300 Word Writing Challenge #43 -- VICTORY TO THE JUDGE!

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JS Wiig

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Joined
Dec 23, 2020
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322
Location
SW WY
One Way Out

Cassandra’s pulse pounded as she raced from the village of the cannibal Mantis Tribe. Warriors were in hot pursuit, intent on reclaiming the stolen treasure she had (in fact) reclaimed from them. Out of the deep woods she burst, across a wide and grassy clearing. Behind, the war cries faded slightly as she put some distance between herself and the hangry primitives.

She skidded to a halt before the most frightening tangle of cobweb strewn thorny bushes she had ever seen. It reminded her of the terrible crawlspace under grandma’s house, where her big sister had made her retrieve lost balls and other misplaced playthings. She had yet to outgrow that childhood nightmare. Beyond, just at the edge of obscured sight, waited her shuttle, idling and ready to depart with the bounty.

I don’t think I can do this.

A poison-tipped blow dart whizzed past her head and changed her mind; she plunged headlong into the thicket. Thorns tore clothing and ripped flesh. She tried to keep her mouth shut tight, but panicked escape forced heavy breath through parted lips, quickly sticky with webbing. Thoughts of how many bugs plunged into her open shirt collar withered her iron wit.

Finally, she fought her way through to the other side. The warriors screamed—with luck cursing her tenacity and their unwillingness to follow. She spat and wiped clingy threads from her mouth, nose and eyes. A thousand tiny legs crawling under her shirt sent her sprinting to the shuttle where she dove into the open cargo door. Her partner Alex stood there, a clever smirk stretched across his face.

“Did you get it?” he asked.

“Yeah I got it, now get us the hell out of here!” she said, hysterically stripping clothes and smashing scattering spiders and insects under her boot.
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
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Feb 13, 2006
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7,657
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
Water World

The sign on the door read Government Emergency Advisory Committee.

The engineer glanced at his watch again and sighed. He knew they were in there. He could hear murmurings from the other side of the door. How much longer? He had important work to do.

Finally, it opened and an orderly beckoned him inside. The members of GEAC watched on as he was shown to an empty seat.

The chairman spoke. “We’re sorry to have kept you waiting. Thank you for attending. First, the committee would like to express their thanks to you for the work you have done on the canal network.”

The engineer beamed with pride. It had been his life’s work.

“However,” continued the chairman, “we’ve been meeting with meteorologists this morning. Knowing your commitment to the cause I don’t say this lightly, but they consider that the network will be insufficient.”

“What? They want more canals?”

“No. They think any number of canals would still be insufficient. Global warming is gathering pace. Regardless of what we do they think we have, at most, two to three hundred years before it’s too late.”

“So, I’ve been wasting my time?”

“Absolutely not. The global redistribution of water is vital. It’s given us the breathing space that we needed. But it can only ever be considered as a temporary solution. A stopgap. Further work on the network would be futile.”

“You’re pensioning me off?”

The chairman smiled. “Far from it. We require your skills elsewhere. What do you know about astronomy?”

“Astronomy? Nothing. I look up at the night sky every now and then, but it is of no particular interest to me.”

“Maybe that’s about to change. You must have noticed the blue planet?”

“Of course.”

“Good. We want you to build a gun. A big gun.”
 

Provincial

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Joined
Jun 18, 2020
Messages
374
Location
Colchester, Essex, UK
From the Jaws of Victory

Blenkinsop was keen to lead his team to victory in the inter-office paintball ladder. Accounts Receivable had been training all year in anticipation of the event, and it had paid off - they had trounced all the competition so far and reached the final.

The organiser, a senior management member with a twisted sense of humour and an evil glint in her eye, had decided to make the final something rather special. It was to be held in the real world, rather than on a dedicated range. She selected the Kennet and Avon Canal as the venue (all 87 miles of it) and the objective that both teams had to achieve was be first to set off a giant firework from the roof of the CEO’s canal boat, the Mr. Baggins - if they could find it.

Naturally, Blenkinsop cheated. He bugged the CEO’s phone to discover where the narrowboat was usually moored, then planted a tracking device on the vessel before it could be sailed to its hiding place. His sister was a helicopter pilot for the Royal Navy with a dodgy past, so he blackmailed her into tracking the vessel and flying his team to within a mile of Mr. Baggins’s new location on the day of the final.

They crouched low in the grass on the other side of the canal, studying the narrowboat carefully. The view was partly obscured by some giant, cobwebby thistles, but it was clear that the other team hadn’t arrived yet.

“Right lads, let’s go. The Cup is ours!” shouted Blenkinsop and the team rushed towards the vessel, waving their paint guns in the air and screaming like banshees.

They were still arguing about who would jump into the dirty water when the opposition arrived in their own boat.
 

G.T.

The Tain
Joined
Dec 30, 2020
Messages
84
Location
Erynnmor Plateau
The Commute

No one knew where they came from. One day, they were just there. Draped casually over everything, gossamer strands of white silk, but not silk. Not any known substance, in fact, though theories enough abounded. A climate related increase in spider production, a secretion by airborne insects and even the sap of various plants. Despite all of these, there was no consensus. The diaphanous threads had settled on everything and that wasn’t the worst of it.

You couldn’t move. They were stronger than spider webs, stronger than steel cable and they were everywhere. You tried to leave your house and got snagged on one and it held you in place unless you took off whatever they were caught on. The only thing they didn’t stick to was skin. Life became a chore of avoidance. Houses and roads, streets and fields covered in the stuff, except water, where they sank below the surface.

So we had to take to boats. Canals, once the arteries of industry became so again. In fact, flooding vast tracts of land became necessary, floating islands of residential accommodation were in demand, the wheels of industry depended on water again.

Of course, there were casualties in the billions. How could we feed so many from the water alone, with fields of crops gone to ruin and the only way to manage them was naked?

I’m heading south, back across the sea to the continent, following that long trek our ancestors took to get here. Leaving these cold northern lands for warmer climes. Going back to the beginning of everything, the cradle of humanity, where I won’t be stuck all day trying to get to work. I can’t do this anymore.

Somewhere it has to be hot enough to live with no clothes on all year, right?
 

reddishbird

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Joined
Mar 31, 2021
Messages
50
Hidden

Something stirs the mud beneath the hull, something lithe and strong. Boggins ignores the strange sounds it’s just the water or a sunken branch scraping something below. He turns up the lamp as the autumn twilight falls, unaware that something is clinging fast to the narrowboat.


Boggins scans his receipts, then looks out. Old Brandy is comfortably feeding on the tow-path, until he looks over his nosebag, shaking his mane. Boggins turns to go back below when Brandy suddenly rears, tearing out the loose rope pegged among the thistles that has held him each night for the last ten years.


‘Whoa, lad,’ Boggins says, clambering up and out of the stern. He reaches for the end of the rope but Brandy wheels, the whites of his eyes showing in the dusk, and gallops heavily off. Boggins runs a little way, then, wheezing, decides to give up. One of the other boatmen further along the canal will catch him, he reckons. Shaking his head, and wondering what has got into the old horse, he returns to the tiny stern and looks around. The light is failing fast but he glimpses something odd. The boat is lower in the water than it should be. He looks over the side, peering into the dark depths. Is something there? He peers harder in the dimming light. Yes there’s something … holding the boat down?


He looks up and along each bank. Surely someone else will pass soon? Here, where boats used to raft five deep is empty water. A shiver of unease tracks his spine. He grabs his coat, but before he can step off onto the towpath his leg is caught. The creature gurgles with pleasure, rippling its fins and opening its maw. Boggins’ scream, suddenly cut-off, goes unheard. The water reddens.
 

johnnyjet

Western PA High Tech Country Boy
Joined
Nov 11, 2011
Messages
1,603
Location
Pennsylvania
Signs of Empathy

Owen, Olivia, and their cousin Andrea found the abandoned vessel among dead trees and weeds deep in the woods behind the infertile fields of their farm.

Olivia said, "What is it?"

Owen said, "An alien spaceship I think."

"I wonder how long it's been here."

They circled a clump of thistles. Andrea forged ahead.

Olivia screamed.

Owen jumped back, tripped, and fell.

Andrea hurried back. "What happened?"

"Cobwebs. All over this…"

"Some kind of animal skeleton."

Owen stumbled back and examined the spider web encrusted shape. "No animal I know. I think it's an alien from that ship. Look. It's reaching out."

Andrea said, "Let's check out that ship."

They slowly circled the strange, silvery vessel. Olivia didn't get too close.

Andrea called from the opposite side, "I can't find a door. It's all windows, and you can't see through them either."

Olivia said, "We should head back."

Andrea pushed on a panel at the front of the vessel. With a startling hiss, it slid aside.

Olivia said, "Don't even think about going in there."

"I'll be careful."

She went in.

"Oh, you drive me crazy, cousin."

The siblings peeked inside. A shadow moved within the dimly lit interior.

"I hope that was Andrea."

Long minutes dragged by.

"Are you okay in there?"

They leaped back when the ship started vibrating. A green pole sprouted out of the top and rose like an antenna into the sky. It glowed brighter the higher it climbed.

All around them, the woods came to life with lush greenery, vibrant colors, and the cheery murmurings of animals. To their astonishment, even the odd skeleton shook off its cobwebs and began growing sinew and flesh.

Andrea popped out.

"Oops. Looks like I started something. I guess we'll be meeting our alien benefactor soon."
 

Daysman

Newfangled Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2018
Messages
537
Location
east of the crooked house, south of weddell wynd
Shortcut

Thing about being apprenticed to an immortal Mage is the eternal lack of urgency.

I'll be in my cups before I divine any significant magical skills from him. He's even slow when he's being nefarious...

Like last year… one bright and dewy morning, we visit the local canal to meet his daughter who's arriving from London by narrowboat. The boat's a beaut, got a proper 'roses and castles' paint job, but as it pulls close we slip past its glamour, and I find myself looking at an open decked barge hauling two tons of Italian marble.

I shout. "British Museum?"

"Not any more," his daughter replies, stepping off. She nudges me. "And we've a buyer, an Italian Prince at that."

"The authorities are searching lorries and trains heading to the coast," the Mage explains. "They'll not guess our route to the continent."

"Which is?" I enquire.

"The Netherton tunnel," he answers and jumps aboard. "Come on!"

Said tunnel is a three thousand yard cut through an English hillside. It takes a half day to get there, and a half hour to pass halfway through, which is where the boat's engine sputters and stops.

"We're here," the Mage announces.

I say nothing. He's clearly about to cast, and easily flustered during magical rituals.

I just watch and take note… let's just say, it involved an amulet.

So, there's an earthquake, a blinding light, falling debris, and the tunnel, it's different… a different tunnel.

We drift out into a flooded Renaissance cityscape.

"Venice?" I ask.

The Mage winces. He glances at his daughter.

She shakes her head. "It'll be weeks before we reach the buyer's estate." She looks at me and grins. "Didn't have any plans, did you?"

Five weeks it was before we ported back.

Yesterday, I found a grey hair.
 

Starbeast

Benevolent Galaxy Being
Joined
Mar 11, 2010
Messages
5,243
Location
Illinois
Drinks for the Thirsty, Graves for the Dead

From out of the west came a man on a horse whose name was Eastwood, I think.
He rode to a bar converted from a barge called Mr Boggins, for a drink.
Once inside, his eyes spied, Hobbits being hassled because of bigotry.
Outlaw vampires rousted them, like bees from a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Eastwood approached to make peace amidst the situation, because that was his thing.
He said, “These little ones aren’t worth the effort. Come, let me get you something.”
Count Lee was the gang leader. He proclaimed, “If you aren’t careful, you’ll be dead.”
Eastwood spat tobacco on Lee’s boot. With a blur of light, he removed the vampire’s head.
A green lightsaber hummed in Eastwood’s hand. He told the bartender to lock the door.
Within moments, the pub was filled with crud, blood, beer and gore.

As body parts were removed, a Hobbit stepped up to the Cowboy. “Thank you for defending us. My name is Toto. These are my friends, Styx, Rush and Ozzy.”

“They call me Eastwood”, said the tall thin, poncho-wearing man.

“May we buy you a drink?”

“I’ll have a…”

A bartender shouted, “We don’t serve their kind!”

Just behind the Hobbits, Baron Frankenstein replied, “Are you referring to me?”

Bartender pointed, “Your monster. Zombies have to wait outside.”

Eastwood addressed the Hobbits, “Let’s go someplace else for a drink. How about Mos Eisley?”

Ozzy spoke, “I don’t like that place. My friends don’t like it either.”

Rush suggested, “How about the Cracked Pot?”

Everyone agreed.

#

Eastwood ordered drinks, “Three pints of beer and I’ll have a Qui Gon Gin.”

“We only serve tea here. Today's special is Raspberry Pekoe and Bird of Paradise Tea,”

Eastwood decided, “Alright. Give my friends the Raspberry, and give me the Bird.”
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Jun 13, 2006
Messages
6,366
View For Those Left Behind
(For Nix)


The world was once a wonderful place full of sharpness and colour. It was so clear, almost perfect. A longboat on clear sparkling waters of a canal, the towpath cut through the verge by the shuffling feet of time, the boatmen of old to holidaymakers a visible representation of lifetimes. Hedgerow’s colour filled, every wildflower blazing with the height of the season, while a blue sky and golden sun beamed down. And the boat, painted in red and yellow, stretching its incredible length, the windows reflecting the light, concealing within, but no more or less; something warm and welcoming: home.

When the cobwebs began to infringe it was not something to be noticed, another marvel of nature materialising. Silver strands that were nearly invisible until they caught the light or glistened with the morning dew. But they were there and inevitably grew.

That perfect image degraded, like cataracts across the eyes the density of silk increased. Everything was still there, as it had always been, but it could not be seen in the same way. The edges degraded, the colours lost some of their vibrance, the sharpness faded.

With time it progressed, inevitable. Not noticeable for days, then suddenly the encroachment increased. The aperture narrowing, less to view and what could be seen was degraded, blurred as though all that had been being obscured by mist and all the wonder was an indistinct shadow.

But…

The impairment was only a curtain drawn, cutting off one side from the other. It might not be visible, but it was there.

The longboat still floated on its dappled river of sunlight, its colours as rich and vibrant as they had ever been, birdsong still filled the air. Wonder and beauty remained. And one day would be seen again.

Home.
 

Bren G

Well-Known Member
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Joined
Mar 20, 2020
Messages
295
Upon a Sweet Whisper : A Tale of Thistle and Rose

I remember the day of my death. It had started with a dream of fire and brimstone, and writhing bodies upon the riverbank. Nearby, a channel boat, belonging to a Mr. Buggins of Edinburgh, wound its way downriver beside the conflagration, silent and foreboding. As if a dire secret were locked within its hold. I saw all this through knots of thistles and purple blooms. And so too bloomed a rose of brilliant red, but not for long, as thick brambles groped outward and choked it clean from its roots.

I remember the guard’s voice that woke me from that dream.

“This one’s defective. It sees the past,” he said to his mate. “Damn Bugs want Future-Seers only now. Let’s get ‘im to the gas chamber.”

How I struggled against my restraints as they wheeled me to my death! Such dread I hadn’t felt since the plague killed almost everyone and cursed me and others with the horrid visions. Only later did I decipher the dream, that the virus wound down the river Esk, through those little boats that serviced the towns and villages. Only later would I know, that the Scottish gave those deceitful Bugs safe harbour and unknowingly sealed England’s fate.

“Untie him,” the guard had barked. He approached the chamber doors, nodding to yet another guard who too escorted a prisoner. We waited to let them pass.

To my surprise, the inmate leaned in and sweetly whispered in my ear, before whirling around, and wresting a pistol from my careless attendant. The ensuing melee took but seconds before shots rang and all lay dead at my feet. I rose unencumbered, waltzed toward the exit, light, cheery and whistling without worry. With good reason too.

For upon a sweet whisper, I had learned, I wouldn’t die that day.
 

sule

"What I do is me: for that I came."
Joined
Feb 14, 2020
Messages
282
"Even the weariest river..."

The boat was too busy navigating its cigarette-thin body between abandoned vessels to notice the world outside its water. Its computer brain plotted the course and executed it, and the man who sat in the prow, sat silently as they passed through the dead city.

Noah dreamed in explosions, of light blossoming across the horizon. The waking world's noises were clear water washing against metal and the boat's warbling singing as it cleaned the interior of the cabin. He watched the sun glister off broken buildings and studied the shadows of men that had been etched into concrete history by overpowering heat. He whispered the fragment of a thought.

"Here where the world is quiet..."

The boat's automated ears heard him, and its musical voice picked up where he lapsed into silence.

"Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds' and spent waves' riot
In doubtful dreams of dreams;"

As it continued, Noah's mind drifted to distant summer evenings: of pouring two glasses of wine, then a glass of milk for a girl who refused to sleep unless rocked gently by the waves as those words washed over her. He recalled a woman who teased him about their daughter's taste in poetry.

He'd survived. Dumb luck: A teacher's conference up north. He'd wanted to take the slow way through quiet canals, enjoy some solitude. When the bombs dropped, he returned to find more solitude than he could ever want.

The boat's silver-smooth screen flashed, displaying an updated route. By sunset he would reach the sea.

Then go where? Noah wondered. What was left?

"Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night."

The boat's balance calibration was upset briefly before it adjusted to the change in weight and continued to its preselected destination, moving slowly through a silent world.
 

chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
Staff member
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
7,396
Location
West Sussex
The Other Bank


Motor silent, windows dark, not an extra ripple on the canal's surface, no window faces. They're moored.

Cycling the towpath we all knew that they'd moored at a path leading up to a pub or eatery. Scenic boat hire operators are as predictable as pub owners. or the spiders tenting the thistle heads.

Pity the pub path was from the opposite bank - another way all canal boat tour organisers resemble is their 'relaxed' view of security - if you lock the boat down while transporting a boatload liggers, at least one of them's going to forget something, and you'll have to accompany him/her to collect it. Can't give them the keys, tourists - bound to lose them. And what's worth stealing?

So we collect souvenirs. Not theft, nothing valuable (and since the affair with the inhaler, not medical) Trophies.

True knights of the countryside, silent and fume-free, encouraging birdsong, otters and voles.

Meanwhile Mike, poser, had got out his GPS smartphone, and found out where we were, and which way up. "Hey, there's lock gate no distance from here."

While a lock gate only needs to block water or let it flow, many of them have systems for crossing - cat walks, primitive - this was one of these, and I was volunteered to cross. The other side of the canal - no, maybe this side is more accurate - had no path, arable and willow drooping in the water.

After bramble-wading what felt much further than pedalling the other direction I almost leapt onto the gangplank, only noticing that the craft didn't bob because I was looking at my ruined sneakers.

It's a fake, not even wood, woven - a trap. And I've fallen. Good joke, spiders, hope the rest of them don't come looking for me.

Spiders larder store their food, don't they?
 

therapist

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
Messages
114
I'll keep you alive

My angel-fern was dying. It perched atop my cottage windowsill, its fronds browned and wilted. ‘Don’t worry my Angel, I’ll keep you alive.’
I hesitated before pouring the magic elixir into the soil. It was designed for people—people with consciences.

***​

When I awoke I couldn’t move. There was a crawling sensation spreading through my body. I made to lift a hand, to shake my head, to call out—but my body lay beyond the mind’s reach. I was paralyzed.
What is wrong with me?

Nothing’s wrong
. A calm voice answered in my mind.

Who are you? What have you done?!

I am your Angel. I found nutrients. Look how healthy I am!


My eyes were opened but I wish I could’ve closed them again.
Angel loomed full and healthy on the windowsill. The base of its pot was cracked open and a thick curtain of roots had spilled out. They had snaked onto my bed, over my body. I saw them creeping into mouth and nose, sensed them tunneling through my ears. Some were burrowing beneath my eyeballs.
Suddenly I felt all if it. Every stabbing tendril that was worming into my flesh.
I thrashed against the confines of my mind. But all I could do was watch, cocooned in silent terror.

Take me Outside.

My body reacted to its demand, I had no say in the matter. I bundled our connecting roots and carried Angel out to our quiet meadow.

Why are you doing this?

I like nutrients.

It hurts. Please stop.
But I knew it wouldn’t. All I could hope for was death.

Plant me here.

A hole was dug atop the riverbank and the fern placed inside.

Now plant yourself.

I watched my body dig its own grave.

Don’t worry, I will keep you alive.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
4,957
Location
Edinburgh
The Honourable Society of Transcendental Boatmen

The young man flashed his pistol at me. Why did I walk home alone on a dark towpath? Mugged by a desperado.

Out of nowhere: “Oi! young scallywag!”

A sea dog on the river, one hand on the tiller of his houseboat, the other holding a shotgun.

“Scram!” My startled mugger vanished into the gloom. Thanking the boatman I asked how I could repay his help.

“I was heading to the Griffin, down river. A drink?” I hesitated, realising he had a gun. “Don’t worry.” Cracking it open. “Not loaded!”

~​

The Griffin and Mandrake pub was convivial inside, old-fashioned English, yet odd. Pointing out an alcove he said, “My spot. Rum’s my poison.” I returned with drinks. He then said, “Now, I’d ask the regulars, but seeing as you are here. What year is it?”

He gave me numerous questions about events occurring, finally asking, “Was there a Falklands war in 1982?” Of course there was, I replied! Then I asked, why the quiz?

“You know about ley lines, no? Powerful lines of energy that straddle the land. This pub is on the intersection of four, making it a special place in all worlds.”

I had to ask. Worlds?

“See, a few centuries ago, James Watt invented his transcendental steam engine. It uses ley power to allow travel in the multiverse. Canals were built along the main ley lines.” He smiled with pride. “I am a member of the honourable society of transcendental boatmen, who sail these worlds. Gotta know which world I’m in now!”

Preposterous of course! A while later we left the pub. He asked “I forgot to ask. Who won the Falklands?”

I attempted an English accent, “Greater Argentina won, old chap.” The boatman smiled and gave me a cheery wave goodnight.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
12,956
Location
nearly the New Forest
The Land of Lost Content
She stands at the towpath’s edge, the fog thickening about her, greyness everywhere. She’s so tired, so ground down by life. Peace beckons from the swirling depths.
Whistling breaks the grey silence. A tune. Memory.
A boat slips through the mist. NORAH C, she reads. The whistling stops; the boatman holds out his hand.
Before she can think, she takes his hand and steps onto the boat which glides serenely on.
Books lie around. Proust. Housman.
“I’ve not read poetry in years,” she says. “No time. For anything.”
Then all her despair floods out. The treadmill of work, of life. The bills, the pressures, the strain, the arguments. Trying to have it all. Wanting to end it all.
The fog begins to lift. Her heart lifts, too. Swans make their way past, a thrush sings, and she’s suddenly aware of the beauty around her. The impossible beauty, for they’re gliding past the Backs, a hundred and fifty miles from the towpath in Shropshire.
Then she sees her, in the shadows. Sees herself, a young girl amid flowers. And Charles, reading aloud. Love sparkles in the air. She’s forgotten how young they were. How inexpressibly happy.
“Am I dreaming?”
The boatman doesn’t answer, but the boat stops. She steps out onto the lawns. As she watches her young self, she remembers who she was, who they were, and could be again.
She turns back to the boat; sees its name, backwards.
“Am I dead?”
The boatman doesn’t answer, but the boat moves off.
“Madeleine!”
She turns. The Backs are gone. She’s on the towpath, Charles rushing towards her.
“Maddie, thank God.” He holds her tight. “When you left like that. I was so worried.”
“I went in search of a lost land, lost time.”
And behind her, the boatman whistles Memory.
 

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
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Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
1,134
Location
The Netherlands
Mr Boggings

No one had ever seen Mr Boggings. As a kid Alfred had asked everyone. Yet for decades a narrowboat bearing that name made its yearly rounds through the canals, passing locks and villages, punctual as a clockwork. Some people doubted Mr Boggins was real. But than who navigated the boat and who controlled the minions, perhaps best described as automated puppets. That had boggled Alfred’s mind.
It were the minions that did all the bargaining and made the deals, deals that never disappointed. They would descend into the hold and, no matter what you had requested, returned with just the right thing. The hold of that boat must run unimaginable deep, Alfred thought. But if that were so, how could it have passed through all the locks?
He never found out. Over the years the canals had become obsolete. Locks fell in disrepair, never to swing open again.

Growing older, Alfred distrusted his own memories and discarded them as childish fantasies. Once retired, he embraced hiking and set himself to chart all the derelict canals. It was on such a hike, along a dammed up section, that he encountered a sight he instantly recognized. There, colourful and pristine as ever, was Mr. Boggings.
Alfred froze, mouth agape.
A minion on the deck raised its hand. “Hello, Alfred,” it called, “Looking for Asterix and the Goths, 1st edition 1963, we hear. I believe Mr Boggings may have just that in store. Interested?”
Alfred was unable to answer, but the minion nodded knowingly and disappeared inside, to re-emerge only moments later. “Here, free of charge, Mr Boggings says. For old times sake.”
Dazed Alfred continued his walk, clutching his comic-book, then realised he still didn’t know whether Mr Boggings actually existed. He looked back, but the canal was deserted.
 

Abernovo

Transcontinental intergalactic tea drinker
Supporter
Joined
Sep 13, 2011
Messages
3,345
Location
Offices on Earth, Haumea, and at Galactic Core.
Continuing the Traditions


The big, corporate vessels were grey, or block colours, names emblazoned in big letters, mostly including the company name. The Zon Hercules, for instance, a huge, bulk carrier with no personality, and a revolving crew.

Not us. The 'Wee Boats' make our way between the various orbital stations, sticking to the small trade channels, of course. And, we have no corporate logos, no big companies behind us. So, we have freedom. We inherited the honour of bringing our little ships to life. Greens, reds, browns, and occasional yellow and blues.

Our little vessel, the Dumbarton Castle is just one small transport, but we bring the important things. Martian jerky, and gin, to the asteroid miners. Handmade jewellery, from off-cut ore, is popular on Io Platform. We also decided to paint the bows with roses and thorns. Roses, because the Castle's a pretty ship, but thorns because we're not to be taken advantage of.

Most of all, this is our home. Me, my wife, our son. But, also my mother-in-law (she's really nice), and my wife's little brother. This is the crew. Not my crew, even if I am the nominal captain. The crew. It's our home; it's our business; it's our place in the vast nothingness of space.

Amina came up behind me and wrapped her arms around my waist. "Màiri, my love?"

"What do you want?" I laughed as I turned.

"Could we stop off at Jupiter Station Prime on the way back? It's only two weeks out of our way."

"I suppose so. We can stock up, as well. Any reason, in particular?"

She blushed. "It worked. I'm going to need a check-up, as I'll be ten weeks gone by then."

And, so, our community grows. We'll need to pick up more work, but that's okay.
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
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Why Do They Keep Doing It?

Our uninvited guests might have the purest morals or none; they may want nothing from us or everything.
We don’t care if the outcome of what they do is bad for them; we don’t care if they wish a good outcome for us. All we know is that they arrive and what follows is inevitable, driven by the sort of people they are.
The “Bad” see our way of life and want what delivers it for themselves. They’d take our world apart if that’s what it took to get at it. This doesn’t do them any good. Eventually, they give up or begin running out of their own resources, forced to look elsewhere or remain trapped with us.
The “Good” tend to see us as inward-looking and soulless, devoted to our pleasures, listless victims of our own lack of morals and concern for others. If anything, the most “Good” are more tenacious than the worst “Bad”. Their key resources are their rectitude, sincerity and generosity. They know we need improving, that we’ll be better for it, that we’ll see the light. Eventually, the ones who remain sane enough turn their attentions to the woes of their less fortunate companions and take them away “before it’s too late.”
Why do we put up with any of them barging in? Why are we so passive?
For one thing, there’s little we can do about them. Or, to put it another way, there’s far too much we could do.
Consider who it is that can live extravagantly well on planets with very few resources. Why would anyone seek out such worlds at all?
We are, of course, retired gods, still with complete power over others but, whatever our personal morals, beings who have sworn not to wield that power.
 
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Ursa major

Bearly Believable
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