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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


In. Give me one.

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Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Noah posted:

In. Give me one.

Orangutan surfing civilisation.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Thank you for not giving me regular ireland.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


I will take MAD HOLE country of the SCREAMERS

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


In. Snow Wizards.

Baneling Butts
Dec 9, 2012



Intelligent killer whale raiders for me!

Baneling Butts fucked around with this message at 08:41 on Feb 23, 2021

Simbyotic
Aug 24, 2010

THUNDERDOME LOSER


In, with the Island of the God Watchers pretty please.

Also, thanks for the critiques. Azza Bamboo the "today of all days" line was supposed to be a foreshadowing of the announcement of her being pregnant but now that I've stepped away from it for a while it doesn't work that well. crabrock You're totally right, I didn't realize I was structuring it in a question - response - question - response way, thanks for pointing it out, something to be mindful of going forward! Casual Encountess Yeah, I initially read the deadline as a deadline for signing up and not for publishing the story itself, only afterward I realized I'd screwed up. All is good, still wrote something.

Btw where can I find a Discord invite link?

brotherly
Aug 20, 2014



In with Expanding Tisser Empire.

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018

Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland


In with Kanga-Rat Murder Society

Sperglord Firecock
Feb 20, 2011

Euphoria is experienced most firmly at the state of a curve at 80+mph and you don't know if you're gonna end up wearing these stupid fucking pants or not



Oven Wrangler

in, gimme a far off land

BB2K
Oct 9, 2012


I will redeem my supposed to be funny last story in this round. Also with fake Australia

Casual Encountess
Dec 14, 2005

namaste and god bless all you cool cats and kittens


im the wolf napolnecs

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008


In with Raji Land, Home of a Million Sleepers

can I get an extra rule

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


island of the god watchers

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


in, bay of bones

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Sperglord Firecock posted:

in, gimme a far off land

CRATER AREA FORMER HOME OF TRACKING SITE

Sperglord Firecock
Feb 20, 2011

Euphoria is experienced most firmly at the state of a curve at 80+mph and you don't know if you're gonna end up wearing these stupid fucking pants or not



Oven Wrangler

Yoruichi posted:

CRATER AREA FORMER HOME OF TRACKING SITE

are the savage bat tribes involved

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Sperglord Firecock posted:

are the savage bat tribes involved

You tell us

Sperglord Firecock
Feb 20, 2011

Euphoria is experienced most firmly at the state of a curve at 80+mph and you don't know if you're gonna end up wearing these stupid fucking pants or not



Oven Wrangler

Yoruichi posted:

You tell us

VALID thanks

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Simbyotic posted:

In, with the Island of the God Watchers pretty please.

Also, thanks for the critiques. Azza Bamboo the "today of all days" line was supposed to be a foreshadowing of the announcement of her being pregnant but now that I've stepped away from it for a while it doesn't work that well. crabrock You're totally right, I didn't realize I was structuring it in a question - response - question - response way, thanks for pointing it out, something to be mindful of going forward! Casual Encountess Yeah, I initially read the deadline as a deadline for signing up and not for publishing the story itself, only afterward I realized I'd screwed up. All is good, still wrote something.

Btw where can I find a Discord invite link?

https://discord.gg/WghJ3KER

Don't respond to crits in here, just shove them deep inside where they can fester properly

ibntumart
Mar 18, 2007

Good, bad. I'm the one with the power of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton, and Mehen.


College Slice

I’m down, but I refuse to choose so please assign me a country and an extra rule.

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

I'll judge

toanoradian
May 30, 2011


Idle Amalgam posted:

In with Raji Land, Home of a Million Sleepers

can I get an extra rule
Your character is energized by an immense hatred of something.

ibntumart posted:

I'm down, but I refuse to choose so please assign me a country and an extra rule.
You hail from the Jaguar Sun Cult, where blood plays an important role.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


Obliterati posted:

Sitting Here - Sebmojo Brawl: A Noon So High It's Illegal in Amsterdam

Your story takes place during the last high noon there will ever be.

Word count: 1500

Due date: 24th February, 2359 UTC

Sometimes high noon takes a little longer to come than usual. That's okay, no worries! It just means both it and everyone underneath it are pathetic weak babies, fated to be baked in the heat of the sun!

On the request of both brawlers this deadline is extended to 3rd March, 2359 UTC.

steeltoedsneakers
Jul 26, 2016





Dominion of the Devils (Insect Revolution)

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In, Island of the God-Watchers

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Week 446 crits for Simply Simon and a friendly penguin

Simply Simon - Hospitality
So this was pretty fun, even if I had to read back at the beginning to see where you telegraphed Black getting swatted. Once the tiny super sentai people showed up it was smooth sailing. The piece suffers a little bit for having too many talkers, but that's a hell rule for you.

a friendly penguin - Wiped Out
This piece is mostly dialogue, which works because the two characters' voices are distinct enough. It's pretty natural and easy to read, you've dated the story well enough, but it feels lacking in a way that the story just sort of ends. It feels a little too light on the drama--Dave even got arrested, but it's resolved off the page and they don't seem to learn anything from it (maybe it isn't a rare occurrence for them?).

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

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


In with Home of the Horrible "Hung-Ups," the Death Worshippers

Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

crabrock posted:

ok sure

Hawklad
Marianna

So like, two dudes or ladies or whatever are just pointing guns at each other and then they stab each other instead? I just can’t right now sorry

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


Ya know, this garbage-tier poo poo has been stuck in my craw all week. I know that nuance and complexity isn't exactly your strong suit (obviously your skills lie more in the "failure to submit" area), but this was not a complicated scene and the fact that your flaccid brain wasn't able to wraps its little mind-tendrils around it speaks to your laziness rather than any shortcomings in my writing (as garbage-tier as it may be). I just can't let this low effort poo poo go by unchallenged.

So, fight me.

toanoradian
May 30, 2011


toanoradian posted:

Sign up deadline: Saturday 0700, GMT+7

Deadline. The gates to New Earth have closed.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Hawklad posted:

Ya know, this garbage-tier poo poo has been stuck in my craw all week. I know that nuance and complexity isn't exactly your strong suit (obviously your skills lie more in the "failure to submit" area), but this was not a complicated scene and the fact that your flaccid brain wasn't able to wraps its little mind-tendrils around it speaks to your laziness rather than any shortcomings in my writing (as garbage-tier as it may be). I just can't let this low effort poo poo go by unchallenged.

So, fight me.

this is both an accurate statement and a waste of my time, much like your story was. you'll wish i failed to submit when i'm done with you.

brawl challege accepted.

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018

Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland


crabrock posted:

this is both an accurate statement and a waste of my time, much like your story was. you'll wish i failed to submit when i'm done with you.

brawl challege accepted.


Hawklad posted:

Ya know, this garbage-tier poo poo has been stuck in my craw all week. I know that nuance and complexity isn't exactly your strong suit (obviously your skills lie more in the "failure to submit" area), but this was not a complicated scene and the fact that your flaccid brain wasn't able to wraps its little mind-tendrils around it speaks to your laziness rather than any shortcomings in my writing (as garbage-tier as it may be). I just can't let this low effort poo poo go by unchallenged.

So, fight me.

THUNDER! —THUNDER! —THUNDERDOME, HOOOOOOO!
I admire a dying genre of story that is currently being held up by Netflix’s She Ra: Your challenge is to write a story featuring:

- A strong protagonist
- Who wields a magical sword
- Whose magic is activated by some catchphrase
- And they fight some villain of some kind.

1500 words.

Due 27th March at 08:00 GMT

Edit: 3rd contestant

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

I will take all y'all on.

Edit: 4th contestant

Weltlich posted:

I'm jumping into this cage match.

Edit: A month is a long time. If you both three submit early, it'll be over sooner.

Azza Bamboo fucked around with this message at 05:02 on Mar 1, 2021

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's time....to DIE!"


Azza Bamboo posted:

THUNDER! —THUNDER! —THUNDERDOME, HOOOOOOO!

- Who wields a magical sword


loving excuse me? You're going to have a brawl about a magical sword without me? The Thunderdome master of writing about magical swords? Author of a 11,169 story called Vampire Dad and the Magical Sword from Space (Part 1)?

I THINK NOT.

I will take all y'all on.

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 02:23 on Feb 27, 2021

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018

Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland


A new challenger has entered the swordfight.

(I'll judge your words, too, DocKloc)

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


in with the United States of Lions

toanoradian
May 30, 2011


QuoProQuid posted:

in with the United States of Lions

You're way off the deadline, but I'll allow you in if you take this flash rule: Gorilla Communes is involved in your story.

brotherly
Aug 20, 2014



Hemp Bonds
1494 words

The border with the Gorilla Communes was totally lit. Spotlights raked across the concrete and barbed-wire. Towers loomed with bored-looking machine gunners scanning the horizon, as if a bunch of drugged-out hippies were about to try and invade the Expanding Tisser Empire.

Fat chance. Those dope fiends were too busy loving in vast yurts atop, like, hemp blankets, or whatever. Some very sloth-like part of me envied their excess. Late nights at my trading desk, skull plastered to my Bloomberg terminal, amphetamines starting to wear off and the pill-girl gone home hours earlier, sometimes I felt like ripping off my shirt and going primal. Like shaving off my hair and disappearing into the prairie and living off the land surrounded by other shirtless, hairless, primalish men and women. I’d take a new name and completely rebrand.

Won’t ever happen, though. I was a company man.

My hotel, five-miles from the border, was filled with nausea-inducing geometric carpets and employees that looked like mannequins. The firm never sprung for five stars. As a Junior Bondsman, my entire reason for being was to make as much money buying high-yield securities from any moron willing to sell. Bonds, all day, every day, my every waking moment wrapped up in the near-panic-inducing obsession over yield and float.

And now, I was going to be the first trader to convince those Gorilla fucks to sell me their debt, wrapped up with a pretty bow, weed stink and all.

##

The Gorillas approached the zone dressed like professors, one woman and one man. They smiled at the border guards, produced their papers, and after two hours of questioning, they crossed the narrow gap in the fencing.

“Welcome to the Tisser Empire,” I said, giving them my best smile. I knew I was all sleaze: tall, slicked-back hair, black pinstriped suit.

The lady, a skinny broad with round eyes behind chunky black glasses, shoved a hand in my direction. “Monica Lampur,” she said, and we shook. “This is my associate, Gregory Howath.”

“Luke Fischer,” I said. “Thanks for making the trip.” These people weren’t the spaced-out druggies I expected. The guy was a little paunchy and looked pale as death, but the chick was fit, her skin tanned, and she had that glow people got voluntarily working outdoors.

I took them to the one safe place in the whole Empire—Panera Bread. After the States broke up post-revolt and the Tisser formed, most American companies changed their names and pivoted to their new reality, but not Panera. They doubled down. Shorter waits, cleaner food.

The Gorillas loved it. Monica cooed over the pastries, and Gregory refilled his soda twice, giggling like a little boy. I got them tucked into a corner booth then opened my laptop. They picked at steaming microwaved sandwiches with confused but delighted fingers.

“I’m not here to gently caress you,” I said, which was trader-speak for, my company sent me to gently caress you. “Fox Associates wants a stake in your commune and is willing to put up real money.”

Monica leaned toward me. “You realize we don’t have money, right?”

“That’s not a problem,” I said dismissively. “We’ve done trades with communes before.” Another non-truth.

“No, but literally, we don’t use money.” Monica looked at Gregory, who seemed almost sheepish.

“I was an accountant in a past life,” he said. “I went over the border four years ago. They sent me here to tell you there’s no possible way we can sell bonds.”

“There’s always a way,” I said, tapping at the spacebar nervously. “Assets. Futures. Whatever. You don’t even need to use your own money. We have plenty.”

“You don’t understand,” Monica said, her voice acidly polite. “We only came to get a hot shower.”

I pointed at my screen filled with complex derivative schemes, tranches of debt piled on top of each other, triple-B rated loans re-rolled into synthetic securities with new ratings, beautiful, occult, obscure piles of dubious cash, like that could explain everything.

“I’m sorry,” Monica said, which to me sounded like, get hosed. And fair enough.

“Fine,” I said. “Enjoy your time in the Tisser. We’ll eat, check out the hotel, and revisit this later.”

Monica made a face like, well, if that’s what you want, and they tucked into their lukewarm meals.

##

Back at the hotel, Monica disappeared upstairs while I parked my rear end at the empty bar. Gregory joined me, and sipped a Diet Coke like it was the last drink on earth. “I feel bad about this, you know,” he said. “We only accepted your invitation to, like, get away for a day or two.”

“It’s fine,” I said and the bartender returned with my beer.

“You can’t blame us though, can you?” Gregory asked. “I mean, you are the Expanding Tisser Empire, after all.”

“We’re not going to enter your territory,” I said. “You saw that fencing. Do you have any clue how much of a pain it is to break it all down?”

“No, I don’t,” he said, stirring his drink, ice tinkling against glass. “But it’s what you guys do.”

“Look, we might take some land at the edges, okay? A couple miles, no big deal. The expansion thing, it’s sort of baked into policy around here, but still. I’m looking to trade, not conquer.”

He went quiet for a minute. “She’ll kill me for telling you this, but—“ He hesitated, looked around. “We do business with your government. God, it’s so boring out there, you know?”

“Business?” That got me interested. I thought the Gorillas were off-limits. Everyone said so. But the Emperor existed outside limits.

He shook his head then cleared his throat. “I’ll talk to Monica, okay?”

“Whatever you can do.”

He downed his Diet Coke and ordered another.

##

Monica beamed at me across the hotel’s conference room table, her hair wrapped in a towel.

“We can’t do it,” she said. “I told you before. No money. No debt, no cash, nothing.”

“You have stuff out there,” I said. “Hemp fields. Agriculture. Surely you sell some to the Emperor.”

She glanced at Gregory, lips pulling down. “We might,” she said slowly. “But I don’t know how it helps.”

“We can work with agriculture,” I said. “The Tisser gives you something for all that crop, right? I’m willing to bet on the value of your harvest.”

She leaned back in the chair and studied me. “You’re pretty determined.”

“Look, Gorilla lady, I don’t give a poo poo about my government,” I said, and liked the way her face twisted. “I don’t care about you people living in some weird culty gently caress shed where everyone’s married and everyone’s pregnant. I care about making a trade.”

She took a long breath and slowly let it out, like a meditation thing. “Hemp bonds,” she said.

“Hemp,” I repeated, nodding. “But I need to know what the Tisser gives you.”

“Movies,” Gregory said, then looked abashed when Monica stared at him like she wanted to slit his throat.

“Movies?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

“Entertainment,” Monica said, her fingers drumming on the table. “The Empire still makes film and TV, and the communes can get dull. Despite all the loving.”

I leaned back in my chair, totally floored. “Holy crap. You people are junkies like the rest of us.” It shouldn’t have been so hard to believe. People were people. “Sell me bonds backed in agriculture and I’ll send you a shipment of every drat show I can get my hands on.”

“Plus music and books,” Gregory said, earning him one last dirty look.

I spread my hands. “Folks, you want hardcore porn, you got it.”

And with that, I knew I had them.

##

The truck rumbled toward the gap in the fencing. It was packed with DVDs and paperbacks. The guards barely gave it a second look.

Beyond the zone, in the heavily wooded border around the commune land, something moved. I figured it was my Gorillas. I leaned forward on the hood of the car and held up a pair of binoculars. Trees, trees, trees—and there, something on the edge of the forest, raising up toward the sky.

It was a Gregory, tied and bound to a long stake. I recognized him despite the missing nose and the flayed skin, his clothes plastered to his bloody raw flesh.

The Gorillas raised him like a totem.

The truck continued forward and stopped in sight of the flayed man. The driver got out, per the agreement, and walked back to the zone.

Three women came forward to claim it. I recognized Monica as she got behind the wheel and slowly rolled away.

They left Gregory, dead or almost there, to rot in the morning sun, his body slumped forward.

I looked away. Poor bastard. He loved Diet Coke. I stowed my binoculars, got into my car, and headed back home.

My bosses were so happy, they practically shoved a bonus down my throat.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


island of the god watchers

1500 words

the thin line between now and later

When you were ten, you found a god on the sidewalk.

It was a crystal. When you picked it up, you knew it was a god because it told you it was. You asked what kind of god it was, and it didn’t know. It was a new god, and new ones didn’t know what they were until they figured it out. You didn’t realize it was like you, not knowing what type of thing you were, but it did ask you to take it because a god needed to be watched to grow.

So you took it into your room, and you talked to it. You didn’t have many friends, so you told it about your day, your parents, your room, anything and everything. In the mornings, you placed it next to the window, and the sunlight shone through it and sent splintered rainbow lights throughout the room. He sometimes talked back to you, but not much. He never told you his name, but he did say he was a he.

Then, one day, you noticed it talking even less than normal.

“Something wrong?” you asked.

“I’m thinking,” he said.

“About?”

“Just thinking,” he said. “Keep talking.”

So you did, and then he talked less, then he stopped answering. You knew he was thinking so much he didn’t have time to talk. Then eventually, you stuffed him in a drawer and forgot about him until you became sixteen.

#

Your dad found your private Twitter where you tweeted too much about being gay and retweeting too much gay smut. It happened when you were at school and then you walked in and your dad was there at the kitchen table. He was looking past you. Then he asked you, what the hell?

You didn’t have an answer because you didn’t know what he saw, so you said huh, and that was wrong because he stood up and got real close to you.

Then he asked you what was wrong with you, why you lied to him, why you did this to him. He gripped your wrist hard and squeezed and told you he did so much for you. You realized in the middle of the rant what happened, or what he knew, and you wanted to explain, but then what was there to explain? You were gay, and you didn’t tell him because this would happen. You wanted to cry, but your dad taught you a long time ago not to cry, so you held it. You held in everything inside of you until, thank god, your mom walked downstairs.

And she came up slow, bless her soul, and put her hand on his back, and said, honey, we should talk real quick. And dad let go. He turned to her and away from you. Mom nodded to you, and you snuck upstairs.

Your computer was on and your Twitter was sitting there, scrolled way too far down. You deleted your account, and sat there on the computer, holding onto your wrist. It was sore and red, and you remembered your dad’s other hand. It was a fist. Was he going to hit you?

Then the god spoke to you. It had been so long, but you remembered his voice. Soft and easy. He said your dad wanted to. He really wanted to hit you.

So you cried. You didn’t want to believe the god, but his voice was so certain, so simple, that it was the only possibility. Just the thought of your dad wanting to hit you, maybe even wanting to kill you, it poured everything out of you. You collapsed on your bed, and you sunk your head into your sheets and muffled your cries because you knew it would only be worse if your dad heard it.

Then a knock. You didn’t answer. Then it was your mom’s voice. You didn’t answer again. He left, she said, so you opened it, but not before you wiped the tears from your face and threw the need to cry down into yourself.

She smiled her calm smile, and she told you it was okay. She said she loved you, and would always love you. She said your dad was a complicated guy, and didn’t get some things, and that she would try. She would try to tell him that you aren’t any different than you used to be, and that, one day, he will come around. It will take time, and you’ll have to leave when you turn eighteen, but she has some family friends nearby she can talk to, and they’ll take you in. It will be better for everyone, she said, when you leave. She promised you money, not enough for college on its own, but enough to help. Then she told you your dad loved you. That he always loved you and never stopped loving you, and he just didn’t understand some things, and she would work to help him understand.

She hugged you and stroked your hair and asked if your wrist hurt, and you said no even though it burned, and she said good. You didn’t cry in front of her. You couldn’t show her how much you hurt. You asked her if you could have some time, and she said of course and closed the door.

Then you laid down, and the god spoke to you. He said, “I know what kind of god I am.”

You didn’t answer. You didn’t care.

“I’m the god of the future.”

You wanted to laugh, but his voice wasn’t funny, so instead, you hit your head against the pillow.

“He won’t understand,” the god of the future said. “He will never understand.”

You don’t know why, but you believed him. And you thought that should’ve hurt. You thought knowing that your dad would never love you for what you are, that it would tear you up inside. Instead, you smiled.

Because, in the future, when your mom tells you to maybe eat upstairs at night, you would get why. You would know that when your dad didn’t look at you, you didn’t have to worry because there was no point.

And the god of the future, he kept telling you what was going to be. He told you that your mom was right, that you would move out, but she did send you money. He told you that you two would talk every now and then on Facebook. You two would hardly ever see each other in person because she needed you to keep the peace, but when you did meet, she hugged you tight. She would even cry sometimes. She would tell you how good you look, and smile when you told her about how you were doing.

The god of the future, he told you she would meet your long term boyfriend just once, but when she did, she would hug him too, and tell him how much she wanted to meet him. She would say you two look cute together, that she thinks you should get engaged, but she never saw that day. She would die, the god of the future said, married to your dad. Your dad would eventually disown you, once he found out you moved in with your boyfriend.

You won’t go to your mom’s funeral. Your uncle called you, said the family thought it best to make sure nothing happened. You’d been keeping the peace for years, so you accepted. On the day of the funeral, you will light a single candle in the living room. Your boyfriend will wrap his arms around you and ask you if you’re alright. You’ll be honest, which you can be with him, and you’ll say you aren’t. And he’ll say, “It’s okay to not be alright.” You’ll put your head against his chest, and he’ll stroke your hair like your mom did.

The god of the future, he told you that you will be in a bed that is warm. Your boyfriend will be there with you and he will hold you, and when he tells you he loves you, he’ll mean it. When he says he understands in a way your mom and dad never will, he’ll be right. You’ll fall into him and he’ll catch you and cradle you, and you’ll cry in front of someone.

So, the day after your dad wanted to hit you, you put the crystal that was the god of the future onto the desk for the first time since you were young. The light shone through it, but it didn’t shatter into a bunch of different lights. It was a single white beam of light, aimed straight at the door. It led to the bed that you would have, the person who would hold you and tell you that everything wasn’t alright, but it was okay for things to not be alright.

And each day, you walked through that light, opened the door, knowing the future wasn’t going to be easy, but better.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Spy Walks into a Bar
Word Count: 1446

Agent Talik sat outside the Deputy Chief God Watcher’s office staring at the emblem on the door. It stared back at him with two eyes embedded in the GW surrounded by the words “The real all-knowing ones.”

Just when Talik thought he’d figured out which eye an agent watched him through, the door opened and Chief Pipek summoned him in. She shuffled through papers as Talik sat.

“Says here you’ve completed your field rotations satisfactorily.”

Talik opened his mouth to tell her just how satisfactorily. She cut him off.

“Acceptable marks in undercover operations, reporting protocols, and god-resistance.”

More than acceptable; he hadn’t made a single error.

“Apprentice to adjunct to agent in two years. Only assignments with the Antarctic Ice Gods though. Ha! That’s a sandbox compared to the Kangarat Murder Gods.”

Talik had planned to say all the right things when he sat down but she wasn’t appreciating his work. He didn’t want to go back to staring at icicle gods, praying for their glacial bodies to do anything interesting. He needed her to see his capability.

“Actually, ma’am—”

“Doesn’t matter.” She tossed the papers behind her. “We’ve lost three agents this month assigned to the Lion Horde Gods, leaving unacceptable gaps during wartime. Are you willing to move posts?”

“Yes, but—”

“Great. Prepare protocol 762-C and report for launch at 0800. Dismissed.”

Talik marched out in a huff. Doesn’t matter? He’d worked so hard to move up… but he was moving up… but not because of his achievements… but he would have new opportunities. The argument with himself went nowhere. He’d just have to prove himself again.

###

Talik reviewed his dossier until the launchers strapped him down, injected the serum and spoke the ritual words.

In the next moment Talik’s spirit transitioned out of his body and into the ethereal plane, traveling to the provided coordinates.

As soon as he stabilized and saw where he was, Talik knew he never wanted to go back to the Antarctic.

Gods, their furry coats shimmering, and spirits sat together at bars throwing back fizzy drinks. Cigar smoke lingered over game tables. Men, women and animals of every shape and size roamed around looking for companionship.

He didn’t have to be a penguin to fit in either. Instead, his mentally prepared image of a feather-skinned, sandy haired member of the lion horde would be enough. That and the bewildered expression of someone whose last memory was of dying on a battlefield before seeing this.

Talik wandered over to the bar. He ordered a shaggy mane and sat next to a lion god.

Dipping his head in a show of reverence, he said, “Where did the war go?”

The lion god sipped their own drink and said. “You,” they took another sip, “died.”

“What is this place?”

They drank some more. When they spoke, it was with sips between every word. “The afterlife for you. The officer’s club for us.” They flashed their sharp teeth and chuckled.

Talik turned to his drink while the lion carried on. With this conversational pace he might as well still be in Antarctica.

He scanned the room. A tiger god and lion god bickered at one of the tables. That was more Talik’s speed.

He wandered by and they hailed him. “We need a fourth.”

“What’s the game?”

“Doesn’t matter. Get over here,” the Lion god said.

That rankled Talik, but he kept his face a mask and joined them. Another spirit, a tiger woman, also waited at the table, looking as if she had just come from the war too.

The surface of the table was a window into the war. Talik memorized the positions of active engagements, officer barracks and supply caravans. He could also hear murmurs wafting up: end the war, kill that man, I want a glass of water. He made note of these as well.

The lion and tiger gods considered the tableau.

The tiger spoke first. “Spawn here to get that man a cup of water.” They pointed first to a corpse and then to a soldier hunkered down close to the lion side of the battlefield. The woman began to shiver. Talik pretended not to understand.

The lion responded by choosing a lion soldier corpse and saying, “This one will cause the landslide the officers want.” The lion looked at Talik. “Don’t let me down.”

Quicker than a launch, Talik was in a new body. The left arm lay mangled and he heard the sound of gunshots echoing. He tried to move out of the line of fire, but these legs had forgotten how to stand.

He took stock of what the body had and found a grenade. Perfect. He wiggle-crawled off the battlefield and relearned to walk and then run at the edge of the fighting.

He found a dead tiger soldier and swapped uniforms. This body didn’t have the stripes of the tiger race so he kept his head down and hoped.

Talik weaved between tiger trenches, cursing in several languages. Whenever shots flew in his direction he hopped into a ditch and pulled his helmet down lower. Just as he neared the hillside, there was another volley and he dropped into the nearest hole.

He found himself face to face with the troops stationed there. Hate filled their eyes. Talik tried to escape but one of them grabbed his foot and dragged him back. They all aimed their rifles.

Talik raised his arms and said in the tiger language, “Wait.”

They did, mouths open. That was all he needed. He pulled the pin on his grenade and they ran. All except for one who continued to stare down the barrel at him.

Talik considered the soldier and then tossed the grenade as hard as he could toward the hillside.

The grenade exploded. The soldier shot. Talik felt no pain but staggered back from the force of the bullet. His last sight was of rocks raining down around him and then his spirit was yanked out of the body and he once again sat at the table with gods.

“Not bad,” the lion god mumbled, nodding at Talik. They turned to the tiger. “Another round?”

Talik didn’t want another round. Gods taking control of his spirit unsettled him, but this was his job and the lion’s look of approval felt good. He had earned it.

The tiger woman didn’t return and Talik guessed what must have happened to the agents before him. It was a dangerous game but he told himself he would succeed, gathering war secrets and the prayers of these people. If he could just get the lion god to talk about their plans, Talik would have everything he needed to impress agency leaders.

He stayed. It got worse.

Each time he entered a new body, he felt less and less attached to his own. It took him longer to remember where he was each time he returned. Once he even forgot why he was doing this.

With each successive trip, the lion god became happier. They talked more about how it all fit into their plans for the lion horde and how Talik would be honored among them.

After winning his fourth round, Talik had killed six men, reunited two lovers who’d lost each other in battle and sung a man to sleep. The tiger god finally called it quits for the day and the lion god looked smug.

He patted Talik on the shoulder. “Let’s drink and retire. You must spend your death in my palace.”

Talik did his best to remember his protocols but allowed himself a measure of satisfaction. Soon he would be eating and drinking with a god with access to enough information to keep the agency busy for years.

In a thought, they arrived at the god’s palace. The lion led him through arched hallways and up spiraled staircases.

“This will be where you stay.” The god opened double doors into a spacious lounge where three other lion horde spirits sat.

Talik cocked his head and looked at the lion god. “Who are they?” He couldn’t keep the scorn out of his voice.

“My winning team.” The lion god placed a silvery band around Talik’s wrist and shoved him into the room. “Don’t go anywhere.” The god laughed and closed the door behind them.

Talik tried running the sequence to return his spirit to his body. Nothing happened.

“It’s no use,” one of the other spirits said.

“God watchers?”

They all nodded. Talik dropped onto a velvet sofa and put his head in his hands. He should have stuck to what he knew best: sitting still and listening to a slow god.

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Nae
Sep 3, 2020

what.


A Tiger Can Change His Stripes
1459 words

In the Expanding Tiger Empire, offenses against tigers are considered especially heinous. In Undersea New York, the giant mutant rats who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Undersea New York Rat Network. These are their stories.


SUB-CENTRAL PARK
JANUARY 10th, 8:09 AM

Detective Whiskers clutched his coffee between his paws, shivering as the rain that slipped through the cracks of the dome sprinkled his fur. “What’ve we got here, Cheddie?”

“A real headache, Whisk, that’s what.” Detective Cheddar knelt next to the bloodied corpse of a tiger in spandex pants. His nose twitched as he tapped the hole in her head. “A jogger heard a gunshot and called it in at 7:16. The medi-gorillas pegged it as a mugging, but then one found her wallet. Take a look.”

Cheddar held out a leather bifold. Whiskers took one look at the license and let out a low whistle. “Mrs. Anatolia Tigris—the mayor’s second-wife.”

“Yeah, soon-to-be ex-wife. From what I read in the papers, she was gonna clean him out in the divorce.” He stood and dusted off his paws. “Guess that’s two Tigrises who didn’t get robbed.”

“You think he did it?”

“Every man thinks about killing their wife at one time or another. Maybe one tiger went through with it.”

“Seems like a risk for an election year.”

“It would be if the Tiger Emperor didn’t pick the winners.”

Cheddar smacked Whiskers with his tail. “You wanna get thrown outta the dome?”

“Hey, I might find work with the Leopard Sea Pirates.”

“Yeah, and I might be the next president of the United States of Lions.” Cheddar rolled his eyes. “Let’s work this case like any other. No noise, no fanfare—just another job.”

“You really think that’ll be enough to keep us from getting ejected?”

Cheddar glanced at the dome again. “The cracks are getting worse up there. They don’t get fixed soon, it won’t matter if we’re ejected or not.”


HOME OF MRS. ANATOLIA TIGRIS
57th STREET, CLAMHATTAN
JANUARY 11th, 12: 38 PM

Anatolia’s maid kept her expression as still as her paws as she poured Detectives Cheddar and Whiskers two cups of tea. “She hated her husband, but she never felt threatened by him.”

Cheddar eyed the teacups as the houserat set his drink on the table. “Looks like Mrs. Tigris had some nice stuff here.”

“Mao-Tse Ceramic. A gift from Mr. Tigris, just last month,” she added, eyes narrowed. “He’s a good man.”

“You’re saying he paid you on time,” Whiskers translated.

“The Tigrises were most generous.”

“You think there might have been anyone Mrs. Tigris wasn’t paying so regularly? Maybe someone she owed, someone who might’ve gotten tired of waiting?”

“Goodness no.” The maid opened her mouth, then blinked.

“Something the matter?” Cheddar asked.

“No, it’s just…Mrs. Tigris was on the dome renovation committee. I’m sure you’ve seen in the papers that it’s in a state.”

Cheddar nodded. “Hard to miss.”

“Well, it seems Mrs. Tigris played a large part in selecting the contractor who was awarded the bid, and…Oh God…”

“And?”

“Two weeks ago, after she awarded the contract, she received an irate phone call from the head of one of the companies. It was Mr. Lupis, I’m sure—you know the Wolf Napoleoneks? Terrible creatures, but him? He’s the worst, and she didn’t pick his bid!” She folded her paws around her snout. “I should have known it was him!”


SACKER’S COMPANY - HYDROBROOKLYN OFFICE
11th STREET, HYDROBROOKLYN
January 12th, 3:09 PM

Mr. Lupis paced around his office, teeth bared. “You think I murdered the mayor’s wife? Are you crazy?”

Cheddar crossed his arms. “We got word that you made a real nasty phone call to her when your bid didn’t get picked.”

“You think I’d waste my time pulling a stunt like that? The Sacker Company’s an international enterprise. If I called everyone who shot us down, I’d spend half my day on the phone with those snoozejobs in Raji-Land.”

“So if you didn’t call her, who did?”

“I don’t know, her husband? He was the one who was trying to divorce the old housecat—why aren’t you looking at him?”

“He’s outside the dome on business,” Cheddar said. “But we’ll be talking to him when he comes back.”

“You’d better. Doesn’t matter if he was out of town; a connected guy like him can get a job done.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You think he doesn’t have friends in the Mao-Tse-Tigers? All the stripes run together—you know how it is.”

“How about you tell us where were you on the morning of January 10th?” said Whiskers.

“Asleep in my drat bed!”

“Can anybody corroborate that?”

“Yeah, my doorman can, which is exactly why I pay through the snout to live there. So quit wasting my time and ask him!”


RAT NETWORK HEADQUARTERS
01 RAT PATROL PLAZA , CLAMHATTAN
January 12th, 7:30 PM

Whiskers combed his greying fur as he leaned back in his chair. “The wolf’s story checks out, Loo. Doorman had video and everything. Lupis didn’t leave his apartment that day until two.”

Lieutenant Temple sniffed at a mug labeled ‘Mom to 54 Bad Sons’ as she nodded. “Any word from the husband?”

“He’ll be back under the dome tomorrow,” said Cheddar. “We’ll meet him then.”

“You still like him for it, Whiskers?”

Whiskers shrugged. “He wasn’t in town for the murder, but Lupis was right. Tigris could’ve used a hired gun.”

“Lord knows he’s got the money,” said Cheddar.

“What’s a job like that cost these days, fifty grand? Compared to how much Mao-Tse ceramics cost, a contract killer comes cheap.”

Cheddar’s leg bounced up and down against his seat. Lieutenant Temple cocked her ears at him. “Something wrong, Detective?”

“Those ceramics Mr. Tigris bought…Whiskers, didn’t their maid say he’d just gotten them for Mrs. Tigris last month? Isn’t that strange for a guy who was supposed to be in the middle of a divorce?”

“Who initiated it?” said Temple.

“Who always initiates it?” Whiskers laughed. “The wife.”

Cheddar’s leg bounced faster. “Which means maybe Mr. Tigris didn’t want to get divorced. Maybe he was buying gifts to keep her.”

“Seems like a waste of money if she’d already made up her mind.”

“It would be if it was your money.” Whiskers leaned forward in his chair. “Loo, you got a list of the other bidders for the dome?”

“Right here.” She slipped a folder off her desk and handed it to him.

Cheddar skimmed the list, then poked the page with a grin. “Mao-Tse Glassworks.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Whiskers. “I guess those stripes really do run together.”

“Maybe not. Says here they didn’t get the bid either.”

“Woof. Bet they didn’t like that.”

“I’ll bet they didn’t,” said Lieutenant Temple. “And I’ll bet if you check her phone records against the directory for Mao-Tse Glassworks, you’ll find your match.”


STRANGE FIRE COFFEE ROASTERS
CLAMHATTAN SEADOME AIRLOCK, CLAMHATTAN
January 13th, 8:30 AM

Mayor Tigris pulled his collar up and sank into his chair. “You can’t let them see me talking to you…they’ve already proven how far they’re willing to go.”

Cheddar reached across the table. “We know how hard this must be for you, Mr. Tigris, and we’re sorry for your loss.”

“Anatolia was a good woman…headstrong, proud…too proud. She had no idea the Mao-Tse were leaning on me for that contract. I did what I could to make their case without getting directly involved, but when she awarded the contract to the Communi-Bears…”

“They called her, didn’t they?” said Whiskers.

Mayor Tigris nodded. “I begged her to do what they asked, but she refused! She said that just because I was a puppet didn’t mean she had to be…and that was the last thing she ever said to me.”

“Did you know the Mao-Tse were going to kill your wife when you went to visit them?” said Cheddar.

“I had no idea! They told me they wanted to work something out in person. If I had known…” He buried his head in his paws.

Cheddar and Whiskers glanced at each other. “If we go after this, we’re taking on the Mao-Tse government,” said Whiskers.

“The Tiger Empire, too,” said Cheddar. “You up for it, old timer?”

“Come on, Chedd, go easy on me. I’m not that old—only eighteen months.”

“Is that a yes?”

“That depends.” Whiskers rapped his knuckles against Mayor Tigris’s head. “You willing to risk it all to get justice for a woman who hated you?”

Mayor Tigris looked up, eyes brimming with tears. “She was a better tiger than any of us—the kind of tiger I ought to be. Whatever you boys need, I’m here to help.”


TO BE CONCLUDED ON HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET

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