Winter Ceramic DM™: THE WINNER! - Page 39
  1. #381
    Writing TimeWatch!
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Okay, I'm posting now. There are some interesting stories about writing this one; I'll share them after judging is complete.
    Last edited by Piratecat; Monday, 26th January, 2004 at 05:16 PM.

  2. #382
    Writing TimeWatch!
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Lazarus

    Piratecat vs. Sialia, final Round

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

    Admittedly, Jim was caught a little off guard when I shot the old lady.

    My needler hit her three times behind the left ear, in one of those vulnerable spots that’s hard to pad. She went down with a wheezing sigh and awkwardly toppled off the bench onto her face. Her chin may have hit the synthstone, but at least her knitting pillowed it a bit. They way in which she fell confirmed my suspicions. I alerted the other security teams.

    By the time we dragged her off the street and into a private interrogation room, my Starcal partner was beginning to gobble like a turkey. I gave him a look. “Jim, I’ve been assigned to Starcal security because we know someone is planning a raid on your latest technology, and because I know what I’m doing. I’m still not sure why you were assigned to baby-sit me. I’m guessing it’s because you’re the nephew of somebody important, and they want to make it look like you’re earning your outlandish salary. So earn it, won’t you? Go lock the door.” I reached down and flipped the old woman over onto her back.

    Spittle began to fly from Jim’s mouth as he turned back to me. “She’s got no pulse! You killed her! Right in the corporate lobby! You killed her!” He looked like he was about to cry. I rolled my eyes.

    “Of course she’s got no pulse. She’s wearing a spidersuit. Watch.” I pushed her bulbous nose and a particularly hairy mole on her chin, followed by a quick twist of her adam’s apple. With a sound like an airlock opening, the spidersuit blew open its connectors and opened itself up. Inside of the bioengineered skin was a skinny middle-aged man snoring peacefully with a funny little smile on his face. He was naked, and his skin was slimy with the electro-transmitter gel he needed to get the suit to work. I plucked out the tranq needles and threw the knitting over his crotch to give him a modicum of decency. Sometimes it’s tough being a woman in my line of work.

    “See? I’ve worn one of these myself.” I pulled his hand from the suit and waved the limp skin of the prefabricated wrist. “It’s designed as the perfect disguise. Fiber nerve receptors, sweat modules, custom fitted, the works. Not cheap. Very hard to get.” I shook my head. “You’d think that with the amount of money someone spent on this suit, he would have given the agent knitting lessons. It was a dead giveaway.” An ugly suspicion began to occur to me.

    Jim wiped his own forehead. “I never would have guessed it. Okay, I apologize.” He studied the suit for a moment with an amateurish eye before something obvious occurred to him. He looked up with a panicked expression. “Could he have a partner here in another suit?”

    I nodded in approval. “No subdermal transmitters, so he was probably working alone or maintaining mandatory radio silence. Of course, we would have picked up the transmittal frequencies on our scan. I’ve already informed the rest of security. I did that immediately.”

    “But he doesn’t have any weapons, any bombs. How did he expect to blow the vault once he got in? He must have had some plan for stealing our technology!”

    “There are weapons built into the suit itself.” I smiled charmingly and indicated the knitting. “And it looks like yarn, but look again.” He picked one up and examined it critically. Our eyes met. His were confused.

    “Not yarn?”

    “Fibrous high explosive. (1) Every strand is effectively a bomb, with colors and lengths designating blast radius. The electronic detonators are in the knitting needles, and the crochet hook contains a timer. This one skein of yarn could blow out the vault and still shatter every single window in this entire corporate complex. ” He gulped, and my earmike chittered at me. I listened. “Jim, we’ve got security breaches on levels six and nine. They want you in Ops.”

    He went, and I settled in to work; those security breaches were hopefully being handled by other agents already in place. The room was isolated, private, austere. I listened; soundproof, too. I locked the door and cuffed the prisoner. I turned down the lights and the temperature. Then I took a long strand of “yarn” and began to twine it around him. His nether regions were sufficiently swathed by the time I gave him the stimtab. The thief’s eyes flipped open to see me standing there in my Starcal security uniform, tossing his detonators idly in one hand.

    He moaned. “Just my luck. Careful with those!”

    I grinned. I can look charming when I put my mind to it, and the disguise I was wearing that day was fairly fetching. “Who put you up to this?”

    He shook his gel-slicked head, emphatic. “Nope. Uh-uh. Not going to tell you. He’d kill me.”

    I studied him, then bent down to whisper in his ear. My hair brushed his face. “I prefer something a little more demonstrative.” I sat back up and raised my voice back up to conversational levels. “You, my friend, happen to be trying to steal the secret to Starcal’s latest medical development, the Lazarus Device. Untested or not, the device is high profile. Anything would be that can supposedly restore youth. I can assure you that no one is going to think twice if you’re injured during arrest.” He followed my gaze southwards to his yarn-covered crotch, and I watched him turn pale as he realized how I’d arranged his high explosives. A muscle near his eye began to twitch. Then, and only then, did I start the timer counting down from five minutes.

    “Modern medicine might be able to save your life, though. You’ll learn how to get along, how to make do. Simply ask yourself if you’re being paid enough to spend the rest of your life deformed.” I just kept sitting there and smiling at my prisoner. He was cold, naked, and disoriented. He had high explosives wrapped around his manhood. His head was throbbing from the needler sedative. I didn’t expect he would take long.

    He broke with forty seconds to go.

    I heard the shudder of high explosives from elsewhere in the building three minutes after he had finished spilling his guts. I needled him and turned to run out of the room. Dashing pell-mell up to the vault like any other security wouldn’t do me any good; they wouldn’t be there by the time I arrived. So, I needed to think. The Lazarus Machine was apparently fairly heavy; one person couldn’t carry it unless they were wearing a spidersuit. How would they get it out?

    The roof.

    I stepped over the bodies of dead security personnel on the way. I took the express elevator but they had jammed roof access. I picked a few locks and sprinted up three flights of stairs. I got there just as the chameleon-class aircar was firing its engines. My little handheld needler wouldn’t do anything against a vehicle like that, so I had just enough time to pull out a grenade when the sound of Whoomp! Whoomp! Whoomp! began to ratchet in a chain around me.

    I spun and immediately realized my mistake. What I had taken for decorative stone spheres (2) ringing the edge of the building turned out to be a clever security device placed by the thieves. Each one exploded into a massive column of impenetrable pillars of gray smoke. I was completely blinded, but I threw the grenade anyways. By then they were already gone.

    * * *

    My file was already on Rasmussen’s desk when I broke into to his private office. I picked it up and leafed through it. Isabelle “Ghost” Grantham, wanted for two hundred and forty three different crimes in fifty two countries. Burglary, forgery, identity impersonation, breaking and entering, major fraud, conspiracy, armed robbery, theft of a hundred different varieties. The list went on and on, as I believed in staying busy. No murder, of course; I still had some standards. The file listed the details of my capture in Morocco, my forced recruitment into L5, and my subsequent record as a law officer.

    L5 is the only effective international police force I know of. It’s made up almost entirely of former thieves themselves, first founded by a wily old reprobate named Desmond Kane almost fifty years ago. “Get a thief to catch a thief,” they say, and that’s our task. Together we monitor and manipulate, tracking serious crimes and solving problems before anyone else ever knows of them. No one except for a few conspiracy nuts really believe we exist. It’s a fun job. We even have bureaus on the moon and Mars colonies.

    Rasmussen is the equivalent of a bureau chief in L5, and he is my direct handler. He’s the one who put me undercover at Starcal. By the time he unlocked the door and entered his office, I had my feet up on his desk and was drinking his forty year old Scotch.

    “Good stuff,” I noted as I swirled the heavy glass around in my hand. “A girl could get to like it.”

    He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Isabelle,” he said patiently. “We’ve had this talk. My private office is – ”

    I cut him off. “We have a problem.”

    “Of course we do. You allowed someone to steal the only medical technology existing that has the possibility of significantly extending the human life span. An organization with unlimited access to this has long-term and short-term threat matrices in the red.”

    “We have a different problem.”

    “You mean besides you?” He raised one eyebrow. “You can speak freely.”

    “I can now. I’ve set up a bug scrambler.” I stretched in his chair. “I think I know who financed the Lazarus Device theft from Starcal.” I paused dramatically; he waited me out, so I leaned forward. “It looks to be Desmond Kane.”

    This got Rasmussen’s attention. He shuffled forward, stocky body in the three piece suit looking more like an accountant than the man who hacked NASA back in the Ought’s to take a Mars rover for a joy ride. “Kane. Our founder?” He stated it, letting the idea roll around in his head for a bit. “The man is one hundred and three. He’s supposedly in horrible shape, so he certainly has motive. He hasn’t left his mansion in five years. What makes you think he was behind the theft of the Lazarus Device?”

    I laid out my chain of logic. The topnotch equipment and operatives used by the thieves, probably stolen from L5. Hints from my prisoner’s confession. I had data showing certain specialists in gerontology disappearing over the last few weeks, and fresh satellite data showing unusual activity at Kane’s estate. All in all, pretty convincing stuff. We went over it in detail.

    “The problem is that Kane has to know we’d figure this out. He isn’t senile as far as we know, so he knows our capabilities. This is what he trained us to do. So either he stole it and it’s a test, he stole it and didn’t think we’d trace it back to him, someone is clever enough to steal it and actually pin the blame on Kane, or he stole it and just doesn’t give a damn any more.” We looked at one another for a long time. Conspiracies annoyed me.

    Rasmussen made a decision. “You’re going in undercover at Kane’s mansion to find out which. We’ll insert you as. . .” He pulled up Kane’s file on his pad. “As Dr. Janet Dale, a gerontology specialist who has been called to the mansion. You can report to Support for ID, fingerrubs, retinal lenses, the works. I’ll dial the info on Kane’s mansion into your pad.” He looked up with a frown. “Don’t screw this up, Grantham. That device is completely untested. My guess is that he’s old, dying and desperate enough to try to use it before it’s been tested on humans. We’ll need to save him from himself.”

    “I don’t have a lot of sympathy. They killed five men stealing the equipment. They embarrassed me. I’ll do my job.” I toasted him with his own whiskey and smiled sourly. “Long life.”

    * * *

    I had the mansion security specs memorized long before my aircar whirred in from the south and gave me a good look at the grounds. Two large wings on the house, a private airstrip by the stocked trout lake, and a tennis court or four. It was a shame that Kane was no longer young enough to take advantage of any of it. I could also tell that he had his own guard force, and I was impressed by the security that was designed to keep people out.

    Luckily, I was bypassing all of that by coming in as an actual person. The real Janet Dale, M.D. Ph. D., was currently an unwilling guest of L5. I had become her in voice, mannerisms, and knowledge. Dye had changed the color of my hair, and padding in my cheeks helped alter the shape of my face. Colored retinal lenses, different posture, small glasses, and suddenly I was a different person. Janet was a dullard as far as I could tell, but I’d rather have that than try to infiltrate the mansion from the outside.

    The security upon landing was intense. They scanned for hidden weapons, but I had been careful there and not taken any that could be detected. Ugly men in bad suits verified my identity and passed me through. I was brought up the mansion road in a little hovertrike. An Asian woman with her hair in a bun greeted me at the mansion’s main entrance.

    “Doctor?”

    “In the flesh.”

    “I’m Miss Pring. We’re glad you’re here. Mr. Kane requested you in particular. He’s quite impressed by your work. We’re trying a radical procedure son, and your expertise will be helpful.” We walked through long and silent halls filled with beautiful art objects. I let out a low whistle. Kane may have founded L5, but many of the things displayed here were stolen by him long before he turned legit. Museums all over the world would give their annual budgets to be able to see his collection and take back the pieces that used to be theirs.

    “Mr. Kane has quite a collection.” I blinked. “What in the world is that?” I asked. Ahead of me in a display case was a collection of disembodied doll heads. They stared at me blankly, each of them, looking out at the world with hollow and empty eyes. (3) Miss Pring coughed discretely.

    “In addition to traditional art, Mister Kane has some unusual collections. He claims that there is a doll head in that display case for every employee since his retirement who thought to double-cross him and failed.”

    I shuddered despite myself. There were easily fifty doll heads arrayed around the glass case. “What happened to the rest of the dolls?” She raised one thin eyebrow. “What happened to the disloyal employees?” She raised both eyebrows. “Ah, I see. But I knew that when I was hired.” She nodded. I didn’t tell her that the detectors on my earmike were pulsing. Kane was using those dolls heads to mask some fairly advanced video and electromagnetic observation equipment. We moved on down the hall, and the pulse faded. I had no doubt that even now my photographed face was being compared to computer records to ascertain that I was who I said I was. I hoped to God that we had done a good enough job on my back story.

    We moved through several security doors and into a new wing. “Here is the hospital wing,” explained Miss Pring. “We have state of the art gerontology equipment here. Our job is to ensure that our employer lives as long and as effectively as possible.” The needle jabbed into my neck as I heard her words fade into the background. “Unlike you.”

    I swam up from cold sleep, berating myself. They’d outmaneuvered me twice! I had been sure that even if they suspected I was a fake, they’d take the time to learn what I was up to. Apparently not. But I was still alive. . .?

    Yes. With consciousness came blinding pain. I was certainly still alive. With sensation also came the awareness of cold.

    “Miss Grantham.” The voice was a tinny and hideous wheeze, transmitted through some sort of a speaker. “I can tell by the machines that you’re now conscious. The next time you impersonate someone, you should expect that a cautious employer will use surreptitious DNA scanners. We had you typed from the moment you entered my aircar.” He broke down into a horrible, weak cough. “I’ve followed your career with great interest. I’m flattered you’ve decided to try and infiltrate my operation here.”

    I made my mouth work. It took more effort than I expected. “Thanks.”

    “Sadly, however, you will be unsuccessful. I do have the Lazarus Device. I need it.” His voice was feeble. “I’m dying, you see. I’d be gone by the time I could get it legally. I must admit that I hadn’t expected you to identify me as the thief so easily. That badly complicates things.”

    “You should have died decades ago anyways. Don’t you think you’re being a little…” I swallowed pain. “Selfish?”

    He cackled. “That’s what life is, Grantham. Selfishness! I do what I want, and I always have. You may not know it, but L5 was originally a scam designed to let me pilfer multi-billion credit government budgets. It turned out to work so well that we made it legit, but it was originally designed to do nothing more than make me rich. Never forget that.”

    The speaker snapped off for a moment. I forced open my eyes and found that I was trapped in an upright, fairly narrow metal tube. It felt almost like an iron lung, only upright. A steel door with a small glass window filled one wall and a yellow light shone from both the floor and ceiling. Through the window I could see Kane’s beady yellow eye, like the eye of a buzzard, staring in at me in eagerness. He looked thoroughly insane.

    “What is this thing?” I asked him. Experimentally, I tapped on the door; it was bolted shut from the far side.

    Kane grinned toothlessly, gray gums stretching wide across his cadaverous face. “You’re in my backup plan, Grantham. It uses liquid nitrogen to freeze you solid. That way we can revive you and cure your ailments once medical technology has caught up with you.” He laughed until he had to draw on the oxygen tank attached to his wheelchair. “Not in your case, though. In your case, we’re going to drop you from the top floor onto flagstones and find out how many pieces you shatter into.” He pressed a button and wheeled back a bit. “Goodbye, Grantham. I’ll add a doll head to the display for you.”

    The yellow lights brightened as I heard a hissing. Liquid nitrogen began to seep into the bottom of the chamber. It was designed with spray nozzles, but apparently Kane thought it would be more fun to watch me frozen piece by piece from the ankles up. Crystals of frost began to form on the metal as the temperature dropped precipitously. Backlit by the lights, they were beautiful (4) – but so was I, and this would be a lousy way to die.

    So think. Where were the vulnerabilities? Kane – not much hope there – and the small Plexiglas window. Yes. I yanked my feet up out of the rising coolant and pulled off a shoe. I braced myself and reached down, brushing away forests of ice as I bent double towards the yellow light. My waterproof shoe dipped into the liquid nitrogen, now 8” high and rising. The leather of the shoe froze solid instantly, but it held the liquid long enough for me to raise it up and splash it against the Plexiglas window. Twice more before the shoe was too cold to hold, and the window was now thoroughly rimed with frost. I braced myself again, knowing that a slip here was instant death, and slammed my elbow into the window as hard as I possibly could.

    It shattered.

    The window was small, but I had enough room to snake my arm out and flip open the door release lever. That set off fail-safes which drained out the liquid nitrogen before the door would open. Kane wheeled closer and flipped the lever closed again; with a strength driven by desperation, I flipped it back open. By the time the door opened five minutes later, I was badly frostbitten and Kane had fled to the next room. I had heard distant shouts – ‘Do it now! Now!’ ‘But sir…’ ‘Now!’ – so I knew what to expect when I staggered across the floor, limping, and threw open the door.

    A gaggle of doctors and bizarre looking machinery surrounded the old man. He was still in his wheelchair, tubes sticking throughout his body and a metal cage of electrodes on his head. The technicians backed away as I approached. The activation switch on the Lazarus Device was obvious, and it clearly was powering itself back down after having been activated.

    At first I thought he was dead. He sat in the wheelchair, machines breathing for him, face completely slack. His mouth hung open in a toothless gape. He would have been pallid if his skin wasn’t naturally dark. I didn’t know whether to feel pity or repulsion. Considering what he had just tried to do to me, I was leaning more towards revulsion.

    I reached down to take one of his hands and check his pulse. As I did, he exploded into motion. His arthritic fingers grabbed my frostbitten hand, twisted it, grabbed the other, and suddenly I found myself on the floor beside his wheelchair. I was gasping in pain. His strength was not to be believed.

    “Amazing!” His eyes snapped open, and his voice was much stronger. “I feel like a youth again! Why, I can do this!” He twisted his hands again, and I felt a wrist bone give. (5) “Amazing!” His eyes were bulging. I pulled myself away as he struggled to his feet for the first time in decades.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said in a cracked and manic tone, “I think we can say it works. For my first demonstration, I’d like you to watch me beat this young lady to death.” He smiled, and I was horrified to see jagged new teeth beginning to poke through the shriveled gums. “C’mere, sweetie.”

    I smiled at him instead. “It worked so well the first time,” I said. “Let’s see how it does again.” He reached but over-balanced, and I danced around his outstretched arm to flip on the process a second time.

    “No!” screamed one of the doctors. “It will…”

    “Kill him?” I asked. I turned back to Kane, but he was screaming silently as he convulsed on the floor. Muscles rippled and popped as his entire body contorted. It looked painful. I approved.

    “I’ll let Starcal know where to pick up their equipment. Save his life if you can,” I said as I strolled out. The medical personnel rushed forward. I glanced back. “I’m not so sure that there’s much there worth saving.”

    On my way out I smashed the display of dolls heads and looted some of his finest paintings for myself. It was good to be alive.

    -o-

    (1) Yarn
    (2) veryround
    (3) smilingfaces
    (4) ode to the sun
    (5) grip

  3. #383
    about time!

    good luck to both of our finalists

  4. #384
    Uhm, what is this thread about? I read the first several, and it wasnt clear.....

  5. #385
    Short summary:

    It's a tournament. Start with 8 players. Pair them off.

    For each pair, the judge provides links to 4-5 pictures, each of which is interesting and/or distinctive in its own way. The two contestants each have 48 hours to come up with a story incorporating the contents of the pictures.

    At the end of the 48 hours, three judges determine who wrote the better story. "Better" can be pretty subjective, since there have been poems, tragedies, comedies, and so on.

    Winner advances to the next round, lather, rinse, repeat.

  6. #386

  7. #387
    I can't say I envy the judges. Excellent entries, both.

  8. #388
    Aggghh! I'm having hideous morning after effect.


    There was the remains of the efreeti drive in the boat. I spent forever setting that up! If the characters had remembered to look inthe damn wreckage, they'd have found everything they needed without having to be rescued by Miguel.

    I could kick myself.

    But I was so tired.

    Sometimes, good players do dumb things.

  9. #389
    Wow... very good, both of you.

    Want to comment more. Don't want to influence judges.

    Was worth the wait... though I didn't see any heaving bosoms in PirateCat's story... seems like the romance novel migrated to Siala's.

    Zhaneel

  10. #390
    Quote Originally Posted by Zhaneel
    Wow... very good, both of you.

    Want to comment more. Don't want to influence judges.

    Was worth the wait... though I didn't see any heaving bosoms in PirateCat's story... seems like the romance novel migrated to Siala's.

    Zhaneel
    I even managed to work in a throbbing member, just for you!
    (eeyyuw)

    Seriously, as soon as the judging is posted, I would love to have comments from anyone at all who wants to offer critiques or advice.

    I know these things were all sort of fast and sloppy, and there are some dreadful continuity problems, at least back in the first one. Feel free to point them out if you find tem--I may polish up a last draft, just for my own personal files.

    I learned more about writing doing these three stories than any writing excercise I've ever done before!

    Thank you Mythago and Clay for the experience. It was far more rewarding than I ever imagined.

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