[POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge


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Which of the following stories was your favorite?

Poll ended at April 24, 2016, 10:31:25 PM

A Day at the Museum
0
No votes
Unearthed
2
22%
The Last Flicker of the Sun
3
33%
Consensus Reality
1
11%
All We Can Do
0
No votes
Heist
3
33%
 
Total votes : 9
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Post April 17, 2016, 10:31:25 PM

[POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

(The poll above is unofficial. Lester has done a phenomenal job of keeping out trolls and spam for a while now, so I thought I'd see if we can get a poll to work without anyone messing with it. If so, we can use that for future challenges. For this challenge, the "official" voting form is in a message immediately following this one.)



To vote, rate these stories on the form in the post following this one and send it to me via PM:


The challenge was to tell a story set in a Museum of Earth, 300 years after the Sun mysteriously disappeared.



The following entries were received:


A Day at the Museum



Melvian said, “This is the first intact museum–the word they used–that we have discovered on any alien planet. And may I draw your attention to this two wheeled vehicle.

“Our translators have determined that it was called a Harley Davidson, and many of our archeologists are convinced that it was used for transportation, but also it seemed to belong to a religious sect or clan. Groups of these machines would move together, and the humans often wore totems on their back identifying them as to what sect or clan they belonged to. We also have identified other two wheeled vehicle, but they never mixed with the Harley Davidson machine.

“Now we have this Wesley. As you can see like all human he was extremely ugly, and our historian believe even by human standard he was extremely ugly! This Westley stopped existing when in orbit about this planet, and our historians have given us the possible reason: His ugliness when cramped together in a small pod, drove the other humans insane, and they stopped him from being, or killed him as the word was known in their language. Unlike us, when part of them stopped being, the whole also stopped being. They didn’t have the ability to regenerate from one of their cells into a new whole being. I know it’s hard to imagine not being anymore, but humans had that trait! Once this Wesley stopped being, he was gone forever.

“We never figured out why some of their females show themselves more than others! Observe this picture call Mona Lisa. It appears completely covered by material not grown out of her. Now this picture on the cover of this Play Boy. It is her true outer layering! She does not cover herself with materials from the planet. Yet, they both are females according to our historians that are specializing in this museum. It is baffling to us why?” Melvian said.


“Melvian what are those images over there?” Curator said. “Are they leaders?”


“Do you mean those statues as the humans call them?” Melvian said.

“Yes, I believe that is the right word according to the guide book,” Curator said.

“They were leaders,” Melvian said. “We are intensely studying them for they are the ones that directed many cultures and religious sects on this world that was known as Earth. Unlike us, they needed a central figure to guide them, tell them how to live and think. Most humans obeyed their orders--- a few didn’t and many just went along with the wishes of the leaders without challenge.

“Like I said, we are studying them, and the more we study them the more we become convinced that they were innate followers. Even their highly intelligent humans often fell under this trait, and that is one reason our historians are stumped. We don’t understand their minds, we don’t understand their emotions and we don’t understand their cultures or religions.

“Some of their leaders are put there by their fathers and families. For centuries in some areas of this Earth, clans or families have ruled uninhibited. But we have discovered that people have been given the right to select their leaders in certain areas.”

“Who was that man with the hair under his air-intake organ always with this one arm raised up,”
Curator said.

“Why, we believe that he was this Adolf Hitster or something similar to that sound. We believe that he had a medical problem and his arm would fly upward as a nerve twitch. According to all reports many other around him had the same nerve problems! Sometime their arm would fly up in unison. However this clan or sect didn’t appear long on Earth.”

“And what about that statue over there?” Curator said.

“It’s name was Trump,” Melvian said. “Notice that his fur on the top moves often. It tried to become leader but this female called a Hillary stopped him. It was a big fight but this Hillary won! Yet, when she beat him, she took him in and made him as assistant! We are perplexed over that one!” Melvian said.

“This place is a nothing! There’s nothing interesting in here! Where’s the monsters? Where’s the great stuff? What are you trying to con us with? I want my money back! You hear me!” Curator said.

“Yeah, I want my money back too!” Alternats said. Others in the group also demanded their many back!

The members of the tour group rushed Melvian who quickly disappeared behind a curtain.

When some of the group managed to get behind the curtain, they saw Melvian and his partner racing away on the Harley Davidson as they looked out the back door.
As Melvian sped down a road, his partner yelled, “We got us a whole lot of money! Man do we have the money now. We can slip down south and set up another con. By the way, how did you come up with this one?” Sultonet Melvian partner said.

“When I first found this place, a sign grabbed my interest. I studied it for a week. I finally translated it and it was a name, P.T.Barnum. Then when I managed to translate something he said, it all came together for me,” Melvian said.

“What did he say?” Sultonet said.

“A Sucker is Born Every Minute.”


The End


_____


Unearthed



"The line is so long!" – "Didn't you know the Emperor is visiting today?" – "Mummy, I want to snack on something." – "Hurry up, this isn't a ride."

"Actually, it is a ride of sorts," mumbles Penny as she marches by the entire queue. After all, Earth Museum is on a rock which is supposedly propelled along on what was the Terran orbit.

Reaching the entrance, she extends her pale arm with the wrist-comp attached. A pastel-white hand grips it and runs the scanner over it.
"The purpose of your visit?" the guard asks, his slit pupils narrowing. He's also nametagged "Dave".

Penny frowns. "My special journalist's pass not obvious enough?"

Dave simply stares down at her. Even for a vampiric race, he's cold.

Penny shifts her eyes to the floor. "Root beer. Can't get enough of it."

"Fair enough. Just don't get too close to the Emperor. He probably doesn't appreciate your so-called conspiracy theories. But don't worry, I find your articles quite entertaining."



The queue for root beer snakes around the corner. Great. Penny glances at her wrist-comp: graphs constantly orange if not red. At least she's getting anomalous background radiation readings, whatever they mean.

She strides through the "Beauty" section—rolling her eyes at those reflective grooming planes, masking powders and fake ocular lens—and straight to "Technology". She laughs at the bulky holo-projectors.

//…to your left is Mr. Mini-Fusion, a domestic generator manufactured just prior to…//

Penny scoffs. What kind of idiot race installs fusion units in their residencies?

//…Emperor is arriving at Airlock Three. Those who wish to…//

Patrons rush off. Penny's lips curl. She sidles over to a heap of junk, a Terran artificial satellite. She taps her wrist-comp for a wireless connection to the thing. The download begins…

//…this navigational satellite was used by Terran miners throughout their star system. It is hypothesized that the mysterious disappearance of their sun and planets 300 years ago was due to over-mining…//

Penny huffs. As if over-mining can cause that. She turns to see Dave heading towards her. Satisfied with the download progress, she shuffles away. She can use a root beer but time to interview the Emperor first.



Penny slips through the crowd and, in an unthreatening manner, holds out her wrist-comp to the Emperor, his retinue trailing closely. She sees Dave back off.

"Will you be discussing inter-planetary immigration policies at the conference later today? Perhaps adopt stricter controls?" asks Penny.

Without even a glance at her wrist-comp nor slowing down, the Emperor grins, baring his fangs. "My dear Penny, we have a duty to help others… at least when we're not sucking the life out of them."

The people chuckle.

Penny's wrist-comp beeps. They stop walking. She glances at the data displayed and smirks. "According to Terran satellite telemetry, it appears that just prior to their sun and Terra 'mysteriously' disappearing, our fleet of cruisers were near the system. You were already Emperor then. Any comment on that?"

Gasps cascade around them.

The Emperor maintains his grin. "As much as I appreciate your investigative skills, I do have a schedule…"

And as the Emperor mutters something about forwarding her research to his experts, Penny feels very lightheaded.



Penny's eyes flash open, the words "Entertainment" high above her. She sits up. Alone. This is obviously the new extension, yet to open.

"Would you like a game of Twister?"

Penny whips her head around to see a uniform almost as ostentatious as the Emperor's retinue. His nametag: "Melvian."

Penny peers around him to see Dave obstructing the exit. She rises, rubbing the back of her neck and, looking around, sees a colorful dial and a pad with colored circular patches.

Penny frowns and points. "We're too flexible to be challenged by that."

Melvian shakes his head. "I'm the curator. I have doctorates in anthropology and history. Your race is hardly flexible. The Emperor eats everyone within the military's reach. And as you know, even when he acts 'charitably' with his current immigration stance, he only lets in those who threaten your way of life and then uses that as an excuse to launch more military campaigns."

Penny continues frowning.

Melvian smiles, holding up a wrist-comp. She looks down. It's hers. Well, not anymore.

Fascinated by the screen in the corner showing the Terran gladiatorial game called "Football" and a play known as "Blitz", Penny grits her teeth and bolts straight for the curator.

Just as Dave is about launch himself at her, blue pulses streak by his head. And hers. Penny's eyes bulge at the Emperor's guards with their assault rifles. "Aren't you with them?"



Penny, Dave and Melvian sprint out of "Entertainment", through "Law and Justice" and into the airlock docking section.

Penny glowers at the two who have trouble keeping up. But weapons fire is a great motivator.

"Sorry… just wanted your wrist-com… didn't think it'll come to this," utters Melvian. "What did you do exactly?"

"Emperor just doesn't like me." Rounding the corner, Penny notices the strain on their faces. "You two aren't—"

"Yeah, we're Terran," says Dave as another pulse sparks against the bulkhead. "Our ship is ahead."



Melvian sighs at the fast-shrinking Earth Museum. "We made use of our fusion-powered holo-projecting and cloaking technology to hide our solar system. Your Emperor never worked out what happened exactly."

He hands back the wrist-comp to Penny.

"But we had trouble cloaking the sun's emissions during the most intense part of its cycle," adds Dave, wiping powder off his face. "Someone started the museum and we played along, a way to monitor your race's interest and help maintain our cover."

"Now what?" asks Penny.

"Our colleagues will take care of the museum. This can be explained away," answers Melvian.

Penny squints. "I meant me!"

"Oh… umm… live on Earth. Saw those barred cells in the 'Justice' section?"

Penny nods.

"Feed on our criminals, do us a favor. We have plenty of root beer."

Penny tries not to grin but her fangs start to itch.


The End


_____


The Last Flicker of the Sun



I dreamt of returning to this place and even though I'm standing where it happened, it is a wistful remembrance, enveloping me in the human emotion of guilt. I can never shake it. This cold barren rock is a fitting analogy of my heart.

Melvian, the planet's curator that I built after the disaster, has been slipping in and out of sub space as visitors arrive to stand in the ruins of a once great people. I turned him off. I began drafting its schematics a few days before Wesley was murdered.

I am pensive as I stand feeling the melancholy wash over me. Three hundred years has not chased it away.

I remember standing...

...terrified...

(crying)...I still am.

*
"Welcome dignitaries, scientist and honored guest to the Space Telescopic Science Institute, who is hosting this demonstration provided by Tachyon Communication Industries, the leader in wormhole digital transference technology. My name is Dr. Daniel Sorenson, a professor of planetary science at the Global Space Institute of Technology."

I began to drift in thought, 'he was just too damn handsome to be a scientist. His chiseled frame, his dark blue eyes, I could get lost in there'. Oh.

"What we are going to observe on the planetary viewer, is the opening of a miniature wormhole, no larger in diameter than a dime. This will be performed by a team of engineers from Brussels. We have a video conference set up with them from here in California.

This will be the closest wormhole ever artificially created near the Sun. This wormhole will be used for communication and digital downloads virtually at the speed of light. Tachyons can easily zip out of its super compressed form with its maximum speed limit unchanged." Daniel spoke with ease to the audience.. He turned and gave me a glance.

"Angelina," Daniel spoke to me, while I was day dreaming. "Angelina..." he spoke again and I snapped out of it.

"Yes, I have the trajectory calculations Dr. Sorenson," I said this as my eyes wandered...aimlessly...checking him out. 'Don’t look at him there, don't look at him there, don't look at him...oh, I've gone and done it. Damn, I'm doing it again. Did he see me do that?

Embarrassed over my roving gaze, I inputted the calculations and sent the trajectory coordinates to the scientists in Brussels.

Moments later, we saw a swirling movement of particles enlarged on the screen to the sounds of surprise and amazement from the eyewitnesses to this breakthrough event.

Suddenly, the wormhole began to expand, faster than we could react. Space debris began to be pulled into the wormhole at an alarming speed.

"What is happening?” Dr. Sorenson shouted to the lead scientist in Brussels, utilizing a split screen on the viewer.

"The trajectory calculations you sent us were off!" Dr. Bellman, the authority in interstellar phenomenon shouted. "The miniature wormhole is being expanded at an expediential rate. The other end has opened up into a Quasi-stellar black hole in the center of the galaxy."

"What can we do to close this end of the wormhole?" Dr. Sorenson asked anxiously.

Dr. Bellman spoke, "It appears this wormhole has opened up inside a black hole with a gravitational pull 20,000 times stronger than the sun."

Physicist Dr. Gordon Arterton of the European Space Agency interrupted the two-way conversation stating that the gravitational pull of the super massive black hole is one million times more massive than the Sun.

As they spoke, the sun began to be pulled into the event horizon at a point too close to be saved.

Everyone watched as the sun tore apart, its matter ripping into fragments, bleeding towards the wormhole, which acted as a funnel for the massive black hole on the other side of the opening. The fusion within the sun created coronal mass ejections producing shock waves, sending gigantic solar flares towards the Earth, annihilating thousands of miles including people, animals and plant life.

I watch...too scared to realize what I had done.

In seconds, the sun was gone.

*

It took eight and a half minutes before the sun's final light in transit reached the Earth and then the sun just flickered out.

The humans put up a valiant fight for survival, building dome communities using geothermal heat for energy.

Photosynthesis halted immediately. Most plants died in a few weeks. Large trees, survived for several decades, thanks to slow metabolism and substantial sugar stores. But without sunlight, the oxygen generated by plant life ceased.

With the food chain's bottom tier knocked out, most animals died quickly, except for scavengers, which picked over the dead remains until the cold killed them.

Within one day, the average global surface temperature dropped below 0°F. In a week, it was –100°F.

The top layers of the ocean surfaces froze over, but the ice insulated the deep water below and prevented the oceans from freezing solid. The Earth became a mother ship for the creatures of the deep, but after 50 years, they too died.

Without the gravitational pull from the sun, Earth could no longer remain in its orbit and sailed off in a straight line into space. Free from the sun’s gravity, the Earth continued traveling at the same speed, approximately 18 miles per second into that eternal night.

The Earth's gravity kept everything on the planet grounded. All that remained were buildings and discarded possessions. Many other life forms came to view what humans held dear - appliances, toothbrushes, televisions, and computers - technology that made life easier...or did it? Was it the drive for newer technology that caused mankind's downfall? Did humans have to know everything?

Daniel never knew I was an alien in the form of a human woman. (crying) I would have told him.


The End


______


Consensus Reality



Melvian was worn out, his tentacles were killing him. Shuttling sentient beings back and forth through the museum all day really took it out of the Rigilian. If he had to do another twenty years of this his spolak would give out long before he retired. He locked the front door and started back to his office by way of the gift shop. Trilia was there and she beckoned him over to the counter.

“I have on dish of real Terran fudge ripple left. It is yours if you want it.”

“I would rather have a Snorlak fizz.”

She grinned with her lower mouth, mandibles in the up position. He was aroused by this. It would make sense to mount her and spray her with his glokenshaz so she could replicate. It had been such a long day though, maybe tomorrow.

“A bit early to be hitting the Snorlak, isn’t it? Just have a Rum and Coke or two. That way you can pilot yourself home.”

Her concern for his well-being was attractive enough to make his glokenshaz twist and throb. He needed to say good bye or else he would get caught up in a replication session that would just leave him more tired. It would also lead to something that Trilia had gleaned onto from an old Terran archive called “cuddling”. That would be a nightmare. The thought of her inside him licking his cerebellum was uncomfortable.

“Well, I need to go. Things to check on don’t you know. Have you seen Wesley?”

The android Wesley was made to resemble a real Terran male from three hundred years ago. The data running his personality matrix was downloaded from the private diaries of one of old Earth’s greatest and most beloved celebrities. He was a heroic astronaut who had given his life to save their primitive orbiting space station. The true shame was he had died just before the Tremulon Empire made first contact. Many believed he would have known better than the ridiculous Earth ambassador who had greeted the Tremulon advance representative by tightly grasping his rectal tubes and shaking vigorously. The war that had come from that had all but wiped out their civilization. Many believed that it was an accident. The Terran Holocaust Museum was here to remind them that new civilizations must be embraced by the Galactic Commune carefully. A misunderstanding could again lead to disaster.

Melvian was the expert, the Terrans logic came naturally to him. He could explain why they used popsicles to soothe the ailment known as hemorrhoids. The intricate military applications of the deadly smart phone were obvious to him. Earth’s biographical series of their last president, “Jersey Shore” was his favorite selection on the historical channel. The curator felt a personal duty to be as in tune with humans as possible. Unfortunately no matter what strides he made toward compassionate synergy with the culture of old Earth one glaring shortcoming was insurmountable. Every night he felt the overwhelming urge to kill Wesley.

And kill Wesley he did, night after night. Shooting, strangling, and burning him were the ways that he ended him most nights. Variety came in the form of decapitations or small explosions. It vexed Melvian so much that his failure was so large. He understood every aspect of the lost civilization’s culture so well, even their religious instructional documentaries , their sacred “hardcore pornography”. Why could he not love Wesley like all the others that passed through these sacred halls.

The android came into view with his mop and bucket. He insisted on ritually purifying every surface each night with water compulsively. Tonight he would electrocute Wesley while he mopped the floor. Ultimately it did no harm. The bodies went into the simulator and were used for materials so there was no waste. The personality back up was downloaded wirelessly precisely at closing time so the android never recalled he had been destroyed. It was a wonderful loop hole which allowed Melvian this extravagantly anti-social behavior sans consequences.

As he got closer to Wesley he heard the labored humming, wheezing breathing the bot imitated. Apparently the real Wesley had been blessed with a condition known as asthma which was a sign of intelligence and virility to humans. The sound of it grated on each and every nerve in Melvian’s futowx. It was a miracle to him that he could wait till the end of the day each time to end this vile pile of Nurgud dung. He felt bad about thinking that way though, guilty of near blasphemy against the most beloved figure in the galaxy.

The power cord that had been surreptitiously stripped at a strategic spotted in the middle lay across the display of tabasco sauce, a unguent that Earth mystics used to rub in their eyes to give themselves visions. He trundled by Wesley with a nod. He heard the front door click closed as Trilia left for the night.

“Hey Mr. Melvian! Whatcha doing? Can I help ya? I would do anything for a friend you know!”

Melvian turned to him so they were face to snokel.

“Why yes Wesley! Could you please go grab that cord and put it away?”

The android promptly sauntered over with a cheery spring in his step. It was then that Melvian tipped the bucket of water that he left on the floor between them. The momentum of the spill sent the water toward Wesley. A moment later there was a flash as the current flowed through the water into Wesley. Melvian watched as Wesley convulsed and burned from the inside out. It brought tears to his eyes. He felt shame, but he also felt an overwhelming sense of right. Something deep inside him, some symbiotic Terran consciousness told him that Wesley was an abomination. Despite all he knew about their history and that Wesley was their most treasured member, he knew better. Wesley must continue to die. He was a monster. Melvian hated him.


The End


_____


All We Can Do...



Opening hours at Museum Earth were daily from 9:00 to 18:00, and the planet was easy to get to if you happened to visit the old-fashioned Solar System. Obviously the surface itself had been completely changed since when it had been a habitable world where an alien species known as Humans once resided - along with many varied colorful animals.

When you reached that, there were many choices you could make, depending upon your preferences. For example, the diverse cultural life of Africa was revealed through everyday objects and works of art since the most ancient times. The Museum’s collection of over 500,000 African items included archaeological materials from across the entire continent. So it was best to have a good look at them if you wanted to form a clear opinion about how human life had been lived through the centuries in the many countries that once were present on this continent.

Another choice were the specific regional cultures that had spread through South America, before and after contact with European travelers during the sixteenth century.

The Asia exhibit was also a must-see, whose strong regional differences had long been connected through trade, commerce and shared religious systems. In addition to increasing variations in language, the holo-depliants said that Asia had developed localized cultural networks, patterns of government, technology and styles of artistic representation that were indeed noteworthy.

All these artifacts looked incredible, given the primitive species they came from, or so thought the pale-skinned bipedal curator named Melvian. He eyed the few tourists who were presently watching some pictures on the wall of a house that had long been abandoned, certainly since his own species the Gennd-le had first arrived. They were now in charge of overseeing the entire planet.

At a certain point, one of the robed group of twelve-legged, greenish-faced aliens called Spzyle, who had come to spend an entire week on this lost world, moved away from the others and addressed the massive head of the curator himself. He was probably a male, though Melvian really couldn’t tell.

“May I ask you a question, sir?” the other asked the curator, while staring at his pronounced brown facial features.

“Of course. I’m always happy to be of help.”

So the Spzyle tourist said, “I’ve heard that this planet had about eight billion intelligent inhabitants when it all happened, and billions of other animal species…Is that true?”

“Yes, indeed!” the curator smiled and replied in a mild tone. “You’re certainly right.”

“And, the time when it happened, I mean, the disappearance of the yellow sun of this system…wasn’t that just 300 years ago?”

“Yes, this is true as well,” the Gennd-le nodded.

“Could you enlighten me about the process the planet underwent when your spaceships came? The way all of this was preserved…”

“Of course. The way our high technicians work is very simple: at first they create an alternate source of power and heat to balance out the lack of energy coming from the sun that has disappeared. Then they simply spread it out in order to make the surface maintain the necessary climate. Then they expand their operations to leave every single living being - plants, animals and humans - stuck in the same place they were in when the process started. That way they can maintain the color, appearance and vividness the subjects had before they all were immobilized leaving them suspended exactly as if they still were alive. Though, they are not, obviously. There’s no better way of protecting the image of this planet and its many species as they looked when we arrived. Just like an old-fashioned holo-picture!”

“I see…” the tourist said. “I imagine there is no other way. This was a planet so beautiful in its glorious days of life, at least from the holo-videos we’ve seen!” the guest pointed out.

“Yes, correct… All the members of our species can do is preserve what we find, as we branch out into space…” Melvian said in a low tone.

“What’s next?” the Spzyle starkly inquired of the imposing curator.

“I’ve been told that our industries are planning on acquiring systems in the Gray Sector, where they’ll reach another yellow star called Virginis 61. Once there, our energy ships will feed on that sun, transferring all its energy into the great hypocells of our spaceships. At that point, the stored energy will be brought to our system where it will be used as an energy supply for our civilization to grow better back on Mother Planet. In the meantime, the appointed historians sent there will do their best to preserve the main – and the only habitable - world in that Sector, not too differently from what they did for Earth three centuries ago, along with other space systems we’ve absorbed. It’s a good way to keep the memory of an alien world fresh even after that life has been forced out of it once and for all, due to the destruction of its sun and the planet’s climate and overall conditions.”

“So, this is how your species keeps upgrading…”

“Suns are valuable and we need them in order to sustain our people and our space exploration. But we are always eager to preserve as much of the planets as we can, so that at least a memory of those primitive aliens will always be at the disposal of our historians, and of other alien tourists like you, my dear. Just like some mummified bodies.”

“Thanks for all you do in the interest of history!” the other exclaimed.

You’re welcome!” the curator uttered in a pleased tone.

“Now, I must go. There are so many other continents to visit, and only a few free days left before going back to work.”

“Yes, indeed! But please, take your time, as none of these primitive creatures are going anywhere. Not anymore…” the Gennd-le administrator conceded, with a peculiar sneer on his merry face.


The End


_____


Heist



The tumbling sound of Jenga blocks across the large room surprised the thief. His best eye darted around to look at a frustrated Nibo female at the demonstrator station. He could see that under her thin, lime-green tunic, her ample frontal glands were enlarged, perhaps from her failure to stack the blocks. She had long legs, and that suited him fine. He had a thing for bipeds.

He brushed off his museum nametag and slid over. "Having trouble?"

Her fair skin blushed, a trait he found delightful. "A little. It says even Earth children could master this test. How could a child have done this?"

"Ah," he realized, smelling the tantalizing scent of Jaklo perfume on her. "Humans had an extra joint just before their hands called a wrist, making them extremely dexterous for a vertebrate species. They had another one in the middle of their legs, called a knee."

She boggled. "Amazing. They must have looked ridiculous when they walked."

He gave his most charming smile. "I know, right?" He flourished a tentacle in greeting. "I'm Rinn."

She shook his appendage and smiled shyly back. "I saw your nametag. I'm Kira."

"So very pleased to make your acquaintance, Kira." He secreted a powerful batch of pheromones in her direction. "May I help direct you to a less... frustrating section of our lovely museum? We have scores of Earthly delights and devices throughout the structure to amaze even the skeptical of critics, let alone a sophisticated beauty like yourself."

Kira blushed again. The sight of it made him quiver. "Come now," he prodded, "what would most captivate you?"

She looked coy. "I don't know. What is the greatest treasure in the museum?"

His eye couldn't help but glance back over across the room to the entrance where Curator Melvian stood, talking with a patron. "So many items are on display... It is hard to say which is the greatest."

She touched him gently, just above his third tentacle. "There must be something we can see, something... in private."

Rinn tittered. "Oh, you've convinced me." Her pupils were dilated, so he concluded she absorbed the pheromones. He began to slowly slide his third tentacle up the skin on her forearm. "Truth be told, the greatest treasure of Earth is on display, but it's hidden."

Kira raised her eyebrows. "Why is that?"

He whispered, "Because it's scandalous."

She pressed her body close to him. "Then I must see it."

***

The antechamber at the far end of the museum was kept dim to better show off garments in the lighted display cases.

"What's all this?" Kira asked.

Rinn chuckled. "Clothes for Earth females."

She looked. There was a thing that looked like a narrow table in the middle of the room, and two big displays on the wall. The larger was filled with odd, pointy footwear. Kira pointed. "What are those?"

Rinn frowned slightly. "They called them... what was the word... still-let-toes, I think. They seem quite impossible to wear, but their females all seemed to want them."

The second display was filled with fabric items. "And these?"

"They were called undergarments. Thongs, briefs, bikinis, hipsters, adhesives, Bandeaus, corsets, minimizers, maximizers, nursers, pushups, racerbacks, softcups, strapless, and underwires."

Kira boggled. "Why so many kinds?"

"Earth females made it extremely difficult for males to mate with them by wearing all these at once." He smiled. "Imagine trying to get past layer after layer of underwear! They called it playing hard to get."

"That's madness."

He smiled slyly. "Quite, and that lead to the creation by males a tool made of horn. A 'shoe' horn. We've never found the bones of the shoes who grew these horns, but one of the tools is there, in the case, just behind the black leather pumps, as they were called. It helped the male move aside the layers for his proboscis. When a male had one he would tell the female he was horny."

She peered at it, fascinated. "Really?"

He 'innocently' stroked her arm and gestured to the table in the middle of the room. "Oh, yes. In fact, females made it so difficult that they would often have to see professional sex workers, called doctors, on these special mating tables to be impregnated. You can see the footrests at the end, called stirrups."

Her eyes glistened. "Could I see the horn more closely?"

He pretended to be shocked. "I'm really not supposed to open the cases."

She lay down on the table, placed her legs into the stirrups, and slowly ran a hand over the tunic covering her glands. "Please? I simply must see it."

One of Rinn's tentacles darted out and poured into the antique Earth lock on the case. Pressing all the pins to their proper position, the lock popped open. "If you must."


Two minutes later...

Melvian clamped his hand over his eyes. "What are you doing?!"

He heard the sound of a female shriek, two bodies hitting the floor, and a person running toward the exit that led to the spacecraft docking hall.

Melvian paused what he hoped was long enough for decorum. "Is that you again, Rinn?"

***

Shoehorn still in hand, Kira punched in a departure code and reclined in her pilot's chair. Her one-person ship rapidly propelled itself away from the museum.

"Greatest treasure of Earth..." She was still blushing from being discovered, but she couldn't help but grin. If a little fooling around was all it took to get the horn...

She clucked her tongue. "Easiest heist ever."

***

In the commissary, Melvian stuck a spoon into his fudge ripple ice cream and scolded, "Rinn, if news of this got out, it could give the Museum a bad reputation."

Rinn scoffed and twirled a replica rum and Coke. "The unfertilized eggs I took from her ovaries will provide enough to pay our rent for three months. Your dream museum is expensive, old friend."

"Rent is good, of course, but..." Melvian frowned. "We only have thirteen shoehorns left."


The End
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Post April 17, 2016, 10:32:18 PM

Re: [POLL] Vote: April 2016 Challenge

To vote, rate these stories using the form below with scores of 0-10 (in whole numbers) and send it to me via PM: (Copy it into memory, click the 'PM' button below my avatar (or depending on your board style, mouse over the green username by my avatar and a menu will pop up with an option to send a private message), paste the form in, & then fill in your scores.)

Categories:
1) What overall score would you give the story?
2) How good was the Characterization?
3) How effective (or original) was the plot?
4) How clear was the setting to you?
5) How good was the use of dialog?
6) How well did the story meet or address the challenge as it was given?

NOTE: you may need to have posted at least one message before you can send a PM. If the system won't let you, all you have to do is join in a discussion or just say hi in a thread before voting via PM. We'll be glad to meet you. If I suspect a voter of being a false identity (i.e. a troll), I won't count their vote.

Author scores for their own entry will not be counted.




A Day at the Museum
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Unearthed
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

The Last Flicker of the Sun
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Consensus Reality
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

All We Can Do
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Heist
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:
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Post April 17, 2016, 10:40:54 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

A pretty good crop of stories this time. Let's see what grows!
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Post April 18, 2016, 08:09:04 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

My votes are in...eh,eh :D
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Post April 18, 2016, 11:37:25 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

After an initial flurry of voting, I'm currently the leader, but that's about to change. I'm about to vote, and since scores for your own story don't count, someone else is about to be the race leader.

Don't you wonder who will it be?
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Post April 18, 2016, 07:10:09 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

sent mine
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Post April 19, 2016, 01:58:11 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

My votes are in!
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Post April 20, 2016, 09:16:34 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

It's interesting. The poll leader is NOT the story winning in the official vote.

It's a little like a Presidential election. Popular vote says one thing, but the Electoral College does another. [He said, poking politics with a stick.]

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Post April 20, 2016, 11:02:57 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

kailhofer wrote:It's interesting. The poll leader is NOT the story winning in the official vote....

That's a shame, cause I really like that story. The writer has a strong command of written language.
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Post April 20, 2016, 12:20:09 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

My votes are on the way. Good turnout this month!
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Post April 21, 2016, 09:42:19 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Oooo! The race between 1st and 2nd is soo close! Only 3 points separate the two!

So, find your friends, your co-workers, your frenemies... and get them to read all the stories, join the forum, and vote! Anybody who likes speculative fiction. The story they pick might be yours!

Seriously! Spread the word. Facebook, Twitter... whatever. I mean YOU. Let's get the vote out. The more votes we get, the better the feedback from the scores. Even if they won't do the long form vote, as long as they join the forum they can vote in the poll, which I think has merit, too. It's kind of like learning which was the most popular, where the long form says how well it was crafted. Both very good things for a writer to know.

(But don't tell them which story was yours until after they've voted, of course.)
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Post April 23, 2016, 01:51:37 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Good Morning, I was reading stories from your web pages and I found more in this section. I have a question: What is a pm or private message?

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Post April 23, 2016, 08:35:35 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

A PM is a private message through aphelion that can be sent to another in Aphelion. The message stays in Aphelion. Click on the PM or Private Message on another’s profile which can be shown by clicking on their user name that appears through out the magazine. An E-mail type window will appear in which you can compose and send a message.
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Post April 23, 2016, 08:37:08 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Megawatts wrote:A PM is a private message through aphelion that can be sent to another in Aphelion. The message stays in Aphelion. Click on the PM or Private Message on another’s profile which can be shown by clicking on their user name that appears through out the magazine. An E-mail type window will appear in which you can compose and send a message.



Hope you stay on board! We do have fun here!!!!
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Post April 23, 2016, 09:08:06 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Daniel Johnson wrote:Good Morning, I was reading stories from your web pages and I found more in this section. I have a question: What is a pm or private message?

Much like Megawatts said, a PM is just that--a private message not unlike what one would see when doing such a thing on Facebook or the like. It's exactly like doing a board post as you did when you asked your question, but only the intended recipient can see it. If you want to vote long form, copy the text of the voting form into memory by highlighting the text and either doing a control C, Command C, or right button click (depending on what kind of desktop you might be using), then click the 'PM' button below my avatar picture (or depending on your board style, mouse over the green username by my avatar and a menu will pop up with an option to send a private message), paste the form in, & then type in your scores. To vote in the poll only, when logged in as a user and not a guest, click on one of the radio buttons next to the story title, and click 'submit.'

Welcome to our discussion board!

PS. If you like these stories, check out our Flash Fiction Index threads. They hold over 500 entries from previous challenges.
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Post April 23, 2016, 10:51:29 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

I sent my votes in. Maybe it will jettison the leader from his position - who the freak knows at this point - OOPS, started talking about the American Election for President. *sheesh* what a freaking mess! (the election, not the contest)
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Post April 24, 2016, 11:17:14 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

There have been a lot of votes coming in, and I'm very glad to see it.

Joey took the lead, but whoa, is Dark Angel coming up fast!

One vote could switch the winner between three different writers. There are only 8 total points separating them. I honestly don't know who will win.

If you haven't voted yet, better get it in, but tune in tonight for the reveal.

Last call for votes is 9:00 p.m. central time, then I'll finish the scoring and post the winner, the total scores, and the averages for each category for each story. I'll even throw in the total for perfect tens and zeros given throughout the voting. It may take me a few minutes, but be patient. It will all be ready to see before 10 pm.
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Post April 24, 2016, 10:33:01 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Congratulations to ... well, to me. As they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

My story, "Heist," just squeaked out a victory in the 'official' long-form vote, but congratulations to everyone for writing such excellent tales, and thanks to all the people who voted. Turnout was excellent.

Also, a 'Good Job!' goes out to The Dark Angel ,who tied for 1st place in the unofficial poll. Not bad for a first time out of the gate.


For the record, these were the authors of the entries for this month:

A Day at the Museum by George T. Philibin
Unearthed by Joey To
The Last Flicker of the Sun by The Dark Angel
Consensus Reality by Eddie Sullivan
All We Can Do by Sergio Palumbo
Heist by N.J. Kailhofer


SCORES: (Overall next to the story title, then the average score next to each question #.)


A Day at the Museum : 295
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 4
3) Plot: 6
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 7
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s: 2

Unearthed : 389
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 7
6) Challenge: 9
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s:5

The Last Flicker of the Sun : 393
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 8
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 7
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s:5

Consensus Reality : 298
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 6
# Zeroes: 2
# Perfect 10s:2

All We Can Do : 319
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 4
5) Dialog: 4
6) Challenge: 7
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s:1

Heist : 395
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 8
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 8
6) Challenge: 8
# Zeroes: 0
# Perfect 10s:7
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Post April 25, 2016, 02:08:02 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Congrats, Nate! And thanks to all the writers; this was a good turnout.

Here's how I scored 'em, with comments for a few:


A Day at the Museum
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 7
6) Challenge: 10

Total: 38
----------------
Unearthed
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 8
6) Challenge: 10

Total: 42

Comments: Incorporating current social and political events was an interesting touch.
---------------
The Last Flicker of the Sun
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 9
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 9

Total: 45

Comments: I liked the science in this one, especially the mention of the Earth no longer staying in an orbit. The mention of Wesley was gratuitous.
-----------------
Consensus Reality
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 10

Total: 40

Comment: I loved the incongruent misinterpretations of various human customs and artifacts. Tobasco sauce as eye ointment was especially good. He did get it right with Wesley.
------------------------
All We Can Do
1) Overall: 5
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 10

Total: 37

Comment: Clever but uncaring aliens. I'm not sure of their motivation for preserving a model of all the life they've ended. I was disappointed that, apparently, the planets stay in orbit without a primary to keep them there.
--------------------------
Heist
1) Overall: 10
2) Characterization: 9
3) Plot: 10
4) Setting: 9
5) Dialog: 10
6) Challenge: 10

Total: 58

Comments: More delightful misinterpretations of human behavior and artifacts. Very nice job.
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Post April 25, 2016, 07:41:52 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

I notice that in the newer variable #Zeroes that I am the only recipient and there were two. If someone who gave them didn't mind going public I would love to know what I missed that badly for them in their reading experience. I would of course take a PM as well if that was necessary. I am just wondering what I missed so badly for a reader that it warranted a zero. I would like to correct that flaw.
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Post April 25, 2016, 08:49:14 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Congrats, Nate! This was an interesting one. I hope the challenges continues to grow. And a good job to Lester by keeping out the trolls and span. All the stories were nice reads, and I want to congratulate The Dark Angle for her first entry. For a Dark Angle her story was shining!!

Good job everyone!!

I read what EddieSullivan said, and maybe we should critique each other's story this time!

This site has been very friendly and critiques within the challenge just given will add to our writing tools. I feel good about that!
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Post April 25, 2016, 10:40:30 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

EddieSullivan wrote:the newer variable #Zeroes

Tracking zeroes in the votes is quite old school, actually, going all the way back to 2010. I came up with the long form vote to stop trolls in late 2009, and then added the bit about zeroes soon afterward because people were leaving spaces blank. They have proven to be a painful, yet strangely helpful, evaluation of where one may have missed the mark for a particular reader(s).

To protect the voters' rights to anonymity, I can say these zeroes were given in characterization and plot.
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Post April 25, 2016, 11:02:38 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

I'm throwing this question out there to every challenge author or anyone who has ever voted in the challenges:

How did you like the unofficial poll? Would you like to see a switch to that method instead of the long form? Stay long form? Hybrid of the two?

When I started doing challenges in 2007, the poll is how we originally voted. It's considerably easier to vote that way, and we may get more people to vote. We stopped because of trouble with trolls.

The long form is more useful for authors, giving more useful feedback, but this was the first challenge in a hell of a long time where more than 1 person who wasn't and entrant in the challenge voted. After all, it's akin to filling out a 1040 tax form. However, I did a lot of promoting the vote, and I hope the other authors did, too. So if we all continue to promote as we did this time, we may get the same number of votes again, but that's not certain.

Lester polices spam and trolls with zeal, and I like that. So, I'd like to go back to the simple poll, but voting has to work for you, the entrants and voters. If there's a simple favorite chosen, does that work for you, or do you need more feedback?

I'd really like to know what you think.
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Post April 25, 2016, 11:31:57 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

kailhofer wrote:
EddieSullivan wrote:the newer variable #Zeroes

Tracking zeroes in the votes is quite old school, actually, going all the way back to 2010. I came up with the long form vote to stop trolls in late 2009, and then added the bit about zeroes soon afterward because people were leaving spaces blank. They have proven to be a painful, yet strangely helpful, evaluation of where one may have missed the mark for a particular reader(s).

To protect the voters' rights to anonymity, I can say these zeroes were given in characterization and plot.


Kind of helpful, I guess. I will have to disagree unless the person explains their feelings to me. I think even if they didn't like my characters or plot that a zero is pretty rough. It is basically saying I had no plot or characterization. I will respect anonymity of course but would love an explanation if they choose. I assure them there will be no attack here or elsewhere by myself or others on my behalf if I have a say in the matter. I am just curious. I think the other editors would vouch for me in that I take my critique with a grain of salt.
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Post April 25, 2016, 11:45:33 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

EddieSullivan wrote:Kind of helpful, I guess. I will have to disagree unless the person explains their feelings to me. I think even if they didn't like my characters or plot that a zero is pretty rough. It is basically saying I had no plot or characterization. I will respect anonymity of course but would love an explanation if they choose. I assure them there will be no attack here or elsewhere by myself or others on my behalf if I have a say in the matter. I am just curious. I think the other editors would vouch for me in that I take my critique with a grain of salt.

If the voters wish to reveal their thoughts, they, of course, can. However, I can't help but remind you of the Neil Gaiman quote in your signature line, my friend. You may not find out what you really want to know. :)
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Post April 25, 2016, 12:38:58 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

kailhofer wrote:
EddieSullivan wrote:Kind of helpful, I guess. I will have to disagree unless the person explains their feelings to me. I think even if they didn't like my characters or plot that a zero is pretty rough. It is basically saying I had no plot or characterization. I will respect anonymity of course but would love an explanation if they choose. I assure them there will be no attack here or elsewhere by myself or others on my behalf if I have a say in the matter. I am just curious. I think the other editors would vouch for me in that I take my critique with a grain of salt.

If the voters wish to reveal their thoughts, they, of course, can. However, I can't help but remind you of the Neil Gaiman quote in your signature line, my friend. You may not find out what you really want to know. :)


While I doubt they will make me agree I deserved zeroes, I can't help but think there may be some nugget of valuable feedback to be mined from someone that felt that strongly. Where did I fail? Is it something I can change or is it just a communicative disconnect between me and a particular reader. I will be able to move on if there isn't a response, it isn't the end of the world. I am just looking for any chance to improve and don't want to waste an opportunity.
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Post April 25, 2016, 12:40:22 PM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Eddie, I suggest you consider those null votes to be the opinions of an outlier. I participate in an online critique group, and I've learned to weigh the input I get: if one person out of six or seven is harsh, and especially if no one else mentions the thing they were harsh about, I call that an outlier—a minority report—and disregard it. Some readers will get their triggers tripped over stuff that very few others find worth mentioning. Those responses don't tell you anything useful about your writing; they just remind you that readers can react unpredictably.

As to the polling methods ... the "pick your favorite" does only that, and gives nothing but unexplained statistics, though it does offer some information. The long form gives more information, but it's just a number. I suggest keeping both.

The best, of course, is an essay-type critique (even if the essay is very short), which we don't get enough of here. And yes, the long form is work, and nobody pays for it. I get quality critiques (at my crit group) because I DO pay for them, in the form of my critiques of other work.

How about this: Since we have no participation requirements here, maybe the writers could agree to trade critiques among themselves. Honor system, no word count, but try for substance. Point out what worked or didn't, with explanations for each. How to work this? Maybe each writer could make a statement, such as, "I'll swap crits this month." Consider that a conversation starter.
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Post April 26, 2016, 04:42:24 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

Many congratulations to the winner of this great Challenge, indeed!!! :D :D :D

My preferred entries were Unearthed by Joey To and The Last Flicker of the Sun by The Dark Angel.

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Post April 26, 2016, 08:24:07 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

I agree with Lester’s idea. All of us at Aphelion seem to have honest and helpful critiques, and I believe we could all help out one another.

I’m not sure how to implement Lester’s method, but I’m sure something can be worked out. Maybe we post our critiques as we vote. That might be one way because as we read the stories we can critique at the same time.

I don’t really know the best way, but I think a discussion on this subject will produce something!

The story I like best this time was “Unearthed.”
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Post April 26, 2016, 10:23:24 AM

Re: [POLL] VOTE: April 2016 Flash Challenge

I think that if we make it a requirement to critique, in no time, it will be like eating your brussels sprouts--a chore you just hate having to do with every fiber of your being. [Or maybe that was just me, growing up.]

These comments here are the perfect place to post comments and critiques of each other's stories, and some of you do that already, like Lester. I would strongly encourage entrants to do that, but I don't think an organized system of critiques will work. I plan on posting some thoughts about everyone's story after I go cook myself some breakfast.

Also, I think I've come up with a way to incorporate the poll into the system where it has weight, but can't just take the whole contest if someone abuses it. What I'm thinking is that whatever percent of the vote you get in the poll, a quarter of that percentage is multiplied into your score. So for example, if I get 20% of the vote, I'd get a 5% boost to my scores--enough that in a close race it could make a difference. However, if a newbie with a not very good story gets all their friends to vote in the poll for them, and let's say they get 60% of the votes, it would only be a 15% jump--not enough to win it. Anyway, that's the thought.
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