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"Mama?"

"Yes, Vivi?"

"Sometimes Grandpa, Grandma, and Helen come to our parties, and sometimes Uncle Mal, Aunt Sora, and Jade come to our parties. But they never all come to our parties. Why do Grandpa and Uncle Mal hate each other?"

Yayoi blinked in surprise. She hadn't realized her daughter was so observant. "I wouldn't say they hate each other ..." Yayoi paused as Vivio glared at her. "No, I really wouldn't use the word 'hate'." Vivio stopped glaring, but she kept her eyebrows lowered. "And don't give me that look, or I won't answer your question."

Vivio pouted, then stopped making faces. "All right, Mama. I'm sorry. Why don't Grandpa and Uncle Mal like each other?

"Well, I have to guess why Mal doesn't like Noah. It could be because Mal thinks everybody should be able to live together and share everything, and Noah thinks that it's all right for people to keep the things they made. It might be because Noah kept some things secret for some good reasons, but Mal thought there were other good reasons that those things shouldn't have been secret. Or it might be because they're both used to people listening to what they have to say and following all of their advice, and they have to learn to see that they aren't always right all the time. Or maybe it's something else."

"So they never learned in school how to get along with people?"

Yayoi shook her head. "It's more that they didn't learn how to get along with people who are so different from the people they grew up with."

"Oh." Vivio thought for a moment. "You said that's maybe why Uncle Mal doesn't like Grandpa. Why doesn't Grandpa like Uncle Mal?"

Yayoi sighed. "There are so may reasons that Noah would tell you if you ask him, but there's only one real reason. Noah loves your Aunt Sora as much as I love you, and your Uncle Mal took her away from him."

"But people grow up and find people to love who aren't their family. That doesn't mean we stop loving our family ... does it?"

Yayoi saw the look of fear in Vivio's eyes, and hugged her daughter to calm her down. "No, we don't stop loving our families." She gave Vivio a moment to sigh in relief, and went on. "But sometimes Noah only sees what he wants to see. He still thinks of your Aunt Sora as his little girl, and he wants to be the one to keep his little girl safe."

"Oh. But Aunt Sora isn't a little girl. She's all grown up."

"I know that, darling... but sometimes Noah forgets that."



Just a little something to stretch my out-of-practice writing muscles. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if somebody posts a companion piece to this...)

Feel free to post other vignettes/short-shorts/spamfics to this thread.
--
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
this rates a 9.5 on the DAWWWW meter

good story blurb
 
-------
A high cold whistle sounded over the ship's 1MC as Lun took the Mic in hand.

"Comrades, this is the Captain. It is an honour to speak with you today, and I am honoured to be sailing with you on the maiden patrol of the motherland's greatest achievement."

Silence.

"Once again, we will play our dangerous game, a game of chess against a new adversary, Great Justice."

Could it be deliberate?

"Forty years ago our parents and grandpaerent played this game, and played it well."

It had to be....

"But now, the game is different. We have an advantage. It reminds me of those glorious days when the whole system trembled at the sight of our rockets. Now, they will tremble at the sight of nothing"

"Does she know?" a voice whispered.

"The order is, engage the cloaking device."

"That has to be deliberate," another whisper answered.

"Communications. EMCON to Strict," said Mackie, managing to hold a straight face in the Pilot's seat. "Sensor arrays to LPI mode. Engineering. Secure main engines and Activate auxiliary impeller drive."

Turbines spooled down to silence. Bright lights dimmed to grey. The whine of generators dropped to a gentle humm.

"Comrades, Great Justice does not know our full potential. They will do everything in their power to test us, but they will only prove their own embarrasment. We will leave their fleet behind. We will pass through their system patrols and their sensor nets, and park in orbit of Kandor City and listen to their rock and roll, while we conduct missile drills. Enh?"

Titters answered.

"And when we are done, the only trace we will leave behind is our laughter, while we sail to Venus, where the sun is warm, and so is the ahm, companionship."

Now, giggles.

Mackie swallowed a lump. "Auxiliary drives coming online, Captain,"

"A great day comrades, we shall sail into history!"

A voice piped up from the engineers panel, a bright young Sammie ensign who decided to catch the reference. "Soyuz Nerushimi, Respublik...svobo...dnik....."

Glares answered as it died to silence.

He shrunk into his uniform. "But you were...doing the Red October thing?"

Lun's eyes zoomed "What Red October thing thing?"

"....never mind."

The view through the windows hazed over, distorting into a sheared reflection of the spacecraft itself. "Cloaking device engaged," Mackie said.

A stunned silence marked their progress, broken only by the occasional click of a switch and whispers of regret that nobody'd bothered to record it.

---
________________________________
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
She jumped over their heads - easy enough to start in 0.5G, but landing upright took skill ... or her cat-like reflexes.

That got her right in the middle of the group. A quick elbow thrust to the left and a leg sweep to the right took out two of her adversaries. She jumped again, twisting her tail out of the reach of one of the men she left standing.

Landing on a head, she jumped again. Her springboard fell to her knees.

She pulled her legs up, and pushed down with her hands on her second-last opponent's shoulders.

And then she landed on her feet. She drew back to punch the person behind her in order to keep him away ...

And the shutters across the window opened.

Yes! First in line for the tickets to the next Disaster Area concert!
--
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
Stepping down her ship's boarding ramp, Chris paused, placing her hands on her hips. "Well," she said after a moment of thoughtful consideration. "As passengers go, you're definitely up there for the position of most memorable."

"I GET THAT RESPONSE QUITE A BIT," replied the Dalek, twitching its armstalks in the best shrug it could manage. "WILL IT BE A PROBLEM?"

Taking a moment to consider the Daleks size and shape, she shook her head. "No, you should fit through the doors," she said. "If you don't mind, I have to ask..."

"A WOULD-BE GOODLIFER THAT FAILED TO CONSIDER THE RULES OF HANDWAVIUM. HE WANTED AN ARMY. HE GOT ME. I CALLED FOR HELP."

Chris giggled. "I love when that happens..." She paused, glancing at the clipboard in her hands. "And that explains where we're going. VF is going to love this. Welcome aboard... Sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"CLARA. CLARA OSWIN," she replied, rolling past her and up the ramp.

Giggling to herself, Chris followed. "Of course you are..."
...so that's where she came from!
Mr. Fnord interdimensional man of mystery

FenWiki - Your One-Stop Shop for Fenspace Information

"I. Drink. Your. NERDRAGE!"
Maybe, maybe not. Given events in the source material, I suspect it's easy to make a Clara if you're working with Doctor Who and not being careful. That, and she's a favorite fallback for the 'wave when someone's really trying to make Evil Daleks, along with Rusty and the Dizzy Doctor trio.

The fun part is that the Clara's tend to have an odd variant of Pinnochio syndrome. They know and are completely comfortable with being an android/clone/Dalek/catgirl/etc and are happily Fen, but they tend to agree that they're all the original that was scattered across the Doctors timeline to protect him. They're all waiting for the day he manages to crash into Fenspace.
A moment at the Convention Authority offices

"No. Absolutely not."

"But you have to. It's your turn to open the Convention."

"You do it. I'm not going to stand on that itty-bitty platform that high above the Convention floor."

"Why not? Is this another of your strange ideas about how to work, like that 'no sex with co-workers' thing?"

"That isn't a strange idea. Most people don't have sex with their co-workers. And I already have a girlfriend."

"Pat and I aren't most people. And having a girlfriend doesn't matter. And you're trying to change the subject."

"You mentioned it."

"Fine, I started it, and I'm ending it. Why won't you stand on a raised platform?"

"A small raised platform."

"It has guard rails."

"I don't care."

"Are you afraid of heights?"

"... yes."

"Okay, I'll trade years with you."

"Thank you."

"But you have to go on a date with Pat and me."

"All right. Lunch tomorrow."

"That's barely time for a quickie!"

"With our schedules, that isn't time for a quickie. But we won't talk shop, so it's a date."

"... Fine. But next time, you won't get off so easily. No, you will and so will we."

As Pru smiled and left his office, Rob thought, 'Then I'd better make sure there isn't a next time. Bev wouldn't like that.'
--
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
He looked at the screen.

At the white rectangle.

The plain, unmarked white rectangle.

He kept looking at it.

Eventually, some letters appeared: "Are you going to write something, or what?"

He sighed. Writer's block was bad enough when he used an unwaved computer.


Gosh-darn it, I'm going to write something today...
--
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
Bath time

“Escapee!” Loviatar’s voice rang out from the back of the apartment.

“Streaker,” Tara called from the door to her room down the hallway.

“Damn ninja babies,” Whitney grumbled from her spot at the dining room table.

With a gruff grumble James pulled himself from his recliner where he had been reading the readiness reports on the FSOG units and stepped into the hallway and looked at one of his twin two year olds. “Mary Margaret Bostwick,” the wolf grumbled at the toddler. “You, young lady, are supposed to be getting your bath with your brother.” The toddler looked up at him and smiled before reaching up with both arms to be picked up. James simply pointed back toward the back bedroom and its bathroom where his wife had been bathing the two children.

“Up.” The two year old called jumping. James sighed, her brother bless him was the quiet type, more content to pull apart some piece of tech and then put it back together again, (sometimes even correctly) than run around and raise a ruckus. Mary however was already the wild child and would likely be the death of him should the fates allow him to live that long.

Sighing at what he knew was a lost battle, he wrapped his hands around the toddlers and tossed her up and into his arms. “You young lady, are supposed to be getting a bath and then going to bed. You understand that right.” She nodded wide eyed. “Good,” because I’m going to hand you off to your mother and then take your brother to dry off while you get cleaned, and then you are both going to bed and sleep.”

“Ro?” she asked, her hands gripping each other and twisting so as to look rather piteous.

“Yes, Ro Ro can sleep in your room tonight, even on your bed if you want.” The two year old beamed at that and clapped her hands. “But remember, she’s an old lady now, she can’t jump up and down like she does in the home movies.” The little girl nodded and a moment later was handed back to her mother who immediately put her back into the tub and started scrubbing.

James took her twin brother who had been set on his feet next to the tub and wrapped in a towel. Drying the toddler off James helped the boy into his pajamas before picking him up. “Come on son, let’s go get Ro Ro and then put you in bed hmm.” The little boy nodded and rubbed an eye with his fist before curling up against his father’s chest.

A simple snap of the fingers caught the aforementioned dog’s attention who raised her head and looked at the wolf in the room. Then the Bull Mastiff stood and stretched her old bones before coming over to the two humans. Squatting down James reached his free arm out and scratched the dog behind her ears, “You’re sleeping with the kids tonight Ro’s, let’s go.” The dog let out a chuff, almost cough and looked at him as if to say, “Would I have it any other way.” Before plodding on after the man and child.

Four hours later James and Loviatar looked in on the twins and the “family” dog. The two twin beds were pushed together in the room that the twins shared and the three bodies lay on the California King sized bed snuggled up in the center, all blankets and pillows thrown to the floor. “They’re going to miss her when she’s gone.” Loviatar whispered meaning the red brindle bull mastiff that James had gotten even before he came to Fenspace.

“We all will dear.” James responded, “But she is already the oldest of her breed and while she has gotten a bit sedentary in her life, I don’t think she’s going anywhere any time soon.”

“Tell me you didn’t feed her any wave,” Loviatar said a hint of panic in her voice. James just shook his head.

“No, not that the thought didn’t cross my mind,” he answered. “The wave is too unpredictable for something like that. But I also won’t say she hasn’t been exposed to it in small doses either. Back in the early days there was a lot of it laying around the place, especially when we were getting the Werewolf up and running. I think she got into a batch or two, or at least the fumes of such. So I don’t know how long she still has.”

Loviatar nodded, one of the quirks the Werewolf had developed was that it was “pet friendly” and for the ship to operate at all there had to be some type of pet on board. Canids were the ship’s favorite, while mice and other rodents it disliked. Cats, birds, reptiles all fell somewhere in the in between of dogs and rodents, but while it didn’t like the mice, it had still at least flown. “I hope she’s around for a good long while honey.” She didn’t add that it was for his sake as much as for the kids, for while the kids would mourn and move on, the loss of this one would break his heart.
 
"Elpie..." Miku said calmly.

"Yeeees?"

"Would you mind telling me why Gina Langley-Rhodes is in my basement, sobbing hysterically?"

"Gina's here? When did she get here?"

"You tell me. I've been in the studio all day."

Elpeo looked everywhere but her surrogate big sister. "I just wanted to do something nice for Shinji..." she mumbled.

Everything fell into place. "That's not Gina in there, is it."

Elpeo shook her head mutely.

"Hoo boy..."

(In the long run I might turn this into a full story.)
The Hands that Threaten Doom.

---------

A radio station in Berlin spun up a record for the 80's Power Hour.

Nena 99 Red Balloons.

------

Aboard the Cruiser Lun, 50 Miles north of Rockall.

"Number 6 Booster burnout. Bus seperation. Entry Vehicles deployed. All Green. "

Scott Cambell stared at the control panel, doing his best to drown out the cheer's of the ship's crew as he focused on the data starting to stream through into the ship's computers. Ten years of research, coming to a head in the next thirty seconds. Dozens of independent sensor vehicles, launched by rocket high into the Aurora Borealis, each one giving a real time map of the aurora's structure. Particals. Magnetic flux density. Windspeeds.... all of it flooding back to his control panel.

He sat there, giddy thrills running through his spine as the gigabytes streamed in.

----

Beneth Yamantau mountain, one lowly Russian Lieutenant glared at his panel, skin slowly turning white.

One would be an error. Two, probably. Now Three. Four, Five......

Six.

He reached for the red phone as the Dead Hand came to life.

One ring. Two ring. Three rings.... he lit the cigarette between his lips, body shaking. This couldn't be real, could it? Somebody in Moscow must've received notification of a civil launch.... Minutes could make the difference.

Someone picked up.

"This is..." He barked.

Someone hung up. Damn you.

He watched six tracks arc across the sky, mouth turning dry as they began to split. He picked up the phone again.
-----

In Moscow, a Briefcase was opened for the first time in 20 years. Keys were shared. Cards disseminated. Men boarded a secret train at a secret station, to be sped to a secret location.

----

In Virginia, a tech in a white shirt sprung back from a computer console.

"Hey, something weird's happening in Russia," she said.

"What?" asked her colleague.

"Their whole strategic rocket force just went on alert"

"WHAT?"

-----

In Washington, A press conference was interrupted. Men in suits hurried President through the back curtain. Briefings whispered in ears.

"I haven't scheduled any drills," said the President.

-----

In an Office In Moscow, a lowly bureaucrat had his game of War Thunder interrupted by the Fourth Phonecall in as many minutes....

Finally, he answered it.

And pissed himself.

Behind him, the doors burst open

-----

In Beijing, two generals shared a glance.

"Alert our strategic forces"

-----

Under a Mountain in Colorado.

"Confirm. Tracking six ballistic missiles. Origin, North Sea. Estimated impact points, multiple in Russia. Confidence is High"

"Who fired?"

"Maybe one of the Limey boats went rogue?"

------

"It's not us." said the President. "We haven't fired"

-----

"Of course they wouldn't tell us if it was them."

The Russian President stared at the screen, nodding in agreement.

At his call, the Power to end the world.

----

In Chicago, some Atomic Scientists discussed how many minutes they would move the Doomsday clock back. The debate had already lasted most of the day.

-----

In an office in Moscow, a computer crashed.

3 men and two women agonised while it ground through a reboot.

"Idiot," one of them cursed.

-----

Deep beneath the North Atlantic, 55 miles North of Rockall, a submarine captain was roused by his Lieutenant.

"Well. They want to know why we've fired our missiles, sir."

"Oh. Bollox."

-----

At airbases across the United States, aircrews raced to their bombers

-----

At Airbases across Russia, aircrews raced to their bombers.

-----

At Airbases across China, aircrews raced to their bombers.

-----

At airbases across the UK, fighters roared into the air.

-----

Throughout Germany, pagers woke thousands of reservists in the middle of the night. Fighters shrieked through the evening sky.

The radio station in Berlin chose a new song.

Frankie goes to Hollywood. Two Tribes.


-----

"We have an acoustic signal captain, approximately 5 miles to the South. It's that fencraft..."

"Well what the bloody hell were they doing firing at Russia?"

-----

On Stellvia Station, Takami Sakuragi raced through the corridors to the President's office...

Noah Scott looked up from his dinner,

"The whole world just went berserk," she panted. "Someone launched missiles at Russia!"

----

"Um... guys. The whole world just went berserk."

"What?"

"Like, massive spikes in radio output. Russia, America, UK.... All military. It's like someone lit a fire under them."

"Pizdets...."

"Don't tell me you forgot to file the notifications?"

"Of COURSE NOT!"

------

In a Moscow Office.

Five bureacrats cheered.

Notification of Intended Civil Launch. Flightplan.
Notification of Intended Civil Launch. Flightplan.
Notification of Intended Civil Launch. Flightplan.

Date. Today.
Time. Five Minutes ago.

Print. Fax.

They had seconds before the button was pushed.

----

At Greenbriars, a few guests wondered at the unusual activity.

Why so many people going down the basement?

Helicopters thumped through the sky above.

-----

In Colorado, armoured doors swung shut for the first time in anger. Cold War circuits went hot for the first time in decades.

------

In Langley, an analyst threw up, finding what the Russians had missed.

Desperately, he raced for a telephone.

Oh God for it to be an Accident.

------

On Ultima Station, Security Chief Ikari and station Commander Akisato received a coded message through Halcyon.

It arrived at every Halcyon node moments later.

"No..." said Shinji.

------

In London, Radio One finished out the hour with The Clash, London Calling.

Someone in Downing Street still listening inspite of the hustle laughed at the Brutal irony.

------

On a B52, circling over Nevada.

"Wing attack Plan B. What the hell? It's gotta be a test."

------
On a train deep beneath Moscow, the President of Russia stared at his briefcase, weighing the probabilities against the realities. Generals orbited, whispering advice. The future

Decision made. He sighed.

"Alright.... Dmitry. Your authenticator card. "

Ultimately. The end of the world.

"Mister President! From the Office of the FKA!"

-----

"On my order. Russian Strategic Forces are standing down."

Aboard Marine one, the President nearly fainted. His whole body shook.

"Propose a phased standdown. And find out who in the hell caused this!"

------

Cheers raced through an office in Langley.

One analyst fainted.

------

Deep beneath Mount Yamantau, a Lieutenant gave his thanks to God, before asking to be relieved from duty.

His mistake had almost destroyed the world.

-------

In an Office in Moscow, a bureaucrat lost his job. His game of War Thunder still continued, the other international players not noticing his absence.

His love of WWII Arcade games had almost destoyed civilisation.

-------

Two presidents spent the night soothing national nerves as the PR machines spun up to hide the crisis.

How could something like this happen in this day and age?

-------

The radio station in Germany selected a new track.

The Scorpions. Winds of Change.

-------

In the United States, Russia and China, Bombers turned for landing.

-------

Aboard Stellvia, Noah Scott slumped down into his chair.

"Thank Ghu..."

-------

Aboard the Cruiser Lun, two people giggled nervously.

"Did we nearly destroy the world?"

"Whatever dick lost our paperwork nearly destroyed the world."

"Will anyone see it that way?"

"Fuck."

"You notify thirty countries and all it takes is one moron...."

---------

Meanwhile, the rest of the world turned on, unaware of how close it had come to accidental armageddon.

Again.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

A good old-fashioned Cold War scare, because one man spent more time on WT, than doing his job. The idea amused me.....
________________________________
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
And unfortunately it would be like that, or not. Someone pass me the spare rad shielding
 
I suppose, if they had accidentally touched off the Big Oops, at least there wouldn't be anyone left capable of realising who'd caused the Accident....

Mad Max fen would have a fucking field day.
________________________________
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Not to mention the Slans!

Anyway, I meant to post this yesterday, but Yuku seems to have been having an off-day...

There are two stories about how Tom Rutley got invalided out of the RAF. The one he tells everyone, and the one that actually happened. This is the latter.

2005. Somewhere near the Afghan-Pakistani border...

"Ten kilometres," his copilot said quietly.

"Right." Tom keyed the intercom. "Mark, drop the ramp and get on the gimpy."

"Okay skipper!" the loadmaster replied cheerfully.

"Wish he wouldn't sound so happy about it," the copilot muttered. "He's been grinning like a madman ever since we got issued that thing."

"Can't blame him for wanting a chance to shoot back for a change," Tom replied. "I think this is what the hell-?" There was a bright flash somewhere off to their left, and then the Chinook bucked violently as a deafening explosion tried to drive his eardrums through his skull. Practically every alarm in the cockpit went off at once as they began to lose height. Tom shoved the throttles all the way open and hauled on the collective in a desperate bid for altitude, to no avail. A large and imposing hill loomed in the cockpit canopy.

Tom experienced a brief, sudden moment of perfect calm and clarity. These might be his last words on Earth, he reflected, so he'd better make them some good ones.

"Oh, bugger," he said, with feeling.

The Chinook hit the hillside stern-first, with enough force to noticeably bend the fuselage. It skidded a few hundred yards before coming to rest on its side.

There was a moment's eerie silence, broken only by the hiss of escaping coolant running over still-hot engine parts. Dazed but apparently unhurt, Tom blinked a couple of times and looked over to his copilot. "Greg? Greg, you alright? Greg!" He was out cold, missing his helmet and bleeding badly from his scalp; the man had a bad habit of leaving the chin-strap undone. "Shit!" Tom snarled, although a small treacherous part of him was glad he had an excuse to put off seeing what had happened to everyone in the cabin. He unstrapped from his seat and tried the cockpit door, but despite repeated applications of a heavy boot it refused to budge. "Okay, Plan B," he muttered, grabbing a large canvas holdall stowed behind his seat.

Aircrew were supposed to be issued a carbine version of the SA80 that was basically a sawn-off version of its infamously unsuccessful light machine-gun variant. Aircrew were also supposed to wear ordinary DPM camouflage gear so that they'd blend in with regular infantry and not stand out as someone who'd have intelligence and/or ransom value. Reasoning that the Taliban could buy a copy of Jane's Guide to Modern Firearms on Amazon as easily as anyone else, not to mention having fired the carbine a few times and found it incapable of hitting anything much beyond a hundred yards, Tom had convinced an armourer to exchange his for a full-length 80 with a proper optic sight as well as some proper infantry beltkit. It'd cost him all his mum's homemade onion bhajis from the last care-package from home, but right now it was looking like it'd paid off.

The glass was supposed to be bulletproof, but three strategically-placed shots from a range of about eighteen inches weakened the copilot's-side window enough that a single good whack from the butt of the rifle did the rest. The next problem, of course, was getting Greg out of the damn thing without doing any more damage than the crash already had. "This'd be a great time for you to wake up," Tom grumbled, wondering if there was a neck-brace in the medical kit... Alright, no good putting it off any longer.

Very carefully, he moved around the outside of the wrecked aircraft and stuck his head through a convenient hole in the fuselage... then rapidly pulled it back out, fell to his knees and vomited up what felt like everything he'd ever eaten. The only good thing you could say about the aftermath of what was later determined to be an RPG-7 rocket with a fragmentation warhead and a delayed-action fuse going off inside the cabin was that the occupants must surely have died instantaneously. They weren't in enough pieces to linger in agony.

He forced himself back to his feet and pulled a small bottle of water from the thigh-pocket of his flight suit to wash the awful taste out of his mouth. You can have your nervous breakdown later, he told himself. Right now you need to get Greg out of the cockpit and get the hell out of here!

He could hear raised voices coming from downhill, what might have been shouted orders. Aggravating a spinal injury his copilot might or might not have picked up in the crash would be the least of either of their problems if they were still here when the locals arrived, Tom mused grimly, grabbing the unconscious man under both arms and unceremoniously dragging him out through the window. He lifted Greg in a fireman's carry, staggered to his feet muttering vivid sentiments about the man's considerable beer gut and made best speed for the cover of an irrigation ditch.

There was only a couple of inches of water in it right now, thankfully. Tom dropped Greg as gently as possible and pulled him into a semi-sitting position, then unslung his rifle and placed it within easy reach while he belatedly pulled the activation tab on his radio distress beacon. Experimentally, he lowered the night-vision goggles attached to his helmet and turned them on. Nothing; apparently they hadn't fared well in the crash. Tom unstrapped his helmet and pulled it off, then was struck by an idea. He crawled along the ditch for a few yards until he found a large enough lump of rock, then rested it on the edge of the ditch and put the helmet on top of it. With any luck some trigger-happy idiot would give their position away and then he could take a quick potshot from an unexpected angle and spook them-

There was a burst of gunshots, and the helmet splashed into the water. Tom grabbed the rifle, popped out of cover and fired a single shot at the figure standing up to run towards the presumed body. They fell without a sound and lay unmoving. There was a rather gratifying chorus of alarmed yells as the other Taliban fighters threw themselves behind cover. Tom put another round into the backside of someone who'd been unwise enough to dive behind a rock that was only large enough to protect his upper body, and learned several fascinating new swearwords. A prolonged, angry and poorly-aimed barrage of fire zipped harmlessly over the edge of the ditch, and he waited until they'd all run their magazines dry before popping up and taking another potshot that dropped one of the brighter ones who was trying to flank him. The answering burst of gunfire was even longer and angrier this time; if they kept that up they'd run themselves out of-

There was a splash as someone landed in the ditch. Tom swung the rifle around and fired at almost the same moment as the other man, who was raising a battered old revolver. He was slightly more accurate, hitting his adversary neatly in the centre of mass, but not before a bullet went straight into his leg just below the kneecap, shattering the bone and tearing through the muscle. Tom roared in pain and collapsed, rifle slipping from his nerveless fingers. "Fuuuccckkk!" he ground out between clenched teeth, fumbling for the first-aid kit he knew was on the beltkit somewhere...

There was a deafening roar of heavy-calibre gunfire, and the distant droning Tom had been half-hearing for the past couple of minutes resolved itself into a powerful diesel engine at full throttle. A huge silhouette he vaguely recognised as one of those new mine-proof armoured vehicles... Cougar? Mastiff? Something like that... loomed over the ditch, and a couple of squaddies jumped down into it and nearly landed on him. "Fuck me!" one of them exclaimed. "Corp, we need a stretcher! Hang in there mate, we'll sort you out," he promised, reaching for Tom's collar and groping for something that wasn't there. "Shit! Where's your morphine!"

"Not... on me," Tom ground out. "Pilot..."

"Bloody wonderful. Alright, we'll come back to that. Try and hold your leg up."

Tom did his best, and furthermore tried not to scream as the other man stuffed gauze into the gaping holes in his leg and tied them down with bandages. He felt a sting as something was jabbed against his neck, followed by blessed relief as the pain ebbed away. "Thanks..." he mumbled. "Is my mate alright?"

"We-we're sorting him out now."

He didn't pick up on the hesitation in the squaddie's voice until much later. "Good... Can I pass out now?"

If the soldier had any reply to that, Tom never heard it.

* * *

It wasn't until Tom Rutley woke up in a military hospital almost two days later, after the first of what would be many surgeries to regain even partial use of his leg, that he learned that Greg had died of an acute subdural haematoma before he could be casevac'd. The Military Cross he received for his actions that day was relegated to the back of a drawer as soon as he returned home from the award ceremony, and he never spoke of it again.
Posted in Alt.soc.military.fen
By: ZeroSumSolitair.

Subj: So, do you want Military Grade hardware?

So, If I wanted a military-grade Tachikoma I would first make an application to Orion. After a thorough background check, and a security check, I'd get two serial numbers and provisional Pepper certificate numbers. These are then sent to the Space Patrol along with form FCA1, wich requires a valid and legitimate reason for purchase, another inspection of storage arrangements, a inimum standard of competency, a medical certificate, and a minimum level of security before they'll authorise the sale. Then, after paying more money than I earn in a year, I get a Tachikoma, and a security dongle specifically encoded to match that Tachikoma with all licensing and operation restrictions hard-coded in. It won't even function without that unlock key engaged, and even then only under certain circumstances.

Attempting to bypass the dongle will probably end up killing the entire unit, or getting me arrested, or both.

So, basically, a giant pain in the ass for anyone to go through, ensuring only people with a legimtimate need or serious obsession ever think about going through with it.

Instead, I could buy a conventional Motoroid from Asagiri and either jump through the same hoops, or pop the inspection hatch under the rider's seat and jump terminals PCN-9 and PCN-15 on the main PCB with a paperclip to unlock the full-feature OS.

The terminals were drilled out, but the contact tracks are right there on the surface of the PCB.

Woops...
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--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
--
“Finished with Engines.”

Garrets voice says the words and the action's automatic. I pull two levers, cutting the governers. Both diesels wind down, churning over one final time before shuddering to a halt.

Only the generators remain.

“Switch to shore power.”

“Shore power aye,”

Two more switches. The lights flicker as power transfers. The generators spool down and the silence closes in. That's it. Never again.

The silence hurts.

The catgirls have gone. Blank spaces fill the walls where we kept the little nik-naks that made the ship home.

The real final Voyage of the SS Ciara happens two days after all the last of the passengers, well-wishers and old friends left. Only the bones of the old crew remain aboard – just the three of us left from day one - enough to accompany on one final journey.

All the way from one side of Phobos to the museum on the other. No grand space voyage, no epic adventure. No hijacking on the Captain's birthday. No cylon invasion. It's a welcome whimper rather than a total bang

My last duty is to finalise the logbooks. Engine oil. Fuel consumption. Coolant. Wavemix. All normal. Ready for the return trip. Flakes of paint peeling off bulkhead remind me that she really isn't.

I'm the man who pronounced her death sentence six months ago when I found the cracks in her keel; an old war-wound from a Boskone ram-ship that finally caught up with her.

One last walk around brings back memories. Most good. Some not. The same as any home. The lights switch off and I pull the engine room hatch shut behind, leaving the keys for the curator. One more sweep below decks makes sure we haven't left any problems behinds.

Nazzadi biomods make for good night vision, so I don't carry a torch. I become part of the dark, part of her sleep, soaking in the smell of oil, polish, diesel fuel and last night's dinner.

Every hatch gets closed. Every light switch off as we power her down for the final time. I can almost hear her steel sigh, longing to sail again. She's live so much, but she knows this is it.

We meet up in the galley. Her cabinets and cuboards closed and empty, the emergency lights throwing harsh shadows across the room. Almost as bare as the day we bought her. Anne extinguishes the candle beside the memorial plaque.

Ray has that bottle of Redbreast distilled on our launch date. He pours three glasses.

“All good things,” says Ray, finishing his.

“And to more,” Anne downs her glass.

“I'll miss that,” I finish.

The whiskey bottle is left in our hiding place, with a note bequeathing it to whomever the lucky bastard is to find it. A few more artifacts are left. Hopefully they'll be found by someone curious enough to ignore the museum's warnings.

We linger, finding it hard to believe that we've really come this far. Maybe we should say a few words, but nobody knows quite what to say. Too many memories make anything short, meaningless and anything meaningful too long.

“Last one off, turn off the lights,” Anne finally says, breaking the deadlock.

Ray's the last one out, logbooks under arm.

A cool draught licks our our neck as we cross the gangway. We stop and look back into the darkness before the hatch is closed for the last time. Nobody has to ask. It's not just our home we're leaving behind.

We all see them.

Familiar shadows in the dark, waving farewell. The ones who would never leave.

Goodbye old friends.


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"Mr Secretary."

"Mr Ambassador. So, what can I do for you?"

"Mr Secretary, there isn't really an easy way to explain this so I'll get right to the point. You remember the... unfortunate business in Chicago with those four young teenagers being held against their will?"

"The robots?"

"We prefer the term 'bioroids', but yes. Your government, and since this pertains to 'wavetech my government, have a bigger problem than we previously realised. A man claiming to be Tupac Shakur just walked into the Convention consulate in New York and requested political asylum."

"Oh, hell..."

(Inspired by a conversation with a hardcore Hatsune Miku/Soundwave shipper on another forum.)
"I just heard from the ISO - there's good news and bad news."

"The ISO ... did the Convention finally get a country code?"

Prudence nodded. "That's the good news. The bad news is that we didn't get FS."

"What did we get?"

"Fenspace Convention - FC."

"How is that bad news? We can make a fortune selling web domains to football clubs!"

"Really?"

"Are you sure you're Scottish? You need to get out of the server room more often."



(Meta: At the moment, both FS and FC are unassigned and unreserved country codes. And the Vatican has a country code, so a country doesn't need to be a UN member to get a CC.)
--
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
Not really a vignette...

But something mumbled about on the IRC between myself and ECSNorway.

When someone from the JLI comments 'It doesn't look like a hero's jet'.... they got their name

RF-155-ES"Taylor Hebert" Modified with equipment for drone control (Delivered to "ARDG")
RF-155-ED "Theresa Richter". Allowance for onboard AI, with standard reconnaissance/sensor package. (Delivered to "ARDG")
AF-155-R"Rebecca Brown"". Single-seat modification, removal of reconnaissance sensors. Additional armanent - missile carrier. 'Modified' engines. (Incomplete -85%. Scheduled for PEPPER demolition)
AF-155-AF "Flechette". As 'becky'. 8 Under-belly hardpoints replaced with mountings for 75mm Railcannon. Generators fitted in former computer bays. Light defensive armament. (Design Complete, order cancelled. )
RF-155-TT "Sarah Livesey" Standard reconnaissance version with 'Custom' software from another supplier. (Design complete. Order cancelled)
AF-155-E "Eidolon". Fitted with an additional reactor to power three multifunction FAST pack hardpoints, capable of carrying additional EWAR gear, heavy anti-ship weaponry, Warp Booster Pod, or other gear, in addition to standard hardpoints. (Concept Only - worth a small moon finished. No opponent justifies expense)
SF-155-I."Aisha Laborne". Replaces computer/sensor sets with fittings for a LTN-A4 cloaking device. Lightly armed otherwise. Low power engines. (Preliminaries done. Frame laid down.)
AF-155-L "Legend". Internal Warp Booster Pod, additional laser emplacements. (Concept Only. Believed impractical)
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Dartz, The Ciara's Final Return to Port was beautiful, and I apologize for my delay in saying so.
from: Mel13@cargo.pkgs.fen
to: alt.music.ironmaiden, alt.fen.newfilk
Subj: I did a thing....

Yeah I know I took some liberties but so di the original but I think this just came our *awesome*.... especially when we got some video at the last fleet meet of us all. And Jake did te voiceover for the comm checks and stuff, and the guitar.

"Clicky"

-Mel
----
Seventy tons of Metalhead.

-------

To ride the fire, to reach above the clouds
To ride the fire, they climbed aboard their shuttle craft
To ride the fire, to a future that will come
To ride the fire, and damn the rest, oblivion

Engineers and Managers, scientist and senators.
White lady giant of the skies, you hold them in your arms
The millionth chance they laughed, to take down this mighty craft
"To the stars," they say, "on a rocket roar away," a January fateful day

Mist rolls off the sea, steel sweats with the dew
The morning sunrise, the sky a brilliant blue
Standing at the pad, waiting for the launch
Our space shuttle, Columbia

She's the finest vessel built by man, a giant of the skies
For all you unbelievers, the Apollo fits inside
Moulded tight, her foamed tank, golden in the sun
Never tested on the wings, with the impact yet to come

The damage yet to come…

In the firing room, the wind rising in the west
The controllers stared into their computer monitors
We must launch now, we must take our chance with fate
We must launch now, for public relations we can't be late
The launchpad crew prepared for thirty days at full stretch,
But the ship is in their backbone, every sinew, every inch

They never tested foamstrikes, a trial never done
Her fragile outer cover, her Achilles would become

An Achilles yet to come...

Sailors of the stars, a hardened breed
Loyal to the dream, and an explorers creed

The engines roar, the boosters fire
Release the bolts that bind us to the ground
Said Booster, "She's been damaged, she'll never make this flight."
Said FIDO, "Another strike? But the last time went alright."
Groundlings cheered in wonder, as she roared up from the pad
On a column of fire and water, her big jets burning fast

Now she soars into our past…

Fighting the wind as it rolls you
Feeling the gravity press you back down.
Watching the planet below you
Lower and lower, back to the ground

Lights are flashing above you
A master alarm sounds overhead.
Plasma is raging around you
A million to one, that's what he said

....Columbia. Columbia Heuston. Comm Check. Comm Check.

....Columbia. Columbia Heuston. Comm Check. Comm Check.

Reaper standing beside her
With his scythe cuts to the bone
Chunks are burning away from her
The Commander alone takes manual control

Her skin is ripped and she's turning
Flame is cutting into the wing
Bleeding to death and she's rolling
Hydraulic fluid is draining away

....Columbia. Columbia Heuston. Comm Check. Comm Check.

....Columbia. Columbia Heuston. Comm Check. Comm Check.

"Lock the doors" came the words that saddened the waiting world.
Her mighty engines silent as the ship began to fall.
Consumed by a funeral pyre that blazed across the sky.
The Space Shuttle Columbia, and the dream that made her fly
Did we try to reach to high?

Here lie their dreams as I stand in the sun
On the ground where they built, and the engines did run
To the moon and the stars, now what have we done?
Oh the dreamers may die, but the dreams live on

Dreams live on
Dreams live on

Now a shadow on us all, the penguin's final fall.
Her mighty wings, may rest in peace
On a mirror made of glass, in a memorial place.
The names of those brave souls, who dared to reach for Space…

---

The Original:
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So. After two months of enforced social isolation nd being this mysterious idiot in a flight-suit I start to go stir crazy. I get the bright idea to go to a local con. Now, my name with the local con-scene was a little but mudd after the Athacon debacle but I needed to get out, so I registered as Priscila Stingray. No real name policy required.

It took twety minutes to scoot down.

"Ooh, I love your cosplay..."

"Is that suit handwaved. How'd you make it?"

I amn't used to being the centre of attention and Friday got a little bit weird with people asking to touch my armour and what it was made of, and maybe I didn't realise at the time how hard I was getting creeped on because I had such a different body image (which led to a problem when I drank myself sick that night - 5 pitchers has to go somewhere) but I started to ease into it on the Saturday, enjoying the photographs and meeting the guests and that feel of just being at the centre of the whole social situation rather than orbiting. For the first time in months I felt sane again, almost normal as if I could take the suit off and be myself rather than have ll the hardware ticking in my brain.

Sunday however - wel - on Sunday someone got jealous and joined up the dots, and that's when the police were called.

------
(I'm at a con at the moment....)
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Ross Van Loan

"If you had any more kittens you'd be a Heinlein protagonist!"
This observation, made by the lovely stack of beauty that was Carmine Palisander, was almost heard by Shego, sometimes known as Friday Baldwin, from under her adorable cairn of quivering kittens.

Dr. Drakken cleared his throat. "I'll have you know that we've done the Grand Master better by exactly three calicoes!"

"You counted all of his cats?"

"I concocted an algorithm. I call it C.A.T.S. : Cute Algorithmic Tom Sorter."

From under her wriggling kitten angora, Shego quipped, "He has a lot of free time!"

Darken bandied with, "Please, this is exactly the Geekportant work that is essential to the wellbeing of Fenspace!" He scooped up a buzzing black and white Persian fluff ball. "Isn't that right, Buzz Bomb?" 

Buzz Bomb buzzed in complete and total agreement. 

Palisander picked up a calico kitten; proceeded to have zero choice but to stoke the total accretion of adorableness. 

"I only have two questions: where did they all come from; where will they all go?"

Shego rose carefully from her kitty cairn, a surprising number of them claw clinging to her svelte leather clad bod.

"That's a story und a half! How much time can you spare, Carmine?"
"The only time I was legitimately worried was last years race at Atalante. We needed an edge and *someone* hit on the bright idea of ripping out the entire nitrogen circuit and running a pure oxygen atmosphere. We knew we were tickling the dragon's tail but we just hit stiff competition and it saved us over 200 kilos of weight - while technically not being banned. We just needed to hold a breathable atmosphere, the composition didn't matter. The trick was starting at atmospheric then bleeding it all down slow enough to avoid either breaking anything or narcosis. No, we didn't forget - we took some precautions by we knew our history and we did it anyway - we thought it was worth the risk for the win.

And we won the race too but thank the God's the ARR banned it - because everyone would've followed our lead and something bad would've happened to someone, very soon. One spark and boom.

Sitting bolt still in that cockpit made of carbon and titanium waiting for the pressure to bleed down was the longest time in my life - all the time aware that at 100kPa of pure O2, even I was flammable.

And we could only fool nature so many times. Eventually the dragon would bite"
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