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Author Topic: Writing club  (Read 45635 times)

Loki

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #100 on: 18 Mar 2015, 09:40 »

I like.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #101 on: 19 Mar 2015, 15:37 »

I like also.
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #102 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.
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Loki

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #103 on: 22 Mar 2015, 13:13 »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #104 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.
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cesium133

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #105 on: 27 Mar 2015, 10:46 »

That is awesome.
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Loki

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #106 on: 27 Mar 2015, 10:54 »

Dora? Please let it be Dora.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #107 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.
« Last Edit: 27 Mar 2015, 12:44 by Pilchard123 »
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #108 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.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #109 on: 27 Mar 2015, 13:22 »

:D

EDIT: Happyface for more story, not for dead people.
« Last Edit: 27 Mar 2015, 14:07 by Pilchard123 »
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #110 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.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #111 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.
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Loki

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #112 on: 30 Mar 2015, 17:29 »

I sure hope the sheriff is Lin Bei Fong.
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #113 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."
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #114 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.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #115 on: 15 Apr 2015, 10:23 »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #116 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.
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Pilchard123

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #117 on: 30 Apr 2015, 11:35 »

Cybrogs?
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #118 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:
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #119 on: 30 Apr 2015, 14:32 »

I did wonder if people would just think that was a typo. Evidently you didn't.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #120 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."
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MooskiNet

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #121 on: 24 May 2015, 05:39 »

This is really good.
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Storel

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #122 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.
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #123 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.
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BenRG

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #124 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.
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #125 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
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MooskiNet

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #126 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:
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #127 on: 27 May 2015, 13:36 »

Soon. Hopefully tomorrow - I need to see what my schedule looks like tomorrow morning.
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Mlle Germain

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #128 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.
« Last Edit: 31 May 2015, 04:53 by Mlle Germain »
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #129 on: 01 Jun 2015, 05:03 »

continue? [y/n]
y
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #130 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.
« Last Edit: 02 Jun 2015, 02:44 by BenRG »
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Zebediah

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #131 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."
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BenRG

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #132 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.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #133 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."
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #134 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.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #135 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.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #136 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.
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BenRG

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #137 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?
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #138 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."
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Loki

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #139 on: 25 Jun 2015, 07:54 »

 :laugh: Oh my, this is gonna be fun.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #140 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."
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #141 on: 25 Jun 2015, 19:47 »

Now imagine that in a deep Boston accent and you've got it about right.  :-D
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #142 on: 28 Jun 2015, 12:50 »

A quick recommendation. My favourite program to write in is 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.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #143 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"
« Last Edit: 04 Jul 2015, 08:29 by BenRG »
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #144 on: 06 Jul 2015, 04:17 »

Okay, and here's the first scene. Just a couple of things to bear in mind:
  • I'm nowhere near as naturally funny as DMW so the jokes may be a bit forced;
  • I'm going to boost the Abductees' power levels quite substantially, mostly because I'm a superhero nerd
  • The scene is, to a certain extent, written like a script for a Shortpacked! strip, so it's mostly dialogue with minimal description once the scene is set.
===================

"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!"
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #145 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.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #146 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)
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #147 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.
« Last Edit: 07 Jul 2015, 15:09 by BenRG »
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #148 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!"
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BenRG

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #149 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?
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