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Scourge


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#1 Offline Cederak

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Posted Jun 09 2012 - 09:18 PM

Scourge

 

I had a real name once. If I still knew it, I'd tell it to you. My name was not taken from me, but rather, I elected to take a new one. As an agent of a very particular group, we have a proclivity for codenames. The name of my choosing was Specter and I work for the Planetary Maintenance Organization. It is our task to ensure the world's threats are dealt with and either contained or destroyed. The methods we use to achieve these ends are at the discretion of each agent and we enjoy a great deal of freedom in our line of work. When I was enlisted I was warned that I would not receive vacation days, but the benefit package certainly made up for that.

 

On a particular afternoon, I found myself on a quiet journey through a barren wasteland. If I didn't have access to the data, it would have been nearly impossible to tell there had been numerous crops in the region some months back. Why grow food when building weaponry is so much simpler? Already off to a negative performance review—which is never a good sign—I decided to make my way closer to the city I was assigned to check in on.

 

I had seen it a month prior, entering after dark into the city of Scyxon. The city was inhabited by a single species known as the Scyxa - bipedal, scrawny entities that relied on blades and bullets to handle their quarrels. I have seen the danger of violence many times, I have seen it spread like an infection, a scourge upon the earth. The Planetary Maintenance Organization deployed me with the intention of ending their unfavorable actions. Their leader, a tyrant by the name of Ver-Mallyndi (a surname that translates to "energetic" in the Scyxan language) is an interesting biomech, to say the least.

 

I entered his private chamber when the moon was high in the sky, immediately disturbing his slumber. I smirked, watching him stumble to the floor and cower behind his blanket. A growling in the corner interrupted that touch of humor and I watched a creature lunge at me from the shadows. When Mallyndi found the light switch I was clutching his Energy Hound by the throat, watching it angrily flail its claws as I held it aloft. I crushed the beast's neck in my fingers and hurled it out the far window. I never liked Energy Hounds; they're a bit too vigorous for my taste. I prefer creatures of an aloof nature, the kind that balk at the idea of having company. Solitude exists for reasons beyond testing how long an isolation chamber will drive someone mad. But I digress.

 

Mallyndi reached for some kind of laser pistol and pointed at my head. I had to commend him. Nine out of ten dictators would've shot me on the spot, but not him. I would've liked that if I wasn't able to see his reluctance was tied to the fear practically pouring out of his bright orange eyes.

 

"Hello," I said in his language. "I am with the Planetary Maintenance Organization. I came to speak with you about a problem."

 

"Who are you?" he spat, taking a step forward as the pistol shook in his trembling hand.

 

"My associates refer to me as Specter. I'm sure you are bright enough to know that is not my given name."

 

"What do you want?" he asked, standing his ground.

 

I paused for a second, trying to discern what he said. Scyxon was just one city among entire countries that spoke his language (Derigne, they call it) and though it wasn't my favorite language, it didn't help that he spoke awfully lazily to begin with.

 

"I am with the Planetary Maintenance Organization," I repeated. "I have come here to inform you that we are aware of the situation here in Scyxon. Your soldiers are killing civilians in the street in your efforts to combat an uprising your policies created in the first place."

 

"That is none of your concern!" he said, cocking the hammer on the pistol.

 

I glanced at his weapon before strolling to the window I had thrown his pet from. I scooped up a decent sized glass shard and looked it over. "It became our concern when the violence began to spread out around this country. Your country." I studied him in the reflection of the glass shard, wondering if he would fire on me yet. He stayed his hand, probably waiting for more answers regarding my presence. "Your country will destroy itself because you cannot handle this crisis with civility and rationale. I know, asking politics to invite courtesy to the table is like asking a Kinloka to share its food."

 

"You do not understand," he said. "Have you ever run a country? A city even? Do you know how to appeal to the masses?"

 

"I know shooting them is a bad start," I replied, turning to face Mallyndi with a smirk.

 

"This is not your country," he said angrily. "This is not your war. You are someone else's ambassador, trying to tell me what to do. You come in here unannounced…you kill my favorite Energy Hound…and you make demands. Tell me why I shouldn't have you killed right now.

 

"I searched my mind for the right words. You have no idea how much the Derigne language frustrates me. "Your Energy Hound leapt at me like a monster. Dead in the street seems an appropriate place for it. And I am not making demands tonight, only suggestions. Perhaps there will be demands…clock…" Okay, that was an understatement before. I despise the Derigne language. "Perhaps there will be demands when I return."

 

"Return?" he questioned.

 

I nodded, scratching the word "Specter" into the wall with the glass shard. I hadn't considered Mallyndi wouldn't be able to read it, having carved the word in my native language rather than his. "You have a month to end this. My second visit will go much better if you do.

 

"I walked out his door, stepping around the corpses that had been soldiers earlier in the evening. Some biomechs seem to have no respect for my line of work or my employers.

 

It was nice to reflect on that night as I reentered the city, doing my best to ignore the sound of rifles firing and explosions in the distance. I am not a fan of violence by any means and having a distraction is always nice. I covered the distance from Scyxon's outer walls to Ver-Mallyndi's palace in a ten minute walk. Ten minutes of watching soldiers gun down innocent biomechs, ten minutes of seeing bombs obliterate entire buildings, ten minutes of attracting all the wrong attention.

 

I need to address something. While I do not like violence, my entire world is aware of the Planetary Maintenance Organization's existence. The sight of our agents is an expectation that you will be respectful and professional. I am charged with reminding any and all biomechs that our group does not take our job lightly. So when I was marching through downtown Scyxon and a hail of energy bullets surrounded me, I did not send those bullets back into the skulls of my attackers because I wanted them to die, I did it because the PMO demands respect. I did not consider whether I was killing Mallyndi's soldiers or those of the resistance against him, because it is not my prerogative to care. My concern that day was to investigate why the leader of the Scyxa had not yet ended their civil war.

 

I finally reached the palace, halted by more military entities. I told them why I had come and when they turned their weapons on me, I tried to reason with them. The PMO does not deploy agents when things are working and they have no one to blame but themselves for being turned to ashes. I encountered no further trouble on my way up to Mallyndi's chambers and it was clear the survivors from a month prior knew what I was capable of. I entered the chamber and found the Scyxa leader staring out at the city, having at least taken time to repair the window at some point between my visits."Ver-Mallyndi," I said. "As promised, the Planetary Maintenance Organization gave you a month to resolve the problems in this city. You have failed terribly."

 

"It is not so bad," he replied, still in his lazy use of the Derigne language. "I made my decision on handling this war a week prior."

 

"Would you say the situation has improved at all?" I asked.

 

"I would only say that I have found an answer, Specter," Mallyndi replied. "I have chosen to inform your employers that I do not want them involving themselves in my affairs.

 

"A number of Mallyndi's elite soldiers burst into the room, opening fire on me. I closed my eyes, mentally feeling each bullet rip through the air. They impacted and disintegrated with an invisible barrier around me in the same moment I reached out to the mind of each elite soldier and shut down their life processes, killing the biomechs. I telekinetically drew in one of the soldiers' swords and placed it in my hand, studying it for a moment.

 

"I effortlessly made my way through your warzone of a country twice now. What possessed you to think this would work?"

 

Mallyndi sighed, bitterly walking over to a set of glass doors that led to a balcony. "You are a more powerful envoy than I anticipated," Mallyndi said in dejection. I mentally locked the doors in place when I felt his mind planning to leap from the building.

 

"More than you imagined," I replied, tightening my grip on the sword. "I seldom wield a weapon. It's quite unnecessary given…well, you know.

 

"I rushed toward Mallyndi, running the blade through his torso before picking him up and hurling him out the window I sent his Energy Hound through. I had pressed the hilt against him before letting the Scyxan fall to the street below, certainly causing him a great deal of pain. I hovered down to the street level to observe my work, somewhat impressed that Mallyndi had survived both the fall and being stabbed.

 

As more Scyxans closed in on us, I briefly knelt down next to Ver-Mallyndi and muttered, "Dead in the street seems an appropriate place for monsters, don't you agree?"

 

I returned to the outer walls of the city, repelling several more attacks along the way. When I was finally out of Scyxon, I held out my hand toward the city and studied it one final time. At one time, the war-torn realm was exceedingly beautiful, now reduced to crumbling monuments and bodies littering the streets. I created a dome around the city then, a semi-visible field that would ensure their violence could not breach any of the world beyond. Scyxon - now a Class Four Quarantine District that crafted its own tragic fate in the fires of violence.

 

I continued on my lengthy journey back to the PMO headquarters, very much looking forward to finishing and filing my report on the mission. I needed a little seclusion after the day I'd had.

 

I had a real name once. If I still knew it, I'd tell it to you. My name was not taken from me, but rather, I elected to take a new one. As an agent of a very particular group, we have a proclivity for codenames. The name of my choosing was Specter and I work for the Planetary Maintenance Organization. It is our task to ensure the world's threats are dealt with and either contained or destroyed. The methods we use to achieve these ends are at the discretion of each agent and we enjoy a great deal of freedom in our line of work. When I was enlisted, I was warned that I would not receive vacation days, but the benefit package certainly made up for that.

 

To elaborate on that benefit package: I get to make the world a better place.


Edited by Cederak, Jan 26 2014 - 02:26 PM.

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#2 Offline Toa Smoke Monster

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Posted Jun 10 2012 - 10:43 PM

I really enjoyed this story. (And I'm surpirsed no one has reviewed it yet.) It doesn't feel rushed nor does it drag out too long. It goes at a good pace and never feels slow. I also liked how you told the story through Specter's point of view. The way he described his reasoning for killing who he did was very thought-out, IMO. This helped to flesh out his character.And speaking of Specter, he is one powerful being. I'd be scared if he ever turned evil.I didn't find any grammar mistakes, so good job on that!Overall, I liked this story a lot and I have no complaints about it.
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#3 Offline fishers64

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Posted Jun 11 2012 - 10:54 PM

Specter = Toa of Psionics with Mask of Shielding?At any rate, it's a nice story. Kind of predictable, however (do evil dictators ever give in to the demands of intergovernmental organizations?). I do like the odd twist with Specter writing his name in the wrong language. And the "I get to make the world a better place." Shouldn't it be "the universe"? But anyway, a little ironic in a way, which I like. Good job here.
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#4 Offline Aderia

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Posted Jun 12 2012 - 11:53 PM

So, I was sitting around trying to think of a short story to write, and then I just kinda said to myself, "You know what, I think I'll just go review Ced's story." I hope hearing good things doesn't get too redundant for you. Even so, you could have worse problems, I'm sure.Anyways, you've managed to impress me yet again with the liberty you've taken in expanding the Bionicle Universe in your writings. I was drawn into the world so much that I didn't even have time to check for spelling/grammar/typo and other nitpicks. I'll leave those to those of us more eagle-eyed, though I'm doubting they'd find anything. The fact that you put into play the language barrier really stood out for me, since I've never r/eally seen that done in a Bionicle Fanfic before and I can totally relate. Props to you.Again, on the more technical (and repetitive) side of things, like usual, you had good dialogue stream between characters. I may have hinted at earlier, but your descriptions, like with the different languages and species were A+, really making the story pop. The atmosphere of dystopia you created in the dictator’s warzone state was very well done, it worked well with the overall flow of the story.On another note, I did see one thing that I wanted to comment on. While I definitely like your use of repetition to tie the beginning and end of the story together, the first and second to last paragraphs look suspiciously identical. Let me quote:

Now, when you re-used the opening segment... I skipped over it after I skimmed and concluded it was the exact same prologue. [...] I'd suggest doing those bits in a reprise (like songs in musicals. They don't re-use the exact same song when bringing back an idea, they alter it slightly to fit with what new story development has come to light. Like in Tangled, for example (don't know if you've seen that movie) with the song "Mother Knows Best" or "When Will My Life Begin". When Will My Life Begin starts out with Rapunzel looking out the window and hoping to leave. The song returns when she leaves her home for the first time, and instead of being a melancholy tune, it's about her experiencing her freedom for the first time. The same tune, but with new lyrics that bring things full circle. That's what I'd like to see more of instead of reusing the exact same text, if any of that makes sense).

So. Specter. I’m not exactly sure what he is, besides hardcore. I don’t think you and your expansive imagination would make him a Toa or anything, so I’m looking forwards to seeing more from him. (This does tie into “Cenotaphs”, right?) He’s got the feel of a Dark Hunter, but more moral and less psychotic.And I think I’ve run out of things to comment on, so all that’s left to say is “Keep up the good work,” and one of these days, I’ll get around to reading your epic. Promise ;)(Whoa. Whole review, one emote. I am getting good at this.)(And *sigh* whacky forum maintenance while I’m trying to post this. Oh well.)

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#5 Offline Cederak

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Posted Jun 16 2012 - 12:13 PM

Thank you for your reviews The Smoke Monster, fishers64, And Aderia!

Specter = Toa of Psionics with Mask of Shielding?At any rate, it's a nice story. Kind of predictable, however (do evil dictators ever give in to the demands of intergovernmental organizations?). I do like the odd twist with Specter writing his name in the wrong language. And the "I get to make the world a better place." Shouldn't it be "the universe"? But anyway, a little ironic in a way, which I like. Good job here.

I'm actually not sure what Specter is, although your guess certainly checks out, minus the killing. I imagined him being part of a species with very powerful abilities, as displayed during the course of the story.I think "world" works. Karda Nui is "the world that feeds the world" and we even have a book on the MU titled Bionicle World. I've used them interchangeably in reference to the MU many times before. I'll level with you though: my use of the word "Planetary" is a bit of a misnomer for the MU.

On another note, I did see one thing that I wanted to comment on. While I definitely like your use of repetition to tie the beginning and end of the story together, the first and second to last paragraphs look suspiciously identical. Let me quote:

Now, when you re-used the opening segment... I skipped over it after I skimmed and concluded it was the exact same prologue. [...] I'd suggest doing those bits in a reprise (like songs in musicals. They don't re-use the exact same song when bringing back an idea, they alter it slightly to fit with what new story development has come to light. Like in Tangled, for example (don't know if you've seen that movie) with the song "Mother Knows Best" or "When Will My Life Begin". When Will My Life Begin starts out with Rapunzel looking out the window and hoping to leave. The song returns when she leaves her home for the first time, and instead of being a melancholy tune, it's about her experiencing her freedom for the first time. The same tune, but with new lyrics that bring things full circle. That's what I'd like to see more of instead of reusing the exact same text, if any of that makes sense).

Tekulo's advice makes sense to me, to a point. His reference to changing an opening and ending - within the boundaries of a story where the character changes - is a good idea. The problem is that Specter doesn't change at all in Scourge. He enters as the same entity that departs. I wanted that consistency to reflect his life/job description, with an aside at the end.

So. Specter. I’m not exactly sure what he is, besides hardcore. I don’t think you and your expansive imagination would make him a Toa or anything, so I’m looking forwards to seeing more from him. (This does tie into “Cenotaphs”, right?) He’s got the feel of a Dark Hunter, but more moral and less psychotic.

I'm not sure if I'll revisit Specter. He was certainly fun for this, but unless I find myself with enough free time to give this little universe an epic, this is probably it for him. This doesn't tie into Cenotaphs though - just kinda wanted to run that by everyone, to prevent any confusion down the road.

And I think I’ve run out of things to comment on, so all that’s left to say is “Keep up the good work,” and one of these days, I’ll get around to reading your epic. Promise ;)

I'm holding you to that. :)Once again, thank you all for reviewing this. I really appreciate it.-Ced

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#6 Offline Zaxvo

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Posted Jun 19 2012 - 12:07 PM

Zaxvo here from the SSCC.Well, this is certainly one of the most interesting stories I've ever read. Your dialogue is believable, your plot is certainly plausible, and, on the surface, it's very very well put together. Dive a little deeper, however, and I have a few minor quibbles. This isn't to say it's bad, no no no, it's actually quite wonderful. However, nothing's perfect.Now, first of all, with your protagonist, you run into the Superman conundrum. Not sure if it's been recognized like that before, but whatever, that's what I'll call it. Fundamentally, your climax loses some of the suspense when your character is practically invincible. I'm fairly certain Specter isn't invincible, because that makes for a really boring story, but he doesn't show any weakness at all. Nothing. Throughout the story, he's more bored than anything. And so the climax loses that suspense.Think about your favorite movie or video game or book or tv show. Whatever it is, I'm almost certain the villan can at least stand up to, or in many cases, overpower the hero. Luke Skywalker is so much weaker than Darth Vader, at least in the first two films, and in the third he has to deal with the Emperor. Frodo and Sam are so much weaker than Sauron that if he sees them, they'd be dead. Voldemort is infinitely more experienced than Harry is; the only reason Harry managed to prevail is through a lot of hard work behind Voldemort's back and some trickery with the Elder wand. Makuta is too strong for any one Toa to challenge on their own. And that's because the readers need some stress, some suspense. Or the story starts to become boring. For a reader of your story, it's really really obvious that Specter is going to kill Mallyndi. The main reason I would have kept reading (if not for the whole SSCC review thing) is because Specter is just so awesome. He's supremely powerful. And that's awesome. But as a character, to stand on his own? I'd say he wouldn't make a very interesting one -- if he's still THIS powerful. The way you've written it is absolutely perfect for this type of character: any longer and it would get boring. Any shorter and you lose out on the details of the Specter's sheer power. The other thing is actually really really minor, but the transition between the two meetings, and the month in between, is handled really poorly. I had to go back and read it again, and I was still confused. You never really say that the month passed, that it was time for the Specter to kill Mallyndi. So yeah, might want to fix that. Phew. long rant over. :P sorry about that. Honestly, this is one of the most fascinating stories I've read in a long time, and it's the perfect length to showcase the Specter's awesome power without getting [too] boring. Your grammar is spot-on, the action scenes are written beautifully, and the whole concept is brilliant. Asides from an overpowered protagonist and a poor time transition, this is, beyond doubt, the best story I've read on the new BZP forums. And it's better than quite a few that I read on the old ones too. Well done!
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