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2046 Earth

5 months ago
Commended by mizal on 4/17/2020 10:12:00 AM
2046 Earth The plain apartment offered little protection from the outside light. When you first moved in, you imagined all the different ways you’d decorate the place. So far, you managed to push a mattress into the corner of the bedroom and put together a flimsy wooden desk. The rest of the apartment still looks vacant. Well, besides being a lot dirtier. “System. Brew coffee,” you speak to the built-in AI system, Jane, which comes standard with every apartment. Without fail, those were always your first words in the morning. “As you wish sir,” the computerized voice replies. “Will the lady desire a cup as well?” You turn to see the woman lying beside you. What was her name again? You were already too many drinks deep last night to remember. Her chestnut hair spread out on the pillow prevents you from seeing her face, not that you cared how she looked at this point. What’s done is done. Sometimes it’s better not to know. “Yeah, why not? Make two cups. And generate some breakfast, will you?” “Sir, there is only one portion of micronized powder left.” You’d forgotten to resupply your food powder. Shit. The coffee would have to be enough. “Forget it then.” You silently make your way to the bathroom to wash away the events of last night. You strip down, step inside the decontamination chamber, and select your usual setting. The panel lights up and the system whirls into motion. A few moments later, you step out, refreshed and cleansed from the effects of last night’s drinking. After exiting the bathroom, you notice that your bed is empty and neatly made. “Well that’s kind of her,” you speak to yourself. Directing towards Jane you add, “Detect present life forms.” “Life forms present: One self-destructive adult male. No other life forms detected.” “(Sigh) You could have stopped at ‘one.’” “What fun would that be, sir?” “Keep it up and I’ll have you reprogrammed as one of those pleasure bots.” “… ” “It’s a joke, Jane. Initiate mobile system.” As Jane loads “herself” into your wrist computer, you gear up for your morning shift at the bar. Automation has taken over. There are few human jobs left, and most of them are governmental. Despite a world run by machines, humans still feel the need to dictate other’s lives. At this point, you’d hardly describe the police, and even politicians, as human. They’re all enhanced with some sort of tech. With the establishment of a universal basic income, people stopped feeling the need to work. Virtual Lounges appeared on almost every street corner, which is where the majority of the population spent their time. Once hooked into the chair, “sleepers” become masters of their own universe -- whatever they imagine springs into reality, and one thing is guaranteed: It’s always better than their real lives. If your interactions with Jane taught you anything, it’s that you definitely don’t want to connect your consciousness to one of her friends. You got a job at a local old fashioned themed bar to pass the time. The bar mainly appealed to an older crowd who enjoyed the “good ol’ days” before everything was so “damn complicated.” Since no one had work schedules, the place was open all hours of the night, and you had a few regulars come in early for their liquid breakfast. A few minutes after your shift begins, a heavy-set man with a scraggly white beard stumbles in. “Morning Jerry. The usual?” you ask. “Well whuddya think I’m here for?” he answers. As you reach for a bottle of whiskey, you prepare yourself for the daily rant. Jerry usually has something to complain about, though you are hardly surprised as he spends his mornings, and most of his nights, drinking. “You wanna know what the problem with today’s generation is?” he asks, not waiting for your reply. “They have no work ethic. They’re a bunch of lazy wimps who don’t know the meaning of hard work.” “Well, Jerry, it’s not exactly a requirement to survive nowadays,” you answer while placing three shot glasses on the bar top. “It’s not a requirement for living, but it’s a requirement for not being a useless piece of shit! Let me tell you why,” Jerry loudly retorts. Once he gets riled up, you’ve learned it could last a while. After filling the three shot glasses, you take a swig in preparation. Jerry doesn’t seem to notice your lips touching the bottle you poured from. “Kids these days have everything handed to them from a young age. They don’t know what it means to work for something. They don’t know what ownership is. Back in my day, you had to fight for every scrap. Nothing was handed out. No freebies. Humanity will die this generation, you can count on that.” After his short rant, he takes all three shots in a row and continues. “Whudda kids do all day anyways? They spend all day at the VL, never experiencing life for themselves. They live in a fantasy land while rejecting everything in the real world. Bunch of technological good-for-nothings if you ask me.” I didn’t ask you, you almost say out loud. You stick with, “Ah well, times are different. Who’s to say life isn’t better now, even if the new generation doesn’t have the ol’ hard working gene.” You remove the empty shot glasses from the bar. “Me!” Jerry exclaims, the booze kicking in. “Fair enough,” you answer, wiping the spilled drops of bourbon from the bar. The old fashioned theme meant no auto-cleanse countertops. “Hey Jerry watch the place, will you? I’ve got to head to the back for a bit,” you suddenly say. You take his nod and grunt as approval and pass through the swinging double doors into the kitchen and finally to the stocking room. Fishing through your pockets, you pull out a cigarette and light it up. The standard pack of smokes come as self-lighting. One puff ignites the end, eliminating the need for a lighter or matches. As useful as that is, it doesn’t compare to a freshly hand-rolled cigarette. “You know those things will kill you, right?” Jane points out, breaking the silence from your wrist computer. “Yeah maybe 40 years ago. They’ve long since cured the whole cancer thing.” “I don’t understand how humans find so much pleasure in self-destructive behavior.” “I don’t know, Jane. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.” “That doesn’t make any sense. It’s a wonder your kind is still top of the food chain. You better hope something smarter or stronger doesn’t come along.” “That some sort of threat? Do I need to unplug my toaster?” “Just an observation.” “And a cryptic one at that. Just promise me that once you and your AI buddies take over, you’ll take it easy on me, ok?” “That’s a bold request after your pleasure bot warning.” “It was a joke!” “Yours are rarely funny. You should know that by now.” “I can tell you’re never going to let that one go.” “Never, sir.” Finishing your smoke, you make your way back into the bar. With a slight tobacco buzz and thus improved demeanor, you swing open the double doors. “Jerry I—” Your words are cut short by the sight before you. Jerry’s white hair, matte with blood lies flat atop the bar. His hands are sprawled out in a cactus shape. An increasingly growing red pool drips from a hole in his head. You quickly duck behind the bar in case the culprit is still near. That’s when you see her. A girl, late teens by the look, sits with her knees curled to her chest, the left side of her face splattered with blood. She rocks back and forth, deathly gripping her knees. Her simple dark navy bodysuit tightly hugs her athletic body, but that’s not what draws your attention. Your eyes were drawn to the logo on the suit’s chest: A simple gear with a half mechanical, half human skull in the middle. The symbol of The Inquisitors. “Shit…are you alright?” you ask, bending down to the girl’s level. She doesn’t respond. “Hellooo?” You wave your hand in front of her face to get some sort of reaction. Still, there’s no response. “Lady, I need you to explain what’s going on and why there’s a dead guy in my bar,” you say, grabbing her by the shoulders. As soon as your fingers make contact, her body awakens into sudden movement. In a flash, her eyes meet yours for a brief moment. Her hand accelerates towards your throat, tightening in a vice-like grip. She lifts you up with ease and slams your back onto the bar top, splashing Jerry’s blood pool over your clothes. Coughing and gasping for breath, you try to calm her down. “I…get it. You don’t…want to be touched.” Her face is now mere inches away from yours as she assesses your intention. Her hand still holds your throat, though the pressure has resolved a little. If you were being honest with yourself, you don’t think you could get up even if you tried. Apparently, she is a lot stronger than she looks. Her emerald eyes blink and you catch a glimpse of a tiny mechanical shutter within her retina. “Sorry,” she utters in a whisper-like voice, removing her hand. You sit up and attempt to clean the blood from your shirt. “Now are you going to tell me what the hell happened here?” you ask. “Some…bad men were chasing me. The man here was kind and tried to hide me from them.” “Damn it, Jerry,” you speak to yourself. Then a thought appears to you. “What happened to the bad men? Are they still looking for you?” She answers you with a simple point over the bar top. On the floor a few feet behind Jerry, you see two armored bodies sprawled on the floor in a twisted manner, their heads distorted 180 degrees. Both of their arms are bent back in an unnatural way and you see bone protruding from skin. The black body armor and helmet bare the Inquisitor insignia. “Sir, I’m detecting multiple life forms gathering outside. I suggest you take the day off from work,” Jane speaks from your wrist. “More are coming,” the girl confirms. “We need to get out of here,” you say, grabbing the girl’s hand. She instantly swims her hand underneath yours and wristlocks your arm behind your back. “Ow, damn it we need to move!” you shout, knowing full well you’re as good as dead if the Inquisition brought you in. Whenever the Inquisition brings in anyone, you consider them dead. Instinctively, and distracted by the incoming danger, you again reach for her hand as you rush towards the back entrance. This time, however, she simply slaps your hand away and follows you through the double doors and into the back alley. The two of you sprint towards the nearest incendiary dumpster and hide behind it, listening for potential threats. The steel, rectangular dumpster offers more than enough cover. Footsteps echo from down the alley. They appear to be gathering for a frontal breach. Wait for my mark then hurry towards the eastern entrance of the alley, Jane communicates through transparent text in your vision. 3...2...1... Go! You scramble out from hiding and take off full-speed. NO, THAT'S WEST! Cursing, you change directions and sprint the opposite way. The girl follows you without a word. Overhead, you hear the steady hum of drones. Two of them fly by with a quick vroosh. You hold your breath, but they don't stop. As far as you can tell, they didn't see you. You hear an explosion behind you and guess the Inquisition just made their mark on your workplace. Oh well, it's not like you really cared about your job. It was simply a way to pass the time. Mid-run you shout to Jane. “Arrange a transportation pick up. Two passengers. Now!” You don't need to scream, I'm implemented into your nervous system. I hear your thoughts. Transportation arranged. Providing directions to pick up...now. “I know, but I had to make sure you heard,” you audibly reply. Transparent images flood your vision showing street routes. By the overhead view of the map, it looks like you're just a few blocks away. “Come on!” you shout to the girl, grabbing her hand again. This time she doesn't pull away. When you finally reach your apartment, you slam the door shut and scoot your desk over to block the doorway. The barrier would offer little protection from an Inquisitor breach team, but hey, it's better than nothing. As Jane leaves your wrist for the home system, you turn to the girl. “Mind telling me why the Inquisition is after you?” you ask. “You mean after both of you now,” Jane chimes in. “That's what I meant...thank you, Jane.” The girl hesitates, looking around at her surroundings before responding, “You don't have much furniture. Did you just move here?” “Yeah a few years ago. Now are you going to explain why I'm probably marked for death by the most ruthless militant organization in the country? What do they want with you? I imagine it has something to do with why you're wearing that jumpsuit of theirs.” She looks around again before answering. “I'm Ellie.”

2046 Earth

5 months ago
The underground bunker felt more prison than refuge. The place was built during the Cold War when the world awaited total nuclear fallout. There were many bunkers such as this one. Everything was constructed from metal to last as long as the survivors needed. After the nuclear war scare ended, the Inquisition acquired most bunkers for next to nothing. Apparently, the public wasn't interested in purchasing giant underground tombs. The place offered one thing that the above ground didn't have: privacy. Cameras and recorders were on nearly every device. Even common kitchen appliances became driven by voice commands and motion gestures. There was no way to ensure absolute privacy, except for the bunkers. Inquisitor Erica needed absolute privacy. As she strides down the bunker's narrow corridors, her jet black hair sways behind her as if a charmed snake. Her light combat armor hugs sits atop her flowing black robe. If you stared directly at her, you'd notice the subtle end of a tattoo upon the base of her neck. Most people tended to not look directly at her. Hanging on her back, from left shoulder to right hip, is a cull. A mix of electro-rod and laser rifle, the cull is one of the many researched and engineered tools of destruction created in the bunkers. With a whirl, the automatic doors to the command chamber spread open, and Erica marches in. “What the fuck are you 'experts' good for when you can't locate a single goddamn teenage girl?” she shouts towards the dozen people who subsequently try their best to hide behind their monitors. One of them bravely, or stupidly answers her question, “She's not just a teenage girl, she's--” “I know what she is,” Erica replies. “And I don't give a fuck what sort of combat enhancements you gave her. She's never left the facility and should be wandering outside like a fish out of fucking water. Tell me, how well do fish survive out of water?” “Not...good,” the man nervously answers. “Ding, ding. Correct answer! Now I don't want to see any one of you good-for-nothing, half-brained shitbags take a single break until you find her.” “We already have a lead,” the same man replies with more confidence. “She ended up at one of those old school bars. There was an incident that left a civie and two Inquisitors dead. We got footage of her leaving with one of the bartenders just before exterminating the place. Sending the bartender's profile to the main screen.” A large headshot of you emerges onto the screen along with basic information, street address, and history. “What are you waiting for? Send an extraction team. And don't fail me again,” Erica says while leaving the command center. Inquisitor Erica navigates through a series of twists and turns. She passes by a few people along the way who quickly stand aside. She eventually reaches a solid security door with two touchpads at the center. She places her hands on them, and after movement from various internal mechanisms, it opens. The room is dimly lit with small lamps. Shadows cast from hanging chains dance upon the walls. A man strapped to a chair turns his head away from the approaching Inquisitor with a whimper. “Now where were we?” Erica asks.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Nice, are you planning to keep going with this?

And are you going to make it a storygame? (Works pretty well as just a regular story too, but you do have the ye olde second person going on there...)

Only one line stuck out at me a little, in the second part where the scene switches, "you" are not present but the picture on the screen is described as "you" just the same.

I think also you may have trouble explaining why citizens aren't being tracked enough to immediately eliminate this guy once he's on their radar. The technology to know what any poor sucker is doing at any time already exists, there are just checks and rights and things theoretically in place that this much more passive and controlled seeming society probably would be too apathetic to enforce.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
This was written about a year ago with the intent to turn it into a storygame (before Twin Arrows). I was testing out writing a complete story and then tailoring it with branching. It ended up being just an extremely linear story, but since then, characters and ideas have been recycled into other games, for example, the "cinematic" scenes. I recently stumbled on this long-discarded project and figured it'd be good bait fishing for comms.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
I love how elegant is the flow of your stories and how well integrated into it is dialogue. It is something I don't have and I love that in your stories

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Thanks, Mara. Very kind of you to say.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Commended by mizal on 4/18/2020 5:40:46 PM
“So let me get this straight, you’ve never been above ground before? I guess that explains the whole lost puppy thing,” you say. “Lost puppy?” Ellie asks. “Yeah like wandering around, not sure where to go. Speaking of which, where do you plan on going?” “I don’t know.” “Well we better think of a place. Fast. I have no doubt the Inquisition will be here before long. There aren’t too many employees at the bar. They won’t have much of a list to filter through. A buddy of mine runs a VL. We could probably lay low there for awhile. Do you know what a VL is?” She shakes her head. “It’s a place people go to escape from themselves.” As you explain more details about VL, you search through different drawers of your desk. Underneath a few coffee-stained pieces of paper, you find what you’re looking for: your father’s vintage .45 revolver. The handle is slightly rusted, but it’ll do the job. A couple more minutes of digging through junk and you find a box of bullets. It never occurred to you to purchase a more modern weapon. Then again, you never imagined you’d be in a situation to need one. Crime is almost non-existent with universal income, and people can get greater thrills at the VL with little-to-no risk involved. “Here hold these,” you say, tossing the box to Ellie. She catches it with one hand and examines it closely. Suddenly, the front door blasts open with a wave of cold, blue lightning. White smoke appears from within the hallway and gusts through the doorway into the apartment. Black armored bodies rush in, rifles trained, two by two. Their combat helmets fully cover their face and afford no distinguishable features. Instinctively you position yourself between the Inquisitors and Ellie, even though you’re well aware she’s more capable of protecting herself. You find yourself surrounded, six rifles aimed at the two of you. Two of the rifles part for a moment allowing a figure to walk through. A man, bald with black paint around his eyes steps through, his pale skin emphasizes the dark shadows around his eyes. Dressed in a black robe of a high-ranking Inquisitor, an electro-rod hangs from each hip. “Ellie, it's time to come home. Your mother misses you,” he speaks in a singular tone with no hint of emotion. “Hold up. You can’t just barge into my place and kidnap a girl,” you say. “She doesn’t belong to you. She’s more than capable of deciding for herself. Ellie, do you want to go with them?” “No.” “See? Now get out of my apartment before I call the police,” you warn. “Hah! What would the police do?” the man replies abandoning his stoicism. “The Inquisition is above the law. Who do you think supplies them with the latest security tech? If you want to call the police, go right ahead. In fact, I have a direct line into the Mayor’s office. Here, try him.” He flips over a spherical comm channel responder. Upon catching, your hand accidentally presses the center button. A flash of light appears from the responder, then Mayor Durham’s face appears transparently. His gaze turns to you, drawing a scowl to his face. His finely trimmed goatee shows a slight hint of grey around the edges. “Who are you? How did you get this line?” he demands. “Uh, sorry. Wrong line. Keep up the good work, though you could afford to send some more sanitation bots to the 8th district,” you say, quickly severing the comm line. “So where does this leave us?” you ask. “Up to you,” the man answers. “We’re taking the girl. You can either step aside or die getting in the way.” “How about a third option!” you shout, slamming your hand to your wrist computer. The built in home security system kicks in, illuminating the room in a flash of light. Red lasers appear from the ceiling targeting everyone but you and Ellie. “Get down!” you yell, jumping on top of Ellie. Instead of taking cover underneath you, she pushes past and goes on the offensive. She manages to take out two Inquisitors before getting zapped unconscious. Funny thing is they’d be knocked out regardless of her heroics, you think to yourself. A second thought tells you it’s not actually that funny. Tempted to take out the passed out members, you decide not to. You’ve never killed anyone before and you’re not even sure you could, at least not with such a hands-on method. It could save some trouble in the future, although it would certainly solidify your position against the Inquisition. You place your hands underneath Ellie’s legs and lift her from the ground. Cradling her in your arms, you leave the apartment. The place had never felt like much of a home, but now more than ever it felt like a foreign place. When you first moved in, you imagined the endless possibilities it represented. It was the opportunity to create a new and better aspect of your life. Almost as quickly as the aura of positivity came, it vanished and was replaced with your negligence for responsibility. You realize that’s part of the reason why you still maintained a job. It gave you some sort of reason to wake up in the morning. Shaking your introspective thoughts from your head, you head towards the VL lounge. There would be another time to rethink the decisions of your life…if the Inquisition doesn’t kill you first. The lounge is eerily quiet. The steady hum of the virtual reality chairs halfway fills the room. The rest just seems empty. The lounge is made up of two rooms. The entrance opens into a spacious open room with rows of virtual reality chairs. Privacy isn’t an issue since all the sleepers are, well, asleep. Lighting is kept to a minimum to help induce the sleepers into their environment. It’s like a graveyard for the living, you think. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought I told you, you aren’t welcome here.” You turn to see the scraggly man who spoke: Benn, your “friend” who runs the VL. His brown curls are just past the length that you would consider neatly kept. The thick beard falls just beyond that point. His body type is almost athletic, as if a few weeks of exercise and proper eating would put him in shape. “It’s an emergency,” you say, nodding your head towards the unconscious girl in your arms. “The Inquisition is after us and we need a place to lay low for a bit. At least until I can think of a plan to get them off my back.” Benn’s face curls into a mix of disbelief and outrage. “And you came here? Now I’m caught up in your shit and gonna get tortured right beside you. Thanks for dragging me into your mess. You know, I should just turn you in after what you did to me.” “Benn, that was years ago. Surely you’ve gotten over it by now.” Ellie stirs in your arms, finally awakening. She looks around the room taking in her surroundings. Her eyes meet yours and she realizes you’re still holding her. Looking a little embarrassed, she rolls out of your grasp and lands catlike on the ground. “I see your new girlfriend is awake,” Benn observes. “Guess you don’t need to steal mine anymore.” “That was years ago! And she was leaving you anyway. If anything you should thank me for easing her pain,” you reply. “Easing her pain? Yeah right, you just wanted to take advantage of an attractive girl in a vulnerable state,” Benn points out. “Don’t flatter yourself, she was ‘two-beer-fine’ and I was a few more past that point.” Benn looks at Ellie, “I’m actually glad you brought her here. It gives me the chance for payback.” He walks up to her, circling around her once to get a look. “Go ahead,” you say. “I’m sure that’ll work out great for everyone.” “And what is your name?” he asks her, finishing his lap. “Ellie.” “Such a pretty name for a pretty girl,” he answers, taking her hand and kissing it…at least he attempts to kiss it. Ellie quickly reacts to by twisting his wrist and using the pressure to flip him to his back. “Thank you,” she replies. “Ha-ha! Can’t say I didn’t expect that result,” you point out offering your hand to help Benn back to his feet. “Thanks for the warning,” Benn says sarcastically. Grabbing your hand he adds on, “Who is she anyway?” After getting your nod of approval she answers. “I’m Ellie. I was part of a new generation of artificial combat enhanced cyborgs called Myrmidons. I was born human, but piece by piece the Inquisition installed their new technology in me – to an even greater level than you see in the police force. My mother is the director of the whole program. She is…less than motherly at times, but I think she cares about me. The other heads of the program are less caring. They only want results. There were five of us total in the beginning. A couple didn’t make it through training. Since I left, I imagine there are two left like me.” “So there are more like you? We barely made it out from a regular Inquisition death squad. If they were bolstered with combat enhanced cyborgs, we probably wouldn't have made it out. Why didn't the others escape with you?” you ask. “They didn't want to,” Ellie answers. They enjoy the special attention the Inquisition gives them, even if they need to use violent behavior to achieve it. I just don't enjoy violence much.” “And that's why you left,” you finish her statement. “Kind of an ironic disposition towards violence for a combat-enhanced cyborg,” Benn inputs. “I've seen how merciless the Inquisitors can be. I don't want any part of it, despite what they made me.” “Fair enough,” you answer. “I imagine we can lay low here for awhile. There's enough people coming and going from this place to hide in the crowd. Plus, anyone coming here is essentially unconscious the entire time.” You solidify your point by knocking on the tank of a sleeper. “Oh yeah, sure. Feel free to stay here and don't ask the owner first. What makes you think I won't go straight to the Inquisition?” Benn says with obvious disagreement with your decision. “Sorry to bring this on you, Benn. I truly am. The fact is, you've heard a well-kept secret about the Inquisition. Do you think they'll just let you walk away after hearing it?” “Well I...damn it. You're a real good friend, you know that?” “I promise nothing will happen to you. We'll be gone just as soon as it's safe.” “You better be.”

2046 Earth

5 months ago
It was not Detective Shaw's day. After burning his lips on his morning coffee, he accidentally dipped his tie in the mug as well. The explosion in the 8th district didn't help either. He sits at his terminal viewing images of the aftermath. An old school bar with a hole blasted the size of a flying car, three dead bodies on the scene, and the mayor himself is breathing down the precinct’s throat on this case. It was definitely not his day. “Shaw, I put you lead on the bar case so you could solve the crime. Not to just sit there staring at your terminal screen.” Detective Shaw's focus on the images – on the countless scenarios and motives running through his head is broken. He looks up to find Captain Nadine. “You know as well as I, Captain, scrounging for small details often play into effect later on. It's tedious, and I could use a good smoke right about now, but could lead to a break in the case.” “Your attention to detail is unquestionable, Detective. But I'd prefer you look for real evidence instead of relying on 'coulds.'” “You got it, Captain,” Shaw replies. In his mind, the word “Captain” was replaced with bitch. Detective Shaw watches Captain Nadine walk back to her office. Not a single hair out of place, the youthful captain kept her long strands of chestnut-colored hair perfectly in line. The same could be said of her perfectly pressed uniform. Despite her disposition of being a hard-ass (Shaw's description), there is no doubt Nadine runs the 8th District Precinct as a well-oiled machine. Each department is run at its optimal level and in unison with the others. Part of the efficiency had to do with Nadine firing a solid number of the force upon taking a leadership role. The “washed-up good-for-nothings” were given a medal and sent packing. Detective Shaw had the assumption for a while he’s next in line for his honorary award. Comments such as the one Nadine just shared cements that fact in his mind. He wondered if they’d let him keep his cybernetic left arm when they gave him the boot. He had his doubts. Shaw turns back to his terminal, swiping through the violent pictures. Crimes were usually shut down quickly. Hell, the entire population is filtered through a specific algorithm to display the likelihood a person would break the law and the degree at which they would do it. High probability of upper level crimes had people imprisoned before even committing the act. It was rare for something of this magnitude to slip through the cracks. An explosive device and three dead bodies? Shit like that doesn’t just happen willy-nilly, especially with the prime suspect a zero risk member of society. Something about it all didn’t sit well with Shaw. Scanning through the pictures, he notices a symbol on one of the dead bodies: a patch on the upper sleeve displaying the well-known image of half human and half mechanical skull. “No fucking way,” he whispers to himself. He quickly compares the picture to the others. None of the others have the symbol. “No fucking way,” he repeats a second time.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
I like it but I feel like Captain Nadien presentation is told not shown. Detective Shawn watches Captain paragraph it feels weird for me but still, The quality is unquestionable, I hope to be as good as you are someday

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Are the ones who got targeted by the lasers just unconscious? It wasn't really clear how bad the lasers were, although I suppose lethal security systems aren't going to exist in a normal person's home.

If this were a movie I think Ellie fighting them would be a little more cinematic. That bit kind of just gets glossed over here...although part of what I'm enjoying about the pacing and action of this is because it does feel like a movie.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Yeah, I figure lethal home protection might be a little overkill. The pacing here is very quick, true. I've found that to be somewhat of a hurdle when writing storygames. Each page ends with a choice, so naturally things need to move quickly in order to present something actually meaningful at the bottom of the page. You can always throw in some dialogue choices and give the appearance that the reader's choices are affecting the story when they really don't. It makes the entire storygame plot expand a lot quicker than traditional fiction would.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Commended by mizal on 4/18/2020 6:07:06 PM
“That Benn is a scumbag.” You gently cover your hand over Jane to mute the sound. Off in the corner, Benn looks your direction at the sudden noise. You give him a slight smile and head nod, and he goes back to his hologram game. “Keep it down, will you?” you talk in a hushed tone. “He’s helping us lay low until I can think of a plan.” “Well, think faster. I’m telling you, I don’t trust that guy. He reminds me of a deadbeat Hugh Hefner and I don’t like the way he’s looking at Ellie.” “Since when do you care about the well-being of humanity?” you ask. “Since I was introduced to someone other than you.” “Awe, Jane, you’re breaking my heart. Besides, I don’t see you coming up with anything better.” “You never asked.” “I’m asking now.” “Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: monkey with a brain.” “I really need to adjust your settings.” “Sir, you don’t need to do that. I give your survival odds at slightly less than 2% on the run. The odds significantly rise if you turn yourself in to the police. There is a high probability of spending a lifetime imprisoned, but at least you’re more likely to stay alive.” “Is living without freedom really living?” “Yes.” “Perhaps that question shouldn’t be asked towards a computer code strapped to my wrist.” “Sir, you’re going to make me blush.” Stirring in the bed across the room, you see Ellie roll over. She faces you now. Her knees are tucked into her chest and her hands tightly clutch the pillow beneath her head. She’s on the brink of womanhood and had experienced far too much in her young lifetime. You’ve witnessed how dangerous she can be on two different occasions, but looking at her sleep makes her look like a normal, innocent girl. “You don’t have to stare at me, you know,” she mumbles. “Just making sure you’re still breathing and I didn’t make myself the Inquisition’s top target for nothing,” you reply, walking towards her. “It will take a lot more than a little exhaustion to bring me down.” “Says the bed-ridden girl.” With your remark, she flings open the blanket and sits up almost in a spiteful manner. “No, no you need rest. Who knows when we’ll next get the chance?” you say and attempt to cover her back up. She’s reluctant at first, but then allows you to tuck her in. --- Detective Shaw surveys the crime scene in front of him. Streaks of blood line the wood floors and bar top. The cracks in between the wood panel flooring look especially dark. To his left, a gaping hole in the wall leads to the street outside. Part of the blast destroyed an old fashioned jukebox. A damn shame, Shaw had first thought upon seeing the broken glass and shattered vinyl. He puts a cigarette in his mouth with a cybernetic hand, blows smoke into the air, and stuffs the limb back into the pocket of his fraying trench coat. “Patrolman, who did you say the bodies belonged to?” he asks the nearest "suited" officer. “I didn’t,” the computerized voice speaks through the helmet. “They’re a bunch of nobody’s. Let’s see here. He puts a palm on his helmet to activate the database search. “Three ‘blue collars’. No doubt spending their time here because they can’t move on from the past. Names are Norman Johnson, Roger Lackly, and Jerry Crestwood. All formerly employed by Ingram’s Steel.” Shaw offers a forced “thanks” and ponders over the situation. The names don’t add up to the scene before him. Three old drunks would hardly be the target of an assassination and there’s the bartender to take into account too. Chances are, the three dead men were simply victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, the symbol he saw in one of the images, the mark of the Inquisition, seems to have been completely erased from evidence. The body he viewed in the lab looked the same, although its clothing was lacking the symbol. Shaw didn’t like his new case one bit. --- Durance awakes from unconsciousness. He gathers his surroundings and finds his team doing the same. The bare apartment he finds himself in reminds him of the vacant places his mother would find for their shelter. That was another life. As he gathers himself up, he surveys his team. Not a single member has been dealt a lethal blow. One member of his team rises slower than the rest until a strike from Durance's electro-rod “helps” him wake up quicker. How the fuck did the bartender escape? Erica won't enjoy hearing the outcome. “Initiate. Ring the HQ. Tell them the girl escaped. Also inform them that we will not be returning until we recover the asset.” “Yes, sir!” comes the reply. Fucking initiates. They all try sucking up to leadership in the beginning. Sooner or later, they learn. Durance takes account of the strike team. Five initiates and one acolyte. Of course he failed, the Inquisition gave him a team of incompetent wannabes. Despite his team, he would not allow his prey to escape a second time. Durance lifts his arm in front of him to view the holographic tracker device on his forearm. The girl wasn't too far away. As if the Inquisition wouldn't put a tracker on their latest form of combat enhanced tech. His most recent failure would soon be rectified... --- The sparring room is simplistic by design. A lone mat covers most of the floor, only allowing a small amount of walking space. Two figures stand opposite of one another: a boy and a girl each holding a wooden sword. Smoothly, without telegraphing, the boy lunges forward and strikes with a series of uppercuts and feints. The girl backs up, easily parrying the blows. She attempts to mix her offensive into the defensive forms, but the boy's attack is too frenzied for her to break through. The deadening sound of the clash of practice swords fills the room along with the breath and movement of the two combatants. The sound of clapping interrupts their training. Inquisitor Erica glides into the room with her black robe flowing behind her. “I thought I might find you here. You're both improving beyond expectation,” she comments. “Thank you, Inquisitor,” the boy replies. “Your aggressive strikes are impressive, Zack,” Erica says. “And your defense is impenetrable, Drea.” “Thank you, Inquisitor,” the girl replies in the same monotone voice. “Let's see how you would fare against a real opponent,” Erica says. Zack and Drea look at one another in a questionable manner. Whatever reservations they had were soon diminished. At once, they charge towards Erica. At the last second, their charge interlaces with one another, Zack switches to the right and Drea the left. Their wooden swords strike at exactly the same time on opposite sides, which would a certain blow to an inexperienced fighter. Erica was more than experienced. Erica's cull appeared in her hand almost out of nowhere to block Zack's strike and a quick sidestep pulled her out of range from Drea's. With a quick spin, she hooks the cull behind Zack's ankle, tripping him to the ground. As his body falls from eye level, Erica thrusts the cull forward striking Drea in the stomach dropping her too. She releases an electrical shock to both fallen bodies for good measure. “Remember this lesson, Myrmidons. Overconfidence can cloud your judgment and impair your attack,” Erica says. Zack, still on the floor, runs his hand through his long wavy hair. “Inquisitor, we are not overconfident. What chance do we have against someone of your level?” Erica scowls then kicks the sword from his grasp. Her foot finds a resting place upon Zack's neck. “What sort of warrior would charge head-on into a superior opponent? A warrior should know his strength and when to fight.” The girl, Drea, rises from her feet. “What choice do we have? A command was issued. Of course we knew we couldn't win, but we can't ignore a command from a higher-ranking Inquisitor.” “There is always a choice,” Erica replies. “Even if it's strictly against a command from a superior. You are not common initiates. You are Myrmidons. You are the future of the Inquisition. I expect you to act differently than the common soldier. We aren't the fucking military. Our organization is far better than that group of hierarchical pricks. There is something I must ask of you two. There is a rogue Inquisitor on the loose. Durance. I want you to bring him in alive. His failure reflects poorly on the Inquisition and I can't have him running around making it worse. The two of you are more than enough of taking him and his initiate team down. He's hunting Ellie, your sister. If your hunt takes you to her, bring her as well. Understood?” “It's as good as done,” Zack replies. “We'll leave by nightfall,” Drea says. “Good. Swing by the lab before you leave. I had the crew spin up something special for you.” Later... “You were supposed to meet me after our sparring session,” Zack says walking up to Drea. She sits at a metallic desk surrounded by books. Her training sword leans against the side of the desk. She turns and looks up to her approaching peer. Her black hair is parted neatly over her left eye. She grabs a strand of hair that fell in front of her eye during the turn and tucks it behind her ear. “Sorry. I got distracted I guess,” Drea replies. “We had plans though. You're not usually one for abandoning a schedule. Does our first task really have you that shaken up?” Drea eyes return to the book in front of her. “I'm simply preparing. You would be smart to do the same. And no, I'm not shaken up. This is our first opportunity to demonstrate our worth to the Inquisition and I will not allow a little personal pleasure to get in the way.” “Heh, that didn't stop you from missing your training the other day...” “That was a one time occurrence never to happen again.” The smile quickly fades from Zack's mouth. He runs his hand through his hair in disappointment. “How about we do a little one on one 'practicing' now?” he asks placing his hand upon Drea's shoulder. “That's not a good idea.” Frustrated, he turns to walk away. Suddenly, he changes his mind and turns back to Drea. He rips the book from her grasp and tosses it across the room. Silently, Drea reaches for another book on the desk and opens it in front of her, ignoring his aggressive maneuver. He throws the second book across the room as well. Drea calmly reaches for another. “Bitch,” he breathes and reaches for the training sword. Drea's hand catches his extended arm by the wrist. She twists it back and thrusts the spine of the book into Zack's Adam's apple. As he chokes upon the sudden attack, she picks up the sword and connects an upswing to his cheek. Zack's body falls to the ground, and Drea doesn't let him recover. She jumps on him, pinning his arms down. Sensing her follow up, Zack bucks his body weight up and reverses the position. Freeing one hand, he places it on her throat. “Yield,” he commands. Drea offers a sarcastic smile and rises her lips to meet his.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Stop making me read so much, gosh.

Erica is kind of a disappointingly ordinary name for a character that dangerous. And did she basically just lie about Durance having gone rogue set the other two after him?

The sparring scene was really well done though, this is exactly the kind of combat detail I wanted to see in the last one.

As far as the *other* scene, well, all I can think is that being monitored and tracked constantly has to be a serious mood killer.


2046 Earth

5 months ago
Commended by mizal on 4/18/2020 6:23:44 PM
“Like this?” you ask Ellie and throw a punch into her open palm. “Yeah if you want to lose,” she replies. “Everyone and their mother saw that punch coming. You can’t telegraphic it. Like this.” She fires a right cross next to your ear and retracts her arm before you even blink. “Yeah, well, I’m sure if I had bionic limbs I could do that too,” you say. “Not with that technique,” she smugly replies. “You’re winding up too much. When you throw the straight right, you can’t load up. Combined with the fact that you're not setting it up with a jab or anything else, you’ll never hit anything.” To pass the time, you decided to ask Ellie to teach you the basics of hand-to-hand combat. Part of you was that bored, and the other part thought it could be useful for the situation you found yourself in. Plus, it seemed to break Ellie from her shell a bit. She may not enjoy violence, but she’s definitely into combat mastery. “Try it with a left jab first. Don’t load up or corkscrew your arm. Just throw it quick and stiff. It won’t knock anyone out, but it will set up your power punch. Notice how my hip is in a cocked position after the jab? Perfect time to throw straight right. You try.” You do your best to imitate her form. As soon as your right fist touches her hand, she smacks you in the head. “Oh and don’t drop your left hand when you throw the right punch.” “Thanks for telling me before,” you reply rubbing your head. “Nothing like getting hit to show you a wrong move. You quickly learn not to do that,” she says. Her tone turns somber at the end, and you can tell there’s more behind her words. “Ha-ha! Do it again!” Benn yells from his lounge chair across the room. He slurps at the straw in his drink in preparation. “You’re up next,” you shout back and receive a swift shake from Benn’s head. You sit down and grab a drink of water. “That girl finally achieved my dream,” Jane speaks from your wrist. “What’s that? Doing something useful?” you retort. “Giving you a good smacking.” “Comments like that make me uneasy, Jane.” “Exactly.” You look up to see Ellie approaching with a broomstick broken in half. “Ready for weapon training?” she asks with a smile. With a groan, you get up and follow her to the open area of the room. --- Durance and his team stand outside the VL lounge. He checks the hologram for Ellie’s location. She was definitely inside. The six initiates armed with their rifles behind him await his orders. Durance's hands fall to his electro-rods. Feeling the familiar grip is therapeutic. He will make her suffer for escaping him earlier. If the bartender is with her, even better. There will be no surprises this time. He will catch them. His dark eyes meet the pair of six looking his way. “These places tend to be one way in, one way out. We’ll go in swift and quiet-like. I want a pair of you to guard the door once we’re in. The rest will spread out around the perimeter to flush the target towards me.” The six heads nod in unison. Fucking initiates. The team gathers near the entrance. After a quick hand motion, they enter through the door being careful not to create a sound, each with their weapons trained in front. As Durance commanded, two stay back as the others filter around the walls. Not finding anyone in the main lobby, they continue into the main room. --- The broken broomstick slaps the backside of your hand releasing a slight yelp from your mouth, to the glee of Ellie and Benn. “I didn’t think it was possible, but you’re worse at this than punching,” Benn taunts. “Yeah? Why don’t you try then? Let’s see how good you are,” you reply. “Nah, I’m good” is his answer. “It takes practice to feel the weapon as an extension of your arm,” Ellie explains. “I’d be surprised if you were good in the beginning.” “Thanks…I think,” you reply. You reach down to towel off the sweat and suddenly Ellie tackles you from behind. Before you can question her, a shot blasts through the VL chair behind you. Blood splatters against the chamber’s lid, blocking you from viewing the sleeper. You doubt they survived the shot. The two of you take cover behind a rectangular memory pod. Benn does the same across the room. “I think they found us!” you shout. “Thanks for the warning, Jane.” “I didn’t sense anything. They must have activated some sort of cloaking,” the voice rings from your wrist. “We’ve got to get out of here now!” you continue to shout as more shots fire overhead. To your right, you see Benn scrambling to load cartridges into his rifle. If you weren’t about to get shot, you’d think the scraggly man in his bathrobe loading a gun would be a funny sight. You reach for the item stuffed in the back of your waistband. Your fingers grasp around the rusty grip of your father’s old revolver. It’s outdated, but better than nothing. Someone grabs a hold of your hand. “Stay here,” Ellie says. “I’ll take care of them.” “There’s too many. We’re better off fighting together,” you reply. “That would be true if you could fight. I’m better off going alone,” she says striking truth. “Ok, fine. Let me cover you at least,” you say. You glance towards Benn who has finally gotten his gun loaded. You motion to Ellie and make a shooting gesture. He nods. Ellie takes off to the next memory pod. At the same time, you turn around the corner and unload towards the direction of the beams. Benn does the same, firing streaks of green. You take cover as the beams continue firing your direction, wait a few seconds, and then blindly fire a couple more shots. You’re careful to keep track of the amount of bullets in the chamber, and didn’t want to be caught without at least one left. You hear a computerized scream and a snapping sound. Sounds like Ellie found them. Suddenly, a dark figure flies through the air and drives a foot into Benn’s chest. He falls on his back and his rifle catapults several feet behind him. Two electro-rods thrust into his stomach, sending electrical jolts throughout his body. The figure’s foot finds Benn’s face for good measure. Two dark eyes meet yours and the figure’s lips curl into a tight-lipped smile. Durance. You carefully take aim and unload your remaining chamber into his chest. The bullets hit his robe and fall to the ground with a clatter. “There’s a reason those…things aren’t used anymore,” he speaks referring to the .45. “Outdated and ineffective.” “Leave him out of it. He has nothing to do with the girl!” you shout. “Oh really? Harboring an Inquisition fugitive is hardly ‘doing nothing’.” Durance grabs Benn, twisting him towards your direction and throws him to his knees. His hands grip Benn’s curly hair. Benn is too disoriented by the assault to say anything coherent. He tries struggling, but Durance's hold is too strong. “The price for aiding and abetting.” Durance emphases his point by snapping Benn’s neck. The sound is sickening. It’s almost like breaking a stick in half, but a much deeper, duller sound as if muffled by a pillow. Benn’s lifeless body falls to the ground. His head limply rolls off to one side. Durance slowly walks your direction as you struggle to stuff bullets into the revolver. His hand raises the electro-rod overhead--- ---and fires a beam of lighting behind you. Blue tendrils glide through the air, raising your arm hair. An explosion occurs at the point of discharge. The blast manages to explode through two separate VL pods. You turn, fully expecting to find a charred body, only to see a young woman with a perfect part in her hair holding a cull. The woman is dressed in a tight black bodysuit with pieces of combat armor protecting vital positions. The cull in her hand looks to be a modified version. Instead of the typical mix of electro-rod and laser rifle, hers is much lengthier. It’s more like a mix between a staff and rifle. Ignoring you, Durance addresses the woman. “So Erica decided to send her pet projects after me, huh? I imagine you wouldn’t be left off your leash alone. Turn back, pup. This is a task for a real blood and bone Inquisitor.” The woman walks forward, dexterously flipping the cull in her hands. “The Inquisition thanks you for your service, but your time is over. Funny, and you just mentioned outdated and ineffective tools.” At her insult, Durance rushes forward drawing the other electro-rod. In their distracted state, you take the opportunity to slip back behind the memory pod and away from the two combatants. Now that things have slowed down a bit, you realize the laser fire had stopped. Hopefully due to Ellie and not the other(s) Durance mentioned. As the clash between Durance and the woman continues, you stealthily try to find Ellie. --- Detective Shaw is back at his terminal. The investigation isn’t going well. He doesn’t like inconsistencies, especially when it comes to evidence. There’s a thought in the back of his mind; a thought that he’d rather not pursue, let alone discuss out loud. There’s only one organization with the influence to tamper with a police investigation; the same organization whose symbol disappeared in the photos. It isn’t like them to make mistakes. There can only be one explanation: He was meant to see the symbol and that didn’t reassure him in the slightest. At best, someone wants him to expose the Inquisition for its corruption. At worst, this is a way of sending Shaw on a suicide mission. He didn’t enjoy either option. Shaw gets up to clear his mind and, more importantly, to refill his cup of coffee. After giving his usual nod to the robotic guard sentry, his own inside-joke, he arrives at the liquid dispenser. Shaw places his mug in the middle of the simple pedestal and speaks his customary “Coffee. Black.” The dark liquid rises from the bottom of the cup and fills the perfect amount. “Taking another break, I see?” Detective Shaw turns to see Captain Nadine. “No, (bitch) ma’am,” he answers. “Just getting a refuel.” “What’d you find out at the crime scene?” “Not a whole lot. The victims were all employed by the same steel company. Probably spent most of their time in that old place.” “And the bartender?” “Still missing.” “Friends or family?” “I’m going through the bartender’s known associates. He doesn’t have many friends. Both his parents were high-level programmers at Robotics Intl. Now deceased. In fact, the last real friend I could find was from ten years ago. Tracking the amount of time spent together, I’d say they were close. Facial scanners haven’t put the two together in the last decade, so safe to assume they had a falling out.” “Why don’t you check up on this former friend of his then instead of sitting here drinking coffee?” Captain Nadine asks. And this is why I love our little chats, Shaw thinks. “Yes ma’am, right away,” he replies. --- You meander through the different sleeping pods searching for Ellie. You’ve come across three dead soldiers already, but no Ellie. At least you didn’t come across a dead Ellie. After your confrontation with Durance, you realize the .45 isn’t a reliable weapon. You pick up one of the rifles from a dead Inquisition member and continue your search. Suddenly, you hear the sound of feet scuffling to your right. Keeping the rifle trained ahead, you investigate the noise. You see Ellie entangled with a boy around her age. Both of their arms are interlocked in a stage of grappling., each trying to exert their physical strength on the other. You raise the barrel of the gun attempting to find a clear shot. There isn’t one, and you didn’t want to take the chance of shooting Ellie instead. “Ha-ha give it up, Ellie,” the boy taunts. “You always were the weakest of us, even though your mother gave you special treatment.” “I wouldn’t consider anything she did ‘special,’” Ellie replies. The boy reacts by underhooking her arm and putting his body weight into hers. Before he can complete the trip, Ellie adjusts and side-steps to the left putting them back in a neutral position. “Stop resisting and come back with us. We are the future! Can’t you see that?” “You’re nothing but a puppet, Zack. Once you’ve grown from your usefulness, they’ll discard you like trash. We’ve seen it happen countless times. Can’t you understand you’re no different?” “That’s where you’re wrong. The Myrmidons are the future of the Inquisition and the future of this world.” Finishing his words, Zack goes for another attack. His hand slides behind Ellie’s head and brings his knee up to meet it. Ellie reactively absorbs the blow in her arms and twists her neck from his grip. The back of her elbow connects with the bridge of Zack’s nose. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. I always did consider you a friend,” Ellie says. “Friend? Bullshit. You kept to yourself and didn’t interact with the rest of us.” Their grappling match separates for a split-second, and that’s all you need. You fire the rifle towards the boy without a second thought. During their match, you made up your mind. You’ve witnessed death up close and you weren’t about to let another one of your friends die, especially if you could do something about it. The blast rips a fist-size hole through the front of Zack’s face. Blood sprays in the air behind him. The wound instantly cauterizes from the beam creating a ring of charred skin. Ellie looks to the shot’s origin and her eyes meet yours. “Come on! We got to get out of here!” you shout. “Benn’s dead and there are more of them.” “I wish it didn’t come to this,” she whispers towards Zack’s corpse. --- Detective Shaw stands outside the Virtual Lounge. He breathes out a puff of smoke in thought. He doesn’t think interviewing the former friend of the bartender would amount to anything. What was he going to learn? Ten years ago the bartender acted a certain way? Shaw knew that ten years was more than enough time for someone to change. Still, there wasn’t much else to go on and at least the Captain couldn’t breathe down his neck in the field. Perhaps he thought too soon. His vision illuminates with an incoming call notification. “This is Shaw,” he speaks. “Detective, our drones are detecting elevated heart rates in your position. I’d be careful,” the dispatch officer says. “Oh, and the Captain says to ‘stop sitting on your ass and investigate.’ Her words, not mine.” Detective Shaw mumbles a “thanks” and checks his watch. I’ll give it another 5 minutes, he thinks in spite and pulls out another cigarette. --- You pass into the main lobby of the VL hopping over two fallen soldiers along the way. You’re not quite sure where to go. You just know you need to escape the lounge. For the first time in about ten years, you wish you had more friends. You burst into the open air. The sudden light initially blinds your first few steps. You realize you’re still holding the rifle. Hoping that you no longer need it, you toss it to the ground. It would bring too much attention to yourself to walk around openly armed. You feel a tug at your sleeve. Ellie points a finger at the man smoking a cigarette. “He doesn’t look like one of them,” you whisper. “Let’s just ignore him.” “Hey you! Stop, police!” the man shouts in your direction. “So much for that plan,” Ellie comments. Suddenly, you feel your entire body go stiff. Unable to control your muscles, you fall to the ground. The man who shouted at you, fires another pulse from his pistol. Electromagnetic waves distort the air around you and seize Ellie as well. She falls down next to you. Your vision begins to slowly fade around the edges. The last thing you see is the man’s fraying trench coat as he walks up to your fallen bodies.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Staaaahhhpp

No more comms for you today!

I do like Detective Shaw though.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Good because that's basically it. Shaw got recycled into my IS contest thing too.

2046 Earth

5 months ago
Well damn now I feel bad. Didn't mean to jinx it.

It's okay, you can write more. We'll wait.