Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Post
  • Reply
Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


The Chew
1898 Words
Flash: International Assassin

Jonathan pulled off his shirt and ran his fingers along the seams, starting at the hem and working to the collar. He put the armpit up to his ear, listening intently for a clandestine beeping, or a whirring, or any kind of indication— no, confirmation, that he was being bugged.

Nothing.

He picked up a pair of kitchen shears. A voice in the back of his head piped up.

“The agency warned you about this, you know. They called it The Chew.”

The scissors flew as he diced the shirt into tiny pieces. Jonathan collected them into a small plastic bowl. He sifted through the scraps, as if scrying the bones. The voice spoke.

“You’ve been out in the wind too long, an ocean from home. It’s eating at you, gnawing to the marrow. Sit and wait, that’s what the dossier said. Details will be forthcoming.”

Jonathan walked to the kitchen and tossed the bowl in the microwave. He punched a minute into the keypad, then reconsidered and went with five, setting it on ‘popcorn’. The microwave hummed.

He considered his pants and recalled the first mission briefing, nearly a decade ago.

There should be two to three months between dead drops, those little drip-feeds of clandestine information. But the drops had slowed, become erratic and convoluted, confusingly dense or absent altogether. It was worrying at first, then terrifying. Eventually, he settled into a dull, erosive anxiety.

Inside the microwave, the little scraps of shirt smoked then burst into flame.

Jonathan took off his pants.

His inner monologue ran softer now.

“Wait, just wait a minute. The mission is still good. Contract murder agencies don’t suddenly disappear, right?”

Jonathan looked around the kitchen. It was, objectively, a disaster. The cabinets hung ripped from their hinges, the fridge was unplugged and tipped on its side, and cutlery laid strewn all over the floor. He considered taking a hammer to the countertops and annihilating any bugs his first, fourth, or tenth sweeps had missed. His cover had been blown, he was sure of it.

The voice uttered a final plea.

“People do deep cover for decades! You’re so far in, you have to be close. Stay the course, remember the mission, zero the target. It’s not too late!”

He ran a finger around the waistband of his suspect boxers, then stripped them off and tossed them in the sink. He ran the tap, submerging the underwear.

It was decidedly too late.

Jonathan left the kitchen and stalked naked down the hallway, flanked by busted-out family portraits: Kelly and little Finn at the beach, the three of them in front of a county fair tilt-a-whirl, just the couple on their wedding day. Cameras in all of them. Too small to see, sure, but they were doing amazing things with microphotography. He ascended the staircase.

He reached his former study, now the war room, and stared at the riot of colored strings and mismatched thumbtacks that comprised the master pegboard. His eyes scanned over the avalanche of evidence and settled on the bombshell, the missive that had blown everything wide open.

‘Colonel Chipper’s Chicken Kitchen’ gave every outward appearance of an ordinary establishment. The chipper Colonel leered out at him from the flier, brandishing a rifle at a chicken wielding a white flag. For a fool, perfectly ordinary.

But there were inconsistencies.

The uniform, for one: confederate grey, signifying an enemy.

The insignia on the mascot’s epaulets: three yellow bars on a blue field, the insignia of a Captain, not a Colonel. Ridiculous, but an obvious feint.

The chicken, a brazen image of his foe’s cowardice.

Lastly, the ad’s lack of any franchise location whatsoever. His target was hidden, lurking amongst the suburban blocks.

The chicken ads had continued to roll in as The Chew nibbled heartier chunks from his sanity. Jonathan dutifully saved the mailers in the study’s big oak bureau, building a profile of his doomed target.

But he’d made a critical mistake.

Kelly had brought it up so many months ago, just as the couple settled into bed.

“Honey? I found all these advertisements for a chicken place in one of your desk drawers. Are you doing the books for them or something?”

She’d clearly been calling him out, flaunting her knowledge that his cover job as an accountant was blown, that he was burned. He’d mumbled some meek agreement, then turned over to sleep.

What a rube he’d been.

It was classic counterintelligence: an innocuous question begging an answer, giving him just enough rope to hang himself.

But he’d never broken.

Not after she suggested he see a therapist, not after she’d demanded that they see a therapist, not after she called him “erratic” and “sick”, and not after she’d taken Finn and gone to her “parents”, leaving a tantalizing phone number taped to the nightstand.

Jonathan broke from his reverie and looked back at the pegboard to the most recent dead drop, the agency’s clearest missive, the final nail in the Colonel’s coffin.

“We’re proud to announce our newest cluckin’ location at 1893 W Fullerton Avenue!”

Jonathan studied the gray-moustachioed Colonel and the speech bubble next to his head. It couldn’t be more obvious.

“Target these great deals!”

The mailer offered a six piece meal free with purchase of a drink. It was a ludicrous bargain, far beyond the chicken industry’s razor-thin margins. No, it declared something far more important.

Jonathan moved to the study’s walk-in closet. He slipped on some gloves from a drawer, then pulled a shirt and pair of pants from their rack. The clothes smelled strongly of grease, the remnant of a bug-frying hour in the oven. Next he opened a suitcase, withdrawing a red jerry can of sweet gasoline and a plastic lighter. He crept out of the walk-in and surveyed the study.

It would all have to go.

Jonathan wantonly spattered fuel on the master pegboard, the carpet, the ceiling, and out into the hallway. The splashback soaked his hair and saturated his clothes.

The Chew was in full effect.

He started to make a gas trail to the stairs, but stopped outside Finn’s bedroom.

Jonathan dropped the can and poked his head in.

The room was sparse, cleaned out. He’d spent a lot of time here after his family had left, pacing paranoiac intervals on the bright blue carpet and talking to no one about codes, stations, and honey traps.

Jonathan sat down on the twin bed and took it all in. The Zapping Fuzzoids poster, a lamp shaped like a crescent moon, and little Captain Jerbo, who was ignoring his hamster wheel for a dwindling supply of pellets and water.

He walked to the closet and felt way back on the topmost shelf. He got up on tiptoes and pushed a loose board, then reached into the small hollow, removing the agency-issued handgun and tucking it into his waistband.

Jonathan walked to the door and gave a farewell look over his shoulder.

The hamster wheel squeaked on its axle as Jerbo began a run. Jonathan was halfway down the stairs when he stopped short.

Captain Jerbo, the lone audience to his ceaseless pacing.

Captain Jerbo, three yellow bars on a blue field.

He raced back up the stairs, burst into Finn’s room, and regarded the terrarium. The hamster blinked back at him.

Such clever listeners, these days.

Jonathan moved to the bedside table and picked up the crescent moon lamp, then slowly walked back to the terrarium.

“Mortem traditoribus, Captain Jerbo.”

---

The house burned as Jonathan raced to 1893 West Fullerton.

Colonel Chippers’ lot was nearly empty in the mid-afternoon. Jonathan pulled into a spot, put the car in park, and tucked his handgun into his waistband.

The husky teen at the register scratched an acne scar and regarded him with fatigue.

“Welcome to Colonel Chipper’s, home of the Eight Wing Salute. Can I take your order?”

Jonathan was dripping in sweat and reeking of gasoline.

“I want to see the Colonel.”

The teen raised his eyebrows.

“Uh, you missed it? The meet-the-Colonel thing was like six weeks ago. Besides, aren’t you a little old for that?”

Jonathan had begun to pant, his tongue lolling out between his teeth. He started to reach for the handgun.

So much for subterfuge.

“I said I want to see the Colonel.”

The teenager started to protest, but seemed to think better of it.

“You know what? They don’t pay me enough for this poo poo.”

He looked over his shoulder at the back office. His voice rang loud over the sizzling fryers.

“Ron? Ron! There’s some guy out here who’s asking for you. He, uh, really smells like gas.”

No response from the back. The teen jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

“Just go on back.”

Jonathan nodded his assent. He wound around the counter, past the fryers and coolers, and nudged open the back office door with his foot.

Ron was taking a nap at his desk. Jonathan regarded the man. Flabby, with the Colonel’s telltale gray moustache. He considered putting a hollow point into the manager’s greasy forehead, ending it right here.

Jonathan had started to untuck his shirt when Ron awoke with a start. He looked up, wild-eyed, and pushed back from his desk. A half-eaten chicken leg rolled off his lap and onto the floor.

“What the poo poo? Look, mister, you’re not supposed to be back here.”

Jonathan fixed Ron with a cool stare, radiating lethality.

“Why’s that, Colonel?”

Ron put his hands up, though Jonathan hadn’t drawn on him.

Yet.

“Look, if this is about Ramon’s money, he’s gonna get it. I just don’t have the cash today, this free six piece deal is killing us!”

Jonathan had heard enough. He whipped the pistol from his waistband and levelled it at Ron.

Ron started screaming, high and shrill.

Jonathan pulled the trigger.

The hammer landed on an empty chamber. Ron screamed louder.

“Okay! Okay! loving poo poo, I’ll pay!”

Jonathan grimaced and sized up the situation. The Colonel was out of shape, sure, but a close-quarters fight back here, so close to registers?

It wouldn’t do. He opted for a more drastic measure.

Jonathan withdrew the lighter from his pocket and touched it to his chest.

Ron stared at him, agog.

The lighter clicked.

Jonathan’s gas-soaked clothes burst into flames. The polyester crackled and popped as he began lumbering toward Ron, arms open.

Ron pushed further back, scrunching himself as deep into the corner as his bulk would allow. He peeked between his fingers at the horrible effigy lurching toward him. Jonathan burned bright, his hands grasping for the chicken shop manager.

The Colonel was close, so close, only a few agonizing steps—

The sprinkler system burst to life, dousing the men in a dark torrent of dirty water.

Jonathan howled and collapsed, his clothes still smoking in the flood.

Ron slowly got to his feet, edged around the perimeter of the room, and left his office. He looked over his shoulder, then walked out of the restaurant. The cashier was nowhere to be found.

He ambled shakily to his car and went for the glove box, removing a cheap smartphone and pressing an icon at the center of the screen.

He held the phone to his ear. His voice was low and soft.

“I need out.”

Ron paused to take a deep breath, then continued.

“I’ve been burned.”

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


:siren:"THEIR":siren:



Flash: Filmcrew on a closed-set production

What Really Happened
1996 words

Jono had told us to be patient, that desperation was the city’s deadliest vice, and that as long as we could house and feed ourselves, our ambitions would follow in time. His advice had seemed prudent, even obvious, over beers in Brunswick three months ago. When he read through my screenplay, filling the spaces between terse dialogue with effusive praise, suggestions, and structural notes, I imagined myself the exception. And when he drove us back home in his Tesla, taking us past the factory that was the stage for his new drama series, I just felt impatience.

Hannah, at first, fared better than I did. She landed a gig as a medical receptionist—sure, an actual receptionist, away from any cameras—but it paid well enough for us to buy some celebratory beers, and she looked at it as a bit of method acting. A few days later I’d come home with a black shirt, black slacks, and a copy of the Starbucks Employee Playbook.

‘Barista, huh?’ Hannah asked, nursing a beer at our linoleum table. ‘Remember me if you serve any famous casting agents or directors, alright?’

‘Like they’d come within ten blocks of a Starbucks,’ I scoffed, throwing the clothes onto the couch and fetching a fresh beer from the fridge. ‘To the lovely first gigs,’ I began, raising my beer in a mock toast, ‘before our big break.’

***

The next day I woke up early, had a three-minute shower, pulled on the black slacks and shirt, sniffed the armpits of my sweater before throwing it on, and left for work.

Murray was waiting downstairs when I stumbled into the pre-dawn light, already sweating from six flights of stairs. He ground a cigarette out on a post and nodded toward a van idling on the street. ‘Next time,’ he grunted, loping toward the van with hands thrust in pockets, not looking back, ‘“seven” means “six-thirty”, tops.’

‘Sorry,’ I said, struggling to keep up. ‘Won’t happen again.’

‘All good,’ Murray said unconvincingly, sliding open the door and climbing inside. Nic and Sean were already there, Nic reading the day’s call sheet while Sean lay back against the headrest, mask over his eyes. ‘Just—a bad day for newbie mistakes. The talent’s gone and got gastro.’

‘Like that’d stop Trent,’ Sean murmured, sotto voce.

The van was away almost before Murray had slammed the door shut, and I half-stumbled onto a seat. Nic passed a copy of the run sheet to me and I scanned my eyes down the page. Even from my limited experience I knew it would be a tough day for a full crew — let alone the skeleton crew of a closed set. I looked out the front window, watching the buildings and billboards thin out as if washed away by the rising sun, as we hurtled toward our first location: EXT, St Juliana, here played by an abandoned hospital doubling as ghost-tour hotspot. We passed the Starbucks I’d told Hannah I worked at, then three more. Starbucks had been Murray’s idea: in his experience, NDAs worked better with the most boring cover story possible.

‘—can’t get talent on this kind of notice,’ Murray was growling into a phone, his other hand clenched around the headrest of the passenger seat in front. ‘No, yeah, I hear what you’re saying, but this isn’t a role I can just—yeah, do that, lemme know how you go,’ he spat, and pocketed the phone toward before turning to me. I glanced away, but still felt his gaze as he asked: ‘Okay, any chance anyone can be useful and name an actress desperate for a big break?’

Sean chuckled, eyes still covered by the mask. ‘Nic knows a chick who might be into it,’ he said.

‘Not calling her again, thanks,’ Nic said. ‘“Night Shift Nurses” might still’ve been too tame for her.’

‘How about new kid?’ Sean asked, raising his mask to look me in the eyes. ‘Strapping young guy like you, must’ve picked up five wannabe actresses by now.’

‘He’s been here five minutes,’ Nic muttered, before I could say anything. ‘Let’s just fuckin’ move the x-ray scene and wait for Clara to poo poo her guts out.’

‘We can’t gently caress everything else around because Clara can’t handle her sushi,’ Murray growled. ‘She’s in three scenes, dim light, we just need someone vaguely Clara-shaped. Hell, she’s mostly prosthetics by the end anyway.’

The van crunched to a halt, and Murray shouldered the door open before striding down a gravel path to Trent’s trailer. Trent scowled as Murray approached, and I felt a hand fall on my shoulder.

‘Yeah, keep your head down,’ Nic murmured, shepherding me to the rear of the van, where Sean stood pulling out bags and big plastic cases. ‘No need to be around those swinging dicks right now.’

Sean looked up, shouldering a backpack, and grimaced. ‘Yeah, he’s wavin’,’ he said. ‘Whose turn to be the lamb?’

‘I’ll go,’ Nic muttered, turning to pace off.

I’d barely picked up the first bag when I heard Nic coming back, ten-dollar note and the van’s keys in his hand. ‘Trent wants a coffee,’ he said. ‘Double-shot, soy, no sugar. No sugar. He’ll count the change,’ he murmured, dropping the keys into my hand and closing my fingers around them. ‘Nearest is—’

‘I saw one on the way,’ I said. ‘It’s not far.’

‘Great, don’t be long. I’d ask you to bring back with a girl with no self-esteem, but you’d need Sean for that.’

‘Go to hell,’ Sean scoffed.

***

I’d just parked outside the strip mall when I checked my phone and saw three missed calls from Hannah. It wasn’t even nine in the morning. I cut the engine, left the van, and called her back as I entered the cafe.

‘Hey love,’ she said, on the second ring. ‘Sorry, I forgot you were starting today, but oh my god, you wouldn’t believe what happened!’

‘You were stuck in traffic and got noticed in an impromptu dance routine?’

‘Better,’ she gushed. ‘Brad McCormack came to the hospital this morning. Brad Mc-Fuckin’-Cormack! And you know what’s better? He totally wants to read your screenplay. Your screenplay!’

‘Whoa, whoa, slow down,’ I told her, stepping out of line and taking a seat by the window. ‘Brad was in the hospital—tell me you didn’t—how did that even come up?’

‘It was some Make a Wish thing,’ she said, ‘that’s not important. We got talking while the photographers were setting up. He’s, like, he was so nice to everyone, asking us all about ourselves, so of course I told him we got here last month, and you were hoping to find someone to read a screenplay, so he said sure, send it over sometime—’

‘Yeah, okay,’ I said, running a hand through my air. ‘You know he’s just being polite, right? He’s got three movies coming out next year, he’s not exactly wanting for material.’

‘No, I really think he’s legit!’ she exclaimed. ‘I mean, he really liked “Full-Sensory Experience”, even though I could only show him on my phone, but he said he’d watch it properly later—’

‘You showed him that?’ I asked, standing and beginning to pace. ‘Jesus, Hannah, I—I wrote that years ago, it’s completely different to—’

‘Jesus Christ, Luke, can you hear yourself?’ she cried. ‘Oh, thanks, Hannah! That sounds really exciting, someone with actual money liked my first short, this could be really good for us! No, wait, I just want to make loving coffee for the next five years!’

My phone buzzed: Murray, probably wondering how long it took to get a coffee. ‘No, I appreciate it,’ I murmured, getting back in line. ‘But this—this sort of thing doesn’t happen, I don’t want us to get our hopes up. Anyway, I need to—I need to get back to work. See you tonight?’

‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘Might catch my own big break before then.’

***

Things hadn’t improved on my return to set. I glanced over at the actors who had arrived, shivering in their robes next to a column heater as a light rain began to fall. Trent took my coffee and then the coins I carefully passed over, counted them, and glared. ‘Christ, you didn’t leave a tip?’ he spat.

‘It’s not porn,’ Murray was insisting into a phone, as I returned to the van. ‘It’s an adaptation of a classic hentai, which is a Japanese artform. We just need you for three scenes—sure, you can leave your pants on, we can work with that—’

I climbed back into the van and looked down at the keys, before looking out the windscreen. Nic was talking to the actors; Sean was setting up the dolly. Trent had returned to his trailer, leaving Murray to negotiate outside. I closed my eyes, slid the keys into the ignition, and imagined telling this story five years from now, drunk on champagne at some awards night dinner.

Before I could start the engine, Murray was loping toward me, head down against the rain. ‘Luke,’ he said, coming up to the window, ‘we need you to head back out. Trent’s called in a favour with one of his old proteges. Look sharp, get this done, it could be you some day.’

‘Sure,’ I shrugged, accepting a post-it note with a hastily-scribbled name and address. The name was new to me, but the address wasn’t. On our first night here, we’d gone on a pilgrimage of famous sets, including a hospital used to film Hannah’s favourite show, Scrubs. We’d sat in our car and watched the reality of a hospital we’d only known to be fake, imagining ourselves part of its second identity: she the go-getter surgeon making bright blue scrubs look sexy; me behind the scenes, no longer rationing my imagination by the tedium of budget.

It took me an hour to get there, wipers fighting the rain, streetlights blurred like a cheap filter. She was waiting by the curb when I pulled up, not far from the lights and trailers and long covered tables of a real set.

‘Thought you were just a receptionist,’ I said, winding down my window. ‘“Nicole”.’

She started, almost dropped her umbrella. ‘Thought you were a barista,’ she replied. ‘You’ve been working with Trent?’

‘You’ve been working with McCormack?’

‘God, no,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘His set’s a block over.’

I cut the engine, and watched the activity happening behind her. ‘A real set, huh,’ I mused, ignoring the fact that I was there to pick her up and bring her back to a set run by Trent Vern. ‘Anything I’d know?’

‘Can’t say,’ she demurred, glancing back. ‘I’m Hospital Receptionist #3, if that tells you anything. Not even the top-billed receptionist.’

‘I’m sure Scarlett Johansson started out playing receptionists,’ I told her. ‘Come on, let’s get to our big break.’

***

My first film received mixed reviews. Jono, in town to shoot his third season, came around to commiserate, and we drank the same beers we’d once splashed out to get. Hannah, recently back from Belgium and under strict instructions not to take any more international travel, joined us on the balcony with some sparkling cider.

‘Mostly I think it was the ending,’ Jono was saying, leaning over the railing. ‘I know you changed it, and I get why you did, but the time jump—it didn’t work. I liked the first draft. Sure, it was cliche, but it worked because of that, y’know?’

‘Yeah, I know,’ I agreed. ‘I should’ve stuck to my guns. But people didn’t believe it. Like, the hero gets the girl, drives off into the sunset, wins the day in some really contrived conversation—’

‘It could happen,’ Hannah shrugged.

Jono finished his beer, dropped it in the bin, and fetched another from the fridge. ‘Ah, poo poo,’ he said. ‘Anyone got a bottle opener?’

I reached into my pocket, pulled out the van’s keyring, and handed it to him.

Captain_Indigo
Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

Persona Detective
(1500 words)

My story starts as a detective story, but if you read it as one, you’re going to be disappointed.

The phone rang in July.

“I am looking for someone to do a job. I’m not entirely sure what a persona detective is.”

“Oh... yeah...” I muttered awkwardly.

“I was originally looking for a private detective. However, I now believe you may be what I am looking for.”

I assured the client that I had a very specific method developed over years working in international espionage. This was true, but in actuality, it had been a misprint within the phone book. A scatter-brained clerk with sloppy handwriting had inadvertently created an occupation.

“There is a woman, I can’t tell you her name but you will know her as Martinya. Follow her. Find out what she does and where she goes.”

And so began my pursuit of the woman who was not called Martinya.

It was a simple case and I was in dire need of the money, which promised to be good. Her name, to me, would be Martinya. If her identity, or my perception of it, be attributed to Martinya, then what importance did her real name have? She was the woman I perceived and the woman I perceived had the label of Martinya.

I was to locate Martinya, on a particular day and at a particular time, drinking coffee alone at a table outside The Café del Cisma on Avinida Unica. She would be dressed in blue and wearing a sunhat.

She sat alone, fanning her blonde hair and porcelain features. She looked like an old movie star. I set myself up at a table on the opposite side of the café, behind her so as to not catch her attention. I ordered a black coffee and tried to build some kind of narrative around her. Who was she? What was she doing? Why would anyone want her followed? I had to stop and remind myself that I was no longer a spy – that I was a different person now. In that former life, my competition were elite professionals. In this life, all that set me apart from disgraced police officers, blacklisted contractors and violent thugs was a misprint. It was not my place to question, my job was simply to follow the instructions I had been given, and provide the client the information they required. The client would phone every three nights or so and ask me about her. Where had Martinya gone? What had Martinya been up to? Had Martinya been alone?

After two weeks, my brain had weaved a complex web of narratives. Whether it was a by-product of the boredom or my inbuilt training, I came to believe that there was something larger and more complex underpinning everything.

“Who are you?” I asked when the client called. “A jealous lover? Martinya’s mother? Her sister? Or are you Just some pervert?”

The client said nothing for a long time then sighed.

“It is not your business. However, since you ask, she is a spy. A spy who possesses a great secret. I am trying to ensure that she does not pass on her secret to any other agents. So now, where has Martinya been? Who has she spoken to?”

Whether I believed the story or not, my curiosity had been satiated. Part of me longed to know the great and terrible secret Martinya possessed, but I had spent long enough in the world of spies to know it would be irrelevant. One line of coded information, a list of locations and events impossible to track back to anything. Numbers, data, minutiae.

The next time that the client called, she made a staggering offer.

“From this moment on, consider yourself a full-time employee. You will follow Martinya at all times. You will eat when she eats, sleep when she sleeps. You will be a secret and hidden observer. Be a shadow to her shadow, detective.”

To begin with, it was strange. Then it was just my life. I was, as the client had suggested, a shadow of her shadow. A phantom, obfuscated by one degree. A poltergeist who might affect the world around her, but was never to be seen.

It struck me one day as I waited outside her apartment. If I was following her at all times, were we not close? If I saw every moment of her life, even from afar, were Martinya and I not companions? I had watched her lonely and simple life unfurl before me day after day. I knew her without restraint or mask, I had seen her at her least self-conscious or performative. Her most raw. Would it be an exaggeration to say that we shared a life? That perhaps we were the closest of people, at times even fragments of the same? If two people led the same life, where did one end and where did the other begin?

I sold my office. I discarded all things that did not aid in my pursuit of her. The client called for updates. Payment was sent on time. I made a considerable amount of money and spent almost none of it. Martinya lived in one of four identical apartment blocks surrounding Patio de la Unidad and I rented an apartment overlooking hers from the opposite block. At night, I sat on packing boxes and watched her windows through binoculars until the lights went out.

At times, I began to suspect that perhaps Martinya was the client. Perhaps she wanted to be stalked and had hired me to follow herself. Maybe she was bored, or scared, or lonely. I toyed with the idea she had multiple personalities, and one had hired me to follow the other. It seemed unlikely.

And then? Fear. My rapidly growing concern regarding Martinya’s, and thus my own, safety.

I began to worry about the client’s intentions. I had all but become Martinya. I walked beside her, living the same life. I stalked her so closely that we almost took up the same space.

One afternoon in June, I followed her to the town square. We sat on a park bench, mere inches apart. I sat like her double, one leg crossed over the other, cigarette held stiff between two fingers. Suddenly, I noticed a figure across the street, standing outside the bookstore. This figure, half-wreathed in the shadow of the store awning pretended to read a newspaper but I could see from his eyeline that he was staring at us. I stared at him for a while and he slowly looked back down to his newspaper. I kept staring and a moment later he dared to glance up. Our eyes met and he quickly packed his newspaper under one arm and jogged away. Without warning, half a dozen people around the square started jogging vaguely in the same direction. He risked one glance over his shoulder and there was a ripple through the square as a multitude of people scrambled to avoid each other.

He had been watching me, just as I was watching Martinya. Those other sudden runners were watching him, or each other. There were watchers and watchers of watchers.

Without warning, Martinya flicked her cigarette away and stood up. I stretched, stubbed my cigarette out on the bench and casually stood too. On the bench behind ours, two women disposed of cigarettes and feigned nonchalance as they stood. All around the square, people were suddenly settling bills at cafes and bars, suddenly checking their watches and making faces of surprise - “Oh wow, is that the time?”, suddenly grabbing their jackets and preparing to leave.

I wondered if Martinya was the first. Was she tracking someone else? I began to fear for my life. What if whoever followed me had been told the same story I had? I knew many secrets from the past, though I had no intention of passing them on and doubted they would be of any use to anyone. Was I a threat to the state? I had always acted honourably and justly; I was loyal to my country. What if my pursuer had been told I was a danger to their way of life?

What if I was?

What if my following of Martinya was a signal to some observer? Was I watching the messenger, or was I the messenger? Was I the message itself?

I could be killed. Killed by an agent who had been told to call me ‘Miguel’ or ‘Santiago’ or ‘Vincente’.

I considered whether or not I ought to use some of the money that I had accumulated. Surely, I could take money from the vast sum that continued to arrive each week and hire a detective of my own.

That evening, the elevators at the Patio de la Unidad apartment blocks were all packed. As Martinya’s light went off, I switched off my own and watched through my binoculars as the lights of the city blinked out one by one.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Escape

1319 words

It's a matter of instinct: Eric sees his friend in danger, flanked by the three bullies. Marshall isn't much of a fighter, still showing bruises from yesterday. But his friend is no coward either. Marshall won't beg, knows better than to try to run. Instinct: the stick is in Eric's hand, held with perfect form and he's rushing toward the fight. The stick makes for a lousy rapier, but these guys aren't up to the standards of the Shatengard. A blunt strike at the leader's shoulder leaves him reeling in pain. The big one throws a fist. Eric deflects it with a spin, then sweeps the stick around to his right leg. The fast one fights dirty, scoops a handful of sand and small rocks and flings it at him, at his eyes, but Eric doesn't need to see to know where he is, where he's going to be. He lunges. The instinct is to go for the killing blow, and even without steel and point that strike could break ribs, could damage organs. He fights the instinct, holds back his thrust, and his opponent sees and seizes the chance. He grabs the stick and yanks it rightward. Eric goes with the motion, turns in into a roll and wrenches the stick from his enemy's hand, then makes another thrust, again less strong than instinct demands. A light bruising of the kidney, about an hour of pain. They scatter and run. He drops the stick.

"How did you learn to do that?" asks Marshall, still gasping for breath. 

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," says Eric.

***

Marshall believes it when Eric shows it instead, eight days later, but it's a close thing. "Are you sure you want to come?" Eric asks. "I mean, I came from the Blue Reach. Originally."

"So?" says Marshall. It's twilight, in the small woods near Eric's home, and the portal stands there, an arch into morning and flowered fields. Marshall's voice is slow, like a person under hypnosis.

"So that means I change when I go through," says Eric.

"Into the Prince of Greendork," says Marshall, the idea of it breaking his trance, letting his natural sarcasm back into his voice.

"Gryndrake," corrects Eric. "But you weren't. So I'm not sure what you'll be once we go through. Maybe you won't change at all. Or it won't let you through."

"Or maybe I'll be some kind of hideous hyena person, I get it." He starts walking toward the archway. "Worst case, we walk back over, right?"

Eric follows, rushing to catch up, but isn't fast enough. They pass through the arch together. He's been through nearly a dozen times, and still hasn't gotten used to the sensation, of being stretched and squeezed, of having the view of the other side stay constant while he sees stars fly by in his peripheral vision. Of hearing the wind, and behind it strange music in alien scales. He's never gotten the hang of keeping his balance going through. He tumbles, like always, on entry, unable to keep balance as his body changes from stripling teen to athletic adult. The flowers stain the fine white trousers he wears as Prince Eric. Grass and pollen, the least of the stains those clothes have seen. He starts to climb to his feet. Someone grabs his hand. 

"Marshall?" The hand that lifts him up to his feet is strong and soft.

"What's the matter, Eric?" The voice is strange, higher-pitched, more confident, but the cadences are familiar. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

What he sees is his friend, aged to adulthood just like him, and changed in other ways. The skin is clear of acne, the hair long and flowing red rather than tangled brown. Marshall is dressed in the leathers of the Kestrel Skyraiders, tightly fit around a clearly feminine form. "You'd better look for yourself," he says, and takes the lead, walking toward the tranquil lake that is the center of this garden.

Marshall looks at the reflection on that still surface silently and for a long while. "Maybe we should go back."

"I was trying to tell you before," says Prince Eric. "It doesn't work that way. The gateway closes, and doesn't open again until I've done whatever it is that needs doing here."

"Oh." A long moment passes, both of them staring at the water until a breeze makes ripples, disrupting the image. "Athena, I guess."

"What?" says Prince Eric.

"I mean, I can't be calling myself Marshall looking like this. Unless there's a real Athena here who'd get mad. You don't have Greek gods and goddesses running around, do you?"

"No," says Prince Eric. "There's a bunch of dark gods and demons, and then there's the Light. And out East there's a place with druids, I'm not sure what their theology is like."

"Great," says Athena. "Well, let's get to work."

Prince Eric whistles, and in seconds his Pegasus Virgil lands beside him and kneels, lowering wings to the ground. Virgil knickers with a bit of attitude, as usual when called to carry a second rider.

The task this time is a lengthy adventure, a need to convince the wizard-queen of Chalmercy to join forces with Gryndrake. Prince Eric's advisors brief him and equip him for the long journey upriver and across the Cellmourn mountains. The twins, Lord and Lady Denwick join them on the mission, as usual. Devon is a master of spear and axe, and Denna commands elemental cantrips and healing glyphs. Athena's skill with short blades and acrobatics, now coming natural to his friend along with the changed body, round out the team nicely.

The journey is perilous. An elder fire drake dogs them along the way, always fleeing before any of them can destroy it. On the third attack, it dives close enough that Prince Eric can see the eyes and the empty sadness inside them, and feel the malevolent presence inside the monster's skull. Not just a determined animal, but a spy and tool for some demonic power. It escapes again, then attacks with a pack of bats and blood-stirges as they descend the far side of the Cellbourns. The sky fills with steel and spell, cantrip and arrow and dagger and falling animal carcasses. Devon is wounded and the drake is driven off again. The wounds bring fever beyond what Denna can fully heal. The elder twin is weak when they reach Chalmercy, in need of the sorcerer queen's magical healing.

Queen Xeia agrees to heal the man, and in theory to the alliance, but at a price: three tasks, favors, challenges, whatever name matters not. There is a giant who stole a cemetery to make it's cloud realm larger. There is a book buried deep in an ancient trap-filled tomb. There is a traitor in her court. They flew to the giant's clouds and tricked it into returning the land. They delved into the tomb, defied the traps, and resisted the temptation of robbing other wealth from the graves and risking blood-curses. And they unmasked the traitorous advisor, then fought him, with snakes sprouting from each new wound and attacking them. Then the drake returned, enlarged and transformed by the demon-lord within, flanked by armies of shadow-skeleton vultures.

And then the task was over, and the garden appeared. The twins set off to deliver the news of the successful alliance, leaving Prince Eric and Athena in the flower garden, as the Arch appeared.

"Time works different here," said Prince Eric. "It'll be, maybe an hour or two later."

"Why?" asked Athena. "I mean, why do you ever go back?"

"Family," he said. "Friends. Not always almost dying. Plus, I don't know. Skipping the next ten years doesn't seem right. Like I'd never really grow up."

Athena nodded. "That makes sense. You'll take me back here?"

"If you want," said Prince Eric. "Any time."

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Dissembling
840 words


Archive.

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 04:11 on Jan 6, 2022

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


A bit late but Subs are Closed!

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018
Viva Shaboople
930 words - Corporate Espionage

Everything is insufferable here. The office is overly bright, glass fronted and “open plan,” which means there’s no escaping the sound of Karl stomping up to his desk —singing “Pizza for breakfast” to the tune of Viva Las Vegas— nearly every morning. Then he turns to the side, and he looks me in the eye as he docks the tip of a stringy pizza slice to his face. He’s pointing a finger gun with his off hand as the slice drifts toward his cocky grin, and I hate him: I hate him because I laugh.

Shaboople: the leading people development services platform. It’s complicated, but basically it’s an app based system that tricks ordinary people into doing recruitment and HR processes for you without any expectation of a stable contract. I’m on the dev team, which is me and pizza-man Karl.

Then there’s Jan, who’s the closest thing to a boss that I have. Jan is the interim director of performance and flourishing. She’s the only person I’ve met whose summer dress, nails and lipstick match. I admire her commitment to pastel orange, but I’ve never seen her eyes. To me, her face is just a gigantic pair of brownish square shades and pastel orange lipstick under the shadow of a wide brimmed straw hat.

“Martin,” she says, leaning against my desk — which thankfully obscures my view of the pizza eating performance.

“I had this idea,” she says, “So, I was thinking, what if we had a rating system for our Booples. Like, five stars, or something, yah?”

“Okay,” I say, “so you want a few buttons on the client services received confirmation that will rate the guy one to five?”

“Yah,” she says, “it’d really help us to see who’s flourishing, no?”

“Well,” I say, “to see that, we’d need a page that orders people by their score.”

“Yah, sounds fab!” she says, leaning there. I can’t see her eyes, but the way her brown squares loom over me tells me her statement comes with an expectation.

So begins the process of Googling someone else’s code and praying I can copy paste it into our own mess. I could make something, but this place does not deserve my effort.



Evening, and so begins the bizarre ritual of smiling and saying “goodbye!” to everyone I pass on the way out of this glass-fronted hell-office. My uber’s here, in a Toyota something-or-other whose diesel engine sounds as tired as I feel.

I sit in the back, where the new car smell is powerful enough to trigger a migraine. The shaven-bald guy up front is in a black turtle neck, wearing ray ban shades, and he’s tonguing the inside of his mouth down toward his chin. We rumble along the city streets and he says to me, “Martin, I need to come clean.”

I find myself covering my wallet with my hands, as though it’d help if he decided to knife me here.

“You ever heard of HedHuntr?” he says, “It’s an app…”

“It’s an app where people get paid if they find someone to fill a position,” I say. “I work at Shaboople —HedHuntr is one of our competitors.”

“I’m a HedHuntr,” says the man, “and there’s a guy trying to find devs at Shaboople for a private contract that’ll pay 20k for a season’s work. I thought I’d take Uber calls from the head office until I found you or Karl from your LinkedIn profiles.”

“It’s easy money,” he says, “and if you do take the job, be sure to rate me five, yeah? It really helps.”

I scan the QR code on his joblink, and remain silent until we get to the condo.

20k for a season’s work? Looking to poach someone from a specific company? Well that’s full of red flags. I’m silently laughing at this advert on my phone screen. “We’re looking for someone with the right skills and position to work with utmost discretion for an exciting temporary role in the tech industry.” Specifically devs at Shaboople. Well, that’s a no from me, but then the site reloads itself. “This vacancy has been filled,” it says.



“PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST!” shouts the only other dev in this hellhole company. Somehow his grin seems a little wider today, as he completes the docking ritual. Once again, Jan interposes herself between me and the future backstabber.

“Martin,” she says, playfully, “have you been feeding our info to the competition?”

“What?” I say, wondering just how quickly Karl got to work on his new job.

“Headhuntr has a five star system since yesterday,” she says. Karl slides over in his chair. He cocks his head and says, “Don’t want to be handing over trade secrets, Martin —you could get into trouble!”

“Well,” says Jan, “I was wondering how you were getting on with our star system, anyway.”

“It’s ready for testing,” I say, “but there could be a few kinks.”

“Fab,” says Jan, “I just can’t wait until we can get our five star QA booples on little jobs like this.”

With Jan gone, Karl keeps pointing to his eyes and to me, like the threatening gesture from some kind of war movie.

“What do you know about handing over trade secrets?” I say.

“Dunno,” says Karl, “you’re clearly the expert!”

“What do you know about new cars?” says Karl, “I’m thinking about electric.”

“How are you going to afford that on our wages?” I say.

“I’ve been saving here and there, you know,” he says, “cutting down on little expenses.”

“Like pizza?” I ask

“Yeah,” he says, “Like pizza.”

J.A.B.C.
Jul 2, 2007

There's no need to rush to be an adult.


Thunderdome: Week 481 Judging

We had a solid week this week. The hardest part in our group was thinking about who would get the loss rather than the win, so congrats to everyone who made it.

As for that loss, Albatrossy_Rodent holds the L with both hands for a story with some confusing character motivations.

No DMs this week, so everyone else can breathe easy.

For Honorable Mentions, Sitting Here gave us a compact but chuckle-worthy story about a stormy relationship, ChickenofTomorrow gave us a sweet if somewhat strange story about motherhood and marsupials, and Carl Killer Miller gave us a Nic Cage movie. Congrats to you all.

The win for this week goes to Yoruichi for their poignant tale about skeletons falling apart and what it takes to build them up once again.

I abdicate my throne and leave it to you.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


:siren: Thunderdome Week 482: But then, suddenly...!!! :siren:

This week, somewhere in the third quarter of your story, something completely unexpected happens. Your characters must not see this coming, and preferably your reader won't either. Note this isn't the ending - you still have the final quarter in which to show us how your characters deal with whatever the buggery bollocks it was that just happened.

If you want a flashrule I will tell you what the unexpected event is. But, I don't want you to know what it is until you get to the point in your story at which the unexpected event occurs. Accordingly, flashrules will not be handed out until after sign-ups have closed.

If you want a hellrule I will give you a lego set from which you will derive your characters and setting.

Usual rules apply.

1000 words.

Deadlines are 8pm Saturday and Monday, NZ time.

Judges:
Me
T a s t e
Captain Indigo

Blindsided competitors:
1. rohan (Ice Station Odyssey)
2. Chairchucker (...all the lightbulbs exploded!!! + Lego Agents Swamp Raid)
3. Chernobyl Princess (...everyone saw a ghost!!!)
4. My Shark Waifuu (...the town was surrounded by wolves!!! + Space Police Lunar Limo)
5. CourtFundedPoster (...aliens attacked!!!)
6. The man called M (...a dinosaur popped out!!! + Pirates of Barracuda Bay)
7. Thranguy (...the building caught fire!!! + Neptune Discovery Lab)
8. Mr Gentleman
9. a friendly penguin
10. Taletel (Shark's Crystal Cave)
11. Carl Killer Miller
12. crabrock (...everyone's phone rang at once!!!)

Yoruichi fucked around with this message at 07:05 on Oct 30, 2021

rohan
Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


:siren:"THEIR":siren:



in, hellrule please

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.




in, flash, hell

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

In

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



In, fun flash please!

CourtFundedPoster
Feb 2, 2019
In with flash.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



In. Flash me to hell.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


rohan posted:

in, hellrule please

You get Ice Station Odyssey, which comes with three figures: Ice Planet Female (Doctor Kelvin); Ice Planet Male; and, Ice Planet Chief (Commander Cold).

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Chairchucker posted:

in, flash, hell

Lego Agents Swamp Raid. Your figures are Break Jaw, Agent Charge, and a bunch of alligators.



I wonder what will suddenly happen to them, when I give you your flashrule on Saturday night!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


The man called M posted:

In. Flash me to hell.

Pirates of Barracuda Bay. "The set has 8 minifigures including Captain Redbeard, Lady Anchor, Robin Loot and twins Port and Starboard for pirate role-play action, plus a shark, pig, 2 parrots, 3 crabs, 2 frogs and 2 skeleton figures."



Look forward to your flashrule on Saturday night!

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

I've decided that I, too, want a flash

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012



Those LEGO sets are rad, now I'd like a hellrule too please!

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


In, flash and hell.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


My Shark Waifuu posted:

Those LEGO sets are rad, now I'd like a hellrule too please!

Space Police Lunar Limo. Your set comes with Space Police Alien Jawson, Space Police Alien Brick Daddy, and Space Police Officer 14 - Airtanks.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Thranguy posted:

In, flash and hell.

Neptune Discovery Lab! This set features Aquanaut 1, Aquanaut 2 and Aquanaut 3.

Mr Gentleman
Apr 29, 2003

the Educated Villain of London

In, no rules

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In

Taletel
May 19, 2021

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2021
In, Hellrule.

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Taletel posted:

In, Hellrule.

Shark's Crystal Cave! Your set comes with Aquashark 1 with black flippers, and Aquashark 2.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:


I'm in.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002
In flash

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.




I am going to go pretty indepth on this first crit because it does a lot wrong but does enough right that I didn't hate it.

The man called M posted:

Grandpa of the Light
1495 words


“She’s gone. My Wife is gone.” 'wife' doesn't need a capital letter unless it's the start of a sentence. Also, it seems like you can't decide here whether you're going to make a new paragraph or not. Starting a new line but not doing a line break is weird.
This very thought hit James Maxwell for the first time in sixty years. He always thought he would always have Nancy, but he was just fooling herself. Think you mean himself. That’s how things go, I guess. One or the other. Not both. James thought. 'James thought' should not be a separate sentence. Not both, James thought. I think you made this mistake a few times. He has tense shift. should be had heard. heard of his fellow seniors suffering from loneliness, how they eventually went mad until their death. That is, if they died of natural causes. Is this how I’m going to spend the rest of my life?

Alone?


After the funeral, James met with his friends and family. For the most part, they reminisced about Nancy, while James was asked time and time again if he was okay. And time and time again, he had to lie and say that he was. Yes, he lost the love of his life. Yes, he missed her dearly. But for James, the most pressing concern he had was: What the hell do I do now? While eating at a local restaurant, one of his grandsons pulled him aside.

“Excuse me, Grandpa.” Said Grandpa, said the grandson, whose name was cut 'whose name was' Chad, “I heard of some things about Old People why is old people capitalised? being lonely, and I think I might have an idea.”

“Oh?” Said James. 'oh', said “And what might that be?”

“Perhaps you can join me and Dave in this MMO I am playing?”

“The Blazes why is this capitalised? is an MMO?”

“It’s the kind of game where many people play at the same time and interact with each other!”

“Oh? And what is this game you speak of?”

“It’s called Azorian Legends, it’s really cool!” James could see the glimmer in his eyes when Chad talked about the game. He mentioned that he, Dave, and their friends are were. not are. you've tense shifted. part of a guild called the probs should capitalise 'the' if the name of the guild is 'The Wombats'Wombats. Chad heard from his friends in the guild about how old people can be quite lonely, so some of them (James figured that it might have been a joke) suggested inviting him to the game. Bless his heart. Thought heart, thought James. He figured that if folks like Chad and Dave could find friends there, perhaps he won’t wouldn'tbe so lonely. should have a proper line break after this.
“Alright, I think I’ll install it on that computer your dad game gave me for Christmas.” James said. Christmas," James said Chad looked surprised at James’ response. He soon after went back to their family. this is just kind of a bad sentence, feels really awkward. Bill, their dad, figured that James would need to figure out his taxes ‘the modern way’, so he game think you mean 'gave', although it probs should've been 'had given' James and Nancy a PC for Christmas. Admittedly, Nancy was the one who mostly used it. Might as well make sure it doesn’t gather dust. James thought. dust, James thought

After what seemed like forever, James first logged into Azorian Legends later that day. why did it seem like forever? Did he experience difficulties? After calling Chad and asking what server they were on, James went and created his character. He created a Gunslinger Dwarf by the name of Olde Fella. He remembered hearing of how Dwarves were bearded drunks who got into fights a lot. My kind of guys. Thought James. OK I've probs harped on the comma thing enough so I'll just ignore it from here on, but fix it yo. He explored the tutorial, and while at first, no to this comma imohe had trouble, he eventually got the hang of things. Through Chad and Daveadd a comma here James learned about the most basic types of units. The self-explanatory healers and damage dealers, and the tanks. The tanks were the ones that makes made. We've already established that it's past tense by saying 'the tanks were', so it should be 'made' instead of 'makes' to match. sure no one gets hurt, and if they screw up, that’s what the healer is for. “Are healers supposed to do damage as well?” James asked the boys through audio chat.

“Yeah, but don’t tell them that.” Dave said.

“Heh. Reminds me of your mother.” wtf idgi All three of them laugh. laughed. It was through this first play session that James started to bond with his grandsons. Looking back, it was the best moment of each of their lives. no to this sentence imo, just doesn't work.

Little did Chad and Dave know; James spent some time in Azoria by himself. It was there that he further explored what the world had to offer. When James talked to his real-life friends, he would indirectly tell others of his time there by saying stuff that was technically true. For example, there was a time when he fought monsters that looked like cabbages.

“Did some gardening.”

There was also a time when he was part of a role play where he went to a Bar shouldn't be capitalised and chatted with the denizens.

“Had a pint with the lads.”

He also bore witness to what was known as “Erotic Role Play” and laughed, realizing that those that do it here didn’t know a drat thing about sex.

“Laughed at some awful Teen Comedy.” teen comedy shouldn't be capitalised.

James wanted to fully explore the world of Azoria, even the parts that were not handled by those who created the game. ...what? What he found was quite fascinating, and more. He even did some exploring in dungeons with fellow Wombats. Nonetheless, he also spent time to play with Chad and Dave as well.

One day, James received a call from Dave. The Wombats needed help in a certain raid that the guild was having trouble with. The main challenge came from the raid’s final boss, ‘Ragfrit, the Primal Fire’. James hadn’t been in a raid before, but he also knew that he would never abandon his family. “I’ll be right there.” James said, as he searched for info on Ragfrit online. Years ago, Bill showed him and Nancy how to use the internet. If anyone told James that he was going to use it to find info on an MMO, he would have found them mad. 'found them mad'? maybe thought them?

Later, The Wombats, James among them, went into the raid. They fought through all the trash mobs and mid-bosses until Ragfrit himself. James then explained through the voice chat what he found online about their fiery foe. He spoke to them in a manner of an army commander briefing on a mission, calmly, but effectively. He told them what the tank needed to do, as well as the healers and the damage dealers. After James’ explanation, everyone knew what to do. During the fight, James barked out orders like a drill sergeant. By then, James was a fully respected member of the Wombats, and he considered him as much as their grandpa as Chad and Dave. So I think you meant he considered himself their grandpa, your wording is messed up here. They were all determined not to let him down.

After their fiery foe had fallen. The Wombats Guild Leader congratulated everyone and gave the honor of James to pass out the loot. When they came to the mount, every member of the Wombats agreed that James should have it, since it was thanks to him that they won. James felt like he was part of something great, like when he led men back in Vietnam. The major difference was that the Wombats were more organized, and the cause was worth something. The Wombats knew that Rafrit was but one foe, and that there were many more to come. The Wombats expressed that they would depend on James for the next raid. Nonetheless, James and the Wombats would continue their adventures for many more times to come.

Years had passed. Azorian Legends was still around but was past it’s its, not it's prime put the period over here imo (The fate of many MMOS.). because having two periods next to each other like this looks dumb On the game’s official forum, the following post was made:

“Hello! My name is Chad Davidson. Me and my brother Dave were part of the guild Wombats along with my grandpa. Well, unfortunately, my grandpa passed away recently from cancer. He told the family before he died about his time with the game, and how he found it to be the best times of his life after grandma passed away. He also talked about his experiences in the game when Dave and I weren’t online, including ERP! (It was never too serious, plus he mentioned that those that did it knew nothing about sex.) He mentioned that, while he cherished his time in Azoria, he also cherished us much more. Do any of you remember him? He was known as Olde Fella in game. Thanks for the help!”

Soon after, posts remembering him began flowing in:

“loving. Legend.”

“He was like the grandpa I never knew!”

“Major part of the Wombats!!!”

“Kindest person I ever met! T_T”

“He ain’t dead, he just faded away!!!”

Chad showed the thread to the family. They were in tears over how loved he was in the game. They saw that James truly made an impact on the world of Azoria. you've done the thing again where you did kind of a semi paragraph change, wtf
Later on it was decided that a memorial would be held by him in game. Chad and Dave logged on to their characters for the first time in years. When they went to the meeting spot, they were amazed at how many people were there. Former and current Wombats, along with many others James met during his times in Azoria. Their parents saw the memorial and were in tears throughout. They knew of James Maxwell: father, grandfather, husband. But they now knew of Olde Mann: Champion of the Light, Member of the guild Wombats, player of Azorian legends. They saw that he was many things, but they were truly happy that there was one thing he was not.

Alone.

OK so as you will have noted I took issue with a lot of the grammar. It seriously makes it rough going through a story if you're constantly dealing with tense changes, bad dialogue attribution, and the most difficult thing to nail down but a constant problem it has which was feeling stilted, a lot of telling rather than showing. The ending kinda saved it for me, there was a strong emotional bit or whatever, which is why I didn't want it to lose or DM, but you seriously need to tighten up a lot of the grammar.

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

A slightly less in depth series of crits



Grandpa of the Light
The man called M

The one where a grandfather plays MMOs and is good at it.

This is the best M story yet! You took the advice and used up your word count, and it made for a better story. This is a coherent and sweet tale of combating loneliness through found family.

That said, it’s still not what you’d call good. Your dialogue is a bit stilted, very few people say things like “And what is this game you speak of?” unless they’re consciously doing a bit. I also think you hammered home the “OLD PEOPLE ARE LONELY” thing way too hard. The general weakened the specific: focus more on James’s personal loneliness, his personal fears, and you’d have a stronger emotional arc.

Low

______

The right hand lies!
Albatrossy_Rodent

The one where some people tell an insurance adjuster that they were lying to him about an injury, to predictable results.

You had a super cool set piece with the corpus callosotomy and the hand thing. I’ve known a handful of people who have had this surgery and none of that happened to them, but hey, fiction is fiction. But the story itself was kind of flat. Like it was a bunch of nice people trying to be nice and then cheerfully admitting to insurance fraud. To a claims adjuster. Who told them his plans to quit but, critically, hadn’t quit yet. Their fretting about Being Nice Enough came on too strong as well. Sorry, this one was a big miss for me.

Low, possible DM

______

The Ladder
My Shark Waifu

The one where a serial killer decides he likes firing people more than killing them.

This was darkly comic without glorifying the violence, and I really enjoyed it. I do question the “I don’t poo poo where I eat” and then killing off his clients, but nobody said serial killers had to be internally consistent.

High, possible HM

_________

Mr. Tlacuatzin
ChickenOfTomorrow

The one where a private investigator gets bit by a were possum and becomes a Good Possum Mom.

Another very strong one. I enjoyed the internal monologue from the main character, it had a consistent tone of voice that I appreciated. I do wonder at her decision to grab for the thing he was choking on rather than heimliching him, as I’m sure she’d have been trained to do at some point. He could easily have bit her in crazy lycanthropic self defense and then she’d still get to go be a Good Possum Mom.

Very high, HM

_________

Storm Eye Blind
Sitting Here

The one where she’s dating a hurricane

drat this is a good week, another really freaking funny story. I’m not sure this one leaned as far into the secret identities thing as it could have, but I appreciated the absurdity. A point of grammar: “The rest of *her* and Bruce’s possessions were smashed beyond recognition.” Not she. But you posted from your phone in the lobby of your workplace with no power so hats off to you for getting it done at all.

High

______

The Chew
Carl Killer Miller

The one where an international assassin goes crazy (Or Does He?!)

You did a fantastic job building up tone and narrative, and I genuinely enjoyed the twist at the end. I think this would be better with a couple of edits, just to smooth out some of the rough edges and make the sentences flow a bit better. The jerky, erratic tone of the first part doesn’t connect as well in the second.
Medium High

_______


What Really Happened
Rohan

The one where a pair of newbie actors get jobs on closed film sets.

So much went on here that I didn’t actually get a chance to catch any details that would hook me into the story. There were too many characters to keep track of, and most of them had a vague, LA sort of unpleasantness that I didn’t care to track them anyway. I wish I’d seen more of what they were filming. I wish I’d understood who half of these characters were. I wish the story had a more concrete arc to it, or was at least focused more on that arc.

Medium Low

_______


Persona Detective
Captain_Indigo

The one where a detective is watching a person and being watched by others in a fractal trap of observation

I’ll admit, if I weren’t a judge this week the first line would have turned me off from the entire rest of the story. Which would have been a shame, because I ended up *really liking* the rest of the story! I like the misprint in a phone book line, and I like the way it slides into psychological horror. I do think there are a couple of times where you get tied up in the questions of “who is Martinya? Does it matter? What is this and what is happening?” that are less interesting to read than if you left those questions to the reader. It might have been better to just ask the client’s questions.

Medium high

_______

Escape
Thranguy

The one where he’s a fantasy world prince and his friend is a hot chick

A cute story but kind of “a thing happened” story. I was hoping there’d be more exploration of identity on each side of the gate, but it read like a synopsis of a longer work. Marshall just kind of going “welp guess I’m a girl now” and then saying “welp guess I’ll go back to being a boy again” is… kind of off for me. Like there’s no freak-out? No question of “Dang, I kind of liked this body…” or “ah, poo poo, I gotta go through puberty again??”

Solid Medium

_______

Dissembling
Yoruichi

The one where a skeleton tries to put himself back together

I really appreciate it when writers just say “yeah, it’s a skeleton, he’s got a meat suit, don’t fuckin’ worry about how it works.” I do kind of wish I understood what was causing him to fall apart, even a quick line “it had been this way since xxxxxx” would have been useful. That little detail aside, I think that the sense of danger and urgency is very real, and the use of the presents from Janine was very cute. It’s a neat little platonic romance between a skeleton and his work friend.

High, possible win

_____

Viva Shaboople
Azza Bamboo

The one that DQed but you wrote it so I’m judging it. Also it’s about apps and the people who work on them.

I thought HeadHuntr was going to be way more sinister than it was and was a bit disappointed. Karl was also such an annoyance that I was surprised and kind of annoyed that he got the 20k instead of Martin. I don’t understand why Martin felt like he had to say no, or why he felt loyalty to Shaboople. I *did* like referring to the app users as “booples,” which was so absurd, cutesy, and irritating that I’m shocked it doesn’t already exist.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009

THUNDERDOME ULTRALOSER
2022



Apologies for the lateness! Got distracted by Giant Robots. As you will.

I promised crits for last week (At first with the exception of mine, but it was suggested I do mine as well.) and here they are! Here are:
Crits from a normal person

Grandpa of the Light-Me

Probably one of my best works on the ‘dome. I know I didn’t try to push how far a “double life” is. (Maybe that’s why I didn’t get anything this week?) EDIT: This crit was written before I saw Chernobyl Princess' Crit.

The Right Hand Lies-Albatrossy_Rodent

Yeah, this one deserved the loss. I know both the winner and loser really pushed what a double life is, but while Yoruchi’s was at least inspirational, yours was all “What if Harvey Dent was a Michigan State fan?”

The Ladder-My Shark Waifuu
Okay, now we’re talking! This is pretty much what I was expecting the other stories to be like. I kinda liked it! It was the kind of story that makes the reader want some more afterwards.

Mr. Tlacuzatin-ChickenOfTomorrow

Ah yes, hopping on to the big Hollywood trend, badass women! Not that this is a bad thing (which in this case, it is most certainly not. It seems better since I don’t think anyone would read the story and say that Chicken is “pandering to SJW’s” or whatever the hell.

Storm Eye Blind-Sitting Here

Huh. So that’s what The Scorpions meant by “Rock you like a Hurricane”. Nonetheless, I’ve been amazed at how you guys can post something out of their rear end, and it isn’t poo poo. While it does somewhat show that it was done in a few hours or less, it is still a good story. Though what loving a tornado has to do with a double life, I don’t know.

The Chew- Carl Killer Miller

Another action-packed story! Seems like a good action flick! Though I disagree with J.A.B.C. about it being a Nicholas Cage Movie. It’s a least a Dwayne Johnson one, for sure.

What Really Happened-Rohan

This seemed to me less of a “Double Life” and more of a “Man getting Big Break in Hollywood”. It still works, mind you. Still, it shows how harsh Hollywood can be.

Persona Detective-Captain_Indigo

First of all, the disclaimer at the beginning, did it need to be in the story itself? Second of all, I see what you meant with the disclaimer, since it’s more a stalker story. Quite the thriller!
Escape-Thranguy

Short and to the point. I can see this as the first episode of a phantasy tv series. Reminds me of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Not bad!

Disasembling- Yoruichi

I hate to admit, but at first after reading it I thought, “Why did she win?” But looking back, I can see that it is quite the inspirational story! Yours is “I get knocked down, but I get up again!” While Rodent’s is, “Pissing the night away.”

Via Shaboople-Azza Bamboo

While many of the stories had me wanting more, this one made me think, “Wait, that’s it?” Even somebody like me can tell this story seemed off.

The man called M fucked around with this message at 04:46 on Oct 30, 2021

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


"Sign-ups are closed," said the head judge, but then, suddenly...

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Chairchucker posted:

in, flash, hell

...all the lightbulbs exploded!!!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


My Shark Waifuu posted:

In, fun flash please!

...the town was surrounded by wolves!!!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse



...aliens attacked!!!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


The man called M posted:

In. Flash me to hell.

...a dinosaur popped out!!!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Chernobyl Princess posted:

I've decided that I, too, want a flash

...everyone saw a ghost!!!

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse


Thranguy posted:

In, flash and hell.

...the building caught fire!!!

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse



...everyone's phone rang at once!!!

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply