Create a Character Contest #062 - Survivor Contest

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ImpurestCheese

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Hello everyone, after a few days of head scratching I came up with a theme for this contest, and that theme is...survival. Yep this time we're creating a survivor, what kind of survivor, well that depends on you, all we know is that he, she, it or they are tough, real tough since everything around them is trying to kill them. And just to be extra tough, the dreaded word limit is returning to the contest.

Yep after a hiatus of too bloody long its back, and being set at no more than 2000 words which I think is generous (but that's just my snake venom addled mind). In addition the time limit is once again here (does it every leave) and has been set for 18:00 hours GMT on the 12th of July.

And that's it, hope you guys survive...

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wildvine

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This should attract some action.

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ImpurestCheese

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@impurestcheese: I should be able to write something decent with this.

As for the word limit: I kind of don't understand why people can't write a good story within 2000 words. Shouldn't be hard and it's what writers are supposed to do. Edit their stuff down for the readers benefit. Now if you said you have to write 2000 or over words (which has been done before) then you'd lose me.

Look forward to this one.

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Something short, it's all my brain will do

-

My kind has been around forever. We watched you pull yourselves off your knuckles and interbreed with apes. We went with you as you trekked from continent to continent, ruining everything. You went from dark caves to ivory towers, we came too.

You call us pests, unclean, scum; yet it is you who these things and more.

Which is why we wait. Wait until you end yourselves. It may not be in my short life time but I am prepared and each experience plus that of my ancestors passes to the next generation. One day I hope we will be your size, and watch the silly look on your pink faces as we enter your homes through the door instead of under it or via the plumbing. Looking you in the face instead of skittering across it as you sleep.

And though I may not survive, my legacy and my knowledge will. Each poison I taste, each attack I avoid, is passed along in the genes to my kin. We will survive! You will not.

"AHHH! Darren! A cockroach! Kill it! Kill it!"

The mahogany insect scurried across the kitchen floor as the light came. It zig zagged to avoid the swat of Darren's thong before making the safety of under the fridge.

"Get the spray!"

~Stay alive. Survive. Adapt. Pass it on~ Old Cockroach Proverb

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"What have you got?" Baron asked as he walked into the control room.

"A few rumblers, three bursters, two synthetics and then just some fodder for the others," Tyreth grumbled. He punched a button on the console, bringing information about them all up on the screen for Baron to see. He looked at them one by one trying to imagine the best combinations of fighters for the battles in the Cube.

"What's this one?" Baron asked

"Oh, that one," Tyreth said, "not sure what to do with her. A Terran female, she still somehow managed to incapacitate most of a boarding party."

"Abilities?" Baron asked.

"Seemingly none," Tyreth said, "but she seems like a fighter. Found her with a younger Terran female."

"Looks interesting," Baron said, "I will talk with her." Baron left the control room and walked to the holding cells, flanked by a pair of guards. As he walked to the door of the cell it was opened for him, and he entered the room where the Terran woman was being held. His initial inspection of her revealed her to be in good shape, and despite the struggle with the boarding party her flight suit was not noticeably damaged. It was one of a few Terran women that he had seen in his life, a fact more pronounced that he was himself originally from Earth. That she was beautiful was even more of interest to him.

"I am Baron," he said, "I run the Battle Cube. I need to know what your enhanced abilities are so that I can pair you with an advantageous opponent." She looked back at him and said nothing.

"Tell me," he said, "what is a Terran woman doing in deep space, and especially riding with Freisen smugglers. They are as much thieves as anything, you are lucky that you lived as long as you did." She looked back at him once again.

"Where is my sister?" she asked.

"We have her in captivity as well," Baron said, "rest assured, we only allows those to combat who are fully mature for their species. To do less would be diabolical. I ask you again for an explanation, or else I will throw you to the whims of others."

"I came looking for a cure for her," she said, "I found one and we were heading back home."

"A cure?" Baron asked, "for what?"

"Advanced metahuman mutagenics," she said, "they give some on Earth enhanced abilities, but in my case and hers they were tearing us apart from the inside. Our father was a leading scientist in the Chimera program to save others like me. He did everything that he could while he lived to save me, but she was beyond hope."

"So you do have enhanced abilities," Baron asked, "what are they?" She looked back at him again as she had the first time, and he could tell that she would not tell him.

"If you choose to be defiant," he said, "it will not help you." He turned out of the cell and left her behind, returning as quickly as he could to the control center.

"This one needs to be taught a lesson," Baron said to Tyreth.

"We have a group of Heliotite Lizard Men on a transport, but they won't be here for two cycles," Tyreth said.

"That is too long," Baron said, and looked at Tyreth, his most trusted ally in the Battle Cube. Tyreth could see that he had made up his mind about her.

"What is her name?" Baron said.

"The only identification document that I could fine said Michelle Madison," Tyreth said.

"Terrans and their passive names!" Baron exclaimed before pausing for a moment, "put her down as Chimera."

"As you wish," Tyreth said, "and who will she be fighting."

"You," Baron said.

-

Michelle had been left in her flight suit, not even been given the usual battle armour of the combatants in the Cube. None of it was so small that it would even fit her anyway. She looked across the arena and so her opponent, a lumbering mountainous humanoid that stood about ten feet tall. His body was made of some kind of organic metal, and it was evident that he knew what he was doing in the arena, as he had likely fought there before.

A robot hovered above him and she could see that he spoke some words into it. It remained in place for a moment before flying over to her.

"Tyreth wishes to express that he will make the battle short and painless for you," the robot said in an artificial voice that sounded poorly programmed for an Earth language, "he says that he will try to avoid killing you. Do you wish to record a message for him?"

"I will try to help him in keeping the battle short," she said. The robot flew away and spoke with him for a moment, before flying above to where Baron sat, overseeing the events.

"The combatants have shared their words for each other," Baron said, "the combat will now begin." Michelle remembered her promise to her father to try to do everything that she could for her little sister Mary, although it had not been what any of them could have expected. She also remembered her promise to Mary to try to get her home. She did not want to fight but if it meant fulfilling those promises then she would have to try.

She looked up and saw the metallic behemoth running towards her. One punch from him would be enough to kill any regular human, but she was not so regular. he did not slow down and threw a punch at her as he ran, but true to his words, he was holding back, as she could see that he was pulling his punch. She spun quickly out of his way, and allowed his forward momentum to tip him up, as she kicked at one of his feet and sent him tumbling over. He charged back to his feet and swiped at her with haymakers. She dodged his attempts to hit her, and felt stupid for underestimating her. He pulled back momentarily, taking better stock of her. She had yet to even try to attack him, and she didn't seem keen on doing so. He tried two more attempts to punch at her, but then anticipating her next move reached out and grabbed her by the throat, now holding her well above the ground.

He was surprised that she did not struggle, and almost seemed to revel in the close quarters. She did not fight for air, but instead swiftly jerked her body to the right, and Tyreth felt a burning sensation where his arm had once been. He looked at her as she had manifested a bony protrusion from her foot, which had been formed into a sharp blade. He had so severely underestimated her to think that she had been playing with him the whole time, waiting for an opening.

Tyreth looked to Baron, who understood the purpose of doing so.

"Match to Chimera," Baron called.

She stood triumphant over her foe and waited for the next trial, certain that she would once again beat it. She had survived the debilitating mutagenic disease which had tried to kill her, she had survived deep space and the deal that she had made with the Higher Ones, and now she had survived her first battle in the Battle Cube. She would keep surviving until she made good on the promises that she had made to her father and sister, for neither promise was yet complete.

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I have been thinking of the above for a while, a loose re-imagining of the Fantastic Four, with Chimera taking the place of Mr. Fantastic, Tyreth the place of the Thing, Baron the place of the Human Torch and Psi-Girl (here referred to only as Mary Madison) as Sue Storm.

Not really about survivors, but I kind of worked it in.

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cbishop

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@blueecho: With Baron and Tyreth not on their side, I don't really see the FF correlation, but it was an interesting story. I'd read more. :)

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#10  Edited By ImpurestCheese

The Lake

It was cold in the lake, cold and dark even so close to the surface, not that the lady lurking there ever came to the surface these days, save on the night of the solstice and only then when the light of the full moon was fully visible. If anyone was lucky enough to see her come to the surface, they would not see the fabled maiden in a flowing gown of silver water with flowing red locks running down to the small of her back, but rather a rotting corpse dressed in a lorica of overlapping rusty plates and a tattered skirt stained with silt. And actually thei luck was actually there misfortune, the lady was a predator, and while her powers were limited, they were still formidable.

It had not always been so, two millennium ago she had not been locked in this lake, nor had she been the fetid figure that she was now. There had been two kind of stories about her; the ones featuring the benevolent matriarch who had presented the High King his magical blade, and the ones mentioning the she-demon that walked in the pale moonlight and drained the life of all her dwelled there. It was these stories that had caused one equal in power to her to the shore of the lake and dare to camp there under the full moon.

Merlin! The name provided both hope and hatred to the lady as she lay like a serpent on the pebbles of the lake bed. Merlin had been the one who had sent a pauper made king to her shores on the night after the new moon to ask for a sword. He had chosen the time when she was at her most remorseful for her moonlight actions, and she had given him what Merlin had asked for. That sword had been used against her years later to hurt her, send her running back to the lake, and Merlin had pursued her in an attempt to bind her.

“With the power of the King and the Otherworld I bind sentence thee to become part of this lake!” A voice from the ages boomed through the water.

“Please mercy!” A female voice that sounded like flowing water running down a stream bed. “The king is in danger, his flesh and blood conspires against him on two fronts. I can bring him the token that will make his just rein absolute.”

“I need no token from you demoness.” Merlin replied, as something gold gleamed in the depths of the lake.

“Are you sure?” The lady asked, as the golden gleam glowed ever brighter to reveal the dim outline of a great two handled cup.

“No, I will not risk the grail in the hearts of a mortal man.” Merlin stammered as the gleam of the cup began to fade. “Even Arthur would misuse its power. You may have mercy if you keep this token from him and that you never raise again.”

The lady pushed herself into a standing position and looked up at the orb of the moon. Merlin had come again, looking for salvation for his beloved King, asked for the grail despite his earlier misgivings. The lady had refused to give it to him, now being in the position of power. Eventually she had gave him the whisper of a name to plant in the King’s ear, and in return when it was in Merlin’s hands she would be free to rise from the lake as she had done years before. Both deals with the wizard had been calculated to let her survive, to allow her to rise up as fierce and as beautiful as the summer storm and flood the surrounding villages to claim the lives she had been denied.

Merlin had never returned, trapped by one who loved him. The lady had never known love, just duty and hunger, both of which were interlocked for her. Merlin had not been the first to seek her out, and in the days before iron was smelt and huts built, she had handed out favours with no cost, but such things had drained her, forced her to feed to survive, and allow the people of Albion to thrive. Merlin had been around then too, much like he had been at the time of the High King, only this time disguised as a raven that whispered into the ears of the strong, rather than an old man with the uncanny eyes that whispered words of greatness into the ears of kings and knights.

Something stirred above, and out of curiosity the lady rose, her head breaching the surface for the first time in years. There standing on the moonlight banks was a young woman dressed in a purple waistcoat and tartan skirt, fish net stockings running down to a pair of heavy boots. In her fingerless gloved hands was the cup she had offered so long ago. The sight was enough to cause desperation to awaken in the heart of the Lady of the Lake, one she hadn’t felt since Merlin and his star-flecked eyes had descended into her domain. She would swamp the shore where the youth stood and wash her life and the cup back into the water.

“I wouldn’t if I were you.” The youth stated, a devilish smile on her face, her short black hair framing a pair of eyes, each with a star shining in the magenta iris.

“Merlin!” The Lady spat. “You returned, honour your word and free me.”

“I will in time, but first you must know that this world is not like the one you menaced, magic has ebbed replaced by physics and chemistry and electronics.” Merlin explained as she walked into the water towards the Lady. It was true, his power was less in some senses, but more in others, and those were terrifying enough to cause the lady to flinch backwards. “You would not survive doing what you did back in the days of Albion.”

“Then I will bring the magic back, suck dry all who oppose me until they fell under my heel.” The lady hissed, but her words were softened as she mentally probed the clothes, the voice and the cup itself for clues on how the world worked now.

“You would try, but you would not succeed.” Merlin sighed, his tone weaving a story of thirty years ago when he had been released from the stone he had been sucked into. A story of fear, of flashing lights and wailing sirens, of the old man’s death after a decade of running and his return as something of this era of science. “The time of Kings is over, but we needn’t perish with that bygone era, in fact we can be truer to ourselves than ever before. No hunger for you, no suspicion for me. You can be free if only you ask.

“The cost, what is the cost.” The lady asked, her eyes once again fixed on the grail.

“The cost is unknown, I have yet to pay for joining this age, maybe some evil will come of it, perhaps from this ‘Millennium Bug’ I have heard about, the humans seem to fear it.” Merlin replied, as he scooped some of the lake water up into the grail and offered it to the Lady. “In any instance I will honour the last of my promises.” With shaking hands the lady took it and sipped from the cup, the bitter taste of her banishment replaced by the sweet taste of freedom. Dropping the cup she surged forward, sweeping Merlin onto the shore in one savage movement, her weight pinning him down as her skin repaired itself, and her locks of auburn flowed once more down from her beautiful face.

“I should kill you,” She purred, as she lowered her head towards Merlin, a quick flash of shark like teeth visible from her smile, “but instead I’ll show you my thanks.” She finished as she delivered a courtly kiss to the reborn wizard’s cheek. “Now tell me more of this world, where is my place?”

**

The phone rang and rang as the woman sitting at the desk looked at it with a murderous glare. Eventually she picked it up. “Lakeside Consulting, how may we help you?” She sighed in a voice that was barely covered up the annoyance and hatred she felt. She hated everything about her new position, the blue polo shirt and black trousers of her uniform, the poor payment, how she was among the humans rather than above them. Still she thought, as she bitterly listened to the complaints of her customer, it was always better to survive.

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waezi2

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@waezi2: It says he, she, it or they in the contest description. I'll let you decide what that means

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@impurestcheese: I was unsure if it was "they" as in more than one person or gender neutral person

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@cbishop : I didn't really think that far ahead, but I guess Baron would have to regain what part of his humanity was lost and help them escape.

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@impurestcheese: Nice job. I've often wondered what your sources are for mythology. You mention things about it at times that I've never heard of, and I thought I'd read a lot of mythology. In this instance, I'm referring to the differing tales of the Lady of the Lake.

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#16  Edited By waezi2

Here's my entry. I call it: "L'enfer C'est Être Seul"

His name was Max. But he preferred his chosen name:

IQ.

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IQ was a super-villain. A teenager with a brain that had been tampered with, making him an unnatural genius. He was the smartest being on the planet.

Not that it meant much, now that he was alone.

IQ stared out at the wasteland. Nothing alive could be seen. No plants, no animals, no humans, no nothing. America was bare. A kingdom of nothingness.

"This..." IQ fell on his knees. He was completely horrified. "This... This wasn't supposed to happen. They were supposed to stop me. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO STOP ME, DANG IT! THAT'S HOW IT WORKS! THAT'S HOW IT ALWAYS ENDS!"

...

It had been a week now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

He flew by the use of his jetpack, still looking for some sort of human life. Maybe one of the superheroes had at least survived.

But no, IQ found no one alive. No humans, no animals. No life to be found no matter where on the planet he looked. Only those damn plants that had mutated and gained the ability to move and do stuff mammals do. This was thanks to IQ's weapon that had killed everything else but the plants.

Mad science was funny like that.

IQ groaned as he landed in the middle of Paris. The once famous city was now a ruin. The Eiffel Tower had been cut in half. The Triumphant Arch was now anything but what its name implied.

IQ tapped his foot on the ground impatiently as he waited for his drones to arrive and give him a report. After a couple of minutes, all seven of them arrived. They were egg-shaped, black, hovered above the ground and had red truck girl decals on them.

"So?" The impatient teen asked his machines.

"NO LIFE DETECTED WITHIN A RADIUS OF 200 MILES, MASTER." Drone 1 said. "EXCEPT FOR EVOLVED PLANTLIFE."

"Dang it!" IQ kicked Drone 1, making it bump into Drone 5. "There has to be some survivors! My weapon couldn't have killed EVERYONE on the dang planet, I won't-"

IQ was interrupted by the thunderous noise of a horde of chestnut trees that was galloping toward him.

"Perfect. JUST perfect!" IQ rolled his eyes in annoyance as he grabbed his solar based ray-gun. "Drone one to seven, combat mode!"

...

It had been a month now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

"Funny I never thought about reading this stuff before." IQ closed a very thick book about modern psychology and picked up another one. He had managed to find in the rubble of a bookstore, meaning that he now had something to entertain himself with. He had found a more or less intact chair underneath a pile of bricks and had begun reading. "I'm serious, why did I never think about studying how the human mind works and stuff? I'm a super-genius with a mutated brain without limitations, I can handle all sorts of knowledge, and after reading some of these books, I guess my old shrink was right: I DO have daddy issues, but he was MEGA boring to listen to. Do you know what that is like? I mean, trying to listen to someone because you know that they are telling you something important, but they are so boring that your brain shuts down?"

The skull of the deceased hero Valor said nothing. IQ had placed it next to the pile of books to keep him company.

"Oh, don't give me that. All of this is your fault, you know that?" IQ closed the book he had just picked up, deciding that he had read enough for one day. "I told the entire world about my bigass bomb and how I intended to use it. But I didn't want to use it, you know? I never did. I wanted to fail. Like I always do because some superhero stops me before something major bad happens." As IQ finished the sentence, his face grew tired. "Well, not anymore. No one can ever stop me from anything ever again due to obvious reasons." He gave the cranium of Valor an angry glare. "Why didn't you stop me, you dumb, fat cow?"

...

"Ouch!"

IQ sucked on his middle finger. He had accidentally hit it with his hammer as he was about to build what would, hopefully, become a house. He could have it build by his robots in no time, but he was bored and needed something to do.

It had been a year now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

"You know, this looked soooo much easier in Little House On The Prairie." IQ said to the skull of Valor. "You know that TV show?"

No reply.

"Yeah, you DO look like a book person." IQ picked up another nail and went on with his work. "But the series was based on these books written by a woman who was a child in the 1870s. You really never read it?"

No reply.

"Yeah, I hate small talk as much as the next guy." IQ decided to call it a day. He felt a bit hungry and decided to dig into the lunchbox he had prepared for himself. It was a sandwich made out of a giant mutated mushroom that had tried to eat him. "So..." he said to the skull as he took a sip from his water-bottle with juice from a very angry cactus. "You wanna hear a secret about me?"

No reply.

"Before I made the whole world go Planets of the Apes... I had only killed three humans."

No reply.

"Oh, it's true. Really. You see, my entire life, I wanted to be a supervillain. So the day I discovered that my brain had mutated into a super information sponge, I was trilled. And the first thing I did was building a machine that teleported my mother to the Amazon rainforest. I don't remember why, I guess I was mad at her or something. And then I kidnapped three girls that had bothered me at school. I didn't HATE them, they were just... annoying. And I killed two of them in some bizarre and creative ways."

IQ took a pause so that he could finish eating his sandwich.

"But here's the thing: After I had killed the second one and looked at the pile of ashes that was all there was left of her... I realized that I didn't like it. Killing felt... uncomfortable. It wasn't funny or exciting. I had expected some sort of rush, that I would feel powerful, but I just felt like I was going to puke."

IQ was quite for a moment.

"But I felt that I had... I don't know, passed the point of no return and I now HAD to be a super-villain. So I told the third girl that I would give her a chance, that I would allow her to try and run away and give her a head start so that I could enjoy chasing her. But that was a load of baloney. I wanted her to run and warn everyone. So then a superhero came, I made a show out of it to lose and be thrown to jail so I wouldn't lose face. And then, just to make everything worse, I learned that my mom was dead. I just wanted to annoy her and scare her, but she had died of a heatstroke in the Amazon Jungle. Making her the THIRD person I had killed." IQ sighed. "So, if I had such a rotten first day doing something I hated, why did I keep doing super-villain stuff? I will tell ya why: I wanted to matter. I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be remembered. And because I was a dumb teenager I thought that the only way to make sure of that was by making some noise, fight some superheroes and make grand schemes where I would constantly take a dive so that no one died."

The skull said nothing, as expected.

IQ blew the skull a raspberry. "Yeah, well, that's just YOUR opinion."

...

It had been four years now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

IQ sat inside the little shack he had build for himself. It looked like something that even Groundskeeper Willie would have too much pride to live in. The genius who was now a young adult was about to take care of the wounds he had received after an intense battle with a horde of rapid apple trees. He was all alone now. He had even gotten rid of the cranium he used to talk to as he realized he only did it because he in his dumb teenager brain thought it was kinda cool, NOT because he was crazy. He was in fact very sane. Sane enough to think all sorts of things.

But the problem with being alone with your own thoughts is that you get to think all sorts of things. No matter how grotesquely they are.

"Wait a minute." IQ realized something that would be kinda funny if it wasn't so terrible and absurd. "My GRANDFATHER was an Afro-American guy who married a white chick. That means that Martin Luther King is PARTLY to blame for me being born! Martin Luther King is PARTLY responsible for the death of humanity!"

And then, all the color in IQ's face faded away.

"Oh my god." A single tear fell from his left eye. "I did it. It's all my fault. No one is to blame but me. I killed all of humanity!"

IQ couldn't hold his tears back and began to cry like a little child. His cheeks were wet with tears, his nose dripped and he screamed as if he had lost a limb.

"I'm so sorry! I'm... I'm so, so sorry!" Max yelled over and over again, knowing fully well that it was much too late for apologies. "I'm so god damn freaking sorry!"

...

It had been twenty years now since Maximilian Augustson had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

At the moment, Max was doing some gardening. He liked taking care of his carrots and found it odd that he had once despised them. But once you learned to treat them with respect and feed them properly then you didn't have to worry about getting tiny bite-marks on your fingers.

It was almost impossible to recognize the former terror teen who had once been one of the world's most chaotic super-villains. Not just because he was now an adult with a well-trimmed, but there was none of his former traits left. He had stopped dying his hair red and black so it had it's natural nut-brown color again. He wore a light-blue T-shirt and green pants instead of that silly "Gothic/Punk Rock" style outfit he used to wear. And, most importantly: He never smiled anymore. No that there was much to smile about. And it didn't really matter if he was unrecognizable or not since there was no one left to recognize him.

As Max finished gardening, he decided to make himself a cup of tea. He left the garden, passed the spaceship (he had build to find another planet with intelligent life on it but decided not to in order to punish himself) and took off his shoes before entering the beautiful house he had build for himself. He boiled some water and took a look at the kitchen and all of it's equipment. Like the rest of the house and everything inside it, it was handmade by Max who had plenty of time and needed to keep himself occupied to evade insanity. Sure, going crazy would at this point be a blessing, but he didn't really feel that he deserved it. As he waited for the water to boil, he pondered whether he should build a piano or an organ.

After Max had made his tea, he took his cup and went into his library. He had a good little collection of books he had managed to find in the ruins of homes and libraris as he traveled the world looking for potential resources. After taking book after book out of his shelves only to change his mind and put them back in their proper place, he decided to pick the last Harry Potter book in existence (volume two, written in Swedish) and went out to the terrace. He sad in his favorite chair and began to read.

Life was tolerable.

For now.

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wildvine

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Well this could get awkward now.

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@wildvine said:

Well this could get awkward now.

Let's not allow it to be. If she wins, we mark her win, and the second place person picks the next contest. If there's a tie for second, then we vote to break that tie, and the winner of the tie-break gets to pick.

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wildvine

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@stumpy49er: Maybe lets not state aloud whom we are voting for regardless. Voting reasons should stay personal as always. That said, do as you feel is right.

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cbishop

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@waezi2: Nice job. Your IQ stories are always interesting. Hardly any word errors in this one. Really nice.

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@cbishop: Thank you. heroup2112 helped with the grammar, though.

Glad you liked it. Was worried that it might be a bit too dark for some. Or WORSE, not dark enough.

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@waezi2: You're 114 words over the 2K limit though. ;)

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#25  Edited By cbishop

Well, Imp', I can think of no better way to respond to your last contest than to write a story that is 2,000 words on the nose. Rest in peace, lady. -cb

***

Inherit the Earth

We had been in space for eight weeks, and in that time had orbited the earth eight hundred ninety-six times. We had been waiting for our payload to come into range for most of that time. There were four of us; two crew and two scientists. One was Ruby Quartz- a geologist, meant to get a closer examination of the payload- a vaguely glowing hunk of space rock about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle- before we took it into Earth's atmosphere. The other was Xavier Teck- some kind of radiologist, there to find out what gave the rock its luminescent quality. There was Takeo Shot, my co-pilot and chief troubleshooter who to his dismay had spent a lot of our time in space chasing one troubling gremlin after another. And there was me- Peter Salt- captain of this tub, and with my hands in a little bit of everything.

Once the asteroid was close enough it took us only four revolutions to capture it with the arm, and bring it into the shuttle's cargo bay. It was a tense six hours, but we finally had it. Xavier couldn't determine what sort of energy was causing the asteroid to glow. It was spiking all of his meters for energy output, but flatlining the radiation meters. Ruby made her examination, and confirmed that the rock was comprised of extraterrestrial materials. So yes it came from space, and no it wasn't making any of us sick.

I radioed Mission Control. "Houston, we have acquired, examined, and secured the payload, and we are ready to set course for home. Over."

The com squelched, and Houston answered, "Roger that, Clayton. Fire thrusters and angle for reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Over." The squelch was just a sound effect that Mission Control added into the now-digital transmissions. Completely unnecessary, but it was tradition, and it played well to anyone watching it on television.

With a smile, I said, "Way ahead of you, Control. We are ready to come home. The Clayton will begin reentry in twelve minutes. Over."

"Copy that, Clayton. We'll be reading your instruments' transmissions until you hit the atmosphere, and then there will be three minutes of radio silence as you pass through the blackout zone. Over."

"Confirmed, Control. This is Clayton, ending transmission as we prepare for reentry."

"Godspeed, Clayton," answered control.

I turned the com off, and spoke into the shipboard mic, "Well? What's the first thing everyone wants to do when we get home?"

Shot answered first. "I want a burger. No- three burgers. If I have to eat one more MRE, I'm going to lose it." He smiled good naturedly as he knew that no one was a fan of our meal packs.

"I'm going to sleep for a week," chimed in Teck. "This crate's had me on call danged near twenty-four/seven. I'm due for some downtime."

"I've had enough of this space rock," answered Quartz. "I just want to set my feet back on terra firma and enjoy the solid ground."

"Ah, Quartz," I said, pointing out the window, "How can you choose solid ground over that?"

We were all silent for a minute as we took in the wonder of the Earth coming into full view.

"It is beautiful," Quartz finally agreed, "but what use is looking at it, if you don't get to enjoy it for yourself?"

"Amen to that, sister," answered Teck.

"Amen to that," agreed Shot.

I smiled, and whispered into the com, "Amen to that." Then checking the reentry clock, I said, "Alright, everyone strap in. We are four minutes away from reent--"

I was interrupted by the blaring of warning klaxons.

"What the devil?" asked Shot.

"Something's shifted the payload!" I barked. "It's come loose and is bouncing against the bay doors! If they come open, we won't live through reentry!"

Shot grabbed a wall, and pulled himself towards the cargo bay. Gliding weightlessly, he called back, "I'm on it!"

"I'm right behind you," called Teck, repeating Shot's maneuver.

The Clayton began to shimmy hard as we approached the atmosphere. "Make it quick, gentlemen! We are two minutes thirty from reentry! Houston! We have a problem!" I barked into the radio.

As I filled in Mission Control, Teck and Shot were in the bay. "Quick! Grab the lifelines!" shouted Shot. Both men clipped into the lines that would keep them tethered to the ship if the bay doors came open. No sooner had they done that when the doors buckled under the onslaught of the loose payload. "The arm!" called Shot. "Grab the payload with the arm!"

Teck quickly manned the arm's control, and managed to grab the rock with the claw. Then the doors gave way, and the vacuum of space pulled against everything in the cargo bay. Almost instantly, Shot was pulled out of the ship to the full length of his tether. The control arm was wrenched at an odd angle, and was almost fully extended out of the ship. Teck had managed to hold onto a handle next to the arm's controls.

"Reel it back in!" called Shot. "Reel it back in, or we are lost!"

Teck tapped the controls, but the arm barely moved. "It's twisted!" he shouted.

"Do it manually!" shouted Shot over the com. "Those doors have to close!" He began pulling himself in by the tether, but was moving slowly.

Xavier found the manual controls. It was difficult due to the arm being twisted, but he managed to winch it back into the bay.

"One minute to reentry! How's it coming back there," I called.

"Close the doors!" Shot commanded.

"You're still out there!" shouted Xavier.

"Close the doors!" repeated Takeo.

"I'm not leaving you out there!" Teck cried desperately.

"It's not your choice," answered Shot, and then he unclipped his tether, and tumbled backwards into space.

"NOOOOOOOO!" shouted Xavier.

"Thirty seconds!" I called.

Xavier took a deep breath and hit the button to close the doors. He watched Takeo tumble farther away from the ship until the doors finally shut.

Then we hit the atmosphere. Mission Control was still barking out questions and orders as we hit the blackout zone.

"The cargo bay is closed, Captain, but the doors were damaged by the payload! I don't know if we can do this!" called Xavier.

"Keep your head and get in here!" I answered back. "Where's Takeo? I need him up here now!"

"He...he didn't make it," was Xavier's quiet reply.

"Quartz! Get up here!" I barked.

"Me?" she said fearfully.

"I need help on the stick!" I shouted. "If we don't get this nose up, we are going to start burning really quickly! MOVE!"

Quartz sort of drifted, sort of fell into the seat beside me, and grabbed the co-pilot's stick without bothering to strap in. She pulled for all she was worth, and I pulled with her. It seemed like forever as the nose pulled up, and we could hear ceramic tiles peeling off of the underbelly and slamming into other parts of the ship. We were feeling the heat, and I have no idea when we started screaming. The ship shook violently, but the heat finally started to die down, followed by our screaming, and then the radio crackled back to life.

"Mission Control, this is Clayton. Do you read?" I said into the mic as calmly as possible.

There was no answer.

I checked the readouts and repeated, "Mission Control, this is Clayton. Do you read?"

No answer.

"Houston?" I said into the mic a little less calm, but trying to hold it together so I didn't freak out Quartz and Teck. They were only scientists, after all. They had trained for this mission, but weren't astronauts before this. "Houston, this is Captain Peter Salt of the Clayton. Come in, please."

Nothing.

I checked the readouts again, and pointing to our GPS, I told Quartz, "We're on our own. You see that red star?"

She nodded.

"That's our landing strip. We have to make it there before this fancy plane runs out of fuel and turns into a fancy rock. You're going to call out the numbers from that readout there," I said pointing, "and I'm going to land her. Okay?"

She nodded.

"Your voice, Quartz! Use your voice!" I barked, trying to keep her focused.

"I heard you!" snapped Quartz. "I read the numbers, you land!"

I nodded. "Good. Teck? Where are you at?" I called into the com.

No answer.

"Teck!" I barked.

Nothing again.

"Ahhh, crud!" I fumed. "We'll have to figure that out later," I told Quartz. Start reading the numbers."

Quartz read, and I flew. It seemed like an eternity, but was only minutes until we were on approach to our landing in Texas. "Dangit," I said through gritted teeth.

"What?" asked Quartz anxiously.

"Our front landing gear is jammed. Maybe damaged by a tile coming loose. Maybe fused by the heat of reentry. I don't know. We're landing with just the back wheels," I said in frustration.

"Can we do that?" Quartz asked. She sounded almost calm.

"We don't have much of a choice," I said as we descended. "We are on approach and low on fuel. We can't make it to our secondary landing site, and if we could we'd still have the same problem when we got there." I sighed deeply. "We're landing here. Ready?"

Quartz said, "Like you said: I don't have much of a choice."

We looked at each other, we nodded, and I glided her in. The ship shook as the back landing gear touched down on the runway, bounced, and touched down again. Then the nose dipped and crashed into the tarmac, and we skidded hard until the ground grabbed the nose hard, and we spun horizontally out of control. There was nothing to do but hang on for dear life, and that was the last thought I had before the ship slammed into something violently, and I blacked out.

I don't know how long I was out, but I woke up leaning against the harness of my flight chair. I guess if rescue crews hadn't swarmed the shuttle yet, then I hadn't been out long. I looked to my right, and was horrified to see Quartz through a hole in the shuttle wall, lying in a heap outside on the runway. The trail of her innards told the tale: she had apparently been impaled on her flight controls, then ripped away from them violently by the crash. I could only stare numbly. Finally, I whispered, "At least you made it to terra firma, Quartz."

Hearing no sirens or voices, I struggled out of my flight restraints, and made my way back to the cargo bay. Through the window, I could see the charred remains of Teck who had apparently burned on reentry. The payload sat inert, not even glowing. "Poor devil," I muttered.

I made my way off of the shuttle, and was greeted by... no one. Not a single soul. No rescue crews, no news choppers, no radio transmissions from Control. Nothing. And what happened to this facility? The buildings were in clear disrepair, and the runway was cracked, and the cracks full with weeds. Further down the runway, I saw a wing, and what had made us spin. A tree! Growing right in the middle of the cracked runway! How in blue blazes?

I walked the distance to the Mission Control Center, and found it unmanned. TV's showed only blue screens if they worked at all. Computers would boot, but their clocks showed only zeroes rather than an actual time. I finally found one that was hooked to the satellites monitoring the Earth and objects that might interfere with vessels in near-Earth orbit. They showed the same story the world over- deserted. I accessed a satellite's clock which was solar powered; date reading 2460. How had I landed over four hundred years in the future, and what happened to the people?

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#26  Edited By waezi2
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@cbishop: I shorted it down to 2k words.

Here's my entry. I call it: "L'enfer C'est Être Seul"

His name was Max. But he preferred his chosen name:

IQ.

No Caption Provided

IQ was a super-villain. A teenager with a brain that had been tampered with. He was the smartest being on the planet.

Not that it meant much, now that he was alone.

IQ stared out at the wasteland. Nothing alive could be seen. No plants, no animals, no humans, no nothing. America was bare. A kingdom of nothingness.

"This..." IQ fell on his knees. He was completely horrified. "This... This wasn't supposed to happen. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO STOP ME, DANG IT! THAT'S HOW IT WORKS! THAT'S HOW IT ALWAYS ENDS!"

...

It had been a week now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

He flew by the use of his jetpack, still looking for some sort of life. Maybe one of the superheroes had at least survived.

But no, IQ found no one. No humans, no animals. No life to be found no matter where on the planet he looked. Only those damn plants that had mutated and gained the ability to move and do stuff mammals do. This was thanks to IQ's weapon that had killed everything else but the plants.

Mad science was funny like that.

IQ groaned as he landed in the middle of Paris. The once famous city was now a ruin. The Eiffel Tower had been cut in half. The Triumphant Arch was now anything but what its name implied.

IQ tapped his foot on the ground impatiently as he waited for his drones. After a couple of minutes, all seven of them arrived. They were egg-shaped, black, hovered above the ground and had red truckgirl decals on them.

"So?" The impatient teen asked his machines.

"NO LIFE DETECTED WITHIN A RADIUS OF 200 MILES, MASTER." Drone 1 said. "EXCEPT FOR EVOLVED PLANTLIFE."

"Dang it!" IQ kicked Drone 1, making it bump into Drone 5. "There has to be some survivors! My weapon couldn't have killed EVERYONE on the dang planet, I won't-"

IQ was interrupted by the thunderous noise of a horde of chestnut trees that was galloping toward him.

"Perfect." IQ rolled his eyes in annoyance as he grabbed his solar-powered ray-gun. "Drone one to seven, combat mode!"

...

It had been a month now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

"Funny I never thought about reading this stuff before." IQ closed a very thick book about modern psychology and picked up another one. He had managed to find the rubble of a bookstore, meaning that he now had something to entertain himself with. "I'm serious, why did I never think about studying how the human mind works and stuff? I'm a super-genius with a mutated brain without limitations, I can handle all sorts of knowledge, and after reading some of these books, I guess my old shrink was right: I DO have daddy issues. But he was MEGA boring to listen to. Do you know what that is like? I mean, trying to listen to someone because you know that they are telling you something important, but they are so boring that your brain shuts down?"

The skull of the deceased hero Valor said nothing. IQ had placed it next to the pile of books to keep him company.

"Oh, don't give me that. All of this is your fault, you know that?" IQ closed the book he had just picked up, deciding that he had read enough for one day. "I told the entire world about my bigass bomb and how I intended to use it. But I didn't want to use it, you know? I wanted to fail. Like I always do because some superhero stops me before something major bad happens." As IQ finished the sentence, his face grew tired. "Well, not anymore. No one can ever stop me from anything ever again due to obvious reasons." He gave the cranium of Valor an angry glare. "Why didn't you stop me, you dumb, fat cow?"

...

"Ouch!"

IQ sucked on his finger. He had accidentally hit it with his hammer as he was about to build what would, hopefully, become a house. His robots could have it build in no time, but he was bored and needed something to do.

It had been a year now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

"You know, this looked much easier in Little House On The Prairie." IQ said to the skull of Valor. "You know that TV-show?"

No reply.

"Yeah, you DO look like a book person." IQ picked up another nail and went on with his work. "But the series was based on these books written by a woman who was a child in the 1870s."

No reply.

"Yeah, I hate small talk as much as the next guy." IQ decided to call it a day. He was hungry and decided to dig into the lunchbox he had prepared for himself. It was a sandwich made out of a giant mutated mushroom that had tried to eat him. "So..." he said to the skull as he took a sip from his water-bottle with juice from a very angry cactus. "You wanna hear a secret about me?"

No reply.

"Before I made the whole world go Planets of the Apes... I had only killed three humans."

No reply.

"Oh, it's true. Really. You see, my entire life, I wanted to be a supervillain. So the day I discovered that my brain had mutated into a super information sponge, I was thrilled. And the first thing I did was building a machine that teleported my mother to the Amazon rainforest. I don't remember why, I guess I was mad at her or something. And then I kidnapped three girls that had bothered me at school. I didn't HATE them, they were just... annoying. And I killed two of them in some bizarre and creative ways."

IQ took a pause so that he could finish eating his sandwich.

"But here's the thing: After I killed the second one and looked at the pile of ashes that was all there was left of her... I realized that I didn't like it. Killing felt... uncomfortable. I had expected some sort of rush, that I would feel powerful, but I just felt like I was going to puke."

IQ was quite for a moment.

"But I felt that I had... I don't know, passed the point of no return and I now HAD to be a super-villain. So I told the third girl that I would give her a chance, that I would allow her to try and run away so that I could enjoy chasing her. But that was a load of baloney. I wanted her to run and warn everyone. So then a superhero came, I made a show out of it to lose and be thrown to jail so I wouldn't lose face. And then, just to make everything worse, I learned that my mom was dead. I just wanted to annoy her and scare her, but she had died of a heatstroke in the jungle. Making her the THIRD person I had killed." IQ sighed. "So, if I had such a rotten first day doing something I hated, why did I keep doing super-villain stuff? I will tell ya why: I wanted to matter. I wanted to be famous. And because I was a dumb teenager I thought that the only way to make sure of that was by making some noise, fight some superheroes and make grand schemes where I would constantly take a dive so that no one died."

The skull said nothing, as expected.

IQ blew the skull a raspberry. "Well, that's just YOUR opinion."

...

It had been four years now since IQ had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

IQ sat inside the little shack he had built for himself. The genius who was now a young adult was about to take care of the wounds he had received after an intense battle with a horde of rapid apple trees. He was all alone now. He had even gotten rid of the cranium he used to talk to as he realized he only did it because he in his dumb teenager brain thought it was kinda cool, NOT because he was crazy. He was in fact very sane.

But the problem with being alone with your own thoughts is that you get to think all sorts of things. No matter how grotesquely they are.

"Wait a minute." IQ realized something that would be kinda funny if it wasn't so terrible. "My GRANDFATHER was an Afro-American guy who married a white chick. That means that Martin Luther King is PARTLY to blame for me being born! Martin Luther King is PARTLY responsible for the death of humanity!"

And then, all the color in IQ's face faded away.

"Oh my god." A single tear fell from his left eye. "I did it. It's all my fault. No one is to blame but me. I killed all of humanity!"

IQ couldn't hold his tears back and began to cry like a little child. His cheeks were wet with tears, his nose dripped and he screamed as if he had lost a limb.

"I'm so sorry! I'm... I'm so, so sorry!" Max yelled over and over again, knowing fully well that it was much too late for apologies. "I'm so god damn freaking sorry!"

...

It had been twenty years now since Maximilian Augustson had accidentally killed all of humanity except for himself.

At the moment, Max was doing some gardening. He liked taking care of his carrots and found it odd that he had once despised them. But once you learned to treat them with respect then you didn't have to worry about getting tiny bite-marks on your fingers.

It was almost impossible to recognize the former terror teen who had once been one of the world's most chaotic super-villains. Not just because he was now an adult with a well-trimmed beard, but there was none of his former traits left. He had stopped dying his hair red and black so it had its natural nut-brown color again. He wore a light-blue T-shirt and green pants instead of that silly "Gothic/Punk Rock" style outfit he used to wear. And, most importantly: He never smiled anymore. No that there was much to smile about. And it didn't really matter if he was unrecognizable or not since there was no one left to recognize him.

As Max finished gardening, he decided to make himself a cup of tea. He left the garden, passed the spaceship (he had built to find another planet with intelligent life on it but decided not to in order to punish himself) and took off his shoes before entering the beautiful house he had built for himself. He boiled some water and took a look at the kitchen and all of its equipment. Like the rest of the house and everything inside it, it was handmade by Max who needed to keep himself occupied to evade insanity. Sure, going crazy would at this point be a blessing, but he didn't really feel that he deserved it. As he waited for the water to boil, he pondered whether he should build a piano or an organ.

After Max had made his tea, he took his cup and went into his library. He had a good little collection of books he had managed to find in the ruins of homes and libraris as he traveled the world looking for potential resources. After taking book after book out of his shelves only to change his mind and put them back in their proper place, he decided to pick the last Harry Potter book in existence (volume two, written in Swedish) and went out to the terrace. He sat in his favorite chair and began to read.

Life was tolerable.

For now.

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@waezi2: I had no doubt that you could. :)

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And that's time for this contest. The voting thread will be up later tonight.