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Write Your Butt Off 358/II.8 prompts HD Final Chapter Prologue

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On 5/3/2022 at 10:07 PM, Newtype06 said:

Can you give me feedback on my work?

Oh yeah, we're supposed to do that. Should probably remember to do that.

Here's a brief preview of my WIP entry.

Spoiler

It is the present year, and weed is legal. Yet the streets are filled with illegal marijuana.

Weed was not make legal unconditionally. Only FDA certified producers, namely a small handful of powerful pharmaceutical corporations, could legally grow and sell weed. No at-home plants, no hand-rolled blunts, and all pot brownies had to come wrapped up like Little Debbie treats. Big pharma colluded to ensure the price of weed was, and remained, through the roof. A million dollars a gram- not as bad as you think because of runaway inflation, but still really bad. With so many crappy memes about weed, demand was equally high. People, living in denial of an addiction an alcoholic would have owned up to 20 years ago, could not afford legal weed. Even worse, no matter how much you think weed sucks, the FDA approved weed is even worse. So the black market for weed grew even stronger.

 

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2 minutes ago, TheSilentChloey said:

Yeah I got nothing this round

 

  Reveal hidden contents

Because mecha are not as easy to write about...

 

I promised myself I'd write something for this round, just to contribute, even if it's bad, but I'm also struggling to think of anything to write about.

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12 minutes ago, Jotari said:

I promised myself I'd write something for this round, just to contribute, even if it's bad, but I'm also struggling to think of anything to write about.

Writer's Block.

 

It's a bitch.

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Lol I'm at two ideas and counting. Robotsrobotsrobots

On 5/13/2022 at 11:00 PM, AnonymousSpeed said:

Oh yeah, we're supposed to do that. Should probably remember to do that.

Here's a brief preview of my WIP entry.

  Hide contents

It is the present year, and weed is legal. Yet the streets are filled with illegal marijuana.

Weed was not make legal unconditionally. Only FDA certified producers, namely a small handful of powerful pharmaceutical corporations, could legally grow and sell weed. No at-home plants, no hand-rolled blunts, and all pot brownies had to come wrapped up like Little Debbie treats. Big pharma colluded to ensure the price of weed was, and remained, through the roof. A million dollars a gram- not as bad as you think because of runaway inflation, but still really bad. With so many crappy memes about weed, demand was equally high. People, living in denial of an addiction an alcoholic would have owned up to 20 years ago, could not afford legal weed. Even worse, no matter how much you think weed sucks, the FDA approved weed is even worse. So the black market for weed grew even stronger.

 

...Out of curiosity, did you miss the part where I jumped in and broke the tie in favor of the mecha prompt? If so, uh, that happened. If not, I'm interested in seeing where this goes.

Edited by SoulWeaver

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1 hour ago, SoulWeaver said:

...Out of curiosity, did you miss the part where I jumped in and broke the tie in favor of the mecha prompt? If so, uh, that happened. If not, I'm interested in seeing where this goes.

Oh, I saw it. It all ties together.

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Third idea hit me here at work today, clearly the rest of you need to play more Mechaman because Anon and I are the only ones going off here.

19 hours ago, AnonymousSpeed said:

Oh, I saw it. It all ties together.

In that case, I look forward to seeing where this goes.

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Okay. I promised I'd write something, and I did. It's a short little one that I whipped up in the past half hour or so, but it has a fun premise and I think delivers the point in comedic enough manner for me to be satisfied with. Not my best, but at least I've finally submitted something since the first round.

Name: MEK-Alpha

Word Count: 1249

Eh, for some reason all the paragraph indents vanished and the text was entirely rendered in bold which I can't undo...so yeah, that's not intentional. Maybe it adds to the charm.

Spoiler

 

MEK-Alpha

 

“So gentlemen,” the centre general said. “We hear you have some competing designs for us.”

Sherman didn’t wait for the other man to speak. He cleared his throat and jumped straight into his presentation. “Modern AI seen in self driving cars has grown extensively over the past few years, yet this has been completely neglected in the military sphere. That’s why I’m here to present to you,” he unrolled his document and placed it on the stand, “the ADT-1, the world’s first ever self-driving tank.”

He paused, waiting to see if any of the generals would ask any questions. He could feel his pits beginning to sweat and decided to get it over with as soon as possible, “Modern tanks now have a crew of 4-6, but with a new auto loading system implemented along with the automatic driving, the ADT-1 requires only two soldiers to be fully operated.”

Again, he paused, waiting for some kind of interaction, but he was met with only mute and moderate interest. “And, eh,” he continued on, “in case there is an issue with the system, it can be swapped back to manual control.”

“Issue with the system,” the general on the right said. “So it’s not a self driving tank?”

“Well,” Sherman spluttered, “yes, it is, but modern self driving technology is designed around roads, while tanks will be going cross country, so there is a chance of-”

“We can’t afford our tanks suddenly changing direction in the middle of a battle.”

“But that’s not what would happen. Is still have the most sophisticated AI ever developed. I have it in my own four wheel,”

The centre general raised his hand, “okay, okay, let’s set aside the self driving gimmick. What kind of fire power is this thing packing.”

Before Sherman could respond, the other researcher cleared his throat and stood up. “If I may, men.” He pulled down Sherman’s sketch of the ADT-1 and put up his own plans. “My name is Takamoto and this, is the future of the armed forces,” he pulled back, revealing the plans. It was a coloured document of a robot. “If you want fire power, then look no further than the MEK-Alpha.”

The three generals leaned forward with interest. “Is that a mech?”

The other man smiled. “Yes, yes it is. And unlike a tank, it can be staffed with just one person.”

“So what kind of fire power does it have?” the centre general asked again.

“It’s got gatling guns on its shoulders, a flame thrower in it’s left arm, and in it’s right, a sword for melee combat.”

Melee combat, Sherman thought, when is something like that ever going to have to deal with melee combat?

The generals looked excited though. “Say, any missiles on this thing?” the lefhand general said.

“Ah, yes,” Takamoto said, “we have experiment with missiles, but the force of a launch unbalances the mech. Right now we’re considering launching several barrages of homing missiles at once to provide stability. They will emerge from the arms and legs of the MEK-Alpha.”

“So, like, it could shoot in multiple directions at once,” the general on the right said.

Takamoto nodded excitedly. “Yes, yes. Allow me to demonstrate.” He disappeared and returned a moment later wheeling a TV. “This is a little computer based mock up I’ve made. I’ll need 18 million for the actual prototype.”

“But my ADT-1 can be developed for less than three million,” Sherman said, weakly, but no one was listening, all eyes were fixed on Takamoto’s TV where there was an image of a mech running around a city cutting up tanks. “That’s…that’s a video game,” Sherman moaned, but he was being ignored completely now. “That’s not real at all.”

“Say,” said the right hand general, “did that thing just fly? Does this thing have a jetpack?”

“Yes. And I should note, that the MEK-Alpha is fueled entirely by clean nuclear energy.”

“Oh great, that’ll go down well with the environmentalists.”

“You can’t send something with a nuclear reactor into a battle zone,” Sherman practically screamed. This seemed to get their attention, but only insofar as the generals remembered he existed.

“Sherman,” the central one said, “I want you to help mr Takamoto on  his prototype. Maybe we can use your guidance system for maneuvering the the mech.”

“My AI is based entirely around a grounded vehicle,” Sherman said, exasperatedly, “I can’t just port if over to a walking mech. We can barely have human sized robots that can run.”

“Not to worry man,” the lefthand general said, “we have full faith in  your capability.”

Takamoto smiled. “Looks like you’ll be working under me.”

 

***

 

“So men,” the central general said. “The unveiling of the MEK-Alpha was an astounding success.”

“It fell over,” Sherman muttered.

“Yes, well, that’s your department,” Takamoto said. “You were the one in charge of navigation.”

“It can’t be done,” Sherman said. “I can’t get a robot to run as fast as a car can drive.”

“Now, now, Sherman,” the right hand general said, “it’s not a robot, it’s a mech.”

“It doesn’t matter what it is, we can’t design legs that can run as fast as a car even on flat terrain!”

“That’s what they said about self driving cars when I was a lad,” the left hand general said. “Now they’re everywhere. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“Was the prototype damaged during the unveiling?” the central general asked.

Takamoto shrugged. “A few scratches. We could patch it up for less than sixty grand.”

“Excellent. Well I think we can begin production on some actual models as soon as the navigation issues are sorted out. Everyone loved the sword and the missiles.”

 

***

 

“You did it. You really pulled it off. Everyone said the mech was impractical, that it couldn’t be made to run, but you really sorted out those navigation issues. The military can’t thank you enough, Mr Takamoto.”

“But I was the one who programmed the running AI,” Sherman cried, but as per usual, no one was listening to him.

“Now,” said the right hand general, “we’ve made an order of a hundred of them. They’re expensive, so we don’t want to overdo it. They still haven’t been tested in a rela combat situation. Fortunately we’ve just invaded Angola, so that will be the perfect opportunity.”

Sherman leaped to his feet. “Angola! I’ve made it clear the navigation system only works on straight flat roads.”

“There are roads in Angola,” the left hand general said.

“The rebels are hiding in the jungle!”

“Well then, the flame thrower it has should be perfect.”

 

***

 

“So men, it’s bad news, we’ve lost over half of the MEK-Alphas that were deployed in Angola."

"They kept falling over," Sherman muttered."

The general ignored him and continued. "We want the two of you to work on means of improving the design specifically for jungle based combat. You two have done a fine job so far, so we have every confidence in your success.”

“I’ve been giving the issue some thought since you emailed me,” Takamoto said, “and I’ve already prepared a solution.” He placed a set of plans on the stand. “I present to you, the MEK-Rex!” He unveiled the plans to show a drawing of a metal dinosaur.

The generals all looked at each other excitedly. “My god Takamoto, it’s brilliant, you’ve done it again!”

Sherman just stared back and forth between the generals and Takamoto. “What age are we allowed to retire at?” he asked himself, because he knew the room at large wouldn’t answer.

 

Edited by Jotari

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Okay I'm going to be real here...

 

I've been writing a dragon AU and no you guys won't get to see it because it's M.

 

We know the deal if you want to see my stuff A03.  And yeah I just dropped in to say I have a bad case of the lack of motivation to write for the theme.  Nothing PG rated anyway.

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When in doubt throw ANIMAY into it. Fabulous.

Meanwhile Chloey outing that she was really hoping for that drugs prompt smh is bad for yu.

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7 hours ago, SoulWeaver said:

When in doubt throw ANIMAY into it. Fabulous.

Meanwhile Chloey outing that she was really hoping for that drugs prompt smh is bad for yu.

Oh no....   noooooooo

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I honestly have no experience with mecha at all except for skells in Xenoblade Chronicles X, so I decided to call the mechas in my story skells since those are about the only mechas I'm familiar with. Anyway, this story is very short, but I hope my approach to it is unique enough to warrant some reader imagination. I don't think it's that good at all, but hopefully someone can get some semblance of enjoyment out of it.

Title: Voice Log #195144-851216

Word Count: 663

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On 5/23/2022 at 8:12 PM, TheSilentChloey said:

Oh no....   noooooooo

>seems interested when drugs and mechs were both prompts

>drugs gets removed leaving only mechs

>immediate writer's block leading into working on unrelated thing instead

>Chloey wanted to write about drugs QED

You can't fool me, I'm onto your little scheme.

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7 hours ago, SoulWeaver said:

>seems interested when drugs and mechs were both prompts

>drugs gets removed leaving only mechs

>immediate writer's block leading into working on unrelated thing instead

>Chloey wanted to write about drugs QED

You can't fool me, I'm onto your little scheme.

Oh no.  Nope not at all.

 

I mean, Grima getting high would be the last thing anyone wants to read about lmao.....

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Sorry, all, but the end of this month's writing phase is coinciding with pretty much the only two days I can't update the OP; as such, I will still accept submissions for today. I'll probably be able to get the poll up tomorrow, though!

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Finally, the payoff I promised. Not a perfect story, I could see a couple places where it could use revision or expansion, but I'm kind of shocked I managed to fit in everything I initially wanted to in some form or another. There are a few obvious inspirations here (at least obvious to me, who was inspired by them), but I think the whole is moderately...not totally derivative. There are also a few formatting changes here. I ended up not using my typical "***" scene dividers, which was unintentional. You also get a small peak into the writing process, since I left my guiding notes in a couple places. They are very clearly in the format of Java comments.

Title: Dank Dill Begins

Word Count: ~5,500

Spoiler

It is the present year, and weed is legal. Yet the streets are filled with illegal marijuana.

Weed was not make legal unconditionally. Only FDA certified producers, namely a small handful of powerful pharmaceutical corporations, could legally grow and sell weed. No at-home plants, no hand-rolled blunts, and all pot brownies had to come wrapped up like Little Debbie treats. Big pharma colluded to ensure the price of weed was, and remained, through the roof. A million dollars a gram- not as bad as you think because of runaway inflation, but still really bad. With so many crappy memes about weed, demand was equally high. People, living in denial of an addiction an alcoholic would have owned up to 20 years ago, could not afford legal weed. Even worse, no matter how much you think weed sucks, the FDA approved weed is even worse. So the black market for weed grew even stronger.

Gang wars escalated as weed dealers fought for territory and to keep the DEA off their streets. American weed cartels acted with the brutality of a CIA-backed cocaine operation in Columbia. Intensifying the conflict was the invention and proliferation of giant robots. These customizable machines are not as common as cars, but they're affordable enough to become dangerous weapons on the streets.

This was all far removed from Dillon Dark. The inner city and its troubles were an hour's drive from his home, and that was when traffic was light. It was strange how far away that seemed when a half-hour drive to Walmart felt so mundane, and he barely paid any attention to the twenty minutes it took him to drive to work.

One Monday morning, Dillon pulled his car up to the factory where he was employed. He had an office job as the regional sales manager for Easton Engineering, an all-American manufacturer of giant robots. He sat inside for a minute or so to let the song on the radio finish, during which time he noticed a young buff black guy in a pressed grey suit entering the building.

Dillon stepped out of his car and scanned the parking lot. He didn't see Barry Bean's car anywhere, which struck him as odd. Barry Bean was the accountant he shared an office with and who lived down the street from him.

There was no sign of Barry inside either, but the floor workers were accounted for. Dillon walked over to a small group of them and asked if they'd heard anything about their accountant.

"We haven't seen him," said a thin man in his early seventies. "If he called in sick or something, we haven't heard about it."
"Hey Dillon," said a portly man in his early twenties. "When you go up to your office, why don't you see about getting Earl to give us a raise. I'm almost losing money by driving to work when I'm paying these gas prices."
"I don't mean to impose on you, but the wife and I could definitely use it," the old man agreed.

"Well..." Dillon shuffled around awkwardly and scratched the back of his neck. "I'm not sure how much leverage I have over that kind of thing, but I'll make sure to let him know what y'all said."

Dillon politely excused himself and head for the second-floor loft. That was was where the offices were. Each office had a replaceable name-tag on its door, and for the last door that tag read "Earl Easton". Behind it was Dillon's boss. He knocked, then waited.

"Come in!"

Dillon did. He saw Earl sitting behind his desk- he was an older gentleman, and his office decorated with various trinkets and trophies related to golf. A bag of clubs was leaned against the corner.

"What can I do for you?"
"I noticed Barry wasn't in, and I was wondering if he called in about being late today."

Earl chuckled nervously, his expression growing a little somber. "I'm...afraid we've had to let go of Barry."
"B- what?"
"We just didn't have the budget to keep paying him what we were," Earl explained. "I asked him if he would take a pay cut, and he said no, so...we had to let him go and hire a new accountant."
"You replaced him with someone cheaper."
"Pretty much. He's a nice kid, really. Should be in the office right now."

Dillon muttered something and shook his head. "Mr. Easton?"
"Yes?"
"Is there a plan to cut my pay?"

Earl put up a hand. "Oh, no. We have a little money freed up, but..."
"But what?" Dillon asked. "What about my annual raise?"
"Our revenue isn't quite meeting projections for the past few quarters. I'm afraid we can't do more than a one percent raise."
"One percent? But inflation is fourteen percent this year!"
"I know."
"That means I'm actually making less money than last year."
"It's unfortunate, but-"
"Earl! The inflation rate has been above ten percent for over a decade. If it stays at fourteen percent for the next five years, that will halve my savings by the end of it. I had my wife do the calculus and everything.
"I had an excel sheet do the math, too."
"I can't live on a one percent raise, Earl. I've got Jimmy's college fund to worry about, I've got bills."
"I know you're upset Dillon, but we're operating on pretty thin margins here." Earl was half-explaining and half-pleading. "Inflation is fourteen percent, but because of the alloy tariffs, material costs for the company have gone up more than that. People's savings are shrinking while gas prices are going up, so they're buying fewer giant robots-"

Dillon shuffled around, stopping himself each time he was about to say something, pondering what the best thing to say would be.

"Our sales aren't down as much as they could be, so you've done a fine job," Earl assured him.
"...we're down 6%, while Ford sales are down 13% percent."
"There, and that's why I'm glad to have you on." Mr. Easton slid his chair back and stood up. He walked around his desk and put a hand on Dillon's shoulder. "Listen, Dillon. My father build this company from nothing. I can't let it just fizzle out.

I understand it's a hard market. If we sold giant robots at the price they sell Vietnamese-made ones, we'd lose money per unit. I even cut my own salary and we're still in the red. That's just transitory. You've been here for almost twenty years- nobody knows more about selling Easton Engineering machines than you do. I just need you to stick around and help us figure something out. This is not the end of Easton Engineering, and we'll get your salary back up to standard. We just need to get through this tough patch."

Dillon sighed. "I...alright. What about the floor workers? They asked me to ask you to give them a raise."
"I'm trying to find money for it. It's all I can do to keep them."

Dillon headed to his office. Upon entering, he saw the buff black guy from earlier sitting at Barry's old desk. He had a string of beads beside him, a picture frame pointed away from Dillon, and several miserably tacky anime figurines. The young man looked up from his monitors and smiled, nodding his head as he stood up and stretched out a hand. "You must be Dillon Dark."

Dillon took his hand and shook. At least he had his manners. "That's right. And you must be the new accountant here."
"Yes sir. I just got my certification last month," the man said. "It's an honor to be working with you, sir. My name is Jerome Ambrose Augustine."
"That's, uh, quite a nice name you got there, Jerry." Dillon ended the handshake and headed for his own desk.
"Oh, I'd prefer Jerome, if you don't mind."
"Alright. Good to meet you then, Jerome. You can call me Dill or Dillon, if you like."

Both of them sat down and began working their white-collar jobs. The awkward silence of unfamiliarity hung over the room, and the lack of small talk had them both working quite effectively. Dillon had already gotten everything he needed to for the day done by lunch. He pulled out a sandwich his wife had packed him and started eating, while Jerome scrolled on his computer while eating from a bento box.

"Is that some kind of Chinese necklace?" Dillon asked, pointing to the string of beads he saw earlier.

"This? Oh, no. This is a rosary." Jerome picked up the string and held it out so the whole of it was visible, including a cross which dangled from the bottom. "It would be disrespectful to wear it as a necklace."

"Are you Catholic?"
"Born and raised." Jerome smiled as he put the rosary aside. "What about you?"
"Uh...Baptist."

Dillon stood up with his sandwich and walked over. Jerome didn't seem to mind him walking up behind him, which gave Dillon a good chance to see what was in that picture from from earlier. It was an icon of the Virgin Mary.

"What you looking at?"
"I'm just scrolling through my Instabook feed. I mostly use it to keep track of old friends, an occasionally up-vote memes."

Dillon did not much care for trendy social media websites like Instabook, but he thought it would proper to show some interest in what Jerome was doing.

On the screen were a few pictures. The user @CzechWineEnjoyer had posted a picture of a very buxom blond anime girl, conservatively dressed, serving steamed buns with chopsticks in a farmhouse kitchen. There was a caption which read "Reject Degeneracy", and then on the next line, "Embrace Tradition". All caps, white impact font. Below that was a picture, a real life photograph, of a spindly young man about Jerome's age. He was pale and unimpressive, dressed in baggy clothes and a beanie.

"That one of your old friends?"
"Well, he's someone I knew in high school. That's Kevin K. Evans." Jerome clicked on the boy's profile and scrolled through it. Some pictures were of food, some showed him flashing money, but the ones which caught Dillon's eye showed the outside or cockpit of a giant robot. "I haven't talked to him in a while, but I feel like I should check up on him every now and then."

"Hm? Very kind of you," said Dillon. "How'd he manage to afford a giant robot like that? It ain't the fanciest one around, but I'd imagine it's still more than most folks his age could afford."

"I certainly couldn't afford it," said Jerome.
"I probably couldn't spare the change for one right now either," said Dillon. "What's he doing for work?"
"Nothing, as far as I can tell."
"Oh. Is he...involved in something?"

Jerome looked around cautiously. "I wouldn't be surprised," he said in a hushed voice. "I think he might be a marijuana dealer. He was always sort of a rough kid, even before he got expelled."

"Expelled for drugs?"
"Oh, nothing like that. Not that he wasn't, uh...Kevin had something of an acid tongue and was prone to insensitive jokes. Nothing that bothered me, but he did make this one girl cry. They sent him to the guidance councilor, and he made the councilor cry- I think that might have sealed their decision for him."

Lunch was soon over and the two went back to work. At 5 o'clock, Dillon sat up from his desk and politely said goodbye to everyone he passed on his way to his car. He drove back home, let the song on the radio finish, and stepped outside. Across the street, he saw his neighbor Barry Bean sitting on his porch, a six-pack on one side of him and empty bottles on the other. Dillon looked both ways, then walked over.

"Barry! Is everything alright?"
"Alright?" Barry hiccuped. "No, it's all fine. I've been doing payroll longer than boys like they got now been alive. I'll be back at it before you know."
"Amen. If you need anything, Laura and I would be glad to help."
"I don't need any help," Barry insisted. "Y'all don't worry about me. Though I do have one request."
"Anything."
"You know the cookout this weekend?"
"You're still planning on coming, aren't you?"
"Of course I am, you fool. I just need you to have somebody else bring the drinks, since I don't got an income to spend on them."

Dillon nodded. "I'm sure we'd be glad to take that burden of off you. And you're sure you don't need any help while you're looking for-"
"I told you I'm fine! You go on now, go see your wife. I'm alright here."

So Dillon went on his way and saw his wife, Laura. The two of them had a quiet dinner with their son Jimmy, talking about work and school and the house, all the things which had taken up their respective days as they did most days.

"Hey Dad," said Jimmy. "I was wondering if I could go see Luka this Saturday? He's invited me to a Bible study with his priest's family. They're going to be reading John Chrysostom's Homilies on Romans."

Dillon blinked a few times.
"Jimmy," began Laura. "Aren't you supposed to read the Bible at a Bible study?"
"We are going to be reading the Bible," Jimmy insisted. "We're going to reading the Epistle to the Romans alongside commentaries by John Chrysostom."
"And...who is this John Chrysanthemum?" Dillon asked.
"John Chrysostom. He was the Archbishop of Constantinople."

Dillon and Laura looked at each other. "I'll talk to your mother about it," said Dillon.

They finished their dinner and put away the dishes and all went to their separate corners of the house. Dillon started looking at the bills and trying to plan how to handle the year. His pitiful raise and rising prices combined to give him an effective pay-cut, so some budgeting was probably going to be necessary.

The first thing he decided was that they were going to cut back on eating out. That would be healthier anyway.

They would still need to by groceries though, and those seemed to be getting more expensive every year. He fooled around on a calculator and, after some stress, arrived at a rough estimate. They'd probably need to do more than stop eating out.

Maybe they could cut back on the family vacation that year.

Looking at the mail, he found more than a few letters notifying him of raising premiums for his insurances. Health, auto, the lot of them. Maybe they could cancel that vacation.

He opened an envelop from the power company. Their electric bill was going up.

Definitely cancel the family vacation, and then probably use less water and electricity. Dillon began to wonder how much less he'd have to run the AC to save X amount of money, and then began to just blankly stare at the papers. This was ridiculous. There had to be some other way to make this work than to scrounge around like a rat. Besides cutting expenses, how could he generate some income?

"Dill?" Laura's voice snapped him out of his trance. "Still planning the budget?"
"Trying to," admitted Dillon. "Have you thought any more about what Jimmy asked?"
"A little. I think it's nice he's being invited to do things with other Christians."
"I'm a little concerned he might be learning something all messed up."
"I don't want to ruin it for him, though. He doesn't get out that much."
"Hm. Maybe you're right," said Dillon.
"Anyway, it's getting late." Laura took the papers out of his hands and laid them neatly on the desk. "We can worry about all of this later. Come on to bed."

//Watch giant robot racing on TV
//Dream of his younger days as a robot rider
//Jumping over concrete obstacles
//Wakes up because he is a disappointment to his father
//Save this scene for a revision, maybe

The next day, Dillon decided to speak to Jerome a little more.

"Do you know where this Kevin kid is? I think I'd like to try and reach out to him some, talk to him about Jesus."
"That's very kind of you, but I'm not sure it'll work. I invited him to mass plenty of times, but he doesn't seem interested in the Mother Church."
"Right, well...maybe I can talk some sense into him. I'm a different sort of man than you, y'know." Dillon put up his hand. "Now, I'm not talking about your race, you understand."
"Of course," said Jerome with a nod. "It would be ungracious to assume any different. Really, I can't stand all these people who want me to be black before I am a Catholic. It's absolute heresy, to be honest."

Dillon quite liked that answer, which made him feel a little bad about what he was doing. "Right. And just to be clear about everything, I was talking about how I'm older and have a different denominational background. Now then, what was that boys address?"
"I'll write it down for you," Jerome said, grabbing a pen and paper. "Though I would like to extend the invitation to mass to you as well. The Holy Catholic church has not endured two-thousand years for nothing, after all." Jerome held out the paper, which Dillon graciously accepted. "We have beautiful architecture. Very spiritually inspiring stuff."

So it came to pass that Dillon called Laura and told her he'd be home late. That evening he found himself forty minutes from home, standing outside a cheap apartment in a small town just outside the city. He knocked once, then twice, and then the metal slot in the door harshly slid open, revealing a pair of red eyes. They quickly sized him up as a respectable, clean-cut fellow.

"Oh my God. Did Jerome send you?"
"No. Well, yes. He told me where to find you, but I'm here for business."
"What kind of business?"
"I hear you're involved in, uh..."
"Green stuff?"
"That sounds about right."
"Hm."

Dillon heard the hammer on a pistol relax and more than few locks being undone before the door swung open.

"Alright, come on in and I'll get you hooked up." Kevin turned around and header deeper into the darkly lit living room. "Don't forget to close the door!" Dillon did did so after he stepped inside, then noticed Kevin rummaging through a hybrid closet and laundry room. Soon enough he pulled out a little bag of green clumps that looked like dryer lint. "I can tell by looking at you that you're a first timer, so I'll be nice and offer you a little discount."

"I, uh..." Dillon stared at the bag, but kept his hands by his side. "I should probably clarify something. I'm only here because I'm looking to make some additional income."
"...huh?"
"I'm looking to get involved in your 'hussle', or whatever you call it."

Kevin looked at him funny. "You?"
"...what about me?"
"Dude, look at you. You've got no business in this. Have you ever even smoked a joint?"
"Well...I like to smell the grass clippings when I mow a lawn."
"Not even remotely close."
"Better results take more work. Do I really need to smoke the stuff to help you sell it?"

Kevin tossed his baggie on the dryer and pulled out a lighter and a joint. "I should tell you to get lost, but I'm curious. You got some balls, man." The young man lit up and took a hit. "What do you do for a living?"
"I'm the regional sales manager for East End Engineering."
"Huh?"
"I sell giant robots and giant robot accessories."

A long stream of smoke passed Kevin's lips. "I've already got a giant robot, thanks. Got any useful skills?"
"Well, I saw on the news about those gang wars. I've got some giant robot piloting experience. I've been around them for most of my life, and I used to do some stunts with them back in the day."
"Stunts?"
"Yep. Got my Industrial Piloting License as a boy. Completed the Civil Automotive Combat Certification, too."
"Hm. I can drive just fine."

Dillon ruffled his brow and thought for a moment. He took a step forward and reached out- Kevin could barely react before his blunt was snatched away, and certainly not fast enough to stop it from happening.

"I hear this stuff can slow your reaction times," said Dillon, holding the blunt just above Kevin's head.

The young stoner looked up at him with harsh but awed eyes. "Alright, fair game. I'll give you a shot to prove yourself."

So it came to pass that the week ended and the weekend began. Dillon met up with Kevin at another suburb, finding the young man leaned against the foot of his giant robot. "Ready, old man?"
"I am not an old man," answered Dillon.
"Whatever, boomer dude. Got your day cleared out?"
"My boy's visiting a friend for the day," said Dillon- he didn't think it would be right to mention that Jimmy was at a Bible study, given what he was about to do. "My wife was happy to have the house to herself. Nothing should come up."

Kevin lead Dillon around to the stairs which lead to the cockpit. Along the way, Dillon noticed some letter decals pasted on the giant robot. "NPC?"
"That's her name," said Kevin. He stumbled over and slapped his hand near the lettering. "You know what that stands for? Never. Politically. Correct. Someone asks you to censor yourself, that guy is your enemy. Fuck 'em. You better remember that."

Dillon blinked a few times and nodded slowly. "I'll do my best."
"You're best to what?"
"...to remember that. I'll do my best to remember what you said about a man being my enemy."
"Not just men."
"I'll remember that, too."

Kevin chuckled.

"Good," he said.

"Get in."

The duo entered the cockpit, which resembled the inside of a mid-2000s Honda Civic. Dillon positioned himself in the driver's seat while Kevin threw a duffel bag in the back. "Alright Dillweed, here's the plan. We'll roll a little further into town, you'll find a good spot in an alleyway. I'll get out and hang out behind the leg, make the sales, and you stand there to look tough. Any trouble happens, get me inside and we'll figure out whether we run or trash the bastard when we get to it. Got it?"

"I got all that," said Dillon. "Aren't you going to buckle up?"
"Huh? What are you, my mom?" Despite his objections, Kevin did buckle up.

Dillon looked ahead nervously, hand frozen to the key.

"Got res...reser...doubts?" Kev coughed up a cloud of smoke.
"I'm just a little...I'm not used to doing something...legally uncertain."
"Bah. Man, listen here. The feds, the cops, they're not you're friends. They have a job, and that job is to stab you in the back to squeeze out tax dollars." Kevin tapped the end of his blunt on Dillon's shirt, leaving a small ashy mark. "So don't get all mushy, acting like you're doing something gross by looking out for yourself. That's what they're doing, and people who aren't? You know man, people who aren't doing that are like sheep to the slaughter for people who are. Now turn that key, and let's get some bread."

It was around noon when they entered town. Whenever a thug or rival dealer showed up to claim that spot for their own, Dillon didn't have to do much but flex to clear them out. As the sun began to set, Kevin climbed into the cockpit with his duffel bag, a stoner's grin on his face. "Good haul today, dude. With you in the bot all the time, I get better dibs on whatever spot I like. It's a lot scarier when you can slap a guy across the state whenever you want, and not have to climb in first and everything."

Kevin pulled out his phone. "Gonna take a little break."
"I'll just...keep doing what I'm doing."
"Good. Gives me a chance to check my stock picks."

That seemed curious. Dillon leaned over Kevin's shoulder, seeing him scroll through an investment app. "You play the stock market?"
"Yeah, dude. I'm big into companies that make animal meds," he explained. "They used Ivermectin for viruses, then Misoprostol for abortions. They keep finding new stuff to do with horse pills, and that means they keep bumping demand. Basic econ, bro."

"Uhuh." Dillon nodded along like he didn't find that weird.

"Anyway, there's a lot of good business at night, but I get you're new to this, so we won't stay out a ton longer. Besides, I got a date tonight."
"A date?"
"Yeah, a date. Like, a girl coming over."
"...You have a date? How?"
"Dude, it's the present year. Chicks like video games now. Dating is literally the easiest shit ever." Kevin looked up from his phone and spotted something out the front window. "There he comes."
"What do you mean, there he comes?" Dillon's eyes followed Kevin's, spotting the silhouette of another giant robot growing closer.

"Heh. See Dill, I've been trying to sell from here for months. This is a great corner for my business. There's just this one little problem, and you're gonna prove yourself by fixing it for me."
"Now hold on just a gosh-darn minute-"

By then, the other robot was right up close. If the cockpits of the giant robots had been heads, the two machines would have been staring directly at each other.

"Yo, Kev!" A voice came booming through their speakers. Giant robots used short wave radio to communicate, like the truckers of old. "I thought I told you ese, this territory belongs the Monkey Gang. You ain't allowed to be selling here."

Dillon looked over to Kev. "What in God's name are you dragging me into?"
"You said you had your CACC," said Kevin dismissively. "Besides, these guys are total blow-overs."
"I was certified almost twenty years ago!" Dillon objected. "I never actually-"
"Quiet," said Kevin. He tuned in, sending a signal right to their foe. "Make me leave, then."

There was a brief silence. Then laughter echoed through the radio. Dillon thought there was something oddly familiar about the speaker's voice.

"You gonna try and ride at us, Kev? Man, your stoner-ass don't got the reflexes to keep up with us!"
"I don't gotta. I got myself a real pilot now. He's qualified to rip your ass in half."

The chuckling continued. "You actually dragged someone to help you? I don't believe it, put that cabron on the line!"

Kevin leaned back. "The floor is yours."
"What do I say?!"
"I don't know, but you better say something or he's gonna start swinging."

With something between panic and bitter resignation, Dillon opened the air-waves and started speaking. "Now listen here. I would prefer we didn't have to fight, so why don't we all take a little time to talk this out?"

"Hah! You got a name, pilot man?"

Dillon looked over to Kevin. "He's not gonna report you. Thugs' honor."

"My name is Dillon."

"I see. Well, sorry Kev, but it sounds like your pilot is a pussy. I'll give you ten seconds to start moving before I crush you like huevos in a hydraulic press, muchacho."

Dillon furrowed his brow. Kevin thought he was in deep thought or agitation from being insulted, but that wasn't it at all.

"I'll be. I thought that voice sounded familiar." Dillon turned on the comm link again. "You're Larry Tennyson's boy. What in God's name are you doing, adding in all that Spanish nonsense?"

The broadcasts from the other giant robot suddenly stopped. Dill and Kev looked at each other, then the comms roared back to life. "I don't know where you got this guy Kevin, and I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but you're gonna be really regretting playing it! You think you can stand up to me an my mech?"
"It's called a giant robot you fucking weeb!"
"Shut up!" Their opponent bent its mechanical knees, going from five stories high to four, holding its hands out in a fighting stance. A giant sword popped out above each robotic hand, as if a massive switchblade was attached to each arm. "Prepare to face the power of Dual Lingo!"

Then they fought, and the animators did a great job making it look cool. At first Dillon was getting thrashed, and Kevin was yelling at him about it, but it turns out he was actually luring their opponent into a field so he could let loose and pound them without hurting the civilians. There was this awesome moment where Dillon did something really cool, and Kevin was really impressed by it, and it totally took the other guys off guard when they sent them to the ground.

NPC stood over the defeated machine, their foes at their mercy.

"Good. Now put him down, Dill."
"No."
"What? You're just giving him more chances to hurt you! Put the guy out of his misery!"
"I'm not gonna kick a man while he's down, yet alone execute him. We've sent him a message."

Dillon spoke through the airwaves. "Now you know what happens when you try and mess with me, so don't come to us looking for any trouble, you just keep that fancy robot of yours to yourself." He paused. "If you can do that, I won't be telling Larry Tennyson about what you're doing. Thugs' honor."

With the message now literally sent, Dillon turned off the broadcaster. NPC started moving towards town, stepping over Dual Lingo.

Then, suddenly, the machine shook. The two frantically checked the sensors, but most telling was the sight beheld through the front windows. The tip of a giant blade could be seen poking out. Their foe had stabbed them in the back, and the blade had gone right through their giant robot's chest.

Dual Lingo pulled out the blade and hobbled off as quickly as it could. NPC fell to its knees, then slumped forward, both motions rattling the cockpit like dice in a Yahtzee cup. Kevin's duffel bag fell from the back and landed on the dash board. Kevin quickly unbuckled, falling forward, and darted down the side of his bot.

Dillon was more careful freeing himself, not wanting to hurt himself by falling. He opened the door, which now opened towards the ground, and stepped outside, walking around the wreckage until he could see Kevin.

"My ride!" Kev shouted, hands clutching his head as he stared at the still wreckage. He grabbed Dillon by the collar. "Damn it, Dillon! Why didn't you listen to me? Do you have any idea how much this is gonna cost me?"
"Now listen here, ain't no amount of money worth a man's life-"

"What the fuck do you get out of that guy being alive?" Kevin screamed, pointing frantically in the direction their foe had walked off.
"I got a clean conscience," Dill said.
"A clean conscience, Jesus Christ! Just let the world walk over all of us to keep your 'clean conscience', that's pathetic!"
"I'd be more inclined to hear a man talk bad about keeping a clean conscience if he didn't get through the day being high."

Kevin narrowed his eyes and growled. "I am never working with you again." Kevin climbed back into the cockpit and pulled out his duffel bag. He jumped to the ground and threw something at Dillon, which the older man fumbled to catch. "Here's your share for today- and only for today. Don't call me." He turned and began to walk off.

Dillon looked at the wad of cash in his hand. He flipped through the notes, some crisp and sharp, others soft and wrinkled. The stack was all the same denomination. A portion of a day's sales, but it would certain help in closing the gap between his means and expenses.

"Hold on."

Kevin stopped and looked over his shoulder.

"I'll help you get it fixed," he said. Kevin stared at him. "And I'll find one we can use while we're waiting on that."

Slowly Kevin began moving back towards Dill until they were face to face, red eyes meeting white. "When can you get the sub?"
"Huh?"
"Substi...substi...the other robot."
"By next week. Promise. Do we have a deal?"

Dillon stretched out a hand. Kevin lifted his up, but kept it close to his chest.

"No more of this mercy stuff, alright?"
"I won't let us get stabbed in the back again."

Kevin stared for a few more seconds, then stretched his hand and shook. "You got yourself a deal, Mr. Dark."

Spoiler

//Dillon used the on-site giant robot in his formative years
//His dad was used a giant robot mechanic in da war and thinks Dillon is a loser for selling them instead of repairing them
//Not in this story, but Dill's dad is eventually brought on as a mechanic in a pinch. They hide the nature of their operation from him at first, but he eventually finds out. He's not mad because they're drug dealers but because they didn't give him any weed, since he never got any medical marijuana for his war wounds. Then he and Kevin become good friends, smoking and drinking and fishing.

 

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The poll is up! It'll close at midnight of June 1st.

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I'll say up front that I think the comedic angle the other two pieces had worked quite well. Perhaps I should take some notes.

@Jotari

Spoiler

I think this is an interesting look into how mecha would be introduced into a military's arsenal. I don't often think about or question how they're in a world's story in the first place, but I think this story does a neat job of explaining the trial and error process of mecha being phased in. I loved how the board of generals really only wanted the giant robots because they were cool; I wouldn't put it past an actual military to do something similar.

I will say that I think the pacing towards the end makes the story feel a little rushed. I know it was probably done for the sake of time, but if it was in the oven a little longer, I think it would've been neat to see the process of building, programming, and refining the mechs in between the general's meetings and to see why they kept falling over (which I can imagine would be an actual issue).

Also, I know it's played for the joke, but damn do I wish Sherman wasn't completely shafted by the other characters so harshly. I don't think it's anything meant to be taken too seriously anyway, but I still feel kinda bad for him. Overall, nice job!

@AnonymousSpeed

Spoiler

I love that you still incorporated the original prompt you had in mind before the tides were turned while still managing to put in the actual prompt. Nicely done!

This was an entertaining read for sure, and the way you set up the world while still throwing in some funny stuff to help establish the world is excellent. I like some of the moral conundrum stuff that Dillweed has, too. With that said, I think this story poses an interesting question: how far should/could/would someone go to look after themselves?

One of Kevin's line about looking out for yourself hits the nail on the head in my opinion, and puts into perspective the kind of mindset people like that have. You could definitely argue that it's an incredibly selfish mindset, but it's not wrong per se, especially if everyone else shares that same mindset.

I won't drone on too long, but this definitely has the potential to keep going, which I think you may plan on doing anyway.

Side note: I think the choice to keep in your notes was an amusing decision. I got a kick out this one. It's so jarring to read with this in between, but I think that's what adds to the comedic value.

On 5/29/2022 at 2:00 AM, AnonymousSpeed said:

//Watch giant robot racing on TV
//Dream of his younger days as a robot rider
//Jumping over concrete obstacles
//Wakes up because he is a disappointment to his father
//Save this scene for a revision, maybe

I'm interested to see where Dank Dill continues, so I'll stay tuned if you have anything else in the works for this. I always enjoy your writing style.

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Yo boys it's time for reviews lez goooooo

@Jotari

Spoiler

I always like a little bit of funny. Unfortunately, this story really only has the one joke that it stretches across its duration: Bureaucrats do something stupid and expensive because it's superficially cool, the voice of reason is ignored. Great commentary on the welfare state, but it got kinda stale. I'm not familiar enough with the MIC to know whether it's generals, congressmen, or Raytheon employees that are most out of touch, so I can't judge the story on that front. I will assume with some confidence these projections are way too cheap, but maybe that's just the characters being deceptive (I prefer intelligent) salesmen. I think the bold font weirdly does add to the charm, since it's a short and goofy story.

@indigoasis

Spoiler

It's very brisk, which I think is fine. It didn't really need to be longer to get the point across. There's an implication of corruption at the end which gets my attention. The plan to not recover the wreckage and to terminate work on the prototype implies some kind of cover-up, but there's also reforms put in place to mitigate something like this happening again. It may just be some notes at the end, but it makes it feel like there's a real, self-interested bureaucratic agency at play. Combined with the "found footage" format (if that's what you'd call it), it feels very much like digging up some dirt on a far-future regime.

Review responses:

3 hours ago, indigoasis said:

I love that you still incorporated the original prompt you had in mind before the tides were turned while still managing to put in the actual prompt. Nicely done!

I wish I could claim credit for ingenuity, but it's old concept I decided to iron out and put to paper. The idea to add a drug prompt to go with the mecha prompt was inspired by this idea, actually. Aside from Dillon and Kevin though, everything else was essentially new. I mean, derived very clearly from one thing or another, but their incorporation here was a new idea.

3 hours ago, indigoasis said:

I won't drone on too long, but this definitely has the potential to keep going, which I think you may plan on doing anyway.

It would be nice, I can already think of a couple more story ideas. The original concept was supposed to be serial and episodic in nature, so it would only be natural.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story, thank you very much for your kind words and references to Dill by his assorted comedic nicknames.

I think it's a bit funny that the prompt was to write about giant robots, and all of decided to essentially avoid writing any giant robot action scenes. I hope this does not disappoint @Newtype06 too terribly.

I should probably respond to his request for a review of his submission last round, shouldn't I?

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4 hours ago, indigoasis said:

I'll say up front that I think the comedic angle the other two pieces had worked quite well. Perhaps I should take some notes.

@Jotari

  Reveal hidden contents

I think this is an interesting look into how mecha would be introduced into a military's arsenal. I don't often think about or question how they're in a world's story in the first place, but I think this story does a neat job of explaining the trial and error process of mecha being phased in. I loved how the board of generals really only wanted the giant robots because they were cool; I wouldn't put it past an actual military to do something similar.

I will say that I think the pacing towards the end makes the story feel a little rushed. I know it was probably done for the sake of time, but if it was in the oven a little longer, I think it would've been neat to see the process of building, programming, and refining the mechs in between the general's meetings and to see why they kept falling over (which I can imagine would be an actual issue).

Also, I know it's played for the joke, but damn do I wish Sherman wasn't completely shafted by the other characters so harshly. I don't think it's anything meant to be taken too seriously anyway, but I still feel kinda bad for him. Overall, nice job!

@AnonymousSpeed

  Reveal hidden contents

I love that you still incorporated the original prompt you had in mind before the tides were turned while still managing to put in the actual prompt. Nicely done!

This was an entertaining read for sure, and the way you set up the world while still throwing in some funny stuff to help establish the world is excellent. I like some of the moral conundrum stuff that Dillweed has, too. With that said, I think this story poses an interesting question: how far should/could/would someone go to look after themselves?

One of Kevin's line about looking out for yourself hits the nail on the head in my opinion, and puts into perspective the kind of mindset people like that have. You could definitely argue that it's an incredibly selfish mindset, but it's not wrong per se, especially if everyone else shares that same mindset.

I won't drone on too long, but this definitely has the potential to keep going, which I think you may plan on doing anyway.

Side note: I think the choice to keep in your notes was an amusing decision. I got a kick out this one. It's so jarring to read with this in between, but I think that's what adds to the comedic value.

I'm interested to see where Dank Dill continues, so I'll stay tuned if you have anything else in the works for this. I always enjoy your writing style.

Yeah I did kind of rush to the dinosaur joke to finish things off, though I'm not sure I really could have extended it much more. As AnonymousSpeed pointed out, there really is just one central joke, so playing it out any longer probably would have detracted more than it added. Not that it would be impossible in a technical sense, just that I lack botht he talent and motivation. I wouldn't say comedy writing is particularly my forte. Though I did just now think of another good joke, Sherman could bring up the Square Cube Law and one of the generals can dismiss it with confidence that they can get congress to write in a loophole.

 

Full disclosure mine was a bit of a shameless rip off of Pentagon Wars, only with a mech twist.

Probably lose me any votes I might have gotten on originality, but hey, I'm just glad I could finally find the effort to write something.

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3 hours ago, Jotari said:

Yeah I did kind of rush to the dinosaur joke to finish things off, though I'm not sure I really could have extended it much more. As AnonymousSpeed pointed out, there really is just one central joke, so playing it out any longer probably would have detracted more than it added. Though I did just now think of another good joke, Sherman could bring up the Square Cube Law and one of the generals can dismiss it with confidence that they can get congress to write in a loophole.

Full disclosure mine was a bit of a shameless rip off of Pentagon Wars, only with a mech twist.

Probably lose me any votes I might have gotten on originality, but hey, I'm just glad I could finally find the effort to write something.

I don't typically mark off points for being derivative. That said, we can get some useful insight from the clip by comparing your story to it.

There are a lot of jokes than run throughout that scene, like the pictures of presidents changing to emphasize how drawn out the whole process has become. I think there's also something inherently funnier about the issue being feature-creep, rather than dedication to a fundamentally broken idea. It's more down to Earth, and in that sense makes the absurdity hit closer to home. Feature-creep also adds the comedic contrast between the initial pitch and end result. Not to mention the three generals all have different desires for what the machine should do in the clip, so you get to pull the dude around in a lot more directions. Showing Smith while he's talking to the designers enhances the schadenfreude, since we see how this is a cause of stress that follows him around. I don't know. I'm an amateur, maybe my observations and theories are wrong.

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Gah. I really need to stop procrastinating and read the other stories for this round. Posting this now to ensure I remember later.

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On 5/24/2022 at 10:35 PM, indigoasis said:

I honestly have no experience with mecha at all except for skells in Xenoblade Chronicles X, so I decided to call the mechas in my story skells since those are about the only mechas I'm familiar with. Anyway, this story is very short, but I hope my approach to it is unique enough to warrant some reader imagination. I don't think it's that good at all, but hopefully someone can get some semblance of enjoyment out of it.

Title: Voice Log #195144-851216

Word Count: 663

So it's nice to experiment with a different style of narrative, but I question the value of making this work like a script for an radio play. I feel it could just genuinely be richer describing the scene since basically the entire point of it is to be an action scene. Instead what we have is just pure dialogue. Pure dialogue is good, I like it a lot, I've even done some stories for this that was pure dialogue, but if you're going pure dialogue you need to have character drama, melodrama even. What we have here is basically just exposition. And exposition isn't a dirty word, stories definitely need exposition, but this story has exposition without much else. It's just some stuff that happened. I don't want to come across too harshly, having characters describe what they're doing is a pretty major hurdle for radio plays as a medium to begin with.

Also why are their names redacted if they've been included in the report? I kind of got the sense it was like a confidential offical tape, but then the ending suggests by way of people needing to report their whereabouts that it was unsanctioned, coupled with the names being included suggesting redactions weren't part of any kind of censorship and was just like, coincidentally missing audio. It's a bit unclear.

On 5/29/2022 at 9:00 AM, AnonymousSpeed said:

Finally, the payoff I promised. Not a perfect story, I could see a couple places where it could use revision or expansion, but I'm kind of shocked I managed to fit in everything I initially wanted to in some form or another. There are a few obvious inspirations here (at least obvious to me, who was inspired by them), but I think the whole is moderately...not totally derivative. There are also a few formatting changes here. I ended up not using my typical "***" scene dividers, which was unintentional. You also get a small peak into the writing process, since I left my guiding notes in a couple places. They are very clearly in the format of Java comments.

Title: Dank Dill Begins

Word Count: ~5,500

  Hide contents

It is the present year, and weed is legal. Yet the streets are filled with illegal marijuana.

Weed was not make legal unconditionally. Only FDA certified producers, namely a small handful of powerful pharmaceutical corporations, could legally grow and sell weed. No at-home plants, no hand-rolled blunts, and all pot brownies had to come wrapped up like Little Debbie treats. Big pharma colluded to ensure the price of weed was, and remained, through the roof. A million dollars a gram- not as bad as you think because of runaway inflation, but still really bad. With so many crappy memes about weed, demand was equally high. People, living in denial of an addiction an alcoholic would have owned up to 20 years ago, could not afford legal weed. Even worse, no matter how much you think weed sucks, the FDA approved weed is even worse. So the black market for weed grew even stronger.

Gang wars escalated as weed dealers fought for territory and to keep the DEA off their streets. American weed cartels acted with the brutality of a CIA-backed cocaine operation in Columbia. Intensifying the conflict was the invention and proliferation of giant robots. These customizable machines are not as common as cars, but they're affordable enough to become dangerous weapons on the streets.

This was all far removed from Dillon Dark. The inner city and its troubles were an hour's drive from his home, and that was when traffic was light. It was strange how far away that seemed when a half-hour drive to Walmart felt so mundane, and he barely paid any attention to the twenty minutes it took him to drive to work.

One Monday morning, Dillon pulled his car up to the factory where he was employed. He had an office job as the regional sales manager for Easton Engineering, an all-American manufacturer of giant robots. He sat inside for a minute or so to let the song on the radio finish, during which time he noticed a young buff black guy in a pressed grey suit entering the building.

Dillon stepped out of his car and scanned the parking lot. He didn't see Barry Bean's car anywhere, which struck him as odd. Barry Bean was the accountant he shared an office with and who lived down the street from him.

There was no sign of Barry inside either, but the floor workers were accounted for. Dillon walked over to a small group of them and asked if they'd heard anything about their accountant.

"We haven't seen him," said a thin man in his early seventies. "If he called in sick or something, we haven't heard about it."
"Hey Dillon," said a portly man in his early twenties. "When you go up to your office, why don't you see about getting Earl to give us a raise. I'm almost losing money by driving to work when I'm paying these gas prices."
"I don't mean to impose on you, but the wife and I could definitely use it," the old man agreed.

"Well..." Dillon shuffled around awkwardly and scratched the back of his neck. "I'm not sure how much leverage I have over that kind of thing, but I'll make sure to let him know what y'all said."

Dillon politely excused himself and head for the second-floor loft. That was was where the offices were. Each office had a replaceable name-tag on its door, and for the last door that tag read "Earl Easton". Behind it was Dillon's boss. He knocked, then waited.

"Come in!"

Dillon did. He saw Earl sitting behind his desk- he was an older gentleman, and his office decorated with various trinkets and trophies related to golf. A bag of clubs was leaned against the corner.

"What can I do for you?"
"I noticed Barry wasn't in, and I was wondering if he called in about being late today."

Earl chuckled nervously, his expression growing a little somber. "I'm...afraid we've had to let go of Barry."
"B- what?"
"We just didn't have the budget to keep paying him what we were," Earl explained. "I asked him if he would take a pay cut, and he said no, so...we had to let him go and hire a new accountant."
"You replaced him with someone cheaper."
"Pretty much. He's a nice kid, really. Should be in the office right now."

Dillon muttered something and shook his head. "Mr. Easton?"
"Yes?"
"Is there a plan to cut my pay?"

Earl put up a hand. "Oh, no. We have a little money freed up, but..."
"But what?" Dillon asked. "What about my annual raise?"
"Our revenue isn't quite meeting projections for the past few quarters. I'm afraid we can't do more than a one percent raise."
"One percent? But inflation is fourteen percent this year!"
"I know."
"That means I'm actually making less money than last year."
"It's unfortunate, but-"
"Earl! The inflation rate has been above ten percent for over a decade. If it stays at fourteen percent for the next five years, that will halve my savings by the end of it. I had my wife do the calculus and everything.
"I had an excel sheet do the math, too."
"I can't live on a one percent raise, Earl. I've got Jimmy's college fund to worry about, I've got bills."
"I know you're upset Dillon, but we're operating on pretty thin margins here." Earl was half-explaining and half-pleading. "Inflation is fourteen percent, but because of the alloy tariffs, material costs for the company have gone up more than that. People's savings are shrinking while gas prices are going up, so they're buying fewer giant robots-"

Dillon shuffled around, stopping himself each time he was about to say something, pondering what the best thing to say would be.

"Our sales aren't down as much as they could be, so you've done a fine job," Earl assured him.
"...we're down 6%, while Ford sales are down 13% percent."
"There, and that's why I'm glad to have you on." Mr. Easton slid his chair back and stood up. He walked around his desk and put a hand on Dillon's shoulder. "Listen, Dillon. My father build this company from nothing. I can't let it just fizzle out.

I understand it's a hard market. If we sold giant robots at the price they sell Vietnamese-made ones, we'd lose money per unit. I even cut my own salary and we're still in the red. That's just transitory. You've been here for almost twenty years- nobody knows more about selling Easton Engineering machines than you do. I just need you to stick around and help us figure something out. This is not the end of Easton Engineering, and we'll get your salary back up to standard. We just need to get through this tough patch."

Dillon sighed. "I...alright. What about the floor workers? They asked me to ask you to give them a raise."
"I'm trying to find money for it. It's all I can do to keep them."

Dillon headed to his office. Upon entering, he saw the buff black guy from earlier sitting at Barry's old desk. He had a string of beads beside him, a picture frame pointed away from Dillon, and several miserably tacky anime figurines. The young man looked up from his monitors and smiled, nodding his head as he stood up and stretched out a hand. "You must be Dillon Dark."

Dillon took his hand and shook. At least he had his manners. "That's right. And you must be the new accountant here."
"Yes sir. I just got my certification last month," the man said. "It's an honor to be working with you, sir. My name is Jerome Ambrose Augustine."
"That's, uh, quite a nice name you got there, Jerry." Dillon ended the handshake and headed for his own desk.
"Oh, I'd prefer Jerome, if you don't mind."
"Alright. Good to meet you then, Jerome. You can call me Dill or Dillon, if you like."

Both of them sat down and began working their white-collar jobs. The awkward silence of unfamiliarity hung over the room, and the lack of small talk had them both working quite effectively. Dillon had already gotten everything he needed to for the day done by lunch. He pulled out a sandwich his wife had packed him and started eating, while Jerome scrolled on his computer while eating from a bento box.

"Is that some kind of Chinese necklace?" Dillon asked, pointing to the string of beads he saw earlier.

"This? Oh, no. This is a rosary." Jerome picked up the string and held it out so the whole of it was visible, including a cross which dangled from the bottom. "It would be disrespectful to wear it as a necklace."

"Are you Catholic?"
"Born and raised." Jerome smiled as he put the rosary aside. "What about you?"
"Uh...Baptist."

Dillon stood up with his sandwich and walked over. Jerome didn't seem to mind him walking up behind him, which gave Dillon a good chance to see what was in that picture from from earlier. It was an icon of the Virgin Mary.

"What you looking at?"
"I'm just scrolling through my Instabook feed. I mostly use it to keep track of old friends, an occasionally up-vote memes."

Dillon did not much care for trendy social media websites like Instabook, but he thought it would proper to show some interest in what Jerome was doing.

On the screen were a few pictures. The user @CzechWineEnjoyer had posted a picture of a very buxom blond anime girl, conservatively dressed, serving steamed buns with chopsticks in a farmhouse kitchen. There was a caption which read "Reject Degeneracy", and then on the next line, "Embrace Tradition". All caps, white impact font. Below that was a picture, a real life photograph, of a spindly young man about Jerome's age. He was pale and unimpressive, dressed in baggy clothes and a beanie.

"That one of your old friends?"
"Well, he's someone I knew in high school. That's Kevin K. Evans." Jerome clicked on the boy's profile and scrolled through it. Some pictures were of food, some showed him flashing money, but the ones which caught Dillon's eye showed the outside or cockpit of a giant robot. "I haven't talked to him in a while, but I feel like I should check up on him every now and then."

"Hm? Very kind of you," said Dillon. "How'd he manage to afford a giant robot like that? It ain't the fanciest one around, but I'd imagine it's still more than most folks his age could afford."

"I certainly couldn't afford it," said Jerome.
"I probably couldn't spare the change for one right now either," said Dillon. "What's he doing for work?"
"Nothing, as far as I can tell."
"Oh. Is he...involved in something?"

Jerome looked around cautiously. "I wouldn't be surprised," he said in a hushed voice. "I think he might be a marijuana dealer. He was always sort of a rough kid, even before he got expelled."

"Expelled for drugs?"
"Oh, nothing like that. Not that he wasn't, uh...Kevin had something of an acid tongue and was prone to insensitive jokes. Nothing that bothered me, but he did make this one girl cry. They sent him to the guidance councilor, and he made the councilor cry- I think that might have sealed their decision for him."

Lunch was soon over and the two went back to work. At 5 o'clock, Dillon sat up from his desk and politely said goodbye to everyone he passed on his way to his car. He drove back home, let the song on the radio finish, and stepped outside. Across the street, he saw his neighbor Barry Bean sitting on his porch, a six-pack on one side of him and empty bottles on the other. Dillon looked both ways, then walked over.

"Barry! Is everything alright?"
"Alright?" Barry hiccuped. "No, it's all fine. I've been doing payroll longer than boys like they got now been alive. I'll be back at it before you know."
"Amen. If you need anything, Laura and I would be glad to help."
"I don't need any help," Barry insisted. "Y'all don't worry about me. Though I do have one request."
"Anything."
"You know the cookout this weekend?"
"You're still planning on coming, aren't you?"
"Of course I am, you fool. I just need you to have somebody else bring the drinks, since I don't got an income to spend on them."

Dillon nodded. "I'm sure we'd be glad to take that burden of off you. And you're sure you don't need any help while you're looking for-"
"I told you I'm fine! You go on now, go see your wife. I'm alright here."

So Dillon went on his way and saw his wife, Laura. The two of them had a quiet dinner with their son Jimmy, talking about work and school and the house, all the things which had taken up their respective days as they did most days.

"Hey Dad," said Jimmy. "I was wondering if I could go see Luka this Saturday? He's invited me to a Bible study with his priest's family. They're going to be reading John Chrysostom's Homilies on Romans."

Dillon blinked a few times.
"Jimmy," began Laura. "Aren't you supposed to read the Bible at a Bible study?"
"We are going to be reading the Bible," Jimmy insisted. "We're going to reading the Epistle to the Romans alongside commentaries by John Chrysostom."
"And...who is this John Chrysanthemum?" Dillon asked.
"John Chrysostom. He was the Archbishop of Constantinople."

Dillon and Laura looked at each other. "I'll talk to your mother about it," said Dillon.

They finished their dinner and put away the dishes and all went to their separate corners of the house. Dillon started looking at the bills and trying to plan how to handle the year. His pitiful raise and rising prices combined to give him an effective pay-cut, so some budgeting was probably going to be necessary.

The first thing he decided was that they were going to cut back on eating out. That would be healthier anyway.

They would still need to buy groceries though, and those seemed to be getting more expensive every year. He fooled around on a calculator and, after some stress, arrived at a rough estimate. They'd probably need to do more than stop eating out.

Maybe they could cut back on the family vacation that year.

Looking at the mail, he found more than a few letters notifying him of raising premiums for his insurances. Health, auto, the lot of them. Maybe they could cancel that vacation.

He opened an envelop from the power company. Their electric bill was going up.

Definitely cancel the family vacation, and then probably use less water and electricity. Dillon began to wonder how much less he'd have to run the AC to save X amount of money, and then began to just blankly stare at the papers. This was ridiculous. There had to be some other way to make this work than to scrounge around like a rat. Besides cutting expenses, how could he generate some income?

"Dill?" Laura's voice snapped him out of his trance. "Still planning the budget?"
"Trying to," admitted Dillon. "Have you thought any more about what Jimmy asked?"
"A little. I think it's nice he's being invited to do things with other Christians."
"I'm a little concerned he might be learning something all messed up."
"I don't want to ruin it for him, though. He doesn't get out that much."
"Hm. Maybe you're right," said Dillon.
"Anyway, it's getting late." Laura took the papers out of his hands and laid them neatly on the desk. "We can worry about all of this later. Come on to bed."

//Watch giant robot racing on TV
//Dream of his younger days as a robot rider
//Jumping over concrete obstacles
//Wakes up because he is a disappointment to his father
//Save this scene for a revision, maybe

The next day, Dillon decided to speak to Jerome a little more.

"Do you know where this Kevin kid is? I think I'd like to try and reach out to him some, talk to him about Jesus."
"That's very kind of you, but I'm not sure it'll work. I invited him to mass plenty of times, but he doesn't seem interested in the Mother Church."
"Right, well...maybe I can talk some sense into him. I'm a different sort of man than you, y'know." Dillon put up his hand. "Now, I'm not talking about your race, you understand."
"Of course," said Jerome with a nod. "It would be ungracious to assume any different. Really, I can't stand all these people who want me to be black before I am a Catholic. It's absolute heresy, to be honest."

Dillon quite liked that answer, which made him feel a little bad about what he was doing. "Right. And just to be clear about everything, I was talking about how I'm older and have a different denominational background. Now then, what was that boys address?"
"I'll write it down for you," Jerome said, grabbing a pen and paper. "Though I would like to extend the invitation to mass to you as well. The Holy Catholic church has not endured two-thousand years for nothing, after all." Jerome held out the paper, which Dillon graciously accepted. "We have beautiful architecture. Very spiritually inspiring stuff."

So it came to pass that Dillon called Laura and told her he'd be home late. That evening he found himself forty minutes from home, standing outside a cheap apartment in a small town just outside the city. He knocked once, then twice, and then the metal slot in the door harshly slid open, revealing a pair of red eyes. They quickly sized him up as a respectable, clean-cut fellow.

"Oh my God. Did Jerome send you?"
"No. Well, yes. He told me where to find you, but I'm here for business."
"What kind of business?"
"I hear you're involved in, uh..."
"Green stuff?"
"That sounds about right."
"Hm."

Dillon heard the hammer on a pistol relax and more than few locks being undone before the door swung open.

"Alright, come on in and I'll get you hooked up." Kevin turned around and header deeper into the darkly lit living room. "Don't forget to close the door!" Dillon did did so after he stepped inside, then noticed Kevin rummaging through a hybrid closet and laundry room. Soon enough he pulled out a little bag of green clumps that looked like dryer lint. "I can tell by looking at you that you're a first timer, so I'll be nice and offer you a little discount."

"I, uh..." Dillon stared at the bag, but kept his hands by his side. "I should probably clarify something. I'm only here because I'm looking to make some additional income."
"...huh?"
"I'm looking to get involved in your 'hussle', or whatever you call it."

Kevin looked at him funny. "You?"
"...what about me?"
"Dude, look at you. You've got no business in this. Have you ever even smoked a joint?"
"Well...I like to smell the grass clippings when I mow a lawn."
"Not even remotely close."
"Better results take more work. Do I really need to smoke the stuff to help you sell it?"

Kevin tossed his baggie on the dryer and pulled out a lighter and a joint. "I should tell you to get lost, but I'm curious. You got some balls, man." The young man lit up and took a hit. "What do you do for a living?"
"I'm the regional sales manager for East End Engineering."
"Huh?"
"I sell giant robots and giant robot accessories."

A long stream of smoke passed Kevin's lips. "I've already got a giant robot, thanks. Got any useful skills?"
"Well, I saw on the news about those gang wars. I've got some giant robot piloting experience. I've been around them for most of my life, and I used to do some stunts with them back in the day."
"Stunts?"
"Yep. Got my Industrial Piloting License as a boy. Completed the Civil Automotive Combat Certification, too."
"Hm. I can drive just fine."

Dillon ruffled his brow and thought for a moment. He took a step forward and reached out- Kevin could barely react before his blunt was snatched away, and certainly not fast enough to stop it from happening.

"I hear this stuff can slow your reaction times," said Dillon, holding the blunt just above Kevin's head.

The young stoner looked up at him with harsh but awed eyes. "Alright, fair game. I'll give you a shot to prove yourself."

So it came to pass that the week ended and the weekend began. Dillon met up with Kevin at another suburb, finding the young man leaned against the foot of his giant robot. "Ready, old man?"
"I am not an old man," answered Dillon.
"Whatever, boomer dude. Got your day cleared out?"
"My boy's visiting a friend for the day," said Dillon- he didn't think it would be right to mention that Jimmy was at a Bible study, given what he was about to do. "My wife was happy to have the house to herself. Nothing should come up."

Kevin lead Dillon around to the stairs which lead to the cockpit. Along the way, Dillon noticed some letter decals pasted on the giant robot. "NPC?"
"That's her name," said Kevin. He stumbled over and slapped his hand near the lettering. "You know what that stands for? Never. Politically. Correct. Someone asks you to censor yourself, that guy is your enemy. Fuck 'em. You better remember that."

Dillon blinked a few times and nodded slowly. "I'll do my best."
"You're best to what?"
"...to remember that. I'll do my best to remember what you said about a man being my enemy."
"Not just men."
"I'll remember that, too."

Kevin chuckled.

"Good," he said.

"Get in."

The duo entered the cockpit, which resembled the inside of a mid-2000s Honda Civic. Dillon positioned himself in the driver's seat while Kevin threw a duffel bag in the back. "Alright Dillweed, here's the plan. We'll roll a little further into town, you'll find a good spot in an alleyway. I'll get out and hang out behind the leg, make the sales, and you stand there to look tough. Any trouble happens, get me inside and we'll figure out whether we run or trash the bastard when we get to it. Got it?"

"I got all that," said Dillon. "Aren't you going to buckle up?"
"Huh? What are you, my mom?" Despite his objections, Kevin did buckle up.

Dillon looked ahead nervously, hand frozen to the key.

"Got res...reser...doubts?" Kev coughed up a cloud of smoke.
"I'm just a little...I'm not used to doing something...legally uncertain."
"Bah. Man, listen here. The feds, the cops, they're not you're friends. They have a job, and that job is to stab you in the back to squeeze out tax dollars." Kevin tapped the end of his blunt on Dillon's shirt, leaving a small ashy mark. "So don't get all mushy, acting like you're doing something gross by looking out for yourself. That's what they're doing, and people who aren't? You know man, people who aren't doing that are like sheep to the slaughter for people who are. Now turn that key, and let's get some bread."

It was around noon when they entered town. Whenever a thug or rival dealer showed up to claim that spot for their own, Dillon didn't have to do much but flex to clear them out. As the sun began to set, Kevin climbed into the cockpit with his duffel bag, a stoner's grin on his face. "Good haul today, dude. With you in the bot all the time, I get better dibs on whatever spot I like. It's a lot scarier when you can slap a guy across the state whenever you want, and not have to climb in first and everything."

Kevin pulled out his phone. "Gonna take a little break."
"I'll just...keep doing what I'm doing."
"Good. Gives me a chance to check my stock picks."

That seemed curious. Dillon leaned over Kevin's shoulder, seeing him scroll through an investment app. "You play the stock market?"
"Yeah, dude. I'm big into companies that make animal meds," he explained. "They used Ivermectin for viruses, then Misoprostol for abortions. They keep finding new stuff to do with horse pills, and that means they keep bumping demand. Basic econ, bro."

"Uhuh." Dillon nodded along like he didn't find that weird.

"Anyway, there's a lot of good business at night, but I get you're new to this, so we won't stay out a ton longer. Besides, I got a date tonight."
"A date?"
"Yeah, a date. Like, a girl coming over."
"...You have a date? How?"
"Dude, it's the present year. Chicks like video games now. Dating is literally the easiest shit ever." Kevin looked up from his phone and spotted something out the front window. "There he comes."
"What do you mean, there he comes?" Dillon's eyes followed Kevin's, spotting the silhouette of another giant robot growing closer.

"Heh. See Dill, I've been trying to sell from here for months. This is a great corner for my business. There's just this one little problem, and you're gonna prove yourself by fixing it for me."
"Now hold on just a gosh-darn minute-"

By then, the other robot was right up close. If the cockpits of the giant robots had been heads, the two machines would have been staring directly at each other.

"Yo, Kev!" A voice came booming through their speakers. Giant robots used short wave radio to communicate, like the truckers of old. "I thought I told you ese, this territory belongs the Monkey Gang. You ain't allowed to be selling here."

Dillon looked over to Kev. "What in God's name are you dragging me into?"
"You said you had your CACC," said Kevin dismissively. "Besides, these guys are total blow-overs."
"I was certified almost twenty years ago!" Dillon objected. "I never actually-"
"Quiet," said Kevin. He tuned in, sending a signal right to their foe. "Make me leave, then."

There was a brief silence. Then laughter echoed through the radio. Dillon thought there was something oddly familiar about the speaker's voice.

"You gonna try and ride at us, Kev? Man, your stoner-ass don't got the reflexes to keep up with us!"
"I don't gotta. I got myself a real pilot now. He's qualified to rip your ass in half."

The chuckling continued. "You actually dragged someone to help you? I don't believe it, put that cabron on the line!"

Kevin leaned back. "The floor is yours."
"What do I say?!"
"I don't know, but you better say something or he's gonna start swinging."

With something between panic and bitter resignation, Dillon opened the air-waves and started speaking. "Now listen here. I would prefer we didn't have to fight, so why don't we all take a little time to talk this out?"

"Hah! You got a name, pilot man?"

Dillon looked over to Kevin. "He's not gonna report you. Thugs' honor."

"My name is Dillon."

"I see. Well, sorry Kev, but it sounds like your pilot is a pussy. I'll give you ten seconds to start moving before I crush you like huevos in a hydraulic press, muchacho."

Dillon furrowed his brow. Kevin thought he was in deep thought or agitation from being insulted, but that wasn't it at all.

"I'll be. I thought that voice sounded familiar." Dillon turned on the comm link again. "You're Larry Tennyson's boy. What in God's name are you doing, adding in all that Spanish nonsense?"

The broadcasts from the other giant robot suddenly stopped. Dill and Kev looked at each other, then the comms roared back to life. "I don't know where you got this guy Kevin, and I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but you're gonna be really regretting playing it! You think you can stand up to me an my mech?"
"It's called a giant robot you fucking weeb!"
"Shut up!" Their opponent bent its mechanical knees, going from five stories high to four, holding its hands out in a fighting stance. A giant sword popped out above each robotic hand, as if a massive switchblade was attached to each arm. "Prepare to face the power of Dual Lingo!"

Then they fought, and the animators did a great job making it look cool. At first Dillon was getting thrashed, and Kevin was yelling at him about it, but it turns out he was actually luring their opponent into a field so he could let loose and pound them without hurting the civilians. There was this awesome moment where Dillon did something really cool, and Kevin was really impressed by it, and it totally took the other guys off guard when they sent them to the ground.

NPC stood over the defeated machine, their foes at their mercy.

"Good. Now put him down, Dill."
"No."
"What? You're just giving him more chances to hurt you! Put the guy out of his misery!"
"I'm not gonna kick a man while he's down, yet alone execute him. We've sent him a message."

Dillon spoke through the airwaves. "Now you know what happens when you try and mess with me, so don't come to us looking for any trouble, you just keep that fancy robot of yours to yourself." He paused. "If you can do that, I won't be telling Larry Tennyson about what you're doing. Thugs' honor."

With the message now literally sent, Dillon turned off the broadcaster. NPC started moving towards town, stepping over Dual Lingo.

Then, suddenly, the machine shook. The two frantically checked the sensors, but most telling was the sight beheld through the front windows. The tip of a giant blade could be seen poking out. Their foe had stabbed them in the back, and the blade had gone right through their giant robot's chest.

Dual Lingo pulled out the blade and hobbled off as quickly as it could. NPC fell to its knees, then slumped forward, both motions rattling the cockpit like dice in a Yahtzee cup. Kevin's duffel bag fell from the back and landed on the dash board. Kevin quickly unbuckled, falling forward, and darted down the side of his bot.

Dillon was more careful freeing himself, not wanting to hurt himself by falling. He opened the door, which now opened towards the ground, and stepped outside, walking around the wreckage until he could see Kevin.

"My ride!" Kev shouted, hands clutching his head as he stared at the still wreckage. He grabbed Dillon by the collar. "Damn it, Dillon! Why didn't you listen to me? Do you have any idea how much this is gonna cost me?"
"Now listen here, ain't no amount of money worth a man's life-"

"What the fuck do you get out of that guy being alive?" Kevin screamed, pointing frantically in the direction their foe had walked off.
"I got a clean conscience," Dill said.
"A clean conscience, Jesus Christ! Just let the world walk over all of us to keep your 'clean conscience', that's pathetic!"
"I'd be more inclined to hear a man talk bad about keeping a clean conscience if he didn't get through the day being high."

Kevin narrowed his eyes and growled. "I am never working with you again." Kevin climbed back into the cockpit and pulled out his duffel bag. He jumped to the ground and threw something at Dillon, which the older man fumbled to catch. "Here's your share for today- and only for today. Don't call me." He turned and began to walk off.

Dillon looked at the wad of cash in his hand. He flipped through the notes, some crisp and sharp, others soft and wrinkled. The stack was all the same denomination. A portion of a day's sales, but it would certain help in closing the gap between his means and expenses.

"Hold on."

Kevin stopped and looked over his shoulder.

"I'll help you get it fixed," he said. Kevin stared at him. "And I'll find one we can use while we're waiting on that."

Slowly Kevin began moving back towards Dill until they were face to face, red eyes meeting white. "When can you get the sub?"
"Huh?"
"Substi...substi...the other robot."
"By next week. Promise. Do we have a deal?"

Dillon stretched out a hand. Kevin lifted his up, but kept it close to his chest.

"No more of this mercy stuff, alright?"
"I won't let us get stabbed in the back again."

Kevin stared for a few more seconds, then stretched his hand and shook. "You got yourself a deal, Mr. Dark."

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//Dillon used the on-site giant robot in his formative years
//His dad was used a giant robot mechanic in da war and thinks Dillon is a loser for selling them instead of repairing them
//Not in this story, but Dill's dad is eventually brought on as a mechanic in a pinch. They hide the nature of their operation from him at first, but he eventually finds out. He's not mad because they're drug dealers but because they didn't give him any weed, since he never got any medical marijuana for his war wounds. Then he and Kevin become good friends, smoking and drinking and fishing.

 

Opening line is great.

Though I'm not sure the whole framing diatribe works best as an intro like that.  There really isn't a whole lot of information in it that's particularly necessary that can't be explained naturally from the story.

Overall the story is fun. The premise is a bit ridiculous, but being so straight laced it gives a really nice vibe for the story and the overall future current year world made up for it. We get so many details delivered well that I could actually imagining life in this world, even if it is unbelievable. And that is no small feet for worldbuilding. The story also had a genuine twist in the middle that caught me off guard while also being blatantly choregraphed, so really nice job there.

Also did you just not write a bunch of scenes in the middle? Was that meant to be something you were intending to write later or do you intend on expanding this work into a longer story and go back and do them? I'm guessing yes given the notes at the end, but's still kind of weird to just have single sentence descriptions of scenes like that.

 

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