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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Quest for Survivor (Page 2)

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Author Topic: The Quest for Survivor
MaryRobinette
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After a moment, MaryRobinette pulled back from the embrace. "Jaina..." she narrowed her eyes, "I'm supposed to give you a swift kick if you haven't posted a new story within three days of the twenty-first."

Jaina looked up to the subject line above them. "Oh," she waved her hand to ward off MaryRobinette's foot, "I still have three more days. Right?"

Jerialey nodded. "You're still fine. Hop on the wagon with the rest of the Newbies. We're going to Survivor for basic training."


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Jeraliey
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As Jaina climbed aboard, Jeraliey took MaryRobinette's elbow and whispered in her ear.

"Not to alarm you, Mary, but there are some serious continuity issues going on. I didn't want to tell you with so many newbies listening in, but right now they're distracted for a few moments by Jaina's cheerfulness. I'd say we have a couple of minutes, at least."

"I know," MaryRobinette said. "It is kind of entertaining to watch Eadwacer try to hit on her. But I've been trying to figure out what has been going on for a while. At first you were fine after the explosion. Then you collapsed. Then you woke up, lost your memory, and then regained it in time to remember your extensive fencing background AND help hold off the ninjas. I know that our concussion discussion, as well as rhyming brilliantly, gave us all kinds of good information about head injuries, but I think something bigger is going on."

"What do you think it is? I mean, as much as I love being heroic, you have to admit that it's just not right. I'm not too far off newbie status myself...I don't know what to tell the new recruits, and I can't think of any editing technique that will fix this...Unless!"

"What is it, Jeraliey? Notice I actually spelled your name right this time."

"An incident which confers continuity upon a seemingly random and individually written sequence of events! That could turn this whole thing into a harmless, and potentially humorous, plot device! Of course!"

"No, Jeri! You can't mean..."

Jeraliey blinked. "Who are you?"

MaryRobinette shook her head sadly and called Jaina over. "Here, help me take care of our friend."

"What happened to her? She was just fine a moment ago!"

"She turned herself into a subplot to resolve a continuity problem. I imagine she'll weave in and out of lucidity for the rest of the story, or at least until we can cure her. It was a risky move, but I think it worked. And now we have an obligation to her to find a way to get her back to normal."

Jaina looked thoughtful for a moment. Then her eyes widened.

"Mary, I saw a button on my HUB, marked Deus ex Machina! Could we use that?"

A collective gasp issued from the newbies. Jaina became red in the face.

"I just want my friend back, Mary."

"I know you do, hon." said MaryRobinette. "But it would be disrespectful to her to resolve her subplot in such a cheap way. No, we must find a way to resolve it ourselves. That's what she would want."

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 22, 2005).]


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Jaina
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"But what good is the thing if you can't use it?" Jaina muttered. Mary shot her a Look, and she shut her mouth with a snap.

Mary put a hand on Jaina's shoulder and, shooing a couple of newbies out of the way, made her sit down. "Oh, Jaina, I know you're upset. You've missed out on a lot here, what with being gone for a week and all. But we have an obligation to Jeraliey
to make this work for her. Don't you want to save her?"

"Of course I do. I just wish I was a skilled enough writer to figure out how. I feel so... helpless."

"I know, Jaya, I know. But you're not. You've got your HUB, it's time you learned how to use it."

[This message has been edited by Jaina (edited March 22, 2005).]


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onepktjoe
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They fanned Jeraliey lest the desert heat compound the problem, and continued on.

A short time later, they came upon two figures lying in their path in a crumpled heap. "What now?" said MaryRobinette.

As they got closer, they saw the brash, impetuous newbie, Onepktjoe. He didn't look brash or impetuous now, though. He looked like he hadn't slept in days. Beside him, a blonde girl lay motionless, flower-covered and bloody.

"How did you get here?" MaryRobinette asked.

"Blondy," he said, hooking a weary thumb at the bloody blond lump. "She showed me how to... you know ...take a shortcut. Tremendously useful in that rare spot, but you know, I'd never realized..."

"Just tell me what happened!" said MaryRobinette. "This is no place for digressive dialogue!"

"Right, sorry. Well, my ferret found this machinist's wrench," he said, "and I put an end to her." He smiled slightly and made to throw the wrench aside. "I never did find out who she was, but..."

"Wait, you fool!" MaryRobinette said, jumping from the wagon.

"Sorry, digressing again?"

"No...well, yes...but that's not what I meant," she said. "That's not a machinist's wrench. It's a Deus Ex Machinist's Wrench! It's one of the few things in existence that will pin down an unanchored, god-like plot twist. Don't you realize how useful that might be? Give it to Jaina, in case she gets tempted again, and...did you say, ferret?"

"Yeah," Onepktjoe said, pulling a small furry tube with legs from his shirt. "My ferret...Plotcoupons."

Oh, no! No messing with Plotcoupons in the desert!" said MaryRobinette. "Get in the wagon, we've wasted too much time already."

And they all continued on, trying to figure out what to do about Jeraliey, and what to do about finding Survivor...


[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited March 22, 2005).]


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TaShaJaRo
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The wagon creaked and groaned in the suffocating desert heat. TaShaJaRo gazed out at the bleak sand of the Desert of Doomed Plotlines. How did she always end up back here? She had joined Mary's crew for adventure on the high seas and the quest for the elusive Survivor. Why was it that so many great ideas spiraled their way into this wretched place?

TaShaJaRo (who is going to shorten her own name because it's too difficult to type) was moved by Jeraliey's sacrifice. Only a true patriot of the craft would be willing to subject herself to that kind of torture. TaSha tried to think through the racket of the wagon and breath-stealing heat. Was there nothing to be done for the fair lady who risked all for newbies such as herself?

"I've got it!" Everyone turned to look at her and she gulped at her impetuous outburst. "Well, I think I do, anyway. Far be it from me to gainsay you, Captain Mary, but I think we're going in circles." Mary narrowed her eyes at this upstart. TaSha cleared her throat nervously and continued. "A motivated character can carry a story if he knows where he's going. Or she's going, in your case. A character who is motivated, but lost, is only go to travel in intricate circles, that while interesting, inevitably always lead back here," she finished with a sweep of her hand to indicate the endless desert.

"What we need is a map. The compass will help guide us but if we don't have a map to tell us where to go. . .we have no hope of surviving. There is plenty of room in the sand here to create the perfect mind map that will lead us out of this mess."

Mary seemed to consider it.

#####

Master Munsil clasped his hands in glee. "They are falling right into my trap! And it was so easy!"


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Christine
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"Once they form the mind map," Munsil said, rubbing his hands together, "It will bring them right to me!"

All of a sudden, a prosimity alarm sounded.

"What is that?" he asked as the scene transitioned.

#

Christine woke with a start, her head still throbbing, her eyes still sensitive to light, her stomach still queasy. How silly of her to have picked the first trimester of her pregnancy to become evil.

It took her a moment to recognize the sound filling her mind. It was the proximity alarm she had set up for point of view shifts! Christine leapt from her bed and went to check that her plans were still intact. She still had her HUB, MaryRobinette and her foolish band of newbies still struggled with the desert, but Munsil seemed to be getting pesky again. She would have to do something about him. She had brushed him off as a nonentity but she had foolishly underestimated him.

Then she finished reading the backstory she had missed while she hid from the light under piles of blankets. They had a Deus Ex Machina Device too! At least they were too noble to use theirs. Christine fingered her own Deus Ex Machina Device. Maybe it would get rid of the migraines so she could think clearly. But no, it only seemed to effect actual story elements. Oh well, it had been worth a try.

"What I really need to do," Christine said to her tabby cats as she went to feed them, "is find Survivor first. Then I can put an end to all this foolishness. If I kill Survivor then eventually the newbies will all figure out the truth -- that they, too, can learn to help one another through the valleys, deserts, and oceans of writing."


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jimmyjazz951
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Meanwhile, as MaryRobinette sat mesmerized in consideration and TaShaJaRo doodled in the sand, Jimmy once again heard a voice from above.

"Luke... hump... Jimmy. I know you can hear me. I can tell by the way you post without fear of double posting.

Looking around at the others, Jimmy realized he was the only one that heard the voice.

"Jimmy. Come to the dark side. I see it is strong in you if only you would let it out. I need someone on the inside. There is another tring to wreck my plans and I need you to buy me some time so that I can find out who it is and destroy him."

"But I can't." Jimmy replied. "I am on a quest for Survivor"

"Survivor is a myth; A Boogie Man invented by the veterans to freighten the newbies."

Puzzled, Jimmy responded. "But I've seen his posts. Surely that can't be invented."

"It's just a bogus login one of the veterans pulls the strings."

Jimmy's mind began to swim. His very beliefs shaken to the core.

Then he caught sight of MaryRobinette and it clicked. "... one of the veterans pulls the strings."

"Make a fool of me will they?"

Just then the wagon passed the same dune for the third time and he knew what he must do.

"MaryRobinette!" he shouted. "Look! we have been going around in circles! See! Coming down the dune! Ninjas!!!

Everyone in the wagon turned to look. MaryRobinette was aghast as Jeraliey jumped up and grabbed for her pen...

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 22, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 22, 2005).]


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RFLong
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but as soon as she had it to hand, Jimmy snatched it from her fingers.

He advanced on MaryRobinette, the pen trembling dangerously in his grip.

"You've been lying to us all along! This has all been some sort of trick to lead us astray, to destroy our creativity and strand us here without hope of rescue."

"Don't be a fool, Jimmy," shouted TaSha.

The wagon lurched dangerously as MaryRobinette tried to avoid the demented newbie.

A figure rose of the back of the wagon, armed only with the guidelines of critiquing. Jimmy slumped into a heap and RFLong stood over him, shaking her head sadly.

"I go away for a little while and look what happens around here. Is this some sort of mutiny? I had to disguise myself as a newbie to get back in. What has been going on here?"


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jimmyjazz951
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Oops, sorry, I am now a heap.

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 22, 2005).]


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Christine
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#

Christine had no doubt that MaryRobinette and RFLong could handle the insane newbie. Meanwhile, she had bigger fish to fry. Using her Deus Ex Machina device, Christine wrote herself into the story.

She stood on the docks of Hatrack Harbor, well ahead of the band of newbies. Rumor had it that Survivor was out there, somewhere. Christine spotted a ship and made arrangements for the crew to set sail at once.

As the ship left the harbor, Christine looked out over the coast in the direction of the Desert of Doomed Plotlines. Munsil was still there, but she had left her cats at her computer to take care of him.

#

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakk
kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
kkkkkkkkkk

#

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited March 22, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited March 23, 2005).]


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djvdakota
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#
Meanwhile...

Somewhere along the winding course of the River of Dropped Threads, Dakota clung to a vine. The vine was short. The vine was slippery in her sweating hands. The vine was the only thing preventing her from falling into the roiling waters and jagged rocks of the river's chasm.

She had been hanging there a long time, and the only thing that kept her from relaxing her grip and forever easing the pain in her weak rotator cuff was the thought that if she survived---IF she survived---vengeance would be sweet. And who, dare you ask, would her revenge so gratifyingly fall upon?

mikemunsil. mikemunsil the rat. mikemunsil the traitor who had lured her here.

"Meet me at the Bridge of Continuity," he had said. "I have a new draft of Bridgetown I want to show you."

"Cool! I'll be there!" Dakota had replied. And she was. Except mikemunsil had no manuscript in his hand. Instead he had a backscratcher--one of those cheap pink plastic ones you can get only at elementary school carnivals. He tackled Dakota and held her down, tore her shoes and socks from her feet and tickled her mercilessly.

"Tell me your email password! Tell me, I say!"

At last, her sides aching from the laughter and the desperate inability to draw another breath, Dakota gasped it out.

mikemunsil stood, an evil leer smearing across his face like jam on a three-year-old. Then his hands, looming large as umbrellas, pushed Dakota into the chasm.

"Mwahahahahaha!" she heard him shriek as she scrabbled for a handhold among the many dropped threads draping over the rock wall. "Now she'll come to me! To me! Maryrobinette will come to me for help, and she'll think it's you all the time! Mwahahahaha!"


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Eadwacer
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#
Eadwacer moved to the front of the wagon to sit beside Jaina. "Is there anyway out of the Desert of Doomed Plotlines?"

"Well, it's been done before, but the path is easily lost and littered with the corpses of those who couldn't keep their plotline strong."

"You mean to say that if we can't keep this storythread interesting, we're ... doomed?"

"Yes," said Jaina as she moved away from the ever approaching Ead, "and we WON'T do it with romantic interest."

"Look!" said Eadwacer, quickly changing the topic and leaving the romance to die in the desert. "What is that which can be seen upon the horizon? It looks like an oasis, perhaps we can relax and recover."

The palm trees were seen by the travelers and the water was illuminated by the sun. The newbies were tired by their long walk and were encouraged by the sight that could be seen.

"This place is not liked by me," was spoken by Jaina, "it seems dangerous."

The oasis was viewed by Mary. "That is called the Oasis of Passivity and it must be traversed by us before the desert can be crossed or Survivor found."

[This message has been edited by Eadwacer (edited March 23, 2005).]


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jimmyjazz951
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Laying still, trying to play a convincing heap, Jimmy thought to himself, "Ha, all the other newbies are foolishly walking while I lay here and reserve my strenght on the wagon. I will be ready to pounce whe the plot twists. I will be strong while they are still weak."

Opening his eyes just enough to get a quick look around, he notices two things. First, RFLong was no longer standing over him and had gone forward to speak with MaryRobinette. Second, Jaina was dirtacted by Eadwacer's advances.

Seizeing on the opportunity, Jimmy reached up into Jaina's HUB and sneaked out the...


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MaryRobinette
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Jimmyjazz's hand was stepped on by Jerialey's foot. "Hey!" Her voice was raised by her. "Who is this and what is being done by him to Jaina's HUB?"

MaryRobinette and the other's had their attention pulled by Jerialey's voice. It was easy to see that Jerialey was still not aware of who she was, but some innate since of self preservation had drawn her to Jimmyjazz. She was steered away from him, while he was sat upon by several newbies. "That is one of the newbies. He has been taken by insanity, I am afraid," was said by MaryRobinette.

RFLong's HUB was searched by her. "Well, he can be tied with these, while the way out of the Oasis of Passivity is discovered by us." A set of fantastically colored furry dice were held jauntily by her.

The sight of the dice was causing MaryRobinette to hesitate anxiously. "I don't know. We might wind up with a Tom Swifty."

"Better the enemy that is known by you..."

"Wait!" Was called out by Jaina. "Would we be gotten out of here by this?"

She was crowded around by MaryRobinette and the others. A small hash mark was held by her. She was looking up with a smile. "This can be used to invoke the Raymond Chandler clause, right?"

"'Cut out the boring bits'." MaryRobinette was nodding. "Good thinking. That should be tossed on the ground by you, and the dull traveling scene will be skipped by us."

"What about him." A thumb was jerked by one of the newbies to Jimmyjazz.

"He has been mislead, so he will be brought with us when we can be speaking without passivity."

Without waiting a moment, the small hash mark was thrown to the ground creating a blank space. "This should be crossed by everyone." MaryRobinette said.

#

The other side of the section break startled all of them. Instead of the edge of the desert, they found themselves outside a surprisingly normal house. The mailbox said, "Amsden".

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 23, 2005).]


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onepktjoe
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"Amsden? Why would the scene break bring us to Christine's home?" Jaina asked.

"I'm not sure, said MaryRobinette, "but this might be important. Jeraliey?"

"Who?" said Jeraliey.

"Er, never mind, Jaina, go knock and see if she's home."

Jaina walked to the door and knocked several times. When it didn't seem anyone would answer, Jaina looked back at MaryRobinette, shrugged, and then tried the door. It was unlocked.

"Might as well," said Jaina. Then she disappeared inside. The rest of the troop approached, and then crowded around the threshold. After a moment, Jaina came back. "There's nobody here, just a dangerous looking kitty sitting on the computer keyboard."

"This is all very confusing," said MaryRobinette.

"Do you still have that moral compass, MaryRobinette?" asked a much more rested looking Onepktjoe, as he shifted Jimmy from one shoulder to the other.

MaryRobinette pulled it from her pocket to show him she did.

"Hit the GPS," Onepktjoe said. "See if that helps."

MaryRobinette shrugged, and then hit the little red button on the compass...

[I never said the grand plot sychronizer was in good condition! If cutting this didn't fix the scrolling problem, then I don't know how to.]
[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited March 23, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited March 23, 2005).]


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Christine
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MaryRobinette read the screen on the GPS. "Hold on, I've got a fix on her location! She's..."

"What is it? Where is she?" Jerailey asked.

"I don't believe it," MaryRobinette said. "It looks like she's set off from Hatrack Harbour ahead of us. I wonder what she's up to."

"Let me see," Jerailey said, peering over MaryRobinette's shoulder. She could see Christine's face peering back at her through the tiny GPS screen. In the background, she saw the boat.

The tiny figure in the screen rumaged through something at her side. She seemed to be looking for something. The next second, she pulled out what was unistakably a Deus Ex Machina Device.

"Hey!" MaryRobinette said suddenly. "That looks like mine."

"I don't believe it," Jerailey said.

"It seems as if we've found our nemesis," MaryRobinette scowled. "I wouldn't have believed it of her."

Suddenly, the figure on the screen smiled and waved as if she saw them. She opened her mouth to speak and they could hear her as clearly as if she were there. "Hey, what are you doing at my parents' house?"

"Your parents house?" MaryRobinette asked through gritted teeth.

"Well, my name's not Amsden, only my pen name," Christine pointed out. "Say, what are my kittens doing there? Put them back at my house." She waved the Deus Ex Machina device at them in a threatening sort of way.

"Put them back yourself," MaryRobinette said and she switched off the GPS.

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited March 23, 2005).]


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HSO
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[darn it. Not again... Joe, please fix your post... it forces me to scroll horizontally... no words longer than 50 characters (a guess) please.]

{Thank you}

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 23, 2005).]


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Robyn_Hood
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#

MikeMunsil sat in his desert pavillion carefully evaluating his master plan. The doomed plotlines of the desert were working; Jeraliey had turned herself into a subplot, that newbie Jimmy had been driven insane by an internal narrator and another newbie, Ray, hadn't even made it out of the cliché storm! It was all so terribly wonderful.

Now to completely cripple MaryRobinette, Mike thought. "Once she'e through the Oasis of Passivity, we'll see how far she gets without those newbies helping her -- besides, I think Survivor could use a cell mate..."

As MikeMunsil considered exactly how he would get MaryRobinette's newbies back to his castle dungeon in Bridgeland, Dread burst into the tent.

"Master...there seems to be a...problem," he huffed.

"What have you done now?"

"It's MaryRobinette, she's disappeared!"

[This message has been edited by Robyn_Hood (edited March 23, 2005).]


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MaryRobinette
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MaryRobinette grimaced and stared at the newbies and friends around her. "Okay," she said, "There must be some reason we're here. This might be Christine's parent's house, but her pen name does link her to it. Newbies, spread out and look for Christine's nom de plume."

While she joined them in searching the house, Jerialey wandered over to the cats, "Hello kitties..." They hissed and spat at her but she did not notice their ire. She set her packet of med school applications down to pet them. The cats, upon seeing important papers, immediately jumped off the keyboard to sit on the packet. Jerialey knelt by them and her gaze fell upon the first page. "Applicant's name..." She picked the paper up, dislodging one of the cats and sat on the floor. The cat climbed onto her lap as she began reading.

#

Meanwhile, Dakota reached up for the plot thread above her, desperately tying it to the loose plot thread she held. When the two were securely linked, she climbed up and repeated the process. As her hand touched the next thread loose plot-thread, she gasped. It belonged to MaryRobinette and the newbies. As she tied it into the existing string of plotthreads, Dakota wondered how MaryRobinette had forgotten that she was caught in a flashback.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 23, 2005).]


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HSO
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Yes, MaryRobinette's forgetfulness could only be because of the rat: Munsil.

Munsil and his plastic backscratcher! When she caught up to him -- and she would, so help her-- she would take that evil tickling stick and jam it--

No, I need to think positively. I can't let my anger control me.

Yet the text of an early draft of "Bridgetown" exploded out from her memory and into her mind's eye. A vein throbbed on her temple... her fingers twitched.

"How dare he!" she screamed.

Rage. Unadulterated and fiery rage. She let it wash over her, bathed in its warmth. "Munsil..." she said without realizing it. "Mike Munsil, I'll get you for this if it's the last thing I do!"

Then the blackness consumed her.

#

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 23, 2005).]


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mikemunsil
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Evil laughter echoed from an otherwise innocuous hotel room in the badlands of South Dakota. Little did MaryRobinette know that she was no more than a puppet on a string, dancing to the Master's touch, touchtyping at his merest whim.

Thanks a real bunch, guys! I suppose I'll end up dying a gruesome death at the hands of an editor?! Redlined into oblivion with that most cruel of editorial cuts, the dreaded "I sincerely hope you have a day job."?


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Jeraliey
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#

"Whoever this chick is," said Jeraliey, "she's so full of crap that her eyes must be brown." She filed the packet in a desk drawer and wandered back to join the others.

#

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 23, 2005).]


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Rocklover
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I
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Elan
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Elan stepped forward, quite shyly and thrust a device at MaryRobinette.

"What's this?" asked MaryRobinette suspiciously. Was it a double mocha latte from Coffee People? Or a soy Vanilla Frapacchino from Seattle's Best?

"No," Elan said. "It's more lethal than that. It's a triple espresso, straight, from Starbucks. And you will find that once it detonates, you - and everyone within a hundred feet of you - will be covered with a fog of James Mitchner minutia of detail. It will bury our villains, and most likely any kitties who have wandered astray. We'll be able to make our get-away under its cover. But I beg you, MaryRobinette, don't use it unless you are desperate. The espresso will keep you up all night, but you won't be able to write because you will be so jittery."


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Rocklover
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From out of the dusty pages of several chapters past, Jaina rose her weary head and whispered, "If we don't get out of this mess soon, I'm going to die of boredom. Besides, I'm allergic to all those weird glowing cats."
Out of sheer desperation as there was nothing better to read anywhere in sight, she pulled out her HUB and began idly thumbing through it. Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat.
"Wait a minute, everybody," she cried, "I may have found the answer to how to escape this horrid place!"
MaryRobinette looked at her dubiously. "Well?"
"Here!" Jaina cried. "Look here. In the chapter marked, "How to Escape the Inevitable Plot Doldrums."
"I thought we were out of the doldrums and investigating a new direction," Jeraliey put in, balefully.
"Quiet," Jaina snapped. "My HUB says, "Seek ye the singing bush."
"Singing bush? Singing bush?" MaryRobinette cried. "What the heck is a singing bush?"
"And where do we find it?" Jerialey added, dourly.
"Well," Jaina noted, squinting. "It says, 'the singing bush may be found in the backlot of MGM studios in the W.A.S.P.: i.e., the Warehouse of Antiquated Stage Properties. The bush resides in crate #345678 between The Lost Arc of Indianna Jones and Charlton Heston's King Solomon's Mine rifle. The crate will be marked, simply "Singing Shrub: Three Amigos."
"Holy Hyphens!" MaryRobinette cried in distress. "Just when I thought we might actually working toward a meaningful plot progression, we find ourselves in another desperate plight!"
"What are you talking about?" the others gasped.
MaryRobinette paled. "I mean," she whispered, we are all in grave danger. Even now we are being sucked in by the most dangerous pitfall of the all!"
"Worse than editing ninjas and a devastating deluge of cliches?" Jaine asked, breathlessly.
"Yes," Mary Robinette answered, fear aglint in her eyes. "We are being subtly but inextricably seduced toward the most readily available and easiest of all easy solutions, yet the darkest temptation known to write: the Quicksands of Recycled Remakes."
"And that means, exactly...what?" Jaina questioned in newbie ignorance.
"It means," Jeraliey filled in the explanation, "that when writers run out of fresh ideas, they inevitably turn to old standbys and do a remake."
"But my HUB specifically states we can find the way out if we seek the Singing Bush!"
"We cannot do so," MaryRobinette insisted. "To set one toenail in the W.A.S.P. would be our doom."
"But my HUB says..." Jaina wailed.
"Exactly," MR said, raising an eyebrow. "Someone is deliberately trying to lead us astray. SOMEONE HAS BEEN TAMPERING WITH YOUR HUB!!!"
"I don't care!" Jaine insisted. "I'd rather do anything than stay here. I'm going to the W.A.S.P. right now!"
Even they called after her and watched her go, they felt the powerful allure of the Quicksands pulling them toward it as well.


[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited March 24, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited March 24, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Rocklover (edited March 24, 2005).]


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MaryRobinette
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"No, no. No!" MaryRobinette stamped her foot and glowered at the Newbies surrounding her in Christine's parents' house. "You will not tempt me into meaningless plot digression yet. We're in the middle of a flashback and need to retrieve our Hatrack Utility Belts, which were taken by Spectres, because we have them on when we arrive at The Penmanship in the first post." She turned to Elan and said, "Thank you for the offer of the triple espresso but I have a caffeine intolerance and that would probably kill me. Besides, I prefer Stumptown coffee."

Crossing her arms over her chest she said, "Now did anyone find the Nom De Plume I asked them too?"


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Jaina
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Jaina wandered aimlessly, somehow finding herself moving towards the W.A.S.P. despite it all. If she was going to be quite honest with herself, the only reason she was going was because she was a fan of both Indiana Jones and Charlton Heston, and she was all for seeing anything that dealt with either one. But she was rarely that honest with herself, and she was convinced that she was doing something for the good of the group.

"Who knows?" she told herself. "I might even find Survivor out here! That would show 'em!"

With these comforting thoughts circulating throughout her sleep-deprived brain, she stumbled inevitably closer to the Quicksands of Recycled Remakes.


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MCameron
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Just then, MCameron ran into the room with a floppy straw hat in her hands. A peacock feather was stuck in the brim. "Look what I found! Boy, Christine sure has some weird fashion ideas."

MaryRobinette pulled the feather out of the brim. A drop of ink beaded at the tip. "This must be Christine's Nom de Plume! Does anyone have any paper?"

One of the newbies stepped forward, holding a thick stack of paper in his hands. "I found this in a desk drawer," he said.

The Nom de Plume flew out of MaryRobinette's hand and began writing on the top page. Everyone gathered around to see what it was writing. "Holy mackerel!" shouted MCameron. "It's writing Christine's real name!"


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djvdakota
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#

Black? Not completely black, Dakota realized. Just a kind of hazy gray, something blocking the sun. And the thing blocking the sun threw her a rope.

"Hang on, Dakota. We've got trouble."

"HSO? Is that you?" HSO's strong hands pulled her to the top of the cliff and he helped her to her feet. She flung her arms around his neck and sobbed.

"The bastard tortured me until I gave him my email password!" she cried. "He said he was going to fool MaryRobinette into thinking he was me!"

"MaryRobinette? Torture? Who?"

"M-m-mikemunsil!"

HSO gasped. "It can't be! He's in South Dakota!"

"That's what I thought. But he called me. He said he wanted to meet me. He said he'd found a secret portal behind Teddy Roosevelt's glasses--whatever that means."

"Secret portal?" HSO was thoroughly puzzled.

"Sorry. I guess I've been down among the dropped threads too long. Overcompensating by throwing in unsupported plot twists."

"That's OK," HSO said, patting her on the back. "But what's this about MaryRobinette?"

"Hang on. Let me scroll down to that neat little screen-within-a-screen so I can quote him directly....Ah! Here it is:

quote:
"Now she'll come to me! To me! Maryrobinette will come to me for help, and she'll think it's you all the time! Mwahahahaha!"

"Well, has she? Has she come to you for help?"

"How the hell am I supposed to know! I've been hanging onto dropped threads all day!"

"Sorry."

"Seriously, though. What possible harm can he do? If MaryRobinette asked him for advice he'd probably just tell her to 'ask Survivor.' As if HE knows everything."

"Survivor!" HSO smacked himself on the forehead. "He's why I came looking for you! He's missing!"

Dakota paled. "Missing? When..? What..?"

"I don't know. He's supposed to be Captaining the Penmanship on its next newbie training run. He never showed up. MaryRobinette's supposed to be there in a couple of days with about 30 newbies--and no Survivor! You're the only other one who could possibly captain the Penmanship, Dakota."

"Me?!?"

"Of course--what with all that work you've done to organize the Rewrite Challenge! [Yes. That was a shameless plug ]"

Dakota rolled her eyes. "Give me a break, HSO. No one every participates--just me and Robyn Hood and Keeley. Yanos last month..."

HSO grabbed her by the elbows and shook her. "But look at the goat stories, Dakota. They're finding ports all over the place..."

"No! I can't do it!" She turned and stalked away from him. He jogged to catch up.

"But, Dakota..."

"We'll just have to find Survivor. And if we happen to bump into mikemunsil on the way..."

HSO smiled a grim smile and smacked his fist into the palm of his other hand. "I'll pummel him for you."

#

[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Ray
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Ray was flung around and around in the cliche storm, which had heightened to a raging tornado that swept him for miles across the Desert of Doomed Plotlines. By now, cliches had pummeled their way into his head.

"It sure is a dog eat dog world! Big Brother is watching you! It's a small world after all!"

A sad state for the poor newbie. Alone in his moment of crisis.

And then his cell phone rang.

Cell phone? He didn't own a cell phone. But in his addled condition, Ray didn't comprehend that and answered, "Hello, how may I help you today?"

"This is the Feathered Monkey."

"Help me, Feathered Monkey, you're my only hope."

"Blast! Are you so far gone?" said the Monkey.

"The lights are on, but nobody's home."

"Stop talking and stretch out the hand that's holding the phone!" Ray complied and then the Feathered Monkey shouted into the wind. It spoke clear cut sentences that meant what they said (anti-cliches, if you will.) The tornado could not handle what was being said and suddenly spit Ray out.

He flew for miles on end. Finally, after minutes of travel, he fell and incredibly landed in the same ship that Christine had set sail in. Landing painfully on his back, Ray blacked out. When he woke, he saw Christine standing over him (though he didn't know who she was, and in fact, wouldn't have recognized her with his wits still gone after being in the storm for so long.)

"Who are you?" asked Christine.

"I'm Ray," he said. Some of his memory came back. "I'm looking for Survivor, but lost my group."

"Are you one of the newbies?"

"Yes."

She smiled. Now she had one of them in her grasp. What luck!


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RFLong
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#

Christine's real name...

They peered at the wierd collection of symbols. To many of them, it was unlike any script they had ever seen before. But in names, particularly true names, there lies power and RFLong had enough of the celt in her to realise this.

"If we can just pronounce this, it will give us control over Christine," she said, in a worryingly Druidic tone. "Eadwacer, stop pining after Jaina and get out your textbooks again. We've got translating to do!"

[This message has been edited by RFLong (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Christine
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#

Christine's cat, Delenn, yowled in disgust. She counted....one, two, three, four, at laeast five divergent plotlines. Almost none of the character had a clear purpose any longer, not even MaryRobinette and her newbies who had begun this quest.

I've got a cat brain and I can figure out that this story is a mess, Delenn thought. Oh well, I also know what to do. Christine set me the task of watching the story while she was away on the ship and fixing anything that went wrong.

Delenn put one paw on the keyboard but unlike finger, it was maladept at typing. She hissed in frustration and decided it was time to contact Christine directly.

#

Christine was apparently smiling evilly down at a newbie who had just come into her presence when she heard the call of her cat. She stopped, shook her head, and came to her seneses.

"I'm not here to hurt newbies," she remembered, "I'm only here to help them by getting rid of Survivor." She wiped the evil smile off her face as it did not suit her anyway, and went to talk to her cat.

"What is it, Delenn?"

"Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow."

"The story is falling apart?" Christine said. "How can that be?"

"Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow."

"Divergent plotlines? Dangling Threads? Too many point of view characters? POV violations?"

Christine stared down at her stolen HUBs and for the first time felt a certain amount of guilt. "I just wanted to get to Survivor first," she mumbled, "I want him out of the way or these newbies will never learn their own power. I don't understand why MaryRobinette even thinks she needs Survivor. Where would she have gotten that idea?"

"Meow. Meow."

"Munsil?" Christine said. "No one would listen to him."

"Meow. Meow."

Finally, Christine understood. "I'm still going to get to Sruvivor, but I'm afraid it will have to be a fair fight."

She called back the spectres and handed over the stolen HUBs. "Take these back and get this story straightened out, will you?"

The invisible spectres had nearly gone when Christine had another idea. "Here," she said, handing them a tiny little gobling statue. "Get this to Munsil. It's an editor-on-the-shoulder. It should keep him tied up for a long time."

Satisfied that she had done all she could to get the story back in order, Christine went below decks to sleep off her seasickness, completely ignoring the bewildered newbie.

#

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Ray
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Ray stood there for several minutes while his head cleared. What had happened? Then he remembered that horrible nightmare in the whirlwind. He stood up and looked around the deck. The sea was all he could see.

His phone rang again. He had recovered enough to realize that he'd never gotten one, but he answered it again.

"This is the Feathered Monkey again. You are no longer in danger but Survivor needs help. You must find a way to contact MaryRobinette."

"How? I'm just a newbie."

"You've got a phone, moron." It hung up.

Ray stared at the cell phone and wondered just how he was going to get a hold of MaryRobinette. The phone didn't have any numbers on it.

[This message has been edited by Ray (edited March 24, 2005).]


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onepktjoe
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####
"There's a legend..." said Onepktjoe.

"Don't start, Newbie," said MaryRobinette.

"Listen," said Onepktjoe. "You have my undying loyalty. But the forces against you seem insurmountable. We might've fared better with TaSha's mind map--the obscure Russian style master Outlinem Lestulayaneg called them "mental maps," he..."

"Digressing..." said MaryRobinette.

"Sorry. I mean, we've come too far for any of that," said Onepktjoe.

Looking at the newbies, it was easy for MaryRobinette to believe they were imagining the Bottomless Pit of Unread First-time Authors yawning beneath their feet.

"A legend, though?" MaryRobinette said.

"Perhaps something can awaken him, or cause him to cast off whatever chains that bind him," said Onepktjoe.

"Like spinach for Popeye!" said Jeraliey.

"Yes! That you remember? asked Onepktjoe.

"We don't have any spinach," Jimmy said from Onepktjoe's shoulder.

"No...sorry, Jimmy." Onepktjoe set Jimmy down. "I mean, perhaps one thing will cut across the boundaries of unworkable plot and summon Survivor from across the boards, even from the very depths of hell if need be."

MaryRobinette took a step away from the insane newbie.

"Yes," said Onepktjoe, eyes gleaming with madness. "You'll have to segue into poorly written, unjustified omniscient POV. Survivor won't be able to resist!"

There was a gasp from the newbies. Onepktjoe seemed to hold his breath, waiting on MaryRobinette's judgement...

[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited March 24, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by onepktjoe (edited March 24, 2005).]


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HSO
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#

The heat of the Desert of Doom Plotlines scorched their skin. Dakota and HSO stood before a large, sun-bleached green tent. From within came the unmistakable furious sounds of fingers dashing across a laptop PC keyboard. Every now and then they heard a howl of anguish, which they knew could only come from an author with writer's block. Dakota and HSO hesistated.

"I think that's Munsil," said HSO.

"Me, too. Should we go in?"

"I'm ready to pummel, if that's what you're asking."

Dakota breathed in the hot, dry desert air. The thought of pummelling the rat gave her some small measure of happiness, but it just wasn't her style. She had always been a nurturer, a caregiver; someone to be respected. People looked up to her for guidance, and if she allowed herself any satisfaction over erasing Munsil from the story, what would people then think?

Still, Munsil had tickled her with that blasted backscratcher. He deserved something.

But what?

"Look," said HSO, "I'm ready to do this. But I sense you're holding something back."

"True. It's just..."

"What?"

Dakota considered. This was her defining moment. Who was she going to be? Someone who cared about people, even if they did happen to be evil? Evil people needed love, too, didn't they? She couldn't decide. It was too much. Besides, her sides still ached from the tickling.

"All right, Dakota. I'm going in with or without you."

"No, wait!"

"What's it going to be, then? Are you in or out?"

"I don't want to hurt him. I just want him to write a publishable draft of "Bridgetown." That's all I care about."

HSO seemed uneasy. His fists clenched and unclenched. He scratched at his right ear, then his left. "Okay. I'm with you."

"Good, let's critique his tale and get the boy published. I have a suspicion that he's only evil because he's been rejected so often. If we show him he can be an author, then maybe he'll give up his dastardly ways and help us on our quest."

"I think you're expecting way too much," HSO said. "But if it works, then Munsil can undo everything that has happened up to this point."

"That's my point. He can erase it all. Then, MaryRobinette will be back on the Penmanship as if this flashback never happened."

"Brilliant."

Together, their purposes united, Dakota and HSO entered the tent. They found Munsil there, his laptop held high above his head. He seemed ready to smash it down onto the ground."

"No! Wait!" Dakota cried.

#

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Christine
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Christine did not get all the way to her cabin before she heard a phone ring. She paused, turned back around, and went to listen in on Ray's conversation. She growled in disgust as she realized that this phone had simply popped into the story from nowhere.

"Give that to me," Christine said as she snatched the phone out of Ray's hand. She tossed it over the side of the ship.

"Hey!" Ray said. "I needed that to get in touch with MaryRobinette."

"Well, you're just going to have to come up with a way that is realistic. Didn't anyone teach you the value of realism in your stories? You can't just all of a sudden have a cell phone if you didn't have one before. For that matter, where the heck is the nearest cell tower? We're out in the middle of the goshbedanged ocean! Now, if you want to get in touch with MaryRobinette you're going to have to do it the hard way."

"But don't you see?" Ray said. "I need to get in touch with her so I can find Survivor so he can hepl me work out these plot inconsistencies."

A scream threatened to rip from Christine's throat, but she just managed to hold it at bay. "You don't need Survivor you moron!" In frustration, she kicked him and caused him to fly over the side of the ship. He landed in the water with a loud splash.

Christine immediately felt guilty but there was nothing she could do. Maybe he would be able to swim back to his precious MaryRobinette and her silly quest. Meanwhile, she was more determined now than ever to put an end to this infantile need for Survivor's commentary.

#

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Jaina
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Meanwhile, poor Jaina was still wandering semi-aimlessly towards the W.A.S.P. By this time, her throat was parched and she was pretty convinced that she was hopelessly lost. Even if she did manage to survive the Quicksands of Recycled Remakes, would it really do her any good? She was starting to doubt herself. It had seemed so right at the time...

Perhaps I should go back? But she rejected that thought immediately. She had too strong a sense of pride for that. Besides, at least out here she was away from Eadwacer's advances... he was nice, but she had other prospects that she might actually have a chance with, thanks.

Before her line of thought could go any further down that path, though, she passed out.

[This message has been edited by Jaina (edited March 24, 2005).]


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Jeraliey
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MaryRobinette stared around her in disbelief. So many random plot lines!

"This is what you get when people are allowed to write about their own 'characters'," she sighed.


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MaryRobinette
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Rubbing the bridge of her nose, MaryRobinette considered her options. Distasteful though it was, Onepktjoe's suggestion of a transitioning to an omniscient POV was tempting but doing it without a fully functional HUB made her nervous. They only had Jaina and RFLong's belts to work with.

With a creeping sense of dread, MaryRobinette looked at the Newbies around her. "Where's Jaina?"

Eadwacer nearly jumped out of his skin. "Don’t look at me. I was just talking with her about her lustrous hair and luminous eyes and then thought that I needed to protect you from the villainous advances of Jimmyjazz."

"So, you're saying you don't know." When he nodded, MaryRobinette looked around the dwindling group of Newbies. It happened every year. A promising new crop would spring up and then vanish. Still, Jaina had not seemed like the type to succumb to the standard attrition. MaryRobinette rubbed the back of her neck. "Well, let's hope she comes back on her own. Meanwhile, let's look at the name that the nom de plume wrote." She patted McCameron on the shoulder. "Good job staying on track, by the way. I'm glad one of you could do that." She glared at the other Newbies. "RFLong, can you pronounce this?"

Taking the paper from MaryRobinette, RFLong studied it. "I believe I can. It is based on an ancient--"

She broke off as a pile of HUB's dropped into the center of the group, as if from thin air.

"Woo-hoo!" MaryRobinette threw her hands up in the air. "Nicely done, RFLong."

RFLong colored editor-red and smiled. "Thanks." She turned the paper over in her hands. "I didn't do anything."

"You got the HUB's back." MaryRobinette said, as she buckled hers on. "Now we can go to Hatrack Harbor to see Survivor."

If she had realized that the day was going to be a novel instead of a short story she would have done an outline. As it was, she would just have to push through to the end. "Let's head out!" She could not wait to hand these Newbies over to Survivor.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 25, 2005).]


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HSO
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#

Master Munsil fell to his knees, still holding his laptop over his head. As he looked at Dakota and HSO standing just inside the tent flaps, he knew the jig was up. They were here to erase him -- to finish him off before he could write the final twist in the plot. He had had a plan, but somehow the story got a life of its own; it had spiralled out of control and he didn't know how to stop it anymore. He didn't want to be evil now. Evil was hard work--harder than being good anyway.

Hot tears streamed down his cheeks as he carefully let his arms down; the laptop resting upon his knees. Munsil gave up.

"Oh, crumbs," said HSO, "not a crying scene."

"Shh," Dakota said. "Let him cry. He needs to let it out before we can help."

Quietly, HSO said, "Villians aren't supposed to cry. They're supposed to cackle evilly."

"Mike isn't a villian. He's just misunderstood. We have to help to him now, in this time of need, this one-and-only moment of weakness. If we don't--"

Listening to them talk about him, Munsil felt guilt welling up inside him -- consuming him. "You can't help me," said Munsil. "No one can now. I've done bad things. Very bad things."

"We can and we will help you."

HSO took a step forward. "Yeah, dude. So, like... stop blubbering. You're going to make me cry at this rate -- I can't stand to see people cry or be in pain. That's why I chose not to be a doctor or a veterinarian. It wasn't death or blood or anything like that. That I can deal with. No, it was watching people--"

"HSO! We're here for Mike; this isn't the time to bring up your problems."

Munsil wiped away his tears. "No, Dakota. He's right. I need to stop feeling pity for myself." Yet inside he cried out to be held like a child. He pushed his feelings back. "So what do I do now?" he asked.

"First," said Dakota, "you need to--"

A gunshot rang out inside the tent. Everyone jumped. Through watery eyes, Mike saw Agent Dread standing behind HSO and Dakota. Fear and adrenaline coursed through him, each fighting for chemical dominance, and making him feel dizzy.

"Not so fast, Master Mikey," said Dread. "I can't let you do this. If you're not going to be evil, then I'll just take your place."

"No, Dread," said Mike. "It's over. It has to be over. Don't do this."

Dread laughed. "For days now, I've been the patsy; getting your diet soda, running away when you threw a tantrum. I'm sick of it. I'm going to finish this here and now, starting with..." Dread pointed the gun at HSO. "Him!

Mike saw the flash, heard the shot. "Noooo!" HSO stumbled backwards, clutching his chest. Dakota caught him, preventing his fall. HSO died a moment later. Mike screamed, "What have you done?"

"Only what you should've done already," said Dread, now pointing the gun at Dakota. "She's next."

Mike watched. Helpless. He had no weapons. Nothing to stop Dread. Dread was preparing to squeeze the trigger, an evil smirk on his face.

And then Mike realized he did have a weapon after all: his laptop. There wasn't time to write anything, but it was heavy enough to do serious damage if he threw it at Dread. Without delay, he flung his laptop...

It whirled; a flash of black plastic, spinning towards its target: Dread.

Mike had time for only one thought: Please don't let him kill Dakota...

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 25, 2005).]


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jimmyjazz951
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Unfortunatly Dread was quicker that Mike had hope. In one deft movement Dread snatched the spinning laptop with one hand While firing his gun at Dakota with the other. Dakota fell to the floor beside HSO. Dread pointed the gun at Mike.
"Surely", Dread laughed, "you didn't think you could get rid of me that easily did you?" he set the laptop back down in front of Mike. "Now, write!"

Meanwhile, as the newbies where leaving Christine's parents house, Onepkjoe spoke up. "MaryRobinette, my shoulder is really starting to hurt. Can I get rid of this heap?"

MaryRobinette thought a moment. "Well, he has been behaving himself but that may be because he's all tied up. Jimmy, do you think you can behave your self?"

Jimmy looked up. He had been hanging there so long the blood and been pooling in his brain. He saw the furry dice through tracers and thought he was having flashbacks from his more experimental years. He noticed he was hanging over some guy's shoulder and his eyes grew round. "Oh, no not that flashback!" He thought. "No, my rear's not sore. Whew!"

That sobering memory brought him back to MaryRobinette's question. "Yes," he said "I think I'm better now. I promise to behave"

With that, MaryRobinette had Joe put Jimmy down and untie him. Cautiously she handed him his HUB. "Lets Go!"

Jimmy strapped his HUB on, adjusted his suspenders and after a few unsteady steps, they where off.

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 25, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 25, 2005).]


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MaryRobinette
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#
On the deck of The Penmanship Survivor lifted his head and raised an eyebrow. He had only returned to the vessel after finishing the interesting exercise that Mike Munsil had offered him by locking him in a cell.

Though he wanted to meditate on the experience, his innate sense of storytelling told him that a Hatracker was in trouble. He sniffed the wind. Three Hatrackers to be precise.

Without wasting a moment, he drew his blade of words and cut straight to the conflict.

#

Meanwhile, Dread scoffed at the writhing figures on the floor. "Now to deal with MaryRobinette and the Newbies!" He pulled a pirate mask on headed for The Penmanship.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 26, 2005).]


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jimmyjazz951
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In the heat of the Desert of Doom Plotlines stood a large, sun-bleached green tent. Inside the tent, oblivious to anything around him, sat Mikemunsil typing furiously at hais laptop. He had not notice that Dread had left. In fact he was so preoccupied he did not even notice when Dakota painfully pulled herself up and staggered out the door.

Aboard The Penmanship, Dread arrived just as MaryRobinette was coming back on deck. He chuckled to to himself as she brought out her bosun's whistle and blew a long, steady note. He gave a little cough to get her attention. It took everything in him to keep from laughing out loud at the way the look of anticipation on her face melted into dismay. "Wasting your time, lass," he said. "He be gone, your Survivor. Been nearly a fortnight, I reckon it. Perhaps I can assist ye in his place? Arr!" he exclaimed, "What be this?"

[This message has been edited by jimmyjazz951 (edited March 27, 2005).]


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rickfisher
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Survivor didn't realize that, by cutting straight to the conflict, he missed Dread on his way to The Penmanship. However, he could see that his help was badly needed here. He checked his supply of hand-wavium pellets. Only enough for two.

HSO lay on the floor in a pool of blood, conscious, but knowing that death lay moments away. Dakota, already unconscious, and slipping fast, had collapsed just outside the door. And MikeMunsil, horrified at what he was writing, had fainted, and was just now coming to. Where am I? he wondered.

Survivor had no way of knowing whether Mike was injured as badly as the other two, but he decided that he would use the pellets on the characters who had not had delusions of evil. With a quick flip of his wrist (in a move he'd perfected from thousands of hours playing Minesweeper) he cast the pellets over Dakota and HSO. They both sat up immediately, grinning from ear to ear.

MikeMunsil saw them, and practically fainted again. "But, you were both shot! And HSO, you were dead."

"Not quite," Survivor corrected. He wondered when these people would learn. "If you'll recall, Mike, that post was from your POV. So when it said that he was dead, it only meant that you thought he was dead. Now, THIS post is in omniscient, so we can tell that everyone is alive and thinking. Right, gang?"

"Well," HSO said, "I can't tell that MikeMunsil is thinking."

Mike was offended. That pleased HSO no end. He'd never felt better.

Dakota had felt lots better, but she didn't want to complain. Instead she asked, "Has anyone seen my cigar?"

"I think you left it in Reykjavik," Mike said.


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Rocklover
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Slowly, Jaina came to, aware only of a weird, botanical voice filtering into her consciousness. It was singing. Something like, "Somewhere, over the rainbow...."
Jaina pulled herself up on one elbow and squinted against the glaring desert sun. A rather scubby-looking juniper bush was leaning over her, singing its bark off. "If happy little bluebirds fly, above the rainbow, why oh why can't I?"
"Singing Bush?" Jaina asked, faintly aflush with disbelief.
"Quite," the bush said.
"I thought you were in a crate in the W.A.S.P."
"Was," it answered piningly. "Got a reprieve. Nailed a part as part of the forest on Braveheart. Did such a great job Gibson gave me my FREEEDOMMMM! No more crates for me!"
"Well, you're here just in time," Jaina cried, hope returning against all odds.
"I've been hunting for you. I need help."
"Let me guess," the bush said with a needling tone of sarcasm. "You need to get back into the plot so the whole messy thing can attempt to arrive at some kind of satisfactory conclusion. Am I right?"
"Yes," Jaian gulped. "But how did you..."
"Singing Bushes are the I Ching of all wisdom, didn't you know that?" the bush answered with disgust. "Chill. I can help you."
"You can?" Jaina leaped to her feet, overjoyed.
"While at the W.A.S.P, I happened to make acquaintance with Judy Garland's tornado. It was in the crate after next from me. Anyway, although it is indeed one of the oldest of recycled remade ideas, that being of some kind of magical portal which can transport a character anywhere the author needs to send him, or her, in your case...the idea still works, in endless variety."
"That's fine, but I don't happen to see any magical Ozarian tornado around here. So what good does that do me?"
The shrub snorted. "Look at your feet."
Jaina looked down. What should she see on her feet but a pair of ruby slippers!
"How did..." she began but the bush interupted. "Don't ask questions. Where is it you wish to go?"
"I wish," Jaina said, misting up just thinkig about it, "I wish I was back on the Penmanship with all my dear friends."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" the bush demanded. "Click your heels together, make your wish and get on with it!!"
"Right," Jaina said, and straightaway closed her eyes, clicked her heels and said, "There's no place like the Penmanship, there's no place like the penmanship...." as the shrub broke into a stirring medley of
"Just follow the yellow brick road...."
Suddenly, a single black cloud blotted out the sun. From it snaked a whirling vortex that eeled itself across the sky, heading straight for Jaina! Before she knew what had happened, the tornado picked her up like plucking a grape off a vine and spit her out on the deck of none other than the Penmanship itself!
The tornado vanished as quickly as it appeared, leaving a bewildered but ecstatic Jaina surrounded by familiar faces. One, in particular, was beaming an especially broad smile, obviously very glad to see her.

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jimmyjazz951
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Caught by a sudden rush of deja vu, MaryRobinette was suddenly stunned into inaction. The thought of plunging into another series of loose threads and random plot lines sickened her like a bout of vertigo.
A toothless grin began to form on Dread's leathery face. He gave a quick whistle to summon his pet parrot to his shoulder.
Then, to both of their astonishment a tornado appeared in the clear, bright sky and Jaina, from seemingly nowhere, dropped to the deck squashing a parrot in mid flight.

During all of the excitement Ray, who had been swimming since Christine kicked him overboard, climbed over the rail. Quickly sizing up the situation, Ray tackled Dread from behind and, with a little help from MaryRobinette and Jaina, tied up.

Cheers went up from the shore where the newbies waited. One face in the crowd drew Jaina's attention. The way Eadwacer beamed at her with an especially broad smile, made her blush.


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Kolona
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Jaina's blush was the last thing Mary Robinette saw before she slumped to the deck of the Penmanship. What she had thought merely a bout of vertigo in response to loose threads and random plot lines was in fact a sick revulsion to a hopelessly convoluted denouement.

As she fought her way back to consciousness, she heard voices, and one sounded like...Survivor's? Instead of relief at the tempting realization that she might be able to frame this story by taking it back to the beginning and just ending the whole thing, a new fear overcame her: Had enough newbies survived to crew the Penmanship? She thought she must have voiced her fear in her near delirium, because she heard Dakota murmuring to her, "Don't worry. We'll just go to the 'First, Please Introduce Yourself' thread for more newbies."


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MaryRobinette
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MaryRobinette nodded weakly in response to Dakota's words of comfort. "But there's another problem..."

Brushing the red hair from MaryRobinette's brow, Dakota said, "What is it?"

"There's still a loose thread out there." She swallowed. "Christine..."

---

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode: The Betrayal of Christine


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Christine
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Christine hung to the story by a thread, her feet kicking the water as she clung for dear life. Above her sailed the Penmanship, filled to capacity with newbies and that bully Survivor.

Christine climbed the thread, hand over hand, inching her way towards the thread, trying not to remind herself that she had never managed to do even one pull up in gym class and that she had not a whit of upper arm strength. Adrenaline commanded her body now.

It was too late for her to kill Survivor. She knew that. She would have to find another way. Perhaps she could convince the people on board that she meant well. SHe had returned the HUBs after all. They might believe her. Then she would -- well, she was not sure what she would do about Survivor but she was sure she would find a way if she used patience and cunning.

"Hey, there's someone climbing up to the ship!" someone from above called.

"Help!" Christine called. She was nearly there now. She might even make it.

"Hey, wait a second. Aren't you the antagonist in this story?"

Christine could not identify the voice. It was probably one of the newbies. "I meant well," Christine said. "I gave you back your HUBs."

"I don't know..."

"I'm pregnant," Christine tried. That always got people to help. Just to make it absolutely clear, she emptied her lunch into the ocean below.

"Come on, let's help her aboard."

With the assistance of several newbies, Christine managed to make her way up on deck. She felt miserable. She had been dangling by that thread for a long time. As she panted and tried to catch her breath, a familiar shadow approached.

"Welcome back," MaryRobinette said.

Christine gave her a weak smile. If only they could understand that it was their own interests she was trying to protect. But they would not understand.

Then, from behind MaryRobinette, came another familiar form.

"Hello, Survivor," Christine said.


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Survivor
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That one smiled beneficently.

After all, his evil plans were proceeding very nicely, and the ninjas had revealed nothing of importance while carrying out their assigned tasks


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