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Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 12:33 PM #91
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Round 1 Match 4 orchid blossom vs. Fieari
by: orchid blossom
I watched in fascination as Lynn used her teeth to slowly pull back on the syringe. I somehow expected to see small, squirmy things in the yellowish liquid that rushed in to fill the space, even though I knew they were far too small. She held the snake far from its head, to avoid the teeth, she'd said.
"They're really in there?" I asked.
"Absolutely. Thousands of the most advanced technologically and magically enhanced nanites ever seen, and when Brendan’s ready to do some more of his voodoo on them, they're going right in you sweetie."
"Aren't I the lucky girl?" I snorted.
Lynn waited a moment. "Not sure about this, Jeanelle?"
I took a deep breath. "I'm ready. I just don't love the idea of all those little robots floating around in my blood for the rest of my life. I can't even see them. I trust the magic, it's the technology that makes me nervous." An uncomfortable chuckle escaped me. "Look at the bright side, I got these nifty new tattoos in the bargain."
I actually rather liked the tattoos, although I won't say I enjoyed the process of getting them. It's damn hard to keep your focus on a spell when someone is repeatedly sticking you with needles. Snakes now twined around each wrist and ankle and encircled my waist. Any moment I expected them to begin slithering across my skin, darting their tongues in and out as they tasted the air. I grinned then. "I think I'm going to start attracting the wrong sort of guy with these."
Lynn turned back from placing the snake in its enclosure and pushed her gray-blonde hair back from her face. "Speaking of," she began suggestively, "are you going to be alright seeing Devon again?"
The scar on my neck began to warm as I thought about it. "I forgave him even before the fire was out, Lynn. I don't have any problems with him, and I know that's not what you meant," I added as I saw Lynn purse her lips. " He left all of us, not just me. And maybe it was the right thing. I don't know. I just hope he hasn't become so magic-phobic that he won't accept our offer."
"There won't be an offer if Brendan doesn't get in here to finish those incantations." Lynn tapped the test tube that now held the yellowish liquid that had come from the snake. "We want you ready to go by high tide. "
"Maybe we should," I began, "ah, speak of the devil, here he comes now."
"Been missing me ladies?" he said as he slid into the room. A short, stocky young man, Brendan didn't look much like you would expect a magician to look. Not tall or skinny, no long beard or pointy hat. His nose was even straight. Of course, I didn't know any magician who did look like that. It's funny how some people thought magicians should walk around in robes wearing 'Hello my name is' badges. Not so funny how some thought we should all be registered as armed and dangerous.
Brendan was waving his hand in my face. "Jeanelle? You in there?"
"Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking about my trip into the big bad world."
"Aren't we all? Have a seat girl. Lynn, I need the serums in five shots, and then I need the snakes they came from." I took a few deep breaths and concentrated on relaxing my muscles. Shots were not my favorite thing in the world, and the more tense you were the more they hurt.
"Don't warn me when you're ready, just do it."
Brendan mumbled something that was probably agreement, and I felt the moist chill of antiseptic swabs run over where the head of each snake tattoo was. Shortly afterward there was prick after prick, until all five syringes had been emptied. "Stand up and hold very still now girl," Brendan said quietly.
I rose and opened my eyes as Brendan began the incantation. The five snakes slithered across the floor toward my bare feet, each from a different direction. Their long, sinuous bodies curled around my legs where the first two wrapped themselves around the tattoos. The other three continued their climb, wrapping themselves around their ink counterparts. They began to push themselves into my skin, sliding underneath as if it gave no more resistance than water. I could feel panic rising in my throat. Brendan raised a hand to me, unable to stop his incantation. I focused on that hand as the reptiles writhed under my skin. A few forever moments later they swam back up through my skin and flowed back down my body. I felt as though I should be covered in blood, but everything was as it should be. I sat weakly back in the chair.
"You alright?" Brendan asked intently.
"Yes, just....strange. I don't know yet if I recommend having snakes under your skin. Very, very strange feeling."
Brendan laughed. "I don't think I want to find out. Think you'll be ready to go in a few minutes? The tide’s starting to turn."
By the time we got to shore the water was already starting to cover over the walkway. I'd gotten used to the sight of the ship sitting out of the water on its jutting rock. Our harbor was too shallow for ships to come all the way to shore, and we liked it that way. It seemed safer that no one who did not know the trick of balancing the ship on that rock could approach our island by sea. By air was another story of course, but at least your random magic haters couldn't just get in their pleasure cruisers and land on our shores.
The path looked tricky but was actually quite flat, and in a matter of moments my bags were up the gangplank and I was ready to go. "Give Devon our love," Lynn said with a wink as she hugged me, "come back soon."
Brendan squeezed my hand. "Do the best you can."
I nodded. "Next time you offer me a free vacation, warn me about the snakes first, will ya?"
He laughed as I got aboard, then he and Lynn hurried back to shore before the walkway was covered over. I settled in to wait for the tide to turn.
* * *
I rode along in one of the last jeeps, clenching my teeth together to keep them from rattling as we arrived at the research facility. It was a sprawling compound, obviously renovated from a preexisting complex. We passed through the gates onto a street that reminded me uncomfortably of an institution with its sea foam green tile walls and harsh lighting. The caravan stopped and I lifted my hand to shade my eyes.
"Good morning, Gentlemen! It's a pleasure to see you all here. Welcome to Richfield Technologies! I'd like to offer you all a chance to rest a bit and have some refreshment before we begin our tour. I believe you'll be impressed with what we've achieved here. I'm Devon Richfield, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to speak with each of you personally before the day is out. The drivers will take you to your rooms, and I'll see you again shortly."
With that the caravan started back up again, but at a much slower pace as the people who seemed to populate this outer perimeter moved out of the way. It was a few moments before I could see Devon clearly, but he was unmistakable. Certainly older, more confident, but still Devon. There was no missing the jaunty posture, the wide smile, or that hair so black that it looked nearly blue under the fluorescent light. He was walking along the slow moving caravan shaking hands with each possible investor in turn. I wiped my palms on my dusty thighs and closed my eyes, taking a few deep breaths.
A moment later a familiar voice spoke at my elbow. "Those are new," Devon said, waving toward the snakes circling my wrists..
I opened my eyes and smiled. "Yes, as are these," I gestured toward my ankles, "and one you're not allowed to see. I didn't expect to see you at the gate."
"I like to be the first person my investors see. We don't look terribly impressive out here and I want them to see something besides an old school for juvenile offenders."
"Is that what this place was?"
Devon nodded. "This part anyway." He paused for an uncomfortable moment. "Look, don't think I'm not glad to see you, but why are you here, Jeanelle?"
"For the same reasons these others are, to see if we want to invest with you."
The other jeeps were far ahead now and rounding the corner. The populace began to move into the street again, but one particular man caught my eye. He stepped almost right in front of the jeep, his jacket spread wide and staring straight at me. Then he nodded to Devon and stepped out of the way. "Umm, what was that about?"
Devon looked away. "It was a signal. He's been watching all the jeeps go by and he recognized you."
I waited for him to turn back to me. "You didn't know I was coming, did you?"
He finally caught on to the side of the jeep and climbed in. "Not you in particular. He can recognize people who have magical talent. He lets me know when anyone new in the compound has the gift."
"I thought you disapproved of magic, why would you want to know who has the gift and who hasn't?” I waited. “Or maybe you just like to know who's dangerous and who's not in your little city here," I finished with more venom than I really felt.
"It's not like that, Jeanelle," he said taking my hand. I remembered that look. It always made him look like a child, with his eyes open wide and his eyebrows lifted, begging for understanding. "I know what it's like to have magic you can't control. I identify them so I can get them where they need to be. I have a couple people right here who can teach control, and I offer transport to a colony that will teach them more if that's what they want. Just because I don't use magic anymore doesn't mean I hate it." He pushed the hair back from my neck to expose the large burn scar there. "That looks a lot better, by the way."
"Modern medicine, magic, and time can do a lot."
"Yes, time," he said quietly. "Umm, I should go, I have a tour this afternoon. I think you'll impressed." He jumped out the jeep. "I think I'm glad you're here."
* * *
I admit, most of the tour was over my head. I wasn't sent there because I had great knowledge of technology; I can barely remember not to put tin foil in the microwave. But I didn't mind getting the tattoos, so I got the job. Most of the areas that dealt with computer hardware and the advanced software were beyond me. The robot however, was truly impressive. I've never seen much use for robots myself, but I think that's just a lack of imagination. Whoever built this thing lacked none.
The first thing that caught my eye, aside from the size, were the tires sticking out from the shoulders. I had no idea what the thing was meant to do, beside showcase what Richfield Technologies could do with the proper funding. I think every man in that room turned into a ten-year-old when the demonstrations began and the robot folded in on itself, reconfiguring until it no longer looked like a robot at all, but like a very odd but passable car. All I could do was wonder what you would do with a car that turned into a robot. I mean, the car is useful, but what would you do with that huge robot?
So I stood there later that night, staring at the monstrosity with Devon by my side. He'd agreed, albeit reluctantly, to let me demonstrate what the islanders had to offer as investors.
"We've been branching out," I began. "We know that we can't ignore technology, and we shouldn't. But the world also can't ignore magic. It's also out there, and it's a force. You know yourself it isn't really any more dangerous than technology."
"Do I?" Devon jumped in. "I didn't give you that scar with technology. I did it with magic. Magic that I couldn't control. Technology can be controlled, safeguarded."
"Technology in the hands of the wrong user is far more dangerous than magic. A magician tires herself out before too long. She can cause some impressive damage, but it's nothing compared to what a man with a machine gun can do." I stopped and took a deep breath. "Listen, I'm not here to convince you to go back to using magic yourself. We both know that a person who doubts himself has no business practicing. What we want is your help in opening the world's eyes to the possibilities magic brings.”
I removed the light jacket I was wearing, leaving only the cropped shirt and shorts I'd worn underneath. The snake tattoos glittered in the dim light that reflected off the mammoth piece of machinery in front of me. "We've developed a highly sophisticated nanite using not only science but magic as well. Two days ago they were injected into my bloodstream. Watch."
I leaned forward until my fingers touched the cool metal floor. The incantation came easily under my breath. Devon tensed up behind me as magical vibrations rippled through the air. I could feel his body respond even as he kept it under the tightest control. The undercurrent of fear was something I wasn't used to. It hadn't been present in his magic when we'd been together, but after the accident....
I pushed away the extraneous feelings and poured everything into the tattoos. Moments later, as I has always felt they should do, they writhed and pulled themselves free of my skin, sliding down my body and along the floor to the robot. I lost sight of their shadowy forms as they blended into the machine, but I could feel it as the nanites made their connections. "What is it programmed to do, Devon?"
"Not much yet," he answered, breathless. "Just the transformation."
"The way I understand this is, the nanites still in my body can communicate with those now in the robot. I can command it to do anything. If it doesn't know how, I can show it how. It's as if we share one thought now. Watch." I wasn't sure what the machine should be capable of, so I started with it just walking a circle around us. "It can still do the things I can't, complex calculations and the like, things that a computer can do far better. It wouldn't matter how far away I was now, I could control this robot from the other side of the Earth. That's what the magic offers." The robot was now doing the Hokey Pokey, putting it's left arm in and taking it's left arm out. I laughed. "Sorry, that's not very dignified, is it?" I walked it back to its spot against the wall and muttered the return incantation. The snakes slithered back out of the machine, making their slow, sinuous way back to again become nothing more than ink pictures on my skin.
"It's amazing. We're decades away from that kind of sophistication through technology alone." He paused for a moment. "Can people without talent use it?"
"If you're willing to make a permanent connection, yes. We can set the spells to be permanent, but then you're binding someone to that machine forever. Those who can control the spells themselves can create or break a connection as they see fit."
I could see him wavering as fear and excitement warred inside him. "It's not possible without the technology, Devon. The magic is only communication magic. The only accidents it can cause are in allowing a flawed human mind to control the machine."
He walked over and touched my scar again. As his fingers trailed over it I could feel him relaxing some of that iron control and allowing the last vestiges of the magic to reverberate through his body. Suddenly he grinned. "Why snakes?"
I shrugged. "I like snakes."
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Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 12:37 PM #92
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
And now I'm off to work, relieved that it's done and posted. Good luck to everyone!
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 01:18 PM #93
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
"Patterns, sir. It's all about patterns, and engineering of course. Science isn't anything beyond the reach of you, or any person on the street. It just takes time, and an ability to notice pattern."
"Of course, if you can't notice patterns, there are schools that can help you, right?"
"Of course sir."
Truce looked around the room, trying to figure out what the most impressive thing he could show his sponcer would be. Science was easy, getting someone to pay for it was hard. Just three months ago, he had secured a grant from a government agency though, and now they were sending men to make sure he was finding things. The problem was, his research wasn't flashy.
That is to say, it involved no pretty pictures of distant stars you could put in magazines and make people say "How amazing! How pretty!" There were no fractal graphs. Nothing had blown up! There was a machine, and yes, the machine was built on three whole acres of land, but there were some particle accelerators that were larger by far! No, it wasn't flashy. And there had been no results yet.
But it was interesting. He just had to convey that interest to the person paying his bills... keeping his son housed, in school, and well fed. No mother, unfortunately. Being a widower was hard, but the research was enough to keep his mind occupied.
He was studying a... a ripple. The scientific journals occasionally had articles about them, but few studied the things. They didn't do much... they were just there. The machine here had been built on top of this ripple though, completely by accident, which made it unusable for more standard quantum research, but absolutely perfect for his own.
Truce decided on the output processing computer. It showed graphs and reports that could be filled with various colors.
"If you'll look this way sir... you can see todays data coming in. Right now, we're just recording the polarity of the atoms we're pushing through the ripple."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, you've heard that quantum mechanics is extremely precise? That was can calculate things to thousands of decimal places? Well we can. Except, not for any specific atom. We can predict probability. If we send seven trillion atoms through the pipe, we can predict how many will do one thing, and how many will do another. But not which will do what. Just how many.
Here sir. These are the numbers for a standard run, anywhere else in the world.
These are the numbers for our ripple."
"They don't look anything alike, I notice."
"Good eye for patterns sir! You'd make a wonderful scientist. Of course, the reason you are paying me, is that not only have I noticed the numbers are different, I've noticed that the numbers here don't match any model at all. Not any theoretically possible model, if you consider that the model doesn't change. I call this a volatile system... a system that changes. We haven't been able to find out what changes the system, that's why we're collecting data."
"Very good! Very good. Good to hear it. Do you have any idea when you'll actually discover what changes things here?"
"No sir. Could be next month, could be ten years from now. But as long as your organization... or any organization, will foot the bill, we'll keep trying."
"Well, see that you don't go elsewhere. We'll keep you on the payroll a while longer it seems."
"Thank you sir."
The man in the business suit stood, shook hands with Truce, and walked out the door. Truce loosened his tie. He really wasn't comfortable in these fancy clothes. It wasn't long before he had ditched the shoes as well, and unbuttoned the top few buttons, with a sigh of relief.
There were two lab assistants, one who made sure the computers didn't break down, and the other who maintained the machine... not that it needed much help. With the government paying, the structure had been decked out with all the latest technology, and part of that included a self repairing function. The three of them were the only ones working on the project, which meant that nearly all of the incoming money could be siphoned into equipment. There was little left over.
So when the computer made beeping noises, only he and the computer technician were there to take a look. Phil, the machinist, was drinking coffee and lounging in a chair across the room. The computer wasn't complaining about an error though, it was pointing out that it had discovered a pattern... if only briefly.
Over the next few weeks, when the pattern was reproducible on command to certain specific stimulants, real progress was made. For one thing, it was hard to call the ripple a ripple anymore. It was now what appeared to be a localized black hole. A massless localized black hole. Particles could be shot around it, but entering into it meant they never came back. The hole never evidenced any further energy returning. It was as if the laws of thermodynamics were just going to be ignored here, and energy was destroyed. Nothing did that. Which meant that this... this thing, had to be a gateway. A portal of some sort. And each time the experiment was repeated, it got larger. Exponentially larger. Soon, it would be large enough to toss a rock into it, instead of just atoms and such. Any larger, and at the rate of growth, it would quickly expand to engulf the entire city or more.
"You will send something through." The business man was telling Truce, over the phone after receiving the last report.
"Such as?" Truce retorted, although politely, to the man footing the bills. It paid, quite literally, to be diplomatic. "Nothing comes out of it, not even gravity. What would be the point?"
"Just send something, anything through."
Truce sighed. And he set up the next experiment. Operation: Rock Throw. The results were as expected. Nothing returned from the black thing. Nothing at all.
"Let me get this straight. You have new technology that will let us... do anything we want?"
Allow me to set the new scene. It is a relatively clean alleyway filled with people in vaguely ethnic garb. They speak with funny accents. They are dirty, but they command great respect and perhaps just a little bit of fear from the well dressed man speaking to them, offering them their wildest dreams come true.
"Yes." is the simple reply.
The ethnic man scowls, and spreads his arms out. (Picture) "Do you take us for fools? And you're asking for how much?"
"And you expect us to believe your fantastical claims without the merest demonstration?" The vaguely ethnic people are now beginning to loom, somewhat threateningly. Which was the entire point of having them along.
"No. I offer you a demonstration. A free sample, if you wish." And he pulled out a small, vaguely ethnic looking lamp. It wouldn't have been out of place in Arabian Nights, but it certainly was out of place coming from the inner coat pocket of a three piece suit. He rubbed it. The onlookers laughed for a moment. The laughing quickly faded.
"You want WHAT?" This time, diplomacy wasn't on Truce's mind. His employer was now simply asking for the impossible.
"Truce, you have to do this for me. We need to have the hole, or what ever it is, made mobile, and it has to be done immediately."
"Look, I don't think it's even possible. For everything I've seen about this anomaly, this hole, it doesn't move. At all. It can grow, but it's center remains fixed. It has always remained fixed as far as I can tell!"
"It must be done now." The phone went click. Truce swore forcefully, and with conviction. This wasn't possible. Why the unreasonable demand all of a sudden, out of the blue? He growled, and to take his mind off of things, turned on the small television the techs kept in the break room. He could use a few moments of not having to think. The blastedness of it all.
"The confirmed death toll around Hawaii and California continues to mount even now as the reports continue to come in, and estimations suggest that the numbers may now be in excess of seven hundred and fifty. We go now live to the shoreline. Jim?"
The television switched from the somewhat attractive female anchor woman to scene which suggested that of a hurricane at Niagara falls. Wind was roaring fiercely, water poured through the air, but clouds were not in evidence. An ocean of water poured over what appeared to be a massive cliff. The camera pulled back slightly, and two oceans of water are shown to pour into what must be the worlds most massive canyon. A veritable parting of the red sea, as seen from the sea's surface. The reporter then comes into focus, and begins to shout above the rushing winds about the damage in California this had been causing already, especially to shipping lines. Robot rescue teams would be sent in to help further survivors at the bottom of the crevasse, and helicopters were being dispatched to pick up those trapped in boats that had fortunately been stranded on the rocks. Scenes of both the rescue robots and the stranded ships are displayed. (Picture Picture)
The logo on the rescue bots looked familiar to Truce. He phoned back his employer immediately. "Does your need to have this... this hole made portable have anything to do with the disaster striking California right now?" he demanded. "I see your company is helping out with the rescue operations."
There was a considerable pause before Truce's employer gave any kind of a reply.
"This isn't a natural disaster." he finally admitted.
"What are you talking about?"
"The government recently contacted us about the use of our robotics department due to this event. But the purpose isn't for rescue. It seems that this is a terrorist attack with some kind of new weapon an arms dealer came about. The information is sketchy, but it is believed that the weapon must be destroyed in order to stop the disasters. The government hoped our robots could do it. The media picked up on their deployment, and we've made a good cover story about them being used to rescue those who are almost certainly dead already. Fortunately, we haven't had to cover up the fact that every single one of the robots sent to the location of the terrorists has been utterly annihilated. But that hole of yours should be able to stop this weapon. We need it movable, and we need it movable now."
"I'm sorry, but it just can't be done. It isn't the sort of thing that <i>can</i> be moved!"
"Find a way, Truce. Find it now. The military has been powerless. We need something new, and you have that."
The disaster continued on for days, the sea being split open and pouring into a crevice leading straight to the center of the earth for all anyone could tell. The weather this sprouted, and the effects on currents, and the winds, and the earthquakes, it was all causing untold millions in damages, and more and more people were dying. And Truce was continually badgered to make the hole move. But nothing would make it budge. Nothing at all. The particle accelerator had even been deconstructed around the anomaly, in order to gain a more physical grasp on it, but the fact remained that anything crossing the event horizon STAYED crossed, and nothing moved it even a micrometer.
But something new was discovered.
While testing the effects of magnetic fields on the thing, Truce found that the things that went into the hole were not destroyed after all. They were merely moved, instantaneously, somewhere else. Pushing a steel rod through the hole while under super strong magnetic forces caused the other end of the rod appear fifty feet away, sheered off cleanly at the point the rod stopped entering the hole. He had intended to test whether or not the magnetic influence would cause the hole to solidify. But this was something else entirely.
"I still can't move it sir, but I may have something better. We can move anything we need to anywhere we want, as long as the thing is small enough."
"Is that so? It may just have to do. How much can you move?"
"Very little. But I'm sure that I can direct it anywhere we could need to put something."
"We're sending you a package and some coordinates."
The "package" turned out to be a small white hollow sphere and a number of spare parts, which happened to include plutonium. The worlds smallest atomic bomb had been shipped to Truce by FedEx, in a convenient Build-it At Home kit. Shaking slightly from the sheer weight of the responsibility, he did what anyone would do in that situation. He delegated. Giving the kit to one of the techs to assemble (Picture), Truce began to perform the calculations of exactly how strong the magnet must be in order to place the package exactly where it was needed to go.
The news droned on in the background, bringing up something about a new development. Truce didn't want to hear about it. He had his job to do. This action right here might very well be able to put an end to the suffering, right now.
Soon, although after what felt like ages, the bomb was assembled and the magnetic math was completed. All that was necessary would be to arm the device, and toss it through the hole. It seemed like such an anticlimactic thing to do. He couldn't even remember the appropriate poetic quote for moments like these. He ended up with something simple. "Ah, screw it." and dropped the bomb into the hole.
The news would pick up the explosion soon. It would be visible from Los Angeles. Sure enough, it was. Sure enough, the terrorists were instantly vaporized by the explosion, and the weapon was disabled. The sea returned to normal, and all was soon calm once more. Truce turned off the television. Sighed to himself, and went home to go to bed. He hadn't had nearly enough sleep in such a long, long time.
"Well Mr. President..." Truce's employer began.
"It seems they might not have been terrorists after all.
"Oh, they were killing hundreds, thousands, yes. But as far as we can tell, they didn't intend to. They just came across a little bit more power than they knew what to do with. Quite a bit more power, to put it frankly, and yet, somehow, not enough in the end.
"It seems that they just wanted to understand women. A reasonable request, you might think.
"We've recovered the lamp. It hasn't been touched. Our analysts have been working hard translating the strange script engraved on the outside. We believe it to be the last thing the Genie, or Efreet, or whatever it was, had said." He slipped a piece of paper across the desk of the Oval Office.
The President sat and stared at it for the longest time. Finally, a smile cracked on his face. And then he began to chuckle, and escalated into a full belly laugh. The kind of horrible, desperate laugh you make when you finally get the joke, but know it wasn't funny anyway.
"Yes Mr President. We... uh... felt kindof the same way. At least it's over now. As a matter of fact, it's a pity we blew it up before it had time to finish.
"No, I don't know what we're going to do with a 4 lane expressway bridge between California and Hawaii that's only three quarters finished either. Perhaps find some engineers worthy of finishing it?"
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 02:01 PM #94
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Piratecat "The Arranger"
Great use of the cheerleader picture -- I love it when a story seizes on some detail in a picture and makes it the focus of the entire story. "All the catchy marketing jingles I've written" nicely pays off on a second pass through the story. Also nice -- the coldness of Southern California. Very well set up. The story is full of those moments and it's very rewarding to pick them up as you go along.
It may have gotten overplayed, however. By "Snulap's face went first white and then a fiery, dangerous red. I liked the look." I've got a pretty good guess as to what's going on. And as soon as our narrator says, "'I did what you asked.'" the big ol' lightbulb comes on and I know this is Faust I'm reading.
Which is fine, but there's not really a final twist here to give me a last moment of delight. The taking over of Snulap's body isn't a pay off for any earlier set up, so it comes across as window-dressing rather than anything significant.
I liked the gulls, though. Nice touch. And the new clothes gag.
How does he shake his head under that mask, by the way? I wondered.
In the final analysis -- a fine tale with lots of nice turns of phrase, rewards for careful readers, and a very clear story. It hooks up the pictures in a reasonably even-handed manner, although one might accuse it of nearly cheating on the little girls. That bit is awfully funny, though, and the whole story is really a long list of Satan gags, so it's a fair use.
I enjoyed reading it. And enjoyed it more the second time. Very well done.
carpedavid "Strange Little Loops"
Little girls with the cigarette: essential to the story
The mask: essential to the story
The beach: essential to the story
The cheerleaders: Oh, not quite essential to the story
Still, very impressive use of the pictures.
Now, as to the story itself: This is really remarkable, carpedavid. I'm not 100% certain it hangs together with complete authority, but there's a lot going on here and you've managed your complicated elements really well. It could use a good edit -- the opening series of shockers "I can't believe they made me black" and "And a girl" don't quite hit with the impact they should, but it still sucks me in so you're not hurting yourself here. It just could have been even better, I guess.
Kat's moment on the beach teeters on the edge of being overwrought -- a little tightening here would have been welcome -- but it is a real emotional moment and has enough careful details to feel authentic. The metaphysical production of the sand makes the picture (in a sequence you might otherwise say was uneccessary) the core of the whole story. Nicely done, that.
You try it again with the cheerleader sequence and now I know you're setting something up. And you reward me for that at the end of the story -- which makes me feel smart. And making your reader feel smart is a good thing to do.
Your style is simple, easy-to-parse sentences and terse descriptions -- though I think the narrator gets a little didactic at times: "Kat was shocked" -- can you SHOW me her shock instead of TELLING me about it? And finally, your plot doesn't get filled out quite enough. I don't really know what the relationship is between Hoffman, Kat the assistant and Kat the little girl. But I get a sense of it, and that's almost enough for me.
This is a story well worth taking another shot at and seeing what you come up with. I'd love to see a rewrite.
Decision: carpedavid in a VERY tough call
THE ARRANGER (Piratecat)
Let's not pretend this was a tough set of pictures, even for a master. I
was impressed that Piratecat tackled perhaps the must "HUH?!"-worthy
picture first and used that as a centerpiece, instead of shuffling it
I liked the little details that didn't make much sense (SoCal isn't hot
enough? Why is he telling this guy where he lives?) made perfect sense
by the end of the story, not to mention the little comments about
Russia's transit system. The one thing that tripped up the narrative was
a lot of action being compressed; eight months go by and we're told that
Snulap wanted to renegotiate, but not really how; I was expecting to
hear that Snulap sent some kind of message or something that would
otherwise explain why this was one-way.
I felt that the kids-smoking picture wasn't very well-used; it wasn't
blown, but the other three were used strongly enough that it felt a bit
weak. It does bring out the narrator's character a bit, but somehow I
felt that kids smoking in Russia wasn't so much corruption of youth as a
symptom of, well, degeneracy in Russia.
Small point--there were a lot of uses of speaking verbs and modifiers
(blustered, looked up horrified, stuttered in disbelief) that I think
would have been better eliminated, either because stronger verbs/words
could have been used or because the description was well-done enough
that they seemed superfluous.
Otherwise, Piratecat took what could have been a very tired plot and
made it a highly entertaining story.
'"Evil?” I finished for him. "Yeah, there’s a shocker for you."'
STRANGE LITTLE LOOPS (carpedavid)
Interesting that both contestants chose one picture as the narrative
center of the story, but chose very different images.
Good use of the full set of pictures here. I enjoyed this story--very
interesting theme, and an uncertain ending without being unresolved or
feeling like the author just hadn't finished. I admit that I still found
it a little puzzling where AI-Kat and real-world Kat meshed, and the
relationship between the doctor and Katherine, which seems very distant
and short-term, yet close enough that he is willing to bring her into
the imaginary world. ('Assistant' also makes it sound as though she's a
sort of glorified bottle-washer, or grad student, but it's suggested
that she's a PhD at least in the virtual world; the reason for the
difference isn't entirely clear.)
JUDGMENT: It was an extremely tough choice, darn it. On the strength of
overall picture use and a more difficult theme, I gave the round to
Carpe david hooks me hard in the first few paragraphs. What a use of the smoking kid pic. Then come the cluster where he describes the mask, full of blustering words and psuedoscience. I gave him a lot of credit here because I believe it is difficult to write with all the terminology and not sound WAY out like you are making it up.
I like Kat too, I like her for mentioning the greek guy with BO as she mentions her missed desires. Altho The use of the worms picture did not warm my heart. It does echo the looping and curling statements, but as far as inventiveness I was left a little wanting.
The mask too, is just a mask when it comes down to it, and the cheerleaders aren’t exactly used brilliantly.
And I still love this story.
Maybe it is the lack of deviousness. Perhaps I have grown used to waiting for the bad guy to strike, I mea, we are gamers who write, right? But the humanity of the doctor, the sureness of Kat in her decisions, the sharpness of her mind and the the utter shock of a lack of betrayal!
Piratecat sucks me in right away by getting right to the cheerleaders, and taking them pretty literally. P-kitty has once again crafted a character that it is easy to feel you know, even after the characters awful secret is revealed (a little too early).
I do not think the smoking pic was handled to creatively, but was still handled well. The intent of our main character can change a lot. Same for the worms, not the wildest handling, but made sweeter by our main character.
The mask was kind of just there. I like the idea of the torture scene but feel it needed more or less.
Over all there are some really great moments- The surf hissing on hooves, the fact that he knows snulap has 37 years left, when he calls snulap an amateur. I liked all these moments.
Judgement- But the moments were not enough. I fear the pictures may have been too easy, as we always get a little more from the tough pics. This is a tough round for me, the raw entertainment value of p-kitty vs. the shock and strong repetition of Carpedavid. I have to go with carpe david, but not by a lot. If p-kitty had held off me figuring out his catch a few more paragraphs things could have been very different.
DECISION- Carpe David- 3-0 unanimous decision.
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 02:25 PM #95
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Boom, out in the first round! Congratulations, Carpedavid; you aimed for something more serious than I did, and you nailed it beautifully. I'm very, very pleased you're advancing.
Now I get to sit back and enjoy.
- Piratecat, EN World Admin. Now writing TimeWatch, an investigative time travel game.
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 02:27 PM #96
Novice (Lvl 1)
...and continue working on your storyhour!Originally Posted by Piratecat
"And once again, tithing is 10% off the top. That's gross income, not net. Please people, don't force us to audit. Now I'm going to pass this around a second time. Brother Ned, you'll do the honors." - Reverend T. Lovejoy
Zad/WizarDru's Shackled City Story Hour
Wizardru's Story Hour: The Savage Sword of Meepo
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 02:50 PM #97
Thanks again for the kind words PC - you are a great and worthy competitor, and I'm sorry that I won't have the pleasure of seeing what you'd come up with in the future rounds.
Judges - that was great and accurate critique - just what I need to improve the story. Thanks to all!
Now I get to be all stressed out waiting for the next round
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 04:32 PM #98
Novice (Lvl 1)
And another fairy dies.Originally Posted by dravot
Congrats carpedavid. You smacked down the cat. Quite impressive for your first time.
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 04:34 PM #99
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Someone remind me again of the problem of being the fastest draw?Originally Posted by carpedavid
Tuesday, 29th June, 2004, 04:53 PM #100
Thanks Ao - it was a tough fight, and PC's a great writer, which makes the victory that much sweeter.
Oh, no problem. Just amazed delightOriginally Posted by alsih2o