You guys figure out that I hate doing intros for these yet? Can I make that into a tradition and then say it’s outdated?

JAMESON HANDYTROUSERS

The fleet slipped out of hyperspace two hundred thousand miles above the small planet, leaving behind a glow of indigo radiance.
“No signs of planetary defense systems detected, Supreme Commander.”
“Thank you Chira. Proceed at approach velocity.”
Obliteration.
Terraformation.
Colonization.

This planet would be easier to defeat than he anticipated. No defense systems in place, even though they would have been futile. Thus far, no sentient species in the galaxy had been capable of providing even so much as what Bror would consider a token defense.
“At firing range now Supreme Commander.”
“All ships, fire cellular disintegration beams on my command. Proceed with standard encirclement procedure… NOW!”
Forty-three thousand ships fired at once. Light flared around the planet, creating a neat red halo. The ships then fanned out, encasing the planet’s surface in death. Anything living on the surface would be destroyed instantaneously. This planet was even easier than many of the others.
After an hour of continuous bombardment, Chira announced, “Total cellular disintegration complete.”
Obliteration.
Terraformation.
Colonization.

“Launch Terraforming Squadron 322. Get this place breathable. We land immediately,” Bror ordered.
Why had it been so simple to eliminate this threat? Bror did not understand why a sentient species would forego any kind of planetary defense. Their long range scans of the planet conducted prior to the tour had indicated a high technology civilization. Granted, this was some time ago, but civilizations do not generally slide backwards. They should have had some kind of defense. No matter. It was Volthorian territory now.
It didn’t take long before the atmosphere was breathable for the Volthorian invaders. Within twelve hours, the colonization ships were on the ground, unpacked, and ready to begin construction of temporary living structures. Bror contemplated how long he should stay with this particular conquest before bringing the fleet to the next target.
Obliteration.
Terraformation.
Colonization.

Chira’s voice snapped him back to attention, “Supreme Commander, I have just been informed of an anomaly with the local star.”
“What anomaly?”
“Supreme Commander, it appears there are extensive gravitational waves and neutrinos as a result of several nuclear reactions on the surface. We are also detecting an outburst of ultraviolet radiation.”
A cold fear gripped him as the implications made themselves clear. Bror knew what this meant.
“How long have the ultraviolet rays been present Chira?”
“Supreme Commander, we only just began receiving this data. It is unknown how long they could have been present, as we did not scan the star upon entry into the solar system.”
The total lack of defense of this system was starting to make a type of sense…
“Chira, are there any non-Volthorian hyperspace signatures present in this system?”
“I… Supreme Commander, yes! Approximately six thousand ships departed here quite recently.”
“Evacuate the system immediately!”
It was too late for him and the colonization unit. Bror knew it. Considering the size of the star and the amount of time they had been planetside, there was only three hours maximum before it went supernova. The fleet could still survive.
He hoped Chira wouldn’t hesitate, wouldn’t try rescuing him. Let him die for his mistake, alone.
Bror realized he was dying just as the light of a million suns blanketed the sky.
Obliteration…

DK: The construction of the language and the flow here is a little more stilted than I usually prefer, even though that tends to fit better with this type of setting, and certainly I can be drawn into it when I get a good sense of world-building like this one has. I think there’s a sneaky good amount of character work done here in revealing both the way the colonization situation flips around and Bror’s changing understanding of his fate. BRONZE
CP: I started out rolling my eyes at all the sci-fi stuff here, but by the end I felt some genuine emotion for Bror and his fast approaching death. I’m not sure the execution was as strong as it could have been throughout–it was fairly heavy on exposition. However, the structure of the story works quite well and that final obliteration is well done. BRONZE

HYBRID CARLOS

I spent nearly half an hour in the bedroom gearing up. I put on two heavy sweatshirts – one Steelers, one Penn State. I put on my work jeans and some vinyl snowpants. I grabbed my woolen gloves and knit cap. I even put some eye black on. We were taking that trophy for the 3rd straight year.

I strolled on in to the living room looking like an overstuffed linebacker. Uncle John was telling a hilarious story about his latest repo pick up. Aunt Marge was dishing on the new deluxe SUV her neighbors just bought.

Four of the cousins were on the couch huddled around a iPad deluxe something-or-other. I decided to make my presence known, “It’s time for the 9th annual Beaverman Family Thanksgiving football gaaaaaame,” announcing that last part like a boxing announcer.

Uncle John paused in his story and gave me a queer look. Aunt Marge gave me a glance, but otherwise ignored me. The kids didn’t move a muscle. “Hey everyone, let’s go play the big outdoor family football game!” A few more people diverted their eyes from the TV game to acknowledge my presence, but otherwise there was no response.

John stood up and came up to me taking me aside to the foyer. “Bill, you know, we’ve been talking, and I think we’re gonna take a break from the big football game.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could we leave out the best part of the Beaverman Thanksgiving Celebration.

“I… I don’t understand. We’ve been having this game for 9 years now. We have a traveling trophy and everything. It’s tradition for God’s sake.”

“Look, Bill, have you seen the temperature today? It’s almost below zero, and the wind chill is nearly below 20 and …”

“Aw, c’mon John, that just makes it all the better. It just means we gotta bundle up a little bit more. We won’t even feel the hits we’ll be so numb…”

“And, Bill, you know, Grandma wouldn’t be able to play with her hip replacement….”

“She can ref, c’mon, help me get everyone out there…”

“Bill, you know Uncle Lewis can’t really play now that he’s got the gout…”

“He can help Grandma, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t mix it up.”

“BILL!” shouted Aunt Jillian from the dining room. “You sent two people to the hospital last year! You’re too rough out there, and no one gives a DAMN about that stupid, gaudy traveling trophy! Give it a rest already.”

I let the words hit me. Uncle John nervously flashed a short smile, gave me a soft pat on the shoulder and sat back down to finish his story. Aunt Marge continued to tell her story, and the kids, again, didn’t move.

I thought about how there’d be no more Beaverman Family Football games. No more tackling Aunt Lisa. No more cousins catching a long pass to the corner of the yard, barely missing the sewer grate. No more Uncle Pete mooning the other team when he got a touchdown. I looked down at the trophy again, took in a deep breath, “Well, I guess that means just one thing… I AM THE CHAM-PEE-OOOOON! Suckers!!!!”

DK: I like the feel of the setting here, and the details of the characters. Bill is a fun protagonist to follow, although I felt like the pace of his reaction (and then the drawn out subsequent resistances) were a little off. Overall I like the idea of the story, although it didn’t move in enough surprising ways to have much momentum after the initial understanding of the “tradition” ending was established.
CP: Heh, I enjoyed Bill’s final line and his utter denial to change his feelings toward the game. I wish, though, that this story hadn’t played out quite like this. It’s all spelled out very clearly for the reader, and I found myself longing for more subtext.

CHRISTY BUBBLEPUMPKIN

March 26th, 2061

To whoever has the balls to see something through in the year 2137,I’ve been waiting for this day to come my whole life. Not that any of my friends cared, or my family for that matter. Who needs them anyway, I gave them all a beautiful, sprawling estate to live on and they repaid me with nothing but abandonment!

I have all the family I need when I read about all of the wonderful things my grandparents accomplished. My grandparents would tell me all about how proud they were to have been a part of that wonderful group of 39 people to see their mission through. Of course, I never got a chance to meet my grandparents, or my parents for that matter. I guess that is the price you pay when you are devoted to a worthy cause like ours. But I imagine that is what they would have said to me if I ever got the opportunity to meet them

Who am I kidding?! I am about to meet them very shortly! I’m just so happy I was able to break free from the brainwashing of my foster family and discover my true calling before it was too late. Although it will be pretty awkward to explain to them why I am only part of a pathetic group of 1 who had the gumption to carry this out.

Maybe people are just different now than they were in 1997. People would accomplish things back then. They could even drive their own cars, none of this self-propelled nonsense we deal with today! They even had the ability to heat up an entire planet. How badass is that? People nowadays though are weak. Sure, they would pay lip service to the cause but as the big day got closer and closer one by one they all got cold feet.

“I want to have children someday.”

“I don’t believe in God.”

“I think you’re thinking of the wrong comet.”

“I want to get a divorce and marry Tom.”

I heard all their lame excuses and each one would make me more and more agitated, yet more and more determined to fulfill my duty. Think about it: who turns down a ride to the airport? I’m offering them a ride to HEAVEN! It doesn’t get any better than that people.

So in conclusion, I offer a toast: To the next faithful generation out there (if you even exist at the rate mankind is deteriorating) don’t let other people’s feeble willpower get you down. Stick to the plan, no matter how much it costs you (just make sure you bring 5 dollars and 75 cents for the tolls, I’m hoping there is no inflation in heaven).

Sincerely,
Marshall Applewhite III
Heaven’s Gate

P.S. The applesauce really doesn’t help with the flavor of the phenobarbital.

P.P.S. Seriously, like not at all.

P.P.P.S. Now the vodka on the other hand that was a nice t

DK: This, too, is a funny idea for a concept. Not necessarily my favorite way to go about these – I think it’s hard to tell a story that feels like it goes somewhere when you either reveal everything up front or save the main joke entirely to the very end – so I kind of lost some attention until that final reveal and the postscripts, although those particularly land pretty well.
CP: Now here’s something that doesn’t spell everything out directly. So this is some kind of religious group that commits suicide in conjunction with Haley’s Comet, I take it. This is a fun idea and fits the prompt well. I just wish the voice of the main character were a little more . . . something. It seems a little flat and I would have liked his manner of speaking (or writing, I guess I should say) to be even more offbeat.

PRINCESS SPATULA

The elderly van rocked and rolled down the pitted road. I rubbed my sweaty hands on my creased pants. The prisoners’ chains rattled in time with the ancient shocks. Only two months in as a Beaver County Correctional Facility guard, this was my first “fishing trip.”

“One day, this old bitch is just going to shake itself into bitty pieces all over the road.”

I laughed. Officer Bart Flemming was my best friend from high school and the reason I had a job other than farmhand in this county. “Pull in here,” he directed as we approached the gates.

I stayed in the van with my charges while Bart hopped out and handled the paperwork at the gate. I glanced in my rearview mirror at the five new fish. Wide eyes met mine briefly. Directly behind me; he was skinny, wore glasses, and couldn’t be more than 19 or 20. I wondered what was on his rap sheet. Behind him was a thirty-something Polynesian guy who had to be over 300 pounds, none of it soft. He made me nervous and I’m not small. The three guys on the back bench seemed like typical gangbangers, studiously ignoring me and each other.

The gate jerked open and Bart hopped back in. “Let’s roll.”

*******

Bart bummed yet another cigarette from me on our break. “Come on man, buy some fucking smokes already,” I grumbled.

“I tell you what, Billy, I’ll bet you a carton on that big Tongan son of a bitch for today’s fish fry.”

“Fish fry?”

“Yeah, Friday is fight night. When we have new fish, that is. I guess there hasn’t been one since you started, huh?” Bart took another long drag. “The inmates throw down a couple of mats in the common area and the fish all fight until there’s only one left standing.”

“Jesus.” I studied him to see if he was putting me on. “What about the cameras?”

“We wipe em afterwards. Some of the guards bet real money on these fights. No one is going to give me decent odds on that big ole boy we brought in today, though. He’s going to pick his teeth with fish bones tonight.”

“What if they don’t wanna fight?”

“No one gets to opt out of fight night. The rest of the prison makes sure they don’t leave until there’s only one standing. It’s better than the UFC.” With a pang, I remembered the kid’s scared eyes briefly meeting mine.

“Someone could get seriously hurt.”

“Shit happens, son. How many assholes end up in the infirmary fighting over dessert? Might as well provide us with some entertainment, right?”

“Bart, I really need this job. I don’t want to be part of anything that risks it.”

Bart ground out his butt. “I love ya, Billy, so listen up. One wrong word about this inside and you just might get thrown in the fish bowl, you know what I’m sayin?”

******
I didn’t say a wrong word and I didn’t puke until I got home. My skinny fish still hadn’t regained consciousness by the time I clocked out at 3:00 a.m.

I changed my schedule around so I don’t work Friday nights anymore, but that doesn’t change what I know about who I am.

DK: Ooh, this is a killer concept here in my opinion that probably needs twice the space to fully work. The character establishment and the atmosphere groundwork laid in the opening section especially is really solid. Something more dynamic in the resolution, which as I said this just doesn’t have room for as is, is what’s needed to really take this fully home. SILVER
CP: Well, that’s heartbreaking. I wonder, though, if the story keeps the reader at too much of a distance. The bulk of the story is just Bart and Billy talking. Not that I want to read a long, drawn out scene of violence, but I think showing nothing of the actual fight scene or the leadup to its beginning might have made this one even more powerful. SILVER

POPPIN’ FRESH GILGAMESH

Johnny Henderson was the first to arrive at the beach house where he and six of his closest college friends had shared a vacation called “SUPERCHARGE WEEK” each summer since 2007. He’d brought the promise of a hard-partying week with him – two cases of Bud, two cases of Bud Light, a few cheap wines of each color, four growlers of rum, and some mixers: amaretto, sloe gin and blue curacao. Wicks and his wife Breanna would have the Coke, tonic and juices when they arrived, so he resisted the urge to take down any liquor in their absence, and instead cracked open a Bud Light and sat out on the back patio, facing the Pacific Ocean. It had been disgusting money, but he’d decided in 2010 to buy the place when it became clear that this was a lifelong tradition.
The hours passed and the beer flowed. Johnny remembered getting up to go inside, but nothing else.

Johnny woke at around 11, with a headache that could have been worse. He pieced together the events of last night as well as he could; Christine and Rick had arrived next and joined Johnny in the hot tub, where they discussed issues of love (one thing that had eluded Johnny), children (another) and the loneliness that comes with adult life. He remembered they battled one of the bottles of rum, and they’d won.
Rey and Horace, Johnny’s recently-married gay friends, had come in next and were loud and boisterous. They thanked Johnny for picking up the liquor this year, then made some cracks about his choices being lowbrow, but hey, it was free. The amaretto went over ice once they arrived, and they’d all made a decent dent in the large bottle.
Wicks and Breanna showed up last. Johnny had dated Breanna in college and things hadn’t ever gone totally back to normal since she got with Wicks. Rum was consumed, Johnny had made some sad eyes to Breanna in his drunken stupor, and he’d retreated to his bedroom with another bottle. He knew there was something to be embarrassed about, but wasn’t sure what.
He hated that.

Johnny ignored the loud music coming from the great room and laid on his bed, drinking more rum and beer, and didn’t rejoin the party until he was good and loaded.
Four more nights came and went. Bottles were killed.
Christine and Rick talked a lot about their kids, who had largely affected their desire to go out. Rey and Horace were fairly successful and living in New York, and admitted it had been difficult to leave even for a week. Breanna took Johnny aside and begged him to get over her. On what day did any of these events occur? Johnny didn’t know.

Johnny went out to check his overflowing mail and looked up at the weather-beaten sign above his front door: WELCOME TO SUPERCHARGE WEEK 2012!
None of them had shown up in 2012. Or since. Johnny found three polite rejection postcards in the mailbox, all containing the words “cannot” and “enable.”
He took a pull of blue curacao and walked back inside.

DK: Maybe I overidentify with a guy like Johnny, although not to the same extent as he goes. This has a really well-thought-out construction that takes care to establish the sequence of events as interpretable in multiple ways as you go through it, and then to all be clear in only one way once you reach the end. It puts the reader in a frame of mind along with its protagonist in a way that most of the others here don’t manage to do. GOLD

CP: Holy exposition, Batman! This concept is spot-on, but I would have liked to see the story focus on a single scene playing out, rather than so much summary. This is a lot of characters for a short word count, and they don’t quite feel distinct or fully realized.

PRISCA SANDYBANKS

Flame colored leaves fell from the old maple tree outside as Perkins gazed out the front window. Half the neighborhood was aglow with porch lights while the other half had ladders under the lights. In the background he could hear his wife, Juanita, clamoring to the children to get dressed…or something; he couldn’t quite make it out. Dusk would soon descend on the neighborhood and so would then thousands of goblins, ghosts, and werewolves. The haze over hairy chested, portly man perplexed only his tabby cat, sitting on the window sill. The door slamming shut to his right jolted his brain out of its hypnotic state. “Dear? Everything good?”

“Si, mi amor,” Juanita woefully spoke, anticipating the rest of the evening’s activities, “just getting the kids out the door with the Jenkins.”

Perkins’ eyes broke out in triumphant exuberance. In just a few minutes not only would his doorbell be dinging, he’d also be on his way for the 43rd consecutive year to a fantastic night of celebration. “Thank you babe, you’re truly the best.” And with that, Perkins skipped up the staircase with legs of a 16-yr old.

Dusk turned into night, and Perkins stepped out into the world, ready to make his mark on the wondrous town of Stirrup. Last year he followed and eventually tagged along with some teenagers. Perkins’ passion for delinquency and his deep library of dirty jokes helped him fit right in. This year he was going solo; though maybe he’d try to locate his kids and their friends, but likely not. This was his night. He’d gone solo 5 years ago, and that, he recalled, was the most memorable time of his life. That’s when he met Juanita and her two kids; when he treated her house in his Party Rock robot costume.

This year he wasn’t looking for love, just a good time…and candy of course. Perkins rang the bell of #34 Shortcake Lane and bounced gleefully as he heard the goldenrod door open. “Trick or Treat!” The teenage girl, 15 or so, stared, mouth open, and dropped a handful of chocolates into his sack. #36 was next. More blank stares, raw smiles and more candy. He covered three quarters of the neighborhood in less than two hours….a record for sure. “It was sure nice of everyone to move out of my way this year”, he boasted, checking his watch.

The night jetted by and his pillow sack was near full – time to get on over to Buster’s. He crossed the road being careful not to trip on the curb as he reached the other side, as he didn’t have the time to pick up all of his treasure. “Lights on in the Hoover’s house…damn.” Perkins broke out into a sprint holding everything together, scrambling through the police chief’s backyard.

Five minutes later, free of pursuers and desperately out of breath, he arrived outside the bar. He took a minute to fix himself and then sauntered inside. Jake, Perkins’ best man, looked up.

“What the hell is that?”

Roger, Javy and Gerald didn’t need to look. They just sighed and took a drink. They knew what was coming.

“You should have at least shaved or something…”

Reluctantly Javy couldn’t wait; he had to look. “Jesus Perk! You can’t pull Britney off anymore!”

DK: Here’s another funny idea that spins itself out a bit by the end because it doesn’t do enough beyond its initial concept that surprises. Although that last kicker is pretty amusing, and of all the protagonists hanging onto their expired traditions, Perkins might actually be the saddest (even more so than Johnny).

CP: Yes, yes, this is quite ridiculous. There are some spots that felt like they could use a bit more polish and a few more commas–I had to read a few of the sentences through several times to figure out what the writer intended. However, I enjoyed the contrast of the descriptive language at the beginning with the absurd ending. While I appreciate that the story didn’t spell everything out, I do wish I were a bit more certain how old Perkins is. I’m also trying to figure out if he goes as Britney every year, or the tradition is just to go trick-or-treating as an adult. But these questions aside, the story was still quite enjoyable. GOLD

——-

A fairly big difference of opinion on the best story this week between Pepper and I means that the story we agreed was second-best got the most medal points. That means Princess Spatula has won the Power of Veto and can use it to remove herself from the nomination block. Assuming she does so (she can tell me she wants to do otherwise with it, of course), Jameson will have some time to make another replacement nomination.

Spatula has removed herself from nomination; Jameson has nominated Mabel in her place. Everyone besides Jameson, Mabel, and Prisca, please send me a vote to evict either Mabel or Prisca. The eviction vote is due by Friday night at 8 PM Central.

Good work, Houseguests. Some close decisions here for me and these were all written well.

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