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Old 07-08-2005, 07:47 AM   #1
applecat
 
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A vast forest of white and faded green. Snowflakes glide gently towards the ground apparently oblivious to the glow of the yellow overcast sky in the horizon. The tranquil of the forest is invaded by the rustic sounds of trudging as tons of cold hard adamantuim pound relentlessly into the snow.

Off a beat, the intercoms sizzle to life as a voice speaks.

"Troubled times," mummured Jason 'Tanner' Ryes into the mic, "That's the sixth casualty we've had this week."

"Yeah," Marcus 'The Wolf' Chin sighed as he said it. "Jenny's squad got hit yesterday, I heard-but she's okay," he quickly added.

"No shit?" Jason exclaimed, slightly amused. "Who'd have expected anyone dumb enough to take on a S13 Class Behemoth pilot and- who else was with her?"

"Ginger and Starboy," Marcus said solemnly.

"Starboy?" Jason's eyebrows raised a little. "That fucking rookie's always hanging around Jenny acting like he's another S13 officer. One day I'm going to call him out and school his ass," he said, ending his sentence with a blast from his Tachyon Bender Cannon into the hazy evening sky.

Aside from the wind's hoarse whisper, nothing else seemed to care. Then all around the vicinity, birdlike creatures fly off in one calibrated movement. Their squawkings echoed into the distance.

"What the hell did you do that for!" Marcus yelled over the channels, his voice beyond panic. "You'll fucking get us spotted, you dumbass!"

"Hey, hey," there was a sublime hint of threat in Jason's voice, "Chill man, nobody's going to be out here in this sector. You think, what?" he snorted, "That someone's gonna be lying in wait here to ambush us?"

A nervous chuckle.

"It's way off the trade routes, Marky, hell, it's way off from anywhere."

Marcus seemed to choke for a second.

"Yeah. Yeah, you're right Jace, sorry man," Marcus replied as his voice trailed off.

When he remained silent Jason decided to he'd been too hard on his friend. "Hey, there's nothing to be sorry about. We're bros remember. Life and death. If one of us' got to go, we go together." A pause, then, "And when I get back to base, I'm gonna give that Bryan a piece of my mind for sending us out here into the Valorien. It gets so fucken boring out in this empty shithole. This should be those rookie jobs, not ours! Ahh, man, life sucks."

Marcus cleared his throat. He spoke, but it did not seem much of an effort, "Life, eh?"

"Hey, man, what's with that tone. You've been like this for the past fucking week. You used to be wild, man, but now... look at you..."

Suddenly, Jason's tone changed. It became hard. Cold.

"Jesus. Snap out of it man, we've got a sector to patrol."

They piloted along the path in silence for a while before making a right. Orange brown trees and bushes covered with snow fluttered aside as the two in their Mechanized Combat Units brushed their way into the undergrowth.

"Jace?" Marcus' voice pierced the silence. There was an undertone of uncertainty in the way he said it.

"Mmm, yea?"

"Y'know, I was thinking," he said, pausing as though he weren't sure if he should continue but he did. "Like, maybe there's more... more to life than this."

Jason knew his comrade would blurt <i>it</i> out sooner or later. He knew Marcus well enough and he had been observing the change in his friend for some time.

"It's Jenny, isn't it? That stupid bitch got to you right?"

Straight to the point.

"You've been bringing her up in almost every conversation we've had!"

Everything was a brittle matter especially when it involved Jason. Marcus knew what happened the last time he tried to bring in anything about life into a topic. Even so, he had to reply.

"Look, Jace, I... I don't know what's come over me man, I-I think I'm in love with her."

It didn't take Jason a heartbeat to react. "What the fuck are you talking about! You don't even know who the fuck she is. Hell, you've never even met her!"

"I have," Marcus croaked weakly in between stutters. "I didn't tell you, but we did meet up. During the Genserra incident? In sickbay? We talked. She found me funny. Then... I went out with her last Thursday. To a club. We danced and talked. I think she feels the same way."

"Genserra? The revolt in the Novite Sector?"

"The one where you nearly got us all killed."

Jason was silent for a moment. When he spoke next, his tone was heavily laden with spite. "So this is why you asked Bryan to send us out here today, eh, buddy of mine?"

"What- I, no, I didn't- I-"

"I saw the logs, you bastard. You're quitting out on me, aren't you? Bros, huh. Worthless fucking quitter."

"Christ! Listen to me, Jason, I-"

"NO, YOU LISTEN TO ME MARCUS, YOU FUCKED UP, SO JUST BE A MAN AND ADMIT IT. You wanna quit the academy, don't you?"

A pause.

"I.."

Nearby a strange looking bird veered its ugly head towards Jason's MCU and got promptly pushed aside. There was perfect radio silence now, and only the trudging and bristling of undergrowth reminded Jason he was still there in the Velorian.

"Man," he said matter of factly, "Frontier patrol sucks."

The mounting tension seemed to have been washed away in that one sentence. The communications channel was still open but Jason said nothing more. Only the slow breathing and rhythmic pulsing of his heartbeat accompanied the two pilots as they navigated through the foilage.

"Jason?" Marcus finally voiced out, no longer able to stand the overbearing silence.

"Fuckoff," came the reply.

Marcus sighed in reflief.

"So what's her bra size?" the voice came again.

That's Jason for you.

"It's a C," Marcus said, smiling end to end.

"Holy shit, that's damn fucking fine!"

The sky seemed to brighten considerably as they trudged along. Small blips and a light buzzing sound from Jason's console indicated that he had already used up half his fuel. The intercom came to life once more.

"Actually, Jace, there's another reason why I wanted to get you out here today."

"Yeah? I'm listening."

"Look man, you're always training so hard I rarely see you around the block anymore. You don't even answer your calls."

Jason continued to listen. Quietly.

"Jace... I saw your mom the other day," Marcus said wearily. When he did not reply, Marcus went on, "She says she misses you."

Again, no reply.

"You still haven't settled things with her have you? Look, it was her birthday last Sunday. We went over and got her a cake. Lisa even made her a card. I tried to call you didn't pick up. You weren't at base either when I asked the others."

"Was in the Vivien sector doing some recon," Jason said in a brief gruff voice. "Critical mission."

"Christ! C'mon man, you've got to visit her some time. I heard her crying again last night."

"Fuck that bitch." Jason said with contempt. "She doesn't understand how important it is for me to pass the trials this year. If we fail again this time, we'll have to wait another year. Then we can't join the tournaments."

"Man, you need to give it a rest. What about your mom? She's all you have," Marcus said wearily. "Look, she even bought you this star locket. She said iit's for good luck. You wanna come by and get it from me?"

"No fucking way, Mark," Jason snarled. "You goddamned know that the trials are just two months away. I don't want to be a class 4 Grunt anymore, I need to be up there, with the elites. Jesus, you know how important this is."

Then, remembering the earlier dialogue with Marcus, "To me, at least."

Overhead, Jason watched sulkily as a large clump of snow fell onto the hood of his MCU which melted off quickly as they continued moving deeper into the forest. Over the intercom, Marcus' voice blared.

"That's the damn problem with you, Jace. It's always this trials shit. You're taking this way too seriou-"

"And who the fuck are you to tell me about that? Who pulled me into this mess? Remember when I was still in the sports team? I quit because you told me how great it was to ride around in these fucking metal tin cans racing across asteroids. Now that I'm hooked, you're telling me to quit it? Just what the fuck are you trying to say?!"

Marcus seemed to recoil. "Now-now look here, Jace, what I'm trying to say is, you've got to come back to reality sometimes. There are things that matter more than the trials. You've got to set your priorities right, man."

"Like Jennifer, eh?"

Marcus could not answer.

"Fuck!" was all Jason could muster.

The snow seemed to thicken. Overhead the sky was had darkened leaving the black desolate space above with faint traces of yellow glaring down on them. Jason peered hard into the screen, his eyes beginning to water. It was rare that he ever got this angry at his best friend.

Wait a minute.

His eyes widened. Quickly he scanned to the lower left corner of his view at a small intersection between two bushes. He thought he saw the familiar glint of golden yellow. Or had he?

"Oh shit," he hissed into the mic. His eyes darted around back as he scanned the surroundings behind, pulling his MCU to a sharp halt, the ozone pouring out of his MCU as the gears shifted in pressure.

"What the hell?" he heard Mark cry out across the channels.

Their radars beeped erratically.

"MARAUDERS!" they both cried in unison.

In an instant, small mechanical bipeds began darting out from all directions, their thin spindly legs a whirring blur of movement. Tiny birdlike claws protruded from the bottom of their feet and their round bodies bobbed up and down in sync with their footsteps.

"Marcus! Full evasive," Jason yelled through the mic in his best commanding voice yet. "FULL EVASIVE DAMMIT"

"I'M TRYING! SHIT! ONE OF THEM GOT ON MY ARM!" Marcus shouted in between grunts. "GET OFF ME YOU BASTARDS!"

The floor trembled as the pounding of footsteps increased. Jason spun round to see several Marauders gaining on Marcus . One of them was on his MCU's right arm clawing at the Tachyon Bender. Several more were drawing close.

"JASON! HELP ME! FOR GOD'S SAKE SHOOT THE THING OFF"

"FUCKING HOLD STILL I ALMOST GO-"

A Marauder crashed into the side of Jason's MCU ripping out the floodlights in the process. The controls fizzled and sparks of electricity flew around. His view frame shook and the pod flashed a dangerous red.

"What the f-" Jason whispered to himself as all warning lights flared simulaneously.

As he regained balance, he realized that the same Marauder had latched itself onto him by digging its claws into the MCU's right hood. Pulling it off seemed futile and at the corner of his eye, another was advancing towards him.

<i>We're going to die</i>, a little voice said in Jason's head.

At that moment, Marcus let out a piercing scream and it was then, that something at the back of Jason's mind snapped.

"No." he told himself in a whisper. "NOOOOO!"

Jason's entire body trembled as the adrenaline gushed into him like a towering tidal wave; his spine tingled with a sensation he had never experienced before. Both arms were back at the controls rapidly and yet strangely they were calm and precise unlike the rest of his body.

"YOU'LL NEVER GET ME YOU BASTARDS!" he screamed into the microphone as he whipped his MCU into a frenzy.

Like a man possessed, his movement became a flurry, but he dispatched the Marauders with blood chilling efficiency; at first by crushing the Marauder that clung onto his hood, tearing it off in the process, slamming it into another Marauder that had lurched at him and finally taking out the third one still in mid jump with his Tachyon Bender.

"Fuck!" Marcus sobbed across the channels. "IT FUCKING RIPPED MY ARM OFF!"

Jason whirled his MCU around in time to see Marcus staggering towards him, a stump of wires and cables, spurting Duranium everywhere in the process..

Two Marauders, one, standing defiantly atop the torn arm; were readying for another jump and Marcus did not look like he could last another attack.

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" Jason whispered unconciously.

Instinct too over. His arm latched onto the nearest branch and ripped it off with a mighty snap. His eyes were still on the Marauders. There was still time.

The Marauders were closing in.

His heartbeat increased to a distinct thumping sound that rang into his ears and he charged forwards, fingers on the controls so hard he could hear the panel breaking up.

"Come on!" Jason's mind screamed out to him.

The thumping continued. Loud. LOUDER.

The first Marauder was almost upon Marcus' MCU.

"Jason," he heard a faint gasp over the channels or was it a voice at the back of his mind. He couldn't be sure.

A vein bulged by the side of Jason's head. There was only one chance.

Hold. Hold. Hold.

Just a little more.

Hold. Hold...

The surroundings became a blur as his entire focus was on that one exact spot where the branch and Marauder would meet.

The radio crackled. There was a loud bang, something broke.

"JASON, BEHIND YOU!"

A hand came down on his left shoulder.

Terror siezed Jason. With inhuman speed he spun around, controls held fast in both hands, and with the same deadly precision, he struck.

There was the resounding crack as his swing connected followed by the sounds of metal and steel crashing to the floor. For a moment time seemed to stop and at that moment, the silence, save for his breathing, was the most relieving and comforting sound in the world.

And then, Jason looked at the floor.

On the monitor screen, a sharp spindly leg pierced through the side of Jason's MCU and it exploded, fire and smoke filling the entire view. There was just a second left for him to eject, but Jason did not do it.

"Jason," Marcus was calling out through the noise. "Jason, are you alright?"

Jason heard his call, but it became faint and soft, as the sound of the explosion had. Marcus called out again, but this time his voice was merely a sizzle, coming out of the Sennheiser headset that Jason held in his arms.

The monitor continued to flicker, emitting an ambient blue glow that lit the small dark room that Jason now stood in. An orange light source from outside an open door blended with the blue filling the room with a sense of depressing loneliness.

The rich urban sounds of the streets below became audible and clearer as they filled his earlobes. Above him, the ceiling fan squeaked, turning at it's own pace, oblivious to the events that had just taken place.

Marcus' concerned voice, this time louder, continued to bark from the headset but Jason remained frozen on the spot. His heart pounded away. A little more and it would burst.

He felt a wet sensation as something warm crept along the base of his feet, and he lifted it to step back, hearing the sick sound of something soft slump to the floor. His body arced back, allowing the monitor's glow to fall on figure that lay before him.

"Mom?"

A nervous chuckle.

"Mom?"

Realization.

"Fuck."


***


CLICK.

"Welcome to Shatterstar Online, the worlds best selling MMORPG that pits you, as a regular joe deep into the Shatterstar Universe where you fight your way to fame, glory and gold!"

"Explore fully interactive 3D worlds choose from vast arrays of vehicles and a seemingly limitless combination of weaponery to assist you in your battles. Form alliances and clans with other players and participate in wars or even solo in dueling tournaments that are held every month for REAL CASH PRIZES."

CLICK.

"Here is an excerpt from an interview with Marcus "Wolfsbane" Chin, three time world champion of internation dueling events including the sensational War At Vegas Invitational Tournament and the recent Duel Or Die held during the Electronics Entertainment Expo:

<i>'Shatterstar is not just a game. It's a lifestyle. People used to relate computer games with geeks and nerds but that's a thing of the past. When I'm not out chilling with my girlfriend, I'm logged on to the universe to fulfil my duties whether it's to defend some innocent civilians or practicing with my clanmates for the next month's tournament. The game is so real sometimes, people tend to mistake the game with real life. And some have.'</i>

CLICK.

"Over 2 million registered players from around the globe and 2000 servers to contain the 'universe', Shatterstar is simply THE GAME to play, whether its for a good time, or professionally like Marcus Chin does."

CLICK.

"Alright, sweetie. Time's up," a perk voice, called out.

The youth looked up.

A blonde girl with her hair tied up in bun wearing white uniform appeared from behind him. She looked somewhere in her mid twenties, and was strikingly beautiful.

"Come on, hon. Time to go back to your room," she said lifting up a folded wheelchair and showing it to the youth as though she was advertising the chair.

"Here, let me help you," she said as she unfolded the chair and supported the youth onto it.

"So you've been surfing that website again, haven't you?" she said it in a tone a mother would have said been reprimanding her young son for playing with matches.

Blank stare.

Her frown turned into a warm smile as she ferried him across a set of white corridors. She arrived at a commonroom and parked him there and attended to a black lady behind the counter. There was a commotion coming from the flat screen television hung on a pillar.

A crowd of people surrounding a young boy in his late teens, pestering him with cameras and video recorders.

"Tell us, Marcus, what is the secret of your success?"

"There's no secret to it. It takes alot of dedication and alot of practice to get where I am now. And some talent helps, of course," the lad ended with a wink.

The crowd roared again.

"Is it true that Jason Ryes, who was a close friend of yours killed his own mother because of the game? What do you think of it? Do you think such games are a factor to the voilence in today's youth?"

"No comments, ma'am, I think you should let that matter rest. I also think that we shouldn't blame the games for what happens to players. If that was really the case, we'd have two million homicide cases by now, wouldn't we?" he said with a chuckle.

"If not the games, what do you think caused young Jason to act like that?"

"Ma'am, I don't think I need to repeat myself that I don't want to discuss about Jason. If you really want to know, Jason lacked the kind of focus it takes for someone to really succeed at the game. He was too... absorbed, with himself."

"One last question about Jason, Marcus, is it true that Jason would have been a strong contender to your Rookie of the Year award? Various sources spouted that he was an excellent player and if circumstances were different, he could be in your place now."

There was an uproar of boos and hisses. The lad's eyes narrowed considerably.

"It's okay, I can answer that. With all due respect, sir, I don't know where you get your sources from, but Jason is nothing compared to me. I started duelling long before he even arrived on the scene. Admittedly, he picked the game up very quickly but even if he was still around today, I would still beat him like all my other opponents at Vegas last month; easily."

"Hey," a nurse with brunette hair called out from behind. "Isn't that... you're..."

"Yeah," the blonde girl said, turning around, having finished with the documents. "He is."

"Wow, it was all over the papers. I never knew he was here," the brunette said. "He can't walk?"

"Nope," the blonde said, giving the youth a sympathetic frown. "He lost his voice as well. The doctors say it was because of the shock but he hasn't recovered."

"Oh," the younger girl said remorsefully. "That's too bad. He's kinda cute... and I heard he was really, really brilliant."

"Yeah. Well, mind you, he can hear everything you're saying," she said with a glaring expression. "And he understands every single word."

"He just doesn't show it," the blonde said as she twisted her lips upwards. "But I know one day he'll be fine."

The youth continued to stare blankly at the floor. There was the slightest trace of any movement on his face.

"Is he... dangerous?"

The blonde rolled her eyes.

"What do you think?"

She didn't wait for a reply though and ferried the youth away leaving the nurse dumbfounded back at the counter.

"There you are," the blonde said as she helped the youth onto his bed. "Now you just sit here and try to relax. I'm going to get your pills, mmkay?"

She looked at him both hands on her hips, expecting some sort of response.

"Here," she finally said as she crossed the room, "you can listen to some musi-. Oh, it's Larry Whitemore! I soo love his voice! Alright, you be good now, I'll be back in a jiffy!"

With that she was gone, leaving the youth alone in the dark.

As the door closed, the youth remained motionless with the same robot expression. The sounds of the outside died down and the voice of Larry Whitemore filled the void with a moving piece.

On the hill, away and away
She is watching me each passing day
I can see her standing there
She's waving her hands in the air
Waiting for the day that I return...
to the stars

It became apparent now that the youth's gaze was fixed a small table at the other end of the room. A small star shaped chain necklace lay there in a crumpled heap, it's smooth surface glinting, reflecting off the small ray light from an exposed portion of the closed curtains.

The youth remained motionless still, but tears began to well up under his eyes. His lips trembled uncontrollably and made a slight up and down movement as though he was trying to speak.

"Shu-" he tried to speak, the tone coming out all wrong.

"Shuattestarr," he managed to utter.

The room darkened considerably as clouds blocked out the sun. In the darkness of the cell, the youth clicked his tongue and tried again.

"Sh-Shattterstarrrr."

His hand clenched into a fist suddenly slammed at a nearby table, causing the contents; a jug and several glasses, to fall.

"Shatterstarrrr," he said with a slur.

His whole body trembled and then he was on his feet again.

"SHATTERSTARR!" he screamed, the word becoming clearer now.

"Oh God, somebody, get the doctor," a small voice whispered. The blonde girl had returned with a tray in her hands.

And then Jason remembered what had happened. He remembered the marauders. He remembered Marcus screaming over the channels. He remembered the rush of adrenaline and the sudden spur of movements beside him. He remembered his mother and how he left home without telling anyone where would be. He remembered that only one person knew where he currently lived.

Last edited by applecat : 07-15-2005 at 07:13 AM. Reason: Fixing some stuff
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Old 07-08-2005, 03:05 PM   #2
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You just got added to my 'people who know how to write on wc3c' list (which isn't that long).

I liked it. Heck, I loved it. It had pretty much all of the elements of a short story all there. It was twisted wondefully, it had some great character development and no grammatical errors, amoung other things. I do have two small complaints though. One is that you'd continue a dialog with the two characters for a long time, but not use their names more then sparesly, so I'd find it kind of confusing what character was who.

Second is that it could do with some better descriptions. For instance, Marauders hardly got more description then bideps with spindly legs - so it's kinda left open to the readers interpretation (which generally isn't a good thing). Indeed, I don't think there's more then 2 straight sentences of description anywhere in the story up to the Realization part, which might have something to do with the style, but I have a tendency to like more description then less.

Anyways, I'm going to give it a 9/10, I could only find a few small technical errors wrong with it but overall it's a great story with great twists (that everyone loves ;))
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Old 07-11-2005, 05:42 PM   #3
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Hey john, very glad you liked it. I admit I was writing from an action point of view and assumed the marauder description would have sufficed. Maybe it was the Marauder name (I just picked it on the fly with out proper consideration) that is to blame. I think adding in further descs might ruin the action so I'll just describe a marauder here.

Think of it as a small round mechanical bipod robot with birdlike/raptorlike legs and sharp claws as feet.
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Old 07-13-2005, 03:46 PM   #4
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Nice. Reminds me on .Hack, the first version. I liked the twist of the story, though i would of liked somethings explained, but i guess we can always get what we want. I also liked the short character development.

Still, i like if you refined your style. I liked your dialogues, but you descriptions can use some work. You can create a more defined world, if you writing a story like this.

EX. ( A vast forest of white and faded green. Snowflakes glide gently towards the ground apparently oblivious to the glow of the yellow overcast sky in the horizon. )

You can just add some more words, and create a more visual world. :)
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Old 07-15-2005, 02:35 PM   #5
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I don't visit this section much, I jsut read the piece and thought it was most excellent.
Like johnfn said, there are technical errors here and there, but the structure was good. I didn't have too much trouble with descriptions, but I did have to piece together some things (like the marauder).

Overall, good story, loved the twist.
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