The trap was prepared. Father had placed the metaphorical cookie jar in comfortable reach of the children, whom he knew to be curious as well as yet unable to tell good from bad. He had told them to keep their hands off it, threatened dire consequences.
He had given the Snake some ideas to hurry things along, so it was just a matter of time.
Doling out punishment was so much more fun when the children might think they had brought it upon themselves.
Polishing the library’s outer gates was not Gwen’s favourite job, but it beat fixing a jumped elevator chain, to pick one random example. She would have preferred replacing the iron bands that both strengthened and decorated the portal with stainless steel, which did not require careful oiling to guard against rust that often, but, well, tradition.
Gwen was nearly finished with the right wing when she noticed she had company. One of those little fancy automatons. After a moment’s observation - the angle was not that good from atop the ladder - she noted it was humanoid, with spindly legs. That kind of built always needed extra magic for balance, which seemed like a waste of effort to her.
The robot was carrying a paint can and brush. It looked up at her before turning its attention to the door.
“Has anybody sent you to help?”
It did not answer, which was no surprise, and carefully applied some of whatever was in the tin to the iron bindings near the lower hinge. Gwen grinned. Someone had to have cooked up a varnish that the Guardians of Relics deemed sufficiently clear, or some other rust retardant.
Her eyes nearly fell out of their sockets when she saw the iron turn orange-brown and puff up lie pastry dough.
“HEY!” She flung the polishing cloth. It went straight through the automaton, which disappeared a moment later like a mirage.
Gwen climbed down the ladder and touched the blotch of corroded metal. Some flakes came off, most falling, the smallest sticking to her fingers.
She would have to start believing in the Rust Gnome.
Based on a prompt by Herm Baskerville ("The equivalent of Jack Frost who delivers rust (or verdigris if you prefer).")
theburninghouse.com asks the question "If your house was burning, what would you take with you?" and illustrates people's answers with photos.
When I first checked it out, my reaction was to wonder how many of those people would get trapped in their burning house while they collected their favourite clothes and memorabilia. In my defense, if there were a fire in the house I live in, and I were in my room when I noticed it, chances are the fire would be between me and the door, so I should better hurry.
What I would grab, assuming I don't panic:
My handbag (usually includes my driver's license and car papers, purse with money, bank account card, and cash, and my mobile phone)
External harddrive (backups of writing and documents, photos, scanned drawings/paintings, and websites.
Some or other jacket hanging on my door, depending on season.
Those are things that are usually out in the open and easily grab-able.
In a situation where I had a bit more time, I'd unplug my laptop and take that with me. (I would NOT want to take the time for unplugging it from the network, power and any periphery that might at the moment be connected if a fire might cut me off from leaving the house.)
The cardboard box with photos, or at least grab the "historical" stuff from up top (a few photos from when my mother was a kid or earlier; her grandfather's military passport from the First World War)
If I had a bit more time to consider, and still could carry something (big ifs), I might get the original painting by Ursula Vernon with its frame, and/or the folder with my relatively big drawings/paintings.
Though I guess the file folders with the bank and insurance papers might be more sensible? I'm not sure. Those seem more replacable.
...and a lot of people are going to give writing a novel draft in November a shot.
Last year went pretty well for me, with a story I had sort-of plotted out; my ideas are rather more vague this year.
What I remember from last year was that a major stumbling stone were names. The story took place in a constructed world, and I didn't want to use too many real world names for characters... I think that never-touched-again manuscript is still full of people called [insert name here]. Which does bolster the word count a bit, but, well, it was a bit time lost for every character who showed up that made me think, "OK, so what do I call them?" before I gave up.
Therefore this year I'll make up a list of names that sound right for the location, so I can just pick one when a new supporting character shows up.
For names from the real world, I may turn random name generator at behindthename.com. A quick test run chosing only German names makes it look like the generator honours the category choice for last names, too. I wouldn't rely on the site alone for actual real world settings, since there's no telling when a given name was actually used, but it's good enough for my science-fantasy. It should help getting some names that are not from English or German in there.
Other things that might be good to determine in advance:
What's a polite way to adress someone?
What ranks are there in the police/security force?
I'm sure I'll think of more, once November starts.
I'm Anke at the NaNo website, in case anybody would like to add me as a writing buddy.
The first losses of life on my survey ship were... absurd. Absurd is the only word for it.
We had found a more or less derelict generation ship - the Leif Erikson, last contact about 300 years prior - in orbit around a star not on its route. No working communications or clear signs of surviving crew, but life support systems were running. There had been unusual changes to the hull: additional windows.
We, that is, I sent in a small team to investigate. According to their running reports they found gravity and life support intact, kept in working order by likewise still functioning maintenance bots.
Our team, hah, followed their noses to the gardens, which had completely overgrown, vines spilling over into the access corridor so that the safety door was blocked open. A bundle of cables stood out because it had not been overgrown. When the team followed it, they found its end embedded into a tree. Grown in.
Weird, but not helpful, so the team wanted to look elsewhere.
When they tried to leave the garden, a flock of maintenance bots cut them off. If you think the small ones could not do damage, remember they have welding tools. None of us took it as a dire threat even so, but it turned out that the little critters had been buying time for heavy guns to arrive, the models involved in wall restructuring and the like.
I listened to my crew dying.
We’re no kind of army, so I'll leave further investigations to people more used to being attacked, and better equipped for dealing with it.
If you want to know what I think happened... in the files about the Leif Erikson I found the profile of one of the original crew, someone into trying to communicate with plants. Hooking them up to computers via electrodes. Fits with the cables ending in the tree.
So, maybe the maintenance bot network teamed up with the plants.
And three of my crew ended up as compost.
Absurd, I said.
Based on a prompt by rhodielady-47 ("What happens if the garden on board a spaceship becomes intelligent and decides to take over?")
Freelance in-system couriers were not as much in demand as even just three years ago now that Mercury Inc. had the lion share of the market. Gina could see it both in the number of available jobs outbound from Ganymed Station and in her own finances.
“More penny-pinching is what we need,” she said to herself.
The ship computer answered. “More care in plotting a course would reduce the need for later corrections. Fuel consumption may be cut by up to five per cent.”
“Smartass. Got any more suggestions like that?”
“More maneuvering during docking--”
“Hold on, that’d need more fuel.”
“The rough docking maneuvers in the last eight years increase wear on the docking clamps. The lifetime of those parts in this timespan,” since Gina owned and piloted this ship, in other words,” was only eighty percent of the average.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Taking the increased fuel for microboosts into account, estimated savings over eight years would have been roughly 20,000 credits.”
Gina flinched. Enough to live on for half a year.
“Look, it’s an image question. People see me hurry, they are more likely to pick me over the big transports. Their sorting and all adds to delivery time. Speed is about the only thing where we have an edge.”
“Average delivery times of Mercury inc are up to 10% less than our own.”
“I’m not talking about facts, I’m talking about advertising.” Unfortunately, she was on her own there. The computer could help her juggle numbers, but not come up with creative ideas.
Based on a prompt by barbardin ("A space ship complains about its captain's style of 'driving'. ^^")
Or the quick and rather upbeat rendition of The Minstrel Boy by Danny Quinn. (I'd been wanting to find out what tune went with it "officially". I first encountered the poem on a play-by-post RPG, sung by a character enthusiastically hacking foes apart at the time, and in my head it fell to the tune of "Pop Goes The Weasel". Seems topical, too.)
So, yeah, contrast is interesting. Just a thought, brought to you by my watching music videos, including some involving the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in white tie, the Scorpions mostly in open shirts, and a conductor in what looks to me like a black leather tailcoat.
Orel cursed with relief when they finally got a connection with the lost ship. The Glitter had not reported back after what should not have been more than a jaunt for gathering asteroids, which here were known to be rich in rare earth minerals.
“Orel, that you?”
“Yes. Why’s there only audio?” And bad at that, strange noise in the background.
“Camera’s smashed. The steering boosters firing at random and then cutting off entirely are a bigger problem. SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU!”
The noise was really too odd not to comment, and if the cursing was about that, it wasn't just interference... “Is that giggling?”
“God, Orel, you hear it, too?”
“What’s going on?” The relief in the voice on the other end of the connection was so great it turned gut-clenchingly disturbing.
“Glowy things, like huge fireflies. And they laugh. I thought I was going mad. Those last rocks, they were full of fairies. And gremlins.”
Based on a prompt by aldersprig ("Faeries in Space. :-)")
Seeing Aldersprig write flash fiction with recurring characters/in firm settings (and seeing Ysabetwordsmith do something similar with poems) made me wonder about that.
As a reader, I like getting more stories about characters I like.
As a writer, I find working on one story in a series is a lot more difficult than writing a flash around one idea, because it only has to make sense within itself, rather than as part of a continuity.
In addition I wonder about the definition of flash fiction. As I understand it, a piece of flash is supposed to stand on its own. When does the label not fit anymore, and instead you have one chapter of a longer story that makes no sense on its own? Getting a short bit of fiction that is self-contained is the point of it, and using pre-existing characters and settings, I worry about not putting enough detail into the story for the "unfamiliar" reader, since with the things I know already about them, it makes sense with less.
Most of my flash fiction is absolutely one-off, built around an idea, with throwaway characters. That doesn't mean those stories don't require any context: Most of them draw on stereotypes or archetypes, genre conventions, and other things I assume people who read fantasy or science fiction to be familiar with. Then there's the fact that it's fanfiction in which drabbles (that is, flash fiction with exactly 100 words) first became popular, and while I'm not really a fanfiction writer, I imagine when you can put a fully developed character already known to your audience into your story just by naming them, the dynamic of writing is a bit different.
What do you think? What do you like to read, or write?
"Did you ever seen two starships mate?", asked the guy next to me at the bar, leaning in my direction. I think he was trying to leer, but his eyes were swimming in alcohol already, so that did not work too well.
I wondered how that attempt at a joke would play out, so I gave him a straight answer. “Yes, I have.” From the way his face fell, it was not what he'd expected.
"I’ve occasionally snatched a window seat in a café on the touristy side, with a view of the waiting cloud. Good place for watching starship behaviour." The station had seen an unexpected increase in traffic after the discovery of another wormhole nearby, and was still working on adding docking capacity.
"You’re having me on." He sagged a little, and pouted, of all things.
"No, really. If you did shipwatching daily, I’m sure you’d see it a lot."
"You really think starships breed?"
"No." I raised my hand to get the bartender’s attention, paid my short tab and slid off the stool before explaining. "They call it coupling or mating when two ships link airlocks. Have a nice end-of-shift."
The title was a prompt by lilfluff (it's a line from the song Stuck Here by Stephen Savitzky)