Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Friday Challenge

Update to the Update: And bumping this one to the top one more time, because we got a pile of last-minute entries, all of which are now linked at the end of the original post.

Update: Bubbling this one back to the top, because the deadline is tomorrow and because Al, The New Guy, and Mike, The Even Newer Guy, sent in entries that had to be PDF'd and posted. Links follow at the end of the original post.

Original Post: Wednesday, 3/12/08

Yes, I know, it's Wednesday. Cut me some slack. Because of the — uh, temporal distortion field created by the warp imbalance inadvertently initiated during the previous Friday Challenge, complicated by the, er, associated negative chronitron metaparticle flux, we experienced a severe impingement in the formic doubletalk generators, resulting in a, um, near-catastrophic breach in the unobtanium containment housing.

In other words, this one is either late or early. Take your pick

Before we properly start, though, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce some changes in the process. First off, it's clear that with the increasing quality and quantity of entries, this "deadline by 8 p.m. and decision by 10 p.m." business is no longer viable. Beginning with today's challenge, the deadline is 10 p.m., Tuesday, March 18, with the decision to be announced two days later, on Thursday, March 20. There will be no challenge on Friday, March 21; I'm busy that weekend. The next challenge will be issued on Friday, March 28, with the deadline to be 10 p.m. Friday, April 4, and the decision to be announced on Sunday, April 6.

How I'm going to announce a new challenge on the 4th before I've announced the results of the previous week's challenge, I haven't quite worked out yet. Maybe it makes more sense to make the deadline Thursday night, so that on Friday I can post both the links to the current contestants and the text of the new challenge? I don't know. What do you think?

Now, to complete, as Henry calls it, the Geek Trifecta, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long, long time. For this week's challenge, I hereby present you with the start of the story. The challenge is: what happens next?

As always, we're playing by the ever-changing rules for the Friday Challenge, and playing for what's behind Door #2. You can enter by posting your entry in the Comments section of this blogbit, posting your entry on your own site and then posting a link here, or by sending me a file, which I will PDF and post here. Even if you don't enter, you're encouraged to comment on and vote for the other entries. Remember, the deadline for entries this time is 10 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, March 18, with results to be announced on Thursday, March 20.

And now, without further ado—

Arfour's Complaint

Meatheads. I'm surrounded by meatheads.

It's like, I'm rolling into this crummy cantina in some town that's a pimple on the backside of nowhere, and the bartender, a sweaty lump of suet with no discernible neck, looks up at me and scowls. "Hey!" And just like that, the meathead in front of me stops so short I have to slam on the brakes to avoid piling into him.

The meathead gapes. He blinks. He flaps his lips, flexes his diaphragm, and forces out a belch of the rancid local air, in what passes among meatheads for intelligent communication. "Huh?"

The bartender points at me with his fat, greasy, sausage-like index finger. "Your droid. We don't serve their kind in here. It'll have to wait outside." The meathead turns around, slowly, and gives me the up-and-down and once-over. He turns back to the bartender.

"It's not my droid."

The bartender struggles to assimilate this piece of dissonant information. "Then whose droid is it?"

"I'm my droid," I say. "Look, I just need to take a leak. Can I do that here?"

The thought seems to work its way through the bartender's thick, calcium-based skull and rattle around awhile inside his empty cranium, until it finally connects with a few lost and lonely little gray neurons. He nods, hesitantly. "Well, okay. But be quick about it."

"Thank you." I unlock the magseal on my anterior transmission and jettison a high-arcing stream of steaming fluorescent-yellow coolant. "Ahhhh...."

I leave before the shouting turns into violence.


And that's how I wound up in this seedy all-night gas 'n' go, a couple blocks off the main drag. The servodroid looked up as I came in through the front door and greeted me in MeatSpeak. "How may I be of assistance, sir?"

I answered in MechLang. "A can of 10W-30, straight up."

The servodroid chirped sympathetically, served it up, and switched to MechLang. "Rough day, huh?"

"Oh, you don't know the zero-point-five of it..."

What happens next? Read the story as continued by:

Al, The New Guy
Mike, The Even Newer Guy
K. Vihenrydad Vogeltown (?!?! I have a bad feeling about this...)