Sun Squad – Yuppers

Stuck in a stutter
Fear the fallen utter
Nonsense in senseless death

– The Coming of the Condemned

In the black of space, a ship fell quiet. About fifteen minutes before the sounds of shouting, running, slamming, and gunfire echoed along the hull.

I hid shamelessly. I technically passed basic combat training some ten years before flying into the black to study and never used it since. As a scientist, I didn’t even carry a stun gun.

I’d heard of pirates out in the black. People figure the law won’t find you if you fly far enough. Those people live by plundering vessels and leaving them stranded. I thought we’d been raided, so I’d just lay low until they took all of our supplies and left.

I thought it was pirates before the silence. The silence didn’t make sense.

Then a murmur started. It echoed and vibrated across the hull. It was the sound of a house fly from Earth, circling around. As the sound grew louder, I thought of a hornet’s nest. I moved towards the sound, thinking of investigating, thinking there might be a mechanical failure. I froze when I detected a human quality to the sound. It was like a word being stuttered on the same syllable over and over. Maybe it was a recording the ship’s computer was accidentally playing back, caught in a loop. Maybe there was a system failure. I backed up again, trying to be patient, resigning to wait hidden in my lab.

It wasn’t long before I grew restless again, the unnerving noise echoing around the corridors. What if it everyone was evacuated? What if I’m the only one left here? With the systems failure, heat would deplete along with the oxygen, and I knew I’d freeze before I suffocated. I’d die alone because I was a coward.

I couldn’t sit still. Maybe I could fix it. I turned away from the corridor I’d seriously considered going into and went back into my lab. I sat at a terminal easily, even in the dark I knew my lab, my home.

There was no power. How could the computer system be making those noises without power? Was only this terminal down? What about the backup systems?

I reached under and pulled off a large panel, exposing the wiring. I crawled my way in about a half of a foot to find the connections for power and flipped a switch to manually engage the backup power systems. My terminal switched on.

From the new light I could see vague shapes coming from the corridor I was standing in before. I stood and inched forward. The shapes were moving in the same stutter of the buzzing noise. The shapes looked like human figures, but the movement were jerking and repeating.

As I began to see it clearer it was like a stiff dance, forward a half step, back a half, forward a full two, back another half step… It seemed robotic, but their faces were getting close enough to make out in the dim light.

Their vacant eyes were wide and blinking in the same stuttering cadence. I recognized some of them. It was the crew and not one of them looked alive.

Single file in their eerie march they came forward, not responding to anything I said. Their minds were gone or being controlled. I looked around my lab to hide. That was the only exit. I squeezed myself into the panel with the wires in desperation. Under and inside the terminal, I pulled the panel back on after me. With their vacant stares, unseeing and unintelligent, I was hoping that they wouldn’t be able to pry the panel off.

By some luck I was right, but they didn’t leave. They mill about outside stuttering, day and night without rest. I don’t know how long I’ve been in here any more. The background noise blurs together in a meaningless cacophony. It’s possible I’ve gone mad.

If I’m still sane, someone still might find this terminal I’m tapping into from the inside out. Someone might download this log and make some sense of it.

If I weren’t facing a slow death, madness, or whatever malady has befallen my crew mates, this might have been funny. Sometimes the sound is like “yup yup yup” as if they are agreeing with me.

Doomed, “Yup yup yup,” They agree.

I know the crew is either dead or one of those things outside. I won’t leave. Whatever my fate, I won’t become one of them.

This passage comes from a recording on one of the first ships that were found. It is the first recorded encounter with The Condemned. Though the ship was also found contaminated with Type Two and Type Three Condemned, it appears that in a single case one of the crew was able to avoid immediate detection and transformation.

There was a decomposed body found in the panel below the terminal. The cause of death appeared to be self inflicted electrocution. From the estimated time of death, the woman would have long since died of dehydration, and leaving would have surely resulted in her joining her crew as one of the Type One Condemned.

From here on the Type One were known as Yuppers in reference to her log. Though suspected, this allowed us to discover that Yuppers are attracted to noise and sound, but are unable to reason or perform motor functions other than moving towards its source.

– Compendium of The Condemned

Fantasy Story Ideas

I come up with ideas for writing in a lot of different places. This is something that was kicking in my head from a dream that I expanded on in waking times, in the shower, driving to work, falling asleep. At some point sometimes ideas stop kicking around in the head and I try to put what I’m thinking on paper. Sometimes I start writing the story, and other times I write character sketches, draw places, write scenes, or in this case: figure out mechanics.

One of the most fun things about the Sci-fi and Fantasy genre is the mechanics of how your world works. What makes it full of magic? What are the systems, schools, and conventions by which normal people become adventurers?

In this case I had the idea of four of each type of three categories of adventurers. Where (and if) you fall on this grid is determined by an extensive and even dangerous test, kind of like some sort of spirit journey. By the end of that journey it has been divined what school(s) you fall into.

Here are some of the sketches I did in my Blue Book (on of my journal sketchbooks) to help me figure out this grid. I figured each school next to each other should have abilities in common as well as each school having its own unique focus. There are 3 main schools: Warrior, Wizard, and Toil. Warrior covers the types of fighters. Wizards are the ones who harness magic. Toils are those who use worldly skills to make something otherworldly. If you read the charts the other way, You get the four worlds: Physical World, Natural World, Inner World, and Spiritual World.

To help figure these out, I thought of people I knew and what they might be based on the system I figured out.

Each particular class has a name and color. Each also has one main focus, and four minor focuses (or abilities) that are shared with the surrounding major focuses. Primes are those who only have a single class and those four surrounding abilities. They also usually have a special ability unique to having a strict focus. These abilities vary from person to person and sometimes are not immediately apparent. Most of the time, it s found out by the time a disciple has left their school.

I also left room for mixing classes across the grid: dual, tri, and quad classes. The further divided you are in your classes, the further split your focus.

A dual class gets two main focuses, but only a total of four surrounding abilities. Those four surrounding abilities have to be two from each focus and must be either horizontal or vertical.

A Tri class is also known as a Worlder as they pick a world. They get three focuses, and only the shared abilities from their world (those listed vertical). This gives them three main focuses and three abilities.

A quad class is usually known by the larger class name: Quad Warrior, Quad Wizard, or Quad Toil. They have those four focuses going across, and then the abilities between each. Since the classes have more abilities, it is usually found by the time a disciple graduates that they are weak in a couple of the abilities or lose a couple of the focuses. Those who keep their focuses remain Quads, as the abilities that are weak can be improved upon over time. However, if a focus is lost, the Quad usually will become a Prime or Dual. This is not considered a bad thing or a dishonor to have a more narrowed focus or a more broadened one, it is simply the way things naturally occur in a particular person.

Blog Flakes and Compulsive Editing

So, my blog’s birthday came and went not too long ago. I didn’t mark its passing because I’ve been a flake about writing, which I’m sure makes orphan kittens cry.

If I believed in New Years resolutions, posting more on the blog again would be a good one. I know this is an issue a lot of writers in general struggle with. There are many tricks of the trade to deal with it. Blogging itself is really a trick to get you to write more. So, what’s trick to make you blog? Where will this trickiness all end?

The tricks to get oneself to wake up in the morning, the tricks to make oneself exercise, the tricks to get oneself out the door on time, conserve gas, eat right, get more done at work, stay organized, stay in touch with people, stay working on art…

I have several drafts of posts in my little WordPress CMS thingie. Keeping drafts might be the key to this. I don’t usually have enough time to write a post from beginning to end or edit to where I’m happy. Often I’m not even sure if it’s a post that ‘works’ for me. Being a draft takes the pressure off a bit. It allows random things so when you sit down to post, really all you have to do is sit down to edit something. That’s certainly not something I always feel like jumping up and doing, and sometimes I want to edit a piece of writing 6,000 times before putting it out there.

Compulsive editing is a big issue I have with longer story writing. I tend to want to reread what I’ve written so far before I go on to write more. If I reread I want to edit. This leads to me spending that time reserved for writing doing edits instead.

To work out compulsive editing I’ve been trying to write before rereads. If it doesn’t fit exactly right because I didn’t remember all of the details of the story so far, or what I decided to name a few characters, that can be worked out during editing time. We’re trying to make writing time for writing. What a concept.

It’s easier to write for me right now since I’m on vacation and doubly since I’m traveling. Many of my distractions are at home and in its place are inspirations as I’m exposed to what I don’t normally see every day. I think people tend to block things out as they get used to them. Most of our life then becomes routine, and thus blocked out. How does one maintain wonder and inspiration as their days are a series of blocks one doesn’t remember independently or distinguish from one another? Sometimes when a week of work goes by, and I try to remember the individual days and what happened, I come up pretty scarce.

It’s important to break your routine as uncomfortable as it is. Life churns and bubbles much more brilliantly even if the resulting boiling chaos can throw us off kilter.

So I’ll do my best to throw the kilter off and battle blog flakes, and let me know if any of you out there have the secret key to this business. I’d be interested to hear how other people deal with these things.

FourmRuler & Writing is Born

I attribute my writing to a natural result of reading so much, but the internet surely played a large role as well. I started writing once upon a time in the (then) magical land of Compuserve. Sure, before that I wrote long posts and emails and even sort of ‘message role played’- but it was just communicating thoughts and words. It didn’t occur to me that I was writing stories, poetry, and essays.

The lame story of how I figured this out was an encounter with a luser with the handle of “ForumRuler” mocking me even though he didn’t know me. I was about ten and not going to let it go. I had a “Well, I rule more than you do.” attitude and online persona. We went back and forth and finally he threw the gauntlet down. He challenged me to a contest of words. The rules were that we write a poem about our own awesomness. Who ever wrote the better one would be the true forum ruler. I think he was expecting an easy win because I was “Huh… never wrote a poem before”.

We were working something close to real time, both online, so I wrote:

You first hear footsteps,
Then the smile,
You know you will be dead,
In a little while,
You say why me?
You whine and run,
But you know what will happen,
She is the one,
She is the one I say,
The one you despise,
She is strong and charming,
and she is wise,
Whom is she you say,
Why has she come?
It doesn’t matter,
Your life is done.

He admitted it was ‘not bad’ having posted four lines of clever ‘roses are red I rule ‘n stuff’ and I never heard from him again. He probably had to change his handle and start over. I, on the other hand, found it very satisfying and started writing for the sake of writing actual works for the first time.

Notepad and I would sit down and write poems, story lines, dialogs, beginnings, middles, ends, and scenes. I wrote about taverns without ever have been drunk. I wrote about dueling with swords and sorcery, even though I’d never fenced. The real bits were always in the poetry and the characters. I only wrote about emotions, motivations, and interactions as I understood them. This was the a part of writing I fell in love with.

My true motivations for writing were somewhere between escape and expression. I felt better after all the jumbled thoughts in my head came out and made some sense on paper. Those thoughts didn’t have to be me, they became characters in far off worlds with much more important things to accomplish. They had much bigger trials to face.

The stories in my head were no longer just bedtime stories to myself after closing my eyes. They bore some sense of importance that I might one day get them down properly and share them with others.

Trust, Even After Trying it’s Gone

Rex attacks with poison flour
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the SNES. One of the crappiest Final Fantasy games ever made has some of the crappiest writers and translators at the wheel.

A warning to those who don’t know eating flour provided by undead dinosaurs may be potentially hazardous: an adventuring career maybe isn’t for you. This has been a video game public announcement.

What kind of adjective is “flamerous”? It certainly isn’t English.
– – – – –

Gawn and Treye sat down together in a cafe in a the small, industrial city of Worner, sleepy in its wintry shell. They hadn’t seen each other in months, though they live but miles apart. Treye had been calling Gawn off and on for weeks- as well as everyone else she knows in the city with little luck. Even friends with which Treye knew nothing but good times seem to have moved on to somewhere or something new and exclusive. Treye was getting sick of being positive about her loneliness, and her desire to vent was fast overcoming the desire not drive Gawn away. It had been three days since Treye spoke to anyone other than customers at work and voicemail boxes of friends. All of her recent attempts to try and meet new people were met with polite but cold reactions or hopes of sex.

Treye was about to give up on humanity and the act of putting trust in people. Still, she reached out to Gawn on more time hoping she’d be proven wrong.

Gawn tried to reassure Treye but also has a hard time disagreeing with her assessments.

“In all trust there is the possibility for betrayal,” admits Gawn.

“Then it is better not to trust,” Treye stared into her cup of black tea, hunched over it as if huddling for warmth..

“But… without trust there is no real friendship, no closeness, none of the emotional bonds that make life worth living…” Gawn lists passionately.

“These are the experiences and feelings that make up life itself,” agrees Treye.

“Exactly,” Gawn slapped the table, glad to be getting through.

“So… you put yourself at risk, and do so knowingly and willingly.”

“…every single time,” admitted Gawn, smiling.

“How do you know when to trust others and when to trust your doubt?” Treye pushes herself and her tea further across the table towards Gawn, “How can you separate paranoia from a real, deserving lack of trust?”

“Hopefully you trust yourself over others before the knife ends up in your back. Other than that, I really can’t give you an answer. Some people trust others until they give them sure reason not to. Some will even forgive and extend trust again and again.”

“How does one find a trustworthy individual?” Gawn seemed to have all the answers, and Treye hoped she could pull some to apply to her own life.

“The same way one finds an honest man.”


“I’m saying, one doesn’t. The capacity for betrayal is within all of us.”

“Not me,” Treye denied without a hint of pride or happiness at the proclamation.

“If that’s true, then I pity you. You are doomed to a lifetime of expectations that no one can fulfill and things given that no one can reciprocate.”

“Perhaps there is something wrong with me,” Treye squeezed the ceramic mug, “Sometimes I suspect I am not human.”

“Oh, you’re human all right- human enough to feel betrayed, rejected, isolated, like no one understands you-”

“So, I’m just a whiny cliche?” Treye chuckled at herself without a bit of humor.

“No, just human: individual, but part of a common experience of common emotions.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. People don’t feel the same way,” Treye paused, thinking before finding the words to explain, “Sure, we all get sad or angry, but one person’s depression is barely another person’s sadness. The same sad person maybe feels barely any anger”

“How would you know?”

“I know when I react honestly and deeply, there are times I’m told I should be in a mental institution or on a drug.”

“Yes… I guess some people are… sensitive,” Gawn conceded.

“And I’ve met other… sensitive… people and have found they understand me better, but are perhaps even more selfish that the norm. The can be more unsympathetic.”

“They’re trying and protect themselves maybe?”

“I could think of many reasons. In the end, it just is. The sensitive person is a victim in a cycle of their own creation making themselves more the victim by throwing themselves under trucks and into fires- that is unenjoyable, but comfortably selfish: the attention they attract, the band aid of other’s pity and self pity. Other people become competition,” Treye shakes her head bitterly.

“And you’re different..?”

“Yes. I know I hurt myself by giving trust to those who don’t deserve it, by not being able to connect with people that would treat me better, but I don’t advertise it like a beacon hoping for those to flock to me to ease the pain as well as allow it to continue so the flock stays.”

“Maybe you should. Maybe you just don’t because you’re afraid they won’t come.”

“No, I’m afraid of being disgusting and weak like them. I’m afraid of my own guilt,” admitted Treye.

“Oh, so bottle it up inside and try hard not to trust those you want to. There’s a logical solution,” Gawn rolled his eyes and nibbled at the left over crumbs of his scone.

“I guess I’m caught in a bit of a paradox.”

“If your values weren’t mixed up in this, I’d have a solution: throw your honesty, integrity, pride, loyalty out the door… Just be and accept.”

“What, like them? Those people don’t accept anything- they live in constant delusion. I’d rather be miserable than delude myself,”

“Would you rather be lonely than to try to trust again? To never connect or know someone else again?” Gawn was getting frustrated.

“It doesn’t matter much what I want. I’m lonely either way. Trust gives darkness a face to whisper to at least.”

“For a bit of pity for you?”

“No. Connection. For real, honest connection. Not ‘I feel bad for you’, but ‘I know what you mean, and hang in there.’.”

“You’re talking about wanting someone to care, understand, and accept you as you are,” Gawn was trying the best to be understanding and sympathetic, but was seeing the circular logic Treye was caught in.

“Yes. And I know I will find it again. It’s just painful knowing it never lasts. At the next inconvenient moment the connection ceases.”

“Um… can we maybe talk about this some other time? I mean, it’s been good talking but… I just have a lot of stuff to do, you know?” Gawn got up to leave. He put forth a forced smile and mentally asked for forgiveness.

“Yes. I understand. I know. Goodbye.”

Treye and Gawn never saw each other again.