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Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/19/2023 4:07:26 PM

In the midst of the age old art of teenage girls lunging at each other's throats, another old grudge had been left unresolved for several months if not years. In the olden days where the kingdom of CYS was inhabited, not by tweens who barely could spell, but by twenty-somethings who think that they are cool vampires just because they don't touch grass and burn in the sun, two CYS members had hit each other with wooden sticks while claiming that it was a "proper" "duel". 

During that nail biting stick fight,Lux, our little birdskull fella, swung a little too much like a whimp, but that didn't really had much impact for the outcome of the fight. In the interview after the fight Lux had claimed that they did this move, because it was "aesthetic". To this day news reporters and scientists everywhere are baffled by what they meant. As for the outcome of the fight, to dodge Lux's "aesthetic" mcawesome swing and to make a decisive blow Tman did a "Christiano Ronaldo". To translate it for you Americans, they flopped to the ground feigning injury, said that the bad birdman hit their fee-fee's and that their toe is aching. Lux "broke the rules".and must therefore be disqualified leaving Tman as the winner.

Well, that didn't happen and after some verdicts from the judges, everyone declared that Tman lost. Tman, whose saltiness could rival the dead sea, couldn't handle this. They retreated from society, brooding and scheming till there is a chance to rise again and take the title back from Lux. As the blood moon descended down the kingdom of CYS and the horde of teenage girls were infighting while the veterans tried to hold the walls, Tman sneaked out their guard duty to drag Lux screaming out of their mother's basement. 

And so in the midst of a bloodbath two sticks were pointed at each other while their mothers were yelling at them "not to touch the darn bushes with their grubby fingers". Quickly they dropped their ancient weapons of the elder gods and did a writing duel instead. .

The rematch, the ultimate stick fight, who will win? You decide in this first duel held in the dome!

The theme for this duel is: Sci-fi and writing about as Mizal put it "giant friggin mechs". 

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Story A

With a small jolt of electricity, Tai found himself being suddenly woken up. With a groggy sigh, Tai blamed the only person he could. “Damn it, Elpis couldn’t you have done that a different way?” There was a moment of silence, in which Tai could swear he could hear the smirk on his companion's face. 

“I did, you just were not responding. You know I prefer not to use your nervous system unless needed. If anything, I choose to interpret this that you should not have been drinking last night.” 


With a thought Tai, brought up his display overlay. Just one of the perks of the Direct Control Chip, or DCC implanted in his brain. His to-do list that popped up reminded him that today was when he had scheduled maintenance on his gear. That would explain why Elpis had ensured he got up at such a relatively early time. Seeing that there was nothing else planned he dismissed the display. “I get it, but you know there isn't much I can do. The scrap pile will either work or it won’t. Either way, do you mind entering stand-by mode so I can get ready in peace?” 


Having faith that she would follow his request Tai started to move through his morning routine. He owed it to Elpis to at least try to keep her running. The main issue was that there wasn’t a workshop on this God forsaken agricultural world. All repairs would have to be made using whatever he could scrounge up from the local junk yard. The tools at his disposal were not any better. If the Union wanted better from him, they probably should've sent that support he had requested. 


Alas a request from a glorified town guard on a far-flung world did not rank very high in importance. Setting aside those thoughts, Tai rushed through the remainder of getting ready for the day. If he hurried and with a touch of luck, he might just run into Annie at the bakery. The morning hadn't started off great, but it could still be saved. 




“This is bullshit, I can't believe I didn’t even see Annie today,” Between that and being shocked awake, today definitely was not going the way Tai wanted. Currently Tai was heading out towards a field on the outskirts of the town. He chose to spend the commute time following a time-honored military tradition, complaining simply for the sake of complaining. What else was he supposed to do, pay attention to his surroundings? 


“Just because you are young, does not mean that you need to whine like a child. It is not that important,” The soft voice of Elpis filtered through his brain. Tai paused in his honorable pursuit for a moment to respond. “Your point is invalid. I’m only sixteen. Not seeing a pretty girl is a tragedy.” As soon as he had said it Tai had a creeping suspicion that he had fallen into a trap he had been unaware of. 


“Exactly you are sixteen, Alcohol should not be consumed by one so young such as yourself. It also impacts your brain, which if you have forgotten I am a part of,” Elpis sprung her trap with a clear hint of smugness in her tone. Tai let out a small chuckle before taking a moment to respond further 


  “It’s fine. I got up, didn’t I? Other than story time with you there really isn’t much else to do,” the old argument died down as the pair approached the large hanger containing the battle suit. With a practiced hand, Tai opened a small side door and walked in. The lights flicked on revealing the mech kneeling like a proud knight aspirant waiting for the fateful moment. When standing the suit measured a towering twenty-five meters tall. It was painted a deep royal purple, partially to hide the slight squareness the humanoid frame had that showed its age.  


The suit had been a century out of date a century ago. Now-a-days, it was seen only as fitting as a guard for some rural dump no one cared about. Tai, however, loved it. The real bonding moment had been when he chose to customize it a bit. This may be a relic, but damn it, it was his relic now. Walking up to the suit, Tai took a moment to admire what he had accomplished with the help of Elpis. The right arm was obviously newer, and while not the only change it was the only outwardly visually seen change. 


As Tai clambered into the cockpit, he continued his musings. He had been inspired by some old tales and stories he had heard from Elpis and had built quite an interesting surprise into the arm itself. Of course, he hoped he never had to use it. Tai would be lying though if he said it didn’t bring him some comfort though.  


Any further musings were cut short as Elpis spoke once again. “Are you ready? I know that you hate this part,” This part was referring to connecting to the suit itself. The main reason younger people were used as pilots was due to their brains still growing. This made it easier to connect the nervous system with the giant war machines. Apparently once the pathways were formed in the still developing brains they never disappeared. Taking a deep breath, Tai connected the cable in the cockpit to the port on his neck. 


Immediately Tai felt like his nervous system was forcibly unraveled and stretched apart. He felt everything as his nervous system seemed to crawl dozens of meters over sharp, uncaring metal. Once he had felt himself travel through the suit, Tai felt like his nervous system was then shoved back into his body, uncaring of the rough handling. Connecting to suit was a painful and terrible experience. It also left him with a strange feeling of being a tumor in his own chest. It may have felt like it lasted an eternity, but in a moment, it was also over. 


Through the haze caused by the agony, Tai barely heard Elpis as she spoke up. “There seems to be a dozen unknown contacts on radar. They are incoming rather low and slow. This counts as suspicious behavior. Permission to run more in-depth scans?” Tai could only give a weak nod as he took this time to try to regain his breath. This was cut short as again Elpis spoke, this time however in a much sharper tone. 


“Upon further scans I can confirm we have eleven short-wave drones and one ‘Unicorn’ style suit inbound. The estimated time to arrival is just under seven minutes. It is advised that combat preparations should immediately commence.”  


Shaking off the last lingering feeling of pain, Tai forced the suit to move. With a loud creak of protest, the suit complied with the mental order. As quick as the suit would allow, Tai rushed to the part of the hanger that stored the weapons his mech came with. He took the M36A5 rifle and slung it over his back. Worried about time, the only other gear he grabbed was his portable multi lock missile launcher. Tai would have to make do with no mele weapon or longer-range options. The suit needed to move very soon to reach the intercept point Elpis had marked on his display. 


 Geared up, Tai began the journey to where he would wait in ambush. The journey was made in silence. That was until as they neared the point, Tai spoke in a voice that betrayed the fact that he was a scared child about to go into combat against a foe superior in both numbers and gear. “So, Elpis, I have one more request,” Tai waited for the affirmative hum from Elpis that ever so slightly reverberated through the mech.  


“Please if this the end, don’t let me die alone. I need to know that you will stay by my side talking until the end. I’m really scared. I don’t want to die.” There was a moment of silence, before the voice of Elpis gently floated through the cockpit.  


“It seems like even after all this time you still don’t truly get it. I am your companion. I was put here to help you. Not only to operate the suit but for moments like this. Even if you hadn't asked, I would gladly stay with you until the end.” 


Any further conversation died as an alarm went off notifying Tai that his launcher not only had connected to his suits radar, but it had a full lock of six targets. Waiting for just a moment to let the enemy get ever so closer, Tai pulled the trigger launching a volley of missiles. Not wasting time, he switched to his rifle and let loose a barrage of rounds aiming at the lead drones he hadn't targeted. With quick, practiced motions Tai let one burst after another loose. At the end of his sudden attack only two drones and the hostile suit remained.  


As laid back as he could be Tai was a warrior deep down. He had spent hours upon hours preparing for this moment. If he was to engage in battle, he might as well even the odds as much as possible. Ignoring the two humanoid drones Tai rushed towards the sleeker and more modern enemy mech. 


The foe tried to meet the charge with a long plasma coated spear. Tai knew that if his suit didn’t have the agility to dodge like newer suits, he would need to do something else. Tai used his palm to smack the spear on the haft deflecting the blade. The point dragged harmlessly across his forearm causing a feeling of a razor dragging across flesh. It felt odd but was easily ignored. 


Tai knew that if his suit wasn’t quick enough to effectively strike, he would merely have to anticipate his foe’s moves. Noticing the enemy's left arm pulling back for a strike, Tai launched a powerful blow with his right arm. The strike landed mere moments before Tai was struck in return. The enemy blow had most of its power removed since it had been hit first. 


The two drones thus far uninvolved rushed Tai, both holding their own large spears. If he was outnumbered, Tai knew he had to fight with the ferocity of many. Refusing to run, Tai threw his forgotten rifle at the enemy suit causing them to fall backwards with the loud sound of metal scrapping against metal. 


Moments later Tai felt agonizing pain as the two drones struck with their spears. The blows sent lanes of pain through him and forced his mech to one knee. Not too different to the pose where it was stored. 


Tai knew Elpis was talking but the words were washed away by pain and adrenaline. He still greatly appreciated it though. Tai wasn’t done however he knew that if his foes were arrogant, he needed to be cunning. The enemy mech had stood back up and was now standing above Tai, ready to strike the final blow 


Tai slowly raised his right arm, gently setting his palm on his foe’s chest. The suit looked down and cocked its head in a universal sign of ‘What’s the point of this?’ 


At least that’s what Tai thought, though that might have been the blood loss. Elpis was still talking, though now it was just background noise. One of the things Tai loved was hearing stories and history from Elpis. It had been one of those story times about a ship built for the wrong war that had inspired the secret weapon that was now done warming up. Over eighteen inches or forty six centimeters of gun was now pointing blank at his foe.  


With his last breath Tai managed to mutter “Thank you.” 


 There was a roar as the large gun fired, then nothing but silence as his foe fell.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Story B

The descent from the orbital ring isn’t slow, but it gives Ava’s mind time to wander as she watches. She remembers the weekly visits the Virtual Museum of Natural History as a child. Centuries ago, when humans first arrived, the planet was a wasteland of biomechanical structures and abstract lifeform. Their respective species formed symbiotic mental links with each other to fight off parasitic aliens, called hunters. Now, with the memories and samples they brought from their home, the planet is an alien interpretation of Earth.

“Listen up!”

The din of excitement fades and the commanding officer continues. “You will be spending the next four years of your life planet side. While most lifeforms on the planet won’t be too dangerous, there are still plenty of hunters and cyclopes mucking about. Your chances of surviving to graduation are next to none.” The officer pauses to let it sink in. “If this bothers you, keep your asses on the ship and go home.”

The ship lands twenty minutes later. Ava pushes her way through the crowd. Few are as eager as she is to get off the ship. She won’t waste four years of hard-earned combat and athletics training on being less than the Sentinel Program. While waiting on the others, she listens. Compared to the soft hum of the orbital ring, the forest is a cacophony of life. Bird sing, the wildlife calls out for each other, and dry leaves tumble and rustle in the sigh of a breeze.

Ava’s eyes dart around as the officer leads them to the base, trying to take in every little sight. Trees grow into the sky with low clouds obscuring the forest canopy above. A green pulse, seen through the cracks in the tree bark, simulates a heartbeat. While observing the flora, she catches glimpses of wildlife darting into the underbrush. A look around tells her she’s the only one showing an interest in the world around her.

The base, however, catches her peers’ interest. Guardians in avian, mammalian, and reptilian form walk around with their human counterparts. Some of the sentinels even seem to be having animated, if not one-sided, conversations with them. Others are practicing combat as either separate beings or one being. The group’s officer stops ahead and turns on his heels. Everyone forms four rows and stands at attention.

“I will assign all of you to teams of two or three. Your assigned team will only change when you no longer have a team. This week you will learn how to survive in the wilderness so that you may find and link with a guardian beginning next week. Go to the armory and pick up a plasma rifle, then report to the mess hall. Hell begins after breakfast.”

After an intense week of wilderness survival training, the initiates are deemed as ready as they can be. Everyone receives a week’s worth of rations and three plasma canisters.

The commanding officer waits for them at the main gate with a final warning. “We do not expect most of you to survive this, therefore we will not waste rations and munitions on you. Relying on knowledge and wit will get you far in the Sentinel Program. While I don’t expect any of you to make it back within a week, we will declare you as deceased if you don’t return within thirty days. Dismissed.”

Ava finds her team. The other girl pulls up a holographic map once the boy joins them.

She points at a spot of rough terrain. “We’ll find stronger guardians in this area. Sentinels don’t normally patrol the area, so the others will probably avoid it.”

“If there are more guardians, then doesn’t that mean we’re more likely to run into hunters and cyclopes?” The boy’s eyes are wide and his voice trembles.

“More hunters, more guardians. More guardians, more hunters,” Ava says. “But if we’re careful, the benefits are worth it. The better we are and the stronger our guardians are means they rank us higher. A higher ranking means more time in the field later.”

“Two out of three is majority rule. Now let’s go.”

Five days into their search brings them to the base of a mountain. If any there had been any guardians up to this point, they didn’t want to interact with humans. The boy’s anxiety boils into an argument with the other girl. Ava ignores it, instead noticing the forest getting quieter as the argument continues. She sees it before they notice the hum gearing into a whine. The glowing hole in the cyclops’ head churns and boils as it charges a blast. The other two freeze when they hear it. Ava tackles them behind a tree, avoiding the incinerating heat of its glare.

The other girl recovers from the fear first. “I’ll get the fucker to chase me. When it starts following me, run in the opposite direction.”

The heat dissipates and they can hear the cyclops lumbering toward them.

“Disable it. Don’t try to kill it.” Ava shoves two full canisters into her hands. “Hey! Give her one of your canisters.”

The boy startles from his stupor when she addresses him. “No, if I don’t have any, I can’t protect myself!” He runs back in the direction they came.

“Fuck!” The other girl braces her rifle on her shoulder and runs out. A few cycles hit, drawing the cyclops’ attention to her. She runs and it chases.

Ava doesn’t run. Where there’s a cyclops, there’s a hunter nearby. Running without knowledge of its whereabouts means certain death. The hunters were a problem long before humans found the planet. They forged their cyclopes from the corpses of slain guardians and programmed them to hunt the living metals on the planet.

In the distance, something cracks against a tree. She runs to it and finds a tiger-like guardian lying on the ground with a hunter poised to slay it. At the risk of her own life, Ava fires a few rounds at it. The hunter turns its attention to her. Its sword shifts into a war hammer with clear intention to crush her. She can’t kill it unless there’s a crack in its chitin exoskeleton at a vital area.

She maneuvers around the hunter until its back faces the guardian. She avoids the attacks, but most cause her to stumble. One knocks her down. The attacks are too quick for her to get up and dodge another one, so she squeezes her eyes shut, anticipating the blow. Metal striking metal and a pained roar send a shiver down her spine. Mechanical eyes meet hers when they open. A mental presence begs for a connection and she allows it. With a burst of energy, the tiger biomech knocks the hunter off balance. In the next moment shifting metal sweeps her up and reforms around her.

At its nerve center, firing synapses bathes everything in a pulsing green before her vision fades into the tiger’s. The form, built for acrobatics and speed, complimenting her fighting style. Daggers form in the biomech’s, her, hands. They duck before she sees the blade swinging for the tiger’s head. Lacking the mental load of both dodging and attacking, Ava focuses on stabbing the hunter mid-swing.

Where the biomech evades attacks for her, she takes advantage of the openings. When she blocks an attack, it kicks out to knock the hunter back. While they take hits, the damage is either minor or used to deal more damage to the hunter.

They have the upper hand in the fight until pain sears in their thigh. A cyclops, the one the girl lured away, has only minor damage and its eye churns. The biomech takes control, rips its lower jaw from its head, and throws the machine across the forest. It distracts them long enough for the hunter to lodge its sword in their side. Ava feels the biomech trying to absorb the sword into it, but the hunter wrenches it before they can. Green oozes down their side and thigh. The biomech’s pain fuels Ava’s anger.

On its next strike, they grab the sword and jerk it back. The hunter stumbles toward them. In a smooth motion, Ava kicks its legs out from under it and pounces. They stab, drag the daggers, and shred until they rip off chunks of exoskeleton and into the gelatinous meat of its chest. The savagery only stops once they hear it gurgle and see fluid bubble out of its mouth.

The guardian shifts back into its tiger form, leaving Ava to rest on the ground. It limps over to the still whining cyclops and crushes what’s left of its head in its jaws. Ava watches it eat the machine with morbid fascination, the sound of tearing metal is almost nauseating. The wound on its flank heals before it finishes.

“Thank you,” a feminine voice says. The tiger returns and lies in front of Ava. “Not many of your species venture this way, even those linked with others of my species.”

The tiger motions for Ava to climb up her foreleg and on her back. “There is little to no opposition and so, those parasites and their mockeries of our kind flock to areas like this. We protect the land to the best of our capabilities, but we are only capable of so much.”

Once she gets comfortable, the tiger bounds through the forest. “You, Ava, give me hope. Your driven and full of ambition. I didn’t need the demonstration as to why you’re one of the highest-ranking initiates in your class.”

“I’d prefer to be the highest ranking of my class.” Ava feels the amusement through their link. “If I may ask, why did it feel like the sword was trying to fuse to us, and how did you heal so fast?”

The tiger hums, “The hunter’s weapon and the cyclops are made from the same metals as I. It’s only natural for something to want to be with something like it. Metals also assimilate faster, meaning our wounds heal faster than they would without.

“We are approximately three hours away from your base. I believe you should use this time to rest, it feels like you need it.”

She takes the tiger’s advice and dozes.

A mental nudge wakes her up almost three hours later. The guardian lets Ava climb down to walk beside her into camp. Her commanding officer waits just beyond the gate. She can see some of her peers training with their guardians at a distance behind him. Ava stands at attention and the tiger sits next to her, grooming herself.

The commanding officer watches her. “Where are your teammates?”

“Yates ran back in this direction— “

“He’s waiting for the next flight to the orbital ring.”

“Ellison drew a cyclops’ attention to herself so it wouldn’t chase Yates. To give us a chance to get away.”

The officer nods once. “Mister Yates’ cowardice is noted, and Miss Ellison’s parents will be notified of her death.

“Congratulations Miss MacFaeron, you have officially graduated to the Sentinel Program. Take the rest of the day for yourselves. Training will begin tomorrow.”

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Please leave your judgement under this comment. 

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/19/2023 4:07:20 PM

Story A-
You do a good job of explaining why things are the way they are. I don’t have any important leftover questions about the world the story is set in.
There are… quite a few SPAG errors littered through, I think Grammarly or even an extra proofread would have been very beneficial.
A lot of the dialogue is worded weirdly, and there are a couple of wacky-sounding sentences as well.

Story B-
The very first sentence just seemed really awkward to me, which isn’t a great way to start.
You do a good job of describing your characters, especially Ava. The reader (me lol) really gets a sense of her personality, her hopes and dreams, and what makes her tick.
You had me rooting for Ava to succeed, which is a plus
There aren’t any glaring SPAG issues upon my first read

Overall, I’d pick Story B

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

@SummerSparrow contest judging seems like it would be right up your alley

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

I highly endorse this suggestion.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Hey, thanks for tagging me. I'd love to join in, but I'm working on multiple critique requests and am wiped. I'll keep an eye out for future duels though.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Don't work yourself too hard! Looking forward to seeing more of your reviews in the future :p

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Well this will be running till Thursday night, so if you do have time to read them feel free to vote. You don't have to write a full essay to participate.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/19/2023 4:07:38 PM

Good entries, although both would have benefitted from another proof-reading round, had time permitted.  I noticed missing phrases and odd sentence structure in the first couple of paragraphs for both.

Story A:

Interesting build up and some good world building.  The relationship between Tai and Elpis is well-executed and interesting.  The only question about the overall world that jumped out at me that wasn't answered was why this group of drones and mech come for this little village.  Is it a war?  A pirate/barbarian?  The beginning of an invasion?

The combat is described nicely and tracks well throughout.  The final reveal of the hidden weapon was fun and an egaging reveal.  Perhaps I lost track of the count, but it seems like the story is treating firing that weapon as a conclusion but weren't there still two drones to deal with?  If taking out the main mech neutralizes them, that would make sense, but was not clearly presented.

Story B

A very interesting concept, and not where I was expecting it to go.  I had assumed that the mechs would be an invading army to be held off by the guardians, kind of an Avatar kind of thing.  Instead it was Horizon Zero Dawn.  The lack of descriptors of the guardians, particularly in regards to scale, makes it difficult to properly visualize the opening scenes.  The revelation that the guardians are so much larger than the humans causes a dissonance as I have to mentally go back and re-evaluate those descriptions. In the big combat, it is clearly stated when Ava merges and goes inside the tiger, but then suddenly at the end of combat the tiger is asking her to climb up.  It is unclear when the merge ends, or even why it would bother to do so for the conversation at the end for the trip back to the base.  The constructed world sounds cool, but leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

I would vote for Story A overall.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

The guardian shifts back into its tiger form, leaving Ava to rest on the ground.

I'm pretty sure this is where the merge ends. 

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Thanks, I missed that.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/18/2023 12:06:09 AM

Usual disclaimer: To the author, take everything I mention with a grain of salt; I’m no master when it comes to writing, nor am I a seasoned reviewer (yet). As for readers, there will be many, many spoilers. Do yourselves a favor and read the stories first.

Textwall time! After writing all this, I can definitely see why Mizal doesn’t think I’ll be able to write short stories. My review might even be longer than the size of an entry (no, that is not a good thing). 

Story A

First impressions

  • If I write a short story in the future, I’m going to steal your method of starting at the inciting incident. This instantly creates questions in the reader’s mind: Why is Tai being woken up with a small jolt of electricity? Who is Elpis and why are they to blame?
  • This might be a nitpick, but I’m not sure if starting the first two sentences with the same structure (“With a [dependent clause], Tai [verb] [the rest of the clause]”) was unintentional or meant to achieve a specific effect.
  • The protagonist’s personality is portrayed off the bat; that’s always a good thing.
  • I’m not sure if you can hear a smirk. Again, this might just be me nitpicking.


  • There are a few minor issues that can be solved with proofreading, such as a misplaced comma (“With a thought Tai, brought up his display overlay”), a missing one (“Exactly you are sixteen”), and a sentence that might be better off split into two (“Tai wasn’t done however he knew that if his foes were arrogant, he needed to be cunning.”)
  • Another thing you could look out for when proofreading is repeated words, such as the use of “though” in this sentence: “Tai would be lying though if he said it didn’t bring him some comfort though.”
  • A writing tip I discovered for conciseness would be to eliminate the use of “that” where possible. Another tip is to use an active voice. For instance, let’s examine the following sentence: “His to-do list that popped up reminded him that today was when he had scheduled maintenance on his gear”. Implementing these tips, it would flow slightly better: His to-do list that popped up reminded him he had scheduled maintenance on his gear today.
  • You meant “melee” weapons, right? Unless the weapon was actually singing. (Yes, I googled ‘mele’ because I wasn’t sure if it was a word).
  • There seems to be mistakes with dialogue punctuation. Unless you’re using a dialogue tag, there’s no need to end with a comma. Also, if you’re using a dialogue tag, do not capitalize the first word of that tag. Another rule with dialogue is to start a new paragraph every time someone new speaks. Click here for more information on punctuating dialogue by Gower, and here for information on dialogue tags. 


  • There are attempts to add humor, such as the line: “He chose to spend the commute time following a time-honored military tradition, complaining simply for the sake of complaining. What else was he supposed to do, pay attention to his surroundings.” In my opinion, this broke immersion because seemingly out of nowhere, the narrative voice went from describing Tai’s complaints in a serious tone to incorporating dry humor. 
  • Aside from this, the tone remained relatively consistent throughout. 


  • I like how it’s interwoven into the plot, leaving a lot implied. This can be seen with the technology used, the scarcity of resources on the planet, and the way of life in the story. It is rather realistic given the narrator’s been in that world for his whole life. 
  • You struck a good balance between using sci-fi sounding words and not confusing the reader with too many alien phrases, so good job there. This is something I’m still trying to master when attempting to write science fiction.

Characters & Plot

  • I’m combining these categories since my feedback overlaps here.
  • I enjoyed the characterization of Tai and Elpis’ friendship. Elpis took on the role as a friend and mentor to Tai, giving him advice and helping him in battle. But perhaps I would have liked to see a larger role in the final climactic moment; while it’s implied her background chatter helped Tai emotionally, it would have been nice to see the clear impact of this (e.g. a line where he’s about to give up, but her words give him strength/ a piece of advice she gives which comes in handy at a later point in the story).
  • Another nitpick here revolves around character motivation. We don’t see much reason for Tai to ambush the hostile, especially when we’re shown his fear. I’ll just chalk it up to the word limit, but it would have been nice to have a better idea of his motives so the reader could be more emotionally invested in the fight. Even though he’s a guard, what reason is there for him to be one given the risks?
  • Mentioning Annie made me think she would be important in the story later, which wasn’t the case. As a rule of thumb, a writing tip I’ve read is to only name a character if they will play a somewhat significant role in the story (which could be as simple as mentioning her in the final confrontation as a reason for Tai to fight for his life).
  • Now, I’m going to give you a high-level technique I’ve learnt about short stories: You’re writing a complete narrative arc centered around a specific event which leads to some form of character transformation. Here, the internal conflict seemed to be ‘fear vs bravery’, but if that’s the case, I’m not entirely sure how Tai changed over the course of the story since he was already a ‘warrior deep down’ before the central conflict even occurred. At first, given how one of his main character traits revolved around complaining, I thought his narrative arc would have been to change this, but this trait just seemed to… disappear halfway through. 
  • Alright, I know I’m being very nitpicky today (sorry!), but the climax could be improved with a bit of foreshadowing. For instance, Tai defeats the foe with a ‘secret weapon’. That was a fun moment. Now, if you had mentioned the secret weapon earlier when Tai was grabbing weapons, and there was something about it needing to warm up, then this victory would seem more cohesive and less like a sequence of unconnected events. 

Overall, you had a great concept—a boy uses a mech to fight off enemies with the help of his non-human (possibly AI?) companion—but the execution could be improved. My favorite part was probably the worldbuilding and dynamics between the two main characters. Going forward, my main suggestions would be to proofread more extensively and maybe try experimenting with narrative structures. It’s a solid entry despite the aforementioned recommendations, so well done!

Story B

First impressions

  • I like how the opening line gives us a sense of setting, character, and plot, all while remaining concise. This is also a technique I’m going to steal when I next write a short story.
  • There’s a mistake in the second line: “She remembers the weekly visits [to] the Virtual Museum of Natural History as a child”. Still, it slipped my notice the first time I read through. 
  • Interesting worldbuilding. I’m guessing the mention of ‘hunters’ is foreshadowing for the central conflict in the story later on? On one hand, this first part might be an infodump, yet on the other, it’s short and engaging enough that I didn’t mind.


  • This was proofread and edited well. I only caught three errors: “If any there had been any guardians up to this point, they didn’t want to interact with humans”, “Your driven and full of ambition”, and “They stab, drag the daggers, and shred until they rip off chunks of exoskeleton and into the gelatinous meat of its chest” (there seems to be a missing verb in the last one). But none of these detracted too much from readability. 
  • Also, avoid comma splices, like in the sentence: “Ava watches it eat the machine with morbid fascination, the sound of tearing metal is almost nauseating”. It occurs where two independent clauses are connected with a comma. More information on this can be found here. 


  • The description of the forest is rich and vivid. In my opinion, the best part is that it also serves to juxtapose Ava from the rest of her counterparts. This attention to her surroundings isn’t just to ground readers in the setting, but it is realistically something she pays attention to. 
  • It keeps a descriptive tone throughout while not going overboard with purple prose. This is something I’m working on mastering myself. I was quite immersed throughout the story, and I could envision the scenes as I read. 


  • The whole concept of risking your life to connect with a guardian, as a rite of passage, is a novel spin on the prompt. I didn’t catch that they were mechs at first, and let out an audible “Oh!” when I realized. The guardians’ sentience and age-old conflict with the hunters is well implemented into the story. 
  • This story is a good example of showing worldbuilding before explaining it. Only after the fight scene—during which the readers are invested and have questions about how the connection works—are the explanations given in the form of dialogue. Now rather than infodumping, this information helps resolve the plot. 

Character & Plot

  • One of my favorite things is that the stakes are continuously raised. First, we hear of the past conflict between humans and hunters (which creates slight tension but is far enough from the protagonist that we aren’t concerned), then there comes the warning from the commanding officer, and after this, there are subtle warnings of death (e.g. “Your assigned team will only change when you no longer have a team” and “Hell begins after breakfast”). Next, Ava faces off with a cyclops (a smaller threat). Then comes her encounter with the hunter—foreshadowed to be a significant threat at the start of the story—along with a chance to connect with a guardian. By taking action, she kicks off the climactic confrontation against a hunter while seeking to prove herself as an initiate. 
  • Ava has a defined personality throughout. From her eagerness to leave the ship, to her high-risk, high-reward plan, she is the perfect protagonist for this story. She’s also the balance between Yates and Ellison, as she does not give in to cowardice, yet isn’t blinded by boldness either. This is what eventually leads to her success where her teammates failed.
  • The commanding officer’s lack of confidence in the initiates is a great way to propel the stakes forward while also letting the reader know what challenges Ava would face. 
  • Even the side characters remain well-characterized. For example, the boy’s fear foreshadows his cowardly actions later in the story, as does the girl’s bravery. At first I wasn’t sure I liked that the names were only mentioned at the end because it felt jarring, but then I realized that it gave the effect of detachment; not only does it separate them from the main character, but it could also mean Ava steers away from personal connections with her peers because of how uncertain their survival is. Even at the end, she refers to them on a last-name basis. 
  • The story feels complete and cohesive. Every scene was relevant in building up to the main conflict, and the final fight did not disappoint either. Perhaps one possible improvement would be to show the protagonist implementing something she learnt throughout the course of the story in the fight at the end. This could be as simple as Ava remembering something the commanding officer said, or even using her interest in the world around her as a way to grant her an edge at the end. But this story is well written enough as it is. 

To conclude, this story took a different direction from what I expected in terms of how the mech were involved, but I believe it paid off. Everything felt planned out and deliberate. That was my favorite part, since the story had a clear sense of where it was going, and left enough unanswered questions while still giving the reader enough information to understand what was happening. Just like the previous entry, I’ll recommend proofreading along with the other story-specific suggestions I’ve made. It’s a brilliant entry for this duel.

Verdict: My vote goes to Story B.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

My vote is for B

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/19/2023 4:07:55 PM

Story A: 

Some punctuation errors stood out, even for my untrained eyes. I really liked the dialogue between Tai and Elgis, and how you made the AI seem more 'human'. What stood out to me was the line, "It left him with the strange feeling of being a tumor in his own chest." I loves lines like that. 

Story B:

To me, this one didn't really give of the 'Sci-fi' vibe. The mentions of the tiger people kinda threw it off. But I guess my first thought when I heard 'giant friggin mechs' was something of the gundam sort. But, this one was written better and had less noticable punctuation errors. 

So it's Story B for me.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/19/2023 4:08:08 PM
Okay, so, this one was a pretty tough decision. Story A stuck the most closely to the theme, and in a really smooth way established a wholesome and natural feeling relationship between Tai and Elpis. Their dynamic felt pretty charming and real, and in a longer story or actual storygame I could see the appeal in the two of them kicking around the Farmworld Boonies, having amusing escapades and salvaging scrap for repairs. Unfortunately though the dilemma they face here is a little lackluster. The purpose or motivation of the enemy is never really established, so it's a fight without any stakes beyond survival. And Tai himself doesn't really do much as a character besides react to events. Spotted some scattered punctuation issues, but there were also lines I quite liked. The image of this giant mech just sort of looking down at you in confusion right before you blast a hole in its chest, and, "Connecting to suit was a painful and terrible experience. It also left him with a strange feeling of being a tumor in his own chest." Just a unique and uncomfortably evocative way to express this sensation. Story B meanwhile knocked the worldbuilding out of the park. Sort of an odd take on the mech theme which threw me a little, but...well I'm a sucker for worldbuilding and this had me at the green light seeping out of the cracks in the trees. The idea that they'd go to what must be considerable expense to bring promising kids across the galaxy just to casually send them off to die in droves was a little silly, but Ava's determination and motivation was well expressed. The rest of the characters here were sort of weak, the "boy" and "girl" weren't given names except at the end more as an afterthought. I would've liked a little more descriptive detail for the hunters, cyclops, and the tiger. The way Ava's merge with the tiger was well written, and becoming "they" during the fight was pretty cool, but when you only have the vaguest idea of what anyone involved looks like it does take away some of the impact. Ultimately though I think Story B was a stronger sci fi story and deftly juggled a lot of interesting story elements to bring us something really unique. Thus it has my vote, even if its treatment of the actual theme was a little iffy.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
While both unique and well written, I'd have to narrowly give it to A for theme adherence and plot clarity.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Darius may have been on some of his country's legalized drugs when he wrote these intros.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

I have to somehow keep these things entertaining and raise the stakes hehe.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Story B. It started off right in the moment and felt much more well paced overall where story A took a long winding route to the action.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
My vote goes to story B

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

After a heavy and bloody fight, blows were traded off, faces were smacked around and most of all, both of their moms yelled at them for ruining their lawn. The tiny toy robots, the mechs they were fighting in, finally will lie to rest in their glass cabinets as the loser silently goes home to shed their little bitch tears. 

Well and who was the loser of this fight?

Who would have guessed. 

Tman lost. Lux won. 

Tman of course lost just like a sniveling brat they are. Yeah, that challenge didn't go as planned for this poor little soul. Sadly enough no one was there to play their saddest little violin to our fallen CYStian. Lux's "aethetic blows" were too much from him. And so Tman fled from the arena while everyone watched and laughed. He heard the insults, the wonderful reviews that didn't seem to lean into their favor and the final judgment. Soon, soon Tman swore from the bottom of their heart, soon, soon, they will rise again to take vengeance upon the skull bird. But their mum said that they will be eating spaghetti-o's tonight, so revenge will come next time. 

Meanwhile Lux threw a giant party and everyone including the little ones got a free glass of vodka. They all lived happily ever after, well, except Tman who's still plotting for their next revenge.



@tmanaking @Lux_Inferni

Claim your prizes

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Congrats to Lux on the well deserved win, and good job to Tmanaking for a good attempt.  Just to be totally clear, whose entry was which?

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Lux was B

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/20/2023 4:41:27 AM

Congrats to Lux 

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago

Congratulations on winning a second time, Lux! I really enjoyed your entry. 

Well done to Tman too! Your entry was well-written and fun to read.

I also like reading Darius' posts, they make me laugh. 

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
I haven't seen very much of Lux's writing before so I has no idea what to expect. Tmana's though has steadily improved over the part few years, it's been really cool to watch. Dialogue and character dynamics especially feel really natural and rewarding now.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
Commended by mizal on 4/20/2023 4:41:36 AM
Thank you Darius for hosting these duels, and a thanks to Mizal for founding the THUNDERDOME. Thanks to T-Man for being a worthy oponent (even if you did try to poke my eye out with that mech). And thanks to everyone who left feedback as well (especially Mystic who made me almost cry). The only mech experience I have is Zoids and it's been twenty or so years since I've watched the anime (too bad I don't have that Liger Zero model anymore). That wasn't enough to really work with, so I took inspiration from Sonnie's Edge and did a quick Google search on biomechs. Maybe I didn't look hard enough, but it didn't seem to be a popular take on mechs. I almost gave up on it twice because I knew I was taking a huge risk with my nonstandard mechs and, maybe a lesser risk, with the plot. In hindsight, I should've made the scale of the mechs clear when describing the base. I usually do a final read-through after fixing things my spellchecker catches, but I didn't this time and I've noticed a few more issues that weren't mentioned, lol. Thank you again, Mystic, for pointing out the comma splice. Even if I did do that final read-through, I still probably would've missed it. I wish I could've done more with the worldbuilding and side characters, but, at 1,858 words, I didn't have the time (or the word count limit) to figure out how to make it work. With the time frame of the story, I had to be picky with what I did and didn't include and how I included it. Not giving Ava's teammates names was intentional and I would've liked to leave them nameless, but I doubt the ending would've worked as well as it did. If I could've spent more words on the characters, I probably would've developed the commanding officer more than the others since Ava would respect him more than her peers. If I took the time to rewrite this, I would add Mystic's suggestion on the fight, add a little more worldbuilding to clear some things up, give more detail on the aliens and guardians, and make the commanding officer a little more important.

Tmanaking vs Lux_Inferni

one year ago
I'm really happy with how these threads did, all four stories were great and audience participation was much better than I expected.