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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Discussion Thread Definitely going to have a crack at this, after reading bdcharles' October winner
December 20, 2017, 01:35:17 PM
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Re: Say Hi, I'm new thread Hello, I'm new to the forum, but not to FF - I'm on the FB page quite a bit and have been to one of the Grim Gatherings.

I'm a writer of fiction and nonfic, partly historical, partly speculative, and a fair bit of historical speculative.

December 20, 2017, 01:49:07 PM
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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Submission Thread The Invisible Elephant (1,500 words inc title)

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was the phone call Alice had been waiting for. The one she had half-hoped never to receive.

“Thanks. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she told the nurse.

“Be careful,” the nurse said. “The roads are pretty bad today. I’m sure he’ll understand if you can’t make it.”

I’m his Mum, Alice wanted to scream. Instead, she said “I’ll be there.” And then, “does he know? Has anyone talked to him...about?”

The line was silent for a good ten seconds. It felt longer. “The elephant in the room? Not...not exactly. He knows things... That it’s different now.”

The elephant in the room. The invisible elephant steadily trampling them all.

“We haven’t put his contacts back in. We thought it best...”

Best he hears it properly from me. Only three nights home out of the last six weeks and he had to wake up when she wasn’t there. Alice rang off, fought with herself for a moment, then grabbed the spare set of smart glass she kept for emergencies, synced it with Tom’s account, loaded LUXview, and walked out of the house.

The roads were bad. It should have been a 45 minute drive, but it took nearly three hours. At first it was just the usual. Abandoned or crashed vehicles half-blocking the lanes. A gang of kids outside a toy shop throwing the stuff they’d just stolen at anyone passing. A couple of people wandering across the road without looking. Well, they were looking, all around them – just not at their own surroundings.

Despite all, that there wasn’t much actual traffic until she got onto the dual carriageway, and then both lanes her side were blocked by a pile-up. She could see a tanker up ahead and wondered if someone had jacked it. Fuel was getting harder to come by, especially with the power going off six hours a day and those who still cared enough running generators. People in the cars in front were getting out. She blinked up 2x then 5x magnification in her glass. A fight. A crowd of people swinging at each other with fists and implements. And nearby on the verge, another crowd, what might have been another fight but for the scattered clothing, the occasional flash of sun on pale expanses of flesh.

Angrily she looked away, and blinked back to standard-corrected. But not before her eyes had caught something it took her brain a second to catch up with. Part of the barrier in the central reservation had been knocked aside and not put back properly – no bolts. She swung the car round the one in front, accelerated as much as she dared, and swerved into the barrier. A shriek of warning signals in her ear and red icons flaring, but the barrier gave way with a clang, and she overrode the warnings. Mercifully, she found another gap in the central reservation before driving down the wrong carriageway for too long. It wasn’t likely anyone was monitoring, these days, but the last thing she needed was some jobsworth freezing her out of the car’s controls. Thank goodness it was an older model, or it might’ve locked down automatically.

Free. Only then did she let herself consider how close she’d come to not getting to Tom at all. If something had happened...! Her heart boomed against her ribs, and for a moment no air would enter her lungs. No, Alice, no, don’t lose it now.

The sun was almost down before she got to the Hospital. The car park was full but the barrier was up and she found a corner where she hoped the car wouldn’t be blocking anyone. She stormed to reception, forcing one foot in front of the other, not letting herself stop to gather her resolve, because she might find she didn’t have enough.

The place looked half empty, unless you counted the security guards. Tom had been moved from ICU when he regained consciousness, she was told when she finally tracked down someone who would help.

“Hi Mum.” Tom tried to smile for her almost as hard as she tried to smile for him. “I’m sorry I...” They wept and clung onto each other. He sobbed apologies, she sobbed comfort.

Eventually the tears ran out. Tom frowned. “So what’s up? Everyone’s being really weird. Is it the zombie apocalypse or something?” Still smiling, but there was worry in his eyes. “The accident was six weeks ago, right? Was it only six...?” He looked at his hands, fingers spread, as though looking for wrinkles appearing. “Everything feels...off. What’s happening? I don’t understand...”

“They said they’d told you some of it.”

He shrugged. “One of the nurses said something about massive particles? And space birds...? Couldn’t make much sense of it. I was still out of it, I guess. They haven’t put my contacts back. Can’t get any notifications!”

Poor Tom. Must be like losing a sense for someone his age. She went to sit in the chair, then thought screw it, and sat on the bed, taking his hand.

“It’s. They found. There’s.” She pursed her lips. Preparing this half the way here, and now nothing. “We’re not alone,” she said finally. “Not even slightly. There are other universes stacked over ours. There’s life. Alien life. Loads of it.”

“How did they find out?”

“Gravity.” She breathed in and reached for the well-worn explanation. “It’s like an invisible elephant. You can tell it’s there from the dents in the ground. They thought...” It was still fresh. The news reports from LHC and 2LHC almost daily. “They called it a ‘hidden valley’. Like another world of dark matter tucked away, that we couldn’t see?”

“Yeah, I know the theory. So...what?”

Alice smiled tightly, ignoring the stinging in her eyes. He’d always had a better grip on dark matter than she had. All the kids did, she supposed. “They thought they’d found...like an artefact. This thing in space. A dark matter artefact, moving through the solar system.” Invisible but there. Inexplicable but as a thing, detectable only by the things it minutely pushed around. Massive, in the sense that it had mass. “They called it the Elephant in the Room. And then, because they knew what to look for, how to look for it, they kept finding more and more, tucked under the surface.”

She was blinking back tears again now. Tom was wearing that expression of confusion that everyone had for days after the first images. He asked the same question. “But what does it mean?”

“It turned out that the other world wasn’t the valley. We’re the valley. We’re not even the valley.” Not even a crease in the back of the elephant. We could no more engage with these new worlds than the microbes on the fleas on the back of a dog could engage with the dog’s owner, as one talking head had put it. “We’re just a wrinkle in the fabric of the universe. Like the foam on the tips of the waves of the ocean. And the ocean’s alive. Oh, heavens above, it’s so alive.”

And there was a touch of the fear in his eyes, but he still didn’t get it. She pulled the smart glass out of her pocket. “Best you see. It was apps like this one that did it.” she went on, as he looked through the glass into another world. The apps they’d tried to pull when it was clear how people were reacting, when it was too late. “CERN, LUX, they all wanted people to care. I suppose they wanted people to be excited, so they showed us what was around us. And then when people really got it, really understood...” At first just people not turning up to work. Then the crime, the riots, and worst of all, the apathy.

She connected her glass with his and took his hand. The floor of the hospital room faded until it was barely visible, like a soap bubble in the world of violent colour they now floated in, hand in hand. A cluster of planets hovered around them, the ones NASA was naming, fiddling while Rome burned. And the Neutralino Moths were in full display, swooping in their complex dance that had reduced some people to zombies, unable to do anything but stare until they died of dehydration or wandered in front of a car while following a display. The view switched to the next layer, which somehow existed in tandem with the first but separate. There were those filigree structures spanning worlds, as energy poured along them and the creatures someone had called hypersalmon breasted the stream. Universe layered on universe. The colour. The brightness. The intelligence.

And they called it Dark Matter. Alice laughed inwardly, not for the first time. We’re the dark matter. Drab, dull, simple.

“We don’t matter any more, do we?” Tom whispered.

She held him, and told him he mattered to her, over and over until he fell asleep.

Twitter - @navalairhistory

December 21, 2017, 12:11:35 AM
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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Discussion Thread Good topic! Looking forward to this. Though kind of wishing I could do the phoenix thing and set fire to my current life in order to get a new one. Ah well. HNY to all
January 01, 2018, 05:57:06 PM
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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread Öcalan

Spoiler for Hiden:


Pilot Officer Emrah Yilmaz banked his F-16 gently and began to circle. The jet hung silent, cold sun glittering off the wings as the angle shifted. At 10,000 metres the sky was a deep blue pool and the earth below beginning to fade into white. It would be a beautiful day down there. For some.

“Bazuk three,” the controller fizzed through his headphones, “you are cleared for ingress to the target area for CAS, route package six, vector one-seven-five, angels ten.”

“Roger,” Emrah acknowledged and pointed the jet’s nose South, sparing a glance over his shoulder to check his wingman was in station, and advanced the throttle to high cruise.

The rucks of the Jabal al-Akrud highland loomed out of the haze ahead. Visibility wasn’t perfect, Emrah noted, but easily good enough not to interfere with targeting of the laser-guided bomb hanging, menacingly snub, on his starboard wing pylon. He wrinkled his nose under his oxygen mask. Terrorist scum. Two years ago one of them had shot down his old instructor with an American-supplied missile. So much for NATO allies.

Well he’d get them back today.

The two jets swimming below the ink-dark sky crossed the Syrian border with nothing to acknowledge it save a thicker line on the moving map display. Borders up here seemed ridiculous. Whatever, they were now over Afrin. Kurdish territory. For now.

The target was a Kurdish stronghold nestling in a fold of the crinkle of mountain. From the air it looked like any village might, just a cluster of buildings, but it had kept the advance pinned down for days. The Olive Branch taskforce had apparently taken it twice, only to be pushed out again hours later. But it commanded the pass, there was no other obvious way through. So now it was a job for the Air Force. All the terrorists had to do was move away from the border, but if they insisted on fighting over every square metre, Emrah was happy to oblige them with five hundred pounds of laser-guided high explosive.

He acquired the target - just a tiny dark stain on the endless creased brown rock from this altitude, surrounded by craters, overflew it to double check, then set up the attack profile downwind. Rolling inverted, the whole of Afrin spread above him like a relief map, Emrah pulled the nose down and rolled wings-level again, now pointing at the target and barrelling downhill. One eye on Mach number, another on ground speed, then engage the Litening pod. An invisible laser flicked out and painted the target, measuring the range as it spun down. A ping in Emrah’s ear told him the bomb’s seeker head had picked up the marker. Down...down...now. He hit the trigger, and his heart swooped in his chest as the thunk of release, the sudden lightening of the aircraft rippled through his hands and feet. “Bomb gone,” he said, and pulled the F-16 onto the escape profile, knowing that the bomb was scything down, uncanny, irresistible. The people down there probably didn’t even know it was coming. Shame.

A crane of the neck, the final few seconds ticking down and...there! A puff of smoke, then a secondary puff overwhelming the first.

“Direct hit Bazuk three,” his wingman reported.

“Roger. Tell the tanks they’re free to move in,” he told the controller and steered for home.

***

“That’s impossible,” Emrah breathed, as the Intelligence Officer flicked through the reconnaissance photos again. The stronghold was still there. Seemingly untouched. Surrounded by craters, but the jumble of buildings was exactly as it had been. “We hit it. We saw it go up.” He looked at Mehmud, Bazuk four on this morning’s mission, who just shrugged.

“The footage from your Litening pod seemed to bear that out,” the IO said. “However, I can confirm the site is still intact and defensible, and so can the tank crews that got the crap kicked out of them this afternoon.”

Emrah grimaced. “How bad?”

“Only one tank lost. One of those YPJ harpies threw herself under the track and detonated a grenade. But it blocked the others and they were pinned down by rocket-propelled grenades until they retreated.”

Emrah cursed extravagantly. “We’ll have to try again.”

The next day conditions were still good, and the squadron received approval for a second strike. Emrah had racked his brains with Mehmud over what might have gone wrong, but neither of them could fathom it. The bomb had not missed. It had not failed to detonate. Maybe what looked like houses were actually hardened shelters.

Another direct hit. This time Emrah stayed on station until the dust cleared away, even coming down to six thousand metres where a lucky shot from a handheld missile might put him at risk. But no. As the black-brown bloom roiled away, he saw shattered walls, roofs blown off, a large crater in the middle of it all. Job done.

Until the reconnaissance photos came back again. “They must have got the wrong pictures! Mixed them up with yesterday’s!” Emrah protested, at the sight of the pristine settlement.

“These were taken an hour-and-a-half ago,” the IO sighed. “The infantry company that went in to take the site was mown down. A single machine gun position kept them held there, they destroyed it, but came under mortar fire and had to pull back.”

Emrah wasn’t even on duty the next day but pulled strings and changed the rotas. He threw his weight about with the mission planners and got them to authorise a bigger bomb. He’d blow that damn site to atoms this time.

“Wind shear too high for operating limits at this altitude,” Bazuk four reported when they were over the target.

Damn! That normally meant an abort. “We go lower,” Emrah ordered. “Five-thousand metre release.”

“That’s in Blowpipe range.”

“I’m going in anyway.”

“It’s your funeral.”

Emrah rolled level as before, the mountains noticeably closer, the individual buildings distinguishable. Just as he pressed the release, a warning shrilled in his ear.

“Missile lock, break, break!” Mehmud yelled but Emrah held on. Can’t break the laser designation, not now! The bomb hit at the same time as the missile detonated under his wing. He yanked the eject handle and felt a violent shove, a desperate gyration, a roar of wind, and then a blow as if his whole body had been punched and then nothing.

***

“That was an expensive plane you just broke for our little village.” Accented Arabic. No.

Emrah opened his eyes and then closed them tight shut at the riptide of pain.

“What did you hit us with this time? Two thousand pounder?”

“Fifteen hundred,” Emrah croaked, venturing to open his eyes again.

The speaker was a woman. Typical YPJ harpy with her dark hair, dark eyes, dark green military fatigues. “It took three of us to put it back this time,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“You blow up our village. We put it back. But not all of us get to enjoy it. Three died today.”

Emrah opened his eyes fully. It was true. It was just a village. He was lying in the shade of a house - just a simple house - his parachute bundled neatly beside him.

“This isn’t the place I bombed.” He shook his head, then almost vomited with the pain flaring in his skull. “Where did you take me?”

“It’s the place you bombed. A little over two hours ago,” the woman said. “We call it Öcalan, not that I suppose you care.”

Emrah propped himself up. The topography certainly looked right. He checked the neighbouring peaks, which he knew like the back of his hand by now. Even the layout of the buildings. It couldn’t be!

“How...?”

She shrugged. “Destruction. Sacrifice. Rebirth. Since the first time this village was destroyed...oh, back in the Ottoman days... Every time since. Someone chooses to give their life. Maybe more than one. And everything else. Everyone else. Is restored.

“That’s not possible.” This was some Kurdish trick. Or maybe he was hallucinating. Yes, the shock of the ejection. Maybe he wasn’t even conscious and this was a nightmare.
A sound of laughter, shouts. A gaggle of figures rushed by in a blur of colour.
“There are children here?” Emrah rasped. Oh god, they’d had him bombing children? This was supposed to be a military target!
“It’s their home too,” the woman shrugged.

Just then, intruding on his private horror, a whistling sound that descended into a shriek and then the earth seemed to jump beneath him, the air roared in his ears. He clambered to his feet.

The Kurdish woman grabbed him by the elbow. “They’ve brought the artillery up. Come on. You’ll get to see how it works. Maybe you’ll feel what it’s like to be killed and brought back.” She levelled her black eyes at him. “I wonder if it works with Turks?”

Another shell pounded into the village as Emrah staggered towards the front line.


1497 words including title

@navalairhistory

February 01, 2018, 12:19:22 AM
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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Discussion Thread
Yes @MattWillis, you can still edit your entry until the topic is locked.

And I'm usually nice like that, leave it open a few hours or 1 day after the official month end, when people ask ;)

Superb, thanks! Have made a few tweaks.

That'll teach me for struggling to come up with an idea for a month then getting one and writing it in an hour and a half thinking that was the time I had left... :-[

February 01, 2018, 04:17:51 PM
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Re: [Dec 2017] - Alien/Eldritch Artifact - Voting Thread
I went for GemCutter and MatWillis. GemCutter, there was an old school sort of feel to your piece. I can't describe it really, but I liked the dark eldritch sort of feel as a call back to the era of Moorcock and Howard and Lovecraft.
MatWillis, I liked yours because it described how the universe really is. Fortunately only a very few of you puny humans can ever see it.

It's a curse, I tell you. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

February 02, 2018, 04:34:37 PM
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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Voting Thread I just went ultra political/preachy and allegorical. I'm sorry if I dented the forum through being so heavy handed  ;)
February 06, 2018, 12:54:29 PM
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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Voting Thread
I just went ultra political/preachy and allegorical. I'm sorry if I dented the forum through being so heavy handed  ;)
Whereas I, I imagine, probably went too light-handed by choosing a renewal of the setting, rather than a character.

FWIW I didn’t think so - definite sense of pathos. I imagine we should steer clear of too much comment before the judging so I won’t say any more for now, but I felt there was definite chiarascuro.

February 07, 2018, 01:22:55 AM
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Re: [Feb 2018] - WASIASGYNDL - Discussion Thread The chances of me writing good smut are seriously slim.

Maybe I should try some dino erotica. How about 'A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay' fanfic? That would kill two birds and my dignity with one stone.

February 22, 2018, 06:15:35 PM
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