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  …Priscilla.

  I will keep you safe.

  I will keep you company.

  Do you remember all those years ago – when we first met? I remember it perfectly. I was so very close. So very, very close to my last shred of sanity snipping. And then I saw a peculiar little girl in white dress – you. Your left hand was occupied by a tattered doll. Your right was wet from wiping your tears. Your eyes began to water again, but I caught it for you that time. I still had a shred of humanity left, gnawing at my heart's strings to care for you, to pity, and to comfort. You were scared by my face, but I mustered a smile, and told you not to fear. You told me that you were lonely, that you were unloved.

  And from that point on, I never left your side.

  Do you remember all those years ago – when I saved your life? I remember it perfectly. The cursed fellow had threatened you, and I had intervened. You were bigger, but still, I needed to protect you. He chased you up the tower, calling you a monster, saying you needed to disappear. And then he drew his rapier. I had never moved faster in my life than I did grabbing that awful man by the brim of his ebony vestment. I had never acted as instinctively as I led him to the window. I had never whispered as softly as I did to you of reassuring, and to him of the pain of death. I had never been more deafened than by his scream as I cast him away.

  Take away upon your black wings, bishop, for your mistress commands it.

 Do you remember all those years ago – when you saw my face for the first time? I remember it perfectly. Soul of black I had retrieved, and offered it to the gentle flame I did. My flesh was deep and wrinkled no more. I turned to you, and you seemed shocked at my form. You were my height, and we were both exceedingly young. I could even remember a flicker of attraction…but no. I refused desire. My love for you was of parent to child, or of sibling to sister. And it was good that I refused, for you grew, oh so very fast. Soon, you towered above me, and regardless, I still guarded you with my life.

  I made a promise to you, Priscilla. I promised that I would never let you see darkness.

  Do you remember that short time ago – when the people gathered? I remember it perfectly. Ariamis gathered, and desired your pure blood. How shocked I was. How scared you were. They hurried to the theatre, where you and I often met. How ready I was. How well-hid you were. The crowd broke through, and I met them head-on. How ravenous I was. How aghast you were. Ariamis fell to my feet. How alive I was. How frightened you were. After I finished, I ran to you, and embraced you.

  I fell the entire city as the ax man does the forest. I was invincible.

  You would be safe forever.

  Do you remember that short time ago – when I found the red rock? I remember it perfectly. I had slain anyone that came near you. Everyone was a threat, as everyone was present at the theatre that fateful night. And then you began to cry, for you were lonely again. I did everything I could to comfort you. Yet you ran from me, from your sole friend, terrified. So I brought new friends. I tempted those with Lifedrain to pursue me, as their master tempted them with the very art they wielded. I brought many new friends for you to meet.

  I will do anything in my power to keep you safe, Priscilla.

  Do you remember the fall of Ariamis? I remember it perfectly. The city crumbled under the assault of the Crimson Ones. All through the onslaught, you sought me. You found me in the theatre, and I greeted you merrily. But then you turned your blade on me. Your beautiful scythe sliced the air beside my head flawlessly. I was blank. My only friend wanted me dead. I begged you to stop as I evaded cut after cut. You screamed at me, calling me a monster. You claimed I was nicer when I looked to be a monster. You called all humans monsters. And then I held my weapon to receive a blow from the elegant scythe.

  And that was perhaps the greatest mistake I ever made.

  Your immense size…It threw me an admirable distance.

  And then, you hooked your foot under my torso, and threw me off the edge with it.

  When I finally landed, tears fell from my eyes as I felt my body fade, and the fiery ring burn brighter…

  …I am back, Priscilla. I have come to fulfill my promise to you…

  …As long as it is within my power...

  …You will never see the Age of Dark…

  …My dear friend.
A short story about the Painted World of Ariamis, and it's fascinating inhabitant, Crossbreed Priscilla.

I say "fascinating" because unlike other bosses in Dark Souls, Priscilla lets you walk away without a scratch, only if you return the favor. Therefore, I made a little connection to the character and Priscilla.

*NOTE: This is in no way real Lore. Only a theory that was expanded into a writing.*
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Don't be offended at the title. "Teenagers" is just my way of saying "people who write unprofessional/shallow stories." Not all teenagers write shallow stories, it just sounds catchier.... Anyway.

The first thing I want to make clear is: I'm not talking about anything mechanical in this deviation. Grammar/spelling is important (obviously), but that point has been beaten to death by people on the internet already. My purpose, as always, is to talk about the stories themselves, regardless of the way they are communicated. Whether it be through written word or on-the-spot narration, I believe there are certain tricks to telling good stories. Not rules, mind you. Tricks.

I don't believe that telling good stories is about what you "should" do, rather than what you shouldn't. Example: people generally hate Mary Sues, right? Well, sometimes I notice things that are "like" Mary Sues, in the sense that they're equally as shallow/unprofessional ways of telling stories. The purpose of this deviation is to point them out. I won't be talking about Mary Sues or self inserts in this deviation. This is about things that tend to go more unnoticed (I already have deviations about those anyway).

1. Thinking that "most" = best

Sometimes people who write think they're making "the best story ever," because it's the MOST dramatic, MOST dark, MOST romantic MOST (insert your choice of adjective here). Having the most of something doesn't equate to it being the best. Think of it like salt.

2. Unbalance

Do you ever read a story, and it feels like there was a big hole in it? Maybe it was a tragedy that focused on nothing but tragic events. The author got carried away in their emotions and didn't create a well-rounded world for us to care about while the sad things take place. Sure, sad things are sad, but that is no accomplishment of the author. It would be MORE sad if the audience had a well-created world to be sad about in the first place.
In fanfiction, the writers have the advantage of writing about something that people already care about. That's how a lot of people with barely any imagination can get so many people to like their fanfiction stories. "Hey! Let's take the Once-ler and find a way to drench him in blood! It sure took talent to think of that!"
Never judge someone's imagination by how popular their fanfiction is. Never...

3. Narcissism

Sometimes people consider themselves to be a certain way. They write certain genres or about certain themes for the sake of adding to their self-proclaimed image. They use their stories as stepping stones (a lot of times without even realizing it) to show off in front of other people. A lot of times it's in the little things, strategically placed to look innocent or humble. "The woman shook her head in admiration at *insert-person-that's-supposed-to-be-like-them's-name.* 'That girl sure is *insert-their-choice-of-adjective!* We may never understand her!"

4. Abusing character roles (sort of a Part 2 of Narcissism)

I want you to think about Belle from Beauty in the Beast for a minute (the Disney version). If you're familiar with it, think of the song sung by the villagers about her in the beginning. Has anyone else ever noticed something...odd about it? The villagers are singing about how different (or "weird") she is, all because she reads books and acts like... well, the average girl you'd meet every day on DeviantArt. Meanwhile, if you met one of those villagers in real life, you'd probably think of THEM as the strange ones (first of all, they're abnormally nosy, all bothering to sing a big song about a perfectly normal girl whose personal life they REALLY bothered to have apparently looked so much into... o_O).
Okay. I understand that can be a strategy in story telling (using the background to add to the general effect of a certain thing... i.e Belle wanting a break from her boring life).
I bring this up however, mostly as a warning. I don't know how...um... healthy it is, that a lot of teenager girls these days really seem to think they're sooo great that they write stories about themselves and use other people as tools to look good. They make people (sometimes fake, sometimes real) in their stories impressed far too easily by themselves (or certain things) sometimes to the point even of contradiction. It falls into the same attitude as the narcissism example.
Sometimes it goes beyond, "Oh, a cute little Disney story," and gets really narcissistic and vain.
A story will suffer if it's written for anything besides the pure pleasure of writing it. Ulterior motives distract from making it the best it possibly can be. Not to mention, nobody likes being used as an audience for people who can't stop shining the spotlight on themselves. (It needed to be said).
Furthermore, Disney movies are corny. It's a fact. That's why we like them. The point is simple: if you are writing a CORNY story, feel free to use their little trick of making the whole world conform to one character/theme (heck, make everyone burst into song about them!) If you're NOT writing a corny story, avoid it at all costs. It's a cheap trick, and it's no substitute for actually making there be something special about whatever character/thing you're trying to make something special about.

Fun fact: "Bully" characters are possibly the biggest form of abuse to story-telling. This can be in the form of a snooty, popular girl at school who picks on the main-character we're supposed to feel sorry for, or in the form of unreasonably/obsessively cruel bullies who are far from even borderline realistic. They're the classic example of cheating in a story; the cheapest way to make other characters seem special or victim-ly.



5. Pretty feelings

Did you ever put on an Owl City song while you were writing/drawing and think something like: Lalalalalala, beautifulness, and the dreams and the beautifullness of the wonderful outerspace, flying through the sky and the shooting stars lalala!
Yeah, we could tell.
No, seriously, it's fine to get your inspiration from wherever you want. Just make sure that while you're getting all into the music that you don't let the emotions that the song brings you be your only guide.
Sometimes people get REALLY excited about their characters or a story they're making up and draw all this beautiful art of it, and you're like, "Hey! That's an amazing picture of the main character on a shooting star! So... when can I read this?!" Then you see the story, and think, "...this is it?"
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your emotions are the story. A lot of people who listen to music while they write make this mistake, though that isn't to say that listening to music when you write is always automatically bad.



To conclude this, there's really only one thing I want to say. Write because you like to. Write about things you like no matter what they are and force them to fit together. Write about things that you like and wouldn't be too ashamed to show your friends or family. Odds are, if you're too embarrassed to show it to the people you know best, it's not coming from the heart. I don't mean "your emotions" as your heart. It's not really YOU if it's something you're embarrassed of. Embarrassment can be a sign that you know deep down your story might be a wee bit... well, stupid.
And then there are the people with no dignity.......

I love feedback. If anyone has anything interesting to add, I'd be glad to hear!
See my other posts about writing:
How Not to tell a Story makingfunofstuff.deviantart.co…
What really defines Mary Sue makingfunofstuff.deviantart.co…
A list of cliches in story-telling makingfunofstuff.deviantart.co…
Common problems with self-inserts makingfunofstuff.deviantart.co…
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The Empty Child

I hide
I hear everything too loudly
I am falling apart
I grew up too fast
I am still a child
I cannot stand still
I see every detail
I panic
I cannot remember what I'm doing
I talk about dinosaurs and doctors and darkrooms
I cry for no reason
I do not have the ability to cry now
I see the world differently
I wish you saw it like me
I have a puzzle to put together
I wonder if you'll help me
I hear a song and must sing it
I see a picture and must take it
I see a world, a broken world
I want to fix that, too
I want to play
I need to work
I close my eyes and fall asleep
I remember everything
I forget my head
I stand in blue light
I see the world in shades of blue
I am lost
I have been waiting for you
I am the empty child
Are you my mommy?
Another poem, this one about my life with autism.

UPDATE: As of 10/20/12, this is my most favorited piece! Thanks everyone!
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Luffy vs. Popeye by Dimension-Dino

Ray: Alright, the combatants are set. Let’s settle this debate once and for all.

Steel: It’s time for a DEATH BATTLE!!!

--

All was calm as a massive galleon cruised across the ocean's surface, its lion-head bowsprit and straw-hat wearing Jolly Roger noticeable anywhere. From its deck, one could hear merry music from a fiddle, and the members of the crew either singing or dancing along to it.

Joining them in the festivities was the captain of this ship known to all as "Thousand Sunny". That captain was none other than the famed Straw-Hat Luffy.

The song came to an end and the skeletal fiddler took a bow, his art complete. If he had a proper face, he would have smiled at the cheers.

“WOW!” Luffy said with a broad smile, “Play it again!”

Yet as the crew celebrated, a simple-looking steamboat was coming across their path up ahead. At first, the crew paid no mind to it. That all changed because, just when the skeleton was about to draw his bow across the strings of his instrument, another tune cut across him, catching the immediate attention of the ship's captain.

The song in the distance sounded a little something like this...

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Popeye the Sailor Man
I'm strong to the finich,
‘cause I eats me spinach
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man

I'm one tough Gazookus, which hates all Palookas.
Wot ain't on the up and square.
I biffs 'em and buffs 'em and always out roughs 'em
but none of 'em gets nowhere.

If anyone dares-es to risk me fist,
It's "Boff" an' it's "Wham" un'erstan'?
So keep "Good Be-hav-or", That's your one life saver
With Popeye the Sailor Man.

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm strong to the finich,
‘cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!


Luffy growled in frustration. Not only did he not like the music (for reasons beyond even the most brilliant mind in the world), but it had cut off a perfectly good song from Brook.

“HEY!” Luffy shouted, hoping the owner of the boat would hear him, “You’re interrupting our music!”

On receiving no response, Luffy was prepared to put an end to it personally. One of his crew, a gorgeous redheaded woman, seemed to sense this.

“Oh no,” Nami said, shaking her head furiously, “Don’t even think about it. Just leave the ship alone, it’s not even attacking or bothering us!”

Too late. Luffy had pulled back a fist and sent it rocketing at the ship, creating a massive hole in its side. It slowed and then slowly began to sink.

On the sinking ship’s deck, the man singing the song was not amused. His surprisingly-twisted face twisted even more as he looked around for what had caused his vessel damage. Popeye squinted and then spotted it: a massive galleon, the only one around for miles.

“Why those no good, stinkin’ pirates! I needs to teach ‘em a lesson they won’ts forget!” Popeye growled, then dove into the sea and swam towards the ship.

Back on the Thousand Sunny, Luffy nodded with satisfaction. “Good. I hated those guys.”

“Wha?! You didn’t even know them!” Nami snapped, trying not to scream at her captain. Sometimes what went through his mind was beyond any of his crew.

Something tapped him on the shoulder and Luffy turned around…only to have a fist nail him in the chin. The resulting impact sent him careening into the air and he sailed in a massive arc to land with a “thud” and a dust cloud on an island off in the distance.

“Don’t get yer hopes up, kid, ‘cuz I ain’t through with ya!” Popeye added, then dove back into the sea and swam after him.

Nami was shocked at what she had seen. She had been through some crazy stuff, but this was new even to her.

(meanwhile…)

Luffy pulled himself out of the sandy shore of the island and looked around. “Where am I? And what just happened? Last thing I remember is this fist coming into my face…”

“Hey! You!”

Luffy turned to see Popeye storming towards him, stopping a few yards away, his fists clenched. Not quite sure what to make of this guy, Luffy tilted his head to the side curiously.

“Who are you?” the Straw-Hat captain asked.

“I’m Popeye the Sailor man.” Popeye answered, tooting his pipe like a whistle twice, then asked, “Who are you?”

“My name is Luffy, and I’m gonna be the King of the Pirates.” Luffy answered with a smile.

“Pirate,huh?Guessitmakessensewhyhesunkmyboat…” Popeye muttered (without even moving his lips at that), then returned to his normal voice, “Well, for wreckin’ my boat, I gotta hurt ya, kid.”

“You wanna fight?” Luffy asked, then put up a fist and smiled again, “Well, bring it on! I don’t plan on dying today!”

“Bring it on, ya little squirt! It’s time for me to roughs ya up!” Popeye said, hunching forward ready for battle.

The time had come for a showdown for the world’s most powerful pirate and the most powerful sailor: a battle to determine the King of the Seas.

FIGHT!

“Gum-Gum…” Luffy pulled back a fist, then threw it at Popeye on an elongated arm, “Pistol!”

The fist flew forward like a bullet and Popeye only just managed to sidestep it. As Luffy retracted his arm, Popeye actually followed it, pulled back a fist of his own and slammed it into Luffy’s visage.

Luffy’s neck stretched backward, taking his head with it and snapped back into place…only to meet Popeye’s fist yet again, resulting in the same event again, and again, and again in a comedic fashion.

Luffy had had enough and, the next time his head stretched back on his neck, he saw a nearby palm tree, opened his mouth, and latched his teeth into its bark. After a moment of tension, in which Popeye wondered just why Luffy’s head wasn’t coming back for a good “biffin’ and boffin’” as he put it, Luffy’s body shot backward so fast that it seemed to teleport.

Luffy let the recoil of his body returning wear off, then launched his rubbery fist at Popeye again. Popeye evaded yet again, but this was not Luffy’s intention. He actually opened his hand to latch onto a boulder behind Popeye, pulled himself back a bit, then let go.

“Gum-Gum…” Luffy said, extending his free arm, “SICKLE!” Popeye’s eyes widened as Luffy’s arm slammed into his neck at high speed, sending Popeye into the rock behind him.

Popeye hit the rock with enough force to leave an imprint of himself, yet the groan he emitted as he peeled off it gave an indication that he survived. Luffy was not going to let up, though, and latched onto Popeye, his rubbery arms and legs wrapping around the cockeyed sailor’s limbs.

“Gum-Gum…” Luffy said, pulling back his head, stretching his elastic neck to gain momentum, “BELL!”

Moments before Luffy’s head rocketed back, Popeye had an idea. He pulled back his own head (not as far as Luffy’s, though) and the two craniums collided. The vibrations form the impact coursed through both of their bodies and, while Luffy didn’t complain in the slightest, all Popeye did was grumble at the pain…and showed no sign of injury.

“Okay, ya little runt, how’s about I heat things up?” Popeye said, then turned his corncob pipe upside down, took a deep breath, then blew into the pipe.

Rather than emit a huge cloud of smoke, the corncob pipe emitted a small flame akin to a welding torch. The flame jetted out, striking Luffy right on the shirt. The part that was struck quickly burst into flame and Luffy, with a yelp, sprang off and began trying to put it out.

Popeye shook himself loose, then charged Luffy and sprang into the unlikeliest place one would imagine: right under Luffy’s shirt…where he seemed to disappear. Luffy stared, wide-eyed, at what the sailor accomplished and searched under his article of clothing wildly for his opponent, yet he was nowhere to be seen.

Tap, tap…

Luffy turned to his right, feeling someone tap him on the shoulder…and was met with a fist to his face from a familiar, anchor-tattooed arm. Mentioned arm then retreated back to where it came from: just under the right part of his collar. Luffy grabbed at it, but only found empty space. Yet, as he pulled back after grabbing thin air, the same muscular arm popped out from under his sleeve and pinched his nose, as though honking a bike horn.

After a split-second of surprise, Luffy quickly got the idea and grabbed the arm. “A-ha! I gotcha!” he exclaimed in triumph.

“Oh, no ya don’t.” Popeye replied from inside Luffy’s shirt, “I’ve got YOU.”

Luffy raised a brow, then attempted to pull the legendary sailor out of his shirt. One could imagine his shock, though, when he stopped for a second and an even stronger force pulled his arm further down his shirt. Luffy gritted his teeth and pulled with all his might, yet couldn’t dislodge Popeye.

Luffy’s straining halted when, suddenly, he lost his grip on Popeye’s wrist like he was holding a greased eel and, comically, fell flat out on his back from the change of force. Popeye hopped out, then prepared to sock it to Luffy from above only to see his rubbery adversary roll backward and stretch both his arms behind him.

“Gum-Gum…BAZOOKA!”

At the peak of their back-stretch, both of Luffy’s hands sprang forward and slammed into Popeye’s midsection. The sailor bent forward, the wind getting blasted from his lungs, then rocketed backward into the lightly-wooded area further inland.

Popeye landed, noggin-first, into the trunk of a palm tree then fell to the ground like a plank of wood being dropped. He picked himself up, then jumped slightly as a pair of hands grabbed a pair of trees not far from him.

“Gum-Gum ROCKET!!!”

Popeye wound up a punch just as the arms retracted, slinging Luffy at Popeye like a bullet. Before Luffy came too close, a fist planted itself firmly into his chin. Luffy flew up in an arc before falling back to the ground, his still-elongated arms comically falling onto him in a rubbery heap.

Luffy freed himself of the tangled mess of his arms, then pulled back his right leg like he was ready to kick a soccer ball. “Gum-Gum STAMP!” When Luffy threw his leg forward, everything from the calf down extended forward like a spear, Luffy’s sandal-clad foot nailing Popeye right in the chest.

Popeye’s back slammed into a rock and, when he looked down, he saw a very distinctive footprint in his chest. After mumbling something about how expensive it would be to get removed, he jumped into the air and came back down, spinning in a reverse-pirouette to drill into the ground below him.

Luffy stared, wide-eyed in wonder, at what Popeye had just accomplished. “WOW! What kind of fruit did he eat?” he asked in astonishment.
Luffy felt something coming, then hopped out of the way just as Popeye burst from the ground beneath him. Popeye’s fist hit air as he sprang out, leaving him open.

“Gum-Gum SHOTGUN!” Luffy said, throwing out a fist, then twanging it. It looked like multiple fists had struck from just one arm.

Popeye merely reached out and seized Luffy around the wrist, halting the twanging. “You’re a slick one, rubber-boy, but let’s have us a little fun now.” With that said, Popeye raised Luffy’s arm, then brought it sharply back down like a whip, sending a wave right down the length of the arm.

The resulting force flipped Luffy on his back with a yelp in surprise. The next moment, he was tugged right at Popeye, who proceeded to twirl Luffy around like a lasso (even going to the liberty of performing a few tricks worthy of wild-west cowboys) and tossing him away.

Luffy landed, cat-footed, on his feet and made the conclusion that, in his current condition, he wasn’t going to win. He closed his eyes in focus, then snapped them open as steam began to flow from his legs. In the blink of an eye, he was right in front of Popeye and before the mighty sailor could comprehend it.

“Gum-Gum Jet Stamp!”

Popeye rocketed backward, his eyes not even catching just what had happened. All he knew was that he felt like he had been hit full in the chest by a charging train. As he tumbled to a halt, he only had time to get up before he caught sight of something.

His corncob pipe almost fell out of his mouth as a giant fist, comparable in size to a massive tree trunk, raised itself high into the air. “Gum-Gum GIANT PISTOL!”

Popeye yelped in surprise, then ran as fast as he could to the side just as the giant fist flew at him. The fist smashed through the ground like it was cheap glass, then retracted. Popeye took quick advantage of his opponent’s need to retract and, as the giant arm deflated and retracted back to its owner, Popeye held on tightly, hitching a ride to his rubbery opponent.

Popeye hopped off the appendage as soon as Luffy was in sight, then threw a flurry of punches at Luffy. Much to his frustration, Luffy sidestepped each attack as if he knew it was coming.

Luffy decided to put an end to Popeye’s assault and shouted, “Gum-Gum BALLOON!” With that, Luffy’s entire torso inflated into a giant, flesh-colored ball. The minute Popeye’s fist made contact with it, it bounced off. The recoil sent Popeye stumbling backward, and Luffy seized his chance.

“Gum-Gum JET GATLING!” Luffy leaned forward and his arms were suddenly a blur that began to pummel Popeye, who could only put up his arms to shield himself…if only a little bit.

“I can’t stands no more!” Popeye managed to get out before the punches broke past his defense and sent him flying backward.

Popeye skidded to a halt and now knew that, if there ever was a situation for his trump card, that situation was “NOW”. “Alright, you got a few circus acts. Guess what? I gots a few, too.” Popeye said, ready to meet this challenge with one of his own.

Popeye reached into his abnormally-deep pants pocket and pulled out a large tin can labeled “Spinach”. He gave the can a good squeeze until it burst open at the top, its green contents flying into the air. It came back down right into Popeye’s gaping mouth.

After munching down on the spinach for a brief moment, Popeye swallowed and the effects of eating his greens were instantaneous. His whole body flowed with a new energy and he flexed his muscle, forcing a bicep up to preposterous levels.

As for the metaphorical image you see in that muscle every time Popeye eats spinach? It was Goku firing off a Kamehameha.

Anyhoo, Popeye saw a pair of hands had reached just behind him and seize two trees behind him and had a good idea as to what was coming. He braced himself, his whole body composition morphing to resemble a Popeye statue made entirely of brick.

“Gum-Gum Jet Rocket!”

Luffy collided with Popeye at sonic-speeds, intent on finishing him off here and now with a powerful headbutt. One could imagine his surprise when, rather than send Popeye into agony and/or death, he ricocheted off with a bell-like “dong”. Popeye seemed completely unscathed while Luffy lay on his back, clutching his now-aching skull.

It was truly odd to him. Most of Popeye’s previous blows hadn’t even hurt him at all, yet he just now withstood one of Luffy’s stronger attacks AND did something that managed to hurt him.

Luffy roared back to his feet and unleashed another “Gum-Gum Jet Gatling” on Popeye, hoping to pummel him again. Popeye’s response was to wind up both of his fists and actually MIRROR him. The sailor man’s fists were now also blurs and met Luffy fist-for-fist.

Luffy, now really starting to get ticked that this guy was matching him, pulled back his fists and called off the attack. He then twisted his right arm like a corkscrew and shouted “Gum-Gum JET RIFLE!”

The Jet Rifle flew at Popeye…who merely reached up and caught his fist without wavering. The energy behind the arm’s now-spiraling form was suddenly released, resulting in Luffy spinning around like a propeller before sailing off to his right when Popeye let go.

Luffy landed on his feet, then forced as much air into his arms as he could. “Gum-Gum GIANT GATLING!”

Popeye put both of his thumbs in his mouth, took a deep breath, then actually mirrored Luffy again. In seconds, both his anchor-tattooed arms were the same size as Luffy’s. Again, Popeye had the Strawhat Captain matched move-for-move.

Then Popeye opened one of his hands and caught Luffy’s own by the wrist. With a “flick”, Luffy was catapulted high into the air before slamming back down on the ground. Next thing he knew, he was jerked towards Popeye and before he could put up any adequate defense, Popeye’s other gigantic fist slammed into him.

The resulting impact sent Luffy tumbling across the ground, skidding to a halt on a sandy beach. If his Gears wouldn’t work, then he’d have to use his ultimate techniques. It was time for using some Armament Haki.

Luffy stretched back an arm, the area from his fist down to his forearm turning the color of a cannonball, then shouted “Gum-Gum BULLET!”

Both of Popeye’s eyes widened as a pitch-black fist slammed into his visage, sending him rocketing into the air. Yet, as Popeye flew above the treetops, he was readying a counterattack. He twirled his pipe around until it faced his feet, took a deep breath, then exhaled out his smoking utensil as hard as he could.

A jet of flame erupted from the rather small object and, within seconds, Popeye had halted his backward-going momentum and flew forward like a rocket. Luffy shrieked in surprise as Popeye came at him with a barrage of punches to the pirate’s face. Normally, this would be no threat, but the Observation Haki seemed oddly ineffective. This was because of Luffy being completely caught by surprise and the fact that Popeye (and every punch he threw) was, somehow, moving far too fast for that particular form to be effective. Worse still, just like the last time, Popeye was somehow managing to hurt Luffy with pure blunt force alone…without Haki, no less.

Popeye only halted his barrage of punches only to sock Luffy full into the air with a sharp uppercut. While waiting for Luffy to come down, Popeye took his right wrist in his left hand and twisted his whole arm until it resembled a large piece of rope. Then, as Luffy came down, he slammed it into the pirate captain’s midsection, pinning Luffy to a tree. As an added effect, his twisted arm untwisted, spinning Luffy fast enough to buff the bark off the tree…and eventually splinter it under the force.

Luffy hit the ground, but was back on his feet, fuming with rage. “Gum-Gum…” Luffy’s fist grew to giant proportions yet again, only this time it was pitch-black with the Armament Haki, “ELEPHANT PISTOL!” With that exclamation, Luffy threw his fist forward. He'd like to see the anchor-armed sailor top THIS.

Popeye spotted the giant, obsidian hand coming at him like a gigantic cannonball, ready to blow him away, yet did not attempt to move out of the way in the slightest. He wound up a fist, spinning it fast enough that it could have been a propeller. When he was fully wound up, and Luffy’s fist was inches away from splattering him all over the island, Popeye launched his fist forward, making contact with the black surface.

A tremor went down the entire length of the arm and, for a split second, nothing appeared to have happened. Then the black surface of the arm actually cracked like an eggshell. Just a few appeared at first, then it spread and spread quickly until the Armament Haki literally shattered like glass.

The force of the impact jarred Luffy to the point that he fell on his seat. He then charged Popeye, his legs pumping him as fast as he could go. As he ran, he stretched an arm behind him that started out pitch-black, but quickly turned bright gold before being completely engulfed in flames.

“Gum-Gum REDHAWK!”

Too late.  Popeye spotted him, saw his flaming appendage, then took a deep breath and blew as hard as he could. The resulting flow of air was comparable to a hurricane wind…if it was much, MUCH stronger. Not only did the winds slow Luffy to a crawl, they also extinguished the fire on his arm like he was blowing out a birthday candle.

“Yes,birthdaywishesandall.Timetofinishyaoff,squirt.” Popeye grumbled, then socked the oncoming boy in the chin again, sending him up into the air once more.

This time, he made sure this would be the last time.

When Popeye spotted Luffy coming back down, he dug his fingers into the ground and pulled as hard as he could. At first glance, one would think that he was going to pull open a crevice in the ground.

WRONG.

Popeye pulled and pulled when, with a paper-like ripping sound, the very page you are reading this fight on tore right across the page. “Let’s see ya come back from THIS, ‘soon-to-be King of Pirates’.”

Luffy was just coming back down when he spotted oblivion awaiting him where he intended to land. He yelped as he fell down the crevice, then reached up with an elongated arm and just grabbed the edge of the tear.

Popeye spotted him and emitted a disgruntled growl, but then rubbed his hands together as an idea came to him. “Oh, look! Piggies!”

Popeye walked over to Luffy’s fingers, then wedged his thumb under his index finger. “This little piggy went to market…” With a “twang”, he pried the finger loose and Luffy’s eyes widened.

“Gum-Gum Pistol!” Luffy shot his other arm in an attempt to dislodge Popeye or get another grip to help himself up.

“Quit it, ya little whelp!” Popeye said, casually swatting the rubbery limb away, “I’m tryin’ to count piggies! This little piggy stayed home…” He pried Luffy’s middle finger loose.

“Gum-Gum Rocket!” Luffy said, his arm retracting, ready to spring him up and headbutt the cockeyed sailor…only to be met with the same fate as his hand.

“I said ‘cut it out’!” Popeye said, grouchily, socking Luffy back down to dangle from his last two fingers. “THIS little piggy had roast beef…” Luffy was now dangling from his pinky and could only watch in horror as Popeye said the last six words he would ever hear.

“And this little piggy had NONE.”

Popeye dislodged Luffy’s final finger and the captain of the Strawhat Pirates fell off the page into the whiteness of oblivion. His screams died down as he fell…forever.

“Hey, author! Stop bein’ so grim!” Popeye shouted, “And patch this up, will ya?”

Oh! Certainly!

At that point, a human hand with a sewing needle and thread went to work. Within a few seconds, it had patched up the page. To make sure it was safe, Popeye set foot on it: sturdy as a rock.

Popeye sighed in relief, then dove into the water. A brief moment later, he had hauled the entire wreckage of his boat out of the water and set to work repairing it.

K.O.!!!

--

Steel: (pause) What the heck did I just see?

Ray: I’m not entirely sure, but at least we have a winner. While Luffy is, without a doubt, one of the strongest people to have ever taken to the sea, Popeye’s savvy, cartoon-level durability, and spinach ultimately triumphed.

Steel: Luffy would not likely make the connection of Popeye’s strength and spinach (even if he DOES sing it in his song) because Popeye saves it as a last resort. Plus, the entire thing played out like a Popeye cartoon.

Ray: Luffy would make short work of Popeye when he was in base form, Gears Second and Third and his Haki would ensure that. However, when Popeye ate his spinach, his strength, speed, durability, and powers exceed that of ANY One Piece character.

Steel: How do those stats hold up? For starters, Popeye was strong enough to move the entire EARTH, which (as “Goku vs. Superman” stated) means he can lift up to 6.6 quintillion tons, exceeding just about ANY of Luffy’s feats of strength. Taking into consideration that Armament Haki can be broken with enough force, this means that Popeye is MORE than strong enough to break through it.

Ray: Popeye also once flew from the moon to Earth in under five seconds. This means that his top speed is at least Mach 13, but it IS likely that he can go faster; fast enough to fight past the effects of Observation Haki. Popeye has also dealt with supernatural entities, like ghosts and genies, so the Devil Fruits would likely mean nothing to him when spinach-fueled.

Steel: And before you bring up the Conqueror’s Haki, Popeye has both a strong will and a power level equal to, or greater than, that of Luffy’s. Crack your own Dragonball Z joke here.

Ray: Now, we can argue about feats of strength, speed, and all that. In the end, it cannot decide what either Luffy or Popeye are capable of. They’re both great heroes known for getting out of dire situations with their fists alone. The difference is their character. Luffy is not, has not, and never will be invincible. He has limits, obvious weaknesses, and his story is partly him overcoming the problems to make himself stronger. Meanwhile, Popeye’s is different. When a situation is dire, he uses something to make him capable of doing whatever needs to be done. In short, Popeye is as strong as he needs to be.

Steel: Going “Goku vs. Superman” again?

Ray: What? Look at it and tell me if it isn’t similar.

Steel: I-(pause) Wow…you’re right.

Ray: So, what happens when you pit a guy known for pushing his limits against a guy who has no real limit as to what he can or can’t do? Well, only Luffy has limits to begin with.

Steel: It was a good fight, but victory was just too much of a stretch even for Luffy. Now let's prepare to clean our inbox of all the nasty e-mails we're, undoubtedly, going to get from the One Piece fans...

Ray: The winner is Popeye.

LUFFY…
+More than powerful enough to match Popeye in base form
+Harder to hurt as a whole
+Haki and Gears are formidable
-More exploitable weaknesses
-Even at best, cannot match spinach-fueled Popeye
-Sometimes reliant on crew/friends in dire situations (I stress the term “sometimes”)

POPEYE…
+A force to be reckoned with, even in base form
+Just plain hard to kill
+No truly-debilitating weaknesses to be taken advantage of
+Spinach…need I say more?
+Achieves the impossible on a day-to-day basis
+More used to getting himself out of situations
Leeds is the first awake.  Shadows of his dreams still echo in his eyes when he paces into the kitchen and startles her.

"Sorry."

"You're too quiet."  She smiles.  

He doesn't.  "Did you sleep?"

"I couldn't," she says.

He just nods.  She pours him coffee.  He drowns it in milk and sugar.  They welcome the morning in companionable silence.

"I wanted to be there for him."  It's a whisper.  He stares at the coffee mug in his hands, seeing something very different.  "I saw him get hit.  I wanted to be there so bad.  I would have gone in, but Vance held me back.  Probably saved my life.

"Zack."  He stops, almost overwhelmed, then forces himself to go on.  "I would do anything for him.  I would die for him.  But I couldn't be there."  His eyes are rimmed with tears.

She lays her hand over his.

Leeds wipes his face.  "I know you didn't want him to go for the second tour."

She shakes her head.  "It was his choice.  I respect that.  I love him.  I couldn't keep him home.  It meant so much to him."

"Thank you."  The tears escape anyway, and slide down over the scar and stubble on his face.  "Thanks for letting him come with us again.  I'm sorry I couldn't bring him home."

"It's not your fault."

"Maybe not.  But it feels like…"  He falls silent.  He's the same age as Zack, twenty-two, almost twenty-three.  Same strong shoulders and narrow chest, flat stomach, straight hips.  His arms are all muscle and sinew, skin deep tan from months in the desert.  His dogtags rest lightly against his drab green tshirt.  Unconsciously she reaches to the chain around her own neck, Zack's dogtags, which she has worn since he first graduated boot camp.

Leeds scrubs his face again, and this time, he stifles the crying.  He lays a dirty white envelope on the table and slides it across to her.  She starts to reach out, but he keeps his hand over it.  "Chia... You know what this is."

She realizes in that moment.  It chills her.  She nods, not trusting her voice.

"I think you should wait," Leeds says.

The first thing she feels at his words is relief.  She can put it off!  She doesn't have to confront this now.  She feels sick with guilt after that.  She feels the heat in her cheeks as she blushes with shame.

"I know," he tells her.  "It fuckin' hurts.  You can wait.  Wait until you're ready."

She can only nod again.  Brandon withdraws his hand, leaving the crumpled envelope lying there .  It is thin and plain, unassuming, but it might as well be a bomb.  There are faint, smudgy fingerprints on the front.  Zack's fingerprints she thinks, and feels her heart fist, her guts go icy and knotted.  She nearly breaks down.  Her eyes sting, her throat aches.

She slides it off the table into her lap so she doesn't have to look at it for the moment.  It is light – too light and thin to carry so much import.



She puts the letter into the footlocker at the foot of the bed.  Into this she has already placed Zack's dusty uniform, his boots, and gloves, his watch, a pair of sunglasses etched by sand.  Kits, and papers, a couple of journals, dog-eared manuals, and photos.  The things he had in his pockets when he died; a gum wrapper, spare change in several currencies, a stone, three spent brass bullet casings, a safety pin, a new pair of bootlaces, a pack of cigarettes, a die-cast Matchbox car with most of the paint worn off, a stub of pencil, a soft-cover notebook he'd reinforced with duct tape.  His wallet has no money in it, only more photos, and a video-rental membership card; a frequent buyer's card from their local bagel shop with eight of the ten punches filled up; a few postage stamps, already obsolete; a scrap of paper with international phone numbers written in pencil.

On top of this pile rests the tri-folded flag.  She came home from the funeral and the flag went straight into the footlocker.  The unread letter drops like a dry leaf on top of the flag.  She shuts the lid and breathes a sigh.  It is like relief.


Direct continuation of Requiem: Continued

Once again, this is a work of fiction.
For those who don't know the "death letter" is written by most service members before entering combat to be delivered to their next of kin in the event of their death. These letters are meant to be collected and held by the command element, but they are often entrusted to comrades in arms.

:bulletred: Any feedback is much appreciated.

© *KreepingSpawn
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"burn your tiaras,
bury your fairy godmother.
it's time for you to grow up now, you're
no peter pan.
forget never never land.

stars are just burning balls of gas that are
slowly running out of time- they can't
hear your wishes.

cast aside your dr. seuss books like you will
later cast aside your bibles.
after all, a fairy tale is a fairytale is a fairytale.
life will teach you that.

grace, you were born into a role
only a very strong girl can play.
see, society will hate you for being
what they don't want to believe.

surrender your throne, your castle is under siege.

stop being fascinated with the sky,
you'll never go there.
keep your feet on the ground, and steady yourself
before you help another.

your brain is more logical than your heart,
therefore take your instructions from it.
promises can be broken as easily as can be made.
do not rely on something as weak as miracles and love-
and if you only have one piece of armor,
defend your back from the people you trust the most.

and grace?
if some one ever, ever tries to tell you
you're worth it,
they're lying through their teeth."

and that is the Goddamn Truth.
and i'm trying not to care.

i'm bbbaaacccckkkk. and i wrote this poem about how a mother will never tell you the things that you really need to know to survive in this world.

how it's time to grow up now.
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“Nileas!”  Ausrius bellowed again.  He could find no trace of his fellow, even with his enhanced senses, and helmet overlay.  No trace of the daemon either.
     He surveyed the cavern again, slowly re-examining all the corners.  He checked the load in his bolter, and advanced, weapon at the ready, continuing to scan in visible light, infrared, and wireframe overlay.  The ripples and folds of the tunnel played tricks on the mind, casting odd shadows and concealing entire caverns behind seemingly solid formations of stone.
    “Nileas,” he voxed again.  “Brother, do you copy?”  Likewise the dense rock played havoc with the vox net.  He had no contact with his squad commander, or Imperial forces on the surface, and, up until a quarter-hour ago, only intermittent contact with his battle brother, and that plagued by static.  Now it seemed that too was gone.
    Something slithered across stone nearby; something massive.  Ausrius turned sharply, bringing the bolter up.  He couldn’t see it, but it was dangerously close.  He moved forward, stalking the hideous presence.  Though he and his squad were nominally doing the hunting, he could not shake the feeling of being hunted.  He heard the clicking of insectoid limbs and mouthparts; the heavy slithering sound again.  Overlapping echoes, reflecting and magnifying sounds in unpredictable ways, made it impossible to tell where the source of the sound was.
    He slowed, almost shuffling as he came around a shoulder of stone into an entirely new section of the cave.
    The broad chamber was dome-like, and smooth, the space carved out over millennia by the slow trickle of water.  Stalactites depended from the ceiling in eerily organic formations.  Stalagmites of formidable stature loomed from the uneven floor.  Some were as large around as Ausrius himself.  Others were even larger.  A damp mineral smell pervaded, but Ausrius’ charmed senses detected notes of other things: Astartes sweat ripe with glanded stimulants and pain suppressants, the burned-metal and melted electrical smell of damaged ceramite armor.  Blood.  Nileas had passed through here.  The scents told him his brother was hard pressed, but gave him some thin hope that his fellow yet lived.  There was also an odor of organic decay, rancid meat, ozone and cold – that was the warp beast.
    The thing lurked here somewhere.  Even without the smell, Ausrius could sense its hateful existence.  It was like a cold whisper down the back of his neck.  A feeling of utter wrongness.  But he still could not see it.
    He saw Nileas first, leaning heavily against a stalagmite formation.  His battle brother was sorely wounded, even his gene-hanced physiology laboring under the awful damage he had taken.  His beautiful red and gold power armor was dented and sheared apart, splashed with bright blood.  His left pauldron had been torn away completely, as well as the lower vambrace and gauntlet.  His naked hand, large as it was, seemed tiny and fragile against the bulk of his armor.  The chainsword in his right fist snarled at idle.
    “Nileas.”  Ausrius started forward to his brother’s aid.  
    Nileas’ helmet was also gone, but he did not need the vox speaker to amplify his formidable voice; “Keep back!”  He threw up his left hand, bloody palm out, to emphasize the command.  “It is here.”
    The thing was on them in that moment.  It moved like lightning, like a striking serpent, and a spider, and every terrible thing imagined by human nightmares.  It was too big to move that fast!
    Ausrius unloaded his bolter at it as it dove and surged around the chamber.  It had too many limbs and too many joints in those limbs and parts of its body were like smoke or oil, shifting and reforming in ways that made him nauseous to behold.
    Nileas tried to keep his face toward the thing, his back to the stone, and always the purring chainsword between them.
    The atrocity suddenly threw itself at the wounded Astartes.  Its face – if such a perversion could be said to have a face – split apart, the lower half of the elongated, skull-like head separating into four greedy mandibles.  It’s tooth-lined maw was large enough to swallow a Space Marine whole, power armor and all.
    Nileas braced, holding the chainsword out, ready to meet the thing head on.
    Ausrius poured bolter fire down its throat.  It squealed, shrieked and writhed in on itself in impossible ways.  Ausrius shuddered with revulsion, but kept shooting, reloading when the magazine ran empty.
    One mis-jointed limb shot out and impaled Nileas with a blade-claw more than a meter long.  It sheared through his ceramite armor like it was nothing.  The Astartes groaned aloud.  Ausrius roared his fury.  Nileas struck, slashing off the blade-limb even as it was withdrawn with the same uncanny speed.  The chainsword bit through hard carapace and fleshy inner parts, the blade snarling and gurgling.  Hurt, the daemon wheeled, flailing limbs and loose coils of itself.  It threw Nileas to the floor before boiling away into the shadows, into the next chamber down the tunnel.
    “Nileas!”  Ausrius charged to his brother’s side and knelt protectively over him, the bolter still held ready.
    Nileas groaned again, blood ran from his mouth.  He was panting for breath and Ausrius thought he might be relying entirely on the smaller third lung.  Blood poured from the wound.  Normally Astartes blood clotted quickly, they were fast healers and could weather monstrous amounts of punishment and brutal pain.  But Nileas was past all limits.
    “I’ll get you out of here, Brother,” Ausrius promised.
    “No, Hellan.”
    “Fortitude,” Ausrius urged him.  He slung his bolter across his back and lifted Nileas’ shoulders, supporting him to ease his breathing.
    “Fortitude,” Nileas agreed, “and faith.  You will need both... for this mission.  Take it.”  He pointed toward the chainsword.  He had dropped it when the monster threw him down and the blade had cut off automatically.
    Ausrius hesitated.  “My brother,” he said, “I don’t understand.”
    “You must finish it,” Nileas charged him solemnly.  “Destroy that abomination.  Burn it from existence.  In the Emperor’s name.  You must not fail in this.”  He spoke haltingly, as his breathing labored, but with fierce conviction.
    Slowly, Ausrius understood.  Still cradling his dying battle-brother with one arm, he reached out and grasped the hilt of Nileas’ chainsword and lifted it.  The elder Space Marine nodded.  “Finish this,” he sighed, at the end of his strength.
    “I will, Brother.”
    “Swear.”  Blood pooled on the stones beneath them, and dripped from his mouth.
    Fighting despair at the weight of responsibility hanging over him, Ausrius drew a tight breath.  He firmed his grip upon the chainsword, the heft of a ready weapon always a comfort.  It was an ancient and venerable piece, marked with a roll of honor stretching back into the far history of Kermodes Squad.  Dozens of Howling Griffons heroes had carried this blade into battle for Guilliman and the Imperium, for the Emperor.  Drawing his strength from their memory, and their example, he improvised an oath; “Upon this weapon, and by the Throne of Terra, I swear to pursue this mission until I have succeeded, or until I am dead.”
    Nileas reached up and pressed the bloody palm of his left hand to Ausrius’ cuirass, a make-shift seal to witness and acknowledge the oath.  He let the hand fall and his head rolled back.  He was failing; this nigh-immortal super soldier, this hero, was sliding rapidly down to death, and Ausrius could not help him.
    “Brother,” the younger Astartes began.
    “Go,” Nileas charged him.  It was a whisper, but it carried such weight of authority it could not be refused.
    Ausrius knew every moment he lingered was another moment the warp-beast had to make good its escape.  He loathed the thought of abandoning his battle brother to die alone, but he also knew Nileas expected him to place duty foremost.  Gently, he lowered Nileas to the ground.  “Rest easy, brother.”
    Nileas could not answer.  He clasped his armored right fist across his ruined chest, a warrior’s salute.  He closed his eyes against the pain of each shallow, sucking breath.
    Ausrius steeled himself and turned away, advancing in the direction the monster had gone.  As much as he wanted to, he did not look back.  His brother would not expect such sentimentality, and the beast could strike again at any moment.
    He held Nileas’ chainsword right-handed, in a low guard, and drew his bolt pistol with his left hand.  The bolter rode by its sling, in reserve.  He had also the simple but reliable gladius, and three grenades.  It wasn’t much.  He hoped it would be enough.
    The beast had left its scent like spoor and Ausrius followed that, trying not to gag on the stench of corruption.  Black, oily fluid pooled on the stones in places, faintly sizzling; the noxious ichor which served the thing as blood.  They had hurt it, and if it could be hurt, it could be killed.
    He paused as he heard it; slithering, chittering to itself.  It sounded like it was right beside him, though he could not see it, the acoustics of the cave playing tricks again.  He moved steadily forward, ever vigilant.  He could smell ozone and felt the unholy chill he associated with psykers and the warp.
    It almost escaped.  He came upon it just as it approached the portal.  Ausrius had never seen anything like it.  It was a hole in reality.  A cold rush of air, and faint mist drifted out of this impossible gateway.
    The warp daemon sensed his approach and turned its neck inside out to bring its obscene head around to face him.  It flared its mouthparts at him.  It seethed, limbs and spines and eyes and hungry mouths full of teeth appearing and disappearing across its flesh in a wave that traveled down and around its length.  It was taunting him.  It made a wet, basso, shuddering, purring sound and rolled like a water serpent in a spiral swimming motion into the portal.  It flowed into the unreality as if sinking through the surface of a mirror.
    Ausrius had seen many terrible things in his decades of service with the Adeptus Astartes.  He had weathered them with commendable stoicism, but now he wavered.  Astartes do not feel fear, but alone in this dark desolate place, faced with such an unspeakable monstrosity, and the prospect of following it through a warp gate to an unknown destination, Hellan Ausrius came very close.  How could he, alone, hope to succeed against this?
    He controlled his breathing, willed his racing pulse steady.  He swallowed the bile which had risen in his throat.  He fought down the urge to vomit, conquered the tremor in his limbs.  He recalled his oaths, and his debt to Nileas.  He had no choice, he had to proceed.  He clenched his fist on the grip of the chainsword and thumbed the activation stud.  The blade snarled into life.  Leading with that august weapon, and with a prayer to the God-Emperor on his lips, he strode forward into the warp gate.
This looks so much shorter here! ;p Ah well.

A bit of something. ~NotAnselAdams might find this interesting. :nod:

Notes: Guilliman is the Primarch of the Ultramarines Legion, according to my research the Howling Griffons Chapter is derived from the Ultramarines.

For those not familiar, the Space Marines often swear oaths specific to the mission they are about to undertake, these are usually witnessed by their battle brothers and commemorated by an oath paper which is sealed to their armor. images.dakkadakka.com/gallery/…

The description and function of the 'warp gate' is based on similar device found in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command by Dan Abnett.

Rough concept art for the warp daemon:
WIP: Warp-Daemon by KreepingSpawn
and Hellan Ausrius:
Hellan Ausrius - Lineart by KreepingSpawn

Warhammer 40K, Astartes/Space Marines, terminology, universe, etc © Games Workshop
text/chars © =KreepingSpawn
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#7-Mittleuropa- A world in which Hitler died in 1935, and after several power struggles, a much milder leader comes to power. The World is divided into three blocs: one dominated by the U.S., another by the U.S.S.R., and a third by Japan. Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and the Netherlands are all tied together in a neutral and wealthy alliance called “the Mittleuropan Union.”
The U.S., is the richest nation, with allies in Western Europe, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand. The U.S.S.R. supports the Italian communist government that overthrew Mussolini in the ‘50s, as well as everything east of the Mittleuropan Union, save Finland (here, even Greece and Turkey were overrun by the Soviets). Mongolia and Sinkiang are fairly monitored by the U.S.S.R., given closeness to Japan. Japan itself, only controls the home islands, but Korea, Manchuria, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Malaysia, and continental South-East Asia are all close allies. Japan’s biggest, and richest ally, is the Republic of India, which, although still democratic, shies away from the U.S. and the Soviets after American and Soviet proxies fought a civil war in Eastern Pakistan (since absorbed into India, much to the Pro-American West Pakistan’s government anger). The closest this world came to WWIII, was the Persian war, in which Persia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria were all divided up between Pro-U.S. Southern governments, and Pro-Soviet Northern ones (the Pro-Soviet government in Egypt was definitely crushed by the U.S.).
Israel was never formed. Cuba was annexed by the U.S. True gender equality has been achieved in the Soviet Union (more socialist than OTL- resulting in a more equal yet poor society). The U.S. is unintentionally more racist than in our world, though plenty of people crusade against racism. Blacks are getting better and better treatment (South Carolina and Mississippi are the last states where it’s really impossible for them to vote), but Asians are not. The Space and Arms race continue, on all three sides. Electric cars are back (after a decade of virtually no middle-eastern oil). There are actual settlements on the moon. Hippie-type culture is now swinging in (though it has less emphasis on eastern religions and philosophies, probably due to continued Japanese brutality). Science is a bit more advanced, though there’s no internet. Hypnotic Glasses, genetically-modified humans, and a new chemical that can make you invisible for a few hours, all exist.

#8-Old World- A world where the Americas, Australia, Africa south of Lake Malawi, and the Pacific islands east of Sulawesi don’t exist.
History in Eurasia and North Africa was the same up to 1492, when Columbus was eventually overthrown by his crew, and his expedition was turned around. Further expeditions met the same fate, and it was not until 1938 that a successful expedition from France to Japan by sea occurred.
The Protestant Reformation still occurred, though these days Luther is a little-known precursor to the much more famous Jan Klawos. Poland and Germany, converted to Klawoicism. In the late 1700s, the more conservative nations of the British Isles and Scandinavia split with the Pope in Rome, after the Pope had a number of liberal reforms (including allowing Priests to marry), and formed their own ‘Restored Catholic Church’, with a Pope in Scotland.
There weren’t the same space-filling empires that dominated in our world. Portugal gradually established dominion over much of Southern coastal Africa, Indonesia, plus a few port cities in India and China. In the 17th Century, France established its own empire in Western coastal Africa, while England grabbed most of the more easterly Portuguese bits. Spain never managed to get an empire, and became a bit of a battlefield between Portugal and France. The Ottoman Empire was able to remain steady for much longer, and even in the 18th century made serious gains in reclaiming North Africa. Europeans never really got into the deepest interior of Africa, and even at the height of their dominion, North Africa and a dozen largish native states remained fiercely independent. Colonialism was never as profitable as OTL, and without mass resettlement by European peoples, European powers were content to merely vassalize tiny African chiefdoms. The Netherlands failed to materialize.
India, had even fewer Europeans. By the late 1800s, a united Germany (but still no Italy), was getting into the game, and competing with France for protector of the South-East Asian Kingdoms.
The Industrial Revolution went similarly to OTL, perhaps 20 years late.
The French revolution came a century late, but transpired roughly as OTL (maybe less Anti-Church stuff, and more Anti-nonwhite stuff, combined with firm support of Republicanism). It lasted in France, for a decade before it was replaced with a more moderate republic, but failed to spread to the other Kingdoms of Europe.
This world’s Great War started in 1930, as the Russian Empire (slightly smaller in Central Asia and in Poland than OTL’s 1914 Russia) and its ally in industrialized Japan attempted to bring the world to its knees. Much of the kingdoms of Europe and Asia fought against these two behemoths, and divided them up after the war’s end (Russia, had more native Siberian peoples than OTL, and so these peoples were given their own nations).
These days, the world is increasingly unipolar, and dominated by a benevolent technocratic China (the Jiao Dynasty Emperor is purely ceremonial). The world is a bit of a 50s punk, but without the Red scare paranoia. Former colonies got their independence two generations ago, and are mostly more stable and doing better than OTL (much more native culture has been preserved). Capitalism pervades, as Chinese and to a lesser extent European, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Persian, and Marathi corporations dominate Africa. Most nations have monarchs, but many are increasingly democratic (in the European way) or benevolent technocratic (in the Chinese way). Tibet and Sinkiang have been steamrolled just as OTL, but the Chinese here are better a keeping a firm grip on both. There’s less of a difference between the richest nations of the world and poorest than in OTL. There’s also less of a difference between church and state. A Jewish republic was created out of the Russian far east, and as it swells with immigrants from all over the world its doing fairly well. Despite a much smaller world, there are slightly more nations than OTL; plenty of small states in Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Africa exist. A big success story has been Sanja (from the Persian Zanj), a state on the southern-most tip of Africa that exists as a mix between blacks, Arab traders, Portuguese, French, and large Indian minorities.  

#9-Bod-
In the late 8th Century, a series of different rulers of the Tibetan empire ensured that Tibetan would remain united.
After half a millennium of Tibetan rule, the Bengal Delta region and the Tarim Basin were both hugely Tibetanified (in culture, language, and religion, though not in ethnicity).
By the year 2013, Tibet is the ‘Twin Kingdoms of Bod and Nanzhao’, having united dynastically with the Kingdom of Nanzhao which controls South-western China and much of OTL Laos and Burma (coastal Burma is part of Tibet). Tibetan rule over Kashmir and much of Central (OTL Kyrgyzstan in particular) has been solidified. The Bangla and Nepali regions are directly controlled from Lhasa. The independent states of the Indian subcontinent are mostly Tibetan vassals (Hinduism petered out, and now the Indian subcontinent is entirely Muslim or Buddhist). A different wave of alt-Mongol invasion in the 1500s successfully conquered Northern China, and North and South have been divided since (conveniently played off against one another by the Tibetans who’re slowing gobbling up more and more of China). Tibet’s colonial empire also includes Somalia and a chunk of Australia. Unlike our Tibet (or what an independent Tibet would look like), this Tibet’s leadership is nowadays fairly secular (though Buddhism may still dominate politically), as the government is ruled by national Kings rather than Lamas. The kingdom of Mahajayvai in Western Indonesia and Malaysia, is Buddhist and a strong Tibetan ally.
Much of the world is still dominated by European empires. In Europe, the first major butterfly was the failure of the Norman invasion of 1066, leading to a much more Germanic England (with an alphabet containing 30 letters!). Instead, the Normans were able to successfully unite France, and later create a united Italy. Germany in this world never successfully united, but Italy has been a united kingdom since 1312. The black plague was worse than in OTL, and produced much more radical changes in Europe (namely, technology actually went backwards for a brief time, but the importance of science was noticed far earlier, much of the older nobility lost its powers in peasant revolts that created much more constitutional governments). Although there is still a pope in Rome, and to this day the church is theoretically united, Ceasaropapism has been the norm and the church is anything but united.
Spain first discovered the Americas, and much of it is still controlled by Spain, while England (which directly includes Ireland and OTL Brazil, and is the puppet master of Scotland), France, Italy, and some of the German states control all of Africa, portions of the Middle East, and the areas of South-East Asia and Australia outside of Tibetan control. Nueva Catalonia, an alternate Canada of mixed Spanish and English heritage, is a minor power, if fairly isolationist. Russia is still backwards, very isolated from Europe, and has repeatedly been beaten by European coalitions, the Mongols of North China, and Tibetan-backed revolts of native Siberian peoples.
The world is still mostly under English, Spanish, French, Tibetan and Italian control (with approximately two-thirds of the world under those empires). The more or less openly racist intellectuals of Europe admire Tibet as one of the few non-western spots of true civilization in the world (indeed, many Westerners learn to read and write in Tibetan). Currently the second biggest economy in the world, Tibet is neck and neck with England. Tibetan Buddhist missionaries and Western Catholic missionaries travel the world (sometimes coming close to conflict).
While the other powers range from mildly right wing and definitively conservative to centrist (say, imagine the OTL U.S. politics of the 1920s), the Tibetan parliament is the only parliament with left wing parties (albeit still traditionalist). Tibet increasingly sees itself as the liberator of oppressed peoples, the motivator of science, and the bringer of Buddhism to the world (Tibet is more religious than the now secular governments of Europe, save for Spain and Italy).
More of these. Soon to come: more Texas universe.
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MERCENARY

Chapter 1: Blood is Beauty

Release One: Pages 1 - 3

THE COLD AIR in Baron Rorke's study did little to calm his nerves. He was expecting visitors this night and they were not the best of company. A shiver of dread ran down his spine and he spent most of the twilight hours staring out of a large window which stood behind his writing desk. It was amazing, he felt, how quickly a man could become attached to a life of luxury; only to be made painfully aware of how easy it was to lose it. War was always a frightening thing, even more so when one had the knowledge and sense to realise that it was no longer an exercise of glory, but a simple festival of bloodshed and cold murder. In war it did not matter if you impaled a stranger on the edge of your sword, such a thing would be punishable in any city or country, but in times of war it became an accepted norm. If the man in front of you wore a different colour, then it was alright to kill him, it was alright to rip him apart for he was an enemy. That was the twisted reality of combat and looking back on his memories of the field; the Baron wondered how he had ever considered such a thing to be glorious. Instead, he found himself almost repulsed by the thought of spilling another man's blood. It is difficult to understand the frenzy that grips a man. War is a mere keyword for destruction, it is a word of power that transforms a rational man into one without morals; who still believes himself to be just. The Baron sighed; it would do him no good to think about such things. Instead, he had to focus on the present. No longer was he the confident, barrel-chested youth with the strength of an Ox, but no less were his responsibilities even in his old age. Somehow, though he could no longer lead or inspire his armies, he would have to protect the peace that he had obtained and doing so would require a sacrifice. A sacrifice, he repeated to himself. The balding, grey-haired man that was reflected in the window seemed to smile. I will pay any price, he thought to himself, if I may enjoy these days of peace and stability. Marina will be getting married next spring, the lucky boy is a rich merchant so she'll have little to worry about. Marco on the other hand will be heading off to the Royal Knights academy in autumn and it will be four years before he graduates. Until then, I must keep things the way they are, I must keep things from changing, at least until they can all stand on their own. The Baron smiled wryly as he saw the irony in his current situation. He had participated in the War of Unification as naught but a commoner, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now he was a noble lord who had all he desired, but stood to lose it all. Fate can be both humourous and cruel, he chuckled to himself, in the end it seems as though my life has come full circle. Once I had nothing and now I desire nothing. All that is left to me is to maintain this existence, at least for awhile longer for the sake of my children who have no need to dirty their hands. Rorke shivered again, it was a cold night but he had been instructed not to make a fire. They would not come if he made a fire…

    Rorke was about to slip comfortably back into his own reverie, when the doors to his study burst open without warning. He was shocked at first, but the Baron quickly straightened his back and stood firmly. He had been informed that they would enter his home in such a manner and he had prepared himself to receive them. The air in the room seemed to stagnate immediately as though its movement were no longer permitted. A thick miasma of gloom and despair settled over the entire area and Rorke's mind grew troubled. Nerves, worries, fears of his childhood, all of it began to scurry forth like spiders from the dark recesses of his mind and the very act of swallowing his own saliva became difficult, as though something hard and lumpy had been caught in his throat. A cloaked figure appeared in the previously empty doorway, it was a slender and graceful individual that seemed to glide into the study. It was accompanied by a giant, armed from head to toe, that stood just two steps behind it, his presence making the entire room seem small and cramped. The first of the two figures, the normal sized one, pushed back the hood of its cloak and instantly the atmosphere of gloom vanished. Rorke found himself staring now, at one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen in his entire life. Her skin was flawless, unblemished and perfect; lips as red as the finest of roses. Her eyes sparkled like green pools of mystery and power and her long dark hair appeared to be as soft as silk. Her entire body seemed to carry the promise of forbidden pleasure and though the cloak hid it from sight, Rorke was painfully aware of the temptation that lay beneath the thin veil of cloth. This lady, is an enchantress! he thought to himself, trying desperately to fight against her charms. She is definitely a wielder of the arcane arts

    "I am as you believe me to be," the figure responded, seemingly reading his thoughts. Her voice was rich and melodious and it seemed to soothe Rorke's heart and mind, his suspicions of her falling away immediately.

    "I-I greet you," said Rorke, feeling slightly breathless. He thought that he should probably offer them a handshake and show them due courtesy, but his legs simply refused to obey him. "Forgive me for my lack of manners; I seem to be unable to approach you."

    "That is fine," said the lady, her lips curving into a confident smile, "A worm has no right to touch me in the first place. Arghast is the only one permitted contact, aren't you?" The lady turned to smile at her companion, who remained silent with just the barest nod to acknowledge her statement.

    Rorke found himself unable to look directly at the lady without feeling a shameful amount of lust and so he averted his eyes away from her, settling upon the giant. This man was indeed a titan and he easily dwarfed his female companion by a large margin. He appeared to be about seven feet tall, perhaps slightly under, but his muscular physique combined with his heavy armaments to multiply his size and make him very intimidating. Rorke thought that he looked like a walking fortress and that nothing in the world would have an easy time in trying to topple him. Rorke shivered as the idea of facing someone like him in the field crossed his mind. It would be an utterly terrifying experience with the only options being retreat or death. It made him glad that he long since retired from the field. Still, a part of his soldier's instinct remained with him and before he knew it, Rorke was doing a mental identification of everything the giant was carrying. Amongst the various plates of armor, Rorke noted the following arms:  one pair of battle axes, with a vicious serrated edge on each one, strapped across his back for easy access; several throwing knives, holstered around his waist, all curved in an unnatural manner; one batch of throwing axes, heavy headed and hand-made, hanging freely from his belt and within quick reach of his right hand. Rorke couldn't particularly quite see it well, but the giant also appeared to be carrying a large shield-like object across his shoulders. Rorke thought that he might have a closer look at it, but his gaze was forcibly torn away and brought back to focus upon the lady.

    "A worm should not be averting his sight from one as beautiful as I am," said the lady, walking slowly toward the Baron, her hips swaying gently with each step. "Am I of no interesting to you?"

    The Baron's breathing quickened and he felt his heart beating faster, but this wasn't excitement, this was fear. "No m'am," he stammered, using a polite title despite the lady being obviously younger than him, "I meant no disrespect."

    "But of course you didn't," said the lady, reaching out with her right hand to stroke his cheek gently. "I did not permit it after all."

    The Baron's thoughts began to grow cloudy, the lady's touch was so soft and warm and her scent was heavenly, it made him hungry, hungry to be close to her.

    "Would you like to be my newest toy?" asked the lady.

    The Baron was about to answer with a loud 'yes', when he was thankfully brought back to his senses by a wicked curved knife that flashed in front of his face, embedding itself all the way down to the hilt upon his writing desk. The armoured giant approached him and retrieved the knife, the Baron blinking blearily at him. "My apologies," the giant rumbled, his voice sounding like a rock-slide, "my sister finds it difficult to avoid playing with those who are…inclined to temptation."

    "Ah, I see," replied the Baron, the fog slowly lifting from his mind. "That's dangerous," he muttered lamely, his brain not quite functioning.

    Arghast had just barely sheathed his weapon when he was violently knocked to the ground by his female companion. "Do not interrupt me!" she shrieked at him. Arghast seemed unfazed by her temper tantrum and got to his feet with a shrug, "you may now resume your explanation sister."

    The lady scowled at him and turned back to face the Baron, "I am Akara, the Pale Mistress of Death. This armoured giant, as I've said before, is my brother Arghast. We are the Seekers and we are willing to offer our services as long as you can pay the price."

    Rorke nodded and shook his head, trying to clear it in vain, "I-I do have what you seek here." He reached for the drawer on the left side of his writing desk, digging around in it for a glowing purple crystal. This had been a gift from a powerful mage during the war and Rorke had kept it with him as a sort of lucky charm. He was told that it contained powerful magic, but he was obviously unable to use it. "Will this be enough for you m'am?"

    "Ah, such a pretty bauble," smiled Akara, as she raised her right hand and waved at it, causing the crystal to leap into the air and soar into her waiting palm. "Oh yes, this will do very nicely. I haven't seen this one yet!"

    "Is it one of the memories we seek?" asked Arghast, folding his arms across his chest.

    Akara shook her head and pocketed the gem, "I have no way to tell for the moment brother, I will have to examine it with my magic. However, before we can play around with it, I do believe that we owe it to our dear Baron to fulfil his request. After all, he has already paid us a handsome price. Now tell me my dear Baron, what do you wish in exchange for this?"

    "An end," said Rorke as the fog that clouded his mind cleared away. "I desire an end to Baron Torval's life, for I know that he intends to attack my lands come spring. I-I cannot afford to lose what I have and though my army could hold him, I would prefer not to have unnecessary casualties on my end. If Baron Torval is killed however, his chiefs will begin to fight amongst themselves and my lands will be safe for a few years to come."

    Akara smiled, but it was an expression without warmth. It reflected only her cruelty and her desire to inflict pain, "as it has been requested, so too shall it be done." With a quick swirl of her cloak, a surge of dark magic filled the air and both she and the giant vanished, dissolving away into the taunting shadows. When it was done, Baron Rorke's hair was left standing on end and he felt as though his very soul had been violated. In the end, he wound up sitting in his study until dawn the next day, unable to move, think or sleep. All I needed was a sacrifice right? With this, everything will end and my children will be safe. No more will I need to get anything dirty, no more, no more…

-Chen Yuan Wen, 1st September 2012
If you enjoyed this lovely little fantasy and would like to see more original works like this, don't forget to click the fave button :3.

Author's Comments:
As promised ^^ Here is a story release. I'm actually re-writing mercenary, since my writing skills have upgraded a little bit and I am looking to practice more on setting the scene mood and using good imagery. I probably should submit to groups to get more feedback, but this took longer than expected and so nyeeeh >3< I'll do it with the next release xD

Enjoy everyone ^^ and don't forget to thumbs up for original literature (not that there's anything bad with fan fiction but let's try to give some credit to original ideas xD).

-Captain Chenbeard of the Black Fedora Pirates :iconwordofchen:
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Ok: hope this isn't too boring. Tried to make some sense of the District 9 setting...

The ship’s computer did its best, really. The sub-space storm that badly damaged a number of essentially systems had also destroyed the control interface, making communications with the overseers impossible. In a relatively sensible maneuver, it proceeded to the nearest habitable planet and parked itself in an area where climatic conditions were most suitable for the Well-Ordered People. Unfortunately, it was too damaged for any sophisticated analysis, and basal programming did not cover what to do in case of contact with a previously unknown and potentially dangerous alien civilization.

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1982. Access to the alien ship which had parked itself roughly 200 meters above the outskirts of Johannesburg was of course demanded by all major world governments. It was not like the South African government could conceal the fact, with almost every foreign press agent in the city reporting its presence within five minutes (those few who slept through its early evening arrival usually suffered considerable career fallout) and it being plainly visible by both US and Soviet satellites. While the South Africans spent a few days in nationalist huffing and puffing, some rather heated discussions ensued on Red phones and other private means of communication between the great and powerful. With Brezhnev deep into senility and the mantle of succession still far from firmly in place of Yuri Andropov’s shoulders, the Soviet response was somewhat unclear and muddled: the only thing that was certain was that the Soviets would not tolerate unilateral Western access to the mysterious aliens.

On the first night the ship hovered like a black cloud: the few people who lived in the half-rural setting beneath it had been evacuated, and more not directly under it but close by had fled. Around 3 AM, radar momentarily indicated something moving rapidly between the ship and the ground. Government troops, which had been hastily assembled to roughly cordon off the area under the ship, reported hearing a distant thud: a few claimed to have seen a metallic flash. A local resident claimed to have seen a “flying saucer” swoop down from the main ship, but his bona fides were doubtful. An inspection of the area under the ship by troops with jeep-mounted searchlights revealed nothing, although a more careful examination in the morning revealed a patch of disturbed soil: after some digging revealed nothing of interest, further examination of the site was abandoned.

Arguing and political posturing went on for a few days. The South Africans were secretly threatened with sanctions or even military assault if their full cooperation was not forwithcoming. Publically, the US President made some harsh statements about the dangers of the Evil Empire getting their hands on super science weapons by befooling well-meaning but ignorant aliens, but Reagan was privately a more cautious and compromising man than his Republican Warrior persona, and behind the scenes efforts were made to forge diplomatic agreement.

In the mean time, various panics, large and small, were briskly brewing. Some were horrified by the notion that the aliens would get their first impression of humanity from the racist South Africans. Some wondered if their choice of landing site indicated something ghastly about the aliens themselves. Others of course expected the aliens to begin attacking at any time. People began claiming to have been abducted by the aliens, or having seen the rest of the invasion fleet through their home telescopes. Many loudly petitioned the US or Soviet government to nuke the aliens before they could strike – something being considered seriously by some strategists employed by those governments. (The fact that this would also destroy much of Jo-Berg helped cool such bravos a little). Seeking to raise their ratings, pundits ponderously pontificated re the possibility of alien arrival triggering atomic apocalypse.

In the meantime, the aliens were being rather stubbornly uncommunicative. The ship was bombarded with radio signals, attempts were made to attract their attention with flashing lights, and perhaps inspired by “Close Encounters”, various forms of music were broadcast by loudspeakers. None of these inspired the least reaction. On the third day, a helicopter pilot disobeyed orders and landed on a flat section of the ship: he was fired for his boldness, but this ploy proved as pointless as any other. By the time a Happy Shiny International Agreement was announced on the fifth day, the South African mood could be summarized as what the hell are these aliens playing at?

Under the terms of the Marienbad/Marianski Convention, South Africa would allow full access to the alien ship by foreign “science teams” of up to 500 individuals from the US, the USSR, China, Japan, France, the UK, India, and teams representing the rest of the EC and the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact members. The rest of the world would either have to negotiate to get some of their people on one of the nine teams, or fuck off: after all, it wasn’t like they could nuke the ship, no? The South Africans had managed to make some gains out of the agreement: the Americans and Europeans had pinkie-promised not to place any sanctions on the South Africans for their icky racial laws, while the Soviets and Chinese had agreed to heavily cut back on their support for revolutionary movements and groups to the north. The South Africans, although publically grumbling about being bullied, privately were fairly satisfied: what the hell were they going to do with the alien space ship, anyway?

(And if large parts of the “science teams” were made up of military men, spies, and other types of spooks – well, it was in nobody’s interest to point such things out).

So, afore long, several thousand foreigners and billions of dollars worth of equipment were occupying a tent city around the alien ship, and communication efforts went to a new level.

And again, achieved exactly nothing.

The peculiar behavior of gravity in the area just beneath the ship nearly wrecked one helicopter: within a week of that event, the first spindly tower had been erected beneath the ship to allow scientists to take measurements in situ. And as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and within a month, helicopters were regularly landing on the alien ship, efforts were being made to scratch off bits and bobs for analysis, several people began loudly banging on the hull with crowbars to attempt to attract attention, and one apparently inebriated British scholar actually fell off the alien ship to his death.

Nearly three months after the ships arrival, the ship was cut open. (It would have been sooner, but there was a great deal of arguing between national groups re the possible dangers, and further delay took place developing a sufficiently air-and-virus tight barrier to place around the area entry would be forced, in case the ship was carrying some sort of plague that had wiped out its crew). The US and Soviet governments already had missiles secretly aimed at the ship, so if anything really nasty came out, sterilization would take place in less than twenty minutes.

Given the extremely high melting point of the alloy making up the ship’s hull, it took several days to cut what appeared to be an airlock open: the barrier stretched as the somewhat denser air inside the ship flowed out, but remained airtight, such a possibility having been prepared for. What the discovery team in their sealed environment suits would encounter within, however, was nothing that had been expected.

Within the ship, several hundred thousand dying aliens, vaguely insectoid creatures, lay in their own filth, many scarcely able to move. As it was eventually learned, the ships’ food-making technology had ceased to function two months ago, and the aliens were simply starving to death, unable to even open the airlocks to leave: the ship was locked down, and nothing except the environmental controls and the antigravity machinery would function.

Of course, things were initially rather sketchy, given the total lack of a means of communication: it was uncertain if the aliens were sick, hungry, undergoing a molt, or what, and even feeding them was a serious risk: could they take human food without being poisoned? The situation was not aided by the fact that the aliens were scared and, given their advanced state of malnutrition, not thinking very clearly: it was impossible to explain why one was trying to remove bits of flesh or blood, and those strong enough to still move were also strong enough to kick like a horse, (and outjump a kangaroo) and more than one “regrettable incident” took place on both sides.

Fortunately, the aliens were able to digest most terrestrial foodstuffs, although finding animal tissue generally rather more palatable than plant tissue. (Cabbage, it turned out, was actively poisonous ). For the moment, what to do with the aliens was put on hold while the largest airborne supply mission since the Berlin Airlift was put to work feeding over a quarter of a million survivors, and efforts were made to translate their language.

Also fortunately, the alien’s natural grammar, and visualization of the universe, although with its peculiarities, was not so different from human viewpoints that communication was impossible, and their clicking language occupied a range of the sonic spectrum within the hearing range of at least relatively young and rock-concert-free humans. While no human could duplicate most of the sounds in the aliens speech, and the aliens had little success with a language requiring a tongue, both could come to understand the other – one American linguist described the experience of learning their language as “only a little harder than Cantonese.”

It was eventually deciphered that there was no ship’s crew – the ship ran itself, with limited input from a tiny group of “overseers” which were the only ones capable of communicating with the ship’s semi-sentient computer.

What had become of the overseers, none could say. The aliens were proud, hard-working members of the laboring caste, a vital portion of the Well-Ordered People. They had come to work on a new world, leveling forests, planting crops, digging mines, damming rivers, and other tasks necessary to make it a proper place for the People. Something had gone wrong with the computer, and the ship had come here. They hoped new Overseers or perhaps members of the Planning or Technical caste would arrive to help them either return home or travel to their original destination.

In the meantime, the ships’ interior was scoured for any functional technology. There was none – or at least, none outside the claws of the aliens. Their tech was at least partly biological, and only the most harmless (or useless) of technology would operate without interfacing with the genetic material of a living alien. And the ships controls, in turn, would not work for any alien save the missing overseers. With some coaxing, some of the aliens were persuaded to operate some odds and ends of equipment, some of which made tweeting and buzzing noises and displayed incomprehensible information, others which made horrible grinding noises (which were later determined to be alien music), others showed moving images largely invisible to the human eye due to a rather different color spectrum sensitivity range than the human eye. And some – especially the bulky equipment in one of the larger storage areas – which they refused entirely to use on the ship. This was noted.

Every single piece of movable or detachable equipment aboard the ship was carefully documented and photographed and identified by a member of each international team before being moved to a secure storage location built in under a month on the ground, where it was received, checked against records, signed off on by another member of each team, and then put in a locker secured by multiple passwords. Random checks of lockers occurred frequently – it was, after all, a paranoid nightmare. Nobody wanted any unique item of equipment in the possession of a hostile nation. After, what might be the gadget which would lead to the technological breakthrough that would overturn the balance of power? Everyone spied on everyone else, and everyone suspected everyone else of trying to steal alien artifacts. And of course, some did try: the guards with the metal detector were amazed that the size of the piece of machinery that the Chinese agent had managed to shove…never mind.

Tension shot up sharply when some aliens were brought to the ground and, after much difficulty, coaxed into demonstrating what would be known as the “landscaping equipment.” The machines were meant to cut down trees, separate out ores, dig tunnels, sterilize soil, break up boulders…but from the point of view of primitive terrestrials, they looked like some pretty convincing super-weapons. Nothing as powerful as an atomic bomb in scale, of course. But if the basic principles could be derived…

This in turn invoked the problem of how to study the technology. (The more complicated machines, the machines that would not work without an alien’s input, would have to wait at least until communication had become relatively smooth, but simple things, the alien equivalents of can openers and snowglobes and electric toothbrushes, could be operated and examined.) But how to do it so nobody gained an advantage?

So, what was later called “the most expensive madhouse on Earth” was built on the Veldt outside Johannesburg, the “International Center for Xenotechnology Research.” It was much touted as a center for international cooperation and information-sharing, but what it actually was an information valve, all information emerging through a narrow spigot that could be controlled and monitored. All reports went into computers which sent information to all governments. Every word and gesture was recorded and tapes sent to all governments. Every pencil, every scrap of paper, every doodle on a napkin at lunch had to be accounted for, and woe betide the scientist who wrote down something and could not later explain exactly what he (or she: not too many in 1983) had been thinking of. Each nation fielded a small army of code experts to ferry out any secret messages hidden in the reports of other nation’s scientists: a great many secret messages were of course found, usually existing only in the imaginations of the decoders.

In the meantime, the costs of transporting all goods by air and the increasing squalor of the ship (more equipment was shutting down, apparently in a power-saving moving by the ship’s computer, including the sanitary facilities) had led to a decision to move the aliens to the ground: a large camp (the word “concentration” was carefully avoided) came into existence under the ship (the resident population having long since been bought out), and soon helicopters were flying up and down again almost continuously shuttling aliens to the ground.

The flowering of the Kafkaesque nightmare that was to be the ICXR was still in the future and the fortress of a lab was still under construction (things were delayed by contractors from different nations stopping construction ever now and then to make sure foreign national weren’t sneaking in spy cameras and such) when it’s prospects received a blow. The aliens informed the human researchers that they would no longer operate any of their more dangerous technology or attempt to explain how the technology worked: to do so would be against the best interests of the Well-Ordered People. When asked how this decision had been made, the humans were involved that “word had passed around,” or alien terms to that effect. From who? How had the “word” started? No alien could say.

There was a temptation of course to simply torture the information out of the aliens, but with everyone watching everyone else and the world as a whole watching in turn, such naughtiness simply could not be kept quiet or sold to the global public. There was admittedly a lot of subtle pressure tactics applied, and the fact that the alien settlement zone AKA “district 9” was a bit of a squalid hellhole from the start was due to aid and resources being withheld as part of these efforts. There were a lot of threatening interviews once the linguists really got the hang of the alien’s language, and a great many efforts to suborn individual aliens with promises of special privileges.

Further problems arose aboard the alien ship as scientists gingerly tried to remove some of the fixed components of the ship, after a careful examination of the ship’s architecture convinced them (most of them, anyway) that they had identified the ship’s power generating mechanisms and the anti-gravity generator. The machines were not designed to be disassembled without special tools, some of which humans couldn’t use and others only imperfectly described before the “information blackout” set in. And as it soon turned out, important components would not allow themselves to be broken down improperly, at least not without command-level permission, and defended themselves with electrical attacks of increasing power. After some efforts to remove built-in equipment escalated to pitched battles that reduced several parts of the ship’s interior to smoking metallic rubble, efforts to extract further ship’s hardware for analysis were severely curtailed.

At first this did not discourage the scientists too much. After all, even if they could not operate the portable machines, they could take them apart and see what made them tick. And if they could not take the ship apart, there was a load of loose equipment they could use for analysis. After all, they had the resources of the better part of the world behind them…how could they fail?

Technological progress, alas, does not stand still after some point. A transistor radio would be almost incomprehensible to a natural philosopher of the age of Voltaire, and that’s just a couple centuries. To duplicate a truly advanced technology, one will need to build the tools to build the tools to build the necessary tools, and probably several more iterations, each step a stumbling fumble into obscure and poorly lit territory. Things were learned, but not necessarily things having anything to do with the super-science world governments salivated for…

************************************************** *******

2010. Some 27 years after the “arrival”, the ship still floats and the slum city of the people now widely known by the slur of “prawns” still sprawls beneath it. It is no longer just beneath it, though: as the aliens population has grown, so has District 9 expanded. It is now a long, narrow wedge of territory extending for miles outward from the city. The aliens, intended to be colonists on a new world, have a strong drive to reproduce. And reproduce they have, in their rather disgusting normal manner, incubating their larvae inside animal carcasses for lack of the genetically engineered hosts a functioning colony would have available. Increasing outside pressure to stop having babies, damn it, have failed to prevent the population from growing more than sixfold in the intervening time, to some 1.8 million. The Pundits point out in ominous tones that at such rates the aliens will number in the billions in little over a century, and “population control” methods on part of the authorities have become, to say the least, brutal.

The International Center for Xenotechnology Research shut down in 1998, fourteen years after its opening, when it became clear it served far more effectively as a generator of neuroses than of scientific breakthroughs. The alien “landscaping equipment” proved impossible to duplicate, as did most of the other technology examined. Even the basic principles behind many of the machines remained obscure. Some valuable discoveries were made, but they tended to be unexpected spinoffs and new ideas and ways of looking at things arising from contact with alien mysteries rather than breakthroughs in the alien technology itself. The room temperature superconductor, the new super-strong construction polymers, the new biosynthesis process that made it possible to make food at reasonable prices from wood or weeds or even coal – all were valuable additions to humanity’s technological package and made some people fabulously rich. But they weren’t a patch on such things as antigravity, high-level genetic engineering, molecular-level semi-organic computing tech, what sounded like (from scattered comments by various aliens) to be some sort of nanotech capable of rewriting the DNA and the physical structure of living things on the most basic of levels – it was frustrating, and infuriating. The power systems and the antigravity generator of the ship couldn’t even be closely examined, for fear of interrupting their function and dropping the ship out of the sky (statistically speaking, if you looked at the various theories about the power system and the antigravity generator, they predicted a 60% chance of something truly apocalyptic taking place if both were rudely dropped to the planetary surface).

As knowledge of the alien’s language continued to improve, it became clearer that even if information _were_ tortured out of them, it might not prove too useful. Aliens, like humans, varied in their level of intelligence, bravery, and gullibility, and many aliens, isolated from other members of their species, were tricked, frightened, or in some cases bribed into giving away information about their gadgetry over the years. Unfortunately, much of what they _did_ know was phrased in a technical jargon that was simply untranslatable due to the lack of equivalents in any earthly language, and attempts to try to start with fundamentals foundered - the laboring-caste aliens were skilled at the _use_ of their equipment, and knew how to do maintenance and basic repairs, but didn’t know much about the actual basic principles behind the machinery. That was for the technical and theoretical castes.

Aside from the growing conviction that nothing truly earth-shaking was likely to come out of the ICXR anytime soon, the international tensions that had led to its peculiar fishbowl existence had sharply decreased in the meantime. China continued its path towards “communism with Chinese characteristics” (curiously similar to late 19th century robber baron capitalism) on which it had already been set by 1982, after a brief alien-related panic which allowed the more ideological members of the government to whip up some support failed to seriously change things. In the USSR, the unnerving game of espionage and counter-espionage and alien gadget theft between the US and USSR butterflied away Gorbachev’s general secretary job in favor of a more conservative and hawkish candidate, but the Soviet Union’s economic problems were not aided much by any of the new technological developments, which it lacked the organization infrastructure or entrepreneurial class to properly exploit anyway. A balance of payments crisis, another bad harvest, another explosion of nationalist protest in Poland (followed by one in Romania, where Ceausescu was shot while reviewing underpaid and unhappy troops): which was the trigger or whether it was a cumulative thing is hard to say, but a struggle broke out in the Party leadership, there were briefly two “official” governments of the USSR (one in Moscow, one in Kiev), people came out onto the streets, soldiers were not enthusiastic about shooting them, and before you know it it’s December 12, 1993, some of the old leadership are on a fast jet to Vietnam and busily memorizing Swiss bank account numbers, and the USSR is suddenly the Federated Republics of Eurasia: 15 initially, 12 two weeks later, and dropping.

Study of course would continue, but no longer at the ICXR. Several new international study centers were created abroad, but without the obsessive security of the original. Mysterious gadgets were equitably distributed between the major powers to take home to look at (and when a final accounting took place, everyone expressed Total Ignorance of why a number of gadgets appeared to have gone AWOL during their stay in the supposedly super-safe ICXR), and some of the dinkier nations were given a few toys to play with to win diplomatic points. (As host, South Africa got a nice share). Some of the more mysterious and unusable gadgets ended up decorating cafeterias or as office paperweights: studies went on, but now on a budget and with high paperwork hurdles requiring some indication that they would yield something useful or at least not cover ground previously covered by someone else. (By 1998, the “null results” experiments files would fill a small library in paper form). The world by the turn of the chronological third millennia had resigned itself that the ray-gun millennium was not going to happen soon.

The aliens had passed in and out of the news cycle over the years. The hermaphroditic prawn-people had never been very successful in charming people, although their difficulties did incite occasional bursts of sympathy. Initially, they had all been kept carefully under guard and segregated from the population in case 1. They carried some disease 2. They were planning to escape into the wild and breed like cockroaches or 3. Some foreign national were to kidnap one and torture science information from them/create a creepy foreigner-Prawn planet alliance. 1 no longer really worried anyone but the Deep Crazies after a decade had passed without alien bacteria developing any taste for terrestrial life, and by the late 90s nobody really expected any breakthroughs to come from squeezing the aliens for information (to the great unhappiness of the four different foreign super-secret agencies that had succeeded in kidnapping live Prawns (as they were by the late 90s widely referred to) under the cover of fires, “gas explosions” and terrorist attacks that had supposedly blown them into small enough pieces to make identification of individual remains impossible).

However, 2 remained a worry, especially since the Prawns did multiply with alarming speed. Also, after a decade and a half of exposure to them on TV, most people everywhere had come to develop a rather strong NIMBY feeling about them. They were ugly, they sounded odd, they reportedly smelled bad, they were angry and temperamental, they grew their young in decomposing corpses, they were addicted to cat food (actually a mix of preservative chemicals in a few brands, but it was cheaper to buy the cat food), they ate people's pets, they could not speak any terrestrial language and their own language was know by few, and while the original generation from the ship had their own complex social structures, their children, growing up under alien conditions and restraints, deprived of the ordered place they had been bred for and with no higher-caste aliens to speak and give orders with chemically and mimetically reinforced authority, were a wild and often brutally violent sort. Their very body movements were off, jerky and disturbing to human watchers.

There were a few efforts to establish Prawn settlements (under protective monitoring) elsewhere, but none lasted. Isolated locations in Canada or Siberia were out because the Prawns found cold weather distinctly bad for their health, efforts to find them employment did not go well at all (finding jobs for largely isolated communities is bad enough for _humans_, and locals did not like the idea of aliens competing for their jobs) and they _would_ keep breeding until locals began to scream about the danger of being overrun with swarms of the aliens. Young bravos _did_ run off into the wilderness to “go it alone”, leading to Prawn-hunts which ended tragically in some cases. In any event they soon gained a reputation as “shifty” and “unreliable”: most aliens felt a certain pointlessness in carrying out idiotic jobs for the benefit of humans rather than fulfilling the great purpose they had been born for, while a few neurotically attempted to “rework” the land in a feeble, ritualistic imitation of what they were supposed to do, building strange roads to nowhere, constructing random “housing” complexes, chopping down trees for no purpose, and making use of homebrew explosives to blow up “obstructive” rocks. In the end, these efforts were all shut down and the aliens (often rather quite a few more than had first come) were shipped back to South Africa.

In 2010, District 9 had a population density of over 180,000 per square mile, substantially higher than Calcutta. Its inhabitants live in crowded tenement-like buildings, constructed – largely by the aliens themselves - of whatever cheap materials international charity and local government have been willing to supply. Some of the buildings seem to grow together in odd ways, forming amorphous complexes of huge size, possibly echoing arcologies on their home world. Fire is a constant hazard; plumbing, utilities, etc. generally lag far behind growth. The Prawns, once the center of the world’s ardent attention, have now become a burden most do not want to think about. They are yesterday’s news, part of the amorphous mass of global refugees, another poor, miserable, and really rather disagreeable people washed up on some distant foreign shore, thank goodness not here. The Marienbad Convention powers grumble about the costs of keeping District 9 afloat, and wonder aloud as to whether the South Africans are being careless with their money. The South Africans wish there was someone they could offload them on.

The spaceship is still a good draw, with regular tourist tours, external helicopter ones for a low price, a trip inside for a higher one. A few somewhat demented scientists carry on experiments here and there within its bulk, and a network of cameras (monitored by bored rent-a-cops in case anything changes in the almost entirely dark and shut-down ship) feeds to a superconductor cable running out through the hole cut some many years ago: for ease of access, several other holes have been cut and quite a bit of scaffolding arranged around the side of the ship. District 9 retains a certain cachet with the Extreme Tourist crowd: the variety of release forms that must be signed before entering is truly impressive. Once within, a system of “local guides” and their human partners (translators) work together fairly amicably to separate them from any form of currency they may have.
There is a small community of hard-bitten humans living in District 9. Initially, the government and the big powers kept all but carefully vetted personnel out, lest they “exploit”/learn secrets from the aliens, but as technological marvels failed to emerge and public opinion shifted increasingly to Don’t Give a Fuck, the South African government became increasingly casual about visitors permits, and eventually about going in to get people after they outstayed their permits (after all, finding them in a city of 1.8 million bad-tempered aliens would be an unpleasant job). Some are scientists and anthropologists with a great deal of patience and bravery: other are nutty artists and writers looking for inspiration: others are criminals looking for action to take a piece of.

There is after all a fair amount of money to be found floating around district 9. The discretionary funds given to the city government (district 9 has one, albeit corrupt and weak) often end up where they should not, and a lot of aliens do piece-work for Jo’burg businesses: they have picked up a great many human technical skills over the years, and work cheap enough to compete with the human working poor (another reason most Johannesburg natives want the aliens gone far, far away). Then there is the “alien artifact” business: folks will pay big bucks for the alien equivalent of a cigarette lighter (about the most advanced tech the aliens were allowed to bring down with them), or for a piece of “alien technology” built right here on earth (usually some meaningless collection of wires and bits of machinery put together by some alien with artistic flair), or for genuine “alien art.” And then there are the more shadowy things: criminal organizations have uses for communities almost entirely opaque and impenetrable to outsiders, especially if, say, they have the tech savvy to build a drug lab. District 9 is still sealed off, but the guards are fewer than they used to be, and are no longer elite, hard-to-bribe types. And then there are the tunnels…

The local gangs and outsiders such as the Nigerians battled for supremacy of sorts, but currently something of a shaky peace prevails - after a few Prawns got caught in a cross-fire, a large part of the criminal human element in District 9 “softly and suddenly vanished away”: the leadership got the message. (What happened to them is unknown, but the most popular theory is that it had something to do with lunch).

Of late, some odds and ends of alien technology have been coming back into District 9. Bits of unusable and non-flashy (no death rays) tech have found their way into private hands. Some have been quietly purchased by intermediate agents: in some cases, traded for new and more interesting gadgetry, gadgetry which actually does something. And, through various and devious paths, they have found their way back into Prawn hands. But they’re bits of machinery that never did anything interesting, even when used by Prawn hands: so why and what for?

Science fiction is more widespread and respectable than OTL, but has some major differences: aliens are likelier to be non-humanoid, and tend to be both stupid and unpleasant, and after some difficulty get their asses beat into the ground by humanity. Techno-optimism is looked upon more skeptically: the idea that the Singularity or True AI is right around the corners is generally met with heavy eye-rolling. On the other hand, there are rather higher hopes for the presence of life of some sort on Mars, under the ice of Jovian moons, etc. “Star Trek: the Next Generation” never got made, but perhaps in cosmic balance Scientology never really took off. The universe is generally seen as more alien and hostile and dangerous: Lovecraftean stuff is doing well. There’s more “traditional” space-opera planet-explorer stuff since it appears the barriers to manned space exploration and interstellar travel aren’t as high as some SF writers in out reality would hold.

Human space exploration took a bit of a back seat while the alien ship was being studied: why screw around with silly rockets when anti-gravity was just around the corner? (Besides, the enormous alien craft made anything on the drawing boards look like embarrassingly cheap crap). But a bit of a “humans into space, let’s show these damn prawns who are secretly laughing at us what we can do” reaction developed by the late 90s, and the positive test results for the new plasma shielding for solar eruptions (those room temperature superconductors really helped) mean that the joint US-European-Chinese-FRE (now down to 5 full member republics and 3 “associated”) expedition to Mars should be good to go in 2014.

There are a lot of orbiting nuclear weapons, pointing outwards. Just in case.

The First Supervisor (known as “Christopher” to humans quite unable to pronounce his/her real name) finally grew philosophical enough to stop kicking him/herself around 2003: hir’s not sure, after all, that hir could have recreated the control interface even given the three months before the humans broke into the ship, and after all, removing and concealing the command module, with its emergency equipment, and concealing him/herself and the other supervisory staff before they could be identified, was the smart, cautious move. How was he/she to know they would be so cautious about entering the ship when all the TV images seemed to show they were aggressively crazy? So, with the limited resources available, it had taken him nearly 30 years to create a new biological control mechanism: given that his/her caste had a lifespan of several centuries, it hadn’t been that long. The important thing was that it was finally almost done, and the command module could emerge from where it was buried, 15 feet below the ground floor of an "arcology"...

The world is generally richer than ours, thanks to the various bits of alien-inspired technology that had been developed over the decades, less hungry thanks to synthetic food production, more wired and brightly lit. People still starved in Africa, AIDS remained a problem (although with all the bright lights of publicity focused on South Africa, the severity of the local AIDS problem was recognized earlier and more effective measures taken at least locally.) Iraq remains fragmented after the US and the Federal Republic of Eurasia reacted rather strongly to Saddam Hussein’s revenge-nuking of Tehran in 1995. The Reds remained in control in Afghanistan rather longer, and Osama Bin Laden died in a cave full of burning napalm. (On the sinister hand, a Japanese apocalyptic cult did manage to infect several hundred people with anthrax). Thanks to the new synthetics, the Gulf oil state’s building projects are even more over-the-top than OTL.

Apartheid held on a bit longer, helped by decreased outside pressure and the income arising from certain complex negotiations involving patent law and rights to any technological innovations developed on South African soil, but the black African population would not take no for an answer, and a longer, slower and more troubled transition to equal rights than OTL took place from 1996 to 2003: the existence of District 9 actually proved useful, as the Prawns could be used as an “other” to unify black and white against, as well as those selfish foreigners who refused to take them off South African hands and proved as intrusive and bossy with the first black politicians as they had been with white ones (some historians and social scientists claim that without these convenient “others” and scapegoats – the South African share of maintenance costs for District 9 were (dubiously) claimed to be seriously hurting the economy – South Africa might have faced civil war (there are also those who claim these arguments are a bunch of dingoes kidneys). The White population holds a larger share of the economic power than OTL, but the overall economy is larger, and AIDS prevalence is close to 6% rather than 18%.

The government contract for MNU United, which was to move the aliens to a dozen new “clean, sanitary and secure” resettlement zones off in the middle of nowhere, would later turn out to be a marvel of corruption, in which a number of the very highest officials would be implicated. What was meant to be a big savings for the South African government and other bodies paying to keep District 9 afloat would in the end prove considerably more expensive than maintaining things as they were, while the resettlement zones were only clean and sanitary in the sense that they were so before anyone showed up (secure, on the other hand…). Admittedly, as things turned out, the taxpayer was not burdened with the actual operating costs of the “Prawn Camps."

In many places across the earth, secret research institutions exist. They are run by half a dozen nations, and research into Prawn technology – especially the kind that blows things up good – continues. The humans have help here. Smuggling adult Prawns was always a bit of a problem, but once efforts to stop the Prawns from out-breeding their means had reached the level of destroying illegal egg-hatching programs – well, smuggling out an egg was a lot easier. The resultant youngsters, although raised by humans speaking the Prawn language only through electronic synthesizers and consequently very badly socialized (in some cases near-feral), could be persuaded (or frightened into) operating all sorts of machines, so they could be studied in operation.

MNU United runs one such program in partnership with the South African government – providing the government with an extra layer of immunity (“we knew nothing of what MNU was up to!”) while allowing MNU to charge extra for its “official” purpose. As another bonus, the most demented cases of human-raised Prawns were always available for biological research – after all, developing effective bio-weapons in case their relatives should ever come calling was a major priority, as well as having a deniable means of thinning the Prawn population if things were to ever come to that…

************************************************** ***

2014. District 9 is no more, having been reduced to slag. Of course, that is not the only place that has become more, hmm, low-lying in the last few months.

The departure of the alien ship in 2010 made the panic of ’82 look like a mild case of indigestion, and everyone of course realized that Someone Else than Them had been guilty of treating the Prawns, er, the Well-Ordered People, shabbily. Fingers were pointed, circular firing squads were formed, and everyone was under suspicion until proven guilty. Of course, those who had never believed the aliens claims that their ship was faster than light were less worried, and suggested we probably had decades at least before vengeful aliens showed up. They failed to reassure the majority.

The plan to ship the aliens off to the desert was put on hold. District 9 community leaders did not exactly help the situation, tending to loudly gloat about the punishments that would befall their oppressors: one suggested that the human race surrender to them and make them their overlords, thereby avoiding the whole bloody conquest thing. (Actually, the laborer castes knew little about high-level policy re alien races or what the response from back home was likely to be, but after decades of a combination of cruel and negligent treatment and imprisonment, they were very happy to make the humans squirm).

A variety of options were debated, varying from killing them all and telling their relatives when they arrived that they had all died of the flu, to moving them all into pricey hotel suites. In the meantime, human-bred specimens were moved into even more secure locations, under mountains and such, and experimental schedules accelerated. (MNU killed all their specimens, burned them to ashes, and buried the ashes deep, and put on expressions of injured innocence when rumors emerged that they had been involved in “secret testing” of kidnapped aliens.) All humans living among the aliens were evacuated (forcibly in some cases): the aliens had become far bolder and more aggressive in responding to anything that could be interpreted as a slight, and MNU or South African security forces were no longer tolerated. In fact, it turned out that the aliens had built up quite a little arsenal of home-made weaponry over the years, including home-brew high explosives and even flamethrowers: when an intruding MNU forces was decimated after an accidental shooting, the local leadership claimed that District 9 was now “territory of the Well-Ordered Race” and any humans who came in would do so under their conditions.

There was some call to strafe District 9 from the air, but there was some uncertainty as to whether the aliens would be able to retaliate in some way. Finally, the decision was made to seal off District 9 entirely: its inhabitants would be provided with as much food, raw materials, and electricity as they desired, and all the catfood they could stomach, but otherwise a strict separation, to avoid any further incidents, would be observed. Large parts of Johannesburg adjacent to the district were evacuated. Newer and higher walls were erected. And a number of small radio-controlled nuclear weapons were placed in concealed places along those walls.

Three very tense years went by. There were constant demands from District 9 as the aliens pushed as hard as they could: there was bloody fighting in District 9 as the Pride of the Race faction attempted to forcibly put to an end catfood use. Then there was the time a coalition of young bloods attempted a mass breakout and capture of the still human-populated parts of Jo’Berg...

Many people bought loads of survivalist gear and headed off to build a redoubt in the mountains, only to find other survivalists had taken the best spots already. Some burrowed into the earth, or built under the floors of lakes. Others built bomb shelters or repurposed old ones dating back to the 1950s and 60s. Others spent a lot of time praying. There was an explosion of new cults promising protection from alien invaders or escape to other planets. The more paranoid government investigated their cultists in the chance that some of them actually were in contact with other aliens.

(The only actual non-Well-Ordered-Race alien in the world, who lived in Tokyo, wasn’t interested in interfering: its study of the interactions between a barbarian race and a semi-civilized one was garnering praise back home, and the arrival of a rescue force would no doubt provide all sorts of interesting new data).

Governments crumbled, many political careers raced into the toilet, and an alliance of third world nations arose, claiming loudly for the record that they had been shut out of the debate on how to treat the aliens by the big powers – the same powers that had oppressed them in the past, which established solidarity between them and the aliens, right? The global economy slumped into a deep depression. Suicide rates went up sharply, as did conspicuous consumption and the use of drugs legal and illegal. A religious leader of some importance claimed that the inhabitants of District 9 were not aliens, but agents of the devil, the hordes of Gog and Magog, now multiplying endlessly and soon to emerge to overrun the world. The End of the World became a running theme in music and literature.

Orbital weapons were enhanced. All sorts of crazy defensive weapons systems and plans were discussed as if there were a realistic chance of their being built. Three years on, an energy wave that caused rock to crumble with little fuss or dangerous shrapnel (and made human bodies vanish in a moist puff of pink vapor) was finally duplicated, using a mass of machinery roughly the size of the space shuttle…

…and then an alien fleet of some 50 ships appeared near the Moon.

Everything human built in orbit ceased to exist some five minutes later. The message, on all frequencies, which overrode every still-functioning radio and TV signal on earth and took the place of missing satellite broadcasts, was fairly pithy.

WE HAVE COME FOR OUR PEOPLE
ALL OF THEM
RETURN THOSE WHICH YOU HAVE STOLEN
AND WE WILL BE MERCIFUL

Of course, governments and a certain corporate agency denied the existence of any such.

YOU WILL SHORTLY BE ALLOWED TO PROVE THE TRUTH OF YOUR STATEMENTS

Several ships swooped down to South Africa. The walls crumbled and the inhabitants of District 9 began to stream aboard the ships. A number of flying, vaguely spider-like machines emerged from the ships, and soon returned carrying struggling humans from the nearby city. That was when the South African government made its bold (or amazingly stupid) move and announced that the ships, along with District 9, were now their hostages. (They had perhaps not really thought the situation through: it was unlikely the aliens could provide a getaway car big enough for the planet).

Shortly after that, the remaining fleet took 15 minutes to reduce 1/3 of the face of the Moon to radioactive slag, incidentally wiping out the site of the first Moon landing.

YOUR MOVE

There were no further efforts to prevent the evacuation of District 9, in spite of some posturing over the status of the fourteen humans that had been brought aboard the alien ships. As the last ship left, it paused to reduce the site to a sea of glass, with such economy of energy that the nearest human settlements some two miles away didn’t even lose a windowpane.

The next message came a week later.

WE HAVE STUDIED THE NERVOUS SYSTEMS OF OUR CAPTIVES
WE REGRET TO SAY THAT TWO OF THEM HAVE SUFFERED SOME PERMANENT IMPAIRMENT AS A RESULT – THEY SHALL BE RETURNED WITH OUR APOLOGIES
WE HAVE HOWEVER SUCCEEDED IN MAPPING THEIR BRAINS TO THE POINT WHERE WE CAN ASCERTAIN WITH OVER 90% CERTAINTY WHETHER WE ARE BEING LIED TO
WE THEREFORE DESIRE TO MEET WITH THE COMMANDING PERSONS OF YOUR MAJOR NATIONS SO THEY CAN REASSURE US YOU ARE NOT HOLDING OTHERS OF OUR PEOPLE CAPTIVE
FAILURE TO ARRANGE FOR THIS WILL BE SEEN AS AN ADMISSION OF GUILT
CONTINUED FAILURE TO COOPERATE WILL LEAD TO A GEOMETRICAL PROGRESSION
BEGINNING WITH YOUR SMALLER CITIES AND WORKING OUR WAY UP
WE KNOW WHO THE MOST LIKELY NATIONAL CULPRITS ARE AND THE NAMES AND FACES OF THEIR COMMANDERS
OUR EXILED PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WATCHING A LOT OF TV

Some unpleasantness followed.

In 2014, there is a frantic, vengeful mood. Some five million human beings died by orbital bombardment before full cooperation took place, and there is a substantial bitterness, some directed at the politicians who stalled and temporized in fear of the treatment of the alien “orphans” coming to light, some directed (a bit inconsistently) at those who cooperated, especially the handing over of the heads of the MNU and the French research team (who had taken a similar “bury the bodies deep” approach to their little peccadilloes) to the aliens.

But mostly it is directed towards the “Prawns.” Oddly, the aliens were understanding about the experimentation thing: it was the irreversible act of killing the younglings that, in their view, mandated punishment. It was a rule of the Well-Ordered People that the unprovoked murder of their kind by aliens was always to be punished, and severely: Civis Romanus Sum and all that, don’t cha know. Most humans did not deal well with this, and found the broadcast of the executions of a few dozen leading figures in the prawn experimentation program, carried out with the traditional oversized crab cracker, a bit much.

Humanity’s pride has taken a severe blow, and the turmoil of 2010 has easily been exceeded. In some cases, this has had positive results, such as the overthrow of the Communist Chinese government and the establishment of a (still shaky) republic: in other cases, such as the incipient neo-fascist takeover of the French government, rather less so. There are calls for a world government, for the execution of all those who cooperated with the aliens, the impeachment of all those who had anything to do with the secret experimental program, and the destruction of all radio stations to prevent other and even less pleasant aliens from detecting us. Many are consumed by a feeling of helpless rage, as those who smacked the crap out of us are entirely unreachable and impossible to hurt: Americans in particular have suffered an almost existential blow to their pride, 9/11 having never taken place to shake our sense of invulnerability. The consumption of crustaceans has risen sharply.

There is, on the other hand, a great deal of giddy relief: the aliens returned, and we didn’t all die. They’re gone, and hopefully won’t come back. Like cancer victims who have undergone spontaneous remission, many feel that they have a new lease on life. Others can’t make themselves stop worrying, though: although a lot of survivalists have come home, others gloomily suggest that this is simply the first encounter – like the Pacific Islanders after Cook, we have been discovered, and there will be further visits – and deepen their bunkers.

Studies of the alien’s genetic material continue: some researchers managed to squirrel away samples of alien tissue without informing their superiors, who honestly replied to aliens equipped with Truth Machines that as far as they knew, they had given the aliens everything. The Mars mission is back on, in spite of the continued ghastly condition of the global economy, and a prominent US politician has called for the US – in cooperation with other nations, yet – to send a probe to Alpha Centauri within the next decade. The private space industry is getting a lot of money, as the world struggles to rebuild its satellite infrastructure.

Global warming denialism – long the province of the total loonie fringe (the aliens had expressed puzzlement that anyone could fail to notice the correlation between large-scale use of fossil fuels and climate change – it had happened on their planet, too) – has reappeared in public consciousness, as the deniers claim that global warming theory is in fact an alien conspiracy to weaken our industrial development.

Interestingly, the aliens did not bother to remove the technology along with the younglings: it was simply too scattered in any event, and too many odds and ends had simply passed out of the hands of official government. In any event, the leaders of the expedition concluded, given that it had taken the earthlings some thirty years to duplicate a Smoother-of-Rocky-Paths – and then by purely empirical methods, with a distinctly shaky grasp of the theory behind it – they were unlikely to learn enough to become a serious threat. They were largely correct, but not entirely: although humans would not become a problem for some seven hundred years, when they finally did, it was a real doozy of a problem.

2064: Wikus was dumped, along with a floatation device (barely adequate, in his opinion) a bit off the shore of South Africa by a radar-invisible automated probe, having been genetically restored to human form on the alien’s homeworld. He was rather displeased to find out that the ship had dropped the slower-than-light little probe (his body in suspended animation) off a number of light years from Earth, *Christopher having insufficient pull to get a subspace-capable ship to go that far off the beaten galactic path: he had not been informed of the details, and therefore the fact that fifty years had gone by came as a wee bit of a shock. However, all the money he pulled in from 3dv appearances did soothe his pain a bit, as did the new designer drugs. And they probably would have hanged him in 2014.
My version of what happened with the Prawns.
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