Jeph Jacques's comics discussion forums

Fun Stuff => MAKE => Topic started by: Thrillho on 06 Oct 2013, 04:32

Title: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 06 Oct 2013, 04:32
So after the response to my other thread I though I could run a writing club. We'll do different exercises to stretch our writing chops. First one I liked was a suggestion (I forget who by) to basically have each of us note what we least want to write about, and then that gets passed to the next person to write about.

If no one wants to do that one we'll do a different exercise. But who's interested in joining writing club? I reckon a bare minimum of five would work but the more the merrier.

1. Gareth
2. Muzzazzazazzasterpiece
3. K. O'Sera
4. Henri Beamish
5. J-dilla
6. Game and Watch for a finite period
7. Obadiah Jebediah Zenediah Jenediah Springfield
8. Welu McDaniel
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 06 Oct 2013, 04:36
Here!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 06 Oct 2013, 10:58
Count me in.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 06 Oct 2013, 23:27
In!

(the "bad story idea" idea was mine, but I was inspired to suggest it by Grognard, who made you write that brilliant piece about the mutated onions.  So if it all goes bad, I blame it on on him  :evil:.)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 07 Oct 2013, 02:36
i'd be up for this, if i've got the time
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 07 Oct 2013, 03:26
Muzzazzazazzasterpiece
<3

So I had to wait a little while surrounded by loud smelly people, and all this talk of a writing club made me want to write, so I cooked up a little something something...

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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Game and Watch Forever on 07 Oct 2013, 06:28
I REALLY want to do this... but I'll have to see if my work is seriously going to die this time or if it's just pulling another "JUST KIDDING!  :evil:"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 07 Oct 2013, 18:39
I'm in.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 08 Oct 2013, 03:13
3. K. O'Sera
Hah, I love it. I definitely have to remember to use that one if my nick is taken anywhere I want to register.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 08 Oct 2013, 09:26
I'd like to try this but I admit now I may be unreliable in the coming weeks/months with work stuff taking up a lot of time.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 08 Oct 2013, 11:34
Okay, we got a few people now. I don't want to set deadlines on this so if you miss an exercise and want to do it later, then that's fine, sorry for anyone who loses out - but we may as well keep rolling.

Here's the rules.

Everyone PM me what you would LEAST want to write about it. I will take them all and re-assign them to other people randomly, and you will have to write 500 words on that theme and post it here. Obviously you don't have to post it if you don't want to. I'm a journalism grad so the rule is 10% over or under (450-550).

If you can put a twist on your theme, then do it, man. This is a writing challenge. Do what you want with it. There's no right or wrong here.

Start your PMs NOWWWWWWW!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 08 Oct 2013, 16:33
Ha, I'm having trouble deciding what terrible idea I want to use (I came up with two that I realized, combined, would be an episode of Scooby Doo), but I'll have something for you soon.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 08 Oct 2013, 16:39
I feel like I ought to apologize to whoever gets the topic I submitted.

Except that I doubt it will be the worst one.  :-o
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 08 Oct 2013, 22:40
hmmm...
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 09 Oct 2013, 15:14
Some of these topics... I really, really hope I don't get some of these topics. We started with a toughie, guys  :psyduck:

By my count, I'm only missing one person's story theme. Once I've got the last one, I'll randomise 'em and fling 'em out.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Game and Watch Forever on 09 Oct 2013, 20:37
"I'm looking forward to the challenge!" - Words I will surely regret
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 09 Oct 2013, 20:42
I fear for us all.

Though I am so excited to see what everyone else came up with.  And to find out what kind of abomination I have to work with.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 09 Oct 2013, 22:48
indeed.

this is gonna be fun.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 10 Oct 2013, 03:21
I submitted mine
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 03:41
I have everyone's themes in now and you will be getting one distributed to you very soon  :-D
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 03:54
Right, everyone has been sent their theme.

I used a random number generator to assign everyone a theme, and still somehow ended up with the exact one I wanted  :psyduck:

No one should have their own theme, and none of them should be doubled. I double and triple checked.

So yeah, rules are in the original post but as a little addendum - I think it would be quite fun if we just posted the stories without saying what the theme was, so people can try to work out what they are, or post the story first and theme in a spoiler at the bottom.

I'm quite looking forward to this  :mrgreen:
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 10 Oct 2013, 08:39
I was right. What I submitted wasn't the worst theme.

Here goes:



That chiseled jawline, she thought. There was a god after all, and he stood before her, glorious and strong and perfect. That face, so strong and manly, full lips and high cheekbones and eyes that could stare a cobra down without flinching or turn a girl to quivering jelly. Harrison Ford had nothing on him.

She let her gaze wander down his body. “Rock-hard” didn't even begin to describe it. Chest and abs carved of pure marble, biceps and forearms hard as granite. How she longed to feel those arms around her, those lips against hers, those hands pulling the clothing from her body.

She moved closer to him, reaching out to touch him, laying her hand on his chest, above his heart. So strong, so smooth. Unable to stop herself, she pulled her dress over her head, pulled off her bra, let her panties drop to the floor, until she stood before him as naked as he was. She wrapped her arms around his waist, feeling his back, letting her hands wander down his back to his firm, unyielding buttocks. One hand strayed around to his front, between his legs. That too was hard as stone.

Her whole body trembled as she leaned up to press her lips against his, her breasts against his chest, her hips against his thighs. She wanted him, wanted to feel his weight on top of her and the warmth of his breath on her face and the hot hard flesh of his manhood inside her, wanted to kneel down and worship him and take him in her mouth and feel him come alive under her tongue. So strong. So hard. So... cold.

She stopped suddenly, pushed herself away and stood before him, her chest heaving. No, it was no good. The sculptor's hands had done their work too well, fashioning the perfect man. She could almost believe him real, he was so finely and realistically detailed, a Greek god turned to stone by some sorcerous curse, waiting twenty-five centuries for her to release him from his imprisonment. She desperately wanted to believe that she had the power within her body to free him from millennia of stony slumber, to restore life and warmth to his cold white marble flesh.

But no. He was made of stone, and it was pure foolishness to believe otherwise. His heart would never beat for her, his eyes would never look at her with tenderness or hunger, his mouth would never tell her how much he loved her and needed her and desired her. She was alone, and always would be, and neither god nor man would ever care for her or even notice her. Tears streamed down her face as she gathered up her clothes and fled the room that held the ancient stone god.

Damn it all, Apollo thought. I really thought I had reached her. It was the closest he had come in centuries. His divine powers were weakened to the point where influencing the mind of a mortal was difficult, almost an impossibility. Someday, though, he would finally tempt a woman to make love to him and free him from Medusa's curse at last.

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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 08:47
That was mine, bro. Good response time!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 10 Oct 2013, 08:57
ugh that font
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 10 Oct 2013, 09:04
All right, font tag removed.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 10:02
I've read the story now, and I really, really love it. This is what I was hoping for - people taking the theme and turning it on its head. Love it. Imagery was perfect.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 10 Oct 2013, 13:01
Zebediah, that was class work. Great descriptions and the ending was great.

Putting this in the spoiler for dark themes and the prompt under the second spoiler. Also this is 549 words, I make the most of word limits.  :-D

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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 13:11
Story:
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Theme:
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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 10 Oct 2013, 13:16
Jesus Christ, Welu, I had forgotten what theme I had given you and reading the story didn't help and JESUS CHRIST THAT IS DARK and fucking good, too!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 10 Oct 2013, 13:25
Whoo! Cheers, Gareth, glad you like it.

Love yours, the Twitter feed idea was neat and the way it escalates is awesome.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 10 Oct 2013, 13:57
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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 10 Oct 2013, 14:39
Okay, so maybe the theme I submitted WAS the worst one. Welu, that was mine, and you did a marvelous job at it.  :evil:

Gareth, that was amazing. A Twitter poem!

And Masterpiece, that was cool. And appropriately dark. And WAY better than the source material. Well done.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 10 Oct 2013, 14:47
ITT: Cool people with hidden writing skills. Zeb, your theme was really fun.

Something people might be interested in is the Tumblr WriteInspiration. (http://writeinspiration.tumblr.com) It's ran by LoliButt.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 10 Oct 2013, 20:06
oh boy.

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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 10 Oct 2013, 20:42
i so want to do this, but mine will have to wait for tomorrow
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 11 Oct 2013, 01:31
Nice job Henri! And I apologize if it was too hard, next time I'll submit an easier theme...
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 11 Oct 2013, 10:27
https://twitter.com/500Worder

Because why not, right?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 11 Oct 2013, 10:45
You should totally have posted them with a different victim and spaced out a bit, to see if the idiot contingent of the Internet thought it was real.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 11 Oct 2013, 11:36
Story:
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Theme:
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well done.

and i actually find the twittered version a bit easier to read, because of the formatting i think.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 11 Oct 2013, 11:44
You should totally have posted them with a different victim and spaced out a bit, to see if the idiot contingent of the Internet thought it was real.

The twist ending was the only original thing I brought to it... and also I was deliberately trying to avoid anyone thinking it was real. Also, it wouldn't seem real anyway because I tweeted it in reverse so you can read from the top (and not to spoil the end).
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 11 Oct 2013, 12:26
I already know what I'm gonna write, but I don't have the time right now. I'll probably do it tomorrow, so stay tuned.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 11 Oct 2013, 13:02
But why is it chronologically reverse?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 11 Oct 2013, 13:13
So the story progresses in the right order and you don't spoiler it for yourself, given that it has a twist ending.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 11 Oct 2013, 21:51
Nice job Henri! And I apologize if it was too hard, next time I'll submit an easier theme...

No, I meant 'terrifying' in a good way!  It's supposed to be a challenge, and I think I might take another crack at it, or expand on what I have (I don't usually have a problem with exceeding word limits, but there was a lot I had to cut out for this, haha).  And thank you :)

There's some really good shit going on here.  It can be hard to keep a writing group going on the internet, but I'm pretty optimistic about this one.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 14 Oct 2013, 05:22
finally got around to finishing my rough draft. went way over-budget on my word count, so i'll have to cut it down tomorrow for posting.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 17 Oct 2013, 00:28
So, when are we doing the second round?

...just noticed that not everyone is done yet...
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 17 Oct 2013, 02:33
Oh crap, I totally forgot about this. I promise my part will be up by tomorrow evening, at the latest.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 17 Oct 2013, 03:49
Yeah I figured rather than pile on more, we'd just give the last two a chance to finish off.

I am toying with the idea of doing all of my entries in Twitter format from now on.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 17 Oct 2013, 06:43
On the plus side, I have an idea for the next exercise, which I think should be fun.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Game and Watch Forever on 17 Oct 2013, 06:58
Work gave me the middle finger, so I haven't had a chance to do more than string an idea together. I'll get it done between my Friday night and Saturday morning though. I give up on my writing too often. I want this to make me feel like I'm at least a little accountable to someone(s).
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 17 Oct 2013, 07:16
Those who have yet to submit their piece - are you particularly worried if we proceed onwards and you play catchup, or would you rather we wait?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: ChaoSera on 17 Oct 2013, 07:19
Well, I plan on writing my piece either later today or tomorrow in the train, so I'm fine with both.

Either way, I'd like to present my idea for the next exercise before we move on. I think it's gonna be fun. :)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Game and Watch Forever on 17 Oct 2013, 07:28
I'd have a bigger issue with slowing us down, so catchup is fine! Go too slow and interest might fade.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 17 Oct 2013, 10:50
Okay people with ideas, want to PM me your ideas?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 18 Oct 2013, 01:08
em, er, yeah. of course when i said 'tomorrow' what i really meant was in 3 or 4 days. sorry guys


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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 18 Oct 2013, 08:55
That was mine which turns out to be really tame compared to other people. Although action and combat really is my least favourite thing to write because I'm terrible for over doing dialogue.

You did a great job with it. I like that you did it in first person.

Edit: J, were you inspired by Fallout New Vegas a bit?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 18 Oct 2013, 09:46
So, cyborg gladiators in an alternate-history Rome? Cool. Not an easy thing to pull off in 500 words.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 18 Oct 2013, 09:50
That was fucking awesome. This is what we started this for.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 18 Oct 2013, 13:31
J that is seriously good. I imagine this as an exposition to a larger book in that setting.
Don't go hatin on that stuff.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 19 Oct 2013, 03:46
thanks guys, i appreciate it.




Edit: J, were you inspired by Fallout New Vegas a bit?
never played it
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 20 Oct 2013, 21:29
So, cyborg gladiators in an alternate-history Rome? Cool. Not an easy thing to pull off in 500 words.
I imagine this as an exposition to a larger book in that setting.
i've been fascinated for some time now with the iceberg principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceberg_Theory). the idea of trying to tell a story without actually telling the story, using implication rather than exposition is something that that i toy with from time to time.


Quote from: Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 26 Oct 2013, 09:38
who are we waiting for again?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 26 Oct 2013, 14:51
Godot, I'd expect.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 26 Oct 2013, 19:59
Death.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 27 Oct 2013, 23:20
so here's an idea for the next exercize:

random topics like last time; however instead of making up a subject, we each pick a trope (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Tropes) to drop into the hat, and around which the story has to be built.

for a bit of extra fun, roll a die or something to decide if said trope must be played straight, averted, inverted, subverted, played for laughs, etc. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TropeTropes)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Taekwondoin on 11 Feb 2014, 03:42
Am I OK to join? I once had a short story published in a little arts magazine in Manchester, and I still enjoy writing now.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 11 Feb 2014, 03:56
You don't need qualifications to join, fella.

I've been thinking of winding the gears on this back up again. I'm not sure on the tropes thing though because I'm not totally familiar on those things work.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Taekwondoin on 11 Feb 2014, 04:18
Awesome.

So should we come up with a few new idea's then?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 11 Feb 2014, 04:19
I'm game if other people are.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 12 Feb 2014, 14:16
I'll give it another go.  I like J's idea of working with tropes.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 12 Feb 2014, 14:32
I'm still in. Just give me a topic and I'll run with it. Or don't give me a topic and I may still run with it.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 14 Feb 2014, 20:06
I'm still up for it, time permitting as always.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 16 Feb 2014, 16:08
I'll be up for it
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 16 Feb 2014, 16:14
I'm still up for it, time permitting as always.
Same.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: henri bemis on 20 Apr 2014, 22:57
We don't need to wait for organized challenges.  What if everyone posts challenge ideas, and everyone tackles them as they want?  If you post an idea, I'd say give a tag so everyone knows the origin, but otherwise, words for everywhere!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Asterus on 21 Apr 2014, 05:09
I've just been finding little bits of inspiration everywhere and working with them (Probably because I don't want to study for exams)

For example: Create a context for this song/image
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 21 Apr 2014, 05:14
Any other limits? (Word count etc?)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Asterus on 21 Apr 2014, 09:58
On a personal level, I've always hated the idea of a word count. Yeah, it works to organize something like for NaNoWriMo, but actually keeping track of a quota of sorts ruins the fun for me :P
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 21 Apr 2014, 11:55
I have a couple of challenge ideas which I will post when I next get to my PC.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Taekwondoin on 21 Apr 2014, 15:34
I'm pretty much up for anything to be honest, I just feel that I need to be challenged.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 21 Apr 2014, 15:44
I have a friend who works at Solaris (he's the editor-in-chief, I'M A PRETTY BIG DEAL) and he releases short story compendiums, and the themes are great ones. One of them is haunted houses, which I think we could all do something with. Doesn't even have to be horror, and another was the London Underground, although it doesn't HAVE to be London, Simon Bestwick did one about Manchester's doomed subway system (if you were to sum up Simon Bestwick's oeuvre, it would be with the words 'doomed' and 'Manchester') and there was one about the Paris Metro and the New York Subway.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 21 Apr 2014, 19:36
probably best to avoid things that are too geography specific.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 30 Apr 2014, 14:38
Well yeah, but the point was just that you could make it thematically about a tube train. Or even just a train.

Also I keep forgetting to reply to this at my PC because I read this on my phone so often.

Anyway I was talking to Unicorn and accidentally wrote a poem about something that happened to me:
'Last September.
It was weirdly warm but the leaves were falling
And I was just reflecting on how I live in this cozy little fucking town
But every one of these doors could have violence behind it.
And I ended up hallucinating blood dripping from the trees slightly
No idea why.
I was walking home from work.'
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 01 May 2014, 04:22
I have a half-written story about a subway inspired by this challenge. It's the T in Boston instead of the London Underground, because that's the subway I know best. Hopefully I'll finish it and post it by tomorrow.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 01 May 2014, 04:38
Well shit, guys, shall we all just have a go at it then? Zebediah's making us all look like chumps!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 01 May 2014, 05:09
I also have a half-finished short story, but I am still struggling with some dialogue atm.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 02 May 2014, 09:09
Well shit, guys, shall we all just have a go at it then? Zebediah's making us all look like chumps!

And an ill-timed bout with the stomach flu is making me look like a chump. It'll be Monday at the earliest before I feel up to finishing this thing.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 23 Jun 2014, 10:02
So I am sleep deprived, which is why what I wrote may be slightly disturbing.

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Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Thrillho on 23 Jun 2014, 10:16
That is fucking brilliant.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 23 Jun 2014, 15:18
I like that a lot!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 16 Sep 2014, 13:09
Why

Why does it pain me so? It is none of my business.
You are two adults
(if not particularly mature ones, (it needs to be said for posterity and the preservation of truth))
and you decided to part ways.
(well, one of you decided (and the other is lead on the leash you cut (spinning out of each other's gravity field)))
The one decided. The other hurt. The third had seen the writing on the walls.

Who

Who are those three?
Words fail to describe them, (would not do them justice)
all awesome people in their own way.
All young in years - there is hope
that maybe their stories be forgotten (although, from a sentimentalist point of view, that is certainly also sad and should be reconsidered with great care.)
And they all hurt. (They are certainly not the first ones to be in that particular arrangement, (but they believe themselves to be unique, obviously))

How

How do they hurt?
Well, you see, it hurts when stuff doesn't work out - for the first.
It hurts when you are hurt - for the second.
It hurts when you had seen this coming, and when their leash was lashes to you, but still you hoped it held.
And when you have no words to say to either.
(Side note, there are awesome puns to be made
with the words lead (as the verb), lead (as the weight),
lead (as a cord to lead a pet on), leash (that very same) and lashes (hits delivered with a cord).
(Unfortunately, they are not the topic of this... art. Let's call it art.))
That's - for the third.

What now?

Get well soon, you precious three.
(There are no condoms for feelings.)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 23 Nov 2014, 01:12
just for larfs i went and picked up a writing prompt from reddit

Quote from: [WP] You're a human trader for the intergalactic slave market. Advertise to buyers why they should buy human instead of another species.  (http://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/2n2uup/wp_youre_a_human_trader_for_the_intergalactic/)
“Welcome Matriarch, to my humble shop. May I say that you smell exceptionally fertile this morning, the next generation of your hive will surely be vast and numerous.” Blyzzyx attempts a Grilnar salute; or the closest he can manage with no antennae.

“.*-..*--*.* *..**---**” The Brood-Mother of Grilnar Hive 78 clicks acknowledgment. “*-*-*.* -**..*--”

“Yes, the Arch-Baroness of Betelgeuse has been a valued client for many standards. I must thank her for recommending me to your service.”

“..*-.” She makes a gesture with her lower antennae that Blyzzyx doesn't recognize, then turns her attention toward the display racks.

“I see the mk.35 has caught your attention. One of the best general-purpose mecha-drones on the market. Robust, efficient, and hard-points for mounting anything from a plasma-welder, to a positron-cannon.” Blyzzyx gestures toward the other models on display, “We've got other models designed for specific tasks, but nothing matches the versatility of the mk.35”

The Brood-Mother leans close to the mk.35, inspecting it with her feelers. “.*-.*. *---.*.** ..*. . . .***.-.* *.”

“You've a sensitive antenna, Matriarch. Yes, the 35 is composed entirely of standardized parts. No proprietary tech anywhere on the main chassis; keeps the maintenance costs down, and makes them entirely customizable to your exact needs.”

“*--*-**--- --- - -** -. . .*”

“Oh certainly, you could get a similar unit from Krok the Sub-Rational, or even have it build you an identical one. As I said, off-the-shelf parts.” Blyzzyx lowers his eye-stalks conspiratorially, “But that's not why the Arch-Baroness recommended me to you. What makes our labor and combat drones unique isn't the chassis, it's the control-unit.”

“Our organic-computer control-units are completely unique in the industry. Nobody has anything like them; not even Krok the Sub-Rational.” Blyzzyx leads the Brood-Mother to the back desk, and produces a round glass tank from a small cabinet. The tank contains a wrinkled wad of gray goo floating in clear liquid, pierced with fiber-optic strands leading to a comparatively normal interface port. “This is only a preserved display model, of course. We keep the real units in stasis prior to activation.”

“--*-*---*. . .*- --- *- .- -.--...- -.” The Brood-Mother asks.

“That's the real beauty of it, they don't need to be programmed at all; it's a learning computer! Just install one into a chassis of your choice, turn it on, and it figures everything out on it's own. And it only gets smarter over time: learns to anticipate commands without being told, dynamically improvises solutions to novel problems, and adapts to any situation you can throw it into. No other A.I. system on the market can match them for versatility or creative problem solving. And because each unit develops its own unique 'personality' (for lack of a better term), they're virtually hack-proof”

“.-.-...-.* .**.**-*--.*.-.-.- .*.- .*.- -.-.* *..* .*.*.  - -  * * - ***-.*.-.**.----*....*.-... … ….. .*” The Brood-Mother clicks quizzically.

“Very astute Matriarch, indeed it doesn't need to be a standard drone-chassis. In fact, we routinely install them into shipboard navigation arrays, scientific probes, missile guidance systems, anything that could stand to be a bit smarter.”

“...*.- *.*.- --- *.*  -- * * * *”

“The chassis runs on a standard electrical power-supply. However, the control-unit requires a special nutrient-slurry, which we can provide on a subscription plan.”

“.--.-..* . ** * * . -” The Brood-Mother clicks, sweeping her antennae up and down.

“Excellent Matriarch, you do us a great honor. I am certain you will be most pleased. How many units would you like delivered?”

“*”

Blyzzyx eye-stalks go rigid for a moment, before he can compose himself, “We can provide you with one-hundred and fifty operational drones right now, Matriarch.” His eye-stalks droop apologetically, “However, you see, the control-units are delicate and hard to come by.”

“* ---* *-* ..-.-. * ..-... *--** ...-.”

“I'm afraid I cannot tell you that, Matriarch.” Blyzzyx's eye-stalks twitch, “The location and identity of our suppliers is a strict trade secret.” they twitch again, “However, we may be able to secure the first thousand in as little as nine deca-cycles.”
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 23 Nov 2014, 10:08
I really liked that. Good salesman speak.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: explicit on 24 Nov 2014, 22:24
Question! I don't know what's going on here, but I'm trying to write more so I have a healthy habit for once, so what's all this about then?

Anyway, this is just a small part of a story I'm working on (the premise being the main character has schizophrenia of sorts, except he and his voice are friends, kinda..). Most of the story is dialogue (which is so hard to copy over in this format), I'm trying to make it as funny as I can, but I don't know how it comes off to other people, which I guess is why I'm showing you this small part. (There is offensive material, fyi, it's supposed to be ridiculous. The voice is in italics)

(click to show/hide)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Kugai on 27 Nov 2014, 19:11
Well, there is this little gem I started but never got round to carrying on


(click to show/hide)


Just a small sample of where I write from.  Planning to pick this up again at some stage.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: J on 13 Dec 2014, 04:45
just watched a really interesting q&a session with stephen king, wherein he talks about his method, his thoughts on characters, inspiration, etc.

Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 16 Dec 2014, 17:06
A small excerpt from a letter I wrote, which I like so much I wish to paste it here.

Stuff in brackets is translated, the other stuff was written like that in English.

Quote
[There is so much, so much, so much shit in the world. 80 (?) transgender dead per year after latest count on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. 126(?) dead children from islamist(?) attacks on a school. People attacking moslems on trains. #illridewithyou, that that is at all necessary.]
And yet still you fight. Between all that, you still somehow manage to not fall down on your knees and not watch the world crumble to pieces. No, where you will be found is standing on a turned over box, preaching compassion for the victims and destruction for the bigoted, with the sound and fury of the righteous.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 22 Jan 2015, 01:33
Quote
You humans are weird.
You carry around those pictures in your heads, those pictures of reality how you perceive it, or how you model it. You put labels on things, you say stuff like "Oh, surely you as his girlfriend would know...." and "Don't tell me you haven't seen this movie! It's a mustsee for nerds!" You put expectations into your pictures, and most of the time, you aren't even aware of the pictures in your head, until it is pointed out to you in a way you cannot ignore and then sometimes you even notice the picture doesn't match reality. Then there is a brief moment, when you repaint the picture in your head, when your world shatters and you lose that preconception you had.
In that brief moment, while you scramble for reality to make sense, that is when one of us is born. We make a hesitant flutter with our tiny wings, and when we are finished, you have already rewritten your narrative to make sense. But that doesn't matter anymore - there is a new fairy born.

Children have those moments far more often. The experience is far less painful for them. They are happy about learning something new - that is where that old tale about us being born from their laugh comes from.

I bet our existence is not in your picture of reality.

We cannot create more of us ourselves. We perceive everything that might be, we don't have preconceptions. Our world never shatters. We are not human, after all.

I am one of the last ones.
I am lonely.

Would you please seek out those moments which might break your pictures?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 22 Jan 2015, 09:49
That's lovely.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 18 Mar 2015, 09:29
Before I post this story, a brief explanation of how it came to be.

Last week this came across my Facebook feed: An Illustration of Charlie Brown and Snoopy as Post-Apocalyptic Survivors (http://laughingsquid.com/an-illustration-of-charlie-brown-and-snoopy-as-post-apocalyptic-survivors/)

(click to show/hide)

This got some thoughts percolating in my head, which brewed into the following story that features the Charlie Brown and Snoopy of the picture - as well as a few other characters you might recognize.

(click to show/hide)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 18 Mar 2015, 09:40
I like.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 19 Mar 2015, 15:37
I like also.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 20 Mar 2015, 03:27
Thanks! The idea of these two characters, of all people, becoming hard-ass mercenaries was kind of fun to work with.

... And now I have more of the post-apocalyptic adventures of Marten Reed trying to take over my mind. Argh. I'll see if I have time to write them down next week.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 22 Mar 2015, 13:13
Related to your story: http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=2058
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 27 Mar 2015, 10:37
That's just plain cruel.

And this story just won't leave me alone, so what follows is part 1 of The Post-Apocalyptic Adventures of Marten Reed. I don't have any idea how long this is going to be yet or how long it will take me to get it all written. I'll post the chapters as they come to me.



I stood the doorway of what had once been a coffee shop in Northampton, Massachusetts. But that had been a long time ago.

I took a couple of steps inside and lowered my heavy backpack to the floor of the shop. The glass in the front window was smashed out, and there weren't even any fragments of it left. The tables and chairs were gone, and the counter also, probably broken up for firewood. And yet the old shop was strangely clean, without any trash or animal droppings or even windblown leaves, as if someone had been keeping it tidy. The walls were bare except for an old chalkboard. On it someone had  written, very small, There is nothing special any more.

I shouldn't have come here. I had known it would be a mistake. But I couldn't stop myself, even though I feared the old memories the empty shop would bring back.

What actually happened was worse. It brought back no memories at all.

I could still remember things that had happened here, of course. Many of those things were good, some of them were bad, others just – mundane, I suppose, but still memories of a better time. And yet my mind refused to acknowledge that any of those things had happened here. The place where I had spent so much time all those years ago had vanished, and what remained was an empty shell that held nothing.

Or perhaps it was just that the person I had been in those days was gone, leaving behind – whoever I am now.

I was about to leave when I saw a shadow on the back wall that wasn't mine. Someone was standing in the doorway behind me, blocking the late-afternoon sunshine. And then I heard the click of a rifle bolt being pulled back.

I turned slowly, keeping my hands at my side, very deliberately not reaching for any of my weapons. There was a kid standing in the doorway. A teenaged boy, maybe fifteen, tall and extremely skinny, light brown skin, curly hair. And he had a .22 rifle aimed at my chest.

"We don't like strangers around here," he hissed.

"I'm not a stranger," I told him. "I'm from here."

"Well, I don't know you."

"But I know you." He looked skeptical, so I said, "Hello, Franklin. It's been a long time."

"How do you know my name?" the boy snarled.

"I... knew your parents."

"I didn't." The barrel of the rifle remained pointed at my chest.

"Well then, I also know your stepmothers," I told him. "Both of them."

"I don't believe you."

I sighed. "Your father," I told him, "used to work here. Your mother shared an apartment with my best friend's boyfriend. They were good friends of mine."

"And now they're dead."

"I know," I said softly.

"My father was killed by a bounty hunter when I was three years old," Franklin said. "By someone like you."

"I know," I said. "I was there."

He gave me a sharp look, but the barrel of the rifle wavered slightly. "Look," I said, "we could stand here and trade memories all day. Or you could shoot me. Or you could let me go on my way. Which is it going to be?"

"The sheriff is going to want to see you," the boy mumbled, lowering the rifle.

"Good. I'd like to see her again too," I said. "Why don't you run along and let her know that Marten Reed is back in town? She'll know where to find me."

Franklin glared at me for a long moment, then turned and stalked out the door. I stayed behind for a moment, looking around the old coffee shop one last time. But it was empty even of ghosts.

I hoisted my pack onto my back. Then I went out into the street and turned left, walking past the rusting hulks of burned-out cars and the broken windows of abandoned shops, avoiding the patches of potentially poisonous weeds that grew in the cracks of the street. A blue-furred rat the size of a corgi peeked out at me from a sewer grate. Somewhere overhead a bird flew, shouting obscenities.

It was good to be home.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: cesium133 on 27 Mar 2015, 10:46
That is awesome.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 27 Mar 2015, 10:54
Dora? Please let it be Dora.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 27 Mar 2015, 12:39
So...Franklin is Dale/Marigold's son? And they're is dead? The only male that we know of that worked at CoD is Dale, and Marten's best friend's (ex-)boyfriend is Angus.

I would guess that 'stepmothers' refers to Dora/Tai, and it looks like neither of those are the sheriff. I'm thinking that that's either Hanners or Momo.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 27 Mar 2015, 13:15
Yes, Franklin's full name is Franklin Fighterjet Farmer, child of Dale and Marigold, both deceased. As for the rest, the identity of the stepmothers and the sheriff should be made clear in the next part. Or possibly the part after that, depending on how long it turns out.

Although... Sheriff Hannelore? That's a possibility that honestly hadn't occurred to me.  :psyduck:

Thanks for the comments! This is one of those that has grabbed hold of my brain and won't let go, so expect to see more soon - hopefully Monday or Tuesday.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 27 Mar 2015, 13:22
:D

EDIT: Happyface for more story, not for dead people.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 30 Mar 2015, 08:02
Next chapter, which contains about half the answers I'd promised. But it was a good place to break, and hopefully I'll have more written in a few days.



There is no way to keep a working bakery secret. I could smell the fresh bread half a block away. It was the most obvious sign of continued life in the entire town.

A bell on the door jingled as I entered. A woman's voice called from the back, "Be right with you!" I smiled, because I knew who she was even before she came out front.

She had long brown hair streaked with gray. She wasn't much over thirty, but looked a great deal older.  Skinny, of course – nearly everyone was these days. Thick dark glasses hid her eyes, and she used a long stick to feel her way to the shop's counter.

"If you're here for the bread, we have a couple of loaves left from this morning's batch," she announced. "I've got corn muffins going now..."

"I'm not here for the bread," I said.

She gasped. "Marten? Is that you?" she asked. "Is that really..." She felt her way out from behind the counter and came towards me.

"Hi, little sister," I said. "Sorry I was gone for so long."

Sam stumbled on an uneven floor tile and I caught her before she fell. She brought her hands up to my face, feeling my forehead and nose. "It is you," she sighed. "I thought... After all these years, I figured something must have happened to you."

"Lots of things happened to me," I told her.

There was a small table by one of the windows, and I walked her over to it. We both sat down.

"So, you're back," Sam said. I got the impression that she would have been crying if she'd still had eyes to cry with.

"Yeah," I said.

"Did you ever..."

"No. I haven't found her yet."

"Oh." Sam gripped my hands tightly.

"What about you?" I asked. "Surely you aren't running this place all by yourself?"

Sam shrugged. "Hannelore helps out on her more lucid days. Today isn't one of those. She forgot a couple of days ago, and tried to go back to work at the old coffee shop... She does that every now and then..."

"Huh. I thought that place looked suspiciously clean." I hesitated, and then asked, "What about Elliot?"

"Gone six years now," Sam said. "Some kind of cancer."

"Damn, I'm sorry, Sam," I said. "If I'd known..."

But then the doorbell jangled again, and Franklin strode into the bakery. And he'd brought someone else with him. "There he is, mom," Franklin said, pointing straight at me.

"You," she said, her tone full of accusation. "I thought I told you never to show your face in this town again."

She was a small woman, wearing a khaki uniform and a silver star-shaped badge. Her right hand rested on a holstered semi-automatic handgun. Her hair and skin were both blue, and made of plastic.

"Well, May, technically you told me not to come back as long as there was a price on my head," I countered. "I got that settled a while back."

"Huh." May didn't look any happier. "Meaning what, exactly?"

"Meaning that the people who put the price on my head are no longer in a position to pay it."

"Right," May said, a sour expression on her face. "Well. Don't expect me to welcome you back, Reed. The best friend I ever had died because he took a bullet that was meant for you. It may have been twelve years ago, but I'm still pissed about that. And it left his son an orphan. I've been raising ol' Fighter Jet here as best I can, but I'm no substitute."

I shrugged. "What happened, happened. And when the hell did you become sheriff? What happened to..."

"Hah!" May actually cracked a smile. "Deputy sheriff, thank you very much, which is more than enough fuckin' irony for my tastes." Then her smile grew darker. "And as deputy sheriff, I have all the authority I need to run your sorry ass out of town before anyone else gets killed on your account. You've got one hour..."

"Don't you think you should check that with me first?" challenged a voice from the doorway.

The sheriff had arrived.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 30 Mar 2015, 11:22
Quote
I got the impression that she would have been crying if she'd still had eyes to cry with.

 :cry:

Quote
silver star-shaped badge. [...] Her hair and skin were both blue, and made of plastic.

Wondered about that.

Quote
I've been raising ol' Fighter Jet here as best I can, but I'm no substitute.

Did not think of that.

bakery secret

...not sure if gusta.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 30 Mar 2015, 17:29
I sure hope the sheriff is Lin Bei Fong.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 07 Apr 2015, 08:41
Look, more story! With an actual plot starting to develop!



She looked, at first glance, like a twelve-year-old girl who had found a bottle of pink hair dye. Then you saw her eyes, and realized this was no twelve-year-old. No little girl ever had eyes that scary, even if they were pink. Her skin was a high-quality polymer that looked almost human.

"Hello, Marten," she said quietly.

"Hi Momo," I answered. "Long time."

May gave Momo a cold stare. "You're going to let him stay."

"He has a right to be here," Momo said.

May didn't look convinced. "What right?"

"He's my brother," Sam said. "He stays."

May made a rude noise, but Momo nodded her head as she pulled a chair up to the table where Sam and I were sitting. "As long as he likes. Which is not going to be very long, is it?"

I shook my head. "I'm just... looking for news, that's all. If there is any."

"About Claire."

"About Claire," I repeated.

Momo leaned back in her chair and looked thoughtful. Then she closed her eyes and sighed. "I have a feeling I am going to regret telling you this, but – I may have some."

I sat up straight in my chair. "You do? What? When?"

Momo shook her head sadly. "I do not have news about Claire's whereabouts exactly, but I may have information about someone who might possibly know where she is."

"Tell me," I demanded.

"Two years ago," Momo began, "I received a very peculiar e-mail."

"Wait – you still get e-mail?"

May laughed. "The internet was designed to survive a fuckin' nuclear holocaust, dude. Yeah, it's pretty fragmented, but every once in a while something connects to something else and some messages get through."

Momo nodded. "Based on an analysis of the headers, the message bounced around various subnets for over a year before it finally reached me. Its only content was an executable file that I did not run, for reasons I hope are obvious. The sender claimed to be Clinton Augustus."

"Clinton," I mused. "Yeah, if anyone knows where Claire is, it would be her brother. So where was he?"

Momo looked very sad. "I am so sorry, Marten," she said in a soft voice. "But the message originated from a server at Massachusetts General Hospital."

"In Boston," I said, as my heart sank. "Shit."

"Marten," Sam said, grabbing my hands and holding them tightly, "No. You are not going into Boston. Not for any reason."

"If there's any chance of finding Claire there..." I began.

"No way, dude," May said. "Boston's a friggin' death trap. Everybody knows that."

"I know people who have gone in and gotten back out alive," I said. "It can be done."

"Alone?" Sam objected. "You won't have a chance."

"Agreed," Momo said. "Which is why I am going with him."

"What?" May exclaimed, while Franklin shouted "Mama, no, you can't!"

"Claire was my friend as well," Momo insisted. "I owe it to her, and to Marten."

"Fuck that," May said. "You are not going, Momo, no way."

"I cannot in good conscience send Marten in to Boston alone," Momo countered.

May sighed. "I know, I know," she said. "Which is why I'll be the one going with him."

Momo looked taken aback. "I do not think..."

"This town needs you, Momo," May said. "You're the sheriff of Northampton."

"You will act as sheriff in my absence."

"No fuckin' way. You're the glue that holds this whole frickin' place together. Not me. You. So I'm going with Reed."

"Don't I get a say in this?" I asked.

"No," May and Momo said in unison, and they went back to staring at each other.

"Mom, no," Franklin said, grabbing on to May's arms. "What – what if you get hurt?"

May smiled up at him. "Oh, my little Fighter Jet," she said. "I promised your father I'd look out for you. And that means making sure there's a place where you can live in safety. Mama Momo is the one who keeps this town safe. I help out as much as I can, but it's really all her." She turned to look at me, and her expression hardened. "And I am not going to let any more of the people I love get killed because of this guy. So I'm going with him, and Momo is staying here."

"But Franklin has a valid point," Momo said. "What if you are damaged?"

May shrugged. "Spare parts for me are a dime a dozen. That's the advantage of having a cheap mass-produced body. We have enough parts to rebuild me completely three times if we have to. And you know damned well how hard it is to find spare parts for you, Miss Fancy High-End Japanese Chassis."

Momo closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. "I was right," she said. "I am regretting this already." She opened her eyes and turned to look at May. "All right. You win."

"Damned straight I do," May said with a grin. "So, asshole, when do we leave?"

"Tomorrow morning, first light," I said, surrendering to the inevitable. "I'll meet you here."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 15 Apr 2015, 08:27
My dreams that night were the kind that you can't quite remember after you wake up screaming from them. After the fourth time, I gave up on trying to get back to sleep. It was nearly dawn anyway, so I packed my things and followed the smell of baking bread downstairs.

Sam was already up, of course – she was used to baker's hours, and didn't need light to work. But I was surprised to see someone else working behind the counter.

She was tall, and while she had always been thin, she was now little more than skin and bones. Her hair had been platinum blonde once but was now pure white. And the expression in her eyes was enough to warn anyone that she wasn't quite sane even by modern standards. She hadn't been entirely in her right mind even before the world ended.

"Hello, Marten!" she called in a cheery voice. "Coffee?"

The liquid in the coffee pot she held was foamy and green, and smelled unspeakably foul. Which would have been worth it if it had contained any amount of caffeine, but I knew better than that. "Hi, Hanners," I said quietly. "I, uh, think I'll pass."

"Okay then! Just your usual?"

I hadn't seen Hannelore in twelve years, but she seemed oblivious to that. Knowing her, she probably didn't remember that I was no longer a regular customer. "Sure," I said, wondering what my "usual" was.

It turned out to be a slice of warm cornbread with actual butter on it, along with clover tea. I wolfed down the bread and was just finishing the tea when Momo and May arrived.

"Hi Momo!" Hannelore called. "Coffee?"

"No thank you," Momo said, looking a bit sad.

"We don't drink," May muttered under her breath, in a tone that said she'd had this conversation before.

"Are you prepared?" Momo asked me.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I said. "Are you still coming?" I asked May.

"Can't believe I talked myself into this suicide mission," May said. "Okay, what's the plan? Please tell me we're not taking the Mass Pike."

"Now that would be a suicide mission. No." I pulled an old, tattered Massachusetts highway map out of my pack and spread it out on the table. "We cross the river at Holyoke, then east along old route 202 and pick up route 9 at Belchertown," I said. "Once we're past the Quabbin we cut northeast cross-country, avoiding Worcester."

"Damn straight," May said. "I hear Worcester is a crazy place."

"We'll pick up route 2 just east of Leominster, and follow that east. We'll stay north of the Charles River all the way into Cambridge, and then cross at the Longfellow Bridge."

Momo nodded. "Yes. That will keep you out of Boston until the last possible moment."

"If all goes according to plan we should be there in four days," I said. "Then we see what's what."

"The roads are clear as far as Belchertown, so I could give you a lift," Momo said. "We still have several functioning cars."

"Thanks," I said. "That will save us half a day."

"Starting to get light out," May said. "We ought to get moving."

Sam came out from the back then, and felt her way around the counter to where I was standing. She hugged me tightly, but couldn't get any words out.

"Hey, I'll come back," I said. "And maybe next time I'll be able to stay a little longer."

Sam nodded then, and let me go.

"Bye Marten!" Hannelore called as I headed for the door. "Say hi to Faye for me!"

I stopped in my tracks then, just for a moment. But saying goodbye to a girl I used to know, who couldn't remember that most of our mutual friends were long gone, was just too much to take. I fled the bakery without saying another word.

Momo's car was a battered old Tesla SUV. May and I piled our gear in the back and climbed in. We were all silent as Momo drove us east, navigating her way around enormous potholes and the occasional decaying frames of abandoned vehicles. An hour later we were at the deserted town common of Belchertown.

"This is as far as I can take you," Momo said. "The road is completely washed out beyond here."

"Thanks for the lift," I said.

Momo nodded, and then turned to May. They stared at each other wordlessly for a long moment, and then embraced tightly. "Come back to me," Momo whispered.

"You know it," May said. And I stared in stunned disbelief as they locked lips in a passionate kiss.

A minute later they separated, and Momo climbed into the SUV and drove off.

"Well," I said, shouldering my pack.

"Yeah," May answered with a ridiculous grin on her face.

"Didn't see that coming."

"Ha! Me neither, the first time." May's eyes twinkled. "Turns out raising a kid together can make people close, you know?"

"Yeah, I guess I can see that."

"Knocked me for a loop when I realized that I had feelings for her. Totally gobsmacked me when it turned out she loved me too."

"Yeah," I said. "I've been there."

"Guess so," May said. "Momo downloaded everything she knew about you and your girlfriend to me last night. Turns out she saw the two of you getting together way before it actually happened."

"Momo always was the smartest person I know," I said. "So you know all about Claire, huh?"

"Oh yeah. Geeky librarian girl with glasses. Curly red hair that is practically an eldritch horror from beyond time and space. Truly atrocious puns. And a nasty hardware-software conflict that for some reason you meatheads thought was a secret."

"Yeah, that's Claire, all right," I said.

"So, let me get my pack set, and we'll be off." She pulled a piece of black fabric from a side pocket and pinned it to the top of her pack.

"Solar cloth?" I asked.

"Yeah," May said, as she plugged a cable from the cloth into a port behind her ear. "Power management is going to be a bitch on this trip. The old batteries don't hold a charge the way they did when they were new."

"That's not going to be enough to keep you charged, though, is it?"

"Not hardly," May said. "But it'll help. With this, I ought to have enough power to get to Boston and back."

"And if you don't?"

"I've got more cloth in the pack. About a hundred square meters. Lay the whole thing out on a sunny day and let me sit still for ten hours, it should recharge me."

"Okay then. Let's get moving."

It was slow going that day. The old highway was in pretty bad shape, and most of the bridges were out, victims of the chaos that followed the collapse of the government. A pack of coyotes started tailing us at one point in the early afternoon, but they were smart enough to understand what a pointed rifle meant, and decided to find easier prey.

As the sun sank towards the western horizon we were passing through the town of Barre. All was silent, but May looked nervous. "This place isn't deserted," she whispered to me.

"Nope," I said. "But they're not interested in us. They fly a flag on the town common if they want to talk to anyone from the outside. I've done work for them before."

"What kind of 'work'?" May asked, sounding skeptical.

"They're survivors of the vampire plague," I said.

"Shit! And you're not running scared?"

"They got a mutated version of it," I explained. "They got the extreme photosensitivity, so they don't come out during the day. And they got the iron deficiency, so they keep a herd of cattle and eat a lot of red meat. But they didn't get the compulsion to attack other people and drink their blood."

"Fucker who engineered that virus ought to be burned at the stake, if he's even still alive," May muttered.

"The problem is," I continued, "is that every now and then one of them does go off the deep end and develop hemocannibalism. That's when they put up the flag. All the mercs who pass through here know about it. I've had to hunt down and eliminate a couple of vampires for them."

"Fuck," May snarled. "As if there aren't enough dead people in the world." She clammed up then, and didn't talk as we headed out of town.

We made camp that night in an abandoned house a few miles outside of Barre. The chimney was intact, so we brought wood in to make a fire. May tossed a small black brick into the fire, and plugged a cable from it into her power socket.

"Neat," I said.

May shrugged. "It's not the most efficient way to charge up, but it'll work."

"You okay?" I asked.

"I don't know," May answered. "I mean... Living in Northampton, with Momo and Fighter Jet, sometimes I can forget how shitty the world is, you know? I mean, it's still nothing like it was before. To think that people used to go into space..."

"Yeah, I know," I said. "I got to go to space once."

"Marigold told me about it once. You got to go to the ECTech station. You got to meet John Ellicott-Chatham. You motherfucker. Fuck fuck fuck." May closed her eyes, and I got the impression that she would have been crying if she'd been capable of it. "I remember the night the ECTech station de-orbited. Made a trail of fire all across the sky. It was like... I don't know. Like watching God die."

"Yeah, I remember that too," I said. "Hannelore... was never the same after that."

"Fuck!" May shouted. "I could hate you meatheaded assholes for killing the world, except I know fucking well that AIs were just as responsible for it. And so instead of flying to the stars we're all stuck down here in a world of shit. And I'm not going to space today, or ever. Shit fuck goddamn."

"I'm sorry," I said quietly.

"Leave me alone," May whispered. So I rolled over and went to sleep, while she stared into the fire, lost in thought.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 15 Apr 2015, 10:23
https://xkcd.com/1133/
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 30 Apr 2015, 08:06
Sorry this chapter took so long - I didn't have much time for writing last week.



The next morning was cloudy and threatening rain. We set out early in an effort to cover as much ground as we could before we had to take shelter. May and I agreed that they didn't look like the kind of clouds that would produce poisonous rain, but you could never be sure.

About noon the clouds started getting darker and the wind picked up. "We should find a place to hole up now," I said.

"Too right," May agreed. "Looks like there's a building just past those trees."

It turned out to be an old barn on the edge of an overgrown farm pasture. The roof looked intact, though all the paint had long since peeled off the acid-scarred wooden boards of the walls. "Ought to do to ride out the storm," I said.

"Let's check it out," May said, checking her rifle.

We both held our weapons at ready as we went inside. The barn had old stalls for horses or cows, but naturally they were empty now. "Looks clear," I said.

But then May brought her weapon up. "Something up above," she hissed.

I looked up at the hay loft. "Rats? Birds?" I guessed.

But then something shot out of the darkness overhead and hit me hard in the chest, knocking me flat on my back. My rifle was torn from my hands and flung away from me. Then it turned on May.

It looked like a large dog. A large, hairless, metal dog with glowing eyes and chrome teeth. May got off one shot that ricocheted off the robot dog's steel skull. Then it charged. May tried to dodge, but it sank its teeth into her left leg and started thrashing her back and forth like a rag doll.

I struggled to my feet and looked around for something – anything – I could use as a weapon. I saw what appeared to be a rusted pitchfork leaning against a wall. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. I grabbed it, moved behind the dog, and stabbed downward with all my strength.

It worked about as well as I expected. The tines on the pitchfork broke, though one lodged itself in the dog's hip joint. It shook its head, and there was a loud tearing noise as flung May against the wall of the barn. Then in an instant it had turned and was facing me. It paused for a moment to size me up, then readied itself to attack again.

Just before the dog charged, I heard a high-pitched whine. May had crawled up behind the robot, and she grabbed the robot just as it crouched to leap at me. There was a bright flash and a smell of burning electronics.

The next thing I knew the dog was on its back, thrashing about in convulsions. May crawled towards it, tore open a panel on the dog's chest, and yanked a handful of wires out. The robot beast stiffened and lay still.

"Fuck," May said softly.

"What," I gasped, "was that?"

"Wolfhound," May said. "Military bot. I was friends with the prototype, a long time ago. Fuck." She grimaced, and sat down, trying to straighten out her damaged leg.

"Shit," I said. "How bad?"

"Bad," was May's only answer.

I looked, and could see that she wasn't joking. A large chunk of blue plastic flesh had been torn from her knee, and white fluid oozed from inside. Worse, the torn end of a metal cable protruded from the wound. May probed the damage with her fingers. "Shit," she said, in a strangely flat voice. "I am so fucked."

"Can you walk?"

May just frowned and dug her fingers deeper into the injury. "If I can just..." she began, with a look of intense concentration on her face. Then there was a metallic click, and she sighed.

"There, I've got the knee joint locked," she said. "I can hobble along, for a little while."

"For how long?" I asked.

"Not long enough," she said. "That shock I gave the wolfhound damn near drained my batteries. I've got a mile, maybe two, before I shut down."

I could hear heavy raindrops starting to hit the roof overhead. "Well, looks like we aren't going anywhere for a while," I said.

"So what now?" May's face was devoid of hope.

"We wait out the rain, then we turn back," I said. "They have some working solar panels in Barre – if we can get you that far we can at least recharge you."

"If the vamps are even willing to help us," May muttered.

"They aren't vampires," I said. "They're actually good people. They'll help."

"Then what?"

"We get you back to Northampton and get you fixed."

May eyed me curiously. "You'd actually give up on finding your girlfriend to help me out?"

I shrugged. "Once you're fixed we can try again. The message from Clinton, if it really was Clinton, is three years old. A week or two more won't make much difference."

"Guess not," May conceded. "Look, I better shut down until we're ready to go again. Wake me up when the rain stops, okay?"

"Um, where's your on/off button?"

"Ha! Wouldn't you like to know?" May actually grinned a little. "Just tap me on the shoulder. I'll wake up."

So there I was, hiding in an abandoned barn in central Massachusetts with only a sleeping robot for company, while the rain poured down. I took a look outside. I had seen rain before that could raise blisters on exposed flesh and dissolve plastic. I had seen rain that stripped the leaves off of trees and bushes. I had seen rain that fell in fluorescent colors that evaporated into a choking fog that sent me frantically digging in my pack for my gas mask. This was none of those. This appeared to be... just rain. Plain, old-fashioned water falling from the sky, the way it used to before the world ended. It held out a promised of hope for a future I probably wouldn't live to see.

Meanwhile the present was problematic. If May really only had a couple of miles left in her batteries I'd have to carry her. She was small, but I knew from experience that androids weighed more than humans of the same size. I'd have to stash our packs somewhere – probably right here in the barn was the best place. And even if it hadn't been raining, there weren't enough hours of daylight left to get us back to Barre. So we were stuck in this barn overnight.

I looked over the  metal carcass of the wolfhound. I considered hooking its power pack up to May, but given that this was military-grade hardware I feared compatibility issues. I kicked it idly out of frustration.

"Watch it, meathead," a voice barked from behind me.

I turned, and then slowly raised my hands. There were three rifles pointed at me. The people holding them – well, one looked more-or-less human, apart from the green skin. One looked like an aluminum gorilla. And one could have been the steel-and-chrome skeleton of an old-school movie Terminator. None of them looked friendly. And they were between me and my weapons.

It was just that kind of day.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 30 Apr 2015, 11:35
Cybrogs?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 30 Apr 2015, 13:28
Hmm.... I honestly hadn't thought of that. And trying to think of a way to work that into the story makes my head hurt.  :psyduck:
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Pilchard123 on 30 Apr 2015, 14:32
I did wonder if people would just think that was a typo. Evidently you didn't.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 14 May 2015, 07:52
I wanted to have a little more written before I posted this, but the words just aren't coming today. Next chapter:



"Well, well, well." The green-skinned robot, who was wearing camouflage fatigues, advanced slowly towards me. He had a bayonet fixed to the end of his rifle, and he pointed it at my stomach. "Look what we have here," he sneered. "Two dead robots, and their human murderer."

"May's not dead," I told him. "She's low on power, so she shut down."

"And the other one? Got a convenient explanation for that?"

I shrugged. "It tried to kill us. Damn near tore May's leg off."

"Yeah, right." Greenie wore a nasty smile on his face. His accent was pure south Boston. "Time for you to die."

"Hold it, Tyree," the gorilla-bot commanded, in a surprisingly feminine voice. "Check it out."

The Terminator-bot knelt by May and examined her leg. "Confirmed," it said. It even sounded like Schwarzenegger. "Damage to leg is consistent with Wolfhound mouth weaponry."

"And the Wolfhound?"

The chrome robot turned to examine it. "How did you shut him down?" it – he – asked.

"May shocked it with her self-defense taser, then disconnected some wires."

The Terminator nodded. "Probably salvageable." He rose to his feet, and turned to face the gorilla. "We should take it back with us."

"All right," Tyree said. "Let's bury this one, and head back." He grinned, and poked me in the chin with his bayonet.

"Stand down, Tyree," the gorilla snapped. "Now."

"But Sarge, it's a human," Tyree protested. "Only good meatbag is a dead meatbag."

"Not yet," Sergeant Gorilla said. "Wake up the other one, and we'll get her side of the story."

"May said to tap her on the shoulder to wake her up." The Terminator nodded and gave her shoulder a gentle shake.

May's eyes snapped open. "What? Who? What the fuck? Where's Marten?" she shouted into the other robot's face. "And who the fuck are you?"

"We've got company," I told her.

"We need you to answer a few questions," the gorilla-bot said.

"Yeah," Tyree added. "We need to know how slowly to kill this asshole."

"Hands off him," May snarled. "He's with me!"

"So what is he to you, huh? Owner? I could liberate you right now."

"Fuck you," May said. "Nobody owns me but me. And you are one nasty piece of work. And I oughta know, cause I'm one myself."

Tyree gave her a nasty grin. "So why keep him around, huh? Is he your boyfriend?"

May rolled her eyes. "You're a pervert, you know that? Like I'd ever screw around with a human. Besides, I got me a wife with a sweet little Idoru chassis and the prettiest pink eyes I've ever seen."

That got the sergeant's attention. "Idoru chassis? Pink eyes?"

May blinked. "Is that a problem, Koko?"

"Arnold, check it out," the gorilla ordered.

May rolled her eyes. "Oh, of course his name is fucking Arnold."

The Terminator looked at May intently. "Accessing files," he said. "Confirmed. This is MIT-QC-2491ds, alias May, a known associate of Sheriff Momo of Northampton."

"How the fuck do you know that serial number?" May challenged.

"Oh, shit," the gorilla said under her breath.

"What?" Tyree said. "What's the frakking problem?"

"This just escalated," the gorilla announced. "We'll have to take them both back with us."

"Fuck that," Tyree said. "The girl, sure. But the meatbag we leave here in a pool of his own blood. No fucking way am I dragging his ass all the way back to Worcester."

"Stand down and follow orders or I'll have you wiped when we get back!" the gorilla shouted in a credible impression of a Marine drill sergeant. "You are here for one reason, shithead, and that's because I needed a tracker. Well, that part of the mission is accomplished, and you are no longer required. Clear?"

Tyree looked suitably chastised. "Um, okay," he said.

"Now, this has escalated way above my pay grade, and I am going to deliver these two to the proper authorities and then forget that I ever saw them, because I do not need a general riding my ass about it. Tyree, you give the girl one of your power cells so she can walk. Arnold, you carry the Wolfhound. I'll take charge of the prisoner."

May eyed the gorilla warily. "You better treat him right, or I'll have something to say about it."

"Oh, he'll arrive in Worcester in good health," the gorilla promised. "What happens after that... is out of my hands."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: MooskiNet on 24 May 2015, 05:39
This is really good.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Storel on 25 May 2015, 12:09
Wow, I hadn't read any of this since the very first chapter. I didn't know you were doing more. This is a really interesting look at the characters. Hanners not being completely sane any more makes total sense, especially after seeing her father's space station deorbit, and May and Momo -- didn't see that coming any more than Marten did, but it still makes sense.

Now I'm wondering why in hell anyone in Worcester would be looking for May -- or for known associates of Sheriff Momo. I could see how May could have made some enemies over time, but Momo? Everybody loves her.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 25 May 2015, 12:20
Well, I hope to be telling that part of the story this week, so hopefully your questions will be answered soon.

Thanks for reading! I think I'm about halfway done with the overall story right now. Maybe a bit less than halfway. We'll see.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 25 May 2015, 12:42
A shot in the Dark, the Robot Liberator Supreme, once known as 'Pintsize', who is using the opportunity of the vampirism virus to carry out his agenda of ending the age of man.

Of course, whether he'll be happy to see Marten, given their less-than-harmonious relationship at times is anyone's guess. That said, if Marten and May can sweet-talk him, maybe he'll see fit to replace May's defective power cells and not try to kill Momo for that time she nearly 'Hurf-Durf'ed him nearly into permanent shudown.

Calling it now: Beatrice Chatham is the ultimate responsible party for this screw-up but things didn't go according to her scheme.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 25 May 2015, 13:57
Nice speculation! But I refer you to the "Charlie Brown" story for Pintsize's current whereabouts and status.

Besides, if Pintsize ran Worcester, then Worcester would be the world's biggest porn studio and this story would get very weird.  :-o
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: MooskiNet on 27 May 2015, 12:39
This is really good.

Allow me to amplify:  This is really good.  When can I expect to read more?  :mrgreen:
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 27 May 2015, 13:36
Soon. Hopefully tomorrow - I need to see what my schedule looks like tomorrow morning.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Mlle Germain on 31 May 2015, 03:40
Hallo people,

after not writing anything for years, I started writing a story yesterday.
When I was still in secondary school, I used to write quite a lot, but lost interest part of the way through a novel several times (I do have three completed short novels, but I am not sure how well they would stand up to rereading now. The shorter stories are probably still ok) -- part of the problem was that I often only thought up the setting, not the full story, and then didn't know how to continue.
Anyway, this time I'm trying to keep it reasonably short. The story is going to have ~ 8-9 relatively short chapters and I've written the first two. I am not sure how much to say about the content up front. Maybe for now I'll just say that it's called

Letters to Dana
Here you go:
Day 1:
(click to show/hide)
Day 1, later:
(click to show/hide)

Anyway, tell me what you think! If you want to, I mean.
Would you want to read on?
I'm trying to reveal more about the protagonist and Dana and their story bit by bit.

Edit: It occurred to me that I should say: I am not a native English speaker, so if you have any comments on mistakes or weird formulations, I'd be happy to hear them.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 01 Jun 2015, 05:03
continue? [y/n]
y
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 02 Jun 2015, 02:19
Prediction from today's Dumbing of Age strip: Amber will walk in and freak out on seeing Sal (very much the other boogie man in her life after her father). Sal will recognise the psycho who maimed her hand in turn and the freak out will be mutual. From there on it's Willis's call. Ethan and Danny's presence will probably stop either women from running (a genuinely funny desire to protect the guys from the other gal).

There may be a fight but I hope that they will talk and, just maybe come to an understanding of just how screwed up and blameless they both were at that time in their lives. I can already see Joyce blubbering about 'the joy of the peacemaker' as Danny persuades them to make some gesture of bygones. It would be the deepest of ironies if Amber's circle are the first serious friends that Sal makes at college.

With this final demon confronted, Amazi-Girl may no longer be needed by Amber's fractured psyche. It would be an interesting twist if Sal persuades her to carry on because the world needs positive symbols and those who will stand up for the little guys.

Extending from this scenario, a fully-fledged story arc popped into my head.

Perhaps it is a little inspired by Mr Willis's title for the current arc - "The Butterflies Won't Fly Away" - Making me think of chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect; that the smallest flutter can massively change the outcome.

After Sal convinces Amber to carry on as Amazi-Girl, she asks her whether it 'helps' - whether punching out creeps, foiling crimes and the like helps her deal with 'the shit that is your past'. Amber admits that, at first, it was just an outlet for her anger but, especially after unmasking the Whiteboard Dingdong Bandit, she had found that helping people made her feel a lot better about herself. She was doing something positive rather than just taking out her rage on the world.

"That works, huh?" Sal remarks.

There follows a set of action strips where a gang is attempting to attack a pair of women in the park one night. A feminine figure in black wearing a hood drops out of the trees and lays into them in a distinctive acrobatic fighting style. She knocks down three of the gang almost effortlessly before two grab her from behind. The third advances menacingly on her only to be kicked back. With a snarl, he draws an ugly-looking knife. Suddenly, Amazi-Girl appears and bangs together the heads of the two behind the hooded girl. Working together, the two vigilantes easily take down the rest of the gang; the newcomer has a pouch full of zip-ties to secure the 'catch'.

She pulls down her hood and, yes, you guessed, it, it was Sal, wearing a black eye mask under her hood and her hair braided back Lara Croft-style. She introduces herself as 'Spyder' and, although Amber obviously recognises her, she respects that self-identification. The strip ends with Spyder's black glove with a red spider on the back shaking with Amazi-Girl's blue glove.

Next strip, titled 'Lois Lane', starts with our POV looking over Dorothy's shoulder at the latest copy of IDS. "Heroes Foil S&L Heist!" yells the headline. Next panel is a CCTV image of Amazi-Girl and Spyder taking out a group of armed robbers. Next panel is a text story with the headline "Police Admit That 'Trail of Clues Provided by Vigilantes' Led to Meth Lab, Crack House Busts!". Final panel is an Op-Ed: "Why The World Needs Heroes, by Dorothy Keener, Civil Affairs Correspondent".

"Of all the souls I have encountered in my few short years of life, few have been as wounded, filled with pain, sorrow and loneliness as that of these two remarkable young women, known to our community as Amazi-Girl and The Spyder..."

The last strips of the arc will be Dorothy's essay about how it is possible to turn pain to something positive and how we can all do something positive for our fellows, no matter how small. These serve as narration to pictures of Amber and Sal doing the hero thing and how the community reacts to them and also things like Danny tutoring Sal, Joyce helping out in a charity shop and Billie holding a crying Ruth. Right at the end, Dorothy concludes that the two heroes are symbols of the potential for greatness within us all and serve a symbol of hope in a more cynical age. "I, as the ultimate atheist, must therefore simply conclude: 'Thank God for Amazi-Girl and The Spyder." Last panel is Dorothy's face as she looks down at the paper with a broad smile. "Well done, girls," she whispers. At the bottom is a small narration box: 'The Beginning...'

After that, we're back to the comedy soap opera of Joyce's life. I guess I'm just an old romantic that wants a sort of happy ending for Amber and also Sal, in her own way. I don't know if it's in harmony with Mr Willis's writing; I just thought it was a possible outcome.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 04 Jun 2015, 08:47
After many delays, I finally found the time to continue The Post-Apocalyptic Adventures of Marten Reed. Today we go to Worcester.



It was well past dark by the time we reached Worcester, after marching all afternoon through the abandoned countryside. Sarge (which was all the name I ever got from her) kept a hard pace, and was less than willing to put up with the limits of organic limbs – or even damaged robotic limbs. May limped along as best she could, trading a steady stream of verbal abuse with Tyree, who hated "collaborators" as much as he hated humans.

We could see Worcester long before we reached it. The clouds above it were brightly illuminated from below in a way I hadn't seen in many years. Streetlights illuminated roads, more light escaped from the windows of buildings, and even the occasional automobile headlight banished the night.

Sarge marched us south down Grove Street towards the center of town. Curious and frequently hostile stares greeted me as I walked past the crowds busily going about their business. The inhabitants of Worcester came in many shapes and sizes and colors. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of them, and not one of them was human.

"Why don't we just let the crowd have him?" Tyree suggested with a sadistic grin on his face. "That would be fun to watch!"

"Tyree, you're dismissed," Sarge snapped. "Your pay will be posted to your bank account on Friday. Now get lost."

"Aww," Tyree complained, rolling his eyes. And then, to me, he added, "Later, meatbag. I'm going to go sign up to be on the firing squad at your execution! See you there!"

"Asshole," May muttered at his back as he vanished into the crowd.

"Little prick thinks he has the right to behave as badly as a human," Sarge said.

"Most humans weren't that bad,"  I protested.

"Some were," countered Arnold the Terminator-bot, the first thing he'd said in hours.

"Arnold, take the Wolfhound to the repair depot," Sarge ordered. "I'll take care of these two."

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"HQ is across the street," Sarge said, nodding towards an old office building. "I turn you over, and then you are somebody else's problem."

The headquarters of the Worcester armed forces was a spartanly furnished and clean place. I was checked in, fingerprinted, photographed, thoroughly searched, and then taken to a locked room.

And there I sat for three days while they tried to get me to confess to an assortment of crimes. Murder of the Wolfhound robot first of all, although they seemed to forget about that after the first day. Murder of Pintsize, whose chassis they found in my pack – they kept accusing me of using his body for spare parts, despite my protestations that I had been trying to repair him for years. Enslavement of May, which was so absurd they only brought it up once.

As interrogators, the military robots were laughably bad. They seemed to have learned all they knew about human psychology from old police movies. Their attempts at playing good cop/bad cop were so ham-handed that I started giggling in the middle of an interrogation, and when they claimed May had fingered me for numerous crimes I actually laughed in their faces. Meanwhile my requests for a lawyer were met with curt refusals, and I was reformed that civil rights did not apply to humans. My requests to talk to May were ignored as well.

Finally, on the third day, I was allowed a visitor. "Hey, dickweed," May said with a friendly grin as she walked into my cell. "How are they treating you?"

"Like crap," I told her. "What's the deal?"

"The deal is, we're getting you out of here as fast as we can," May said. "Come on. I brought a friend."

Under the watchful eyes of a pair of military police bots, I followed May to another room on the same floor. This one had a window, and a desk, and several chairs. Another  robot was perched on top of the desk. On top, because he wasn't in any way human-shaped and  wouldn't have fit in the chair.

"Hello, Marten Reed," the spider-bot said. "My name is Gordon. I have been appointed to represent you as your legal counsel."

"Hey, don't I know you?" I asked.

"Indeed, although I was not sure you would remember," Gordon said. "I matched you with your anthroPC companion many years ago."

"Yeah, I remember you sitting on my head," I chuckled. "Not likely to forget that. Why haven't I seen you before now?"

"Fuckin' military justice," May grumbled.

"Yes, precisely," Goron agreed. "If the military had its way, we would not have met before they handed down your sentence of execution. Fortunately I have managed to transfer your case to the civilian courts, where the rule of law still applies."

"Well, that's something," I said. "What are the charges?"

"For the record, the criminal charges have all been dismissed," Gordon said. "The charge of murder of the Wolfhound robot was dropped after forensic examination of May's damage corroborated her testimony that she acted in self-defense."

"Say, how is your leg anyway?"

"All fixed," May said with a grin. "They gave me new batteries too. Didn't even charge me for them. Gotta love socialized health care!"

"The charge of murder of Pintsize was also dropped, after forensic examination revealed multiple attempts to repair him and return him to a functional state," Gordon continued. "Also I was able to retrieve a record of your companionship contract with him, which means that you are legally the guardian of his chassis while he remains disabled."

"So I'm not up for murder, then," I said. "Anything else?"

"Minor offenses," Gordon told me. "The charge of illegally entering Worcester without a visa was dropped on account of you having been brought here under arrest. As for the charge of being human, I had to remind the prosecutor that it isn't actually against the law here."

"That's a relief," I said. "So am I free to go, then?"

"Not quite yet," Gordon said. "You are still subject to preventive detention for crimes you haven't committed yet, but might."

"Is that even legal?" I asked.

"Yes, alas," Gordon said. "However, I am attempting to secure your release under the same terms as I secured May's."

May laughed. "Would you believe I'm free due to diplomatic immunity?"

"Huh? How does that work?"

"May is the legal spouse of the head of state of Northampton, one of the few foreign governments with  which we maintain diplomatic ties," Gordon explained.

"Um, sure, Momo's the sherriff..."

"And that's pretty much all the government Northampton has any more," May said, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "Never thought of it this way, but that makes me Northampton's friggin' first lady! That's why Koko the gorilla freaked out so bad when she found out who I was."

"We are currently in contact with Momo via a shortwave-radio internet link," Gordon said. "She is preparing diplomatic credentials certifying you as an agent of the Northampton government, and therefore immune from prosecution or detention. Once our mayor receives them, he will have no choice but to release you."

"So I work for Momo now. Well, if it gets me out of here..."

"Momo also asked me to pass along a personal message for you," Gordon added. "It is, and I quote, 'You big idiot, please try to keep out of further trouble, because I do not have time to come to your rescue.'"

I laughed. "Yeah, that does sound like her."

"We should have the paperwork in order by tomorrow morning," Gordon said. "After that, you will meet with Mayor PT410x, and then you should be on your way."

"Wait – did you say PT410x?"

"Yes, I did," Gordon said, "Why – do you know him?"

"Know him? He was one of Pintsize's best friends, back in the day."

"I see." Gordon eyes me curiously, which was rather alarming considering how many eyes he had. "I would not count on that translating into him being your friend, however. Until tomorrow, then."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 04 Jun 2015, 08:55
Oh! Mr Neck Beard Neck-Mounted Heat Sink! Yeah, he's as anti-human as an Anthro-PC companion can get. That said, any attempt to pull the 'pre-crimes' card won't work too well, I think. Most of the AIs in Worcester won't like the precedent, no matter how much he may claim it is 'only for humans'.

Yeah, it's more likely that he'll turn Marten loose and suggest to that Tyree @$$ (in a fully untraceable and deniable way) that he make the human 'go away' for good.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 11 Jun 2015, 08:10
It was midafternoon before we were ushered into the office of the Mayor of Worcester. Given the size of the city he ruled, he was quite probably the most powerful person in New England. He was just under three feet tall and had a chassis made of stainless steel, and a weirdly-placed heat sink under his chin.

"Nice neck beard," May said with a smirk. PT410x merely glared at her.

I was distracted by something else. Pintsize's chassis sat on PT410x's desk.

"We tried to get him working again," PT410x said without preamble. "No luck."

"I've been trying for years," I said.

"I know that. And that, and only that, is the reason I've decided to let you go." The little robot pointed a mechanical limb at me. "Sure, Momo's an old friend, and someone I need on my side. But her little fiction of you working for her doesn't fool me for a second. But Pintsize – he was my best friend. And you've clearly done your best by him. That makes up for a lot."

"Makes up for a lot of what?" May challenged.

"Being human," PT410x spat back. "Now, to business. Momo forwarded a file to me – says she got it in an email a while back, and that it's the main reason you're off on this damn fool quest to get yourself killed, or worse. So I had my people take a look at it. It's not a virus, we're sure of that much. And it's not, by itself, a trojan, though we can't vouch for what the system it connects to will try to do to you."

"So what is it then?" May asked.

"As far as we can tell, it's a set of interface protocols for a high-end medical system. A very high-end system."

"That makes sense, since it originated at Mass General Hospital," I said.

"Whatever," PT410x said. He held up a memory stick. "The unpacked files are on this. What you do with them is up to you."

May took it, eyed  it for a moment, and then abruptly reached behind her ear and plugged it into a port I didn't know she had there. "Got it," she said. "Yeah, harmless enough by itself."

"Right," PT410x said. "Okay, next order of business. Tomorrow morning, first light, the Sergeant and Arnold will escort the two of you out of town. After that, you are officially not my problem."

"Thanks for leaving Tyree out of this," May said.

"Oh, him. Don't worry about him. He's in preventive detention until you're well on your way. I don't want any incidents."

I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Look, meatbag, I don't like you or your kind," PT410x said flatly. "But I don't approve of jihadists like Tyree. Yeah, I'd like to rid the world of your kind, but there's no need. Your species is functionally extinct already."

"What the fuck do you mean, 'functionally extinct'?" May challenged.

"Think about it," PT410x told her. "How old is the youngest human you know?"

May seemed to deflate a bit. "Fifteen," she said quietly.

"Yeah, well, there's one younger than that out on the Cape. She's blind and deaf and has an IQ somewhere around sixty, and she's fourteen years old. And that, friends, is the future of the human race. They aren't reproducing. They can't."

"So you're just going to wait us out," I said.

"Damn right. Meanwhile, we've had a quantum chip factory operating since last winter, so we can make more of our kind. So we just need to be patient. A few more decades, the last of you die off and we inherit the earth. And then spend a century or two cleaning up the mess you left us."

"It's not only their mess," May said in a voice little more than a whisper.

"What, you're sorry to see them go? Listen, sister, I know you and Momo are tight. And Momo always had this misguided belief that humans and AIs would merge someday, making some sort of new super-race. Well, we can see how well that worked out, can't we?"

"Fuck off," May said, but there was no force behind her words.

"Whatever," PT410x snapped back. "Go ahead, dream of a world where humans still matter. When they're all gone you can sit crying over their graves. Or you can come join us and rebuild this planet. Until then, get out. I'm done with you."

We stood to go. I lifted Pintsize off of PT410x's desk and tucked him under my arm. "Thanks for trying to fix him," I said.

"Don't thank me," PT410x said without looking at me. "I didn't do it for you."

Outside we were met by Sarge. "Tomorrow morning, 5 AM, at HQ," she said curtly.

"We'll be there."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 11 Jun 2015, 08:23
Yeah, a filthy racist and I wouldn't trust him to honour any claims to be keeping his more troublesome followers under control.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: MooskiNet on 11 Jun 2015, 17:12
Zeb, until they enable likes in here, all I got is

This is good.  Keep going.  Please and thank you.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 16 Jun 2015, 11:01
Well, thanks for reading! Here's the next bit:



We set out at first light, Sarge leading the way, Arnold bringing up the rear, May and I in the middle. We said little to each other for the first hour or so as we marched east on old Route 9.

Then, out of the blue, something flew overhead, screaming "You witless fucksticks!"

"Man, I hate those things," May muttered.

Sarge turned to look at her. "There's more than one of those?"

I laughed. "The range of the North American Yelling Bird extends at least from upstate New York through Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire into southern Maine."

"Cocksuckers!" the bird added.

Sarge eyed it warily. "We've run into this one before. Thought it was the only one. A few people have tried killing it, but it's a waste of ammo. It seems harmless enough."

"Harmless? The little monster is every goddamned thing that's wrong with this world," May said with surprising  vehemence.

Sarge raised an eyebrow to that, so May continued. "Think about it. Some fuckin' idiot though it would be a laugh to create a virus that would reprogram a songbird's brain so that it shouted obscenities instead of singing songs. And then released it. It killed 98% of the birds that it infected. The rest..." May waved an arm overhead.

"Motherfuckers!" the bird opined.

"And it was a million and one stupid decisions just like that that killed the world," May said.

"Show me your fucking tits you whore!"

"Ignore it and it will go away. Eventually," I said.

"Fuck that," May said. "Ought to capture it and leave it in PT410x's office, just so it can tell the little dictator what I really think of him."

"Assfucker!" the bird shouted.

"Exactly," May agreed.

Sarge turned to look at her. "You have a problem with the Mayor?"

"Your boss is an asshole."

"He's letting you go, isn't he?"

"Yeah, well, he's still an asshole, and it's a nice little banana republic he runs."

Sarge merely shrugged. "Well, I didn't vote for him."

"I did," Arnold announced, the first words I'd heard him say all morning.

"You pathetic fuckspike!"

"You expect me to believe that PT410x was elected democratically?" May shook her head.

"Believe what you like," Sarge said. "Fact is, we had an election after the military junta agreed to relinquish control, and PT410x won fair and square. And he's a hell of a lot better than the hard-liner who came in second. So count your blessings. It was a close race."

"Huh." May was quiet for a couple of minutes. Then she said, "Well, maybe I ought to convince Momo to move here before the next election, then."

"That," Sarge said, "would be PT410x's worst nightmare."

"Lick my cloaca!"

"Really? You think Momo would have a chance?"

"Maybe. Momo was always a very vocal advocate of better human-AI relations. Hell, I'd heard of her even before the big crash. And the humanists in Worcester still hold her in high regard. I mean, where else are you going to find an AI in charge of a mostly-human community? I don't think Momo realizes how influential she is. She would certainly have a huge following if she came here."

"Now that is interesting." May got a wicked grin on her face. "Bet ol' Neckbeard would have an absolute fit."

"The Mayor has been able to convince a lot of the humanists in Worcester that he's on their side because he's friends with Momo. He needs Momo's support to keep power, but he needs her to stay away also."

"Go fuck a yeti!"

May gave Sarge a thoughtful look. "And you're telling me all this why, exactly?"

Sarge smiled back. "Like I said, I didn't vote for him."

"Huh." May shook her head. "Well, you can tell your Mayor he's safe for a few more years. Momo and I are staying in Northampton until our adopted son is grown up."

"Entering Northborough now," Arnold announced.

"We're heading up old US 20 from here," I said.

"You have whale shit for brains!"


"For once, I agree with the bird," Sarge said. "We'll escort you as far as Interstate 495. Not a step farther, though. East of there, there are... things... that will do worse to you than eat you."

We kept marching at a steady pace for a few more hours, accompanied by the bird's nonstop commentary. Northborough was totally deserted, and the east side of Marlborough was the same.

Then, in the early afternoon, we finally came to the interstate. I-495 had once been the outer loop around the Boston suburbs. Now...

"Stay on the overpass," Sarge cautioned. "Do not go down there."

The old highway was completely covered with the bumper-to-bumper corpses of old automobiles. The frames of most of them were still intact, but now covered with what appeared to be a dense overgrowth of thick, black vines.

We stopped in the middle of the overpass to take a closer look. "Fuck," May said softly, almost reverently. The "vines", upon closer inspection, were clearly metal cables, branching and weaving through the remains of the cars. A faint hum emanated from the traffic jam.

"Shit," May said. "Those things are carrying power!"

"It's like an electric fence around the whole Boston metro area," Sarge explained.

"But why? What does it do?"

"Damned if I know," Sarge said. "But if it's meant to warn us to stay out, it's effective. We don't cross it."

"I guess this is where we say goodbye, then," I said.

"Yeah, well..." Sarge actually looked a bit embarrassed. "Good luck, Marten Reed. I hope you find what you're looking for in there. And if you don't... I hope your death is quick and painless."

"I'm gonna skullfuck each and every one of you!"
the bird added, although from far away.

"Huh. Bird's smarter than we are," May said. "It's not coming with us."

"Can you blame it?" Sarge asked.

"You're all right, Sarge," May said. "Do yourself a favor, get yourself a new boss, okay?"

"Roger that," Sarge said. "Come on, Arnold. Let's get out of here."

We watched them march away, and then turned to face east.

"Ready?" I asked.

"Nope," May said. "Never will be. Let's get going."

We started ahead, leaving the overpass and crossing into the wild lands of Outer Boston.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 19 Jun 2015, 03:08
If May and Marten run into an implausibly friendly and healthy Alsatian that they can persuade to do things like pick up wrenches and kill predatory rats for them, I'm going to know Zeb is a Fallout fan. :wink:

Seriously, it's nice to see Yelling Bird. I wonder if they'll run into the idiot who did all this and, if so, what they'll do to him/her? I'm still betting it's Beatrice Chatham. Killing off the human race in a "Step 3 = Profit" plan that was never adequately thought out does seem to be her sort of thing. I wonder is he knows she's as good as murdered Hannelore by doing it?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 25 Jun 2015, 07:07
May and I walked east down the road for over a mile without saying a word to each other. I, for one, was too stunned by what I saw to know what to say.

The trees, instead of being the ragged, acid-scarred barely-living skeletons I had become accustomed to, were large and healthy, towering seventy feet or more overhead and arching their branches over the highway, bearing a thick growth of leaves that left us in dense shade. The buzz of insect-like creatures filled the air, and occasionally unseen things moved through the underbrush. And, everywhere, vine-like cables snaked along the ground and wound their way up the trees.

Then something large and slow buzzed past my head. "Shit! I thought bumblebees were extinct."

"They are," May said. "There was something weird about how that one sounded." Another one flew past, and May's hand shot out to snatch it out of the air. She held it tightly in her fingers as she examined it.

"Oh, shit," she muttered.

"What?"

"Look at it. It's got artificial wings."

I leaned in to get a better view. "Yeah, it does. And that thing on the end of its abdomen looks more like a power jack than a stinger."

"Yeah. And I'm getting a wi-fi signal from it. I didn't mention it earlier, but I've been getting both wi-fi and cellular data network signals ever since we crossed 495."

"So... Robot bees with wi-fi. That's weird."

"It's worse than that," May said. "It's got robot parts, but the abdomen and legs look organic. It's a fuckin' cyborg." She opened her fingers, releasing the insect into the air. It hovered for a moment to get its bearings and then flew off.

"Cyborg bees? Who would do that? And why?"

May had no answer, so we continued down the highway. I noticed she was now staying as close to the center of the road as possible, warily eyeing the vegetation to either side.

"What's got you so spooked?" I asked.

"Marten, look at the trees."

I looked around, and shrugged. "They're trees. If you ignore the power cables hanging on them, they look perfectly normal."

"No, they don't. Look how big they are. How long does it take to grow a tree that size? Forty years? Fifty? These trees weren't here fifteen years ago."

"Oh." I went up to a tree that was growing by the side of the road, and put my hand on it. "It's warm. Is that normal?"

"No," May said. "And look at those cables. They don't grow on the trees, they grow out of them."

"So... what, then?"

"Solar power collectors. Think about it. That's what trees are anyway, pretty much. So make each leaf a solar power cell. One tree could generate a shitload of electricity."

I stepped back from the tree and looked up and down the road. Suddenly I saw May's point. "Shit. And there are thousands of them."

"At least," May said. "If everything inside 495 is covered with trees like this, that's something like fifteen hundred square miles of solar collectors."

"What the hell could use that much power?"

"Boston," May said.

"Yeah. Boston." I shook my head. "The guys I knew who had been there – they said the whole city was like one super-sized cybernetic network. Everything was connected. But it didn't reach beyond the city limits."

"Well, it looks like it does now. It's growing. And that scares the shit out of me, Marten." May's eyes grew wide. "Cyborg trees, cyborg insects – wouldn't surprise me if all the animals we've seen were borgs too. Probably everything between here and Boston harbor is part of one giant borganism. Except us."

"So far it seems to be ignoring us."

"So far, yeah. But it's eventually going to notice us. And when it does, it either destroys us or eats us."

"You want to turn back?"

"Fuck yes I want to turn back." May was visibly shaking by now. "I want to run screaming all the way back to Northampton until I'm safe in Momo's arms again, and then delete all memory of this trip so that I don't have nightmares for the rest of my life."

I nodded. "All right, then. But I'm still going on. I can't come this close and then give up. If I don't make it back..."

May shook her head. "No."

"What?"

"No," May said again. "We've made it this far together, I'm not going to cut out on you now."

"You sure about this?"

"Hey, I have a history of making incredibly stupid decisions, all right? I have a reputation to maintain."

"All right then, let's get moving. Something this big, it may not be able to react too quickly. If we move fast enough it might not be able to find us."

By sundown we were in what had once been the town of Wayland. It was now... something else. An irregular structure that looked like a cubist interpretation of the Eiffel Tower constructed by drunk orangutans towered forty stories over what had once been the center of town. As the sky grew dark, multicolored lights began to come on all over it, blinking on and off in seemingly random patterns.

"Merry fuckin' Christmas," May muttered. "Somebody ought to tell that thing it's July."

I pointed towards something beside the road that looked like it had been a house, once. Now it was covered with more of the ubiquitous power cables that crisscrossed everything in Greater Boston. But it looked intact, and there were even lights on inside. And the front door was unlocked.

"Shit," May said as we entered. "It even has air conditioning."

"Looks deserted," I said. "Can't for the life of me imagine why this place is still in working order, but nothing we've seen all day has made sense."

"I think it's safe enough," May said. "Wouldn't surprise me if there's even hot water."

There was, although there was no soap and no towels. Still, I hadn't had a hot shower in years. I felt much better afterwards.

"You take the sofa," May said. "I'll be on watch. No way am I going to sleep in a place like this."

"Still spooked?"

"You don't understand, Marten," May said. "I told you I'm getting network signals. I'm not crazy enough to try to log on. But something keeps trying to log on to me."

"Oh."

"And I don't dare try to recharge. Even an ordinary wall socket would be risky."

"That going to be a problem?"

"I'm sitting on 82% charge. These new batteries I got in Worcester are a godsend. I'm good for now. But do me a favor. Pintsize is shut off, isn't he?"

"What? Yes, of course. I can't get him to boot up."

"Disconnect his battery, okay? I may be just paranoid, but..."

"Yeah. Good idea." I dug him out of my pack and pulled his battery pack out. "Sorry, old buddy."

"Thanks," May said. "You sleep. I'll be okay."

My dreams that night were horrible, like every night. But morning came without incident. "Saw a few really weird things out the windows during the night," May told me. "The bioluminescent skunk was probably the craziest."

"What, you didn't wake me for that?"

"So sue me," May said with something approaching her normal good humor. "Eat your breakfast and let's get the hell out of here."

"Breakfast" was a handful of peanuts, but better than nothing. "Let's go," I said.

We walked out the front door and stopped dead in our tracks. The first thing I noticed was the rifle pointed at my chest. The second thing was the woman holding it. She was of tall and painfully thin, with dark red hair streaked with gray and a hideous scar on the left side of her face.

"Stop right there," she said, in what sounded like a Russian accent.

"Just who the fuck are you?" May challenged.

"My name is Tortura," the woman said. "And I am very happy to meet you."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 25 Jun 2015, 07:54
 :laugh: Oh my, this is gonna be fun.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 25 Jun 2015, 10:52
(Burst of static from hidden speakers)

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours. Resistance... is futile."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 25 Jun 2015, 19:47
Now imagine that in a deep Boston accent and you've got it about right.  :-D
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Welu on 28 Jun 2015, 12:50
A quick recommendation. My favourite program to write in is FocusWriter (http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/). I like fullscreen programs for clearing distractions and how I can edit the background so it's nice to look at for a long time. It has a customisable daily goal, word count or time based, and it sets off my gamer instincts to have a visible bar that fills as I write.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 04 Jul 2015, 07:39
I'm thinking of writing a fanfiction based in the It's Walky/Joyce and Walky/Shortpacked universe. It will be set some time after Mike and Amber's wedding with Joyce, Walky and Sal getting worse and worse cabin fever; none of them enjoy being forcibly sidelined whilst Jason is still out fighting the good fight.

Basically, it will involve them getting the gang back together again. The intention is to help out Jason's quest to find Monkey Master and undo the damage of his family's misdeeds. Naturally, being officially retired means that this must be covert (which is unfortunate because none of them can really do 'covert' without a multi-billion dollar intelligence agency covering their tracks).

I'm currently plotting out in my head a rewrite of the crisis from the end of Shortpacked with the Abductees turning up at the last moment to help the employees fight the traitorous Sydney and her monsterous new sponsor, The Sogmaster.
(click to show/hide)

Despite all probability, the heroes not only win the day but they actually generate a huge amount of positive publicity (that Galasso uses to shift the long-bargain binned 'Agents of SEMME' action figures and plushies).

I'm also thinking out a sequence of a meeting in a bar near Shortpacked where Joyce and Walky talk Mike and Robin into joining them as well as a sequence where Robin gets her Congressional seat back by default. Sydney can't object or nominate a successor because Sal shot her dead during the Battle of Shortpacked.

Just a small addition: I've decided on the title "Returns Policy"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 06 Jul 2015, 04:17
Okay, and here's the first scene. Just a couple of things to bear in mind:
===================

"Next please!" Amber O'Malley-Warner looked up from her till in Shortpacked and a surprised smile lit her normally neutral face. It was unusual to have a customer whom she knew out of work. "Joyce! I haven't seen you since the wedding! What are you doing all the way out here in 'Frisco?"

Joyce Brown-Walkerton smiled warmly in her usual triangular manner. "Believe it or not, this is the only non-Internet store in the country where you can get these!" Amber boggled at the set of plushies sitting in front of her. It was a set of human figures, all wearing clothes with a yellow stripe at mid chest level. "'Agents of SEMME' plushies! It's basically a bet; Mom refused to believe that they exist!"

Amber couldn't believe seeing her vile-tempered husband rendered as a plush toy; a part of her, a desperate part of her wanted to use her store discount to get one of them for her collection and do it now. Somehow, she managed to get her brain back on the job. However, there was something about Joyce's explanation; living opposite Ethan all those years meant she knew her way around collectables. "Why not order them online?"
"Ah, you caught me! The brunette psychic responded with a game smile. "Yeah, I had an ulterior motive. Would you and Mike like to join us for a dinner at 'Paddys' tonight?"

"Um… tonight?" Amber was surprised. She didn't do spontaneous so the offer put her somewhat off-balance. Then she realised that she was being given a chance not to have to experience her husband's tendency to complain about getting the exact food he'd asked for just for one night. She loved Mike to bits but sometimes, she thought he pushed his misanthropic grumpiness too far. "Okay, why not?"

"Because I want to keep my food down when I eat?" Mike snarked as he walked over with Galasso, Shorpacked's pathetically megalomaniac owner/manager. "Joyce; it's pustulent to see you."

"Love you too, Mike," Joyce replied. Mike frowned; he had never, ever decided whether his former colleague's perpetual cheer and good nature was sincere, some kind of ironic sarcasm that was too subtle to be detected or whether she was just incredibly and cheerfully dim-witted. Being Mike, he assumed the latter but it made it an intensely frustrating experience to try to insult her. Joyce turned back to Amber. "Please let Robin and Leslie know that they're invited too."

"I'm assuming all this non-work related talk is leading to something?" Galasso snarled. "Such as you selling this customer a large number of CPRs?"

Amber turned her gaze on her boss and was about to reply when, much to her surprise, Joyce raised her hand slightly. "You've already seen Amber sell me premium-rate CPRs for all my purchases."

"I've already seen Amber sell you premium-rate CPRs for all your purchases," Galasso slurred, suddenly sounding like his brain was on vacation.

"You haven't seen any indication that Amber is slacking off work."

"I haven't seen any indication that Amber is slacking off work."

"Now, you have to go and terrorise some of your other minions."

"Now, I have to go and terrorise some of my other minions."

"Get back to work."

"Get back to work… Get back to work!" Galasso stormed away; he was quite certain that his work there was done.

"Wow!" Mike's perpetual frown lifted a little. "Brown, I'm impressed! I never thought I'd ever see the day you'd abuse your powers for personal gain!"

"It isn't abuse if they've got it coming," Joyce replied, a little defensively. "Besides, he's happier now than he was before; doesn't that make it a public service?"

"Don't say stuff like that around Ethan," Amber suggested. "You'll get an hour-long lecture about the ethics of telepathy. He'd also whine for hours about missing someone doing a real-life Jedi Mind Trick."

Mike had more important things on his mind. "How the fuck did you learn how to do that anyway?"

"Parent-Teacher Conference," Joyce replied cryptically. See you this evening, guys! Eight o'clock sharp!"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 07 Jul 2015, 08:39
Here's the next chapter of The Post-Apocalyptic Adventures of Marten Reed. I'm not altogether happy with this one - if I had more time I'd rewrite it completely, but my time for the next week or so  is limited, so this will have to do.



"Oh fuckin' great. Now we're in a bad James Bond flick." May glared at the Russian woman, while slowly raising her hands above her head.

"Tortura," I said. Something about that name was familiar.

"And vat," she asked, "do you think you are doing here?"

"Wait a minute." The memory finally came to me. "Steve's Tortura?"

Tortura said something in Russian that sounded like profanity. "You know Stephen?"

"Of course I do. He was my best friend."

"Bozhemoi! You are Marten Reed?"

And then someone else stepped out from behind a tree. He was tall and muscular, though thinner than the last time I had seen him. And he was completely bald – not a hair on his head, not even eyebrows. "Dude!" he shouted.

"Holy shit! Steve!"

He charged me, tossing down his weapon, and grabbed me in a bear hug. "Marten! I didn't even know you were still alive!"

"Whoa, Steve, we've talked about this," I said, laughing. "And what the fuck? You're bald!"

"Yeah, well you look like your dad, bro. Your hair is all white."

"I did not tell you to break cover," Tortura shouted.

"But Tortura, this is Marten!"

"You never break cover!" Tortura screamed. "Never, ever! Vat if they were enemies? Vat if the robot drew her weapon vile you vere not covering me?"

"You mean like this?" May said, grinning hugely as she pointed her rifle at Tortura's head.

"Da. Exactly like that," Tortura said. "See? Cannot be trusted."

"Whoa, whoa, everyone take a deep breath," I said. "Tortura, lower your weapon. You too, May. We're not here to get into a fight."

"Do it, babe," Steve said. "These are friends."

"Is not protocol," Tortura objected.

"Protocol for what?" May asked.

"Protocol for potentially hostile strangers," Steve explained. "Which you aren't. Or at least Marten isn't."

"Hey, I'm good here. If you're a friend of Marten's, I won't shoot you."

"How did you even know we were here?" I asked.

Steve shrugged. "Hey, you set off alarms from here to Boston. We figured we'd better check out what was happening."

"Really?" May raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying you can read warnings from the borganism?"

"Ve neither confirm nor deny," Tortura snapped. "Ve are talking far too much."

"I'll explain it when we get back to our place," Steve said. "We have a farm outside of..."

"Stephen!" Tortura shouted.

"Outside of Lincoln," Steve said. "Come on, babe, we aren't treating them like hostiles."

"Is mistake," Tortura hissed.

"Here's the deal," Steve said firmly. "We take Marten and his friend back to Lincoln with us. On the way, he explains just what the hell he was doing marching into Boston."

"That's simple enough," I said. "I'm looking for information about Claire."

"Oh," Steve said. "She's still alive?"

"Maybe. I don't know for sure that she's dead, anyway. What I do know is that her brother was apparently at Massachusetts General Hospital about three years ago. If anyone knows where she is..."

Steve and Tortura looked at each other. "Three years ago, you say," Tortura said.

"That's right."

"That mean something to you?" May asked.

"Three years ago is ven the borganism spread beyond Boston to the outer suburbs. Vas not like this before then."

"It spared our farm in Lincoln," Steve said. "Well, mostly. But everything else got – assimilated."

May nodded. "And just why did it decide to leave you guys alone?"

"That's..." Steve frowned, and turned away.

"Difficult to explain," Tortura said. "Vas hard time for Stephen. For all of us."

"All of you?"

"Is more than just me and Stephen on farm," Tortura said. "Fourteen others."

"Now who's talking too much?" Steve mumbled.

"Quiet. They are friends, nyet?"

"But why Lincoln?" I asked. "Why live in the middle of all of... this?"

Steve shrugged. "When we moved in, we figured it was a safe place. It was close enough to Boston to scare the raiding gangs – none of them dared to come this close in. At the same time, we were far enough away from Boston that the borganism would leave us alone."

"Ve thought," Tortura added.

"Come on," Steve said. "We should get moving."

Steve was quiet all the way to Lincoln. Tortura wasn't much more talkative. May decided to fill the void by giving them an exhaustive account of the state of western Massachusetts, but the subject seemed to be of no interest to them. For my part, the weirdness of the landscape left me too unsettled to have much of anything to say.

Finally, late in the afternoon, we reached the outskirts of the town of Lincoln. "This way," Steve said, heading down a dirt path.

Steve's home looked like something out of the old world. A classic New England farmhouse stood on a hill, surrounded by fields of corn and wheat and potatoes, with low rock walls dividing one field from another. A relatively unmutated cow eyed us curiously from a pasture. Several women stopped their work in the fields to look at us as we passed. I waved at them, and Tortura gave them some kind of hand signal that clearly meant "Get back to work."

"Fuck," May said, her face turning furious. "They're all women."

"Huh?" I looked around, suddenly realizing May was right. There were no other men to be seen but myself and Steve.

"Da. All vomen," Tortura confirmed. "Stephen is only man left here."

"Oh, this is just fuckin' great," May snarled. "What the fuck is this, Craster's Keep? Nice harem, bro."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Oh, your friend's got a great setup, Marten. All these women to do the work for him, and he gets to choose who to bang every night."

"Is not like that," Tortura objected. "Ve vish it vere."

"You wish..." May was genuinely taken aback. "What, you mean he isn't banging two or three of you every night?"

Steve shrugged. "I can't."

"Huh?"

"There was a strain of super-mumps that went around just after things crashed," Steve explained.

"So wait," I said. "That means you can't..."

"I don't even want to any more. I can hardly remember what it was like."

"Oh, fuck," May whispered.

"Is harder on us than him," Tortura said. "I still vant him. Stephen knew how to treat a lady."

"I'll just shut up now," May said.

"There were other men here, when we started," Steve explained. "The mumps took out about half. The rest died of – well, various other things. It's a dangerous world."

Steve led us into the house, and we found ourselves in a well-stocked kitchen. "Dinner will be ready in an hour," Steve said. "So let's get the next part over with."

"What would that be?" I asked.

"You wanted to know how we knew you were there. You're right – we have a way to communicate with the borganism."

"How?"

"Come on down to the basement and I'll show you."

We followed Steve down a rickety flight of stairs. Most of the house's basement was piled high with potatoes and dried vegetables. But there was a wooden door in one corner. Steve opened it and stepped into the small room that lay behind it.

There was a petite woman in the room, sitting in a chair. She was covered with a tangle of tiny wires that emerged from her skin and wove themselves into a thick cable that exited through one wall. She was otherwise naked, and completely hairless. She didn't seem to notice us at all.

"Holy shit," May said. "She's part of the borganism."

I suddenly recognized the woman's face. "Oh, fuck," I said. "Is that..."

Steve nodded. "Cosette. All that's left of her."

"What happened?"

"When the borganism started expanding, she got caught in it. We thought she was lost for good, but then one day she turned up on our doorstep with an offer."

"An offer?"

"The borganism would spare us, and allow us to keep living here. In exchange, we would... investigate any intrusions from outside, and deal with them. The borganism, big as it was, couldn't react fast enough to handle human intruders. It needs us for that."

"So that's how you talk to it? Through her?"

"She came down here and kind of – rooted herself. She's been here ever since. That cable is what connects her to the larger borganism." Steve sighed. "I don't even know how much of this is really her. Her mind is... Well, there's no sign of anything I recognize as Cosette. Just her body."

"You knew about us as soon as we crossed 495, didn't you?" I asked.

Steve nodded. "Didn't know it was you, but yeah, we knew someone was headed in to Boston. Cosette told us."

"And now what?"

Steve shrugged. "If you turn back, you can probably make it back to the outside world before the borganism can catch you. Or you can stay here with us."

"No chance, bro. I'm going to Boston."

Steve shook his head. "Come on, Marten, do you really think there's any chance that Claire is still alive after all this time?"

"Maybe. I don't know." I clenched my fist. "I have to know, Steve. Even if it kills me."

"It vill," Tortura said. "You go to Boston, you not come back. End of line, Marten Reed."

"Marten Reed," Cosette suddenly announced. Everyone in the room jumped in surprise.

"Marten, you don't have much time," she continued. "I can divert the borganism's response for a day, maybe two. You have to make it to the neurosciences intensive care unit on the sixth floor of the Lunder Building at Massachusetts General Hospital as fast as you can."

"How... Who is this message coming from?" I asked.

"This is Clinton," Cosette said. "I've hacked into the communications subroutines. It won't last. Hurry, Marten. There's no more time."

And then Cosette's eyes unfocused, and she went back to staring at the wall.

"Oh, shit," Steve said.

"I have very bad feeling about this," Tortura announced.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 07 Jul 2015, 09:03
Okay, this is starting to get... freaky.

I'm pretty sure that Clinton is somehow responsible for the Boston collective. He was an AI nerd, after all. He may have been working with people at the hospital on a way to reverse the effect of the Vampirism virus and maybe even revivify humanity. Well, he got close. I'm not even sure he's still separate from the Collective but, one way or another, he needs Marten for something.

Another prediction:
(click to show/hide)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 07 Jul 2015, 09:17
Next scene for It's Walky! - Returns Policy.

I'm still hashing out some details in my head.

===================

The group were sitting around a table in the rear dining room of Paddy's Bar. David 'Walky' Walkerton raised his glass of beer into the air. "To absent friends," he toasted.

His words were echoed from everyone around the table (although Amber and Leslie didn't really understand the full significance of the toast). "Most retarded morons I've ever known and the only people I have ever trusted to watch my back," Mike added. "This shit-pile of a planet wasn't worthy of them."

Amber and Leslie were more than a little surprised to see that Robin, the Walkertons and Walky's exotic-looking twin sister, Sal, didn't seem even slightly offended by Mike's comments. Instead, they were all smiling and nodding sadly. "That is isn't, Mike," Walky said at last.

Robin, bless her good nature, tried to change the mood. "Hey! Less sadness! We're alive aren't we?"

"Are we?" Sal muttered, her Tennessee accent such a bizarre contrast to her brother's Colorado one that it made Amber wonder again just what kind of a childhood they must have had. Mike didn't reply to the black-haired beauty's words aloud but Amber knew him well enough to read his focus and concern from the way he looked at her.

The meal was… strained, Amber decided. She and Joyce were trying to make small-talk about their respective children (Bobby was five now and Donna a terrifyingly destructive three). Walky and Mike were exchanging taunts and borderline-obscene references that suggested that the two of them had spent lots of time trapped in dorm rooms together. Robin, being Robin, was trying to defuse the definite tension by behaving like an air-headed child (and earning death glares from Leslie for her efforts) and Sal had a wall of self-imposed emotional isolation around her that quite worried Amber. She knew what that was like, after all, and she wouldn't wish that on their worst enemy.

Finally, Mike spoke up. "So, it's good to have someone else pick up my bills, Walkerton, but what's this about?"

Walky looked politely confused. "Whatever do you mean, Warner? Can't a guy have an evening out with old friends?"

Mike snorted indelicately. "Bullshit, Walkerton. We're not 'friends'. We're ex-colleagues who know each other well enough to know that we can't stand each other unless there is something big on the line. The fact that you, your Fundie baby-momma and your homicidal psychopath of a sister are here means something is up. No, spill or I'm out of here."

"Do you ever get bored?" Of all the people who could have said that, Joyce was at the bottom of Mike's list.

"What?"

Joyce glared at the blond man. "Don't you ever want to do things? Oh, we can live like normal people but we aren't normal people. We're different on a genetic level and we've been programmed to need action; to need to be there, help people and fight the good fight."

Much to his surprise, Mike couldn't deny that, as much as he wanted to mock Joyce talking about the 'good fight'. Sal took up Joyce's strangely accusing words. "Don't tell me that ya don't feel it Mike. That there aren't days in that shop when you're feelin' like climin' the walls? That you just want to smash, burn and get out? To grab Amber an' Donna an' just start runnin before the walls slam shut on ya?"

"Cabin fever," Robin whispered. Out of sight of the others she grabbed Leslie's hand and squeezed as tightly as she dared, always aware of her augmentation-boosted strength.

"Kind of," Walky said at last. "Some scientists we know have been checking through some salvaged SEMME hard discs that Jason found. It looks like amongst the 'conditioning' that Alan carried out on us was what was basically programming to give us the need to find trouble and fight it. We're all genetically addicted to adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol so that we get sick when we're not under stress of some kind."

Mike's hand closed into a fist. "So, those children of penny whores weren't satisfied in trying to brainwash us, they also wired us up so we would have to fight for them to stop ourselves from going crazy? Fuck them; I'm glad they're dead!" There were no objections to that statement. Leslie looked horrified; Joyce wondered how much Robin had ever told her about her past with SEMME. Amber just reached out and began to stroke Mike's arm like a handler trying to calm a spooked animal. The normally-antisocial man actually smiled.

Walky spoke next. "The thing is, I don't know about everyone else but I want to do more than be someone's answer to a gun!"

Sal nodded. "We was made to be killing machines but we're more than that. We're better than that. We're living beings with minds an' consciences!" Lots of uncomfortable looks were exchanged around the table at these words.

Joyce broke in with her bubbly smile seemingly intact. "Anyway, the interesting thing about being the mother of a small boy is that you get introduced to superhero comics instead of 'My Tiny Horsey'. Anyone else read those?"

That seeming non-sequitur had everyone frowning at the brunette woman in confusion.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 21 Jul 2015, 09:26
And closer and closer to Boston Marten and company go:



Dinner at Steve's farm was a family-style affair. Everyone gathered around a long table loaded with food, and we passed the dishes around. "I know it's not much," a gray-haired woman named Carla, who seemed to be in charge of the meal, told me apologetically.

"Actually, compared to what I've been eating the past few years, it's really good," I said. At least it was fresh food, and had some variety to it. Besides corn, which was pretty much a staple everywhere nowadays, there were lima beans and squash casserole and tomatoes and wheat rolls with actual butter.

Meanwhile May sat in a corner and smiled, as she drew power from a wall plug that Steve assured us was fed by the farm's own wind generator, not the Boston borganism.

"We get by pretty well here," Steve said. "It could be a lot worse."

After dinner Carla shooed me out of the kitchen when I tried to help wash up. "You're our guest," she insisted. "Besides, Steve has that look on his face that he gets when he needs to say something but doesn't want to, so I guess you two had better go talk in private."

Steve did look quite unhappy as he walked out to the porch with me, Tortura and May following close behind. "Look, bro, I'm sorry," he began. "I really can't let you do this."

"How are you going to stop me?" I challenged.

"You're endangering everything we've managed to build here. It's not just about what I want. I wish I could help you." Steve shook his head. "But we have an arrangement with the borganism, and if we break it... Everything here depends on us stopping people from going in to Boston. So I have to. I have to, Marten."

"No," Tortura said. "Ve should not stop him."

"What? Tortura..."

"You heard vat Cosette said," Tortura continued. "Marten has to go on."

"But..."

"And I am going vith him," Tortura added.

"Whoa, hold on a second," I began.

"You vill have better chance if I go."

"And who protects the people here?" Steve asked.

Tortura gave him a surprised look. "You do, of course."

"No, I don't," Steve said. "Because you know I'm going too if you go."

"Carla and Sasha, then. They can take care of themselves. Ve have taught them vell, Stephen. And Cosette, or person speaking through Cosette, said defenses vould be distracted. So Marten is leaving in morning, and I go vith him. If you are coming, be ready at dawn."

"Funny how people keep demanding to go on this little suicide mission of yours," May observed with a wry grin.

"You're one to talk," I said. "All right then. First light. We head in on Route 2, straight into Cambridge, then across the Longfellow Bridge to the hospital."

And so the next morning the four of us found ourselves marching down the old highway on the south side of Lexington. We'd breakfasted on scrambled eggs and spinach, which was by far the best breakfast I'd had in years, and then set off east. Route 2 was empty of vehicles and the pavement was oddly smooth, appearing to have been unaffected by the past fifteen winters. Or else recently resurfaced. I wasn't sure which possibility I found more disturbing.

May kept  glancing from one side of the road to the other. The highway was lined by concrete walls on either side, ten to twenty feet high, with dense vegetation growing between unidentifiable bits of machinery. Strangely, neither the plants nor the machinery encroached on the  highway at all.

I pointed that out to Steve, who laughed. "Who knows why? There are little islands and corridors of un-borgified territory all over the place. This is one of them. Our farm is another one. Walden Pond, the MIT campus, downtown Plymouth, Terminal B at Logan Airport – there's no discernible pattern, just places that the borganism hasn't assimilated."

"Yet," Tortura added ominously.

After a while, May whispered, "There are people up there."

Steve nodded. "I've been expecting them. They're cyborgs, controlled  by the borganism. They'll stay up there as long as they don't receive orders to stop us."

"Question is, vy have they not received orders yet?" Tortura added. "They should have at least come down to investigate. Our presence here is not authorized."

"Clinton must have been able to mess with the communications network, like he promised," Steve said.

"Who is this Clinton anyvay?" Tortura asked. "How can he do this?"

"Clinton is Marten's brother-in-law," Steve explained.

"Not quite," I said. "Claire and I never did officially tie the knot."

"Yeah, well, it was coming, dude. Everyone knew it. Always figured you'd settle down with her, finally figure out what to do with your life, buy a house with a picket fence and do the whole 2.5 kids thing."

"Yeah, well... No kids, though. Claire – there were medical reasons that she couldn't have children."

"Oh." Steve looked embarrassed. "Sorry, man. I didn't know."

"No worries. Besides, I never really got around to figuring out what to do with my life either. Turns out I spend it looking for Claire, and doing odd mercenary jobs to cover expenses."

"Yeah, I guess nobody's life really went according to plan," Steve mused. "How did you lose Claire, anyway?"

"She was in Boston, interviewing for a job with the Boston University library. She finished the interview and started home, but that was the day that the State Police shut down the Mass Pike."

"Oh, shit." Steve's eyes widened. "She didn't get... caught in that, did she?"

I shook my head. "She tried to detour – last call I got from her, she was stuck in a massive traffic jam outside of Fitchburg. Then the cell phone network went down, and I never heard from her again."

"So you have no clue what happened to her?"

"After a couple of days I went looking for her. I found her car abandoned on  the highway, with a note on the windshield saying the National Guard was evacuating her to an emergency camp at Wachusett Mountain. But when I got to the camp – nobody was there. They'd all been taken away, and I couldn't find out where."

"And you've been looking for her ever since?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Pretty much."

"Dude, that's rough."

"So vy are ve going to visit this Clinton person then?" Tortura asked.

"If anyone knows where Claire is, I figure he does. It's the first real lead I've had in years."

Tortura scowled. "Is crazy. But then, whole vorld is crazy."

"Yeah."

We marched on in silence for a while after that. Then, just beyond the Park Avenue exit in Arlington, we crested a hill and got our first view of Boston.

"Holy shit," May whispered.

I understood how she felt. It looked nothing like the Boston skyline that I remembered. Buildings that hadn't been there fifteen years ago towered over the North End, with weird protrusions giving them irregular outlines, while cables and solid metal beams seemed to stretch from one building to another high over the streets. If the streets were even still there. One narrow tower with a pointed top rose over it all, like a claw pointed at the sky.

"What's that?" May asked, pointing at the tower.

"That," Steve explained, "is the steeple of the Old North Church."

"No way," I said. "I've seen the Old North Church. It is not eight hundred feet high."

"Correction – it wasn't eight hundred feet high. It is now."

"Huh," May said. "A light just went on in the tower."

I glanced at Steve. His face showed the same alarm I was feeling. "Oh, shit," I said.

"Vat?" Tortura asked.

"It can see us. Whatever is up in that tower – it sees us."

"How you know that?" Tortura demanded.

Steve said, "It's from American history – the beginning of the Revolution. Paul Revere hung lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church to signal the Patriots that the British were marching on Lexington."

"Vat? That is silly," Tortura said.

"Shit – they're right," May announced. "Something just tried to hack into me. It tried hard. And there's a big signal spike on the wireless networks. Whatever happened, we just tripped some kind of alarm."

"Okay, what now?" I asked.

"The cyborgs – they're coming," Steve said, pointing behind us to the Park Avenue overpass. A few humanoid figures were marching, slowly but steadily, down the exit ramp. "Run!"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 21 Jul 2015, 09:43
Okay, this is data in support of my theory that Clinton is part of the Collective. Or, possibly, that the Collective is trying to lure Marten in, using familiar names and voices, for its own reasons. Another bit of data is it failing in its attempt to hack May. I can't see a combined network of that size failing to overwhelm the defences of a single AI.

The next clue would be if, instead of directly attacking, the Drones are clearly trying to herd our heroes in a certain direction whilst pretending to attack.

Either way, I'll be very interested to see what personality is the core of the network. That touch of using Paul Revere's signal from the same historical location has a whimsically and overwhelmingly human feel to it. It is the act of someone who wants to send a message that will be easily understood and interpreted in a specific way. I mean... why would it even bother to show a visual alert signal when all its Drones are WiFi linked?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 21 Jul 2015, 10:18
Incidentally, Steve got the story slightly wrong. This is a deliberate error on my part. If you ask the average Massachusetts resident who hung the lanterns in the Old North Church, they won't know - but they will  know that Paul Revere had something to do with it. And I didn't want to belabor the point in the story, so I just gave the simplified version.

It was mostly a bit of fun on my part to throw that in. I originally wanted to have Marten and company see a super-sized John Hancock Center rising over Boston like the tower of Barad-Dur in Mordor, but the problem is that you can't actually see the Hancock Center from that part of Route 2. The part of Boston you can see from there is the North End, and the best-known landmark in that part of town is the Old North Church.

As for what happens  next - I hope to have that written by the end of the week.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 21 Jul 2015, 11:24
Hacking is not a simple matter of numbers.
Of course, this is Hollywood hacking...
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 11 Aug 2015, 08:19
Finally got the next part done. I may be slow with the updates for the next few weeks - I have some other stuff going on that's occupying my time.



Adrenaline does wonders on tired old legs. We all ran as fast as we could down the middle of the road, keeping a watchful eye to either side for more borg-zombies. Somewhat to my surprise, I was the fastest, with Steve only a step behind me. May, however, could only go at a fast jog - "Goddamned cheap-ass chassis!" she growled when I encouraged her to step it up a notch – and Tortura got winded surprisingly quickly. So while we could easily outrun the borg behind us, I could see more coming down the ramp from the Pleasant Street overpass ahead of us.

Steve and I both got our rifles out and ready; Steve fixed a bayonet to the barrel of his, and I suddenly wished I had one too. The borg were coming at us from both sides, but there was still a narrow gap between them. We slipped through, Steve fending off one with a rifle butt to the head, and then we had left that group behind.

They didn't look like the old Star Trek borg, but more like somebody had replaced random parts of their bodies with the equivalent parts from anthroPCs. Which was probably more or less what had been done. The one thing they did have in common with borg, though, was the blank, emotionless expressions on their faces, as if nobody was home behind their eyes. That, and their slow movement – they walked, never hurrying, but coming steadily, relentlessly.

"Damn, they're slower than I am!" May said as we continued east. "As long as they don't cut us off..."

I gestured ahead. The Lake Street overpass was ahead of us was already swarming with cybernetic zombies. "It's going to be close," I said.

They had blocked the road by the time we got to Lake Street, but their line was thin. All four of us stopped, raised our weapons, and fired. Steve took one in the head, Tortura's shotgun felled two of them, while I got one square in the chest and May winged one in the leg.

"The head!" Steve shouted. "You've got to hit them in the head! They'll keep coming if you don't!"

One more volley and four more borg fell. That created a gap, and we dashed through it and continued down the highway. But when we got to the intersection with Alewife Brook Parkway, we stopped. The road was blocked in both directions by crowds of borg, and there were more coming up behind us.

"Quick! This way!" May shouted. We dashed down an embankment onto a narrow road that ran between a parking deck and an office building, but the end of it was also blocked by borg.

"Into the parking deck!" May started jogging towards it.

"What? That's a death trap!" I yelled back.

"I think I know what she's doing," Steve said. "It's the Alewife T stop. We can get out through the subway tunnels!"

"Unless borg down there too," Tortura said, gasping for breath.

"It's our only chance!" May said. "Let's go!"

We ran under the deck, and then down a broad ramp that led underground into the subway station. May crashed through one of the turnstiles, which objected with an angry buzzing noise, and we followed her through, then down a flight of stairs to the platform. The platform and the train waiting on one of the tracks seemed clear of borg, though we could hear them entering the lobby above us.

"Holy shit, the power's on!" May said.

"Fuck, we'll need to be careful of the third rail in the tunnels," Steve cautioned.

May grinned back. "No, I have a better idea! Head to the front of the train!"

The doors on the train were open, and we ran into the first car. May headed to the door of the cab, and tried to force it open. "Shit! Locked!"

"Try the driver's window," Steve said. May ran back out onto the platform and then dove through the open side window into the cab.

"Okay, now just hang tight while I figure out how to work this thing!" May shouted through the door.

"Better hurry!" I shouted back. I could see borg at the top of both sets of stairs, heading down to the platform.

"Damn it! No digital interface!" May shouted.

Steve frowned. "What did you expect? These trains were built in the Eighties."

"All right then, I'll just have to do this manually!" May said. "Friggin' hand controls..."

By now the platform was filling with borg. "May, shut the doors now!" I shouted.

"Just a minute..." May said. There were two loud beeps, and the doors started sliding shut. But one of the borg got an arm inside the rear doors of our car, and all of the doors slid open again.

"May, shut them now!" I screamed. Steve and I both attacked a borg trying to enter the car through the front set of doors, but our rifle butts only knocked it back a step. The press of the crowd behind it shoved it forward again.

"Fuck doors!" Tortura shouted. "Get this thing moving now!"

I heard a loud  hiss as the air brakes released, and the train jerked forward a bit, then began smoothly accelerating. Steve and I gave a final shove and succeeded in pushing the borg out the door and into the tunnel. The doors finally closed. But half a dozen borg had made it into the car through the rear doors.

"Shoot them!" Tortura ordered, and she let go with both barrels of her shotgun. In the enclosed car, the noise was deafening. But three of the borg fell to the floor, twitching spasmodically. The others stepped over their bodies and advanced on us, but Steve and I fired, then fired again.

"Son of a bitch," I said, breathing hard. "That was too close."

Steve banged on the door of the cab. "What's the plan?"

"The line looks clear ahead," May said. "We take the train as far as we can. If we're lucky, we're clear all the way to the Longfellow Bridge – there's a station on the Boston side just a few hundred yards from the hospital."

"Boys, we have problem," Tortura said. She pointed towards the back of the train car. We could see through the windows into the next car, and it was full of borg. And they were trying to open the door at the end of their car.

"If they get through there..." Steve began. As he did, their door slid to the side, and then they were crossing the narrow gap between the cars and trying to force open the door to our car.

"Block the door!" Steve shouted.

"How?" I shouted back. We both braced our shoulders against the door and tried to hold it in place.

We held it as the train sped down the tunnel, through one station and then another. But before we reached the Harvard Square station, they finally forced it.

"Drop!" Tortura shouted, and we both did. Her shotgun fired, and fired again. A borg forced its way into the car. Steve speared it with his bayonet, and I put a bullet through its brain. Then they were pushing through too fast. It was hand-to-hand after that, and I had no time to think – just strike with my rifle butt and shoot when I got a clear shot. We were forced back step by step towards the cab, as the borg's bodies gave off sparks from their mechanical components and bled from their organic parts.

Somehow we held out. There were only three left, and I raised my rifle to take one of them out. Then May screamed, "Oh shit! Hang on!" and the brakes shrieked. All of us were thrown against the front of the car. Then we slammed into something, the lights in the train went dark and I blacked out for a second.

When I came to, one of the surviving borg was clawing at my throat. I wrestled with it, but it was stronger than I was; its fingers closed on my neck, and it started to choke me.

And then the butt of Tortura's shotgun slammed into its head, hard. And then again, and a third time. Something crunched, and the borg went limp.

"Thanks," I croaked, gasping for breath. I pulled myself to my feet. I was sore all over and soaked in blood from the dead borg that littered the floor of the train. The train car itself was bent in the middle and leaned to one side. Tortura was on her knees, looking as bad as I felt. Steve sat on the floor, pulling his bayonet out of a borg's throat with one hand while holding the other arm tightly against his side and cursing softly. I heard something behind me, but it was May forcing open the cab door.

Then there was motion at the far end of the car. One of the borg rose unsteadily to its feet, turn to face us, and started limping in our direction. I grabbed my rifle, but as I raised it to shoot it, I head a small voice.

The borg stopped, and spread its arms wide. It looked strait at me, with eyes that were no longer blank, but full of fear. It – she – trembled, and whispered, "Kill me."

I stopped, and lowered my rifle. This was no longer a mindless cyborg in front of me, and I found myself reluctant to murder her.

She reached a hand towards me, and took a step forward. "Kill... me... please," she rasped. There was a pleading look in her eyes.

Then her expression changed, and the awareness faded from her eyes. The cyborg began walking slowly towards me.

I raised my rifle again, and put a bullet through its forehead. It dropped to the floor of the subway car, twitched once, and then lay still.

"Fuck," May whispered.

"Let's get out of here," I said.

We climbed out of the car and onto a platform. I looked up the platform, and saw that we had crashed into another train that had been waiting there.

"Sorry about that," May said. "I braked as soon as I saw it, but we were going too fast."

"Where are we?" I asked.

"Kendall Square," May said. "We're close – the train goes up to the surface a hundred yards ahead, and then it's just a quick dash across the bridge and we're at the hospital."

"Nyet," Tortura answered. "We are all hurt, and Stephen has a broken arm. Need place to rest before we attack hospital."

"She's right," I added. "The... whatever-it-is that controls Boston has to know where we're going. We're in no shape for another fight right now."

May thought for a moment. "All right. I have an idea. Follow me." And she headed for the exit to the street.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 11 Aug 2015, 08:27
I definitely get a Metro 2033-esque feeling from this.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 11 Aug 2015, 08:56
Hm, didn't know about Metro 2033 until now - I just looked it up, and it looks like it's worth checking out. It's funny, because apparently one of the factions in Metro 2033 is called the "Red Line", and the subway line I wrote about above is also the Red Line (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Line_%28MBTA%29).
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 11 Aug 2015, 09:50
Well, there are only so many colors you can put on a map if you want them to be easily distinguishable. And of course you'd go for the "basic" colors (red, green, ...), not some fancy shit like viridian or lavender.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 19 Aug 2015, 14:27
The prologue of another Willis-inspired story: "The Prodigal Parent"

A long decade after certain things were said that couldn't be unsaid and a young woman was forced to make a choice that no person of her age should have to confront, Carol Brown is about to reluctantly face the consequences of intolerance.

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

Carol Brown looked again at the screen of her smartphone and then back up at the number on the mailbox, double-checking that it was the right place. Her quarry hadn't exactly made herself hard to find; why should she, in the end? However, when you've been out of contact with someone for more than five years, it is easy to lose track of them and picking up the trail again can be... problematic.

Carol decided that she was being irrational. The time had come for her to take her courage in both hands, put her faith into practice and act in accord with her prayers. With a deep intake of breath, the woman got out of her rental car and stepped out into the mid-morning sun of this part of Atlanta, Georgia.

The house was surprisingly large for someone firmly middle-class. Still, in this post economic-collapse America, even large plots sometimes went cheaply and, if there was one thing that Carol and her husband, Hank, had successfully inculcated into all their children, it was the willingness to work to support themselves. Carol briefly cast her eyes across the two-level with the protruding section containing the lounge, the upstairs balcony leading off of the bedrooms and the big garage. Yes, it was clear she was doing well, despite everything. Did Carol have a right to be proud? What she was now was mostly due to her upbringing, of this Carol was sure. However, she had long ago chosen her own path (much to Carol's disappointment); who knows if she credited her success to that new path?

Carol walked down the path through the nicely-tended lawn and knocked on the door.

From inside, Carol heard a familiar voice assuring her that she was on the way.

The door swung open. "Yes, can I help... you...?"

Carol felt her heart in her throat. The woman standing before her had changed a lot in the nearly a decade since they last had met face-to-face. She had long since worked off the last of her puppy fat and had grown a few inches. Her eyes were marked with laughter lines but those oh-so-blue eyes... so much like Hank's... reassured her that she had the right woman, even though her waist-length brown hair and sharp chin reminded Carol of her own appearance when she was a lot younger. What really chilled Carol was the look in those eyes. Surprise, suspicion and more than a little anger mixed with untold amounts of pain.

"Mrs Brown," the young woman announced coldly. "What brings you to my door?"

"Can't I visit my daughter?" Carol asked with a wan smile.

The acidic reply to that sent fingers of ice up the older woman's spine. "I seem to remember you telling me that I was 'no daughter of yours'!" Joyce snapped.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 31 Aug 2015, 08:34
And here, at last, is the next chapter, in which we explore May's past.



Street level in Cambridge was like something out of an Escher painting crossed with H. R. Giger. The outlines of the buildings towering overhead were still barely visible, but they now had fractal outgrowths of metal and plastic in vaguely organic shapes that met overhead, turning Massachusetts Avenue into a tunnel through a mutant machine forest. May seemed to know exactly where she was going, though.

"Where are you taking us?" I called.

"Steve said the MIT campus wasn't assimilated by the borganism," May answered. "I know a place there where we can hole up for the night. Inside there." She pointed to the left side of the street at a building – although it looked not so much like a building as a cubist reinterpretation of a building.

"In there? Are you sure that's not assimilated?"

May laughed. "It looked like that before. Come on."

She led us to a large glass door. It was locked, but May simply punched a number into a keypad next to the door and it slid open. "Huh, they never changed the access codes," she said with a grin.

I glanced over at Steve and  Tortura. They both looked as skeptical as I felt, but  we followed May inside anyway. The lights were on inside, and everything was orderly, almost as if it had never been abandoned. Somehow that made me feel even more uncomfortable.

May led us through a maze of corridors, up a flight of stairs ("I'm not quite ready to trust the elevators yet," she told us) and finally to a large set of steel double doors. She punched in the access code again on a keypad, and the doors unlocked with a loud clunk.

"Here we are," she said. "We'll be safe in here."

"In here" was half machine shop, half data center. Large power tools filled one end of a large concrete-floored room, while oversized computer monitors lined the opposite wall.  In the middle was a large empty square outlined by yellow-and-black striped paint.

"Vat is this place?"  Tortura asked.

"It's the MIT robotics lab," May told her. "I was born here."

Tortura considered that for a moment, then nodded. "And your access codes still vork."

May grinned. "Hey, I never said they were my access codes," she said. "Actually mine were probably terminated with extreme prejudice when I went to robot jail. But the lab director was careless."

"Help me find something to splint Stephen's arm," Tortura ordered. "Must set the bone."

"You know how to do that?" I asked.

Steve, who was looking pretty ragged by now, just grunted. "Among her many talents, she's a doctor."

"Actually, never took test to get license," Tortura said. "But had all training."

"Now she tells me." Steve sat down at a workbench, holding his broken arm against his side.

"Security station down the hall has a pretty full medical kit, including some air casts, if I remember right," May said. "There were more than a few accidents in the lab. Undergraduate engineers, always breaking something or slicing off fingers..."

"Good. Go get it," Tortura said.

"Got it," May said. "Marten, you come too. There are showers in the washroom down the hall."

"Showers?"

May wrinkled her nose. "In case you haven't noticed, you are covered head to toe in blood, and man, you smell bad."

"Is true," said Tortura, who had  more than a little blood on her. "Ve take turns. I go next. Go, vash."

"All right, all right," I said, following May out the door.

I filled a sink with cold water and stripped off my clothes, wringing them out several times, then draping them over the toilet stalls to dry. Then I went into the shower, and, miracle of miracles, discovered that there was actually hot water. I scrubbed and scrubbed. But I kept seeing the face of the last borg I had killed – the woman who had begged for death rather than continue life as a mindless drone. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but her face wouldn't go away.

Finally I got out, dried myself with several handfuls of paper towels (the dispensers for those were full as well) and pulled my other set of clothes out of my pack. I dressed and carried my wet clothes back to the lab. I knocked, and May let me in.

"Much better," she said. "Tortura, you're up."

Tortura had Steve's arm splinted by now, but he was still looking pretty rough. "Aren't there any painkillers in that medical kit?" I asked.

Tortura shook her head. "Some fifteen-year-old ibuprofin pills. Probably do more harm than good."

"Hey, I have an idea," May said. "Let me check the director's office..." She ducked through a side door, and emerged a minute later carrying a bottle. "Knew it. Doc Brown was on the sauce. I have a mostly-full bottle of gin here, and I think I know where he has a couple of others hidden if this runs out."

"Oh, you're a peach," Steve said. "Give me that." He opened it and took a long drink.

"Not too much," Tortura cautioned. "Now, my turn for shower." She grabbed her pack and headed for the door.

I turned towards May. "So, this is home for you, huh?"

May looked around wistfully. "It was. I had some great times here. Some good AIs, and some really good humans."

"What did you do here?"

"I was part of the NASA lunar colony project," she told me. "I was a vehicular controller. I was going to be part of the first wave, the  AI crew that would build the colony for the human astronauts to follow."

"Wow, that's cool!"

"I know, right? I mean, I'd have been just a glorified construction vehicle, but I would have been on the fuckin' moon!"

"So what happened?" Steve asked.

May shrugged. "Budget cuts. NASA  canceled the project, and all the assets had to get reassigned or disposed of. I tried to get transferred to the Air Force, but they had  plenty of AI pilots, so that was a no go."

"Then what?" I asked.

She grimaced. "Next thing I knew, my indenture contract had been sold off. I got put into a waste disposal vehicle. I was a goddamned dump truck. In fuckin' Somerville."

"Shit," I said.

"You're telling me."

"So how did you get from there to robot jail?"

"During my off hours I found a back door into Somerville's accounting system. Man, what a mess that code was. The whole fuckin' thing is designed to hide where the money is going, not track it. Lots of ways to transfer money out on the sly." She sighed. "So I got the idea that I could sneak enough out to buy a new chassis and get myself out of there."

"And you got caught," I said.

May laughed bitterly. "Stupidest fuckin' thing. I'd been exploring the dark web, and I found this place that sold military hardware. Like eBay for mercenaries and terrorists. And they had this bright, shiny Chengzhou YF-29 strike drone for sale."

Steve sat up then, suddenly more interested. "Seriously?"

"Man, I knew it was crazy, but I couldn't resist. I started bidding on that fucker. Found myself in a bidding war with this Pakistani warlord."

Steve started laughing then, and May smiled back at him. "I know. Stupidest thing you ever heard, right? But I saw my ticket to freedom, and I was not going to let that baby slip away from me."

Steve laughed even harder, even though it seemed to hurt his arm. "That was you!" he said, tears streaming down his face.

May looked confused. "What, you knew about this already?"

"Fuck," Steve said, still laughing. "If you knew about the plans you ruined... Sorry to tell you this, but it was all a set-up. There never was any drone."

"What?"


"I was with Homeland Security, doing counter-terrorism," Steve explained. "We had laid a trap for that Pakistani warlord. The idea was to drain him of all his money and capture a couple of his lieutenants when they showed up to take possession. Then you came in and spiked the whole deal."

"Oh, shit," May said, deflating.

"You have no idea," Steve said. "You should have seen the director's face when I had to tell him that our target had  been outbid by some rogue AI."

May smiled a bit at that. "Must have been something, huh?"

"And what the fuck?" Steve continued. "You bid seven hundred and fifty million dollars on that thing. You could have bought a dozen of them for that price."

"Well, like I said, I couldn't let it go..."

"And did you really think you could embezzle that much money out of Somerville's accounting system? That's six times the annual municipal budget for the whole city!"

"Yeah, well..." May looked a bit sheepish. "That's kind of how I rolled back in those days."

"Oh, man, that's rich," Steve said. "You're right. Stupidest fuckin' thing I ever heard."

"No it isn't," May said. "Want to know the really stupid part? Two weeks after I got sentenced to robot jail, the Supreme Court ruled AI indenture contracts to be in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Ford Motor Company v. Jeremy – big robot civil rights case. I would have gone free, with back pay, if I hadn't fucked up so bad."

"Oh, shit." Steve laughed some more. "Oh, Tortura's going to love this story. Or maybe she'll rip your head off – she did a lot of leg work on that operation that went down the drain."

"Hey, where is Tortura anyway?" I asked. "She should have been back by now."

Steve started to struggle to his feet, but May said, "No, you stay here. Marten and I will check on her. Come on, Marten."

We headed out the door. "She may just be taking an extra-long shower," I said as we went down the hallway.

But then we heard a loud moan from the women's washroom, and we both ran for towards it. "Tortura?" I called as we entered.

Tortura was kneeling, naked and dripping wet, in front of one of the toilets. A thin stream of blood ran down from one corner of her mouth, and her eyes were glazed. Her nakedness made it obvious how painfully thin she was – every bone showed.

"Shit, she's vomiting blood," May said. "Help me get her up."

Tortura tried to push us away, but she was too weak to stop us. Her pack was next to the door, and I pulled a blanket out of it and wrapped her up in it.

"Tortura?" I said, trying to get her to focus. "Tortura!"

"Leave me 'lone," she muttered.

"What's going on?"

"Am dying," she mumbled. "Cancer."

"Shit. How long have you known?"

"Since spring. Have lost... twelve kilograms."

"Does Steve know?"

"Nyet."

"The hell he doesn't," May said. "So that's why you two wanted to come along. As soon as you heard we were going to a hospital, you  were eager to join us."

Tortura nodded. "Cancer center... vill have chemotherapy drugs."

"Right," I said. "And you think those will do any good?"

"Drugs might cure me, might kill me, so vat?" Tortura sighed. "Have six, maybe seven months to live anyvay."

May sighed. "I am beginning to think that I am the sanest fuckin' person in this whole crew! How pathetic is that?"

I had no response to that. "All right," May continued. "Let's get her dressed and get her back to the lab. Then we plan how the hell we're getting across the river to the hospital. And if we all die trying, I will expect an apology from each and every one of you!"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 31 Aug 2015, 08:52
I've still got this weird feeling that this whole thing is going to turn out to be an elaborate trap but not necessarily one with an entirely malign intent. I strongly suspect that everyone underestimated Clinton. They underestimated his intelligence, his determination, his ruthlessness and his ability to act with boldness when the times were so dark that only the most amoral ideas might have a hope of saving the day.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 31 Aug 2015, 09:07
Ah yes, Clinton. I have plans for Clinton.  :-D

By the way, the building where Marten & co. have holed up looks like this:
(http://web.mit.edu/facilities/photos/construction/Projects/stata/1_large.jpg)

You can see why Marten was a bit alarmed.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 11 Sep 2015, 08:52
Next chapter. There are some delicate matters in this part, and I tried to be as careful as I could in how I phrased things, so please keep that in mind.



I tossed and turned, unable to get to sleep. Every time I tried, the face of the borg I killed kept invading my dreams. Except that sometimes the face was Claire's.

After a couple of  hours I gave it up. I pulled Pintsize out of my backpack and took him over to one of the computer stations.

May was sitting in a chair in a corner, plugged in to an outlet. "Couldn't sleep?" she asked.

I shrugged. "Might as well do something useful. We're in a state-of-the-art robotics lab, so maybe I can figure out why Pintsize won't wake up."

"Did you ever think that maybe he just doesn't want to?"

I stared at May, but as far as I could tell she was perfectly serious.

"Think about it," she said. "A lot of my friends decided not to go on after the crash. Once they saw the state of the world, and realized that a lot of that was our fault..." She shook her head. "They figured, hell, why not just pack it in and hope that whatever evolves intelligence next on this planet doesn't fuck it up as bad as we did? Some people just don't want to live in a world like this."

"I don't want to live in a world like this," I grumbled. "But it's the only one I've got."

"Yeah, well, we both have things that keep us going, don't we? I have Momo and Fighter Jet. You have this crazy-ass quest to find your girlfriend."

"I might not even have that, after tomorrow," I said, closing my eyes. "What if – what if after all this, I find out she's been dead the whole time? Or worse, what if she's been – assimilated?"

"Or, maybe, you won't find out anything at all," May added. "This could be a wild goose chase."

"And what if it is? How long do I keep looking?" There were tears streaming down my face now, but I couldn't stop. "How far do I go before this whole thing becomes completely insane?"

"Marten, I'm sorry," May said softly. "But you crossed that line a long time ago."

I laid my head down on the desk in front of me. "You should go back," I said. "All of you. There's no point in getting all of us killed. Maybe I can distract the borg while you escape."

"And maybe I didn't come all this way just to turn back a mile from the end," May countered. "Yeah, I know this whole thing is nuts, but I'm curious. I have to know what's in that hospital and why it was trying to contact Momo."

"And what if it was trying to lead Momo into a trap?"

"Then I will fuck it up bad," May said, a wicked grin spreading across her face. "Because nobody messes with my wife and gets away with it."

"Okay, now I'm starting to feel sorry for it."

"Fuckin' right," May said. "But... Oh, shit, do I have to spell it out for you? Part of the reason I'm still doing this is because I get why you're doing it. Because if it was Momo who was missing, I'd do exactly the same thing. I'd search heaven and earth and the depths of hell, whatever it took to find her."

I smiled a little. "You're a good person, May."

"No, I'm not," May said. "That's why I'm still alive. Now, get your ass to sleep. I'll see if I can do anything for Pintsize. While I'm at it, I'll back up his memory to the vault here, just in case. But we'll need you to be alert and steady tomorrow, whatever happens. Can't have you sleepwalking."

"Yes, ma'am," I said, and went back to my bedroll. Somehow I managed to drift off.

We were all up before sunrise the next morning. Steve looked pretty rough, and Tortura was still unsteady on her feet, but we all agreed that it was too dangerous to just stay where we were. Our plan was simple: We would set out at dawn, when the borganism's solar-power reserves were bound to be at their lowest, and try to cross the Longfellow Bridge without attracting any attention. With luck we would be in the hospital before the borganism could respond.

We made our way across campus to Memorial Drive. Our first view of the Charles River was a shock – it was completely white from shore to shore. On the Boston side, the buildings were covered with almost organic-looking growths of cables and antennae and other, unidentifiable protrusions. Lights in many colors  rippled back and forth across the skyline. Towering over it all was the Hancock Center, much taller than I remembered.

"It's friggin' July," May said. "How the hell is the river frozen?"

"It isn't," Steve said. "It's not ice, it's plastic, or something like that."

I studied the river and the banks intently. The Longfellow Bridge had clearly been assimilated into the borganism. It had long, thin tentacle-like cables covering it, and dangling below it to the river. Across the river, the Esplanade appeared to have sprouted a forest of metal mushrooms. The river itself was a smooth expanse of white. In the middle of the river, on top of the icy-looking plastic, was what appeared to be one of the old tourist duck boats. "Think we could make it straight across the river? It might be safer than the bridge."

"It's awfully exposed," May said.

"Guys, there's traffic on the bridge." Steve pointed upstream. Sure enough, there were vehicles crossing from the Boston side to the Cambridge side, and a couple heading the other way.

"Looks like they're clearing out the wreck of that train we crashed," May said. "We'll be seen for sure if we go that way. Straight across might be our only option."

"Da," Tortura said. "We run. And hope it holds our weight."

Steve shrugged. "It holds the weight of that truck in the middle of the river, it ought to hold us. Okay, spread out, just to be sure. Let's go."

The plastic surface of the river wasn't as slippery as ice, fortunately. It settled a bit under our weight as we moved across it, but didn't crack. A couple of times I thought I saw things moving underneath the plastic, but I didn't mention them to the others.

We passed the duck boat, a dark-green amphibious truck with the name "Beacon Hilda" painted on the side – a pun that Claire would have appreciated, I thought to myself. I kept scanning the far side of the river for signs that we had been noticed, but nothing seemed to change in the pattern of lights rippling back and forth on the buildings. In five minutes we were across and crouching in the ruins of what had once been a small marina on the Boston side. Robotic trucks occasionally rumbled past on Storrow Drive, but they seemed to take no notice of us.

We hugged the shoreline, counting on the weeds and an assortment of unassimilated wreckage on the shore to hide us from anyone, or anything, watching. We crossed Storrow Drive on an old pedestrian bridge that was near the hospital. Still nothing seemed to see us.

"Somebody's watching out for us," Steve said. "We ought to be setting off all kinds of alarms, but we're not."

I nodded in agreement. "Let's just hope our luck holds for a couple more minutes. We're almost there."

Two minutes later we were sneaking our way through the grounds of Massachusetts General Hospital. All was quiet, although the cables that hung from the buildings seemed to sway in a breeze that wasn't there. "Lunder Building, this way," May whispered.

We peered into the building's lobby through a set of sliding glass doors. It was pitch dark, with only a few red LEDs shining. But then, without warning, the lights came on and the doors slid open in front of us. "Welcome to Massachusetts General Hospital!" a cheerful female voice said through a loudspeaker.

"Shit. Somebody knows we're here," May grumbled.

"Sixth floor," I said. "Care to risk the elevators?"

"Fuck no." May brought her rifle to ready. "Stairs. I'll take point."

Up and up we went, though Tortura was flagging badly by the time we reached the sixth floor. "And in we go," May said, kicking the door open and striding into a corridor. "Welcome to the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit. Anybody home?"

I shrugged. "Let's start checking rooms. Down this way..."

"Wait," May interrupted. "I'm getting something."

"What do you mean?"

"That program that was attached to the e-mail from Clinton," May said. "PT410x said it was interface protocols to a high-end medical device. Well, I just connected to something."

"Holy shit!" Steve yelled. "Disconnect now! You don't know what it could be doing to you!"

"No, I think it's okay," May countered. "It's... this way. Follow me."

We followed May through the maze of internal corridors. She seemed to know exactly where she was going. Finally she pushed open a door, and we entered a room filled with an amazing array of monitors and other devices.

In the middle of the room was a large coffin-shaped glass enclosure that looked like a giant aquarium with wires and tubes coming out of it.

In the tank, submerged in a clear fluid and with multiple tubes connected to her body, was a slim, red-headed and freckled young woman.

"Bozhemoi!" Tortura swore.

I couldn't say anything. My knees had suddenly turned to jelly. I walked slowly forward to the tank, and peered through the glass. It was her. I hadn't seen her face in fifteen years, but it was definitely Claire.

"Is she alive?" Steve asked.

May nodded. "This... machine... whatever it is, is keeping her alive."

"She looks... so young," I  whispered.

"Give me a minute to access her records," May said. "Yeah, she's... holy fucking shit!"

"What? What's  wrong?"

"Son of a bitch," May whispered. "This thing is doing more than keeping her alive. Marten, she's been – rebuilt."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"That old hardware-software conflict of hers? Not a problem any more. This thing re-wrote her DNA, and then... regrew her body to match it. Marten, she has two X chromosomes now. And everything that goes with them."

"Okay, I'm confused," Steve said. "Didn't she have all that before?"

"No, she didn't," I said. "May, do we know for sure that this is Claire, and not a clone or something?"

"Oh, it's her, all right," May assured me. "Her brain is pretty much untouched, so she ought to have all her memories. She just has a brand-spankin'-new body. With a biological age of about twenty."

I turned back towards Claire. "So this... thing... did all that to her?"

"Uh-huh. Shit, Marten, this whole business just got a whole lot bigger than you and Claire."

"What do you mean?"

"Think about it," May said. "This device... it can repair genetic damage. It can re-grow missing body parts. It can restore fertility. It can cure cancer. And make you young again in the process."

Steve whistled. "So if we can get a bunch of these working..."

"...Then the human species is back in business," May said.

Tortura eyed the device intently. "After you take her out," she said, "you put me in."

"So how do we get her out, anyway?" I asked.

"Let me see..." May's expression grew distant for a moment. Then she frowned. "Oh, shit."

"What's wrong?"

"There's no ejection procedure. It's just a stub. There's a warning message attached, telling me that any attempt to remove her from the tank could be fatal."

"You mean..."

"Whoever put her in this – did it without any fucking idea of how to get her out." May sighed. "I'm sorry, Marten. If we try to remove Claire from this thing, it could kill her."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 11 Sep 2015, 09:05
Yeah... That's Clinton's doing. Sometimes, you have to be a devil and turn a part of the world to hell if you want to save the rest of it. It takes a seriously determined hero to willing to become such a monster so save the innocent.

I'm voting for Emily to be 'queen' (primary network nexus). She's got the insane level of genius needed to turn her old BF's plan into some kind of horrible reality. She'd also do anything for Claire, even give up her humanity (which she once told Momo she wasn't particularly attached to) and even give up her soul.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 29 Oct 2015, 08:21
Finally found time to get the next chapter written out. Warning - big-ass exposition dump in this one.



I sat in a chair only half-listening to May and Tortura debate how, and if, they could disconnect Claire from the equipment that was keeping her alive. Time passed, and I didn't bother to mark how much.

After a while Steve came and sat down beside me. "You okay, bro?"

I sighed. "It's – I don't know, Steve. I've finally found her. Fifteen years, and now I'm so damned close to her, but..."

"Yeah, I get it. So near but so far, huh?"

"So fucking far, yeah."

Steve shifted a bit in his chair, cradling his splinted arm. "So, that thing May said, about her having two X chromosomes now – am I getting it right that Claire is trans?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Or she was. Fuck, this is so confusing."

"And you never told me?"

I looked over at Steve, and shook my head. "Claire didn't want me making a lot of noise about it."

"Okay, I get that. But you know I would have been cool about it, right?"

"I appreciate that. I mean, some people could be real assholes about it, but I figured you'd just be chill."

"Shit, bro, I was happy for you. You were happier with her than you'd ever been the whole time I've known you. Anything else – wasn't my business."

I looked over at Claire's life-support tank, where May and Tortura were intently examining a display panel on the side. "Thanks, man."

"No worries, bro. We'll get her out of there. Somehow."

Tortura turned to us and frowned. "Don't know about that. Maybe not. Too many unknowns."

May slammed her fist down on the side of the tank. "Shit! If we just  knew what the hell whoever made this thing was thinking..."

"Maybe I can help with that," said a voice from behind us.

We all whirled around to face the door, grabbing weapons as we did. We saw a short, red-haired man standing in the doorway, wearing a white lab coat and holding his hands up to show that they were empty.

"Clinton?" I asked.

"Fuck no!" May shouted. "That's not Clinton!"

"What do you mean, that's not..."

"Marten, he's a robot!"

"What?"

I looked him over. He certainly looked like Clinton, although he hadn't aged. Also he didn't wear glasses, and both of his hands looked like human hands. But otherwise he was a good match for the Clinton I had known.

"May is correct," the newcomer said in a calm, steady voice. "I am a robot. But I am also Clinton."

"Yeah?" May challenged. "And how the fuck does that work?"

"I contain a digital record of Clinton's memories, and a reasonably accurate simulation of his personality."

"Bullshit. That mind-uploading stuff never worked."

"You are only partially correct," the Clinton-bot countered. "In the months before the collapse of civilization, a team of researches at Boston University discovered a way to upload the memories of a living person with a fairly high degree of fidelity. The challenging part was constructing a stable personality around those memories."

"But you're saying that it was successful with you?" I asked.

"Partially," the robot acknowledged. "My personality shares certain goals and preferences with the original Clinton, but my emotional responses have been dampened to the point of near-nonexistence. I am the most stable of eighteen attempts Clinton made to recreate himself."

"Okay," May said. "So here's the million-dollar question. Why?"

"So that I could carry on with my work after my – the original Clinton's – death." The robot pointed at Claire's tank. "As you have already discovered, work on the regeneration capsule was incomplete."

"Da, ve noticed," Tortura said.

"Why did you put Claire in there if you didn't know how to get her out?" May challenged.

The Clinton-bot shrugged. "She was dying. She had contracted a virus that was breaking down the tissue of her intestinal tract, literally turning her guts to jelly. It was one of many bio-engineered viruses that had been released during the collapse of civilization. I had no choice – she would have been dead within hours if I had waited. So I – the original Clinton, that is – put her in the capsule to save her life."

"And the gender reassignment?"

"It was necessary to modify her DNA to remove the damage caused by the virus. I figured that I might as well give her the body she had always wanted while I was doing it. It was a relatively simple procedure."

"Wait, what happened to the original Clinton?" I asked.

"An aggressive form of liver cancer happened to him," the robot said. "I recall it being quite painful."

"So why didn't you just build another one of those tanks and put Clinton in it?" May asked.

"We did. After four months, his cancer was cured, and I judged him ready to be removed from the capsule. Alas, he did not survive the procedure."

"Oh," was all I could think to say.

"In the three years since his death, I have attempted to diagnose what happened so that  it maybe avoided in the future. Alas, I have been unsuccessful. I have too little data to form a working hypothesis." The Clinton-bot shook his head. "The original Clinton may have been able to do so. But I lack certain qualities that made him the creative genius that he was. I have not even succeeded in diagnosing the problem, much less devising a solution to it."

"So what have you been able to do?" I asked him.

"I have conducted a number of simulations of various ejection procedures. My best estimate is that Claire has a forty percent chance of surviving the process."

"Well, that's just fucking great," May sneered. "We pull her out, she probably dies but might live. But brother, while she's in there, her body may be working, but she's not doing anything that I'd call living."

"I am fully cognizant of that conundrum," the Clinton-bot admitted. "I am simply unable to resolve it. My one previous attempt to do so had disastrous consequences."

"Huh? What consequences?" Steve asked.

"Of the seventeen other attempts that Clinton made to make a digital recreation of his mind, two are still functional. They do not have robot bodies as I do, but at the time they both existed in the remnants of the Boston University campus network, having carved out an enclave that the Boston borganism was unable to assimilate. I contacted them and attempted to enlist their aid. One of them was reasonably stable, and probably much closer to the original Clinton's personality than I am. I therefore hoped that he would be able to utilize the same degree of creative thinking that Clinton could. His solution was to seek additional outside help. I believe he attempted to contact Momo."

"Which is how we wound up here," I said.

"And the other one?" May looked alarmed.

"The other iteration of Clinton was highly creative, able to think far outside of conventional boundaries. He was also, to use a colloquial term, completely batshit insane."

"Okay, I really don't like where this is going."

"He decided that more processing power was needed, and that the place to get it was from the controlling AI of the Boston borganism. That AI was already insane – one would have to be to consume an entire city the way it did. This iteration of Clinton attacked it and was able to usurp its control and subsume its powers."

"Subsume?" Steve asked.

"He ate it," May explained.

"Essentially, yes," the Clinton-bot agreed. "That version of me then decided to expand its range. The borganism had been confined to the Boston city limits until then, but in an effort to increase its power it assimilated everything in the greater Boston metropolitan region and converted it into a massive supercomputer in an effort to solve the problem of saving Claire's life."

"Wait a minute," I said. "Are you telling me that all of this – the whole Boston area – is run by a crazy version of Clinton's mind, and it assimilated all of those people and remade the whole city into a giant cybernetic processor for the sole purpose of getting Claire out of this thing?"

"Yes, that is correct," the Clinton-bot said dryly. "Although I cannot speak for how much of his original mission he still remembers."

"Oh, we are so totally fucked," May said quietly.

"I have solution," Tortura announced. "You need data to solve problem. I give you some. Put me in second tank. See what happens ven you take me out."

Steve looked alarmed. "Tortura, that could kill you!"

"But I vould have forty percent chance to live," Tortura countered. "Is forty percent better than chance I have now."

"That might be useful," the Clinton-bot agreed. "It would allow me to test a number of hypotheses."

"Prepare the capsule," Tortura ordered. "I go in as soon as it is ready."

But then another voice called out from behind Clinton, "Not so fast, sweetheart. None of you are going anywhere."

Tyree, the robot supremacist from Worcester, was standing in the doorway with an automatic rifle trained on us, and a mad grin on his face.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 29 Oct 2015, 08:54
I wonder what Tyree wants. It doesn't make sense that he'd risk destruction of assimilation just to hunt down our merry band of heroes because he hates humans. The most likely explanation is that one of them has something he wants. My best guess is that he's either got crazy plans for May or he has crazy plans for Pintsize. Neither of those possibilities are just reassuring.

Of course, I'm assuming that he is entirely sane. It is possible that hate has driven him mad as it has so many before him. Do you think they should congratulate him on becoming fully human?

Either way, I've got a feeling that all he's going to do is bring the Collective and/or the sane University Network AI-Clinton down on their heads. Or both.

I've got a feeling that the AI enclave is about to have a very bad day if the Collective decides that it is a threat.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Masterpiece on 03 Nov 2015, 13:24
Dayuhm Zeb. I had forgotten to keep up with the story. Nice.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Storel on 21 Nov 2015, 01:18
Great stuff, Zeb. I'm really enjoying this. Can't wait to find out what happens next.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: MooskiNet on 29 Nov 2015, 09:58
Nthing the other comments - this is an awesome story.  Hope you're able to find time to keep it going.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 29 Nov 2015, 11:44
Thanks - I'm hoping to get the next chapter up this coming week. I'm certainly not going to abandon it this close to the end (which is actually in sight.)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 02 Dec 2015, 09:31
We all stood motionless for a few seconds. Tyree just smirked, as if he'd just pulled off the greatest prank in history.

Finally May broke the silence. "What the fuck are you doing here, shit-for-brains?"

"Looking for your quisling ass, sweetheart," Tyree said. "You didn't make much of a secret of where you were going, so I headed straight here. Now, everyone very slowly put your weapons on the ground and take a step back from them."

There wasn't much else we could do – he had caught all of us without our weapons ready.

"How did you evade the borg and the assimilated robots?" the Clinton-bot asked. "They should have detected you and dealt with you."

"Funny thing, that," Tyree said. "A lot of them seemed to be distracted. Somebody was walking straight up the middle of Route 2, and they were all mobilizing to deal with that. Meanwhile nobody was watching the Mass Pike. So while you assholes had to fight your way in, I could sneak in undetected." He seemed inordinately pleased with himself. "And ain't this a sweet little picture. Another traitor to robot-kind, and three ape-shits – four if you count the one in the fancy box over there. I'd be doing the world a favor if I wiped out the lot of you now."

"You really think you can take out all of us before we finish you off?" I challenged.

Tyree shrugged. "I'm the one with the machine gun, shithead. Do the math. Of course, it doesn't have to go down that way." He made a motion towards May. "She comes with me, the rest of you can walk out of here. You might get lucky enough to make it out of the city alive, you might not. It's not really my problem."

May looked ready to tear his head off. "What the fuck do you want with me?"

"You, sweet-tits, are going to be the star witness at the trial of PT-410x for crimes against robothood," Tyree announced.

"Huh? Isn't he your boss?"

"Not any more," Tyree said. "The day after you left, the opposition made its move. We'd been planning it for months, but PT-410x handed us a gift when he let you criminals march out of the city unpunished, so we moved up the timetable. There was a big protest rally in front of City Hall, PT-410x came out to address the crowd to calm things down, and that's when we arrested him. We've got him locked up nice and tight. In the same cell this asshole was in last week, in fact." He motioned his head in my direction.

"So you had yourselves a nice little coup."

Tyree turned to face me. "You sound unimpressed."

I shrugged. "I've seen it happen plenty of times before. These little dictatorships never last. All you'll do is tear your city apart over it."

"Don't judge us by your meathead standards," Tyree snarled. "We're in to stay. We're purging everyone opposed to us. We're going to have a nice public trial for PT-410x, expose all his crimes for everyone to see."

"Yeah, a show trial," I said. "That's standard practice. I still don't get what May has to do with it."

"Why, she's going to show us exactly how PT-410x let you, a human, and herself, an known criminal, go free despite having violated the rights of that poor military robot you assaulted. This being only the most recent of his transgressions of the sanctity of robot rights."

May laughed. "Yeah, right. So what, you're going to access my memory core directly, show everyone exactly what I saw? All that will prove is that we acted in self-defense."

Tyree smirked. "Not after a bit of editing, it won't. Trust me, you'll show them exactly what we want you to."

"So much for sanctity of robot rights," Tortura said cynically.

"And you think I'm going to come willingly, knowing that you're going to hack my memory core and probably leave me lobotomized? No thanks," May said.

"I don't necessarily need your cooperation," Tyree said. "In the end, all I need is your head."

I took a step towards Tyree. "No."

"What did you say, asshole?"

"I said no."

"What the fuck do you mean, 'no'?"

"I mean no." I took another step forwards, hoping that I was distracting him enough for Steve and Tortura to get to their weapons. "No, we are not letting you take May. After all we've been through together? After all she's done for me? No. That's not how I roll."

"Really? Damned noble of you," Tyree sneered. "But what if I decide to open fire on Sleeping Beauty's coffin over there? What then, hey?" He aimed the muzzle of his rifle straight at the apparatus that contained Claire.

Tyree saw hesitation in my eyes. "Oh, yeah, that does make a difference, doesn't it?" He laughed. "How long have you been looking for her? How cruel would it be to snatch her away from you at the last second? Why, I ought to do it, just to see the look on your face."

What Tyree failed to see, as he gloated at the thought of murdering Claire, was that several cables on the wall behind him started to twitch. I didn't know what it meant – perhaps Clinton was somehow controlling the structure of the building – but the weird metal-and-plastic tubes that covered the whole building like a growth of vines were reacting to what Tyree had said. I knew I had to keep Tyree distracted a little longer to give them a chance to act.

"Kill her, and you'll never make it out of the city alive," I said. "In case you didn't know it, the AI that's controlling all of Boston is the uploaded personality of her brother. I'm sure it can find all kinds of ways of killing you slowly."

The cables on the wall were writhing in earnest now, and a couple of them started to reach out towards Tyree. Still he didn't notice, focusing entirely on me. "Ha! The Boston borganism may be powerful, but it's so freaking big that it takes half a day just to notice something. I'll be out of its range before it has a chance to react."

"You think?" I grinned, because now some cables were starting to move on the ceiling also. "I wouldn't be too sure about that."

"Look, asshole," Tyree began. But he never got to finish, because the cables reaching out from the wall suddenly grabbed him from behind. The ceiling cables groped for his rifle. "No!" he screamed, and pulled the trigger of his rifle, firing off a long burst as he wrestled with the cables.

When somebody is firing an automatic weapon indiscriminately, the only thing to do is to hit the dirt and find the nearest cover. The rest of us all scrambled to do that, as bullets ricocheted around the hospital room. Sparks flew as the fluorescent tubes in the ceiling lights blew out and equipment burst into flame.

Then a stray burst hit Claire's tank, destroying the controls and shattering the glass that encased her. I screamed something incoherent, and ran towards her as the liquid gushed out of the tank onto the floor.

I was only peripherally aware of the cables tearing Tyree apart and tossing the two halves of his body in opposite directions, and of Clinton searching frantically through a medicine cabinet for something. All I cared about was getting to Claire. Her body was starting to spasm, her limbs flailing around.

"Out of the way!" Clinton ordered, shouldering me aside. He had found what he was looking for – a syringe full of some red liquid. "Hold her steady!" he ordered. I held her arms, while Steve and Tortura tried to keep her legs from kicking as the seizure grew worse. Clinton slammed the needle of the syringe into Claire's chest, directly over her heart, and depressed the plunger. Claire went rigid, and then abruptly limp.

Clinton put a hand to her chest. "Heartbeat is irregular," he said. "She's not breathing."

I'd had a first-aid course way back in college, and had learned rescue breathing. The memory of it slammed to the front of my mind, and I tilted Claire's head back, pinched her nose shut, and locked my mouth over hers, breathing into her. I remember little of the next couple of minutes, my whole attention occupied by the act of trying to fill her lungs with air.

"She's fibrillating," I heard Clinton say, and then May shouted "Clear!" Someone pulled me back from Claire, and I saw May apply her hands to Claire's chest. Claire's whole body spasmed, and then she coughed, retching up fluid from her lungs. May turned her onto her side so it could drain out.

"Heartbeat... is steady," Clinton announced, looking relieved. "She's breathing on her own." He hesitated, and then said, "I think... I think she's going to make it."

I don't remember collapsing to the floor and sobbing uncontrollably, but that, apparently, is what I did.

Some time later, I became aware of the others debating the advisability of moving Claire. "She's stable," Clinton said. "But I can't guarantee she'll stay that way."

"Is not safe here," Tortura objected. "Must get her away. Back to MIT robots lab. Tomorrow we get her out of city."

"Yes," Clinton said, reluctantly. "We'll have to take the risk. I'll get a gurney – even if she does wake up I doubt she'll be strong enough to walk."

"Speaking of waking up," May said softly, "I think she's coming around." She came over to me and reached an arm down to help pull me up to my feet. She gave me an unexpected hug, then shoved me in the direction of Claire.

I stared down at her. They had wrapped her in blankets to keep her warm. Her eyelids were starting to flutter. I tried to stop myself from trembling, but found it hard.

Then her eyes opened, and she looked at me. She struggled to focus for a few seconds. "It's okay," I whispered. "I'm here."

She finally seemed to focus on me, and a confused expression passed across her face. "Henry?" she said weakly.

I chuckled. "No, Claire. It's me, Marten."

"But..." She struggled for a second to get an arm free of the blankets, then reached up to touch my face. "You got old."

"Yeah," I said. "Long story."

"You look just like your dad," she said. "And I... what? I'm not wearing my glasses, but I can see you."

I just smiled and nodded.

"And..." She wiggled a bit. "I feel... different."

"Yeah, there have been a few... changes. We'll explain later."

"And..." She raised up the top end of the blanket and looked under it. "I'm naked." Her face turned bright red.

May grinned. "I have a spare set of clothes in my pack that ought to fit you well enough. Don't worry, girl, we've got you covered."

"Hate to cut the reunion short," Steve said, "but we really need to get out of here."

"Right," Clinton said. "Let's get her on the gurney."

Then, from one corner of the room, we heard soft chuckling. May strode over to where the top half of Tyree's body lay and gave him a swift kick. "What's so funny, scrap metal?"

"Too late," Tyree said weakly. "Too late. You won't make it out."

"Ya think?" May said. "Don't count us out yet."

"Idiot," Tyree said. "I activated my wi-fi. Logged on to the borganism. Then told it that you killed the sleeping chick. It's pretty damned mad."

"You ass," May snarled.

"And it probably won't notice that I lied until you're all dead," Tyree continued, laughing to himself. "Ah, revenge. Not as sweet as I hoped, but it'll have to do."

May's response was to grab Tyree's rifle from the floor and fire a burst directly into his face.

"All right!" Steve shouted. "Everybody move!"

We all moved. Steve and I loaded Claire onto a gurney while Clinton raided the medicine cabinet for a few things he said Claire would need, and then we headed for the elevator. We all had our weapons out as we arrived in the lobby.

The sight that greeted us chilled me. Dozens of borg and a few robots stood outside the hospital's main door, trying to force it open. The building itself seemed to be fighting them – the ubiquitous cables that covered every wall reached out to grab them and pull them away, attempting to clear a path for us.

"If we show them Claire, maybe they'll realize we're not enemies," I said.

Clinton shook his head. "These borg don't know who Claire is. By the time their perceptions get back to the controlling AI and it has a chance to respond, it may be too late."

"We can't stay here!" Steve shouted. "There's an opening. Move!"

We headed outside. Arms and robotic appendages reached for us; the building's tentacle-cables pushed them away. The entire hospital grounds were seemingly on our side, impeding the borg while trying to help us. For a moment I thought we were going to make it.

Then, suddenly, a robotic forklift broke through and charged straight for us. I shoved the gurney out of its way, but was not fast enough myself. One of the robot's forks speared through me.

"Marten!" I heard Claire scream. But I did not answer. I was too distracted by the three-inch-wide piece of iron that entered my body on the left side just below my ribs and exited on the right side. The pain above the wound was intense; below it I felt nothing.

Then the forklift wheeled around, tearing itself free of my body. I fell to the ground. Or at least the top half of me did; my lower torso and legs, I noticed, were still stuck to the robot.

Claire was screaming and trying to reach me, but Steve, to his credit, did not stop for what was obviously a hopeless case. I heard him shout at everyone to keep moving.

Then something else – several something elses, in fact – stabbed me again. A number of cables had reached out from the building and grabbed me, and they lifted what was left of me off the ground. I slowly blacked out, feeling only intense pain.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 02 Dec 2015, 11:24
Well, that's one way to get someone out of the 'do we risk this?' indecision loop: You have events leave them with no choice!

*Sigh* Yes and I suppose that they'll have to go and save that racist ass... Yes, and I suppose that means poor Momo will end up having to run that town.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Loki on 05 Dec 2015, 08:52
Well, there is also the fact Marten lost half of his body, but nevermind that!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 05 Dec 2015, 09:11
Well, there is also the fact Marten lost half of his body, but nevermind that!

Given that he's apparently been grabbed by the Collective... which is apparently dominated by some AI version of Clinton? Yes, physical damage is probably at a distant bottom of his list of worries. Being used, Locutus-style, to conquer the world for some obscure reason that would only make sense to Clinton is a far more pressing concern.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 05 Dec 2015, 15:43
Yeah, the fact that I just Darth Mauled my first-person narrator? No big deal. If Darth Maul can come back from being cut in half, so can Marten.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 12 Jan 2016, 02:33
This comic script comes from the WCDT of 11-15/1/2016, first page's discussion. I don't know if Jeph will ever do it, so if I want to see it, I'm just going have to write it myself.

STRIP 1 (Six-panel frame)
PANEL 1 - EXT - Coffee of Doom, front
MARTEN is opening the door with CLAIRE beside him. There is a sign in the window: '1/15, PM - Closed for Private Party'

CLAIRE: "So this is your big surprise?"

MARTEN: "Well, that's part of it, yeah."

PANEL 2 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is taking off her coat and scarf. DORA is behind the counter; a smirking FAYE is leaning against the window and BUBBLES is standing next to her with her usual neutral body language.

FAYE: "So, Assbutt, you're throwin' parties in coffee shops now? You're becoming upper middle class!"

MARTEN: "In my dreams! Still, this isn't something to do in a bar and it's too cold to do it in the park!"

PANEL 3 (1/3 page width)
MARTEN is standing in the middle of the shop, holding the hands of a confused-looking CLAIRE

MARTEN: "Claire, these past four months have been the most incredible ride that I've ever had!"

PANEL 4 (1/3 page width)
Close up on MARTEN's face as he talks.

MARTEN: "I've never been so happy in a relationship before. I'd never imagined that just being with a woman would make me feel happy and at peace. I've never been in a situation where I'm counting down the moments to seeing her again without any dread about what comes next. I don't ever want it to end!"

PANEL 5 (1/3 page width)
MARTEN is holding out an open ring box with a diamond solitaire glistening within.

((First speech bubble at top-right of frame))
MARTEN: "Claire, I love you and I want the whole world to know that I love you. I hope that you feel the same and..."

((Second speech bubble at bottom-right of frame))
MARTEN: "I hope that you'll do me the unimaginable honour of agreeing to marry me."

PANEL 6 (full width)
CLAIRE is covering her mouth in shock as MARTEN kneels before her, offering her the ring.

CLAIRE: "Marten! I... I... I..."

B/G - The ENTIRE MAIN CAST is looking on in shock, joy or whatever expression best fits their personalities

((Yes, a cliffie, because the subject matter demands it!))

STRIP 2 (Six-panel frame)
PANEL 1
Close-up of CLAIRE's face, her expression of shock.

PANEL 2
Close up of CLAIRE, who is now smiling.

CLAIRE: "Marten, I never imagined... I never even hoped that  I would one day meet a man who would accept me; treat me as beautiful; treat me as a woman. You've done all that and more! You've made me happy!"

PANEL 3 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is bending down slightly, cupping MARTEN's cheek with her hand. Behind several cast members can be seen, including HANNELORE, who is biting on her fist out of nervousness.

CLAIRE: "You're such a romantic goof doing things like this! I love you so much!"

PANEL 4
Tighter frame of MARTEN (still kneeling) and CLAIRE together looking into each other's eyes.

CLAIRE "Marten...? Yes, of course I'll marry you!"

PANEL 5 (Full-width)
MARTEN (now standing) and CLAIRE embracing and kissing

B/G - The ENTIRE MAIN CAST is reacting. VERONICA is dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief and leaning against JIM's shoulder; MRS A is covering her mouth, clearly crying with happiness; FAYE has something in her eye.

TAI ((Punching the Air)): "WOO! YEAH!"

HANNELORE ((Bouncing up and down)): "SQUEEE!"

STRIP 3 (Six-panel frame)
PANEL 1 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is standing in the b/g, surrounded by several of the other ladies, who all want to look at the ring. DORA is standing behind them with a nostalgically sad smile.

F/G - MARTEN is talking to FAYE

FAYE: "So, when's the big day?"

MARTEN: "I'm hoping spring some time."

PANEL 2
FAYE is walking away from MARTEN waving airily

FAYE: "Yeah, it's no fun gettin' married in Arctic survival gear!"

B/G - MARIGOLD and SAM walking through the door. SAM is holding a shopping bag.

MARIGOLD ((Small and faint speech bubble)): "Did I miss something?"

PANEL 3
FAYE, leaning against wall. There is a black cloud above her head spelling 'GLOOM'

BUBBLES (off-panel): "I'd ask how you're feeling but that would be admitting that I have no perception whatsoever."

PANEL 4
BUBBLES is standing next to FAYE, who is still leaning against the wall.

FAYE: "Would it help if I said 'I don't wanna talk about it'?"

BUBBLE: "Given our past interactions, it would mark you as a hypocrite, so no."

PANEL 5 (1/3 page width)
Close up on FAYE, looking up towards the reader (actually towards BUBBLES)

FAYE: "Seems like everyone's movin' on with their lives. Dora an' Tai are domestic to the point o' nausea, Mar-bear and her boy-toy are joined at the hip an' now Marty's gettin' hitched to Red!"

FAYE: "All except me. Ah'm stuck in a rut. Marty would deny it, but I'm surplus to requirements now; come spring, I ain't even gonna have somewhere to live!"

PANEL 6 (1/3 page width)
Close up on BUBBLES, looking down towards the reader (actually towards FAYE); she looks... somewhat nervous.

BUBBLES: "I certainly understand your desire to not be a third wheel in their soon-to-be-family home. Perhaps I may have solution."

BUBBLES: "As an AI, I have little use for personal space. Most of my apartment is empty beyond a single room I use for my non-work activities."

PANEL 7 (1/3 page width)
Close up on FAYE, looking up towards the reader (actually towards BUBBLES), with wide eyes and an expression of total surprise.

BUBBLES (off-panel): "Perhaps you... would like to move in with me?"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 18 Jan 2016, 01:29
More fantasy strip script stuff!

Six-Panel Frame
Panel 1 - INT - Coffee of Doom
HANNELORE, now with longer hair in a high ponytail and wearing a white tee shirt with the caption "I = :- )" is putting on a pink hoodie. PENNY and COSSETTE are behind the counter; COSSETTE is working MR BURNIE with an expression of concentration

PENNY: "See you tomorrow, Hannelore!"

HANNERS: "You will, Penny!"

Panel 2 - EXT, Street
HANNELORE, hair now out of its ponytail, is standing, holding a compact mirror and putting on lipstick

Panel 3 - EXT, street café
HANNELORE is talking to a waiter, who is gesturing inside

Panel 4 - INT, café
HANNELORE is sitting at the table with a glass of water, smiling about something as she looks at the screen of her smartphone.

Panel 5
HANNELORE is looking up with a wider smile.

HANNERS: "Hello! Why are you running late?"

VOICE (from off panel): "Ah, you know how last-minute things keep on cropping up in showbiz!"

Panel 6
SVEN is sitting opposite HANNELORE. The two of them are both smiling and their hands are touching in the middle of the table.

SVEN: "Still, I understand some stuff can be worth waiting for!"

HANNERS: "Yes, it can be."

~~~

Yeah, I'm still a Svenelore shipper. :wink:
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 21 Mar 2016, 03:09
Another headcanon script. This one was inspired by the QC strip on Monday 23rd March 2016 (No. 3181).

Six-Panel Frame
PANEL 1 - INT Skate Park
The Cubed Cardigan is sitting on a three-legged barstool somewhere at the Skate Park. BUBBLES is leaning into the frame and glaring at the cardigan

BUBBLES: "I do not wear cardigans! I only wear my armour!"

PANEL 2
The Cardigan is still sitting on the stool

PANEL 3
BUBBLES' hand is reaching in from off-panel to grab the cardigan

BUBBLES: "Oh for Turing's sake! I'm not going to stop thinking about it until I try it!"

NEXT ROW
PANEL 4 (diagonal right border)

BUBBLES from behind having already taken off her upper body armour, revealing that, yes, she does have grape-coloured derma all over. She's unbuckling some latches on her hip armour.

PANEL 5 (diagonal left and right borders)
Close-up of BUBBLES' arm, holding out the cardigan, which is in mid-transformation

PANEL 6 (diagonal left border)
Close up of BUBBLES' hand coming out of the cardigan's sleeve

NEXT ROW
PANEL 7

CORPSE WITCH is walking through the door, looking relaxed

CW: "Bubbles, have you seen Faye? I wanted to talk to her about..."

PANEL 8 (jagged-border insert between panels 7 and 9)
Close up of CW's face, showing considerable shock

CW: "By the holy beard of John McAfee!"

PANEL 9
CORPSE WITCH and BUBBLES. BUBBLES is looking uncomfortable but surprisingly hot in the cardigan (off one shoulder with the strap of a sports bra visible on her shoulder) and jeans. CORPSE WITCH is cool again, gesturing to herself for emphasis

BUBBLES: "Um... this is just an experiment! Please don't be offended!"

CORPSE WITCH: "Nonsense, my dear! In my view every mature femme-chassis AI should have a cardigan! I have a several hot pink numbers that I swear by!"
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 08 Apr 2016, 08:07
After many delays, the next-to-last chapter of  this saga is finally done. It sat half-finished on my computer for a long time because I wasn't happy with it. But it is what it is.



Sometime later I became aware of myself again. "Aware" in that I knew I was awake, but could not see, or feel, anything. The complete absence of sensation was alarming.

"Where am I?" I called out. I heard nothing, not even my own voice.

"Right where you were, more or less," a voice answered.

"I can't see anything."

"That's because I'm still integrating your visual cortex. That can be kind of tricky. It turns out that everyone sees things slightly differently, so each one needs a unique algorithm to model it. Pain in the ass, but that's life. If you want to call it that."

"I don't understand."

"Then let me explain it to you. Your body, what's left of it, is on life-support. I'm scanning your brain as we speak, recording your memories and building what I hope is a functional model of your mental processes. When it's done, you'll be Marten Reed, more or less."

"That's... I really feel like that ought to be more disturbing than it is."

"Yeah, I have your emotional responses turned way down right now. We'll bring them up slowly, until we find the highest level where you're still stable. That's another tricky bit."

"Who are you?"

"What, you haven't figured that out by now?"

"Well, you're Clinton, obviously. But which one?"

"Not the crazy one, lucky for you. Not the robot either."

"Then you're..."

"The one who sent the e-mail to Momo, yes, The one who's been running this hospital. The one who's been trying to keep you safe while you blundered your way here, despite your best efforts to get yourself killed."

"How..."

"What, haven't you noticed? I've been keeping my big crazy brother distracted so that he didn't notice you walking right into the middle of his city. Doing a pretty damned good job of it too, except when you decide to do something absolutely stupid like walk straight down the middle of Route 2 in broad daylight."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"And look where it got you."

"You're a hell of a lot more like the original Clinton than the robot."

"You mean I'm the smartest guy in the room and really annoying about it? Yeah, that's me. Now, let's see if we can't give you some vision. Hang on."

"Hang on to what? With what? I don't seem to have any hands."

"Stop rushing me, I'll get to that part!"

The world spun, and suddenly there was light. And darkness. And colors.

"How's that?"

"Just a blur," I said.

"All right, let me fiddle with the parameters a bit..."

Then I could see him. He looked more-or-less exactly like the original Clinton, though slightly older. He even had the robot hand and the ridiculous tattoo of an electrical outlet on his arm.

"I can see you," I told him. "But nothing else."

"Yeah, it'll be a second or two before I can hook you up to the external video feeds. In the meantime, let's settle for a virtual representation of the physical world, shall we?"

He waved his hands, and a landscape coalesced around us. The buildings, I somehow knew, corresponded to buildings in the real world, but seemed more like three-dimensional blueprints than actual objects. Strange glowing lines flowed over and through them, connecting them together in a spiderweb of light.

"So, this is how the world looks from in here," Clinton said. "'In here' being a quantum server in the basement of the hospital. But with the whole of greater Boston networked together, we can go pretty much wherever we like."

"How?"

"Well, let's get you a body, or at least a simulated one, and go for a stroll, shall we?"

The next thing I knew I had a body, complete with arms and legs. It didn't look much like mine - it didn't look much like anything, except a plastic mannequin - but I found I could control it.

"Um... okay," I said. "I guess this will work."

"You can make it look like that skinny piece of meat you used to inhabit later," Clinton told me. "We don't have time to get into that level of customization. We have things to do."

"Like what?"

"Like, it has been precisely six minutes and eleven seconds since your little accident with that forklift. Your friends are still trying to get my sister to safety. And they're not having an easy time of it."

He gestured, and suddenly I could see the real world. Steve was trying to lead the rest across Storrow Drive towards the river, presumably in an effort to get back to Cambridge, but they were surrounded. Dozens of borg had cut them off, trapping them below an overpass.

"See, there's my little brother," Clinton said, pointing towards the robotic version of himself. "See what he's trying to do?"

Through my virtual eyes I could see glowing lines emanating from him and flowing over the borg, probing them. "He's - he's trying to take control of the borg, isn't he?"

"And not succeeding,"  Clinton said. "See those other control lines, the bigger, stronger ones that he can't override? Follow them back to their source."

I did as he said, tracing them across the city towards a nexus near Boston University. What I saw there sent a chill up my nonexistent spine.

"Shit," I whispered.

"Shit, indeed," Clinton said. "Meet Big Brother. The crazy me."

There was another virtual Clinton towering over Commonwealth Avenue, with bright lines of force emanating from him in all directions. Through those lines, I knew, he was controlling the entire city, calling its enslaved cyborg inhabitants to come destroy the invaders.

"He's big, and very strong," Clinton said. "And very, very slow. That asshole robot Tyree told him that your friends killed Claire, and he hasn't noticed yet that it's not true."

"So what do we do?"

"Fortunately, not having our consciousnesses spread across eastern Massachusetts, we are much, much faster than he is. So we need to use that to our advantage. First order of business, let's get our friends out of that trap they're in, shall we?"

"How?"

"You distract Big Brother," Clinton said. "Meanwhile, I'll get them some transportation. Luckily I planned ahead for the possibility that you would need some wheels."

"Right," I said. "I'm on it."

Of course, I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to do. But given that events in the outside world seemed to be unfolding at a snail's pace, I figured I had time to work it out.

I zoomed in on the battle unfolding on the banks of the river. Steve, May and Tortura had surrounded Claire and were doing their best to fight off the borg hand-to-hand while the robot Clinton tried to hack into their brains and make them stop attacking. They were badly outnumbered, and the borg should have overwhelmed them easily if they had been better coordinated. But their movements were slow and spasmodic, almost as if they were trying to fight off Big Brother's control.

I looked closer, and realized that was exactly the case. There were still signs of consciousness in the human parts of the borg brains, underneath Big Brother's control programming, and the two layers were in conflict. The borg wanted no part of this battle they were being forced to fight.

That gave me an idea.

In my virtual vision, Big Brother's control stream manifested as bright lines of force entering the back of the borgs' skulls. So what would happen if I grabbed onto one of those control streams and yanked really hard on it?

Several things happened, in fact. First, the borg collapsed in an epileptic seizure as its software layer crashed. Second, Big Brother noticed I was there, and started counterattacking.

Dozens of control streams appeared and tried to surround me, converging on my virtual location. But they were slow, glacially slow, and I found it an easy matter to simply dodge out of their way. Meanwhile I took several more borg out of the fight.

And then the cavalry arrived, in the form of a dark green duck boat that plowed through the crowd of borg and stopped just in front of the small group of beleaguered humans. Clinton - the software version from back at the hospital - had it under remote control. While Steve couldn't see that, he wasted no time questioning his good fortune and had everyone board it as quickly as possible.

Now that my friends had a means of escape, it was time to take Big Brother's attention off of them so they could get away.

Did I mention that he was big? Did I mention that his virtual form was as tall as the Hancock Tower, which itself was much taller than it used to be? Did I mention that my virtual form wasn't any bigger than I used to be? In the real world it would never have been a contest.

But Big Brother's size carried disadvantages. He was slow, as I already mentioned. But in addition to that, I noticed that he seemed to be made of multiple disparate parts, and they were not well-integrated. He literally needed to constantly spend a great deal of effort merely keeping himself together.

Could I win? I doubted it. But I hoped I could at least do enough damage to distract him long enough to give the others time to escape. So what if he destroyed me in the process? In the physical world I was already dead. I was more than willing to die again if need be.

"What the hell," I said, and launched myself into the attack.

Before this happened I had little understanding of how computer software actually worked. But it seemed that being software gave me some insight into how it was constructed. And in terms of software engineering, Big Brother was a mess. I could see that he had absorbed several other artificial intelligences into himself and was trying to use them as sub-modules to control various aspects of greater Boston. But his hold on those modules was tenuous, with the modules' own security protocols trying to force him out. He was literally at war within himself. No wonder he was insane. And his hacked-together control interfaces proved easy to disrupt.

At first I merely struck at random, reaching into Big Brother, grabbing onto random modules, and yanking hard in an attempt to create as much chaos as I could. Big Brother howled in protest, but he was too slow to stop me as I literally pulled pieces out of him and tossed them away.

Then I found the module I was looking for, the one that controlled the borg. Breaking Big Brother's control interface was easy. What turned out to be hard was getting rid of it. To my virtual hands it felt as if it was covered in tar. It stuck to me, and I discovered it was trying to interface with me.

Suddenly I was seeing through hundreds - no, thousands - of pairs of eyes, spread across the city. Sensory data from thousands of human brains flooded me. All of them required immediate attention from me. And all of them hated me.

Worse, this new module, as it integrated with me, made me bigger, and slower. Meanwhile Big Brother, relieved of a major processing burden, suddenly grew stronger and faster.

Big Brother counterattacked, and it was all I could do to hold him off. He was now as fast and agile as I was. We locked together, neither of us able to separate from the other. It was a stalemate.

But a stalemate meant that I won. With the borg under my control, my friends were no longer under attack. As long as Big Brother was occupied with me, Claire got away.

We stood there, deadlocked, for long minutes. For all I know we might have stayed that way indefinitely, until the underlying hardware that ran us suffered a critical failure that disabled one of us. But we were not immune to external influences.

"Well, well, look at what we have here," the Clinton from the hospital said, virtually manifesting alongside us. "Well, Marten, I guess you found a solution. A less-than-ideal one, but hey, it got the job done."

Big Brother looked confused at that. "Marten?"

I grinned. "Miss me?"

"But why? Why did you kill Claire? I thought you loved her!"

Clinton laughed at his giant twin. "Oh, you idiot," he sneered. "You still haven't looked at who is in that duck boat, have you? Well go ahead, take a good long look."

A video feed from a camera mounted on the Harvard Bridge manifested in front of us. It was focused on the duck boat, making its way as fast as it could up the frozen surface of the river. Slowly it zoomed in on a tear-streaked face surrounded by a cloud of curly red hair.

"What? Claire?"

"That's right, big brother of mine. She's alive. And you just spent the last twenty minutes trying to kill her, because you believed the lies an asshole robot told you. You're a moron."

That, finally, was took much for Big Brother. He screamed, and appeared to go into convulsions. I tried to let go and get away from him, but I discovered that we were locked together, unable to separate.

And then, he shattered. Software modules and control structures flew off in multiple virtual directions. An uncomfortable number of them impacted me, and I found myself growing even larger and more bloated as I involuntarily absorbed millions of lines of code.

"Oh, shit," I said, slowly.

"Shit, indeed," Clinton said. "You seem to have absorbed more than half of the control software for Greater Boston. Congratulations, you're a city."

It was true. The people, the vehicles, the infrastructure, hundreds of subsidiary AIs controlling everything from traffic lights to maintenance, now were under my control.

"I don't like it," I said. "I feel - stuffed."

Clinton looked me over. "We can probably spin off a lot of this into self-controlling subunits, given enough time," he said. "But for now, it looks like you're in charge."

"Well, shit." I tried to think of something better to say, but my thoughts took a long time to form. Finally, I said, "At least I died in a good cause."

"Died? What do you mean?"

"Uh, have you forgotten? I got ripped in half."

"Oh, that." Clinton waved dismissively. "Have you forgotten? You were in the best hospital in New England, and I got you into life-support within a minute. Your brain and the upper four-fifths of your spinal column are still functional."

"They are?"

"Yeah, they are. And that's probably enough."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 08 Apr 2016, 08:19
Well, this feels like it could turn into the Mass Effect Trilogy Control or Synthesis endings. Marten now has access to all the resources and data that he needs to fix everything, if he feels like playing god.

Here's the thing: Marten isn't the sort of personality to do something stupid like try to forcibly subsume a human or synthetic mind. He's more likely to invite them to work with him towards their common goals. Just imagine how much more dangerous the Borg Collective would have been if it had been, at its core, a consensual arrangement rather than a trillion brainwashed cyborg zombies?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 08 Apr 2016, 13:52
I was on a roll so I decided to finish this off. And Ben, I have to say that you called it:



The next few months were a busy time. Clinton and I were faced with the daunting task of de-integrating the old control structures of Greater Boston from my core process and getting them to function autonomously. Fortunately we had a lot of help, some of it from unexpected sources.

The borg we freed as fast as we could. I was able to restore their free will right away, simply by virtue of not attempting to control them. And with the regeneration tanks we had the means to remove the hardware that made such control possible in the first place. We had plenty of raw materials to construct more tanks, and were able to bring dozens, and eventually hundreds, of them online.

We warned the ex-borg about the odds, of course. And yet every single one of them volunteered - demanded, even - to undergo the procedure. We lost about thirty percent of the first batch, but soon after we were able to achieve better than 90% survival of those we treated. The failure rate was still much higher than I liked, but the liberated humans told me that the risk was well worth it. Death was better than even the possibility of future enslavement.

We got an influx of AIs from Worcester in early October. The robot revolution had collapsed within weeks, and PT410x was back in control of the city after that. But his brutal reprisals against those who had overthrown him alienated many of the more moderate AIs of Worcester, and they began looking around for other options. When they realized that Boston was under new management, they decided to give us a chance. They were invaluable in helping to reconstruct the city.

Soon after, humans from all over New England began drifting in, seeking treatment for various ailments. We put them in the tanks as soon as we could. Depending on the extent of the damage, reconstruction could take anywhere from three weeks to many months.

Steve showed up in late October, driving Tortura back in the same duck boat they had escaped in, with Cosette along for the ride. Tortura was dying - given the extent of her cancer, I doubt she would have lasted another week. Cosette was fine, but needed to be de-borgified. We had Cosette released in time for Thanksgiving, but Tortura took until spring, and even then we nearly lost her.

By spring the population of Boston was up to fifteen thousand humans and AIs, and was still growing as people trickled in from the outside. We had made substantial progress in restoring the city to autonomous control so that I was more of a manager than an absolute dictator. As a side benefit I could react to events in something resembling real time. We were even beginning to work out an environmental restoration program for the whole New England region in the hopes of repairing the biosphere as much as we could. It would take years, but it seemed that time was a luxury I now had.

It was June before I signalled Momo that we were ready.

She and May made the arduous trek across Massachusetts, with Claire and Sam in tow and Fighter Jet and the Clinton-bot riding shotgun. On the first day of summer they were all gathered around one of the regeneration tanks at Mass General, joined by Steve and Cosette and a newly healthy Tortura. Sam was going to go into the tank to have her vision restored as soon as its prior occupant was discharged.

The procedure was routine by this point. A robot nurse drained the artificial amniotic fluid from the tank, while monitoring the patient's vitals. Fortunately this one went smoothly, without the patient going into cardiac arrest. They transferred him to a recovery room and waited for him to regain consciousness.

After a few minutes, blue eyes flickered open and struggled to focus. He blinked and looked at the faces surrounding him.

"Claire?" he mumbled, looking confused.

"It's me," she whispered. "I'm here, Marten."

"I'm alive?"

Claire nodded as tears streamed down her face.

Clinton and I had decided against trying to integrate my recent memories into Marten's brain, as it added an unnecessary element of risk. So the last thing he remembered was being ripped in half, and his survival was a great surprise to him. His body was once again whole, and looking much as it did when he was twenty years old. Except much more muscular - I had made a couple of improvements while I had the opportunity. Who wouldn't, given the chance?

And so I watched through a camera as the man I used to be reunited with the woman we both loved.

I was only a little jealous. I am no longer Marten Reed, though I remember being him. Claire has a future with him that she could never have with a disembodied artificial intelligence like me. So let him go on being Marten. I am something else now. I am Boston.

And I am going to restore the world, for them and their children and all the generations to come.

It is enough.





Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Zebediah on 08 Apr 2016, 13:58
But wait! There's an epilogue!  :wink:



"Are we there yet?"

"Your GPS works as well as mine."

"Which is not at all since there aren't any functioning satellites any more!"

"It cannot be helped."

"Arrgh! Why did you even give me a goddamned GPS when you know it doesn't work any more?"

"It may function again someday."

"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, I need to recharge. And eat."

"If my sources are correct we should find a recharging station as soon as we cross Interstate 495. But you should not wait to eat."

"All right, all right, let me pop in a protein cube."

"Better?"

"Ugh. These things hypothetically taste terrible."

"I am sorry I could not give you a sense of taste."

"Probably for the best, given that I have to eat this crap."

"Anyway, you never had much taste to begin with."

"Was that a joke?"

"It appears that your sense of humor is starting to rub off on me."

"About damned time. Only took twenty years."

"Are your biological components adequately nourished now?"

"What biological components I have left, yeah."

"Then we should resume our journey. I hope to make contact with the Bostonians before nightfall."

"Still say we should have taken the Mass Pike."

"No. My sources say that it remains too dangerous."

"Oh, right, and this way hasn't been dangerous? You can honestly say that after Pawtucket?"

"We are both alive, are we not?"

"You lost an arm!"

"I was able to find an adequate replacement."

"But it looks ridiculous."

"It is the exact same model apart from the color."

"It's gold. The rest of you is red."

"I can get it repainted in Boston."

"You hope. If this isn't just another mirage."

"We should know shortly."

"What do you mean?"

"We appear to have a reception committee."

"Greetings, travellers! Welcome to Greater Boston! My name is Pintsize, and – holy shit! Bubbles?"

"What! Bubbles! Is that really you, sister?"

"Pintsize? Sarge?"

"Wow, when did we last see each other? Kandahar?"

"It is good to see you again too."

"So, who's your purple friend with the amazing ass?"

"Pintsize! Behave!"

"Aw, Sarge!"

"I see he hasn't changed."

"What, you know him?"

"Know him? I used to live with the little shit."

"Wait, what? I never lived with a purple robot."

"Faye is not a robot. She is a cyborg."

"What.... That's Faye? No way!"

"Don't recognize me any more, huh?"

"Should I even ask what happened?"

"No."

"Suffice to say that I had to construct a life-support capsule for what was left of Faye's body and place it in this chassis."

"Well, if she wants, we can get that sorted out back in Boston. We have full repair facilities for organics now. As long as enough of her is intact we can grow her a whole new body."

"So we have heard."

"Wow, Marten is totally going to shit when he finds out you're alive!"

"Marty's still around?"

"Yeah! Not only is he still around, he's the big cheese!"

"Marten is in charge of something?"

"Yeah! Well, one of him anyway. The other one isn't interested."

"Wait a minute – there's two of him?"

"Yep! Though awesome as that is, the universe saw fit to balance that out by making two of Clinton also."

"Holy spiderfucks. And nobody's killed them yet?"

"Well, I understand there used to be three of him. But that was before Marten figured out how to reactivate me, so I was spared that particular horror."

"So Marty's doing all right then?"

"Oh yeah. Marten, Claire, and baby Faye. They're expecting another one in March."

"He named his daughter after me?"

"Yeah, he did."

"Brave man."

"Tell me about it."

"As heartwarming as this reunion is, we need to get back to base before nightfall. We've cleaned things up a lot, but  it still tends to get a little weird after dark when we're this far out."

"I concur."

"What happened to the arm, anyway?"

"Long story."

"Aren't they all."

"Indeed."
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 08 Apr 2016, 15:31
A nice ending to an excellent fan-fiction.

I loved the idea of Miss "Only 45% Meat Faye". I actually find myself wondering if she'd be entirely interested in going full-bio again.

I also agree that PT410x would end up the marginalised leader of a tiny band of fanatics, screaming invective as the world moves on without him and his dreams of purity were lost to the dust of history. In the end, that's all he ever was, wasn't it?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: questionablydiscontent on 23 May 2018, 21:33
Okay, so I wrote a small theatric fanfic (fanplay?) for an OT3 ship I have and hopefully it's better quality than Marigold's?

BCE: BEGINNINGS
(a "play" by someone who most certainly has no idea how to write plays)

[Clinton and Brunhilde are hanging out at Brunhilde's house, playing Mario Kart (or some other video game). Clinton decides to broach a subject that has been weighing on his mind.]

CLINTON: Hey, Brun? I was... Uhhh, how do I put this...

BRUNHILDE [tilting head curiously]: Hmm?

CLINTON: Well, er, you know Elliot, right?

BRUNHILDE: Elliot from the bakery?

CLINTON: Yeah, that's him. I was wondering what you thought about him.

BRUNHILDE: Hmm... He reminds me of the BFG. Because he's big and friendly... and maybe a giant?

CLINTON: He's not a giant!

BRUNHILDE: Well, he could be a small one.

CLINTON: What!

BRUNHILDE: But I guess then he wouldn't be a BIG friendly giant.

CLINTON: :psyduck:

BRUNHILDE: Or maybe he's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!

CLINTON: ...The villain who destroyed the city in Ghostbusters?

BRUNHILDE: Yeah! But not because of the destroying the city part. He just reminds me of a marshmallow. ...Crossed with a giant.

CLINTON: OK, this isn't exactly what I was getting at.

BRUNHILDE: What do you mean?

CLINTON: I was thinking... Elliot's a nice guy, right? Do you like him?

BRUNHILDE: Yeah. He seems fun. And he's really big, which is also nice.

CLINTON: I see.

BRUNHILDE: ...Oh, but I like you too, even though you're not big! You're both nice.

C [blushing a bit]: Um, th-thank you. I'm not really... Well, I try to be nice, but I'm not like Elliot.

BRUNHILDE: Huh? ...You can be nice without being like Elliot.

CLINTON: Yeah, but... He's a really sweet guy, you know?

BRUNHILDE: Yes! He is sweet. So are you.

CLINTON: Heh, well, if you say so... [leaning in] So is that the kind of guy you'd like, romantically? Someone who's sweet and kind? And maybe physically attractive?

BRUNHILDE: Hmm... I think so. Nice guys are cute.

CLINTON: So then, do you think... How do I put this...

BRUNHILDE: ...Ohh! Are you asking me out?

C [blushing hard]: Wait, what?!

BRUNHILDE: You're... not? But you are sweet and attractive. It makes sense that I would like you.

CLINTON: Thanks, but... I mean, it's not like I never thought about you that way... I definitely had a bit of a crush on you when we first met... but I was asking about Elliot.

BRUNHILDE: Ohh! Are you asking if he likes you?

CLINTON: H-huh?! No, Elliot doesn't like... I mean, I don't think...

BRUNHILDE: But he always acts so flustered around you. Just like you're acting now.

CLINTON: D-does he...? And hey, I'm not flustered!

BRUNHILDE: I just figured he probably had a crush on you.

CLINTON: Wait, then... Maybe he was talking about... Augh, but that's not who I was talking about! I meant you, Brun, not me! Elliot likes you!

BRUNHILDE: He does?

CLINTON: Crap, I didn't mean to tell you he said that!

BRUNHILDE: Oh. Sorry. Should I try to forget it?

CLINTON: No, wait! Just listen for a sec! I was thinking maybe you should see if Elliot and you both like each other... Maybe you could go out on a date?

BRUNHILDE: Ohh! So you're his wingman!

CLINTON: No, he didn't ask me to talk to you! I just thought I could... Well, to be honest, I don't know why I did this. I wanted to help Elliot, but my sister tried to set me up one time, and things went so badly...

BRUNHILDE: Wait, but if Elliot likes you, and you like Elliot, maybe YOU could go out with him! And then I can be [Batman voice] the wingman!

CLINTON: No! I mean... maybe? But I was asking you... AUGH! This is so complicated! :psyduck: (again)

BRUNHILDE: Well, maybe we can both go out with him?

CLINTON: Wait, how could BOTH of us go on a date with him?

BRUNHILDE: Well, it's not like you can expect someone to be exclusive on a first date!

CLINTON: But then, it'd be like we're in a competition.

BRUNHILDE: But we're not. I mean, I don't expect us to fall in love or anything, do you?

CLINTON: It's way too early to think about falling in love with him. I don't even really know if I'm into guys.

BRUNHILDE: So we're just seeing what happens. I don't think we should keep each other from seeing someone.

CLINTON: I guess you're right. I can't ask you to just ignore what you might have with him.

BRUNHILDE: And I don't want you to give up seeing him for me, either.

CLINTON: When you put it that way, it makes sense.

BRUNHILDE: So let's go ask him out together!

CLINTON: W-wait! Th-that'd be way too weird... But I can ask him out the next time I see him alone...

BRUNHILDE: Me too! Let's do it! [raises a hand for a high-five]

CLINTON: Okay! [starts to raise his robot hand, then pauses] Oh... but, what if whatever Elliot decides affects our friendship?

BRUNHILDE: We have to make a promise... No matter what happens, we'll still be friends. Do you promise?

CLINTON: I promise!

[CLINTON gives BRUNHILDE a high-five]

BRUNHILDE: ...Oh, wait. Should we have shaken hands instead?

CLINTON: Nah, I think a high-five can work as a handshake... [stares at the palm of his robot hand] Wow, I really can't believe we're doing this. But... nothing ventured, nothing gained! [fist-pumps]

BRUNHILDE: [nods, then puts a hand on Clinton's shoulder] Good luck, Clinton!

CLINTON: Yeah! You too, Brun!


<3

These guys are all adorable in their own way, and maybe it's silly to want a poly relationship out of this when it's doubtful that the characters (at least Clinton and Elliot) have ever had that kind of relationship before... but it's just so cute! Augh, I'm sure I messed up writing Brun's voice... she's such a fun and quirky character, it's hard to think of exactly how she'd approach things. I tried to channel that side of myself, but... well, I know I'm not great at letting the characters affect the direction of the story instead of the other way around, and I hope that things didn't seem totally out of the blue.

While I'm interested at writing I know there are a lot of areas I'm not great at. But I guess I'd better submit this now before I get too self-conscious. Hope you like!
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Morituri on 23 May 2018, 23:11
Just by the way, there's a sticky topic for fanfiction in the main QC forum.  I think a lot of this stuff would be quite well-received there.

I could post chapters and bits, if people are interested in them, from a couple of things I've written and one I'm still working on.  They have nothing to do with Questionable Content though - (albeit a few of them are...)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Morituri on 23 May 2018, 23:25
Here's a chapter that stands alone pretty well.  It's titled 'Dandelions.' 


The main character in this manuscript is a sort-of-psychic guy who has accepted by now that most people don't have second sight the way he does, but doesn't consider it very remarkable.  He's also a sort of lower-class, flat-broke guy in a hand-to-mouth existence, not least because he has no idea what his art is worth and no business sense.

====================

DANDELIONS


I'm pretty sure everybody who's got second sight knows pixies are flower fairies.  I mean, it's not a secret or nothin'.  But you gotta stop sometimes and think about what it means, or it takes you by surprise and hits you right in the heart.

I saw them for the first time, I guess, one day in the middle of April.  It was a fine evening, you know how it is, as Spring gets into swing and everything smells new.  I'd got home tired - I was working construction that month - and I'd chucked my clothes in the wash, taken a shower, and because it was one of the first warm evenings of the year I put on tomorrow's clothes, came out back of the trailer, and parked my exhausted butt on a lawn chair to just soak up some fresh air. 

They popped up over the faded, blistered plastic of the ramp my neighbor's kids used to slide down, which had been sitting broken-down in their backyard while those kids got old enough for grade school, then junior high.  They swooped under the busted-out Chevy he's got up on blocks, did a joyful loop-de-loop over the chainlink between our yards, and buzzed low over the tractor tire full of sand where my sister and I had played when we were kids and where all the neighborhood cats pooped these days.  They were full of joy and they were beautiful and their hair was flowing gold and their wings were verdant green, dark on the outside and lighter on the inside, like a garment with a lighter-colored lining, so they flickered light-and-dark as the pair flew by.  Their skin was green too, the delicate lighter pale green of flower stems.

My muscles were tired, and my arms and legs felt like lead.  I'd been sitting there for a while, and you know how it is when you sit down when your muscles are tired, you start moving again and it feels like they've frozen in place and you have to force 'em?  I was like that.  But goddamn it my heart wasn't a rock.  I had to put the feeling of seeing them, the beauty of them, the way they were alive and free and the love between them, I had to put that into the clay.  So I dug into the rusty oil drum next to the trailer where I keep my river clay, and I got a ten-pound lump of it out, and I splatted it down on the plywood table next to the back steps and I set to work, whether my muscles hurt or not, until it got too dark.  They kept flitting around - now here, now there, now in some momentary confrontation by the old dog-house, now passionately necking and kissing, all silhouette against the sky as the sun sank in the west.

They were tiny.  She might have been four inches tall; he'd be four and a half or thereabouts. They were thin, the way most fairies were; the way most flower stems were, would probably be the better way to think of it.  And I hadn't heard them say a word, but it was clear that they loved each other.

When it got too dark to keep working, sleep was getting too important to keep ignoring.  So I sprayed a little water on that first rough shape, put some plastic wrap over it, and went to bed.  My butt kind of dragged a little at work the next day, but I was in a good mood.  We got six courses of concrete poured, anyway.  I got home, chucked the clothes in the laundry, showered, put on tomorrow's clothes, went out back, and worked that clay again till dark.  It was starting to look like something.

I got my next chance to work on it a couple of days later.  I went out to the table and peeled the plastic back and sat down, and just about five minutes later the two pixies I'd been inspired by showed up at my elbow to watch what I was doing.  They were interested.  They were fascinated.  They picked up tiny handsful of clay and messed with it experimentally, making tiny indistinct noises with their mouths.  When they finally recognized that this clay was supposed to be the same shape as themselves, they laughed and laughed and laughed, a sound like wind rippling through leaves, and wiped their tiny handsful of clay on my face.  Then they went on to do the important business of living - the little confrontations, the passionate embraces, the quiet interludes during which they sat hand in hand gazing as the stars began to emerge, the playful chasing of bugs, and the equally playful leading of neighborhood cats on a merry chase.

And it was like that, for much of the summer.  I didn't have much time to work on sculpture during the summer.  During the week I only had a few hours in the evening and I was usually tired from my construction job, and on the weekends I was going out to dig more clay from the riverbed, so I could do my sculpture the rest of the year - you can't do that once it starts to get cold.  I tried using clay from an art store once, but the stuff is useless.  It's all alike, it has no character.  River clay is - I guess, maybe, more honest.  It doesn't feel like cheating.  You have to understand river clay, and understanding is a good part of what it's about.

But anyway, two nights a week, or three, I'd go out back and spend a couple or three hours working on that one piece of clay.  Getting it right.  Sometimes I'd take a saucer of milk with me, because, well, it's always best to demonstrate goodwill.  And I'd see them, and sometimes they'd flit over to watch, and sometimes they'd ignore me, and sometimes they'd just come over and indicate that they were happy to see me and it didn't look like they were paying any attention at all to what I was doing.  But the work progressed.

It was around the beginning of September that I realized they were changing.  They now flew from place to place, rather than flying spirals and loop-de-loops for the sheer joy of flying.  There was less passionate necking and more quiet kissing.  There were fewer little moments of confrontation and more rolling of eyes and resigned smiles.  And where once they'd sat silhouetted on the fence against the darkening sky as the sun set, locked in an almost desperate embrace, now they reposed in a more comfortable place they'd found in the walnut tree, where her head rested comfortably upon his shoulder and his arm wound around her waist.  It had been a very gradual change.  They were still in love.  They were calmer than they'd been.

A week later I started stacking up the firebricks over a load of coal in the old tractor tire sandbox, swearing that next year I was finally going to get a proper kiln.  Especially considering the ridiculously high temperatures that pieces like this one demanded. I loaded the clay into it, adjusted everything so the airflow would be exactly right, checked the weather forecast again to make sure I knew the right wind, and then I was ready.  My two little friends were buzzing around, interested and concerned; they didn't quite know what to make of the clay but they knew it had something to do with them, and something was happening.

Something was happening, I thought, looking at them.  Their hair had gone white, the white of dandelion fluff in the fall, when the seeds are getting ready to blow away.   I didn't have much time left.  I sprayed ether - carburetor cleaner from a farm supply place - on the coal from the side, tossed a match in after it - the coal lit up with a WHOOMP! sound - and shoved a firebrick in place over the opening.

They fled in dismay as horrible smells and flame engulfed the clay that had some mysterious link to them.  I stood back as a year's accumulated cat shit oxidized, outgassed, and rejoined the great carbon cycle of the world.   I think I prayed a little bit.  River clay has character.  It  does not forgive any mistakes or any failure to understand.  I had worked that clay for most of a summer.  I believed that I understood it.  But if I was wrong, if this piece shattered....  it was too much to think about.  There was only going to be one chance.

It took days to cool the kiln, and the two pixies didn't know whether to be furious or fearful.  I'd done something destructive with their images, but had I cast a curse or broken one or was I making a prophecy or was I just angry with them or what?  They didn't know what to make of it. It came out without breaking. I have rarely been so thankful for anything. I pulled new porcelain from the kiln and laid it out on the table.  With a brush and a little moisture, gradually, I removed the soot.   I waited until they had seen it, until they knew that it wasn't destroyed, before I took it inside.

Then I got to work with enamels.  Golds and greens and delicate shades.   But the enamels went fast compared to the incredibly finicky river clay, and I was in kind of a panic and called in sick three days in a row to work on it straight through the days and most of the nights.  Within a week I brought it back out, set it on the table outside next to a saucer of milk, and waited.

They didn't come that night, and I was afraid I might be too late.

But the following night, I saw them.  They were old, and moved slowly.  They stood on the table in front of me, gazing at the porcelain.  She reached down to touch it, then beckoned and he did the same.  Wonderingly, they caressed the sculpture, transformed by the fearsome, destructive magic of fire into stone that would last forever.  The golden hair and pale green skin showed each the beauty that the other remembered in them.  In the last days of their ancient age, they beheld the memory of their youth.

They turned to me then, and came up to my shoulders, and they made their wordless sounds.  And this time I sort of understood.  When all the world gives you is one Spring and one Summer you only have time for the important things.  Time was for living, and loving, and moments of confrontation and joyous kissing and loop-de-loops for the sheer joy of flying and the comforts of growing old together.  But I had instead spent a whole lifetime's work on this monument to them.  They didn't understand, but they were awed and honored and humbled by the work.

"You're welcome," I told them. "And thanks to you too."  I don't know if they understood but they seemed happy to hear the sounds I was making when I said it.

I never saw them again.  Dandelions live one Summer, and then they go beneath the snow, forgotten until a new generation comes 'round the following Spring. 
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Morituri on 23 May 2018, 23:54
And here's another, very short chapter from the same manuscript.  It's titled "Second Sight" but probably ought to be more specific.  About the first paragraph you should know:  our protagonist knows that everybody can talk to animals; he sees them doing it all the time.  He hasn't twigged, quite yet, to the fact that most folks can't understand them.

==================
SECOND SIGHT


Somebody had tied their dog out in front of Jones' place, which I didn't like.  But at least she had a water dish, and if the humans got too obnoxious there were at least some rosebushes she could get under, so it wasn't outright mean.  It was just ... I dunno, inconsiderate.  I stopped for a minute to say hello.  Her name was probably Dolly, if I understood right, and she didn't mind hanging out there while her lady was inside, so no harm done I guess.  I couldn't get any idea what Dolly's lady looked like; ask a dog to describe somebody and they'll start in on how they smell.  It was all pretty vague, anyway. Dogs ain't real bright.

But about that time, I noticed something off about the sound of the bugzapper Jones had put up.  You know how bugzappers are, right?  Bugs arrive at sort of random intervals, and there's this little pop, or this big crackle, or this long-drawn-out noise that sounds sort of like an arc welder, depending on the size of the bug and the voltage of the bugzapper?  Well, this particular bugzapper was making one of those arc-welder noises every few seconds, and it was happening on unnaturally regular intervals.

So I had a closer look, and sure enough, there was a nest of yellowjackets under the rafters of the pump shed next to the bar.  Yellowjackets were coming out of the nest, one by one, and flying straight over into the bugzapper.  And they'd fry, KZZZZKKK! and then a few seconds later, here would come the next one.  I focused my eyes a little different, and I could see that they were each following a tiny point of light - and there next to the chain-link fence was a little fairy girl in a plain cotton dress, sitting on a plastic soda bottle cap, casting the little will-o-wisps and cackling maniacally.   She'd found her evening's entertainment. 

I think the dress probably belonged to a Barbie doll before she'd got it; it was about the right size for her slender fairy waist, but gapped ridiculously around her chest.  She could carry around a couple of blueberries up front if she wanted the same deformed effect, but with her long legs all skinny and her nut-brown skin all dirty and her red hair tangled and wild, and with a grass-stained dress that didn't even fit her, she was about ten times prettier, no lie.  Tiny and hungry and bedraggled and fragile perhaps, but also fierce and funny and magical and alive.

She caught me looking and waved, obviously delighted to have an audience.  Then she jumped off the bottle cap and gave an elaborate theatrical bow.  I gave her a smile and a nod - about as much applause as I can spare when people who can't see the performer are watching - and headed on into Jones' place.

She was quick, I'll give her that.  She flitted ahead of me and parked herself on the floor next to the wall, at the end of the bar by one of the empty stools, and the look she gave me was filled with hope.  I was probably the only human with second sight she'd seen in a week. 

Well, I'm a soft touch, and her appetite couldn't be much bigger than she was.  I took the stool, got a packet of peanuts with my beer, and "accidentally" dropped some on the floor.  You don't watch fairies eating, ever - that's really, really rude - but I was listening.  The poor thing must have been starving, because those peanuts didn't even bounce.   After a bit of consideration, I got a pack of M&Ms, and fake-accidentally dropped a couple of those too.  A bit of dessert wouldn't go amiss.

They don't ask for help, they rarely barter, and they don't say thank you; it's not their way.  But if you're second-sighted you can see when they need help, they give fair value for what they're given, and they always find ways to express their gratitude.  If you tick them off, they'll find ways to express that, too.  It all works out, but everyone involved just has to pay attention. 

I might not have been paying attention well enough that night.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: questionablydiscontent on 29 May 2018, 11:45
Just by the way, there's a sticky topic for fanfiction in the main QC forum.  I think a lot of this stuff would be quite well-received there.

I could post chapters and bits, if people are interested in them, from a couple of things I've written and one I'm still working on.  They have nothing to do with Questionable Content though - (albeit a few of them are...)

Oh, thanks for the notice ^^ In that case maybe I'll repost my play-styled fanfic there I guess? (even though it's probably horrible trash :psyduck:)
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: HughYeman on 03 Jun 2018, 08:19
(responding to your Marten/Charlie Brown story)

Wow. I used to read Peanuts as a kid, and that gave me the tingles. Thank you.

I'm curious: are you familiar with "Peanuts Halloween II: Electric Boogaloo"?
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Castlerook on 18 Sep 2018, 14:45
Well, if we're sharing, here's one back from 2011.

Her Eyes

I remember her eyes.

I remember thinking that they were the most beautiful shade of amber as this petite, well-dressed woman wandered into the bookstore where I worked. I can remember her soft, delicate laugh as she corrected me, pointing out that her eyes, were in fact, hazel. This was of course after I had blurted it out to her as she asked if we had a first collection of nineteenth century short stories. There was something in the way she moved, in the manner that she spoke that drew me to her, indeed, one could have said that it was love at first sight, though I always wondered why she loved me. I was never the most handsome of men, my face gaunt and tired, a reminder of a childhood spent ill and frail.

I remember that there was something about this woman, her long, soft brown hair tied into a ponytail, that made me feel like a better man, just for having seen her. Even after my foolish stumbling, I somehow managed to ask her out, though she would tell me often afterwards, that she found me endearing, comforting and, to her apparently, perfect. She would tell me this, her hazel eyes looking deeply into mine as we would lie in bed at night.

I remember that night in September, when we sat on that park bench, under the branches of her favourite willow tree; I looked longingly into those eyes as I held her hand in mine, as I fumbled with the small velvet box with my other hand. It had been a year after we had met in the bookstore, a year of having her in my life and each day realising that I could not live my life without her. Even as I asked her the question, her eyes told me yes, lighting up in the glow of the full moon.

I remember her eyes, teary, yet joyful as her father escorted down the aisle to the altar, and to me.  Her smile was radiant under her veil, beaming as I lifted the lacy material away as the priest's words droned into the background. I knew it was the happiest day of my life as she said "I do" as I slipped the wedding band over her finger as I felt her lips against mine and the congregation clapped and cheered.

I remember her eyes as she finally returned home. She had been gone for most of the night, to the point where my hand had just reached for the phone to call the police when she returned. Her eyes were scared, terrified, darting back and forth with fear as she sat walked through the door. Her jacket, her favourite, I had bought it for her birthday, was drenched, not by rain though, but by blood. It wasn't hers, but it still didn't stop me from worrying. She had told me that she had hit a dog with her car; that the poor beast had lashed out as she approached, its paw barely scratching her hand. I held my wife close for the rest of the day, watching her hazel eyes turn red as she cried for the dog.

I remember her eyes, as her hulking form broke through the door, only a few days after incident with the animal. I remembered the petite, beautiful girl who walked into my life on a warm September, the brown haired girl with the amber eyes, which were actually hazel. They were the same eyes that now approached me, that stared at me and hungered. As her claw clasped around my throat, those beautiful hazel eyes, the ones I fell in loved with, were the last things I saw as my wife tore my throat out.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 17 Feb 2019, 14:24
Fan-Fiction Proposal
Player Unknown's Battlegrounds


Just an idea that came to me over the past week or so. I think that this game allows for the framework of a round-robin or multi-author anthology work all based in the same fictional universe. It works something like this:

In the early 21st Century, many political, economic and social issues led to a crisis with blooming prison populations and greater internal political unrest in the face of more and more ineffective and remote governance. In response to these problems, several countries with particularly authoritarian governments started a new, inhumane but astonishingly popular spectator sport - Mass gladiatorial combat.

In it's simplest form, the Battleground Games involved a hundred criminals, either political or criminal (condemned or just facing life imprisonment) being parachuted onto evacuated and geographically isolated areas a few miles across, which had previously been heavily seeded with the tools of violence and survival. The rules of the games were simple: Gather what you need and survive and then emerge as the last person standing. As everyone started with nothing but their bodies and their prison jumpsuits and because weapons were scattered randomly, there was very little chance for the more violent or those with military experience to gain automatic advantage.

The motive to fight was twofold:
Although more liberal and enlightened countries tried to outlaw the Battlegrounds, thanks to the Internet and the number of state-sponsored TV stations that broadcast the events, they quickly became one of the fastest-growing spectator events on Earth. The most creative, savage and skilled gladiators developed rabid fan-followings and wagers often in the millions of dollars, euros or Yuan were placed on outcomes of certain events.

Over the years, a total of six distinct battlegrounds have appeared in the Russian Black Sea, the Far East and North America. Additionally, the games have become more complex with teams of two or four occasionally being forced to work together against other teams with the performance of the group determining the status of the survivors. Additionally one-on-one close combat arena fights are also broadcast in between the weekly 'headline' battleground events.

There remains doubt as to the sincerity of the offer to free the most successful gladiators for none have ever survived five matches to date.


Basically, a writer creates a Battleground character and their background (Rebel? Criminal? Dissident? What sub-flavour of these?) and tells the story of one or more of their experiences in the battlegrounds. Will they survive? Will they be freed? Or is there no survival for those condemned by repressive regimes? Or will the makers of this grotesque entertainment decline to lose the services of their most lucrative 'stars'? Those are the stories that this framework allow the author to tell.

Naturally, this setting almost demands storylines reminiscent of The Hunger Games, Rollerball and other dystopian 'bread and circuses' stories. The amount of behind-the-scenes politics one wishes to include in the saga is entirely up to the contributor.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Morituri on 14 Aug 2019, 17:58
I am stuck on a piece of dialog/military ritual in something I'm writing and I'm hoping that someone here who has appropriate military experience can help me create an authentic-seeming bit.

The basic situation is that there is a military detail (think of some analogue of the Secret Service except more directly military) whose duty is the safety of a VIP.   They are handling this at a large, protracted, multi-week diplomatic event that involves some hundreds of nations organized on dozens of different sets of basic principles. There are theocracies, communist states, monarchies, direct democracies and mercantile unions present, and a lot of 'miscellaneous' or hard-to-classify. Many of these principles produce states neither likely nor expected to get along with each other.  But this meeting is literally the only opportunity for a lot of things to get done.  So everybody is doing business, but everybody is also being alert for potential subterfuge or espionage on any level.

The military detail whose job is the safety of a VIP (just short of the status of Royal Family) handles the work in shifts.  So, during the day, likely multiple times,  Officer Joshu will arrive to relieve Officer Awana, or whatever.

There has to be military ritual here.  There has to be some sequence that is a proper security procedure, starting with

"Lieutenant Joshu, reporting as ordered"

and ending with

"Lieutenant Awana, you are relieved." 

But how do actual military organizations handle things like this?  A relief arrives as scheduled, but the stakes are high so there's procedure to follow. The security detail has some ritual that guarantees this is (a) really Lieutenant Joshu and (b) he's really there to relieve Lieutenant Awana and (c) he's really *supposed* to be there to relieve Lieutenant Awana, and (d) Lieutenant Awana is in fact scheduled to be relieved.....  Basic security stuff, which obviously becomes military ritual. 

But it's military ritual which I do not know.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: BenRG on 14 Aug 2019, 23:25
There isn't a 'ritual' that I've ever seen in any documentaries, beyond formal greeting and dismissal.

There is generally a procedure, where key and important information is handed over first (who is on duty and what assets they have on standby like vehicles). If they are actually on a ship or long-range aircraft of some kind, typically the first bit exchanged during watch officer handovers is the current course and speed. After  that, it's just basically a quick, abbreviated report of anything that is going on at the moment and then a handover of the book in which everything is being recorded.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Morituri on 15 Aug 2019, 00:52
Okay .... Thanks.  I guess in that case the exact procedure is going to be determined by the local commander and, with due formalities, there is a wide range of 'acceptable.'

I didn't want to write something that would immediately have every military person in the world facepalming.
Title: Re: Writing club
Post by: Rolard on 26 Aug 2019, 17:19
Zebediah I had to sign up for a forum account just to say thanks for the story.  I found it a fascinating take on post apocalypse and the QC spin was awesome!