Sunday, May 24, 2009

Break

As I warned before, I'm taking a short break for the end of May and possibly a few days into June. I'm gonna be moving, but more importantly, writing's been a major struggle lately. I've been stressing over a lot of things and gradually growing more and more depressed about them as well. I have no job, and it looks like I have to live with my mother and brother for at least the next two months, which feels like a huge step back for me. My life for the past few months has been largely composed of oversleeping, writing, and trying to prepare stuff for games that frequently got aborted. I have not been enjoying that life. I just need a little time off from it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Short breaks

There won't be anything posted for Saturday or Sunday. My sister is graduating from college this weekend, and with the long trip down and back up, this weekend is going to be pretty much a bust for writing. Another break may be appearing at the end of the month and beginning of next month, possibly up to two weeks long at the absolute worst, as I'll be moving and will have to arrange to get the internet hooked up wherever I end up.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hollow Earth, Introductions, 662 words

The old man was nuttier than a sack full of crazy, but that didn’t stop him from having a solid plan. Or solid money, for that matter. So when he told us he wanted to send a crew to explore the inner secrets of the Earth, that the whole planet was hollow and filled with countless societies of monsters and ancient masters of the world, I resolved to keep my mouth shut until after the check cleared. If it bounced, I’d tell him exactly what I thought of his screwball plan. If it went through? Well, then… Down the rabbit hole, Dorothy.

The old man in question was one Bartholomew Mainsbridge, who came from an old English pedigree so pure that one had to suspect some of the branches on the family tree had folded back in on themselves. So old money that there were probably gold solidi in the family vaults, leftover from the Roman occupation of the British Isles. Technically he was Lord Something-or-other, but his title meant nothing to any of us gathered before him.

Six of us stood in the room, other than old Mainsbridge. The oldest of us, and standing alone off to the side, was a middle-aged lady who had introduced herself simply as Gail. She wore a heavy sweater and jeans, and had her graying brown hair drawn back in a ponytail. Near her was a dark-haired, slender young man, who couldn’t be older than twenty-three, named Sam. Supposedly, he was Gail’s nephew. He also kept his last name to himself.

Standing on the other side of me from Sam was my partner, Darrin Rey. We’d worked together for years, guiding rich idiots through whatever bits of wilderness they could purchase permission to wander through. Mostly we’d worked in Africa and Southeast Asia, though political instability gradually made both regions of the world unpalatable to the two of us. We preferred our danger on four legs and unlikely to bear a rifle. We’d met up in high school in a dinky town in northern California, and the first thing we found we agreed upon was that the both of us had a low boredom threshold. We’re lucky that most of the crap we got up to, we did while we were still minors.

Last but not least came the geologist and the medic. The medic was a tiny black woman who moved like a panther, named Bran Simon. She had that almost unnatural grace and fluidity to her movements that came from being very adept in some martial art. Bran also knew how to stitch a person back together after taking them apart, so it was obvious why she was here. The geologist, though?

While she looked like she could handle herself in a brawl, with a big, broad-shouldered build, I honestly couldn’t say why we should feel the need for a geologist along on the journey. Sure, we’d be heading deep underground, if we went, but I didn’t know why we’d need to know what the rock all around us was made of. I couldn’t keep myself from thinking that she was cute, though, in that “I’m bigger and stronger than you and could probably snap you in half over my knee” way. Call me a sucker for strong women. Caitlin Thompson was her name, and she always had half a smile on her freckled face. It actually got kind of disconcerting after a while.

And me? I’m Alec Gray. Like I said before, I’ve got a low threshold for boredom and have spent the last decade or so running all over the world as a professional adventurer with my pal Darrin. I was there as much because, if old Mainsbridge was even half right, this would be the adventure of a lifetime. The paycheck would be nice, of course, but I was really hoping that we’d find something worth the time and effort. Something nobody else had seen for a long, long time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Siege of Tokyo, pt. 2, 467 words

Their first military appearance outside of North America was in, of all places, Australia. Nobody knew how they got there. All passage out of the Contaminated Zone – the new official name for Denver and its environs – was neutralized, or so we’d thought. No flights made it out, and the region had been ringed with men and materiel in a larger force commitment than Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the height of the War on Terror. Spy satellites watched movement in and around the CZ as if it was the Cold War all over again.

Yet somehow, a significant force got out, more than mere sleeper agents could account for. The only anomaly in activity at the time was a huge spike in power consumption, detectable mainly by thermal imaging of the power plants caught in the CZ. They went into dangerously high outputs in the few days shortly before the Australian incursion.

Their first appearance was near Ayers Rock, reported by those who escaped to the nearby town of Alice Springs before it, too, was overrun. Eventually, a sizable portion of central Australia was overtaken. The Australian Army surrounded the region, but the invaders didn’t budge from their position. Spy satellites and reconnaissance flights showed a massive metal shell being built up around Ayers Rock within days, with no signs of either the equipment or the materials necessary for its construction. Within a week, Ayers Rock became the center of a new Contaminated Zone, while the invaders held back every attempt to dent their lines.

Once Ayers Rock was secured, the invaders went into overdrive. The North American Contaminated Zone expanded outwards in a sudden burst of frenzied activity and battle, finally encompassing the entire state of Colorado and carving chunks out of the surrounding states. New forms appeared, invaders that resembled nothing seen naturally on Earth. Most prevalent after the humanoids came a line of massive, six-legged creatures twice the size of adult tigers. They struck swiftly and mercilessly, used to make huge gains in short amounts of time as they plowed through the perimeter around the NACZ and tore up whole units of American soldiers.

After the giant six-legged warforms came the walking gunpods, which skittered across the ground on their three legs and dug in deep when they came to their designated place. They settled into the ground and then opened fire on anything non-invader that came nearby. They never seemed to run out of ammunition, and whatever their shells were composed of, they were resistant to anything less than high explosives. Conventional arms had no hope, and their range made most man-portable anti-tank and RPG weapons untenable. They had the range of high-end sniper rifles, but could fire at the rate of a fully automatic machine gun. They made the perfect perimeter guards.