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You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

28 October 2011

FridayFlash: Date Review, Inc.


Date Review, Inc.
D. Paul Angel
© 2011
999 Words


Ah, Mr. Malvert, I am happy to see you this morning.  I hope your date last night went well, though from your look, I do not think it did.  Well, that's why you chose Honest Dating Service Consultants, isn’t it?  Now I may be old and fat now, but when I was younger, I was quite the looker.  I had a lot of men after me and I got to know them and their attempts quite well.  You may not believe me, but I know what is in the hearts of most men.  So, let's have a look at your glasses, OK?

We could not tell you of course, it would have made you too self conscious to know, but there is a tiny camera and microphone in there.  That way- now, no need to squirm, Mr. Malvert, we've all had our embarrassing moments you know.  Now it will take a minute to load, so tell me, what was your plan?

An interesting plan, to be sure, and you thought it all went well?  Now, see Mr. Malvert, when you say, "Yes," but won't look me in the eye, and shake your head, “No," it tells me the date did not go as you had you hoped.  That’s what I thought.  Men’s body language always tells a woman something, even if his mouth is trying to tell her something else.

There now.  It's loaded, and we’ll both know soon enough.  We can fast forward through you getting ready but, oh dear.  Cologne is good, but cheap cologne does not make up for not showering or wearing deodorant, yes?  That's the first rule.  Smells are important to a woman.  She wants to know that you take your grooming as seriously as she takes hers.

So... the date.  Good! You're picking up flowers for her.  Oh the Roses would be good.  Oo Lilies. Very exotic.  Either are a good choice.  And you bought... neither.  OK, so picking some dandelions from an empty lot are not the same thing.  That, just, well that’s bad.  Very bad.  It tells her, rather loudly, that you think of her as a nothing.  As garbage almost.  But, we'll continue, yes?

OK good, you're at her place and she's answering the door and... I see she has very nice breasts.  I know this because that is all the screen shows.  Her décolleté might be a bit low, but that is no reason to simply stare.  Mother, Mary, and Joseph I hope your mouth is at least closed.  And... you do look up at her face at some point, don't you?  Ah there it is!  See here- wait I'll turn the monitor.  You see the look in her eye?  That is annoyance.  That is a woman who has been ogled and handed dandelions.  That, is a very unhappy woman.

But the night is young, yes?  We shall continue on.  She is at least offering you a drink which- OK, when a woman offers you a drink, this is not the point to comment on alcohol being a weakness unto slavery.  That-  that is just not going to work as conversation.  Also, you’re not only doing all the speaking, but all you’re doing is complaining.  A lot.  In that flash when you looked up to her face, here it's rather quick so I'll have to pause it, and... there.  Yes.  She is no longer an unhappy woman, she is an angry woman.  You can tell by her brow and the glint in her eyes.  Just another reason to look at her face.

I'm sorry Mr. Malvert, but you are paying me to be honest.  That way on your next date, it can go better.  Woman are not as different as they pretend, so there are some good basics to know.  A woman wants to be made to feet special.  To feel as she is worth all of your attention and adoration.  But mostly, Mr. Malvert, she wants a Man.

A strong Man.

A confident man.

But when you do these things, you are telling her that you are not a strong man.  Especially when all you can talk about is how everyone picks on you and nothing is your fault.  Even when, and again you are paying me for my honesty, even when these things clearly are your fault.  Five minutes in and I can already tell.  And so can she.  And... oh I am sorry.

This must be hard to watch her send you on your way without even making it out the door with her... Yes I can see it is, but no Mr. Malvert it is NOT her fault.  No, Mr. Malvert, NO.  I am not making this up nor am I defending the, "Sisterhood of Lies," whatever that even is.

Mr. Malvert!  Please!  The problem is not with women but with you- No Mr. Malvert, whatever happened with you and your mom should have stopped affecting you what? 25 years ago.  Listen- No, seriously, this is what I mean about being a Man.  Accepting responsibility and-

Yes, you may go, of course, but don’t you want to learn?  I can teach you-  Of course.  Good day.  I just- Is that a prostitute?  The tape was still playing and, really this could explain some of your difficulty with women.  If you are engaging with prostitutes you-

Is that- Is... is that a knife?

Oh my God!  You're stabbing her!  But your thrusts are so... weak.  Not even an inch deep. Really Mr. Malvert you stab like a five year old girl.  That is not hesitation, that is weakness!  That is just, well it's all clear now really, isn’t it?  She even survived, didn’t she?  Even with all those wounds.  You can't even kill a defenseless prostitute with an 8" hunting knife!  I have no words.  Just go.  Of course there’s no charge!  I only charge Men I can help.

A psycopath?  Oh heavens no.  You're not a psycopath, Mr. Malvert, you’re just a whiny pussy.



21 October 2011

#FridayFlash: Vodak



While off on a book tour in Germany John Scalzi left a dozen humorous SciFi prompts for his Film Critic post.  This story is in response to his third prompt, "One night, in a dark and depressing cantina on the shady side of Coruscant, you meet up with a man who claims to be the Marksman Instructor at the Stormtrooper Academy. Share with us his drunken lament."



Vodak 
D. Paul Angel
© 2011
1,000 Words


"You ever wonder who taught Stormtroopers to shoot?" a voice close to me suddenly asked.  I'd sat at the table so fast I didn't even realize someone was already there.  I was just trying to avoid Empire entanglements, so to speak, and an empty table with a bottle of Vodak seemed like the perfect combination for hiding.  I looked over to an older man with slumped shoulders and darkened, defeated eyes.  I instantly felt pity for him as he answered his own question with deep sadness, "I did."

The full impact of his claim didn't sink in until after I'd already checked the room to see if anyone noticed my entrance.  There are a lot of eyes on Coruscant, especially on the shadow levels.  "Really?" I blurted out, not really in disbelief so much as surprise.  He took it with resigned acceptance, poured me a drink, and asked me if I'd ever been to Tatooine.

"There's nothing to do there," he said, pausing as a sudden, passionate glint filled his otherwise dulled eyes, "except shoot.  Lots of empty desert for shooting."

"So you're good at it?" I added, trying to show interest and hopefully keep the Vodak flowing.

"I was the best." For a minute there, right after he said it, his face flushed with confidence and he looked ten years younger.  But, just as quickly, the look faded and the already familiar slump returned, "But, that was a long, long time ago."

His pause dragged on for a bit as his gaze turned inward.  "So what happened?" I asked to keep things going.  I was curious now and also hoping he wouldn't walk away with the bottle.

"Well, I was a sniper in Tatooine's Militia.  You know, I could hit a womp rat from a kilometer away?"

I gave a low whistle signifying how impressed I was, even though I hadn't a clue what a womp rat was.  He continued, "A visiting Empire Officer saw me shoot one day and then the next I was heading to the far side of the Galaxy.  I can still smell the stench from that horrid junker. Probably the bravest thing I ever did was get in that rusty bucket of bolts!"

"You want another drink?" I asked, offering to pour, and helping myself while I was at it.  The interruption helped refocus him back on the story.

"Sure.  So... I land who knows where, but I was at a clone farm.  They didn't call it that, of course, but that's what it was.  There were hundreds of thousands of clones there growing up and training to be Stormtroopers.  They were in top physical shape, learning everything; the whole thing.  Except... They couldn't shoot.

"It was, seriously, deeply embarrassing."

My skepticism must've shown for he chuckled before continuing, "I can see you don't believe me.  I don't blame you.  No one ever does.  But surely you've heard the stories of how they'll open fire on a crowd or rebel base and only manage to hit a handful?  They couldn't even have done that without me!

"Here's the thing: they had no concept of shooting.  None.  Not until they're teens.  So their whole life up until then had been one of perfection.  Every test? Perfect.  Every challenge?  Perfect.  That's how they grew them!  But now, they start shooting and they miss for the first time.  Not just the first time for shooting, but the first time ever!

"It really messed them up in the head.  So they brought me in."

"But," I interjected while pouring us each another stiff one, feeling a bit confused, "you said they still can't shoot?"

"Yeah, well, they shot good enough for the staff higher-ups.  Truth is, between you and me friend," he lowered his head and voice in deep conspiracy, "I think that's how some of the Generals wanted it."

"What?" I blurted out, suddenly regretting it.  You never know if such blunt disagreement is going to stop the Vodak flow.

He laughed out loud and looked at me again, "Think about it. Think! The clones are smarter, stronger, and faster than their Commanders.  If they can shoot perfectly too...," he let the thought linger unanswered, "But, shooting that's good enough to disperse a crowd, scare some rebels, or hit a vehicle is really all that's needed."

I found myself nodding in fuzzy agreement as he continued on, "That's why coming from Tatooine was so helpful.  The Jawas there have sandcrawlers the size of this building! Then there are banthas, Sand People, and the Jawas themselves.  Each a factor smaller.  So the plan was easy: start with the sandcrawler."

"Have them shoot at a building?"

"Exactly! Build their confidence.  So we built full scale sandcrawlers for them to shoot at.  Then they'd move on to banthas, Sand People, and finally Jawas.  Their confidence would build on itself."

"So what happened?" I asked, genuinely curious but also noting that we'd just finished the bottle.

"Exactly as I planned.  We worked for weeks on the sandcrawler and they finally got it down.  Such precision! It really was a sight to see.  But then..." He trailed off and started fingering the bottle.  I didn't say anything, hoping he'd order another.

No such luck.  He continued, "Then they shipped off the Clones."

"Oh," I said, remembering, "The War."

"Exactly.  They all shipped off and, by the time they were done, their blaster training was, too."

"So they never came back for anything more advanced?"

"Never.  I was dismissed, of course, and eventually ended up here."

"Wow," I said kind of stunned.  I had expected it to be a crazy story I'd endure for a drink (or two), but it actually held together.  If I had any credits myself, I'd actually think of buying him a drink.

"I'll tell you one more thing," he said as he got up to leave, "If Stormtroopers ever do have to shoot at a sandcrawler- a case of Vodak says they jack the shit out of it!"


14 October 2011

#FridayFlash: Protocol


Protocol
D. Paul Angel
© 2011
1,000 Words


The red Eye, surrounded by darkness, stared into Simmons'; boring fear into his being. He could feel a score of hands pressing him against the smooth side of the asteroid, his body stiff against the cold, solid rock. Chains pulled his limbs together as the asteroid started tumbling through space with his body bound. He screamed the air from his lungs, hearing only the slightest of whispers from what little air filled his mouth before leeching into the void...

"Lt Simmons?" A soft woman's voice called across the void, "You are waking from Cryo. Nothing you are seeing or feeling right now is real. Please try to breathe normally as we continue to wake you."

Some hours later, the memories of his wake terror finally recycled back into his subconscious' keep of nightmares, Lt. Simmons walked up to the Hyacinth's Bridge.

"Hello Lt. Simmons. Are you feeling better?" The same voice that pierced the veil of his dream asked.

"Yes Nina, I'm fine. How's things?" Simmons asked even as he noted that Nina's, "eye," was red instead of the usual green or occasion yellow.

"I'm sorry Lieutenant, but it is a problem that requires human intervention."

"Of course Nina. Proceed." He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples while floating just before her panel.

"There was a micrometeorite hit three watches ago."

"What?" Simmons snapping his eyes open, suddenly alert, "What happened to the watches?"

"They did not follow protocol."

Simmons reined in his anger at the preceding Watches. Each 36 hour watch came at the end of 99 days of Cryo Sleep, and the Cryo-Terrors that came with waking. Although an easy enough assignment on paper, it was a far more demanding reality.

"OK fine. Forget the watches for now. What's the status?"

"The micrometeorite damage has been repaired to the fullest extent possible. However, there is an 8.734% deficiency in Oxygen that we will not be able to replace."

"So...."

"Our current compliment is three in excess of our current resources."

Simmons did the rough math in his head, "Don't you mean six?"

"No Lt. Simmons. Each of the last three watches removed themselves through the airlock rather than follow protocol."

"Protocol!" he snorted, "Taking the six most recent sleepers and dumping them into space where they'll die without waking."

"Correct. I could not convince them of the time constraints, nor how the change on watch schedule would need to be adjusted."

"Watch schedule? Godammit Nina you know the main reason for the watches is that Cryo-Terror causes madness if you sleep much longer than 100, 120 days! That's the only reason we wake up! Hell it's why you wake us up alone! So we don't have to look each other in the eye!"

"And yet, Lt. Simmons," Nina continued without inflection, making it worse, "You are now required, on your watch, to take action to save sixty of your colleagues."

"By killing three more of them. Right. So how much time do I have before I have to add a fourth to Protocol?"

"Seven hours at the most."

"And to be safe?"

"No more than three hours."

Simmons gut clenched. He wanted to throw up, to runaway, to throw himself out of the airlock like his predecessors; but none of that would help. Because of how debilitating the Cryo-Terrors were, the sleep pattern could not just be changed. Regardless of how quickly he left the airlock, the next watch, Ruiz, couldn't stand any sooner. He hit the metal table in front of him hard enough to leave slight dent. The pain in his hand focused his frustrations back to reality. He'd have to kill two of his colleagues. He already knew he'd be the third.

"OK Nina, who drew the short straws?"

"Conner, Jeremiah; Smith, KarenAnn; and Madrigal, Eduardo."

"Jesus," Simmons said aloud to himself, "why couldn't it be an asshole like Jenkins or Hoover?"

"I cannot tell you that, Lt. Simmons. Protocol dictates you remove the three most recent sleeps," Nina replied, taking his question literally. After a few seconds of thought he muted her and got to work.

With Jenkin's body now resting awkwardly next to Hoover's in the airlock, his grisly work was nearly complete. After writing a letter to Ruiz, she was good people and deserved at least that, he returned to the airlock and un-muted Nina.

"Lt. Simmons, you are in breach of Protocol," she said instantly, "You have removed the wrong crew-members. The waking sequence..."

"Will be fine Nina," he finished for her, "Otherwise you would have told me so. Instead, you just referenced Protocol. Sorry, but I know you can't lie."

After what would have been regarded as stony silence in a human, she continued, "I will have to report you to command upon re-establishment of 2-way communication."

"Please do. But since I'm about to die and leave my body floating through space for all eternity, I can't really say as that I care."

"Your sacrifice will also be noted."

"Thank you Nina," Simmons said before entering the airlock himself. As its heavy door shut her reply was lost to its steel silence. He then stepped over Hoover and Jenkin's torpid bodies to the Emergency Vent lever. Closing his eyes and trying not to whimper he pulled the lever, blasting himself and their bodies into the dark vacuum of space. The rush out the hatch knocked the air out of his lungs. As he gasped for air he watched the Hyacinth slowly recede.

He was shocked to see Jenkins' watching him from the porthole by the airlock. As his inertia turned him away from the ship he saw five other bodies floating with him. He died just as he realized what happened.

"Mr. Jenkins," Nina said, "I told you that Lt. Simmons was too close to waking to be chosen. There is an 87.42% probability that he was conscious."

"Maybe he was," Jenkins gruffly answered before turning, "But that arrogant bastard would've done the same to me in a heartbeat."