Since it’s been so long since I’ve done any writing and I hadn’t been feeling motivated to write in the entire week since I turned in my final paper (despite all the plots I have stashed up waiting to be written!), I decided to try forcing myself to write with some writing prompts. I had my first session this morning, in the hour and a half between breakfast and when I had to leave for work. (Well, I set my alarm for 6:00 and I don’t have to leave until about 9:00, and it only takes me about half an hour to get ready to leave, so I’ve got a lot of time on my hands!)
What I used for a writing prompt was actually a party game I backed on Kickstarter called Pitchstorm. You draw three cards, and then have to make up a movie pitch to match them. I’ve never played it as it’s supposed to be played, because I’m not a party person, but I bought the game, after all, to use it for writing prompts. Anyway, the three cards are “Character”, “Plot” and “Notes,” the latter being the terrible notes given by a studio executive.
I figured I would go ahead and share these writing prompt exercises as I go, because….well, because. Now, please keep in mind that this is a) incomplete, b) something I literally wrote this morning with no preparation and c) has received no re-writing whatsoever. (Except that I’ve gone through and fixed misspelled words so you won’t be hammered in the face with my lousy typing skills as well as my sloppy writing.) Even as I was writing I realized a few things in the early paragraphs didn’t agree with things in later sections of the story, but I didn’t want to waste time fixing it. It might end up changing later on anyway. Oh, one other thing to keep in mind is that because I decided to make the lead nonbinary, I decided to use e/er pronouns. I’m not sure where I saw those. Possibly in a visual novel? Well, wherever it was, I thought it was less awkward than xe/xir or ze/zeir or whatever the other other nonbinary pronoun sets are. (English really sucks for talking about nonbinary individuals.)
I will be finishing the story, btw. (Whether anyone wants to read it or not.) This is just as far as I could get in an hour and a half. We’ll see how far I get tomorrow morning before work. (And yes, I will eventually post those book reviews. I’ve started the post even. It’ll go up eventually.)
Character: A suave art theif [sic]
Plot: fights to take down a dangerous cult.
Notes: Let’s set this on the moon!
Akira pushed a loose strand of hair back into position as e stole a casual glance around the corner. On a typical day, the marketplace bustled with life and artificial life, and today was a typical day. Wealthy people in glistening, holofoil suits strolled casually between vendors’ machines, idly instructing others to do their buying for them, while the lunar poor scurried about hoping for a little spare change or rushed to get to the sweatshops where they earned less than spare change. Robots confidently shopped for their masters, and transstellar slaves plodded up to the machines to purchase fineries for their human oppressors.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
It would have been easier for Akira if this had been an atypical day and the market had been deserted. But if Akira had wanted easy, e would have become a dentist. Art theft was not a career for the faint of heart, or the lazy in disposition.
The target’s massive complex was on the far side of the market, near the edge of the dome. The main entrance was gated and constantly watched by security cams and armed robots, the roof access was guarded by laser turrets, and the kitchen entrance was surrounded by a small contingent of the lunar poor hoping for a handout in food from the transstellar slaves working in the kitchens. If Akira felt e had the luxury of waiting until the dome’s solar shield created an artificial night to fool the human mind into thinking it was time to sleep, e could have put on a rocket pack and gone up to the roof: that brand of laser turret was notoriously incapable of hitting a moving target (or any target at all, really), and what did Akira care if the dome was breached, especially since it would be patched up within minutes? But waiting wasn’t an option. Akira had to be on the shuttle that afternoon to reach er rendezvous with the buyer. This had to be done quickly.
A clamor started by the kitchen doors as several of the slaves emerged, and were immediately beset by miserable humans who had an even worse lot in life than they did. Transstellars honestly didn’t seem to mind having been enslaved by the human race: as intergalactic refugees, they had fled from something much worse than mere humans, and as their average lifespan was a few thousand Earth years, their time in slavery was barely a blip on their inner radar. They had only come through the portal in numbers of a few thousand, so they made very expensive property, and the wealthy who could afford them made sure not to damage them; corporal punishment was unheard of, and they were always well fed. Their lives were as different from the lunar poor as their bodies, their slow and methodical duties in cooking and cleaning as different from grueling factory work and dangerous outdoor duties as their six arms and slimy chartreuse skin was from the maimed and starved humans crowding around them. The elite of the lunar colonies had no interest in whether the poor lived or died, and set them to working in factories where they were mutilated by machinery, paying them so little that they were lucky if they could afford even one meal a day, and had to lived huddled up in tiny, squalid underground homes with almost no ventilation, four or five families to a room. Those that had lost enough limbs to the machines that they couldn’t do factory work anymore could turn to begging in the streets (never even slightly profitable) or, if they were still mobile and still had a working hand, they could get a job working outside on the moon’s surface. They could rent — at their own cost, of course — air bubbles to protect them from the vacuum of space, and scour the surface outside for valuable hunks of space rock that might provide a few minerals to feed the factories, or — if they weren’t missing many limbs at all — they might find a zealous lunatic patron to send them exploring the caverns looking for signs that the moon had once been inhabited by lunar natives. Akira had never been sure if those lunatics were looking for women in beehive hairdos, giant spiders, or the ruins of Sailor Moon’s castle, but e didn’t really care, either. They were valuable patsies who wanted to buy odd artifacts, and they tended not to be dangerous.
Unfortunately, today’s target was not one of those lunatics. Today’s target was decidedly dangerous. Akira would have to approach with caution.
Not sure what else to do, e headed over to the kitchen entrance, and stepped over a few of the lower-to-the-ground beggars, bringing er in easy conversational distance to the nearest slave. “Is the house hiring?” e asked. “I’m skilled in all manner of work.”
The transstellar slowly turned its huge head in Akira’s direction. Like most humans, Akira was often unsettled in dealing with a transstellar that was looking right at er. The six eyes weren’t at all an issue, but why were they lined up on top of each other like that? What kind of view of the world did they get from eyes like those? Akira never knew quite where to look, and e felt that e just couldn’t be er full, charming self without knowing where to aim a killer smile.
“The master is away,” the transstellar said, every word drawn out with laborious slowness. The way the transstellars talked always made Akira think of an extinct — or was it legendary? — Earth animal called a sloth: each word was formed with a slow, careful precision that made it feel like the conversation lasted forever. The fact that each word came out of a different mouth than the word before it only added to the frustration: e never knew quite which of the transstellar’s four mouths to look at in anticipation of the next word.
“Surely he hasn’t left you behind alone, with no one to guard you?” The man owned no less than five transstellars; a fortune like that left unguarded would tempt almost anyone willing to touch the aliens long enough to steal them.
“The mistress is in,” the transstellar replied, every word dribbling slowly out of its mouths with the glacial pace of the night before a child’s birth celebration. “Do you wish to speak to her?”
“Yes, that would be delightful.” Wives were one of Akira’s specialties. “Could you announce me, please?”
“The mistress does not allow us in her presence,” the transstellar said, its comrades producing an unsettling laughter as it did so. “You will need to go to the front door.”
Akira did er best to smile. “Of course. Thank you so much for your time,” e said, even as e wished very much to get er own time back from that bloody transstellar. On the whole, Akira felt sorry for the transstellars, but having to deal with them was utterly intolerable.
E was already approaching the front gate before the transstellar had finished telling er that e was welcome. The robotic guards all aimed their weapons at er. “Halt! Identify yourself!”
“I am Monsieur Legrande,” Akira announced, with a sweeping bow, “the finest art dealer in the solar system. I would like to speak to the master or mistress of this fine home.”
A whirring sound informed Akira that the robots were transferring er claims to a device inside that would consult the mistress. Eventually, a panel on the chest of one of the robots lit up with the image of a woman in her late thirties, beautiful in a very artificial way, with an air of ennui that told Akira the hardest part of this job would be getting the wife to give er a moment’s peace. Predictably, the wife’s whole face lit up when Akira smiled at her image. “My husband is away at the moment,” she said, “but maybe you would care to come inside and wait for him?”
“It would be my pleasure, good lady,” Akira said, with another sweeping bow. E could practically hear the woman’s bored heart swooning.
A robotic butler was soon emerging from the house and leading Akira inside and up to the parlor where the mistress of the house was lounging in a very contrived manner, as if she thought it very important to her upcoming attempt at seduction that she look casual while simultaneously finding a way to expose both her legs and as much of her cleavage as she could. “Mistress Mary, I have brought the visitor,” the butler announced.
“Yes, thank you, I can see that,” she replied, in an annoyed tone. “You may go.”
The butler bowed its head, and rolled back out of the room, the door sliding shut behind him. “Please allow me to introduce myself, my dear madame,” Akira said, producing er most suave smile yet. “I am Monsieur Legrande, art dealer to the rich and royal throughout the solar system. I have heard of your husband’s fine art collection, and hoped I could aid him in expanding upon it.”
“Do sit down,” Mary suggested, sitting up and patting the divan beside her. “You can tell me all about yourself — and your business, of course.”
“I should like to see the collection, if you don’t mind,” Akira said, finding erself less than interested in romancing this mindless twat. “I shouldn’t like to waste your time or mine if the collection is so great that even I can add nothing to it.”
Mary didn’t like that one bit, judging by the scowl that crossed her face, but she knew her role as gracious hostess — the only job she had ever had, by the look of her — and rose to her feet. “Of course. This way.”
She led Akira to a door on the back wall, which opened only with her handprint, and into a long hallway, each wall of which was covered in paintings, with a row of statues forming a parade down the center of the hall. The art ranged from masterpieces of great antiquity from the most revered of ancient artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Chuck Jones, to things some artist in a soil-side garret had thrown together just last weekend with more wine than paint. Mary, of course, had a comment for almost every one of them, mostly about how much her husband had paid for them, or about which fellow rich person had failed to outbid him in pursuit of the piece in question.
At the end of the hall, hanging on the far wall in a position of special prominence, Akira found er target, but why er client wanted the painting was a mystery to er. It wasn’t an appealing piece: the portrait of some ancient scholar or mathematician or whatever he was, looking every bit as boring as anyone would expect. The artistry was only so-so, and the artist was unknown. Yet it wasn’t just Akira’s client who valued it highly: it rested on the wall surrounded by sumptuous velvet curtains — such an absurdly ancient motif! — and Mary beamed at the painting fondly. “This is our favorite piece,” she informed Akira. “The portrait — taken from life! — of Adam Smith himself.”
Akira had no idea who that even was, but knew better than to admit it. “It is quite a work,” e said, nodding thoughtfully. “May I take a closer look?”
“There’s a field protecting it,” Mary said, “but I can turn that off for you. Just don’t touch it, or my husband will kill me.”
Hoping that was an exaggeration, Akira stepped up towards the painting as Mary turned off the force field, stroking er chin as if in thought. On the way up to er chin, er hand had brushed against the flower on er lapel, activating the scanner inside. E stood there “contemplating” the painting until the scanner had enough time to take in the painting’s every detail, then turned back to Mary. “Where did your husband acquire such a piece? It must have been very expensive.”
“Oh, no, he inherited it, along with his position in — well — society.” That was an evasion if ever Akira had heard one!
“Ah, of course. I should have heard about it if such a piece had ever been on the market.” Akira nodded sagely, then looked at Mary as if noticing her for the first time. She blushed at Akira’s sudden attention, and stepped closer with an eager light in her eyes.
The process of seducing a lonely, bored housewife was one that felt tedious to Akira. E never liked doing it, no matter the wife’s starting position. When they were too reluctant, Akira felt like a homewrecker. When they were too eager, Akira was just disgusted by the whole thing. This time was particularly disgusting to er. But fortunately Mary was so eager that they didn’t take even one step away from the painting, and soon Mary was contentedly sighing as she slipped back into her clothes, and saying that she would go call the butler to bring them something to eat. Akira agreed that was a fantastic idea, and Mary turned to leave the gallery without waiting to see if Akira followed her.
Akira knew e had only a few minutes at the most before Mary realized something was amiss. Hastily, but with perfect precision, e removed the painting from the wall, and placed it in er fourth dimensional pocket, then removed the flower from er lapel, putting it on the wall in the painting’s place. A brief tap and the painting generated a perfect holographic copy of the missing portrait. With luck, the theft wouldn’t be detected until the flower’s batteries wore out sometime next year. A second flower was quickly withdrawn from Akira’s pocket to replace the one now on the wall, and Akira was following Mary out of the gallery before two minutes had elapsed.
The repast brought by the butler was so sumptuous as to be obscene, and Akira fought to eat even a quarter of the food laid out before er. As they ate, Mary droned on at him about her childhood back on Earth, about her father’s myriad factories and mines, and about her husband’s factories here on the moon. She was so disgustingly wealthy that she had never breathed real air, having lived in a domed castle back on Earth, outside the polluted and poisonous air the poor had to deal with.
With only an hour to go before the shuttle was to depart, Akira triggered er phone, and quickly gave Mary an appealing and apologetic smile. “Do forgive me, but this might be important. The art world moves at the speed of light, after all.”
Mary nodded understandingly, and Akira stepped off into a corner to flip on the phone. A tinny recording played through it, carefully created to be audible to others in the room without being understandable. Akira nodded several times, and finally said “Yes, I see. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” then returned to Mary’s side. “Do forgive me, my dear, but an emergency has just come up, the instant auction of a particularly fine piece. I have to be there. You understand.”
“Of course. But you’ll be back soon?”
“As soon as I am able.” Akira added a winning smile to er lie. “Hopefully long before your husband returns.”
Mary’s cheeks turned a delighted crimson, and she expressed her excitement at the idea in gushing words that Akira didn’t bother to mark. Er mind was already on that shuttle…
Yes, I know, there’s no cult-fighting in it. But there will be. Well, maybe not fighting, per se, but there will be an evil and dangerous cult. I promise.
Oh, and about the previous post? I’ve decided that I’ll just start a third blog (omg, even though I’m not yet back in the habit with the other two?) to talk about tarot and/or Vocaloid. (Because of course those two things go together like a lime in a coconut.)