Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Power Hungry

June 01, 2021 Susan Quilty Episode 14
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Power Hungry
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Power Hungry
Jun 01, 2021 Episode 14
Susan Quilty

This week's story, Power Hungry, features an international contest between dueling and dancing robots. 

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt was inspired by the sight of a Univeral Power Supply... which has nothing to do with robots, dueling, or dancing, but sometimes that's how freewriting goes!

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Show Notes Transcript

This week's story, Power Hungry, features an international contest between dueling and dancing robots. 

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt was inspired by the sight of a Univeral Power Supply... which has nothing to do with robots, dueling, or dancing, but sometimes that's how freewriting goes!

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Website:  SusanQuilty.com
Patreon: Patreon.com/SusanQuilty

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/SusanQuilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 14 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:


Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction 

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Power Hungry

If this is your first time listening, here’s how my process works: I use a writing prompt to inspire a quick story, with no planning and very little editing, and then share that story with you.

Today’s prompt came from the Universal Power Supply that sits below my desk. I glanced down, happened to catch sight of it, and the phrase “power hungry” jumped to mind. I’m not sure why that came to mind, but I used it as a writing prompt anyway. 

Here’s the silly story it inspired:


Power Hungry

“Get an extension cord! 

“It isn’t long enough!” 

“Then get another one!”

Electricity cracked and lights flickered. The lesser competitors had been eliminated, leaving only two teams and their electric performers on the blindingly bright stage. 

On the right side of the stage, a row of garishly dressed robots danced the can-can. On the left, a pair of tunic-swathed robots engaged in a daring swordfight. Each robotic crew performed atop its own grid of energy, and each engineering team toiled to feed their creations enough power for them to continue. 

It was the grand finale of the International Humanoid Robotics Spectacular. Weeks of competition had led to these impressive displays by Team Dance-A-Tron and Team Duels-A-Lot. 

Both teams’ robots were the finest in humanoid form. Their limbs created graceful lines, their joints moved freely, and their costumes clung to lithe bodies. As per the International Humanoid Robotics standards, the robots’ faces did not have realistically human features, yet their metallic faces managed to convey the required level of emotion. 

Both teams had received high marks in aesthetics and functionality. Now, it was down to endurance. 

In its early years, this competition tested the duration of the robots’ internal batteries alone. The robots’ intensely physical performances would rapidly drain their energy, and the last team to remain in motion would win. 

The advent of power pads had changed that. Robots standing on power pads could draw energy into their rechargeable batteries, prolonging their activity without being tethered to a cumbersome powerline. This was an easy answer for robots with limited movement but became more complicated when robots engaged in complex activities, like dueling or dancing. 

The power pads for performing robots at the international level had to be specifically designed and carefully maintained to draw the required energy to keep the robots in motion. 

This meant that each team’s engineers were moving as frantically as their robots as they checked circuits, connected auxiliary power lines, and made on-the-fly repairs. 

Behind the row of skirt-swishing, can-can dancing robots, Dara frantically pressed buttons and analyzed digital output. Her team had come in second place three years running and she was determined to win this year. 

Dara yelled for her junior engineers to hurry up and nodded tightly as they plugged an extension cord into their power pad’s primary auxiliary port. Squinting, she studied her robots’ synchronized movements and detected a slight delay on the kicks from the fourth robot. As she typed on the console’s small keyboard, a murmur from the audience told her the delay had been picked up by the judges and noted on the status board. 

“Getting tired over there?” Saul called from the console attached to his dueling robots’ power pad. His team were the defending champions, and he had no intention of losing to Dara’s dancing robots. 

“Not a bit,” Dara called back, punching in some commands that would better modulate the energy across her power pad. Watching the fourth robot pick up speed, she carefully adjusted its energy until the robotic legs were again kicking in sync. 

“You’ll lose points for that slip,” Saul noted calmly, though his composed exterior was a lie.

Saul had thought he’d been smart by leading his team to create a pair of sword fighting robots. The rules required an activity performed by two to six robots and two were certainly easier to regulate than six. In theory. 

In reality, the complexity of their sword fighting program had made his robots use energy in erratic ways. While Dara’s foursome kicked and swished in a synchronized, repeating pattern, Saul’s robots were given sets of movements to perform at random. It led for a more exciting performance, though the energy maintenance kept his team on their toes. 

They were hours into the endurance test and both teams’ nerves were frayed. So frayed that neither took note of the electric conduit sparking overhead. 

These large electric conduits ran above and below the stage, providing the enormous amounts of power needed for this annual robotics extravaganza. The venue had their own engineering crew devoted to their upkeep, but, at the moment, that crew was distracted by the spectacle unfolding on stage. 

Saul had nearly lost control of one of his dueling robots when a well-landed blow sent it skidding toward the edge of its power pad. The audience had gasped, knowing that Team Duels-A-Lot would not be allowed to physically help the robot get back on the power pad if it fell out of bounds. 

Yet, the robot had gotten his own bearings and rejoined the choreographed scuffle, leading to a sigh of relief from the crowd. 

A sign of relief that had come too soon. 

Just as the tension settled, a loud crack echoed through the theater as a shower of sparks rained down on both robotic teams. The engineers covered their heads with their arms, shrieking in fear, oblivious to their robotic performers’ uninterrupted movements. 

An instant later, the broken conduit crashed to the stage, knocking the robots to their knees and sending an incredible surge of energy through both power pads. Both Saul and Dara instinctively leaped back from their consoles as electricity arced through the air in a blinding flash. 

The surge of power overloaded the theater’s circuits, knocking out the overhead lights. Both power pads sizzled to a halt, smoke pouring from every port. The audience screamed in the dark and the engineers scrambled toward each other, calling each other’s names. 

The emergency lights kicked on, shedding a soft blue light over the theater.

At the center of the stage, Saul’s fighters had engaged Dara’s robots in an all-out duel. Swords clashed against swiftly kicking legs. Ripped ruffles scattered from swirling skirts and robotic faces laughed manically. 

Saul and Dara moved toward each other, gaping at the spectacle they’d created until yellow foam sprayed down from the overhead emergency system. The robots creaked to a stop, coated in the foam that bound to their metallic forms. The engineers trembled in exhaustion, coated in the foam that would leave a sticky residue on their skin for days. 

Saul and Dara looked at each other assessingly. 

“Who won?” They asked simultaneously. 

“I did!” They proclaimed in the same instant. 

Looking across the stage, they saw the audience fleeing through the emergency exits while the judges stood together in a tangle of confusion. 

“Well,” Saul began with a resigned sigh, “they do call it the International Humanoid Robotics Spectacular.” 

“And it was spectacular,” Dara agreed. 

They sat on the stage floor, covered in foam and leaning against each other for support. They stared at frozen forms of their foam-covered robotics and were glad the contest was over.  


The End
 

That was a silly one, but I hope you enjoyed it. If you have suggestions for future writing prompts, I’d be happy to give them a try. 

If you want to learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website, SusanQuilty.com, follow me on social media, or support me through my Patreon page. Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]