Royal Flush

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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby Berserker » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:58 am

Know how I said I'd post it in thirds? Yeah. Well, the length of the whole thing nearly doubled at some point, and I'd say that's because I got sick which left me much more time to sit down and do nothing. When the story is posted elsewhere, which won't be right away, it will be entitled "Royal Flush" because I actually came up with something.

Oh and also thanks for the kind words, thoughts and whatnot, they are greatly appreciated.

----I woke up with a slow heartbeat rather than a fast one. At this point I think I was just spent. Nothing else, just spent. My chest even felt a little heavier, as if there was something in my jacket. The greatest feeling arose in me when I realized that I wasn't dead, and that absorbed all of my attention at first. Apparently Fiela hadn't decided to kill me while I slept. Surely she had something more dastardly in mind.

I took a quick look around. Everything was a porcelain white, an inverted dome that walled me in. I think the top of the wall was...for me, around twelve or thirteen feet up? “Pretty much unreachable” was my verdict. Go me. Either way, I could very well figure that I had been put in a bowl, and that for the sole reason of being unable to get out. And to think that if we had just decided to get lettuce, this could have been avoided.

I retreated to my thoughts for a moment. Everything was baffling right now. The fact that Fiela hadn't killed me right away was some act of either mercy or extreme cruelty. Was she actually giving me a chance to get away, or was she just trying to drain my hope further before finishing the job? The latter wouldn't surprise me, but at this point I think I was all out of hope.

Ha. Joke's on you, Fiela.

At first, I think I was about ready to give up. Like I said, the whole “out of hope” thing. I didn't want to do much aside from consign to my fate. Everything that could have gone wrong during this little fiasco did, and it all just seemed like I had been put in the penultimate prison. I even wondered just why it was that I decided to help Dexter.

Oh yeah, because it was “the right thing”. I put myself into this mess...

However, I was forced to spur myself in the sides. I couldn't just give up—that wasn't who I was. Not now. Maybe before, but not now. Yes, that sounds very odd coming from the guy who just woke up after passing out from fear, but you know, it's not the same. It was something about the whole experience that taught me something. Either way, I had to do something. Besides, if where I was now was any indication, Derek and Bernard were in a similar situation to mine. If I got out, we all could!

I had to make a stand. If this was really a test of some sort by Fiela, I'd at least take a stab in the dark. That's what any self-respecting student would do. Though I guess I was a little lacking on the “self-respecting” part—you know what, never mind. It's a euphemism.

I stood up and stretched, staring down the wall that so defied me. As this was a bowl, the wall's length was curved the most in the center. I was reminded of those obstacle courses with walls like these, except...I guess this was somewhat of a lesser extreme. Or more? I don't know. It still looked impossible.

With the only slightest hesitation, I charged at the incline. For that first go, I think I remember getting around halfway up because I slipped. Not nearly good or dignifying enough. I tried again and again, running up the incline as high as I could and jumping before I could be pulled down, but each time I made only marginal progress.

Even though I wanted to give in and tell myself that it really was impossible, I just couldn't. What would I accomplish by sitting here? Absolutely nothing, that's what. And that was enough of a mental pep-talk to get me going one last time.

I backed up to the edge of the bowl, then used the incline to get a good speed. My footsteps were heavy, but they didn't weigh me down at all. I felt lighter, even. And finally, as I reached the very last inch of rising ground, I made a leap. Time slowed down as my arms reached for the edge, which seemed so close and yet so far...

And at last, I felt my fingers grip something cold and glassy. I wasn't sure that I had actually done it until I realized that the fact that I got a grip at all meant that I did it.

I freaking did it.

With what remained of my muscle strength, as far as that went, I pulled myself over the edge and lay upon the flat surface of the handle. I vaguely noted that it was lucky that I had climbed that exact side, else I would have fallen to my death or excruciation with a little more carelessness. I breathed in and out, barely preventing myself from falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion. After a short break I sprung to my feet; my mind was back on business.

It was rescue time.

I took ginger steps from the bowl to a cookbook beside it, using all subsequent kitchen utensils as stepping stools to table level. I saw another bowl in the distance, this one bright yellow on the outside. No doubt that was where Fiela had placed Derek and Bernard. At least, that's what I hoped. And by now, we all know what happens when I hope for something, right?

No...Fiela wouldn't privilege me differently from any other tiny. She had no reason to, I thought. Derek and Bernard were there, and I was going to help them.

Along the way there, I passed a wooden container full of cutlery. Nothing fancy, really, but I was a little disturbed at the thought of seeing those positively gigantic silver points and edges. Malicious visions of dichotomy flooded into my paranoid brain, but I shook them off rather quickly. Safe to say it's easy to imagine why. Besides, I doubted Fiela was that horrible, even for all the poison Derek liked to spew about her.

Speaking of, I trusted Derek a lot by now. He hadn't really steered me wrong—least, not on purpose to my knowledge, and only once—and he seemed so sure of himself. I could take what he told me for granted because he'd been here so many times. That was the beauty of it right now. I knew his little diversion was what got us all caught in the first place, but I wasn't really in a place to point fingers, especially since he seemed to be such an incredible asset otherwise. It felt really good to know I was just about to save a guy like that.

There was another large cookbook—from what I could tell based on the cover, this one was entirely comprised of cake recipes—with tabs sorted by the alphabet coming out its side. I made easy use of those as stepping stools, and found myself just before the bright yellow bowl. This one was actually a little shorter in height compared to the one I was put in, so I was able to reach its brim without issue. Like the other, though, it had one of those handles that provided more space for someone like me to walk around on. Huh.

Looking down from the brim, I was able to expel a sigh of relief; yes, Derek and Bernard were still there. They were lazily laying about, almost as if stargazing. I made the connection just then that they had already let fate take its path. They thought I was the first to go, and they had no faith in my ability to do what I was actually about to do: get them out of this predicament. Well, I had no reason to be disappointed by that, since even I didn't have much confidence in myself up until around, oh I don't know, five minutes ago.

“Derek!” I called out. That roughly startled him; he nearly had a spasm.

“Rey? You're here!” called Bernard.

“Yeah. You okay?”

“We're good. Just get us out of here, yeah?” came Derek's voice, which was a little scratchier than usual, possibly from not speaking for the time it took me to get there.

He didn't need to ask me twice. Derek mounted Bernard's shoulders as I stretched my hand down as far as I could, practically about to fall down myself. I wasn't, however, about to give up again—I got out of this mess myself, and we all were going to. That would be it. No more Fiela, no more giants, no more danger. My plan now? To leave as a trio and never come back.

I made the decision a little earlier that I just didn't have the stuff that was necessary to do this sort of thing. I was a coward, a paranoid rabbit with no real grasp of the true nature of what he was doing at first. I came in like that, and I was going to return home having decided I had just changed enough, but not enough to come back of my own volition. Surely.

Needless to say, I don't think I could have been more excited the moment Derek finally grasped my hand, Bernard in tow. They both took some deep breaths after clambering up beside me. It was clear they had given up hope earlier and were, reasonably, overjoyed to see they were being rescued.

“Good work!” Bernard exclaimed. I thought I saw some ulterior joy behind his blue eyes, but I dismissed it.

“Definitely,” said Derek as he propped the collar of his jacket. “I thought we were done. You impress me.” It felt good to see a smile of gratitude hint across his face.

“So what now?” I asked.

“Now? We cut our losses and leave. Fiela will no doubt be back soon.”

I liked the hell out of that idea.

“It's a little odd, though, wouldn't you say?” Bernard chimed in. “That Fiela just...let this happen. She had no reason to let us off like that, did she?”

I don't think anybody could have answered that question with full certainty, but I had a decent idea by now. Whether or not it was true was unknown to me...at the time. “I think it was a test. She wanted us to at least try. Why, though, I'm not sure.”

“Because she's an evil bitch who loves watching us squirm,” Derek added venomously. “Fiela doesn't do the same thing every time she catches a tiny—sometimes she gives 'em a chance like this, sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes, she just ends them. It's all about her mood. All she cares about is herself.”

Nobody argued that. Not even me; that's because even though I didn't know the extent of truth his words really had, I knew better by now, unlike the last time I tried to defend a giant.

We continued walking down the table. It was a simple backtrack to the bowl I was in, presumably because there was a way they saw earlier back down to the floor. Along the way, I had a few questions.

“Now, about this whole thing...why don't tinies ever leave Scotton? It sounds so much easier to go somewhere else than to live off of whatever falls of the giants' plates.”

“Well that's only a dumb question,” he said matter-of-factly, causing me to bite my lip. “Scotton is huge, don't forget that. Even if by some miracle we all just managed to leave on a whim, it'd have to be at night, and that would complicate things. Then there's the fact that the nearest form of civilization is Wardston, which is like three days away assuming we're all walking—and how else would we get there? Not a lot of tinies seeking refuge in the Undersector are in-shape enough to make it that long without getting picked off or starving.”

“I guess,” I said, conceding. I was reminded of just how hungry I was. I should have brought a tally board for all the crap I could complain about.

“Plus, it's a matter of sensibility,” the dog added. “Why leave this problem for somebody else when we could try and change it, to convince the giants not to treat us the way they do?”

Now that was a good point.

“Yeah, okay. That all makes sense.” That all had practical applications to me, too. I had come here to do the right thing, yadda yadda...but now it seemed that doing so would have some kind of long-term end-product. Maybe I wouldn't be too hasty to return home so soon.

After a little while, we took the same path up to the container I was in minutes ago. I assumed we could get a better vantage point from here to see where the exit route was. I looked to Derek for the plan I knew he had. He spoke first.

“How did you manage to get out anyway?” Derek said, looking forlornly at the inverted dome cell. Not the thing I anticipated him to say, but still a good question.

“Well...turns out being a rabbit has its perks.” I chuckled a little. “Suffice to say I don't think I could do it again though. I'm exhausted.”

Sorry, sorry—let me just pause the story right there. Looking back, that was the worst thing I could have ever said. And if you've been following the story closely enough, you may be able to figure out why. Not just because I hoped now we could leave—yes, every time I hoped for something good it was crushed horribly, and I do mean every time I explicitly did so except once—but, well, basically...you remember that part just a few minutes ago where I said I trusted Derek so much? Big fucking mistake.

“Perfect,” Derek said.

Without warning, Derek reached for me and shoved hard at my shoulder, making me lose balance. I tottered on the edge for a few fleeting moments before I finally fell, with only enough luck in the day to grab the edge I was just standing on, now hanging by a single hand. I pleaded high and low, but Derek's only glance was one of utter callosity. The inescapable prison of porcelain lay below me.

I was quite literally on the verge of horrible depression—it finally hit me that this whole time, I was being deceived. And the worst part was that I should have known better. Dexter's words echoed in my head over and over, as if spiting me: “They'll stab you in the back if it means your life instead of theirs.”

Derek's and Bernard's plan was to dispose of me as a decoy while they got away. This whole time, I was the scapegoat, the dummy, the tagalong only useful as bait. They had tried one time already, when I was inspecting the cabinet that, up to a few moments ago, I could see from the edge of the bowl, and they had failed. Somehow they knew Fiela's routines in and out, and when she would come into the kitchen, but it had backfired. Now was an even better opportunity.

And it was working. The fact that I hadn't expected this, even though I had been warned, was strangling me.

Strength fading, I knew that if I fell, I wouldn't be able to escape again. My muscles were beaten, my will was broken, and my emotions were all twisted and messed up. It was the worst amalgamation of feelings one could possibly feel, especially in their last moments of life.

I was on the verge of letting go. I just wanted to let go. If I let go, I could relax during those last moments, and it would be over all the sooner.

But there was this spark in me. That part of me didn't want to let go, or give up at all. It wanted me to get mad, to get invigorated, and to get out alive. It was the same thing that reassured me when I escaped the first time. The rest of me tried to reason with it, to say that I had been justly duped and I should accept that perhaps what I was doing wasn't right to begin with, to say that really, you deserve it, you terrible person you.

This new part of me, however...it represented what had changed about me since the beginning, and by god, it refused to give up.

With a surge of willpower, I at last pulled myself back up. Quicker than I even thought possible for me to do, too. I stood up too swiftly for Derek to have time to react—he just stood there, a little stunned and a little mad.

“We can get away! Forget this, let's just go,” I said angrily.

Derek recomposed himself enough. “No, you idiot! Fiela will find and get all of us if she doesn't see anybody where she left them. You're gonna take one for the team,” he finished, squinting his dark brown eyes and baring teeth. That's when it hit me: he wasn't just going to let me do that. In fact, he was going to stop me from leaving at all. I had to do something.

He threw a punch when he recovered, but I was practically pumped full of adrenaline after that last stunt. I wasn't about to lose now. I dodged with this swiftness that was new even to me. Everything was just...slowed down. He tried another, the own force of which almost making him stagger. It was a close whiff; I barely evaded it this time, just feeling it brush the fur of my face as it went by.

He was off-balance now. I had to make a move of my own before he recovered, else he might just make the decisive strike. Before he could make another move, I did something I never thought I would do.

In the heat of the moment, I threw my body weight into him. With the force I tackled him, he was already too far away mid-fall to grab the edge like I did. Down he fell, followed by a thud caused by his impact. I flinched at the sound; it was safe to assume he had broken something. I just stood there for a moment to take in what I had just done. The real ramifications wouldn't hit me for a few more minutes, but I was bathing in the fact that I had just defied certain doom for the...what was it, third time today?

I looked down at the figure struggling in pain. He managed to look at me one time, turning his neck while flat on his stomach. “How...the hell...”

“Turns out being a rabbit has its perks,” I said. Man, I was on fucking fire, excuse the vulgarity. I didn't even care that I had just about sealed his fate; the ridiculously good feeling of comeuppance was too busy overwhelming me.

It was then that I turned my attention away from Derek. I mustered my best glare at the dog, who just stood there dumbfounded. It was like a child gawking as a police squad burst into his classroom. He was in just as much shock as I was at what I just did—and he wasn't about to mess with me. A few moments of silence, and Bernard just took off in some random direction.

Alas, that is the last I ever saw of the dog. I don't know if he got caught by Fiela or some other giant later, or if he left Scotton or something. I never found that out. I felt a little bad about him...just because I wasn't sure how much of a role he had played in conceiving my downfall. Maybe he was just another victim.

As Bernard ran, I felt a sense of danger return. The fact that he fled made me realize that it wasn't safe to hang around. Fiela would be back any moment now.

I jumped from the edge of the bowl to the thick cookbook, and then from there back onto the table. My ears twitched just slightly, and by now I was wary enough to know what that would mean for me. From the opposite end of the room, the giantess pawed forth. I positioned myself behind the bowl, hoping I would not be seen.

At this point, it was like watching a train wreck. To be more accurate, I’d say it was more like I just finished rigging the tracks, knowing full well what I was doing, and then only afterward realizing what would happen.

Fiela's eyes widened slightly at the single being in the bowl, for once looking surprised. Her teeth made a cameo soon enough, though, as her lips pulled back just enough. “Well, well? Looks like it's you this time.”

I had no idea what she meant by that, but I knew what it would mean. I watched as she casually reached a hand inside the bowl and pulled out the stiff figure that was Derek. He was weakly crying out unintelligible things, alternating between pleading and insults with no real pattern. Fiela's expression turned to one of amusement as she eyed him.

“You know, it's silly how karma works sometimes,” she said, her voice now sickly sweet in the worst way possible.

After that, I turned away. I couldn't watch. I knew what was going to happen, and the single through-the-fingers peek I made ascertained it. There was a bulge in her throat, and it just...fell. There I knew what had become of the traitorous, backstabbing thief named Derek. Just like that, he was gone. Merely recalling that part, let alone retelling it, makes me cringe.

Here's the kicker: I felt horrible about it. What was morality? I had just proven to myself that the existence of such a thing was questionable. All this time, I thought I was doing the right thing...and that I could keep doing that. But now, for all intents and purposes, I had just killed a man. And yet if it didn't happen this way, if I hadn't taken Dexter's advice, I would have been the one getting a free tour of Fiela's digestive system, not Derek.

It was then, to my chagrin, that I realized that just how right it was or wasn't did not matter in the goddamn slightest.

“Don't feel bad, Rey,” Fiela cooed.

She was looking straight at me now, chuckling at some implicit joke. The wolfess knew I was there the whole time. Could I hide nothing from her? I just stepped out from behind the bowl, knowing it would serve me nothing to still think I was hidden.

“He was such an ass. Every time I caught his little squad he'd throw some other sucker under the bus. He gets off scot-free, I'm left one less pest, he comes back and jades me with the same crap. I've been playing along for a while; it's about time someone returned the favor. He's been here at least half a dozen times, too.” The calm way she said that was mortifying, but unsurprising to me.

It did, however, sting to know that Derek had played others for fools as he tried to do with me, that I was just another domino in his grand scheme of things. The worst part is how I was willing to believe what she told me now, when before I might have thought her a liar.

“What, so this is some kind of game to you?” I asked, breathless. “That's terrible! I—” I just stopped there. I didn't even know what else to say. So many thoughts, but too many of them involved likely getting on Fiela's bad side. Not to say I stopped for any logical reason (that was beyond my power right then); I just couldn't continue.

“I'm sorry, have we met? I'm Fiela.” The condescension in her voice was powerful enough to feel. “It can be funny to watch what tinies do when lives are at stake, yes. Gotta get something out of cleaning house—you understand. If you all just left, I wouldn't have to bother at all. It's nothing personal.”

Right about now, I had to wonder where Dexter had gone. I needed him here like you wouldn't believe.

“It's downright cruel! Think about it—” I paused again, but this time it was because Fiela shot a glare and interrupted me.

“Come on. I'm not a bad person, Rey. You can't seriously think that I am just because of the way you're looking at things—I don't even dislike you. In fact, I think I respect you a little more than the others. Face it: the spiky fox got what was coming to him. Doesn't that make you feel better?”

I couldn't help but think that she didn't care how I perceived her. The only problem with that theory was that she took the time to tell me why I should change my mind, and why she really wasn't as cruel as she totally seemed right now. However, that was a big hole in the theory, and an important one. I couldn't ignore it. I didn't understand any of this, even though her words were making some sense.

I...well, I didn't want to believe it. She was trying to make me disregard everything I thought I knew. And damn it, it was working, because a little deeper down I knew she was right. I was mad at Derek because he tried to get me killed and didn't care about me in the slightest. But the fact that he'd rather have me die in place of himself...I kinda understood it.

He was doing his job. The exact thing he signed up for.

But no. I'm not like him. I did the same thing he did, but it was for a different reason. I would never have done it if he hadn't tried it first. I was simply defending myself—and no, there was no part of me that bit at me, telling me I was only trying to cover up how bad I felt. I was genuinely glad I came to that realization. Yet, that wasn't just my doing. It was Fiela's too.

And that was the other problem. Whose word was I going to trust about Fiela—a guy who tried to get me killed and had already crushed my trust, or Fiela herself, who was dripping with the former's harsh words which might still carry some fact? Neither was a very attractive option in that respect...

“What're you thinking about?” Fiela asked suddenly, yanking me from thought.

“What does it matter?” I said with a huff. “You're going to just get rid of me now anyway.”

“Get rid of you? Sure, give that a bit of time. But I don't have to do that right away. Let's chat.”

“Uh...excuse me?” I asked, disbelief flowing from my mouth. It suddenly occurred to me that she was in total control of the situation, whichever way it might go. She had her own...cunning, I'll say, way of doing things.

Don't get me wrong, I was 100% ready to dart off and away if things got bad. Nothing immediate warranted that yet, though, and even then I'm not sure how far I could have gotten.

Fiela sighed and rolled her eyes at me. “I really shouldn't have to say when I'm trying to level with you a bit. You can figure that out.” Although at the time I really couldn't. It was all just confusing. “Listen: I kinda like you, Rey. The way you handle things is pretty slick.”

After sponging her words for depth, I managed to form a coherent sentence. “Wait...how did you know what I did, anyway? Or what Derek did? Any of it, really,” I said.

“Pfft. I was watching the whole time from the other end of the room, jellybean. How else would I see what you guys do? By the way, you getting out of that bowl was kinda neat. I thought you might if you tried hard enough, given how fast you tried to run earlier.” At that reminiscence, she laughed again.

“So...that was a test?” I asked, eyebrow raised.

“Of sorts. I'm a bit surprised you didn't just...leave after that, though. I figured if you could get out in the first place, there'd be no harm in letting you go. You know. Either way, you're definitely something else. And yet here you are.”

I did what any guy would do and just silently nodded, accepting the compliment. I wanted to say, “I didn't leave because I put my trust in the wrong places,” but those words would remain unspoken. However, I did have something to say. I decided I might as well get it out before my bonus minute or two was up. Borrowed time really has a way of making you not give a damn about what you say.

“This whole thing...it's been crazy,” I started. I needed someone to talk to, and even this gigantic predator would suffice for that. “I never wanted any of this. I didn't come to steal from you. I came to do what I thought was the right thing, and look where it got me. I've nearly gotten killed twice today, but it looks like the third time's the charm after all.”

Fiela...didn't really look like she knew how to respond. I think that, just then, it hit her that her plan was to get rid of me, and the way I approached the subject surprised her a little. Maybe, just maybe she was considering my end of the story, and it seemed possible that she was actually somewhat sympathetic. That might be why she hesitated—because her own idea to 'level with me' actually made her care just that amount more. In hindsight, that was pretty crazy. Crazy and lucky. And considering that fate had decided to throw me a blizzard of terrible luck that had no business in singling me out, that meant even more.

Though, that meant the whole reason she was talking to me was because she was curious about me, or impressed with me, or something. There was that vague interest the whole time—I stood a chance of surviving as long as I didn't totally blow it.

“How do I know you're not just making that up?” she asked with a small amount of suspicion. The fact that she was considering it, however, meant something.

“I'm not.” I had to come up with something more clever than that; if she suspected me of lying now, that would be it. “But if you really think I am making it up, I don't know how to convince you. You're in charge here, not me.”

My modest take on things was a gamble. It either meant she'd agree with me and be done with it, or assume I was worthy of trust. Based on Derek's reaction before his grim end, acting in no way respectful or coherent toward the being that decided his fate, it was safe to assume this way might earn me a better chance.

“Ha! You know, that's true.” Genuine laughter. That was good, right? “I suppose I am. I don't think I disbelieve you, though. You had to put up with Derek, after all.”

And you, I thought a tad bitterly.

“Real talk, though. I'll tell you what: we can forget this ever happened. I kick your little butt outta here, and when you come back I won't let up. Got it?”

Oh, I got it. I was more than relieved. But when she said when I come back? I nearly scoffed. Not likely.

That's what I would have thought earlier in the day, anyway. Funny. Like I mentioned, I wasn't totally ready to give up anymore. This whole 'stealing from giants' thing suddenly became my own business, and despite the risks involved, I felt a hell of a lot safer without treacherous would-be allies. I think I’ve already stressed enough why I’d come back otherwise, though.

“Y-yes, Fiela, thank you,” I said. As far as nasty-mean wicked she-demons that make one deader than dead go, that was pretty generous. I thought I may have come off as too expectant with that answer, so maybe she would take that offer back right away, but my paranoid fears were swiftly brought to rest.

Fiela picked me up again, though this time it wasn't nearly as jarring. She then set me down—a little roughly, but I don't think on purpose—on the floor, just before her paws.

“Think we'll meet again?” she asked nonchalantly. It seemed less out of curiosity and more out of preparation, as if she knew I would return to attempt stealing from her again—though, the key thing to note is that there was some of the former in there. I looked up at her visage, aimed down at me with those enchanting eyes. They still carried that sense of domination to me, just glistening with hints of complacency. Her hair had at last returned to symmetry, a waterfall of black now draping her shoulders. She was striking, no matter how conflicted my opinion of her was at the time.

“Could happen,” I replied coolly, barely masking a potent brew of anticipation and awe. I'm frankly surprised I didn't stammer. “Part of me says it's a terrible idea, another says it'd be nice to see how things would work out.” I may have been asking for it when the hint of sarcasm escaped me.

Fiela put a hand over her forehead dramatically. “'But oh, Rey! Sweep me off my feet so we can ride away into the sunset!' ...Is that what you're hoping for?” I had to admit, the act made me laugh a little.

“I don't know, you don't really seem like the 'swooning' type.”

“And you don't really seem like the 'sweeping' type, charming though you might be. Now go on, before I change my mind.” Fiela smiled playfully again, lifting her paw and balancing it by its heel above my head to accentuate her threat. I have to admit, seeing the ebony pads inspired some petty terror in me, no matter how awed I was by the sight.

I gave some jumbled affirmation, no longer able to completely stay my agitation, and actually ran off. I didn't want to take any chances. Looking back on that, I probably looked like an idiot sprinting away from something that could catch up to me with little effort when they already said they wouldn't. Ah well, I don't mind.

It took me quite some time for me to get back to the entrance, let alone find it. I tried to backtrack, but on a couple occasions I actually got lost beneath the forest of furniture legs back in the dining room. My excuse is that it was the first time I had been there, so I can cling to that one. I think. Either way, I had a little time to think on the way there.

First thought: Wow, what a damn day. My first go in this Scotton business and I had been chased down, captured, betrayed, let go, and had my whole point of view essentially shattered. On that note, I learned specifically that not everything is black or white, and stealing from giants, even if it was from giants, was more of a grey. It was good and right for tinies, but it reasonably angered giants, like Fiela.

That didn't mean morals didn't exist, though. When I recovered from the initial shock of it all, I found simply that they didn't apply to everything like I thought they did as a child. They were situational. Sometimes they didn't apply. Sometimes they were objective. Sometimes it just wasn't a good idea to consider them when making decisions. That's what I learned. I hadn't lost my direction, though; I'd still follow what was good, because at heart I knew the “right thing to do” was never unimportant. For example, even though I had every reason to hate Derek by now, I'll always feel just a little bad for what happened.

Funny how the moral of the story is that morals aren't perpetual.

As I made for the exit, my thoughts were interrupted by a familiar figure. The huge shape of Dexter reared up at just the perfect time, and he appeared to be about ready to leave by himself. There was a wooden box with him at his side, being dragged with ropes the bull easily lugged around. As he turned once more, though, it appeared he finally saw me. His dark, beady eyes seemed relieved.

“Ah, you're alive,” he said with enough emotion to let me know he cared.

“Yeah. I...Can't say the same for the others, though,” I muttered a little solemnly.

“Bernard too? What of him?” I just shook my head and shrugged. Clearly Dexter had figured something had befallen Derek. But he didn't look like he lingered on that very much, thick brow furrowing. Surely it irritated him to a degree, even if he didn't like Derek. I can imagine death wearing on you as a leader, I guess.

“Well...anyway, what's in the box?” I asked, pointing at the titular crate.

“Our haul.” He said this matter-of-factly, holding up his arm and causing the ropes to tense. “Fiela came into the living room for a little while, which was where I was trying to find something leftover. Nothing, but I stayed hidden. Came into the kitchen a little later, after she left and went to her room for five or so minutes. Enough time for me to peel some lettuce leaves and shove 'em in here. Not too substantial, but it's better than the big fat nothing you three came back with.”

The bull kicked open the lid nonchalantly. There sat smugly a load of the green stuff that would have saved me about two years' worth of stress off my life expectancy. Fucking lettuce.

“That's great,” I said with the amount of enthusiasm I was capable of. Not a lot, but I was genuinely happy something got done. “Still, there were complications. That's why we didn't get anything. Turned out Derek planned on scrapping me the whole time, then we got caught by Fiela. After that she and I talked a little--”

“—Wait, what?”

“Y-yes, really. Long story. She let me go on loose grounds...it's a little complicated. I don't even think I totally understand it.” Dexter gave me a quizzical look, but only a very temporary one.

“Well, to be fair, I warned you about Derek and Bernard. But it looks like you're okay, and they won't be hooking anybody else.” He then paused and sighed. “I won't hold it against you if you decide to quit here. From what you've told me, it must have been really hard.”

“It was hard. But I can't quit just like that. You know me well enough: this is the right thing to do, and I'm going to try.” That was my driving force. And yet, I had my ulterior motives by now; a subconscious desire that was vaguely related to Fiela. I can't describe how beyond a strange, morbid curiosity.

It was then that Dexter gave me a respectful nod, and we both left the home of Fiela through the crudely bored hole in the wall. One thing I would come to see is that it would be far, far from the last time. That even with the knowledge that she planned on living up to her promise to not go easy on me anymore.

Well, that about reaches the end of my tale. I had crossed and straddled many lines today, between good and bad, between right and wrong, and even between life and death. I walked those ropes without the required training, and it had been the hardest thing to do…the hardest thing to learn from. But I did it.

The last thing I recall understanding as I left was another big one. I understood now that I wasn’t unlucky. In fact, I may have had the best luck ever as far as the events that happened went. Many of them could have easily flown south for me, but I got through them. It seemed that the deck had been wholly stacked in my favor. Before the game even started, I had a royal flush set straight for me—all I had to do was push through the first bad cards.

And I hadn’t even bet anything.----
Last edited by Berserker on Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:27 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby Duct Tape Fanatic » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:21 am

Well...that certainly is a different spin on Fiela. In the last version you weren't sure if she would actually get rid of pesky micros or not. I actually like it, gives the hero more hesitation about trusting her.
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby RaddaRaem » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:36 am

Heh, I do like how much of a moral grey area Rey has found himself in! It doesn't really seem like that's the case with a lot of macro stories, where the giants fall strictly on one end of the moral spectrum or the other. Makes the characters all the more realistic and interesting to read about and having Fiela uneasily straddle the lines between good and bad in Rey's eyes made it all the more engrossing. Already blurted this out earlier but well done! This was quite the enjoyable read.
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby Berserker » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:43 am

Duct Tape Fanatic wrote:Well...that certainly is a different spin on Fiela. In the last version you weren't sure if she would actually get rid of pesky micros or not. I actually like it, gives the hero more hesitation about trusting her.


The last thing I wanted to do was make her look like a honeysuckle. She's otherwise been pretty generous when it comes to holding up her threats.

RaddaRaem wrote:Heh, I do like how much of a moral grey area Rey has found himself in! It doesn't really seem like that's the case with a lot of macro stories, where the giants fall strictly on one end of the moral spectrum or the other. Makes the characters all the more realistic and interesting to read about and having Fiela uneasily straddle the lines between good and bad in Rey's eyes made it all the more engrossing. Already blurted this out earlier but well done! This was quite the enjoyable read.


Greatly appreciated. Morality was the main theme of the story, as you know; since the goal was to explore Rey as a character more it was a strong aspect to develop him with, methinks.

Now, I dunno when the next thing I write will be. Pondering editing/lengthening the other editions of this series and cleaning them up a little before putting the whole series on FA, or finishing a continuation of "The Promotion" (because I never planned on leaving that setting alone, in fact I've already started a little), but for now it's breaktime, yo.
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby TendoTwo » Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:39 am

Berserker wrote:The last thing I wanted to do was make her look like a honeysuckle.


Could you explain what that term means? I honestly have no idea.
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby Berserker » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:00 pm

TendoTwo wrote:
Berserker wrote:The last thing I wanted to do was make her look like a honeysuckle.


Could you explain what that term means? I honestly have no idea.


Honeysuckle is a type of flower (flowered plant really but who cares), which I'm using synonymously with "too soft."
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Re: No Man's Land (Revisited)

Postby kool kitty89 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:26 pm

RaddaRaem wrote:Just judging from what little I read/saw of Fiela, without the other chapters in this series to use as context, she doesn't come off as all that hostile or menacing. Taking into account Rey's quip that they're more or less stealing from her home, she seems more like a justifiably annoyed homeowner then anything else. Not like she's going out of her way to harm or capture the tinies for the hell of it. She has some pests/thieves milling about in her home that she'd rather not have there.

That's pretty much how I felt she was characterized when introduced in the earlier installments. Similar context too . . . except at that point it was implied that she'd been dealing with "tinies" stealing from her for quite a while (which may or may not already be the case here) and was understandably frustrated. How violent her responses tended to be to any she did catch (prior to Rey) was left up to the reader for the most part, but I assumed she at least wasn't totally innocent in that respect. (there was another point where it was implied that she probably had intentionally harmed some tinines . . . but that's not very specific either)


I'm liking this addition and I'm definitely glad it's staying with the established world of the series (with just revisions/refinements -not actual changes to the plot or characters).
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