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My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

A new challenger appears!

I'm in.


My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

The Conference
Word count: 1191

She pulled out her phone to confirm the address as the Uber driver sped away from the airport. On the final leg of her journey, she sunk back into the seat. Traveling to this conference was a hassle, but everyone in the industry was there so she was too.

Bored, she flicked through the Airbnb listing again. “Cozy apartment at the heart of the city!” The photos were mostly of the outside of the building, offering no evidence of this claim; her assistant had likely chosen it for the location. It couldn’t be worse than the bedbugs last year.

The driver arrived at the old apartment building, only a block away from the conference, and helped her unnecessarily with her luggage. After retrieving the keys from a lockbox, she looked for an elevator. Finding none, she picked up her bag and headed for the stairs. Halfway up, the lights flickered off. Annoyed, she used her phone’s flashlight to continue on in the dark.

Reaching the apartment, she unlocked the door, which swung shut heavily behind her. From the description she was prepared for the place to be small, but hadn’t expected it to be so old-fashioned. The wooden kitchen furniture looked handmade, the couch in the living room was garishly patterned, and knick-knacks filled the shelves. It had the dusty warm smell of old people with an unpleasant undertone of heavy cleaning chemicals.

Whatever, she’d stayed in worse places. She poured a glass of water, then hung up her outfit for tomorrow. It was too late for dinner and she was exhausted from travelling so she decided to call it a night, making herself as comfortable as possible beneath the itchy quilt on the single bed.

The next morning, she prepared for the long day of networking ahead of her. On her way out the door, she stopped. Something was off. It took her a few seconds to realize what it was: her water glass from last night had been cleaned and was drying on the dish rack. She told herself that maybe she’d done it last night, but wasn’t convinced.

The day passed in a flurry of business card exchanges. She had dinner with a client and enjoyed a boozy, chatty evening in the bars. Much later, she stumbled back up the dark stairs and re-entered the apartment. She fumbled the main light switch so settled for turning on a floor lamp. As the old bulb came to life, she saw a dark figure retreat into a shadowy corner of the living room. She froze, then peered carefully into the corner. Nothing. Maybe the four (five? six?) glasses of wine were making her see things. She went into the bedroom, locked the door just in case, and collapsed onto the quilt.

She awoke to a mean hangover. A cold shower and the reapplication of makeup helped a little; she contented herself with the knowledge that everyone else at the conference was feeling the same way. She trudged through the living room to the kitchen for coffee, but then straightened up in shock. The small wooden table was set with a stack of pancakes, imitation maple syrup, and a glass of orange juice. She didn’t remember seeing juice in the fridge. Numbly she reached out to see if the food was still warm: it wasn’t, as if it had been sitting out for several hours. She didn’t know what to make of this information, so she just gathered her bag and hurried out the door.

Once she reached the fresh air, her brain started to think rationally again. She pulled out her phone and, as she walked to the convention center, looked at the listing again. Maybe the elderly person who owned the apartment thought they needed to provide breakfast … but the picture was of a young trendy couple, Instagram filter and all. She frowned and sent them a quick message asking if the apartment was serviced daily. The reply was quick and unhelpful: “no?”.

She tried to put the situation out of her mind and threw herself back into the bustle of the conference. In the evening, she went out with some colleagues, but they were still recovering from the previous night and left early. Not wanting to go back just yet, she nursed a cocktail at a quiet bar before it got late and she ran out of excuses. Feeling apprehensive, she made her way back up the stairs and slowly entered the apartment.

The breakfast was gone. In its place on the table were two wine glasses filled with a blood-red liquid. For some reason they terrified her; she didn’t dare even look at them. She rushed through the kitchen, into the living room, heading for the bedroom, when the lights flickered off.

“Darling, you came! You came!” A woman’s voice came out of the darkness, as wispy as tissue paper and cobwebs.

Desperately ignoring it, she pulled on the bedroom door handle. It was locked. She whirled around and saw that the kitchen was still illuminated.

“It’s been so long … Have a drink, come sit down.” A cold presence moved past her, giving her the impression of an old woman with a blue apron.

She tried to focus on the impossibility of the situation but her adrenaline was stronger. All she knew for sure was that she needed to leave, now. She retreated back towards the kitchen.

“Ah yes, come sit. You must be hungry, let me make you something.” The pans hanging above the sink rattled as she edged past the table. She touched the doorknob and the light in the kitchen immediately cut out.

“No, leaving so soon? I barely got to see you, stay for longer.” It was pleading with her. “Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go, don’t leave me, don’t leave me here alone, stay, stay, STAY, STAY!”

The voice became enraged as she pulled desperately at the doorknob. The cold presence enveloped her just as she was about to call for help, freezing the scream in her mouth. She saw a vision of loneliness; the years passing slowly, becoming too infirm to travel, phone calls on Christmas and Mother’s Day and then not even that. Friends dying until there was no one left. No one and nothing to live for. The rope, the chair.

She gasped and flung herself backwards, knocking over the wine glasses. The voice shrieked and she felt it move past her, away from the exit. She lunged, grabbing her bag and yanking open the door, then fled down the stairs in the dark. She walked until her nerves quietened, then found a bland chain hotel. Even under the freshly-starched sheets, it took her a long time to fall asleep.

The next morning, she asked the concierge to call her a taxi to the airport, then gave him the room card and, to his confusion, the keys to the apartment. Without baggage, she breezed through security. Settling down at the gate in front of a bright window, she pulled out her phone.

“Hi, Grandma. Yes, it’s me. I’m flying back now but how about dinner next week?”

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I'm in and I'll take a flash please!

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Into the Night
1177 words

Mbali lived in paradise.

After the rest of the world blew itself up, the remainders- Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America- had to rebuild. What’s past is past, but the future is limitless became their motto. Abandoning oil, coal, and capitalism, the new world powers invested in sustainable technology, available to all levels of society. Decades of research culminated in the ability to tap into the massive potential produced through a tree’s photosynthesis and convert it into electricity. With the advent of this truly green technology, city blocks were built around genetically-engineered giant trees, which provided both power and structure to the inhabitants. With all basic needs fulfilled with little to no environmental impact, people were free to live: build, craft, investigate, explore, create.

Mbali reflected on these facts, on what a great time to be alive it was, then spat over the bamboo railing of the suspended walkway. Beneath her, the warm lights of the New Antananarivo spread out like thousands of fireflies, shining out of delicate wood-and-glass buildings layered between the trunks of the great trees. Above her, the canopies of these trees blanketed the city and filtered the moonlight. When her family had first come over from the wilds of the mainland, seeking a better life than shepherding for their children, she’d found the dark treetops stifling. As she grew up in their shadow, she learned to be like the city-folk and find it comforting. Tonight, though, it was back to smothering. She wished she could see the stars.

She sighed and tapped her fingers on her armband. Focus. The last message from Raharjo came up on the screen. “I’m coming, hold tight.” That had been over an hour ago. Here she was, holding tight, high above the city on the service walkways arborists used to take care of the trees. She’d become an arborist herself at the behest of her family: it was a well-paying, well-respected job, one that solidified their daughter’s place in the society of New Tana. However, while her colleagues waxed poetic about their deep connections to nature, Mbali was more interested in the calculations around solar energy and capillary action. Being an arborist was supposed to overwrite her identity as a mainlander, but it never worked. She was just too different.

Though the night was warm, Mbali suddenly shivered. The images had flashed back into her consciousness. White and brown skin. Red. A storm of motion, then deathly quiet. After that, survival mode.

She felt the strong need to scrub her hands. Lacking any other surface, she turned to the trunk of the great tree. She rubbed her hands a few times against the rough bark before she got a grip on herself. She reached into her work bag (she’d gone home early that day) and pulled on her arborist gloves, then gently touched the tree again. Instantly the unwanted images were replaced by the tree’s … feelings, not quite full emotions but not unthinking reflexes either. With her experience, it was easy to read. Its leaves were dormant after a full day of catching sunlight. It had found a space where its next branch would grow. Its top roots were a little compressed by the city, but it would just push out wider. Even though it was fenced in by wires, walkways, and buildings, it was content. As she’d done many times before, she soothed herself with this feeling, taking the tree’s calm as her own.

Finally Raharjo arrived, levitating silently out of the city with the lights of his podcar off. He was a smuggler that her family first met when they were new to New Tana and unused to following laws not related to survival. Her father had gotten a bit too animated with their first landlord and risked expulsion for Threats of Violence before Raharjo convinced the landlord not to pursue the matter. Now, he provided the family with beef, goat, and chicken on the holidays, and was the only person she knew that ran in the city’s rather small underworld.

She’d messaged him a few hours ago, panicked and reeling with emotion, not knowing where else to turn. New Tana had no capital punishment- life was sacred here- and the prisons were rehabilitative, but she couldn’t put her family and her fellow mainlanders through the ordeal. Though the actions were hers alone, the public reactions would fall on their shoulders too. It pained her, and it would hurt more later, but a clean getaway was best for everyone.

She pulled away from the tree and shook his hand gratefully.

“Jo, thanks for coming, I didn’t know who else to call.”

“It’s nothing, Mbali, don’t worry. Though your message sounded bad, what happened?”

She knew she needed to tell him, but her survival instincts flared up. Raharjo never lived anywhere but New Tana, he may not understand.

“You know my partner, Dinh?” Raharjo nodded helpfully, interpreting her silence for emotion instead of consideration.

“I … I found him. With … someone else.”

“And?” Raharjo prompted, though she could tell he’d already guessed.

“And … I did it.” Unwanted tears filled her eyes and she blinked them away. Remember what he did. You are not sorry.

Raharjo patted her on the shoulder. “Violence, then. How bad are we talking? Fourth, third degree? Did you break his nose?”

She sucked in a breath. Here was the test. “First.”

Raharjo’s eyes widened. There hadn’t been any first-degree Violence in years. “What? Dinh’s a big guy … how?” His eyes turned fearful. “You have a weapon?”

There was no point lying. She patted her arborist bag. “My pruning shears.”

Mbali watched Raharjo struggle with this information, waiting for his judgement.

“Good god, Mbali … Normal girls would have just joined in,” he said, running his hands across his face.

Now she knew: a careful man like Raharjo wouldn’t stick out his neck like that if he intended to actually help her. To help a life-taker.

“Tell my family, Jo? I think they’ll understand.”

He gave up, nodded. “I think they will too.”

Mbali watched him get back in his pod and drift away. Rather than feeling abandoned, she felt free. Getting out of the city would be harder now, sure, but where she went was entirely in her control. There were many small communities scattered around outside of New Tana, mostly centered on self-sustaining family farms. Or go to the sea and become a fish-herder. If all else failed, she could hide as a landfill miner for a while. What’s past is past, but the future is limitless.

She unclasped her armband and dropped it over the railing, watching its delicate electronics shatter on impact. Tracking her would be a whole lot harder now. Using her arborist’s smart-grapple, she shot a line into the canopy above. The grapple sought out a branch and connected to it, allowing Mbali to pull herself into the treetops. Supported by the silent, peaceful trees, she made her way out of the city and into the wilds. Looking up, she could see the stars.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I'm in, no flash as for cyberpunk week I got the literal opposite of cyberpunk :argh:

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Love & Sausages
2019 words

John slouched behind the register, miserable on his first day of working in his father’s butchery. His friends would be out fishing today, maybe visiting the soda fountain later. Their dads didn’t make them get summer jobs.

The tinkle of the door bells startled him. An elderly woman wobbled into the shop. “Oh, good morning, John!” she said.

“Hey, Mrs. Smith,” he said.

His father appeared from the back room. “Good morning, Mrs. Smith! How is Mr. Smith?”

“He’s very well, thank you,” she replied. Dad was already taking some breakfast sausages out of the case.

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Miller. Mr. Smith says he’ll eat these links until the day he dies.”

They both laughed politely. John was losing interest until Dad handed him the packet of sausages.

“Can you ring up Mrs. Smith, son?” he asked. “First day on the job,” he said proudly to her.

“I remember when you were only knee-high, running around with all your little friends,” Mrs. Smith cooed.

John smiled weakly and counted her change. Then Mrs. Smith was off, the bells tinkling behind her.

Just as John started to relax, the next customers entered. In a town as small as this one, he knew most of them. Feeling Dad watching him, he made small talk as they made their usual orders: a few steaks, a few chickens, but mostly sausages. His family’s shop was famous for them, John was partial to the pork and apple himself. He got into the rhythm of chatting and ringing up orders. Maybe this job wouldn’t be so bad after all.

But after lunch, the rate of customers slowed to a crawl, then stopped all together. John swatted some flies and watched the clock. He could hear Dad chopping through bone in the back room and Mom clacking away on the typewriter in the office. She’d been working the counter before but was now happy not to be standing all day. John was beginning to sympathize. He shifted from one foot to the other and wondered if he could justify leaving in time to catch the matinee.

The door bells rang and John snapped to attention, eager for a distraction. It was a girl, about his age, with warm brown hair and pale eyes. He felt blood rush to his face and with effort managed to speak.

“Hi … do you want a sausage?”

He immediately realized the innuendo and blushed even deeper. To make things worse, she was blushing too. He willed himself to disappear, to no avail.

Thankfully Dad came to the rescue. “Hi there, I’m Mr. Miller and this is my son John. I haven’t seen you in before, is your family new in town?”

She nodded, the red fading from her cheeks. “Yes sir, just moved here. I’m Martha Ward.”

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Ward, I hope your family settles in well. Now, what can I get you?”

She consulted a slip of paper. “Umm, a half pound of beef mince and six chicken drumsticks, please.”

Dad left John to pack up the meat and ring up the order. Both of them blushed when she handed over the money, their hands brushing. Before she left, she scribbled down her number on the back of her shopping list. “Call me, okay?”

Feeling the paper in his pocket, John drifted through the rest of the day in a haze.

The thought of seeing Martha sustained John over the rest of the week. Finally Saturday arrived. She met him at his house. John gave her a tour of the town: the shops, the movie theatre, his favorite spot down by the river. They finished the day by sharing a milkshake at the diner. She talked about her previous home in the city and her guinea pig Bubbles. He told her about all the pranks he and his friends had pulled over the years, both of them giggling in the booth until the waitress kicked them out. Things couldn’t be more perfect, John thought.

On Monday he was already impatient for the next weekend. Dad caught him daydreaming while a customer was waiting more than once, which earned him a stern talking-to at home.

“I know it’s hard working for your old man, but you need to take this job seriously, John.”

“But why? It’s so boring in the afternoons, can’t I take those off to-”

“To see your girlfriend? You can see her on the weekends. During the week you need to help your family.”

John tried appealing to his mother. “Mom, don’t you think it would be better if I spent more time with Martha? You like her, right?”

“I do, but your father’s right,” she said. “Besides, girls admire men with a strong work ethic.”

She smiled at Dad, who reciprocated. Neither of them understood.

John sulked for a few days until he came up with a brilliant plan for his next date. During a slow afternoon, he put together a picnic basket full of treats from the butchery: salami, hard-boiled eggs, sliced cheese. Preoccupied with thoughts of Martha, he rushed sloppily through his butchery tasks.

Saturday dawned warm and bright. He met Martha at her house and they walked along the river until they reached his favorite spot. John spread out the blanket and unpacked the picnic as Martha sat down.

“Is this all from your family’s shop?” she asked.

“Yep,” John said proudly. She enjoyed the eggs and cheese, but to his surprise balked at the salami.

“What’s wrong? Is it too spicy?” John’s stomach sank.

“No, not that,” she said, twisting the edge of the blanket nervously. “It’s … I wanted to tell you earlier, but your job … I’m a vegetarian,” she said, eyes filling with tears.

John processed this, then put his arm around her as the tears began to fall. “No, it’s okay,” he said. “I don’t mind, promise.”

She sniffed and looked up into his face. “Promise?” she said.

He nodded and she leaned her head on his chest. They sat like that for a while until John couldn’t contain himself any longer.

“But … why?”

She sat up, tears dried. “A few years ago, I read an article in National Geographic about Peru. Did you know that they eat guinea pigs there? I thought how barbaric it would be to eat Bubbles, then I realized eating any type of animal is barbaric. So I stopped.”

John nodded, not really understanding.

“I’m sorry if this is a dealbreaker for you, with the butchery …”

“No, you’re right!” John said impulsively. More than anything, he didn’t want her to cry again. “I think I’ll become vegetarian too.” She threw her arms around him and, before he even realized what was happening, kissed him.

John’s euphoria lasted until dinnertime, where he refused the roast chicken his mother had made and informed his parents he was now a vegetarian. Of course, they didn’t understand. Mom seemed confused but Dad was furious.

“Is that what you learned from working at the butchery all summer? How immoral it is?”

“God, Dad, no! It’s a good job, I just don’t want to eat meat anymore.”

“You’re rejecting the business that your great-grandfather built. Your grandfather crafted the counter you stand behind all day with his own two hands! How could you betray the family like this?”

“Did you know they eat guinea pigs in Peru, Dad?”

“And we eat full-sized pigs, so what?”

Mom asked, “This was Martha’s idea?”

John nodded. “Yeah, she’s a vegetarian, and now I am too.”

At this, Dad stomped upstairs. Mom just shook her head at him. John went to bed hungry: being a vegetarian was hard.

The next day, Dad still wasn’t speaking to him. John spent a miserable eight hours at the butchery then ran home and called Martha. She was sympathetic and invited him over for dinner.

After telling his mother that he had dinner plans, he changed into his nicest shirt and walked over to the Ward’s house. Martha greeted him at the door and introduced her to her parents and older brother. John realized he’d seen her brother at the butchery earlier that week. Indeed, as they sat down to the table Martha’s mother brought out some of the famous sausages. Pork and apple, his favorite.

“If I knew you’d be joining us for dinner, I’d have made something else. I’m sure you get enough of these at home,” Mrs. Ward said.

“We sure can’t get enough!” Mr. Ward laughed and clapped John on the back. “Your family does wonders with meat.”

“Thank you, but I’m actually a vegetarian, like Martha,” John said. Martha squeezed his knee under the table.

Mr. Ward rolled his eyes dramatically. “You found another hippie in this town. Who knew sending you to the butchery that one time would’ve been such a bad idea. Oh well, more for me!”

The Wards dished out the sausages while John and Martha ate the salad and rolls. Martha endured more teasing from her family but it seemed good-natured. As the sausages were passed around again, John’s stomach rumbled.

Martha and her mother started clearing the table and her brother disappeared after dinner, leaving John alone with Mr. Ward. Noticing John gazing at the pork and apple sausages, Mr. Ward winked. “I won’t tell.”

John glanced towards the kitchen anxiously, then back to the sausages. Quickly he sliced off a chunk and shoved it in his mouth. It tasted even better than he remembered: the savory saltiness of the pork cut by the sweetness of the apple. He closed his eyes blissfully.

When he opened them, Martha was staring at him from the doorway. Her face told him it was over.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry,” Mr. Ward shot John a guilty look as he went to comfort his daughter.

Martha pushed past her parents and fled up the stairs, but not before a sob escaped her. John stood up.

“I should go. Thank you for the dinner, Mrs. Ward.”

“You’re very welcome, John.” She sighed. “I keep telling her no boy is going to want to give up meat, but she always thinks she can change them, and she’s always disappointed.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Ward said. “I shouldn’t have tempted you like that.”

“Not your fault, Mr. Ward,” John said. “Pork and apple is my favorite.”

John managed to keep it together on the walk home, but on arriving he immediately found his mother. He told her everything.

“How could I have been so stupid, Mom? In her own house?” He buried his head in his hands.

She rubbed his back. “You didn’t want to give up meat, you just wanted her to like you, right?” John nodded into his hands. “Then you would have slipped at some point, and even if not, you’d have carried that resentment. That’s not the basis of a good relationship.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Apologize, but be yourself. If she doesn’t accept that, it wasn’t meant to be.”

This made sense to John but there was still a weight in his chest.

“I don’t think Dad will talk to me again, though,” John said morosely. “I’ve really screwed things up.”

“You know, when your father was courting me, he was right where you were: working over the summer in the butchery,” Mom said. “He worked hard, not to impress me, but to impress your grandfather, who owned the shop. He had to earn his place in the business and I think he feels you’re not taking this opportunity seriously enough.”

“But what can I do? The counter is so boring.”

She kissed his forehead. “You’ll think of something.”

Throughout the next morning, John served customers robotically, thinking. His father still hadn’t spoken to him but John could hear the rhythmic chopping in the back room.

After lunch, he asked Mom to cover the counter. He went into the back room, where his father presided over vast chunks of cow splayed on the table. The steel meat grinder shone against the back wall.

“Hey Dad, can I learn how to make the sausages today?”

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

In and flash, please!

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Blood Money
Words: 919

The Trade Master sighed and tapped the paper in front of him to summon the agenda again. Only two more entries until lunch, brought forward by the Security Master and the War Master, respectively. He’d try to talk them out of whatever violence they wanted to inflict, but disturbingly other members of the Council had begun to vote in their favor. It was his duty as the Chair to remind them what truly mattered.

Five people shuffled into the chamber, hands bound in titanium chains to prevent any magic-working. The Council rarely saw criminal cases but this case was exceptional. One of Marazanvose’s leading weapon-crafters and her apprentices had publicly protested the city’s trade of these weapons, specifically to the city-state of Ferrath who had proceeded to wipe out their neighbor Polauve with them. The situation was a mess and the Trade Master did not look forward to debating it.

“Who has brought forth this case?” he asked for the record. In the corner, a transcription of his words began to burn themselves onto the Archivist’s paper.

The Security Master stood, his face concealed as always by a blank mask. “The Security Master brings charges of sedition against Illanna Penrose and company. Due to the high profile of the leader, I formally recommend execution.”

The Trade Master rubbed his forehead; the Security Master wasn’t wasting any time. “The Council recognizes the severity of the crime but cannot recommend violence as the answer. Such a drastic solution would deprive the city of a gifted crafter, one who has brought over ten thousand—”

“You do not speak for the entire Council,” the War Master interrupted. She was relatively new to the post and felt the need to prove herself. “Future revenue from her work is jeopardized if we allow her to protest the sale of her own weapons.”

“They are not my weapons,” Illanna Penrose growled. “I merely developed a method for targeting and eliminating specific pests in crops, you people turned it into a bomb to kill other humans.”

“It is far more valuable that way,” the Trade Master said. “Besides, your guilt and the propriety of selling these bombs is not in question here. The only remaining issue is that of your punishment.”

“We need to send a strong message,” the War Master said. Several other members of the Council nodded. “We have been too soft on the populace for too long.”

“They follow us, they feel free to craft and create precisely because we are moderate,” the Trade Master said, sensing the Council’s sentiment was against him. “People produce their best work when they are treated well, which has led to our comfortable position as the center of trade. Or do you want to be reduced to just another squabbling city-state?”

The Master Diplomat nodded serenely but the other members remained unconvinced.

“These people have undermined that very premise by questioning the wisdom of our neutrality,” the Security Master pointed out. “If we start picking and choosing who to sell what to, then we become political. Which is what you want to avoid, is it not?”

“It is,” the Trade Master said, “which is why we need to handle this appropriately, to keep the peace, as we have always done.”

“A few months’ prison and a reeducation course are not enough,” the War Master said. “People need to see that there are consequences to questioning us.”

“All those in favor of a strict punishment?” the Security Master asked quickly, before the Trade Master could respond. Seven out of the nine Council Masters raised their hands, the necessary number to pass the resolution.

“Very well,” the Security Master said. “Illanna, do you have other apprentices?”

“Yes, but they had nothing to do with—” The end of her sentence turned into a scream as the apprentices beside her dropped to the floor, their skin turning a dark purple. The War Master had exploded their hearts.

The Trade Master was on his feet, livid. “What have you done?” he shouted. “This is against all protocol!”

The Security Master continued, “For Illanna Penrose, I recommend we turn her into a Thrall so that we may control her actions going forward and reassure the populace.” He turned his blank mask to the Trade Master. “This accomplishes your goals, correct? Illanna disavows her previous statements, trains more apprentices to keep the money coming in, and everyone’s happy?”

The Trade Master sunk back into his seat. Maybe there was sense in those words. Who would even care about the disappearance of four apprentices anyway? Still, it felt like a point of no return as Illanna Penrose was dragged screaming from the Council chamber and the bodies were vaporized without further comment.

Over the next few months, the Trade Master stopped arguing with the other Masters when it came to their violent viewpoint. The results were clear: the crafters worked harder and quieter, producing more goods for export lest they be investigated. So long as quotas were met, the Trade Master tried not to worry about the methods.

He did put up a token resistance, along with the Master Diplomat and the Archivist, when the War Master proposed the assassination of a particularly antagonistic city-state leader. However, he could not deny the increased trade opportunities in the end and so cast the deciding vote in its favor. And when Marazanvose burned, his people killed by Penrose bombs, in retaliation for the assassination, the Trade Master could do nothing but stand and burn with them.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I'm in this week to make up for my airport-layover-at-5-in-the-morning story from last week. No flash though.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Words: 913

Beep. Beep. Beep beep, beep beep. The alarm clock rudely pulled Alice into wakefulness. Eyes closed, she flailed her arm around until her hand connected with a button. Unfortunately, it was too late. She’d never been able to fall back asleep her alarm went off.

Alice risked opening her eyes and immediately regretted it. The broken blinds in her student apartment did a terrible job of keeping sunlight out, and a beam hit her square in the eye. She winced and rolled over, which turned out to also be a mistake. Her stomach roiled and her head spun. How many drinks had she had last night? Bob’s parties were legendary and this was the last one of the year, to celebrate the upcoming exams …



With a burst of adrenaline, she threw herself out of bed. This maneuver didn’t quite work as her legs remained tangled in the sheets, so she crawled across the floor in search of clothing. Underwear, check. Pants from last night (faux leather, tight), fine. Bra, where was her bra? A fuzzy memory of swinging it above her head at the party last night came to mind and she gave up. She grabbed a sweaty sports bra from her laundry pile and pulled on the closest shirt. It turned out to be the joke Garfield t-shirt one of her friends had given her for her birthday, with “I Hate Mondays” splayed across the front. Whatever, at least she was dressed.

Alice glanced at her phone as she yanked on her shoes. It was twenty until nine. The bus covered the mile or so to campus in a few minutes so she had time for a very quick breakfast. She hustled into the kitchen and pulled open all the cabinet doors. Her shelves were bare but she found a half-empty cup of yesterday’s coffee, which she downed desperately. Her hungover stomach immediately tried to reject it. Leaning against the sink, she turned to her roommate Marnie’s neatly arranged cupboard and spotted a box of sports bars for Marnie’s cycling events. Some carbohydrates! She opened it and found one last bar at the bottom. She felt guilty for a second, then scarfed it down and made a mental note to apologize later.

Now with some fuel, she grabbed her backpack and rushed to the bus stop. It was 8:45, the bus should be showing up any minute. Yep, any minute. She alternated between bouncing nervously from the caffeine and trying to stay as still as possible in deference to her hangover.

The bus continued to not arrive. As the minutes ticked by, Alice became increasingly anxious. Finally, at 8:50, she broke and ran back to the house. Marnie’s bike, a custom carbon-fiber beauty, was sitting by the door. Normally Alice was terrified to even go near it, but desperate times called for desperate measures. She pushed it out the door, mounted it awkwardly (why was the seat so high?), and pedaled off down the empty streets. All the other students must already be there, she thought wildly, and pedaled harder.

At one point, her shoelace became caught in the gears. Swearing and with no lingering reverence for the bike, she threw it on the ground and savagely pulled the lace free, shredding it in the process. Tucking the remains of the lace back into her shoe, she remounted the bike and redoubled her pedaling speed. At least the fresh air, exercise, and adrenaline had nearly banished her hangover.

Finally Alice arrived at the science building, only to realize that the bike didn’t have a lock. Even through her panicked haze she realized Marnie would murder her if she left it outside, so she awkwardly shoved it through the door and carried it up the stairs. Strangely the lights in the hallways were off, she must be truly late. She found the right room, set the bike gently against the wall, and burst through the door.

It was empty.

For a crazed moment, her brain invented all sorts of reasons why this was the case- the room changed and she missed the email, she was in the wrong building, for the wrong exam- but cold reality set in. Sinking into the nearest chair, she pulled out her phone. 9:03, Sunday, May 19th. Sunday. Of course, the party was on Saturday. Why did she think it was Monday? The alarm clock?

Alice sat pondering her stupidity when the phone in her hand rang. It was Marnie.


“Where the gently caress is my bike? I’ve got a meet this afternoon!” Marnie was not messing around.

“Oh, uh, I took it to campus real quick, I’ll be back soon …”

“What the hell, Alice? The bus still runs on weekends, what was so urgent that you couldn’t wait?”

“Uhh ....” Alice knew Marnie would go ballistic if she knew the truth.

“And you ate my last bar, gently caress you’re such an airhead sometimes.”

“You might be right,” Alice mumbled, looking down at the smug face of Garfield on her shirt.

“I know I’m right. Now, if you’re not back here with my bike in ten minutes, I swear to God …”

Alice left Marnie ranting on the other end of the line as she grabbed the bike, hastily bounced it down the stairs and pushed through the nearest exterior door. It turned out to be a fire door so, as Marnie yelled and the alarm screamed, she started pedaling back home.

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I forgot what timezone I was in, but posting on time would have been contrary to my theme anyway :colbert:

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

In, :toxx:, and flash.


My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

Word count: 994

Marybeth and I were heading home from the ridge when I saw a line of dust along the road. The sound of a motor reached us soon afterwards and I urged Marybeth into a canter.

We reached the ranch just as the visitors exited the truck and shook hands with the boss. They were a man and a woman, both the far side of middle-aged. Though they were dressed in checked shirts and jeans, their clothes had a stiff newness to them that told me they weren’t from around here.

The boss liked to talk so I had enough time to unsaddle Marybeth and give her a good brush. “What do you think of the visitors, girl?” I asked her.

Marybeth swished her tail. Not our type, she opined. Not verbally, of course, but I could understand her nonetheless.

“I reckon you’re right,” I said and let her out into the nearby pasture with Lucy, her three-year-old daughter. Lucy was a pure-white filly who had taken quickly to being ridden once I had explained things to her. She was even cleverer than her mother; I was thinking of training her to be a barrel-racer when she was older.

Hi Joe, hi Ma, she said. How’s the ridge? You find some yarrow again?

I smiled and dug some small white flowers out of my pocket, which Lucy eagerly ate. Mother and daughter stood head-to-head, gossiping, as I went back to the barn.

I was shortly joined by the boss and the visiting couple. “Hey, Joe,” the boss said, “meet Mr. and Mrs. Hancock.”

“How d’ya do,” I said politely.

“It’s wonderful to meet a real horse whisperer!” Mrs. Hancock enthused.

“The Hancocks own a thoroughbred farm back east,” the boss said, “but they’re looking for some easy riding horses.”

“People back home think we’re crazy to drive all the way out here to buy a horse, but your ranch is the best in the west, as they say,” Mr. Hancock said.

I nodded but my estimation of the Hancocks had gone down. Thoroughbreds tended to be neurotic, unhappy creatures.

“Let’s see who we can find for you,” I said, moving down the aisle of the barn. As I considered the horses in the stalls, I could hear the boss explain to the Hancocks, “He’ll choose a horse for you based on temperament and introduce you so that the horse will be loyal from the get-go.” The Hancocks made impressed noises.

I stopped in front of Bill’s stall. Bill was a solid black gelding and as opposite to a thoroughbred as you could get. He was perfect for them.

“He’s a beauty, isn’t he?” Mr. Hancock seemed taken with him immediately. I’d made a good choice.

Bill gave him a sniff, then chuffed approvingly. He smells like lovely fresh grass, Bill said.

“I’ll let you get acquainted,” I said. “Feel free to saddle him up for a ride.” The boss beamed as Mr. Hancock started patting Bill; another happy customer. “Now, Mrs. Hancock, let’s find someone for you.”

“I used to be a jockey, you know,” she said. “My husband may like a quiet horse but I like a bit of fire.”

Good to know. I took them outside to the back paddock to show her Rio, a blood-bay stallion. I slipped him a sugar cube while letting Mrs. Hancock admire him. He was perhaps a little big but was good-natured ….

“How about that one?” Mrs. Hancock was pointing to the neighboring paddock where Marybeth and Lucy were watching the goings-on.

“The mare’s mine and the filly isn’t--” A glare from the boss cut me off. There was a reason ranches were run by businessmen, not horse whisperers.

Mrs. Hancock approached the fence and Lucy walked curiously over to her. “How stunning it would be to have a black and a white horse,” Mrs. Hancock exclaimed. “What’s her name?”

“Lucy,” I said, “but I’m not sure she’s what you’re looking for.” My heart seized at the thought of her forced to prance on manicured paths rather than running across the prairie.

“Don’t be silly, Joe, it looks like a match to me,” the boss said. He shot me another warning glance behind Mrs. Hancock’s back. “We’ll saddle her up and you can put her through her paces.”

“I’d like that,” Mrs. Hancock said, so I had no choice but to go get her tack.

As I adjusted the girth, I whispered to Lucy, “This lady wants to buy you and take you east to a thoroughbred farm. It’s nothing like here.”

Lucy flicked her ears. But I like it here, she said.

“I know, which is why if you give her a bad ride, she won’t want to buy you anymore.”

Mrs. Hancock approached and took the reins. I gave Lucy a significant look as they trotted off in the paddock but didn’t dare say anything more within earshot of the boss.

I held my breath as Mrs. Hancock took Lucy from a trot, to a canter, to a walk. Deception did not come naturally to horses and I saw Lucy going through her normal paces, Mrs. Hancock happy on her back. Desperately I thought at Lucy, “Make your steps heavy! Like you’re trying to bounce her out of the saddle.”

To my surprise, Lucy actually heard me. Shaking her head, she immediately dropped into a quick, rough trot. Mrs. Hancock frowned and kicked her a bit, but Lucy ignored her. The boss gave me a dirty look but I couldn’t have told her to misbehave from all the way over here, could I? I gave him a shrug; I didn’t really know how that happened either.

Mrs. Hancock managed to bring Lucy to us and dismounted. “Still a bit young, I think. Can I take another look at that stallion?” The boss took her to go ride Rio as I unsaddled Lucy.

“Well done, girl,” I whispered to her. Lucy simply whickered in response.

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