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Shore Leave (2.3k words; content warning) (1 Viewer)

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The Carcosan Herald

Senior Member
[disc]This piece contains strong language and themes not suitable for children. You have been warned![/disc]
~

There's an ancient joke from the twentieth century about a couple who have just had sex. The man says nothing, leaving the lady to wonder whether or not she was any good. Indeed, she is so terrified of a less-than-desirable result that she begins to consider whether he wants a divorce.

The man, however, has other ideas. Without turning to the lady, he thinks to himself: Oh look, there's a fly on the ceiling. Holy fuck, it CRAWLS.

~

The scathing heat of a light makes itself the first sensory punch in the face to greet me. The strip lamp hanging right over my head forces me to avert my gaze, turning my head to the left with a groan. As my head pulses and throbs, each bringing a new swell of seething pain, I catch sight of what is recognisably the mess deck of my starship, the Lady Midnight.

Or, rather, what is left of the mess deck of the Lady Midnight. There are drained bottles of varying kinds of drink everywhere. Sleeping figures, some of whom are either naked or scantily-clothed, lie in the chairs, on the benches and on the floor in an equal myriad of positions and snoring volumes. And to make matters even more fun, my nose is completely blocked up with desiccated snot. Hence, until I can acquire a handkerchief, I can only hazard a guess that the mess hall smells of cheap booze, vomit, sweat and other, significantly less innocuous bodily fluids.

And after staring in the wall mirror over towards the bar, I see a droopy-eyed, ragged-haired blonde woman delivering a tired, stupid expression back at me. She's dressed in a tattered bomber jacket with a pair of golden naval officer epaulettes on her shoulders. She's also wearing black combat trousers, much to my immense relief; though her missing boots give me a passing thought that she may have slipped those trousers back on in haste.

"Blurgh," I hear someone retching close to me. I guess that it is one of my sailors. Rothstein, if I am not mistaken. The resident fixer, the negotiator – the man who I can rely on to talk his way into an exotic goods merchant's stash, or out of a bad situation. Most of the time, anyway.

"Anyone else awake...?" I hear him grumble.

"Barely," I muster a croaking, haphazard response. "Rothstein, can you do me a favour?"

"Yes, Admiral...?"

"Can you tell me how many flies there are on the ceiling to my right?"

A few seconds pass as Rothstein counts.

"Two. One. Three. Two. Four. One. Two. Thirty. Two. Five..."

"You said two the most, so that's what I am going with..." I mutter, interrupting my comrade's hungover counting.

"Admiral, could you do us a favour and get my fixer..." Rothstein enquires.

"No can do," I refuse him. "If I get up from this table, I will literally die."

Although the remark is tongue-in-cheek and arguably an exaggeration, I actually half-believe it. The insides of my mouth are as dry as an Arrakian nun's crotch, leaving only a bitter, metallic tang. That my upper palate aches indicates that I have most likely been snoring like a foghorn all night. I haven't had a migraine this bad since one of my strike fighters dropped a vacuum bomb near my position on a danger-close mission on Canady IV. And to top it all off, my throat aches, my gut feels like it has been churned in a washing machine, and my nether regions feel like they have been pounded by a Thargonian's gravity-hammer.

To summarise all of that in one sentence: to say that I feel like shit right now would be a catastrophic understatement. But hey, I might have got some action last night.

On second thought, this has to be the worst trade in the history of trades. Maybe ever.

"Fine, I'll get it myself..." Rothstein grumbles. At this point I see him on the table next to me. He is missing his Combat Marine armour, unveiling a pronounced musculature and dark-brown hair.

He rolls off his sleeping bench, crashing to the ground with an unceremonious thud. Apparently, judging by the twofold angry growl that sounds, he has landed atop someone else, before rolling onto the floor.

"Dammit!" grumbles Rothstein as he staggers to his feet.

At that moment he notices that a slimy something is clinging to his bottom lip, having struck it when he landed. The blood swiftly vacates his face when he realises what said something actually is.

"FUUUUUCCCK!!!" he screams in horror, grasping at the expended condom and flicking it aside, flailing like a cornered badger as he starts to spit profusely. "GROOOOSSS! OH FUCK! SHIT! DAMMIT! BOL-"

Rothstein's volley of curses is interrupted as he grabs at his mouth and his cheeks bloat, suppressing the urge to vomit as he slaloms his way towards a nearby food waste bin.

"AAARGH..." A regretful, machined grumble resounds from my left. "Augh, my head..."

It's my old buddy Brutus. Now I'm concerned. I once saw this man down five Depth Charges on a landing at New Latgale without passing out, an impressive feat in and of itself. Whatever made HIM pass out cannot possibly have been good for my blood alcohol content, and Doc's gonna kick my ass if he has to print me ANOTHER liver.

"Rough landing eh, Brute?" I remark with a smirk.

As he stands from his position on the floor, briefly lurching backward as he catches himself on the table with a groan, I notice that he too is missing his usual wear, wearing just a white t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts over his massive, hulking frame. And of course, his signature grey facemask, outfitted after his jaw was lasered off back on Iota Crassus.

"Hold that thought..." he grumbles in response, grabbing at his stomach as he charges towards the same waste bin that Rothstein is presently throwing up into.

"MOVE OVER!" Brutus roars as he barrels into the lieutenant like a bulldozer.

As the hapless Rothstein is cast to the ground like a ragdoll, followed by a trail of vomit, another couple of sailors, one of whom was apparently the fellow that Rothstein landed on, engage him in full-on hand-to-hand combat. They try to shove the Commodore aside, in a remarkably similar manner to how starving dogs might fight a bear over a fresh kill. Bad idea, boys.

The battle over puking rights that promptly erupts bears an uncanny resemblance to a zombie apocalypse film and a particularly messy bukkake video. Amidst this carnage, I deduce that getting up now will in fact not result in my immediate, ignoble demise, something that I confirm as I stagger to my feet. For but a moment, the rumble of my stomach contents bubbling up into my throat makes me consider joining the Battle of the Ad-Hoc Puke Bucket. Having dealt with my fair share of thugs and back-alley fights back when I was prettier, I could most certainly hold my own against the man-mountain Brutus far better than those three scallywags ever could.

Then I look down to the floor, and my eyes fall upon a veritable minefield of bottles and the occasional condom scattered across the metal, along with pools of spilled vodka, beer, wine, beer-wine, and hell knows what other drinks and bodily fluids, along with their possible sleeping owners. I can see how Rothstein managed to get a quite literal taste of the crap lying around the floor, and I do not envy whoever has to clean up after this mess.

So, as a result of both that and the profuse aching in my leg joints, the idea of joining the boys at the waste bin is rendered moot. I instead pilfer from a nearby table a bottle of something and, in an effort to flush the rising tide of puke back into my gut, I finish off the contents. The nectarine sweetness of tequila rushing down my throat leads me to deduce that Robina's boys were involved in this wild party as well. Unfortunately, as anyone with more drinking experience than me can tell you, more alcohol is not a good method of dealing with alcohol-induced nausea.

A roaring, flailing Brutus is soon thrown across the mess hall, being introduced headfirst to the bar and scattering its contents everywhere. The grunts are dealt with when I handstand-kick two of them head-over-heels, knocking them out instantly. I finish the battle by sweeping Rothstein off the floor by the legs and sending him to join Brutus at the bar with a thunderous crash.

~

"Brutus?" I mutter.

"Yeah...?"

"What the fuck did we do last night?"

A small trail of some ochre semi-fluid rolling from my crackled lips to my chin is all that's left after expelling my guts of what was probably a steak dinner. Proper, organic meat's a rarity for spacers and especially pirates, so we often have to content ourselves with a thin nutrient paste, famous across the whole galaxy for being disgusting. The slimy, slightly-spicy aftertaste of what remained of that dinner makes me wonder whether or not the paste we usually get is actually processed puke.

"I think we might have celebrated..."

"Must have been one hell of a celebration, then..." I deduce. "Maybe Robina might know more about it..."

Ferdinand Robina. Once a rival of mine who captains a refurbished battleship christened the Catastrofuck, the so-dubbed Old Fart is now one of my closest friends and allies. He's also one of the few men alive who know my real name – I normally take to always calling myself 'The Admiral', both to hide my true name from the Galactic Confederation and because it sounds badass. The Lady Midnight and the Catastrofuck have both seen some pretty furious battles both alongside and against one another - along with their crews. We've pulled off seriously daring raids against the Feds together, ranging from stealing an entire tanker-full of thanatonium to relieving a battlestation of its weapons cache to sell to a rebel outfit on the planet below.

But that's not why I'm going to pay old Ferdie a visit aboard the nearby space station, which as it turns out is where we're currently docked. The reason why I'm now stumbling down said station's hallways, now significantly more stable after a well-earned puke, is because he's a teetotaller. Therefore, he has the best chance of remembering anything about last nights' orgy on my ship – or at least, more chance than me.

"Hey, Ferdie!" I bang on the door to where I have learned he has quartered himself for the duration of our stay. "FERDIE!"

The sliding door parts, bidding me entry to his humble abode. The portly, jolly shape of the Old Fart himself stands before a fireplace mirror, combing his long silver beard. He turns to face me as I enter, and I see a huge smile creep up his wrinkled face.

"Aha, I was wondering when you were gonna show up, party girl..." he chuckled in his deep, booming fatherly voice.

"Ferdie, tell me what the hell I did last night before I drop dead from anxiety," I ask.

"The better question is what didn't you do?" he breaks into laughter. "You need to be more like me and drink less, I think..."

"Ferdie – what did I do?" I don't plan on asking again.

"Well, from what I've heard so far from my men, you, Brutus and Rothstein arranged the whole shindig with all the lads after we busted that convoy over Cygnus. Remember that haul was worth trillions of credits?"

"Hah, I remember now..." I smile. "So that was what the whole orgy was about..."

"Orgy?" Now he looks confused. "Oh lordie, I didn't think it'd get that wild. I just thought you'd all be drinking that night, since I didn't see any other ladies board your boat, but this makes matters more interesting..."

A sharp jolt ripples up my spine after having my ears offended by that sentence. It is at the moment of this revelation that I come to a sudden, deeply concerning, painful realisation.

"Wait a sec..." I stammer, bracing myself for the potential response. "Please tell me your guys picked up some whores from this dump..."

"No, because that was supposed to be your guys' job."

I feel my eyelid starting to twitch as my skin ignites like a plasma reactor and my fingers curl themselves into fists. I see Ferdie's eyes widen as he leans back – but he knows he has nothing to fear from the furious plum-faced banshee about to unleash a biblical flood of molten shit, blood, piss, puke, spinal fluid and every single other bodily fluid imaginable upon the bastard responsible for this travesty. And the real fun part for the bastard in question is that I know exactly who he is. I could even tell you why he did it – I recall a week prior that I made a bet with him that if I could outdrink him (where I succeeded with flying colours), he would have to parade about the ship with a tutu. This is an act of the most heinous breed of vengeance.

"ROTHSTEIN YOU BASTARD, WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, I'M GONNA KEELHAUL YOU WITH PIANOWIRE!!!"

The cycle of stupid, pointless, oftentimes cruel pranks will continue as it always does. I might be apoplectic now, but I don't question that we'll all be sitting around the bar later on, laughing and drinking as we plot our next course – and our next raid. After I repay Rothstein for his little party trick...
 
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QuixoteDelMar

Senior Member
This is a well-written, interesting piece and most of what I have to say is entirely personal opinion.

First, "Blurgh". I've never been a fan of onomatapea in onomatopoeia in dialogue - it always draws me out of the story and reminds me that I'm reading a work of fiction rather than visiting another world. This goes likewise for noise words like "ugh" and "arrgh". No biggie, just a stylistic thing.

You have a couple sentences that I had to read twice to understand. Not that they're poorly worded or anything, they're perfectly fine sentences. The first one, I think, was "The blood swiftly vacates his face when he realises what said something actually is." I feel like there's a clearer way to phrase that, but I know my comprehension level isn't everybody's, so it might be fine as-is.

Next, all-caps dialogue. I know this isn't unique to the format, and plenty of professional authors do it, but like phonetic accents, it strikes me as a little... Well, childish. Like a gimmick. Your narration is strong enough that the reader gets the right sense without that kind of stylistic flourish.

And lastly, I keep a running tally of how many words a science fiction writer has to make up - you fell well below my "unreadable nonsense" line, and the way you use them feels familiar enough that it gives the impression you should recognize those places and things, even if you don't.

All that said, I enjoyed the humor and tone, and you are technically proficient in every meaning of the adverb. I'd love to read more about this particular crew again. Nice work, good job.
 

The Carcosan Herald

Senior Member
Yes, I'm already thinking that "The blood swiftly vacates his face" can be turned to "His face turned white" or something of that order.

As far as dialogue goes, I often take the approach of using punctuation, bolding and capitals to emphasise different tones. For example, a sentence rendered in all-caps will typically be a character shouting at someone, to elevate it above the other noise, to draw the reader to that particular sentence. The number of exclamation marks will denote tone - a simple "HEY!" denotes an authoritative, sharp bark. Something like "YOU BASTARD!!!", on the other hand, will denote panic, rage or some other strong emotion. That's the idea, anyway.

As for more stories about them, I initially created Shore Leave intent on using the cast for a one-off. I've been warming up to the idea of reusing the Admiral and her jolly band of pirates for something else, though. That said, I think my use of female protagonists is starting to border on overuse. But hey, at least I won't have any problems with gender diversity... :D

All in all, your critique is greatly appreciated, and I will be sure to consider all the points made here in my future works.
 

Lynked

Member
This is my first critique, so bear with me please! First of all, it is well written, very much so in my opinion. I much appreciated the vibrant verbiage, and the premise is interesting enough, if simple. But I do have a few things to say about it.

First, the caps. I agree with the first poster, in that it appears childish. I understand what you're saying about using them as emphasis and the use of exclamation marks as well, but it just feels jerky to me. It reminds me of what I wrote when I was younger and new to the craft. I would advise avoiding the overuse of exclamation marks and caps, but it's probably just personal opinion.

I will say, that while the story is humorous and definitely kept my eye, it lost me at times. There were a couple of times that I had to go back and reread sections of it to make sense of it, plot wise. But other than that, I found it to be a good, funny piece, and I enjoyed reading it. Good job on this ^_^
 

NeoKukulza

Senior Member
First of all, let me thank you for launching my sides into orbit alongside your ship. When I read the name Catastrofuck I lost any semblance of decency and laughed until it hurt.

Secondly, this is extremely well written and I would love to see more of this, although I must admit, with the name Catastrofuck flying around, I thought you'd name the captain something a bit more explicit than "Old Fart"

Finally, I want to bring to light the term "keelhauling", and the implication that it can be accomplished with piano wire. While in theory, it is possible to tie someone's limbs together with piano wire and drag them across the keel of a ship, I doubt it would be possible in practice. The piano wire simply wouldn't be able to withstand the pressure of the victim's struggles and the hauling of the crew as they drag it across the keel of a ship. Additionally, keelhauling in space would serve purpose, as I would imagine most spacecraft would be far too large for someone to be pulled across and survive, for a number of reasons. I don't even think a spaceship would even HAVE a keel.

So all in all, I would rate this about a 9/10. Great effort, would love to see more
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Lynked, just a quick note. You did a splendid job on the critique here. Start with positives and then your reasons why you felt the way you did. Really good job ... just in case you were wondering. :)
 
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