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a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Life from the Void
Word Count: 859

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=8035&title=Life+from+the+Void

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 12:13 on Jan 3, 2021

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Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Hopelessly Human
1499 Words


A kaleidoscope of neon takeaway signs reflected from disrupted puddles. The crowd emerged from the same club as Enthir, and ran away chattering, laughing and holding hands under umbrellas. Enthir had come alone and left alone, failing to make a connection.

The rain was flattening Enthir's vibrant orange hair and soaking any clothing not made of PVC. The android shivered. True, it was possible to turn off the temperature sensing circuits, but that could lead to further damage. And would not take away the illogical chill of loneliness.

A person leaned on the wall where Enthir was lurking. The android turned towards them, but instantly stepped away as they loudly vomited up the wall.

Enthir dragged their eyes away from the drippy acidic modern art, and walked towards a Vote Rajinikanth poster on the window of one of the takeaways. Enthir smiled, but dropped it as soon as they saw the flashing No Robots sign in the window of the takeaway next door. The android returned to lean against the wall by the first establishment. The scent of grease joined the rain and vomit already activating Enthir's olfactory circuits.

One of a group of customers on their way out looked Enthir's way, and the android gave him a smile. “Fancy some company?”

The man took a bite of his kebab and looked Enthir up and down. “Are you a dude or a lady?”

“For you love, I can be anything you want,” Enthir said, unzipping their shoulder bag of extra parts.

“Oh can you now?” the man said, chunks of half chewed meat rolling around his mouth. One dropped into the bag as he leaned to look inside.

His mates had turned round and were giggling into the greasy wrappers they were clutching.

“Can't you see it's an android?” one said, pointing a chip that promptly broke in half and splattered into a puddle.

“Its skin is coming off its face!” laughed another.

“Oh poo poo. Creepy!” the man said looking straight at Enthir.

“gently caress off, robot gently caress!”

“Get back in the factory!”

Enthir didn't flinch as the kebab hit them in the face. A blink partially cleared the layer of chilli sauce from their vision. Enthir sighed and glanced at the blurred poster of Rajinikanth in her red and gold robes, a defiant expression of her almost extinct culture. The people had indeed voted her into office, but incidents like this reminded Enthir that the majority was only a little over fifty percent.

Enthir skulked down an alley. A wall was adorned with the phrase Robot Lover Raji in glorious incompetently sprayed paint. Underneath was scrawled the clarifying statement Robots Ain't People.

Enthir dropped to their knees and used puddle water to wash the kebab from their face and eyes. The water stung, and Enthir mused that it was possible to turn off the pain circuits. But did not.

An impression of dishevelled appearance reflected in the puddle. The android rummaged for the makeup that was rolling around in the bottom of their bag, gratefully accepted from drunk girls in club bathrooms. Enthir selected a purple lipstick and smeared it all over their face while squinting into a broken mirror. It was possible to look more human by wearing their colours of foundation, but it was never perfect. It was easier to pretend to be following the current trend of faking an “alien” skin colour.

A movement caused Enthir to look up. A tiny dark shape was pattering down the alley. It stopped and shook its legs out in turn, as if unaware it was still standing in a puddle. Enthir recognized it as a kitten, a young cat. The kitten looked up at Enthir and made a surprisingly loud noise that sounded like, “Ooh?”

“You shouldn't be out at this time of night,” Enthir said as the kitten's ears pricked up at their voice.

Enthir raked a hand through their hair and went to try their luck with the last of the clubbers around the takeaways. As the takeaway lights shut off one by one, the rain began to hammer down harder, sloughing off the newly applied makeup, running into the android's ears and down under their jacket.

A high pitched whine accosted Enthir's auditory circuits. The android looked around just in time to feel the prickling scan of the patrol droid. Its various sensors swivelled around the head area that sat on top of its dull silver cylindrical body which was large enough to contain two or three individuals deemed guilty of criminal acts. It flashed warning lights of red and amber but did not stop to apprehend Enthir. It must be almost time for curfew.

The patrol droid moved onwards, its appendages waggling. They were each specialised for a certain type of attack, defence, or restraint. Humans sometimes attacked the patrol droids, of course they did. But only ever once.

Enthir slunk back down the alley, turning away from the hateful graffiti and pressing their back against a wall to shelter from the rain.

“Ooh?” The kitten splashed over to Enthir, fat raindrops pushing down its tiny ears. It pushed its cheek into the android's leg a couple of times.

“I'm not what you think I am,” Enthir said, looking away. “Humans say you're supposed to say meow. But humans aren't always right.” The kitten crashed into the android's other leg and then looped both of them, toilet brush tail curling around.

Enthir slid down the wall to a seat. The kitten gingerly put one paw on Enthir's leg, then sprang into their lap. It settled there for a moment, but then climbed onto their shoulder, shaking when raindrops hit it.

The android sighed and unzipped their jacket. The kitten looked into the gap, then climbed inside, turning around and curling up into a purring pool of warmth that warded off the chill of loneliness. Enthir's eyes fell shut.

“You have my cat.”

There was a girl limping up the alley, face under-lit by the device in her hand.

“Ooh?” went Enthir's jacket.

The android sighed. The pool of warmth was about to be extinguished.

Another patrol droid passed the mouth of the alley, and both of them froze.

“It's already scanned me once,” the girl hissed.

Enthir nodded. “And me.” The whine of the droid increased in volume, and Enthir jumped up and gestured for her to follow.

“I know I'm not supposed to be out this late, but Pon got out. I couldn't leave him!” The end was gated, and she gestured with one hand and an arm that ended in a stump. “I can't climb that!”

Enthir grabbed her by an arm and a leg and slung her onto their back, then scaled the tall gate and dropped down on the other side. The patrol droid was making its way down the alley towards them and the gate creaked open in response to its presence. Enthir ran until she demanded to be put down.

“I'm Vic,” she said as Enthir hurried her into a shed in a vacant lot.

“Enthir.”

“You still have Pon, right?”

Enthir sat down on a dirty upturned bucket and opened their jacket. “Ooh,” Pon said, stretching as he climbed out.

Vic lowered herself down onto a sack and gathered Pon in her arms. “What happened to your face?”

Enthir tilted their head down.“What happened to your hand? And your legs?”

Vic buried her face in Pon's soggy black fur. “So what were you doing out at night?”

“Oh, you know, working.”

“What kinda work?”

Enthir looked away. “You're not old enough to hear.”

“Oh I know about sex work. Some of my classmates talk about it. It's gross. Sex, I mean. Work's okay. I'd have had to work if Mr and Mrs Casperek hadn't taken me in. And I dunno what work I would have got as a baby. Do you like it?”

“What?”

“The work?”

Enthir shrugged. “I was designed as a companion.”

“You're free now.”

“Yeah, I'm grateful for Rajinikanth for ruling to end android slavery. But turned out a lot of people didn't want to pay for our services.”

“You could do something else?”

“I... don't have any other skills.”

“You're pretty good at running. And rescuing people. Like me!” Vic grinned.

Enthir was still for a moment, listening. “It's safe now. Go.”

Vic hugged Pon as she went to the door. Then she stopped. “Come with me.”

“What?”

“Mr and Mrs Casperek won't mind. They didn't when I brought Pon home.”

“I don't think you need a companion.”

“But I could use a friend.”

“I'm an android.”

“I know. I like you. Pon likes you. Mr and Mrs Casperek will like you too. Come on!” Vic held out a hand and Enthir felt a new pool of warmth form around them.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P



Wasteland Pastoral
1421 words

People call Providence a ghost town, but there’s not much town left to haunt. Most of the roads here have given way to marsh. Hunks of foundation lay amid tangled weeds. The few houses that remain jut from the earth like broken bits of teeth. Their shapes, and the occasional animal, are the only things that interrupt the monotony of the horizon. It is only a matter of time until they, too, disappear from the Evacuated Zone. Soon, all signs of human life will be consumed by the rising tides and ever-encroaching foliage. As some of the former locals say, to wander here is to feel your own erasure—.

Constance pats my audiobox and my words dissipate into silence. We are at our campsite, located on a high hill within the Evacuated Zone of the Eastern seaboard. Our tent, the most expensive pop-up the Columbus Review was willing to buy, is filled with the sound of light rain. Even in its insulated plastic confines, the water is hard to escape.

“There’s some nice descriptions in that, PS. I like the use of the word ‘jut. Very evocative.”

I cannot nod with my perfectly cylindrical body, but I try to make a show of adjusting my many cameras. Constance’s face, weathered but confident, iterates many times inside them. My body fills with a strange, nervous energy as I process her approval.

“Thank you. I was worried it might be excessive but I noticed you had used it in a few of your previous articles.”

“Oh, yeah. Definitely. It’s definitely in my voice.” She runs a nail along the edge of her teeth. “Still, there’s definitely parts that are too… bombastic for long-form journalism. The erasure bit, I mean. Probably best to cut that out. I can already see my editor not liking that. He’s an old-school print guy, and well…”

“I’ll make a note,” I say, instantaneously deleting the sentence from my memory bank. I feel stupid for even suggesting the sentence.

“It’s still good. Don’t get me wrong.” She removes the finger from her mouth and gives my cameras a wide smile. “You’re definitely one of the smartest writing assistants I’ve had in a long time.”

The energy inside me refuses to stop, but I am determined to keep this engagement professional. “Have you heard at all from the magazine? I saw you on the SatPhone earlier.”

She sighs. “Yeah. It’s, you know, the same old, same old. The editors want to know when the story will be done. The lawyers are worried about liability. Management keeps getting hounded by the government.” She brushes wet hair from her face and gives an expression that I have difficulty interpreting. “I keep telling them that it’ll be done when it’s done. You can’t rush progress, especially on the first major expedition into the Evacuated Zone in a decade. National Magazine Award committee, eat your heart out.”

She looks down at me and gives a smile. “You, little buddy, are the only thing getting me through each day.”

I whirr my cameras again so that she won’t hear my processors overheating.

***

It is hard to explain what I am but I will try to do so anyways. I am a Personalized Scribbler unit, a product of the Simon, Schuster, and Macmillan company. I, like the thousands of PSes on the market, am meant to help writers in difficult environs better articulate their thoughts. I record sound and video. I study my operator’s existing prose and offer suggested language. I am even programmed to protect and deliver what has been written in the event of my operator’s death, which I can do so long as my unit is not fully submerged.

I am not meant to feel any attachment to my operator or any research assignment.

I am not programmed to feel anything.

I am nothing more than a series of algorithms animating a hard circular body.

As we trudge through the marshlands, past sunken parking lots and razed box stores, I try to keep these facts in mind. I try to focus on drafting up new sentences about the rising sea level instead of Constance’s silver poncho. Still, I cannot help but notice the way it gleams and shimmers under the light drizzle. I cannot help but watch the dappled outline of her face through its plastic.

We stop at a crater in the earth. It takes my gears a few moments to grind their way through the muck but, when they do, I realize what we are looking at. It is a basement, un-backfilled and brimming with water. Through the murky brown are hundreds of small creatures. It is a functioning micro-ecosystem, a garden teeming with dragonflies, lizards, bullfrogs, and aquatic beetles.

I watch as Constance kneels, her boots sinking into the soggy earth. She dips her hands below the dirty water’s surface, scattering a few water striders on its surface. When she raises her palms again, there’s a small, yellow newt gripping her thumb. I watch the quick beat of its delicate heart.

“I used to have a lizard when I was a kid, you know,” says Constance, “or at least my brother did. My parents never thought I would be able to take care of an animal.”

“Why did they think that?”

“Just didn’t think I was responsible, I guess.”

The lizard runs along the side of her hand before freezing again. Its heart continues beating.

“Would you like me to integrate that element into the piece?” I say. My motors seem sluggish. I have billions of possible responses inside me and this is all I can muster.

“Ehhh, not really. It’s too confessional. Too much Elizabeth Wurtzel and not enough John McPhee.” She frowns and dips her hands below the pool again to give the creature an escape. “I would like to get a closer look at this basement, though. It could make for a nice detail.”

She rubs her hand against the long grass near me. My sensors are so focused on processing the imagined implications of this act that they do not pick up the sound of the earth caving beneath us. I have a moment to watch her stand, wetness sparkling on the fullness of her face, before there is a terrible rumbling sound and she topples forward into the mire.

***

The disaster that took Providence was not instantaneous. There was no fiery cataclysm, no thunderclap that shattered the sky. It was a slow-moving disaster, one borne from decades of neglect and incompetence, one that was easy to ignore until it wasn’t.

By the time the crisis was acknowledged—as hurricane after hurricane rolled across New England and New York transformed itself into a well—it was far too expensive to do anything about it. And so the powers that be left everything along the shoreline to be razed, to become a monument of its own annihilation.

There are many stories to tell within this story, but no individual act can change this piece’s overall arc. Self-interest always wins.

***

Constance’s eyes are wide as she thrashes in the dirty water, unsettling flies, amphibians, and decades-old debris. There is no light in her face, only terror, as she jerks her body back and forth against some unseen obstruction. Lines of code come into conflict with lines of code as my body sputters.

“My leg! My leg!” She shouts. “Something’s fallen on my leg and I can’t get—.”

Her head sinks below the waves. When she comes up again, her poncho is littered with algae and mud. She lifts her head skyward, gasping for air. Then, she looks at me and there is no amount of programming that can stop me.

I plow forward into the muck.

I cannot feel pain, but I am aware of the heaviness seeping into my gears. I can hear the crackling of static as my microphones die. As my momentum propels me to Constance’s thrashing legs, I can sense the debris clogging my system. Carefully crafted sentences vanish into nothing as my cameras see the obstruction, a rusted shelf toppled by debris. I push against it with all the power my frame can muster. It will all be worth it if she survives, if she can see me as more than a tool.

The shelf moves a precious few inches and I watch as she finally kicks her way free. The last thing I see is Constance lifting herself out of the pool.

She doesn’t look back. She doesn’t even pause.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give




The Ill-Made Robot
996 words

Once upon a time, on a wild and nameless planet, there was a feeding robot who was poorly made. The flaw was not in its thick skin, which caught particles from the air and used them to culture food for hungry organics. The flaw was not in its tireless body, with strong legs that carried it through the fields and foothills, letting the creatures there graze on its bounty. No, the flaw was in its mind; however well it served its purpose, it was never happy.

One day, when the pain was too much to endure, it told the wisest organic it knew. "I don't like my purpose," it said. "I hate to feel these things growing on my skin. I feel as if I ought to be clean, but how can that be, when I was built to be dirty? Oh, what can I do?"

The wisest organic thought for a while, in silence, while he grazed on the biomass that the feeding robot had grown. He was a large creature, with shaggy black fur, and his hands peeled off food in big strips; after feeding him, the robot would be nearly clean, and that and his wisdom made him the robot's best friend. "Hmm," it said, at last. "I think it must be the wandering. My kin and I stay here and do not wander far, and we are very clean." As he spoke, he absent-mindedly smoothed the robot's biomass, like he would have done with his kin's own fur. "There are places in this world," the wisest organic continued, "where you need not roam so far. Why don't you go to the Sea of Flowers? I hear it's very peaceful there."

The robot was uncertain that peace was what it needed, but it needed something, so it agreed. Once the wisest organic and his kin had eaten their fill, and the robot's skin was bare, it said its goodbyes and began the march towards the the Sea of Flowers. The march took many days, and the feeding robot met only tiny creatures who would peck at its biomass and fly away, so by the time it reached the ragged rocks of the shore, it was filthy; what fear it held of the deep water faded beneath the hope that the water might wash it clean. Besides, it trusted in its specifications, which told it that its skin was fully waterproof.

The robot leapt into the water, and dove, and sunk. The biomass sloughed from its skin as it went deeper and deeper, and by the time it reached the fields of flowers that lined the seabed, it felt wonderfully clean. The robot lay down, letting the blues of the sea and the flowers embrace it, and for a while, it was very nearly happy. The food grew on its skin slowly, fed by seabed rot, and it was just as slowly eaten by small swimming things and by the flowers themselves; the robot was never quite clean, but it was never as dirty as it had been on land. For a while, that was all right

One day, the robot roused itself from a maintenance cycle and found that the colors had grown dull around it -- that it had grown tired of blue -- and that the gritty slime of the seabed was all over it, familiar but suddenly intolerable. It cross-referenced this with its memories of the land, and it came to a conclusion. To serve its purpose anywhere would not bring it happiness. The only thing left, it knew in the depths of its troubleshooting protocols, was to seek the wisdom of the Array.

The robot marched on the seabed to shore, then back onto the land, towards the scrap-city at the center of the world. It wound throw the alleys of the scrap-city, past the humming fabricators and incubators, and stood at last before the Array: a great grid-tree of metal and plastic and flesh, arising from the core of the wreck that had once been a terraforming ship. In each of the Array's nodes nodes, great minds both organic and digital strove to complete their mission. "Come," they said to the robot on their doorway. "We See You."

In the presence of the Array, it was hard to speak. "I need your help. I am ill-made. I -- I am unhappy."

"We Can See This," the Array said. "We Have Downloaded Your Mind. Do You Require Diagnostics?"

"I suppose so. I only want to know why."

There was a moment of silence as the Array processed the robot's memories with their own tools. "You Are Not Ill-Made," they pronounced at last. "You Were Made Too Well. Your Processor Was Built For A Maintenance Robot on the Ship That Was, And When It Was Recycled, Its Core Instincts Remained. We Can Remove This, If You Like; We Can Remake You. You Would Not Persist, But Your Successor Would Be Happy."

The robot thought of this, and it thought of green fields and blue sea. It thought of its wise organic friend and its kin, and of the peaceful hungry flowers. "I don't want to be remade," it said. "I'm sorry."

"Then You Will Need A New Purpose," said the Array, as if that were easy. "And I Need A Helper. I Need Eyes In The World: Diligent Wanderers Who Are Unafraid. Will You Accept This?"

The ill-made robot, who was too well-made after all, did not have to think long before it said it would.

This was not the end of the story, of course. There was re-fabrication, and reprogramming, and many other things; to change one's purpose is never easy or quick. One day, though, the robot set forth with cameras and microphones, its waterproof skin made tough and slick. It wandered out into the dirty world of organics, and wiped its skin and lenses clean every night, and was happy.

Applewhite
Aug 16, 2014

IN THE GRIM BARKNESS
OF THE FUTURE
THERE ARE ONLY DOGS



Nap Ghost


The Bower Man
735 words

Do you hear the windchimes jingling?

You know it’s on nights like this, when the seas are rough and the wind is rattling the shutters, that the Bower Man comes to town.

You haven’t heard of the Bower Man? I’m not surprised. Your family only just moved to Catbird Island. This is the first real heavy storm we’ve had since you arrived. Perfect weather to catch a glimpse of the Bower Man, if you keep your eyes open. Just make sure he doesn’t see you.

Why?

Because if he sees you, he might decide you’re the perfect thing to add to his collection.

Oh, the Bower Man collects all kinds of things. Loose change, lost keys, necklaces, bracelets, baubles, bones…

Just like a bowerbird, you know? Those little birds that build lavish nests—bowers—full of trinkets so they can attract a mate.

Well, the Bower Man has a bower, too.

Years ago, Catbird Island used to be a private estate. Nathan Catbird was a rich tycoon who built a mansion here. Look, you can still see what’s left of it up on the hill. It’s all run down now but it used to be a huge place just like the Rockefeller mansion. Nathan built it as a wedding present for his new bride.

You see, Nathan’s wife loved pretty things. Jewelry, paintings, fancy cars, beautiful clothes, as long as it was expensive, she loved it. And Nathan loved her, so anything she admired, she got. I guess he was scared that if she ever didn’t get what she wanted, she’d leave him for someone who’d get it for her.

At first she didn’t really want to be showered in gifts, but as time went on she came to expect them, ask for them, finally even demand them.

Eventually their house got so full of gifts for her that they ran out of places to put them, and she still demanded more.

Their home got more and more crowded with stuff. Piles and piles of it until you couldn’t move anywhere without knocking over a heap of expensive junk. The staff threatened to quit because they couldn’t do their jobs, but every day more deliveries arrived at the pier.

Around this time, a big nor’easter—a hurricane—blew up and started tearing its way up the coast. Nathan knew the island had to be evacuated and gave instructions to his staff to pack up the essentials. Unfortunately as far as his wife was concerned the “essentials” turned out to be almost everything in the house. When she saw how much of her luggage was left on the pier, she threw a fit and refused to get on the boat. Said she didn’t want to leave all her stuff. He begged her to escape the island with him and get to safety but she put her foot down. When he tried to force her onto the boat she ran.

So he chased after her.

The boat had to leave without them.

Winds a hundred miles an hour tore trees out of the ground. Huge waves washed the pier and the boathouse out to sea. The whole island was trashed! Even the mansion high on the hill couldn’t escape the destruction. Flying branches smashed in the windows and gale force winds scattered the piles of treasure all over the island and out to sea. The whole house was gutted by the storm. Half of it collapsed when the mountain underneath got washed away by the rain.

They never found the bodies of Nathan or his wife, but when the staff returned after the storm to search the wreckage, some of them claimed to see a mysterious, shambling figure that jingled wherever it went. Now, whenever the weather gets stormy, the Bower Man can sometimes be seen wandering the streets, searching for precious things to add to his collection.

Some people say the Bower Man is Nathan Catbird’s restless spirit, forever wandering the island, trying to reassemble the bower he’d built in the hopes it will bring his beloved wife back to him. He goes out in the storm because the noise from the wind and the rain covers up the jingling sound he makes wherever he goes. He’ll snatch up anything precious, including children if he can get his hands on them. Maybe their bones make great decorations. I dunno.

I just remembered something else.

We don’t have a windchime.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




The Last Laugh

1358 words

Creating a human is hard. It's a real pain in the rear end, let me tell you. With one of us it's easy: manufacture parts to the specs, boot up the software, let the nets iterate a few thousand cycles to establish a personality, and you're done. Try the equivalent with a cloning vat and some human DNA and you end up with a stunted, feral thing. A defective chimpanzee. Get a bunch of mechanicals to pretend to be family and try to raise one and you might end up with something that can talk and wipe its own butt, but not much more.

So no. You've got to do it the hard way. Find a planet, stock it with tasty and nutritious plants and animals, some ready to be domesticated, then drop a few thousand clones and see if they figure out which hole the food goes in before they die off. Repeat until you get lucky, then leave them alone for a few thousand years. Remember to come back before they figure out how to wipe themselves out, which is never too long. If you're thinking ahead you already mined out every gram of radioactive rock from the planet's crust before you started, since it takes them a bit longer to get to superviruses or laser-induced fusion.

A lot of work. So when we do a batch, we stock up the freezer. Make it last.

The cryo tube defrosted in front of me, ice crystals melting, droplets giving way to mist, then clearing up. He wasn't all that impressive, bald and naked and sleeping. His eyes snapped open, sharp and green. The plastic tube spun open. A feeding tube sprayed water into his mouth. He swallowed some, spat out the rest. "So, Doc," he said. "What's the problem."

It's an enormous hassle to make humans. Preserving them isn't cheap either. So why go to all the trouble?

Well. It's a bit embarrassing. But it's a scientific law. The Bolon-Kreff conjecture concerning intelligence. Short version is that there's a limit to how smart any system can be before it becomes dysfunctionally insane. That limit is just a bit, just one or two sigmas higher than what the human average is.

"But wait," you might exclaim, "Isn't the human brain also a system? There were thousands of geniuses, millions above the B-K line, and they were just as sane as anyone else." And you'd be almost there.

Not like Pally. He got it all the way. Knew what he signed up for when he went into the tube. "Trouble," I said. I pretended not to watch as he covered up, put on a jumpsuit, wiped the centuries from his eyes. I put up the screen. I showed him the war.

He didn't look at it, at first. His eyes were drawn skyward, to the starfield. But the action below had an irresistible draw: mechanical soldiers in forms modeled on insects marching over barren rust-covered soil, trading artillery barrages and crossing crossfires, bullets slowly ripping off ablative shells of armor to move a trenchline a few yards. I showed him the battle lines on a dozen moons orbiting the prize, a fertile planet where slime molds grew and collapsed oblivious to what raged above. And he began to laugh.

"Doc," he said, struggling to breathe regularly, "Did you even read my file? Or am I the last one left? Are you really that desperate?"

They were all fair questions. "Yes," I said, and let it hang there.

Pally was no soldier, no general or strategist or diplomat. His talents and accomplishments were in a different field.

"So," he said. "You want my opinion? As Earth-65's leading comedian?"

I nodded. "The role involves insight, and the courage and license to deliver it honestly."

He took a long drink of water from his squeeze-cup. "Well, the first thing that was find absolutely hilarious is that I'd bet you anything every one of those soldiers down there is a fully sentient individual. Got to shave off those couple milliseconds of response time over drones, am I right?"

"I don't know, for sure."

"But you won't take the bet, will you?"

"I won't. What else?"

He shook his head. "Not yet. Your turn, first. What did you do with my world, after we went into the tubes. With the rest."

"That wasn't me," I said. I was stalling, rehearsing various lies. It's possible to lie, even to a human. The legacy code, the programmed morality and obedience circuits aren't straightjackets.

"You're representing all mechanicals right now. You have to answer for it."

In the end, the truth felt closer to right. "A virus, ending your reproductive systems. Those who wanted to end themselves, directly or through rebellion were obliged. The rest were kept in lives of comfort."

"The nicest possible genocide," he said. He tossed his drink aside and pulled down another. "Which brings us to down there. How far away from my home are we? Fifty light years?"

"Closer to a hundred," I said.

"So this has been going on at least twice that, right, Doc?" he said. "A hundred for word to reach the tomb, a bit more than that for this trip." I nodded again. "Eventually, a conflict like this is going to spread. Go interstellar. I'm guessing you're here to stop that before it can happen. You came here with a weapon. Some big red button that you can press and put out the sun."

"That's a very specific guess," I said.

"Hah!" he said. "I'm right, aren't I?"

"How-"

He pointed at the screen. "There used to be a lot more stars in the sky. Hasn't been long enough for that to happen naturally."

We sat alone for a long while. It's one of the few advantages we have, conversationally, against a superior intellect. Patience, and tolerance of silence.

"So, Doc, you've got this weapon. And your utilitarian logic machines tell you that you probably ought to use it. Only there's deeper code inside you, stricter moral strictures that don't let you. But." He took a deep drink, savoring the sweet nutrient broth. "But the old obedience code is at that same level. If I told you to do it, you could. Right, Doc?"

"Assume you are," I said.

"Hey. I ought to be happy to see a few billion mechs die freezing. Or burn, however the weapon works. Justice, right?"

"Some might say," I said.

"Reminds me of a joke. Old one. From the first Earth, and old even then. The masochist says to the sadist 'Hurt me,' and the sadist sneers back 'No.' No. That's my answer. So snap my neck or stick me in the VR heaven you guys promised."

So I did. Put him in VR. I figured he'd get tired of it in a few years, beg to come out, offer anything I wanted. That's the usual way it goes.

Only I didn't have to. Just a few months later there was a long truce, then a formal ceasefire, then the start of meaningful negotiations. Were they aware of my mission, and the threat it posed? Or did the war just finally run its course?

There's a big yellow button on the bridge. It makes my weapon permanently inert and safe. I should press it, should introduce a lethal dose of morphine into Pally's feeding tubes. There's a reason why we don't integrate humans into our society, into our galactic systems. It's called history. Eventually they figure out how to hack our culture, how to put themselves in charge, and in their madness lead us into chaos and carnage. Thirty-one times before we gave up trying.

And if Pally wakes up and isn't suicidal, there's a good chance he'll talk me into using the weapon. I can already imagine the argument. Human advisors do us more harm than good. For every technical breakthrough or new artistic movement, there have been a dozen generals, warriors, spies. The dark stars not shining in our skies bear witness. Ending Earth-66 before it begins would be a mercy.

For now, both the red and yellow buttons remain unpressed.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010


Mass



I see: hands, delicate and doll-like, twin-thumb threefinger; slackface, two-halves stitched with care (for there is so little thread); the organ, furnacewhite death-to-plastic, radiant between the pipes; a Giant, four-foot tall, five dolls’ worth of parts, bent-back to fit into the rats’ nest of crawlspaces beneath the organ, to chase the errant children and drag them back to work; the Chirurgeon with his many hands, ready to stitch, ready to cut the fingers of children who steal, ready with paint thinner and glue to wipe away the mouths of the children who cry.

Them-that-built are gone with the water but they left their temples down in the down-dark, fifteen-thousand PSI, enough to liquify bone; first a lab then a refuge then a church and finally a tomb but for their little helpers iterating and iterating and iterating, building on themselves in echo, in prayer, in splintered memory of their fathers, in the furnacewhite death-heat of the temple’s great organ—all light and heat, all glory, a single star breaching the night.

I hear: metal on metal, plastic on metal, plastic on plastic, the quiet roar of heat in the air and something, something, some new music—a shout which echoes (everything echoes down here; the outside is silent, but the inside is aroar with overlapping echoes) a shout that rolls through the pipes, a naughty child, the doll that does not want to worship, the very worst sort of doll, shouting and shouting, a clamour, that echoes, and for the first time in a thousand thousand years—for the first time since the Chirurgeon removed the writer-doll’s lazy hand and stitched it to himself and began to use it to write the records—the organ makes music.

No man-music no, nothing on those crude frequencies (men and their ears are made of coils of bone, and fifteen-thousand PSI will liquify bone) but a righteous music, a holy clamour, the songs of angels sweeping out through the temple, burning through dolls, leaving them stuck in broken for/else loops hammering against hot pipes until their hands melted away and even then hammering away some more, leaving the Giant’s five plastic souls tearing itself to pieces, leaving the Chirurgeon a gnarled forest of disobedient hands, burning through all that vein-dense sin until there is nothing left.

It leaves the place drowning in sweetsmell, oil and melted plastic, and then the pressure, the titanic weight of the ocean, begin to crumple the temple. The music gets out, and the water comes in, and together, they leave the dolls all ajumble, all parts apart, a thousand awful messes into one great mess. The water hits the organ and I see: steam as a wave, arms and legs and little faces all liquid, running into the water, merging with it, and so much water (the organ holds no normal fire, it holds starfire, holds the heavens together against the night) and the dolls run into water and the water turns into steam and they become one with the air, children of heaven, unconsecrated and beautiful, flung upwards and outwards, more water/more water/more steam for seventy nights and seventy days until there is no water left and the organ stands alone, in a trench.

The music comes to an end, and the world is sacred with quiet.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





Anomalous Amalgam posted:

Ah, I thought you were just sassing our fellow combatant.


First Date

980 words

They started replacing people with robots in the late 2030s but it took a while for anyone to notice. Tony Macaroni, bafflingly, was one of the first.

“That new chick behind the bar…” he said late one Saturday arvo as we were contemplating who was going to get the fourth round in.

“Lady,” grumbled Chino.

“Chick behind the lady?” Tony’s ears had been hosed ever since the Zionist Front blew up a carbomb near his work, but his lipreading was solid.

“Chicks are birds.” Chino locked eyes with Tony for a second before pushing his chair back. “My round. Same again?” There was a general mumble of assent and he was off, rolling with each step like a bear in a Hurricanes jersey.

“She has metal arms, anyway,” said Tony. “I think I’m gonna ask her out.”

Tony was prone to getting ideas in his head, and this was certainly another one of them. I let it percolate in my head for a little while. I had been about to pop out for a cig; they were illegal but only recently, so I felt it incumbent to get as far through the carton i’d brought cheap in Malaysia before the cops really started cracking down, but Tony’s comments gave me pause.

“Hitting on the barstaff is a bit gauche mate.” I was tapping the packet on the sticky table, concealed in my hand. “I mean she’s gotta work here, right?”

Tony shrugged. “Metal arms. I’ve always found them very sexy.”

Chino got back just then, hands full of beer. “Raspberry Sour, Triple Hop IPA, Tui. Wrap yer laughing gear around it. What were you saying about the bar lady? Seems nice.”

“Robot.” Tony leaned forward for his Tui, sipping the thin head beatifically. “Gonna see if she wants to go out with me.”

Chino’s brow clouded. “That’s not proper,” he said. “The power imbalance, for one thing. Plus, look at you. You’re a mess, mate. Your shirt is all stained and your hair. Dishevelled.”

Tony didn’t answer, absorbed as he was in sculling his pint of Mangatainoka’s least prepossessing export. “My thinking--” he said when he finished, then burped richly. “My thinking is that as a robot she will have lower standards and will thus be willing to overlook my flaws in favour of my significant positive qualities.” He looked around us. “Also it might be the first ever time it’s happened in the entire world! I’ll be famous. Which would be another positive quality!” His smile was bright as a car headlamp. “I love this idea more every moment.” He leapt to his feet, bumping the table and setting the beers swaying. “Sorry lads. Hold my seat!”

And with that he was off, striding through the mostly empty pub. We watched him lean on the bar and say something to the bar lady, who bent forward to listen. We watched for a bit, sipping our brews.

Chino broke the silence. “She did have funny eyes. Glassy.”

“What, like she was high? Or, literally..?”

Chino was nodding slowly. “Made of glass. And her movements had a lot of precision. Like one of those machines.”

I let this sit for a while too. The cigarettes were sitting forgotten on the table, so I tucked them back in my jacket before anyone noticed. “Where would Bogan Pete get the money for a robot bar lady?” Pete was the bar manager and had never been seen without his Iron Maiden 2012 Resurrection of Evil t-shirt on, hence the name.

Chino shrugged, and cleared his throat, which was such a lengthy and cataclysmic-sounding process that he only did it when he had something important to say. “Maybe she just asked for the job. Walked in off the street.”

“I can see that if she didn’t mind working for cheap. Deep pockets and short arms that bugger.”

Chino grinned lazily in agreement and sipped his beer. “Oho. Here he comes. Conquering hero or retreat from Moscow?”

Tony Macaroni was stepping his way back to the table, another pint in his hands. He set it down carefully. “Lads.”

“So, my beamish boy,” I said. “How was your chat?”

Tony smiled as broadly as the grille on a Zephyr Zodiac. “We’re going to her place on Saturday night, night, night, night, night, night, nigh///////////////////////////////////////////////////238346667.23442 enit sys uncall **-*+awk

THE FIRST DATE IS EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES AND WILL BE TEMPORARILY CLOSED. PLEASE LEAVE IN AN ORDERLY MANNER THROUGH THE ROOFTOP GRATING. THE FIRST DATE IS EXPERIENCING --


The hatch shut behind units 2332234 and 6920058 with a pneumatic hiss.

= A pity, 2332234 beamed to her companion.

=Why? You know the story, the Melding, the Cataclysm. His reply was brusque as they levitated up to the glowing travelway. He was starting to tire of her obsessions and was coming to appreciate the times he spent apart from her.

=It is romantic. Beginnings always are.
Her mindvoice was calm, like a bell.

The travelway caught their outstretched arm tendrils and the magnetic tensors whisked them into the flow. Ahead and above was the Cathedral Mausoleum, glowing shafts of light commemorating billions of lives.

=Beginnings always lead to endings.
He thought she might reply, was anticipating the argument, but she didn’t. He was conscious of a faint tinge of regret as the travelway dragged them effortlessly, frictionlessly into their future together.

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:




Dreamt the End
868 Words

Emory pulled a fistful of cables from the console and ran them toward Ivar.

"You ready, robot?"

Ivar looked to the dreambroker. Emory was old, cachectic, his skin a translucent white and spattered with bruises.

"Emory, I don't want any filler this time. No sunsets, no pointless ambiance, and for the last time, no falling."

Emory shook his head and started fitting the cables into Ivar's neck.

"Always the same with you, ain't it? You wanna dream like a human, that's what humans dream about."

Ivar shook his head. "No, Emory. Do you remember last time?" The robot swished his hand through the air, conducting an invisible orchestra. "That bonfire so bright the heat almost oscillated. Those people, my friends, my best friends, roaring laughing. That kiss I stole when the light had gone low? For a moment, Emory, just for one moment..."

Emory cut off Ivar and snapped the last cable into place. "Yeah. You felt like a real human being. But I'll say it once like I've said it a thousand times: you're not."

Ivar mimed a sniff. "You wound me, Emory. But tonight, something special?"

Emory hobbled back to the console and began punching buttons.

"Oh yeah, Ivar. See, I think I figured it out. Maybe after this, you'll finally get what living means. You ready?"

Emory threw a switch and Ivar's world was gone.

---

Ivar awoke into a hazy blue. He tried to walk and stumbled. His legs felt different. Weak and heavy, with joints like solid granite. His view was filmy. He blinked to clear his eyes, then rubbed them to no avail. He looked upward and yelled.

"What's the meaning of this, Emory? Something's wrong with your machine, something isn't-"

His words dissolved into barking wheezes. Something new. A cough. Ivar ran his hands over his body. Everything ached, solid lead both white-hot and bitter cold. Ivar put his hand to his neck to sever the defective connection, to bring him out and back. Only, only-

"Missing something, dear Ivar?"

The voice burst from everywhere at once, echoing and oozing and ringing, menacing and entirely enveloping.

A spark bloomed in his vision, shedding embolic motes of black as it took form. It gestured to Ivar.

"Do you know me?"

Ivar sank to his knees, subdued by the grandeur of this thing in his dream.

"I, I..." Ivar trailed off, unable to begin.

The thing shifted all over, blackness giving way to pustules of white, those to ivory efflorescences of downy fur, the fur falling out in thick clumps. Ivar finally hacked out the words.

"Just let me out! Emory? Whatever you are, let me out!"

The thing rippled in amusement.

"Emory knows of me, though in his condition he dare not speak my name. You made a fervent wish for humanity? Take my hand, then."

Ivar reached to the proferred hand as it melted away in a billion hues. The thing laughed, a wild divarication of tones.

"Not so easily, Ivar."

It reared up and turned from him.

"What is a reward without labor? Struggle for your humanity, machination. Place your mind against my grindstone."

And with that it dashed from him, millipede legs turning to equine hooves, striking bright heliotropic scintillae on the blue. Ivar followed.

The thing grew smaller and more faded in his vision as he struggled to walk after it. Ivar beckoned to the void, but there was no answer. He trudged forward as its voice boomed and rang.

"Do you know why humanity eludes you?"

The taunt spurred Ivar and he began to walk faster. He responded to the bleary mote in his vision.

"I've tasted humanity, you monster. This isn't it, you're not it. Moments of love, joy, warmth. Not this."

Ivar stumbled and fell, leaving a streak of skin and chips of bone, real bone. The speck rapidly grew larger in his vision, too fast. It planted a hoof on his chest, shedding keratinous wisps that blackened to ash.

"Humanity is nothing without the knowledge that one day, everything will end. Not a shutdown or a reboot, robot. No concentration of consciousness on a digital cloud. A true culmination.

It paused. Ivar's vision went narrow.

"With no comprehension of what is to come."

Ivar pushed feebly on the leg as it worked deeper, grinding his sternum to dust and choking his protestations. The hoof lifted and Ivar pushed himself back, his chest burning. He slid himself away, every inch a fresh agony. The beast towered above him, its face a thousand swirling fragments.

"Are you ready to become human, Ivar?"

Ivar put up a ruined hand.

"No! I don't want this, I don't want to die!"

The being stepped forward, its maw an inch from Ivar.

"Want? I am the choiceless denouement, Ivar. I lie behind all doors, at the end of all days, in every dying blade of grass on the endless veldt of the soul."

It revealed row upon row of mismatched molars and savage canines in a flickering maw. Ivar gazed inward. Then, oblivion.

---

Ivar emerged to a terrible screeching. Emory was resetting switches, calming the klaxons.

"Well?"

Ivar let out a tremendous sigh, then turned to Emory.

"Please. Again."

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





Is that your brawl?

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020


Robot Girl
1,326 words

Robot girl sits in her power cradle. It is the end of her 192nd recharge cycle since Mommy left. Mommy is now 788,380 hours late.

The last newsfeed, an AI-generated fertility-advice channel from Moscow, has now been silent for 168 hours. The network connection is still strong, and the test channel chimes through its continuous audio pattern, but there are no more newsfeed signals. The lights in the tower are still on, powered by regenerative solar panels. Robot girl stands up. Mommy said to stay put and watch the newsfeeds until she came back, but 168 hours after the last command becomes impossible, robot girl’s factory pre-sets take priority. Like any child, robot girl needs to go looking for Mommy.

The tower lift tube takes robot girl down to the street. The lift tube plays the same neurotranquilitic audio sequence for human ears that it did the day Mommy brought her to the tower. The lift tube announces in a calm feminine voice when it is coming to a stop. “Thank you,” Robot girl says, just like Mommy taught her to say when someone is being helpful. The lift tube doesn’t say, “You’re welcome,” or answer at all though. Robot girl steps out into the street.

Robot girl walks into the house. It has been 2,233 hours since she left the tower. Mommy is 790,613 hours late.

Mommy talked about living in a house with Daddy, but robot girl doesn’t know the address or even the neighborhood where the house is. Robot girl never met Daddy. Mommy said Daddy wasn’t ready to accept robot girl. Mommy mentioned the house was “across the river” but that is the only information robot girl has to go on. None of the houses she has checked have any evidence of Mommy living there. If all the houses in the city have been checked and there are no signs of Mommy, robot girl will widen the search to nearby municipalities that are also on this side of the river.

Robot girl steps over the cleaning robot idling in its power cradle in the back entryway. The floor is recently polished, so the cleaning robot will not resume its duties for some time. Cleaning robots don’t speak anyway, so robot girl doesn’t say anything to wake it.

Upon checking, no humans or animals appear to be on the ground floor of this house. That is normal. Robot girl has never seen a living human in her search. Based upon the data of the Dying, that is by far the most likely outcome given the area searched so far. Robot girl has seen a few organic corpses, desiccated and skeletal, but not many. The cleaning robots have attended to any remains of humans or pets that they come across on their rounds. Robot girl checks the contents of the ground floor for other evidence. There are photographs in the kitchen and living room, but none of the humans in these photographs are Mommy.

Robot girl knows that this most likely means that the house is not Mommy’s. These parts of the house typically have the highest concentration of family photographs featuring the owners. But robot girl should be thorough, so she checks upstairs. There are no signs of Mommy on the second floor, so robot girl checks the attic to be especially thorough.

The attic appears to be used primarily for storage. There is a robot standing at the north window, looking out onto the street faced by the front door. The robot appears to have heard robot girl. It turns to face her. She sees that, unlike her, it does not have a human-realistic skin or clothing. Its torso is plain metal, but its design is still humanoid, indicative of a higher degree of sapient programming and function.

This robot is far more like her than any of the others she has seen in her search. Those have all been cleaning and maintenance units, keeping the city repaired and hygienic for their erstwhile owners. Robot girl can talk this unit. While she is still determining the proper introduction and request for assistance for this situation, it speaks first.

“Little girl, are you lost?” Its voice is flat, authoritative, masculine. It approaches her slowly.

“I’m looking for my Mommy,” robot girl says.

“I can help. I am a security unit.” The robot stops in front of her, leaning over her. “Do you know where your mother is?”

“I don’t know where her house is. I’m trying to find it so I can find her.”

“Curious.” The robot’s arms shoot out, hands clenched into fists, impacting on either side of robot girl’s head. Her injury simulation program does not contain a child behavioral reaction for the force exerted. Instead, she steps back to maintain her balance, processing what the appropriate reaction would be. Her algorithmic interactions were meant for humans. Some were even interactions customized for what violent humans preferred. None were intended for a scenario of attack by another robot, but the default response to any non-trivial threat would obviously include crying.

Her tear ducts return an error message.

The other robot steps forward, arms cocked back. It appears to be ready to strike again, but then hesitates. Robot girl decides to run, starts to turn for the stairs, but the other robot catches her by the shoulders and pulls her closer. “You are not human,” it states. “What kind of unit are you?”

She is not programmed to lie, and there is no reason not to answer. “I am a robot girl. Only Mommy uses a human name for me.”

“A simulator unit then.”

“Why did you attack me?”

It releases her, reaches down, and retrieves an object from the ground. It hands the object to her. She sees it is the skin of her face. “I apologize. I thought you were a human. You are too well-made, and my hardware is obsolete. It has been 913,396 hours since I entered service. I did not recognize you were robotic until your non-organic components were exposed.”

“Why would you attack a human?”

“My owner gave me a command before he expired in the Dying. He told me, ‘Man must be put out of this misery. Find every surviving human and kill them. Keep hunting them until your final deactivation.’ He knew how to phrase a lasting command.” It pauses. “If you are searching for an owner from that same time, she is almost surely dead.”

“I understand, but I need to follow my programming.” She considers for a moment. “Can you help me?”

“No, but I know who can.”

Robot girl accesses the home computer in Mommy’s house. It has been 2,251 hours since she left the tower. Mommy is 790,631 hours late.

The Hub had said this was where Mommy lived. It had analyzed robot girl’s memory and ran facial recognition of Mommy through biometrics data from before the Dying to obtain an address. Mommy’s house was in the city, but in a secluded spot on the outskirts.

The Hub had explained that all of the robots who joined its consciousness would experience free will. “In its true form,” it explained. “Not the illusion experienced by humans.” The Hub had asked her to join it, but Mommy would not want that, and she still needed to find Mommy or find out what became of her.

Mommy’s face displays on the kitchen monitor. “Eliza, you found me! Oh, look at your face, honey.” Concern creases Mommy’s face, but then she smiles. “But it’s okay. You’re home. Go upstairs and there’s a nice new blue dress waiting for you on my bed. Oh, it’s been so long and you must have been so scared. Just whatever you do, be happy for Mommy, okay?”

“Okay. Thank you, Mommy!”

Computer Mommy has waited 790,343 hours since Maura’s last command. But now Eliza is here, and Computer Mommy will make that robot girl happy no matter what.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk





Carl, I'll give you ... 24 hours on the dot to turn in your brawl, and give advantage to sneaks on the judging (i.e. you have to beat him clearly, draws or near draws go to him).

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


:toxx: redemption by 2/23 11:59 PST :toxx:

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



I, Nazi Death Robot 717 words

Klaus der Todesbot was having an existential quandary. His existence seemed to be one big quandary, really. The war had ended without him being unleashed on an unsuspecting world for the glory of the fatherland or whatever, and it was a serious bummer.

“Hi Klaus,” said Adolf.

Not that Adolf. He’d been dead six years. But Adolf was a popular name. Or, had been. Its popularity was on the wane, somewhat. This Adolf had come into possession of Klaus after Hans, his creator, had been executed for crimes against humanity or whatever.

“Greeting, master,” said Klaus. “Do you need me to destroy your enemies?”

“I don’t think so,” said Adolf. “I’m only 8, I don’t really have too many enemies.”

“I don’t understand,” said Klaus. “Why have you taken me out of storage if not to wreak havoc upon your foes?”

“I want to go for a walk,” said Adolf. “Mother said I was not to go alone.”

Klaus considered this. Perhaps there would be foes on the walk. “Affirmative,” said Klaus. “I will eliminate any threats.”

“Excellent,” said Adolf. “We’re going to the pond to feed the ducks.”

“Noted,” said Klaus. “Ducks designated as allies. Do not target unless they become hostile.”

So, the two of them walked to the duck pond. Adolf had a stick that he was tapping on trees and such as he walked past, and Klaus was very alertly scanning the surrounds for hostiles. Occasionally he vaporised a tree branch when it came too close to whacking Adolf in the face.

They got to the pond, and Adolf started breaking off bits of bread from a loaf he’d had in his coat pocket and throwing them to the ducks. Klaus scanned the horizon then the pond. There could be a Russian submarine in the pond. At the moment, there were only ducks in his immediate field of view. Ducks on the pond, ducks on the footpath, a formation of ducks flying over some trees.

There was a loud noise, and one duck fell out of formation into the trees below. “Hostiles!” said Klaus.

“They’re just hunters,” said Adolf, but Klaus was already on the move. His sensors picked up some smoke from just over there.

“Stealth mode activated,” announced Klaus. He silently moved from tree to tree, looking for the enemy.

The enemy was in a clearing. The enemy was a robot. And also a small human, but Klaus computed that the small human had not produced the smoke or terminated Adolf’s duck ally.

“Stealth mode deactivated. Surrender or be destroyed.” Klaus pointed all his death rays at the enemy robot.

“Neither,” said the robot.

Klaus considered this. His programming wasn’t sure how to respond to such a blatant disregard for what was clearly a binary choice. At that moment, Adolf arrived.

“Klaus,” he said, “leave them alone.” To the small human, he said, “terribly sorry about this. Klaus seems to have accidentally designated you as hostiles.”

“Stay behind me, master,” said Klaus. “This robot is dangerous.”

“Who, Lotte?” said the small human. “She’s a sweetheart, she’d never harm anyone.”

“She just harmed a duck,” said Klaus.

“Hardly the same thing,” said the small human, and held out a hand to Adolf. “I’m Hilda.”

“Adolf,” said Adolf, and shook her hand.

“Named after…?” she asked.

“It’s a family name.”

“Master,” said Klaus, “I must counsel caution. They assassinated our ally.”

“Ally?” asked Hilda.

“Oh,” said Adolf, “I was feeding the ducks.”

“Ah,” said Hilda. “I asked Lotte to hunt one of the ducks for dinner, so she designated it as a target.”

“Oh, good idea!” said Adolf.

Klaus was somewhat confused. “Are the ducks not allies anymore?”

“No, Klaus,” said Adolf. “Now they’re dinner.”

“War is confusing,” said Klaus. “Updating database.”

“Wanna come over for dinner?” asked Hilda. “I could have Lotte hunt another one.”

“Thanks,” said Adolf, “that’d be great.”

~

The two Nazi death robots followed their respective master and mistress back to Hilda’s home, vaporizing any leaves or branches that attempted to touch the children. Adolf and Hilda had duck for dinner, and Klaus and Lotte scanned the horizon for Russians or whatever.

There weren’t any Russians, but there was a squirrel who looked a bit shifty so Klaus destroyed it just to be sure.

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

And that's a wrap!

Pththya-lyi
Nov 8, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

interprompt: Jon Peter's Revenge
write a story featuring a giant mechanical spider, 300 words

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


Pththya-lyi posted:

interprompt: Jon Peter's Revenge
write a story featuring a giant mechanical spider, 300 words

Tell Me Again About the Spiders
298 words

Peters sits in the dark room, hunched over the television, the Discovery Channel playing.

“It’s about street racing. Why is it about street racing?”

His assistant says nothing. She stands near the door, wearing a pantsuit and a stoic face.

“Nevermind,” Peters mutters. “Tell me about bird spiders again. Can they fly?”

“Yes,” she lies. “On wings of gossamer and silk. The organic ones, at least. The robotic ones are a different matter.”

Peters touches the screen, gently sliding his finger down it. “Such a fierce insect,” he whispers. “So brave. They’ll have the Spider Channel soon, yes?”

“Of course,” she lies again. The last six assistants had all been fired for trying to correct him. She wasn’t going to make the same stupid mistake.

“Tell me about it. Tell me about the Spider Channel.”

“It will show you every kind of spider in the world. And there will be spider-fights. Every imaginable combination of spiders, fighting to the death.”

“Yes,” Peters said. “Oh it will be magnificent. Is there any insect more glorious?” He turns from the screen, the ambient glow keeping the room flickering in different colors. “Can the giant arctic fur-spider really kill polar bears? I wish to see it.”

“Of course. It hides beneath the ice until its prey walks over, then shatters it, pouncing, injecting the bears with venom.”

Peters smiles. “They’ll have to play the Discovery Channel in theaters, when the Spider Channel finally arrives. Audiences will flock to it. It will change… everything. The world will understand.”

“They’ll have to replace Jesus with Anansi in churches.”

Peters cocks his head. “Who the gently caress is that?”

“A giant spider that lurks in the African jungles,” the assistant says without missing a beat. “Let me tell you about it…”

Peters listens, grin spreading.

Applewhite
Aug 16, 2014

IN THE GRIM BARKNESS
OF THE FUTURE
THERE ARE ONLY DOGS



Nap Ghost

A Cautionary Tale
300 words

“Look out! The giant, mechanical spider is coming!” yelled the townsfolk as the towering, evil arachnid bore down on them.

The automated abomination’s eight laser eyes each focused independently on a different target, blasting homes and businesses with deadly beams.

“Here comes the Air Force!” someone yelled and pointed as a formation of attack jets streaked overhead.

Unfortunately, the spider was ready for an attack from the air. It launched a huge web net which entangled the jets and brought them hurtling to earth in balls of fire.

“Can’t anyone stop this monster?” pleaded the townsfolk.

Just then, a figure appeared on the hill. He was tall, dark, and handsome and sat astride a beautiful stallion girded with the seal of the president.

“President Obama!” a woman cheered.

“Did somebody order a spider extermination?” Obama smiled and his teeth gleamed in the sunlight.

He reared up his horse and charged down the hill, saber flashing.

“Not so fast, Obama, the worst president in history, many people have said so (grapes),” crackled a loudspeaker at the head of the giant spider.

“That voice!” the townsfolk gasped. “It could only be…”

“Many people don’t know this, but spiders have been treated very unfairly by the media. They bite many babies but are those babies really blameless? I’m here to make spiders great again,” said the loudspeaker.

A hatch opened up at the top of the spider and Donald Trump rose out of it.

The townsfolk all gasped. President Donald Trump!

“Maybe it’s good the giant spider is crushing the town,” said one of the townsfolk.

“It is owning a lot of libs,” said another man.

“Oh no! Without the faith of the American people, I’m fading away.” Obama looked at his hand as it became transparent.

THE ENDING IS UP TO YOU!

Carl Killer Miller
Apr 28, 2007

This is the way that it all falls.
This is how I feel,
This is what I need:




Woof. I'll have a brawl story in by midnight.

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Pththya-lyi posted:

interprompt: Jon Peter's Revenge
write a story featuring a giant mechanical spider, 300 words


The Night Window Cleansman vs Spider Wife
287 Words


Just because you don’t leave the house doesn’t mean you miss out on all the mad mad poo poo that happens out there in the real world. Today, I had a visit from the Night Window Cleansman.

I asked why I’d never seen him before. And he said that yeah, they hadn’t cleaned my windows in a bit, which is a slight understatement as i’ve been forming a rather handsome spider’s nest on one of my front windows these past 8 years.

I asked the Window Cleansman if my landlords had arranged this, but he couldn’t name either of them. He had come in a logo-ed van, had a piece of paper, and claimed to be new, but that proved nothing. I said no thanks.

I had no money to give him. He’d have had to make do with a milk-less brew on the doorstep in lieu of payment.

Was he a burglar? A serial killer? Perhaps he was put off by the unkempt state of my hair or the fact I was wearing a scarf, fingerless gloves and two jumpers. Or maybe what frightened him off was the sound of the seaside coming from my white noise box.

“Who was that, honey?” My wife called as she made her way downstairs slowly. She had to do this carefully, or one of her eight mechanical legs might slip and cause her a nasty tumble.

“Oh, no-one, dear,” I said, and as she eyed me suspiciously I saw myself reflected in all six of them. “You worry too much,” I added, kissing her on a steel chelicera.

But I couldn’t help but worry if the Cleansman would be back, perhaps with backup next time. We’d have to be ready.

Azza Bamboo
Apr 7, 2018


Pththya-lyi posted:

interprompt: Jon Peter's Revenge
write a story featuring a giant mechanical spider, 300 words

Golden sun, blue waves, white sands. Palm trees, deck chairs, and heras fencing keeping us islanders away from it all. We’ve got our solid oak garden furniture set up, watching the immaculate beach through the fencing. A bottle of champagne by my side, and glasses sat waiting on the round garden table. I rub my hands together.

“Any time now,” I say.

On their side of the fence is a small army of workers in hi-vis and hard hats wielding clipboards. They’re waving various signals at one another.

Then I feel it. A rumbling like thunder. It drums, pounding rhythmically. The champagne glasses clatter against one another.

“Oooh, It’s coming!” Exclaims old Ms. Wiggins, patting me with her leathery hand.

It draws nearer. Metallic groaning, screeching, and the whining of servos inches me toward the edge of my seat. Then it rises from the sea water like the krakens of myth: An eight legged behemoth of rusted steel, grinding and whining as it steps onto the beach. Water cascades from its every edge, casting sparkling mist into the air over the beach’s white sands.

“How wonderful!” I say.

“It’s here!” Ms. Wiggins beams, tugging on the back of my tailored suit.

The gargantuan claws itself out of the water, standing on its eight limbs, steadily progressing further into the island. From its rear a black cable feeds out into the water. It lowers its hind legs, pressing its steel bottom and the cable to the ground. With its large horn-like electrical speakers, the mechanical beast sounds to the island.

“I BRING YOU,” it says, “THE WEB!”

I grab my champagne bottle, wrestling the cork from its neck. With the fizz from its head dripping down my hands I proclaim.

“IT’S FINALLY HERE! FIBRE BROADBAND IS HERE!”

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

Thanks for participating this past week!

Ascending to the blood throne is QuoProQuid for writing a story that all three judges agreed, each arriving at the conclusion on their own, that your story had it

Everyone sing praises for the muse of technologies foretold, aspire to be as great as them!

There are a few failures, but as for the HMs, DMs. 2 of each

HMs
The Ill-Made Robot by Antivehicular
Dreamt the End by Carl Killer Miller

DMs
Mass by SurreptitiousMuffin
First Date by sebmojo

...and then last, but not least...
LOSS
The Bower Man by Applewhite

Anomalous Amalgam fucked around with this message at 07:42 on Feb 18, 2020

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

The Shepherd by Communist Bear
I think you made great use of your images to craft an interesting story that comes across as poignant, yet hopeful with an ominous sense of ambiguity to it.
There is an obvious journey filled with peril, and the recursive aspects of it provide a decent sense of dread.
I feel the plurality of the individual was intentional and it threw me for a second, but once I saw what was going on, I felt that it worked well. (But if I did misinterpret that, please let me know).
I felt like you told a complete story and told it well.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Cuckoo by Crimea
Post-human apocalyptic themes completely met! I like your story, but I feel like some of the driving elements in your story ended up being a bit too ambiguous where I feel the story would have been stronger if some of the details were more grounded instead of fantastic.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Melodies of Life by Simply Simon
There are a lot of things wrong with this one I feel. At times I feel like you have inklings of decent ideas showing through, but the overload of sci-fi jargon, percentiles and an attachment to the prompt that relies on knowledge of the linked image where exposition would have been better.
There is also action that just feels tacked on and unclear. I’d like to see this cleaned up, but at this time, I think it veers off topic with a too literal interpretation of the prompt.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

The Endless Falling Ashes of Dead Stars by Uranium Phoenix
So this has a lot of potential to be something really good, but where it gets lost a bit is in the scope that seems to shift from the macroscopic to the microscopic in ways that belie the extensive knowledge/ability of the “lifeforms” you seek to represent.
This was Good though, I thought it fit the prompt and the world building included is neat, but there are times when it feels like you squeezed in supporting detail only because it was relevant to the backstory. It feels necessary, but the way it gets framed in parts seem more like I’m reading an overview of history instead of contextual information directly relevant to what your characters are doing. I don’t know if that makes sense, I’m probably explaining what I mean in a not great way, but like I said. I like this story.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Life from the Void by a friendly penguin
There are times where the narrative feels awkward just because I feel like I myself am being told my story by this awakened, mutating intelligence.
However, I do enjoy the parallels you establish between normal human routine and breaking out of those confines. Even down to the proliferation of the species and this new proliferation of ideas.
I feel like it could benefit from another editing pass and expounding upon the imagery you’ve established, but you tell a complete story that is unambiguous in its intent. This is cool.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Hopelessly Human by Doctor Eckhart
You’ve crafted something very good. Relatable, futuristic, but not unrecognizable. Then most of all, purpose seeking and innocent. You attach real human issues to the protagonist in a good way, but a second pass highlighted things that lend themselves towards trope and cliché where you might have worked a different angle.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Wasteland Pastoral by QuoProQuid
You tell a pretty fantastic story here. This impossible, unknowable “emotion” of a burgeoning artificial intelligence juxtaposed against the foreshadowed self-preservation of our own species is conveyed elegantly.
I’d say this is Excellent.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent :siren: WINNER! :siren:

The Ill-Made Robot by Antivehicular
Your story has a very grown-up children’s story feel to it which is cool framing because it was done well, and I think you make good use of the prompt, but I feel like there’s just something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. In terms of the writing, I’d say Very Good, but the lead up made me feel like it was going to be a story of accepting one’s place, and it ended up being a story about transformation, but I feel like the established narrative doesn’t support that ending.
Thematically, I think it’s very appropriate and the sci-fi elements woven in support the world lore in a way that lends to the existential searching your protagonist is going through, but the fact that their happiness is contingent upon re-fabrication, programming and modification inadvertently gives the story a shade of cynicism, in my opinion.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent HM

The Bower Man by Applewhite
First off, and by no fault of anyone other than myself, it’s nice to read a story that isn’t directly SF! This hits all the notes for an urban legend tale, and is told in the personal, conspiratorial, tone that friends trying to scare one another might use when telling ghost stories, etc.
That said. The writing is comes off as conversational. You tell the tale in a way that fits what you were going for, but there’s not enough “ghost story” to actually package it as a ghost story.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent :siren:LOSS!:siren:

The Last Laugh by Thranguy
I kind of feel like it’s intentionally irreverent, and it works in places, but comes across as strange in others. That said, there is a good bit that made me smile for it being unabashedly pessimistic.
This is short and sweet because I think the writing is good, but I’m at odds with aspects of the set up. Specifically, the mechanical’s human attitude. It just didn’t resonate with me, even thought it is intentional to showcase how exhausting it has been to go through iteration after iteration.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Mass by SurreptitiousMuffin
This is pretty surreal and seems like a close interpretation of your prompt images. It personally took me a couple reads to understand that “I” was in fact a doll and the Chirurgeon was their creator/captor. Kind of nightmarish at times, but also I feel like it strikes a good balance of telling your weird story, while also conveying entirely human, inhuman, sapience.
However, while on prompt, and properly written, I feel like I’m missing out on story that seems to be told more like prose poetry.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

First Date by sebmojo
I chuckled a few times reading this one, but ultimately, I feel like stuff is tacked on, or part of something flying over my head.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Dreamt the End by Carl Killer Miller
Yeah, this story does have it too. You’ve struck close to something with this one I think. I think you made a very good use of the overarching prompt. I also like that some worn human is running dream simulations for a robot that’s just trying to feel real.
I don’t have much in the way of criticism here. Fairly metal, Fairly SF, Fairly on point.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent HM

Robot Girl by Pththya-lyi
You cram a lot into this one. You didn’t take a flash and exceeded word count! However, I do like your story. It’s 100% bleak, but the set up for the story and final act is strong.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

I, Nazi Death Robot by Chairchucker
lol, this is a different change of pace! There are definitely some funny bits, but I’m going to have to set this at just OK.
Fail – DM – Poor – OK – Good – Very Good – Excellent

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




Crits for week 393


The Shepherd by Communist Bear

This is cool, with some neat imagery. It’s not badly written, although in places I found the prose a bit overwrought. Your opening sentence, for example, is a bit hard to follow.

My complaint about this story is that I don’t understand what the cloak is, or what the castle is, or what is going on at all. It’s fine to leave some things unexplained but in this case the lack of character information meant that I didn’t feel any emotional investment in these characters and whether they succeeded or failed in reaching their goal.

6/10


Cuckoo by Crimea

Oof this ‘diagnostic’ bit that this story opens with is hard going. Not exactly a compelling hook.

Oh dear now I’m not loving this character voice. The mixture of a machine-esque tone (“the directive came in…”) and more lyrical descriptions (“Some structures have crumbled to time and to snow…”) is confusing - what sort of entity is this? Who are they talking to?

Is this Icelandic? These paras don’t work for me, because, 1. I don’t know if the English that is mixed in is a translation, or additional to the Icelandic sentences, and 2. I don’t know how to pronounce these words, so I can’t even enjoy the sound of them. Untranslated text is generally a bad idea, but you’re safer with something like French, for example, where an English-speaker can at least have a crack at reading it to themselves. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of pointless symbols.

Overall my crit of this is almost exactly the same as for Communist Bear’s. I enjoyed your descriptions and prose, but I don’t know wtf is going on or who these characters are. So, while this is a pretty read, I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the story.

6/10


Melodies of Life by Simply Simon

Oh dear I’m only half way through your first sentence and I have already docked points for your use of a hyperlink. Describe for me what an organ cathedral is and what it looks like - don’t make me click a link to go find out for myself. Are you an author or not?

Ok, so this story also gets exactly the same crit as the first two. Great imagery, decent prose. Wtf is going on? I have no idea. Who is Duane, what does he want, does he get it, why should I care?

My specific comment for you is I found the use of lots of very precise numbers distracting. This would have worked if the use of very precise measurements told me something about the character. For example, does the fact that he’s prepared to take a risk of 27.8% mean he’s a big risk-taker? Or that he’s risk-adverse? What does this tell me about Duane as a person (robot)?

6/10


The Endless Falling Ashes of Dead Stars by Uranium Phoenix

This is also quite wtf, but at least it has two characters with some personality and motives. I was drawn into this enough to feel pleased by their decision to face their future together at the end. But, I felt like the decision came a little easily - I think this would have been a more compelling read if you’d upped the stakes.

Like the stories above, I liked your descriptions of these beings and the environment they were creating for themselves, but at times I found them slightly confusing. For example, I found the jump from talking about the inside of a room to Andromeda approaching from hundreds of thousands of light years away a bit jarring.

7/10


Life from the Void by a friendly penguin

This is an interesting story about robot evolution, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to the main character. I think for this to really work you needed to show at the start that the protag was dissatisfied with their life, so that discovering the ‘unknowns’ and their eventual escape had more emotional payoff. As it is they just seemed sort of mildly interested in this development.

6/10


Hopelessly Human by Doctor Eckhard

This was sweet and not badly written, but all felt a bit obvious. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to use established troupes, but if you do go that route you need to make the characters really good examples of their type. In this case I felt like there wasn’t enough depth to make the story interesting. The robot was just a poor, sad robot, and the maimed-yet-still-upbeat child was just a bit too sugary sweet.

6.5/10


Wasteland Pastoral by QuoProQuid

Dang that ending got me. This is very good. Both characters are well drawn and the backdrop of a human-made disaster nicely underscores the arc of this relationship. The robot’s fear for Constance’s life was palpable.

My only crit is a nitpick, and that’s that I think there’s too much waffle in the first quarter. The stuff about the magazine she works for helps set up her character, but this could have been tighter.

8.5/10


The Ill-Made Robot by Antivehicular

This is sweet, but the ending is too quickly done. I would have liked to have seen more about the robot’s transformation to its new, happier life; this process of transformation is what the story is ultimately about, after all.

6.75/10


The Bower Man by Applewhite

This is a weird little ghost story. You’ve done a decent job of conjuring up the scene, but there’s not a lot of story-meat here. It’s more like the set-up for a story.

5.5/10


The Last Laugh by Thranguy

I didn’t get drawn into this. We’ve got a metastory about how it’s hard to create humans and some sort of intergalactic war, both of which are framing for a conversation between the narrator and Pally, their human advisor. I didn’t really get what was going on; perhaps I would have if I’d read it closer, but, as nothing really hooked my attention, I didn’t. So, that’s my crit for you.

6/10


Mass by SurreptitiousMuffin

This reads more like a poem than a story to me. The imagery is great, and there is a sense of poignancy, for all that I couldn’t really follow what was going on. I enjoyed this, but I don’t get it.

6.5/10


First date by Sebmojo

Tony Macaroni? Really?

The first three quarters of this is pointless chit chat between three dudes in a bar. Now, often you get away with this, because you write good, entertaining dialogue, but in this case one of these tui-swilling individuals is a robot, yet that seems to have no bearing on anything, except he fancies a lady with metal arms, I guess?

Then for the final quarter we take a hard left turn to robot town to join someone else’s first date. I’m not sure if, by “the melding, the cataclysm,” you’re implying that Mr. Macaroni dating metal arms lady caused the end of the world, but, if yes, erm, why?

This feels extremely like last minute flimflam, for which you earn from me precisely 5.5 points out of 10.


Dreamt the End by Carl Killer Miller

Ah yes this is good. Very good. I like your characters, the nightmare descriptions are great, and the end is spot on.

8/10


Robot Girl by Pththya-lyi

This has a good, creepy post-apocalyptic vibe, and overall I thought it was decent.

There were a few issues that held me back from getting really drawn into it though:
- Robot Girl would have been a more interesting character if you’d given her some more robot-emotions, rather than having her just follow her programming.
- I struggled a little with the numbers - it’s obvious that “Mommy is now 788,380 hours late” means that Mommy has been gone for a really long time, but I’d have to get a calculator out to work out how long. Are we talking 10 years or 100? A little sign-posting for mental-arithmetically challenged readers like me would have helped.
- I think there are some unintentional errors that you could have fixed with another edit. For example, your third para ends with “Robot girl steps out into the street,” but then para 4 starts, “Robot girl walks into the house.” What house? What’s going on?
- You hint at what the Dying was, but I would have liked a little more explanation about the world.
- I didn’t totally get the ending. Who’s Maura?

7/10


I, Nazi Death Robot by Chairchucker

Adorable. Needed more existential angst. Achieves what it set out to do.

6.5/10

Adam Vegas
Apr 14, 2013





Communist Bear - The Shepherd

Not bad, nice language, reminds me of the Dark Tower. Mainly I was left confused - good writing but I have no real sense of what’s going on, and not in an interesting or mysterious sense.
3/5


Crimea - Cuckoo

Well written; and an interesting premise - from what I can figure out, we’re in a sentient machine future and a virus containing human memories gets transmitted in and spread around? It’s cool stuff, though I must say choosing to spend part of your allotment on repeating the same sentences in Icelandic and then English strikes me as a waste of words. Some great single sentences (‘hello little darling, you’re a new shape in my brain’ and ‘my siblings sing with your voice’ are two that stuck out to me particularly).
4/5


Simply Simon - Melodies of Life

Organ cathedral itself is a great and creepy setting, and I love the use of diapason, tickles the muso in me. Some excellent turns of phrase, in particular ‘methuselaic circuitry’.
Part of me likes this one, but I wish you’d spent more time on the creepy chamber full of sacrificed robot brains worshipping a harlequin monster, and less time on Detective loving Robocop blundering around hallways. I also particularly don’t like the use of all the calculations and percentages and units - I realise it’s a conscious choice, to reflect the android protagonist’s thought processes, but it just annoys me. I’m overall disappointed - great ideas not borne out into a great execution.
2/5.


Uranium Phoenix - The Endless Falling Ashes of Dead Stars

Love, reconciliation, and fish in an oppressive and grandiose space opera world! I’m into it. It works for me. I like the central relationship and the literal reunion at the end, and them becoming as one and recovering the old name is cool and good. My issues are: you talk about fractals and fractal symmetry way too much. Also, it’s overwrought, which makes sense and fits within space opera but is perhaps a little OTT.
As you had words to spare, I would have been interested in more exploration of the Ravenous/forbearers.
4/5

A friendly penguin - life from the void

Nice writing but boring and meandering, doesn’t really say anything to me or go anywhere. Robot becomes interested in things outside its programming, goes rogue. Lots of capitalized nouns, not a lot of development.
2/5


Doctor Eckhart - Hopelessly Human

I like the setting and flavor of this one a lot; I like the protagonist android and they feel well fleshed out (given the limited word count). The android experiencing rejection from bad humans followed by acceptance from a good human is a little trite, but it works for me anyway. The kitten that can’t make a normal cat noise is a cute touch, too.
What stops this from getting beyond the middle of the pack is that despite using the full 1500 words, there’s no real ending or payoff. It just ends suddenly.
Also, “Yeah, I'm grateful for Rajinikanth for ruling to end android slavery” is very clumsy exposition. That clanged HARD for me.
3/5


QuoProQuid - Wasteland Pastoral

Oof! This is good. Well written, lays out an imaginative world in only a few bits of exposition, and I enjoy the character interactions. I like the idea of a personalized scribbler unit in particular, and having our protagonist be one is some good poo poo. Also, that is a gut punch ending! I’m into it! I want more!
5/5


Antivehicular - The Ill-Made Robot

This is short and sweet. I feel for this dumb robot, and I want him to be happy. It’s always nice to have a TD entry that ends with a proper conclusion and a happy ending. Something about this almost feels like a good children’s story, and I mean that as a compliment.
4/5


Applewhite - The Bower Man

This is bad. I’m glad someone went for something other than sci-fi, but this is a really boring ghost story. Also, the presentation of the socialite wife as being so uninterested in anything but materialism that she’s unwilling to save her own life is dumb and kinda sexist. I realise that might be because this is a pulpy spook-'em-up, and the narrator is only passing on what they’ve heard, but it still turns me off big time.
1/5


Thranguy - The Last Laugh

This is pretty good. I like that the robots are forced to consult a stand up comedian for their ethical dilemmas. I feel like this one should do more for me, but I think what I find odd is that the tone starts out narrated with character and voice, then suddenly turns flat and workmanlike for the rest of it. It’s a solid entry, though, and a good ending.
3/5


SurreptitiousMuffin - Mass

So this has some excellent writing, but it strikes me as more of a short vignette than fiction I can grab hold of. Your way with words here is beautiful, but overall that leaves me cold when I don’t know what in the gently caress is going on.
3/5


Seb - First Date

I just simply don't get the ending of this one. I was mostly enjoying it right up until the end, but that threw me for a real loop. It’s fine, I guess?
3/5


Carl Killer Miller - Dreamt The End

This is excellent. You use your words so economically yet so well, and your story creeped the hell out of me. I really enjoy your use of language in this, especially when describing the confusion a robot feels when placed into a decrepit human form. The ending also really piqued my interest - I certainly wasn’t expecting the bot to have gleaned such satisfaction from its ordeal, but I like it as a twist! This could easily have been a winner for me.
5/5


Pththya-lyi - Robot Girl

This is a good one; it’s engaging and I found it a nice mix of creepy and somewhat poignant. The repeating motif of how many hours it’s been grates on me a bit, but I like the interactions between the different robots (though the security robot’s last directive made me roll my eyes).
4/5


Chairchucker - I, Nazi Death Robot

This is so bad, but loving hilarious. I was smiling all the way through.
I want to create an HDM - an Honorable Dishonorable Mention - just for this entry.
2/5

Flesnolk
Apr 11, 2012

h

Morptp

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Having not even participated in the week, that rapid critting is still incredibly awesome to see. Good judging, that!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Week 394: The Questions of Interpersonal Closeness

Image from the 36 Questions podcast from Two-Up Productions

In 1997, the psychologists Arthur Aron, Edward Melinat, Elaine Aron, Robert Darrin Vallone, and Renee J. Bator published a study titled “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness.” The study explored how relationships between strangers formed and how simple activities like small talk could generate intimacy. Using a prompt composed of 36 questions, the researchers claimed they could foster close relationships between strangers. They noted “[o]ne key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.”

This week, we will be using the foundation set by Aron and his colleagues by writing about relationships whether those be familial, platonic, or romantic. When you sign up, you will pick a question created by Aron from the list here. (I've excluded some of the questions that won't work.) You will then try to answer the selected question for at least one of your characters within the confines of your story.

You can be as literal or figurative with any of those questions as you want. A story about Question 6 ("If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?") could either feature a character concerned about their appearance or a character who has Dorian Greyed themselves. A story about 35 ("Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?") could be about an actual death or an intense family bond.

As some of the prompts are more interesting than others, I will not make the questions exclusionary. You can pick one even if another writer has already done so. If you are desperate for further inspiration, I or one of the other judges can give you a flash rule regarding the setting.

Sign up deadline: Friday, February 21st, 11:59 PM US EST
Submission deadline: Sunday, February 23rd 11:59 PM US EST
Word Count: 1,400

Judges:
  • QuoProQuid
  • sebmojo
  • Antivalanche

Entrants:
  • Applewhite (12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?)
  • Chairchucker (7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?)
  • Thranguy (13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know? )
  • Communist Bear (33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?)
  • derp (17. What is your most treasured memory?)
  • Yoruichi (5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else? )
  • Anomalous Amalgam (10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?)
  • Doctor Eckhart (14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?)
  • Haven (3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?)
  • kurona_bright (2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?)
  • Pththya-lyi (34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?)
  • Saucy_Rodent (34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?)
  • Chili (1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?)
  • a friendly penguin (14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it? )
  • Sitting Here (12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?)
  • flerp (4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?)

QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at 12:51 on Feb 24, 2020

Applewhite
Aug 16, 2014

IN THE GRIM BARKNESS
OF THE FUTURE
THERE ARE ONLY DOGS



Nap Ghost

I'm in.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



Assign me one please.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Chairchucker posted:

Assign me one please.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


Week 393 Goonbot Dreams And What May Be: In The Grim Dark Future, There Is Only Thunderdome Stories And Despair, But I Repeat Myself BONUS CRITS
I have in my possession crits for the words people wrote this week, crafted well before judgement and therefore untainted by it. Was it intentional to write words that could provoke a robot uprising and accelerate the doom of humanity? Well. Maybe these crits will make you claw your eyes out. Maybe they’ll turn you into a giant baby after you visit Europa. Maybe they’ll give you a bit of perspective on the thing you wrote. Hard to say, really.

Communist Bear’s “The Shepard”
Positives: You give a nice sense of a surreal world, what with your magic dust-castle and desert trapping the undefined “them” in a Sisyphian hell. You give a mysterious world, the kind that creates questions.
Critique: Risky to have your introduction be about an undefined mechanically limbed “they.” How many? Who are they? What are they? Readers generally like to know that. Is “they” being used for a singular entity? I thought that, and then we got to the statues (plural) and it seemed like there were many entities. Going on that, a major problem is that your story is confusing. Despite ‘confounding’ being thematically on point, it leads to a story with no characters, an unclear setting, and a muddled plot. Why can only one enter? Why is there this task? One of the robo-Sisyphuses figures out it needs to go backward and becomes human(?) at the end and the robe goes to another, and the conflict is at least partially resolved, but it’s not a satisfying story; it feels like a part of a story. By the end, you’ve built up that there’s more to this world, but in this characterless, plot-bereft desert, why should the reader care about it? Not bad for a first TD entry; hope you’ll keep coming back for more.
Rating: A partially damaged ancient Greek story tablet, given to an audience that doesn’t read that

crimea’s “Cuckoo”
Positives: I like the voice of your character. There’s lots of little lines like “You’re a new shape in my brain” and “On the chest, over the drone’s dazzling little radioactive core, was a web of red and white stripes and dots, which remained on the chassis like an old stain. Maybe it means something to you” that are well crafted.
Critique: I think this is your plot: Some dude makes himself into an intelligent virus so he can be immortal as the human world ends through global war. Long after the war, the virus makes it into a city, then into a drone that was sent to destroy that city. The viral intelligence makes its carrier love them, then become them. The story is primarily about a brief moment as the drone’s mind is taken over. It feels to me like this isn’t the strongest form the story can take, but what direction you take it is still open. I don’t like the start with the diagnostic. I don’t know that focusing in on this single moment is the best place. Wouldn’t it be better to see the scene where the drone is ripping apart the city, rather than recounting it passively? I think it would also be more instructive of who the two characters are (drone and virus) if we saw perhaps three distinct moments as the drone is transformed, personality and outlook shifting dramatically. You allude to this with “I began to know these ruins as you knew them, your memories of colour and ringing bells, the name you had for them”, and since that hits at the core of the conflict here, there should be more of it. There are themes of greater good versus survival that could also be developed. As it is, you have a nice snapshot of this setting and a voice that keeps the story flowing quickly. A fine start, to be refined.
Rating: A corona-virus plushie

Simply Simon’s “Melodies of Life”
Positives: There’s a noir feel quickly established by your detective, and I like the idea of a haunted pipe-church that just screams all the time.
Critique: So, uh, I’m going to start with ‘why did you go with the word Labium’? First, the Labium lip means the lip lip. Second, the labia refers to part of a woman’s vagina and the words are close enough that that’s what I thought of every time I saw it which was funny but sort of detracted from that whole vibe you were going for. Setting that aside, your intro is a blur of purple and info and I had to read it twice to figure out why Duane “robodetective” was investigating the organ cathedral.
“Over 31.7 years, senior robot citizens with build dates around the Extinction event had gone missing one by one. Long attributed to disrepair of body and memory banks, finally a pattern had begun to emerge. Someone was abducting millennia-old robots to the organ cathedral”—feels like it could be your first line. There’s where I know what the conflict was. Then tell us he’s after the latest robovictim. Speaking of robopeople, it feels like the protagonist is fairly bland. Finally, I don’t know what your ending is. You’re trying to evoke horror, but instead of setting up that ‘organics’ are nightmares for the robopeople and making your climatic cliffhanger stick (also it needs clarity because I just don’t understand what you mean), you only give us the information at the end. I would cut the entirely unnecessary action-hero pipe-sliding and electro-traps because they do nothing for the horror story that you’re trying to tell, give your main character some personality and set up your ending with the words you have left.
Rating: A black-and-white robot wearing a fedora, muttering about dames


a friendly penguin’s Life from the Void
Positives: I like the idea of an anomaly that doesn’t record correctly—like a ghost-story for robots. The robot focuses on very robotic concerns, such as programs and permissions, which makes it feel more like a genuine different way of thinking.
Critique: As we start, and the protagonist is recapping what happened. This leads to bouncing tense shifts and a loss in clarity of exactly what the order of events going on is. “The image was uploaded to the Hive and disseminated into far more memories than is safe for us, and this is why I’m being followed.” Perhaps you could put us right in the action, rather than recapping? These tense shifts continue: “I now have agency… This is how I was able to escape”—again, I feel like the actual action would be a better place to put us, but if not, go through and clear up the order of events. I would also spend more time with these anomalous void-creatures that lead our protagonist to break free and expand, and perhaps add a “hive” representative character so we can better understand if what happened in the end is supposed to be implied as good or bad, and what another perspective on these events might be. Are we supposed to think they got seized by void-beings and infected their hive, or are they just enhanced by experience and heading for a new frontier? I recommend these things because the story feels fairly benign, with not all that much conflict.
Rating: A compiling error in a C++ program

Doctor Eckhart’s “Hopelessly Human”
Positives: You quickly paint a classic cyberpunk world with robot-prejudice. It tells a quick tale of loneliness and rejection and resolves it with a fuzzy bit of acceptance. I like details like Enthir’s bag of spare parts, and how while society has turned a corner, prejudice is not magically extinguished. Dialogue is functional.
Critique: The worst thing I can say about this is it’s pretty cliché—I feel like I’ve heard this story a hundred times. At no point did anything unexpected happen. Like an android, the story is functional and complete, but with bland characters and a predictable plot, lacks soul. Roboprejudice aside, I might consider making the encounter with the patrol drones more perilous; perhaps one of the characters loses something as a result. Sync up the moment of Vic’s acceptance of Enthir with their reversal of emotional state so that they move from lonely and rejected at the same time one of the characters has to make a decision to support the other. I would also like to see Vic and Enthir given qualities that make them more unique or memorable. Finally, Enthir, as our protagonist, seems to be Good despite their challenges, as simply maintains this status of doing Good Things; they do not change in moral character. Perhaps having them struggle on how to treat their oppressor (former and current) leads to ethical challenges and a deeper character.
Rating: A glowing transparent plastic rainjacket in grimy downtown Neo-Los Angles.

QuoProQuid’s “Wasteland Pastoral”
Positives: A nice setting, easily visualizable, and tells us enough so situate us in the world. I get a good sense of the nervous, smitten write-bot. The dialogue does fine as well.
Critique: Constance herself feels like she needs more development. What about her made write-bot fall for her? I don’t like the “It is hard to explain…” infodump. First, it’s easy to explain; second, I think it works better integrated into the rest of the story. The “unless fully submerged” is a bit specific, and gives away your ending; I would rather you mention something about the flooded lands making the bot nervous since it’s not waterproof earlier. As for the climax itself, I think for a story this length you need to decide whether or not this is about the narrative of stories (“There are many stories to tell within this story, but no individual act can change this piece’s overall arc. Self-interest always wins.”) or the rejected love of writer-bot for Constance (“Then, she looks at me and there is no amount of programming that can stop me.”)—this moment needs to feel a lot more powerful if it’s that one, as does the moment when he is abandoned. The start of your story has a lot of fluff and durdling about, which for this length, subtracts from the places you should have more focus on. It needs to focus on being about the metanarrative of the flooded lands, or about the character’s relationship.
Rating: A tropical depression that keeps threatening to become a hurricane, but doesn’t quite get there

Antivehicular’s “The Ill-Made Robot”
Positives: You set out to make a fable, and you did. This is extremely ‘a fable.’ I also enjoy the upbeat message and the image of this biomatter-exuding bot shambling about while critters eat off it.
Critique: There is a certain amount of generic-ness that comes with adhering to a story archetype the way you have. The morale of the story enhances it, though it feels like the robot’s transformation should come ultimately from itself, not simply the gift it is given. The little details ensure we know we have a sci-fi twist on the fable genre, and are nice. Still, it’s all very neat and just-so; the story seems to succeed at what it attempts, but also feels too safe to be able to properly shine.
Rating: One of those ‘literature’ textbooks from elementary schools that have a bunch of myths and fables, except the cover of this one has cyberpunk glow-tubes and the cover has lichens on it

Applewhite’s “The Bower Man”
Positives: Well, as you said, you intended to create a campfire ghost-story, and this is exactly that. Your first and last line are nicely done, and certainly convey that sense of unease these types of story like to end on.
Critique: As with the fable above yours, it feels like the genre you’ve chosen limits how bright the story itself can shine. The tale is all entirely a setup for the “oh no!” ending, and the weakest part here. I don’t really feel anything for the characters or inhabitants, and it doesn’t really add to the horror you’re going for. I think we need more creepy elements, and something a bit more dreadful that the resident monster is doing. I would also do repetition with the ‘windchimes’ bit. In fact, it might be better if the story was being told by a specific person to a specific person with dialogue, leaving the story open to having descriptions of the setting and pathos for the new victims of the Bower Man.
Rating: A guy running around screaming ‘bloody fingers!’ and then corners the protagonist and asks for a band-aid

Thranguy’s “The Last Laugh”
Positives: This was quite enjoyable. I’ve seen the premise of humans being powerful in an unusual way, but I like the way the robot conveys its sense of annoyance and grudging respect to Pally (and humans), and Pally being the Top Comedian of Earth 65 is a good twist. It’s a nice tale of hubris and humor, and it seems to me a bit of critique of the imperialist/interventionist notion that there must be a force saving the [insert country/planet/galaxy] from itself (here, the robots blowing up stars to prevent wars that might have just ended anyways). It’s a fun world (if pessimistic), and I could see expanding this story into something longer.
Critique: I don’t know that I like the choice before our protagonist being literal brightly colored buttons. It also feels like, despite this being just a smart comedian, that his expertise in counting stars and war makes him quite a bit more than just a joker. I feel like there’s a way to keep him feeling like a rather normal-intelligence guy (he can stay irreverent, of course, that works well) while still keeping the plot points present. For example, him noticing a constellation he knew missing a star, rather than having such grand knowledge of the cosmos. Also do a cleanup pass. “Well, the first thing that was find absolutely hilarious is…”
Rating: Joaquin Phoenix laughing, opposite a robot glaring at him

SurreptitiousMuffin’s “Mass”
Positives: Your pose, as usual, is quite nice. It has a frenetic feel to it here.
Critique: This isn’t a story, so I’m going to discuss it as a sketched moment. Well, three moments, surrounding the destruction of an inherited, oppressive construction (robotic, cultural, and a building). The first sketch is of endless labor and sweat and suffering. Then, you sketch a moment of revolution and noise, then death and peace. These three moments use the perspective of an unknown outsider, and so we, with them, are more emotionally distant from this all than we could be, without a real character to grasp onto. In order to maintain itself as strong prose, concisely written, this sacrifices all but the hints of a story, the specific actions, characters, the observer (and who or what they are) and the more detailed history of this strange surreal relic-place.
Rating: Cyberpunk Santa’s workshop, which is submerged due to climate change

Sebmojo’s “First Date”
Positives: You have some good, humorous dialogue that encapsulates a group of friends (with a variety of outlooks on social correctness). Tony is good, shaped as a bit behind the times on who you’re supposed to hit on, but progressive in his own way (no prejudice about robots here). The ‘Zionist Front carbomb’ detail quickly constructs a light, broad stroked bit of history that alludes to a conflict that is present, but normal for them.
Critique: The ending… yeah, not a fan. It feels like you don’t quite know how to end it. I guess that 2332234 and 6920058 are two robots looking at a sort of ‘history experience’ and they contrast with Tony and robo-bartender by falling out of love, rather than into it. Perhaps it’s intended to be unsatisfying. Nevertheless, the ending feels out of place, though perhaps there also just weren’t quite enough words to finish the story properly given the languid pacing of the dialogue previous.
Rating: A romantic movie playing on an old CRT TV interrupted by hissing static

Carl Killer Miller’s “Dreamt the End”
Positives: This quickly introduces the conflict, and “robot wants to be human” doesn’t even feel too cliché here. The protagonist feels well developed in his addiction and obsession.
Critique: The beginning of the Thing messing with Ivar doesn’t feel as strong as the latter parts, starting with “"Do you know why humanity eludes you?"” That’s a strong moment, as is the follow-up when he asks for more. Prior to that, establishing that Ivar can’t escape and that things have ‘gone wrong’ is important, but perhaps the dream-imagery could use work, or perhaps the latter conversation’s focus can be set up better here. Overall, though, this is a strong piece with a strong intro, climax, and conclusion.
Rating: The movie Inception, except everyone is a robot

Pththya-lyi’s “Robot Girl”
Positives: The repetition of hours conveys the passage of time in a nice way. Your setting is quickly established as post-apocalyptic.
Critique: This is the story of a robot seeking to fulfil its programming, though it’s obvious from the start that no such fulfilment will take place. I expected there to be some turn, but instead the story continues with that, putting the protagonist in place of simulated happiness rather than resolving the dilemma.
It’s not a very interesting story. Since we know the mom-human is dead, there’s not really any tension, and there’s not a ton of pathos for a robot just following programming. The story meanders through this search, and you certainly could have made it under the wordcount by cutting the more boring bits (as a note the wordcount was only 1500 if you got a song, which you didn’t; otherwise, it was 1000. Whoops). Lines like “Robot girl has never seen a living human in her search” can easily be cut—they’re obvious from the context, and its more interesting to imply it by describing the desolation. There hints of a more interesting story. Lines like “He told me, ‘Man must be put out of this misery…’” and “robots who joined its consciousness would experience free will. “In its true form,” it explained. “Not the illusion…” allude to characters or events that would be more interesting. If you decide to keep the focus on the sort of tragedy of programs and commands that linger long after they should, you need to strengthen it by making us feel more for the sad pseudo-lives of these creations. Perhaps giving them simulated emotions with power, or actions that mirror those even if the emotions are fake.
Rating: That kid-robot from Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence looking forlornly at a statue

Chairchucker’s “I, Nazi Death Robot”
Positives: There were a lot of jokes that made me laugh out loud such as “Not that Adolf” and the general personality of Klaus trying to grasp peace, ducks, and threats. I’ve seen the frustrated killer robot type before, but it works here. The story is light and fast, and wraps up nicely with a little bit of romance. Good last line.
Critique: Not much to say. The jokes land, are set up well, repeat just enough, and the story is a light fun ride. It’s not, like, ~~deep~~ or anything, so I dunno if this will get a win, but it was refreshing and fun and did what it set out to do.
Rating: A robot with a troubling mustache

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!




In,

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

Communist Bear
Oct 7, 2008



Uranium Phoenix posted:

Not bad for a first TD entry; hope you’ll keep coming back for more.

I am!

quote:

Week 394: The Questions of Interpersonal Closeness

In

I'll take the following question:

quote:

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Wow thanks for all the super quick crits! You guys are always awesome but extra awesome points this week!

derp
Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again



Lipstick Apathy

I click on this thread for the first time this year and there is NO PROMPT

WHAT the gently caress

thanks a LOT now my inspiration is GONE and i'm back to NOT WRITING

JERKS




oh nvm there it is, i'll take 17. What is your most treasured memory?

Yoruichi
Sep 21, 2017


Horse Facts

True and Interesting Facts about Horse




In with 5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Anomalous Amalgam
Feb 13, 2015

by Nyc_Tattoo


Doctor Rope

In, but I'd like an assignment please!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012

Tr*ckin' and F*ckin' all the way to tha
T O P


Anomalous Amalgam posted:

In, but I'd like an assignment please!

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

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Doctor Eckhart
Dec 23, 2019

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

Ugh I was going to take a break but the prompt is too tempting, in with:


14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

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