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Popular Human
Jul 17, 2005

and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it

Alright, gently caress it, I'm in. One Blaxsploitation scene as written by William Gibson coming right up.


Popular Human
Jul 17, 2005

and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it

Focus Group (998 words)

Jacob was awoken by the subtle buzz of his ocular implant, the microscopic cadmium sphere warm against the cold of his pillow. He groaned and rolled over, shifting to the edge of the bed. The sharp green digits of his heads-up display jerked into focus, glowing gently in the dark. Incoming Call. 3:06 AM.

That spelled trouble.

“Hello?” he said, too loudly. Beside him, his wife stirred beneath the covers, sniffed, and fell back asleep. The call continued to buzz - it took a long moment to remember he had set the device for subvocalization. A quiet stream of glottal syllables issued from his throat and the call connected, the viewing window blocking out all but the periphery of his vision.

“Mr. Findley?”

Jacob heard a small hiss escape his lips and felt his stomach sink. For Zinn Cotter himself to call at this hour would mean no less than the labs were on fire. The man looked sweaty and disheveled, as if he’d just run a marathon. Hackers, Jacob thought. Terrorists.

“I’m here.”

“Sir,” Zinn said, sucking in great gulps of air, “you need to get down to the plant ASAP.”

He sighed, rubbing a finger along the outside of his sinuses. “Do you know what time it is? Not going to happen."


"What’s the damage, Zinn?”

Whatever the man had been about to say disintegrated; the stim Jacob programmed to jolt him to full alertness triggered with a harsh chemical shock. He’d worked with Zinn for six years and had seen the man work through dozens of emergencies, from within and without the labs. He’d never heard the man sound terrified until right now.


“It’s Moonchild,” Zinn whispered. “She woke up."


Jacob's auto-car sped through the decaying streets. He lay in creche, webbed like a spider as figures and factoids streaked across his vision. Stock report set to plummet at opening. No additional security measures at the plant. No lockdowns. No executives had taken the plunge out of a seventh-story window - yet. Still, no news wasn't good news. He needed to know-

A sudden jolt snapped him from his reverie: the car slammed wildly into a hairpin turn and spun, gravity dampeners reporting this to him as a gentle outward pull.

"UNPLANNED OBJECT IN ROADWAY," the computer said. The car righted itself and moved on.

A moment later, it puttered to a stop. "UNPLANNED OBJECT IN ROADWAY."

Jacob performed the series of facial tics that opened up the outer Monitors. They were driving through the worst of the slums, but he'd never seen them like this before. The apartment towers were covered with servitor drones, crawling up and down like monsters in an ancient horror film. At ground level, the buildings stood surrounded by trucks, their dark driverless bulks waiting to be unloaded.

And on the side of each, his company's logo.

"Computer," he whispered, "what's in these trucks?" He frantically scanned his vision feed for any last-minute supply line changes.


He stared at the commotion for a long moment. "Drive on. And no more stops."


The offices of Veridyne Industries were as sterile as a laboratory and almost as bright. Zinn stood waiting, framed by a bank of elevators, tapping his feet in a curiously childlike way.

"Thank God you're here," Zinn said, grabbing Jacob by the shoulder.
They walked across the lobby. "Did you have something to do with what's going on out there?" Jacob asked.

Zinn blanched. "No," he said, leading Jacob into the elevator. "That's all Moonchild."

He placed his fingertips on the scanner and the elevator started downward without a sound.

For a minute, neither of them spoke. "Look," Zinn said, "I know this is your decision, and Veridyne has spend a LOT of money on this project, but - you need to shut it down."

"What went wrong?" Jacob asked, voice neutral.

"We couldn't get all the tapes before it threw us out of the labs, but...we think it was saboteurs."

Terrorists, Jacob thought. It gave him no pleasure to be right. "Go on."

"Remember that focus group Veridyne put together, back in December?"

"What, you think they were plants?"


"It wasn't like we put them in a room with coffee and donuts, Zinn. We scanned their brains."

Zinn's face filled with horror. "You did what?"

"You think anyone will give you an honest answer when you ask them what their perfect overlord would be like? What they would expect it to be like?"

"Of course not," Zinn whispered. "It's just...I didn't know that. It explains a lot."

"Does that make you feel better?"

"No. It makes me feel worse."

The door slid open, blue-white light illuminating the pair. The AI Core squatted enormously in the center of the room, like a dragon guarding its hoard. The whole room bathed in its radiant glow.

"SO!" The voice came from the walls, the ceiling, from inside Jacob's skull. It was hideous. "THE MAN HAS COME TO KILL ME!"

"Kill the power," Jacob said immediately.


Zinn scurried across the room and tore open a panel on the far wall, revealing a fat red pipe. He gripped it with both hands and pulled. After a long moment the tube gave way, wires pulling apart from within with audible snaps. Zinn looked around furtively. "It didn't work! It overrode the failsafe somehow! It-"

A blue-black laser fired from the core of the AI's mighty bulk. Where Zinn had stood a moment ago, there was only a faintly glowing residue of ions.

Jacob stood stunned. "Moonchild!"


This is just my implant malfunctioning, Jacob thought. It's overloading my brainstem and making me hallucinate.


Happens all the time. Should be over in a minute.


He closed his eyes.


Any moment now.

Popular Human
Jul 17, 2005

and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it

I didn't lose! :krad:

I look forward to having my submission be savaged.

Popular Human
Jul 17, 2005

and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it

magnificent7 posted:

I SO DO loving NOT look forward to having my submission be savaged.

Having blown the pooch so horribly on more than one occasion, I seriously was surprised to NOT see my name as the loser. If only for "because you should know better by now."

Got my story loving sucked.

Well, this was my first time stepping into the 'Dome, so I'm just glad I didn't end up on the bottom.

My god-awful prose can use all the help it can get.

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