lol yeah i think about that every night and then i'm like "but the stories will be terrible" and i put it off
to judge that brawl by tomorrow @ midnight
|# ? Aug 31, 2016 15:29|
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 18:16|
do you think someone will finally write a bad story in thunder dome
|# ? Aug 31, 2016 16:58|
In, and requesting a -punk and a flash rule
Psipunk. (Psionics) Flash Rule: Set in the '70s.
My meeting just ended so I guess I'll post the disqualified story later for redemption. in the meantime please assign me a punk story to write thanks
In, please give me a -punk.
Still plenty of time to get in; -punk requests will be fulfilled immediately starting from here. Sort of surprisingly, nobody has picked cyberpunk or steampunk yet.
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 21:06 on Aug 31, 2016
|# ? Aug 31, 2016 19:02|
|# ? Sep 1, 2016 01:37|
Psipunk. (Psionics) Flash Rule: Set in the '70s.
|# ? Sep 1, 2016 04:32|
In with a because I suck. Give me a genre.
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
|# ? Sep 1, 2016 05:01|
In with a because I suck. Give me a genre.
Pharmapunk for you then.
|# ? Sep 1, 2016 05:23|
This is gonna be a great weak for getting disappointed!
|# ? Sep 1, 2016 21:52|
critting The Brothers Natalya by Sailor Viy
sergei and dmitry are hella generic names but al they establish the chars are russian
whats the fence for? is it to pen in livestock or keep animals away from crops? idk why i care but details are important
k so even a cheap camera phone is 100 bones. do farmers especially in like the russian fields have that kind of scratch? ig that its cheaper than an actual filming camera
i used to get yelled at if i played video games on the comp w/o doing my homework so i kind of vibe with this scene. that being said i think vines are trademarked or someth
its like the achewood where hes moving the thing over the mountain
if things are actually like this in russia now thats rly embarassing
"Sergei doubted that he really understood the significance of most of the images he put into his videos, but the way he assembled them made it seem like he did, even to the foreigners whose culture he was repackaging." these are memes and until the post-irony or w/e is explained theyre assumed to have no real significance. you could have a scene where dmitry explains it which would cement his char
ig that the dad is abusive but he needs a better trigger than "i'll buy it back please dmitry needs it"
i dont kno if sergeis thought this thru but eventually dmitry will say wait i need to go back for my filez cuz theyre everything to me
other crits l8r ok?
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 00:45|
gently caress it. Got four days at home for the first time in a month, may as well spend it writing for the internet.
In with Gardenpunk.
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 04:18|
Bad at videogames
Sebmojo wins this one. I'll give more detailed crits sometime in the next year, but basically Ent you wrote a boilerplate of a "first-time drugs with dad" story that didn't have enough interesting things to make it your own. Sebmojo's story, on the other hand, had a bunch of fun lines and poo poo and was generally more enjoyable to read, albeit repetitive as hell when it wasn't being cute. Still, even though they totally sucked at video games, and I can't believe they'd just do one boss battle over and over for months, it takes home the dad trophy. That said, neither of these made me want to stop reading and neither was god awful. I thought sebmojo might get a DQ for making the mom die, but he was just loving with me I guess.
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 05:32|
In with Crustpunk XD
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 06:27|
k so Don't Fall by flerp from dialog week was never critted and he critted me a bit
less is more intro sentence establishing the season
“I’m always honest. Can’t lie at all.” kind of redundant, just say i cant lie or talk about a vow of truth or someth
“What movie you stole that from?” typo obvsly
for once should maybe have a q mark, its a continuation of a q
I take a deep breath, the smell of pine stuck in my nose.- maybe trapped instead of stuck? i see what youre going for but stuck really literalizes the idea which is weird w a smell
back and forth between trying to tear each other down and support each other is p real
this was a nice story but i hope the end line isnt someth sexual. otherwise how many waterfalls are there around
another goon critted me but idk who it was. get at me somehow
take the moon fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Sep 2, 2016
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 18:36|
Im in with Dicepunk
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 21:39|
Sebmojo wins this one. I'll give more detailed crits sometime in the next year, but basically Ent you wrote a boilerplate of a "first-time drugs with dad" story that didn't have enough interesting things to make it your own. Sebmojo's story, on the other hand, had a bunch of fun lines and poo poo and was generally more enjoyable to read, albeit repetitive as hell when it wasn't being cute. Still, even though they totally sucked at video games, and I can't believe they'd just do one boss battle over and over for months, it takes home the dad trophy. That said, neither of these made me want to stop reading and neither was god awful. I thought sebmojo might get a DQ for making the mom die, but he was just loving with me I guess.
That's a really hard boss man
|# ? Sep 2, 2016 23:59|
I regret nothing.
|# ? Sep 3, 2016 01:21|
In with Nowpunk
|# ? Sep 3, 2016 02:37|
In with Tallowpunk.
|# ? Sep 3, 2016 03:00|
Signups are closed.
|# ? Sep 3, 2016 08:00|
Left for Dead (1855 words)
The crooked streets of the Night City are almost empty. The last of the working-class ghosts left a few hours ago. Tonight the Pharaoh is making another run at paradise. If she manages to break through this time, then by tomorrow the city will be gone. Nefertiti built this place, and her protection is all that keeps it alive in the middle of the black desert.
I don’t have much time. When the Pharaoh sets sail, she’ll take her courtiers with her. Among them will be her Royal Treasurer, Khusebek.
And I’ll die again before I let that bastard get into heaven.
The only figures on the street now are the shabti. They’d leave too if they could, but the Pharaoh has commanded them to stay, and it’s in their nature to obey her commands. They were made from clay to serve her needs, and she’ll discard them like clay when they’re no longer necessary.
Medjet’s bar is full of them. They’re clustered around the tables, guzzling beer and playing senet. They’re waiting for their world to end, and they aren’t even allowed to complain about it.
I go to the bar and say: “Give me the finest wine in the desert.”
The bartender slides me a brass key. “Medjet is waiting for you in the back.”
Medjet is the only shabti I’ve met with a clearly defined gender. Whatever New Kingdom artisan sculpted her took the time to give her a rough hourglass figure and kohl strips around her eyes.
“I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t come,” she says.
“I had some trouble getting the money together. It’s sorted now.”
I open my briefcase and show her the cash. I don’t ask what an animated clay figurine is going to do with 3,000 dayside pounds in a city that’s about to disappear off the map. I’ve already decided I don’t want to know.
Medjet taps on the table. Another shabti comes in with another briefcase. Inside this one is a gun.
“This is a modified Colt semiautomatic. Six rounds, each coated with holy water from the Nestorian Empire. One of these in the head will send any ghost straight to the furthest bardo.” She pushes it over to me. “Keep it in the briefcase until you’re aboard the barque. Khusebek’s cabin is second on the left.”
I stand up. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
“Ali,” she says as I’m leaving, “we all remember what he did to you. We remember what he did to Ishan.”
I feel myself go very still. “And?”
“Well. Good luck out there.”
* * *
What he did to me. What he did to Ishan.
It’s been so long that it feels like another life. The three of us were partners—Ishan, Khusebek and I. Two ghosts and one living human. We robbed the abandoned tombs of the Outer Desert together. When we hit a big score, Khusebek decided one-third of the prize wasn’t enough for him. So he took our horses and left us for dead.
Ishan never stood a chance. The monsters of the underworld can smell ghostflesh a mile away. I still remember the sounds he made when the scarabs started tearing him apart. I was sure that was the worst thing I’d ever suffer: to see the man I loved die before my eyes. I was wrong.
I wasn’t a ghost, so the monsters weren’t interested in me. They left me for the heat and thirst. But a living person can’t die in the land of the dead. Out there in the sunless dunes I wandered the border between life and death. Dying of thirst, over and over again. It was a year before somebody found me.
I step out of Medjet’s bar and shift from nightside to dayside: from the land of the dead to the realm of the living. Luxor at noon hits me full in the face—the light, the heat, the crowds. The city has swelled in the past month. Nefertiti’s mining operation has stepped up, and the ectoplasm exports have doubled.
I hail an aircab to take me across town, though the sky isn’t much less crowded than the streets. Dozens of airships are coming and going from the skydocks at the Ibrahim Tower, whose enormous spire dominates the skyline. The cab driver drops me off between the Tower and the Old Palace. I tip him everything in my wallet.
I shift back to nightside and come out at the edge of the plasmine pit. Another block down the street and the transition would have put me above a hundred-foot drop. The mine is a tiered basin scooped out of the landscape, with the Night City surrounding it. The lowest levels are lit by the blue glow of ectoplasm seeping through the rocks. The pumps are still running hot, but at that depth it’s a process of diminishing returns. To break through the final layer they’ll need explosives.
I walk toward the Pharaoh’s Palace. On the dayside it’s a ruin, a historical curiosity. It’s guarded, but not well, and the crowds give me cover. I flit between the realms of life and death, moving from blind spot to blind spot. I’ve been preparing a long time for this. A few minutes and I’m over the wall.
In a way, Khusebek has created the weapon that’s now aimed at his heart. Lying in the desert of death for a year made me into what I am now: a medium, one who walks between the realms at will. There are others like me, but none of them are quite as good.
I crouch on the wall overlooking the palace courtyard. Nefertiti’s golden barque is parked there, surrounded by shabti preparing it for flight. I go dayside and make a break across the empty space. The heavy briefcase slows me down. A guard on the wall shouts and brings up his gun.
I go nightside. From the darkness, I know I’ve judged it right. I’m in the hold of the barque, surrounded by the smells of turmeric and myrhh.
I take a moment to catch my breath. I get the Colt out of the briefcase.
That’s when the barque starts rising into the air. The Pharaoh must have pushed forward the schedule. It doesn’t matter; I never expected to make it out of here alive.
I creep up the stairs and peek down the corridor. After a few seconds, someone steps out of a door in front of me. It’s Khusebek. I recognise him by the back of his head. The last time I saw it was ten years ago, as he rode away and left us to die.
I follow him silently. We go up the stairs and onto the deck. The night sky is sliding past as the barque crests the walls of the palace. Khusebek pauses to admire the view.
I put the gun against his neck.
“Ali.” He tries to sound calm. “You’ve come a long way from the desert.”
“So have you. Pharaoh’s Treasurer is a long way up from the humble merchant you used to be. But I guess it’s easier when you’re climbing over the bodies of friends you betrayed.”
“And now I suppose you think you’re going to escape to paradise with us?”
“No. I’m just going to make sure that you don’t.”
“Enough,” says a voice.
My finger’s on the trigger but it won’t move. My muscles have turned to stone. A woman walks into my field of vision with a face I’ve only seen on propaganda posters. None of them do her justice.
She snaps her fingers and I feel like I’ve been hit with a cattle prod. I go down and the gun goes flying. I’m not too surprised—there were always rumours about her powers, things they put into her when she was embalmed all those centuries ago. I never expected to see them up close, though.
The Pharaoh calls two shabti guards, who drag me to the prow. Other ancient Egyptians gather around to get a look at me.
“How did you get onto my ship?” Nefertiti demands. “Are there others?”
“He’s a medium, your eternal holiness,” says Khusebek. “He must have shifted in from the dayside.” He smirks. “He and I have a... history.”
Nefertiti’s icy grey eyes look at me, look through me. With that brief glance I feel she has learned everything about me, and found it uninteresting.
“Very well. You may dispose of him.”
“With pleasure,” says Khusebek.
The prow of the ship is tilting forward, aiming at its final destination. Khusebek beckons the guards to bring me to the railing. “I want you to see this, Ali.”
A servant on the barque fires a signal flare. Down in the plasmine shaft, the miners set off twenty tons of TNT. The substrate of the afterlife cracks open. Light spills through the portal, a light so bright that it turns the night into day. Nobody could doubt that that’s the light of paradise.
“Beautiful,” says Khusebek.
Then there’s a second explosion: a hollow concussion from the belly of the ship. Smoke is pouring out of a hole in the barque’s side. Something blew up in the hold, big enough to tear a chunk out of the ship’s engines.
The briefcase. I’d thought it felt too heavy for just a gun.
“Medjet,” I say.
The barque shudders and goes into a tailspin. The Egyptian courtiers are screaming, dried figs flying from their mouths. The shabti stumble and let go of me.
I scan the city for landmarks, trying to make out the places where Night City and Day City are aligned. If I judge wrong then I’m dead. I run across the deck and leap. The mineshaft yawns beneath me, ready to swallow me whole.
I’m dayside, flat on my face. I’m on the floor of a cafe on the 26th level of the Ibrahim Tower. An old English lady looks down at me, fans her face twice, and faints.
* * *
The next day I walk into Medjet’s bar again. The shabti aren’t allowed to celebrate openly, but I can tell that they’re jubilant. It’ll be months before Nefertiti has recovered from the injuries she sustained in the barque crash. Probably years before she’s ready to make another run at the mine, which is currently half full of stagnating ectoplasm.
Medjet buys me a carafe of wine.
“You did well,” she says. “Although there’s going to be a warrant out for your arrest in the next few days. We can put you on the next boat to Giza.”
“Come on, Medjet. I know what happened. I was just your delivery boy.”
“You got what you wanted, didn’t you? Khusebek is gone. Vaporised with all the other courtiers.”
“You would have blown me to bits with the rest of them.”
Medjet shrugs. “Oh well. No hard feelings? How about a toast?” She raises her glass. “To Ishan?”
I sigh. “To Ishan.”
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 10:26|
Inside their underground hideout, Noa fashioned the metal massive face by hand, using tools lost through time and recreated for the sole purpose of perfecting humanity's last hope. The super mechanoid Iron Bearer needed to have a human face. It had to show the alien enemy that humanity wasn't about to be beaten.
After hours of labor, Noa mounted the face on Iron Bearer's empty visage, finally completing their life's work. It was fifty meters tall and painted blue and red and yellow. Its head sported a horned helmet akin to the great warlords of old. Iron Bearer was a one-mech army capable of taking on the horde of Uriels invading the Earth.
"Iron Bearer, activate!" Noa said, their voice echoing throughout the vast chamber. The super mechanoid's eyes glowed green, and it straightened with a mighty rumble of gears and servos functioning with clockwork precision. Noa touched their bracelet, summoning a personal warphole leading directly into Iron Bearer's cockpit. It was time to save the world.
Iron Bearer emerged out of its warphole and into a raging battle in a ruined metropolis. Tyr-type combat mechs were forming a defensive line, holding out against the swarm of insectoid Uriels threatening to break through and overwhelm the last Federation flagship, the Palace Athena. The radio picked up allied chatter, frantic and desperate.
"Storm Platoon wiped out! Rogue Platoon down to half strength!"
"Where the hell are the reinforcements? What's Devil Blue doing?"
Iron Bearer stood in front of the enemy charge and lifted its arms. "Chain Rocket Punch!" Noa commanded. Iron Bearer's fists blasted forth, connected to its body by chains of memory metals. Iron Bearer's attack stopped the enemy in its tracks, setting a chain explosion that decimated the Uriel force. Inside the cockpit, dimming filters activated to dampen the brilliant conflagration and prevent any ocular damage.
A grin split Noa's face. This was it. They were taking the fight to the enemy. Whereas the Federation forces tried to prevent defeat at all costs, Noa would seize victory instead.
The Uriels' advanced AI compelled them to retreat, bringing back combat data to their extraterrestrial masters in order to refine their forces. Noa was confident that the war would be won before they could adapt to Iron Bearer. And if they ever did, they'd just have to make it even better.
Iron Bearer's wayward fists returned, and Noa faced the mechs they had saved. "We are Iron Bearer, and we are here to save the Earth and defeat the Uriels' masters."
A blue mech landed on a dilapidated building, bringing itself to Iron Bearer's eye-level. It was an Odin-type commander unit, piloted by the renowned ace Devil Blue. The mech pointed its vibro-bladecannon at Iron Bearer.
Admiral Lee's voice boomed from the Palace Athena's speakers. "Stand down and surrender your mech and its blueprints to the Federation forces. Any resistance on your part shall be treated as a hostile action."
"We are Iron Bearer, pilot and mech," Noa replied. "We will fight and win the war, with or without you." They had half-expected this. The Earth was under global martial law, and the Federation was becoming desperate. Still, it was worth a try to get the Federation on their side.
"All units, engage," Devil Blue said. The Tyrs started shooting, and the Odin charged with its weapon.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Noa commanded. Iron Bearer activated its thrusters, its AI evading both Devil Blue and the Federation forces' gunfire with reflexes that no human could match. Iron Bearer grabbed the Odin's sword arm, crushing it.
"I've got you," Devil Blue said, activating a vibro-blade in his mech's foot and slashing it at Iron Bearer's face. The armor held unyielding, but Noa felt a pang of uncertainty. Was there a flaw in Iron Bearer's defensive systems? If it had been a stronger attack...
Iron Bearer's alarms went off, showering the cockpit in red light. The Palace Athena had fired its Grand Cannon at them. Its output was comparable to Iron Bearer's core reactor, and could prove the only weapon in the galaxy that could damage the super mechanoid. But what troubled Noa more was the fact that Admiral Lee was willing to sacrifice Devil Blue, the best pilot he had, to destroy a threat.
If Iron Bearer could not save one soul, then it could not save everyone. Noa would not let a single human die on their watch. "Shield at maximum output!"
Iron Bearer unleashed a spherical shield of green light, directing its strongest point at the center of the Grand Cannon's firing path. The cockpit readings were off the scale, and Iron Bearer's output decreased dramatically as it protected the Odin and itself.
The blast broke through the shield and struck both mechs. Devil Blue lifted his own shield, which crumbled in an instant. Noa rushed to save him by turning Iron Bearer's back to receive the rest of the blast.
Iron Bearer stood on a smoking crater, down to one knee. The Odin was all but disintegrated, save for its cockpit block.
"Prepare to fire again," Admiral Lee said. The Palace Athena's prow shone with a brilliant pink light. Noa seized the chance by opening a warphole to safety, carrying Devil Blue's cockpit with them.
Noa opened the cockpit of Devil Blue's mech. The ace pilot was unconscious. They pulled out his respirator and gasped. Devil Blue's face was half-covered in cybernetics. What's the Federation been doing with its pilots? they thought. They put him in the medical bay and placed him under the care of servo-mechs.
Noa sat in front of Iron Bearer, which looked no less for wear. Their weapon wasn't perfected yet. Noa would have to keep improving Iron Bearer. Its first sortie wasn't a failure, but it wasn't exactly a smashing success, either. The shields would have to be improved, the defensive algorithms tweaked, among a dozen other things. But there was a remaining breakthrough needed.
Noa was primarily an engineer, not a pilot. What if all the automatic systems failed during a fight? What if the fire control system broke down, or the voice command module got damaged? Iron Bearer needed a proper pilot.
They started compiling a list using their bracelet. The first item was to make a second cockpit seat. But that was the easy part. Noa would have to convince Devil Blue to fight alongside them, and while they didn't relish the undertaking, it needed to be done.
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 16:45|
One Hundred and Twenty One Again
The patient stirred, yawning with a wide open mouth.
“Where am I?” he asked sleepily.
“A hospital, you were very ill when we found you,” said Xaxier, “this is Dr. Malhotra and I’m Xaxier, your attendant nurse."
“Bloody hospital.” said the patient. Then his eyes opened, and he frowned. He moved his hands to check his scalp. Then he suddenly came alive.
“What have you bastards done with my hair?!” he yelled.
“It’s flat! It’s horrible!”
“Oh, that’s right, it was in the notes- dangerous chemical product found on the patient’s hair and scalp. We had to get rid of it.” said Xaxier.
“First off, I’m a bloke, not ‘the patient’! And of course it’s dangerous and chemical, it’s hair gel!” The patient loudly snorted from the back of his nostrils, seemingly in frustration. The Doctor and nurse shuddered.
“You don’t look like doctors, what sort of rubbish doctor clothes are those?” he said.
“What’s wrong wi- never mind. I need to check that there’s been no lasting impact from the cryogenic process, what’s your name and date of birth?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“Rod Bollocks, 1959.”
“That’s not what’s listed here for your name.”
“Well sod whatever they wrote down!” He folded his arms petulantly.
“Do you know what would have been written down if it wasn’t Rod Bollocks?”
“‘s probably my birth name, I guess.”
Dr. Malhotra gestured for him to go on. Rod cringed.
“Alright, alright, Larry Prince Pringle, there, we’ve got it over with. If you tell anyone that’s my name I’ll piss in all your socks!”
Dr. Malhotra shrugged.
“I work in a hospital, you think that’s the worst thing that’s got into my clothes? What was your profession?”
“Musician, if we want to be posh about it. No, wait, that won’t be on there either. gently caress. Engineer then. Went to a poly and everything.” Rod seemed very different to the bare facts haphazardly reconstructed for his medical file, but he was clearly suffering no ill effects to his memory. That was promising.
Rod sighed. He started to look around the hospital room.
“This doesn’t look like any hospital I’ve ever seen.”
“Well there’s something you need to know, though it might prove difficult to accept…” began Xaxier, trying to pick his words carefully.
“Oh just tell me!” Rod was clearly having none of that.
“From your point of view this is the future. You were in cryogenic suspension for a hundred years.”
“Cryogenic? A hundred years?! gently caress me!” Rod’s eyes were wide with shock. This was the moment of truth, the shock of waking into a distant future could cause severe trauma.
“I really, really need a ciggy.” he said after a few seconds’ consideration. It was fairly underwhelming as such reactions went.
“Is that a cigarette? I’m afraid tobacco products of that kind haven’t been made for a few decades now.” said Dr. Malhotra.
“Well gently caress. This didn’t look like one of those clinical, squeaky-clean, hoity toity futures. Really had my hopes up for a second. No ciggies… what a bunch of wankers. In fact, how do I know this is really the future? You could be lying to me, some government conspiracy to capture and brainwash ‘radical elements’. I mean this looks nothing like the future, it just looks like normal but everything’s handmade and covered in floral bollocks! Handmade stuff is little old ladies making jam at WI meetings, and fat, bearded wankers in the country making stuff to hawk at fairs. I mean, is everything in this handmade? Even the wires, capacitors, light bulbs?”
“What’s the point of it being the future if you’re going to make everything so bloody laborious?”
“I don’t know if I’d call freedom laborious.”
“Oh of course they’d say it was freedom, of course you think you’re all free. Bet you’re all puppets of the establishment. Bet this is some Brave New World bollocks or somesuch. When’s the brainwashing coming?”
“I think you might be the most interesting person I’ve ever met, Rod.” said Xaxier. Rod actually blushed.
“So, are you feeling any residual pain or discomfort?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“Well I need a bloody ciggy, and it’s the year two-thousand-and-bollocks, but apart from that I feel fine.” All the instrumentation supported that conclusion, even after all his body had endured he was in fine health.
“So where is this hospital then? You both talk like Brits.”
“We’re on the island of Great Britain, yes.”
“Bet it’s ruled by the Inner Council of the Interplanetary Space Fleet or something… not that I ever read Dan Dare!”
“Nobody said you did.” said Xavier.
“You said ‘island of Great Britain’, is the UK not around anymore?”
“I’d be happy to tell you about it, but now is perhaps not the best time for a long history lesson.” said Dr. Malhotra.
“That’s probably a no, then.”
Rod was taking in his surroundings with a more careful eye than before. For the first time since he’d woken up, Rod seemed to be struggling for words.
“So, the future then. What the gently caress am I supposed to do now?” Rod’s angry energy had finally run out.
“Well, you might be glad to hear this isn’t the first this has happened. There’s a lot of guides and walkthroughs that have been put together… but something tells me you’re not the kind of person that would get a lot of use out of those. Let me talk to you about…”
“Excuse me, are you Dr. Malhotra?” came an artificial but earnest voice from the doorway.
“There you go, a robot, first thing that’s actually looked like the future.”
Sure enough, as Dr. Malhotra and Xaxier turned around, they found themselves face to face with a robot of unusual design. It was clearly capable of interpersonal communication but it did not have the kind of head, or body, associated with social robots. It was painted a dark black, and had a heavy bulk to its artificial musculature. It was a little intimidating.
“I’m Dr. Malhotra, yes, how may I help you?”
“I’m here as a representative from Woodbead Enterprise, we contacted you recently about supplying medicine?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t make contracts with non-artisanal groups outside of critical materials.” Xavier wondered how this robot had gotten past the orderlies.
“Yes, you said in your previous response, I was wondering if you might be persuaded to change your mind.”
“I’ll be honest, there’s absolutely no chance that we will be changing that policy, no matter what you suggest, or have been told to suggest.”
“Certainly. A counter-suggestion, then; accept the contract, and I will not be forced to destroy your critical medicine.”
“If you attempt to contact anyone to report this, I will detonate the explosives that I have already planted on your HISP array.”
“Oh, I’m fully aware that if the solar energy grid goes down an emergency connection to the municipal grid will be established. I’m afraid I’ve already severed that connection.”
“People could die!”
“Precisely, and since you are medical professionals, bound to do all in your power to prevent such things, I am sure you will take the sensible option and agree to the originally suggested contract.”
The robot began to walk away.
“You’re a total wanker!” shouted Rod, as Dr. Malhotra and Xavier followed the robot out the room.
“Please, stop what you’re doing!” yelled Xaxier.
“Are you prepared to give in to my demands?”
“Then I will absolutely not stop what I’m doing.”
“How can you be a licensed robot if you’re prepared to take orders of that kind?”
“I believe you have just answered your own question.”
“This is murderous and absurd! The more I think, the more poorly thought out this is! We have to go home eventually, what are you going to do, follow every employee home? Keep us hostage in the building? There is no way this resolves without attracting attention!” said Dr. Malhotra
“Your logic is entirely sound. I regret that I am able to recognise that. I also regret that I am not a fully autonomous unit, and I must comply with my directives even in the face of their illogical nature. That is why I implore you to give in to my demands.” The robot continued to march down the corridor, its pace not much faster than a human’s.
“Wait, wait, stop a moment please!” yelled Xavier.
“Is there something you wish to discuss?”
“If we accede to your request, what then happens?” The robot stopped.
“All of your artisanal contracts will be cancelled, and as your remaining stock depletes it will be replaced with Woodbead products. Regular inspections will be made by Woodbead employees, who will also replace your current security. Any violations of the contract will be punished severely. Woodbead will be given a controlling interest in the hospital, and it will be used to further gain control of enterprises in this region. It is likely that you will also be forced to store illegal firearms.”
“Woodbead aren’t even a legitimate corporation, are they.”
“I am afraid they are not.”
“I will not have this hospital turned into a terrorist asset!” said Dr. Malhotra furiously.
“Then I am afraid I must press on with the directives I have been given.”
The robot began to walk once more.
They pleaded with the robot again and again, and nothing was able to stop its progress. Ten minutes of rhetorical effort made no dent in the cruel directives it had been given, but neither could they accede to the demands. The robot had reached the supply room, and was about to force the door open. Dr. Malhotra was about to give in, it seemed there was no choice.
Then, suddenly, somebody was running up the corridor behind them. There was a loud clang as something impacted against the robot, before any of them could turn around. It suddenly jolted like a ragdoll, and a hot, acrid smell filled the air. The robot collapsed with a loud metallic thud. Standing behind the robot was Rod, who was panting from exhaustion. His left arm was poised like he’d just punched with all of his might. Some sort of crude device covered his hand, and most of his upper arm. Dr. Malhotra realised with some alarm that part of the apparatus was a defibrillator.
“Sorry I’m late, it took me a while to find this HISP business and disarm the bomb. This really is a crap future, bloody bomb was so crude somebody born in 1959 was able to defuse the loving thing!”
“What… what’s that on your arm?” asked Xaxier.
“Oh, yeah, I figured it’s the future, robot’s not going to go down to a swinging fist. Made an electric knuckle duster.”
“In a few minutes you disarmed a bomb, then improvised a shock inducer using technology you’ve never seen before?” asked Dr. Malhotra.
“I guess. Who says poly doesn’t teach you nothing?”
“You know Rod, I was a little worried about you fitting in. But something tells me you’re going to be just fine.”
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 16:59|
Some Strange Flea fucked around with this message at 14:19 on Dec 21, 2016
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 20:31|
flerp fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Dec 26, 2016
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 22:45|
When Nuliayuk places her hand against her chest, her ribs push into the ridges of her palm and fingers and her heart flutters. Her eyes are sunken, her stare hollowed out.
It’s a bad spring. The wind slips past her eyes to scrape the bone underneath. The snow in the air looks like ash and settles on the furs of the Nesilisk in mounds. When they move it flakes off like dead skin.
Everyone near the Black Sea looks ancient. Nuliayuk has lines in her face. She traces them with her fingertips, and etches what she can feel into the snow, before she forgets. The lines whorl together, break apart, gossamer valleys gone in the next wind.
Hunched over in the snow, she feels a hand on her shoulder. The grip is firm, hurts her through her furs. It’s Uki. She knows he doesn’t mean anything, but she feels something move through her eyes when she faces him, cutting through the snowfall and piercing him.
He stands unsure, his milk blue eyes clouded with worry.
“I killed caribou,” he says. “Cleaned and gutted it. Eat with me. You’re starving.”
“You want to eat with me,” she says, “and lay me in the glow of your light, and feel my ribs. But my skin belongs to me. My ribs belong to me.”
“I don’t want to see your ribs,” he says. “I want to see your belly full.”
“It’s better empty,” she says, and she’s stalking away. Her feet sink in the snow and each step tires her. But she feels his gaze on her, and doesn’t stop until she sees her family’s iglu, closest to the Black Sea.
The Black Sea
Nuliayuk was born here, next to the Black Sea. Something about it called to her mother with her belly full of moving life. Nuliayuk sees the iglu as she crests the far hill, her ankles burning in the deep snow.
There was never life here. Nuliayuk thinks about why. She thinks it's how the sea beats against ice too low for seals to climb, for caribou to drink. The ice is jagged, thin in places, so it groans under weight and your moves must be whispers.
In the spring the sea isn’t full black, but it’s dark, a despairing blue vanishing light. From where she is the iglu silhouettes the break of the surface.
She doesn’t remember her birth, but she remembers her first time seeing the Black Sea. Wrapped in her mother’s arms, she looked at the dark and laughed, the newborn trill that rises and falls, gasps and draws breath. Her mother held her close, like she could fall to the water, sink and disappear. As she grew the world seeped in, and she began to distrust the sea. It beckons as the hunger knots her. To freeze, to drown, to feel nothing anymore. It would be too perfect.
The sun bleeds a rosy scarlet through the clouds and the Sea shimmers with fragments of light. As she nears the iglu her hair peeks out from under her furs, brushing against her face, snow glistening on the tips. The boat that brought her family here is outside, its belly to the snow, resting. As she passes her hand brushes over the lashed wood.
The wind falls, and she hears voices shouting.
The iglu is dark. The soapstone lamp, carved when her father had steadier hands, is long empty of seal fat. The only light in the iglu creeps in from outside, and sometimes she thinks that nothing can get in, because anger floods out in broken waves, and the light is washed away, finds the rushing wind and the solace of the sea.
Her father screams that the Sea is an evil thing. It sucks out the spirit and drains the heart. This thread has laced his words for seasons now. She bends low to enter as Mother rakes at him with sharp fingernails. Father grips her wrist. In the half-light she can’t see their faces, but she sees their wide and crazy eyes.
Her footsteps on snowed earth are thunder. The crazy eyes find her.
Father is wild-haired, his lips drawn. “Here is our empty bellied daughter. There is nothing for you, daughter, nor for us.” He whips his wife’s hand away. It scores her furs and hangs limp. Then she faces Nuliayuk, holding herself.
Her eyes are burning. For a moment Nuliayuk thinks they could heat the iglu themselves. Then she feels a chill at her back. It slips down her spine, flits through her bones, ribs and fingers.
“Nulia,” she says. “Have you talked to that boy Uki? He can feed you.” She was beautiful before the lines in her face fissured from time and hunger. Her fur is down, so Nuliayuk sees jet black hair, tangled weaves that fall to her shoulders.
“I don’t want anyone,” Nuliayuk says. Soon I will be like her, and no one will want me either.
Her father moves to the far wall of the iglu.
His axe is balanced there. Like the lamp, it was carefully crafted by a man in the prime of his youth and joy. He stands away from her, but Nuliayuk still sees his eyes, backlit by the flame of who he once was. His furs are ragged, the hairs stiff. As he reaches for the axe, she sees tears at his neck, from restless nights staring up at featureless snow.
But every day he scours the copper blade in snow and polishes the handle wood until it gleams. He grabs it now with soft fingers, scars on his skin meeting grooves in the oak.
He turns, letting it fall to his side, blade down. “Daughter,” he says, “this place is cursed with spirits. They make a man do terrible things.”
Nuliayuk doesn’t understand. She shivers. Mother grips Father tight. Like when she held Nuliayuk as a child, but with tremors in her arms.
“Don’t do this,” she says.
“She has no gristle,” Father says.
He’s moving closer to Nuliayuk, pressing at Mother against him. They are both skeletal, but he has more strength, moving them together.
“Go now,” Mother says over her shoulder. Her hair drapes around the blade at her neck. Nuliayuk watches it strain against the edge, split as the axe trembles.
Then she’s ducking for the outside, fighting to find her steps in the snow. Behind her Father shouts. Her purity. Something about her purity, but it’s lost in the wind, driving now, crushing her.
She’s blind in the storm.
She left for Uki’s iglu. She didn’t know what she was going to do. It doesn’t matter now. She can’t see her hands. She’s bundled too close to feel herself. She can’t feel anything at all.
The air in front of her is a white wall. The snow blurs in sheets, crystalline, glimmering. The drifts are at her waist and she has to push them in front of her. Like swimming. The corners of her sight are dark. The lining of her empty belly scrapes.
There’s a shadow in the avalanche air. She moves to it and falls, her arms finding the snow and floating as her body folds.
She wakes up in soapstone lamplight. Her eyes search for it. It’s flatter than her family’s, rounded softer. It’s almost full with seal fat.
She rolls onto her side and sees Uki. He’s sitting low, arms around his knees. In the lamplight he casts a shadow that flickers and dances on the iglu wall.
She backs away, bring her knees up. She hugs them. She and Uki are the same. They sit like that in the lamplight, watching the snow through the iglu opening. The wind is faint, but the sound ripples like running water.
Eventually Uki asks her questions. She’s silent. He says he was at his fishing hole. Warm currents swell where he fishes, flowing from pockets of shallow slush ice. He gives her fish, gray-scaled with pinprick eyes. She sees the slits across its neck. She shakes her head. He tries to press it to her. She shies back, holding herself against the iglu wall, trying to disappear.
The light outside fades slow. She stays awake through the near dark, then the full dark. Stares at Uki. His eyes flutter shut, open as hers burn him. The snow on her furs is melting. She unwraps a hand, feels the fur over her breast. It’s sticky and matted. She feels the lines on her face, fingertips tracing patterns She watches Uki’s eyelids dance. Hers are weightless. Her eyes are with the stars above the iglu.
When the light starts to creep into the iglu she stands. Uki murmurs something, before his body slides down, curls up facing away from the light. His body breathes slow and steady. She watches him for a moment, his shadow pooled around him, the lamp burning faint. Then she emerges from the iglu, stretches full, and begins to walk to her family by the Black Sea.
The Black Sea II
There’s a chill in the air that takes her to it, one she can follow in the warmth of the morning thaw. Soon it becomes the horizon, and she’s arcing the ridge like before, seeing the dark streaked with white ice, and the lonely iglu at the dawn.
She sees shapes near the water, and her breath catches, and she starts to run. She’s noiseless in the snow but vivid against the daybreak, and the shapes move to the water’s edge. They’re bending, and as Nuliyuk tumbles down the snowbank, she sees them climb to a narrow shape jutting out into the sea. The boat.
She screams. She’s almost at the iglu now. It’s barren, empty as she is. They’ve pushed off, the boat rocking in the Black Sea’s waves. The boat, built when the family was young, sure of hand and spirit.
By the time she reaches the water it’s several metres away. Her father brandishes his axe, the copper shining in the sun.
She dives into the water. Her furs billow around her. Her hairs thicken, her blood slows, and when she surfaces she can’t feel her fingers.
|# ? Sep 4, 2016 22:51|
Using an IV bag on the go is tricky. There’s a port on my collarbone and I carry the bag in a pouch on my belt. I'm always afraid I'll jostle the line loose or get my belt caught on something and rip the bag. It's an expensive choice (50 dollars for 5000 calories of nutrient sugar water) but it was worth the money. I could eat rations, but to hell with that. My stomach is for my use alone. My little beast of burden can live just fine off my veins.
I'm not paying full attention to the meeting. If you've been parked in front of a government official once, you know how the exchange is going to go. The chair is the nicest thing I've sat in all week, the walls are paneled with wood, and the guards have been fed and armed well. But I can't stop playing with the IV line and Mr. Rourke takes notice. "Something troubling you, Ms. Sampson?"
Donovan watches me from behind his mirrored sunglasses. I shake my head and try to smile. "Just making myself comfortable, sir."
Rourke is a rarity; he's fat. He knows he's fat and he wears a tight suit to flaunt it. He's either clean or he's had enough suppressant shots so his body can actually allow weight gain. He nods to me and his chin jiggles. "Simple job this week. We need three tons of rations moved to Zone C in the next two days."
I glance at Donovan and he gives me a noncommittal shrug. I lean back in my chair. "Six thousand pounds? Not easy. We'll need four more drivers and whatever intelligence you have."
Rourke's jowls quiver and it looks like he's about to start yelling, but he takes a breath and calms himself. "I can spare two. You managed to move this much with just four in Zone R."
I sit up. "R was a ghost town and we moved a quarter of the load. I need at least three."
He sucks air through his teeth. I know he's short-staffed; desertions have been at an all time high in this part of the country. I know he can't afford to screw this up. If he wants to keep his position, he has to give me what I want. He exhales and hands Donovan a folder. "Three it is."
Donovan hands me the folder and I look Rourke in the eye as I take it. "Thank you."
There is a bulge in my midsection. It distracts me from reading the reports. I've put the papers up on the full-wall mirror in our bedroom and I sit on the bed. Sometimes I get up and write notes on the glass with a marker, but even when I'm standing I see the bulge. It's writhing.
Donovan and I are allowed to live in Zone F, home of government employees and contractors. There are a lot of empty quick-fab buildings; only Low-Risk Hosts are allowed to live in F and clean people are few and far between. We have a four room apartment: a bedroom, a bath, a living room, a kitchen. Our apartment is barren except for basic furniture and fixtures and the big mirror. Compared to Zone C, we live a life of luxury.
The reports paint a clear picture of C. There would be a minimum of three families making their homes in a single four room apartment. Blocks are joined as coalitions working together and watching each other's backs. Roof gardening is popular and when the sanitation backs up, sewage is used to fertilize the plants; meat is a rarity. The infrastructure is shot to hell from weather and the army is afraid of trying to fix anything. They're concerned they might start a riot. Their presence wouldn't be tolerated by the Watchdogs gang.
The Watchdogs are made of High-Risk Hosts. They're hoarding as much food as they can to feed themselves; the majority of their thugs require an intake of at least 10,000 calories daily. They run the Zone like an under-stocked buffet. They could starve everyone in a week without our help.
Donovan hands me a cup of water. I drink and sigh. "Dime-a-dozen thugs, just like M and K and J."
He places a hand on my shoulder. "What do you feel like doing?"
"I don't know." I drain the rest of my cup and I feel the bulge take most of the liquid, loosening its grip.
Donovan pats my back and lies back on the bed. "We can't just run around with twelve-hundred pounds of rations per van in a convoy. Too risky" he says.
I nod and rub my chin. "The Watchdogs are well-armed and well-organized for what they are. They know the streets. If we had the guns, we could kill 'em all."
"Yeah but then the civvies would hate us."
"We're hauling food; they'll care more about that."
Donovan rolls onto his side. "You'd think so, but we couldn't just put a sign on the truck that says "food", they wouldn't trust us."
His words light a match in my brain. I grab the marker and starts drawing on the mirror. "I need you to call Rourke. Ask him how many Terminal Hosts the hospital has and if any are ready for relocation and termination."
I can tell he wants to just lay there but I need him. "Why me?"
"He likes you more and I have to call a painter. How fixed is the 18-wheeler?"
"Fixed enough," he says as he sits up and grabs the phone. His eyes widen as he looks at the sketches on the mirror. "Emma-"
I try to put on a brave face for him but I know I'm failing. "It'll work. Trust me."
Donovan likes to take a photo of us before a job. He’s got an old digital camera and enough memory cards to hold our adventures. I pick the biggest cactus on the highway to Zone C and the grunt drivers watch us with stone faces as we pull off the road and get out. You’d think they’d lighten up a little; we’ve got some of the best maintained black vans this side of the Rockies and it’ll be years before they get to drive anything like this again. I’d tell them to enjoy the moment while it lasts but as an independent contractor, their loyalty to me only extends so far.
In the picture, I’m wearing sunglasses, a camo tee-shirt, khaki cargo pants, my belt and a trucker cap over my red hair. I’m paler than the desert sand under the noon sun. Donovan’s dressed nicer than I am (he always is) with a buttoned-down blue shirt, black slacks, shaved head and face. His dark skin highlights the sweat from the heat. We have the cactus between us and are pretending to give it a side-hug with one arm each. We smile. We hope this will be the last job for that last bit of money needed to remove our burden without killing us. We smile for the luxury 90% of the world can’t afford. We know we’re close to it.
Looking at the photo, we’re both thinner and leaner than the last five we’ve taken. Donovan doesn’t say anything as he hands me the tracking beacon. I unhook Donovan’s van from the trailer of the 18-wheeler. He’ll brief the grunts on my instructions. They’ll leave a half hour after I drive into the Zone alone.
The ball in my guts tightens and I adjust the release valve of the IV as I climb into the cab and drive.
I don’t have a direction I need to take; I just have to draw attention. I glance at the map but it was written in a time back when the Zone was part of a state. The decaying skyscrapers greet me like mountains in the distance as I gun the engine and roar into the remains of a suburban street.
The heat and winds from the ocean and desert have dried the Zone out and stripped the paint from the buildings. The wood frames of old buildings are brittle and rattle as I speed by. It doesn’t take long for me to drive into the city proper, the heart of the Zone. There are ragged people in the streets. Some of them look like they’re about to leap in the path of my semi and end it all. Many of them are thinner than I am, their stomachs bulging like they’re pregnant. That’s the only part of them that looks healthy and fed.
I don’t have to worry about them trying to hijack the truck. They take one look at the words painted on the trailer and they give me a wide berth. I’d hate for them to get hurt anyway; they’ve done nothing wrong.
Then there’s the black muscle car following me. I’ve gotten the attention of the driver and his passenger. His passenger points a gun at me and motions for me to move over. I do and the passenger walks up to the cab. The gun is still out when I roll down the window and I nod to him. “Morning.”
“Unlock the doors” he says, motioning with the gun. He walks to the passenger’s side, climbs up and gets in. “Drive where I tell you” he says and I listen to his directions. Sometimes I steal glances at him: bandanna mask, baggy clothing. He’s sweating in the heat but has to appear healthier, more solid than he actually is. His eyes are yellow.
His directions stop when I get to a fortified compound surrounded by a fence. It used to be a hardware store; the supplies haven’t gone to waste. Everyone I see, male or female, has yellow eyes. Whatever they take isn’t enough and I can see salivation in the uncovered mouths. They’re all staring at the trailer.
They make me park in the loading dock and my passenger keeps guiding me with his gun. I kneel on the concrete of the dock, away from the truck.
“What’s in the truck?” The voice belongs to the boss. I can’t see him but I can see how clean his boots are.
“I’m transporting Terminals to the ocean. It’s their last request. Did you read the sign? Terminals Transport?”
The clean boot swings and he kicks me in the chest. I feel the line pull out. My vest is wet. “Keys” he says and he gets them.
I’m still kneeling as the trailer opens. The guards are yelling and the boss leaves to look. When I packed the Terminals in by dozens, I looked them in their red eyes and promised them one last meal before death. The ones who could still speak thanked me; the rest sobbed, brains punctured. They didn’t turn on each other; it’s instinct. Everything else is food.
My gut tightens as I put the needle back in. If I can’t slip away for Donovan to find me, I’ll have to get far enough away so the Terminals won’t forget I’m not food.
Hostile V fucked around with this message at 00:13 on Sep 5, 2016
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 00:10|
Ghosts in a Churchyard
Kane looked at the crumbling cathedrals surrounding him, stained glass windows featuring Jesus with his face shot in, Mother Mary with a rock thrown right through her clasped hands. He scanned the road for half-smoked cigarette butts that he could finish off, and found none. He was deep in enemy territory, and though the Ivories brute-forced all their clean-lifestyle propaganda, he’d seen more stubbed out cigarettes in the last two rows of the field than in the whole rest of it put together. Even a few drowned ones in the Blessed Sacrament, which he’d scooped out and thrown into the center of the street, signing the cross before and after.
Kane looked away from the shattered windows as he remembered. No respect. None at all. That was what war had become, now—destroying all that was sacred, beautiful, innocent, and using the rubble as armor for yourself.
These days, war zones weren’t war zones by accident. They were like picnic grounds—you and Maw and Paw and little Suzy all picked up and went over to the designated area, spread your checkered blanket out on the grass and got ready to have yourselves a nice and proper war.
After the first, un-amended decree had passed, the first universally sanctioned war zones were just flat fields with some hills and trenches thrown in for good measure. It was one of the Committee Members’ idea to fill the designated war zones with these ancient and authentic stone buildings and churches, in an effort to enhance “realism” and promote “a more civil and respectful form of combat”. They filled a battlefield with china shops, thought Kane, looking at the wreckage on display, and prayed we’d be better behaved than bulls.
He took another step forward.
A loud tick rang out, and the air turned black.
Kane stood inside of an X-rayed world, the walls of the surrounding buildings now white and translucent against an opaque black sky.
“Shouldn’t have done that,” said a voice from behind him.
Kane didn’t think, he only had time to react.
He jumped back as a white blur flashed past him. There was another tick sound, and then a screeching and a crumbling in the air, like a marble column being fed into a wood chipper.
He looked to his left and saw the remains of Wright in a pile on the asphalt, mouth twisted in a rictus of terror.
Kane took another couple of steps back, the world ticked again, and he saw the woman standing over what used to be Wright, sword in hand, silvery hair swept over her brow.
Bischoff looked over at Kane and smiled. “You’ll get your turn soon enough,” she said. “Koenig promised me I’d get you when we took care of all of your friends.”
“Keep waiting,” said Kane.
He could hear a low ticking off in the distance.
“I mean, we can finish it off right here and now, if you’re so inclined,” said Bischoff, passing her sword from hand to hand.
The ticking grew louder.
“Just another moment,” said Kane.
Bischoff frowned. “What the hell are you talking abo—“
Her last words were cut off by Quinn, who blinked into existence behind her. The bullets tore through Bischoff’s midsection and almost cut her in half, folding her up as she sank gracelessly to the road.
There was momentary silence. The birds resettled on the eaves as the noise of the gunshots faded off into the distance.
Kane smiled at Quinn. She didn’t return the gesture. “It’s just us, now,” she said, looking down at her communicator. “All the non-Phi channels are dead. Just us two and a bunch of decoy droids.”
“Maybe we can clear a path—“ said Kane, but Quinn cut him off with a wave of her hand. She knelt and examined Bischoff’s face, still frozen in a state of shock.
“When you made me your second-in-command, you said all this would be a cakewalk,” she said to Bischoff’s cold visage. Kane looked back at the road. “A Grenada. An Ethiopia. Over and done with, without having to lose anything we couldn’t get back.”
Kane could barely speak. “That was how it was supposed to be, Quinn.”
She smiled, for the first time. “Only call me Quinn from now on. That’s all I am to you,” she said, saying the words to Bischoff’s lifeless eyes. Kane felt them like a punch in the stomach.
Quinn stood up, brushed her hands off against the front of her trousers. “It’s better if we split up and try to catch him at separate angles. That’s all we’ve got left.”
Kane nodded, and Quinn ticked away, blinking in and out of sight as Kane watched.
He stepped forward, and the sky became its usual overcast white, and the buildings looked like buildings, and the bodies looked like bodies instead of ghosts, or puffs of smoke, things that could just dissipate into nothing on their own.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 01:55|
Carter's Lucky Streak
It was 17.21 in Nu Vegas and Joseph Carter left the Lucky Throw Supreme Casino a new man. He’d been a 3d6 for most his life, fourteen new rolls per day. Enough to chance on weekly groceries and maybe save up for a steakhouse gamble now and then. Enough for a sure beer with the guys from the office, but not quite enough for a night out at one of the city’s neon-brimming retro bars, jazzy speakeasy hipster joints that he might might have gotten into, with a lucky roll, but where he wouldn’t have gotten drunk, or lucky. Enough for the daily bus to the office, but cars were for the d20’s of this world.
Well, he was a 5d20 now. Twenty-three rolls a day, plus a hundred extra right on payout. These were the bigger leagues. Not quite the big ones, but life above his paygrade.
It was 18.45 when Carter was accosted by Lt. Rory Nickels, special investigator of the Nu Vegas Probability Department. Carter was trying on a new suit at Hemmingwool’s, a flamboyant purple piece with a pattern of faint golden aces of spades. Say what you want, but he knew how to draw attention.
“Been a lucky day for you, Carter,” Lt. Nickels said. The detective took a drag from the pipe he always carried on him to set himself apart from the other knuckleheads at the PD, a mode of smoking that did not suit a broad-shouldered, mean-looking man of the law. Exotic fumes rose out of its chamber, curling up around themselves and hugging the non-smoker sign on the wall above them. “drat. loving. Lucky.”
“Ah.” Carter said. “Thanks.”
Carter stopped moving and closed his eyes. He breathed in and remained like this for a good few seconds, not unlike an actor going into himself to remember the script and prepare for his scene. Then he turned to Lt. Nickels and said, “What do you want?”
“A dozen perfect rolls in a row. I want to know how you did it.”
“Just luck. It’s a casino, it happens.” Disinterested, Carter resumed investigating the fit of his suit. The cuff buttons were also golden aces of spades. His appreciation for the suit grew with every passing moment.
Lt. Nickels, equally nonchalant, took the pipe out of his mouth, inspected the chamber, took a plastic bag out of his pocket, opened it, and refilled the pipe with an exotic blend of Middle Eastern herbs and spices, “Old Nu Egypt #2”. He put everything back to where it had been. “Well. You could just tell me. Or I could haul your rear end in and make you tell me.”
“We wouldn’t be here if you could.” Carter turned away from the fitting mirror and pulled back his left sleeve to unveil his standard-issue dice module. He would have replaced it with a fancier model, but shopping for suits had occupied him so far. “Here’s an offer: chance a roll, and you might just win an answer.”
Lt. Nickels met his stare, a deliberation of probabilities that seemed to last almost as long as their entire conversation so far. He punched some buttons on his own module, one roll of a 3d10 for a 23.
Carter’s 5d20 rolled a combined 5.
“I just got lucky at the casino,” Carter said.
Something happened to Lt. Nickel’s face. It was impossible to tell if he thought he’d been played or if he was just angry about wasting a roll on a perfectly benign answer. But for a split-second, he was visibly pissed, and with the forceful drag he took from his pipe, you might have expected him to start fuming at the ears like a tea kettle. But he didn’t. Instead he just slammed his fist into Carter’s gut.
“Alright,” Lt. Nickels said, patting Carter on the shoulder, who was still keeling over and wheezing for air, for he wasn’t much used to being punched, and Lt. Nickels was very much used to punching people. “I admit you got us in a loop about this. But Sinetti ain’t going to be as nice as me. You might wanna reconsider talking to us, soon.”
He left his card.
At 20.02 Carter was accosted again, this time by Diego Sinetti, owner of the Lucky Throw Supreme Casino and about a dozen other and equally tasteful establishments. He was a fat man in a pinstripe suit, and if you will recall Lt. Nickel’s brief but severely pissed expression, it was a permanent resident of Sinetti’s face as he glared at Carter across the back room of his limousine. A disco ball bathed them in bright, colorful lights and the music was very danceable.
“You think I’m some kind of sucker?” Sinetti said.
Carter tried to think. He had been pulled into a mobster’s limousine, was flanked by two human gorillas, and probably about to die. He had to play this smart. “I--”
The guy on his left punched him in the face.
“Shut up,” Sinetti said. “Cheating rat. You’re going to tell us how you did this, but I don’t trust a word that doesn’t come out of your mouth screaming.” He leaned forward, and the tacky disco ball on the ceiling cast a colored shadow across his face that made him seem funky-morbid. “We’ll show you what we do to cheaters in Vegas.”
“Alright,” Carter said. He played with his golden ace of spade cufflinks while neon signs rushed past, their buzz mixing with the bright lights inside the limousine. Nobody said anything. “Wanna play dice?”
At 20.24 and several punches to the face later Carter found himself tied to a chair inside a dimly-lit warehouse at the outskirts of Nu Vegas. It smelt faintly of fish. One of the gorillas stood guard by the entrance, while the other went through all the tools they had laid out. There was a patient bliss in his face, like a child looking at a mountain of Christmas presents, and any second it would get to tear them open, one by one. His name was Frank and he liked to torture people. Meanwhile, Sinetti explained each tool, and what it would be used for.
“Torch – think I’m gonna use this on your eyes.”
“Ohh the bolt cutter. There’s a lot of things you can snip of with these. We’ll probably start at your toes and work our way upwards.”
“The hammer. Let’s go with this one. Break his cheating loving fingers.”
Frank tossed the hammer and caught it, a flourish he had perfected through many previous sessions. He raised the hammer high above his head, and just when Carter thought that this couldn’t really be happening, that surely the NVPD had him under surveillance, that someone just had to burst through the door and come to his rescue, any minute now, any moment, right… about… now; the hammer went down and there was a sharp pain in his hand. He screamed.
They didn’t ask Carter any questions. Inbetween the strikes, he didn’t have much air to talk anyways.
When they’d gotten to the thumb, Sinetti interrupted the proceedings. He heaved himself off the tiny stool he’d been watching from, and took the hammer from Frank, who knew better than to betray his disappointment, but would shoot his boss some dirty looks from behind, when nobody was watching. That’s how it was. As an employer, Sinetti believed in getting your own hands dirty.
“Wait!” Carter yelled. He shifted around on his chair. “I’ll tell you. I’ll loving tell you, alright?”
Sinetti liked it when they broke early in the interrogation. It meant there was more body left for the actual punishment.
“It’s my cufflinks,” Carter said.
“These things?” Sinetti pointed at the golden aces of spades on Carter’s cuffs. Of course. Nobody would be wearing these for their looks.
“Yeah, you need all four of them. Just pinch them with your fingers and turn-- no, not like that, the other way. Don’t pull. Don’t-- alright, they’re a bit tricky. Untie my hands, let me do it.”
“Untie you? You still think I’m a loving moron?” Carter had never been slapped across the face with a hammer before. It hurt.
“My legs are tied and half my fingers are broken, what am I gonna do?”
Sinetti really didn’t want to be played. Nu Vegas was a town of players, and if he’d get played by a 3d6 plebeian the other mob bosses would never let him hear the end of it, and possibly also kill him. But Carter did have a point. He put the hammer down, uncut the binds from Carter’s hands with the bolt cutter, received the cufflinks after some painful grunts and fidgeting about on Carter’s end, kinda slapped them into each other before realizing he had no idea how they worked, and just when he was about to ask, “So how do they work?” Carter smacked him across the face with a hammer.
Turns out Sinetti had never been slapped by such a device either.
The mob boss went down like a sack of half-digested All-You-Can-Eat buffet articles. Frank moved instantly, but he was a big man, and an easy target for a flying hammer, and then both men were temporarily indisposed, so that Carter reached down and freed himself with the bolt cutter.
Gorilla number two was already running his way from the warehouse entrance. Carter knew he would have to deal with that. He looked at a floor full of perilous torture implements. He picked up his cufflinks and ran. Straight to the exit. Gorilla number two was shocked to see Carter running towards him, an escape tactic so unconventional that he, not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed and thus always on lookout duty, was surprised, confused, and slowed down a little, not sure how best to approach this unusual scenario. Carter slipped past him, putting his cufflinks back on as he ran towards the front entrance, where the NVPD busted the door down and proceeded to arrest everyone inside.
At 23.11 Carter was sitting inside the NVPD’s interrogation room. Lt Nickels had brought two cups of coffee and kept them both for himself. He also blew pipe-smoke in Carter’s face. When you were interrogated by Lt. Nickels, there was no nice cop.
“Right, so that covers Sinetti and his cronies,” Lt. Nickels said. “But there will be more. People who’ll want to know how you did it. People who won’t buy the bullshit with the cufflinks. And they’ll find you. Keep wearing that suit, they’ll find you. And we can’t protect you from them. Not if you won’t admit to anything.”
Carter’s good hand played with the cufflinks again. He looked at his blurred reflection in the table and shrugged. “I really just go lucky. Sorry.”
“You know what, Carter?” Lt. Nickels said. “Maybe, just maybe I believe you.” He sucked on his pipe with full force again, holding in the smoke for as long as he could, as if silently counting to ten. “But then gently caress you even more.”
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 02:07|
Out, gently caress this weekend.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 02:11|
How I Got My Dad To Stop Worrying And
Amy's legs ate up the pitch. She tore across the grass with the ball against her chest, eyes on nothing but the goalposts. And then she was knocked sideways with all the force of Megan being super jealous that she got to do all the penalty kicks now. Amy hit the ground: knee, shoulder, cheek. The world snapped sideways. She tossed the ball forward, then shoved herself up to her feet. By the time she was up, Megan, in her blue pennie, was already after the ball. She took a moment to roll her ankles and flex her dumb awkward hoof-toes.
Yeah, she had bison legs. Yeah, it made her great at rugby. Yeah, she hadn't told her parents. About the rugby thing, that was.
Amy twisted her neck to the right, then to the left. She was about to run back into the game when she caught a white pick-up truck in the corner of her eye. Her dad's truck. A whole bunch of totally implausible options hit her. What if she just kept playing forever? Or just pretended like she wasn't there? Or just rewound time a little to tell her coach that she wasn't going to be able to make it today?
But she was stuck in the real world. She jogged over to the bleachers and mumbled something to the coach about her dad being here, then grabbed her bag off the bench and set off on the long, grass-cracked sidewalk to the parking lot.
Amy swung the door open and hopped into the passenger seat. "Hi, dad," she said. Everything felt so real right now that it wasn't real any more, like taking a test: all white paper and number two pencils and quiet.
"I got off work early. You weren't at home," her dad said. He took up most of everything from the center console left. Like how gas fills up whatever you put it into, he and his hair filled up whatever space there was. It wasn't a constant thing either, his hair--it came in mangy patches where human and bison teamed up to say 'yeah, put hair here'. His teeth and jaw hadn't been on the same wavelength, so his mouth was human-shaped, but just way too full of teeth. Or tooth. Or whatever. Splice biology was weird.
"Yeah, sorry," Amy said.
"I figured maybe you were studying late," he said. The truck grumbled as he put it into park and backed up along the gravel.
"Nnnope. I'm doing rugby." Her tone was like she was telling a bad joke.
There was a pause. Amy looked up; her dad was looking down. She followed his eyes. Her green athletic socks had sagged so that her curly-haired calves were visible. "And you're not shaving your legs?" he asked, though it wasn't a question. Amy looked down at her shoes and pulled her socks up higher. He continued, "I don't get it. You've got those inserts for your shoes. You can stand like a normie. And you don't shave your god drat hairy legs."
"They make the socks itch," Amy said. She wasn't facing her dad; she was looking out the window at the trees whipping by.
"Y'know, I'm sorry. I figured you'd be fine. There's stuff I could have taken to keep you--"
Amy's head snapped back toward her father. "Jesus christ, Dad, I'm fine with my legs. You're the one with the issues."
Her dad made that sigh that said 'I know more about this than you do'. "You keep up this jock stuff, you're gonna be the woman who can do sports because she's got splice legs. All you're gonna be is your genes. Why don't you do science or something, make people respect you for your brain?"
They pulled to a stop next to a stand with a couple picnic tables outside. Amy had her arms folded, slumped against the door, and had gone quiet. Her dad looked at her and said, "I just don't want you doing rugby, okay?"
"You haven't even seen me play," Amy said.
Her dad snorted and popped the door open. The whole truck bounced up on one side as he climbed out. Amy stared out at the road, watching the late afternoon light against the trees and hearing the rush of cicadas from outside. The truck slouched again, and her dad climbed back in, holding out a waffle cone with a swirl of pink ice cream in it. Amy looked from the cone to her dad's face, with his way-too-many-teeth smile. He had a cone of mint chocolate chip for himself. His bushy eyebrows raised and his grin widened. "Come on. Doesn't the strawberry queen want her tower?"
Amy got flashbacks of her eighth birthday party. All strawberry-themed. Everything. She was never going to be able to live that down. Her cheeks went hot and she sunk down in her seat. "Dad, I'm not eight," she complained as she took the cone from him.
Once they had both soothed their feelings with cold sugar, they brokered a truce: one game. He'd hold judgement until he actually saw her play.
The lights lit up the field and the bleachers like they were the only thing that was real. Everything else floated in the haze of night. The game was on in only a few minutes, and Amy's dad still hadn't shown up. And he was pretty visible, too, since he was like seven feet tall counting his hair. On the bench, Amy stuck her feet into the inserts that let her wear regular shoes, then laced up the front tight--double-knotted, too. She checked the time, then got up to take another look at the bleachers. No sign of him--but just beyond the fence, at the edge of the light, the hood of a white pick-up truck.
Amy knocked on the window until her dad rolled it down. "You can see a lot better if you actually get out of the car," she said.
"I'm fine here," he said with a shrug.
Amy leaned against the side of the car, getting a bit of its kicked-up dirt on her arms. Whatever, she was going to be getting slammed into the dirt in a few minutes. "Dad, no one cares that you work on a farm, no one cares that you're a splice. You're just my dad here to watch me."
"I'm fine right here," he said again. Amy did not have time for this argument again.
It was the second half, and they were on defense. Amy hung back toward the goal--not because she was trying some long defense game, but because she needed a breath. Up ahead of her, a tackle, and then a pile starting to form over the ball. Megan caught Amy's eye. She gave one brief forward nod to Amy, then jogged up to the ruck. Amy moved forward, checking the field ahead, then back at Megan, shuffling behind the cluster of girls on top of the ball. Then--a flash of white between Megan's legs. The ball in her hands, then falling toward her foot. Amy leaned forward and let out a thick snort.
The ball arched high up into the air. Amy blew past Megan, racing across the field. She might as well have had a red bullseye painted on her rear end because behind her, like three girls on the other team broke off after her. Bits of dirt flew up in her wake as she sprinted, checked over her shoulder, saw the ball hanging in the air like it was stationary. No, it was coming down, right at her. Her arm snapped tight around the ball, but pausing had given the other team enough time to catch up to her.
One girl dove and missed; Amy started running. The next got her arms around Amy and started to drag her down, but couldn't hold on and tumbled off. The last one bared down on Amy with a fury hot in her eyes. Amy broke into an all-out sprint, sucking in ragged breaths as she closed the distance toward the goal.
Then, bam. Now that was a real tackle. Like running into a tree trunk, except the tree's also running at top speed and wants to slam you into the dirt. She tumbled with the other girl onto the ground, and in the whirl of blazing lights and the dark sky, she caught sight of a green jersey and heaved the ball in that direction. For a moment, she breathed, then hauled herself up onto her shoulders to see Megan skidding across the goal line and shoving the ball into the grass. She could feel the bruise on her back already forming as she stood up. Before she jogged back to get ready for the conversion, she spotted, lurking in the shade by the side of the bleachers, the outline of her father. Hah. She knew he couldn't see a thing from all the way out by the road.
Amy climbed up into the passenger seat. Her back made a little ker-krnk. She smiled, but kept it small to keep her lip from splitting again. Ball to the face: not a great way to end her first game, but hey, it happens. "So how'd you like it?"
Her dad took in a deep breath. "It's intense. And drat if you're not good." She felt the pause he took press against her chest. "...but that doesn't make me comfortable with it. I mean, getting yourself hurt is one thing, but you're gonna make people judge you." He reached for the ignition and started up the truck, then stared off at the headlights for a few moments more. "I'll think about it. Ice cream?" he asked.
"Aaactually," Amy said, sliding off the seat, "Megan's mom is taking the team out for pizza. Cause first game, and all. She'll drop me off back home," she said. She swung the door shut, then waved over the window. As Amy walked back toward the field, she smiled until her lip started bleeding again.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:08|
Week 213 Submission
Punk genre: Clockpunk
As Merritt Hawthorne bowed to the queen, her pom of barrette-tipped braids clattered. A courtier behind her cleared his throat and muttered, “Curtsey. . .” Merritt tried to adjust, but only succeeded in twisting her legs in an ungainly pose. The queen smiled. She was only a year or two older. Merritt had never been to court.
It was coronation day; the regency ended, princess now of age. Each year on the princess’s birthday Merritt’s father personally gifted a music box. He designed and built the mechanisms that made ballerinas twirl, horses prance and jump, or boats raise their sails and race around the harbor. This was the most elaborate construction he had devised. He worked in secret for the entire year, but her father was too ill to travel now, and so the honor fell to her.
Merritt presented the ornate box to the queen. The queen undid the delicate silver ribbon and lifted the lid. The trill of a snare drum echoed through the chamber. The queen didn’t know what to make of it. Rather than the usual whimsy, soldiers stood at attention on a lap-sized battlefield.
Drummers and fifers lined up and began to play the national anthem. There was a murmur of approval from the crowd and the light patter of polite clapping.
The soldiers moved to mock battle stations, firing toy springbows. As the anthem finished, the soldiers returned to precise lines and saluted. They raised their tiny weapons. The queen gasped as a shower of shining confetti burst from each of the tiny soldiers.
The room cheered at the unexpected surprise.
As the shimmering cloud settled, confusion rose. A sparkling patina coated her face and regalia like the starscape, then grim, crimson coronas blossomed. Her head dipped and her crown rolled to the floor. A hush descended, then dropped to cold silence.
Merritt heard the swish of gears in the music box. As the queen’s ermine mantle absorbed her lifeblood like a watercolor brush to paper, the cylinders spun and began to play a different song—a funeral dirge.
Hands rushed to the queen. The chamberlain slammed the music box shut. Guardsmen with ceremonial polearms barred the entrance to the great hall. Merritt fled past the bedlam at the throne and into the guts of the castle.
Her heart pounded as she wound her way down a tight spiral staircase and through the kitchens past chefs stuffing geese and rolling pastry. Onward, through the scullery, as the jangle of the guards reverberated on the staircase. Thirty paces ahead, a slab door creaked inward. Daylight from outside filled the hallway.
Merritt barreled over the farmhand, his bushel basket flipped into the alley as he sprawled. She kept moving, no time to apologize, out into the dank air of the city. She hopped up into the unattended farm cart as shouts came from the parapets. Merritt shook the old mare’s reins as hard as she could and the cart lurched forward. She glanced behind only to catch the spray as a springbow bolt from above thwunked into an overripe melon.
Bolts rained down, and the mare galloped as fast as her rickety legs would allow, across the wide boulevard where the honor guard in their finery waited to parade. She was over the bridge and into Old Town by the time soldiers emerged from the castle portcullis and word spread.
The street narrowed to a ramshackle ravine, a cat’s cradle of clotheslines crisscrossed from unglassed windows, five storeys above. Without warning, the cart caught the old stone walls on both sides and Merritt pitched forward. She slammed into the paving stones. She tried to right herself, but her head swam. She felt the rhythmic rumble of the horses in the stones under her ear as she blacked out.
She heard her name being called from afar, then closer, louder. Consciousness whooshed back and she bolted upright, still ready for flight. The bright blur dimmed into something manageable and she recognized a familiar face beside the bed.
“Bailey John? What’s happening?”
He was in the late stages of middle age, same as her ailing father. “I have to admit, I’m impressed. I didn’t think you’d make it out of the castle, let alone to Wicker Street. We’ll have to work on your horsemanship; if that mare wasn’t driving, you might have escaped completely.”
“What? The queen—I think she’s dead.”
“Well done on that front, my dear. We’re so very proud.” Bailey John’s face creased into an odd smile.
Merritt gingerly touched the poultice on her forehead. Surely this was a nightmarish hallucination from the head injury. “Proud? You, you meant for that to happen? Where’s my father? I have to see him.”
“Steady, my dear. There will be long days ahead.”
She heard raucous voices from downstairs. She must be in a room above Bailey John’s pub. He gestured to a plate of bread and cheese as he stood. “I’ll leave you to your rest,” he said. As he pulled the door shut behind him, he added, “Welcome to the revolution.”
Merritt bounded to the door and yanked, but the lock held. She could, at least, overcome this obstacle. She unclipped a dozen barrettes from her hair and set them out on the bed. They were more than just baubles. Each one was part of a mechanical device. With a practiced hand, she clicked the piece together into a skeleton key.
She inserted the thin blade into the lock and twisted the key-bow several times around like a wind-up toy. It hopped in the lock as the pins set in the tumbler, then clicked as it wound down. With a sure turn, she unlocked the door and was out.
Merritt slunk down the hallway to the window above the stairs. The noise from below drowned out the creaky hinges as she opened it and climbed to the sill. With a deep breath, she leapt across and caught the gutter.
The tin bent under her weight and old rivets popped one by one from the eave. She swung like a pendulum and was unceremoniously tossed into a refuse pile. Merritt had no time to thank the stars, as pub patrons gawked through the dingy windows at the girl who dropped from the rooftops.
At least she knew where she was, home wasn’t far. She started around the corner of The Thistle Pig only to be stopped dead in her tracks by the sight of Bailey John assisting her own father into a carriage.
She couldn’t hold it back, “Father!”
He glanced over the carriage door at her, handkerchief at his mouth; and without a word, closed it. The carriage drove off. Bailey John trundled towards her. She summoned whatever strength she had remaining and sprinted towards home.
Through the tenement blocks she raced, hopping fences and breezing through open windows alike, reaching home ahead of Bailey John. All her father’s tools and projects were gone. She scaled the ladder to her loft. Her meager possessions were still intact.
She rummaged through a duffel filled with odds and ends and found the pistol-sized springbow she had been tinkering with. It was loaded with two barbed harpoons, each the size of a finger. It would have to be a perfect shot to be lethal, but regardless would certainly hurt. She dug for anything that might be of use, when she noticed a pouch that didn’t belong.
Carefully, she loosed the leather strap and opened it. Even in the dim loft, the metal shavings and diamond dust sparkled—the same razor-sharp shrapnel that comprised the music box’s deadly payload.
She slouched on her cot, thoughts spinning with her father’s betrayal and abandonment. Why? How could he? Before she could ponder any more, Bailey John clomped into the workshop, two thugs in tow.
“Merritt. I know you’re here. Come out and talk. I’ll explain everything.”
She answered with a harpoon that lunked into support beam, dangerously close to Bailey John’s ear.
“You’re testing my patience, girl. I promised your father I wouldn’t hurt you, but accidents do happen.”
“Stay where you are,” said Merritt. Bailey John saw the tip of the small springbow peek from the edge of the loft.
He raised his hands, fingers splayed. “Steady on, girl. You’re old enough to understand. Look around at this hovel, at the shanties around you. The aristocracy does not care about us. They waste your father’s talent on what? Toys? Playthings for the rich. All it took was a man of action, me, to shape his genius into something that matters. Something to change the world.”
“Weapons? He - I - killed the queen.”
“You’re holding a weapon right now. Likely crafted by your own hand.”
He was right. Merritt’s father had taught her how to build and fire the springbow. Was he really inciting a revolution? She was just a pawn. . . .
One of the goons was on the ladder to the loft, emboldened by her hesitation. She fired and the bolt burrowed into the top of his shoulder. He dropped from the ladder.
“You’re shooting at the wrong people. But see how easy that was?” Bailey John leaned against the timber column, grasping the embedded springbow bolt for balance.
He would, at least, lead her to her father. “OK, I’m coming down.” Merritt climbed down, away from the two goons.
Without warning, Bailey John wrenched the harpoon bolt from the beam and lunged at her, snatching her arm in his huge hand. “I think your father will be very motivated by a martyr.”
He raised the makeshift dagger to strike. Merritt flicked the lockpick device behind him and it rattled to life. The distraction loosened his grip and Merritt squirmed free.
Bailey John turned, and Merritt smashed the pouch of razor dust into his face. He hacked, but it was too late. He inhaled and dust shredded him from the inside. He dropped to the floor. Bailey John was nothing more than a bad memory.
The thugs fled, unnoticed. Merritt gathered up the last of her worldly goods and packed them in the duffelbag. She sat on the small stoop and finally allowed tears to roll down her face.
A boy, not more than five, approached with hands cupped. Merritt nodded indoors. “Take whatever you find,” she told him. He rushed in, unphased by the dead man and immediately grabbed her lockpick device.
“Hey, not that,” she shouted, but the boy was already halfway down the street.
Maybe the city was ready for a sea change; but her father was a murderer, not a hero. Maybe she was, too. He forced the city into chaos and she was an unwilling accomplice. She could track him down; but she wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him, or ever really understand. She could escape, make it over the border to the south.
As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she realized maybe she understood a little. She hopped off the stoop, adjusted her duffelbag, and sprinted after the little boy. She didn’t have a grand plan like her father; but she would reclaim what was hers.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:09|
Word Count: 1,822
“BlazinTrees.exe,” the faceless digital proxy mentions as I pass him. “You ready for tonight?”
His hollow vector body becomes engulfed stock video flames as a cartoon bear emerges from his chest. I recognize it as Bookie the Bear from an old literacy campaign Channel 5 sponsored around 2042. Except modified to have squinting red eyes. My body becomes a reaction avatar I found on another archive. For a second I transform into an actor from a sitcom I’ve never watched, but who looks hilarious when he flashes a thumbs up.
I stroll down the Archivia48 streets, looking for whatever forum hall’s hosting VR game discussion. It’s easy to believe the streets are real. I only need to look forward or up to remind myself I’m in a virtual construct. Miles of empty vector avatars mingle under the watchful eye of the monolithic anthropomorphized animal structures that house most in-simulation interaction. Finding the best forum is only a matter of reading the posted glyphs. In my case, folklore creatures in chain mail. I have in-game gold to sell, and there’s at least a few hundred potential buyers inside.
I wander into a spirited debate turned violent over the merits of Unicorn Justice VR against Asteroid RIP7. Armor clad fey creatures rush space marines as the crowd of proxies flash reactions in rolling waves of pop culture punchlines. It was as refreshing as it was ridiculous. A toothless brawl between users possibly not even in the same continent, spurred by a passion I shared with few people outside the MetaNet.
The chaos stops when cheers ring from outside. An impromptu parade gathers between the forums as The Playtime Pirate Pals, a show I vaguely remember from preschool, carry treasure chests in the main square of this MetaCity. The crowd chants “ego death” as they remove what look like holographic drivers licenses from them. A few borrowed buzzwords from the philosophy forums make everything sound noble, I guess. Spend enough time there you’ll hear the phrase “Truth is the progeny of ego death,” which makes all of us feel smart about our anonymity in The Archives.
To roaring applause, the licenses vanish in a burst of pixelated flames. As each burns, the pirate holding it yells “Deleted!”
The ego death chants make sense now. They’re just dressing up what the news feeds call “Identity Homocide,” where hackers into government databases, deleting whatever records they can find. Apparently people have lost their jobs over this. Their wealth. As someone who knows he’ll probably never have either, it’s hard for me to feel bad. You don’t get to city top layers without stepping on the lowers. It’s nice to remind them what it feels like.
I don’t think they noticed me trying to pull my Level 8 UniSword. Force of habit. I’m not used to real life anymore.
The gang scatters as the police cruiser hovers over the alley. They’re not going to do anything. They just flash the lights and pat themselves on the back in their vehicle. I hold my ribs as I pull myself up from onto dumspter, waiting for my back to stop aching. They were obviously looking for my wallet. Waste of time. Even if I did bring it, it’d be empty. The only thing I’m worried about was my MetaNet Glasses, but I got lucky. This would be a wasted trip without my Mets.
I wonder if they’re staying at the same hostel I have for the last three months. It’s not uncommon in the low city. Most of the no-leases downtown are full of low level pushers and kids who can’t afford school. Not that I would recognize him anyway if it was one of my neighbors. Ever since I figured out I could sell Unicorn Justice gold, that’s limited my excuses for going outside. Surprisingly deep play system for a game presumably made for toddlers. Saying that in real life gets me stares. In The Archives, it’s a business interest. You do enough business in an Archive, you learn its language. And as I climb down the metal stairs into the undercity, I see a friendly glyph painted on the alley wall. Welcoming me almost personally. A giant cartoon bear with flames behind him. The orange flickering light just past it leads me to my next stop, and a familiar phrase just under it.
I keep hearing it in my games. More so in The Archive. I can’t ask anyone to explain. That means I don’t speak the language. I can’t read the glyphs. I don’t belong. Best I can do is infer from context clues. I know it’s tonight. I know it’s in most major cities, at least the ones with MetaNet. And I know I haven’t had an actual conversation with a non-digitization in months. I put my Mets on and my ski mask over them. My temples tingle as the glasses interface with my nervous system. I throw the hood of my coat up for the extra anonymity. Archive etiquette demands “ego death.” Stands to reason the same would be true in real life.
I turn on the Augmented Reality with just a thought, like I’m lifting a finger, as I approach the similarly dressed persons sitting on kinetic-absorbing boxes around a barrel fire. They leap up in surprise. I raise my hands and activate my reaction avatar. If their AR is on, they see me turn into an under the influence Bookie as stock video flames burn behind me. It seems to work. Of the four, one turns into a familiar sitcom actor flashing me a thumbs up. Another becomes a cartoon alligator in a backwards baseball cap, making finger guns. The third, a popular professional wrestler, shouting “Brother!!” as he flexes his ‘roided arms.
The tallest waits for the other three to turn back. He takes the form of a cat wearing what I think is a British naval uniform, and gives me a nod.
“You bring stuff?” asks the sitcom actor. His voice soft and shaky as carries his box to our next location. No idea what the hell they’re talking about. But I’ve faked it this far. I can coast on technicalities from here on out.
“Nah, man,” I reply, “I got jumped on my way here.”
“Oh dude, that sucks,” the wrestler replies, speaking as loudly as he does quickly, “I used to get hassled all the time when I lived upstate. Upstate! Like, we still have grass upstate. Towns up there only got one layer.”
“Your better off in the lowest levels,” Skater Gator tells me. It’s an odd high pitched voice, clearly run through a modulator. “People think they’re safe if they can see daylight. That’s what the gangs count on.”
“They attacked you to prove an identity,” the tallest speaks, his voice booming over the others. “Society dictates they must be brutalize, so they prove satisfactory.”
“He spends a lot of time on the philosophy block,” Soft and Shaky mutters to me, a chuckle under his breath.
Tallest puts his hand up. We stop across the streets from a slight building sandwiched between city layers. If the building wasn’t already familiar, it the outside sign announcing tonight’s Ducreux lecture would confirm it. Why the hell are we at The Humphrey Library?
My new friends open their boxes, revealing aerosol cans and rags stuffed liquor bottles. Loudly and Quickly throws me a lighter as Voice Modulator passing the cans around. Most are hairsprays, but there’s a can of spray paint he slips into his jacket. At least I assume VM’s a he. The mod makes it hard to tell.
“Those of who have missions already know them,” Tallest says before looking directly at me. “Those thugs that attacked you. They watched the same cartoons you did growing up. You probably watch the same movies and listen to the same music. There’s a language you both speak, but his identity won’t allow it. Everything we do today is at its core an olive branch.”
Tallest activates his Bookie avatar, and we all follow suit. A sort of Go Team before the mission, I guess. I half figured it might have been a real life Pirate Raid. The molotovs were obvious, and but the makeshift flamethrowers took a minute. But why here? The top-layers probably don’t know this place exists. I don’t ask. Maybe it’ll make sense. Still the longest conversation I’ve held with the most people outside The Archives in awhile.
Tallest lights a molotov. “Execute program,” he commands as he throws it.
The crew rushes the front doors, lighting the aerosol mist as the meager crowds close in too tightly. LaQ and SaS go for the stacks, burning the shelves as patrons run for their safety. VM pulls the a bulletin board off the wall as he(?) sprays the familiar image of bookie on the worn brick under it. I see a few flaming patrons in various states of panic. I throw molotovs towards the shelves to stay on my new friends’ good side. SaS turns the camera of his Mets on, and gets a good vantage of Tallest, taking his stage on an empty table. He activates his Bookie avatar.
“This is our language,” Tallest yells, pointing towards VM art. “These are our glyphs. As society dies, we form its scrap into the only true tongue. Once you have been infected with our knowledge, our truths will spread like a virus. Kill the ego. Speak our words.”
VM drops the spray can and Tallest orders us out. We force out way past the screaming patrons. I look at the gang around me. Body language says nervous, but I wish I knew if they were smiling. Before we scatter, I hear LaQ shout to me “See you next time.”
I take the lowest levels back to the hostel, not even bothering to change my clothes. Not even losing the skimask until I’m in the door. I’m shaking. I steady a pale skinned hand against my brown hair, my green eyes wide open as the adrenaline kicks in. I try to find a rationale for what I just did. Something other than philosophy block crap. The news feeds were starting to mention similar events in other cities, but I only half paid attention to them.
My Mets are in my hand. Normally this time I’d be in The Archive. Doing business while engaged in a spirited debate about Pegasus Magic. That was before my business was with co-conspirators. I stare at the ceiling wondering if I have any other choice. Doing the honest thing means abandoning everything the closest thing to a life I have left. Going back in means walking into a celebration. Millions of giddy sociopaths excited they saw make believe friends on the news. Too excited to think twice about purchasing unicorn gold.
I put my Mets on, and tell myself it’s for business.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:31|
Of the River
Even at sixteen years of age, Morgan Mckenna knew much of myth and politics.
She sat at the breakfast table and watched her father, Governor Mckenna, stab at overeasy egg yolks with the corner of a blackened piece of toast. Like all of the secret children of the Tuath Dé, he seemed just a bit realer than average folks. The morning light glinted off his perfectly groomed coif a little more sincerely. His eyes were a profound sort of brown, dead leaves backlit by autumn sun.
Morgan listened to her father masticate and waited for him to say something.
“We’ve already had your dress fitted for the gala,” he said at last, dabbing at the corners of his mouth with a cloth napkin. “For the gala. Not some hormone-riddled spectacle of teenage foreplay.”
Morgan permitted herself a moment of discomfort with her father’s bluntness, then let it go. “Homecoming is important,” she said. “It’s about camaraderie and school spirit. Not...that other stuff.”
The governor made a huff noise, something between a laugh and a sigh. Morgan preempted his inevitable response. “‘Don’t lie to a professional liar,’ I know. Okay, so, I want to go dance with my friends. Like a normal teenager?”
“You’re not a normal teenager,” Governor Mckenna said, “and you should thank the Mother for that.” He dropped his voice to a harsh whisper at the word 'Mother', as though his constituents might be eavesdropping.
Had she been born a poor man’s daughter, Morgan would’ve been able to spend her days in the forest learning the old ways from the great forum of wind, tree, and earth. But she was a governor’s daughter in God’s own U.S. of A., and she went to God’s church and gave thanks for God’s greatness.
Her father prattled on about connections and networking and how grateful she’d be someday for the galas and meet-and-greets. It was all about laying groundwork, he was fond of saying.
When he was done, Morgan took one of the cars and burned a hot trail east, toward the mountains. The foothills rose with increasing audacity toward the sky until Morgan felt like she was a mote drifting between giants. The sheer vastness of the mountains plucked at her soul and made her body shudder with deep, ancient tones. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to feel this way?
She pulled over at a scantily-marked trailhead. Morgan hadn’t come prepared for a hike, but no matter. She was of the Tuath Dé, tribe of the gods. Her ancestors had descended upon ancient Ireland in a stormcloud. The untamed places on Earth were her birthright.
Morgan ascended to heights of elder wood and elder stone.
The trail stretched relentlessly upward, and then the alpine forest gave way to hardy grasses and naked stone. Soon, she stood on the spine of the mountain. The path flattened out and narrowed, flanked on each side by steep slopes littered with scree. A few tenacious flowers swayed among the rocks.
Morgan reached for her phone to snap a picture of the impressive view afforded by the ridge. A trophy to taunt her father with later, maybe. Then she saw she was totally out of range of any signal, and frowned. She’d hiked for nearly two hours. No one knew where she’d gone.
“Kraa!” The throaty call of a raven. Morgan saw its shadow as the bird briefly passed between her and the sun. She shielded her eyes, looked up--
A swarm of black feathers filled her vision. Not just one raven, but a storm of ravens, an amalgam of wings and dark, glittering eyes. Morgan bellowed inarticulate violence, swung her arms to ward off the attack. But her fists beat only empty air.
I am the river, a voice said in the deafening whisper of a thousand flapping wings. Through you I shall flow.
Morgan felt a sharp sting in her back as she fell to the stony earth. And then the ravens bore her downward, into the sunless skies beneath the living rock.
She opened her eyes to pure black, darker and smoother than ravens’ wings. There was a faint glow to her right. She rolled over onto her side, saw a languid river of liquid light.
Do you know what you are, girl? said the luminescent river in a soft, lazy voice like water flowing over stone.
“I’m Tuatha Dé Danann,” Morgan said. “Scion of the god-kings of Ireland. Child of Danu, Mother River.”
Yes, sighed Danu. I flow through you, but my currents grow weak.
Morgan pushed herself up to a sitting position and looked down the glowing length of the river. Further downstream, almost invisible in the blackness beyond the water’s light, there were clusters of folk hunched over the water, staring into its brilliance. All of them were thick and crude-featured, but they had that undeniable air of thusness and gravity innate to the Tuath Dé. Morgan knew with dream-like certainty that she was looking at the first-born of Danu, those who had invaded Ireland on the backs of storms in the era of myth and magic.
There is another kind of river, a river of ideas that flows between the domiciles of men, said Danu. I would clarify it with my own waters and quicken myself in the minds of mortals.
“You mean the internet?” Morgan said. A million thoughts warred for primacy in her mind. “You can’t just...I mean, the internet is a crazy, busy place. No one would believe--” she was cut short by a pulse of vertigo that rippled out from her forehead, down to her toes.
Gather my children and give my body unto the rivers of men! the goddess bellowed, then fell silent.
There was the roar of flapping wings; ravens, come to take Morgan back to the world above. They bore her body back to the realm of men, down the mountainside, to her car, and Morgan drove home with her ears full of feathery whispers.
She barely noticed the days leading up to the gala. She stopped pestering her father about the high school homecoming dance, too consumed by the problem of Mother River to care about petty socializing. She needed to somehow put the word out to the other lost Tuatha Dé Danann, children of Danu, Mother River, and bring them together. And then...and then…
Somehow, they would clarify the rivers of men. And then Morgan could be who she’d been born to be.
Governer Mckenna was pleased that she’d dropped the issue of the high school dance, but quickly became suspicious. He cornered her on the evening before the gala, after he caught her trying to eavesdrop on his speech rehearsal.
“You’ve done something,” he said bluntly. They stood in the high-ceilinged hallway, facing each other like sparring partners. The weight of his glare was tangible. Morgan glared back.
“You need to tell the world what we are.” The words fell out of her mouth before she could think twice. “This gala is a big deal to you, I can tell. Not just another handshake expo.”
She took a deep breath.
“If you don’t honor the Mother, I’ll show people what we are. I’ve seen the River.” Morgan looked dead into her father’s eyes and thought of ravens’ wings. She could almost feel them, beating at the back of her skull like a second heart.
Governer Mckenna actually stepped back. Morgan glowered at him. Let him believe she’d unlocked some hidden god-power. Let him believe she’d found a way to disseminate this information. Never lie to a professional liar. Unless you’d learned every trick in the book from one.
The governor made several alterations to his speech that night.
Both father and daughter had an uneasy sleep, woke early, and ate breakfast in silence. Morgan cinched herself into a forest-green gown whose hem lightly kissed the floor. She let her hair flow wild and wavy, left her face bare of any cosmetics. She was Tuath Dé. She didn’t need makeup to catch the eyes of normal folks.
The gala was held in the grand ballroom at the Portland art museum. The generous hall was filled to the brim with portly senators from up and down the west coast and beyond. Waiters drifted between idly chatting clusters of politicians and their entourages with trays of hors d'oeuvres. The room was electric with excitement and anticipation.
People fussed over Morgan, said things like you must be so proud of your father!
“I hope to be after tonight,” she would reply, and give them her most mysterious grin. And they all laughed knowingly, as if they were in on her private joke.
Finally, one of the event coordinators drew everyone’s attention to a raised podium at one end of the ballroom. And now Morgan could see the cluster of news cameras near the front. She didn’t know what she would do if her father went back on his word or lost his nerve, but it would be sudden and shocking and on camera for all the world to see.
Governor Mckenna took the stage. The room fell silent.
“Friends, we all come from somewhere,” he said, smiling out at his audience. “I myself can trace my heritage back across the Atlantic, to the emerald isles. My grandmother used to tell me of a great race of Irish kings, the Tuatha Dé Danann--my forebearers, if you’d believe it.” He chuckled, and the room buzzed with perplexed muttering. Camera lenses glittered like ravens’ eyes. Morgan held her breath.
“But in America, it’s not about who your great-great grandaddy was. It’s not about who your daddy was, or it shouldn’t be, anyway. Life in America is about looking ahead, and working as a diverse community toward equal opportunities for all.” Now the room was silent again, fully under Governor Mckenna’s control. Morgan clenched her teeth and fists.
“It’s in that spirit that I announce to you, friends and colleagues, that I intend to run for the presidential office. I humbly ask for you…”
The rest of the speech passed in a blur for Morgan, and soon people were hugging her and clapping on her back, and she was posing for pictures with her father and his impeccable smile.
“Don’t be furious,” he whispered to her when they had a moment alone. “Think of it like a dog whistle. The word is out there, now, and our people will hear it. They’ll know one of their own is in a position of power, and then…” he trailed off, shrugged. “They’ll search each other out. Make hashtags, or whatever it is you kids do.”
“‘It’s all about laying the groundwork,’” Morgan muttered, unwilling to look her father in the eye. Black wings fluttered against the back of her skull. She hated that he was right, that he had outmatched her in a game of wills.
But even at sixteen years of age, Morgan knew much about myth and politics, and there was still time yet to quicken Mother River. She forced a grin and went to pose for another photo.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:35|
Out, gently caress this weekend.
we dont care lol
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:44|
Hard-boiled Intern Fiction
The congressman has an office a few blocks from Cassandra’s school, but it’s summer now so she has to get her mom to drop her off on her way to work. Every morning, she is supposed to unlock the doors, turn on the lights, and update the congressman’s social media accounts. If there’s protesters waiting outside, she’s to invite them in, offer them coffee, and call the congressman’s staffers so that they know to avoid the office. When her mom drops her off, she sees a few men lingering outside. Panic seizes her, but the crisis is averted when one of them takes out a pack of cigarettes, uninterested in Cassandra’s presence.
Cool relief courses through her. She finishes her morning duties and, with an hour before the other staffers arrive, makes herself coffee to celebrate. The harsh whirring of the Keurig drones out the florescent lights. She leans against the counter and takes a sip.
People say it’s not too bad here. Besides the rusted-out factories and the creeping grunge of poverty, people mostly keep to themselves. Her friends talk about their boyfriends and college acceptance letters. Her teachers can’t distinguish her from hundreds of other nameless students in her school. The congressman, with all his charisma and promise, is just another letter of recommendation that will fade out of her life the moment she gets a real job.
She feels numb to her life and its endless stream of clichés. She is desperate to disrupt the morass, to liberate herself from this stagnant sameness before it’s too late.
“Hey, Cassy!” Someone shouts behind her.
Cassandra spins around, spilling hot coffee down her shirt and onto the floor. The pain is intense, but she swallows it with a grimace. “Jesus Christ, Michael, don’t do that. You almost gave me a heart attack.”
Michael wears a dirty hoody with the words “ST. ANTHONY’S, GO LIONS!” emblazoned on it, which is appropriate given his long, mangy hair. Thin wisps curl around his chin. He’s too proud of his new facial hair to shave. It’s one of the many reasons she dumped him.
“Hey, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad…” He tries to stop himself from smiling but only succeeds in controlling a quivering half of his face. “Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m doing here?”
She doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction of her surprise. “No, I was going to ask you if your step-dad had finally kicked you out of his basement.” She rips off a paper towel and crouches to wipe away the puddle. Her hand still throbs. The congressman’s staff made her clean out the freezer so there’s no ice packs in it.
“Nah,” he says, smile receding into his usual feigned coolness, “but he might if I keep downloading movies on his computer. He thinks he’s gonna come home one day and get arrested because of me or something.”
She throws the wet paper towel to the garbage bin. It misses and lands with a splat next to a pile of unopened constituent mail.
Michael never approved of her attempts to intern for the congressman. While they were still together, he had posted articles about the congressman’s promises of campaign finance and the SuperPAC that supported him. He had pestered her with strange, chatroom ramblings about the congressman’s message of transparency and simultaneous attacks on Snowden and Julian Assange. Washington would “change her.” Make her “one of them.”
The district office position had been their compromise, not that it mattered much. They broke up shortly after the end of the school year. If Michael still feels guilty, he doesn’t look it.
“And will he?” She immediately regrets the question, remembering his drawn-out monologues about Bitcoin and Anonymous. Their relationship had been a long sequence of one-way conversations, supported solely by teenage rebellion. She got a bomb to throw at her parents and he got a trophy to show off to his internet friends.
Michael, to his credit, says nothing. Cassandra sighs.
“Seriously, Michael, you need to get out before everyone else gets here. I could get in a lot of trouble if someone finds you back here.”
He nods but remains silent. He digs his hands deeper into his sweatshirt. She stops.
“You’re not here for me, are you?” She thinks, stupidly, of how she found pictures of herself on Reddit. Intimate pictures. Embarrassing, career-ending pictures. She thinks of how she confronted him and how he gave her that same, stony silence.
It’s worse that she has to drag it out of him.
He looks up at the florescent lights, trying to seem wise in spite of his greasy face. “Do you think people deserve the truth, no matter how–?”
“No, no.” She says, on her feet now. “You don’t get to play that game. Maybe the vague and mysterious schtick works online, but in the real world you don’t get to barge in and start spouting off vague, esoteric bullshit like you’re in the Matrix.”
He nods and tries to collect himself. He digs his hands deeper into his sweatshirt.
“Wow,” he says. His chin quivers. “Esoteric.” He stares at her, serious for a moment, before breaking out into a smile. “That’s a pretty big word.”
“Oh, gently caress you.”
“Are Republicans using ‘gently caress’ now, too? I just wanna know which vocab words I should drop next time I apply to work for a corporate stooge.”
They stare at each other. She had once made the mistake of inviting Michael to a campaign rally, hoping, for once, that they could act like a normal couple. But she hadn’t dated Michael for normal, so he showed up with a Guy Fawkes mask and had spent the day shouting out jeers that were funnier to him than anyone else. There had been reporters there.
Cassandra had been mortified.
She picks up the discarded wet wad and slams it in the trash. She remembers her coffee still sitting on the counter, but she has already committed to storming out of the kitchen. “Okay, bye Michael. It was really great seeing you again. Say hi to your mom for me.”
She makes it halfway down the hallway before he grabs her. His hand seems almost yellow beneath the dull office lights. He smells of something dark and earthy.
“Cassandra, wait. I’m sorry.” He lets go of her and combs his fingers through his oily hair. Thinking. She wonders about the last time he showered. “I came because I think your boss is involved in some shady poo poo. Not libertarian shady. Like, really, actually illegal stuff.”
“Oh, is that all?” She says. “Was it the moon landing, or 9/11? I just want to know which conspiracy theories I should drop next time a loving lunatic tries to get me fired.”
“Actually, he killed Harambe. But look, ” She snorts and looks away, disappointed in herself for laughing at his joke. He grabs her again to prevent her from running away. “I’m being serious here. I wouldn’t bother you if it wasn’t serious.”
He hands her his Android. On the screen, a miniature version of the congressman paces around his desk. A man, dark-haired with loose skin and a suit, sits in a relaxed pose near the edge of the frame. A woman smoking a cigarette leans against the opposite wall. For a moment, she thinks that the congressman is talking. Then she realizes that it’s the other man giving orders. They are talking about the election.
“What is that?” She hands him back his phone. “Where did you get that?”
“That,” he says, having clearly rehearsed his grand reveal, “is Luis Garmán. You might know him, oh, as the CEO of the biggest stockbroking firm on Wall Street.”
Her heart drops. She glances down the hall to the shut door of the inner office, the congressman’s desk. “No, I don’t believe you.”
“And, that,” he says, ignoring her interruption, “is the head of your friend’s SuperPAC.”
Her eyes glaze over. She looks down at her shoes.
“Which do you think is worse, the hypocrisy of colluding with the very company he promised to rein in or the actually legit illegal campaign finance violation?”
Cassandra walks back into the kitchen, numb, and picks up her lukewarm coffee. Michael follows behind, savoring her disillusionment. When she speaks again, she does so in a slow, careful tone.
“Why are you showing me this? Why not go to the police? Or the media?”
He gives her a stony silence. The self-pity disappears. She rolls her eyes.
“Oh Jesus, Michael, really? Is this your way of trying to get me to date you again?”
He deflects. “You sure to use the Lord’s name a lot for someone who’s supposed to be Catholic.”
Cassandra takes a sip of her cold coffee and looks at the clock on the back wall. They have maybe twenty minutes before the staffers arrive. Probably less. She does not want to go back to her internship, mewling and innocent. She wants chaos and bloodshed. She no longer cares about her letters of recommendation. She wants revenge.
She looks at the wet spot near the pile of constituent mail.
“Michael, can you send me that video?” She walks out of the kitchen, still carrying the cold coffee, and makes her way towards the front desk. The computer purrs as she types in the password. Her heart thumps in her chest.
Michael leans over the front of the desk to look at the screen. “Why, you want to send it to the FEC or something?”
“No, but I do have access to the office’s e-mail list and Twitter account.”
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:45|
we dont care lol
i do u big jerk
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 03:48|
Someday, this poo poo may be included in a volume of bad stories.
Chili fucked around with this message at 07:17 on Jan 1, 2017
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 05:34|
Mushrooms in London
The garden was dark and moist, like usual. Some cities could depend constant sunshine to provide a steady stream of glucose. Fresno out in California, for example. More than two hundred days of sun per year, no harsh winters to kill the primaries, and enough water flowing down from the mountains to keep it all going. Land, too, was easy for them. The west coast had gotten settled after the Glucose Revolution, and so they’d been able to pick and choose their locations, take as much land as necessary, and build whatever they needed to.
So they got off easy in the power game. Fruits and vegetables were their primaries. The gardens were wide and spread out, making maintenance easy, with efficient and modern glucose distribution grids. And, naturally, it all added up to an attractive vista overlooking miles of bright green trees and vines, so the tourists even paid for it. And this was to say nothing of the great Pacific empires like Hawaii.
Not so in London. Less than seventy bright days per year, tight urban centers with limited space, and antiquated power vines still left over from the first generation. We had a few different power systems running to handle the load. But the hemovores weren’t reliable as a primary source, and the eggheads in the lab still hadn’t gotten the thermophiles quite nailed down. So while the techies in California got tans working outside under the trees, I got pale and damp working with mushrooms underground.
“Ed. We’ve got something weird going on down in Layer Four. Rack Twelve is going haywire,” Jacob Murphy said. My chair pulled me over to take a sniff. Like me, he’d been recruited pretty much straight out of tech school. But while he’d spent his childhood working as a monitor in a light algae plant, I’d spent my time engineering mushrooms in the back of my closet. I’d made my first micro plant at the age of twelve. We may technically be equals, but he usually left the hands-on inspection to me, and I depended on him to check the readers.
This was Glucose Power Garden Seven, Subdivision Three. Right in the heart of London bioindustry, responsible for metric tons of light algae, growth elastomers, and biomorphic materials every day. Continuous, uninterrupted sugars was more than just a luxury. It was a necessity. A five percent decrease in glucose production for fifteen minutes could starve plants and cost millions of calories of damage.
And so here I was. Edward Hunter, Glucose Technician Second Class, in charge of keeping everything stable and running. I took a quick sniff of the room before examining Jacob’s console. Just the barest hints of the rot that would tell us when output started to drop. But as hard experience had taught us, once glucose started to drop, it always kept going.
The aroma coming from the algae scentsors was spicy, and sweet, and a bit bitter. My eyes started watering. By itself, spicy would mean that the water was low, while sweet might tell me that there wasn’t enough nitrogen. But bitter indicated that the environment was too moist. Put together, they were pretty much meaningless.
“What do the displays say?” This was something new for us, only in the three months, and it was still second nature to check the scentsors before we looked at the bioluminescent algae. Personally, I doubted them. Smell had been the standard data output for glucose plants for hundreds of years, ever since the Glucose Revolution.
“They’re all over the place, I can’t understand it. We’ve got purple, and yellow, and brown. And-” Full color displays required complicated glucose layouts to power every algae color individually. It was still common for osmosis leaks to screw up the colors.
“Yeah, yeah,” I cut him off. I took another deep wiff. It was hard to pin it down, exactly, but something about this smelled good. “I’m going down to go take a look.”
The plant was a sandwhich of oddly shaped layers that had been crammed into whatever space was available. It was nearly pitch black inside, with only a faint glow from the control room. The plant operated on thin enough margins as it was: no sense in wasting glucose on light algae. Techs got used to it over time, they had to. By the time I’d been here six months I could navigate the whole place with my eyes closed.
I could have taken the lift down. But high capacity growth-elastomers were slow. There was, simply, no avoiding that, not without burning prodigious amounts of glucose. Maybe in California, they could have swung it. Yes, I’m bitter. Most places, stairs would even be an option, but space was at too much of a premium here. We had ladders, and we had the lifts, and those only because we sometimes needed to move heavy equipment.
So instead I bungee jumped. Shift the lift up a floor, strap my vinestubs to the bottom, adjust their glucose intake to give the right length, and down the hole I went. The vines grew up until they ran out of energy, stretched to the limits of their dynamic elastomers, then sprang me back up, right to the fourth level. Of course, I’d have to take the long route back up.
I slapped the glucose drip for the light algae, giving the ceiling a slight glow just barely enough to navigate by. The layers were closely packed. Power density was priority one. I was short, less than 150 centimeters, due to the low protein diets common in this poor country. And yet, I still had to crouch slightly to traverse the narrow passageways. Mushrooms were stacked in racks on both sides. Water was kept up with a gentle mist from the top of the facility. That, at least, England had enough of, probably the only reason it was inhabited at all any more.
Still, it hadn’t prevented the city from being in steady decline over the four hundred years since the Glucose Revolution. Government inertia kept the English leadership centered here, but that once vast empire was slowly starving to death, outpaced by the faster solar-driven economies of Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. There was only so much you could power off of mushrooms. We boasted tons of biomass production, enough to provide basic necessities for the people. Honolulu could handle kilotons singlehandedly.
The problem rack was easy to spot. Something was wrong with the light algae. It glowed in pulsing patches rather than the steady light of the rest of the installation. I pulled the rack out, and took a sniff at the scentsors.
“Woah,” I said out loud. Something there was strong, and definitely not normal. I saw colors pulse even in the darkness. “What the hell is going on here?”
First steps first, though. Contain the spread. I disconnected the glucose lines from the rack, then pulled it all the way off the shelf. I pulled a seed from one of my shirt pockets, and shoved it into the center of the rack. Suddenly immersed in a high-sugar environment, it grew rapidly into a tight sheet wrapping around the tray and isolating it. Setting it down on the ground, I examined the trays next to it. Still smelled normal. Good. We could manage down a tray for a few hours until I could diagnose exactly what was wrong with this one, but we couldn’t have managed a whole line getting knocked out.
Upstairs, the rack was even weirder.
“What the hell are those?” Jacob asked me. The mushrooms were definitely not standard-issue glucose generators. The typical type we grew was whitish brown. No sense wasting energy on aesthetics. These were bright red, spotted with white.
I leaned back to consider. I already knew what they were. Somehow, a whole rack of glucose mushrooms had gotten swapped for a different variety: psilocybins. But how had they gotten there? Only one real possibility: one of the techies had planted them.
I already knew it wasn’t me. And Jacob didn't have a good enough poker face to be able to pull this off and still act the fool in front of me. Still, there were a couple other techs who could have tried to profit off the farm.
The reaction the company would take was simple. Figure out who planted them, fire them, and make sure they never worked again. For an infraction of this sort, it would hardly be overkill. The effect this one missing tray had was so minimal on production that it was barely noticeable, but the psilocybins were more than just a replacement for that rack that didn’t generate glucose. The chemicals they leached screwed up the scentsors, the light algae, and could have poisoned the whole garden.
Jacob nudged me. “Hey, Ed. What are they?”
I looked back at him. “Psilocybins. Magic mushrooms.”
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 05:34|
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 04:55 on Dec 19, 2016
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 05:59|
|# ? Nov 29, 2021 18:16|
Stream of Consciousness (Crustpunk)
Word Count: 1515
“I’m a little disappointed those are all the questions you have for me.” He drug the back of his hand across his nose, using the rough knuckled section of his thumb to apply pressure to his nose as his sniffed. It was an involuntary action, an acquired motion from years of cocaine use. He hadn’t snorted in several hours, but that wasn’t why he was edgy. He never partook of anything to ease his senses before a big set. Said it would impact his clarity, the raw emotion he felt once he’d cleansed himself in retribution.
She’d been sitting at his desk, in the cramped office space behind the concert hall that shook every time the bass dropped. The sound oriented much of their conversation. Sometimes his speech would spew forth, a frenzy of impassioned words as walls reverberated the beat of the music and crowd thudding faster and faster until suddenly, there was a moment of calm. He’d smile at her then, like he was now, light a match, inhale off a joint (he smoked marijuana every day of his life and didn’t consider it to diminish the mood).
His smile revealed cracked teeth, probably from a brawl over some trivial conspiracy theory he’d staked his life on for the evening. When he laughed, his grin opened wider to reveal the darkened, decaying spots near the gums. Years of neglect, or meth, or both, exposed him to the hollow parts of himself. The laugh turned to a coughing spasm and he pounded his hand into his frail chest, rattling himself back into reality.
“You won’t get away with this,” She clutched her laptop to her chest with both arms crossed, trying desperately to shield its contents from his corruption. “I have backups. Hard drives. Plus, the stream was live, everyone knows I’m here.” The laughter interrupted her. The coughing wracked his lungs harder, she’d amused him much for the evening, and he was forced to stand, white knuckling his splintered desk sides for support. His unwashed hair fell in clumped sections over his forehead and around the sides of his ears. He pushed it back to meet her eye, his just as dark and slick as the hair which framed them.
“I invited you here, remember? You can stop cradling that pitiful device. I have no interest taking it from you. It’s cancerous, but it contains the truth now. The truth I told you, on purpose. You came here for the truth, the inside story. Were you not flattered I contacted you?”
She blushed despite her terror. Cardinal Cain had never given anyone an exclusive before, in or out of costume. He was the best kept secret of the modern music industry. He rose from the ashes of worn out musicians a month prior and had been rampaging around from set to set on a rigorous tour schedule ever since, a ghost producer with the skills to suggest he’d been active in the industry long before the catastrophe which robbed it of any prestige. Teenage girls on social networks, frat boys blaring the latest hit, the industry was just a postcard for polarized populace, a reflection of a cookie cutter society boarded with artsy trim. That was before Cain arrived on the scene. He opened one night beneath a cloak of blackness and captivated the masses with his sound, his uncanny ability to capture their souls and leave them breathless, lifeless on the dance floor.
“Your fans are dying.”
“They were already dead.”
“What about you?”
She tried to swallow, but her throat was dry, scratchy. She wondered if she’d already been infected. For all he’d told her about his ruse for redemption she had no idea how he actually implemented any of it. Was it in the air? The water he’d offered her? He stared her down, lowering the full length of his elongated slight frame into the chair opposite her.
“Are you infected?”
She knew he was referring to the Dance Revolution that had swept the nation. She had covered it herself in the weeks prior. The massive flood of young people dropping out of school, trailing their favorite artists around the country and even out of it. The UK and Japan were refusing US citizens entry to their countries, hoping to contain the epidemic. The youths that had flown abroad in the initial wave had all but been bagged and sent back. They wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep for days. Nothing could stop them short of incarceration and even then, many died of exhaustion, shuffling in their cells for hours on end trapped in the rhythm of their own heads.
“You look awfully clean to be a crust punk, but you do work on a strictly freelance basis now, am I correct? That seems to be an oddly characteristic symptom these days.” He inquired coldly.
“I can’t work for the industry right now. They, they just – all they want to cover are the bands. The DJs. I can’t just keep running around from set to set and covering the aftermath. I don’t want to just be a column count of dead bodies.”
“Isn’t that all the news cares about though? Sex, drugs and death?”
“I care about the culture.”
“The culture,” he paused, allowing for the bass line to mellow before continuing. “What do you know about the culture?”
“I know it had to start somewhere. I know there was a cultivation period. I – I think – I think that’s who you were before. Why you were so familiar with the scene. You were one of the original producers, weren’t you?”
“That’s certainly an interesting theory.” Flat. He squashed his joint into the desk, flicked it off and didn’t reach for another.
“You’re not hiding from the public. You’re hiding from them. You know they’ll stop you if they find you, but what I don’t understand is why didn’t you stop them. You could have stopped the whole Revolution. You never had to let them release it. You knew!”
“Enough. I think you’ve gotten more than you came for,” He strode to the door in two quick strides and nearly yanked it from its hinges. “You need to leave.” The neon lights from down the corridor danced across his face, painting the horror displayed there in such beautiful vibrancy it took her aback.
“But you haven’t even helped. You haven’t answered my questions. People are dying Cain, people who came here just to see you.”
“I told you, they’re already dead. Do you have any idea how powerful a sound wavelength can be?”
“But – “
“They are young and impressionable, just like you. Now get out,” He clawed his fingers into her arm and yanked her from the seat. He hadn’t touched her all evening so the sudden outburst caught her off guard. Her laptop tumbled from her arms, but he snagged it just before it shattered into the cement floor of the warehouse. He shoved it, hard, into her chest. “Take this information and go.”
She staggered out, into the hall. Her heart racing with the music, rising with her panic. She could feel herself sliding, her vision blurring. Through the crack of the door she saw him don his cloak and gas mask, concealing his face. He snagged his laptop from the tangle of cords on the desk and slung studded headphones around his neck. The last thing he grabbed before slamming the door shut was an oversized lap top bag. He dropped the bag to the floor beside her. Kneeling down, he pushed her bangs back from her face, now clotted in strands with sweat.
“You’re not the cause – you’re the cure,” She clung to his cloak, the cloak he had pulled from the bag, identical to his own and draped over her.
“Your trust, the most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world,” He kissed her forehead then pulled a gas mask down onto her face. Opening her laptop he resumed her live stream.
“What – I don’t –“
“I’m not The Cure. For all your research, you really don’t know much about our culture after all, do you? But don’t worry, you’ll learn. Rest now.” With that he rose and strode purposely to the end of the hall. She blinked through the mask, the steam of her own breath creating a haze on the lens. As she struggled to stay conscious she saw Cain joined by three others, identically concealed, at the base of the stairs to the concert hall. In unison they raised their hands to wave at her. She stretched her hand out to them in disbelief, but the figures vanished into the staircase.
All she could see were the neon lights, the darkness beyond. She could hear the crowd cheering, a pounding in her head as the MC announced their arrival.
The producers you’ve all been dying to meet: Cardinal Cain and friends…
From where she lay, with every blink, she could see the rising count of viewers on her stream. Viewers who saw her, cloaked, masked, reaching out to them and believed everything.
|# ? Sep 5, 2016 06:37|