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J. Passepartout

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Hey, anything happening?

If not, may I be so bold as to offer a topic: A Gift to the State? PM me and I will tell you where to send your story, provided you are among the first four to get in.
 

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Ah, I guess I forgot this! I was going to post with a topic three days ago but forgot. :eek:o

So are you doing this now, J. Passepartout?
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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anonymous4401 said:
Ah, I guess I forgot this! I was going to post with a topic three days ago but forgot. :eek:o

So are you doing this now, J. Passepartout?
Yeah, looks like he does :) .

J.Passepartout: What would be the deadline? :rolleyes:
 

J. Passepartout

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I am hoping to get all the participants by tomorrow at midnight, and have tentatively the deadline for getting the story to me as Friday. I could be convinced to extend this since this is the first time I have done this and I may in my inexperience chosen poor dates.
 

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J. Passepartout said:
I am hoping to get all the participants by tomorrow at midnight, and have tentatively the deadline for getting the story to me as Friday. I could be convinced to extend this since this is the first time I have done this and I may in my inexperience chosen poor dates.
Friday is a reasonable deadline, actually ... if someone PMs you an excuse Thursday night, you can always extend it a day or so.
 

J. Passepartout

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I have three authors right now, so someone please become the fourth soon.

Friday is a reasonable deadline, actually ... if someone PMs you an excuse Thursday night, you can always extend it a day or so.

Excellent.
 

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Wow, that was quick! I didn't even get a chance! :eek:
 

J. Passepartout

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Hello.

I have not received a fourth author, and unfortunately one of the three has had to pull out because of real life conflicts.

However, I will be posting the other submissions when they are ready.
 

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J. Passepartout said:
Hello.

I have not received a fourth author, and unfortunately one of the three has had to pull out because of real life conflicts.

However, I will be posting the other submissions when they are ready.
I would definitely go for it, except I have about 3-4 projects on line right now... I'm having difficulty keeping up with ALL of my Paradox stuff right now!

Fear not... I am sure this is a temporary lull.

Rensslaer
 

J. Passepartout

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AUTHOR #1

“I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” –Ernest Hemingway

My pistol was fully loaded. The only way to travel, especially in this part of town, with my profession. Before me, in the dark, I could make out where the brick ceased and there was an alley. This was the spot.

Cautiously, I made my turn, stepping from the sidewalk into the darkness of the alley. It was claustrophobic, dark as a tunnel, at the end of which I saw light escaping from a partially unhinged wooden door. This, I nodded again, was the spot.

Suddenly, there was loud metallic discord, like I had walked into a trash can. This, in my startled state, was my initial belief, before I had the senses to realize that my foot had touched nothing. I had withdrawn it in fear. A brusque shadow had emerged from behind the scattered debris of the alleyway. Before I had a chance to move, he was holding a gun inches from my face. One of McAllister’s goons no doubt, checking for weapons in the pockets of my coat.

“A warm reception, as always,” I murmured. It was so black in the alley that the clumsy thug did not notice as I removed my hand from behind my neck. I wrested the gun from his hands and, grasping the barrel, struck him in the jaw with it. A blow to the stomach and a kick to the head later, I was on my way through the wooden door to meet his boss.

McAllister sat on the only nice chair in the room, if you could call it sitting and not just heaping his shapeless form, hundreds of pounds in weight, upon the furniture. An ambiguous smirk was on his face. Four other hired hands stood about the room, serving dubious purposes. “Aha, our friend the detective arrives at last,” McAllister spoke to me cheerfully. “Tea, Mr. Jennings?”

“Your man just pointed a gun at my head in the alleyway and that’s sorta put me out of my highest spirits, I’m ‘fraid to say. Now either get straight to the details or all my services are denied.”

“And a pity that would be. However, if it arises we shall certainly make arrangements for you to stay here as long as need be.” The ambiguity vanished from his smarmy grin, sizzled and steamed in the air. I hated him. “I have proven myself the hospitable type, no?”

It’s hard for a P.I. to always be on the top of his game. I could have had a biting response. I could have lashed out at him. But I only responded in a calm and even voice. “Just tell me, McAllister, about the Flying Fish or I blow your head off. Your thug didn’t do a good job disarming me.”

“Now, now, cool that fiery temper. The Flying Fish is indeed the topic I have brought you here to speak about. I assume you know this much: it was a Spanish galleon. What’s more, it was a galleon transporting what I suspect might be the largest gift in the history of the world. It brought with it gold and rare animals from the New World, all of which were to be presented before the Pope, to thank him, to exalt him, and more than anything else to demonstrate to the world the wealth of the Spanish Empire. The ship fought off pirates, but terminally was destroyed in a storm and never reached its destination.”

“And today we’re searching for what? The galleon? The gold?”

“The galleon has been lost forever in the deep. One item, however, escaped in a smaller boat. Today it is in Los Angeles, right in the heart of the city where we now stand.”

“And how are you so sure of this?”

“I brought it here. But people are tricky creatures. It was stolen. I want it back before it’s sold. This is what the rather handsome sum I have offered you is intended to cover.”

“And just what is this item? And what do you want with it, to give it to the Pope?”

McAllister’s face wobbled about as he laughed the laugh of a man who has smoked one too many cigars. “No, my faith in the Catholic church ended some time ago, Mr. Jennings. I intend to sell it myself. As for a description, I will only tell you what will help you to find it. We do not need you growing greedy as well, now, do we?”

“Greedy? You’re paying me an awfully lousy sum to find the ‘greatest gift in the history of the world’ and then you turn around and call me greedy? I’m afraid I’d need to know what this thing is, McAllister.” I removed my gun from my coat pocket. “I’ll be taking my leave now. I’ll see you again, I’m sure. As late as possible, mind you, but I’m sure you’ll be around the next time some nightmare breaks out over the city.”

As I walked out of the room, McAllister began to speak again. “If you do not help us, I suppose we will have to fall back on Berkley. I hear he’s got some nasty stories about your past, Jennings. A tantalizing supplement if there ever was such a thing.”

These words mean nothing to me, until I see one of McAllister’s men open a closet and pull out a bound figure. Berkley. My partner. I’ve been double-crossed again. Double-crossed every which way until my professional life ceases to have any logical order at all. I’m swimming in a flustered sea of shadows and confusion. I’ll never know what’s going on.

“Berkley!” I shouted, and turned to McAllister. “You’re blackmailing him!”

MacAllister’s men took the gag from Berkley’s mouth and were untying the ropes when the knock came. McAllister sat up straight, his expression grim. Berkley was tossed immediately back into the closet. Police. I had been followed.

It was I who rather cheerfully opened the door. It was I who spoke to the police, and it was McAllister who sat behind me, trembling. What I told the police was true; Berkley had, indeed, killed a man. My heart pounded as I spoke this condemnation. I had worked with and respected the guy for seven years. But McAllister was right, Berkley had dirt on me, too. He had to be put away, lest his failures allow him to fall into the wrong hands again. I could do nothing about McAllister, but without help he would pose no further threat.

I had destroyed the only man in the room that was worth a grain of sand, the only one I could count as my true brother. He would serve at least twenty years for my betrayal, but I would be safer for it. The city would be safer for it. This was my gift to the state.
 

J. Passepartout

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Author #2

“You’re kidding me right?” General Samuel Becker said aloud. He was in his late sixties with white hair, and a rapidly receding hairline. Sitting in the ornate study of a Belgian socialite. It was his headquarters around Ypres, and had been since 1915. An unknown amount of battle plans and strokes of genius came from within the spacious room. Now the General and his trusted aide Col. Darling sat in the fine French chairs going over the latest developments on the battlefield.

“I am most serious General Becker,” the Colonel spread reconnaissance photos over the desk, “It is clear what is being built. I just find it rather ridiculous.”

Sipping some Earl Gray the General peered overreach photo with intense scrutiny. Each photo showed the German lines, nothing really out of place; troops moving about, artillery, and all the other trappings of an army at war. Yet what was in the photos farther from the front is what was of great interest.

“Could you hand me my magnifying glass old boy?”

“Certainly sir.”

Upon closer inspection the scaffolds of some large construction was going on. Men moved about the ground working on whatever new monstrosity the Huns had thought up now.

“Can we not simply bomb it?” The general asked.

“All across the line the Germans are making these things.”

“Truly? But I mean what are they? It is far too big to be of any real use on the battlefield, in my opinion. Could be their attempt at a tank you think?”

“That is what intelligence thought at first. But they sent this over,” Darling produced another photo. A single section was circled in red. Becker leaned down and studied the image for a full minute before speaking, “Is that a horse head?”


A week later in a large outdoor garden outside of Paris General Becker and his fellow British and French leaders sat back drinking and swapping tall tales. Around noon, and sitting under an umbrella for shade. Becker rubbed his nose and spoke up, “What do you make of these “horses” the Germans are making?”

“Rubbish monsieur. Absolute rubbish.” A fat French cavalry officer replied.

“Must be some kind of trick.”

Becker leaned down and pulled up his satchel pulling out a message marked urgent. He slide it over with a smile, “A trick is right. But what kind of trick is important.”
“I apologize I do not have my glasses could you read this for me?” The Frenchmen asked.

“Certainly,” Becker lifted the message up, “The Kaiser wishes it to be known that in the wake of the various deaths the German people have caused to the British we offer you these gifts of metal horses. Each one made to resemble the fine steeds Prussia so prides herself on. Please accept them on June 13th at noon a day of ceasefire shall be declared in the Ypres sector.”

The men around the table frowned, “How stupid do they think we are?”

“A Trojan horse in this day and age?”

“Gentlemen we need to discuss this before I bring recommendations to General Haig. Obviously this is a trap of some kind.”

“Of course it is. But what are the horses? Do they have troops inside?”

“Doubtful, more likely explosives. Troops would not really do much good, however each horse is to be a story and a half high so that could blow a hole in our lines.”

“So do we just shoot it?” Becker said.

“Of course. But the Germans would use a follow up attack so we should move troops into the area in preparation.”

“What if that is the Germans goal all along to weaken the British sector?”

Becker sat back, “I had not thought of that. So the Germans give the British this “gift” and we make all these plans to deal with what is obviously a trap, only to weaken our flanks. My god that is brilliant. How can we counter it?”

“I shall make a request to send a few French divisions, maybe even some colonial ones to reinforce your position.” The Frenchmen said wiping his brow.


Sitting inside his office on June 13th General Becker sat on pins and needles. The attack was coming, all day his men where on alert. He was happy the French had sent close to six divisions to reinforce the other British positions. At twelve minutes after noon the phone rang.

“Becker.”

“Sir there are four horses in total, and they are moving with in range of our forward battery. Shall we commence firing?” The static mingled voice on the other end said.

“Do it.” Hanging up the phone the General chewed on the end of his pencil waiting for the news. The phone ringing once more made Becker look at the clock. It had only been twenty mintues. What could occur in twenty mintues?

“General Becker here.”

“Sir we fired upon the horses.”

“And?”

“Nothing happened?”

“Well that’s the point isn’t it you twit?”

“No I mean…General the Horses where empty. They did not explode they just broke apart.” Becker frowned slamming the phone down, what the hell did the Germans plan?
The ringing of the phone was starting to annoy him, lifting the receiver he spoke curtly, “What?”

“General Becker?” came the stuttering voice on the other end.

“What?”

“The French have reported contact with the Germans.” Becker sat up with a smile. The Germans had finally started to move, “Well send reinforcements if needed…”

“Sir they attacked French lines, not ours. Reports say they are pushing along the trenches.” A silence over the end made Becker stand up.

“Soldier? Soldier are you there?”

“We have a message from the Germans. They say ‘Enjoy the horses.’”
 

coz1

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Well, I'll jump in. :D


Author #1 - A very interesting take on the subject. We actually have two gifts here. I enjoyed that. I also sensed the writer going for a real noir style in the dialogue and description. Everybody likes a good detective story. I got the impression as I read that this may be a non-English writer as some of the word choices were interesting, but it did not take away from the story, as the mood was set well. All in all, an enjoyable piece by what appears a growing writer.


Author #2 – So an attempt to make nice with the Brits fails and the poor German gift for naught. The dialogue was good and the tactical discussion worked well to display the battlefield, so to speak. If I had a quibble at all, it would be the plausibility of the plot. Just seems an odd thing for the Germans to do. One almost feels as though there might be more to the story and this only a portion. Isolated, the scene begs some disbelief, but connected to a larger arc, it could certainly be a playful episode in an otherwise deadly war.


It's too bad we could not get two others this time out but the summer seems to be sapping our strength lately. I imagine things will pick up again in a month or so. I am certainly pleased to see others taking up this project and keeping it going. Thanks to both JP and our two writers for putting their work out there for scrutiny. Now who else has some critique for these writers?
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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Author #1

It’s very well written and vivid. Many details and funny short descriptions spice up the story. A few details remind me of Storey (for instance the big fat Mac Allistair reminds me about the big fat Allistair Higgins, who also deals in antiquities…).

I wondered how the story was supposed to fill in the topic until the last line though. Even now, I feel like it was partially or fully written without any clear link with the “Gift to the state” and has been patched with a reference to it in order to fit the contest. Do I need to write that I might very well be wrong? ;)

A very pleasant read, all in all.



Author #2

Brilliant. It’s rather a State Gift than a Gift to the State (following EU2 terminology, that is), but it’s still brilliant. I first wondered: is it a comical story featuring franco-english coalition stupidly defeated by Trojan Horses? When it became apparent that it was clearly not the case, I couldn’t help wondering, just like the characters, what all this was about.

Just a little thing. Could you please help my dumb mind to understand what happens in the end? Does the German attack succeed thanks to French reinforcements sent to English lines, or does it appear that the horses were really a gift to England? :eek:o

Unlike coz1, I don’t think that believability would be an issue here. I like this kind of “realist absurdity”, more or the less in line with Latino America's novels…

--------------------------------


Didn’t J. Passepartout mention 4 submissions?
 
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Nil-The-Frogg

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J. Passepartout said:
There were supposed to be four authors, but I only got three and one pulled out due to real life getting massively in the way.
Ah, okay... I can understand that :nods:
 

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Author 1

I agree with coz, a nice ”noir” story [not a femme fatale though..]. The story was well written, perhaps it could have needed some additional polishing but in all a good summer story.

Author 2

A bit too unlikely but the story was well written. However I did not fully understand the point, something was lacking. Perhaps the author was in a hurry.
 

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Author 1: I thought it was OK. The plot essentially seems to have been taken from "The Maltese Falcon", simplified and scattered around a bit (as Judge notes, the femme fatale is removed and strangely replaced with the main character's partner). The police ending was dancing on the edge of deus ex machina. As for fitting the theme, I don't see how this could actually be an AAR although it talks about a gift from Spain to the Pope. I agree with Nil that the final line seems sort of arbitrarily included, although you could see some similarity between Spain's gift to the Pope and Jennings's gift to the police (neither was out of the sheer goodness of their hearts).

Interesting Hemingway quote at the beginning. I was away this weekend staying with friends of relatives, and they had a book at their house of Hemingway parodies, called "The Best of Bad Hemingway". Needless to say, the quote used here is exactly the style of expression that was mocked. ("I wonder if the Great DiMaggio's conversations are as pointless as my own?")

Author 2: I loved this. I think it's a great idea and a brilliant take on the gift theme, even if a little absurd. The fact that the horses ended up being empty was a bit predictable, but probably the best ending anyway. Rather than bothering me, the lack of realism to the scenario brought a smile to my face. My thoughts were exactly the same as the characters' in the story: first, how could the British fall for a Trojan Horse, and second, man, this is a brilliant idea! The writing was good and effective, my only complaint being that the punctuation was a little distracting.