Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
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||You are on Week 298
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Two Hundred Ninety Eight Ends November 10
Dillin sat up in his bed, wide-eyed. The Bruce could've sworn he’d heard an explosion a second ago. Sure enough, his bedroom was not shrouded in the comfortable dark of night but strangely lit up by the blaze of a fire outside. The fire’s orange light streamed through his window, throwing crazy, jagged shadows on the walls.
There were screams and pounding footsteps beneath him as the rest of his family scurried around to see the commotion. He could hear his father shouting something, trying to keep Dillin’s little sisters calm.
Quickly, the Bruce threw on his slippers and pounded down the stairs. "What happened?" he asked, grabbing his older sister as she ran by.
"There's been a meteor shower! We think one might have crashed into our fields!" the Ixi replied, her eyes wide with concern. "Oh, Dillin, what will become of the crops?"
"Stay here and watch over everyone," he instructed. "I'll go investigate."
"Be careful!" his sister shouted, as the Bruce dashed out of the house...
Author: Shooting Star|
Date: Nov 3rd
...Jackert stood staring through the now functioning cargo room shield, watching in horror as all of their cargo fell speedily towards Neopia, catching alight and blazing as it squeezed its way through the planet's atmosphere.
He didn’t know how it had happened. One minute he was calmly humming to himself as he worked on the broken control panel, and the next minute the whole room was open to space. His Master’s precious cargo was sucked out into space, and he would have gone with it if he hadn’t instinctively grabbed out and caught hold of some of the metal shelving that was bolted to the wall.
Just as the little purple Grundo’s fingers had begun to loosen their grip and his head had began to swim with dizziness from the lack of oxygen, the shield suddenly popped back up over the open door. The oxygen level and artificial gravity were also restored, and Jackert fell to the floor with a crash, letting out a cry that has more to do with confusion and fear than physical pain.
He couldn’t understand it. He hadn’t touched any wires that controlled the ship's shields. How could it have malfunctioned like that? He was certain that he couldn’t have been to blame but he knew his Master wouldn’t see it that way. The Grundo fell to his knees sobbing as he watched the last of the balls of fire that were once cargo boxes fall through the clouds below him and disappear. He would be severely punished for this.
* * * * *
Dillin sped down the small lane that lead down the side of their cottage and up to their family’s Juppie field. He could see a cloud of smoke billowing out of the field before him in the distance, and he crossed his fingers as he ran, hoping that the meteor hadn’t damaged too many of the Juppies.
His breath caught in his throat and he let out an anguished cry as he came to the top of the lane and looked across over the field. He would be surprised if a single fruit had survived the blaze that appeared to have torched the entire field. What was his family going to do? Where were they going to find the Neopoints to replace it all?
Just then the Bruce saw something moving out of the corner of his eye. He squinted his eyes up and gazed through the smoke. He gasped as he realised something was moving towards him...
Date: Nov 6th
...Dillin instinctively ducked behind some of the crispy remnants of Juppie stalks that had been growing next to the path. Breathing hard, he imagined all the things that the approaching silhouette could be. Some of the local Mystery Island farmers had been complaining about a problem with Mirgles coming in from the jungle to eat from their crops; perhaps that was all it was. Or maybe, he thought in sudden horror, an alien just landed in our field! He shuddered and tried to push the thought away -- his imagination had only ever gotten him into trouble. Even so, he could not resist a peek around the plants to catch another glance of the mysterious intruder.
Although the night air was dark and smoky, it just so happened that at that moment, the figure moved into an area lit by slanting moonlight through the dense trees. Cold silver light reflected off gleaming metal, and then all was thrown into darkness again as the figure continued on its way.
The Bruce’s breath caught in his throat, and he turned away sharply. The metallic form was moving closer. His heart seemed to be pounding a staccato in his chest. He wanted to run, he wanted to hide... things like this just did not happen on a farm like his. But something kept him there, waiting, and he made no move to flee.
The time to make a last-minute escape came and went, and still Dillin crouched, hidden in the shadows. A high-pitched metallic whir betrayed the proximity of the being, and before he could change his mind, he scrunched his eyes shut, said a little prayer, and flung himself from around the plants.
Standing directly in front of the figure, he could now make out more details. Either the thing before him was a small Grundo entirely encased in elaborate metal armour, or he was gazing upon his first robot.
Buttons of varying sizes and colours covered its front, and several shiny wires laced their way up its mechanical limbs. A small, rectangular screen displayed a jagged green line that rippled in time with the hums and whirs emanating from its body. The only explanation Dillin’s reeling mind could come up with was that somehow, a piece of Virtupets technology had ended up in his backyard.
“Identify yourself,” it demanded in a voice that crackled with static.
“I-I’m Dillin,” he stammered, fighting to gain control of his voice. “But wh-what I want to know is who you are.”
The Robot was perfectly still, making no indication that it planned to respond.
“Who are you,” Dillin said, a little more boldly, “and WHAT are you doing in our field?” He gestured angrily to the destroyed crops that covered the expanse of land around them.
* * * * *
From a distance, the purple Grundo moaned as he flipped shut his portable tracker and jammed it into his bag, cradling his head in his hands. If it weren’t bad enough that he had lost most of his Master’s cargo, now the one surviving piece had gone and gotten itself seized by a local Neopian. He wondered if it was even possible for his day to get any worse.
Jackert spent a couple of minutes feeling sorry for himself, and then slowly began to formulate a plan for his next actions. The more he thought about it, the more he understood. There was only one thing left to do. He would have to find the young Bruce, and take back his property. His job, and possibly his very life, depended on it...
Date: Nov 7th
* * * * *
...The fire crackling in the living room's mantle seemed rather like a wooden spoon sloshing through soup, mixing the mass merry chaos of ingredients throughout before letting them settle back among themselves. Dillin's parents sat in a terrified union on the sagging throwback couch, wedging their shoulders as tightly together as they would go. On one side of the oak dining table handed across the years, Dillin sat, lifting his feet occasionally as his two younger sisters squealed and tumbled below its legs. His older sister was nowhere to be seen. And there was a glowing, quite possibly deadly robot, which had followed the Bruce home with no accompanying explanation, sitting in the chair across from him.
Needless to say, his breaking of their crop's fate to his parents had not brought forth what should have been its expected ballyhoo.
"Citizen," it staticked at him, several wires writhing within its chest as though to prove its point. "I have need of your family."
Dillin thought about saying no on the spot, but then considered the ramifications of immediately refusing the request of someone with very fierce-looking lightbulbs spouting from their eyeballs. He asked instead, "What do you want?"
"A spaceship. Your fastest, at the least."
The skull of one of Dillin's younger sisters collided squarely with the sole of his boot when she looked up in astonishment. Dillin, for his part in the matter, said nothing.
"A space-ship," the robot annunciated, doing its level best to be helpful. It gestured through a nearby window at the now-silent night sky, and flapped its tentacles. "You know, one of those great silver things that go whizzing about the sky. Like faeries, except bigger."
In the background, Dillin's mother started to laugh, but this quickly trailed into a sob.
With the calm, rational tone that had talked many a ravenous Snowbunny back from devouring their crops, Dillin replied, "We're farmers. We don't have a spaceship."
The robot oxidized at him. Its frequent usage of words which could not normally be altered into verb forms was becoming unnerving.
"Why do you want one?" the Bruce asked, if only to fill the now thoroughly-oxidized space between them.
"You waste my time. I must find a spaceship."
Its passage knocked the wind from the fireplace, and the coals within it whuffed into darkness. The door was still rattling within its hinges from the impact of being slammed shut by digits of steel and silicon when it was promptly blown back inward a minute, two minutes later.
For their part, Dillin and his family had been rather busily coaxing their bones to halt their attempts at running up the stairs and hiding under the nearest bed.
Not bothering to close the door behind him, Jackert stared at the family as though he were the house's owner, and they the mud-bedraggled intruders. "Where did it go?" the Grundo warbled furiously, its tongue stuttering over the syllables of a language foreign to it. "I know it was here! Where is Model X70?"
"The robot?" His father was now the one who spoke up, startling them all. He gestured towards the door, to the night whose stars had all been burned away. "I imagine he's headed for the Virtupets station..."
Date: Nov 7th
* * * * *
...There had to be a spaceship around here somewhere. A rocket. An emergency shuttle. Something. X70 scanned its surroundings once again. Very low metal readings and most of the metal it could read was far too small to be a transport out of here. It mostly seemed to be agricultural implements of some kind.
X70 calculated that if it could feel emotion, it would be frustration. With determination that matched its iron exterior paneling, the robot continued down the decaying organic path that its data files said was called a ‘dirt road’.
X70 soon discovered a second disadvantage. Not only was there no ship within range, there were no wireless signals for it to pick up to discover its location on the planet. How was one supposed to figure out where to go if one didn’t know where one was? Scanning though all available frequencies, X70 found only empty air waves. Most unusual. The only logical answer was that its receiver was malfunctioning. Either that or this planet had not yet discovered (or did not use) wireless communication.
This was worrying for more than just needing to know where one was, the wireless was also what broadcasted power points where X70 could recharge its batteries. Calculating quickly, X70 figured that if it used the same constant amount of power that it had run on since the crash, there were only about 5 hours left of power in its reserves. It was only running on a maintenance battery after all -- not the more powerful and long-lasting battery that would have been installed if this was a mission.
* * * * *
“Virtupets Station?” Jackert demanded. “There isn’t much time; I have to catch up with it!”
Not even bothering to thank the startled family, Jackert bolted out of the house down towards the road. Heavy footsteps followed him, “Wait!” a young voice cried.
Slowing, the Grundo turned to face an adolescent blue Bruce. “I want to come with you,” the Bruce panted.
“I’m not picking up...” Jackert paused, cursing his lack of familiarity with the strange dialect of this planet. “No runaways,” he said, in what he hoped was a firm and final tone.
The Bruce shot him annoyed look. “I don’t want to go off planet with you; I want to help you find the robot. Two sets of eyes are better than one, and I don’t want that... thing on my planet any longer than possible. And I can tell you’re not exactly fluent -- if you want to keep a low profile, you’ll need me.”
Jackert nodded; he could understand the Bruce’s reasoning now. “Alright. Come.”
Reaching the road, Jackert groaned. To the left was the town where the shuttles had landed. Going determinedly in the direction of ‘right’, was Model X70’s distinctive tracks...
Date: Nov 8th
..."What's the matter?" Dillin asked.
"Where should I start?" the Grundo grumbled.
"Maybe with why you just groaned?" Dillin looked down at the road, trying to put aside his own worries about their destroyed crops for the moment and imagine what this stranger would find upsetting about it. The sooner the Grundo's problems were solved, the sooner he and his robot could be sent away and they could start dealing with their own.
It was a pretty normal dirt road, really. Maybe that was what the Grundo had a problem with.... But then Dillin's eyes fell on the strangest set of tracks, and he looked to the right, where the tracks went, and then off to the left... where there was still a fading contrail in the sky, and where he knew that spaceships did now and then take off and land, coming from the Virtupets Space Station. "Oh," he said. "You've got to go further from where you landed?"
"There's that," the Grundo said with a sigh. "There's the fact that Model X70 ought to be staying in one spot and transmitting a signal if it's in an unfamiliar situation, which means it either thinks it's being sought by hostiles or it's malfunctioning. It's probably malfunctioning from the fall, which means that the last piece of cargo I thought was intact isn't."
The Grundo nodded as he started trudging along the path. "I was in charge of a supply shipment. The force fields failed, and everything blew out of the hold."
Dillin opened his mouth to say something angry about the meteor shower that had destroyed his family's livelihood, but the Grundo kept talking.
"My Master's going to be so incredibly angry; if I'm lucky I'll just lose my job, not my life, but I'm not counting on it." A heavy sigh. "I guess the direction is a bright spot. I don't even want to THINK about what my Master would do to me if Model X70 delivered itself to those traitors at the Virtupets Space Station!"
Dillin stopped in his tracks as he put together the Grundo's talk of his fearsome Master with the idea of calling the people on the Virtupets Space Station traitors. He might be a simple farmer, but he knew the Space Station had, with the Space Faerie's help, thrown off the tyrannical rule of Dr. Sloth and that the inhabitants were glad of their freedom. But this... this...
"Just a minute," the Bruce croaked. "You work for Dr. Sloth?"...
Date: Nov 8th
...The Grundo's eyes slid over to him in surprise; he even looked like he'd momentarily forgotten his worry over the vanished robot. "We call him only the Master," he replied quietly. "Any other name invokes his wrath, and that is something that none of us dare do."
Dillin stopped in his tracks. "You're a Sloth spy?" he demanded shrilly, pounding both of his flippers onto his head in amazement. "I can't belive it. My crops are gone, my family has lost a year's worth of hard work, and on top of it a Sloth spy comes after us to coerce us to help the enemy?"
The Grundo frowned. "I am coercing no one," he replied loudly. "You volunteered!"
"And it's a good thing I did, or else the Chia Police would be all over you, spy! I should go turn you in right now!" shot back Dillin.
A huge explosion caused both to turn around, mouths open, forgetting their anger in a flash of panic.
"What was that?" asked Dillin, not knowing if he wanted to hear the answer at all.
"I thought he was either malfunctioning or fleeing from hostile enemies," murmured the Grundo softly, his eyes wide. "Instead, it seems he has gone on attack mode..."
Date: Nov 9th
...Neither darkness nor a thick coating of feathers could conceal the panic that splattered itself across Dillin's face. "WHAT?!" he squawked, sounding as if he had been halted in the middle of an attempt to swallow a live Pawkeet by a hand clamping around his throat. "A-attack? What is it programmed to attack?"
"It depends what its orders are," Jackert replied slowly. "But since it has no orders this time, it'll probably just start shooting at anything in sight."
Apparently not content with vacating his face, Dillin's blood seemed to be answering gravity's call and settling toward his feet, turning his legs to lead and sending his head spinning. "Y-you mean, it could destroy the entire island?"
The Grundo nodded slowly. "The only thing we can do now is wait for its batteries to run out and then try to grab it."
* * * * *
Model X70 watched as a vacant shop exploded into a brilliant eruption of flame, like a miniature volcano rising in wrath. The bitter acid smell of burnt fruit filled the air, along with screams of panic and other smells and sounds of destruction; but the smells did not register in X70's system, and the screams held no significance for it. All that mattered was its mission: to destroy the enemy base before its batteries ran out.
It had found the small scattering of huts and business establishments only moments before, silent and peaceful under a serene scattering of stars whose reflections glinted off X70's steel skin. It had been the absolute picture of tranquility, but that was of no consequence: it was a settlement, obviously organized, and it was not to be found in X70's list of Virtupets strongholds.
Thus, it was an enemy.
But the robot's battery was failing. It could tell by the meter in its computer core, and by the fact that the shots from its lasers were beginning to merely set things afire instead of completely vaporizing them.
Suddenly, it realized that two of the local Neopets were not running around in mindless panic. Instead, they were coming straight toward it. X70 turned smoothly to face them, and fired off a shot. There was a yelp as the Bruce shoved the Grundo out of the way, and the two of them rolled together to avoid a second and third shot.
But there was to be no fourth. X70 attempted to divert more power to its lasers, but its calculations indicated that the remaining energy in its system would not suffice to do more than cook one of the culinary 'meat balls' that some organics consumed for nutrition.
And the Neopets were moving again, approaching it with grim determination. They were talking to each other -- they knew that X70's power supply was almost gone.
But there was something that could be done about this, wasn't there? There was supposed to be some directive in its database specifically for this kind of predicament. X70 began to scroll through the list of instruction titles in its computer core.
If there is a hull breach while you are aboard a space vessel... no... If the Master's quarters are invaded by the Space Faerie... no, that was the wrong one, too... If the Master needs his slippers fetched, and there are no other servants present... THAT was in its database?!... If capture by enemy forces is inevitable...
Yes, that was the one. X70 accessed it, and the information flowed into its processor: If capture by enemy forces is inevitable, activate self-destruct sequence...
Date: Nov 9th
...The robot stopped suddenly, turning off whatever unnecessary processes were running (such as blinking lights on the exterior) in order to channel all its remaining energy to its heart, where the explosives lay, planted there in case of ultimate emergency. X70 began shuddering, gathering all the power it had left. Sparks snapped from its shivering body as it prepared to release its energy in the final resort.
* * * * *
“It’s shutting down!” Dillin said, his face suddenly turning hopeful despite the burning buildings and wreckage all around him.
Jackert didn’t look so pleased. His purple face was downright lavender, and he was chewing at his nails worriedly as he eyed the robot standing still, its lights and screens darkened and electricity crackling inside its metal case. “Good Doctor,” he whispered. “It’s decided to self-destruct.”
“What?” cried Dillin, his initial happiness vanishing. He looked around at the straw huts that were quickly vanishing into flames and smoke -- what was left of his hometown.
“It’s going to destroy itself!” Jackert wailed, clutching at his antennae in panic. “The last remaining piece of my cargo will be demolished like all the rest. What my Master won’t do to me! This is a disaster!”
“A disaster? You call that a disaster?” The Bruce’s voice rose to a shrill pitch as he gestured to the remains of the town around him. “You think your Master matters now? You may not ever see him again if this crazy robot goes and blows itself up, and us with it! I wouldn’t call it a disaster if this robot is destroyed; in fact, that’s exactly what I intend to do to it!”
“No,” the Grundo gasped. But Dillin had already reached down and picked up a large singed rock. With a hard sweep of his flipper, he hurled it at the robot.
* * * * *
The power was building up in X70’s core. Soon there would be enough sparks to touch off the bomb he carried under his steel chest, the death device he had harbored from the day he was first plugged in. His self-defined enemy would be destroyed, and his Master’s property would be saved from capture. Destroyed, yes, but capture was far worse. Suppose the Neopian scientists tried to study the robot and acquire the technology for themselves?
Knowing that he was defending his honor was enough to satisfy X70. Not that he’d have much time to enjoy that; he’d soon be lying in a pile of twisted metal at the heart of devastated island.
X70 had shut down most of his sensors in order to send more power to the self-destruct mechanism. So it was a surprise to him when a large stone slammed into his head, smashing through the glass case surrounding the delicate workings of his electronic brain. It lodged among the circuits and wires, scraping crucial bits of metal from the circuit boards.
X70 suddenly felt as if he had a rock in his brain, which was pretty near to the truth. He couldn’t think. He was still in attack mode, though, and remembered that he was supposed to be destroying his enemy. But what enemy? All he saw through his dimming sensors was fire and rubble. If the fire and rubble was his enemy, why was he channeling electricity to his self-destruct mechanism? That would only create more fire and rubble.
He tried to assess the data he had to find out what was going on, but he didn’t have the electricity needed to make complicated computations like that. The power was being wasted on charging the self-destruct device. That could be fixed, at least; X70 shut down the process and began allotting the weak electricity to more useful operations.
The rock inside the robot managed to dislodge itself from the circuit boards and fell forward, knocking a switch labeled “Manual Mode Change”.
The confused robot suddenly no longer felt the need to attack. What was he doing? What was he supposed to be doing? Fetching his Master’s slippers, perhaps?
But no, his Master was nowhere to be seen. He was in an alien world, with destruction and fire all around him, and his batteries nearly gone...
How will this week's story end?
Date: Nov 10th
...He had no subroutines that applied here. With the "Manual Mode Change" switch activated, the only available action was to await further instructions in the form of a manual mode change by some servant of the Master with hands, but he waited, and no one came. Baffled entirely and as close to miserable as his programming would allow, the robot performed one last, slightly guilty malfunction, and expended the last of the energy in its battery in transmitting a tracking signal.
* * * * *
Some distance off, the two Neopets watched in united suspense as the rock produced a crash... a little rocking back and forth... and then silence and stillness. The robot emitted a sort of dull click as it shut down entirely, resources spent.
The fires burned on.
The unitedness broke down. Jackert turned to the Bruce and seized him by the shoulders to shake him hysterically. "A ROCK! You threw a ROCK at it!"
"Yes, I did," Dillin said irritably, prying the Grundo's hands off his shoulders and holding the Sloth minion by the wrists. "And it worked, didn't it?"
"Worked! It's ruined!"
"I may not be an expert on your technology," Dillin said with exaggerated sarcasm, "but I'm reasonably sure that's the idea of 'self-destruct.' This way we aren't ruined with it."
The Grundo, hands shaking in Dillin's grip, subsided a little and looked around. "Not yet, anyway...."
"Yeah, come help me put out the fires," Dillin ordered, then winced. "Before they make that thing explode ANYWAY."
He let go of the Grundo and went to work, not looking to see whether he was getting any help or not. The villagers who had managed to find shelter emerged from it and began working as well.
They had all the flames out and were working their way over the smoldering ruins to make sure there were no sparks left to flare up again when a strange buzzing whine, just on the edge of hearing, made all their jaws ache.
They looked up.
The sound grew into the range of hearing, for each species; into, and past -- louder and louder, until the roar of it was less a sound than a tangible thing that seized the entire body and shook it, that throbbed in ears and heart and bone.
Most of the villagers threw themselves flat and covered their heads when a violent wind blasted downward -- flattening several of the previously half-destroyed houses -- and a spaceship appeared above them in the sky, gleaming malevolent silver.
Dillin threw himself flat, but he raised his head with difficulty against the pressure of the wind, squinting as bits of straw and ash flew into his face.
And thus he saw, though he did not hear, the strange Grundo cry out. Jackert had been working as hard as anyone, but now he ran full-out toward the defunct robot. An energy beam seized it and began to lift it off the ground; the Grundo put on a last burst of speed, leaped, and threw his arms around it.
They rose together upward. A red-black opening flickered in the underside of the silver surface, and the two smaller figures were gone, swallowed up inside it.
Then the ship was gone too, and with it the wind and the deafening sound beyond sound.
The battered islanders picked themselves up and, without trying to speak to each other, resumed their work. That much wind would have either blown out any remaining sparks or fanned them into open flame, so much of this was now looking for what they could salvage.
Dillin helped for a little while, but he supposed he ought to go back to his family and tell them what had happened, if he could find the words to describe it. And then... well, then they'd try to rebuild. Their house, at least, was intact, even if the crops weren't. It was more than those living in town could say.
On the way home, Dillin's ears began to ring.
* * * * *
Jackert clung desperately to Model X70 as it rose into the ship. The door panel -- a real metal one, not a force field -- shut with a clang; Jackert's ears popped as the pressure in the hold altered, and he wondered for a terrified moment whether he had been taken up into one that was normally a vacuum.
But he could still breathe, and after a moment he opened his eyes cautiously and looked about.
It was dark.
A pinpoint of light awoke, in the distance -- the far side of the hold, perhaps -- and grew to a line. A deep voice spoke from it. "Jackert the Grundo."
Jackert trembled abjectly. He knew the voice. "Master."
The broken line of light grew to a slit, a rectangle... a door, with a head silhouetted in the light. "You have lost your cargo. All but one piece, now destroyed. You have left your post."
Jackert knocked his head against the floor. "Yes, Master."
"You have caused unplanned destruction on Neopia, have observed the inhabitants without taking harm from them, and have retrieved the most valuable piece of cargo in reparable condition."
That... that almost sounded like a compliment. "M-master?"
Jackert was silent. So was the hold. The silence seemed to grow into a tangible thing, wrapping around him and crawling into his ears.
"To reward you, or to punish you, or both...."
Jackert was silent still.
The Master finished at last, "I think I have the perfect assignment... Jackert the Spy."
The golden light from the door winked off bright white teeth.
The Master's smile.
Date: Nov 10th
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