The AGS Awards ceremony will take place starting 20:00GMT on Saturday 30 March! Check out the thread for more details and to get the client.

Author Topic: Fortnightly Writing Competition -LIFEBOAT (Results)  (Read 6326 times)

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Welcome super scribes and hilarious hacks of all hues and hemispheres, to the most famous and prestigious writing contest in the history of mankind!  The one, the only, Fortnightly Writing Competition! 8-)  Your topic, should you choose to accept it, is:

Lifeboat



When there is nothing but a postage-stamp sized bubble of safety between you and oblivion, people tend to get territorial.  They tend to give in to their basic, basest survival instincts.  They tend to get suspicious, nasty, devious and sneaky.  Or maybe the ordeal brings out the best in them: heroism, altruism, extreme creativity?  Whatever the case, being crammed into a very confined place with fellow survivors is a certain formula for high-drama with even higher stakes.  Do not confine yourselves to a literal (littoral?) lifeboat: any confined space of refuge will do.  It could be an escape pod in space, or a bomb-shelter on earth, or something so daring and bold that I wouldn't be able to think of it if I scrunched up my eyes for ten minutes and grunted at the effort. ;-D  The only solid requirements of your story are:

1) A place or vehicle of refuge from certain or probable death
2) More than one initial occupant
3) Drama!

Deadlines have been extended due to OROW falling on our natural deadline, plus lots of people make big non-internet plans at the end of summer.  Official deadline is Sunday September 6, 2015, which should give you lots of time to write, or at least lots of time to procrastinate. (roll)

Your work will be judged on the following criteria

Best Character: Most believable or captivating or magnetic or unique: could be main character or supporting role
Best Scenario: Replacing our usual Background World/Setting category: who had the most creative scenario, or the most vividly described predicament?
Most Suspenseful: Replacing our Atmosphere category, which story left you at the edge of your seat, yearning and dreading to find out what happens next?
Best Writing Style: The technical art of combining words in clever or gripping ways.
Cleverest Ending: Sometimes the best suspense leads to a disappointing conclusion.  Which story had the most satisfying ending?

Good luck to all entrants.  Please do intend to vote if you submit: it makes the competition more interesting for the rest of us.  Write!
« Last Edit: 13 Sep 2015, 04:52 by Baron »

kconan

  • After⇐---—---⇒Before
I find this theme metaphorically in-sync with the OROW competition.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
I find this theme metaphorically in-sync with the OROW competition.

It's also kinda linked to this month's MAGS theme of Drowning ;)

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
I find this theme metaphorically in-sync with the OROW competition.

Wait, the OROW theme is already released?!?  Why was I not informed! :-\

It's also kinda linked to this month's MAGS theme of Drowning ;)

Actually a lifeboat is the exact opposite of drowning: ask any survivor of a shipwreck for details. :P

Apologies for the length of this story if this is an abnormal length.  Took a while to wrap.

Superposition

Jax was an EX-800, tungsten-durithium coated, went in first as our minesweeper.  He’d survived thermion blastwaves worse than this, but his firmware warranty’d expired mid-heist or he’d just straight up lost his shit to the PTSD Demons and shot his own fucking foot off. 

"Colonel, colonel come in!  Mission is FUBAR!  I repeat, mission is FUBAR.  The Ahmed forces have us surrounded.  Request immediate evac,"  Jax's bulletproof Panzer-armored head flailed as he hallucinated out loud, gripping his foot, the lava-red hole in his metatarsals dripping molten slag everywhere.

"Jobbs H. Christ, Jax!  Get your head together, take a neuroleptic or something!" I smacked him upside his cranium, which hurt like a bitch, while dodging archipelagos of six-thousand-degree dross.

"I told central casting not to go full-Rambo.  Damnit."  Hiring these multi-tour soulja-boy types was like going full retard.  Never go full retard.  Mowing down Syrian soccer teams and rioting homeless PhD's in front of Trump Palace is a one-way-trip mindfuck to crazyland.

"Tell me about it," said Sybil.

Sangrita Blast was second through the temporal “wormhole”.   He’d recorded our entire break-in to the vault, diving through the lightning storm around the Novikovian rift and posted it to Friendbook and Swaggler before the lightcone to the outside world caved in.  I watched him tweak, wireheading out on his feed, each Like! and #mention on his personal microcelebrity profile "DewDiePew" like a snorted line of crack.  He blue-screened, mentally masturbating in the intarwebz till it was cut off by time travel like a mythadone drip in a rehab clinic. 

"Sh-shit, what the hell happened?  I was right in the middle of a major Tweet war with the Girlosphere and only the MOST POPULAR 'LET'S PLAY'ER OF ALL TIME!!!  Fuck!  Fuck my life!  FML!  My profile is over!!!!-" He spasmed uncontrollably, shooting compressed air into his mouth-hole, sucking it like a mother's teat in a fetal position.  Hydrogen fluoride mist mixed with ash and rust puffed out portholes in his neck.

If we didn't need Sangrita to hack the Great Firewall, I would've left him to rot in The Pile with the rest of the sentient refuse.
 
Sybil was the highborn pull.  Accounts in every timezone, tweak LIBOR with a text, like a digital Midas touch.   She'd fronted the cash, acquired the spacecraft, and puppeted multiple strata of government to modify industrial zoning codes just for our mission.  Fuschia-rebel streak raging against daddy's neofeudal-corporate machine bob haircut. On her finger an "ethically sourced" Toroidal Tanzanite gem screamed "Millenial via Old Money".  She was also the only human among us, besides me. 

I'd've made a pass at Sybil, if I wouldn't have been instantly vaporized by some PRISM-targeting, satellite-mounted ion cannon of her father's, during our first date, for being a mutt born in The Pile and not the Titled son of a shiekh or a Clinton or such.  And if she wasn't a MtF trans lesbian.  There was that.

Another headcase, a century-worth of daddy issues.  Sybil had ECLAT status though, a real dynastic with license to live (indefinitely), so she did actually have centuries thanks to “The Singularity”, if she wanted to live that long and work out her neuroses with therapist-bots.  Unlike us.  Wait, where the fuck were we?

"Wait, where the fuck are we?" Sangrita momentarily extracted his head from his ass to notice.  "I don't see the alleyway, there's no dumpster, no door." 

He was right, we were definitely NOT at our rendezvous point.
 
We were in a space like the inside of magnetoplasma fusion reactor, spherical snow-globe of iridescent silver.  Or a shipping container, if shipping containers were made of Mandelbrot fractals and liquid metal.  I know, cause I grew up in a container half-filled with unsold paper books.  Shredded copies of 'The Time Machine' and 'War and Peace' make for a comfy pillow.  It was like God had run reality through a paper shredder and wrapped us up in it, out of spite.   “What you get, for having the Promethian gall to fuck with my laws of physics, bitch.”

Unstuck in time?  Trapped in some kind of fucking paradox?  Fuck.

"There's a scientific explanation for this.  The universe does not play dice," I scratched the mole above my right eyebrow that I liked to call my 'Brain Buddha.'  Always came up with my best ideas when rubbing his fat, possibly melanoma-filled belly.

"Um, 'double-ewe tee eff'?”  Sang interrupted.  “I thought we got here through some quantum mechanical hax0ring of yours, Jim?  I'd say the universe DOES play dice, and you just got us rolled a snake eyes!  DERP!"  I really wanted to punch the dandruffy virginity out of Sang at that moment.  At all moments.

“Fuck, dog, I knows we shoulda popped dat fuckin' re-entanglement pill shit.  The doc was right, bruh, you always take da red pill, straight up.” Oh, I'd almost forgotten about our fifth rat-pack member, Johnny Silica AKA "Proto-J".  Ghetto blasting pissant thought he was straight outta Compton.  MC name: "The Six Billion Dollar Baller".  Jacked out of his skullcase on mythium most of the time, but with one little secret sauce.  It's a secret.

I checked the quantum displacement device, a simple orange-sized sphere with an ever shifting surface.  I tried to get a reading, but nothing but pure white noise.  I smacked it against Jax's head.  "Jobbs on a stick, I'm not even picking up cosmic microwave background."  We were, for all intents and purposes, dead to the universe.

Timespace, spacetime, timeshares and Space Invaders all out the window, now.  I should've stuck with my old gig: teaching STEM to slumdog humans, freak-of-nature hybrids and obsolete sentient machines for a government meal ticket, even if it barely covered rent in the ghettos of Coastlandia.  I missed competitive retro-gaming from my 8x10 coffin apartment in The Shelter, cooking meth and myth and jack and krunk on the side, rather than chasing this idiotic American Dream. 

Goddamnit, self.  Decision making skills.
 
Sangrita got up, pacing back and forth, eyes darting like waking REM dream, shoulders hunched in reptilian shiver of internet withdrawals.“We're losing our timeline!  I've got to get back, I had a Kickstarter campaign for a mockumentary/game of our heist planned to start in 30 minutes!  I'm probably losing hundreds of high-clout subscribers by the second!  They're probably image-shaming me for not responding right now-”
 
“Shut the fuck up, Sang, and let me think,” I said, trying to figure out what went wrong.  It was supposed to be a milk run: drive thru trandimensional grand-larceny. 

"We should've popped out at 10:34 PM, precisely 3 hours, 14 minutes, 27 seconds before our entry into the quantum gate, in the alley behind the McSwift's burger place where we synced watches.  Just in time to close and ensure seamless continuity of our loop, our worldline."

"So what the fuck are we doing here!?  Why aren't we back in our timeline or worldline, or whatever?!?!"

"Sierra!  November!  Alpha!  Foxtrot-" Jax railed on, punching at the wall with his chrome Hellboy-sized fists.  Haymaking the enemy combatant that wasn't there.

"Would someone secure that fucking mechwarrior jarhead!"  Sang whipped out a massive transcranial EMP, held the electro-blunderbuss against Jax's ear-hole and zapped his neural net with a shower of sparks and a sound like a million-volt transformer short circuiting.

Jax went into shock mid-swing, releasing one particularly nuclear punch.  On impact, the entire room warbled and reality appeared to phase for a bit, like a blizzard of CRT television static but resonating through the very fabric of the room.  The quantum stasis field.  The non-space.  The what the fuck ever. 

It was a disorienting null pain, an anti-sense.  Felt like that time at Jefferson Elementary, when I got a baseball bat to the temple by one of my students and his gang for ratting to his parents that his Enviro-Science grades were down due to drug abuse. Then they pawned all my lab equipment to score more junk.  All the fucks I had left to give were knocked out of me like so much candy from a piñata, by that bat, and I started cooking krunk the next week in the abandoned school library.  I traded up from my hot, garbage-reeking shipping container, I'll tell you that.

“I just want you all to know that I'm not going to let this transgression of the corporate state stand.  I WILL get us out of this," declared Sybil, like she was addressing a Puerto Rican worker-run co-op, or a $10,000/plate NGO fundraiser.  She brushed back a forelock of her Lady Gaga rendition of Princess Buttercup, like it was a minor barrier to entry to a socialized business.

"Unfortunately, you can't do a leveraged buy out from within a closed-timelike-curve, or a quantum-foam bubblebath, or whatever the fuck we are in, your majesty."  I said, crossing my arms.  She daggered me with a bitchy look that broke her poised business façade into prickly shards of fifteen year old punk chick.

It was a simple enough job, really.  The employer was Sybil’s family, the esteemed and omni-present Clington-Busch dynasty.  A family with more American presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs and talentless Hollywood stars than a “100 most influential people” edition of Time Magazine.  As usual, looking for a leg up in maintaining the technological edge on their equally world-domineering, though marginally more republican rival, the Coch-Jobbs dynasty.  Everyone hated both families, almost everyone was somehow employed by both families, through some convoluted chain of subsidiaries and shell companies.  Voting Democrat or Republican was like a popularity contest between the prettiest and lol-worthiest children of Stalin and Hitler.

The target: Hypetech, a Coch-Jobbs subsidiary tech-giant that was wiping the Wallstreet floor with Clington-Busch’s own Google-esque megacorp, Singularis.  The mission: break into the sublevel research lab, steal the quantum time travel device we knew was already completed from industrial espionage reports made by Clington-Busch moles.  The lab was said to be inescapable, and that was the genius bit: we would use the stolen merchandise -- in this case the space/time travel tech -- as the life boat.  We’d float on out of the lab on a bed of quantum foam.  That was the theory, anyway.

"Them dwanky fuckin' Coastlandia po-po must've been tipped off.  The fuzz be crossin' our quanza streams and shit!" Proto-J's eye cams dilated to 80 mm's in emphasis and he turned his gold-spraypainted Desert Eagle sideways like he was about to cap some invisible cop.

"'Quantum', you imbecilic, failed techno-utopian experiment.  And the 'po-po' would have neither a.) the classified info to know about this run and b.) the ability or motivation to fuck with our spatiotemporal escape plan," I blasted the young punk in poorly sublimated frustration.

Proto-J pivoted his tacky magnum on me, segmented Galvanized face plates scrunching up into an obvious mimicry of Ice Cube's resting-asshole-face.  "The fuck you call me, you Bill Nye-ass motherfuckin' meatbag?  YOU probably the one fuck up our Battleship coordinates, get us lost in this motherfuckin' liquid-metal Bermuda Triangle shit." 

I found myself staring down the 50 caliber barrel, and felt real fear coming on.  But the hot ball of self-righteous death-wish rage in my stomach felt even better, and I leaned into it, "You better take that fucking gun out of my face, boy.  You kill me, I *guarantee* you will be stuck in this ass-end of the universe till your lithium-ions run out. I am the *only* one who knows the faintest fucking iota about what we're in here."  I wanted to crush his fucking occular lenses in with my thumbs and skullfuck the gooey gelatinous of his synthetic brainware.

"Boys!  Break it up, now!"  Sybil stepped in between us, Jadeite-frosted glass slippers coming down hard and maternal.  Proto-J instantly backed off.  He was a dumbass, but he knew that even if he made it out alive and Princess Sybil did not, he would be hunted down by All the King's black helicopters and All the King's bone-mic'd, black-shaded men.  After being transcranial-magnetically-tortured for subjective millennia, his skull-chassis would be mounted on a skymansion wall, next to the taxadermied heads of Siberian tigers, cloned mammoths, and liberal senators.

"These are dire straits, I know.  But we've got to take a step back, swallow our egos a little, and work together as a cooperative if we want to change our lot in life," Sybil said in her PR voice.  It could've been a $50,000 motivational speech at a Ted Talk keynote in New San Francisco.  Come to think of it, I now remember being forced to watch a speech starting with exactly that line at a yearly mandatory teacher-training seminar on 'compassionate living', before being thrown into the 9th circle of hell called public education. 

Proto-J uncocked the gun, stepped off, "Fine.  But only cause it's a royal fucking decree from Princess Diva, here," He wiped at his nose with the back of his gun hand, even though he was a sentient machine, with no snot, let alone mucus membranes or nasal passages to speak of.  Sheer osmosis of gangsta idiosyncracies through hypermediation.  It was cute. 

"Ok.  Given what we know about quantum entanglement, the transfer from our spacetime entry point to the exit coordinates should've been instantaneous. According to the Gortzel-Takeda theorem, our superposition of eigenstates should've collapsed instantly to our final destination through the wave function-" I began

"English motherfucker, do you speak it!?" Proto-J yelled, pointing the gun in my face in a subconsciously Jacksonian fashion.  Sybil shot him a hard look and he backed off. 

"Passing through the quantum rift should've been instantaneous.  Like flipping a channel to a new station.  My calculations were triple checked, bulletproof.  There is no possible way for us to get trapped in...  Where/whenever we're in."  I grasped at the thinning silvery straws of my male-pattern baldness, coming up short.

"Well, we sure ain't in fuckin' Kansas no more, is we?" Proto-J folded his arms in disdain.

"Proto, you're not helping!" Sybil jumped in, before turning to me, "So we're not at the destination, but we're obviously somewhere.  You're a neurophysicist, Jim-"

"Ex-neurophysicist," I corrected.

"You're a scientist.  And a damned good one, or we would never have gotten this far!  So maybe the latest and greatest Theory of Everything from the scientific community got it wrong, wouldn't be the first time, right?  Einstein had his cosmic blunder, Galileo was imprisoned in his own house for saying the Earth went around the sun.  Maybe this is an opportunity for you to propose a new hypothesis, a new theory.  No one has boldly gone this far before," she motioned around to the admittedly alien, sensawundery circumstance we found ourselves in.  "This could be your chance to take up the mantle from the shoulders of giants like Newton, Einstein, Jobbs, and revolutionize our entire understanding of the universe!"

I had to admit, Sybil had the Princess Di / Cate Blanchett 'inspiring beam' complete with eye-sparkle down pat.  Even I felt my grizzly-dense hide of cynicism wavering.  I mean honestly, where the hell was that light source twinkling in her sky-blue peepers coming from anyway?  It was like the evolving quantum-space had blossomed behind her into glittering golden spirals and majestic chakras, making her the heart of some kind of progressive hipster mandala.  With perfect skin.  She snapped her fingers in front of my face.

"Hello?  Isn't there some kind of experiment or test we can do to figure out where we are?  Jim?"

I snapped out of it, “Right, of course.  Time to Science.”

I tried kicking the mirrored surface of our glass cage, this time paying close attention to the data. 

“Ripples appear to propagate through the Mercurial wall, look here.” 

Ripples of probability?  Half-remembered Kahn Academy knockoff of a Harvard lecture on quantum mechanics flickered through my head.  Maybe the punt of my foot just caused a typhoon in Malaysia?  Maybe it made some overworked single mom stripper with a lotto ticket into a millionaire?  Maybe I just killed my own grandfather and would soon evaporate into a decreasingly me-like configuration of atomic particles till I was nothing but my constituent hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen bits, to be inhaled by my ex-crew?  Who knew.  Too much headache, end thought process.  Yes/No? Y.

“Well, we haven’t been shredded into constituent subatomic particles, so it’s safe to assume we’re still in some kind of spacetime manifold of our universe of origin.”  I hopped off the ground.  The floor warbled and rippled where my shoes landed, like a bizarre Dance Dance Revolution game made by acid tripping developers.

“We’ve also got gravity here, which is a big puzzler,” I massaged Brain Buddha, pulled his single wiry hair.

“What goes the fuck up must come the fuck down.  Bitch, even I’s knowin’ dat sci-sci shit.  That’s old school, dog.” Proto-J said, tossing his Goldeagle up in the air like a juggler’s club, catching it with his finger on the trigger and causing us all to duck and cover.

“Yes you little-“  I bit my tongue, literally.  Smiled, “Just, don’t ever refer to science as sci-sci, again, alright?”  I sighed.  “Yes, *normally* objects accelerate at 9.807 meters per second every second towards planet Earth.  Key word: ‘normally’.  Wherever we are, it is highly abnormal, obviously.  The fact that we still have gravity almost identical to Earth’s suggests…”

“What?  It suggests what?” Sybil asked.

“It suggests that wherever we are, we aren’t actually in any kind of quantum gate or warp-purgatory at all,” I felt a sinking feeling, like the day I got a call back from the Coastlandia Department of Education and they gave me the news that they were cutting back on human teachers due to, “Rise of the Robots, old sport!” and my salary and benefits would be halved to match the cost of a machine instructor. 

“It suggests that… we’ve already come through the rift, and are somewhere on Earth, and this… is some kind of containment field.”  I rapped on the wall, that again emitted waves of dark and light, but this time they stripes resembled the bars of a prison.

“Woah, woah, woah,” Proto-J raised his hand, “You sayin’ we be *trapped* in this crib?”

The cell suddenly got pin-drop quiet.  The only sound was a quiet hum that we hadn’t noticed until that very moment, coming from somewhere beyond.

“Is that possible?” Sybil asked, hands lacing together.  “Who, why would anyone want to trap us?”

“Well, the obvious culprit would be the Coch-Jobbs or a subcontractor thereof.  They have the most to lose if we succeed in stealing their time travel tech,” I noted.

Proto-J stroked the circle of rust around his mouthpiece coincidentally in the shape of a gangsta goatee.  “You, Heisenberg,” pointing a finger at me, yet again.  “You was a teach in the public schools, when they still had human teaches.  Coch-Jobbs done bought all the schools when them Smash Crash happened and the govmint ran outta money.  So YOU used to work for Coch-Jobbs.”

I threw my hands up, backhanding the accusation like a poorly served ping pong ball, “And they cut my pay in half, and I had to sell my Toyota to pay for my angioplasty.  Believe me I have NO love for the Coch-Jobbs.  The Clington-Buschs may be just as fucked up and ruthlessly fascist, but I haven’t yet been screwed by them, and I need this fucking money.  No offense, Sybil.”

She shot me a cryptic look then that I couldn’t quite crack, through fluttering lashes.  A dent of hurt at the corner of the brow, masked by smoky eyeshadow, “You know, we’re not all like that.  Some of us are trying to do something positive in the world.”  I wasn’t in the mood or circumstance to argue with that.

“Sang, you were on retainer for Rexton Frakking, an oil company under the Coch Jobbs,” I brought up.  “You looking to make some extra dough on the side?”  All eyes spotlit on the tweaker.   

“Hey, I don’t have any loyalty there!  I just needed the money to keep my premium-tiered internet connection, Like!s and higher rankings on Swaggler.  Plus, I’m Swag-friends with BurnBro, the most viewed, most subscribed Let’s Play!er of all time, who also happens to be leading the polls for president, and is dating that reality-show star, Shirley Clington-Busch.  If I burn the Clington-Busch’s, my entire internet existence will be meaningless!”  It was so pathetic, it had to be true. 

“Ok, that rules out Sang.  Proto-J-“

“Hey, this heist be my first big-leagues job.  Before dis I was just runnin’ wit da Kromeboyz in The Pile.  Mythium runs, black-market bot-parts, chop shoppin’ flying cars and shit.  We humanoid bot-boyz ain’t got no fuckin’ pure-breed human high-class connections, dog.  No Clit-Bushes, no Cock-jobs, none of that blingy royal shit.  Only reason I’s be on dis crew is cuz da handler contacted me with dis tight gig, dropped the line about the seven-figure payday, and I was like, ‘Motherfucker, of course I’m in.  Show me the money.’”

“Ok, well, Sybil is a Clington-Busch herself, and since the Clington-Busches set this whole thing up, sabotaging our run for her would be like shooting herself in the foot,” I stepped in before anyone else could make an accusation, I glanced back over to see if I’d won any favor with the Princess after publicly criticizing all royalty.  She looked away.

“Speaking of shooting onesself in the foot…” Sybil glanced down at Jax, who had come to from his neural defibrillation and was losing it on the floor again. Moaning on about the rebels and the launch codes and generally going to the Dark Place.  By now the molten metal had cooled and he found himself stuck to the floor like an obsidian-sloped shield volcano made of war machine.

Sang knelt down and shined a light into his forehead.  "Looks like he’s overheating.  Could be an algo-virus or the PTSD, something else.  He needs a defrag and a reboot soon or more sectors of his consciousness could be corrupted.”
« Last Edit: 28 Aug 2015, 04:51 by SilverSpook »

Decoherence (Continued)
[/b]


“Aaaahhhh…  nnn-nnn-nnooo… www-“ Jax mumbled something unintelligible in his bassey metal voice.

“What?  What is it Jax?”  Sang leant in.

“Iiiii---  nnnn—nnn----ooo…” the goliath-sized robot continued to spasm as if in death throes.  Weak, booming yet hissing tones, like rusty girders creaking in a windy necropolis.

Sang got on his hands and knees, putting his ear to the giant’s huge smoking maw.

“Iiiii kn-kn-know wh-who th-th-th-the tt-t-t-tt-traitor i-i-is.”

Jax chomped down on Sang’s skull-chassis, which exploded into a thousand flying bits of gnarled metal, coiled spring, and neon-blue robot brain substrate.  A piece of Sang shrapnel nailed me in the forehead and I felt the blood running.

“Oh, oh God!” Sybil screamed and backed against the quantum-prison wall.

“T-th-the colonel, colonel Coch will be h-h-here any minute, n-n-now.  He n-n-n-needs those p-plans to defeat the S-S-Syrians!”

Jax’s steel fingers folded out and downwards from his hands like an origami trick, twin 80-caliber cannons ejecting from his forearm.

 “Get down!” I dove out of the way just as the fireworks started.  My eyeballs vibrated in their sockets with each blast in the enclosed space, my head filled with distorted roar of the gunfire, that quickly devolved into a deaf sine wave.

A scarlet curtain pulled over my right eye, a bloody waterfall blurring vision.  Through the veil I watched an adrenaline-slowed silent film of Proto-J’s rusty goatee contorting into the words “Mother fucker”, horizontal golden gun spitting fire; a ghetto David to Jax’s Goliath.

Even the magnum rounds ricoccheted uselessly off of Jax’s thick durithium hide, built to withstand anti-mech military-spec munitions.  The cannons turned on Proto-J, and with Jax’s attention diverted, I made a desperate dive for Sang’s EMP cannon. 

The way the fully-automatic, armor-piercing rounds took the bot boy apart reminded me of this experiment I used to do in science class, before science class amounted to playing whackamole with selfie-taking social media wireheads and trying to keep the rampant homeless from stealing copper coil and magnesium blocks.  I’d take a MAP blow torch to an empty Coke can.  The first thing, the paint goes matte grey.  Then the can twists, fragments, gnarls away from its cylindrical shape, like a withering metal rose, till there’s nothing but a rumpled pile of charred paint, aluminum oxide and a bead of pure aluminum burried somewhere within. 

There was a Proto-J sized pile on the ground now.

“I knew I should’ve run my own goddamn background check against this team,” I said, and fired the transcranial EMP into Jax’s head.  This time, I set the voltage up to “obliterate”. 

“You ok?” I staggered over to Sybil, the only one of us who’d come out unscathed. 

“I’m fine,” she said, frowning at my forehead.  “You’re hurt.”
 
I went up to rub the Buddha’s belly and my hand came away soaked in blood.  I’d also been hit in the leg, apparently, which explained the staggering.  And the gory fragment of bone sticking out of my pants.

“Damnit, so it was Jax that was undercover for Coch-Jobbs the whole time.”  He must’ve been completely, thoroughly brainwashed, his PTSD twisted, forged like red-hot steel by psy-ops people into a covert weapon with a triggerword.  Either that, or he deserved an academy award for best actor in a time-travel caper.  In which case, I take back what I said about going full retard.

“Who would’ve known, huh?” Sybil shrugged.

“Wait… what happened to the containment field?” I puzzled, looking around to discover that we were no longer surrounded by the evolving metal surface, but were in fact inside of a warehouse of some kind.  There were crates around us.  Bags of what looked like quinoa and fresh cuttings of kale.  There were men, women in old t-shirts and shorts.  Young, old, all races, though lots of brown.  There were sentient machines, robots, even hybrids.  A tentacle wrapped around a tomato, picking it for an octopus-sized eye to examine it, presumably for freshness. 

“Te gusta?”, the tentacle proferred the tomato to me, it’s cyclopean owner’s accent vaguely Puerto Rican.  Undulating folds of pink humanoid skin over a boneless skeletal structure.  I recognized the mutation as a common byproduct of human eugenics experimentation by the .01% to create more perfect human bodies through recombination of human and animal DNA, gone awry.  These were the frankenpeople, the discarded runoff of the Transhuman Project.  The new lepers.  And also the new apostles, apparently.  Taken in by…

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Sybil began.  “Every one of these people – Homo Sapiens, sentient robot, or chimera – has an equal stake, an equal privelege in this community.  There are no classes, there are no walls, of racism, speciesism, or literal drone-defended fortresses with ramparts of durithium and all the litigation and jackbooted swat teams money can buy.  There is no Great Firewall, there is no barbed wire or high fence around our borders.  There are no barriers of mindless social media siloing us into monetized tokens of “Like” and “Retweet” and other mirrors of narcissistic fulfillment.  We do not live in prisons of the digital self.”

“Everyone participates in the community.  Everyone helps to build our houses, grow our food, nurture our children.”

I took the fruit from the cephalopod-esque member.  In the reality I’d come from, hybrids were generally criminals, junkies, and most died early due to genetic incompatibilities.  Somehow, this one had survived, the hair on the arms was grey, yet the flesh was firm, not sallow, riddled with putrid junk veins. 

I studied the tomato.  I’d never seen anything so red or ripe in my life.  It smelled incredible, smelled like… Like real life.  Not “real life” like the exhausting daily-grind hellhole you’re defacated into when you unplug from whatever movie or game or VR sim you were in.  Real LIFE, like what a real, happy, meaningful life, with real loving relationships and a community and all that could be like. 

I opened my mouth, considered.  Considered the tomato, considered the tentacle.  It was too good to be true.  The tentacle was the serpent, the tomato the apple of the Tree of Eden.

I gave a long, slow series of golf claps, genuflecting before Eve.  “So YOU were the Clington-Busch ‘handler’ all along.  Well played, your worship.  Well played.  You almost had me convinced.”

“There’s nothing to be ‘convinced’ of, Jim.  This is my life’s work.  Building a better world.”

“So, what, you think you’re the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?  You’re gonna build utopia all by yourself where hundreds of charismatic do-gooders with ‘Panacea’ theories and NYT best-selling ‘Idea Books’ have failed?”

“I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but basically, yes.  Wasn’t there a time in your life when you wanted to make the world a better place by educating children?”

“Well, yeah…”  I was 22, fresh out of a post-college commune much like this one, actually, and was full of ideas and naïve excitement.  Then five years of teaching destroyed it.  I wasn’t about to admit that to this Holier-Than-Thou neofeudal though.

“So how is this any different?  Except I’m well positioned, with the… resources, the wealth, the strategic positioning as a Dynastic to achieve what someone like you alone could only dream about?”

“Fine, this is nice, great, whatever.  Congratulations, you solved world peace, world hunger, world war, male pattern baldness (I crossed my fingers), the whole shebang.  Problem is, you had to kill three of us.  Jax, Proto-J, Sang.”  I enumerated on my fingers like a litany of sins against an archangel.  “You killed three perfectly sentient beings as a means to your ends, however utopian, and those are just the sins I know about.  I’d say your pristine community is soaked in blood, like any other perfectly pleasant, Stepfordian suburb that relies on foreign country slave labor, underpaid Mexican servants, and blowing up Arabs.”

“What revolution is born without blood?  If you want to make an omlette…  Look, Jim, I’m not going to get into a protracted Jesuitical argument on utilitarianism vs. virtue ethics with you.”

“Fine, fine.  So what was the point of stealing the time machine anyway?  Why not just start your Puerto Rican worker-owned co-op Xanadu, and just trust that ‘If you build it, they will come’?”

“That’s the thing, Jim,” Sybil frowned, “This isn’t the first time I’ve stolen the time device.  It’s not the first time I’ve time travelled, actually.”

“What?!”  This was quickly going into lateral, in a deeply creepy, Gonzo direction.

“Yeah.  I actually… You’re right, I did have some problems starting my Edenic community.  Actually, the first time, I didn’t quite have all the kinks worked out of my constitution/manifesto, and the hybrids, humans and robots ended up killing each other over food and oil and stuff.”

My jaw dropped and I smacked my still bald, still bloody, but mostly coagulated forehead.

“Come on, I had just finished my Social Justice dissertation at Berkeley, I didn’t know what I was doing yet!  The second time, Proto-J ended up killing you two got into that Mexican standoff.  He kinda took me hostage, stuffed me into a box of organic acai berries.  Unfortunately, my father had a microscopic GPS tracker inserted into my organs, and tracked my to Puerto Rico, which I had bought from the US with a portion of my trust fund. 

“Upon realizing I was the one who created such a, ‘freeloading, communistic waste of prime real estate’, as he put it, he decided to leave me captive.  He then sent in his personal paramilitary forces to attack and colonize my island, turning it into his personal resort / tobacco plantation.  Proto-J became a kind of ‘Che Guevarra’ figure, and united the races in a protracted Guerilla war of attrition, known thenceforth as ‘The Kill Shot War’, for the technique of the resistance fighters who held their firearms sideways, gangsta style.  Proto-J later became El Presidente, which he renamed to “Bot-Boy In Chief,” and renamed Puerto Rico itself to ‘Gangsta’s Paradise.’   President Proto-J also  instituted “Ice Cube remembrance day” as a national holiday, “Fight The Power” as the anthem, and made it illegal to ‘stop the party’.  Proto-J was eventually assassinated by my father our of spite, at which point the island devolved into chaos.”

“The last time, Jax ended up killing the other three of you, and he started a robot uprising that kinda quickly led to a worldwide machine takeover on the order of Terminator.  90% of the human species was exterminated, and the remainder was imprisoned in internment camps where they were kept for entertainment, experimentation, and as a biofuel.”

“Oh, Jobbs H. Christ…”

“So, anyway.  That’s the secret.  If anything does go wrong in Eden, I just go back in time and reset Eden.  In a way, you were right, Jim, when you said that quantum time travel was our life boat.  Except not a life boat to escape the secret lab.  Time travel is a lifeboat from entropy itself.  When the Titanic of our society crashes into the iceberg of entropy, or the quantum randomness of human nature, then we jump ship into the raft of the “rift”, and sail back to shore.”

“I’m seriously going to black out from the whiplash of this mindfuck, and I deal with the insanity of quantum physics myself as a scientist, so that is saying something.”

It was a beautiful world, alright, but it all seemed so cheap.  So shallow.  Like kids choosing the same old baking soda volcano for their science fair project, cause it was proven to work.  Like playing Galaga through with godmode and permanent double-ships.  Wasn’t the fun, the excitement, the meaning found in the fact that you could fail? 

Maybe that was my problem with the Dynastics like Sybil.  She could crash as many companies into the ground, blow the GDP of an entire African country on a failed venture, and her family’s bottomless pockets would always be there to dig her out of her crater, get her a new $100,000 “ethically sourced” ring when she lost it.  And when she found daddy Clington-Bosch not giving her a generous enough bailout, she turned to a new daddy; Father Time.

But maybe Sybil and I weren’t so different.  There were co-ops springing up all over the place, many not so different from this place.  Resistant sectors within the edifice of late Capitalism that dared to commit to a sharing economy.  To community.  To getting your hands dirty, talking to your neighbors.  It meant giving up your convenient Starbucks, your McDonalds.  Your penthouse suite.  It meant actually commiting to giving a shit about the world and other people, rather than whining, however eloquently, about giant megacorporations and then scarfing down their tasty convenient fast food in a drive-thru on your way to your predatory real estate/finance job. 

Or cooking meth.  I probably should’ve given that up too.

But the rage, it was almost better than meth.  Someone to hate.  I’d hated the ADHD kids, the Hypetechs and other tech-giants that ruined my love of teaching, I’d hated the austerity, the cutbacks, the neofeudals, The System so long that I’d tricked myself into believing that doing these heists, breaking into 100-story towers for Swiss account numbers, stealing teleportation devices and time machines or whatever hot new tech was about stealing from the rich to give to the poor, or stealing from the rich to Stick It To The Man, or some other form of self-righteous punk schadenfreude.  When really, what I was doing was getting rich by stealing from other rich people – which is what rich people do – and thus perpetuating what I purported to hate.  Because I was too scared and lazy to actually try to actually do something. 

“Well, you’ve just got one problem, Princess.”

“What’s that?”

I took a big hearty bite of the deliciously red, non-GMO organic hand-picked tomato and had the most orgasmic sensation of my entire life.  You could found religions on that tomato. 

I then took out the quantum displacement device, which had reverted back from television static to it’s characteristic radiating, opalescent mirror texture.  I set it on a vacant blacksmith’s anvil.  Using all my strength I hefted the deadweight of Jax’s anti-aircraft-grade arm cannons. 

“How do you like *dem* apples?” I said, in my best Scarface tone.

I pulled the trigger, firing a single 80-calliber round directly into the device.  There was a phosphorous-bright flash of light, but surprisingly little sound, like the reality surrounding the destruction of the time machine had just absorbed the spacetime, and thus the air molecules themselves.  A negative space yawned, there, like staring into the heart of a black hole.  It might’ve been apophenia, a trick of the imaginations
, but I swore I saw a million billion worlds, untold possible pasts, presents, and futures flash before my eyes.  Like a library of hells, heavens, and everything-in-betweens on Earth.  All the kingdoms of the world, in a moment of time. 

Infinite superpositions, collapsing to a single state.  Forced to make a choice.

Then the infinity was gone.

“What… What have you done!  You’ve ruined-“

“Hey!  I think you’ve got your heart in the right place, Sybil.  But, the problem with you millenials is your fear of commitment.  Failure to launch.  It looks like we’re both going to have to step out of our comfort zones and take the plunge, your highness.  God does play dice, and I like our odds!”  I grabbed her by the impossibly perfect pseudo-rebel hair, touched her impossibly perfect skin, and messed up her make up with a hard, slightly bloody kiss.
« Last Edit: 25 Aug 2015, 13:23 by SilverSpook »

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Niiice! ;-D

One more week people.  Get those typing fingers limbered up!

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
Inspector Coultry‘s Boat

„Two people sit in a boat – without a motor, radio, oars or any hope to be found any time soon. Additionally, the boat is leaking quite a bit – probably because someone didn’t listen to his passenger and steered it onto a sandbank or something.” The voice of the young man was oozing with contempt but a small smile played nonetheless around his lips. It was obvious that it wasn’t the first time he voiced his displeasure which made it nearly impossible for the other, older man to understand why he seemed to be amused at the same time.

“Yes, an apt description of our current predicament. I said I’m sorry and I’ll say it again. I am sorry. I didn’t pay enough attention. It is my fault. You griping about it doesn’t change a thing, though. - Other than the fact that you are not my passenger; why are you stating the obvious?”

The young man smirked. “Oh, I’m not, Inspector Coultry. I’m telling a story, or conducting an experiment, if you will, because I’m bored because you wreaked your boat and didn’t make sure to check that the radio’s working before we started. You’re a bloody idiot, you know that?”

“I’m n...”, the inspector began to protest but realised in the middle of the word that arguing would be childish. “You know what?”, he said instead, “Tell your story. It’s better than anything else you could say right now. Tell your story but keep bailing – or do you want us to sink?”

While they talked, the young man had leaned back and looked up at the sky. There wasn’t much to see. They couldn’t look further than a few metres. A thick fog had appeared suddenly about one and a half hour after they had started their journey. It had washed over them and taken their sense of direction from them. Before, it wasn’t difficult to steer the boat to the south-east where they wanted to go.

But even in the bright light of an afternoon in autumn, there wasn’t much to see during the crossing, except for the clear blue sky and the waves that now rocked their small motorboat deceivingly gently and filled it with water.

In the fog, the inspector had missed a sandbank or a rock in the treacherous waters, destroyed the motor and broken the hull. The water looked deep and dark from dispersed sand even at the best of times but it actually wasn’t that deep. It was dangerous to navigate for an inexperienced pilot.

Inspector Coultry had no problem admitting to himself that what he had done was idiotic and rash and unnecessary but that didn’t mean he had to like it when the smug criminal he meant to escort to the mainland said it.

“The water? Leaking into the boat?” he pointed out when the criminal didn’t react at first. “You’re going to drown too if too much water gets into the boat, you know?”

The young man sighed. “I guess you’re right about that, at least. Though, it would be easier without the handcuffs.”

Inspector Coultry looked up from where he was scooping the water with his bare hands because they had nothing else and sighed himself. “I’m not taking them off.”

“What? Afraid I’m going to throw you overboard? Besides, I wasn’t asking, just stating the obvious – this time.”

Inspector Coultry sighed again and stopped bailing for a moment. He hadn’t meant to imply that the  young man would try to hurt him, even though that was the only reason for handcuffs in their current situation. All things considered, nothing in his research indicated that Benjamin Matthews was a violent criminal. A thief, sure, a burglar and probably a fraudster but not violent. When they arrested him, he had outstretched his hands to them to be cuffed and not protested in the slightest. He had innocently asked them what this was about, then shrugged and said that this was all a misunderstanding – but the police or the court would figure this out soon enough.

“Listen...”, the inspector began, meaning to apologise.

“Don’t.”, Benjamin said, holding up his hands to stall any further words. “I understand. I really do. This isn’t easy for you, I know. - Come on, we need to get the water out of this wreck.” With a smile, Ben bent forward and in the next moment the handcuffs clicked open and fell to the ground “Huh, that’s strange.” Ben shrugged, looking completely confused about this turn of events and then went to work on the cold water that had pooled up to their ankles in the bed of the boat.

The inspector stared open-mouthed at the handcuffs that glinted slightly in the fading and obscured light of the day. He hadn’t noticed when or how the thief had picked the lock but it was obvious that he could have done it the entire time they sat in the boat. He could have done it while the motor was still working and the inspector had thought him secured, cuffed to the bench. That could have been dangerous for the inspector. But Ben hadn’t done anything like that. He was still secured when Inspector Coultry changed them after the accident so that Ben’s hands were cuffed to each other.

While Inspector Coultry contemplated the young man in front of him, Ben had knelt down in the murky water, scooping it up in a steady rhythm and ostentatiously not looking up.

He’s proving a point, the inspector thought. I guess I deserve this, too. Then he began to bail out the water again, too.

*

After a while, the silence between them felt too heavy for Inspector Coultry. “You wanted to tell me a story?”, he said, “Unless, of course, you want to tell me what you were really doing on this island?” He tried to infuse his voice with some humour to tease the other man but it fell completely flat.

“I’m sure Rachel told you already.”

“Rachel?” He didn’t remember the name of the top of his head.

“My sister? Rachel? She’s the only one who knew where I went on vacation.”

“No, she didn’t...” It was never a good idea to tell a suspect who had told the police something about him.

Ben sighed exasperated, interrupting the inspector. “Are you implying again that I would hurt someone? Seriously? Is that a thing with you or something? I don’t care that she told you where to find me. Why should I? I told you already: I am innocent.”

Of course, Inspector Coultry knew that this was a lie, he just knew it, although he began to doubt that he could actually prove it. Benjamin was very convincing and is only evidence was weak at best. He had hoped to convince the young man to confess but there seemed no real hope to that.

Meanwhile, the sun had sunk alarmingly deep on the horizon, something they could only tell because the fog had become darker and darker around them and because the damp air seemed to suck the last bit of warmth from their bodies. Their pants were soaking wet from the water they mostly knelt in and event their shirts clung to their backs in a mixture of moisture and sweat. Their only hope was to keep the boat floating and pray that someone would realise soon enough that they should have reached the shore hours ago.

“I’m sure you have a theory.”, Ben said suddenly.

“A theory? About what?”

“Why I’m here. Despite the fact that Rachel probably told you that I’m here to watch birds and hike, you do have a theory of your own.”

“You must admit, birdwatching is usually not a hobby one would think a twenty-two year old takes up.”

Ben laughed at that. “True. It is quite relaxing, though. And I also like bungee jumping for that matter. So, tell me, what do you think I was doing here?”

Inspector Coultry knew that he could ruin his case with that but he answered nonetheless: “Johann Finkenstedt. Owns a mansion on the southernmost cliff of the island. A rich and powerful businessman, import, export, whose collection of modern sculptures – Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol mostly – is in said mansion.”

Ben looked up from his work. He seemed to hesitate for a moment and then he shrugged and shook his head. “I’ve heard of him. But I prefer paintings and jewellery.”

It was as close to a confession as he would ever get. And it was true. As far as the inspector knew, Ben had never stolen sculptures, probably because they were difficult to transport.

“So, want to tell me about the Egyptian headband that went missing from a museum in Berlin last year?” He had to try, at least.

Ben hesitated again. “I’ve heard of that as well.” He smirked. “Quite impressive and daring from what I read. But what could I possibly tell you about it?”

Yes, that was the answer he had expected.

Inspector Coultry just shook his head and went back to bailing out the boat. There was nothing else to do.

“So, your story?”, he prompted.

“Well, there is not much else to tell, really. These two guys sit in the boat and it’s filling with water. Now, they soon realise that the boat can’t hold them both for long. As a matter of fact, they know they will both die unless one of them leaves the boat. Then the other one stands a chance to survive. Now, what would you do in a situation like that?”

“We are in a situation like that!”

“Not quite, luckily, but close enough, which makes the question so much more interesting. Of course, in a secure environment, like a lab for example, people at least try to be honourable and some even suggest that they would jump overboard to save their friend. On the other hand, when one person is on the boat that can only hold one and the other is in the water, it is so much easier to not save him. It doesn’t feel like murder, then. After all, it’s just inaction, not action.”

“Are you suggesting that one of us should sacrifice himself for the other?”

Ben laughed. “I honestly hope our boat isn’t in such a bad shape. - By the way, what time is it?”

It was such a random question that Inspector Coultry automatically looked at his wristwatch. He couldn’t make out the time right away because the sun had set and darkness surrounded them. He clicked a small button on the watch to illuminate the clock-face. “About 8 o’clock. Why?”

“Just curious.”

The answer was given nonchalant enough but Inspector Coultry noticed nonetheless that Ben became more nervous. Until now they both had stayed as calm as possible. Ben had even seemed perfectly content with their situation no matter how much he griped about Inspector Coultry’s stupidity. But now, Ben kept looking to the boat’s GPS that showed the coordinates of their position in blinking green figures but couldn’t send a distress signal. That’s what the radio’s for, or your mobile, Inspector Coultry reminded himself. He still didn’t understand why he hadn’t checked the radio before they had started and why he hadn’t made sure that his mobile was charged. Benjamin apparently hadn’t taken hi on this vacation. At least, there was none found in his personal belongings.

It was nearly to dark now to see the water that reached halfway up their calves by now and the inspector stopped his fruitless efforts to keep the boat dry for a moment to retrieve a torchlight that was stored in a chest under one of the benches. He clicked the torchlight on and pale light illuminated the darkness.

“Is this the only torch we have?”, Ben asked.

“Yes. Why?”

“Additional batteries and light bulbs?”

“No. Why?”

“Then turn it off.” It was an order.

He had heard Ben use a mocking tone, an accusing tone and an amused tone in the span of the last few hours, but the sudden authority in his voice surprised him.

“Why?”, he asked again.

“Because I’ll need it later.”, Ben said absent-mindedly, still staring at the GPS and only scooping water on the side. When Inspector Coultry didn’t react to Ben’s request, the thief reached for the torchlight himself, clicked it off and put it in his jacket.

“You need it l...”, the inspector started to say but decided against it. It didn’t make sense to him, but Ben had said it with such conviction that he just didn’t feel like questioning him. He shook his head and tried for a reasonable argument instead. “Passing boats are more likely to see us if we turn on a light.”

“Oh, there are so many boats passing through here during the day. There must be traffic jams here at night.”

“Benjamin, I’m trying to be reasonable here.”

“And I’m trying to stay alive. We’ll probably hear them and can turn the light on then. How long do you think the batteries of this thing will last? A few hours? - You didn’t listen to me when I told you to slow down this bloody boat. Listen to me now. I obviously know better what to do.”

There wasn’t much to do, except bailing out water hour after hour. Inspector Coultry wanted to argue, he wanted to scream and tell Ben that they wouldn’t be in this situation if Ben hadn’t decided to flee to some remote island that didn’t even have a regular ferry, or if Ben hadn’t stolen art amounting to nearly a million pounds. But this just wasn’t a good idea. They literally sat in the same boat. And the inspector was responsible for Ben. Their nerves were on edge. It was understandable that they would get into a serious argument sooner or later. But that was also the worst thing that could happen. No, the inspector corrected himself, the worst would be if the boat sank. But we can’t argue. It’s too dangerous.

Thinking about it actually stopped him from saying a few things he better kept to himself and so silence surrounded the two man once again. It was only interrupted by the waves splashing against the planks of the boat and the faint sound of what could have been music. It was probably the sound of a rock band playing its last open air concert of the season in a city at the coast that drifted to them through the fog. They weren’t that far from the coast – that was the most frustrating. But it was probably just too far to swim, especially in this fog. They also couldn’t manoeuvre the boat, they couldn’t reach the land, they couldn’t scream and make themselves heard – but they knew that safety was just a few kilometres away.

*

“What time is it?”, Ben asked again after a while.

“What does it matter?”, the inspector returned, exhausted. He was tired and wet and his back hurt with every movement of his cramping arms. And still he kept on scooping the water – as did Ben.

“Just tell me.” Ben sounded as exhausted as Inspector Coultry felt. That alone made him look at his watch again.

“It’s a quarter to nine. Why?”

Ben didn’t answer immediately. He just sighed deeply and relieved and stopped scooping.

“Because now,” Ben said with the most dangerous voice he could muster and pointing the inspector’s gun at him, “it is time for you, Inspector Coultry, to jump!”

The inspector could only stare at the thief for a moment.

“So you do want to kill me, after all?”, he asked. But even before he had finished speaking, Ben had put the gun down and started to laugh. It sounded slightly hysterical to the inspector but at the same time he realised that most of his changes in tone were calculated and that the thief lied more with his voice than his words.

“I’m sorry.”, he gasped through his laughter. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to see your face. Sorry.”

“Sorry? You are sorry? Damn it, Ben. Damn it!”, he cursed and grabbed the gun from the thief. “Did no one ever tell you not to play with guns? Damn it, Ben. That’s dangerous! Do you have any idea what could happen?” There were definitely limits to his patience. “I thought you would know better.”

“Know better?”, Ben asked, “I’d never use guns.”

“So what? You’re not a complete moron, are you? Then you should know better, you should!”

“Oh, come on, it was a joke!”

“That’s not a joke! And... Wait a second, you never use guns? Was that a confession?”

Ben sobered up at that question immediately. “No,” he said, “it wasn’t. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to scare you, it’s just...” He thought for a moment. “No, there isn’t a good explanation or apology. You are right, it was stupid. It won’t happen again. I’m sorry.”

“Damn it, Ben.” Inspector Coultry just shook his head and checked the safety of his gun before he put it back holstered it again. He had no idea when Ben had stolen it. And if he was honest to himself, he didn’t want to know. It was embarrassing no matter what.

Slightly subdued, Ben said after a moment: “I do want you to jump out of the boat, though.”

“What the hell? Have you gone mad? What are you talking about?”

The grin was back on Ben’s mouth as suddenly as it had disappeared. “It’s time to walk home, don’t you think?”

Inspector Coultry shook his head for what felt like the thousandth time that day. The mood swings of the thief were as fast as a TGV but he had realised by now that most of them were calculated and faked – manipulating just for the sake of it.

“Walk home? We’re in the middle of the ocean!”, he pointed out.

“It’s the North Sea. Ocean’s not quite the right word. You can even swim through it from England to France in about 8 hours.”

“Swim through it?” Maybe the stress was getting to the thief more than he had thought. “That’s the Channel! And it doesn’t have anything to do with our current situation! Not to mention that neither of us is that good a swimmer, I’d imagine. Besides, we’re not in the Channel.”

Ben sighed. “No, we’re not. But we are in the Wadden Sea. We were about six kilometres from the coast an hour ago and drifted one kilometre in that time – that is, since the beginning of ebb tide. Which means we are lucky, very lucky.”

“What are you talking about?” Inspector Coultry was never very interested in the workings of the sea.

“Look.” Ben sighed again. “You can walk up to ten kilometres out into the Wadden Sea. He can even walk between some of the islands around here. At low tide, that is. It’s not exactly safe during the night and not exactly recommended when it’s foggy. As a matter of fact, it’s a really bad idea when it’s foggy, but it is possible and the boat won’t last ‘till the next low tide in the morning and we have no idea if anyone will find us. So, I’m willing to risk it. Just pass me my ring and we’re good to go.”

Now Inspector Coultry was completely confused. “What do you need you’re ring for?”

“There’s a small compass in it. Not very precise but it’s all we have because this bloody GPS is bolted to the boat for some reason and I’m used to a compass anyway. Figuring out what these numbers mean requires too much thinking when I need to pay attention where I walk.”

The inspector just stared at his prisoner. Either the young man really had lost his mind or he really meant to walk to the coast from somewhere in the North Sea. Thinking about it, the inspector realised that these two things didn’t really contradict each other and so they were probably both true.

When he didn’t move to give the thief his ring, Ben reached over the inspector and grabbed it himself from his drenched rucksack.

“Are you coming?”

The inspector didn’t move. Could he trust Benjamin? But why would he suggest something like that if he didn’t believe it was possible? They were in this together. He didn’t profit in any way by making this up.

“Inspector Coultry? Timothy? - Listen, I know what I’m doing and we have to move – now. The boat’s still drifting and seven kilometres is about the limit of what we can probably walk during low tide. We don’t have time!”

“And you couldn’t have told me about this way out some time ago? - Damn it, Ben, it would be easier to trust you...”

“I don’t want your trust. I don’t care. But I can’t leave you here in good conscience. So move.”

Slowly, the inspector got up from his bench and looked suspiciously into the darkness surrounding them. He didn’t see the water but he didn’t see anything resembling solid ground either. Ben, on the other hand, removed his shoes and jumped swiftly over the side of the boat. He sank into the water that still reached to his thighs and the wet ground sucked at his feet but after a moment he stood safely and clicked the torch on.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”, the inspector asked again when he saw this.

“Oh, let’s see. First of all, you wouldn’t have believed me.”

Inspector Coultry had to concede the point with a small smile while he removed his own shoes.

“Second, you’re an idiot who didn’t listen when I told him to slow his damn boat down.”

“So, out of spite?”, the inspector asked and took Ben’s offered hand and let him help him out of the swaying boat. He tumbled into the water.

“If you want to call it that. But the main reason is that I had no idea if it would be possible because I didn’t know if the boat would drift too far out. False hope and all that.”

“Yes, but you realised at some point... I saw you checking the GPS and...”

“Yes, at some point.”, he said, steadying the inspector, who needed a bit more time to find his footing in the receding water on slippery ground. “Now listen,” he continued, “Be careful where you step. Stay close to me. We only have this one light – I told you I’d need it – and pay attention to tide-ways. If we step in one, well... I’m not familiar with the Wadden Sea around here, I never hiked here before and never by night. But I know what I need to look out for.”

“Hike? You really are here for hiking?”

“As I said, birdwatching and hiking, especially mudflat hiking. I’m here on vacation. And for the record, I also am not interested in Johann Finkenstedt’s collection. Most of his pieces are forgeries anyway.”, Ben said and started walking.

“Forgeries? How...?” Damn it.


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

You might have met Inspector Coultry and Benjamin Matthews already in Lady Susanna's Necklace. This story here is set about two to three years before the other one.

Aristide Maillol and Auguste Rodin are French sculptors. (I'm sure you already knew this.)

It really is possible to hike between some of the islands in the Wadden Sea and I tried to get all information I give about mudflat hiking right, but I'm far from an expert.

JudasFm

  • Zlang-Zlang Squid Says: All Hail the Squid!
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with voice acting
My entry will be in later today, I promise! I hope the deadline goes until the end of the 6th. Please? :grin:

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Yep.  I don't ever end the contest until well into the next day.  Just in case. ;)

So let's say 24 more hours, folks!

JudasFm

  • Zlang-Zlang Squid Says: All Hail the Squid!
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with voice acting
AN: This went in several different directions before settling into this one, so I'm not sure how close to the prompt I managed to get. But it's done and I got it in just in time, which is the main thing :D And it was a lot of fun going back to this world; I'll probably reuse it for future prompts, if I can ;)

GREEN LIGHTS

They can't cross the lights.

I have to remember that.  All the time the three of us are inside the ring of lights, we're safe.  The ring is both our sanctuary and our prison.

I can barely see to write this.  The lights aren't white; they're a kind of bottle green color and very dim.  Inside the ring, we can just about see each other.  More than a meter or so outside the ring, there's nothing but darkness, and the darkness is absolute.  In the darkness, there's nothing but death.  They're waiting for us.  We hear them, sometimes.  A scratching sound, or a soft hissing like the world's biggest hourglass.

But they can't cross the lights.

I'm not alone here.  There are two others with me; a heavily built man called Thomas Mawer and a private soldier who introduced himself to me as Andrew. 

There used to be more, though.  When I first arrived two weeks ago, there were eight of us.  The other five were stupid.  They crossed the lights.  The darkness ate them.  I hope Halsh won't bring in any more stupid people.

Halsh.  Yes.  What do I write about Halsh?

He's a Kheshen, for one thing.  Millions of years ago, an offshoot group of primitive humans went into the caves and under the ground rather than onto the plains.  They look like humans – surfacers, they call us – but they're faster.  Stronger.  They have advanced psychic powers, although using them takes so much energy that I understand most Kheshens don't bother.  The vision centers of their brains evolved and changed to fit with their underground lifestyle; from birth, a Kheshen can see not only the light spectrum, but shift vision between the infrared and ultraviolet as well.  Infrared allows them to see each other.  Ultraviolet allows them to see other things.  I've heard there are animals down here that only show up in the light or ultraviolet spectrum. 

This probably seems incredible to people, but I swear it's true.  The law of the jungle has never gone out in Kheshen and they never had the luxury of being top of the food chain like their surface cousins.  To survive to adulthood, you have to be fast, smart and strong.  Those that aren't don't live long enough to have children.  Those that are pass on the genes to their kids.

I wonder if Halsh has kids.  Probably.  He's handsome and he lived long enough to become an adult.  To a Kheshen, that ensures a healthy set of genes.

"Are you still hung up on that asshole?" Andrew demands and I jump.

"Halsh isn't an asshole," I answer.

"He's the one who put us here."

I don't know if that's true, but I know that Halsh is the one who's been bringing us food and water.  The creatures don't attack him, for some reason. 

"Where is here, anyway?" I ask.

Andrew shrugs.  "Kheshens don't explain themselves to the likes of us, Sarah.  One of their damn city-states, but I've no clue which one.  As soon as I got underground, they knocked me out."

I nod.  That had happened to me too.

"We screwed up," Andrew mutters.  I get the feeling he's not really addressing me; I'm just a convenient pair of ears.


"What do you mean?" I ask.

He gives me a death's head grin.  "We assumed that just because we didn't know about Kheshen, Kheshen wouldn't know about us either.  They've always known."

He spits into the darkness.  Something on the other side of it hisses.

"Some moron decided that since Kheshen was mostly under a surface country, it was rightfully the property of that country.  Like their city-states were nothing but gigantic natural resources.  But they knew.  Those Kheshen bastards knew we'd find out sooner or later.  They knew we'd try to conquer them when we did, or they thought we would.  They've been preparing for this war for generations.  They weren't only ready for us; they were waiting.  Your precious Halsh among them.  Didn't you ever wonder how he came to be fluent in English?"

I blink.  I've never really thought about that.

"I'll tell you," Andrew says, even though I haven't asked.  "He took it.  He didn't speak a word of English when we showed up, but when we were taken prisoner, he walked up to the guy at the far end and touched him on the side of the head.  The guy screamed, collapsed and all of a sudden Halsh is fluent in English and the poor sap whose mind he ripped into is a fucking vegetable!"

"He wasn't too bright before then."

We all look around at this new voice, even though we all know who it belongs to.  At least, I know very well.  Sure enough, Halsh is sitting on a ledge at the far end of the room, holding a green light in one hand.

"I think it's time we had a chat."  He jumps off the ledge, dropping ten feet to the ground.  There's a skittering sound as the creatures in the darkness run from the light.  I catch a glimpse of a leg, but that's all.  They're fast.

Halsh stands there and waits for the noise to stop before he speaks again.

"Okay.  Here's the deal.  You throw one person outside the ring, and we'll let the other two go."

We stare at him.

"If you want one of us dead, why don't you kill them yourself?" Andrew demands.

He shrugs.  "If it were up to me, I'd consider it.  It ain't.  I'm just passing on the message.  You got three minutes to decide."

The light in his hand goes out abruptly and I gasp, waiting for the sound of rushing, hissing, eating that always follows anyone stupid enough to step into the darkness.

Nothing happens.

"What are we going to do?" I ask.  "We can't make a decision like that, much less in three minutes!"

Andrew groans.  "You think Halsh doesn't know that?  That Kheshen bastard is just watching us right now and laughing.  He'll never let us go.  It's a game to him!  Just a sick, fucked up game!"

"You don't know that.  He said he was just following orders," I say, and Andrew suddenly explodes.

"Stop it!  Stop making excuses for the one who put us here!"

Mawer is suddenly staring at me with single-minded intensity.  "Maybe we should throw her out."

I wait for Andrew to fight back, to say there's no way they would do such a thing, but all of a sudden he's looking at me too like he thinks maybe that's not such a bad idea.

"Are you one of them?" he asks me.

I stare at him.  "No!"

"I heard they play this game in Skan," Mawer says.  "They plant one of their own in the group just to keep things interesting."

"I'm not Kheshen," I insist.

"Then why the fuck do you keep standing up for them?"

"Because we were the ones who declared war on them!" My heel hits one of the lights and something behind me hisses loudly.  I freeze.  "Why is it alright for us to attack them without any provocation, but not for them to defend themselves?"

"We came in peace—"

"Yes, with a shedload of heavy artillery and the entire fucking military!"  The profanity shocks me even as I say it; I don't usually go in for that kind of language.  "You can't blame them for getting the wrong idea!  If they'd come up to the surface heavily armed and in full force, what would you have thought?  Your message wasn't Let's work together, it was Your lands and city-states are under our land and therefore we've decided they belong to us."

Mawer seizes my blouse in one hand.  "They do.  The natural resources in Kheshen are astonishing!  They use diamonds and rubies as a currency!"

Something clicks in my mind, something that's been bugging me since I agreed to come down here and teach the poor, backward Kheshens English so they could communicate with us more easily.  The hell with it.  If I'm going to die, I'm going to have my say first.

"And so you think you have the right to waltz in and strip it bare?  Because you've got an army?  That's not diplomacy or an invasion; that's bullying, plain and simple!"

"Don't talk about what you don't understand!  Natural resources have always been spoils of war."

"You sure they're not the cause of it?" I say.

He starts to push me outside the lights and I bring my knee up into his groin with all the force I can summon.  It's not much, but it lets me twist out of his hold and back into the safety of the lights.

"And what if you lose?" I say.  "Does that give the Kheshens the right to plunder the surface and call it the spoils of war?  Maybe the surfacers need someone who's more sympathetic to Kheshen to negotiate when all this is over.  Why don't you walk out of the ring?  You could save us both!"

At that point, the ring of light starts to shrink, every bulb sliding slowly inward as if pushed by invisible hands.

"He's using telekinesis!" Andrew stares wildly around as Mawer and I inch further in to stay within the circle.  I've heard that Kheshens numbered telekinesis among their psychic abilities, but this is the first demonstration I've seen.

His eyes now wild, Andrew grabs me and lifts me off my feet, then half shoves, half throws me into the darkness.  I hear the creatures approaching, I hear the scratching of claws on stone and oh dear God, I can feel them standing above me.  I roll sideways and hear a crack as something – a sting, fangs, claws, I don't know – hits the stone where I was.

Something behind me rolls me onto my back and holds me there.  I start to scream, and then something else grabs me by the wrist and my vision clouds over with black stars.

When it clears, I'm standing in a cave that's well lit.  I think it's the Kheshen equivalent to a home.  There are still green lights, but they're on the wall instead of the floor, forming a ring around the ceiling.  Good.  That's good.  I'm safe again.  Hopelessly disoriented, but safe.

"I have to say, I'm surprised."

I look around and see that the something which grabbed my wrist back in the darkness was Halsh.  He glances down, as if he's only just remembered that himself, then releases me.

"You saved me?" I stare at him, unsure how to take this.

Halsh shrugs.  "You seem smarter than the average surfacer."

"How?  I was...the darkness and those things..."

He chuckles.  "You didn't know we can teleport, then?"

I shake my head mutely.

"It's not the most pleasant of sensations and it takes a lot out of us, so we don't do it very often.  I didn't have time to rescue you in the traditional way.  Besides, I needed to get you here as soon as possible."

I take another look round at where here is.  It's mostly bare, but there's a stone table in the center and a kind of large oval container in the far corner.  I look at Halsh and he nods, so I move in for a closer inspection.  The outside is a pale beige color, and the inside is made out of what looks like highly polished mahogany.  There's a circular niche in the middle and several recesses set into the sides in perfect symmetry, plus two larger recesses at one end, which is raised much like a headboard.

"What is it?" I ask.

"A bed.  Or what you would call a bed, anyway."

I touch it.  It's as smooth as it looks. There are no blankets or pillows, but Kheshen is warm enough for me not to need them and this thing looks like it'll be far more comfortable than sleeping on the bare rock.

"Did you make it?"

Halsh laughs, as if I've just said the dumbest thing in the world.  "No!"

"I don't mean you personally.  I mean Kheshens.  Did you—do your people make these?"

He shakes his head, still grinning.  "No, we don't.  We just prepare them."

"Prepare them?" I look back at the Kheshen bed and push tentatively on the edge.  It barely moves.  "What's it made of?"

Halsh's grin broadens.  "That's a terafaidi carapace.  Part of one, anyway.  They molt quite often, so we just take the empty skin when they're done."

"What's a terafaidi?"

"Oh, if I told you that, you'd be too frightened to sleep a wink.  They don't come into the city-states, though."

I look around at the ring of lights on the ceiling.  "And the lights will protect me, right?  Like they did before?"

Halsh chuckles.  "Sure, sure.  Terafaidi hate the light.  Well, living where they do, it's not surprising, is it?"

No, not at all.  Creatures that evolved in complete darkness, without even the moon...yes.  I can see where they might have a violent aversion to light.  Good.  That's good.  It means I'm safe here.  Safe in the lights.

THREE MONTHS LATER

I thought I should put a final note here, like a sort of epilog.  This is the last page in my notebook, and I don't know when I'll get another one.  Writing materials are very hard to come by in Disihad, for some reason.

Yes, Disihad.  Halsh was generous enough to answer a few of my questions last time he came.  I now know the name of the city-state where I live.  I have no idea where it is in Kheshen, but that doesn't matter anymore, because I also know that I won't be leaving until the war is over.  Maybe not even then.  It's not so bad here.  Halsh even found me a couple of books in English.  Apparently one of the other city-states has a huge library.

So I'll stay here in my lair, inside the ring.  The war will rage around me, people will die, but I'll be safe here.  The green lights burn twenty four seven.  Even then I still have nightmares about the time when those two surfacers threw me into the darkness to die.  I wonder what happened to them.

I still see Halsh from time to time.  He's very busy, but he comes by when he remembers me.  And I have a neighbor now.  I don't know her name, but she lives opposite me.  She's a surfacer too.  Sometimes we smile and wave to each other and sometimes we stand in the entrance to our lairs and talk across the street.  Even though we're so close, though, we've never actually visited each other.  And we never will.

We can't cross the lights, you see.

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
All right, folks!  That's the deadline.  Our entries, in order of submission, are:

Superposition by SilverSpook
Inspector Coultry‘s Boat by Sinitrena, and
Green Lights by JudasFm

As advertised in the OP, your voting categories are as follows:

Best Character: Most believable or captivating or magnetic or unique: could be main character or supporting role
Best Scenario: Replacing our usual Background World/Setting category: who had the most creative scenario, or the most vividly described predicament?
Most Suspenseful: Replacing our Atmosphere category, which story left you at the edge of your seat, yearning and dreading to find out what happens next?
Best Writing Style: The technical art of combining words in clever or gripping ways.
Cleverest Ending: Sometimes the best suspense leads to a disappointing conclusion.  Which story had the most satisfying ending?

Please have all votes in by midnight September 11th, and I will tabulate and declare a winner whenever I get around to it on the 12th.  Good luck to all entrants, and as always, happy reading! :)

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
Best Character: JudasFm's Sarah - I can emphazise with Sarah. She's in a really bad situation but still tries to understand her captors. She seems like a nice woman. I found it a bit strange that her original motivation was to teach English to the Kheshen, because it sounds a lot like the first interactions between "us" and the Kheshen was agressive - and that agression hasn't ended. So why exactly was she there? Maybe I'm missing something here.

Best Scenario: SilverSpook - A weird scenario, with all kinds of creatures and tech. It just has more to offer than JudasFm's world.

Most Suspenseful: JudasFm - SilverSpook's story never managed to create any suspense for me, mainly because I didn't know what was going on half the time. It's an interesting scenario, but it was just too much. The dark cave with only a few lights in JudasFm's story offers more horror for me, especially when Sarah gets thrown out of the safe circle of lights. There is one problem though, where all suspense just vanishes: Halsh has just saved Sarah, they talk for half a minute about this and then ... she notices a bed? It's completely random why she should be interested in this object all of a sudden. Yes, it's a good description, yes, people should check out their sourroundings but this is just the completly wrong moment! Maybe if she noticed it and we would go back to her rescue right afterwards, but we never do (as a matter of fact, we jump three mounth ahead instead) - or if the bed is mentioned because Halsh wanted sexual favours from her (which would be awful of course but it would give this random moment a reason). As it is, I felt like there were a few paragraphs missing and the whole "talking about a bed" thing read like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.

Best Writing Style: SilverSpook - I like all the references in this story, especially this: " All the King's black helicopters and All the King's bone-mic'd, black-shaded men." Very clever writing all arround.

Cleverest Ending: JudasFm - Not so much for the "Three mounths later" part as a whole (which wasn't really necessary and didn't add much to the story) or the fact that Sarah gets rescued by Halsh (which I expected from the moment he told them that the two who throw the last one out would survive) but for the first and last sentence. I scrolled through the thread before I read the stories and noticed the parallels in these sentences before I knew what was going on, so it was quite intruiging.

kconan

  • After⇐---—---⇒Before
Best Character: Sinitrena...for Inspector Coultry, who was a bit bumbling and fun in his reactions to whatever his prisoner tried next.
Best Scenario: JudasFm...I'm a sucker for the branching evolution tales, and I enjoyed how Sarah was unbiased enough to realize that her own race was as more at fault for starting the war.
Most Suspenseful: Sinitrena...While the stakes were not as life/death on a larger scale as the other stories, there was as consistent tension in the air.
Best Writing Style: JudasFm and Sinitrena...were both good in this department as usual.
Cleverest Ending: JudasFm and SilverSpook

JudasFm

  • Zlang-Zlang Squid Says: All Hail the Squid!
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with voice acting
Best Character: JudasFm's Sarah - I can emphazise with Sarah. She's in a really bad situation but still tries to understand her captors. She seems like a nice woman. I found it a bit strange that her original motivation was to teach English to the Kheshen, because it sounds a lot like the first interactions between "us" and the Kheshen was agressive - and that agression hasn't ended. So why exactly was she there? Maybe I'm missing something here.

A little.  Remember that the person telling the story of the first interactions is a soldier.  And Mawer is telling the truth when he says they came in peace, but they also came with weapons. They were expecting to walk in with superior weaponry and occupy Kheshen by awe and intimidation. If the Kheshens had been suitably awed and intimidated, or had recognized the surfacers' claim, there wouldn't have been any bloodshed. Unfortunately, at least for the surfacers, Kheshen fought back and it escalated from there.

Sarah was brought in at the beginning because at the time, the surfacers weren't expecting any more than a token resistance.  Since she wasn't armed and clearly not there to fight, the Kheshens let her live (this is part of Halsh's motivation for saving her. If they'd thrown someone else out, he would have let that person die, taken Sarah under the guise of 'letting her go' like he promised, and then had the other person in the ring killed. However, this couldn't go into a first person POV story as there's no possible way Sarah would have known about it ;)) I did try rewriting from Halsh's POV at one point, but watching the situation through a third party's eyes took out any real tension.

Quote
There is one problem though, where all suspense just vanishes: Halsh has just saved Sarah, they talk for half a minute about this and then ... she notices a bed? [...] As it is, I felt like there were a few paragraphs missing and the whole "talking about a bed" thing read like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.

(laugh) You know, I thought I'd read most of TV Tropes already, but that was a completely new one on me! It's a fair comment though; I knew that paragraph was off when I posted it, but I was scrabbling to get it done by the deadline. There was a whole lot more that should have been included but what with studying and everything, I really didn't have time to work it all in the way I wanted. I had to rewrite it several times as it was. I'll do better next time :)

Anyway, enough of that; time for my votes!

Best Character: SilverSpook for Jim.
Best Scenario: Sinitrena. As Sinitrena says, SilverSpook's story was a nice idea, but tried to do too much. I found it hard to follow.
Most Suspenseful: SilverSpook. I don't know why, but I didn't get any real sense of tension from Sinitrena's work; Ben's leisurely approach and the fact he plays a practical joke on the inspector told me that he knew something the other man didn't, and they were never in any real danger.
Best Writing Style: Sinitrena. The only thing that really jarred for me was the punctuation used while characters were speaking ("I'm sure you have a theory.", should be "I'm sure you have a theory," A period is only used if you're not going on to describe who spoke, and even then, it should be inside the quotation marks. Sorry, I'm pedantic about things like that :)
Cleverest Ending: Sinitrena. Even though I knew they were never in danger of drowning, I really didn't expect them to walk home through the sea. Nice twist :-D

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
One more day to vote!

Ponch

  • AGS Baker
  • I'm back, baby!
    • Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
    • Ponch worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Best Character: Sinitrena
Best Scenario: JudasFm
Most Suspenseful: Sinitrena
Best Writing Style: Sinitrena
Cleverest Ending: SilverSpook
*

Best Character: Sinitrena
Best Scenario: JudasFm
Most Suspenseful: Sinitrena
Best Writing Style: JudasFm
Cleverest Ending: JudasFm

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
....and that's it for voting!  Thank you everyone who read and voted: it's always more heartening for our authors when they see that their hard work has actually been read and appreciated. ;-D  Also, usually there are clear category winners, but I was happy to notice that every entrant got at least one vote in every category this time, making it the most evenly distributed vote I've ever seen.  This is indicative of just how close the competition was: a true battle of equals. :)

But, in the competitive world of competition, there are always some competitors who are more equal than others.  Now the results:

  The golden lifeboat of life-saving goes to Sinitrena with 11 votes.  Congratulations!  I immediately recognized the recurrent characters from your whodunnit submission, which was a happy surprise.  Had I been able to vote I would also have certainly given you my vote for most satisfying ending: I totally did not see them walking the boat in from the sea. :)  I was wondering why Ben pulled the gun on the inspector, though?  Was it just to develop his character as a trickster?  It seemed a bit ...rash for a cat burglar.  If the Inspector had no evidence against him before, now at least he'd have something to charge him with....

The silver lifeboat by a sliver goes to JudasFm with 10 votes.  This is what we in the business refer to as "runner-up by a whisker". ;)  Two more votes would have pushed you over the top, and you certainly would have gotten one from me for the scenario category: I loved your shadowy, unrevealed creatures of the darkness held at bay only by a ring of lights.  I was completely enthralled with the Kheshen, telekinesis and all, right up to the the teleporting thing.  I think that was one ability too many to keep the story believable, and really wasn't necessary from a plot point of view (the drama in the "bedroom" could have just occurred later, like the ending did).  But overall very suspenseful and entertaining read.

  Finally, the bronze lifeboat of buoyancy goes to SilverSpook.  If I were not the contest administrator your piece would have certainly got some votes from me.  I'm not saying it was the best piece, but the word-play and concept were fantastically clever.  I don't have enough room to cite all my favourite excerpts, but a few include:

I missed competitive retro-gaming from my 8x10 coffin apartment in The Shelter...
The fuzz be crossin' our quanza streams and shit...
After being transcranial-magnetically-tortured for subjective millennia, his skull-chassis would be mounted on a skymansion wall, next to the taxadermied heads of Siberian tigers, cloned mammoths, and liberal senators.
...known thenceforth as ‘The Kill Shot War’, for the technique of the resistance fighters who held their firearms sideways, gangsta style.

...and so on.  I also thought the character of Proto-J was funny enough, but the alternate reality where he becomes El-Presidente easily made him my favourite creation of the competition.  On the down side, the piece was hard to get into and I had to read the beginning twice to really understand the set-up.  It's not that the beginning was any more densely written than the rest, but it was a bit overwhelming right off the bat without the reader having any bearings to keep him involved in the story.  Also, the characters perceive the "bubble" that they are stuck in as more of a threat than a source of salvation, which doesn't quite jive with the theme of "lifeboat".  But I critique because I love: great work! ;-D

Actually, great work everyone!  Those were three really solid entries, and everyone should be proud of what they produced.  I now turn the the burden of contest administration over to Sinitrena, who by dint of winning must now come up with the next theme.  I hope to see everyone out again in the next exciting instalment of...

...The Fortnightly Writing Competition!!

JudasFm

  • Zlang-Zlang Squid Says: All Hail the Squid!
    • I can help with play testing
    • I can help with story design
    • I can help with voice acting
Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition -LIFEBOAT (Results)
« Reply #19 on: 13 Sep 2015, 06:10 »
The silver lifeboat by a sliver goes to JudasFm with 10 votes.  This is what we in the business refer to as "runner-up by a whisker". ;)  Two more votes would have pushed you over the top, and you certainly would have gotten one from me for the scenario category: I loved your shadowy, unrevealed creatures of the darkness held at bay only by a ring of lights.  I was completely enthralled with the Kheshen, telekinesis and all, right up to the the teleporting thing.  I think that was one ability too many to keep the story believable, and really wasn't necessary from a plot point of view (the drama in the "bedroom" could have just occurred later, like the ending did).  But overall very suspenseful and entertaining read.

:-D Thanks so much everyone and congrats to Sinitrena! The Kheshen teleporting ability...teleportation has always been considered to go hand-in-hand with telekinesis and telepathy. It does have some limitations though, which means it's not just a get-out-of-jail-free card. I plan to elaborate on this further in future contests ;) Looking back on it, I think this was definitely the wrong world to pick for this contest.