I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch

 

listen to my words

Archive for 2008

S.N.E.A.K.S. iii

Master stared at Vrash for several long moments before speaking. “I made a bet today,” he said as he began pacing before the gladiator. This was no surprise to Vrash. That was how owners made money off gladiator matches. “I’m not sure whether I’m pleased or not.” He paced some more before saying anything else. “Well, I suppose that’s it then. You’re a free man now.”

Vrash blinked. For the first time in his life, he was truly surprised. “Free?”

Master frowned and grunted. “You win too much. The other owners were forcing me out. They set up what they thought would be an impossible match. Their four best, armed, against you, unarmed. If you lost, the were to pay me what they thought was several times your worth. If you won they would force me out of the arena. No one would ever agree to a match with any of my fighters. Unless You no longer competed.”

He resumed pacing. “I confess I considered simply retiring you. You’ve been a great asset. But I can’t use you among my guards and you can’t tutor my children. The expected thing was to kill you. But I’d sooner put down a prize horse. You have provided me with a great deal of wealth. I can give you a small amount of coins, but you’re not allowed at the arena, on pain of death.” He stopped pacing, his back to Vrash. “Good luck in your new life, wherever it may be.”

Vrash was still standing in position to be inspected as he watched his former master walk away for the last time.

CHAPTER 2

Dink tromped into the small, semicircle auditorium through doorway, which he noted was double wide. Exactly for persons of his description. His gigantic metal body took special considerations in architecture. And since Structs — living beings made from metal or wood or what-have-you by magic wielding engineers — had only been recognized as “alive” in the traditional sense for a decade, there wasn’t a lot they could expect out of society. This organization, however, seemed not just willing, but interested in accomodating his special needs.

Dink himself was made of iron and steel. And copper, and a few alloys. His creator hadn’t had a lot of one material, apparently. Dink didn’t mind his unusual composition, however, and often spent time simply contemplating the appearance fo the mash of materials.

His creator also hadn’t been exceptionally creative when designing him. He was, essentially, a giant metal ball with two huge legs and two arms that ended in hands with opposable thumbs and three other digits, and a domed head he could swivel. There was a human approximation of a face thereon, but other than that, he didn’t look much like a person.

Dink tried to be careful as he stepped into the room, but it was nigh impossible to do it without making a loud sound. And as his first step into the room revealed, he had startled someone.

Perched on the large desk at the front of the room was a girl. She had thick hair, pink, that covered her head and tumbled off her shoulders. She also had a long, pink, cat tail that twitched nervously in the air. And sticking out of the mass of unbridled hair were two cat ears — also pink. Dink lastly noted that in place of feet and hands she had pink cat paws. There was no hair on the rest of her. Or at least Dink assumed so. She was wearing a loose shirt and shorts. Her legs and arms were bare skin. Her large round eyes were a deep green.

She hissed.

Dink paused. He supposed if he were capable of it, he would have blinked. Instead his impassive looking oval eyes remained still. He spoke carefully. “You are a Furleen?” he asked. “I have not met one of your kind before. I am Dink.”

The catgirl came forward, but crouched defensively as she approached with a slow and careful gait up the incline. She walked all around Dink and finally stopped at his side. She jumped up on a chair next to him and crouched on her hands and feet as she looked at him. “You’re a dink? What does that mean?” she asked suspiciously. Dink noted that she had more canine teeth than other humans.

“I’m not a dink,” he corrected. “I am a Struct. My name is Dink.”

The catgirl nodded slowly. “I see. Are you here to tell me to leave?”

“Why would I tell you to leave?”

“People don’t like… my kind.” She said, squinting. The suspicion in her voice was still heavy.

That sentiment was something Dink could appreciate. He turned and lifted a chair slightly, stacking it on another. There was no way it would support him. He sat down on the floor and looked at her. He wanted to appear less threatening. “I’m only here because the elf-woman at the front directed me here. I am to wait for a representative. I would guess that’s not you.” He hoped that would come across as a joke.

The Furleen’s muscles relaxed, and a small grin appeared briefly. “Nope.” She sat down on the floor and looked at him. “My name is Linella.”

S.N.E.A.K.S. ii

The man with the triangle tattoo was inching closer, hoping to get into striking range without having to rush. Vrash flexed his fists and waited for him. He would have to be fast, and it was a gamble — Triangle’s sword gave him a longer, and more deadly, reach than Vrash had. He watched Triangle’s center, his chest, waiting for the muscle flex that would show he was making his move.

The twitch appeared, and instantly Vrash threw himself forward to the ground, as the sword cut through the air where he’d just been. The gamble proved to be not without cost though, as the punching-dagger split open the flesh on his arm. But it also paid off, he rolled into Triangle’s legs and Triangle fell forward into the sand. Vrash was on his feet before his opponent even hit the ground. He jumped and landed, knees first, onto Triangle’s back. He heard a crunch, but his opponent kept struggling to push himself up. Vrash pushed Triangle’s face into the sand a pummeled him brutally on the neck and head till the struggling stopped.

Satisfied, he gave the head one more shove as he pushed himself to his feet. He rubbed sweat and strands of black hair from his face and looked about. The fight had been a private one. There were only a dozen or so men, clustered together. There was only one man clapping, and him half-heartedly. That didn’t matter to Vrash. He had won. That was all he cared about.

A gate in the wall slowly rose and two handlers removed. Vrash stepped forward toward the gate as the men, eunuchs, approached him. One began bandaging the wound on his arm as the other put a wine skin in Vrash’s hand. Vrash took several gulps. He’d been worried briefly that he might not win. And that meant it was the end of his life — even if he surrendered, Master would have him killed for a loss. Life was good to him today. He would meet his end another time. Though it would probably be in the same arena.

Still, something felt unusual. Master wasn’t clapping. He knew he was Master’s pride, but Master didn’t seem pleased with the conclusion of the fight. He shrugged it off. He was a slave, and a slave could not know such things. He submitted to the oil rubdown the eunuchs provided and returned to his cell to await Master’s servants to collect him.

He didn’t need to wait long. Master approached a few moments later, his quick footsteps echoing in the empty hall. He wore a frown and his brow was furrowed. Master had once-dark hair that was graying, but not very much of it. The top of his head was bald and the back was clean shaven in the current style. He ward only a robe draped on one shoulder and his fat could be seen jiggling in the bare area. He wore simple leather sandals this day.

Vrash stood and waited for him. He continued to wait as Master stood and glared at him. Vrash was a tall man, and Master was short, and it was obvious that Vrash could kill him easily, yet there was still something in Master’s eyes that made Vrash feel small.

S.N.E.A.K.S. i

Vrash punched the other man in the chest. He didn’t know his opponent’s name. He never did. They were both unarmored, but Vrash was the only one unarmed as well. They both were well muscled, and they both wore nothing but a piece of cloth wrapped about their waists. So were the other three men in the arena. Two of those men were also dead. Or at least dying, their helpless bodies lying in the sand. The third was closing in tight behind him. He would need to take care of his current antagonist first.

He lifted a leg and kicked the other man, pushing him back. He would be expecting a respite in the attack — since it was used to give one some breathing room, but Vrash wouldn’t give it to him. There wouldn’t be time for that with the other fighter in the arena. The tactic was only to give him a sense of ease. Vrash leapt after him as the man stumbled, focusing entirely on regaining his balance. He spun as he re-closed the distance and his elbow brought a furious blow to the fighter’s face. Vrash couldn’t suppress a grin as he felt a satisfying crack and a tiny spatter of blood on his arm.

He continued his spin and grabbed the man’s hair and pulled back his head. He finished the fight with a viscious punch to the fighter’s neck. He let go as the dying body collapsed, struggling soundlessly for breath that would never come.

Vrash faced the direction of his last opponent, whose run slowed as he saw Vrash was no longer distracted. Vrash could tell he was cocky, and knew he had reason to be. Vrash was breathing heavy, he’d fought and killed three men already, and the sweat was running down into his eyes. The other man held a sword and a punching dagger. Vrash hadn’t even had time to lower himself and pick up someone’s weapon. He’d been given strict orders not to touch them anyway.

His owner — Vrash didn’t know his name and was only allowed to refer to him as Master — had never put him in a fight he couldn’t win. Vrash tursted him completely. He was well taken care of and treated to honors no other gladiatorial slave ever got. He didn’t care about freedom. He’d never known it, and didn’t see what appeal it would have. He was good at fighting, and he didn’t know how to do anything else. Life was good.

But it was hard too. He’d fought four men at once before, but he’d been armed. He’d fought three men unarmed. He’d fought beasts. But these men were good, and Vrash just wondered if maybe Master had given him a fight that was too hard as the two men circled each other.

The other man had a tattoo on his upper arm, three red circles in a triangle. He lunged at Vrash with his sword, but he didn’t have enough power in his legs — it was clearly a feint. Vrash didn’t even react. He didn’t know if Triangle intended to draw him out or test his defenses, but Vrash wasn’t going to give him anything. Triangle had a confused look in his eyes, and he paused. He clearly hadn’t expected no reaction at all.

It was all the chance Vrash needed. He grabbed Triangle’s wrist and pulled him forward. He couldn’t hold his opponent in place, else he’d take the punching-dagger in his side. But pulling the man and letting go was good enough. It forced Triangle completely off balance and he stumbled forward. Vrash stepped behind him and pounded him in the kidney. Triangle only grunted. Vrash grinned. This one, at least, was a man. He reached out, hoping to grab the man’s arms, both of them, but there was too much momentum, too much distance. Triangle whirled and they returned to circling.

There would be no false moves, no fakes any more. Each move would be with the intention to kill.

Untitled ii

It wasn’t the volume so much as the vibrations caused by the unholy scream that caused Mick to cringe. And it was less the scream at all than the thought of what it was screaming. And even less what it was than the responsibility he had for it being … well, in existence, let alone here in this … hell, he wasn’t even sure what it was. A convent? A girl’s school?

Whatever it was, it had a locker room, and he’d had to fight through the crowd of a couple dozen women in their teens and twenties dressed in the most horrid clothing he’d ever witnessed to get this far. A matted bit of black hair stuck to his face,covering his eye and held there by his sweat. He pushed it roughly aside, regretting, as he always did at moments like these, that he bothered to get a haircut every now and then.

He winced as he reached in his jacket pocket for more ammo — the scream simply didn’t stop. The leather straps he had wrapped around his hands caught and he cussed, forcing his hand in. He dropped three of the four rounds he’d pulled out when the the pipes burst in a portion of the wall and he was showered with powdered ceramic tile and grout and both cold and hot water. He cussed again, and yet again when the rounds he dropped rolled across the floor and into a drain.

Hastily he pushed the last round he had into the cylinder of his revolver and slammed it closed, then he peered over the piece of rubble he leaned against. The thing was still there, floating in the middle of the shower area, the three … what were those, tails? still undulating in the air green, with suckers on one side, like an octopus tentacles, pointing downward. It had six arms as well, in a circle about the upper body — bony, near skeletal, jointed in three points, with fingers nearly half the arm length, ending in claws, of course. They all had claws. There were no legs. though Mick supposed it didn’t need them if it could float there.

And the piece de resistance … the head. Or was it heads? There were two beaks, easily a foot long each. Both were open, and both were screaming. It apparently didn’t need to stop for breath. It was dripping wet from the spray in the walls. Mick guessed that the plumbing wasn’t holy water than. Or, admittedly less likely, this one wasn’t vulnerable to that sort of thing.

The scream was its weapon. Which was, at best, irritating. He had to admit it was a very effective. He wasn’t sure his ears weren’t going to start bleeding at any moment, and he had to fight the temptation to cover his ears with his hands.

Instead, he stood and faced the beast full on. Aiming his gun with both hands, willing his muscles to stop shaking. He only had one shot.

Then the most unnerving thing of all happened. The scream stopped.

Mick lost his footing in the sudden change in the air pressure and he stumbled forward, though he managed to stay upright. The thing was looking at him. He wasn’t sure what part of that head (heads?) were its eyes, but he could feel it staring at him. Then both beaks pointed toward him and the scream resumed, louder. The force of the sound threw him back several feet. He rolled until he hit a wall. He couldn’t stop it now, his hands flew to his ears, and he pressed them against it. Though the right hand, with the gun, was less effective at blocking any sound.

His eyes were wide with pain, and he couldn’t shut them. He groaned. It may have been audible — he wasn’t sure, because he couldn’t hear anything. Even the scream. But he could feel it, every where in his body, every inch of his skin.

In desperation he stretched out his arm and pointed the gun. He couldn’t hold it steady. He used every last bit of his strength to squeeze the trigger.

The shot couldn’t be heard any more than anything else could. It seemed like everything froze for a moment. He thought the screaming stopped. Then it exploded in a visual cacophony of guts and lights spreading everywhere.

“I guess I hit it,” Mick muttered. He was deaf, he hoped only temporarily, and didn’t hear it. He hadn’t heard the explosion either. Or the guts hitting the walls. He tried not to think of it.

He forced himself to his feet, his left hand against the wall to steady himself, the gun hanging limply at his side. As soon as he could he took a step forward, then another. Till he reached where the thing had stood… floated. He shook his head and immediately regretted it, the pain shooting over his skin. He winced.

He reached down into the rubble and the water until he found it: the thin chain of silver threads with the pendant on it, an unassuming smooth round stone, the size of a silver dollar, in a flat platinum setting with… symbols or runes etched around it. He ached as he stood again and limped away.

Untitled i

In the vids, the stars all raced by, like comets. Or like meteors burning brilliantly in the atmosphere. In the hundreds of years since humans had first achieved space travel, still not enough people had seen space while they were actually out in it to know it didn’t look anything like that. Even with faster-than-light travel with dark matter drives, there was only a slight blurring. Stars were so far apart that you didn’t see much change as you went.

Charlie put up his feet and stared at the unchanging space. It was his watch, this was his job. Music from 21st century earth played. It was much more racous and energetic back then — 26th century music favored slow tones, alternating subtlely, very little repetition. In the 21st century, they hadn’t been into subtlety. Or slow. He believed the band playing was called Linkin’ Park, but it could be anyof a hundred bands. He didn’t know the difference between them that well. He had a couple favorites, but mostly it just stayed on as noise. He liked it, but he couldn’t sleep with it playing. Not at this volume.

Charlie born at the end of the 23rd century. He was passenger on a ship to HD 10307 — the first star system with a planet that wouldn’t even need terraforming to colonize. They’d even renamed it Gaia — the Greek word for earth, to show how much faith they had. Charlie had fought and pulled in favors and spent money — a lot of money — to get on that ship.

He’d spent two and a half centuries in cryosleep, and woken to find the ship to find that two centuries earlier FTL had been created and that there had been not just colonies but full blown cities and a thriving populas lived on Gaia. There was a great party and a parade and galas and events and interviews. No one in the 26th century had ever met someone from the 23rd before, and the passengers on the Starry Hope were oddities and celebrities. Through all of it though, Charlie had been in a depression. He’d wanted to be the first. Or at least among the first. And where had he been while human life was first established on a distant planet? Sleeping somewhere in the middle of space.

It was, at best, frustrating. Which is probably why he’d turned to piracy. That and the fact that even with his celebrity status he had no money whatsoever. They’d paid for rooms, food, travel. All until no one wanted to hear from him. He’d been ready to make his way as a modest mechanic/technician/electrician on the first colonies of Gaia. He’d been completely unprepared to make a life in the bustling metropoli that spanned the western spiral arm of hte Milky Way Galaxy when he’d been revived. He snorted at the memories. He was still angry about it all.

His break had come when he’d first taken a tour of a modern space ship. He’d been a futurist and a space buff for his whole life. So, of course, he’d played all the video games before he had boarded the Starry Hope. Turned out that the man who’d designed the most popular simulation game for space ships had been much more educated than your typical video game designer. He’d gone on to work for multiple space programs and even now the primary designs for small space craft were remarkably similar to the controls on the game Charlie had played.