Warpt Factor – Installment 8

Previously on Warpt Factor:

Isabelle “Izzy” Warpt dreamt of becoming the greatest spaceship captain to ever graduate Spiral Reach Academy, the Milky Way’s most prestigious academy founded on a mission of spreading peace, prosperity, and good across the Universe. On her 18th birthday, thanks to a modest donation by Izzy’s Gammy Margaret, Jett Sketter–Spiral Reach’s most famous, most handsome Captain–made a special guest appearance to give Izzy the good news that she had been accepted to begin her first year as a cadet at Spiral Reach Academy.

Shortly after arriving at the Academy, through a curious incident involving her future self, some time travel, and a bad pun featuring two innocent dachshunds, Izzy found herself having gained the attention of Headmaster Archibald Cosgrove as well as High Chancellors Bennett Kadimova and Cecilia Amadeus Driscol.

Instead of facing punishment for potentially dismantling the fabric of space-time, Izzy was told the Academy needed someone of her enthusiasm and energy to help revive Spiral Reach. She’d been selected to be fast-tracked through the Captain’s program. High Chancellor Kadimova assured Izzy he would explain the details along a short walk.

The good news was that Izzy would be a Captain far sooner than expected. The bad news? She had to steal a ship to do so. Under Kadimova’s instruction, Izzy commandeered the Lofty Albatross, the only ship without a captain, and met her crew – First Officer Fontaine deCourville, a Cicardox with a chip on his four shoulders, and Professor Brannigan Everest, the ship’s mechanic. They had little time to get to know each other before they received a distress signal from Chief Medical Officer Melissa Carter.

Izzy, a Captain whose bravery knew no bounds, ordered the crew to chart a course for Rigel Six to answer the call for help. They arrived to find the Ruklan Liberation Army had launched a rebellion against the ruling Rigellians. Facing insurmountable odds, Izzy decided she needed to face the Ruklans in-person.

“Forgive me if I’m unfamiliar with all of the current approaches to Gamma Class crises,” CMO Carter said, the first to break the silence. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a classroom. Did you just suggest, perhaps, that we enter a hostile battlefield while vastly outnumbered?”

Izzy nodded. “Find their leader and talk it out with them,” she replied. “Oh, hey. Do we have any tea? Fruit baskets? It’s bad manners to show up without something. Makes you look cheap.”

CMO Carter arched her eyebrows. First Officer Fontaine chittered and clicked his mandibles, the secondary membranes on his eyes allowing him to look both concerned and furious at the same time.

“Captain Warpt has herself a bit of,” Professor Everest said, pausing to consider the rest of his thought. “She’s not the most orthodox in her approaches, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders that one.”

“Which will make it all the more troubling when we get court marshaled for letting her get it shot clean off in what is clearly,” Fontaine shouted, his voice increasing in volume with each word, “a suicide mission!”

Izzy shook her head. “I doubt we’d have anything too fancy in our rations,” she muttered. She noticed all eyes were on here.

“Oh wow, I’m so sorry,” Izzy added. “Spaced out for a second there. Deep in thought. Did I miss something important?”

“Captain Warpt, do you have a plan?” CMO Carter asked, her brow furrowed. It was an expression Izzy was used to seeing her mother wear when she’d discovered Izzy had come up with big ideas that could be misconstrued as minor crimes in the wrong light.

Izzy tapped a finger to her lips, her focus clearly nowhere in the room. “I remember some things I learned about the Ruklan people,” she said. “I’ll need you to follow my lead, though. No weapons.” She eyed Fontaine suspiciously.

“Give me one reason to not relieve her of her duty right this moment,” Fontaine snarled.

Professor Everest cracked his knuckles, his neck, and a number of other joints in rapid succession. Recordings used later for archival purposes picked up a sound not unlike the ancient wooden roller coasters of Earth.

“I’ve got two compelling reasons for you right here,” Professor Everest replied.

“And you, Chief Medical Officer Carter?” Izzy asked. “Are you packing heat? Got an omni-plasma bazooka you’re hiding?”

CMO Carter smiled. “I’m a medical officer,” she replied, a chuckle escaping as she spoke. “Not a single weapon on my person.”

“Good, good. But I’ve got my eye on you all the same!” Izzy replied. She waited patiently while both First Officer deCourville and Professor Everest disarmed.

Professor Everest set aside two sidearms, a matching pair of plasma knuckles, and a weapon with a barrel large enough Izzy could fit her head in it with the word “Persuasion” engraved on its handle.

First Officer deCourville produced one sidearm. He hesitated, then removed what looked to be a walking stick from his side. Izzy eyed it with no attempts at masking her curiosity.

“Don’t even think about touching that,” Fontaine said. “I’ll know. And now, Captain, I must ask how you expect an audience with the Ruklan leader.”

Izzy rolled her eyes, huffing for emphasis. “First we need to get transported down to the surface,” she explained. “Each of you has an emergency return, yeah?”

One by one, the others nodded.

“Good. Cool. So only use them if we absolutely have to, but otherwise we zip down to the surface and immediately surrender,” Izzy said.

CMO Carter blinked. “I’m very sorry, I don’t wish to come across as insubordinate,” she replied. “Did you say surrender? I must’ve had something stuck in my ear.”

“That she did, I believe,” Professor Everest said. “Clever enough plan, too.”

Fontaine started to speak, but was quickly hushed by Izzy. “On my mark, we teleport to the surface of Rigel Six. Middle of the fray. Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” CMO Carter replied.

“Let’s get diplomatic!” Professor Everest responded.

First Officer deCourville sighed. “At least I’ve ensured my family is well taken care of,” he huffed.

The world shimmered and stretched around the four of them as their synchronized transports initiated. In a flash of blue light they all landed softly on the soft red sand that made up much of Rigel Six’s coastal landscape–the planet’s landmasses consisting of a handful of islands largely covered in resorts that, at a glance, looked to have been converted into expensive-looking fortresses. Several Ruklan soldiers stormed past without giving Izzy or her crew a second look. They towered over all of them save for Professor Everest, their normally sparsely-clothed bodies covered in some of the best armor on the market.

Izzy watched the soldiers charge past in small packs, each one armed well enough to act as an entire militia. She spotted one who looked to be moving a little slower with a bit more calculation to their movement, took a deep breath, and stepped in front of the soldier.

The soldier clearly had not planned for this, attempting to stop so as to not bowl down the sudden intruder in its field of vision. The terrain did not lend itself well to a sudden shift in momentum. The soldier stumbled forward awkwardly before it planted face-first into the sand. It leapt to its feet, weapon at the ready–it pointed a long, two-pronged pole at Izzy, jagged arcs of starlight jolting between the prongs.

“We’d like to offer our conditional surrender,” Izzy said cheerfully, hands in the air.

The Ruklan soldier cocked its head, its facial features hidden by the helmet’s visor. It replied in a series of guttural growls and grunts, pausing periodically as if waiting for a response. Izzy offered a polite shrug, at which point the soldier tapped on a circular interface on the chest plate of its armor. It pointed to its helmet around where its mouth would be, then pointed to Izzy and her crew.

“Talk? You’re in luck,” Izzy said. “I could do that all day long if I have to, or if I want to even.”

The interface flashed a dull, white light with each word Izzy spoke, settling on a steady pulse after she’d stopped speaking.

“Calibration complete,” spoke a robotic voice from the armor. The Ruklan soldier pointed to Izzy, then to where its mouth likely was beneath the helmet again.

“Right, sorry,” Izzy said. Behind her, Fontaine began to step forward but was stopped short by Professor Everest. One hand was enough to stop Fontaine from continuing forward and the other covered his mandibles completely.

“Conditional surrender,” Izzy repeated, smiling. “Old movies used to have aliens say something like take me to your leader, I think. Do that, please?”

Wanted Adventurers – A Story to Tell

Dark magics drifted visibly through the air of the crypt, tendrils of miasma grasping blindly for something they couldn’t quite locate. It was a vast space, its ornate design a reminder it wasn’t a crypt meant for burial so much as it was for ceremony. At the center of the domed chamber, above the surrounding floor, floated a fragmented dais.

Above the dais, as is the case with many such crypts, an Arch Lich hovered with a practiced indifference to his unspeakable, nearly unmatched power. In life he had been known as Karaxis Illwill, but upon completing his unholy transformation he took on the name Karaxis the Endless Dread.

Karaxis’s many followers bowed below, to the best of their ability as they were all tied up or shackled to one another. This was a somewhat new development, and the display of fealty to their master was all the clumsier because of it. He considered them for a moment before returning his attention to the two figures suspended in the air mere feet beyond the edge of his dais.

“When I had heard the Adventurer’s Guild had put a bounty out on my head, I had expected a little, oh, I don’t know,” Karaxis mused. “More impressive perhaps. A battalion of elite soldiers, perhaps. Or an entire army. Certainly not disgraced highborne royalty, a peasant orc, and…” Karaxis absentmindedly clicked a finger against his jawbone, the deep crimson flames in his eye sockets scanning the room.

“There was a third to your perilously stupid party, was there not?” Karaxis asked. “Well? Lightfoot?”

The highborne elf glowered. “Swiftstep. Monty Swiftstep. I’m no royalty, though, and you know that you damn stupid bag of bones. You holding up all right, Aranza?”

The orc suspended near Monty blinked several times, her forest green eyes focused again. “You say something, Mont?” she asked. “You know how I can’t stand rambled speeches.”

Archlich Karaxis leaned forward, his skull easily dwarfing both adventurers in size. “This doesn’t have to be slow and painful, you know,” Karaxis said. “I could kill you with as little effort as you might pick a pocket. You just need to tell me where your third is.”

Aranza sneered, her lower tusks jutting out. “The paladin? She clearly only cared for saving her own hide,” she spat. “Smug little dwarf with a messiah complex.”

“She got us this far,” Monty snapped back. Sweat trickled down his face, the light from Karaxis’ eyes casting sickly shadows on his fair, lavender colored skin. The long, jagged scar across Monty’s left eye looked darker despite the light being so close.

Aranza turned her head as far as she could, restrained by the miasma, to look Monty in the eye. The miasma loosened, allowing Aranza to move just enough.

“We would’ve never even known Miss Holier-than-Thou existed if you weren’t why we got caught!” Aranza yelled over the roar of Karaxis’ laughter.

Monty covered a gasp, eyes wide. “You blame me? Me?” he barked back. “If that isn’t the most heaping hill of horseshit I’ve ever heard in my life. If you had just let me kill the guards instead of knocking them out we would be free and rich. Think about that for a second.”

Karaxis continued to roar with laughter, the horrible sound reverberating throughout the crypt and echoing back in on itself creating a cacophonous din.

“As much as I love this, and I certainly do, I suppose I should just kill you both now,” Karaxis said with the plainness of someone suggesting they might take an afternoon nap. “Free up my afternoon to find and torture your friend into telling me what you three were doing here.” The flames in Karaxis’ eye sockets grew brighter, and terrible, ancient, best-forgotten words oozed from between the Archlich’s jagged fangs like great, glowing serpents ready to strike.

There was a great, resonating sound, impossible to miss even over the dread incantation. Karaxis hesitated, losing his place in the spell that was slowly sapping the life from Aranza and Monty. He started over, chanting faster to accelerate the spells.

Another sharp sound rang throughout the crypt, once again stealing Karaxis’ attention.

“What in the Hells is it now?” Karaxis demanded, looking towards the source of the noise.

The paladin stood at the top of the stairs, framed by a doorway of a once well-hidden door that lead farther into the crypt. A long, coal black braid hung to the left side of her face and her smirk tilted slightly to the right. The likeness of a solitary raven taking flight was the only identifying feature on her armor, standing out against the inner glow her silver plate armor seemed gave off.

“Glad you could join us,” Aranza said. “And right on time.”

“On time nothing,” Monty snipped back. “What took you so damn long, Tempy? It’s not like he had any look-outs left.” The paladin cringed at the nickname.

She raised her colossal warhammer high and brought it down against the floor hard enough that sparks and stone fragments issued forth from where the hammer struck.

“Excellent,” Karaxis said. “I can kill all three of you now and free up my schedule. And, I suppose, I could free up my acolytes. Who were careless enough that you managed to restrain them all.” Karaxis lacked the lungs needed to heave a proper sigh, but the noise he let loose was an impressive attempt nonetheless.

“You should reconsider,” the paladin commanded.

Karaxis cackled. “And why is that? Who dares tell me what I, Karaxis the Endless Dread, should do?”

“I am Temperance, Paladin of the House Ravencroft,” Temperance said. “Though that may mean little, I believe this will.” She glanced downwards, shifting her warhammer to position it over something. Karaxis followed Temperance’s gaze and gasped.

“My phylactery!” Karaxis howled. “How did you find it? And so quickly? I hid it using magics more complex and powerful than any mere mortal could possibly understand!”

Temperance shook her head. “This isn’t the part where you get to ask questions, I’m afraid,” she said. “First you need to listen.”

The archlich cocked its skull to the side. “Listen?” he asked. “To what, exactly?”

Temperance narrowed her eyes, lowering the warhammer’s head slowly and deliberately. The blessed metal making up the weapon caused sparks of fel magic to spark and hiss where it met the surface of the phylactery.

“The lady said it’s not the time for questions,” Aranza taunted. “You got dirt in your ears?”

“Fine,” Karaxis said. He waved a clawed hand through the air at Temperance. “You have my undivided attention.”

Temperance nodded. “Perfect,” she said. “I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re doing here. It’s a long tale, and it all began with those two would-be burglars and an attempt to rob the Adventurer’s Guild’s coffers.”

Monty cleared his throat loudly. “Maybe we could skip some of those details? Focus on the important parts?”

Karaxis raised a single, pointed finger and a haze of miasma clouded over Monty’s mouth. “Quiet,” he said. “Now I’m certainly curious as to how this tale plays out. Do go on. I do so hope there is danger and intrigue in this tale.”

“Thank you,” Temperance replied. “Now, where was I? Ah, yes. The night of the heist.”

Wandering thoughts

Disclaimer: this post is about to go down a few rabbit holes that involve the endless stream of nonsense I live with running through my head like the news ticker at the bottom of most cable news networks. Shit’s about to get weird. Turn back, or forever regret pressing onward.

At the age of 30, which is apparently just old enough for people slightly younger than me to now make me feel older than I should feel just yet, I have come to terms with the fact that the inside of my head is a much louder place than I am always comfortable with it being. My inner monologue is often actually a rather argumentative dialogue, and as of late it has been particularly distracting. It likes to remind me that the plausibility of becoming an accomplished, published author isn’t very high. That I am disappointing people who should, under no circumstances, be disappointed. Sometimes it likes to tell me I’m fat, but also suggest I eat an entire bag of popcorn with extra butter and then chase it with some ice cream, because reasonably I should balance hot and cold foods. Continue reading

Eating Halo Top Vanilla Bean feels like the adult equivalent of eating paste

Sure, that’s a long-ass title, but it’s catchier than my usual go-to of indicating I’m not dead, that I’ve not forgotten I have a WordPress, or some pop culture reference. Related: how the Hell do I have 18 drafts? I need to do some belated spring cleaning.

The Halo Top, for the record, isn’t half bad, but it has a weird consistency – just to set the record straight.

“What’s new in the land of Phil’s Misadventures in Fiction (and life)?” asks no one in particular.  Continue reading

Hello WordPress, my old friend

I’ve come to post on you again.

I’m not even a little sorry for that. Nope. Newcomers: I’m definitely sorry for that, but it’s been a long week and I just don’t have it in me to pretend I’m more than a golem constructed from bad jokes, neuroses, and the occasional good idea. I got briefly distracted because I made the mistake of trying to refresh my Facebook while working on this post…only to discover my WiFi has once again crapped all over itself. Thanks, Comcast. Forever holding your products to the lowest standards. Continue reading

Night One – Five Nights At Freddy’s: Horror Game Success in Simplicity

There are times when I just really need to go fanboy crazy over something. Age of Ultron was a pretty good example of this. So is the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise.

wpid-wp-1428270949592.jpeg

I’ve made a terrible mistake.

That’s why I’m devoting a week of posts to Five Nights at Freddy’s. One for each night you have to survive, culminating with the dreaded sixth night and 20/20/20/20 Mode for those of you who are brave enough.

Five Nights at Freddy’s – The Original 

Touted as one of YouTube’s favorite jumpscare-based horror games, Five Nights At Freddy’s is the start of something special. A horror game that allows players to flee with one press of the Escape key clearly knew what it was doing and who it was catering to from day one. It’s five nights of surviving four animatronics and one sneaky Golden Freddy, followed by one extra night and an adjustable AI difficulty. 20/20/20/20 Mode is a strong representation of the relentless difficulty video games used to have, and should have for people seeking a real challenge. Hell, Scott Cawthon even added an extra star for people who beat the original 20/20/20/20 mode because he didn’t think it was possible.  Continue reading

A bit more on why fantasy isn’t dead

Oh, no, you might think. He’s not trotting out this tired, old horse again, is he? Yes. Yes, I am. And I’ll keep doing so until voices from behind upturned noses stop declaring fantasy and science fiction as genres that have quietly wandered off into obsolescence. Also: for some reason, I found my brain stuck on this topic again first thing after waking up and so I figured that was a good sign I might as well run with it. Especially since my brain has been, from a creativity standpoint, been reduced to being able to produce little more than Post-It Note short stories during down-time at work.

Someone filled all of the Post-It dispensers with Pepto-Bismol Pink notes while I was away on vacation.

Someone filled all of the Post-It dispensers with Pepto-Bismol Pink notes while I was away on vacation.

Fantasy and Science Fiction are just like any other genre in that they are only limited by the boundaries of imagination, and also in the sense that at least one stuffy academic will point out all of the perceived inherent flaws they hold within.

Before I go too much further, I will admit that there are stories that have been played out a good deal. That’s true of all genres. However, I counter this point by saying that no two writers have identical voices, even if one is trying to imitate another. There will always be some small differences, and as such it could be argued that no two stories written by two different people are ever really the exact same thing. Yes, fantasy has some limitations. If it’s historical fantasy, it’s easy to say that Medieval towns weren’t and were equipped with certain things. Science Fiction has to have some basis in science or it won’t really work. Or we could, perhaps, reflect on these works being of ones of fiction, and their end-goal is to provide some level of fanciful adventure to worlds like and unlike our own. If someone decides, for instance, that the Cloud Dwellers of Stratospheria are why wind turbines are banned in the future as sources of alternative energy as they are perceived as violent acts of war, that’s entirely up to the writer. There’s plenty of room in the world for all variations of science fiction and fantasy, and there will most certainly always be a market for it as there will always be room for escapism.  Continue reading

And so it goes: surviving stress…sort of

I figured this post could use as much punctuation in its title as possible, and also I forgot about having to write a post still because I worked the closing shift at work and had all sorts of other things on my mind. None of those things are worth mentioning.

It is, however, worth mentioning that this week has kicked my ass in a way that makes me hesitate to sit down, albeit not in a literal sense. There have been plenty of problems and surprise-issues and so on and so on. I am, surprisingly, the least stressed about these things that went wrong that I have been in a long time. It’s uncharacteristic of me, but also extremely liberating. In a moment of I-wish-I-were-joking so profoundly stupid it might make at least one person’s head explode, the biggest concern on my mind is “I’d really like to get some more time to play Five Nights At Freddy’s”. This is because I’m still stuck on Night 4, and so help me God I’m going to beat that ****ing game. You’re on notice, Bonnie. No more sneaking into my goddamn office and murdering me. Subsequent thoughts are focused on wondering why places like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell don’t deliver this late at night, as I am both hungry and lazy.

These thoughts are worthy of note because I’m normally, especially during stressful weeks, prone to dwelling on shit like it’s not only my job, but my job, my favorite hobbies, and a surprisingly effective form of nourishment. I am so far removed from feeling stressed that being stressed and I presently exist in two separate dimensions.

I’m also tired, I still feel sick, and I have some more cleaning to do before tomorrow morning, so that’s enough of this post.

Creative fuzziness and beach fantasies

That sounded a lot better in my head than it did in the title bar, but I don’t feel like going back at this point. Laziness wins this round.

Right. So I’m at a particularly frustrating point of stagnation where no new story ideas are really appearing in the murky, soupy goo that is my imagination, but present projects have halted to some degree. I’m continuing to work at them, but I’m also a particular kind of drained that doesn’t want to let up. This is a rare and luxurious time that I am grateful I’m not writing on a deadline or being depended upon by publishers (except for the short Five Nights At Freddy’s piece I need to write after this, which I actually forgot about for a moment there). It’s like turning on the television only to find static on every channel. More easily to relate to: it’s like turning on the television and having a million channels, but nothing to watch. I do have three boxes of Story Cubes (Story Cubes, Story Cubes Actions, and Story Cubes Voyages) that I may start making use of if this dry spell persists. On the plus side, I have returned to writing in my journal. That must count for something, probably.

I’m painfully aware that the best solutions for creative block of any sorts is to keep pushing yourself and creating new content, but that has gotten to be a bit of a monumental task on top of everything else (I’ve been marathon-cleaning my apartment, for instance). I don’t feel particularly guilty for hitting a dry spell and not feeling hugely motivated to fix it so much as I feel frustrated that my brain has chosen to go all soft and empty on me when it did. It’s obviously my brain’s fault, that’s the take-home point here. I really should give the Story Cubes a try, too, so maybe tomorrow will be the day I do exactly that.

As for now, however, I am already thinking fondly of my upcoming trip to the Outer Banks with my family. My mother and stepfather will be renewing their vows this summer, and instead of going on the Alaskan cruise they’ve wanted to go on since the honeymoon they never had they have decided a trip to the beach is in order. Make no mistake: I may be outrageously pale and not fond of the outdoors. Alternatively, I do love going for nighttime walks along the beach, having a private pool where I’m not as self-conscious about being a small hippopotamus, and being in the company of my family in a beach house (where privacy and hiding are both plausible when that company grows tiresome). There will be much reading and writing, too, but also plenty of winding down and enjoying the occasional alcoholic beverage (with or without tiny umbrellas).

Keeping all of that in mind: I still harbor a weird, mostly-irrational fear of the ocean, as I recall one vacation that happened after a hurricane. There were bazillions of jellyfish washed up on the shore and drifting about in the shallow water, and I was convinced they would kill me if I got too close. I never claimed to be a particularly smart person, people.