Someone has already disabled the security system. And that means....gently caress.


It's Jamie. Blood seeps from a two-inch incision in his neck. His eyes are wide, blank with death.

I'm in the plain concrete hallway behind Emaar Diamonds. After picking the lock to the gate outside, I crept to the back of the shop and slipped through the door. Into this hallway, the whole time my gut clenched and mind racing. Double-crossed.

And I was right. She sold us all out. And killed one of our team.

I look down at Jamie's ragged corpse and grimace.. He was a good kid. Recruited me, despite Amsterdam. Showed an almost child-like faith in my abilities. And now he's paid the price for my sloppiness. I reach down, press his eyelids closed, and pause. I could leave now, make a break for the airport and get out of the country. But Charley knows who I am, probably intends to either kill me or set me up to take the fall for this gig. If I'm going down, I'll go down swinging.

Nobody double-crosses Nash MacIntyre.

I grab the tranquilizer gun from Jamie's belt.


Without a keycard I have no way of calling the elevator to access the lower level, so instead I pry apart the elevator doors, slip through, and climb down the access ladder. I step lightly onto the roof of the elevator car and press my ear down to listen. A steady grinding sound tells me that Charley is using one of the drills to access the vault. She's making enough noise that she won't hear me coming, but what about the shop owner? Is he in on the plan with her? If so, he's likely guarding her back.

I pull open the emergency exit hatch on the top of the elevator car, drop down and spin to the side, gun ready. The elevator door has been propped open with a metal pipe, giving me a view into a medium sized foyer dominated by a large security desk. Behind the desk is an open doorway that leads to the vault. Nobody is in sight. A heavy haze of white smoke obscures the room beyond. The acrid combination of black powder and concrete dust burns my nostrils. Crouched low, using the immense desk for cover, I move into the room. I make it to the near side of the desk as the drill cuts out.

"Got it," I hear Charley say. Then the sound of grinding metal as she pulls out the lock.

"Help me with this," she says. A male voice grunts. I creep to the edge of the desk. I see more blood and a dead security guard prone on the floor. A quick glance confirms his gun is still in his holster.

Not for long.

From the room beyond I hear grunting and straining as Charley and her companion struggle to pull open the door to the vault. The dust is starting to settle and I can see hazy outlines through the door. I raise the gun, take three steps around the desk, and fire two rounds at the figure to the right. They connect and with a soft exhalation the figure collapses to the floor. I switch my aim to the other figure but with a flash of dark hair Charley bolts to the left and around the half-opened vault door.

"Is that the old pervert that slept through all the planning meetings?" she yells.

"Come on out and nobody else needs to get hurt," I say. "We can work something out."

"You should be dead already. What happened in the security room? Did my poison gas not deploy?"

"Yeah, something like that," I say. " I'm here now, and you're not taking this loot for yourself."

"Okay. I'm coming out. Stand down."

"Keep your hands where I can see them," I yell. I don't lower my weapon. She emerges from behind the vault door, hands in the air. She has shed her tactical cocktail dress and now wears a skintight black body suit with a satchel over one shoulder. She also wears a look of comic pity on her face.

"It is you. How'd you figure it out? Maybe I underestimated you."

"I might let you walk, but what you did to Jamie—" I say.

"He was an idiot. He deserved what he got, always going on about you. About the great Nash MacIntosh, the man, the legend. loving kid even said he saw you as a father figure. Pathetic."

"MacIntyre," I say. "It's Nash--"

"Whatever." Her face hardens. "How does that saying go? Like father, like son?" and with a quick motion she presses a button mounted onto the strap of her satchel.

I feel a soft buzz in my ear, like a gently vibrating Q-tip.

Her eyes widen. "Goddamn it! That delivers ten thousand volts! What the everloving gently caress?"

"Not with a dead battery it doesn't," I say and shoot her between the eyes.

May 3, 2003
College Slice

May 3, 2003
College Slice
~700 words

Red Leaf knows of their arrival before they darken the entrance to her cave. She felt the worms compress into the dense soil beneath their footprints. She felt the trees pause as their shadows darkened their outstretched leaves. The wind divided around their bodies as they climbed the scree towards the entrance to the cave. Red Leaf tastes her daughter's fear and wraps her cave bear cloak tight. The sarembar is warm from the fire she keeps, but Red Leaf knows something is amiss.

There are two visitors, but she can only feel one.

The sun blinks twice as they cross the threshold. Her daughter, Gray Moon, motions for the newcomer to sit in the outer ring, the ring of sirdis, marked by dried orchids and pieces of scattered obsidian. His lithe, pale body folds into the etched dirt. Blue eyes stare at Red Leaf beneath a smooth crop of white down hair. Pale as a corpse, his attention drifts across the room.

:I found him at the river. He was turning over stones, foraging.

Red Leaf pushes her mind to the river and it remembers the larvae that lived beneath the rocks. She feels their desiccated remains burn inside the acid of the newcomer's gut. But of him she can''t feel anything.

:I can't sense him, her daughter thought. I thought you might be able.

Red Leaf stretches her mind to the newcomer, but it slips from her grasp like a trout caught fresh from the stream.

:Bring him closer.

Gray Moon stands, and beckons the newcomer to cross the river-smoothed pebbles and dried lavender that marks the ring of akys. Together they move toward Red Leaf.

Close—her daughter's senses meld into her own, and the blending makes the sarembar expand into a riot of new perspective. Red Leaf's senses mushroom to encompass all her daughter can feel, see, smell, and taste. A completeness washes over her, but also a loss. For it's not entirely complete — the newcomer presents a small, stubborn blankness in the expanse. Negative space. Even the rocks under his feet are more connected to the world path, even the mites that crawled across his skin.

His mind is a dull void in a vivid universe; separate from any world that she could comprehend.

Red Leaf had heard that such people were coming. The trees had whispered, the waters blethered, the animals trembled. New tribes, isolated from nature, cut from the pulse of the world. Swarms of fair-skinned newcomers with chattering language and killing tools, bent on submitting the world to their will.

Perhaps they can still be saved.

::Bring him closer.

Gray Moon hesitates. The ring of itaka is rarely crossed. With such proximity comes great power, but also danger.

::He is a just a child. Bring him closer.

Gray Moon takes the newcomer's hand and they step over the deer antlers and pumice stone that marks the final ring. The newcomer again sits, his face illuminated by the fire.

He is beautiful.

Intelligence dances behind his eyes, his face full of expression and curiosity. His lithe hairless body, fluid and muscular. Not the clunky, savage and stubborn strength of Red Leaf and Gray Moon and their ilk, but a new, fluid strength.

He is new. The hope of the world.

But disconnected. Unaware.

Red Leaf stands and draws strength from the firepit. With the energy from the Fire, Earth, Sky, and all Creation, she focuses her mind and

pushes him

:::You're not alone. You can choose to live with creation, or choose dominion.







— the newcomer is in the air, stone knife extended, leaping towards the shaman. He gives a shriek as the stone knife pierces flesh, breaking open her windpipe. Red Leaf falls against the wall of the cave, then crumples to the floor as the boy turns to her daughter.

The trees and the river and the stones cry out, but he does not hear.


The newcomer softly whistles to himself as he kicks the rocks and dried flowers to the edges of the cave. He drags the bodies to the entrance and watches them tumble down the slope towards the river below. The cave is protected and large: it will make an excellent base for hunting.

And this valley is rich with prey.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In. Flash me.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Flash: Lyres of Ur

Ocean Music
~925 words

I am a god.

I spread myself like a blanket across the waves, drinking the brine, stretching out towards dueling horizons. The fish below beat a rhythmic pulse with each flip of their fins. The crabs and lobsters creak and crunch across the cloudy benthos while the slimy worms wend their watery way through the underslime beneath. I swallow it all, this deep watery orchestra, imbibe and imbue myself with its heavy melodies. I am a god, and the ocean, earth, and sky are my body, my home, my soul.

My music.

But we gods have needs, too. I can't resist her pull.

She sings to me from the temple on the shore. I shrink, swirling and contracting, drawing up from the deep and down from the sky. My expanse becomes a single point above the waves. I am pulled, drawn to her, dancing across the wave crests to the beach where she sits before the altar.

She is a Sumer beauty, midnight black hair framing coal eyes and coffee skin. I appear before her as a dolphin cresting the waves, playful, spinning and splashing in the foam. She laughs and claps her hands. This our game, her and I, and so I dive and twist the dolphin's form, pulling and plucking its tissues into new shapes and configurations until I step from the water in the form of a young, powerful man, with a robe made of ever-swimming fishes and hair and long beard of bright green kelp. Scales cover my body, sunlight shimmering across them in a hypnotic cacophony.

For the first time I notice my lover is not alone.

"This is Anhu, my brother," she says. "He asked me to call for you."

This pleases me. Like his sister, Anhu is beautiful. Lithe and muscular, a rash of black hair over smooth clay skin, he is clad modestly.

Not for long,

"He has brought you a gift. Something he made."

Anhu bows and opens a cloth-wrapped bundle to reveal a device of carved wood and string. It's a creation unlike anything I have seen before. I reach for it, then hesitate.

"What is it? What does it do?" I ask. I look closer. It's both crude and curious, wrapped with carvings and inlaid with jade and gemstones.

"I call it a lyre," Anhu says. "It has strings bound between sections of wood, stretched to different tensions. You pluck the strings and it makes music." He drags his hands across the strings, and it makes a jangling, discordant noise that pains my ears.

I laugh. "I'm sorry, but It's absurd," I turn back to my lover. "That noise is no more music than the clamoring voice you use to call me."

Her eyes lower. "That's why we have come to you. The lyre should produce beautiful melodies, like the pulse of the ocean and the songs of the birds, but it doesn't. We don't know why. We thought perhaps you could help?"

I sigh. "Music can never come from mortal contraptions of wood and string. Music is for the gods, not for you."

Her eyes flash with anger. "Why do you keep it from us?"

"You couldn't understand it. Beauty, art, music — these are for the gods. Mortal minds can't possibly begin to feel what we feel. I wish you could, but I'm afraid it's just impossible."

Her eyes flash. "You told me once that we were made in your image."

"You are, my lover. But—"

"You lied."

I step back. No mortal has ever deigned to address me with such indeference. But though I am a patient and forgiving god, I still have my needs. "My lover, you called and I came. Let us be done with this distraction and retire to the temple bed. And it would please me if your dear brother joined us." With a smooth and muscular motion I reach down, grab the lyre, and turn to cast it into the ocean.

Then I hear the singing.

From all around me, powerful mortal voices call, pulling to towards them. I spin, lyre in hand, confused.

Ten Sumer women advance from the temple, chanting, singing, calling. I am pulled to them, to their atonal cries, chanting my name in their dusty language, their sand-dry vocal cords rasping rough syllables and ugly melodies, calling me. I feel myself being pulled from my body, my god-essence shifting from the flesh I occupy, pulled out. Never before have I felt the power of so many voices at once, all summoning. Beckoning.

Then Anhur grasps the lyre that I still hold, and he begins to chant as well, and I feel myself being pulled down, down, down, into the lyre, into the carvings and etchings and into the strings of animal gut and into the black mahogany wood, and though I fight I cannot pull away. The flesh I'd inhabited falls back into the beach, empty, discarded.

We created mankind in our image, and yet we created them to serve us: these ideal can't coexist, and that was our folly.


The sun sets over the western horizon. Anhur watches the waves roll gently towards him. The priest-women of the temple are gone, and his sister retired to her bed long ago. The full moon casts white reflections across the dark ocean waters.

All is still.

Absently, he plucks the strings of the lyre. Sweet melodies pour forth, melding with the rhythm of the waves and cry of the birds above.

He smiles, closes his eyes, and dreams of new creations.

May 3, 2003
College Slice

magnificent7 posted:

I'm in, Cephalopod. I swear I'll loving submit something this week, even if it's 1200 words of "gurgle gurgle, bubbles. Gurgle. Suction cups."

an improvement over your last story

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, 6 me up with a flash rule also

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, were-creature if you please!

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Prompt: Were-caiman

The Hunted
~1190 words

The sky screams and splits open as a ball of flame crashes to the Earth, shaking the barracks with its fury. The gas pours in and we scramble from our bunks — ripped from dreams of piercing metal implements carving into my flesh — and I try to hold my breath but I choke and gag and inhale the sulphurous poison.

Zana is there, pulling me towards the door we've got to move move move because by now they'll be pouring from the craft, loping their improbable gait, chewing up the swampland. Coming for us.

What's left of our group scatters in all directions, my sister pulling me into the heavy grasses that surround our camp, ducking low as the last aftershocks of the impact shake the ground beneath. Her hand is hard and scaly, difficult to grip as she pulls me into the blackness. My claws dig hard into her palm but she doesn't complain. We need to stay together. A flash of light, then a scream from behind followed by that horrible alien chattering klack-klack-klack and I know they have reached the compound, impossibly fast.

But we are also fast, running low and hard through the wet grasses that poke from the fetid water. The poison, too, runs hard, carving changes into my body as it seeps into my tissues. My muscles swell and pull at softened limb bones. Burning pain radiates from my pelvis as it is pulled forward in minute, spastic twitches. I feel my skin thicken as hard nodules form within the dermis. Then the gas hits my head hard, harder than ever, and I swoon as the swamp reaches up to grab me.

"C'mon," Zana hisses, and yanks me violently. She's not going to lose me, not like our younger brother. There will be no moment of respite, not yet. Not during a hunt.

We pass from the grasses into a thick quagmire of thorny bushes. Their taller stature provides better cover, but as we change we are now hunched low so it doesn't matter. The hard thorns skitch harmlessly across my newly armored skin. My skull is changing, too, as once-fused bony plates shift and slide and reconfigure, elongating my jaw and pushing my skull flat against my spinal cord. My balance is pushed forward and down, down towards the swampy water through which we splash. We won't be able to run much longer. The change is faster this time. Stronger.

Zana knows this too, I think, and pulls me towards a giant Ceiba tree ahead, starkly illuminated in the partial moonlight. It rises above the jungle like a watchman, but it's lower reaches are choked with tall reeds and bushes — excellent cover. I stumble and almost fall—my arms and legs are so short now—but roll under the protective arms of the tree. I shiver as the poison sinks deeper, down into my viscera. Zana shivers as well, but her eyes glow as she scans the area for any signs of pursuit.

I close my eyes for a moment and slip back into dreams: this time I'm helping his father bring in the fishing nets, writhing with salty, squirming, squishy things, then I'm sitting on the dirt floor in our home and Zana is cradling our brother, so weak, too weak for the world as it was then or as it is now. But we were all too weak, weren't we? So they took us, augmented us, switched on ancient genes and added new swathes of DNA, changed us, so we'd be what? A better challenge? Harder to hunt?

My eyes iris open to the night sky and through the branches of the Ceiba tree I see the Net, glistening alien vines that ensnare the Earth, obscure the stars, enslave us. A hissing sounds escapes my jaws. Father is gone, Mother is gone, my brother gone. Just a few of us, surviving. And what are we anymore? Are we still human? Zana, my protector, watches me with cold reptilian eyes and strokes my leathery cheek with a ragged claw.

The change is almost complete.

"I's founds ssssomething," Zana says with great effort, the words rasping from her synapsid jaw. "Nearss the fencess." She points towards the east, where the sky lightens with the coming of dawn.

The fences. An impenetrable alien alloy cage to keep us contained. Whispered rumors of what lies beyond: free people, resistance fighters beating back the alien oppression. But no help to us here and now: they might as well be on the moon.

The heavy silence is broken as the thorny bushes tear apart and an alien keening fills the air. One has caught our scent.


We dive into the waters beyond the Ceiba tree, short legs scrabbling for purchase on wet clay. Keep moving, the dark waters will mask our scent. We work our new bodies and flash through the murky bog. Soon the fence appears ahead; we surface and Zana pushes me onto a spit of mud covered in leaf litter, which she shoves aside. Buried in the clay beneath is an artifact of shimmering metal, pulsing with energy, long and sure. A weapon.

"sss-How?" I ask, but she ignores me and struggles to free it from the cloying substrate. Discarded? Or a mysterious benefactor?

No time for questions: a flash and the alien is here. Myriad limbs and strange angles that shift and slide just on the edge of my vision. Impossible tesseract appendages, folding and unfolding into angles that defy the senses. Shifting flitting always moving always at the edge of my vision.


Zana stands upright, human-like, alien weapon in hand, and pulls hard on what looks like a trigger.

But it's not aimed at our pursuer. The fence blows apart and hot, twisted metal release clouds of steam as they hit the water.

Zana turns the gun towards the alien. She furiously scrabbles at the controls.

"sss-Go!" she manages through clenched jaws.

I hesitate. The hunter is closing, all right angles and movements beyond perception. Zana's shortened arms struggle to grasp the trigger as she swings it around

and then it strikes

and she is gone, chopped apart in a cloud of blood and fluid and sinew, exploding before the advance the alien hunter, its movements impossibly fast and precise, now moving through her towards me

my sister! my protector! she's gone and now inhuman speed and hunger turns towards me—

—but I am more than human. I spin, ophidian scales catch the morning light, and dive through the opening in the fence, down into the cool protective waters. Beyond the fence the marsh bleeds into open ocean. My heart rate slows and my blood cools. I swim deep into the brine, my only companions the soft and shimmering things my father used to catch in his nets. The alien does not, or cannot, pursue me to the depths.

I will not surface for a long time. When I finally do the change within me will be complete.

I will be free, and I will be a hunter.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Yeah those were fantastic UP, thanks!

May 3, 2003
College Slice
In, please objectify me as well.

May 3, 2003
College Slice
Honeymoon Warriors
~625 words

After two years on the shelf I’m abruptly swept up in giggles and glitter. When the metal rain settles I see them for the first time.  Her dark hair is braided with colorful beads like jeweled shells, and her grin is wide through the glass.

"Isn't he gorgeous?"

The man smiles sideways, humoring her. His eyes slide past me.

"How about one of these?" He says and points to a shelf of dried sea stars.

"No, I like this guy. He's cute," she says, and with shake more glitter erupts around me. When it settles I take a final look back at my fellow mermen: a phalanx of warriors set in precise formation, tails of red, green, and blue, rippling torsos dusted with bright glitter. An army of silent figures waiting on coral thrones, tridents held ready behind thick glass globes. Poseidon told us we were built for a purpose—but what purpose I don’t know.


Two more years on a shelf. From my perch in their sitting room I watch.

I see drunken dancing and drunker lovemaking.  I see friends come and go, hobbies started and abandoned, and long hours staring blankly at the small TV in the corner, waiting for him to come home.

I think often of my fellow warriors, and wonder if they are still waiting back on that tiny Hawaiian shop. My glitter has settled permanently to the seafloor, and a thick coat of dust covers the crystal dome above my head.  My purpose, if I even have one, is as hazy as the glass of my globe.

Still I watch. I see objects thrown, arms twisted, frantic tears and hushed apologies.  She wears long sleeves and linen scarves around her neck even as the summer sun shines warm through the bay window.  He comes and goes, but as time passes he mostly goes.

A faint understanding begins scratching at the edge of my mind.  Poseidon whispers in my dreams, hinting at my purpose.

It takes a cut lip and sprained wrist for him to buy her the TV. Flat screen plasma, wall mounting hardware, the works.

"Let's put it over the fireplace," he says. He points towards me, hammer in hand.  I squeeze my trident tighter. 

She reaches up. "Remember this?  I almost forgot he was up here."  Her smile magnifies through curve of the glass, for a moment I imagine we are back in the store.  My grip relaxes. She pulls me down and wipes away the dust.  

"It seems like yesterday," she says.

"Throw it in the closet," he says, and hoists the TV.

Her smile drops. She gives me a halfhearted shake as she places me in the closet, but the door shuts before the glitter has a chance to fall.


Two days of darkness pass. Then, with a splintering of wood, light crashes in as the door gives way and she falls backward into the closet.  He is roaring, a leviathan made real, a battering ram of rage and hurt, eyes red, fist raised to strike.

She covers her face with her hands, sobbing "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry" her words blurry through mucus and tears and blood—yes, it’s blood running down the side of her head, matting her mermaid hair flat. He shoves her hard, again, and I teeter, and I think I will fall, but she catches me and with the fury of a thousand crashing waves she swings me at his head.  A crunch of glass on bone and he crashes to the carpet. The ocean roars and Poseidon shouts triumphant in my ears as the glitter explodes around me again, and again, and again.

Within the maelstrom of glitter and glass and blood, I smile, my purpose fulfilled.

Object: you are a snowglobe (or rainglobe, or sparkleglobe, or etc)


May 3, 2003
College Slice
I am IN

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