Pen is Mightier

So, the conversation in the writing slack I hang in can range from super serious to super silly. For your amusement, I’m going to share an example of the latter that spanned multiple channels this morning. All participants have given their permission for this to be shared.

It started in #wordcount:

misterroque
[09:07] Oh hey! I missed word day
[09:07] Sowhatwhocareswannafightaboutit

deathkitten
[09:08] pulls out her fountain pen and takes a fencing position
[09:08] I’ll fight you!

misterroque
[09:08] Aw shit
[09:09] Bringitbringitbringit
[09:09] En garde!
[09:09] ⚔

deathkitten
[09:09] lunges, driving the sword pen fight into #random

#random

misterroque
[09:10] falls over a chair, dizzy from pushing through the channel membrane. Drops sword

deathkitten
[09:10] chases @misterroque into the channel, brandishing her fountain pen as if it is a sword
[09:11] kicks the sword away, and bops @misterroque on top of the head with the pen
[09:12] That’s one point for me.
[09:12] 😀

misterroque
[09:12] scurries under a table, whimpering pathetically

deathkitten
[09:12] 😕

misterroque
[09:14] uses confused sympathy as a distraction, reaches out and grabs dk from under the table, tripping her. Steals pen and runs into #general

deathkitten
[09:14] grabs the discarded sword and gives chase

#general

deathkitten
[09:15] swings into the channel on a chandelier

misterroque
[09:16] tries to get into a good fighting stance, carefully stepping around all of pathics birthday cakes
[09:17] throws pen like a knife at dk’s head as she lands from the chandelier

deathkitten
[09:21] ducks, the sharp nib of the pen leaving a slice across her forehead as she almost doesn’t duck fast enough
[09:22] gives chase, seeing her foe is unarmed save for his wits

misterroque
[09:27] surprised the thrown pen didn’t finish her, roque falls back into an absurd pile of birthday cakes, sending collateral confectionery flying everywhere
[09:27] realizing he’s unarmed, he takes a candle, still somehow lit, and sets fire to the channel drapes

deathkitten
[09:28] Ooo, fire
[09:28] is dazzled

misterroque
[09:29] flees into #ididathing closing the door behind him, attempting to seal dk in the burning channel

deathkitten
[09:30] remembers she’s supposed to be the second most responsible person in the slack, and the first most responsible is probably still sleeping off birthday celebration, so she should probably put out the fire
[09:31] drags out the firehose and rinses the channel clean

#ididathing

misterroque
[09:32] comfortable in what he assumes is victory, roque begins grabbing handfuls of cake off his person and eating it

deathkitten
[09:32] sneaks in through the air vent

misterroque
[09:33] nom nom nom

deathkitten
[09:38] silently sneakily sneaks up behind @misterroque and holds the sword to his throat
[09:38] Drop. That. Cake.

misterroque
[09:41] swallows one last bite, then invokes Rob Roy and grabs the sword with his bare hand, cutting himself deeply but creating just enough space to escape. Flees into hatch leading down to #submissions

deathkitten
[09:42] Curses!

#submissions

misterroque
[09:42] takes the pool cover off the bog of eternal sadness that lives in this channel, setting a trap for dk

deathkitten
[09:44] takes a shortcut, chasing a swan over a fence. The swan gets caught in the trap

misterroque
[09:46] carefully pulls the now Very Sad Swan out of the bog, and begins swinging it by it’s neck as a feathery club at dk

deathkitten
[09:47] Swan abuse!
[09:47] pulls out a citation book

misterroque
[09:52] pauses to grudgingly accept the citation before sticking his tongue out, blowing a raspberry, and poking dk in the eye

deathkitten
[09:53] Ow! Hey!
[09:53] smacks roque up side his head
[09:53] That hurt!
[09:54] puts on eye patch

misterroque
[09:58] realizing the eye patch makes her look way more badass than he does, he flees through the bog of eternal sadness (immune to its effects from a lifetime of exposure) into #political

#political

misterroque
[09:58] Aha! Let’s see if you can survive The Shitstorm!
[09:59] gets into a ready position for fisticuffs (queensberry rules, of course)

deathkitten
[10:00] bursts into the channel now dressed like a pirate, even with a parrot on her shoulder

misterroque
[10:08] feints with a jab at dk, and then throws a right cross at the parrot

deathkitten
[10:11] dodges the jab as the parrot goes sailing across the channel and into #playlists, yelling “YOU JEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK, SQUACK” as it goes.
[10:13] It was Jackson’s last day before retirement.

misterroque
[10:16] laughs, then prepares to throw an uppercut, but ducks and rolls for cover just as The Shitstorm of the channel rolls in, like a veritable haboob of shit

deathkitten
[10:19] pulls her billowing pirate coat closed around her to protect herself, pulling her hat down over her face. She silently bemoans the death of the peacock feather in her hat
[10:24] fights her way to #playlists

#playlists

deathkitten
[10:12] a parrot comes tumbling into the channel
[10:25] stumbles in, disposing of shit covered jacket, hat, and boots just outside the channel in the in between.

misterroque
[10:36] crawls into the channel through a hole in the wall of harsh noise, starving for air, his body now covered in a slurry of shit and old cake. He realizes the best way to win the combat is through love, so he pulls himself to his feet, looking like some kind of marbled monster, stumbles toward dk with arms outstretched screaming “HUG ME!”

deathkitten
[10:37] pulls out the fire hose and sprays all the shit cake off roque
[10:39] picks up the poor punched parrot and tentatively approaches the drownedroque for the offered hug

misterroque
[10:44] the offer is genuine, and roque embraces dk, hissing at the parrot behind her back and mouthing the word “SOON”

deathkitten
[10:46] hugs it out as the parrot squawks “roque is a parrot hater!”

On the Meeting of R & W

Sunlight filtered through the tree as Ronan lay on the quad lawn with his textbook.An ant crawled along the spine and Ronan flicked it away before turning the page — smashed ant might further lower the value of the book when he sold it back at the end of the semester. A shadow fell across the book and Ronan looked up. It was that geek with the camera, always hiding behind it, contorting himself to get the perfect shot — today that was the sunlight filtering through the tree above, by standing not a foot away from Ronan’s book.

“Hey.”

Glasses emerged from behind the body of the camera, looking around. Finally they looked down.

“You’re in my light.”

“Oh, uh, sorry.” He raised the camera again, turning his attention upwards. Ronan grunted. “It’ll only be a moment more, sorry.”

Ronan grumbled, rolling over to sit up, drawing the large textbook into his lap instead. The fringe of his hair fell across his eyes, providing almost a curtain to divide him from his surroundings and shading everything but the book. Movement through the fringe, followed by the soft sound of the shutter, caused Ronan to look up in time to see the guy with the camera standing up. Ronan brushed aside his hair and fixed a glare on him as the guy reached into his camera bag.

“You can see how the shot came out,” was all he said as he dropped a postcard on Ronan’s book and walked off. Ronan picked up the postcard, ready to wad it up, when the clocktower chimed four. Time for his next class, book shut quickly, trapping the postcard inside to mark his spot, and the encounter nearly forgotten.

I Needed That Egg

The sun flooded through the observation port, blinding Maurice momentarily until he fumbled for the button that tinted the glass. Sunrise hit about every hour and a half up here and one of these days he’d have to program a small script to automatically trigger the tint. He could leave it tinted all the time, that’s what many of the other egg operators did, but he liked being able to look over and see the blue marble that was home floating there below him. So he manually triggered it each sunrise, the momentary distraction took less time than it would have taken to create the small script to do it. All the data passing through his satellite had to be routed to the right people, sent through to the right computers for analysis, and that meant constantly paying attention. No time to program small comforts, the dumb eggs didn’t have breaks programmed into their algorithms, so he only had time to himself when he was scheduled for his sleep cycle and his egg was taken off the network for six hours.

Only two dozen sleep cycles until one of the skimmers came and scooped his egg up to pull him for a home cycle. He was counting down to seeing Jessica again, had a ring on order for her due to arrive the day after he got out of quarantine; a custom piece with rose gold and black diamonds. He touched her photo as his console lit up with a high alert and he received a personal communique on his encrypted blackLine feed. He touched the red WANTED FUGITIVE headline on the egg control panel as he glanced at his data pod.

From: J. George
To: M. Miller
Subject: I’m So Very Sorry <3

Her picture came up on the egg panel before he could open the personal message.

“Fuck,” he muttered as he skimmed the alert. Data trafficking, running from the law, spreading anti-governmental propaganda. There was nothing he could do for her, especially since he knew she wouldn’t be caught dead sending her data through the WorldNet. He shut off his blackLine pod, dismissed the high alert, and opened a communique to the home office. She wasn’t going to be there when he landed for his home cycle, he might as well put in for an extra couple cycles in the egg to help pay off the useless ring.

Not All Cities That Wander…

The sun sat high in the sky on the vernal equinox as Ronan stood in the shade of the Joshua tree. If he’d decoded the message right, it would be here any time now. Of course, there were so many variables to take into account, so many ways he could have confused his research, that he couldn’t be sure it was coming until—

The ground shook — someone who didn’t know better would attribute it to an earthquake — but Ronan could feel it, he knew what was coming. The desert disappeared in the blink of an eye and as far as he could see there were buildings, people, the bustle of a city. Not just any city, but the city. The Wandering City.

The Joshua tree he’d been standing under had been replaced by something taller, more delicate, bark the color of platinum with translucent rose gold leaves. It was one of many in this park that filled a square block, surrounded by shops that spilled out into the walkways. Ronan’s eyes slid along the overflowing tables and racks, lingering on trinkets and baubles that looked particularly shiny as he wondered if Wendell would appreciate any of them. Perhaps not, they were only things.

It had been so many years; Ronan just freshly 19, Wendell just shy of 23, and their car had broken down on their road trip and they had nowhere to be, so they’d just walked. Nothing for miles until they’d instantly found themselves in the city, surrounded by tall buildings and people… there were so many people. That there were so many may have caught their attention first, but soon they started to notice so much more. Wendell had immediately pulled out his camera and started taking pictures — skin in a rainbow of colors ranging from a nearly translucent pale pink, to a royal purple so deep it was as if staring into the depth of space, earthy russets and mosses, tones the colors of precious stones. Hair and scales, hooves and horns, clothes that ranged from hardware to hardly there. Wendell had gone through all four of his unused rolls of film before he’d realized.

They’d integrated into the society with little effort, everyone welcomed them without a moment’s hesitation, and Wendell was so happy that Ronan couldn’t help but be infected by it. Two years they lived together in a little loft, all their needs met. Wendell spent his days wandering and taking pictures once he’d replaced his camera with one that didn’t need film, sometimes leaving the city in the afternoon to explore wherever it was it had connected with reality today, usually returning in the small hours of the morning to find Ronan pouring over a book. Hundreds of alien worlds covered every inch of the walls, even more prints in galleries and eateries across the city. Ronan had been amazed at the number of cultures and races that were in the city, and he filled his time learning everything he could of all of them. He soon realized that the city existed as a living catalog, collecting a sample from everywhere it visited — people, objects, plants, animals — all kept happy and allowed to just be. So he went looking to find out who ran things.

A passing person bumped into him, drawing him out of his memories, and he only caught the wisp of an apology in their wake as they moved on. His hand slid into his pocket, drawing out a folded postcard. On one side was a landscape featuring two suns and three moons, the other was a hand written invitation to a gallery opening. The café hosting was a few blocks from the park he stood in, and the date should be today if he was remembering the conversion between calendars. His feet took him there on memory alone.

“Ronan! You made it.” Hair longer, silver breaking up what was once jet black, laugh lines at the corners of his eyes, but it was Wendell for certain.

“I couldn’t pass up a personal invite from the artist himself.” It was as if the surrounding people had disappeared as they closed the space between them. Ronan’s hands wrapped around Wendell’s, the postcard sandwiched between. There was a long pause as their eyes met.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d get it—” Wendell’s eyes dropped to their hands. “If you’d gotten any of them. And even if you had, if he’d—”

“The other thirty-five that made it are posted on the walls of my RV above my bed.” As he spoke, Ronan moved his hand up to cup Wendell’s jaw, a thumb crossing his lips and silencing him. “It had just taken me time to find my way back.” Another long pause, then Ronan looked over his shoulder at the café. “I think it’s almost time to start, I wouldn’t want keep you from your audience.”

Wendell laughed, shifting so that he could hold Ronan’s hand as he silently lead the way inside. When they let go, and Wendell made his way to the spotlight, Ronan hung at the back of the crowd with his heart in his throat. Just that small exchange had brought everything rushing back as if it was only yesterday when they’d still shared that loft.

“Wendell hasn’t smiled like that in years.” Ronan turned his head toward the strange voice, and the person who seemed to have spoken shifted to stay on the edge of his peripheral. “He thought you should know he’s watching, but as long as you behave, you’re welcome to stay.” And with that, the person quickly left the café, and all Ronan saw was the back of a feathered head. He swallowed hard as he turned to look at Wendell again, and was met with two deep brown eyes staring deep into his own, and a smile that could outshine the sun.

“It’ll be okay, I’ll make this work,” Ronan muttered to himself, smiling back at Wendell. After all, it had been his own fault he’d been chased out of the city without even having the chance to tell Wendell goodbye. Three months of trying to find him, a hint here, a whisper there, and finally an offer for a meeting outside the city. He’d fallen for it and was left alone in the middle of cornfields with nothing but the clothes on his back when the city disappeared early. A letter via a courier arrived some months later telling him that his disruptions had gone too far. It had been a small mercy the city had been connected to his earth at the time.

Rise Up Into the Light

So, in my ever floundering efforts to try to and get myself writing more, I joined a Slack started by a Twitter friend that’s focused on writing. We chatter about all sorts of writing related things, and generally try to cheer on and help each other out. So far I’ve been less than pleased with my results, but it’s the fault of things outside this group such as work and life stress, and everyone’s been pretty awesome so far. One thing we’re going to try out is a weekly writing prompt to encourage the creative juices.

Prompt:
The 4am Breakthrough #162: A Car Wreck In Repose: Write a short scene that takes place entirely inside a vehicle that has been in a serious accident. Let there be a driver and two passengers. All are badly injured, but all are conscious. They cannot escape from the vehicle, but the vehicle is not about to explode. Still, things aren’t good. Write about their perceptions and their fractured conversation in the moments before rescue arrives. 500 words.


The tiger shark paused on the other side of the windshield and met Kathleen’s eye, and she held her breath until it swam off again. Wait, swam?

Drip.
Drip.
Drip.

She turned and looked at the window to her right and saw water pushing its way from under the weather strip she’d been telling Steve to replace for the last three years.

“Kath? Vic?” Steve reached over to lay a hand on Kathleen’s knee, and looked over his shoulder to the backseat. Victoria sat with her head back against her seat, staring up at the growing wet spot in the drooping headliner.

“What the fuck just happened?” The teen finally lifted her head, meeting her mother’s eye through the rear view mirror.

“Last thing I remember, something hit us. It was moving too fast, I only saw a blur and then we were through the guardrail on the side of the bridge.” Steve pushed aside the deflated airbag that covered the steering wheel, searching for the horn. When he found it, a sickly muffled meep was all the reward he got. “Hopefully someone saw us go.”

“Rescue equipment is going to take a while to get here, even if they did. How much air do we even have?” Kathleen unbuckled her seatbelt and pressed her face against the window trying to look up. A water drop hit her in the eye and she pulled away from the window with a start as she furiously blinked the brackish water out. “It’s not that deep here, is it? Couldn’t we just swim up?”

“Oh my gawd, Mom. Do you even know how much force that water will roll in here with if we open a window to get out? And we’ll lose all our air when we do it.” Victoria unbuckled her seatbelt and dug into her pocket to pull out her phone. She poked at the touchscreen for a long minute, flicking and biting her lip. “Fuck. No signal. Nothing.”

“We have to do something.” Steve jabbed the window controls, and there was a small jerk and then nothing. Water started to trickle through the top of his window as he unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned over to yank open the glove box. “Be ready to move, I’m going to break this window. Ready?” He pulled out an orange tool with a small cone shaped hammer top on one end.

“Right behind you, dear,” Kathleen said, leaning in to give Steve a kiss on the cheek.

WAIT!” Victoria yelled, throwing herself forward, grabbing her fathers arm. “We need to wait for someone to come get us. We won’t make it. We won’t.”

“It could take hours, and we probably don’t have that much air. Hush now, take deep breaths and be ready to go as soon as your father breaks the glass.” Kathleen gently pulled Victoria’s grip from Steve’s arm, awkwardly putting her arm around Victoria’s shoulder.

“On three…” Steve raised the tool as he turned towards the window. “One. Two.”

CRASH.

The water rushed in.

Lobes For Business Run In The Family

With all the hot topics being political lately, I’m having a hard time coming up with a topic that isn’t politics for this week. I don’t want this to turn into a political blog. Fuck knows, there’s a lot to say, a lot that needs doing, so if I wanted to make this a political blog, I certainly would have enough fodder. I’d also feel obligated to spend a whole hell of a lot more time reading up on political stuff, and I just don’t have the energy to do that. Particularly the emotional energy because so much of what’s going on lately is so frustrating or heartbreaking. So, let’s talk about something a lot more light hearted today. As I mentioned in Time and Divergence, I run a Star Trek RPG online called The USS Joshua Norton. We use a content management system called Nova, and the game is very much a collaborative writing project. For the most part, players come up with a character they wish to play within the setting, and craft a bio, then they either write by themselves or with others about events that happen in the setting. The command team function similar to how the Game Master (Dungeon Master, Storyteller, whatever) does in a tabletop game, but without dice involved, we focus more on the overarching plot and the bulk of the NPCs, though the players can, and often do, write some of these too!

Currently, we have a murder mystery on the side of our official mission. The official mission is pretty simple: we have a visiting Romulan Delegation on Earth, and the crew’s job is to keep an eye on them and see if any useful information comes up. Nothing unexpected has come up, which is why when the CO’s brother, Noah, shows up asking for help because some strangers are trying to kill his friend who saw the strangers kill a retired intel agent, Amelia picks a few of her crew to look into it. So far it smells of a cover up, and one of the mysterious men killed himself rather than be interrogated. A Ferengi overheard some information, which he sold to the Romulan delegation, and now we’ve got a race between them and the crew to reach evidence hidden by the dead retired intel officer. To add to the stakes, the crew has reason to believe that the big secret the retired intel officer was murdered over was the true story of how Captain Sisko brought the Romulans into the Dominion war — something that even though Starfleet HQ knew some of the story, they didn’t know the whole of it, and even the partial story could be enough to unravel the delicate peace between the Romulan people and the Federation.

Here’s a sample of one of our recent mission logs: “Want Some Whiskey In Your Water?” I like to use song lyrics for log titles, that one comes from Three Dog Night’s Mama Told Me (Not To Come).

Zola settled down at her terminal in her quarters, and opened the secure channel with the Latinum Star. She knew Catalina was off the Emperor, and guessed she wouldn’t be back for a while, but she’d set up a notification in the computer in case her roommate beamed back. Negotiations were delicate work, and though her brother was better than some of their species, someone he didn’t know, particularly a female, would put him on the defensive. Also, he’d spend more time leering than talking. Zola needed information, so it was a risk she couldn’t take.

“Ah, Zola, my favorite little sister,” he cooed at her as the channel connected, his wrists pressed together and his fingers curled in front of his chin as he nodded his head in greeting.

“Ah, Nug, my doddering senile younger brother. I am still the eldest, even if I found a shortcut you didn’t,” she returned in kind, extending the same gesture of greeting. He bared his teeth at her with a growl, and she smiled wide. “How’s business?”

“None of yours.”

“Funny you should say that, as Broq apparently did make it my business,” she returned. A frown passed Nug’s face, and Zola lifted her hand within view of the screen. She slowly let the gold pressed latinum tumble from her fist. “My friend acquired this from Broq, or at least I assume it was Broq, since he’s usually not stupidly aggressive unless there’s latinum already involved. I was told he was spitting in my friend’s face.”

“So they were Starfleet,” Nug said, and Zola laughed.

“Bold assumption.”

“Return Broq’s property.”

“Rule of Acquisition number one, brother,” she chastised, waving her finger at him. “We could negotiate what the return of his latinum and other property is worth to you though.” She settled back in her chair, crossing her arms as she waited for his response. He frowned and chewed his lip as he considered. “Though I’d be happy to give you what was his if you just push him out the airlock instead.”

For a little context: Zola and Nug are twins, with their Moogie having raised Zola, and their father having raised Nug. Presently, Zola has lived fewer year, despite having been born first, due to an unexpected one-way trip through a time traveling worm hole. Their Moogie had collected on Zola’s life insurance and bribed her way into the divine treasury long before Zola’s reappearance, so in order to avoid being brought up on fraud charges, she continues to act as if Zola truly is dead. The only family who acknowledges her as alive are her brother and father. She doesn’t really miss Ferengi society, because she’s never understood the drive to collect profit, so she’s been just fine continuing her career in Starfleet since the wormhole incident.