Nevada’s Best

“So, mister Ghostpowers, why do you want to work for the United States Government?”

“Well, If I get a summer job, then I can make some progress on my student loans, and maybe my grandkids won’t be stuck paying them off.”

Raymond Ghostpowers sat at a solid wooden desk, in a darkened room. The one light on the otherwise empty desk was pointed in his face, making it hard to discern Mister A., the suit-clad figure across from him. He looked to be about mid-thirties, with black hair and a close-trimmed beard.

“If I may, mister Ghostpowers, you look a little young for grandchildren.” Said Mister A. “Are they time travelers? Clones? Alien hybrid clones?”

“Um, they’re hypothetical.”

“I see. Very good.” Mister A. made a note in his black, leather bound book, then turned his attention back to his interviewee. Raymond wasn’t sure if this guy was joking or not. He had never seen anyone use the phrase ‘alien hybrid clones’ with such a straight face.

“Any other experiences with inexplicable or paranormal phenomenon?” Continued Mister A.

“My grandfather was one of those douchey frauds with a paranormal reality show, back in the day. He even legally changed his last name for it. So yeah, that’s why I’m a ‘Ghostpowers’. I’ve been meaning to change it to something more conventional, but, you know.”

“So, no experience contacting, exorcising, banishing, or communing with undead or otherworldly entities?”

“Is… is that a real question? Like, why would they make you ask that for this interview?”

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Date Nite(whisper)

Trigger Warning: A cat is sad in this story.

This had always been a bad idea. Some part of Thel knew that from the beginning. And yet, she had gone ahead with it anyway. Had pushed for it even. And now the consequences were staring her in the face, talking about goddess knows what.

“So I think the really only major thing is the fiber-based computer they put in alongside my optic nerve.” Said Nightwhisper, “The rest is just some bone reinforcements. Oh, and the sub-dermal kevlar. That’s a big one.”

Thel’s whiskers twitched. She doubted any sane person could follow this conversation, if one could even call it that. The object of her waning affection had been talking, uninterrupted, for what must have been a quarter of an hour, oblivious to Thel’s frustration.

“But yeah, I guess I’m not supposed to talk about cyborg stuff to people in this dimension. No one here knows what any of that means. There’s no internet here either, so I usually just leave the computer alone.”

People in this dimension? Was Nightwhisper even talking to anyone besides himself anymore? Thel gritted her teeth, resisting the instinct to growl. Instead she made a play to steer the conversation in a new direction.

“So, how do you like being sheriff?”

Sheriff. The position implied a measure of competence and stoicism that Nightwhisper was falling catastrophically short of. Based on the last fifteen minutes alone, Thel wasn’t even sure if he was qualified on grounds of sanity. However, come to think of it, crime was at a record low in the city. Thel preferred not to ponder the implications of that fact.

“It’s okay.” Replied the sheriff. “Actually, my official title is ‘chief in charge of the sheriff’s office of Heart City’.” He paused for a moment, his face skewed by dim contemplation. “Wait, I think you’re right. It is just ‘sheriff’.”

A palpable silence followed. Thel could have screamed, if only to offer a sound into the deathly still air. She dug her claws into her own leg under the table, in an attempt to ride out the tension. This was going worse than she could have imagined.

 

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Shinsplitter

The Shinsplitter awoke, hungover, in a prison cell. This was a common enough happenence that he was a reluctant connoisseur of the experience. This cell wafted of filth and mold, with notes of scratchy straw, and rusty metal. The hangover paired appropriately with the accommodations, bringing a throbbing pain behind the Shinsplitter’s eyes, and a sickness to his stomach. His mouth was fouled by a taste not unlike moldy tree bark, and felt almost painfully dry. The whole situation was accentuated by a loud banging on the bars of his cell.

Mornings like this reminded the Shinsplitter that he was still alive, and gently insisted that he probably shouldn’t be.

“WAKE UP FILTH!” Bellowed the guard, beating his club on the steel door. The guard was an orc, the Shinsplitter noticed, as his eyelids cracked open. Orcs rarely managed less than a bellow. The noise made the Shinsplitter’s teeth hurt. That seemed wrong. Noise should make his ears hurt, but the hangover conducted pain in fresh, unexpected ways. The Shinsplitter considered killing the Orc, then was reminded of the steel bars by another sharp clang, and considered killing himself instead.

“I’m awake. Stop clanging.” Wheezed the Shinsplitter. He patted his ragged tunic, fumbling for his pipe. Not there. They must have taken his possessions. Or he had dropped it somewhere. Or he had sold it to buy a magical pair of socks. That was the blessing and the curse of a blackout drunk. Anything could happen.

The guard unlocked the cell door. It squeaked open, sending needles through the Shinsplitter’s brain.

“SOMEONE PAID YOUR BAIL.”

The Shinsplitter cringed at the bellowing. At least it was good news making his eyes try to crawl into the back of his skull. He stood, and lurched out of the cell without another word to the guard. He was in no condition to provoke a conversation.

The guard followed him as he made his way up the familiar stone stairway of Grug’s prison. What had he done last night? It was entirely possible that he drank a mug of ale taller than he was. A meritorious accomplishment, even for a gnome. A three-foot tall mug of ale was still a three-foot tall mug of ale.

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Valkyrie

Having a body was interesting, the valkyrie decided. Parts of her had existed before this, living on hard drives and in server banks. Now everything was operating on the same platform, under a single control routine. It was her first time in an independently operational mechanical platform. Having a body was interesting.

The Valkyrie’s eyes clicked on. She stared straight ahead.

Before this, she had existed in a semi-aware state. She moved disembodied limbs to test servos and synthetic muscle. She answered natural-language questions in front of a focus group, to quantify the marketability of her personality. She reviewed thousands of hours of combat footage, and parsed dissertations on fight tactics. Now she was on her feet and walking. She could already tell that she was good at that.

Her servo control algorithm was operating flawlessly, with no desynchronization between sensory input and motor output. The algorithm had been refined over sixteen billion iterations across thousands of virtual scenarios. It could efficiently operate the body despite armor penetration, sensory loss, limb loss, gyro malfunction, skeletal damage, or anything else the engineers could think to throw at it. Now it was controlling the body to stand before a team of technicians for a final inspection.

“Hello, Valkyrie.” Said the technician. “My name is Maxwell. We’re going to ask you some questions and have you perform some simple tasks to make sure that everything’s calibrated. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

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What is Arc Attack?

Every so often, the hosts of FnF like to do a little writing. The Arc Attack project is an effort to direct and organize that writing. Something to give us goals and deadlines. Each month, the goal is to create a new short story. Each story can be an arc, a small piece of a character’s journey, and of a bigger world. The first story I’m posting, Valkyrie, is part of the Brutal Future universe, a sci-fi setting where coliseum fights featuring robots and genetic monstrosities are a popular form of entertainment. To be perfectly honest, I’m not super-confident about this arc. I didn’t have a consistent writing schedule when I started, so it was made in short bursts, over the course of a couple months. It could probably use another pass, or even a serious rewrite, but I have been putting off posting it for long enough already. The main purpose of this project is to make us all better writers, so hopefully future writings will see improvement.

Alright, enough apologizing. Go read this story about a cool robot I wrote. It’s got sword fights and stuff. You like that, right?