Archive for May, 2012
That Goes on Your Tab
By Nojh Livic
The beams of light swirled around the gnome’s hands as he manipulated the elemental forces. With his own mind he gathered these forces and separate out the particular forces he needed. It was difficult work to do, surrounded by the chaos of battle, but he was Quin, sorcerer premier. He and his companions had traveled far to find the source of necromantic magic making the dead rise to terrorize towns. They had tracked it to a dungeon in the nearby mountains where they now faced off against a necromancer of significant power.
Not as powerful as Quin of course. He was about to prove this by clearing the room of the necromancer’s minions. With the threads of air and lightning full grasped, he poured all his power into the spell until it was ready to burst forth from him. His hands spread wide and he pointed at the largest group of skeletons, aiming where the forces of magic and nature would strike.
Like usual, most of his group had run forward to engage the enemy. This often put a kink in Quin’s plans. While he was a master of the arcane elemental forces the elemental forces of the arcane often took exception to being mastered. They could be harnessed and directed but not targeted. He knew quiet a few useful spells, such as lightning bolt, that let him engage a single enemy from afar without endangering his companions but none of them had the kind of power that was needed to stop the skeletons in their tracks.
A large cloud formed above the group of skeletons despite the ground being underground. The skeletons were too busy to notice as a human stood in their midst waving a medallion. The human wore chain mail but carried no other weapons save for the metal emblem. He seemed to be faring well, keeping the skeletons a bay, despite of his lack of weaponry. However as the storm cloud began to appear, he faltered, then looked threw a glance over his shoulder at Quinn. It was not a friendly look.
Everybody in Quin’s party had experience attempting to dodge lightning if mostly because of his own tactical decisions. Plus Quinn saw the necromancer was readying yet another wave of servants to rush them, making clearing the entire room of skeletons worth more than the bruises and burns his companion would suffer should he take a glancing blow from a lightning bolt. Quin gave his cleric companion a confidant smile and let his hands fall, summoning the lightning.
The gnome was giving Ellard that smug little smile of his. Ellard looked up at the sky. He understood the tactical advantage of the sorcerer’s lightning storm but he had to wonder if the gnome was out to get him. The fire storm the day before and another lightning storm two weeks ago had been advantageous too. Advantageously right above him. He braced himself while trying to keep light on his feet. The storm would strike at everything but it only struck once. He just needed to dodge at the right moment.
He felt more than watched the lightning strike, missing the skeleton in front of him by inches. Two more claps of thunder and he whirled around to see they had left scorch marks on the stone floor but nothing on bone. Again, the storm struck but failed to connect to the undead foes around him. Then he felt the tingling on the hair of his arms and knew the next strike was for him. He leapt back instinctively.
Ellard’s instincts were wrong.
It took willpower he barely knew he had to stay conscious after he recovered from the pain. There was ringing in his ears and he found he was on his knees. He still held his divine focus but his bare hand was bleeding where he had gripped it too tightly. He lifted his head and counted. Three, four, six skeletons, wielding various rusted and dented weapons, still surrounded him. None of them had been struck.
He groaned and pushed himself to his feet. This was going to be a long battle.
“Well now. I think that one was worth a ballad or two, don’t you?” Quin said to the company’s bard. All five of them were burned, bruised, and a little bloodied. The gnome had doubled up with the elf musician on the horses the group was riding back to town. The necromancer was now vanquished and they had a not small amount of loot.
Ellard too was doubled up on a horse with the group’s warrior as his arm remained in a patchwork sling. The cleric had used the last of his divine magic healing the warrior and bard’s wounds that Quin and himself had gone without. The cleric gave a soft chuckle and leaned around to speak. “Sure. As long as you don’t sing it!”
This garnered a half-hearted chuckle from their other companions. Quin scowled and looked away from the others. He had once had to do a street performance with the bard in order to go undercover against a thieves guild. He had tried singing for a crowd of little kids, only to scare them away with his voice. It had ultimately gotten them the location of the guild but only because it had blown their cover, drawing guild agents down upon them, which they later interrogated. Ellard had never really let him live it down.
Quin stewed in the saddle as the conversation shifted to discussing how to divvy up loot and where to get the obviously magical gear appraised and identified. It was a long journey back to town.
No less than seven empty mugs of ale sat between the cleric and the sorcerer of which only one or two had been consumed by their other companions. The bard, warrior, and ranger had already retired to the inn’s common sleeping area, leaving Ellard and Quin to their drinking contest in the attached tavern.
“That it? That’s all you got?” the gnome goaded as the cleric chugged another mug of beer before dropping it to the table loudly. He looked like he was about to puke. Fartha, the waitress already had two more mugs on a tray by the time Quin turned around. She levitated the tray across the tavern to the pair’s table. Ellard clapped again, mostly managing to slap his hands together, while Quin tried not to look too impressed. She had stopped physically serving them after the third round, when hands had started roam further from the mugs than she had desired.
“Come on then. Beat that!” Ellard shouted at the gnome as if he wasn’t less than two feet away, once he had his stomach under control. Quin eloquently replied by blowing a raspberry before taking up his mug. He was half way through chugging the mug when the human had stood up to watch, wobbling on his feet as he did. Ellard was saying something but the gnome was too focused on not drowning. Quin was just a few more gulps away from finishing the beer when the human suddenly fell over the table, knocking himself into the gnome, sending them both sprawling to the floor. The beer mug flew from his grasp and shattered on the floor with a sickening crack, followed by the boisterous pair.
“You did that on purpose!” Quin accused, squirming to get out from under the heavy human.
“Did not,” Ellard slurred, pushing himself up, only to slip a puddle of beer. “You just wouldn’t stop swaying!”
“I wasn’t swaying!” Quin said, managing to sit up. He jabbed his finger at Ellard who once again lost his balance.
“Ow. Hey! Yeah you did!” Ellard pushed at the little gnome, who only just managed to keep his balance. Ellard seemed to notice the piece of beer mug and then grinned widely. “Ha. You didn’t finish it. I win!”
“You do not!” Quin yelled, getting to his feet.
“Do to!” Ellard said, managing to sit up, laughing.
“That’s it! I’m going to kill you!” Quin said, balling his fists.
“Oh, like you try earlier you two-bit magician?” Ellard yelled, also making fists even though he remained sitting. At that prompting, Quin launched himself at the human with a slurred battle cry.
Despite being drunk, both adventurers were still excellent fighters. Ellard, however, was bigger and more experienced in melee combat than the small sorcerer. This let him deflect the first of the small fists. However his return jabs were not connecting, mostly because he kept aiming at the air to the left of the gnome.
By now their companions had awoken and were sleepily holding weapons, looking around for the fight. Upon finding that it was their friends, not a random bunch of orks, fighting they were somewhat at a loss for what to do. However before any of them could do anything, two stools by the bar danced into the air before flinging themselves straight at the drunks. The stools struck both men directly in the head while they were in mid punch, knocking them out cold. They slumped forward against each other, then rolled onto the beer soaked wooden floor.
The waitress dusted her hands from across the room then glared at the drunk men’s companion. “I’m not cleaning that up,” Fartha declared, dropping her apron on the bar. “And that is going on all your tabs.” A confused trio watched the waitress stomp up the stairs.
- To grow or expand.
- To swell to the point of bursting.
Used in a sentence:
- The balloon began to slowly burgeon as they filled it the warm hair they would need lift off up into the stars.
Not so weird of a word for those of you who read more historical fiction. I think I’ve heard the term “burgeoned into a tall young man” a few too many times to make this word that weird. Little interesting fact, prior to meaning grow or expand, it used to be a noun that referred to the bud or sprout of a plant. That meaning is considered obsolete however.
So how are people liking the stories? Today’s is going to be a little strange. Please let me know your honest opinion.
By Nojh Livic
John picked up the red plastic cup and took a sip of its contents. The liquid was bitter. He sighed. John laid back on the couch and lifted the television remote with his free hand. The television flickered to life at the press of a button. A weather woman began talking about the ongoing drought which seemed to have no end in sight.
John shook his head and set the bottle down. He stood, stretched, and headed to the bathroom. The soda just went straight through him most days. The tap water was cold. The boiler must be out again. He set down the cable remote and pulled out his cell phone and began to look up his apartment owner’s number. He flushed the toilet as the phone began to ring.
He made his way towards the kitchen. Sounds of a cartoon mouse and cat enacting mayhem blared from the television as he passed by. He reached to turn it off and realized he forgot the remote in the bathroom. John turned to retrieve it when a voice spoke through the phone. Distracted, he began to explain his problem, only to realize he was speaking to recording. He sighed in annoyance, leaning against the wall, waiting for the voice to finish explaining all the information about emergency numbers so he could leave his message. He stared out the window. Rain drops lightly pelted the pane.
He turned back towards the kitchen, explaining that the boiler was likely broken again and that he wasn’t getting water from the tap in the bathroom. He tested the kitchen sink and found the same problem. He checked his fridge. It was bare. That meant the only thing he had left to drink was in the cup in the living room. He hung up the phone on the wall and made his way back to his chair. It creaked as he sat and shifted, picking up the cup and taking a sip. Not too bad but still bitter. He decided to ration it.
He grabbed the remote from the end table and changed the channel. It was so early that most of the stations had cartoons. The door bell rang and he rolled out of the love seat with a groan. He really needed to stretch more. He passed the bathroom and saw he had left the tap on. It had steamed up the mirror. He detoured to turn it off.
The door bell buzzed again insistently and John waved his hand at it dismissively, muttering to himself. The television was recounting the number of murders in the city when he opened the door to a pair of suit wearing men in dark shades. Behind them, parked at the curb in front of his house, was a nondescript van.
Badges were flashed and John was asked to step out of the house. John was skeptical and asked to see the badges again. One of the suits seemed very intent on looking past John. John looked over his shoulder. There was nothing special about his living room other than his inherited rack of wines. It had been a strange prize for a radio station. John considered offer the suits a bottle, just so he could get rid of one. He had too much as it was.
The suits repeated their request more firmly after letting John look at the badge to his heart’s content. The second suit was whispering into his wrist. The two, despite their glasses, looked very concerned. He could already see that another suit was exiting the van and was talking on a fancy looking cell phone. In the distance he could hear the sound of aircraft.
Not a bad day to be flying a kite, if it a little windy and humid, Joan decided. She shrugged and followed the first suit to the van. He started asking odd questions. Had she witnessed anything strange today? How long had she lived in the duplex. Were there any other occupants? How old was she? Pretty easy questions but she didn’t know what to make of it.
The questions continued as two helicopters appeared over her house. Joan watched them, answering the questions, until they shot something like a net down over her home. When she shouted angrily to know what was going on, one of the suits detained her. She struggled, watching some strange light envelop the house.
Joan shook her head, suddenly light-headed.
The nice suit kept her from falling over. She apologized, explaining that she was not sure what had come over her. The suits were pretty understanding after all. Apparently she had somehow wandered past a police line onto a crime scene. She didn’t remember how but was happy they didn’t charge her with trespassing or interfering with an investigation or something. One of the suits was even nice to call a patrol car to take her home.
The only problem was, she had trouble remembering where that was.
So I don’t often post really good podcast episodes mostly because I listen to my podcasts in the car and it is hard to write internet posts in the car. Most of the other drivers don’t appreciate it for some reason. Lots of car horns, let me tell you.
But today I am breaking that rule for Writing Excuses. Writing excuses is one of my favorite podcasts about writing, offering incredibly useful tips and advice for aspiring authors and wannabe writers. Plus the podcasts are only fifteen minutes long, because I’m in a hurry (and they’re not that smart)!
Which brings us to the episode I feel you should listen to. This is by far not a typical episode but it is a hilarious one and even if you aren’t attempting to become a writer it is well worth listening to.
This episode will go over common (and maybe not so uncommon) writing excuses. It offers us such jewels as:
[Brandon] You know, what I think helps with a writer who wants to write epic fantasy, really? I really think… You know Tolkien took 20 years to world build. You’re not as good as Tolkien. Let’s be up front with that. So I think maybe 40 years is about as much time as it…
[Dan] 40 years if you’re exactly half as good as Tolkien. Which is still a little arrogant of you, frankly.
- A denial; a renunciation.
Used in a sentence:
- There had been an abnegation of key facts in the case, despite his using every lawful trick in the book he could remember, leading to its dismissal.
So another fancy way of saying renunciation or negate or both! You’re welcome!
Not Enough Memory
By Nojh Livic
“Here is what I don’t understand,” Amon began, waving his hand towards the assembling crowds. Hasim used an infinite amount of willpower not to roll his eyes at his friend, mostly by focusing his attention on the crowds. The stadium was filling in quickly with over three-quarters of standing room filled in under a half an hour. Amon and Hasim had been one of the first inside and were therefore accorded a prime view of the stadium floor, after the eram, who used the three rows of benches ahead of them. The eram, unlike the masses of terum, had the luxury a guaranteed unobstructed view of the coming proceedings and therefore were less inclined to rush to their seats when the doors opened. This left Amon a nice clear view of the floor where a blue orb was set into the ground inside a huge inscribed circle. It pulsed slowly and rhythmically with light.
“Don’t you think?” Amon finished, turning his attention to his friend, only to find him staring at the floor below. Amon smacked Hasim on the shoulder. “Hey! Don’t stare!” the older man hissed quickly. Hasim shook his head and turned away slightly.
“Sorry. I got distracted,” Hasim said even as his eyes began to slide back to the floor. Amon grabbed his shoulder and turned him around to face him, much like most of the others in the crowd were doing. Eyes averted looking directly at the gleaming orb emitting light up towards the open sky of the stadium. Those who brought their children were having to keep them from looking as well. They all, however, felt the allure of the light.
“Exactly. We all trundle in here like camels to an oasis, knowing we’re denied the pleasures of the light. There’s no point. We might as well all stay home. None of us will be chosen,” Amon ranted. Hasim noted his friend was drawing a few looks from those behind him. He gave his friend a meaningful look, nodding. Amon didn’t take the hint. “Yet worse, you and I are near the head of the pack. At least the ones in the back won’t feel it as badly. You know I hear they measured width of the power. That the only reason why there are seats from this point on is that one doesn’t have the strength to stand so close for the length of the ceremony.”
Amon was trudging very close to heresy and was now drawing looks from a few of the parents in the crowd. Hasim jabbed his friend in the stomach once, hard. Amon, who was taking in a breath to say more, had it knocked out of him. He would have tumbled forward if Amon hadn’t caught him. They leaned against the diving stone railing that kept them from the eram seats. “Careful my friend. There are words reserved for drawn curtains,” he advised the older man. Amon seemed to nod, although he might have simply been gasping for breath.
Hasim patted his friend on the back and spared a quick glance towards the light again, disappointed to find that enough of the eram in their blue robes had taken seats to block a good view of the stadium floor. He grew both excited and nervous as the number meant that the ceremony would start soon.
“I will recall it this time,” Hasim vowed quietly, more to himself than Amon. Amon, who had mostly recovered his breath, didn’t bother to hide his disdain filled eye rolls. Hasim understood. Nobody remembered the ceremony. This would be his fifth attendance. He had resolved to remember everything that happened, rather than the vague dreamlike memories he had from prior visits that everybody experienced. Everybody’s accounts varied save for the sense of overwhelming calm and peace, as well as the longing to find that calm and peace again.
“Your memory techniques?” Amon asked. Hasim only nodded.
“You know you almost feel entranced not a few moments ago. Where were you memory techniques then?” Amon asked.
“I wasn’t prepared,” Hasim admitted. Most of the benches were full. A hush was slowly settling over the crowds.
“Well better start. Here come the priestess,” Amon pointed towards the glint of silver appearing in the gaps between the blue robes of the eram in front of them.
Hasim held his breath and began to focus. Unlike the others of the crowds in the standing room, who turned their backs to the ceremony, he remained looking forward like the eram. He concentrated on letting his eyes unfocused and slowly let out his breath, trying to direct his attention out and around him while keeping focusing on taking long deep breaths. He would reme-
Great lights so bright they blinded him twice over. He felt pain in every inch of his body. Pleasure too but only as a light salt to the sweetness of the pain. There was agony all around him; cries both human and inhuman echoing through the stadium. Escape was all he could think of. He walked. He pushed. He ran. He jumped. Nothing changed but he knew he was making progress. Red filled his vision, then silver, then blue. The screams where omnipresent but further away now. The chanting was closer. There was warmth but greater pain.
Then there was clarity.
He knew not the creature before him. It denied all words of description he had been taught. Around it were the priestess, their robes discarded, prostrate in a circle around it. He stood just inside the great circle but outside of it were the masses. Light streamed from every direction, a multitude of flowing colors, from the crowds that he had been apart of towards the creature. If it had something resembling an orifice, he was unsure, it used it to feed upon this light, while other parts of its anatomy writhed across the floor to touch not just the priestess but the eram in the seated benches before it.
He stood transfixed, taking all of this in. He was not alone. Where were several other fellow terum who had made it to the circle. They too stood looked around in confusion. One he recognized. The woman who had taught him the memory techniques. He opened his mouth to call out to her.
Then the creature touched him.
-ber. Hasim screamed. The rest of the people around him were shaking their heads as if trying to shake grogginess from their minds. Several startled and back peddled away from Hasim. Hasim clutched at his head. There was no calm. There was no peace. No fuzzy memories. He remembered the pain. He remembered it all. And all of it pained him.
“Hasim? You’ve been chosen?” Amon asked worriedly, reaching out to touch his friend who was wildly looking down towards the stadium floor now. The eram and the priestess were gone, as was usual. “Hasim? What’s wrong?” Amon asked, grabbing the younger man’s shoulders. The orb too was dim, shedding no light. There was no sign of it. Hasim broke the older man’s grip and leapt over the stone divide, into the forbidden place of the eram and towards the circle. Amon reached to grab him but it was too late. “Hasim!” Amon yelled.
Hasim ran for the circle, tugging at his robes. He could feel where it had touched him. There was not just a numbness but an emptiness so profound. His robes fell away as he entered the circle. Already the guards of the eram were filling into the floor, spears pointed towards him but he gave them no mind. Those who looked directly upon his chest actually hesitated a step.
He was marked. His skin a horrible pale stain of asymmetric design that resembled nothing natural. Hasim touched it and felt nothing, not even the tips of his fingers. What was worse he could feel the mark growing. Not across his skin but down into it. He had to stop it.
“Hasim!” Amon yelled again, as if he could scream some sense into his friend from afar, but Hasim realized that his voice was too close. He turned to see his older friend had followed him to the floor of the stadium. He was also yelling to warn him of the guard who brandished a spear and charging at Hasim. By turning around he showed his disfigurement to the charging guard. The guard’s eyes bulged at the sight and he stumbled back involuntarily. Amon too, being several strides away, halted his run with a skid, staring.
“I have no heart!” Hasim screamed up towards the darkening sky. It was true. He could no longer feel his heart beat nor his lungs filling with air. He was numb on the inside and the feeling only grew. As if to assist his claim, the guard who had stumbled back gathered his courage and thrust the spear forward. A solid blow driven into where Hasim’s heart should have been. Instead the spear struck the pale mark and was swallowed, no blood spewing forth. The tip and haft simply sunk into the man impossibly far, not merging from the opposite side.
The guards fled then. The few spectators in the stadium who had the willpower to stay now too found their courage fleeing them and left to chase it. Only Amon remained, kneeling in the sandy floor strides from his friend. Hasim looked at Amon sadly. Amon stared blankly at his friend, his mouth agape.
Hasim carefully pulled the spear from his breast intact, his the mark unmarred. He was numb now, from the neck down. He knew he would be dead. His body might yet remain animated but that which made him Hasim would cease to exist in moments. “Good bye, my friend. Please, do not remember,” Hasim said to Amon, then turned and fell head first upon his spear. His body and the spear clattered to the ground, spraying blood upon the orb.
Amon continued to stare in shock, only barely registering his friend’s suicide, or that the orb beneath him had begun to glow. In that blue glow he reme-
He felt the pain and the pleasure but he did not scream like the others. He felt it not as they did but as he would around them. Their pain and their pleasure radiated from them. Beside him his partner and friend screamed the loudest. He always screamed the loudest. Unlike before he was flailing. The eram had taken notice and were removing him from the stands, carrying him to the circle where it stood. He couldn’t look at it. He knew that if he did, it would notice him and he would feel the pain the others hand. He had to pretend. He had to shake, writhe, and worship. It was the only way to survive.
-bered, his own repressed memories surfacing. “No,” Amon whispered, defiantly climbing to his feet. More guards had appeared, as did several priestesses. The guards kept their distance but the silver swathed women were hurrying towards him. Each step he took strengthened his resolve and he covered the strides between himself and his friend’s body easily. He grabbed the haft of the spear and pulled it free. The tip was stained with Hasim’s blood.
“No!” hissed the closest woman as he held the spear in two hands above his head and pointed the tip down towards the orb. Up close it glowed brightly and while it held his attention, his anger and fear kept his wits from being absorbed by its false promise.
He thrust the spear down. The orb shattered. Amon knew nothing more.
I’m still reading through the archive of 8-Bit Theater as I never finished it. I’m in a section of comics I never read before and this one struck me as rather hilarious. Particularly Red Mage’s comment in the second to last panel.
That last line is golden.
I laughed out loud at this one. Especially it being a work in progress.
The girl’s interpretation amuses me greatly.
- Coastal water body where ocean tides and river water merge.
- An ocean inlet also fed by fresh river water.
Used in a sentence:
- The horse had alacrity but it just didn’t have nimbleness it needed to dodge the obstacles.
I want to say this word was on one of my spelling lists back in grade school. It is hauntingly familiar. While not as fun to pronounce as some of our words it is still a very useful word to know if you’re trying to describe a map or a location a long a coast. What person hasn’t had that come up in conversation every other day or so?
Word Count: ~800
Actually it might be more. Hi! Its been awhile. I’ve been writing, mostly. Perhaps not as much as I should or as diligently as I’d like. I’ve written 3,593 words on everlasting since my last update, and fleshed out around five pages of Matrix since then. Also been keeping up with my free writes for the website, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. That’s been taking up my hour and a half or less long session of writing twice a week. If I get any more done, I’ll probably need to start scheduling more time.
Writing sessions have been chaotic affairs. As per norm they mostly encompass me or sometimes Daniel. I’ve found no one else interested in joining regularly. I’m starting to get to the point where I’m going to need critique on my work, so I may have to resort to looking for writing groups in my area, which will be hard for me. We’ll see though.
Word Count: 111, 434
I emailed Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing regarding if I should keep working on Everlasting or just skip to writing the ending and get to editing. Her advice, of course, was just to push through. Which is what I am doing. Writing today came rather easily. I’m trying not to judge or edit as I think about it, but I so want to sit down and plan out a better outline and flow for this story. I’m not even sure I like the ending I have planned anymore. Since its been two months and I’ve only written 3000+ words, I obviously haven’t been writing much on it, which means I’ve been taking a break. Actually I wrote a short story, which now needs editing. But obviously that break didn’t do much to help my motivation. I just need to keep chugging along.
Short Story: Station
Word Count: 6,799
Its working title is Station. It actually came out of a writing prompt from Writing Excuses. I was attempting to write some Free Writing and it ended up running way longer than a free write but I was enjoying it. So I wrote it. I’ll go back to edit it sometime soon. After I’ve made some more headway in Everlasting.
The basic plot point is a space gas station attendant is bored because she took an extended week-long shift. Due to a strange but well-known astrological effect, all communication with the planet is cut off for the entire week. So no ships were going to refuel at her station. She was basically there in case something went wrong. She planned on using the time to catch up on her entertainment media and get some alone time, only to find out someone had erased all her media. So after a few days of going stir crazy, she wishes for something, anything, to happen. And that’s when something does.
It is a far future transhuman sci-fi story. I’ll probably talk about it more when I get back to editing it.
So that’s it for me. I’ll try to post more regularly.
By Nojh Livic
“And… release,” Justin ordered, smoothly pointing towards the screen. The technician at station two hit a button and the screen when white only to be followed by static. Justin did not have to make a motion for an image filled the screen again, this time displaying camera two’s field of view according to the label at the bottom of the screen. It showed two figures backlit by a huge explosion. They were running away only to be blown forward off their feet. The pair managed to keep a death grip on each other’s hands as they fell forward. The man fell on his face while the woman kept a knee under her.
Justin could feel the tension in the room. He slowly pushed his hand forward and the image on the screen slowly zoomed in towards the fallen man. He was perhaps in his mid twenties wearing a jumpsuit of brown and blue. He was not moving. Justin’s eyes flickered to a smaller screen in a console in front of him which was showing the feed from camera five. An operator at station three was keeping camera five trained directly on the woman’s face. She was coughing and recovering from the explosion. With a flicker on his other hand that feed was now on the dominant screen. He panned it slightly so that both her face and her grip on man’s hand was in view. “Stand by audio two,” Justin said to the room. Behind him the lead audio engineer began typing at his console. Most of the rest of the room, in contrast, had their eyes glued to the screen.
The woman tugged at the man’s hand as she tried to wave away smoke from in front of her face. She opened her mouth to say something. “Audio,” Justin ordered.
“David,” the woman coughed and tugged on the man’s hand again. Justin switched to the wider view, framing both David and the woman, who also wore a jump suit like the man save that hers was red and gray. With his other hand he took direct control of camera five and manipulated it to zoom in on the woman’s face again. The was not making any attempt to stand up. “David?” the woman repeated, turning towards the fallen man, still on her knees.
“Clean the air!” Justin barked. More technicians began typing away at their consoles. Within a second the view of both of them was clear of the smoke from the explosion. The woman didn’t notice. She shifting her glances between the man’s head and the death grip he had on her hand while trying to shake him awake.
“David, get up. David!” the woman’s cry was far more urgent now. She spared a glance back in the direction of the explosion’s origin. On camera three the operator had a close up of the face down man but it didn’t tell Justin anything. Instead, he glanced at his own console which had to the side a vitals read out. Justin nodded to himself. He scanned the row of small monitors, looking for the prime shot.
“Sir! Camera one is operational again,” the operator at station one reported. Justin saw his smaller monitor of camera one flicker back to life. The static had been replaced with the exact image he was looking for. He waved one hand at the view of the two people and it vanished. A blasted landscape replaced them at the edge of which lay a humanoid robot, scorched and mostly in pieces, twitching. Justin let that image hang for several heart beats before he panned the camera slowly up. Several robotic legs, followed by torsos, arms, and heads, were revealed as they marched forward into view, obviously unmarred metallic skin gleaming in the dusk light. Their optic ports glowing a menacing red.
“Oh no. David, please no,” the woman’s voice was carrying over the speakers even as the view showed the relentless march of at least three more drones. Justin checked his monitors before flipping back to three for the wide view of the pair. The man was now on his side and the woman was touching his face with her free hand. Camera five had a good close up on his face. His eyes were closed and his lip and nose were bloody. He wasn’t responding to anything the woman said.
“Ready cut!” Justin called out. He kept one eye on the main screen, another on camera five, and yet another on camera one. Each time the woman glanced back over her shoulder, he switched to camera one and the relentless march. The woman had stopped pleading for David to wake up and was now just pulling on him and grunting. She showed muscle through her gray and red jumpsuit but she couldn’t bodily lift David. Each time Justin switched back the man’s grip on the woman’s hand was the focal point of the camera.
Time seemed to crawl for everybody in the room. Justin found he was holding his breath. The rest of the staff were leaning forward towards the main view screen or their own consoles. Then Justin’s console flashed a time warning. Justin let his left hand fall and camera five dominated the screen. David’s face filled the entire screen. “Boost audio!” Justin yelled as the side of the woman’s face appeared on the screen. She was leaning in close to press her lips to David’s. Justin’s hand slid to his console and he pressed a single button. David writhed suddenly, mid-kiss, and bucked. The woman gasped and the man’s eyes shot open. “Catherine!” he exclaimed.
“CUT!” Justin barked and the main engineer slapped their console. The main screen went gray and the audio of the two died. Catherine was saying something animatedly, pointing towards the direction of the robots, and tugging on David’s arm, who was now groggily standing up but most of the room was ignoring that. Instead there was applause and even a few cheers.
Justin, at the main chair in the center of the room, looked around the control station, grinned broadly, and raised a hand to acknowledge the applauds. “Thank you, thank you. Settle down. First things first. Post! I need a standard graying between sections four and five. See if you can add a slight hum or ringing. I also need player five a bit more on the pale side until the kiss. And let time slot six know player three has a romantic entanglement and they’ll want to piggy back our raw feed. We’ll all get some bonuses out of this, guys. Good job, all of you.”
The entire room was now abuzz with excitement and some more cheering. Operators stood up and stretched from their pods while engineers clustered to follow Justin’s last commands. From behind him came a quiet clearing of the throat. Justin turned to see a network assistant, out-of-place in her suit and heels. She also wore a not so out-of-place smirk, although most of her attention was still on the data pad she held in one manicured hand.
“Congratulations. The feeds are already reporting the highest viewership yet. Once those scenes past delay you’ll likely have shattered every reality television record for the last ten years,” the woman said. Her tone was cool but Justin could sense the admiration behind the mask.
Justin just smiled broadly and inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Anything for the viewership,” he said, waving to the screen where the pair were fleeing their robotic pursuers slowly. David was leaning on Catherine to support an obvious hurt leg. Terror was evident on both of their faces.
The assistant simply tapped her pad and the monitor turned off, sending the couple to another time slot room to handle. “Indeed,” she agreed. “Anything for the viewers.”