View Full Version : Short Story Competition: 2B
7th Apr 02, 8:14 AM
This is a repost, as you may have gathered...
Short story competition:
-> 7,500 word limit
-> Themes: humorous, wierd, sci-fi
-> Deadline: 15th June, 2002
-> Entries posed before the deadline can be edited on the forums
Entries can be posted between now and the deadline. Have fun. :thumb:
7th Apr 02, 8:31 AM
Count me in. I already have an idea lined up, which definately falls into the 'weird' category...
- ion -
7th Apr 02, 4:00 PM
I coulda sworn I posted here already, but, yeah, I'm in...
13th Apr 02, 12:20 AM
Count me in. Hopefully I can find the time!!!
14th Apr 02, 1:16 PM
I'm guessing those three themes are guidelines rather than absolutes right Bedford? I'm not sure I can make my story all three...
14th Apr 02, 3:29 PM
:0 Oh no, no, no... not all three. Any of those, or anything else you can think of. They were just guidelines: things I'd like to see, but...
17th Apr 02, 5:25 PM
For a further idea of what to aim for, check out the Previous Competition (http://forums.relicnews.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=563) in The Garden (http://forums.relicnews.com/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=30)
Good luck everyone, may the best man (or woman) triumph!
12th May 02, 7:06 AM
Just a reminder that the entries are due in on the 19th May - that's seven days away: one week. :thumb:
Hope we get a good turn out... :insane: :cool:
12th May 02, 10:08 AM
Gah. ono. no time.
Maybe I'll toss in an earlier story on this one, but the deadline is just too tight for me to write a new piece.
12th May 02, 11:25 AM
Gah. ono. no time.
Maybe I'll toss in an earlier story on this one, but the deadline is just too tight for me to write a new piece.
If this is the general consensus, perhaps an extension of the deadline is in order? I know some people (including myself) have exams over the next few weeks. Would an extension be applicable?
12th May 02, 1:32 PM
- ion -
12th May 02, 5:07 PM
Story is under very basic construction, but will not be done unless deadline extension...
12th May 02, 8:26 PM
Yea, an extension would be great... I've got the end of the year coming up fast too, so finals etc. are starting to creep up. Plus, defying all common sense, over half of my teachers are just now launching some kind of large project, so I'm horridly busy (as compared to just being lazy).
I know two months isn't going to happen, so whatever you feel is a reasonable extension is fine by me.
12th May 02, 11:36 PM
Is 24,000 okay???
I hate it when I get carried away...
14th May 02, 4:10 AM
I think I'll extend the deadline to the 15th of June - I know that's after my exams have finished, though I realise some will just be starting and others continuing. However, I beleive an extra month is a "reasonable extension". But if you have any problems, you should tell me: then I can change deadlines and so on.
24,000 words is something like 5.6 times over the word limit. Erm... dunno. You should be penalised, that is if everyone else hasn't gone (ahem) wildly over the limit. However, knowing the good and commendable attitudes of most of the people in here, you might get away with it. Depends on how good your story is though, doesn't it?
I've updated the first post to incorporate deadline changes.
14th May 02, 4:06 PM
June 15 sure is a distance... Well, I'll stand it. If I do contribute anything to this contest it will have to be the utter pinnacle of all my work so far.
15th May 02, 5:19 PM
ah, good... with that extension, I might be able to finish The Unbound for the contest... not that's it going to win or somewhat... too much fighting, not enough character..... bah, I WILL find a way to turn this around! yes, I will submit to the contest, before the deadline..... o-yes......
22nd May 02, 9:28 AM
Count me in I may be new here but I'm a story teller form the HWU forums. DO we just post it here?
22nd May 02, 10:36 AM
The previous short story compo placed entries in the details thread. The poll for voting for the best short was put in a new thread. I think that approach is the best to take again here.
Note: Make entries new, individual posts, please! Enjoy yourselves. :dunce:
22nd May 02, 11:06 AM
The aim was simple: write a story in a space opera setting. Nothing too ambitious, nothing that would make Iain M. Banks bow his head in shame; nothing to outdo Stephen Donaldson, force him crawling back to a more mundane day job.
And this is it. Whatever 'it' may be. Well, you're going to have to read on to find out, aren't you? Just make sure there's something soft beneath your jaw...
Word count: 7782
Note - Don't think you have to read this now just because it's now that I've posted it. I for one will not be reading any entries until after my exams, and then a few days after that. :cool:
All posts written under the pseudonym 'Bedford' in this thread are: Copyright to Nick Bedford, 2002
The pirate ship Embez docked desperate for repairs; left the bootleg shipyard several days later with much of her damage still showing. Heading on a course through space towards Teroy Vey. Scant minutes later, another ship broke dock: trailing wires and wrenched-off pieces of machinery she plunged into the void. The second ship ignored the station's astonishment and demands, pleas and threats. It burned on a torch of thrust too close to the station to be considered safe, metres ahead of the station's warning shots. When it came into range for the station's bigger guns the fleeing ship piled on more acceleration - and vanished in the characteristic yellow flash of displacement.
Eradicator was a covert military ship engaged in her eighth mission, the same crew and objective as the first: stop this ship, make sure this man, that woman don't survive. Because of the nature of their missions, the name of their ship was fitting.
The Eradicator was used to long assignments, used to pursuing a variety of ships. The first months of her life - when this crew took charge of her - had been spent alone: incommunicado with the military or any other authority.
During these months the crew had earned their ship a reputation in the criminal underworld of the galaxy.
This latest mission was also their last. Eradicator had served her purpose; in the eyes of the military she was a pile of junk with engines, fit only or scrap.
They knew this because another of the military's operatives - a lone recon man curiously named 'Raven' - had informed them, at much risk to his own life and their cover, to take one more ship and then return to base.
Eradicator had tracked Embez down to a bootleg station in the Planes of Algrakuzor. The illegal - a mechanical predator specialising in trading ships and salvage - was cautious; had hidden her true destination by leaving on a false heading.
The pirate ship was really heading for an asteroid field in close proximity to a mono-planet system: no sun. The equivalent to a bootleg station was set below the planet's surface, though little more was known about it.
If Embez went within three-thousand kems of the planet's estimated location, Eradicator was to cancel its mission, head for home. The risks of pursuit under such circumstances were considered too great.
They had lain just inside the asteroid field for several days, deadly silent, making use of the magnetic qualities of this region of the field; monitoring a stretch of dark space from which they expected the illegal to approach.
'Watch her, Cray. Dom, warm the engines: prepare for combat manoeuvres. The same goes for the rest of you.'
The captain had to move his control board in order to wrap the g-seat's webbing around his bulk and fasten it.
When he'd done that, he pulled back his board and ran his hands over it. Warning klaxons for heavy g and combat sounded elsewhere onboard the frigate.
'Sir,' chirped scan, 'she's heading our way.'
'What does that mean?' the captain returned rhetorically. It was important they weren't seen. 'Comm, are we transmitting?'
Bedford, a skinny man with an unruly shock of dark hear shook his head. 'Empty on all channels sir.'
'Wait sir, she's changing course.'
'For the planet?' It was just as important that they didn't lose their quarry; just as it was important to the captain, Uregos, that Embez went down.
Scan consulted his board. 'Negative sir. She's heading away from the station, towards another part of the field.'
Uregos nodded. 'Keep her on the edge of sensor range. Make a scan for other ships - she might try another attack.'
During the course of their mission, the Eradicator and her crew had seen Embez hit more than nine ships, the crews and, if there were any, passengers of which had all perished. Eradicator could not have saved them without revealing herself.
'Aye, sir,' said scan in answer to Uregos' command.
He felt g-force pile up in small increments on his cheeks and across his abdomen; a feeling as of the seat specially moulded for his profile sucking him in. Ironically it was designed to protect him during high-g manoeuvres: to support his neck and spinal column, soft pads for his heads, arms and legs.
The bridge was a semicircular curve, shallower at its flat edge. He liked to think of it as a tiered triangle, with himself at command at the semicircle's apex. On the second tier and to his left, Cray sat at scan, Dominic at helm on his right. The third tier was split into three: communications, targeting and weapons, data and damage control - from left to right, with their operators Bedford, Skeg and Johann respectively.
There was a panel on the right wall linked to a terminal in engineering, but it went largely unmanned: engineering had its own consoles.
His ship had enough crew for three shifts on six hour rotation during normal operation, four in combat. All crew but he shared cabins, and no one wore a uniform. When they went into dock, he collected everyone's id tags and locked them in a safe in his cabin. No risks were taken; nothing had been left unconsidered before they departed the military station some five and a half standard years ago.
At times, suffering insomnia in his cabin's bunk, he wondered how differently things might be run on the ship of the true illegal. He imagined being a member of crew on that ship, usually the craft they were pursuing: Exit Wound, Pathos, Invigilator. The faces of the crew were as clear and sharp as his memory of them from what seemed at times to be an endless stream of biofiles; a lengthy, detailed hit list.
'She's picking up speed.'
'Then compensate,' he barked.
They were a competent crew, none with any less than eight years' ship experience. All of them had tales of battle to tell, comm just as much as weps or helm. He trusted them because he had to: it was his job. He kept their spirits up during the long weeks of giving chase, through the mental strains and physical exhaustions of pursuit and covert operations. There was no choice. Here in space, everyone relied on everyone else for survival.
He had no choice.
There were four screens on the wall in front of him, three of which showed starcharts of the asteroid system that had housed them for the past few days. Picked out on each was the location of the bootleg planetoid: an orange blip set amongst lines and numerals of aqua.
The fourth screen was a three-dimensional digital reproduction of the data collected by the sensors: a donut of blue gridlines. There were slow-moving brown blobs: asteroids. A red blip pinpointed the Embez, tagged with alphanumerics: coords in three dimensions, registration codes. There was no one else within sensors' range.
'Embez is charging her main weapons, Captain,' reported scan. 'She can see something we can't.'
Uregos saw Skeg following Embez's example, pulling power off the main drives to feed the Eradicator's projectile and energy-based launchers. He didn't comment: initiative was good. Looking at his own board he saw that Skeg's pull was almost negligible.
'We're going to have to get closer, Dom.' He said. 'But try to keep us out of her sensor range.'
'Aye sir,' came the reply.
What could Embez see? A rival illegal? A potential target? The answer was vital. It could mean that he lost his quarry: failed the mission.
He didn't propose to fail the mission. Like his loyalty to his crew, it wasn't up for discussion; there was no debate.
The outcome was already formed in his head and he would return to the military to spend the next six years of his life in a luxurious garden; breathe real air.
Scan's voice brought him out of his thoughts. 'Sir there's too much rock. I can't make out anything from this position.'
He grunted, checked the screens. They were in one of the dense patches characteristic to this part of the asteroid field.
'Is there any way,' he asked, 'of moving us in closer without revealing ourselves?'
Scan shook his head. 'I doubt it sir. We have to get closer to see through the gaps in the field, but doing so puts us in range of Embez's sensors. Even if they don't see us entirely it's likely they'll see us through chinks between the rocks.' He shrugged, as if in mild defeat. 'If we go too close, we increase the likelihood of revealing our engine trail.'
'And they'll have that stored in their database,' Johann, Eradicator's data operator spoke up. 'They saw us come into dock at the bootleg shipyard, they'll know why we're here.' He too then shrugged as if in defeat.
But Uregos was not ready to accept defeat. Together, he and his crew had taken out seven illegal ships. They had served the military, conformed that much to their original briefs. Their final mission was not the time to break a long line of victory that had, at least for him, become almost a rule.
If they couldn't see what lay beyond the screening boulders of solid rock without making Eradicator visible to her enemy, then they would have to look for signs elsewhere.
'Do a scan as best you can on the surrounding areas of the patch.'
Scan began work out his board. 'What am I looking for, specifically?'
'Engine trails,' Uregos replied. 'Something that will give us a hint as to what Embez's spotted. And fast,' he added. Embez may already be under attack - or attacking. Checking the screens on his board he saw that Skeg had fully charged the Eradicator's primary weapons; secondary weapons were at four fifths full charge, torps resting in their loading tubes ready to be used.
His board also reported that the Eradicator's wealth of defences were up: deeflex shields for deflecting energy bolts, absorption fields for draining the kinetic energy synonymous to moving projectiles, bullets. They had jamming field projectors to confuse the independent control CPUs of all modern torps and missiles. The very rocks of the asteroid field would work in their favour, decreasing their chances of being hit. They would also work against them, making Embez harder to target and hit.
But he had good confidence in Skeg: had never seen either lose a battle. And he had faith in the other members of his shift - and his ship.
In a short while, he guessed only several seconds, his ship would be 100% battle-ready.
'Got it, Captain sir,' called Cray. He was smiling when he turned to his captain, who nodded. 'It looks heavy,' he said, back facing his board. 'A large engine, bigger than ours. It couldn't belong to an agile fighter craft; the trail is too wide and the power to mass ratio would be too great for precise handling.' An essential inside any asteroid field. Cray slapped his thigh and exclaimed in a loud voice as though he'd just solved a difficult yet irrelevant problem, 'It's a hauler of some kind, maybe a trader ship. Can't be anything else.'
There was a moment's silence.
'What do we do sir,' asked helm, voice steady.
What could they do? As per their brief, they had to destroy a designated criminal before he killed a specified number of people. But it felt wrong. It felt wrong but he couldn't lay a finger on the reason as to why it felt that way.
Maybe he'd been undercover for so long, and been so emphatic about it, that attacking right now, revealing himself to his foe after so long, seemed like a bad idea.
Maybe it was because they were too close to the bootleg planetoid, and should any of his bridge crew make a mistake, no matter how unlikely, Embez could get away.
Maybe he was afraid of failing the mission, his last before a six-year-long period of temporary retirement. He told himself not to be so stupid, that after so many terminations he was getting cynical.
But what if it were so?
He swallowed against a dry throat. 'Take us in Dom. Skeg, get a lock on her as soon as you see her, but don't fire until I say.' The guttural growl in his voice didn't require him to specify who "her" was. 'I want id on that heavy asap,' he continued, 'and I want comm open and set to receive on all channels.'
The bridge crew all replied by carrying out his orders. If they were used to taking them, he was used to giving them.
Watching scan's display on the screen in front of him, he watched his ship slowly rise upwards over a horizon of slow-moving rubble and boulders.
Several things happened almost all at once. Automated battle proximity alert klaxons launched into their distinctive wailing, cat-like shrieks. Comm had linked the bridge's speakers to his station: they exploded into a wild confusion of multiple distress signals merged with static. Scan suddenly shouted out the type of craft that Embez was attacking.
Seconds later, the klaxons stopped their ear-grating caterwaul, and comm severed his board's connection with the bridge speakers, blushing.
'It's a trade ship,' scan repeated. 'Fully-laden from what I can gather.'
'They're under heavy attack,' added communications. 'Their distress signal bounced off some glazed surfaces, caused it to echo and break up. But the ship is suffering from damage to its main engines; they've had to shut down.'
'Confirmed,' said scan. 'Electrics and life support must be tied to another power source.'
'Bring us into range for targ,' Uregos commanded. 'Make a window so we can hit those Embez fuckers.'
There was an adrenaline rush that took hold of him when he went into battle. A few thousand years ago he may have been called a berserker warrior, almost suicidal: running on the heat of combat; willing to die for whichever man was Master that day. The feeling began to rise inside of him now, though he fought to control it.
'Aye-aye, Captain,' replied helm, grinning.
Again he felt his body mass shift when Eradicator moved; when new forces of gravity were applied to his body from new directions
On the main screen display a green arrow shot form their ship to the red marker, still harried on-screen by the little red alphanumerics denoting registration and coords.
A window was open for primary weapons to the Embez. A single, larger alphanumeric counted down the estimated time of that window's life.
'Target acquired,' Skeg called.
'Fire at will,' Uregos called back, grinning widely, teeth revealed. 'Show them why we deserve the next six years.'
The man at targeting and weapons only nodded. He was used to Uregos' passion during battle, but it was important that he did not become effected by it, distracted.
In that way alone did Uregos think of himself as a bad captain.
Skeg sent a volley towards Embez, a thick mixture of slug-shots and energy bolts. He saved using the twelve torpedoes Eradicator had; they weren't as effective in an asteroid field, likely to be confused by rock.
Uregos guessed that a third of the Eradicator's shots hit their target. The res collided with rock, scattering small peg-like splinters, or missed any material completely, speeding out beyond the Embez.
The ship they had been chasing now for so many weeks that to Uregos it was personal seemed to pause in her tracks.
Up until weps had fired, she had been moving on a slow path that suggested a circular trajectory around the trader, effectively trapping the non-hostile ship and bringing all of her guns to bear.
Faced with another ship - a ship equipped with an armament more deadly than whipper missiles, the trader's weak ammunition - it appeared to be considering its option.
Weighing up her chances, Uregos thought, somewhat optimistically. They'd seen enough of Embez in action to know that she was a capable match for the Eradicator. Embez would just be scanning his ship, trying to figure her out.
Skeg released another volley before helm swung their ship behind an asteroid large enough to conceal them, and down the y-vector. He then eased forward: they were below Embez, but she was turning, bringing her main forward guns to bear, readying targ.
Dominic tied hard to keep them out of Embez' range of fire, but as Skeg sent another burst of slug-shot projectiles towards the enemy, Eradicator took a volley herself.
Uregos checked his systems: all steady green.
'Damage report,' he ordered.
'Nothing sir,' replied Johann. 'Secondary weapon projectiles I guess. They must have bounced off us.'
Uregos chuckled, thanking the military for their weapons and defence systems.
The only downside of battles in space was that there were no sound effects; he couldn't hear the Eradicator's shots slamming into the asteroids or hear those lumps of rock crack and splinter upon impact.
Worse, he didn't know the reactions of his enemies when Skeg sent them bursts of ordnance. He could only rely on scan to tell him the consequences, the outcomes on Embez herself.
From what data he had, it appeared Embez was no more damaged by Eradicator's shots than he was. However, Embez had been caught by surprise - and his ship had fired first, always an advantage when working with energy launchers because of their generic charge times.
And energy projectiles were better than standard slug-shot because they did more damage, because they could detract power from shields faster than even fast-fire slug-shot.
'She's launching torps!' shouted Cray, rapidly pressing buttons on his board. 'Not our way: the hauler.'
'Shit,' someone said.
'We have to draw them off sir,' helm said, fingers running wild, head down close to his board and the mini-screens he had there.
He was right. Draw them off or fend them off. It they could take Embez now... it wasn't that far from base here: a few weeks, two months at most.
'Prep a storage crate with medical supplies for release. Attach a homing beacon: we can make out way back here if she runs.' Again, he did not have to elaborate who "she" was.
'How're they going to get at the supplies, sir?' asked comm.
He shrugged, 'They're a trading vessel; they should have the right equipment. If not' - another shrug - 'they're human: they have initiative.'
He adjusted his bulk in the command chair as if combat manoeuvres agitated him. He was agitated, but it was g.
'Scan,' he barked. 'Status on that ship.'
'She's tight sir, not even a scratch. At this pace and with this hit rate' - a brief glance at Skeg - 'it could take hours.'
He rose an eyebrow. 'Weakspots?'
'Several. But they're all on her rear, mainly her drives. If we want to hit her there from here we’ll have to use torps.'
Which meant that until they got around behind she was virtually invulnerable. Any long period of barrage on Embez was the same for Eradicator. In an asteroid field, Uregos couldn't allow his ship to get that damaged: not it he wanted to survive the journey home.
No, the only way was to make Embez run. But how?
'Better idea comm. Cancel the medical supplies' - several of the crew looked at him - 'tight-beam a message to the hauler. I want them off their ship in e-pods ready for pick-up in less than twenty minutes.'
'Then we hit the hauler.' That gained him another look from most of the crew, but he ignored it. 'Without a ship to plunder,' he explained, 'she'll have to run.' They would accommodate the hauler's survivors until they came across a station that would take them, or until they reached base.
On the second and third tiers of the semicircular bridge, Skeg and Dominic coordinated the attack on the pirate ship.
He looked at the chronometer on his command board: nearly time for the next shift. This had better work.
The ship swung to the left and jolted upwards, avoiding treacherous rock, as helm tried to dodge Embez's bullets and weps tried to throw them back.
'Captain sir,' called comm, 'the hauler says she's ready to deploy evacuation pods.'
'Tell them we receive. Helm, you're going to have to get closer: put us between her and Embez.'
That way, Uregos would be forcing Embez to attack her, ignore the hauler whilst Eradicator acted as its gun-shield: more than capable of firing back.
The Eradicator swung smoothly down the y axis and along the x and z axes towards the hauler, maintaining a distance - the e-pods had yet to eject - but between the only two ships registering on scan.
Uregos flicked open the intercom on his board. 'Uregos to all available personnel: open port cargo holds one to three.' He closed the intercom. The holds were small - Eradicator was primarily meant to be a fighter's ship, the holds had existed solely for the plausibility of their story up to now - but they were large enough to accommodate two e-pods. So long as the hauler's crew could steer their pods, Eradicator would have them all aboard and safe within minutes.
'They've launched, sir.'
'Good. Helm, hold position until they're in. Skeg?'
'She's still holding. Forward shields are beginning to heat, nothing we could use right now.'
'We're holding. Heat to starboard-forward.' He smiled as impervious to the effects of battle and g. 'Nothing the sinks can't handle.'
Uregos nodded. He felt a nudge of pain in his stomach. Hunger.
As he punched buttons, one of the main images flickered and became a video image; he coded the camera nested on the Eradicator's outer shell to keep tracking the Embez. The camera did so. As he watched, his hunger grew, took on new definition.
This was it! This was what those weeks of waiting and following, the endless recon missions, had amounted to. The ultimate finale: Embez's eradication. As his battle rage rose to warm urgent fire in his belly he knew that her crew had to burn amidst the machinery which threatened the military.
Inside, he knew the thirst of his rage for battle would be quenched if she died.
Deeper down, he knew that wasn't true. He remembered the same promises, the same blind convictions that had led him to kill the second ship, the third and the next.
On the bridge, watching the video screen, seeing Skeg work frantically at weps, watching the other crewmembers working to protect his ship and the hauler, he fought desperately to gain a foothold on self-control.
If he succumbed he would make mistakes. Eradicator had weld marks along her right flank where illegals had repaired that evidence, tried to smooth it away.
'Sir, the pods are in. Personnel are closing the holds.'
Good; something to focus on.
'Get them medical attention if they don't already have it.' He was sure the command second or third would have organised it, but he said it anyway. 'Provide them with temporary accommodation, and get Howel' - Eradicator's command second - 'to set up a security rota: I want them watched like hawks. They're illegal and we're military. Make sure they don't know what we're up to.'
'Aye sir.' Bedford began relaying the command through his board to the relevant areas of the ship.
Helm had already started moving Eradicator away from the hauler. On-screen, Embez disappeared beyond the camera's field of vision; Eradicator's bulk stopped it from seeing further.
'Get us away helm; put us behind a rock.' An asteroid would shield Eradicator from the distortion and static that would confuse scan, make manoeuvres and targeting impossible.
'Shit!' Cray shouted, too loud. The video link with the outboard camera dropped into a display of white noise at the same instant.
'Status!' bellowed Uregos, leaning forward in his seat, pulling at the webbing on his chair.
'We're blind, sir! Too much distortion: the computer's confused.'
'Shit,' he whispered. Blind in an asteroid belt.
'They must have hit the hauler before we could,' Skeg offered.
The only likely answer.
'Then where the hell is she?' Under this pressure, his rage groaned for release. 'Scan, her last location.'
Cray tapped buttons on his board. 'She would have been caught in the blast too. The asteroids around her were too fast to estimate trajectories blind.'
'The hauler then?'
More taps. 'Negative. The drives didn't buckle: they couldn't, they were down. No other energy sources on her with enough brisance to blow her apart.'
'Has she gone then?'
'It's likely. The distortion came from around her coordinates. Its size and power matches something her engines could produce. If they were hit, they'd explode even though they're down.'
'Oh God,' he moaned. 'Another ship.'
Scan frowned, but it had to be true.
'Another fucking ship!' He was beginning to lose his self-control. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, tried to calm himself.
'Scan,' he barked roughly, tension creeping into his voice, 'how long before the computers can filter out the distortion?'
Buttons: 'Probably three minutes.'
Uregos growled. That long before Eradicator could see again.
'Estimate the asteroid trajectories,' he snarled. 'Put us behind one.'
Scan swallowed; he didn't like questioning orders this frequently. 'But sir, they're moving too fast. There's a high chance we'll be hit.'
These were the dangers of navigating in an asteroid fild. But Eradicator's computers were good. Uregos trusted them and the ability of his crew; and the dark hunger inside urged him for murderous action.
Shaking against his battle for self-control he slurred, 'I'll take that risk.'
He knew he could lose his crew's trust this way, but the ague and the drive for violence - Eradicator was blind! - blessed or cursed him with ignorance, insouciance. He gripped the g-seat's left armrest with his hand, started rapping his knuckles off the edge of the command board to the beat of his berserker's visceral power.
His eyes began to sting around the edges because he wasn't blinking often enough; like uncontrollable balls the orbs darted from one screen to another.
The chronometer told him he had one minute left; g pushed him from two different angles.
So far, Cray's estimations had been correct and Eradicator was intact.
And the other ship - who was she? where did she come from? how was she here? - hadn’t delivered a killing blow. Despite the risk it would have cost her, had the hauler's attacker been caught in the blast too?
'Status,' he bellowed again, although there was still half a minute to go. His tone made scan answer almost immediately.
'Clearing.' Unnecessarily he said, 'We should be restored in fifteen seconds.'
Uregos sat uncomfortably in the command chair, and could feel the muscles in his neck and shoulders beginning to knot. His knuckles hurt, but he continued hitting them off the edge of the board.
It was the only sound until scan said, 'Clear,' and began routing data from his board though to helm.
'Where is that bastard?' Embez had a male captain; Uregos knew that from the ship's bio-files.
'The hauler's gone,' Cray said unimaginatively. Then he continued, frowning, 'Embez has gone too.'
'No. Traces of her emission trails show that' - his voice hinted at surprise, possibly awe - 'she passed above us during the disruption.' He turned his seat to face Uregos. 'She's headed for Duobi.'
The station; refuge from the storm.
'Fuck,' he said, then more loudly, 'Turn this fucking tug around' - he hated insulting his ship - 'and let's pound those fuckers before they reach the fucking planetoid.'
'Fuck,' he repeated, as though that was the only expletive he knew.
He punched the intercom button, only now aware that the knuckles of one hand were white with gripping the armrest and that the knuckles of his other hand were bleeding from where he'd hit the board. Adamantly he growled, 'Howel, get your ass up here now.'
Before his second could reply, he roughly pushed the command board away and undid the webbing that kept him in his chair; the straps that imprisoned the bulk of his fury.
He didn't bother to wait until command second Howel arrived. She could gather what had happened for herself by reading scan's logs. Or she could ask Cray. He wasn't in the frame of mind to care.
Instead, he stormed through the empty corridors to the lift that would take him down to the crew cabins' level.
He didn't unclench his jaw or relax his fists until his cabin-door was closed and locked. He set the intercom not to receive any calls for the next four hours; when Howel would be relieved by the command third and his crew.
By rights he should have gone straight to his bunk, sheathed himself in its protective g-webbing and tried to get some sleep. Or he should have gone to sickbay for a hypo of benzodiazepine.
But he didn't go to his bunk, and he'd never liked the thought of artificially induced sleep.
At least he should have strapped himself down; Eradicator was in an asteroid field, in combat: heavy g manoeuvres were a matter-of-course. He should have tired to protect himself.
Yet he didn't do either. Like a divine prescience his anger calmed him, took away the likelihood of any physically damaging possibilities.
He was invincible!
At the same time, however, he felt a great sadness as though some integral part of himself was missing, worn away when Eradicator went blind.
He'd experienced fear then, when the hauler exploded in a white noise fury, almost an instinctive desire to panic and flee: a remnant instinct from Humankind's animal ancestors. He believed in evolution. He believed that piracy was a disease. He treated illegals as the very cells responsible for the disfigurement of Human Space.
Eradicator and the dozens of other ships like her were the vaccine, the cure. A generously free drug released by the military: for the protection of Space.
There were lockers in his cabin, every cabin, for personal possessions. He opened one, withdrew a palm-sized vial of translucent liquid and, removing the cap, took a swig. He replaced the cap on the vial and the vial in the locker then closed its gunmetal door.
He began undressing.
The vial contained a liquid diazepam and enkephalin compound. After a shower he should be able to get in his bunk and sleep.
He opened the shower's doors and stepped in.
Asleep, he dreamed.
The depths of his dreams were cluttered with broken and disjointed mirror images of the past; memories charged with a passion at once precise and uncontrolled.
The cabin intercom was distorted by mechanisms into metallic tint, puckered and malformed as it began breaking into his sleep - echoing...
'Captain Uregos? This is Tensen: can you hear me?'
No! His mind fought to remain undisturbed, but his brain was already working to recognise what he was hearing. Tensen? The command third was on the bridge? How long had he slept?
Trying to shrug off the now fleeing remnants of sleep, Uregos unzipped the bunks g-sheath and slid out onto the floor. Standing he punched open the intercom channel.
'Uregos here, go ahead.'
Tensen's voice came to him over the intercom, distorted by machine parts. Still, the pressure in his words was audible. 'Sir,' he suggested. 'Sir, we've lost Embez.'
A howl began to rise up from Uregos' stomach; he could feel pressure mounting beneath his diaphragm. The command third was still talking.
'She must have slid away while scan was still trying to decipher the storm. We don't have any leads: the asteroids distort any likely heading.'
Gritting his teeth - how long had he been chasing that ship? - he asked, 'What else?'
Tensen paused. By the weight of that hesitation, Uregos could guess that things were far: far worse.
'Long range scan is picking up another vessel. It's not Embez: it's bigger. We ran a comparison with our databases. The results are tentative, but there's enough positive id to give her class and potential weapons inventory.'
He decided not to speak; the force welling in his abdomen was too great - he couldn’t trust himself. Fucking Embez had fucking eluded them! Once more he waited for the command third to continue.
'She's an Aedile class heavy frigate: almost a destroyer. She's capable of holding firepower like ours twice over and then some. And she's agile. We've got two readings; looks like she could run rings around us and we wouldn't even know it, not in this field.'
Shit! Now there was a ringing pain inside his skull. He was having difficulty not showing his rage; Tensen was essentially a new recruit. Eradicator's mission was his first. The situation was difficult for Uregos.
'Hold on,' he managed. 'I'm coming up.'
The relief from the other end of the intercom was almost tangible. 'Okay sir.'
He snapped off the intercom and went to his locker; he needed some sort of artificial assistance to handle this situation.
When he got to the bridge, he found it in some state of disruption. It seemed that some of the officers from his watch had returned early in order to replace the officers of third watch. Occupants of the second watch were nowhere to be seen. Checking chronometers, he guessed the command second, Ingrid Howel, hadn't even brought her shift up to the bridge. What was going on? And where was Embez?
'Captain, sir.' Tensen saluted sharply when he saw Uregos enter the bridge.
He ignored the salute, jumped in with both feet. 'What the hell's happened to Howel?' Although under greater control, his anger was more close to the surface than it had been before. 'Where's her watch?'
Tensen looked flustered. 'Sorry Captain, sir. Some of the crew are watching the survivors we lifted from the hauler. Third officer Howel is with the rest of her crew, overseeing repairs.'
Repairs? 'What happened? Are we hit?'
'Somehow we lost a sensors array when scan was confused. We might have hit a rock. Third officer Howel has crew outside the ship trying to locate damage. So far, nothing. It could have been a circuit short.'
Uregos grimaced. He doubted it. Eradicator had been built to withstand trivial injuries during the course of her mission by the military. She was useless if she had to stop and make repairs on a frequent basis; every ship was.
'Can't damage locate it?' he asked.
Tensen shook his head. 'No sir, we've tried that. Whatever it is, damage control isn't seeing it. We've recalibrated and retried: nothing.'
He sighed, 'You're relieved officer. Get the rest of the crew and assist in repairs or get some sleep.' Tensen nodded, saluted and left the bridge. 'The rest of you,' he continued, 'have work to do.'
A couple of people groaned in mock protest, but most of the bridge crew were still working: Dom at helm, Cray at scan. From the third watch, Kunio and Telak had replaced Skeg and Bedford at the targ and communications stations.
Uregos leaped into the command g seat and began accessing logs. 'Helm,' he said, 'work with scan: get us close to that ship: the one we can't identify. I'm thinking she might be military backup.' It was a wild idea, but it might be true. If not, he might get a chance to quench the ire still burning in his belly, threatening to consume him.
Eradicator's unfound injury still nagged at him. He called it an injury because to him, the ship was more than just a lump of metal. It had all the characteristics of a human: it moved, it grew (in experience if not size, just like her crew), it emitted waste in the form of engine emissions and impact fire. Eradicator was a living beast, pulsating with enough ferocious energy to crack open meteors, protect her crew and reduce pirates to smears of grease.
He hoped to God she wasn't hurt.
There was little to do while he waited for scan to get him a positive reading on the unknown ship, to tell him if she were dangerous or friendly. Or neutral. Even though this belt was primarily an illegal nest, there were the occasional shipping lines that passed directly through it.
He just sat in his g seat, letting the ship's gentle trajectories through tumbling bubbles of mass pull him against his webbing.
'Got it!' whooped scan, a small burst of verbal hope. Reading from data still entering his boards he added, 'She's not an Aedile.' Uregos felt some of his apprehension sag as if it were material; that was a relief. ' That's how she managed to look so agile. She's Procurator class' - a step down in class -'and heavily upgraded.'
'What does that mean?' Then he added, 'And spare me the technical terms: I want a simple answer.' The situation seemed to demand it.
'She's faster and stronger; more powerful in terms of weaponry. I count four impact guns, three pulse cannons, eight laser emitters, two torp shafts.'
'And?' Uregos enquired. That was the equipment most ships of Procurator class carried. Even posing as an illegal freighter, Eradicator has just as much concealed weaponry as that.
'And,' Cray emphasised, 'she sports an ion cannon.'
'Holy shit,' someone whispered.
'Ah. That's where her upgrades are.' Knowing that, Uregos could conclude that, 'She's not as fast as we thought. Her extra power's for that gun.'
Johann at data nodded, 'And it takes time to charge. She may not use it.'
'In which case,' Cray finished. 'We can beat her. If that's what you want,' he added.
Uregos couldn't answer yet. Stalling so that his inner fury could gather itself and suggest a response, he asked of Johann, 'Have you got a positive id yet?'
Johann shrugged, reading screens, 'Tentative. She could be either Lightning Storm or,' he grinned, 'Circumciser.'
Uregos allowed himself a small grin of his own. 'Really.'
He waited a few more seconds, marshalling his thoughts: preparing himself. His rage spoke to him, decreed actions and ignored their consequences. But his rage was different somehow. As its sole benefactor, he knew the many feelings it could evoke - and knew what those feelings meant, what they were supposed to inspire. His rage was calmer, more concentrated. It seemed at once both lighter and powerful. He shook his head: he had to make a decision.
'Dominic, take us in. Kunio: make sure we're charged for battle.' Hitting a button on the command consol, he opened his intercom on a non-specific frequency that would be heard by Howel. 'Officer Howel, respond.'
Almost at once, Howel's voice returned over the small speaker. 'I'm here, Captain. We haven't been able to find the damage I'm afraid.'
Although he knew she couldn't see him, he shook his head, 'Never mind, Howel. Get your men back inside: we're going into combat very soon.' Unnecessarily he added, 'I can’t afford to lose you.'
'Aye, Captain. Give us a few minutes to get into an airlock.'
'Got it.' He closed the connection. 'Dom: make the passage smooth until I get the clear from Howel.'
His body felt truly alive: Eradicator was going for another kill. And he was sure that she would survive.
Uregos flipped on the battle alert klaxon when they came within 45,000 k of their target, just outside weapons range. Communications was set to receive any signal on all frequencies: if the unidentified ship was harmless - innocent - he wanted to know immediately.
Comm was also relaying messages between the bridge and the rest of the crew. The survivors of the attack on the hauler were being isolated: the mess hall was being temporarily sealed whilst they were strapped to g-seats inside it. His crew wouldn't be able to lift their guns under the force of gravity when Eradicator went into combat.
Weapons were charged: all Kunio needed now was for his systems to get a target to hit. Johann had still not yet identified the cause of the sensor bank failure; as a result, Eradicator plunged forward with an eight degree gap in scan. It wasn't life threatening - but if they couldn't find the cause, or if they lost another bank...
The alert klaxons ceased their caterwaul: Uregos' ship entered battle.
The target - Lightning Storm or Circumciser; Uregos preferred the former - began firing as soon as Eradicator came into range, and as soon as the asteroids had cleared to give her a guaranteed shot.
She was still moving; in a short time she had drawn the military ship into a small area of open space some 60,000 k in diameter. Scan reported it was a natural phenomenon: that if they continued on their present heading, the courses of the tumbling rocks outside would pulp them within seven hours. Uregos had that long to avenge the interrupter of his mission.
At times, Lightning Storm's ion cannon emblazoned the dark skies in a rhythmic streak of blue. They were only able to dodge it because of the open space they occupied. Nevertheless, the boundaries of that open space were constantly changing; helm was working hard to stop the ship from getting hit by pulse cannons or asteroids, and to keep Kunio's guns pointing in the right direction.
Uregos remembered Cray's words as he read form his screens. She's faster and stronger; more powerful in terms of weaponry. Was this the day he was going to die?
Eradicator was suffering from some unknown injury; some of his crew were incapacitated because unknown survivors were untrustworthy and had to be guarded. He had always wondered what he would do if he was caught in an outmatched position. The gallant thing would be to fight to the death; the intelligent thing to do would be to run.
Another ion beam cauterised the heavens, singing receptors and antennae along Eradicator's port side; Uregos was glad he'd called Howel in. Kunio replied with as much energy as he could, both physiological and weapons-based. He worked at his board as if it were becoming more and more an integral part of him. Urgeos had seen him work before; he was rapidly working his way up to the targ first's skill.
Kunio kept alternating between firing weapons, allowing some to recharge whilst others fired. Such an attack played havoc over Storm's shields.
The question was: was he intelligent enough to know when to stop fighting, brave enough to run?
Suddenly, without warning, the ship tremored violently. Telak paused in his work; looked up for a moment, then continued speaking into his headset, demanding information from the crew.
'Johann?' Uregos asked.
The data first shrugged, 'We are damaged, but we still have integrity.' That was confirmed by the absence of decompression alerts. 'She shouldn't have been able to hit us though: shields are strong on that section of the ship.'
Inwardly, Uregos sighed. Another problem. At this rate, his ship would fall apart before he got it back to dock.
She's not as fast as we thought. Her extra power's for that gun.
Storm's ion cannon would still be charging, but drastic evasive manoeuvres - more drastic than the ones they were taking now - might be enough to save them.
He was about to tell helm when another shudder cut him off. It rang throughout the entire ship; Eradicator groaned like some wounded animal. The sound bled fury into his veins.
'Status!' he barked, recovering some of his old fire.
'We're holed sir!' Johann's voice was fraught with tension; the man's skills were being stressed thin, there was too much for him to consider. 'Decompression alerts haven't gone off: somehow they've been taken out. The computer's automatically sealing the deck, but we've lost whoever was in that section.'
'Who was in that section?'
When Johann didn't answer, he repeated himself more loudly. 'Who was in that section, Johann?'
The data first's larynx bobbed convulsively as he swallowed. 'The survivors sir. All of them: they're gone.'
'Fuck!' Uregos had no one to back him up when he got into dock; if he ever got into dock. If he managed to get away, no one would believe he hadn't deliberately ignored his mission simply to gain his retirement award. And the ship's flight logger wouldn't record the rescue of those survivors because it wasn't connected to the flight bays: they weren't meant to be used, were just for show.
Fight or flee.
In that instant - the brief recess between his expletive and the crew's reaction - he made a decision. They were not going to survive: whoever she was, their enemy was trying her damnedest to make sure of that.
The time for running had come.
'Get us out of here Dom. I don't care how. Just take us back: take us home. Our business is finished here.'
Although he couldn't see the helm officer's face, Uregos had the distinct impression he was smiling as he answered, 'Aye sir.'
Twelve weeks later, Eradicator came into dock at military outpost Augustus. In desperate need of repair she was assigned a docking berth in the shipyard. Within scant minutes the shipyard's techs concluded that the ship's sensors and decompression klaxon had failed because of a virus. The thought that there was a traitor onboard the vessel was immediately discarded on principles of the bonds Eradicator's Captain had formed with all his crew. It was eventually believed that one of the survivors of the destroyed hauler had somehow managed to insert a virus onto the ship's systems, probably when they were left untended.
The ship that had attacked Eradicator in the asteroid field and had caused her to lose her mission target was never officially identified, though there were speculations which placed it somewhere in the list of the many hundreds of mercs employed by the military.
As for the crew's six-year-long temporary retirement, this was withheld on account of their having not destroyed their final target. There are some who would say that the military deliberately organised the attack on Eradicator and the disappearance of Embez - never reportedly seen again - to ensure they would retain the expenses that would go into funding a temporary supported retirement phase. There are some who would believe that Uregos and his crew were set up. Some would also say that the promotion that took Captain Uregos to Commander status was a bribery.
The truth shall never be known.
26th May 02, 10:51 PM
What is a space opera, anyway?
27th May 02, 11:18 AM
Think of it as an over-dramatized sci-fi story, or soap-opera in space... :)
27th May 02, 2:43 PM
soap-opera in spaceNo.
No, no, no. There is no way you're going to lump Star Wars in with mindless drivel like Eastenders, Coronation Street or Neighbours.
There are some somewhat better definitions of the term space opera here (http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/thisthat.html#spaceopera).
- ion -
27th May 02, 3:47 PM
The moment is upon me.
I had done everything I knew how to do. All my power, worthless. All my knowledge, impotent. It all comes down to this one last time, this one last chance. For this, I would give everything.
I look down and see what I thought I had to do. It is times like this that I wished would never come, and it is always hardest when I didn't know how exactly to proceed, and only had a glimmering of a hope of an idea of how it would go. There was always the chance that I would fail. That's the curse, you see, of being what I am and being able to do what I can do. I am a Primordial, existing since the beginning of Time in one form or fashion. My name is not important, as I have had a multitude, but you may call me Gabriel. From the dawn of Time, we Primordials have been. There are many others, but many of them Slumber, not wanting to go through life and its many hardships. Those who stay awake do so out of need to know the present. What I am telling you is not really important. I just feel that you may better understand me and what I am about to do. Or try to do.
I sit down and gaze and think. It is easy for a Primordial to think; after all, we do have Eternity. What is difficult is when our emotions cloud our reason. Primordials have too much emotion. We can't stop feeling. That is why a great many of us enter the Slumber for millennia and let the Universe pass by.
My heart begins to ache and my eyes grow moist. Why must this be? I cry inwardly. There is no reason for this! My sight grows dim as I look deeper. I remember how it was when I first became Aware. Aware of what I am, what I have to do, what I can do. I look upon my works and despair, for they are nothing. An errant sneeze could render them non-existant and without use. In uncounted millions of years, I have created many things, but nothing like what I have created now.
And here it is, slipping away from me by inches, because of my pride. My pride and my desire. I have nothing without this. I can move worlds. I can shatter moons with nary an effort. The stars are what I use for playthings, if I so choose. Yet this one thing is almost beyond me. Damn me to the Hells! I will not let this end in such a manner!
I feel a hand on my shoulder. Looking up reveals a man, ordinary-looking in every way, yet capable of the same things I am. He is my brother, of sorts. Michael is the name he takes this time. His eyes are as wet as mine, but he is controlling himself better. He always could. Though only older than me by seconds, he has done so much more than I have. He smiles a sad smile at me and says "Sometimes, it's better to let go."
"I know, brother." The breath I pull into my lungs burns, for I realize that I haven't breathed in hours. I savor the slight pain, taking it as my just desserts. "It never gets any easier."
"It never will get any easier, brother. We are what we are, and nothing can change that." Heaving a very human sigh, Micheal let some of the Energy flow into me, to help me control myself. "You're really going to try it?" he asks, his voice incredulous.
Laughing, I say "Why not? After all this, after all that has happened, should I not try? Is that so wrong?" My eyes glow with anger. "We have the power of Creation! We can do anything, damn it all!"
"Not anything," Michael corrects me. He always loves to correct me. "We may be born of the Universe, but even we have limits. What if it kills you?"
I laugh again. Amazing how despair can fill you with mirth and reckless abandon sometimes. "What does it gain me to be eternal when I will not be able to live? What is it worth to exist forever and go from day to day with every second being an eon? Death would be better for me than a hellish nightmare that I cannot wake up from."
"You've been around these humans too long, brother."
"You've not been around them enough, brother." I return my gaze to its original position.
He sighs again, the exhalation musical. I can tell he is wondering if I really mean to go through with it. "You've always been impetuous. I never understood why." He looks in the direciton I do. "Is it worth it?"
Smiling sadly, I nod. No words. Just a nod as I stand over her. I place my hands on her battered face and will the Energy of Creation into her. It hurts, for I am taking her wounds and making them my own. The accident that left her broken and clinging to life by a thread is becoming mine to deal with.
Remember I said something about emotions and how they can rule a Primordial? This is just such a case. I take her pain and make it my own. My legs buckle as the bones, stronger than the finest steel, break into a thousand shards. I feel my ribs puncture one of my lungs and stomach, the tearing of organs horribly audible in my ears. I gasp in excrutiating pain, but I laugh. Michael always said that I would die laughing one day, and who am I to prove my brother wrong?
I feel Michael's hands on my shoulders, trying to take some of the burden from me. I don't want him to; this is my fault. I am to blame. I can't stop him, though. He's too powerful now, in my weakened state. I hear him cry out in agony, but I can see nothing. Nothing, except her face slowly mending itself to its former beauty, the elegance that it possessed before her truck met the rear end of an 18-wheeler. My eyes blank, and I keep her face in front of me, in front of my mind.
Everything that I am, I give to her. Everything that I have, I give to her. The Energy floods out of me into her. I may die now, but at least, at the end of the line, I will be able to say that, for one flicker of an instant in my long, long life, I was able to make a difference.
I see her looking down on me, and it is good. Michael is steadying her, looking rather ragged. I imagine that I look much worse. I can feel my legs, though I wish I could not. A doctor looks me over. I don't know when he got there, but he seems to be perplexed. Ah, I see. Michael set the Eye upon him, one of our little gifts. We may have problems manipulating flesh, but minds and inanimate objects are much easier, which means that it will appear that I was the one in the accident, according to memories and paperwork. I would explain how it is done if I didn't feel my still damaged body trying to set my ribcage back to its rightful position. If you have never felt this, you are certainly very lucky. Looking at Michael, I manage to croak out a single word: "Why?"
This time, he laughs. "Why? Why did I help you? Or why did I help her? I can answer both questions with a single word." He leaned over me, the doctor oblivious to him. The Eye can be so useful. "The word is love. I see how you love her. I saw, through our Link a few moments ago, that she loves you. And I love you, brother. I understand you now."
As the doctor injects artificial sleep into my arm, I let it take hold of me. I look at my dear brother, and my dear one. She gazes back, sadness on her face. She does not yet know that I will be all right. "Why did you do this?" she asks.
I muster the strength to whisper, "For you. For love. Forever." And with those words, I sleep, and dream of her, knowing that, however much pain I am in, I would face it a thousandfold for her. Love hurts, but love heals.
Dedicated to my loving fiancee, whom I wish I could be there for in her pain.
I know it's a bit short, so if you want to take it out of the running, it's okay. I just had to get it out somehow. Thanks for listening.
27th May 02, 4:01 PM
Hey, Ion, calm down. Don't get all bent out of shape... Geez. If you're going to go by exact definitions, here's what I meant: "A pinch of reality inflated with melodrama."
27th May 02, 4:09 PM
That's not true either though marcus...
27th May 02, 4:22 PM
That's funny... Because if that isn't true, then that site Ion put up isn't true either... Right...
27th May 02, 4:30 PM
Does it really matter? Shouldn't we be appreciating the two entries posted so far, and writing our own, rather than wrangling over semantics?
ps Marcus, I was utilising that well-known literary device known as irony in my last post... but never mind.
- ion -
27th May 02, 4:37 PM
I was thinking the exact same thing, in terms of arguing, Ion... I came back here to look at people's writing and have them look at mine... Not argue over technicalities... :D
27th May 02, 8:18 PM
Thanks for the data, Ion.
My plans to develop my greatest achievement yet and bring it here to prove myself have sadly failed to meet the timeframe... But here is my entry, one of my older works. Obviously no match for Gunslinger's, but it will do.
Gifted Ones (5k words)
Henson walked down the long white corridor, strange sensations dancing along his spine. He stopped and turned to look at the two guards escorting him, and, seeing that they were many footsteps behind him, concluded that his mind was playing tricks. Only natural, he thought, considering that the ceiling above him was holding back a hundred feet of solid rock. That was the first thing he hated about high-security government research jobs: someone always saw the need to build the lab under a mountain, as if it would really help anything to do so.
The hall was so long that his feet were feeling sore by the time Henson finally reached the door at the very end. He slipped his ID card through the lock five times before it opened, and he stepped into a dark, unusually high-ceilinged room. A huge sheet of what must have been one-way glass formed the opposite wall. Several people turned and met him with disinterested looks.
"Hello. You must be our new psychologist.” said the woman, keeping her voice low. "My name is Doctor Ellen Greenish, head neurologist."
Henson smirked slightly at the combination of the words 'head' and 'neurologist', but he held his mouth stiff as he realized it wasn't meant as a joke. He introduced himself and shook her hand lightly.
"This is Jan Groder, from the field of quantum physics."
He leaned forward and shook the hand of a tall man with blonde hair and round glasses. Jan moved his mouth slightly, but spoke no words.
"You should meet everyone else in the next few days, but there aren't many. Security is tight."
Nodding uneasily, Henson moved closer to the glass wall and stared through. Although he had read the reports, he was still somehow surprised to see what was on the other side. It was a room highly reminiscent of a preschool or a nursery: a place with thick, soft white carpet and cream-colored walls with an abundance of animals and landscapes printed on them. Plastic toys covered the floor, joined by half a dozen children no older than five.
Henson watched them for a long time, without noticing anything out of the ordinary. It wasn't until he looked closer that he saw what he had come for--there was a toy in the corner consisting of wooden shapes capable of sliding across metal wires, and as he watched he saw the pieces moving themselves.
"The younger ones don't show their abilities often," Greenish explained. "The greatest activity is above the age of seven. The older ones are in the other room."
He followed her through a door into a second observation chamber with an identical sheet of glass, but the nursery had been replaced by a sterile-looking place with tiled floors and cheerful paintings scattered around the walls. The ones to be studied sat in wooden chairs at their tables, eating from fruit bowls.
"You see the one in the red shirt, in the corner," the woman pointed the boy out for Henson to see. "His name is Andrew. He's the main focus..." she trailed off anomalously. They entered.
Andrew saw the new man long before the door was open. The one-way glass was a small barrier for his unrestrained mind, but he looked away and pretended not to notice, as always. Watching them from the corner of his eye, he made his stomach growl and pretended to be hungry.
"Watch." Greenish whispered.
Henson stared in awe as a banana lifted from the dish on the table. A few of the children noticed as it passed across the room, but they seemed mostly unconcerned. The fruit glided with the greatest of ease, as if it flew on its own wings, and came to a gradual stop in front of Andrew' face. For a moment it was still... Then the top snapped and the fruit peeled itself, piece by piece, as if pulled by an invisible hand. Andrew watched it, but remained completely still as the peel dropped to the floor.
"Such precision, such directed control..." Dr. Greenish said, to herself, never accustomed to the sight of Andrew' mind manipulating objects, even as she had seen it many times before.
The banana moved closer to the child's mouth, but just as Henson expected him to eat it, it stopped and backed away. Without warning, the fruit bent itself out of shape and compacted into a fist-sized sphere that seemed to stir itself until it was of completely uniform color. The scientists watched, thinking Andrew had lost control, and Andrew read their expressions and smiled briefly, impressed with his ability to fool them.
Henson's gaze was pulled back to the ball of liquid mush when it began to rotate. It spun faster and faster, and it seemed to be heating to terrible temperatures, as steam began to collect around it and rise into the air. He could almost feel the energy radiating from the crushed, liquefied banana, when the sphere abruptly lifted higher into the air and shot straight at him with incredible speed. His eyelids had no time to close before the ball of fiery mush reached them.
Greenish watched in horror as the ball advanced, but as she watched she saw the sphere explode into a thousand broken fragments that flew around his body and impacted on the wall behind him. The puddle was so hot that it hissed a thick cloud of foul-smelling vapor and began to turn black from its own heat.
The girl in the blue dress stared deep into Andrew' eyes and scowled intensely.
I was only playing a game, Andrew' thoughts insisted angrily, annoyed at her for dissolving his projectile.
The same game you played with Mister Smith, she beamed back. A subtle wind picked up in the room, as the two mental forces engaged in a brief skirmish.
Henson gulped and wiped sweat from around his mouth.
"Be... Careful around Andrew. His abilities come and go, but at times he has been known to cause... injuries."
He grimaced at the thoughts that entered his mind, and realized the reason for his employment. If Andrew needed anything, it was a psychologist. He had a lot of work ahead of him.
As the two scientists left the room hurriedly, Henson found himself asking, "Where do these kids come from?"
Greenish swallowed noticeably. "More and more cases show up all the time. We're still discovering the cause for the appearance of these abilities, but our working theory is that it's simply a fluke, a mutation. Relatively few instances of such pronounced psychokinetic abilities have ever been found, and our research suggests that the subjects normally relapse by adolescence, if their talents are not properly encouraged."
"So... The children are simply found off the streets, and then taken here?"
She sighed. "Usually the parents report the first evidence of PK activity to doctors or pediatricians. A team investigates further, and if the talent is genuine the child is removed from its home and relocated here."
He stopped immediately and looked at her. "You mean, you just take them from their parents?"
"Y-Yes." she admitted. "Understand, no one here likes the process, but it's simply necessary. You, of all people, must understand the need to keep their abilities under control... That's why we're here."
Control. Henson understood perfectly, more than she probably wanted him to. In truth, the thought of military applications of these skills chilled him deeply, but he thought of other possibilities and forced himself to say, "Andrew' past will make it harder for me to work with him."
Doctor Greenish nodded solemnly, and she wondered how long he would last in this place. She only hoped the children liked him more than the last psychiatrist.
He stirred awake early the next morning with the afterimages of his nightmares trapped under his eyelids. Feeling too disturbed to sleep he dressed and made his way to the lab's makeshift cafeteria, where he hesitantly accepted a serving of discolored gelatin. Taking it to the table, he found he was not alone.
"Bad dreams?" Groder asked in a weary voice and a thick accent.
"...Yes." he croaked.
"Get used to it. They are common here."
The gelatin felt sticky in his throat as he swallowed.
Doctor Greenish was studying charts, looking up occasionally at the suspended television, which displayed a garbled news broadcast.
"Anything important?" he asked her, motioning toward the screen.
She turned and sipped cold coffee. "Astronomers discovered three novas within ten lightyears of each other, and one of them used to be a star that they thought had a planet around it."
"Really." he said tiredly, struggling to sound interested.
"Can I ask you a personal question, Mister Henson?"
He eyed Jan a few times and shrugged. "Yeah, why not."
"Why did you join the project?"
Henson consumed several spoonfuls of gelatin and stared into the static on the hanging television screen. "Maybe I wanted to serve my country."
Greenish's eyebrows shifted slightly. "You do realize why the government is funding this research, don't you?"
"The betterment of mankind?" he asked stupidly.
She seemed to laugh inwardly. "Weapons, of course. They want an army of soldiers who can lift tanks and topple buildings from a hundred yards away, with no weapons but their own minds."
"What government wouldn't?" he replied dreamily, after a pause.
The neurologist leaned forward. "Somehow, helping in the development of that kind of destructive force doesn't fit you. I read your profile: everything about you says pacifist. I want to know why you're really here."
The last layer of material at the bottom of the gelatin cup was extremely sour-tasting and more viscous than the rest of it, and when Henson swallowed it his mind shifted into sudden clarity. "The truth is," he found himself saying, "When I look at that boy, Andrew, I don't see a weapon, or a research project. I see an angry, tortured person who is very unhappy living in this laboratory. Whether he's aware of it or not, he wants help badly. I'm here to try and help him."
She stirred her coffee with a red straw. "I see."
"Why are you here, Doctor Greenish?"
The neurologist pretended, convincingly, not to have heard him. The puddle of coffee in the sink and the echoes of her footsteps were the only traces of her existence, a moment later.
Andrew watched the new one walk through the door and cross the room, and there was fear visible in his steps and in his mind. The man tried to hide it, as everyone in the lab always did, but Andrew always saw it clearly shining through their skulls, as easily as any human eye can see a candle in a stain-glass cage.
Henson wondered if Andrew had moved at all since the previous day, for his legs were folded in the same position and a thin layer of dust even seemed to have collected on his knees. It was hardly as if Andrew needed to walk anywhere to get what he wanted...
"Hello, Andrew." the psychiatrist said, in a voice as calming as he could make it.
The child didn't answer verbally, but Henson thought he heard some low sound echo at him from behind.
The psychiatrist pulled a pillow from near the table, but someone made it jump back to its original position, so he sat on the floor and tried to look as comfortable as possible. He said "If you want, you can call me Sam."
Andrew turned his head slightly. After a long time, he replied, "I had a brother named Sam."
A few of the others looked over their shoulders. Andrew didn't usually talk, especially not when he was in a good mood.
The psychiatrist gave a small smile. "What was your brother like?"
"He was... Small."
Henson didn't know what to make of the reply, but he continued. "How old were you when..." He stopped abruptly, overcome by an unusual sensation... He felt a strong hand gripping his head. The hand's pressure was not perceptible, nor was its warmth, but he felt its contact clearly through some other channel of perception.
"Why do they always ask so many questions?" Andrew asked, almost to himself.
He tried to respond, but somehow the hand prevented him. Its grip tightened.
"The other psychiatrist asked questions. He asked a lot of questions, all the time. Once I looked inside him, and I saw he only wanted my powers."
The hand on Henson's head moved through his skull and he felt it pressing on the soft material beneath. His vision blurred and he felt a rising pain, which caused him to cry out suddenly.
The girl in the blue dress heard the sounds and saw the psychiatrist holding his head in agony. She walked closer and tried to fight the boy's influence, but he pushed her back.
"But what do you want?" Andrew considered the man in his grip.
Henson felt something wash through his mind, searching systematically through every neuron in his cortex. After an unbearable time, the thing found what it was looking for and forced it into view.
"You want..." the boy squinted in disbelief. "You want to help me? You think you do, at least."
A ringing filled his ears as the invisible hand dissolved its grip on Henson’s brain. He fell back and tried to wave away the nauseated patterns that danced before his eyes. He tried to stand, but he couldn't manage to stay upright long enough to escape the floor.
"You're not like the other one. I like you, so I won't destroy you. But I don't want your help."
"It's wrong to hurt people like that, Andrew..." Henson struggled to say, his head still pulsing.
He didn't answer for a while. Then he laughed, a loud, deliberate, almost evil laugh.
Henson stumbled through the door, back to the safety of the other side of the looking glass. He found Greenish, alone, watching. To her he said "I could have been killed."
"The last psychiatrist was killed."
"My god..." he was shocked, put not overly surprised. "Didn't you do anything about it?"
"Are you kidding? General McAlester was ecstatic."
Henson sank to the chair behind him, in pain from his recent experience and from his new knowledge. He knew then that his best hope was to quit the project while escape was still possible. He had confidence that, given time, he might be able to help Andrew, but he had little hope he would be able to accomplish the task before suffering the same fate as the banana.
The resignation forms were almost finished, but it took time to sign in so many places--such a project virtually entitled the military to assassinate him if he ever thought of exposing what he had learned. He could hardly blame them for wanting secrecy. The last few pages sat in a folder on the desk in Henson's quarters, under a clock that ticked loudly and told him it was just before midnight.
Henson was unusually tired. He guessed it was the combined effect of working all day with the children and living in a place that knew only perpetual synthetic daylight. His eyelids feeling like lead, he lay down on the uncomfortable bed, wrapped a thin cover around himself and started the long journey into sleep.
He could hardly have judged the time in his half-conscious state, but a minute later he noticed a highly annoying light source penetrating his vision. He rolled over in several different positions, but each time he found the light keeping him awake. It took a long time for it to occur to him that there should have been no light at the foot of his bed in the dead of night.
Leaning up cautiously, Henson's bloodshod eyes met the image of the girl in the blue dress. She stood by the wall, wearing no expression on her face that could have suggested that she was not supposed to be there. She stared at the psychiatrist as if he were the intruder, and he stared back questioningly.
"I have come to tell you not to leave." she said, simply, her mouth hardly moving.
"You are afraid that Andrew will kill you,"
He stuttered, half trying to think of some better reply than "Y-Yes."
"He will not kill you. If he tries, I will protect you."
"But..." he stumbled, truly dumbfounded by the encounter. "Why do I need to stay?"
"There is something you can still do to help." She paused. "Each of us has slightly different abilities. I can see the future, sometimes... I can see that the end is coming. I... I want you to be there to see it." And with that she turned and walked through the wall as if it had been an open doorway, and the room fell dark once more.
Henson lay awake a long time, and when he slept he slept even worse than the previous night.
As it happened, the cafeteria was a fairly popular venue for all the staff who fell out of bed at precisely four thirty in the morning. Today, Henson saw some of the government personnel sitting in the far corner table looking dead, and saw Jan and Doctor Greenish sitting by the television with charts, just as before. Today he sat down at her table. She didn't need to look up to recognize him.
He picked up another cup of gelatin that looked suspiciously like remnants of the previous day's supply. It somehow tasted better now, as if it had aged. After considering his spoon, he turned back to the neurologist and took a moment to memorize her facial features.
"...Yes?" She asked when the tension had built up enough.
"I wonder... How do you control these kids? What keeps them from throwing tantrums and caving this whole lab in?"
"There's a mild depressant pumped into our air supply."
He stopped. "What? You mean I've been breathing drugs all this time? Why don't I feel drugged?"
"The antidote is in the jello."
Henson swallowed hard and stared into the green depths of the cup. After shrugging it off, he moved on. "You never told me why you came here."
"No, I didn't."
He waited. "Then tell me now, why are you on this project?"
She looked at a number of things, sipped coffee and tapped her fingers on the table. "The betterment of mankind."
Henson chuckled inwardly. "Really?"
"Do you actually want to know why I want to work here?" Presently she glared at him, and read his expression to mean 'yes'. "It's a little strange, but..."
"Well, I've always been interested in the idea of extraterrestrials. Ever since childhood, I always wondered why we haven't been contacted already. It seems that planets like Earth have a million chances to form across this galaxy... But if there are a million other Earth-like planets with human-like inhabitants, it doesn't make sense that we can have hundreds of radio telescopes pointed into space and not hear anyone.
"My theory is that extinction is the natural result of intelligent civilizations. I think we haven't seen any aliens because they always reach a point where they destroy themselves."
"You mean like the cold war--a nuclear catastrophe destroys them?"
She laughed quietly. "The cold war? No. I mean something inevitable, some abrupt end that cannot be avoided by anyone."
He thought it over and licked his teeth in consideration. "That doesn't explain why you're on the project."
"Doesn't it? Have you seen Andrew? He's practically a God without the drugs we pump in." The neurologist looked over her shoulder. "In fact, it's my belief that these abilities these children have are just another phase of human development. Like evolution, but no so random."
"Like the X-Men?" he smirked, but she wasn't amused. "I thought your working theory was that these abilities are just a fluke mutation."
"Forget the working theory. It's just a cover-up within a cover-up. These kids have powers no one can control, not even them. Especially not them. My theory is that this is where mankind ends: people like Andrew appear everywhere, and in a flash they get upset and destroy the world."
He nodded, genuinely interested. "And you're here to change it?"
"That's just it: I don't think it can be changed. I think we're doomed. But by working on this project, I get to watch it. Front-row seats to the end of the world."
Henson thought it over for a moment. "You have a very bitter outlook on life."
"Most realists do."
Leaving a damp spoon and an empty cup behind, Henson left the room, feeling disturbed and then deeply distracted. It was then that he recalled the girl's words the previous night. Navigating the halls, he found himself repeating "Be there to see the end..."
Sam Henson knew what he was about to risk, but he believed more and more that Greenish's theory was sadly correct, and he had faith in the unnamed girl's ability to repel Andrew' rage. Feeling like he had a guardian angel watching over him, he took the child's file from the cabinet and read it, and returned to the chamber where the patients waited.
They never slept, he realized as he entered. They didn't move much either. He wondered how they managed to keep from boring to death.
"I know how to help you, Andrew..."
He looked up briefly, and an orange hovered behind him as a warning.
Henson swallowed his fear. "You want to go home, don't you? You want to see your parents."
Andrew sighed somehow. "No. My parents were the ones who brought the men. They were afraid of me."
The psychiatrist wasn't startled by this; he had read the file and its mentions of Andrew' behavior in the outside world. Apparently, he had been causing 'injuries' for most of his childhood, as had... "Your bother! You want to see your brother again, isn't that it?"
"Yes. The men took him too, but he wasn't taken here. I don't know where he is..." Andrew explained innocently. "All I want is to find him..."
"I might be able to find out where he is... I could bring him here!"
The air in the room whispered Yes loudly.
Henson stood up and left feeling strangely excited. On the way out he turned and looked at the girl in the blue dress. He recognized her face perfectly, but it was painted with a strange worried anxiety. He didn't understand why, then.
Andrew' brother was, according to the files, being studied on another level of the lab, only a short distance away. Driven by an inexplicable energy, the psychiatrist made his way there as fast as he could without looking out of place. It must have been, he thought, the simple idea that he might finally be able to bring peace to the deeply tortured mind of the child, who had been completely isolated and kept only as an experiment, for five long years. Henson was used to the same kind of feeling from working as an ordinary psychiatrist--it was the feeling of a great accomplishment, only this time the case was much more extreme. His sudden eagerness matched it.
Doctor Greenish was in the elevator with a clipboard when it opened.
"Oh, hello..." he said, startled.
"Where are you going? There's nothing but the neurology ward on the second level."
"Well," he said, trying to come up with a good excuse. "The files say Andrew' brother is on that level. I think it would advance my therapy to understand the relationship between them."
"I see." Greenish stroked the side of her face in distraction. "Very well, you can talk to him. He's in room eight. I'll lead you there."
"Thank you, but I'm sure you have something else to do. I can find him."
Henson frowned, but was left with no choice but to follow her.
The elevator doors slammed shut with a hard metallic sound, and the claustrophobic machine slowly lowered its passengers. Evidently, the second level was a long way down.
"Andrew' brother displayed even more potent abilities than Andrew himself," Greenish explained as they waited. "In fact, he became exceedingly dangerous--almost caused a cave-in..." she stopped for a moment. Shuddering at the memory of the incident, an echoing headache manifested at her temples and worked its way to her spine. She shook it off and continued. "We had to sedate him heavily, and we only keep him here to run EEG's and MRI's on him. Too dangerous to keep him with the others."
"Hmm..." Henson thought to himself. "Have you seen the two of them interact?"
"As I said, we keep them apart. When they're together, their abilities increase notably." The last parts of her sentence were obscured when the doors whirred open to reveal a cold stone corridor with too many fluorescent lights. Toward the end, there were glass walls looking into rooms with bright white plastic in every direction and medical equipment, beeping loudly, arranged in neat rows. At the center of the room there was a table supporting a young boy, no older than six.
The psychiatrist approached the table and looked down at the child, who stared back with glazed eyes. Henson said "Can you cut down on the sedatives? I don't think I can talk to him like this."
"That isn't wise."
"If I can't get coherent replies from him, there's no point in this."
She hesitated, looked at him long and hard, and pulled out a serynge full of green liquid. She injected half of it into the child's left arm, and they both saw his muscles twitch. "If there's brain damage, I won't be held accountable." she said.
"Why would he have brain damage?"
"I mean if he damages your brain."
Henson gulped and gingerly returned his attention to the child, who's mind was coming rapidly into clarity. "Can you understand me?" he asked, slowly.
The boy leaned up from the table without warning. Greenish stood back in fear and then leaned forward and tried to restrain him, but at the moment her hand wrapped around the boy's arm she began to twitch uncontrollably.
"What... What is it?" Henson cried desperately, but Greenish had fallen to the floor by then.
"Once, she told me about Neurology..." the young voice came out of nothingness. "I learned that seizures are pretty easy to make. I can do them even when I'm tired." He did look tired. The remaining sedative still exerted a heavy influence on him, but still not enough to make Henson feel remotely secure in his presence.
"Is she... Dead?" he shivered.
"No..." the child stopped mid-sentence, his head throbbing. Then he said "I know my brother told you to come... I have to find him..."
"I'll--" he hesitated. "I'll take you there." He picked up the child and groaned under the weight as he carried him back to the elevator. The ride seemed longer the way back.
When the doors parted, the fluorescent lights had all gone off and the sounds of troubled voices could be heard a long way off. Fearlessly, Henson stepped into the darkness and started for the observation room. As he walked, the bulbs directly above him activated and the light followed him all the way to the end.
The dark side of the looking glass was where Jan and several other scientists waited and watched anxiously over the children, who were apparently involved in a fiery mental brawl. Henson saw one of the tables on fire, but he rushed through the door anyway, barely aware of the terrorized exclamations of the researchers when they saw him carrying the child.
All the subjects were standing up now, but none of them wasted their energies on movement when they needed every last bit of their metabolism focused on the battle they fought. Spheres of molten fruit circled like hawks in the air, some of them bouncing off imaginary walls and reflecting back at those who had fired them. As Henson entered, the leg of the burning table broke away, rose to head-height and splintered into a wall of deadly spines. A heartbeat later, he saw the splinters fly at him hard.
Andrew turned. Reflexively he manifested a wall of force around the psychiatrist, and the splinters shifted direction and burrowed themselves into the plaster of the wall behind him. In a second of angry outburst, all of the child's mental fury exploded in a spectacular wave of energy that knocked down all the standing children in the room, none of which dared to stand again.
"You brought him." Andrew said, smiling.
Young Sam stepped down from the man's arms and walked to his brother's corner, and the two hugged hard and stood faithfully by each other's shoulders, both radiating waves of happiness into the air.
The girl in the blue dress stumbled to her feet and scowled hard at the boy. Something like the shattered remains of an apple was embedded in her hair, and she looked with despair at the psychiatrist. "Why did you do it?" she asked, sadly.
"Y-You appeared in my quarters last night, and told me to stay..."
"That was him. He took my image when I was busy..." she shook her head. "Now we can't stop him."
Henson, his mind running in circles, managed to ask, "Stop him from doing what?"
She didn't answer, only stared into the growing sphere of light that enveloped the brothers in the corner. The psychiatrist turned in time to see the light reach up and part the stone ceiling, bending it like putty until an increasingly wide hole had formed. When the hole was wide enough and a faint light even seemed to echo down from the surface, the brothers took a last look around at the bleak walls of the lab.
Henson blinked and they were gone, having lifted themselves through the opening their minds had carved. The brothers walked in the unbearable brightness of daylight, and their thoughts relaxed for a split second, allowing the stone to crumble and rain down on the last occupants of the subterranean laboratories. The two felt a slight shudder of the earth below them, and hardly gave a second thought to all the lives abruptly crushed under the weight of the mountain.
"Where do you want to go, Sam?" Andrew asked, never shifting his gaze from the horizon that was almost as beautiful as the one he had seen in his mental wanderings.
Sam didn't answer. The two children realized that, in their years of isolation, their minds had traveled far over the earth and seen so many things that they had no want to see any more. Now all that remained was the lingering pain of the memories of their long times spent in the isolation of the laboratory. And the memories refused to leave them, so they thought and agreed on their decision.
Andrew and Sam reunited, standing atop a mountain, took in a final image of the sun-drenched landscape before a tiny flicker of their thoughts abruptly extinguished the light on the world. Too fast for anyone to feel it, the fires of the sun came down and pierced the land and brought final peace.
Very far from the remains of a sun that had once supported nine planets, a young creature stared into her sky and saw the death of the star. As a memorial for it, the creature lifted a massive rock with her mind and planted it in the dirt, pointing upward like a tombstone. She looked over her shoulder and felt worried thoughts emanating from those who had conceived her, and she knew they would soon send her elsewhere.
Her mind reached into the sky, desperately searching for a place to run to and another being to talk to, but no one was there.
28th May 02, 2:07 PM
That was beautiful, Helix! I like it! The ending really worked, too. You have a definite talent for plot exposition in a short amount of time, and those who think it's easy to make a good short story or a short story good don't know how really tough it can be.
By the way, thanks for the compliment. I needed to get that out, as my fiancee actually was in an accident. She's doing okay and is stabilized. I've always looked upon writing as therapy that doesn't require going to a man or woman who's convinced that you're a loony. By the way, you're all invited to the wedding. Anyone showing up in Homeworld or sci-fi attire WILL be kazotted with an HC's ion beam. Once again, Helix, great story!
28th May 02, 2:35 PM
I'm sorry to hear about that, Gunslinger. My girlfriend lives in Indiana, and I live in NY City; we both go to Purdue U, you see. But, needless to say, I worry about her a lot...as well as miss her a great deal too... :(
28th May 02, 7:24 PM
Originally posted by Marcus
I'm sorry to hear about that, Gunslinger. My girlfriend lives in Indiana, and I live in NY City; we both go to Purdue U, you see. But, needless to say, I worry about her a lot...as well as miss her a great deal too... :(
At the risk of having my tongue removed for going off-topic for a second, I understand what you're going through. Good news abounds today, though: She's out of the hospital and I'll be bringing her home with me after I go down to get her next week! Life is good. And you'll be with your girl, Marcus. It's true what they say: Love conquers all.
I know that sounded trite, folks, but it's true. Sorry. I'll go back to reading these great stories you all are writing.
1st Jun 02, 8:53 AM
People must know what genre they're writing in, right?The best fiction transcends genre.
- ion -
1st Jun 02, 1:44 PM
The best fiction transcends genre.
Methinks I smell the putrid stench that signifies a bloating ego... :p However, what you say is partly true. Some successful novels are non-genre. Difficult writing non-pigeon-hole stories though: publishers aren't so keen on that (or they weren't the last I heard).
1st Jun 02, 2:17 PM
Sorry to say, but I'm slightly annoyed at what you said, Bedford, that people who don't know those authors don't deserve to be on these boards. I was on these boards longer than you have been most likely and most people that have read my fiction have liked it, yet I don't know who those authors are and neither do I really care who they are either. Perhaps you can PM me and explain your reasoning behind this statement?
1st Jun 02, 5:55 PM
irony (FIGURATIVE SPEECH)
a means of expression which suggests (humorously or angrily) a different meaning for the words used Now, I think that's quite enough. Any more off-topic stuff and I'm going to start deleting posts. :)
- ion -
1st Jun 02, 7:00 PM
((Ah well... People on a few message boards in the past couple days have been annoying me, so I guess one or two more shouldn't make a difference. :) Anyways, here's my contribution to the Short Story thread. Not putting this up for the contest, because it can't match the others posted on here so far and probably can't match the others that will be posted later, in terms of quality, depth, etc, but I've always liked action (fantasy or sci-fi) and have been relatively good at creating and describing it, at least IMO, so here's a WH40K short story for you all. Please enjoy and as always, constructive criticism, suggestions, concerns, comments, etc, are always needed. :) ))
The young woman had run faster and longer than she had any right to believe she could, her young boy clutched to her heaving chest, her hands smothering his terrified cries as she ran... But she couldn’t run any further, for she was all used up, her energy spent in her mad flight for life.
But they were still coming ever onwards, still filling the air with their terrible inhuman hisses and roars of rage and triumph, still tearing her city apart in the darkness all around her, massacring the innocents that lived within it with the pure joy of the slaughter. And stealing away the choicest of civilians for a purpose far worse than even the suffering they were dealing to the inhabitants all around. Gunfire and explosions were constant pervading noises that filled the night air, challenging the roars and hisses of the monsters as the remnants of the Imperial Guard garrison attempted to hold their heavily embattled positions and drive the creatures from the capital city. But the Guardsmen were swiftly being overwhelmed, butchered and hacked apart even as they continued to fire their weapons, loyal unto death to the Imperium of Man and the Immortal Emperor.
And that was the fate that was meant for her. And her boy. Her husband had bought her an instant’s chance to escape, but the terrible scream that had issued from his throat as the horrible creatures slashed him to pieces, dying to defend his own bedroom’s doorway, haunted the young woman as she fled from their home with her boy down the cold, dimly-lit, and damp street.
Now, she was too tired for even that to move her.
The young woman panted with exhaustion as she continued to trot down the street as fast as she could, her strength failing, her lungs burning with exhaustion. She heard someone suddenly cry out loudly in fear and pain behind her and then the savage snarling hiss of the kill as the unseen creature effortlessly slaughtered whoever it was that was fleeing behind her. Like a dumb and exhausted animal, the woman staggered into a nearby narrow alleyway, but it was a dead-end, a featureless plascrete wall trapping her twenty or so paces back into the shadows. Terribly fatigued, but wild with terror, she collapsed onto the cold and damp pavement at the alleyway’s mouth, wrapping her arms as tightly as she had the strength to do so around her boy, and backed into a nearby wall, trying to make herself as small and as insignificant as possible. She fought to still her trembling and tried desperately to frame some coherent prayer for salvation within her mind as her young son twisted in her arms, afraid, but uncomprehending of the nearby danger and the dire situation itself that had engulfed the once-peaceful capital city.
An unseen and clawed alien foot suddenly lashed out from beyond the alleyway’s entrance and struck the metal refuse can that the young woman had slid down next to, rocking the can and tumbling the lid to the ground with a crash that seemed like it would go on forever into the night air. The lid bounced once, clanging again as it struck the ground, and then rolled out of its side of the alleyway in a lazy curve, the rattling metal-on-stone sound dragging out into an eternity before it trebled as the lid spooled down to the ground in the street beyond the alleyway and finally became still. The woman did not think she could know fear more paralyzing and the silence at that moment was unnerving, but it held and, with her heart in her throat, she began to hope fervently that perhaps the cacophony of noise had somehow gone unheard.
Without warning, something suddenly swept up the refuse can lid from the street and, casting a stocky hunched-over shadow into the alley, began to rhythmically tap the lid against slimy chitinous bio-armor. The woman whimpered and finally raised her eyes to the sound, despite her best efforts not to look, and even in the dim light, the sheer inhumanness of the alien creature stole her breath away and froze her inside with the sudden certainty of hopelessness...and death. She knew what was coming for herself and her unsuspecting young boy.
The Tyranid genestealer seemed to favor her with a malevolent and alien smile, its dripping maw filled with sharp fangs, its dark eyes reflecting back the horror that the young woman felt. One of its five-fingered clawed hands had grabbed up the refuse can lid and even now was tapping it almost absent mindedly against its right leg. It seemed to enjoy the fear that it knew filled the woman and its other two jointed arms, that extended from its hunched-over back, had three vicious-looking bone claws at the ends of them. These two arms were trained on the woman as if it was telling her in some alien way that there was no escape from the fate that awaited her. And indeed, at that moment, there didn’t seem to be any. The genestealer’s long tongue trailed out, dripping dark saliva, and licked slowly at a long fang. It hissed, as if coming abruptly to a decision, and then began to stalk forwards.
As the terrible alien monster started forward, a sudden blue-white flash of light came from behind the woman, from farther inside the alleyway. A loud crackling noise was heard simultaneously, filling the air, and with the noise and light there came an instantaneous sense of over-pressure. The woman barely registered these events, however, so overwhelmed by terror was she, but her maternal instinct overrode even her fear as she tried to shield her son with her own body, defending him even in the hopeless face of death or worse. But the genestealer abruptly froze in mid-lunge, its dark eyes blinking rapidly to overcome the sudden trauma to its vision. It suddenly hissed in rage and sprang forward, its four powerful clawed arms outstretched, and the woman screamed as the alien came relentlessly for her...
And a fist, almost the size of a plascrete block, answered its terrible advance, rushing suddenly out of the darkness from behind the woman.
From where there had been only blackness and the cold callous face of a wall before, an armored fist, considerably larger than the woman thought fists ought to ever be, plunged out of the darkness like a runaway truck with the lunging genestealer’s head and face as its ultimate target. The genestealer saw the armored fist, bright yellow runes carved into the ebon-black adamantium metal, an instant before the punch landed. The woman saw the dark eyes register movement, but it only reacted fast enough to see the blow coming and was too slow to do anything about it.
The powerful punch utterly crushed the alien’s head and face, shattering chitinous bio-armor, teeth, and reinforced bone, and smashed the creature into the air to land heavily on the street outside of the alleyway, such was the violence of the blow. The refuse can lid was knocked free of the lifeless creature’s grip and bounced noisily off the ground, rolling back into the shadows. But the alien did not move from where it lay in the street and dark fluids leaked from its fatal head wounds. The woman registered all of this with a detached remoteness as though events had reached such a surreal and horrific extreme that she was no longer a part of them anymore. She suddenly felt the hand, that had been a deadly fist only a moment before, pull her to her feet by her right arm, the armor cold and metallic against her skin. A part of her wanted to scream in protest and shock for there hadn’t been anyone in the back of the alleyway a moment before. The woman knew that whatever inhuman thing that could appear out of nothingness and dispatch so terrible an enemy as that alien creature with such brutal ease would be too much for her strained mind to grasp and contend with. Had she the choice, she would not have looked at this new thing, but the armored hand at her arm lifted her up carefully and turned her so that she had no such choice.
The woman looked into his face, or rather up into it for he towered above her, and in a single instant, the remoteness, the sense that all of her sanity was dangling from a single strand, was gone. She inhaled sharply, like a dead person suddenly given new life again and then began to cry uncontrollably. The sobs of terror and relief shook her as her hands stroked her son’s hair, her emotions flooding from her in the wracking volley of sobs and tears and mostly incoherent words at the sight of the imposing Space Marine Librarian, looming up in the shadows in his robed black and yellow Terminator armor. On the Librarian’s massively armored right shoulder was his Chapter Symbol: twin yellow scythes crossed over one another on a black background.
The lower half of the Librarian’s stern face was covered by a rebreather grill-mask, but she could see into his eyes and those same eyes met hers fleetingly. Something passed between them and the woman saw in his dark, but grave eyes that words were not needed for he understood. She sagged against his inexhaustible strength and let him support her as she held her son and wept softly. He squeezed her arm once, reassuringly and with a gentleness that shocked her after what she had witnessed that same armored hand do only a moment before. The Librarian gently and carefully maneuvered her to one side, clearing a path out of the alleyway, and then nodded authoritatively back into the shadows. Five more Space Marines in ornate black and yellow Terminator armor, with the crossed yellow scythes Symbol on their right armored shoulders, advanced forward from the darkness, power-cables humming and servo-motors whining as they moved, their large power-fists crackling with blue-white energies. The elite Terminators moved past the Librarian and the woman, fanning into the street beyond the alleyway, and elevated their menacing, double-barreled storm-bolters into firing positions.
The Terminators formed a wedge in the direction that the woman’s pursuit had come from and then the Librarian released her, moving after them and raising a large force-scythe in his left armored fist. The thick adamantium haft of the ancient force-weapon was covered in metallic wires and arcane runes, while the curved blade itself flared suddenly to life with twisting psychic energies, the weapon itself attuned to the Librarian’s mind, and reflecting his hatred of the implacable alien foe. The woman’s lips quivered with the enormity of her emotions, but she knew that she had to warn them.
“Wait...” She whispered softly and was gratified to see the Librarian stop and turn, his dark and solemn eyes once again meeting hers. “They are horrible creatures, unrelenting killers... An entire vessel of them or perhaps an entire fleet... They annihilated most of our Planetary Defense Forces so quickly that our garrison never even received a General Alarm... Until it was too late. There are very many more than that one out there...” Librarian Darius, Force-Commander of the remnants of the Scythes of the Emperor Chapter and one of its last remaining Librarians, nodded grimly and his voice was deep and stern as he spoke.
“Those Creatures believe that they can ravage and consume what is the Almighty Emperor’s and slaughter His loyal followers with impunity. They believe that they can take what is rightfully ours and that they are the unquestionable masters of this galaxy. Many years ago, they nearly destroyed myself and my brethren in a great and fiercely-fought campaign, but now the Scythes of the Emperor have risen up once again to show them who are the true Lords of Battle. In the Emperor’s Name, it shall be done...” The lead Terminator’s armor was suddenly showered by a volley of acidic projectiles that hissed and steamed against the massive armor in puffs of acrid smoke. Darius gave a slight nod of reassurement to the woman and then glanced back at his squad. As one, their black and yellow helmeted heads turned to regard him, the red eyepieces of their helmets glowing ominously in the dim light. The Librarian’s dark eyes began to blaze with psychic power and rising fury.
“Unleash our vengeance.”
2nd Jun 02, 4:46 PM
Ah, the delights of writing. This is my second entry, consisting of 6815 words. It took me ten hours to produce and edit. I don't know if it was worth it, but I'm glad the amount of time I spent on my last entry hasn't pushed me into Block. :p
Copyright to Nick Bedford, 2002
. C O V E R T . H E X A D E C I M A L . O P E R A T I O N S .
The benzodiazepam pills he'd popped earlier held his arms and hands steady; his fingers gripped the barrel of the rifle gently: his artificial index remained fractions of a millimetre from the metal tear of the trigger.
Beneath him, the snow lay compacted by his weight. Some distance behind, the parachute he'd flown in on lay hidden amidst the densely packed trees. Ahead, the embankment ran steeply down to a black tarmac road; harsh contrast to the white of the desert landscape. He wore a vision band; the device automatically magnified sections of his vision for analysis.
Small automated jets sprayed a salt derivative from the roadside, warding against ice.
He held his breath, settled himself - made sure he was calm - and exhaled slowly. The warm air turned condensation before him but he hardly noticed. Above, the sun had begun to rise.
The rifle was the only weapon he had with him. A white backpack held enough ammunition to destroy several armed units, enough food for five days and a thermal flask which strained to keep the ice out of his water.
His gaze shifted. There was movement on the road, where the black track became occluded by the edge of the forest. He heard vehicles. An electric node in his ear helped him to determine how many. There were two, one more guttural than the other.
He watched as they entered his field of vision, limited only by the indigenous vegetation. First was a black saloon car, drawn out across all dimensions bar height. It rolled to a halt on the left hand side of the road, closest to him. Behind it trailed a rover of some description. Bubble-like, the car was almost one sheet of plexulose and tinted entirely green.
He estimated the car and jeep between them could hold at the most fourteen men, optimistically twelve.
For some time, the vehicles remained part of the scenery. They didn’t move on, and no one got out. They were waiting, just as he was.
Their wait did not go unrewarded.
From the line of trees opposite his position, a woman approached. She was dressed in white, but his vision band had no difficulty in picking her out even in that camouflage: the device electrically scanned the data sent from it through his optic nerve to his brain. It alerted him to items of interest.
The chip buried in the centre of his brain began a database search routine, triggered by a close up of the woman's face.
It returned with a result in an almost negligible amount of time.
Natalya Gruverich. Daughter of Soña Gruverich, wife of an elite military hacker known as Babel. Babel had jumped scant months after the beginning of the war. He was considered a threat.
Before the woman had walked three steps in his field of vision, three car doors opened simultaneously. Both belonged to the saloon; one opened on the side closest to him.
A man in a black suit that seemed to glow in the light of the rising sun stepped out on the far side; he wore goggles - protection against reflected light off the snow - and a minisoft jockey strapped behind his left ear. From this position, he couldn't tell if it was on or not.
Two grunts got out of the saloon also, one alongside the suited man, the second on the side of the car closest to him. The one standing with the suit wore a similar optical augmentation rig. It was possible he would be spotted if the man looked in the right direction. Both grunts were dressed in caj: daytime attire that looked completely unsuited to the hash arctic climes.
The man in the suit carried a thin black briefcase which seemed to absorb the light around it.
It burned his vision until the band adjusted its data intake with electronic fields.
He aimed his rifle, caught the preamble of a conversation.
'Natalya. It is good to see you again.' Although distorted slightly by distance, the man's tone did not suggest anything "good".
'And you Brykov.' His chip began another search routine. 'Do you have it?'
In the following pause his chip displayed its results across his band. Negative. As far as his chip was concerned, "Brykov" did not exist. Mores the pity. Names would have been useful.
The man nodded. 'I have it Natalya.' That was most certainly useful. 'But the price has got to go up. Our people had to use more resources than were expected to retrieve this item.'
Neither car had switched off their engines. That meant their pilots were still inside. The green-tinted bubble-car began rolling forward, shortening the twenty metre gap between it and the saloon.
'No,' Natalya pronounced harshly. 'This is not a deal, or an exchange. It is the final stage of your contract. You agreed to take credit before the job was attempted. I realise now that you have made an error, perhaps a fatal one. However, that error is yours. A contract is a contract. And it was signed by your representative, Yäger. This is not the deal,' she repeated.
The man appeared unperturbed and motionless. The car was still easing forward, slowly.
Another search routine brought back negative results.
Who would he rather face? A woman on her own whom his databases had reliable information, or a potentially small military unit armed to the teeth with TRET rifles?
The decision was mildly irrelevant. He just had to get the case.
And Natalya could lead him to Babel.
His artificial finger pressed the rifle's trigger. A low thud escaped the lips of the muzzle.
The man in the suit crumpled to the floor with a bump still audible through the gun's microphone.
Both grunts wheeled around, searching for their attacker. The woman had thrown herself to the ground. The band kept its electronic eye on her whilst his chip determined the order of targets.
The grunt with a similar band went down next; his optical augmentation was electrically controlled, far removed from any derogative form of vision. And it was potentially more accurate than the other grunt, who fell to his knees with another muffled thump.
Then several things happened at once.
The woman Natalya scrambled up onto her legs, and keeping herself low grabbed the brief case and headed behind the saloon and into the trees on the opposite side of the road.
The green rover pulled forward and turned slightly to face him: protecting the men who were surely concealed inside. He didn't bother trying to smash the glass: it was too strong even for his projectiles.
One of the saloon car doors opened out on the far side of the vehicle, and a uniformed grunt brought up a rifle and began spraying the opposing hillside with a vengeance. Simultaneously, a window on this side of the car opened outwards, forming a resting platform for another uniform to rest his handgun on.
Both uniformed: both pilots.
He took them out on order of appearance.
Natalya had long since disappeared into the forest. He would need his augmentations to find her again. Several bulbous grey shapes followed her from the rear of the green vehicle. He or his chip guessed they were Biren Mogui: white demons, a group of militant software terrorists. His chip printed data on their clothing: heat retaining synthetic materials beneath morph armour.
In this two second recon, he became unwillingly surprised. Where had the Mogui gotten funds for technology like that? What were they doing here, completing a "contract" for Natalya Gruverich?
Two of the terrorists were approaching his position cautiously. That meant they knew where he was, but he was not of primary concern. Which meant in turn that they were after the jewel of their contract: whatever was contained within the black light-absorbing suitcase.
He scurried backward, keeping himself as low as possible, then folded the rifle and tied it to belt around his waist. He moved left swiftly, ran down the embankment to the black road - now gleaming in the sun's projected luminance - and crept into the saloon.
Hoping to Terra no one had spotted him.
His hope was short-lived; he had no time for it.
The car was thumb-print-started: a pad in the centre of the steering wheel glowed red.
Keeping low, he pressed his artificial finger onto the pad, letting his chip emit electromagnetic fields through it in order to bypass the relevant systems.
The engine was almost silent; he wondered how he had ever heard it.
He seized the controls with both hands and shot the car forward, swerving to miss the green rover by scant centimetres.
Shots came at him from behind. Some hit the armoured metal of the car and bounced; others slammed into the plexulose window at the back.
There was a minicomputer built into the dashboard. He swung it round on its tray and hit buttons.
A window opened, revealing a video image of the scene behind him.
He selected targets.
Return fire echoed in subliminal shudders along the car. He gave them a few seconds then cut it off. Ahead, the road curved to the left: in Natalya's direction.
He increased his foot's pressure on the accelerator pad and jerked the car around the bend. The rear wheels screeched in mechanical pain; they weren't made for such manoeuvres. And yet the rover had been too heavily guarded to be worth considering taking. At least four men, his chip calculated, plus the two who had gone into the forest looking for him.
To either side, the forest stretched for unknown distance. Here, some of the road was in shade; tall wooden pillars in living form blocked out the incoming solar rays. Despite the efforts of the automated jets, some of the road was sill covered in ice.
Coming out of the road's curve, he lost control of the car and swerved into a ditch on the roadside.
He knew at once that there was no chance of getting the car back on the road before the Mogui found him. Instead he flung open the pilot's door and stumbled out, then took control and ran for the protective cover of the trees.
The chip in his head changed the settings of his vision band to a form of infra-red; plotted estimated paths of the Mogui and Natalya in blue and yellow respectively and tagged them with detail. He now knew that there were six armed soldiers looking for Babel's daughter.
Two of them carried RZT launchers.
Where the hell were they getting this equipment?
He ran through the forest as silently as he could. Eventually, the vision band began picking up echoes of Natalya's passage. The soldiers were now behind him, weighted by their armour and weapons.
The packed trees made it almost impossible to see her, yet he couldn't risk shouting. Above, the sky was a fractured mesh of ageing red: its flickering state calling blindly for dull serenity.
He sped on, his breath beginning to warm again; taking on shape.
At last he could see her: a chink of red between the cold black columns of the trees too definite to be an echo. He did not slow his pace, although it appeared she had stopped. What was she doing?
He burst into the clearing before his chip had time to realise how much of a bad decision that was.
Instinct or computer-generated priorities sent his hand to his waist for the rifle hanging there. Natalya looked at him with wide eyes, white with surprise. Beneath her half-crouched, half-startled figure a hatch lay open.
She quickly regained composure, almost as fast as he did. Swinging her legs into the hole revealed by the hatch she produced a small pistol from her clothing. It was a tiny projectile launcher. However, at this range she couldn't miss an unarmed attacker.
'Who are you?' she asked brusquely. 'What do you want?'
'My name is not important,' he replied, as fast as possible. The six Mogui soldiers were only some fifty metres behind. 'What I want is not important.'
Her face creased with thought. 'Then why are you here?'
'Protection,' he offered. And then, 'I'm here to protect you,' he lied.
'How can I believe you?'
'You can't. All I know is that you are in danger: six soldiers approach us now.'
'Approximately twenty-five metres.'
'Yes,' he drawled. 'I suggest that if you don't want to find out what they want, 'he gestured at the hatch, 'we get down there right now.'
She nodded. 'Okay. Give me your rifle.'
It seemed that she had recognised his weapon. Reluctantly, he gave it up and then dropped down into the hatch. He still had another one.
She followed after him, climbing swiftly down the ladder in order to lower the hatch and seal it. He distantly considered how it was kept hidden from the surface, but gave the matter little thought. If the soldiers came down here looking for them they were dead. He put his faith in Natalya's - or Babel's? - architectural design.
'What's in the case?'
She shrugged. 'That's for me to know.'
They were walking through what appeared to be a series of insulated sewage tunnels on a shallow decline. Murky water rippled at his feet; fist-sized globules of ice sailed away from the hatch despite the extensive lagging on the curved walls and ceiling.
She cleared her throat. 'Why are you here?'
'I already told you,' he said.
'No.' She shook her head, 'That's not the real reason you came here.'
He decided to give her the truth. Afterall, none of them had the advantage in here. He could overpower her, and then his chip could easily compute an escape; he would cut his way out with the laser hidden in his backpack if he had to.
'I'm looking for Babel.'
She stopped. In the light of bare fluorescents above her facial features were cragged, torn. 'What makes you think I know where Babel is?'
'You're his daughter. Soña Gruverich is dead: you're my only link.'
She looked at him for a moment, searching his featureless face with her eyes. Then she lowered her gaze. When she looked back up, the muscles beneath her face had taken on a different alignment.
'Babel is dead,' she pronounced slowly. 'Even if I knew where he was, why should I bother to tell you?'
His chip - and his own mind - knew that she was lying. But why? What had he done?
Now it was his turn to shrug. 'Because his life is in danger. And because the military cannot win their war without him.'
Unfortunately, that was true. Babel was still revered by the military despite his jump. In a way it had been expected. Babel was not a very loyal man.
Her eyes searched him for a few more moments.
'Do you work for the military?' she asked.
He shook his head. 'I'm part of a special unit.'
'"Special", hmm? Your name? Or are you not permitted to say?'
'But of course, that is not your real name. It does not suit you.'
'My father was of this region.'
'And yet you look nothing like him.'
He let that go. The surgeons had done the best they could given the amount of time that had been made available to them.
She turned away and started continuing her trudge through the tunnel.
'There is a lift up ahead. We will use that to reach the surface. Afterwards, I will decide what to do with you.'
Inside, he breathed a sigh of relief.
It seemed she would let him live.
The lift was a small container with flaking white paint around jutting mechanical devices. He had to brush aside a few hanging cables in order to get in. Then Natalya hit a button on the control panel marked with writing only his chip could interpret, and the lift began its slow ascent.
The chip estimated that they had fifty-seven metres to go before they reached the surface. Obliquely he wondered what would have happened to the Mogui soldiers in that time. In the background, the electronic device buried in his head worked to produce plausible actions that they might have taken, suggestions as to their acquired armaments, and a likely topography of the surface.
The chip contained more databases than this entire country. It had taken several hours to download them into the chip before the operation to insert it in the centre of his brain: where he couldn't gain access to it without severely damaging himself.
They had walked the rest of the way here in silence; Natalya obviously still didn't know what to do with him. He decided it was time to sway her mind.
'Those soldiers-' he began.
'Biren Mogui. They are a rebel faction, usually harmless. I am surprised that they were in allegiance with my... colleagues.'
'That surprises me too. What also surprises me is that they seem to have been paid.' She frowned at him but he continued. 'They're wearing morph armour, Natalya. At least two of them are carrying RZT launchers. That sort of technology isn't usually available in this country.' He knew it wasn't: his chip had told him so.
'Morph armour? RZT launchers?' her lips stumbled over the unfamiliar words.
His chip provided the information he required to relate. 'Morph armour is a relatively new technology developed by a constituency in the North. It's made from the base materials of rubber but laced with wires which are electrostatically charged. The electrostatic field is able to absorb kinetic energy from projectiles. Lasers and other energy-based weapons are made useless because of the field's positive charge.
'RZT launchers are weapons capable of delivering an explosive capsule encased in an outwards projecting miniature EM field. Electronic weapons are rendered unusable before and after the capsules explode.' He finished. There was more, but he didn't think they had the time. They would reach the surface in less than a minute.
'They briefed you well. What are my chances of survival if I take you with me?'
He took the question as rhetorical.
'I risk a lot, but I gain an immeasurable amount. How much are you willing to tell me?'
'As much as we need to stay alive.' His chip would allow no more.
Natalya nodded. 'Above I have transport. A Mi24 Hind with HIS conversion. Are you familiar with this type of system?'
He nodded. His database began displaying information across his vision.
'Very well. You will pilot it for me. I am willing to guess that you are after the contents of this case' - she patted the black oblong lightly - 'and have no wish to die. I will provide fire if the need arrives.'
He accepted her decision because there was nothing else he could do.
The lift brought them not directly to the surface as his chip had suggested, but into a small, empty, almost derelict building composed of a hangar and a one-man communications and control bay.
The bay was empty; dust and small fractal patterns of frost covered every surface like crystallised veils. He guessed the bay hadn't been used for a long time.
He entered the dim hangar in front of Natalya; once again she held a gun at his back, this time his own rifle. Although she didn't know how to make use of its advanced functions, she was familiar with the 'point and fire' concept. Unfortunately, the people who'd sent him out here hadn't foreseen this situation. As a result, his rifle contained no chip or sensor to remain inactive if anyone except him chose to use it.
He would have cursed that, if he'd thought it would help.
Heavy grey tarpaulins covered the chopper; he removed them whilst Natalya stood guard. It seemed she did not want to give him the opportunity for escape.
He opened the roof of the hangar and leapt into the Hind through its side-hatch. Natalya accompanied him shortly after; she remained in the rear compartment of the vehicle whilst his databases told him what to do.
There were two seats in the cockpit, one filled with the bulky apparatus of a ten-year-old HIS. He slid into the other.
HIS. Human Integration System.
A technology devised and shared by various military factions before the war; one of the reasons the war still raged.
He removed a plug connected to the unit with curled wire from its holding cup and brought it up behind his head. There was a skull-socket there; they all had one. The plug slid into the socket at the base of his cranium with an electronic wheeze: the socket imposing clamps to prevent slippage or disconnection.
He flicked the LOAD switch.
A sudden flash of data jerked him back into his seat. From somewhere behind him he heard Natalya laugh and say, 'Hurry it up. You want to meet my father, right?'
His eyesight flickered then cleared as his vision band and chip correlated with the HIS. Within seconds the system was ready for data input. In his case, though it wasn't normal, he would relay commands through his chip.
He told the chopper to begin blade rotation; when they gained a sufficient number of revolutions, he told it to lift off through the hangar's open roof.
At once the dim, unclear hangar was replaced with an aerial viewpoint of the surrounding geographical topography. He received the data through the vision band across his eyes, and knew it to have been gathered from several digital cameras studded on the Hind's exterior surface; cameras similar to those on the rear of the black saloon car.
He nudged the craft forward.
It was then that he realised he had no access to the helicopter's weapons array. Either they had been dismantled or he was being refused access. Natalya's voice came to him over the roar of the blades.
'Take us to coordinates XJ5 972. That's three decakems in the right direction. We should find my father there.'
'Right.' Thirty kilometres. Shouldn't take too long; his information on the converted Hind suggested no more than twenty minutes. He aimed the helicopter and piled on as much acceleration as he could.
Nine point four minutes passed before warnings flashed across his vision: the helicopter was dangerously low on fuel. He would have to land somewhere within the next four minutes or risk crashing.
Below, the pointed tops of trees sped by, broad dark lines frozen in their passage to conceal the lower ice and snow drifts.
'Natalya,' he shouted. 'We're low on fuel. I'm going to have to set her down.'
He thought he heard her curse behind him, but there was a pause before she replied. 'Okay. There's a clearing at XB7 535. Can you make it there?'
His chip calculated the distance and his speed. It would take them five minutes; he'd be cutting it fine.
'I can make it,' he called back.
He had begun orienting the chopper to face Natalya's new heading. 'What is it?'
'Mogui soldiers. In the forest below. They've got dogs.'
'Have they spotted us?
She didn't reply.
'Natalya, have they spotted us?' he repeated, this time with more force.
'Dammit!' He guessed she'd been taking aim. 'What? I can't tell. They look like they're heading for the same clearing though.'
Shit, that was all he needed.
'Just get us down. They'll spot us before we get there. I'll see what I can do to even up the odds.'
The odds; how likely it was that they would survive. His chip began doing the same.
With every passing second his combined mental and electronic grip of control on the Hind was fraying. What were the odds he would even make it to the clearing?
He heard the bang of a rifle from the rear compartment. Not his own weapon, and not Natalya's. There must have been a gun in there with her though he hadn't seen one as he'd climbed in.
He heard her curse again; the trees were as good a protection for the Mogui as any. They also served to protect the Hind from the RZTs at least two of their soldiers had.
An electromagnetic field would fry the HIS unit, possibly burn the chip in his head.
He couldn't afford that; the chopper fled onwards.
One of his cameras caught sight of the dogs Natalya had mentioned, triggering his chip into another search routine.
It returned with startling news.
Not dogs, at least not completely. Chiméres. The result of splicing the deoxyribonucleic acid coding of huskies and panthers and then combining chosen qualities from a selected range. More than suited to the cold; deadly strong. It was plausible that they also had cybernetic implants for sight, smell and sound.
Again he wondered how the Mogui had acquired such a thing. Chiméres were expensive; they took time to manufacture. How long had the Mogui had access to enough funding and information to support such a rare entity?
Too long, his chip put forward.
He had one minute's worth of fuel left, less time than he needed to reach the clearing. He heard another shot from behind; he didn't dare risk asking Natalya how large the clearing was. Large enough for him to crash the Hind? Large enough after that to give him enough room in which to confront the chiméres and their handlers?
He didn't know. And the helicopter's cam units didn't provide any hint either.
He just had to hope.
'And you!' Natalya shouted. Two down? They were wearing morph armour. Or was she hitting the so-called dogs?
His control over the chopper had frayed too much; he was rapidly losing control of its systems. It stumbled and shook under his commands.
'Natalya!' he shouted. 'Brace yourself!'
She shrieked as the Hind began a swift descent, clipping the tops of trees with heavy thuds that rang and echoed inside the metal hull.
He disconnected himself from the primitive HIS and pushed out of the pilot's seat into the rear compartment. Picking Natalya up from the deck, he grabbed her arm and threw them both out, trusting his chip to make sure he chose no trees to jump onto.
He landed heavily on the forest floor, enough to make him catch his breath. He rolled across the snow that had broken his fall and rose to his feet, turning to locate Natalya.
She lay on her back, still but breathing, clutching the black briefcase with both hands across her chest.
'Come on,' he said lifting the rifle from his backpack and then swinging the latter onto his shoulders. 'I want to meet Babel.'
She rose stiffly, he almost went to help, but his chip advised him not to. Doing so would risk what little time they had left. Instead, he turned and began heading for whatever lay at coordinates XJ-5 972.
'You bastard,' Natalya croaked. She winced when a noise of snapping trees and dying rotor blades seeped though the forest. 'That was our only chopper.'
'Then why,' he asked angrily, 'was it under-fuelled?'
He left her puzzled gaze.
The soldiers would be here soon.
By the time Natalya had risen to her feet, the chip had identified how long the Mogui would take to get here. Because he didn't know which chiméres the woman had taken out, he didn't know where they would come from. Once again, trajectories lined his vision band, and it flicked over into IR mode.
At that point, he began running. They weren't far from the coordinates Natalya had given him. It was possible that they could reach some sort of protection before the soldiers found them.
Who knows? There might be another underground sewer somewhere nearby.
He heard heavy panting behind him, heavier then Natalya's, and turned sharply on either direction or impulse.
The chimére lumbered through the forest toward them, hot blood red in his vision. He lifted up his rifle and fired. It took several shots; the chimére was some distance away and protected by the cover of trees.
Then it stopped.
Behind him, Natalya continued to curse.
'What are you really after?' she asked him, breathing hard.
'I told you,' he hated repeating himself. 'I'm looking for Babel.'
'No,' she said. Her persistence was beginning to annoy him. 'There's something else. You're too cool, too casual.' There was a brief pause before she hazarded, 'You're not here to kill him are you?'
He shook his head. 'No.'
'Then why? The Mogui are here because of me, but you-' she stumbled. 'I don't see the link.'
'Then forget about it. As far as I'm concerned, our lives are what matters here. If we die, we lose. And I need to see Babel.'
Although she was behind him, he knew she was frowning.
'Quickly Natalya. They will be here soon.'
Somehow the soldiers had lost track of them. His computer came forward with the hypothesis that if he couldn't see them now with IR then they were nowhere nearby - certainly not close enough to be a threat. The device in his ears picked up no sounds of approaching vehicles either.
That gave him some form of comfort as his boots crunched white snow.
He had slowed pace a sort while ago. Natalya's breathing was becoming something for concern. He had waited; allowed her to catch up with him.
Still, neither of them had talked since his brusque dismissal of her questions.
Soon after they came to the foot of a tall hill with a shallow incline. He began his ascent as if he were unstoppable. She trailed behind him as if she was tethered and had no choice.
Before they reached the summit of the hill, he saw the large roof of a wooden house. An exceptionally large house, as it turned out, when he finally reached level ground.
He turned to face Natalya. 'This is where Babel lives?'
She nodded, her cheeks red with exhaustion.
'Take me inside.'
Again she nodded. 'After you give me your rifle.'
Because he had no choice, he handed it to her.
She took him around one side of the house, to a large wooden door. He could see through none of the windows, their curtains were all closed.
She opened the door by pressing her palm onto a hidden sensor done in wood finish. It opened inwards onto what he could only describe as a stately home; a rich man's home. He'd seen pictures of other rich peoples' homes, exteriors and interiors. This smacked of one of them.
The floor was a deep red that reminded him of IR. The ceiling and walls were panelled in wood panelling tinted dark green. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling like the golden horns of some mythical beast; they were the only illumination.
The first room he entered was large, the floor half covered by a large table in some foreign wood, not of this country.
Natalya pushed him forwards into a study. There were bookshelves and more chandeliers. A desk in the far corner was crowded in black hardware. He got the impression someone sat behind that macabre horizon.
From behind him, Natalya cleared her throat. 'Father,' she said, 'we have a visitor.'
The man who stepped out form behind the desk was a rotund figure wearing a black tailored suit. Tailored where, he wondered. This place was in complete isolation.
'Well, well, my little Natalya. What have you got here?'
'There was a problem with the closing of the contract something Brykov did not like. This man saved me, helped me to escape here. He calls himself Tajin Meyal, though I doubt that is his real name. We lost a Hind coming over here.'
'Of course that is not his real name.' Babel grinned. He didn't seem to mind the loss of the helicopter. Perhaps he had more.
'I take it your problem with Brykov did not extend to losing our s reward?'
He sensed Natalya was grinning as she said, 'Not at all father. I have it right here.'
She walked forward - giving him a wide berth as if even now she thought he might try to attack her - and passed the case to the military jumper.
'Excellent,' Babel said, retreating to his wall of hardware.
He heard the case being opened and then closed shortly afterward.
'Please Natalya, take our guest to a place where he can sit down.'
'Yes father.' She turned to him, smiling. 'Come on, I'll show you the lounge.'
The lounge was a small room containing two deep sofas, a central coffee table and a curtained window. Natalya switched the light on before she entered. They did not have automatics.
She had deposited the rifles in the kitchen, a room some distance from either his current position or Babel's.
She offered him a seat, which he took, before walking to a drinks cabinet.
'Do you want one?'
He shook his head.
'My father is completing everything now. It will not be long, before...'
'Before what? He prompted.
She took a sip from her glass and sat down opposite him, the coffee table their ornamental divide. 'I told you earlier that I understood the link between the Biren Mogui and my colleagues. But there is more. I also know why you were sent here.'
He cocked an eyebrow but said nothing.
The revelation Natalya knew was too much to keep her still; she rose from the sofa and began walking up and down its length.
'The military employed my father some years ago because of his expertise in computer hardware and software. He is a military hacker, is he not? He is revered by the military, is he not?' He got the feeling she was going to answer these questions herself. 'Indeed he is. Babel Gruverich is one of the world's greatest computer hackers. The military employed him because they saw him as too much of a threat. Such value puts him in an... excitable bargaining position.
'For many years now, this country has been prone to the unsteady hands of the Mogui: the rebel terrorists that you helped me to escape from. Upon my father's jump from the installation Calricka, the military employed the use of the Biren Mogui to help track my father down. This is his homeland; there was some chance that he would return here after his decade-long period of enforced exile.'
She took a drink from her glass before continuing. 'You were sent for several reasons. Number one: to ensure that my father had not been discovered. Number two: to ensure that the package my father required got to him safely.
'The military deliberately denied telling you more than they could have because they could not risk the chance that you would be captured, despite being a commander in their elite squadron. You did not know what was in the case just as you did not know why the Mogui had access to such advanced weaponry.' She frowned, 'I admit, I find their breach of contract - that is, their hunt for both you and I - confusing. What did they hope to gain? I doubt we will ever know.
'To continue, the idea behind this exercise was that the enemy would see our position and interpret as a weakness. Afterall, the Northern military has been dependant upon the abilities of my father for some time. His knowledge has had a profound effect on the tide of the war, turning it in favour of the North.
'This position of weakness was intended to spur the South into action. They have since done so, or else my father would not have sent us here. Right now, he is hacking into the Southern Hemisphere's military Advanced War System, their military AI.' Catching the widening flare of his eyes she went on, 'He does not plan to hack all the way in. The hexadecimal data contained within the suitcase you helped me to protect is a form of binary virus that will attack the AI's methods of communication. In other words, it will cut the AI off from its most fundamental resources. The effects should be enough to dismantle the SH, or at least allow Northern troops to seize control of the lower half of the planet.'
At last she sat down, smiling. She was gracious enough to give him time to think.
This whole thing had been... what? He had no words to describe what it was. "Pointless exercise" and "lie" bordered on malfeasance or treason. The scale of the issue was just too large for him to comprehend.
And of all the people involved in this, he had been the only one not in the know? What if his lack of knowledge had caused him to make fatal judgements? What if he'd died during the course of the mission? Had the military planned for the Mogui's attack? Had he been dispatched to counteract it? His chip offered no form of comfort.
He concluded that in all likelihood he would never know.
He wondered if it was possible to get a medal for this line of work.
He started talking, but no words came out. He had to swallow twice before he could say, 'What do we do now?'
Natalya shrugged, took another drink. 'We wait. Are you sure you don't want a drink?'
He nodded his head, 'Yeah. I'll have one.'
Three hours had passed before a third figure entered the room.
Babel looked worn out, physically exerted; exhausted. His face was covered in a sheen of sweat, and his once crisp suit was ruffled and open. The white shirt he wore was embroidered with perspiration.
'Well Natalya,' he said hoarsely, as if he'd spent the past three hours shouting and not saving the world. 'I did it. It's down to that programme now. But I saw it start its purpose. It's disintegrating the AI's binary code.'
He walked over to the drinks cabinet, breathing heavily. Natalya's face glowed with pride and respect, but she said nothing. She was at least gracious enough for her father to say what he wanted in his own time.
Babel rested himself on the edge of the cabinet. 'I trust you told our friend why he had to go through this tiring charade.'
She nodded, 'I did father.'
'Good. I hope you are a man capable of appreciating such news?'
'I am sir. It just startled me, the complexity, the scale... I've spent the past few hours forming questions in my mind and then discarding them. I can't believe the war is almost over.'
Babel turned his red face to him grimly. 'Oh the war's not over, Tajin. No, far from it. This is only the beginning. What you've witnessed so far is the verbal banter that precedes fisticuffs. I can't tell you which way the war will go, what form it will take next. But the Southerners are a strong, resilient people. They'll find a way to fight back, and with a vengeance. Rest assured of that.'
'Then what was the point of all this?' Babel's news destroyed the fragile conclusions he had spent the past three hours forming in his head; had spent the past three hours trying to believe and being able to believe.
'This is our first blow. This weakens them. But as I say, who knows which way it will go from here?'
Natalya leaned forward. 'Don't look so sad. My father's work has probably shortened the war. At least it gives our side the upper hand.'
When he didn't say anything, Babel pushed himself off the cabinet and moved towards the door, 'Come on, I'll show you some of my medals. You might get one of your own if you're lucky. Terra knows you deserve one...'
* * *
The wind bore transport to the rain, sweeping lashes of burning his face. He lay in the mud - at times, he thought, sinking into the mud - with a rifle clutched in his hands. His vision band pinpointed enemy turrets.
He lay in No Man's Land.
Under the cover of dead bodies and strewn material, he picked off the enemy with an ease that was borne of electronics, of cybernetic implants and neurological augmentations. Extra glands in his chest secreted diazepam into his bloodstream, almost instantly calming him.
He had earned his medals, and yet he was fighting still. Babel had been right, the war was far from over. It was estimated to run on into the next century.
But it could have been longer.
Only Babel's expertise had saved the Northerners from a war that would last longer than they would be able to produce weapons.
He clutched his rifle, and fired.
2nd Jun 02, 8:31 PM
Wow. All of the stories, so far, are greatly written, with deep and excellent plots. Congrats to the writers so far.
-Story deleted in fear of offending somebody.-
4th Jun 02, 1:37 PM
Originally posted by Ben Tusi
-Story deleted in fear of offending somebody.-
Hold on a minute. Maybe I'm getting the wrong end of this, but you're not taking part in the compo in case you offend anybody? I for one will not be offended if you post your story here. Go on: post it. What's the worst that can happen? :thumb:
4th Jun 02, 5:29 PM
You'll see what I'm talking about. Posted at the request of Bedford. If you are offended, I will write a two paragraph written apology, and take it off the interweb immidately.
My body is nothing but a weak feeble presence on this earth. It is ugly and fragile, hard bones that are hurt with too hard a contact with anything at all. It is inadequate. My lack of strength, and inability to emit great strength has followed me, tortured me through school, and through my interpersonal life. I despise this inadequacy that has been chosen as my vehicle for my being. I am stuck in a louse blue collar job, without loved ones left in the world, nor there being any profit in the physical manifestation that is my unattractive, unfit body, skinny arms and un-muscled torso.
However, this will all change today. I stood, clad in bright orange overalls that has yellow plastic pads on it for extra visibility, with a white T-shirt underneath, gazing upon what is to be my new existence, the new manifestation for my power.
My new body: it was ugly, but it was fiercely ugly. A single arm stretched outward, having more power than any man possibly could. Its legs were able to run faster than an athlete. This body was a better vessel for my existence, than my shameful body. My current body, at the time, was too weak. I looked upon my chosen body, and I knew that I was to control this, and enhance my life with it. I could no longer live as a weakling, but become huge and nearly monstrous. However, this would work out, as I would have power. I always wanted to be able to strike fear into the hearts of those, who were once my physical superiors, to now be the hunted, and be the prey. It was my destiny to merge with this lifeless beast that stood before me, and make its presence my own. I wish it to be … me. I wish myself to have power.
A sun peaked through the buildings, shining down at the beast, which lacked a pulse and a mind. The rising sun: the eve of life. The east is where I shall travel, and gain my revenge. Revenge on those who strut their superiority. I shall make a new land for this world in the east, as where the eve of life is, is where a new age will be created, to emerge from the soil, and to be mine to rule over, and to govern, as I tear down the old, and erect the new.
I walked forward to the graceless beast, which will be the host of my intellect. The beast stood on the mud, not budging and inch. I took of my orange helmet as I walked, and glanced at it. I tossed it aside, as I would no longer need it to guard my inadequate body from harm. My work boots sloshed around in the mud, as I approached the beast. I stood before it, looking at its grotesque, monstrous beauty, as it was nearly a thing of beauty. It was as ugly as it was powerful, and it contained the strength that not twenty men combined were able to match. This new body will carry me to the east, the eve of life, and the castle of my new kingdom. Toronto will fall, and my new kingdom will rise from the rubble.
I climbed up the lifeless, but fearful body, and came to the creature’s head.
“Hey,” a construction engineer yelled in my direction, “where do you think you’re doing there, Ed?”
I gave a glance in his direction, at watched as he ordered me around. No longer was I to be just another municipal engineer. I was to be something more with my life. I was to become king. Carl shouted at me, as I began the takeover of this beast. He will soon be getting orders from me, under pain of death.
I comfortably shifted into my body, which was tall. I had the ability to look down at Carl, who yelled at me. I existed inside of this new body, but it was still lifeless. I suddenly felt a huge surge, and I was brought to life, a second time, in a huge presence. I was empowered, my new pulse beating, the air filling into my massive new lungs.
I was reborn, and I was empowered. I moved my arm, and flexed it. I was powerful. I saw Bobcat standing by in the mud. I took my new arm, and knocked over the Bobcat with ease, as if it were a toy.
The Bobcat would have caused injury to my old, inadequate body. Now, I have the ability to knock it over with the greatest of ease.
“What the hell are you doing, Ed,” I heard Carl yell, over the sound of my new pulse.
I proven my strength was genuine. Now, it was time to experience the first time in my life the instilling of fear in others. I turned around, taking monstrous steps, and looking about the muddy area. I saw Carl yelling at me, but this was all about to change. I charged towards him, with a huge growl emitting from my new teeth.
I couldn’t believe it, I was awestruck as Carl had fear radiate from his eyes, and he screamed in fear, as he jumped out of the way. Many people around the area, clad in high visibility uniforms, ran towards me, but they couldn’t stop me. I turned around, and stared them down. They were walking close to me. Even though they were small, they were very numerous. They walked towards me like spiders. However, like spiders, they could be squished. I swung my angry fist at them, and they jumped away, in complete mortification. They cursed at me, and they swore, in complete fear. I paced towards them, towering over them, as their fear grew, and they began to run away.
“Somebody call the cops,” I heard one of them yell, as they ran away.
Pathetic. They were once stronger than me. Now I outmatched them by myself. I never felt so powerful in my entire life. I was a monster, but I had no shame in that fact. The important thing was that I was rid of my old, inadequate body, and I was the new and improved Edward.
I went towards the makeshift fence around the muddy block of the city, and knocked it over with my powerful arm, and walked over it, onto the street
As I went onto the street, cars swerved around me, and began to angrily honk their horns at me. I will teach them to disrespect me.
I got into one lane, and faced the bastards, staring them directly in the eyes. All they did was swear and honk their horns. I looked a businessman, who was driving a BMW, and had an expensive business suit on. All he was doing was honking and cursing, and growing frustrated.
So was I.
I took my fist, raised it in the air, charging it with all the anger and strength possible, and struck the car, smashing down its hood, and making all the windows shatter.
Cars would have injured me, but now, I was the one injuring the cars. I saw another car drive by, and I struck it took, breaking most of the windows. I heard a terrified scream, and responded by flipping the car over.
This was nearly a dream come true for me. I had to power to do things almost completely unimaginable in the past, where a stunning reality. I loved this power, I loved this power, and I was nearly addicted to inciting fear and causing pain. I, generally, don’t want to harm things, but I never really had that ability with my pitiful existence. Cars were honking, and I wanted to cause more pain, to experience what it is like to become a living god.
I saw another car, and a put my fist through its window without effort. That would have caused my fist to bleed; but now it is impossible for this body to bleed. I picked up the car, and lifted it high above the street. I dropped it, causing a terrified scream, and several windows to shatter.
Nobody would laugh at me anymore. No longer would I be one who was pushed around. I was now the bully, but in this euphoria, I couldn’t help but be the bully. To experience that power is to be entranced by primarily.
I heard sirens, growing louder and louder. A first, I was panicked, as I knew that Law Enforcement had the ability to harm me. Than, I realized that I was thinking in the mindset of the old me. I was huge, towering, and beautiful. There really was no way to describe it, other than feeling like a God. So many possibilities, all of them I wanted to do all at once.
I saw about four Police cars, with sirens screaming, charge down the road, and block the intersection that was nearby, and that my lane flowed to. The Police blocked that part of the road, and got out of their cars, pointing their weapons at me. I knew that this was where my skills would be put to the test. I walked towards them, and picked up a Crown Victoria police car with my new fist. I threw the car at the street, and it landed, with its suspension bobbing about when it landed.
The Police fired at me, with their little side arm pistols. The only thing they did was ricocheted of my new skin, which was nearly impenetrable.
I took my new arm, and I smacked a Police officer, sending him flying across the street, landing on his back, motionless. The two other officers took cover, and reloaded their weapons. While they did that, I grabbed another car, and tossed it aside, with ease. I flipped over one car, and began walking forward, with bullets still bouncing off my skin, harmlessly.
This barrage would have killed my former body, but I was still breathing, as the tiny specks of metal were projected at me, in a vain attempt to harm me.
I walked forward, and I crushed the Crown Victoria that was still standing with my gargantuan feet.
I heard a gentle patting, which happened to be a Police helicopter.
“This is the Toronto Police Department,” a loudspeaker from the helicopter boomed, “stop this rampage right now, and surrender, or we will use lethal force.”
Lethal force: yeah, right. Nothing was lethal to me. I looked up at the helicopter, and tried to reach it.
It was too high, but that didn’t matter. I had a kingdom to build. I heard more sirens approach me. The cops were persistent in sending their men out, to get killed.
I knocked down a traffic light post, and marched forward, continuing on in that lane, which was surprisingly empty. Sirens were growing loud, as Emergency Services personnel were converging in the area. I walked onward in the lane.
“Pull over now, this is an order from the City of Toronto,” The helicopter boomed.
Fools. They are only dispatching the Police because they are afraid. They are weak, and I am supreme. I rule the city, now. I think I will go to city hall, and set the record straight as to who is in charge of this land, now.
Sirens grew, and a flock of about six Crown Victoria Police Cars arrived. As they buzzed around me, in an attempt to surround me, I smacked the cars, flipping them over, violently. As a majority of the taskforce sent to serve my head to this city’s weak, puny sovereign on a silver platter were scattered about the street. I marched onward, and had Police tail behind me, with their sirens wailing, and police lights on.
“Get off of the streets now, you’re lives are in danger,” the helicopter’s loudspeaker announced.
Finally, something from the helicopter I agreed with. I approached another intersection; with three more police cars arriving on the scene came to take me down. I pounded an angry fist on the hood of that car, and made another car roll over.
“Citizens of Toronto,” the Helicopter boomed, “get off the streets now, this is for your own safety.”
Nothing could save those poor fools, not ever the pathetic Police force that governed this land, which was about to fall. I went into the intersection, and smashed a few civilian cars about the street, giving out a firm signal that I am all-powerful.
I went down the street to see a large contingent of Police showing up, and a duo trucks with emergency lights and police decals park on the street. Officers holding machine guns piled out, and took aim, while taking cover behind their trucks.
“Stop now,” an officer with a megaphone said, “or we will open fire.”
I turned around, and saw the trio of milk white Crown Victorias stop, and the officers get out. I decided to take the easier route, and tear through the opposition.
I put an angry fist through the windshield of one Crown Victoria, and flipped the second one over. I moved through the wrecked vehicles, as I moved forward, the Police cars restart their pursuit. I angrily sprinted forward in my massive body, to see three Police trucks stop in front of me, with their siren lights flashing about. They were either Police or soldiers, but they were heavily armed.
“You are surrounded, and there is no way out,” the Helicopter announced, “surrender now, or you will be fired upon.”
I looked at the trucks in front of me. There were only about a dozen soldiers, clad in navy blue uniforms. I swung at them, back handing a few soldiers, making them fly. The rest of them jumped in mortal fear, and ran back, for cover. I was now having the cops fear me. I grabbed a truck by the front bumper, and flipped it over, shattering the windows. I did the same with the other two trucks, and saw the soldiers in Navy uniforms run to the sidewalk, before restarting their aim at me. I rolled on of the trucks out of my way, and pushed through the rest of them. The trucks seemed like really large toys to me, but I knew that the Police force that was after me was getting stronger, and nearly becoming my match.
I feared that I would actually face a force that would be equal to my strength, after my first inheritance to my power. After I broke through that roadblock, I zoomed down that lane, and I no longer had any police cars pursuing me, after I used their own roadblock against them. Onward, like a stallion, galloped, free of any pursuit.
Wait. There was still that damned Police Helicopter, buzzing around like an annoying fly.
“Everyone off the streets, this is for your own safety,” the Helicopter boomed, again. They were letting all of the city and me; know that I was the one in power, which I was winning. I left behind a trail of rubble that I was nearly proud of. I was nearly proud that I was able to cause so much, but I knew that the tables were turning. I had to get out of this damned city, and strike again, when the Police let their guard down, and when all of the mindless citizens least suspect it. I galloped down the streets, and smashed cars aside in one intersection, while the Police helicopter issued warnings to the public to hide before big bad Ed comes and gives them a broken arm, or two.
All I had to do was go the east, which was the eve of life, and meet my love there, and build a kingdom and an army, which will thwart the soon-to-be inadequate guardians of the streets.
Suddenly, as I was getting closer to the city limits, Police zoomed in from both sides of an intersection, but they were accompanied by Police trucks, and, even worse, two army Tanks and a group of olive green jeeps.
For the first time in my new life, I was beginning to fear. Men with large, black machine guns or rifles, or such, clad in a nearly speckled like camouflage uniform, lunged towards me. I turned around, and looked over my monstrous shoulder, and saw a few more Police trucks, and another Army tank. In the other lane, over the divider, there was another Police truck.
Heavily armed soldiers and Policemen crawled out of their vehicles, like a swarm of spiders.
“There is no way out,” the Police helicopter boomed, “you are surrounded and outmatched. There is the end of the line. Either surrender yourself now, or you will be fired upon. You have one minute to surrender.”
I backed up, like a frightened child. I was actually afraid. Suddenly, I realized that my past weakness was gone, and I was capable of much more. I was unsure.
“You have forty-five seconds to surrender, or we will open fire.”
“Die,” I snarled. My destiny was not to be obstructed. I lunged forwards at a group of Army soldiers and police, and one of them fired a shot, which rocked the ground, and struck my body. I felt little pain. It was merely … obstruction.
I tried to move forward, but it was difficult. I looked over at my side, and realized that one of the soldiers must have fired a bomb at my leg, or something.
I looked at the cannons on the Tanks, and the machine guns that were pointing at me from everywhere.
My body was struck again, and I was jerked about. I was not hurt badly, but I knew that I was injured even further.
Who was I kidding? I was fighting the Army! These were men who are trained to destroy countries, let alone one man. My body wasn’t too much of a match for those troops.
I was angry. I was being obstructed, but I would continue eastwards, to reach the eve of life. I reached my angered fist forward, but before I cold do anything, I was jostled, and there was a large explosion, which spilt scrap metal everywhere, and put an end to my existence.
The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by darkness. I Questions buzzed through my mind. I felt I was being talked to by something, something that seemed a part of me, like my conscious.
“Why did you do this,” it ask, “You became the very thing you hated, and did the very atrocities you protested against. You retaliated against your childhood be being the very object of your own hatred.”
“You had the power to construct, to build, and to help,” it continued, “You had the power to make the good possible. You were greedy, and you used that power for the sake of testing your own abilities out. You did this to satisfy your own lust.”
The next thing I remembered afterward was being in a pure white room.
I looked around my room, roughly the size of an office, which would be my home for a long period of time. I kept on having lapses in my memory, but no matter what I did, I still ended up alone, in my white, padded cage.
I gained knowledge of a news report. I don’t know how, but I just did. I know of this report, nearly to the word:
“It has been two days since a municipal engineer had gone on a rampage of death and destruction on the main streets of Toronto. He was deemed to have lapsed into insanity that day, and hijacked an excavator, which he used to intimidate other engineers, who were at a construction sight at the time. The Toronto Police held a press conference, where the statistics of four dead and eight officers in critical condition were realized, and RCMP officers apart of an Emergency Response team had rushed five of its operatives to the hospital, two dead, and three still in serious condition. There were nine critical injuries suffered from bystanders, and three deaths so far. The stand off ended when Toronto Police, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP, and a scrambled task force of the Canadian military, who was called from a nearby military base to intervene, used anti-tank weaponry to destroy the excavator, and arrested the suspect, whose name is not yet released. Statements from Ottawa, and the Province of Ontario have been released, detailing their sorrow and condolences for this tragic even. At this moment, there have been several street closures, while crews repair the damage done. A statement released today states that the man who caused of this is being held at an undisclosed asylum, but there is no comment if there are charges being pressed.”
I sit in a room, surrounded by white, never again to live the luxury that I took for granted of being Edward Johnson. I am merely an anonymous suspect, surrounded by white.
What a fool I was to feel weak. At least in my life prior to hijacking the excavator, I was able to roam around freely on the streets, and even around the county, possibly the world too. Now I have the ability to even roam taken away from me. In my quest for quick and immense strength, I end up even weaker.
5th Jun 02, 7:16 AM
(note: this post is my opinion, and may not be shared by the rest of the administrative staff. It is made merely as a contributor to this forum)
Don't let the fear of condemnation or offending others stop you from writing about things that matter to you, indeed, things that should be written about. Obviously being controversial for controversy's sake is a bad thing, but I'd like to think that this forum is welcoming to fiction that tackles serious issues and not just 'entertainment'.
- ion -
5th Jun 02, 7:48 AM
Meh. I just ... have been known to post things that I shouldn't have posted in the past, building up to the paranoia about this story.
5th Jun 02, 5:46 PM
These are all looking great, I should have knocked Something out in the next few days...
Confidential to IonicFijjshy - You better have something up your sleeve to post on June 15th, else the attack ninja hamsters shall be making an event to your place of residence... :cylon:
making an event? wtfs, I'm leaving it because I like how it sounds... - /edit
6th Jun 02, 11:50 AM
Excellent stuff all around... I especially enjoyed yours, Helix, touched on a lot of topics that I myself have been trying to write about.
As for blu... I'll be looking forward to this "something", as I'm sure whatever it is it'll be blowing the rest of us out of the f'in' water.
My horribly bad story will be posted within a week too.
6th Jun 02, 3:43 PM
Nice work, everyone! I like the variety of stories posted so far, very encouraging.
Hopefully I'll be posting something too, as long as it stays inside the word limit and I can finish it in time. I'm not sure it will... we'll see. It's a Homeworld story, but not a very traditional one.
Question: should posted stories be limited to this thread, or can we post them seperately too?
6th Jun 02, 3:48 PM
Post them here, but feel free to start a new thread if you wish...
6th Jun 02, 9:54 PM
Aw, many thanks, Gunslinger and Blackjack.
Perhaps I should post more original work here...
Let the flow continue!
8th Jun 02, 6:33 AM
Thankyou for your consent, Ben Tusi. And well done to everyone else who has posted too.
The turnout is even larger than I imagined. :) I beleive we have more entries than last time, and though such a saying doesn't always apply, I can honestly say that in our case, more is better.
I'm looking forward to the coming entries (at least four that I'm aware of now - Ion, blu, bj, Avalonian), but I know the judging we will all take part in will be the hardest thing - perhaps more harder than writing the entries given the general level of competence and inspired texts that have so far been presented.
Keep it up, guys. :thumb:
13th Jun 02, 11:43 AM
is just writing copyright enough 2 copyright something? not that i'm planning anything.
i would have posted a story i started a year and a half ago but stopped cos of a levels. anyway when i finish it'll b way 2 long. also i only have 2 days 2 get it done and i have a history exam tomorrow. doh!
13th Jun 02, 11:55 AM
In this country, you don't even have to do that... just writing it is enough to copyright it. :)
13th Jun 02, 1:59 PM
Well, that's the UK, anyhow... US law says that all you have to do is slap "© (year) (whatever your name is)" on it, and it's copyrighted. There is a registration process but all that's really for is to make sure you have solid proof in case there's a legal issue.
14th Jun 02, 11:48 AM
Ummm.... how worried should I be about the 7,500 word limit? I'm making really good progress on the Karan S'jet story I've been working on, but I'm pretty sure it's going to go over that limit. It's clocking in at over 5,000 words right now, and I just passed the halfway point, I think.
So... will I be out of the running?
14th Jun 02, 11:52 AM
Well, the reason it was raised to 7,500 words (from 6,000 last time) was because it wasn't enough... so... dunno really. If it's not too much over it should be ok, I supppose. Try to keep it under though. :)
14th Jun 02, 12:20 PM
Thanks, Ion... I haven't done any real editing yet, so it may still come in under the limit. I was just wondering, in case it doesn't.
Hopefully I can at least finish it in time! :)
15th Jun 02, 7:46 AM
You have until 12:00 am (GMT) to post today (15th June).
For clarity, that's the very end of this day, again the 15th June. By that time, all entries you want judged must be in, and editing must be completed.
(Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! Not enough time!)
15th Jun 02, 10:02 AM
not that anyone cares, but I've decided to trash The Unbound and never write HW fic again... I just can't do non-original works... so g'bye, and thanks for all the fish...
that is all...
15th Jun 02, 4:15 PM
15th Jun 02, 5:40 PM
That is all.
15th Jun 02, 6:26 PM
Crap... it's too long, needs a better title, and needs some serious editing. I'm not going to make it.
I'll post it seperately, maybe a little later today or tomorrow.
I sympathize with you Benford... not enough time.
16th Jun 02, 5:11 AM
Oh well, maybe next time.
16th Jun 02, 9:13 AM
16th Jun 02, 1:38 PM
Well shucks (to use a nauseous American term)...
Congrats to all those who entered: there is no set 'deadline' by which all of the entries must be read and marked. I think that for now, we should all take a breather. I'll set a date within the month, though due to the sheer scale of stories and their lengths, the judging process is going to be a long one.
not that anyone cares, but I've decided to trash The Unbound and never write HW fic again... I just can't do non-original works... so g'bye, and thanks for all the fish...
that is all...
Is this humour, DurinsBane, or are you serious. Dammit, why is it so difficult to tell sarcasm from the truth across the net? I hate having to rely upon smilies... :p
16th Jun 02, 4:46 PM
Hey, hold on. It's not midnight here yet - I still have... 6 hours!
/me begins jotting feverishly
oh F it, I give up.
17th Jun 02, 7:27 AM
Just vote for the person you would like to have win the competition (i.e. the best entry in your opinion).
Only one entry per person.
Poll ends when I (or one of the mod's) close it.
Please read all the entries before you vote.
19th Jun 02, 5:13 AM
I am, in fact, quite serious... this stuff just ain't for me... I've tried really hard, but The Unbound just sucks too much for me to keep wasting time on... I've got better stuff in the works - stuff that has completely no relation to Homeworld...
that is all...
21st Jun 02, 1:45 AM
You have got to be kidding me. Come on, people. The lack of turnout for this whole compo has astounded me. How much effort does it take to read a few stories and click a button?
21st Jun 02, 2:55 PM
Heck, I'm just happy someone voted for my story. :)
21st Jun 02, 3:45 PM
Yours had real vision, Gunslinger. In many ways I consider it superior to mine.
In any case I'm truly amazed to find myself in the lead. This has got to be the first of anything I've won on these boards, and Gifted Ones is not even something I regard very highly among my stories.
21st Jun 02, 3:56 PM
I wasn't sure we were supposed to reply here... guess it's OK.
I voted for yours, Gunslinger, though I was impressed with all of the stories for various reasons. I thought they were all quality work, and frankly, Helix's was a close second.
However, yours just had a personal element that was really effective, Gunslinger. When it comes down to it, my favorite stories are ones that are about people, stories that try to express some feeling that isn't easy to get to. Grief, joy, anger... many more. In my opinion (and bear in mind that it's only my opinion), yours was the best expression of true feeling and real personality that I read there.
Well done. :)
21st Jun 02, 5:57 PM
Originally posted by Avalonian
I wasn't sure we were supposed to reply here... guess it's OK.
I voted for yours, Gunslinger, though I was impressed with all of the stories for various reasons. I thought they were all quality work, and frankly, Helix's was a close second.
However, yours just had a personal element that was really effective, Gunslinger. When it comes down to it, my favorite stories are ones that are about people, stories that try to express some feeling that isn't easy to get to. Grief, joy, anger... many more. In my opinion (and bear in mind that it's only my opinion), yours was the best expression of true feeling and real personality that I read there.
Well done. :)
*is completely gabberflasted* Thank you, Avalonian! That's the highest praise I've ever gotten. What I was going for was the idea that love truly can conquer all. I guess I did. And I agree with you on Helix's work, though I thought it was better than mine, in quantity and quality. I do hope he wins, actually. Helix has a great future as a writer. Once again, thanks, Avalonian.
28th Jun 02, 3:23 PM
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the lack of entries, and on the lack of votes. :mad: If I remember correctly a similar thing happened last time, only the balance was tipped differently. Something like 10-12 entries and 25 votes. Even then I would still have liked to see more votes. :flame:
Now we have what, 6 entries and only 16 votes? :flame: Hell, the last compo even went so far as to attract the attention of one of the artists from the Gallery: molotov. :err:
I think my biggest mistake was in letting everyone have a free reign. Next time, I will set a minimum word limit. For instance, a 7,500 word compo should contain entries of around that length, or at the very least 4,000. Knowing this mistake, I will take steps to avoid it in the future, though this may mean bringing the word limit down for those of us who can't manage to write more than 1,500 words without getting cramp or a nose bleed. Up-front apologies to the writers who can accomplish much more.
And next time clearer themes must be set. The rules allowed entrants to pick their own genre, but perhaps I shall have to impose restrictions in future. I just fancied letting the writers move awya form sci-fi for a bit. As the focus has still been on sci-fi, I may have to edit that a little bit.
So what can I do next time to guarantee more entries and more votes? Help me out here guys. :err:
28th Jun 02, 5:06 PM
Bedford, the only reason I didn't have an entry to add was that I missed the time limit, and it went over the limit... both of which were my own fault. I underestimated the story I was writing. Hopefully next time I'll be a better judge of what I have in front of me. :)
Perhaps, to encourage more entries, you could have some sort of reward for winners. Not money or anything, of course (donations are always accepted, though), but most writers enjoy exposure. Perhaps posting the winning stories of each contest on a site somewhere, with "featured" status given to the winner. Someplace with more exposure than a messageboard, I mean... just a thought. It might get more writers to take a shot at it. I'm all about the carrot. *grins*
I'm not sure about voting... I voted, just because it was a pleasure to read all the stories. I'm not sure what better reason there would be. *shrug*
28th Jun 02, 6:41 PM
It seems inevitable that the boards may be shrinking. Given that it has been several years since Homeworld came out, there has been no catalyst for a population explosion... Meanwhile more and more people loose interest or have college/children/heart attacks(?). I observed precisely the same phenomenon with the Descent community some years ago. This will change when HW2 comes, but until then we are in a sort of dark age. That is my best explaination for the poor attendance.
Setting limits is not going to improve it--if anything, it might scare some people off. Limiting length is not too bad an idea, since readers may be less daunted by length, but theme should be kept infinite.
As for an incentive... There is something the forum has to offer: custom profile pics. I have yearned for one since the old boards crashed, and I'm not sure about the data-storage capacity of this place, but I'll bet there's a way. That, and better publicity, might help.
30th Jun 02, 9:14 AM
[This is a repost of a prior post - it might not be the same ad verbatum.]
Excellant suggestions both - sorry if I seemed a bit ratty before there.
Custome profile pics would be brilliant if we could get them. I'll speak to some mods: get an official opinion.
About posting on the net. I know Yahoo! Groups allow you to store files on the net, and you can make them public so that when people use the Yahoo search engine, it auto-scans the Groups section as well. Oh, and it's free too.
However, there may be an alternative option. My dad just got a new PC. It's not hooked up to the net yet, but when we reach that stage (still being blown away by the 1.6 GHz proc, 80 Gig HDD, CDRW, DVD-ROM and cracking nVidia GeForce3) we might be using BT as our ISP. I know for sure that you get so much free online I/net space with BT: creating a web page there and then hosting some stories might be possible. Ion will know: he has a BT account.
On the subject of catalysts and HW2, I wish they'd post something here so we would all know what was happening...
Publicity... now there's a thing. Damn it! Should have broadcasted the compo on the General Discussions board, in the Gallery - a whole multitudinous array of locations with which to pique the common eye. :insane:
Oh well. At least I know now for next time. :wtf:
2nd Jul 02, 3:58 AM
Sorry about my relative non-participation in either entering or organising this competition but I've my end of year coursework due in and now I've just got back from glastonbury.
I can offer a prize of some sort (it may be a title, may be an avatar, maybe something else) to the winner of the competition, but I think part of the reason we've had little response so far is down to two reasons.
a) The failure of conspicuous writers like Ionfish, BlackJack, and possibly myself to get our act together and get something finished by the deadline (I'm still only half done)
b) The fact that in order to vote you have to read a lot of words, and take a long time over each entry due to their size, this is unlike, say, the Gallery competition where you can see each entry as a picture laid out before you.
How can we fix this? I'm not sure really. If you go take a look at the other competition, the more people that responded with crits the more other people stopped and noticed the competition, it becomes like a snowball effect.
I'll be reading the rest of these today and hopefully have judgements later on...
5th Jul 02, 10:35 AM
Thankyou, blu. I agree with both you points. Solution to the first is down to those named; solution to the second could be brought about by limiting the length of the shorts - however, thus limiting the writers in their scope.
Now that the poll is closed, I feel compelled to say: congratulations Helix! An interesting text.
To the rest of us: thanks for taking the time to enter.
To those who voted: thanks for taking the time to complete that too - I know at least two of the stories were of great length (ahem) and must have taken some time to read.
Thanks again. Dunno how long it will be before the next one... :)
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