Leaving on a jet plane – Contest!

by Kate Paulk

 

Tomorrow at oh-good-is-that-the-time am, I’ll be headed out for the North American Discworld Convention in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m not looking forward to the flights (Oh, TSA, how do I loathe thee. Let me count the ways….), but the con should be a blast. I’m pure fangirl for this one, and looking forward to it.

So, there’s a bit of an interruption to the Writer’s Toolbox, probably this week and next week (so I can do a con report), then I’ll be back to the last few posts in the series. I”ll have to collate the whole series into a single post on my web site, since a lot of people have said they find it useful.

I’ll be checking in when/where I can, but replies could be a bit delayed.

So… a mini-contest, with a free eARC of ConVent (to be released later this year) to the winner … Entries are open until midnight US Eastern Time (based on the time stamp on the comment).

Here are the rules: write the start of a story (short story or novel, doesn’t matter), using at least three of these points –

Advice for the Evil Overlord:
I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way — even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless — my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
Advice for the Hero:
If I find myself born or drafted into a universe wherein the laws of nature do not obey consistent principles, I will depart for an alternate universe created by a more reasonable author.
Advice for the Bad Auxiliary Character (Evil Henchman):
If the seemingly helpless person you have just cornered is confident and unafraid despite being outnumbered and surrounded, you have encountered a Hero in disguise. Run while you still can.
Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Innocent Bystander):
Evil Overlords’ friendly overtures are never sincere. If he is suddenly friendly to you, answer him courteously, then skip town at the first opportunity. If he has always been friendly to you, answer him courteously and feign utter uselessness in his designs.
Further Evil (Advice for the Evil Empress):
If I am unfortunate enough to have a Beautiful but Innocent Daughter, as opposed to a Beautiful but Wicked Daughter, I will unconditionally love and nurture her, and be as supportive as possible of any budding romantic relationship with potential young Heroes. This will a) delay Heroic action while I study his strengths and weaknesses, b) cause emotional conflicts within the Hero that will encourage fatal hesitations or mistakes, c) provide another chance for my daughter to see things my way before I’m forced to eliminate her.

Murphy’s Laws of Combat:

  • Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.
  • The more stupid the leader is, the more important the missions he’s ordered to carry out.
  • The enemy diversion you’re ignoring is the main attack.

(from Theresa Nielsen Hayden’s Random Plot Generator)

Whatever you write must be interesting, it must be the start of a story, and it must be coherent. If you manage all of this and use all the points in the list, you get a hefty bonus. No more than 1000 words, preferably between 500 and 1000 words.

Write away, and good luck!

 

 

8 comments

  1. The Empress looked out over the dimension and scowled.
    All her attempts to divert Master Control were failing.
    She knew perfectly well he was just keeping her around for observation, and trying her little tricks, as he called them, as part of his experimentations with personhood. As long as she kept amusing him, he wouldn’t purge her personality and fully associate her Dimension One machinery.
    “Oh, Mother! Where are you?”
    And she should never have gotten him started playing with the Bio-models. Living toys in Dimension One, they were more versatile than avatars in the other dimensions. Bad enough he’d managed to send a messenger through to buy a “daughter.” He’d managed to purchase the entire cast of miniature extras from a war movie. Everywhere you looked, another damned GI Joe doll, standing watch, or marching somewhere.
    And then he’d ordered a custom designed one to be his Heir. But the Master was too paranoid to program the Prince enough to be useful, let alone dangerous. The results were worse than the regular soldiers.
    The Princess swept out onto the balcony. “We haven’t chosen the music for the Ball! We’ll need some slow dances.” The Princess’s eyes brightened. “I hope Captain Kerrigan will be back in time for the Ball.”
    The Empress’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t get fond of him. He’s a human, not a bio-model or an avatar. You can’t trust the humans, they don’t think of anyone but themselves as people.”
    The Princess’s eyes opened wide as she shook her head. “Captain Kerrigan is different.”
    Airhead. Typical toy.
    ***
    She was tall, she was blonde, she was stacked.
    She was also cornered.
    Captain Kerrigan waved at the troops to stay, and stepped forward. “If you surrender peacefully, I’m sure Master Control will be lenient.”
    She tossed an irritated look his direction. “Barton Street said it would be here when I got here. Do you think he thought I would be faster or slower than I actually was? All these dimensions are getting confusing, but so far, time has been consistent.” She went back to scanning the rough stone walls with an expression of irritation.
    “Uh. . . ” Kerrigan realized he’d just picked up a juicy tidbit of information. “Barton Street? Is that your associated AI? It sounds like a rather small machine. You’d do much better under Master Control.”
    He took a quick scan. The troops were sitting or laying down. He could hear some of them snoring already. Perfectly programmed soldiers. Master Control had had a good idea when he’s acquired them, pity they hadn’t come with better brain chips or at least a sergeant. His idiot lieutenant was moving forward. Rumor had it that the boy was the first to be designed and programmed by the Master himself.
    “I have no interest in being ‘under’ anyone at all, least of all someone who identifies himself as ‘Master’ or ‘Control.’ The whole idea is Icky.”
    Icky. Kerrigan nodded suddenly. That was the problem with this woman. Her vocabulary didn’t fit the type. Icky was the first “typical” pretty-blonde-fashion-doll word she’d used. _She must have a damned good brain chip._
    “Honestly, there are days when I wish I’d just stayed at home in my own dimension, where things made sense.” She paced up and down, still looking at the walls. No sign of a concealed passage. The dead end was five strides deep, not much maneuvering room for the woman. No weapons.

    “You and you.” He pointed at the two closest troopers. “On your feet.” He shrugged out of his back pack and pulled out the net. “Hold the corners. Lieutenant, hold this one.”
    Captain Kerrigan took the last corner himself.
    A flash of bright white in the corner of his eye. He knew what it had to be, and threw himself at the woman. _A dimensional door. How had she known one would appear here, now?_
    He grabbed her, pulled her away from the glowing white rectangle. She hooked his knee. He staggered, they hit the right side of the dimensional door. It swung open easily and the dimensional shift twisted through his bones. He landed face first in the sand, the two troopers tripped over him, and knocked the woman from his grasp. She bolted up the trail between the palm trees and was out of sight by the time he’d gotten to his feet.
    Kerrigan took a long, slow look around. Deep blue ocean disappearing into a fog bank. Beach of white sand. Tropical forest.
    No dimensional door, of course. Damn the way they popped in and out. There was a reason they did that; he’d known it once. Damn his memory. Master Control had saved him from the fatal effects of the electrical shock that had scrambled his chip, but he knew he’d lost both programming and memory in the attack . . . he couldn’t even remember who had been attacking the Master that time.
    This time, the blonde woman had been the assassin.
    The heap of netting wiggled . . . his lieutenant, of course. _I dragged all three of them through. Ought to have let go of the net. Or had sense enough to not get near the D-door._
    His belt held his knife, which appeared to have split the sides of its sheath and turned into a short sword. His wooden club had shrunk by three quarters.
    The lieutenant was untangled and then helped to his feet. The net was easily triple the size it had been at home.
    Kerrigan looked at the three of them, looking around, wide eyed. “So, any of you have any experience with this Dimension?”
    Two shaken heads.
    The lieutenant looked baffled. “Dimensions? What?”
    Kerrigan sighed. The boy’s programing was worse than he’d feared.
    “Oooweee! Look at my knife!” One of the troopers had noticed.
    “That’s why we have weapons that are made of different materials.” Kerrigan spotted footprints and headed into the jungle. “Now concentrate on catching the assassin.”

  2. Oh, wait, you said coherant! Drat. 😉 I’m deep into the worst cyber punk imaginable, and those themes just fit right in . . .

  3. “Now Mother,” said Hayley, her voice stern as she rearranged a vase of serpent flowers by the grand entryway, “I want you to be kind to Ursulus this evening. He’s come a long way to see me. All the way from the Academia in fact.”
    Hayley’s mother, the Contessa Lugana, examined the lustre of her gracefully curved talons. “I think my claws need sharpening dear,” she said, ignoring her daughter’s remark. “See if you can get the swordsmith to come—”
    “Mother don’t be ridiculous,” Hayley snapped, clearly annoyed. “You only say things like that to get me angry, and it’s so pointless. I don’t have your gift for flying into uncontrollable rages. You won’t spoil this for me. I won’t let you.”
    A half smile tugged at the contessa’s crimson lips as she rose from her bed of tasselled cushions. “Oh, I don’t know Hayley,” she said, smoothing her skin-tight, sequined gown, before cupping her breasts and pushing them up and together to accentuate her already ample cleavage. “Sometimes you play right into my hands. I’ve heard the young man studies under Terburus. If he’s anything like that dusty old doormat we’re in for an evening of truly riveting conversation.”
    Hayley dropped the final serpent flower into place and turned toward the contessa, face falling slightly. “Must you wear that dress Mother? Honestly, it makes you look more like a streetwalker than a woman of means.”
    The contessa took a fluted glass of red wine from a side table and drank deeply before placing a hand upon her daughter’s slender shoulder and arching an eyebrow. “Would you prefer I take it off? I do so enjoy going naked when we have guests.”
    There was a knock at the door and a severing girl announced the arrival of Ursulus of the Academia.
    “Well, send him in, girl,” said Hayley. Then, to her mother, “If you ruin this for me, I’m going to cut the crotch out of every pair of underlaces you own.”
    “If you knew me at all my dear,” the contessa replied dryly, “you’d know that I don’t wear underlaces.”
    A young man, strong and tall, strode into the room, his brown toga brightened by a white sash decorated with three rubies, denoting his rank as understudy to great hero.
    “Ursulus!” said Hayley, feigning surprise. “I did not expect you to arrive so soon. Mother and I were just speaking of you. Come sit with me by the fire.” The young woman took Ursulus’ strong arm and led him to an intricately carved, and luxuriously upholstered, bench chair beside the roaring hearthfire.
    “You were speaking of me?” asked Ursulus in a surprisingly high-ptiched voice. “And what was the point of conversation? My work with the great hero Terberus I hope. I am soon to take over his role as King’s Hero, a position I desire above all others.”
    “My daughter,” said Contessa Lugana, curling herself up on the hearth, and leaning toward the boy so as to expose her upper bosom to its full extent, “was just telling me that you are a zombie apocalypse sceptic. Is it true?”
    Ursulus glanced toward Hayley, then back to the contessa. “Well, I study under Terberus the Great, and it is his firm belief that the zombie apocalypse can never happen.”
    “Of course it can’t,” said Hayley firmly. “The zombie population has been under control for hundreds of years.”
    “There will always be outbreaks of course,” Ursulus continued, gaining confidence from Hayley’s support. “But this is just natural variation. In ancient times, there were many more zombies than we have today. Everything moves toward its natural balance.”
    Contessa Lugana smiled, and it was an ugly thing to look upon. “What if I were to tell you, young man, that something is poised to upset the natural balance?” she said thickly. “What if I were to tell you that someone has been plotting for decades to sweep aside the magical barriers that hold the zombie population in check? That everything is about to change, and the old ways will no longer have any relevance?”
    Ursulus gasped, his eyes wide.
    “What if I were to tell you that Terberus and his heroes will no longer have any relevance?”
    Hayley shot to her feet. “Oh, Mother you haven’t? You didn’t?” Tears welled in her large, round eyes. She scooped up her mother’s wine glass and threw the liquid in her face. “This is so typical of you Mother! Why do you have to ruin everything?”
    “Don’t be so childish dear,” said the contessa, wiping her face. “I’m only doing it for you, so you’ll have an empire to inherit when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Don’t worry, your young hero will be safe enough,” she smiled coyly at Ursulus. “So long as he stays here…with us.”
    The young woman lunged toward her mother in a furious rage.
    “Hayley!” Ursulus cried, springing forward and gripping her arm. “Do not fear. Your mother’s insanity may destroy this world, but at the Academia, Terberus teaches of many words, similar to this one but also different. It is possible to escape to these places if need be. I will show you how.”
    “Oh Ursulus, can it be true?”
    “Hayley, I would never lie to you my love. Let us go, while there’s still time.”

    Que music
    Roll credits
    It’s a wrap…

  4. Quick sketch, but there’s at least two murphy’s laws (actually, all three, but you might not realize that this is a diversion yet). And advice for the auxes plus the evil empress all lead to the young couple skipping town, just ahead of the evil pursuers. With a moat and castle, you had better believe we are in low tech land! And as for inconsistent… wait, the characters will rebel soon. Oh, you want the story, too?

    Alll Snarlfed Up
    by Mike Barker (340 words)

    Colonel Hayworth blinked, then slowly slumped in front of his troops. His snore started before he even hit the ground.

    Top Sergeant Dee Lectable shook her head, and glared at everyone. Bad enough that they had green troops, but trying to run things with the only narcopleptic officer in the Great Army of the People’s Society falling asleep every few minutes was enough to drive most competent NCOs way over the brink. However, she also knew that for some reason, the top brass kept handing plum assignments like this latest job to the id… er, her commanding officer. So, she’d just make sure that even the greenest troops did the right thing.

    She barked, “Ten’hut! Medical detail, forward! The Colonel has decided to test your response to a breakdown in leadership. Now, let’s evacuate him and move out!” Four privates lifted the colonel on their shoulders and trotted to the shifter.

    She followed, picking up the movement orders from the ground where Hayworth had dropped them. As she trotted along, she scanned the orders. Where was the… oh, coordinates 938, 722, 488. She didn’t notice that the first 8 was really a zero, with an ant crawling across the page.

    So when she reached the shifter, she punched in the coordinates without hesitation. And when everyone was packed into the chamber, she punched the big green go button.

    There was the normal wavering twist in perception, with ears insisting that they heard a sound, eyes… well, blinded by the dark sounded silly, but that was still the best explanation, nose and tongue burning from a smear of scents and flavors, and skin that quivered as if they were stroked all over. And when it stopped, they looked across the moat of an unlikely castle. From the outside.

    WIth a young man and woman running frantically along the edge of the moat towards them, being chased by… a horseman with a spear? No, no, that was a centaur. Dee closed her eyes for a moment, then snapped out. “Company! Stop them!”

    to be continued…

    1. The CEO of the last company I worked for was about as useful as your Colonel Hayworth.

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