Writing Challenge: Ensnared

Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

March 17 2024


It's time for Stonewall's 1st #WritingChallenge of 2024 and the theme will be: "Ensnared".  Submit your entry by logging into this site and posting your story in this thread between now and April 30th, 2024.

Theme Instructions:
We're encouraging everyone to share with us a story of any of your in-game characters that incorporates our "Ensnared" theme.  There's broad latitude with the theme and could range from literally being ensnared to a figurative interpretation like feeling trapped, wrestling with a difficult choice, or anything you can imagine.  Really, the theme is just meant to guide you and not to limit you in any way.  To help get the creative juices flowing, I've provided some writing prompts, though you're free to write your story without the help of the prompts:

  • Write about being stuck in a time-loop, job or life you aren't able to escape
  • Write about being captured by an alien being that torments your ship and crew (a la Q or Trelane)
  • Write about feeling trapped by a commitment to an organization you unwittingly joined long ago (Section 31?)
  • Write about discovering that your reality is actually a holodeck program or a simulated game
  • Write about your world being enveloped in an unexplained darkness from which it can't escape
  • Write about waking up on a strange starship with no recollection of how you got there
  • Write about being stuck on a generational ship en-route to a distant destination

We'll share every submission with the entire community for them to enjoy, but we'll also be looking for our three favorite entries that excel in three criteria that we'll detail below.  We're so very eager for you, SGN's amazing writing talents, to once again share your talent and creativity with us and your community!


To participate in Stonewall's "Ensnared" writing challenge, you must post your entry here, in this thread, before day's end on April 30th, 2024.  Please use the #WritingChallenge hashtag in your entries.  Your posted entry must comply with these additional rules to be eligible:

  1. Your story must in some way relate to your character from a game you play
  2. Your story must be your own original work - NO ChatGPT or AI help!
  3. The content of your story must not be edited after the submission deadline of April 30th

Only one entry per community member, please.  While we encourage you to include graphics to supplement your Ensnared story, only the written narrative portion of your entry will be judged.  Instructions on how to incorporate graphics in your post can be found by clicking here.


Every writer will receive a deposit of 3 Stonewall Credits into their account, but our favorite contest entries will be recognized on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media feeds. The prize packs are as follows:

Our favorite story will get:
  1. 10 Stonewall Credits, AND, your choice of either:
  2. 20 Master Keys in Star Trek Online, OR
  3. $25.00 Redbubble Gift Card to purchase Stonewall Merchandise!

Our second favorite entry will receive:
  1. 8 Stonewall Credits, AND your choice of either:
  2. 10 Master Keys in Star Trek Online OR
  3. $20.00 Redbubble Gift Card to purchase Stonewall Merchandise!

Our third favorite entry will get:
  1. 6 Stonewall Credits!
  2. 7 Master Keys in Star Trek Online

*Stonewall credits can be saved and/or redeemed for in-game merchandise through the Stonewall Credits Store.

Good luck to everyone!  We can't wait to read your stories!

2 people liked this
Connie Zinser

aetios

Writing Challenge: Ensnared — Die Gedanken Sind Frei

March 23 2024
Vall’myn let out a low groan of pain as the agony booth shifted its target, a fresh, sharp burst of pain blooming from their chest. They would have long since doubled over and curled up in on themselves, if not for the fact that the booth was too small to even collapse on the spot in its confines. As things stood, they leaned against the smooth glass wall of the agonizer, their antennae twitching in pain as they winced, their eyes fluttering shut for several moments. 

“Well, Lieutenant Ollilov, I'd say this is just where you belong,” The entirely too smug voice of the first officer rang out to the other side of the agonizer. Letting out a small hiss of pain, Vall’myn slowly opened their eyes and turned to look at their tormentor, their short silver hair sweaty, disheveled and stuck to their skin. 

“Consider this your punishment for failure, Lieutenant. You were under orders, all you had to do was get a correct firing solution on those rebel ships, and you’d be a free blue-skinned bastard. But you couldn’t even get that right. Maybe 12 more hours in the agony booth will be enough to ensure you learn from this mistake,” As the booth shifted to yet another nerve cluster, all Vall’myn could do in response as their superior walked to the control console was slump to the side, their energy almost completely spent, but unable even to fall unconscious. 

As the commander worked at the panel, the source of pain suddenly shifted, bolts of agony lancing through Vall’myn’s head and continuing through their entire body as they let out a loud, strained scream, their throat soon going hoarse, but unable to stop screaming. Their screaming covered up the words their XO said as he left the room, his eyes uncaring and unsympathetic, his expression cold.

Time went on, but for Vall’myn, it rapidly lost all meaning, the moments bleeding into one another, with the only constant being an ever-shifting pain keeping them awake, albeit in an at best semi-aware state, unable to focus on anything but the pain, their mind wandering and confused. They had stopped screaming after what seemed to them like several minutes, although the actual time was anyone’s guess. Even so, they remained breathless, their throat sore and strained, adding yet another layer of discomfort and misery to their torture, and leaving them unable to respond to the new bursts and jolts of pain that occurred whenever the agonizer’s program decided that they were getting to used to the pain. The only outwardly visible sign of such a shift was yet another renewed twitching of their antennae and a hitch in their breathing, barely noticeable with how shallow it already was. 

At some point, while the room they were in was darkened in accordance with the night-time cycle aboard, Vall’myn suddenly felt a burst of clarity, the fog of pain in their mind clearing, and even as it brought the pain into far greater focus, it also let them truly think on their circumstances, shutting their eyes to even just slightly reduce the sensory input they had to deal with and trying to deepen their breathing, slowly but surely regaining control of their body even as the pain continued to run through them. 

As they slowly came back to themselves, the thoughts about what had caused this came back. They had been on duty when the Brand had come across a rebel vessel left from the doomed insurrection that had been crushed back when they were just starting their service with the Terran Imperial Navy. The ship had been heavily damaged, cripppled and barely limping along when the Brand had caught up with it, Vall’myn had been ordered to target their engines, but had taken just a few moments too long. As the ship flashed off to warp, escaping for the moment, they knew that consequences would be coming soon. They’d seen it so often before, and kept their head down, not wanting to face the same fate as always befell those who complained. It was simply how things were, changing it couldn’t happen. 

As another burst of pain lanced through Vall’myn, though, it disrupted their train of thought for a moment, and as they started to compose themselves, their thoughts strayed towards rumors they’d started hearing while on shore leave and when working with other ships. There had been rumblings of some Vulcan taking control of the Enterprise, which itself wasn’t unusual outside of the species of the mutineer, but the claims of his plans certainly were. Reform? Changing Terran society from the ground up? It was almost laughable how grand the plans were from the rumors, and yet. As pain continued to ripple through their body, Vall’myn couldn’t help wonder about how such a thing could be possible, if it could even be possible. 

Letting out a long, drawn-out sigh of pain, they felt their legs nearly give out as the pain centers in their legs were hit by a prolonged stabbing pain. As they tried to lean on the smooth, glass sides of the booth, they couldn’t help but feel hopeless about the idea of change. The empire had always been like this, throughout the millenia of existence, all that had changed was how efficient the punishment was. It would surely be easier to just go along, never hesitate again, and take power for themselves, the same way that any and all higher-ups in the Navy took power. If Vall’myn could become captain, they’d never have to fear the agonizer again, they could do what they wanted to anyone.

This thought held for a few moments, but as a jolt of pain radiated through them again, it quickly faded from their mind. The idea of forcing someone, even those who they hated most, the XO who tortured them and berated any and all non-humans aboard the ship, through an experience like this was not something they could consider right. 

The more they considered it, though, the more it seemed to Vall’myn that many of the things that they had done and seen were far beyond what seemed right. Had they not hesitated, the empty agonizers in this room would all be full of rebels, each awaiting further tortures and, eventually, execution. As a junior officer aboard the Endeavour, they had seen this fate plenty of times, and even served in a firing squad at times. Their complicity in other horrible acts flashed through their mind as they groaned loudly, guts twisting inside them as they remembered the orders dutifully carried out, civilian areas destroyed on suspicion of a single rebel or rebel sympathiser being harbored. After all, Vall’myn had been a good soldier, and that meant absolute obedience, no matter what. But thinking of being the one ultimately responsible for such, that was far beyond what they could stomach. And yet, they also couldn’t go through another time in the agonizer. This was their first time, having always kept their head down, obeying as necessary and avoiding any major mistakes. Still, there had to be a better way, though, both for themselves, and for others. 

After several long minutes of contemplation, time still being difficult to gauge, only being able to be told by the regular shifts in focus of the agony booth, which served to break Vall’myn’s focus for several moments each time, even with them having grown slowly accustomed to it, they started to come to a decision. Through their pain and misery, they knew that they’d never survive if they ever had to go through another round in the booth after this, leaving them with two options.

They could continue to keep their head down, hope to not make any more mistakes, keep quiet and not try to do anything risky, or take the biggest risk of all, and throw in their lot with a different set of potential rebels. They’d seen what could happen, hell, they’d caused the deaths of rebels before as weapons officer of the Endeavour. And yet, despite everything, despite the fact that doing so would almost certainly be the death of them, Vall’myn couldn’t help but think about what success could mean. 

Certainly it would mean no longer having to deal with arrogant superiors who treated them as though they couldn’t be trusted as an Andorian, but what seemed so much more important in that moment was the idea that all the agonizers, all the tools of cruelty and pain that the Terran Empire had developed over centuries might be destroyed, that they and all others may no longer have to face such treatment. And as they pondered and began to plan, even through the pain, even through the fatigue and hunger and misery that suffused their body, an irreducible spark of hope began to grow within them, hope that this would never need to happen again.

https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/180335
3 people liked this
Edited March 23 2024 by aetios
Gareth GXV3

GXV3

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

1 week ago
STAMP

It started as a childhood dream, an ambition to explore the universe, to seek life and new adventures, to learn and to go ever forward.

Looking down at the pile of papers Bareth wonder just what had happened to that dream, STAMP* another paper out of the 1000's he's forced to inkblot every day since his capture... every day, was it 9 years or 10 Batheth paused to think.

Slumping back into his wooden chair he looked around the room albeit a metal box with no windows no decor, simply a desk, a chair and a bed. never knocking what time it was or day it was, his only excitement was to go into the toilet to freshen up in the freezing cold water.
His Captor, Sub-Admiral Knick.. as he calls himself beams into the room twice a day to deliver and pick up the papers Bareth is forced to stamp, dropping of dry food rations as he does.

Knick has only ever said a few words, not giving any form of emotion away, yes I could over power him like ive tried many times when he beams into the room for his 1 minute visits, but those attempts were futile, Knick was a holographic projection.

The thought has always been there to end this every day life of stamping freshly produced papers that he couldn't understand what was written, to end his life giving up no hope of recue or escape years ago. This was his life, this is his life, this is hell.
STAMP*


#WritingChallenge
2 people liked this
Edited 1 week ago by GXV3
Adam Kotaška

DarinNajem

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

2 days ago
#WritingChallenge entry: Ensnared


SIMPLE LIFE


The hour was late, yet the light outside was still bright.

Another beautiful day, Darin thought, as he watched the sunbeams dance between tree branches agitated by a gentle breeze, diffusing the scent of lilacs all across the university campus. /So much like Ashalla/ He appreciated the tranquility of the moment for a few seconds more before turning back, straightening up his varsity jacket, and stepping inside the restaurant.

Built in the 1950s Darin's preferred establishment in the vicinity of his college, Five and Dime, still even half a century later kept its charming "typical fifties diner" style. Walls between elongated windows were adorned with framed tacky movie posters of science-fiction classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Missile to the Moon, It Came from Outer Space, and Far Beyond the Stars, adapted from a novel by Darin's favorite author, Benny Russell. The song Classic by The Knocks played on a jukebox in the background.



Darin headed straight for the bar counter, sat at his usual spot, and pulled out a textbook /not a padd/ with the intent to study for the next day's seminar.

The corpulent waitress behind the bar barely glanced in Darin's direction. "G'day, yung man. What c'n I get yu?" she said /with almost Vulcan-like indifference in her basso profondo voice/.

"Sul sul, Opaka, the usual will do."

"Darin, my dear!" she smiled broadly, "I didna recognize yu dere right away. Dat's cause yu grow more handsome evry day, 'fcourse. So, how's ma favrit customa doin'?

"Common," Darin smirked playfully, "I happen to know that every customer is your favorite customer ...and I'm great, thanks."

"Gud to hear, ma boy. Soooooou, one hot mug of /raktajino/ coming right up."

/One what?/

"Ah, right." Darin felt confused by something he couldn't name. A weird dissonance of some kind. "A coffee, obviously," he muttered, scoffed at his own momentary bewilderment, and quickly dived his head into the textbook.

As she poured down the hot fragrant liquid Opaka leaned over the bar and peaked at the new subject of Darin's attention.

"Film theory handbook, uh?! /By da Profets!/ How are yu eva planning on making a livin' wit' an education like dat?" she said. "First a d'gree in classical philosophy and now dis? Do yu wish to end up in a sanctuary district?"

"Excuse me...?" Darin pretended to take offense and straightened up on a bar stool. "Film ART is the most defining cultural expression of the century. And the culture we expose ourselves to defines us, our very identities. So, it may not be a science or engineering, but trust me that this," he said and waved with the textbook in the air, "is just as essential."

"Oooooh, pard'n my heresy, dear," Opaka raised both hands in a mock giving-up gesture, "I stand c'rrected."

They both shared a laugh.

Darin always enjoyed the friendly banter with the wise bartender. Sometimes he felt as if he was learning far more between the lines of his small talk with Opaka and other friends at Five and Dime than at school. Nevertheless, he loved his studies. With every turn of a page, a whole world of knowledge presented itself for discovering. His routine provided a sense of stability and safety while the curriculum offered sustenance for Darin's naturally quizzical temperament.

Between chapters three and four, it occurred to him suddenly, that he was happy.

He never considered himself happy before and with regard to the tough upbringing he never expected to be. The finding came with a surprise. A happy surprise. He raised his head and glanced around. The place, the people, the situation, it all was simple, yet very meaningful to Darin. A simple life. An ideal.

His eyes met with the cute boy's sitting next to him. Darin wondered. How could have he overlooked this cute kid till now? Who's the mysterious stranger? /where is he? where am I?/

The other boy returned his gaze intensely for long enough to make Darin certain there was a mutual interest.

Darin smiled back with what he was hoping was his charming smile number one. Then perhaps, he realized, he could become happier yet. With just a little friendly affection in his life... or more than friendly. He kept wondering. To love... and be loved back. Hmmmmm.

***


An annoying buzzing sound interrupted Darin's musing. He scanned his surroundings with his eyes but couldn't find its source. No one else seemed to pay attention to the mysterious ringing.

"REGENERATION CYCLE CONCLUDED."

/What?/

It's called an alarm clock! he suddenly realized, but wasn't sure what it meant.

The world dissolved around him and Darin opened his eyes which he didn't even realize had been shut. He saw a darkened interior of a cramped storage room. The haze in his mind began to slowly dissipate, giving way to something resembling understanding. Darin braced against the inner frame of the regeneration alcove, his wobbly legs almost betraying him. It took another minute to accept these new /real this time/ circumstances.

It's a ship.
I'm on a ship.
My ship in fact.
In the future. Which is present in fact.

Rrrrrright.

With his mind finally centered he had to calm his body next. He quickly reached for the hypo prepared on a nearby console and pressed it in his neck, right behind the left ear. The drug mixture immediately started pushing against the rising nausea attack.



"Kosst!" he cursed. Waking up was getting more painful each time.

He checked the monitor connected to the alcove. The readings showed optimal values, yet Darin knew the parameters needed adjusting. The illusion wasn't whole yet – real life was still spilling into the sim at moments, threatening to break it. The memory inhibitors allowed a few glimpses of his real life and identity to manifest inside the simulation. If only Darin's engineering skills enabled him to calibrate it to perfection. But this was Borg tech, a different level of technology, somewhat beyond him.

She would know how to make it right. It was her idea after all. Or... okay, not exactly...

Ever since the chance encounter with Captain Seven of Enterprise-G at The Captain's Table bar Darin was enthralled by her tales of Unimatrix Zero, a simulated universe that some Borg drones could use as an escape from the horror or their real existence. It inspired him. Longing for a similar experience he had begun experimenting with linking a ponean synaptic stimulator with a cortical processing subunit.

Dreams are fine, safe for an occasional sleep paralysis episode /altered states, beware the other side/. A good way to relax and get the stress out of the system. But how much better would it be, instead of sleeping, to each night enter a whole different world? To live a whole different life, carefree and serene? And most importantly – entirely authentic.

The sounds of red alert rumbled through the cargo bay.

***


Emergencies were so common lately that Darin had almost gotten used to the wailing sirens. Accent on the 'almost'. He forced himself into a confident posture, quickly slipped out of the tight black cybernetic suit designed to help his body regenerate even without implants, pulled a uniform top and trousers on /no time for undies/, and briskly marched through the door into the red-lit corridor, heading for the bridge. As he walked he felt the rush, the constant tension of every waking moment, coming back. He imagined the cortisol spiking dramatically in his body. The excess energy circulating through his system. The fight or flight mode that his circumstances forced him to live through almost permanently.

Exiting the turbolift door to the bridge Darin waved off the officer of the watch before she could greet him. /No time for formalities./



"Report. What's the fuss about this time?"

"Another reality vortex appeared in the vicinity. Borg ships incoming." came the answer from the tactical station.

On the main viewscreen, Darin observed at least two dozen of Borg cubes exiting a tear in spacetime on a background of fluidic space and positioning themselves in a harrowingly symmetrical formation with an especially big tactical fusion cube taking the center position. Here they come again. The siege goes on.

"Tactical analysis?"

"27 cubes in total, arming weapons. Starships Solomon, Camelot, Byzantium, Hyperion, Leonidas, and Parsival forming up, taking positions port and sideboard. Thirteen aliance warbirds are joining them. Also, Harmony is moving in to support us."

Ah, our new Aetherian allies, Darin thought. Despite their considerable aid in the multidimensional war with the Borg Kingdom, he couldn't help not to trust them. Something about them was off. Dangerously so. But in the present circumstances, Darin couldn't afford the luxury of picking friends.

"Alright then," Darin said finally in his pep-talk voice, "Outnumbered, but we are used to that. We can beat these odds. At least until reinforcements arrive."

Overriding the ship's comms an enemy message sounded: "WE ARE THE BORG. RESISTANCE WILL BE ANNIHILATED."

Darin's breath got stuck in his throat. /No time for happiness./

How long will you be able to keep going like this? he asked himself. How far is the breaking point?

He remembered the sunny park outskirts of Five and Dime.

/The trees, the breeze, the light./

"Your orders, sir?"

/The smell of moba pie. The smile of a friend./

"Battlestations!" Darin commanded finally and sat in the central chair.

"Real life is overrated," he mumbled silently.

THE END


2 people liked this
Edited 2 days ago by DarinNajem