Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Finish the Story – Fate or a Stupid Decision

F

Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

Looking back, it could have gone either way. It didn’t work out, which makes it look like fate, or a stupid decision, or both. But at the time, I did have a few things in my favor. I had …

2 comments

  • Looking back, it could have gone either way. It didn’t work out, which makes it look like fate, or a stupid decision, or both. But at the same time, I did have a few things in my favor. I had my wits. I had my hacker buddy TJ.

    And, most importantly of all, I had a freaking access card to the building.

    The plan seemed simple at the time.

    I’d plant one of TJ’s custom override hackbots at the power station on the southern lawn. He liked to give them all blue flame paintjobs. Said it made them work faster.

    I already had a plan for the guard dogs.

    TJ would remotely access the hackbot to scrub all security cam footage of me as I made my way through the building.

    I’d use the access card to let me in to the VP of R&D’s home office. One finger-sized USB hackbot (complete with ridiculous blue flames) on the computer and bingbangbob’syouruncle, we got ourselves some corporate espionage.

    Tidy as a hospital room.

    Which is a funny way to phrase it, come to think of it.

    The first clue that things weren’t going to go according to plan was the dogs. I’d been feeding those oversized sausage-gobblers primo bribery for over a week. They recognized me as “source of food” and didn’t even bark when they saw me any more.

    So I get to the wall — the part between the decorative ivy and the decorative water feature on a pedestal.

    Cute, that. Looks right fancy, no doubt. Problem is, folks forget that water erodes everything, and ivy doesn’t grow on air. There were reasons two hundred year old security systems had been replaced with newer models, and “your brick wall is secretly loose rubble behind all that ivy” isn’t even at the top of the list.

    So anyway, there I was. Inside the perimeter, waiting for a pair of rottweilers the size of horses to come around the corner, when the first inkling that my plan isn’t going to work strikes me.

    Right in the backside, I might add.

    They’d replaced the dogs. They’d replaced the goddamm, barky-as-hell, sausage-loving rotties with a pair of dobermans.

    Luckily, I was wearing my fanny pack. Double luckily, I had stored my bribery sausage in there.

    One quick click of the pack latch later and I was free to run like hell away from the disturbingly businesslike shredding of my exit strategy.

    Getting out wasn’t my priority just then. Getting IN before the dogs ran out of meat-based motivation was far more pressing.

    I reached the wall, flipped open the power station, and reached … for the hackbot that had been in my pack.

    I may have uttered a few unladylike words.

    So I did the only thing I could think of.

    I sliced through every last wire in the exposed power station.

    The house lights fell.

    The emergency lights clicked loudly to life.

    A siren started blaring.

    I ignored all of it, bolting across the remaining lawn exactly as if a pair of angry attack dogs were on my heels.

    I grabbed handfuls of english ivy older than my mother and hauled my skinny carcass up that rock wall like I was in some kind of video game.

    Again, ivy may look elegant, but it is the absolute worst when it comes to home security.

    Anyway, I slipped through an open window on the second floor just as the first bootstomps of security goons sounded on the lawn below me.

    Of course I’d memorized the layout of the house before I got started. I’m not an amateur, no matter what the rest of this story might have you believe.

    Not worrying about the cameras (I’d already been made, the best I could hope for was to get the promised data out of the house before I was caught) I bolted for the master office down the hallway.

    I rushed to the door and swiped the access card.

    I’d stolen it from the VP himself by posing as a valet. Really, rich people put way too much faith in their valets. They leave all kinds of stuff in their car.

    The access panel flashed twice, then made an irritated bwop, bwop sound that made my stomach fall.

    I swiped it again. Bwop, bwop. A third time. Bwop, bwop.

    The alarms. It had to be the alarms. Some kind of security setting that overrides and locks down all secure parts of the house during a breach.

    The door itself was solid wood. The access panel protected by a metal plate thicker than my pinky.

    I knew from the plans that there wasn’t a window into the room.

    I also knew from the plans that the room was air conditioned.

    I had not planned on spending my evening crawling through disgusting vents, but desperate times and all that.

    Things proceeded from there and I ended up in the room, pants covered in enough dust bunnies and mouse turds to disgust even the most determined doberman from biting me in the backside.

    Ten minutes I had to myself in that room before the guards found me, kicks-up on an antique desk that cost more money than I’d ever seen.

    What? You want to hear the rest of the story? Let me guess, you looked at my USB hackbot and didn’t find any data.

    Well, that’s because I didn’t spend that ten minutes waiting for TJ to work his magic.

    Sure, that was the plan. But while I was hauling my carcass through that filthy air duct, I got to thinking about how pretty much every aspect of the plan fell through.

    A little too convenient, to my thinking.

    So when I sat down in that plush leather office chair and looked at the USB slots on Mr. FancyPants’s computer, I allowed myself a moment.

    The dogs got switched. Sure, maybe that’s a thing that people do. I lost the first hackbot to the dogs and had to Tarzan my way into the building. Seemed to me there were more guards than I expected, but I wasn’t exactly counting.

    Then the access card failed. Which struck me as odd, looking back on it. I mean, sure — maybe the alarms locked down the whole building. But surely TJ would have told me about that when we were prepping for the heist.

    The last shoe to drop came when I looked just a little closer at the computer I’d come so far to hack.

    It had blue flames painted on the side.

    My access card failed me. TJ failed me.

    But my wits? Those never left. And I always keep a backup USB hackbot for emergencies.

    You want your data back, you’re going to have to let me skate. I haven’t transmitted them to your competitors yet, but by now you’ve scanned me and you know about my illegal implants. You know I can make good on my threat.

    Oh, and I’m going to need more than just my freedom. I’m going to need a lot more. Starting with TJ’s current location.

  • Looking back, it could have gone either way. It didn’t work out, which makes it look like fate, or a stupid decision, or both. But at the same time, I did have a few things in my favor. I had the Seven Blood Swords of Akkaresh.

    I can’t be blamed for thinking the war would be a sure thing, right? The Seven Blood Swords of Akkaresh! Holy relics from an ancient time. I’d grown up hearing stories about the lives of those who’d held the swords. All of them, to a man, had gotten everything they’d ever wanted. So I’d gone to a third rate tavern to hire sellswords to wield them for me in my army? Wouldn’t you have? Wouldn’t you have given your right arm for a chance to swing one of those suckers in battle? I’m not saying I was expecting their eternal gratitude or anything for giving them that chance, but just a little bit of gratitude would have been nice, you know?

    If you look out over the crenellation here, you can see them now. Yeah, they’re on the side opposite my forces. Do you see that bright red glow around each sword? “Heroes of legend” the peasants are calling those blackhearted scum. Real mercenaries stay bought once you buy them, that’s all I’m saying. At the very least, they hie themselves off to some distant corner of the world to become a warlord or something. They most certainly do not get themselves promoted to generals of the army opposing the man who gifted you a legendary artifact.

    But even without the swords, I still should have been in a good spot. The swords had been my backup plan. They weren’t even my trump card, they were just…insurance. The bulk of my plan had revolved around the Emerald Drake of Skaroon. The Skarow scrolls had stated that the drake was an immortal creature, guardian of the sacred heart of the Skarow. The scrolls had gone to great length to talk about how sharp the drake’s teeth were. I’d translated them with giddy excitement as I read about its ravenous insatiable appetite, its penchant for absolute destruction and chaos. I’d had visions and dreams about how the drake would lay waste to my enemies with the inexhaustible emerald flame of its breath and how I’d laugh as my enemies struggled fruitlessly to penetrate the impenetrable emerald scales that made up its body.

    That laughter had turned to choked coughing when I realized something none of the scrolls had seen fit to mention. The Emerald Drake of Skaroon? Was no bigger than the tip of my little finger. True, its teeth were frightfully sharp, I’d seen it chew a divot in the wooden doorframe a day ago. And also true? It had a ravenous insatiable appetite. It’d managed to eat a whole chicken leg for dinner the other day. An impressive feat as the meal was probably five or six times the damned things body weight. It’s over there now, you can hear the whistle of its snoring up on the mantle over there.

    But I still should have won. I still should have had this war in the bag. I still had my trump card. The Armor of Spinshot Coins. Legendary, absolutely legendary. Truly, it’s an artifact from a bygone era. It’s said that when you flip the coin attached to the armor’s breastplate, you’ll gain powerful abilities. Nigh unstoppable they say. If the coin ends up as heads, you gain immeasurable strength. You could punch a hole through the siege wall of a castle and bend steel in your armored hands. If the coin ends up as tails, you gain speed beyond the ken of mortal men. You could blur about the battlefield and kill an entire opposing army all by yourself. Kill them all and all they’ll ever see if a shining blur.

    My coin landed on its edge.

    Would you like to know what the ancient texts never bothered to state? If the coin doesn’t land on heads or tails, the armor just doesn’t know what in the blue blazes to do, so it’ll just sit there, frozen and immobile as it rests in between the two possibilities.

    I know you hero types.

    You came up here, barging into my throne room expecting me to have a grand speech prepared, and then we’d have an epic battle, all sorts of magic and sorcery flinging around until you finally triumph over evil and you can put an end to your long quest of vengeance.

    To reiterate my point, looking back upon the treasures and artifacts I’ve gathered, I’m sure you wouldn’t blame me for thinking I’d have an easy win here.

    But to be honest? I’m sick unto death of having all of these confounded foolproof plans turning on their head and making me look like a giant tit. I’ll formally surrender and you can do what you will with me just as soon as you figure out how to get me out of this cursed armor because to tell you the truth? I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out how on my own.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned