A damp friday flash

Yet again Chuck Wendig has put up the challenge and I felt obligated to meet it. This time around the random page on tvtropes was the method of action, and frankly this seemed more than a little cruel… it took me an hour to realise I’d bounced hopelessly away from my first decent pick(If you are unaware of tvtropes… pretend I didn’t mention it while you can). The trope I got was The Can Kicked Him, basically someone getting their ass kicked in, and with the fixtures of, a bathroom. Seeing the opportunity to make Ikumi’s story continue in an episodic fashion, I went with it and came out with Water(I do so suck at titles, still working on that). I hope you enjoy!

Water

Ikumi knew the attack was coming. There were always consequences when you welched on a deal, but she had to admit to being surprised that anyone would be foolish enough to try this with her. Frankly, she was tired of killing stupid people.

A little variety is all she asked.

But no, yet again she was being followed by several over muscled men in dark clothing, trying to fit into the environment and… doing quite well, actually. Only she knew everyone in this crapped out section of the city and for good reason: it belonged to her.

The Sunderers had pushed out everyone else. The people payed her protection and her gang followed through; even the police didn’t come near these days. Not that the place was run down, mind you. Ikumi saw to it that those that could pay, payed, and those who couldn’t were given a leg up. The area was quietly thriving, and her pockets were filling out nicely.

So she knew everyone in this part of town, and these guys didn’t belong. The people passing by knew it and the message would already have gotten through to the others, leaving no need for her to call. She wandered casually and without purpose, leading these fools on through the dirty streets she called her own, looking for a prime spot.

They had tried to take a shot, at first. Her armour had coalesced from nothing around her, the Nanites building faithfully as always in response to the stress pheromones floating about. So now they followed, waiting for her to end up in a corner, for her to lower her defences.

Ikumi smirked at the passers by and they grinned in return, knowing what would happen. She made a bee line for her favourite bar, but ignored the patrons and the drinks, heading instead for the bathroom.

She did so love the ring of skull on porcelain.

There were three, as it turned out. One covered the door as the other two followed her inside at a rapidly closing distance. She went to a stall, put the seat cover down, and sat heavily so they’d know she was vulnerable.

The heavy ‘chak’ of a gun being cocked, and not an expensive one at that. She put her hand to the wall, imagined it soft like confetti, and the nano’s went to work. Before they fired the first shot she was able to squeeze through a disintegrating hole roughly her own size and into the next cubicle.

Ikumi sat on the floor, head low as they unloaded into the stalls. The primitive bullets tore through the flimsy metal with ease, would have been a challenge for her lightweight armour, but nothing save ricochets hit her. A gun was strapped to her waist, a high end gobbler pistol, but it felt almost like cheating to use it.

As they reloaded she burst through the door. Magazines went everywhere as the men frantically tried to jam them home and she closed with a crazed grin on her unarmoured face. Gauntlets seized weapons and threw them aside as the men tried to grab for her, but her suit was slippery and she was quick, twisting out of the grunt’s grasp and breaking an elbow for the trouble.

The second attacker punched, she blocked with an elbow that tore his hand apart. Wrapping arms around his neck she brought him across to the sink and slammed his head into the taps. He went limp and she brought an elbow down on the back of his head as she turned away, just to be sure.

The first guy’s nanos worked quickly, his elbow nearly restored as he charged. Ikumi braced against the sinks and brought up both legs to kick him in the chest. He caught her and pulled, but she twisted and pulled back, straining on the sinks. A sharp heel bit into his chin and as he screamed in rage she pushed down with full force, sending him through the swiss-cheese door of a stall to slam against the wall. Breathing hard she found her feet and ran to him, bringing a knee to his face with the momentum of her run.

Slumping to the floor he groaned in confusion, so she grabbed his head, pulled him up, and slammed him into the toilet until the porcelain cracked.

The first shot barely grabbed her attention. The next shattered her left shoulder and made her howl with rage. Rolling away the following shots only peppered the man’s partner and the other stalls, allowing her to get a bead on the final attacker. But he left no opening and had an extended magazine, following her relentlessly through the room.

More hits to her armour and she knew she was losing, despite most being stopped a few found chinks and bit savagely. Ikumi ripped a sink out of the wall and used it as a shield for a moment, then threw it at him when he changed magazines.

The sink hit squarely in the chest and his arms flew out with the impact, then Ikumi was on him, punching with sharp gauntlets and head butting him with her helmet. She darted back as he struck out, tore a pipe from the wall and proceeded to shatter both of his arms.

Falling to his knees her attacker attempted to scrabble for the door but she broke his leg, then lined the pipe along his throat and pulled his head back. With a grunt and a twist she tied the metal around his neck, crushing airway, major blood vessels and fracturing his spine.

Ikumi stumbled to the bar, dripping wet, as patrons went to gawk. The Sunderers came in as she sat down, took a look at her and grinned before going to clean up the mess. The barman came over and asked what she wanted. She raised a hand, watched the drops fall with a smirk.

“Water. Just water”

“On the house” He replied, fetching her a glass.

This may become a habit

Ok so the friday flash challenge from last week on Chuck Wendig’s site was so much fun I went for another roll and came out with a mix of picaresque, nanopunk, a powerful weapon and a key made of bone. This sparked fairly quickly and I’m tempted to continue this little band’s story in the future. We shall see, as I think they deserve fleshing out but finishing other things must come first! (Which reminds me, I must add some more bits to Fragments and Echoes, there are longer things on the way)

Hope you enjoy Nullified

The gang rolled in as the always did. Louis and Magyar first, and loudest, going right to the bar. The triplets were next, all named Callie and finishing each others sentences, fishing for the best catch in the place whether it be man, woman, or anything in between. A pair came next, the two lieutenants Margo and Egan scanning the room as they went and staring hard at anyone with silly ideas; those that didn’t blanch outright always did a quick calculation and decided their drink was more interesting.

Always last came Ikumi. Leader of the gang by right and skill, and by the number of unfortunate fools left dead in her wake. She might have been beautiful but it was impossible to see through the grime, the self inflicted scars, the lightweight armour she wore from head to toe.

Jean had to speak to her. The woman made no sign as she went to the bar, but Jean could tell: Ikumi knew who watched her, always. Letting out a long sigh Jean got to her feet, noticing a path opening between her and the bare space next to Ikumi.

If she bore ill will to the leader of the gang, she suspected she would already be dead.

“So what do you want?” Ikumi’s voice was harsh coming through the angled metal of her helmet.

“To see who I am talking to, for a start” Jean signaled the bar tender, who was looking for a way out and shot her a dirty look as he came over.

“You ask me to expose myself? Really?” Ikumi turned to look at her with the blue eyes of her helmet. “Fine” Her head twitched to the side and the various plates that made up the helmet dissolved, retreating until there was only enough cover for the back of her head.

“Thank you. I have a proposal”

“You are welcome, you odd little thing. Speak”

And she did. Jean spoke for near an hour, and the bar got steadily emptier as the rest of the gang crowded around. Most of it at least, the Triplets were nowhere to be seen.

“So why exactly have you brought this to me?”

“Who else could get it done?”

A cruel smile crossed Ikumi’s face. “There were a few”

Breaking into the facility was relatively easy. Jean had never seen anything like the triplets though, the three of them seemed to move with one mind, moving and covering faster than could be done just on reaction time.

Callie dragged her out of the way as she watched, nearly getting herself shot. “Fool, don’t expect us to clean up your corpse”

“Sorry”

“Why are you so at ease with this, anyway? Didn’t you work with these people?”

Jean looked at her hands, more than mere flesh and bone, her deeds woven inextricably through them.

“It doesn’t matter, Callie, your sisters need you” Ikumi passed, a rifle in her hands, speaking between shots. She had clearly customized the weapon, the shots carving through the nano defences holding walls together with ease.

“But I-”

Callie spat blood as Ikumi went back to firing. She hadn’t even looked at her subordinate. The triplet went back to her sisters and as Jean watched they broke through one of the final doors, narrowly avoiding an ambush as the Callie that had spoken to her killed a guard who had been hiding.

Jean went to say something to Ikumi, but she had already moved on. The facility was built in an underground cavern, one huge building they had now fought through most of. Jean carried a gun, on her belt, and hadn’t fired a shot.

“We’re here” She said at last as the gang almost ran past an inconspicuous door, heading for a huge vault instead.

“Really?” One of the lieutenants asked.

Ikumi’s helmet retracted and she looked Jean in the eye. She knew if Ikumi made so much as the wrong noise she would die in an instant. But the leader just nodded and the gang went to work on the door.

They cursed and screamed in anger as they worked. Finally Ikumi combined fire with several of them to overcome the nanoweave holding the door together, but it was close.

Inside they found a set of simple work benches, an odd oblong of metal sitting on the one in the centre. Ikumi looked at Jean meaningfully as the majority of the gang set up defensively outside the room and the two of them went inside, a Callie along for the ride.

“How do we activate it?” She asked, not looking comfortable to be in the same room with it.

“We don’t need to here. Just take it” Ikumi said to Jean, scanning the room.

“We need to make sure it works! I don’t want to waste our biggest payday on a dud!”

Ikumi sighed heavily and nodded to Jean. Reluctantly she went to the device and inspected the surface, ensuring it was still as she had left it. She removed the anti tamper device that would have destroyed her creation, and tapped the side to open it.

The others watched intently as she pointed her right index finger at the device. Her nanites went to work, removing the flesh from bone and exposing her personal key. She winced and shoved her naked finger into the slot she uncovered and had to fight tears as the device thrummed with power.

“I give you the nano-nullifier”

A body was brought in. Ikumi fired the nullifier, and the body started disintegrating, the skin aging and falling apart before their eyes. Before long there was nothing but bones and clothes, and everyone murmuring in disbelief.

“Put it back on the bench” Ikumi commanded.

Everyone shouted as she aimed and fired at the nullifier, destroying it. She did the same for every data terminal.

“Why did you do that?” Callie asked.

“Because some things are worth more than pay. Let’s move”

Jean, on her knees, wept for joy as they trotted out. Ikumi stopped at the door and shouted her name.

“You can stay and die if you like. Or…”

Jean was up and through the door in a moment, gun in hand.

Having Wings part three: Cohen

Wednesday is here, and so Alicia sweeps back in for a landing. As she finds herself having to question everything that makes her who she is, Cohen is left with little option but to act as everything that he has been taught prescribes. More action, betrayal, wings that aren’t so useless after all!

Come take a look 😉

Part three: Cohen

Friday Flash

The writing kind, I assure you. I’m trying out Chuck Wendig’s Friday flash challenge this week since I came out with an interesting mix. Rolls of the dice were involved and genres are mixed rather randomly, and the word limit is 1000 words (ish). This story is a Grimdark fantasy Techno-thriller, has a mythological bird and a secret room! I’ll admit, cutting things down to this short is difficult for me, but I think this isn’t too bad, if a little light on the thriller aspect ^^’

Read on for What I am

Continue reading

Work it, make it, do it, makes us..

Daft Punk at O2 Wireless Festival, cropped fro...

Daft Punk at O2 Wireless Festival, cropped from larger photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do love daft punk, could you tell?

More than just being great music (mostly), daft punk is one of my go to groups for work music, hence the specific title. After I’d picked that line, I realised there was an extra meaning that I happen to like, but I’ll get to that in a bit. This post, like most, is about writing but, more than that, it’s about work in general and how I go about doing it.

I, like a lot of people, cannot work in silence.

I’m sorry to all those who prefer the silence, but my brain is not wired to be sat around with nothing happening, it’s just wrong and I will never understand you. I will make every effort to try, so long as it doesn’t interfere with work.

Now I’ll admit to having set myself up with a double edged sword here, if my favourite song comes on I’m bound to end up distracted, it’s not guaranteed and doesn’t happen every time but is a fairly safe bet. There is also the problem of playlists repeating and they always get tiresome juuust as something happens to get particularly irritating, or goes very wrong. These are the main downsides.

But the upside? Oh boy oh boy.

For me work cannot flow anything like it can with music on the go. Distractions? What distractions? They have to get over the music first and the music keeps me in rhythm and just working on through. How anyone can get anything done in silence, where the slightest noise inevitably has your utmost attention, is something I’m not even sure I want to know.

I’d like to think that comes from the super stressed out parent, keeping everything around the house silent in the desperate hope that the baby will go to sleep. And so they can only get to sleep in silence forevermore, and every new noise is frightening or at the least grabs attention.

You think it’s the noise that keeps babies awake and screaming on airplanes? Nope, that would be the air pressure, just like the rest of us their ears are hurting. If you really think a child can’t fall asleep without silence then you haven’t noticed kids asleep in prams, in cars or just napping on their parents chest walking down the street. Not to say you should be deliberately noisy around kids, of course, but just don’t make special arrangements; they were fine in the womb with all that noise, they’ll be fine now.

….That kind of got away from me. Point being: I believe silence is not something we should really expose ourselves to too much, we’re not adapted for it. I work in an office with ten servers the other side of an insufficiently thick wall, the only time I notice is when a server reboots (or dies, touch wood).

Anyway, to the main thrust of the post here: I like having music around, I think it suppresses the crap and allows more real thought through, making writing and working that much easier. Keep it varied and always skip to a different track where appropriate, and music can carry you through the day.

Metalwings’ post over at Distantrealms on music for stories, and characters, may have helped nudge some of these thoughts loose, but I can’t be sure 😉

On the line from Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: I’m reminded of just about every decent author/artist’s main point in how to be what they are: produce. Write, paint, strum that guitar, just stop talking about it (so much) and make it to the best of your ability. Work it, make it, do it, makes us: artists.

Also: stronger.

One more time now…

(For the three people out there who haven’t seen it yet: Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech: Make Good Art)

Having Wings Part two: Darren

So wednesday seems to be the choice for updating this particular story, though it may not be every wednesday, some of the later parts need revision. This time around Alicia has doubts, some about herself and some about others. Another battlefield and another acquisition, each is unique of course but this time around there may just be a surprise in store. We also get to see another Valkyrie, though he could stand to be a little more sympathetic.

I may end up putting this on tuesday serial, though I can’t be sure all the parts will be hovering around one thousand words, as this one certainly goes over, by five hundred. Oh well, enjoy!

Part two: Darren

Inspiration and Writer’s block

Inspiration is a funny thing. (How many posts have opened with this line? Probably too many)

Lots of people talk about it as though it’s nebulous and almost mystical, personally I don’t believe there’s that much special about it. I will admit it’s fickle (no, having an idea at 3 in the morning when I’m too tired to care does not help, dumb brain) but I’ve seen this used as an excuse, and I’m sure everyone has at some point. If you’re lucky inspiration will strike when you’re ready to write (or draw, act, whatever really) and the ideas will just flow and it can be a hell of a high. I think that’s where the idea that’s it’s something more magical comes from and that leads to the thought that without the magic moment, nothing can be done.

I reckon a lot of stories go unwritten because of this.

As it turns out, if you’ve written anything (or done anything creative really) you soon find that there is a lot of time where inspiration has taken a holiday, and carrying on feels like work. Because it is. But that’s not a bad thing, you can prod inspiration into working by just working through, stubbornly getting words down even if they’ re not very good(Related: if you like writing and haven’t tried Nanowrimo, go get an account and get ready, trust me on this). They can always be fixed later, after all, and you never know what you might trigger after a couple of hours of slogging.

This is related, in some way I think, to Writer’s Block. Which is something I’ve never suffered.

Yes, I can hear you laughing, just give me a sec.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to write and not been able to. I don’t attribute them to writer’s block because it never felt like a ‘block’. I’ve had plenty of lazy moments, tired moments or I just want to smash things in a game moments. But when I really focus on the task, I can always squeeze words out, no matter how stubborn they may be in coming. I’d guess the lack of inspiration can combine with whatever stresses a person is going through, leading to hopelessness and giving up on the writing, but again, I’ve never experienced it. But I could just be that stubborn

This is not, of course, the whole story. I asked Metalwings of Distantrealms for her opinion on this, and she pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. The block, I now suspect, can be as unique as the individual. What if, for example, the characters stop talking to you? They refuse to give up what they think, what they would say, how they’re feeling, so writing them feels wooden and just… wrong. In this case going back over everything about the character can induce the block to shift, but not always. Most of the time you have other characters as well, so you can just jump to someone else for a bit (Related 2, the Relatening: Scrivener is wonderful for this).

I’m sure there must be other ways words refuse to drop onto the page, but I will always recommend putting down whatever drivel is necessary to break through the block and fixing it later. Crappy metaphor time: It’s like tapping a well, you don’t drink until the water flows clear and cold, so you’ve got to keep chugging the crap out until it’s clear.

Wait, that was a simile. I think. Crap.

Have you experienced writers block? What was it like for you?