I’ve been keeping very busy this week, Story-friends. That means that the Apocalypse World posts have been a bit slower (or non-existant as the case may be). Fear not though! I’ve still been working on them when I haven’t been applying to jobs or watching the Avengers. To prove it, here is the first part of the next chapter. Hope you enjoy!
Sunset hobbles to the nearest chair in the lobby. Millions causally sits down across from him. Dustwich stays behind the counter.
“Heard you got into some trouble with a customer this morning,” Millions says.
“I’ve had some trouble with just about everyone today, I’m hoping you won’t join the list.”
He looks past Millions. “Dustwich. Go get Aitch. Peppering was looking for her outside.”
She looks at Millions for a half second and then goes upstairs.
Millions folds his hands on the table. “Sunset, you’re really putting me in a bind here. First my son-in-law gets killed because of your negligence and now your patrons are coming to me to complain that you’re ripping them off.”
Sunset remains silent. He wonders how this conversation would go if Millions knew about Dice beating him up in front of the market and leaving his custody.
“Tell me,” says Millions, “what would you do to one of your girls in this situation?”
Sunset looks at Millions through the top of his eyes.
“You tell me, Mister Millions, what are you going to do about the attack at Lake Claire?”
The smug smile melts from Millions’s face and he sits up in his chair.
“You didn’t know about that, did you?” Sunset says. “While you’ve been worrying about the repercussions of your son-in-law’s sex partners and the proper price of child rape a man was murdered in the Green Forest.”
“How do you know?” Millions says.
[Read a person: 7+2=hit]
“Who do you think the city went to with this news? The person who could actually help them, they went to Dice.”
Millions stands up abruptly. “You let Dice escape?”
Sunset stays in his seat and looks up at the older man. “I didn’t let her do anything.” He gestures to his blood and fresh bruises. “She doesn’t care about you or me, she cares about the city.”
Millions starts toward the door.
“You used to care about the city too,” Sunset says. Millions stops.
“Maybe it’s time for you to pass the torch? We’re old men, Millions. Dealing with these things are the problems of the young.”
Millions turns around. “You know more than anyone what I had to give up to get my throne. I’ll be dead before I give it up.”
[How could I convince your character to abdicate?]
With that he leaves Sunset alone in the lobby of the library.
Sunset closes his eyes and puts his head in his hands. There is dry blood under his fingernails. He allows himself a minute to rest before sighing and opening his eyes again. He gets up and walks down to Aitch in the infirmary.
Aitch was the only one in the city that had any kind of medical knowledge. She took after her father like that. Her twin sister, Em, took more after their mother.
When Aitch sees Sunset enter the room, she quietly walks up to him. They share a look and she nods. They should be ok. Then she walks upstairs to give him some privacy.
On one cot, October is still sleeping. Sunset walks over to the other cot and looks down at Peppering.
“I’m sorry. You picked a bad time.”
She doesn’t say anything.
“How can I make it up to you?”
She looks up at him, like a child. Like when he first saw her.
“You can bring me Scrib.”
“Ok,” Sunset says as he turns around, “I’ll see what I can do.”
[Fingers in Every Pie: 9+2= Great hit]
So, this week I have some apologizes. I was too busy playing other games to finish playing this week’s game of Apocalypse World. First world problems, I know. But this week off gives me the opportunity to dip into the electronic mail bag and answer some of the questions I’ve been meaning to get to.
Nice. Very nice.
Thanks! I’m glad you like it so far. That’s not really a question though…
Is Uni City based on a real place? It seems you have the geography figured out pretty well.
Yeah, it’s actually based on the University of Central Florida, the school I got my undergrad at and also worked at for a few years. Here’s a map of the place: http://map.ucf.edu/static/pdf/Illustrated%20Campus%20Map.pdf
I like this story your putting up, but it comes out so randomly. What gives?
Glad YOU’RE enjoying. My goal is to post something at least every weekend, but these Uni City installments have been going kind of long so I’ve been posting them in chunks, usually of one or two characters.
When I break it up like this I try to put something up on Tuesdays and Thursdays (in addition to the normal weekend post), but it depends on when I have some free time (from all the other games I’ve been playing, busy life you know).
I like your stories and everything, but you curse all the time and write about sex and stuff. It makes it hard to read at work. Any thoughts about a safe for work version?
Hm, not really SoccerDad. I doubt I’ll put up any potentially offensive images, but you can expect naughty bits when appropriate. I strive not to add anything gratuitously, but I can’t really make any promises.
That being said, the nature of Apocalypse World kind of encourages more adult content. It’s fairly possible that whatever the next Story-Friend project I work on will be friendlier for all ages. (I wouldn’t bet on that though.)
What’s the deal with all the math problems in these stories? I’m really confused.
–U Gel E
This whole Uni City project is the product of me playing a roleplaying game by myself and writing up the results. Those math problems are the dice that I rolled to affect the story. It’s been a pretty interesting way to write a story.
The game I’m playing is called Apocalypse World. You can learn more about it (and buy it) right here: http://apocalypse-world.com/
I love Apocalypse World. I’ll play with you. Anyway, just one question, what playbooks are your main characters?
I know, it’s such a great game. I can’t wait to actually play with other people. I’ll put you on my list of potential players.
Dice is a Chopper, a leader of a biker gang (I interpreted “biker” a bit differently than the standard I think).
October is a Skinner, a supernaturally beautiful stripper.
Scrib is a Hoarder, someone who obsessively looks for things to add to their sentient collection (sort of reinterpreted this a bit too).
Mr. Sunshine is a Maestro’D, the owner of a place to get things. I changed this class around a bit because I wanted to make someone closer to Ian McShane’s character on Deadwood. Pretty much all I did was swap all references of the stat “hot” with the stat “cool.” As you can see, he didn’t turn out all that similar to McShane’s character, but I still like him a lot.
Reading these chapters backawards is really annoying. Is there anyway to read them from oldest to newest?
I can see how that would be annoying. I’m kind of new at Word Press, so I don’t know if there’s any really easy way to reverse the posts’ order. I guess you would click the Lone Wolf Theatre tag so that all of them come up. I don’t know that it will display them in the order you want though.
My tentative plan is to keep doing Uni City for two or three more weeks. After the last post I’ll put up a page of all the links in order. That should hopefully help.
This blog is awful. Roleplaying is for nerds and you are a nerd. I bet you are the kind of loser that would make up emails to respond to.
Hm, no comment.
That’s enough emails for today. If you’d like to ask some questions, make some comments, or offer criticism and/or praise, feel free to email me at Dodavehu@games.com or comment somewhere on this very web page.
Tune in next week for more installments of Uni City and perhaps some more inane ramblings from your very special story-friend.
[Here is the rest of chapter 4–the thrilling encounter with the Fixies and the mysterious figure in the woods. Dice’s and Mr. Sunset’s sections were kind of long this time around so I opted for a shorter section for October. I think that you’ll agree that that doesn’t mean it’s any less intense.
Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me any feedback in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Fixies ride past the garage and off the sidewalk. The soil of the Green Fire Forest is sandy, less than ideal for bikes. Dice hops off hers and grabs everything she can carry from hers.
“Looks like we’re walking from here,” she says.
She hands the rifle she took from Mr. Sunset to the youngest Fixie, Bits.
[Custom move: 6+1=Hit]
Dice leads them around the forest. They start at Lake Clare and then spread out in widening circles favoring the north. There is little conversation. Dice can’t help but be excited on the hunt. The last few days locked away with Mr. Sunset conspiring against the man she pledged to protect wasn’t fun for her. She glances down at her gun. This is much more her style.
They continue along their spiral for hours. She can’t often see the sun directly in the forest, but Dice can tell that it’s getting late. Probably a couple hours before dark. She knows they should probably leave, but she can’t bring herself to end it.
Dice doesn’t try to hide her smile when Bowdy yells over to everyone.
A bunch of them, led by Dice, walk over to a mound of earth, about half her height. Bowdy is on top of it poking around with a stick.
“Looks like a camp. Definitely a fire pit. Something’s still in here.”
He flips over a metal mesh. His hand covers his mouth. “Oh fuck.”
He backs away from whatever is in the pit and trips in the sandy dirt. He tumbles down the far side of the mound. The Fixies that had gathered around burst into laughter, even Dice, but they stop in an instant as a tree above them shakes.
A large figure jumps out of the tree and lands by Bowdy on the other side of the mound. Dice runs around the hill and pulls out her shotgun. She’s just in time to see a huge … man like creature holding Bowdy off the ground. One of its massive clawed hands grip Bowdy’s leg, the other hand has his arm. All at once it looks at Dice with eyes that are far too human and it pulls Bowdy apart.
She gives herself exactly one second to react to this and then lifts the shotgun up and fires. The monster twists around with the force of the shot and then runs off on all fours.
Dice looks over her shoulder. Her Fixies are dumbfounded. “What’s everyone waiting for? Drop this fucker.”
Dice runs off after it.
[Seize by force: 7+2=Hit]
[Fixies deal 2h,+1 terrible, -1 armor]
[Fucker deals 3harm]
Some of the Fixies, led by Partridge, cut the fucker off and attack it. Before Dice’s group can catch up to flank it, it swats Partridge and knocks him off his feet. It slams its way through the other Fixies and continues into the forest.
The last group, this one led by Iv and Iii, ambush it again. This one doesn’t go as well.
It picks up a Fixie and throws it into a tree. Then it swats a couple more. It doesn’t look like they’ll be getting up. It claws Iii and she goes down. Iv stops to help her and Dice sees that there’s just one last Fixie left in the group. Bits.
He shoots it with his new rifle right in the leg. It lets out a roar that sounds much too human and grabs Bits by the collar of his shirt and runs off again.
Its leg is pretty fucked up and Dice and Partridge don’t have much trouble overtaking it. When it finally hits the dirt Partridge keeps running and shoots it a couple more times in the head.
“Stop it,” Dice says. “You’re wasting ammo.”
Dice pries the fucker’s fingers off of Bits. He’s unconscious but still alive. Somehow.
Dice stands up as a handful of other Fixies catch up to them. She looks down at the fucker. It’s probably double Bits’s height with arms about as thick as his whole body. Bulbous, scaly growths protrude from various parts of its body. Dice rolls it onto its back, which is a bit of a struggle.
Its face was supposed to be human, but something went wrong. A mutant.
She’d seen mutants born before, but it was a generally accepting practice to put them out of their misery. What kind of monster would let one grow up?
Her head turns to the southeast. This was the Towers’s backyard. They had to have something to do with it.
October wakes up on a cot. Her head hurts. She tries to remember who she slept with.
She’s startled by a voice next to her.
“You know I wasn’t born in Uni City?” Peppering says.
October looks to her left a little too fast. It feels like she was stabbed in her forehead. Then she remembers that Peppering hit her in the forest.
Peppering sits next to October’s bed. She’s not looking at October.
“We came from a city a few days to the southwest. Millennia. There was the little boy there. Could hunt or fight, scrawny, shy. But smart. Real smart. Unnaturally smart.”
Knightro, October’s scalecat, jumps up into Peppering’s lap and she starts to pet him.
“When he got older people started to notice he had a way of getting what he wanted. He could convince people to do pretty much anything. And he knew things. Things he shouldn’t, couldn’t, know.”
October was studying Peppering. She noticed that her knees were wrapped in bloody rags and two old crutches were leaning against the wall beside her.
“They killed him of course. Hung him from a tree. They cut him down when the birds refused to touch him. They cut him into pieces and buried them in secret places. Each family got a slice to hide.”
October’s heart was pounding now.
“These are dangerous times. It’s hard enough to deal with what we know, but this boy, well, no one knew what he was. Something not normal. Your instinct is to punish them, the others, to fear them. But I wasn’t afraid of this boy. He was my brother.”
Peppering looks into October’s eyes.
“You’re like him. You did something to Tum Tum.”
“Yeah,” October says. There’s not much point lying.
“Pretty much everyone you give a second look falls in love with you. I bet you’re ruined a lot of people that way.”
October nods. It’s not quite guilt that she feels. Closer to pity, but that might be giving her too much credit.
“It would just take one person to connect the dots for the people here, and then you’d be hanging from a tree.”
“You might be right,” October says.
Peppering gently pushes Knightro off her lap and stands up. “Stay away from Scrib.”
October stares at her blankly. “Ok.”
Peppering puts the crutches under her arms and hobbles to the doorway. “Aitch said you should take it easy for the next few days, but otherwise you should be fine.”
Then Peppering leaves October alone with her thoughts.
[Whew, I’ve been a bit distracted and/or busy this week. I apologize for the slow posting. Hopefully this action-packed tale of Mr. Sunset should make up for it a little. The next section will be up this weekend. Also, I made a photo picture thing.]
Mr. Sunset shuts the door to the metal door behind him. He’s in Rolfball’s private office at the top floor of the market. A life-sized lizard man statue stared at him. It was old and chipped. It was obviously from the Time Before. He wondered if all these lizard men were killed off and also why this one wore such dark glasses.
“Have a seat, Sunset.”
Sunset sits down and stows the oblong box he was carrying under his chair. Rolfball is about as old as Sunset, maybe older. He’s never accepted the title of Mr. like Sunset and Millions did, even though he had as much right to it as they did. Rolfball and his mother rebuilt the ruins of the old Student Union and the grounds around it into the market. His mom died mysteriously, and he almost went with her, but Rolfball was a survivor—the one key trait of success in Uni City.
“I need guns. I need it to be quiet.”
Rolfball sits down at his table and smiles. “What makes you think I have any guns? Or any notion of secrecy, for that matter?”
Mr. Sunset stares at him, then the corner of his mouth curls despite himself. Rolfball bursts into laughter.
“Ok, ok. I guess I still owe you one or two,” Rolfball says.
“Who’s keeping track?”
Rolfball gets up and starts peaking into various crates scattered around the office. “Oh, right. I forgot. You don’t keep tallies until you’re ready to call them in. What’s in the box?”
Sunset slides the box he brought out from under his chair and opens it. There are about 40 shirts and pants plus a few random clothes, vests, slings, underwear, and the like. They were all hand sewn by his girls from pretty much anything fabric-like they could find.
Rolfball stands on his toes to look into the box from across the room. He takes out two rifles and a tiny leather pouch on a string.
“I’m willing to part with these two. Got some ammo here too. A bit at least. Plus, I’m going to want a favor in the future.”
Sunset stands up and takes the rifles. “Excuse me?”
“Hey, this is the family discount I’m giving you here. These are prime rifles. You know how much these run for downstairs?”
“They would just be collecting rust until Millions comes to requisition them.”
“Millions knows better than that,” Rolfball says. But he hands him another pouch of ammo anyway.
The two men shake and Sunset tips his hat on his way out.
“You’ve always been fair with me any my girls. Don’t think that I’ll forget that in the coming weeks.”
As Sunset walks out the door, Rolfball mumbles something under his breath.
Sunset takes a canvas bag on his way out and hides the guns in it. The market is still pretty busy, but he’s getting more stares than he’d like since he’s walking around the market without any girls.
As soon as he steps outside he sees several Fixies speed by up ahead. He doesn’t think too much of it until he notices that Dice is riding behind them. He takes out a rifle and lets the other hit the ground behind him.
He shoots into the air.
Dice breaks and looks back at him. She circles back around and rides back to Sunset. He’d like to think it was because she was recognizing his temporary authority over her, but the more logical motive is to get an extra gun.
Dice hops off her bike and approaches Sunset. The other Fixies gather around them. On the other side, a crowd has gathered of marketers to see what’s going on.
“Why aren’t you in the office, Dice?”
“Something came up. The otter diver got attacked by Lake Claire. We’re going to make sure it wasn’t the Towers.”
“You’re not going anywhere until Millions decides to try you for Fuse’s death.”
Sunset grips the rifle.
“Roark took my place. I’ll be back.”
Sunset wasn’t having a good day. First Ba, then possibly getting cheated by Rolfball, now this?
“Tell you want,” Sunset says, “I’ll give this gun I just got to the Fixies for their ride if you go back into the library.”
“I think they need me a bit more than another gun. You know how it is. Why are we wasting time here? If we combined our gangs we could gut this invader and really show the city who has their best interests in mind,” Dice says.
Sunset notices without looking that several of the bystanders nod in agreement. This isn’t good. Sunset hasn’t solidified any plans yet. If they play their hands now, Millions could easily crush them before they even got started.
Maybe Dice reads this on his face. Maybe she’s just getting impatient.
“Give me that rifle, Mr. Sunset.”
She walks up to him and holds her hand out. She has a shotgun hanging from a belt strap over her shoulder. Sunset stands up completely and looks down at her. He has the rifle in one hand and his cane in the other. Dice is tough, but he doesn’t think she has it in her, not after the days they’ve spent planning together recently.
And that’s where Sunset is wrong.
(Sunset interferes: 9+2=great hit)
(Dice tries to seize by force: 8+2-2= hit)
She lunges for the rifle without even breaking her gaze.
Sunset throws it a few feet behind him and wracks her in the crotch with his cane. Looks like Dice underestimated Sunset a bit too.
She instinctually leans over in pain just as Sunset brings his cane up into her chin. He reverses the momentum and slams the cane into her ribs.
It’s obvious that Dice wasn’t expecting so much fight in Sunset. She loses her balance and drops to a knee.
[Harm: 9+2-1=terrible hit]
[It’s worse that it seemed= 2 harm]
“You stupid mother fucker,” one of the Fixies shouts. The Fixies are silently getting off their bikes and moving toward Sunset.
Dice stares at her toes then puts a hand up to stop them. “Stay there, Bowdy.”
She looks up at Sunset. No, she looks past him. Sunset realizes she must be eyeing the crowd of onlookers from the market. He was sure it had grown by now. He realizes that, while it’s pretty bad for him to show weakness in front of Uni Citizens, it must be outright dangerous for her.
Before he can think of a way for them to get out of this fight, Dice tackles him.
[Sunset interferes: 8+2=great hit]
[Dice tries to seize her freedom by force: 10+2-2]
[Terrible harm, Dismay, and Take hold]
He’s on the ground and pain is exploding behind his eyes. He’s already bee hit three or four times before he realizes that Dice is on his chest bashing in his face with the butt of her shotgun.
She holds it above him and looks down. She doesn’t seem angry at all. Sunset’s vision is blurred, but he’s pretty sure she looks scared.
“Do you yield, Mr. Sunset?”
She’s not even looking at him. He follows her eyes back to the crowd behind them. Then he glances at the Fixies. It also dawns on him that she’s carrying a fucking shotgun. If she wanted to kill him, he’d be dead. This was all posturing.
He puts his hand up. A yield.
She gets off him and grabs the rifle he threw. She either doesn’t notice or passes over the other rifle in the bag.
Sunset rolls to his side and spits stringy wads of bloody phlegm onto the cracked sidewalk as the Fixies take off and the crowd disperses.
Sunset leans on his cane and staggers to his feet. He takes the other rifle and limps back to the library.
On the way he tries to think of the positives. There weren’t a lot. It won’t be so bad as long as Mr. Millions doesn’t find out.
Sunset’s train of thought is interrupted by Peppering. She was waiting for him at the library’s main entrance. She stomps up to him and blocks his path.
“Where the fuck is Scrib?”
“I have no idea. Getting guns for me hopefully.”
“Cut the bullshit. If anyone knows where he is, it’s you.” She takes her bat from her back. “I’m not your girl anymore. When I need to know something, you tell me.”
“I don’t often get mad. I’ve built a reputation as an evenhanded and fair gentleman. I’ve never forced them to do something they didn’t want to do or used violence against them. I’ve tried not to even raise my voice if I can help it,” Sunset says.
He grips his cane and stares into her eyes.
“But I’ve had really shitty day and I don’t really have time to get mixed up in a lovers’ quarrel.”
[Going aggro 9+2=great hit]
He grabs the bottom of his cane and rips it off, revealing a thin blade at the end of it. In a fluid motion that Peppering might have called beautiful in different circumstances, Sunset slices a gash under both of her knees. She collapses at his feet.
Sunset takes the false bottom of his cane and slides it back over the blade. Then he continues walking to the library.
Without looking back he says, “And, you’re right. You’re not my girl anymore.”
He throws the door open so hard that it slams against the wall. “We’ve got a problem,” he says to whoever’s in the lobby.
His shoulder sink when he sees that there are only two people in the normally bustling lobby. Mr. Millions frowns and says, “You’re right about that.”
Behind him, Dustwich tries to contain a grin.
[Hoard 4+1=miss +4 hunger]
Scrib starts his search for guns for October. He leaves his room and goes to the lobby. Peppering stops him. She still has her bat.
“Where are you going?”
I don’t really know. The market, I guess, he wants to say. Instead he hears himself say, “I need to look for something downstairs.”
“Ok,” Peppering says, a bit confused. “Want me to help?”
“No, how about you keep an eye on October. Make sure she doesn’t do anything … rash.”
She might have protested but he turned around and walked back to the stairs before he finished the sentence. He feels the pull of his books.
He starts digging around behind the stacks of books and feels the voices. The whispers that have followed him since he read his first word. His mind drifts.
[Search hoard: 5+2=hit, +1 hunger]
Scrib stood outside Flavor’s door. This was last week. He had to tell her that her husband is dead. His first job as Mr. Million’s lackey.
She opened the door with a blank expression. Scrib realized that he had never actually spoken to her. She didn’t look much like the princesses he read about in the library. She was plain, small, birdlike.
“What is it?” she said.
“Can I come in for a minute?”
Flavor responded by walking away from the open door. Scrib wondered in. Scrib’s bedroom was more or less the entire library basement, but he had a good idea of how large most other people’s bedrooms were. Other people from the city might be shocked.
Flavor was already rummaging through a mini-refrigerator. It was the third time Scrib had ever seen one of these.
“Beer, water, or milk?”
Scrib sat down on large couch. He could only count three patches. “Better make it beer.”
She brought them both a jar of dark beer. It was the same kind Mr. Sunset’s girls brewed.
Once she sat down she looked at Scrib. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
Scrib chewed on his tongue. He couldn’t bring himself to answer so he looked down at his beer.
“It’s ok. I knew it would happen sooner or later. It figures it would happen now.”
Scrib takes a long drink. “I’m sorry.”
“I guess my dad sent you here to be his replacement?”
Scrib mumbled what might be considered an answer.
“Well, you’re off the hook. I didn’t even want to get married the first time. There’s no way I’m going through that again.”
She tilted her jar of beer up and swallowed every drop of beer before she continued.
“And I’m pregnant anyway.”
She said it with such a deadpan that Scrib couldn’t tell if he should say sorry or congratulation. He took another drink instead.
Flavor looked at him. “So, tell me something about yourself.”
Scrib stared at her.
“Something you’ve never told anybody.”
“Uh, ok. Sometimes when I’m writing, it takes over. The words, it’s like they demand to be put down onto paper.”
“What do you write?”
Scrib looked down at his drink again. The last time he told someone about this he was exiled from his home. He glanced back at Flavor. He got the impression not much could disturb her.
“Sometimes gibberish. Sometimes things that happened a long time ago. Most of the time it’s things that will happen.”
Flavor stood up and went back into the food area. She returned with a long sheet of homemade paper.
Scrib slowly took out his pen. He closed his eyes and listened for the words.
[Open brain: 6+2=hit]
He felt his hand moving. After a few seconds he opened his eyes. He followed Flavor’s eyes down to the paper.
“You are the only one that can save this baby when her grandfather dies.”
Scrib slowly realizes that he is actually looking down at a device he is holding. He’s on his knees in the middle of his book hoard. He turns the device over in his hands.
“A pain wave transmitter.” This is Scrib’s voice, but the words aren’t his.
[Hoard 2+2=miss, +1 hunger]
The words tell him to find Nils to install it in Mr. Sunset’s makeshift cell.
He takes an old guidebook out of the hoard. He’s read it a hundred times. Nils had been asking for books like this since he moved to the city.
[Market 11+2-1=great hit]
There’s something else the words write down in his notebook, but Scrib forces himself not to think about it.
“Death waits in the forest.”
No new Uni City chapter today. I’m still hard at “work” playing the game and making notes. I should have at least one character’s section up by Wednesday. I’ve gotten addicted to the Avengers game on Facebook, so everything is falling a bit behind.
To whet your appetites, here is a confession: I loosely based Scrib on this character I made a few years ago. I thought him up for my roommate, Kelly’s, birthday party. Aside from sharing a house, we also share a tendency for over ambitious party themes. This one was post-apocalypse themed. She created two factions which would fight at the party’s climax. Backstories were encouraged.
Unfortunately, I got a bit too drunk and forgot most of what happened (oh, college days), but I do remember the concept of my persona. He was the scribe of one of the factions and was a reluctant loner. He was born in a library where his parents taught him how to read. When they died, he travelled out to teach others how to read and to document the stories of the world.
Also, Kelly did a photo shoot before the party, when we were all still sober. You might notice the leather bound book in this Scrib’s left hand. You might also notice he he gets his fashion sense from his favorite books–mythology texts in this case.
This is pretty much how I imagine Scrib. Just add some wire glasses and maybe lose the shirt and the archer’s glove.
Who the other two girls (and dog) are, you will have to decide.
Speaking of deciding, I’ve been spending some time combing through photos by the amazing Lee Jefferies. I’m hoping to find some portraits that fit some of the people from Uni City, but I keep getting distracted by how fantastic they are. Maybe you can make some suggestions? Maybe I’ll send a prize to anyone that picks an especially appropriate photo.
Anyway, I guess I should go to sleep at some point.
[Here’s the much awaited final part of chapter 3. This format worked out pretty well, so I’ll keep it up for next week. Worked well for me, at least. Feel free to send leave any feedback. Enjoy!]
October leaves Scrib while he’s stepping into his shorts. She almost runs into the new girl, Exit, as she leaves. Exit’s face turns red and she hustles up the stairs to the café. She must have been listening to them. October smiles. If anyone had seen it, they wouldn’t mistake it for a nice smile.
October went to the counter of the café. Em was there. One of the girls.
Peppering came up behind her. October looks her over. She’s made a harness made out of knotted straps that might have come from a dress. October leans over and notices that the harness holds Peppering’s metal bat on her back. “Can I help you?”
“I doubt it,” Peppering says. “Scrib said I need to watch over you today. Heard you got a wittle scared today.”
October glares at her. She’s ready to convince her to leave her alone, but then October thinks that having a bodyguard under her control might not be a bad idea.
She shrugs and faces Em behind the counter, who hasn’t even tried to hide the fact that she was eavesdropping on their conversation. “Can I have some otter eggs?”
Em shakes her head. “None left. Tum Tum was supposed to bring some by yesterday but he’s not back yet. We have some bread. Might be a good time to grab some of that since I doubt Ba will be bringing us more anytime soon.”
October frowns. Then she looks at Peppering. “Ok, let’s go find him.”
Peppering isn’t too excited, but they go to the market. Tum Tum isn’t at his usual spot, but his teenage son, Horseface, is tending his cart. There are a few otter skins, and some meat, but no eggs.
“C-can I help you or anything?” he says.
“Where’s you dad? He’s supposed to give us some eggs today.”
“Uh, he was supposed to be here, but I guess he’s still at Lake Claire.”
“It’s past noon. Has he ever been this late?” Peppering says.
Horseface shakes his head. October can see he’s scared. Even though she uses him pretty regularly, October likes Tum Tum. At least as much as October can like someone.
She looks at Peppering and glances at her bat. “Ok, let’s go find him. I was looking forward to my eggs this morning.”
Lake Claire is a couple hours north. Since it’s relatively close to the Towers, they were going to need to talk to a Fixie to get permission to walk past the Garage Dee. Roark is the one on duty when they get there.
It doesn’t take much for October to convince him not only to let them go, but to escort them to the lake.
(Seduce or manipulate: 8+3=great hit)
He shrugs and swings a broken table leg over his shoulder. “Sure.”
“That was easy,” Peppering says.
“Yeah well Partridge, was supposed to take over for me by now anyway,” he says, “Way I figure it, if anyone crosses the border, it’s on him.”
That’s good enough, October thought. She looked around at the strange group she had somehow assembled and led them off into the overgrown woods.
Horseface said his father’s diving spot was a couple hours’ walk from the city. Apparently the otters clustered around the northern shore. This was not a fun trek for October. If there was one thing she hated more than small talk it was nature. It was a strange blessing when they heard Tum Tum groaning ahead of them.
Horseface and Roark sprints ahead. October’s stomach tightens. In a flash of belated insight, she realizes how terrible this plan was. If Tum Tum was attacked by someone—someone from the Towers, a Lockheed soldier, or worst of all, a Wilder—she would very likely die. Or more likely get raped and then die.
Horseface drops to his knees ahead of them. October can’t see what he’s looking at. Unconsciously she grabs Peppering’s hand. Peppering takes her bat out and leads October toward the scene.
Roark’s already got his club out and has his back to Horseface. October looks down and sees Tum Tum lying on the grass, unconscious. It takes her mind a second to grasp what’s wrong, and then it hits her—Tum Tum’s left arm has been ripped off.
Everything goes silent for October. She stares at Tum Tum. Sandy dirt stuck to his face in a pattern that reminded her of how his sweat dripped from his brow when they had sex.
The other three hear something closer to the lake, but October can’t hear anything over the blood pulsing behind her ears. Peppering lets go over her hand. The three of them run off toward the sound, even Horseface. October walks to Tum Tum at looks at the russet pool of mud that has collected by what was left of Tum Tum’s arm.
She kneels down and feels a power around her and Tum Tum. She concentrates and brings it toward her. October cradles it like a baby and accepts it into her. Then she leans down and kisses Tum Tum. She feels the power rise in her chest, then rise into her throat and back down into Tum Tum.
(Healing touch: 5+1=miss!)
October falls down into darkness.
He opens his eyes. He is Tum Tum. He looks into the murky water of Lake Claire. Why did he open his eyes? He knows better than that. Now he’ll probably have pink eye for the next month. Hopefully that won’t keep October from seeing him again.
He feels around in the sand of the lake and feels a slick patch of slime that can only be a clutch of otter eggs. He scoops them into his satchel and swims for the surface. He does some quick math, he should have enough eggs and meat to give to October and her friends. It might be rough this month for him and Horseface, but they can make it. They’ve lived through worse. Maybe if he keeps up her supply long enough, October will be his new mom.
Tum Tum breaks the surface of the water, but keeps his eyes shut until he reaches the shore. Hopefully the pink eye will go away faster if he keeps them closed as long as possible. When he finally opens them he’s looking at a pair of boots. This is confusing. He’s much more confused when rough hands grab him by the armpits and rip him out of the water. He frantically looks for the thing’s face, but his head flies back into a scream when whatever it is bites into his bicep.
Tum Tum remembers one day in his childhood. It was his tenth birthday. His father brought him home a present. It was a tiny bag, not much bigger than his own hand, folded into thirds. His father tore off a thin layer of clear plastic; Tum Tum hadn’t even noticed it before.
He smiled at Tum Tum. “Go get the frying pan and start up the fire. We need to heat this.”
In a few minutes over the fire something jumped inside the bag. Then it jumped again. Then dozens, hundreds of tiny pops exploded inside the bag until it grew fat. His father opened it up and dark smoke poured out of it. It smelled like sweet lard and fire.
Tum Tum’s father cursed. Apparently he’d burned whatever was inside. He spend what seemed like forever cutting the black away from sparse chunks of pure white.
He handed the chunks to Tum Tum. “Popcorn,” he said.
He heard the quick popping again from, was it under his shirt? He put his chin to his chest just in time to watch his arm ripped out of the socket. Broken sinew and blood vessels hung from his body’s new opening.
Whatever had picked him up threw him to the ground and ran off into the woods. Tum Tum found that if he angled his stump he could just see the hint of what could be white. As he passed out he hoped it would be popcorn.
She’s back. Peppering is shaking October awake.
“Fucking hell, October.”
“I was Tum Tum. I was in his head. I mean I saw his memory,” October says.
Peppering tilts her head.
“What happened?” Horseface says from behind Peppering.
October is about to answer, but Tum Tum coughs. Everyone explodes into action and helps him to his feet. October sees that one of them has ripped up Roark’s shirt and tied it around Tum Tum’s stump.
Tum Tum looks into October’s eyes. He has to be in pain, but his eyes show more than she would have guessed.
“I was in your head,” he says. It’s more a croak than words.
“Shh, save your strength. We can talk when we get you back to Uni City,” Horseface says.
He ignores him. “You had sex with Scrib.”
October almost feels guilty for perhaps the first time she can remember. But then her sense of self-preservation kicks in and she glances at Peppering. October turns just in time to see Peppering’s bat smash into her face.
Dice is doing push ups in Mr. Sunset’s office, her “cell.” And why not? What else can she do? She stops and stares at the door. Voices on the other side.
Dice gets to her feet as Roark and one of Sunset’s girls barges into the office. The girl is trying to hold him back, but there’s no chance of her stopping Roark.
“Where’s your shirt, Roark?” Dice asks.
“You can’t be in here,” the girl says. That was one of the twins. What was her name again?
“Tum Tum, that fisherman, was attacked by someone up by Lake Claire,” Roark says.
Dice squints her eyes. “Is he dead?”
“No, but his arm was ripped off. It looks like it was bitten.”
The girl gasps. “Where is he now?” she says.
“We left him in Garage Dee. October got hurt too.”
Dice tries not to smile hearing about October.
“Oh gods. Go get my sister.”
“I don’t know if a medic can help him anymore,” Roark says.
Oh, she’s the non-medic twin.
Dice feels October for a second. She has no idea how, but Dice feels October pushing her to talk.
“Em, right? We’re going to need to end my stay here. Or at least put it on hold for a while. This sounds like an act of war. I doubt Mr. Millions, and especially not Mr. Sunset, would want me to stay in here while our citizens are being maimed.”
(Dice tries to seduce, October aids and calls in a hold:
October aid: 11+2=great hit
Dice seduce: 6+0+1+1=hit)
“Ugh, I don’t know,” Em says.
“Ok, Roark will stay in my place.”
“What?” Roark says.
“Shut up, Roark,” Dice says.
Em considers. “Uh, ok. I guess so.”
“Roark, help her bring the fisherman to Em’s sister, then come back here and stay till I tell you otherwise.”
Roark knows better than to argue at this point.
Em starts to leave, but Dice stops her and holds out her hand. “Give me that shotgun.”
Em hesitates for an appropriate amount of time before handing it over.
Dice leaves them and rushes out to the front of the library. She wonders how soon she can get the Fixies together.
When she opens the doors she stops abruptly.
The whole gang, minus Roark and Juck were facing her. Each was on their bike save Partridge. He walks Dice’s bike up to her. When she grabs it he returns to his own bike and flips on to it. “Ready, boss?”
Dice puts the shotgun over her handlebars and rides off with a huge smile.
(Hoard 6+1=Hold 1)
Scrib stares blankly at the wall in front of him. His left hand is furiously scribbling into a notebook.
(Open your mind to the psychic maelstrom: 11+2=great hit)
“The rage of the forest disarms the harvester.”
Scrib blinks and his hand slows. Someone had just spoken to him.
“What does that mean?”
He looks behind him. It’s Peppering reading over his shoulder. He quickly shuts the notebook. “Nothing. I don’t know. What’s wrong?”
Peppering almost answers, but she’s interrupted by the jingling of the beaded curtain that leads to his bedroom and workspace.
It’s October. Scrib’s heart skips a beat. A few beats. It’s possible he suffers cardiac arrest, but he stands up.
“Hey Pep, I need some alone time with Scrib.”
Peppering picks up her trusty metal baseball bat, but Scrib puts his hand on her arm. “It’s ok, Pepper.”
Peppering is not happy about this, but Scrib’s full attention is already back on October. He doesn’t notice when she stops at the curtain and looks back at him, hoping he might change his mind. He doesn’t.
When they’re alone October strolls around Scrib’s room. “Did you hear what happened upstairs?”
“Sounded like someone was getting rowdy.”
“Yeah, someone got rowdy enough to almost knock Mr. Sunset out,” she says. She picks up one of Scrib’s notebooks and flips through it. Scrib squirms in his seat.
“I’m worried, Scrib,” she says. He walks over to her and closes the notebook. She looks up at him and touches his hand on the notebook.
“Maybe you could ask Mr. Millions to give us some real weapons.”
Scrib focuses on October’s hand. It’s so warm it seems to burn him, but he doesn’t move it.
“I don’t think he’d go for that,” Scrib says.
She moves her hand up to his shoulder. It’s a practiced movement and gives him chills and hot flashes at the same time.
“Well, he put us in charge of guarding Uni’s best warrior. And you have so much influence over him now that what’s his name is dead.”
“I don’t know,” he says. He’s not paying much attention to what she’s saying.
Her hand glides under his shirt and then up his chest. She leans in and whispers into his ear. “I guess you’re going to make me convince you.”
(October Seduce or manipulate: 4+3=hit
He marks xp if he gets them guns.)
Then they fuck.
(October holds 3 on him.)
(Scrib asks some questions:
How can I make this mine?
Convince her it will help her position)
(Who will stand in my way?
Just about everyone. Most of all Sunset and Peppering.)
(What is it truly worth?
Not a whole lot. She might be more trouble than it’s worth. Although everyone would respect him pretty much instantly. )
Afterward Scrib stares at the ceiling and blinks. He’s wanted that for so long.
He’s only dimly aware that October is collecting his clothes that she threw around the room. He only looks at her when she drops them in front of him.
“Get a move on, Scrib. We need those weapons.”
[Hey story-friends. I’ve been hard at work on the next installment of Uni City this weekend. Perhaps a bit too hard at work though. I’m already up to 8 pages in Word and I’m not even on the fourth character yet. So to give everyone a more digestible story I’m going to break it up. After today’s expect a new character’s POV to be posted on Monday, another on Wednesday, and the exciting conclusion of this chapter on Friday. This isn’t an April Fools Day joke, I’m serious about trying this out, so please let me if it works better this way or if I should switch back to putting up chapters all at once. Hope you enjoy!]
Mr. Sunset makes his bed and looks at the far end of it. The empty and cold end. He frowns. Knocking at the door almost startles him. He straightens out his coat before telling them to come in.
It’s Missing, the youngest resident of the Library and everyone’s adoptive daughter. “What is it, child?” Mr. Sunset talks like a warm blanket.
“It’s Ba. He’s causing a ruckus in the café. He demands to see you.”
Mr. Sunset rolls his eyes. Ba is a roof farmer who spends all the barter he gets from his wares on Sunset’s girls. This isn’t the first time he’s caused Mr. Sunset and his girl’s trouble. Mr. Sunset grabs his walking stick and nods to Missing to lead the way.
The old café serves as the lobby of and point of purchase for the girls’ services. It’s about the worst place to cause a scene. When Missing and Mr. Sunset descend the stairs Ba is yelling and pointing his fingers while potential customers are shuffling out the door.
Dustwich is the one trying to calm him down. When she sees Mr. Sunset a wave of relief washes over her. “Is there a problem here?”
“A problem?” Ba says “Yeah, there’s a fucking problem. I paid in advance for three weekends with Peppering. That was three weeks ago, you know how many times I’ve seen Peppering?”
Mr. Sunset sighs. He looks at Missing, “Go get Peppering for me, please. She’ll be with Scrib downstairs.” Then he walks to Ba. “Peppering has been very busy. Scrib has employed her since he was promoted by Millions.”
“I don’t give two shits about Scrib. I want what I paid for.”
“Why don’t you have a seat,” Mr. Sunset pulls out an old chair and offers it to Ba. He hesitates for a second and then sits down. “I’ll settle this, Ba. I don’t go back on my word.”
Missing appears at the top of the staircase down to Scrib’s. She waves Mr. Sunset over.
“Fucking better. Thought this was an honest establishment.”
Missing whispers up to Mr. Sunset, “Peppering wants to talk to you.”
He looks over her shoulder and down the flight of stairs. He sees Peppering there looking up at him and frowns again. “I’ll be right back, Ba. Dustwich. Can you get Ba something to drink, please?”
“You’ve always treated me well, Mr. Sunset, but Scrib needs me now.”
“We need you too, baby.”
Peppering looks down. “I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll come back someday. Just not for awhile.”
Mr. Sunset wants to object but looks in her eyes and knows it won’t help.
(Seduce or manipulate: 7+2=hit)
“Fine, I’ll give you an extended … vacation from you main services. But now that you’re in the protection line of work, how about you take a regular shift on guard duty for me?”
Peppering holds her hand own to shake. “I can live with that.”
Mr. Sunset turns on his heels and walks back upstairs.
“Where are you going?” she says. Mr. Sunset ignores her.
“I’m truly sorry to say this Ba, but Peppering won’t be able to fulfill her contract. I can offer you the service of any of the other girls though.”
“You’re fucking shitting me.”
Ba puts his drink on the wooden cable spool table beside him. Mr. Sunset noted that he had ordered the most expensive drink on the menu. It looked like Ba might spit in Mr. Sunset’s face for a second or two, but then he brightened and a smiles spread over his face like an acid rainstorm.
“Ok Mr. Sunset. I can pick any other girl for my three weeks?”
“Right.” Mr. Sunset braced himself. He didn’t like that smile.
“Great. I think I’ll take … hm, how about Missing?”
(Sunset reads a person: 7+1=hit)
(What’s your character intending to do?
Beat the shit out of Missing to teach Sunset a lesson)
That’s all Mr. Sunset can handle. “Missing isn’t old enough.”
Ba stands up. He’s a half head taller than Mr. Sunset. “I don’t give a shit how old she is. We made a deal and you broke it. Then you made a counter offer and you’re going to break that too?”
“You’re going to pick someone else or you’re going to leave.”
“You’re going to honor your deal or I’m going to Mr. Millions and get this whole place shut down.”
(Sunset goes aggro: 5+1=miss)
Missing doesn’t have to comply
Sunset isn’t harmed
Ba doesn’t complain to Millions
He chooses option number 1)
Mr. Sunset swings his walking stick at Ba’s head. Through surprising skill or dumb luck Ba dodges out of the way and grabs the weapon. He wrestles it out of Mr. Sunset’s grip and slams it into his leg.
Mr. Sunset falls to the ground but several girls step out of the background with makeshift weapons. October is among them. Ba looks around and throws the stick across the room and backs toward the door.
“Fuck you Sunset. I’ll make sure Mr. Millions hears about this. You owe me three week’s of barter you little fuck.” He looks at Missing. “Unless you change your mind about that little whore of yours.”
He walks out and slams the door. The girls rush over to Mr. Sunset and help him up.
“I’m fine,” he says, “it’s not broken.”
Missing hands him his cane. She’s close to crying. He gives her chin a light squeeze. “Don’t worry about me, I’ve had much worse.”
He looks at his stick. “Maybe it’s time we took better precautions. Do we still have that shotgun?”
(Fingers in every pie: 10+2=great hit)
“Yeah, I think so. I’ll go grab it,” Franky says.
“We’re going to need more than that. October, come here.”
She walks up to him. It’s the first time they’ve spoken in almost a week.
“Go downstairs and see if you can convince Scrib to get more weapons for us from Millions’s armory. We’re supposed to be guarding Uni City’s best warrior and we don’t have enough weapons to defend against a farmer.”
October presses her thick lips together. She looks bored more than annoyed.
“Maybe if you let me guard this warrior of ours, like I’ve been asking to.”
Mr. Sunset almost goes off on her, but figures it’s not worth it. “Fine.”
(Sunset seduces and manipulates: 9+2=great hit)
(She marks xp if she goes down and acts under fire if she doesn’t.)
October rolls her eyes and goes down to the basement.
While waiting for the next Uni City chapter (should be up on Friday, for those of you on the edge of your seats), I thought I’d write up a brief post.
I saw The Hunger Games this past weekend, like most people in the world did. I really liked it. This was one of those rare (yet increasingly more common) movies that I liked even better than their source material.
Anyway, I’m going to introduce a new column: Armchair Author. I’ve read the first two books of the series and I think the author missed at least one really interesting facet of her world that could have been focused on more closely. Namely, District 11.
I’ve talked about this in person when I was reading, but with all this press the institutional racists have been getting by tweeting surprise over Rue’s race, I figured I’d bring it up here too. (Don’t know what I’m talking about there? Check out this tumblr or this write-up.)
From what I remember in the books (the first two at least) Suzanne Collins made District 11 out to be an analogue of a huge plantation for the whole nation of Panem. This is the district tasked with tending the crops and shipping them off to the other districts. All the characters were described as dark skinned (despite what some tweeters remember from their klan book klubs). It’s even mentioned that the District 11ers were harshly punished if they took any food for themselves. What does this sound like to you?
It seemed like Collins was sending a racially charged message, but then didn’t really go anywhere with it. There’s an entire race segregated into a ghetto-district, but race was such a nonissue in the novels that self-claiming fans missed that a main character was black.
From my armchair I can safely say that, if I were writing it, The Hunger Games would have had a lot more to say about race in the future which would reflect more of how our own society sees (or doesn’t see) race.
The Hunger Games did deal with a lot of issues—class, privacy, freedom, innocence, just to name a few—but I feel it would have been more rich if it spent some time on race too.
I might have to come back when I get around to reading the final book if they do address race more, but the perfect time to bring it up would have been the second book when District 11 riots (which the filmmakers snuck into the movie). I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
So, what do you think? Do you wish race was more directly addressed? Can you think of other sweeping changes that would have made The Hunger Games (movie or books) better? (Like maybe making Katniss less annoying.) Let me know in the comment section.
Until next time, Story-friends.