The woman sits on the porch of a log cabin in the middle of a forest clearing, swinging her legs over the side. She’s wearing boxer shorts and an oversized shirt. The cottage-cheese dimples in her thighs deepen with every swing. She dangles a tacky flip-flop, patterned with the new Australian Colonies flag, on her big toe. The cabin is suspended off the ground on metre-long stilts. It reminds her of something she read once, about jungle dwellers in Borneo who built tall huts to keep away from komodo dragons—which seem a pale threat in comparison to some of the native Thassalean life—back in the days when Earth still had rainforests. In the sky, she can see the distant, luminous streaks made by Human spacecraft coming and going from the spaceport near the Thassalean moon. The moon is nearer to the planet than Earth’s, which makes the beach a difficult place to live. She knows the closeness of the spaceport to the moon is deceptive. The spaceport is actually nowhere near the moon, but her distance to it makes it seem like it is. In her lap rests a plasma pistol. She swings her legs, watching the treeline, until she hears the sound of something coming up behind her, then she carefully flexes a thumb to pull back the comically antiquated hammer on her pistol. She relaxes when she realizes it’s only Axem. He must have realized she hadn’t been to bed yet. “You know, they only come out during the day,” says Axem in his gravelly impression of Human language. He speaks French, even though the woman isn’t French. He says it’s the Human language closest to his native Thassal, or something. “Laamats are diurnal predators.” “Well,” the woman replies, in English. “You know what they say... Once bitten, twice shy.” “I don’t know what that means,” says Axem. He’s been very diligent in learning human customs and figures of speech, but there are still gaps in his knowledge. “Never mind. It’s a human expression. It means I’m very careful.” “You should be careful during the day,” Axem insists. “That’s when the laamats come out. That’s what ‘diurnal’ means.” “I know what ‘diurnal’ means,” says the woman irritably. She is then silent again, and resumes her swinging. She lifts a muscular, but flab-burdened arm and scratches her forehead, just above her eyebrow, with a single glitter-coated acrylic nail. Axem gets the impression the woman isn’t telling him something. He’s had that feeling about her for a while, ever since she was sent to him on some bizarre exercise in improving Human-Thassalean relations. The idea was to see if Humans and non-Humans could live together. Axem, for the most part, has no problem with sharing space with a Human, even though he finds them strange. When it becomes clear the woman isn’t moving, Axem sits—or rather, squats next to her. Thassaleans don’t really sit. Their bodies aren’t designed that way. Instead, they just lower themselves into a more comfortable position. “What are you thinking?” asks Axem, as he eyes the swaying shadows of the trees. “I’m thinking about getting hamburgers for lunch tomorrow,” says the woman. “From that place with the Hedmak, who cooks for Humans. You know, imitation Thassalean stuff that Humans can eat. Isn’t that weird?” “What do you mean?” “Well...” The woman pauses as she thinks about how to best explain herself. “There were a lot of people who didn’t think we’d be here,” she says at length. “Naysayers. People who thought faster-than-light travel was impossible, or that there would be no intelligent life within our reach. Now that we are here, I’m surprised by how normal it all feels.” She tugs lightly at her clothes to draw Axem’s attention to them. Axem is only marginally familiar with the logo on the shirt, which refers to a line of personal vehicles used by humans on their home world—HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLES. “I dress like this at home... I mean, on Earth. Not when I’m working on the reservation. But at the end of the day, I come home to a comfortable house, a cup of coffee, a set of daggy pyjamas... And a big three-legged alien on my couch, watching sitcoms on TV. It’s like you’re my roommate. Or my cat.” “We are... roommates,” replies Axem, hesitating on the unfamiliar word. “And I find it hard to believe you could mistake me for Cleo. The size discrepancy alone makes that obvious.” “I know,” says the woman, chuckling. “But I don’t look at you any differently than I would a Human, is what I’m saying.” “That’s good. It means the program is working.” “I suppose.” The woman, apparently unconvinced, goes quiet again, and she and Axem share another silence. Their silences are reasonably comfortable, disturbed only by Axem’s feeling that the woman is holding something back. “Come inside, Pilot,” says Axem. “It’s too cold to be out here, attired as you are.” With one final wary look at the treeline, Pilot silently consents. She swings her legs up on to the porch and pushes herself to a stand. The pistol hangs like a kettlebell in her hand. She crosses the deck to the heavy wooden door and yanks sharply at the pullbar. The pullbars were implemented when it was discovered Thassaleans didn’t have the motor skills to work doorknobs. She holds the door open for Axem, and then lets it swing shut. It sinks slowly, noiselessly, back into place in its frame, and the porch is empty once more.
edited 27th Feb '13 12:48:49 AM by Alma
edited 27th Feb '13 5:57:44 PM by LastHussar
It was a snowy afternoon. Match set! 25 to 22; the champions are Redwood Junior High! Hard to believe that happened only hours ago. Russell looked up at the orange sky and sighed, clouding the air with his breath. "It's... over." His lips trembled slightly. He wanted to speak. He wanted to apologize. In the end, we couldn't win.
edited 6th Mar '13 4:42:44 AM by fillerdude
Excerpt for the DayBjorn tilted his head back as he ran his gaze up the city wall of Wasepata. He held a hand over his blue eyes to shield them from the white plaster's burning glow. Not even two elephants stacked up together could match the mudbrick structure's inhuman height, which exceeded every other manmade building Bjorn ever saw. Only the rows of woody thorns sprouting from the wall's front side, no doubt for support, convinced him that humans rather than gods built it. And this wasn't even supposed to be the grandest or most famous example of Nubadian architecture. If the wall would have choked the words out of any Northman, it seemed even more staggering to Bjorn after countless days of wandering through the wilds. Sweat beaded his sun-reddened brow and stained his fur tunic dark while dust coated his trousers. An oily yellow tangle of hair itched all over his face. Every time he breathed, his throat dried like the savanna behind him. Not even Bjorn's naturally stocky, muscular frame could hide his stomach's aching emptiness. He reached into his pocket to clutch the warm ball of gold inside. Only the gods' fickle mercy, or perhaps dumb luck, had led him to this nugget out in the desert just north of Nubadi. In fact most Northmen would have brushed it off as simply another desert stone, but in his travels Bjorn had picked up on the southern races' strange love for the flimsy yellow metal. Bouncing the nugget off his hand's palm, he smirked. One fistful of this stuff could feed him for over a moon. "You down there, what are you doing?" Bjorn cocked his head back up. Atop the wall's gatehouse stood the tiny figures of two Nubadian bowmen, although he could only make out their outlines after squinting. "Oh, I was just admiring your wall," Bjorn said. "It's quite a feast for the eyes, isn't it?" "You must be new to Nubadi, then," one of the guard said. "You sure look the part. Now who are you, strange one?" "I am Bjorn, a Northman from the village of Wolfheart...well, before it got razed to the ground. Now I live as a vagrant, and I seek rest and food in your fine city. I'll not stay longer than a few days." “Northman, huh?” There was a pause. “It’s not common for your kind to come this far south, and this far inland. You must have really worn yourself out! Wait, what’s that glinting from behind your back?” “Oh, this?” Bjorn slid his broadsword out from its scabbard. “A man’s got protect himself when he’s out alone in the bush, doesn’t he? Trust me, I mean no harm.” The wind whistled and the savanna insects buzzed. “All right, you’ll be in a crowded place anyway,” the guard said. “But if you cause the slightest trouble, piss-mane, odds are you’ll find yourself headless in no time. Let him in!” As the great wooden doors opened, their grinding battered Bjorn’s eardrums. He stormed through the entrance with his face burning even redder than before. Southerners may have called his kind “piss-manes” many times before, yet the slur’s sting never wore off. Especially not since his father’s killer first growled it out among the roars of Wolfheart’s flames… No, Bjorn could not relive that bloody winter yet again. He tightened his grip on the gold nugget. Whatever may have happened in his youth, the rest of his life still lay ahead of him. Better to enjoy what time he had left than dwell on what he left behind. Not that he could slip slick into Wasepata’s population, if they would let him at all. They certainly wouldn’t now, for the crowds which bustled over the dirt streets always parted to make a wide berth for Bjorn. All the Nubadians he passed turned their heads to gawk or glare at him. Glaring men pulled their women back from him, and the women in turn shielded their children with their arms. The buzzing and chatter of daily gossip gave way to gasps and nervous murmurs. Bjorn drooped his head and sighed. Not even the world’s oldest and largest civilization could protect him from crushing loneliness. Yet for all the Nubadians’ incredulity towards him, Bjorn found them every bit as alien to himself. By and large these black-skinned people stretched tall and lean, the opposite of his husky white Northfolk. Many had woven their frizzy hair in braids or sculpted it into elaborate crests. Bright warm colors dazzled on the Nubadians’ skirts, and gold and beads gleamed all over their necks and limbs. The richest jarl in all the Northlands could never adorn himself as these Nubadian commoners did. Perhaps Bjorn had erred in bringing one little nugget to this urban gold mine. The city itself glowed with the same radiance as the people who filled it. The mudbrick houses alone would dwarf any Northman’s stick hovel, to say nothing of the limestone obelisks, colossi, and temples that reached for the sky. Whether built from mud or rock, all these monuments wore murals and inscribed hieroglyphs all over their plaster. From the distant horizon rose the gold-capped peaks of bygone rulers’ tombs. The Great Hall of Bjorn’s gods would disappear into insignificance if placed within Wasepata. Nothing could brutalize a Northman’s cultural pride more than this. Wasepata’s main road opened into a bazaar choked up with even more citizenry than the rest of the city. The aromas of fruits, spices, and bread mingled with the stenches of fish and meats. Merchants’ shouting from their stalls fought with the street musicians’ throbbing drums and twanging kora. One man actually ran out from his fruit stall to Bjorn and knelt at his feet. “Please, for the love of Nzambimun, give Djadao’s produce a chance!” he sobbed, holding his hands up together. Bjorn groaned. “How much do you really depend on it, my good man?” “Why, nothing less than my life is at stake. I shall starve to death by the day’s end if you don’t help!” Djadao rubbed his bulging belly. “Sure you will, judging by that figure.” Bjorn suppressed a snicker. “Speaking of starving, looks like someone else really is hungry today!” A naked little boy plucked a couple of figs off Djadao’s stall. The merchant spun around and lunged at the child, who scurried away in an eye’s blink. “Stop that thief, why don’t you?” Djadao roared. “Bring me his hand!” Bjorn burst after the boy, but the bazaar’s forest of humanity slowed his initial sprint down. He found himself having to shove and squeeze his way through the townspeople. The urchin, on the other hand, could weave his way around them like a snake zipping through grass. Bjorn could never catch up to him, not unless he could somehow climb over everyone else. Maybe he didn’t need to climb. After squatting as far back down as he could, Bjorn thrust upward and vaulted over the next wall of Nubadians. He landed a foot behind the boy and snatched onto his shoulders. “Got you!” Bjorn turned the child to face him. “What would your mother have to say about this?” The scrawny little child said nothing. His eyes shone with tears which leaked down his cheeks. Bjorn’s heart melted. “You don’t have a mother, do you?” Bjorn pulled out his gold nugget. For all the things it could buy him, none of those he needed as much as this boy needed to survive. “Give the seller this gold, and he won’t let you go hungry for a long time.” Once Bjorn let him go, the boy skipped back towards the fruit-seller with both figs and nugget. Bjorn strutted away with a cozy warmth soothing his soul. He could always find some line of work in a city as big as Wasepata anyway. A hand lunged out and dragged him into an alley.
edited 6th Mar '13 8:34:51 AM by Jabrosky
Police Senior Inspector Mark Chen, ex-officer of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force and a current operator of a covert public security task force launched by the National Counter-Terrorism Action Group to investigate serious crimes, including cybercrimes, as a major priority after the country had spent a huge amount of money on reconstruction efforts. Right now, his first job was to investigate the death of a young high school student accused of being a member of a hacker/terrorist group called "True Anonymous". The group has been dubbed to be the successor of the whistleblower group "Anonymous", although their tactics are suggesting that they act more like the hacker terror groups that emerged from the war. This is too messy. It can't be TA's fault. Mark had seen the corpse of the student. It was a clean and good job. Double tap to the chest and head. Someone clearly wanted him out of the way. Now the news is claiming that the student was killed due to a mistaken identity on the part of the assailant. "Hey!" A PNP uniformed officer spotted someone acting suspicious near the crime scene. When the public security officer saw this, the suspicious person started to run. "OY!" Mark gave chase, but things escalated when he brought out a machine pistol and started to fire at him and at the PNP officers. "Shit..." Mark drew out a pistol from his shoulder holster and opened fire. The 9mm bullet struck the armed person at his right shoulder. But the ex-SAF officer swore that it pinged off in a ricochet. Is his arm a military-grade prosthetic arm? In Philippine law enforcement/military circles, only active soldiers and police officers are allowed to have prosthetic limbs as a part of their duties if their original limbs are not longer present. For now, Mark intends to find out when he catches the assailant. Preferably alive.
edited 26th Sep '13 4:18:35 AM by edgewalker22
The persistent cloud cast overhead provided all the creatures forged by the Divine Hand below it. No sound was heard from the town, except hollow whistle of wind blowing through abandoned and decaying structures. Between them, two shapes, outlined by camouflaged ammo jacket, swiftly moved along the edge of empty street like spectres. They kept their mouths shut, adding nothing to the desolute air but dust rising each time their boots tread the poisoned ground. The operators kept their muscles tensed, fingers prepared to pull the trigger. If it was not for occasional hand signals they exchanged, one might have mistook that they weren't even aware of each other's presence. Soon they found themselves in the middle of the town, at a small fountain. The water was completely dried up and what must have been once white was stained green by time. Both soldiers looked around the place and saw nothing, just the way they like it. "I don't think we should be exposing us like this, Brown. Snipers can take out us easily." Chief Warrant Officer Michael Strauss whispered to his partner, Master Sergeant Jacob Brown, as he looked around, checking windows with his infrared scope. The Delta operator, on the other hand, didn't seem to share the concern. "I know when there is an ambush. I assure you, Chief, this time is empty as a skull." "Skull, huh. From the reports, over 30,000 people used to live here. Now all I have is a faint whisper of dead in my ear and a smell of ashes in my nose." "Feels like we are in Prypiat, huh? Hopefully we really are all alone in this place." "If I see an enemy, I think it would actually be a relief." "True that. Well, better get to work."
edited 19th Oct '13 3:52:30 AM by PsychoFreaX
You need to Get Known to get one of those.