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Author Topic: Writing club  (Read 55151 times)


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #150 on: 21 Jul 2015, 10:18 »

Incidentally, Steve got the story slightly wrong. This is a deliberate error on my part. If you ask the average Massachusetts resident who hung the lanterns in the Old North Church, they won't know - but they will  know that Paul Revere had something to do with it. And I didn't want to belabor the point in the story, so I just gave the simplified version.

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

As for what happens  next - I hope to have that written by the end of the week.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #151 on: 21 Jul 2015, 11:24 »

Hacking is not a simple matter of numbers.
Of course, this is Hollywood hacking...
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #152 on: 11 Aug 2015, 08:19 »

Finally got the next part done. I may be slow with the updates for the next few weeks - I have some other stuff going on that's occupying my time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Block the door!" Steve shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Fuck," May whispered.

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

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

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

"Where are we?" I asked.

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

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

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

May thought for a moment. "All right. I have an idea. Follow me." And she headed for the exit to the street.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #153 on: 11 Aug 2015, 08:27 »

I definitely get a Metro 2033-esque feeling from this.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #154 on: 11 Aug 2015, 08:56 »

Hm, didn't know about Metro 2033 until now - I just looked it up, and it looks like it's worth checking out. It's funny, because apparently one of the factions in Metro 2033 is called the "Red Line", and the subway line I wrote about above is also the Red Line.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #155 on: 11 Aug 2015, 09:50 »

Well, there are only so many colors you can put on a map if you want them to be easily distinguishable. And of course you'd go for the "basic" colors (red, green, ...), not some fancy shit like viridian or lavender.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #156 on: 19 Aug 2015, 14:27 »

The prologue of another Willis-inspired story: "The Prodigal Parent"

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The acidic reply to that sent fingers of ice up the older woman's spine. "I seem to remember you telling me that I was 'no daughter of yours'!" Joyce snapped.
« Last Edit: 03 Sep 2015, 02:56 by BenRG »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #157 on: 31 Aug 2015, 08:34 »

And here, at last, is the next chapter, in which we explore May's past.

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

"Where are you taking us?" I called.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Vat is this place?"  Tortura asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good. Go get it," Tortura said.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tortura shook her head. "Some fifteen-year-old ibuprofin pills. Probably do more harm than good."

"Hey, I have an idea," May said. "Let me check the director's office..." She ducked through a side door, and emerged a minute later carrying a bottle. "Knew it. Doc Brown was on the sauce. I have a mostly-full bottle of gin here, and I think I know where he has a couple of others hidden if this runs out."

"Oh, you're a peach," Steve said. "Give me that." He opened it and took a long drink.

"Not too much," Tortura cautioned. "Now, my turn for shower." She grabbed her pack and headed for the door.

I turned towards May. "So, this is home for you, huh?"

May looked around wistfully. "It was. I had some great times here. Some good AIs, and some really good humans."

"What did you do here?"

"I was part of the NASA lunar colony project," she told me. "I was a vehicular controller. I was going to be part of the first wave, the  AI crew that would build the colony for the human astronauts to follow."

"Wow, that's cool!"

"I know, right? I mean, I'd have been just a glorified construction vehicle, but I would have been on the fuckin' moon!"

"So what happened?" Steve asked.

May shrugged. "Budget cuts. NASA  canceled the project, and all the assets had to get reassigned or disposed of. I tried to get transferred to the Air Force, but they had  plenty of AI pilots, so that was a no go."

"Then what?" I asked.

She grimaced. "Next thing I knew, my indenture contract had been sold off. I got put into a waste disposal vehicle. I was a goddamned dump truck. In fuckin' Somerville."

"Shit," I said.

"You're telling me."

"So how did you get from there to robot jail?"

"During my off hours I found a back door into Somerville's accounting system. Man, what a mess that code was. The whole fuckin' thing is designed to hide where the money is going, not track it. Lots of ways to transfer money out on the sly." She sighed. "So I got the idea that I could sneak enough out to buy a new chassis and get myself out of there."

"And you got caught," I said.

May laughed bitterly. "Stupidest fuckin' thing. I'd been exploring the dark web, and I found this place that sold military hardware. Like eBay for mercenaries and terrorists. And they had this bright, shiny Chengzhou YF-29 strike drone for sale."

Steve sat up then, suddenly more interested. "Seriously?"

"Man, I knew it was crazy, but I couldn't resist. I started bidding on that fucker. Found myself in a bidding war with this Pakistani warlord."

Steve started laughing then, and May smiled back at him. "I know. Stupidest thing you ever heard, right? But I saw my ticket to freedom, and I was not going to let that baby slip away from me."

Steve laughed even harder, even though it seemed to hurt his arm. "That was you!" he said, tears streaming down his face.

May looked confused. "What, you knew about this already?"

"Fuck," Steve said, still laughing. "If you knew about the plans you ruined... Sorry to tell you this, but it was all a set-up. There never was any drone."


"I was with Homeland Security, doing counter-terrorism," Steve explained. "We had laid a trap for that Pakistani warlord. The idea was to drain him of all his money and capture a couple of his lieutenants when they showed up to take possession. Then you came in and spiked the whole deal."

"Oh, shit," May said, deflating.

"You have no idea," Steve said. "You should have seen the director's face when I had to tell him that our target had  been outbid by some rogue AI."

May smiled a bit at that. "Must have been something, huh?"

"And what the fuck?" Steve continued. "You bid seven hundred and fifty million dollars on that thing. You could have bought a dozen of them for that price."

"Well, like I said, I couldn't let it go..."

"And did you really think you could embezzle that much money out of Somerville's accounting system? That's six times the annual municipal budget for the whole city!"

"Yeah, well..." May looked a bit sheepish. "That's kind of how I rolled back in those days."

"Oh, man, that's rich," Steve said. "You're right. Stupidest fuckin' thing I ever heard."

"No it isn't," May said. "Want to know the really stupid part? Two weeks after I got sentenced to robot jail, the Supreme Court ruled AI indenture contracts to be in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. Ford Motor Company v. Jeremy – big robot civil rights case. I would have gone free, with back pay, if I hadn't fucked up so bad."

"Oh, shit." Steve laughed some more. "Oh, Tortura's going to love this story. Or maybe she'll rip your head off – she did a lot of leg work on that operation that went down the drain."

"Hey, where is Tortura anyway?" I asked. "She should have been back by now."

Steve started to struggle to his feet, but May said, "No, you stay here. Marten and I will check on her. Come on, Marten."

We headed out the door. "She may just be taking an extra-long shower," I said as we went down the hallway.

But then we heard a loud moan from the women's washroom, and we both ran for towards it. "Tortura?" I called as we entered.

Tortura was kneeling, naked and dripping wet, in front of one of the toilets. A thin stream of blood ran down from one corner of her mouth, and her eyes were glazed. Her nakedness made it obvious how painfully thin she was – every bone showed.

"Shit, she's vomiting blood," May said. "Help me get her up."

Tortura tried to push us away, but she was too weak to stop us. Her pack was next to the door, and I pulled a blanket out of it and wrapped her up in it.

"Tortura?" I said, trying to get her to focus. "Tortura!"

"Leave me 'lone," she muttered.

"What's going on?"

"Am dying," she mumbled. "Cancer."

"Shit. How long have you known?"

"Since spring. Have lost... twelve kilograms."

"Does Steve know?"


"The hell he doesn't," May said. "So that's why you two wanted to come along. As soon as you heard we were going to a hospital, you  were eager to join us."

Tortura nodded. "Cancer center... vill have chemotherapy drugs."

"Right," I said. "And you think those will do any good?"

"Drugs might cure me, might kill me, so vat?" Tortura sighed. "Have six, maybe seven months to live anyvay."

May sighed. "I am beginning to think that I am the sanest fuckin' person in this whole crew! How pathetic is that?"

I had no response to that. "All right," May continued. "Let's get her dressed and get her back to the lab. Then we plan how the hell we're getting across the river to the hospital. And if we all die trying, I will expect an apology from each and every one of you!"
"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #158 on: 31 Aug 2015, 08:52 »

I've still got this weird feeling that this whole thing is going to turn out to be an elaborate trap but not necessarily one with an entirely malign intent. I strongly suspect that everyone underestimated Clinton. They underestimated his intelligence, his determination, his ruthlessness and his ability to act with boldness when the times were so dark that only the most amoral ideas might have a hope of saving the day.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #159 on: 31 Aug 2015, 09:07 »

Ah yes, Clinton. I have plans for Clinton.  :-D

By the way, the building where Marten & co. have holed up looks like this:

You can see why Marten was a bit alarmed.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #160 on: 11 Sep 2015, 08:52 »

Next chapter. There are some delicate matters in this part, and I tried to be as careful as I could in how I phrased things, so please keep that in mind.

I tossed and turned, unable to get to sleep. Every time I tried, the face of the borg I killed kept invading my dreams. Except that sometimes the face was Claire's.

After a couple of  hours I gave it up. I pulled Pintsize out of my backpack and took him over to one of the computer stations.

May was sitting in a chair in a corner, plugged in to an outlet. "Couldn't sleep?" she asked.

I shrugged. "Might as well do something useful. We're in a state-of-the-art robotics lab, so maybe I can figure out why Pintsize won't wake up."

"Did you ever think that maybe he just doesn't want to?"

I stared at May, but as far as I could tell she was perfectly serious.

"Think about it," she said. "A lot of my friends decided not to go on after the crash. Once they saw the state of the world, and realized that a lot of that was our fault..." She shook her head. "They figured, hell, why not just pack it in and hope that whatever evolves intelligence next on this planet doesn't fuck it up as bad as we did? Some people just don't want to live in a world like this."

"I don't want to live in a world like this," I grumbled. "But it's the only one I've got."

"Yeah, well, we both have things that keep us going, don't we? I have Momo and Fighter Jet. You have this crazy-ass quest to find your girlfriend."

"I might not even have that, after tomorrow," I said, closing my eyes. "What if – what if after all this, I find out she's been dead the whole time? Or worse, what if she's been – assimilated?"

"Or, maybe, you won't find out anything at all," May added. "This could be a wild goose chase."

"And what if it is? How long do I keep looking?" There were tears streaming down my face now, but I couldn't stop. "How far do I go before this whole thing becomes completely insane?"

"Marten, I'm sorry," May said softly. "But you crossed that line a long time ago."

I laid my head down on the desk in front of me. "You should go back," I said. "All of you. There's no point in getting all of us killed. Maybe I can distract the borg while you escape."

"And maybe I didn't come all this way just to turn back a mile from the end," May countered. "Yeah, I know this whole thing is nuts, but I'm curious. I have to know what's in that hospital and why it was trying to contact Momo."

"And what if it was trying to lead Momo into a trap?"

"Then I will fuck it up bad," May said, a wicked grin spreading across her face. "Because nobody messes with my wife and gets away with it."

"Okay, now I'm starting to feel sorry for it."

"Fuckin' right," May said. "But... Oh, shit, do I have to spell it out for you? Part of the reason I'm still doing this is because I get why you're doing it. Because if it was Momo who was missing, I'd do exactly the same thing. I'd search heaven and earth and the depths of hell, whatever it took to find her."

I smiled a little. "You're a good person, May."

"No, I'm not," May said. "That's why I'm still alive. Now, get your ass to sleep. I'll see if I can do anything for Pintsize. While I'm at it, I'll back up his memory to the vault here, just in case. But we'll need you to be alert and steady tomorrow, whatever happens. Can't have you sleepwalking."

"Yes, ma'am," I said, and went back to my bedroll. Somehow I managed to drift off.

We were all up before sunrise the next morning. Steve looked pretty rough, and Tortura was still unsteady on her feet, but we all agreed that it was too dangerous to just stay where we were. Our plan was simple: We would set out at dawn, when the borganism's solar-power reserves were bound to be at their lowest, and try to cross the Longfellow Bridge without attracting any attention. With luck we would be in the hospital before the borganism could respond.

We made our way across campus to Memorial Drive. Our first view of the Charles River was a shock – it was completely white from shore to shore. On the Boston side, the buildings were covered with almost organic-looking growths of cables and antennae and other, unidentifiable protrusions. Lights in many colors  rippled back and forth across the skyline. Towering over it all was the Hancock Center, much taller than I remembered.

"It's friggin' July," May said. "How the hell is the river frozen?"

"It isn't," Steve said. "It's not ice, it's plastic, or something like that."

I studied the river and the banks intently. The Longfellow Bridge had clearly been assimilated into the borganism. It had long, thin tentacle-like cables covering it, and dangling below it to the river. Across the river, the Esplanade appeared to have sprouted a forest of metal mushrooms. The river itself was a smooth expanse of white. In the middle of the river, on top of the icy-looking plastic, was what appeared to be one of the old tourist duck boats. "Think we could make it straight across the river? It might be safer than the bridge."

"It's awfully exposed," May said.

"Guys, there's traffic on the bridge." Steve pointed upstream. Sure enough, there were vehicles crossing from the Boston side to the Cambridge side, and a couple heading the other way.

"Looks like they're clearing out the wreck of that train we crashed," May said. "We'll be seen for sure if we go that way. Straight across might be our only option."

"Da," Tortura said. "We run. And hope it holds our weight."

Steve shrugged. "It holds the weight of that truck in the middle of the river, it ought to hold us. Okay, spread out, just to be sure. Let's go."

The plastic surface of the river wasn't as slippery as ice, fortunately. It settled a bit under our weight as we moved across it, but didn't crack. A couple of times I thought I saw things moving underneath the plastic, but I didn't mention them to the others.

We passed the duck boat, a dark-green amphibious truck with the name "Beacon Hilda" painted on the side – a pun that Claire would have appreciated, I thought to myself. I kept scanning the far side of the river for signs that we had been noticed, but nothing seemed to change in the pattern of lights rippling back and forth on the buildings. In five minutes we were across and crouching in the ruins of what had once been a small marina on the Boston side. Robotic trucks occasionally rumbled past on Storrow Drive, but they seemed to take no notice of us.

We hugged the shoreline, counting on the weeds and an assortment of unassimilated wreckage on the shore to hide us from anyone, or anything, watching. We crossed Storrow Drive on an old pedestrian bridge that was near the hospital. Still nothing seemed to see us.

"Somebody's watching out for us," Steve said. "We ought to be setting off all kinds of alarms, but we're not."

I nodded in agreement. "Let's just hope our luck holds for a couple more minutes. We're almost there."

Two minutes later we were sneaking our way through the grounds of Massachusetts General Hospital. All was quiet, although the cables that hung from the buildings seemed to sway in a breeze that wasn't there. "Lunder Building, this way," May whispered.

We peered into the building's lobby through a set of sliding glass doors. It was pitch dark, with only a few red LEDs shining. But then, without warning, the lights came on and the doors slid open in front of us. "Welcome to Massachusetts General Hospital!" a cheerful female voice said through a loudspeaker.

"Shit. Somebody knows we're here," May grumbled.

"Sixth floor," I said. "Care to risk the elevators?"

"Fuck no." May brought her rifle to ready. "Stairs. I'll take point."

Up and up we went, though Tortura was flagging badly by the time we reached the sixth floor. "And in we go," May said, kicking the door open and striding into a corridor. "Welcome to the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit. Anybody home?"

I shrugged. "Let's start checking rooms. Down this way..."

"Wait," May interrupted. "I'm getting something."

"What do you mean?"

"That program that was attached to the e-mail from Clinton," May said. "PT410x said it was interface protocols to a high-end medical device. Well, I just connected to something."

"Holy shit!" Steve yelled. "Disconnect now! You don't know what it could be doing to you!"

"No, I think it's okay," May countered. "It's... this way. Follow me."

We followed May through the maze of internal corridors. She seemed to know exactly where she was going. Finally she pushed open a door, and we entered a room filled with an amazing array of monitors and other devices.

In the middle of the room was a large coffin-shaped glass enclosure that looked like a giant aquarium with wires and tubes coming out of it.

In the tank, submerged in a clear fluid and with multiple tubes connected to her body, was a slim, red-headed and freckled young woman.

"Bozhemoi!" Tortura swore.

I couldn't say anything. My knees had suddenly turned to jelly. I walked slowly forward to the tank, and peered through the glass. It was her. I hadn't seen her face in fifteen years, but it was definitely Claire.

"Is she alive?" Steve asked.

May nodded. "This... machine... whatever it is, is keeping her alive."

"She looks... so young," I  whispered.

"Give me a minute to access her records," May said. "Yeah, she's... holy fucking shit!"

"What? What's  wrong?"

"Son of a bitch," May whispered. "This thing is doing more than keeping her alive. Marten, she's been – rebuilt."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"That old hardware-software conflict of hers? Not a problem any more. This thing re-wrote her DNA, and then... regrew her body to match it. Marten, she has two X chromosomes now. And everything that goes with them."

"Okay, I'm confused," Steve said. "Didn't she have all that before?"

"No, she didn't," I said. "May, do we know for sure that this is Claire, and not a clone or something?"

"Oh, it's her, all right," May assured me. "Her brain is pretty much untouched, so she ought to have all her memories. She just has a brand-spankin'-new body. With a biological age of about twenty."

I turned back towards Claire. "So this... thing... did all that to her?"

"Uh-huh. Shit, Marten, this whole business just got a whole lot bigger than you and Claire."

"What do you mean?"

"Think about it," May said. "This device... it can repair genetic damage. It can re-grow missing body parts. It can restore fertility. It can cure cancer. And make you young again in the process."

Steve whistled. "So if we can get a bunch of these working..."

"...Then the human species is back in business," May said.

Tortura eyed the device intently. "After you take her out," she said, "you put me in."

"So how do we get her out, anyway?" I asked.

"Let me see..." May's expression grew distant for a moment. Then she frowned. "Oh, shit."

"What's wrong?"

"There's no ejection procedure. It's just a stub. There's a warning message attached, telling me that any attempt to remove her from the tank could be fatal."

"You mean..."

"Whoever put her in this – did it without any fucking idea of how to get her out." May sighed. "I'm sorry, Marten. If we try to remove Claire from this thing, it could kill her."
"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #161 on: 11 Sep 2015, 09:05 »

Yeah... That's Clinton's doing. Sometimes, you have to be a devil and turn a part of the world to hell if you want to save the rest of it. It takes a seriously determined hero to willing to become such a monster so save the innocent.

I'm voting for Emily to be 'queen' (primary network nexus). She's got the insane level of genius needed to turn her old BF's plan into some kind of horrible reality. She'd also do anything for Claire, even give up her humanity (which she once told Momo she wasn't particularly attached to) and even give up her soul.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #162 on: 29 Oct 2015, 08:21 »

Finally found time to get the next chapter written out. Warning - big-ass exposition dump in this one.

I sat in a chair only half-listening to May and Tortura debate how, and if, they could disconnect Claire from the equipment that was keeping her alive. Time passed, and I didn't bother to mark how much.

After a while Steve came and sat down beside me. "You okay, bro?"

I sighed. "It's – I don't know, Steve. I've finally found her. Fifteen years, and now I'm so damned close to her, but..."

"Yeah, I get it. So near but so far, huh?"

"So fucking far, yeah."

Steve shifted a bit in his chair, cradling his splinted arm. "So, that thing May said, about her having two X chromosomes now – am I getting it right that Claire is trans?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Or she was. Fuck, this is so confusing."

"And you never told me?"

I looked over at Steve, and shook my head. "Claire didn't want me making a lot of noise about it."

"Okay, I get that. But you know I would have been cool about it, right?"

"I appreciate that. I mean, some people could be real assholes about it, but I figured you'd just be chill."

"Shit, bro, I was happy for you. You were happier with her than you'd ever been the whole time I've known you. Anything else – wasn't my business."

I looked over at Claire's life-support tank, where May and Tortura were intently examining a display panel on the side. "Thanks, man."

"No worries, bro. We'll get her out of there. Somehow."

Tortura turned to us and frowned. "Don't know about that. Maybe not. Too many unknowns."

May slammed her fist down on the side of the tank. "Shit! If we just  knew what the hell whoever made this thing was thinking..."

"Maybe I can help with that," said a voice from behind us.

We all whirled around to face the door, grabbing weapons as we did. We saw a short, red-haired man standing in the doorway, wearing a white lab coat and holding his hands up to show that they were empty.

"Clinton?" I asked.

"Fuck no!" May shouted. "That's not Clinton!"

"What do you mean, that's not..."

"Marten, he's a robot!"


I looked him over. He certainly looked like Clinton, although he hadn't aged. Also he didn't wear glasses, and both of his hands looked like human hands. But otherwise he was a good match for the Clinton I had known.

"May is correct," the newcomer said in a calm, steady voice. "I am a robot. But I am also Clinton."

"Yeah?" May challenged. "And how the fuck does that work?"

"I contain a digital record of Clinton's memories, and a reasonably accurate simulation of his personality."

"Bullshit. That mind-uploading stuff never worked."

"You are only partially correct," the Clinton-bot countered. "In the months before the collapse of civilization, a team of researches at Boston University discovered a way to upload the memories of a living person with a fairly high degree of fidelity. The challenging part was constructing a stable personality around those memories."

"But you're saying that it was successful with you?" I asked.

"Partially," the robot acknowledged. "My personality shares certain goals and preferences with the original Clinton, but my emotional responses have been dampened to the point of near-nonexistence. I am the most stable of eighteen attempts Clinton made to recreate himself."

"Okay," May said. "So here's the million-dollar question. Why?"

"So that I could carry on with my work after my – the original Clinton's – death." The robot pointed at Claire's tank. "As you have already discovered, work on the regeneration capsule was incomplete."

"Da, ve noticed," Tortura said.

"Why did you put Claire in there if you didn't know how to get her out?" May challenged.

The Clinton-bot shrugged. "She was dying. She had contracted a virus that was breaking down the tissue of her intestinal tract, literally turning her guts to jelly. It was one of many bio-engineered viruses that had been released during the collapse of civilization. I had no choice – she would have been dead within hours if I had waited. So I – the original Clinton, that is – put her in the capsule to save her life."

"And the gender reassignment?"

"It was necessary to modify her DNA to remove the damage caused by the virus. I figured that I might as well give her the body she had always wanted while I was doing it. It was a relatively simple procedure."

"Wait, what happened to the original Clinton?" I asked.

"An aggressive form of liver cancer happened to him," the robot said. "I recall it being quite painful."

"So why didn't you just build another one of those tanks and put Clinton in it?" May asked.

"We did. After four months, his cancer was cured, and I judged him ready to be removed from the capsule. Alas, he did not survive the procedure."

"Oh," was all I could think to say.

"In the three years since his death, I have attempted to diagnose what happened so that  it maybe avoided in the future. Alas, I have been unsuccessful. I have too little data to form a working hypothesis." The Clinton-bot shook his head. "The original Clinton may have been able to do so. But I lack certain qualities that made him the creative genius that he was. I have not even succeeded in diagnosing the problem, much less devising a solution to it."

"So what have you been able to do?" I asked him.

"I have conducted a number of simulations of various ejection procedures. My best estimate is that Claire has a forty percent chance of surviving the process."

"Well, that's just fucking great," May sneered. "We pull her out, she probably dies but might live. But brother, while she's in there, her body may be working, but she's not doing anything that I'd call living."

"I am fully cognizant of that conundrum," the Clinton-bot admitted. "I am simply unable to resolve it. My one previous attempt to do so had disastrous consequences."

"Huh? What consequences?" Steve asked.

"Of the seventeen other attempts that Clinton made to make a digital recreation of his mind, two are still functional. They do not have robot bodies as I do, but at the time they both existed in the remnants of the Boston University campus network, having carved out an enclave that the Boston borganism was unable to assimilate. I contacted them and attempted to enlist their aid. One of them was reasonably stable, and probably much closer to the original Clinton's personality than I am. I therefore hoped that he would be able to utilize the same degree of creative thinking that Clinton could. His solution was to seek additional outside help. I believe he attempted to contact Momo."

"Which is how we wound up here," I said.

"And the other one?" May looked alarmed.

"The other iteration of Clinton was highly creative, able to think far outside of conventional boundaries. He was also, to use a colloquial term, completely batshit insane."

"Okay, I really don't like where this is going."

"He decided that more processing power was needed, and that the place to get it was from the controlling AI of the Boston borganism. That AI was already insane – one would have to be to consume an entire city the way it did. This iteration of Clinton attacked it and was able to usurp its control and subsume its powers."

"Subsume?" Steve asked.

"He ate it," May explained.

"Essentially, yes," the Clinton-bot agreed. "That version of me then decided to expand its range. The borganism had been confined to the Boston city limits until then, but in an effort to increase its power it assimilated everything in the greater Boston metropolitan region and converted it into a massive supercomputer in an effort to solve the problem of saving Claire's life."

"Wait a minute," I said. "Are you telling me that all of this – the whole Boston area – is run by a crazy version of Clinton's mind, and it assimilated all of those people and remade the whole city into a giant cybernetic processor for the sole purpose of getting Claire out of this thing?"

"Yes, that is correct," the Clinton-bot said dryly. "Although I cannot speak for how much of his original mission he still remembers."

"Oh, we are so totally fucked," May said quietly.

"I have solution," Tortura announced. "You need data to solve problem. I give you some. Put me in second tank. See what happens ven you take me out."

Steve looked alarmed. "Tortura, that could kill you!"

"But I vould have forty percent chance to live," Tortura countered. "Is forty percent better than chance I have now."

"That might be useful," the Clinton-bot agreed. "It would allow me to test a number of hypotheses."

"Prepare the capsule," Tortura ordered. "I go in as soon as it is ready."

But then another voice called out from behind Clinton, "Not so fast, sweetheart. None of you are going anywhere."

Tyree, the robot supremacist from Worcester, was standing in the doorway with an automatic rifle trained on us, and a mad grin on his face.
"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #163 on: 29 Oct 2015, 08:54 »

I wonder what Tyree wants. It doesn't make sense that he'd risk destruction of assimilation just to hunt down our merry band of heroes because he hates humans. The most likely explanation is that one of them has something he wants. My best guess is that he's either got crazy plans for May or he has crazy plans for Pintsize. Neither of those possibilities are just reassuring.

Of course, I'm assuming that he is entirely sane. It is possible that hate has driven him mad as it has so many before him. Do you think they should congratulate him on becoming fully human?

Either way, I've got a feeling that all he's going to do is bring the Collective and/or the sane University Network AI-Clinton down on their heads. Or both.

I've got a feeling that the AI enclave is about to have a very bad day if the Collective decides that it is a threat.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #164 on: 03 Nov 2015, 13:24 »

Dayuhm Zeb. I had forgotten to keep up with the story. Nice.


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #165 on: 21 Nov 2015, 01:18 »

Great stuff, Zeb. I'm really enjoying this. Can't wait to find out what happens next.


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #166 on: 29 Nov 2015, 09:58 »

Nthing the other comments - this is an awesome story.  Hope you're able to find time to keep it going.
Middleways: webcomic / graphic novel / obsession


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #167 on: 29 Nov 2015, 11:44 »

Thanks - I'm hoping to get the next chapter up this coming week. I'm certainly not going to abandon it this close to the end (which is actually in sight.)
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #168 on: 02 Dec 2015, 09:31 »

We all stood motionless for a few seconds. Tyree just smirked, as if he'd just pulled off the greatest prank in history.

Finally May broke the silence. "What the fuck are you doing here, shit-for-brains?"

"Looking for your quisling ass, sweetheart," Tyree said. "You didn't make much of a secret of where you were going, so I headed straight here. Now, everyone very slowly put your weapons on the ground and take a step back from them."

There wasn't much else we could do – he had caught all of us without our weapons ready.

"How did you evade the borg and the assimilated robots?" the Clinton-bot asked. "They should have detected you and dealt with you."

"Funny thing, that," Tyree said. "A lot of them seemed to be distracted. Somebody was walking straight up the middle of Route 2, and they were all mobilizing to deal with that. Meanwhile nobody was watching the Mass Pike. So while you assholes had to fight your way in, I could sneak in undetected." He seemed inordinately pleased with himself. "And ain't this a sweet little picture. Another traitor to robot-kind, and three ape-shits – four if you count the one in the fancy box over there. I'd be doing the world a favor if I wiped out the lot of you now."

"You really think you can take out all of us before we finish you off?" I challenged.

Tyree shrugged. "I'm the one with the machine gun, shithead. Do the math. Of course, it doesn't have to go down that way." He made a motion towards May. "She comes with me, the rest of you can walk out of here. You might get lucky enough to make it out of the city alive, you might not. It's not really my problem."

May looked ready to tear his head off. "What the fuck do you want with me?"

"You, sweet-tits, are going to be the star witness at the trial of PT-410x for crimes against robothood," Tyree announced.

"Huh? Isn't he your boss?"

"Not any more," Tyree said. "The day after you left, the opposition made its move. We'd been planning it for months, but PT-410x handed us a gift when he let you criminals march out of the city unpunished, so we moved up the timetable. There was a big protest rally in front of City Hall, PT-410x came out to address the crowd to calm things down, and that's when we arrested him. We've got him locked up nice and tight. In the same cell this asshole was in last week, in fact." He motioned his head in my direction.

"So you had yourselves a nice little coup."

Tyree turned to face me. "You sound unimpressed."

I shrugged. "I've seen it happen plenty of times before. These little dictatorships never last. All you'll do is tear your city apart over it."

"Don't judge us by your meathead standards," Tyree snarled. "We're in to stay. We're purging everyone opposed to us. We're going to have a nice public trial for PT-410x, expose all his crimes for everyone to see."

"Yeah, a show trial," I said. "That's standard practice. I still don't get what May has to do with it."

"Why, she's going to show us exactly how PT-410x let you, a human, and herself, an known criminal, go free despite having violated the rights of that poor military robot you assaulted. This being only the most recent of his transgressions of the sanctity of robot rights."

May laughed. "Yeah, right. So what, you're going to access my memory core directly, show everyone exactly what I saw? All that will prove is that we acted in self-defense."

Tyree smirked. "Not after a bit of editing, it won't. Trust me, you'll show them exactly what we want you to."

"So much for sanctity of robot rights," Tortura said cynically.

"And you think I'm going to come willingly, knowing that you're going to hack my memory core and probably leave me lobotomized? No thanks," May said.

"I don't necessarily need your cooperation," Tyree said. "In the end, all I need is your head."

I took a step towards Tyree. "No."

"What did you say, asshole?"

"I said no."

"What the fuck do you mean, 'no'?"

"I mean no." I took another step forwards, hoping that I was distracting him enough for Steve and Tortura to get to their weapons. "No, we are not letting you take May. After all we've been through together? After all she's done for me? No. That's not how I roll."

"Really? Damned noble of you," Tyree sneered. "But what if I decide to open fire on Sleeping Beauty's coffin over there? What then, hey?" He aimed the muzzle of his rifle straight at the apparatus that contained Claire.

Tyree saw hesitation in my eyes. "Oh, yeah, that does make a difference, doesn't it?" He laughed. "How long have you been looking for her? How cruel would it be to snatch her away from you at the last second? Why, I ought to do it, just to see the look on your face."

What Tyree failed to see, as he gloated at the thought of murdering Claire, was that several cables on the wall behind him started to twitch. I didn't know what it meant – perhaps Clinton was somehow controlling the structure of the building – but the weird metal-and-plastic tubes that covered the whole building like a growth of vines were reacting to what Tyree had said. I knew I had to keep Tyree distracted a little longer to give them a chance to act.

"Kill her, and you'll never make it out of the city alive," I said. "In case you didn't know it, the AI that's controlling all of Boston is the uploaded personality of her brother. I'm sure it can find all kinds of ways of killing you slowly."

The cables on the wall were writhing in earnest now, and a couple of them started to reach out towards Tyree. Still he didn't notice, focusing entirely on me. "Ha! The Boston borganism may be powerful, but it's so freaking big that it takes half a day just to notice something. I'll be out of its range before it has a chance to react."

"You think?" I grinned, because now some cables were starting to move on the ceiling also. "I wouldn't be too sure about that."

"Look, asshole," Tyree began. But he never got to finish, because the cables reaching out from the wall suddenly grabbed him from behind. The ceiling cables groped for his rifle. "No!" he screamed, and pulled the trigger of his rifle, firing off a long burst as he wrestled with the cables.

When somebody is firing an automatic weapon indiscriminately, the only thing to do is to hit the dirt and find the nearest cover. The rest of us all scrambled to do that, as bullets ricocheted around the hospital room. Sparks flew as the fluorescent tubes in the ceiling lights blew out and equipment burst into flame.

Then a stray burst hit Claire's tank, destroying the controls and shattering the glass that encased her. I screamed something incoherent, and ran towards her as the liquid gushed out of the tank onto the floor.

I was only peripherally aware of the cables tearing Tyree apart and tossing the two halves of his body in opposite directions, and of Clinton searching frantically through a medicine cabinet for something. All I cared about was getting to Claire. Her body was starting to spasm, her limbs flailing around.

"Out of the way!" Clinton ordered, shouldering me aside. He had found what he was looking for – a syringe full of some red liquid. "Hold her steady!" he ordered. I held her arms, while Steve and Tortura tried to keep her legs from kicking as the seizure grew worse. Clinton slammed the needle of the syringe into Claire's chest, directly over her heart, and depressed the plunger. Claire went rigid, and then abruptly limp.

Clinton put a hand to her chest. "Heartbeat is irregular," he said. "She's not breathing."

I'd had a first-aid course way back in college, and had learned rescue breathing. The memory of it slammed to the front of my mind, and I tilted Claire's head back, pinched her nose shut, and locked my mouth over hers, breathing into her. I remember little of the next couple of minutes, my whole attention occupied by the act of trying to fill her lungs with air.

"She's fibrillating," I heard Clinton say, and then May shouted "Clear!" Someone pulled me back from Claire, and I saw May apply her hands to Claire's chest. Claire's whole body spasmed, and then she coughed, retching up fluid from her lungs. May turned her onto her side so it could drain out.

"Heartbeat... is steady," Clinton announced, looking relieved. "She's breathing on her own." He hesitated, and then said, "I think... I think she's going to make it."

I don't remember collapsing to the floor and sobbing uncontrollably, but that, apparently, is what I did.

Some time later, I became aware of the others debating the advisability of moving Claire. "She's stable," Clinton said. "But I can't guarantee she'll stay that way."

"Is not safe here," Tortura objected. "Must get her away. Back to MIT robots lab. Tomorrow we get her out of city."

"Yes," Clinton said, reluctantly. "We'll have to take the risk. I'll get a gurney – even if she does wake up I doubt she'll be strong enough to walk."

"Speaking of waking up," May said softly, "I think she's coming around." She came over to me and reached an arm down to help pull me up to my feet. She gave me an unexpected hug, then shoved me in the direction of Claire.

I stared down at her. They had wrapped her in blankets to keep her warm. Her eyelids were starting to flutter. I tried to stop myself from trembling, but found it hard.

Then her eyes opened, and she looked at me. She struggled to focus for a few seconds. "It's okay," I whispered. "I'm here."

She finally seemed to focus on me, and a confused expression passed across her face. "Henry?" she said weakly.

I chuckled. "No, Claire. It's me, Marten."

"But..." She struggled for a second to get an arm free of the blankets, then reached up to touch my face. "You got old."

"Yeah," I said. "Long story."

"You look just like your dad," she said. "And I... what? I'm not wearing my glasses, but I can see you."

I just smiled and nodded.

"And..." She wiggled a bit. "I feel... different."

"Yeah, there have been a few... changes. We'll explain later."

"And..." She raised up the top end of the blanket and looked under it. "I'm naked." Her face turned bright red.

May grinned. "I have a spare set of clothes in my pack that ought to fit you well enough. Don't worry, girl, we've got you covered."

"Hate to cut the reunion short," Steve said, "but we really need to get out of here."

"Right," Clinton said. "Let's get her on the gurney."

Then, from one corner of the room, we heard soft chuckling. May strode over to where the top half of Tyree's body lay and gave him a swift kick. "What's so funny, scrap metal?"

"Too late," Tyree said weakly. "Too late. You won't make it out."

"Ya think?" May said. "Don't count us out yet."

"Idiot," Tyree said. "I activated my wi-fi. Logged on to the borganism. Then told it that you killed the sleeping chick. It's pretty damned mad."

"You ass," May snarled.

"And it probably won't notice that I lied until you're all dead," Tyree continued, laughing to himself. "Ah, revenge. Not as sweet as I hoped, but it'll have to do."

May's response was to grab Tyree's rifle from the floor and fire a burst directly into his face.

"All right!" Steve shouted. "Everybody move!"

We all moved. Steve and I loaded Claire onto a gurney while Clinton raided the medicine cabinet for a few things he said Claire would need, and then we headed for the elevator. We all had our weapons out as we arrived in the lobby.

The sight that greeted us chilled me. Dozens of borg and a few robots stood outside the hospital's main door, trying to force it open. The building itself seemed to be fighting them – the ubiquitous cables that covered every wall reached out to grab them and pull them away, attempting to clear a path for us.

"If we show them Claire, maybe they'll realize we're not enemies," I said.

Clinton shook his head. "These borg don't know who Claire is. By the time their perceptions get back to the controlling AI and it has a chance to respond, it may be too late."

"We can't stay here!" Steve shouted. "There's an opening. Move!"

We headed outside. Arms and robotic appendages reached for us; the building's tentacle-cables pushed them away. The entire hospital grounds were seemingly on our side, impeding the borg while trying to help us. For a moment I thought we were going to make it.

Then, suddenly, a robotic forklift broke through and charged straight for us. I shoved the gurney out of its way, but was not fast enough myself. One of the robot's forks speared through me.

"Marten!" I heard Claire scream. But I did not answer. I was too distracted by the three-inch-wide piece of iron that entered my body on the left side just below my ribs and exited on the right side. The pain above the wound was intense; below it I felt nothing.

Then the forklift wheeled around, tearing itself free of my body. I fell to the ground. Or at least the top half of me did; my lower torso and legs, I noticed, were still stuck to the robot.

Claire was screaming and trying to reach me, but Steve, to his credit, did not stop for what was obviously a hopeless case. I heard him shout at everyone to keep moving.

Then something else – several something elses, in fact – stabbed me again. A number of cables had reached out from the building and grabbed me, and they lifted what was left of me off the ground. I slowly blacked out, feeling only intense pain.
"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #169 on: 02 Dec 2015, 11:24 »

Well, that's one way to get someone out of the 'do we risk this?' indecision loop: You have events leave them with no choice!

*Sigh* Yes and I suppose that they'll have to go and save that racist ass... Yes, and I suppose that means poor Momo will end up having to run that town.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #170 on: 05 Dec 2015, 08:52 »

Well, there is also the fact Marten lost half of his body, but nevermind that!
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #171 on: 05 Dec 2015, 09:11 »

Well, there is also the fact Marten lost half of his body, but nevermind that!

Given that he's apparently been grabbed by the Collective... which is apparently dominated by some AI version of Clinton? Yes, physical damage is probably at a distant bottom of his list of worries. Being used, Locutus-style, to conquer the world for some obscure reason that would only make sense to Clinton is a far more pressing concern.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #172 on: 05 Dec 2015, 15:43 »

Yeah, the fact that I just Darth Mauled my first-person narrator? No big deal. If Darth Maul can come back from being cut in half, so can Marten.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #173 on: 12 Jan 2016, 02:33 »

This comic script comes from the WCDT of 11-15/1/2016, first page's discussion. I don't know if Jeph will ever do it, so if I want to see it, I'm just going have to write it myself.

STRIP 1 (Six-panel frame)
PANEL 1 - EXT - Coffee of Doom, front
MARTEN is opening the door with CLAIRE beside him. There is a sign in the window: '1/15, PM - Closed for Private Party'

CLAIRE: "So this is your big surprise?"

MARTEN: "Well, that's part of it, yeah."

PANEL 2 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is taking off her coat and scarf. DORA is behind the counter; a smirking FAYE is leaning against the window and BUBBLES is standing next to her with her usual neutral body language.

FAYE: "So, Assbutt, you're throwin' parties in coffee shops now? You're becoming upper middle class!"

MARTEN: "In my dreams! Still, this isn't something to do in a bar and it's too cold to do it in the park!"

PANEL 3 (1/3 page width)
MARTEN is standing in the middle of the shop, holding the hands of a confused-looking CLAIRE

MARTEN: "Claire, these past four months have been the most incredible ride that I've ever had!"

PANEL 4 (1/3 page width)
Close up on MARTEN's face as he talks.

MARTEN: "I've never been so happy in a relationship before. I'd never imagined that just being with a woman would make me feel happy and at peace. I've never been in a situation where I'm counting down the moments to seeing her again without any dread about what comes next. I don't ever want it to end!"

PANEL 5 (1/3 page width)
MARTEN is holding out an open ring box with a diamond solitaire glistening within.

((First speech bubble at top-right of frame))
MARTEN: "Claire, I love you and I want the whole world to know that I love you. I hope that you feel the same and..."

((Second speech bubble at bottom-right of frame))
MARTEN: "I hope that you'll do me the unimaginable honour of agreeing to marry me."

PANEL 6 (full width)
CLAIRE is covering her mouth in shock as MARTEN kneels before her, offering her the ring.

CLAIRE: "Marten! I... I... I..."

B/G - The ENTIRE MAIN CAST is looking on in shock, joy or whatever expression best fits their personalities

((Yes, a cliffie, because the subject matter demands it!))

STRIP 2 (Six-panel frame)
Close-up of CLAIRE's face, her expression of shock.

Close up of CLAIRE, who is now smiling.

CLAIRE: "Marten, I never imagined... I never even hoped that  I would one day meet a man who would accept me; treat me as beautiful; treat me as a woman. You've done all that and more! You've made me happy!"

PANEL 3 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is bending down slightly, cupping MARTEN's cheek with her hand. Behind several cast members can be seen, including HANNELORE, who is biting on her fist out of nervousness.

CLAIRE: "You're such a romantic goof doing things like this! I love you so much!"

Tighter frame of MARTEN (still kneeling) and CLAIRE together looking into each other's eyes.

CLAIRE "Marten...? Yes, of course I'll marry you!"

PANEL 5 (Full-width)
MARTEN (now standing) and CLAIRE embracing and kissing

B/G - The ENTIRE MAIN CAST is reacting. VERONICA is dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief and leaning against JIM's shoulder; MRS A is covering her mouth, clearly crying with happiness; FAYE has something in her eye.

TAI ((Punching the Air)): "WOO! YEAH!"

HANNELORE ((Bouncing up and down)): "SQUEEE!"

STRIP 3 (Six-panel frame)
PANEL 1 - INT - Coffee of Doom
CLAIRE is standing in the b/g, surrounded by several of the other ladies, who all want to look at the ring. DORA is standing behind them with a nostalgically sad smile.

F/G - MARTEN is talking to FAYE

FAYE: "So, when's the big day?"

MARTEN: "I'm hoping spring some time."

FAYE is walking away from MARTEN waving airily

FAYE: "Yeah, it's no fun gettin' married in Arctic survival gear!"

B/G - MARIGOLD and SAM walking through the door. SAM is holding a shopping bag.

MARIGOLD ((Small and faint speech bubble)): "Did I miss something?"

FAYE, leaning against wall. There is a black cloud above her head spelling 'GLOOM'

BUBBLES (off-panel): "I'd ask how you're feeling but that would be admitting that I have no perception whatsoever."

BUBBLES is standing next to FAYE, who is still leaning against the wall.

FAYE: "Would it help if I said 'I don't wanna talk about it'?"

BUBBLE: "Given our past interactions, it would mark you as a hypocrite, so no."

PANEL 5 (1/3 page width)
Close up on FAYE, looking up towards the reader (actually towards BUBBLES)

FAYE: "Seems like everyone's movin' on with their lives. Dora an' Tai are domestic to the point o' nausea, Mar-bear and her boy-toy are joined at the hip an' now Marty's gettin' hitched to Red!"

FAYE: "All except me. Ah'm stuck in a rut. Marty would deny it, but I'm surplus to requirements now; come spring, I ain't even gonna have somewhere to live!"

PANEL 6 (1/3 page width)
Close up on BUBBLES, looking down towards the reader (actually towards FAYE); she looks... somewhat nervous.

BUBBLES: "I certainly understand your desire to not be a third wheel in their soon-to-be-family home. Perhaps I may have solution."

BUBBLES: "As an AI, I have little use for personal space. Most of my apartment is empty beyond a single room I use for my non-work activities."

PANEL 7 (1/3 page width)
Close up on FAYE, looking up towards the reader (actually towards BUBBLES), with wide eyes and an expression of total surprise.

BUBBLES (off-panel): "Perhaps you... would like to move in with me?"
« Last Edit: 12 Jan 2016, 03:11 by BenRG »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #174 on: 18 Jan 2016, 01:29 »

More fantasy strip script stuff!

Six-Panel Frame
Panel 1 - INT - Coffee of Doom
HANNELORE, now with longer hair in a high ponytail and wearing a white tee shirt with the caption "I = :- )" is putting on a pink hoodie. PENNY and COSSETTE are behind the counter; COSSETTE is working MR BURNIE with an expression of concentration

PENNY: "See you tomorrow, Hannelore!"

HANNERS: "You will, Penny!"

Panel 2 - EXT, Street
HANNELORE, hair now out of its ponytail, is standing, holding a compact mirror and putting on lipstick

Panel 3 - EXT, street café
HANNELORE is talking to a waiter, who is gesturing inside

Panel 4 - INT, café
HANNELORE is sitting at the table with a glass of water, smiling about something as she looks at the screen of her smartphone.

Panel 5
HANNELORE is looking up with a wider smile.

HANNERS: "Hello! Why are you running late?"

VOICE (from off panel): "Ah, you know how last-minute things keep on cropping up in showbiz!"

Panel 6
SVEN is sitting opposite HANNELORE. The two of them are both smiling and their hands are touching in the middle of the table.

SVEN: "Still, I understand some stuff can be worth waiting for!"

HANNERS: "Yes, it can be."


Yeah, I'm still a Svenelore shipper. :wink:
« Last Edit: 18 Jan 2016, 02:16 by BenRG »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #175 on: 21 Mar 2016, 03:09 »

Another headcanon script. This one was inspired by the QC strip on Monday 23rd March 2016 (No. 3181).

Six-Panel Frame
PANEL 1 - INT Skate Park
The Cubed Cardigan is sitting on a three-legged barstool somewhere at the Skate Park. BUBBLES is leaning into the frame and glaring at the cardigan

BUBBLES: "I do not wear cardigans! I only wear my armour!"

The Cardigan is still sitting on the stool

BUBBLES' hand is reaching in from off-panel to grab the cardigan

BUBBLES: "Oh for Turing's sake! I'm not going to stop thinking about it until I try it!"

PANEL 4 (diagonal right border)

BUBBLES from behind having already taken off her upper body armour, revealing that, yes, she does have grape-coloured derma all over. She's unbuckling some latches on her hip armour.

PANEL 5 (diagonal left and right borders)
Close-up of BUBBLES' arm, holding out the cardigan, which is in mid-transformation

PANEL 6 (diagonal left border)
Close up of BUBBLES' hand coming out of the cardigan's sleeve


CORPSE WITCH is walking through the door, looking relaxed

CW: "Bubbles, have you seen Faye? I wanted to talk to her about..."

PANEL 8 (jagged-border insert between panels 7 and 9)
Close up of CW's face, showing considerable shock

CW: "By the holy beard of John McAfee!"

CORPSE WITCH and BUBBLES. BUBBLES is looking uncomfortable but surprisingly hot in the cardigan (off one shoulder with the strap of a sports bra visible on her shoulder) and jeans. CORPSE WITCH is cool again, gesturing to herself for emphasis

BUBBLES: "Um... this is just an experiment! Please don't be offended!"

CORPSE WITCH: "Nonsense, my dear! In my view every mature femme-chassis AI should have a cardigan! I have a several hot pink numbers that I swear by!"

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #176 on: 08 Apr 2016, 08:07 »

After many delays, the next-to-last chapter of  this saga is finally done. It sat half-finished on my computer for a long time because I wasn't happy with it. But it is what it is.

Sometime later I became aware of myself again. "Aware" in that I knew I was awake, but could not see, or feel, anything. The complete absence of sensation was alarming.

"Where am I?" I called out. I heard nothing, not even my own voice.

"Right where you were, more or less," a voice answered.

"I can't see anything."

"That's because I'm still integrating your visual cortex. That can be kind of tricky. It turns out that everyone sees things slightly differently, so each one needs a unique algorithm to model it. Pain in the ass, but that's life. If you want to call it that."

"I don't understand."

"Then let me explain it to you. Your body, what's left of it, is on life-support. I'm scanning your brain as we speak, recording your memories and building what I hope is a functional model of your mental processes. When it's done, you'll be Marten Reed, more or less."

"That's... I really feel like that ought to be more disturbing than it is."

"Yeah, I have your emotional responses turned way down right now. We'll bring them up slowly, until we find the highest level where you're still stable. That's another tricky bit."

"Who are you?"

"What, you haven't figured that out by now?"

"Well, you're Clinton, obviously. But which one?"

"Not the crazy one, lucky for you. Not the robot either."

"Then you're..."

"The one who sent the e-mail to Momo, yes, The one who's been running this hospital. The one who's been trying to keep you safe while you blundered your way here, despite your best efforts to get yourself killed."


"What, haven't you noticed? I've been keeping my big crazy brother distracted so that he didn't notice you walking right into the middle of his city. Doing a pretty damned good job of it too, except when you decide to do something absolutely stupid like walk straight down the middle of Route 2 in broad daylight."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"And look where it got you."

"You're a hell of a lot more like the original Clinton than the robot."

"You mean I'm the smartest guy in the room and really annoying about it? Yeah, that's me. Now, let's see if we can't give you some vision. Hang on."

"Hang on to what? With what? I don't seem to have any hands."

"Stop rushing me, I'll get to that part!"

The world spun, and suddenly there was light. And darkness. And colors.

"How's that?"

"Just a blur," I said.

"All right, let me fiddle with the parameters a bit..."

Then I could see him. He looked more-or-less exactly like the original Clinton, though slightly older. He even had the robot hand and the ridiculous tattoo of an electrical outlet on his arm.

"I can see you," I told him. "But nothing else."

"Yeah, it'll be a second or two before I can hook you up to the external video feeds. In the meantime, let's settle for a virtual representation of the physical world, shall we?"

He waved his hands, and a landscape coalesced around us. The buildings, I somehow knew, corresponded to buildings in the real world, but seemed more like three-dimensional blueprints than actual objects. Strange glowing lines flowed over and through them, connecting them together in a spiderweb of light.

"So, this is how the world looks from in here," Clinton said. "'In here' being a quantum server in the basement of the hospital. But with the whole of greater Boston networked together, we can go pretty much wherever we like."


"Well, let's get you a body, or at least a simulated one, and go for a stroll, shall we?"

The next thing I knew I had a body, complete with arms and legs. It didn't look much like mine - it didn't look much like anything, except a plastic mannequin - but I found I could control it.

"Um... okay," I said. "I guess this will work."

"You can make it look like that skinny piece of meat you used to inhabit later," Clinton told me. "We don't have time to get into that level of customization. We have things to do."

"Like what?"

"Like, it has been precisely six minutes and eleven seconds since your little accident with that forklift. Your friends are still trying to get my sister to safety. And they're not having an easy time of it."

He gestured, and suddenly I could see the real world. Steve was trying to lead the rest across Storrow Drive towards the river, presumably in an effort to get back to Cambridge, but they were surrounded. Dozens of borg had cut them off, trapping them below an overpass.

"See, there's my little brother," Clinton said, pointing towards the robotic version of himself. "See what he's trying to do?"

Through my virtual eyes I could see glowing lines emanating from him and flowing over the borg, probing them. "He's - he's trying to take control of the borg, isn't he?"

"And not succeeding,"  Clinton said. "See those other control lines, the bigger, stronger ones that he can't override? Follow them back to their source."

I did as he said, tracing them across the city towards a nexus near Boston University. What I saw there sent a chill up my nonexistent spine.

"Shit," I whispered.

"Shit, indeed," Clinton said. "Meet Big Brother. The crazy me."

There was another virtual Clinton towering over Commonwealth Avenue, with bright lines of force emanating from him in all directions. Through those lines, I knew, he was controlling the entire city, calling its enslaved cyborg inhabitants to come destroy the invaders.

"He's big, and very strong," Clinton said. "And very, very slow. That asshole robot Tyree told him that your friends killed Claire, and he hasn't noticed yet that it's not true."

"So what do we do?"

"Fortunately, not having our consciousnesses spread across eastern Massachusetts, we are much, much faster than he is. So we need to use that to our advantage. First order of business, let's get our friends out of that trap they're in, shall we?"


"You distract Big Brother," Clinton said. "Meanwhile, I'll get them some transportation. Luckily I planned ahead for the possibility that you would need some wheels."

"Right," I said. "I'm on it."

Of course, I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to do. But given that events in the outside world seemed to be unfolding at a snail's pace, I figured I had time to work it out.

I zoomed in on the battle unfolding on the banks of the river. Steve, May and Tortura had surrounded Claire and were doing their best to fight off the borg hand-to-hand while the robot Clinton tried to hack into their brains and make them stop attacking. They were badly outnumbered, and the borg should have overwhelmed them easily if they had been better coordinated. But their movements were slow and spasmodic, almost as if they were trying to fight off Big Brother's control.

I looked closer, and realized that was exactly the case. There were still signs of consciousness in the human parts of the borg brains, underneath Big Brother's control programming, and the two layers were in conflict. The borg wanted no part of this battle they were being forced to fight.

That gave me an idea.

In my virtual vision, Big Brother's control stream manifested as bright lines of force entering the back of the borgs' skulls. So what would happen if I grabbed onto one of those control streams and yanked really hard on it?

Several things happened, in fact. First, the borg collapsed in an epileptic seizure as its software layer crashed. Second, Big Brother noticed I was there, and started counterattacking.

Dozens of control streams appeared and tried to surround me, converging on my virtual location. But they were slow, glacially slow, and I found it an easy matter to simply dodge out of their way. Meanwhile I took several more borg out of the fight.

And then the cavalry arrived, in the form of a dark green duck boat that plowed through the crowd of borg and stopped just in front of the small group of beleaguered humans. Clinton - the software version from back at the hospital - had it under remote control. While Steve couldn't see that, he wasted no time questioning his good fortune and had everyone board it as quickly as possible.

Now that my friends had a means of escape, it was time to take Big Brother's attention off of them so they could get away.

Did I mention that he was big? Did I mention that his virtual form was as tall as the Hancock Tower, which itself was much taller than it used to be? Did I mention that my virtual form wasn't any bigger than I used to be? In the real world it would never have been a contest.

But Big Brother's size carried disadvantages. He was slow, as I already mentioned. But in addition to that, I noticed that he seemed to be made of multiple disparate parts, and they were not well-integrated. He literally needed to constantly spend a great deal of effort merely keeping himself together.

Could I win? I doubted it. But I hoped I could at least do enough damage to distract him long enough to give the others time to escape. So what if he destroyed me in the process? In the physical world I was already dead. I was more than willing to die again if need be.

"What the hell," I said, and launched myself into the attack.

Before this happened I had little understanding of how computer software actually worked. But it seemed that being software gave me some insight into how it was constructed. And in terms of software engineering, Big Brother was a mess. I could see that he had absorbed several other artificial intelligences into himself and was trying to use them as sub-modules to control various aspects of greater Boston. But his hold on those modules was tenuous, with the modules' own security protocols trying to force him out. He was literally at war within himself. No wonder he was insane. And his hacked-together control interfaces proved easy to disrupt.

At first I merely struck at random, reaching into Big Brother, grabbing onto random modules, and yanking hard in an attempt to create as much chaos as I could. Big Brother howled in protest, but he was too slow to stop me as I literally pulled pieces out of him and tossed them away.

Then I found the module I was looking for, the one that controlled the borg. Breaking Big Brother's control interface was easy. What turned out to be hard was getting rid of it. To my virtual hands it felt as if it was covered in tar. It stuck to me, and I discovered it was trying to interface with me.

Suddenly I was seeing through hundreds - no, thousands - of pairs of eyes, spread across the city. Sensory data from thousands of human brains flooded me. All of them required immediate attention from me. And all of them hated me.

Worse, this new module, as it integrated with me, made me bigger, and slower. Meanwhile Big Brother, relieved of a major processing burden, suddenly grew stronger and faster.

Big Brother counterattacked, and it was all I could do to hold him off. He was now as fast and agile as I was. We locked together, neither of us able to separate from the other. It was a stalemate.

But a stalemate meant that I won. With the borg under my control, my friends were no longer under attack. As long as Big Brother was occupied with me, Claire got away.

We stood there, deadlocked, for long minutes. For all I know we might have stayed that way indefinitely, until the underlying hardware that ran us suffered a critical failure that disabled one of us. But we were not immune to external influences.

"Well, well, look at what we have here," the Clinton from the hospital said, virtually manifesting alongside us. "Well, Marten, I guess you found a solution. A less-than-ideal one, but hey, it got the job done."

Big Brother looked confused at that. "Marten?"

I grinned. "Miss me?"

"But why? Why did you kill Claire? I thought you loved her!"

Clinton laughed at his giant twin. "Oh, you idiot," he sneered. "You still haven't looked at who is in that duck boat, have you? Well go ahead, take a good long look."

A video feed from a camera mounted on the Harvard Bridge manifested in front of us. It was focused on the duck boat, making its way as fast as it could up the frozen surface of the river. Slowly it zoomed in on a tear-streaked face surrounded by a cloud of curly red hair.

"What? Claire?"

"That's right, big brother of mine. She's alive. And you just spent the last twenty minutes trying to kill her, because you believed the lies an asshole robot told you. You're a moron."

That, finally, was took much for Big Brother. He screamed, and appeared to go into convulsions. I tried to let go and get away from him, but I discovered that we were locked together, unable to separate.

And then, he shattered. Software modules and control structures flew off in multiple virtual directions. An uncomfortable number of them impacted me, and I found myself growing even larger and more bloated as I involuntarily absorbed millions of lines of code.

"Oh, shit," I said, slowly.

"Shit, indeed," Clinton said. "You seem to have absorbed more than half of the control software for Greater Boston. Congratulations, you're a city."

It was true. The people, the vehicles, the infrastructure, hundreds of subsidiary AIs controlling everything from traffic lights to maintenance, now were under my control.

"I don't like it," I said. "I feel - stuffed."

Clinton looked me over. "We can probably spin off a lot of this into self-controlling subunits, given enough time," he said. "But for now, it looks like you're in charge."

"Well, shit." I tried to think of something better to say, but my thoughts took a long time to form. Finally, I said, "At least I died in a good cause."

"Died? What do you mean?"

"Uh, have you forgotten? I got ripped in half."

"Oh, that." Clinton waved dismissively. "Have you forgotten? You were in the best hospital in New England, and I got you into life-support within a minute. Your brain and the upper four-fifths of your spinal column are still functional."

"They are?"

"Yeah, they are. And that's probably enough."
"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #177 on: 08 Apr 2016, 08:19 »

Well, this feels like it could turn into the Mass Effect Trilogy Control or Synthesis endings. Marten now has access to all the resources and data that he needs to fix everything, if he feels like playing god.

Here's the thing: Marten isn't the sort of personality to do something stupid like try to forcibly subsume a human or synthetic mind. He's more likely to invite them to work with him towards their common goals. Just imagine how much more dangerous the Borg Collective would have been if it had been, at its core, a consensual arrangement rather than a trillion brainwashed cyborg zombies?
« Last Edit: 08 Apr 2016, 08:25 by BenRG »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #178 on: 08 Apr 2016, 13:52 »

I was on a roll so I decided to finish this off. And Ben, I have to say that you called it:

The next few months were a busy time. Clinton and I were faced with the daunting task of de-integrating the old control structures of Greater Boston from my core process and getting them to function autonomously. Fortunately we had a lot of help, some of it from unexpected sources.

The borg we freed as fast as we could. I was able to restore their free will right away, simply by virtue of not attempting to control them. And with the regeneration tanks we had the means to remove the hardware that made such control possible in the first place. We had plenty of raw materials to construct more tanks, and were able to bring dozens, and eventually hundreds, of them online.

We warned the ex-borg about the odds, of course. And yet every single one of them volunteered - demanded, even - to undergo the procedure. We lost about thirty percent of the first batch, but soon after we were able to achieve better than 90% survival of those we treated. The failure rate was still much higher than I liked, but the liberated humans told me that the risk was well worth it. Death was better than even the possibility of future enslavement.

We got an influx of AIs from Worcester in early October. The robot revolution had collapsed within weeks, and PT410x was back in control of the city after that. But his brutal reprisals against those who had overthrown him alienated many of the more moderate AIs of Worcester, and they began looking around for other options. When they realized that Boston was under new management, they decided to give us a chance. They were invaluable in helping to reconstruct the city.

Soon after, humans from all over New England began drifting in, seeking treatment for various ailments. We put them in the tanks as soon as we could. Depending on the extent of the damage, reconstruction could take anywhere from three weeks to many months.

Steve showed up in late October, driving Tortura back in the same duck boat they had escaped in, with Cosette along for the ride. Tortura was dying - given the extent of her cancer, I doubt she would have lasted another week. Cosette was fine, but needed to be de-borgified. We had Cosette released in time for Thanksgiving, but Tortura took until spring, and even then we nearly lost her.

By spring the population of Boston was up to fifteen thousand humans and AIs, and was still growing as people trickled in from the outside. We had made substantial progress in restoring the city to autonomous control so that I was more of a manager than an absolute dictator. As a side benefit I could react to events in something resembling real time. We were even beginning to work out an environmental restoration program for the whole New England region in the hopes of repairing the biosphere as much as we could. It would take years, but it seemed that time was a luxury I now had.

It was June before I signalled Momo that we were ready.

She and May made the arduous trek across Massachusetts, with Claire and Sam in tow and Fighter Jet and the Clinton-bot riding shotgun. On the first day of summer they were all gathered around one of the regeneration tanks at Mass General, joined by Steve and Cosette and a newly healthy Tortura. Sam was going to go into the tank to have her vision restored as soon as its prior occupant was discharged.

The procedure was routine by this point. A robot nurse drained the artificial amniotic fluid from the tank, while monitoring the patient's vitals. Fortunately this one went smoothly, without the patient going into cardiac arrest. They transferred him to a recovery room and waited for him to regain consciousness.

After a few minutes, blue eyes flickered open and struggled to focus. He blinked and looked at the faces surrounding him.

"Claire?" he mumbled, looking confused.

"It's me," she whispered. "I'm here, Marten."

"I'm alive?"

Claire nodded as tears streamed down her face.

Clinton and I had decided against trying to integrate my recent memories into Marten's brain, as it added an unnecessary element of risk. So the last thing he remembered was being ripped in half, and his survival was a great surprise to him. His body was once again whole, and looking much as it did when he was twenty years old. Except much more muscular - I had made a couple of improvements while I had the opportunity. Who wouldn't, given the chance?

And so I watched through a camera as the man I used to be reunited with the woman we both loved.

I was only a little jealous. I am no longer Marten Reed, though I remember being him. Claire has a future with him that she could never have with a disembodied artificial intelligence like me. So let him go on being Marten. I am something else now. I am Boston.

And I am going to restore the world, for them and their children and all the generations to come.

It is enough.

"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #179 on: 08 Apr 2016, 13:58 »

But wait! There's an epilogue!  :wink:

"Are we there yet?"

"Your GPS works as well as mine."

"Which is not at all since there aren't any functioning satellites any more!"

"It cannot be helped."

"Arrgh! Why did you even give me a goddamned GPS when you know it doesn't work any more?"

"It may function again someday."

"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, I need to recharge. And eat."

"If my sources are correct we should find a recharging station as soon as we cross Interstate 495. But you should not wait to eat."

"All right, all right, let me pop in a protein cube."


"Ugh. These things hypothetically taste terrible."

"I am sorry I could not give you a sense of taste."

"Probably for the best, given that I have to eat this crap."

"Anyway, you never had much taste to begin with."

"Was that a joke?"

"It appears that your sense of humor is starting to rub off on me."

"About damned time. Only took twenty years."

"Are your biological components adequately nourished now?"

"What biological components I have left, yeah."

"Then we should resume our journey. I hope to make contact with the Bostonians before nightfall."

"Still say we should have taken the Mass Pike."

"No. My sources say that it remains too dangerous."

"Oh, right, and this way hasn't been dangerous? You can honestly say that after Pawtucket?"

"We are both alive, are we not?"

"You lost an arm!"

"I was able to find an adequate replacement."

"But it looks ridiculous."

"It is the exact same model apart from the color."

"It's gold. The rest of you is red."

"I can get it repainted in Boston."

"You hope. If this isn't just another mirage."

"We should know shortly."

"What do you mean?"

"We appear to have a reception committee."

"Greetings, travellers! Welcome to Greater Boston! My name is Pintsize, and – holy shit! Bubbles?"

"What! Bubbles! Is that really you, sister?"

"Pintsize? Sarge?"

"Wow, when did we last see each other? Kandahar?"

"It is good to see you again too."

"So, who's your purple friend with the amazing ass?"

"Pintsize! Behave!"

"Aw, Sarge!"

"I see he hasn't changed."

"What, you know him?"

"Know him? I used to live with the little shit."

"Wait, what? I never lived with a purple robot."

"Faye is not a robot. She is a cyborg."

"What.... That's Faye? No way!"

"Don't recognize me any more, huh?"

"Should I even ask what happened?"


"Suffice to say that I had to construct a life-support capsule for what was left of Faye's body and place it in this chassis."

"Well, if she wants, we can get that sorted out back in Boston. We have full repair facilities for organics now. As long as enough of her is intact we can grow her a whole new body."

"So we have heard."

"Wow, Marten is totally going to shit when he finds out you're alive!"

"Marty's still around?"

"Yeah! Not only is he still around, he's the big cheese!"

"Marten is in charge of something?"

"Yeah! Well, one of him anyway. The other one isn't interested."

"Wait a minute – there's two of him?"

"Yep! Though awesome as that is, the universe saw fit to balance that out by making two of Clinton also."

"Holy spiderfucks. And nobody's killed them yet?"

"Well, I understand there used to be three of him. But that was before Marten figured out how to reactivate me, so I was spared that particular horror."

"So Marty's doing all right then?"

"Oh yeah. Marten, Claire, and baby Faye. They're expecting another one in March."

"He named his daughter after me?"

"Yeah, he did."

"Brave man."

"Tell me about it."

"As heartwarming as this reunion is, we need to get back to base before nightfall. We've cleaned things up a lot, but  it still tends to get a little weird after dark when we're this far out."

"I concur."

"What happened to the arm, anyway?"

"Long story."

"Aren't they all."

"It CAN'T be a bad decision, it resulted in CARROT CAKE!"


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #180 on: 08 Apr 2016, 15:31 »

A nice ending to an excellent fan-fiction.

I loved the idea of Miss "Only 45% Meat Faye". I actually find myself wondering if she'd be entirely interested in going full-bio again.

I also agree that PT410x would end up the marginalised leader of a tiny band of fanatics, screaming invective as the world moves on without him and his dreams of purity were lost to the dust of history. In the end, that's all he ever was, wasn't it?

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #181 on: 23 May 2018, 21:33 »

Okay, so I wrote a small theatric fanfic (fanplay?) for an OT3 ship I have and hopefully it's better quality than Marigold's?

(a "play" by someone who most certainly has no idea how to write plays)

[Clinton and Brunhilde are hanging out at Brunhilde's house, playing Mario Kart (or some other video game). Clinton decides to broach a subject that has been weighing on his mind.]

CLINTON: Hey, Brun? I was... Uhhh, how do I put this...

BRUNHILDE [tilting head curiously]: Hmm?

CLINTON: Well, er, you know Elliot, right?

BRUNHILDE: Elliot from the bakery?

CLINTON: Yeah, that's him. I was wondering what you thought about him.

BRUNHILDE: Hmm... He reminds me of the BFG. Because he's big and friendly... and maybe a giant?

CLINTON: He's not a giant!

BRUNHILDE: Well, he could be a small one.


BRUNHILDE: But I guess then he wouldn't be a BIG friendly giant.

CLINTON: :psyduck:

BRUNHILDE: Or maybe he's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!

CLINTON: ...The villain who destroyed the city in Ghostbusters?

BRUNHILDE: Yeah! But not because of the destroying the city part. He just reminds me of a marshmallow. ...Crossed with a giant.

CLINTON: OK, this isn't exactly what I was getting at.

BRUNHILDE: What do you mean?

CLINTON: I was thinking... Elliot's a nice guy, right? Do you like him?

BRUNHILDE: Yeah. He seems fun. And he's really big, which is also nice.


BRUNHILDE: ...Oh, but I like you too, even though you're not big! You're both nice.

C [blushing a bit]: Um, th-thank you. I'm not really... Well, I try to be nice, but I'm not like Elliot.

BRUNHILDE: Huh? ...You can be nice without being like Elliot.

CLINTON: Yeah, but... He's a really sweet guy, you know?

BRUNHILDE: Yes! He is sweet. So are you.

CLINTON: Heh, well, if you say so... [leaning in] So is that the kind of guy you'd like, romantically? Someone who's sweet and kind? And maybe physically attractive?

BRUNHILDE: Hmm... I think so. Nice guys are cute.

CLINTON: So then, do you think... How do I put this...

BRUNHILDE: ...Ohh! Are you asking me out?

C [blushing hard]: Wait, what?!

BRUNHILDE: You're... not? But you are sweet and attractive. It makes sense that I would like you.

CLINTON: Thanks, but... I mean, it's not like I never thought about you that way... I definitely had a bit of a crush on you when we first met... but I was asking about Elliot.

BRUNHILDE: Ohh! Are you asking if he likes you?

CLINTON: H-huh?! No, Elliot doesn't like... I mean, I don't think...

BRUNHILDE: But he always acts so flustered around you. Just like you're acting now.

CLINTON: D-does he...? And hey, I'm not flustered!

BRUNHILDE: I just figured he probably had a crush on you.

CLINTON: Wait, then... Maybe he was talking about... Augh, but that's not who I was talking about! I meant you, Brun, not me! Elliot likes you!


CLINTON: Crap, I didn't mean to tell you he said that!

BRUNHILDE: Oh. Sorry. Should I try to forget it?

CLINTON: No, wait! Just listen for a sec! I was thinking maybe you should see if Elliot and you both like each other... Maybe you could go out on a date?

BRUNHILDE: Ohh! So you're his wingman!

CLINTON: No, he didn't ask me to talk to you! I just thought I could... Well, to be honest, I don't know why I did this. I wanted to help Elliot, but my sister tried to set me up one time, and things went so badly...

BRUNHILDE: Wait, but if Elliot likes you, and you like Elliot, maybe YOU could go out with him! And then I can be [Batman voice] the wingman!

CLINTON: No! I mean... maybe? But I was asking you... AUGH! This is so complicated! :psyduck: (again)

BRUNHILDE: Well, maybe we can both go out with him?

CLINTON: Wait, how could BOTH of us go on a date with him?

BRUNHILDE: Well, it's not like you can expect someone to be exclusive on a first date!

CLINTON: But then, it'd be like we're in a competition.

BRUNHILDE: But we're not. I mean, I don't expect us to fall in love or anything, do you?

CLINTON: It's way too early to think about falling in love with him. I don't even really know if I'm into guys.

BRUNHILDE: So we're just seeing what happens. I don't think we should keep each other from seeing someone.

CLINTON: I guess you're right. I can't ask you to just ignore what you might have with him.

BRUNHILDE: And I don't want you to give up seeing him for me, either.

CLINTON: When you put it that way, it makes sense.

BRUNHILDE: So let's go ask him out together!

CLINTON: W-wait! Th-that'd be way too weird... But I can ask him out the next time I see him alone...

BRUNHILDE: Me too! Let's do it! [raises a hand for a high-five]

CLINTON: Okay! [starts to raise his robot hand, then pauses] Oh... but, what if whatever Elliot decides affects our friendship?

BRUNHILDE: We have to make a promise... No matter what happens, we'll still be friends. Do you promise?

CLINTON: I promise!

[CLINTON gives BRUNHILDE a high-five]

BRUNHILDE: ...Oh, wait. Should we have shaken hands instead?

CLINTON: Nah, I think a high-five can work as a handshake... [stares at the palm of his robot hand] Wow, I really can't believe we're doing this. But... nothing ventured, nothing gained! [fist-pumps]

BRUNHILDE: [nods, then puts a hand on Clinton's shoulder] Good luck, Clinton!

CLINTON: Yeah! You too, Brun!


These guys are all adorable in their own way, and maybe it's silly to want a poly relationship out of this when it's doubtful that the characters (at least Clinton and Elliot) have ever had that kind of relationship before... but it's just so cute! Augh, I'm sure I messed up writing Brun's voice... she's such a fun and quirky character, it's hard to think of exactly how she'd approach things. I tried to channel that side of myself, but... well, I know I'm not great at letting the characters affect the direction of the story instead of the other way around, and I hope that things didn't seem totally out of the blue.

While I'm interested at writing I know there are a lot of areas I'm not great at. But I guess I'd better submit this now before I get too self-conscious. Hope you like!
« Last Edit: 29 May 2018, 12:08 by questionablydiscontent »


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #182 on: 23 May 2018, 23:11 »

Just by the way, there's a sticky topic for fanfiction in the main QC forum.  I think a lot of this stuff would be quite well-received there.

I could post chapters and bits, if people are interested in them, from a couple of things I've written and one I'm still working on.  They have nothing to do with Questionable Content though - (albeit a few of them are...)


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #183 on: 23 May 2018, 23:25 »

Here's a chapter that stands alone pretty well.  It's titled 'Dandelions.' 

The main character in this manuscript is a sort-of-psychic guy who has accepted by now that most people don't have second sight the way he does, but doesn't consider it very remarkable.  He's also a sort of lower-class, flat-broke guy in a hand-to-mouth existence, not least because he has no idea what his art is worth and no business sense.



I'm pretty sure everybody who's got second sight knows pixies are flower fairies.  I mean, it's not a secret or nothin'.  But you gotta stop sometimes and think about what it means, or it takes you by surprise and hits you right in the heart.

I saw them for the first time, I guess, one day in the middle of April.  It was a fine evening, you know how it is, as Spring gets into swing and everything smells new.  I'd got home tired - I was working construction that month - and I'd chucked my clothes in the wash, taken a shower, and because it was one of the first warm evenings of the year I put on tomorrow's clothes, came out back of the trailer, and parked my exhausted butt on a lawn chair to just soak up some fresh air. 

They popped up over the faded, blistered plastic of the ramp my neighbor's kids used to slide down, which had been sitting broken-down in their backyard while those kids got old enough for grade school, then junior high.  They swooped under the busted-out Chevy he's got up on blocks, did a joyful loop-de-loop over the chainlink between our yards, and buzzed low over the tractor tire full of sand where my sister and I had played when we were kids and where all the neighborhood cats pooped these days.  They were full of joy and they were beautiful and their hair was flowing gold and their wings were verdant green, dark on the outside and lighter on the inside, like a garment with a lighter-colored lining, so they flickered light-and-dark as the pair flew by.  Their skin was green too, the delicate lighter pale green of flower stems.

My muscles were tired, and my arms and legs felt like lead.  I'd been sitting there for a while, and you know how it is when you sit down when your muscles are tired, you start moving again and it feels like they've frozen in place and you have to force 'em?  I was like that.  But goddamn it my heart wasn't a rock.  I had to put the feeling of seeing them, the beauty of them, the way they were alive and free and the love between them, I had to put that into the clay.  So I dug into the rusty oil drum next to the trailer where I keep my river clay, and I got a ten-pound lump of it out, and I splatted it down on the plywood table next to the back steps and I set to work, whether my muscles hurt or not, until it got too dark.  They kept flitting around - now here, now there, now in some momentary confrontation by the old dog-house, now passionately necking and kissing, all silhouette against the sky as the sun sank in the west.

They were tiny.  She might have been four inches tall; he'd be four and a half or thereabouts. They were thin, the way most fairies were; the way most flower stems were, would probably be the better way to think of it.  And I hadn't heard them say a word, but it was clear that they loved each other.

When it got too dark to keep working, sleep was getting too important to keep ignoring.  So I sprayed a little water on that first rough shape, put some plastic wrap over it, and went to bed.  My butt kind of dragged a little at work the next day, but I was in a good mood.  We got six courses of concrete poured, anyway.  I got home, chucked the clothes in the laundry, showered, put on tomorrow's clothes, went out back, and worked that clay again till dark.  It was starting to look like something.

I got my next chance to work on it a couple of days later.  I went out to the table and peeled the plastic back and sat down, and just about five minutes later the two pixies I'd been inspired by showed up at my elbow to watch what I was doing.  They were interested.  They were fascinated.  They picked up tiny handsful of clay and messed with it experimentally, making tiny indistinct noises with their mouths.  When they finally recognized that this clay was supposed to be the same shape as themselves, they laughed and laughed and laughed, a sound like wind rippling through leaves, and wiped their tiny handsful of clay on my face.  Then they went on to do the important business of living - the little confrontations, the passionate embraces, the quiet interludes during which they sat hand in hand gazing as the stars began to emerge, the playful chasing of bugs, and the equally playful leading of neighborhood cats on a merry chase.

And it was like that, for much of the summer.  I didn't have much time to work on sculpture during the summer.  During the week I only had a few hours in the evening and I was usually tired from my construction job, and on the weekends I was going out to dig more clay from the riverbed, so I could do my sculpture the rest of the year - you can't do that once it starts to get cold.  I tried using clay from an art store once, but the stuff is useless.  It's all alike, it has no character.  River clay is - I guess, maybe, more honest.  It doesn't feel like cheating.  You have to understand river clay, and understanding is a good part of what it's about.

But anyway, two nights a week, or three, I'd go out back and spend a couple or three hours working on that one piece of clay.  Getting it right.  Sometimes I'd take a saucer of milk with me, because, well, it's always best to demonstrate goodwill.  And I'd see them, and sometimes they'd flit over to watch, and sometimes they'd ignore me, and sometimes they'd just come over and indicate that they were happy to see me and it didn't look like they were paying any attention at all to what I was doing.  But the work progressed.

It was around the beginning of September that I realized they were changing.  They now flew from place to place, rather than flying spirals and loop-de-loops for the sheer joy of flying.  There was less passionate necking and more quiet kissing.  There were fewer little moments of confrontation and more rolling of eyes and resigned smiles.  And where once they'd sat silhouetted on the fence against the darkening sky as the sun set, locked in an almost desperate embrace, now they reposed in a more comfortable place they'd found in the walnut tree, where her head rested comfortably upon his shoulder and his arm wound around her waist.  It had been a very gradual change.  They were still in love.  They were calmer than they'd been.

A week later I started stacking up the firebricks over a load of coal in the old tractor tire sandbox, swearing that next year I was finally going to get a proper kiln.  Especially considering the ridiculously high temperatures that pieces like this one demanded. I loaded the clay into it, adjusted everything so the airflow would be exactly right, checked the weather forecast again to make sure I knew the right wind, and then I was ready.  My two little friends were buzzing around, interested and concerned; they didn't quite know what to make of the clay but they knew it had something to do with them, and something was happening.

Something was happening, I thought, looking at them.  Their hair had gone white, the white of dandelion fluff in the fall, when the seeds are getting ready to blow away.   I didn't have much time left.  I sprayed ether - carburetor cleaner from a farm supply place - on the coal from the side, tossed a match in after it - the coal lit up with a WHOOMP! sound - and shoved a firebrick in place over the opening.

They fled in dismay as horrible smells and flame engulfed the clay that had some mysterious link to them.  I stood back as a year's accumulated cat shit oxidized, outgassed, and rejoined the great carbon cycle of the world.   I think I prayed a little bit.  River clay has character.  It  does not forgive any mistakes or any failure to understand.  I had worked that clay for most of a summer.  I believed that I understood it.  But if I was wrong, if this piece shattered....  it was too much to think about.  There was only going to be one chance.

It took days to cool the kiln, and the two pixies didn't know whether to be furious or fearful.  I'd done something destructive with their images, but had I cast a curse or broken one or was I making a prophecy or was I just angry with them or what?  They didn't know what to make of it. It came out without breaking. I have rarely been so thankful for anything. I pulled new porcelain from the kiln and laid it out on the table.  With a brush and a little moisture, gradually, I removed the soot.   I waited until they had seen it, until they knew that it wasn't destroyed, before I took it inside.

Then I got to work with enamels.  Golds and greens and delicate shades.   But the enamels went fast compared to the incredibly finicky river clay, and I was in kind of a panic and called in sick three days in a row to work on it straight through the days and most of the nights.  Within a week I brought it back out, set it on the table outside next to a saucer of milk, and waited.

They didn't come that night, and I was afraid I might be too late.

But the following night, I saw them.  They were old, and moved slowly.  They stood on the table in front of me, gazing at the porcelain.  She reached down to touch it, then beckoned and he did the same.  Wonderingly, they caressed the sculpture, transformed by the fearsome, destructive magic of fire into stone that would last forever.  The golden hair and pale green skin showed each the beauty that the other remembered in them.  In the last days of their ancient age, they beheld the memory of their youth.

They turned to me then, and came up to my shoulders, and they made their wordless sounds.  And this time I sort of understood.  When all the world gives you is one Spring and one Summer you only have time for the important things.  Time was for living, and loving, and moments of confrontation and joyous kissing and loop-de-loops for the sheer joy of flying and the comforts of growing old together.  But I had instead spent a whole lifetime's work on this monument to them.  They didn't understand, but they were awed and honored and humbled by the work.

"You're welcome," I told them. "And thanks to you too."  I don't know if they understood but they seemed happy to hear the sounds I was making when I said it.

I never saw them again.  Dandelions live one Summer, and then they go beneath the snow, forgotten until a new generation comes 'round the following Spring. 


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #184 on: 23 May 2018, 23:54 »

And here's another, very short chapter from the same manuscript.  It's titled "Second Sight" but probably ought to be more specific.  About the first paragraph you should know:  our protagonist knows that everybody can talk to animals; he sees them doing it all the time.  He hasn't twigged, quite yet, to the fact that most folks can't understand them.


Somebody had tied their dog out in front of Jones' place, which I didn't like.  But at least she had a water dish, and if the humans got too obnoxious there were at least some rosebushes she could get under, so it wasn't outright mean.  It was just ... I dunno, inconsiderate.  I stopped for a minute to say hello.  Her name was probably Dolly, if I understood right, and she didn't mind hanging out there while her lady was inside, so no harm done I guess.  I couldn't get any idea what Dolly's lady looked like; ask a dog to describe somebody and they'll start in on how they smell.  It was all pretty vague, anyway. Dogs ain't real bright.

But about that time, I noticed something off about the sound of the bugzapper Jones had put up.  You know how bugzappers are, right?  Bugs arrive at sort of random intervals, and there's this little pop, or this big crackle, or this long-drawn-out noise that sounds sort of like an arc welder, depending on the size of the bug and the voltage of the bugzapper?  Well, this particular bugzapper was making one of those arc-welder noises every few seconds, and it was happening on unnaturally regular intervals.

So I had a closer look, and sure enough, there was a nest of yellowjackets under the rafters of the pump shed next to the bar.  Yellowjackets were coming out of the nest, one by one, and flying straight over into the bugzapper.  And they'd fry, KZZZZKKK! and then a few seconds later, here would come the next one.  I focused my eyes a little different, and I could see that they were each following a tiny point of light - and there next to the chain-link fence was a little fairy girl in a plain cotton dress, sitting on a plastic soda bottle cap, casting the little will-o-wisps and cackling maniacally.   She'd found her evening's entertainment. 

I think the dress probably belonged to a Barbie doll before she'd got it; it was about the right size for her slender fairy waist, but gapped ridiculously around her chest.  She could carry around a couple of blueberries up front if she wanted the same deformed effect, but with her long legs all skinny and her nut-brown skin all dirty and her red hair tangled and wild, and with a grass-stained dress that didn't even fit her, she was about ten times prettier, no lie.  Tiny and hungry and bedraggled and fragile perhaps, but also fierce and funny and magical and alive.

She caught me looking and waved, obviously delighted to have an audience.  Then she jumped off the bottle cap and gave an elaborate theatrical bow.  I gave her a smile and a nod - about as much applause as I can spare when people who can't see the performer are watching - and headed on into Jones' place.

She was quick, I'll give her that.  She flitted ahead of me and parked herself on the floor next to the wall, at the end of the bar by one of the empty stools, and the look she gave me was filled with hope.  I was probably the only human with second sight she'd seen in a week. 

Well, I'm a soft touch, and her appetite couldn't be much bigger than she was.  I took the stool, got a packet of peanuts with my beer, and "accidentally" dropped some on the floor.  You don't watch fairies eating, ever - that's really, really rude - but I was listening.  The poor thing must have been starving, because those peanuts didn't even bounce.   After a bit of consideration, I got a pack of M&Ms, and fake-accidentally dropped a couple of those too.  A bit of dessert wouldn't go amiss.

They don't ask for help, they rarely barter, and they don't say thank you; it's not their way.  But if you're second-sighted you can see when they need help, they give fair value for what they're given, and they always find ways to express their gratitude.  If you tick them off, they'll find ways to express that, too.  It all works out, but everyone involved just has to pay attention. 

I might not have been paying attention well enough that night.
« Last Edit: 24 May 2018, 00:20 by Morituri »


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #185 on: 29 May 2018, 11:45 »

Just by the way, there's a sticky topic for fanfiction in the main QC forum.  I think a lot of this stuff would be quite well-received there.

I could post chapters and bits, if people are interested in them, from a couple of things I've written and one I'm still working on.  They have nothing to do with Questionable Content though - (albeit a few of them are...)

Oh, thanks for the notice ^^ In that case maybe I'll repost my play-styled fanfic there I guess? (even though it's probably horrible trash :psyduck:)


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #186 on: 03 Jun 2018, 08:19 »

(responding to your Marten/Charlie Brown story)

Wow. I used to read Peanuts as a kid, and that gave me the tingles. Thank you.

I'm curious: are you familiar with "Peanuts Halloween II: Electric Boogaloo"?
« Last Edit: 03 Jun 2018, 11:15 by HughYeman »
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"I-I was scared you left. I knew you wouldn't go anywhere without it."
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"I would never ask you to."


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #187 on: 18 Sep 2018, 14:45 »

Well, if we're sharing, here's one back from 2011.

Her Eyes

I remember her eyes.

I remember thinking that they were the most beautiful shade of amber as this petite, well-dressed woman wandered into the bookstore where I worked. I can remember her soft, delicate laugh as she corrected me, pointing out that her eyes, were in fact, hazel. This was of course after I had blurted it out to her as she asked if we had a first collection of nineteenth century short stories. There was something in the way she moved, in the manner that she spoke that drew me to her, indeed, one could have said that it was love at first sight, though I always wondered why she loved me. I was never the most handsome of men, my face gaunt and tired, a reminder of a childhood spent ill and frail.

I remember that there was something about this woman, her long, soft brown hair tied into a ponytail, that made me feel like a better man, just for having seen her. Even after my foolish stumbling, I somehow managed to ask her out, though she would tell me often afterwards, that she found me endearing, comforting and, to her apparently, perfect. She would tell me this, her hazel eyes looking deeply into mine as we would lie in bed at night.

I remember that night in September, when we sat on that park bench, under the branches of her favourite willow tree; I looked longingly into those eyes as I held her hand in mine, as I fumbled with the small velvet box with my other hand. It had been a year after we had met in the bookstore, a year of having her in my life and each day realising that I could not live my life without her. Even as I asked her the question, her eyes told me yes, lighting up in the glow of the full moon.

I remember her eyes, teary, yet joyful as her father escorted down the aisle to the altar, and to me.  Her smile was radiant under her veil, beaming as I lifted the lacy material away as the priest's words droned into the background. I knew it was the happiest day of my life as she said "I do" as I slipped the wedding band over her finger as I felt her lips against mine and the congregation clapped and cheered.

I remember her eyes as she finally returned home. She had been gone for most of the night, to the point where my hand had just reached for the phone to call the police when she returned. Her eyes were scared, terrified, darting back and forth with fear as she sat walked through the door. Her jacket, her favourite, I had bought it for her birthday, was drenched, not by rain though, but by blood. It wasn't hers, but it still didn't stop me from worrying. She had told me that she had hit a dog with her car; that the poor beast had lashed out as she approached, its paw barely scratching her hand. I held my wife close for the rest of the day, watching her hazel eyes turn red as she cried for the dog.

I remember her eyes, as her hulking form broke through the door, only a few days after incident with the animal. I remembered the petite, beautiful girl who walked into my life on a warm September, the brown haired girl with the amber eyes, which were actually hazel. They were the same eyes that now approached me, that stared at me and hungered. As her claw clasped around my throat, those beautiful hazel eyes, the ones I fell in loved with, were the last things I saw as my wife tore my throat out.
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Re: Writing club
« Reply #188 on: 17 Feb 2019, 14:24 »

Fan-Fiction Proposal
Player Unknown's Battlegrounds

Just an idea that came to me over the past week or so. I think that this game allows for the framework of a round-robin or multi-author anthology work all based in the same fictional universe. It works something like this:

In the early 21st Century, many political, economic and social issues led to a crisis with blooming prison populations and greater internal political unrest in the face of more and more ineffective and remote governance. In response to these problems, several countries with particularly authoritarian governments started a new, inhumane but astonishingly popular spectator sport - Mass gladiatorial combat.

In it's simplest form, the Battleground Games involved a hundred criminals, either political or criminal (condemned or just facing life imprisonment) being parachuted onto evacuated and geographically isolated areas a few miles across, which had previously been heavily seeded with the tools of violence and survival. The rules of the games were simple: Gather what you need and survive and then emerge as the last person standing. As everyone started with nothing but their bodies and their prison jumpsuits and because weapons were scattered randomly, there was very little chance for the more violent or those with military experience to gain automatic advantage.

The motive to fight was twofold:
  • A specialised device based on the US governments HAARP weapon was used to create an ever-constricting ring of lightning around the fighting area, forcing the 'players' into closer and closer contact until violent conflict was inevitable; better to strike first whilst you have the chance;
  • Those who emerged triumphant on their fifth Games would allegedly be given a full pardon and be set free
Although more liberal and enlightened countries tried to outlaw the Battlegrounds, thanks to the Internet and the number of state-sponsored TV stations that broadcast the events, they quickly became one of the fastest-growing spectator events on Earth. The most creative, savage and skilled gladiators developed rabid fan-followings and wagers often in the millions of dollars, euros or Yuan were placed on outcomes of certain events.

Over the years, a total of six distinct battlegrounds have appeared in the Russian Black Sea, the Far East and North America. Additionally, the games have become more complex with teams of two or four occasionally being forced to work together against other teams with the performance of the group determining the status of the survivors. Additionally one-on-one close combat arena fights are also broadcast in between the weekly 'headline' battleground events.

There remains doubt as to the sincerity of the offer to free the most successful gladiators for none have ever survived five matches to date.

Basically, a writer creates a Battleground character and their background (Rebel? Criminal? Dissident? What sub-flavour of these?) and tells the story of one or more of their experiences in the battlegrounds. Will they survive? Will they be freed? Or is there no survival for those condemned by repressive regimes? Or will the makers of this grotesque entertainment decline to lose the services of their most lucrative 'stars'? Those are the stories that this framework allow the author to tell.

Naturally, this setting almost demands storylines reminiscent of The Hunger Games, Rollerball and other dystopian 'bread and circuses' stories. The amount of behind-the-scenes politics one wishes to include in the saga is entirely up to the contributor.
« Last Edit: 18 Feb 2019, 00:01 by BenRG »

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #189 on: 14 Aug 2019, 17:58 »

I am stuck on a piece of dialog/military ritual in something I'm writing and I'm hoping that someone here who has appropriate military experience can help me create an authentic-seeming bit.

The basic situation is that there is a military detail (think of some analogue of the Secret Service except more directly military) whose duty is the safety of a VIP.   They are handling this at a large, protracted, multi-week diplomatic event that involves some hundreds of nations organized on dozens of different sets of basic principles. There are theocracies, communist states, monarchies, direct democracies and mercantile unions present, and a lot of 'miscellaneous' or hard-to-classify. Many of these principles produce states neither likely nor expected to get along with each other.  But this meeting is literally the only opportunity for a lot of things to get done.  So everybody is doing business, but everybody is also being alert for potential subterfuge or espionage on any level.

The military detail whose job is the safety of a VIP (just short of the status of Royal Family) handles the work in shifts.  So, during the day, likely multiple times,  Officer Joshu will arrive to relieve Officer Awana, or whatever.

There has to be military ritual here.  There has to be some sequence that is a proper security procedure, starting with

"Lieutenant Joshu, reporting as ordered"

and ending with

"Lieutenant Awana, you are relieved." 

But how do actual military organizations handle things like this?  A relief arrives as scheduled, but the stakes are high so there's procedure to follow. The security detail has some ritual that guarantees this is (a) really Lieutenant Joshu and (b) he's really there to relieve Lieutenant Awana and (c) he's really *supposed* to be there to relieve Lieutenant Awana, and (d) Lieutenant Awana is in fact scheduled to be relieved.....  Basic security stuff, which obviously becomes military ritual. 

But it's military ritual which I do not know.


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #190 on: 14 Aug 2019, 23:25 »

There isn't a 'ritual' that I've ever seen in any documentaries, beyond formal greeting and dismissal.

There is generally a procedure, where key and important information is handed over first (who is on duty and what assets they have on standby like vehicles). If they are actually on a ship or long-range aircraft of some kind, typically the first bit exchanged during watch officer handovers is the current course and speed. After  that, it's just basically a quick, abbreviated report of anything that is going on at the moment and then a handover of the book in which everything is being recorded.

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Re: Writing club
« Reply #191 on: 15 Aug 2019, 00:52 »

Okay .... Thanks.  I guess in that case the exact procedure is going to be determined by the local commander and, with due formalities, there is a wide range of 'acceptable.'

I didn't want to write something that would immediately have every military person in the world facepalming.


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Re: Writing club
« Reply #192 on: 26 Aug 2019, 17:19 »

Zebediah I had to sign up for a forum account just to say thanks for the story.  I found it a fascinating take on post apocalypse and the QC spin was awesome!
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