The Only City Left: Part 67

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 66, Allin prepared to transform into a werewolf for the first time in his life. He spoke his father’s passphrase, “Always stay alive,” and…

The Only City Left: Part 67

The transformation began immediately and was over in seconds, but for me it felt like an eternity. The moonlight from my coil enveloped me and set me on fire. My skin rippled and bubbled like a pot of water set to boil. A full-body cramp wracked me and I collapsed to my knees and bowed my head to the floor. It’s not working, I thought, panicked. Copper was wrong. I’m turning inside out!

I groaned at a feeling of not-quite pain but not-yet pleasure, a feeling of something about-to-happen like when you’re starting to fall but you haven’t hit the floor yet. I watched in awe and revulsion as the skin on my arms darkened, hardened, and sprouted fur. I could feel other, invisible changes, too. Although my head was bowed, I knew exactly where Copper and Banshee stood in the room, could smell Banshee’s subdued fear and Copper’s unbridled curiosity. I felt an untapped reservoir of power coursing through me, waiting to be unleashed. My groan became a series of howls.

A monstrous rage built up inside of me. Not blind fury but rather focused wrath. All those wolves out there who felt the same power: they had so much potential, but what did they use it for? To take what they wanted and kill anyone who stood in their way, to destroy. How narrow-minded.

Imagine harnessing the incredible power for good, instead. The problem with Doyle being in charge is that he was a punk before he was given this power and all it had done was turn him into a stronger punk. I wouldn’t think so small. With an army of werewolves at my command, I could force the planet to shape up. I could bring about a renewed age of peace and prosperity. And anyone who didn’t like it would be wise to get out of my way.

“Allin!” I heard Banshee’s voice as if from a distance, nearly drowned out by the sound of blood rushing in my ears, pulsing through my body. Louder, “Allin!”

I focused and saw my hands gripping the bars of my cell. I had pulled two bars together until they nearly touched in the middle. Outside of the cell, Copper peeked out at me from behind Banshee, the both of them standing well away. I let go of the bars and staggered backwards. I looked down and saw that the concrete floor had been gouged out in a set of parallel lines. I didn’t remember doing any of that.

“Turn it off!”

I looked up again and saw Banshee standing right before the cell bars. Was he mad? I could take one step forward and end him with a swipe of my great claws. Look what I had done to the floor. Flesh and fur would be like nothing to me.

“Allin, please, turn it off,” Banshee said, his voice low. Not an imperial command. A request from a friend. “This is not who you are.”

Not who I am? What was he talking about? This is who I always had been, under the surface. This was the gift my parents had bequeathed to me. A gift of unbridled power, of heightened senses, of unlocked potential. I was a werewolf now like my parents before me. Like my parents.

My parents who had fled that life to keep me safe, who had hidden their werewolf nature from me. My parents who had been murdered by the wolves. I was reveling in the power that had destroyed them. I felt sick.

With a press of the same buttons that had begun the transformation, it was over. I was human once more, on my hands and knees and retching in the corner of the cell. Banshee was by my side, patting my back and repeating, “It’s okay, Allin. It’s okay,” until I believed it enough to sit up and wipe the tears from my eyes.

“Sorry if I scared you,” I said, my voice a ragged croak.

“I had no doubt you’d pull through,” Banshee said.

“I wish I was so sure.”

“The first transformation is bound to produce some adverse effects upon both your physical and mental well-being,” Copper said. “Subsequent uses of the coil should be easier on you.”

“Thanks, Prof.” I couldn’t help but notice she still stood well back from me on the other side of the bars. I didn’t blame her. I wanted to recoil from myself, to hide on the other side of the bars, but I was trapped in my own traitorous body. “I hope you’re right.”

Banshee helped me to my feet and led me out of the cell. He asked, “Do you still think you can do it? Become a werewolf? Infiltrate the Garden?”

I rubbed my mouth with the back of my hand and said, “I can do it. I won’t like it, but if it’ll get me into the Garden and close to Doyle, I’ll do it.”

“This mustn’t leave the room, your ability to transform,” Banshee said, looking at Copper and me in turn. “The last thing I need is for Fordham and his cronies to know that there’s a werewolf in the city, no matter that you’re on our side.”

I slipped the coil on its necklace back underneath my shirt.

“I won’t be bragging about this, believe me.”

“You have my silence, Emperor Banshee,” Copper said.

“Good. Allin, let me return you to your room for some well-earned rest. Tomorrow, I’ll announce that I’ve agreed to your plan and you’ll be on your way immediately.”

I was surprised, to say the least. I thought he had been adamantly against the idea.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Let’s just say: it’s the right thing to do.”

“What about Fordham?”

“I’ll remind him who truly runs this city.”

* * *

Continue to Part 68.

5/26/13 News: I am moving slowly along on edits for Book 1. I have such mixed emotions about the whole process, so part of editing is getting into the right mental space and figuring out exactly what are my goals for the book. Part of the oddity of this process for me is that I know people are enjoying this serialized rough draft, but at the same time, I am going to be making considerable changes to it. Hopefully it all works out.

Oh well, this is all an experiment and based on how it turns out, I’ll decide how I would like to change how I do things for Book 2. Thanks for being part of the experiment!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

Story Cubes with Toddlers

Over on Google+, John Ward introduced me to a product called Rory’s Story Cubes as an idea-generation tool for the bedtime stories I tell my daughters. I ordered the base set and the Voyages add-on. There are several ways to use the dice, but for my purposes, the three of us took turns rolling dice and making up the story, with the goal being a complete story in nine dice.

Story Cubes

Here’s a transcript of my first attempt at using them with my daughters. Given that they’re two years old, I took a lot of control, but they enjoyed rolling the dice and getting in to the story. As they get more used to making things up, I will happily relinquish the reins to them.

Dad: Okay roll the dice. [Daughter 1 rolls die.] So what’d we get? Oh, it looks like an insect, a bug. So is this going to be a story about a bug?

D1: Yeah.

Dad: Okay, so, what’s the bug’s name?

D1: It’s called Cristers. [Crickets?]

Dad: Cristers?

D1: Yeah. I want to get more!

Dad: Okay. So we have a bug named Cristers. And then Daughter 2, you pick a die and let’s find out some more about the story. Okay, roll the die. [D2 rolls die.] Uh, it’s a shrine, a temple. So we have Cristers and he’s going to the temple to pray about… What? What is he praying for? Why is he going to the temple?

D2: Because he’s um going to craaaaaassssshhhhh! Again!

Dad: He’s afraid he’s going to crash again? Okay, so we have a bug named Cristers who’s going to the temple to pray because he’s afraid he’s going to crash again. He’s obviously an airplane pilot of some sort. So I’ll roll one now. [Dad rolls die.]

D2: Glasses!

Dad: Oh, glasses… So he goes to the temple and he says to the monk, “I am very afraid that if I fly a plane again, I will crash again.” And the monk says, “Perhaps you should wear glasses the next time you fly the plane.” And Cristers says, “Glasses! Why didn’t I think of that?” Okay, pick a die. Roll it, let’s see what we get. [D1 rolls.]

D1: Stars!

Dad: Oh, stars and a wand. So let’s think what happens next. At that moment, a fairy godmother comes down and says, “Cristers, you have one wish. What will it be?

D2: My turn!

Dad: Okay. And Cristers says, “I wish for a pair of glasses that will allow me to see a hundred miles away.” Now you roll the die. [D2 rolls.] And you got, hmmm, looks like… a trap door in the floor with stairs going down? And the godmother says, “Okay, I will give you the glasses, Cristers. But first you must go down the Flight of a Thousand Stairs into the darkness.” And then what happens next? Cristers goes down the stairs into the darkness and he finds… [Dad rolls.] A pyramid! A pyramid deep under the earth. So he goes into the pyramid—

D2: My turn! My turn!

D1: A castle. I bring a castle!

Dad: It’s D1’s turn. So he goes into the pyramid and… Roll the die. [D1 rolls. Dad gasps at skull and crossbones.] Oh no. And he walks into the pyramid and he discovers that there is a curse and it says, “Anybody who enters this pyramid will surely die. And then D2 rolls. Oh, a fountain. And Cristers would die, except he discovers the Fountain of Life, and he reaches into the fountain and he pulls out… [Dad rolls.] A goblet. And he uses the goblet to drink from the fountain.

D1: A trophy!

Dad: Oh, is it a trophy? Okay, he gets a trophy that says, “You survived the Pyramid of Death by drinking the Waters of Life. Your reward is a pair of glasses that allows you to see a hundred miles away.” And Cristers put on the glasses and he got in his plane and he flew away and he could see perfectly and he flew and he flew and he landed fine and he didn’t crash and he was happy. The End.

The Only City Left: Part 66

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 65, Allin learned how Emperor Banshee and Professor Copper intend to destroy the system that allows werewolves to exist.

The Only City Left: Part 66

“We’ll have to repeat the process, of course, for however many satellites there turn out to be. You see, there needs to be overlap for the times when—”

“Enough. Save the details for the scientists,” Banshee said. “All you need to know, Allin, is that we can take away the powers that Doyle’s army has been given.”

“That’s great,” I said. “So why haven’t you done it yet?”

Copper said, “For one, we haven’t stabilized the inverted coil yet, so it can close at any moment. We’re also working on a spacesuit with its own oxygen supply and a tether. You couldn’t tell, but the coil room is currently in vacuum due to us needing to open a portal into outer space. We already lost one cat when we inverted the coil quite by chance. Poor, poor Jaspers. His sacrifice shall not be forgotten.”

“And for another, I won’t authorize it until Doyle is out of the picture or the wolves are at our door.”

“You can take away all the werewolves’ powers at once and you won’t do it?” I couldn’t believe Banshee wouldn’t jump at the opportunity. “Why not?”

“Until Doyle is gone, it is pointless,” Banshee said. “Take away the werewolves’ power and he’ll still have an army of normal humans under his command. If we wait until he’s gone to flip the switch, his people will be disorganized, confused. If they don’t fall to infighting and destroy themselves first, we’ll sweep in and mop them up.”

“So you’re saying that until Tumble or I invade the Garden and come back to report that Doyle is well and truly dead, you won’t do the one thing that would make it easier to get into the Garden in the first place?”

“I’m sorry, Allin, but that’s the way it needs to be. If you’re dead set on going into the Garden, you’ll have to accept that it will be full of werewolves.”

That would be pretty bad news if I had to enter the Garden as Allin Arcady, regular human. But if I looked like any other werewolf, things would probably go a lot smoother.

“Is Dad’s coil still usable after you turn it inside out like that?”

“Oh yes,” Copper said. “As long as the satellites exist, the coil should work.”

I realized then that once the satellites were destroyed, not only would the moonlight be cut off, the sunlight would be, too. Dad’s coil would be no more than jewelry, a powerless memento. The loss of sunlight was a shame, but a world without werewolves would be worth it.

“And even if we knew how to activate the moonlight mode,” Banshee said. “We can’t lend you the coil at this point, Allin. If you get caught, we would lose our one chance to stop the wolves.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of leaving you without a coil,” I said, reaching into my shirt. I pulled out and held up Matthias’ coil for inspection. “But would you consider a trade?”

# # #

About an hour later, I had Dad’s coil in my hands again. There had been a painstakingly careful process to pump air back into the coil room, ensure that the QUIPS system could not accidentally turn on (“We must never forget Jasper’s lesson,” Copper said solemnly), and swap out the coils. Banshee wouldn’t agree to return my coil until Copper was sure that Matthias’ could be used in the same manner, so the coil room had to be evacuated of air and another test performed. Only when the replacement coil had worked to reverse the quantum tunnel was Dad’s coil returned to me.

When I had cast it off, I had been angry at my parents for lying to me, for never telling me that they were werewolves and that I was probably one, too. A lot had happened since then. Now here I was, ready to put my theory to the test and become a werewolf myself. If it worked, I would use that horrible power to kill my own uncle. Quite a family, werewolves the lot of us.

Werewolf or human, we all have choices to make. My parents’ chose to save me at the cost of their own lives. Whatever lies they had told or truths they had kept from me could not erase the power of that ultimate act of love. How could I possibly stay angry with them?

I looked up to see Copper staring at me, her head cocked. I turned to Banshee, who nodded as if he understood what I had been thinking. I nodded back and slipped the necklace over my head. Though Matthias’ coil had been identical, this one felt more right somehow.

“You’re sure this is back to normal? I don’t want to turn it on and get pulled inside out.”

“At least 97% certain,” Copper said. My eyes grew wide. “Kidding. Yes, it will work.”

I might never get used to her sense of humor, but if she said it worked, I trusted her.

“Let’s try it out then.”

We had moved to a different lab on another sub-floor for two reasons: it was currently vacant and it had a row of cells along its rear wall. Banshee opened the door to one of them, waved me in, and closed it behind me. Copper locked it with a key from a crowded keychain.

Before I tested my passphrase theory out, I powered up the coil’s sunlight mode. The amber glow felt reassuring but left me with a question.

“Professor, why was the sunlight white when you inverted the coil but yellow now?”

“An astute question, young sir. It should be white in both cases. I can only assume that the coil filters the light to prevent it from blinding anyone, and in so doing, creates the yellow glow you are witnessing.”

“If we’re done with the science lessons, perhaps you can see if all this switching of the coils was worth it?” Banshee asked.

He was right, of course. My question was a delaying tactic. I rubbed my sweaty hands on my pants and swallowed past a tightness in my throat.

“Which buttons do I press?”

“Here, here and here at the same time,” Copper said, reaching through the bars and tapping them with one claw. “That’s the combination I found that produces a brief power surge with no commensurate change in the coil’s appearance. I believe that is what will initiate the transformation, in combination with the correct passphrase.”

“Okay, here we go then,” I said, walking to the back of the cell. I pressed the indicated buttons and whispered, “Always stay alive.”

* * *

Continue to Part 67.

5/19/13 News:

This week I can report that my editor and I are done going over the notes for Book 1 of The Only City Left. I have a lot of big decisions to make as to how I want to implement those edits, and if I say I feel daunted by the task, I think that’s an understatement. I am also genuinely curious to see how TOCL will look on the other end of the process. Thank you for being part of the journey with me.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

Bedtime Stories #2

I like to tell stories, as you might have guessed if you follow this blog. And I am happy to report that my toddler daughters finally like to listen to me tell stories. Each night at bedtime, they get the next installment in their own continuing adventures. Yes, they are princesses in the stories (and my wife and I are the Queen and King), but I would describe them as Adventure Princesses. Note: Janie and Serena are pseudonyms, as the princesses wish to retain their anonymity.

Click here for Bedtime Stories #1.

Once Upon A Time…

Janie and Serena are princesses who live in a giant sandcastle on the edge of an ocean. Although the ocean crashes against the base of the castle, it never washes the castle away, for it is a magic castle that can withstand the waves of time. The King and Queen also live in the sandcastle, but the needs of their kingdom often keep them busy. To the west lies an endless ocean. To the east there is a tall mountain range. To the north, there are grassy plains as far as the eye can see. And to the south, there is a vast desert.

Left to their own devices, the princesses often go on adventures…

Over the Lava River

Serena and Janie were bored one day, and since the giant playground in the cloud kingdom had been closed to them, they decided to follow rumors of an awesome playground to the south. They trudged through the hot desert for what seemed like forever, until the sand gave way to stone and the stone to rugged mountains where steam vented up through the ground. Finally they reached a cliff edge, and far below it, a river of hot lava. On the other side of the river there was another cliff face, and past that was the playground they sought. The only way across was a rickety wooden bridge, but this didn’t stop Janie from running across it and drawing Serena in her wake. Halfway across, the ropes of the bridge began to snap, one by one, and the two princesses had to half-run, half-climb the collapsing bridge. They only barely made it to the far side, and now there was no way across the chasm and thus no way to get home.

“What are we going to do?” Serena asked.

“Let’s play first and worry about it later,” Janie said.

Serena shrugged, smiled, and ran off into the playground with Janie at her heels. They played for most of the day and it was not until near sunset that they started to ponder how to get back home.

“Yup, there’s really no way back across,” Janie said, eyeing the river of molten lava far below.

“I think there is,” Serena declared. “To the swings!”

Janie followed her to the swing set, which was perched right at the edge of the cliff above the lava river. They both got on and started swinging with all their might. At just the right moment, they leaped out of the swings and soared over the river to the other side of the chasm, landing in a tumble but coming up safe and sound.

swingnight

“That was great!” cried Janie. “Let’s do it again.”

“It’s time to get home,” admonished Serena. “We’ll have to come back here and fix it later.”

“You mean rebuild the bridge?” Janie asked.

“No. I mean build another swing set on this side so we can swing back across!”

Janie laughed. By the light of the full moon, they crossed the desert and made their way safely back home.

The Rainbow Forest

It had been raining for days, and Serena and Janie were suffering from a huge case of boredom. They were watching the rain outside their window, when suddenly the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and a rainbow appeared. One end stopped right at the base of the Sandcastle.

rainbowatsea

The princesses smiled and set to tying their bedsheets together. Once this was done, they climbed out of the window and down their bedsheet rope to the beach below. It was a short jog from there to the base of the rainbow, which angled far up into the sky.

“Where do you think it goes?” asked Serena.

“Let’s find out!” said Janie.

They ran up the rainbow until they reached the top, where they found a rainbow forest. It smelled sugary, and Serena plucked a rainbow leaf from a rainbow branch and touched it to her tongue.

“It’s sweet!” she cried. She took a bite. “It’s candy!”

“No way,” Janie said. But when she tried one, too, her eyes lit up. “It is candy!”

Not only that, everything in the forest atop the rainbow was edible, and the girls promptly gorged themselves on rainbow twigs and bugs, rainbow mushrooms and moss, rainbow butterflies and hopping rainbow frogs. By the time they were done, their stomachs were queasy from all the rainbow candy they had consumed.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Janie moaned.

“Let’s go home,” Serena said, clutching her stomach.

They staggered back home, opting to knock on the front door rather than make the climb back to their room. The Queen answered the door, looking down on the girls with one raised eyebrow.

“Did we learn anything today?” the Queen asked.

“Yeah,” Janie said. “Rainbow twigs are goods. Bugs, too. Mushrooms and moss, ditto. But butterflies and frogs? Not so much.”

Serena held her stomach with both hands. “I can still feel them fluttering and hopping around!”

The Queen smiled and said, “I guess you won’t be doing that again.”

“Nope,” said Janie. “At least, not until we get bored again!”

The girls giggled and ran into the Sandcastle. The sigh behind them was either the Queen or the closing door.

Commentary

Another story about a playground! If I didn’t steer the requests elsewhere, I think every story would involve a playground. I forgot to write the rainbow forest story down right away after I told it, and then I forgot it entirely. I only knew that there was a story about a candy forest at the top of a rainbow because I mention it in a later story (yay continuity!), but I had to reconstruct the details almost a month later for the written version of the story.

Image credits

Night Swinging” by shadowbrush, CC BY-NC.

Rainbow at Sea” by edwick, CC BY-NC.

The Only City Left: Part 65

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 64, Allin learned that Tyena had been taken back to the Garden, the werewolves’ den.

The Only City Left: Part 65

“Taken to the Garden? Who took her?” I asked, struggling to come to terms with the thought of Tyena being snatched out of Pudlington.

“She was spotted in the company of a guard named Halifax. We knew he worked for Doyle and we had him under surveillance, but he slipped his watch and got to Tyena before we could.”

Halifax? That must be the cat I had seen arguing with Tyena.

“When did this happen?”

“Immediately after you left Pudlington.”

After I left. That meant…

“He took her because she didn’t get me to walk into Doyle’s trap!”

“That is one possibility. The citizen who saw the two of them didn’t think anything was wrong at the time. When we questioned him later, he reported that Miss Branch did not appear to be trying to get away. She went with Halifax of her own accord.”

“They have her mother,” I said. Though I couldn’t be sure how much of what Tyena had told me had been true and how much a convenient fiction to lure me out of Pudlington, Tumble had confirmed that much at least. “Everything Tyena was doing, she was doing for her mom. If she refused to leave, Doyle would have her mom killed, so of course she went willingly.”

“Perhaps that is so. At any rate, once Tumble returned and found out about this, he immediately went after her. Oh, he claimed he was going after Doyle, but knowing my brother, he’s going to try to accomplish both goals.”

“You let Tumble go to the Garden by himself? That’s crazy!”

“He is an adult and he made his choice.”
“Great. Now he and Tyena are both in trouble because I didn’t go to the Garden in the first place. Look, Banshee. I mean Emperor Banshee,” I said, but he waved off the informality. “You’ve got me. Whatever you decide about opening up Pudlington, I need to go to the Garden. I owe it to Tumble and Tyena.”

“I see,” Banshee said, giving no indication as to how this would affect his decision.

“But first I need to know: how is Professor Copper doing with her work on the lantern coil?”

“Progress is being made. Let me show you.”

# # #

Down in the Skunkworks, Copper seemed pleased to see me again. “We’ve had a breakthrough since I saw you last!”

Her lantern coil project had moved out of her small room into a much larger laboratory, and she now had a team of white-coated cats working under her lead. The coil itself was nowhere to be seen.

“Did you figure out how to turn on the moonlight mode?” I asked.

“No. Something equally exciting, though.”

“Give him the demonstration,” Banshee said.

“Of course. This way.”

Copper led us to a large desk and sat down facing a bank of monitors, all but one of which were full of graphs and columns of numbers. The exception was one screen which had a picture of a room bare of anything except for the lantern coil in its cradle. Strands of wires ran from all around the coil’s circumference into a pedestal upon which the cradle rested.

Banshee and I stood to either side of Copper, who pressed a button on her desk and said, “Quips testing imminent. Quips testing imminent. Hold all intensive functions until the all clear is given.”

As she spoke, her voice echoed throughout the room from speakers set into the wall.

“Quips?”

“Quantum-inverted phase state,” Copper said. “QUIPS, for short. Get it? Because it shouldn’t be possible, so it’s a joke of sorts.”

“Sure,” I said, not getting it at all, but she seemed happy with my response.

“Just show him,” Banshee said.

“Very well. Eyes on the screen, gentlemen.”

She began typing commands into a keyboard on the desk. The cats moving about the lab stopped what they were doing and joined me in watching the screen.

The first thing I noticed was that it went black.

“Is it broken?” I asked.

“No. I turned off the lights. It’s more dramatic that way. Watch.”

So I watched. The coil turned on, lighting up the room with its familiar golden glow.

“Wait for it,” Copper said, as she nudged a slider forward.

The glow abruptly cut off and the room darkened except for a tiny beam of white light pointing out from the coil to the right side of the screen.

“Extending inversion field.”

The beam grew in size and the room lit up with brilliant white light. The beam itself was almost too bright to look at until the entire screen dimmed. The lights in the room we were in flickered and buzzed before themselves dimming out almost completely.

“What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry, we’re almost at our limit. There,” Copper said.

With that pronouncement, the white light filling the coil room promptly disappeared and the room was once again dark until it suddenly brightened to show the coil, sitting undisturbed in its cradle. All the cats in the room cheered as the lights in our room returned to their normal brightness. Copper pressed a button, announced, “All clear,” and swiveled her chair around to look at me triumphantly.

“It wiped out the sensors on the camera the first time we tried it,” Copper said. “We had to reinvent polarized lenses. Not much use for them these past few millennia. Sunglasses, you see.”

“No, I don’t see. Can someone tell me what just happened?”

“Think of it this way,” Copper said, grasping my hand between both of hers. “There’s a satellite orbiting the moon, and one side of it faces toward the sun, while another side faces the moon. Can you picture that?”

“Sure.”

“Now the way the lantern coil works, and this is technology centuries ahead of anything we have, is that there’s a quantum tunnel that connects the satellite on one end and the coil on the other. The coil end remains static. It’s always tied to the coil itself. But on the satellite end, there are two possible anchors for the tunnel to latch onto: one on the side facing the sun and the other on the side facing the moon. With me so far?”

“Sun. Moon. Tunnel. Got it.”

“Right. So the key thing to realize is that the flow of particles through the tunnel is always one way, from the satellite to the coil. But introduce enough power into the coil, the amount you’d use to run a medium-sized city for a few seconds, and you can effectively invert the coil, which is a space-time construct and not a physical artifact as you probably assumed.”

Banshee cleared his throat. “Keep it simple, please. For the boy.”

“Simple? I thought I was,” she said as if to herself. “Don’t you see? We’re able to switch the direction of the quantum tunnel, to send items, or people, from here to there. All we have to do is stretch the inverted coil wide enough! Then you simply pop through, turn around and you’re looking at the satellite, not to mention the moon and the Earth and don’t think I won’t be taking pictures while I’m there.”

“I think I get it, but you’d want to do this why?”

“Because besides sightseeing, she’s going to slap a bomb on the satellite,” Banshee said. “Close the portal, timer ticks down, bomb goes off. No more satellite. No more moonlight. No more werewolves.”

* * *

Continue to Part 66.

5/12/13 News:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! Sorry for the late post. I’m sick and a bit out of it. In lieu of writing this weekend, I’ve been working on making some stuffed Totoro dolls for my daughters. Here’s one that I’ve finished already. Have a good week everyone!

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Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares. It truly makes me happy to know that people are enjoying this story.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

Bedtime Stories #1

I like to tell stories, as you might have guessed if you follow this blog. And I am happy to report that my toddler daughters finally like to listen to me tell stories. Each night at bedtime, they get the next installment in their own continuing adventures. Yes, they are princesses in the stories (and my wife and I are the Queen and King), but I would describe them as Adventure Princesses. Note: Janie and Serena are pseudonyms, as the princesses wish to retain their anonymity.

sandcastle

Once Upon A Time…

Janie and Serena are princesses who live in a giant sandcastle on the edge of an ocean. Although the ocean crashes against the base of the castle, it never washes the castle away, for it is a magic castle that can withstand the waves of time. The King and Queen also live in the sandcastle, but the needs of their kingdom often keep them busy. To the west lies an endless ocean. To the east there is a tall mountain range. To the north, there are grassy plains as far as the eye can see. And to the south, there is a vast desert.

Left to their own devices, the princesses often go on adventures…

The Giants’ Playground

One day, Serena and Janie were bored and they begged their parents for something fun to do. The King informed them that he and the Queen were too busy, but the Queen took pity on them and gave them some magic beans.

“Plant these and you will have an adventure,” she told the princesses.

“Some adventure,” Janie said. “This is probably a trick to get us to eat our vegetables.”

“It can’t hurt to try it,” said Serena.

They planted the beans in the garden, and seconds later the ground began to shake and tremble. A beanstalk shot out of the ground and into the sky, widening as it grew, until it reached the sky and was so wide across that Janie and Serena could not encircle it, even by holding their hands together and stretching as far as they could.

“Let’s climb it,” said Janie.

Serena agreed and they climbed the beanstalk up into the clouds. Once they made it above the clouds, they were surprised to find that they could walk on the fluffy white substance. They bounced along until they reached a giant playground made of clouds. The clouds were easy to climb, so they spent the day scaling the giant slides and swings and stairs of the playground, laughing and screaming in delight.

After a while, their shouts of glee attracted giant children, who were none too pleased that Serena and Janie were using their playground uninvited. The giants chased after Serena and Janie, who fled across the clouds and down the beanstalk.

When they reached the bottom, they looked up in fear. Would the giants chase them down? But no, the beanstalk lifted up out of the ground and disappeared into the clouds above.

“And don’t come back, neither!” came a booming voice from above the clouds.

Serena and Janie shrugged. The giants’ playground had been fun while it lasted.

dinosingrass

Of Dinosaurs and Rocketships

One fine, sunny day, Serena and Janie were playing in the sand outside of the castle when they heard cries from the North. A villager ran up to them from that direction and reported that there were dinosaurs running rampant in the fields, eating up all of the villagers’ food.

“Dinosaurs?” asked Serena.

“There’s only one thing for it,” said Janie.

“Rocketship time!” they agreed.

They rushed back into the castle and headed for the rocketship hangar. Once inside, they fired it up and took off, soaring out of the castle and above the grassy fields. It didn’t take long to find the dinosaurs, a dozen of them at least. While Janie piloted, Serena dropped the grapple claw time after time and plucked the dangerous dinos off the field and into the rocketship’s cargo bay.

Once they had collected them all, Janie asked, “Now what?”

Serena, looking out of the cockpit, saw the full moon above them. “I’ve got an idea,” she said with a glint in her eye.

Janie followed her gaze and nodded. “You got it, kid,” she said.

And that’s how dinosaurs ended up living on the moon. This solved the villagers’ problem but caused some problems of its own. Those are stories for another time, however.

Commentary

The versions of the stories shared here remain basic but are more polished than those told at bedtime. Telling a story while two toddlers bounce around their bed, giggling and yelling, is not easy, and I have to hit the highlights to keep their attention. I do take requests as to what they want the story to be about, so playgrounds figure prominently in many of these early entries because, well, my daughters like the playground.

A lot of the characters who show up are based on their toys, shows they watch, or games they have seen me play. The dinosaur request must have come from some cartoon or another, but putting them on a rocketship to the moon simply tickled my fancy, so I ran with it.

Finally, I’m not trying to create a world out of whole cloth here. Much is borrowed or reinvented. The goal is to have fun.

Click here to continue to Bedtime Stories #2.

Image credits

The sandcastle image is my combination of this sandcastle picture taken by starryeyez024 and this beach picture taken by dgphilli. Both images are CC BY-NC.

The dinosaurs in the field image is my combination of this picture of dinosaur toys taken by ewanmcdowall and this picture of a field of wheat taken by freefotouk. Both images are CC BY-NC.

80s Flashback: Atari 7800 (Part Two)

Thanks to the 2 Warps to Neptune blog, fine purveyor of retro goodness, I have temporary possession of an Atari 7800 and a handful of games. See 80s Flashback: Atari 7800 (Part One) for some unboxing photos and to see how my daughters and I reacted games such as Pitfall!, Donkey Kong Junior, and BurgerTime.

This time around I take a quick run through the rest of the games that came with the relay. They fall into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and the Sluggish.

800px-Atari-7800-Console-Set

The Good

Robotron 2084

I’m including this in the good because it moves fast and has the potential to be fun. Plus, there are enough opportunities for free lives that I was able to play for a while. So what’s the story of Robotron 2084? I’m going to say that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you are the only person in the world who realizes that death-dealing robots are rampaging through the world. Otherwise, how to explain the busty blondes and staid businessmen who aimlessly wander around the screen while I sacrifice life after to life to rescue their clueless behinds?

Robotron_2084

This screenshot is from atariage.com. Click for more of their screenshots.

This game would probably get an unqualified “Good” rating from me if you could shoot and fire in different directions at once, like in the arcade. Without that ability, it’s impossible to run away from bad guys while also shooting at them. One tactic to get around this is to hang out in the center of the screen and perform a Death Blossom, but once the bad guys who shoot me-seeking projectiles show up, that strategy falls apart.

I almost gave up on this game after a few quick deaths, but my 2-year-olds encouraged me to keep going. I made it to Wave 10 on Novice mode, so now my life is complete.

Ms. Pac Man

This game is a classic, and the Atari 7800 version is fairly nimble and arcade-like. I could play this one on a regular basis. ‘Nuff said.

Centipede

This is another classic that seems to have ported over well to the 7800. My daughters approved of its fast pace and were shouting out encouragement and suggestions. When the centipedes started to drill down and the spiders began to frantically zig-zag across the screen, one daughter exclaimed, “Everybody’s getting busy!” While I didn’t see that happening in the game, it did keep my interest until my thumb got tired of button-mashing.

Galaga

I’m not especially good at this game, but it is still a fun Space Invaders-ish experience. My girls enjoyed watching me fail at the game.

Daughter: Awww, Daddy, that not a hard game.

Me: I should be doing better?

Daughter: (commands) Yeah, you do better!

Me: Okay, okay. I’ll try again!

galaga

Image from videogamecritic.com. Click and scroll down for their Galaga review.

Then, when I was trying to get the second fighter to attach to my first one, I got this advice.

Daughter: You need to put them together!

Me: I’m trying, I’m trying.

Daughter: But you’re not doing it?

Me: No. No, I’m not.

Man, these girls are tough backseat game players!

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The Bad

Tron Deadly Discs

This is actually an Atari 2600 game and boy does it feel like it, from the basic graphics to the simplistic gameplay. You play as Tron, I presume, who runs like he’s stuck in a vat of honey and who is doomed to forever fling his memory disc at enemy programs. Each time he is hit, he changes color, until at some point (I didn’t keep track of the number) he changes color enough times to die. When you throw your disc, you have to wait a sometimes painfully long time for it to boomerang back to you. Given that limitation, I expected that the disc would at least hurt enemies coming and going, but no, on its way back to you it is harmless. Fail.

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Image from videogamecritic.com. Click and scroll down for their Tron review.

I have vague memories of this game being more fun on the Intellivision (which I played at a friend’s house), but that might be nostalgia giving it a rosy glow. The best thing that can be said about this game is that it allowed for this lolcat-esque conversation, which made me laugh:

Me: Ah, derezzed!

Daughter: Why you got derezzed?

I couldn’t resist whipping this up.

tronmeme

Joust

This game has potential. Jousting on flying ostriches who pop out an egg when you kill them? Sure, count me in. Unfortunately, it mostly involves me bouncing off of platforms, out of control, until someone jousts me before I can joust them.

joustgameover

Image via retrouprising.com. Click to see more screenshots of people who scored higher than I did.

I was never very good at Joust and I don’t have the patience to try to improve. One major complaint: I come up from behind and joust someone, and I still die because I’m lower than them? What did he do? Backhand me?

Pole Position II

I am horrible at this game. My 10-year-old nephew played it and had no problems. We shall speak no more of this.

800px-Atari-7800-Console-Set

The Sluggish

Xevious

Daughter: You didn’t win the level!

Me: I don’t know if there’s even an end to this level!

xevious

Image courtesy of the Atari Times. Click through for their much more glowing review.

That pretty much sums up my experience with Xevious. It seems to be a spiritual predecessor to the more fast-paced and maneuverable 1941 and its sequels, but I found it incredibly slow and frustrating. Apparently there are multiple levels and end-bosses, but I couldn’t reach one.

When I asked my daughters to describe this game, one of them said, “Everyone was ‘shotting’ you.” That pretty much sums it up. This game gets pretty good reviews on atariage.com, so I guess “It’s not you, Xevious. It’s me.”

Dig Dug

You dig in the ground and use your hose to blow up little critters, unless the critters gang up on you and then you’re the one that gets hosed.

The controls on the Atari 7800 are too sluggish for my taste. I waddled along and tried my best to over-inflate the bad guys, but they burst my bubble time after time.

I know, I know. This game has reduced me to bad puns.

Trivia: The makers of Wreck-It Ralph wanted Ralph to give a piece of fruit (from Pac Man) to a homeless Dig Dug, but Namco nixed the idea of an unemployed Dig Dug. The job ended up going to Q*Bert, and now my daughters know and love Q*Bert. Way to drop the ball, Namco.

Dark Chambers

This is a simpler version of Gauntlet, basically. For the full explanation, check out the Wikipedia entry for a game called Dandy. Or just take my word for it. It’s like Gauntlet except you move around slowly and each time you hit an enemy, it devolves to the next lowest type of bad guy until it disappears. You eat food, blow up enemy-spawning devices, and get a key to go down to the next level. For a lovely, scathing review, check out this one at atarihq.com.

800px-Atari-7800-Console-Set

Game Over

That’s the end of my adventures with the Atari 7800. Even though some of the games were frustrating, I was pleasantly surprised at the staying power of games like Pitfall!, Ms. Pac Man, and Centipede. They’re still as good for killing time in 2013 as they were in the ’80s.

If you want to try your hand at these games in all their original, unemulated glory, head over to this post on 2 Warps to Neptune. A soap.com box could be winging its way to you before you know it.

Image credits as per captions except for the following:

Atari 7800 image courtesy of  Evan-Amos.

“Y U GOT DEREZZED?” made using quickmeme.com and an image from the Tron Wiki.

The Only City Left: Part 64

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 63, Emperor Banshee told Allin that he had returned to Pudlington at the worst possible time.

The Only City Left: Part 64

“You have to understand that when you left, it was a great victory for Fordham and his ilk, who sought to portray me as weak for seeking a human ally. When Tumble returned with news of your death, this was further proof that I had been unwise to place my trust in you.”

A few minutes after our meeting in Tyena’s loft, a retinue of servants had entered the room and set out a meal for us on the rug in between three couches. Once they were gone, we continued our conversation over the delicious food and drink I had come to expect from an imperial meal in Pudlington. My enjoyment of the food was soured somewhat by Banshee’s breakdown of the political situation.

“To bring Ballister’s people and the ghosts with you when you returned, demanding that we open our gates…. You couldn’t have put me in a more precarious position. If I deny you, Fordham gets what he wants. But if I accept your offer, Fordham will claim I want humans to be our masters once again. I cannot rule a people who despise me, Allin.”

“I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused,” I said, and I meant it. I hadn’t considered Pudlington’s internal politics when I came up with my plan. To me, Banshee had seemed like he had everything under control. “I can’t take back what I’ve done, but I’ll do whatever I can to fix it. I’ll prove to Fordham that humans and cats can work together.”

Banshee laughed and ate half a pastry in one bite. Delicate flakes of crisp dough catapulted from his mouth and settled onto the fur of his chest and stomach before he brushed them off.

“You’ll sooner convince that Xerxes fellow that he’s alive than change Fordham’s mind. There are many cats who share his sentiments, and he is looking to ride their fears all the way to my throne.” He sighed, slapped his hands on his thighs, and moved from the floor to the couch, a glass of juice in one hand. He sank wearily into the cushions and took a sip. I stood up and took a seat across from him.

“But enough of that flea in my fur. What were you thinking, trying to force my hand like that? The cats are a proud and powerful people, Allin, and I will not allow a human boy to enter my realm and dictate policy, however any other cat feels about it.”

“I may not have handled it as well I could have, but I came back because you were right. Doyle needs to be stopped,” I said. I sat on the edge of the cushion and leaned forward. “But stopping him won’t be enough. What happens after that? Your people continue to live their comfortable lives in isolation and I keep on looking for the roof of the world? That’s all well and good for us, but is that enough? There are people suffering out there, and from worse dangers than werewolves.”

“Worrying about the greater good? Sounds like teenage philosophical moping to me.”

“Tumble put the ideas in my head, actually.”

“Why am I not surprised? My little brother always had too much idealism for his own good.”

“But he was right. It took me some time to realize it, and I know that whatever I do, there will always be darkness out there, but I’m tired of living my life hiding from it. I choose to face the darkness and fight back,” I said, punching my fist into my palm. “I’m asking for you to help me do that, to make Pudlington a safe haven for whoever needs it. Not just Ballister’s folk. Anyone.”

I thought of the merskers, of the people who lived openly in communities like Glin’s Rising or holed up in rooms like Ballister, of the drifters like me who couldn’t settle down because no place had the safety and resources needed to do so. Not all of them would accept an offer to live in Pudlington, but it would be nice to give them the option.

“You don’t know what you’re asking for, Allin,” Banshee said, leaning forward to match my pose. “One or two humans my people could accept, but not hordes of them. How long until they outnumber us? Until Pudlington belongs to them and we are tolerated as clever pets?”

“Is that Fordham speaking or you?”

“It is history speaking, Allin. Our fears are not unfounded.”

“It’s a problem to be solved. Together. You’re exaggerating human behavior and how quickly this would happen, anyway. The city isn’t exactly teeming with life out there.”

“Let’s say I allow this and people trickle in. Pudlington is big but it has limited resources. What happens when we run out of room, clean air, food, water? Where do you draw the line of who can come in and who can’t once we’re stretched to the limit?”

“Don’t draw a line; erase it. Expand the city. There’s no lack of uninhabited levels out there.

“Bah. It’s too risky.”

I got to my feet and began to pace back and forth in front of the couch.

“Doing nothing while people are dying, that’s what’s risky. You can’t keep Pudlington running forever if the rest of the world falls down around it. I’m sorry if humans mistreated your people in the past, but now it’s time to band together and fight or admit that we’re all just keeping busy while we wait for the Earth to die.”

I dropped back down to the couch with a flumph of cushions, exhausted by my own rant. Banshee set his glass down on the floor and leaned back, arms folded over his belly.

“You’ve changed, Allin. Your cynicism has been replaced with the idealism of youth, the certainty that the way you see things is the only right way. I liked the old you better.”

“The old me left you hanging.”

“Just so,” Banshee said with a nod. “You have given me much to think about, and I already had much on my mind before this talk. Now I am afraid I must transfer some of that burden to you. As you can see, Tyena is gone.”

“You haven’t locked her up, have you?”

“Would that I had done so, she’d be safer now.”

My heart beat faster. The last time I saw her, she told me she loved me and I threw it in her face. Had she done something rash in response?

“What do you mean? Where is she?”

“She was taken back to the Garden.”

* * *

Continue to Part 65.

5/5/13 News:

This was a weird week. I got to the end of Book 2’s first draft sooner than I expected, and then I felt a bit adrift. After all, I’ve been working on it for the past 10 weeks (minus a 3-week break for packing, moving, and unpacking). Suddenly being “done,” I didn’t quite know what to do next. So far, I’ve caught up on sleep and written a couple of non-TOCL blog posts. This week, I think I will catch up on some personal projects like organizing and uploading digital camera pictures and scanning documents, while also starting to make a to-do list of Book 1 edits. Here’s my stats for the week, such as they are. You’ll notice I didn’t reach my word goal, but I half-expected that. 1) I left out an epilogue, deciding instead to move that story to the beginning of Book 3. 2) There is one character whose story I struggled with and need to rework. At a certain point, I stopped worrying about writing his scenes. I know what will happen in them, but I’ll write them later. 3) Knowing that Book 1 might have some structural changes during the editing process ended up slowing my progress on Book 2. I don’t want to spend a lot of time writing something that might be affected by changes in Book 1.

5thWk10

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares. It truly makes me happy to know that people are enjoying this story.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

80s Flashback: Atari 7800 (Part One)

Crank up the 80s music on Pandora or YouTube, because we’re traveling back in time today. Thanks to the 2 Warps to Neptune blog, fine purveyor of retro goodness, I have temporary possession of an Atari 7800 and a handful of games. I never actually owned the 7800 back in the day. We were an Atari 2600 and Colecovision family until the Nintendo Entertainment System came out (and later a string of DOS and Windows PCs) and blew those other systems out of the water. Oh, and we had Commodores, too, including the VIC-20, C64 and C128. It’s safe to say I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember.

So now that I’m in my mid-30s and have kids of my own, I was curious to see how a 30-year-old game system stands up to my memories and my kids’ expectations.

First, thanks to Greg at leftylimbo.com for relaying the 7800 to me. Here’s what the box looked like.

01soapbox

Once I got over my disappointment that my soap.com shipment had not arrived, I tore into the box to see what exactly was inside. Games, joysticks, bubble wrap, and oh yeah, a 7800!

02unboxed

03ondisplayPitfall! is my addition to the relay, because I have fond memories of that game. It’s amazing how many games are still available on ebay for not that much money ($7 for Pitfall! with shipping. Not bad!) All that remained was to connect the 7800 to my TV using an RCA-to-coax adapter, turn it on, and start it up. It astonishes me that, nearly three decades later, the system works fine and all the games worked as well. My new Playstation 3 died in less than a year. Cue old man voice: “They don’t make them like they used to, I tell ya!”

04closeup

So how did the Atari 7800 stand up to my expectations after not playing these games for going on three decades? It depended on the game, really. Some I still enjoyed, some I would enjoy more on a system where the graphics were nicer, and some seemed like torture. My daughters, on the other hand, were happy to watch me play any and all of them, over and over, while they held unattached controllers and shouted encouragement. Overall, it was fun to show them these games from when I was a kid and see them capture their imagination as much as they once did mine. (Pitfall Harry now figures prominently in bedtime story requests. Go figure.)

In this and the following posts, I’ll take a closer look at some of the games, what they meant to me way back when, and how they hold up today.

Pitfall!

Of course, Pitfall! is the one I had the most nostalgia for, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed it the most. The gameplay is simple enough that my toddler daughters can describe it: “Jump over water. Jump over mud. Swing. Don’t fall into crocodile. Harry farts.” That last bit is due to the unfortunate-sounding noise Harry makes when he hits a stationary or rolling log. We suspect an allergy to fiber.

The game gives you 20 minutes to choose left or right (I always choose left) and run, run, run. After a few false starts, I survived that 20 minutes and discovered the secret ending … nothing happens. Game over. Curious, I checked Wikipedia to see what the point of the game was, if any. Basically, if you collect all the treasure and don’t die or run into a log or fall into a hole, you get a perfect score of 114,000. Needless to say, I did not earn the highest possible score, but I did earn a respectable 85,746.

pitfallfinalscore

When the game first came out, you only had to earn 20,000 points to score a Pitfall! Harry Explorer Club patch. I may be 30 years too late, but I’ll sport this picture of the patch with pride. (Patch image courtesy of atariage.com)

Pitfallpatch

If my nostalgia alone does not convince you to go find and play Pitfall!, consider the celebrity endorsement at the beginning of this wonderful commercial:

Yes, even young Jack Black thinks Pitfall! is awesome.

BurgerTime and Donkey Kong Junior

burgertime2600

Image courtesy of 8-bitcentral.com. Click image to read their in-depth review.

While Pitfall! was still fun and earned kudos from my daughters, some of the games do not stand up to the modern era at all, at least in their Atari 7800 iterations. BurgerTime is one of those games, although this is actually a version for the 2600, released in 1982. The graphics are so bad that you are being chased by flickering white and brown blocks while you try to drop your burger pieces on the plates below. Unfortunately, until you drop the pieces, they all look like yellow discs, and since the enemies flicker in and out of existence, it is hard to tell if you are going to evade them or just barely brush them, resulting in your death. (Another character with allergies: this time a chef allergic to his own food. Consider another career, Chef Pepper!)

Here’s how I remember the game, the Colecovision version. Of course, that version came out in 1984, so I was spoiled by the vastly-improved graphics.

Burger_Time_-_1984_-_Coleco

Image courtesy of gamesdbase.com. Click image to visit the BurgerTime entry on that site.

Needless to say, the adventures of Chef Pepper dropping yellow discs onto a plate to form something vaguely resembling a hamburger did not hold my attention for long. My daughters didn’t love or hate it, but Chef Pepper did not capture their imaginations in the way that Pitfall Harry did.

Donkey Kong Jr. similarly falls short compared to other versions. The graphics are meh, the controls are difficult, and seeing a non-Super Mario whipping animals into a furor has reopened old psychic wounds. How can you call yourself a hero, Mario, when you’ve never apologized for your treatment of Donkey Kong and his progeny?

mariocruel

Put down the whip, Mario. The Mushroom Kingdom beckons.

Donkey Kong Junior on the Colecovision was a big hit with my family. I have fond memories of taking turns playing it with my dad and older brother. To the Atari 7800 version version, I say, “You sir, are no Colecovision.”

That’s about all the retro goodness I have for today. I’ll get to the other games that came with the relay in a later post. If you are interested in joining in the Atari 7800 relay, check out this post on 2 Warps to Neptune.

For the second and final part in this series, read 80s Flashback: Atari 7800 (Part Two).