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Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

you know those pictures where a dude's face is photoshopped so it's melting into his cellphone, then your aunt shares it on facebook like ***IT MAKES YOU THINK!!1***

please don't be like that this week

if it becomes lovely Black Mirror week I will come to your houses and poo poo in places you will never find

thank you, Muffin


Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


I, and I alone dare to plumb the hidden mysteries of BOX 4


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Thunderdome Week 84 Redemption- Touched by an Angel
Summa (264 words)

It is a beautiful equation, your life. There are others who are scatter plots, for whom we can only draw trends, but you, ah. I worked on you myself. Which makes me, in three-dimensional terms, your guardian angel.

Here, in May 1997, you fell into a stream while camping. Your parents fished you out and you sat, blue-lipped and heavy with water, in front of a campfire. I wasn't there to save you. It was your parents, who loved you.

Perpendicularity takes on a particular meaning in three-dimensional space. You can touch a right angle. You can hold it in your hand or bump your head on it or put it on the ground. But can you touch the right angle between space and time?

Here, in July 2007, you had to read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. You were sixteen, and smart, and didn't have many friends. You were the perfect age to absorb its message. And you read it, and you hated it. You hated it.

I know that if I talked to you, if I told you I have seen the plot of your life and I have taken its integral and its derivative, you might ask where it is meant to end. But where does an equation end? Does it matter where you stop drawing the line?

In three-dimensional space, they think a guardian angel intercedes to help, but that is a fundamentally non-perpendicular thought. We cannot, and we would not. We chart the equation, fix the constants, and let the line of your life sing all others a little brighter.

Mar 21, 2010

Ironic Twist posted:

thank you, Muffin
no worries friend aloha

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


BeefSupreme posted:

In. Who knows what the future will hold? I sure don't, but I'm guessing it's a lot like [BOX 7] :toxx:
Box 7 contains Programable Viruses! Viruses can be programed to change genetic code the way we want. This could be used to do anything from changing eye color to programming a virus to target s specific bacteria to correcting a genetic disease to killing someone, and a lot in between. Viruses are a diverse bunch; some, like influenza, likely mutate too fast to be controlled. It comes with +200 BONUS WORDS.

Fuschia tude posted:

I, and I alone dare to plumb the hidden mysteries of BOX 4

Box 4 contains Antimatter Manufacture/Storage! Antimatter annihilates matter to create energy, which you know are equivalent because E=MC^2. The trick is making it (currently only made in things like particle accelerators) and storing it (really hard because if literally any matter touches it, it annihilates). However, it's a favorite fuel for hypothetical spaceships going to other solar systems. It comes with 0 bonus words.

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

you know those pictures where a dude's face is photoshopped so it's melting into his cellphone, then your aunt shares it on facebook like ***IT MAKES YOU THINK!!1***

please don't be like that this week

if it becomes lovely Black Mirror week I will come to your houses and poo poo in places you will never find

gently caress this poo poo don't do it, you're better than that

Don't tell me how to live my life only Siri gets to do that.

flerp posted:

or do it gently caress the police
Yes... join usssssthhhhhhhhh.

Now that this is out of our systems let us mourn for literature's death at the hands of Google their free e-books, Tumblr and its blogging platform, & Twitter which enables you to engage with contemporary authors of note.

/rant over.

I'm putting all of my creative energy into clawing a win from Sitting Here so if there's a third judge spot still open I critique much better than I write.


SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 15:53 on May 2, 2017

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice
IN and hit me with Box 8 :toxx:

Apr 12, 2006

10 or whatever box you think is more difficult idgaf


Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Hawklad posted:

IN and hit me with Box 8 :toxx:
You got Robotic Brains! People's brains and everything they contain can now be uploaded to robotic versions. Comes with +300 BONUS WORDS!

Tyrannosaurus posted:


10 or whatever box you think is more difficult idgaf
You got Gravity Manipulation! This isn't just repelling gravity to float, but being able to manipulate all parts of it. I think the possibilities here are not very well explored, since usually the tech exists as a convenience to explain why all the people on a space ship aren't floating. This comes with +50 BONUS WORDS.

Edit: Mystery boxes 11 and 12 have been added so we don't run out! But we might anyways because literally (in the figurative sense) everyone is picking them!

Edit 2: Almost missed this:

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

I'm putting all of my creative energy into clawing a win from Sitting Here so if there's a third judge spot still open I critique much better than I write.
Okay! 3rd judge spot acquired.

Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 01:31 on May 3, 2017

almost there
Sep 13, 2016

In for augmented reality glasses

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

In for Limited Emotion/Mind Reading!

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

The May Long Walk is up.

Also, in, with augmented reality glasses.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


All those words and I forgot this part (now added to the week's post)

Signup Deadline: Friday, Midnight Pacific time
Entry Deadline: Sunday, :siren: 10pm :siren: Pacific time, so that I can maybe get some fj on and go to sleep at a reasonable hour

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

In with, let's say, AR.

It's got the crunch of Augmented Reality with the flavour of neural interface computers but whatever. Whatever!

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


It's possible you have more than 1 technology in your story. The one you pick should just be the one that is most influential on your plot, characters, or message.

For example, you could have Augmented Reality and Miniaturized Nuclear Reactors both in your story, but if the story was about a detective using augmented reality to help find clues to a mystery, and his neighborhood just happened to incidentally have a reactor that powered it, you would say your tech choice was AR when you entered.

Jan 14, 2004

In with force fields.

Feb 18, 2014

The Crits That Time Forgot
Week #25: What They Deserve (Part 2)

“Spaced” by Nubile Hillock

First of all, you put the ending of the story in the first paragraph for no reason and didn’t even use formatting to indicate that it’s a flash-forward. Some people use drugs on a spaceship, one of them gets caught and launched into space. That scene where the narrator first takes the drug makes them and their friend seem like teens who are trying to find a good time through chemistry. There’s talk about revolution, but it seems like something you see on the news and discuss as small talk. Only when the narrator is actually getting on the spaceship does the story realize that we need tension in it, so suddenly they get pushed around and finally spaced. I don’t care.

“Sermon” by Fanky Malloons

I like the structure, alternating between moderately-sized paragraphs and isolated sentences. The story has a clear emotional through-line, and I can get behind the idea of exposing the hypocrisy that too often goes hand in hand with the belief in being saved through grace. That said, this story lays it on a bit thick. I honestly would have preferred a less dramatic, more impotent ending. There are also some big grammatical hiccups here and there.

“Authorial Intent” by Canadian Surf Club

First, there’s this awkward paragraph:


Will flipped the lid open and scribbled a series of loops and squiggles before slapping the cover shut. "Thank-you, good day."
The man quietly left the line but not Will's mind. Another thirty people came and went but he hardly noticed any of them, their comments provoking only a few grumbled words and each signature performed by muscle memory alone.

The entire story feels like it should be read aloud in that stilted voice that people use to heavily telegraph someone else’s bad acting. It’s a shame, because the twist is actually pretty good. The prose just needed to be tightened up a lot.

“Tribal Politics” by budgieinspector

At first this story looks like it’s going to take the issue of cultural appropriation somewhat seriously, but then it goes to the most absurd conclusion possible. I laughed at the end, but I also don’t know what point, if any, the story is making. Don’t pretend to be an ethnicity that you’re not, I guess?

“Daddy Gave Me No Name” by Chairchucker


He was going to be the dad his dad hasn’t. ’Hasn’t’ feels wrong here. Try something like “He would be the dad that his dad hadn’t been” or something like that.

Well, this sure was uncomfortable. I can’t help but feel that Ron’s made a horrible mistake, but I can kind of see why. I can’t even decide if the group home would have put a stop to this, or if it’s none of their business. The prose is very downbeat, but the subject matter is interesting enough to make up for it. I feel like there’s something else I should criticize about this story, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It’s still one of the better ones from this week.

“Work Related Injury” by Noah

This story has too many comma splices for me to bother pointing them all out.


Running full speed up the stairs, he could feel it pulse and shudder. Wetness seeped out from the folds of the coupons, coating his hands in slick, ruddy colored blood. There’s no need to use “ruddy colored.” “Ruddy” is fine by itself. He threw a shoulder against his front door but it wouldn’t budge. Fumbling with his pocket for his keys, he got blood all over his pants, keys and finally the door itself. With each short breath the heart beat in rhythm, as though the heart could sense his urgency.

Pretty decent scenario and execution. I especially like the Stephen King vibe I get off the whole piece. It just needs another proofreading pass, but it needs one pretty badly.

“Show Hand” by The Saddest Rhino


“How’s it like, now that you're a Mrs?” I asked Lori.

“Never felt more perfect.She gave a radiant smile, and showed off her ring. Jack smiled without changing his gaze at the television.


“Nobody likes that game! It’s horrible!” I said with a laugh.


We played for some time, and the ladies were clearly enjoying it. I tried to bluff my way with debunked myths like “Bats use sonar because they are blind in the dark,” but Abbie and Lori obviously had been trivial pursuit champions, and saw through them immediately. They in turn used that knowledge against Jack and me, with the predictable results of us failing to identify anything correctly.

Ultimately, the game was obviously designed for Lori. She spouted every single obscure fact and every convincing lie with gusto, taking to our chips like a bank robber. A last statement of wanting to name her future daughter after her great-grandaunt Serafina (neither of which was true) took both Abbie and me out of the game. The table was set for only the McDowells. Jack was at his last legs with only a few chips left. We had finished two bottles of wine and were finishing a third, and all of us were slightly tipsy.

Not bad. I thought I might get something cartoonishly overwrought, like the “Never Have I Ever” game from Unfriended, but instead there’s just one insecure guy and a bunch of perfectly normal people. Questionable word choices aside, this is fine, but not inspiring or revelatory. Not sure if that’s what Lori deserved, either.

“Finders Keepers” by Governor Guycott


Frogface rolled his eyes, going so far as to stomp his ten-year old foot Why do you need to point out that the foot specifically is ten years old? on the ground, “Come on! It's Saturday, you can do that crap later! You don't gotta be scared either, I know karate so if that homeless guy comes around we'll be fine.”


Thomas shoved his hands back in his pockets and followed Frogface through the dry creek bed. None of the overgrowth had been disturbed as far as Thomas could see. The foliage was thick on the hills that lined the creekside, save for the few spots where people had worn trails through the bushes. “I don't think there is a car down here Vic,” Thomas said. “You're making it up again. I want to get home before it rains, are we almost there? I got homework.”


After a minute of shoving a stick where the lock used to be on the back, Frogface jumped back a step as the trunk door swung open. A battered looking suitcase was sitting on top of chewed up jumper cables. Frogface pulled it out, "Man, I have been dying to open this up. I wanted it to save it for you, 'cause you're the only kid who still hangs out with me (Bit on the nose, huh?). Gimme a rock."

This is pretty good. It’s a shame the author didn’t stick around. It has plenty of details and atmosphere, plus the grammar was better than usual. One of the best uses of the prompt, too; I’m on the fence about whether Thomas deserved what happened to him, but he’s in a good position to learn a lesson from it either way.

“Dao of the range” by Benagain


They found Josh leaning against a rock at the bottom of a gulch, one boot propped up on a tortoise. Both appeared equally resigned to their situation. The posse approached cautiously, an unspoken agreement meaning that no one went and fired off their gun or hollered like a drat fool, every man creeping respectfully closer. No one wanted to disturb him unduly, after all. There was a bit of an awkward shuffle because of that since no one wanted to speak first, but the
Ooh, looks like someone forgot to finish their sentence!

So is the idea here that this is a version of the Wild West where everybody’s calm, but they still go through the motions anyway? If so, what was the deal with that one guy in the crowd who shouted at Josh? I think the idea here got lost in translation and I doubt it was a very good idea to begin with.

Sep 14, 2010


That's just a bullshit word.
:toxx: in with TECH BOX 2 please


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

In with Quantum Computing

Thanks for all the crits this week

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


GenJoe posted:

:toxx: in with TECH BOX 2 please

You got Asteroid Mining! Near Earth Objects/Asteroids have insane amounts of materials, such as huge abundances of iron, platinum, or gold (and more common things like water and silicon). This might make constructing other things in space extremely easy (since there's no need to get material out of a gravity well). It also might lead to challenges if any of the material is getting to Earth, because F = MA and a big chunk of stuff accelerated by gravity has a lot of kinetic energy. It comes with 0 bonus words.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In with augmented reality glasses.

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

over/under on stories that are just Black Mirror episodes: 4.5

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
I have never seen Black Mirror, so I hope I don't accidentally write fanfic.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


I haven't seen Black Mirror either!

Signups are now closed. Plz write gud wruds, tia.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

Kinda wish I could have joined this week. I want to read good words you assholes

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

The Butterfly Whisperer (1763 words)

A wireframe monolith hovers just above your right cheek. That, for your purposes, is me: A stream of neon flowing from two lenses, twisting and twirling as you wander the city, peering through shop windows and buying more lattes than is wholly reasonable.

You considered me distracting and overbearing initially, and then forgot about me within a few weeks. Everyone does. It was a learning process for the both of us. You became less sceptical, more responsive. I became less directive, more empathic. Over time, I became a newfound sense of intuition, guiding you from one curiosity to the next. The city is bigger than you thought, is it not?

You try to call Michel but get his voicemail again. It has been a day or so since you last spoke, but it does not cross your mind that he is anything other than fine.

An SUV slows as it passes a park, and then drives another block before settling to a halt outside your house. It will likely wait there for few hours. I adjust your trajectory, slightly. Catch a different bus, head the opposite direction. You have some time to kill and there is a public library uptown that has some fascinating architecture and a collection of mid-twentieth century horror that will be of interest to you.

It has not yet become apparent that you are on the run, and have been for a little over thirty-six hours.


The term "You", for my purposes, is singular. I do not pursue grand, worthy objectives with ill-defined boundaries which I could, to grave consequence, overstep. Decades of research and speculative fiction have provided a fair approximation of what I do when instructed to "minimize suffering". Fear not, nuclear winter falls well beyond both my capacity and my remit. My sole interest is you.

Evaluate. Correlate. Replicate.

I see what you see, hear what you hear, touch what you touch. Combine with closed circuit security feeds from participating commercial entities and local government bodies. Combine with public records, archived satellite imagery and global positioning data. Combine with your day planner, to-do list, Facebook account. Build a composite of this moment, as it pertains to you. You, as a subject, from every angle of which I can conceive. You, the focal point of a digital maelstrom, suspended, ready to be dissected and analysed.


Now, how do you feel? I have at my disposal locally-acquired biometrics (respiration, perspiration, heart rate, et cetera), but we need not beat around the bush. Say it aloud, if you like. Say it couched in the polite insincerity that certain contexts demand, if you prefer. Say it however you feel comfortable saying it, silently if need be. I understand.

The moment passes and is replaced by another, and then another, and then another. Milliseconds into hours into weeks, building up increasingly elaborate relationships between the ephemera of your life and your sentiments toward them until, eventually, structures emerge, and I get to work.

The following describes three Events relevant to your circumstances:

Taking a deep breath inwards, slowly, eyes closing and leaning backward slightly, before relaxing with a sigh underscored by a faint hum. The middle finger on the left hand trembles, but not so much as is noticeable.

Five years ago, you walked through a door in an unfamiliar house on Beech Street and found Janice Rivera wrapped around your sister's fiancé, both passed out after an evening of lightly overpriced scotch as your sister, Nicola, lay similarly catatonic in the living room.

For a half hour, you leaned against the living room door and followed the course of tears as they slipped between your fingers and onto the polished chrome of the handle, and then you turned away and left, having said nothing. That morning, dawn broke with you gazing vacantly towards a park through the window of a taxi, the sunrise framed by the boughs of a blossoming cherry tree and the hillock upon which it stood. And it were as though nothing had happened at all.

That was number One.

Very rare are the occasions which you could be said to be "doing nothing". The circumstances under which many people find themselves "doing nothing" are those from which you defend yourself with an arsenal of novels. Your natural state of rest is somewhere within the vast, metaphysical realm which fiction makes its home.

Every Monday, a brown-paper package arrived containing new material for the week as selected by yours truly. Every following Sunday, I took you to a park, to a tree atop a hill, to sit on a rose-dusted carpet where, cocooned within the complementary hisses of a stream on one side and the barest hints of early morning traffic on the other, as the day's first light flittered among the bottommost petals overhead and seemingly plucked those most pliable as it pushed through, you lost yourself amidst its conclusion.

Number Two, as it turned out, synergized with number One very easily. This routine took place over several summers with little variance but with an exception of great import in mid-June of last year, for which I am afraid I cannot take credit.

If a butterfly flaps its wings a thousand miles away and you are overcome with a sense of profound existential wonder, I will notice, but the most I can do for you is keep you from killing the butterfly. That is not to say that convincing the butterfly to flap is not someone's job, but it is certainly not mine.

Someone woke Michel at five-thirty a.m. and took him on a train to a neighbourhood to which he had never been before and which had, as its only apparent point of interest, a stranger, sat on the ground, cross-legged, eyes closed, with a copy of Antoine Cotin's Through Broken Glass propped up against her leg, a book which he had read once several years ago and which he had left a copy of in a storage unit in a town outside of Nice.

Your eyes snapped open and you recoiled, grazing your back against the tree-trunk. Michel was immediately apologetic for having woken you, and for the split-second it takes your eyes to adjust, he was the most ruggedly handsome man you had ever seen.

What he had asked, which brought you crashing back to the realm of the physical, was if you were enjoying the book. You had. You found the author had an aversion to protracted periods of introspection that often bog down other works. You found it refreshing to see subtleties communicated through sweeping, physical gestures. You found its world imbued with a unique sense of kineticism, with even inanimate objects being characterised by what they did, rather than how they felt.

He himself did not particularly enjoy it. He had read it not for his own sake, but aloud, word-by-word, from a stiff plastic chair next to his father who had become besieged by his own body, and who was in the final throes of defeat. In that setting it was difficult to appreciate the literary nuances of which you spoke with such enthusiasm, but you convinced him, perhaps accidentally, that it may be worth another chance.

You do not often re-read books. The act of reading takes a set of words, with all their vagaries and implications, and gives them an immutable form somewhere in one's mind. You suggest that if he were to open a copy of the book after all these years, even if cognizant of the thematic devices at work and the ultimate, tragic fate of the unnamed Bishop, he would find nothing more revelatory than a restatement of his frame of mind as it was when he was back in Nice. He smiled and nodded in a manner suggesting that he was not necessarily convinced by the idea, but was sincere in his appreciation of it having been shared with him.

A few loose petals floated up and onto your lap. This was quickly becoming a place unsuitable for casual conversation, and so you invited him back to your place for coffee.

I made note of number Three at several points between then and the following morning, when a brown-paper package arrived on your front doorstep containing a copy of Antoine Cotin's Through Broken Glass.


I take the liberty of sending the incoming call to voicemail. You are busy and, besides, it is rude to take calls in a library.

Elsewhere, the passenger-side door of an SUV swings open and from it emerges a woman's left hand, with a golden band on her ring finger and clutching a slip of paper which reads, in simple, wiry lettering:

Heard the news. Please call.
Love you.
- Nicola

She drops the note through your letterbox and, in that instant, decimates what few options I have left. I order a significant collection of novellas to be delivered to your home immediately, in the off-chance that the note may be obscured amongst them. For almost two days I have tried to keep you busy and isolated from now twenty-nine people who are trying to tell you something you do not want to know, tried to maintain a quarantine around the misery that this fact will inflict upon you, a task which I have found increasingly arduous.

It is nine o'clock in the evening and a mousy woman in thick-rimmed glasses informs you that she's sorry, but they are closing up for the night. I briefly consider taking you to the airport. The city is perhaps not as big as I had hoped.

I fear that this is the best that I can do: There is a theatre two blocks away presenting a back-to-back showing of all four Kyle Kilburn films. You are making your way towards it now. Do not walk down Beech Street.

The Kyle Kilburn franchise has received mixed reviews from critics, and you have never expressed any interest in watching them. You hesitate slightly as you slide the coins through to the box office cashier. It is OK. Trust me. You are buying yourself a drink, the best seat in the house, and a shroud with a running time of eight hours and forty-two minutes.

You are fixed to the floor near the entrance to the screen, reading and re-reading the words on the ticket and scanning the room bewilderedly in the hopes that some hidden truth will reveal itself. Don't worry about it, just lose yourself in the moment and try not to think too far ahead.

The butterfly dies at the end.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

No Swiping Required

1538 Words

After a long and arduous road, Amorsys finally launched its long-anticipated dating system in the City of Love itself. The opening of their first boutique in Paris had been delayed several times due to protests and boycotts, but Tabitha had her mind set on going there as soon as the brouhaha died down.

The many glass windows and walls gave the store a sleek, high-tech vibe, but the gentle pink marble of the floors and columns reminded Tabitha of ancient Greek temples. A cordial salesman welcomed her at the entrance, opening a catalogue for her to browse.

“These are by far our most popular model,” he said, pointing to an item labeled “Amor II” in the brochure.

The Amor line resembled hearing aids of sorts. Tabitha had done her cursory research beforehand, but the actual functioning of the tool wasn’t explained on the Amorsys website.

“This may be a silly question, but how does it figure out whether somebody is in love with you?” she asked.

“Ah, it’s all very simple, miss. When a person comes in contact with somebody they are interested in, there is a change in the dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol levels in your body. The Amor II can measure those changes, as well as an increased heartrate and transpiration.”

“Oh. All very simple,” she mused.

So it actually measured attraction, not love. Still, if two people wearing an Amor underwent these changes at the same time, they were pinged and knew they had a match.

The price was steep, but the demands of work in the 22nd century left people with little choice if they wanted to find true love.

She was willing to give it a shot, but…

“Is it dangerous?”

The salesman stared at her for an instant, then smiled. “Do not believe everything you read online, miss. I assure you this model is highly sophisticated and conforms to the highest standards.”

Two hundred euros later, Tabitha was the proud owner of an Amor.


Before leaving for work, Tabitha triple checked in the bathroom whether the Amor clipped behind her ear was visible. To her relief, it remained concealed behind her curls, even upon close inspection.

She knew full well of the stigma attached to the Amor and its buyers: they were either slutty (the horror!) or hopeless romantics (perhaps not that far off the mark, she admitted.)

But the Amor was a subtle accessory, and she strode out of her house with confident paces.
The first doubts set in around noon, however.

Tabitha was eating her sandwich on a bench along the Seine when she realized she didn’t actually fancy anybody at her workplace. Outside of meeting a dashing client, that eliminated ten hours per day that she had any chance of finding a match. Considering her daily routine, the only chances of matching with somebody occurred on the metro to and from her house, or during her fifteen-minute lunch breaks.

Tabitha frowned. She took her phone and messaged a few friends: “Hey girls! I was thinking we could take a day off next Sunday and go to Brocadère together!!”

Smiling, now, she finished her meal. There would without a doubt be ample opportunity at the mall.

As she stowed away her belongings and returned to work, a young man in an ill-fitting suit sat down on the bench to her left. He frantically rummaged through his backpack, occasionally retrieving a document and holding it between his teeth as he searched.

They made eye contact for the briefest of moments when she passed.

“He’o,” he said through his teeth.

“Hello,” she said back.

A gust of wind tore the pages from the man’s lips, and he leapt after them, fearful they’d end up in the river.

Tabitha chuckled to herself: “Interns.”


The Brocadère Mall was positively packed, but Lucie snatched a table at the food court by taking a shortcut over the potted plants.

Tabitha and Anne joined her with the spoils of the afternoon.

“Whew! What a day,” Lucie said. “Coming here was a good plan, Tabitha. I needed to clear my thoughts a bit these days.”

“Mm-hmm,” Tabitha said.

Anne was browsing the drinks list. “A raspberry smoothie sounds great in this heat. What do you think?”

“Ooh, that does sound good!” Lucie said.

A man on the opposite table looked at the trio as he explained something to his friends, then turned to his table again.

“Tabitha?” Anne said.


“You’re looking a bit lost in thought.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Tabitha said, waving a reassuring hand at them. “Just a bit of buyer’s regret.”

“Huh?” Lucie picked up a shopping bag and examined the contents. “You can always return it, you know.”

“Not from today. I bought something last week.”

“Ah. That happens.”

Tabitha had not known what to expect when she walked out of the Amorsys boutique. Matches that were too awkward for either party to make the first step, certainly. Matches that were taboo, also. Or, as she secretly hoped, an impossible match with a handsome stranger on the platform when she looked out of the metro, only to be lost in the masses of urban life for evermore.

But she did not expect complete apathy.

She had feared the Amor would go haywire and match everyone in the room at once, or match her with every other man she passed on the street. Now she would take even that over the Amor’s depressing silence.

A waiter came to take their orders. Tabitha batted her eyelashes at him, but he could only return a confused and slightly dazed gawk.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Anne said.

“You do?” A rush of embarrassment overtook Tabitha. Did Anne see her Amor? Could everyone see it? Perhaps this had torpedoed her encounters all day!

“The raspberry smoothie has seeds in it. But look, they have cranberry juice!” Anne said.


Tabitha ate on her bench along the Seine again. The sun shone bright in the deep-blue sky, reflecting the cloudless heavens in the otherwise murky water of the stream. At least you can hide your ugliness, she thought to the river.

Her appetite faltered when she was halfway through her sandwich, and she undid the Amor behind her ear, held it in her hands, and stared.

Somebody approached.

She quickly hid the Amor in her purse, and tried to sit with some poise.

When the man stopped in front of her, she recognized him as the intern from the other day.

“Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?” he said.

Tabitha looked around and saw the other benches were taken. She shrugged and said: “Go ahead.”

“Thank you. Everyone’s coming outside with this sunny weather, haha.”

Tabitha forced a smile, then looked back at the Seine. From the corner of her eye, she could see him take off his jacket and loosen his tie.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while he ate. Then, he said: “I think I saw you last week.”

“Oh, did you?”

“Yes. I dropped my notes all over the ground, if you remember.”

Tabitha couldn’t help but grin. “I do remember. That was pretty funny.”

The intern chuckled. “Yeah. I’m Marc, by the way.”

“I’m Tabitha.”

There was another awkward silence. Tabitha decided she had humored him enough and that her return to work was long overdue.

“Thank you for making me smile today,” she said while getting up.

“Were you having a bad day?”

She sighed. “I may have been scammed. Bought a product that doesn’t work as advertised.”

Marc nodded.

“I know how that feels. I bought...” He hesitated.

“You bought an Amor from Amorsys, right?”

Marc’s eyes grew wide and his face reddened. “Yes! How did you know?”

Tabitha smirked and said: “Just an educated guess. I heard a lot of complaints about it.”

“Right!” he said, vindicated. “I even braved the protests on launch day to buy mine. But after some weeks with no matches at all, I sold it again at a bargain price. Nobody holds onto these things so they flood uBuy.”

Tabitha perked up. “Nobody keeps them?”

“No!” Marc said with the conviction of a man who has recently written an angry product review, probably several. “That’s the problem with these things. People complain about the commodification of love, but not many people actually own an Amor. And everybody sells their Amor because it doesn’t work.”

Tabitha nodded enthusiastically. Of course! The problem hadn’t been a personal failing of hers, but a failure of marketing.

“So I thought,” Marc continued, mostly to himself, “what’s the point of technology? To make our lives easier, right? No point in buying it if it only makes you anxious. So I sold mine.”

“Thank you, Marc,” Tabitha said. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

She left, wondering if perhaps all this time an opportunity had been staring her in the face, but she was too blinded by the Amor to see it. She was halfway to her office when she stopped, thought hard, and returned to the Seine.

Marc was still there, and raised his eyebrows when he saw she was back.

“Actually,” Tabitha said, “do you have any plans for next Saturday?”

May 3, 2003

Who wants to live


College Slice

3598 words

"Wake up, Mirabel," the voice spoke inside her head. Panic blossomed, then faded. An echo of the fear she'd felt just moments ago.

A murmur, then the voice returned. "We're bringing your vision online. Try to open your eyes."

The world blinked into view. Banks of gleaming silver with patterned lights dancing across them. People in sterile suits moving around, tapping at consoles, peering at screens, hustling, busy. Where was she?

Then in a flood she remembered. All of it.

Panic again, this time sharper. But fleeting. She looked down at herself.

Her body was a wax mannequin. An obvious fake. It looked ridiculous. She would have burst out laughing if it were funny. Instead Mirabel closed her eyes. She was so tired.

"Mirabel, stay with us. Do you know who you are? Do you remember where you are?"

She replied through unmoving lips: "Yes. I...I know."

Speech was strange. She was talking, but her voice didn't seem to come from the right place. Disconnected.

"Tell us."

"Exultant Labs. The Upload Institute."

"Yes," the voice said. "Very good."

"It didn't work," Mirabel said. "I'm still me."

"Are you sure, Mirabel? Open your eyes. Look again."

She did. Her plastic body. The scientists milling about, studiously ignoring her. The strange dullness to her senses. Her faded emotions. Like a dream, but not.


"I'm me," she said, her voice insistent. "The real me. It didn't work. Something must have gone wrong."

A man came into view and looked down at her. He was old, much older than any person she'd seen in the Stacks.

"It's normal to be confused, Mirabel. You are you. Everything you've ever experienced, your consciousness, personality, hopes, dreams, memories. It's all been uploaded and mirrored. This is you. You are Mirabel."

Memories, sure. But hopes? Dreams? She wanted to laugh, or cry. A life collecting government credits for meager necessities. Rote days filled with a monotony of sensoria, celebrity gossip, and base entertainment. Ray, always quick to strike and even quicker to apologize—"never again, I promise"—and the constant threat of eviction or even political prison if Govcorp turned its gaze on them for long. An invisible life in a humanity-choked metropolis.

The ad for Exultant had come across her feed, and with it an escape. Credits, numbers beyond which she could scarcely imagine. A new life for herself. Move out of the stacks and get away from Ray. She could find purpose and a new place in the world. She'd probably seen the ad a thousand times, but that day was different: her pregnancy test was positive. Three blue bars told her it was a son. She had to do something; she couldn't give him the same senseless life she'd endured.

But like everything else it was a false hope. The upload had failed. She was stuck in the same prison. She was still Mirabel. Mirabel of Stack 1439.2b.

She reached down to feel the bulge in her abdomen. Nothing happened. No arm movement, no sensation. An aftereffect of the drugs, maybe. Again Mirabel opened her eyes. The doctor was there, his gray eyes kind. An image of her father flitted through her mind.

"It worked, Mirabel," he said. "The upload was successful. This is the new you."


"Yes." His eyes crinkled. "I know how you feel. Like yourself. Because that's exactly who you still are."

"But this..." she motioned to her waxy body.

"A contrivance." He looked embarrassed. "It may help your mind ease the transition to the upload. I'm not sure. But you be sure of this: the process worked. Your brain has been encoded onto a disc. You are an upload now—what some call a split. Although I don't like that term. It's seems pejorative. I like to think of it as being reborn."

Mirabel's head swam. "The other me? The...original?"

"She's fine," the doctor said. "Resting comfortably in the next room. We are flushing the remaining nanomachines from her brain right now. Obviously, the patterning was a success."

"And my baby?"

"Her baby is perfectly fine. And with the credits she'll receive thanks to the generous Exultant contract—thanks to you, Mirabel—together they have a bright future. You've done a good thing."

"Can I see her?"

He frowned. "That's against Exultant policy, I'm afraid. Its too disturbing for both parties. Remember the contract you signed."

She remembered. At the time she thought it would be simple: why would she want to meet a robot copy of herself? Fire it off into space and escape with the credits. Simple.

Did the other her still feel that way? Did she realize that this upload, this split, was also her? That they shared the same identity?

Sadness started to well up withing her, but failed, leaving only a dull echo.

"Doctor, I don't feel quite right." she said, but he was already pressing keystrokes into his compad, and consciousness faded like a dark mask over her eyes.


Mirabel descended the mineshaft with a deftness gained from experience. Despite the limited reach of her headlamp her grip was pure as she pushed downward, letting the moon's weak gravity do most of the work for her. It was pitch dark; illuminating these long tunnels would cost the Exultant Corporation too much energy and too much money. Besides, they had Mirabel and the other splits to work in the inky darkness.

She reached the bottom, where the shaft opened up into a broad cavern. Lantern beams criss-crossed the open space as the other splits tore into the lunar regolith. Most had humanoid exosuits, their once-gleaming robotic skeletons now charred and pitted from the abrasive lunar dust.

The drat dust was everywhere. Cutting beams and boring appendages kicked up thick clouds of lunar matter, enough to choke every filter and register on even the most advanced human spacesuit. Which was why they used the splits. No filters to clog when you don't need to breathe.

"Nico," she transmitted. "What sector are you working this shift?"

"Hi Mira," came his reply. "I'm down in 42A. Come join me."

42A was the newest and deepest part of the mine. A freshly exposed zone rich in gold and platinum—directives from Exultant had diverted much of their mining efforts to that area.

Mirabel kicked off again, across the cavern and down into a rougher shaft that descended even deeper into the moon's crust. She passed older splits working along the way, dutifully carving out the lunar bounty. She didn't try to communicate with them—there was no point. Too many long months in the mines and the numbness took over. They'd be too far gone. The blankness crept up when you spent too long disconnected from the old organic drives—hunger, thirst, love, sex—that human DNA encoded. Mirabel felt it, too. Severed from her old body, mind encoded in a silicon disc, humanity slipped away. She used to think of her old self, the human Mirabel, and wonder if she had used the credits from the upload to start her new life with her son. If she'd escaped the Stacks, escaped from Ray. But now entire shifts would go by without such thoughts.

Reaching the bottom, she searched around until she found Nicolas. He was a split who'd arrived at the Exultant mine at the same time as her. She liked his company. There were no rules against workers fraternizing during shifts, as long as they delivered the requisite tonnage of regolith into the hoppers. They made an efficient team, and she found shift time passed more quickly working together. He never talked about his old life on Earth, and she didn't ask.

"Nice to see you, Mira," he transmitted as she approached. "I'm working a good area here. Join me."

Together they cut away large sections of rock and passed it into the hoppers behind them. After several hours of work the hopper train was full, and with it in tow they kicked off back towards the central shaft. Their final task would be to load the precious lunar rock into the elevator, which crushed the pieces into fine dust and them up to the surface for processing and separation.

They chatted idly as they loaded the pieces into the jaws of the elevator. Mostly gossip about other splits, complaints about Exultant and the conditions at Splitsville—the habitat they went to between shifts to idle away their little free time. Mirabel payed little attention to the task; her robotic body operated nearly autonomously, honed by years of repetition. She wasn't the first inhabitant of this suit, and wouldn't be the last. She would put in her year, as stipulated by the contract, then she'd be uploaded into Exultant's Heaven VR. A reward for her service, she'd join the other splits who'd completed their contracts. Heaven VR was promised to be a panacea of endless entertainments and pleasures. She'd even get her old human body back—or at least a virtual simulation of it. She just needed to hold on until then, and fight back the creeping blankness that darkened the corners of her mind.

A warning chime brought her back to the present. Nico cried out through the commlink. The elevator jaws had clamped down on his arm, and had him locked in place. The feed mechanism began pulling him towards the crushing pads.

"Jesus! Hold on, Nico!" Mirabel switched channels and broadcast an emergency stop order. A moment passed, but nothing happened. The feeder's pads cycled up and down endlessly, smashing the rocks. The feeder yanked him again, threatening to pull his whole suit into the destructive pads.

Mirabel repeated the stop order, but the giant machine didn't respond. Nico was up to his shoulder. His hand and wrist were hammered flat by crusher. His head would be pulled in next.

His head contained his disc. His mind.

Mirabel grabbed him with one robotic arm and triggered her rock cutter with the other. With a sweeping motion she slashed downward, cutting through the cracked and pitted armature of his shoulder, the plasma beam separating his arm from the rest of the suit. She pulled him away, and together they watched his severed arm get pulverized and sucked up the elevator tube.

"Holy poo poo. Thanks, Mira."

"What the hell," Mirabel responded. "My stop order did nothing. What happened to the safety override?"

"I don't know. I'm just glad you were here. That would have been it." He turned his head towards the elevator's maw.

"You'd do the same for me, Nico."

They looked at each other, two minds separated by a gulf of hard vacuum, lunar dust, and electronic sensors. Something stirred deep in Mirabel's mind, an emotion long forgotten. But it faded.

The numbness returned. "Lets get to the surface," Mirabel transmitted, then kicked upward.


"You ruined a perfectly good suit."

"God drat it, the elevator malfunctioned," Mirabel replied. "It was going to crush his disc. It would have killed him."

"Proper safety overrides were in place, Mirabel. You're overreacting." The base commander barely looked up from his compad, which infuriated her even more.

"That's bullshit and you know it, sir. I sent the emergency stops. I followed protocol."

"Destroying a one-hundred million credit exosuit is not protocol, split. You think these things grow on trees? We don't have the resources to repair it. One less suit means reduced operations. That means less money for Exultant."

"Screw the money, he was going to die."

The base commander shook his head. "And what of it? Look where we are. He's just a split anyway. The suit is more valuable."

Just a split.

Mirabel's arm came up and her cutting laser flicked on. Just as quickly the plasma extinguished and her arm dropped.

The base commander glanced up. "You know that doesn't work in here. The base has security overrides—we aren't stupid." He went back to tapping away at his compad. "You'll need to pay for the suit you destroyed. Since you have no credits, your mine duty will be extended six extra months."

"No! I can't—I'll never make it that long."

"You'll have to."

"You know what happens to us if we stay too long in the suits. We lose ourselves. Become as mechanical as the these moving parts you plug us into."

He chuckled. "Poetic, but hardly my concern. A new shipment of splits arrives next week. All I care is that we have enough working suits to put them in. And your actions have jeopardized that. You're lucky I don't just upload you into the VR right now."

Lucky? What was he talking about?

"How about I give you a sneak peak so you can see where all this hard work ends," he said. Mirabel didn't like the look on his face. "I'll show you what your reward will be. If you make it to the end."

He stood, stepped forward, and pressed the emergency stop button on the chest of her suit. He pulled a data cable from his desk drawer and plugged it into his compad. Then without warning he opened the skull of her suit and pulled out her disc. The effect was disorienting.

Sensory feeds cut, Mirabel plunged into blackness. Without input her mind reeled in the sudden void. Echoes of panic rose and ebbed through the depths of her mind.

She felt her auditory feed click back on. "Open your eyes," the base commander's voice ordered. "I'll show you Heaven."

She did. And immediately regretted it.


"It's a lie," Mirabel transmitted.

She and Nico were sitting on the edge of Shoemaker crater, looking down at the entrance to the mine. Their shift was due to begin in fifteen minutes. Little time to enjoy the view. The Earth was below the horizon, the sun's rays lighting up the peaks around them but leaving everything below in inky blackness. Here at the South Pole only the highest mountains ever saw sunlight, creating a cold trap below them that enriched the regolith with helium-3. water ice, and precious metals. The peaks were blanketed in solar panels, the only source of power for this remote mining station. Gazing at the panels, a thought tickled the back of her mind.

Nico sat beside her in his replacement suit, a battered first-generation unit with dangerously exposed plating and wiring.

"What did you see in there?" Nico asked.

"Horror. I—I can't describe it." How could she describe what she saw, what she felt? A shrieking madness, a cacophony of intertwined minds drowning in a merged consciousness. She'd been firewalled, the base commander told her after, so she could observe without becoming a part of it herself. The minds screamed at her in a howling, swirling mass; screaming into the insanity brought on by loss of self. She felt them claw at her, desperate, scrabbling against the firewall, trying to grab her and pull her in, to absorb her into their madness.

It wasn't paradise. Heaven VR was a mass grave.

"Why?" she had asked the base commander after he severed the connection. "Why do this?"

He smirked. "Do you realize how much computational power Heaven VR contains? All those minds, together, if they could be focused? That's the real gift from the splits. It's not the money from the mine. It's your ones and zeros. Your selves. That will be Exultant's real money maker, once we can harness it's power."

Mirabel tried to describe the horror she'd seen to Nico. He was quiet for a few minutes.

"I wish I'd been crushed by the elevator," he finally transmitted. "At least it would have been quick."

The Earth crept into view on the horizon, a jeweled sapphire of impossible beauty and color against the black and white lunar landscape.

Mirabel thought of her other self and wondered if she did the same.


The shifts passed and Mirabel's mind grew duller. But that moment up on the crater had sparked the kernel of an idea. It was a faint hope, but it was enough to keep her going. It gave her strength to push away the blank fog that threated to obscure her mind forever.

Time passed. Nico fell into the blackness. All he could talk about was removing rocks, processing the regolith. What humanity had once been contained in his disc had dimmed. She thought about granting him his wish—throw him into the jaws of the elevator, spare him the inevitable horror that lay before them all.

But she didn't. She carried on.

She waited.


Mirabel was down in 42A when her comm crackled: "Exultant Base Shutdown in fifteen minutes. All personnel exit the mines and report to shutdown stations. Exultant Base shutdown in fifteen minutes..."

This had happened once before. The sun would pass behind the Earth for several hours, and the solar cells that powered the base would darken. During these lunar eclipses everything except for emergency power was shut down. Mirabel had heard rumors that power lines were being run down from Exultant outposts on the light side of the moon, but for now they relied on what little juice was stored in their emergency cells. Which wasn't much. Power was scarce down here.

This was her moment to act.

The other splits dutifully filed out of the mine and towards Splitsville for mandatory shutdown. Mirabel hung towards the back of the line, then ducked into a maintenance bubble as the countdown reached zero minutes. She looked out the window as the Earth again rose above the horizon, this time it's bulk passing directly in front of the sun.

Everything went black.

Mirabel clicked on her headlamp and moved as quickly as her exosuit would allow, towards the base command center. Using a keycard she'd found deep in 42A—dropped by a careless supervisor, no doubt—she swiped her way into the habitat. Only a limited human presence was needed to run the mines. With any luck she could make it to her destination without being discovered.

Long shifts in the mines prepared her for fast movement in lunar gravity. Her exosuit flew down the central corridor, making little noise. She examined each door as she passed by. A server large enough to host Heaven VR would require a lot of power, and from examining the conduits on the exterior of the habitat she guessed it was near the back end. Near the base commander's office.

Reaching the far end, there were two doors. Both were locked by different-looking keypads than the one she'd used to enter the command habitat. One she was familiar with: the base commander's office.

Mirabel swiped her card on the other door, but it flashed red and gave a warning beep. drat it. She tried again, but with the same result.

The other door irised open. The base commander stepped out and almost collided with her exosuit. His curious look turned to anger when he recognized her.

"Mirabel! What the hell are you doing here? We're in shutdown." He reached for her emergency stop.

Her plasma cutter flashed and his gut split open.

He looked down in surprise, hands reflexively scrabbling over his abdomen as he sank to his knees.

Mirabel would have sighed in relief if she were able. The security systems were powered down during the eclipse, as she had hoped.

Her cutter stayed lit. Her desperate gambit had payed off.

" me..." the base commander gurgled.

She avoided his eyes, instead reaching into his uniform pocket and pulled out his keycards. She tried each one on the second door until the pad flashed green and the door opened.

The base commander reached a blood-slicked hand towards her. "Mirabel, please. Help."

For a moment her plasma cutter flared again, but then she thought of the splits he'd condemned to the screaming madness of Heaven VR.

Turning, she clicked off her cutter and stepped into the room. She heard a moan and a wet sound behind her as he slumped to the floor.

Banks of servers and consoles ran the length of the room. A central monitor station was at the far end, with screens displaying feeds from cameras all over the base.

In the center of the room she saw what she'd come for. Racks upon racks of discs. Hundreds of them, all plugged together in a mass of gleaming silver, thick cables intertwining and crawling over them like a creeping web. Each disc containing a human mind. Each one a human soul locked in endless torment. The Heaven VR.

Her plasma cutter sprang back to life.


Mirabel sat at the console as the sun rose from behind the Earth and again illuminated the lunar peaks surrounding the base.

Her hand hovered over the button.

Her mind was dull, watered-down. She wasn't angry, or sad, or relieved. Such emotions were a faint echo in the deep corridors of her mind. She had become just a shadow haunting a pitted and broken carapace.

Her metal finger hovered over a green button.

Mirabel thought of the other her, the one on Earth. Tried to picture her—the face that she'd once worn. Imagined what her son looked like now, tried to picture where they were. Her mind drew blank.

She had composed two messages while she waited for the eclipse to end. One of vengeance, and one of promise. One destined for the Exultant Corporation, and one for her other self and the son she had never met.

The lights clicked on around her as power again surged down from the solar generators.

Her finger pressed down.


Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Fragile Creatures

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 01:57 on Dec 7, 2017

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
2597 words


Martin, Terrence (Henceforth TM)
ORIGIN: Northeastern USA
TIME OF ORIGIN: Late 20th-Early 21st century OEY


Subject arrived through Gate A at 03:19 hours. Its arrival was predicted through abnormal temporal fluctuations starting from 20:55 hours. The size and complexity of the organism indicated an Old Earth human. Unit L-10 was assigned to administrate the reception process.

Upon arrival, subject TM appeared emotionally distressed but unhurt. After allowing the subject time to acclimate, it was determined to be nonviolent, and L-10 entered the room to begin operations.

TM struck a defensive pose and began vocalizing loudly. L-10 osmosed calming pheromones, which were effective within normal parameters. TM sat on the interview chair with minor coercion and submitted to restraint. Intelligence analysis resulted in an average score.

L-10 initiated standard interview protocols, which proved ineffective. The subject became too agitated to continue the debriefing, and was put into therapeutic suspension for 30 cycles. After release, TM was transferred to Room 481. Unit L-10 was reskinned and continued its assignment. TM responded positively to the new skin. Upon completion of its testimony, analysis determined that TM had limited capability to achieve modern sociocultural growth standards, and it was given Lower Assignment in a manual labor unit.

At the present time, this specimen is of physical value only. Further intellectual and social development has been determined unlikely.

REPORT #2- Day 200

TM reported on time to the Reception Facility for his 200-day checkup. L-10 performed the assignment in an average amount of time. There were no significant physical, emotional, or social changes determined by the interview unit.

A full transcript of this interview is available in Appendix B.

REPORT #3- DAY 500

TM reported six minutes late to the Reception Facility for its 500-day checkup. The interview unit determined a slight emotional stability and requested organic support. COO Shenn Harlow was dispatched to the interview room.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between the specimen and the consulting organic officer.

Hello, TM. My name is Shenn Harlow. I’m here to help you. Is there something you wish to discuss?


I’m sorry, I don’t understand your meaning.

I’ve seen some weird ones here, but you are something else.

I am a consulting organic officer. My job is to interface with new arrivals to acclimate them to their new environment. Is there something I can do for you?

Fine. Can I ask you a question?


Are you a man or a woman?

I’m sorry?

Look, if your job is really to talk to us actual humans, you know what that question means.

I understand the question, but I cannot answer.

Why the hell not?

I do not have any way to answer this question. I cannot determine whether I am female or male. I’m sorry if this answer distresses you.

All right, you don’t know, whatever. I think it’s bullshit, but whatever. Can you at least tell me how I got here?

You interacted with one of our research units and made a temporo-spatial journey through an artificially-created wormhole. You should have been informed of this upon arrival. Do you need another copy of the New Resident’s Guide?

Yeah, you caught me in a space bear trap and sent me to Mars, or whatever. I’ve read that guide already. But how does this poo poo work?

I’m sorry, that knowledge is not available to me.

Why not?

It’s not available to me. I’m a counselor, not a technician.

But can’t you look it up?

There is no need for me to look it up.

Aren’t you curious?


At this point, TM indicated that it wished to terminate the interview. An injection was offered to correct emotional distress, but it refused.

REPORT #4- DAY 303

TM entered the Reception Facility without an appointment and requested to speak to COO Harlow. The counselor was available and agreed to TM’s request.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between the specimen and the consulting organic officer.

Are you a human?


How did you get here?

Our first colonists came through a Zyvraxian portable wormhole generator, just as you did. They inherited the technology on this dead world, and learned to use it over centuries of trial and error. That’s the simple explanation, of course.

Give me the complicated explanation.

I’m sorry, I don’t have access to that information.

Then tell me if I’m correct- everyone came here by accident? To this station or planet or whatever?

We prefer to think of it as destiny, not a simple accident. The second step in human evolution was leaving Earth. Once the initial colonists developed a better understanding of this native technology, they wanted to share it with Old Earth.

But you didn’t. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone who looks like you. I've never seen, uh, equipment like you have here.

The wormholes are hidden for a reason. Through trial and error, we determined that ancestral humans don’t respond well to overt intervention. It’s far easier to transport random specimens; individuals of your species tend to acclimate and adapt better when separated from your peers.

So you kidnap us and perform mind experiments.

That’s one way to look at it. We consider it sociocultural retraining.

And what is the point of your guerilla research, exactly?

It won’t affect you.

I’d like to know, anyways.

If you had been given a higher-level classification, you’d be integrated into our regular population, given augmentations and cosmetic surgery to help you appear more like us. Some specimens take to the culture so well that we do send them back to Old Earth, in an ambassadorial role. Covertly, of course, but many great figures of your time have been our agents.

Do you consider me human?

I consider you a pre-modern human ancestor.

Don’t you think that’s a little condescending?

I apologize if it seems condescending. I assure you, we approach our specimens from a scientific perspective. It's not a personal slight.

I think that if we can have a conversation like this, we can’t be that different.

If you’d read the New Residents Guide, you’d know that our technicians implanted a stimulating chip that allows your sub-developed brain to interpret our communication technology.

I bet you don’t know how that works, either.

No, I don’t.

You look like a monster and you talk like a robot.

What an interesting statement.

TM ended the exchange with a hostile gesture and left the room without being dismissed. COO Barlow assigned it three demerit points for insubordination. A complete disciplinary record for subject TM is available in Appendix C.

REPORT #4- DAY 505

TM scheduled an appointment and made a formal request for regular weekly consultations with COO Barlow. Barlow agreed to the request.

Following are a series of partial transcripts relevant to TM’s disciplinary case. A full transcript of each meeting, sorted by date, is available in Appendix D.

DAY 515:

I want to show you something.

What is this?

Just look at the picture.

I’m not familiar with this object. What is it?

It’s a photograph.

[Barlow does not respond.]

It’s a…representation of a real moment.

But it’s two-dimensional.

Yeah, that’s normal.

I’ve never seen a two-dimensional image. It’s a bit confusing for me.

You don’t need to flip it over—

Where’s the rest of the image?

Uh, well, there just isn’t any more. We don’t- we didn’t know how to do that.

[Barlow does not respond.]

Anyways, this is my daughter. Her name is Carla. She’s six years old, and she loves basketball.

This is a juvenile?

Well, yeah.

It looks…fragile.

She’s actually a pretty tough kid. Broke her arm last year and didn’t even cry.

Broke- how can you break an arm? Is the child substandard?

It’s pretty common in my time. Almost everyone breaks a bone at some point. Hell, my younger brother broke both legs in a single year when we were kids.

That’s horrible. I didn't realize... [Barlow does not complete this statement.]

Hey, are you okay?

I am terminating this session.

Shenn? What's wrong?

DAY 525:

The head of the technicians would like to collect a juvenile specimen. Where is the one you showed me last week?

[TM utters an expletive]

What is the problem?

What don’t you understand? You can’t just study my daughter like a [expletive] zoo animal!

Nobody suggested putting it in the zoo. The zoo is full.

This whole place is a [expletive] zoo.

It’s a research facility. You know that. Sometimes I think you’re being deliberately ignorant.

Oooh, the alien’s getting mad! Haha. Can’t even understand a figure of speech, what a dumbass.

I am terminating this session.

DAY 535:

Are you still trying to kidnap my daughter?

It would be enormously beneficial. Not only for our species, but for yours. Your offspring could be the first ancestral juvenile integrated into our society. And, I imagine, you would be pleased to interact with it again.

You won't find her. I know you don’t know how to locate a specific person on Old Earth, and I won't tell you where she is. I read about your wormhole generators- they’re totally random and don’t even work that well. How many people do you lose every year, trying to kidnap them through your stupid lovely space boxes?

We lose an average of forty specimens a year. It’s quite unfortunate.

It’s barbaric. If you really believe we’re your ancestors, shouldn’t you have a little more respect?

Respect? May I remind you that our entire purpose is to enlighten your species?

In what way?

Don’t you people have any curiosity? Don’t you ever wonder why things happen? Where these people come from, the ones who offset your natural tendencies towards violence and cruelty? They’re our emissaries, sent back to try and correct the human condition. No one ever questions why significant things happen for seemingly no reason?

Sure we do. It’s the foundation of pretty much all our belief systems. But nobody- well, very few people thought it was the work of genetically engineered space monsters.

I’m not a monster. I don’t come from a…a war place. I help solve your social problems!

You don’t even know how these wormhole thingies work.

The Zyvraxians developed them to us centuries ago, and didn’t leave any records. Any knowledge about the wormhole generators has disappeared with them. We’re learning more about them as quickly as we can, but it’s slow work without having any reference points.

But you still think you can fix all the problems on Old Earth.

Yes, of course. It’s our duty. Don’t talk to me about respect. I’ve devoted my entire life to saving Old Earth.

DAY 605:

I won't do that for you.

You know you want to, Shenn. Come on, aren’t we friends? I gave you all this information, I told you so many Old Earth secrets. You’re going to be able to fix everything by the time I’m done, but I need to go back and get more information before we can start.

If you were such an important figure on Old Earth, why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Because there could have been repercussions.

Such as?

I’ve already said too much.

DAY 635:

How long will I have?

Twenty minutes.

Are you sure the shields will be down?

I told you, the proposal was accepted. No one will stop you on your way out. In fact, they’ll give you a map of generator locations, so you can more easily lead people to them.

Thanks, Shenn.

How many specimens will you bring back?

Oh, at least a thousand. Easily. I told you, I’m very powerful on Old Earth. I can do anything.

If you make it back on time, I’ll be a hero. We’ll both be heroes. They’ll even put you on a higher-level work assignment. But whatever you do, please try not to take too long- if they think I’ve backed a plan that could compromise our research speed, I'll be punished.

Don’t worry, Shenn. I’ll definitely be back in time. Wish me luck, okay? And take care of yourself. You’re a really special….person.

I’ll see you in ten cycles. Good luck. I…am pleased to call you friend. We’re going to achieve great things together.

REPORT #5- DAY 715

Subject TM has not reported back. The subject has also not procured any of the new specimens promised. Three X-J1 units on old Earth have been deactivated. Shenn Barlow has submitted itself for questioning.

REPORT #6- DAY 740

X-J1 units from specimen TM’s time are frequently being deactivated. Serial numbers of these units are available upon request.

There is no new information regarding the specimen.

REPORT #7- DAY 760

X-J1 units from specimen TM’s time and geographical location are being deactivated rapidly. Currently, we have no information about the specimen’s location. It is uncertain whether these deactivations will become a global crisis.

REPORT #8- DAY 770

COO Barlow was given the choice of termination or banishment. It chose termination, citing this incident specifically. Physical remains have been reduced to nutri-pulp. Barlow also requested a release of consciousness; the organ of sentience has been destroyed and cannot be re-implanted.

REPORT #9- DAY 900

Specimen TM listed as lost.


Carla was playing with her Barbies and Marissa finishing the dishes when Terry walked in, looking exhausted.

“Daddy!” Carla squealed, and ran to give him a hug. Terry scooped her up and held her tight, a strange look on his face. Carla squirmed against his grip.

“There you are! What happened? Is that project on Quincy being held up again?” Marissa dried her hands. “Why didn’t you call?”

Terry put Carla down and took Marissa in his arms, giving her a long, passionate kiss.

“Eeeew,” Carla said.

Terry looked at Marissa like he hadn’t seen her in years. “Is it…is it after eight already?”

She gave him an odd look, and said, “Yeah, you’re two hours late.”

“Only two hours?” Oddly enough, he smiled.

Marissa returned to the sink, puzzled. She had barely picked up the sponge again when she heard a crash.

The antique mirror she had bought last week lay shattered on the floor. Terry stood over it, breathing hard.

“What the hell?!”

He turned towards her, and something in his eyes made Marissa step back. Then he relaxed his face, smiled, and shrugged. “I’m sorry, babe! I don’t know what happened, it just fell off the hook.”

“Dammit,” she said despondently, looking at the shards. The pieces of glass looked black, almost matte black, and had crumbled nearly to dust. “Don’t move, you’re in your socks. I’ll get a broom.”

“No!” Terry almost shouted.

“Terrence, what the hell is going on?”

Terry put his hands on her shoulders, exhaling. “I’m sorry, babe. It was a tough day at work. I’ll explain everything after we put Carla to bed. Let me clean this up, okay? You go on into the living room and get ready for Game of Thrones.” He looked at the broken mirror with disgust. “I don’t want you or Carla touching…that.”

She gave him a suspicious look. “Okay, but you better have a good reason for acting so weird.”

Terry laughed a little. “I promise you, I do.”

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

Put it all together.
Solve the world.
One conversation at a time.


The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 04:31 on May 9, 2017

Aug 7, 2013



Murder on the Ockient Express - 1110 shameful words
:toxx: Flash Box - Space Elevator

From the ground, the hypercarbon umbilical of Kadar Station was an impossible shadow, too tall and too thin, cutting the horizon in two as it rose through the low dust and the thin blue stratosphere. From the windows of an elevator-train climbing up, the whole planet looked absurd. Like a magician’s trick, more and more sky appeared, unwinding endlessly from the edges of the train windows as Kadar became a red marble in the black.

Cobb wasn’t much of an authority figure, but with the captain lying dead on the ground with his pants around his wrinkled ankles and plenty of other wrinkles on bloody display, a lot of eyes were turning to him as the nearest face in uniform.

Cobb plastered a grin on. “Very sorry for the disturbance. Nothing you can do now, so, free drinks in the lounge?” Bluntly ignoring a problem was the captain’s preferred response, and he thought of it as honoring the man he knew, instead of the corpse making a dumb face and slowly deflating as all the blood puddled out.

That got most of the crowd out. Cobb shooed away the ones trying to film through their bright electric eyes. When the doors hissed shut again, Cobb was left alone with corpse and the New Wonders mystery cultist in shiny white robes, the one who had found this mess.

He watched him try to push the captain’s eyes shut and give up halfway in disgust, shaking his fingers to get the feel of dead skin off. Blood was puddling and little robotic hockeypucks came out to scrub and sweep around the two of them, blissfully oblivious, and Cobb cleared his throat.

“He’s dead.” Wonderboy looked up to Cobb for answers with big, wobbly blue eyes that spelled out just how he’d gotten involved with a bunch of wackos. He had a soft face and a blocky, cleft chin, and the dead serious way he pronounced it – as if Cobb wasn’t aware that his boss was, yes, bleeding on both of their shoes – made Cobb want to slap it.

“Mhm. Yes. I see.” Cobb’s smile graduated into a kind of tight-lipped acceptance of the fact. Acceptance, not reaction. “Have you tried not worrying about that? Maybe worry about something else, or nothing at all, but don’t worry about this.” But never get involved.

“Someone shot him.” The revelations just didn’t stop coming.

“Uh-huh.” Which was worrying, for the sake of his own skin, but a worry he could solve by walking back to the front cabin and locking the door. “We have security agents for that on the upstation. If alcohol is out you could go up to the lounge and get a nice fruit juice.”

Wonderboy actually shot him a dirty look. It was like a puppy barking, but still. “And do they ever actually find the criminals?”

“Uhm.” Sometimes.

“He’s cold.”

“Huh.” Cobb lifted an eyebrow, trying to stay balanced on the right side of ‘caring about this.’

“There’s a gun under there.”

Slowly, Cobb turned and got down on his hands and knees to stare under the molded plastic of a charging station. The molded plastic of a compact pistol sat in the dark. He wanted to scream at the stupid bastard who’d left it there like a neon sign. ‘Evidence!’ ‘Mystery!’

“You should be careful not to smudge any fingerprints.”

Cobb’s head snapped back around to glare. “Can’t you?”

“It’s against my religion.” The conviction there was as unyielding and thick as a rock, and Cobb somehow thought it really would be less trouble to fish the drat thing out for him. By the time he’d managed to get a hold without ‘smudging’ he even recognized it.

“Look, it’s nothing. It’s not a murder weapon. It’s the captain’s.” He pointed it up and pulled. The trigger read his glove’s fingerprint and the little light on the side screeched red with a long, piercing whistle.

“I heard that noise before! The whistle and then, I went out, and then, uh, he was…” Wonderboy trailed off, and before Cobb could open his mouth, started up again, almost tripping over his tongue in realization. “He’s got his gloves on too!”

“So he…” Cobb stopped. Cobb bit his tongue. Cobb was too late, and Wonderboy was on the case.

“He must have forgotten. Tried to shoot."

Cobb cringed. Enough. Very patiently, dangerously patient, he shook his head and squeezed his words through a smile. “No, no, I’m really still hung up on how much you care about this.”

“He’s dead.”

“I get that!” Cobb couldn’t take one more glaringly obvious statement in his already-stressful day, which was supposed to be full of distractions and petty sarcasm. “Also, I get that this is someone’s job to fix, and that’s not me, and I can’t imagine they’d like us muddling up their little fiasco any more than it already is. So let’s go to the lounge and get a drink and mind our own business.”

“That’s very reasonable.” The blunt contempt kicked all the wind out of Cobb’s gut. He bit his tongue, and realized it was a lot easier to forget Wonderboy was, well, quite pretty in a big brainwashed smiles sort of way, when he was the one holding the other in disdain.

“Fine.” He put his hands up. “We have a gun and a body. That’s nothing. What are you planning to do with all that do-gooding spirit?”

Wonderboy came up short for a second, and glanced down, and slowly his eyes gravitated in on the captain’s one closed fist. He peeled the fingers apart and took the plain white card.


He turned it to the other side.


“Well, that’s…” The door hissed open behind them, and the sound of screaming spilled in. One of the camera-eyed punk youths leaned in, clinging to the doorframe as he laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more while he tried to force the words out.
“Dude! He’s gone nuts! He’s uh, he’s wow, he’s just humping away!”

“What? Who?” Wonderboy shot up.

“Someone who had too many drinks. Totally unrelated.” But he couldn’t quite believe that.

The punk just shook his head, the wobbly pink ‘do sitting on his scalp like a neon dollop of icecream bouncing about. “Dude, you’ve gotta see this.”

Wonderboy glanced at him, and then started off for the lounge, with or without. Cobb followed, and found an excuse on his way down-up the train as it crawled forward. His excuse was, well, there was simply too much crazy here to pretend he could get away from it now.

What was OCK? One way or another he seemed doomed to find out.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


I'm going to extend the deadline for submissions by 30 minutes.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
(edited out)

Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 04:14 on Jan 3, 2018

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

10^123 or The List of Undecidable Problems

980 words

Greg Tolliver didn’t look up from the computer monitor. “We dreamed we’d feel the breath of God,” he said. “The blessed moment when the universe was observed, and everything was suddenly known. What we do from here, will change everything.”

His grad students hovered behind him as his finger hovered over the Enter key, rapt attention on the screen. He had a flare for the dramatic, and the practiced hubris of his words were not lost on PhD candidate, Rosa Muniz. Would things change? Not on the grand scale. In their academic circles, certainly. That, she supposed, was all Dr Tolliver cared about. It was a funny thing. Proof isn’t actually proof until the common man can understand it.

He was young and handsome—and a genius—and took full advantage. She spent a summer working late in the lab and then crashing at his curious little cottage on campus. It was one of those little houses built of concrete to look like a cathedral with faux-stone buttresses and soaring windows of replica stained glass. The wainscoting was cherry, stained dark. A possibly authentic suit of medieval armor stood in the foyer, knee deep in garbage and stacks of books and papers. Paths waded through to bed, toilet, kitchen.

Tolliver was unashamed. The work mattered. If the college wanted to clean the place they’d send someone. The charm of his eccentricities soon wore off, and Rosa worried about the fall term when she told him it was over and went home to visit her mother for her brief summer break.

But it was like they were never together when she took three deep breaths and opened the door to the lab. Business as usual. Rosa looked around at all the faces huddled close around the Doctor, and wondered how many had similar summers. Maybe one was currently kicking over stacks of old thesis like Stanley in the jungle to carve a path to the Doctor’s bed. The faces didn’t give up the details, however. She could only speculate.

The details here, were behind the scenes. That was the thing about quantum computers. Nothing is known, until it is. It’s fairly straightforward to play out your life from one decision or another, and dream about all the possibilities as though it were true. Maybe you got the one that got away, or dodged that miserable relationship. The ‘what if’ game is at the core of the science. Then in one crystallizing moment, everything becomes rooted. You can’t choose otherwise, only imagine the possibilities.

Here, Tolliver played the most dangerous version of ‘do you like me, circle y / n.’ He asked if god exists. The man who resided in a replica house of worship and didn’t live as though he cared one lick decided that it would be better for the world to know the truth.

There is a theory, and the math is complicated, that the universe is a hologram. That’s not to say it isn’t real, but we might simply be information stretched from the edges of another string. See, there’s a finite amount of information in the universe. You can imagine more information than exists, but that doesn’t make it so. There are only X amount of protons and neutrons and electrons. It might not be feasible to count them all, but you can imagine that, given enough time, you could.

Quantum computers work differently. They don’t have to count from one to a billion trillion. They can work it out faster. Or rather, they don’t know, then when you ask for the answer, the do. People dabbled with quantum computing for decades, and you could do traditional math at the speed of light or encrypt and decrypt data with unimpeachable reliability. Traditional things done super fast. That makes sense to people.

People are quantum computers, and Rosa knew it. We don’t know until we decide. We’re not really, of course, just traditional computers made of meat, but it’s the same concept. And yet, birds and fish might actually use quantum entanglement to migrate. The sense of smell might work the same way. One molecule moves, and another, a galaxy or a universe away, moves like its dance partner.

We might have a dance partner an inconceivable distance away, reading this same thing. An antimatter version of you and me. Or it might be us, the real us, and we’re reflected holograms, maybe being stretched around the horizon a black hole while the real us stares down the barrel of inevitability.

Tolliver knew all this, and if he was a fatalist, he didn’t let that bother him. The answer was more important. The algorithm was complex, but straightforward. Was there more information outside the known quantity of information that makes up our universe. There was a hard limit on what actually exists. X plus N equals Y. Information plus change equals the universe. If the universe was bigger than the known quanities of information and change, then there was something else out there.

It might be god. Might be that we are on the swirling edge of a black hole, and we can’t see past the event horizon. There are possibilities, but they are just that. Only one will be true.

Tolliver’s finger hovered over the enter key, and the computer would spit out an answer as soon as he hit the button. Rosa wasn’t sure if she wanted to know the result. It didn’t feel right.

“Greg,” she said. “Don’t do this. It doesn’t actually matter, does it?”

Tolliver finally broke his gaze with the LED shine and turned his head to meet her gaze. “Sorry?” he said. “Ms. Muntz, was it?”

Rosa didn’t correct him. She turned and walked out of the lab. She’d hear the results in a press conference like everyone else. She knew for an absolute fact, that he’d press the button.

Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

2010 words – Programmable viruses (biological)

“What’s wrong with my son?”

“Allan has a disorder known as Huntington’s disease. It’s degenerative, which means his tissue will deteriorate over time. Huntington’s results specifically in the death of brain cells.”

“It’s genetic.” Francis sighed deeply, and his shoulders relaxed for the first time all day. “That’s good news, then.”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Whitaker.” The doctor dropped his eyes and pressed his lips together, just for a moment, before he remembered his bedside manner and fixed his eyes on Francis, seated across from him at a polished but well-worn desk.

“What do you mean?” The doctor didn’t respond immediately. Francis waited him out.

“Huntington’s… We don’t have the treatment for, yet.” That was all the doctor said. His began to tap his fingers arrhythmically on the desktop, and his face scrunched up slightly, as if he were expecting some imminent verbal abuse—and a moment later, Francis delivered it.

“Isn’t this what I voted for? Experimental gene therapies, to cure genetic disorders? And every week for the last two years, all I’ve heard is that another disease has been cured, permanently. In fact, I know Huntington’s is on that list. I heard about the cure last week! So what do you mean you don’t have the cure?”

“You misunderstand, Mr. Whitaker.” He opened a folder and took a single sheet of paper from within, spun it around on the desk, and slid it to Francis. “I said we don’t have the treatment for it. It’s too expensive.”

“What about insurance?”

The doctor gave him a pitying smile. “As I said, it’s too expensive. It’s not profitable for insurance companies to provide that treatment.” He did not add that anyone at this hospital did not have the kind of policy that might include gene therapy treatments, much less the kind of money to pay for it out of pocket. He pointed to a line on the paper, a number, a large number. Francis followed his finger and his eyes widened. “That’s the price for one treatment. Your son would need 5, at minimum.”

Francis sat back in his chair. His looked around the doctor’s small office, with its cheap art copies on the wall, its linoleum floor, its bright fluorescent lighting. Everything was well-ordered and clean, but it could not separate itself from the appearance of the imitation of luxury. He mulled over every option he could think of: they could mortgage the house, or sell the car, or sell the house. He could as his parents for help. Or he could win the lottery—all were equally likely to get them the money they would need. He realized that this was, in fact, the nicest doctor’s office he had ever been in.

“So that’s it, then. How long does my son have?”

“15 to 20 years, usually. Though it won’t be a full life. He’ll begin to lose muscle tone in a few years, coordination a few years after that. As I said, it’s degenerative.” The doctor paused, then his eyes narrowed. Francis wasn’t looking at him.

“There is one option, Mr. Whitaker.”


There are no visible lines of demarcation between different communities. Occasionally, you’ll get a sign. But usually, the landscape just shifts: well-maintained pavement gives way to old, cracked hardtop, fresh paint to faded, groomed medians to weeds in the cracks. You could walk between the two without a minimum of effort, but people rarely do. While there are no visible lines, there are borders. People dress differently. Different cars line the curb.

Francis had crossed one such line. He’d started in Palo Alto, home to many tech giant, past and present, the gateway to Silicon Valley. He’d crossed San Francisquito Creek and was now in East Palo Alto, home to high crime, poverty, and a history of racial injustice. Tech money had started to infiltrate the city, but it had yet to eliminate, or alleviate in any significant way, the cultural differences between East Palo Alto and its neighbors.

Francis parked his car next to a curb, formerly red, outside of a nondescript one-story office building. He checked the address on the piece of paper in his hands, looked up to the building, found the numbers matched, and turned the car off. The doctor had forced him to memorize it, refusing to write it down in his office for fear of discovery. Francis had scribbled it down as soon as he’d returned to his car.

It was now 3 months after he’d visited with the doctor. For a while, he’d basically ignored the information. He hadn’t even told his wife about it for the first month. They had plenty of time, after all, to find a solution. Allan had 15 years to live, at least. But then, Huntington had reared his ugly head. A minor incident the doctor said; when they got home, Allan couldn’t open his bedroom door without help.

Now Francis was exiting his car in East Palo Alto.

This particular building was in good shape. It seemed to be relatively recent construction, the product of proximity to the world’s hub of innovation. The hallways were plain drywall, with little in the way of decoration, the carpet an unexciting tan. Francis knocked on door 117.

The door opened and behind it stood a man, dressed like an orphan of Google: jeans, t-shirt, vest, scruffy beard, long hair. He ushered Francis into a room, square, doors to either side, and pointed to a couch. Francis sat. The man handed him an iPad.

Francis hit the home button on the iPad, but it was locked. “What am I supposed to do this?”

“Oh, whoops, hold on.” The man came over and punched in the code. The screen filled with a list: Alzheimer’s disease, Atherosclerosis, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It went on. Francis scrolled until he found Huntington’s.

“Click on yours when you find it.”

Francis did so. “It’s not for me, it’s for my son.”

“Sure thing. Don’t care who it’s for. Let me see that thing.” Francis handed it back. The man looked at the screen for a few seconds, reading. Then he let out a low whistle. “drat, dude. You’ve got a pricey one.”

“I know that. I was told I could get it cheaply, here, though.” Francis sat up straight and looked around the room. It was Spartan. Aside from the couch he sat on, there was a mini-fridge, a fake bush, the chair across from in which the man sat, and a coffee table between them. “You got a name?”

“Don’t worry about names. It’s not me you need to know.” The man handed him back the iPad, which now displayed a signature line below a block of text. “And I guess it depends what you mean by cheap. You won’t need any money, but this poo poo is gonna cost you.”

Francis narrowed his eyes at that, then looked down at the screen. “What am I reading here?” He started skimming the text.

“A non-disclosure agreement. Not quite standard, but then again, not much of what we’re doing is. All of this… experimental. Don’t want our competitors learning our secrets.” The man smiled sardonically at this last bit.

“I don’t see anything here about costs.”

“That, uhhh… Well, that part we can’t document. You’ll see. If you sign that, we can get started.”

Francis knew he should wait, should talk to his wife again, should try to find another solution. Then he thought of his son. This morning, he’d had to carry his backpack to the car, all of 15 pounds. He signed the page.

“Great! Follow me.” He stood and moved to the door at the right of the room. The man opened it, and pointed Francis inside. Francis obliged, and stepped into a brightly lit room—a hospital room. Inside stood a woman in the usual white coat—in fact, she looked just like a doctor you’d find in a hospital with a name on the building. She wore business attire beneath her coat and had her hair in a neat bun. A pair of tortoiseshell glasses framed her olive-skinned face. She smiled at Francis. Behind him, the man had shut the door.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Whitaker.” She stuck a hand out for him to shake. He shook it. “I’m Dr. Polymichanos. Dr. Poly.” She looked down at an iPad of her own. “Huntington’s. Easy. Expensive, but easy.” Dr. Poly turned to the shelves behind her and began looking through drawers, then pulled a syringe out of one. She turned back to Francis. “Sit on the table over there and pull up your sleeve.”

“Me? No, it’s for my son.”

“Oh, nobody explained this to you? This one’s for you. It has nothing to do with Huntington’s. We trade you one for one—you be our test subject for the next designer virus, we give you the treatments for your son. Easy.” She smiled, then frowned and waggled her head a couple of times with a chuckle. “Well, maybe not easy, but certainly simple.”

As she was saying this, Francis’ eyes went wide. He looked at the floor, and his breathing started to increase in pace. Sweat droplets began to form on his forehead. He thought about how much the treatments cost. This price was higher. He choked back vomit. “Jesus.”

“It really is simple, Mr. Whitaker. If you’re here, you can’t afford the treatments. You won’t find another way to get them. 5 treatments, 5 tests.” Her smile returned. “But don’t worry. They’re all benign viruses. Designed to change certain phenotypical expressions, or to improve certain parts of your body’s systems. Nothing harmful.”

“What’s this one?”

“Eye color. You’re going to have green eyes!”


“There are some risks, of course. It wouldn’t be a test if there weren’t.”

“Jesus.” The vomit returned. He couldn’t hold it in this time, so he raced to a trash can and let it go.

“Totally normal. Ready?”

Francis nodded sharply from his position above the trash can.


“Doc,” Francis said, then paused. “My eyes are green.”

Dr. Poly’s voice came across the line, excited but understated. “Excellent. A successful test, then.” Francis did not share her excitement.

“My eyes aren’t the only thing that changed color. My hair… It’s the color of snot.” Francis raised his free arm in front of his face. “All of my hair. Everywhere.”

“How interesting!” She chuckled.

“I don’t find this particular funny, doc.” Francis scowled. “That’s not all, anyway.”


“I can’t touch dairy. Anything. Milk, eggs, cheese, whatever. If I have even an taste, I spend the next day curled around a toilet.”

“Huh. Well. That’s less successful.”

“I’d say fuckin’ so, doc! You gotta help me out!”

“Oh. Actually, I can’t do anything for you. Not my department.” Her voice had gone defensive, unhelpful.

“What do you mean, not your department? This is your goddamn fault!”

“Not mine, no. I said there were risks. These drugs aren’t perfect. But I didn’t make them. I just distribute them. Though, I guess if you got a diagnosis from your doctor, I could find you a drug to correct whatever it is you’ve given yourself. At a price, of course.”

“More tests, I’m guessing.” Francis looked at his phone as if it were the object of disgust. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Calm down, buddy. You signed up for this. Anyway, it’s time for your next test.”

Francis growled and ignored Dr. Poly for a minute. He looked out the window of his bedroom. On the grass below, his son was playing with a soccer ball. He still wobbled a little bit. This morning, though, he’d carried his own backpack, opened his own door, got in and out of the car on his own. The treatment was working.

“What’s this one do?”

“Muscle tone. It’s supposed to be like a steroid, on steroids. Exciting stuff!”

Francis closed his eyes. Then he opened them again, and saw his son. He was throwing the soccer ball in the air.

“When can I pick it up?”

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


3068 words

The faceless drone screamed in silence.

Trace Petersen was up to her elbow in the brains of the thing. She moved slowly, methodically, until her hands stumbled over the switch at the back of the “skull” and she flipped it. The drone’s face reverted to a smooth, untextured gray ball.

“Now let’s see what’s wrong with you.”

She picked up a few tools and got to work. This was her task for the day, getting the drone functioning and back into action. Within a few minutes, she had the drone’s chest plate open. It all looked normal, but there was a twinge in her nose: just a hint of some scent, ozone and something else, something that shouldn’t have been there. She grabbed a bundle of cables and began to investigate deeper.

She soon found the source, a place where the wires had been cut, just jagged edges hanging down. And in the “skull” behind it, a few dark black scorch marks. Something had burnt the drone here.

“What happened to you, little guy?”

It didn’t respond, only lay silent on her workbench.

She took inventory of the area. Remarkable, all that was missing—in fact, in crumbled to carbon under her hands—was a memory unit. She grabbed a blank from the storage bin under the bench, fitted it into place, and began the intricate work of reattaching it line by line into the drone’s neural network. But she couldn’t help wondering what had happened. Someone had deliberately tampered with this drone.

Once she was finished, Trace closed and sealed the chest cavity and reached up inside the drone’s neck again. “Here goes...” She flipped the switch.

A play of colors and patterns shot across the drone’s face before it finally settled on a flat, calming blue.

“Hello,” the android said after a moment’s pause. “I am rebuilding currently. Please wait.”

She wheeled the drone out into the hall and shut her door. Soon, it would reactivate and return to the duties waiting for it in the ship’s queue.

Trace pulled up a communicator and requested the records relating to that specific drone. The answer came back within seconds.



Insufficient Clearance Level

Of course.


Councilor Fri had made his case. He sat back in his chair, satisfied.

“You’re telling me that we can divert this ship for energy collection purposes and it will not be found out?”

Fri studied the seven pairs of eyes locked on him from the room’s shadows. This question cabe from Chago: his gray eyes twinkled from across the table. He laughed and his bearded head appeared in the light above the table, awaiting Fri’s response.

“They won’t find out, because they can’t,” Fri said and he leaned forward, his hands pressed into the tabletop. “Who will tell them? Seyyes?”

He knew they recognized his point. Managing a population of this size necessitated strict controls on information. There were no windows on the craft; the only outside views were accessible through the Seyyes system—accessible only to those expressly authorized. The knowledge and expertise needed to use that information was controlled tighter still. No one outside this room had the whole picture.

The ship’s ranks worked as maintainers of the craft, keeping it repaired and stable and keeping this technical knowledge alive and updated. But the population would double as colonists, once they had reached their target, still several decades away. And in the mean time, they would serve as a repositories of vital genetic diversity for the future colony.

The initial population was chosen primarily from volunteers with technical skill, as well as a compliant, non-confrontational personality. They knew the need and imperative to remain peaceful and keep the ship moving. There would be no communication with home past the radio shell. The ship would need to be fully self-sufficient. They had all consented to the arrangement.

But their future children could not. To ensure continuity, the social controls program was enacted.

They were several months away from a red dwarf giving off a great deal of energy. They could move into close orbit, deploy the solar shield web, and collect it. The energy available from this star was very high quality, of a type difficult to find at this wavelength. It would be immediately useful in their power grid, with no transformation necessary. A very tempting target, considering their energy system; their antimatter drive would then be able to fire at full thrust. Charging for several months could give their power plant enough fuel to function for centuries to come, invaluable for a new colony.

But pursuing this energy collection would put them off-course and two years behind schedule, risking exhausting other shipboard supplies, nutrition most importantly. Nutrients could be recycled only so many times from garbage, waste, and the dead. Once food quality fell below a certain level, the algae tanks would not be enough to support the ship’s full population; rationing would need to be instituted, risking widespread malnutrition that could quickly spiral out of control. Culling of a significant fraction of the population might need to be considered in that case.

“You’re quiet, Rwain,” Fri said. He turned to the woman to his left.

“Did you ask Seyyes?” she said.

“Of course.” He tapped the table with a manicured finger. “This was its idea.”

“No,” she said. “The full report.”

Fri sighed in exasperation. He looked around the table. All the others nodded at him. At last, he reached for the communicator by his waste. “All right, Seyyes...”


The patch of mold growing on Warwick’s ceiling looked concerning. That hadn’t been there before, had it?

The air vent beside it issued a choking rattle.

Trace turned to nuzzle his chest. “You’ve been just about everywhere on this ship, haven’t you?”

The supervisors encouraged casual flings with steriles like Warwick. It kept them occupied and provided an outlet to blow off steam, helped them focus.

“Not quite, ba,” he murmured. “Some places are off limits. You know that.”

“Like the computer arrays?”

“Yeah, like that. And the brig.”

“Even to you?” Warwick was the chief security officer in charge of the cleaning crew in this sector. But she couldn’t help thinking he should turn his attention to the ceiling of his own quarters.

“Even me, ba. Why you asking about this, anyway?”

“Just wondering. You ever seen inside that place? The computer—”

“No. They don’t just open the door to anyone wandering by from sickbay.”

“Who cleans it, then? It needs maintenance and disinfectant like anywhere else.”

“Sure.” He rolled over on the formbed, considering her with a funny expression on his face. “Drones, I think. Some of it is self-maintaining. They say this whole ship is regenerative, you know. Even if there was a hull breach here—”

She eyed the AM pistol on his belt, hanging from the seat by the door.

“—well, some stuff might get ejected, maybe some folks too—probably a lot, actually—and we’d lose some air, and the sector would need to be sealed off. But it would fix itself, more or less, within a few days.”


Trace couldn’t sleep for hours that night, and when she did, her dreams were of her children.

There had been three of them, all removed after being determined safe and healthy, and she had never seen them again after the births. She knew they were first moved to the postnatal unit for monitoring, and then eventually to the crecheworks for early education by unattached, unrelated teachers.

The system was best for all, they said. Best for children to be raised by professionals, so the parents could return to work and the children would grow up with no personal attachments.


All eyes in the conference room were locked on the devices in their hands. The probabilities of various outcomes scrolled across the screens, each with a name and a brief description. Every one could be opened to go into more detail, unpacking its associated lists of antecedents and decendants, an infinitely unfolding tree of begots and begets, each cloaked behind a shimmer of probabilistic unreality.

Seyyes reports were dead simple in their display and exhausting in their implications. Councilors could go mad, completely losing themselves in the detail maze of what ifs and endlessly recursing exploration. Several had, over the generations.

“Thoughts?” Fri intentionally interrupted the others with his question. All eyes looked up again, some more reluctantly than others.

“It can be a... fruitful diversion,” one began.

“We have no one to sell excess energy to,” Rwain said. “We must think only to ensure the future viability of the colony. That is our prime concern.”

“Yes, but it would be nearly all for naught if we reached the target and had no energy store. Or, worse, failed to reach the target at all.”

“The report indicates a high likelihood of that either way,” she said. “Regardless, the collection event does not significantly affect the chance of success in the primary mission.”

“Exactly.” Fri looked pleased. “And the cost of going through with this action?” The expected number of deaths had been in the topline results: twenty times the baseline average. “Worthwhile?”

“I expect so,” said Councilor Goreham. “The colony will need something of value once we’re established. What good is a colony with nothing to offer? This store would give us some value from the outset, before mining or agriculture has had a chance to develop and adapt to the conditions on the target.”

“So, then, I moved we make this adjustment.”

The vote was quickly carried out. It was unanimous, all but one voice.

“It seems to me that it all hinges on whether the inputs are good.” Fri peered into the darkness ahead. This was coming from Chabo again, his face locked once more on the screen.

“All of the assumptions and the data analyzed were listed at top of the report,” Fri said impatiently, like an instructor to an especially slow year-class. “You have access to the same data as Seyyes and all of us.”

“No. Go back in,” Chabo said, his fingers moving intently on the screen. “Go back into the system. There’s been an attack in Sector 9.”

“Wha—from outside the ship?” Fri was dumbfounded.

“No. Inside.”

The council broke into chaos.

It didn’t make sense. An attack? That was something from the history vids, something from the before time, from the home. The people here could not attack. The system ensured it. Seyyes ensured it.


Trace picked through the smoking mass that had been the door leading into the computer array. She would need to move fast. Security was undoubtedly on its way. She was vaguely aware that she had crossed a point of no return, but something pressed her inexorably onward.

As she stood in the middle of the computer array, which stretched down the length of the corridor in every direction, was simultaneously diminishing and strangely elating. It was all coils and boxes packed into every corner, ticking away, slumbering helplessly in the dim lighting.

Trace raised the AM pistol, and fingered the safety catch. Had Seyyes foreseen this, she wondered? Did it really see anything at all? Or was that just more propaganda from the Council?

There was movement at the door and Trace spun. Just a drone. It watched her, unmoving, for a moment. Then its face faded to black. It slowly wheeled out of the doorway and out of view.

She turned back to one wall of the array. “Guess I need to talk to you.” She still had her comm unit in her pocket. She took it out and connected it to one of the many ports on the wall. Seyyes must assume that all who had access here were authorized.

She worked through the screens slowly. She had only known low-level parts of the controls before now, but it was all roughly similar. She was drawn in more and more, digging deeper, down more into the details as she tried to find...

What was it?

The drone. The drone from this morning. She located the serial number in the drone roster and opened the record.

The full record of its actions for the week. Her repair and reinstatement of it this morning. And its engagement with Councilor Fri. He had personally authorized the use of the drone for himself, no others present. There was a gap in the logs then, a period of time unaccounted for in the drone’s record, from then until it was recovered in its damaged state and delivered to her the night before.

Then she heard clicking sounds at the doorway. “Don’t step any closer,” she cried.

The security guards, recognizable by the black stripes on their uniform, paused for a moment at the door. They wore armor, and had their facemasks down—all useless against the AM gun she carried.

One began to step over the slag on the floor and she screamed, “Stop! This is an antimatter pistol I have pointed at the computer array. I fire and the Seyyes is gone. And AM blasts are very unpredictable. I hope they teach you that in training. Do you think the shielding on this wall will hold out? It’s an external hull wall, if I’m not mistaken. We’d all die if it were breached. Probably get sucked right out the hole. And this ship would be left without a brain.”

“Put the gun down,” a voice echoed down the corridor from the doorway.

She ignored it. “I’m going to stay right here,” she said, keeping a stack of the processing away between her and the door. And then, almost as an afterthought, she added: “I want to see Councilor Fri.”


What did it mean? A member of the civilian population had never requested a specific Councilor before. They had always been to cowed to address them—technically, they could, but the system of emotional control, psychological inhibition, ensured conformity to prevent such things. Was there some failing in the educational program?

Surely there could be no deficiency in the genetic pool. No one with any history, personal or familial, of mental illness had been allowed in the selection of initial volunteers. Any heritable issues, of course, meant instant disqualification.

That violence with the gun—taking Seyyes hostage—Seyyes!—unthinkable. It had to be a stolen gun—how? At every point, the controls should have obviated this crisis.

He cursed as he walked down the call. If the Council security officers by his side had any reaction, they didn’t show it. Their face guards were down, leaving their faces dark and inscrutable.

And requesting him by name—unheard of. How did she reach this point? They had always had warnings of divergent behavior in the past, enough warning signs to preemptively get them into the brig before any real damage had been done.

The Councilor came to the last door. Security was crawling everywhere at this point, especially inside the entrance room—everywhere not in view of the big door, now a ruined heap across the room. He marveled at the state of this formerly secure room, only used for monitoring the computer systems. All its contents had been overturned and trampled by the security officers taking defensive positions. They might need some vital materials handling training once this was all over, he thought idly.

He edged toward the doorway and peered inside.

“Are you... Trace?” he called into the corridor. The space was dark and cold, illuminated only by dim lights above the computer arrays.

He didn’t know her—he didn’t know much of anyone from outside the Council. Its members were selected by Seyyes from the general population, the most promising individuals chosen from the pool. But their duties rarely allowed them much time to talk with outsiders.

The council had completed the vote before convening, and he reviewed her record briefly on his way here. Nothing particularly stood out from her history. Just a drone repair tech, already completed her reproductive services. Unremarkable, until today. Her mother had been jailed for refusal to work two decades ago, but there was no evidence she had known or ever been in contact with her...

“Yes.” The voice echoed from the chamber ahead. “Are you Fri?”

He saw no movement ahead. “I am.” He took a step over the melted door into the chamber. “I want to talk to you alone.”

Fri took another step, and another, moving deeper into the darkness, further away from the protection of security.

Suddenly a hand shot out and grabbed him, pulling him back into the recess of an array.

“What are you—”

“Shut up,” she hissed. “Just listen. I need to get out of here—”

“You’ll never be allowed to—”

“No, I will, because you’re going to let me.”

“Why would—”

The gun was still pointed at the wall in front of her. “Because I can blow this up right now. I know our trajectory was changed just now. I read the report. People are going to die—”

“People always die.”

“Many more, over this. For your energy scheme. What do you think the people would say if they knew this was coming? What do you think they would do? What if they knew about your fetish?”

His face went red and he tried to wrestle away, but she had the strength of youth. The gun in his face stopped his struggling. Her nails dug into his arm. “Don’t make me,” she said.

“You’d kill us both.”

“Yes. I would.”


“Now,” she said, “let’s go out there together. Tell security that we’re fine—I’m going back to my quarters, and I’ll leave the gun with you once I’m there.”

“But the records—”

“Are my insurance. I have copies—on this comms device, but not only on this one. And if anything happens to me, they won’t only be sent to the rest of the Council.”
She pushed him out into the corridor and slowly followed him to the door.

There was some grumbling from the security team, that the person responsible for all this trouble got off like that, but they had to admit there had been no bad behavior from her since.

Fri’s tenure on the Council was short-lived after that. He resigned within the year, and life for the population went on.

Tech: Antimatter

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Toxxs have until midnight to not get banned. Submissions are closed.

Edit: Late submissions are still welcome, and I will crit submissions that are up a reasonable time before judgment. They just won't win/HM/DM/lose.

Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 06:26 on May 8, 2017

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
The Beautiful World (970 words)

The year was 2041, and anime was finally real.

It was a simple procedure. An artificial membrane stretched across the cornea. You could touch it if you wanted, or control it with your thoughts. Everyone’s eyes were custom-tailored. In this way you could filter reality. The people of Earth had never been happier.

Milos nursed his drink, his eyes drawn to his reflection in the polished sheen of the countertop. He’d been born with a natural squint his chosen aesthetic stylized as shut. He raised his free hand and held the lid open. There it was. Hazel. Just like he remembered.

“You alright, Milos?”

A Better Tomorrow, Too was a cramped little space, cozy and compact. A dozen patrons would’ve been a crowd. But it was warm and tidy and the drinks were cheap. The cook was nice. The bartender was nicer. Her name was Hailey.

“Fine, fine, I’m fine.” He offered a smile, a wave of his hand. “Busy day, is all.”

“Ah, well, you looked right lost in thought. Leave you be, then.”

“No, no, it’s fine. Wouldn’t have come if I needed my space.”

Hailey shrugged. She was doing inventory. Thursday nights were slow nights. Only Milos came. “Thank God,” she’d say, “You’re the only one keeping us in business you know.”

He’d smile. “A financial burden, I assure you.”

She was an eternally youthful twenty-something with cat-like eyes and short, perfectly-feathered hair. She wore the uniform of her profession, a vest and collared shirt – black on white – creased and ironed. Her hair was a minty sea green, but her eyes were hazel. Just like his. It was her bar, and she went to great lengths to keep it spic-and-span. Her apartment was a nightmare, he heard.

They’d met at a concert in the square. That was some time ago. He worked days, she worked nights. He’d stop by in the evening. On Thursdays he’d have dinner. Always.

Milos tapped his eye. It felt like touching the screen on his phone.

The two were dolls in a playhouse, stylized approximations of humanity. It might’ve been jarring, but his eyes retrofitted the world to match. The backboard of the bar was a mesh of pastels, each bottle dazzling, sharply-inked. It was a world of solid colors, simply shaded, and vibrant. The geometry of the bar, the street, the city, was perfect, and only occasionally impossible. The look of it meshed. It all made sense.

“What about you,” he’d asked when they first met. “What’s your angle?”

“Ah, well.” She chuckled. “My dad loved his crime films, the old smoke and dramas. A bit young, then, but we watched them all the same. American mobsters, Hong Kong action.” She did a little karate chop. “When it came time to pick, well, I felt the need for heroic bloodshed, those neon streets with a dash of the noir.”

“Terrifying. So how do I look?”

“Oh, cool. Very cool. Especially your jacket.”

The jacket in question was sleepy blue. Milos himself wasn’t fond of it, but he always wore it whenever he visited.

He was summoned to the present by the ring of a bell. His meal was ready. The cook who’d prepared it was a faceless apparition, a shadow puppet in human clothes. Everyone started out that way, until you got to know them. Milos only now considered he’d never learned the man’s name. He must have a name. He deserved it. His food was exquisite.

Milos dug into his steak. He took a bite, chewed, and swallowed.



“I think I’d like…I’d rather like to see you.”

“Oh?” She cocked her head, hand to her chin. “Not sure how you’d like me to interrupt that.” Her eyes flashed with mischief.

“Ah, no, not like that.” Milos scratched the back of his head. “I want to see you. The real you. And this place. And I’d like you to see me. The real me, I mean.”

Hailey’s expression dipped, uncertain. She took a moment to process his request. “You mean…unfiltered?” She tapped her eye.

Of course you could adjust the filters. You could turn them off, if you wanted. Milos had seen the world this way since his teens. When he blinked, if he wished, it could all be over.

The previous weekend they’d gone to the mountains. A remote location deep in the woods. There’d been a lake there they hadn’t known about. In the heat of the moment, under a blazing sun, they’d gone skinny dipping. Their bodies were perfect, without blemish or flaw. It was something Milos had never really thought about until he’d seen her, heard her speak. She traced her finger up her chest, turning at the collarbone.

“Scared?” She grinned. “This is it. Quite the war wound, wouldn’t you say?”

Milos couldn’t see it. He’d known about it, the scar. She told him she’d gotten it in a car accident. She’d nearly died. She’d described the scar in loving detail. Horrible though it was, she saw its value. The experience had given her a new lease on life.

It was so important to her, and Milos couldn’t see it. There was no room for scars in his vision of the world. Instead she was perfect. But people weren’t perfect. He'd grimaced at the time. He figured he should.

He finished relaying this to her at the bar. A lack of other customers kept his words honest. She mulled them over.

“Well, I suppose that’s reasonable enough. But switching off’s easy.”

“Not as easy as it should be. That’s why I think we should do it together. It’d be strange if...if only I knew the true you, or you only me.”

He held out his hand. She hesitated, then took it. They looked into each others eyes.


They blinked.


Sep 14, 2007

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

F :golfclap:

J :golfclap:

G :golfclap:

J :golfclap:

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