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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2008, 12:01 pm 
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Somebody has to start... and these are a little more than 5700 words.
It might be easier to read if put into a Word doc.


Cycling

„Ladies and gentlemen, let me remind you that we are about to embark on a mission of the utmost importance for the Zaurac Republic. Out of more than 20.000 contestants, we were chosen, merely 15 people, to be the first ones to go beyond our own stellar system – where no Zaurac citizen has gone before!“ The captain went on talking for another five minutes. The crewmen, and –women, most of them in their deep blue gala uniforms felt a little bored by the procedure, but had to be present. The right third of the ship’s main cargo bay was filled with media people, a salad-bowl like colorful mass of people with cameras and microphones. The left third was reserved for politicians and the private-for-profit sponsors of the undertaking, including the most important heads of the planetary economy. Dark grey suits were dominating the color spectrum on their side. The middle third was taken by the crew, twelve specialists for various resorts: four astro-engineers led by the power scientist who had developed the interstellar drive, two navigators, programmers, an astro-physicist, an ecologist and two combat „advisors“, namely a sergeant and a corporal of the Special Forces. The remaining three persons were the captain, blue uniform with two horizontal white stripes across the chest, the physician, in light blue, and a Pastor, in black, though being a studied historian and ethicist, whose job was moral support for the crew during the long and isolated trip through empty and unknown space. The journey was supposed to take several months and about to begin in a few moments, after all non-essential personnel had left.
Media company sources had figures of about three billion of the planet’s six billion people in front of their TV sets, as the ceremony ended and the black ship’s supply lines were cut off from the space station. The countdown finally ended and the start commenced as scheduled. The course was set, and the destination would be a rather close planetary system in a distance of about five light-years. Telescope examination had proven there were several planets of different sizes and the yellow star was stable. Eventually, the ship slowly accelerated and took with it the hopes of all the people who had been gazing at the stars in the sky for centuries.

„So, captain,“ said the Pastor and sat down on the synthetic leather which made a typical sound, „how do you feel after a month of space travel?“
„Oh, quite well I assure you. All the systems are working fine and the crew seems to be content and full of confidence. Some part of that I owe to you.“
„I do whatever I can… and what I am being paid for,“ he added with a boyish smile.
„Which is more than I do, for sure,“ said the physician, „nothing but a light bruise and a burned hand so far.“
„Well, I wouldn’t mind you remaining rather unemployed, doctor. Tea, anyone?“
„Oh yes, please”, said the Pastor. The doctor nodded silently. A few moments later water was boiling in a tap and a pair of tea bags was added. The captain filled three white cups and presented them to his guests. The tea’s soothing aroma filled the cabin.
„Sorry for the wait, gentlemen. We still have a little time to wait until we get those replicators on board, as seen in the sci-fi TV shows“, he said with a smile.
„I would like one of those. Would rid me off that canned foodstuff. It might be the top of compact food research, concerning vitamins and calories and all the body needs, but it still tastes more like a can than what’s on the official ingredients list.“ The doctor laughed.
„I wouldn't mind, too, but only if replicated tea had the same taste and smell...“ The Pastor took a nose full of the pleasant herbal odor that emanated from the cup. He sighed comfortably and went on:
„Replicators would be more than any of our preceding civilizations has ever achieved, but if the interpretations are correct, we are doing better and better every time. I’m sure you can have your steak replicator in about… four thousand years, if you manage to be reborn at the right time, doctor.“ The Pastor smiled again.
„Unsuitable words for a man of God, don’t you think?“ The physician looked amused.
„Who knows what He has in mind? The First Generation did not even reach space age, the Second already had a telescope and several observation satellites in space… and the Third had a space station…“
„… the crash of which eventually wiped out the Third Generation, as we know today.“
„Yes, doctor, of course, but don’t you see the advance?“
„There might have been advance, but who can prove whether there have not been earlier Generations before the one we call the First? Who knows how far those have come? They might have fled the planet for some reason and now live on planets far away.“ The physician spoke, while the captain preferred listening. This was not his kind of discussion.
„Proof of such earlier Generations is pretty hard to come by, doctor.“
„Only more reason to not neglect the thought. The age of certain artifacts can still not be verified, thus they might be older than we expect“, the doctor insisted.
„I’m sure that He provides us all with we need to know for a better future, when the time has come, and then His Son shall judge us whenever He is about to return from His journey to the stars.“
„Which is every 3.000 to 6.000 years, as historians tell us. I have read The Scrolls as well, but it’s been quite a while ago,“ the captain said in order to play at least a humble part in the discussion. Remaining quiet would be impolite since it would give the others the impression he was bored of their talk, which was not true at all.
„See? Such lack of belief and fear of God is what leads to His decisions.“
The captain objected. „I don't think that true faith needs profound knowledge of The Scrolls.“
The physician continued before the Pastor had a chance to reply to the captain's remark.
„His decisions! Purging us every few thousand years, killing billions of innocent people and shoving us back into Stone Age? I don’t find such a God very sympathetic and besides I don’t believe in the Devine Cycles.“ The physician hissed with a dark expression on his face.
„You are saying it’s all a matter of returning coincidents?“
„I stick to science, dear Pastor. The Scrolls are... well, I like the parts about mutual respect and His love for all living beings, but I detest the idea that our fate was sealed from the very beginning…“
„… until we reach a state of His liking. Isn’t a perfect society, free from sins and suffering, a goal that we should be willing to make sacrifices for?“
„I refuse worshipping a deity that has such sadistic treats. Oh, my puny Zauracs, you made a little mistake there… now I’ll have to kill 90 % of you… I’m so sorry!” the doctor said with a higher pitched voice. „There are limits to the sacrifices I am willing to stand. Planetary genocide is nothing I would support. For no matter what reason. And I do not see anything returning. We have no idea what wiped out the First and the Second Generation. We can only guess that the First Purge was a nuclear world war. There are no records left. This world war is only passed on as a legend, a mere myth, from mouth to mouth. The radiation level we experience every day is by far not dangerous, it is considered normal since we know no other circumstances. The destroyed cities don't tell us enough. The First Purge is as far away as The Creation in terms of reliable sources.“
The Pastor was not the least irritated by the physician and drank a sip of tea.
„The Third Generation was killed by the radiation of the downed space station and the Fourth was mortally confronted with a disease, the origin of which is unknown,“ the captain added.
„Some claim it was bred by a planetary super power for war purposes, but the virus escaped somehow and killed all the population except for a few thousands, less than 1 % of the original population, who were immune – thanks to their genetic structure.“
The Pastor took another sip from his cup. „Whatever the reason, we have learned, haven’t we? We are the Fifth generation…“
„… officially…“
„… officially the Fifth Generation, if you like, and we have already made it for more than 5.500 years after what believers call the – officially – Fourth Purge. We have a ban on ABC weapons and we have far advanced technology in reactor construction, compared to the Third Generation. We are working towards a better world. But our society is far from perfect. There are still areas stricken with poverty and local wars, there is still hypocrisy and atheism and people who laugh in the face of the Devine Laws. I predict we will be purged sometime during the following 500 years. I think there are still too many things His Son will detest. We must accept this fate and His judgment, and we will be born anew to make an even better world. Isn’t it miraculous that there are always enough survivors of the Purges to sustain a healthy gene pool?“
„If you had studied life, its ability to cope with changing environmental situations, like me, you, too, would come to the conclusion that we are as tough as weeds.“
The captain laughed and put his hand on the physician's shoulder. „Now come on, you don’t sound like a healer at all – more like angry Him returning to us naughty children.“
„I am a healer, all right, and I will risk my life for the relief of those in need. But I don’t see much need for euphemisms.“
„I try to live true to my faith and I am willing to accept His judgment. But, I have to admit, I am most worried because of the Karasz Cult. Okay, people still do terribly wrong things, but I would rather not be purged because of the hideous agenda of an extremist minority. That’s what worries me far more than the state of our society.“
„Yes, they are only a minority, a small fraction of our common faith, but don’t forget what the Scrolls say: The average, good members of society might give it stability, but the extremes are far more noticeable – put in simple terms. If you visit a foreign country you will judge the people by what is presented and obvious to you.“
„It’s strange that we don’t know much about the Cult… where it came from, or how old it is, for example. The security services smashed a number of cells, but the organization itself is not faltering and seemingly as firm as ever.“
„It’s probably as old as His word itself. And as detestable as they are… I can understand they’re crimes – basically.“
„But you wouldn’t be sympathizer, would you?“ The doctor smiled mischievously.
„Good Lord, no. I just said I – basically – understood what’s motivating them. While most believers, just like you, captain, try to live good lives to please Him, thus tipping the scales into the right direction, the Karasz Cult does the opposite. They become active when – theoretically – the time of the Purge is coming closer. They see the depravities of our society and pray for a quick Purge, so there is no unnecessary loss of time. Once His Son is born among our midst, he walks Zaurac and judges whether there is more good or more evil in the world. If there is more good than evil, His Son will live and die like every mortal being does and return later. The Cult of Karasz wants to avoid a false judgment due to hypocrisy and thus they do everything in their power to convince His Son of our depravity and urge Him to purge us. They’re after the same result, sooner though, but using unacceptable means. Those children are so terribly mislead… because what they do is unlawfully assume the judgment of good and evil. No living being, except for His Son, must ever claim such proficiency.“
„Just another argument for me!“ said the physician. „They are so blinded by religion and kill hundreds of people every year, in the most gruesome ways! A sound reason to refuse religion and all that surrounds it in my opinion. We would be much better off without it. The Karasz Cult will not have any influence on whatever cosmic powers there might be, but they must be weeded out for their crimes, once and for all.“
In the end, they might just be a part of His purposeful creation, thought the Pastor, but he was smart enough not to say it in this situation. The physician was already upset enough and he knew things would become louder soon if utterances were not kept under control. The captain seemed to feel this as well, as he seemed overly interested in the dissolution of the sugar lumps in his second cup of tea.
„I’m sorry,“ said the physician. „I’m easily being carried away by such topics.” He turned the cup around in his hands several times, before he hesitatingly continued. “Some years ago… well, many years ago, actually, I had just finished medical school and had achieved my doctor’s degree, I was working in Efka. One day a pale, middle-aged man stepped into my practice and told me in a silent, but otherwise normal voice that I should come to his apartment, because there was some kind of emergency. I thought that maybe his wife had had an accident during housework, but that wasn’t it. He had just come home from nightshift work, and then he found them… his wife and two children, not even ten years old, hanging head-down from the ceiling, their throats slit. Bled to death like animals, in full consciousness. Even without the information that it had been done by this religious group I became an infidel right that day. No god should ever let such things happen. The man was brought to a sanatorium, but years later I learned that he had killed himself nonetheless. But… let’s not talk about that anymore. We have some traveling before us and need to be in good mood.“ They silently went on drinking tea and changed to easier topics after a few minutes.

„Put it on the main screen!“
The screen in front of the bridge crew flickered and then showed a beautiful planet. It seemed to have an atmosphere, large, blue oceans and a number of continents.
„It looks promising,“ said the ecologist and began working his instrument panel, „we’ll have some data soon enough. I suggest we make a tour around, take pictures and take a few samples from the atmosphere for starters.“
„Navigator, get us into the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere!“
„I can feel this is the right thing. It has water… about three quarters of this planet are water, I guess. There must be life. And if the planet can sustain own life forms, we can manage, too.“
The ship floated in and the sensors started shooting pictures of the surface. The air samples were gathered and analyzed soon later.
„What do we have?“ The captain was nervous and impatient as well, but, of course, he tried to hide it as hard as he could. Not very successful though. The ecologist smiled knowingly and took a look at the preliminary results.
„Almost perfect. Carbon dioxide is below 3 %, while nitrogen is at about 70 % and oxygen ranges at about 28 %. Gravitation is a little lower than at home, but we could go down without a breathing apparatus or pressure suits without a worry.“
„What about life forms?“
„Life forms... most certainly. But we have not found signs of civilization, though.“
„Captain!“ One of the navigators stood up. „The sensors have discovered a satellite in the planet’s orbit. We will have visual contact in a few moments.“
„An artificial satellite?“
„Yes, sir. A single satellite, that is, and a small one for sure. About 200 pounds.“
„Let’s take a look at it.“
Soon the satellite was on the main screen. The captain looked worried and glanced at the navigator in charge. „Does it do anything? Like, transmissions?“
„No sir… it seems it is scanning the surface, but it does not transmit anything… at least nothing we are able to read with our equipment.“
„I see… set parallel course and collect it.“

In the cargo bay, the physicist wrote a few notes and gave them to one of the engineers who had salvaged the alien satellite, while the ecologist was curiously interested in the satellite. It was of a deep brown color, like rich soil. On its back it had had wings with solar cells, originally, because the wings had already been removed and put aside to save space. The satellite had a shape like a spring flower which had just opened its tender buds to the sun. But these buds were brown and made of a resistant steel-alloy. When the captain approached, the ecologist turned around.
„What do we have, gentlemen?“ The engineer saluted. The scientists did not. They were titular Majors, but actually they were civilians. The physicist nodded at the engineer who then left, as the ecologist began speaking.
„The planet’s surface does not show any sign of civilization. We are not able to verify circumstances below the surface, though. There are life forms, like animals, there are primates, too, which walk on two legs most of the time. Following theories about the evolution of beings, they could become an intelligent life form one day.”
“What makes you think that?” asked the captain. The ecologist smiled mischievously.
“They fight for food, mates, and territory with sticks and stones instead of claws and teeth.”
“I see what you mean… continue, please.”
“Well, that still is a rather personal hypothesis and such proposed evolution will take a few thousand years, if it is to happen. Interesting enough, there might have been earlier circles of life. If you look at this picture, you will see, or can imagine, a large crater, which is now filled by the planet’s water, but I think that this crater was caused by an asteroid of considerable size, hitting the planet and killing its former population – most probably animal population. With a little more time, I might be able to prove it, but I’d have to go down there.“
„You know we lack heat shielding and underwater facilities.“
„I know, it’s too bad. I would have enjoyed it.“
„I’m sure the Ruling Council will approve the construction of a colony ship with greater research capabilities, after we show them what we have found.“
„I wish we could take a few sample specimens with us. Why don't we have a shuttle?“
„What are you thinking? We don’t have enough room for specimen, even if we put them into hibernation. We have an unmanned probe for gathering mineral specimen and ice layers from the poles, and we're going to use it. Concerning living creatures, pictures will have to do, sorry about that. Our sponsors thought that the chances of finding an inhabitable planet were too low to grant our mission a landing device.“
„Come on, what about specimen small enough for a closet? The probe can do that, can't it?“
„Don’t be silly. Collect a few stones, if you will, but no living creatures. It’s too dangerous.“
„As you like it. But I can take samples from life forms? Maybe... fur? The probe could kill some animal with its stone cutter and collect some... maybe even flesh and blood?“
„I think fur will be okay. But a flesh sample... only if our facilities can handle that safely. By the way, I doubt that our probe robot would be able to come close enough to kill an animal.“
„Handling flesh samples is no problem at all. We have plastic bags, gloves and a fridge.“
„Really? I didn't know we were equipped with cooling devices in the lab... I thought we only had a little cabinet for mineral samples.“
„Uh, yes, I realized that... so I brought a private refrigerator for such an occasion.“
The captain stared at him in disbelief. „You brought...“ He dropped his remark, a rhetorical question anyway. „Whatever... is it safe?“
„Oh yes,“ said the ecologist, „it's approved by the ZSC. Lab equipment, not a kitchen utensil.“
„Oh... well, okay... what about the satellite?“ The captain turned to the physicist, who had been standing behind patiently. He produced a notebook and took a short look at it.
„I'm 85 % sure it was not made on this planet, judging from dust particles in the atmosphere we have already analyzed. There are traces of matter which are not common here. Of course, we must wait for the conclusion of the mineral analysis, but in my opinion...“ He paused a moment for the suspension of the moment and looked firmly into the eyes of the captain.
„... in my opinion, we are not the first ones to discover this planet. And whoever came here before us has the capability to construct such a satellite, leave it here and return later to collect their data.“
„Can you tell anything about their point of technical advance?“
„Judging by the density and frequency of the central processing unit, they are a bit more advanced. Not much, but perceivable. On the other hand, the decay of the photon cell power unit tells me this satellite has been around for a few years already.“
„Can you… download its memory?“
„How could I? The systems are completely incompatible. Right now, as we have it, this is just a piece of hi-tech junk.“
„That’s too bad.“
„Really, it is. We have to take it with us for future research. Someday we'll be able to access its data. It might take a while, but it surely is worth the effort.“
„Sounds good, as long as this satellite doesn’t tell our adversaries where we have taken it.“
„If it was transmitting anything, it has stopped by now. We shut off the power supply. My instruments cannot detect any flux of energy anymore. In terms of living beings it’s dead.“

„So, what do you think?“ Once again, the captain, the Pastor and the physician were sitting together, drinking tea.
„It was a marvelous experience“ the Pastor said.
„And nothing happened at all. Apart from our probe being attacked by a horde of apes.“ The physician, still without much to do all day, looked at his cup. „At least, I’ll be very glad to join the studies of the insect sample the probe has brought back.“ He swayed his cup.
„Why do you say it was a marvelous experience, Pastor?“ the captain asked.
„This ocean crater… the remains of a Purge… light-years away from home. Incredible!“
„Now, we can’t prove that.“
„We cannot prove so many things, doctor… and still we know they’re true.“
„You mean people believe they were true.“
„That is your opinion.“
„Of course. Still, there is no sign of a purged civilization. Why should He punish a bunch of mindless animals?“
„There is no proof of a purged civilization,“ the Pastor raised his index finger in emphasis, „which only means that we might not have been able to find it, that’s all. We were not able to explore underneath the surface.“
„You find proof for your beliefs everywhere, right?“
„It’s the faith of more than 80 % of our people, so there must be some truth about it. They can impossibly all believe in something wrong, can’t they?“
„See, that’s what I mean. Just because a vast majority believes something was right does not mean it is right. How where statistics when we left? Half of our fellow citizens think that we’re the only inhabited planet in the universe, and about three quarters believe that we’re the only intelligent life form in space. In all of space! It’s not just ridiculous believing something like that considering the sheer size of what we’re talking about, no, we have proof of an intelligent species right on board!“
„We have not seen a really intelligent life form. The creators of that satellite may have vanished, long ago.“
„We cannot see so many things, Pastor… and still we know they’re there.“
The Pastor remained silent. It seemed he had to reconsider vital parts of his views. The physician, on the other hand, felt victory at hand.
„As we have learned, this satellite is not old enough to come from an ancient civilization which has disappeared… been purged, or whatever. From this very moment, it won’t take a hundred years until we establish first contact, and it will be in the vicinity of this blue planet we have found. The others will come for it as well and we better be ready for them.“
The Pastor was not about to give up, but reluctantly yielded a few inches.
„Well, let us say there were Generations before the – official – First. And let us imagine they already traveled through space… the people we might be facing then, if you are correct, could as well be a forgotten, a lost people of our own ancestors.“
„Ha, that was nice, reading your face! You wondered whether it was better to yield to the Alien Theory or to the Generations Theory. It seems your ethnic pride is stronger than your religious faith.“
„That is nonsense! I…“
„Gentlemen, please. Pastor, I am sure there is an explanation for what we have encountered that conforms to our faith. Doctor, we are on a research mission and it was highly unlikely that our current understanding of the universe would be untouched by its results. It doesn’t matter whether so many people still don’t believe in life out there – as you said: We have proof on board and after a few months or maybe years it will be common knowledge and acceptance. Society is flexible. Things are changing. Let us not argue as if we were tied to old beliefs despite better proof. His existence will probably never be proven, but so won’t the opposite. Thus, I believe – just in case, you might say, doctor.“ The captain smiled conciliatorily. „So, please, let us drink tea together and be happy about our broad success.“

„Captain…“ The navigator seemed reluctant. „You better look at this yourself.“
He put the picture onto the main screen and it showed a planet clad in grey and brownish dust clouds. The captain looked at it but didn't know what to make of it.
„What is this?“
„According to the navigating computer, we are 1000 km close to… Zaurac.“
„We are what?“
„Andra hrim-raa…“, said the Pastor, falling back into his native tongue.
„Don’t talk nonsense!“ replied the captain, but his confidence was shaken.
„Navigator, recheck everything! Can we pick up anything?“
„Uh, yes sir, lots of debris in orbit, and… there is a stand-by signal… no, wait a minute, sir… there’s quite a lot of stand-by signals…“
„From where?“
„Emanating from… all those… relay satellites in the planet’s orbit… TV satellites. They don’t pick up any signals from the surface, so they’re on stand-by.“ The screen zoomed in and showed a number of objects circling the planet. The captain sunk back in his chair. Dozens of artificial satellites passed by silently. If shaking knees had an odor, it would have smelled on the ship’s bridge.
„Where’s the space station? Dammit, we can’t even land this crate, not even on water, ‘cause we don’t have heat shielding!“ The captain punched his control panel with his fist.
„It might be on the other side of the planet right now, sir.“
„Get us closer, circle once, look out for the station and scan the surface…“

The physicist stood right next to the screen in the bridge and gave the presentation he had prepared with the ecologist, frequently wiping sweat off his forehead, face, and neck. The sound of his voice gave away the emotional turmoil that he felt, while he tried to appear as professional as he could. „The result is obvious. Judging from the craters, the planet was hit by two objects, obviously asteroids, with a diameter of about 10 km – at a speed of circa 20 km per second. See, there’s one impact on the continent and one in the sea. It happened approximately two months after we left, in quick succession. All impacts within a few days, maybe on the same. Twin asteroids are known to exist. Furthermore, although we cannot fully prove it before we go down and have a closer look, we think that the space station was not hit directly by the meteor… it was taken down by rocks hurled up from the ground, or maybe by airwaves displaced by the impact. Otherwise there would be more debris.“
The captains eyes were nailed to the screen. „Tankra was hit directly…“
„We estimate that the thermal wake radiation of the first asteroid alone was enough to kill half the population of the continent of Tankra – even before it impacted. Efka is all charred and molten. Then there was an impact quake, which destroyed most of the cities that were left on Tankra, including, of course, all the underground facilities, and an impact fireball.
It seems there were not too many ballistic impact ejecta – objects hurled up by the impact. If a high number of objects is blasted into space, most of them return to the atmosphere drawn back by the gravitational force. Entering the atmosphere, the ejecta heat up – themselves and the air around them.“
„But meteorites enter the atmosphere all the time. They burn up or explode.“ The Pastor felt his throat turning dryer and dryer and the need to say something, no matter how meaningless.
„Please consider the number of objects, sir. An impact of such a size can produce ejecta in high quantity, with enough mass and energy to heat the entire atmosphere up to several hundred degrees centigrade. The planet would have been sterilized. But such thing has not happened.“
„Good Lord…“ The Pastor rubbed his eyes. „Please go on with your analysis report.“
„Not much left to say about the first impact… the dust cloud spread throughout Zaurac’s atmosphere, causing a stronger reflection of sunlight, thus the average temperature sunk… decisively. We further estimate that for two years, from now on, only the toughest plants, few of them edible, will grow or sprout. There should be some kind of crop left, but with the given opportunities, it won’t be enough to feed all survivors.“
„What about the second impact… the one that hit the Mandarei Ocean?“
„Almost the same as before… wake radiation, which did not do much harm, except boiling a few tons of fish... but the impact caused a tidal wave of truly epical proportions… about four kilometers high. No island state, no coast state around Mandarei survived, wiping out most of Lagran’s population within mere minutes. After the impact, there was a fountain of water, about 20 times the mass of the asteroid and probably 100 km high, humidifying the atmosphere. As a matter of fact, this might be an advantage for us, since the water drops are interacting with the dust particles from the first impact, raining them down to the ground gradually. Good news is that photosynthesis will restart working sooner than without the ocean impact. Bad news is that the dirty rain will be another damage mechanism to the ecosystem for a while.
Furthermore, the impacts have produced a remarkable amount of nitrogen oxide. The ozone layer has suffered a loss of about a third of its original volume. That has increased the acidity of surface waters in certain areas in the northern hemisphere and will cause acid rain. The proportions of this phenomenon are not fatal, speaking globally, but it will take many years until things are back in order.“
„Estimated losses?“
„You mean population? About 80 %, judging from the readings of our infrared sensors. We cannot make contact to the surface. There are scattered communities of citizens left, but they are seemingly not in possession of appropriate equipment. The space control center was completely wiped out by the tidal wave and the most advanced cities are gone, too. Furthermore, advanced space research equipment might not be manned – the poor guys down there have more serious problems than waiting for our return.“
„Keep trying… maybe they can send up a space shuttle from the secondary launch site in Lagran.“
„But… don’t they only use older models there… for training? Those are not compatible with our ship's docks and airlocks!“
„Then somebody think of something fast… we have all the latest data about space travel here, right? But in three months we won’t have any food left here, even if we cut the daily meals. We can purify water for another year, air even for a longer period, but food will be a problem in a few weeks. You‘d better start working on a solution and send down to them whatever data or ideas you can think up.“


1834 years later

The astronaut walked around and lit some spots with his flashlight.
„Major, take a look at that! The scriptures are in Older Zantoc… and over there…“
„I see it. Fifth Generation scriptures I’d say. The skeletons look exactly like ours, very good. We’ll need DNA checks to know more. But this thing in the cargo bay still puzzles me…we’ll have to wait until we find a way to hack into the ship’s computer systems. The old man’s gonna be very pleased.“ The Major smiled. „Alright, guys! We need some thermal shielding around this thing and bring it down to Lagran.“ He looked up with a serious expression on his face. „Lieutenant, you'd better be prepared…“
„For what, sir?“
The Major pointed out of the window. „For a completely new age of space exploration!“

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2008, 7:55 pm 
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Joined: May 26th, 2008, 12:53 am
Posts: 283
Location: SoCal
Very nice 42317! Well, nicely written anyway. Is it a celebration of nihilism or a testament to survivability?

Well, from Sci-Fi to fantasy (yeah, I have been known to be a bit of a D&D nerd).

= = = = = = = (Note: Crow loosely based on the Crow or Raven of Native American Mythology) = = = = =

The Crow cocked its head and gazed down at the war room map. “This war drags on too long. After two years of constant battle, Anathamate Rex still urges its relentless horde against our forces. Even though I have added the strength of my warrior’s spears to your army, at best, we have achieved a stalemate, for with each ally you recruit, he recruits a similar number.”

The knight-god, Brianson, shifted his weight and even in the dim flicker of the pre-dawn fires, his armor gleamed. “So we must recruit more forces. Evil must not prevail. What other choice do we have?”

The Crow blinked once. “The cost in dead is too great and will only increase. Such slaughter bores me and only feeds my children at the cost of our warrior’s lives and their tribes futures. I cannot continue to support your cause much longer.”

Brianson started with rage, “You cannot abandon the cause! This fiend will slaughter everyone tomorrow if he is not stopped today!”

Unruffled, the Crow merely replied, “Then I will stop him today.”

The other gods and their generals stirred uneasily. The elven general spoke gently, “So you have a plan, Crow?”

“I do.” Crow replied. “And while I am confident of my success, not all will be pleased with my methods.” The Crow cocked its head and fixed an eye on the Knight. “Do we seek glory? Do we seek victory? Or do we seek the elimination of the devil?”

Brianson sighed and his shoulders slumped. The gleam of his armor dimmed. “The devil claims the fates conceded that he would never lose a battle or its life, no matter the price. I fear it is true.” He gazed up at the Crow. “If you can eliminate the devil as a threat, I would support you.”

The Crow, shifted its head and its eyes swept the room. “I can and will. But you must all swear now to support me unquestionably and not interfere, no matter how dire the situation may appear.”

Brianson frowned. “I trust your wit, Crow, but your word has never been your bond. How can I put my unbreakable oath upon your flighty nature.”

Crow cawed in a laugh. “Of course, my dear knight. On occasion, my nature has led me to lose interest in my oaths, but I never abandon them completely.” The Crow grew still and its feathers began to rise. “However, today, I swear an oath of oaths: Today, I will be lawful and must honor all of my oaths while the sun shines and until the moon rises. Should I receive your support, I will end this war today for the benefit of the greater good and with the smallest price that I can achieve. Should I fail or should I break an oath, may my entire existence be undone. May all of the gods of the moon hold judgment over what may occur today. “

The room held its breath. There was no turning back, nor another obvious solution. Brianson surveyed the room and held each members’ eyes for a moment. Brianson ended his survey on the Crow and rose to his full height. “I swear to support you Crow. ”

A moment later, all had sworn and a lowly asp, previous hidden in the shadows outside the window, fled into the darkness. The Crow, catching the motion, cocked its head and its coal-black eyes glittered in mischief.

- - -

A few minutes later, the asp slid down the steep cliff into a camp of a different sort. Instead of grim faced warriors resting in preparation for a day of hard fighting, this camp featured the contented grunts of those eager for the slaughter and the flow of blood. The snake slithered unnoticed through the camp towards the raging bonfire in its center. There it found the Coyote curled up and listening to the battle plans of the devil and its lieutenants. The Coyote spied the asp and bent its head to listen to the hissing whisper. A moment later, the Coyote leapt to its feet, laughing and raced to the devil. “I bring news! Victory will be ours today- m’lord, allow me to help you plan…”

- - -

As the sun prepared to climb into the sky the warriors from both sides already began their maneuvers on the steep, rocky hillside in preparation for the conflict somewhere on the broad slope. Since the archers had run out of ammunition weeks ago, the combatants took their time in selecting the locations that might provide the best footing. The Crow took the guise of a huge bronze-skinned warrior with flowing jet black hair and readied its spear, axe and shield. Brianson approached on his war steed and gazed into the Crow’s glittering eyes.

“Crow, I have put my faith in you. We will all follow you into battle.”

“Thank you Lord Brianson, let us hope that our foes underestimate my greatest weapon.”

Brianson looked over the Crow. “Would that be your spear or your axe?”

The Crow laughed. “My wit!” he replied. Then, with a war cry, the Crow began its charge down the hill towards the horde. The Crow charged into the flailing masses and quickly cut its way through to the devil. They both leapt onto a large boulder and began assailing each other. The Crow used its spear to seek a weak spot in the fiend’s iron armor while using its quickness and its shield to dodge the great bloody flail the devil swung in deadly circles.

As neither side gained ground, the Crow shouted “Don’t you tire of this contest devil?”

The devil cackled and hissed its reply, “Of course not you gutless wretch, I savor the carnage, relish each scream of pain and live to feel your pathetic lives extinguished beneath my boots!”

The Crow crashed against the devil with its shield and momentarily trapped the flail. The Crow looked deep into the devil’s eyes. “This battle has become one of dull repetition, even your lust for blood must have slacked some. Why don’t we end it today. Either you will become victor and feast upon our misery or we will vanquish you and spare many lives. Or are you uncertain of your skill?”

“I do not lose!” The devil shouted as it flexed its power through its shield and flung the Crow to the ground. As its flail whipped, it cut through the air with a horrific whistle and smashed into the boulder just as the Crow flipped to the side. The stone crushed and the two combatants scrambled to find their footing as they joined the rubble in a slide down the slope that crushed a squad of howling wolfmen.

The Crow flipped lightly though the bouncing rocks and perched momentarily upon the devil’s shield. “Then let’s settle it today! I offer a bet. Your power against mine. Each of us names a demand that must be fulfilled upon achieving victory or for suffering defeat. Our condition upon the rise of the moon will determine the victor.”

The Crow flipped off of the shield as the devil rolled over and sprung to its feet bringing the flail sweeping across the air. The demon’s flaming eye sockets narrowed and smoldered. “Our oaths must be binding, we alternate oaths and I go first.”

The Crow hesitated and cocked its head. “I smell the Coyote in this, but I accept your conditions. I swear by the souls of my people and the power of all the gods that stand against you that the results of our true battle today will determine whose demands will be fulfilled. Our demands must not contradict or counteract each others, and you must swear the same.”

The devil’s grin split its horrible face in what could easily be mistaken for a leer. “I swear by all of my tormented souls and the power of all unholy gods that fuel my power that today’s battle will determine whose demands will be fulfilled. I hereby declare my first demand: When I win, you and your fellow gods will abandon this battlefield and yield all of these lands to my horde for 1,000 years.” The devil whipped its flail at the Crow who grunted as he deflected the blow with its shield. Above the chaos and cacophony of the battle only the gods could hear the exchange between the two challengers, but the gods trembled at the price.

“Agreed," replied the Crow, "however, here is my first demand: when you fail to win, your next battle will be against your own nature and, in if not in heart, in word and deed you will seek the path of truth and light as my acolyte for 1,000 years!”

The devil’s eyes widened in shock and it stood motionless. Then a cackle of laughter split the silence and the devil howled in victory. “You fool, the fates themselves have guaranteed my victory! However, should I have misjudged your trickery, let me name my final demand: Should I lose in battle today, all gods except myself will be banished from this dimension for 10,000 years!”

Shrieks of victory rose from the gods backing the horde matched only by the wails and cries of fury from the Crow’s allies- “Crow, what have you done!?”

The Crow slid warily beyond the flail’s range. “Very clever devil. The price of my victory now greatly exceeds the price of defeat. But remember, we swore on the results of our true battle. If you fail to try to defeat me, you break your oath.”

The devil’s eyes narrowed and it prepared to attack.

The Crow continued grimly. “For my final demand, should I fail to win, all injured on both sides will be healed and our people will be allowed to flee this land in safety as it falls into the hands of your horde.”

The devil’s eyes flashed and the grinding of its teeth unsettled all within earshot. “You seek to deny me the pleasure of my victory even as it becomes assured. Yet I will have my price, your demand only seeks the freedom of your people. I will wreck your body and spend the next 1,000 years destroying your soul!” The devil sprang into the air changing into its demon form, its iron armor shattering and becoming a multitude of deadly shards that rained down upon the battlefield. Huge grey leathery wings unfurled and the devil swooped toward the Crow with talons bared, fangs dripping, flail spinning and a barbed tail slashing out. The Crow, stabbed by numerous shards also sprang into the air and unfurled jet black feathered wings. He abandoned its shield in favor of wielding both the axe and the spear at the same time.

The fury of their battle dominated. Their wings blew gale winds that flung soldiers from both sides screaming into the air and back towards their camps. While many soldiers escaped death, not all escaped landing in the camp fires. The god’s blows shattered stone, cracked the earth and deafened the witnesses. While the devil pressed its attack, he saw nothing but the Crow, struggling to defend itself, spinning and wheeling across the battlefield. The devil could not see that the Crow, while striking bloody blow after bloody blow, always seemed to have one eye on the battlefield instead of both eyes upon its attacker. The devil never noticed that as their personal combat raged, they always seem to smash towards the ground through the horde in places where the horde seemed ready to make progress. The devil remained unaware in its fury that their battle smashed through the ranks of its own horde disrupting its advance.

Dawn crashed into day and day bled into dusk, yet their struggle raged on. Across the plain of battle, the armies scattered back to their camps, partially to regroup and rest, but mostly to escape destruction from the devil’s battle against the Crow. As the stars began to appear, the Crow and devil discarded their weapons, that had been blunted and smashed against each other. The Crow assumed bird form with razor talons and a deadly beak and smashed into the devil. Their blood rained upon the earth below, yet neither yielded. Claw against claw, beak against maw, their wings beating and flailing madly against the air as the world stilled in anticipation of the moon’s rising.

Suddenly, the tip of the silver disc peeked over the horizon and the combatants fell to the dirt. The Crow assumed the shape of a large but otherwise normal crow and perched, breathing heavily on the horns of a shattered helm. The devil, on all fours, strained to rise from the earth, but could not. “Does this mean that I have lost the battle Crow? Why can’t I move?”

The Crow cocked its head and fixed its eye on the devil. “You have not lost your battle. Your fate is immutable. However, you have not won. Your oath is already coming to realization.”

The devil’s head snapped up in bewilderment. “My oath? You are still here, so I have not lost. But I cannot feast on your bones as a victor.” The devil roared in rage and frustration “What trick is this?!”

The Crow switched eyes on the devil, then calmly replied. “We battled to a draw. You neither lost nor won, so your demands cannot apply. You failed to win, so you must become my acolyte. I failed to win, so the living on both sides are healed and we will withdraw to give your horde this land without suffering more casualties. Your armies will think you have won, for we will be gone.”

The devil, trembling, assumed the form of a large, scarred half-orc. “How did you trick me? I cannot lose. Even a battle of wits is a battle…”

The Crow gently perched on the Half-orc’s shoulder. “You listened to the Coyote and accepted its advice. That made the battle of wits between the Coyote and myself, not you.” It whispered. “Now, come. We have refugees to assist.” The devil glared. The Crow cawed in laughter. And all of the stunned soldiers began their long journeys back home…

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 3:41 pm 
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Not bad, choosing one's words with caution, eh? :D
Gods versus Devil is a bit high-level for my taste, but in the end it makes sense.
And the Devil is neuter? That's new... I think most authors consider him male. I don't mind your idea, but with all the description I cannot help but imagine a male form of being.
Last but not least I am wondering what Coyote told his commander. I expected the Devil would exploit the Crow's oath of being lawful in some distorted kinda way. Maybe I'm just too tired to realize the obvious...

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 4:13 pm 
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42317 wrote:
Not bad, choosing one's words with caution, eh? :D
Gods versus Devil is a bit high-level for my taste, but in the end it makes sense.


I probably drew too much influence from teaching my kids AD&D recently, so the would have been gods on both sides. The Crow/Raven and Coyote were not necessarily diametric opposites in true American Indian mythology (I'm not that knowlegeable on the topic, but I get the sense they had less a sense of good and evil and more of a nature is big, powerful and just does shit you have to deal with type of mentality). I cut out parts about the devil recruiting the bloodthirsty central american indian pantheon, etc. It is really a battle in which gods have chosen sides and now battle for supremacy with lower beings suffering the brunt. As a creator of life, I project the Crow being opposed to such things.

42317 wrote:
And the Devil is neuter? That's new... I think most authors consider him male. I don't mind your idea, but with all the description I cannot help but imagine a male form of being.


In this case, it is less of "THE devil" and more of "a devil." Originally, I had used the word demon, but I planned this as the opening legend for a Dungeons and Dragons style campaign and wanted to keep the terminology somewhat consistent. In AD&D, devils are lawful and demons are chaotic and less likely to honor an oath. The oath is the most important part for the campaign aspect. Also, like you, I originally used masculine pronouns for the devil. Then I thought of Bloodfairy and my own daughters. Instead of changing the god or devil to a female and deal with the baggage that would entail, I thought it would be more appropriate to make them beyond the concept of male or female and unfettered by those urges or distractions. It will probably amuse you to know I had to do find/replace three times over the course of writing the story to get the pronouns consistent...

42317 wrote:
Last but not least I am wondering what Coyote told his commander. I expected the Devil would exploit the Crow's oath of being lawful in some distorted kinda way. Maybe I'm just too tired to realize the obvious...

Some things will just have to be left to your imagination, although, when you get more rest, you'll probably realize the Coyote proposed the alternating terms and probably an outline of the demands. Devil starts with bad things to build false sense of devestation, then ups the ante with second set of terms even worse- another form of torment in which devils delight. Of course the Coyote didn't propse being exiled for 10,000 years, but he doesn't expect to lose either. The real trap is in boolean thinking. The Coyote and devil only thought in terms of winning and losing. The Crow, much wiser, knew there was a big difference between "losing" or "winning" and "failing to win" (or lose). The Crow expected the devil to submit terms that would be equivalent to victory for both winning or losing and trapped the Devil in symantics and by battling to a draw. The Crow new that victory was impossible (guaranteed by fates), but used its divine powers not to lose. Thus good does not triumph over evil- it endures and exists in spite of it. Yeah, too high-level. Should be perfect for warping the little minds of my kids. Bwahahahaha! :twisted:

Anyway, I must confess that I've been meaning to write for years and this is the first time I've ever finished something. I'm not really gunning for a prize, I'm just thrilled to accomplish one of my goals within the third decade after setting it. :sigh: So pathetic. I'm not young enough to be so inefficient.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 7:03 pm 
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Here is my VERY OLD stuff (2 years old, or so). Too big for a single message, so I'll better split it in parts, even if they're consecutive.
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Again was he with a lump in his throat, with the same old flower bunch (maybe the one he had in his last attempt, two weeks ago?) grabbed firmly in his right hand.
Yeah, it would be tough. Tough is always to have a crush on that particular girl who is "most popular" and has those words written in her very forehead. Nevertheless, our boy seems to be not that unsure.
She lived 30 minutes away on foot. That time was enough (even though it wasn't the other times) to bring order into his mind so that he wouldn't flee all of a sudden. In this case, he was in a sort of standby modus while walking, trying to overcome his fears by ignoring them, thinking of something else, his feet dragged by Newton's laws, practically. An object which has a continuous speed will always keep it. A scream, dimly hearable came on his way. Maybe some car burning too much rubber, he thought.


Again was she going to break down. Her little nap was disturbed by the strange image of her bleeding. Some cruel hands would slap her, beat her, strangle her at last, and a second before she dies, our girl wakes up in a pool of sweat. It wasn't the first time that these dreams appeared. They had come on random days, during her naps or during her night sleeps. But why would she worry? Her beloved was a WASP, from the richest lineage. Those people were exactly the contrary of barbarism. And besides, the most important thing: she didn't love her. That was all that mattered. And the worst thing is that she couldn't blame her. Therefore, she decided to be sincere. She went out of her house and left little José in the devious hands of some old-fashioned TV show.

Again came the belt. Wham, wham. The steel buckle hit her lips and they started to bleed. She hadn't imagined that kind of reaction of her loving father... or perhaps... She knew such news would fall like a bomb in her family. But she couldn't help telling them. They had always told her not to hide any problem she had.
Wham, wham. This time the buckle hit her collarbone. She screamed in pain when the subjection part of the buckle pierced her bone. Yet she didn't cry. For some reason, she began to think she was seeing her promptly. That perspective made her smile... the gruesome yelling of her loving father couldn't be heard anymore... She, her presence, resounding and delicate at the same time. She, her tanned skin and her cherry lips and that single ounce of fat she had that made her deliciously chubby. Her heart beat even more quickly when she remembered that.


For some reason, she had a strange feeling about the trip. The bus was so slow. Slow. Too slow! She should arrive, say that to her and then return to save little José and herself or the sure reprimands they would receive. But the bus speed was just 55 miles an hour, too slow to correspond for her heart beat.
In an impulse, she suddenly stood up of her bus seat and ran away of it. She'd walk to her destiny. She realized 20 minutes on foot were left... Fortunately, it was as simple as going eastwards until the facaded house was visible.


Our boy saw the car. He managed to ignore the cruel smell of burnt rubber and decided to continue. The car was broken down, its owner raging against the machine. His steps guided him to the Bellevue, an appropiate name to the preppy quarter of the city. The skyscraper guided his way, almost directly to the north was the desired house. He had learned it in his previous journeys for her grial. If his calculations were correct, it'd be circa 20 minutes to his goal. Yet these calculations made him think. He couldn't think too deeply of anything if he didn't want to run away as a fledging coward.


Her mother did want something of her loving father. "It'll be like 20 minutes, maybe more". Her sparkling eyes could leave him clear what she wanted of him. It couldn't be clear for their daughter, who couldn't see them, only hear them yet. She remained there, bound to the wall through steel shackles, her wrists additionaly trapped by a pair of handcuffs. She should have never felt so ashamed. But she didn't. Not for a single moment did she lose her fortitude.


She arrived at the house, her legs quaking. And then she saw another person in front of it.

He arrived at the house, his legs trembling, his hand with the bunch insecure. He noticed another person arriving to the house.

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Last edited by Bloodfairy on December 29th, 2008, 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 7:08 pm 
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His eyes met her eyes, gazing each other for what seemed an eternity. During that devious scrutiny, she examined his very presence, his slim complexion, with an angular face, and a determined gaze which revealed his intention. The flower bunch was the definite proof she needed. Her hands closed into fists, and he noticed danger. His feminine intuition always appeared when he was almost going to get in trouble... and in this case it didn't matter that he was male.
She managed to control herself. Her fists were relaxed, her open and kinder palms were again visible. In his mind appeared a possibility which could explain that outburst.


What a coincidence. Two people meeting in the same destiny. She shrug her shoulders.
Indeed. He nodded.
The question appeared: what brought him to the house?
He noticed her dry tone disguised in the polite form. He thought of lying, but he saw no point in it. Therefore he told the truth. But first he introduced himself: he was Robert, and if he wasn't wrong, she should be Gladys. He knew her by sight, due to going to the same school than her.... and the girl he liked.


And what brought her into the house?

She yelled that name right then. Cruellest of voices, stern and empty, the voice of a damned soul with no better destiny than shouting it! Sour voice, a pagan believer summoning the name of her goddess! Voice quaking through her teeth of ivory biting leather! Hands and feet shaking against her shackles! Gladys, Gladys, Gladys!

Their heads shaked, their noses pointing to the place of the deed.
What the heck?
No moment of doubt. She started to climb into the house, and he offered his help. Once that was done, she tried to open the entrance door for him. But she couldn't open it. He rushed and looked for a window.


Gladys! Her loving father began to rush to her side. What would he bring to finish her, she didn't care. She only could feel the heartbeat, the ever-nearing presence of her.


No doubt had Robert in punching off the window. The crystal pieces wounded his hand, and he yelled. The ceiling trembled.


Gladys! she cried again.

Was he OK?
He wasn't. But there was no time for that.


Gladys managed to get inside, into the kitchen. She helped Robert before exploring further.

Gladys!

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 7:15 pm 
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The living room was next to the kitchen. The leather sofas and couches, the luxurious minimalistic tables and chairs were dimly noticed by them, who rushed to the stairs next to the room.

It could only be her, freeing that poor soul from her crude destiny. That was her conclusion after hearing the window break, the footsteps closer and closer. She would have broken into her dungeon and would be trying to release her from her chains. She shouted even more hoarsely, shook with more strength, trying to guide her beloved.

The alarm began to sound. From the stairs appeared a huge man, in his hands a baseball bat. Mask of despair and disgust! He began shouting and tried to attack Robert, who miraculously dodged the bat. No more miracles would happen, so he looked for a possible exit. The kitchen! A possible defense! He ran to the door, chased by the man. Indeed another miracle occured, and he was able to shut the door before the bat landed on him.

Gladys!

Another shadow entered where she was. This one had a female appearance, but was exactly as fierce, unhuman and crude as the other. She faced Gladys, who could only dominate her through unconsciousness. Punch, punch, punch: punches which put calli on her knuckles and her soul. The alarm didn't cease to sound. She didn't stop to shout.
But what to do?
She ran upstairs.


Gladys!

Finally, he was able to grab a knife. Only then did he let the huge man go through the door. Hand steady!
Clec.


Whatever that sound was, it meant the end of all of the noises. Gladys decided not to pay attention to it, not until she was free. Her moans were clearly audible, and among with the sound of the alarm and the fear Gladys had they sounded like the moans of a wolf.
Finally, she came. And what she saw cut her breath inmediately.
No words could describe what she saw in her beloved. Maybe one, but it was too soft: agony. The girl in front of her was agonizing, tied like a ghost to its damnation. Her eyes got wide open once she saw who was in.


Gladys! Like a prayer it sounded.

No more noises were heard aside of the alarm. Gladys rushed herself, trying to find the keys to release her from her ties. The room was obscure and devious, with many black objects, the non-transparent crystal windows bathing her and hr beloved with a fearful light, masks whose eyeholes pointed exactly to where she was, no matter where she went. She felt like a barbarian conqueror entering in the greatest den of decadency in the conquered empire.No keys, nothing but despair awaited her in the furniture of the room where they were. Her open eyes inflicted pain to Gladys, fully unable to find anything. The key of the shackles would be they key to devy that accusing, awaiting gaze which was printed in her blue suffering eyes
NOTHING! She started punching the wall, desperate. And yet she took a resolution...
Footsteps! Again the mother! She armed herself with a whip she found.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 7:18 pm 
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-What the heck... WHAM! Much of one's chin skin was ripped off. It was a man who entered, wearing a police uniform.

A bullet got shot from the cop's gun. It almost took away Gladys' right earlobe with its pendant and impacted on one of the unnaturally dark walls. She dropped the whip inmediately.
-What the heck are you doin'?- The cop pointed her with his gun, yet when he saw the scene, he sighed strongly.- Ok, no worries. Go there -pointing to the wall- , hands up where i can see them.
She obeyed inmediately, and his register revealed no more than a wallet. He looked for her ID.
-I'll ask you a couple of things, Gladys Santa Anna... do you live here?
She denied with her head.
- What were you doing here, with a whip in your hand?... - His gaze suddenly realized about the other girl's presence. The girl had apparently lost consciousness - Oh holy crap! Did you do this to her? Did you tie her up like this??
NEVER! She felt had to shout it.


-Ok, Ok, don't worry. - He digged in his pockets, looking for a lockpick. - Seems I need a hairpin to open this. Could you give me one of yours?- His eyes were directed to her hair.
She handed one of her hairpins to the cop.
-Thank you. By the way, I bet you know about those guys lying dead on the floor...

Dead? How come...?

-Well, don't look at me like that. I haven't killed them. There is a woman there too. She doesn't seem dead, but she's unconscious. Well, you, this girl and the other lady shall clear up this mess. - The cop forced the lock of the knuckles, which almost instantly yielded to the hairpin. - I don't know why they give us lockpicks... This thing is incredible. Can I keep it?
As an answer, she removed all of her hairpins with a rapid movement of her hand, and handed them to the cop.
-Well... thanks, I guess. - He winked an eye.

The policeman released all of her shackles and the gag in her mouth, and she awoke from unconsciousness in that precise moment.
She opened her eyes, and once they pointed Gladys, she never devied them from her. Heavenly vision! She stretched her arm looking for her touch. It could be a dream, so she wanted to feel her beloved before dying, sleeping or being driven to wherever God might take her.


The policeman started to understand: that thirst, clearly visible in the girl's eyes when she saw Gladys, could only mean something.
-I guess you should clear some things between each other. - He nuzzled ironically. He directed his steps to the door.

There she began. She started to cry on Gladys's shoulder... while crying out all the pain.

- I discovered it... a while ago... -she couldn't stop sobbing- they were involved.... there... in something horrible...
The cop stopped while hearing that. Gladys, however, made him a sign, defying him to stay. The policeman nodded and continued. He softly closed the door after him.
- They got alarmed... when they got those poeple in that pedophilia case... you know, that one... some months ago.
Gladys nodded. She started to kiss her hair to calm her down.
- They tried to hide it... but they were nervous... I... I didn't know why... And then... I saw this album. It was... horrible, my dear. There were kidddos... three, four, eight years old... all naked... There was even a poor eight-month!!! It was covered with... - There was no way Gladys could prevent her from crying. Her words equalled her tears.-


Gladys kissed her tears away, drinking the salty precious scent. She sank her head in Gladys' neckline and started crying against her breasts.
- Forgive me, Gladys... I love you... I can't help it... I can't talk... if you're so nice to me... I can't help it... I promise I didn't want to.... but I love you... please...
Whatever. Whatever to erase her pain.
She started kissing the little depression between Gladys' breastbone and neck. Her tongue even ventured going.
It was enough for her. Not now.
- Please... this may be our last time... I don't know where I'll go... My relatives live far away... and they'll send me with themmm...
She denied with her head. Later.


Many sirens started to sound: ambulances, police reinforcements. Besides, two Chevys appeared from nowhere else.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2008, 7:24 pm 
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She kept cried against Gladys' breasts.
- They discovered that... I love you... and it seemed to... turn on something in their heads... I don't really know... and then they reduced me to this... THIS!!!


She lost consciousness then. Gladys understood she was too tired, and dragged her onto the bed of the room, covering her in spite of her desires.
She went down and saw the whole lower part crowded. The cop was going through the stairs.
-How is she?
Unconscious. Gladys trembled while uttering that word.

-I see. Let's let her be for now. Did she say something you would tell to us?
Gladys started to reveal the confessions that her beloved one did tell her. The cop made some grimaces in some of the crudest parts. Gladys felt much better when the deeds were told.


-Hm. I think this will be interesting... We suspected about more people in that pedophilia thingy... it's possible that the lady there- he pointed to the unconscious mother, who was being carried to an ambulance car- will... enlighten us.

Then there appeared two families. Each one rushed out of the cars out there.
-What's been of my Rob? What's been of him?
- ¿¿Gladys, Gladycita dónde estás?? "Gladys, little Gladys, where are you??"
She rushed there where Robert was, but the cop stopped her.
- You'll tell the rest later. Now go meet your parents. They're out, worried for you. - He drove her softly out, with one handpalm set on her back directing her to the entrance door.

There was nothing that could stop the cries of Rob's family when they saw him dead, nor the cries of Gladys' one when they saw her leaving the house rapidly, completely safe.

She wanted to see Rob's relatives some minutes later. The hatred boiling in the eyes all of them prevented her from doing that. Gladys concluded that their thought was that she was responsible for his death.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 30th, 2008, 2:47 pm 
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Is that the end Bloodfairy? Untill you post more, I'll assume so.

Wow. Wicked (in both it's literal and it's "cool" slang sense) set-up for the characters. I liked how they revealed who they were from their thoughts and their actions. I can't decide if I love your sparse style or if you need to do more development. On the one hand it leaves a lot to the imagination, but on the other hand it may leave too much to the imagination and leave too many holes in the narrative. In either case, it reads almost as a script for a manga or a rough screenplay (future plans? :D ), but even then, it is obvious we are jumping right into the middle of the story so it leaves us readers scrambling to figure out who we should identify with, what their motives might be and what types of sympathies we need to feel for the characters. It does make me want to know more about the characters and their lives before and after the events you portray. The different colors really help, but it took me half a page to catch on... :doh:

I really enjoy how different each story is!

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 30th, 2008, 7:22 pm 
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The story is finished.

In fact, I had used no colors in my first draft... but since php provides easy ways of differentiating texts (you know it well :P) I thought it would be a good way to use it. This was an experiment for me on avoiding dialogues in stories.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 31st, 2008, 4:39 am 
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Bloodfairy wrote:
The story is finished.

In fact, I had used no colors in my first draft... but since php provides easy ways of differentiating texts (you know it well :P) I thought it would be a good way to use it. This was an experiment for me on avoiding dialogues in stories.


So. Do you think your experiment worked? I thought it was interesting, but I'm not convinced yet (regarding style).

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 31st, 2008, 8:05 am 
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PunkDaddy wrote:
Bloodfairy wrote:
The story is finished.

In fact, I had used no colors in my first draft... but since php provides easy ways of differentiating texts (you know it well :P) I thought it would be a good way to use it. This was an experiment for me on avoiding dialogues in stories.


So. Do you think your experiment worked? I thought it was interesting, but I'm not convinced yet (regarding style).

No, it didn't. I think the idea is not good for a short story with more than one prot, since the reader can't get used to the perspective of one character before switching to another one. The color trick is pure patchwork.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: December 31st, 2008, 11:12 am 
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I read the three short stories.

42317's was brilliant, I liked the idea of twisted fate. And thought the provocative dialogues gave it a very realistic feeling. :D
42317, have you watched "Planetes" yet?

Punk Daddy's was very well thought out. I really like stories where wit plays a major role. I'm not too familiar with the Raven of Native American Mythology but I was able to grasp quickly the idea of these gods. The outcome made me smile. :lol2:

Bloodfairy's was very unique. A very interesting style and perspective. I also liked how you used colors to differentiate characters (at first I thought "maybe the colors will make us feel the story is shorter than it is" -it seemed a little long, 6 pages on word) hehe.

Well, really nice job on the stories :clap: You guys should write more and post it here from time to time.

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 Post subject: Re: 11th Contest: Best Short Story (Open)
PostPosted: January 1st, 2009, 4:29 pm 
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Bloodfairy, you're a sick girl. :lol:

Forgive me for saying so, I was only a little distracted by the applied topics, like freshly out of the yellow press: tragic love, homosexuality, sadism, pedophilia, domestic violence, and all that among the better-off. I'm not saying that any of theses were bad topics, but all of them besetting the reader at once is like a desperate cry for attention: "Go on reading! Sexual tension inside!"

I really like the style, it has an impressionist touch, it's very interesting to read. The border between dialogue and description is blurred, at least at times, and gender references are mixed up in an intelligent way, teasing one's brain. Leaving things open was also a good thing. I dunno what "clec" means, but I was surprised to learn that Robert was dead in the end - he probably finished off the father and got flattened by the cop a second later... just a guess.

I like it, really I do. Imho, the story's flaw lies in the densitiy of hot topics, but it has traces of genius and is very much worth the time.

PunkDaddy wrote:
42317 (...) Is it a celebration of nihilism or a testament to survivability?

Interesting point of view. "Cycling" is part of my "Dawning Universe" project, and it was actually written to express my rejection of religion as a basis to explain the world and the universe just because the scientific means to understand natural phenomena have not yet been found.

I admit I was inspired by Asimov's "Nightfall", a story about a planet in a system with several suns where only every few thousand years a nightfall occurs - subsequently people go mad, and in an attempt to create light they burn everything, very much destroying their civilization. Asimov also has a cultist appearing, but has a rather psychological and scientific approach, describing a bunch of academics who have barred themselves in an observatory in the attempt to gather data for those who (mentally) survive the night, like young children, the blind, or whoever appeared strong enough.

Asimov presents a plausible cause for the nightfalls: There is a second planet in the system that blocks the light of one or several suns after some millenia. I, on the other hand, plainly wish to say that whatever happened was either mere coincidence or human (i.e. Zaurac) failure, and not the meddling of some devine influence.

wolfwood wrote:
42317's was brilliant, I liked the idea of twisted fate. And thought the provocative dialogues gave it a very realistic feeling.

"Brilliant"? :D
I am honored, thank you very much.
With regard to the talented drawers on this message board I remembered a conversation that I had with my father a little while ago. He started painting pictures a year or two ago (because after two heart attacks he can't do any hard work anymore), which have become known in local art circles and now he's selling them for 100-200 Euros a piece. I enjoy writing a lot, and with proper inspiration I can write a piece in eight hours or so, but other than a painter's work, nobody's gonna step up to me and offer 150 bucks, no matter how good it is. I think I'd rather be a talented painter... :lol:

wolfwood wrote:
42317, have you watched "Planetes" yet?

Well, yes, I have. Why do you ask?

wolfwood wrote:
I really like stories where wit plays a major role.

I agree. People say I was good with words, but twisted wordplay (in alliance with Boolean Algebra) doesn't come easy to me. I'm also not very good with riddles of that kind, like
"You have no say about it, and yet it sticks to you and has power over you."
Spoiler
It's your name.

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