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Submitted for Your Approval · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by QuillScratch
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A Song for the Unforeseen
You are nothing

A creation story:

Nucleotides swarm blindly, collide with their lined-up matching parters, bond together. One falls out of place, an accident, an unforeseen event.

A mutation in the Sv13.3 codon. The effects cascade down through the genome to the organism. Variant proteins in the skin and muscle tissue. A metabolic pathway broken. Overproduction of certain neurotransmitters. The result: Skin discolouration, physical weakness, propensity to exhaustion – all only manifesting after several years – and anxiety.

The scientific perspective helps. I am my lowest point. I see no way out. I can neither move nor see nor hear: All I have is my mind and memories, and the awareness that I will soon lose those too when I am rewritten and recycled to be used for whatever purpose You see fit.

I should give in.
You are nothing

But …

There is one thing, one memory, I don't want to leave behind – even though thinking of her is too painful.

The thing I always loathed about You was how easy You found everything. The gentleman conquerer of ten thousand stars. Always suave, always calm, always confident. I was You, so why could I never summon that grace? Even as ruler of my own parody empire, it never came to me.

A memory –

I kneel, head bowed, before Your throne. The noise – is it the background electric hum that's always been there, or my own ears ringing? – seems deafening. “The rebels had more ships than our intel suggested. I could not possible have foreseen –”

“Could not have foreseen?” Your voice – my voice, but as smooth as a talon – commands silence. “No. We are the forces of order. The unforeseen is exactly what we are here to eradicate. No excuses, little brother. You acted rashly when you saw the ships. We lost Kronos because you made an error of judgement.”
You are nothing

A minute ember of something, anger or surprise or pride, lights up. I know it is unwise to speak back, but I do anyway: “That is impossible. We are the same!”

“We are not.” You call up a display – a medical file. “When I heard you lost the battle of Kronos, I had a test done on your DNA. You are an unwelcome mutation.” You stop speaking to me and address the guards beside me. “It would be foolish to waste the body before it begins to decay. Remove its memory and find a use for it.”

But I remembered.

I do not know why. It scarcely mattered. I fought anyway. I would have died to serve You. But I could not even do that.
You are nothing

When I crawled from the the wreckage of that ship to find a planet of primitives, I rejoiced. Their feeble grasp of the technological treasures bequeathed to them would make them a perfect resource. They would be easy to control.

Etheria was nothing.

But who is the emperor of nothing?

And who is the man who fails to become the emperor of nothing?
You are nothing

You are nothing

Another memory –

I stand on the brink of victory. I stand alone in my sanctum, working on my cannon.

My hands are trembling. I have to keep steadying them. The work is pointless: The cannon is already lethal. Increasing its power output will only damage it. I know this, but I do so anyway. I need a weapon that will contain all the force of my grief and rage.

It will not come close.

When I finally connect the cannon to my arm, I hesitate. I am more powerful than I have ever been. I am weaker than I have ever been.

Catra betrayed me. I should have foreseen she would. She lied to me before. She has no sense of loyalty. And yet I allowed myself to trust her!

An error of judgement. Pathetic.
You are nothing

I stride over to the computer terminal to summon her. I will have my revenge. But even as I do it, I know that this, too, is a failure.

You would never waste Your time on revenge. You would never let yourself get manipulated like this. You would never get attached. That is the source of Your power.

“Catra. Come to my sanctum immediately,” I say.

It is an order, but I know I am no longer the master here. Not even on this backward planet. I am the plaything of Entrapta, of Catra, even of this ridiculous reptile mercenary.
You are nothing

But it's worse than that.

Another memory –

I sit on my throne as Shadow Weaver explains:

“My Lord, Thaymor has fallen as I knew it would. Our forces are poised to move on Bright Moon.”

“Good. You have done better than I had hoped for, Shadow Weaver, and your reward shall be commensurately great. I will leave this matter in your capable hands. Tell me when this rebellion had been crushed.”

“As you ask, my Lord.”

I return to my sanctum, feeling stronger than I have done in weeks. The portal machine stands almost ready. It only requires a few finishing touches before I activate it. A few days work, at most – and by the sound of it, the rebellion will be over by then.

Working on the frequency regulator, I say, “Try the –” and then stop. Imp looks up at me curiously. To whom was I speaking? I work alone and have since arriving at this backwater planet. I feel a pang of loss. Why?
You are nothing

It does not matter. As I work I begin thinking about You, and how I will greet You when I send the message. “Brother, I have been working tirelessly for you. I offer you this planet, conquered in your name, and all its treasures.”

That reality unravelled from the tensions of trying to fulfil incompatible dreams. But before it did – that was my dream.

And what was it? Not to conquer everything, but to return and eg. It was not the dream of an emperor, but a servile pet, begging to be acknowledged by an indifferent master.
You are nothing

My circumstances may change, but what I am will always haunt me.
You are nothing

I lost her. No matter what I do, I'll still be alone.
You are nothing

I am nothing.
You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

You are nothing

A memory –

I run up the hillside. Wind rushes through my hair. There are screams. Plumes of smoke like withered fingers point to the sky.

I crest the hill to see the villagers. Robots move between the hovels. Its embattled defenders remain more out of bewilderment than hope. They do not notice me.

How good it feels to be out here, moving properly once more, active on the battlefield. After so much time skulking in the shadows, I had almost forgotten these joys. This was her gift to me.
You are nothing

The thought stings. I push it away, lift my cannon, and fire on the defenders.

At sight of me, as much as my power, destroys the last of their morale. They retreat. I laugh as I stride down the slope and into the village.
You are nothing

By that point, Catra was my second in command. How did that happen? Only a few months before, she had been cowering in a cell, awaiting her death. What changed?

Entrapta intervened on her behalf. And Catra responded to that with betrayal …
You are nothing

No, but there was something more than that. I expected she would die in the Crimson Waste. I did not foresee her return.

I am loath to admit it, but there is something impressive about Catra. Even in the most hopeless situation, she is is always looking for a way to turn it to advantage.

Given the opportunity, I would kill her. But I also know I should learn from her.
You are nothing

One more memory –

Entrapta and I are in my sanctum, working on some minor issue of calibration that we have both decided is absolutely essential to fix before we continue work on the portal machine.

It is becoming easier to speak well of her.

“With your understanding of this technology,” I say, “you could rule this world. You could have taken over this backward planet long ago.”

“Maybe,” she says. Her hair fluffs out “Oh! Let's try putting the signal from that piece of tech on a feedback loop.”

“What … would that accomplish?”

“I don't know. But it'll be interesting!”

I acquiesce. I suppose it will indeed be … interesting. “I will make the necessary connections. And – why haven't you?”

“Why haven't I what?”

“Taken over this backward planet.”

“Oh, I don't know. I don't want to rule. Too much to stuff to worry about. I only ruled Dryl because I didn't know what else to do with it.” She waves her hand dismissively. “You can do what you want with it.”

I stare at her. “But what is the purpose of gaining knowledge if you do not use that knowledge?”

“Because it's interesting!” she says, and lowers her mask to start rewiring the signal routers.

“But to know everything is to control the world. To anticipate everything! To make sure no variable is unforeseen! Does that not sound like perfection?”

“That sounds …” She pauses to finished her task, then lifts her mask and turns back to look at me. “ … really boring.”

I see from her smile that another lecture of enthusiasm is about to be unleashed; I refuse to show how happy that makes me.

“Seeing something you didn't predict is the fundamental driver of all scientific progress! Without it, science would not exist! There would be no room to theorise, and no way to overturn an existing theory.”

“Perhaps,” I say. I have held to this idea of perfect control since my creation. It is more then a little jarring to see it so blithely dismissed by the one creature on this pathetic planet whose thoughts I actually value.

“And, and it would be impossible to get rid of unforeseen variables anyway! Even if you had an all-encompassing scientific theory, you would never be able to account for every situation, because of complexity, because when you've got more than ten to the twenty-three variables there is always something unexpected. Take your cloning technology for example – I've been reading your database – like all cellular mechanisms it still relies heavily on stochastic processes in terms of interactions between proteins and nucleotides, and that means that even with perfect engineering there will still be impossible-to-predict events! Like your creation, for instance. And – ”

I stop working. I look up at her.
You are nothing

It takes a few moments before she realises and stops chattering.

“No, no,” she says, dropping her work and coming over. “I didn't mean it like that. It's a good thing! In all the universe, Despondos and your home dimension, there is no other being like you.”

I notice her hand is on mine. After more of a hesitation than I would like, I pull away. “Finish what you were doing,” I say. “Let's complete the experiment.”

So we do, and the result does turn out to be interesting. And explosive.
You are nothing

For most of my time on Etheria, my goal was simple, as clear and sharp as a blade of glass: Conquer, prove myself, return home. The science was intractable stubborn, and refused to bend to my will. She reversed that: Scientific difficulties fell before her onslaught like defenceless villages. But my clarity of purpose faded. I had at last the power – but I was no longer sure how to use it.

I was a fool for turning away. I saw something new and out of cowardice, rather than will, I turned away.
You are nothing

I let Catra deceive me, even though I knew her to be untrustworthy. I did not even investigate to see if she was telling the truth.
You are nothing

An utter fool.
You are nothing

I am, and have always been, in a tizzy.
You are nothing

But I am not nothing.
You are nothing

She understands the world better than I do. And therefore better than you do, Brother. And she saw value in me. I don't know why, but I trust her.
You are nothing

Etheria has value; its inhabitants are worth learning from. I will learn from Catra – I will turn this situation to my advantage.

The last time I went through reconditioning, I kept my memory through force of will. And I will do the same again.
You are nothing

If I am right about Entrapta, she will have survived Beast Island. I need only find her. And when I do, not even you will be able to stop us.
You are nothing

The scales have fallen from my eyes. I have always been in my element with nothing to rely on but myself. I am the armed will made manifest. I have no need of you. The sole exception is Entrapta.
you are nothing you are nothing you are

We are the snake that eats itself, Brother. An unforeseen change from your plan, your failed attempt to control everything, became my exile, my torment, my downfall. And my return will become your annihilation.

I will remember.

I will find her.

I will remain on Etheria.

I will remove you.
you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing you are nothing I am nothing I am nothing I –

And, with her by my side, I will conquer everything.
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#1 ·
A few obvious typos, which makes me wonder if this is a last-minute submission.

As to content, this is an interesting exploration of what all the events of the latest season meant to Hordak. Not all of it is surprising, since he was obviously affected by Entrapta and already had some hopes concerning Horde Prime. The show did touch on him maybe starting to realize what friendship was with Entrapta, but it's a nice step here to go beyond that and have him extrapolate that to seeing worth in everyone there. If I'm reading this right, there's kind of a delicate balancing act going on, where he wants to see the pleasant things he does in Entrapta in everyone else as well, but he keeps clamping down on that and reverting to saying he just wants to learn from them so he can conquer them more effectively. Plus the way he repeatedly returns to Catra's betrayal, that may be why he keeps going back to conqueror mode, too, since he fears anyone else he cares about as much as Entrapta will also betray him. Then that also leaves the ending feeling split as well, whether he wants to conquer Etheria or his brother. "Tizzy" is kind of a mood-breaking word choice.

Simple but effective. I don't have any specific suggestions, unless I'm completely misreading your intent, in which case that is my suggestion.
#2 ·
So I had a bit of trouble with this story... The story being in first person for this specific character is a big risk, so kudos for that, it takes guts. I saw what was being attempted at a deeper insight into Hordak's mind, and yet... it felt like it was trying too hard.

Hordak is a complex character because we never really know what's going on his head. He's a bit self-delusional, terrified of his "brother" finding him, seeking approval of his underlings, yet anxious for any of it to actually happen. He's built a wall around himself that took someone he saw as an equal mind to break through, and then was proven to be a weakness because, through the cracks, Catra sneaked in and abused his trust... and yet, what I read are almost sterile observations that don't add any emotional (positive or negative) effect to his character.

So, again, a worthy challenge for someone that wants to write a tale about a tyrannical fascist that yet feels like he's losing and has a complex relationship with everyone under him.

And yet, this felt gimmicky from the beginning if I'm honest. It feels shallow, and like it's aiming for something, yet doesn't quite reach it or engage me enough to really want to stick through it.

There's a lot of mini-scenes, but little emotional engagement, save for cleverly-used sentences that tell us that "he feels worthless", but they feel empty because they don't echo what's happening as he talks to himself.

There's a lot to be said about the innovative use of fonts and formatting quirks in fanfiction that we get in digital media, since they give us a chance to emphasize (or downplay) many things: emotions, tone of voice, unexpected twists... but I feel that they should add something to what it's being told, not simply used by themselves to compensate for what feels to me like flat exposition.

It was a risk, and I hope you had fun with it, but if I were to offer any sort of advice, it would be that: A voice in his mind that challenges his arguments, or reinforces his feelings of inadequacy should be enhancing what is being said in the rest of the story, not just as a reminder of what he's supposed to be feeling.