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Time Heals Most Wounds · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Sgt. Ripper
I can still see the last rip on the HUD, every time I make a jump from the Nexus.
It's really a blink-and-you'll-miss-it thing, but it still shows up on the instrumentation, even if it's quite unnecessary: it's not like everybody will let me forget.

Thirty-four hours since last Jump, subjective. We're down to me, Vasquez and Uronen.
The Spiders set up an ambush, a good one: neither past nor future records show them having conducted any reconnaissance right at the insertion point. Gorag and Unfortunate Conflict Of Evidence vanished into nothingness milliseconds after the Jump, and they're the ones that got it easier.

They have been hounding us since then. We dropped the disguise and went for the battlefield. That's where they nailed Van Buren; Wei covered his signature with the expanding ball of plasma that used to be Van Buren, and managed to distort spacetime long enough so we could bring weapons online and really begin to fight. We got two of them before going for supplies.

They were already at the cache; nobody can move that fast, but they didn't: they had been there the whole time, since tomorrow. Wei went down first, he was almost out of energy, and covered our next Jump.
Battlefields were not sure, so we went for a gravity well, but they were already there, and we had to Jump again. And again.

Wu bought it at Third Troy, while the city burned, and Singh at the Second Battle of Titan's Lakes, another casualty among the nameless hordes of that war's clone troopers.

I would like to lose count, I would like to forget, but I can't, as every instant flies in front of my eyes and I look for a point to counterattack, but now we're out of Time, the stars are dying, cold and distant, and it's just me, Vasquez and Uronen.

I am waiting for the Last Moment; I know that somewhere the 345th Platoon is doing the same, I read it in next year's report, but they're too far to be seen.
The Last Moment has come, Vasquez watches me wide-eyed, but he doesn't have time to blink: as the Spiders make their Jump and appear in front of us, I detonate the Time Bomb.

-It's okay, Ramirez, they're gone. Where's Uronen?-
-Uronen who?- he asks.
We Jump to the Nexus, while the new Rip blinks a furious crimson on the HUD.

-Did you hear about Sgt. Ripper?-
-Yeah: the Board of Inquiry cleared him of any wrongdoing. Again. Crazy, uh?-
-Yup: I heard that he Erased at least one member of his own Squad; and the other survivor came back wrong.-
-What about him?-
-Do you remember his name?-
-He's just the Ripper as long as I can rem… oh, I get it.-
-Yeah. I doubt he can even remember who he was. One of these days he'll just be Erased like the others. In his own bunk, maybe. Cpl. Zer0 said…-

Their words vanish past one more bulkhead, but I don't mind. The only thing that catches my attention is the new Rip: quite far away from the other one, still a large gaping maw in the fabric of spacetime, but a tad smaller, while reality strands slowly reconnect with each other. I don't know how longer I can last, but Time heals most wounds.
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#1 ·
Not bad, but hard to follow. A squad of time troopers mission goes awry, and they are hunted down as they flee across time and space.

The concept is solid, but very hard to condense to minific length. I had no idea how the mission was supposed to go, so it going awry didn't mean much. Likewise, while I appreciated the creative naming, the other soldiers weren't characterized enough for me to care about their demise.

Some interesting ideas and implications of time looping and erasure. There are also hints of larger world building. I don't recall any grammar or mechanical mistakes.

Overall, I found it to be a clever concept and competent execution, but it never really moved me.
#2 · 1

I feel like most of the actual 'story' falls in the last third, which is a bit of a problem. Action does, to some extent, help hold interest, but I don't feel like you're doing anything much with the fights and action story-wise... and that's a bit of a problem for me.

This is definitely an interesting interpretation of the prompt, and time-wars are always fun. Some of the phrases you turned were excellent: "they'd been there since tomorrow" and "I read it in next year's report" were especially nice. However, there's also a lot of confusion and mental load that goes along with that, which makes things a bit hard to follow.

Still, this is ambitious, and I appreciate that.

Overall, I feel like this was a good idea, but the execution and word-limits cripple it too heavily for it to show real effect.
#3 ·
Sgt. Ripper - A — Very descriptive, but hard to follow without multiple read-throughs. Time travel stories are a bear to write, twice a bear in the short story contest, and three times when they involve space travel. Enjoyed. Top tier.
#4 · 2
This is yet another story that tries to condense a much larger story down to minific length. So we end up with a lot of action and a lot of things happening, but most of it seems meaningless. Still, I feel like I enjoyed it, even if I didn't fully understand it. It helps that I enjoy sci-fi and time travel stories, so a full-length version of this story would probably be right up my alley.

But what really gets me is that you had almost 200 more words to work with, but you chose not to use them for some reason.

You've got great ideas, author.
#5 ·
It's difficult to gauge this fic. We get flashes of action, but it is rushed (something you probably wished to convey) and we can hardly stabilise on given timeframe before being kicked to another one. Many characters are named, but that's what they remain: names. It's like a stroboscope in a time disco where your characters would be shaking a leg on the dance floor, blinking in and out at each flash.

Disjointed as it is, its difficult to appreciate the arc and its consistency. There is definitely some potential here, but it needs to breath to go to town.
#6 · 4
It was twenty years away from now
When Sgt. Ripper and his squad Bombed out
They've been Jumping in and out of time
'Cause killing Spiders isn't any crime
So to re-introduce to you
The grunts you'll know for all these years
Sgt. Ripper's Timely Jumping Squaaaa - aaa - ad!

. . . *ahem* Anyway, this is a very kinetic story. Lots of sound and fury, but it all does seem to signify something, even if, at the end of it, I am not completely sure what it all is. On the one hand, as has already been noted, the constraints of the word count (even if the full word count had been used here) prevent a full-scale exploration and explanation of the depicted setting. On the other hand, that sense of confusion also fueled my interest in racing through this piece. This was helped by the fact that one gets the sense that the author does know what everything means and where everything is going, and that the reader can trust the author to ultimately deliver on that promise. Even if that means that, when the final answer arrives, it will be coming in the form of a much more fully fleshed-out work.

I quite enjoyed this ride. A lot of energy on display here, backed by a compelling universe. My only minor quibble is concluding the story with the text of the prompt. Yes, it has been repurposed to fit the story's nomenclature, but it makes its appearance at the very end of it all a twist too on-the-nose. The suspension of disbelief isn't broken, but it does audibly creak.

Thank you, author, for writing this.
#7 ·
*skips other reviews*

Okay... I'm totally scratching my head on this one. Time travel stories usually leave my scratching my head (and/or groaning in pain) but this one seems to have skipped over all the effort of 'trying to make sense' that most time travel stories fall prey to, and jumped straight to confusing the hell out of me.

Perhaps some of the other reviews will possess some insight...

*reads other reviews*

Nope. Still puzzled. I'll agree that it's a very creative interpretation of the prompt. And that some of the turns of phrase are nice and interesting.. But also headache and confusion inducing. O.o

Final Determinaton: Take two aspirin and call me yesterday morning.
#8 ·
First thing that struck me is there are just too many names thrown out there. It's impossible at first glance to know if these are important to the story, or things we don't really need to know. It turns out it's the latter, but by the time I knew that, I'd already spent a lot of mental effort trying to sort it all out. I did like the Banksian "Unfortunate Conflict Of Evidence" as a name though, so props for that.

As to the story: Time travel is fun, but really only makes since if there's at least a linear timeline relative to the perspective of the story. That is, someone we follow that at least has a sense of time. In this case, it's scattered everywhere, with talk of "I read it yesterday in tomorrow's report", which is a fun line, but absolutely worthless to letting the reader know what actually occurred. Overall, it felt just a lot like a prose version of "One bright day."

One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise
and ran to save the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
ask the blind man, he saw it, too.
#9 · 1
Thank you people for your feedback.

This was actually the first idea that I had when I read the prompt. I might have watched too much Dr. Who episode. Time is wounded, but most of its wounds heal by itself. It combined with another thing that I've had in mind for a long time: I don't remember having read in science fiction description of combat among truly advanced foes. If we have land battles, it's WWII with mechs, if we have space battles it's ships of the line or war in the pacific carriers, in space, if we have hand to hand combat, it's James Bond action scenes with futuristic gadgets. Then what about unimaginable technology? Creating black holes, rewriting time, bending the fabric of space?

The small problem with it, was that it was unimaginable.

I agree that the story was quite confusing. Friends that I asked for a pre-reading session, because I was afraid that too many details were left in my mind, gave me more or less the same opinion: they needed to read it two times.
Some people asked why I chose not to use all the words to add more details.
I actually left out a few paragraphs that described fighting, some in ancient battlefields, some in deep space, because I thought that it would have been better to leave all details undetermined: what weapons are used, what level of destruction they cause, how do they travel through space and time.
I agree they I could have devoted that same space to some character building. Probably by the end I was too single-mindedly dedicated to write towards a specific goal.

While it's true that lots of details that could have helped to add context and understand what's going on are lacking, there is nothing weird with the timeline of the story itself: every scene takes place after the previous one, from the point of view of the protagonist. Tdibits like "they have been there since tomorrow" or "I read it in next year's report" are just flavour meant to indicate that characters casually timetravel and don't think of time as a one-directional arrow.
Specifically, they meant that they could not have scouted the location in the past, because the enemy was never there before, and that they routinely write reports and send them back in time to know what will happen in the future and plan accordingly.
I took this idea from Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick, but I think it's actually immaterial to comprehension.

Your comments make me think that I would be hard-pressed to extend this idea to long story or novel lengths, because I'd have to describe how they do fight, and how their organization works. On one side, I haven't really thought of it. On the other, I'm not sure I want to, because I'd come with something that might quickly be obsolete.