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Author Topic: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread  (Read 880 times)

Offline ScarletBea

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[OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« on: October 03, 2020, 09:15:28 AM »
OCTOBER: Ticking Time Bomb Scenario



The Clock by Thenoviceone

This month's theme can take place in Fantasy or Science Fiction or any related genre. The only objective we have for you is that you must give us a sense of real urgency and speed. Your story doesn't necessarily have to feature a time bomb but it needs to center around running out of time and may even leave the reader out of breath.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story must give us a sense of real urgency and speed
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 


If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close October 31st/November 1st, 2020 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here
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Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2020, 02:55:28 PM »
No Time for Argument

1999 words (includes bad language).

Spoiler for Hiden:
Two brothers burst from the brothel into the stifling swelter of Darrowfell. Leo swayed with it. “Fucking state of us,” he growled. “Couldn’t have given it us before we got undressed?”

“Daphne insisted,” moaned Ralleo, no happier than his sibling to be down to briefs alone. 

“We’ll see to her, later, I need that gods damned antidote. Which way’d that little bastard go?”

“Hey!” Ralleo called, plodding toward some passing market girl. “A lad just ran out here, ‘bout your age. You see where he got to?” The girl shook her head, flushing at her interrogator’s tone and overexposure. “Useless,” he said, skulking back. “We’ll split. You take the market, that way, I’ll go right.”

“Bleeding gods,” Leo snarled. “Get on it then. Heads'll roll for this, I tell you that.”

He shuffled through the stalls-packed streets. Not something he’d often had the displeasure to put himself through. Avoided it, if he could. Gods they baked. Bodies everywhere; screaming for bargains, screaming for customers, screaming for more, screaming over the screaming. Dirty, selfish, nobodies. And they were getting in his way. He barged one woman, and the look she threw him brought more heat to his blazing cheeks. A second glance and her eyes widened. Damn right they did. Recognised him now, didn’t they? Better know that in better times there’s those who’d die for less.

Deeper into the crush and more looks shot his way. Some in disgust at the perverse lack of dress. Others dumbstruck on closer inspection. ‘Could that be Leo Lawcett?’ ‘Really?’ Bastards. More, still, sneered as if in on the whole game. They’d get their own, he swore them to that.

He shook his head on ramming his way into an opening in some muggy corner. Things were getting fuzzy now. Days he’d known it’d come to this; reckoned he had an hour left, at best. Too close.

Wait! There, by the fruit shacks. Between the apples and oranges, toward the alley. Hood up but no mistaking that dirt green cloak. Got the little shit!

The fool had stopped, probably thinking the crowd would cover for him. Stupid brat’d regret that; last thing he ever would.

Leo stalked up, glad for once to be unarmed and unadorned with his usual finery, and caught the rascal by the nape. He quickly shoved him down the alley, losing them both in the shadows.

Cooler, he noticed, away from the crush and the sun. “Right, you little rat fucker, where’d—” he was cut off as the youth shifted and twisted beneath the felt, bringing his face around. “What the—oof!” Leo doubled over a clenched fist before his arm was yanked and wrenched up his own back.

Leo grunted and tried pulling free, only for the grip to tighten and his arm to press further up his back. “Gods dammit! How much d’you want?”

“I’m being well paid, sir.”

The boy breathed heavily. Leo was thankful his resistance wasn’t a complete waste – still, must’ve been the poison, though he suddenly wished he’d spent more time working his body. Too young to be getting soft. What now? “All right. How much?” No answer; but there it was – his opening – a knife, at the lad’s hip. He was lucky the fool hadn’t pulled it on him; the fool himself, not so lucky.

Leo swept his free hand back and slipped the blade easily from its place. The boy immediately let go, clearly in no hurry to shed any blood over this. Not such a fool, then. “The antidote,” Leo said, trying to recoup some measure of calmness. He panted though, no question it’d been close. Got to be better.

“I don’t have it, sir.”

“What do you mean? I saw you run. Where. Is it?”

“I don’t have it. Honest. I was just a distraction. The magistrate sent me. Honest, sir!”

His eyes didn’t betray him. Stupid, simpleton eyes. But why the magistrate? Leo shook dizziness from his skull. Didn’t have time for this. Gods he didn’t. “All right. Take me to her. Now.”

*

By the time they reached the magistrate’s house, everything had become a haze. The guard had refused both the exposed man and the boy to begin with; but an icy stare and more than a subtle snarl had seen the former gain entry, while the latter was sent packing. He’d also been relieved of his new blade, despite the guard’s recognition. No time for argument. Scores could be settled later. The antidote was all that mattered. He felt like shit, and it’d only be getting worse.
 
He was marched up a short flight of steps and down a long corridor into a room awash with natural light from a high window. His host stood across from him, beyond an expanse of oak desk, facing away onto the bustle below. Her tasselled uniform clung tight to her form, as tight as her demeanour, almost.

“Your Worship: Master Leo Lawcett,” the guard announced.

Bloody magistrate would be loving this. Your Worship indeed. Still, he sucked in his gut as his adversary turned, as if that’d strengthen his position.

“What a sight,” she mumbled, barely moving her lips. “Haven’t seen so much doughy flesh since my sister gave birth. Astonishing what a loss of apparel can do for you.”

“Fuck off. You should look at yourself. Snap like a twig in any man’s arms. Even that little shit you sent to Daphne’s.” He threw out an open palm. “The antidote. Give it to me.” Gods the city was swimming. He stumbled forward. Hand dropping to the desk.

She smirked. “Really? Master Leo, you seem in no state to be throwing out such high winded demands.” She drew a crystal decanter across her side of the desk and made a show of pouring clear liquid into an equally elaborate glass. “All this excitement brings a thirst, doesn’t it?” She raised the glass, tilted it, poised to drink. “Water, Leo. What did you think?”

He could’ve strangled the bitch. “The antidote. Please.”

The glass returned to wood with a knock. “But that I could. I am a woman of law, Master Leo. I have sought a solid lead on you personally for years. You think I’d end our little game with such underhandedness as this? You wound me.”

“Then why? Why’d that little rat send me here?”

“I was alerted of the chance you’d come to me with this little tale. I was only to inform you that it had nothing to do with me.”

“By who?”

Those thin lips cracked up a little there, just at the corners, but he saw it. “By the boy you came here with. And who he came from? Anyone. How many have you done the dirty on? How many fathers, mothers, sons and daughters have you seen to the grave? Perhaps you could write a list and work your way through it. Take care of them. Give me a final chase. Give me something to bring you down.”

Trembling palms gripped sweaty oak. Heart boring its way through his ribcage. “If not you, then who?” He croaked the last word. Chest tightening. Mind racing.

“If you want my advice, I suggest going back to where this started. Daphne’s meat farm has seemed quieter since you became a regular. Think that old witch might have more than a passing interest in your fortune.”

And this vindictive witch might have more than a passing interest in shutting down said meat farm, Leo thought, but she had a point.

“You look unwell, Master Leo. Can I be of any assistance, before I send you on your way?”

“A glass of water wouldn’t go amiss.”

*

Hardly an hour had passed since he’d left this festering pit, and here he was again. Throat tighter. Near choking. He needed that phial. Damned kid would pay for this. Though what he’d get wasn’t half what he’d do to the one who’d poisoned him to begin with. The how and when didn’t matter. He was Leo Lawcett. He’d know.

He slunk through the stuffy gloom, the gaudy purples and dark blues of deliberately dim lit lanterns. Certainly was quiet here. Might be something in the magistrate’s words. Might be indeed.

If there was, Daphne wasn’t letting on whatsoever.

“Bitch is right on one thing,” she boomed. Her own desk was much less imposing than that of the law office; this was more than made up for by the colossal bulk of the procuress herself, four times the build of any of her women, or even several of her men. “‘Tis quieter round here. Not that it’s of a mind to me. You and your lot more than make up for any shortfall. No use to me, you being six feet under. By the by, as you mention it, you could be tad nicer around the regulars.”

Leo sighed and collapsed into a thickness of armchair. “If not you…” He released a heavy breath. “Then who?”

Daphne stepped around and placed a thick, sausage-like finger under his chin, tipping his gaze to hers in a way no one would’ve dared do before today. “If I were you, I’d try looking closer to home. And waste no time about it.”

*

Another pint of water and a shot of something stronger gave him all he needed to get home. The looks he’d attracted, slumping and staggering through the downtown alleys and smoke dens, were concerning. Even debilitated as he was, they ought to have mind to consider their betters. Not that it mattered. He’d burn them all out in no time once he was done with this. But who? Who, by all the gods?

Double doors spread on a shadowy hall where a crowd of the city’s hardest and most treacherous clustered around a broad length of granite table. Each of them turned to the broken kingly figure who sagged drunkenly to the table’s lower end.

Which of them? They had to be here. He snapped at a man to his left, but the man only grunted and sank back into the heaving mass of villainy. Leo’s eyes shot about the place, he snapped here and there, clutching his way further up the granite slab, another pair of doors drawing nearer at the table’s head: his own office.

One by one the accused vanished into the suspected, the betrayers – the condemned. Gods his innards burned now! He needed space. Needed to breathe!

The office doors burst open and Leo near cried out in joy.

Ralleo stood ahead of Leo’s own desk, phial poised between thumb and forefinger in his right hand. Lovely green liquid glistening within.

“Ralleo! My glorious baby brother!” He held his arms out, going for an embrace.

Ralleo stepped back, free hand on the desk. “Don’t.”

Leo’s insides convulsed, as did his face. “You… You… Enough of this. Hand it over. Now!” His hands gripped his stomach – a pulsing sack of sickness. His fingers tingled. Everything tingled. “Now, you little shit!”

Not so much as a raised eyebrow.

“Ralleo! Ralleo? You didn’t… You did this? All of this? Why not just stab me in the back, you little coward? Yeah, you always were a little sneak.”

He stalled, gripped harder at the violence in his gut, eyes shooting to the younger brother. “How? Why? Why’d you do this to me?”

Ralleo’s lips moved, eyebrow flinched; then settled again.

Leo reached out with one hand, took a tentative step forward. And the phial fell from Ralleo’s hand. “No!”

It splintered on hard wood, salvation draining through the cracks.

The elder brother flopped forward, arm outstretched, slamming on his front with a teeth-shattering crunch. Warm salty blood filled his mouth and oozed from his lips, darkening the floor.

His vision, blurry as it was, remained just long enough to see his brother’s feet tread over his limp body to the room beyond. An enthusiastic roar sounded back there. The bastards had a new boss. Better enjoy it while they fucking could.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2020, 05:58:18 AM by Jake Baelish »

Offline hexa

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Re: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2020, 07:18:01 PM »
Angelus
984 words

a little violence with a spear

Spoiler for Hiden:
Brian was a journalist for a science magazine in England.
Brian was friends with Matthew, who was a member of Opus Dei, a Christian sect.
Matthew informed Brian that a cult in the nation of Peru was planning an attack on
Christianity.  Brian agreed to investigate.
Matthew told Brian that the cult was powerful, and that the two of them should seek
assistance in Rome, Italy.  Brian took a plane from England to Rome.
Matthew greeted Brian at Rome's airport.
"The cardinal of Opus Dei, Cardinal Peter, will meet us at the basilica."

Cardinal Peter wore a worried expression.
Peter said, "The cult has grown stronger than we estimated.
They plan a rite to summon a devil into this mortal world.
The devil is named Lucifer, the Devil Prince.
The rite is named Angelus, the incarnation of the devil.
If Lucifer arrives in our world, he will inspire evil in the hearts of men.
You must intercept the cult before it is too late."
Cardinal Peter brought out a spear.
"This spear is named the Lance of Longinus.
Longinus was a Roman soldier that witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus.
Since this lance witnessed the Resurrection, it is now a holy lance.
The lance may be useful when you confront the cult.  Take it."
Matthew accepted the Lance of Longinus.
Cardinal Peter continued, "The cult has already murdered those that opposed them.
It is too late to bring the cultists back to the realm of God.
Do not hesitate to fight the cultists, as they are too far gone.  Godspeed"
Matthew and Brian went to a hotel room.  Matthew booked a flight to Peru.

On the plane, Brian asked Matthew how he would find the cult in Peru.
Matthew replied that a fortuneteller named Duma would provide information for Opus Dei.
The pair arrived in Peru without incident.

Matthew led Brian to a country house that was decorated with occult symbols.
A stern old woman welcomed them inside.
"My name is Duma.  I have been a fortuneteller for many years.
I was once an occultist.  People came to me for advice on how to advance in this
world.  I was even asked to cast black magic."  Duma sighed.
"As the years passed, I grew tired of greed, avarice, and lust.
I wanted to wash my hands of evil schemes.  I turned to Opus Dei for hope."

Duma continued, "This year, a cult of avarice formed.
The hungry put aside their selfishness for a moment, and joined together against
the church.  The cult aspires that a devil will weaken the influence of the church,
and allow fascism in South America."

Duma appraised Brian and Matthew.  "The two of you cannot defeat the cult alone.
Opus Dei has called in reinforcements to stop the cult.
The cult plans to perform the Angelus rite in a week's time, at an ancient altar of
the Inca civilization.  Fortunately, Opus Dei reinforcements will arrive in time to
assist you."  Duma smiled.  Matthew was happy that his compatriots would join him.
Matthew and Brian bid Duma farewell.

Once the pair entered their hotel room, Matthew cautioned Brian.
"Duma's visions of the future are not always accurate.
Fortunetelling is not as precise as the sciences that you write about in your
magazine.  We cannot afford to wait six days for our reinforcements.
Tomorrow, we must journey to the Incan altar to survey the affair."
Brian agreed.

The next day, the duo embarked for the ancient Incan altar.
From their rented car, they spotted wild Peruvian animals along the route.
Finally, they arrived at the Incan altar.

To their surprise, there were people in red robes gathered around the altar.
It was seven men and two women.
Matthew screeched, "The cult advanced faster than we suspected!
The cultists hope to complete the Angelus rite today!
We have only minutes to stop them!"

Brian and Matthew rushed to confront the leader of the cult.
The cult leader said, "Ah, you are agents of the church of hypocrites.
You who failed to live up to your ideals.  Your era will come to an end."
Matthew, the monk of Opus Dei, wasted no time arguing with the devil worshipper.
Matthew tackled the cult leader.

The cult leader giggled maniacally.  "You are too late, holy one!
We have already chanted the incantation.  The devil already comes to His vessel."

Matthew noticed that a human man lay upon the altar.
To his horror, the man's skin turned a crimson red.
Malignant feathers took form upon the man's arms and legs.

The man smirked wickedly.  "I am Lucifer, the Devil Prince.
Today the human race yearns for power."

Matthew charged at the red humanoid, half man and half bird.
Lucifer extended his hand, and shot a red bolt of energy at Matthew.
Matthew collapsed to the ground.

However, as Lucifer enjoyed his glorious return, he neglected to look behind him.
Behind Lucifer stood Brian, a journalist from England, armed with a lance.
Brian struck out with the lance, piercing the sinister feathers.
The lance emitted a white light into the body of Lucifer.  Lucifer howled in pain.
Lucifer's feathers fell from his body.  Lucifer's skin lost its crimson hue.
Lucifer had been expelled from his human vessel.

Only a Peruvian man remained.  The man gazed at Matthew.
He said, "You have interrupted the Angelus today, but your mission is not over.
The human race is consumed by lust.  We do not need a devil to lead us.
It is only a matter of time until fascism returns to our world."

The cult continued to believe in their inevitable victory,
but the cultists dispersed for the day.  They would find another way.

Matthew would return the lance to Cardinal Peter in Rome.
Cardinal Peter was relieved to report to Opus Dei that Lucifer would not return.
The Opus Dei agents in Peru would hunt the cultists,
ending their devilish ambitions.

Offline Nora

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Re: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2020, 12:40:41 AM »
Imma blow everyone's minds out and submit an angsty Star Wars fan fiction. Yeah, sue me guys lol

Only a basic understanding of "the force", the concept of padawans and order 66 are necessary to understand the story. I expect most people here are nerdy enough for that.

Under Mum'Ur's Pale Eye / 1660 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Under Mum’Ur’s Pale Eye


Death is like a thrumming in her skull, a dark staccato wave that threatens to drown her mind, to swallow her entire.
Alilee screams, she can tell, from how raw her throat is, from the vibration of it, but she cannot hear her own voice. It was drowned already by the wails of the dead. She feels the snow under her fingers, tastes blood in her mouth, yet she's blind, her sight lost in vistas of vacuum streaked with bolts of lethal colours.
Almost unexpectedly, Alilee does not die. Instead she becomes conscious of the flow of time again, and regains a tenuous grip on the Force. She is here, on the ledge she sits on to meditate, moving forward through time with each gulp of frosty air, recovering control of her body, and shakily, of her mind.

'I am Alilee,' she says into the wind. 'I am on Entooine to train and to wait. I don't know why you are here but–' her voice cracks, tears well in eyes she has not dared to open yet, '–I hear you. I am a witness to your passing.'
She opens her eyes and looks up at the spectacle of ruin the Force already showed her and still tries to, like rough fingers brushing against the jagged edges of her mind as if clawing for purchase, to tip her back into the black pool of terror and suffering that is spilling across the heavens above her.

There is a star destroyer, shattered like a toy, pieces of it hanging in the sky between Entooine and the enormous milky orb of Mum'Ur, as the locals call the gas giant.
Another star destroyer is clearing the horizon. An assault frigate, she thinks, is passing through the debris, and laser fire reveals the presence of many smaller crafts. It is a proper battle now.
Why here though? What did Entooine ever do to anyone?
Alilee gnashes her teeth. She has never felt more helpless in her life than she does in this moment. Not even when the Jedi had died, leaving a hollow feeling in her young chest, not when her master had returned to her with wild eyes and a missing arm, or when he'd left her here–on this empty, icy moon, a pale imitation of her homeworld–with instructions to train and to be good. And to wait. Not even after waiting two standard years.
Alilee feels the helplessness and lets it sink in. It is better that the emotion should take a bite out of her, than to fight it off with anger. The dark side already stalks too close.
So she witnesses the battle raging overhead, feeling the pain rippling through the force, yet refusing to engage.
She would not have been caught like this if she hadn't been in a deep trance, training to open herself to all lifeforce around her, when the star destroyer had popped out of hyperspace and almost immediately been blown to smithereens.
Irony sure has a bitter taste.

At least she has warning for the TIE that comes hurtling down. 
Alilee scrambles up. She doesn't even need her Jedi powers to tell the careening fighter will pass over her head and crash stupidly close. She runs toward her snow speeder, stiff legs wobbling. She clambers on, punches the switches, and with a roar and blast of fresh powder, she sets off down the plateau. She won't allow one more death, not if she can help it.

The shriek of the TIE grows stronger, and a quick glance shows it glowering in the atmosphere, the pilot fighting to keep it straight despite the damaged wings.
Hold on, Alilee begs when it takes her over, and swears as she realises it'll overshoot the plain and hit the frozen lake ahead, and the pilot probably can neither tell it's there nor help it if they could. Alilee goes full throttle, hunched over the handles, she launches off of the edge of the plateau and into free ice, slaps her controls in a lock, and stands up, arms outstretched in front of her, she grabs the TIE through the Force.
Tendons bunch up under her blue skins, fingers curl and cramp, shaking with the strain, as if she were holding onto the hull by her nails. Anger pulses against her, offering its perfidious help.
She can't shake it off, she can't be at peace, she's slowing glorified space debris while standing on a speeder and she's just a fucking padawan!
She screams and launches herself off of the speeder, wrenching the TIE to the side as she falls. It slams into the snow, snapping both wings dramatically, and rolls away, finally manageable. Alilee stops it and force-flicks the breaks on her speeder. She staggers forward, dazed. She did it. She, a twenty-two years old overgrown padawan, just force crashed a TIE fighter. She laughs hysterically, shaking, tears coming down her cheeks. And maybe she'll be able to feel pride, if the pilot wasn't turned into a scrambled egg.

'Are you alright? Anyone in there?' she slaps the pod's hull, but gets no answers beyond the faint whine of alarms.
She kneels down to look through the transparisteel. It's charred, but she can spy the red flashing lights of controls, and the dark outline of a body hanging in crash webbing.
The Force is slippery now, hard to touch. She feels like her brain is made of bantha wool, and exhaustion is slowly overtaking her aching limbs despite her training. She's never exerted herself to that extent before. She didn't know she could.
Alilee sits in the snow and puts her head between her knees. She slows her breath, and with febrile focus, reaches for the pod in front of her. She can feel the wounded pilot, skimming consciousness, and the grooves along the hull, for her to pry open.

She stops herself for a moment, wondering. Yes, she doesn't want more death, but what about her own? She knows the empire is hunting surviving Jedi. Can she save that one soul and get away in time? Or should she leave them to their fate, the one they bargained for when entering service in the imperial navy?
Would her dreams drag her back here every night, if she walked away? Would food come to taste like ash, if she turned her back? Would she speak her own name without pride, if she chose her own safety?

With a last burst of effort she rips the pod apart. The alarms fall silent, circuit boards go dark.
Alilee unclips the pilot's straps and lowers them into the snow with a grunt. She takes off the helmet and dark curls come spilling out, framing a tan human face with purplish bruises along the jaw. It's a woman, Alilee realizes.

'Hey,' she calls out, 'come around. Come on, don't do this to me, I gotta know how you feel.'

The woman moans. Alilee slaps her cheeks gently, takes her pulse, realises she has no idea what's normal in humans, and decides to drag her away from the steaming wreck.
The pilot screams then, but it isn't the pained sound someone makes when injuries are jostled. It's the blood curdling yell of bone stabbing through innards. Alilee lays her to the ground, mumbling panicked apologies.
The woman's face has greyed, sweat is beading and crystallizing on her skin. Her eyes flutter open and roll wildly. When they finally land on Alilee and stay there, they widen in confusion.

'Y-you're b-blue,' she stammers, 'you're all... blue. Oh...oh s-stars are you–are you dead? A–a–Am I?'

'No no, it's okay,' Alilee soothes. 'I'm a Pantoran. You know? Look at my eyes, yellow.'

The woman nods, coughs, instantly regrets it, and reaches out to Alilee with a trembling hand.

'W-what happened? I remember falling down...'

Alilee bites her lip. 'You crashed. You were coming down very fast.' And then I blew you out of the sky, so you wouldn't sink in the lake. 'I don't know what's happening up there though.'

'S-surprise attack,' the woman mumbles. 'My squadr...on... we were... we...'

'Hey, stay with me! What's your name? Where does it hurt? I need to move you out to shelter.'

The pilot sobs. 'Hurts... everywhere,' she says. She looks up at Alilee, a faint surprise coming over her warm brown eyes. 'I'm dying.'

No. 'No. No, you're fine. We can patch you up. I'll get you warm at my place and drive the speeder to the iura–the town, the natives call it a iura, and they have a space worthy ship there. We can get you up and in a medbay. See,' she points at the star destroyer that now hovers in full view above the remnants of its brethren. She is babbling, but she doesn't care. She can't stop. 'Looks like they're winning. You're winning. We can get you there, if you'll just hang on.'

'It's... it's o-okay.'

'Are you reassuring me now? I'm doing a bad job of rescuing you, aren't I?'

The woman smiles weakly. 'Y-you do good, b-but I... I can tell. I know. It's, it's ok...'

'No– it's really not! I'm going to save you, you'll see. I'll go get the speeder.'

'I knew. When I... enlisted. I was c-captain, I did good, I did well, I-I-d-Did my duty...'

Was your duty to come die in my arms? Alilee thinks bitterly, fighting off tears. 'You haven't told me your name yet,' she says instead, brushing wet curls away from the pilot's brow.
The woman's gaze has shifted past Alilee and into the sky, where the battle still rages on. Mum'Ur shines back down on her, monstrous and indifferent, washing the colour out of her dead eyes.

'How can I pay proper respect to you when I bury you, if I don't know your name?' Alilee whispers to the nameless woman.

« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 12:42:50 AM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2020, 04:46:41 PM »
The Spiral

980 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

Time is a spiral. A thread. A single line entwined about an invisible core we call reality. They understand this, the ancestors-yet-to-come, and through the spiral, they will send this information to us, so we might replicate it in our own time. This we have done. Yet we were not merely the recipients. A return-to-sender envelope was discovered. A temporal loophole that we alone were bold enough to exploit. Bold, and foolish. As the words of our children dripped down the spiral of time, we received it gratefully. Greedily . We never sought to alter that future. Let that much of us be said. If there will be legacies, let that be ours. That we truly, honestly, meant no harm. Yet intentions are as dust compared to the rocks of action, and act we did. It seemed like nothing to us. Along that trembling thread of time we saw possibility. We plucked the string and sent a signal of our own, rushing forwards, futurewards like an unknowable seeding bullet. A thank-you letter. A confirmation of delivery. That was all we meant by it. But it was enough. Enough to destroy everything the future had worked toward. For you see, time is a spiral, but it was only intended to turn one way. Just as children descend the helter-skelter at the fairground, so may information be dribbled to the less temporally-enlightened. Consider for a moment the same fairground ride. Picture the child who, eager for more, begins to climb up the same slide as others descend. Imagine the chaos and destruction this act would cause. This, in essence, is what we did. We ascended as others descended, in disregard of all temporal laws. A child’s mistake, and so it is children who will pay the price for our transgression. Our children, and theirs, and theirs. Until the last syllable of recorded time. We alone will not pay the price. Our time, our brief moment of cosmic presence, will be safe. We will be severed, but we will endure. We will always endure, until that same syllable. Remember us not for what we did. Remember us not as time’s murderer. Remember us as children who made a mistake, and please forgive us.

Time is a spiral, and our children will kill it. They have sent their warning. Their apology. It does us no good. The entropy they have set in play cannot be contained. We could no sooner move the stars in their courses than we could rewrite time. What is done is done, as is what will be. With their warning sent, they ensure the current course of time. The spiral rises still, but it frays. Threads spin out, disappearing like embers in the darkness. We see this, even with our comparatively primitive monitoring stations. We are the first to witness the dying of time. The first to set in record. That there will be no one to read this record does not deter us. We ink it on paper, set it in stone. For this is what humans do. What we have always done. Perhaps there is still life in those drifting embers. Our equipment cannot tell, but we dare to hope. Hope that they live still. Hope that we will not be the last of humanity. Hope that the spiral may yet be rewoven. It is a hope that fades as they days themselves fade. But what else can we do but hope? As reality itself collapses, we still must hope. It is all we can do. Without hope, we are already forgotten, like all those descendants who will now never be.

Time is a spiral. We know this, even if we cannot see it for ourselves. For how does one perceive such a thing as time? Not withe yes, but the mind. The purest of organs. We are united in this knowledge, and it is this unity that binds us together. Even now. For knowledge is not always a blessing, and now it is most certainly a burden. We are cursed with the knowledge that the spiral of time is dying. Falling apart at its seems, collapsing. And when it collapses, and time itself falls, where will it land? Upon us. We will crushed by our own potential future. Some see a certain irony there, but bleak humour will not preserve us. Only the plan will save us. We will scream of our fate. Not forwards, but across. To the spiral’s other side. To before.

Time is a spiral. Or so is the theory. Our greatest minds, scientists and philosophers alike, are agreed upon this. For where else but across the spiral of time could the Scream have come from? Time is unravelling, coming to an end. We cannot prove it, but we believe it. That is enough. Enough that we have made a plan. A desperate gamble for the future we will never see. It is our children that will do this to time, and this we cannot allow. We must stop them.

Time is a spiral. And like a coin tumbling into the charity barrel, we have received a warning from above. In our future, we will commit an atrocity. An act of unprecedented genocide. Against ourselves. In a way, it works. It prevents the future we will fear. Because this act will prevent all our futures.

Time is a spiral, coiling about itself, crushing all within. The paradoxical releases of entropy are too great, and we will all suffocate amid time’s corpse. There is nothing we can do but weep.

Time is a spiral collapsing on itself, contracting about a single point. Pieces shear off, becoming new times, flickering then dying.

Time is a spiral no more. Neither future nor past. Only now exists.

Time has died. This is time’s last syllable.

We have broken the spiral.

The thread snaps.

Time is

a

dot

.


Blog: https://atboundarysedge.com

Twitter: @HormannAlex

Offline JMack

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Re: [OCT 2020] - Ticking Time Bomb Scenario - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2020, 11:21:45 AM »
Thanks, @ScarletBea for giving me the extra days.
Since there was nothing else important going on in the U.S. last night, I was finally able to take Gurdig and Grey the rest of the way through their latest catastrophe.

Here is
Goblin Heart at about 1,995 words, some heavy cuss words.
(I thought to call it “Heart of Darkness”, but that’s been taken.)

Spoiler for Hiden:
Goblin Heart

“By the Breaker’s balls, why do I listen to you?” sighed Gurdig. It was a rhetorical question at best.

I knew I shouldn’t argue with the big goblin, but it was dark, I was scared, and freezing liquid was pouring into the tops of my high boots as the water level in the narrow chamber rose around us. “You didn’t know which way to turn, either,” I said. “I like left. Left usually works out for me.”

“Hmph,” she grunted. In the two-plus years of adventuring together, we’d hit a few snags, but this was the worst so far. It was one of those out of the paws and into the jaws things, and we should have sensed the trap ahead when the skeletons chasing us were content to let us escape down the narrow left hand passage. We could have gone right. Right looked perfectly fine. But no. I screamed “Left!”  so left we went. Twenty paces later, the floor opened beneath our feet and we dropped. I swear I heard those lungless bonepiles laughing.

We’d picked ourselves up after a hard, clattering fall, momentarily grateful nothing was broken. Then the trap door closed back up with a boom.

“I can’t see for shit,” I said into the dark. “Though I can smell you right next to me, and that’s no treat.” I put out a hand and stepped forward carefully until my fingers encountered a hard surface. “What is this place?”

“I’m not a bat,” said Gurdig. “Light a torch from the pack and let’s see what we’ve landed in.”

“Pack?” I said, with a nonchalance I didn’t feel. ‘You have the pack.”

Of course she had the pack. I’d shrugged it off my shoulders for a minute back in the crypt we didn’t know was filled with undead monsters, and when we’d had to run away in a hurry, I distinctly remembered yelling, “Grab the pack!”

She didn’t have the pack. We were screwed.

A halting exploration proved the extent of our total-screwedness. About five paces across - call it three, for Gurdig - round in shape, walled and paved with smooth tile. In the center of the floor, an iron grate like a drain. Gurdig set her fingers into it and pulled, but even her great strength couldn't budge it.

We weren’t sure how far we’d fallen. I offered to climb on Gurdig’s shoulders, but she tried an explosive jump straight up, her powerful legs coiling and releasing . I didn’t need eyesight to imagine my green-skinned friend’s claws swiping at empty air. She must have thought there was a chance of reaching something, since she took a second jump. Then another. Grunt. Jump. Grunt. Jump.

“Enjoying yourself?” I said.

Grunt. Jump. Splash.

“Wait,” I said. “What was that?”

“What was what?”

“Did you hear —“

Splash. “Huh,” grunted Gurdig.

I put a hand to the floor, encountering an inch or so of cold water. “This isn't good.”

We went on another exploration of our prison, running our hands along the walls. “Here,” said Gurdig. From a set of knee-height slits in the tiled walls, death poured in quietly, like sand in a time piece. Soon a good foot of it sloshed around our boots, making a very good argument for staying away from abandoned castles, subterranean labyrinths, and all similar focal points for black magic, monsters, and twisted dungeon designers.

“We need some light,” I said pointlessly.

After a minute, Gurdig sighed heavily. “I’m going to regret this.”

“Regret what?”

She only grunted, and started rooting around in her clothing. At least, that’s what it sounded like in the dark. It’s amazing what you can make out when all you have to rely on is your ears. I heard leather laces pulled through eyelets. The clink of chain mail pulled up and over lean, muscled chest, shoulders, and arms.

“Hold this.” The enormous weight of metal rings slapped into my arms.

Next I heard something — squooshy. Yes, I know. Precise description. But that’s what I heard. Squoooosh, squerk, slurp, crack, squoosh. It sounded like a butcher turning a chicken inside out.

“What in the hells are you —“ I started.

Light bloomed. Sort of. Black, purple, bruise-colored, reflecting in wavering circles on the surface of the water and off the tiled walls, now revealed to be covered with runes that were doubly indecipherable in the uncertain, gut-churning radiance. At the center of this light, stood Gurdig, holding a fist-sized, pulsing purple gem in one hand. Black blood dripped into the water, coating it with an oily sheen. A gaping, sucking fold of skin, slicing vertically down her powerful chest oozed the same viscous fluid.

“Is that —“ I started, clenching my stomach to keep down lunch.

“My heart,” said Gurdig.

“Eww.”

She snorted. “Next time, don’t forget the torches.”

Goblins.  When the Breaker made them, he had some weird ideas, and I still wasn't used to some of their less tidy habits. Everyone knew about the pull-their-own-heart-out magic, but until now I hadn’t actually seen it. Still worse than their ability to hide their heart before battle - it made them damned hard to kill - was them pulling the beating heart from any human unfortunate enough to be within claw reach and sticking it into their empty chest cavity, granting them a sudden, brief burst of speed and strength. I'd worn a blessed heart shield the whole first year with Gurdig until the weight between my breasts drove me crazy. I sold the thing finally for the price of a good beer. Or maybe I just decided to trust the ugly warrior. I've always been one to make allowances.

Holding the throbbing gem in one hand, Gurdig pushed through the water, now up to her thighs and my belly, and examined our prison more carefully. Tilting my head back, I eyed the lid of the trap as well as I could. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see, just a heavy, beamed wooden stopper for a stone bottle.

“Nothing good up there,” I said, always on mark with the obvious.

Gurdig found nothing helpful as well. “By the Breaker’s balls,” she complained. “Why do I listen to you?”

Which takes us back to the start of my narrative.

There’s a point in situations like these where you use common sense and logic, and then there’s a point where you soil your clothes. We did try the first, probing the tiles with our knives, knocking on things until our heads rang, hammering away at the walls until our swords broke, all in the dim light of the goblin’s glowing heart stone. When the water rose so much that it lifted me off my feet, I hit the panic point. Or maybe Gurdig did; it’s a bit of a blur. One of us was screaming at the Maker, the Breaker, and every other divinity we could name. One of us was flailing her arms, splashing about wildly. One of us slapped the other so hard her head rocked to get some sense in her. I certainly can't say who was who.

With my head cleared, I tread water. It was that or drown. The problem was the chamber was still filling and the ceiling was getting close. The image of sand in an hour glass came back to me, except water not sand, tile not glass, etc.

“We’re not getting out of this, are we?” I said, spitting out water.

Keeping herself high in the water with her powerful legs, Gurdig held the black, glowing heart before her. A deeper, darker light within captured my mind like prey before the hunting hawk, and I fell into its spell.

Blood. Age. Pain. Where am I? Who am I? Images of fifty births and fifty deaths, one after the other. Warriors, hunters, shamans, a green parade of goblins, each the holder of this one heart. A voice sounds in my bones, a terrible, splintering, god’s voice saying: WATCH!

I am a bull goblin. I pull this ancient black heart from my chest and give it to the shamans for safe keeping. Now I am fearless, twice as hard to kill. I spring to the battle, my clan brothers at my side. A blond-haired human falls beneath my blade. I bare my claws and pull the beating heart from his body. Oh, blood! Wonderful blood! I push it into my own chest. The Breaker’s fire explodes in me with more pain and pleasure than I've ever felt before. It burns, and only killing will quench it. So I kill and kill, until the human heart is ash within me, and I sag exhausted on the empty field.


“Grey!”

REMEMBER.

“Grey!!” Gurdig hauled my head above the water. Coughing, spluttering, I tried to force the god’s terrible voice from my mind. I’d have wanted a bath to wash out my brain if I hadn’t already been drowning. Only my friend’s grip kept me from sinking.

REMEMBER!


“Gurdig,” I gasped. “You need to—“ I stopped. The thought of what she needed to do froze me. Then my head bumped the ceiling of the chamber, and I knew we were out of time. “Gurdig.”

Her brown eyes, weird in the light from the heartstone she still held above the water, held mine. I saw the stubborn denial of death in them, battling with the grim certainty of it.

I gathered my will to say the words I could hardly force out. “You need to take my heart.” Gurdig’s eyes widened in shock. “You know you have to. It's your only chance. Rip my fucking heart out, you big green bitch, and punch a gods-damned hole through something.”

I saw the surprise shift to regret then to action in a bare moment. One claw sliced me open quick as lightning. The she carved out my goddamned heart. Pain. Pain on pain, then cold, then blackness. I sank, eyes dimming.

Gurdig swam to me, the heartstone shining through the dark. She pressed it against my ruined chest, and as the last of my life poured out, shoved it in. Black fire filled every fiber of me like coals beneath the skin. Writhing, I burst into the narrow gap between water and ceiling. I clawed my chest, but found it already closing. The horrible black light pulsed behind my ribs. “What did you do, you goddamn green —“

Gurdig wasn’t listening. She was pounding. Somehow, she’d got one clawed hand deep into the wood above us for a grip, and was pounding it with the other over and over again. We were underwater moments later, the last bit of air forced out. Only the engine of my human heart could have powered the strength of the goblin’s arm.

Blackness took me, magic heartstone or no. My lungs screamed for air; I sucked in water.

Something somewhere cracked, then cracked some more. Gurdig grabbed my hair and heaved me up and into the sweet, stifling air of the catacombs.

When I finally came to myself, the goblin was propped against the wall of the tunnel we’d raced down some unknowable time before. Her eyes were glazed with shock.

It took me a minute to realize why I could see in the dark labyrinth. I was the reason, a purple-black glow emanating from the awful stone pulsing in my chest.

“My heart?” I asked Gurdig, knowing but dreading the answer.

Gurdig barely raised her head to answer. “Ash.”

“Can I keep yours?” She didn’t answer.

We sat there. At some point, we’d have to get to our feet and put one of them in front of the other. But we were thinking the same thing. We had one heart between us. What had started as a partnership and became a friendship was something completely different now.

“Why do I ever listen to you,” sighed the goblin.

Somewhere, I knew, the Breaker was laughing.






« Last Edit: November 04, 2020, 04:50:36 PM by JMack »
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
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