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Hanging By A Thread


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#1 Offline What?

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Posted Dec 03 2011 - 02:56 AM

Hanging By A Thread

----It was probably about the third time he had scraped himself off the forest floor that Maloc fully understood how bad this day was turning out. He dragged his body up from the ground, feeling more like a kettle boiling over than anything biomechanical. He stared at the hungry animal opposite him with annoyance. Just once, he wanted to face an opponent of his own strength.----The Rahi reared up on its hindmost legs to bring its forefeet lancing at Maloc's face. Maloc dodged, and the beast's talon lodged itself into the tree behind him. He was sprinting forward to trip the unbalanced beast—a long shot, but he would take what he was dealt-- when it brought the tree down on top of him. Maloc lay there for a moment, enjoying his brief respite from the battle. Then a claw latched around his throat and ripped him up through the fallen treetop to dangle just under its mouth. It cocked its head around to bring him in range of all four of its eyes. Maloc had been exasperated with it before, but that was before it opened its mouth. Now, Maloc thought, This is just getting disgusting. Aloud, he said, “I nickname you Salivator.” The creature cocked its head as if puzzled. Probably it was just trying to figure out how to swallow him, but it looked at least as intelligent as some Matoran he had met. And Maloc decided any being who is about to be eaten is entitled to a fantasy or two. So he explained. “I'll start at the beginning, since you seem confused. That stuff dripping from your jaws like you are trying to start your own personal river is called saliva, and—Wait a minute, let me finish!”----Sometimes being a hero is more glamorous than other times. Or so Maloc supposed. He had never experienced any of the normal heroic adventures. “Maybe it's just that nobody talks about the times they get stuffed down the slimy maw of a whatchamacallit.” Maloc muttered, as said S.M. of the W.C.M.C.I. gaped open to receive him. The claw holding him tossed him inside. Maloc flipped in midair, rolling himself between the long rows of teeth as they slammed together with enough force to hurt his ears. He felt himself getting one of his throbbing headaches, usually brought on by monsters, Matoran uprisings, and/or bad weather. Sighing, he slipped slightly down the mouth, holding on to the teeth as the creature swung its head sideways to dislodge him. Near the back of the tongue he started groping downwards with his foot until he found the throat. “It'll take me weeks to feel clean after this, but ultimately this will hurt you more than it hurts me. I hope,” Maloc gritted, and jammed his leg down the creature's throat. He gritted his teeth, bracing himself against the back molars. “This is why you should always chew a hundred times before swallowing.”----For several seconds the beast stood completely still. Slowly it opened and closed its mouth. Maloc couldn't tell whether it was trying to breathe or chew; either way, he didn't feel like cooperating. He watched as the mouth shut and his universe was limited to throat, teeth and tongue, lit by the dim saffron glow of his heartlight. Maloc gagged, “So they were right. It is a small world after all.” He tried to find a slightly more comfortable position, but he reflected it was often difficult to be comfortable in something else's mouth, with a foot down its throat and dirk-sized teeth inches from one's face.Then the creature went berserk.----Maloc felt the acceleration as the animal's long neck whipped down and around toward ground level. There was a powerful shock as its head smashed through a tree that nearly knocked Maloc loose. The swings became wider and faster as the beast's freneticy grew. Its mouth was wide open now as it struggled to breathe, and Maloc was showered with shards of wood and stone as he was rocked from side to side by the concussions. He felt himself slipping up the throat, losing his hold on the slimy molars. But at the rate the beast was using oxygen, Maloc knew its consciousness would slip away before his grip did. And so it came to pass.----A shaken and barely recognizable figure crawled out on its hands and knees several minutes later, completely covered in filth. Collapsing under a tree, he stared blearily up, straight into the eyes of a small bird. The bird looked from Maloc to the sleeping monster, then at the surrounding destruction. Maloc looked up at the bird and shrugged. “Everybody needs a hobby,” he said, and coughed.----Maloc rested up for a minute before actually solving the problem. The beast was unconscious, but it remained inside the defensive parameters he constantly patrolled around the village. It was not acceptable to let this sleeping Rahi lie. When it awoke it would still be a danger to the Matoran under his care.----He began to concentrate and felt the rush of power fill him as it always did when he tapped his elemental and mask energies. He felt the normally iron grip of gravity shift and slip, becoming a thing less than negligible. He slowly fell several hundred feet up before halting himself with the smallest possible manipulation in the bending of the space-time continuum. Focusing entirely on the energy saturating him, Maloc sent himself down with a slight crook of a finger until he was back beside the monster. Without letting up on his control Maloc closed his eyes. He could feel the touch of the various masses surrounding him, the minuscule twists and turns they induced in the gravity well. He saw the fabric of the universe bent and dented by the matter residing in it. He tasted the velocity of the moving substances around him on his tongue; slow-moving sour objects, quicker ones with a saltiness to them, and those stationary with respect to himself leaving a sweetness on his tongue. He throttled down the potential energy trying to find an outlet through him into the physical world. It felt unnatural and wrong. It washed against him in waves like water against a dam as he pulled it back. It fought him, it begged him like a thing alive. It showed him how easy it would be to use. It was clear how finally it would end the endangering beast, how how it would only take a flick of the wrist. It begged him. But Toa don't kill.” Maloc thought defiantly. The more he smothered it the more frustrated he became, until he crushed it down to a trickle. With a yell he released it into the beast, skewing its gravity away from the perpendicular until its whole world was downhill. Still struggling against the waning tide of power, he watched the beast crash “down,” bouncing away through the forest. After the way it had smashed all those trees--with its head--it he knew it would be fine, if a bit battered. Then, shutting down the power, he he lost his grip on consciousness and fainted.----He awoke with a gasp, which was his usual reaction to someone throwing cold water in his face while he was asleep. Squinting, he saw a group of three Matoran lounging around him, one with a dripping bucket and the others doubled up with laughter. “So, if it isn't Obnoxious, Dumb, and Not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is. Frankly, I frequently have trouble telling you guys apart. Which of you is Dumb today?” he inquired. This drew another loud “Huh, huh, huh,” laugh from the middle figure until another elbowed him. “Hey, the great hero just insulted us. That ain't funny.”----Maloc climbed to his feet stiffly. His bout with power had left him drained mentally, but he shook his finger at them. “No elbowing Dumb in the stomach. Just do your obnoxious thing, whatever it is, so I can be on my way. Unless you have an actual concern about the safety of the village you need to share with me?”----“Yep, we got a concern. There's this monster inside 'the perimeter,' (at which phrase two of them collapsed in a seizure of brayed giggles) and we're afraid he'll kill everyone with his horrible stench. Save us, O great and stinky hero!” Unable to contain himself from his enjoying his own hilarity another second he leaned against the other two, laughing hysterically.----Maloc walked away shaking his head. If they were more intelligent it would be fun to spar with them. As it was, sparring with them reminded him of catching starfish. Too easy to be fun, and the starfish doesn't know when it's been caught.----“O wonderfully beslimed one, you have saved us from these evil trees, which we thankfully see you have destroyed with great courage!”----“Just don't go past the boundary, okay? If you make me come after you, I'm going to be extremely annoyed.”----The leader smirked, “And we wouldn't like you when you're angry, right? Hahaha! Don't worry about us; nobody likes you anyway.”Maloc became disturbingly conscious of the power surging in himself and his Mask of Gravity, indivisible from each other and exponentially more powerful than either alone. The memory of his potent and recurring nightmare of what would happen if lost control sprinted through his mind. A pulverized countryside filled with dead Matoran and Rahi; some having fallen for miles before hitting a cliff or a tree, some mere shattered husks crushed unrecognizably at the bottom of craters they had blasted with their own massive acceleration; and others completely gone, lost in the incomprehensible vastness of space. He fought the emotion of the memory of the dream, and leaned against a tree until he mastered the feeling. Anything that weakened his control was incredibly more dangerous than all of the dozen or so Rahi he'd fought recently. He shivered and felt the inconspicuous ripples in gravity shift. So easy to feel, so interesting, so tempting to enhance and twist... he shook it off. “Well,” Maloc said, “I daresay you'd like me even less.”----Maloc left the guffawing Matoran and traipsed back to the village, stopping in the brook to rinse the worst of the filth off himself so he would be semi-presentable for his biannual meeting with the village council. Dunking his head under the surface of the stream, he rinsed his mouth and spat. “There's nothing more fun than subduing a crowd of perpetually disgruntled Matoran with nothing but my innate air of authority. Unfortunately I believe I left it at home this morning.”----An hour later he was sitting with his head in his hands, listening to the drone of the Chairman. He was just becoming comfortably drowsy as the Chairman ended by raising a vote on sending an expedition outside the boundary. That snapped Maloc's head up in record time. “Absolutely not.”----“You are allowed to vote as you will, Citizen Maloc. All in favor?” All hands but Maloc's shot up, and the Chairman smirked, “You are outvoted, Citizen.”----Maloc stood, feeling his headache coming back. “I forbid it.”----“Much as you value your own opinion, you are in no place to forbid anything. The motion has been carried.”----Maloc closed his eyes and felt a trickle of anger. The power in him welled up toward this chink in his armor. Matoran squeaked as the chairs slid in Maloc's direction and the Chairman's podium overturned. Maloc conquered the emotion. “This council ranks as one of the worst ideas I've ever had. Some people, you give them a position, and they start to think every fool notion they get is worth considering.”----The Chairman sputtered, “We are the legitimate government of this village, and you are not above the law.”----“You are a puppet government installed by me as a way to keep you all out of trouble, and I AM the law. I was perfectly happy with you until you obtained delusions of grandeur from who knows where. You have apparently forgotten I cannot guarantee your safety outside of the boundary I patrol. My job is to protect you, and I don't care half—no, a quarter--a broken rock whether you like it or not.”----“And what can you protect us from, exactly? Your powers apparently consist of scaring us by moving chairs a couple feet.” the Chairman said contemptuously. “What have you ever saved us from? There've been no incidents in the history of the village, which is lucky for us. You only come here twice a year anyway. The rest of the time you're 'patrolling.' How would you save us from a hungry Rahi, with your bare hands? Or would it be by pulling their chair out from under them?”----“Well, since you bring it up, it was a sixty-feet tall multi-legged creature with four eyes. And I know it's quibbling, but actually I used my foot. Not my my hands. And I can't stay here between patrols. I'm too dangerous.”----“Yeah, right. We've had enough of you warning us about nebulous dangers 'outside the boundary.' We're going to see what's out there ourselves.”----“Show's over, folks. Everybody outside. My rules still apply, but any ridiculous rules made by this council are negated.” Maloc said, shepherding the Matoran through the door. “As for the boundary, anyone who jeopardizes their own safety by crossing it is answerable to me. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of my law.”----Having seen the last of the muttering Matoran out, he returned to the meeting house and sat down on the overturned podium and started to lecture a toppled chair. “The problem with these folks is that they're bored out of their minds. That council idea kept them quiet for a century or so, but I'm starting to run out of ideas. I've often been tempted to let a fairly large animal rampage a bit just to get their adrenalin pumping, but I can't risk it. If only we weren't 400 miles from nowhere, maybe could find them something to do. Technically closer to 500.”----He had given much thought about new ways to occupy the Matoran without endangering them. He had plenty of ideas, but he had been forced to discard one after the other as too dangerous, impossible, or too boring even for people who thought petty politics were interesting. Mild despair started to settle on him like a cloud. He noticed the building creaking from this gravitational manifestation of his personal cloud, so he left before it could collapse. “Though at least rebuilding it would give them something to do.”----Maloc was done. He had enough of smothering his emotions and dealing with fools. He set off through the forest towards his jumping off place, a blasted little circle filled with improbabilities: here a few trees growing sideways, there a large boulder balanced under an overhang. Maloc picked up a stone and tossed it into the jump zone. It described a graceful parabola until it entered the circle, where it bobbled back and forth in the air before finally bouncing back to land at his feet. Maloc wasn't worried about the shifting gravitational fields; he had a certain amount of natural immunity. Positioning himself in the center, he concentrated. If he did it just right, he wouldn't need any in-flight course corrections. Straining to select only the necessary power, he saw all the trees bending towards him.----Then he jumped.----It was a lucky jump; he only had to search slightly for his home at the end. That was pretty good, considering home was just a Toa canister floating in the ocean, and that he'd covered 250 miles in about a minute. He looked at the sun, estimating the time. Good; he'd just made it back in time for his monthly rendezvous with Tana. The only reason he met with her so often—comparatively often—was because he couldn't endanger her so easily as a Matoran. Since she was a Toa of Water with a Mask of Water Breathing, his accidentally increasing her gravity was no problem; she just sank down slightly until he fixed the problem. If he decreased her gravity, she could use the water to help hold herself down. Even so, once a month was all they would risk. They both had villages to defend, and that was no cakewalk in this neck of the woods. He settled in to wait.----Three hours later he was still waiting and very disturbed. It was impossible for Tana to have forgotten the time or date, and she had never been this late in all the two hundred years they had been meeting. Something must be very wrong. Maloc was also becoming uncomfortable about the safety of his own village. But first he would check on the Tana and her village. Very likely they needed help. “Probably not looking for help from me, but they'll have to take what they can get. Hopefully I won't destroy anything too valuable.” Maloc thought as he readied himself for another jump. The waves rippled into towering crests far above his head. They started to crash down right before he......Jumped.----He was unaccustomed to jumping to Toa Tana's village, so he had to jump several more times before actually reaching it. More specifcally, what was left of it. Even more specifically, where it had been. Because absolutely nothing was left.----Maloc was enraged. Long practice kept most of the power inside him, barely. The ground shivered as he walked, inspecting the circumference of the perfectly circular hole in the ground where Tana's village used to be. Whatever had done this had done it very precisely; the edges of the hole were smooth, and it was just deep enough to have destroyed or taken the foundations of the houses.----Maloc was scared. Something had wiped an entire village from the face of the earth, and nothing guaranteed the same thing was not happening to his own village right now. He jumped without delay or finesse, leaving behind a gravitic mess that would take weeks to sort itself out. Speed was the name of the game. He covered the more than four hundred kios back in just under two minutes.----He was just in time to see his village swallowed by a giant portal. And a stranger looking on in silence.----Maloc was not in a charitable mood. He screamed as he altered his fall toward the Toa-like figure. It looked around in time to receive both of Maloc's feet square in the teeth.----When the dust cleared, Maloc was standing at one end of a long furrow with the stranger standing at the other. He shouldn't have been standing; Maloc had landed on him so hard he had almost broken his legs. It looked like a Toa except its organics bulged strangely up and around its armor, sometimes covering it completely. But it had a mask that Maloc recognized as the Mask of Dimensional Gates, and the figure was about the right size and build for a Toa. Maloc spoke, “I have three questions for you. First, where is my village? Second, what are you? And third, how easy are you to kill?”----The figure quivered and its mouth twitched. Maloc almost let loose before he realized it wasn't laughing; it looked more like the UnToa couldn't bear to keep still.----“Your village is my village now, pathetic one. There is no name for what I am, for I am the first of my kind. Once I was a Toa; it seems so long ago. I have moved on to much better things. And I am impossible to kill.”----Maloc could feel the emotions inside him pulsing for control. “Well, pal, you had better hope you're not immortal, because I've only been thinking for a couple seconds and I already have some very interesting eternities planned out if you don't give my friends back. Right now.”----“You have already ambushed me with your best shot and failed. Why do you persevere? But if you wish it, I will delay taking you out of this wo--”----The UnToa was interrupted by Maloc introducing his face to a face of a cliff. He disappeared far inside it, leaving only a small UnToa shaped hole.----“You,” Maloc said, “Talk too much. Much too much.” He closed his eyes and felt the UnToa thrashing inside the solid rock. Maloc was shocked by the sheer vitality of the Thing. It was more alive than anyone had a right to be. Suddenly it exploded out through the stone, heading straight for Maloc with improbable speed. Maloc jumped slightly too late; the Creature leaped up to intercept him, grabbing his leg and clambering up to his neck. It was only a second after the jump and three hundred feet higher that Maloc blasted the UnToa off himself just before it began to worry his throat like an animal. Maloc ended up headed toward ground level with the Thing rocketing upward. Maloc touched ground lightly, and jumped straight up to pursue It.----Maloc allowed the Creature to get to about forty thousand feet before he throttled back on its acceleration. “I could happily do this for a thousand years or so before moving on to one of my more creative pastimes. How about it?” The Creature grated, “I have a purpose for these 'friends' of yours. I will kill them and eat their lifeforce.” It pulled out a mask. Maloc couldn't tell from whence it came. “You see this mask? It is called the Mask of Scavenging.” Its mouth snapped into a grimace. Maloc let out the last remaining shards of his self control and poured his power into the Creature. It fell remarkably fast. Maloc followed at a more leisurely, less lethal pace.----A thousand years was unnecssary. Maloc only had to repeat the process fifty-three times to get results.----The UnToa was stirring feebly but frenetically among the rubble at the bottom of the most recent of the many overlapping craters now covering where Maloc's village had been. Early on, Maloc had been careless in searching for the Creature at the bottom of a crater and lost a couple fingers off his left hand for it. But with the exhilaration of battle, Maloc felt he was just getting started.----The Creature had had enough. It was extremely hard to kill, but Maloc had supplied great pain in large quantities. It felt a need to return to its lair and feed on some recently deceased villagers, or perhaps that Toa of Water he had just picked up. The UnToa readied himself for the trip.----Maloc observed the UnToa squirming in the crater with complacence, as he had the fifty-two times previous. He became alert when he saw a flicker of light. Coming closer, he saw it was coming from an open portal that the UnToa was crawling through. Maloc gathered his strength and jumped through the closing portal right behind the Creature.----Maloc looked around. It was a barren dimension, fit only for sand, decaying huts, and monsters. “Sand, check. Decaying huts, check,” Maloc muttered. “Monster...?” He turned around to see the Creature shambling towards one of the groups of houses which Maloc recognized with a thrill as Tana's village. He followed close behind the oblivious Thing.----It opened a door and was met with a blast of water from within that drove It back. But the Creature was making headway against the stream before Maloc pulled its mask off its face and kicked It over the horizon. The gravitational shockwaves knocked over all the huts and houses left standing.----Toa Tana stood up from beneath the rubble. “Maloc? When did you get here? We thought... whatever it was... had missed you. Are you alright? What happened to your hand?”----Maloc shrugged, “Yep. Just now. Yeah, I'm fine. Never mind my hand.” He paused for a second. “I'm fairly certain I missed a question in there somewhere...”----Tana smiled. “Doesn't matter. I'll ask you later. First, how do we get out of this place?” Her eyes went to the Mask of Dimensional Gates in Maloc's right hand. “Ah, I see.”----Maloc held it out. “If you would care to do the honors, I would be happy to be the rearguard. I've taken a positive disliking to It, and if It wants another beating there isn't anything I'd rather do.”----As Tana held the gate open for the scurrying Matoran, Maloc kept watch. As the last few Matoran were exiting the barren wasteland he saw The UnToa charging frantically towards their portal. Maloc waved and shouted, “Have fun with immortality!” and walked through the gate with Tana.Five days later, Maloc was ruefully surveying the combined village under construction. “Y'know, when I was trying to find out what was wrong, I hoped I wouldn't break anything too important. Turns out, I actually broke everything important. Maybe if I hadn't kicked It quite so hard...”----Tana laughed. “Yes, next time you save everyone's lives, make sure there's no collateral damage.”----Maloc watched some of the Matoran from his village working near him. Though they still didn't like him and he wasn't exactly their biggest fan, at least they weren't as annoying as they were pre-Creature. They were willing to tolerate him now.----“Well, at least it keeps them busy.” Maloc resignedly.----Tana's eye twinkled. “Come on, I've known you long enough. Just admit it: you're happy.”----Maloc almost smiled, and several nearby Matoran straightened up under abruptly lighter loads. “Can't complain.” he conceded.

Edited by What?, Dec 03 2011 - 03:18 AM.

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A graduate student at Trinity/Computed the square of infinity.\But it gave him the fidgets/To put down the digits,\So he dropped math and took up divinity.

#2 Offline Lord Oblivion

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Posted Dec 11 2011 - 07:04 PM

Very nice job on this What? This was a nice read, mainly since the story-line was pretty interesting. Nothing really to criticize.Good luck in the contest!
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#3 Offline Click

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Posted Dec 14 2011 - 12:47 AM

This had a lot of hilarious lines in it! I hope you have a great chance in the contest! 1-3 hasn't been announced yet, and this deserves to win! The plot is great, it's not super long, and it's funny. What else could you want? Best of luck!
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