The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #211
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Jun 2009

    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    1533 for Hero's War
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    Captain's Journal
    Day 1


    The Seagoing Vessel Marina has set off from Port Tel today. The designation scheme the illustrious scholar Cato introduced gave this ship the name SV Marina, painted in bright white letters against the wooden hull. An inspiration to all sailors!


    I, Nema, am its captain, a singular honour that I shall do my best to live up to. The University, Ektal and all of the Federation have vested their trust in me. Thirty good sailors and six passengers make up the crew, the responsibility of leadership rests heavily on my shoulders. This duty I shall discharge to the very best of my ability.


    Our mission is to explore the unknown world, find treasures and bring stories from abroad. This research vessel crewed with the finest sailors of the Federation, bearing many and varied scientific instruments, along with six scholars of the University of Minmay and the Inath Academy, will surely succeed in our quest!


    Our ship is a two-masted caravel, itself somewhat of an experimental design. Evolved from the training and experimental ship, the predecessor SV Maika, our sail plan allows tacking into the wind at a clip that puts the previous generation of vessels to shame. The sharp bottomed hull and the raised decks give the ship a great buoyancy and stability, greatly increasing our seaworthiness. Known maps of the coast and estimated maps drawn from older records give us a great ability to chart our course, along with the sea-compass and the great Selna in the sky, we shall never lose our way.


    Of the armaments, a stock of guns, fireshells and a pair of spell cannons, one at the bow and one aft, our ship is also the most heavily armed ship in the Federation. Though mostly because no one had the need to arm the river and coastal barges before. And yet, I was also given a secret weapon by Cato and the special effects team. In case of sea monster, they say. Let the monsters come, we shall be ready.


    I am proud to say that the SV Marina is the most advanced and seaworthy vessel of the Federation!



    Our journey will start by taking depth readings of the ocean floor west of Inath, examining the fauna and assessing the performance of SV Marina in the open seas. We will head almost due westwards for two days before turning south to reach Illastein's coast where our final provisions and any last minute procurements can be made at the Independent Duchy of Eilan.


    Once there, we will follow the coastline west of Illastein, to map the distance to the western most tip of this continent. In records of the past, this point marks the end of one major continent of this world Terra. The other continent is on the Farside, where Selna is not visible, or so the Academy's records say.


    We carry supplies for six weeks. After mapping the end of this continent, we shall head into the unknown, where the red light of the moon reaches not. Fame and fortune await!



    The stock of goods that we carry include valuables, in case we find someone to trade with, medical supplies and canned fruit. The fruit in particular, Cato has instructed us to add to our diet to ward off a disease called scurvy. While I do not understand what this disease might be, having a sweet treat I can withhold for minor infractions ought to be a useful disciplinary tool.


    I almost had to use it immediately. Not an hour after the port receded below the horizon did the first incident between two of the scholars arise.


    Tiel is one of the oceanographers of the University of Inath. A woman of slight build, sharp eyes and a boundless energy, as well as a strong alchemist, I had hoped that she would be a contributing crew member.


    Mack is a scholar from the Academy, a spellstorm of some repute. He enjoys the patronage of a major noble in Inath, allowing him to avoid being a monster hunter and instead following his interest finding 'new and interesting' monsters. His words, not mine.


    When I came up to the deck after recording the initial log entries, it was to find half my sailors watching the two of them fighting the middle of the deck. They were tumbling every which way, scratching and pulling at everything they could reach like a pair of crazed animals. It was with great disappointment that I had to instruct the crew to forcibly separate the two scholars and confine them in separate quarters. Where is the elite crew I had expected? Why had they not intervened and called for me, instead of just watching? One shall never know.


    Mack might be semi-noble or have some serious backing, but what of it? We are out of sight of land, nothing but endless ocean all around. We cannot have a breakdown of discipline or we will not survive. My charter gives me the authority for all command related matters on this ship and I had to practically wave it in front of my crew to get them to obey. Not a good sign.


    When I later interviewed each of them, the matter came to light in a torrid tale of lust and immorality. Mack, having once cheated on Tiel or was cheated on by her, matters are not clear and change depending on who you believe, he had once been the lover of the tiny yet furious oceanographer. Two years ago, they had separated in a stormy drama that left Tiel running to the University just to get away from Mack.


    Somehow, both of them had come aboard this vessel without ever knowing the other was on board. Despite both of them having been all over the ship, they kept missing each other like the opening acts of a comedy.


    Finally, today after we had left and all possibility of excusing themselves was closed, they met. Tiel was up on deck performing some measurement of the humidity, Mack had come up for fresh air. Upon spotting her, despite their mutual terrible history, Mack, in his infinite wisdom, decided that propositioning his ex-lover to be his bed companion for this voyage was a good idea.


    The results was the explosive altercation I had witnessed.


    My first mate, a close friend and confidante by the name of Fawkner, was beside himself with laughter. After all, it is not he who has to prevent his passengers from plotting murder.

    Captain's Journal
    Day 2


    Our perpetually squabbling duo Tiel and Mack have kept their peace for the night and are being let out cautiously. We shall if their good behaviour lasts.



    We have arrived at the first navigation point, a survey of the ocean at the furthest point from shore in living memory. The diving bell is deployed and our tiny oceanographer went down with it on the winch.


    To be honest, I cannot trust that thing. It might have stout walls and a heavy chain, but Tiel is entrusting her life to the ingenuity of man. Down at a twenty meters below the surface, she is alone with the fish. If the chain breaks, if the bell develops a leak, if any one of a number of things goes wrong, her end would be swift and certain.


    As a test of a submarine concept, it works wonderfully no doubt. I just cannot see why anyone would want to go under the surface.


    Our crew had a fair few scares as the chain twisted this way and that, something that never happened in the shallower depths and calmer waters in the Bay of Inath. When the bell exceed the agreed time of the dive and the signal to return had not come, we almost thought that the brave Tiel had met with an accident.


    It was not so, to the relief of all. I gave the order to winch the bell back up, five minutes past the dive time of two hours, and the sailors set to it accordingly. The Marina groaned and tilted as the bell's great weight, all off one side, unbalanced the ship, as the bell rose one crank at a time. But after a great huffing and puffing of effort, the bell was recovered.


    Our oceanographer was quite angry with us. In our haste, we had not stopped the ascent at ten meters for the salinity test. She even wanted us to send her down again!


    To my great consternation, the woman collapsed mid-rant. One moment she was demanding we repeat the dive, the next she was on the deck groaning and clutching her arms and knees.


    The ship's doctor hustled her to the sick room. It was after we had stowed away the bell, clear that no further dives would occur today, that he returned with his prognosis. The woman had developed a strange condition in her joints, aches and pains that made her unable to rest. He had to reassure the crew that Tiel had not picked up a mysterious sickness of the deeps.


    It is an inauspicious start to our journey.
    Last edited by jseah; 2019-08-22 at 08:22 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #212
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for August 12 to 18!


    Lycunadari passes with seven nature photos.

    jseah passes with 1533 words for Hero's War.

    5crownik007 passes with 1500 words for The Short Way Down.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't post/upload anything..


    Thus Flyingbooks42 FAILs this round!

    Lycunadari, jseah and 5crownik007 PASS this round!



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    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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  3. - Top - End - #213
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Of Magic
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    Alright. She was being surrounded by a pack of wolves. And not just normal wolves, but black coated monstrosities as tall as Rihanna's short meter that puffed wisps of fire from their slavering mouths. They looked like they could bite her head off in one gulp.
    She glanced left and right. The biggest wolf was slowly stalking towards her while its subordinates spread out to try to surround her. Pack hunting. Well, if Rihanna wanted to live, she would have to do something about this right?
    What spell to make? A traditional favourite, fireball? Probably not good, the wolves were breathing fire. If this world worked like a fantasy game, these wolves would be fire resistant. So ice then? But what was an ice attack going to look like anyway? The wolves had thick fur and their fire probably kept them warm. Rihanna just couldn't see how shooting an icicle into a wolf might kill it.
    ... well, a icicle to the head would kill most things. But ice wasn't a good material and why would Rihanna conjure ice when there was a better option on the ground? She bent down to scoop up a handful of small rocks, keeping an eye on the wolves.
    They hesitated at her movement before continuing to advance. She prodded the spell creator in her head. Make rock go fast?
    Rihanna felt a completely different spell to her warmth spell settle in her mind. Direct energy to the rock in her hand, perform a different twist, project a line towards the target, pump in power and release.
    The rock disappeared with a supersonic crack. The forehead of the leading wolf her line touched exploded into shower of blood. Rihanna checked her power, five hours of the high power warmth left, or five shots. Seven wolves still standing. They were shocked right now at the sudden demise of their leader but she wouldn't bet on them staying that way for long.
    She mentally divided her energy into seven and fired another rock at the lower power. It spun out with a quieter crack, shredding the shoulder of her target in a blast of meat. It didn't die. The stunned wolves all turned back to her and immediately began to charge, the wounded wolf limping behind the pack. They weren't going to wait for her to attack them like before.
    Uh oh.
    Rihanna backed away slowly, firing off another of her rocks. This one was lucky and went straight through the mouth, tearing off the lower jaw of the wolf. The spray of blood was impressive but did not discourage the rest. Another rock, and the foremost wolf collapsed into a heap of fur with a bleeding stump for a leg.
    Her breath was coming faster now, spending the energy was taking something out of her body. It felt like she was running a marathon. Then Rihanna took another step back and hit something hard.
    She had backed into a tree. Four shots remaining, five wolves still incoming. She didn't dare lower the power any more, with the rocks gaining inaccuracy instead of losing power. If Rihanna missed, that would be the end of her. She didn't even have the time to fire them all off before the wolves got to her anyway.
    A shield please?
    Another mental flurry and a spell popped into place. Magic to make a spherical barrier around her and the growling and yelping of the wolves vanished into silence. It took surprisingly little energy. Then the lead wolf slammed into her shield mid leap, scrabbling at the invisible force in mid-air, and the energy drain slammed into Rihanna like a punch to the gut.
    Another such block and her energy would all be gone. What to do, what to do?! Rihanna saw the next wolf readying its haunches for a pounce over the fallen leading wolf. She needed more energy. Some way to make magic? Any way that could give her more power would do!
    There was a mental flurry, this time feeling even longer and her doing even more things. Her energy even dipped slightly. Then a spell fell into her head.
    A tendril of energy through her palm into the tree behind her, a column of energy connecting to her chest and a mighty mental pull. Energy from the tree flowed down the column into her, filling Rihanna with a white hot fire. She felt sick, pulling in the foreign energy was like pouring acid down her throat.
    No time to waste! Rihanna blasted the foreign energy out into her rock, blowing the projectile clear through the gut of the pouncing wolf. It blew backwards before it could touch her shield. Then Rihanna drew again from the tree, blasting the wolf that hit her shield first.
    There was a short panic when she scrambled around the tree to gain some time and pick up more rocks, a wolf hit her shield. But she managed to push the energy coming from the tree into her shield, barely holding it off. Then she had to blast the wolf and the next one and the next injured one with the broken shoulder.
    And then there were no more wolves left.
    Rihanna screamed as the tree's energy still continued to pour into her. Stop this magic! She shouted mentally.
    Compress energy into a hardened blade and blast it at the column still linking her to the tree. The link shattered into nothing. But she still had some of the tree's foreign power inside her, burning her up.
    A small mental nudge and she blasted it all into a pulse of force. A thunderclap and a blast of wind surrounded Rihanna, like a climatic end to her battle. Leaves, forest soil, fallen branches, everything within a meter or her was flung away in all directions. Even the tree was she next to creaked and groaned under the force, though not giving way.
    At long last, the forest grew quiet.
    Rihanna sagged against the abused tree, the rough bark on her skin was nothing next to the aching in her bones. Drawing that energy from the tree had injured her somehow, Rihanna knew. But she was safe for the moment.
    Her heart was beating frantically, her hands couldn't stop shaking. Damn this Rob, sending her to a place like this. If she hadn't come up with the drain spell, Rihanna would be dead right now!
    She squatted down for a moment longer before deciding to make herself scarce. She couldn't believe these wolves were the predators of this forest, not with magic around, and especially not when this concerned Rob.
    Something might come investigate the noise and Rihanna better not be here when it arrived.


    301 for Hero's War
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    She did manage to complete a few training cycles but her condition prevents her from making accurate measures of her power. It is well known that sick people do not regenerate power quickly after all.

    Cork, the ship's cook, made an interesting dish today. During the survey activities, the nets had brought in some strange fishes and our cook gave us the product of his creativity. As a fuka appointed to the expedition by Cato, I had expected a genius at making edibles out of wild resources.
    We got that but the fish meuniere was actually delicious. Despite the fact that fresh salt water fish is somewhat rare and only obtainable in port towns, Cork only needed two attempts to cook up a meal for the crew fit to be served in any upscale restaurant in Minmay. In one meal, he has won over half the crew and morale is up despite the accident with Tiel earlier today. I just wish I had a good wine to go with my fish, I have a bottle of white in my cabin I think would match the fish, but I am waiting for a special occasion to open it.
    Tomorrow, we are planning to run a drag net on the sea bed to survey the deeper resources of the region. Cork promises a boiled shellfish dinner.
    I foresee a great future for Cork and deep sea fishing. Opening a restaurant in Minmay with speciality seafood sounds like an excellent idea. Why, if enough people want seafood dinners, Port Tel might even get a railway connection!
    On the other hand, after this expedition, I suspect everyone is going to be thoroughly sick of fish. I must remember to pick up extra supplies of roots and preserved meats at our resupply stop at Eilan.

  4. - Top - End - #214
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for August 19 to 25!


    Lycunadari passes with three watercolour paintings, three portraits and a bunch of fairies.

    jseah passes with 301 words for Hero's War and 1227 words for Of Magic.

    5crownik007 didn't upload/send me anything.

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    Thus 5crownik007 and Flyingbooks42 FAIL this round!

    Lycunadari and jseah PASS this round!



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    ---

    I'm getting back into watercolour painting. And some pencil drawings.
    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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  5. - Top - End - #215
    Ogre in the Playground
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    1790 for Hero's War
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    Ka winged his way onwards, catching a gentle tailwind that only needed him to correct west a little. Behind him trailed two hunters from Clan Two. The clans had been reluctant to be a part of this expedition due to the loss of Muli in that climatic battle months ago. Having a small population, every elka was precious to the clan. Muli's death and the demands of having two-thirds of the clan's hunters be away from the range for possibly months made them leery of the request from the landbound.
    Ka had argued, along with many of the survivors of Clan One, that the humans were here to stay and their generous offers of food, magic and other tools was worth it. More than the transient gratitude for aiding the humans, who did understand the population pressure on the clan, Ka wanted his adoptive Clan to work more closely with the humans.
    He had seen what Cato and the rest of the University did. Anything that they used, they improved. Magic and machines got better and more complex, people got training and better tools. If the elkas decided to separate themselves from the humans, they would not receive these advantages and they might lose their place in the world the humans were building around them.
    His arguments had paid off, Ka felt. The humans knew how important flight was and the elkas provided a capability that the landbound did not have. So much of their focus went towards helping the elkas fly faster, longer and be more protected. Each of the scouts that were ranging outwards from the landbound northern fortress was armed with the best weapons and best magic that could be given to them.
    The flight harness given to each of the elkas of Clan Two was a finely designed weapon. The primary limitation of the elka's flight and weapons were the amount of magical power they could bring to bear. With spellforming wands to shoot spells and mist shields to blur beams, the average elka in a combat situation could not fly for long. Hence the harness consisted of the best magical storage the humans could give them.
    it was a delicate balancing act. The more power they contained, the heavier the power pack was, even if the newly discovered and very expensive high density magical crystals were used for storage. Too heavy and the elka couldn't fly at all. Each elka flew slightly differently and as they improved in their lift and endurance, so did the weight they could carry. Not to mention the requirements of distributing the weight. Every flight harness was sized and customized for the elka who carried it, at great expense and to great effect.
    The crown jewel of the whole flight harness device was the launch assist. Rather than take a running start, each flight harness could provide one to three liftoffs from a standing start. They were barely enough to get into the air, but the ability to simply spring away from enemies made landing a much less risky prospect.
    There was talk of creating larger glider surfaces that could be deployed from the harness, to reduce energy consumption over long distance flight. Such designs only further justified working with the humans, in Ka's mind.
    The land far below him was empty. Open rolling plains and patches of light forest dotted the land interspersed with many small streams that flowed northwards. Wild animals could be spotted, though rarer than might be expected given the obviously fertile land. The reasons for that became clear after the last few flights had found traces of old farmlands, now abandoned and overgrown. To the average elka, this would be a great hunting ground if not for the lack of convenient perches.
    The mapping the clan had done so far had the humans speculate that there was a major river to the north and Ka's patrol had been tasked to find it. Flying so high that even elka eyes could not spot large prey on the ground was not normally done, being cold and quite useless for hunting. But missing a big river like they were looking for was impossible no matter how high Ka flew and the height let them survey widely.
    They had passed the limits of the mapped area yesterday, where the last scouting group had reported another ruined town. The brown smudge on the ground was all Ka could see of it, along with the misshapen squares where the growth difference between individual abandoned fields showed the decaying boundaries of this northern civilization.
    It only took a few hours of flight before Ka spotted what must be the river he was looking for.
    Not as big as the River Yang, the winding river was punctuated by a myriad of curved lakes, circular lakes and stretches of white rapids. Further to the west downstream was a marshy area that the river spread out into before disappearing over the horizon. Dots and smudges and the little discoloured patches indicating human activity was evident north of the river, and at higher density than the south.
    Ka called the other two elkas in the patrol to him with a signalling pulse of magic. The pair adjusted into a close formation around him.
    "Down there," he pointed, where a large black mass was pressed up against the river from both sides. It was moving, though that was all Ka could tell from this height.
    "It could be a zombie group," said one of the scouts. Lali looked a little worried but everyone would if asked to face a zombie swarm. The memory of Muli had reminded the elka that they were not invincible, even to the ground bound monsters.
    "I think it is a zombie group, but we should investigate and track where it's heading," Ka replied, "the humans will appreciate the warning. No need to go low enough for the beams to be a danger. "
    Her husband, Waukee, shared a look. The scout pair finally agreed after a few moments and the three elkas fell into a sharp dive.
    Almost immediately, Ka felt something was wrong with the group of monsters. They were crossing the river, but heading north. More importantly, someone was fighting them. When the elkas dropped lower, they found out who.
    Arrayed against the small horde on the opposite bank was a series of small dugouts. Little mini forts of sand and soil, each of the defensive positions could shoot at each other from the side or at an angle from the back, while the shield of mounded soil protected them from the light beams.
    Compared to the hard and concentrated defence of a trench line, walls and killing fields that the southern humans preferred, this bunch was reducing the horde by attrition. As each point was overrun, at great cost to the zombies, it was subject to a withering barrage of counter fire from the defenses behind and to the side. And rather than physical projectiles, the defenders were using almost purely magic for their attacks.
    The patrol's overflight drew little attention. The humans were locked in combat and the monsters were too attracted to the major magical signature from behind the humans' defenses. Most of the humans wore slightly heavier clothing, the air being colder here than south of the Snow Wall, and their metal armour was of a heavier design.
    As Ka and the patrol climbed back upwards with the speed they gained from the dive, they felt more than saw a huge bloom of magic from a bigger platform hidden behind a small hill. The humans there milled around, dragging bodies and injured, while the red dressed other humans scurried between them. Ka couldn't make out what they were doing but the magical bloom was hanging around their camp area like a cloud.
    As the monsters surged forwards in an attempt to reach the cloud of magic, the magic responded. Quick like lightning, the humans' magic funneled into a spike of disruptive mana that smashed into the zombies' own black mist. The two clouds struggled against each other for a moment before the black mist won, though much diminished.
    Ka could almost feel the shock on the faces of his companions. These humans had their own mist-equivalent! Though it was crude compared to the hammer blows of the spellcannons, these people were not to be underestimated.
    "Let's help them," Ka said, after watching the struggle against the dead continue unabated.
    "What? We were asked to find the river, not fight a battle," Waukee complained.
    "We wanted to find the river because the humans suspect others exist. Now that we found it and the others, if we help, they will be friendlier to us. Our humans will be happier. "
    Ka's explanation did not satisfy them, he could tell. But they eventually acquiesced to Ka's leadership.
    "Three bombs each,, target the main mass on the south side," Ka said.
    The elka patrol winged over, circling the horde to the east, before beginning an attack dive. Their spellforming wands spat out globs of magic that splashed on the top of the black mist into a blurry shield that dispersed a light beam. Then they were at the bottom of the dive, a mere few wingspans above the mist, and Ka pulled on the chosen strings on his bomb vest.
    Three cylinders each double the size of a fist were hurled into the crowd, with Lali and Waukee's own salvo beside them. Plunging through the weakened black mist, the layered disruptive shells on the cylinders and their high speed resisted the corrosive magical effect for a few moments, long enough for the bombs to reach the ground.
    Each of the cylinders popped open, a carefully balanced magical construct spraying the mixture inside evenly in all directions. The special payload instantly caught fire and then exploded with a deep booming sound.
    To make elka attacks more effective, the University had provided small quantities of handmade special ammunition. Rather than the plain living fire of the normal grenades, these contained a quantity of the new explosive powder. The living fire ignited on contact with air and caused the powder packet in the middle to instantly explode, scattering the sticky fire in a massive but short lived fireball. Flaming droplets were propelled in all directions, lighting up the dry zombies which were yet to ford the river.
    Nine blasts smashed a gaping hole in the center of the zombie swarm, and then the weakened black mist completely collapsed under the strain of trying to deal with so much fire. The small horde devolved into a charging mess without light beams.

  6. - Top - End - #216
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for August 26 to September 1!


    Lycunadari passes with seven watercolour paintings.

    jseah passes with 1790 words for Hero's War.

    5crownik007 didn't upload/send me anything.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't upload/send anything.


    Thus 5crownik007 and Flyingbooks42 FAIL this round!

    Lycunadari and jseah PASS this round!



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    Trees, and roses, and a glass!
    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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  7. - Top - End - #217
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    Update:
    I've not been posting due to a combination of exams and personal issues, but I should be back in 2 weeks at the latest.
    For now, enjoy the few things I did make over the last few weeks in-between being sad and studying(same thing really)

    Spoiler: Fiona and Kyu
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    Spoiler: Gave Up(Rimworld Comic)
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    Last edited by 5crownik007; 2019-09-12 at 08:54 PM.
    "You... little... *****. It's what my old man called me, it's like it was my name, and I proved him right, by killing all the wrong people. [And], I love ya Henry, and I'll never call you anything but your name, but you gotta decide; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth, or are you gonna stand up, spit it out, and go spill theirs?" - Unknown

  8. - Top - End - #218
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    1539 for Hero's War
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    Well, Miria expected that someone would find a use for an overly accurate lathe. Too much accuracy never hurt anyone.
    The production model lathes on the other hand, while slightly less accurate, were much cheaper due to being cut by the high quality one in her workshop. These lathes came in a variety of sizes, powered by different sources of motive work and were built according to what a customer needed.
    By the time the toolroom lathe was done and calibrated against the primary standards to everyone's satisfaction, the released specifications had given the industrialists of Minmay ideas. Sales and orders were already backed up for thousands of rimes. So of course the first thing Miria did with the lathe was to duplicate itself.
    It looked like she was about to become a very rich subsidiary of the Ironworkers, but Miria only felt a little disappointed.
    She might be earning a lot but being the lead engineer in the new generation lathe business got boring. Designing a lathe or jigs or measuring device for a customer requires just enough creativity that Miria couldn't do it in her sleep. But also wasn't anything truly new.
    What Miria most wanted to do was to build an even more accurate production tool. Perhaps something that could work on extremely small scales? Dare she even dream of a cutting edge accurate to the micron scale?

    The zombie army was cut down easily without their terrible power. Once the black mist had collapsed and the defenders noticed the change in behaviour, they had rapidly formed up into a shield wall that reduced the zombies to chunks with ease.
    By the time the toolroom lathe was done and calibrated against the primary standards to everyone's satisfaction, the released specifications had given the industrialists of Minmay ideas. Sales and orders were already backed up for thousands of rimes. So of course the first thing Miria did with the lathe was to duplicate itself.
    It looked like she was about to become a very rich subsidiary of the Ironworkers, but Miria only felt a little disappointed.
    She might be earning a lot but being the lead engineer in the new generation lathe business got boring. Designing a lathe or jigs or measuring device for a customer requires just enough creativity that Miria couldn't do it in her sleep. But also wasn't anything truly new.
    What Miria most wanted to do was to build an even more accurate production tool. Perhaps something that could work on extremely small scales? Dare she even dream of a cutting edge accurate to the micron scale?

    The zombie army was cut down easily without their terrible power. Once the black mist had collapsed and the defenders noticed the change in behaviour, they had rapidly formed up into a shield wall that reduced the zombies to chunks with ease.
    Ka and his patrol watched from above, circling the battlefield warily. They didn't want to spend their precious magic firing their spellforming wands at the army. It would kill only a few more zombies and the defenders seemed to have things on a rising wind.
    On the other hand, their overflight of the back area that had conjured the human's grey mist had shown some rather disturbing signs. Ones that made Ka nervous.
    As the battle wound down, the humans on the ground below began to wave upwards at them. White flags were used to mark out an empty field on which Ka could land.
    "Can you even trust these landbound? They are not the tame ones back home. "
    Ka glanced at Waukee, but the male was still in formation. "We have to, we were asked to scout and find information. Talking to the local humans will tell us more. Especially about the things we saw. "
    "And if they decide to cut you open to steal your wings?" The man might grumble but Ka knew his wing mate was just worried for his safety.
    After all, they had spotted the humans cleaning up some bodies in the healing area. Bodies that had come from those strange raised stone blocks that were now stained with red blood. Judging from the special graves that were set aside from the open grave of dead soldiers, the humans down there were burying around thirty bodies from their strange action.
    The field of bloody stone blocks looked like the humans had dragged out some of their own people and cut them open on top of the blocks. What for, Ka had no idea.
    "I have my harness and I won't be taking it off," Ka replied, "you'll be on over flight. I did ask you to only use after our bombs just in case we need to use the rest. "
    Ka didn't wait for his wing mate to reply, instead diving down to the open area before settling into a landing glide. If they were going to be so kind as to set up the clear space, Ka wouldn't waste his magic. And if it helped encourage them to think he needed a long run to get off the ground, he would have a surprise escape ready for them.
    As soon as Ka touched the ground, three of the soldiers came running into the landing zone, waving and gesturing at him.
    The words coming out of their mouth sounded like a warped almost unintelligible mess. "Leave magic things, come with" was all that Ka could make out. It was like listening to an accent even worse than the differences between the most poetic elka Clan phrases and the Inath humans' Tsarian. At least they were speaking a dialect of Tsarian, rather than the Inath's more common First originated language.
    And that their word order was not reversed.
    "I'm not leaving this," Ka said, plucking at the harness strapped around him and shaking his head.
    The foremost soldier just frowned and gestured at him again, "put down magic, not allowed. No fighting. "
    "I am not going to leave my weapons," Ka refused adamantly. After seeing the sacrifices, there was no way he was going to leave his safety behind. Even if it meant he couldn't meet with their leadership.
    "Not no weapons, commander cannot meet," the soldier insisted. He reached out towards Ka's spellforming wand but stopped when Ka took a step back out of reach.
    They stared at each other, each not willing to give up their positions.
    "What about messages?" Ka suggested.
    The soldier brightened up and spoke quickly to his colleague, who ran off.
    "Thank for help with big enemies, all people must fight with each other. "
    Ka frowned, the chance for misinterpretation was high, he barely understood the soldier. But an attempt had to be made. "The other humans are coming from the south, and they would like to meet with you. Do you have any introduction messages I can bring?"
    The soldier frowned back, "if more come, fighting with each other is good. Introduction is good. "
    Ka paused then decided that he really needed to understand if the soldier was talking about fighting the Inath people from the south. Or perhaps these northerners thought Ka was talking about monsters coming from the south?
    He paraphrased himself. The soldier did the same.
    This continued for a few more rounds before the colleague who had run off came running back with a rolled up tube of paper in his arms. "Message for coming people!" the man proclaimed and thrust it out to Ka.
    Ka received the large roll of paper carefully. "I thank you for this-" He started to bow respectfully but was interrupted when he heard some shouting around the borders of the cleared area around him.
    The soldiers who were crowding around trying to get a closer look at the foreign elka were suddenly pushed aside. Leading the way was a man in red robes, trailed by similarly red dressed flunkies. The soldiers gave them a wide berth.
    Marching straight towards Ka, the red robed man's assistants spread out trying to surround Ka and the three soldiers. The soldier who was talking to Ka puffed up with indignation, but his incoming rant was cut short when the red robe pointed at Ka and shouted a single word. "Catch!"
    Ka took one glance at the circle of red rushing towards him. Time to leave.
    He tugged on the magic in his harness and flared his lift as high as it would go, feeling the sudden magical drain from the backpack. The power blasted Ka into the sky, hurtling forwards and upwards with furled wings. Ka deployed the wings with well-practiced timing, the launch system saved power by only giving him just enough speed and height to get off the ground.
    His ability to launch from a standing start obviously took these northerners by surprise. The red robes were left gaping at Ka as he winged his way higher and upwards.
    It took until Ka had caught up to his wing mates before realizing that he was still holding the scroll containing the message the soldier had given him. Perhaps this wasn't completely a waste of time then.

  9. - Top - End - #219
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for September 2 to September 8!


    Lycunadari passes with 5 nature photos, one action drawing and a bunch of critter drawings.

    jseah passes with 1539 words for Hero's War.

    5crownik007 passes with one drawing and a long comic.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't upload/send anything.


    Thus Flyingbooks42 FAILs this round!

    Lycunadari, jseah and 5crownik007PASS this round!



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    Lycunadari
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    jseah
    Current Run: 186 weeks
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    5crownik007
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    I sorted all the pics but then promptly forgot to actually upload them before I left, oops.
    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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  10. - Top - End - #220
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    I actually didn't expect it, but I got a bunch of stuff made.
    Spoiler: Battle Over Vall
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    Spoiler: ETSOD Operator
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    Spoiler: SPC Infantryman
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    "You... little... *****. It's what my old man called me, it's like it was my name, and I proved him right, by killing all the wrong people. [And], I love ya Henry, and I'll never call you anything but your name, but you gotta decide; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth, or are you gonna stand up, spit it out, and go spill theirs?" - Unknown

  11. - Top - End - #221
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    987 words for Of Magic
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    Rihanna had searched the visible area but no cave was in sight. The damned cloud was still rolling in and in less than three hours by her estimation, Rihanna would be unable to see and in deep trouble. Her internal power would run down to nothing in two hours.
    She wandered away from her encounter with the fire breathing wolves but still no shelter was in sight. The closest was a stand of closely growing trees but the discolouration on the trunks made her not want to approach the strange clump. Rihanna glanced downwards.
    Maybe she could dig one?
    A mental query gave her a spell similar to her rock launcher, a field of force tagged to an area that could scoop away small objects and soil in a controlled fashion. it was cheaper than her rock throwing spell but not cheap enough to dig a hole big enough to hide in.
    Rihanna looked at the trees around her. Could she draw from them again? Just the thought made her twinge inside, the ache in her... everywhere still evident.
    No, bad idea. She couldn't take in more power without doing something bad to herself. That much burning was definitely a warning sign.
    What she needed was some kind of buffer. Some way to hold the drawn power outside of herself and apply it instantly. Rihanna thought about it and got a distinct sense of pressure. It felt like she had to reach just a little too far for her answer, unlike the time when she asked for a water teleporter and the ability didn't even know where to start. It was almost like her ability was asking 'are you sure?'. She was sure.
    A full hour of warmth burnt away like snow under a blowtorch. There was a sense of immense time, as if she was groping about in the dark without the clarity of understanding. An answer appeared.
    It was a strange twisted spell, it held loops and whorls where the power directed down it didn't seem to do anything. The two ends of the spell also seemed to do nothing, and the insane tangled assembly of doing nothing would cost significant power just to cast. The end that Rihanna held to power it also seemed to be detachable.
    From the guidance of her ability, Rihanna knew that one end of the strange spell was to take over the tap from the tree and the outlet was to feed into whatever spell she wanted. Then she would disconnect and the spell would take over the feeding of power to whatever target she wanted as long as the spell only needed a constant stream. But if it was as simple as connecting two spells together, then why all the loops and twists? Rihanna could not understand what all of that was for, her ability didn't explain how the spells worked of course.
    Half out of curiousity and half desperation, Rihanna set about casting it.
    Her warmth spell was already cast. Next Rihanna cast her new spell at it, sliding the construct in between herself and the warmth spell. She was down to half an hour of warmth now. Then Rihanna cast her tree draining spell and connected it to her construct. With the pull to activate the draw and a prompt from her ability, Rihanna quickly cut off her connection.
    She almost didn't drop it before the tree's power had reached her. The sheer length of power flows in the tangled ball meant that the tree's power that was displacing Rihanna's down the link took enough time for Rihanna to pull out from it.
    This spell was a buffer of magical power and a bridge all in one.
    `Rihanna frowned, but why all the twists and loops then? Her new spell was almost organic, full of strange places where the power eddied and delayed itself. Rihanna tried to query her ability for a more sane version of the buffer consisting of a single long coil. It spat out a length of coil that was ridiculously long and would cost an entire day of warmth just to cast.
    Just how powerful was her ability that it could do this?

    With her heat in hand, Rihanna set about digging in the soil manually. She had no more magic to cast multiple buffer spells to avoid contamination from the trees. Luckily, her gnarled and calloused hands were tough enough to dig into the soil, with a little help from spikes of magic to loosen the dirt.
    The cloud flowed in but Rihanna's heat kept her alive in the frosty conditions. Cold wind drove in around her bubble of heat, sending goosebumps running up and down her arms and legs, but the core of her heat never wavered. As the light faded into a dim glow all around and the temperature continued to plummet, Rihanna continued to work at her pit with her tiny body.
    Her warmth was actually not quite strong enough to be comfortable, but when Rihanna went to adjust the power upwards, she found she could not. The power flow rate was fixed and the buffer was sized only for that amount.
    In fact, Rihanna found to her consternation that the buffer was made with her warmth spell in mind. It gave too much power for the scooping spell, if Rihanna would ever waste more power on a buffer than the scoop spell itself. It was also too little for her rock thrower, never mind her shield.
    What she needed was an accumulator, some other construct to store power from the buffer that could be discharged when the spell at the other end needed it. She got a ping from her ability. A combination of the same asking for confirmation and insufficient power.
    With a shrug, Rihanna went back to digging her hole. Hopefully she regenerated her magic soon.

    I don't actually know where I'm going with this one. The ramp on her ability is too fast I think, she gets too powerful too quickly.


    647 for Hero's War
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    The Northern Fort, as the expedition's base came to be known, was into its sixth month of existence. The ruins of the city were situated near a river for easy water access and transport. The rolling plains around it held evidence of this region being a breadbasket, rivaling even the Central Territories in fertility. And while the weather was colder up here, the windeyes could still grow just fine.
    The ruins of the city had been mostly cleaned up by now, but military dwellings were far more compact than the combination residences and market. Still, the ample space behind the mostly intact wall gave the location a convenient defensible point to stockpile supplies for further patrols northwards. Long ranging mini-expeditions were aimed at filling out ancient maps of the land and finding any survivors or remnant civilization that might yet be falling to the monsters.
    The strong logistics base that was required meant that the Northern Fort had to be able to fulfill its own needs from more basic supplies. They couldn't wait for weeks if they ran out of boots again or if steel nails ran short. Setting up mana wells, metalworks and trench defences had taken months to fully realize but with them, the Northern Fort was effectively a colony, only reliant on the Minmay motherland for basic materials. A few civilians had even come up from Minmay, mostly traders doing supply runs on heavily escorted barges.
    It helped that the presence of the Northern Fort had reduced the attacks on Fort Yang to a trickle and on Wendy's Fort, plus the Fuka village there, to almost nothing. Ranra had also reported a mild reduction in the intensity of attacks on their eastern border to Algami Plains. All of that was now falling on the Fort, which fended off attacks with the hammer of a large mobile force and the anvil of its prepared defenses and killing grounds. The deadly bone worms did not make a second showing.
    That the magnitude of this attraction effect significantly increased after the mana wells had been set up did not go unnoticed. It went a long way to explain why Fort Yang and its copious magical power generation infrastructure had attracted such intense assaults. As the theory went, the zombies could perceive magical power at both long and short ranges, unlike humans. The short range magical power attraction helped them find prey as well as send them attacking strong magical sources like spell cannons. The long range effect attracted zombie packs to each other for form large swarms as well as made said swarms drift in the general direction of the largest group of magical activity, presuming that said magical power also meant human activity.
    Through this all, Cato and Landar had been at the Fort, still trying to come up with something suitably useful to the Iris in exchange for their political support for their engagement. It did not help that Landar was constantly distracted by her rocket tests, meant to refine calculated trajectories. Testing Landar's Trumpets at the Fort put the tests in realistic conditions as well as helping zero in the rocket batteries deployed there.
    Cato's proposed device to aid in the usage of summoning stones was meeting with problems. Each type of stone had their own control schemes and making a general device that helped with all stones was proving close to impossible. The second generation of magic circle could theoretically do it, being accurate enough to place the magic properly, but the number of variables exploded as more stones were supported.
    Currently, Cato had a prototype that could interface with the most common type of Sword Stone, almost forty percent of the total number of Swords. Which was good, but his pride did not want him to return with just this.
    An engineer had to have standards!
    Last edited by jseah; 2019-09-19 at 08:13 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #222
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    I don't actually know where I'm going with this one. The ramp on her ability is too fast I think, she gets too powerful too quickly.
    If a character gets too powerful, be it in your fiction or your TTRPG, there's always the nuclear option. Sometimes literally, drop a hydrogen bomb on the PCs(bombs fall everyone dies ). Of course, you could just create something that puts everyone on a level playing field- for example, a machine gun. All of my solutions are modern though... Machine guns are already kind of like magic though. You point it at a guy, press the button and bang, he's got several new bleeding cavities. Magic!

    In seriousness, don't worry too much about it. If you're really concerned, plan out the future of the story and call this a first draft.
    "You... little... *****. It's what my old man called me, it's like it was my name, and I proved him right, by killing all the wrong people. [And], I love ya Henry, and I'll never call you anything but your name, but you gotta decide; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth, or are you gonna stand up, spit it out, and go spill theirs?" - Unknown

  13. - Top - End - #223
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Quote Originally Posted by 5crownik007 View Post
    If a character gets too powerful, be it in your fiction or your TTRPG, there's always the nuclear option. Sometimes literally, drop a hydrogen bomb on the PCs(bombs fall everyone dies ). Of course, you could just create something that puts everyone on a level playing field- for example, a machine gun. All of my solutions are modern though... Machine guns are already kind of like magic though. You point it at a guy, press the button and bang, he's got several new bleeding cavities. Magic!

    In seriousness, don't worry too much about it. If you're really concerned, plan out the future of the story and call this a first draft.
    Or to put it in a better way: "there's no brakes on this escalation train!" =P

  14. - Top - End - #224
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for September 9 to September 15!


    Lycunadari passes with 7 nature photos and one flower painting.

    jseah passes with 647 words for Hero's War and 987 words for Of Magic.

    5crownik007 passes two drawings and a video.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't upload/send anything.


    Thus Flyingbooks42 FAILs this round!

    Lycunadari, jseah and 5crownik007 PASS this round!



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    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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  15. - Top - End - #225
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    1556 for Hero's War
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    The wooden frame wobbled on its rails, the light wind breezing through the open grassland rattling the wood and causing the paper skin to flap noisily.
    Around the contraption stood a large gathering of people, alchemists, recordkeepers, ironworkers, even the rare mathematician. Most of the University had turned out to catch this historic moment.
    For all that the frame looked rickety and unreliable, the design of the craft was the culmination of many months of design, more months of careful construction and yet more months of testing. Two years had gone by since the project was conceived and only now had they advanced to the point that a field test was possible. Even then, this version was only a proof of concept, its engine was heavy and anemic, certainly not something commercially viable.
    But the airplane waiting for launch represented the very frontier of human knowledge and ingenuity.
    The blood and treasure poured into this project had been immense. The number of failed tests, repairs and upgrades of wind tunnels and prototype wings was beyond count. Gliders tested and crashed had slowly evolved, one painstaking and expensive advancement at a time.
    The Flight Project had been steadily eating up more and more of the University's budget even as the dividends of the University contracts poured in in an increasing flood. Among the University researchers, the Project had become something of an obsession and the spin off technologies, in improved steam engines, plywood and aerodynamics, had been sufficient to convince Cato to increase the backing for the project.
    "Supercritical water storage loaded. " The coordinator spoke to the team preparing the airplane for take off.
    The storage tank for the pre-heated water that drove the small steam engine was loaded into the insulated container. While steam engines gave poor power for weight, without a boiler and using sufficient magic in the cylinder itself to drive the expansion, the engineers had managed to coax enough power out of it to get into the air.
    According to lab testing that is.
    "Flush lines. " The pilot pulled the handle, prompting the engine to hiss and spit clouds of steam as superheated water flashed to boiling in its feed lines and out to the atmosphere.
    The pilot had been drawn from a pool of volunteers, all eager for the glory of the first flight. Quite a few of the contributors to the project had not entered however, since the risk of something going wrong was considerable.
    "Throttle up. "
    The moment of truth came as the engine was cranked into a slow start and the propellers attached to the drive belts began to spin. The preparation team backed away now, leaving the pilot in the prototype clear.
    There was a long pause as the engine continued to accelerate and pull the propellers into higher speeds. Each puff of superheated water injected into the pistons was subjected to a further pulse of heat from the magic power storage, the steam driving the piston before being vented into the atmosphere. It was extremely inefficient both in water and magic consumption, compared to the fixed steam engines with multiple expansion cylinders, but those were all too heavy to use.
    The propellers had already disappeared into a blurred roaring circle, the wind blasting backwards kept conversation to a minimum.
    "Brakes off. "
    With a squeal, the aircraft began to roll forward immediately, picking up speed on the rails. The observing team had a short anxious moment as the airplane shot past the calculated point where takeoff speed would be achieved. Then just before the launch rails ran out, the aircraft lifted gently off the ground.
    The spontaneous outbreak of cheers and whistles as the airplane soared into the sky was deafening.
    They died off quickly when not ten seconds later, the airplane pitched upwards a little too much, stalled and plunged into the muddy ground below the hill.

    The new special ammunition factory was considerably more special than the other factories. Despite its size and cost, the output of the factory was a mere tenth in weight of the living fire manufactory. It was staffed with not necessarily the best but certainly the most careful of the workers in the Ironworker company. All of them were volunteers, from the lowliest cleaner to the floor manager himself.
    All around the site, in a two hundred meter exclusion radius of empty fields, was rings of fencing festooned with warning symbols indicating in no uncertain terms that a multitude of things were banned from the site. The list ran the gamut from fire magic to torches to smoking pipes, lit or unlit. They all boiled down to no ignition sources allowed.
    The factory also did not have an attached warehouse for stockpiling output, its output was immediately carted away on specially built and marked wagons, under military escort.
    This was the experimental factory for explosives manufacturing.
    Despite the precautions, there had been a continuous string of minor incidents and near misses ever since the factory's opening. The main reaction vat that produced the batches of nitroglycerine for later stabilization was the most sensitive part of the whole process. The shock sensitivity of the product meant that accidentally dropping a small tool into the vat at the wrong time could result in an explosion.
    This was the conclusion that the inspectors had come to after the final incident that demolished half the factory. At some point, a small object, possibly a bolt or other fastening, had gotten loose somewhere above the reaction vat and fell down while a batch was being made. The object hit the roof of the reaction vat, as one of the surviving witnesses reported hearing a loud metallic clang just before the explosion, and then possibly bounced into the mixture through the pressure release vents.
    The reaction was almost complete and the nitroglycerin in the vat detonated to devastating effect. The shrapnel of the reaction vessel killed the four closest workers and injured dozens more through the factory floor, damaging or shattering equipment nearby. For unknown reasons, the shockwave ended up mostly focused into a single quadrant and blew through all the obstacles to create a hole in the wall of the factory.
    This final incident led to the shut down of the explosives manufacturing plant and a full review of all safety measures. Further research into the production process with a view to limiting the amount of unstabilized nitroglycerin present was conducted, as well as a search for a more stable explosive. Explosives production dropped to a trickle for months after.
    Later, the Explosives Factory Incident was remembered as one of the case studies that resulted in a formalization of industrial safety standards. Ad hoc improvements in safety based on analysis of risk factors and mitigating measures were replaced with safety departments, incident analysis and error prevention.

    Landar watched as Cato added the final touches to the Sword Stone casting aid. Despite his objections that the casting aid was quite unfinished, Landar wanted him to try making a militarily useful version for her Sword Stone.
    "But I still think this is a waste," Cato said as he fired up the magic circle. In a flash, the enchantment snapped together into the metal disc molded to hold the shard of green crystal. "Your Sword Stone is more complicated than most and uses a control scheme that isn't shared by anything else. Whatever I build here won't be useful for anyone other than you. "
    "That's a good thing! After all, being an alchemist, my control is much greater than most Iris summoners, so I was given one of the trickier stones to use. "
    Landar leaned over Cato's shoulder to pluck the disc from the magic circle. She pushed a small amount of magic into the device and they watched as a faint Sword appeared next to her at minimum power.
    "Well, it works," Landar said. "Feels anticlimactic though. "
    "Try it with an external power source. "
    He unplugged the magic circle from its power storage and passed the flexible metal pipe that transferred compressed magic over to Landar. She almost reflexively drew directly from the power source out of habit but remembered enough to plug it into the port on the disc.
    With the same silent bloom of power, she fed the casting aid a trickle of her own magic. The enchantment drew on the power source and amplified the power Landar had been sending to the Sword Stone. A second Sword snapped into being beside her.
    She ran through the usual Iris exercises, setting the translucent blade of force rotating and orbiting her, moving it this way and that. She tested it against other spells, disruption and solid objects, reforming the blade each time.
    "Hm, it's a little clunky," Landar noted after fumbling the reformation of the Sword after reducing it to a lump of disorganized magic from bashing a wall of disruption. "The casting aid takes a short time to respond when I try to control the Sword. It's a small delay but noticeable. It'll take some getting used to. "
    They looked at each other.
    "Field test?"
    "Field test. "
    Landar agreed with a happy smile. She was always happiest when things were about to be destroyed.
    They didn't have to wait long before the next zombie attack.

  16. - Top - End - #226
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    1018 words
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    My wrist computer pinged- a new briefing package had been sent out. We had a new mission. I floated past another crewman, paying them no mind as I stared at my wrist. The title was my first surprise: ‘BRF: ETI DPL’ Briefing: Extra-Terrestrial-Infantry Deployment. It was a US mission. I stopped myself against a rail in the narrow passage. Scrolling past, I read the section of the mission I’d been sent.

    “Chief, what the **** is this?” I’d clamped down with my boots, standing in the CPO’s office while he was strapped into his station, “What the **** is what, Kerich?”
    “I thought I wasn’t going to get any more planetary assignments.”
    “The US Command thought you were a good pick for the mission. Our command isn’t making complaints.”
    “Bull! Why the hell am I pulling CAS for some crap I know nothing about?”
    The CPO unbuckled from his station and clamped to the deck. He was significantly shorter than me, but his build was much more stocky. “That’s enough. Our people are down there with the ETI. You’ll fly your gunship, you’ll do CAS and you won’t ***** about it. Do you understand me- Astroman Kerich?”
    A moment passed, “Yes sir.”
    His face unscrewed just a degree, and he strapped back in. “Get to your post. I’m sure you’ll get into a meeting soon.”

    We were packed into a tiny room. Design restrictions meant that the craft had to be designed for minimum launch mass, sudden depressurization, structural damage and still be able to fly. The consequence was that we barely had room for 30 people in the one room. It was hot, the air recyclers were at their absolute maximum operating limit. Without gravity, it was difficult to ‘sit’, but we clamped our boots to the deck and bent our knees down, then grabbed them. It was close enough so that we could all see over eachother and read the presentation.

    The two team leaders were at the front of the room. The American(captain), and the Karandan(also captain). The American spoke first. He looked to be in his mid to late thirties, and was comfortable in a space environment.
    “Listen up. We’re gonna be assaulting a Coalition compound a few klicks north of the equator. Karandans are bringing infantry and CAS, we’re bringing HEI and CASEVAC. It’s gonna be an SH Landing, so make sure you’re strapped in properly, or you’ll break your spine and I’m not carrying your quarter-ton ass to CASEVAC.”
    He pulled up a slide on a wall display, “The target is this building. Intel says there’s a network weakness which the cyber boys can exploit. Infantry needs to reach this building and upload a plug to this terminal.” He brought up the next slide, showing a photograph of the terminal. “We’re gonna be deploying six klicks north, and they’ll see us coming, but we’ve got some advantages.”
    The Karandan speaker spoke next. He was short, almost definitely born planetside. He seemed ageless, with no facial hair or discernible wrinkles, but a deep, unfazed voice.
    “First, intel says they’ve got no indirect fire weapons, and the terrain is mountainous. We can approach to about one klick before they can engage us from the compound. We’ve also got close air support from our pilot over there, so any forces that leave the compound won’t be too much trouble.”

    Seeing the size of the Heavy Exo Infantry made me cringe. Their payload mass was absolutely massive, which is why their landing vehicle was stripped down to the barest. To minimize mass, it didn’t have life support, insulation, or any creature comforts. It was essentially a bunch of heavy duty straps on the designated landing floor so they could lie flat against the acceleration. This lander wasn’t re-usable either. These guys were going to do a ‘Semi-Hard’ landing. Essentially crash into the ground at a low enough speed not to kill you, but high enough to save on fuel. It sounded like hell.

    The CASEVAC team was much more interesting to me. They were going to deploy a helicopter. Fair enough, it was a good way to save on fuel. I was only wondering how they were going to get it back up. Or lift one of the exosuit infantrymen. The gun those guys carried was about 13.5 kilograms each, and the individual guys were roughly a quarter ton. In terms of raw mass, the helicopter would probably be able to take it, but the volume was my main interest. Two of them would take most of the cabin space.

    “Hitman One, this is Flight Control. Reading R-Vel zero and docking clamps in place, over.”
    “Flight Control, this is Hitman One. Reading the same. Running pre-launch and the board is green, over.”
    “Hitman One, reading your payload mass at 250 kay-gees, over.”
    “Flight Control, reading the same, ready for detach.”
    The clunk shook the gunship as the female docking clamp released its grip.
    “Hitman One, you’re away.”

    I looked around the cabin, checking my instruments, fuel tanks, ammunition counts and relative positioning. “Alright, lets get us away from the dock.” Powering up the reaction thrusters, I carefully guided us away from the female port. “And we’re away.” The cabin had no windows- they were structural weaknesses. Instead, each of us wore a headset which would connect to the gunship’s systems and external cameras. Then it would quietly edit out the unimportant parts of the gunship and read orientation data from the headsets. I flicked the switch on my headset to take a look at my surrounds. Empty space, and a planet half a million kilometres away.

    “Kerich, we’ve got the nav package.” I knew how to pilot around in orbit. I’d done it in sims for years, but we still had to leave our precise orbit to flight control, because they had the whole plan to worry about. I input the package and set us up for the deorbit burn. We’d be spending about a third of our delta-V deorbiting and slowing down for re-entry. “Ions running at 100%, we’re within error bars.”


    And my character from a game my friend is running:
    Spoiler: Jane Anderton
    Show


    "You... little... *****. It's what my old man called me, it's like it was my name, and I proved him right, by killing all the wrong people. [And], I love ya Henry, and I'll never call you anything but your name, but you gotta decide; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth, or are you gonna stand up, spit it out, and go spill theirs?" - Unknown

  17. - Top - End - #227
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for September 16 to September 22!


    Lycunadari passes with lots of animal photos.

    jseah passes with 1556 words for Hero's War.

    5crownik007 posted 1018 words for The Short Way Down and one drawing.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't upload/send anything.


    Thus 5crownik007 and Flyingbooks42 FAILs this round!

    Lycunadari and jseah PASS this round!



    Current standing:
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    Lycunadari
    Current run: 349 weeks
    Longest run: -

    jseah
    Current Run: 188 weeks
    Longest Run: 33 weeks

    5crownik007
    Current run: -
    Longest run: 2 weeks

    Flyingbooks42
    Current run: -
    Longest run: 1 week



    ---
    I took a ton of animal pictures at a wildlife park (where I even got to pet a lot of animals ) buut I can't upload them atm.
    Last edited by Lycunadari; 2019-10-06 at 07:26 AM. Reason: fixed mistake in the counter
    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

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    Do you like writing? Drawing? Being creative? Come join the CHALLENGE!

  18. - Top - End - #228
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    324 words for IMG
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    Jim waited at the corner of the alley, waiting for the child to arrive.
    The mysterious girl, who had swept the gang by storm with her strange devices and powerful magic, was strangely unfamiliar with the world. The theory in the gang was that she was a sheltered girl from one of the bigger clans and had runaway for one reason or another. A Palm at her age was thought impossible but then what did commoners really know about how the clans worked?
    After buying that slave in a strange fashion, the girls had seemingly disappeared and their leader Addaz was worried their profitable marks had left town. And then a week later, they received one of the agreed signals to meet.
    Jim and Quo had been ordered to meet the girls to see what they wanted this time.
    "There you are. "
    The voice nearly made Jim jump out of his skin. He turned around to see the small girl standing behind him. One of her friends was with her this time, the brown haired girl he suspected was her sister, without her collar. Good for her.
    Both of them were armed with the weapon that Jim was fairly sure they let him see. This time, the back part of the weapon had a cylindrical attachment. Jim blinked, did it look like that a week ago? But then no one could modify artifacts, could they?
    Quo stood up from the barrel he had perched on inside the alley. "What can we do for you?"
    "I would like to trade more food and we would like you to help pass a message. "
    Quo smiled, looking for all the world like a kindly grandfather. "Of course we can. Who do you want to send the message to?"
    The girl looked at Jim, "we met a group of children in the alleys before running into you. I would like you to set up a meeting between us. "


    1305 for Hero's War
    Spoiler
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    The Northern Fort's defences were arranged to take advantage of the recent advances. No curtain wall of old existed here, instead the ruined wall of the city was slowly broken down for materials to shore up the wide bastions and killing ground around the fort.
    Based on experience with Fort Yang trenchworks, the fort's barriers consisted of raised earthernworks and steep slopes. Wire was strung everywhere and each raised platform was angled to cover the sides of its neighbours with enfilading fire. Further above, a second level of raised platforms of packed dirt allowed spell cannons to be dug in behind concentric rings of Mist defences and provide supporting fire to the manned lines on the first level.
    The product of countless hours of manpower and steam driven mining rails, it was practically an artificial hill piled up around the city. Clumps of fused dirt pockmarking the areas around the main defence lines spoke of their effectiveness. Lightbeams and projectile weapons simply wasted their energy against the massive bulk of soil. Even now, the fort was still under construction, most areas did not yet have a proper second level.
    Outside, in the killing grounds, was a series of shallow trenches that afford no cover from the fort's raised spell cannons, yet allowed skirmishers to be protected passively from light beams from the front and still be open to easy retreat. The grounds were pounded flat and kept scrupulously clear to afford no cover for hundred of meters. It was here than the marked non-magical minefields lurked and batteries of rockets and shells dialed in for indirect fire.
    Set into one of the raised spell cannon positions was where Landar and Cato set up their experimental Sword casting station. Taking the place of a spell cannon emplacement, the stockpiled magic and power transmission infrastructure could be easily taken advantage of and a prototype device for controlling Landar's Sword Stone was quickly built.
    "I think this is a device with great potential," Landar nodded again as she rubbed the pedestal that her Sword Stone would fit into.
    Cato sighed as she tried to fill the air with chatter, but her efforts were once again rebuffed by the stoic line of Iris summoners standing against the back wall.
    When news arrived of an incoming monster attack and that Cato's prototype casting aid would get a turn at live fire demonstration, the Iris delegation with the expedition insisted on observing it.
    They were polite enough to stay out of the way at the back, but having her father stare at the casting aid without speaking made Landar nervous. Cato sighed to himself, wondering if Landar would ever get over her innate discomfort with her father. Even if he was now supportive of Cato.
    "Don't you think so, Cato?"
    He patted her arm gently. This was an important demonstration, but even if Landar made a mistake, that just meant they had to stay out here longer. "Just do it like you practiced and this will go perfectly fine. "
    Landar bit her lip and stayed silent for all of a minute. She was about to speak up again when the alert tone sounded.
    The previous tension in the room was replaced with a very different kind of tension. That alert meant that the zombies were within sight of the fort.
    The observers from the Minmay Guards fidgeted, fingering their weapons. The thought of zombies appearing made them want to kill things.
    Landar turned back to the pedestal and checked the power draw one more time.
    "Power up the systems," Cato said.
    Landar nodded. "Check. "
    "Targeting?"
    "Sights leveled. "
    "Ready to fire," Cato confirmed.
    Landar placed her hands on the pedestal, the massively oversized channels for power transfer lighting up in the magic sense. Large power draw pipes on the floor lead back to the magic power storage behind the emplacement. Unlike the laboratory test version, this casting aid was meant to draw as much power as a normal spell cannon.
    "Zombies sighted in A4," called the spotter, "group size estimated at one thousand. "
    A4 was at the outermost ring. That was quite outside the effective range of a Sword Stone, so they waited.
    The zombies came at the fort head on, blundering through minefields and suffering fire from the skirmishers. By the time the group reached the final skirmish line, they had been reduced to a mere hundred. A different alert sounded.
    "Spell cannons are to stand down, you are given special permission to proceed with the firing test," the sergeant said. "Kill them all for me," he added with a savage grin.
    Cato grinned back.
    "Firing," Landar said distantly, focused on the stone. The Iris observers leaned forward, as if to catch every last moment.
    With a massive flare of magic, a quartet of Swords appeared practically instantly around Landar, hovered in place for a short moment before blasting off at the group of zombies struggling across the last stretch of open ground to the slope of the main fortification. The distance was too great to control the Swords much but Landar could still set them to project forwards in a straight line.
    Even before the Swords reached their targets, Landar had already fired another two more bursts of four Swords each. Then the first set arrived, scything down the zombies in rows, scoring finger wide lines into the loose soil of the final ditch.
    Seeing the success, Landar focused even harder, changing her control parameters. Instead of four Swords, a single large Sword appeared, spanning tens of meters in length. Instead of flying off instantly, Landar let it build up power from the stone.
    And when she set it loose, Landar controlled the blade of force from the emplacement, sending the deadly edge skimming at knee height down the slope. Most of the zombies of the group were kneecapped, only a few on the edges escaping the doom blade.
    Seeing that the Sword still had power, Landar whipped it back and forth across the formation. And that was the end of the group.
    As the Minmay Guard stomped out into the grounds to burn the zombie parts, the Iris came forward to examine the device.
    "A very useful device," Yan noted, "being able to draw as much power as is available would make us more powerful than ever. "
    "There are still limits to the amount of power that can be drawn," commented an older Iris man.
    "It is far too high to worry about and I am sure Cato can improve on the device. This is still a prototype after all. "
    "And yet without the need for power, how will we be useful? Should we not be worried about the Inath Federation taking all our stones?"
    And Yan stepped in again, "and you know very well that summoning stones are not so easy to use. Even in this case, Landar used her Swords to fit the situation, not merely imitating a spell cannon. "
    Landar was clearly not used to her father defending her. Or in Cato's opinion, she had never seen him do this in front of his peers before.
    "Who is that man?" Cato asked her in a whisper as the older Iris and Yan continued their polite verbal sparring.
    Landar eyed him for a moment then sighed, "that's the cousin of Chi, who is the main opposition to father. I guess that's why father is arguing so hard, they're enemies after all. "
    "I believe he is actually doing it for you. "
    She looked at Cato, then back at the two men surrounded by the rest of the Iris observers, all standing around the ignored device. "Maybe. "
    Progress at last! Cato smiled to himself as the woman next to him just watched her father fight his own battles.

  19. - Top - End - #229
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    5crownik007's Avatar

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    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Starting something new. Very sweary too. I did attempt to asterisk them out though, hopefully the forum will catch anything I missed.

    1502 words.
    Spoiler: New Astronauts
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    The shrapnel passed through my arm, and my ears popped. The orange glow of light illuminated the fog of air that was escaping from the rupture in my arm. Pain shot through my body as blood sprayed from the hole in my arm. ****. Once the tear was formed in the layers of my suit, the escaping air rushed out as fast as it possibly could. I had seconds before the oxygen in my suit was completely gone. A red warning light on my suit helpfully notified me of the two breaches on my left arm, as though I could have somehow missed the jagged metal shard passing through me. Yes, it was unfair to be angry at the suit, yes, I was still angry.
    Contrary to the basic, animalistic instinct in my brain telling me to suck in as much oxygen as I can, I exhaled. Trying to inhale and keep the oxygen in my body would have been worse than pointless- dangerous. The probability of my lungs rupturing was significantly lowered when I exhaled. I now had several seconds before I fell unconscious. The nearest airlock was over 40 metres away. 41.2, to be exact. I would never make it back to the airlock. ****.
    The technical term for this sort of situation, creatively devised by other people of my profession, is known as “Fu-dead”. It refers to the idea that you won’t have enough time to say “****” before you die. This situation wasn’t exactly that, but it was close enough that I considered it close enough. The other definition of the term was “****ing Dead”, derived from people giving emphasis to the fact that another astronaut was more than just dead, but very dead. Either way, I as Fu-dead.
    Of course, I the stubborn bastard that I am, decided to ignore my present status of Fu-dead, and tried to escape the situation. I would fall unconscious in a few seconds, but would stay alive for a few minutes. Because my suit was decompressing almost slowly, I wasn’t going to suffer immediate blindness. The fabric of the suit didn’t tear any further(thank God), meaning the rate of decompression was decreasing. My earlier estimate of several seconds was conservative. It was possible that I could remain conscious for as long as a minute, if I was very lucky.
    I turned around and decided to make a run for the airlock. I say run in the most figurative sense, as it’s impossible to run in zero-g while on the side of a space station. You couldn’t even try, you would just float away. What I meant to say was I hobbled, very quickly, one foot at a time. My setboots kept me stuck firmly to the station’s plating, lifting one at a time. The positive woosh of air had downgraded to a hiss, as the pressure approached zero. My whole body began to ache as all the various fluids near the surface of my body began to have a very tense discussion with my skin about boiling away. All the sweat that had been on the surface of my body began to turn freezing cold and boil away.
    While I made my way to the airlock in an utterly futile gesture, I pondered my chances of survival. Assuming I had 3 minutes to live, rather 2 minutes 55 seconds, could one of my crewmates ostensibly cycle the airlock in, put on an EVA suit, cycle the airlock out, walk over to me(probably hanging limply by one boot), disable my setboots, walk back to the airlock and cycle back in? The answer was no. One of my crewmates, already on an EVA had a poor chance of saving my life, but a non-zero one.
    Walking past the antenna array, the edges of my vision began to turn black. My head began to ache, probably from the combination of blood loss and oxygen deprivation. I was walking on the outside of a cylindrical station module, approaching the airlock. I had made it nearly 20 metres. Unfortunately, nearly half-way wouldn’t save my life. I passed from consciousness.
    In a state of unconsciousness, it’s very difficult to think(impossible). But for some reason, God decided it would find it amusing to replay the events of the past few minutes, as some sort of cruel joke before sending me to Hell. So, I remembered what happened, and exactly why it was my fault I was about to die on some cobbled-together space station in the *** end of nowhere space. Maybe I hallucinated it post surviving.
    It was mostly my fault because I was the one who decided to plant a bomb on a spacecraft. Shrapnel never stops in space. On a planet there’s sometimes an atmosphere to slow down projectiles, and gravity to bring it back into the ground. In space, you need something between you and the shrapnel, or the shrapnel will decide to kill you. Of course, I was planting bombs for money, which was a deciding factor in why I decided to ignore the risks involved.
    The cruelest part of the joke was that I actually owned an armoured space suit that probably would have been able to deflect the shrapnel. I decided not to bring it, so as to not look suspicious. I unconsciously cursed my past self, and promised that if I became a ghost, I would use whatever ghost powers I had to haunt my past self for the short years of his short dumb life.
    But, interestingly enough, I regained consciousness. I knew that I had regained consciousness, only because I was in terrible, terrible pain. I had no vision, and my ears rang. I managed a weak, rattling moan before whoever was attending to my wounds put me back to sleep. My emotions on the matter were mixed. On one hand, I was alive. On the other hand, I was probably blind for life and horribly disfigured.
    The next time I woke up, I was still in pain, but not so terrible. Still blind, but I could feel that it was because something was covering my eyes. Probably bandages. Someone nearby spoke in Japanese and my head was hurting too hard to try to figure out what they said. Whatever they said, they finished their sentence with “please”, so I figured they weren’t in a hurry.
    My head did begin to clear, very very slightly. It then occurred to me that none of my crewmates spoke Japanese. My hand reflexively reached for a pistol which I had holstered on my thigh. Of course, it wasn’t there, I wasn’t even carrying it when I was on my EVA, so why would I have it now? Thankfully, I wasn’t restrained though. I unwrapped the bandages covering my eyes and groaned when the bright lights reached me.
    We were under acceleration, or spinning. Why? Because I hadn’t floated out of the medical unit. The general features of the room suggested we were aboard a spacecraft, mostly the various handholds and directionless design of the room. The medical unit was inset against the wall, and there were velcro straps- not to restrain someone, but to hold them down if the craft was in zero-g.
    Looking at the wall, I found a computer panel running a lock screen. The logo was rather simply that of the national flag. Some kind of four legged animal surrounded by fire. I didn’t know its name. Of course, this meant I wasn’t on my own spacecraft, but someone else’s. ****. I wasn’t restrained, which meant I wasn’t a prisoner, but being on the wrong craft generated terrible feelings.
    I slipped off of the medical unit’s bench and onto the floor. The acceleration wasn’t very high, I was just weak as **** from being exposed to vacuum. Very carefully standing up again, I shuffled over to the wall panel and smacked my hand into it. What was the date? It was 2745/2/4, of course, written in Japanese. I had been out for over three days. Too much lost time. It was all too much. There was no outlet for my panic energy. When my suit was ruptured, running away felt like progress. Here there was no progress. I was in an unfamiliar place, without my crew, or a weapon. I began to feel lightheaded, and managed to slide my feet toward the medical unit enough so that I could pass out on the bench.
    At least I wasn’t dead. That was a significant plus. Despite being in terrible pain, I was happy to be alive. Not dead is good enough for now. Training had not taught me optimism, but how to genuinely find the advantageous parts of a situation. Alive is a significant advantage. Of course, the list of disadvantages was so long that it wouldn’t fit on a single screen. Half-blind, disambulant, confused and probably going to die soon were at the top of the list. I turned my thoughts away.
    "You... little... *****. It's what my old man called me, it's like it was my name, and I proved him right, by killing all the wrong people. [And], I love ya Henry, and I'll never call you anything but your name, but you gotta decide; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth, or are you gonna stand up, spit it out, and go spill theirs?" - Unknown

  20. - Top - End - #230
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lycunadari's Avatar

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    Germany

    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    Status for September 23 to September 29!


    Lycunadari passes with lots of cathedral illumination and pride pictures.

    jseah passes with 1305 words for Hero's War and 324 words for Inherited Magical Girl.

    5crownik007 passes with 1502 words for New Astronauts.

    Flyingbooks42 didn't upload/send anything.


    Thus Flyingbooks42 FAILs this round!

    Lycunadari, jseah and 5crownik007 PASS this round!


    Congratulations to me for passing 350 weeks!

    Current standing:
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    Lycunadari
    Current run: 350 weeks
    Longest run: -

    jseah
    Current Run: 189 weeks
    Longest Run: 33 weeks

    5crownik007
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    Longest run: 2 weeks

    Flyingbooks42
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    You can call me Juniper. Please use gender-neutral pronouns (ze/hir (preferred) or they/them) when referring to me.

    "We all are vessels of our brokenness, we carry it inside us like water, careful not to spill. And what is wholeness if not brokenness encompassed in acceptance, the warmth of its power a shield against those who would hurt us?" - R. Lemberg, Geometries of Belonging

    Stories

    Do you like writing? Drawing? Being creative? Come join the CHALLENGE!

  21. - Top - End - #231
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: The CHALLENGE 4: Art block can't stop us

    85 for Of Magic
    Spoiler
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    It took hours of digging before the hole was deep enough that Rihanna could drag some leafy branches over it to form an impromptu shelter. During that time, the tree continued to provide life giving warmth, and even after Rihanna wiggled into the dirt hole, it quickly warmed the ground around her.
    She ignored the grumblings of her hungry stomach and the dryness of her mouth. She had been subject to far too much excitement of late and just wanted to sleep for a while.


    1440 for Hero's War
    Spoiler
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    "Didn't you say that spell cannons can't store enough power on a human portable device?" she asked.
    "The assessment was that trying to fire a shell in the normal spell cannon method was impossible to power from a device that was human portable. Not if you wanted to get more than one shot out of it," Cato clarified. "But this weapon doesn't use magic to launch the shell. The ammunition is, in fact, rocket bodies that fail the required tolerance, like the ones we use for shells, but are made into rockets anyway. "
    He took out the ammunition from the back of the launcher and slipped. The shell fell out of his hands and hit the table with a solid thump.
    Cato looked around the room awkwardly as Erin and the rest of the division commanders at this presentation picked themselves up from the floor. Yan, sitting on the far right, was hidden behind a buzzing shield that radiated far too much magic.
    "Uh, it's all right. This is just a dummy round," Cato said sheepishly. He really ought to have informed them of that first.
    Erin sighed as they arranged themselves back into their seats. After everyone had gotten settled again, she continued her questions.
    "Aren't the failed rocket bodies failed because they were too inaccurate? That would seem to be a problem for such a weapon. "
    And once again, Cato was struck by how new all of these concepts must be to these people. "These launchers aren't meant to be used for long range bombardment like the rocket batteries are. They're meant for the same street fighting that the scouts engaged in while taking this city. At those ranges, the inaccuracy of the rocket nozzles and fins aren't that important as long as the deviation isn't too high.
    In fact, due to the short range, these rockets are made with less rocket fuel and an oversized warhead. They're actually more powerful per shot than Landar's rockets. Add that these rockets will contain more explosive and less living fire, they are better for destroying hard materials like the bone armour and walls than wiping out swarms of infantry. "
    Erin nodded, "what about the spell cannon shells?"
    "The explosive shells are still better than this. Not only do the spell cannons launch them further, they are all warhead and no propellant, and the reinforced warhead body allows it greater penetration before exploding. But spell cannons are not portable. "
    The expedition leader looked around the room, the interest among the division commanders was obvious. "Very well. You should proceed to testing prototypes. If they succeed, the Northern Fort will put in an order for at least thirty. "

    The arrival of the flight from the northwards direction was unremarkable, but when Ka landed with the scroll in hand and a report of finding humans to the north, the Northern Fort seemed to boil over with curiousity.
    He gave his report to Erin first. Ka described how far north his flight had found the river, almost a full day's flight from the forward scouting position, itself another day's flight from the Northern Fort. He filled in the growing scraps of map that the humans used to mimic the way the Elka saw the land. His report on their contribution to the battle with their bombs drew a sharp look from the commander and the reception Ka received from the northern humans put a grave expression on her face.
    Erin treated him to some refreshments, cookies were luxury in this military fort, one coveted by all, and considered the scroll with its mysterious writings. Ka couldn't read it, it wasn't like any of the scripts of the landbound. And from Erin's frown, she couldn't read it later.
    Then the leaders of the various groups of the army here turned up one after another. Each one of them wanted Ka to give a report and he talked until his throat was hoarse, even with the water and sweet drinks on offer. And then the scholars arrived and Erin had enough, she shoved out everyone trying to crowd into her office.
    "All right, so everyone here has heard the report," Erin gave Ka a respectful nod. He bowed back and took a seat in the corner, glad that he didn't have to report again. "Thoughts?"
    "What was their dress like?" Cato looked to Ka, "you mentioned that the army had metal armour but what else did they wear? Did you manage to see any stitches on the clothes?"
    Ka nodded, "their clothing was thick, heavier than these fabrics you wear. I did not pay too much attention to their clothes, though I don't think I saw any sewing. "
    "The stitching style we found on the zombies conceal the seams on the inside of the clothing, that lends evidence that these people are related to the zombies that attacked Fort Yang. "
    "A good point, but hard to say without samples," Erin noted.
    "Their reaction to an elka was not good," noted the division commander for the Ektal humans, "trying to capture an ally in battle, considering the suspected sacrificing. I am not sure these people are peaceful. "
    "And yet the soldiers who met with Ka first seemed friendly and wanted to establish communications. Despite the language difficulties. " Another commander added. This one, Ka did not recognize.
    "They just want substitutes for their sacrifices!"
    "And speaking of these sacrifices, just how does it work? If we could have a counter to the zombie aura, we would be far safer in battle. I'm not saying we should sacrifice ourselves but we do have stored magical power. Cato, any ideas?"
    "It's impossible to tell at this stage. It might be possible they have artifacts like summoning stones? Unless their magical knowledge is far more sophisticated than ours. "
    "What about this?" cut in yet another voice. The man held up the scroll that was given to Ka by the Northerners.
    "Their characters must have diverged since we lost contact, but since their language is similar to Tsarian, we might be able to decipher it by comparing their words to older records. I shall arrange for copies to be sent to the Queen Amarante and to the Iris. "
    "And their weapons?"
    "Enough!" Erin shouted over the rising hubbub. Her glare sweeping across the room of excited commanders plunged the place into silence. "There is little point speculating on the tiny amount of information we have. The northerners might be hunting anyone for sacrifices or there was some miscommunication involved, we cannot tell unless we ask them. That is the topic we need to consider. Do we try to contact them or not?'
    "Of course we should contact them," Cato replied. "Their population is almost certainly the source of the zombies. We need to defend them so that more of their people do not turn into monsters to attack us. "
    "Unless they are hostile, which they might be. How can we send anyone to contact these northerners if there's a risk they will just capture and sacrifice our people?"
    "We'll have to send a large escort with the envoy. Perhaps even a whole division. "
    "Too many people will run into supply problems. A division of infantry would march far too slowly and will have to fight off attacks on their way north. "
    Erin tapped her table warningly, "we're getting too far ahead. Let's come back to the original question, we need to decide if we want to contact these northerners. We can work out the logistics after. "
    Ka looked around the room as she paused. The commanders of this landbound army were divided, he could see.
    "I expect each of you to return and consider this tonight. We meet here again at dawn tomorrow, in case anyone thinks of anything clever. " She dismissed the commanders with a wave, her exasperation quite clear to see.
    Erin turned back to Ka as the people filed out of her office, "Ka, thank you for your service. Whatever the result, your decision to help the northerners and to try to open contact was the right decision. You gave them a good first impression of us and that is valuable. "
    Ka nodded to her as she dismissed him as well. Now to repeat all this for Cato. He sighed, what was an elka willing to do for a blood debt?
    The next day, Ka received his orders to lead a full flight northwards, escorting the envoy along with a platoon of Minmay Guard.

  22. - Top - End - #232
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