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Crain
Jun 27, 2007

I had a beer once with Stephen Miller and now I like him.

I also tried to ban someone from a Discord for pointing out what an unrelenting shithead I am! I'm even dumb enough to think it worked!


In and Flash me.

I haven't joined in on this in a long while, but work got real busy. I know I owe crits though so I'll try and write some for this week.

Crain fucked around with this message at 11:49 on Jun 21, 2019

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Crain
Jun 27, 2007

I had a beer once with Stephen Miller and now I like him.

I also tried to ban someone from a Discord for pointing out what an unrelenting shithead I am! I'm even dumb enough to think it worked!


Balancing Act.

(Sister and Rival)

1403 words.

The automatic door refused to open for Stephanie yet again, but I expected it. Martin had once again been messing with the school’s systems and it was Stephanie’s turn to face some “mishaps” in his little schedule. Martin had far too much access to the system for a cadet, but his status as the Headmaster’s son kept him out of trouble. He’d lock people out so they’d be late to tests, cut power to their rooms the night papers were due, make people’s equipment disappear, things like that. “He’s training to be an intelligence officer, this is a good sign, blah, blah” was the usual response to the pranks. I’d long stopped trying to get every little instance reported and acted on in favor of balancing the scales. A few tweaks to the elevators and Martin was left spamming the buttons until Stephanie was able to get on. With most of the class arriving late due to a “system error” no one would get in trouble, or at the very least they couldn’t punish everyone but Martin in an obvious show of favoritism.

Unfortunately my balancing act had a side effect. With the rest of the class constantly befalling these weird events, Martin and Stephanie had ended up in constant competition for top of the class, and Martin ended up targeting her more and more. It never worked, I made sure of it. My little sister didn’t deserve to be the play thing of some privileged poo poo. I tried to help the rest where I could, but my focus was with family. With that out of the way I could focus on the day’s work: Designing the upcoming war game. The cadets were gearing up to take their final test for the year and I was designing it.

“Clara, can I have a moment of your time?” Mr. Anders, one of the administration staff, asked stepping into my office. “Can you sit in as overseer for the wargame? Sgt. Tiemann has an unfortunate schedule conflict he can’t get out of. We’d normally not ask you to since your sister is in that class, but…”

“Don’t worry, I just man the cameras and record the engagements right? I won’t have to actually judge anything and the field events are automated anyway.” I responded. The avoidance of any impropriety is expected, but I’m not a combat instructor so they’d just give the recordings to the class’s actual teacher afterwards. I didn’t see any reason I couldn’t or shouldn’t help out.

“Perfect. You’re the systems designer after all. You’d not need any extra help running it. I’m sure Tiemann would have been asking you how to do every little thing in the first place! HA!” Mr. Anders scoffed as he trotted out. I went to work trying to lock the system down even harder to avoid any unwanted Martin induced mishaps from sneaking into my design.

The day started off without any problems. No one got locked out of the arena, no one’s dorms lost power the night before, no missing equipment, and things were looking good. Maybe the importance of the event and the obviously increased surveillance had kept Martin busy and in line. The war game was glorified paintball, but the tactical decisions made by each cadet were the important factor, not the severity of the situation. Clara and Martin ended up being selected as group captains due to their standings in the class. Hopefully this would remove any risk of him trying to do anything as he would be back commanding his forces instead of running around in the field.

I sounded the warning alarm to the arena and the cadets started setting up. Both sides had the same missions: Secure their own supplies and intel stations while trying to take over their opponent’s. After the prescribed set up time I hit start and the field immediately exploded with simulated artillery volleys and bombing runs turning the mock towns into crater strewn ruins that threw the team’s attack vectors and selected cover locations right out the window.

Each of the students had a series of beacons and sensors on them to let me know if they were hit or near each other. Little alarms would sound when they got close enough to each other, which let me know to focus some cameras on them to record what happened. Otherwise the macro scale troop movements were just tracked with a little radar map covered in dots. Stephanie stayed toward the back while sending out small probing squads looking for enemy positions. She’d have them move till they made contact, then pull them back and send a squad set up specifically to deal with what they found. Martin was going for shock and awe, marching large groups forward then dumping suppressing fire on whatever they happened to come across. He was taking more ground at first, but using up his munitions chasing Stephanie’s small probing teams.

The teams reached a stale mate as Martin’s troops had burned too hot too fast. The system had quieted down with the reduced engagements, and I finally had a moment of peace. Taking the lull to get some ancillary work done I started saving some of the active footage and repositioning camera focuses. I caught a few glimpses of the cadets having fun with the stalemate. One group seemed to be playing tic-tac-toe against the wall of a building between them, taking turns trying to draw X’s and O’s in paintballs. Another was having a skeet shooting competition with each side throwing random set dressing props in the air over cover and seeing if the other side could hit it. A serving tray was thrown in the air and shot back, landing on the thrower and smearing the paint on him. Some of the group turned to the camera and asked “Does that count as being hit?” I turned on the radio to let them know that it didn’t. They looked relived until I mentioned that it did count as environmental damage and they needed to pop his casualty card and see what kind of injury the cadet had received.

A single alarm cut through the fun. Turning to the map I saw a single dot had made its way behind Stephanie’s team and was making its way up behind her. The ID on the marker showed it was Martin himself. There was no way he could have snuck back there. I turned on the cameras for that area and couldn’t find him. Did he have active camo? That wasn’t allowed, but maybe he was just hiding very well in the brush. It was suspicious as hell, and considering his reputation with messing with the school’s systems I wasn’t giving him the benefit of the doubt. The alarms increased in tempo as Martin skulked closer to Stephanie. I could have tried to run a system check to see what he was doing and how. The test would be invalidated and redone, but then Martin would have the advantage of knowing how Stephanie planned to run her side. I mean, she would have the same knowledge, but with Martin cheating whenever he started to lose…

“BEHIND YOU!” I gave in. I hit Stephanie’s radio link and warned her. She spun, took aim, and waited. Nothing came. She called back some troops to scout the area. As she went back to her post she paused and looked up into a nearby camera. She shook her head in defeat.

The quiet returned. Both sides probed each other’s lines, cadets fooled around, and the war game went on. I robotically went through the motions recording events. Then my radio clicked on with static pouring through the speaker inflating a sinister pause. Finally the silence broke.

“I got you Clara.” It was Martin. “I’m glad your accepted Mr. Anders request to overseer the war game. There was never anyone behind Stephanie, just sent ghosted data that only you could see. She couldn’t have heard anything behind her, no one else could have seen anyone creeping up, it was only you would that had that knowledge. I’m not particularly targeting your sister. It was just odd that out of the rest of the class it was only ever her who I couldn’t touch. Now I know why, and that little radio message recorded in the system will ensure that you’re never in my way again.”

Crain
Jun 27, 2007

I had a beer once with Stephen Miller and now I like him.

I also tried to ban someone from a Discord for pointing out what an unrelenting shithead I am! I'm even dumb enough to think it worked!


In.

Crain
Jun 27, 2007

I had a beer once with Stephen Miller and now I like him.

I also tried to ban someone from a Discord for pointing out what an unrelenting shithead I am! I'm even dumb enough to think it worked!


Crits for Week CCCLIX: Who we are to one another

Trophy by Derp

This feels like an epilogue to a longer story, but you manage to set up some world building and Berenger’s character pretty well. Having the CEO fire an employee for his own stress relief, and establishing that this is a regular thing, feels somewhat hackneyed. It does the job in the same way having a villain kick a dog in the opening scene of a movie. You did a lot of solid establishment with 1000 words to show how Power is the only thing that your main character cares about and what he does with it. It does feel cheap though. Having his main act be killing the last elephant on earth, and having it be pregnant, and having it be live streamed to the impotent masses who he knows can’t do anything to stop him felt like emotional overkill.

She and You by Djeser

I liked the format, but it wasn’t super clear to me at first so I had to reread the first part a couple times. It also wasn’t clear that this was a Jungle Book situation, which lead to another read through. Overall I liked it once I got it. I don’t think the pacing of young to child to baby to grow to old works for clarity. It would have been easier to follow going straight through without anything lost.

The Student and The Grandmother by Anomalous Amalgam

The opener is really muddled with made up tech jargon. It was really distracting trying to figure out what was being described by your terms and I don’t think you really have the word count needed to establish this kind of writing with this prompt. The opener could have been condensed down by quite a lot since it ultimately just establishes they are stranded in space and need to survive on an alien planet till help arrives. The overall story may be good, but it’s clouded with far too much hand waved, ambiguous techno babble to really enjoy. The grandmother’s sacrifice would have held more weight if I had any clue what she had actually done.

Consanguineous by Tyrannosaurus

I like the story you ended up getting to. Grandma’s jokes about being a werewolf/having wolf family turns out to be real is a lot more interesting than dinner scenes and work troubles. They served a purpose but you spent too much time on them for my taste. This story is 1200 words of boring with 200 words of payoff that I don’t think fully balance the scales.

Exuviae by Barnaby Profane

I don’t feel like anything happened. There is a lot of potential for where this setting can, it’s a good establishing shot for something, but that something isn’t here. Jothana goes to this hospital after transitioning and suffering from something, two scenes where she meets a friend, and then they sneak out for snacks. For me this piece just leaves me with a lot of questions and not in a satisfying way. It’s a very pretty vignette though.

I also have a general crit for Anomalous Amalgam and Tyrannosaurus: Long strings of dialogue.

I know I had/have this issue and I’ve tried to actively avoid it but these stories seem far too short to be filled up with long strings of dialogue between characters with little development given to them. That isn’t to say you didn’t develop your characters, just that the amount of page space you have available to give them character means they can only have so much depth. It can be easy and fun to write straight dialogue but most of the time the essence of what is conveyed can be condensed down into a short paragraph or a couple of sentences.

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