For the university I'm currently trying to get accepted into, I was asked to provide a sample of writing in the form of a short story or something similar. The idea was simple: because the course is to learn how to write the scripts for computer games, I had to come up with a premise for one. My brain settled all too quickly on recycling an old RP concept that hasn't done all that well anywhere as an RP. The Moogle Front is a Final Fantasy XII spin off that would tie in with that universe. Freak snowfall has caught a city by surprise and a group of moogles build a tank to venture out into the snow to find out what caused it all. I would very much like some criticism about this so that I can make sure I have a great story to show the gate-keeper of this university.
Hope you enjoy it.
“Your late as usual.” He said, pinching one of his sweets then shaking off the confectioners sugar. It was tossed into his pit of bellowing despair then crushed under encrusted molars. “My report, gentlemen.”
“Thousands are frozen-”
“Frozen! Ha!” The jowls wobble with the scoff. “Its snow, gentlemen! Snow! If it was Baked Alaska, we wouldn't be having this problem. In fact, I would be praised for a rather humorous miracle. Get to the point where you tell me whether the city can get through this.”
“Sir. Fuel supplies will last for two more weeks without asking for aid. Food will last for five days. Supplies of fur and warm clothing with run out in a week. Water is difficult to produce in this weather but we have plenty.” Another of the squishy sweets is tossed to the already sticky jaws.
“Bottom line is that we are doomed. Thank you, gentlemen. Once again, you proceed to fling excrement rather than give me any dignified options. Begone!”
The Moogle Front is like any other union. Some other unions don't go out for sea-salt ice cream and theatre trips occasionally but most others were more like partnerships between mutually fearing children. Those that have visited meetings held by the Moogle Front has seen it more in the way of a family looking out for each other. They're strangely close and its not quite known why. But the set up of these little get together of what are sometimes called the business backbone of the city, is predicable down to every detail. In the basement of the building-shed's, Markus Johtaja will guide proceedings, standing on his stool and conducting the general chatter away from Synthia's new scarf. Synthia Turnel owned 'The Eye of the Needle', a fine clothing importer that was resorting to knitting their current lines with whatever was handy. String, wire, hair. As many knitters as possible are being brought in with intent of denting demand.
“I call us to order, kupo.” Markus called over Synthia's constant clicking. Her needles were whirring frantically. As he peered in the relative gloom that the lanterns on the ceiling failed to throw their efforts onto effectively enough to give nothing but a warm glow, he could see the few Moogles that had arrived for the meeting. Everyone else must have been working. Those here in the grubby, poster-and-schematic-covered room big enough for a hundred of the diminutive business owners and workers, all sat in their little chairs with Markus on a pile of large volumes as a podium. Synthia immediately stopped chatting to the moogle next to her.
“He said “shut up” Ben, kupopo!” Synthia snaps at the cream Moogle in the yellow macintosh. He closes his mouth quickly, shuffling the dagger on his back around till comfortable. Not that he was talking: it's that he'd rather not correct her. It is interesting to note that Ben rarely takes that bright yellow hat or coat off that he's wearing. It's not locally understood why. Some say he's always expecting rain.
“Now that we are settled we shall raise the latest and most pressing news first, kupo.” Markus said, calming down.
“What's there to explain, kupo?” Came a grey moogle to the left of Ben. He sat, dusting white flakes off of a small parka. “Snow's screwing us all over. We can't meet demand and customers are dying, kupo. Its pretty self-explanatory, lets move this forwards, kupo.”
“Yes, yes, yes!” Markus waving away more distractions from the other moogles taking in breath. His tone shifted expertly in his throat before speaking. She stood tall and stoic, possibly letting a certain drama to fall upon the scene. Drawing in a breath to fuel his 'serious business' voice, he set the scene: “This is the greatest disaster to befall this city in recent history, kupo. Only wars rival the snow falls here but are less bizarre, kupo. There is no rational cause for it; it will kill off the city within a month without aid, kupo. I shall open the floor to ideas, kupo.”
The room falls somewhat silent. It was classic Markus. He just had that sort of power in his voice but it wasn't inspiring anyone. If anything, it was like asking for random members of an audience to entertain everyone else. In some audiences, there's someone who can come up with something to readily show while everyone else awkwardly stares at the back of a random head in the hope they will stand up.
“Someone should find out what's causing the weather, kupo.” Ben said. No-one seemed to be able to argue against it. For a full second, at least. He needed a second to collect his thoughts.
“You don't explain weather: its random, kupo.” The grey Moogle next to Ben said. He'd laid his parka on his chair. The grubby furred one happens to work in this building yard actually.
Synthia scoffs: “Less than a week ago, I was complaining about the sand getting into my bedroom through my window, kupopo! Deserts don't get this cold in an hour, kupopo!” She wasn't even aware of her needles, pointlessly waving in the air. She was winding something vaguely wool-like around one needle.
“Can I just-” Markus tried, arms up in a peaceful manner.
“We shouldn't concern ourselves with things that we don't need to, kupo. We have customers and demands for warm clothing, heat and food: they are more important, kupo.” The grey Moogle replied.
“Look, we need to-”
“But we can turn this city back to normal if we find out what's changed the weather, kupo.” Ben said, looking from Synthia to the grey moogle.
“Excellent idea, kupo!” Markus said. He was a tad too loud in this attempt to be heard. “An investigation should be launched, kupo. We will request it of the High Court and Ben and Spite will go to them.” Spite looked up with surprise equal to that of Ben's on his ashy grey face.
And the door clangs resolutely behind them both as they leave the High Court Chambers.
“That's that, kupo.” Spite said as he drew the parka around his neck more. Ben ties his scarlet scarf in a loose not before they both start to walk with small crunches in the white carpet.
“Everyone though, kupo...” Ben said, downtrodden.
“Everyone is either working to warm people up or sorting out aid, kupo. There is no-one around to start an investigation, kupo.” Spite's tone sounded like he'd anticipated it, actually. A few moments of trudging in the snow, over looked by the sandy stone buildings on either side in total silence as Ben's mind thought. Their marquees, window ledges and decorations all sat dormant under their heavy covering.
Then Ben said this: “What if we looked into it, kupo?” Spite stops to give Ben a good, cold look with both eyes. Sticking your head in the deep snow would have been a warmer alternative.
“Excuse me, kupo?” He says. Ben seemed unfazed or unaware of the intended caution to tread carefully.
“We could look into the freak weather, kupo. The Front could investigate where the snow is coming from and maybe stop it, kupo.”
“But we're needed here, kupopo! I'm running all over this city with boilers and furnace bits all the time, kupopo! Synthia's making hats from instrument strings, kupopo! Half the moogle work force are helping the Humes unload airships, kupo. You and Yvone in that bar are the only ones not doing anything worth doing, kupo.” The stare stayed where it was but Spite's arms had crossed now.
“We keep peoples' spirits up, kupo.” Ben said, matter of factly.
“The only thing that bar does is stop people from freezing, kupo. The drink makes sure of that, kupo.”
“Yvone does help out.” Spite let up on his attack for a second.
“She does make the odd bobble-hat now and then, kupo. What do you do, kupo?”
“Keep peoples' spirits up, kupo.” More emphasis this time on every word.
“You should be doing a proper job, kupo. Scrubbing glasses isn't a real career, kupo. Your not doing much to help, kupo.”
“Well...then, I would be doing something worthwhile if I went and got to the bottom of the freak snowfall, kupo.” Spite was unimpressed by that logic.
“You wouldn't last long enough to reach the Eastersands in this, kupo.”
“Well, then how would I be able to travel across all the snow?”
Spite's eyes glanced away from Ben for a moment. In that moment, his brain had fired on all cylinders, pumping the imagination for all the ideas it could. Gears fed motion to parts that sorted the possible from the impossible before weighting up the most likely to work. Soon, he had a result.
“If you got something big with caterpillar tracks, you could keep it warm then travel in that, kupo.” Spite said.
“Sounds easy, kupo.” Ben replied.
“I'm not saying that the Front should build it though, kupo. Why should we when we're trying to get everything working again around here, kupo?”
Ben managed a rare achievement: the discovery of a reason is that was simple, resolute but important that won the argument.
“We do it to make sure we have some customers left when we do get everything working again, kupo.”
“Excellent point Benjamin, kupo.” Markus' voice projected once they'd returned with the Court's verdict. Spite's face behind Ben was a remarkable example of shock and horror.
“I cannot believe this, kupopo!” Spite declared. “Are you saying you want to actually go through with all this, kupo? Mr Johtaja, I think your being an idiot, kupo. Fuel is likely to have been burnt to keep people warm and we haven't got a way of powering the only viable bit of scrap upstairs, kupopo!”
“Ah!” Markus cried with enthusiasm at Spite, “You've got something in mind for this 'Snow-Vehicle'?” Spite's exasperation became the soul focus of his face to represent.
“I, I didn't say that, kupo. I said that we have duties to this city to stop it from freezing over, kupopo!”
“Yes, kupo! By finding the route cause of the snow we will make sure Nyal City is returned to its original climate, kupo. The wildlife will return and so will business, kupo. We may even be rewarded, kupo.” Markus said. His hands clasped loudly onto Ben's shoulders. “This boy has a good heart and sense of civic duty, kupo. He shall lead the expedition, kupo.” Ben's face fell quickly vacant. Markus' could almost taste the riches in his mind. Spite was will shocked and horrified. Synthia's head looked up quickly from her knitting. The needles flew off on their own odd tangents again.
“Shall I measure everyone for coats, kupo?”
Spite caved into a chair:“You people are idiots, kupopo!”
“Your Lordship, I come to ask you for a kindly donation to our efforts, kupo.” Markus was playing the part of a humbled servant as well as he could. Usually, he was a proud, expressive and inspiring leader of men, he always said, but he kept a meek, low and enclosed stance when talking to Lord Ahneus. Especially when asking for something for nothing. Which is impossible. A jelly is ridden of its powdered sugar and dropped into his mouth, framed by engorged cheeks. He laid sideways on a red satin couch....actually, 'filled' seems more appropriate than 'laid'. His folds seemed to behave like the sweets he was snacking on: forming to whatever shape it was being pressed into. The voice was long since devoid of joy, it seemed.
“Yes, I've been told of you and your merry men constructing a 'Snow-Vehicle' of some kind. Your becoming the talk of the town. I appreciate how you wish to, how would you put it, 'give back to the community'? But it's a mystery why you would be back. As I said before, there are no men to spare.”
Markus took a step forward, gaining a hero's humble posture: “Your Lordship, we ask only for a power source from you. We ask for the Steale Tiara.” A piece of jelly stopped.
“You!” Ahneus bellowed, cheeks rippling. “You wish to use the heart of our heritage in a suicide run into the blizzards?” This wasn't working. Reassurance was needed quick.
“No, no, no, no, kupo. This would not be a suicide mission and the Tiara will be safe, kupo. We only wish to use the nethicite to power the Vehicles' systems, kupo.”
“How can driving headlong into a full-gale blizzard not be a death-warrant, Mr Johtaja?” The Lord's mouth slobbered, a hand resting on his bloated stomach covered by his white robes while the other dabbed at his lips with a handkerchief.
“We have heated the vehicle as much as possible and it is designed to travel across uneven terrain, kupo. The tiara with sit in a special compartment and kept dead still, kupo. My chief engineer assures me it cannot be damaged once inside, kupo.” His voice was full of solid certainty. Now ladies and gentlemen, watch. Watch closely upon the brow that give nothing away, hidden under tissue and bone is a brain of a scoundrel: a super-computer of such complexity that it could figure out 19 different ways of getting 500 gil from you, 6 possible stories of emotional clap-trap to get you vulnerable and no-less than 9 possible places where no-one would disturb either of you for long enough. All this in the time it took you to decide what you wish to have for your starter. The criminal genius does exist and is in charge, fully aware of the thousands of his bosses are freezing to death or huddling around whatever could muster up heat in any way shape or form. Ladies and gentlemen, Natural Selection favours this rotund mastermind once again with an easy choice: the win-win situation, if he spun it right.
“I believe you and your engineer have thought about every possibility. I hope only the tiara will be dead still.”
He'll get washed up in their philanthropy. He'll get some good press, especially if they succeed.
“Thank you, my lord, kupo. I'll move right along and collect it, kupo.”
If they fail, then he'll be full of remorse, playing the 'honourable sacrifice' card strongly.
But, my dear audience, do not be afraid. For this man has little ability to escape from the high pedestal upon which he sits in his public's sight: his years of excess make moving difficult. Especially towards those 9 places he'd already worked out.
“How is it going, kupo?”
The Tiara fuzzed with a worrying amount of myst that nearly threatened to jolt down Spite's arm. He looked distinctly darker after all of today. You see, the discolouration is down to oils and other lubricants he's expected to stay near in his line of work. Regular bathing keeps him hovering around a pencil grey. It sat in a cradle: a spider on its back with a web over the shining stone of the energy-storing stone. They split off into other, smaller strands that eventually met around the left wall in the tiny box. The wires bunched into a neat plait and fed into a small hole. Rather more quickly than probably necessary, Spite slams the door shut, locking it up tight. Then, he moves through the vehicle. It was built for humes, obviously overkill for the smaller moogles; most of that space was now supply storage. He kicks through chocobo feathers to the dead and dark dashboard. He barely surveys the surface before pushing just the right button: a dreadful fizz can be heard some there.
“Oh come on, kupo...” He kept the button down for a few more seconds until a screen flickers into life. Then another. The yawn of the machine was its engine screaming back to life, thudding around in stand-by. All the good buttons had come to say 'hello'.
“The death-trap is ready, kupo.” Enthusiasm was absent, a vacuously obvious thing in Spite's voice. More than usual had appeared in the regular meeting. Not all of them were meant to be there actually.
“Kindly refer to the vehicle as 'Snowbug', kupo. The machine has been built to high standards as always, kupo.” Markus said, keeping a welcoming smile on for the out of place guests especially.
“When did we call it anything, kupo? Did I miss a meeting, kupopo?” Synthia said, looking with concern at her fellow members along the front row of chairs. Yes, her needles were still crafting something from whatever worked as wool. At the moment, it seemed to be a balaclava for a pineapple.
“I was a name I decided upon myself; I think its rather fitting, kupo.” A woman put her hand in the air, one of the curious that had arrived. She had some thing being slowly stitched together instead.
“Yes, kupo?” A vague hand gesture in her direction from Markus. She stood up in her several layers of clothing.
“Uuuhh, yes. Quinzel Gratch. Uhh, why is this snow machine of yours called 'Snowbug'?”
“Yes, I named it that because it resembles an insect, kupo. It's bulky, low to the ground and its wind-shield looks like a bug's eyes, kupo.” Markus waved his hands around figuratively to help the general effect along.
“Sounds more like a beetle, kupo. Why not 'Snowbeetle', kupo?” Synthia put forwards.
“No, what about the 'Snow-Wyrm', kupo? That sounds much cooler, kupo.”Ben chipped in.
“Nah, a Behemoth could take on a Wyrm easy, kupo.” Spite said, jumping in.
“Please!” Came a voice from behind them from a Bangaa sitting in. “There are Flans bigger than those two put together! I have seen them with my own eyes!”
“Enough, kupopo!” Markus held up his hands, voice managing to startle some silence out of the situation. “I'm making the decision to call it 'Snowbug', kupo. Let's here no more of this, kupo. Now, who has anything they can spare us to aid our quest, kupo?”
A small crowd was staring. They'd decided that this was worth the cold, something weird had emerged from out of the building yard. It was sitting before the gates of the city, collecting snow flakes while people, lead by Spite, carried bags of material cuttings and chocobo feathers towards the hulking thing. Its massive treads were like feet of a mighty monster, crushing the feeble snow. Its large, round-cornered hull was laced with interconnecting tubes and pipes, a web of something gushing all over the place. The bulk was more like a caravan but you got in at the top of the vehicle. There, people were passing down the sacks. They were using anything they could to fill the walls with insulation. Spite had said it himself, after years of trying to get things to work efficiently in the cold, he'd built air-conditioning units into basically everything. Now, he had to reverse everything, from his engineering habits to the temperature of the air-con modules.
“That's enough, we can't get in any more, kupo. Close her up, kupo.” He pulls his hood up and shakes his head. A small flurry falls off his ear-tips and pom-pom.
“Markus, were ready, kupo!” At that, the Moogle Front's volunteers trudged towards the Snowbug. They'd patched it up in just over a week and it looked magnificent: a powerful behemoth against the perishing tundra. Markus lead the walk through the small crowd, Ben clearly visible behind him. Synthia was finishing something off. Spite drops inside, the motor squeals into life that sparks a cheer from those gathered there. It would have been a larger group if it hadn't been for the cold, Markus told himself. They climbed the ladder, to the roof of the machine and climbed in one by one.
“Everyone ready, kupo?” Spite sat in one of the new chairs that still carried that special, if worryingly foreign smell. The others shuffled in an effort to get comfortable: it was going to be a long trip.
“Would any one like a drink to celebrate, kupo?” The voice was soft and much softer than anyone else's here.
“Yvone, kupo? I didn't notice you, kupo?” Spite said, spinning round in his seat at the spectacles magnifying her eyes.
“Mum used to say I “vanished rather than walked anywhere”, kupo? I've got something hot here somewhere...”
The tracks of the machine protested in their sudden movement. They'd only just been asked to move the massive weight forwards once already, why again? The crunch of the snow was silenced by the 'vrum' of the machine and the cheers of the crowd, waving back at Markus in the entry hole. It was a tank rumbling towards the opening gates with a lone general waving until simple dots in the white, vacant waste the desert had become. It had be come a polar opposite of its former self.