Friday, 9 December 2011

In which I exploit my students for my own nefarious ends.

Using bribes and blandishments, I bludgeoned the children under my care into creating a second entry. After all, alliteration is educational, and enjoyable. Broaching the topic with a bout of brainstorming, the tiny tykes took to it with great gusto - displaying the Double Dead dust-cover roused roars of approval (graphically you’re good in the 8 - 9 group). The little fella’s had fun, and found that they could ignore irritation enough so that illustrators (such as girls and others of that icky ilk) were worth working with without worry. Wendig Education: Easing the educators load with lively lessons.

There’s only so much Christmas stuff you can do at this time of year, and we’ve pretty much hit the limit, so why not alliteration I thought.

My unruly horde of demons third graders have a wide range of ability: one kid when doing his information report about Cheetahs wrote something along the lines of “A cheetah is graceful and flexible, like a girl doing yoga” (he’s going to be a lady-killer when he’s older, he already has an impish smile) right down to kids who will maybe sharpen their pencil three times and write their name down before it’s time to stop and listen to a story instead. Since we’re in Vietnam, we also have a range of English ability, but not so bad as other years... no clutching their crotch and grunting (well, sometimes they do but that’s just when they’re being surly, they have the ability to string a sentence together asking permission to go to the toilet). They liked the assignment well enough, especially when they were allowed to form their own groups, but loved the chance of winning great glory for me, in the form of the book. That caused a reshuffling of the groups so they weren’t just formed on friendships, but more on ability (with plenty of helping of the ones that were struggling by the sharper ones, and the best kid at drawing in both class roving round and giving pointers)... so pretty much a win-win situation, education-wise.

The boy thinks that bats have bones. Good, alliteration and paying attention in our unit on vertebrates
Bees like banana and butter. I’m glad I got a completed work sample from this kid, it is a bit of a rarity.
Black bears are bad. The crown says I am the queen of angry
My brother has a big blue balloon

Cao Hung is hunting the hippo

A triumvirate of Cao Hung dancing hip-hop in his house. I guess he is celebrating his successful slaughter of the hippo

Two people digging for dead dinosaur bones

My Dad and Mr. David (that's me!) like to kill dragons
I dreamed about dragons in my dark bedroom

The duck is drinking durian juice. Yuck. I can eat pretty much any animal presented to me, but durian I find pretty rugged.
Eleven elephants learn English
Linh loves to lick little lollipops... so much she did it quite a few times.
The lion ate a lollipop and lizard.
Mr. Mark is eating mangoes on his trip to the mountain
Mum made a moon cake. Due to drawing style, mum is a bit of a MILF too.
Oops! There is an octopus in the Arctic Ocean
The owl is staying on the ox... this kid arrived late both days we were doing alliteration, so she only had a hazy grasp of the concept, but she got there in the end.
People are watching the penguin finish playing the piano
Pink Panther is playing with the purple pig
Thanh Tung is playing with his teddy bear

The Viking is playing the violin. I said I wanted at least three occurrences of the letter, but this kid came up with his entry off his own bat, in a group of one, and once again, I'm glad to get something from them.
Three zombie/zebra/Zhao Hung combinations, with the zombies heavily influenced by Plants V’s Zombies which is huge with my kids (as is Walking Dead, but that is way too scary for me).

And because there’s always someone who doesn’t listen to the instructions, a vampire entry. But he did at least listen to the bit about the book: Double Dead is coming to our world. I showed them the cover like I said, and they loved it, and wanted to know what it was about “I don’t know much about it yet, but I might soon if you win it for me. All I know is there is a vampire who has to fight zombies for who gets to eat the people.”

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Scenes from a Stellar Skirmish

Well, the less said about Nano the better. November is a rough month for free time, what with it being prime wedding season here. That doesn’t mean my book is dead and buried, it just means it’ll take longer.

Alliteration, that’s the challenge for this week. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be just the title, or the whole shebang, so I figured it was safer to go with lots of alliteration. I’ve always been a fan of epic poems, which often tend to have quite a bit of alliteration in them. They’re writing in hard mode, as they’re often translations, so it can be tricky to stay true to the idea being expressed and find the right word to represent it.

I decided to go with space for my short story - a titchy wee one, as there’s quite a bit of alliteration going on. I’m neither Virgil nor a skald, and they tended to limit themselves to three repetitive sounds on a line, mixing it up with normal words too.

And since it’s space a space theme, I might as well throw in a nice picture, which has a special place in my heart. In Star Control 2, this is the main image we’re presented of the race of aliens called the Spathi. One of their pilots is called Snelopy, a name I liked so much I added an extra l to and took it as my own.

<Picture lifted from they pinched it from Star Control II. He is supposed to animate, but he's not doing so at the moment, and I'm running out of time to fiddle with it>

Scenes from a Stellar Skirmish

As always, the attackers approached from Andromeda. Sweeping silently through space, shields set, the squadron started to intercept. Descending on the dreadnoughts, determined to dispatch them... Flying in formation, fighters at the fore, with the frigates following - the foe failed to flee. Commands were cried out, combat codes cleared: crews at the ready.

We waited, weighing up the odds for our exact time to engage the enemy. My units mission: maneuver in amongst their ships, seeking to snare one before it was blasted to bits. Force fields fell to phaser cannons and concussion charges.

Time! Twenty troops touched down, hacking into the hull, hewing hunks off. Gaining egress, guns up, eyes guarded, we blasted bulkheads until they buckled. Klaxons clanged, interspersed with the chittering and clicking that made up their speech.

Finally, we faced our foes in the foredeck, vulcan cannons and the vacuum giving them vacant eyes, tentacles twitching as they twisted round the levers and lights that comprised their control panel. Proud of our prize, we hauled it into our hold and headed home, hyperdrive humming.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Its November, so I should be writing. I've started, but its time for a distraction... To the good old days of There and Lost Again.

That's out the front of Thunder Bluff

Right, back to writing!

Monday, 10 October 2011


I started this one here, but didn't finish it. To recap: Based off this picture, write something. 

Now that this one is finished, I can move onto the next one. Progress, and baby steps towards getting in the habit of completing things.


"Same again, thanks sweetheart" I say, waggling my empty coffee cup at the dame in the waitress uniform. She sighed, and came back with a fresh cup of joe. I'd had two already, and a third would mean no sleep for a week, but when you're on a stakeout, you gotta look the part. I slurped off a mouthful and then surreptitiously turfed the rest out in the potted plant. With a generous pour from my hip flask, I refilled the cup with the good stuff... just enough to counteract the caffeine high. In this line of work, you need steady hands. It's not so bad, being a private dick. Sure the hours are longer than back when I was on the force, but I'm my own boss. I don't have to answer to no-one no more.

I notice a twitch at the curtain to the room the mark is in, and like a shot I'm engrossed in the funny pages... head down, just a regular schmoe having a break. This dive of a flop-house is more up market than his usual haunts, so business must be on the up and up. I am sure the boys in blue would be interested in that, but they’d just scare off the big fish. In the reflection of the glass, I see him heading out the door, so I throw down a five spot to keep the waitress sweet on me tomorrow and hoof it after him. I've got a knack at being a subtle tail, after the time I put in down in the Bronx, but a New Orleans Jazz band could be banging and blaring away for all the care he's paying. Can't say as I blame him, as its bucketing down and the wind is making sure that your birthday suit gets soaked.

Down to the wharf, and into a little hole-in-the-wall bar... not his usual stomping ground, so maybe he is working tonight after all. I give the area the once over then head on in. I order a beer and a bourbon, and hunker down at a table with my back to him, but close enough so I can hear what he's saying, and fish out my deck of cards and get all engrossed in a game of solitaire. Our chum is getting nowhere fast with the skirt behind the bar, and I think the evening may be a complete washout. Then bold as brass, in waltzes one of Harvey's boys. So I'm back to earning my keep, as even if these hours ain't billable to my current client knowing what Harvey is up to is always bankable.

Next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I'm warmly greeted by the dame in the diner. I take a stool where I can see the hotel out the front window, and order the blue plate special. I think I'm gonna haveta linger over coffee yet again, but once more there's the twitch to the curtain, so I shovel the last of the eggs and hash into my gob, and wolf it down. Telling her to keep the change, I'm out the door and after him like a flea on a dog. After last night's conversation, I definitely don't want to lose him so I stay as close as I can, doing my best not to be too conspicuous dodging the puddles. We go by Shanks' Pony over towards Brooklyn and in my head I'm already counting the notes, crinkling that filthy lucre in my fingers and trying to decide if I should pay my overdue rent or splurge.

He darts down an alley furtive all of a sudden, and I worried I’ve blown it. I turn my collar up and keep on walking, only glancing out the corner of my eye. Its not as bad as I thought, he’s just taking a leak on some trashcans. And there was me, thinking I was losing my edge! I lean against a nearby bus stop sign and get busy fixing a smoke. Before long our fine upstanding pillar of the community heads on out, doing up his fly.

We head east, and I for one am getting sick of all this leg work, but there ain’t nothing I can do but grin and bear it. Finally we get to the joint he’s interested in, and I walk on by. I come back a few minutes later and give some scratch to a couple of winos loitering nearby to get the lowdown on the building. The coherent bits of our conversation stink of Harvey all over, so I make myself scarce as he’ll have eyes all over the place.

Sooner than I thought I see him schleping past again so I down my drink and shadow him, all discreet. I figure I can knock off early today, as all he did is buy some hooch and head back to his two-bit flea-pit motel. Back in the office I start going through some paperwork with a few fingers of scotch as lubrication, when who comes knocking but O’Casey. Still drunk as a skunk since they took his badge off him. A damn shame about that kid, There but for the grace o God and all that jazz. I give him some simple shoe leather stuff outa sympathy, but I make sure it ain’t nothing that needs subtlety.

Later still the door bangs open, I holler we’re closed, but it’s the client I’m working for. I wasn’t expecting to see him for a while. Says he’s come to an arrangement and my services are no longer required. I start to protest but he wordlessly dumps a pile of cash on my desk, much more than what I would have racked up even with padding my expense account. It seems fishy to me, but who am I to argue with a big pile of dough? I bow to the logic that the customer is always right, and wave him out as I begin to count it. I only said I wouldn’t report to him, not that I’d lay off my lead. Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Blue Lagoon

This flash fiction piece was based off Chuck Wendig’s Cocktail prompt. I only got a wee way into it and then it fell through the cracks. It was set way back in April. I wasn’t planning on making it a thousand words, but shorter. I think it might be just a vignette (which at first I thought isn’t so bad) but I remembered a book that I bought that was just vignettes and how shitted off with it I was... nothing happened, nothing went anywhere. Rereading the prompt he says don’t just do a vignette, and we only had 500 words after all. So back under the hood I go (I write the intro after I finish the story. Back in a sec)... OK Done. All better now. No longer an icky vignette. 

As I was saying, the idea was to name your story after a cocktail and give the recipe afterwards. This prompt was set ages ago, so why am I dredging this old one up now? Exhibit A please, last line:

(From the inestimable Mr. Wendig, go buy his shit)

Nano is coming. I want to enter. Last year I didn’t finish, and this year I will. So I have to get in the habit of finishing. So I’m having a go at a lot of little quick writing things (which I also intend to continue with through November and beyond, as they're only little) so I get in the habit of finishing stuff, and giving it the once over rather than just chucking it up there. And I also intend to finish the shit I already started before nano. Sure, there’s still more planning I’d like to do, but I’ve got a good amount so far so I won’t just be pantsing all the way.

Blue Lagoon

Days here felt endless, but that’s not a bad thing when life is so pleasant. It did mean they tended to run together and get a bit sameish, but that was OK. Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing was our of their mind Zeke thought. How could you complain to waking up to the gentle susurration of waves lapping the sands? That never got old.

Relaxation, peace, bliss.

Zeke stretched, looking around his house. Sure, it was small, but it was a prime piece of beachfront property. He ambled outside and was greeted by the first rays of the morning sun, glinting on the breakers on the reef that protected his cove. He wandered down to the high tide mark, looking for anything new or interesting that had washed up during the night. Meandering past the occasional strand of seaweed he kept his eyes peeled but there was nothing extraordinary - there never was.

To cheer himself up, Zeke decided to go for his morning swim, and daintily dipped a toe into the water. The slight chill to it was pleasantly refreshing and he revelled in the feel of it. Always he was amazed at the varieties of colourful little fish that swam about. Sometimes they were together in a school, then they would suddenly spread out haphazardly, like a rainbow’s reflection in a mirror shattered by a hammer.

Later in the day after a nap, Zeke headed to his favourite rocky promontory, to fish. It was rare that he would catch one, but he didn’t care. To him it was more a time of introspection and thought somewhere out of the direct rays of the sun.

Sighing contentedly, watching the moon rise amidst twinkling stars Zeke the hermit crab drifted off to sleep next to his favourite rock pool.
I named it after a Blue Lagoon, but it could just as easily be a Blue Hawaii. They look immensely similar, and taste nearly the same. The lagoon has something carbonated making it lighter on the palate, and the Hawaii has coconut milk making it creamier, but the main point is they both have vodka and blue curacao. The last is the most important ingredient in my mind, because if you drink enough it turns your tongue blue, and your shit lawn green in the morning. So when you wake up hungover and look in the mirror and the can, you think you’re dying - until you remember what you were drinking.

Recipe for Blue Lagoon
Recipe for a Blue Hawaiian (and the picture is also lifted from here)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Who is a hero?

Jeff brought this topic up one day at after work beers, fishing around for who people would say. Some famous names were thrown in the ring, as well as some personal ones (a grandfather in the first world war, for example). I can’t remember what I suggested at the time, but I’m going with an unsung and under-appreciated hero: The Henchmen.

Heroes: The Henchmen

Sure, the “hero” of the story is important, but you can’t be the chosen one without a challenge. Admittedly, hordes of incompetent and faceless minions rarely seem to pose a threat, but like you and me, henchmen are just doing a thankless task, trying to make ends meet.

I’m not talking here about anyone who has a speaking part... unless its along the lines of “Two more tankards of ale, wench!” I mean the ones who may not even be named - in the book or the closing credits of the movie. This guy is no Jackie Chan, he’s played by the extra, in many different guises:

Ruffian with a mustache. Guard holding a pike. Soldier responding to the alarm by running down the hallway. Sentry at the main gate. Patron in the bar in the duke’s livery so your lovable rogue can steal the keys. Faceless grunt who takes an arrow to the chest as you storm the castle.

That guy. All those guys. They’re not the face of evil, they’re just bulking up the enemy numbers, being part of the body count. You could probably get by with only hiring three different guys and giving them a selection of false noses and different coloured helmets and you’re done. Their time in the story is short, but it speaks to all of us... Our work day week isn’t demonic, its more of a ground-down-grey. We’re not black-hearted, we’re just doing our thing, as ordered. Nuremburg all over again, but with our hopes and dreams going to the gas chamber.

But if we identify with these fellows - who don’t even get a second paragraph - why don’t we mind that they come to such a gristly end? I’ll tell you. Just like we see ourselves in them, we see our colleagues too. That guard who gets stabbed while the hero is escaping the dungeon? Jones in accounting. The one who cops the frying pan swung by the plucky kid sister? Obviously it’s Sue under all that chainmail. The Henchman is you. The Henchman is me. Henchmen are the true Everyman. Not the chosen one. Not a prince whose true lineage is kept hidden. Not an orphan who spent years training is secrecy with some wizened old master. Who can identify with that? Henchmen reflect our struggles, our humanity. In every skull shaped fortress, through miles of endless corridors, doing pointless and degrading drudge work, Henchmen hold the true mirror up to ourselves. We don’t like what we see and that makes their job even more thankless.

When there’s someone to be silently garroted then stripped so their livery can be humourosly worn by someone three sizes larger... Henchmen are there.

If there’s a fist to be clenched in salute before stamping off to hours of guard duty in front of a barred portcullis... Henchmen are there.

Should a messenger be needed to tell the dread lord that the princess has been rescued... Henchmen are there (at least until the decapitation scene which shows the inhumanity of said dread lord).

A lax watch needed to be kept so that shackles can be slipped... Henchmen are there.

Henchmen are the true heroes. The pay is lousy, they often die horribly, and they get no respect. But still, they do their job. Next time some joker in a furred loincloth with a dirty great sword makes a rampart out of underlings, spare a thought for their families. Not so heroic on the part of the main character, is it?

Picture shamelessly pinched from Shoeboxblog

Thursday, 29 September 2011

First times, second attempt

I already did one entry for Jeff's First Time one, but there was an obvious second story that needed telling.

First times

Ahhh Paris, the city of love. Or is that Amsterdam, with its Red-light district? I spent some time in Paris and there was this girl I liked. The price seemed a bit steep, but it was my first time and I wanted to try it. It was good, but over so quickly. If I am honest, that was my first time, but it doesn’t really count, does it?

Like any young adult, I was curious. I tried it a lot on my own, but it wasn’t very fulfilling that way. It’s not the same if you do it by yourself, so I don’t really classify all those fumbling attempts as my first time.

Occasionally I tried it in a group... the booze flowing, everyone laughing and reaching, hands all slimy. That too was fun, but it still didn’t seem right. Everyone else was having a great time, but something still seemed wrong to me.

The first time I did it properly was only recently. The setting made all the difference. We’d gone up-market, the furnishing were much better than usual, and the light was subdued yet flattering. My wife and I were impatient for it to begin... looking across as each other giggling and laughing.

Slowly, we shed outer layers. My wife proffering hers to my waiting mouth. I took it in - savoring it - rolling it over my tongue. I returned the favour, sporting an impish smile. She pulled back playfully but then looked at me in horror... “Yuck! That isn’t how you do do it Silly! That part of it is dirty, it is full of of shit! Disgusting! Throw that away, this is how you eat ốc!”

So finally, after many years I finally ate ốc  the way it is meant to be. It tastes much better now that I know you don’t get every little bit out and stick it in your gob. A good three quarters of it is grit, shell and fecal matter that is crunchily unpleasant. And there I was thinking I didn’t have a very refined palate and I was missing something.

OK ốc is a generic catch-all term for most shellfish, and a bunch of them I had eaten long before coming to Vietnam. And the snails in France were different again. But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

First Times

This has been sitting around for a while, needing a last couple of sentences and a once-over to check for editing. Jeff said about doing a first time story, and two ideas leapt out at me. This was the first, my first day of teaching. Especially since Amazing Superpowers did such a great cartoon of it (which I also redid, for one of their competitions... my version is after the story).


 Nature. The Great Outdoors. The countryside. I’m so not a fan. Nature is just a euphemism for being amongst hordes of biting and stinging insects with no electricity. The Great Outdoors aren’t. Sure, I like building a sandcastle at the beach, but that’s the extent of it. And as for the countryside, I like towns and cities. Chickens should be frozen or deep fried, not covered in feathers and clucking. So it seemed to be counter-intuitive when I applied to the Northern Territory for work. But not really, as if I had tried getting a teaching job back in Canberra or near where I’d gone to Uni, I’d be unlikely to get anything permanent, and I was too lazy for the extra effort that is incorporated into relief teaching - plus I wanted a steady income. Besides, my parents had met in a small town in the NT, so how bad could it be?

It turns out it can be pretty bad. It didn’t take long for me to be offered a job via email. I tried looking it up on a halfway decent map... no dice. I had to write back for some more information so I could locate it. It turned out the school they were suggesting for my first teaching gig was a one teacher, multi-age and class school in the middle of the Simpson desert. I’d be the teacher, principal, and do all the paperwork, in a small, dry (as in no alcohol!) aboriginal community. I know taking that would be setting myself up for failure, and knocked them back, knowing that would put my name on the bottom of the list of applicants. Bummer.

Luckily though, the list of applicants was humourously short, and within a fortnight, I was offered another job, this time in a town called Borroloola. At least I’d heard of this town before, and the school and the town sounded OK. A lot of our friends got phone calls for job interviews while playing Quake, and the same happened to me, an auspicious sign so I thought. In hindsight though, when we were in our rooms we were either playing Quake or asleep, so I guess it wasn’t that surprising really. The interview with the principal went well, and I accepted the position he offered me at the end.

I had a farewell to civilisation party with all my mates, and headed up north. I met the other teachers at the local pub, and told them I was into reading, computer games and a bit about myself. Little did I know they opened a book on how long I’d stay, with the longest bet being a week (I showed them, by sticking it out for three years).

The first day of my first teaching job, I handed out what I thought was a quite reasonable test to my 4/5 class, to gauge their ability, starting out with half a butterfly and the instruction to finish the picture by completing the other side along the axis of symmetry. A few hands shot up, and I was getting ready to answer the question “What does symmetry mean?” Instead the kid asked me how to spell his name. He wasn’t the only one. I sighed, and collected the tests, reeling back my expectations. Instead, I picked a picture book at random and started to read. It was called Toby, and was about a dog, a golden retriever. Page one: This is Toby, my dog. Page two: Toby died yesterday. It continued on, a sad paean singing the praises of a little boy’s pet. I think I was in tears by page 5.

As a first time, it wasn’t great. But really, isn’t that what you want? For something to suck badly at the beginning, so each day is an improvement... no sense peaking too early.

 I did a hidden comic for this one (like many of the ASP ones, done lightly in blue) but they didn't post it when I got a commendation, so I guess it didn't make the grade.

Friday, 16 September 2011


Friday again, and another micro flash fiction. Use 3 of the 5 seed words: enzyme, ivy, bishop, blister, lollipop and do it in 100 words. I picked ivy, enzyme and blister. 100 on the dot.


To: Lab07
From: Backer3
Initial tests of batch 208-P show promise. Proceed to stage 4.

To: Backer3
From: Lab07
Acknowledged. Resulting enzymes in 208-P have been cross-pollinated then introduced to a selection of plants... ivy, rhododendrons, gladioli and holly. Awaiting further results.

To: Lab07
From: Backer3
The administration is getting antsy - it looks like funding could be rescinded any moment. Speed it up, skip animals... go straight to human trials. Repeat, begin human trials immediately.

To: Backer3
From: HandlerCrew
Problem has been liquidated. Minimal injuries our end. A few cases of slight blistering after contact. Handler Crew standing down.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Flash Fiction: Bloodfeud

The entry for this week is just a wee little tacker, only meant to be 100 words at most on the topic of revenge. I'll shut up now so the into can be shorter than my entry.

Like a pack of inhuman monsters they had attacked us, howling for blood and death. Terrible to behold, and without pity. They had driven families from ancestral homes and put them to the torch, slain elderly and those who could not protect themselves. A blight ravaging the countryside. A stand had to be made. 

I waited, late one night, reduced to skulking in the shadows. After closing time in the tavern I approached a wine-sotted reveller. “The Count sends his blessings to you and your village!” I whispered as I sunk my fangs into his neck.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Swords and Cybery

This week's Terribleminds entry was to combine two genres in a story. I chose sword and sorcery and cyberpunk.

Swords and Cybery

Grelt the technomancer disconnected the electrodes from his staff, retracting them back into his tearducts with a grimace. “We must hurry, for the minions of Parity Decay will be here soon.” Shouldering their gear once again, the pair of them set off up the steep scarp. It had been months since they had been this way, yet the path was familiar. Soon, signs of the enclave became noticeable, and they picked up speed, impatient to be home.

The Temple of Dajin was crowded. Expectant faces looking for a sign of hope. Grelt and Dreen passed amongst them giving the occasional nod in acknowledgement. For a moment, Dreen stopped and swept her son into her arms. Sspinning him around and making him smile she put him on the ground andcontinued to the interface of the satellite link that surmounted the altar. After lighting a censer of incense and scanning her sub-dermal RFID chip, she opened a heavily encrypted channel to the orbital in the Lagrange point where the Avatar of Dajin dwelt.

Blessed by His presence, Grelt began. “It is as we feared. The Shigamorori Conglomerate will soon come to an understanding with Parity Decay.” A groan went up from the listeners, but he waved them to silence. “There is still hope. We may be able to prevent their union, if we act quickly. We have also heard that our allies - the dwarven clan Silverstrike, devout followers of Dajin... Blessed be He... have seen a great improvement in the skills of their craftsmen. They inform us that soon they will be able to create the weapon spoken of in the prophesy: the Rune-etched monfilament blade! Spread the word, my friends, that soon the lands will be free!”

Crouched under a camouflage net, Dreen clutched at the amulet of far seeing, and scanned the road. Through the heat haze, she could make out the vanguard of the skeleton horde, the bulk of Parity Decay’s forces. After some tense moments waiting, they had advanced enough that the armoured palanquin which bore the offerings for Shigamoroiri Corporation came into sight. Dreen spoke into her throat mic “Grelt, do you read me? It is go time, I repeat, it is go time!” In his summoning cirlce within the temple, Grelt completed his ceremony by sprinkling powdered capacitors and nanite statues of Daijin’s Avatar onto a smoking brazier.

Appearing low on the horizon, an emerald beam shot out, stirring the clouds into into fearsome shapes above the skeletons. With a roar, Daijin manifested in the aspect of a circuit dragon, and fell upon the forces of Parity Decay. Being mindless, they did not flee in fear, but their counterattack was useless - railguns and explosives could not punch through the scaly hide of the God, and the spells of their mages were paltry compared to the glory of Daijin.He quickly seized the palanquin betwixt his teeth, and ground it to pieces. With a swipe of his forepaws he decimated the skeletons, before dematerializing, and returning to his Orbital. Their attack successful, Dreen shifted form into that of an eagle, and flew back to her friends, hope stirring in her heart once again.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Bazaar of Bokhara

I was planning on doing a bunch of writing these holidays, but so far I've been sidetracked but in a good way ;) I started on Chuck Wendig's Unicorn one last week, but didn't get it done. The one for this week is about shopping at a flea market. After rendering down the unfinished Unicorn one, I worked it into: The Bazaar of Bokhara. So it's sort of shoe-horned into a two for one combo deal, weighing in at 888 words.

Ulf Magnusen sighed with contentment when he finally caught a glimpse of the tents and awnings of the Bazaar of Bohkara. Tucking his russet beard into his belt, he drew his ermine fringed robe about him, contemptuous of the sweltering heat. Muttering in Old Eldritch, he thumped his gnarled staff of the cobblestones and threw some blue feathers into the air, spitting on them. A hazy figure coalesced in front of him, unnoticeable to an untrained eye. Bowing subserviently, it slowly led Ulf towards the marketplace.

The mage wended his way amidst the bedazzling throng, ignoring the raucous calls of hawkers and merchants. His nebulous guide hovered attentively, waiting for its master when the crowd separated them momentarily. They came to an ornately plumed tent, and the being dissipated in a puff of sweet smelling smoke.

The wizard Magnusen was unimpressed by the spaciousness of the tent's interior, nor by its eye-catching stock. Glancing about quickly he smiled to himself. Surely, if any could locate such a beast, Abdul Ibn Wazik would be the one. Upon his entry, a wizened and bent servant gave him a brief nod, and shuffled into to the one of the many rooms branching out from the entry hall. After a short period, an impassive man in a bright green turban entered, accompanied by another who was ostentatiously moustachioed and berringed. The latter bowed, and began speaking. It was an unintelligible mishmash of growls and vowels to Ulf - the incomprehension was obvious on his face. The man ceased speaking, and waited. Annoyed, Ulf reached into his pouch and brought out his babelstone. Although its powers were on the wane until the next neap tide, it should be able to handle the pleasantries.

The stranger stroked his moustache, then began again. “A thousand blessings upon you, O Traveller, and welcome to the humble stall of Abdul Ibn Wazik. My master wishes me to regretfully inform you he has pressing business in Damascus. But I, Akheem, his unworthy servant am authorised to act upon his behalf. If you will but return on the morrow, then I am sure we can come to a most felicitous agreement.” With a curt nod the wizard left wordlessly, smiling to himself. It had been a long journey from the fjords of his homeland but he was willing to wait another day for such a treasure.

Ulf’s good mod left him while he was trying to organise a room. With a flare of ochre light from his babelstone, the harsh and guttural local language once again abraded his ears. Communication became impossible but money speaks all languages. He was offered a less appealing room and simpler fare than was his wont, but he made do after summoning a succubus to take his mind away from such suffering.

The following day he returned to the bazaar, which was just as chaotic. Ulf paced a complex route that formed an intricate rune amongst the stalls, before arriving at the tent. The old bearded servant met him outside, and in Old Eldritch reminded him once again that infidels were not permitted to speak words of power within, on pain of permanently losing their sanity. Dispassionately, Ulf waited to be ushered inside.

Once again the man with flowing moustaches was waiting. When Ulf did not produce the babelstone, Akheem went to a wicker basket and withdrew a snake from within. The serpent coiled around his arm, and he dulled the iridescent scales with charcoal, barking short phrases in southern Magetongue. Its form shimmered, and changed into that of a Naga.

Looking around the tent lazily, the being licked its lips, and had an extended conversation with Akheem. Finally, it turned its attention to the wizard Magnusen and explained it would act as translator. Knowing Naga to be treacherous, Ulf went into great detail about the beast he sought, so as there could be no confusion. Echoing various phrases, the Naga nodded and smiled. “Noble, yesss,” “Virginsss, offf courssse,” “Rare, defffinitely,” “Yesss, pure, and ssserve the righteousss.”  When he had exhaustively described the creature, the conversation turned to price, but there was little room for haggling. On the finely woven rug, the wizard Magnusen completed the rune that he had walked that morning, and reached through the thus-completed portal. He handed over a fragment of unmelting ice from the heart of a glacier, the scrolls of Trin and a rope woven from the beard of a frost giant. The Naga smiled and informed him that what he sought would be provided to him in three days.

At the allotted time, Ulf impatiently returned to the stall of Abdul Ibn Wazik. The old servant invited him in Old Eldritch to take his comfort on a mound of cushions. Leaning his staff against a table covered in books, Ulf picked idly at sweetmeats until Akheem and the Naga came into the room with an effeminate, prancing dandy. The Naga watched the newcomer intently as he looked at the wares on display with mounting horror. With a bow towards his guest, Akheem snatched a jewel encrusted dagger from his belt, and lunged at the stranger’s waist. His hand’s came away bloody and the stranger began shrieking uncontrollably, writing on the floor. “Compliments of Abdul Ibn Wazik, one Eunuch’s Horn,” the Naga said with a sneer.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Steampunk Superheroes

Friday has rolled around again, that meant it's time to offer up my entry for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction. This week, we had to pick two of:

Men’s Adventure.
And write something. Nice! But it meant that my usual slacking off of reading other people's entries at work can't be done, as I don't want to have something NSFW on-screen when a kid asks me how to stop spelling banananana.

I chose Steampunk and Superheroes - and depending on how you like your superheroes, possibly farce, too. If you like them all broody and deep, with hidden layers and tortured souls, then you ain't getting that. If, instead, you love the Adam West Batman Show (be warned that link is to TV Tropes) then this is for you.

“Good evening, all of ye meritorious members of the Mechanascience Association! As I take the podium for tonight’s meeting, to espouse to you the progress of my latest predilection - a flight of fancy based upon the works of that most eminent scientist, Mr. Charles Darwin.” With a flourish, The Technomancer gestured to Sprockette to draw aside the curtain. Sketching a chaste curtsey she did so, and he reveled in the startled gasps and the smattering of applause before continuing. “I humbly present to you: Monkey Wench! An estimable fusion of biology and technology she will no doubt be instrumental in our efforts to thwart those rapscallions in The Clockwerk Alliance!

as always the presentation was followed a more informal gathering in the smoking room. Feet up on an ottoman, The Technomancer puffed contentedly at his cigar. He listened with half an ear to Monkey Wench eloquently holding forth to an interested knot of listeners, including some of the Mechanascience Association’s inner coterie. The peace was short lived though. With a clattering bang, the door was thrown back and a breathless street urchin came in. “Parden me, sirs an’ ladies, but yer needed down at the wharfs! It’s them Coalstack Boyz!”

“They’re causin’ all sorts o’ trouble!” Instantly, the room sprang to attention, focusing on the impressive bulk of The Steamhammer, waiting for his lead. “Righto my lads and lasses, Forge and Foundry Division will field this one. Let’s see,” he rumbled, glancing about. “I’ll take The Wind-Up Kid with me, Mr. Lectric, and I would be honoured if you would grace us with your presence, ma’am” he finished, winking at Monkey Wench who blushed furiously. Pausing to throw a ha’penny to the boy, The Steamhammer led his team out of the building.

Slowly, the team spread out, but kept within hearing distance of each other. Regrettably, this meant they could all listen to The Wind-Up Kid complain. “The Coalstack Boyz! What a waste of time for all four of us! Why, I could take ‘em on me own! Come on, they don’t even have a catch-phrase, and barely have a costume! Not one in three has a cape!” He was right of course, The Coalstack Boyz were the lowest level in that insidious amalgam - The Clockwerk Alliance. Little more than henchmen and hired goons, The Coalstack Boyz ran the minor rackets and did all the grunt work... they had to prove themselves before being initiated into the higher levels of Evil. Our brave and plucky heroes come upon them, pilfering goods from one of the loading bays.

Shouted Mr. Lectric, striking an inspiring pose. “For the might of the Mechanascience Association is here to foil your foul deeds!” The incorrigible bounders that made up The Coalstack Boyz threw their ill-gotten cargo at Mr. Lectric’s head, and sprinted for the shadows. As luck would have it, most of the boxes were too heavy to make the distance, yet he still spectacularly dodged to the side to avoid them. The Steamhammer closed in on the miscreants and was about to come down on them hard, as only he could...

thick, ropey tendrils shot out of the blackness, and lashed round his bulky figure, holding him immobile. A sonorous clanking echoed repeatedly from the darkness, and the mechanical legs of Spinning Jenny appeared. Cackling manically to herself, she started to wind him in towards her massive mandibles.

Monkey Wench leapt into action with a lady-like (albeit slightly feral) grunt. Bringing her fore-paws to bear with their massive Stilsons, she attacked one of Spinning Jenny’s joints. With a
of rending metal, the leg dangled uselessly. Shrieking the spider-thing turned from her attack on The Steamhammer, and focused her attentions on Monkey Wench instead. Things looked grim indeed for our heroine, until her allies returned from routing The Coalstack Boyz. Mr. Lectric charged in, with shocking effectiveness. Battered and beaten into submission, Spinning Jenny ejected from her carapace of brass fulcrums and whirring cogs, and made off over the rooftops.

retired to the hallowed halls of the Mechanascience Association, where Monkey Wench was lauded for her fine showing on her first outing. Yet all is not well in our fine city. While the Clockwerk Alliance was stymied on this outing, they still imperil us all... Deep in her underground lair, Spinning Jenny raises the speaking tube to her mouth, and whispers throatily into it “Dr. Phlogiston? I will require your services once more...” In the darkness a whistle sounds and massive governor balls begin to spin once again with malicious intent...

Tune in next week for the next thrilling installment of: