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Author Topic: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology  (Read 2093 times)

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Offline Operative13

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Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« on: February 27, 2022, 03:57:22 AM »
Welcome to Project OCTAVIAN


We seek to compile a list of extraordinary and exhilarating short stories for our team of dedicated artists, writers, and editors to create for our upcoming anthology series!

Anyone looking to contribute to this project is welcome to apply! Simply PM me (Operative13) with the title "Project Octavian Application - {POSITION}" using any of these Position taglines (Writer | Artist | Editor | Beta-Reader) to be considered.

If you wish to catch up on the latest news on Project Octavian, simply join this email list here. We will also be notifying you of any contests or prize pools that we will be distributing for free over the next few months.

Our current giveaway will be a $20 sketch of your original character for the first user to sign up to our mailing list! Afterwards, we will continue to give away a $20 sketch each month to one lucky individual signed up, as well as the potential for a $100 prize contest in the next few months!

Stay tuned for more details!



UPDATE:

Project Octavian is looking for volunteer beta-readers interested in contributing to this project by reading 5,000 word stories and giving a short review and rating based on your impressions. If you'd like to sign up, simply reply back on this thread, PM me, or sign up via our email list. We'll be sending out instructions to all those that join by next week.

In return for your feedback, we'll be giving out free sketches of your custom-made character! We're limiting our beta-reading group to a maximum of (10) on a first-come-first-served basis.



UPDATE 2:

Project Octavian is open to creating a one-shot manga based on your story! The only requirement is that it must be a completed story. If your story is found worthy of entry to Project Octavian, we will fund your story to be created by our team of talented artists and shared here on MangaRaiders for everyone to enjoy  8)

You'll want to act quick, however. This offer expires by the end of May.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2022, 02:35:52 AM by Operative13 »
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2022, 05:50:05 AM »
Here's a sneak peak at an upcoming short story from Project Octavian!

Spoiler
He watched himself in his blurry bathroom mirror, something he hadn’t done often despite his Commander’s orders, who reminded him to look at himself and ponder the details that differentiated him from men. He was told to always remember what he was. And there on the glassy surface he saw the furry white lines that stretched through his eyebrows and the fuzz on his pointy ears and on top of his head and the blackness along his nose and under his eyes, in which there was an unshakeable sadness and whose yellow colour hinted savagery.

He wondered if he inherited that sadness through his human DNA or the animal’s. The savagery’s source, though, was clear. Sometimes he was fascinated by the work they had done on him and sometimes he was repulsed. You are part of a mutation project, he thought as he tried to remember the laboratory pods he had been formed in, but no memory came to his mind except the ones in his dreams.

His entire existence was the result of tampering between human and animal genes to produce highly capable humanoids dutiful to the service of mankind. In his case, a racoon’s genes- an animal from man’s original planet before the space conquest, Earth- and some male volunteer he did not know. More than an animal, less than a man, he repeated in his head as he stretched his arms upward and leaned on the mirror. At some point through his mental exercise of discipline, he heard a knock on the door.

“R6, you’re wanted by the Commander,” said the dorm’s guard.

His eyes still closed and his hands slid down the wet, foggy mirror. “I’ll be on my way, Sergeant.”

Time had come for his next mission. This would be his seventh, and he was admittedly one if not the finest smuggler in the association. They had trained him well. Command had assigned the name R6 for him, but those of his kind called him Hoops. He dressed in his black uniform and walked out his dorm and headed towards command.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2022, 03:04:48 PM »
We've just had our first signup to our mailing list! The first subscriber spot has been taken!

If you wish to take your place in next month's draw, sign up to Project Octavian's mailing list! You'll also receive news about project updates and upcoming contests and events in the future.

Thank you very much for your support!  ;D
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology (Beta-Readers Wanted!)
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2022, 01:26:34 PM »
Hello everyone!

We are in the process of finalizing our drafts for some of our upcoming short stories. Project Octavian is looking for volunteer beta-readers interested in contributing to this project by reading 5,000 word stories and giving a short review and rating based on your impressions. If you'd like to sign up, simply reply back on this thread, PM me, or sign up via our email list. We'll be sending out instructions to all those that join by next week.

In return for your feedback, we'll be giving out free sketches of your custom-made character! We're limiting our beta-reading group to a maximum of (10) on a first-come-first-served basis.

Thank you everyone, and I look forward to sharing more with you all soon!
- Op
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology (Beta-Readers Wanted!)
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2022, 01:26:05 AM »
Big update: the free art prize for the first email signup has been rescinded! You once again have the chance to enter our mailing list to receive it! Join in before it's taken back!
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology (Beta-Readers Wanted!)
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2022, 05:24:17 AM »
As a friendly reminder, we will be starting the 2nd draw for Project Octavian's free art prize on April 1st. Sign up today to our Email List to qualify!
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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An interesting suggestion I had the other day. Each month, we do a giveaway of artwork for those that sign up to our email list (Such as the one below for April's giveaway.


As it so happens, I also manage a team of artists that work concurrently for Project Cairlann and Project Octavian. While the majority of work they produce is for promotional material for written stories, sometimes we have a slow week when we simply do not have new assignments ready for them for do.

Well, if we have artists always working on the project, why not create manga then? I was hesitant on the idea, until an epiphany hit me: Project Octavian is doing exactly that. Only we're splitting that effort between writing and artwork.

And so, in light of this realization, I have a proposition for my fellow MangaRaiders: since Project Octavian is on the lookout for promising, well-written stories, I am open to creating a one-shot manga based on your story! The only requirement is that it must be a completed story. If I find your story to be worthy of entry to Project Octavian, I will fund your story to be created by my team of artists and shared here on MangaRaiders for everyone to enjoy  8)

You'll want to act quick, however. This offer expires by the end of May.

PM me your story in whatever format you see fit, and if I find your story to be worthy of Project Octavian, I will contact you for our collaboration.

Looking forward to all your submissions!
- Op
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2022, 02:35:33 AM »
Zap! (Part 1)
The tune of a sweet, lulling song from an old, dusty gramophone played in the saloon amid the faint sound of scuffles. A half-empty shot glass of whiskey sat alone atop the bar counter, the recent puckers of a pair of lips stuck to its rim. A thud, and the whiskey rolled back and forth within its glass. Another thud, and the glass toppled over, spilling the whiskey onto the countertop. Suddenly, a pitched scream as a large man came crashing down onto the bar counter, sliding across its smooth surface, knocked out in a daze.

“You want more!? Come get some!” Mira snapped, gesturing to the brown leathered, belt-buckled men that surrounded her with rusted pipes and wooden clubs.

At once, the men charged the brash, dainty girl that challenged them. One man took a swing to her left, which Mira evaded with ease with a mere jolt back before clocking him with a swift uppercut to his chin. Another swung down with his pipe, only for Mira to block with her arm and grab hold of the pipe. The man tried to tug the pipe back, but Mira’s eyes began to glow white, and with a surge of energy, sparks flew across the pipe and zapped the man before Mira kicked him down and took the pipe for herself. Two others came with their clubs, but Mira quickly dispatched them with a swift bludgeon through the flimsy sticks, breaking the men’s weapons and beating them to a pulp.

Mira then dropped the pipe and observed the last man standing out of the others: a large, towering brute wearing a metallic breathing mask. He pulled up his dress sleeves, revealing huge, bulging muscles inked in cogs and skulls. He cracked his neck and wrestled his arms around, warming himself up to this little girl that had pulverized half a dozen men.

“Ain’t my style to hit a girl,” the brute said, the mask hissing steam as he breathed.

“Trust me, you won’t,” Mira retorted.

Just as he raised his fist and stepped forward, Mira kicked the pipe she just dropped straight into the brute’s face, and with another white glow of her eyes, shot a spark with the tip of her fingers into the pipe, sending a blast powerful enough to knock the man straight through the wall and out onto the street.

Mira blew her fingers and with an air of dominance, strode over to the brute in the wall and stood over him. His mask had been broken halfway down, revealing his missing lower jaw exposing his gum line. He started to come around when Mira tugged on his collars and pulled him up to meet her eyes.

“Where’s the box? Where have you taken it?” she asked.

“W-Whut f-fox?” the man asked.

“Don’t play dumb with me! I saw you and your goons hauling stuff in here earlier. Where is it?”


“W-We fust woof affer fis effaflisment,” the brute muffled through his lack of lower lips. “We an honesf biffness, I fwear it!”

“Honest business, my ass! What kind of saloon needs so many bozos to look after it?”

Just then, the sound of ringing bells came around the corner, Mira rolled her eyes and let out a disappointing groan as she dropped the brute back down.

A car rolled up to the Mira before shutting down its bells. The windows rolled down and a finely-dressed man in a striped vest suit peered out the door.

“Get in the car. Now,” he said with a stern voice.

“Jack! The box has got to be here! I’ve been tracking it for days now and…”

“Get. In.”

“But…!”

“Now.”

Mira looked back through the hole in the wall at the destruction she had caused. The men all groaned as they struggled to pick themselves up, tripping and falling over the broken mess of the establishment, with onlookers beginning to gather all around them. She was certain the box they had been looking for days now was right inside, but she could not ignore the silent, judging gaze of Jack.

With a heavy sigh, Mira slumped her way into the passenger seat as Jack shifted gears and drove away, just as the constables rolled up in their squad cars behind them and dispatched themselves towards the scene.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2022, 02:56:49 AM »
Zap! (Part 2)
The drive across the city was all but quiet. Mira slouched herself against the car window, armed folded with a pouty lip, gazing out at the backdrop of passersby and towering metal and concrete structures pouting steam and gas from their exhaust chimneys. Out on the ground floor, shops and street vendors lined the road, selling and bartering all sorts of gadgets and gizmos from small trinkets and pocket-watches, to walking automatons and mining drills. Hard leather and tough cotton were the go-to clothes worn for the people of Steelbarrow. Burning coal and the copper dust that floated in the air meant delicate fabric stained easy. It then made it easy for Mira to pick out the foreigners from their dainty, bright-colored clothes as oozed over each contraption.

“What in the world were you thinking, Mira?” Jack said, breaking the long silence. “Going in alone like that without telling any of us.”

“What else was I supposed to do?” Mira fired back. “Wait until I get a rubber stamp while they’re making a getaway? It’s stupid rules like that that we can’t get anything done.”

“We have rules for a reason, Mira. What if you’ve gotten into more trouble than you can handle? What then? We don’t know where you are, and we don’t know what kind of threat we’re dealing with. It’s dangerous for everyone involved.”

Mira sunk herself into her seat. She had heard this talk a thousand times by now, and not just from Jack. Practically everyone at the Constabulary spouted the same lines time and time again about sticking to the rules and following orders. It was drilled into her skull since the first day she joined, and yet it never stuck for Mira. To her, it was just another technicality holding her back.

“I was this close, Jack. I could’ve solved the case, put the bad guys behind bars, and all on my own too.”

“I’m sure you would have. But not today. You went way out of your depth, and that’s not something I can tolerate. When we get back to the station, I’m putting you in for desk duty.”

Mira shot back up. “Desk duty!? You’re kicking me off the case?”

“Until you’ve had time to think about your actions.”

She scoffed. “I’ve had plenty to think about my actions. How do you think it makes me feel knowing I’m always stuck with you watching my every move?”

“I’m your Handler, not your parent. Every Custodian gets one. Even that one fellow from Three-Sec.”

“Chase doesn’t get dawdled over by his Handler.”

“Because he knows how to follow the rules. Do you think anyone in the Constabulary will let a rogue officer do as they please? We’re the symbol of order here in Steelbarrow. People look up to us as role models.”

Mira scoffed. “And sitting behind a desk is definitely setting an example…”

“I’m serious, Mira. We have no idea just how dangerous your powers are. If something goes wrong and I’m not there to stop it, who knows what will happen.”

Soon enough, they arrived at the front entrance of the Constabulary, a towering rotund structure embedded at the base of a cliff face, right at the corner of a bustling Y-shaped intersection. People of all sorts crossed through its large rotating doors: sobbing children, squabbling couples, berate suspects in handcuffs… but most dashing of all were the Steelbarrow Constables. With their half-pint shakos and their shining brass badges fixed upon the breast pocket of their tan pressed uniforms, the Constables carried with them a prestigious aura wherever they went. Even in a sea of dull, murky browns, grays, and crimson, the Constables sparkled in the high noon sun like a beacon of light.

Right at the center of the Constabulary’s entrance stood a set of much larger double-doors with a marble archway. Engraved at the top: Constabulary of Steelbarrow. A large crowd gathered behind the rope dividers to a long black carpet with gold embroidery trailing out from the double doors. A band began to play a proud, lively tune, and as soon as the double-doors opened up, young faces with steam-white uniforms marched out in pairs with wide, beaming smiles and their heads held high: graduating cadets of the Steelbarrow Justice Academy.

Mira admired the cadets as she and Jack quietly passed the crowd. All eyes fixed on the young men and women joining the constabulary’s ranks, not much older than Mira was. She never went to the Academy, but she craved the recognition and prestige. But it didn’t matter that she had solved dozens of cases, more than any of these cadets combined, or that she had extraordinary powers beyond anyone’s understanding. As far as anyone in Steelbarrow was concerned, she was just another tool. Something to be used and controlled.

“You alright?” Jack asked. Mira hadn’t realized she had stopped herself in the middle of the crowd, staring at the cadets for too long.

She shook her head. “It’s nothing.” Mira then noticed a black car rolling up along the curb nearby. A constable emerged from the driver’s side and went to open the rear passenger’s door before standing at attention.

As soon as those high heel boots hit the pavement, Jack turned to see a tall, blonde woman in a khaki coat puffing her cigarette holder as she observed the crowd congregating around the Constabulary’s entrance. A boy with a flat cap and green vest then came out from the same door behind her, no less taller or older than Mira was. The woman and the boy then made their way towards the Constabulary, but not before stopping by Jack and Mira.

“I see the little kitten has come back to her owner,” the woman said.

“Helen. A surprise to see you,” said Jack.

““We were beginning to worry when you weren’t here for our daily briefing this morning. Another one of your partner’s escapades, perhaps?”

“Some things came up at the last second that Mira and I had to look into,” said Jack.

The woman nodded, her large feathery hat bobbing up and down. “And did you find what you were after?”

“The Constabulary’s handling it. I’m sure you’ll hear more when we have our report ready this afternoon.”

“I see…” She grabbed another puff from her holder and gauged the pair from head to toe.”...then I’m sure the ruckus I’m hearing about downtown had nothing to do with you two. Chase and I happened to be passing by after visiting Dr. Firenti about his missing box.”

Mira raised her voice. “Actually, we were just…”

“We were just on our way to meet with the Chief,” said Jack. “A lot to catch up on, right Mira?”

Mira shot a stern look back at Jack, who simply ignored her.

“I’m sure Chief Folsey would love to brief you on the next case we have for you two, once the cadet ceremony is over. She does love her speeches.”

“I’m sure we all do,” Jack replied. He then ushered Mira to follow him into the constabulary. Mira looked back at Chase, who simply greeted her with a slight nod, before they broke off towards the Constabulary.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2022, 03:06:14 AM by Operative13 »
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2022, 02:35:49 AM »
Adelais, Curator of the Great Library of Atlas

Adelais, a mind of vast knowledge, but of little expression

An autodidact with a vast expanse of knowledge in practical and theoretical studies, from botany to mathematics, history and language, Adelais is always well-read on even the most minutiae of details. Yet her stern stance on real, applicable information meant forbidding much of the "nonsense" literature that attempts to enter into the Great Library. Frivolous thoughts and idle minds had no place in a sanctum meant for the most serious of intellectuals. Thus, the Great Library of Atlas sat with its vast collections of tomes and volumes untouched and unread, with only the occasional archivist traversing its monotone aisles. Yet perhaps a young bright assistant could give Adelais the open mind she needs to truly make the Great Library of Atlas great...
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Tenori Tejima

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2022, 12:46:22 AM »
Nani kore?

Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2022, 02:56:55 AM »
Zap! (Part 3)
Mira kicked back and forth upon the creaking wooden chair, pouting her face, sulking her neck, and grasping at the edges of her seat as she and Jack waited for Commissioner Folsey to arrive. Mira glanced over to her left, where Jack sat reading up on the briefing he had missed that morning. She leaned in to see what it was, but Jack caught her gaze and closed shut the case.

“The Gooluks Gang?” Mira asked.

“Not today, Mira,” Jack said.

“But I can help! I know just about every gang there is in the Ravines, and if they’re causing trouble…”

“You’ve caused enough trouble for us for one day.”

“Aww, come on! I’m bored… There’s gotta be something I can do other than just sitting here waiting for that old hag to come over.”

“Old hag you say?”

Mira and Jack turned to see Chief Folsey standing at the door, arms crossed with a raised brow and a sly grin gazing back at them. They stood to attention, at which she saluted back to them before heading to her large maple desk before them, but not before taking a quick peek at the standing mirror and taking a duster to her uniform covered in soot.

“How did the ceremony go?” Jack asked.

“Chippy as ever. Though I’ll never get over the idea of dumping black powder over everyone. I’d much prefer confetti or spring petals. I remember when I had my ceremony. Took me days of washing to get all that out of my hair.”

“I remember mine quite well,” said Jack. “That was the ceremony where all the powder was dumped on top of you instead of the grads. They had to fill it again and drop the powder all over again.”

“All the more reason why we should switch to something else.”

“I think it’s fine just the way it is,” Mira said. “It wouldn’t feel like Steelbarrow otherwise.”

Chief Folsey swept the seat of her chair and settled down, straightening the nameplate “Chief Constable Stephanie Folsey” at the front center of the desk. She clasped her hands together and asked.

“Now, what can I do for you two?”

“I’m looking to assign Mira to desk duty. Something plain and simple for her to work on."

“Desk duty? My, what trouble has the young one gotten into this time?”

“Bar fight at Harrowdown. She was acting of her own accord.”

“For good reason!” Mira interrupted. “Chief, you know how hard I’ve been working on the Firenti case. I’m sure if you search the premise you’ll find the box the Doctor’s been looking for this whole time.”

“That’ll be up for the courts to decide,” Fosley replied. “This is a serious matter, Jack. The last thing we want is for us to be taken to court over unlawful conduct and have our Custodians program questioned. I don’t have to remind you that for your job as a Handler, you should have a tighter leash with Mira. No loose cannons in my city,”

“I’m well aware,” Jack replied, eyeing back at Mira.

“It’s a very simple system. The Handlers set the ground rules, and the Custodians follow them, and everyone goes home well and happy. I know you and Mira have been enjoying some privileges most others don’t get since you’ve done excellent service to the city, and I’d be more than welcome to continue that if it doesn’t cause issues. But now that privilege has been overstepped. Jack, I’ll give Mira the desk duty you ask for her, but in return, you’ll be watching her each and every move from now on.”

Jack raised a brow. “What are you saying?”

“Why, you’ll be working with Mira, of course. You’re her handler, are you not?”

Jack blinked. “No, you don’t understand. I just need Mira to be on desk duty and watched over.”

Folsey laughed. “And have someone else do the job you’re meant to do? Absolutely not!”

“But I have a case I need to review! There’s still things I need to catch up on!”

“That, I can just hand over to another Handler. Maybe Quinn would be a good substitute. She and Chase just got off their routes this morning.”

“Them? They work the Chasms.They wouldn’t know the first thing about the Ravines.”

“Ah, I have just the thing!” Folsey rummaged through her drawers, ignoring Jack’s protest.

“You’re playing with me, aren’t you?”

“A lost cat. One of the poor rich folks lost their precious cat at the Cliffside District. Not a desk job, but maybe dull enough to get you two working together again.”

Folsey offered the case file, to which Jack reluctantly took. He glanced back at Mira, who shot back a mocking grin.

“Think of it as a team building exercise. At least this way you won’t have to blow up a building to do your job.”
« Last Edit: June 27, 2022, 03:26:34 AM by Operative13 »
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2022, 02:59:06 AM »
Zap! (Part 4)
Jack brooded as he drove the car through downtown and up the winding roads to Cliffside District. He hadn’t spoken with Mira since they left the Constabulary, aside from shoving the case onto Mira and telling her to read through all of two pages of reports. The second page was almost empty, save for a note that says the cat named “Whimsels” was a constant wanderer.

“What kind of investigation is this!?” Mira cursed. “They didn’t even bother to fill out half the report!”

“It’s a lost cat, not a missing person,” Jack said.

“And we’re supposed to treat it any differently than if it was a real person? What happened to following that oh-so-important procedure you were just so happy to bring up this morning?”

“As I said, it’s a lost cat.”

Mira scoffed. “You really like to act all high-and-mighty when in fact you’re really just hypocrites hiding behind a badge… no wonder they didn’t take it seriously either when Dr. Firenti lost his box. ‘Oh, it’s just a box! What could be so important about a stupid box?’”

“Reality’s much different than what you think it is, Mira.”

“Really? Another one of your lessons, Jack?”

“Do you honestly expect that we always have the time to solve every case there is? We get so many of them on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes we have to make a tough call on which ones we need to focus on and which ones we have to drop. If everyone was a cop, maybe we’d have the time to do everything, but we just don’t. Did I ever bring you to the Documents Department?”

“You brought me once, and that was so I could carry some boxes for you.”

“That room has hundreds of cold cases. Some of them are decades old. It’s our job as constables to make sure these cases don’t become cold. Especially the serious ones.”

“Then why aren’t we doing a serious case then? Excuse me, a ‘serious’ case.” She air-quoted at Jack before picking up the file again. “We don’t have to do this one. We can focus on the Firenti case instead. Or the Gooluks! Literally anything that will actually help real people. For all we know, that cat could be sitting up in a tree somewhere and we’d have wasted all day for nothing while the bad guys are out there doing who-knows-what.”

”In every other case, I would. Honestly, I would. But you need to understand you can’t just do whatever you please for your own gratification. I’m your partner, Mira. Partners work together. The Constabulary can say I’m in charge for all I care, but I want to trust you Mira. I’m not going to tie you down and demand things of you. You’re smart. You’re passionate. You’re full of promise. But you need to show me you’re worthy of that trust.”

Mira sat, pouting her face. He was right. They’ve worked together for months now, and all that time, Jack had trusted her to do the right thing. Perhaps she had taken her freedom for granted, and got carried away with it for so long, she had forgotten why she had it in the first place.

“All right… I’ll do my best.”

“That’s good to hear...”

“But you have to take it seriously too. No sitting back and letting me do all the work for you, okay?”

Jack blinked. “W-What?”

“Don’t ‘what’ me! You know exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t get to relax while I’m out talking with witnesses and gathering evidence. If we’re going to be partners-partners, I expect 50-50. Not 75-25, not 65-35, 50-50!”

Jack grumbled. “Partners. 50-50.”

“Promise me!” Mira reached out her hand, crossed eyebrows.

Jack slowly reached up and shook. “Promise.”

Mira popped up in celebration. “Yay! That’s done! I’m glad we’re both on the same page now. We’ll work to crack this cat case open and after we’re done, you get to pay for dinner at Almy’s.”

“I thought we agreed to 50-50.”

“It is 50-50! You’re making up for all the work you didn’t do earlier.”

“That deal is not retroactive.”

“Oh yes it is! You don’t get to say we’ve been partners all this time and not do your share of the work.”

“And since when have I not been doing my share?”

“Since the day I arrived at the Constabulary.”

“Name every occasion I haven’t been pitching my fair share.”

With a snickering grin, Mira cracked her knuckles and began listing every instance of Jack’s apathy off the top of her head. The usual soot and smog ever pervasive throughout Steelbarrow had uncharacteristically disappeared as they passed through an underground tunnel and through the other side until a large lake at the bottom of the ridge appeared before them. Surrounding the lake were the massive, towering walls of the canyon, and throughout these walls, picturesque buildings and houses decorated with bright, shining colors and greenery burrowed in their holes. The grandest of them all laid right on the top of the cliffside, with their high towers and overhangs and their massive maze-like complexes, all tucked away from the foul air of the lower districts. The Cliffside District.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2022, 02:44:35 AM »
Zap! (Part 5)
Before long, they arrived at a small home squashed between two others with brilliant white bricks and a large tree near its petite front entrance steps up a smooth incline. It had been a long walk, as the road became inaccessible to vehicles. Jack had parked the car at the bottom of the ridge, and from there they traveled up a long flight of winding stairs to get where they were. Mira was all but exhausted from the climb up, heaving and panting as she collapsed against the tree.

“Who would ever live here? Those stairs take forever to climb!” Mira bellowed.

“Some people would rather climb several flights of stairs than deal with coal dust all day.” Jack pulled the report from its case to check the address. “Besides, it’s good exercise.”

“The only exercise I need is when I’m beating the crap out of someone. And right now, the leg cramps just don't do it for me.”

“You want to speak to our witness here, or are you just going to sit there and mope?”

Mira groaned as she pushed herself off the tree trunk and lumbered towards the front door, drooping shoulders and an irritated frown. She then let out a large sigh as she reached for the iron door knocker. A few quick taps, and the two waited for their person of interest to appear.

A loud, booming voice boomed from behind the door.

“For the last time, I don’t want any of your snake oil!” barked an old woman.

“Constabulary!” Jack hollered back. “We have some questions we’d like to ask you.”

“This isn’t about that nosy hag on Windover, is it?”

“N-No…” Mira spoke up. “We wanted to speak with you about your missing cat Whimsels.”

A moment of silence. The door clicked open, and a plump old woman with short curly hair and a wide smile stretching from one big cheek to the other greeted them.

“Well, why didn’t you say so!” she said in a gleeful tone. “Rosemary Lapkin, that’s my name! But please, call me Rose.” She then stuck her hand out for Mira to shake.

Mira hesitated and slowly shook the woman’s hand, which gobbled up hers in its palm. “Mira Hailey. And this is my Hand… I mean my partner Jack.”

Jack nodded and subsequently shook hands with Rose, whose grip nearly crushed his fingers they shook.

“Such young, good-looking faces! Why if you weren’t working with the Constabulary, I would’ve mistaken you two for the kids that come around making a ruckus around these parts.”

“Actually, I’m…” Mira began to speak, but was cut short by Jack.

“We’d love to make idle gossip, but we’ve got things to do this afternoon. If you’d like to go over the details about your cat…”

“Oh my goodness, where are my manners? Come in! Come in!” Rose beckoned. “I have a kettle of hot tea on the stove.”

Mira and Jack darted eyes between each other before promptly following the woman inside.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: Project OCTAVIAN - A Short Stories Anthology
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2022, 02:58:31 AM »
Zap! (Part 6)
From every corner, clutters of books, knick-knacks and trinkets littered the halls of the house. The green-diamond walls were adorned from end-to-end of scenic paintings, from brilliant grasslands and midday beaches to blooming orchards and mountainous waterfalls. Hanging from the ceiling, pots of ferns and flowers of various shapes and sizes, the most prominent of which were uncut vines that separated the kitchen from the hallway, though not fully grown to cover the doorway.

Rose parted the vines and led the two to a small round table with candles at the center.

“Make yourselves at home! I’ll be right back with the tea.”

Jack saddled himself with the empty chair that creaked as it took his weight, and Mira moved the pile of books out from the other and set it off to the side before seating herself in the other. As Rose hummed a cheery tune to herself, Mira leaned in towards Jack and whispered.

“What do you think about her?”

“What do I think?” Jack replied. Mira nodded her head, a serious look on her face. He turned around to see Rose mixing in the tea leaves into the pot, brandishing a bright smile on her face.

“Strange. Eccentric. Odd… not sure what else to say.”

“Well, something tells me she’s hiding more than she’s letting on.”

“As a concerned pet owner? You might be reading more into things than you need to.”

“She just doesn’t feel like someone who’s awfully concerned about a missing pet.”

“And how would you know? You’ve never owned a pet in your life.”

“Don’t pet owners feel the same way as a parent with a missing kid? They’d do anything to bring them back home.”

“We don’t know that. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Besides, this could be just a simple runaway case and the cat comes back after a few days. We just need to ask a few questions and do some follow ups.”

“If there’s anything to follow up on.”

Just then, Rose placed the tea tray before them on the table.

“Rosemary tea! My favorite! And not just because it’s my namesake.”

The three shared a chuckle as Rose poured the tea into three little cups and handed Jack and Mira theirs before lifting her own cup to sip. Rose reveled in the drink’s soft fragrance of before touching her lips at the tip of the cup and squemed at the sweetness of the tea. Mira smelt the tea and was taken aback by the strong scent it gave before taking a sip and opting to set the cup right back down on its plate. Jack hadn’t even touched his tea, yet smiled back at Rose as the old woman finished her cup, letting out a satisfied sigh.

“Sweet, soft, and gentle. Just how I like them. All the more better when they’re picked fresh.”

“I take it those plants you have hanging from your ceiling are for tea?” Jack asked.

Rose looked at him with a stunned look. “What a smart, young man! Yes, they certainly are. It’s much more preferable to grow your own stock of tea leaves than it is to fetch it from some second hand stall gathering who-knows-what from all the smoke and bilk billowing down in the gutters.”

Jack looked to Mira. She immediately knew what to do, and took out a pen and notepad to jot down Rose’s words.

“How long have you lived here, Rose?” Jack continued.

“Since I was a child. I was born in Arborhill, but farming doesn’t quite make as much cash as digging gold out of the ground. So, my old folks moved here with lil’ me still learning to walk, and now here I am, still trapped in this dinghy town of ours.”

“You never thought to move out?”

Rose scoffed. “To where? There’s nothing but wilderness for miles. Even if I did want to move out, I’d have to start everything from scratch again. And I’m not keen on finding out if the next town over is willing to pay for my pension.”

“Are you still working?”

“Not since two years ago. I was a manager at Whitmore & Co’s.”

“Potato farming?”

“Growing potatoes out in the desert isn’t easy. That’s why they need people like me who know what plants need… and love.”

“I’ve seen their posters and billboards around the farmers’ markets. ‘Pure Potatoes. Plucked off Fresh Air,’’” said Mira.

“A load of crap. Literally. It’s just foul water in a pot. Minus the soil. That’s really all plants need to grow. But of course the company thought I was toying with them when all their crops failed. All thanks to that Spark in the sky.”

Jack and Mira shot worried glances between each other. The Spark. It was never a topic that invited warm conversations. It was what created the Zappers, people with supernatural abilities beyond scientific understanding, and what brought the city of Steelbarrow to a grinding halt as it fell into chaos for three terrible months. A lot had changed since then, but people still feared the idea of Zappers existing among them, especially with the controversial Custodians Act that employed Zappers under the command of the Constabulary.

Mira cleared her throat, hoping to change the subject. “So tell me Rose, when did you first get Whimsels?”
« Last Edit: August 08, 2022, 03:01:24 AM by Operative13 »
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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