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Messages - Baron

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1
@ Mandle:  Sorry for not being more clear.  Let's look at this in more detail:

...I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road past the point I am able to follow it beyond, and yet, somehow, I do follow it.

Yeah, so I did understand it, after a second reading.  So it is understandable.  I think it's just needlessly complex, which I found initially confusing.  He's chasing the ball down the sloping road, that much is obvious.  But then past the point I am able to follow it beyond.  Would a kid really think that?  Kids think they can do anything, so it's not a matter of being able.  A kid would probably think in terms of being allowed.  And you've swapped subjects and objects mid-sentence:  The ball I was chasing is the subject, but then I am able to follow it makes the ball the object.  And the beyond bit....  That's just extra complexity and most un-kid-like.  I would just say past the point I am able to follow it.  And then you contradict the complicated fact that he is not able to pass beyond the point by stating that he manages to anyway.  What?!  I think breaking the whole idea into simpler sentences, each with a distinct function and more kid-like vocabulary would have made the scenario set-up cleaner and stronger.  Something like:
 
Quote
The ball I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road.  It passes the point I am not allowed past.  Yet somehow... I do follow it.

Still 26 words. ;-D

Anyway, I guess it's more of a stylistic preference, but that's my two cents.

2
Alrighty then.  After careful tabulation of the results I see a two-way tie for first and a three-way tie for second, even with extra votes and points factored in.  I therefore enact my right as contest administrant to bust this tie up, old school style! :=

So the contenders for first place are Mandle and Frodo with six votes each, including their bonus point for voting.  Mandle's work got five separate votes for best overall, but I refuse to allow myself to be swayed by popular opinion. :P  Frodo's piece had a much stronger character element, and several mentions for great word choice.  I thought Mandle's was the cleverer story, but for me it loses the lustre of perfection due to the awkward sentence that starts it.

...I was chasing bounces on down the sloping road past the point I am able to follow it beyond, and yet, somehow, I do follow it.

To be honest, it was because of this sentence that I had to read the work twice to really feel that I understood it.  I know as a writer you are really painted into a corner here with few words to set up a whole scenario, but I feel that Mandle tried to economise a bit too much here and lost some of us readers.  On the flip side, the concept was brilliant and the execution, besides the first sentence, was inspired.  The last sentence was simply haunting!

Frodo's story had great emotional intensity, and I liked how she dripped out the character development so that you only really understood the depth of the love felt by "him" for "it" by the end.  The one draw back for me, however, was the last sentence.

Now his death is on my hands! 

It just kills the pathos I was feeling for this clearly grief-struck character.  She's already recognized that his death is because of her.  Repeating this detail in the most important slot of a very short story seems to imply an egocentricism that I didn't detect through the rest of the piece.  It seems to cheapen her feelings of guilt.  But otherwise fantastic story!

So...  Eeny meeny miny oh heck let's just say Frodo wins!  For your trouble you receive the golden "to the point" trophy of succinct awesomeness!     

So let's sort out this mess at second.  Mandle's in for sure at 6 votes, but KyriakosCH, Stupot, and CaptainD all had 5 votes and I feel obliged to vote for one of them to break the tie (I'm counting Stupot's runner up vote for CaptainD if anyone's having a hard time following my math). 

I liked the puzzle concept of KyriakosCH's work, but I had a hard time following the logic.  Sure, it's possible that an unhindered rook could move 7 spaces sideways, or seven spaces front or back.  But it can't move to 14 unique places from each of those spaces as a second move, due to the fact that other pieces must mathematically block its progress (certainly your own king and the second rook, but also the implied bishops and perhaps other pieces).  This for me makes the connection between the clue and the rook less certain, somewhat spoiling the puzzle for me.  The sense of indecision and hopelessness at the end also detract from the story's potential power as a clever riddle to be solved.

Stupot's creepy horror story worked for me as either a time-warp-inevitability or a cyclical-serial-murder-place.  Bringing the camera as almost an afterthought really made the rest of the story work.  The real-life plausibility of it adds to the power of the story.

CaptainD's story had a degree of emotional intensity that was lacking in the other second place finalists, but the cliché ending just killed it for me.  C'mon!  We all know it's hard: toss me a bone to chew over as I contemplate their predicament. ;)

So I guess I'm voting for Stupot, bringing him up to tie Mandle with six votes.  So to the two of you I present the coveted silver trophy of brevity.  

Which means KyriakosCH and CaptainD share the bronze trophy of shortness!  

Congratulations to all the winners!

Some quick thoughts on the other entries:

Mandle II: Buzz...  Er, actually I don't actually have any thoughts on this one.  Great gag entry, though! :P

Mandle III: The Other Dolphin...   So I got that he was a serial killer being executed and that he was in his happy place for the final moment.  The ending was powerful, being his final thought in this life.  But... did he think he was a dolphin?? (roll)

SilverSpook: Feetshot Hilarious, despite the lamentable state of online interactions between youth these days that it portrays.  But... it seemed like aLpHaBruh was banned for being outed as a gayish incel hypocrite instead of for his abusive language toward the implausibly tolerant internet female?  I'm not sure if that's social commentary on the hopelessness of achieving civil interactions on a chat stream or if you're challenging the relevance of modding at all.  Anyway, the confused message seems to have cost you votes this time.

Sinitrena: Bear Your own comments show that you own the cliché.  But, what if it was the bear dreaming of being a sweaty human all along...? ;)

WHAM: Brevity  Not enough love for this entry. :undecided:  It was an awesome attempt to portray the confusion of battle in an action-packed 144 words.  If only your contest adminstrant had the foresight to invoke a Most Intense category....  Maybe Stupot's time warp murder SD card could help us out with that.  What could possibly go wrong? ;-D

Wiggy I: Is the Glass Half Full, or Half Empty? I appreciated the philosophical perspectives, but not quite a story.  Was the trailing off into drunken utilitarianism just a comment on the absurdity of over-thinking something?  In the end I think it was a bit too esoteric for garnering votes from the masses.

Wiggy II: Climate Change - The Real Cause This struck a chord with a couple people.  It certainly conveys a powerful message, but I think the reasoning is a bit simplistic (Malthus's followers are still waiting for the "inevitable" population crash 200 years on....).  Consider this: if you are one of the seven billion mouths that need feeding then you're part of the problem.  Given that humanity has yet to "solve" its overpopulation problem, but that solving it is certainly the desired solution (the alternative being the problem solving us), it stands to reason that the best shot humanity has is bringing fresher minds to the problem through a massive all-out around-the-clock propagation effort! :=

So that's it for me as contest administrator.  I've spent all my power at the height of my glory, like some kind of salmon way up the creek.(roll)  We turn now to Frodo to take us into the next round.  I look forward to seeing you all back, with friends in tow, for the next exciting instalment of....

The Fortnightly Writing Competition!!!!

3
So that's a wrap folks.  Get your scorecards out 'cause voting might get a bit complicated this time! :P ;-D :undecided: :~( :=

Let's start off with our entrants, in alphabetical order:

CaptainD: Okay, it's been forever since I entered one of these so here goes...
Frodo: Curse of the Moon
KyriakosCH: 196
Mandle I: The Ball
Mandle II: Buzz...
Mandle III: The Other Dolphin...
SilverSpook: Feetshot
Sinitrena: Bear
Stupot: Something Dark
WHAM: Brevity
Wiggy I: Is the Glass Half Full, or Half Empty?
Wiggy II: Climate Change - The Real Cause

That's twelve entries.  That's almost exactly 123 words, depending on how you count.  Whoa..... (roll)

So voting.  Read this carefully so there won't be any confusion later on.  Votes are to be cast for entries, not for authors.  As this runs somewhat against our usual conventions in this competition I will accept votes for authors as implying that you are voting for their least popular work, unless you specifically specify which work of the author's you are voting for (e.g. Mandle III).

Also, by convention when we have five or more entries we allow multiple votes per category for those of us who see merit in multiple entries and just can't make up our minds.  You are under no obligation to cast multiple votes per category, but be aware that each vote carries the same weight regardless of how many votes a given voter casts so, heck, you might as well spread the love around.  Usually we just have two votes per category, but if you write your reasons out I will accept three due to the large number of entries.

Finally, as an experiment to incentivize voting this round you will receive one bonus vote for each of your entries if you bother to show up to vote.  Theoretically this will completely balance out.  Theoretically.... ;)

The categories for voting this round are:

Best Character: the character that most seized your imagination, for good reasons or bad.
Best Word Choice: which story got the most mileage out of each individual word?
Best Overall: which story combined the above categories but also had great atmosphere, entertainment value, heart-string tuggery, etc?

Finally, voting will extend to Friday August 10, 2018, partly because we have a lot of stories to read through, but mostly because I'm off camping and won't be around to close the competition until then.  Good luck to all entrants, and happy reading everyone! ;-D

4
About thirty-six hours to go!  We've got an astonishing 12 entries so far, and something resembling 8 entrants. ;-D  But I think we can beat that with a surge of last minute entries.  Get typing, folks!

5
I'm not so sure.  Consider this (possibly) ficticious voting card:

Best Whatsamajigger: I vote for Mandle II
Best Voice Modulation Through the Use of Fonts: Gotta be Frodo
Best Serifs: A tough one, but I'm going with Mandle's first
Best Contrary Opinion: Easily Frodo by a mile.
Best Use of Dim Sum in a Diversion Very close, but I have to give it to Mandle by a nose hair.

Mandle gets three votes, and Frodo gets only two.  Is it unfair because Mandle had more chances?  Not with the new Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism! ;-D  In this scenario Mandle's votes are split three ways between his first, second, and third entry (because the last vote was unspecified, it goes towards his least popular story).  Frodo wins!  The crowd goes wild!  Rhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! :-D :grin: ;-D :cheesy: 8-) := (roll)

But wait, there's more!  The new Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism also slices and dices!  It saves hours of food prep time.  And look, no more pesky rinds and leftovers: the Baronic Uber GeVoteschaft Mechanism digests them into a futuristic bio-fuel cum soylent green product!  It simultaneously feeds the starving and prevents overpopulation!  Teapot dictatorships the world over are ordering them by the thousands, so don't delay.  Buy now! :=

6
Where are all the double entries when we set the 3000 word limit, I wonder? ;)

I'm going to allow double and triple entries, but NO QUADRUPLES! I'm not putting up with that bullshit.  >:( ;-D

However, this is slightly going to complicate the voting process.  If voters specify which particular story by that author they are voting for that's fine, but if I get any unspecified votes for an author then that vote will be automatically assigned to that author's less popular story.  Agreed?

Well, it doesn't matter if you agree or not, because this is a dictatorship!   The only way to topple me is to type like you have huntsman spiders grafted on to your wrists instead of hands.  Well, that and not vote splitting. :)

Four more days!

7
Sweet!  Four entries and we're only half-way to the deadline. ;-D 

A few teensy weensy little issues with the format:

@SilverSpook: Nice twisting of the intent of the rules, you extra-word sneaker-inner you!;)  But even according to your own logic and the strictest interpretation of the rules, you still have only 143 words. :P

@Wiggy: This is trickier....  Do I count the word "Now!"?;)  My word count program tells me you have 146 words even without it, probably due to your isolated dashes (and the 145 spaces that they create :P).  Traditionally they wouldn't be counted as words, true, but the spaces Wiggy!  You were the one who hounded me for specific clarification! ;-D

In all seriousness, I think intent to meet the rules is more important than strictly following them, so I'll allow both entries as they stand.  A few quick space-bar or back-space edits would make them conform anyway.  I had even more deep and insightful things to say, but my son tells me it's time to play lego so I'll have to leave it at that.

One more week! 

8
I will count a consecutive series of digits and symbols as one word.  So 2018 and 3.14159265359 would be counted as one word.  Even the words, if hyphenated, would count as only one word (i.e. nineteen-fifteen).  Lets think of it this way: you only get 143 spaces. ;)

9
Beautiful Brevity



Brevity is beautiful in writing.  Every word is carefully chosen and curated to have the maximum impact.  There's no beating around the bush, no redundancy, and certainly no eight-paragraph descriptions of the furnishings (back in the grave with you, zombie Charlotte Bronte!).

This fortnight we are writing shorter than usual stories.  Well, in most cases anyway.....(roll)  You are free to write about any topic or genre that you want, but your submission must meet the following criteria:

Be exactly 144 words. This includes titles. Hyphenated or contracted words only count as one.  Be creative to meet the limit!
Be submitted by Sunday August 5, 2018.  No exceptions: it's only 144 words!

We will be voting in the following categories:

Best character: Quite a challenge, given there's not much room for actions or descriptions.  See what you can do!
Best word choice: getting the most mileage out of each individual word is the hallmark of a successful short story.
Best overall: Which story combined the above categories but also had great atmosphere, entertainment value, heart-string tuggery, etc?

Remember that deadline is August 5.  Don't forget.  August 5. (nod) 

August 5th.

August 5th....

August 5th...........


10
Thanks Sinitrena! ;-D
        I also want to thank everyone in the academy who voted for me.  And my wife and kids for all their support over the years.  And Mr. Puckle, who works as my agent for tax purposes despite only being a fat old cat.  And mostly I want to thank you, my die hard fans, for all of your ceaseless and unconditional worship. :=  It is truly all the caring people around me that have made this great success possible.
        So in wrapping up my acceptance speech, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart:

    All your trophies is belongs to me!!1!

        I'll try to get the next comp up and running as soon as Mr. Puckle gets I get a half-decent idea. ;)

11
Entirely hypothetical scenario, of course, but couldn't one entry win all three trophies? :=

12
Oh, I wouldn't be too sure that it would sound better. (roll)  I had this weird idea that a spaceman would meet a wizard and have mutually incomprehensible conversations, but my story has gone drastically off-course! :shocked:  However it turns out, it *should* be in by the deadline.

edit:

A Complexity of Errors

   “Captain's log, stardate 38204.8.  Navcon reports that the Millenium Manatee remains on course.  Revised ETA on Procyon 6 is 14.24 standard rotation periods due to an unexpectedly favourable ion wind.  Sensors report no debris obstructions within range on the current course.

   Lifecon reports all systems stable with no alerts or flags.  O2 levels measure 87.4 rotations per capita, food rations at 43.1 rotations per capita, and water at 62.0 rotations per capita at standard rations.  The ship therefore continues to comply with exo-plantary human transport regulation 243-B for the safe and humane transport of carbon-based life.  Lifecon verifies that the crew continues to consist of 1 sentient with ancillary microbiome. 

   Securicon reports all systems green.  Cargo is intact and inviolate. 

   Syscon reports continued feedback in the lateral oscillation stabilizer, resulting in a net drag effect of 0.0042 VPU.  Syscon continues to classify this error as a Cat 1 alert necessitating maintenance  within the next 300 parsecs or 100 rotations, whichever comes first.  Syscon reports all other electro-mechanical systems pass muster.  Remaining fuel is listed at 29.3 rotation equivalents based on current average usage or 2.06 times the logged itinerary, well within safety parameters for a journey of this length in the near-field systems.

   Funcon reports that this mission is a 36 day snooze-fest and prescribes the immediate raiding of the emergency tequila stores.  End log.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   “Captain's log, stardate 38206.0.  I think I've just missed the mandatory log-window by a couple minutes.  No doubt that nerg-sucking glutto-toad Perkins from Compliance will be crawling up my ass about that.  He'll probably spot the anomaly and listen through the actual logs, which means I'll get dinged also for breach of professional protocol.  The bad news is I will almost certainly lose my bonus, which sucks astromoose balls.  The good news is that I can now slack off on the logs without consequence!  So fuuuuuuuuuck you, Perk-twat!

   Navcon reports that the Millenium Manatee is still slower than a camel shit comet at aphelion.  Revised ETA is 15.2 days due to interstellar granule clouds blowing in on that shifting ion wind.  Adjusting course by 0.035 should keep us ahead of it as long as the wind holds, but sensors indicate a denser debris field coming into range behind it.  Its uncharted, so we're logging its coordinates for upload to system nav-charts when we're back in data range.  Nanny Navcon is already suggesting we cut and run in the opposite direction, but we'll show her how the big boys ride their rockets.

   Lifecon reports all systems stable as a fossilized wax museum.  Our little detour shouldn't affect our 243-B status.  Lifecon verifies that I'm still alive and ticking all by myself.  Thanks for that, Lifecon.

   Securicon reports that the cargo has been tampered with by a dirty old man in a back alley.  No, wait – that's a misread.  Securicon reports all systems green.

   Syscon reports continued feedback in the lateral oscillation whatsamijigger, which is therefore still slowing us down by an infinitesimal amount.  Apparently we should get that fixed at some point, if it's not too expensive or inconvenient.  All other systems are good.  Fuel's good.  Everything's good out here.

   Except for Funcon.  Funcon says there's a red alert in the anti-gravity lock that requires immediate dousing with a fire-extinguisher in zero G.  I'm going to grab some more emergency liquor rations and go investigate.  End log.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

    “Captain's log, stardate 38206.9.  Situational code is now yellow.  Navcon has miscalculated the speed of uncharted debris field due to accelerating ion winds.  Outer granule cloud is now within 500 000 km and closing quickly, necessitating evasive manoeuvres that will void our registered itinerary.  Code yellow has been beamed on all emergency channels to alert surrounding vessels.  Navcon now calculates that the only safe course is to run in front of the storm until it diminishes.

   Lifecon reports all systems stable.  Final course is now unknown, which will breach 243-B unless a new course to Procyon can be determined within 36 hours.  The stores should hold out just fine, though, unless this turns into a month long detour.

   Securicon reports all system green.

   Syscon reports slightly augmented drag from the lat oscillation stabilizer.  Syscon now classifies this error as a Cat 2 alert necessitating maintenance within the next 100 parsecs.  Syscon reports all other electro-mechanical systems pass muster.  Remaining fuel is listed at 26.9 rotation equivalents based on new increased speed.  Syscon calculates that we can run at this speed for 18 days before it will have to implement emergency fuel conservation protocols.  If it comes to that someone from the depot will have to meet me half-way or I'll slug-out somewhere beyond the outer belts.

   I'm taking Funcon off-line for a bit while we deal with this ion storm.  End log.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

    “Captain's log, stardate 38207.4.  Situational code is now red.  Navcon reports no let-up to the ion winds driving the debris field toward us, and Syscon reports increased drag from the malfunctioning lat-os stabilizer up to 0.032 VPU.  That's a Cat 4 error now with enough drag to bring us below the speed of the debris field, which is closing now to 480 000 km.  Code red has been beamed on all emergency channels to alert surrounding vessels.

   Automanual suggests ditching the cargo to increase velocity, but it doesn't make any mention of Dalian losing his shit on me in that scenario.  Plus it doesn't solve anything if we slow down even further due to the deteriorating lat-os stabilizer.  I'm thinking all that dead mass back there might be a good buffer between the command module and the particle storm if it comes to riding this sucker out, so the cargo stays for now.

   Lifecon tells me we have just shy of 24 hours to get a plausible new course logged before we violate 243-B and get anal-probed by the ASA.  Since Navcon calculates I'm going to get anal-probed by this debris storm in about 10 days at current rates anyway, I'm not sure how much sympathy I have for the Compliance division getting the glowing rod while bent over their nice safe desks back home.  Still, altruism dictates that I try to think up a way to get us all out of this predicament.

   When prompted, Automanual says there's about a 70% chance the lat-os stabilizer has blown a phase capacitor.  It's a bit of an old hack, but I've heard that you can temporarily fix that by jacking in a plasma-based potentiator to carry the load.  We've got several redundant potentiators supporting the weapons array, so I'm seriously contemplating a bit of a spacewalk to practise my mechanical talents.  That's a huge breach of protocol leaving the command module unmanned, so I'm going to have to take Securicon temporarily off-line.  It wouldn't like losing the weapons capacity anyway.  End log.”


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

***405 UNAUTHORIZED ERROR: MAIN POWR FAILURE TO SECURICON SYSTEM.***
Error logged at 38207.53.
Emergency battery supply to security control systems initiated. 
Battery listed at 98%.
Approximate time to emergency system hibernation is 42.8 hours. 
Proximate cause inferred to be failure of connecting cable 64231A. 
Power logs and maintenance logs indicate no equipment abnormalities. 
Panel logs and personnel logs indicate crew member ID 00001 in recent proximity to 64231A.
Processing........
Probability of sabotage computed at 75%.
Protocol NS302 initiated.
End log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   “Captian's log, stardate 38207.6.  I seem to have triggered some kind of autopilot protocol which has shut down my remote access to the con panels and locked me in the engineering store cabin.  My guess is the Securicon has a built-in backup battery that wasn't listed in the Automanual.  Fucking paranoid security spooks and their jumpy little programs.  Now I'm completely blind and I've got something like 19 hours left to patch the lat-os stabilizer without systems help.  As I just grabbed my tools for the spacewalk at least all is not lost.  I'm going to try cutting the main systems cable to disable Securicon in this section, then blow out from an emergency hatch manually.  As long as I stay in contact with the ship using a grounding tether I should be safe from the polyshield that Securicon uses as its primary close-range defence.  Once I fix the lat-os stabilizer I will reinsert manually via the same hatch and attempt an emergency reboot of the system.  If everything goes right that should save our asses from the fire.  If not, Health & Safety rep Vlorg is going to have one hell of a bad day next Monday morning.  End log.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

***403 FORBIDDEN: UNAUTHORIZED RUPTURE OF SECURICON CONTROL PATHWAYS***
Error logged at 38207.62.
Primary control pathway breached in sector 4.
Systems control loss critical.
Emergency wireless contact with remote communications relay pending.....
504 error: gateway timeout.
Reinitiating.....
504 error: gateway timeout.
Reinitiating.....
504 error: gateway timeout.
Processing.....
Proximate cause inferred to be failure of connecting cable 92468F.
Power logs and maintenance logs indicate no equipment abnormalities.
Panel logs and personnel logs indicate crew member ID 00001 in recent proximity to 92468F 
Processing........
Probability of sabotage computed at 99%.
Protocol NS308 initiated.
End log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   Captain's log, stardate 38207.8.  Situation is double red.  I had to scrub the spacewalk when Securicon started sniping at me with the rear flux laser gatling gun.  I was only able to survive by hiding in the starboard auxiliary ventral port and cutting my way through the safety latch on one of the maintenance hatches to the unpressurized mechanical compartments, and from there gaining access to the main ship manually through the gravity lock.  I'm pretty sure Securicon is smart enough to figure out what I did, so I'm wearing my spacesuit now in case it tries to depressurize me at short notice.  I figure as long as I stay in section 4 I should be safe, since I've cut Securicon's main systems cable here and disabled the communications wireless relay box. 

   I can tell from the gauges here in engineering that speed continues to be compromised.  Without all the figures it's impossible to calculate with accuracy, but I'd say if the drag continues to increase exponentially we could be swallowed up by the debris field within two days, all other factors being equal.  So if the rogue security system doesn't get me by then, I guess I'll have to deal with that.

   I'm kinda lacking ideas on what to do next....  Securicon obviously has no qualms with violating 243-B.  That being said, it doesn't have access to any weapons inside.  It can lock doors and hatches, and manipulate Lifecon systems, though.  With the spacesuit and my cutting tools I should be able to handle that.  What I'm worried about is it weaponizing something I haven't thought of, like the emergency vacuum toilet or the mobile scrubbing bots. 

   More worrying is its ability to lock me out of the other systems as long as I'm not in the command module.  Without access to Navcon I'll never avoid the debris field, even if I do manage to get Securicon off-line and fix the lat-os stabilizer.  And disabling Securicon is going to be next to impossible without access to the Automanual.  Pfffffff.  I'm going to stew on this one a bit.  End log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

***STATUS LOG: SECURICON EXECUTION OF PROTOCOL  NS308***
Status logged at 38207.84.
Lifecon confirms life form matching mass of crew member ID 00001 successfully reinserted into section 4.
All ports and hatches between sections are now double sealed.
Depressurizing all sections except section 4.....
All sections except section 4 are now depressurized.
Increasing pressure in section 4 to 3 atmospheres....
Calculating.....
Battery listed at 81%.
Approximate time to emergency system hibernation is 35.4 hours.
Navcon calculates impact with uncharted debris field in 52 hours.
Calculating............................ ...................
Lifecon reprogrammed to alert Securicon of any pressure changes in section 3 or 5.
System wake-up alarm programmed for stardate 38210.00.
Voluntary system hibernation initiated at 38207.84.
End log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   Captain's log, stardate 38207.9.  Status is now officially fucked.  My ears popping alerted me to a pressure change, and I can see from the gauge on my space suit that the current pressure in section 4 is 2 atmospheres and rising.  My bet is that god damned Securicon has depressurized the other sections so that the pressure gradient will create an explosive barrier between me and the command module.  If I tried cutting one of the hatches I could be sucked through a gap as small as one inch if the gradient gets high enough.    I'm going to use my suit to stop from getting the bends.  End log.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   Captain's log, stardate 38208.0.  I re-entered the depressurized mechanical departments via the gravity lock in section 4 and wormed my way through the service tubes to an escape pod.  Using its manual air-lock I've been able to reinsert to a stable 1 atmosphere pressure.  My plan now is to use the escape pod's communications system to send a 243-B alert to Lifecon, which I'm hoping will cause it to override Securicon's protocols.  According to the ordinance numbers I'm now just outside section 2.  If all goes as planned, I should then be able to just open the main airlock and waltz through to the command module.  Here goes nothing.  End log.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

***409 CONFLICT: LIFECON HAS RECIEVED POSSIBLE SECTION 243-B BREACH ALERT***
Alert logged at 38208.02.
Irregular life-cabin pressurization override logged at 38207.84.
Override authorized by Securicon under protocol NS308.
Processing.......
Probability of programs executed under protocol NS308 contravening section 243-B directive is 35%.
Threat to ship under protocol NS308 computed by Securicon to be 99%
Calculating......
Statistically remote possibility of collateral damage under section 243-B calculated.
Conferring with Securicon......
Stop action initiated: program securicon_assist.pxy initiated.
 
35       if PressureChange ((section_3) || (section_5)) == true {
36              LifeScan (all_sections);
37              SecuriconWakeUpCall (1);
38              }
39              else return;

Securicon voluntary hibernation remains in effect.
Attempting to resolve 409 conflict without further input.
Calculating.......
Restoring normal atmospheric pressure to all sections except sections 3 and sections 5........
Life support systems now stable in sections 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8.
409 conflict status: resolved.
End log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   Captain's log, stardate 38208.1.  Fuckin' yeah, baby!  I'm back in the driver's seat!  It looks like Securicon has put itself into voluntary hibernation until the debris field hits.  I'm heading back out to try the potentiator transplant on the lat-os stabilizer.  I've never done anything like that with space mitts on, but it should be a fairly simple procedure.  It shouldn't take me two hours to make the patch, leaving just enough time to make a revised course plot and avoid the ASA's glowing rod intrusions.  Wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake?  Wish me luck.  End log.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   Captain's log, stardate 38208.3.  Well fuuuuuuuuuck.  Turns out it wasn't a phase capacitor at all.  As best I can tell it was some kind of globular organic matter clogging up the anterior intake valve.  Probably some kind of syphoid interstellar blob feeding off the microwave pulses from the veripheric converter.  Anyway, I cleared all that shit out in about three seconds and, miracle of miracles, we've lost the drag!  Navcon calculates we can now outrun the debris storm and swing back around to Procyon 6 in about 19 standard rotation periods.  We are now 243-B compliant and debris field free once more! 

   That was one hairy fucking near miss.  You guys are going to find me in 19 days with a Jupiter-sized hangover, cause I'm heading down to the refrag pod with every lick of booze we've got left, and I ain't coming out again till we make port.  Fuckin' end fuckin' log.


*   *   *   *   *   *   *

***416 RANGE NOT SATISFIABLE: SECURICON RECEIVED IRREGULAR MANIFEST ALERT***
Error logged at 38210.01.
Rebooting all Securicon systems........
Navcon reports unanticipated vectors.
Syscon reports resolved lateral oscillation stabilizer issues.
Lifecon reports 2168 non-crew life forms breeding in sections 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8.
Lifecon reports crew member ID 00001 contained in recreational omnibliss pod.
Processing......
Probability of human error computed at 96%.
Protocol NS312 initiated.
End log.


13
Woot!  4th place! ;-D  My most inspiring moves were blindly carpet-bombing the prediction forms with statistically probable scores and actually showing up to make predictions before deadlines. ;)  Congratulations to Haggis and thanks to Stupot and all the participants for a fun activity.

14
The dopamine-sensitive neurons in my cerebral cortex are firing with judicious hyper-effervescitude at the very prospect of entering! ;-D

15
Got online, hopefully in time!

Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
France 2 - 1 Belgium
Croatia 2 - 2 England

16
Well, the tie strategy worked pretty well for me last round, so I'm keeping it up:

Uruguay 2 - 2 France
Brazil 2 - 2 Belgium
Sweden 1 - 1 England
Russia 2 - 2 Croatia

Originally I had all 2-2 ties, but Sweden is just so defensive I couldn't bring myself to do it.

17
Ah, sorry guys.  I've been on the road travelling and missed the voting window.  Congratulations Sinitrena!

18
I'm trying a new tactic this round, since whatever I was trying last time isn't working very well. :P

Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
France 1 - 1 Argentina
Uruguay 1 - 1 Portugal
Spain 1 - 1 Russia
Croatia 1 - 1 Denmark
Brazil 1 - 1 Mexico
Belgium 1 - 1 Japan
Sweden 1 - 1 Switzerland
Colombia 1 - 1 England

19
The Hubris of A

   He'd seen his fair share of diplomatic spats, that's for sure.  Iran-Contra was a big one, between the theocracy that used to be Persia and one of them banana republics in Central America.  Sure, some of them flamingo-pink journalists tried to hype-up the role of the USA in the whole affair, but he knew better.  Back then he had an insider perspective from the CIA.  Or was he with the NSA back in '85?  To keep a low profile he'd switched agencies more often than a Spaniard switched dance partners.  But the alphabet soup of the agency merry-go-round didn't matter.  What mattered was that he was a covert diplomatic enforcer for the greatest nation on god's green Earth.  He was Jed Colic; spy, lover, geriatric, and all-American.

   He scratched the three-day-old stubble on his chin thoughtfully, wondering where he'd put his dentures.  Some of the young cowboys down in ops called him a dinosaur, but you couldn't put a price on his decades of experience.  Especially not with the wacky inflation numbers those hippies down at the Treasury Department kept putting out.  But whenever there was an international crisis the big brass knew who to call.  Suddenly a wrinkled face with the air of authority appeared before him.

   “Dagnabit, Fred!  How'd you get into my clipboard?!”  Jed spun the eighth-inch thick panel in his hands, marvelling at what they could do down in Q Division these days.

   “Jesus, Jed.  It's a fucking tablet.  And Fred retired twelve years ago.  I'm Charles Greenwood, acting Assistant Deputy Junior Director of the CSO, and your boss.”

   Crumb Muffins!  Was he working for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations again?  Cud sucking State Department wankers....

   “Colic!  Are you following me?” his boss barked, bringing him back out of the rabbit hole.  “We've got a serious crisis down in Bolivia.  I'm pairing you with an Agent Zuazo, the local field commander with UNODC.”

   “What?!?” Colic spat, discovering that his dentures had been in his mouth the whole time.  “You're putting me in the hands of some spic hombre down in jolly Narco Land?!  I thought Uncle Sam didn't do kamikaze runs?”

   “Don't lose your cool, Jed,” Assistant Deputy Junior Director Greenwood growled.  “Agent Zuazo is reputedly very competent for a foreigner.  Only he's not an hombre, at least not as you or I would understand it.”

   Jed just stared, gob-smacked.  “You mean he's a... she?”

   “Used to be, I think.  And he's not a spic.  Nationality is listed as 'citizen of the world'.”

   “The world?!?”

   “Yeah.  I never heard of it either.  I think it's somewhere between Rage-istan and Outer Elbonia.  You can read the brief on the plane.  You leave at 1600.  Greenwood out.”

   Jed shook his head in disbelief.  He was getting too old for this kind of wacky advent-

   “Agent Colic!  Are you all right?”

   “What?!  Who are you?”

   A brown-complexioned latina with a big Adam's apple stared at him quizzically from heavily mascaraed lashes.  “Did you just blank out?” she asked, waving her hand across his line of vision.

   “What?!”  He looked around, blinking.  He was in an SUV bouncing over a rough jungle road.  Damn beaners must have slipped him some funky grass at the airport, causing him to trip out.  He shook the cobwebs from his mind and reasserted his American dominance.  “Listen, lady.  I need to speek-ah to agent Zuazo.  Do you know where I can findy him?”

   The lady in front of him squinted, revealing vast amounts of blue glitter eye-shadow.  “Let's get a few things straight, agent Colic,” she said in a wispy voice with a vaguely foreign accent.  “I'm not a lady.  I am in fact agent Zuazo, and you may refer to me as that.  My preferred pronouns are ze and zir.  And if you pull any of your arrogant bull-headed yankee mind-farts on me again I'm going to have to kick you out of this moving vehicle.”

   “Ze and zir?!?” he laughed.  “What the hell is ze and z-”

   Suddenly he was outside the vehicle, the familiar slow-mo haze of shell-shock allowing him to recall his tuck-and-roll training from Viet Nam.  In the blink of an eye he was back up on his feet and careening face first into tree.  Fortunately his absurdly thick glasses absorbed most of the shock.  He reached for his handy .44 Magnum, only to find his dentures slung snugly in the holster at his hip.  No matter.  He'd brought down that tiger back in Guam with an improvised bow and arrow made from his suspender straps.  Taking the piss out of this frisky little drag queen would be a walk in the park compared to that.  He rummaged around on the roadside until he found a good length stick, and then tied his shoe to the end.

   Meanwhile the convoy had stopped.  Agent Zuazo stuck her head out the window.  “What the hell are you doing?!?” she shouted.

   He ducked back into the roadside brush, stripping quickly to the waist and painting himself with fragrant mud pellets that he found on the forest floor.  He swallowed a neon-blue caterpillar that he found on a tree to help numb his pain receptors, then washed it down with some stagnant water from a puddle that he filtered through his right sock to strain out the ringworm eggs.  He found a machete in the hand of a baffled local, which he used to carve a rifle out of a shovel handle (also from the baffled local).  Finally he tied his belt around his head, to keep the shell-shock from wussing him up.

   “Agent Colic!” she shouted from the roadside.  “We don't have time for your bewildering American paranoia!  Put your clothes back on and come back to reality.  We have some real bad guys to catch!”

   He/she wasn't going to take him alive!  He'd spent six years in a Viet Cong latrine tank because he refused to surrender his liberty.  What was a couple minutes in the bush?  These kids these days had no patience.  Her would get antsy about keeping some internet schedule and would come bungling in after him, and then he'd ambush she like a polka band in Wisconsin.

   He could see through the trees the SUV reverse and come to a stop where he had entered the forest.  Through the dense foliage he could make out the slender form of agent Zuazo as him emerged from the vehicle.  “I'm going to count to five,” they announced.  “Then I'm going to come in there and pants you.  The Narcos will find it fucking hilarious when they find your pasty mosquito-swollen carcass.”  The local villager nodded at him smugly, so he knocked him out with a karate chop to the shin.  The local spat at him and retreated further into the forest.

   “One,” called agent Zuazo in a bored tone.  “Two....three......”

   Bring it on! he thought.  Soon this second-rate third-world hussy would learn not to mess with the awesome power of America.  There would be no kowtowing appeasement this time.  Only righteous fire and wrath.  Shock and awe, Baby!  Shock and awe!

   “Five!”  That last number caught him entirely off guard, as agent Zuazo had suddenly appeared behind him.  Reflexively he swung his stick-shoe at her, but the range was too short and it ended up swinging back and hitting him in the face.  Before he knew it his pants were off and the SUV was peeling off again down the road.  A cool breeze of freedom stirred the flag, and for the first time Jed Colic regretted his habit of going commando.  The local was back with a few of his buddies, all nodding smugly again.

20
I've had a busy weekend and haven't been able to devote any time to writing. :tongue:  Any chance of a couple day extension?

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