View Poll Results: Vote for your favourite story!

Voters
25. You may not vote on this poll
  • "The Rebirth", by Greenstone

    1 4.00%
  • "Experiences of a Kushan POW", by Blink

    0 0%
  • "Sparks", by bluevorlon - 2nd place -

    6 24.00%
  • "Born And Bred", by blackjack

    2 8.00%
  • "The First Invasion", by The Collector

    0 0%
  • "World of Opposites", by Omi-kun

    0 0%
  • "The Only Lesson", by molotov - 3rd place -

    3 12.00%
  • "The Final Battle", by SajuukCor

    2 8.00%
  • "Blink", by blackjack

    1 4.00%
  • "Close-Combat38", by Bedford

    0 0%
  • "Tenders of the Garden", by SajuukCor

    0 0%
  • "Words", by Mr-e-Man

    0 0%
  • "Missed the Battle", by Mr-e-Man

    0 0%
  • "Shadows Taller Than Our Souls", by IonFish - Winner -

    8 32.00%
  • "Irrationals", by TheGeneral

    2 8.00%
  • "Neuroassassin", by Bedford

    0 0%
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Short Story Competition

  1. #1
    Comes & Goes TheGeneral's Avatar
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    Short Story Competition Re-Thread

    Since I can't wait for the origional starter, here it is! This is where you all can post your entries.

    For those who don't know, this is a short story competition. The deadline is the 29th of this month, and at the moment the other rules escape me... I'll find 'em and post them.

    TheGeneral
    [The Guide] says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.
    - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  2. #2
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
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    I live in Beer.

    New competition deadline: October 31st

    The Rules:

    1) Any theme you wish

    2) Word limit: 6,000

    3) New deadline: 31st of October

    4) No more than two entries per person.

    5) Once submitted, stories cannot be resubmitted for editing, so be sure to get them right the first time.

    In Bedford's extended absence (he's not got regular internet access at the moment) I'm taking over day-to-day running of the competition; address any queries to me via pm or email.

    gl hf

    I'm looking forward to reading everyone's stories.

    - ion -
    Last edited by ionfish; 30th Mar 02 at 4:31 AM.

  3. #3
    Await Rescue bluevorlon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    The Land of Earl Grey
    October?!
    We've already nearly had two months to write what is a (comparatively) small piece of prose.

    Do we really need the deadline being extended another month?

  4. #4
    Bedford
    Guest
    A month extra isn't so bad. In any case, some of us need it more than others. I also beleive it to be a mark of respect for the WTC disaster.

    I agree with the metal fishy taking over the compo: I can only reach the net at weekends (though surely that's enough?).

    Now I just have to figure out what all these new buttons do on the 'post message' screen.

    Oh, and I'm back by the way. I missed this place. Sniff.

  5. #5
    Member Greenstone's Avatar
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    Sep 2001
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    In Cog'Nito
    So shall we post our stories in a new totally seperate thread or in this one.

    In anycase I shall be posting The Rebirth, my controbution to the compo here on these boards as soon as I reach my fall vacation house

    I am glad to see the boards up, and actually think that they are faster than the old ones!!
    The End

  6. #6
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
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    I live in Beer.
    Good to see ya, Bedford my man.

    Greenie: post 'em here.

    As to the deadline extension, I've modified the rules slightly to allow two entries, so the quicker writers among us <casts a reproachful glance in blu's direction> can do something while they wait to be declared the winner.

    - ion -
    Last edited by ionfish; 1st Oct 01 at 5:29 PM.

  7. #7
    Comes & Goes TheGeneral's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    Nebraska. Yes, I'm sorry, too.
    Heh, good, since my story seems to have reached a dead end of sorts. I think the premise is interesting, but the plot as a whole is just so predictable!

    TheGeneral

  8. #8
    Commodore-ATC
    Guest
    Hmmm...I have that story somewhere...TR, did you get that mostly unread short story? I doubt it, but maybe...

  9. #9
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
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    I live in Beer.
    My thanks to blu for stickying this thread.

    Also got a little rules clarification for you, from discussions with Bedford:
    Although two stories of up to 6,000 words are allowed per person, you may not concatenate this to allow one 12,000 word story. Sequels or second acts are allowed; however, they will be judged individually as seperate stories.
    Could those who've already posted their stories (on the old boards) please repost them; sorry about this, but we need them all on one thread if people are to judge them properly.

    Thanks a lot,

    - ion -

  10. #10
    Member Greenstone's Avatar
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    Sep 2001
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    In Cog'Nito

    Repost? Me I already did!

    I did repost (or rather post) my short, it is sinking to the bottom of the board with no replies and only 7 views, come on people read it comment on it, Or do I have to drag everyone to its story?

    Tell me what you think?

  11. #11
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    I live in Beer.
    Greenie: repost them here, as in this thread...

    - ion -

  12. #12

    Oi vey

    My entry coming soon - too lazy/busy to write another story right now, gonna throw in an older work.
    //_beej
    /_"it isn't necessary to have something to believe in. it's only necessary to believe that somewhere there's something worthy of belief."
    /_gully foyle - the stars my destination

  13. #13
    Member Greenstone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    In Cog'Nito
    If I must, then I suppose I must. Please stand by. . .
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At 6000 words exactly I found it an enjoyable experience to write. There are some hidden items that you may notice. So pay close attention and you may see them. . .
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    The Rebirth
    by Jiiran Nevir
    Copyright September 2001


    "It wasn't right! Not enough time! We can do this! Let Elsy Do It! Let Elsy Do it, Please!" screamed the man, he was trapped, he threw himself against the white padded door, with a yell, and a final whimper, in the top corner of the sterile white room a small black camera watched the crying man.

    In the other room, in the dark, two men stood watching a large screen. One of the men, obviously a doctor, flicked off the monitor, running a bony hand through his scant white hair. He motioned for his associate to a nearby table lit by a single overhead lamp. The other man, though much younger, looked even more like a skeleton than the doctor, his crisp clothes bore the decorations of many battles as well as a crest of the Soban, on his collar shone a small gold, insignia, a double-edged sword. He eyed the document-covered table and pulled out one of the two grav-chairs.

    "You see Marshal, it's as I had told you before. The man is completely insane." said the doctor sitting in the chair opposite the marshal. The doctor's eyes searched the Marshal once again, now that they were in better lighting. The blood-red uniform accented the man's hard cold features, the nose that looked like a hawk, and those black eyes, wells of knowledge and experience, their depth telling of the thousands of friends the man had lost.

    The Marshal nodded his head slowly, as though pondering the words of the Sjet Doctor. "What was his IQ?" he asked. The question was blunt and cold, typical of the soldier.

    "Before or after hibernation?" asked the doctor.

    The Marshal smiled slightly, leaning back in his chair. "So it has changed, tell me both."

    "Before the cryosleep this subject had an IQ of 205.3." the doctor paused for a moment letting the number sink into the Marshal's skull, he took a moment to pour himself a glass of water and wet his throat. It always seemed to go dry when the Soban came.

    "And now?" asked the Marshal impatiently.

    "And now, well, now. . . it's 425." he blurted out.

    The Marshal's smile dropped and he whistled, "This is a surprise to be sure, for a sleeper to gain intelligence while unconscious is unheard of."

    "I wouldn't be so sure about that Chinish, the lieutenant is not the only one." whispered the doctor leaning forward, almost dipping his white collar into his water.

    "WHAT!" Chinish Soban exclaimed, jumping to an upright positing. "How many?"

    "Five in all, every member of his team." said the doctor. "Three men and two women, all with a 200 percent increase in brainpower. It is really amazing, but you know what is even more amazing?"

    The Marshal shook his head, his attention fully on the elderly Sjet Doctor.

    "The greatest part about this, is the fact that they all are orphans, their families either killed on Kharak by the Firestorm or en route to Hiigara. All were sleepers that were not awakened at the landfall, and each is linked to the other by some strange form a of telepathy!"

    "Telepathy? You mean tell me that these five members of the most elite team of desert soldiers of Kharak are now useless to me?" growled the Marshal, he was not liking the way this meeting had turned out. Five of the best trained, hardiest Soban warriors. Able to defeat any enemy by the most strategic or efficient means possible. Super warriors of the times, meant to be awakened when they reached Hiigara, but forgotten for almost fifty years. They had been a secret from all, including Fleet Command and Intelligence. Their capsules hidden in the central computer core of the Mothership during its construction, only the Soban had known about them. They had been forgotten when Kharak had burned and the mothership crew had been forced to beat their way home. Chinish still wondered how they had forgotten about them, except that they could not be removed from the core until it was opened up at Hiigara. They would have been discovered sooner had not the Mothership been forced into the role of shipyard for the Kushan fleet.

    "Well I must say it would be more of a danger to let them loose Marshal. Maybe in a few more years we can find a cure for their insanity." said the doctor draining his water. He was in the process of refilling it when a brilliant blue light flashed on accompanied by a loud metallic voice.

    CODE BLUE ALERT! SUBJECT Z3-3423 IS AT CODE BLUE!

    Marshal looked over at the doctor who jumped to his feet. "Doctor what is going on?"

    The doctor shook his head. "I don't know." he said dashing off into the darkness, the Marshal made to follow him when a motion caught the corner of his eye, "The security monitors, of course!" he thought and turned towards the multitude of small LCD screens. A young security officer was thumbing through the different views trying to see the problem. Finally he caught the angle.

    There on the screen was another stark white room, on the floor was a pale skinned woman, her clothes torn and lying in a pile near her shaking form, foam seemed to be coming from her mouth as the seizure played havoc on her beautiful figure. As Chinish watched the door opened and white-coats streamed in. Surrounding the naked form. There was a yell and then a man went flying across the room, followed by two of his coworkers. Suddenly an white streak burst from under the doctors, and dashed out the door. At the angle Chinish Soban could just see the two guards fall to the ground in front of the door. Soon all was silent. Not a person in the white room moved, the security officer was too shocked to blink. Even the great Soban Marshal was surprised at the turn of events. He stood staring at the screen, not really believing what he had just seen, and yet even as he watched the screen shifted to show another cell, the door was thrown open and the guards thrown inside, followed by the pale skinned woman entering the room, she now had clothes on, taken from one of the guards. The other inmate was soon clothed in the dead guards clothing and the two vanished through the door. The Marshal was just turning to signal his ship when he heard the alarms.

    WARNING INMATES LEAVING BASE! INMATES HAVE LEFT THE BASE!

    Chinish Soban slammed his hand to the comm unit on his wrist. "Truaam prep the engines we are going after those Inmates!" he ran down the corridors, listening for a reply from his first officer. Soon he heard a low laugh. He glanced around, looking for its source, after all he was in an insane asylum. There was no one there. Then it hit him, the laughter, that insane person had been on the other end of his comm unit. And the only thing that was on the other end of his personal comm, was his ship, the flagship of the Kiith Soban! When the realization hit him he threw out his iron fist, smashing in the nearby door. Cracking his knuckle. "Gads, This is going to be the worst day of my life!" he swore."

    On board the Soban Cruiser, "Terimatingna" five people stood on the bridge, their attitude wholly unlike any trained soldier, they lounged in the chairs laughing at the station receding into space behind them. All was going perfectly.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    "I am the last. The last of three children, I was surprised at the amount of effort it took just to admit that they. It seems to me that though the other Kushan were able to express their feelings about leaving them behind, this was not so easy for me. Oh I felt sad in my heart and will always miss my family, but it is different, I wonder if there is a reason that I was not able to let loose and cry? Perhaps it is just that my eyes were too dry with the sand in the air at the time, perhaps it was another reason. Perhaps I was not meant to be frozen like the others. I do not know and I suppose that I never will."

    In the darkness of the Captain's quarters on board the Soban Cruiser "Terimatingna" a red light flashed indicating the log had paused during a recording, on the pad next to the light a hand could be seen, a very shapely hand, smooth with long pale fingers. One finger tapped the activator and the log began its recording once more.

    "We ave set a course for the now burnt Kharak, the reason is unknown to me at this time, perhaps Jiiton will enlighten me when we get there. Of course, I can think of millions of possible reasons as to why we are on course for the planet, each seems to be in vain. The whole of the Soban Armada are after us, only a day or two behind us. If Jiiton seeks redemption then I believe he is looking for it in the wrong place."

    The finger tapped the activator again, and its owner coughed once. The hand moved away from the light for a long moment of silence followed by the faint sound of someone drinking. Very soon the hand returned and tapped the activator again. The soft voice from the darkness trickling into the datacomp's recorder.

    "The escape was well planned, even if it had a few side effects, namely this cough that has crept up on me, a result of the self induced seizure I suppose. . . They said that the IQ of the team was increased; well I for one can't tell. If I am smarter than a normal person then it is a sure surprise to me. I can see that Jiiton and the others are smarter but I do not think that I have their intellect. . . Perhaps that is a blessing, because with this heightened intellect comes a rather disturbing superiority complex that I do not think I like."

    Through the dark room a chime rang out, and the finger quickly tapped the activator, pausing the log. A shuffling of feet followed the disappearance of the hand, from further away came the same soft voice, "Come in!"

    The door to the quarters swished open, splashing a brilliant radiance into the room. A tall black haired man stood at the door. Seeing a figure sitting in a chair with her back to the door. He entered the door closing behind him. "It is mighty dark in here Elsy. Mind if I turn on the light?" said the man, his voice telling that it was more of a command than a question.

    "No, Jiiton." replied the soft voice from the dark.

    "Computer, lights!" Jiiton said and immediately the room was basked in the flourescent white light. Jiiton walked over to the blonde haired girl and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. Her short blonde hair seemed to fall in every direction some of it tickling his hand so he moved it. For a moment he stood there looking out the viewport in front of the two. "How are you Elsy? We missed you on the bridge?" he said.

    "I am fine, Jiiton, just a little tired." she replied.

    He walked around to the seat opposite her and sat facing her, he just stared at her for a moment as though he were trying to speak directly into her mind. Her pale green eyes sparkling brilliantly in the light. Her unruly hair held back from the smooth features of her young face by a small green ribbon crisscrossed through her bangs. Her light orange, high collared, sleeveless shirt forming to her figure, as she sat in the chair staring right through Jiiton into the space beyond.

    "You are losing your link with us, Elsy. There has got to be something wrong." he said with a frown. "I may not be a doctor but I have known you all your life. We shared our dreams, our memories, and our hopes."

    "Perhaps this is best Jiiton, the link was nice but there is something to be said for having your privacy." Elsy said in a soft half whisper.

    "Maybe but I think that it is more due to your illness. You haven't been the same since the second seizure."

    Elsy shuddered at the memory of the last seizure, it had been five days after they had escaped the prison/hospital, five days after she had induced a seizure upon herself in order to buy her way out. She had been on the bridge, all had gone according to plan, the crew of the ship were on their way back to Hiigara on board the myriad of escape pods and shuttle-craft. The Soban Cruiser "Terimatingna" was entering Karos when it caught her, she had fallen from the science level to the floor below, a fall of almost six feet, and the seizure had overcome her, she could feel it breaking down her thoughts, dissecting her mind one piece at a time. The others had barely been able to bring her out. None had had much training in medicine, but thanks to their heightened IQ's they had saved her life. Unfortunately her link to them was slowly drifting into the background, as was her heightened IQ. Ever since the last seizure she had been ill, her body had become weakened, and she had run out of energy.

    Jiiton continued, "Once we get to Kharak, the Soban can have their ship, I believe that there is still life on that planet, in fact I am certain of it, with your help we can rebuild our people into a great civilization, not that fallacy back at Hiigara." his voice began to trail off as he described cities of splendid beauty and the mountains of Kontala ringed with snow. Elsy herself drifted off, his voice drowned out among the many thoughts pouring through her mind.

    She had seen Kharak burn, through her dream, just as she had watched the Colony ship make its journey to Hiigara, she had felt the battles being fought, seen the pilots die. She had awaken to find it all true, and she was declared insane, her mind flowing with the thoughts of the other four of her team. Their memories and experiences. Their thoughts and cries of insanity. All had been very confusing, until the five of them begun to work together, to plan a way out of their prison. An escape that Elsy was to begin. It was her job, it had to be done.

    Jiiton was just finishing describing his visions of the future when Elsy came out of her own thoughts. Jiiton rose from his seat and stated "I care for you Elsy, we all do. We would like to see you on the bridge when you get the energy." with that statement he left hitting the light switch on the way out. Instantly the room was plunged into darkness.

    Elsy sighed knowing they would never reach Kharak.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    Marshal Chinish Soban, paced the bridge of the "Kharak's Revenge" the sister ship of the "Terimatingna", he had been calling in every reinforcement that he possibly could. Now he was ready. So ready that this chasing of the "Terimatingna" his best ship, was getting rather tedious. The Insane ones were cunning, but they had failed to realize one important thing, all Soban ships Transmit their codes to the Soban command ship, giving bearing, speed and position every second of the way.

    "Is the fleet ready?"

    "Yes Marshal they are in position, all three hundred and twenty warships, fifteen assault carriers and four hundred fighter craft, all ready to capture the "Terimatingna" sir. And we just received a transmission from the Battlewagon, they are moving into position." replied the Captain of the Kharak's Revenge.

    "Good." there was a long silence as the ship on the viewer plunged ahead of them. "Tell me Giliin did you know any of the Redemption team?"

    "Yes sir I did, Jiiton and Griilno were friends of mine before the Journey. Personally I had thought them both dead in the attack on the Cryo trays."

    "No the team was actually not even on the trays, they were in the core of the mothership. Put there in the first time while it was being built. They were to come out of stasis and protect our new home, or return to Kharak and retrieve the ones we left behind."

    "Perhaps that is why they are going back there now sir."

    "Perhaps. But they know that the planet is dead. They know it has been for almost fifty years." Marshal Chinish looked around the bridge of the Kharak's revenge the Soban officers were seasoned in many battles. They could not even begin to fathom, the enemy that they were approaching. Five of the best trained warriors, best strategists and now the smartest beings in the galaxy. "Time to intercept?" he asked.

    "Four hours five minutes, sir." responded the tactical officer.

    "I hope we are quick enough." he muttered.

    "For what?" asked Captain Giliin

    "To prevent our destruction! Captain."
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    The room was still pitch black, the silence pervading every corner. Each of the shadows fleeing from the single red light of the recorder. The hand was resting just above the activator when suddenly the soft voice of Elsy shattered the silence, "Not the Rebirth! Jiiton you are going to kill us all!" she yelled, the hand vanished in a flash and the door opened for a brief moment allowing the passage of the young woman. She ran down the corridor to the Bridge. Her green eyes like burning flames. "JIITON, WE CANNOT DO IT!" she yelled.

    The four other team members looked at her and then at each other, each knowing that Elsy had remembered the purpose of their journey. "So," began Jiiton "I see that you have found both your energy and your memory, have you also regained your link with us?"

    Elsy ignored his statement, and stood at the science station, "I see that you have already entered the calculations, tell me Jiiton, how did you manage to derive the temporal frequency for the hyperjump?"

    "You should know, Elizebeth, you are the one who found the solution to the matrix fold equations." said the brown haired Griilno sitting at the engineering console.

    Elsy tilted her head and smirked, "Refresh my memory will you, Griilno Soban."

    "If you insist." he asked and with a nod from Elsy and a confirmation from Jiiton he began. "The day after we escaped you came up with the idea of the Rebirth, a simple yet ingenious plan. Using the hyperspace temporal equations from the Ir-Miilas incident, you derived the temporal frequency that would take us back to the time just before the Taiidani arrived at the Kharak system. From there we would destroy that fleet and return to our time, allowing the people on Kharak a chance to live."

    Elsy nodded in recognition as the memories of the plan came flooding back into her mind. It was a good plan, but now there was a difference. Elsy wasn't sure she could do it. "We are certain that the plan will work and everything will turn out as we expected?"

    "Within a margin of point zero, zero two percent, yes everything will run exactly as planned. The journey to Hiigara will proceed and the people of Kharak will live on. The Taiidan Empire will still fall and the Kadeshi will still hide in their nebula. Relax Elsy everything is going as planned." coaxed Janix.

    Elsy nodded her head and dropped in the Science chair. "Well did we plan on having to fight our way through to Kharak?" she asked glancing at the tactical display beside her.

    "Not exactly, Why?" asked Jiiton, "Are those Soban closing in?"

    "No, not exactly. . ." Elsy said slowly. "There is a massive signature ahead. It looks like a rather large fleet, all with Soban codes."

    Jiiton walked over to where Elsy sat and peered at the tactical screen, "Janix, get over here on this console and find the transponder codes for all the capital ships. And rush it!" he said.

    Seconds later the Terimatingna began its approach on the massive Soban armada. It seemed the lone cruiser had met its doom as the hundreds of vessels trained their weapons on the ship.

    For the longest period of time there was pure silence in the space. Nothing moved, not a pilot breathed for fear of starting the battle. Then another hypergate opened expelling Kharak's Revenge. It too trained its weapons on the Terimatingna.

    Marshal Chinish Soban hailed the Terimatingna, "Redemption team, Please stand down and prepare to be boarded."

    There was no answer. The ship just sat there, its weapons offline, almost all the life support and systems were powered down, she looked like she was a derelict. Chinish tried again with the same result. "All right, tactical fire a warning shot across her bow, four meters to starboard." the pinpoint ion cannon fired across the dead of space, a perfect shot.

    Silence . . .

    Another hail and warning shot was fired.

    No response . . .

    A boarding shuttle left from the Soban Battlewagon, the biggest and most powerful vessel in the entire Hiigaran Armada, equipped with two siege cannons and multiple energy and rail emplacements. Nothing could survive an attack from it, let alone the entire Soban fleet circled around the Terimatingna.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    On board the Terimatingna the five Kushan of Redemption Team stood over the tactical console, the holographic image systematically displaying the various ships positions, codes and transponders. Everything was a deathly quiet. Only the occasional beep from the computer echoed through the room. Elsy slowly moved her hand across one of the console's controls, manipulating the hologram to display the weapon ranges on the various ships. Strangely enough the only vessel able to shoot the Terimatingna was her sister ship Kharak's Revenge.

    "All systems ready, communications channels ready and waiting, it will take a total of forty-two picoseconds before it takes effect, but once it does then it will be a matter of us against the fighters." said Elsy in her soft voice. "The transponder for this ship has been changed and the hyperdrive is charged for one last jump to Kharak."

    "Good, once there we will need about ten to reconfigure its wavefront and another fifty minutes to recharge the drive. In that time we will be vulnerable. Everything is set, lets do it." said Jiiton. The team disbursed to their stations in silence.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    "What in the hell is going on!" cried the Marshal, as all the lights dimmed.

    "Unknown sir it seems that the Terimatingna just sent out a broadband communication." reported an officer.

    "What does it say? And get those lights back on!" Chinish growled. The ensign punched up the message onto the main screen, all that appeared was a long stream of ones and zeros. "Digital code? Ensign what in the blazes is that program." just as soon as he said it, the realization hit, "Virus!" he thought then turning to Tactical he growled, "Weapon report now!"

    "Everything appears to be operational sir, my display shows all systems powered up and running smoothly."

    "Then why aren't the lights on dammit?" Yelled Marshal Chinish Soban, his day was going to hell in a sewage tank. "Run a diagnostic! And where are the damn bastards who stole my ship?" His face was a deep red as he spun around yelling orders at the rest of the crew.

    Outside the Kharak's Revenge the rest of the fleet was facing similar problems. The Carrier's couldn't launch their ships, while the other vessels stood dead in space each one trying to get a bearing on a ship that was no longer there. Moments after the transmission had been sent, the Terimatingna had engaged her hyperdrive and headed out for Kharak.

    Ten hours till the Rebirth.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    A planet on the edge of a system ringed with a large debris field stood silent and dead in the midst of a dimly lit sky, its sun had dimmed with age, the planet listing off its orbit. Time had not been kind to the desert world of Kharak. It seemed that even Sajuuk had forsaken it.

    Suddenly, just outside the debris ring, a red square appeared belching forth a large sword-shaped vessel, its hull glistening in the light of the dying sun. what was once silver now was tinted in a deep orange. Inside the vessel five people moved rapidly from one place to another, three in engineering and two on the bridge. No other creature moved in the sector, not a sound could be heard. One of the five stopped and glanced at his chronometer, it seemed to be counting down . . . 58 min., 32 sec., and falling. He ran down the corridor a tool of some kind in his hand leaving the only woman on the bridge.

    Elsy stared at the display, the holographic movements almost imperceptible. She stopped for a moment to turn and cough and take a drink from the half full glass on the console nearby. She tapped a few more keys and the display suddenly changed. The planet appeared, strangely different. There was a strange object in orbit of the planet, something from the past. Below the display, hundreds of numbers and symbols danced across the hologram, calculations for a massive hyperspace equation, rapidly being read and entered by the soft hands of the girl. Every once in a while she would stop and look over her work only to resume seconds later.

    Thirty minutes to Rebirth.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    Marshal Chinish Soban had sworn up one side of the galaxy and down the other. Every system that would allow them to pursue the Terimatingna had been disabled by that virus. Why hadn't they thought of using that trick? It was simple yet effective as well as too obvious to be identified in time. He had pushed the engineering crew hard enough that they were swearing up a storm. Yet all their work was paying off. They had gotten the hyperdrive back online nine and a half hours ago, only another half hour and they would be in Kharak's orbit. It would be strange to see the planet again after so many years.

    It was almost fifty years since the first Journey to Hiigara. He had been awake then, the captain of an assault frigate. One of the only ones to remain alive throughout the entire journey. Only his steel determination and his compassion for his crew had preserved that ship and made it a legend in its own right. As he sat in the captain's chair on board the Kharak's Revenge he remembered the first time he had seen the Scaffold and known what it had meant, yet here only thirty minutes away from its resting place he could not help but see the devastation that had come because of that scaffold. If only they had stayed on the planet, if only for another fifty years . . .

    "Sir we are having some problems getting the weapons online, it seems that the hyperspace jump has fried their circuits." reported an ensign.

    The Marshal looked at the man and clenched his fists, "Use the repulsor cannon's array, it is almost the same. And hurry we are running out of time."

    "Yes sir."
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^
    Ten minutes to Rebirth

    The room was dark, the sparse stars from outside not even lighting the window seals. In that dark room a voice was speaking, soft and steady, with a hint of anger:

    ". . . waveform is unstable, then well, I guess this is the last thing I will see. I suppose that it is fitting for me to die in orbit of the planet I was born on. I just wish I could have lived to see Hiigara."

    Jiiton is convinced that we are doing the right thing as are the others, but, I am still not sure. What if what we do changes everything so much that the entire Kushan race is destroyed? What if the entire galaxy unravels because of the destruction of that fleet? I do not think that Jiiton realizes the consequences of the slightest change in the time line. Not even the Starfarers could do that!

    It is better that we don't mess with the past, live with what has happened, move on. There are plenty of ways to preserve our people, changing their history is not one of them."

    The voice stopped for a moment, as the speaker wet her throat.

    "What was the reason for having the Redemption Team? After my twenty-three years of being alive, and awake, I still cannot say why this team was formed. At the academy it was said that we were the best of the best, the elite team who was to retake the homeworld. Well they did that without us. It was rumored that we might even get to fight off any enemies of the Kharakian people, . . . but, that too, was done without us. The official designation was that once the homeworld was taken back we, the Redemption Team, would make the trip back to Kharak and load up the remaining population and; if possible bring them to Hiigara. I guess the Taiidan took care of that one."

    There was a harsh cough in the darkness followed by another guzzling of a drink before the voice continued.

    "Rebirth, which is what Jiiton termed this mission. It is almost as though he thinks he will be giving those of us in this future a second chance. Sometimes I almost believe that he thinks there are still people alive on the planet below us. How could there be? After the firestorm, and now the radiation from the solar flares, nothing could survive on that desolate place.

    I hate to even think it, but, after these past few days with the others I am beginning to think that they are crazy. Gone insane by their own intelligence. It is a sad thing to admit, they were closer than brothers to me . . .

    Well I had best get to the bridge, it is only one minute until the Rebirth of Kharak. I pray to Sajuuk that my alterations work." there was a beep and the door to the room opened spreading its brilliance into the room as Elsy walked out.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    0 minutes to Rebirth.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    "Activate the temporal drive, now!" said Jiiton, he was seated in the Captain's chair looking out at the planet. The strange spiral wave effect of the temporal distortion began to form in front of the Terimatingna, once the rift was large enough the ship began to move forward. Yet even as it did another distortion appeared, the Kharak's Revenge had come.

    The new arrival hailed the Terimatingna, "Redemption Team, this is Marshal Chinish Soban of the Cruiser Terimatingna, stand down or we will be forced to destroy you."

    A hail was returned this time. Griilno, Janix, Jiiton and Harsu were all laughing. "Sorry Marshal, you are out of time!" laughed Jiiton as the Terimatingna began to slip into the rift.
    ^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

    Elsy had fallen unconscious the instant the Terimatingna had entered the rift. She could see Kharak falling into the distance, its tan surface began to burn as vessels entered her vision, the Taiidan attack fleet after they had fired the missile. But wait! The burning was undoing? The missile returning to the carrier and the Scaffold coming back together. The Taiidan ships were leaving, backwards?

    Then she realized the truth, she was going backwards in time and therefore the burning was being seen in reverse. Just as soon as she realized it and got herself oriented to the new way of looking at things she realized that time was once again moving forward, the Mothership hypered out toward the Khar-Toba, while the Terimatingna appeared through the rift, she saw it waiting for the attack fleet and then she watched the battle, she watched as the most advanced starship in the Soban Hiigaran fleet, completely obliterated the archaic Taiidan carrier group. And then she saw a vast jumble of images, including thousands of the destruction of the Mothership by various species as a result of the Terimatingna's actions. She had to stop it somehow.

    Her eyes snapped open, and she saw, the Terimatingna was still just entering the rift. "What?" she thought, "The vision hasn't happened yet? Good I still have time." she smiled at the last word, time what a word that was, so many things hung on the existence of time, and she was able to change it all. She would not do it though, she could not. Elizebeth looked around, all five of them were on the bridge, each was staring into the rift projected on the screen. She glanced at her console, numbers flew across it at an incredible rate, at first she could not remember what it was she was looking at, yet she began to enter new calculations without a thought, it was too late to stop the time shift, but she could still change the destination. Her white fingers flew across the panel she was running out of time!

    The rift shifted colors, from a pale blue to a vibrant orange, Jiiton shot a look at Elsy and began to walk over to her, "Elsy, what are you doing?" she heard the voice through her mind. The link had returned, he could sense her thoughts. "Elsy stop it now!" said the voice of Janix. Elsy glanced up for a brief moment and saw to her surprise, a plasma rifle in the man's hands. "Stop what you are doing and return us to the original destination Elsy."

    "Or What? You'll Kill Me?" she yelled, "Go ahead, at least you won't make it to Kharak when you hoped!"

    "What have you done?" screamed Jiiton and Griilno as they looked at the adjusted destination. GSY: -4069

    "Elsy . . . I suggest . . . " began Harsu. His words were cut off with the appearance of another vessel on the screen, it was the Kharak's Revenge. At the same time the rift opened up and spewed the two ships out. Both ships were suddenly rocked with an explosion. The space was thick with meteors and fireballs. Spreading out from the core of the galaxy. The smaller meteors began to spread out toward the rim where the two Kushan ships now sat in an awed silence.

    Too quickly the meteors began to strike the vessels, ripping through the outer hull like acid, systems on board the Terimatingna began to explode under the strain, Elsy watched as the Kharak's Revenge threw up its shields, hoping it would protect them from the small missiles. Jiiton and the others just stood there glaring at her in hatred. She shrugged her shoulders and yelled. "It wasn't meant to be!" even as she said it the ship began to break apart. She barely had time to duck into an access tube before she too was stuck under the bridge ceiling. She ran down the corridors, hoping that maybe there would be a corvette or fighter that she could use, she remembered they had kept one for their landing on Kharak, but had it been destroyed?

    She finally found the vessel, intact, and jumped in, powering it up and launching out of the collapsing bay . . . The meteors had stopped and the Terimatingna now drifted aimlessly through space. Elsy hailed the Soban, with two tired and weary laden words. "I surrender." The Kharak's Revenge allowed her to dock and she was taken to the Brig where she met the Marshal and told him the tale.

    "Can you duplicate the temporal signal and get us back?" he asked.

    "Yes." She nodded.

    "Then you are free . . . I do have to wonder what it would have been like if your plan had worked." mused Chinish

    "I guess we will never know." Elizebeth Carons smiled.

  14. #14
    Blink
    Guest

    Here's my bid for fame....

    The following is an excerpt from a Taiidan Republic news service following the release of a Kushan prisoner of war after Republican forces captured the planet he was imprisoned upon.

    Experiences of a Kushan prisoner of war.

    I have been told that there is no sound in space. But when the power fails and the lights go out and all you can hear is the air screaming from the gashes in your hull, and panic grips you by the throat, you would swear that space is nothing but sound - a cold hollow sound that few live to tell about. I am one of those unlucky few. Why unlucky you ask? Because every time I venture out into that black void, I have to suppress the fear and break the grip of paranoia that rises up to choke me. Never have I nor will I be able to travel through space again without the hate, the fear - all the things that turn one into an animal - being right there with me….at least not since that fateful day. And yet I must go. I am compelled to venture out, because out there, is my family. So you can see the dichotomy of my situation.

    The fateful day…? I knew you would ask about that. It seems everyone has been interested in my stories as of late - the stories of a prisoner of war, well former prisoner of war anyway. I can't say exactly how long ago it was, but just before the start of the rebellion, I was a member of the crew of a vessel called the Khar-Selim. Ever heard of her? I am not surprised. Hopefully the Kushan have not forgotten her though. She was the vessel sent out ten years ahead of the mothership so that someone would be around when the mothership hyperspaced in, you know to help fix any last minute problems. It was a beautiful sight … seeing her pass through the blue hyperspace window. But I am getting ahead of myself. As I was saying, I was aboard the Khar-Selim. Well we had been sitting around the rendezvous point for a while preparing for the mother ship's arrival when we had a little run in with some micro-meteors. They smashed up one of the sensor arrays on the vessel and the captain asked me to go out and fix it up. The Khar-Selim was too old to have any of those little repair bots that you have today. And since I was along to help fix up the mothership - well you get the idea. Little did I know that some of your friends were out there... No no no, they weren't Taiidan they were Turanic Raiders. Yes I know you didn't know anything about the military's interactions with them! Just let me get back to the story! Anyhow, I was out there working on the array when the first hit comes. It is one of those things you see in slow motion as it happens. The weapons fire as it rakes across the ship… the explosion moving toward you and then BAM! The impact threw me off the ship. I was tethered on so I didn't float too far. It was both good and bad in a way. I wasn't floating in the void of space, at least not alone… instead I was attached to a burning ship. Despite the obvious danger I started to pull myself back into the airlock I was tethered to. My arms felt weak as I inched toward the open hatch, I was soaked in a cold sweat. I can remember that as soon as I got inside I began to cower in a corner…. No, I did try to enter in the ship but my limbs couldn't carry me any further. There was a window nearby from which I could view the interior, but I couldn't bring myself to look through it. I could hear the shriek of metal as the supports struggled to maintain their shape under the constant pounding from our attackers. At one point one of the fighters must have strafed nearby because I could hear the air squeal as it was sucked out into space. Immediately after, one of the crew was blown against the window of the airlock. I couldn't help but stare at her face as her body decompressed. Mercifully the power failed and all went black.

    But the sounds didn't stop. In fact they became more oppressive than ever. At every noise I expected to die…. I accepted, shakily, that my life was over. My thoughts went to my wife who was in cryo sleep, preparing for the journey to Hiigara. With my mind on her my fear subsided. Eventually my eyes adjusted to the dim light coming from the still open hatch that led out into space, and I decided that I was going to look my death in the face. I crawled back out.

    The sight was horrible. The Khar-Selim was blown nearly in two. I could see where the collapsible hyperwave communications antenna had been blown off. Even if the captain had tried to communicate with Kharak, there was no way that the message could have been sent. I watched as a few Turranic fighters continued to strafe the hull. Every once in a while they would hit a pocket of air still trapped in the ship and a white puff would escape from the hole… What was it? You mean the white puffs? I think moisture freezing as it hit the coldness of space. Anyhow, I can remember watching all of this, wondering if I was the only member of the crew still alive. I saw an explosion near the front of the vessel and then a secondary explosion blew the hatch I was tethered to. Again I was thrown off the ship but this time with no hope of getting back. I can't remember much after that, just some emotions and brief images really. Panic. Fear. I remember trying to keep sight of the Khar-Selim because that was the only thing that seemed to keep the fear at bay, but it was difficult. I was spinning all around and it was very hard to keep oriented. The wild gyrations I was going through only made the panic that much harder to fight back. My mind kept telling me this was it - I was going to die. But I knew it wasn't going to be the quick death I had hoped for. Instead I would be left floating alone in space, waiting for my air to run out - knowing that death was not far away, but unable to do anything about it. It was no way to go. I don't know how many times during that brief period I wished that I had died onboard the Khar-Selim. And as the inevitability of my situation dawned upon me, my panic grew. My suit felt like a coffin, it weighed down upon me, seemingly crushing me. I couldn't think. My brain was a cauldron of fleeting thoughts and images. In this state I eventually passed out.

    When I came to I was still in my suit but I was being towed back to a large ship far off in the distance by some sort of smaller craft. I stupidly tried yanking on the tether that attached me to the alien ship, like there was anywhere to go, but the tether was too strong. I eventually gave up and simply watched as the larger vessel slowly grew closer… No, I am not sure what type of ship it was. I think it may have been a Lord class carrier, but you have to remember it was the first time I had ever seen a vessel of that type, not to mention that I was in a state of shock. I had just seen all of my crewmates die and the ship I spent the last ten years on destroyed. My mind wasn't really working. I do remember being suddenly bathed in blue light. I was able to turn my head quickly enough to faintly see a blue 'window' disappearing behind what looked like a huge ship - the mothership I realized later. But at the moment my mind was so numb it simply recorded the event without so much as a hint of recognition. And before the hyperspace window even closed the craft I was tethered to rocketed forward. Within a few seconds the mothership was out of sight. Later, once I realized what had happened, I thought for sure the mothership would have detected us, and maybe they did… I don't know to this day. After being towed to the large Turranic vessel I was thrown in what appeared to be an airlock. They didn't interrogate me, at least not right away. The airlock had a window on its exterior door and from this vantage point I was able to see that the ship was moving. Every once in a while a few fighters would take off. I thought we were leaving the area but it turns out the Raiders had decided to attack the mothership. Perhaps they felt the mothership would be easy prey, just as the Khar-Selim had been. I watched for what seemed like hours as the Raiders and my brethren fought it out. Several times the action drew dangerously close to the Turranic vessel. I fervently hoped that somehow this battle would result in my rescue, but that wish never came true. Eventually the Raiders decided they had had enough. They fled and they took me with them. Up to that point I still had a sense of belonging - that I was still a part of something… a family, a race. But after the Raiders escaped that feeling vanished. I was alone - more alone then than I have ever been. I wept for a long time.
    Great sorrow usually brings deep sleep but not so for me. My sleep was restless and riddled with disturbing images. To this day I am still plagued with nightmares of being sucked out into space. I could not, and cannot still, imagine a fate worse than decompression. The Turranic Raiders only made it worse. They tried to interrogate me several times over the next few days and when I was unable to give them the answers they wanted they would open the airlock door ever so slightly. It was always the same, the deafening howl as the air began to race out, me pounding on the inner airlock door, screaming, begging to be let out, only to be slowly drug towards the black abyss on the other side by the escaping air. The Raiders would always close the door before I was in too much danger. My performance seemed to amuse them to no end, and they didn't want their fun sucked into space. Afterwards I would sit terrified, my back to the inner airlock door, my mind constantly imagining the outer door opening and me being blown into space.

    This went on for days. Eventually the Turranic's must have run into the Taiidan fleet that destroyed Kharak…. No, I didn't know that Kharak had been destroyed until I was released from prison. You can imagine the shock… I still grieve for my Kiith that remained on Kharak. Anyhow, I don't think I was given to the Taiidan until after it was over. It turns out that the Kushan fleet ran into them just after I had been sent to the planet of N'gatmos, were I was imprisoned until the rebellion occurred and I was released. From what I understand the Taiidan fleet was completely destroyed.

    What was prison like? It depends on if we want to talk about prison life in general or my own experience. I don't think I could tell you what it was like for most of the others in there. Since I was unique to the prison - being the only Kushan there - it was quite a bit different for me. You see, in prison you need friends, and without friends things can get pretty rough. Thankfully I was secluded for most of my stay. As a prisoner of war my captors took much more interest in me than they did most of the other prisoners and because of that I was protected in a way. As long as I stayed interesting I was safe. But at first I didn't feel like I had much to live for. So being safe wasn't a high priority in my mind. I would often get into fights with the few prisoners I came into contact with and usually over the littlest things. Getting hurt was the only way I knew I was still alive.

    There was one prisoner I fought on a regular basis, a Turranic. I don't know if I liked it as much as it gave me satisfaction. I had developed a healthy hate for their kind. The first time I saw him he had his back to me as I was being escorted toward my cell. I don't remember exactly why I did it, but before I realized what I was doing, I had rushed and tackled him. The guards dragged me off before I could land any blows, but from that day forward I tried to get to him at every opportunity. I embodied in him all the characteristics I had come to hate in the Raiders. And he, for the most part, did nothing to sway my opinion. I can remember one instance very clearly. I was in the exercise yard, and the Turranic came up to me. He began to taunt me, trying to instigate some sort of reaction. There was a shock fence between us, because as a political prisoner I was not allowed to mingle with the general population. They had their exercise yard and I had mine. Between the separate portions ran what we called a shock fence. Basically it is an electrified fence. If you touched it, the shock would throw you off your feet but it wouldn't kill you. The first time I touched it I felt like I had been hit by a transport bus. Anyhow, the Turranic began to taunt me - you know, the basic stuff. You're as ugly as an N'gatmian whore, things like that. He knew that I couldn't get to him and he wanted to get me as angry about that as possible. It was easy to ignore him at first because I knew that reacting would only be giving him what he wanted. So I simply looked at him, trying in vain to stare him down. The fence seemed to give him confidence as he continued his verbal assault and he leaned forward, his face only a half an arm's length from my own. Even though I was angry I knew there was nothing I could do and so I decided to walk away. Just as I was about to turn he said - and I remember this vividly - he said "By now your wife is either dead or serving in a Turranic lord's pleasure palace." I know I didn't think, I simply reacted. When I came to I found myself about ten feet from the fence. The Turranic was laying on his back about the same distance away, guards rushing toward him. I was taken to the infirmary and only there did I begin to learn what had happened. My right hand was bandaged because of burns, burns that matched the pattern of a particular shock fence. I still have the scars if you want to see them. I later learned from one of the prisoners who worked in the infirmary, who had heard it from a friend of a friend - if you can really call anyone in prison your friend - that I had thrown a punch at the Turranic. My hand, of course, hit the shock fence but the fence was not very rigid and the force of the punch had been enough to reach the Turranic on the other side. Though the blow by that point had nothing on it, the fence touched the turranic's face and sent him flying. That hurt him ten times more than any punch I could ever have landed on him.

    After that I became somewhat of a minor legend in the prison. Most of the other prisoners thought I was crazy or mean or a mixture of both. A reputation like that is invaluable. However, my actions did have a down side. I was thrown in solitary for a week. It was a small price to pay, but it gave me more time to think than I wanted. For the longest time I wondered how the Raider had known I had a wife. News does travel fast in prison but there was no way anyone could have known. I came up with all kinds of theories, of course, but I don't think I will every really know. And then I thought about my wife, and my repressed loneliness returned in full force. I knew I had to get out as soon as possible. In my mind, the longer I was in prison, the less of a chance I would have to find her should I ever get out.

    I did try to escape once. In fact it would have been successful had I been able to overcome my fear of space. You see, the best way to escape in prison is to establish a routine. Everything about prison life is routine. So if you are able to do something you aren't supposed to be doing routinely, then even the guards won't question it. In fact they will expect you to be doing it. Kind of ironic, isn't it? Anyhow, I was required to help clean the prison barges after the delivery of new prisoners. It was nasty work, but it allowed me to get outside a little bit. At first I was under constant surveillance, but after a while the guards grew lax. In fact I passed up a few riskier chances to escape just to reinforce the routine and hopefully show that there was no threat of me escaping. It must have worked because eventually only a few guards were required to escort the few prisoners to clean the barges. Every once in a while I would stay behind after the other prisoners had been escorted away to do one last inspection to make sure everything was clean. Just making sure I had done a good job, right? This would allow me to get out of the guards' line of site for brief periods of time. After a couple of months it got to the point where the guards would just leave and allow me to finish and then let me back in. After all, there was only one entrance and exit from the landing area and the barges were always inspected for stowaways before departure. Finally, the day I had been waiting for arrived. N'gatmos was receiving a load of Taiidan Republic POWs… Yes, we knew of the civil war in the prison. In fact, from my infrequent interrogations I had even gathered that the Kushan were causing quite a stir in the galaxy. This only gave me renewed hope of finding my wife and returning to my kith…. No, I don't know how long the war had been going on before I was released I only knew that I had the unlucky fortune of being on one of the planets loyal to the emperor. Anyhow, the POWs had been brought in on two prison barges. After we cleaned the first one the guards inspected it and pronounced it clear to depart. But apparently the first barge wasn't going to leave until the second one was also ready to go. This is where the routine paid off. Once again I was left behind to do a last minute spot check on the second barge while the guards marched the rest of the prisoners back to their cells. While they were gone I snuck aboard the first barge and stowed away in the cargo hold. The guards then returned, inspected the second barge for stowaways and then gave it clearance to leave - never bothering to check the first one again. It wasn't an elaborate plan but it worked. The barges began their ascent into space. The cargo hold was pitch blacks, and cramped. This environment began to work on my nerves, bringing back memories of my imprisonment in the airlock on the Turranic ship and of my short time drifting away from the Khar-Selim. I tried to make myself focus on where I really was, but my memories were too strong. The sudden hiss of air made me think the hold was decompressing. I panicked. I later learned that the hiss came from an air duct that ran just over my head.

    When they pulled me from the cargo hold I was too shaken to stand. Even the guards beating me with their stanchons had no effect. My prison uniform was soaked in sweat, my hands bleeding from the merciless pounding I bestowed upon on the cargo hold door in my frantic attempt to escape. Some of the blood vessels in my eyes had burst giving them a dark hue. I was in the infirmary for two weeks with stress sickness. When I was released I received the punishment for attempted escape by a POW - thirty strikes with a ligor pole and a week in solitary. Being a POW does have its privileges though, as the punishment for attempted escape by a normal prisoner was death.

    The prison I was in seemed to suddenly become more of a place to put those who disagreed with the empire than those who actually committed crimes. More POWs arrived weekly. From them the rest of us were able to learn what was happening in the war. I say 'us' because even though I am not Taiidan I was a POW, and that seemed to be the only thing that mattered. In fact, I was the only Kushan most of the other POWs had ever seen, but my race only seemed to elevate my status. I was later to learn from the POWs that the Kushan had killed the emperor in a battle over Hiigara and so those of my race were looked upon as heroes.
    No, my release was not very dramatic, though I doubt I will ever forget it. I remember there was an air of expectancy in the prison. The last news we had heard was that Republican forces were approaching our sector of space. For days we listened to the sounds of an unusual amount of activity from the nearby spaceport. Then one day there was a strange silence. That silence seemed to pervade the prison. I can remember among the POWs only whispers were exchanged. We wouldn't allow our excitement to show even when the second shift of prison guards failed to show up for fear that it was some elaborate trick. We went without meals. Then - it must have been just before lights out usually occurs - we heard a strange thudding sound. It was very deep, almost more vibration than sound. There was a short span of silence, and then another dull thud was heard. The next one was louder, causing dust to fall from the ceiling. I could hear some whispers among some of the other POWs in the adjacent cell. One of them conjectured that the Republic was proceeding with an orbital bombardment. All the other prisoners seemed to know what that meant, but I, never having fought in a war before had to ask. I was told that an orbital bombardment usually proceeds orbital insertion - an invasion. I was overjoyed. We listened all through the night - even long after the apparent bombardment had ceased - imagining … hoping for our rescue. Some of the other POWs, those that had actually fought for the Republic, calculated that if there were no underground or fortified Imperial garrisons on N'gatmos then we would be freed within days. Otherwise we could be stuck here for quite some time. That statement caused a bit of gloom to fall upon our hopeful outlook. The longer it took, the greater the risk of starvation. Some of the species in this prison could not last long without food.

    But that day did come soon, despite the fact that there was a small, fortified imperial base on the planet. We cheered as our rescuers released us cell by cell. I did have to undergo a brief interrogation by the Republican forces after my release. They appeared very surprised to find a Kushan prisoner of war. Once they were done they sent me speedily on my way to Republic-controlled space. I had to be admitted to the medical bay on the evacuation vessel because of my phobia of space. It was so bad that they were forced to strap me down. But I did make it here…

    And now what am I to do? …. Hopefully somebody, somehow, will get me to Hiigara. You know anybody like that?

    Readers Note: Ceeric Manaan, the teller of this story, was given over to the Kushan in a POW exchange one week later. It is unknown if he ever located his wife.

  15. #15
    Await Rescue bluevorlon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    The Land of Earl Grey

    My own entry

    Sparks
    By bluevorlon

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

    There was little hope for him this time. The doctor drifted around the table, carefully examining his battered frame. The man slept on. Cables and valves hung over him: a giant synthetic spider web, whispering to him in mechanical hisses and clicks. The machines -their gangly limbs making up the web- watched on, ever vigilant, ever silent. The doctor murmured into a recorder, taking a reading here, pressing a button there. Subdued movements. He turned to the dark figure standing in the doorway.

    'He's displaying quite extensive injuries… It doesn't look too good. Not in this- with this equipment'
    'Poor soul' murmured the figure, a shape, a phantom. A half-person.
    'Sorry?'
    'Nothing'
    'Shall we... I mean, do you, wish to continue?'
    'I see no reason not to'

    The doctor licked his parched lips. Unable to speak. Unwilling to speak. One, the other, neither, either. He scratched his head; looking down at the broken man before him, lying on the table like a slab of meat. Spider web above him, cold steel beneath him, machines clicked and whirred in perfect time.
    He gently inserted a hypodermic into the patient's arm, pushing the plunger down, watching as the blue liquid inside roared and bubbled as the pressure suddenly dramatically changed, rushing down the syringe into the awaiting artery. Angry like a storm.
    As the chemical entered the man's body the machines erupted into a chorus of chimes and beeps. He began rolling and struggling against his restraints, screaming without a voice.

    *******

    The man poured his meagre allowance of milk into the cup, watching as it gradually infused into the black liquid like a malevolent cancerous organism, clouding and discolouring the previously uniform dark into a moody chesnut. He stirred the mixture momentarily, observing the miniature storm before him, a whirlwind occurring quietly in his cup. He took a sip, allowing the burning hot liquid to spread through his weary body. A woman sat next to him, long dark hair cascading over her shoulders like a waterfall, eyes closed, body exhausted. She took his hand in hers and sighed.

    Far away the sky began to split as thunder intoned its greeting. Within the tired aircraft hangar everything shook momentarily, some of the man's coffee spilled over the edge of the cup, slowly trickling across the table.

    "Jack" the woman began, "They're getting closer"
    "I know" The man; Jack, replied.
    "How much time do you think we have left?"
    "Not long. A few hours perhaps"

    He took another long sip.

    "We should be out of here by then"

    The woman looked up and sighed, gripping his hand,

    "It's doesn't feel real. It's like a dream. How can they... how did they?... How could this-"

    Her sentence crashed and spluttered to a halt, as she tried to find the required vocabulary to express her own fears.
    They sat in silence.
    She rested her head across his shoulder, he ran his scarred fingers through her hair absent mindedly.

    "All things..." he murmured
    "What?"
    "Nothing"

    Another biting spasm of pain, Jack slipped away, the woman beside him also. The hangar, the people, the ship, the storm, that world, all drifting away. Gurgling down the plughole, all colours mixing together to form a murky, muddy nondescript substance, undefinable or classifiable, just matter. An impossible haze, that ducked out of the light whenever he approached. Out of his grasp, away from his outstretched fingertips. He strained for them, tried to catch the colours, the moments, stop them washing away. But they felt like sand and poured and drifted across his skin, unmoving, irretrievable.

    *******

    The patient rolled and struggled against his restraints. Teeth gritted, fists so tightly clenched a trickle of blood emerged from his palms. Raging against the demons that didn't exist. He stretched out grasping. Clutching at air, hands waving frantically. Reaching the peak of his mental feedback. Then suddenly, he collapsed back onto the bed. Unmoving, still.
    Blood dripped onto the floor.
    The doctor peered at the patient over a pair of thin rimmed spectacles, a quizzical expression etched across his face. He turned to the machines, their cacophony subsiding now, returning to their quiet vigil. Reading their figures his brow furrowed.

    The phantom murmured behind him.
    "Try again... he can take it."

    Another fifty thousand volt shock.
    A world brought back sharply into focus.

    ********

    Jack handed his security card to the awaiting guard on the door. It was all there, his name, rank, number, clearance, the stamp marking him worthy of 'special privileges’, his status of 'vital importance'
    The guard opened the door for him.
    ‘Vital importance’, the only thing separating him from the millions outside this door were those two words.
    He stepped through into a cavernous hangar bay, once home to thousands of commercial civilian passengers, now commandeered by the military in these dim, muddled times.

    There were no windows, only a grubby skylight, it's pitiful illumination augmented by a series of harsh electric tubes running across the arched roof. The brilliant artificial light served only to accentuate the tiredness in everyone's eyes. No-one had escaped unscathed, even these few, the hundred or so people sat hunched at tables, even they had scars. Faded posters adorned the walls, long forgotten security notices, adverts for clothing companies, leisure conglomerates, civilian airlines, pictures of families, a parade of smiling and happy people: a facade revealed by their torn and battered state, ignored as they hang lifelessly from the dull hangar walls.
    A pair of arms wrapped themselves around his waist, breaking Jack out of his momentary dream, he smiled.

    "We made it Jack"
    "Yep," and as an afterthought "finally."

    He turned round and kissed the owner of those arms.

    "I hate to say I told you so but..."

    He grinned at the dark haired woman in front of him, she sighed in mock desperation

    "I know I know... You were right, as always, they would find a way to get you out of here"
    "Both of us" he reminded her
    "True"

    She kissed him again, a release of anxiety and an expression of relief.

    "I'm gonna go get coffee, you want some?"
    "No thanks"
    "Ok, I'll be right back"

    She smiled, flashing those brilliant green eyes of hers, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear, he watched, momentarily entranced.

    "I'll go get us a seat" she replied

    He headed over to a dilapidated looking vending machine, fishing in his jacket for loose change.

    Then it all vanished... a slow fade out, the hangar slowly tearing itself into its constituent components, colours diverging, fading, retreating before an advancing army of thought and recollection. Time slowed to treacle, the omnipresent background chatter flowing out of audible range and into unending white noise. Interference flowed round him like a swarm of devious fairies, snowing over and smothering him, ever increasing in volume and intensity until it became near unbearable, he fell to his knees and screamed. Screamed for his memory to return, screamed for her to return. As he opened his mouth they swarmed in, his central nervous system felt as if it was on fire as he passed out.

    *********

    "We still aren't getting the information we require" the phantom murmured, skulking in the control booth. "He's going in too early"

    "It's all a question of resonance" the doctor replied. "What his mind chooses to recall, what particular moments stand out"

    They watched, on a grainy flickering monitor, Jack kissing his wife. Strange voyeurs to an event already taken place.

    "We'll need to try again"

    "I'm not sure how much more of this he can take"

    On the monitor Jack's world began to fade. He screamed.

    "He can take it" the phantom whispered.

    Jacks world began again, run on loop. Recorded, catalogued and stored for further reference.

    "What he knows is of vital importance to us..."

    "We can try again in a few hours" The doctor replied.

    "Good"

    The phantom turned and left silently. The doctor pushed a button on his console, Jack and his wife dutifully appeared in the flickering green of the monitor. He watched on.

    *********

    He stirred the milk into the styrofoam cup, looking out the skylight he thought he could faintly hear the sound of thunder.
    'Special Privileges' he thought.

    The machines began to chorus again

    *********

    "What about giving him a stronger dose?"

    "I doubt it would have any significant effect. Any significant beneficial effect anyway. There's so much of the drug still in his system, there's such a large residual trace... his brain might go into synaptic overload."

    "So we have to keep trying?"

    "For now, it appears that way"

    The phantom nodded, a gesture of resignation and immovability.

    "Do so"

    *********

    Jack felt himself being pushed along by the crowd, pushed back by a herd of desperate flailing limbs. He thought he could hear the thunder again, much closer this time, almost inside the building.
    He struggled and raged, every sinew in his body straining as he pushed against the tide.

    "Wait, I have to go back!"

    Jack's brain was acting on instinct, the shoal of rushing and flickering men and women, the screams and cries, the acrid smell of the lightning, the thunder rippling in his ears. The barrage of sensory data swept over him as his brain shut off, focusing on the one brightest light amidst an infinite field of thoughts.

    "Get off me! I-"

    He elbowed a ragged man into the wall as he stormed back down the corridor. His feet felt like lead, his throat dry, every muscle in his body aching with ten times its usual weight. He collided into a bulky security guard, decked out in full combat gear, towering over him like some sort of machine.

    "We have to, I have to... She's just..."

    Trying to say a hundred things at once Jack's brain spat out fragments.

    "Sorry sir, We're leaving now. The shuttle's prepping for emergency dust off"

    Another guard chimed.

    "You have to come with us"

    The second guard hit a button and the checkpoint's blast door came crashing down. A Giant metal shutter closing off the corridor with a deafening crash of finality. Crashing down before him.

    Jack's vision exploded. His mind began to freewheel in recollection.

    The shutter began to move, a squeak as the magnetic locks gave way.
    He felt an arm connect with his stomach, knocking him back. He stumbled and lost his footing, she turned and looked at him. Time solidified; becoming a pool of mud he had to wade through to reach any kind of resolution. He fell through the security door; as the shutter began to come down her eyes widened, her jet black hair flowing as she turned her head. She pierced him with those shimmering green eyes, opened her mouth to speak. The shutter crashed down between them. Crashing down. A wall of steel and cold. Crashing down before him. The noise echoing in his ears, flowing through his cranium, a repetitive statacco laugh of steel, jackhammering into his wounded brain again and again and again, again, again. Crash. He threw himself at the wall, screaming her name. He could hear the thunder near him, back in the hangar, on the other side. He hurled his arm forwards, reaching out, trying to put his fist through the door, vaguely feeling something break as his hand impacted into the silent barrier ineffectually.

    "SIR!"

    The cold tone of the guard's voice cut through the warm and hazy air of memory. A wound still fresh.

    "Just grab him."
    "We're sorry to have to do this sir"

    Two armoured hands roughly gripped his battered shoulders, pulling him back towards the shuttle and safety.

    ********

    A house. Pretty. A life in the suburbs. Jack lay on the grass, and stared at the clouds. A woman sat next to him, allowing her jet black hair to dry in the sunlight. A lazy afternoon.

    'Vital Importance'

    A woman sat next to him, boxes lay outside the front door. A life in the suburbs. A morning promising a new start. Jack stared at the house. It was a pretty house, he thought. A pretty little house.

    'Special Privileges'

    Jack stood next to that house. A woman came and sat next to him, ashen faced, her jet black hair swaying slightly in the breeze. Boxes lay outside the front door. They were carried out of the house and onto the awaiting transport. Jack watched, eyes like stones.

    'We're bringing you to a safe location Jack. We have reason to believe the enemy are planning something... something to do with you Jack. This is for your safety Jack, we can't let you fall into their hands Jack. You're of Vital Importance to us Jack.

    Vital. He rolled the word around in his mouth. Trying it out for size on his tongue. He was vital. Vitally Important.

    And now he was leaving.

    *********

    The phantom watched through the glass screen. Watched the patient slipping in and out of his own head, struggling and fighting every step of the way. A nurse gently tended to him, giving him a small dose of sedative, trying to prevent his brain from going into some kind of meltdown.

    He looked so peaceful she thought.
    But for his bloodstained sheets he could almost be sleeping, rather than fixed in this induced coma dreamstate.

    Induced by us, she thought.

    It is necessary, she thought.

    He is vitally important to us. The information he carries could provide a quick and speedy end to this war.

    She tried to reassure herself.

    Her thoughts slowly rose to the surface like bubbles in a saucepan of boiling water. Bursting and filling her head for an instant before dissipating, only to be replaced by another thought, lazily making its way up through her subconscious waters before breaking the surface.
    Argument and Counter-Argument.
    Heart and Head.
    Conscious and Subconscious.
    Right and Wrong.
    Good and Evil.
    Lunge and Riposte.
    Forwards and Backwards.
    Past and Present.

    She leant over the intercom, and signalled to the doctors it was time to try again.

    **********

    He pressed his hand gently to the cabin window as the shuttle slowly pounded its way up through the atmosphere. Below him, Cities, Fields, People, Civilisations, Lives, Countries, all swum into view as the shuttle went higher.
    A magnificent portrait of a world arranged itself beneath his feet, the horrors occurring on its surface not visible at this height.
    Jack wasn't looking.
    In the glass of the window, a pair of green eyes stared back at him, a face frozen in a moment, jet black hair flowing as she moved.
    She looked straight into his eyes.
    He looked back. Tried to apologise without saying a word. He ran his gnarled fingers over the glass gently, pressing them against the cold. She looked at him, unmoving, unable, looking at him without judgement. Why wasn't she angry? Why didn't she judge him? He deserved to be judged, to be punished, he left her there. How could he do such a thing? They made him, they made me, he said. You could of saved her, they said. Why didn't you? they said. You've lost another one, they said. Another victim. Like all those people down there. All those people in this war. You've lost another one
    He grabbed the shutter and pulled it down with all the rage and anguish of his godforsaken, bloody, crimson stained years. The plastic slammed down, removing her from vision. Crashing down, like before. Down in front of his eyes. Cutting her off like a cancerous tumour. Cut it out, save the hassle. Keep what you need they said.

    "Would you like a drink sir?"

    Startled, he turned to see a woman pushing an anti-grav trolley down the aisle.
    Remnants of the civilian life, even on this last evacuation shuttle, full of battered and defeated soldiers, people kept turning in their own wheels. Keeping to their routines. A way to keep sane, keep doing what you know.
    Keep serving drinks.

    He almost laughed.

    "I'll have a coffee please"

    "Certainly sir"

    He looked up. She turned and handed him the cup. He gasped, hand pressed carefully over his heart. Eyes widening. He would not show the tears. She looked down at him with her green eyes, her words increasing in speed, overlapping eachother like gentle waves.

    "What is it sir?, Sir? are you alright? Should I call a doctor, I'll jus-"

    "Its alright, I'm sorry."

    He regained his composure, still looking away.

    "You just, just reminded me of someone"

    He looked up at her concerned face, experiencing seven years of a life in an instant. In those green eyes. Sheet lightning rippling over and over in his brain.
    He took the coffee, thanked her politely, apologised, and leant back in his seat. The milk swirled and eddied in his cup like a miniature storm.

    ***********

    The spiderweb over him hung immobile, silent as always, watching the dreams and ruptures occurring in the vessel below.

    ***********

    The shuttle rose majestically through the atmosphere on trails of desperation and hope. Engines roaring as they propelled the small metal craft through the skies and beyond, like giant ethereal hands, lifting their passengers to heaven.

    Below him, jack thought he could hear the sound of thunder

    ***********

    A button pressed, the patient buckled and twisted as if caught in a mantrap, rearing upwards, head arched back, struggling against the rippling waves of lightning crackling through his cerebral cortex. Going in again.

    "It would be easier if he didn't struggle," The doctor remarked

    "He's struggling because that’s what he knows. He knows to fight, he knows we have him somehow, he knows to fight us," murmured the phantom, as always standing over the doctor's shoulder, watching with absolute precision.

    "It's going to kill him eventually, if he keeps resisting us, even subconsciously resisting us"

    The phantom said nothing

    ***********

    He burst into the control room, blast doors parting accommodatingly for his entry. Klaxons wailed, the walls of consoles blinked and flashed like an obscure light show, the two pilots struggled with their various controls, holographic displays flashing past their eyes. Garbled noise poured out of the comm. system like water. On the central display, red signals flicked across the starmap like pieces on a gameboard. Chatter bounced off the walls like so many waves.
    "Incoming squadron from fourpointsixpointnine... Distress signal broadcasting on all.... All things... All things... Take evasive action, head for.... We haven't a chance... Raise shields... Prepare for combat... prepare for boarding... listen to the thunder jack... listen...."

    He shut his ears, tried to ignore the faeries screaming like banshees around his head.

    "What's the situation?"

    "We've been detected by orbital defence systems, we have incoming hostiles on intercept vectors, coming from here, here, here and here"

    The young aide pointed to various clusters of red on the display, all moving in far too close.

    Jack looked into his eyes, he was only a boy.

    "Where's the carrier? Where's our pickup? We have to get to-"

    The room tipped over around jack, he flew into the ceiling. Slamming down on cold, uniform steel. The boy next to him careered into a ventilation grate,

    "We've been hit!"

    Voice, he couldn't hear from where.

    "Taking evasive action..."

    Their voices were blurred, distant, he could feel blood from somewhere. His hair began to feel sticky with it,

    "We have to get out of here, we need to make the rendezvous with the remaining forces at the Agaetis Moon..."

    His own voice felt strangely detached, hovering over his own head.

    One of the pilots lay slumped against his controls, helmet cracked. The faeries cackled and laughed at Jack.

    The boy didn't move, head slammed against the far wall.

    "We need to get out... we need to find them..."

    "Incoming!"

    “We have to… meet them, I have to… I have to go back…”

    The walls began to stretch all out of proportion, slowly changing colour.

    "Bracing for impact!"

    Another voice, he tried to locate it, but it hurt to move his neck. He thought he saw the walls of screens shatter.

    "Where is she jack?"

    He could feel the blood trickling across his skin. The faeries inane cackling became a scream, a wail from beyond the grave, a roaring tide of water, water coloured with blood, pounding against his eardrums. The water became thunder, the thunder became lightning, the lightning became unstoppable white.

    "lowering blast doors!"

    Someone tried to move him, burning waves rolled across his spine, laughing as they left his nerves scorched and burning. He screamed.

    The thick metal blast doors crashed down. He could hear the crash, see them crashing down, the cold steel mocking him in its inanimaticy. She was behind the door! He crawled towards her, calling out her name. She was there, it was so simple now, he was a fool! She was there, she had been there all along, no! He had been there all along, here in the hangar, she was vitally important, she had to be saved. He would save her, save her from the lightning. See? There! did you hear it? The thunder is getting closer, he had to save her, save you all! All of you! He would save you all, its only fitting, he thought, I am responsible, I am in the military, I have special privileges, death, death is a special privilege, I can cause death, I can prevent it as well! It's only fitting, Galactic Payback, Cosmic Karma, I will save you, all of you boys, all of you children, all of you women, All of you, lying dead in the mud from this war, I will save you, but first I will save her, come see, look! see her there, isn't she beautiful? standing through that steel door, look through, see her standing there, frozen in fear, but not for long, oh no, I will save her, I will pull her through, keep her safe from the thunder, I will not leave her again! Not in this hangar, oh no, I will save her, like all of you, from them. Because its my fault, its my- look, I'm crying now, the tears are streaming down my face, streaming like the blood on my neck, look at it there, on my hands, on my hands as in your bodies, we are all the same you and I, and this why I must save you all, it is my duty, my privilege, my special privilege, as someone of vital importance, I demand it, I must save you, save you for absolution... It's my fault, mine... I will pull you out of the mud, out of the thunder, away from the lighting, out of this storm, out of this storm, out, out, out... away... safe....

    *********

    The doctor watched as the machine's reached the climax of their dread song for the last time.
    The phantom hovered at the foot of the bed.

    "Tell high command... tell them..."
    It, she, paused for a moment.
    "Tell them they will find what they seek in the Agaetis system"

    The phantom stepped into the light, allowing her jet black hair to shimmer and cascade down her back.

    She looked at the patient. Took one last glance at Jack with her electric green eyes. Then she was gone, into the shadows.

    Outside, thunder rolled.
    It began to rain.

    *********
    Last edited by bluevorlon; 4th Oct 01 at 10:16 AM.

  16. #16
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    I live in Beer.

    No attempts will be made to spare blu's blushes

    Well, I have to admit to being blown away by Sparks: the wonderfully evocative description (this guy even manages to make a cup of coffee exciting and a wonderful simile for the protagonist's state of mind), spot-on characterisation, and a clever developmental style. The story never stops moving, carrying the reader along on a tide of emotions and blurred imagery, interspersed with moments of blindingly heartfelt, poignant clarity. Rich with texture, the surrealist elements of the slightly out-of-focus present make the flashbacks all the more real, with the fade-outs masterfully handled, a whirlpool of images plunging the protagonist and the story down into the depths of the psyche.
    [00:29] <ion|writing> the end is a little predictable..
    [00:29] <ion|writing> i guessed it halfway through
    [00:30] <ion|writing> but that big climatic paragraph is a work of absolute fucking bloody genius
    Anyway, enough with the love... =]

    Next?
    Last edited by ionfish; 1st Oct 01 at 5:30 PM.

  17. Child's Play Donor Homeworld Senior Member  #17
    it's nice today. molo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Seattle, WA

    mmm.

    very good, blu.

  18. #18

    submission #1

    Not as good as Sparks... good job blu... but wtf.



    Born And Bred
    Andrew Cole


    The fence surrounding the compound was impossibly high, but from Maria's point of view, hunched over in the rocky dirt some hundred meters away, it was a thin screen, a delicate spider's web that she could simply reach out and sweep aside. Her conscious mind knew that it was an ordered tangle of tensioned alloy, a net difficult to penetrate with the strongest bolt-cutters and charged with millions of volts of energy. Even so, the analogy stayed with the more imaginative part of her brain as she crept toward it. She stayed on her stomach, moving low and mostly silently despite the menagerie of heavy equipment in her backpack.

    More than once, she stopped at a particularly loud noise, afraid that the sound would trip the sonic detectors or, even worse, directly alert the guards to their presence. If that happened, all hell would break loose - if the alarm was tripped at least her team of elite soldiers, following behind her in the dust, might have precious time to escape while the guard contingent milled about in confusion, trying to find the source of the triggering sound.

    However, Maria planned neither. Creeping into the facility was difficult and complicated, but it was of a whole lower order of danger than going in with all guns blazing. One thing that Maria did not want was a casualty.

    It took nearly half an hour to move up to the fence at a rate that was acceptable to Maria's sense of safety. It was tedious work, but she knew that the real action was about to begin. Carefully, she slipped the nylon straps of the backpack off of her shoulders, settling it to the ground with minimal effort and noise. She turned silently in the dust and waved two fingers, signaling her right-hand man to move forward.

    Donny crept up in less than five seconds, loud to Maria’s fine-tuned ears. For the millionth time she worried about tripping the alarms, but thankfully they stayed silent. She looked Donny up and down for a quick second – unshaven face, deep-sunk eyes, other features all but hidden by the night. He held out a pair of steel cutting utensils held in one hand and a submachine gun in the other. She gripped the cutters and gestured for him to put the weapon away - rather, he simply set it in the dust a handspan away. Obedient as always.

    She motioned for him to come forward even more and whispered into his ear. "Time?", she muttered silently, inciting him to glance down at his watch.

    He whispered back. "Outage-minus fifty."

    Maria nodded in satisfaction. "Good. Remember, stick to the plan. It goes down, we go in."

    He only nodded in silent reply, even though she could barely see him in the twilight.

    The next fifty seconds dragged into eternity as Maria waited for the outage. In exactly thirty seconds, the power to the fence would go down thanks to their inside agent and Maria's team would have ten minutes to get in. Ten minutes that would have to be spent feverishly cutting wires to make a hole large enough for an armed soldier.

    She flashed three digits on her right hand behind her and made a circle with her left, indicating the thirty-second mark to the team behind her. Their faces, lit only by the stark compound lights and the negligible twilight, were gray as dead ashes, dim even to her eyes that had long ago adjusted to the dark. She knew all eight of their names; just as well that she knew that at least half of them would die before the night was over. They were an odd mixture of friends and people she knew only by name and reputation; people whom she had fought with before and people whom she had never even seen before this night. Maria knew them all by name at the very least. She felt it was her duty to know them by that at least. So that when she did have to grieve over the souls of the dead, she had something to hold on to of these brave men and women.

    Maria forced herself to banish the thoughts. She could feel herself shifting into her killer mode, the part of her psyche that had been drilled into her during her training. Emotion suddenly drifted away, replaced with a cold, hard reserve, a willingness to kill that felt so alien inside her own mind. She closed her eyes for a split second, letting the entity she knew as the Reaper take over her body and will. Maria simply drifted into the background and watched herself, safe in the recesses of her mind, where whatever actions she took would not truly be her fault. Where she held no responsibility for the men and women she had to kill.

    It felt as though she were looking down a long, dark tunnel at the fence. The barrier was everything, the focus of all her attention. The patient killer that Maria had become waited for the final seconds.

    Ten.

    Maria – or rather the Reaper - shifted in the dirt, her hand creeping toward the weapon slung over her shoulder. She gripped the handle of the gun, feeling the cold rubberized handle underneath her closed fingers. She finger caressed the trigger as she drew the machine gun forward and set it carefully to the side.

    Five.

    She showed five fingers to the men and women behind her and heard a short rustle of weapons and equipment being drawn.

    Three.

    She felt her heart pounding in her chest, anticipating the action, the excitement that was approaching. The Reaper was hungry tonight, ready for the intensity of the coming minutes.

    Two.

    Her muscles tensed, waiting to burst forward into that long ten-minute pause.

    One.

    She heard everything for an instant - her own heart, her short, deep breaths... the pounding blood of Donny, right beside her, and the excited clipped breaths and whispers and prayers of her troops. The universe slowed in its infinite cycle for a split second, and then erupted as the final count was reached.

    Now.

    She rushed forward, no longer heeding the sonic detectors, as the lights of the compound suddenly dropped and blinked out. A dozen shouts of protest and surprise sounded from the surrounding guard towers, but she paid them no mind as she pounced upon the fence, cutting with all of her might at a single wire. The tensioned steel snapped with a metallic twang, an off-key note that stilled the night air even further. She heard another snap, but already the Reaper was deep into the blood rush and she could not bring herself to care. Another wire popped under her cutters, and another, sounding out into the desert.

    It took a full five minutes, an eternity to Maria, wrapped in a comforting blanket of distance, to cut a rough quadrangle into the wires. She met Donny at the top apex of the square, both of them clipping the last of their wires simultaneously. At that moment of quiet victory, she shared a small, hard grin with him before gently removing the section of fence and signaling to the rest of her team. One by one, Maria first, they slipped through the gap in the wires, weapons held at the ready. Then it was a quick fifty-foot run to the shadow of the nearest concrete bunker, where the ten of them crouched in the shielding cloak of darkness. There, huddled together, Maria surfaced from the depths of her mind that protected her and unveiled the rest of her plan.

    "Right," she whispered, "from here, we head over fifty meters at about one o' clock and head into the bunker. We get past security – remember, do not fire unless fired upon - and plant the C4."

    One of her team members grinned in the dark and tapped a roughly rectangular package that he carried underneath an arm. Maria only shook her head and smiled herself, and continued. "By the time we do that, they'll know we're here, so we haul ass and shoot anything that gets in the way. Got it?"

    The other nine nodded and checked weapons one last time. A series of short snaps and clicks rang out into the night as weapons were cocked and readied for action, and for a moment Maria tensed, worrying about sonic detectors or guards on duty. When no shouts rang out, aside from those of continued protest from the guards, and the alarms remained silent - still dead, she remembered - she took a quick look around the corner of the concrete storage bunker they crouched beside. There was a clear path to the target bunker that correlated to her mental map of the facility, a perfectly shielded corridor that was protected from sight by a series of disabled generators and water storage towers.

    Gently, she raised an arm behind her and signaled for two of her men to leapfrog across the gap, stopping behind the covering blanket of shadow that the monumental generators provided. They crossed without incident and signaled all clear. Maria sent her next pair across, and another directly behind them. As soon as they reached the end of the line, she ordered the last set of commandos across, and then turned to share a nod with Donny. They broke off at a run, charging forward into one set of shadows, pausing, and then resuming a mad dash to the next set of obstructions.

    Suddenly a noise, a single metallic scratch in the dark night, sent Maria sprawling onto the ground, scrabbling for her weapon. But it was too late. The noise rose in intensity, just as she pivoted on the dust and aimed at...

    Air. Nothing there.

    Her heart pounding, she realized with a start: the generators. They were coming back online. Her heart was jumping like a frightened animal, her weapon still pointing ahead as if of its own accord, aiming for something unseen. Maria forced herself to get up, dust off, and resume her run to the shadows. Still shocked, she slipped back into the Reaper, letting its ruthlessness comfort and shield her from the fear, the rabid panic that swept through her.

    They slipped through the night again, Maria once again calm and serene in safety. A quiet shuffle of feet was all that they left behind them – the rocky dirt prohibited the birth of footprints – as they crept slowly to their target.

    Then the door loomed ahead. A large concrete structure behind it - only the tip of a giant iceberg drilled into the ground. The bunker held the team's main objective - once in, half of their mission would be complete. Maria placed her hand on the cold handle to open the sliding door, weapon held forward in a one-handed grip. She leaned into the steel blast door, pushing it aside - removing one obstacle and trading it for another.

    A guard. Maria - the Reaper - was too startled for the second time in a minute to respond. Before she could move, even breathe, the shout was already escaping from his lips. She shot double volleys into him, the silenced rifle ringing out with faded tones, pumping a barrage of shells into the soft flesh. The man's face turned into pulp, his neck already covered with blood. And yet, in his death throes, he managed to fire the pistol that he held in his hand.

    A sharp flaming spike, synchronized with the thunder of the shot, jabbed into the flesh just below Maria's collarbone, shattering a rib in its path of destruction through her own muscle and bone. She felt no pain, only the curious sensation of the tiny metal insect eating through her skin and flesh for a moment. But then it hit, leaving her suddenly gasping in shock, crumpling to the ground like a dropped doll. She felt only the dim sensations of feet pounding the ground next to her. They seemed right above her, and at the same time so far away despite their proximity. The Reaper was dying, not Maria – the sensations that flashed through her brain were not her own. The distance that had shielded Maria her entire life was now closing in on her like a smothering blanket, wrapping around her and squeezing out all life, all feeling, all… everything. Maria, in pain’s sharp grip and the equally icy grasp of coldness and distance, was fading away like the embers of a fire…

    Then in surprising clarity Donny's voice, ringing loud and clear above the sudden sharp crackles of gunfire raining down, bloodying her troops from above. Donny's voice impossibly far and yet impossibly crystal clear: "Far enough, Max - cut it!"

    The world stopped.

    Maria's eyes were locked straight ahead. The shuddering that had plagued her only a moment before was gone, replaced with a feeling of absolute stillness. She did not breathe, did not feel a single motion or twitch. Absolute stillness. Her eyes had fallen upon the grisly tableau of a man being cut in half by bullets raining down from a gun post. The red mist spraying from the frozen bullet wounds hung suspended in midair, like delicate ice crystals in the winter. It was almost beautiful. But it was, in fact, horrid, she reminded herself. It took a long moment – a timeless, utterly frozen moment - to comprehend the stillness. Was she dying… or dead? Was this the afterlife – the terrible locked exact instant when her brain shut down and everything that was Maria ceased to be?

    No. Instead of an eternal silence and stillness, Donny's voice came again, the only sound in a world where the earth had ceased to spin. "Where did that come from?"

    In reply, Maria heard an unearthly, source-less voice. She had never been a person of faith, but had the voice not had the exact timbre of a college student male, she would have become an instant convert. It was impossible, she thought… and yet, it was happening. "Where did what come from?"

    "The guard, you scadding idiot."

    "A surprise ending. You gotta be ready for anything, soldier-boy – you know Murphy’s Law." Maria could hear the smirk in the impossible voice.

    Donny's reply was muttered, but she heard it more than easily, with all sounds gone. "You're an idiot."

    And then he was close, too close, right in her face, peering into both of her frozen eyes one by one. Instinct and reflexes told her to blink, but she could not. It surprised her just how much that fact irritated her. He spoke while examining her. "You did a great job on this Maria AI though."

    AI? Artificial intelligence? But that’s not… Oh my god… No… NO…

    "Thanks. It took a lot of work to get her right - she was kinda an experiment for my psychology class. See, I grew her up from childhood, through accelerated virtual time. In a lot of ways, she's still growing up, but one of the real interesting things is that she's even developed a sort of subconscious fighting personality, like a low-level schizophrenic would..."

    "Right, right, kid. Save it for the teach. Now let's start it up again, hmm?"

    The ethereal voice was suddenly gone, and Maria and Donny were alone on the flash-frozen base, save for the myriad dying soldiers and guards on the metal security walkways high above. He addressed her, smirking in front of her face. "Sorry, Maria-babe, but I'm afraid we have to wipe your memories of this little adventure. Can't have you knowing that you're really an art-int, can we?" He chuckled to himself.

    She wanted, suddenly, to spit at him, to take back her life that glared into her with a horrible truth… everything was a lie, a fake, a simulation, but she was still locked in the invisible ice that held her fast. Even her tears, hot and angry inside her mind, could not be made tangible. Donny stood and pushed aside the frozen body of the diving soldier being sawed in two, and made an odd gesture. Then, with a single finger, he punched an invisible button, and the world fell out. Reality shattered into a million tiny fragments, and Maria tumbled, even as she looked around, through false memories and futures unseen, through billions of numbers and codes, all of them a part of herself, through a gray mist, a blank featureless fog that carried her and suddenly dropped her into…

    The fence surrounding the compound was impossibly high...

  19. #19
    Mr.Man
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    Due to recent events, I've been relatively preocupied for the past several weeks, so the deadline extension is much appreciated.

    BTW: IIIIII'MMMMM BAAAACCCCKKK (Again) !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Since I've been out of it for a long time (Also again), how long have the boards been like this?

  20. #20

    The First Invasion

    I plan to loose this competition. Titles up there somewhere, I'm just bored and uninspired...

    "Attack Bomber Wings, alter course and intercept Imperial Destroyer Traitors Death. Assault Frigate Flotilla 4 fall back to carrier!"

    The bridge of the carrier was jolted with a violent kick.

    "This is Somtaaw carrier Koshiirs Vigiliance! Fall back! Fall back!"

    Lieutenant Commander Jahaan surveyed the hazy bridge and could not help but shed a non-existent tear. Dead ahead a Assault Frigate, a Taiidan Imperial one prepared its daring charge.

    Jahaan watched in terror as the pearly blue pulse emanated from the bow, a plasma bomb, slowly, serenely gliding, that package of death closing in passively as if it were a dandelion seed, drifting and floating towards its target.

    Jahaan tore his gaze away from the screen and looked for the helmsman. No helmsman...nothing much left anyhow.

    The bridge shook again as a attack bomber peeled away, the silent guns of the carrier rotating uselessly, unable to return fire.

    He reached the helmsman controls and tapped out the autopilot commands.

    The carrier groaned and began to list. The ancient Warlord class carrier had been salvaged from the Karos Graveyard and pressed back into service as a large fighter-tender. The ion cannons had been long destroyed and everything else had been salvaged off, all equipment had been built on by hard-working Somtaaw.

    Now their prize would soon be lost in Hiigaran orbit. The year was four AL, four years after the fall of the Great Empire.

    Many times the Imperials attempted an invasion. Only once before had they made it this far.

    Back then, and now.

    The crippled behemoth sluggishly complied with the helmsman commands. Slowly, inexorably the vessel tried to turn away. The plasma bomb continued on its course. The great engines had turned the ship, and prepared to fire to move the vessel out of the way.

    Nothing happened. The lights flickered and then gave out. The LCD screen reverted back to its transparent display, giving him his overhead view of the demise of this vessel.

    He looked around frantically for a seat. He saw the captains chair, with a body...without much of a head.

    People rushed to stations, and Jahaan uncermoniously dumped the body of his commander onto the floor. Kicking the corpse away he stared in horror as the body rolled over, the skull of the dead man grinned at him, missing much of the left lobe of the skull.

    Repulsed by sheer horror he backed away into the corner next to the chair and huddled there, frightened and looking around his surroudings for comfort.

    He looked ahead and saw a blue blob slam into the center of the ship. A great geyser of plasma spewed out from the breach, followed by the bleeding of the Resource Tanks and bits and pieces of debris. A shockwave rippled through the superstructure; and on the status display at the back of the bridge, a whole section of the carrier displayed as black. No sensors were operational in that region anymore.

    A red blinker flashed above his head. The red beacon represented an order amid unpredictability, a lighthouse admid a nightmarish tempest, a guiding light of sorts.

    Getting up he pressed a button on the Captains Chair.

    "All hands abandon ship. All hands abandon ship."

    The automated voice, that of Karan S'jet filled every corridor of the ship, almost unheard admist the crackle of flame and the screams of the tormented souls aboard the doomed ship.

    The dull thunder of incoming fire was drowned out by the general clamor towards escape. A rain of escape pods descended on Hiigara, and the engines of the ship groaned back to life, weakly pushing the ship ahead.

    "Into the fire I go...ahead to the light I see."

    Jahaan murmured silently to himself and watched his broken vessel closing on the enemy Saarkin-Cho. Looking down from the helm he regarded his former captain.

    "I think I'll be seeing you soon."

    He looked ahead and saw the giant mass of the carrier. He could distinguish windows, and that was how close he was now. Calmly sitting down, he closed his eyes and awaited the end.

    Silence. The hull plates calmly shook and were like a soothing sensation. In his mind he cleared his thoughts and awaited his death.

    As the two giants collided, Jahaan was thrown forward, his head moving at insane speeds to smash through the helm console, sending him into a world of black and painlessness.
    "In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make." ~Paris Hilton

  21. #21
    blurry dude Omi-kun's Avatar
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    holy ***** bluevorlon, that was superb.

    Thanks IonFish for referring me to this nifty competition. I'll wait 'till the next one before I even dare to enter.

  22. #22
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    I plan to loose this competition.
    You're not trying very hard... I mean, if you'd written a bad story full of grammatical mistakes, then I could understand a comment like that. Sad to say, though (well, if you were really trying to lose that is), it's actually pretty good. I found it very enjoyable, so there.

    blackjack: wtf man how many times you gonna post this? Where's the original story I was promised?

    Last edited by ionfish; 2nd Oct 01 at 2:42 AM.

  23. #23
    I have no idea. Its languishing in some dark tortured cell in the confines of BJs mind, a masterpiece awaiting its time, after Born and Bred becomes too repetitive.

  24. #24
    Originally posted by IonFish

    blackjack: wtf man how many times you gonna post this? Where's the original story I was promised?
    1) until someone reads it and gives me some detailed critisism (constructive of course )

    2) I promised you an original story?

    3) This is only the first one... I posted it just to get an entry in in case I didn't finish the other (which I am working on btw)

    4) shhh

    Originally posted by The Collector

    Its languishing in some dark tortured cell in the confines of BJs mind, a masterpiece awaiting its time, after Born and Bred becomes too repetitive.
    1) It's not too repetitive already? Damn, better post it a couple more times...

    2) I am in a dark tortured cell.

    3) You do realize that by saying you're trying not to win you've already clinched my vote?... errr... maybe... Sparks is pretty fuckin good... gg blu.

    4) You go shhh too
    Last edited by blackjack; 30th Sep 01 at 6:33 PM.

  25. #25
    blurry dude Omi-kun's Avatar
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    You're not trying very hard... I mean, if you'd written a bad story full of grammatical mistakes, then I could understand a comment like that. Sad to say, though (well, if you were really trying to lose that is), it's actually pretty good. I found it very enjoyable, so there.:P
    Well, I guess I'll be the first one with a really lame one (and shortest one, only 626 words) then. But this competition needs more short stories anyway.

    So, here it is:

    Prologue: World of Opposites

    The rain fell, battering the ground beneath. He stood there firmly under the shower, taking in deep breaths of the refreshing aroma. The air was spring-like with the natural fresh and sweet smell that is common during raining periods. The invigoration he felt was majestic, almost overwhelming.
    He could feel his lungs filling up with the exhilaration that was not unlike exhaustion. He felt a crisp nothingness within him yet the pressure of the air almost burst him open.
    He lifted his head up high. The descending water droplets rolled over his face and dripped down to the cold hard ground. He could, at least he thought he could, see with his eyes. But he chooses to close them and his mind saw the surrounding in perfect clarity. The stone ledge underneath was unyielding with an absolute stillness that moved him. A blanket of forest a hundred paces behind covered his back. Their radiant green was dimmed by the overcast to a dark distant gray. He could sense the presence of every raindrop pummeling against the delicate leaves of every tree and yet can only see them as a whole and indifferent, fused into one monstrous forest. He could feel the dampness of the it by the smell of the atmosphere but knowing they are still hard and dry but filtered through a layer of purified liquid from the clouds above. Below him and the statue-like ledge was a jungle of forest with nothing but trees covering the short grasses from the downpour. A wide river ran through this, feeding from the seemingly ever-lasting rain. A gentle fog that enveloped the canopy of the forest could be seen from where he was. The sounds of the rain splattering against the harden surfaces was lucid and articulated. His muscles contracted a little as the minute droplets tingled his skin as they broke the fall. His senses were extraordinary and his mind was at peace. Harmony flowed through him.
    Could this be real? He wanted to scream in ecstasy and release his elation of this newfound freedom.
    His head was high and facing the sky. Gently he opened his eyes and watched the ominous clouds. Unobtrusively the omniscience from before dissolved away. He concentrated on the clouds. They moved with a slow grace almost like not moving at all. The rain no longer affected his movements. He no longer noticed the clear liquid splashing against his pupil. Ignorantly he starred up into the source of his melancholy. A sudden swivel motion came upon him even though he didn’t move a muscle.
    What was it? He wondered, not even knowing if it was he who questioned.
    An eerie silence went through him and stopped the multitudinous sound of rainfall.
    Time.
    He knew the answer yet he asked. Then why did he ask?
    Suddenly he felt the effects of time. It was distorted. He felt both the stillness and the swiftness of it. He looked down to see his hands. Slowly he turned them from the back to the palm. His heart quickened as an unseen anxiety developed inside of him. The placidly euphoria twisted into a panicking calamity.
    Should this be real? He thought to himself, suddenly aware of his isolation. This couldn’t be real. No, it’s not.
    His vision narrowed to a tunnel then diminished and faded away, leaving behind the absolute tranquility of the unerring blackness of unconsciousness. There was nothing but the inequality of time. Fast yet slow. They twisted again and again, warping his mind as well. He endured as much as he could.
    Blink. The motionlessness struck him as odd. Then everything came back to focus. The ceiling fan was still a haze but he could see more detail. His breadth was fast and so was his heart. A light drizzle began outside the bunk.
    Slowly he got up and went outside to a cliff nearby.

  26. #26
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    Well, I guess I'll be the first one with a really lame one
    Actually, I kind of liked it.

    Nice description, very evocative; you've turned a couple of very nice sentences in that -- maybe next time you might want to tell a story though...

  27. #27
    blurry dude Omi-kun's Avatar
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    Oh. I guess I forgot about that.

  28. #28
    Await Rescue bluevorlon's Avatar
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    Omni-Kun

    I thought that was pretty good actually,
    very evocative, thought provoking, enigmatic, mysterious, intriguing... and other adjectives as well!

    Unfortunately...
    2) Word limit: 6,000 (minimum: 1,500)


    I think we should allow it anyway...

    BlackJack: thanks for the praise, I'm gonna read your entry later tonight, comments forthcoming...

    -ps, yes I'm back-

  29. #29
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    "abuse of power" is my middle name

    Oh, that rule... sod it, really.

    (p.s. rules changed, have fun kids)

  30. #30
    blurry dude Omi-kun's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot bluevorlon! That means a lot coming from you.

    IonFish: I didn't even remember that rule when I posted! Oh well. I hope my entry at least added a little flavor to this competition.

  31. #31
    Omi: I thought it was pretty good too... very surreal, bizarre, and overall quite good despite the lack of a really active story.

    blu: thanks man, means a lot.

  32. #32
    Await Rescue bluevorlon's Avatar
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    ok comments

    BJ: I really enjoyed born and bred actually... I obviously missed it when it was posted before.
    I think the beginning section is probably the strongest area of the story, you show great skill in creating a strong central character and deftly communicate her thought processes to the reader in a subtle and efficient manner.
    I also like the rather murky half-real ambience pervading this section, almost a portent as what arrives so suddenly during the finale.

    However, I think you lose a bit of ground once the main section of the narrative kicks in, (i.e. once they get into the compound) it all gets a bit heavily plotted and bogged down in exposition. (You really don't need to explain all the details of this section,) Which is unofrtunate because it kind of cuts up the pacing.

    I do really like the few paragraphs once Maria is shot, these really shine, and you show a great flair in some of the description.
    such as this little passage
    The distance that had shielded Maria her entire life was now closing in on her like a smothering blanket, wrapping around her and squeezing out all life, all feeling, all… everything. Maria, in pain’s sharp grip and the equally icy grasp of coldness and distance, was fading away like the embers of a fire…
    The ending is also pretty cool, and more unexpected than my own semi-suprise plot twist thing,
    Although, its frustratingly quickly dealt with, maybe you could extend maria's realisation some more? She seems to accept her entire lack of existance rather quickly, (maybe do some stuff about childhood memories, as she pokes holes in her own upbringing... (very blade runner))

    A very good entryin my own rather humble opinion
    Good Luck in the competition, although i suspect Ionfish, posters-et-al-will best us both...

    blu

  33. #33
    Blu:

    Thanks man, esp. for getting into such detail with your complements and commentary. I appreciate the constructive critisim... I'll certainly be using them in the next incarnation of Born And Bred. Just a couple things I felt should be defended/reiterated...

    However, I think you lose a bit of ground once the main section of the narrative kicks in, (i.e. once they get into the compound) it all gets a bit heavily plotted and bogged down in exposition. (You really don't need to explain all the details of this section,) Which is unofrtunate because it kind of cuts up the pacing.
    The original version of the story did really have very little detail in the center section - it was added because I really wanted to surprise the reader and make them go "Holy f**knutz batman!" . The center is really to show how "human" Maria supposedly is... she gets scared, has a bit of companionship with her team members, etc. etc. Perhaps I should cut a bit tho.

    The ending is also pretty cool, and more unexpected than my own semi-suprise plot twist thing,
    Although, its frustratingly quickly dealt with, maybe you could extend maria's realisation some more? She seems to accept her entire lack of existance rather quickly, (maybe do some stuff about childhood memories, as she pokes holes in her own upbringing... (very blade runner))
    I thought about doing that, and in fact worked with it a bit, but the detail that I went into when I experimented with it was overwhelming and screwed up the pacing of the ending too :P I think I will add a bit more in there - I too get the impression that she accepted her lack of reality rather quickly, and I'll be fixing it ASAP - but I really did feel that the story shouldn't be too long once I whipped out the big gun. It's tough walking that line, and I'm sure you know what I mean...

    Also, never read Bladerunner. I'll give it a look.

    Good Luck in the competition, although i suspect Ionfish, posters-et-al-will best us both...
    Heh. I doubt that I'll be winning (for this one anyway ) but Sparks kicked ass and you know it Best of luck sir.

  34. #34
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    Also, never read Bladerunner. I'll give it a look.
    blackjack, this comment deeply saddens me.


    1) Blade Runner is not a book, it's a film.

    2) It's one of the best films of all time.

    3) How could you not have seen it? I'm shocked and appalled. :o


    Go watch it before you read my story, otherwise you might miss some of the references...

    (IMDB entry here)


    blu: what do you mean, "I suspect Ionfish, posters-et-al-will best us both..."?? Come on, really, how am I going to beat yours? (or blackjack's, for that matter?)
    Last edited by ionfish; 4th Oct 01 at 1:46 PM.

  35. #35
    Member Greenstone's Avatar
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    I have read both the first draft of Born and Bred as well as every successive posting of it. I think I would have to agree with BJ's ending, it gives something to the story.

    Anyone want to critic my story? Any would be helpful

    Ion, be shocked, I have not seen Blade Runner either. it is not something that I would call a high priority. But I shall have to go rent it.
    Also a word of advice, it is a good idea to always write your stories so that they could stand alone as though the idea and everything were your own and the other had never existed.
    Did that make any sense?

  36. #36
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    Greenie:

    Anyone want to critic my story? Any would be helpful
    Soon, soon... bit busy finishing mine right now.

    (psst, it's 'critique')
    Ion, be shocked, I have not seen Blade Runner either. it is not something that I would call a high priority.
    :o
    But I shall have to go rent it.

    Also a word of advice, it is a good idea to always write your stories so that they could stand alone as though the idea and everything were your own and the other had never existed.
    Err... wtf...?
    Did that make any sense?
    I'm sure it would have done if I had any idea what on earth you were talking about.
    Last edited by ionfish; 4th Oct 01 at 1:55 PM.

  37. #37
    Member Greenstone's Avatar
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    Go watch it before you read my story, otherwise you might miss some of the references
    That is what I mean, if you place references in something that refer to something else then people who do not or have seen the show will be completely lost.


    Thanks for the spell check

  38. #38

    hmmm0r

    Ion:

    Heh... Bladerunner is a movie? But... I've seen it on shevles... wtf...

    I never read the series of books because they were written by Willam Shatner (*shudder*) if I'm not mistaken. But now that I hear it's a movie I will have to go give 'er a look.

    what do you mean, "I suspect Ionfish, posters-et-al-will best us both..."?? Come on, really, how am I going to beat yours? (or blackjack's, for that matter?)
    p.s. thank you However I am really looking forward to Shadows... it should kick ass. That and I don't really consider B&B fair game, as it was written prior to the compo (I have the impression that we were to write a story specifically to enter, not enter something written previously. After all then Collector could then just reenter Gaalsi Convoy... and I love that story )

    Erm... sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent... I'll be (hopefully) getting my short-short story done soon, and then I'll give ya a run fer yer money

    Best of luck once again to all.

  39. #39
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    Ah, je comprends...

    Greenie: it's a reference, an homage, not the story. It's not necessary to have seen Blade Runner, or have read any detective/noir fiction, although it might help (if you want to get the in-jokes, that is).

    blackjack:
    Heh... Bladerunner is a movie? But... I've seen it on shevles... wtf...
    No clue. Maybe you're confusing it with the book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, the novel by Philip K. Dick on which the film is based.
    I never read the series of books because they were written by Willam Shatner (*shudder*) if I'm not mistaken. But now that I hear it's a movie I will have to go give 'er a look.
    Please tell me who's been disseminating this misinformation, so I can have them dragged out into the street and shot.
    (I have the impression that we were to write a story specifically to enter, not enter something written previously...)
    Well, that was the idea. Maybe it should have been stated more explicitly, but we didn't want to eliminate stuff that had been started prior to the competition's announcement.

  40. #40
    No, I'm sure that I have seen the Bladerunner series of books... hmmm... I'm really not sure who wrote the books but I am positive of their existence. Don't give me that look! I am most certainly not crazy!

    Anyway, I digress. In that case, I will retract Born And Bred as an entry provided I finish my other work by the deadline. (I'd like to get something in here, even if it's not really legit )

  41. Child's Play Donor Homeworld Senior Member  #41
    it's nice today. molo's Avatar
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    "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was republished following the realease of "Blade Runner" as - you guessed it - "Blade Runner".

    thus the confusion.

  42. #42
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    It still wasn't written by William Shatner. =|

  43. Child's Play Donor Homeworld Senior Member  #43

  44. #44
    Await Rescue bluevorlon's Avatar
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    Come on, really, how am I going to beat yours? (or blackjack's, for that matter?)
    I would like to predict, here and now, ionfish will win this competition

    -nothing to do with the fact I can edit, and therefore falsify the results... -
    Last edited by bluevorlon; 4th Oct 01 at 7:12 PM.

  45. Child's Play Donor Homeworld Senior Member  #45
    it's nice today. molo's Avatar
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    The Only Lesson

    “The story of the human race is war. Except for brief and precarious interludes there has never been peace in the world.”

    "Is it the only lesson of history that man is unteachable?"

    -- Sir Winston Churchill


    » » »

    He had been awakened just weeks before. Since then time had passed in a blur – he no longer knew how much time had passed. The Pilot remembered flashes – intensive training; simulator sessions, primary, advanced combat exercises. None of his comrades seemed to know why, but the pace was constantly increasing. And the war continued.

    » » »

    It was ironic – the Pilot’s first combat patrol was completely uneventful, his first break since his awakening. After the weeks of training, of preparation for the mental and physical strains of combat, what did his squadron meet with? Nothing. Bravo squadron’s first patrol was over without a hitch; the fighters made for the fleet and began plotting an intercept with the hangar bay.

    As Bravo approached the fleet in a loose formation, the guard channel commlink lit. "Bravo Seven, this is Hangar Control. Please monitor your horizontal clearance with the – oh, shi… Bravo Seven, break right! Break!" The Pilot watched, helpless, as a comrade whose face he barely knew smashed into a something, a giant shadow -- a ship -- glancing off and exploding. His fighter buffeting in the shockwave, the Pilot quickly regained control and tightened his formation. It was the Squadron’s first casualty.

    There had been no combat at all.

    Fleet Intel examined the cockpit recorders and found that Bravo Seven had gone through such highs and lows of anxiety that when he returned he relaxed far too much – and tagged a frigate. Fleet Command re-emphasized full awareness after that incident.

    » » »

    After six missions, the Pilot was exhausted and jaded, two weeks and more than ten pilots – from his combat wing alone – had died in that short time. He walked towards his fighter dreading the upcoming mission – would it be him next? Would he be the next to safely complete a mission and somehow make a fatal mistake? He sat, brooding, as techs strapped him into his cockpit.

    “Good luck, sir!” yelled his crew chief, as the canopy slid shut, adding a touch of humanity to the Pilot’s world. He grinned through his helmet and flashed a thumbs-up at the retreating crew’s powered suits. The external contacts disconnected with a jolt - and he was on his own, cocooned in a shell of metal, ceramics, and life support.

    “Bravo Squadron, Hangar Control. Cleared to depart on combat patrol five three golf tango,” murmured the guard channel. The Pilot watched as the lead units lifted and turned, heading for open space.

    “Roger, Hangar Control, Bravo is clear CP-53GT. We’ll see you in a few,” the Squadron leader replied as his fighter cleared the caution zone and hit full burn, blasting out of the hangar.

    “Good luck out there, Bravo. I’ll be waiting. Hangar out.”

    » » »

    Fifteen minutes into what was supposed to a standard fighter sweep, Bravo Squadron heard otherwise. “Bravo, TacOPs here. We’ve got some activity past our perimeter, and you’re the closest squad we’ve got. Rendezvous and dock with support frigate Nine-Foxtrot – we’re going to piggyback you in to the location.” As TacOPs spoke, the utilitarian support frigate jumped in a kilometer away from the squadron. A flurry of comms chatter amongst Bravo determined who docked where, and the Pilot began to burn towards his assigned docking collar.

    » » »

    It had taken six months for the Pilot to realize that there were no ejection systems. No accommodation for failure. Pilots either came back in their fighters, or not at all. Less of a hassle to thaw out a new one than to retrieve one, claimed Ops when pressed. Pilots objected, nothing was changed; more were defrosted.

    » » »

    A suited tech floated up to the Pilot’s cockpit, holding a comms-blackout pad that read, “KICK SOME ASS FOR THE SUITS” – the Pilot nodded and grinned in response as his fighter was refueled. He tapped his hands nervously on a blank display as he waited.

    With Bravo fueled and the techs secured inside, Nine-Foxtrot initiated the jump. From what the squad leader had said, there was an increase of raider activity near an important supplies convoy – and Bravo was to clear the zone. Nervous but cocky, the Pilot itched to get another kill; to provide another tally for his proud techs to etch into the fuselage. The support frigate emerged close to a bulk freighter that dwarfed Nine-Foxtrot, the massive hull dropping the smaller ship into shadow.

    Several k away the pilot could see flashes of light, trails from the raiders swarming over a smaller transport. “Bravo, engage the fighters and we’ll work on picking off the corvettes,” ordered Nine-Foxtrot’s commander. “FleetOps has reported that another squadron will be jumping in soon to back you up, accompanied by two frigates.”

    “Roger that, Nine-Foxtrot,” confirmed Bravo Lead. “Bravo, go evasive and stick with your wingmen; engage at will.” The ten fighters of Bravo Squadron broke off into pairs and commenced intercept vectors. The Pilot was flying wing for a more experienced pilot, and he stayed glued to his wing.

    The pair pulled into a tight turn, sliding neatly behind a lighter raider fighter. The Pilot and his wingleader fired simultaneous bursts, high-velocity slugs ripping into weak propulsion systems. Victorious, they pulled up just as the raider’s fusion drive went critical, the shockwave buffeting their small fighters.

    As the wingpair sought another target the small transport, mobbed by raiders, took a final hit. Blinding light burst from the engine block as the once imposing vessel became an expanding sphere of debris and cargo containers. Cockpit displays flickered and danced in the Pilot’s cockpit as the EMP waves raced past his fighter on their way to infinity.

    “Bravo squad, this is Lead. Echo Squadron just jumped in with some of the heavy hitters, so lets drag some raiders back to them.” Just as the withdrawal was ordered a burst of tracers ripped past the Pilot’s canopy. A few rounds thudded into his fighter, but the raider seemed to be concentrating his poor aim on the Pilot’s wingleader. Lead began violently jinking, which threw off the raider’s mark.

    The Pilot pulled a tight loop and dropped in on the raider’s tail. Crosshairs centered, he fired into the enemy, which bobbed and weaved futilely. Just as his left cannon overheated and jammed, the raider disintegrated. Sliding back alongside his wingleader, the Pilot heard a terse “thanks,” from his damaged comrade.

    The assault group grew in the Pilot’s canopy, until the pilot could read the insignia on one of the heavy frigates – the Devastator, apparently. As Bravo regrouped into assault formation and prepared to bring their guns to bear on the following raiders, Echo Squadron launched at a rapid rate from their frigate, forming and picking off the now-shrinking complement of raider fighters. The heavy mass-drivers of the frigates pummeled the slower raider corvettes at distance, creating flashes of light visible some k away.

    At a command from Nine-Foxtrot, the nine remaining fighters of Bravo Squadron returned and docked, waiting for the jump. Echo’s elite reputation had proven true again; as Bravo jumped Echo Lead was reporting the fighter threat eliminated.

    » » »

    The debriefing officer called the mission a success, and the Pilot thought he agreed. However, they’d lost another pilot, and three of the remaining fighters were grounded for heavy maintenance. Despite losses morale was finally on the rise, a combination of multiple kills and a ‘job well done’ citation from Echo.

    » » »

    ‘Collateral damage’ and ‘acceptable losses’ were the euphemisms of choice. It had taken some time for the Pilot to come to grips with that. The war was endless. It spanned decades and light-years. And the combatants never ran out of pilots. Or ships. Or systems to battle over. The pilot was beginning to understand.

    » » »

    It had been two weeks since Bravo had met with a significant enemy formation. Two weeks of milk runs and light patrols – nothing more than a point A-B or resourcer escort. Nonetheless, Bravo’s talent and cohesion were slowly increasing. And now – finally – they’d pulled a hard one.

    This time the mission was a fast heavy-infiltration run. A reinforced Bravo – the standard ten, plus five more – would be used, and the Pilot hoped it was a permanent change. Bravo would be joining Quebec, a bomber squadron, and the two squads would jump together to the site of a remote mining operation the enemy had recently constructed. The last scouting run had uncovered minimal defenses, and provided Bravo and Quebec did their job quickly the operation was predicted to go smoothly.

    The briefing over, the two squadrons mingled briefly and wandered off to tend their equipment. The latest rumor had a new, pristine complement of fighters replacing their aging, scarred craft, but FleetCom was keeping quiet. The Pilot didn’t believe it. Why would they? The logical course would be to simply defrost more pilots and create a new squad – there would be more firepower that way. That was how the Fleet worked.

    Bravo and Quebec launched and began the transfer to the strike carrier that would be taking them in. It was new, a clean, Spartan affair with repair facilities and heavy turrets. The raiding force was assembling several k away from the fleet, and the pilot watched as two war-weary frigates took up escort aside the carrier.

    The squadrons finished the transfer, and the fighter crews trickled into the minimalist ready-room. With the force’s preparations complete, the first jump was initiated. The only indicator was a small, amber light that pulsed above the bulkheads before the crash-doors slammed shut. Several minutes later they snapped open again, signaling that the jump was complete. An hour later, as the small fleet maneuvered through an asteroid field for their final position, klaxons sounded, calling the pilots to their ships.

    » » »

    Time passed. Missions assigned. Comrades lost. Nearly a year since the Pilot was thawed out and trained, and he had long ago stopped counting his missions. And the war continued. None of the pilots knew who they were fighting, nor why. Intel didn’t say anything. “No one needs to know,” they pointed out. “Just destroy your targets.”

    » » »

    Nervous techs checked the Pilot’s harness, grinning weakly through their helmets. He waited as the suited figures completed checks and scurried off to shelter; the crew chief thumped the canopy and flashed the traditional thumbs-up before following the techs. The hanger depressurized in a flash, the doors crashing open, atmosphere freezing and filling the hangar with small crystals. As the fighters began to launch from the left, the bomber squadron accelerated out from the right bay.

    As the light craft were launching, the small battle group emerged from behind the asteroid belt it had traversed. As the pilot formed up with his wing, he watched the huge mass-drivers pivot and align with distant targets; the heavy frigates had begun bombarding the fixed defenses. Radio chatter punctuated flashes in the distance as the Pilot heard spotters calling the fall of the shots.

    The bomber squadron formed up, and Bravo took up escort in a dynamic, shifting guard formation. Quebec Lead radioed that several laden ore carriers were making for the mining control center. The swarm of fighters and bombers accelerated to intercept the nearest, Quebec firing in unison; their devastating payload smashing hull plating and scarring the armored crew sections. Bravo’s lighter guns added to the destruction, sparks flashing from the hvap rounds’ strikes.

    Another salvo from Quebec and the cloud of fighters was past, the detonation providing a harsh as the shockwave raced by.

    » » »

    Bits of wreckage, captured vessels, fragments of enemy communications. The evidence was scarce, initially, but it gradually became clearer.

    There was no war; there was no enemy.

    And yet there was. He finally understood. The Fleet was fighting itself in some huge, twisted war game. The planets bombarded, the vessels destroyed, the lives lost. All of it was the cause and the result of the Fleet’s power.

    And the war continued.

  46. #46
    whoa... gg molo, story kicks ass.

    more competition for you blu.

  47. #47
    Fishy wins...

  48. #48
    Logico-Fishosophicus ionfish's Avatar
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    Mar 2000
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    I live in Beer.
    molotov: I very much enjoyed The Only Lesson; the excellent technical descriptions, the distance between the protagonist and the surreal, stylised world and the effectiveness of the developmental interludes combined well, creating a rather haunting depiction of future war.

    However, I do have a few criticisms. Firstly, the consistently maintained distance could be all the more effective if there were more moments of closure, of real feeling. The ending in particular was both disconcerting and disappointing; while great in principle (the basic idea is sound), it was something of an anticlimax. Extending this sequence could help it -- while most stories leave unanswered questions, there are too many here, what is he going to do with this realisation? being perhaps the most prominent. It almost feels as though the story has ended too soon -- while it is a powerful ending, it is diminished by the lack of extrapolation.

    Hope this helps, man.


    blu: Somehow I doubt you're going to find a bookie's that'll take bets on who'll win this competition...

    Fishy wins...
    Collector: that statement is not only detrimental to all the excellent stories posted so far, but is also a completely unwarrented statement. No one (besides myself) has actually read my story yet, certainly not you, so how can anyone judge whether it will win or not? At least blu had the decency to put things in the future tense; according to your statement I've already won, although how I could do that without even posting my story I'm not totally sure...

  49. #49
    I believe (although I'm probably wrong) that C thought Ionfish and not molotov had posted The Only Lessson.

  50. #50
    Getting confused again...shouldn't stay up so late...:mad:

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