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Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
No fancy intros this time I'm afraid, but Lux and Suranna are known to the audience from the very first Thunderdome mecha battle, and are joined today by a mystery contestant. All contestants really gave it their all, and I do feel slightly bad that the need to shut the Thunderdome down temporarily to vacuum the ghosts out in accordance with city regulations resulted in this delay after they went to the wire without sleep preparing for the fight. Obviously extra time will be given for voting due to the delays.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
Story A: “Up and at ‘em, corpsmen!” Dougherty’s eyes shot open, conditioned as she was to stand at attention at the loud voice of her commanding officer. Inside the makeshift shelter there were several other hospital corpsmen such as her, and a couple of privates of the Marine Corps. All were drowsily rising to their feet and beginning their preparations to set out. “Another day in paradise,” someone in the tent remarked. Dougherty was not inclined to agree. Outside, the weather showed little signs of letting up. Covering every inch of skin was standard procedure by now, lest it be stricken by tiny debris flying at high speeds through the tempestuous winds that were all too common there. In between the howling of the wind the same voice that woke her up shouted trying to defeat the weather in volume, albeit unsuccessfully. “Corpsmen, if you’re here then it is because your last platoon got wiped out or sent back home. You’re getting assigned to a new group of bastards fresh off the atmospheric elevators, so try to at least clean yourselves up a bit before welcoming them to Armstrong 13. You all look like hot crap and we don’t want to give the newcomers a bad impression. Dismissed.” “Hey, Dougherty. Think we’ll do any better at keeping this new bunch alive?” she heard from behind. Barrientos, another corpsman, and one of the few alongside her to still be alive from the wave of corpsmen sent down when the push into the mountainous region began, about two months ago. “Maybe you’ll finally bite it, and I won’t have to answer questions like this anymore,” she answered in monotone, eliciting a laugh from her comrade. “Yo, did you know those pendejos on top of the elevators have a running bet on which ones of our initial group die and who’s left standing in the end? I think their odds put me at the top, or so the last couple guys who came down a week ago said.” “Motherfuckers, must be cozy up on a space station with artificial climate and no radioactive dust in your ass,” Dougherty told him while kicking a small pebble as they walked. “We should have trained to be odontologists or something. Then we’d be the ones up there laughing at the poor bastards down here,” said Barrientos, intercepting the pebble before Dougherty could kick it again, and then he threw it far away. Dougherty looked at him as though betrayed. “Fucker.” The rest of the walk went on in silence. Eventually, they arrived at the staging area where the large group of marines was gathered after getting down from the elevators. Dougherty glanced up at the immense cables tethering the space station to the surface of Armstrong 13, which doubled as massive elevators that could carry an entire company each. A tall officer saw the corpsmen and waved them over. They saluted. “Lieutenant Halder. I believe you guys are our new corpsmen. We’ll be glad to have you. Besides the medical support, we’ll benefit from the experience you guys have fighting and surviving in this hellhole.” “Glad to be here, sir,” Barrientos nodded. Dougherty looked over at the men, who regarded both corpsmen curiously. Unsurprising, she thought. She and Barrientos had strips of their uniforms missing, stitched wounds caked over with dried dirt, mud and dust clumped in different parts of their faces and who knows what else. The newly arrived marines on the other hand were clean and downright impeccable looking. Dougherty knew that wouldn’t last. The wind had died down a little, but experience had taught her that it was soon to return with a vengeance. “First things first,” she spoke to them. “Use whatever you have to cover all your skin. And I mean everything. Face, eyes, hands, leave nothing uncovered or the first thing I’ll be doing as your corpsman is prying off chunks of rock and steel out of your butts.” They did so, and the platoon was soon on the move after receiving their orders. Dougherty aided some of the men on the road for motion sickness, common from the long elevator ride down. The orders were the same as they had been for the last couple groups who came down; to take the mountain crossing where the enemy was holing up to prevent an encirclement of their forces inside the valley. “I don’t even know why we keep fighting them,” Dougherty overheard one of the younger marines say. “What would we do if some random assholes suddenly dropped form the sky back on Earth?” “Don’t even start with this dude,” one of his comrades berated him. “I heard we sent them some negotiators at the beginning, and they sent them back without heads. They’re savages.” “Ah, these youths, thinking they know all there is to know,” Barrientos said in a low voice only she heard. “He’s not completely wrong. This world is their home, no? I’m no politician but there’s gotta be something to that,” she answered. “You’re right,” said Barrientos. “You’re not a politician, so shut up and do your job.” Oddly serious, he was just now. Dougherty thought it was weird. But the new marine’s words were not unknown to her mind, being questions she had oft asked herself. Was it truly impossible for two peoples as different as us and them to make peace? After some hours more on the march, they happened upon a dead member of the native population. Lanky, gray skinned creatures with asymmetrical bodies who grafted ballistic weaponry onto their bodies. This one appeared to have fallen from the neighboring cliff while trying to climb it. The men clamored for a look at the dead native; many had never seen one in the flesh before. “It is… unsettling how similar they are to us,” the lieutenant remarked to Dougherty and Barrientos. “They’re nothing like us, sir,” countered Barrientos. Halder got a far away look in his eyes, and for a moment seemed to regard the dead native with something like… sadness? Pity? Dougherty couldn’t tell. As she pondered this, she suddenly heard a lighting fast whizzing sound and felt a sharp rush of air that made her hair sway a bit. Almost immediately she heard a loud cracking sound behind her, where Barrientos was. Startled, she looked back to Barrientos. He was looking at her with a confused look through his visor. Said visor was clearly cracked, and out of it stuck a long, dark needle-like object. More accurately, the object was sticking out of Barrientos’ face, where it had lodged itself between his eye and nose, blood pouring out in a quiet, slow cascade down his face. Barrientos, despite everything, opened his mouth to speak. “What was that... What wa... the blur is con... the blu...” he let out as his eye rolled back in his head and he collapsed. Dougherty looked at the scene, distraught. It took a second for both her and Halder to understand what had happened, but Halder wasted no time once he made sense of it. “Contact! Contact!” Chaos, then. The men, trained for situations like this, nevertheless faltered when faced with the real thing, particularly when more of the silent arrows began flying at them and killing them left and right. Some took cover where they could, some returned fire even though the enemy’s location was unclear. Some turned to run back the way they came, but a deafening explosion was soon followed by a rockslide that crushed two marines and blocked the way. Dougherty held Barrientos’ lifeless head in her hands. “Fuck…” But others needed her help. Shouts for a corpsman brought her back to her senses, and she zig-zagged towards the nearest screaming man, whose knee had been pierced by one of the needles and bled profusely. No time for fancy procedures. She grabbed her bandages and after clumping some together in her hand, she started packing them inside the gaping wound. The injured marine wailed and called her a slew of insults. She continued almost threading the bandages through her hand while packing it inside the cavity left by the wound with the other. Finally, she wrapped it tight with more of them and after dragging the man by the armpits to a slightly safer place, tapped him in the helmet and ran off to search for other wounded. Halder continued bleating commands through the intense fighting. They were ineffectual to say the least, unorganized and surrounded as his men were. His uselessness was ended when some form of larger projectile bisected his torso. Dougherty was tightening a tourniquet around a soldier’s leg in front of Halder. She suddenly felt a warm and wet sensation on her neck, and turned around to realize the source were the innards of her short-lived commanding officer which had spilled on her. Shaking them off as best she could, she vaulted over fallen rocks to reach a man whose arm had been crushed under them. A quick evaluation proved she couldn’t do much. She shouted over the fighting at him. “I can’t get it off without bleeding you to death. Don’t move and we’ll take care of it after the fighting!” She wasn’t sure there would be an after, however. Men continued to fall around her faster than she could fix them. She was hot, tired, scared and operating on pure instinct. She looked around. Dead and dying men. Cries, prayers, explosions. Men huddled up behind rocks, shaking violently in terror. Men bleeding from every orifice, laying in their own shit. Why? ‘What are we doing here?’ she thought. An explosion some feet away cut any deep thoughts short. She felt a blazing heat near her face and then could vaguely tell she was flying some feet off the ground. She did not notice when she landed. Her eyes, covered in soot and dust, opened some time later. Around her, the bodies of most of the newly arrived platoon laid motionless. A quick experiment showed she could move all her extremities, and she did not feel too cold. All good signs. A poorer one, however, was the native staring down at her. By opening her eyes when she did, she had unwittingly locked sights with him… or her? Dougherty tried to plead with her face alone, but the creature simply stared down at her. Her breath quickened, and she realized she would die. But then, the native’s expression changed. And to her surprise she recognized, in a way, the look. Even through the creature’s alien physiognomy and unknowable xeno factions, she saw the same look Halder had given the dead one before the ambush. Not-quite-sadness and not-quite-pity, she thought. And then, it stood and walked away. Tears made their way to her eyes, and she sobbed uncontrollably as the native left the mountain pass. Her chest hurt more than it ever had, as her body convulsed in time with her sobs. If God took pity on her, they would send her back home after this one, and not assign her to the next platoon to come down the elevators.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
Story B: Lucian slinks through the camp. Passing by polished armor, he avoids glimpses of grey-streaked blonde and an age-lined face. Curious shadows watch him leave the camp built for one hundred and some soldiers. Weaponless, he steps out of the protective circle of light, into the surrounding forest. An emissary of Inanis greets and leads him into a featureless landscape painted in bleak blue-greys of an ever-present moon. Trees fade, leaving dark splatters to break up the landscape. He lets his mind roam to the last meeting with Aether, the goddess that raised him as her own. Faith saw him through many battles where others perished, but time spent with Inanis diminished that faith. Mother sensed its waning long before now. Impatient with his constant need of healing, she left him an ultimatum. Find faith in her again or don’t bother returning. Black mist in feminine form rises to hover above ground, pulling him from thought. The oily chill of a hand cradles his face. He raises his own, wanting nothing more than to hold it in his, but stops. Closing his eyes, he feels soft flesh and warmth instead. For that moment, she is real. “You shouldn’t have come.” Her toneless voice reminds him of wind caressing meadow grass. Lucian laughs, mouth wide in a moonlit grin. “Why must you always greet me this way? None but your shades have seen my departure and no scent of rot lingered in the air.” There’s a glint in the inky pools one might consider eyes and an erratic sway to her form. She pulls away. “Certatus watches his battlefields jealously, doubly so for my sister.” “How long has this war waged on? Before my birth and it will continue long after my death. I’m tired.” He sighs and shakes his head. “We will never meet again if I reclaim faith in mother. What may come does not frighten me, but life without you does.” She looks to the horizon and he shifts. Silence settles between them until Inanis brushes against his hand. “Come. I wish to show you something.” Hours, minutes, maybe days pass. Injuries from the previous battle are difficult to hide and cause more pain. She slows without comment, allowing him a comfortable pace. A fissure forms in the earth, widening, spiderwebbing, and deepening into chasms. The goddess ignores then follows them when he can no longer step across. Chasms divide plain into shrinking islands, revealing a sea of stars beneath them. She stops when their narrow strip of land ends. Jewel-tone clouds glow in the void. Some appear as curious shapes, some reflect, and embrace, some boil through dark strands containing them, and others are a haze of color. Even stars still amaze him as Aether suffocates dark with light in her city, but they seem more numerous here. Gold and silver stardust catch his eye, lapping at the land’s edge. He kneels at the shore, ignoring the burning pull of stitches, and reaches to scoop up a handful. “Don’t!” Another lick throws stray stardust onto dead grass. Grass hisses and the dust burns until fading to ash. Lucian settles away from the edge, stretches out, and admires the starscape. “What is this place? And the clouds? I have never seen anything like them.” “Home. The tide steals anything it touches, forcing it to cross over, without choice to return to Aether.” Stardust glimmers in her eyes as she gestures to the clouds. “When a star dies, it creates them. In a myr they’ll collapse and give birth to new stars.” “Why not leave this bleak field and return home?” Inanis’s form sags and condenses, sinking next to him. “Endless land will replace this ocean if I cross over. I would miss mortals and their problems, and even my sister.” She lapses into a comfortable silence so different from what seems a lifetime ago. After many battles, he heard incantations carried on still breezes and saw trails of black mist weaving around soldiers. A sword sailing through her caught her attention, and she battered him with question after question. On occasion, she would lead him away from battle to satisfy her curiosity about the world beyond the midnight plain. They became friends then lovers of a sort. Time spent with her gave him respite from war and Aether. “Why haven’t you returned to my sister?” Lucian can’t bring himself to look at her. “She doubts my love and faith in her. I love her still as though she gave birth to me, but I neither have the health nor youth absolute faith gave me.” The goddess shifts so that he must look at her. “And yet, you’re still as handsome as the daylit sky.” With hands a hair’s breadth apart, they spend a while longer taking in the sizzling of stray stardust and shifting colors of amniotic clouds. Both know they can’t stay, but Inanis breaks the spell this time. “It’s time. You need proper rest before the next battle.” He sighs, pushing himself to his feet. She distracts him with stories of a time long passed, answering questions when asked. The trek seems shorter, but it keeps him from his thoughts. A blessing in these times. Inanis’s emissary arises from a dark stain. “Please, be cautious. Health and eternal youth are gifts of favor, not a result of blind faith.” Lucian smiles and leans in to allow his lips to graze her cheek, leaving a burning numbness. He limps after the shade, and as camp light comes into view, even the shade must leave him. Replacements, for the dead, and healed soldiers fill most cots. It’s a struggle to find one for the fit his leg gives him, and when he does, he sits and buries his face in his hands. Rotten flesh precedes the war god’s arrival. Willing bile down, he looks up at Certatus. Where once he saw an honorable man now stood a rotted imitation of death. Peels of flesh hang from the god’s face and rust-eaten armor swallows a skeletal body. “Quite dangerous to roam in the darkness without a weapon.” The god holds out a vial and stares with hollow eyes. “Your mother misses you worries for your health.” He takes the vial, careful to avoid contact with festering flesh lest his stomach betray him. Certatus leaves before he bothers to offer thanks. Lucian doesn’t trust the god, but he recognizes the elixir from Aether’s collection and the seal remains intact. The goddess gifted the same vials to other soldiers and later replaced them with ornate vials of golden liquid. Breaking the seal, he ingests the brown sludge with a grimace. Exhaustion takes hold and he’s asleep before his head hits the straw pillow. A war horn, low and deep, wakes him to pain and fatigue. Checking the wounds reveals infection in even the minor cuts. Lucian forces himself from the cot, praying to see Inanis before death takes him. He forgoes polished armor bearing Aether’s sigil and joins the march. Others leave behind their armor as well. He tries to memorize their wan faces that look as weary as his. Dark creatures wait for them on the opposite side. Younger soldiers at the front charge into battle when the captain signals. Those in the back, with him, show more reservation. A whisper weaves through the battlefield, his goddess weaving her illusion. Bloodthirsty soldiers turn on each other, some hesitate at what horror they see but join in all the same. The facade of blood and shadow melts into the earth. Some unarmored soldiers wait for death, others charge toward it without fight, and he waits with sword drawn. An organized front dissolves into chaos. Two charge at him from the fray, no care nor technique. He knocks one off-balance and thrusts the blade through a weak point in the other’s armor. Stomping the helmet of the first soldier, he falls to dodge a swipe at his flank. The attacking soldier, no more than a boy, takes advantage. He parries and scrambles away, observing the movement patterns. The boy lunges, blood-soaked face twisted in a snarl, and bears down on the flat of Lucian’s blade. Rot lingers in the boy’s breath. He kicks the boy back and uses the opportunity to stand. Regaining balance, the boy charges, blade swinging for his head. Unsheathing his dagger and ducking under the arc, Lucian thrusts the blade into the boy’s throat. Hollow laughter surprises him. Instead of falling to the ground, the boy stops and pulls the dagger out. “It’s a shame Aether wants to devour your soul. With your talent, there are much more uses for it.” A flick of the wrist, a glint of moonlight on metal, and the dagger pierces Lucian’s throat. Sorrow fills him as the boy crouches and rips the dagger from his throat. “You aren’t the first Lucian Aether raised for slaughter, nor will you be the last.” An ornate vial materializes in the boy’s hand. One to fill an empty space in Aether’s collection. “She will not have his soul!” Inanis phases through the boy, dragging Certatus with her. Clawed hands and talons hold the god to the ground. As he struggles, the goddess kneels over her lover and cups his face. Drowning in his blood, Lucian raises his hand and allows it to sink into hers. It turns blue then black, withering the longer he holds it there. Her ink-black tears leave stained trails on his cheeks. “I’m so sorry,” she says as she reaches into him and pulls the soul from his body. The withered hand falls to the ground, life fading from sky blue eyes, and the struggle for air ceases. Poison tendrils dim and suffocate the gold soul and binds Lucian to the body. With gentle hands, she untangles the helpless thing from the poison. Cradling him to her chest causes him to warm and glow brighter. She glides across the darkling plain to the world’s shore and steps into the surf. The ebb and flow sweeps her in a warm embrace and guides her home. Chasms and fissures heal, islands merging into a single mass, and the starry sea recedes to nothing. A sunlit field, stained red, remains. Searching the expanse, she finds a tempestuous nursery and casts his soul toward it. He hesitates at the edge. “I cannot go with you, but I will stay and watch over you for an eternity.” Inanis watches sapphire and gold explode through the cloud and waits.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
Story C: Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night. As I read the last stanza of the poem, I can't help but have thoughts of my own predicament come to mind. Here, I lay under the full moon night, on my own darkling plain, as I struggle on the line between the dream world and the land of the living. My mind refused to remain at peace on either side. Perhaps this was my atonement, now that there was blood on my hands. God would not allow me to rest peacefully after what I had done. This is what I deserved, to be held up at night with my own thoughts, pushing my mind through trial after trial to see whether after all that I still deserved to be considered human. I used to be a noble soldier--fighting for a cause that I truly believed in. Fighting for a country that I believed in. Fighting for a girl that I believed should have had a better life, unshackled by the restraints of society's expectations and the demanding beliefs of her traditional parents. I just wanted to be with her. I thought what I was doing was right. I thought God would understand, and would be able to carve a path for us to be together. I sigh, and slump further into coat. It was my own fault; my own actions had caused my downfall. I alone had doomed myself to a grisly demise, and dragged down the one thing that I loved with me. God would not forgive me. Elise was so happy when she told me. The smile on her face was genuine. I don't know what I could've been thinking that would have caused me to do this. Why would I do this? Elise had come to me, in the middle of the night, a ghost of a smile upon her lips. She looked ethereal at that moment, her nightdress falling softly around her feet as the candlelight flickered gently across her face. As she firmly grasped my hands in hers and looked into mine eyes, I firmly believed that I could die happy, as long I were to remain by her side--until eternity gone by. "I'm pregnant, Pierre." A creak of the floorboards. The call of a crow. It was unnaturally quiet at the time, and I struggled to find something else to focus on other than her words. I know I should've been happy, but my heart at the time was filled with an incredible sense of sorrow and dread. I was not ready for this child; she was not ready for this child! "G-Get rid of it..." "No, Pierre. I'm not going to prolong this more. I'll tell mother and father. We can finally set a wedding date. They won't be able to deny us of this any longer." She shouldn't be making these decisions on her own, but I could see it in her eyes--she was determined. I go to turn away, to ignore her, but she clings onto my arm and looks at me with pleading eyes. I couldn't say no to that face of hers; her long lashes and pretty clear green eyes had always made me waver, even when I knew the consequences would be dire. "Okay," I start, my voice quivering, "We'll...We'll talk about this more in the morning. Just...go to bed. The morning...I'll see you in the morning..." I wish the conversation to end, and go to kiss her forehead softly, a gesture to mean goodbye. She allows it, and heads off to her room. If Elise could tell something was wrong at that moment, she doesn't comment on it. I soon head to my own room afterwards, my footsteps sluggish and slow, perhaps because they bore the weight of my heart in them. I couldn't sleep that night, not when she had just turned my world upside down with two simple words across her soft lips. I wish she hadn't said that. I was comfortable the way we were before. Sneaking kisses between the hallways of the castle, steamy moments between the sheets, all while avoiding the watchful eyes of her parents. But now there would be no happy ending for us, not if her parents were involved. They would not accept their beloved daughter to be wedded to a poor, low-born soldier. Elise was naive, blinded by the people who raised her, and she was stubborn, and would not listen to reason. I didn't know what I could do. I layed in my bed and struggle to find a possible way out of this when a thought comes to me. Perhaps it just might be the soltuion. Perhaps this was the only way we could be together. I open my nightstand drawer, grasp my dagger in my hand, and head to her room. Elise stirs when I sit on her bed, and I go to cradle her head in my hand. But when Elise turns and looks at me, she's ugly. Her smile is ugly. Her hair feels greasy under my fingers, and her eyes are a murky gray. The perfect angel from before is gone. It shocks me, but increases my resolve. "Pierre? Why are you here? What's going on?" Shh, I whisper. Go back to sleep. The weight of the weapon in my hand grows heavy, urging me toward a forbidden action. I hesitate, but only for a short moment. Someone sane would have surely waited longer, but at the time the only thoughts I had belonged to those of an unsound mind. I thrust the dagger into my lovers abdomen, pulling out only to shove it in again, harder. There would be no coming back from this. Elise's screams are silent to my ears. Her face is cloudy in my mind, and as I think back on this now I struggle to remember what she looked like even before then. When I finish with her belly, I move on to her neck. I try to make the cut clean and swift, perhaps as some sort of attempt to comfort her--or to comfort me. When I draw away, I wake up from my dream, and am left with the consequences of my own actions. Elise is gone, and would not be coming back. I stumble away, and find myself on the floor, my hands bloodied. I perhaps lay like that for hours, stunned at my actions. But somehow in the midst of my confusion I manadged to get up and leave, taking a horse from the stables and riding until the castle was no longer in sight, and their soldiers wouldn't be able to find me. I was looking through the horses bags in an attempt to find something to occupy my mind other than my own thoughts when I found the poem book. I must've left it in there earlier, from when Elise and I often went out riding. I tore through the pages in an attempt to find something. A new gospel that I could cling onto, or even a solution to my predicament. But the book had only made me despair further. Now, with Elise gone, there was nothing holding me to the mortal plane. I take my own bloody dagger and draw a long, slow slash across my own throat, hoping that the other side would prove better.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
Votes go here.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

4 months ago
b

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
a

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago

B

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:45:00 AM

Story A:  I thought this was written pretty well.  I enjoyed the dialogue and thought it fit well within the story, and the action sequences were not too overdone.

Story B: Also well written, and I enjoyed the bit of mystery in figuring out what was going on.

Story C:  Meh.  Did not like the poetry start and the whole Romeo and Juliet type of murder/suicide so we can be together was just lame.

Vote is for STORY B 

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
C. The ending was shit but before that I liked its writing the most.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
I vote for story A.

While I felt that B was excellent as well, its story confused me a bit, and A was clearer.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
c

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:45:20 AM

This was really tough.  I think I have to give the nod to C, because, even though the story itself was not super strong, I thought it made the most successful attempt to capture the theme of that last stanza, sort of.  I'm not happy about it, though, because I was itching to take my blue pencil to C's prose.  But there we are.

Well, good job Lux, and Suranna, and the AI.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:45:33 AM

Story A:

The prose is pretty good, but I noticed that the author underutilized commas. For example: "In between the howling of the wind the same voice that woke her up shouted trying to defeat the weather in volume, albeit unsuccessfully" is such a chore of sentence and totally ruins the flow. Just a couple of commas are needed to make this read properly! Unfortunately, this isn't the only sentence that suffers from this issue. Alternatively, some of these sentences could definitely be shortened, made a little more concise, and there wouldn't be a need for as many commas. This sentence: "Dougherty glanced up at the immense cables tethering the space station to the surface of Armstrong 13, which doubled as massive elevators that could carry an entire company each" could be shortened to "Dougherty glanced up at the immense cables, doubling as massive elevators, which tethered the space station to Armstrong 13". This story had some intriguing worldbuilding, and had me wondering about the relationship between the humans and the natives. Unfortunately, this worldbuilding is cut short by a very hectic fight scene that was a little confusing, mainly because the setting isn't really discussed other than "it's a mountain pass with cliffs". I also didn't really get the impression of the darkling plain from this setting. Another thing that I felt was slightly lacking was more atmospheric descriptions of this planet. The fearsome wind is discussed, but there's no actual description of the wind clawing at their uniforms or battering their helmets.

I did like the ending. It's simple, and continues to hint at more going on behind the scenes.

Story B:

The relationship between Lucian and the two goddesses really confused me at the beginning. It didn't help that there were some awkwardly phrased sentences as well, but I actually enjoyed the prose in this one a lot. It's very ethereal, and I enjoyed the description of the Aether (at least that's what I'm calling it). I also thought it was really cool how Inanis and Lucian are lovers, even though she's made out of a substance that's harmful to the touch. I enjoyed the chaotic fight scene in this story, because it fit the dreamy tone well, but still had some concrete moments that I could visualize comfortably. The characterization of the gods gave me Ancient Greek vibes, with lots of interpersonal drama, bickering, and the manipulation of mortals for their own gain.

The one thing I didn't like was the motive of Aether. From what I gathered, she heals people through the souls of followers who abandon her (or otherwise disappoint her, I suppose), but why are so many of the soldiers just accepting death? There's a lot of other questions I have, and the story doesn't even give any concrete answers. I enjoy mystery, but only to a certain point. If I only have more questions about the world by the end of the story, I don't feel very satisfied. I can't stop wondering: what is Inanis the god of? It seems like she knows a lot about Aether, and their domains clearly have some overlap, and they're sisters, but there's still nothing definitive, and her only power is... sending Lucian to heaven?

Story C:

Meta shenanigans automatically gives this story some bonus points. I also feel like the prose was the most polished. However, the central conflict is just a Romeo and Juliet clone, and not a particularly fleshed out one either. We spend most of the story in Pierre's mind, and he seems to have a very sharp mental decline that I didn't really see coming (well, I imagined that he would kill the baby, but I didn't think he'd turn it into a murder suicide, especially with how in love he seemed). This story reminded me of story A from the other duel, and left me similarly unsatisfied with its ending.

Overall, this was a close one, but I'll go with story A because it left me the least confused.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
d

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:44:44 AM
I like how different they all are. I vote B.

Story A feels complete, and I do like the ending. It reminded me a bit of things like Starship Troopers. I was thinking I'd vote for it when I was first reading it, as the scenes are well presented, and the characters interact nicely.

I'd probably attribute my enjoyment mostly to the good use of dialogue. Kept me engaged. The descriptions surrounding it didn't overstay their welcome either, which I find is a risk with most sci-fi. But you managed to get me to accept the setting, and buy into the protag's struggles.

I agree with DBNB about the action scenes. The arrows reminded me of (blue) Avatar. Our protag not going around gunning down the enemy probably helped keep it interesting.

Story B is interesting. Peng's criticism of the story being a bit confusing is apt. I just went back and reread when this happened. It is hard to tell how intentional this confusion is, so if it is totally accidental a rewrite or two could tighten up the story to make it great. Wizzy touched on this too.

I agree about enjoying the prose. This style can feel pretentious or pointless, but I think you avoided that pitfall by keeping things relatively to the point. If things meandered it would quickly become more irksome than interesting. Also helped that the lines felt intentional. Some extra detail to better explain things could reduce the confusion, but it could also interfere with the style, so it would be a balancing act.

As for Wizzy's questions on the sisters, the trick is to project them onto other media, in this case Baldur's Gate 3. I will say, I was reminded more of Tyranny, gave me a similar vibe, which I liked. I interpreted Lucian (almost) getting put in a bottle as the healing juice being souls of the goddess's followers, not necessarily those who abandoned her. Maybe she bottles them before they ditch her.

I'll add that I like seeing the heavy use of colour, even if I don't really read much into it, it does still add to the style. Gold liquid + gold soul is one pretty clear link...probably related to 'brown sludge' too. But I'm getting off topic. Maybe I'm biased towards fantasy, but this story stood out the most to me, so it gets my vote. (But if Gower says your style is shit I'll change my vote because authority of academia must be respected -- just don't ask me why).

Story C knows what it is and commits to it. I almost voted for it because Gower is the expert on the theme, but I view themes more as just suggestions. I will also judge your short story more harshly if it involves a protagonist kys ending, because I find I don't engage with them too much.

The reaction of our protag seems excessive, but with lines like 'someone sane would have surely waited longer' it does help me buy into it. Feels like the story is acknowledging the drastic reaction, which stops me from checking out.

May I suggest ending with him finding another noble daughter / princess and falling in love. You could then push it into a different kind of edge, or even go for something more humorous. Regardless, I def don't consider this horrible, the inner monologue felt like it had a strong voice (tho I'm not the best judge of that), which I appreciate.

Good work to all! I'm curious who'll win.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago

A

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:45:47 AM
Hmm, tough one.
Story A is pretty good, the second half being especially strong in my opinion. All the descriptions do a great job of painting a picture of death, misery, and terror.

Story B is a bit confusing, but it's not unsalvageable. It feels especially ambitious for a story of its length, and for the most part, I think it does an alright job.

Story C is a little weird and unsatisfying to me. I will say it has a strong atmosphere, and the writing is quite good and illustrates the troubled protagonist's unfortunate perspective well.

Casting my vote for Story A.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/23/2023 10:46:18 AM

It's really between A or C. I read these stories a week ago and I could only remember plot beats from story A and C. 

Hmmm, I think I'll go with C. I like less literal interpretations of the prompt. Having a battlefield in a darkling plain, it seems very obvious. Prose of A is better though.

The ending of C, I don't think the idea is very bad or irredeemable. It just needs a better execution. Familicide often is paired with a suicide of the perpetrator, so it makes sense for the man to kill himself at the end. I would find it even crueler if the police/someone else prevented him to take the easy way out, but this is fine too.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago

Story A.

I'm from Buenos Aires, and I say kill 'em all.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/15/2023 7:44:37 AM
I'm voting for story A. It feels complete, and while there are specifics I could criticize, it's just the kind of story I particularly enjoy. I love sci fi, so you kinda had me from the get-go. Some of the dialogue seems forced and inhuman, but the characters manage to be distinct even in a very short story. I also love the neat circular package that this came in. The rare humanity shown in an alien, mirroring a different character's previous actions just really did it for me. I read some of the other reviews, and it is a bit clumsy in a few places, but honestly it has a certain charm. The theme is also a pessimistic sort of optimism, and I think the world could use a bit of that.

I hate story B with everything inside of me. It had to be written by either a computer or a turbo-autist. It was weirdly sexual and pretentious without being clear. It reminded me of something the "smart" kid would write for a high school literature project. I will say that the sentences flowed well, but some of the sentences together might as well have been gibberish. It was like a mosaic where the individual pieces were beautiful, but the whole added up to a kindergarten self portrait. I hate it. I hate it so much. It makes me almost as angry as I get when I see a dog, and boy howdy, do I hate dogs! I'd kick the author of this story like one of those Shiba dogs. So. Hard.

Story C was pretty good. Honestly, between this and story A, it was probably the better written one. I simply enjoyed the story less. The only real downside to this one for me was that it felt in places like the author might have been wordcount padding. I also don't particularly enjoy the thought of stabbing pregnant mothers. I do suppose this was a definite CYS type story. Edginess was certainly there. I just wasn't into it.

I vote for Story A

A and C were both good, and if a human wrote B, I dislike them intensely (unless you're someone important)

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Well a surprise visit from Gower and the participation of Darius and Fresh from the parallel thread means we got a relatively robust twelve votes over the course of three weeks for this one, not the sad pitiful nine of the other duel. I am very glad my position as host kept me from voting on this one honestly, the stories are once again all very good but VERY different. And it's rare we don't get one of these that isn't a total landslide, the indecision here speaks to the quality of all three works. Ultimately though, Story A pulled ahead, so congratulations to @Darkspawn, happy Thanksgiving, and I hope the thread finally being called is almost as good as having a functioning back. Lux had Story B and I saw a lot of appeal to that one, it introduced a very strange setting and set of characters in a limited space in a way that invited you to read carefully and give it all a lot of thought. And ultimately landed well with a heartfelt and bittersweet ending even if there's really a sense that some things could've been gone into more deeply on the way. While with Suranna's story C, the only one of this bunch that didn't go with literal battle, all the right elements were there, but in my estimation it suffered from an unlikeable main character. Or rather just that the lunacy and selfishness were so immediately clear it left me wondering how the relationship could ever have developed as described, and what Elise would've even seen in him. (The response to your happy news of pregnancy being "get rid of it" is always a red flag, ladies...) Story C also had a number of typos from being rushed. Story A as I think others have commented felt like the most complete story, but perhaps the weakest on invoking the theme; it's got the ignorant armies clashing but it's lacking the "beloved". Still a great read in its own right and I thought it had a greater sense of control and pacing. A lot happens but no words are wasted. You're left wondering at the senselessness of the conflict, but what the character is going through always feels meaningful. I'd kinda like to put Darkspawn up against Darius at some point, but the "anonymity" might be pointless there since they both have such different styles. And also I'm just ready to throw a goddamned shoe at this whole proceeding, this site is too full of apathetic slugs. You mfers give no indication that all interest in voting is about to abruptly drop off between one thread and the next, and you all disappoint and disgust me even more than you do your IRL mothers. In other words, I believe it would be best to shutter the Thunderdome again until there's a significant enough seeming upswing of interest on the forum to support it.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Congratulations to Dark! And thanks for hosting Miz, the stories were nice to read. Us slugs are unworthy.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago

Congrats Darkspawn and others for voting!

And why do you want such a fight to happen. Since Dark is on a winning streak, shouldn't you put him against Enter, Petros or Tcat?

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by Tim36D on 11/23/2023 6:46:01 PM
Thanks to the voters and to Lux and Suranna. For a while there, all three were tied and even after more votes started coming in it looked like it could go to any of us. And yes, winning this made me forget for 3 seconds about my excruciating pain until I breathed too hard and reminded myself.

In any case I’m open to dueling anyone whenever Mizal considers it appropriate, and personally I thought twelve people was pretty decent for a non-shitpost thread, though perhaps because there are 3 participants it feels like less.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by Darius_Conwright on 11/25/2023 1:38:04 AM
Congrats to Dark, and thanks to everyone that voted! And a thank you to Suranna for showing up! I'm surprised anyone liked mine since there are, at least, a couple things that went wrong and the... style. Not trying that again. Too exhausting. Honestly, I expected everyone to think it was pretentious garbage. The major issue I see with mine is juggling too many themes. On top of war, there's faith, parent/child love, romantic love, and life and death. If I hadn't cut some things out due to being tired of writing and the beginnings of a cold or something, unrequited love would've been tossed in as well. Five themes is, imo, too many for the word limit. The other issue comes from the inspiration. The poem itself is, hopefully, the most obvious source, but I started thinking of The Fountain (currently free with ads on YouTube) and Tim Hecker's albums Konoyo and Anoyo (the song titles make two poems) at some point in the first draft. The idea for the space ocean and nebulas came from The Fountain, and something came from the albums. I'm tired, and I don't want to think about this anymore. Ultimately, I'm okay with what I wrote. It was a fun experiment I don't want to make another attempt at. A side note about the goddesses: Aether is a goddess of light and Inanis, her sister, is a goddess of darkness. I wanted to play with the idea that light doesn't equal good and darkness doesn't equal evil. Inanis adores mortals even though they hate her while Aether sees them as a means to an end and believes faith and love are the same thing.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
I liked the style a lot actually, it just seemed like you were attempting to pack way too much in a small space. These were all concepts that would've benefited from more time and space to be absorbed and percolate.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Yeah, I knew it was going to be an issue when my first draft ended up a little over 1300 words (word count usually doubles in the second draft for me), but it took Friday and most of Saturday to write it. I decided to do what I could with it since starting over seemed riskier. I'm glad you and others enjoyed it, and like I said, I'm fine with what I wrote; both are personal wins as far as I'm concerned.

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago

This was a good round. My reviews come off as more negative than I really think, so congrats to everyone for submitting and voting, and to Dark for winning!

Thunderdome 10: Suranna vs Lux vs ???

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 11/29/2023 11:06:36 AM

Achoo! I mean... yahoo! I mean... curse you DarkSpawn!