Garbage 'n Other Refuse Eliminators~
In the roar of dust and diesel,
Cedric manoeuvred his small forklift truck toward the waiting containers
with ease. Loud rock was blasting from the speakers of the boombox in his
cabin. He and his crew had been asked to clear an old garbage dump sitting
on top of an old fairground to make
room for new garbage, a new housing project or maybe even a park. Though
in Cedric's experience the latter was hardly ever the case. Not enough
profit in parks.
He'd jokingly called his company "ignore" as that was what
people tended to do with growing piles of refuse. Until the problem got
out of hand. Cedric had found that people paid him handsomely for cleaning
up their mess and it just so happened that he didn't mind getting his
Outside, his three teammates were busy with their own work. Oura had the
most seniority. She'd been on his team almost from when he'd started his
company. Cedric honestly hadn't imagined Oura would stick around long.
Garbage disposal wasn't really a job people associated with women but as
long as they clocked out on time and he paid her what he owed her, she
didn't complain and did her work. Her knowledge of technical systems had
helped him out on multiple occasions.
Digging in the dirt, trying to
excavate a large boulder, Wim and River were slugging away with hammers
and pickaxes. Wim was a burly sort. he was young but motivated and Cedric
knew he'd stay for years. River was a temporary hire, he lacked the muscle
and the love of physical labour. But the man did what he could and he was
a welcome addition for the current job.
Cedric put his hand on the lever and said: "Let
it rock and let it roll."
He started loading the waste they couldn't disintegrate or recycle on site
in the small cargo ship they had just for the purpose. Cedric led a tight
ship and kept up with the latest developments. Safety came first after
all. Earning money and dieing young didn't mesh in his head.
A knock on his window pulled him out of his concentration and Cedric saw
Oura gesturing to turn of his rig so they could talk.
"We've got a problem." she told him.
"What?" he asked.
"The big wheel keeps on turning." she sighed, "whatever
control box it has is located somewhere else. I've gone over the damn
thing with a magnifying glass and I can tell you, that neon light burns.
What do the contractors say about damaging it?"
"They asked it be left intact." he told her.
"Can I ask the boys to try and excavate it?" she conceded.
Oura went away before Cedric could reconsider. She would take a shovel and
dig, but the big rotating wheel that had once been a landmark to the
asteroid seemed to be buried into a mound of trash. And not the dry and
brittle kind. Foodrests had rotted and the rich organic muck had started
to reek as she'd been trudging through it to look for the controller. It
was a mystery how the giant Ferris wheel had been able to keep turning for
years but it must be hooked up to a big energy source, probably even the
main electrical grid for the neighbouring city.
Oura could appreciate the aesthetics of the thing, like a brilliant
reminder of faded glory. She could just imagine the people getting crazy
on the waltzers, riding on the ghost trains where the cars scream and
slam. She herself could be called a victim of the night. Not many people
would be able to tell from her looks but she liked to go out. Sometimes
she looked for people, enjoying the mass of many around her, on other
nights she preferred to wander deserted streets, marvelling at how quiet
some places could become.
Her communicator rang and she picked it up without looking at the screen.
At this hour it could only be one person.
"Hi Yoshi." she smiled.
"Oura, can you give me the boss?"
"He's busy loading. I think you'd better call him back in an hour or
"Stay safe." Yoshi told her.
"I don't know where I'll be tonight, but I'll always tell you where I
am." she quipped.
"Sally says hi." the pr manager told her.
"Give her my regards."
In the main office, Yoshi did just that. The older gentleman of Asian
descent had a kind air about him that inspired confidence. He gave the
communicator back to Sally, a young pretty thing that, like so many
others, dreamed of making it big. Yoshi had left those dreams of grandeur
behind a couple of decades ago. He was quite content with his current
"Well, I'm off to meet some clients." he said to no-one in
particular as Sally was talking a mile a minute to Oura.
It took several minutes more for Oura to dislodge the enthusiastic
secretary from trying to give her some tips to get rid of putrid smells
and some strategies to pick up guys. When she finally reached the guys
they were finishing up their work on the rock.
"The boss wants you to help me unearth the big wheel."
Wim took up his gear and headed for the wheel. He considered Oura just
below the boss and would follow her orders without question. River, a
temporary worker wasn't as easily convinced to do what she wanted.
"Why don't you do it?"
"We all will, it's too big a job for one person." Oura sighed.
"Money for muscle." Wim added.
River debated with himself whether or not to struggle but finally decided
against alienating the others. This job wasn't a dream by far but it did
pay well and he would be able to rock away after another gig or two.
"I don't know how you can stand doing this day after day." he
sighed to Wim.
"It's an honest job and the boss makes a lot of money. One day I'll
be doing the same."
"Rather you than me." River admitted.
He'd never thought of himself as being a choosy or picky person but
clearly even he had a standard. Even a marginally illegal job would be
better than sticking shovels in muck. Now if he could drive the forklift,
he might be singing a different tune. Resigned to his current fate, River
joined the two others and started digging.
It felt like it took hours and that might have been truly the case as the
Boss joined them after he'd finished loading. The four of them worked in
silence and dug deeper. After they'd cleared this Ferris wheel they'd be
done. The asteroid cleaned and ready for the next decades of waste accumulating.
"I think we've reached the control box." Oura said, signalling
the others to stop digging.
The men took a step back and left their technical engineer to do her
thing. Oura kicked the box and wrenched it open. The damn thing had
survived years under a layer of waste. It was probably built to last until
the end of time. The box cracked open and revealed a single red button.
Oura took off her gloves and pushed the control.
And then the world went awry.
In a screaming ring of faces, a hazy form appeared, standing in the light.
The creature seemed to be vaguely female but cloaked in shadows. She was
the balance daemon of destruction Fantredala and with her was the true
chaotic shadow Wuneltszou. But that was something the crew of I.G.N.O.R.E.
would only learn later.
As she strode closer she appeared to be human, but also alien, her
features distorting with every step. She took of her silver locket and
said: "You are the perfect stranger. Please use my strength in
She turned around and beckoned the crew to follow her. The waste that was
still scattered around them vanishing in the haze of shadows.
"Are we seriously going to follow her?" River asked when Cedric
seemed to follow her like a bewitched man.
Wim just shrugged and scrambled to catch up. Oura considered for a moment
and then shrugged:
"It's just a danger when you're riding at your own risk."
And somehow she knew that the risk was on the Boss though what happened
next would probably touch all of their lives. River hesitated but let his
gambler's mentality make the decision. The bigger the risk, the bigger the
reward. He raced to catch up to the others and just as he reached them,
the veil of shadows seemed to close or lift or change. And then they were
no longer standing on the -now considerably cleaner - asteroid but on a
big spaceship with strange creatures and mad scientists.
Had they really made the right choice? Did it matter?
Sponsorship story for Abstract
The assignment of Fantredala's children to their chosen guardians did not
happen with their births. She had asked for a Hatching Bay and laid her
eggs there, indeed, but selecting the ones that would be their caretakers
was not to be a matter of chance. For the first few days, they were only
their parents' children: amorphous clots of living shadow with glowing
yellow eyes, clinging to Wuneltszou's own darkness as he and his mate
carried them places they might feed -- and where Fantredala could assess
the instability of their inherent destruction.
She was Balance. He was Chaos. Their children were somewhere between.
Destruction fed them all.
They brought their chosen guardians to meet their children one by one and
group by group. There was no ceremony, no audience, no other present to
record the pairings but Schroeder himself. His usual assistant, Devika,
was biologically the grandmother of the clutch -- and she wanted to be
nowhere near it.
Szedala was their only daughter, the rarity of shadowling females breeding
true in their clutch, though it made no difference other than a different
checkbox marked in the Destiny's records. She was proud, but no prouder
than all her brothers. Regal, but also no more than they. Where she varied
was that she was more innately stable than the rest of them. That
Fantredala had gone out and brought back the IGNORE crew as one of her
choices in guardians seemed to fit in to her strange sense of humor.
Cedric, Oura, Wim, and River were all destroyers too, though others likely
would not have considered them such. And that, in Fantredala's eyes, made
them their own kind of perfect.
There and gone again, the seeds of chaos and
destruction were spread across the Nexus, for good or for ill. With the
records archived and their guests departed, Schroeder found himself
remembering the compulsions of an earlier time: when he had set his labs
to the creation of new species to counter imbalances he perceived in the
world. He wondered now if that had been arrogant of him. Perhaps he had
sabotaged the balance, himself, and something somewhere else had righted
Perhaps these hatchlings hadn't shifted any scales at all. Only time would
All of these shadowlings must destroy to feed.
The most delicious and sustaining meals are the energies released when
living things die, which they can absorb simply by being present. They can
also consume any energies released when they enact their destructive
powers. (Essentially the calories or joules inherent to whatever was
destroyed. Destroying a barren asteroid would give back nothing, but
destroying a nuclear weapons plant would be absolutely invigorating!)
Subsistence requires daily consumption of energy equal to their own life
force. At this minimum, they will grow up over the course of a couple
years. If allowed to feed without restraint, they will grow to their full
adult form in a matter of days.
Unbalanced, Indiscriminate, and True are flavor-text to suggest how hard
it is for the shadowling to moderate their innate urges to destroy and how
much work their sponsor will have to do to keep them under control. As a
species, through Fantredala's genetic adjustments, they are all
Shadowlings of Destruction.
Life on the spaceship had been pleasant though somewhat boring. For a crew
of people who were used to working most days it felt strange to just have
to wait. So while Fantredala watched her brood and contemplated the
sponsorships, it probably wasn't surprising to find the Boss talking with
the cleaning crew and Wim digging through waste in the ship's depths. Oura
was staking out the entertainment venues and making friends and River was
looking through all the spacemaps he could find to plan future
But after some time Fantredala had called them forth and entrusted them
with the care of her only daughter Szedala. The small shadowy creature was
chubby and looked absolutely adorable. But she was a creature of chaos and
destruction and as most children she could throw a tantrum. With her big
appetite and the nature of her needs, the crew had to make certain a lot
of jobs were lined up. Though honestly, the work did go faster with a
little black hole of destruction on their side. And the annihilation of
all that detritus - and the accidental critter or tool that Szedala could
Steadily Szedala grew and so did their fame.
Szedala had grown slowly, steadily eating the waste of humanity. Although,
not everything she'd eaten was waste. Several jobs had had her eating
things that would have been perfectly recyclable. But Szedala didn't mind,
after all those bits were all the more nutritious for her and she was not
someone who complained. At least not when she knew that keeping quiet
would work in her favour.
"Is there more?" she asked
"A whole mountain." he nodded, "if you're hungry."
"I'm never not hungry." she
admitted, "And it feels so good to let
"Don't I know it." Oura sighed, "Maybe we should take a
little vacation, us two, and go clubbing."
"If you don't mind the club getting demolished." Wim shrugged.
"I'm certain I can find a few appropriate venues." Oura joked.
"I wouldn't mind taking down a
house..." Szedala said, and thought: 'And maybe a few
stray humans...' before she regained her restraint and sighed. Maybe
there would be rats in the walls or bugs in the furniture. They made for
delicious snacks and sprinkles.
STATS ><>< STORY ><><
Isle - The
Background images from 1-background.com
All lyric references to Tunnel of Love by the Dire Straits are very