FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017

Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post April 21, 2013, 03:05:27 PM

Who Could Love a Monster Challenge

Insatiable desires...

Sergio Palumbo

Zhu Anji could truthfully say he now possessed everything he had ever desired in his life: the thirty-year-old Chinese building contractor was incredibly rich - part of the most modern towns in his country had been entirely built thanks to his business; he was undoubtedly handsome; and he was bursting with good health. His body was slender, well-proportioned and he had an attractive face topped-off by a full head of black hair.

There was almost nothing that he wished for that seemed to be out of range for him: sports, car races, games of chance, he had everything at hand. But instead of simply having a good time and savouring his life, one thing was always on his mind more than everything else: sex!

He was a playboy well-known throughout his country and also internationally. There was not a renowned actress or beautiful model he hadn’t already spent one night with. After dating all the most notable and most wondrous women in China, the man had finally turned his attention to the most renowned and loved women abroad, so he had begun collecting several love affairs with many famous women from the world of fashion. There was apparently no kind of girl he didn’t like or didn’t search for: Indonesian TV announcers, Swedish dancers and Venezuelan hot babes. But he proved to be never satisfied, he wanted more and more, so his unending lust made him go abroad, always looking for new beautiful women. Brunettes or blonde, fair-skinned or tanned, of northern or southern birth, not one of them appeared to be unreachable to him.

Many said he had a sexual addiction, and the newspapers usually called him by many other names like degenerate or mad about deep lasciviousness and the worst excesses. But the man didn’t care; he liked to live as he thought best and to have a good time under any circumstances. Until one day Zhu, who was now 38, decided he was fed up of all those brief love affairs, he needed more! And something new which would renew his appetite, certainly...

It happened one day when he was inspecting a new structure built in Guilin, in the northeast region, that he noticed an ancient but still flashy mural painted in a religious palace. It represented a slim, spectacular woman with long curls and a wonderful face. Such a wondrous image seemed just to protrude out of the wall itself! Zhu soon asked the monks what that painting was about and they told him it was a work of art: it had been built to honor a legendary Huli jing who was thought to be capable of assuming human form and was endowed with immortality. She was said to be living in the jungles around there since the oldest times and was a representation of love, lust and attractiveness, even though others simply thought of her as a dangerous monster.

The playboy immediately asked if they thought that such a creature was true and those simply smiled in return, revealing that she used to appear before anyone who really loved women or was looking for a true love.

Since that moment, Zhu had been aching for an encounter with her, desiring to meet that beautiful woman, and finally it happened! One night a soft wind was fondling the meadow outside the window of his refined hotel room when suddenly the glass door opened. The man saw a slender figure on the balcony, it was a female presence, better, she was the most beautiful woman Zhu had ever seen. Her body appeared to be half-naked, enveloped in a transparent light gray dress that let him imagine everything.

The female figure entered the room, approaching the bed he was lying on and reached him. Before Zhu could even speak or object the woman shook her head to silence him, then simply touched his chest and kissed him vehemently. The man soon responded to her gesture and kissed her deeply.

It was only after they had made love all night that Zhu dared to ask her, “Who are you really? Why are you here?”

She told him: “I’m the Huli jing called Gui. Your yearning invoked me yesterday and here I am, with you!” The answer pleased the man, but before she said anything --in his heart-- he already knew the answer.

It was only early in the morning that the woman arose from the bed,went towards the glass door again and exited the hotel room.

“Will you be back, my love?” Zhu asked her.

“Every night, for as long as you stay here, my dear…” the other smiled. So the man was reassured and stayed in bed for a while.


The Huli jing moved away from the hotel, completely unseen, and walked into the jungle nearby. She followed a hidden path through the undergrowth that only Gui seemed to be able to see. Then she entered a clearing where she found another older Huli jing, just like her. The Elder’s hair was darker, and the head of the other one looked more slender and pointed.

“How is that love interest of yours going?”

“Not bad, he’s already mine! You know, humans are narrow-minded. After all, he should be glad that I’m not a profiteer or a gold-digger who would waste all his resources by always asking for more and more, for gifts like precious stones, necklaces and expensive dresses…”

“It’s very good for him, after all, that you’re not that kind of creature.”

“No, I’m not…I just satisfy my senses by draining all of his life energy, day by day, slowly, until the moment comes when he will only be an empty shell in the end…”

“So the story goes, he gets what he thinks he needs…”

“…and I get all the rest, as usual,” Gui sneered.

Precious stones and expensive gifts would have cost him much less, for sure…” the other Huli jing considered.

The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:08:15 PM

Who Could Love a Monster Challenge

- Winner -

The Green Grass of Home

Michele Dutcher

“Darn it Daisy Dukes! Why do they make those commercials so loud?” The woman holding the cleaver stopped chopping the meat on the counter, putting her arms over her ears.

“Buzz, Buzz, buzz,” blared the sound coming from the living room.
The small dog sitting on a chair in the corner whimpered and the irritating sound subsided.

“That’s better,” said the woman, returning to chopping up the chicken, separating the wing from the breast. She floured the portion and dropped it into the hot grease in the frying pan.

She looked out the small window over the sink and marveled at the gently rolling hills in the distance. “I never knew how much I missed Virginia until you convinced me to move back home.” She looked over at the medium-sized border collie who perked up her ears. The pair happily listened to the sound of the chicken sizzling in the pan.
“Daisy Dukes, could you go out to the back room and get some more meat from the freezer?” She looked at the dog who cocked her head sideways, inquisitively. The woman chuckled at her joke while washing her hands. “Oh that’s right – you’re just a widdle biddy puppy, aren’t you?” She walked over to the dog and scratched behind its right ear. “Who’s mama’s good dog? Who is it? Who is it?”

“It’s me,” replied the dog.

“Yeah, that’s right – it’s Miss Dukes.”

The woman walked to the back door, held her breath, and opened it. She stepped through the air lock, into the domed, silver room – grabbing a chunk of meat before going back inside her kitchen. Maggie threw the frozen meat into the sink and began running hot water over it, hoping to quick-thaw it. She looked out over the darkening hills in the distance, where a crescent moon was rising.

“That’s odd,” she said with wonder. “Where’s the other moon? Oh, that’s right, this planet only has one satellite.” She looked over at the dog that watched her with huge brown eyes and chuckled nervously. “I’m so silly. Of course Earth only has one moon. What was I thinking, silly me.” She turned off the burner on the stove and began putting part of the fried chicken into the dog’s food bowl, who immediately came over to eat up the tasty meal.

She put a plate full of fried chicken and lima beans on the table and began to enjoy the meal as well. “I had the strangest dream last night, Daisy. I dreamed I was living on Mars – yes Mars! I was in a tiny dome and there were other people there who were running and – well, then I was the only one left.”

“I had that same nightmare,” said the dog. “And in my dream, I came to rescue you – making sure that the rest of those bad people didn’t hurt you. And then you saved me by making sure I had plenty to eat.”

“That’s right. And doggies need meat to keep them strong.” The woman was busy now cleaning up the kitchen, loading her dishwasher. “I’m so glad you helped me get back home. I was so unhappy, waiting, waiting for those other people to arrive – and they just didn’t come. You know how much I hate to wait on people. It’s just as easy to be ten minutes early as ten minutes late!”

Why hadn’t more humans come to Mars as planned? Why hadn’t the colonists heard from Earth in over two years? Had the people of Earth finally killed each other off? Had there been a plague? More than likely the funding had been cut as people simply lost interest, leaving the ten people on Mars to live out their lives alone, with no hope of rescue, in their very expensive prison.

The dog looked up for a minute, and the woman began laughing. “Imagine me back on Mars! What a nightmare! I’d much rather be right here with my widdle biddy Daisy Dukes.” She leaned over to pet the black and white furry animal on the back and noticed the dog felt like cold wet leather. She pulled her hand back quickly, but softened, as she stared into the dog’s big brown eyes.

“I love you Miss Dukes. If you eat all that I’ll fix you some more.”
Maggie went over and sat down at the table to finish her supper.

While the human was busy eating her supper, the Glasathon finished and sat down on its behind, curling its six legs around it. He looked at the woman that some would have called a monster for killing others of her species in this tiny outpost of humanity. But no one could have known how lonely she was with only the other humans for company. No one could have known how much she longed to look out a window and see the rolling green hills of her cozy home. The small creature still marveled at the depth of what she labeled ‘homesickness’, and her love for the tiny, furry animal she had left behind on Earth.

But that was okay. Soon the swarm would come and the Glasathonians would pick him up on their way to Earth, and they would all profit from the borrowed images inside Plunth’s mind. He looked again at the delusional woman and realized that somewhere, deep down, he loved this monster who cared so much about him. And she really was an excellent cook. He hoped his comrades would come soon, so he wouldn’t have to drag her down and rip her apart, devouring her like they had devoured every member of the colonists of Mars Won.

The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:11:05 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

The challenge was to tell the story of a superhero named Bob or Bobbi.
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:13:03 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

Saving The World

I. Verse

The girl checking tickets at the gate is very pretty. She has jet black hair in a perfect bob cut. I can’t take my eyes off the way it moves with the tiny motions of her head. When I get to the front of the line and hand her my ticket, I smile broadly at her. I get a tiny smile in return, the kind that comes without teeth. I take my ticket stub and walk away down the gantry with an irrational feeling of disappointed. If she knew that I was saving the world maybe she’d like me better. Maybe it was her hair, I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe my wife’s hair looked like that.

“Why are you so sure you were married?” Doctor Cob said when I asked about my wife. It’s wasn’t his real name, just like Bob Howard isn’t mine. I showed the Doc my ring finger and the circular indentation around it.

“She died,” the Doc said, his voice flat. “Everyone in the programme is alone, no family, no connections. That’s how it has to be. That’s why you volunteered.”

I can’t remember anything before they made me a superhero, I can’t even remember my wife, so how can I be sure I volunteered? I never asked the Doc that. You don’t become a superhero if you haven’t got the right attitude.

I’m in business class for a change, which is good because it’s long haul to Toronto. Saving the world means flying all over it. I find my seat, settle in. Nothing to see folks, no need to thank me, just doing my job. Breath in, breath out.

They turn the lights up bright about two hours before we land. I watch the news. There are food riots in Spain and France, diplomatic relations between Russia and Finland have broken down again. There’s more on the famine in Africa, There’s always famine in Africa but never this bad, images of babies with swollen bellies and flies drinking from their eyes. The world’s on a knife edge, too many people and not enough resources. World war three is just around the corner, nuclear Armageddon. It’s my job to stop that happening.

As I walk out of the gate at arrivals, a cute blonde detaches herself from the crowd.

“Bob! Bob!”

She waves energetically, face lit up with a huge smile. She grabs me in a fierce hug when I get near.

“Oh, it’s good to have you back. I’ve missed you so much,” she gushes for anyone close enough to hear. “Come on, I’m parked in short-term.”

I’ve never met her before, or maybe I have but I don’t remember. Maybe she’s my wife. When we’re away from the crowd, marching across wet concrete towards the parking structure, she drops the act.

“I’m Andi. You’ve got a fourteen hour stop-over and then tomorrow you’re flying to Beijing via London.”

I should do the challenge and response thing but I’m too tired. She drives me to a hotel, it’s mid-range, non-descript. Up in the room there’s a double bed and it makes me wonder if I’ll be alone that night.

Andi’s got a whole new set of luggage for me, new clothes, new passport.

“You’re a tourist, going to see the sites,” she tells me as I change out of the dark grey business suite and into jeans and a cotton shirt. She sits me down, puts one of those big, fluffy hotel towels around my neck and cuts my hair. Then she tints it a shade lighter.

I check my new passport, look at the picture inside. It’s me but I don’t recognise myself. I never do, even when I look in the mirror. I look average, bland, unassuming. It’s one of my superpowers. My new name is Bob Holborn. It’s always Bob something.

“Are you staying?” I ask, when she’s finished drilling me on my new identity.

She doesn’t say anything but she leans in and kisses me. I’m not sure it’s what I want but I don’t like to offend her, she’s only doing her job. She doesn’t know I’m a superhero or about my mission. She doesn’t know about the programme that’s plotting my routes, directing me on flights through the major transport hubs and population centres all over the world.

Sometimes, I like to think I’m the only one but I know there are other superheros like me. She might even be one. She might have the same superpower. I hope so because otherwise she’ll probably be dead in a couple of months. That makes me feel bad so I hope that maybe she’s one of the lucky ones instead. I hope that Andi is one of those who gets sick but don’t die, whose body can destroy the lethal virus I carry. That’s my main superpower, I can carry the virus in my body without getting sick and without my immune system destroying it.

In the morning, I grab a paper from the lobby as we leave. The headline says that even though the population has topped ten billion, the new Pope still refuses to allow Catholics to use contraception until they’ve had at least two children. We’re killing ourselves, we’re sucking the planet dry, but I’m going to save us. I’m going to save the world by killing ninety percent of the human population before we get a chance to nuke everything back to radioactive slime.

Andi kisses me as she drops me off in front of arrivals and waves goodbye through the open window as she drives away. It’s a nice touch. I hoist my backpack and walk into the crowded lobby, checking the information board.

I’m a superhero, I’m saving the world. This is my mission; breath in, breath out.

The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:14:38 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

The Tale of Bob

R. Tornello
The Village Idiot Press

Once upon a time, almost before recorded history, but not quite, in the time of Gilgamesh there lived a weaver of cloth named Gorfflemychu. Gorfflemychu, which means bright flame, is also the meaning of the name Bob. In order not to make things too confusing to our modern readers and listeners who have no passing conversational ability in Babylonian, we’ll keep his name as Bob.

Now as I mentioned, Bob was a weaver of cloth, as was his father, and father’s father before him, and even so down before recorded time. They made a decent living. Bob had a wife and many children. His skill as a rug maker was known locally and throughout the Fertile Crescent. Bob was a content human.

One day while teaching his number one son, also named Bob, the secrets of the trade, the boy-man who would inherit all that was his, primogeniture being the custom and law of the time, there came a stranger to the entrance of Bob’s establishment.

Bob the father, not the son, greeted the visitor with respect, as was his wont, whether or not the person in front of him was wealthy or not. “All people deserved respect,” the father would tutor the younger Bob.

Bob welcomed the man in. “Sir some drink, wine, beer, dates and other fine eatables as you might like after your trip. For surely sir, I would know if you were from these parts. Please rest. We’ll talk business only after you’re rested and fed.” This was the custom and Bob adhered to it.

The guest was very pleased. He displayed no trapping of wealth and was delighted that this rug maker, this worker of cloth treated him as a though he were a king. “Your honesty, generosity and fairness are known far beyond anywhere you can imagine,” said his guest.

“You are too kind. I am honored,” answered Bob.

Finally after food and drink a plenty the guest began,“ I come to you, maker of rugs because of your reputation, ability, skills and fairness which I have seen enough to know is as true as has been proclaimed. I would like you to make me a carpet of the best materials known in the world. Spare no expense.” And so saying dropped 7 bags of gold. “This should be deposit enough,” declared the guest.

“Sir, I’m not sure I am up to what I believe you might be looking for, and were I,” he said pointing to the seven bags of gold continued, “your deposit is more than I would charge.”

The guest laughed and said, “It might be more than you would charge but consider this my payment for your future efforts and current hospitality. When do you believe you will have it completed?”

Bob was quiet for some time thinking about some of the dreams he had had and the designs that had run through his mind. He would wake up from his dreams and press his cuneiform stylus onto the wet clay he kept by the bedside for his ideas. “It will be months at best.” He hoped this would not upset his guest but this was a tall order.

The guest said with a smile, “I will return in a half a year’s time.” He rose to his huge full height, which in our day would be reckoned as close to seven feet tall. He bowed and left.

Bob stood there wondering what, how and when this task could be completed. His son witnessed the whole proceeding. His wife, when she heard the story and saw the gold as proof of the guest’s sincerity said, “You’ve trained a number of people in the art. Hire them to do the basic work. You can put the finishing touches. You can afford to pay them and work this project. You have six months.”

Six months pass:

To the day the guest arrived and was treated in exactly the same manner. After the formalities, Bob said, “Please come with me and let me show you what I have made for you. I prayed to the gods for inspiration. I hope this meets with your desire and approval.” He pulled a curtain back away from a large loom that was specially fabricated for this project.

The guest looked, walked around the item, nodding all the while inspecting the thread count, the weave, the colors, seven times. At the end of the seventh time he stopped and looked down at Bob. He said, “This is the work of a god, not a human. I am blessed and for such a work I will impart a secret to you and you alone that you may impart to your first born only, and he to his, for ten generations.” He whispered in Bob’s ear. Bob turned a shade like that of alabaster.

Bob stood there quietly as his guest left, sitting upon the rug which flew off.

Bob made more rugs with the flying skills but only for guests who showed the proper identification that his first guest indicated would be a sign.

Many years later:

Bob was old and dying. His son now ran the business in the same manner and fashion as his father had done. One day just before Bob’s passing to the great unknown, his son asked him, “Father, you promised to tell me how you did this. What is the secret of the flying rugs?”

Bob motioned for his son to come closer. He whispered most of the secret. The effort was too great and in his final breaths said, “You must name the one who will inherit your business with the name Bob, for not only is it in the magic I just passed on to you, but it’s also in the magic of the name Bob. Son, you have to be both a Bob and weaver.”

As Bob said these last words, in the heavens the thunder rolled and the lightening flashed and crashed.

The End
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Post April 21, 2013, 03:16:03 PM

Superhero Bob Challenge

- Winner -

Georgia on Their Mind

Sergio Palumbo

Wangombe was a bit pensive that morning. The middle-aged African man sat on a sturdy plastic chair in the airport lounge, waiting for the next flight which had been delayed to 10:30 A.M. Many thoughts were on his mind, mainly worries about the things he had to do that day, along with several duties to be accomplished before returning home. But what troubled him most was the fact he was unable to remember some of the events that had occurred the previous week while he was staying in Boston.

Actually, he remembered very well that he had encountered a very beautiful, local woman with dark curly hair, her name was Georgia, and they had had a brief love affair. But most of the recollections of that short relationship seemed to have been lost. How was that possible? ‘Am I becoming ill?’ he asked himself. ‘Is something affecting my mind?’ The only thing he had decided so far was to have a full check up as soon as he got back to his country in Africa.

He remembered some whispers, words spoken at night, his mouth descending on Georgia's neck as the two danced all night. The man would say that there was something more than those wondrous eyes, those moments he experienced, those beautiful features, but he simply couldn’t remember the rest. What a strange fact that such a brief love affair had left such sensations in him, that Georgia could make such feelings arise in him, while wavering on his mind so deeply. Maybe it was true what many said, ‘Love is like the wind, you can't see it but you can feel it.’

Or maybe it was just that Georgia had left a very good impression on him, and the memory of her would stay in his mind for a long time.


Sitting on a chair in the same Airport Lounge, opposite the one where the African middle-aged man was, the slender blonde curly-haired young woman was reading the daily newspaper on her tablet, glancing from time to time at the foreign individual who was waiting for his flight. She was clearly able to see that Wangombe didn’t recognize her, he didn’t remember her true features. All he knew were the false ones she had engraved upon his memory.

But she was also a bit sorry, not just for him but for herself. Among all the many men she had previously encountered because of her job, and that she had made fall in love with her for a short time, that African stranger held a special place in her heart. On the other hand, she knew she would never see him again.

“I could drown into your eyes…” he had told her the last night.

“The same for me…” she had replied.

“Would you come to visit my country” the man had asked the woman.

“I’ll do, one day or another…” she lay.

It was strange to think that Wangombe would always remember her as Georgia, and Georgia’s false features would stay on his mind for as long as he lived, exactly as she had wanted them to be, thanks to her psychic abilities.

Actually, her name wasn’t Georgia at all, but Bobbi Roberts and she worked for the government Special Missions Committee One. Being endowed with special powers, the same as all the others enlisted as agents in the office, she considered herself one of the real superheroes defending their homeland, even though she was unknown to the common people.

Individuals like Bobbi were working throughout the entire country, searching for the targets they were assigned to, making those people love them and acting as hidden spies in order to know all the secrets that those people had: all in the service of the foreign diplomatic corps. Of course, in order to accomplish their tasks, agents endowed with special powers like her had to stay in close vicinity with the subject they had to study, and there was no better way than to initiate a love affair. Afterwards, the woman took out of his mind the memory he had of her, and instilled into his head the false features of the lover he thought he had been with during that time…that was all! At times, however, things proved harder than usual, as today was going to be.

This was exactly the case with Wangombe, as he was a very handsome man from the diplomatic corps of an African country which was involved in many ongoing espionage activities and bloody wars. But as the middle-aged man would forget her true features forever, it wasn’t so easy for her. On the other hand, she thought she had really fallen in love with him, and she was unable to use her ability on herself to forget the feelings she had for him. How ironic it seemed!

He would never remember her real face, no matter how hard he tried, while Bobbi couldn’t forget his features, not now or for the future, of course.

Previously, Bobbi had done the same to Frank, the Antiguan businessman; to Prokhor, the Russian showman and to Takeo, the Japanese CEO, anyway. Also on their mind there was a Georgia at present…

Bobbi had willingly put her superpower at the service of her country, because she really believed in homeland security, but everything had its price. So this morning she sat in that Airport Lounge, in front of that man, in order to make sure that her job had been successful. Sad to say that it really seemed to be so, as Wangombe didn’t even recognize her, nor did he remember her true eyes and her blonde hair. He could only remember the false memory she had given him.

And the woman knew that no means existed in the world to reverse such a mental process. Sad, unfortunately, was also the saying of that famous American author: What is once well done is done forever...’

The End

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Post October 14, 2013, 05:15:46 PM

Huntsman's Family Challenge

The challenge was to tell the story of the family of a simple huntsman trying to get along with each other.

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Post October 14, 2013, 05:18:43 PM

Huntsman's Family Challenge

The Kay-Ram-Glossi

R. Tornello
The Village Idiot Press

The broad flat back of his axe hit the table. That got their attention. Silence filled the once raucous dining hall. All of the animals held their collective tongues. The Alpha Cat, known as Big Cat, surveyed his clan with his bright yellow sparkle eyes. The young ones were in front as was planned. They had been trained in hunting, but social manners and way of the world, were they lacking. From below he heard:

“He’s touching me.’

“Am not.”

“He poked me.”

“You’re crazy. I’m 5 paw lengths away. Big Cat would have seen that.”

Big Cat waited staring straight into the face of the two that he knew were soon to lead the hunts, the two he knew who caused the most trouble. He had a few other things he wanted to impart besides simply getting along with your siblings and neighbors. He was concerned about their young impressionable minds.

“He just shoved me off the bench,” she wailed, as all 4 paws hit the floor, razor sharp claws extended and ready to strike. Any other time he would have looked the other way and let her haul into her antagonist, just to teach a lesson in “manners”. But PSYOP techniques and defense against other predators was on the agenda today.

“The two of you knock it off or I will make sure neither of you reach adulthood,” he bellowed. They knew he was both serious and kidding. But they also knew the time for picking on each other was about to end.

“You two, future leaders of the clan and hunters, this is no way to behave. It’s time to put your rivalry and bickering behind and work together. The world is dangerous. You are the future leaders. At home you will sort out problems and decide the proper rewards and punishments as I have, and those before me have done.”

“But today I have more to relate to you than proper family behavior. As you know there are other things besides metal traps, and weapons that can slay you.”

“What do you mean?” asked a young voice from the back of the pack.

Big Cat wanted them to learn how to work with and for each other. That would take time. Up until then they were taught only to hunt. Hunting reinforced the strong while unfortunately eliminated the weak who could not find other gainful tasks in and for the clan. There were also highly intelligent young ones that were removed from the daily exercises and trained in techniques such metallurgy.

Big Cat wanted to impress upon the new little ones and reiterate what had been stated in previous meetings. “I have a bit a poem-story for you all. Listen and take heart and repeat each line after me.”

The slippery speaking slithering snake upon your mind will hold and take
with words of love and warm delight,
“Repeat,” he commanded.
will into your soul there alight
and with time and words so fine
gain your confidence and in bind
you must watch for flatterers near
especially when you’re young my dears.
Experience you have not in the world
and this the snake knowingly entraps, unfurls
slippery smooth and words so kind
your youth and your wealth will soon you’ll find
gone and spent and when you cry
for your dearest friend nearby?
Well no he’s gone and slipped away
to do it again, another day.

They all repeated every word.

He handed a copy of the poem-story to all of them and said, “memorize this, think about today when you hear that smooth silky voice, and you know in your heart of hearts that there is something amiss, not right that doesn’t add up to the reality as you sense it. Most of the time this will come from an outsider looking for power, advancement and many times,” and Big Cat hesitated for a second or so for effect… “YOUR LIFE.”

Some of you may have met other animals like this. It can be a snake, or a mole or a weasel or even one of our own. But most of the time it will be someone attempting to gain your trust, that doesn’t deserve it. Rely on your family. Check with them first, or call me or best yet, the new leaders.” He pointed to the two in front that up until today had been at each others throats. He noticed they were now sitting closer to each other, paw in paw, claws retracted. Yes this is what he was hoping for. For if the little ones saw these two come and work together, then they would mimic them. Peer pressure and the desire to be like them would help to bring this new group together.

He looked around and saw their faces. It was working. He walked down among them and gave a hug to the two New Leaders to be. He patted them both on the back and looked to all the others and stated, “These are your new leaders, trust them. Come to them with your questions, ideas and anything else. They will maintain confidences, protect you and help you grow to be big strong hunting cats that will make our clan, The Kay-Ram- Glossi, the leadership clan that we have always been.”

Big Cat knew that the two were beginning to awaken to the responsibility that they held in their paws. He saw it in their eyes, and he noticed they had separated themselves from the others, and were scared. It still scared him he thought. But look, they were not fighting or squabbling. That was the beginning he had hopefully anticipated.

He thought of his old partner who was laid to rest some time ago and the effort they had undertaken to make this clan come together. “Those two will bring the little ones along just fine,” he whispered to himself as if she were still there.

The End

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Post October 14, 2013, 05:21:14 PM

Huntsman's Family Challenge

A Tale Well Told

Michele Dutcher

The six children trudged along through the forests of Dumersil, leaving their schooldays worries behind them, heading towards a small cabin they called home.

“That’s a dogwood tree, Catfish,” said the teenage boy to his younger sister.

“No it’s not, Firebird,” she insisted. “That’s a pear tree in full blossom.”

Stanza could not help himself but jump in. “If it’s a pear tree, where are the pears Sissy?”

Lionhearted was the next to enter the row: “It is not yet time for the fruit to come forth. First the promise of Spring and then the wealth of Summer and Fall.”

“You might be wrong about the tree, Lionhearted,” said Target. “But you’re certainly a poet who don’t know it.” This made half of the brood chuckle, but the other half wasn’t satisfied.

The young boy who prided himself in making all things even out – Justice - said, “Perhaps we can ask our parents when we get home and they will inform us, so we won’t need to argue about this again.”

“Even if mama says what we saw was a pear tree, I know what I know, and I know that I’m right,” said Firebird, beginning the entire disagreement again.

And so they quarreled long after they had passed the tree in question, never truly coming to any agreement. As they approached the house they could clearly see their father returning from the hunt, a dead deer thrown over his shoulders as if it were a cloak. The children ran through the front door and the huntsman entered through the back, throwing the carcass of the deer onto a wooden table. He took off his red hat and scratched at his full, white beard.

His wife rushed to see the kill exclaiming: “What a beautiful creature, she will feed us for a fortnight.”

The children peeked around the corner. “I can see the story of the stars written in her silent eyes,” said Lionhearted.
Justice said, “Mother deer, we thank you for dying so that we may live.”

Chester, the oldest boy who had just come in from chopping wood said, “I’m so hungry that I could tear it apart and devour this deer right now.”

“That might prove to be a mistake,” laughed the mother. “Raw meat can be dangerous.”

Target laughed, “Sometimes bad decisions make good stories!”

Catfish pushed her way into the conversation. “I just checked, Chester, and mama already has supper ready to put on the table – so leave the poor deer as it is.”

“That sounds like an excellent idea,” said Papa, and the small family went inside to eat.

After a delicious meal of what mama said was sea monsters and Khalkotauroi (but may have been eels and puppies, because in a stew no one knows you’re a dog) the huntsman stoked the fire and the boys went in to join him.

“Don’t you think you boys should help clean up?” asked the father, puffing on his pipe.

“Catfish knows how to do all that,” said Stanza. “Catfish and mama can do all that – they’re the girls.”

“You’re telling me you don’t know how then,” asked the huntsman, crossing his arms over his round belly. The boys all shook their heads ‘no’. All except for Chester who knew where this was headed and left go enjoy the night air.

“Then Catfish can tell you boys what to do and you fellas can do all the work.”

The girl straightened up as if the dark grey sash she wore around the middle of her dress had been pulled tight and – with obvious delight – she gave her male siblings orders. “Stanza, you need to get wood to stoke the fire in the stove so we can heat the water. Lionhearted can draw three buckets of water from the well – pouring the first one into the sink, the second into the pan on the stove, and leaving the third bucket by the sink.” She waited for the boys to get busy, wiggling her fingers to shoo them out of the house.

“Justice, you can clear the table, scraping the leftover food into the slop bucket for the pig. And Firebird can stack the dishes neatly beside the sink, so they’ll be ready for Target to wash them.”

The dark-haired boy, the one called Firebird, nodded his head towards the dinner plates that Justice was scraping and the plates began to stack themselves – but papa stopped him immediately. “Whatever gifts you possess, this time use your elbow grease instead of your magic.” So the boy shrugged and began to bustle towards the kitchen.

The parents smiled at each other as their children went about their assigned tasks, getting the job done in harmony (finally!).

When the dishes and pots had been cleaned and put away on sturdy wooden shelves, the family gathered in front of the warmth of the fireplace.

“Who wants to tell a story?” asked mama.

Target’s had shot-up with delight and he sped into his tale. “A deer, a priest, and a rabbit walk into a bar and…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said papa chuckling. “I think we’ve all heard that story before. Why don’t we let Justice tell us one tonight?”

The smallest of all the assemblage got up from his stool, thought for a moment and began. “Many years ago, in a magical land far beyond the brightest stars that we see in the deepest night sky, there lived a huntsman and his small family, who were in fact much like us…”

As Papa silently looked around at his children, drawing his wife closer to him, he realized that in spite of all their quarrelling, what the children really wanted was to simply sit beside the fire and hear a story well told.

The End

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Post October 14, 2013, 05:22:51 PM

Huntsman's Family Challenge

- Winner -

A Sustainable Development

Sergio Palumbo

The sun was going down among the trees and the usual hurly burly had begun inside the small wooden house in the forest. It was the huntsman’s home and it seemed to happen every single day, late in the evening, when the father was getting ready to go to work.

Elvew, his daughter, was a bit aggressive, which was always the case with her, and that was mostly due to her being a teenager and going through that awkward period of life between being a child and before becoming an adult. He had undergone that, too, when he was younger, twenty years before.

But there were other issues with her, different from the ones he had faced. Elvew was so different from him, not only because she was a girl and he was her middle-aged father. If only his dead wife were still with them to help him constrain his unruly daughter! But that wasn’t possible anymore.

“Why can’t you accept what I do for a living? Why must everything always be so difficult?” the tall, blonde-haired man asked the pale, slender girl in the kitchen when darkness began filling the air outside the window.

The fair-haired girl looked angrily at him for a short time, then she retorted, “You know why! But you don’t care about it…”

“There are jobs worse than mine, even before your young-but-still-too-pretentious eyes, my darling…”

Stop it! You know that it’s thanks to people like you that the local land-barons are able to increase their property and their wealth. Their manors grow from small castles to enormous palaces, and then those become towns, capitals and so on. Eventually nothing will be left of this land, no forest, no meadow, no free space for the commoners… And then the only thing left will be a paved terrain, a built-up area with no wilderness at all.”

“You would be right if I resulted to be a common logger, or if I were a peasant who was going begin farming despite the woods. Actually, I never tried to wipe every piece of nature out of existence. I hunt, I do it on behalf of the Lord of the Realm, and I have always done it since I was much younger. Moreover, I will do it until I'm knackered, because it’s due to my job that our family has been allowed to possess a small house here, with a yard and have the provisions we need to live.”

The daughter gave her parent a very nasty look. “You never heard of sustainability, certainly!”

“I have…”

“No, you haven’t! All of us should do all that we can in order to ensure long-term sustainability of natural resources and wildlife around us. But you destroy nature; you wipe out wild vegetation and damage the surroundings!”

“But I’m not a logger, I told you, I’m a huntsman!”

“No, what is much worse is that you’re both!

“What do you mean?” the man cried out, surprised.

“Your actions contribute to turning this world into a modern land, full of buildings, without animals or any creatures, and if it continues this way, in a very short time nothing will be left of the wilderness in the whole area.”

Being unable to discuss his daughter’s controversial viewpoints any longer, the middle-aged parent turned his back on Elvew and went outside, slamming the metallic garden gate in the middle of the enclosure.

While walking across the nearby undergrowth that night, he considered the many things on his mind.

The man understood the deep sense of ecology his daughter had, which addressed the full scale of life, from tiny insects to processes that spanned the entire realm. The ones like her, the ecologists, studied many complex relations among species and Elvew was very interested at the interdisciplinary field that included biology and Earth science, but maybe she was going too far now, at least from his point of view…

As far as his job, it wasn’t as bloody or terrible as the girl thought: he didn’t hunt poor birds, hares nor bucks. The huntsman wasn’t even a killer of common wild animals. He just entered that secluded part of the forest at night, when those creatures -- he was searching for -- had already settled down on a certain site and were asleep, so he only had to sneak up on them in silence and then begin killing using a good ax. Maybe it wasn’t a fair method, but that was the easiest one…

Dryads were female creatures of nature who presided over that part of the forest, and he simply hunted them. That was all! Each one was born with a certain tree over which the dryad watched: as they were made of wood, should the trunk that enveloped their essence perish, then they died with it.

Having to deal with such beings when they were awake was very dangerous, and there were so many of them in there - too many for a single human huntsman like him. On the other hand, going near them and killing them at night when they were asleep was as easy as cutting dead branches, with no time for those to react appropriately.

The father could comprehend his daughter’s motivations, if he were only a man destroying common trees or removing plants from the ground - but he was only hunting for those legendary living beings who could move and fight vehemently over the course of the day, removing them forever from the Lord of the Realm’s land to keep it clear.

'It's hard job but someone has to do it!' the man thought, choosing the first target of tonight’s work and preparing to deliver the first cut of the day.

As he went on mowing and destroying the spleeping wooden creatures around, he considered that his daughter’s words just cut him to the heart, in a way…

The End

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:22:12 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

The challenge was to be inspired by or to take an unfinished story idea from a previous challenge, change the requirement that kept the story from being realized, and finish the piece.

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:24:23 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

A Distillate of Exceptional Flavor…

Sergio Palumbo

Inspired by June 2009 Steampunk

The huge metaplane was soaring across the sky as if an incredible magic was driving it. It couldn’t be classified as a common airship, like the few that currently flew over the cold lands of the Empire of Sweden in 1879, because it was very different by all means. The extraordinary vehicle used static lift generated by a pocket filled with lighter-than-air gas, and was characterized by a lowered weight center due to its long wings. Such a design allowed the plane to obtain absolute stability. Additionally, the lowered position of the propulsion system made the direct control of its energy much easier and offered high maneuverability.

The airship had been named the Lindegren 1 by its proprietor, Mrs. Lindegren. She had ordered it to be built and be ready for duty within one year, as the sixty-year-old woman clearly wanted to profit from it immediately, in order to pay off the many debts she had incurred.

Such an innovative air vehicle was able to perform low cost aerial captures, silently and safely, and in fact two more units had already been ordered by the military of the Empire. Her purpose, however, was mainly to use it for air tours for wealthy people who could afford its high cost, so they could see from above the southern coasts of Sweden and its surrounding scenery.

Lindegren 1 had a wide copper structure attached to the upper part that accommodated up to 15 passengers, night or day. Furthermore, the workers had equipped it with some refined furnishings and expensive tableware, along with gold-trimmed tea-sets to satisfy the needs of the important individuals on board.

While walking across the hardwood floor, Mrs. Lindegren -- dressed in a grey evening gown with wide sleeves, her long golden hair secured in a low bun at the back -- went on slowly, looking at the tasteful customers who were admiring the wondrous scenery below from the circular windows that completely encircled the structure. Things were going very well and everyone aboard appeared satisfied and enraptured by such a luxurious trip. This wasn’t a slice of life that commoners could currently experience, sure thing…

After waving to her guests during her stroll, the woman headed for the rear of the structure and then disappeared out of sight. As she reached the last copper bulkhead, Mrs. Lindegren went down the stairs in order to reach the lower level that was a forbidden area to everyone but her. Down there you could find the kitchen and, beyond that, the secret distillery where her faithful servant Axel was at work. The time for aperitifs was approaching upstairs and she had to know if today’s bottles were ready.

As she opened the metallic door with a key, she could see a graying man who was collecting liquid coming out of a cruet dangling from a wooden plate above. As she looked to the right, Mrs. Lindegren was able to see the long brass piping which connected the glassy cruet to the rest of a huge steamy machine, where a clear duct came out and entered the chest of an individual tied to a sort of operating table. As the gray color of the skin and the overall features immediately indicated, that was not a common person, resembling a strange creature more than a man. He was no taller than a child, but his bulbous eyes revealed that he wasn’t human at all.

“Well then, Axel, it’s almost time. Are the bottles for today’s aperitifs already prepared? Our guests are waiting…”

“I’m extracting the last drops of liquid from the body of the alien in order to add it to the final bottle.”

“Alright,” she stated. “But hurry up! You know how much I care about this moment. I like to make a favorable impression on my customers.”

The servant bowed and acted accordingly, maneuvering a hose to quicken the process. He happened to notice a jolt in the creature’s chest but it didn’t matter. The only important thing was to please the owner of the air vehicle, the person who had saved him from poverty, raising him up from being a simple servant by showing interest him and the incredible, futuristic devices he invented.

The ingredient he was siphoning off was an unusual one: part of the blood of the space creature imprisoned aboard. Six years ago Mrs. Lindegren had happened upon a strange vehicle that turned out to be, incredibly, a crashed spaceship with a short alien inside, and everything had changed. The woman was already rich, but the new technologies she discovered had been put to use thanks to her servant’s abilities - even though many of those devices from another world were still incomprehensible to him as well. Those discoveries had made the construction of a metaplane possible, one that was much more advanced than other airships of the time.

Then, one day she happened to taste some drops of the alien’s blood, that was trapped and concealed in a hidden reinforced shed. During an interrogation to discover more about how the spaceship functioned, blood had spurted into her mouth. If only it had never happened! Since then, the woman had told him to add the incredibly tasty liquid to the wine sold in her shops, as she was sure it would turn it into a very valuable product. Mrs. Lindegren had a real nose for business, and she was correct: the resulting wine was the most exquisite in the country!

And so, from time to time, when the Lindegren I was on duty, the servant attached the machine to the alien they took along in order to extract the distillate he needed to improve the wine.

He himself had tasted a drop of it once and could confirm that the taste was incredible! So, as the rich guests upstairs were used to saying before drinking, the man looked at the alien tied up nearby and simply exclaimed, “To your health!”

The End

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:25:50 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

Retirement Planning


Inspired by April 2012 Seeking Redemption

Ben drummed his fingers on the table at lunch at MarsBase Retirement Home, nicknamed the Dino Zoo. In was formerly a luxury facility for Valuable Professionals - medical researchers, geophysical mine engineers, solar flare techs, etc. But MarsBase related Politics back on Earth, called PlanetSide, had swung again towards Local-ism in the Twenty Second Century. Now the Dino Zoo was as creaky as its residents. Ben couldn't get a decent kelp curry in under an hour, let alone the roasts they served back in the Old Days.

But then his placid day screeched to a halt with the blaring of the emergency klaxon and the building's Chief Administrator over the loudspeaker!

"Attention: Emergency! This is not a drill! Will Pilot First Class Benjamin Macklin please report to the Administration Office. Ben, get here now!"

Ben stared at the remains of his vegetarian curry in utter disbelief. No one had used his old formal title in over a decade! He muttered, "Give them credit for one thing in this rot zone, they don't cry wolf. Not like this. This isn't PlanetSide where the President gets a bruise and they call it an emergency. So this is bad. Because the one thing we never do here anymore is hurry!"

He walked to the Chief Administration office slowly because of his bad knees. Chief Administrator Don Marsden was his head in his hands.

"It just can't be like this, Ben. It just can't." His voice was soft. In the Space Service, screaming cost lives.

"What's going on Don? And what's with getting all fancy with my old title?"

"Plague Outbreak on MoonBase."

"Yeah? Bad news for them, but what are we supposed to do about it? And what's the story from PlanetSide?"

"Because early word on this is foul play, of the worst kind. Let's assume it is. Whoever let this buggie loose also sabotaged all four quarantine zones on MoonBase. The MoonBasers can't go Planetside because the gravity will kill them. Ours is close enough - they're sick already and the modest difference in gravity will make them feel like zombies, but they can live here. We're supposed to do a full scale evac of MoonBase."

"With what? Planetside took our SuperFreighter back home under some typical Politico lie like they always do. We only have twelve SuperHoppers and two are in the shop... oh God no!"

Chief Administrator Don Marsden sank his head back into his hands. "Yep. They want us to use MoonBase's old Mitsu Freighter. And remember the sabotage angle. That cuts out a lot of the easy options. Scramble time, population evac size, and so on. And because of typical Politico stupidity PlanetSide, they don't have anything Deep Space rated the right size down there. Just the beat-to-hell Mitsu' freighter on MoonBase. But has it hit you yet? The real problem?"

And then it did. Ben almost completely lost control over his already bad nerves. "No, no, no, no, no! We're talking about the hell spawned Blackburn Engine aren't we? The one everyone said was named by its nature and not the inventor."

"Yep. The Black Death, the Black Hole, all the old names. Wait for it... you're the only one left alive on either base who knows how to fly that Devil-in-a-can. And the only other pilot 'certed to fly it under "Hostile Conditions" like this sabotage situation is under intensive medical care somewhere down on Planetside. "

"Don, that ninety ton piece of junk is a safety hazard on a good day. Sure, that cauldron of hell is faster than a girl running off with your alimony, but just about as bitchy too. They stopped making them because five percent of flights ended up in explosive disasters that killed part of the crews. And I'm supposed to fly one that is already old and out of shape, and somehow fix some bastard's sneaky tricks on it? Ten percent faster than rated speeds before the MoonBasers die of the plague?"

"Yep. Okay, time for us to go back into Space Dog mode, the old way! Someone yelled at the Politicos down on PlanetSide so we get to use a couple of their best 'Dogs. They do have a couple of really good ones that we'll need. I'll make the calls in the morning after I go over all the stuff we have so far on our side."

"Sure, see you tomorrow Don for the briefing."

Back in his quarters, Pilot First Class Ben Macklin heaved a deep breath while gazing into his holo photo of MoonBase. But when he tried to sleep, the nightmares came! Ben had been the pilot on that last flight before they mothballed the Blackburn Drive. The tolerances were just too tight. He had missed the hourly calibration setting adjustments required for that engine. But before he could fix it, they had to dodge an asteroid that had somehow eluded the scanners! He couldn't switch all the settings over in time, and the engine had shorted out! That led to a fire in the notoriously bad wiring, and the engine room had caught fire! Someone making a sleazy buck had registered more passengers than the lifepods could handle! They held a vote and then a drawing of straws, and twenty men gave their lives to go down with the ship.

They officially Condemned the Blackburn Engine after that. There were other pilots who could fly the newer engines. Ben wound up in the Dino Zoo, something nearly extinct. But now this damned plague had happened, and the only ship was the old Mitsu Freighter, as broken down as he was. But the time for laments was over, now. It was time for him to show them how it was done in the old days. It was time to save MoonBase.

The End

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:27:00 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

The Descendants

Jay Hill

Inspired by Jan. 2013 What If

“Can we pull over at the next gas station?” Rod asked Kristin as they crested the next hill.

“You gotta go potty?” she teased him before flipping the turn signal to move into the exit lane.

Three different options lay before them in the valley ahead, all brightly lit with fluorescent signs proclaiming their brand names, a wide swath of unnatural blues and reds and yellows stabbing the dusky Arizona skyline.

“One too many cervezas back at that Mexican restaurant.”

“Just one?” Kristin slowed the ’09 Accord down and pointed it towards the closest of the three convenience stores, turning in by the row of gasoline pumps positioned alongside the painted cement building. “We should probably fill up while we’re here. It’s a long way back to Flagstaff.”

Rod sidled out of the car and started the fuel, positioning the nozzle in the tank, setting the stopper and then hurrying towards the Men’s Room door on the far side of the gas station. Kristin made her way inside the store, cruising down the candy aisle, looking for a chocolate bar and a diet soda. Drumming her fingertips against her lips, she eventually found a combination she liked, paid the attendant and headed back out.

“Let’s cut across the back roads,” Rod said on returning to the car. “I don’t want to get back after midnight. It’s just too depressing.”

Kristin had moved to the passenger seat and sat there nibbling her candy, the soft drink cradled between her thighs.

“I don’t know. It’s dark and…”

“But Flagstaff is just over that way,” he interrupted her and pointed in a southwesterly direction. “191 goes all the way down to I-40 before cutting over. We could head across at an angle and be there much quicker with the satellite navigation thing in your car.”

“We don’t even know what’s over there,” she motioned with a nod towards the long expanse of rolling hills and scrubby brush outside the passenger window. “Those roads might not even take us back to Flagstaff.”

“Of course they connect,” Rod dismissed her. “It’s the only real town between here and Phoenix.”

She gave him a look that expressed her doubts in a succinct and direct manner, but at the same time, it showed how tired she was, revealing her shrinking resolve even more clearly than the long sigh she added to it.

“Come on,” Rod assured her, “It’ll be fine, and we’ll be home in an hour instead of two.”

# # # #

The best Rod could tell, he lost control of the car when the front tire on the passenger side hit an uneven spot on the shoulder of the road. By simple reflex, he jerked the wheel in the opposite direction. However, it was not hard enough to pull the car back onto the pavement. The rear tire followed the front and the entire vehicle careened down a steep embankment, hitting an outcropping of rock and rolling over into a ditch.

“Kristin,” he mumbled, “Kristin, honey I think I dozed off, and now…”

He reached out with his right hand and felt the sticky blob of blonde hair, mixed with warm blood beside him.

“Kristin,” tears welled in his eyes as he patted the dry side of her face. A long section of the guard rail stretched through the shattered front windshield, skewering the plastic soda bottle and carving its way through the side of Kristin’s rib cage.

“Honey,” he said again. “Honey, I can’t feel my legs.”

# # # #

Rod fought his way back to consciousness. There was a light, and at first, he thought it was a good light. Then there was a voice, and he heard scattered fragments of the conversation taking place around him.

“Must have cracked the steering column,” the first person said as they shuffled around in the dirt beside the driver side window.

“Probably would have been paralyzed from the waist down,” the second agreed.

In his mind, in the most optimistic manner of wishful thinking, Rod assumed these were paramedics. He opened his mouth to speak, but found he couldn’t. He tried to raise his arm to grasp the thing that covered his mouth and realized that he was restrained.

That’s okay, he thought. I’m probably tied down for a reason. On a gurney or something like that. To keep me from doing any further damage to my spine or neck area.

The owner of the two voices had pried the car door open; he could see the sky from the angle his body was positioned. He saw the artificial light again, and realized it was a heavy duty flashlight, bobbing up and down as its bearer ambled back and forth across the inclined terrain.

Then Rod experienced a tingling sensation that seemed to be coming from somewhere in his lower extremities. He felt a tickle and then heard the sound of cutting, a jagged noise, something closer to a wet ripping sound, like a serrated blade sawing through tough skin and tendons.

“Now that’s the quad muscle,” the speaker paused. “That’ll make a good steak. Cook that on the grill with some onions. Mmm-hmm!”

There was another pause, and Rod strained his eyes to see the speaker’s face. He caught a glimpse of a shoulder, saw the repeated motion of an arm moving back and forth, an arm wearing a red and grey plaid shirt with the sleeve rolled up past the elbow.

“And the hamstring, that’s the best part,” the voice continued. “You’ll want to get that too.”

Rod rolled his eyes toward the soft grey light of the desert sky brightening just before dawn. He trembled once as he cried, while the blood ran out of his femoral artery and down onto the light brown upholstery.

The End

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:28:08 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

The Kiss of the Gill Fish

J. Davidson Hero

Inspired by April 2011 The Knowing

Iaera snaked in and out of the kelp bed, a flourish of curves and muscles. Even with all the aquatic gear, Lorcan struggled to keep up. He fired his water jet and shot forward like a brick, while she swam from side to side like an underwater butterfly. He marveled at her nearly naked body which he caught glimpses of through her train of long brown hair. Obviously, she wasn't affected by the cold the way he was. Lorcan couldn't help but wonder at the diversity of the human race.

"Watch there," she signed to him and pointed to one side of a large rock formation. He readied his camera as she swam off in the opposite direction around the hulking mass and disappeared into the darkness. As he waited listening to the mechanical click of the diaphragm in his rebreather, Lorcan felt a pang of claustrophobia. Moments later she flushed out her quarry, the rare Steller ursinus, or whale-bear. At first it bolted into the open, and Lorcan, surprised, thought he would miss his opportunity. But it wasn't completely spooked, and after a moment, lumbered to rest in the kelp. Sure enough, Lorcan could make out the symbiont covering the muzzle of the beast, an air bladder on either side of its neck. Lorcan almost forgot to record; the whole thing was much larger than the one attached to Iaera's face.


When Lorcan's branch of the human family tree discovered their cousins on Steller's Planet, they had already been there for 3000 years. The first immigrants left old Earth the same time Lorcan's people had, both fleeing an overpopulated and dying planet. They spread out into the galaxy, gambling everything on one-way generation ships looking for any habitable planet.

95% of Steller's Planet is covered by water. And it was inevitable that humans would take to the seas. They made what changes they could to prepare themselves for their new world, but what really secured their survival was a single stroke of luck, the discovery of the mammalian whale-bear and its symbiont, the gill fish.


Iaera ran her fingers through Lorcan's hair. He involuntarily winced, but then looked at her apologetically and smiled. It was good to be out of the wetsuit, breathing fresh air. The awkward sound of the exhaust of hydrogen from Iaera's gill fish reminded him that she wouldn't be able to stay long. He was seated at a console and bringing up the footage he had shot of the ursinus. As it started, she let out a muffled squeal of excitement.

"Will I see myself too?" she asked, speaking instead of signing. Lorcan had her repeat the question. As an anthropologist and a polyglot, he prided himself on being able to master a language quickly. But even after months he still struggled. The primitive ceremony of placing a young gill fish on the face of a newborn fascinated Lorcan. How could it be anything but traumatic? Over time the gill fish integrated itself into the human face. Human lips and the skin and cartilage of the nose atrophied. Bilabial and labiodental sounds like p and f which required lips to make were absent from Iaera's language.

"Yes. There," he said pointing at the screen. There she was in the background watching the ursinus with triumph in her eyes. Lorcan felt embarrassed as the ursinus fell out of frame and the camera auto-zoomed in on her.

Iaera's arms folded around his neck and she hugged him close with excitement. "Wonderful," he heard her say as the mouth of the gill fish opened near his ear.

Gill fish was a misnomer. In its symbiosis with the ursinus the gill fish evolved the ability to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. Much like the mechanical rebreather that Lorcan used, the gill fish scrubbed the air exhaled by the ursinus of carbon dioxide, and replaced oxygen. And since the ursinus had to pass its prey through the mouth of the gill fish to reach its own, they shared food as well.

"You should go back." he said with concern, pulling her arms from around his neck. There was some danger of the gill fish drying out in the air-conditioned base. She pressed her lithe body against his and ran her finger along his upper lip. Instinctually his hands encircled her waist and he pressed his forehead against hers.

"Come with me," she signed. There was a pleading look in her eyes and then something seductive. He knew she meant forever. He heard the mouth of the gill fish gasping and gently he pushed her away.

"I have work," he said, still shaken by her closeness.


Lying in his sterile bed, Lorcan plugged in, dropped into REM sleep and awoke in a virtual dream. There he stood before the Temple to Camelopardalis and there Philomena waited in white robes, only her face exposed. They saluted. Long ago, in another corner of the galaxy, the real Philomena had been his mate. In a sterile laboratory, they had watched as their comingled DNA was programmed to produce a single perfect offspring. In all their time together their skin never touched. This was not her, only a virtual representation, programmed to give him comfort.

"Have you presented her with the proposal yet?" she asked.

"I don't know if she can understand the consequences." Lorcan allowed himself a moment of arrogance. "They are so primitive."

"But she will learn and see so much, maybe even old Earth. The exchange will benefit everyone."

He looked at Philomena's lips and wondered what they felt like.


"This is goodbye," Iaera signed. Disappointment was in her eyes; she never understood his rejection of her offer. She touched his forehead with hers and brushed his lips with the gill fish. Her village would send someone else to work with him now. She would return to her people under the sea, forever. Someday he would return to his people too, forever alone.

The End

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Post October 23, 2013, 12:29:42 AM

I Wish I Could Have... Challenge

- Winner -


Michele Dutcher

Inspired by Oct. 2011 Murder Should Be Personal

The Schamb twins had always seemed a bit odd to those living in their small community. Even when they were young, townspeople considered the pair eccentric. Now that the sisters were in their sixties, those who knew them thought them downright weird.

“I’ll be leaving you behind soon,” Mabel Schamb threatened her sister over breakfast.

“I doubt it,” replied Camilla with a raised eyebrow.

“No, I mean it. I had a dream a few nights ago that my life is going to change for the better.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re psychic, I know. You’ve been telling me you can tell the future for sixty years now.”

“I am psychic,” screamed Mabel, pounding her fist on the table.

“Well if you’re so psychic – why ain’t you rich?”

“You say you can move objects with your mind, Camilla – so why ain’t YOU rich?”

"Okay, Mabel, I'll bite. What was your dream about?"

“I dreamed I was watching the 10:00 news and I saw the Lotto numbers fall.”

“Really,” huffed Camilla.

“Really! I even wrote the numbers down when I woke up.” She took a slip of paper from a large pocket on her flowered dress.

Camilla unfolded the paper, looked at it, and rolled her eyes. "25, 26, 27, 28 and 29? And the Lottoball is 30?" She handed the paper back to her sister. "This will never happen, they'll never fall like this."

"Yes they will - tomorrow night - you'll see."

"No they won't."

"Yes they will."

"No they..." The twins were shouting at each when the table started shaking, rising briefly off the floor. Both ladies stopped screaming for a moment. The table fell back to the floor.
"I did that," said Camilla crossing her arms. "I made the table rise with the power of my mind!"

"No you didn't. It was just a coincidence.” They looked at each other quietly for a moment, the clairvoyant and the telekinetic.

"I'll prove I’m psychic, once and for all, tomorrow night, Camilla. Just you wait and see." There was a knock at the side door and Mabel got up to answer it. "That's probably the man from Sears. I ordered a freezer."

"You did what? We don't need a freezer and we sure don't have the money," said Camilla.

"I'll have plenty of money when I win the Lotto," said Mabel with a sneer.


The Schamb twins sat on their avocado green couch peering into their 19 inch TV.

"I have the winning ticket right here," announced Mable the physic, reaching into a pocket on her faded blue bathrobe.

"No, dear sister, I - in fact - have the winning ticket right here!" Camilla took a lotto ticket from her faded yellow bathrobe and flashed it briefly in front of her twin's eyes.

"Here it comes," whispered the sisters in unison.

"And now the Lucky Lotto numbers are..." The ping-pong balls began to drop, one by one. "25...26...27...28...and 29." The host of the show seemed incredulous. "This is a first! This is amazing! And now, for the winning Super Lotto Ball..."

There was a close-up of fifty red ping-pong balls shooting around inside the large plastic container. One ball fell into the transparent tube. It was the #30, halfway down the tube by now. Suddenly the #30 ball seemed to be sucked back up into the swarm of balls inside the container and the #31 ball dropped into place at the bottom of the TV screen beside the other winning numbers.

"Ah, too bad, Mabel," sneered Camilla, waving her ticket under the physic's nose. "I happen to have ALL those numbers right here, on this ticket - the winning ticket - MY ticket!"

"You did that! You made my ball go back up so you could get the money! You've never let me win anything!"

"It's like I've always told you, my dear sister, I'm able to move things with the power of my mind..."

Mabel grabbed Camilla by the throat. Her eyes got huge as she squeaked out a plea to her twin. "They have a surveillance camera at the Quik Stop, Mabel. You'll never be able to cash in that ticket. They'll know I bought the winner."

But the intuitive's hands only tightened around her sister's throat. "This is the first time in my life when I'm actually happy we were born identical twins."

The ad in the newspaper seemed a bit bizarre, but since a Schamb twin had penned it, the clerk at the Times Tribune figured it was par for the course.

'House-sitter Wanted: Need lazy person to live in my home for free. Liberal allowance will cover food costs and auto expenses. Must be able to make a ten-year commitment.'

Mabel and the first person to answer the ad were standing now in the garage of the cozy Schamb home.

"So you'll be traveling, Ms. Schamb?”

"Oh yes, dear," answered the sweet old lady. “Just keep the grass cut - and make sure the electricity stays on. You can always reach me on my cell if you have any problems with the house." The old woman handed a ring of keys to the house-sitter.

"Is the key to the freezer on here," asked the girl, nodding towards the newly installed appliance in the corner. One very formidable lock had been welded into its white frame. "In case I want to buy some meat and cook it."

"Don't be silly, dear heart. Order a pizza or go out! Enjoy your life. Don't concern yourself with that freezer," said Mabel smiling. "It holds the top layer of my wedding cake and a few other useless memories. I'm leaving them all behind - starting now."

"Thanks," shouted the girl from the open door connecting the garage to the rest of the house.

"You are more than welcome," sung Mabel, stepping into the cab that would carry her into the world.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 12:59:52 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

The challenge was to write a science fiction story where the protagonist has a twin and the twin is the protagonist's literary foil.

Example story:

The Bagholder

John David Rose

"So, you want me to take… what is it?" Gabriel scrutinized his twin brother, a mirror image of himself, except for the designer suit and expensive haircut, sitting on the sofa across from him feeding sections of a clementine to a monkey-like creature that was seated on his shoulder.

"Manticore is a simian," Michael said with a tinge of arrogance. "He's a synthetic organism roughly based on the genome of a squirrel monkey, with some bits of cat and... I don't know; I forget the specifics." Michael let his finger trace the silver filigree of the sapphire-adorned coronet that crowned the simian's head. The creature looked toward Gabriel with black eyes and smiled before continuing to devour the orange slice. Gabriel found the creature's vaguely human face and the way his brother fawned over the thing a little unnerving.

"And yes, I'll be going on an extended business trip, and I need someone to take Manticore for me; someone who will take care of him properly."

Gabriel was still in shock. He hadn't seen his brother in eight long years except for those times Michael's face had surfaced in the financial blogs as the smirking mask of the one percent, Michael the corporate raider, Michael the billionaire. Gabriel was always confused at first, thinking it was his own face before realizing it was another celebration of Michael's success taking over and dismantling biotech companies. What makes two people with identical backgrounds, and identical genes, end up in completely different places in life? During the last recession Gabriel had barely managed to keep his job, and the stress had torn apart his relationship with Ava. Meanwhile, Michael's success moved him into the upper echelons of society, with its fashion models, mansions, cybernetic implants and, apparently, synthetic pets.

"I don't think I'm allowed to have pets in my apartment."

"Manticore is not a pet. No one will ever know he's here, if you don't want them to. And you'll find he's very useful."

"He does tricks?"

Gabriel watched as a familiar look of contempt skittered across Michael's face. He wondered if the same expression, which he despised, ever crossed his own without his knowledge.

"No tricks; he's not a dog." Michael handed the simian another section of orange which Manticore snatched greedily. Its eyes darted between the brothers.

"He's very intelligent, and… listen, I don't have time to explain it all. He's much more than a pet." Michael surveyed his brother and Gabriel got that creepy feeling that Michael could read his thoughts.

"Try this," Michael said with a sigh. "Think of the saddest thing you can think of. Seriously. But, please, don't tell me. Just bring up a depressing memory."

Gabriel gave in. A vision of Ava formed in his mind. She was slamming the door in his face at the end of their last fight, and she was never coming back.

"Okay, now focus that memory on Manticore," Michael said, as he slid forward with anticipation. Gabriel looked at the simian who was finishing the orange. He let the memory play over again in his mind, with all its weight, but this time he projected it at the simian.

Suddenly, alert, Manticore looked at him, its shiny eyes penetrating. Cat-like it jumped down to the sofa, the floor, and up onto Gabriel's lap. And with its eyes still fixed on Gabriel's, it reached up with its front paw and placed it on Gabriel's cheek. Its expression saddened, and it began to purr. Gabriel smelled a thick scent like balsam and then he was relaxed, and relieved, the most he'd been in a long, long time.

"What just happened?" Gabriel said pulling away from the gaze of the simian as if he'd just come out of a trance.

Michael smiled triumphantly and leaned further forward. "It's all quite complex," he assured with animation. "In response to your emotional state, Manticore administered a dose of antidepressant via pheromones. He can deliver other drugs the same way, stimulants if you're tired, narcotics for pain. His body is a bio-factory."


"And it's all geared toward my… well… our genetic profile. You and I are the only people that Manticore's features work for. He was programmed with my DNA."

"But how could he… I mean, it was a memory, I was thinking…"

"Well, that's more complicated than I can explain. He's sensitive to certain physiological cues. Using a sad memory is the way I learned to trigger that feature. Here." Michael reached into his breast pocket and tossed Gabriel a memory card. "There's a manual on there that will show you how to care for him and how to take full advantage of his features. I expect you to take good care of him. I guess this is the closest thing you'll ever get to a nephew. I think I'll actually miss him." He handed the simian the last chunk of orange and ran his hand along its back.

"So, where are you going?"

"Well, it's a bit of a secret, but if you can't tell your twin, who can you tell? Am I right? You've followed the news about the interstellar ships being sent to systems with habitable planets? Well, it took some finagling, and a fortune, but I managed to get myself on the Flambeau bound for Gliese 581."

Standing, Michael put his hand on Gabriel's shoulder and patted. The simian had climbed up to Gabriel's other shoulder and seated itself there. It rubbed his cheek with its paw, and Gabriel smelled the balsam again.

"Don't worry; I'll be back… some day. And I'll think of you whenever I look in a mirror," Michael said with his signature smirk. He turned to leave, but at the door he hesitated.

"Someone might come looking for me and they'll probably tell you I did some horrible stuff. But you know I'm innocent, right Gabe?"

Gabriel doubted it. This wasn't the first time his twin had tried to leave him holding the bag.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:05:26 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

The Creator Twins

Richard Tornello
The Village Idiot Press

In the beginning there was Alpha & Omega, anode & cathode and plus & minus, presently known by their modern names as Marsha & Terry, THE TWINS.

Marsha the more creative of the two felt a bit bored and was tired of playing with her twin in all the universes and eternities that they possessed. Marsha was the first to pop into existence by a femtosecond before Terry. So by primogeniture, she was entitled to all the rights, privileges and obligations associated therein. “I’m going to make some new play things,” she declared.

Terry took this as an insult, pouted and asked, “What’s wrong with me? I’m your sister. You don’t love me any more?”

“Sis, really, come on, don’t you want to have something a little different and new for eternity,” as she pointed to absolute nothingness.

Terry looked about and said, “Nothing is wrong here.”

“EXACTLY. No thing IS wrong. We need some thing.”

Terry retorted, “You have me and & I have you. We’re perfect. What could be better than perfection?”

Marsha thought for a second. “Yes you have a point, BUT, this perfection stuff is B-O-R-I-N-G. I need to do something, anything to liven this entire nothing up. I feel it deep inside me.”

“Maybe it’s gas,” said Terry

“Gas…my ass. You drive me nuts,” said Marsha.

“See, aren’t I even better than no thing?”

Marsha gave her THE LOOK, a god like zap and then declared, “I’m going to do something we’ve never done, create a creature in a brave new world. I’m not too sure how to go about it, but what do you think, any ideas?”

Terry looked at her twin and said, “ I think you’re certifiable, wasting infinity, and will screw this up. We’re happy here with no things. Now you desire something, so then what happens?”

Marsha wailed, “You never want to do anything new.” Her eyes swelled with tears and in a red rage. She said, “I’ll show you.” As she said that a tear dropped from her face. In her anger Marsha shot a small god like zap at her sister. That zap managed to energize the tear as they passed each other. From that tear came a singularity. And now having the angry energy embedded within it, inflated so rapidly and to such an expanse that both sisters just stood and watched with awe.

They both asked aloud, “Now what do we do?”

After a period of time they laughed.

Terry aid, “Wow, would you look at that? Who would have guessed?”

Marsha had been thinking about all this and had a flash of insight. “Let’s make some dolls, animated dolls, and we can play with them.”

Terry said, “You make one and I’ll make another one and we can make them do funny things. Why didn’t we think of this before? You know Sis, sometimes you aren’t so dumb.”

“Me, dumb? You little shit. Watch this.” Marsha made an exact replica of herself. “I’ll call her Lilith. I don’t know why, I just will it.”

Terry watched and was about to do the same but hiccuped. Instead of a doll with YY chromosomes, one of the Y’s legs became extended during the hiccup and became an X. Marsha looked at her creation and said, What the…?” What do you call that?” She pointed to the XY’s penis.

Terry looked with wonderment. “I have no idea. Let’s leave them alone for a bit and see what happens.”


Lilith was bright, strong and beautiful. Hormones being what they are, XY was immediately attracted to her. She was a willing partner but a bit bossy. You have to remember from whom she was copied.

Terry watched all this and decided to stir things up. While her sister wasn’t looking and Lilith was away running some errand, Terry made another XX but one having a more passive personality, and nowhere near as smart as Lilith.

XY was attracted to this one too. XX didn’t know how to say no and gave in to any suggestion XY made. He liked her a whole lot more. He just couldn’t stand some doll smarter that he was, and being told what to do.

Marsha came back to survey the situation. “Who is this doll and what is it doing in my world?” Gravity waves rocked the universal boat. “Terry you bitch, you mucked up my doll world with that dumb-as-rocks interloper. You couldn’t just leave things alone. You never could. I’m just going to destroy this whole mess.”

Terry shot back, “No you won’t. You like all the drama. You said so yourself, you were BORED. Now sit back and enjoy the action.”

“Oh yeah, just watch me.” And into the garden where XX and XY were frolicking about, Marsha made her presence and her being known. “Hey, you two,” she bellowed.

“What’s that,” asked XY?

“Don’t know,” replied XX. I’ve never seen one before. I just thought it was just me and you and that Lilith doll. It looks a lot a lot like me but not quite.”

XY, being what he was, was immediately attracted to Marsha. He said, “Hi,” as he fondled one of her boobs. “Nice ones,” he said.

Marsha had enough. She pointed to XX and XY. “You are both OUTOFHERE, Be Gone especially you, you pig.” What’s a pig and where did that come from Marsha wondered. It just felt the right thing to say.

Wit a snap of her fingers and a wrinkle of her nose they were gone.

Terry watched and laughed. “Yep you screwed up again just like I said you would. Now those two lost souls are going to wander forever. I’m not even able to fathom what comes next.”

Marsha heard every word. She said to herself, “You come next you smart ass. You’re just a devil of a sister.”

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:09:51 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

The Mainstay of the Brotherhood...

Sergio Palumbo

The exploration of space had been gratifying and very interesting, full of great possibilities with new colonies started on various worlds outside the Solar System that Earthlings had once been forced to stay for long inside of - before the appearance of the FTL drive 50 years ago.

Then, problems had arisen as a starship had stumbled onto a small asteroid that was seemingly only a bare rock next to a small gas planet. However, aliens had built a mining facility on that rock in space, and it was reputed to be very useful for their needs. How the war actually started is unknown, as there were many things the armed forces wouldn’t tell the general population, of course. But in a matter of months the battles became fiercer and the main location of the confrontations became two Earth-like planets that were full of luxuriant jungles and mountains, without any other living creatures - apart from soldiers and massive manned mecha. One of the worst problems humans had while in combat was that the aliens seemed ready to deploy millions of troopers in every single battle, while the Earthlings were only able to thwart such continuous assaults by using their robot-like vehicles. As a matter of fact, the technology level of the two contending parties was almost the same, but the number of troops that the aliens threw on the battlegrounds was incredible. A few weeks after the first heavy fatalities, the humans discovered where such large amounts of enemy soldiers came from: every family of that species was capable of giving birth to at least forty sons and daughters!

On Earth, science did its best to solve the problem, but humans didn’t have the technology to create cyborgs, nor could they clone soldiers or troopers - so Mankind was easily going to soon be outnumbered. The only thing that they were able to come up with was inducing multiple pregnancies in most women to make them capable of giving birth to duodecaplets, that is twelve babies at a time. Other than that, thanks to new accelerated procedures (the same way humans had once made chickens become adults in a matter of one month) the humans scientists made children grow into adulthood in the matter of only one year! Then that new generation could give birth after only one year. Of course, the offspring that were quick-raised in such way weren’t very smart or very notable, but what the military needed was simply more and more cannon fodder, so to say, as that war had already become a survival game, and the ones who lost were doomed to extinction.

Anyway, at times, strange things happened and among the incoming generations of duodecaplets a few of the children displayed extraordinary intelligence and capability. So, they were soon chosen as the leaders of the troops that were made up of their own brothers and sisters.

As the soldiers were lining up, all dressed in their bluish utility uniforms, endowed with a digital camouflage that was the same color as the azure/light-blue stones that covered the planet they were presently fighting on, their communication devices resounded with a hodgepodge of orders and data flowing into their ears. Andrew, having blond curls under a heavy helmet with two wild eyes and a small nose that just looked exactly like the features of the other 11 men behind him, checked his energy rifle and then remained ready for action. As soon as all the systems were online and the details of the incoming attack had arrived, they all froze and looked at the main desk for the orders to come. Up there, on the pedestal, their high-ranking brother Spencer stood. His eyes were even colder than Andrew’s and the look on his face reflected the heavy responsibilities he had to undergo under such difficult conditions. It was he who was in charge of the deployment of the troops, he who was responsible for everything needed in order to begin combat in the best possible position on the battleground.

Do you see him?” a voice coming from the left asked. “I admire his self-control when he is in the lead.”

Andrew turned to the young-man who had spoken. It was Daniel, his brother of the same age, who also looked like he was 18-years-old, even though he had been born only one year ago like all the others. “Yes. He is a shining example to us all, reminding us that at least one among our brothers can rise to a top-level position on the battleground.”

“Yes, we are just soldiers, but he is much more…” another brother added.

“The data say that this will probably be a suicidal assault. Perhaps none of us will survive…” Daniel pointed out.

“We’ll die for our Earth, for our Empire in space!” another brother exclaimed nearby.

“Will Spencer be able to send us to fight in this suicidal mission without thinking too much about how we are his brothers?”

“He will, certainly, as he is a professional leader.”

Would you like to be just like him…?” Daniel asked Andrew.

At first, he almost misunderstood that question, as it could be interpreted as a criticism of their high-ranking brother who was ready to coldly send all of his siblings to their deaths today. Or perhaps it was just a wish to be the one that remained safe in the computer control room... But Andrew quickly thought of it in a different light and understood the true significance of it, or so he thought. “Yes, but only if I were able to do exactly what he’ll do. And I couldn’t do it, probably…” he finally replied.

After speaking, Andrew told himself that his statement could also be seen as criticism, but such cunning traits and malevolence towards their brothers resulted just something that was not part of the way those ready-to-die soldiers were really built to be, in the end…

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:12:36 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

Zone Defense

Robert Moriyama

Terry took a deep breath, or tried to -- the air, thick with sulfur, ozone, and stale sweat, caught in his throat and set off a coughing fit that burned all the oxygen he had managed to extract from it and more.

On the vidscreen, his twin brother Clarence (who preferred to be called Bill) raised one eyebrow and cleared his own throat. "Hey, now, Ter, I thought you gave up smoking. What's with the hack attack?"

"I did give it up," Terry gasped. "Spending money to inhale crap seemed like a waste when there's more than enough crap in every breath I try to take."

Bill raised his hand in protest. "Now Terence, you know that the air quality in your Zone meets or exceeds all current standards. The oxygen -- nitrogen -- carbon dioxide balance is well within the range needed to support life..."

Terry hawked and spat into an already-grimy tissue. He held the sodden mess up closer to the vidscreen where the glow of the display would give the camera a clear view.

"And the particulates and noxious gas content is well within the range to shorten it," he said. "The Corporation Department of Public Communication leaves that part out for some reason." Bill worked for the DPC and was often the one who appeared on camera to deliver reassuring pronouncements. Terry found this to be hilarious at times, revolting at others -- and occasionally both at the same time.

Bill grimaced. "Put that thing away, Ter. It's disgusting."

"Try breathing it," Terry grunted. But he let the tissue fall into the overflowing re-recyclables bin, where it joined dozens of others. Three people used a lot of tissues in a day, if they wanted to expel as much crud as possible from their lungs.

Bill frowned. "You don't have to live there. You could get a job and housing here in the Corporate Zone -- your test scores were the same as mine, and I know people who could get you an interview tomorrow, if you would just -- "

Terrry moved a few inches to the left, allowing the camera to capture the scene behind him. On a narrow cot against the far wall -- only a meter away -- a woman lay in a tangle of sheets, a small child cradled in her arms. Aside from the bed, there was very little furniture in the tiny apartment -- a small table with two chairs and a highchair that was old enough to be called an antique, but was just plain old, a cheap plastic dresser with translucent drawers. Shallow cupboards were inset into one wall near the table.

Terry nodded toward the woman and child. "I could move to Corporate Zone, if I would just leave them?"

Bill's face flushed. "I don't want to be the villain here, but you know it's true. She'd never qualify to take the standard aptitude tests, let alone score high enough to be allowed into Corporate Zone."

Terry shook his head. "I can't abandon them. We barely get by as it is. Without my income, such as it is, they would -- "

"Come on, Terry. The kid's not even yours. You don't owe either of them anything."

"Owe them? No," Terry said quietly. "Love them..."

Bill shook his head. "You could do so much better, man. You know my wife, Jan. She's smarter, better looking, and better educated than your -- your -- I don't even know what to call her."

"Jan's great," Terry said. "She's perfect, and perfect for you. Perfect for you," he repeated. "Allie is -- she sees things in a way that you never could, in ways that I barely understand. She's plenty smart about people and the way things work in the real world, but she chooses to be kind when you or Jan would just -- walk away."

"'Plenty smart'", Bill said. "Maybe it's too late for you to climb out of that cesspool. Maybe you've already lost your edge."

Terry laughed. "'Cesspool'? But the Corporation assures us that conditions meet or exceed all current standards!"

"I give up," Bill said. "Have a nice life, Terry." The vidscreen went dark, then lit up with an animated commercial for Maximan, 'guaranteed to increase sexual potency and to protect against pregnancy and most sexually-transmitted diseases.

"It's the exceptions to that ‘most' that will kill you," Terry said. He tapped the controls to minimize the volume and brightness -- there was no way to turn the ‘free' vidscreen off -- but it was too late.

Allie was out of bed, supporting her sleeping son Marcus on one hip while she rubbed the grit from her eyes with her free hand. "Was that Bill?"

"Yeah," Terry said. "We had the usual exchange. I was telling him about how conditions keep getting worse, and he was telling me that they ‘meet or exceed all current standards'. Then he told me to ‘have a nice life' and ended the call."

Allie stifled a laugh, glancing down to be sure that Marcus was still asleep. "The usual exchange, indeed. Whenever I see Bill on the screen, I tell myself that I can be sure that you would clean up nice..."

"...If I ever cleaned up," Terry finished. "Hardy har har. That one never gets old."

"He told you to leave us, didn't he?" Allie said. "To go up to Corporate Zone, be like him."

Terry smiled. "Like I said, we had the usual exchange."

She smiled back, but he could see worry in her eyes, the fear that some day, Terry would follow his twin's advice, leave her and Marcus to fend for themselves, be like Bill, the Corporate Zone vidwall boy.

He moved closer, pulled her into a one-armed hug, and kissed the top of Marcus's head.

"Quit it..." Marcus mumbled.

"I'd rather be like me," Terry said.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:15:11 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

Battle for Europa, Day Four

Jay Hill

The pale blue flesh above Lynce’s elbow erupted in a splatter of dark violet blood as the 7.62mm round tore through it. The sound – a sickening crunch – sent shivers through the spines of his squad mates, left and right.

"The humans are coming!” Second Lieutenant Thesus called out. “Lere reiman vekt stommen! Lere reiman!

A barrage of gunshots filled the Europan skyline; all-terrain vehicles poured over the barren plane before them. Overhead, modified F-14 Tomcats and F-18 Super Hornets tore through the sky, Gatling guns whirling. Explosions boomed around the Reinkard army camp, booming and resounding like thunder in an angry storm.

Just twelve miles away, amid fighting equally severe, Captain Jiad Tyndareu slapped his right arm just above the elbow, wincing in pain.

“What is it?” the sergeant standing next to him asked.

“I don’t know for sure,” Jiad answered. “Get my brother on the com link.”

The sergeant hesitated a minute.

“My brother!” Jiad shouted. “Now!”


Lynce piled bandages over the open wound with his left hand, literally shoving them into the rugged maw of flesh that had been his bicep. His long straw blonde hair hung in sweaty ribbons, strands of it inevitably tangled in the bloody bandages and strips of flesh.

“It won’t stop,” he told the Lieutenant, standing over him.

The medical officer arrived, a sanitized packet of dried and crushed tobacco leaves, dangling from his clinched teeth. He knelt and parked his first aid kit next to Lynce’s prostrate body, ripping the packet open and pressing the fine powder into the wound, stopping some of the bleeding. Lynce gritted his teeth in pain.

“Tobacco,” the medic said. “It burns like Ilinferno, but it’ll help stop the bleeding.”

The com receptor on the Lieutenant’s utility belt chirped and vibrated.

“Just think,” the medic continued. “The humans roll this stuff up in thin little pieces of paper and smoke it to relax.”

“Barbarians,” Lynce said.

Bekarteng,” the Lieutenant repeated the word in the Reinkard dialect, grinning as he said it.

“It’s hard to believe our DNA was ever used to seed theirs,” the medic opined.

“And yet, they’re beating us in this war,” Lieutenant Thesus responded.

The com announced itself again.

“It’s probably Jiad,” Lynce said, motioning for the Lieutenant’s handset.

He winced in pain as the medic worked his fingers through the wound, assessing the damage. Lynce’s soft blue skin grew more and more grey, translucent in places as the pool of violet blood spread ever wider on the Europan hardpan beneath him. The tips of his long blonde hair were turning black and crumbling away like ash in the cosmic breeze.


“What’d you do?” Jiad shouted over the sound of battle raging between them.

“Nothing, little brother,” Lynce answered. “You get back to winning your battle, and I’ll –“

“You went and got yourself shot in the arm, didn’t you?” Jiad interrupted.

“It’s nothing,” Lynce said. “Just a scrape. The medic’s got me all patched up.”

The Lieutenant exchanged glances with the medic, who shook his head very slightly. Thesus frowned at the results.

“I’ll never understand that telepathy thing between you twins,” the Lieutenant remarked.

A Reinkard fighter careened into a nearby bluff. The explosion was deafening, the black plume of smoke shrouded everything in a billowy gloom. Around the perimeter, a series of automatic fluorescents snapped on, creating a ghostly atmosphere. Dust and smoke swirled in a malevolent wind. Gun shots ripped through the surface clouds. It was difficult to aim and return fire, impossible to see where the volleys originated.


The medic grabbed Thesus by the arm, yanked him down to a sitting position.

“I need you to pinch this spot here,” he placed the Lieutenant’s fingers over the exposed artery in Lynce’s arm. “You’ll have to hold it tight or he’ll bleed out.”

“Can’t you stop it?”

“Guys?” a thin voice called over the com. “Guys!”

“Whatever you do,” the medic worked for his next breath of air and Thesus realized that he’d been shot too. The bullet had punctured a lung at least, most likely broken a few ribs.

“Hold on tight,” the Lieutenant finished the sentence for him. “I got it.”

“What’s going on over there?” Jiad’s voice rang over the handset again. “Someone tell me what’s going on. That’s an order!”

The com was just out of Thesus’ reach. If he stretched across their dug in spot to pick it up, he’d have to release Lynce’s artery. If he did that, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to find it again. He looked over at the medic, who was busy pouring another packet of sanitized tobacco powder into the sucking wound in his own chest.


Twelve miles away, Captain Jiad Tyndareu decided to continue the discussion anyway. The bombs raged and the howitzer fire answered. Mortars flared and anti-aircraft rounds filled the sky.

“You know, Mom said I was the one born first,” he told Lynce, not knowing if his brother could hear him or not. “That makes you the little brother.”

The first tear peeled away from his lids, running in a tiny stream down his smoke stained cheek

“Not you.”

Back in the dugout, another roar of machine gun fire leveled the bivouac. Thesus’ body collapsed across Lynce’s shoulder. The pain was incredible, but worse, he felt the pressure point in his arm release, sensed the blood escaping in a steady flow again.

“Whatever’s happened over there,” Jiad continued. Lynce heard the words, almost a whisper over the distant com set in the background noise of war. “You’ll always be my brother.”

Mitn bronkerne,” Lynce answered just as his eyes fixed on a random point in the foreign sky. His blue skin became fully transparent, his blonde hair completely black. His chest rose and fell and stopped.

Mitn bronkerne.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:17:15 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

A Prayer To the Child God

Mark Edgemon

I observed them from birth; so identical and yet - there was something very odd, very strange about them. The one with the dark spirit would occasionally show a flash of coal black eyes, black as the expansion of space, when the ill spirit took hold of him. His brother had a vacant face, as if he was a shell and nothing more.

I gave the name Michael to the darker one and the one with no expression, I named Christain. But when I received the birth certificates, the word Michael was incorrectly written Moloch and his brother was spelled Christian. I tried to have the names changed to my original choice, but each time the certificates returned unchanged. I decided to leave it alone.

Their father would not acknowledge them and instead, left town. I would raise them alone. It was hard to make a living from home. Phone solicitation for a telemarketing company was the best I could manage.

Moloch was crafty with knowledge of the way of things. Christian seemed innocent, naive to a fault and fearful of his twin.


Moloch entered the beige living room with blonde hair in his hand. I looked at his head, every hair intact. I was startled for a moment. I ran into every room until I opened the bathroom door and found my five-year-old son hanging by the neck from the shower rod. I grabbed him by the waist and tried to untie the knot around his neck. I pulled the rod down with a sudden jerk. His head was shaven and his face was turning blue. I did everything I could do to revive him and in a few minutes he was breathing more smoothly. There was no expression on his face with the exception of his fearful eyes, which I had seen all of his young life.

"Moloch!" I screamed. He did not come. I laid Christian on his bed and went into the living room to find Moloch setting the hair he cut on fire.

I stomped it out.

"Why did you do this, son?" I demanded. He sat there paying me no mind.

"Why in the hell did you do this...answer me?" I screamed.

He smiled and repeated the word, "hell" under his breath. "He is entering his destiny," Moloch said.

"What?" I said loudly.

He became quite. He was only five years old. How did he know to say these things?


It was remarkable that Christian lived through his early childhood. There were dozens of attacks upon him, each time someone intervened to save him.

One day when the boys were around seven and having dinner at our rickety aluminum table, I happened to look up to see Christian passing out, foaming at the mouth. I hurriedly went to his chair, grabbed him and yelled at Moloch, "What did you do to him?" I glanced at the dingy kitchen cabinet and found an array of household cleaners on the floor. Knowing I had not placed them there, I rushed him to the hospital leaving Moloch at home unattended.

He almost died. I knew I couldn't watch out for him any longer. I tried to place Christian for adoption. It had to be him; I couldn't risk someone getting hurt because of the other one. When the children services came to make a preliminary report, I chickened out. I couldn't part with him - with either of them.

I looked up the name Moloch online and was shocked to find it associated with child sacrifice and devil worship. There was even a reference to the name in the Bible. In Leviticus 18:21: "And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch". This instilled even more dread in my heart.


Christian never took up for himself...never.

When they were twelve, I told them I had to leave for a day to talk with a psychiatrist. I believed this was my only remaining chance. I've talked with the police, but as I suspected, they would do nothing on merely intent to do harm.

While I was gone, Moloch entered into Christian's bedroom and stood in the darkened hallway.

"You will worship me," Moloch whispered. "You will," he said louder.

"What makes you so sure?" Christian responded emotionless.

"You're just a weak shell. You're nothing," Moloch said squinting as he spoke. "Mom will be gone all day”.

Christian looked around the room.

"There is nothing here that will save you," Moloch said walking towards the bed.

Christian turned his back to him with his hands under his pillow for support.

"I will scald you with water or maybe..." Moloch said trying to find a way to make his victim feel terror one more time.

"Or maybe I will stick you with this knife," he said continuing to taunt.

As promised, the boy pulled out a sharp knife and began to place it towards Christian's right eye. Beginning to insert it, Christian removed his right hand from underneath the pillow and rammed it into Moloch's stomach. The boy began to shake in coincidence with the buzzing noise coming from the stun gun in Christian's hand.

Christian rose up continuing to hold the stun gun in place until Moloch fell to the floor.

As he fell, the mother walked in witnessing what Christian had done. She just stood there - watching.

As Moloch lay on the floor, Christian walked to his desk and pulled out an already filled syringe. He jabbed it into Moloch's arm and released the poison. Moloch died moments later.

Christian looked up at his mother, paused for a moment and said, "Thank you...thank you for your help!"

The mother nodded.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:20:45 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

The Hunger of the Dead

Michele Dutcher

“So what do you have for me today?” asked the casually dressed chief medical officer as he walked through the police station on Bernard 3.

“It’s a citizen from one of the geo-spheres, GS34,” answered the lieutenant. “We think it’s Cotard’s Delusion, which is why we wanted you to see her.” He stopped before a glass wall and nodded towards a woman sitting in a chair inside a small room.

“GS34? –is that where all those homeless people have been dying suddenly? Have the police figured out what’s killing them yet?”

“Not yet. In fact a cop on the beat was investigating the murders, going door to door, and he noted that she hadn’t used her food replicator in two weeks. So he brought her in.”

The medic looked over the woman sitting in the other room. “That certainly explains her emaciated appearance, but why do you think it Cotard’s? Someone actually believing they are dead is so rare.”

“She keeps insisting that she’s not alive. And she refuses to eat anything. Her file gives her name as Debra Hubble.”

The two men entered the interrogation room, the doctor taking a seat across from the subject and the cop standing beside the door.

“Hello. My name is Doctor Ishim. How are you feeling today?”

The woman on the other side of the metal table barely moved. “I feel today the same as all other days – I feel nothing because I am dead.”

“But I can hear you speaking, Miss Hubble. How can you explain that?” The doctor leaned in a little.

“Perhaps you are dead as well.” The woman looked at the men with dark, empty eyes.

The tall, lanky doctor walked over to a wall and said, “Sweet rolls, four, assortment.” Instantly a tray of baked goods appeared inside a recess in the wall. The doctor placed the tray on the table in front of the woman. “May I offer you a sweet roll, Miss Hubble?” He picked one up and took a bite. “They certainly are delicious.”

The woman glanced down at them before returning to her corpse-like stance.

“You’ll excuse me for a moment?” asked the medic, quickly exiting the room, with the cop following.

“Let’s take a look at what’s going on inside her mind,” said the doctor, standing before a round table in the other room. “Computer: 3D scan of Miss Hubble’s brain please.” A 3D image appeared above the table, in various, bright tones. “That’s amazing! The rest of her brain is operating fine, but the part that controls her entry level consciousness is essentially flat-lined. For all intents and purposes, that woman should be completely comatose – unable to speak or move.”

Suddenly the cerebral cortex flashed bright green, as though a switch had been thrown. The doctor and the cop looked into the room and the woman’s face seemed to be in pain. Her mouth was trying desperately to say something. The muscles in her neck strained forward as though screaming although no sound was coming out.

“Computer! What is she mouthing?” demanded the cop.

“She is saying ‘help me’,” the machine informed them.

The two rushed into the interrogation room and the woman returned to her death-like state.

“Miss Hubble, Debra…” began the physician.

“Not Debra. I am Denise. Debra is the other,” said the woman.

“The other?” asked the doctor.

“She is the meurtriere. She believed she was doing all those people a service by killing them, but soon she will be dead, as dead as I am.”

The policeman by the door signaled for a uniformed officer to enter the room, and Desman moved closer to the table, to protect the doctor.

“She believed she was helping them?” the doctor echoed.

“Yes. They were always begging for food, so Debra gave them biscuits laced with poison. That way they died quickly, instead of slowly starving to death.”

The woman quit talking suddenly, as if her mouth had been clamped shut. She seemed ready to faint.

“She’s losing strength. Computer, explain any abnormality that would interfere with this woman being fed intravenously.”

“Intravenous feeding is recommended, but she does have an unusual abnormality: Fetus Fetu.”

“Fetus Fetu? Definition of term please.”

“Fetus Fetu occurs when twins are in vetro and one twin envelops the other, absorbing the second twin’s body.”

“So it’s possible that although Denise was never born, her skeleton calcified and some of her brain cells crossed over into her sister’s brain – living there all these years.” The doctor lifted the chin of the woman so he could see her, eye to eye.

“Was that what happened, Denise? Are you the twin that died?”

The woman took a gasp of air. “Yes doctor. I had to watch in silence all those years as my twin killed those people. I finally had no choice, I had to take over the mind and kill her. I decided to starve her to death,” the woman said without flinching. “I have never been hungry – so I simply didn’t let her eat.”

“Flawless logic,” said the doctor. “However, if we prosecute your sister, she’ll never hurt anyone again.”

The dead sister sat thinking for a moment. “Will it be necessary for me to testify?” she asked.

“Not really. We have today’s recording and we’ll search the video files on the planet for footage of her supplying food to the homeless, and we’ll check those bodies for poison.” The doctor leaned back in his chair and motioned to the food on the table. “But you’ll need to let her eat, so she can stand trial.”

“Goodbye, doctor,” said a very weak voice.

“Goodbye Denise – and thank you,” replied Dr. Ishim.

Suddenly the woman’s continence changed drastically. Anger and disgust appeared on her face, followed immediately by overwhelming hunger. The policeman rushed forward to protect the doctor, but the woman was too busy devouring the pastries to attack anyone.

The End

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Post November 09, 2013, 01:24:30 AM

Twin Foil Challenge

- Winner -

The Good Image

george t. philibin

Identical twins are often un-distinguishable to others. Yet they may be very different ---but in ways that only the twins themselves can see.

A thick wire-enforced glass separated the twin brothers. One, a convict, and the other a free man, looked at each other with unwavering eyes. If both looked into separate mirrors, the same image would appear to each.

"Well, Mon always thought that you were better," Eddy said.

"Why did you come? " Eric said.

"You're my brother," Eddy said.

"Mon, Dad and sissy will have nothing to do with you--ever!" Eric said.

"I don't know why----I'm not the criminal. Oh-- they still think you are innocent, don't they?" Eddy said.

A guard approached Eric from behind, but stopped just short of him. Another guard moved around to Eric's side, and a third guard watched intensely from behind a thick-glass window. The two guards with Eric studied his every move and gesture. Finally, they withdrew a few feet but continued to watch, sharply.

"You did it! Everybody knows you did it--it wasn't me!" Eric said. " You killed Marcus! " Eric said.

Eddy shook his head, and with well a practiced puppy-dog- eyed look, said. "Bother, dear brother. I do feel so sorry for you. How could you come to this?"

"Your own brother! " Eric said.

Eddy folded his hands in prayer, and said," Let us pray for your soul..." But before another word slipped past Eddy's lips, Eric stood up. A guard came over and said to Eric, "You know the rules---sit down!"

A heavy-set guard on Eddy's side of the glassed window, said, "Don't get your brother riled up---if you do, you'll have to leave, understand?" The guard then walked back to the rear wall next to his assistant.

Eddy waited a few second, then his eyes narrowed. His face contorted with sinister frowns and his mouth molded itself into a menacing sneer. He looked at the guard that just spoke to him. Then he looked at that guard's chest, and his eyes became two darkened-red embers. An instant later, that guard dropped to the floor, dead!

"Get a EMT", the other guard yelled over his radio. "Jack's had a heart attack!"

During the confusion that arose , the prison ordered an immediate lock-down, and all visitors had to remain still.
Eddy didn't seem to care, but now Eric, setting back in his chair, started to grin. And grin even more than Eddy ever remembered him doing.

"Eddy, why do you think you can get away with--this? " Eric said

"Oh, you know why. Now don't take a hissy-fit again. Really, Eric--when you do the crime, you must do the time. Always loved that old cliché, or---let me think. Oh yes, that old TV program but I seemed to have forgotten the name of it. No problem--you never liked it anyhow! Just like me! You never liked me, you never supported me, and you never were my friend. Just a twin brother, a clone of myself as far as looks go. But, we are different, aren't we?" Eddy said. "Remember, I was the first to come out! Heh, heh. So you might say---I was first born!"

"But I didn't do the crime, you did," Eric said.

"Oh, please dear, dear brother. Now don't make it any harder that it is already. They say Lethal-Injection is the way to go!" Eddy said.

"Do you remember how everybody got us confused when we were younger? Do you?" Eric said.

"Identical twins always confuse others," Eddy said.

"Yes, but how should I say it--our unique-extrasensory talents, as some would say--- are not identical? In fact, you never knew of mine, did you?" Eric said.

"You have nothing! Nothing!" Eddy said. "I was the one born with it--you never had it!"

"Then how do you explain it when you found yourself in the wrong classroom, or the wrong area of the playground at times when we were younger. Or, like that time you dated Susan, but when you looked at her later, she was Michelle and you two were in a movie, and not the dance you took her to. How do you explain that?" Eric said. "Oh, your little talent only works on weak people. Like that guard that must of had a bad heart, or that old-senile lady that you made walk in front of a bus that time. If they are very sick and weak, then you can do harm, but in my case it only works between us!"

"You have nothing---nothing," Eddy said. Eddy calmed down some and a big grin replaced the frowning face that Eddy had for the last few minutes. "Really dear, dear brother, why all this drama. Have you been in a prison play?"

"Oh, I've had first-hand practice at being someone else for years," Eric said.

A warm feeling overcame Eddy. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them up, he was on Eric's side of the glass. He looked at his sleeves , looked at his shirt, looked at the handcuff connect to his ankle, then shook his head and closed his eyes. When he opened them again he repeated his stares; his eyes started moving faster and faster until he stood up, looked around, then shouted, "He's the one! It's not me--he switched places with me---somehow he did---you must have seen it..."

Two guards grabbed Eric or should we say Eddy now. He kept screaming "He switched places with me---he can do that! I know that now ---look--that's Eric ..." They had to drag him out, and he still kept screaming.

Eric a free man now, felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and the assistance guard said, "You can go in a few minutes.

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:19:40 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

The challenge was to write a science fiction story involving pirates.

Example story:

To Starboard and Eden

John David Rose

Chad looked up the inner wall of the crater, a vast stone curtain that was the backdrop for his life. Near the rim was a permanent bank of clouds and it was there that he trained his eyes. When a ship came in, it was always at the same trajectory so that it could avoid the yellow spires to the north and safely put down in Sulfur Bay.

"Still nothin'?" Dirck asked half-heartedly. He sat on the ground and lazily pulled clumps of the coarse marsh grass out to throw over the embankment into the water.

Chad didn't answer. He just kept scanning the sky and tried not to second guess what they were about to do. He certainly didn't need Dirck's apathy feeding into his already growing doubts. Then all at once, a big one came in, a Banzi pirate frigate. At first as it dropped into the crater the ship was clothed in a gown of clouds with a trailing train of white vapor. But then its gray jagged edges started to poke through. With excitement, Chad counted the cannon batteries that lined the gun deck. Along its hull from stem to stern were two rows of pulsing blue-flamed retrorockets that fought against gravity and inertia. Finally it set down in the murky water and columns of steam billowed up from its superheated hull. Several supply boats set out from Port Calm toward the frigate in a slow procession.

"Come on, it'll be a long swim, but we should be able to get there right before the sutler's loaders," Chad said. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around his head like a bandanna.

"So ye're surely goin' then?" Dirck asked, lazily getting to his feet. His smirk and persistent squint at once suggested both indolence and flippancy.

"Aye, there's nothin' fer me here anymore: a life in my da's field or workin' in the anorthite mine." He looked across the bay at the only way out of the crater, now floating in her steamy bath. But Port Calm was there in the corner of his right eye. The only city he ever knew. And in the governor's villa, he envisioned Neave, beautiful, spoiled Neave, who was also probably lazing in a steamy bath. It had been her choice. She was sure to be much happier with the vintner's son. Chad spat on the ground.

"Do ye still want to come or not?" he growled at Dirck.

"The glory of the stars's got my head turnin' too. B'sides, I hear them Banzi lasses 'ave four…" Dirck motioned over his chest as he grinned.


Pulling themselves onto the gangplank unseen was easy enough. The loaders, older men doing a job but keeping their eyes down so as not to meet the gaze of a Banz, didn't notice the two young men slip into line and march along into the strange cold and stale air of the hold. The first Banz they saw was two heads taller than a man. He had gray leathery skin covered with sinister looking tattoos and a wide mouth with stray teeth protruding. He wore a dark red bandanna that was similar to the style popular in Port Calm. But he also wore a black jumpsuit, adorned with valves and hoses, switches and knobs, that Chad rightly assumed was designed to protect against the rigors of space.

"E's a gruesome one!" Dirck whispered as they walked past. Chad wanted to slug his friend. He knew now it was a mistake bringing Dirck; it had reduced his chances of success. It wasn't until they were sneaking down a corridor leading further into the ship that Chad realized it was his own lack of planning that had actually doomed them. Shortly after, the rough hands of the quartermaster presented them to the captain.

"A woman is cap'ain?" Dirck didn't whisper this time.

"What smells of rotten eggs?" the captain asked. Her voice was lilting and slightly seductive. She lounged on a wide bed propped up by embroidered pillows. Her legs were crossed in a business-like manner. She looked at them with derision.

"Found 'em slinkin' in the engine room Cap'ain," the quartermaster said. He was as big as a bulkhead, the most imposing Banz among imposing Banz.

"You," she said pointing at Dirck who hadn't stopped grinning since they entered the cabin. "What were you looking for? Were you trying to scuttle my ship?"

Chad thought about driving his heel into Dirck's foot before he could speak.

"She does have four," Dirck muttered. Too late.

"Quartermaster, where is shore in relation to the ship?" she asked.

"Off port, Mam," the quartermaster replied.

"Then throw him off starboard."

The quartermaster grabbed Dirck by the shoulders and dragged him down the hall. Chad cringed as Dirck screamed his name in desperation.

"Now, you," the captain said. "What did you hope to find aboard my ship?"

Chad looked down at the floor afraid to raise his eyes. He could feel the fierceness of her gaze penetrating him. His mouth was dry. Now when it came to it, he could hardly speak.

"The… the stars, Mam. There's nothin' for me here."

"I see," she said. She got up from her bed and walked across the cabin. Like the other Banz she was taller than Chad, but not nearly as large as the males of her species.

"Long ago we brought your people here from another planet to maintain this port for us. From time to time we establish new ports as we expand our territory. It just so happens that we have been planning a new port on the third planet in a yellow star system 4.37 light years from here. Do you have a mate, Chad?"

"A… a mate? N… Neave, I love Neave, but she's chosen someone else."

"We're pirates," she said with a reptilian smile. "We take what we want. And I want you, Chad, and Neave to be the first humans to settle Port Eden."

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:21:52 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

Family Business

Lester Curtis

Captain Paul de la Mere drummed his fingers on the worn-out upholstery of the arm of his command chair, watching the system drop-in point for ships inbound to a fuel depot located another two light-minutes in-system.

Paul's ship, the Irrational Object, was a stripped-down old freighter with no registration, no home-port, and no lawful business, hidden well away from the main route behind an asteroid, her engines and weapons at standby.

The scan officer turned and looked at him. "Captain, they're running pretty late -- "

A rainbow torus appeared at the drop-in point. Paul's fingers quit drumming and clenched. "There! Scan, confirm target; engineering, shields at full, engines to ready. Navigation, you have a course – ?"

"Aye, sir; ET to intercept, forty-six minutes."

Scan reported, "Target confirmed; Orion Foods flight 9062."

Paul grinned. "Excellent. Helm, engage course." He pushed the button for all-ship on his comm-pad. "Attention, crew – our meal ticket has arrived. Those of you on duty have about forty minutes to prep for action, and if all goes as anticipated, tonight we can have a Thanksgiving dinner!"

He could hear the cheers right through two pressure-doors.


"Engineering – ?"

"Weapons are charged, and the shields are still at full."

"Good. Signals, hail the freighter for me, please."

"Responding – " The screen showed a worried-looking woman in an Orion Foods captain's uniform.

Paul had the information from the auxiliary screen. "Good day, Captain Frazier. I am Captain Paul de la Mere of the Irrational Object, and we are here to relieve you of some of your payload. We just want some of your cargo, not all of it, and we'll leave you with the cash you're carrying to pay for the fuel you need. If you would be so kind as to come to a stop, we can proceed with the transfer and no one will be harmed. Please respond."

Frazier clenched her jaw, then sighed. "Very well." She turned to someone offscreen and said, "Helm, full stop."

Within moments, both ships were at a standstill, side by side. Paul said, "Thank you. Now, if you would, please open the second and third payload bay doors opposite us and push out two freight containers of foodstuffs from each. Let them drift clear and you can be on your way."

Frazier said, "All right . . . " She turned again and said, "Do it."

The external camera showed the payload bays opening on the near side of the Orion ship. Paul said, "No, Captain, the other side of the ship – "

The Orion Foods ship's payload bays did not hold freight containers. In the other screen, Captain Frazier stepped out of view, replaced by a stern-faced man in a Concordiat major's uniform. "Captain de la Mere, I am placing you and your crew under arrest for piracy. You will lower your shields and power down your weapons and engines at once, or be fired upon. Prepare to be boarded."

Paul sank back in his command chair in shock. "Aw, crap! "

The scan officer looked at him and said, "Our informant sold us out – "

Paul nodded, slack-faced, feeling much older than he had moments ago.

The Concordiat officer was saying, "Captain – how do you respond – ?"

Paul looked around the bridge at his crew. He waved a hand indistinctly. "Do as he says."


They didn't even handcuff him. He sat across the desk from the major, who was looking through the Irrational Object's history file. The major sat back and looked at Paul. "Your father ran a legitimate operation with this ship . . . what happened?"

"Got run out of business by the big conglomerates . . . after the Concordiat gave them a monopoly, of course . . . "

"I see . . . and, most of your crew are related – uncles, aunts, cousins – "

Paul shrugged. "It was a family business. Dad couldn't pay much. Nobody complained. It was doing all right. We were happy . . . then – "

"Yes. And your father refused the offer of a buyout, from – Consolidated Freight – ?"

"Yes. And three months later, he died."

"I'm sorry. And you're known for avoiding violence . . . "

Paul shrugged. "I don't think anybody should have to die just because we're hungry."

There was a knock, and the major looked up. "Yes, Chief – ?"

The CO stepped in with a data-pad. "The report you wanted on the pirate vessel, sir – "

"Thank you Chief. Is there anything else?"

"They're a pretty sorry lot, sir . . . water recycler's about shot, and . . . there's a lot of chronic malnutrition. Clean ship, though, sir, and – they've done an amazing job of keeping her maintained."

The major nodded. "Thank you, Chief; that will be all."

Paul spoke out of turn, his lower lip trembling. "That ship's our home . . . was . . . "

The major glanced at Paul and then studied the data-pad for a while. "Hunh . . . who's your engineer?"

"My uncle . . . he trades off with my daughter; they're both about equally good – he trained her."

"I see here she's married . . . "

"Yes sir . . . I wanted her to get out of this business and find a legitimate job, but . . . "

"She's not credentialed . . . tell me, Captain – could she pass a test?"

"Hell – she keeps that boat running – "

"Well. It seems to me you're a little behind on economic policy, Captain . . . "

"Sir – ?"

"Consolidated's monopoly's been broken up – there are trade routes open, looking for haulers. You could get your wish for your daughter . . . "

"Oh, gods . . . but – sir – ?"

"Yes – ?"

"Could we all just get a decent meal first?"

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:23:03 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

Tandoristé Sunset

Jay Hill

S’bana heard a Spanish guitar playing in the background, felt the warm desert wind drift across her arms, tousling her hair.

“I’m home,” she said out loud, but there was no one there to hear her, no one there to answer. Gently, she opened her eye and squinted to bring the image she received into focus. Two of her fingers lay just inches from her. They were burned and bloody stumps and suddenly their former homes, the raw knuckles where they’d been attached before the blast, throbbed with pain.

“I’m not home,” she corrected her former assessment, noting the sweet sound of guitar playing was gone, a snippet of a dream left behind in her unconscious rambling.

She brought her left hand up and stared at it, noting the missing ring and pinkie fingers, thinking to herself, at least it was the left hand.

With a heavy grunt and a string of curses, she sat up and stared at the debris strewn all around her: sheets of metal, smoking machine parts, something that looked like a carburetor, something else that looked like a detached piston, wires, bolts and nuts, a whole field of metal pieces, reduced to scrap. Smoking, bent and misshapen scrap.

“Cap’n,” her ear piece crackled to life. “Captain S’bana!”

S’bana touched the earpiece and responded with a clipped, yeah.

“We’re picking up your signal over on…” the voice tapered off while its owner, her first mate, Jory Culhun consulted the computer screen, “Over on the desert moon, Tandoristé. What’s your status?”

“My ship’s blown to Gehenna!” S’bana answered. “What do you think my status is?”

“I meant your physical status,” Culhun said.

S’bana looked down and noted a deep gash in her chest, just above her left breast. She felt the wound with her intact hand, felt the breast and observed that other than the cut, everything seemed in order. From there, she checked her arms. They were sunburned, dried and ashy from exposure, but they seemed to be working fine. Her left hand hurt – and was missing two fingers – but other than that, her upper torso was good.

She pushed herself into a seated position and began examining her legs. The left one was scratched and scraped in several places, but also in working order. The right, her artificial was leaking oil from the hydraulic supports around the knee joint, but it supported her weight when she stood up on it.

“Capt. S’bana?” the voice pried again.

“I’m okay,” she sneered. “Lost a couple of fingers. That’s all.”

“And the shuttle?”

“Scattered all over the horizon,” she added. “Who shot me down?”

There was no answer for several seconds; so she repeated the question.

“Culhun!” she tried again.

Still no answer.

“Over the next hill, you will find a container filled with enough food for one moon cycle,” the first mate said. “And enough rum and whiskey to drink yourself into a stupor for nearly all of those days…”

S’bana gritted her teeth as she realized what the message meant.

“You can’t leave me here!”

“Assuming your weapons are intact, then you –“

“Culhun!” S’bana screamed.

“Can end your stay on Tandoristé sooner.”

“I will kill you for this,” the captain spit into the tiny plastic microphone wrapped around her right cheek. “I will find you and I will kill you!”

“Maybe,” Culhun responded. “But you’ve got to find a way off of Tandoristé first.”

S’bana looked around and saw the endless sea of golden sand stretching for miles in every direction. Dunes and hills drifted into more rolling dunes and hills with no land markers to plot a direction towards any point on the horizon.

“The Alliance moved its shipping routes to run parallel with the Ke’elan system,” Culhun continued. “Seventy light years away…”

His voice trailed off leaving a disturbing silence, interrupted only by the dry gusts of wind whipping through S’bana’s hair.

“And with the shipping,” Culhun finished, “The intergalactic pirates; with the pirates, anything resembling a patrol vessel. Your earpiece radio is a short-range and you said it yourself, the shuttle is ruined.”

S’bana furrowed her brow and clinched her fists. She was furious and she sensed that Culhun knew it, even from his vantage point back on board The Cutlass, the light cruiser that until just hours before, had been her ship.

“You are marooned, my dear,” Culhun stated the obvious. “I am captain of The Cutlass now.”

“Not for long,” S’bana said.

“Like you can do anything about it,” Culhun laughed.

“Not even pirates tolerate mutiny,” S’bana answered him. “And make no mistake, this is mutiny. You will die for this. Somewhere there is some person left who is still loyal to me, and when he or she hears what you’ve done, they will exact my vengeance.”

“Maybe,” Culhun agreed, “But that day will come long after your skeleton is rotted dry and covered with sand.”

The earpiece chirped and she knew the signal had been broken. S’bana cussed and flung the thing from her ear.

She surveyed the damage, noted the location of a few of the larger pieces of sheet metal, good-sized scraps that would make a lean-to shelter. She separated them from the rest of the debris, and in time slowly wandered over the hill, thinking about rum and hoping desperately that there was something, anything in the container to read. It would be a long thirty days if there wasn’t.

As she walked, she remembered the images from her dream, the barely lucid thoughts she had before she regained consciousness. She imagined the dusty outskirts of the little town near Monterrey, the place on Earth, where she first learned to fight, first learned the treacherous ways of men and boys. In her reverie, she heard again the guitarist picking the lines. Sweet lines filled with soft notes. “O Marisa” was the name of the song. She hummed it to herself as she trudged over the dunes in the direction of the life-preserving container.

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:24:31 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

Lettre de Course,

RdotTornello 2013 ©

“The laws of heaven are the laws of nature, thus the laws of physics.”

“Where the hell are those three contracts? They’re due for collection. I can’t do shit without them,” screamed The Big Boss. His eyes were fiery red.

“Boss, they were here a few days ago. I have all the others you wanted to review. The three you want are missing. The systems administrator says they were never inputted,” answered the leggy accountant in her thigh high boots and not much else, which is the way he liked her.

A dog, sleeping under the desk, opened one eye to see what all the noise was about.

“I inputted them myself. One was special, the best kind. It would make an angel cry. Damn,” cursed The Boss kicking the dog.

Wooooo,” it wailed. “Why me?”

“Cause you’re here and you’re my whipping boy. That was the deal.”
Captain Kassyopia shot her navigator-gunner Venus a look and said, “Let’s get The Xebec out of here ASAP. We know where this soul is. His kid is safe and healthy. The tumor is gone. I don’t understand why we have to do this.” She pointed in an upward direction.

Venus stated the obvious, “We’re understaffed. There are so few of us that make the cut for soul-pirate-cum-privateer duty. Have you seen the shit that passes for moral behavior?”
The Letters of Marque specified only certain types of contracts were to be pirated from The Big Boss; these were special. His ship, The Soul Scupper, was on the weapons screen of The Xebec. There was one soul in particular that they had to rescue from the Scupper.

The two soul-pirates, working under Letters of Marque and Reprisal, issued by TeknoRex, fired up The Xebec, passed instantly FTL, and then to hyper-tachyon speed. They had stolen the contracts with assistance from The Bosses’ dog, a bribe of dispensation. It was their duty to present the contracts and allow the intended victim to burn it. Most contracts were signed under extreme duress.

“Keep us cloaked and the Scupper’s com systems jammed until we come alongside,” commanded Kassyopia. “We have to make it quick and get out.”

“Eye sir,” Venus her mate acknowledged. They both loved the chase, and under Letters of Marque they had a legal basis for their “piracy”. They would still be fried by The Big Boss, if he ever caught them. This was better than sitting around working the gate with that bore Petra. Besides, they would be traded for one that The Big Boss wanted……..maybe.

TeknoRex loved them, this they knew, for their Letter told them so.

“We’ve got to grab this guy before the Boss’s accountant or systems admin figures it out. Even without a contract he could convince a rock to bleed.” Venus said staring at the cross hairs of her weapons pod.

“We have three of these special contracts. I took care of it,” stated Venus with her coy smile that made Kassyopia just weak in her knees.

“The guy with the kid with the brain tumor is our priority. We’ll free the others later. They’re on another ship.”

Looking at the crosshairs, and closing fast on the Scupper, which had not taken any evasive action, Kassyopia relaxed, just a bit, and continued, “We stole these documents. We erased the hard drive. If we’re caught it will worse than hell, Letters of Marque or not. I’m sure the data was backed up.”

Venus laughed, “I deleted that, and put a bug into the system that will freeze all hell up.”

Kassyopia said, “We have the contracts signed in blood. They override all. Once they’re burned the souls will be free. We have to get to this one now.”

“Closing on them,” reported Venus

Kassyopia gave her first mate a pat on her tush and kept her eye on the screens.
“BOSS, a fast privateer has been detected leaving our control area. It seems to be flying a Letter of Marque from The One Above.”

“They stole our property. They’re pirates! What type of craft? I’ll fry their damned souls!” The Big Boss wasn’t going to let them get away with this. He didn’t care where in hell that LOM came from.

“It’s The Xebec, the fastest craft in all eternity. Boss, maybe we can NonLocalCom the Scupper and set a trap?”

The Big Boss grinned, “Yes let’s do that. We’ll surprise them and capture them too. There is no need to chase. But for the fun of it, send a pursuit anyway. Make it look like we are after them. They’ll never suspect. Go to the document back-up system. If we get there first the blood oath won’t matter. I’ll make sure of that.”

“Throw a few more million souls into the fires. I feel a bit chilly and it just warms my heart to think we’ll get these pirates.” With a grin that took over his whole face, he pointed to his accountant, “Sweetie, come here.”

The accountant smiled. She punched all the new orders into the computer, but the whole system froze. She decided not to say anything to The Boss. She’d reboot it after she did him. He’d be mellow for a while. What the hell was one soul or three? There was time. She worked her talents.
Kassyopia ordered. “Uncloak.”

Then ship-to-ship nonlocalcom Kassyopia radioed, “This is the Captain of The Xebec to The Soul Scupper. Heave to and prepare to be boarded. We fly with a Letter of Marque and Reprisal from TeknoRex. Heave to or have your black hole propulsion imploded.”
The locked up computer and jammed com systems prevented The Big Boss’s minions from setting a trap. The Soul Scupper was boarded and the lost soul retrieved. The Scupper was set adrift. The pursuit vessels arrived too late for the capture.

The Xebec, recloaked, transmigrated the soul to TeknoRex for eternal rest or rebooting.


Kassyopia turned and saw her gunner in boots and a tie.

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:25:20 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

Gatcom Creek

Michele Dutcher

Vellingham WA June 6th, 1999

It was no surprise when Sergio fell in love with Angelina Fellini with one glance, as she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and had been since her birth in 1721. A multitude of men had fallen hard for her over the past 278 years. What was surprising was that Angelina immediately fell in love with Sergio as well – much to the chagrin of her centuries-year-old father, Pepe’.

Of course she tried to keep her feelings under wraps as she and her father bought their coffee and sat down at a small wooden table with an inlaid chess board, but the truth was evident as soon as the father and daughter began to talk.

“This seems like such a nice little town,” she told her father. “Are you certain it will happen here?”

“Of course I’m certain. Mathematically, statistically, this town is out of luck.” He reached into his satchel and brought out a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings. “In the past two years, three people have become multi-millionaires by winning the State lottery. That’s out of a town of 60,000.” He began pointing to the individual columns. “You know how it works – wherever there’s a glut of good luck, it sponges up the luck from everyone else around.

“I know! I know!” whispered Angelina. “That’s when we usually swoop in and take advantage of the ensuing disaster, stealing the survivors blind like pirates of the freaking Gulf Coast or something. Does it need to be this town – does it need to be now? It’s so quiet and peaceful here.”

“Too quiet, too peaceful for too long! We’ll be here to plunder whatever is left – so suck it up, Angie!”

Suddenly a man was standing beside the table, his arms at his side with open palms. “I don’t know how they treat women where you come from,” said Sergio, “but where I come from we talk to women quietly and with respect.”

The daughter’s face seemed to glow slightly.

“I wasn’t aware that I was talking so loudly,” said Pepe’, slowly looking up until he recognized the face of the interloper and sneered. “Ah Sergio! I should have known!”

The slightly overweight man with a full head of thick, curly hair pulled up a chair. “Pepe’ – how can you greet me in that tone of voice? There are only a few hundred like us in the entire world.”

“Angelina, this is my nemesis – Sergio Amdranica.”

“Pepe’. Nemesis?” sighed Sergio. “ Perhaps business rival would be a better term. We have sailed the energy of the lei lines for centuries, plundering what we could. But nemesis, Pepe’? Why pollute my image before your lovely companion…?”

“This is my daughter!”

“She is absolutely delightful, Pepe’. Perhaps the three of us could go hiking sometime. There are amazing parks nearby.”

The father was rabid. “You know I can’t – because of my bum leg!”

“How true, my old friend.” Sergio was quick to turn to the girl. “But this lovely creature might accompany me sometime. Preferably before the disaster.”

“How do you know about that, Sergio?”

“There’s a vacuum pulling in the most evil of souls. Honestly, I merely followed the wolves. There have been two serial killers arrested in this county in two years…amazing for a town of 60,000. It’s similar to the Albion Colliery explosion of 1894 – where your father and I first met. All I did was follow the wolf – they called him the Ripper – and wallah! – disaster.”

“Both of you are heartless pirates!” fumed the woman.

“I’m not appalled by the term, pirate, my dear. I take it as a badge of honor to be more cunning than the hapless souls around me.”

“And you may stick your nose in the air,” said the father, “but you’ve lived a comfortable life so far off the bounty I’ve provided, Angie”.

June 10, 1999 4:45 PM Gatcom Creek

Love had blossomed as love is ever apt to do, and Angelina and Sergio had spent every moment together in the past four days. Today was to be no different as the two escaped the watchful eye of her father by hiking at Gatcom Creek Park. On the way back from their hike, Sergio smelled something odd.

“Something’s wrong, Angelina. We’d better hurry,” shouted Sergio.

They hurried across the creek and were ascending the opposite side of the canyon when Angelina’s shoe got caught in a muddy branch.

“Leave it behind, my love,” begged Sergio. “Just pull your foot out and I’ll carry you up!”

Angelina did as directed, but she had twisted her ankle. The creek was turning a rainbow of colors as Sergio grabbed his love in his arms, carrying her upwards, although nearly passing out from the fumes.

They were nearing the top when they saw Pepe’ standing on the caverns edge. “Hurry! The disaster is upon us!”

Within 10 feet of the summit, Sergio began to pass out. He checked Angelina’s face, but she was already unconscious.

“Give her to me, Sergio! It’s time! If you love her – hand her to me!”

There was a desperate exchange of the precious cargo, and Pepe’ turned, running away from the site with his daughter in his arms.

5:02 PM

Sergio grabbed for a branch to pull himself over the edge of the cavern, up to safety. He felt air rushing upstream as if the cavern were inhaling, and then the fireball caught up with him as it raced 1.5 miles along the path of an underground gas line.

5:30 PM

Angelina awoke in the arms of Pepe’. The look on her father’s face told her Sergio was gone.

“Such is the life of pirates, lovers, and other fools,” he told her, stroking her hair. “We’ll leave this place soon, my lawyers are flying in as we speak. Soon, my dear, soon.”

Angelina could do nothing but fall into tears.

The End

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Post November 23, 2013, 12:28:04 PM

Science Fiction Pirate Challenge

Challenge Across the Sea of Monsters

Sergio Palumbo

‘The existence of the sea means the existence of pirates’ , so an old proverb went. And space, too, held many opportunities for piracy.

Take Glox and Tlkox, for example. They were both pirates, space pirates, and they had been challenging each other for a very long time. The two took every opportunity to assault merchant starships that were in distress and never lost the chance to boast about their plunder - especially when the other fellow had been left empty-handed. Each of them also bragged when the other was forced to flee the imperial armed vessels that followed their energy traces across the asteroid belts - the authorities continuing to vow to bring their crews to justice, once and for all.

From ramming at FTL speed to maneuvering across the highly magnetic moons of Klotn, the two continued to try to best each other, in order to be seen as the most proficient space pirate captain. Now, after trying to prove for so many years that one or the other was more skilled by flaunting which prey was richer and more valuable, they seemed to have finally found a way to demonstrate their courage, and clearly reveal before their crewmembers’ eyes that only one of the two was the more capable pirate.

It’s uncertain if the original proposition came from Glox or from Tlkox, but the two captains eventually agreed on the terms. Actually, what had contributed to this final resolution was the fact that Glox had contracted a deadly illness because of a wondrous Klotn prostitute - so his days were numbered and there would not be much time left to resolve their ancient competition.

The choice of battlegrounds had not been easy, but one day they decided on their homeplanet, a distant world whose surface was made up of 90% water. This was because both of captains were Hatlox: very tall, greenish, three-fingered hairless reptilians with wide teeth, both hailing from Hatloxtev. Maybe there was no more satisfactory way to discover who the greatest pirate was, than to return to an old challenge the ancient sailors used when there was some dispute about their abilities and they wanted to know who the more courageous captain was.

So, they had landed their deft FTL pirate starships not far from an island that the earliest pirates used when on the run from the authorities. They had readied two archaic traditional wooden scows like those that had put to sea whenever such challenges took place during ancient times on planet Hatloxtev, before space travel was possible. Tiny sailing scows like these had been used mainly by the ancient pirates, and had significant advantages over the traditional deep keel sailing vessels that were common at that time, as keelboats were incapable of moving into shallow bays and rivers. On the orther hand, these smaller boats could be loaded and unloaded under different circumstances, as piracy needed versatility, certainly.

And the best location to have their race was in the middle of the Blue Ocean, where the so called ‘Sea of Monsters’ stretched. This was an area on Hatloxtev that was exactly what the name expressed: a small portion of that watery expanse that was full of many incredibly enormous water monsters living beneath the surface of the wave-filled area. These were really huge and very deadly to all the vessels that dared to cross that part of the Blue Ocean, because of the expansive caves that were hidden below the surface. These caverns were the best and only hiding place for their yearly egg-laying. So, what better place could there be to host a challenge like the present one?

A week after they chose the place, they were ready to begin and the selected five-member crews were onboard each scow and they were heading for the starting point, by means of the wide sail.

“See ya there!” Glox cried out in the distance, standing on his boat’s main deck.

“Only after I get there first!” the pirate captain named Tlkox replied in an unfaltering tone.

While the two boats sailed across the dangerous waves, a lot of monsters began surfacing, raising their heads out of the water and looking at the two small vessels. Now things were going to really become difficult. And interesting, too.

As his opponent’s scow was going further ahead and outdistancing Tlkox’s scow, there was a gurgling among the many waves, and then a Fldev, one of the most massive of those seemingly unending sea creatures, moved over the surface and got to the first small boat, quickly eating its hull in one bite!

And then the scow disappeared before the unbelieving eyes of the remaining crewmembers of dead captain Glox, who were watching the race on holoscreens. On the other side of the room, Tlkox’s men were enjoying the win, clearly.

On the main deck of the only boat left, an old gray-greenish seaman thought about a substance he had seen inside a container in the captain’s room, and thought that he knew what had happened: it was Jtnl! That was a substance that was produced by cleaning the tails of the most appealing and tastiest fish of all the creatures living in the water of the oceans throughout the whole planet.

So, that was it! This was why his captain had won the challenge, he was sure Tlkox had put some of that substance under the hull of his opponent’s scow so that it became an irresistible prey for those monsters. As his eyes turned to his captain, he raised a colorful finger showing some pieces of that liquid he had taken out of the container and he asked his superior, “Cheating?

The winning captain stared at his old trustworthy crewmember and simply sneered at him in return. “This challenge between pirates had gone on for too long, you know… There’s always a bigger fish, ” Tlkox replied “and there always will be one somewhere, you know…”

The End

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