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Hoppers Part One

Another beating. “When will I learn?” thought Arnold. He really believed that this time he had hidden it well but he guessed that, like all the other times, he had instead chosen a bet that was just a little too unlikely. Was it that last gamble on red again or had he been spotted earlier, perhaps at the Blackjack table? Either way, not only had it had hurt but he had had all his winnings taken as well. “There has to be an easier way to do this,” he muttered to himself.

There was. Susanne could do what Arnold could but she didn’t take to the casinos to profit. Not the real ones anyway. Susanne made her fortune in the casino that was the stock exchange. She also knew that it was important to hide her ability and so she left the occasional wrong choice un-corrected now and then but the important ones she fixed and through this she quickly rose to ‘Senior deal-maker’ in her firm.

What were the chances of them meeting? If you’d asked me before they met, I’d have said a million to one; especially since they had chosen such different paths to exploit their particular ability. But, then again, maybe they were destined to meet each other. After all, they both could hop.

There is a joke sheet circulating on the internet. It has probably been around, in one form or another, for years. It consists of everyday words, slightly altered and re-defined for the 20th century. One of the definitions is, “the ohno-second”. Like the nano-second this moment is exceptionally brief but it describes the moment when you realise that you have just made a big mistake. Like the split second between noticing that you have accidentally clicked “reply all” and the moment your finger actually hits the send button on that overly amorous reply to that email from Serena in accounts. But then it is too late to stop your finger mid-motion and off the mail goes. Susanne and Arnold never suffered from ohno moments. Sure they made such mistakes but they had the ability, the skill, the super-power if you want to call it that, to hop back in time just long enough to not do whatever it was that they had just, so disastrously, done and undo it; do the opposite.

Arnold thought that this would be useful in the gambling halls but he hadn’t reckoned on the casinos’ rabid dislike of losing. He reasoned that, if a bet came out bad he could just hop back and reverse it. And he did. But it soon got him noticed and he had to start trying to disguise himself in order to get into the casinos that had banned him. When this stopped working he found that he could only get into the, shall we say, less salubrious establishments. Unfortunately, with these, came the risk of the beatings. He had tried to use hopping to get away from these but, as recent events showed, it didn’t always work. It required concentration which is often in short supply when being chased down an alley.

Susanne was brought up on the other side of the tracks from Arnold. From the start, her parents had her destined for great things. Even so, they were impressed at just how great she had become. ‘Senior Deal-Maker at Rose and Thornton; such heady heights for one so young.

The hop was always brief. It could never span the time between Susanne submitting an exam paper and getting the result back and so she had to devise other ways to make the most of her ‘friend’. She nicknamed it her ‘friend’ because that was how it seemed to her. Like someone whom she could always rely on to be there and help her out of scrapes, avoid accidents, un-miss missed opportunities. In exams she used it to avoid getting caught when reading the answer sheet of Carrie, the school swot. If caught, hop back and not do it. It meant that she didn’t have that answer but that was a small price to pay compared with being caught.

Normally, Arnold would never have gone into Bar Zanzi, especially looking like he did but he needed a drink and this was the closest hostelry to where the heavies had dumped him. He noted the barman’s disdain and decided to sit quietly at the back, out of sight, in gratitude for being allowed to even be in there. Susanne’s reason for choosing the dark corner of the Zanzi couldn’t have been more different. She had just pulled off a phenomenal deal but only with the help of one of her longest hops to date. The news she needed to know whether her deal was going to be a winner or a loser was late coming in over the net. Nervously, she had been counting the seconds tick by. Any longer and she wouldn’t have been able to hop back far enough to undo it if it had been the wrong decision; which it had. She was seeking the quiet of the Zanzi to collect her composure and get ready for the adoration. The adoration that would surely be coming her way back in the office, once the rest of the team learn of her amazing decision not to buy that very promising stock which everyone else thought could only be due for a meteoric rise. “Meteors crash to the ground,” she mumbled to herself as she sat down in the booth next to Arnold’s.

“Tell me about it,” said Arnold idly and to no one in particular. Not in a ‘sounds interesting, please tell me more’ kind of way but in the ‘(there’s no need to) tell ME about it’ way.

Susanne was shocked; she thought that she would be alone at this time of day, in the back of Zanzi. “What did you say?” she asked him.

“I said ‘tell me about it’ – my meteor just crashed and I got burned,” Arnold replied.

“You look terrible,” said Susanne, “I thought my day had been bad but what’s happened to you?”

“People don’t like winners, I guess,” said Arnold.

“Funny, I noticed that too,” Susanne said. She had, by now switched booths to sit opposite Arnold having decided she didn’t want solitude after all and that she would be safe (and could hop back if switching booths turned out to be a bad decision).

~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+~+

OK so they have met and soon they will learn that they both can hop (I have no idea how to bring this out.) What would be really interesting would be to ask you all - what would you do with such a power?

kelson.philo's picture

I am interested in finding

I am interested in finding out who's point of view we're reading. It sounds like there's a third person who is observing these two, building a file on them, like soem sort of investigator.

This power could give you a history of perfect first impressions, no doubt.

Points of View

You are right about the perfect first impressions. In a world where there are only a few of these people they do tend to be fabulously successful for just that sort of reason.

Point of view is something I have most difficulty with. It affects how much of the dialogue you can write and how to phrase it. We were never taught this in school, as far as I can remember we were just told to get on with it and write stories. So I have been trying to learn about it and, from what I can gather, you can have three main ways of telling the story. I welcome any literary expert's corrections about this if I have got it wrong.

First person tells the story from the POV of one of the characters. Here you cannot know what the others are thinking and what they get up to when you are not around except from what you can deduce.

The next is third person observer whereby you can flit to any location and describe what any of the characters is up to as far as you can see them but you don't know their thoughts or motivation.

Finally you have third person omniscient where you can describe the events and the intimate thoughts and feelings of one or more of the characters.

On top of all this you then have to worry about tense and make sure that you don't flit from present to past and back again. Pick a tense and stick with it is easier said than done, I find.

So, to answer your question, I wanted to try and write this from a third person omniscient POV - this is how I knew both Arnold's and Susanne's thoughts and histories. These are not things that an observer could know. I haven't gone back and checked how successful or consistent I have been in this or my tense cosisitency. This is where review and re-drafting comes in.

What's your favourite POV? Have you tried writing from different P'sOV?

KarnuVap - but you can call me Mr. Vap.

I'm looking forward to

I'm looking forward to reading more of this, its a really good start. I get the impression that they are both a little tired after a long day and so aren't really looking for reasons to hop. It might be interesting for them to start to take an interest in impressing each other in conversation and so begin hopping when they decide they've said something stupid or silly. With both of them doing this they both might start to notice the conversation going unusually perfectly, or perhaps that they were having unusual difficulty achieving their goal, thereby raising their suspicion about the other.

If I had this ability I'm sure I'd assure my financial success, probably through winning the PowerBall lottery a couple of times or something like that (just keep hopping back until you've worked out the winning numbers), but I think I'd be more interested in using it to improve the working efficiency of other people. For example, I could run a research lab and observe other people's failed decisions, then hop back and make suggestions that would more quickly lead them to success. This would allow me to multiply the work I could accomplish through the use of subtle social engineering. This would probably be less likely to draw attention to me as well, since I'd just be the mentor who nudged others in the direction of brilliant success.

Glad you like it but...

you have proposed exactly the way that I was about to employ for them to discover each other's secret.

The other way I had in mind was some sort of mutual exclusion whereby you cannot hop a hopper but I was gravitating towards the suspicions approach.

I like the maximising research effort idea. Other suggestions I've had for use of the power include being a great goal keeper or penalty taker.

Thanks for the encouragement.

KarnuVap - but you can call me Mr. Vap.

Pacing

How long do you expect this to be when it's done? I ask because it feels like you've explained too much of what's going on right away. If you expect this to only be, say, two or three times as long as it is, maybe that's okay, because you probably don't have much choice. But I think it would help the story if you could hold back a little of the explanation, and let the reader figure it out a little more slowly.

Otherwise, I like it. If I had a power like that, I would probably go the casino route. Stock trading would be harder - the payoff wouldn't be as big as fast as something like a casino.

It would also be fun to be able to bash someone's face in when they ticked you off, then hop back. You'd have the stress-relief without the consequences to you or your victim. If someone cut you off in traffic, you could just ram them. That would be fun.

Hadn't thought of that.

It is intended as a short so that's why I haven't gone into great details about the appearance of the characters or the atmoshpere of the Bar for instance.

Your predeliction for violent response without come back is interesting I hadn't thought of using the powers to be bad only to become successful. There are others with this power - perhaps some of them will be bad - gives the story an edge I suppose. We'll see in part two.

Thanks for the encouragement.

KarnuVap - but you can call me Mr. Vap.

Don't think of it as violent . . .

Think of it as innocent stress relief.

I like the fact that,

I like the fact that, despite his power, the casinos still managed to get wise to Arnold's success. He and Susanne live in a world of smart people, which will make things a bit harder on them when it comes to finding ways to exploit their ability. Which is good, because tougher challenges make for better stories.

I also thought it was a nice touch to put a time limit on the power. It raises the question, what would happen if one of them made a mistake that actually, say, knocked them out for a period longer than their longest jump time? For example, if Arnold actually got beaten up in one of those less pleasant casinos, and wasn't able to un-do something he really needed to un-do?

I only have a couple suggestions: 1) 'un-miss' as a verb doesn't quite work for me, and 2) you can probably get away with cutting the sentence that begins, "Not in a ‘sounds interesting, please tell me more’ kind of way...," because I think you've put Arnold's comment in a context that gets his meaning across just fine without it.

Oh, and one minor thing: if you could shorten the break line ("~+~+~+~+....") that would be great. It's long enough that people with smaller monitors might have trouble seeing the entire line.

I'm not sure what I would do myself with that power off-hand, but I think this is an interesting and well-done beginning to an exploration of it. I hope we'll get part two before long.