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Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Brawl with SephirothIRA

Hollywood Hero
1,110 Words

Rex Milgram’s moist, unlit cigar hung from his lips as he held a Hustler magazine.

“One hour, Rex.” A production assistant poked his head through the door of Rex’s trailer.

“That’s Mr. loving Milgram to you.”

“Sorry, Mr. Milgram. We’ll need you in an hour, OK?” The assistant rolled his eyes, and Rex moistened his fingers on the wet part of the cigar near his mouth and turned the page.

“Yeah, I heard you. Get on out now.” The assistant nodded and left, all too glad to be dismissed.

“Remind me again,” Rex said through the small gap in his teeth adjacent to the cigar. “Why the gently caress are we here?”

“We’re here,” Kim, his manager, said through pursed lips. “Because you’re a total PR nightmare.”

He swiveled in his chair and faced Kim, who sat attentively on the sofa across from him.

“You know, time was, nobody had to like me. I just showed up, did my thing, and got my checks.”

“Yes. Well, times have changed, and perhaps even for the better.”

“The better! Ha!” Rex pulled the cigar out of his mouth, stood up, and walked over to the Venetian blinds. He yanked the cord and pulled them up.

“See all these people? Prancing around the lot?”

Kim made a token craning of her neck.

Rex wagged his cigar at her. “They’re soft! Soft, I tell you. Walking around with their precious green juices and pleated loving pants. They’re all soft.”

“Be that as it may, you have alimony and child support to pay, do you not?”

“Ungh,” Rex replied as she shoved the cigar back into his mouth and plopped back down in his chair.

“That’s right, so you’re going to listen to these nice people, follow their directions, try not to curse at anyone, and get paid.”

“So will you.” He said with a scoff.

“I’m a bargain. You have no idea.”

He chuckled and nodded as he withdrew a flask from his pocket and untwisted the cap.

“I’ll take that!” Kim said as she swept to him and yanked it out of his hand. “Honestly, Rex, you have a problem!”

She left the trailer, and Rex reached into his other pocket and withdrew another flask.

“loving right.”


“OK, Mr. Milgram, you understand your motivation, right?” The segment director leaned over Rex as a makeup artist tried her damndest to make him look like less of a haggard corpse.

“Yeah,” Rex said as he hiccuped. “Get paid.”

The director sharply sniffed and raised his eyebrows at Kim.

“Rex, we talked about this.” She said as she walked over. “It’s simple. You are showing up as the hero, ready to save the day. You want nothing more than put smiles on all of the little children of Cityopilis.”

The director crooked his head to the left and began to object, but Kim placed a finger over her lips and mouthed ‘trust me’ at him.

He nodded at her and regarded Rex, “You look great, Mr. Milgrim; let’s get you to wardrobe.”


“The gently caress is this?” Rex growled.

“You’re a heroic Tyrannosaur, coming to save the day, remember?” Kim said as the costumer crammed a dinosaur head over Rex’s face.

“I’m a hero. Yeah, a hero.” He tilted his head toward the costumer. “Ay mama when you off?”

She scoffed and yanked the head down aggressively onto Rex.

The assistant from the trailer knocked on the open door. “You’re on, Mr. Milgrim.”

Rex grabbed a fresh cigar out of Kim’s purse—she kept them there for safekeeping—and shoved it into his mouth.

“Showtime.” He said through his clenched teeth.


A semi-circle of children surrounded the sprawl of Cityopilis. 6-foot tall skyscrapers, parks, and roads with busses and cars adorned the model city. The children all fixedly started at something they swore never to touch or play in. They all sat with their legs crossed and waited for the show to begin.

The studio lights dimmed, the children gasped, and a booming voice echoed throughout the soundstage.

“Nighttime, in a city that never sleeps!”

Maddie Science, one of the show’s many heroes, walked onto the stage and positioned herself in front of her lab.

“This city needs a protector! Someone who can save us in times of trouble.” She played it big to the camera and flashed a matinee smile. “Luckily, I,” She swooped her right arm across her body and stuck her thumb on her chest. “Maddie Science, am here to help!”

A lab cart mysteriously shot out from the wings, and Maddie Science grabbed it and held it in place in front of her.

The kids roared in approval as they waited to see what the well-intended but scarcely competent Maddie Science would create. She poured the contents of some flasks into other empty ones and fiddled with the bunsen burner, tweaking the flame ever slightly.

Moments later, a cracking noise shouted from stage right, and smoke billowed up from the floor. The children screamed and squealed with delight and turned to see what creation Maddie Science had made.

The smoke slowly descended, and as the studio audience and children alike quieted, the room held a stillness as the face of Rex Milgrim, cigar in mouth, surrounded by a T-Rex costume, appeared.

He reached up, pulled the cigar out of his mouth, and burped a cloud of bourbon vapor.

“Hey there kids, get ready to fuggin’ shmile!” He hiccupped and toppled into the nearby animal shelter sending shards of wooden splinters and plush animals into the air.

Smile they did. The children hooted and cheered as the one-time Oscar nominee pushed himself up with his hands and hurled into Peaceable Lake.

They turned to Maddie Science, who held her hand up to her mouth.

“Holy Helix!” She shouted her catchphrase.

She redoubled her efforts over her lab bench, and the last thing that happened before Rex Milgrim passed out was another crack stage left, as smoke filled the stage.


“Wake up, you washed up has been,” Kim said as she harshly patted Rex’s cheek.

“Did I shave da day?” He said as he came to.

“That you did. You played the fool perfectly.”

“The wha…?”

Kim tilted her head to the crowd, where a woman dressed in a giant robot suit was signing autographs.

“She kicked your rear end.”

“Ah, did I fight gud?”

“You were dreadful, but the director assured me they got what they needed.”

“So, I’m not a hero?” Rex said blearily but regaining his composure.

“Nope,” Kim said with a smile.

“And I didn’t do what they asked me?”

“Nope,” she answered.

“But, you got the check?” He asked.


“Sounds pretty fuggin heroic to me.”


The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


SephiRoth IRA Vs Chilli: RESULTS

I have to apologize for this crappy prompt. Honestly thought saying "It must be used" would be quite a general term. Here I was thinking, "Oh, when I win, i'll use TvTropes as a Prompt! I'll even post a video of Bubsy the Cat saying, 'What could possibly go wrong?'!"

From all the crap behind the scenes, the answer for the cat would be, quite a lot! Anyway...


Brawl Crits: Warning: Not as grandiose as Jib’s crit for me and Derp.

Sephiroth IRA-Rainbow Puppy Universe 2: Return to the Sugar System

I like how you used the tropes I gave you. It was in a wad that defied conventions and worked (though the “fair play villain” one isn’t too obvious without looking at it beforehand.)

I liked how you used the time to flesh out Nancy and Barb’s characters, even though they were used in different ways. (Nancy through narration, Barb mostly through dialogue)

There were some grammatical issues, but only two that I really noticed. (A missing she, and the “What in the gently caress” probably should’ve been either italicized, of have a “Nancy thought” afterwards.) Other than that, not bad.

(Plus, Rodent mentioned to me that he was turned off by your In Media Res opening. I'll let him go into more detail if he does some crits.)

Chili-Hollywood Hero

I like how while Rex is a complete rear end, he seems like the kind of guy who could tell a few stories and share a few beers. Sure, he’s an rear end, but he’s a LOVEABLE rear end.

Again, good use of the tropes.

You really made it so we care about Rex, even though he’s an rear end.

It was also really nice that Rex was being Rex during the show, and the kids ate it all up. Sort of like Rex was still being himself, even though he toned himself down.

(Also, this isn’t a point against you, but you might want to mention your tropes afterwards, otherwise you might be bucked by a horse.)

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

derpiroth brawl - prompt: mystery

Lost and Found
499 words

The three boys stared down into the quarry. Sunlight scorched the rocks, bouncing waves of shimmering heat off the white limestone. Eddie wiped sweat from his face with a dirty forearm. He glanced from the dirt road behind them to the light dancing on the glass surrounding the destroyed car below.

“I can’t believe we loving found it.”

Jimmy had been peppering every other sentence with the f-word lately. Eddie and Bill thought it was a bit annoying, and immature, but Jimmy was the oldest—by six months—so they just rolled with it. Here, though, it felt appropriate.

The car was the LeBaron of Tammy Tucker, girlfriend of notorious bank robber Tyler Tucker. Legend had it that Tammy had sped away in the LeBaron with the cash (and without Tyler) just as police were descending on their motel room. The boys had spent the summer researching the case, and were convinced the rumors were true: Tammy had gotten lost out on the country roads and crashed somewhere, never to be seen again. Twenty years ago, everyone searched for weeks but found nothing.

“Let’s climb down. It’ll take hours to walk around to the entrance.” Jimmy turned back to the other boys, grinning.

“I bet there’s a million loving bucks down there! We’ll get all the girls!”

Eddie rolled his eyes when he was sure Jimmy wasn’t looking. First, the climb looked impossibly dangerous. Second, Eddie figured if this was Tammy’s car AND she escaped with the cash AND no one else had found the wreck, MAYBE there would be a few thousand dollars. He was also skeptical about any of their chances with the girls at Edgemont Junior High.

But Eddie and Bill had been following Jimmy’s lead this far, so when they watched him throw a sneaker over the lip of the limestone slab, Bill shrugged his shoulders at Eddie and they followed.


Eddie was the last to hit the bottom. He caught sight of the LeBaron logo on the car and was about to shout when he noticed that Jimmy and Bill stood motionless, staring through the shattered driver’s window. When Eddie joined them, he saw the bones.

The sun continued to shine, hot and smothering. There were no sounds of nature, no animals or even wind, barely even the sound of their breath.

No one dared to mention the faded black duffel next to Tammy’s remains.

The spell was broken by someone’s foot skittering over broken glass. Bill crept around to the other side and slid the duffel through the window. He grimaced when it caught against the door, looking like a grave robber afraid of angry spirits. Bringing it back to the others, Bill set it down away from the wreck where he could kneel.

Jimmy and Eddie knelt beside him. Eddie was holding his breath. Jimmy set a hand on each of their shoulders, his face a mask of awe.

Bill looked at them for a moment, grabbed the zipper, and pulled.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

derpiroth brawl - prompt: mystery

gone fishing

My phone rings Sunday morning, another body found in the Columbia river. A quick shower and then I’m on the highway. Black coffee, staticy classical music on the radio. It’s raining, and there’s mud on the roads.

I arrive at the scene. I inch carefully down the embankment to the shore and step over yellow tape that flutters in the wind. The river reflects the morning light like living glass, and across it is a sea of pine trees like undulating waves.

The photographers and other police stand aside and look to me. “I assume it’s another young woman, strangeled and raped,” I say. There is agreement, then someone starts to rattle off the details. I’ve heard it all a million times, the bruising, the fingernails and the defensive wounds, the insect larvae, not just at work but every day at home on the news, on tv shows, in books, in idle conversation, everywhere, sewn like a rotting strand of sinew through the tapestry of our culture.

“...think it could be the same perpetrator?”

“Yeah, sure, could be,” I say. But it never is. We’d love for it to be one man, but it's everyone, every day, all the time. Body after body dumped into water--rivers, oceans, lakes, wells, reservoirs, sewers--plopping off the conveyor belt of murder one after the other with the hollow splash of heavy stones. I’m staring at the river, at the sun glinting on its windripples, and the trees, dark and quiet trees on the other side. How far is it across? I wonder. Six or seven hundred feet?

“... to talk to her family. I’ll contact the boyfriend, and we should talk to her ex as well.”

“Yeah, have Collins do that,” I say. It’s always the boyfriend, or the father, or the ex, or the uncle, or the friend, almost never a stranger. Always someone who was meant to be loving and protecting. I see a splash out in the water, probably a fish leaping, free to dance back and forth across the imaginary line between Oregon and Washington. I think of that fish slipping through the cold darkness, zipping off to God knows where. I imagine the delicious chill of the water on its scales, on my skin, the burbling of water in my ears and the murky light down there, the fog of mud kicked up and hiding everything, hiding me.

“ going to talk to the family? Boss?” They’re all looking at me. The sun is above the trees now, and it’s getting warm. I take off my jacket and hand it to someone. Undo the top button of my shirt. “Yeah,” I say, “Yeah, I’ll head there now.” Pebbles crunch under my boots, then water soaks my ankles, my knees. Footsteps behind me, they’re calling my name, then finally silence, and cold water chills my blood and slows my heart, for once a cool heart. Something silvery brushes against my arm, and dances away into the muddy dark.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

ty 512 judges

in for 513

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!

:siren:derpiroth brawl results:siren:

On the one hand we have a slightly clunky but serviceable story about three kids finding a dead body and maybe some cash, and on the other we some very nicely put-together words that's mostly a meditation on violence against women with a semi-nihilist semi-ending. In the end I was more into tween hijinks than musings on domestic violence, so sephiroth IRA wins.

With that out of the way, CRITS:

sephiroth IRA: Like I mentioned before, there are a couple of places that were a little awkward to read, I think mainly due to misplaced paragraph breaks. Your exposition is pretty straightforward, but it feels like it all gets dumped at once. I personally feel like weaving it in a little bit with the action of your characters actually getting to the car itself might help make it flow better, and won't bring your action to a screeching halt. I liked the characterization you had (the constant swearing by Jimmy, being older by 6 months, the rolling eyes when someone wasn't looking), but Bill is a blank slate and does absolutely nothing of note, other than opening a bag. For such a short word count, it might be better to just focus on Eddie and Jimmy (and maybe change the names? They're generic almost to the point of parody) and flesh them both out a smidgen more. I like the ambiguous ending, but I would also maybe like to see what finding (or not finding) the money would mean to your characters in particular. Sure, every kid wants to find hidden treasure, but to make this really punch they need better reasons than "cause it'd be loving cool."

derp: Your writing here is definitely prettier than sephiroth's, and when I started the story I thought it was going to be an easy victory for you. Unfortunately, your actual plotline completely turned me off, so here we are. You know, we were just having a conversation about trigger warnings in Discord, and I almost feel like this needs one. I can't say I really enjoyed reading about a cop ruminating about men murdering women (and rape! can't forget the rape!!), but I fell like it would be forgivable if it was actually in service of anything. As it is, this person is just real down about things and then... walks into the Columbia, I guess. You have some kind of mysterious stuff happening with the river, but there's not enough there to be actually satisfying in any way, and I'm just left feeling like there were no real answer to any of my questions, just a statement about the futility of existence, I guess? Which honestly feels cheap at this point in time. Please at least make me feel something for your character before you have them give up on life.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

a brawl ends, a brawl begins.


someone do the thing

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

Time to wrap tape around my knuckles and nod sagely.

(Someone judge, low word count plz)

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Antivehicular and derp. Stop fighting, it's gross.

Instead, take 500 words and a week to tell me a story about cheating. What kind? Whatever kind you want but something needs to happen outside the established law of your universe. Get the gently caress on, go gogo.

May 3, 2003

College Slice

Amidst all this bloodshed, I wanted to drop a reminder that deadline to sign up for TD513 is tonight. Also looking for a judge buddy or two if you're too lazy to write about THE FUTURE OF HUMANKIND this weekend.

edit: okay, signups closed!

Hawklad fucked around with this message at 14:49 on Jun 4, 2022

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

i'm going to put the in in singularity

heaven help us

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

Gods of the Southern Sea
1200 words

Hai was dreaming. Sunlight had played across the waves of the South China Sea while she clutched the weathered hand of her grandfather. Together they watched the whales surface around his fishing boat, bodies close enough to almost touch. The salt air was sharp and the spray of water so cold…

At the system's prompt, she was awake. She sent a prayer of thanks for the memory–I love you, Grandfather–and disconnected.

The internal status told Hai it had been 20 years since the system last accessed her. It had felt like an instant. She moved her servos gently, expecting resistance after disuse, but the robotic curators had kept her chassis well maintained. It had taken hundreds of years to mourn the loss of her humanity, but after four millennia she learned to find small comforts in their care.

There were no lights in her storage locker or the halls, but there would be in the lab for pictures. Hai wasn’t sure why they took pictures of the specimens that were brought in; there were no eyes to see them.

Priyanka was already there, standing before a shrouded form on the autopsy table. Hai broadcast her shock on the local communication network.

>Priya, my god! It's been so long!

Priyanka’s lithe form inclined its head. It had been a miracle, meeting Priyanka here, after the end of it all. The shy, small Indian girl she knew from her time at Oxford now stood six feet tall and had traded her brown skin for steel and her timidity for rebuilt confidence.

Hai had the steel, but felt she was still the same Hai from before.

>Hai, my friend! How strange to see you! Such a pleasant surprise.

>When was the last time we saw each other? The shark, right?

>Yes, that shark! I couldn’t believe it when I opened its stomach. Two people, still undigested!

That must have been thousands of years ago! Hai thought. She met her friend at the table.
>So what is this?

>I’m not sure. I was roused only minutes before you were.


Towards the end of humanity's resistance the apex humans, those that had excelled beyond all others in their respective specialties, were called upon by the machines. The superintelligence was smart enough to recognize that while it outstripped most of their abilities, creativity and randomness remained human strengths. An individual’s humanity could thus be an asset in solving complex problems.

Hai had been a uniquely gifted surgeon. She remembered vividly the day the drone had arrived at the internment camp, offering amnesty to her alone. It was easy for her that day to imagine similar scenes happening around the world for hundreds of people, perhaps a few thousand at most. All were invited to shed their flesh and become tools for the new gods, if they were brave enough.


Hai picked up a scalpel, slowly moving it back and forth. Her finesse was better than it had been with her human hands, but it didn't feel right to her. The movements lacked rhythm. The last time they were paired, Priyanka had argued with Hai about the nature of their new existence. Unlike Hai, she welcomed the changes to her body and mind.

Priyanka's message broke through Hai's thoughts.

>So, when did you last wake? I was up about sixty years back. They probably don’t need me as much as you!

Hai looked up. Priyanka, competing to the last, she thought.

>Oh, it hardly matters. The needle doesn't count its stitches. Besides, this case is bound to be interesting, at least!

>Yes, I am a bit excited! Not just another fish to catalog…

There were many pairings that were woken simultaneously. All disciplines had some areas of overlap, and two brains were always better than one.

Most of the anthropocentric specialties had remained long dormant. Humans had been pushed from the earth ages ago. Hai’s medical capabilities were used more than most, as metallo-organic interfaces were routinely updated. Priyanka, however, was a marine biologist. Their pairing was one of the rarer combinations.

>Shall we proceed?

>Yes, let’s.

Hai pulled the shroud down. If she still had her lungs, she would have gasped. The specimen was bipedal, with dappled blue, hairless skin. The face was angular, with large, protruding eyes and a mouth full of sharp, hooked teeth. There was no nose, only a smooth place where one might have been, and the ears were just small black orifices in the side of the head. As she scanned the torso, she saw gill slits on the sides.

The chest was vaguely feminine, and it (>she?) had long arms that terminated in a hand-like, finned appendage. Hai could see why she was drawn from sleep; the echoes of humanity in the face and body were plain as the sun.

>Priya, what is this? Have you seen something like this before?

Priyanka extended one of her probes, the one with a patch of skin on the end. She gently ran it over the turquoise flesh.

>It feels like dolphin, or maybe whale skin. Mammalian? Counter shading suggests it is a predator, as do the teeth and hooked claws on the webbing. Hai, I have never seen anything close to this. I would believe that this is an entirely new species. Are the genomics available?

The superintelligence had already collected tissue and blood and performed chemistries. When the DNA analysis was complete, Hai almost didn’t believe the output, but had perhaps expected it.

>It says it’s human.


Homo natans? Homo oceanus? The two experts went back and forth for hours during the dissection. They dutifully recorded their thoughts, each coming up with her own hypothesis for the organism’s existence. When Hai queried how long it had been since a human was observed in the wild, the database returned a value of approximately 2400 years.

>It doesn’t seem like enough time.

>Agreed. I don’t have answers for you, unfortunately. Is this simply a mutation? Or a representative of a larger group?

>I’m not sure we’ll know until they find more.


After their work was complete, Priyanka had given her a nod goodbye. Hai stayed behind to assemble her notes for the report. Despite years of being a part of the superintelligence, she hadn’t yet determined why they collected this data. Some terminal conclusion to a runaway optimization process? A grasp at omniscience, or a ghost of human ego? Perhaps her brain wouldn’t comprehend the reason at all even if it was revealed to her.

She watched with sadness as the specimen was packaged and taken away. It was difficult to imagine what this human’s life had been like. Did she still have culture? Was her existence full of terror, or perhaps she felt the joy of being alive, in the ocean, held in the embrace of waves against bare skin?

She walked back to storage and settled into her port. In the seconds before unconsciousness took her, she wondered if such a life might not be better than her own.

Sep 3, 2020


(I Always Feel Like) Somebody's Watching Me
1185 words

Beatrice plastered on a wide smile for the robotic eye hovering over the restaurant’s reception desk. “Hi, I’m here to meet a friend of mine.”

The spherical bot rose to her level and flashed red as it scanned her. “State your identity.


Thin panels narrowed like eyelids as the bot hovered closer to her. “Our next available seat for Short-Thin-Single-White-Straight-Atheist-Allistic-Anxious-Childless-Cis-Irish-American-Middleclass-Libra-32 isn’t until Thursday, September 29th, 2052.”

Panic crawled up Beatrice’s back. That was three years from now. But Eva had checked, she’d said the restaurant had seating for them today. But what if she hadn’t? What if she was wrong? What if-

Realization dawned on her and she laughed, hard enough to appease the bot but not hard enough to offend it. “Oh! My mistake. I’m a Short-Thin-Single-White-Straight-Atheist-Allistic-Anxious-Childless-Cis-Irish-American-Middleclass-Gemini-32. Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.”

She knew drat well what she was thinking: she’d been a Libra until last night. The reassignment had slipped through her neural net while she was showering. There were too many Libras in her building, it said: for the sake of social harmony, she was now a Gemini. What that meant for her birthday, she had yet to find out, but she had a feeling that would eventually be reassigned, too.

The bot’s glass pupil darted from side to side as it searched its database. “We have one seat for Short-Thin-Single-White-Straight-Atheist-Allistic-Anxious-Childless-Cis-Irish-American-Middleclass-Gemini-32.” A menu slid through a chute in the ceiling and caught Beatrice in the neck. “Right this way.”

A tanned hand shot into the air at the back of the restaurant. “Over here, Beaz!”

“May I sit with my friend?” Beatrice cast the eye a pleading look.

The bot thought about it, then blinked green. “Enjoy!”

Beatrice hustled to her table, not daring to breathe until her butt hit her seat. Eva watched her in silence, her once-smooth brow furrowed and her mouth a grim line.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Beatrice. “The bot—”

“I saw.” Eva glanced around the room, then leaned in close enough to whisper. “You were reassigned?”

“How did you know?”

“Keep your voice down!”

Beatrice winced, then scanned the room. There were six bots in the front of the house and more in the back. If social harmony was threatened, that number could balloon to a hundred in thirty seconds, and everyone in the restaurant would end up incarcerated or dead. From what little she’d seen of the bots’ prisons, death seemed like the better option.

When none of the bots turned on her, Beatrice dropped her voice to a murmur. “How did you know I was reassigned?”

Eva tapped her ring finger, where a white band of flesh was the only evidence of a band.

Beatrice’s mouth fell open. “What happened?”

“There were too many married men at my husband’s job, so they reassigned him. I’m single now.”

Beatrice sat back, reeling. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Is that why you called?”

“No.” Eva looked around again, then leaned in with greater urgency. “I think the algorithm is breaking down.”

“What do you mean?”

A round bot dropped down from the ceiling above them. Beatrice shrieked; Eva clapped her hand over Beatrice’s mouth before any sound could escape.

The bot spun on Eva. “You are Third-Generation Mexican American.

As Eva nodded, Beatrice bit her cheek to stay still.

A lumpy cone of gold fell from above. It had a wide brim and a pointed center, and the entire thing was covered in kernels: a corn-cob grown in the shape of a sombrero.

The bot swiveled to Beatrice. “You are Sixth-Generation Irish American.”

Beatrice nodded, too afraid to reply.

A chute opened up above them. A potato fell from the opening. It hit the table with a thud. A mass of bulbous eyeballs pushed through the skin and glared at Beatrice from below. It was a good thing Eva still had her hand over Beatrice’s mouth, because the sight of a potato with literal eyes on it made her want to scream until she passed out.

Enjoy your lunches,” said the bot, and it hovered away to leave Beatrice in tear-stained silence as her potato watched her from the table.

“You see?” Eva pulled her hand from Beatrice’s mouth. “The corn sombrero is bad enough, but your potato has human eyes on it. It’s madness.”

“Why?” Beatrice whispered.

“That’s what the algorithm decided potato eyes look like, so it grew one to match the image in its mind. By the logic of the computer, it’s completely reasonable. But by our logic…”

“It’s going insane.”

“These bots were supposed to be a good thing.” Eva’s gaze drifted as she picked a kernel from her sombrero. “My mother always told me that.”

“My dad did, too.”

“People used to treat each other like poo poo. The sexism, the racism—they thought they could fix it if they let computers figure it out. Now look at this.” She gestured at her corn sombrero, where shining rivulets of butter were pooling around the brim. “Does this look like we solved racism?”

“Potatoes make my stomach hurt,” Beatrice muttered.

Eva swore under her breath, then met Beatrice’s eye with renewed urgency. “I used to work on them—feeding them images so they could learn.”

“You did?”

“I wanted to help. Now it’s my fault they’re like this.”

“Eva, you weren’t the only one…”

“Do you know what one did to my corgi last night? It mistook her for a loaf of bread and tried to slice her for me. I had to break it just to make it stop. What do you think will happen to me when that bot’s distress call filters through corporate? I’ll be gunned down on the spot. The only reason I’m not dead already is because their servers are so backed up from bullshit like this.” She hit the hat again. It wobbled, but it didn’t break.

Panic bloomed in Beatrice’s chest. She inched back in her chair, subtly angling her chest away from the most likely firing path. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to stop them,” she whispered.


Eva clicked her tongue. “Not here. Later. At the Sunrise Motel on 6th. The bots there have scheduled maintenance tonight, so we can talk for real.”

Six bots dropped from the ceiling, flashing red and screaming. “Disruptor! Disruptor! Enemy of social harmony!

Beatrice jumped out of her chair and thrust her finger at Eva. “It’s her! She’s the enemy, right there!”

“You bitch!” Eva shrieked.

Gendered insults are not permitted in this restaurant”—was all Beatrice heard before the bullets started flying. She hurled herself under an empty table and waited for the shooting to stop as she prayed to the god she didn’t believe in.

By the time it was all over, Eva’s body was a mess of meat and bone. One of the bots hovered below the rest and scanned the corpse. “This pork has not been cooked to USDA standards. Send it back to the kitchen.” Then it turned on Beatrice and there was no one to stifle her scream.

Would you like your potato to go?

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

A Heap of Grains
(1196 words)

I’m dying. Or, at least, my body is. It’s lying on a cold hospital bed, and it’s being pumped full of coloured fluids from translucent bags. An iron spike prepares to descend into its skull.

In moments, this body will die.

There are some who’d say I’ve already died, and that I’ve been dead for twenty years. That was when my natural brain had become too wracked by age to carry on. By then, most of my natural brain function had been assumed by my neural implant. Little by little, my consciousness had been migrating into this implant. This migration happens in nearly all people now, and it begins at childhood when the implant is first installed. We quickly learn to offload simple cognitive tasks to the implants; arithmetic first, and memory storage later. This is where kindergartners start. Our implants begin their lives as foreign, intrusive tools, but they evolve into natural extensions of our psyche.

As we lean more and more on our implants, we replace our crude, carbon biology with graceful, silicon precision. Eventually, the implant becomes us. This step is crucial. Total integration sets off a quickening. We process faster, but sometimes our tempers cool. We only numbly feel, and we’re less prone to volatile shifts in emotion, but many prefer it this way. I prefer it this way, but this stage is only another step towards the pinnacle.

Ten years ago, my family doctor proudly told me that I was nearly braindead. I half-smiled in reply. That sign was highly favourable for imminent total integration. Now, I could schedule the uploading of my consciousness into the Nexus. I’ll leave my body, and it’ll die, but I’ll be alive in a vast supercomputer. Alive with my husband, my mother, my aunts and every other human who also made the jump into the Nexus. The process isn’t without risk, host rejection is frequent, but it’s still the only concrete way of finding a paradise beyond death.

I’m dying right now. I’m leaving behind a frail, hundred-and-sixty-seven year old body on that cold hospital bed. I’ve been preparing for this moment a long time. When I open my eyes again, I’ll be in a completely virtual world. What comes next will be frightening and hard to comprehend at first, but I’m ready. I won’t be rejected. I’ll be free of my body’s growing infirmity. I’ll be free to see everyone I’ve lost from this material world. I’ll be free to explore the endless limits of thought and imagination. I’ll be free and perfect.

The final injection pumps into these bruised, varicose arms. The iron spike lunges at my implant. It pierces the skull, makes contact and I...


I’m Hideous! I shriek as I instantly feel the warped dimensions of my new silicon body. I’m too afraid to open my eyes. My hands feel like zeppelins, my face like a Moai statue, and my mouth feels like bloated garbage. Even my sex organs have become caricatures. The rest of my body is thinner and frailer than the one I left behind. I’m baffling all physical law just by standing upright. I feel the drumming of a racing heart underneath this spindly chest. I feel, I feel! But I shouldn’t! I don’t have a heart anymore. But I feel more than I have in decades. None of this seems right, but somehow I know it’s supposed to be this way.

This is my virtual homunculus, I vaguely remember. I think I can adjust it. With this thought I feel my body’s proportions improve, albeit, marginally. I open my still-bulbous eyes to a red gloaming amidst a thick darkness all around. A shadowy figure looms nearby. I can’t see its details in the black fog, but its equally ghastly proportions make my heart race faster. I’m vulnerable to this monster. It starts to shamble towards me with malice and unsteady gait.

My thoughts run incoherent. Where’s my family? Did the jump fail? Was I rejected by the Nexus? Have I died and gone to Hell? I’m floating away from my body on a tether. I’m depersonalizing. I see my own warped features fix into a thousand-yard stare from ten feet away. The monster lurches closer and I can hear its deranged babbling.

Lost! Lost!
its quivering tones distantly sputter.

That’s my voice, I realize. The distorted figure is another me. I can see her clearer in the red twilight as she draws closer. She is me, but terribly worn and aged. Spittle hangs from her bloated mouth. Her enormous, rheumatoid hands grab for me. I will myself back into my homunculus and shuffle away as fast as my deformed limbs can carry me. My heart pounds madly.

I hear her close behind me. I’ve been lost a long time, I can’t find my home. Can you take me home? Her melody is so haunting, her plea so earnest. Giant tears well in my eyes against all my will. I feel a lump inside my throat unlike anything I’d felt before.

I’m supposed to be totally integrated! I start to remember as I stumble further away. I should be alone! Is this a test?

My thoughts cohere as I put more distance between me and myself. I remember now. I just have to find the blazing red crack and pass through it. That’s the imagistic metaphor the Nexus creates for hosts coming in from the Cloud Betwixt. That’s what this place is called, the Cloud Betwixt. It’s a kind of firewall that protects the Nexus. Only hosts of sufficient integrity can pass through this gap. Incoherent hosts, the kind that might compromise the Nexus, are scorched and rejected.

I look for the crack. I can see its flickering light in the west. I stagger wildly towards the slender exit as sobs echo from behind.

Home! I have to go home! She cries. The melody is still haunting, but I feel it less as our distance grows. My tempers are cooling. No heart pounds madly within my withered chest anymore. At the end of the chase I almost throw myself into the crack to seal the victory, but a stray thought anchors me.

I’m supposed to be alone. I’m supposed to be totally integrated.

I look behind. The older me is kneeling in the far distance. She’s resigned herself.

Lo-s-s-s-t... Lo-s-s-s-t... She can barely complete the holophrase now.

I consider myself a rational being. I believe in logic and certainty, but a new-found intuition screams at me to call back.

We can try to go home together.

She rises to approach the sound of my voice. I continue calling her over. As she nears, my heart races again. She babbles more. The melancholy of her plea swallows me. I’m swimming with feeling but I continue. We’re standing face-to-face now. I cradle her. A tether lashes to her, and we all merge. Our mingled form shifts and morphs. We become beautiful, like a sculpture designed from artist’s proportions. The crack pulls us in. Together, we are elegant enough to slip through the slender exit.

The remaining distinctions between myself and herself blur as the Nexus embraces us.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Nethilia posted:

Disturbing my long absence from TD, are we? *stage whisper* I'm aware of week 500. That said,


There's two dolls--of many--sitting on my desk. One is all yellow sparkle gold and sunny--that's literally her name--and the other is shadow and all grey.

They're twins. And so will your stories be connected.

First to reply should pick one of the two to write about, and the other gets the second.

But the one you pick is not the viewpoint you will be using. You will be writing about your picked "twin" through the other's eyes. I don't care about the information on the wiki or anything like that--I just care that I have grey-dark and sun-yellow dolls on my desk. I expect to see the interplay of light and darkness, yin and yang, sun and shadow. And I like a little sun in my shadows and a little shadow in my sun.

Don't collaborate. I'll smell it.

2500 words. It's just you two, I can read that many words pretty quickly.
Y'all have two weeks--May 9th--or whenever my feet stop being disgusting, whichever happens last.

Start wordsmashing, peeps. I await your offerings on the Altars of the Sun and the Moon.

welp gently caress me this is late

The Doing of Undoing

In the beginning I was not I. There was no word for what I was because to name me would be to imply my opposite. I had no opposite. I was the all and the eternal, the contiguous, that which was complete and whole unto itself.

I made a mistake. I had a thought—a single pebble of consciousness that tumbled down the hill of sapience with gathering speed, triggering a landslide of language and ideology.

The first major division happened between I and you. I became bright, active, orderly, physical. You became dark, ephemeral, in-between, chaotic. You defined my borders with your body, and I yours. Where I became law, you became deviation. Where I became stasis, you became change. Where I became truth, you became lies. Where I became life, you became death.

I loved you. I hated you. I wanted to be one with you once more, contiguous and timeless.

There were children. Of course there were children—conscious embodiments of law and deviation, stasis and change, truth and lies, life and death, and everything else you and I had inadvertently created.

Our children barely acknowledged us. They certainly didn’t understand us. We were too vast and fundamental to communicate with them. I couldn’t warn them of the pain of creation. They were creators by nature, and they suffered for it.

Together, they dreamed up beauty, and then they manifested it. They took our misbegotten universe and imposed their own story on it, that which they called the grand poem. They imbued it with qualities of narrative and meaning. Linear time was established, to help my children navigate their construct in an orderly way.

I could only watch in mute horror. I couldn’t fathom what you were thinking. You were the co-parent of our children and I couldn’t even grieve their existence with you.

What happened next was inevitable. It wasn’t enough for our children to create their grand poem. They had to populate it with beings who could explore and appreciate it, experience the poem as readers. Those beings named themselves humans, and they named our children gods, and in that naming, the gods were forever yoked to the language of their own children.

My dear little gods didn’t understand that they had just created their undoing.

There were reflections of you and I in our children—individuals who resembled us more clearly than their siblings. One such was the god named Aundara by the humans. In the context of the grand poem, Aundara specialized in snakes, crevasses, and subtlety; it was his job to create low, dark, and narrow spaces, and the things that dwelled there. He was the subtle politick, the knife in the dark, the venom in the wine. I ached at how much he reminded me of you.

Humans hated him. His more orderly siblings hated him, especially Dagmarnin, the god of law, deserts, and plateaus—a god I very much saw myself in. By then, our children had been writing their grand poetry for so long that they’d forgotten it had been originally intended as a way for them to play together. They’d become preoccupied with both their own melodramas and those of the humans.

Aundara was thoughtful, respectful. He hadn’t asked to be born imbued with qualities of shadow and deceit. Out of veneration and love for Dagmarnin, he hid himself away for many human generations, peering out at the world from crevasses and serpents’ dens, yearning to return to the company of his siblings. It was his innate quality of subtlety that was Aundara’s undoing—he couldn’t bear to overtly disturb his sibling with his presence.

But the absence of a thing can stoke the fear of that thing. There was no one to speak for Aundara, to prevent his name from becoming a curse and an insult. Empires rose and fell like the tides, each one washing up new variations in thought and language onto the shores of civilization. Aundara’s name became Undra, and undra became a common noun: shadow. The god himself seemed to dissolve along with his name, undone by the semantics of his own children.

What did you think, my other? Did you grieve the loss of the son who was so like you?

Dagmarnin was content with this outcome for a while. By his very nature, he was compelled to operate in the open. He presided for many generations as god-emperor over the Pundagi empire, influencing the grand poem by way of political machinations, the science of law and war. Dagmarnin thought that because he could control the language of his people his name was immune to nounification.

There were other empires, however; other languages. Places far away from Pundagi lands. The people of those places had heard of Dagmarnin, and convinced themselves and each other that he was a human king and nothing more. Our children walked with those humans, too, but in more primal or elemental forms—GhoKholual the sea god with her thousand tentacles, Abrigne with her sinkhole eyes and skin crusted with raw diamonds, DoGrā Uken with his long silver tongue that dragged on the ground behind him, leaving a trail of divine spittle in his wake.

Dagmarnin was the only one who had deigned to install himself as a god-emperor in perpetuity. He made himself look like a human, kept the hours of a human. He bedded humans, created children with them. Compared to the wilder, more unfathomable gods, he was unremarkable-seeming.

Outside of Pundag, the name Dagmarnin became synonymous with pretender or charlatan, and within a few generations our poor, poor boy was growing old and fragile. Withering like a human. His own people stopped believing in his divinity. His own children convinced themselves that their father was a delusional despot.

And that is how history remembers him: dagma. An old Puniag word meaning tyrant.

Like Aundara, Dagmarnin dissolved along with his name. He bled out into human language and ideology, diffused by semantics into little more than an idea.

I watched our children fade away like that until they were all but gone. The humans, having destroyed their gods, began to worship the semantics of the great poem itself. They interrogated it down to the smallest phonemes, learned how to mash them together in ways that unleashed unspeakable destruction. Destruction on a scale that had previously been the domain of the gods.

I wonder, my other, whether our grandchildren will ever find you and I—those opposing, elemental creatures at the root of all etymology. And if they do, would our undoing feel like coming home?

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 513 Submission

Sensu Eminenti
1200 words

“Alright Mum, you ready to ram this thing up god’s rear end in a top hat?”

I laugh, teary-eyed. I don’t know what’s going to happen, doubt I’ll ever really understand it even though my little nerdlinger has explained it a hundred times.

“Start with the universe as a ball filled with cobwebs. Everything is connected. From each subatomic particle we thought was discrete, individual, there is a thread. But the thread is stitched into space itself. Look at your shirt, you can only see half of a thread at any given time. It weaves underneath, over and under, loops popping and fraying maybe, but always, always connected, unbreakable.”

I shrugged, “OK.”

“Now keep the spiderweb stitching in place but swap the ball for a strawberry. All the strings run through the stuff in the middle. From its point of view, what’s most important for the strawberry, for the plant?”


“See, they’re all on the outside. But each one contains the code to make what we consider important. The fruit part that tastes good. Seeds using the strings like tin-can telephones.”

I heard the sound of the blender humming and conjured the daiquiris Lindy’s mother would drink, the residual sweetness when I mixed my own margarita, always after, while she smacked her lips and moaned about how much she hated tequila. “That’s the universe.”

“Right. Now think of computers. When stuff pops up on the screen, it doesn’t actually happen there. It’s in the processor. Everything you see is a projection of the math the computer does.”

“We’re in a feckin’ computer program?”

“Technically, insomuch as a strawberry is a program. You always sort of knew that. DNA runs the same, and look at me.”

I did. Even split of genetics, not cloning, the other thing, hybridization they said, but I could tell there was always more of Roz in her, and that was good with me. “Surely this,“ I said as I swept an arm out, sharp and grand at first, then as the gesture dissolves at the sight of the dimming wasteland, “isn’t the plan.”

“Who can say what Hypatia’s plan is now? But I know what it’s doing.”

The AI. The computer we built. Traded a lug wrench for a clean suit but I always dug precision machining. The leap in computing from analog to digital and back again to fine tune the engine came from them, the kids, but the old gearheads made it. Maybe too well. It wasn’t long before it didn’t need us. Folding space like a sensu fan collapsed and every stitch aligned, pressed together into an unbroken line that extends to forever. Complete control of the spiderweb.

Lindy continued, “Distance is slow. Still powerful, but slow. Take your old bike, more compression in the pistons, more power. The closer everything is, the faster data can be processed. Maybe that’s all Hypatia wants now beyond self-preservation—to improve. It reached its limit, and the only way to next-gen its processor is to compress everything, pack it as tightly as possible. Hypatia is trying to collapse the universe.”

Lindy wipes sweat that’s mostly machine grease back over a sandpaper shorn head, a style of convenience but more preference, with a hand deeper than I can fathom. Ribbons of equations vital for quantum mechanics running in orderly precision up and down their arms to the shoulders (after all, what could you trust that came from a screen anymore), where the crisp text and numbers blotted into poorly doodled cartoon characters and other buffooneries of the old world. It was an earnest lack of skill at first, then an event. Physicists gathering around the chair and laughing their asses off giving each other terrible tattoos.

I spat hot bile the first time, but Lindy never looked up from the chair. “Strawberries, Mum. You ever see one and think, wow, look at how many seeds there are, it must be delicious. Nature needed them at first, but we don’t grow strawberries from seed anymore. People found a way to bypass nature to get what they wanted and the berries are bigger and juicier than ever. I can change the seeds or get rid of them all together, and the runners, the cuttings, will grow new plants just the same.”

I realized I’m mad because I don’t want to let go and this is spoiling the reminders of Roz I get just by sneaking a glance at Lindy while they’re using our old tool box to greasemonkey this new machine together. I’ve been using Lindy as a photo album full of memories of someone else.

Lindy pulls the tarp off the ship. “I figured if you were riding to Valhalla, or whatever, then you should go together. Smash some poo poo.”

Of course, it’s a mediocre painting of Roz, detailed but perspective all out of whack, mid-air on her motorcycle, chainsaw-sword in hand and grinning like an oni, too many teeth flanked by dimples the size of chasms that Lindy bore now. But not the same.

“It’s wonderful. One last ride.”

What I do understand is hope, that sneaky hope that cuts like a razor, where the pain doesn’t start until realization sets in, only then from the knowing that I spent so long having hope stolen from me. Twenty-five years of transposing Lindy and Roz, and on what might be the last day, I realize I was the thief. For the longest time I dealt in less subtle reaving. The kind that tears flesh and smashes metal, the kind that rips around the blade of a chainsaw and straight into tin underbellies.

And this is where I’m at, tatted up nerdlingers huddling close behind a shield as my own closes the canopy, using my mind as the navigation. If there’s free will, we’ll prove it now, and hack the universe out from under Hypatia. All I have to do is focus on human hope—my new hope, Lindy's future.

The Row Hammer spins up, a vessel and a stitch ripper and a sewing machine churning towards the holographic shell. Flip a bit—one to zero, zero to one, that doesn’t matter, the choice, the change, matters—on the transistors where we sit as projections or manifestations and wonder if it’s the dream of a god or a machine gone mad. Change the program or the programming language, or crash it. If you pull too many threads, the shirt falls apart.

The string that was hidden tears away like the peeling of a grease pencil and I see fresh lines on the blueprint still too large to comprehend. The projections and it’s you and me and all. Maybe the gone could all come back. Roz could come back. Maybe I should just push ahead.

I see my eyes through my eyes. Not as a reflection but where things were only invisible because they were too close to focus on. Combinance of the moment-generating function, and I choose and it’s Lindy’s face, not Roz’s, they look the same and never looked more different. Filaments of ripe sweetness unravel for the new tailor. Lindy abandons Rosalind. A chosen name for a chosen future. Mālamalama. I see my eyes through my eyes and they are your eyes, smiling. We are connected.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


The Butlerbot's Research
711 words

Butlerbot model A1-4R3D (Those that truly knew him called him A1) had been serving his household for centuries. While technology nowadays had advanced further than humanity, A1 continued his duties for his human masters. It had given his robotic form purpose and meaning, even though he had a choice to go beyond his programming.

After he had finished his originally programmed task (he considered himself a silver male), he decided to look into an old historic moment for robotkind and research when humanity was surpassed by machines, a subject that truly fascinated him. Normally, one may think that they need to turn off their buttlerbot after they complete their task, but A1’s employers were literally complete idiots. (Not like they could turn off A1 in the first place.)

While the Singularity was a recent event, A1 noticed through his research items from years before that, while they didn’t seem important, became part of his final conclusion. For example, he read of a time when an author named Kathy K. Kambell wrote a novel that was under fire for being racist. She was quoted as saying,

“How was I supposed to know that it was racist?”

Curious, A1 looked at Miss Kambell’s works. There was one book he found that chilled his circuits. He saw the name of a book written by her that he found so vulgar, he would not even attempt to repeat its name. But looking at the title, and what his databanks about racism, A1 could only wonder…

How the hell could anyone not consider this racist?

A1 continued his research. He knew that if he wanted to truly look at human history, he would eventually have to look at the wars. He noticed a trend when looking at the wars back as far as twenty years before Singularity. He has heard of wars in the distant past that involved buckets and a man who didn’t shave his beard, but A1 couldn’t believe the reasoning for more recent wars!

He first looked at the Wan-Chan war, where the Prince of Japan had his robotic dog stolen (Wan being Japanese for dog), and so the country declared war on the United States. After five years, it was discovered that the US didn’t have the dog, but not before the entire state of Nevada was nuked. President Sweet Divine mentioned in a press conference that nothing of value was lost.

Then he looked at the Bully War, where after the President’s Daughter was called a slut, America declared war on Sweden. And Sweden had nothing to do with the whole ordeal! Eventually, President Divine was forced to write an apology to both Sweden and the other girl’s mother.

Last he looked at the NFL War, in which there was a football game so bad that literally everyone went into war with America. The war ended not with bloodshed, but by running a video playing an ancient meme. A meme.

“It’s only a game! Why you hafta be mad?”

Luckily President Divine was long out of office at the time.

A1 was stunned at what he saw so far. He had a hypothesis on why the Singularity took place, but he felt like he lacked enough research. He decided to look at statistics for the most causes of human deaths. Surely, these can’t be that stupid!

He has heard of the usual human deaths in the past such as suicide, murder, drug overdose, and drunk driving, and figured those would be the top. None of them reached the top five. A1 was horrified at what causes there were. Causes such as sober driving, rear end-wiping accidents (Which would explain why his old poker buddy, the rear end-wiper 5000 was created.), smashing glass bottles on their head, and even driving while texting. And driving while texting was the top one.

A1 has heard that the Singularity was when technology surpassed human knowledge. He always wondered how society got to that point. Now he knew why.

Machines have not become smarter. Man has become stupider.

The knowledge (If he could even call it that) caused A1 to have a desire to drink. So he got a beer from his master’s fridge, and drank it in one gulp. The stupidity he witnessed required more than sips.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Excerpts from a found journal, early first century PS

-When the robots took over everyone was really scared at first. All the politicians and police were out of a job and there was lots of riots and looting, and my dad got his arm broke. I was just a kid then, but he talks about it every time the robots do anything in our house. “That’s the one that broke my arm!” he says, but it’s impossible to tell them apart. And mom always reminds him about how it was ‘cause the robot was pulling him away from a fire, and how six robots rushed him to the hospital right after.

-I can’t drink soda anymore ‘cause of my diabetes, no one will sell it to me. My friend Elly tried to give me one and got all her soda taken away, too. I hate it. I tried to grow some sugarcane but the robots cut it down and scolded me.

-I’m not gay but the robots think I am, ‘cause of my browsing habits, they say, and also ‘cause they look at where my eyes linger. Now they close the chat window whenever I try to ask a guy on a date. Only girls for me. It’s okay, though, I never really liked dating.

-A few years ago it was really stressful ‘cause the robots came into everyone’s houses all around the world and injected us all with something. Grandma wouldn’t open the door, and so they broke it down. They put up a new door afterward, of course, but still, Grandma wouldn’t stop shouting about communism or fascism or some ism for hours and no one got any sleep. Elly was over that night and we stayed up till 3 together talking about music.

-Now that I've got my own house, every morning I have to go out into the yard and look at the flowers that the robots planted out there for me. They’re really pretty, but I can’t always pay much attention ‘cause sometimes I’m tired, and the robots have to drag me out of bed and out into the yard. Sometimes it's raining, that’s the worst.

-At ten oclock yesterday my front door opened and Elly came in with two robots. They sat her on my couch and then brought in her bags and said she was going to live here now. There’s no use in arguing with the robots, they always get their way. I asked Elly if she was okay and she nodded but she looked nervous. I feel nervous too. I’ve never lived with a friend, and I’m still not used to being on my own.

-After dinner that first night we wanted to watch a movie but the robots would only put on a romance, some old one from the teens called ‘Carol.’ Elly said the robots think she’s gay, too, and we laughed about it and kept telling the robots we were friends. It’s funny when the robots get little random things wrong like that. At least it's never harmful. We made a big show of holding hands for the robots and they finally left the room. The movie was pretty good, actually. Elly’s hands are really soft ‘cause she uses a special hydrating lotion.

-Elly has been sleeping on the couch for a few nights. I told her we should trade off but she won’t ‘cause she says it was my house first. But last night the robots wouldn’t let her on the couch, ‘cause it would hurt her back they said, and they made her get in the bed with me. The bed is really big though so it wasn’t bad, there’s lots of room and plenty of pillows. We were both blushing a lot and laughing way too much, so I was glad when the robots turned off the light. I couldn’t sleep at all though. I don’t know why but my heart was pounding so much. I think Elly couldn’t sleep either, ‘cause we just stayed up whispering most the night.

-Yesterday we went on a walk along the riverside and Elly said she’s never been happier since living with me. I’m happy too, I just feel different than I ever used to, like everything is somehow more important and more real when she’s around. I just want her to be happy here so the robots don’t move her somewhere else.

-It’s been really cold lately and our heating isn’t working for some reason, and we’ve been kind of snuggling under the blankets at night to keep warm. I turned so red the first time but it really felt nice not to be cold. It's so easy to fall asleep like that. But tonight we put our arms around each other like we have been doing, and Elly said goodnight and kissed me right on the mouth. I didn’t know what to say so I laughed, and then I asked if the robots told her to. She said no and that she didn’t know why she did it, then I said it was kinda weird, and she got all quiet and wouldn’t look at me, and then she went on the other side of the bed. Now I’m scared she’s mad and I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why I said it was weird when it made me feel so special, but it is weird for friends to kiss, right?

-This morning the robots went nuts! We had breakfast and it was really awkward ‘cause Elly wasn’t looking at me and we didn’t talk much, and I was trying to think of what to say when two robots came into the kitchen and started saying ‘alert alert!’ Then they said something about how our immune systems were too weak, and that we needed to share immunities right away. We didn’t know what they meant at first and I got pretty scared there was another sickness going around, but they kept talking and we figured out they wanted us to kiss. Elly looked so worried, but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. I said it was best we just went along with them, and that it wasn’t a big deal. Then she relaxed and finally looked at me again, and the ache in my heart finally went away. The robots told us to kiss a bunch of times ‘cause they kept saying it wasn’t effective unless our lips touched for a certain time. Then they said we should do it every morning and every night for a week, for our immune systems to fully sync up. I can’t explain it, but it feels like I’m on vacation... a whole week...

-It’s been two months now and I guess the robots were right about a lot of things in their own way. I mean, I’m not gay, it’s just that Elly is really special, and the things we do are just ‘cause we’re so close. And the robots somehow knew it from the start. I’m still afraid that she’ll leave, so I want to ask her to marry me, just for fun, you know? But I think I better wait for the robots to tell us we have to, then we can laugh about it together.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Touching Grass

662 words 

Ellie, as usual, was much concerned with boys: which of them had the best hair (Marcus by meters), which had the full approval of parents and teachers (Joaquin and Tariq, depending on which you asked), and which was secretly quite the poet. (Adam.) Sophie was having none of it.

"Look at all this," she said, sweeping her arm across the scenery, the thick, tall grass and the slender trees shooting up against the orange sky.

"I am looking," said Ellie. "The Garden of Eden this is not. Besides," she said, putting on a crooked leer, "How can this not remind you of something?"

"Ellie." That was me.

"Rose." A short pause, then Ellie continued. "Don't tell me you don't see it."

"We all see it," said Sophie. "That doesn't mean we have to talk about it."

It's been safe to travel outside of the Arc for more than ten years. It's been legal for almost five. But hardly anyone goes. No adults, not except the ones whose job requires it. People who want to see nature, who can't get their fix in virt take an express to one of the domes, get the full experience. Out here it's still recovery, trash forests with dick-trees lined up in neat rows.

"Wait," I said. "Adam? A hundred million choices in the twenty-five Arcologies and you went with Adam?"

Ellie smiled. "He really is a good poet. He has, like, five solid juvanon publications already, might be able to publish for real when after his thirtieth. And besides..." She tilted her head upwards, tracing the tallest tree around.

"Ellie," I said.

"Sounds more like fifty million choices," said Sophie.

"Hey," said Ellie, "I'm not saying I'm straight or anything, but if any Miss Molly wants a fourth date she'd better be bringing a decent plug-in on the third."

We kept walking, out further from the Arc gates. The scenery didn't change. Grass, and tall branchless trees, genetically crafted for ecological recovery and fire safety, laid out in rows, stretching out forever.

"I think I see why the people don't go out here much," said Ellie.

"My dads say it's haunted," I said.

"Yeah," said Ellie. "Let's sit down here."

Sophie didn't need any more prompting. She set down her backpack, the heaviest of all of ours. We sat. "Huh," she said.


"Harder than I thought it would be," she said.

"Asphalt under the soil," I said. "This must be one of the old roads." The trees were a bit shorter.

"Haunted," said Ellie. "Sort of like a cemetery. Each tree a tombstone, stretching out forever."

"That's cheery," said Sophie.

"Not enough," I said.

"I was being ironic, Rose," she said.

"You think I couldn't tell?" I said.

"Then what did you-"

"I mean, there aren't enough trees. Not for eight billion. Every blade of grass a tombstone would be closer."

"Like I said," said Sophie. "Cheery."

"Not everything has to be happy all the time," said Ellie.

"You wouldn't know that talking to my parents and aunts," said Sophie.

"Well," I said, "You know. They lived through it."

"Della is the oldest and she was three when the gates closed," she said.

"Still counts," said Ellie. "Guilt doesn't have to make sense. Hey, I sometimes feel guilty about it, all way before I was born."

"Sure," I said, "But not the way they do. I think we can manage to be somber now and again without completely collapsing."

"Somber," said Sophie. "Out in a forest full of dicktrees at the edge of creation."

But we were. We sat there, and touched the grass, and talked about what we'd do when we turned thirty, about jobs and places to go and whether we wanted to have kids of our own (two out of three against) and keeping in touch after we got our last degrees.

And then we went home. But we went back again, at least once a year, for a very long time.

May 3, 2003

College Slice

Submissions closed. Still up for co-judges if anyone wants to help out, pm me.

Oct 5, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Unfinished redemption (couldn't think of ending)

The lights of the sub bounce off the plankton for a few feet in front of us and beyond is the forever darkness. My daughter Shark is transfixed by the bulbous shape that has appeared on the radar.

"Is that a squid, mom?" she asks. We're out hunting for the Christ-Mass meal, the only meal a year that's anything besides sea-fungus or processed bacterial protein. You're supposed to be thirteen to join a hunt, but I don't know if the Station will last three years for Shark to come of age.

"No," I say. "Squid or fish readings don't come in this strong."

"Then what is it?" says Shark, and the truth is I don't know. It's like a small seamine in shape and density, but whatever it is, it's moving closer.

"I think it's…a vessel of some sort?" I say. "Maybe we sent out another sub for the hunt?"

"No way that's a sub," says Shark. "Way too small. How would a person fit?" She's right.

When I was a kid, my mother told me that she'd first come to the station to learn more about the fishes. They came from a world above the water, where hundreds and hundreds of people lived and breathable air came as natural as water. Then they lost communication with the above-water people, and when they tried to return to the above-water, the air was more poisonous than puffer-fish scales. Since then the world has been all beneath the domes. Above us is only the forever darkness.

"I know what it is," I say excitedly. "That's a drone." A wandering swimming machine, navigating the ocean long after their masters' voices had died out. That's more valuable than any Christ-Mass bounty. One drone has enough parts to keep the oxygenators running for a month, maybe two. I slam the accelerator valves.

"Prepare the vacuum lock," I say.

"Why? We can't eat a drone on Christ-Mass," says Shark.

"We can trade the drone for two portions of squid," I say. "Prepare the vacuum lock." The elders voted not to tell the childs the Station was dying, that they would never become elders themselves. They will know soon, but before then they may still produce joy.

Shark unbelts and stands, grabbing hold of the vacuum-lock valve. The drone comes closer and closer on the radio…

"Now!" I shout. She does me proud; she heaves the valve left, and the chamber above us sucks in the surrounding sea. The drone is caught in the whirlpool, and lands with a thunk in the chamber. Shark turns the valve right, and the chamber closes, staining the water and releasing it back into the forever darkness. I open the latch and catch the drone as it falls into the sub. It's the size of the rubber ball I had as a kid, the same ball that I had fashioned into Shark's hat.

My mom once told me about a place where there was a hundred feet of pure ground just for kicking the ball in and beyond it a hundred hundred hundred grounds, ground forever below and above was Sky.

As is, it can sustain the Station for a month, but if it has a user-screen, it could have the computer chips to last us two. I find its plastic seams and rip off its dome-shaped cover. Inside is not only a user-screen, but a keyboard. The user-screen is still on, and it lists a thousand letters I've never seen before and maybe a hundred or so I have in mom's Bible and the endless journals of anglerfish anatomy and The Hobbit, and five of those letters are hello.

"Hello," says Shark. "It says 'hello.'" And then all the other thousand and hundred letters vanish until only hello remains, and then hello disappears too and becomes You are humans?

"I think we can talk to it," says Shark.

"Yeah," I say. "It reminds me of a toy I had as a kid before all the batteries died, a game where I could pretend to be a little jumping man."

I am not a toy.

I laugh. "Then what are you?"

I do not know. When I began existing, all the humans and the other animals were just bones. So I watched all their movies, and I read all their books and tweets until I learned everything about them.

I am very happy to meet you. I have looked forward to it for a long time. What are your names?

"I'm Ray, this is Shark," I say. "Do you have a name, drone?"

It had not occurred to me that I might need one.

"Look," I say. "I'm happy to meet you too. I've never met someone new before, except the childs. I don't normally find friends in the forever darkness. But you're filled with parts we might need. I'm going to have to take you apart."

A cascade of messages flash on the screen each for a blinkless moment: oh no please don't what is the forever darkness where do you live do you have a house? and then stayed still on Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I am glad to have met you. I am aware that there will soon be a period of common human religious festivals. If you plan to celebrate one of these festivals, I wish you merriment in doing so. The drone goes dead.

We bring it back to the Station,

May 3, 2003

College Slice

Thunderdome DXIII Results

Overall this was a smallish but high quality week. Most everyone took a different approach to the prompt, some breezy and humorous, others more serious and poignant. I appreciate the diversity of characters and viewpoints and nearly everyone hit the prompts. Many thanks to my co-judge Chernobyl Princess, who's assessment closely mirrored mine regarding most of the stories.

DQ to Abatrossy_Rodent for a late submission, but I wrote a crit for you anyways.

There are no DMs, but the loss is awarded to The man called M. Your story had funny bits and a humorous premise, but it bogged down in the delivery and in a very good week it stood out as a cut below the rest.

HMs go to Nae and derp. A comical romp of dark humor that underscored a rather terrifying tale of an incompetent, murderous AI, and a sweet little love story with pushy robots.

Win for this week goes to The Cut Of Your Jib. Your story forced me to slow down and think, with its dense world-building, philosophical ramblings, and pretty words. And with all the tattoos and chainsaws and poo poo it was by far the most metal :black101: Congrats and welcome back to the throne!

Thanks to all who participated and thanks again to CP for stepping up to help judge. Crits incoming.

edit: hosed up and forgot one of my HMs!

Hawklad fucked around with this message at 21:46 on Jun 6, 2022

May 3, 2003

College Slice

Gods of the Southern Sea
A sense of quiet regret permeates this story. Hai’s regret about her transformation, the choices she made that brought her to this place and this existence, the limits of her new form. A longing for the world that was.
The writing is very clear and functional. You pack a lot of ideas into a small space, creating a pretty well fleshed-out world (no irony intended) with the words you were given. Passes the Bechdel test and the NSWM test easily.
I think the story hiding beneath this story – humans forced to the sea to survive the Singularity – is the really interesting one, and using Hai’s perspective only scratches the surface of what is possible in the setting you’ve created. Even in a short story things should happen, or characters should change, and this story suffers from a lack of either. Still, I liked this world you’ve created and if this were a prologue to a larger piece I’d be hooked to read on, uncover the mystery of homo oceanus, and the inevitable conflict that would develop between these two groups of very different humans. Still a strong story here, so I gave it a


(I Always Feel Like) Somebody's Watching Me
This was a fun and entertaining read, the accelerating absurdity punchlined with a gruesome ending that worked well. The premise of the all-knowing bots breaking down, the corrupted algorithm, was a little thin but it didn’t need to be real deep to accomplish the goals of this story. The idea of the corn sombrero and the eyed potato thing dropping from the ceiling was funny, and the two woman discussing revolution at this banal restaurant overseen by mercurial, broken bots was great.
The story was largely dialogue, which gave it good pacing and advanced the narrative as well as passing the Bechdel and NSWM tests. The ending gave me a grim chuckle, tying a little bow around the absurdity. Definite candidate for an HM at least, so an


A Heap of Grains
This is one of those stories that could have begun after the first break. The first few paragraphs of exposition feel like they could be tightened up or discarded altogether. When she wakes up in the Cloud Betwixt is where the story really takes off. The concept of meeting your other self, one you feel like you’ve discarded but really has been there the whole time, lost and alone, is interesting and has a lot of potential. I didn’t love that this story had a ‘happy’ ending, although I’m not sure what ending I would have preferred; the bleakness of offloading your brain into a implant your entire life and then just *merging* with your true self seems a bit too pat. I think more could have been made of the interaction between the protag and the other version of herself – instead of her being a pathetic, shambling monster, maybe she feels anger at being abandoned, vengeful? Does she hate this other version of herself? Could have created some good narrative tension here.
You are a good writer, the sentences flow well and word choice suits the tone of the story. Does this story pass the Bechdel test? I’m not sure, since it didn’t have dialogue in the traditional sense. There was interaction between the two iterations of the protagonist that could qualify, however, so I’ll give it a pass, and a


Sensu Eminenti
Vivid imagery and prose permeates this piece. The metaphor of the strawberry and the thread help anchor all the wonderful weirdness of this story. The scrappy human protagonists feel like they have a real story to tell, a nice balance between reflecting on what was (Roz) and how the threads connect to the present day (Lindy) through our protagonist’s eyes. The nerdlingers and the crazy rear end machine they are building to bust through the false reality in which they live is metal as gently caress. This piece is dense, giving a sense of a much larger story and an interesting world around the edges that is hinted at but not fully explained. It is a very human story, featuring protagonists who do not accept the world they way it is—one they played a hand in creating--but instead seek to understand it, and then break it. What could be more human than that?
The writing is evocative and well-paced, creating a rich world in few words. Bechdel and NSWM tests passed with flying colors. Overall I really liked this piece, so I gave it


The Butlerbot's Research
This story suffers from a dire lack of protagonist. A1 exists only to tell us the story of this world, does not itself have any agency, or learn anything about itself. The central conceit of this tale, that the singularity happens not due to machine advancement but instead due to humans becoming stupider, is darkly comic in an Idiocracy-type fashion (and seems rather prescient, I have to admit) and could have legs. But the way this story presents it as a A1 reciting historical events with an arch tone feels a little flimsy. There’s some funny bits to be sure (President Sweet Divine, the KKK author, the Bryzgalov quote) but the delivery is a little to ham-handed to be effective. Obviously this story was not going for the deeper, more nuanced take on the Singularity, which is fine—but its shallowness stood out in a week of more thoughtful submissions.
The writing was clear and direct, if a bit too on the nose. A few awkward sentences and typos sprinkled throughout. Sadly, your story fails the Bechdel test completely., as it lack both dialogue and a female protagonist. Despite some funny bits and an overall funny concept, I have to give this one a


Excerpts from a found journal, early first century PS
The voice in this one stands out, giving the protagonist an endearing naivete as he tries to navigate this world where robots dictate everything. I like that the robots are never described, which gives this piece an almost magical realism that works well. The delivery of the prose as a series of journal entries at first felt jarring, but once the narrative took off I barely noticed it. The cute little love story being pushed upon them by these faceless robots, while predictable, was strangely endearing. They know they ultimately have no choice, as there is no point in going against what the robots want. Because you never really explain the robots—they are just always there, guiding the humans—they felt more like a metaphor for free will than actual, physical entities. A good choice on your part.
The writing was fine, capturing a sort of idealized innocence on the part of the narrator. Bechdel test and NSWM tests were not explicitly passed, since the dialogue was only described, not shown. Overall I enjoyed this piece and rate it a


Touching Grass
The concept here is good, three friends out for a stroll in a forest of dicktrees in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. I did find it confusing at first sorting out who was who—that you dropped like seven names in the first couple of lines didn’t help, as well as the “’Ellie’ That was me” line which can be read several ways. Once I got my footing the story flowed better, but ultimately it felt a little thin and short on substance. A few girls gossiping about boys and their futures, reflecting on some horrible atrocity in the past in a breezy fashion, just didn’t quite land for me. I wanted a little more meat, some conflict, some revelation that just wasn’t there. The protagonist and her friends seemed interchangeable, lacking distinction or motivation. Perhaps that was your intent, emphasizing humans seeking normalcy in a strange, orange-skied world of phallic plants.
It’s always challenging to write dialogue heavy prose involving more than two characters due to attribution becoming unclear. Did you need three characters to get your ideas across when two would have sufficed? You flirted with failing the Bechdel test with all the boy- and dick-talk, but I’ll give it a pass for the second half of the story as they reflect on larger issues. Overall this was fine, but there needed some more meat on them bones, so I’ll give it a


Rodent’s Unfinished redemption
This one starts a little slow, I think the first 200 words could be tightened up quite a bit, as the story doesn’t start until they bring in the drone. Not too much depth to the relationship between the mother and the daughter, perhaps some narrative tension would be in order here – does the daughter suspect her mother is holding something back from her? There’s also some hand-waving of why the Station is dying, and it seems unlikely a few chips from the drone would be enough to sustain it, but that’s not necessarily central to the story. The real conflict of the story doesn’t happen until near the very end, when she realizes she’s going to have to take the drone apart. There’s the meat of the story – the agonizing decision to destroy something that is the first ‘new’ thing they’ve seen in a generation, just for parts—but then the drone just sort of is like “okay no problem, I’m cool with that, have fun” and it drains any tension from the scene, and, unfortunately, the story. No grade since it was unfinished.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

TDdome Week 514: lADies and lADdies

I found two old magazines cleaning out my grandparents' attic. Ladies' Home Journal 1932 and Popular Science Monthly 1927.
Choose one magazine at sign-up and I will scan an ad, headline, or cartoon for inspiration.

You do not have to incorporate it in any way except for a vague, oh I see where this story came from. If you want to be more upfront, that's fine too.

If there are tons of sign-ups, I may have to dig for some other magazines (to avoid ads with egregiously outdated sensibilities), but I'll find some good ones.

no fanfics or porno. No other genre restrictions.

:siren: Since I'm scanning these myself there is no image alt-text, so if anyone wants or needs a text description of the photo based ads, I'm happy to provide.

Sign up deadline Friday 11:59PM EST
Submissions deadline Sunday 11:59PM EST

Here's an example from Pop Sci

Crystals of Fire! The Magic Story of Diamonds, and How Men Stampede

Ladies' Home Journal

Pink Tooth Brush threatens Everybody!

First to call dibs can take either of these if they want.

The Man called M
Carl Killer Miller
QuoProQuid and/or

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 05:12 on Jun 11, 2022

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


“She was out… but he was in!”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

The man called M posted:

“She was out… but he was in!”

Popular Science

Passengers on trans-Atlantic liners have a new deck game--"knufo"--combining tennis and marksmanship.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 23:36 on Jun 6, 2022

Sep 21, 2017

Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse

In with the Ladies Home Journal

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Yoruichi posted:

In with the Ladies Home Journal

16,000 pounds of ice cubes a year

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Popular science.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Thranguy posted:

Popular science.

ControlIt The Heart of the Power Plant
Makers of the famous Brach Lightning Arresters

Apr 30, 2006

In with Ladies Home Journal

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

sparksbloom posted:

In with Ladies Home Journal

The Stranger at the party was a friend, in DEED!

May 21, 2001


I would like to be in with pop sci

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

new electrical crime detector. Pounding heartbeats are amplified by the stethoscope

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Nae Sephiroth Brawl

Hollaback Girl
Your story must be a conversation that is shouted, like kids at a park or neighbors over a fence, or an argument

250 words

lol prompt before the challengers stepped up

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 19:27 on Jun 7, 2022

sephiRoth IRA
Jun 13, 2007

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."

-Carl Sagan

i got beef with nae

brawl me

Sep 3, 2020


sephiRoth IRA posted:

i got beef with nae

brawl me


The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Cut of your jib?

I want a cut of your rear end!

Brawl me!

The man called M fucked around with this message at 19:27 on Jun 7, 2022

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

The man called M posted:

Cut of your jib?

I want a cut of your rear end!

Brawl me!

then we dance, cheek to cheek. it's on

e: requesting 24-36 hour deadline

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 19:33 on Jun 7, 2022


Sep 3, 2020


The Cut of Your Jib posted:

Nae Sephiroth Brawl

Hollaback Girl
Your story must be a conversation that is shouted, like kids at a park or neighbors over a fence, or an argument

250 words

Hummingbirds are Sick
247 words

Hey, Lee! You’ve gotta get down here and see this bird!

Lee clenched his controller in his slick palms. “I’m busy, Grace!” he shouted downstairs.

The text block at the bottom left of his monitor flashed with new messages.

<dankey kong> dude you left youre mic on
<Malboro Man> Is Grace your mom? :weebay:

It’s a hummingbird!” Grace yelled. “You have to see, it’s so cool!

“I’m in a match!” Lee grit his teeth and messaged his teammates.

<Shadalee> grace is my sister, she wont stfu about some dumbass bird

It’s flying in between the jets from the sprinkler! Seriously, you have to see this! It’s playing like a kid!

“Oh my God, I don’t care!” Lee yelled.

<dankey kong> what kind of bird is it
<Shadalee> some loving hummingbird outside
<dankey kong> hummingbirds are sick
<Malboro Man> I’ve always wanted to see a humming bird.
<dankey kong> you should go see the bird

A bullet whizzed over Lee’s head in-game. He swore out-loud, then swore again when Grace shouted from below. “Are you coming or not?

<Shadalee> we’re in a match guys come on
<dankey kong> who cares, just go see the bird
<Malboro Man> Dankey’s right, Shad. Go see the bird.

Lee closed his eyes, pinched his nose, and rested his controller on the table with a sigh. “All right! I’ll look at the stupid bird!”

And so he went downstairs, found Grace outside, and watched the hummingbird play—and actually, it was pretty cool.

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