Blood Red – Spiral

Note to self: the next time you hear or see or smell something strange, don’t ignore it. Just don’t. This is the second time now. The shock of the explosion had been physically painful to Olivia, and even now her ears were still ringing. Through it she could hear the shouts and gunshots from the ongoing riot, which was the buzz she had heard from earlier. Skulker was up and looking towards the column of smoke along with Olivia, muttering all kinds of profanities. Nomad had a hand to his ear, talking to someone unseen. Delta stood unmoving.

“What was that?” asked Olivia.

“Freedom Fighter. He’s a super powered anarchist terrorist guy. ‘Down with the bourgeois and the government, mankind must be free of any constraints, blah blah blah.’ Blew up a crowded hospital to send a message. Not the first time either,” responded Delta, sounding distracted.

“So should we do something?”

Skulker sounded amused, “What’s this ‘we’ you’re talkin’ about? Those two are the only official cops here and they’re gettin’ their orders right now. I’m gonna go on the outskirts if Cyrus doesn’t ‘ave anything for me, pick off looters and see if I can get a shot at him.” Skulker patted the sniper rifle on his back. “An’ what do you intend to do?”

“I don’t know. Help maybe?”

Skulker was about to reply when Nomad spoke up. “Alright, they have enacted a contingency plan for this. Didn’t tell me which one but they need us on damage control until it kicks in in about fifteen minutes. Skulker, Cyrus asked you to assist us.”

“’K, I’m in.”

Nomad paused for a second, then continued, “Let’s get moving.”

“Um…” started Olivia.

“Right. You stay here and stay safe. We’ll be back here once this is over if you need to move for any reason.”

“You know one or more of us is gonna die now right? ‘We’ll be back.’ I mean come on, that’s just asking for it.” said Delta.

“She’s right. Tha’s not outside the realms of possibility,” added Skulker, “It’s a stupid, stupid world we live in,”

Nomad ignored them, continuing to Olivia, “Before you even ask, no, you can’t come, even if you do have powers. We need trained people out there, people who know how to fight without killing or crippling civilians. As well, we need to calm people down. Not just over there, in general. You may be the nicest person on the planet, people aren’t going to react well if you show up at a bomb blast site.”

Skulker and Delta nodded in agreement. Since when did Skulker and Delta agree on anything? She hadn’t known them for long, but they had done nothing but trade insults between each other. Nomad said to Olivia, “Remember, the ability to fly won’t stop a mob from caving your skull in if they catch you. And they can’t catch you if you don’t go near them.”

They turned and ran back the way they came. Skulker was the last to leave. He paused at the doorway, then turned and pointed to Olivia. “No. Don’t do it. I know you’re going to ignore us. Don’t do that. Listen to us. Keep yourself safe.” He said, jabbing his finger at her periodically to drive his point home. With that, he left.

Olivia considered the door they had left for a moment. They couldn’t hear what she heard. She heard the cries of the people caught in the mob, screams of anger and fear, windows shattering, and a Molotov cocktail exploding somewhere. Shots went off in and around the mob, their sharp cracks reverberating through Olivia’s awareness. There was little doubt in her mind that people were dying down there.

Olivia turned her thoughts to what Delta had said. A hospital had been blown up. A crowded hospital. She doubted a rioting mob would offer humanitarian aid in any way.

The others had seemed really worried about this Freedom Fighter guy. The authorities were probably focusing on him, and she doubted any aid was going to reach the hospital through the seething mass of angry people. The others may have told her to stay here, but she had told herself that she wouldn’t be a bystander if she could help it.

This is probably a terrible idea. This is definitely a terrible idea, she thought as she took flight and headed towards the blown up building. The signs of chaos were more prevalent the closer she approached.

Below her a line of riot police was barely holding against a giant mob of people. The mob attacked with wild abandon, using fists, bricks, shards of glass, or anything else that came to hand. For their part, the riot police responded with equal brutality, beating down anyone they could, using shields or batons like Delta’s that caused convulsions in most people they touched. They barely maintained discipline.

As Olivia passed over, she got angry, at just about everything. There are normal people down there, causing death and destruction for no reason. Those police are supposed to protect, not club everything in sight. And who the hell do Nomad, Delta, and Skulker think they are? “No you can’t do this, you’re not even supposed to talk”.

Most of her anger was directed at Freedom Fighter. She didn’t know who he was, but this was his fault. He deserved to die for this alone.  In the back of Olivia’s mind she knew she was being irrational, but she didn’t care.

There were bodies in the streets, some alive, some dead. There were looters taking advantage of the chaos to sack stores and houses. They seemed incredibly violent about it, needlessly smashing anything that got in their way, savagely beating people who tried to fight back with ever escalating violence.

The closer Olivia got, the angrier she became. Angry with the mob, angry with Delta, Nomad, and Skulker, angry at Freedom Fighter, angry at the universe in general for doing this to her, and angry that she wasn’t thinking straight. Unable to think straight, she got angrier, which only put a greater damper on her critical thinking, forming an endless spiral of rage.

By the time she reached the hospital her jaw was clenched and she needed only the slightest excuse to lash out. She landed hard, feeling a sort of satisfaction from hitting something, even if it was just asphalt.

The hospital was in bad shape. The explosion had collapsed the easternmost two thirds of the main building, and the rest wasn’t looking too good either. Debris was everywhere; twisted wreckage comprised of most of what she saw. There were several fires contributing to the column of smoke rising from the hospital. She stormed in, heedless of any possible dangers. Too bad everyone she saw was dead.

She made her way further in, coming across a locked, though intact door. She ripped it off its hinges and carelessly tossed it aside. No one. She snarled and moved on, moving through to one of the side buildings, which was more intact. She heard someone speaking, and headed in that direction. I’m helping that person. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

There was a man pinned by his legs under a chunk of concrete. He was punching it, leaving a streak of blood on the unfeeling side of the concrete.

“Fuck this bullshit,” the man was saying, punctuating each word with a strike to the concrete. As Olivia walked up behind him and placed her hands on the concrete to lift it, he said, “And fuck you too. I’m fine, you fuckin’ animal.” She had no idea if she could move the concrete but she didn’t care. She heaved, slowly lifting it off the man. He scrambled out despite his earlier protests.

They glared at each other for a couple seconds, then the man spat in her general direction and turned to leave without a word. I should kill you. Would serve you right, ingrate. Olivia was considering taking a swing at him when the decision was taken from her. Several shots rang out and the man fell, dead, at the doorway.

Olivia crouched and snarled at the four people, one woman and three men, who entered. The one at their head, with a rifle of some kind, had a balaclava covering his face and a red armband with a white fist emblazoned on it. There was a brown flak jacket covering his torso. His companions were armed as well, and wearing normal street clothing. Olivia could hear others behind them, a mob eager for blood.

“Ah, so this is the feral I’ve heard about,” said the lead man, “Do you understand me? Yes? No? I am called Freedom Fighter.”

At that Olivia started hissing, and not quietly. YOU! In the back of her mind Olivia remembered that Freedom Fighter had a power of some kind.

“I don’t know why they didn’t do this earlier. You see, they enjoy control. Crave it, one might say. And they won’t stop until everyone is licking their boots. But their control is not as complete as they would like you to think. Individuals among them, working for them, they have seen the truth of what I say. Those with control appear to have taken a special interest in you, they say. And I must oppose them, in any way necessary. I’m sorry, but this needs to be done,” said Freedom Fighter, walking away as his three companions raised their weapons and fired. Olivia roared in defiance as the bullets struck her.

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16 thoughts on “Blood Red – Spiral

  1. I’ve read to this point and I kept wondering why the story feels hollow and I finally figured it out. Olivia has no personality. She is two things, afraid, and wants to help people. That’s it. She doesn’t have adventures, she doesn’t break the mold, she doesn’t have fun, and she doesn’t form opinions on things. She just kinda goes about her day.

    Also Olivia doesn’t really have a reason to be helping people. I know your claim is that she just can’t turn a blind eye to a crime, but I just don’t see it.

    I think you could kill two birds with one stone if you added a mini-adventure arc somewhere in volume one where she makes a friend, and then due to some negligence on her part, that friend gets horribly beaten or killed during a crime that she could have prevented. It’s the spider-man theory, but it’s better than nothing.

    Also I Kinda feel like Delta and Engineer are a two-headed beast in a manner of speaking. They were both introduced at the same time and I don’t feel like their roles have been clearly separated at all. When I think back to who did what, I have no clue at all about Delta, but Engineer I remember a little.

    • Amusingly enough, I’m rewriting the first two arcs for basically the reasons you have stated. That’s be up probably (hopefully) around the end of October. I will not, however, resort to a Spider man cliche. Also, Delta is the engineer. Are you talking about Delta and Nomad?

  2. Oh, I guess nomad then. I just don’t really feel that his role has been so important that he deserves to even have a name associated with him. At this point in the story, you my as well just say they are two nameless heroes accompanying Skulker. You need to introduce characters one by one and firmly establish each of them. Establish that they are different people that I should care about.

    Skulker is better, but I don’t feel like I understand him. Why he has the personality that he does. What are his motivations for being an asshole.

    Oh and the doughnut shop guy turning out to be skulker was confusing… Unlikely coincidences are a pet-peeve of mine. It’s like you couldn’t think of anything better so you just had them bump into each other. I was REALLY confused when the doughnut shop guy ended up showing up at her apartment.

    Lastly I don’t like your paragraph structure. A paragraph’s first sentence is its subject. The next sentences are there to describe that subject. You tend to stray from that subject a lot in your paragraphs.

    • Okay, author tirade time.

      If you don’t like something you don’t have to read it. I understand that this sounds counter-intuitive- how could you help an author improve if you didn’t read and give feedback? This is where my second point comes in.

      If you want to give constructive criticism, balance it with something positive. As an author, one of the most difficult things to do is take criticism- Don’t take that the wrong way- getting feedback on your writing is great; it’s amazingly useful to be able to get an idea of what you could do better. However, and this is important, if you only ever receive commentary on what you’re doing wrong, it starts to feel like you’re dong everything wrong. In short: a little bit of criticism is really useful. A lot of criticism is really, really discouraging. This is why, when I critique writing, I preface it with “This chapter was really great. A few things, though,” or end with “Other than that, good stuff,” or I actually include some comments about what was good- for example, “the interaction between character A and character B was really good” or “your description of X was excellent.”

      What my point is, not everything is for everyone. I can understand trying to critique someone’s writing, but there is a point where it’s just hate.

      Here’s what I mean, in a summary of your two posts here:
      You don’t like Olivia. You don’t like Delta. You don’t like Nomad.
      You don’t like the way characters are introduced.
      You don’t like skulker, especially that his backstory is not exposed right away (by the way, just because you don’t know the reason, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.)
      You don’t like coincidences.

      And then you criticize the paragraph structure. This one really gets me, because you’re wrong! In prose, there is literally no reason to do the “topic sentence, supporting evidence, concluding sentence” shenanigans that you learned in English class. Go read literally any piece of classic literature and tell me it’s organized that way.

      I will admit that some of your points are entirely valid, and points that the author has conceded and, I will note, improved upon in later chapters. Backstory gets fleshed out (as it is wont to do) and Olivia gets much deeper later on in the story. In serialized writing, generally the earlier chapters represent the author’s worst work, which gradually improves as they write more. If you have a complaint about something in the first chapter, chances are good that if the story’s been running for a while, the author knows and has addressed it.

      While you do have some valid points, all of your points are negative. Are we to believe that you only have negative things to say about this? I’m pretty sure that’s not true because I’ve read a lot worse writing, trust me, a lot worse is out there. In fact, I’d put this pretty high in the ranks of amateur writing (as in not writing for money). So please, temper your criticism a little, for the authors’ sakes.

      • Seconded.

        I’ve had a lot of people give me critiques for Worm. I’ve had people who went paragraph by paragraph and write very much like DarkD does above.

        You phrase it well. Without positivity to balance the negative, there’s no balance. Every criticism sounds just as heavy (or casual) as the next piece. You (as the author) don’t know where the real priority issues lie, so it all becomes noise. All the similar voices just join together and become a negative drone.

        At a certain point, you just roll your eyes. You can’t actually sit down and listen to someone who only ever methodically goes “[issue] [issue] [problem] [complaint] [issue] [negativity] [complaint], see you next chapter!” You can’t do it for mental health reasons (look at Totalbiscuit, Thunt, the LoL guys, and Roosterteeth all having had breakdowns and/or cutting ties with audience or having issues with audience in the past year – all internet content creators responding to incessant negativity) and you can’t do it because it’s pointless.

        When I weigh the criticism I get, I pretty much ignore posts like the above. Even the guys who do “[issue] [praise] [issue] [problem] [complaint] [issue] [negativity] [complaint] [praise] [praise] see you next chapter!” don’t really register all that much after a while.

        The guy who just reads the dang story and comments and gets excited, then pipes up with a “[issue, didn’t do it for me]”? Man, that has weight. I pay attention.

        It’s like a guy who swears every other sentence. When I accidentally kill his cat and he swears “Fuck you, motherfucker!” with every bit of anger he can muster in his voice, it just doesn’t have any weight.

        But when I was twelve and my dad’s parking spot was stolen, and he said “Fuck you!”? Man, I remember that well over a decade later. I can remember the nuance to the words. The look in my brother’s eyes when I met them. It echoes through my skull. I can’t remember many times when my dad has cussed.

        Food for thought.

      • I think of it more like a homework assignment that a teacher hands back to a student. Just because almost every line has corrections on it, doesn’t mean its necessarily bad.

        I actually do see promise in this series which is a lot more than some of the ones I’ve read, just the characters killed me. I did peak at the newest chapter, and it looks like there’s a world of difference compared to this one.

        The author also said that he was redoing these first two volumes. That makes me think that now is the time to unload the truck. If he’s going as far as to redo it, then now is the time to clear the plate.

    • Listen here mate.
      Wildbow and Mr. Whelming just spent a lot of big words, with lots of syllables in them, trying to tell you something, all indirectly like. I am going to dumb it down for you, because you don’t seem to be getting the point.

      What we are talking about here is FEELINGS. Those squeakily chemical reactions going on in our brains.
      When people create stuff, be it painting, drawing, writing, or sculpturing, they put a lot of thought, time, and PIECES OF THEMSELVES INTO THEIR WORK. That last part ties into the first part about feelings.

      When you give critique, feedback, or just voice your opinion about something other people spent time making, you run the risk of offending them. YOU, mate, have more or less pretty much managed to piss off EVERYTHING SINGLE AUTHOR you have left a comment at.
      That is damnably impressive in a kind of train wreck way.

      In short, please stop helping. Because you are not, in fact, helping.

      • Now you’re seeing what you want to see. I didn’t defend what I did, and I didn’t misunderstand that I hurt his feelings. I said that he should feel proud because I got two volumes into his series before I came up with a list big enough to make me drop it.

        I got two volumes into it because it was a good series, and the improvements he needs to make are small.

    • DarkD – You were honest with me, and I appreciate it. Don’t think for a moment I am not going to take some of your advice. Allow me to return the favor.

      I don’t give a shit about feelings. I do give a shit that you come across as a condescending ass in literally everything you have written here and on WFG. You are a random guy on the internet who came out of nowhere to me. Why should I feel proud that you yourself read two arcs in, when I have no respect for your opinions because I just met you? You want people to listen to your advice? Don’t be an ass.

      • Sorry I was an ass. I fully admit that I’m like that with these kinds of works. I used to do something similar and what I found was that even though I put my heart into it, and I knew it was bad, no one would give me criticism. I spent long hours trying to fix problems I couldn’t find without luck.

        After that I grew resentful of the people who only gave positive feedback for everything. People who give everything a 5/5 or people who only come into say everything is awesome then drop it without a word. So yea, maybe I became the extreme opposite to a fault.

      • There’s a balance, DarkD. In your response to me, you likened yourself to a teacher. The thing about a teacher is that they have a position of power. They earned that power, to an extent, by proving themselves and working to get to their current station. Especially in University, when professors are more likely to use the red pen exclusively, the student puts themselves in that subordinate position to the teacher/professor.

        For the rest of us, and for those students who rise up in their education, there’s parity. The student can argue back, and the teacher can be wrong.

        I’ve been where you’ve been. Both in wanting the criticism for my own benefit and seeing others give only praise (the latter case in a writer’s circle). I’ve been heavy handed in my reviews on WFG and apparently people thought I was much different than I am in reality, as a consequence. That said, I tried to praise where I saw the praiseworthy, and to balance my criticism. I’ve had more people reach out to me to thank me than people who vocally expressed a desire to kill me.

        It’s about parity. Finding that level field where you’re approaching the other person as an equal.

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