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Nameless – Series 1 – Part 2

The Nameless are everywhere.  They have no form. They are merely legion.  They have no goal, only chaos.  They have no label.  They have no such need.


Rhys stalked the streets. His non-descript form moved easily throughout the crowds.  He stood no taller than the tallest, moved no faster than the fastest, but his mind ticked over like no other.  He could sense them. They were near.
Edinburgh was not his home.  He had no home now, not since his secret war had begun.  Various clues had led him here; they were on the move.  Why now? Why invade a city when they had seemed content to live beyond the bounds of civilisation?
Rhys had to know, and he had to find out quickly.  While they adapted with remarkable speed, they still lacked organisation.  Though that was changing rapidly.  He had to cut off the head of the snake before it was too late.  Otherwise, Edinburgh would be only the first city to fall.

He was close.  He turned down a long alley, the crowd of morning commuters and smell of coffee gave way to the dank cold and lifelessness.  He stopped when he reached his goal.  A seemingly inoffensive building, old, stood before him.  This was Newtown, but little in this area was less than two hundred years old.  It towered over him, the tan walls matched its neighbours, but he knew, He was inside.  Something wasn’t right. What was he sensing?
Looking down at the entrance, a single doorway, two men stood wearing jackets to keep the sharp Scottish winds at bay.  Rhys wrapped his coat closer to him, keeping his face partly covered, and looked further down the alley; he watched the men out of the corner of his eye.
It dawned on him, he wasn’t just picking up his target, there were dozens in there.  It’s a nest.  That complicated things.  Should he go and spend more time getting intelligence before he moved in? They hated the day, now would be the best time to strike.
The decision was taken from him when he noticed the two bulky men looking directly at him.  They couldn’t know him by sight, could they?
The first man raised his hand, he had a device in his ear.  Rhys’s heart began to race.  He was going to report in!  Rhys was out of time…

To be continued…

Calling for submissions! Site update

Dear readers and more importantly, writers!

I’ll be brief. The usual contributors for the site have run out of steam. No one involved (including myself) is a full-time writer. Therefore, if the site is to continue with a weekly submission, I need new people!

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Nameless – Series 2 – Part 5 (Final)

After an evening of recovery and deep thought, Rhys had come to a conclusion that, while he was still far from peak condition, he couldn’t afford to wait for another opportunity to strike.  Descartes was their leader, he had to die.  He had some powerful help in the form of Taxia, she was the muscle and evidently hard to control.  Why had Descartes saved Rhys? Was it because such a public display would have broken their greatest weapon, anonymity?  Or was there something else at play that Rhys couldn’t see yet?
He couldn’t waste time speculating. 


The morning sun began to peek over the buildings of Newtown as Rhys followed the trail left after his fight with Taxia.  He was not able to sense her except when she engaged her powers fully.  This ‘stealth’ ability troubled him, but nevertheless, she had left some residual markings behind.  In his mind’s eye Rhys followed specks of orange and yellow light, footprints of sorts.  Yun was simultaneously making contact with Samantha and John.  This would no doubt confuse them, as Yun was a dead-end to their investigation. Still, they had key evidence of Descartes’s operations, and Rhys couldn’t let that go cold.


He spent the morning tracking his prey and was not surprised to find it leading back to one of Descartes’s known operations.  A warehouse in the industrial section beyond Newtown’s centre into Leith.  The buildings became smaller, but newer, primarily twentieth century.  Buses and automated cars moved early morning commuters, but pedestrians, blasting their warm breaths into the cold, were starting to emerge as the sun peaked higher and the morning fog began to dissipate. 


Rhys checked his wrist, a message arrived from Yun, an address.  Yes, as expected.  The warehouse was large.  It was effectively several connected warehouses that took up a modest city block.  It would take a while to search, but Rhys took the risk of maintaining his senses at minimal range.  There was evidence of creature movement, some past, some present.  Taxia’s line took him to one corner of the facility.  Getting into the grounds was simple; security was lax.  After all the warehouses were likely to be individually locked.  Breaking into the warehouse in question would be a more significant challenge.  Peering into a window, notably smaller than the others as it was evidently for office space, Rhys knew he was onto the right track.  He saw a man, battered and barely conscious. 
John? Samantha’s partner? How could he be here, now?
A figure moved around the room, Rhys ducked and withdrew his powers not wishing to tempt fate.  When he looked again, the man was gone, but a hatch on the floor was closed in a hurry.  Not locked.  Underground.  Naturally.
Using his sense again, he found him.  Descartes.  He was not below ground.  No, that wasn’t the place for him; he was special.  He was not far, on the other side of the facility.  But the bruised man, John. 

Samantha’s voice came back through Yun’s recording and Rhys’s memory.  John had departed from the meeting yesterday.  Samantha and Yun had continued to talk.  She had expressed concern for John’s safety.  There had been some close calls.
‘He’s a good man, married.  It was my idea to investigate, you understand.’
‘So you feel responsible?’ Yun had replied.  A pause.  ‘Yes.’


Descartes’s people must have picked up John while Rhys was busy with Taxia.  He weighed his options.  Rescue this man, bust the operation but Descartes gets away, or go for the head of the snake?
The stink from the underground hive made Rhys’s nostrils flare.

***

‘So, what did he do?’ The silent man asked, his hard liquor still untouched on the table in front of him.
‘Oh, you’ll find out,’ the stranger replied, his Russian accent standing out the more he spoke.  ‘Another drink,’ he smiled a gold-toothed grin.

Nameless – Series 2 – Part 4

She raised her hand, Rhys braced himself, resisting the urge to close his eyes.
‘Taxia!’ A voice boomed.  Rhys couldn’t tell where it came from, but it was male and spoke with tremendous authority.  To his surprise, the woman froze in place.  She seemed to hesitate on the brink of deciding whether to obey the command or not.  The voice seemed to reverberate in the street. The few bystanders had already backed well away, too afraid to escape or call for help.
‘We’ll finish this soon,’ she growled before retreating into the alley.  Rhys got to his feet, released his energy after a moment of sensing his surroundings.  That voice, it must have been Descartes. He was close but was already fading. 
Rhys was so close to his goal but was in no condition to begin a pursuit.  He wrapped his coat around him and returned by an elaborate route to the café, batting away assistance offered by the bystanders. 

Samantha was saying goodbye to Yun. She seemed a little distressed but was doing her best to keep a straight face.  After she left, Yun began walking back towards their apartment.  It made little difference if he was followed, he presently had to keep up the appearance of being the tenant of the abode.
Rhys was grilling him for questions before he’d even close the door.
‘Geesh, how’d you get ahead of me? I thought you were following them.’
‘I had a little problem,’ Rhys took off his coat and sat by the small two-person table adjacent to the kitchen.  He explained meeting this woman, Taxia, and their altercation.
‘So she kicked your arse?’
‘Mostly.  I was ready for her to attack, it’s like I was prepared to block her fist with mine.  I wonder what would have happened.  I’m getting better at focusing my energy into my fists.’
‘Yeah, but she’s better; she probably would have crushed you.’
‘Probably.  I’m just a child stumbling in the dark.’
‘With a sore shoulder,’ Yun conceded.  ‘So, the short version about Samantha and her partner is, their company has found links to all our rentals, we’re not quite as careful as we thought.  But I know how to fix it for the future.  So they warned us, even if they didn’t realise it.  I was able to brush it off and send them away, they’re not worried I’m the centre of some crime syndicate or anything.  However, there’s something else.  Her partner, John, is also investigating Descartes and his operations, although he doesn’t realise who it is, of course.’  Yun waved his hand as if presenting a stunning and elaborate dish.
‘He just told you that?’
‘I can read between the lines.  John mentioned some of what he was doing, it matched what we were doing, blah blah blah.’
‘Hmm,’ Rhys said, allowing a moment to think.
‘So what now?’
‘Now, I think it’s time for dinner,’ Rhys said, turning on one of the lights as the apartment had become almost entirely enveloped in darkness.
‘You just ate lunch,’ Yun protested.
‘Yeah, and then got my arse kicked, as you pointed out.’
‘Right, right.  You could learn to cook you know.’
‘I fight, you cook, that’s the deal.’  Yun made his way into the kitchen, but Rhys’s smile dropped as he frowned over the revelations of the past hour.  They were troubling, to say the least, but perhaps they offered an opportunity.

Nameless – Series 2 – Part 3

The woman turned and disappeared into the crowd as if by magic.  Rhys gave up on his mission to follow Samantha.  He shot an abridged coded message to Yun, who would receive it through his device and into his earpiece.  Rhys gave them no more thought as he pursued the mysterious woman through the crowds but could not regain sight of her. 

He sighed with frustration and continued down the footpath as cars moved in an automated stream by him and the other pedestrians.  There was an alley, an ideal place to hide, Edinburgh was riddled with them, but he couldn’t be sure.  He stepped to the side while he planned his next move.  She knew he was there. Using his sense wouldn’t make him any more of a target.  He searched his mind, closed his eyes and simply felt.  In his mind’s eye, he could detect various creatures nearby.  This was, until yesterday, his only power.  It was like the creatures emitted some kind of wavelength.  When he tapped into his power, he became the same as them.  Therefore, they could detect him also, and so he had to be careful.  If he used as little energy as possible, he could usually sense them and disconnect before they knew he was there.  This time, he dug a little deeper and scanned wider.  In his mind, he could see little yellow or orange dots. The brighter ones were closer, or sometimes stronger than the dimmer lights.  He was accustomed to understanding the differences now.  It was rare that anyone got the jump on him.


With a jolt, he lost his grip on the sense.  Rhys opened his eyes. The woman stood in front of him, her hand shot out and grabbed his throat.  They were mere metres away from the main road. Why would she risk attacking in daylight? Secrecy was the Nameless weapon of choice. 
It mattered little as Rhys clasped his hands around hers. He choked, could draw no breath.  He fumbled urgently for his pistol, but her spare hand pinned him to the wall as she leaned in against him.  Her body stank of death. Her silver eyes were molten and seemed to move like a vortex as she glared at him.


‘What-‘
‘What am I?’ She smirked with a strong voice and an accent he couldn’t place.  ‘Sweetheart, I am your worst and final nightmare.’  She clenched her hand further, Rhys saw black spots.  He had to act, now.
Drawing on his power once more his assailant had a moment to smirk at his desperate attempts to fight back before he let his left hand go from trying to hold back her death grip.  His shoulder complained, but a whip with his hand and a crack of loud, bright energy shot out.  The woman cried out and backed away.  She was seemingly blinded and let go of Rhys, who slid to the ground, gasping for air.  She pulled her hands away from her face, and Rhys saw that the small whip of energy had sliced her face leaving a harsh bleeding mark down her cheek, a piece of flesh dangling.  Crawling and gasping on his side, he attempted to get back to the main street.  He stayed low and hoped his breath and vision would return.  The woman growled and unleashed a punch at random that smashed into the brick wall leaving a mangled imprint.


Rhys rolled over as she turned on him.  He needed to get back to the street.  There weren’t many people around, but enough that she wouldn’t risk exposure.  He crawled backwards and made it to safety. He smiled with some relief before freezing.  Her eyesight had returned. She stalked towards him, entering the street, her face in disrepair, fists clenched.  Several people stopped. One got out their phone and began to call emergency services.  Another tried to record the altercation.  The woman raised her hand, and with a click of her fingers, a flash leapt out and shattered their devices.  The people fell back, horrified.  The woman stood over Rhys, who had taken those critical seconds to recover his shock.  They’ve never been this brazen before
She raised her hand; he could sense the energy in her fist.  Invisible to others, but he knew that there existed enough force in her one clenched fist to crush any part of his body she wished.  She drew back and prepared to strike.

Nameless – Series 2 – Part 2

Yun went to the apartment door and looked through the peephole.  Rhys got out of bed with a groan and wrapped the sheet around him.  He hid behind the bedroom door, retrieving his pistol. Cleaned and reloaded; Yun was always thorough.  He nodded to Yun and readied himself.


‘Who is it?’ Yun asked, faking a disinterested tone.
‘Oh, hi,’ an uncertain female voice replied.  ‘My name is Samantha, and um, I need to ask you a few questions.’
‘Questions? Who are you with?’
‘No, I’m by myself.’
‘I mean, are you police or something?’
‘Oh goodness no.  I’m a, well, sorry this is hard to explain through a door.’  Rhys nodded again to Yun, who opened the door, the chain still attached.  ‘Hi, let me start again. I’m Samantha.  I work for Redeem Finance, a company that’s based here in Edinburgh.  We’re into finance, and well, I’ve been investigating some anomalies-‘
‘Anomalies?’
‘Yeah, with one of our clients and,’ she paused to lower her voice, ‘and my investigation has led me to this address.’
‘I think you may be mistaken. We haven’t employed any agency for finance or whatever you do.’
‘I expected not. I think they’re using this place as a front, you know, an address to make their business look more legitimate.’
‘Ok, but I only rent. How can I help?’
‘Well, can you provide me with details on the landlord or real estate you’ve gone through? It would help us out a lot.’
‘Us?’
‘Oh, yeah, I’m investigating with a colleague of mine, but he’s following up other leads.’
‘I see, one moment.’  He closed the door and walked back into the bedroom.  ‘Thoughts?’
‘It seems she knows we’ve rented a few apartments around the city.  But we’ve done it ourselves, how can her company know about us?  We need to know more.  Tell her to meet you in one hour at the café down the street, the one you normally go to.’
‘Cockburn’s?’
‘The K is silent, but yeah, that will do.  I’ll trail you, and you get what info you can, then I’ll follow her.’
‘Are you up to this? I mean, if it’s a trap.’
‘Can’t afford to miss out; there must be something here.  Get her partner there if you can.’

An hour later, Yun was sitting outside on an uncharacteristically sunny afternoon.  Rhys was a hundred paces away, feeling tired and sore, but dressed once again in the coat that seemed to help him slip into obscurity wherever he went.  He wasn’t wearing his body armour. It was savaged from the last attack. Besides, his shoulder protested at even putting his undershirt on.  He contemplated his powers for a moment as he waited.  ‘you are like a child, stumbling in the dark,’ that creature said to him.  Perhaps, but he was a fast learner. 
The woman, it must be Samantha, arrived with another man and sat with Yun.  They both ordered something.  They didn’t have time to set up recording equipment; that was the disadvantage of operating out of a safe house rather than where they kept the lion’s share of their equipment. 


Rhys scanned the area. There were dozens of people moving, a few cars, one bus and a black taxi cab; a remnant from the pre-ridesharing era as outdated as the red phone booths that remain in London merely as tourist curiosities.
A figure caught his eye, a woman.  There was something about her.  He didn’t sense her but somehow knew she was dangerous.  She was tall, taller than Rhys and had skin slightly darker than his.  She moved gracefully, like a dancer.  Her long bleached white hair was tied back in dreadlocks and stuck up in the air.  She stopped just behind the café, quite secluded from Yun and Samantha, but this stranger was clearly watching them.  Was she after Yun? Was this a trap set by Samantha?  Rhys couldn’t say for sure, but something in his core, his base instincts, told him that no, this woman was after Samantha or her partner.  She was in danger, and so was Yun.  He had to do something. 


He made up his mind to intercept the woman before she did anything. Still, before he moved, the stranger turned. Her cold silver eyes stared across the street and a hundred paces directly to Rhys.  She could sense him, but he wasn’t using his powers.  This should not be possible! 

But there was no mistake. She glared directly at him and smiled in a way that sent a cold, deathly shiver down Rhys’s spine.

Nameless – Series 2 – Part 1

‘So,’ said the silent man as the old tavern creaked in the harsh Siberian winds. ‘This was the time he started to realise his powers.  This was not too long ago.  He surely can not be too strong then.’ He wasn’t talking directly to the stranger, but the rougher man replied all the same.
‘You might think so, but he is a fast learner apparently.  Here, let me tell you.’

***

‘Rhys, move!’ Yun’s voice bounced around Rhys’s mind.  He was still groggy, even after a heavy sleep.  What had happened? He’d used the energy, his powers, and blasted through a glass window and managed to stop himself from falling to his death.  Was that a dream?
Rhys opened his eyes and realised he was in bed.  After a moment, he recognised his surroundings as one of the safe houses.  An apartment that they had rented and could use in the eventuality their main base was compromised.  This one was only a few blocks from where he had raided Descartes’s base.  Descartes wasn’t there; there was someone else, dead.  Yun had helped him to his feet, had managed to stumble somewhere. It was a blur.
But his energy, his powers.  Could he use them as a weapon?


‘Wakey wakey,’ Yun’s voice emerged from outside the small bedroom.  He entered and gave a mock bow; the foodstuffs on the tray clinked a little as he did so. ‘Budda says, to sustain the mind, you must sustain the body.’
‘Really?’
‘Yeah, but he said a lot of stuff.  I know it would be wise to eat after falling out a window.’
‘How profound.’ Rhys grunted and sat up in the bed, noticing for the first time that he was naked. ‘Wouldn’t be the first time,’ he muttered.
‘No, you keep getting injured, and I keep getting familiar with your anatomy.  You’re not my type. Now eat up.’  The tray was placed on his lap and contained eggs, rice, cooked vegetables with what smelled like garlic and oyster sauce. 
‘You missed your calling,’ Rhys groaned again, his head still ached.
‘No, all Asians can cook. Some stereotypes are true.  Here,’ he handed Rhys two tablets, ‘with a head like that, it should ache.  But maybe not that much.’  He sat down on a rickety wooden chair by the bed.  ‘I watched you for hours; you were lucky you didn’t scramble your brain.  If you’d hit the pavement headfirst, that would have been the end of you.  Seems your shoulder took the brunt.’  Rhys could indeed feel the effects. His left shoulder protested with the slightest movement.  ‘So,’ Yun said as Rhys took the tablets without water and began eating without pleasure; he needed fuel.  ‘Let’s talk about you being a superhero.’
‘What?’ He mumbled around his food.
‘I saw you hit the deck.  I came to check on you; lucky I did.  The guards were slow, but it was still a bit of luck to get you out.  But you can shoot lasers now?’
‘Hardly.’ He had spent the past few years improving his mind and body, turning himself into a living weapon.  He utilised rudimentary arms as well, blades, small firearms, explosives.  But all this time, could he have been using his own inner strength?  It was a tantalising idea.


Yun was about to say something when there was a knock at the door.  The two men looked at each other, instantly on edge.

The Professor – By Kai Lance

A young woman lanced past on a bicycle, hugging the curb, which caused the Professor to jump slightly.  No more than a handful of revolutions on, the reason for her sojourn became apparent as a dozen eggs fell from the back of her bike’s bracket.  They smashed and scattered their way across the ground.

The cyclist applied the brakes and began a change of course with a resignation befitting a mountain climber looking up to discover that there is still just one more summit.

How unfortunate, the Professor thought as he strolled past the egg and gravity-based disaster.

He felt strange walking the streets of Cambridge again, the canals perpendicular and underfoot with leisurely boats paddling along, channelling a piece of Venice in their wake.

Only days after being summoned from his home in Melbourne, he had made his way onto a plane and, in a flash, reappeared with a fresh coat of jet lag.  Now the Professor was on his way to an old friend, feeling decidedly out of place.

Cambridge was good at that, making you feel out of place, that is.  Ironically, it manifests somewhat differently if you were but a traveller from Australia, as he had been many years ago before the title of Professor had been bestowed upon him.  As a backpacker, you don’t really sit on the social class system anywhere and are viewed more as a curiosity.  Well worth a nod and a smile, but no more than a few minutes of polite conversation.

But returning as he was, a thoroughly educated professor of the University of Melbourne, he would be viewed as an educator of an inferior order, being Australian after all. 

The social class system was on its way out in England, but it still held sway in the spires of intellectual order.

The Professor felt at home in Universities, of course.  Indeed, he’d worked at one for many years now.   He certainly looked the part. Tweed jacket ten years out of date, brown trousers neatly pressed, smudged glasses neatly manipulated dark greying hair and a slouch of the shoulders with lacklustre stride.  All of this said, ‘I belong here, and I’ve got something on my mind’.

The Professor certainly had at that.  He had been working at his desk back in Melbourne when he had received the news that his old friend Derek Stepton had passed away suddenly.  He hadn’t heard from Derek in many years now.  They had drifted apart as people do, but the Professor had a surreal thought that maybe he was getting to that age.  Where you start meeting up with people at the funerals of friends, make promises to catch up and then dutifully return to your busy schedule until the next fatalistic meeting.

He and some of Derek’s family, whom the Professor had never met, were summoned to a solicitor in a hall not too far from Richmond East train station.  The office had been as sombre as the occasion, and the plain man behind the static desk had read out some basic instructions of the will.

The conversation had gone somewhat sideways when the Professor was called to the foreground. 

‘You are to go to Cambridge and visit the Vice-Chancellor, Garry Burgman’, the man had said in a flat tone. ‘You will take this envelope’ a plain envelope was handed forward to the Professor, ‘and give it to him, and you shall read in situ, not before.’  The last instruction was handed out like a whip crack.  The man evidently took his job very seriously and saw the words of a deceased as sacred.

The family looked at the Professor suspiciously.  Understandable, having not met him before.  He answered with a shrug.

‘Is that it? No other information?’ he inquired.

‘There was a small notation at the time,’ the dull solicitor replied, looking up from his paperwork, eyes gazing over the frame of his glasses. ‘It seems that Mr Stepton has a bit of a mission for you, a quest, if you will.’

The Professor couldn’t hold back a disbelieving laugh.  The tone of the outburst asked the question, but he added the words as insurance, ‘you’re joking, right?’

The ordinary man took on a severe posture, looking up from his desk and staring directly into the Professor’s soul and said, ‘I don’t joke about my work, sir.’

‘Is that it?’ was the best he could muster for a response, ‘isn’t there anything else you can tell me?’

‘There was only one other notation on the file, ‘it will bring closure’’.  The solicitor read from the papers before returning his plain but disturbing stare to the Professor.

He had taken the envelope then and asked for some leave at work.  His classes had been wound back recently, most likely due to his Head of Department, Sigmund Trevally, a deplorable little man with desires of grandeur beyond his position.  It was the Professor’s view that Sigmund was trying to make him redundant.  Perhaps there would be no job when he returned.  Regardless, he silently thanked the slimy little man, for, without his tinkering with the class schedule, this leave at short notice would not have been possible.

The Professor walked into the University of Cambridge and made his way to the Vice Chancellor’s office.  The reason why he had accepted this ‘quest’ was clear.  His spark of life had dwindled for some time now.  Quietly accepting his fate at work, being pushed to the side like an inconvenience.  Once upon a time, he would have pushed back, but not anymore.

This cry for help from a now-deceased friend stirred something in him. Perhaps the spark had not abandoned him entirely.  He had a feeling that his life was about to take a dramatic turn.

The Professor barely said hello to the receptionist. She smiled and directed him into the room labelled ‘Prof Burgman, Vice Chancellor’.  He thanked her and marched into the office.

Article Nonsense and the quest for the Magic MacGuffins – Series 1, Part 6 (Final) – By C.J. Quince

Article Nonsense found himself being led down the narrow ‘chute’ known as Death Row with a feeling of unease.  Their arrival in Rearwards had been, on the whole, rather negative.  Not only had they not found Rojer or the gems, but the group had been promptly captured and separated.

He couldn’t be sure what bothered him so, perhaps it was the compact feeling of being bashed against the walls with scarce little regard for his wellbeing or the sub-standard lighting which caused him to trip over unidentified objects every few steps.  Or perhaps the light at the end of the chute was rapidly expanding. He thought it must somehow be a metaphor for being born, but he couldn’t quite grasp the thread before it went fritting away.

Maybe it was that the light began illuminating the aforementioned unidentified objects. They were revealed to be body parts of various victims of whatever awaited at the end of the tunnel.

Being shackled by the hands and ankles didn’t paint a rosy picture either, Arty reflected.  The various mean-looking guards shoved him along.  They all looked like they’d never seen the inside of a bath and were ten years past the need of a dental visit.

It could have been a collection of all these things which gave Arty this sensation of unease which he had become accustomed to since his adventures began.  But upon further reflection, and if he had to be honest with himself, it was probably that before walking down this chute he was confronted by a rather hairy shirtless man with a bag over his head with two eye holes cut out of it.  The man introduced himself as the executioner.  He had told Arty he was going to be executed.

‘Hello, I’m the executioner, you’re going to be executed,’ he had said.

Presently, he was shoved by one of the ugly, smelly thugs again, which caused him to trip over a foot, singular, as in not attached to anyone.  Arty wore only a thin shirt and long pants, basically his undergarments that his armour would ordinarily cover.

‘Are you in a hurry, perhaps?’ He asked with false politeness. It was a tone that he took when under extreme duress.  He would have described it as ‘extremely British’, although he had no clue what those words meant. ‘Have you been invited to a dinner party or something? Tea perhaps?’

‘No stupid,’ the guard from behind him growled, ‘we gots more executions to perform.’

‘Of course,’ Arty replied, regaining his shackled balance before lumbering on.

‘Then we’ve gots dinner,’ the guard grumbled.

‘Make sure you clean up,’ Arty replied. He was pleased with that barb.

‘What? Cleans up before a dinners party? Hows else wills we leads the congregation?’ The guard stumbled over that last word like a dog eating a peanut biscuit.

‘Excuse me?’

‘What are youse stupid? When we have a dinner party, the filthiest gets to enter the room last and sit ats the head of the table, thens the party cans begins.’  Arty couldn’t help but notice that the pronunciation of the word ‘stupid’ was almost unintelligible.

‘And why is the filthiest at the head of the table?’ he queried.

‘Because if you look the worst and smell the worst, then you are the hardest worker.  Therefore, you have the greatest honour, obviously.’  The reply took on a tone Arty had heard from teenage girls.  Coming from the mouth of this brute was a little unsettling.

The end of the chute was still a few metres away, and given the pace of his short, shackled legs, Arty figured he still had some time to spare.

‘Ok, so why are the hardest workers given the greatest honour at dinner parties?’

‘Not just dinner parties, everywheres, our society is builts around the ideas that those whose actually dows the works, keep the streets clean, fix the sewages systems, burns the bodies after the plagues hits should gets the biggest houses, can go to the heads of the lines and gets paids the most moneys.’  Again, listening to these words in the tone of this missing link was difficult as he clumsily manhandled each syllable.  All except for the words ‘money’ and ‘sewage system’.

‘You don’t thinks that the people who tell the workers what to do should get all the privileges do youse?  Then what would be the rewards for doing all of the hard works? Nobody would want to do its, they would all seek jobs in comfortable chairs, and then the hard works wouldn’t get done.  Then the socials stigmas would see peoples refusing to undertake these tasks. The city would have to resorts to immigrant labourers, which would cause anger at the loss of jobs.  Racial conflicts would occurs, it wouldn’t end wells.’ 

‘So those of you who organise and lead the workers are at the bottom of the social ladder?’ Arty was intrigued.

‘Of course, the more workers they haves, the less position they holds,’ the ‘of Course’ carried a bit of a surprising squeak.

‘So the boss of the biggest business would be the lowest of jobs?’

‘Well yeah, excepts for politicians.’

‘Oh?’

‘Of course, (squeak) I mean running the entire city means that they have the most peoples workings for them, it’s sometimes given to those who can’t finds work, makes them feel like they’re contributings.’

‘Well, that is interesting,’ Arty replied genuinely.

‘Why, how do youse do its?’ Asked the half-man, half-ogre.

‘How does my society work? Well, to be honest, the exact opposite, but we elect our politicians.’

‘Really? That sounds crazys, so the most admirable job is a politicians?’ The man-ogre seemed confused.

‘Err, well no, on that we actually kind of agree.  You’ve given me a lot to think about-‘ a shove to his back ended Arty’s remark.

‘Well glads to helps, enjoys yours executions!’ Grunted the half-man.

Article Nonsense and the quest for the Magic MacGuffins – Series 1, Part 5- By C.J. Quince

Arty, the honorary knight, Fumbelweed the imbalanced wizard, and Percy the talking horse walked into a bar.


‘Ow,’ they said simultaneously.  ‘What is that?’ Percy looked down at his injured forward shins.  An iron bar lay in their path, partially covered in Sand.  ‘Ah,’ said the horse (Fumbleweed had made no comment about the talking horse.  Arty was reluctant to ask him about this as he wanted to avoid conversation with a man he considered a door in a third-story abandoned building- highly unhinged).  ‘This must be the start of the pantomime desert.’  The vast sandy landscape before them was a dead giveaway.
‘Great!’ Arty said, his shins were in better condition due to his ill-fitting armour, ‘now where is that bloody bird?’
‘Err, excuse me,’ came a voice just beyond a collection of smaller plants that Arty had never seen before.  ‘That’s not what I would call politically correct.’  There was a clomp, clomp, as a camel emerged with reigns and saddle attached.  Arty tried to look beyond the animal for the owner, but none materialised.  ‘You see,’ the camel spoke, and all three companions jumped slightly, ‘we don’t refer to women as ‘birds’ anymore; it’s a rather outdated term.’
‘Well,’ Arty began to gather his thoughts after a few moments of stunned silence. ‘We are actually chasing a bird. It stole my sack of jewels.’
‘Look, I don’t need to know the sordid details.  But I am going to compliment you on using a neutral pronoun; however, admonish you for using it to objectify the young lady.’
‘I’ve never met a politically correct camel before,’ Percy muttered.
‘Well, a talking horse,’ the Camel replied, ‘what a sight indeed!  But I currently identify as a Dromedary.’

‘What’s your name?’ Arty asked, stalling for time and trying not to stare at the animal’s humps.
‘Derrick.’  The Camel stood taller, perhaps with pride.
‘Ok, Derrick.  We really are chasing a bird.  As in, wings, flying, took some valuable things, need to get them back.  The whole deal.’
‘Ah,’ Derrick lowered its head, ‘my mistake.  You’re probably after Rojer.  He flew through here not long ago.’
‘Was he carrying a sack of some kind?’
‘He was, nothing unusual there. He’s often taking something that isn’t his,’ Derrick said indignantly.
‘Enough of this, you fluid humped creature,’ Fumbleweed interjected, his cloak flapping as his arms gesticulated beneath.  ‘Do you know where this avian kleptomaniac resides?’ 
‘You are a rude man, err, person,’ Derrick replied.
‘Derrick,’ Arty held out his hands in the least aggressive way he could manage.  ‘Could you please help us retrieve our things? I’m not exaggerating when I say that my life depends on it.’
‘Certainly.  I am always happy to respond to a pleasant and respectful request that’s not ingrained in ignorance,’ Derrick seemed to frown at the wizard.  ‘Unfortunately, you may not like what I tell you.  You see, Rojer is, what you might call, a bit of a prick.  He is unlikely to have kept the things he took and is likely to have scattered them all about.’  The three of them groaned.


‘If that’s the case,’ Percy muttered, ‘they would get picked up; those gems are valuable.  They don’t stay out in the open.  Their power is to draw beings toward them. Even unthinking animals can’t help but pick them up.’
‘Great,’ Arty bowed his head.  ‘Can you at least point us to where we might start looking?’
‘Certainly.  There is a city, Rearwards, not far from here.  It is rather odd.  However, if what you had was valuable, it almost certainly would have wound up there.’

The group moved on, feeling somewhat deflated.
‘This task is getting worse by the minute,’ Percy grumbled.  ‘I’ve heard of this place.  It’s all screwed up.  Be ready for anything.’

Article Nonsense and the quest for the Magic MacGuffins – Series 1, Part 4- By C.J. Quince

‘How far until the Pantomime desert?’ Arty asked Percy the horse.  He had begun to accept that his horse could speak and would occasionally forget that he was a horse despite riding atop him.  Percy was sharp-witted.  However, he had a rather pessimistic view of human behaviour.  Arty supposed that related to having to carry people around.  Arty had asked him his views of animal subservience to humans.  Percy replied that it was merely a matter of perspective.
‘After all, wouldn’t human society fail without horses? You wouldn’t be able to transport anything, soldiers, goods, nothing.  However, if you all buggered off, horses would live free and be happy and healthy.’
Arty found that impossible to argue with.

‘Another day of travel should do it,’ Percy replied.  Arty wasn’t surprised that they weren’t too far, given the change of landscape.  The green grass and moist ground was still present, but only in patches.

It was from one of these patches, partially covered by some overgrown shrubbery, that a sound emitted that gave pause to their steady, plodding sojourn.  It sounded all the world to be that of someone muttering quietly.  Arty got down, his armour clanked as he stepped toward the noise.  Due to their poor fitting, it meant that stealth was simply not an option.
‘Careful,’ whispered Percy, ‘could be chanting, might be magic.’  Arty paused and drew his sword.  It was, in reality, not much longer than a knife one would use to carve a roast, but that suited him well.  The knights (before they fell to their deaths) had swords that were bigger than Arty if he stood to his full height, which he never did.
Carving his way through the patchy growth, Arty found himself in a small clearing.  A man was stooped low, in the middle of the patch of grass and seemed all the world to be talking to the ground.

‘Um, excuse me?’ Arty said after a few moments of not knowing what to do.
The man turned and stared at Arty. The look said that he didn’t like to be interrupted.  He was old, had a long beard and bushy eyebrows.  He wore a long cloak that seemed to envelop him whole.

‘What? I’m busy.’  His voice wavered but matched the annoyance on his face.
‘Oh, sorry, we were just passing through.’  Arty began to back away, but curiosity got the better of him.  ‘Are you a wizard?’
‘Yes, so what?’
‘Oh, well, I’ve never met a wizard before.  My name is Article Nonesense.’
‘What a ridiculous name.’
‘You can call me Arty; all my friends do.  Well, the alive ones anyway.
‘I am Fumbleweed.  You can call me Fumbleweed.’
‘Right, well, we best be off, but I was wondering, were you doing magic?’
‘’Doing’ magic,’ the wizard frowned.  ‘No, I was talking.’
‘To whom?’
‘To the grass.’
‘Ah, you’ve nature-based magic, perhaps?’ Arty was making small talk in a subject he knew nothing about.  It was a skill he’d picked up at the two parties he had attended-uninvited.
‘No, not exactly.  I have one potent spell.  And I’ve promised to no longer use it on sentient beings.  It is simply too strong.’
‘Oh? What is it?’
‘The power of omniscience.’
‘What?’
‘You know, all knowledge of the entire universe.’
‘Oh. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?’
‘Would it?’ The wizard moved towards Arty, who backed away nervously.  ‘You would know the immensity of all existence and thus the insignificance of your own.  No mind can cope with it.  I even did it to a Buddhist Monk once.  He got drunk and punched himself in the face until he forgot everything again.’
‘…’
‘Buddhists don’t drink or conduct violent acts.’
‘Ah.  So you made the grass amnisesent instead?’
‘Omniscient, yes.  They can handle it better.  Suddenly being born into consciousness works well when you’ve no intelligence to speak of.
‘Oh,’ was all Arty could offer.
‘Then again, maybe the spell would work on you,’ the wizard smirked.  Arty had the sense that he was being insulted but couldn’t quite grasp the thread.
‘Well, I must be off.  Got to catch a bird who stole my things, quest for the King and all that,’ Arty attempted once again to back away.
‘Very well, I shall attend you!’ The wizard made a flourish with his arms; although still contained within his cloak, it looked more like he was trying to escape from a confining garment.
‘Err, what?’
‘You are clearly in need of aid, and I in need of a quest,’ he announced.  ‘Grass tends to become rather tedious to talk to.  Just let me just say goodbye to Henry.’
‘Who?’
‘The grass.’

‘Well?’ Percy asked as Arty returned to the saddle.
‘We have a companion, somehow,’ Arty replied, confusion thick in his voice.
‘A good companion?’
‘I can honestly say I’ve never been less clear on anything in my entire life.’