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Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome




Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Ah heck, everyone's asking for stuff, let me amend my 'in' to ask for a story.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Is John in Over His Head?
Herod's daughter and John the Baptist - 1606 words

Harry Forking stepped off the elevator, rushing through the maze of low cubicle walls while holding a fussy-order Starbucks coffee. Some of the younger suckups on the executive floor said, “Good morning, Mr. Forking,” and the like – one even ventured, “’Morning, Harry” – but he breezed by them with barely a nod. He had bigger fish to fry. He had seen The Email on his drive in. It had taken all his self-control not to make a phone call that’d end that bastard’s career while stuck in traffic. He’d set his phone to do-not-disturb to avoid flying off the handle when the inevitable calls came in.

Kristin was at her desk. He walked up from her side to steal a glance at her cleavage and managed to pull his eyes upward just as she saw him. She smiled. He could get lost in that smile. “Good morning, Harry.”

He took a deep breath to calm himself. No need to set himself back with her, not when he had been making progress on such a delightful side project. “’Morning, Kristin. Are those new earrings? They complement your eyes.”

She batted her eyelashes. “They are. Thanks for noticing.”

“Well, they’re almost as lovely as you are.” He was rewarded with a slight flushing. He waited a couple of beats. “Sorry to get right to it, but can you clear my schedule until ten? I’ve got something hot that flew in, and I’ve got to handle it ASAP. I glanced at my meetings, and there’s nothing that can’t be pushed.”

Her fingers clacked on the keyboard. “That’ll be the third time you’ve pushed Jeremy Muldoon’s performance review.”

He fought a growl and kept it to a frown. “Too bad for him, but this is critical. Umm…see if he can meet me for lunch next week; I’ll take him out to make it up to him.”

“Sure thing.” She handed him his mail and messages. Of course, several pink “While you were out” slips were on top. Maybe going do-not-disturb had been the wrong move. The beehive had been smacked hard, tempers were aroused, and someone was going to be in a world of pain. All Harry knew was it wasn’t going to be him.

He entered his office and booted up his laptop. He threw his coat across a chair and took a sip of his coffee. Cold. Perfect. Another wonderful loving way to start the day. He picked it up and threw it in the garbage can. Let the cleaning lady deal with it.

He sat down and pulled up The Email. In his rage, he found his eyes skipping from sentence to sentence, unable to read the whole thing through at once. His face turned red. He started slamming out a reply to John Essene, cc:ing HR and firing him, but doubt grabbed his heart: Did he know anything? If so, what? He erased the half-written email and had Kristin set up a conference call.


Later that morning:
Harry leaned back in his chair and vented again to the speakerphone. “Listen to this line: ‘While I would never imply favoritism at high levels…’ That can’t be read as anything but implying it. I’m serious. I want to can his rear end.”

The guy from Legal said, “Because he invoked the specter of discrimination in the email, I advise against dismissal as a course of action. It might expose us to a lawsuit.”

Harry, red-faced, leaned forward and gripped the edge of his desk. “But this email is way over the line. It’s beyond insubordinate. What can we do to him? It’d be bad enough if he sent this only to me, but have you looked at the distribution list?”

The HR rep cut in, “Now, all the stuff he says endorsing his guy, what’s-his-name, things like, ‘Handling hostile clients and difficult situations, being a miracle worker, he’s the one,’ we can ignore all that. It’s just vague stumping. But Harry, I have to ask. When he states, ‘Ms. Sallie’s credentials are insufficient to be one of her new direct reports, let alone for her new position,’ is there any substance to those allegations?”

Harry took a calming breath. “Of course not. Ms. Sallie is eminently qualified for her new position. This role’s been in my reporting structure for several years. I’m the expert on who’d be a good fit, and I can say for certain she is. Now, back to the main question: what can we do about him?”

The HR rep said, “We could reassign him.”

The guy from Legal said, “Not without it appearing as retribution, which would give him a slam-dunk cause of action.”

Harry thought. “Hmm…wait a minute. He says he ‘cannot work for this unqualified employee,’ referring to May – Ms. Sallie. Can’t we transfer this son of a bitch to another department where he won’t cause trouble? Keeping the same role and paygrade?”

There was silence for a moment before the guy from Legal chimed in. “I would advise you to moderate your language regarding Mr. Essene lest it harm us in any future case, but that would be acceptable.”

Harry said, “OK, great. Let’s do this. But I want this guy out of anything that matters to the company. I want him in Siberia, in the cornfields, in prison. Got it?”


Later that week:
Harry went to pour himself another glass of champagne, but the bottle was empty. He upended it into the bucket of ice, neck down. “You want me to call room service for another one?”

“No, I’ll make myself a little something.” He watched May Sallie’s lithe form as she climbed out of bed and rifled through the minibar. “You want anything?”

“Crown and Seven.” This was insane! She was two-thirds his age at best, he had a wife and kids at home, and here he was on a business trip, doing exactly what that bastard had subtly implied he had been doing. No, it wasn’t insane. In fact, it was safer by far than their usual rendezvouses: no one else he knew was in the hotel, his family was a thousand miles away, and what happens in Chicago stays in Chicago, right?

She came back holding the two drinks, handed him his, and sipped hers. She stood at the foot of the bed. “What are you looking at?”

“You. You’re a show worth watching.” It was true; she was striking, and he had always liked them young, though over the years he had grown to appreciate the ladies having practical experience in sensual matters.

She picked up her phone, selected some choices, and music played. “You wanted a show, Harry; you’ve got one.” She took a sip of her drink and set it down, then reached over and took his hand. “Come sit in this chair.” Bemused, he did so. She began dancing in front of him, gyrating slowly, moving closer and closer to him. He reached out for her, but she playfully slapped his hand. “No touching the lady.”

The dancing intensified as she started to brush herself against him. Then her movements and actions flirted with ending the pretense of dancing altogether. But before things went too far, she whispered in his ear, “There’s something I want you to do for me, something I need, badly.”


Her tongue flicked his ear. “Promise?”

“Yes,” he panted.

“I want you to teach that bastard a lesson. I mean, really teach him.”

“I…I can’t. The lawyers say—”

“gently caress the lawyers. Well, you better gently caress the lawyers if you want to gently caress any more tonight.”

He paused, then sighed. “I’ll do it when we get back.”

She sat on his lap. “When I saw that email, I told myself right then and there: I’d have his head.” She resumed pressing herself against Harry.


A year later:
Harry Forking was trying not to shake, with limited success. The fifty-fourth floor! Was this going to be it for him? But why would the CEO lower the boom himself? He was passed through the phalanx of admin assistants, and he eventually gained admittance to the richly appointed suite.

The CEO stood behind his desk and waved Harry to a chair. “I’ve got a lot on my plate, so I’ll dive right in.”

Harry nodded and sat. “Your time is valuable, Cal.”

“Harry, I can see you sweating. First, you’re not fired.”

He couldn’t help himself; he let loose with an audible sigh of relief. “I was worried why I was here.”

“About that…you see, you used to run a tight ship in your division. Sure, you had your little escapades on the side, not that I care about any of that. But then you let things get in the way: promoting your fuckbunny to department head, constructive dismissals, and lawsuits. We can’t have those sorts of things around here. You’ve got to get your head back in the game, son. Word’s gotten around about you, and not just within these walls; it’s a small industry with a solid grapevine. This is your last chance to straighten up and fly right, no bullshit. I’m going to give you a chance to show me something. You read me, son?”

“Yes, sir, I understand. Thank you for the opportunity.”

The CEO finally sat. “That’s why you’re going to be running the Paris office.”

Harry’s expression had ranged from joy to contrition and now to confusion. Heading up that office? After this reaming?

The CEO glared at Harry. “It’s easy enough to get there. Just fly into Dallas and drive two hours northeast. Hope your wife and kids like barbecue and the rodeo.”

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Admiralty Flag - Is John In Over His Head?
nice thematic name changes
Thanks. I wanted to make sure you knew that the Tetrarch Herod Antipas' ultimate fate was Caligula exiling him to Gaul, which is where I got the whole Paris[, Texas] idea from -- thought you might get a minor chuckle out of that if you didn't know that tidbit.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Some Roads Lead from Rome
Theme: Individual vs. Society. Setting: Ancient Rome. 1500 words + 27 for first line.

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. They dared call it wanderlust. One even named it, “The young man’s pox.” Nothing but wretched, toga-clad farts who couldn’t find their shriveled cocks under their guts with both hands. There had to be more in the world outside the city walls.

The absolute sorriest was my dad’s buddy Horace, that loving poet. The worst. He had been a legionnaire, and he was always riding my rear end about my duty for the Empire. One example: Pops threw a dinner party, and that windbag was there, reciting from his latest work. At the climax of an ode, he turned to me and proclaimed, I poo poo you not, “It is sweet and fitting / to die for the fatherland.”

The slaves had overserved me with wine, so I cracked back with, “Then why’d you drop your shield and run like hell when you saw Octavian and Antony come over the hill at Philippi?”

Man, Pops beat me black and blue that night, but it was worth it for the look on that shithead’s face.

The worst part happened a few days later. Horace walked over, laid a fatherly hand on my shoulder like we’re patron and client, and said, “Son, I know you’re facing some difficult decisions, but consider your alternatives before you do anything rash. A wise man once wrote, ‘Those who flee across the sea / may change their skies but not their cares.’”

Three goddamn guesses who that ‘wise man’ was. Well, a hunch, anyway; I never listened to that hack’s poetry if I didn’t have to.

Soon after this, Pops summoned me. “You’ve alienated all my colleagues and friends. So, you lack a patron, and I won’t subsidize your lifestyle any longer. There’s nothing left for you but the legions.” Voices were raised, but to no avail. I had a week to leave, and it looked like I’d be toting a javelin and shield when I did. Some way to see the Empire, huh?

Well, I wasn’t going to let my last week of freedom go to waste by not getting wasted. One night, I was walking home from a party and saw a couple of thugs beating the poo poo out of this older dude. I drew my dagger, gave one of them ten inches of iron in the back, and wheeled on the other guy. When he saw his buddy drop, he ran off. I helped the dude get away before the thug came back with his whole gang. I got him back to his house, which was a lot bigger than I expected. Turned out he was a freed Greek slave named Popidus Felix, a merchant. He offered me some wine and olives, as well as conversation and a safe place to stay the night. I figured I’d listen to what he had to say.

We chatted for a while. Then he said, “I must ask. Can you do sums? Are you literate?”

I laughed. “Father never would’ve let me out of the house if I couldn’t. I’d be an embarrassment.”

“I need someone to take care of one of my centers. Provide oversight, make sure contracts are legitimate. Can’t go myself, I have to run operations here. Catch is, it’s in Dalmatia. Are you interested in traveling?”

“Popidus, my friend, when do I leave?”


At first, the flow of goods slowed because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But even I could tell when someone was crooked, and he had a team of sticky-fingered embezzlers who thought no one would ever check up on them. I fired half and kept the others in line with threats of publicizing what they’d done. There were a few tense days when I thought they might have the balls to gang up on me, but one of the things I did on my way out there was hire a sicarius. I made it plain that if I died, the hitman would take them all out, painfully. I’d never have gotten away with that in Rome, and the idea was all Popidus’ – I was still a babe in the woods.

It took a few months to straighten everything out and get the business back on track. Popidus barely noticed a dip in his profits; the leeches had been draining so much blood the drop in revenue was mostly offset by the lack of embezzlement. I spent my time building out the business, opening new lines of trade, and setting controls in place for the day I left, because I thought I couldn’t be happy in life running a business.

But something else had seized my attention. Through my regular missives with and infrequent trips to Rome, I had become close to Popidus. He had become more than an unconventional patron; he had become a friend. I came to find out more about his past: separated from his parents and siblings at the slave block, vaunted to bidders for his literacy and education, and all of it overseen and blessed by a quaestor of the then-Republic.

I had grown up with slaves in the house and had been educated by them. Never before had I thought about the cruel nature of the institution on which so much of society – and my business – ran.

The stomach pains and headaches also started. I summoned physickers to treat them, but they had nothing for me except advice to “stop worrying and working so hard.”

I was also troubled by Popidus’ view upon slaves. He was for manumission, but not until everyone else was forced to do it as well, and thus he used slaves throughout his operations. For my part, I filled jobs with freedmen whenever possible to salve my conscience, a compromise that troubled me for a long time.

My youthful crassness had developed into cutting invective. I began to author abolitionist speeches and sent them to Rome to be spoken at whatever public function was available. At first, they were delivered by rabblerousers and would-be Thersites of the lowest sorts, but as their arguments became known and their rhetoric praised, radical speakers of renown approached my agents in Rome, seeking to be the tongues giving voice to my words, and I gave my blessing to elevate the quality of the orators. Best of all, my pains ceased.

My trips to Rome became more frequent. Our business prospered, and here I say “our” intentionally, for on a trip back to Rome, Popidus made me one-third owner in all his enterprises, and his sole heir. I wept and asked him not to give me so much, but he refused to change his mind, asking only that I moderate my speeches lest I upset those close to the emperor. I could refuse the frail old man nothing. I swore he would never hear another word I penned against the institution of slavery.

Our interests had grown significantly thanks to the expansions I had spearheaded in the east. We were now supplied by trade routes that stretched through Dacia to the Black Sea, and I was working on acquiring fleet tonnage in Byzantium. My vision was to have goods from India reach the borders of the Empire, and then make their way to Rome without ever leaving our ships or warehouses. Popidus was thrilled.

But that coming winter was harsh, even in its early days. The breathing disease came for Popidus with its first chill drafts. The best physickers could do nothing but ease his passing and advise me to stay far away from him. One day, I spent hours watching his house, imagining I could hear his wracking, staccato cough. I waited there until I saw a boney jumble wrapped in a sheet taken from the home and thrown into a cart.

I went home that night and wrote “Against Slavery.” It was my magnum opus, a speech unlike any I had scribed before. I knew there was none who would dare speak it, nor would I allow any other to say those words. It would be me.

The next week was the beginning of the Saturnalia, the festival that culminated in a reversal of roles, masters serving slaves. What better time would there ever be?

On the most auspicious morning of the Saturnalia, before the festivities rose into full swing, I ascended a plinth in the Forum and declaimed my speech. A few gathered at first, then more, until finally a crowd. There was scattered applause, but much more jeering. Finally, as I ended, two legionnaires hauled me off to a cell.


I continue the fight today, and I have no regrets. I still write, and occasionally a speech makes it to somewhere populated and is delivered by a radical orator with more skill than sense. You see, I have been denied fire and water within such a span of the city that I find my exile to be most comfortable on this island. While all roads lead to Rome, all Rome led me to was Rhodes.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Sign me up to judge this week. Can someone PM me the discord link?

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In with "I'm going to live on the road forever."

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Negotiate the Dark, Curving Ribbon
"I'm going to live on the road forever." - 870 words

Steve burst into my borrowed office, and his boisterous voice yanked me out of my reverie. “What the gently caress are you doing?”

I sat forward in the chair. “You’ve got a good team on ACAS; you’ll be able to close the sale and run the project without me. But I’m done.”

“Do you need time off? Jesus, you already take a shitload of—”

“And I work through half of it. Julia hates that.”

“Well, she’s a goddamn schoolteacher. She should be happy one of you is making some money.” He caught my expression, and his tone softened. “Look, how about you take some vacation, I mean real, uninterrupted vacation.”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t. Too late for that. My time here is finished.”

He closed the door. “Brian, is it…mental health related? We can get you a leave of absence.”

I slapped my hands on my thighs and stood. “Steve, it’s up to you. You can march me out the door right now if you like, or I can keep gift-wrapping everything I’ve got for handover, but I’m gone tomorrow at 5pm.”

“You’ve got to give us notice.”

“Nothing says I do…So, which is it? Time’s a-wastin’.”


A while ago, when I asked Julia where she wanted to travel next, she surprised me. I thought maybe it’d be New Zealand, or to try to recapture Iceland’s magic. Her answer: “The Grand Canyon.”

I laughed. My exact words were, “How grand can a canyon be?”

“I’m serious, Brian. I want to see national parks. We’ve traveled around the world, but it’s been like checking things off a to-do list.”

I stared at her. “You’re trying to get me to disconnect.”

“I’m trying to get you to connect – with me.”

I thought for a minute while she watched. I had loved camping as a boy scout, though I never made it very far up the ranks. Besides, I never cared much about European art and architecture, I’d been on a sightseeing safari in Africa, and I’d already traveled through Southeast Asia and practically everywhere else. None of it mattered anyway; I had been glued to my laptop and phone the whole way. All that time spent on nothing. This was something that could be worthwhile, something the two of us could DO together.

“OK, Julia, let’s do it. A tour of national parks.” A pause, then it was my turn to shock her. “And I have a surprise for you – I’m going to take some time off work: maybe a few months, maybe forever.” I took her hand, looked her in the eye. “I do need to reconnect with you, and we can afford this.”

She thought I was joking until I showed her my plan. Three more months to vest the last block of RSUs, then we could float free.

She was thrilled. I’d be out of airports, and at home. I’d still need her insurance, but we’d have enough money for me to retire – if we didn’t go too crazy.


I was driving along the mountainside highway into Yosemite. To my left was the outbound lane and a wall of rock; to my right, a flimsy guardrail and a drop into infinity. The RV was a beast, but I had tamed it on easier roads.

On one of the few short straightaways, I spared a glance at Julia, sitting in the passenger seat, her hand grasping the oh poo poo handle above her head. I hadn’t seen her, really seen her, for so long. The last month had been astounding.

She caught me looking. “Keep your eyes on the road!”

“Just wanted to make sure you’re OK.”

“I’ll be a lot more OK once we’re down in the valley…I can’t believe you’re doing this without any problem. Thought you didn’t like driving in the mountains.”

I chuckled. “That was the old me. Now I’m reborn, Brian 2.0.”

“And what will the reborn you do if you stay retired?”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I want to savor the rest of this summer, enjoy the time, every day as it comes.” I looked at her. “Don’t forget we still have the Grand Canyon after this.”

“Keep your goddamn eyes forward!” She exhaled. “Sorry…And you’re happy doing this?”

I smirked, face front. “I just might spend the rest of my life on the road.”

“I like this new you. Brian is dead; long live Brian!” Despite her fear, she laughed.

I did too, a free, unforced burst of joy. We were happy, really happy, for the first time in years. And we were truly, indivisibly together, which we hadn’t been for any length of time since our twenties.

And nothing was going to rob us of this sacred span of three months. Not even the tumor: inoperable, essentially untreatable, and the best they could do was palliative care whenever the serious symptoms started.

She deserved this summer. I owed her this summer. I’d tell her on the way back home.

We left the mountain road and hit flat ground, no drop-off on either side. Through my open window I let forth to the world my triumphant yawp, thirty years in the making.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In with "Radio Da Da" (#50)

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Radio Da Da (episode title #50)
1726 words

Sammy turned the key, tapping on the gas. A rattling chattered under the hood. He released both. “C’mon, Bucky.” He massaged the dashboard, then turned the key again. A second’s hesitation, a sputtering, then a rhythmic brushing rewarded him. “Knew you could do it, buddy. Came through in the clutch.”

He turned on the lights and wended his way out of Jake’s back lot. Jake was cool. He had said Sammy could park his van on the cement pad by the barn until he got his feet back under him, just as long as he didn’t disturb the house. And Jake didn’t need to know van life wasn’t a temporary thing. Sammy had seen how square life had killed his father.

Now for the drive into work. He had screwed up synching his phone and lost all his music, even the homemade demos of his garage — well, barn — band, and there was no computer to back up from, not since he sold it. There was spotty internet on the drive, so no streaming. He turned on the radio for the trip. Only one station played loud enough music this early: WMTL, “All Metal.”

He drove in that half-awake daze of highway hypnosis where the miles slip by in a slight dissociative state, lost in the music, drumming on the steering wheel. The radio played on. “…Pantera with ‘Revolution is My Name,’ and thanks for listening, Sammy Webster. Next up, Megadeth—”

He snapped to attention. Had they said his name? They had! Was it a contest? No, he never phoned in to the station. Must’ve been Tyrone or Biggs down at the warehouse calling in, getting them to mention him.


No one had fessed up to calling the station. Bunch of chickens. Anyway, it’s not like Sammy was angry. Actually, it was cool someone thought enough about him to get his name on the air. Another eight hours done, he pulled Bucky out of the lot and pointed her toward Jake’s farm.

He stopped at the Pic-and-Pac near work to get dinner: a deli sandwich and a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft. He was almost all the way home when he realized Metallica’s ‘One’ had been playing since he got in the van after work. He pulled onto the cement pad and waited for the song to end. It started up again. He pressed the tuner buttons, but the station wouldn’t change. “Hell of a time for the radio to break.” He turned Bucky off and went into the back.

He texted Jake, “Got a sixer of MGD, u free?” He should have stopped at the gym to shower if he wanted to go into the house, because Noreen would pitch a fit at his stank.

It didn’t matter. Jake texted back, “Can’t, kids up early 2morrow.” Ahh, forget it, more beer for him. He popped one open.

Sammy was two beers deep when he thought about the Metallica song again, something about the video. He pulled it up on his phone. Yeah, some old movie, a kid injured in a war, trapped inside himself, can’t communicate except by banging his head against the pillow. Weird. He opened another beer and sucked half of it down while thumbing through internet sites.

The radio came on.

It was Stormtroopers of Death, ‘Identity.’ “You prove that the apple / never falls far from the tree. / Identity! Identity! Identity!”

Maybe it was the beers, maybe he was going insane, but Sammy asked, “Bucky? That you?”

With a record scratch, the music stopped. The glow of the radio faceplate shone, but no other dash lights were on. He scrambled forward and piled into the driver’s seat. He ran his hand along the dashboard. “Talk to me, Bucky.”

“Do you think your van is speaking to you?” The radio’s glow pulsed in time with the words.

“What do you mean?”

“Like you could buy a talking van for a dollar. Heh, millennials. Be back soon.”

“Who are you?”

Sammy awaited a response. He crouch-paced around the van, browsed some more internet sites, finished another beer, and drummed out a tune on his thighs, yet nothing happened. “Where are you, man?” Had anything happened in the first place? Or was he going crazy? “I’m right here, dude!” Frustrated and bored, he picked up his guitar and strummed it. He slid into a well-practiced rhythm and belted out lyrics. “Orphaned by the black sun / the never-wanted one / alone on the earth / abandoned from birth…” He played and sang the entire song. As he finished with “…Never sought for / never fought for / not a thought for / meeeee,” the radio burst forth with applause and cheers.

As the ruckus died down, the radio said, “Sammy, that was fantastic. You have an amazing musical talent. Did you write that song?”

A blush grew on Sammy’s cheeks. “Yeah. It’s nothing special.”

“Bull! It’s dripping with feeling. I can hear your pain. Only someone who’s suffered a great loss could write and perform something like that…Tell me what happened.”

Sammy sat quietly, hair hiding his eyes. When he looked up, tears had formed at their corners. “My dad died when I was fifteen. He was an accountant, worked all the time, I barely ever saw him. Had a heart attack one day, just died at his desk at work.”

“I’m so sorry, son.” The radio fell silent for a moment. “Do you perform?”

“Aw, Jake and me get together sometimes in the barn and let it rip. I play guitar, and he plays bass. This other guy, Bill, plays drums.”

“You ought to put on a show. I’ve heard on WMTL there’s an open mic night in town this Saturday. The three of you should perform. You’re really good.”

Sammy shook his head. “Not good enough to get on a stage and sing! And my playing sucks! You’re crazy.”

“Look, I’m not really a magic radio—”

“You’re not?”

“You ever heard of a poltergeist?”

“Like that old movie?”

“Yeah. Poltergeist means ‘noisy spirit.’ They like making themselves known by moving stuff around, making a racket, that sort of thing. I’m sort of the same way. I’m what they call an elektrogeist. I live in devices like this radio, and I control them. So, you play acoustic, and I can regulate the PA system. If you sing off key, I can fix that. If you play a note wrong, I can change it. I can make sure you come out pitch perfect.”

“I don’t know, man. What’s in it for me?”

“Come on, Sammy, what’ll it hurt? Besides, there are prizes – a grand for first place…Anyone who plays and sings as well as you do must want to perform. Here’s your chance to do it without risk, with me backing you up. What do you say?”

“I don’t know…”

“OK, here’s why you’ll do it. The van’s alternator is about to go bad. I’ll keep it going if you perform. Deal?”

“That’s not fair.”

“Them’s the breaks. Show biz is tough.”


Sammy pulled Bucky onto the cement pad and put it in park. Jake hopped out, slid the side door open, and pulled out his bass. “Dude, I can’t get over it! $1000 three ways! … Wanna come in for a beer?”

“I’m tired as hell, bro. I came down from the rush driving back. Manaña?”

Jake shot Sammy a grin and a one-handed fingergun. “You’re on. Come by around noon.” He walked toward the house, whistling ‘Black Sun Orphan.’

As soon as he was out of sight, Sammy said, “He’s gone. You can come out now.” The radio’s faceplate lit up. Sammy shook his head. “Man, you’re a fake.”

“What do you mean?”

“I heard me sing. I heard us play. You didn’t change anything.”

“I didn’t need to, Sammy. Was your performance perfect? Whose is? But was your song better than anyone else’s? Yeah, by a mile. Your friends are pretty good, but you – you’ve got something special. Why not go for it? Work doing whatever during the week, and play whenever you can at nights and on the weekend?”

Sammy patted the dash. “You’re an angel who’s sent to show me things, like in It’s a Wonderful Life, aren’t you?” He chuckled. “Well, you got your wings. I’m going to keep playing with the guys, trying to get more gigs. But I’m not giving up van life—”

“I never told you to—”

“Good, ‘cause I’d have ripped you out by your wires. Not giving up van life, but yeah, I can do something besides work in a warehouse. Maybe I can make some other people happy with my music. Maybe make myself happy with it.”

The radio said, “Sammy, all I ever wanted was for you to be happy.”

Sammy bolted upright, banging his head on the roof of the van. “Ow! Wait, what do you mean?”

Static started to creep into the edges of the radio’s voice. “It’s all your mother and I ever wanted for you: not to be rich, not to be powerful, just to be happy with your life.”


It was getting difficult to make out the words now through the interference. “It took me a long time to earn this chance…”

“Dad, what’s happening? Come back!”

“…Son, I’m so proud of you…”

“You can’t go! I need you to keep helping me!”

A weird oscillating noise began to overlay the static. Sammy strained to listen to the radio. He adjusted its dials, to no effect. “…You don’t get it, do you? Sure, I helped you. But you helped me more…you gave me the chance to be your father one last time, and to do a good job of it, for once—” A burst of noise blotted out some words. “—on’t worry about me. Things are going to be happier now for me. And for you. I love you, son. I always ha—” Anything further was lost in a squelching shriek, and the radio fell silent.

After a minute, it started up again into the trailing notes of a song. “And that was Creed with ‘With Arms Wide Open.’ Next up on WMTL, a little something from Down Under, ‘My Father’s Son,’ by the Amity Affliction.”

Sammy’s tears were met by the smile on his face.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In, with a flash rule, please

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


What’s Going Down?
A key component of your story is someone getting locked out of their room. 1335 words

“poo poo, poo poo, poo poo!” echoed the voice down the hall. I looked around the corner, and there she was: shapely from behind but a little casually dressed, wrestling with the door next to mine.

I walked back from the elevator bank. “Can I give you a—” She whirled around, surprised, a foul look on her face transforming into a blush. Jamie, the VP’s secretary. I smiled a little inside. They had been the ones making all the noise last night. I didn’t know Don had it in him.

She said, “I, um … left a bag inside my … friend’s hotel room.”

“Don does get in early when he’s on the road.” Her blush deepened. “No key?”

She avoided my gaze. “I just came over once he was back from the office last night.”

“Well, I’m sure he won’t make that mistake again. Least you won’t have far to walk to get it on your lunch hour.” I gestured to the elevator bank. “Shall we?” I began to walk, and she joined me.

Her head was darting from side to side, watching the doors. “So … Don’s been talking?”

My answer rung out in a harsher tone than needed. “Give him some credit. Do you think he runs his mouth?”

“Well, how’d you know?”

I pressed the button. I was on the club floor, the top floor, thanks to my Platinum status. It was going to be twenty-four stories down with her, with who knows who getting on. Great. By the time we hit the lobby, tongues might be wagging about our supposed affair. “I’ve worked closely with him for five years. He’s been skipping nights out with the team, and he makes a lot of trips to your desk to ask you about stuff.” Should I talk to her about it? I wondered.

She exhaled a sigh of relief. I watched the numbers over the doors. One elevator was on the eighth floor and climbing slowly; the other two were stopped on seventeen and four. Was only one of the three working?

What the hell; I went for it. “Look, Jamie. Don’s a good kid. You’ve probably heard, but he got his heart broken a few months ago when his fiancée cheated on him. Treat him well. If you don’t, I’ll know about it.”

Her eyes bored into me, and her hands flew to her hips. “I don’t know where you get off talking to me like that. I should go to HR.”

Christ! I needed out of this building, I needed out of this conversation, and I needed a smoke. Where was the loving elevator? Twelfth floor! “If we were at work, then yes, you could go to HR. But we’re not. We’re just two people meeting in a hotel hallway and talking. There’s nothing actionable about that.”

She laughed. “Fine. And, ‘I’ll know about it.’ What’re you going to do? Maria’s running the account, and she knows me. You’re just a senior manager; you’re not even based here.”

I held her gaze. “Maria’s one person, just a VP, and she’s not the head of this office. Besides, you’re not understanding me.” Jesus, I was ready to start chewing on a cigarette. “Don’s got a great track record, the client loves him and his work, and he’s pushing the limits of what someone at his level owns. I don’t want to see him sidetracked by misunderstanding whatever this is between the two of you.” Her eyes were sparking with anger. Shut up, you’ve said too much, I thought, then sighed. Too bad I was never any good at listening to the angel on my shoulder. “You’ve got ten years on him. I don’t know what you’re looking for, but I assume, since you’ve got a kid, it’s not a fling with an out-of-towner.” My whole rear end was hanging out. I thought quickly. “Anyway, I couldn’t tell you if he’s serious or if he’s looking to settle down again, but he’s not even in his thirties. I guess I’m saying all this as much for your sake as for his.”

She shot daggers at me, and I’m pretty sure she knew as well as I did my warning ‘for her sake’ was complete CYA bullshit. She was turning to walk away (where to? the stairs? wouldn’t put it past her) when the elevator dinged and slid open. I gestured for her to enter and followed her inside.

“I don’t know where you get off—” she began, but then the elevator stopped on twenty-three. People stepped in and looked at us, squeezed into opposite corners like two boxers between rounds.

It stopped at almost every floor on the way down, but the car was full by eighteen. A couple more minutes after that, the atmosphere was simmering like a pot on a stove. Finally, at least ten minutes after we got on, we exited into the lobby.

Stepping out, I gently took Jamie’s arm. “I’m going away so we don’t walk into the office together, but I want you to think about this: Don’s a good kid. Treat him well. He deserves it.”

She rounded on me, finger in my face. “Him? What about me? I’m thirty-seven, a single mom with a son. Your sainted protégé flies into town each Monday, fucks the boss’s secretary, hell, has nooners with me, and flies away to enjoy his real life over the weekend. He hasn’t even invited me to visit his home. I don’t know anything about him outside of here.” Tears had started to form in her eyes, and I recognized her look – it wasn’t sadness, it was fear. “You think this is some game I’m playing with him? What if it’s some game he’s playing with me? Some sick throwback of grabass with the secretary and laugh with the boys afterward?”

She dug in her purse for a tissue. “And why do you care so much about what happens to him? He’s a grown man. You’ve worked with him for five years, ever since he got out of college, right?” She poked me in the chest. “Is it because you’ve got no kids of your own?” Another jab. “Is it because you’re divorced twice?”

I bit back my first response, which was harder than anything I’d done in quite a while. Instead, I offered her my handkerchief, which she dabbed at the corners of her eyes. I took a moment to think and calm myself. “Look, Don isn’t playing games. He’s the most forthright, honest guy I work with. You know he’s different. You wouldn’t be seeing him—”

“You don’t know—”

“Please, let me finish. You wouldn’t be seeing him if he weren’t different.” I sighed. “In my opinion, the two of you need to talk and sort things out, because it doesn’t sound like you two have figured anything out, and you need to.” I paused, gathering myself and taking a deep breath. “Take it from me. I’m an expert. Not figuring things out together is why I’m a two-time loser.”

Her tears had stopped. She handed back the cloth and stared at me, must’ve been ten seconds at least; felt like an eternity. “So, I’ll see you at the office?”

I put the handkerchief in my pocket. “I guess I’ll get some Starbucks. Pick you up something?”

“Don’t want to get used to drinking the expensive stuff. That’d put a real dent in my budget.”

I gave a slight half-wave. “See you, then.”

“See you around.” She turned away.

I walked out of the hotel and headed for coffee I didn’t really want. But at least I was outside now. The Marlboro was already between my lips, and my lighter was sparking as soon as I brought it up in an arc to meet the cigarette. The flame burnt and went out, and the cherry glowed. I sucked in the smoke, then exhaled it in a heavy sigh along with a few of the cares I had accumulated that morning.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Done with heavy commitments for now and back from travels...IN

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Crafting the Heart
1213 words

The spider was miffed, and for good reason. Her web was coated with sawdust and had caught nothing. This was a matter of feeding, and thus life and death. I whispered words of apology while a gentle breeze plucked the errant particles of wood from the strands and evaporated them. The spider thanked me with a twitch of her pedipalps before climbing in and waiting for prey. I stood there watching her, her watching me, until a voice broke into our private world.

“Dad, why do we need a squared block? Can’t we just put it on the lathe?”

I didn’t bother turning and instead shifted into Melinda’s least favorite activity: figure it out yourself. I said, “There must be a reason for it besides blind sadism.” I paused. “First principles.”

A moment, then a bolt from the blue. “Of course! Squaring the circle. Otherwise, we’ll fail to maximize the potency of the wand…but if so, why don’t we just run this block through the jointer to get a flat edge?”

I looked at her. She had worked up quite a sweat pushing the jack plane over the chunk to flatten one side. “Look at it. What’s distinctive about the wood?”

She sighed, then peered at it. It took only seconds. “The grain…it’s straight and even, like it was etched into the wood with a ruler. But then it gathers into a bulb near this end.”

“And so?”

“Because the block’s irregularly shaped, the jointer would shave off the wood at an angle, and I’d lose the neatly patterned grain.”

I went inside and returned to the garage with some ice water. “For when you need a break.”

Her thanks was lost in the blur of the next couple of hours. Progressively smaller planes flew over the wood, rendering one side flat. She asked, “Is it true there were problems in the woods?”

I looked up from the plane blade I had been sharpening. “Where’d you hear that?”

“Neighborhood blog.”

“Ahh, people are always seeing what they want to see. What did they say it was?”

“A dryad, infuriated her tree was damaged.”

I looked back down at my work before I sliced off my skin. “Heh, people’ll believe anything.”

Some more planing, and she declared the surface flat and parallel to the grain, holding it out to me to examine. Smooth and true. Next came the electric planer to flatten the opposite side, the jointer to form a perpendicular side, and the planer again to form the fourth side.

We drank some water. “Dad, I really appreciate you helping me make my first personal wand.” I nodded, waiting for the rest. “But I really want a staff.”

“Staves are tricky things. You don’t so much make staves as find them. Sure, I’ve trimmed and burnished my staff since I found it way back when, but you can’t just make one out of any branch. You could say…they pick you.” I laughed.

“Third-rate dad joke.”

“No, no. It was a laugh of relief. I thought you were going to ask me why we weren’t making a rod. They’re too imperious, plus I don’t have the metalworking skill to create a high-quality one. I had to buy this piece.” I held up a crystal rest with a long screw on the back. “The wand’ll be weaker than if you crafted this piece, but that can’t be helped, and it won’t make very much difference overall.”

She smiled, took the crystal rest from me, fastened it in the vise, put a runed chunk of pyrite in it, and bent the rest’s prongs over the pyrite. She moved over to the lathe to adjust it to receive the wooden block.

“Sweetie, wait a moment. Let’s drill the hole to receive the crystal rest first. No point in carving the wand only to drill the hole at an angle and ruin all the work. Align their resonance first.”

She opened the vise to accept the block. I moved to a part of the garage where I wouldn’t crash into anything when I fell. She fastened the block, bulbed grain up, and held the pyrite in the crystal rest against the block. She began the Latin chant. Before long, her pitch changed – she knew something was wrong – she looked back at me – I said, “Focus!” – she reached the climax of the ritual.

Arcs of color and peals of sound erupted from the wood and filled the garage. One arc whipped toward me. I caught it neatly on my ring and absorbed it but flopped to the ground, facing away from Melinda. I opened my third eye and relocated it to the back of my neck, so I could watch what was happening.

She was forming shields. Wrong! Make a single shield to hold off the assault, then neutralize the force within!

The leshy had been a difficult foe, thoroughly corrupted and irredeemable, and I thought a branch from his tree would provide both the optimal material and the right store of innate power for a wand. But all that depended on Melinda handing the problem herself, else she would never have a real bond with the implement, and it wasn’t looking good.

Sprays of light poured out of the block of wood and met various iridescent shields she had conjured. But a dark violet beam, like a vile creature’s pseudopod, snuck behind and under the workbench, moving along the ground, rising up behind her. drat it! I prepared the Word of Abjuration and readied my shout. I wanted to give her the chance to overcome the challenge; otherwise, who knew if she’d ever be ready again? Could I risk it?

She began slashing and cutting the tentacle-like arcs. Wrong again! They weren’t grasping, they weren’t the threat, and severing them did nothing to stop them! I muttered the preliminaries to the Word, confident she could not hear them over the grating the corrupted magic made.

The dark violet beam rose and struck like a serpent at the back of Melinda’s neck. I almost got the Word out before the attacker hit an invisible shield. She whirled and pressed the pyrite crystal into the end of the beam. In Latin, she chanted, «By my strength I negate thee, thou has no power over me, thy will is naught next to mine.» Five times she chanted this, and each time the beam faded more and more, until it disappeared and the sound dissipated.

“You can get up now, Dad. Mom taught me how to relocate my third eye a while ago. Caught you peeking while watching for its sneak attack.”

I picked myself up. “Not bad, sweetie. I was about to use the Word of Abjuration.”

“Without your staff?” She whistled; a pause. “So, what was it?”

“A leshy.”

“You’re kidding me. You stopped a leshy – a corrupted one, I assume?”

I held out my hand, and my staff flew into it from across the garage. “Your old man knows a thing or two.”

She stood there, looking at me, her face unreadable. Then I said, “OK. Let’s drill this hole and get the block on the lathe.” I paused, took a breath. “When you’re done, I’ve got to rebuild the house’s eastern wards against the wilds. If you’re interested.”

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Pham Nuwen posted:

Note: We're probably going to have a lot of people trying to figure out how to express non-verbal dialog this week. Be aware that putting your dialog in angle brackets, e.g. <my dad died and i'm sad>, will break the archives. I assume this is largely due to some HTML parser in the archive code, and most other brackets are probably fine, but perhaps an archivist could pop in and give some examples of things that will work.

I just checked my story from week before last and <<double angle brackets>> seem to work fine in the archive.

Search for "By my strength" in

I'll wait for official word though.

e: vvv Word must've changed them like it does smart quotes. Thanks for checking it out.

Admiralty Flag fucked around with this message at 16:05 on Apr 6, 2023

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Like an Open Book
1190 words

“Dr. Gomez, come in here. We’ll get nowhere without talking.”

What the hell? Wilson should be hopped up on enough psi-dampeners to knock out a horse. How’d he Scry me through a solid wall? The warden looks at me, eyebrows scrunched, and shrugs. «Reinforce his dose?» Ugh, receiving him with my Shields charged high was like listening through a fogbank.

The voice rings again from the wall speaker. “They’d only pull me into the rec room for an interview. I’ve already sent two psychometers home with migraines. They need someone who can probe me with verbal talk, no Tapping or Dredging. Who else would they get, without going to Paneuropa, or south of the border?”

The warden breathes a sigh of relief and gestures to the panel. «If you’re ready?»

I walk through the first door. A flash of lust catches me as the warden glances at my legs, then waves of shame radiate off him as his weak «I’m sorry» echoes toward me. Yesterday’s news. Shields to maximum. Deep breath. The mantrap cycles. Through the second door.

I stride into the recommendation room. “You’re quite pleased with yourself,” I say, sitting in the chair opposite Wilson’s. “Showing off like that.”

“Had you worried, didn’t I?”

I begin taking notes. “They treating you well?”

“How’d you get this job, anyway?”

I pull the paper from my folio and hand it to him. “Judge said our relationship was as professional acquaintances; no conflict of interest.”

He scans it, then crumples and throws it into the corner. “That’s fine. Let’s cut building a therapeutic alliance and all that loving bullshit. You’re not here for that anyway.” His sudden crudeness rocks me, though I keep my face a mask – remember, he’s not your colleague anymore; he’s a patient now. “You’re here to do a competency exam. What’dya want to know?”

I write, Subject agitated but apparently compos mentis. “OK, let’s skip the bullshit.” I get the word out right, not too hard, not too soft. “Why’d you do it?”

“Dr. Gomez, I’ll ask you a question. No, wait, it’s part of my answer. When was the last time you dropped all your barriers, I mean, every single one?”

“We’re not here to talk about me.”

“Just think about it. You’ll see where I’m going.”

It must’ve been, what, two years or so since that backpacking vacation with Andi in the middle of nowhere, since we were truly together, body and soul. Took me a day to unwind the last of the bulwarks, and two days to put them back into place. “…It’s been a while.”

He’s nodding. “But you remember what it’s like; I saw the look cross your face: being completely open, vulnerable, and receiving.”

“Even we get that luxury occasionally.” Subject evasive but garrulous. Deflecting while displaying an open demeanor. Changing approach. “What happened that day?”

“You’ve read the police reports, seen the news blasts.”

“I haven’t heard you tell it.”

He laughs; it’s an ugly sound. “Gomez, how do you do this job? You can’t even ask the right loving questions.”

A spark of fire burns in my belly. “What are the right loving questions?” I bark it too fast.

“Mirroring? Or are you genuinely curious? Maybe a little pissed? … Doesn’t matter. We’re cutting out the bullshit, remember? Think. Just jump to it.”

We lock eyes. I’m off my game; I don’t think I could have done that Sherlock Holmes routine and I can’t help but see a colleague in this monster, scratch that, this patient. His smile taunts me.

What does he want to tell me? … Now I’ve got him.

“How’d it feel?”

A broad grin splits his face. “Like catharsis. Every blow I struck was like inverting a pencil and erasing her infidelity, one stroke at a time. Did you know, I dropped as many of my shields as I could? I felt her fear, her pain, her desperation. I was weeping with joy by the end. It was loving magnificent.”

My stylus clatters against the floor.

He chuckles. “Looks like I made an impression. Surely, I’m not the worst case you’ve ever dealt with. It’s not like I killed her.”

I duck to retrieve the stylus, hoping the flush will leave my face. I have to recover my position – honesty, that’ll be my tack. “No, but the others were different. A traumatic brain injury and they went berserk, or they isolated themselves and did their crimes where no one could overhear. You…you were conditioned, trained, someone like me. Why didn’t you ask for help?”

“What if your wife, I met her at that conference in Chicago…Andi’s her name, right? Let’s say Andi struck up a close relationship with her personal trainer, who’s half your age, has a body you never had – even when that young – and you suddenly felt all the lust and shame and guilt and desire pour off her in a moment of truth, all normally hidden and tamped down under the surface, where your and my special conditioning stops us from Reading, for our safety’s sake. Don’t you think you might have a visceral reaction?”

I scoff. “What you had was not a visceral reaction. What you had was a narcissistic outburst, driven by a lack of discipline and empathy and professionalism and common sense, because of your own insecurity. This was jealousy over transient feelings. There wasn’t even an affair—”

“Not yet—”

I know I should stop, but I don’t. “Wilson, you should never have been in this line of work, or at least someone should have seen you going bad long before you went off.” The crime scene photos of his poor wife’s face stare back at my mind’s eye. “You were a menace to her and to society, a rabid animal out of control.”

He hasn’t dropped his gaze. Quietly, he says, “So, you’ve got an inkling of fury in you. Maybe you can understand why I did it. Maybe you’re not so far away from one bad day yourself.”

I take a deep breath before continuing…“You also possibly committed malpractice with your patients. Your recent cases will have to be reexamined. They may not have gotten needed care, or may have received inappropriate treatment.”

“And now she’s back to normal. How quickly that rage fades without the feedback loop of thoughts laid bare. But if you could’ve Read the filthy underbelly of her mind, you’d comprehend—”

Enough! I raise my hands before I realize it. “Dr. Wilson! Do you understand? You’ve done something unspeakable—”


“Good. Now maybe—”

“—Finish your sentence.”

I can’t help but sigh. “You’ve done something unspeakable. You’ve already lost your wife and career. Do you know what type of rehabilitation you’ll endure? It’s likely to include partial lobectomy! Your Teep won’t be just psi-blocked with drugs – it’ll be gone, amputated.”

Wilson starts: a titter at first, then a chuckle, a guffaw. He collapses into laughter for an uncomfortable length of time. Is this a joke to him?

When he finally stops, he wipes tears from his eyes. “My dear Dr. Gomez, I’m praying they do nothing less.”

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


1930 words

gently caress the army went through my head as the explosion tossed me like a rag doll through the second-story window. My hands held tight to Evangeline. Hopefully, she’d been within the shield’s shell, or she'd be done dancing. I tucked into a ball and rolled as the ground rose up to meet me. One, two bounces, and I was on my feet.

My refractor shield had taken the worst of it, saved my rear end once again, but its shell was glowing red-hot as it crash-dumped excess energy, a beacon advertising a target to any and all Squibs in the area. I spared a glance – Evangeline’s go-light was green, she was ready to rock and roll. I hustled to the back of the building to look for an alley to hide in, let my shield shed some juice. It couldn’t have absorbed a flicked cigarette right then.

I turned the corner and stumbled into two Squibs. Thank God they were even laxer than I was. Evangeline’s buttstock gave the first one a perfect smooch right on the jaw, or whatever you want to call its lower face, and stunned it. The other levelled its rifle. I rushed into its space, brushing past its weapon, and drew my knife. They wore kinetoweave, much like ours, but nothing short of reinforced alloy would’ve stopped my monoblade. I stabbed it in the shoulder before Evangeline even drew her lanyard taut, then was wrist-blocked by a forearm chop. That Squib had a move or two, but not enough. I feinted, then got it in the throat, nice big slash. Its buddy had gotten its bearings together and its pistol drawn by then, but I was a wild man and leapt on it, stabbing and hacking. I barely registered the bark of its weapon or the flash in my gut. It went down as fast as the first.

I knew the gunshot would draw attention, so I moved into the alleyway. I made it maybe thirty feet before my legs gave out and I slumped into a doorway. Looked down – blood, and it wasn’t purple. Body armor didn’t take all the blast. I reached into a thigh pocket, pulled out a smart bandage, and slid it under my tunic. There was a sharp bite of cold as it adhered to my gut and sprayed the area with stims, coagulant, and painkillers. Three deep breaths, then time to go.

I took a backward glance before leaving the alcove I had lurched into, then checked again; this second look saved my life. Just before I moved, there was a shriek, a sizzling, and I saw it: a chunk of sand and dirt in front of me was glassed – X-ray laser blast. Someone was shooting, and I didn’t like my odds. A rail-assisted carbine was no anti-sniper weapon; much as I depended on Evangeline, I wasn’t going to get close enough to spray my attacker with microflechettes. Another deep breath. I could’ve taken a peek and gotten the range, then hopped on the net and requested some smartshell-deployed antipersonnel bomblets. Christ only knew how much collateral damage that’d do. Not every Squib had taken up arms against us, though it sure as hell felt like it sometimes.

At least my shield had cooled to indigo now. I wasn’t a clear target anymore. I had a plan.

I snatched a prismatic smoke grenade off my bandolier and rolled it into the alleyway. The reflective particles would do nothing against an x-ray laser, but they’d confound its optics.

I started thinking: Five seconds to deploy a full buffer of smoke, then dash across the alleyway and hop the fence. Lose the sniper’s tracking running through backyards, maybe get an eye on its nest and mark it for the others. Jesus. How the gently caress did I end up in the army? No time, gotta go, stay low…huf huf huf! Now, up and over!

Didn’t hear a shriek that time. Low on charge, or didn’t see me? No matter. Hopefully, I’ll make it through the maze of houses and yards without running into any more unfriendly Squibs – or even civilian Squibs, or their feed animals, or whatever they keep for guard dogs.

My comm interrupted me. “Second squad, fire team B: withdraw to rally point in good order. Provide security for fire team A’s wounded. Third squad: prepare to withdraw from sector 47-Tango.”

I pulled up the map on my lens’ reticle. Sure enough, I was deep into 47-Tango. There was enough background interference I couldn’t get reads on the rest of my squad’s location, but I needed to neutralize that sniper, or it’d get free shots at the rest of us.

I replied, “3B4 to L-T, pinned by sniper, cannot get directionals for arty support. Gonna need a few extra minutes.”

“Hurry your rear end. You better not hold up the next phase.” There was a pause. “Need some covering fire?”

“Thanks, L-T, but I just have to creep around this block, and then I think I’ll have it in my sights.”

“Keep an open channel. I’m watching your vitals.”

“Wilco.” I went on mute. Open channel my rear end.


You’re probably wondering why I’m calling Squibs “it.” I’m not trying to dehumanize them – well, demonize them. They go through lifecycle changes. That’s supposedly the pronoun they prefer for us to use to refer to their neuter stage of maturity. And intel says only neuters bear arms, whether aboveboard or guerilla. They’re also technically Epsilon Eridanians, but I don’t have time to say that under fire. “Squibs” is at least impersonal. I’ve heard my comrades call them words I’d only read about in historical literature, which is doubly ridiculous, considering they’ve got a different array of skin pigmentation than baseline humans.


I waited for my refractor shield to go completely dark, I mean ultraviolet dark, before I slinked around the house and pulled the scope from my breast pocket. I scanned the buildings along the alley. Three stories…some sort of school or a temple? Open windows on the top floor. Couldn’t see anything through them from that angle, but no one would’ve left them ajar in that weather. I could’ve moved under them and thrown a minigrenade or two, but I couldn’t be sure that would neutralize the sniper. Had to do it the hard way. I started making my way through the backyards in the dark, my low-light lenses making it bright as day.

I reached the side door of the building in under five minutes. It was locked, but I was able to pry the bolt with my knife. It was an old, mechanical cylinder lock, not a modern maglock. Jesus, this whole part of town was Squib Poverty, Exhibit A.

I set Evangeline to subsonic muzzle velocity in case there were multiple groups inside and entered. I glided through the hallways on whisper-soft boots, making less noise than the gusts of wind that occasionally whistled through the streets outside. No signs of recent use, whatever its purpose (I still couldn’t tell which of the two the building was), and no signs of anyone. None, that was, until I reached the staircase. My polarized lenses picked up the flicker of an IR laser slashing down across the steps in front of the first landing. I crawled through the opening left by the angled beam. As I looked up the next flight, I saw the projector, as well as the payload of explosives and shrapnel that would have been sent my way had I broken the circuit. This was the place. I moved on.

Two more booby traps circumvented, each crude but cunning, and I was approaching the area with the open window. I could no longer hear the wind; only my pulse pounding in my ears reached me. The hallway…long and dark, open door at the end. It took me forever to edge my way down it, though it must have been less than a minute. I peeked in – someone was kneeling at the window.

I took a minigrenade, pushed the button, and threw it into the room as I ducked behind the wall. The explosion slammed the door all the way open. I pivoted into the doorway, Evangeline at the ready.

There was a Squib there, too young to be neuter. He turned to look, his body shattered by the explosion. He tried to speak. I didn’t know if he managed to say anything; I couldn’t comprehend their language. He started to crawl toward the x-ray laser rifle now resting on the floor by the window. I raised my carbine, finger on the trigger.

His face was hosed up from the wounds, and Squibs’ facial structures were radically different from humans in the first place, but I didn’t need an interpreter to understand his expression. His glare and his slurping, gravelly speech carried the message loud and clear.

Before he had gotten halfway to the weapon, I lowered Evangeline and put her on safe. I took the sniper rifle, tore out the battery, and smashed the scope against the wall a few times until it was useless. He kept trying to speak. I looked at him again, then turned to leave.

I stopped by the door, pulled the last smart bandage out of my pant pocket, and threw it at him. I didn’t even know if it would work on his physiology.

I was out of the sector ten minutes later, having rendezvoused with the rest of my squad at the rally point. We hopped a ride and quickly arrived at the outpost. The rest went their own ways to drink or bathe or puke or whore, but I owed the lieutenant a visit. He was new and expressed concern, so the least I could do was say thanks. As I walked toward Officer’s Country, the artillery began a prolonged fire mission. Looks like someone was in trouble tonight.

I walked into his tent. “Got a minute, L-T?”

He glanced up from his desk. “You finally made it back. We had to push back the next phase a little while, waiting for you to link up with the rest of the squad, but everything’s OK now.” He looked as though seeing me for the first time. “Get to a corpsman for that wound, for Chrissake.”

“I will, but it’ll keep a few minutes. Mostly superficial. Squib didn’t get a straight shot.” I took a breath. “How much longer until you need boots on the ground for the next phase? We able to get a night’s sleep or is it rearm-refit-redo?”

He laughed. “No, you don’t need to do anything in the next phase. It’s all taken care of.” He paused. “You’ll be happy. It means you won’t get gutshot again going back into 47-Tango. No one’s going back in.”


“We are. Selected sectors of the city, including 47-Tango, have been deemed to be too hot and hostile. Word came down from HQ: losses are too heavy, we’re within the rules of engagement for escalation, so we’re blanketing them with button bomblets. It’s a show of force to scare those bastards and the symps supporting them.”

My jaw dropped. My field of vision turned as red as it had been when my refractor field was shedding the first ergs from the explosion, while blood roared in my ears for the second time in an hour. I tried to speak but words wouldn’t come. “What’s up?” he asked.

I was wrong before. That buttstroke Evangeline gave the Squib? It wasn’t perfect. But the one the lieutenant got sure was.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


I'm honored and amazed to have this view from the Blood Throne. Prompt will be forthcoming later today; thanks for your patience, Thunderdomers.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Week 559
Love Me, Love My Pet

They say, "Write what you know."

Well, I'm going to "Have them write what I know," and what I know right now involves a couple of recent months of inconclusive veterinary visits, 2 AM trips to let the pooch into the yard, flailing around with different types of diets, and so on. (Not to worry; she's doing better now.)

I would love to read your story involving a pet, preferably including what it means to your protagonist. However, this does not have to be a pet you actually care for IRL, nor does the pet have to fit the bounds of reality or logic. Your story can range from light and cute to Old Yeller.

Everyone loves to wax poetic about their pets, so for my sanity I need to keep things to 1500 words. You can get 500 more words if you take a flash rule, which will probably either be some characteristic your pet has or some impact it has on your life.

Signups are due by Friday, April 21, 11:59pm PDT.
Submissions are due by Sunday, April 23, 11:59pm PDT.

No political screeds, no fanfic, and for God's sake no erotica.

Admiralty Flag

Sitting Here
Chernobyl Princess (Flash: your pet is a semi-sentient artificial creature)
Antivehicular (Flash: The creature is not actually your pet, for whatever reason.)
Slightly Lions

Admiralty Flag fucked around with this message at 18:53 on Apr 22, 2023

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Chernobyl Princess posted:

In, flash me please

Your pet is a semi-sentient artificial creature.

Edited because of overspecificity.

Admiralty Flag fucked around with this message at 19:10 on Apr 19, 2023

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


The creature is not actually your pet, for whatever reason.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Signups are closed...still looking for one other judge...

Admiralty Flag fucked around with this message at 14:41 on Apr 22, 2023

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Dicere posted:

I'll judge if you need one still.
You're hired; ping me on Discord.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Submissions are closed. Judgment to fall later today, once all three judges have reviewed and pronounced verdicts upon the texts.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Judgment: Week 559
I would like to thank everyone who submitted this week, and let's have a special round of applause for my co-judges, Thranguy and Dicere.

Loser: Slither on the Cross by Mrenda
Dishonorable Mention: a beautiful host by derp
Honorable Mentions: Jack and the Boxes by Slightly Lions; Responsibility by Antivehicular
Winner: Old Pavlova by Copernic

Disqualifications: archduke.iago (late signup, but you'll still get a crit from me); Sitting Here (no-show)

Congratulations, Copernic! The throne is yours!

Crits to come shortly.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Week 559 Crits (Admiralty Flag)

Just a reminder to reach out in Discord and not in the thread if you have questions!

Slither on the Cross - Mrenda: 1/5
Your prose has lots of energy, I have a good picture of your narrator, but your story needs boundaries of some sort. It's like a coked-out version of Portnoy's Complaint minus an effective punchline. It's needlessly vulgar (though I understand that you were character-building with this, but I found it shocking for shock's sake). The pet theme...ahem...barely slithered in. I believe stream of consciousness writing really needs something special to work as a story, and, I'm sorry, I didn't see it here.

Old Pavlova - Copernic: 4/5
You've written a challenging and deft intertwining of fractured vignettes spread over a long timeline. The atmosphere and flavor were distinct in each timeslice, and there was nice worldbuilding in the future scenes (e.g., "waves lapping at Mauna Kea"). The characters were drawn about as well as they could be considering the format. You produced a nice, solid, well-told set of stories braided into a coherent strand, and in doing so, you kept an appropriate focus on the pet and its impact on the people in its life. The only significant criticism I have is your story lacks the emotional heft one would like, not to say that it's totally absent. Naturally, it's more difficult to incorporate this when you've got a series of vignettes rather than a story, but there should be a satisfying emotional "so what" to the whole thing as well, and you come up a little short here.

7 Seconds - archduke.iago: 2/5 - DQed
I applaud your effort to sneak in late, and admire the guts you have to skirt the line on the no fanfic rule. You have a good concept and plan, but it's lacking in the execution. There's a lot of telling instead of showing going on here. You also have a problem with distance in sensory passages (e.g., "The fish felt his psyche pulled from his chest" should usually be "His psyche was pulled from his chest", because the first distances us from the text, and I'm not counting the examples in your "He could see!" paragraph). However, that's not as much of a killer as usual because you're using a 3rd person omniscient narrator, which is itself difficult to pull off well in this day and age, the overall effect of which is I'm disconnected from your story, because I'm being told things are happening rather than getting to experience them more viscerally through the narrator's point of view. Additional comment after checking the archive: A decent effort for an initial TD entrant. Keep at it!

derp - a beautiful host: 2.25/5
You have a clearly drawn, though dislikable, main character, and the bee lady is vivid as well. I thought the italics were too much at first, but then I got into the swing of them, hearing them accentuate the voice of the main character. The July 12th part of the story is fairly deftly told; I had a good feel for her place and the action. It's unfortunate, then, that I think the July 14th and July 17th sections significantly detracted from the whole and made you fail to stick the landing (though I did chuckle a bit at "open up"), and the pet theme barely slid in at the end (in a sharp little scene that was orthogonal to the rest of the story). Overall, I was left wondering if I missed something. Was she supposed to be a literal wasp lady herself spreading her progeny through the neighborhood? (He admired her waist and curves; I thought perhaps this was a reference to a waspish waist.) Had she adopted the social mannerisms of bees? But wasps are natural enemies of bees. Is something bad going to happen to this would-be Don Juan because of these hatching insects?...I was unsatisfied and felt the story was unresolved, which is a shame, because you started off with something strong and vibrant.

Slightly Lions - Jack and the Boxes: 4/5
Delightful yet sad story skillfully told from an unexpected POV. I didn't read with a supercritical eye -- the flavor of the story dissuaded me from getting out a microscope, which is a point in its favor -- but I didn't catch any slips in your narrator's voice or perceptions. Lots of little laughs throughout. You psyched me out in the second section, where I thought the story was going down an even darker path. Your ending is poignant without being maudlin. The simplistic, repetitive phrasing throughout the story isn't detrimental as it would normally be, as it reflects your narrator's POV. A good, solid story that focuses on the week's theme from a different yet appropriate angle while having a strong emotional core. But perhaps the very charm and nature of the story prevents it from being deep and saying anything beyond "pets love us unconditionally" and "breakups hurt everyone, even the dogs."

Beezus - He's Just Spicy: 3/5
Your story brings a strong feeling of mise-en-scène, with vivid descriptions that bring it to life. However, I feel its main weakness is it spends over a third of its word count establishing the superficial reasons why your protagonist 'hates' Grover in the first section, while relegating the real reasons to a short, though effective, passage in the middle of the story. I mean, I see what you're trying to do, but it's a lot of words to get the point across; perhaps the urgent care intro scene might have been better handled by a mid-story flashback interwoven with Nemo's story? I'm not sure of the best solution, but it made the story feel disjointed. The ultimate cause of Grover's issues was worth a chuckle, but also reinforced the theme of your story: pets are unpredictable and uncontrollable. An enjoyable story, but I felt it was ultimately nothing more than a slice of life with a heavy sprinkling of the often paradoxical emotions that go hand-in-hand with pet ownership.

Chernobyl Princess - Cheeto: 3.5/5
One of my biggest TD problems is verbosity, and I'm always impressed when someone with a flash rule comes in under the base word count with a good story. You incorporated the flash rule well, and covered the pet theme thoroughly. Cheeto was well-drawn and distinctive, rather than being a clockwork cat or Sony Aibo or whatever, which was a nice surprise; he reminded me of a factory second drone from the Culture, which I wasn't expecting in these stories. You have nice worldbuilding at the beginning with Gleam; a lot was accomplished there with good economy. However, as we get to the meat of the story, Dan vs. Cheeto is very in-your-face/on-the-nose, and I think you could have leveraged your unused word count to make the conflict a bit more subtle. The climax of the story felt a little forced and out of left field; yet, there was a gleam (get it?) of heart in the reconciliation of the two, but it was a flash and that was over. A competent, well-told tale. It's a little soft at the end, but that's mostly redeemed by the final line. I feel like another pass or so could have really made this shine.

Antivehicular - Responsibility: 4.25/5
I'll start with the gripes. My biggest problem with the story is imagining the ribbon of aquarium stretching throughout the condo. I had some disbelief imagining Henry had problems finding other people besides Al to watch Snappy, considering he's well-known and liked at the store, but I can set that aside. The nature of the estrangement begged belief with the ask (five years of silence, then watch my fish?), but you at least covered well on Leslie's side with her understandable wish to do anything to reopen lines of communication with her son. With those out of the way, I'll start by acknowledging the flash rule and pet theme were front and center throughout the story. Interesting questions were raised throughout and, if not answered, addressed later (e.g., where was Henry? Why contact his mother?). We see character development on the part of the mother as those mysteries are lifted and as her presuppositions are challenged. The whole story holds together, is well-told, checks all the boxes, and tells us a lot about its two characters, one of whom doesn't even appear directly in the text. I think that if I hadn't had to have stretched so far to believe some of the things at the beginning, I would have loved the story all the more.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In, and hope that things are going well for you and your kid, Chili

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


A Lovely Light
997 words

Friday, 5:37pm, DFW, heading to O’Hare

Flight’s delayed…again. New arrival: 9:48pm – if nothing else goes wrong.

Saturday, 8:22am, on the El train

Picked Margarita up; no arguing with her mother. Headed downtown now to go to the zoo. Would’ve been easier to drive but it’s such a nice day…ah hell. “Sweetie, don’t put your mouth on that. People’ve been grabbing that bar all day.”

“Sorry, Daddy.”

Gotta calm myself. That was snippier than needed.

Three stops later, we’re off the El and heading for the stairs down from the platform. “Look, there’s peacocks!”

“Pigeons, sweetie. I see them.”

She stops. “They’re pretty.”

“I guess they are, in their own way.” Just then, one of them squirts a blast of white birdshit onto the platform. She laughs. I do too, decorum be damned. I lead her by the hand around the micropuddle and down to the bus stop. She’s still giggling.

The #22 pulls up, and we get on. I’m ransacking my pockets trying to find my Ventra card, while she says to the bus driver, “We saw a peacock poop by the train!”

He chuckles, then looks at me fumbling and says, “Don’t worry about it, just go on back.” I nod my thanks and lead Margarita to a seat. I point out landmarks as we drive to Lincoln Park Zoo, then I lift her up so she can yank the stop-pull without putting her feet on the bench. We hop off.


After seeing the animals and eating lunch, we’re back downtown. We stop in a 7-11 to get some water. Margarita sees some gummy worms; I give in. Outside the store is a homeless man. She shakes the package in front of him, showing off her treat. I snatch them out of her hand and throw them in a garbage can, pulling her away with a muttered, “Sorry.”

The El ride home starts off silent. She’s sad, near tears. I’m furious with myself. It was a snap decision, jeez, should I have thrown them away? I should’ve given the guy $5 or something. I breathe until I’m calm, then softly talk with her. I apologize, then start to explain why what she did was rude.

I’m an idiot. She’s just shy of five. She had no idea he was homeless. She doesn’t even know what homeless means! I navigate the explanation as best I can, apologize once more, and tell her I’ll make it up to her tonight. I think she’s mollified.

My boss texts me two stops from my three-flat: “Look at my email.” Ugh.

Margarita’s tired, so off to her nap. I am too, but I check the email and pound out the needed answers in an hour, just in time for her to wake up. We play Chutes and Ladders (she doesn’t even count the dice out loud anymore), she rides her balance bike (“Whee!” she shouts), then it’s dinner time. I order Chinese, her favorite. She’s overjoyed, and all would be forgiven if it hadn’t already been forgotten. A couple of classic Spongebobs, which she loves, then bath time, and I’m reading books with her. Her precociousness pleases me. I wonder how well I’d relate to a child who wasn’t gifted. Then, I put the thought out of my head, because I don’t love her for her mind; I love her because she’s my daughter. She gets – and gives – an extra big hug tonight.

I work until about ten fixing the other, less-sensitive crises my boss sent me. Then, I pick up my phone to check for Tinder matches, but put it down. What’s my value proposition? “Available Sunday nights, and possibly Friday nights – if my flight’s not late?” I’ll read for about an hour, then off to bed.

Sunday, 5:51am

Margarita’s shaking me awake. “What’s wrong, sweetie?” I’ve fallen asleep on the couch with the book on my chest.

“I had a bad dream!”

I hug her. “It’s OK, sweetie. I’m here now. What was it about?”

“You and Mommy were yelling at each other and there was screaming and fighting.”

“Well, we don’t fight and yell anymore, right?”

“…Not much.” Her look shows how weakly-held her answer is. I reassure her some more. Then, because she’s wide awake, I stretch my aching back and decide to get up and make breakfast: eggs and bacon, with frozen English muffins toaster-defrosted, just like every Sunday morning we don’t go out to eat. I slam two double espressos, handle a couple of quick emails, and tromp down the back stairs at a decent hour to wash clothes. We spend some more time together, then head to a matinee about Buzz Lightyear, stopping at Chipotle on the way back, where I refill my Coke twice. I’m running solely on caffeine, and – gently caress – I’ve got to be up at 4:45am to make my flight.

We head home. Margarita rides her balance bike again – she’s almost ready for a real one – then we argue about her nap. I finally play the “Because I said so” card, and she stomps off to her room.

I finish two more work tasks, then sigh and switch to my personal account. I bang out an email to my ex-wife, almost every word a lie: “Due to shifts in my travel schedule and client demands, I need to change the visitation arrangement. I won’t be able to take Margarita every weekend anymore, and will need to switch to every other weekend. This should be temporary, and hopefully we can agree to this without going to court. We can discuss tonight if needed.”

I’m about to hit send when Margarita bursts out of her room. “I had a bad dream! Emperor Zurg wanted to kidnap you and Mommy!”

It’s no fake; the tears are real. drat movie. I throw my arms around her, squeezing her tightly. “Go sit on the couch, sweetie. I’ll be right there.”

My mouse pointer still hovers over send. I move it and click to close the window.

Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Moment of Glory
1486 words

This…this was a forlorn hope. The pilot barked, “Tactical analysis, Jiminy.”

The AI’s voice filled the fighter’s cockpit. “Inbound wave of twenty small enemy craft. Fuzzy scans, but there’s a cloud of signatures behind them. Odds are we’re looking at agility fighters tasked to destroy our combat air patrol, then scrub point defenses off the Resolute. Second group would be torpedo boats waiting for their fighter jocks to finish.”


“CIC is flashing that the main fighter group is engaged and too far away to arrive in time. But there’s some good news, Thunder. Reserves are on deck on Ready Five status.”

Thunder looked at the scope, saw the swarm of red blips. “That’ll be a long five minutes.” The leader of the combat air patrol – a mere four fighters – had already given the order to disperse and engage with the intent to delay. “Jiminy, I want to bracket the nearest two tangos with two missiles each when they get into optimal range. At the least, we can break up their formation.”

“I’m computing our odds for survival to be very low.”

Thunder’s palms were sweating in his gloves. “Jiminy, we’ve flown together for a long time. I trust you. I hope you trust me. We can do this.”

The ghost of a pause. “I trust you. To clarify mission parameters: is the utmost priority the preservation of the Resolute?”

“Affirmative. Lots of pilots planning on landing there today with nowhere else to go.”

“Then I suggest you engage overrides 1A through 4C. The final condition of our fighter won’t matter – either we’ll have completed our mission, in which case we’ll be rescued, or we’ll be shot down. And with five-to-one odds, we’re going to need every edge we can wring out of this craft.”

Thunder answered by flipping three rows of switches. “All breakers and safeties off. You’ll take care of me?”

“I promise I will. About to enter engagement range. Prepare for high-g maneuvering. Injecting cocktail.” At this, air bladders inflated to keep blood from pooling in Thunder’s legs and feet while needles pierced his skin and the cold flood of drugs plunged into his bloodstream. He gasped.

The AI said, “They’ve launched their missiles, too early for positive hits, but I’m going to engage neural link and direct retinal projection as you’re going to have to get aggressive with the controls.”

Thunder pulled the stick back and looped away from the enemy wing of five fighters as an opaque visor lowered and a tactical schematic appeared in his vision. A heavy weight pressed on his chest as several Gs of acceleration kicked in. A minute later, he had outfoxed or outrun all the missiles, and he turned back toward the wing. Already queasy. Bad sign.

Launching missiles, the AI voice said, now inside Thunder’s head. His weapons tracked his targets, each flanked by two missiles approaching on oblique courses. Both tangos turned sharply away as he screamed toward the others. He had to take down those three before the other two came back.

He veered in, turned ninety degrees left and down, and hit the thrusters for a high burn, again squashing himself into his seat. His opponent misread his intent and missed turning to an intercept vector. Thunder roared off, then flipped his fighter and rocketed in from an oblique angle for a deflection shot. The two pulse cannons on either side of his cockpit fired and fired again. The other pilot panicked and attempted to fly directly away – just as Thunder hoped. He walked the bursts into the engine of the easily-tracked enemy, and within seconds his target was dead in space.

His stomach went into his throat as the fighter rolled and looped. Nice shooting, Thunder, but I had to take over for a second. His buddies almost had you lined up. Returning manual control, but you’ve got two off your starboard rear quarter. Also, status report: one of the tangos outran both of our missiles, but the other was apparently damaged by one of them.

“Well, drat, we might just be able to pull this off, Jiminy. Have you analyzed their approach pattern?”

They are— The voice of the AI was cut off as the fighter rocked. There was a shock in Thunder’s skull. Stand by—

“Jesus, Jiminy, report!”

An eternity passed in five seconds as he rolled, looped, and swerved his craft. The pain in his chest increased as the Gs weighed on him. He was straining himself; the maneuvering was taking a toll on him – much earlier than usual.

Apologies, we took a hit, which knocked some of my core systems offline momentarily. Thunder, to get these two in front of us, we’ll have to perform a Rorsim maneuver.

“All yours, buddy. Take care of me during my nap.” Thunder barely felt the fighter shuddering as maneuvering jets flared at full along with the thruster, pivoting almost in place, then everything was black.

Several explosions rocking the ship woke him as they flew near an expanding fireball off the port quarter. Thunder could barely pull the stick for weakness. Gs were tough today. “Status, Jiminy?”

You were unconscious for approximately twenty seconds. I’ve pumped you full of stims. We took some deflection fire from the wingman before I went erratic, but you can see his buddy gradually filling space.

“I’m going to circle back and get the wingman now.”

Belay that plan, Thunder. The one that ran from the missile is coming into engagement range. Turn to seventy-five mark forty and prepare to close the circle on him.

“Got him, just need a little more time. Kicking throttle to full.” An elephant was now standing on Thunder’s chest. He was having trouble keeping the stick straight…but straight enough to finish this bastard. “…Firing.”

Pulses of coruscating energy flew from the fighter and stitched across the enemy, until the schematic view in Thunder’s eyes showed an ejection.

Cannons running red-hot, Thunder. Keep firing, and we might blow them out.

“We don’t keep firing, and we’re dead anyway.”


Thunder looped, turned into a dive directly toward the remaining fighter, and almost vomited from the maneuver. “Jiminy, more antiemetics!” Drugs flushed into his veins.

His opponent pulled its nose up toward him and let loose with bursts of coherent particle packets, shaking his craft with their explosions, but Thunder only had to endure a few seconds of that violent gauntlet before he blew his target to pieces with a shout of joy.

As he pointed the fighter’s nose toward the other patrol fighters to assist his comrades, Jiminy’s voice jumped into his head. Thunder, I can’t believe this, but their torpedo boats are starting attack runs.

“That’s suicide!”

True, but some will get through if we don’t stop them.

“Engage an intercept vector. I’m still woozy from the gravity hammer KO you hit me with on the Rorsim maneuver. I need a moment, and this approach is going to take something out of me.” Thunder laid back and closed his eyes until Jiminy announced the fighter had reached the torpedo boats and a schematic view of their formation filled his sight. Wracked by exhaustion and pain, he took back the controls as he slammed into the flotilla. Falling among them as an angel of death, he spread blasts and exploded torpedoes in their tubes. At long last, craft after ruined craft in his wake, his finger clicked on a firing stud that did nothing.

Cannons have burnt out, Thunder.

“That’s OK… Jiminy, I’m not doing well after all that maneuvering.”

Rest, Thunder. I’ll get you back to the Resolute. I promised I’d take care of you.

“That you did. Just need a nap…”


The Commander (Air Group) commed the Search and Rescue shuttle. “What’s the status? Thunder still alive in there?”

“Can’t get close enough to tell, sir. Too much radiation. It’s reading 780 kiloretts on the fighter’s surface. We can see him in the cockpit, but he’s got to be cooked alive. Must’ve overridden the safeties on the reactor for performance’s sake.”

“I’ll assume that means no salvage either. OK, move on to the next fighter.” The CAG switched off the communicator and turned to the captain. “No way was he pulling off some of those maneuvers by himself. The Gs would have knocked him out, especially with radiation sickness. In fact, his AI must’ve been fighting the last part of that battle for him given his condition. Still, he – they – got all five fighters he was tasked with, better than the rest. Never seen flying like that.”

The captain nodded. “It was all a damned close thing. If those torpedo boats had decided to attack, it would have cost them dearly, but they might have had our number.”

The CAG barely heard the captain. “I knew Thunder was good, but this…what do you think goes through someone’s mind when they’re fighting like that?”


Admiralty Flag
Jun 7, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


For me, the losertar was not an impediment to entry (<-- obviously), but it does mean I'm going to be very careful about any avatar purchase I make in the future so long as I do TD.

I have some other ideas/discussion points I'll send via PM as this is a directed question you asked.

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