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SF's "Write Your Butt Off!" Writing Competition XIV

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That's fine, okay... I have an idea. Seeing as how a lot of people are probably gonna be busy with Fates I suggest this.

March 12th 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time is the deadline for the stories. Maybe that's too long or something but I'm thinking people need time/leeway.

That's around a little more than two weeks from now as two Tuesdays from now is the 8th of March and I think we normally end cycles on a Sunday If I'm correct....

At such a time I'll PM eclipse to make the necessary link posts and changes to the voting thread. Again for those still interested the prompt(s)


Whatever comes to mind with the phrase (pick one):

"Diaries of an exhausted tactician"

"Morgan goes to prom"

"Deadpool stole the precious thing"

Have some fun with it :D

Anybody with better ideas? I'm not sarcastic hear I genuinely want to hear more!

Edited by jankmaster98

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Two ideas I had:

Write a sequel to one of your previous stories

Write a story that is about the relationship between two friends

due respect you you, but it's still Kotovii's prompts we have to do, I was talking more about logistics.

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due respect you you, but it's still Kotovii's prompts we have to do, I was talking more about logistics.

I thought about writing a story about Oufey's reminiscences and his present self's troubles as the resistance's tactician (I know he isn't considered one at that part of the game, but that's a wasted oportunity imo). The timespawn would probably be around the beginning of Genealogy and the beginning of Light Inheritors.

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Here's my entry. Almost 2,400 words. Prompt used is "Morgan goes to prom".

[spoiler=The Prom Last Night - Rated Mature]“Morgan...?"

Sometimes, events seem so surreal that they feel like they only occur in movies. And then you get to those which transcend the film because it feels impossible that it would even occur on a screen. But this is real. Because I don't have any other explanation for it. And it scares me. I don't know what to do but all I do know is that I'm terrified of what is to come.

"Morgan, can you hear me?"

My thoughts evaporate as I concentrate on the face in front of me. She's about middle age, with creases around her eyes that she tries to hide well with make-up. Her lips are formed in a small pout as if she's examining me for a disease that I might carry. Maybe she's ashamed of me being in her presence? My mom will be, so why wouldn't she also judge?

I lower my eyes to the badge pinned on the front of her uniform. It's very shiny for a police badge. Does she shine it every day, hoping to impress everyone she meets? It's almost mesmerizing in its brilliance.

"Morgan, my name is Detective Lucie Smalls. I know you're scared but I'm going to help you." She continues crouching in front of me, shifting slightly. I still can't meet her eyes. "But I need you to tell me everything to do that."

A tear rolls down my face as I try to gather my words. I think I may have cried more in the past five hours than I have in the previous five years. I can't help it; the shame and pain are wild torrents that keep breaking the levees of my sanity. I feel embarrassed to be here. I just want to go home and lock myself in my room forever.

"Should I get her some water?" Sam asks the detective. She's the only reason why I'm here. Sam called the police when she found me, disheveled and crying. Her voice is anchoring me to this plane of existence right now because without her, I would be a far bigger mess than I am currently. It teeters on the verge of cracking. I can tell that she wants to cry too but she's managing to stay in control.

"N... no. I... I can do this." My voice sounds small and weak but I somehow will it to form words.

The detective smiles gently. "Good. I know that this is hard but I need to know everything that happened. Any detail, doesn't matter how small it is."

"OK." I take a deep breath and wipe away the tears and whatever is probably left of my make-up. As I start speaking, my memory transports me back to last night. To the senior prom. And the after-prom party where I was raped.

---

"Get the fuck up! Simon Says, get the fuck up!"

As I stepped out of the shower, my phone started blaring loudly. Most girls my age love Taylor Swift, Chet Faker and top 40 songs. My personal poison is rap, mostly concentrating on the East Coast. And that little nugget came from one of my personal musical heros, Pharoahe Monch. It also made for an excellent ringtone and Sam despised it.

Holding my towel up to my chest, I walked over to my desk and checked the caller ID. Sam.

"It's already seven! If you're not here in half an hour, the limo is going to leave you behind!"

No greeting, just straight facts. I don't think that I had ever heard Sam start a phone call with "hello" or even "hey". At least she wasn't cursing yet. Even though I listened to rap, Sam can easily beat me in a cussing contest. Not that we've tried but I'm not sure I'd want to.

"Chill, I just got out of the shower. I'll be there in time." That's another difference between me and most girls my age. They'll spend hours on make-up while I barely bother with it at all. It's also made me a bit of an outcast at school since I'm surrounded by preppy white kids. Bad enough that I'm the only mixed-race kid in the school. My mom thinks I should have been born a man and I don't exactly have the heart to tell them how correct she is.

Sam sighed on the other end of the line. "Twenty nine and counting. And don't forget to bring the stash."

"I got it, Jesus." I opened the desk and pulled out a water bottle. "Anything else or can I start getting dressed?"

"Naw. Just get your butt over here in time."

I responded with a kiss and hung up while reaching for my underwear. Sam had ordered a limo for us, her boyfriend and a bunch of her friends. Her reasoning was that senior prom only comes around once and that if we didn't go all out, then it would be all for nothing. But it wasn't the prom that had her excited.

Every year, our school hosted the average run-of-the-mill prom to celebrate the seniors who were leaving for college the following year. When I had described the prom to my mother, she sniffed and said something about it being the textbook white kid experience. There would be a prom king and queen along with tacky yearbooks being handed out that were supposed to immortalize the glorious days of high school. That being said, who wants to remember four years of racist slurs and the occasional comment about having no father? Not me.

But after the prom, somebody always had a party going on. I had always heard rumours of alcohol and drugs being passed around like it was candy. And the only reason why I was going was because I was best friends with the most popular girl in school. It just so happened that Sam was the only person who didn't care that my mom was a single African-American woman in a predominantly white part of town. Everyone else saw the colour of my skin. Sam just saw me.

I quickly threw on my dress and stuffed the water bottle into my purse. I don't think Mom knew that I had managed to sneak some vodka from her liquor cabinet but I think she was suspicious. But she never asked and I never said anything.

My heels were by the front door so I hurried down the stairs and shouted goodbye to my mother. She was sitting at the kitchen table buried in work but as I bounced past, she looked up with a wide smile on my face.

"I can't believe that you're going to prom, baby. Have a wonderful time and enjoy yourself."

"Yeah, no problem." I fiddled with the straps on my high-heels. "It'll be a blast."

"Morgan." I turned immediately. My mother's tone had gone from joyous to icy in three seconds flat. "Promise me that you'll be careful."

"Umm... what are you talking about?" I hadn't told her about the party and I was worried that she'd finally bust me for stealing her vodka. If she found it, I would be grounded for over a month and that would be before the spanking. The joys of having a black mother.

"Just promise me that you won't do anything stupid." She knew. She had to know. I could see it in her eyes. But why wasn't she calling me out on it?

"I won't, I promise." I responded a little quickly, not even convincing myself. "Can I go already? Sam's already mad at me and if I miss the limo, she'll kill me."

She kept staring at me and biting her lip as if she wanted to say something. It felt like an eternity passed before she sighed and opened up another file. "Girls will be girls, right? Go and enjoy yourself. And don't forget to call me if you need a ride."

"Got it. Love you." And with that, I opened the door and raced over to Sam's house.

---

The prom itself was quite boring, to be honest. Sam and her boyfriend Derek won prom king and queen, chaperones hovered around in order to stop the "bad boys" from spiking the punch and I was completely ignored by just about everyone. I hadn't been expecting anything more, to be frank.

The action only truly began on the way to the party. According to Derek, the party was being held at some rich kid's mansion. Derek had already seen the amount of alcohol that his friends had stocked up for the party. He had been in complete awe when he told us. It would be enough to knock out an elephant.

As the limo took us there, Sam smiled mischievously and reached into her purse. Out came a bag with three small pills. Suddenly, all the chatter in the limo stopped as everyone stared at them.

"It's not pure Molly, guys. And I only have enough for three."

One of the girls snorted. "So you're going to give one to Darkie? Please. You can stop pretending to like her already."

Ouch. Sam squeezed my hand and smiled back at the girl. "Actually, I was going to give you the third pill since Derek doesn't approve of X but now you're cut off." She turned to face the rest of the girls in the limo, her face now dark with anger. "Anyone else want to take a shot at Morg? I fucking dare you to."

That is why I loved her. Sam had always been willing to put her reputation and popularity on the line for me. I never understood how I could possibly pay her back in this lifetime. However, it seemed like Sam was happy to receive nothing in return.

She looked back at me and handed me one of the pills. "This time, I got the good shit. Our nights are going to be amazing." She popped another one of the pills. "Down the hatch, girl."

I followed suit. From experience, it usually takes MDMA about a half an hour to kick in so once we were at the party, I'd be on cloud nine in an almost literal sense. The feeling from ecstacy was one of joyful bliss and I was determined to have fun. I leaned over and kissed Sam on the cheek. "You're the best."

She grinned as the limo began to slow to a stop. "Just go out there and find a nice guy or girl. Whatever you're in the mood for."

"Why nice? Can't I just go with hot?"

All the girls began piling out of the limo until it was just me, Sam and Derek left. Sam looked at Derek and he quickly scrambled out of door. Then she turned back and kissed me straight on the lips. "No, I mean nice. The hot ones are fuckwads and that goes double for the women." Then she climbed out, leaving me to savour the taste of her lips.

The truth about our relationship is that we hinged somewhere between best friends and lovers, not willing to choose either definitively. But Sam was in a relationship with a good guy and I wasn't about to ruin that for her. Plus, I wasn't exactly pining for her. I got out of the limo and joined everyone else inside the house.

Time started to slip by as the molly hit my bloodstream. At one point, I remember talking to this really hot girl that I had never seen before and within five minutes, we were in the bathroom making out. At least it felt like five minutes. Then I returned to the party and began dancing. A drink appeared to my left and I took it. It tasted a bit sweet and sour but my senses were enhanced thanks to the MDMA coursing through my veins.

I felt a pair of hands on my waist. They felt strong and secure, ready to guide me while I danced non-stop for hours. I could hear the music melt into my world around me. The beat that swirled into colours before my eyes. I closed my eyes and just relaxed as I let the music and exploring hands take over. The world was spinning softly and I was on top of the world.

It was just spinning into light and colour and darkness.

Spinning into darkness.

Just darkness...

---

I can't continue any longer. The tears come back in a vengeance and I find myself sobbing into Sam's shoulder. She explains to the detective about how she found me crying on a sofa downstairs. My dress had been ripped; my panties bloodied and discarded like trash. Just the shock of finding me had sobered her up enough to be able to call the police. People had run from the house, terrified of the consequences. But not Sam, my beautiful Sam. She had stayed with me to the very end.

Detective Smalls stands up and purses her lips. The frown on her face is one of both concern and disappointment. But I'm not the target. Instead, I feel Sam wither beside me, her own wall crumbling.

"Samantha, you did the right thing by calling the authorities immediately, but I suggest that you call a lawyer right now."
Sam nods in absolute silence. I stare at the policewoman in shock. "But... but why? She helped me... she..."

"Possession of unlawful substances. I'm eighteen... which means that I can be tried as an adult." Sam responds quietly, staring at the ground. The tears are flowing from her eyes. Oh god... did I do this? She has been the only person in my life that I could trust with everything. I repaid her by ending her life.

I break down again and pull away from her, ashamed. I need to get out of here. Sam should hate me because I despise myself. I just want to sink into the ground and just die. And then I feel it. Her hands around myself. Her gentle breath in my ear. And the soft words that I know will haunt me for the rest of my life.

"I love you. And I always will.”


Edited by Pharoahe Monch

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I might have to sit this one out. The Touhou thing I had for the first prompt didn't turn out as well as I'd have liked, I have no idea what Deadpool is, and I don't really want to write about Morgan.

So yeah, good luck to the others~

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I was talking more about logistics.

At such a time I'll PM eclipse to make the necessary link posts and changes to the voting thread.

If it's post editting and all that, feel free to bother me for those duties whenever. I don't really know either way, but eclipse might still be swamped, if so I'd gladly take her place.

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Had some trouble writing this one. I feel it'd be a lot better if it were the climax of something much longer with better established characters. But I liked the concept too much to just give up on it.

Title:Final Hours

Word Count:~5,000

Prompt: Diaries of an exhausted Tactician

Berwick entered the battle room to see it very busy, which surprised him. He wondeedr how long they had waited before waking him. His aid handed him a caffeine pill which he took with little fuss. The effects were almost instantaneous. It banished his weariness and put him into a state of complete alertness.

"What are we looking at here?" he asked Dendeov, the chief of staff. Though Dendeov was technically of a higher authority than Berwick, the tacticians reputation meant he unofficially commanded absolute authority during emergency situations such as this.

Dendeov bowed his head slightly. "Heliscant has been attack...Wiped completely from the map."

"What?" Berwick cried. "You mean the entire city? They've already got a bombing raid through to ground level?"

"Berwick...this isn't a raid" Dendeov said. "It's an invasion."

"What happened to our outer system defences?"

"They bypassed them. Look Berwick, I don't know how to tell you this other than bluntly. We're not under attack from the empire. It's the federation."

Berwick took a seat and rubbed his temples. The caffeine pill had already worked it's magic but still, he needed just one moment's rest to compose himself. This was the worst case scenario he had been fearing for years. "Give out the order to evacuate immediately. Every man woman and child not working on defending the planet needs to get into the countryside."

"It's really that hopeless...You don't seem all that surprised" Dendeov noted.

Berwick nodded. "I'm paranoid. So I already feared this might happen. Negleon has exchanged hands so frequently these past few centuries. It's hardly surprising the federation don't consider us all that loyal."

"But we are loyal!" Dendeov exclaimed. "We've fought of Nazpire raids for generations just to keep them happy. We've defended the front lines for crying out loud."

"Generations to us is no time at all to them." Berwick got to his feet again and began monitoring the screens. "So they bombed Heliscant and immediately retreated?"

"Yes. It happened at midnight their local time. Morning is just breaking over Heliscant so they've retreated back into space. We think it was just an scouting assault. Only six ships partook, a heavy class and five bombing classes. Since then over thirty ships have entered attack range. More are coming every hour. We estimate there's already eighty ships in the system but we've lost connection to the outer stations so it's impossible to tell for sure."

"They're certainly not holding back. You're right, this is an invasion. Surrender seems to be our only option."

"I've already advised the king to give the order."

Berwick raised an eyebrow. "You didn't wait for me to get here first?"

"Berwick, you're here to minimize casualties. As soon as I saw the stats even I knew there's no way we're winning this battle."

"Not with violence. Maybe diplomacy will work.

Berwick remained in the war room ordering ships into defensive positions. After the federation's first assault they had yet to make another attack. Instead they waited for their forces to arrive. Berwick in turn thought it wise not to attack from ground while there was still a chance to negotiate. An hour after he first arrived a messenger from the king appeared.

"His highness, King Resward, regretfully reports that his attempts at wise and honourable surrender has failed. The UP Federation refused to acknowledge the unconditional surrender of Negleon. They confirm their wish to see the Swiss people completely destroyed."

Dendeov began to shake. "We can't capitulate at all. Why...why would they do this? What could they possible want? We'll give it to them."

"They just want to see us die" Berwick muttered. "Our lives are meaningless to the Gailords who rule on high. Fifty generations of Swiss will live and die before a Gailord grows old. To them we're as inconsequential as bacteria. The only thing that surprises me is they're bothering to use the resources to wipe us out."

"Sir, we've just received a report from the site of Heliscant" one of the many staff informed him. Berwick didn't know what her official job title was and right now he hardly cared. "The enemy is using nuclear weaponry."

"Nuclear" Dendeov exclaimed. "Why not antimatter?"

"Because they want to eradiate Negleon" Berwick explained. "Negleon is right on the Nazpire's border. It's too costly to defend. So they're going to remove it from the equation and widen the celestial curtain. It's known as the scorched world tactic. Make our little planet uninhabitable and neither side gains anything from conquering it. This isn't a raid or an invasion. It's an eradication."

"They can't do this" Dendeov cried. "We're part of the federation. We're legal citizens. There's over five billion people on this planet. They can't just wipe us out!?"

"And why can't they?" Berwick asked. "They have the bombs. While we have next to nothing."

"So what do we do?"

Berwick turned back to the monitors. "We don't make it easy for them. Begin anti-satellite fire."

The hours wore on as Berwick commanded troops from the war room. As the planet rotated, the Capital grew closer to the enemy fleet and a potential attack against their head quarters. Thanks to Berwick's efforts however the federation never had another chance to launch a bombing raid. He positioned and moved the homeworld army to every area of possible assault, predicting his enemy's moves perfectly. All the while firing a barrage at their fleet using the surface weapons, keeping them from getting close in large numbers. The federation could have ended things in an instant with their overwhelming forces but it seemed such a large fleet was brought more for intimidation than practical use. They wanted to end this battle with a few casualties as possible. At least in regards to their own forces. The federation evidently didn't care one bit about the Swiss. Berwick wondered if any of his own people were up there. Forced into this situation without proper context and absolutely no way out...Just like himself.

Eventually the sun rose and the people in the war room relaxed.

"You should get some rest" Dendeov said. "We'll be at it again tonight."

Berwick shook his head. "I can't rest. The battle is still ongoing. We might be safe but we have to consider the cities on the other side of the planet that are going into range now."

"And what about tonight?" Dendeov asked. "When they start aiming at us again? You haven't had sleep in almost a full day. You might feel fine now but in fifteen hours time you won't be any good to us. The Capital has the highest population on the planet. Think about them if you don't think about yourself. We need you to defend us when night falls."

"Dendeov" Berwick interrupted the chief of staff. He gave the younger man a kindly look. "Don't worry. I'll be here. I'll manage. You need to get some rest yourself. I was able to sleep for an hour last night but you've been addressing this from the start. Get some rest. I'll see you later."

Reluctantly Dendeov nodded. "Don't make me say I told you so" he muttered.

Dendeov wasn't the only one who took the opportunity to get some rest. Most off the emergency staff left leaving only the regular day staff. The room was a lot less busy but the sense of dread still hung over it, thick like a blanket, threatening to smother them all.

At noon Berwick's wife Jerah cam looking for him. "I'd hoped you'd have evacuated by now" he said grimly when he noticed her. He did not look at her, instead keeping his attention on the monitors where he continuously moved troops.

"What's going on?" she asked. "They haven't told me anything."

"Where are the children?" Berwick tried to avoid her question.

"I got them out as soon as the warning was sent. They're at the country house. Berwick, what's wrong? You look so pale. How bad is it?"

Berwick kept his attention on the monitors but lowered his head slightly. "Worse than even I could possibly have imagined. It's the federation, attacking with an invasion force. They're using nuclear weapons. Already we've lost three cities."

Jerah let out the smallest gasp. "What three cities?"

"Heliscant last night. Orsotori and Yasaviev this morning." Berwick closed his eyes for a split second as he tried not to imagine the victims from the attacks. Or worse the survivors. Dying slowly of radiation poisoning in the worst way imaginable.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Get out of the city. Go make sure our children are safe. I won't be able to win this battle Jerah. I'm doing everything I can to hold them off. Already your presence here has distracted me. I've just lost an orbital canon."

Jerah flung her arms around him and embraced him from behind. "Berwick, I'm not going to leave you here. I know the way you're talking. You're talking like a man about to die. Just like my father. I'm not going to leave you to this alone. Even if I distract you."

Berwick stopped what he was doing and turned to face his wife. "Jerah...if you stay with me you'll die. I simply can't allow that. I know you might be fine with it but I'm not. And if I'm not then thousands more will die. Every second I spend here is crucial. If I make even a single mistake it'll mean the death of millions."

"You won't make a mistake" she assured him. "I know you."

Berwick turned away from her. "Please just go."

"You won't make any mistakes. But you'll still lose people Berwick. And when you do you can blame me if it makes you feel better. You'll do everything right but you'll doubt your decisions like you always do. When that happens get angry or curse my name. I don't care. It won't make a difference. I'm staying with you. Until the end." His wife was an empathat. A very rare trait among the Swiss. She could always tell what he was feeling. Something that, to him, made her frightening and alluring at the same time.

Berwick flung his breakfast plate across the room. "These soldiers keep dying under my orders" he roared. "Nobody told you why to evacuate. I bet it's the same for them. They're going into these battles with absolutely no context. They probably think they can win. Think they can go home to their own families. But there's just... No hope." Berwick sank to his knees. "I'm just trading their lives for the lives of civilians."

Jerah tried to pull him back to his feet but he was too heavy. "It's a good trade Berwick. I bet you're saving a lot more than there are dying. And if they did know would it make any difference? I'm sure they want to protect this planet just as much as you do. And if they don't then they deserve to get blown up in ignorance. The ungrateful louts."

Berwick let her help him to his feet. In his little break down, lasting less than a minute, he noticed two cruisers he could have salvaged. He had to let it all out now. Let out all the despair while the risks were lower.

He popped another caffeine pill and handed the box to Jerah. "If you want to be useful then get me some more of these. I'm never sleeping again."

Mass desertion began later that evening. As the gravity of the situation became clearer more and more soldiers tried to flee for their lives. However without heeding Berwick's orders they became easy targets for the seemingly infinite federation fleet. The aging tactician found himself at greater disadvantages and the overwhelming odds somehow managed to become even more impossible. Yet somehow he managed to hang on. Losing where it was inevitable but winning more often than not when no one else on either side thought he could.

Berwick was glad he decided to stay on and cover the day shift. No one else on the planet could have achieved the results he achieved that day. He had recognised his talent for war at an early age and embraced it. He could feel the flow of battle. Without really being told he could always determine a force's fighting potential and always knew how a battle would turn out long before it ended. Yet despite that, his vocation as an agent of war never once brought him joy. Even on that day when his world slowly began to crumble there was no joy to be derived from his skills. But for the first time he felt proud. Not happy to send people to their deaths, but glad he could since it would mean more lives were saved.

At least that's what he kept telling himself.

"So you're still at it" Dendeov said when he re-entered the room. "I was sure you'd have fainted by now." The chief of staff was looking much healthier after his rest.

"No time to faint. Have to keep working" Berwick muttered.

Dendeov glanced at the days statistics. "Well it certainly doesn't seem like your abilities have suffered. Eight cities lost in total. That's pretty good considering the level of force they're throwing at us now. What do you think? Will they get the capital tonight?"

Berwick paused just for a moment as he predicted the future. "Yes" he muttered at last. "Unless they decide to make a significant retreat then I don't see us living until morning."

Dendeov screwed up his face. "Well now you make me regret not helping you out today."

"Don't worry. There's still a lot more to be done."

Dendeov waved a hand. "Nah. I'm not worrying. I don't regret it at all." He took a deep breath. "I really should but in truth, that was the best sleep of my life. Perhaps even the best twelve hours of my life overall."

"I'm going to go inform the king of the cities' fall" Jerah told them. "He'll need me at a time like this."

Berwick merely nodded, his eyes still fixed to the monitors. Dendeov's gaze followed her as she left the room. "So your wife hasn't evacuated" he said. "Has she been distracting you?"

Berwick shook his head. "No. She's been surprisingly useful."

"Is it really that surprising though? She can read moods. She should know exactly what you want and don't want."

"It's good that someone does because I'm feeling completely lost here."

"Only regarding your own mental health. The battles are still going better than can be expected."

"For the time being. I might snap and murder everyone at any second."

"Well try and hold out a few more hours. We'll let the Gailords kill us."

Night spread across the land and the city slowly crept closer towards the fleet overhead. There were so many ships now, Jerah could see the battles with her naked eye from the inner garden of the palace.

"Are you sure you don't want to evacuate?" she asked the king. "It won't be long now."

King Resward nodded his head. "I've left it too late now. I doubt we'd get far enough in time." Much like herself the king had decided to evacuate his children first. "I'll be fine here" he told her. "You should return to your husband. He might not acknowledge it but I'm sure he needs you."

Jerah nodded. "You're right. I can feel his fatigue from here."

"Then go. And if I don't happen to see you again, thank you for everything Jerah. I know we were both quite happy in our lives before this, but if I'd met you sooner in life, I'm certain I would have made you my wife."

Jerah smiled at him. "You didn't need to tell me that. I've always known it."

She left the king and returned to the War Room. It was quite close to the inner garden. The idea was to have a green space to relieve the stress of command but Berwick hadn't once thought of leaving his post. When she found him he looked much worse than he had even an hour ago. The lack of sleep had finally hit him. He was hunched over. Sweating and drifting like a drunk man. Yet still he issued commands to the armies above.

She approached him a placed a hand on his shoulder. The weight of her touched caused him to fall to his knees. "I need" he muttered. "Need..." His breath was ragged. She could feel the guilt of everyone else in the room. Guilt for letting his condition go this far. Part of her feared he was about to die in front of her but a larger part of her could sense the determination still brewing just under his skin. The indomitable will that would not let mere mortal limits constrain it.

She helped him back to his feet and supported him under his arm. "How's it going?" she asked because she could think of nothing else to say.

"I've abandoned defence of the city" he whispered. "The forces can protect six cities in the same province because of that. I hope...Someone can tell them what to do when I'm gone."

"You don't have to worry about that anymore" she told him. "I think you should rest Berwick."

"No!" He pushed her away and stood up by himself. "There are still battles being fought. They still need me."

Jerah considered physically restraining him but decided against it. Stopping him now would only do more harm than good. Every part of him wanted to give commands. Denying him that would deny him his very existence. It would probably cause his body to just give out. All she could do was watch helplessly as he continued working. Other people in the room were in similar states. None had been working as long as he had however.

"When will the end come?" she asked.

"We're wide open" he muttered. Tears began to fall from his eyes. "Any second now."

She put her arms around again and buried her face in his back. Her touch was gentle and did not disturb his busy hand as he put all his focus on the monitors in front of him.

She could feel a wetness on her own face. Is this what life is? she wondered. Is this what it all amounts too?

Her mind went through several different cycles of despair, acceptance and rage at their impending doom but the missiles never arrived.

"When the bloody hell are they going to kill us?" Dendeov asked a few hours later.

For the first time since he collapsed, Berwick stopped. "I don't know" he muttered, as if he only just realised the fact. "We're rotating away from them now. The prime time to attack has already passed."

"So we're going to survive?" someone asked.

"No way" someone else said. "It just means we're not important enough for them to consider killing us."

"I don't understand" Berwick muttered. "Their opening was so wide." He voice sounded like it was in pain. As if a lack of comprehension upset his entire perception of reality.

"They won't attack" a new voice said. "At least not tonight." Everyone in the room turned to see who had entered. It was Alyarde, head of intelligence.

"What are you doing in the capital?" Dendeov asked.

"One of my operatives have managed to find themselves in a key position on board a heavy cruiser. I came to ask the king for orders in person." She moved her attention to Berwick. "He told me to ask the head of tactics. But I can see you're at your limit."

"Which ship?" Berwick asked in a horse voice.

"H24601 by the federations own designation."

Berwick turned back to the monitor. He found the ship and took only a few seconds to consider the situation. "Nothing. Don't bother doing anything with it. There's no tactical advantage. It's too far away from the battle."

"But we could kill quite a few federation soldiers" Alyarde pointed out.

"No one important. If this were a long protracted battle then I could rationalize it." Berwick slumped his shoulders. "But it'd just be more killing. With no profit at all. Leave them." Tears were in his eyes again. "In the end, they're soldiers just like us."

"And soldiers kill each other" Alyarde said. She threw her arms up and shook her head casually. "If that's your attitude then it's better not to fight at all. I don't care if they wipe out every single one of us. If I have the chance then I'm going to bite back. Fuck the king and fuck you. I'm doing what I want." She turned and left them.

"They've been content to sit there and hammer the same spot" Dendeov explained to Jerah. "Letting the planet bring the targets to them. But now they're spreading out. Hitting weaker but more wide spread. Which means he has to focus on a lot more areas at once. Yesterday it was lax during day light hours but it's not the same now. We could still die at any second. Jerah...I want you to convince him to evacuate. He's done more than anyone could have expected. If he survives. Leads the resistance, he might just be capable enough to convince the federation we're too troublesome to fight."

"I'm not leaving" he told them. They thought he wasn't listening but Berwick always kept part of his mind focused on the room in case something important was said. "They've begun attacks on the capital. Not strong ones. If I evacuate now then they'll kill me before I even leave the palace. Order everyone else to evacuate but leave me and the army. Get yourself out Dendeov."

Dendeov let out a sigh. "I can't do that. The captain always goes down with the ship. You might be stealing the show here but I'm chief of staff. This is my office. I'm going to burn in it but I don't want that for you. These past two days you've proven your worth beyond a shadow of a doubt. You're more useful than me. Think of the lives you could save if you continue this fight."

"It's too late for that." He almost collapsed again as another wave of exhaustion swept over him. I have to stop talking. It's a waste of resources.

Jerah approached him again. "Berwick. You've done enough. Let someone else take a turn."

His body had finally reached the point where it was too much effort to remain awake. His mind was battered beyond the point where he could resist her. He fell into his wife's arms and let her carry him away. Away from the war room. Away from the war. From all his anxieties. Pains. And Efforts.

Berwick dreamed of death in what he knew would be his final dream. He dreamed of explosions, radiations, winters and annihilations. Shrapnel raining from the sky and cutting through him. Asphyxiation, heart failure, brain tumours. He dreamed what it would be like to experience it all. Yet they were not nightmares. There was pain and suffering but it was good. It was life. Something beautiful in the last moments as consciousness faded.

There was an almighty crash that brought him from a state of deep slumber into a lucid sleep. He continued to dream but at the same time he was aware of his surroundings in the waking world. When he heard the sound of Jerah talking to someone, he decided it was time to wake up. The absolute exhaustion that had consumed him before still lingered. His body still felt physically weak. But the sleep had restored his mind completely. More completely than any regular sleep ever had before. He felt like he was thinking with perfect clarity for the first time in his life.

To his surprise the sky was overlooking him when he opened his eyes. The sun was beaming down through the rich blue air in what appeared to be an impossible nice day. He sat up and looked around. The inner garden of the palace surrounded him. Jerah was sitting on a stone bench nearby, reading a book. "What's going on?" he asked her.

She looked up from her book. Her face was sad. So sad it nearly broke Berwick's heart. "The king is dead" she told him. "An assault team landed in the castle. It wasn't difficult for them. Most of the ground guard had evacuated already."

Sounds like someone had a personal matter to attend to. That's probably why they didn't bomb us before. I expect they'll do that now that they've got what they needed from the king. "And they spared us?" he asked.

"They never knew we were here. They made a beeline right for the throne and war rooms."

"Then Dendeov..."

She nodded. "He's dead too."

Berwick got up and held her hands. "Could you sense them? Their lives going out?"

She nodded again. Tears in her eyes now. "I just wish I could have been useful."

Berwick held her against his chest as she cried. "Don't cry. It wasn't your duty. It was mine. I failed them. I failed everyone...failure was the only option."

Jerah looked up at him with her teary eyes. "No Berwick. You mustn't think that way."

Berwick stroked her hair. "It's true though. But it's okay. I know I've done all I can. Nothing remains but to await the end."

"You think they'll still attack?"

"I'm certain of it."

She sniffed. "You should get some more rest. I can see it. You're still tired."

He shook his head. "No. I'm done sleeping. I know I'm going to die soon and I want to be awake to see it. It's going to be one of the most important moments of my life. It'd be a shame to miss it."

Jerah calmed down surprisingly quickly. Berwick did exactly what she needed to feel better. They moved from the bench to the grass which now seemed more lush and beautiful than it ever had before. She went back to her book, determined to finish it before the end. He lay with his head on her lap, looking up at the sky above. He could tell that beyond the sunshine and blue light, the battle was still being fought without him. Though without him slaughter would probably be a more accurate word. However he no longer minded. There was a sense of complete calm and silence in that garden. Interrupted only by the pages turning in Jerah's book. Berwick didn't know how long they spent there, alone but for each other's presence. He knew it wasn't long enough. An eternity in that garden, with her, wouldn't have been enough for him.

"I never found my abilities all that useful to be honest" Jerah said after some time had passed. "I always made a lot of money with them because it's a gift and people just thought it natural that it should be adulated. But the only useful thing I've ever been able to do is tell people they're stressed." She paused and looked down at him. "Except when I'm with you. You're the only one whose feelings I really feel." She leaned down and kissed him.

"Are you finished your book?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"Yes. Turns out it wasn't even that good. It's a pity. I would have liked my last novel to be something worthwhile." She closed the book and laid it to rest in the grass beside her. "I never did get around to reading Two Souls."

"I read it when I was a boy. I found it to be quite overrated."

She lay back on the grass and looked into the sky with him. "What will happen to our children?" she asked.

"They'll probably be killed by a mob looking for food."

"I probably should have left you here and went to them. They're going to think of me as a bad mother."

"Don't worry. Laurca will look after the younger ones just as well as you would and I don't think she'd judge you. She'll be happy to be useful. The two of you are a lot alike. I never really seen it until now."

"I've always seen it. Asorten is just like you."

"Really? But our interests are so different."

"Your passions are the same. The way you feel about things." There was a brief silence. "I miss them" Jerah muttered. "It might make no sense but I wish they were here with us now. Is that a horrible thing to say?"

"If it is then I'm just as bad as you. I wish they were here too." Berwick thought he could see a faint glow of orange among the blue in the sky. "In the end none of it really mattered. None of my efforts. All the lives I traded so people could evacuate. In the end all the weapons the federation used will change the planet's atmosphere. An artificial ice age will be created. And all the refugees, without their homes and cities, will die. None of them will be saved."

"You've given them a few months. Maybe a few years. That's something to be proud of."

"Yes. A few more years of living in frozen desolation. Warmed only by the nuclear fires that will poison them."

"Some might make it into space. Find some new world to settle on."

"Who would take them? They've destroyed our cities and any of the rich elite would have evacuated before I even entered the war room. Any that do make it to space will be scattered. No major community has a chance of being formed. Some might find each other in that darkness and have children but there'll be only two more generations at most. Within a hundred years our entire species will be nothing but a memory."

"Does that really mean saving them isn't worth it?"

"No. You're right. I hope some do make it out there. Even if it's just one. I hope I saved at least one."

Edited by Jotari

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Deadline in 4 days. If your entry ain't in, make sure it gets in on time.

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Look at me, using a Fire Emblem name like a weirdo! LMAO, hope this is alright, guys! It's definitely pushing PG-13 with the strong language, but it's pretty tame overall, I think. I've never posted anything for this contest so I hope I'm doing it right!!!

Title: Limbo
Prompt: Diaries of an exhausted tactician -- I kinda went OFF THE RAILS from the prompt here, but hey! That's what prompts are for!
Word Count: 2,144

—RECORDING—


Commander Sigurd always called Orca-Eurypylus the “real Titanic” because unlike Earth’s ancient tale of the invincible Titanic water-ship going down, this starship was both massive and indestructible.


It became apparent that Orca-Eurypylus was not indestructible when the protesting groans of her breaking in half drowned out blaring alarms which were undoubtedly sucking the last drops of life out of the power grid. Since the enemy targeted all escape routes first, we were trapped. All the crew hoped for now was that she would burst into flames before the ventilation system finally failed and everyone suffocated.


Although Commander Sigurd didn’t tell the crew in his last briefing, the look on his face gave away that he retracted the distress beacon, ensuring that we were stranded with no hope of rescue. It was over.


Would traces of my existence survive beyond the abandoned archives of a military database? I hadn’t accomplished anything in my entire life. I was going to be become nothing more than a statistic. A John Doe in both life and death.


That’s what I wasted my time worrying about, staring at the bottom of Proteus’s bunk in my standard-issue clothes with my standard-issue blanket that did nothing for the frigid outer space leaking into the cracks of Orca-Eurypylus’s hollow corpse.


The ceiling lit up like the Milky Way’s sun when Proteus booted a hologram and poked his head over the side of his bunk to dangle it in front of me. I squeezed my eyes shut. “Hey, I found some dirt on the lieutenant,” he said.


“Christ, Proteus—that’s what’s keeping you up?”


“Get this: Haldus was assigned to our starbase three years ago, right? Well, he was originally assigned to Orca-Eurypylus nine years ago, but got reassigned sometime in between. Reassigned. He keeps that under locks.”


Proteus quieted down to get a reaction out of me, but I had already closed my eyes and shifted onto my side, too tired and nauseous to say ‘maybe he requested a reassignment because he had an annoying bunk-mate’.


“Nine years ago, shit went down on Orca-Eurypylus. That’s when we were losing the war and they drafted all those cannon fodder boys who didn’t wanna be here—so there were all these fights breaking out. Some of them got pretty nasty. I bet you three cups of coffee that Lieutenant Haldus played the system and got away with something huge with just a warning and that’s why they reassigned him. It adds up.”


I groaned into my pillow.


“But that’s where it gets really interesting. I found this file on the lieutenant from ten years ago. You’re never gonna believe this!” Proteus exclaimed, leaning over his bunk again. He jammed his finger on one of the holographic files and held it inches from his face, reading, “Task name: Haldus, Lieutenant. Reported injury: Broken neck, head trauma—”


“—Not now, Proteus—”


“—Etcetera, etcetera. For that big of an injury, there’s gotta be at least some kind of incident report, mm? Guess what: Haldus turns up squeaky-clean. There’s only good records on him. Surviving Basic as an A-5—a freakin’ A-5—successful missions, previous task names. But everything else? Even his check up files from med bay are completely purged from—”


—Proteus! I’d rather this not be my last conversation,” I hissed, finally catching his attention. The room darkened to the temperament of a starless galaxy when he shut the hologram down. “I know you hate him, but Lieutenant Haldus is anything but a criminal. You shouldn’t spend your last days obsessing over him. He’s just doing his job.”


“Do you wanna be trapped on an explosive space-coffin with a murderer?”


“No, so I’m glad we aren’t. For god’s sake, he’s not a murderer, Proteus. Let it go.”


“Something’s off about Haldus, whether choose to see it or not.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~



It was against protocol to know anything about anyone else’s personal information—makes it easier to cope with when someone gets blown to pieces, I guess. But I knew Proteus’s name was Nasir because whenever Commander Sigurd mentioned the founding efforts of NASA when we were cadets, he’d snap out of his glazed-over stupor and stand at actual attention. From his ramblings on how Islam’s a sham and related conspiracies, I deduced he was from Earth like me. Proteus did most of the talking and I kept to myself, so I wasn’t sure what he knew about me.


The loud pop of a spark explosion right outside our cell woke me up. I felt awful, so I knew I wasn’t dead yet. Orca-Eurypylus continued its ominous creaking, and part of me wished she would just get it over with and tear a large enough breach to let the crew die quickly.


Proteus was asleep on his computer desk, locked out with a prompt for his password due to inactivity.


“Wake up,” I said, slapping him on the back. Proteus shot up and rubbed his eyes, shuffling through files again like he never slept. I didn’t have to ask him what he was looking at.


“Commander ordered another briefing tonight at 2100. Or when computers are off the power grid. Whichever comes first,” Proteus reported, not looking up from his ‘acquired’ research.


“Oh.” Not wanting to focus on the dangerous buzzing outside our cell, I asked, “So, what’s Haldus’s real name? He looks like an ‘Oscar’ to me.”


“Come on, man. I can’t tell you that.”


“You have a strange sense of which rules can be bent, considering the circumstances.” A light blew out in the corridor. Forcing myself to seem reasonably calm, I asked, “Why don’t you tell me about yourself? We might as well get to know each other since we’re gonna die soon.”


“Haldus’s name is Thomas,” Proteus huffed. “Earth-born, genetically modified, filthy rich family. Man, you gotta see what I found last night.”


Ignoring me, he entered his password to pull up a simulated video. Our cell transformed into what appeared to be an interrogation block on the mid-hull of a fully functional Orca-Eurypylus. A furious and younger-looking Haldus leaned over Commander Sigurd’s desk with a wild sort of rage in his eyes, the kind of look you have going into a dogfight. He spoke as if Sigurd was the one being interrogated: “Commander. If it were me, then I can guarantee you that he would have been dead years ago.”


An uncomfortable silence followed while Commander Sigurd’s hologram flipped through his computer and eventually replied, “You have more of a motive than anyone else on this ship, Lieutenant.”


“I do, sir. And if I were smarter, I would have killed him myself. I’m happy at least someone was decent enough to try to off that fucker, sir,” Haldus snapped. “I refuse to work anywhere near him if he manages to recover and isn’t transferred to a new starbase. I will defect—”


The video cut off and our cell returned to normal. My heart leaped in fear because I thought the power grid died, but Proteus said, “That’s it. Haldus destroyed most of that file. Obviously, he’s hiding something huge.”


“That seemed really personal, Proteus. I’d delete something like that, too.”


“Exactly. You’d just delete it. Haldus isn’t stupid, so he must have had a reason for editing it rather than destroying it, and I think I know why: it coincides with an incident report. When people go through his files, they won’t get suspicious because they’ll see that all the files supposed to be there are there, assume they’re whole, and move on without bothering to check. You know what I think? He must have killed whoever that guy was. And he did a hell of a job covering his tracks.”


“That’s insane, Proteus. Look, everyone on this ship is going to die soon—including Lieutenant Haldus—so, you might as well drop your stupid vendetta against him and try enjoy the last moments of your life before you suffocate.”


Proteus made a scene dragging himself from his desk like a child.


“Where are you going?”


“To enjoy the last of my time. Just me and oxygen. See ya.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


It might as well have been an eternity waiting for 2100 to come around, and when it finally did, I was terrified of how calm I felt. Less than a third of the crew showed up to Commander Sigurd’s briefing in the upper-hull’s abandoned navigation chamber due to fissures breaking open in the lower wings. I liked to think that people simply didn’t see a point in showing up.


I couldn’t listen to Commander Sigurd’s heartless, generic speech most likely on sacrifice and courage because among the absent were both Proteus and Haldus. During actual briefings, the lieutenants always stood near Commander Sigurd. Had only Haldus been missing, I wouldn’t have thought anything—but the fact that Proteus wasn’t here as well worried me more than my imminent death.


The second Commander Sigurd dismissed us, I burst out of the navigation chamber and the next thing I knew, I was pounding on Haldus’s metal door. “Lieutenant!” I shouted, getting rapidly more anxious every second there was no response. The corridor lights flickered and the starship groaned in pain.


He’s dead, he’s dead; Proteus has gone off and killed him. That crazy fucking bastard’s killed him. I closed my eyes, wondering what I was supposed to do now.


I nearly pissed myself when Haldus’s office door hissed open. “What?” he asked sharply.


“Oh… oh, thank god. You’re okay. Uh, sir.”


“Now’s not the time to be worrying about others, private. You look terrible.”


“Right, sir, it’s nothing. Are you okay?” One more look over him made me say, “Sorry… that was a dumb question, Lieutenant—have you seen Proteus?”


“No.”


I didn’t know if that was the response I wanted or not. Either way, Haldus looked like he was grieving and it felt wrong for me to interrupt him. “Right. Thank you. Just be careful, sir.”


“Not much we can do.”


“I mean of Proteus. Be careful of him.”


“...Why?”


Already feeling like I made a horrible mistake, I went over the options in my mind: tell Haldus that the pressure was getting to me and nothing was wrong to let the poor man die in peace, or warn him of someone who’s been stalking him months thinking he murdered someone a decade ago.


Feeling my head throb, I blurted out, “Private Proteus has been obsessed with you for months because he thinks you murdered someone nine years ago on this ship and got away with it. He’s been digging through all your old files—”


“What?” Haldus roared. “What?


Immediate regret. “Sir, it’s just Proteus, I’m sure—”


Haldus pulled me into his office and overrode the door shut with a swipe of his finger. “God damn it, what does he know?”


“Sir, you didn’t actually murder anyone. Right? This is all just nonsense?”


“No, I didn’t kill anyone: what does Proteus know, private?”


“Nothing concrete, sir. I don’t think. I mean, I didn’t know much about it until after the attack, which is when he started to share all this insanity with me. Guess he thought there’s nothing to lose anymore, which is why I was worried about you. He found the video sim fragment with you being questioned by Commander Sigurd and thought you did something to manipulate the system to get away with murder. Or something.”


Haldus furiously paced in front of his desk. “I didn’t kill anyone,” he repeated after a long while. “Task name Merak. He hurt me. And someone else tried to kill him out of vengeance. I don’t know how the hell Proteus managed to dig that up and he’d be in in the brig right now if we weren’t going down.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I never imagined the last conversation in my life to be my boss pouring his heart out to me with a graphically detailed account of his disturbing encounters with the late Lieutenant Merak, who definitely deserved to die.


And I was left too sick from all the secrets stabbed into me to feel like I ever needed to speak to any other human being before my time ran out—a surprisingly decent replacement for fulfilment and peace, which Haldus probably felt with all that off his chest.


I wandered into the lower-hull’s training room, where I was certain no one else wanted to be when they died. A twinge of sadness struck me that there was no time for anyone to know my own story. But it would be selfish of me to think I was important enough to waste someone’s time forcing them to listen. I was nobody.


—STOP—


With the power grid depleted and Orca-Eurypylus falling apart around me, I end and capsulize my detailed report of the past few of days, in selfish hopes that someone somewhere will eventually find it and become aware of the existence of three insignificant men: Nasir, Thomas, and I.

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When there will be the second season of this tournament?

The competition is held in rounds, the winner of the last round decides the prompt for the new round. So whenever the voting for this round wraps up.

If you'd like, you can write for old prompts and not submit them!

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Look at me, using a Fire Emblem name like a weirdo! LMAO, hope this is alright, guys! It's definitely pushing PG-13 with the strong language, but it's pretty tame overall, I think. I've never posted anything for this contest so I hope I'm doing it right!!!

Title: Limbo

Prompt: Diaries of an exhausted tactician -- I kinda went OFF THE RAILS from the prompt here, but hey! That's what prompts are for!

Word Count: 2,144

—RECORDING—

Commander Sigurd always called Orca-Eurypylus the “real Titanic” because unlike Earth’s ancient tale of the invincible Titanic water-ship going down, this starship was both massive and indestructible.

It became apparent that Orca-Eurypylus was not indestructible when the protesting groans of her breaking in half drowned out blaring alarms which were undoubtedly sucking the last drops of life out of the power grid. Since the enemy targeted all escape routes first, we were trapped. All the crew hoped for now was that she would burst into flames before the ventilation system finally failed and everyone suffocated.

Although Commander Sigurd didn’t tell the crew in his last briefing, the look on his face gave away that he retracted the distress beacon, ensuring that we were stranded with no hope of rescue. It was over.

Would traces of my existence survive beyond the abandoned archives of a military database? I hadn’t accomplished anything in my entire life. I was going to be become nothing more than a statistic. A John Doe in both life and death.

That’s what I wasted my time worrying about, staring at the bottom of Proteus’s bunk in my standard-issue clothes with my standard-issue blanket that did nothing for the frigid outer space leaking into the cracks of Orca-Eurypylus’s hollow corpse.

The ceiling lit up like the Milky Way’s sun when Proteus booted a hologram and poked his head over the side of his bunk to dangle it in front of me. I squeezed my eyes shut. “Hey, I found some dirt on the lieutenant,” he said.

“Christ, Proteus—that’s what’s keeping you up?”

“Get this: Haldus was assigned to our starbase three years ago, right? Well, he was originally assigned to Orca-Eurypylus nine years ago, but got reassigned sometime in between. Reassigned. He keeps that under locks.”

Proteus quieted down to get a reaction out of me, but I had already closed my eyes and shifted onto my side, too tired and nauseous to say ‘maybe he requested a reassignment because he had an annoying bunk-mate’.

“Nine years ago, shit went down on Orca-Eurypylus. That’s when we were losing the war and they drafted all those cannon fodder boys who didn’t wanna be here—so there were all these fights breaking out. Some of them got pretty nasty. I bet you three cups of coffee that Lieutenant Haldus played the system and got away with something huge with just a warning and that’s why they reassigned him. It adds up.”

I groaned into my pillow.

“But that’s where it gets really interesting. I found this file on the lieutenant from ten years ago. You’re never gonna believe this!” Proteus exclaimed, leaning over his bunk again. He jammed his finger on one of the holographic files and held it inches from his face, reading, “Task name: Haldus, Lieutenant. Reported injury: Broken neck, head trauma—”

“—Not now, Proteus—”

“—Etcetera, etcetera. For that big of an injury, there’s gotta be at least some kind of incident report, mm? Guess what: Haldus turns up squeaky-clean. There’s only good records on him. Surviving Basic as an A-5—a freakin’ A-5—successful missions, previous task names. But everything else? Even his check up files from med bay are completely purged from—”

—Proteus! I’d rather this not be my last conversation,” I hissed, finally catching his attention. The room darkened to the temperament of a starless galaxy when he shut the hologram down. “I know you hate him, but Lieutenant Haldus is anything but a criminal. You shouldn’t spend your last days obsessing over him. He’s just doing his job.”

“Do you wanna be trapped on an explosive space-coffin with a murderer?”

“No, so I’m glad we aren’t. For god’s sake, he’s not a murderer, Proteus. Let it go.”

“Something’s off about Haldus, whether choose to see it or not.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was against protocol to know anything about anyone else’s personal information—makes it easier to cope with when someone gets blown to pieces, I guess. But I knew Proteus’s name was Nasir because whenever Commander Sigurd mentioned the founding efforts of NASA when we were cadets, he’d snap out of his glazed-over stupor and stand at actual attention. From his ramblings on how Islam’s a sham and related conspiracies, I deduced he was from Earth like me. Proteus did most of the talking and I kept to myself, so I wasn’t sure what he knew about me.

The loud pop of a spark explosion right outside our cell woke me up. I felt awful, so I knew I wasn’t dead yet. Orca-Eurypylus continued its ominous creaking, and part of me wished she would just get it over with and tear a large enough breach to let the crew die quickly.

Proteus was asleep on his computer desk, locked out with a prompt for his password due to inactivity.

“Wake up,” I said, slapping him on the back. Proteus shot up and rubbed his eyes, shuffling through files again like he never slept. I didn’t have to ask him what he was looking at.

“Commander ordered another briefing tonight at 2100. Or when computers are off the power grid. Whichever comes first,” Proteus reported, not looking up from his ‘acquired’ research.

“Oh.” Not wanting to focus on the dangerous buzzing outside our cell, I asked, “So, what’s Haldus’s real name? He looks like an ‘Oscar’ to me.”

“Come on, man. I can’t tell you that.”

“You have a strange sense of which rules can be bent, considering the circumstances.” A light blew out in the corridor. Forcing myself to seem reasonably calm, I asked, “Why don’t you tell me about yourself? We might as well get to know each other since we’re gonna die soon.”

“Haldus’s name is Thomas,” Proteus huffed. “Earth-born, genetically modified, filthy rich family. Man, you gotta see what I found last night.”

Ignoring me, he entered his password to pull up a simulated video. Our cell transformed into what appeared to be an interrogation block on the mid-hull of a fully functional Orca-Eurypylus. A furious and younger-looking Haldus leaned over Commander Sigurd’s desk with a wild sort of rage in his eyes, the kind of look you have going into a dogfight. He spoke as if Sigurd was the one being interrogated: “Commander. If it were me, then I can guarantee you that he would have been dead years ago.”

An uncomfortable silence followed while Commander Sigurd’s hologram flipped through his computer and eventually replied, “You have more of a motive than anyone else on this ship, Lieutenant.”

“I do, sir. And if I were smarter, I would have killed him myself. I’m happy at least someone was decent enough to try to off that fucker, sir,” Haldus snapped. “I refuse to work anywhere near him if he manages to recover and isn’t transferred to a new starbase. I will defect—”

The video cut off and our cell returned to normal. My heart leaped in fear because I thought the power grid died, but Proteus said, “That’s it. Haldus destroyed most of that file. Obviously, he’s hiding something huge.”

“That seemed really personal, Proteus. I’d delete something like that, too.”

“Exactly. You’d just delete it. Haldus isn’t stupid, so he must have had a reason for editing it rather than destroying it, and I think I know why: it coincides with an incident report. When people go through his files, they won’t get suspicious because they’ll see that all the files supposed to be there are there, assume they’re whole, and move on without bothering to check. You know what I think? He must have killed whoever that guy was. And he did a hell of a job covering his tracks.”

“That’s insane, Proteus. Look, everyone on this ship is going to die soon—including Lieutenant Haldus—so, you might as well drop your stupid vendetta against him and try enjoy the last moments of your life before you suffocate.”

Proteus made a scene dragging himself from his desk like a child.

“Where are you going?”

“To enjoy the last of my time. Just me and oxygen. See ya.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It might as well have been an eternity waiting for 2100 to come around, and when it finally did, I was terrified of how calm I felt. Less than a third of the crew showed up to Commander Sigurd’s briefing in the upper-hull’s abandoned navigation chamber due to fissures breaking open in the lower wings. I liked to think that people simply didn’t see a point in showing up.

I couldn’t listen to Commander Sigurd’s heartless, generic speech most likely on sacrifice and courage because among the absent were both Proteus and Haldus. During actual briefings, the lieutenants always stood near Commander Sigurd. Had only Haldus been missing, I wouldn’t have thought anything—but the fact that Proteus wasn’t here as well worried me more than my imminent death.

The second Commander Sigurd dismissed us, I burst out of the navigation chamber and the next thing I knew, I was pounding on Haldus’s metal door. “Lieutenant!” I shouted, getting rapidly more anxious every second there was no response. The corridor lights flickered and the starship groaned in pain.

He’s dead, he’s dead; Proteus has gone off and killed him. That crazy fucking bastard’s killed him. I closed my eyes, wondering what I was supposed to do now.

I nearly pissed myself when Haldus’s office door hissed open. “What?” he asked sharply.

“Oh… oh, thank god. You’re okay. Uh, sir.”

“Now’s not the time to be worrying about others, private. You look terrible.”

“Right, sir, it’s nothing. Are you okay?” One more look over him made me say, “Sorry… that was a dumb question, Lieutenant—have you seen Proteus?”

“No.”

I didn’t know if that was the response I wanted or not. Either way, Haldus looked like he was grieving and it felt wrong for me to interrupt him. “Right. Thank you. Just be careful, sir.”

“Not much we can do.”

“I mean of Proteus. Be careful of him.”

“...Why?”

Already feeling like I made a horrible mistake, I went over the options in my mind: tell Haldus that the pressure was getting to me and nothing was wrong to let the poor man die in peace, or warn him of someone who’s been stalking him months thinking he murdered someone a decade ago.

Feeling my head throb, I blurted out, “Private Proteus has been obsessed with you for months because he thinks you murdered someone nine years ago on this ship and got away with it. He’s been digging through all your old files—”

“What?” Haldus roared. “What?

Immediate regret. “Sir, it’s just Proteus, I’m sure—”

Haldus pulled me into his office and overrode the door shut with a swipe of his finger. “God damn it, what does he know?”

“Sir, you didn’t actually murder anyone. Right? This is all just nonsense?”

“No, I didn’t kill anyone: what does Proteus know, private?”

“Nothing concrete, sir. I don’t think. I mean, I didn’t know much about it until after the attack, which is when he started to share all this insanity with me. Guess he thought there’s nothing to lose anymore, which is why I was worried about you. He found the video sim fragment with you being questioned by Commander Sigurd and thought you did something to manipulate the system to get away with murder. Or something.”

Haldus furiously paced in front of his desk. “I didn’t kill anyone,” he repeated after a long while. “Task name Merak. He hurt me. And someone else tried to kill him out of vengeance. I don’t know how the hell Proteus managed to dig that up and he’d be in in the brig right now if we weren’t going down.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I never imagined the last conversation in my life to be my boss pouring his heart out to me with a graphically detailed account of his disturbing encounters with the late Lieutenant Merak, who definitely deserved to die.

And I was left too sick from all the secrets stabbed into me to feel like I ever needed to speak to any other human being before my time ran out—a surprisingly decent replacement for fulfilment and peace, which Haldus probably felt with all that off his chest.

I wandered into the lower-hull’s training room, where I was certain no one else wanted to be when they died. A twinge of sadness struck me that there was no time for anyone to know my own story. But it would be selfish of me to think I was important enough to waste someone’s time forcing them to listen. I was nobody.

—STOP—

With the power grid depleted and Orca-Eurypylus falling apart around me, I end and capsulize my detailed report of the past few of days, in selfish hopes that someone somewhere will eventually find it and become aware of the existence of three insignificant men: Nasir, Thomas, and I.

I don't know about you but for me, slow suffocation sounds like a much more preferable death than flaming agony. Also the Milky Way doesn't really have a sun.

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I don't know about you but for me, slow suffocation sounds like a much more preferable death than flaming agony. Also the Milky Way doesn't really have a sun.

It's not the death but the fear of death which makes it terrifying. And knowing that you will 100% suffocate slowly is probably worse than assuming that you will 99% get wiped out by a missile.

Plus, if you're criticizing, I do want to mention that his story is far and away better written than yours and possibly mine too by terms of language and syntax.

Edited by Pharoahe Monch

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Relevant: third and fourth degree burns won't hurt as much as second degree, due to the fact third and fourth burn off the nerves that send pain signals to the brain.

In other words, slowly suffocating sounds torturous. At least flaming agony will be quick and burn off the pain.

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As carbon dioxide levels rise you'd gradually get sleepier until you just drift off and most likely die in your sleep. Psychologically one might find that terrifying but this is a pretty hopeless situation that would tax one's mental health before either occasion occurs.

Edited by Jotari

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Relevant: third and fourth degree burns won't hurt as much as second degree, due to the fact third and fourth burn off the nerves that send pain signals to the brain.

In other words, slowly suffocating sounds torturous. At least flaming agony will be quick and burn off the pain.

Degrees of burn refers to visible damage done from burning (i.e. only surface burnt or muscles showing or bone showing), you'd probably only typically get third or fourth if something solid like a metal pole or timber (in let's say, a house fire) fell on you. Burning at the stake (or just being on fire without a mound of sticks beneath you) is more akin to being roasted and so you might eventually get third degree burns but you'd probably only get second degree whilst your fluids start boiling and all your enzymes fail. Your clothes would cause the most surface damage, and would hopefully destroy the nerves in your skin but doesn't mean the nerves on the inside of your body won't continue to function.

Not to mention that burning also means inhaling smoke, and so comes with its own level of suffocation too.

Although, for suffocation, it depends how long slow is. The longer the period the worse it would be imo. I'd probably still take it over flaming agony though.

And that's that for my random interjection on a thread I rarely visit :D

Edited by Relick

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Alright, though I have no real authority as I am neither Sunwoo or Eclipse, I declare this round of the competition over!

Looks like we've got three entries from

Jotari #505

Pharoahe Monch #502

and Pent #508

I'll try and contact the mods to get the polls set up and what not so voting can commence. I'm not sure what's the average time for a voting period but I know it's been extended on occasion, so the tentative voting end date will be... I don't know give me some time...

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That would be me. . .'cept I kinda wandered in. :P:

Will get to that poll in a bit. Couldn't enter because I wasn't able to sit up long enough to compose anything noteworthy.

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Wish I had been here sooner so I could have written something! But I've already read the entries (and a bunch of really old ones too for the heck of it), and there are some really talented people on this site. Anyway, my vote has been cast! Good job everyone.

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I have critiques for the stories this round. I meant to post them a bit more out of the way in the voting thread but having multiple tabs open with much of the same text can lead to mistakes so here they are.

[spoiler=The Prom Last Night]

I confess I read this one the day after binge reading the entirety of a manga called Bitter Virgin which approaches the topic of sexual abuse very well. So I might have made some unfair comparisons because of that. Nevertheless I shall give my honest opinion. And my honest opinion is that nothing really happened in your story. I could probably condense the entire thing down to five lines and loose absolutely nothing. We spend almost the entirety of the story on the build up leaving the rape itself to be skipped over and the aftermath (imo the most important part of such a story) being pretty minimal. It doesn't even work for shock value because we know exactly what's going to happen from the very first scene. So I came out feeling like the only point or meaning I could derive from it would be to view it as a cautionary tale against drug use (which from how it's written is not what I believe was meant to be the point). I feel if it was a bit longer than more could have been added to it (bleh. Obvious statement). I get that for a competition like this word count is a key factor but if you're dealing with a story that has so many scenes, and more importantly a lot of gravity, giving it the attention it deserves is probably more important than keeping it short and sweet.

[spoiler=Limbo]

First off I find it amusing that for both your story and mine, we took the prompt Diaries of an Exhausted Tactician and decided it sounded like a sci fi story. A sci fi story where people must come to terms with their morality before meeting an explosive death. I'm not point fingers and claiming plagiarism, they are actually quite different stories, I just find the basic idea amusing and wonder if you read my story first or if we just have an oddly similar mindset. Anyway on to the story itself, I liked the build up and tension it maintained throughout. The protagonist is constantly reflecting how pointless everything they're doing is as, I imagine, one would do in such a situation. My only real problem with the story is in how it ends. I like that it's a message in a bottle type deal but the immediate scene before that revelation that works as the capstone to the story is entirely rushed. We're still very much in the story when we go to Haldus' room but then we immediately skip over his confession and anything else that could happen and the story just ends. A sudden ending wouldn't be out of place in a story framed with imminent destruction but an ending like this just felt like someone ran out of writing time rather than a realistic conclusion where not everything is resolved in time. Also space can't really creep into a spaceship, at least not in a temperature sense. The vacuum actually makes an excellent insulator since there's no air for the heat to travel through. As a result space ships tend to be way too hot and need cooling rather than being too cold. Not really an issue with the story since it's fiction and you can have different physics or characters simply not being aware of the inner workings of their technology. I just thought I'd mention it as an fyi in case you didn't know. Being too cold certainly suits the scene better.

Edited by Jotari

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I was gonna have something with the Dairies of an Exhausted Tactician relating to the memoirs of President Ulyssess S. Grant (his struggle to write the thing as he's dying is inspiring) but I was just too tired this time around.... And busy playing fates but yeah....

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I'll give this round an open prompt. I think a few people have said they're not joining because the prompts haven't interested them and we haven't had an open prompt in a while. So go nuts. Write whatever you want. Deadline is the 4th of March.

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