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Zero's Weekly Vignette

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Negative Zero, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Uh oh, what’s Zero doing this time? Another project? Is he drawing more Pokémon beside Accelgor, or finally getting around to recording the second episode of his podcast, more self-teaching beatboxing, or Ninja Warrior training? While all of those are still happening, the answer this time is none of the above! Zero is writing!

    I fancy myself an amateur writer, but there are two things I have yet to get good at. Well, there are a lot of things I have yet to get good at, but two things I want to practice here: writing disconnected short stories, since I mostly write larger novel-like projects; and writing things far removed from my comfort zone and experience, specifically foraying into light-hearted and slice-of-life topics. And I know just the tool for that!

    WavePearl’s awesome weekly prompts! Just like I’m drawing a few quadrillion Accelgor because I’m trying something new, except this thing will be a lot less arduous and a lot more fun. Starting in my next post, I’m going to put these ideas into short stories for my own wants and needs, as well as for any commentary you may wish to add. And I'm going to do my best to keep up with it every week (though I am a busy man).

    I'm going to call these short stories vignettes, but that's mostly because I like how that word sounds (and Vigilance will have to pry this word out of my cold, dead hands to use it for himself). I'm going to aim for less than 1000 words, just a nice five-minute read, maybe way less than that if I can just make it some good, condensed prose. Maybe I'll even try to write something entirely in meter and rhyme?

    Feel free to comment here or to collect all your prompted stories in a thread of your own, like a portfolio of what you can do from on-demand prompts!

    It begins!
     
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  2. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Your character ordered something, and today it came in the mail. What was it that they ordered? Is it everything they thought it would be?

    "All right Rapidash, Bounce again! I know you can get more airtime!" Malcolm called to his Pokémon, dashing all around the dry badland field. "I want you to be able to completely dodge a Surf. I believe in you!"

    Rapidash ran another loop and jumped thirty feet into the air, landing hooves first on a straw-filled dummy of a Poliwrath.

    "Excellent, that's better than last time," he sighed, "but forty feet would be even better," he added as his phone rang in his pocket. "What's up."

    "Mal, did you order something?"

    "Sure, I ordered breakfast at the cafe this morning. But I already got that."

    Monica's sigh of frustration came across the phone as a wall of wind and static. "I mean in the mail."

    Malcolm resisted the urge to comment on just how off-putting mail-order breakfast would be. "No? Did you check the name on it?"

    "It's just our address."

    Malcolm hesitated for a moment. What if it was something secret? Or embarrassing? Or blackmailable? For either of them? An opportunity to play offense or defense like that should not be passed by.

    "If you're not here in five minutes, then I’ll take it all."

    Malcolm whistled to Rapidash. "Are you ready to set a new land speed record!" He said it loud enough for Monica to overhear, then ended the call. “Let’s go!”

    ---

    Monica sat at the short table in the main room of the flat, scissors in hand in front of the mysterious cardboard box, about 24 inches cube and mostly lightweight. She glanced at her watch on the inner side of her wrist. "Close enough." She stabbed gently through the gap in the box's top with the closed scissors, and started tearing through tamper-evident threads.

    The doorknob twisted to let Malcolm into the suite. "Four minutes and forty five seconds." He said, holding up a timer on his phone, showing its display to his sister, rapidly approaching the five minute mark. "Four minutes. Forty five."

    "I said I would take it in five minutes. I said nothing about resisting opening it." She said, only slightly condescendingly.

    "Yeah, okay." Malcolm said, plopping down on the opposite side of the low table. He watched as Monica finished cutting the tape across the top of the box, then pulled it away from her and closer to himself to peek inside secretly. He stared into the dark interior intensely.

    "Your face right now." Monica commented flatly. "So, what is it?"

    Malcolm lowered the lid, looking confused. "This must be yours." He pushed the box across the table.

    Monica hesitantly lifted the lid of the box and unfolded its top item. A long, low-thread-count pillow at least six feet long unrolled. On one side it was blank, and on the other side was a silk-screened image of a suave man with a sharp, smiling face framed by locks of shining dark hair and impeccable fashion sense, minus the shirt. "Uh, no, this isn't mine."

    "You sure?" Malcolm asked. "Professor Sycamore is quite a man, I can admit that."

    "Not. Mine." Monica closed the discussion. She put the pillow face-down on the floor beside the table and reached into the box for the next parcel. A stout glass bottle topped with a silver sprayer. "Eau de Gible..." She read, then sniffed an attached card. Her face wrinkled with disgust, nose and forehead and eyes all clenching at the smell. She exhaled sharply and put the bottle back down.

    "Clearly this isn't your order or mine." Malcolm whispered. "How about we box this all back up, find a phone number to call--"

    A frantic knocking on the door. "Are you going to get that?" Monica asked, rifling through the rest of the box’s contents.

    Malcolm sighed. He strode to the door and opened it just a crack. "Oh, Professor Palm. Always nice to see you." He said as he tried his best to keep from nervously spilling the secret. He stood strategically in the doorway to block her view inside entirely.

    “Professor-assistant, and good afternoon to you also. I’m afraid I’m in a spot of trouble.” She explained, trying to stand on toes to look over Malcolm’s shoulders, her petite figure unable to look beyond him. “I ordered a package online and was notified it was delivered, but it is nowhere to be seen. By chance, did you encounter anyone ambling off with a sealed box in the past quarter-hour?”

    Malcolm froze, and Monica pulled the door open out of his grip. “Did you consider calling about replacement policy?” Monica asked Palm, avoid a lie about having gotten the package mistakenly.

    “Yes, but I’m worried about...” She trailed off and Malcolm looked back into the now-opened room. The table was clear and everything from the package was out of sight. “Yes, I suppose I will. Thank you for the recommendation. Have a pleasant afternoon, you two.” She crossed the hall to her flat directly across the way.

    They closed the door. “Where’s the box?” He asked tensely, circling around the room. “Did you already pack it all up?”

    Monica’s face was flush. “We’re sending it back.” She said so quietly.

    “Why don’t we just give it to her right across the hall?”

    She turned to a corner of the room. “I can’t meet her.” She cupped her hands over her face and shuffled out of the flat and outside.

    Malcolm was left alone in the flat. He saw something left behind under the table, so he bent down to examine it more closely. “Oh.” He paused and pulled back his hand. “Ohhhh.”

    I’m recycling the names of Malcolm and Monica from a previous project I had that never got off the ground, but they’re otherwise original characters. Maybe I’ll reuse them in future prompts? Anyway, this is my first attempt at something that’s entirely slice-of-life. I’ve done slices of life in bigger epics, but never something standalone. I think it turned out okay for a first attempt at the genre.
     
  3. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Rebuilding from the ground up.

    I wrote some haiku, and read them aloud as well. All in type order.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    NORMAL

    Rebuild from zero.
    Eighteen portraits of rebirth.
    None are quite normal.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    FIRE

    This blaze destroys all.
    Consuming green, leaving black.
    In its wake, new life.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    FIGHTING

    Broken skeleton.
    Growing back even stronger
    Mending after pain.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    WATER

    Life follows the stream.
    Desolate, dry savanna.
    Herds come with the rain.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    FLYING

    Sky above the earth.
    Stars and space beyond the sky.
    Cosmos in nothing.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    GRASS

    City abandoned.
    Trees and vines creeping back in.
    Nature will reclaim.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    POISON

    A cure for the bite.
    Antidote from the venom.
    The good with the bad.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    ELECTRIC

    Life primordial.
    Protein, amino, glucose;
    and electric spark.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    GROUND

    New land is a gift.
    Respect what it has and gives.
    It survives past you.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    PSYCHIC

    The mind was empty
    able to hold so much thought.
    it started to fill.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    ROCK

    From clay into brick,
    and from bricks into cities.
    On and of the earth.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    ICE

    Frozen, preserved, still.
    Awakened in a new frame.
    Overcoming time.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    BUG

    Locusts swarm a plague.
    Stalks and trees are left ravaged.
    Now to sow new seeds.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    DRAGON

    Impossible foe.
    Countless losses, just one win.
    Stronger from the fight.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    GHOST

    The body perished.
    This ghost chooses to linger.
    New life after death.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    DARK

    Learning from evil,
    how to be good and righteous.
    Rising from the pit.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    STEEL

    Those weapons destroy,
    it is right they should rebuild.
    Swords into plowshares.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    FAIRY

    Forgotten story,
    though the elements remain.
    Rewritten lost love.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~​

    You know I like haiku, and you know I like Pokémon. So I put them together: each of these is a flash vignette story about making something new from something related to destruction or emptiness (rebuilding from the ground up), themed on each and every type. I took some liberties on some types, but what did you do today?

    I apologize for sounding wet-mouthed, especially in the first haiku. It's difficult for me to re-record due to hardware. I really should buy a 3.5mm microphone so I can do this directly into my computer. I put all these together in about an hour, and I'm rather proud of myself. My reading and voice acting will be so much better once I can get instant feedback instead instead of a three-minute-delay while I transfer files.
     
    #3 Aug 7, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
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  4. Laserdragon14

    Laserdragon14 Dragon Maverick Hunter

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    Poké Ball ★Trainer Card - Cave ThemeLucarionite ★★★★Legendary Triforce ★★
    idk much about haikus but I do like it. (Sorry that I couldn't be helpful)
     
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  5. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    This is the boiled version down version of what a haiku is, as I answer all of my Q&A answers (with two exceptions: I've answered a few questions for JTM in iambac tetrameter and one recent answer in free-verse prose) in this format and sometimes speak spontaneously like this in Discord and in life. It is a very short poem whose style started in Japan and which consists of three lines; the first of which has five syllables, the second has seven, and the last also has five (see also: my forum signature). There are also tanka, which are five lines of syllables 5-7-5-7-7. Both of these are supposed to always be about nature, and the last line of a haiku or the last two lines of a tanka are supposed to be separate in perspective from the first portion, a set of rules I almost always break when going off the cuff, but which I stuck to more truly here. Most of these here are about nature in some way, and I tried to go bad-bad-goodor thing-thing-otherthing in most of them, with the bad being destruction or emptiness and the good being the rebuilding of the prompt.

    These are among my first honest haiku that do more than proper line separation and syllable count, having a theme of nature (usually) and two distinct images per, such as a wildfire and the new vegetation growing, or a dry grassland hosting life again when the wet season arrives (those blessed rains down in Aaaafricaaaa). Most of my haikus are just the rhythm, like when I'm going to work and I spontaneously say "Traffic is so bad. How does it even happen? Let's just keep driving!" Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.

    Edit to the haiku themselves: I added the type before each one to make that more clear.
     
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  6. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    #339: Your characters stay up late--are they doing it for fun (such as a slumber party or a night on the town) or is there a reason (such as late night maintenance, noisy neighbors, a medical emergency, or plain old insomnia?)

    1: This is autobiographical down to pretty fine detail. Some things might be out of order, since everything blends together in such monotony. The reason I'm posting it today, August 23 2018, is because this story ended a year ago today: August 23 2017.
    2: This isn't about sleeplessness, but sleeplessness does play a role in the situation. There was a long time in my life when I slept through the night maybe once per month... glad those nights are gone.
    3: A catheter is not only the thing that helps people with some medical conditions pee, but also a similar flexible tube thing that can be inserted into a vein so doctors don't need to poke a new hole in a patient so, so many times during a lengthy hospital stay. It will stay poking into you just semi-permanently there for however long its needed, just poking out of your arm/leg/whatever.

    I was considering reading this also like an audiobook, but meh. On with the story.

    He’s rolled into the hospital, somehow hurried too much and too little. He pushes himself to his feet to register at the desk, groaning his identification and symptoms. He’s rushed through the ER and into a bed, grateful that he hit his limit on a quiet Thursday morning with an empty waiting room and with empty beds. A phlebotomist plugs a catheter into his arm, its flexible tube hardly noticed in his elbow. An IV bag is attached. It drips. It drips. It flows, nearly a stream with how rapidly he drinks the saline directly into his blood. Minutes later a nurse comes and hooks up a new bag, a nearly seamless transition, though he insists he can see air bubbles in the line.

    “On a scale to ten, how’s your pain?” She asks.

    “Seven.” He stammers. “And a half. Eight. But five is a constant state of being for me, so,” he breathes deeply, “so whatever.”

    They debate about giving him painkillers. She, pushing the drug; and he, resisting it. Eventually he allows a small dose, and never notices its effect.

    “I’m so cold.” He says as he’s given bag for his clothes and a gown for his body. “Could I have some blankets?”

    “As many as you need.” The nurse answers. She leaves while he undresses, barely balancing and straining through pain as he takes off his shoes and trades his socks for coarse yellow ones with a rubbery tread on bottom and top. He thinks about the nurse: she looks stunningly like his ex-girlfriend, though maybe a bit taller and with a deeper voice. He lies on the bed, breathing through his mouth. The second saline bag is almost gone already.

    The nurse returns to see him shivering. She laid four blankets on him, all of them warm, fresh out of a hotbox.

    “I’m only cold when I’m awake.” He says through staggering breath. “I’m freezing all day and burning all night. It makes no sense.”

    She reminds him to tell that to the doctor, and gave him a two large styrofoam cups of water with a contrast compound dissolved, letting him know they’ll inject the same thing into his blood later. “They taste like chalk and lemonade,” she says, “as long as you pretend there’s lemonade in there.”

    He barely chokes it down, dehydrated as he is, as nurses and doctors come and nurses and doctors go, drilling him the same questions over and over again while he shivers under more and more layers of blanket.

    “We’re going to have you stay the night.” A doctor says after a brief battery of scans and tests, as an attendant undoes the locks on his bed wheels, preparing to roll him into the hallway and up an elevator. “You can’t eat yet, but we’ll talk about getting you lunch tomorrow.”

    He’s rolled into a spacious room all to himself several floors up. As nurses and techs come and go, asking him the same questions again and again, injecting medicines into his arm catheter, his arms directly, his shivering and nonexistent belly; the sky out his spacious window glows blue, then yellow, then red, then dark indigo. He never turns on the lights in his room, choosing instead to sleep when the sun does.

    As night falls, his shivering is replaced with sweating. Puddles of sweat, seemingly the full contents of four IV bags and two large cups of contrast solution. He pushes himself out of bed, out of the blankets to put underneath himself, trying to use them as a mattress to separate his bony backside from the sheet metal that was below an inch of foam padding that they called a mattress.

    “You can call us for help with that.” A tech says from the doorway as a silhouette illuminated by fluorescent bars.

    “I’m used to struggling on my own.” He replies, his arms and face glistening with sweat. He climbs into bed under one blanket for modesty, raises his gown to his neck, and tells the tech that he is more comfortable now, thanks anyway, and have a good night.

    More comfortable is not necessarily adequately comfortable. He thinks about the nurse from that morning, wondering if he’ll see her again. He won’t. He sweats and hyperventilates through the night, statue still, looking out the window, as the sky turns from purple to black to pink and to red again.

    ~

    In the morning he meets a doctor. His doctor. The doctor rambles off names of potential diseases and treatments and medicines in five and seven syllable words, and despite the incomprehensibility, he seems to really care.

    He keeps the lights off all day, lying in the glow of the blue and yellow sky beyond the window, still shivering.

    His neighbor in the next room has a cough starting in the evening. Is that the next door neighbor? The coughs are loud enough he may be lying in the same bed. He listens to the coughs, pondering that the neighbor sounded as if he might cough up a lung. He then thought that, given that this is a hospital, that may very well be the case.

    He watches the sky change color with the morning again. Without a clock to see spinning, and without desire to see the sunrise.

    ~

    The days go on. He reads the book he had within reach when he was taken to the ER. He’s read it twice or thrice before, but it’s all he has.

    The sky darkens again. He notices that the medicines are working quickly: he’s not shivering or sweating, and aside from the pain that has been with him for a year, is comfortable for once. Pain that’s been with a person that long is easy to ignore and to act through, like ignoring the sound of blood pumping through your ears or the movement of your tongue in your mouth. It’s there, and though it can be acted beyond. It’s always still there.

    He sleeps, momentarily. A minute. An hour. He doesn’t know for how long, but he sleeps.

    The lights flash on. “So, how are you feeling? What are your symptoms?” A doctor asks. Not his doctor. A doctor.

    It’s the first time the lights have been turned on since he arrived. The nurses and techs are considerate enough to allow hall light or sun light illuminate the room. The lights are so bright he covers his eyes with his arm, and even then everything looks red through closed eyelids. He answers the doctor’s questions while being poked and prodded without permission, the same questions he has answered dozens of times before. “And my pain is still a seven”. It is.

    The doctor leaves. The lights stay on. He pushes himself up from bed, pulls his IV bag tree with him to the door to turn off three sets of lights and to crack the door open. He walks back in the comforting dark, and stares at the window and the black-on-black skyline. The sky turns pink after a while.

    ~

    Housekeeping comes by to find him sitting on a chair by the window, staring idly at idyllic expanse. She comments on his book, mentions that she likes the television adaptation so far, just a few episodes beyond the premier. He states that he hasn’t seen it; he doesn’t see much TV lately. She motions to the mounted screen in the high corner. He admits that he turned it off when he was wheeled in and promptly forgot it existed.

    They talk some. About her kids starting school, about his work situation, about her favorite radio station, about his book again. It’s pleasant, but not deep. The day drags by slowly, so slowly. The transition of blue sky through yellow to black seems to take twice as long as before.

    Another new neighbor. The neighbor this time is crazy, it seems. A man. Old, irritated, straining the same four syllables for everyone to hear, though what words they build is incomprehensible. “I can’t get up”? “I need some help”? “What time is it”? “Where is the soap”? “I hear you there”? “The cuckoo’s nest”?

    Neither of them sleep that night.

    ~

    “Hello?” He hears from the bathroom as he painfully pushes out a tiny, insignificant, puny turd that causes his entire body pain as it moves. Nothing is easy. Actually, even 'nothing' is difficult.

    “A minute!” He grunts. He wipes, lets down is his gown, washes his hands, looks in the mirror. Hair greasy. Whiskers appearing. Acne forming. He opens the door to the room. A visitor? Not the nurse from the first day, but her doppelganger. Rather, the woman of whom she was a doppelganger.

    “Hey.” She says, forcing a smile. “You look...” She doesn’t finish her sentence.

    “Weak? Defeated? Subtracted?” He offers, stepping so slowly and deliberately to his bed. “I feel that way. When they brought me in here, they said I’m just over one hundred pounds. I hoped a hospital would have a better calibrated scale. They've got to be off by twenty.”

    “No, that’s about right. You’re a skeleton.” She frowns, then laughs. “I told you before I like Jack Skellington, but this is something else.” She smiles with her mouth and also with her eyes.

    She stays for an hour or two, and when she leaves, he showers. He uses a latex glove with its fingers cut off and its palm slipped over his elbow to keep most of the water away from his catheter. After his shower, he steps in front of the mirror and drops his towel. Every rib presented, and the skin pulling concavely inward after the last. Those knobby elbows, those round knees, those sharply protruding hips, those sunken clavicles, those dead eyes and that pursed mouth.

    He sleeps briefly that night. He has a nightmare: in the dream, his body is that of a prematurely born baby, only lesser. Translucent and vacuum-tight skin showing tiny bones of wrists and ankles beneath. His own skull and chest, transparent or empty, are both useless by any measure. When he tries to scream or cry, only dust comes from his mouth, floating past his own empty eyes. He wakes with his own scream not quite escaping the Oneiroi with him.

    ~

    Nothing happens most of the time. He reads. He looks at the trees. He glances once at the black rectangle of the TV. He thinks. As the day passes again, with more medicines pumped into his blood, night approaches again. His mind is restless with emptiness, bouncing like a balloon filled with inert gassy worry, and unable to stay still long enough to sleep.

    Hospital staff tell jokes and share laughter in the hall. It’s good they’re able to enjoy themselves, he admits. It’s a hard job, and they need and the joy they can get.

    ~

    He’s tired of reading the same book for the third or fourth time. He starts passing minutes by writing haiku in his mind. Counting syllables, memorizing all the words, not writing them down.

    “Today’s the eclipse.” A tech says, injecting yet another round of medicine into his catheter, a four-times-daily ritual, commenting yet again that he should be able to smell the saline in his blood, though it seems to be more of a feeling in his nose than an olfactory smell. “Do you want to see it?”

    He looks at the floor, and can already see that the slats in the window blinds are spreading crescents of the sun onto the wood panel, crescents instead of dots. “Only if someone can wheel me outside.”

    “I’ll be around.”

    And so he is wheeled outside, into the blaze of August. This Thermidor heat. Is it still Thermidor? Everything is tinged with desaturated black, without exception. It’s no use looking up, not at this latitude, but he looks around, seeing misshapen shadows and a general sense of strange otherness, as if the world is no longer Earth but is instead something else: an imitation, a facade, a forgery. He expects the sky and the floor to fall away, but no, it stays. Gradually darkening. Gradually lightening. He sweats. He watches two patients and a half dozen hospital staff come and go. He conjures haiku. The counting of syllables and the moon blocking the sun remind him of distant friends, missed for over a year. He makes a note to try to visit once he’s home. As he is wheeled back inside, he laughs shortly, sourly. Even in the night of the day, he still can’t sleep.

    ~

    Two days later, his doctor visits. They discuss his condition, the new limitations on his life. “And on a scale to ten, would you rate your pain at a zero?”

    He laughs honestly. “I haven’t been Zero in over a year.” He says, reminded yet again of distant friends. Back to answering the doctor's question, he makes a sharp and pointed addition that the only way he’ll leave this hospital not feeling pain is if he’s wheeled out of there dead and in a body bag, or that otherwise he won’t be back to zero pain in months at least, maybe years, but it’s okay because he hasn’t been free of pain in what feels like an eternity anyway, and that you get used to these things, and being a constant three or four isn’t so bad in the grand scheme. He wishes he would have said “but I’ll be Zero soon.”

    ~

    He stumbles into his house. Nobody’s home, he was simply dropped off. He leans on walls as he treads slowly back to his bedroom, past his cat who stares with widened eyes, but who otherwise gives no reaction. His room is different. The sheets are washed, the pillow is replaced, the floor is vacuumed and the desk his clear. He looks for the barely-hidden Last Will to find that it’s not where he left it. He turns on his computer. The clock reads noon. He crawls into his own bed. He sleeps.
     

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  7. Wings

    Static
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    Not sure if you want people to comment (and interrupt the flow of the thread), but I think your writing is very riveting! I loved the playfulness between Malcolm and Monica, the thoughtful haikus, and the mood of your last prompt response.
     
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  8. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    "I didn't count on this..."

    You had something all planned out, and then a wrench got thrown in your plan!

    What unexpected complication are your characters dealing with? Or is it an unexpected stroke of fortune that forced a change in plans?

    “It’s going to be easy.” Monica tried to reassure her brother of the plan. “We register into different branches of the Unova Central tournament tree, we meet each other in quarterfinals, you make it into semifinals and secure some prize money to split. It’s practically a grift.”

    “There are a lot of things that can go wrong with this,” Malcolm protested in a whisper, “only starting with the fact that it is literally a grift.”

    Monica and Malcolm were invited to an upcoming regional tournament the previous day: room for 64 potential entrants and a cash prize given at quarterfinal victory and beyond. Malcolm was involved in his own Pokémon training regiment, while Monica typically didn’t bother with such public battle formats. Somehow she was motivated to try something new. They were standing almost huddled outside the nearest Stadium, and a line was forming for registration.

    “No, a grift is a scam. This is us adjusting our chances at getting a payout they were already offering. And as long as I throw our fight convincingly, nobody will ever know.”

    “You’re throwing the fight!” Malcolm was shocked. “You’re clearly the better battler, you’re the obvious choice to win!”

    “Except you’re going to win.”

    “I have never beaten you one-on-one.” Malcolm said sternly.

    “Sure you have.” Monica said, thinking back. She actually couldn’t think of any particular instance in which she did lose to her brother. “How about you start winning now, and make your sister so proud to lose to you.” She started pushing him toward the registration line, met with some resistance.

    Mal is tenth in line... She thought, hanging back to observe where she should enter. Out of sixty-four, as long as I’m between 32 and 17...

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    Sixty-four trainers stood in a line at the edge of the stadium with their Pokémon of choice either behind, beside, or carried by the trainer. The stadium itself was barely a fifth of the way full to its seating capacity, though the next two days had higher ticket sales already.

    A jumbotron showed a tournament tree, every number marked by a face and name: one through thirty-two down the left, thirty-three through sixty-four up the right. Monica and Malcolm were twenty and ten respectively, so the plan was going accordingly.

    Until the shuffle. Every entry on the board blinked rapidly, displaying the randomization. Malcolm leaned forward at the line to look with uncertain fear at his sister, who only stared at the board, frozen with anticipation and quiet worry.

    The shuffling animation slowed. Monica and Malcolm were directly beside each other in the listing. She lines of their victories with her mind’s eye and smiled to see they were then scheduled to meet in the semifinals instead. More pressure, more reward. They’ll be guaranteed to bring home second-place prize. If they make it that far, at least.

    The first day of the tournament was the first round only: thirty-two fights among sixty-four participants, the battle field would be filled all day. After their respective fights Monica and Malcolm both agreed that their first opponents were absolute pushovers.

    “If only the randomizer put us in different halves!” Malcolm laughed as they left the arena. “We could make it all the way to the final!”

    “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Monica reminded him. “It’s only going to get harder from here. Everyone we battle tomorrow is good enough to have beaten their first opponent too. Keep focused.”

    “Yeah, I know.” He said, patting the flank of his Rapidash, walking alongside them, and opposite Monica’s Kecleon on the other side of the pair. “Just three more battles, then we meet each other and, uh...”

    “And I go down while you proceed to victory.”

    “I don’t understand why you don’t want to go to the final yourself. You have the better shot of winning.”

    “Because I don’t want to.” Monica answered. “That’s all there is to it.”

    They went back home mostly in silence.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    Day two of the tournament cut the competitors from 32 to 16, then from 16 to 8. On day 3, Malcolm barely squeezed by the quarterfinal round, where he was originally planned to battle his one and only sister.

    “You’ve already done more than you thought you could.” Monica answered, seated in an arena green room while having her shoulders rubbed by her Reuniclus. “I believe in you.” She seemed too nonchalant to be taken seriously.

    “But I still don’t believe in myself.” Malcolm answered. “Nor, might I add, do I believe that you simply don’t want to win this because you don’t want to.”

    “It doesn’t matter. I want you to win, and I believe in you.”

    “Semifinals starting soon.” A staff member said from a doorway. “You two are up.”

    Monica rose to her feet and recalled Reuniclus back to its Pokéball. “Well then. Shall we?”

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    They were half way through the battle when Malcolm hatched his plan. They were each down by one: Malcolm’s Carracosta downed by Monica’s Mawile, who was in turn fainted by Rapidash, who was then barely overtaken by Reuniclus.

    Malcolm reached for his last Pokéball, Gourgeist. He glared across the arena, blocking out the dull roar of the crowd. There was Monica, clearly keeping some kind of secret. That on its own was fine, but why did she find him unworthy of the secret, or even of the reason why the secret was so? He was bothered, perturbed, and generally quite ticked off. “Gourgeist! Finish her off with Shadow Ball!”

    Monica smiled as she withdrew Reuniclus. Only her last of three Pokémon remaining: Kecleon. She winked at Malcolm as she threw forward her last fighter. It would be an easy enough conclusion to their fight, she determined. Act as if Kecleon had no reliable Dark or Ghost moves while Gourgeist lobbed some random non-Ghost attack then a few Shadow Balls. An easy plan to follow.

    “Seed bomb!” Malcolm commanded to the Gourgeist.

    So far so good. “Kecleon, fight back as best you can with Psybeam!” She tried her best to put up a convincing act.

    Kecleon’s psychic attack hit Gourgeist, launching it up and backwards, while its lobbed seed exploded on Kecleon, its physiology changing its skin from scale to leaf on impact..

    “Follow up with Shadow Ball!” Malcolm ordered while Monica issued another Psybeam, pretending to not have access to Shadow Claw, Sucker Punch, Ice Beam, Flamethrower… so many effective counters at her disposal. Again, Kecleon changed when hit by the attack, its body now gray and almost transparent with its new Ghost typing.

    Monica smiled. Teamwork executing so flawlessly. One last Psybeam wouldn’t be enough to finish Gourgeist, but one more Shadow Ball would indeed be enough to finish a Ghost-Type Kecleon.

    As Malcolm spoke, everything went silent in Monica’s perception. Maybe the crowd truly hushed, maybe she was shocked by the turn, or maybe she was bracing for impact. But somehow, her entire world became uncluttered, transparent, lucid; and at the same time so incomprehensibly obfuscated.

    “Explosion.”

    The smile on Gourgeist’s belly illuminated as the Pokémon waddled forward to Kecleon. A low rumble like water boiling in a kettle morphed into a silent hissing as the light grew brighter. When the Pokémon reached the middle of the field, Monica closed her eyes and covered her ears, and felt the shockwave in her legs, in her chest, in her eyes.

    When she looked to the battlefield, she saw Gourgeist laying face up, its internal light extinguished, with Kecleon standing unharmed. Even the announcer of the match was confused. Malcolm, across the arena, smiled, and his smile gradually turned to confusion and shame, as if wondering why he chose his path. The record of the battle would be reviewed and scrutinized. They would be questioned on the nature of their cooperation in the tournament. The might be officially penalized by the League organization. And if none of that did happen, she would still have to go forward to the finals, against her wishes in the first place.

    Monica turned her back to her brother and looked down, away from the crowd, the only way she could summon some circumstance of solitude. “I didn’t count on this...”
     
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  9. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Oops, there is no prompt this time! This is just a little based-on-a-true-story slice-of-life that happened to me earlier this week during my One Punch Man exercise regiment. I normally like to have a bit of depth or theme to my literature, but this literally just a pointless bit. Since it's short, and since it happened to me, I decided to record it as a little bit of audiobook of it (in the intro, I say ebook, but I mean audiobook). Speaking of audio, I also tried to do two experiments with audio: I add in a little bit of sound effect at the one quarter and at the end, and some hopefully fitting background music for the second half, to match part of the attitude of it, friendly competition and all. It's an experiment.

    Listen to me reading story-time here, sorry about it being very quiet. I have limited equipment, and if I amplify it at all, the sound quality becomes garbage.

    Anyway:

    Zero and the Ninja​

    "Ninety eight… Ninety nine… one hundred.” Zero said, lowering his back onto the mat, out of breath. “That’s one hundred pushups, one hundred sit-ups… now time for one hundred squats.”

    But he didn’t spring to his feet. “This heat is… stupidly hot.” He said, soaking in his own sweat and breathing his burning hot fumes. He rolled sideways and to his feet. “I need some air flow.” He stumbled to the outside door and opened it wide to let in the cool breeze of night. Cool for a moment at least, before even that became ordinary, sweltering, and more humid.

    He stood straight and locked his fingers behind his neck to keep his arms from swinging and kept his back straight, prevention of cheating by help of his own momentum, “Time to get to it. One. Two.”

    On thirty five he took a short break, still standing, his thighs feeling swollen and inflamed. A frog hopped in through the open door, just the size of a quarter. “You’re a smol boi.” He said, looking down. “Are you my new workout partner?”

    The frog looked everywhere but up, its throat filling and emptying too fast to count. “Fine, you can hang out with me. I appreciate the company.” He locked his fingers and started again. “Thirty six.”

    The frog hopped. “Every day is leg day, right?” Zero said. He kept to his squats, not distracted.

    “Fifty-four, fifty-five.” The frog hopped alongside the wall. “You’re just flexing on me now, bruh.” Zero said, calmly. “I hoped this was a judgment free zone.” He laughed. “Fifty nine, sixty”

    The frog kept on its circuit of the room. Exploring. Sight-seeing. Working them thighs. “Okay, you got me beat in leg strength, but I could still eat you in one bite.” He chomped in the frog’s direction. “Quit showing me up. Now where am I, eighty-something. Eighty five? Okay. Eighty, eighty one...”

    After one hundred, he sat down, and after a minute of stillness the frog approached, staring at him, still breathing so fast. “You’re really not a good coach.” Zero commented. “I was hoping for some encouragement, but you can’t stop showing off. Time to...” he slowly moved to cup his hands around the frog. “Go.”

    But the coach jumped out of the closing cage, clearly more energetic than his captor. “Time to GO.” He tried again, leaping to the frog, still evasive. “Time to go! Time to go! Time, to GO!” Finally he got the frog in his hands. He scooped one hand gently under the other, keeping the cage of fingers closed. “You’re a slippery little guy, ain’t ya?” He pushed himself to his feet, legs feeling like iron weight. Slowly, so slowly he opened his hands to look the frog in the eyes. “Brother...” he said, holding the frog on his palm at eye level. “I know a thing or two about frogs, and I know a lot about ninjas. But you seem to know more about both of those than I do. Why don’t you stop by another time. We’ll train again.”

    He bent down to the floor outside and opened his hands for his coach near the grass. There was a second, or maybe a minute or maybe five, that he waited there, connected by happenstance with this intruder, this ninja he overcame, his first opponent from without, and his first victory. But in a moment his newest friend leaped into darkness and dew. “See you later, little ninja.”
     
    #9 Sep 8, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2018
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  10. Wings

    Static
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    This was very cute! Even if it wasn’t based off a prompt, I enjoyed this short story a lot. I wonder if frog coach will make a return?

    Speaking of returns, will we ever find out what happened with Monica and Malcolm?!?!?
     
  11. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    I guess we'll see if frog coach returns in the future or not. Weather's cooling down, so I don't need to open the door any more (and as of today I can do 70 squats without a break with the better temperature).

    (EDIT: Yesterday evening (a few days after this post), a cricket got into the room I exercise in. I think the entire leg-strength population of animal kingdom is trying to one-up me. What's next, is a silverback gorilla going to get on my pull up bar when I'm takinga break?)

    As for M&M? Who knows! I might pick back up on them in a future prompt. To be entirely honest, I have no idea why Monica is so resistant to make it to the finals. But I'm definitely going to keep Malcolm's character trait of being destructively curious in the future!
     
    #11 Sep 8, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
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  12. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Your character needs to vent to a friend. What is it that they need to vent about, and does the friend lend a listening ear?

    I suppose you could call this a brief FF, probably my first non-OC FF. It will be obvious by the end, and seriously, why don't you just sponsor some after-school programs or host a job fair or buy some lobbyists to promote mental health services instead of enhancing the city police muscle only, not solely punishing people but also helping them?

    “We’re nearing the end of visiting hours. I hope your curiosity has been satisfied.” The doctor said, standing from his desk chair. The office was dim, damp, fluorescent lit, and even the linoleum floors seemed strained by age and neglect.

    “Not just yet.” Wayne said politely, waving a hand dismissively. “There’s still another group here that I want to get to know.”

    “But who is left?” The doctor asked. “You’ve met every one of our MDs, half of the orderlies, even the janitorial coordinator...”

    “I’d like to interview a psych patient. Preferably one who’s been here a while.” His deep and steady voice had just a hint of something more serious.

    “I must advise you against that,” the doctor protested, “most of the residents of our psych ward are dangerous and or criminal, and almost none like talking to strangers.”

    “If I can’t get a firsthand conversation with a patient, I won’t have a full understanding of your operation. And if I don’t have a full understanding of what happens here, I may have to withdraw some of our funding. We need to know what kind of good is actually coming out of our investment.”

    “Of course. Right this way.” The doctor led the path through halls under flickering bulbs and to a locked and barred gate. He fumbled with keys, flanked by two bulky orderlies, narrating cautions. “This is the rec room. Here they’re given free roam to play table games, watch basic cable, interact socially--”

    “Who’s been here the longest?” Wayne asked. “Who’s the ringleader?”

    The doctor froze. “That would be number four-two-eight. He goes by his last name, Kur.” He pointed through the bars to a thin but wiry man, dark and suave hair slicked back and smiling wide while he acted as a jovial sports announcer watching two other residents in a silent game of dominoes. “Actually, he’s not the best to speak to. How about--”

    “No, he’s the one.” Wayne said as the doctor slowly turned the key in the gate’s lock. He stepped through, leaving the doctor behind a quickly-locking gate, now surrounded by two dozen criminally insane psych ward residents and three bulky orderlies.

    “He matches a two to a two, who’da thunk it!” Kur declared excitedly. “The reigning champ has so few options, and none of them are good. Gasp, what’s this? Matching threes! Such a plot twist!”

    “Mister Kur?” Wayne asked.

    He looked up. “A visitor! And such a handsome one at that! Here for a friendly conjugal with the boys?” He laughed giddily. “Ah ha, I kid, I kid! Except I don’t.”

    “You seem to be the center of a lot of things around here. Could you join me for a talk?”

    Kur spun around, arms wide, and sat into an empty chair bolted to its table. “Pull up a seat, chum. I hope you brought your first date questions.” He said with a barely-restrained laugh. “We have so much to discuss.”

    ---

    “Poor Arnold is always talking to his sock puppet, they took away Garfield’s smokes – serial arsonist, you see, they can’t take chances – and I don’t think I’ve heard Eddie speak in any way but riddles for months! But he might do it just for fun. I really can’t get a bead on that chap. Oh, how about this:” Kur cleared his throat, and spoke dramatically. “Riddle me this: what weighs six ounces, sits in a tree, and is very, very dangerous?”

    “I don’t know.” Wayne said flatly. “What.”

    “A robin with a machine gun!” Kur slapped his palms on the table then spread his arms wide like a jazz band presenter, waiting for his audience to laugh. “Oh screeew you, that was hilarious.”

    “And what about you? How are you treated here?”

    “Oh, little old me? I’m just the same as any of these sorry sods. Except I live here. Yes, each and every one of them will one day see the light of the day – presuming they don’t get got while they’re here – but me? No, they’ll never let me out. I’m so much fun they’ll never let me out into the sun! It’s how I keep this beauteous porcelain complexion, you see. But the thing is, the thing is...” Kur leaned forward, his palms flat on the table and elbows bent, grinning ear to ear, “even though some of us will leave, not one of us will get better. Nobody helps us. The orderlies see us as punching bags, the doctors don’t care, and the city inspectors just fudge all the paperwork! We are the refuse of society, seeking refuge but getting sentences renewed and our recuse refused. Nobody looks, nobody hears, nobody helps, nobody cares! It’s enough to drive a man absolutely batty!”

    Does he know something? Wayne wondered. “Some people try to help. My father used be involved here when he was alive, trying to help as much as he could. I’m sure there are others like him.”

    “Oh? Mislike me not for my prejudices, but you don’t seem like you come from a crackpot line like the rest of us.” He giggled.

    “He was a doctor. He tried to help in his own way.”

    “Doctors...” Kur growled. Even then, the man was still smiling, though clearly he was enraged. He looked at his guest as if he knew something, a hidden message. The silent communication was ignored.

    “So what would you do if you did get help and weren’t locked up?”

    “Listen pal, we’re not locked up. This is a hospital, not a prison, see?”

    “Are you allowed to check yourself out?”

    “Anyway, we all have aspirations.” Kur said with dismissal of the contradiction, gesturing to the room. “Garfield used to be a practical-effects artist for the movies, Oswald wants to get his MBA, and Johnny wants to go back to school and study psychiatry so he can come back here to help, just like your beloved old man! I mean we’re all crazy, but he might be the looniest of us all!”

    “So if medical attention won’t help, then what will?”

    “Any other kind of attention.” He laughed before changing his smile to the dramatist’s mask of tragedy and speaking in an audible pout. “All we want is to be noticed and to be known, instead of ignored and hidden away! Did you listen to what I said a few lines up the script? How nobody cares and all that other hubbub?” Here we are hidden from ordinary society, we are the problems they don’t need to look at. We want to talk and be heard. We want to be known for more than our crimes and our loose bolts, to be seen for our potential. We want a hug and a kiss, not a punch in the face from a masked thug, getting tied up from the rafters while the coppers arrive.”

    “Like most ordinary people, I’ve never seen your angle before. I know it’s not a hug or a kiss,” Wayne said, extending his hand across the table for a shake, “but I do have resources and influence. Let’s start making things better together, Mr. Kur.”

    “That’s a swell idea, pal.” Kur spat into his palm and clasped Wayne’s hand with a surprising grip for such a thin man. “And please, my friends call me Joe.”

    “And you can call me Bruce.” He returned the squeeze of his grip, feeling an almost brotherly connection with the Arkham inmate.
     
  13. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    "Finding the local Rocket base can be more difficult than you think!"

    At first I wanted to make this kind of detective-noir genre, but that obviously didn't happen. This was kind of rushed, despite me taking two weeks to write it, so I'm not immensely proud of it. I might revive it later as a more honestly noir project later if I somehow have a lot more free time later on.

    The pieces started to fall together on the first night of autumn. Truly the season started weeks ago, but it was the first night that dried leaves congregated along the edges of streets and in the alleys.

    "Still got nothing for us, Detective?" The desk cop asked, smirking. Crouched on the desk was a Croagunk, smiling just the same. "Not to worry, that's just a sign of us at the force doing our job."

    "It's a sign that neither of us is doing our job quite well enough." Detective Glass said from the other side of the front counter, looking up at a CCTV display above the front door to the police station. At that time, two police officers walked in a uniformed Rocket Grunt with her hands cuffed behind her back. Narrow chin, sharp eyes, and the legs that were made for the high boots of the Rocket ladies' uniforms. Ten seconds and she was through to booking and out of sight, but a woman like that leaves an impression.

    "No, we're doing our part right." The cop sipped coffee from a paper cup. The smell of hot milk was almost as strong as the smell of the coffee itself. "Maybe we've got this under control. Maybe you could head back to Virbank. They could use you there."

    "Rocket is in your town, Astor. They're in Lacunosa, and they're deep." Glass said, jabbing one finger pointedly into the counter. "Just because you're taking one or two off the street doesn't mean you're solving the problem. You're only keeping it at bay, if even that."

    "I read in the news yesterday that Virbank PetroChem had a break-in --"

    "Virbank's crime rate has dropped 40% since Mayor Rosenfeld got elected. Crime is down, employment is up not only in energy but also in entertainment, and taxes haven't budged since he took office; that city is one the up-and-up. Why are you so hung op on sensational news? And on Virbank? I'm settled here. I want to help."

    Officer Astor rambled off a few more crime stories, eventually driving off the detective to make his way home in the predawn gray, flanked by Gumshoos who was waiting outside. It was a long night of fruitless staking and stalking. He hoped for something different the next day.

    ~~~

    At sundown, Detective Glass was again on the prowl of Lacunosa alongside Furfrou, abandoning his longcoat and hat for casual wear: the more effective disguise to not look like a Gumshoos cosplayer like Looker. The walled city seemed quiet as it had been years prior, such as before Plasma's shelling of the city, but there were small signs of strife amidst the citizens who now braved the nighttime of their walled community. Graffiti red Rs and more cryptic icons appeared around, but it was rare to see a Rocket in the act, thought they always left their calling card at break-ins and disturbances. He strode along the well-lit streets and through the darker alleys. The only trouble he encountered was the occasional resident ignoring his half-hearted greeting.

    Perhaps the official police statement was right. Maybe these Rockets were just coming in from other towns for the occasional break in, or maybe they were just unaffiliated thugs wearing the uniform to distract investigations. There were possibilities. Maybe he was needed elsewhere.

    Glass rounded a corner and approached the police station again, and gradually slowed his approach. Another rocket grunt was being walked in by two officers again. And the grunt looked his way. Her chin, her eyes, her legs. A woman like that leaves an impression. A woman like that *left* and impression. He waited outside the station outside of CCTV view for a few minutes, then walked in.

    "Got any leads for us, Detective?" Astor was still manning the front desk, and still smirking.

    "Nothing yet, my man. Perhaps I should pack up." Glass replied, playing the soft game for some back-and-forth, making nice for a few minutes. "I'm going to check the arrest logbook. See if I can find a pattern." He left to another part of the station before the desk cop could protest. He was permitted per an agreement with Lacunosa PD, but he didn't want to stick around and argue while tracks were covered.

    He sat at a computer station and logged in appropriately. He accessed the log of arrests, viewing just basic details. Ten minutes ago that day and just before 5 AM the previous day, two different Rocket Grunts were listed as being brought in and processed. By Glass' own recollection, they were the same grunt, and she was brought in by the same cops both times. Once was happenstance, and twice was coincidence. Three times would be enemy action. Glass logged off of the terminal and left the station entirely, and waited for either of the two involved cops to leave. He tailed the first one to an apartment in the southeast quarter of the city. Glass noted the place, then went back to his own place for a quick four hours of sleep before returning in daylight.

    ~~~

    Glass got into line at the cafe, waiting five deep for a beverage he had no interest in. The chatter was loud. The radio was loud. The steamer was loud. But he was focused while everyone else was mostly distracted.

    "Pumpkin latte, no sugar." The man in front of Glass said flatly when it was his turn. As he was told the price, he patted his pockets. "Damn it all, not again." He turned around to Glass.

    "What is...?" Glass looked down. "Hey, did you drop this, bud?" He bent to the floor and picked up a plastic wallet. He flipped open the front and glanced at the ID. "Oh, excuse me, officer. Here, this is clearly yours."

    "Yeah, thanks." He flipped through the cash, counting quickly, then pulled out a card for payment. A minute later, he was paid and waiting for the hot drink to be put into his hand. Glass ordered a dark black for no other reason than to complete the disguise. He paid cash, was handed his drink, and left. He smiled and nodded to the officer on the way out. Once around the corner, he poured his entire drink into a storm drain, crumpled the cup into a garbage can, and and activated his Item Finder. It read 15 meters unmoving for minutes, and the detective was worried that his plan was found out. Then the Item Finder's display changed. 14 meters. 13. 14. 15. 17. 19. He glanced around the corner and down the sidewalk, and surely the officer was walking the opposite way, drink in hand and wallet in his pocket.

    ~~~

    After an incredibly boring day of stalking with the Item Finder and a planted tracker, Glass finally neared his goal. By evening, the officer was in uniform, with his partner, and on the prowl. Around midnight they entered a storage warehouse that held the output the Giant Chasm's rare metal foundry, its parking lot entirely deserted aside from their cruiser parked in a handicap space near the front. "That's strange." Glass said to Furfrou and Gumshoos, flanking him at the periphery of the storage house's property. "There was nothing on the police scanner." His two Pokémon each made sounds of agreement. "Gumshoos, wait here. Furfrou, with me." Glass sprinted to the gate of the property and to the same door the police entered by. He pressed a stethoscope to the door. Silence. "Follow them from a distance once they exit." He instructed, then he opened the door and proceeded deeper. Through a lobby and to another door, he used his stethoscope again.

    "This is the fourth time in a row we've used this place." A woman's voice said. "You two need to get some variety or we're going to get found out."

    "Yeah, I know." A man this time. "It's hard to find people willing to let us use their locations, and it's also not good to meet in the open. So unless you want to just walk up to the front door and turn yourself in, this is the best we got."

    Glass could hear handcuffs clinking shut. He vaulted over a counter and hid out of sight, and a minute later two police and one rocket grunt were on their way to the parked car. Headlights turned on, and the electric whir of tires sounded as the car pulled away. Glass burst out of the front door and saw Furfrou was running as fast as she could after the car, and Gumshoos was still standing guard at the fence. The detective pulled out two pokeballs: one to withdraw Gumshoos, and another to let out Braviary. He took hold of the bird's talons and tailed Furfrou and the police car from the air on their way to downtown Lacunosa. A small part of him - a very small part - was pleased at his success at rapidly unraveling the plan. But far more of him was dreading the task ahead if the plot unraveled indeed.

    Braviary and Glass landed a block from the station, and he pulled out his item finder and a printed floor plan of the police station. He did the trigonometry in his head the best he could, trying to figure where in the building the tracked cop plus his partner and the woman they were escorting were, her same sharp eyes attentive and angry. It seemed they were just past the lobby, and they were staying there for a while. Glass looked back and forth rapidly between the item finder and the floor plan. What are they waiting for? Won't they just walk her straight back to wherever? To some secret elevator or something?

    Minutes passed. Glass recalled Braviary, and Furfrou when she arrived, he calmed his breathing, and he walked in through the front door of the police station.

    Standing in the lobby flanked by their Pokémon were three cops and one Rocket, all looking right at him in the doorway. "What brings you here at this time of evening?" Astor asked.

    Glass didn't respond. He felt for his Pokéball holster.

    "Don't do that, 'bud'." One of the cops said. "I'd like to show you something." He took a tablet from the front desk and navigated it while narrating. "We got a call today of a break-in at Giant Metals warehouse. When we arrived, nobody was there, but someone was caught on camera, and the head of security over there was kind enough to send us the highlight reel." He turned around the tablet for Glass to see, and there he was: paused mid-sneak through the lobby of the warehouse. The interface showed the video was only a few seconds long, so clearly the cops and Grunt would be nowhere on film. "When we gave you a particular set of rights and immunities, we didn't mean to enable you to embark on corporate espionage. You've broken our trust, Detective."

    He considered arguing, but what was the use? Three payroll officers and a Rocket Grunt confronting him, and clearly on camera here too. This operation was deep, and there would be no superior he could go to. The four of them closed in on their baited prey. At least I found the Rocket Base.
     
  14. Negative Zero

    Negative Zero The most positive negative number you know!

    Hippopotas
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    Post #14 of this thread (kind of an oldie):

    "Fine, but I don't believe you."

    What amazing thing happened to have your friend say this?

    ~~~

    Monica and Malcolm are back with more low-key hijinks, with no chronological relationship to the story with the thrown tournament battle from before. I'm still getting the hang of episodic lighter-hearted things, so this is more practice for me. I cobbled this together in an hour. I'll make better work when I rediscover a task that I really want to put my heart into, but this is mostly for funsies.

    "So you'd probably want to be a Firebender, right?" Monica asked. She was watching something on her laptop, laid back on a sofa with her legs hanging over one end, lounged like a particularly relaxed Meowth.

    "Pardon?" Malcolm answered. He was picking fruits and vegetables almost randomly from a huge basket of produce, setting them in a pile beside a blender that seemed almost nervous with anticipation.

    "You know, Avatar. Don't tell me you're not also a part of that fandom." Monica sat up, suddenly serious. "Have you seriously not..."

    "No idea." He started peeling the rinds off fruits and dropping the tasty bits into the blender hastily. "Familiarize me."

    "Only the best piece of animation this century. Four nations, four elements, four bending arts. Magic telekinetic martial arts and the power of friendship."

    "Not ringing any bells."

    Monica explained further, but her brother pulsed the blender. She waited. "Water, Earth, Fire, Air..."

    Malcolm repeatedly pulsed the blender, cutting her off every few words.

    Clearly annoyed, Monica turner her attention back to the tablet. "Anyway, I'd be an Airbender." She put in earbuds one at a time.

    "Nah, I'm an Earthbender."

    "Would be one." Monica corrected.

    "Am one." Malcolm insisted. His assertion was met with only a glare. "Oh what, a Magmortar can throw Thunderbolts and Octillery can cast Ice Beam, and I've even seen a Hitmontop generate a Twister, but suddenly a human insists he can control the very earth upon which he walks and that is unbelievable?"

    "Fine, but I don't believe you. I'm going back to my show." She said. "I think there's something more to this Painted Lady legend."

    Malcolm stopped with his wild claims. He poured his smoothie into a thermos and left their flat.

    ---

    "But of course, with a sword that sharp, there's no way it's going to cut anyone. Not on a show of this rating, at least." Monica chattered commentary to herself while continuing her binge-watch. She was distracted by a sound on the window. A tack sound every few seconds. She paused her show and moved to investigate - it was Malcolm, tossing pebbles at the window from the ground outside. She called his phone while looking down at him. "Throwing rocks doesn't count as Earthbending."

    "Yeah, I know. Come out here. I have a secret for you."

    "Do I have to? This is shaping up to be a really good episode."

    "Do it. You gotta." Malcolm hung up and pocket his phone, then stood with arms crossed, looking up at the window.

    ---

    Monica put on a light jacket and stepped to the dry grassland outside. The sun was close to setting already, and the air was uncharacteristically cool. "So? What is it?"

    "It's a secret that I can't bear to reveal to many people. It would be dangerous if this became known. If my foes found out that I had such... powers."

    "Go on."

    "You won't show this to anyone?" Malcolm assured.

    "Just get on with it, I want to find out what Uncle is up to."

    Malcolm turned to the side. He took a deep breath and held his hands in front of his chest, ring fingers and middle fingers crossed. He raised his right leg and stomped and thrust his hands downward. A ring of dust five meters across shivered up from the topsoil.

    "That's really something." Monica mused, somewhat impressed. She began to number in her head the ways to falsify such a trick, when her brother crouched.

    Malcolm continued. He leaned forward into a kneel on one knee, his hands with fingers still crossed knuckles-down on the ground. He grunted and shouted, standing from his kneel and raising his hands as if carrying weights. A pillar of earth the size of the dust ring rose from the ground, twice as tall as either of them. Malcolm relaxed his fingers and breathed out slowly. "Promise not to tell?" He asked with a smile.

    "That's impressive." Monica said, pleased. "How about I help you keep your secret?" She slid a folding fan out of each pocket and flipped them open in perfect synchronicity. She faced the obelisk and pulled her arms back. Wordlessly, she flung her arms forward, summoning an enormous windstorm. After one second fissures appeared in the stone, and after two more it was falling to rubble, filling the pit left under its own raising. "Shall we keep each other's secrets?"

    For the first time in ages, Malcolm was left speechless.

    "I'll take that as yes. Now if you'll excuse me, I believe Uncle was about to make his heroic comeback." And she left to go back inside with almost no fanfare.

    ---

    "I don't know, Claydol. You were perfect, it went according to plan." He said to his partner, who endured the rubble by help of Cosmic Power and escaped it by help of Teleport, both of them now sitting on the mound. "Earth Power plus Psychic worked beautifully, but..." He trailed. "I don't know. I don't want to believe her, but I have to."

    "Will we keep her secret?" Claydol asked telepathically. It did not ask Malcolm, but Gallade.

    Sirnight the Gallade in turn conferred with Shiftry, who was short a few leaves from her Hurricane. "We shall defend our trainer's choice." He said back through their link.

    "That's well." Claydol relaxed. "We would not have had to go through this discussion if you were better with your own teleportation."

    "I am a force not of trickery and sneak, but of sheer might. Did thou not see the destruction of my Focus Blast? Power and speed, cousin. Power and speed."

    Claydol ended their connection and hovered back in the direction of the apartment building, impatiently urging its trainer who seemed to only want to sip his drink in solitude. It wasn't as if they could sway his belief if they tried.

    Remember that story from earlier in this thread about IRL me getting schooled by a tiny frog with more leg strength than me? And how I wanted to be trained by him again, and was kind of hoping to see him again? Well it turns out he's been watching over me, literally, for quite a while. I noticed a few days later that three of these frogs like to climb the glass doors of the room I like to train in and eat the gnats that hang out under one of the outside lamps! They've literally been watching over me for longer than I've known, and they've even become a regular attendant to my evening training sessions! I have a sensei who watches with indifference, but who watches nonetheless. Picture is attached below. (Disregard the reflection that happens when taking a picture of glass from a brighter side, I couldn't get around that)
     

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