All posts by Beau

Survivor X, Challenge 21: Rashomon

The penultimate week’s challenge was to write in the flavor of Rashomon, essentially writing the same scene from two different perspectives.  I had no ideas this week.  So I wrote this:

I

Nikki knocked on the door, and then entered. There was a strong odor to the room, but she was used to it.  She never thought she would be, but the joy of taking care of the elderly made it easy to get past it.  Most days it didn’t even feel like a job.  Especially with Esther.  She wasn’t supposed to have favorites, but she couldn’t help it.  Esther was her favorite.

“Good morning, Esther!  Should we get ready for breakfast?”  Nikki pulled the privacy curtain.

“Okay,” Esther said, smiling.  She had a beautiful smile, even after all these years.  Esther had told her she loved smiling, because she took great care of her teeth and didn’t need dentures, a rarity from her generation.

Nikki put on a pair of gloves and grabbed a new incontinent product.  “Okay, Esther, can we roll over to the side?”  Esther could not really turn on her own.  Thankfully, she didn’t weigh much.

Esther shifted her weight the best she could as Nikki wrapped a transfer belt around her.  “What’s for breakfast this morning?”

“Well,” Nikki replied.  She was careful to support Esther with the belt as she gently rolled her.  “I think it’s an egg bake with an apple tort.  Of course, you can always have oatmeal, too.  Extra cinnamon, right?”

“That’s right, dear!” Esther said.  Her positive attitude also gave Nikki a boost.  Most of the other residents complained about the food.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but Nikki had sampled most everything.  It wasn’t bad, and the home tried to be accommodating to people’s tastes.

After cleaning her up, Nikki placed the pad.  “What would you like to wear today?  The blue or the brown outfit?”  Esther had more, but she couldn’t remember her wardrobe.  Nikki was trained to offer her a choice that was simple and would hopefully make Esther feel more in control of her situation.

“The blue one, dear,” Esther said.  Putting on the pants was fairly simple.  The shirt was tougher, as Esther didn’t have much range of motion in her arms.  Nikki had to be careful, or Esther would wince in pain.

“All right, put your arms up.  Okay, now let’s get your right hand through here…good!  Ready for the left?”

Esther nodded.

“Now, let me help straighten your left arm here…all right.  There we go.  Now let’s get your head through.  Great.  Now let me just pull the rest down.”  Whew.  “Did that go okay?  Any pain?”

Esther shook her head.

“Great.  Would you like to stay in bed or watch TV before breakfast?”

“Oh, I think I’ll stay in bed for a while.  Can you grab my word finds?”  Esther pointed to the nightstand.

“Sure!” Nikki said, eagerly grabbing the book and a pen.  She handed it to Esther.  “Okay, I’ll bring you to breakfast in about thirty minutes.”

“Thanks, dear!” said Esther, smiling back.

Nikki disposed of her gloves, pulled back the privacy curtain, and walked briskly across the hall to answer a call light.  She felt a warmness in her heart.  Esther always did that for her.

II

Finally!  Esther had her call light on for two hours before anyone came.  She knew the aides were busy, but this was ridiculous.  Not only that, she just barged into the room.  The least she could do was knock.

“Good morning, Esther!  Should we get ready for breakfast?”

“Okay,” Esther said.  At least she could have apologized for making her wait so long.  Esther smiled at the girl.  The last thing she wanted was to get on her bad side.  She saw her getting gloves and a diaper.  Esther didn’t recall asking to be changed.

“Okay, Esther, let’s roll over!” the girl barked.  Now she thinks I’m a dog, Esther thought.  No use arguing; it would just take longer that way.  She tensed as the belt was wrapped around her.  She needed a distraction.

“What’s for breakfast this morning?” she asked.  Not that she cared, unless they were serving bacon, which was only on Sundays.  As the girl manhandled her, she said something about eggs and cereal.  She felt a sharp pain in her hip.  She held her breath.

“Right?” the aide said.  Esther exhaled.

“That’s right, dear!”  She wondered to herself what she agreed to.  It soon became apparent, as the girl started cleaning her bottom.  Esther knew she needed help.  She just wished these damn girls knew how humiliating it was.  No, they just acted like they were coming to your door with flowers and a singing telegram.  Thankfully, it was over soon.  If Esther didn’t drink much at breakfast she could put this off for several more hours, at least.

“Would you like the blue or brown outfit?” the aide asked.  Two outfits?  Esther knew she had more than that.  These aides just get lazier every day.  Lucky for her, she was in the mood for blue today.

“The blue one, dear,” she said as enthusiastically as she could.  She was not looking forward to this.  The girl told her to raise her arms and pretended to be careful while putting it on.  It didn’t matter.  This always hurt like a bastard.

She got her arms through after what seemed like minutes.  “Did that go okay?  Any pain?” the girl asked, oblivious.  Esther shook her head.  She didn’t want to be labeled a complainer.

“Great!” the girl continued.  “Would you like to stay in your bed or watch TV before breakfast?”

What Esther wanted was a drink of water.  Her mouth was dry as a desert.  But she didn’t want to go through the hassle of having the head of her bed raised, and she couldn’t stand this girl’s face much longer.  So she asked for her word finds.

“I’ll bring you to breakfast in about thirty minutes!” the aide said.  Unlikely.

“Thanks, dear!” was all she said, opening up her book to a random page.  As she was searching for aster—must be a flower themed puzzle—the aide finally left the room.  Esther placed the book on her lap and turned her head to the wall, fighting back tears.

K: This one is a good idea, I think, but I saw the second part coming from a mile away, and once it started, I knew where every beat was going. This challenge is extremely difficult and I get that, but this one just didn’t have enough surprises, just like the first. Is it so much to ask that every one of these is as good as Kurosawa’s Rashomon?

DK: The key part here for me is the detail used in describing the setting and the training someone like Nikki possesses. There isn’t anything particularly mind-bendy about it – I had a pretty good idea Esther’s side was going to be like that from how chipper Nikki came off – but I get a good sense that this kind of encounter plays out just like this many times every day.

Yeah, this was one of my weaker efforts of the season.  While it was meant to be brutally obvious where the story was heading, I was hoping there’d be enough atmosphere and detail to still give this story that “plays out just like this many times every day” some impact.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do that.  I just didn’t have the energy this week to really add much.  One thing I would like to point out, though, is that I’m not favoring either character here.  They both have flaws, and both are seeing the same situation incorrectly.  I hope that came out, at least.

 

85: Thine Own Self (7.16)

Synopsis:  Data loses his memory and cures cancer, yet Troi is the best part of the episode.

Memory Alpha Summary:  This above all: if you run out of new ideas, stop at season six.

Review:  This episode borrows themes from Who Watches the Watchers and The Ensigns of Command, and again both of those were better.  There is simply nothing new here that goes on with Data and the villagers, other than the fact the he can’t remember who he is.  And, pardon me, but the nearest river is two days away?  It seems this planet is sparsely populated.  Nobody has even BEEN to the mountains before.  Yet they build their town that far away from a water source.  Bah.  At least there are some cool visuals, with Data losing his face and getting impaled by a rod.

I do, however, like Plot B on the Enterprise, with Troi trying to get promoted to commander.  It’s a great episode for her character.  It’s a shame it took until Chain of Command for her character to start acting like a professional who’s on the senior staff.

Also, I have to admit Riker and Troi’s conversation using his trombone was adorable.

We are half-way through!  Tomorrow begins the top half of the countdown.

86: Preemptive Strike (7.24)

Synopsis:  The penultimate episode further reveals the Federation to be the well-meaning, but flawed government it would have to be to exist.

Memory Alpha SummarySay it ain’t so, Ro!

Review:  This might be the only episode of TNG that feels like it could have also run on Deep Space Nine, and not just because it involves the Maquis.  It also seriously questions Roddenberry’s tendency to view the Federation as altruistic.  Ro Laren probably represents this better than anyone, and it was nice to see her one last time.  Finally, there’s continuity with previous episodes with appearances by Gul Evec and Nachayev for the fourth time.

As for the plot, it could have been stronger as the relationship that develops between Ro and Marcias feels a bit manipulative, especially with him giving the “last final wish” for his dying breath.  Still, it’s nice to see the crew struggle with the idea that someone they trusted and gave a chance to became a traitor.

87: Bloodlines (7.22)

Synopsis: Picard becomes the last of the eleventy crew who unexpectedly meets a family member in season seven.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Darth Vader, eat your heart out

Review:  This episode is a bit better than Suddenly Human (mostly because there’s no screaming), but it could have been so much more.  I’m not sure bringing back Bok was the best idea for the fourth to last episode, as his character was and is still is one-dimensional.  At least this time around, the chief engineer and the android get to solve the crime without wonder boy Wesley around to glance at some readouts.

Troi is appropriate with a client who comes on to her, but I’m half-surprised she didn’t go to Beverly to gush over him and ask permission to go spelunking.

For the final time, we have a situation where we’re told that we can transport someone over to somewhere, but “I don’t see how we’ll get you back.”  No exposition.  No technobabble.  Maybe transporting is like tight jeans.

Stewart, as usual, gives an excellent performance, showing himself to be quite vulnerable with his son.  There’s a couple of touching moments.  I just wish the writers hadn’t copped out with “Guess he’s not his son!” at the end.  Granted, they weren’t exactly going to need to discuss Picard’s fatherhood in future seasons, but I think it would have made for a nice bookend with the first episode where Picard confides in Riker that he’s terrible with kids and needs guidance.

88: Data’s Day (4.11)

Synopsis: Most people’s lives are boring most of the time.  Data’s is no exception.

Memory Alpha Summary: Dear Mr. Henshaw Bruce Maddox

Review:  I’m always up for episodes about Data, but this one simply doesn’t work.  There’s just too much going on.  We have this plot with a Vulcan ambassador meeting with Romulans and there’s just no tension, because we keep breaking for Data to feed his cat or take dancing lessons.

One curious thing Data says is that Vulcans are incapable of lying.  Nevermind the fact that Vulcans do occasionally lie throughout the series, lying would seemingly fit just fine with Vulcan philosophy, as it is sometimes the logical thing to do.

We also meet Keiko O’Brien, one of the better supporting characters on the show (and the next one).

89: The Emissary (2.20)

Synopsis: Worf finally gets some. Unfortunately, he doesn’t read any love poetry.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Apparently, Klingons do allow themselves to be…probed.

Review: Ah, our annual episode that uses Worf for something other than one-liners and getting beat up.  It’s pretty decent, and there’s plenty of fallout here that adds even more to future episodes.  I found K’Ehleyr to be a bit over the top, but a decent foil for Worf.  The final showdown where Worf takes over as captain to thwart the (suddenly awake and unaware a treaty has been signed) enemy Klingons ties things up pretty well, and shows once more that Picard isn’t too proud or rigid to allow for creativity among his bridge crew.

Survivor X, Challenge 20: Interrogation

Write an interrogation where the interrogator gets his what-for by the end.  Fair warning, this is filled with an insane amount of in-jokes.

“I’ve been after him for months, the rat bastard,” he gasped, wondering how much longer he could hold on to life.  “Do you have a sketch artist?”

A rather large, bald yet bearded man in street clothes approached with a spiral book.  He flipped a page.  “Start.”

For the next six minutes and twenty-eight seconds, he described his assailant in every detail.  His last breaths were coming.

Detective Kautz approached the hospital bed.  “Do you know the rat bastard’s real name?”

The dying man shook his head.  “Just the name I gave you.”

“Do you have a real name?”

“Not for a long time, I haven’t.  They call me…”

He cocked his neck with his last ounce of strength.

“The Grey.”

Detective Kautz had seen men die before.  Heck, he’d even killed a couple himself.  But never before had he felt such a chill.  His body twitched.

He turned to officer Mitchell.  “Josh, I’m going downtown to see what I can get out of the twerp.”

Officer Mitchell nodded, continuing with his drawing.

“And please try to submit your sketch on time.”

Detective Kautz left the ER and headed towards the precinct.  The chill he had felt earlier wouldn’t go away.  This was the biggest case he’d ever been given.  And it scared the fuck out of him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You watched her die, you sick fuck!” detective Kautz bellowed, mere inches above the witness’s stoic face.  “And you did nothing!”

“Are you going to charge me with doing nothing?” said the twerp, apparently bored.  His name was Perry Baker.  Kautz assumed it was fake, but he ran his ID and it appeared legit.  Other than a possession charge when he was nineteen, the guy was clean.

Kautz was fuming.  “If you help me out I won’t charge you with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.”

Perry leaned back in his chair.  “You know I did no such thing.”  He yawned.

“Would you rather spend a night in jail before I realize that?”

Perry laughed.  He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.  “You know what, detective?  I like you.  You don’t take no bullshit.  I’ll tell you what I know.”  He leaned back again.  “What you say the guy’s name was?  Rubbish?”

Kautz stood up and smirked.  “Nibbish.”

“Right, right.  And you think he killed the bimbo?”

“Ms. Ashley was not a bimbo.  And he didn’t just kill her.”  Kautz began pacing the room.  “He cut off her hair, raped her, gouged out her intestines, and…”

“Took a dump on her face?”  Perry grinned.

“What?  No!  And fuck you!”  Kautz wanted to slap this guy.  “He covered her with love poems.”

“Doesn’t sound like him,” Perry said, checking his fingernails.

“So you do know him!”

“Well,” Perry continued, satisfied his nails were clean.  “I know of him.  Never met him, though.  I’ve just done some favors for his posse.”

“His what?  Who?”

“Yeah.  They call themselves the Vogons.  Not very well organized, or bright for that matter.  They killed three of their own in just the past few months.”

Kautz’s anger was tempered a bit as it was slowly replaced by curiosity.  “How many are there now?”

“Just four.  Wreisner, Novak, Maki, and a guy they just call Beau.  He used to be a judge, I think.  I don’t know much about the rest.”

“And what kind of favors do you handle for them?”

Perry grinned, wider this time.  “Let’s just say I’ll still be alive tomorrow because I didn’t call the police.”

“Uh huh,” Kautz grunted.  “So even if I find these Vogons, they won’t squeal either?”

“Doubtful.  Novak’s kind of a weasel, but he’s too dumb not to be loyal.”

Kautz sat down again, trying to show an air of trust.  “So you’re the guy who can help me out.  Just tell me what he looks like, and where I might be able to find him, and I’ll let you go.”

“Heh,” Perry rebuked.  “I told you I’ve never met the guy.”

“But you were…”

“Nibbish didn’t kill your bimbo.”

“She was an aspiring actress.”

“What’s the difference?  Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if nibbish authorized the deal.  But he wasn’t there.  Just the Vogons.”

“Tell me what you saw.”

“And I can go?”

“Maybe.”

Perry sighed.  “All right.  So I was supposed to meet up with the Vogons down by the docks.  For what, I don’t know.  I never got that far.  Anyway, when I got there, I saw two more people than I expected.  So to be safe, I ducked behind a corner and listened…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh Grey!  Does your wife know?”

“Of course she doesn’t.  I’ve convinced her I’m going to auditions.”

Shawn smiled.  “Care to audition my lips?”

“I’m ready.  I’ve memorize the script.”

She bit her lip.  “Just tell me I won’t always be your understudy.”

“Oh, baby.  You’ll always be the star of my show.”

As the necking commenced, Perry tasted bile.  He was about to choke when he heard four sets of voices talking low, not twenty feet from him.   They were barely illuminated by an overhead light.  Apparently, the happy couple hadn’t noticed.

“Lookie what we have here,” said Novak, cracking his knuckles.  He was the smallest of the group, but talked the most.  “A two-for-one night, eh boys?”

Maki replied.  “My one chance to feel like a winner again.”

Beau grunted, said nothing.  Wreisner calmly chewed on a piece of grass.

Novak continued.  “So, what do you guys think?”

“Beau can take care of the dude.  The rest of us will take her.”  Maki grinned as he pulled a stick of Odell’s margarine out of his pocket.

Beau grunted in approval, removing a pair of scissors from his jacket.

“What do you think, Wreisner?”

“I think,” he said, temporarily removing the blade of grass from between his teeth.  “I think that in this current evening, as we are watched over by the luminescent moon beneath an onyx sky, calmed unequivocally by the quiescent winds, and with our spirits fomented by the thrill of our venery, we shall henceforth partake in the cleansing ritual.”  He removed a small stack of papers from his shirt pocket.

Novak beamed, gripping tightly to a meat hook.  “I couldn’t have said it more long-windedly myself.  Okay boys, let’s go.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“…and you know the bitter end of that story,” said Perry.

“You know what I think?” said Kautz.

Perry stared at him dismissively.

“I think I believe you.  One man could have pulled this off, but it seemed like the work of several.  Unfortunately, I’m no closer to the truth.”

“I’m sorry,” Perry said, with a hint of earnestness.

“Maybe the evidence will lead us to one of these Vogons.  This shit is crazy.”

“I hope so, too,” said Perry.  “After what I saw, I’m thinking of taking a permanent vacation, somewhere nibbish can’t find me.”

Kautz chuckled.  “I think that’s a good idea.”

“So, can I go now?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Perry reached out his hand, and Kautz shook it.  As Perry left, Kautz slumped in his chair.  Grabbing a pencil, he tapped it twice, as if doing so would provide the next clue.  His eye caught a file on the desk.  It was a cold case he had been thumbing through on break.  Harry O’Dell was the name of the victim.

His eyes then darted to a paperweight.  It was onyx.  He then noticed his leftover meatball sub from lunch.  It was sitting atop the DVD that detective Wells had returned.  It was Hook.

“That son of a bitch!” Kautz yelled as he hurried out of the room.  As he did, a fax came through.  The picture looked not unlike a twerp.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the cabbie pulled away, he looked in the rear-view mirror.  “Where ya headed?”

“The airport.”

“Taking a trip, eh?”

“Mexico.”

“Lucky bastard.  You got a name?”

“Perry,” he said, looking out the window.  He saw a young boy walking his dog.  They were both grinning ear to ear, enjoying the day, and life.  He smiled, too.  “You can call me Pete.”

K: Yikes. Okay, I laughed a lot. This one had to know it wasn’t likely to snag my Immunity, but I did love the Wreisner soliloquy and the The Usual Suspects shot-for-shot recreation. This doesn’t get Immunity, but gets my undying love for being so amusing after a week (well, a season) of depressing endings.

DK: Those who were involved in Survivor VIII may not be surprised when I say NAHV-as-the-Usual-Suspects reminds me a lot of something I wrote back then using Internet names of people I and the judges knew. I laughed at this a lot, and I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of in-jokes here, although there are several references to things that would have particular meaning for Spookymilk Survivor participants, some of which (like Josh Mitchell not submitting or Wreisner’s dialogue) are things that someone totally independent of this game reading this story might not get the full impact of…I guess that means they might be in-jokes, actually. This probably isn’t something I’d like to see done week after week, but I enjoyed this a lot this time. Especially that half-baked Grey-Shawn dialogue.

I tossed away several bad ideas before settling on one I knew wouldn’t win immunity.  Sending up the plot of “The Usual Suspects” was a strike against me, but with no other good ideas on the table I went with it and just tried to make it as funny as possible.  I wish the ending would have made more of an impact, but there it is.

There’s one in-joke nobody playing will get.  But there was an incident when I was young with me, a pair of scissors, and a Smurfette doll.  Shawn, I’m sorry.

 

90: Evolution (3.01)

Synopsis: Who’s got two thumbs and doesn’t give a damn about nanites?

Memory Alpha Summary: Bob Kelso, minus the muffins

Review: We finally have a Federation scientist (Ken Jenkins) who, while obsessive, isn’t completely mad.  The scene where he grovels to the nanites is wonderful, and a more accurate reflection of what a Gene Roddenberry character might do.

Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t go very deep despite a lot of emotional dialogue.  Wesley yells at his mother for being gone which I truly enjoyed (although in reality, Wesley was the one who decided to leave his mother, not the other way around), but the whole plot about him trying to grow like a normal teenage boy isn’t fully realized.

We also discover that baseball was banned mid 21st  century for being too slow.  Thankfully, I’ll be reaching the end of my life when that happens.

91: Reunion (4.07)

Synopsis: Duras kills K’Ehleyr.  Worf kills Duras.  Picard…reprimands Worf.

Memory Alpha Summary: I wish I could kill the occasional person at work and get a reprimand.

Review:  I never really bought this relationship between K’Ehleyr and Worf, which is to say I don’t feel the chemistry.  So I wasn’t as torn up about her death as he was, despite the fact I liked her.  Still, some good set pieces and acting makes this a decent episode and sets up several good episodes where Gowron stars (on this series and on DS9).

I have to say Alexander looks way older than two.  Perhaps Klingon children grow faster.

92: The Pegasus (7.12)

Synopsis: Season seven in predictable fashion pulls The First Duty from the recycling bin and gives it to an officer with more of a track record.

Memory Alpha Summary: Riker gets thrown in the brig for the first time, and not for his whoring with alien diplomats.

Review: Riker and Asshole Admiral #17 discuss “the experiment” in such obtuse terms for most of the episode and it feels a bit contrived to me.  If we’re not supposed to find out about the cloaking device until the “big reveal”, don’t show Riker talking about it vaguely for thirty minutes.  Also, Riker’s allegorical conversation with Beverly about his Bat’leth exercise with Worf is so obvious I’m surprised Beverly’s tricorder didn’t just say “contrivance.”

That said, I always like it when the characters act a bit more human and make stupid mistakes.  The relationship between Picard and Riker is developed even further.

Also, why the heck did Star Fleet sign a treaty that the Romulans could have a cloaking device but not the Federation?  It seems a little bit like conceding the Sudetenland to me.  It’s never really explained to my satisfaction.  And if it weren’t for Roddenberry, who didn’t believe honorable humans “sneak around,” the writer wouldn’t have had to come up with ridiculous explanations.  Thankfully, the DS9 writers decided this piece of canon should be shot and gave the Defiant a cloaking device.