Weekend Workshops

Our Weekend Workshop challenges are a means to an end for both of us - not only do we get to have some fun playing around with new ideas and concepts, but we also find ways to stretch our skills and thought processes. Whilst we will post any new challenges in the blogfeed, here are a few of the more popular ones we have done so far - all of which are available to read / view upon our individual blogsites.
Terran Twilight

The blackening sky began to blot out the remaining sunlight of the dying sun as it plunged the planet into another restless night, full of fear and despair. The bones of humanity's civilization pocked the surface of the broken planet, a mere shadow of the life that had once flourished on her face. Humans, once the defining species of the planet earth with their vast cities, advanced technology, and knowledge of themselves and the universe in which they lived, would leave the stage as a mere echo of all that they had accomplished in their short time on the planet... and there would be no audience to mourn them.

The medal of their deeds loomed in the sky overhead, due soon to be reunited with its mother that had protected it through the millennia. It returned the favor by shining as a beacon of hope in the darkness; a reminder that, even in the darkest of nights, the sun would come out tomorrow. But no longer. It moved sluggishly through the heavens, it's surface scarred and ablaze with the nuclear fires of humanity's self-destructive tenancies. Ablaze, its course would lead it to a destructive finale, sealing humanity's final chapter in its grave.

The last
stragglers of the doomed ball of scorched rock and ash followed the light of the sickly orange star that had once shone down brightly on them, spreading life over the surface of their birthplace. It is faith that, in their final moments, the hope of another dawn granted them some small release from the burden that their selfishness had chained upon them, and that their souls would escape the torment of the fires that would soon extinguish the remaining traces of those who had forsaken the paradise that had become their hell.

The Next Genesis

“And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” – Genesis 13:16

Earth, 9253 AD. I can’t believe I’m here. This place is like a putrid ball of slime covered in maggots. But this is what I agreed to, so here I am. The entire planet is covered with our cities, our people, our ideas. I remember old holo images showcasing all the blues and greens, white clouds, clean skies, glistening cities… my how it’s changed. I don’t think there’s a living person who remembers what it was before it became the dumping ground of the galaxy. It’s no coincidence that a bunch of disease-ridden parasites claimed this festering boil of a planet we used to love.

Being here now forces me to remember what set these events in motion. 3000 years ago, an age that will never be forgotten, we faced the very real threat of overpopulating the galaxy. Millions were being born every minute and we were forced to constantly annex new planets to support our overgrown population. I think that was when we stopped being human.  Our finest scientists, biologists, philosophers – none of them could come up with a solution to the problem. That’s when the government came up with a solution that would change everything.

Every possible idea was discussed and debated ruthlessly, but in the end, the solution could not be ignored. It was our only salvation. We were a plague that threatened all life in the galaxy, and we had to be exterminated… at least, that was how they justified the mass genocide of hundreds of worlds and the war that started and still rages to this day. The idea was humble; willingly killing ourselves to save the remaining life in the galaxy - but our methodology was flawed. Long after the war began, another solution finally came to light; a solution that would end the war and give us another chance. But that idea will never be heard… not while the overlord is in charge.

I am part of an alliance of worlds that believe that we can prosper symbiotically with other life in the galaxy, like the organisms that once populated earth in ancient times. I carry a unique gene that, once introduced into the planets ecosystem, will allow us to transcend our bodies and transform into a form of pure energy. Though my mission is critical the survival of our species, my opposition will be great. Too long have we allowed self-destruction and bloodshed to be our ultimatum; it must end here.
I stand in the middle of a massive, bustling street filled with human drones; an endless sea of scared, hopeless individuals disgusted at their very existence. Many thousands of years ago, this was one of our most prosperous cities, before it became the planet-spanning supercity it exists as now. London, it was called – part of the European continent of earth’s eastern hemisphere. It was a beautiful green island, surrounded by clear, glistening water and flowing with its own unique culture. Now, it exists merely as an extension of the dark towers that pierce the exhausted, polluted skies above; all traces of individuality and inspiration far removed – save for one thing.

My destination may very well be the last surviving place in the entire galaxy that retains any resemblance of the cultures of old. The Palace of Westminster, an ancient meeting place for the houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, stands alone as the last surviving landmark from that era of history. It was claimed by the overlord 3000 years ago as his personal residence to oversee the operation of the galaxy and the subsequent purge of all life he deemed unfit for the final order. It is here that I must go, and deliver myself. I am the final hope of life in our dying galaxy.

The streets are lined with soldiers who constantly scan the thoughts of passerby, ready to suppress any opposition at the first stray thought of harm directed at the overlord. My thoughts linger on our bible, an ancient writing called “1984”. My commanders treat this writing as an ancient premonition, and the author, their prophet. Though I have never considered myself a religious man (since most of that died out thousands of years ago when we realized that there was no god) I can understand why they would adopt it. Their prophet – Orwell - saw what we were destined to become and had tried to warn us. But, as is true for the countless problems we have faced as our species has developed, it is only in our darkest hour that we find the motivation to act. This is our final hour.

The soldiers eye me suspiciously, no doubt wondering why they cannot probe my mind as easily as the others. My unique genome has altered my brain frequency to function at a much higher range than the garden variety human. The effect will be like radio static to their minds. No doubt they will just think I am just a particularly suppressed individual and pay me no heed.

Up above me, masked behind the noxious grey clouds, an atmosphere of flying transports herd millions of people off of this rock, bound for destinations unknown. Most will no doubt live a few years only to be exterminated in accordance with Law 2128-B. Some will be fortunate enough to find themselves on one of the few remaining planets where life still thrives. And the rest will be like me; fighters recruited into the last war that we will ever fight.

My body tingles with anticipation as I round a corner and find myself confronted with my objective. It stands before me; its dull, brown exterior threatens to overcome me with emotion as it presents itself gracefully against a backdrop of dead, emotionless grey. This is it – there’s no turning back now. I approach it with my head hung low, doing my best to blend into the surrounding drones. I mustn’t be so careless; another emotional outburst like that and I’ll be detected and all hope will die with me.
I am at the doors. The guards eye me suspiciously as I probe their minds and convince them that the overlord has sent me. They understand and open the doors. The doors open slowly, the ancient squeal of their obsolete design welcomes me inside like a ghost of the past begging me to return life to its barren halls as I step inside.

I sense the overlord in his chambers, watching meticulously over the galaxy and all life within it as the self-appointed god he proclaimed himself to be. I am close now, anticipation threatens to overwhelm me as the fate of our past, present and future reaches the moment that will define our eternity.
Suddenly, an alarm in my mind begins to sound. I have been detected. I can feel their minds enter mine, their thoughts stab at my mind in an attempt to shut it down.  I must remember my training if I am to survive the assault. Pain… such pain… hurts to think… resist.

The overlord’s chambers are before me. The guards at the door are alerted by my presence and return my gaze with wide-eyed stares. I can feel their thoughts join the others. They are the strongest I have ever encountered. They are compromising my objectivity, preying off the desperate nature of my mission and using it as a weapon against me. NO! I must not lose! Too much is at stake. Quickly… regain your objectivity – do not let your feelings cloud your judgment! Why can’t they understand what I am trying to do? All hope is NOT lost!

That’s it! I must make them understand.

“Give up. The overlord cannot be defeated.”

They threatened me audibly in an attempt to intimidate me.

“Two plus two equals five.” I countered.

“Incorrect.” They riposted.

“Two plus two equals five!” I insisted.

“Incorrect!” they shouted back.

This isn’t working. They told me this would work! The prophet must have been wrong. I must unleash the weapon. I was warned that it was it would surely compromise my thought process as well as theirs, but that it would render them defenseless. I am recalling the memory they implanted and am projecting it into their minds.

“Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
 Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.”

My legs have stopped functioning and I have collapsed to the floor. Tears fall from my eyes as I crawl past the guards and into the chamber of the overlord. The chamber, which at one time was a regal and inspiring place, is choked with fat and veins poisoned by the technological monster now lingering within. The stasis pod that contains the overlord, taps into the very heart of the planet, drawing on the heat of the core for geothermal energy – but more than that, it draws from the life energy of all living things. This is what gives him the power that so effortlessly controls our fate; by holding hostage our own mother, the one who has protected us through millions of years. Time has given us all the tools we needed to hone our aggression to its finality.

I place my hand against the glass of the stasis pod in which he resides and project the thought as clear and concisely as my enhanced genome will allow me.

“Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?”

I can feel the effect of the words, written by our poets of old and buried under layers of neglect and repression manifesting in the consciousness of the overlord. Has it really been so long since another human being shared such emotion with another that it would have such a profound effect? He analyzes every word, every note, the mathematics of the symphony – the whole is no mere sum of the parts, the effect was not a predictable one, there was no defense against it. The aggression of our race, which he had preyed upon in an effort to become the undisputed ruler of our destiny, had failed to realize its antonym: compassion. There truly was hope for us all, but it lay over the rainbow. We simply needed to shrug off the burdens of our senseless violence and learn to fly.

Conflicting data overloaded the overlord’s thought patterns. The stasis chamber exploded and the 3000-year old overlord who had decided our fates for far too long came tumbling out. His frail body, overcome with age and the stress of the inhospitable environment disintegrated immediately and his presence vanished from our galaxy forever, allowing us to finally ascend unhindered by our infantile impulses. I ceased to exist in any form your limited mind might understand, but the story of our vindicated race would live on into the stories of the next genesis.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. “ - Genesis 1:1

The Chapel of Many Angles

The air of the chapel was thick, as though a cloud of smoke had seeped its way up from the cracks of Hell and filled it to the top of its high, stone ceiling.  It was here that the father stood ever vigilant over the prince, to whom he had provided sanctuary at his request. The prince kneeled at the altar before him in prayer, shaken over the rumors of the king’s murder at the hands of an angry mob. The father’s eyes remained steadfast on the book he held in his hands as he read a passage that had always given him strength in times of need.

The prince was not a particularly faithful man by reputation - and yet here he was; confessing his life’s sins in what he felt in his heart to be his final moments. The father paid little attention to the man who begged his attention in his hour of despair, unworthy as he was. But it was not his place to judge the man; judgment would come to all in due time.

The door to the chapel burst in suddenly, slamming against the wall with a loud crack. The prince stood suddenly, his eyes pleading with the father to cast his divine protection upon him as the mob advanced before them. They laid their accusations at the prince’s feet and he begged for his life before their tools of justice and strife. It was then that the father spoke, calling upon the wisdom and teachings of his life’s calling to protect the sheep of his flock.

“I stand before you as the Lord’s disciple. His eyes are upon you. It is his will that, for as long as I stand before you, no harm come to this man in His holy sanctuary.”

They ignored his warning with cries of “Blasphemy!” flying from their tongues as they advanced towards him. The prince retreated behind the priest, relying on his faith in his words to shield him from harm. The father clasped the crucifix tightly in his fingers, calling upon the strength of the heavens as the mob drew closer with their weapons raised in malice. His heart fell as the trapdoor to the undercroft slammed shut behind him and the prince fled the chapel, forsaking him. The prince, like the mob closing around him, had failed to realize that there was no escaping the eyes of God.

The father acted quickly, kneeling down to lock the door and pocketing the key in his priest’s robe. His eyes returned to the book that had been his teacher, his protector, and his friend all his life. He read the words as he had countless times before, gaining new understanding in its words as time began to slow and the dull grey halls of the chapel he had walked every day of his life burst into blinding white light.

The book fell from his hands and on to the floor of the desecrated chapel. Just as its pages had given him life, he gave his life now to its blood-stained pages as they fluttered in the breeze flowing through the open door and over his crumpled body. The words of his favorite story, stained forever red, told the final moments of his life - just as they had the man for whom the story had been written.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…”