Short Story: “Rusty” By C. A. Brown

Dude, you haven’t played in fragging… weeks!‘ Harry sighed as he sat back on the synth-leather sofa and stared out of the rain-streaked window at the rainbow constellations of neon signs below.

Beside him, Gary took a long draught from a can of pina colada. ‘It hasn’t been that long. I mean, didn’t we plunder that Portugese Galleon recently? I remember standing on the fo’c’sle whilst that dude in a fancy shirt tried to run you through with his sword. Then we had that funny argument about whether bringing a pistol to a sword-fight is cheating.

You just mispronounced “fo’c’sle”. You’re out o’ practice, matey.‘ Harry raised his arm and rolled back his sleeve. For a second, he stared at his wristwatch, as if he was checking the time like an old person. In a low voice, he said: ‘Calculate time elapsed since user Capn_RUM420 last logged into Treacherous Seas.

In a perfectly-modulated voice, the wristwatch said: ‘Time elapsed is five weeks, three days, ten hours, thirty-four minutes, nine seconds, four hundred micro…‘ Harry muted the voice and rolled down his sleeve.

Gary raised an eyebrow and finished his pina colada. ‘I thought it was just a few days. Damn.‘ He took a deep breath. ‘Only one thing for it.

A huge grin spread across Harry’s face as he reached under the sofa and pulled out the virtual reality helmets. He handed one to Gary. Like knights armouring up for battle, they donned their helmets and stood up. Against the gloom of the helmet, Gary heard Harry growl: ‘Awaitin’ orders, cap’n!

Below the rim of the helmet, a smile crossed Gary’s face: ‘Raise the sails!

At that command, the helmets activated. In less than a second, jaunty accordion music and the piercing stench of brine filled the air. Gary staggered as the deck of his ship swayed beneath his feet, his virtual beard swinging quietly below his chin. The dead weight of the cutlass on his hip and the brace of pistols on his chest helped him to keep balance, but he still found himself gripping a wooden railing.

Beside him, the eyepatch-wearing parrot on Harry’s shoulder let out a mocking squawk. Harry grinned: ‘Still findin’ yer sea legs, cap’n? Anyone would think ye were a landlubber!

They must have messed with the buoyancy settings since I last played…‘ Gary hastily corrected himself. ‘Er… I mean, quiet ye bellyachin’, mangy dog! Or I’ll have ye flogged at the mizzenmast for mutiny!

Yes, sir. What are yer orders cap’n?‘ Harry stood to attention. The parrot pecked at the air purposefully.

Gary reached into his coat and pulled out a scroll. As he unfurled it, a table of statistics appeared on the tea-stained parchment. He gasped: ‘Blusterin’ typhoons! Where be our gold? Don’t tell me ye spent it on DLC!‘ With a beady eye, he glowered at the shiny new eyepatch that Harry’s parrot was wearing.

Must have been stolen, cap’n.‘ Harry said nervously. ‘I suggest we plunder it back. I’d bet ye a doubloon that there’s a schooner near here loaded with bounty. And, I’d wager, rum too!

Frowning slightly, Harry stared up at the crow’s nest and shouted: ‘Roger? Any ships.’

A voice shouted back: ‘Aye, cap’n! Sail ahoy to starboard. Sittin’ low in the water too!

Taking a deep breath, Gary bellowed: ‘Starboard cannons! Let’s shiver their timbers!

A series of deafening roars and pops thundered through the air. The deck juddered violently. Thick clouds of white smoke engulfed one side of the ship. A satisfied smile crossed Gary’s face. He really had forgotten how much fun it was to fire the cannons. A second later, a quiet splashing sound echoed over the deck.

Above him, Roger’s voice shouted. ‘Our shots fell short, cap’n. The ship be turnin’ away, shall we give chase?

Gary let out a sigh and shook his head. Harry glowered at him, before a mischievous grin crossed his face. In a solemn voice, he said: ‘Ye are unfit to command this vessel. Under the pirate code, I challenge ye for the captaincy.

F***in’ seriously?‘ Gary muttered, hearing the bleep of the game’s profanity filter ring through his ears. Harry suppressed a laugh. Getting back into character, Gary shouted: ‘All right! I’ll run ye through, ye treacherous dog!

In a second, the air was filled with the clashing of steel as their cutlasses met. As they swashbuckled furiously, Gary realised that the swordfights were quicker than he remembered. That the weight of the thirty inches of steel in his hand was greater than he thought.

Clumsily, he parried and swung, feeling confident once again. But, just as a satisfied smile crossed Gary’s face, his vision flashed red. Cartoon blood spurted from his sword arm. Harry let out a triumphant laugh and raised his cutlass for a killing blow.

Without even thinking, Gary reached towards his chest with his other arm. He grabbed a pistol from the bandolier, angled it forward and fired. A soul-shuddering crack filled the air and, against the clouds of white smoke, green text swam in front of his eyes: ‘USER Brine_Hound763 fell to a pistol ball. Respawning in 10..9…8..

When Harry reappeared on deck, he shook his head: ‘All right, ye won cap’n. Ye fought like a n00b and, by yer own admission, ye cheated. But, ye won.

Gary grinned at him: ‘Must be beginner’s luck.

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Today’s Art (2nd March 2018)

Arrr! Although this digitally-edited painting o’ some pirates didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped, I still really like it. Originally, it was meant to be a slightly more serious and gloomy painting (it was initially inspired by a TV series about pirates called “Black Sails” that I’d been watching on DVD at the time) – but, well, I just couldn’t resist making a slightly silly horror-themed painting instead.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“The Haunted Shipwreck” By C. A. Brown

Five Free Pirate-themed Creative Inspirations (That Don’t Involve Digital Piracy)

Arrr! Avast ye scurvy dogs! This be an article about piracy! No, not that kind of piracy – quite the opposite in fact. Following the popularity of my article from last year about five cyberpunk inspirations that can legally be read/viewed/played for free, I’ve been meaning to write another article in this style.

And, after watching the first few episodes of a TV show called “Black Sails” on a second-hand DVD, it suddenly struck me that “pirates” would be a good theme for this article. After all, this is a genre that can be serious, funny and/or thrilling. It is also, like the cyberpunk genre, a cool genre that has fallen into obscurity slightly over the years.

Plus, unlike the cyberpunk genre, it’s actually easier to find free inspirations in this genre since it’s old enough for the copyright to have expired on some things. However, I’ll also be including things that are still covered by copyright, but have been officially made available to view, listen to, play etc… for free by the copyright holder.

I’ll also be taking a relatively strict definition of the word “free”, which means that things like “Pirate Doom” (a free fan-made add-on to a commercial game called “Doom II”) or things that were previously released for free but no longer seem to be available on official sites (like the “Rough Diamonds: A Tribute To Running Wild” album that used to be freely downloadable from Running Wild’s website 5-10 years ago) won’t be included on the list. However, a free demo for an old commercial computer game will appear on the list – since you don’t actually have to spend anything in order to play it (and it is free from modern scams like micro-transactions etc..), and it has been officially made available for free.

Likewise, if you’re unsure of the difference between taking inspiration and lazy plagiarism, then be sure to read this article.

Anyway, dust off your letter of marque – here arr some free pirate-themed creative inspirations which, ironically, don’t involve (digital) piracy:

1) “Treasure Island” By Robert Louis Stevenson:
Well, this is the obvious place to start. Since this incredibly famous pirate-themed novel was published in the mid-late 19th century, it is free from copyright and can be legally downloaded for free from numerous places on the internet (like Project Gutenberg). Although it’s been over a decade since I actually read it, it is the source of a lot of modern pirate-themed tropes (such as parrots on shoulders etc..) and is a defining classic of the genre.

Interestingly though, given that it was written in the 19th century, the pirates are actually the villains in this story. This is kind of a common theme in a lot of old pirate-themed things, but it may be surprising if you’ve never read anything pirate-themed from this era.

Plus, according to Wikipedia, it was inspired by an out-of-copyright history book from 1724 called “A General History Of The Robberies and Murders Of The Most Notorious Pyrates” which, although it apparently isn’t the most accurate of historical sources, can also be legally read, downloaded etc… for free.

2) Sherlock Holmes vs Blackbeard! – “The Pursuit Of The House-Boat” By John Kendrick Bangs: If you want something a bit funnier and more surreal, then I can’t recommend John Kendrick Bangs’ 1897 novel “The Pursuit Of The House-Boat” highly enough!

This out-of-copyright novel is a sequel to Bangs’ “A House Boat On The River Styx” and, like with that novel, it revolves around the ghosts of famous historical figures and famous fictional characters who spend the afterlife living on a rather luxurious house boat that floats on the River Styx. In this novel, the house boat has been stolen by the ghost of the notorious pirate Blackbeard and it is up to the ghost of Sherlock Holmes to track it down and get it back!

Although a few elements are slightly old-fashioned, this story is surprisingly funny for something written in the 19th century. Plus, it’s a story about Sherlock Holmes versus Blackbeard. From the 19th century!

3) Official music videos: Good pirate-themed music can be hard to find. So, I thought that I’d mention a few interesting pirate-themed official music videos (from official accounts) on Youtube that might be interesting. Yes, all of these are still copyrighted – but their creators/copyright holders have made them available to view and listen to for free.

If you want something a little bit more traditional in style, then I’d recommend checking out the music video to a modern acoustic song called “The Pirate Shanty” by Worldwide Adventurers. Likewise, the original lyrics to the traditional pirate-themed song “The Derelict” (the “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” song) have passed into the public domain and the song has been covered/performed by numerous amateur and professional musicians on Youtube. However, each modern interpretation and/or variation of the song is still copyrighted – even if the original 19th century lyrics aren’t.

If you want something a bit more… metallic…. then I would recommend pretty much any official music video by Alestorm – such as the video to “Shipwrecked“.They’re a heavy metal band (who I’ve seen perform live at least twice) who literally only sing songs about pirates.

4) The art of Howard Pyle: Howard Pyle was an American illustrator from the mid-late 19th century and early 20th century. He used a rather realistic art style, and – amongst other things – his body of work includes several pieces of pirate-themed artwork. Like this:

“Who Shall Be Captain?” By Howard Pyle [via Wikipedia]

Plus, all of his paintings are also completely free from copyright (under both American and European copyright law) and this includes a number of cool pirate-themed paintings, like “Who Shall Be Captain?“, “Buccaneer of the Caribbean” and “Captain Kidd“.

5) The free demo of “The Longest Journey”: Although “The Longest Journey” is a commercial computer game (which mostly doesn’t revolve around pirates), there is an official free demo of the game that might be of interest to any fans of the pirate genre.

Although it is also apparently available on various archive sites, the easiest (and safest) place to find this free demo these days is on the game’s official Steam page. However, this also requires creating a Steam account (and the games on that site have internet-connection based DRM). Still, the full game is also available on other legitmate game sites, and second-hand official DVD-ROM copies of it also exist too.

Although most of the game takes place in both a sprawling futuristic cyberpunk city and a large tropical fantasy world, the free demo is restricted to one of the few self-contained parts of the game.

In other words, a short puzzle-filled sea voyage on a vaguely pirate-style galleon. Although it doesn’t technically involve pirates, there are telescopes, sails, the occasional piece of pirate-style dialogue and other such things that may be of interest to fans of the genre. However, the demo takes place about halfway through the events of the game, so it may be a little confusing and/or contain mild plot spoilers.

————–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Ahoy mateys!

“Haul” By C. A. Brown (Halloween 2017 Sci-Fi Stories #7)

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow night 🙂

This is gonna get noisy!‘ Rich wound down the sky-car’s window and reached for the antique military rifle. Ignoring the rain hammering his face and the constant rush of neon lights below, he calmly leaned out of the window and braced the rifle against his shoulder.

Get on with it! They’re gaining on us!‘ Steve snarled, barely even taking his eyes off of the altimeter.

Squinting against the elements, Rich took aim at the flashing red and blue lights behind the sky-car. The antique rifle’s circular magazine rattled silently as he tightened his hold on the wooden grips, gritted his teeth and pulled the trigger.

CHATCHATCHATCHATCHAT! Click!

Above the loud ringing in Rich’s ears, he heard a quiet popping. There was a bright orange flash. Rich almost dropped the rifle. A plume of black smoke stood out against a glowing green electric billboard. Rich ducked back into the sky-car.

‘,,,,,’ Steve said with a frantic look in his eyes.

WHAT?‘ Rich shouted, blinking at the flickering array of iridescent afterimages that swam in front of his eyes.

Steve shoved a map towards him, before easing off on the thrusters slightly. As the afterimages began to clear and the ringing became more muffled, he heard Steve shout: ‘Find us somewhere to lay low! The whole bloody city probably saw that! We’ve got five minutes at most.

Turning on the courtesy light, Rich squinted at the map. Being careful not to look at the light, he glanced up at the windscreen. The green safety lights of the Westford Tower flickered to his right and the amber pyramid on top of the FleeceFayre Casino glowed blurrily to his right. His weary eyes scanned the map until he found their location. Quickly, he began to tick off locations in his mind.

Get a move on!‘ Steve barked, as he banked left sharply, narrowly missing a bright yellow sky-cab. A muffled honking sound echoed in the distance.

Got it!‘ Rich muttered ‘Pirate Paul’s Pleasure Palace isn’t too far from here. There was something in the paper last week about them closing down for refurbishment. We can land inside the roof display.

‘If you expect me to land this thing in the mouth of a giant skull, then you’re having a fu…‘ Steve paused for a second. Above the pattering rain and roaring engine, the plaintive wail of sirens echoed in the distance. ‘….that might not be a bad idea. Hold on!

Pushing the stick forwards, the air car descended sharply. Before he could even level out properly, Steve cranked the retros to max. The engine groaned in protest. The bright yellow windows of an office building flickered uncomfortably close to the passenger window. Rich grimaced. Steve took a hard left and started the landing thrusters.

Then, in the blue gloom, the skull came into view. Even without the lighting display, the pearly white teeth seemed to gleam invitingly. Furrowing his brow, Steve gently glided the sky-car towards it. ‘Here goes nothing.‘ He muttered.

It was, Steve thought as he caught his breath, a textbook landing. As long as the plod didn’t notice the thruster burns on the skull’s teeth, they were home free. Beside him, Rich gasped and trembled frantically. Catching his breath, he shouted: ‘We did it?… We did it!

Ssssh!‘ Steve hissed, putting his finger to his lips. The air was thick with silence. Steve let out a sigh of relief: ‘No sirens. We’re in the clear. Let’s get outta here before anyone gets too curious.

As Rich cracked an emergency glow-stick, Steve reached below the seat and pulled out the briefcase. As the stick bathed the car in faint green light, Steve leant forwards and squinted through the windscreen. ‘Is that… sand?‘ He muttered.

Yeah, there was something in the paper about them turning this into a viewing platform. They were importing sand from somewhere exotic. Tortuga Bay, I think. Hey, do you think it’s worth anything?‘ Rich grinned.

We don’t…‘ With a quiet hiss, Steve opened the doors ‘… have the bloody time. Now, get a move on!

The sand crunched quietly underfoot as the two men left the car. Keeping the briefcase close to his chest, Steve followed the glow-stick and listened to Rich’s slow footsteps. A few seconds later, Rich stopped and turned around: ‘There should be a wall here.

What? Don’t tell me we’re going round in circles.‘ Steve sighed.

Below the green light, Rich just shook his head. ‘No. This sculpture can’t be more than a hundred metres… ugh.‘ He spat black fluid and dropped the glow-stick.

Steve leapt back. In the dim light, he could see something shiny poking out of Rich’s chest. A second later, he felt something brush against his spine. The stench of seawater filled the air. A low croaking voice said: ‘Gimme the treasure, lad.‘ Steve dropped the briefcase. With a quiet slop, he saw the point of a rusty cutlass shoot out of his stomach.

As the numbness washed over his body, Steve fell onto the soft sand. Just like sunbathing he thought, as a smile crossed his wet lips. As all of the noises began to fade into peaceful silence, he could have sworn he heard a grumbling voice say: ‘Arrrr! More paper? Ye said there would be gold here! Five hundred years… and not a speck o’ gold!

The Complete “Damania Requisitioned” – All 12 Episodes Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

2017 Artwork The Complete Damania Requisitioned

Well, in case you missed any of it, here are all twelve episodes of my “Damania Requisitioned” webcomic mini series in one easy-to-read post. You can also find links to lots of other comics here too.

All in all, this series was both fun and challenging to make. When I started making it (quite a few months ago), I was overjoyed that I’d finally got inspired enough to make a comic again. But, a day or two after I started making the comic, a heatwave hit – which severely affected my level of motivation and the speed I could make comics – so, the art quality of a few of the updates was affected by this.

This was also the first comic I’ve made in quite a while with a much brighter colour palette – which was a slightly strange experience. It also has something of a continous story too (although about two-thirds of the episodes can be read on their own).

There’s also some interesting trivia about this comic. Originally, I’d planned to make a pirate-themed comic in my “time travel” trilogy (which can be read here, here and here) but I couldn’t get the idea to work at the time. Eventually, I was able to use the idea for this stand-alone mini series by updating the setting to the present day.

Likewise, there were originally going to be more updates in this mini series but, due to weather-related factors, I was forced to cut at least one (here’s the plan of it – it would have appeared directly after the “Pirate Tavern” comic) comic in order to ensure that I actually finished the series.

As usual, you can see a larger version of each comic update by clicking on it. Likewise, all of the comics in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Damania Requisitioned - Grogbottle" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Grogbottle” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Evidence" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Evidence” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Cannon" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Cannon” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Not Impressed" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Not Impressed” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisition - Loot" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisition – Loot” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Pursuit" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Pursuit” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Salvage" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Salvage” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Quartermaster" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Quartermaster” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Mutiny" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Mutiny” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Pirate Tavern" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Pirate Tavern” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Smuggler's Cove (Pt.1)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Smuggler’s Cove (Pt.1)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Requisitioned - Smuggler's Cove (Pt.2)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Requisitioned – Smuggler’s Cove (Pt.2)” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (1st April 2017)

Finale! This is the twelth (and final) comic in “Damania Requisitioned” – stay tuned for a full retrospective later tonight. Links to many more comics featuring these characters can be found in the “2016” and “2017” segments of this page (there are also two in the “2015” segment, but they aren’t canonical).

If you can’t wait until tonight, then you can check out part one of this two-part comic right here 🙂

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Requisitioned - Smuggler's Cove (Pt.2)" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Requisitioned – Smuggler’s Cove (Pt.2)” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (31st March 2017)

Two Part-Arr! This is the eleventh comic in “Damania Requisitioned” – a new webcomic mini series featuring the characters from my long-running occasional “Damania” webcomic series. Links to many more comics featuring these characters can be found in the “2016” and “2017” segments of this page (there are also two in the “2015” segment, but they aren’t canonical).

Stay tuned for the thrilling (ok, well ..er.. it might not be “thrilling”, I guess) conclusion to this mini series tomorrow evening at the usual time 🙂

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Requisitioned - Smuggler's Cove (Pt.1)" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Requisitioned – Smuggler’s Cove (Pt.1)” By C. A. Brown