Author’s Note: This was written live on stream, with the tone being determined by the numbers under minesweeper tiles. The audience could bid tokens earned in stream to reveal random tiles. A mine hit results in the death of all characters, unless they are temporarily saved by a lump sum of tokens. If characters make it to the end of the stream, they survive to be seen another day. Join us at twitch.tv/blainearcade if you wish to participate.
1-peace 2-alert 3-escalation 4-action 5-tragedy 6-world-changing
The minefield has been moved. It now connects the Trap to a new world, a new game. There is no destruction this time, nothing forcing them to flee. Only the brave, curious, and strange will take the journey. Who will step through the fog and face the myriad dangers of the field?
Three enter: Lichro the drunken baby-eating dingo, O’fella the golden Irishman, and Tropican the sentient can filled with sentient pineapple.
The world dominated by boulders continued to dump its trash into the Minefield. Its denizens hoped the weirder wilder beings they shoved through the fog would die somewhere along the way and stop confusing existence with their ridiculous bodies and goals.
Three particularly odd beings entered the Minefield during a light bout of rain. The clouds were goldenrod, so the rain itself almost brightened the sky. O’fella the golden Irishman was protected from it by his bowler hat. He was glad he wasn’t his brother O’tinny, whose tin hide surely would’ve rusted in such weather.
He was followed by Lichro. You could call the dingo’s drunken stumbling following, if you were being generous. Normally the dog preferred human infants as its meals, but there were none to be found in the Minefield. He instead carried a can of pineapple in his mouth, labeled ‘Tropican’. The can complained loudly, begged not to be eaten, declared itself fully alive, but as soon as Lichro found a blade that could pierce its side Tropican would be done for.
They didn’t have too long to get to know each other, as the yellow rain grew heavier. It fell in curtains, then sheets, then walls. They lost the grass in puddles of it. O’fella had both hands on his hat, anchoring it so the wind couldn’t claim it and toss it to some other world.
“I don’t float!” he shouted to Lichro and the can as they pulled ahead. “I can’t swim! What do we do if it goes over me head?” The water climbed his pant legs. He felt tiny bubbles popping against his ankles. This rain was carbonated!
“I don’t care,” Lichro growled around the can, but the words forced him to drop his prize.
“Freedom!” Tropican shouted before sinking under the rain. It made a break for it, rolling across the soaked ground, stirring up sediment in the hopes Lichro couldn’t find it again. It had to protect the poor acidic souls within. There was a recipe somewhere that needed them safe and sound, and without the salt of tears.
Fully submerged, Tropican couldn’t hear much of the storm, except the occasional crack of thunder. It wanted to trust somebody, perhaps that golden fellow, but when his shining claw of a hand shot into the water, searched for the can, it felt hostility and veered out of the way. Even made of gold, he likely hungered as much as the dingo. The can could only rely on itself. For so long, that had been the way of its world. Magicians and spirit-possessors had long sought to overthrow the spherical boulders of their home world. They had tried instilling souls into any and all objects in search of inhuman warriors to combat all other things inhuman.
Tropican came from a shelf full of random living things: bowling pins, a wok, a mousetrap, and even an Ethernet cable that had a habit of strangling people like a boa constrictor. None of them had friendly voices. Only the sweet souls inside were friendly. The can’s hide had to stay intact, for their sake.
Their only food was gone, at least for the moment. The golden man and the wild dog trudged further into the storm. There must have been some kind of hole in the ground nearby, for the water stopped rising and they heard a roar like a convening of mighty waterfalls.
“What did they throw you in here for?” O’fella asked the dog.
“Some people just don’t appreciate a palate as varied as mine,” the dog said with a snaggle-toothed grin.
“You can’t eat gold, can you?”
“I can’t even open a lousy can, so probably not.” The dog stumbled. It wasn’t just the uneven terrain. O’fella, having spent most of his teenage years working the family tavern, knew drunkenness when he saw it. How long did such things last on dogs?
“How about a truce then?” O’fella suggested. “We don’t eat each other, but we split the can if one of us catches it.” The dingo stumbled over and rose to his hind legs, resting his paws on O’fella’s red sweater. He lifted one, and it took the Irishman a moment to realize it was a handshake. They struck their bargain.
“I could smell that sweet stuff if there was a crack in it,” Lichro said, “but it’s solid so far. I can’t see anything under all this rain. You got any ideas Mr. Shiny?”
“Maybe we can use this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out something like a compass, though its needle was an odd mix of tiny branches of red and blue. “It’s magnetic. Me whole family’s metal, so we use it to find each other. Might pick up the can.”
(Chat-Determined) – 1
“Give it a shot; I’m still sobering up,” the dog declared. “I had a beer that was as smart as that can just before I got kicked out. That shit was strong.” The dingo belched to demonstrate, and O’fella could smell the alcohol even through the rain. He did his best to not stare at the wicked determination in the dog’s eyes. Instead he crouched and held the compass close to the goldenrod rain.
“North east?” O’fella pondered aloud. That’s what the needle said, but he doubted the Minefield had a north, west, east, or south. Just two ends. One in his home, and one somewhere else. The needle moved while he watched it. Tropican still fled, but surely it couldn’t keep pace with human and dog feet. They pursued.
5 – (Chat-Determined Death)
The Minefield did have an occasional intact building between its vast stretches of grass, mud, and stone. O’fella and Lichro followed the can’s magnetic field into some sort of displaced shopping center. The rain had flooded it, but they felt the ground go from mud to gravel and from gravel to pavement and tile.
There was no electricity, but the dingo showed no pause as he skulked into a dim clothing outlet and sniffed about. They were close now; the needle was solid. Tropican had to be…
The flood waters under a coat rack exploded into a geyser. Out came Tropican, wielding its most precious cargo. The can’s lid was open, and the wedges of pineapple were now glued to its sides, acting as limbs. They had offered their services, sacrificed their flavor to help Tropican protect them both.
“Putting up a fight eh?” the dingo asked. “Good. You’ll taste better!” The dog lunged at the can, mouth open, fangs glistening. He got his mouth around one fleshy yellow arm and started to tear, but that was the plan. One piece sacrificed so the others could go back to the tranquility of Tropican’s darkness. The other arm thrust straight into the dingo’s eye, burning it with citric acid. The vicious animal howled in pain, but Tropican had to ignore it.
The edge of its open lid was deceptively sharp. The can ducked and went for a headbutt, slicing along the predator’s neck, spilling blood into the floodwaters, staining the waists of the waistcoats on the nearby rack. The mongrel bled out in less than two minutes. Tropican washed his pineapple limbs in the water, returning the arms to the safety of his interior when they were free of blood. The legs would be kept for now.
O’fella threw up his hands and begged for a truce. His stomach grumbled, but not that badly. He wouldn’t test the can any longer, if the can allowed him to live. Tropican bowed. It didn’t bother producing a hand so they could shake on it, but O’fella wouldn’t go back on his word. He could hear the sharp edge of the can scraping gold dust off his throat.
It wasn’t long before they became a trio again. They ran into a woman who wouldn’t tell them much. She had the narrow eyes of an assassin. Long black hair. Hidden blades all over her outfit. She called herself Penny. She was there going over the remnants of the shopping center’s outdoor petting zoo. She found a steed for all of them to share: some long-necked bird like a chicken crossed with a cassowary. The bird seemed friendly enough, but it clucked madly every time it detected deception. The party couldn’t lie to each other as they rode the bird deeper into the minefield.
The shopping center was just the first building they rode through. They became quite dense: a wholesale warehouse leading right into a horse racing stadium leading right into a giant greenhouse with all its glass broken and scattered about the plants. The bird’s feet crunching the glass put O’fella on edge, so he tried to start a conversation with the mysterious ‘Penny’.
“You look ready for a fight,” he noted. He counted at least ten knife and dagger hilts, and those were just the ones he saw.
“Better to be ready for a fight then run into a fight ready for you,” she offered. Her attention turned to Tropican, who rode on the flattest part of the truth chicken’s head, leaned against its tall bluish comb. “I can see you have as many secrets as I do.”
“Not at all,” Tropican countered. “O’fella back there, and a vicious dog that is no more, forced my hand. If you’re sensing any hostility, it’s left over from that. I’m full of nothing but sweet fruity taste. That is what I’m committed to.”
“You’re a thinky thing,” Penny noted.
“What’s a thinky thing?” O’fella asked.
“Exactly what it sounds like,” Penny explained. “Things that think. Things designed to bets the boulders back home. None have ever succeeded. The cyanide capsule I keep on me is a thinky thing. It’s mind is dark; it always whispers to me at night, telling me to swallow it and let everything go.”
“My contents wish to be swallowed as well,” Tropican defended, “just not in that way. I don’t know who’s supposed to eat it, and neither does the pineapple, but I think they’re on the other side of this place.”
“Why would you keep such a thing?” O’fella asked. “Surely there’s always a chance, a little chance, that one night you’ll find it more convincing. What a risk.” He clicked his golden tongue against the roof of his mouth. The sound annoyed the truth chicken and several of the exotic plants around them. A few shoots shuddered, dropping dew and colorful pollen.
“I’ve heard far worse things in my life,” Penny said with a shrug. “Not many better.” The truth chicken turned to look at her, hissing a little. Was she lying? Was there actually some great kindness somewhere in her past?
(Chat-Determined) – Mine! (Everybody Saved)
They had no time to ask, as the plants around them grew more agitated. Vines started grabbing at their steed’s sensitive legs. More and more pollen was thrown into the air. The plants shook off the broken glass. Pieces flew at them here and there, thrown by camouflaged botanical hands.
“We need out of here!” Tropican shouted as a shard of glass broke against its metal side. Penny drew one of her longer knives and slashed one out of the air. She ordered O’fella to hug her back, covering her shoulders with his metal arms, providing armor.
“Hyah!” she urged, pressing her heels into the thighs of the truth chicken. The bird sped up, racing through the thickest parts of the foliage, crashing through several bushes that tried to get in the way. Each bush harbored hidden shards, scratching at any exposed flesh. Penny took several cuts, but never even hissed. “Hyah!” The chicken crowed, clearly in pain from its own wounds, but they had to keep moving forward. There was one last wall of branches, flinging glass like shurikens. O’fella got off and ran alongside, arms crossed, blocking whatever he could.
They found the door at the end and jumped into a new dark building, but not before the chicken’s coat was stained dark red.
The other two dismounted to make it easier on the chicken. Penny carried Tropican so it wouldn’t have to get dust in its squishy pineapple feet. They urged the limping bird forward, using the softest voices they had. Penny looked around. It was extremely dark and drafty. Some kind of hangar perhaps?
“Does anyone have any light?” she asked.
“Nope,” O’fella said, but the truth chicken clucked disapprovingly. “Huh… Apparently I’m lying. Let me check.” He dug around in his pockets and eventually found a single match with a broken stick. He didn’t even remember where it had come from.
O’fella struck the match across his own forearm, gold dust sparkling in the tiny flash of light. The single match acted as some kind of switch or catalyst. Torches on the sides of the building lit themselves two by two, all the way down to the end. A little bit of fire meant the rest of the fire was safe to come out and play.
“Well this is a twister of a place,” the Irishman commented. “I was born in a slum of a forge and a forge of a slum, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Are those planes?” He pointed to the contents of the hangar. The trio approached one of six machines and examined it. It had a single wing of canvas that spiraled at the ends. It had two wheels of wood. Much of it was padded with straw.
The others looked just as strange. They had to be flying machines, but they looked more like experimental sketches of such things, from the notebook of a medieval genius. Surely these things, made from the wreckage of sailboats and barns, couldn’t actually fly.
The truth chicken, calming down as its blood dried into its feathers, pecked at some of the loose straw on one of the machine wings. The sight of it made O’fella’s stomach rumble even more. Thanks to his mostly metallic composition, it sounded like a rock tumbler.
“We might have to eat that chicken before too long,” he said. “Since I’m not allowed to have any pineapple.”
“If I can pilot one of these,” Penny suggested, examining the medieval biplane’s undercarriage, “we could be out of this place in hours. Assuming it goes more than five miles an hour.”
“Do you know how to fly?” Tropican asked. It had only flown once before, and that hardly counted. It was just the pineapple being shipped to a different country. The can’s lid tingled with excitement at the prospect.
“I think I’d rather just eat the chicken,” O’fella said. “This thing looks flimsier than a one-legged centipede.”
“I like the chicken,” Penny said, looking into the animal’s big brown eyes. The way she said it meant that was the end of the subject. Her tone wasn’t harsh, but he knew how many weapons she had on her. One of them could probably pierce gold.
“You want to eat, but I kind of want to watch you starve,” Tropican said. Its pineapple legs burbled and giggled in their own juice, voicing their approval. The boisterous wedges inside the can poked out as well, making it clear they agreed. “We can’t always get what we want.”
“True enough,” Penny said, “which we know since our chicken here didn’t protest. I admit I’m tempted to skin you and sell that golden hide of yours. Why don’t we all hold back, trust in me, and try to fly this thing to a nicer place?”
“So you can fly it?” O’fella asked.
“I can fly a couple different things. Maybe this one. Hop in.” She vaulted over the side and examined the cockpit. There was only one other seat, but there was enough loose rope to tie the chicken to the back. With two ropes under its wings and two under its legs, it should’ve been simple enough to carry it if they succeeded in getting airborne.
They couldn’t figure out how to get the thing going at first, but after O’fella tossed one of the torches into its hollow metal body it rumbled to life. Penny pushed on the control stick, little more than a broom handle, and it rolled forward on its rickety wheels. The truth chicken was able to keep pace until they lifted off the ground.
The end of the building was simply a brown curtain; they flew straight through. The daylight was harsh on their eyes, but the skies had fully cleared. No more rain. There was even something to follow: strange craft looking like giant napkins. Some of them carried other travelers. Penny followed them, keeping her distance so the sputtering fire of their engine wouldn’t catch the innocent napkins.
They came to a runway in the dirt at the edge of the Minefield. Penny landed it successfully, though it immediately caught fire once they stepped out. It seemed they were single-use aircraft. They put themselves in line with the other travelers getting off their napkins. Everyone was gathered around something like an information kiosk. It was the border. It was the only place to get permission to cross over.
(Chat-Determined) – Penny
The being behind the counter was inhuman and frightening. It was some sort of phantom of blood, with jolts of electricity popping out of bubbles here and there. Whatever it was, it was quite rude, babbling its information without even looking at them.
“The Trap needs prisoners,” the phantom burbled to Penny, O’fella, and Tropican. “Only one can come through and be free. The others must wait in comfortable cages, for the final battle to end. Only one.”
Many groups stood off to the sides of the kiosk, drawing straws or making arguments. There was no point in dragging it out. Tropican took the initiative.
“I don’t need to be free; I just need to keep my pineapple safe. And you O’fella, you have to admit you’re less capable than her. She flew that pile of nonsense all the way here.” O’fella nodded solemnly. It was decided. Penny, and whatever ghosts from her past she still carried, would be free inside this ‘Trap’ of a world.
Penny grabbed the flank of her truth chicken steed and pulled it through the fog. She knew she would be free, because it didn’t so much as squawk. Of course, freedom in the Trap was relative. When she passed through she looked up to its soaring towers of leaning cages. Saw thousands of hands waving from between the bars. Free indeed.
Minefield traversed! Penny will join in the stories ahead. Five more must be recruited before the rebels of the Trap can make their move.