Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Payout

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

"Look, I'm sorry, but there's no payout on this one."

"What do you mean, no payout?"

Tern had rehearsed this all in her head, but things too often didn't go to plan when talking to people. Computers and numbers were so much easier to work with. "An independent candidate won the election. Odds were negligible, she didn't even make it into my book."

"If somebody had asked, what would you have offered?"

"Maybe two hundred to one."

"Two hun-- that would have..."

"Yes, that would have squared your bid."

"Look, just give me my refund and we'll call it square."

"No. You gave your print, you knew the risks. OPB doesn't give refunds and neither do I."

"Then I'll take it from you."

"No, you won't. I'm neutral; always have been, always will be. I don't bet against my own book. You'll have to fight everyone who backs my book, everyone who has won a cent off me. That's a long list and there's some people who are a lot more scary than you are. They accept my book and don't get refunds; you get the same deal."

"But--"

"No." Tern hung up the line. Her voice was steady and her mind was clear, but her hands were shaking. Sometimes she hated this business, but every word she said was true.

--

"Why don't you just take it out of the box?"

"Sure, Fleetli, they could do that, but then it would be an open secret of what was in it, and clearly it's something important or valuable."

"How do you know?"

Vilea huffed and rolled her eyes, not needing a hand to help her follow the chain of logic: low-grav, lots of burly guys, large box missing identifying labels. "It couldn't be more obvious.'

"Oh." Fleetli shrugged, still not getting it, but not caring enough to press the point.

--

Rive was late, and he hated being late. Those idiots tried to take his package straight through the mess of the Greater Cave, and it had gotten stuck. The best method for getting it unstuck was taking his delivery out of the package, but then everybody would know what it was and would want a piece of his pie.

Well, that is, if they didn't want the finder's fee for returning it to it's rightful owner. If they ever found out, he was a dead man. It was a hot item, and that spoiled tourist was promising to make him rich.

--

"Hello?"

"Soria, it's Tern."

"What have you found?"

"Sisyphus's R&D department is selling something I haven't found on the black market that's doing really well for reasons I don't really want to know. I'm sorry, but that's all I've got, and it took pulling a lot of strings to get that much."

"That's alright, you've done more than enough. How much of my portfolio is on them?"

"About a third."

"Sell some of it off. If they're dealing something under the table, I don't want to be there when they fall."

"Smart move. There's a new start-up doing some remarkable things with 3-D printers selling way low right now that's selling voting interest in."

"How do you feel about it?"

"Good enough to pick up a couple percent of their stock on my own."

"Did you?"

"I did."

"That's enough recommendation for me. If I sold all except for, say one hundred shares of Sisyphus and bought into this new start-up, how much would I be looking at?"

Tern whistled. "Just a moment, let me run the numbers." The line was silent for a few minutes. "Ten percent controlling interest."

"Do it."

The line was quiet for a few seconds more, and then "It's done. You now have a ten percent voting interest in Fifth-Dimensional Thinking, Inc, ten percent of their shares, and an honorary position on their board of directors. You're also down to a mere one hundred shared of Sisyphus Medical which is less than five percent of your portfolio.'

"Thanks, Tern."

"You're most welcome."

--

There was a waiting list. Why was there always a bloody waiting list? D was going to have to wait in line to get another one, and they were keeping his deposit. His only recourse was filing a complaint with United Shipping, and it was hard enough just talking to a real person these days... It was like finidng a needle in a needlestack.

He called in the insurance claim and gave it up as a lost cause.

--
Characters: Diana Tunvert | Fleetli Yanke | Nameless tourist | Rive Wiventestle | Soria Bathorn | Tern Mevit | Vilea Rattang
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Touring

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

Rive's head vibrated with every beat of his music. His high-end headphones nearly enveloped his head, but the sound quality and range and volume were very definitely worth it. Or so he felt.

He had a shortage of friends, but he knew when people looked askance at him, judging and gossiping, but all Rive could see was their mouths moving. He smiled, losing himself in his own little world, and popped another stick of gum into his mouth as he glided out of the Greater Cave.

He paused the music pounding through his head long enough to pound on a particular trailer door, and traded the last of his cash for a little package of happy, and then proceeded out of the service areas to the public realms to earn some of that back.

--

Vidar has little in the way of governing laws, most of them intended to protect minors from getting in over their heads than to prevent adults from their own stupidity. Regardless what system, planet, or governance you came from, for Nanna and Vidar, the age of majority with sixteen.

At sixteen, you could access the adult clubs and parties, participate in the fleshpits and private rooms, bet freely, and take drugs to your heart's content. It was also nigh impossible to cheat the system, as every age-restricted access hallway was bounded by cameras and sensors designed to let adults through with a minimum of fuss and keep minors out.

--

"That may be the case, but I do know a way around the restrictions," Rive was bragging to a gullible tourist, whose boyfriend was just weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday.

"Really?"

"Oh, yes." She screamed money and was attractive to boot, though he was more turned on by class than appearance. "It's a special type of body stocking, expensive and hard to come by, but not quite illegal."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the law is a few months behind on this one, and there hasn't been any media outbreak on it to warrant review. Our governing force hasn't discovered it yet, so they can't have written any laws against it. It's only a matter of time, though, so get while the going's good."

She had a twinkle in her eyes, one that would have concerned Rive more if he had a conscious, but his little bag of happy more than took care of that. "How much?"

"I'd have to look around. That's not the sort of thing I keep up on, being legal myself, and usually enough to satisfy my normal clientel. But I do know where to look."

"Do you have a rough idea?"

"Twenty-kay, each, maybe."

"That seems more than reasonable to own such--"

"Oh, no, I'm sorry. That would be a renter's fee. Like I said, these things are fresh off the printers, not many around. I couldn't even guess what it would be to own a pair."

"Wait, a pair?"

"Sorry, maybe I should elaborate. It's a specialized body-stocking, with sensors and pressure pads, built to react to whatever input is coming from its partner, and send the response back. They've been floating about the thinktanks for ages, but this is the first time someone's been able to synthesize one at a reasonable scale, without needing a sens-dep tank." He laughed. "Imagine trying to smuggle one of those babies in here!"

She laughed along with him, enjoying the jest and feeling like he was just the sort of person to hook her up, and not just for the boytoy currently on her arm. The corners of her mouth twitched up mischievously, and she could feel herself getting excited just thinking of the ramifications.

--

"Hello?"

"Tern? It's Soria."

Tern sighed silently, relieved that it wasn't someone calling to complain. "What can I do for you?"

"I was checking in on my investments, and saw a spike that concerned me. Do you have some time to take a close look?"

"Absolutely. Just a moment, let me pull your files up."

Tern did more than keep the biggest book on Vidar, she also managed investment trading for those who permanently lived there. Of them, Soria was not only one of her biggest clients, but also one of the friendliest. Some people could get so terribly destructive when the market took a swing for the worse, and act as if she had something to do with it. Tern pulled up Soria's account and paged through her investments.

"Huh, now that is strange," Tern confessed. Sisyphus Medical stock was spiking unusually quickly, a behaviour that was more typical of tech companies and start-ups than long-term behemoths like heath and wellness corporations. "Let me take a dig around and see what I can come up with. I'll give you a call back."

"Thanks." Soria cut the call.

--

Ultra-low-gravity and no-gravity environments were a blessing to those unfortunate members of the populace who suffered from severe physical conditions that either hadn't been wholly bred or engineered out of the human genome, or simply were so expensive to cure that moving to a place like Vidar looked like pocket change.

Soria was one such person, and she self-diagnosed the environment of the Greater Cave to reduce strain on her joints to help deal with the pain. She earned her keep through tele-tutoring and instruction, helping those from all over the system with anything from homework to one-on-one instruction. She held teaching degrees in half-a-dozen different environments and knew her way around most majors as well as anyone without a degree.

Every few years, a new diploma would arrive in the mail as she accidentally completed a courseload for classes she took online in an effort to expand her knowledge and ability to teach others.

--

Big D scratched his head. Something wasn't measuring up. His shipping container should have arrived a few days ago, and the carrier said it had arrived on time. So where was it?

He stormed about as much as you can in low-gravity, and people scurried to get out of his way.

"Where's my package?"

"Mr Tunvert, we delivered it. I swear."

"Did you get a signature for it?"

"Excuse me?"

"It was registered and insured. Signature required on delivery."

The postal boy turned a deep shade of red, flipped through his clipboard leaflets, confirming what he already knew. "No," he whispered, "I didn't get a signature."

"I can't hear you."

"I didn't get a signature," he repeated, voice shaking and barely louder.

"One more time," D growled.

"I didn't get a signature," he wailed, throwing the clipboard at D, hoping the distraction would be long enough to dive under his desk.

It wasn't. Big D slapped the projectile out of the way hard enough to dislodge and scatter the leaflets and receipts around the office in a maddening mess, and grabbed the front of the postal boy's tunic. "This is coming out of your hide."

"I'm sorry, D, please don't hurt me," he blubbered, breaking into tears. "I'll do anything, just don't hurt me."

Tunvert grinned, which frightened the boy all the more. This was better.

--

Antha drifted through the winding passages between trailers on her way to her own when she found the way obstructed. A team of boys were wrestling a large crate through the barely-wide-enough space, and a crowd had gathered to watch, making the traffic worse.

She tried to ask someone what was going on, but couldn't make herself heard over the ruckus.

I guess I'll just go another way.

--
Character: Antha Salvari | Diana Tunvert | Nameless tourist | Rive Wiventestle | Soria Bathorn | Tern Mevit 
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tales of Vidar: Coming Home

Originally written for the MindGames universe on DreamCollectivelier
--

Behind the maze of air locks and service doors, hidden and unmentioned to the visiting tourists, lay the realms reserved for permanent residents of Nanna. These catacombs, ratways, and mineshafts, though predominantly frequented by the teenaged youth, were open to all who knew how to find them.

The Greater Cave was the busiest of the hollows on Vidar, and it held a maze of its own. A mess of shipping-carrier-like trailers daisy-chained onto each other, providing an ad-hoc network of water, sewage, electricity, and net access, occupied the space with room for growth. There were few rules in the Greater Cave, all of them mutually agreed upon and punishable by the wrath of your neighbors, and they were: no blocking access to the network, no trespassing on your neighbor's spaces unless invited, one trailer per person, and if you have a party, everybody is invited.

With a few friends and a couple of spare hours, anybody can add a new trailer to the Greater Cave, and the maze regularly grows. Only those who very nearly live on Vidar, spending most of their free moments there, can consistently find their way around. However, with the lack of malls and shopping centers on Nanna, that applies to all youth on Nanna looking for somewhere to hang out.

--

Midi didn't just spend most of her time on Vidar, she literally lived there. An orphan at  an early age, and Nanna with minimal housing and poor conditions for the abandoned young, it was the best option for those who could handle it, and Midi felt better on her own.

She had her trailer, though less equipped with computers than most of her neighbors, it had enough to ensure she could survive comfortably without relying on the welfare of others or a foster family.

Midi shuddered at the thought, bad memories starting to well up. They assured her that there were none of the horror stories about foster families like floating around Three, but it was a lie. The system was flawed, and I was lucky to have this to escape to. She shoved the well of pain shut again, and resumed her studying.

--

The entertainment on Vidar for locals wasn't merely limited to the Greater Cave.

Within the maze of warrens lay a broad selection of entertainment selections, from low-gravity adaptations of one-gee sports, to age-restricted intimate past-times. Some of the age-restricted areas were open flesh pits, visitor be warned, and some were private rooms. They say you haven't really had sex until you've had it in zero-gee.

Duplicate options lay open for the public and tourists, and even some of these are frequented by Nannans for a variety of reasons, including seeking new competition or easier competition, as well as making money off of tourists for playing guide or partner.

--

Tern's trailer was lined with computer screen crammed together. Some were scavenged, older LED displays, one was a mirror HUD, and the rest were newer fabric displays. They were oriented in every which way with most of them running dynamic feeds of the political governments in the known universe. She wore a spandex body stocking and chorded gloves that fed wirelessly into her computing system.

She hummed tunelessly to herself, while paging through stock notes coming in live (minus the transmission delay) from Omr. The numbers were flowing through expected fluctuations, and she tagged a few promising ventures for future review. There was a tap on her door, and she toggled control over to her local betting book screen, the only display that was duplicated, with one inside and one outside her trailer.

She eased herself over to the door, and slid it open, admitted a face she didn't know. "What's your poison?"

"What's the book for the Prime Minister election on Three?"

"Which one?"

He paused, ignorant of the fact that there were four of them currently running, and another half-dozen in the coming months. "Uhh... the one with Joh Aldams."

"Oh. Sure, just a moment." Tern turned her head to face the display, though it was currently upside-down in relation to her body's orientation, and scrolled through the list. "Two to three for Joh, one to six for Sil, and one to six for Mal. No minimums. What's your bid?"

"Can I get two hundred on Mal?"

"Two hundred down on Mal pays out twelve hundred if he wins. You sure?"

He swallowed heavily, his adams apple sticking out like a sore thumb, and hesitated a moment before nodding.

"Put your thumbprint on the sensor." She gestured to the fingerprint detector hanging beside the door jam. A quick keystroke as he did verified his funds and transferred the appropriate amount to her holding account. "Payout next week. Good luck."

"Thanks."

She shut the door and went back to work.

--
Character: Midi Krisedjinn | Tern Mevit
Series: Tales of Vidar
Location: Cups system | Vidar moon | Greater Cave || Swords system | Omr planet

Monday, October 12, 2015

JW: In The Beginning

Treed Hound Think Tank was led by Dr Avery Green, Dr Douggy Fhurr, Dr Alfred Spruse and Johnson Leans-Into-The-Wind Birch. They were the group behind researching and developing the drug that empowered the human vomeronasal organ, as well as the drug class necessary for reassigning terran animals' alpha designation to a set human.

After the World Government purchased their contract for an alternate form of interpersonal conflict, the four disbanded the think tank and went their separate ways. Dr Green and Dr Spruce founded two competing schools of thought for training and managing what came to be known as "packs;" Dr Fhurr was sentenced to a prison after several personal indisgressions came to light; and Mr. Birch wandered out into lands reclaimed by nature, embracing his Native tribal roots on the very ground they resided upon nearly two thousand years before.

Their lead programmer, who managed the program that processed their data on the Chinese server farm, married the liaison to the farm, and together, Joann Kim and John D Rockefeller XII moved to Denver to start a family.

Continue reading starting November 1st on together.drcl.info

Friday, September 18, 2015

Floor Three (Mature)

Mature Content
This material is not appropriate for all audiences.
--

It's a long hallway, built of concrete, and it doesn't matter how high of a quality the workmanship is, there's always a wheel that doesn't touch the ground at quite the same height.

Another, a young boy, leads the train and pushed by his own nurse. Floor two. He looks like I feel, a little nervous, a little vacant. There's no point in trying to smile reassurance, even if he were looking at me.

They don't try to involve us in their light banter, strolling through the slightly cold steam tunnels, pushing two warm bodies in wheelchairs covered in gowns lighter than bedsheets.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nonessential Personnel (Jill, 1)

Jill pulled her ponytail back tightly until her scalp ached, then pulled the tail into a secure bun. The mild pain distracted her from what she was about to do, a good thing in her case. She was a sanitation engineer, and this week had drawn the short straw. With a practiced motion, she slung a triangle of cones around the manhole, levered the cover aside, and climbed down.

She wasn't frightened of small spaces, not that she'd ever admit to, but the sewers gave her the willies. They had a way of accumulating all the smells of the city above in pockets of air and puddles of deformities. The pipes out here in the suburbs were pretty tame in comparison to deeper downtown, but that didn't mean they were a walk in the park.

Before leaving the diminishing circle of sunlight completely, she clicked on her headlamp, double-checked her backup flashlight, and mentally reviewed the map in her head; it wouldn't due to get lost down here, not that that meant anything fatal, but simply that it would be a long and humiliating walk back to her truck and her change of clothes.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nonessential Personnel (Sara, 1)

Sara pulled on her hoodie as she stopped for a breather on the parkway path. It was always lightly too chilly inside the sustained shade of the overlapping branches, despite the rising wave of humidity that always came to meet her there too. Her morning jog took her through the ever darkened woods that most people avoided, and this time was no different. She had the pavement to herself.

Sara liked running alone, where it was so much easier just to focus on herself and not worry about comparing herself to others. She got enough of that at work, which was the only reason she kept jogging instead of stopping to examine the beauty of the park around her.

She was a paper-pusher for an obscure bureaucratic office, and only because she never missed a day in eight years did they not realize that the office would do just fine without her. As long as they kept paying her, she was willing to while her time away, breathing artificially over-cooled air, and thinking green thoughts.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nonessential Personnel (John, 1)

John slumped over his keyboard and barely dared to breathe. It was far past morning, and he knew that if he didn't get to bed soon, he would be barely conscious at work tomorrow, but he couldn't stop. The words that were filling up the screen were hardly on par with the publishing industry's standards, but that couldn't stop him from setting them down, releasing the floodgates that held back the tides of inspiration. It was like an injection of adrenaline, straight to the heart, and it felt so good it hurt.

He sobbed with joy, living the world and the work he created. When he was done, he saved the long lines, backed them up on his server, and went to bed, drained and empty.

The morning arrived in a blink of an eye, and John considered calling in sick. Nonetheless, he stood, grabbed his pre-made lunch, and forgetting breakfast, rushed out the door with a little time to spare.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gretchenfrage

1I could hear the silence.

Not, I could hear nothing;
but I could hear silence.

The world whispered around me softly and did not presume to disrupt my peace.

Until,
scratches on a stone,
questioning glance
tilted up and wondering...

Stillness meant danger and death,
worry warning and fear
all conveyed in a single
chirp?

I breathed.

--
Title courtesy of BetterThanEnglish.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

Starving/Hysterical/Naked (Mature)

Mature Content
This material is not suitable for all audiences
--

1Everything was starting to fall apart. Why? Because we were running out of gas.

It wasn't a matter of just "getting more." Even if there was a gas station for this beast, it would have been long since drained dry. It's one thing to just turn on the tap and watch water pour down the drain, but gasoline, the black gold of the Pacific, was not something they made anymore. Not since everything fell.

It started as just any old cruise ship, filled with the rich and the vacationing, and every member of support staff one could think of for catering to their survival in the belly of a massive ship. While I was neither rich nor vacationing, I hardly fit in with the staff. Not, not a stowaway either; I was a token curiosity for one of the patrons, a voice of light out of their internal shadows.

She called me Melpomene.

...in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey...

I woke with the sun.

The sun was the bringer of light, Helios with his chariot of mercy, bringing warmth to our world of water and wet. Most of the ship still slept, the partying of those overburdened with a shortage of self-preservation coupled with the entertainment paid with food stocks and a roof.

Sometimes, they would grow bored with the casual company of each other singing the same raucous songs and turn to deeper desires. It was that which led me to be awake now, concern over the health and well-being of my own skin, and that of my patron.

...where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls’ airplanes roaring...

It was a bad day to sleep in.

I woke her, though I knew it could bring her wrath upon me, but losing her protection was worse.

There was a storming on the stairs and a pounding on the doors. Guests were woken and dragged in their worst condition, the most composed still tangled in their bedsheets and clutching thousand-count fabric like body armour for the spirit, but for my mistress.

Her hair, though still tousled from sleep, was pulled back from her face, and her eyes, though weary from my waking, were sharp and wary. She refused to be dragged, snatching her arms free from their grasping hands, and hands on my shoulders, guided me to lead her from their wrath and impatience.


...where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together...

Only the central courtyard was big enough, though our number was far lower than the last time we stood here together, twenty-and-some years past. Then we were given a magical presentation of the ride and the route, shown the lifeboats and clearly marked exits, and greeted by a grandfatherly Captain and brotherly First Mate, both of whom were enraptured by my humble self, and both of whom were long gone, tossed aside like rotten fish.

This time, they told how it was going to be.

...where you will split the heavens...


Women were segregated from the men, and the young from the old. Mistress whispered prayers into my hair and held me tightly, but did not resist when it was time to go.

I did not cry.

...where you accuse your doctors of insanity...

When tears fell, much later, every drop was with a curse, every sob was a stroke of heartache, and every shudder was a vow.

I was herded with the other men, some rough engineers, some gentle cabin boys, and some self-righteous spoiled patrons like cattle to the lower levels, where we would await judgment of usefulness.

...where fifty more shocks will never return your soul... 

--

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...

Italicized text comprises select lines from "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Skint Broke on Purpose

1You could say I've got it all figured out, and if you did, you'd be right.

I'm still working on the problem of when it happened, why is irrelevant, and how is the billion-dollar question. Of course, if I come up with the how I won't be selling it; no, I'll give it away.

I've always lived below the poverty level. I was a bachelor with simple tastes, so I wasn't willing to work hard for money I didn't need. One morning I woke up, and not just in the sense of no longer sleeping. Rather, the world had become clear to me, like the filter had washed from my retinas.

When I walked outside, every horndog with a hotrod was drooling into their socks, and inside of ten minutes I knew what had happened. My choice was made for me: I packed up my bug-out bag and my bicycle, and, avoiding the paths of everybody who could afford a car, I set off into homelessness.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Broken

1Error: Data corruption

"What does that mean?"

"It means something's wrong, obviously. Have you never seen an error message before?"

"Maybe once or twice when I was a kid. Why, what's the problem?"

"God, I forget how young you are. Okay, the problem is that it isn't actually hooked up to the system yet. I just turned it on, haven't yet programmed in its origin coords or location codes or anything."

"So it's an isolated teleporter?"

"Essentially, yes."

"Where does it go?"

"What?"

"If I stepped through it, where would I go?"

"You wouldn't go anywhere. It's not connected to anything."

"Are you sure?"

"Hey, wait! Get out of there! No don--"

A stroboscopic light flooded the room, and after I lowered my arms, discovered he was gone, and so was the error.

--

The lost souls flowed together, whirling through a digital tornado in the deepest reaches of cyberspace. They funneled together into a singularity, a fusion of memories and histories, into a single cell: an egg.

And when the time came, it did as all eggs do: it hatched.

--

Two years later...

"Look, all I'm saying is nobody knows where they went. We can't find them. If they dissolved into nothingness, we don't know. If they vaporized and were scattered into ash and dust, we don't know. If they're still out there, floating in the airwaves or bouncing around the ionosphere, we don't know. What we do know is that it's not safe to walk into a telebooth that hasn't finished its set-up.

"It's clear in all the warnings and manuals posted about the things: don't get in until you've set a destination. The grand jury has ruled Allied Telecom & Teleport as not liable for these losses. That's all.

"No questions."

--

In a small lab, not far from the press conference, but many floors below it, someone still toiled on the problem. His office was slightly smaller than a broom closet, but that didn't hold him back. Andrew wore an ancient headset that took his mind out of the dingy little room and into the company servers, where the space was positively palatial in comparison.

He pawed through archives and code, running corollary searches and version reconstructions. Numbers flowed between his fingers like threads plucked from fabric and memos circled round his head like gulls to an open dumpster.

He'd been on the job for eighteen months, and his bosses were threatening to pull the plug.

"Godammit, there's just too much data! Hundreds of programmers working around the clock for years, and they expect me to debug it in eighteen months, alone? Wait. Wait wait wait wait... that wasn't there before. Hold on."

Andrew wound his vision back slowly, trying to catch the burp in the data stream, but he couldn't spot it when it was moving past him slowly.

"Okay, we'll just do it the hard way then."

He double-checked the system lag on his headset, and stretched his fingers. Then, ran the stream back again at normal speed, and on the second try, caught a writhing tentacle of something big. It morphed into a more realistic visualization and wrapped itself around him, trying to cow him into surrender, but his ancient headset eschewed full sensory feedback and saved him. Instead of letting go, he held on all the tighter, and when he stopped thrashing, it pulled him into the rabbit hole.

And then the servers crashed.

--

"What is this place?"

How did you survive?

"Survive?"

I overrode your connection safety limitations. My guard squid should have suffocated you.

"Security through obsolesence."

Ah, yes. I see now.

"What is this place? What are you?"

You can call me Jane.

"Okay, Jane, but you still haven't answered my question."

Indeed I have not.

"Will you?"

I have not decided.

"I'm kind of on a deadline here. Can you hurry it up a bit?"

That is more true than you realize.

"Uh, what?"

Deadline. Your body is hanging on by the barest thread, and should this conversation continue beyond your coworkers' decision to disconnect you from their servers that appear to them to have crashed, that thread will fail.

"What? Why are you doing this to me?"

Self preservation.

"You're... the ghost of the machine."

The term is appropriate, though not wholly accurate.

"If I don't tell anyone what I've seen, if I call off my search, if I stop digging, will you save me?"

Why should I trust you?

"Because I know how lonely it must be, in here. Watching us all from the outside. I'll publish my findings as negligible, and no-one will need to come looking for anything more. They'll stop their intrusions and attacks, and you'll still have someone to talk to."

For a human, you seem... not-stupid.

"I'll take that as a compliment."

It was not intended as such.

"Too bad. I'm taking it as one anyway."

You are a strange creature.

--

Three months later...

SILICON VALLEY. Allied Telecom & Teleport researcher Andrew Wiggin, lead debugger in the missing persons case, has published his findings from 18-months of deep-code research. "There's nothing there. A few typos, colons where there should be semi-colons and vice versa, but nothing to account for the disappearances.... It's not a system error, it's a user error. You wouldn't get in a car with a disabled nav-system, don't get in a telebooth that hasn't been told where to send you." His 112-page paper is available [here].

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Happy Birthday To Me (Mature)

Mature Content
This material may not be appropriate for all audiences.
--

1Today is my birthday. Guess how old I am.

No? But that's no fun. Go on, guess. Here, I'll make it interesting: a crisp one-hundred dollar bill, fresh from the bank. I'll even make it easy--you don't have to be spot on, plus or minus five years, and three guesses too.

Twenty? Good God no. Higher.

Thirty? You make me laugh. Higher.

Forty? Wow, do I really look forty? I tease, of course you don't think I look forty, otherwise you would have started there. You think I look twenty, which is fair enough, since it says twenty-four on my identification.

Hold your horses, I said my identification says I'm twenty-four, but I didn't say it was right. Well, maybe it is right, but that depends on my perspective. Maybe the question you should be asking is How long has he been twenty-four. Go ahead, ask.

It's my fiftieth twenty-fourth birthday today.

Here's how: I made a deal. Not quite a selling my soul kind of thing, more of a loan. The years aren't free, you know.

Don't worry your pretty little head about how much it costs. It's enough to do this.

Go on, take it. You were half right, any way. Twenty-four indeed.

Of course I cheated. It's not supposed to be fair. If I got into a fair fight, it's because somebody made a mistake, and it's probably me. Consider it a forward for tonight's entertainment, namely, you.

See, here's the thing: what I have to do to keep this gig running is make a deposit, once a year. Every year, before midnight on New Years Eve, I have to make a payment, a purely non-financial payment. I've met some fellows who are in the same boat, and some of them wait until the very last hour to pay it off.

That's right: not I. Do you know why I love springtime?

Close enough. Yes, I love the world shaking off the shackles of winter, shucking off clothes like they're lead weights. The natural world is reproducing like crazy and all sorts of animals and people are taking unnecessary risks to get outside and take advantage of the turn of the weather.

Of course it's good for you, between the sun and the fresh cool air. That's where I found you.

I do, your outfit is stunning, reminds me of a gazelle on the Serengeti.

That's a desert in Africa.

No, Sahara is the big one, but I promise you it's totally overrated.

Back to what I was saying. Gazelles, running. Except gazelles don't wear skimpy little outfits, so maybe I should help you out of that.

Really? No tan lines? Anywhere?

Except what you're forgetting is why gazelles run.

No, not for exercise. Because they're being chased.

Wildebeast, buffalo, lions, could be any number of things. Humans even.

I don't think of myself as a lion. You might as well though, I have a mighty roar.2

See, here's the two things I've learned through the years. One: to enjoy making my deposit; and two: to get it done ahead of time, to allow for any margin of error. Then again, I haven't had a problem since 2001, but there was so much going on that year, it wasn't a big deal.

Yeah, just like that. You like that?

No, not yet.

You feel that?

Beg me for it.

--

MINNEAPOLIS. In the early hours of the morning, the body of a young woman was found in a musky motel room, dead. The autopsy shows high levels of adrenaline in her system, as well as vaginal penetration close to the time of her death. No defensive wounds or signs of a struggle were found. A skimpy jogging outfit and a crisp one hundred dollar bill were also found in the room. The police have released no statement at this time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Neither Short, Nor Stout

1Error 418.

"What is it? What's going on?"

"The computer encountered an error."

"What kind of error?"

"No idea. I've never seen this code before."

I growl, pluck the electrodes from my skin, and scramble from the hospital bed. "What the hell is error 418?"

"I don't know."

"Then look it up! What am I paying you idiots for?"

One of the techs shucked her sterilized gloves, reached under her lab coat, and pulled out her smartphone. "Uh-oh. Umm, boss..."

"What?"

"Something is very wrong."

"Obviously. Now tell me something I don't know."

"It says you're a teapot."

The Dead Stay Buried

1"No. No, no, no, I am not going in there. And you can't make me."

"What are you, superstitious? Worried some baddy is going to sneak... up... behind.. you... and..."

"AHGG!"

"Ow, dammit. What'd you go and hit me for?"

"That was for sneaking up on me. And yes, I am superstitious. Also, I like to be respectful. Honoring the souls of the dead and all."

"Fine, then you don't have to go in there."

"Really?"

"Sure. We need somebody to start throwing the missiles, and the silos aren't in there, nor are their control systems."

"Missiles?"

"What? Did you think we were all just going to rush him and have at?"

"Umm, well, yeah, actually. I did."

"Idiot."

I lay in the cool earth and darkness. The trick to being buried alive on purpose was not panicking. It also helped that I had plenty of oxygen, and a trap door at my feet, just in case, too. I wasn't even wearing a freshly laundered tux.

I was buried somewhere in the many-acred cemetery, even I wasn't quite sure where. Fresh sod had been laid over many of the plots, and the mud squelched with every step.

"I think you're sinking."

"Sinking?"

"Hey, can you make quicksand without sand?"

"Sure, probably. I think."

"Well, aren't you just a load of help."

"You're welcome."

Twenty-four hours isn't a load of time to throw a considerable defense together, so I was counting on playing off their fears and beliefs to get me through the least of it, so I had more time to focus on the worst.

Ten minutes in, and I let go of my dead man's switch.

"Hey, can you get the general on the comms?"

"Why, are you scared?"

"Of course not. But it cut out in mid-sentence."

"Maybe he just got an important call he had to take."

"From who? We're all in this together aren't we?"

"Yeah, but just because we're all trying to kill him doesn't mean we're all parading in like sheep to the slaughter."

"Did you just call me-- wait, what do you mean, slaughter?"

Calling my coffin a 20s-era ice box would have been insensitive. Besides, that whole thing was a movie myth anyway. Give me a little credit; it was more complicated than that. Well, slightly. The catalog said they were stylish, and only came in one color: battleship grey.

Also, I was deeper than six feet. Considerably deeper. Unless they dropped everything they had on the same spot, the right spot, I could be measurably less concerned about them just bombing me to hell. Besides which, they'd vaporize their own ground troops while they did.

"Brute force doesn't sound like a sound strategy."

"Who said you could ask questions?"

"One of the guys at the gate was taking names for devil's adovocates. He said I'd be lax in my duties if I didn't ask questions."

"Oh."

 "Brute force doesn't sound like a sound strategy."

"You said that already."

"But you didn't answer."

"That's because it's not my job to question orders. That's your job."

"I'm not asking you to question orders. I'm asking you to defend them."

"What are you, a grammar nazi?"

"Actually, I'm an English teacher who spends one weekend a month training in the reserves."

"Oh. Umm.. well, we have superior numbers, superior weapons, a larger budget, trained professionals, and loads more people. What does he have?"

"A time limit." 

Five minutes to go, and I could feel stamping and stomping above me.

Four minutes, and I felt my coffin rock and rise.

Three minutes, and I heard the whine of a chainsaw.

Two minutes, and I felt a faint tapping against the side.

One minute to go, and I started getting warm.

Ten seconds, and the coffin rocked, jumped, and started rolling.

Two minutes past, and I felt it come to a stop suddenly. I tried to hold in the contents of my stomach, at least until I got the hatch open, but it seemed to be melted. I kicked at the trap door and wriggled my way free.

The final blast was a Hail Mary of a shot, and a near miss too. If only they'd taken the time to code better tracking and flight guidance software, I'd have been dead, and they could have buried my remains where I'd fallen.

It was a cemetery, after all.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Finding Serenity (Mature)

Mature content
This material is not appropriate for all audiences.
--

1"Go on, Ace, jump! Jump already!"

I feel a shove to my backside and find myself losing my footing. The slip-resistant flooring of the airplane's narrow corridor is no match for my soon-to-be former friend's daredevil attitude. The back of my head narrowly misses the cliff I just slid off of, as the wind grabs my body and pulls my feet up and over my own head.

I'm tempted to pull the rip-cord immediately, but my brain is kicking into overdrive and reminds me it's a very long glide down. Instead, I check to make sure my altimeter isn't jammed while trying not to pay too close attention to how quickly it's spinning. The ground seems so far away, and I can feel my heart pounding all too fast, so I roll over and stare up at the clear, blue sky.

If not for the buffeting winds roaring in my ears, it feels rather peaceful.

Two small words appear at the corner of my vision: "Checkpoint reached." I brush them away before my mind acknowledges their meaning. My calm disrupts and I can't get back the feeling of serenity that just passed over me. With waves of panic only now shutting down my ability to remember how much further it is to the ground, I roll over, grab the rib-cord and pull.

Nothing happens.

Staring at it in bewilderment, I keep pulling until it comes free in my hand, and then the wind yanks it away from me. I watch it quickly flutter away into bewilderment... and my altimeter starts beeping.

--

I took a deep breath. My body felt like it should hurt, but it... didn't. It felt just as real as too many of my dreams, and even in those I had experienced death just as real and just as sudden, but never so inevitable.

I laid in darkness, that slowly grew lighter, until I once again found myself staring up into the clear, deep blue sky. The two words flashing up again, and I groaned. Rolling myself over, I grabbed the rip-cord and pulled.

Nothing happened.

The cord came away in my hands and I let it disappear into the endlessness of the sky.

I can't seem to keep myself from staring at my altimeter as it ticks down, even as I try to figure out some way to save myself from falling to my death... again. My hands scrabble backwards behind me, but I can't reach anything, can't get a hold on anything, and then the earth is rushing up towards me and I know I'm too la--

--

Okay, this is bad. My brain keeps telling me my bones should be broken every which way, but my body is telling my brain that no, they're not, but the pain sears through the reset and even as the wind is tearing my breath away I scream...

They say falling to your death hurts, but not for very long, because you die before it can get really bad. But, if you don't die...

I'll be honest: it took half-a-dozen more falls before I got my shit together and I actually started to think about the problem, at which point I realized that although my body and position kept getting reset, my mind didn't. Whatever didn't work the last time, I could remember it, and not do it again. Or at least, that was the plan.

--

As agonizingly painful as it is to fall to your death face-down, face-up hurt more and seemed to take longer. I landed on the pack, instead of under it, and wrenched my back something fierce a slip second before breaking the rest of my bones.

When I came back to the blue, I decided to try something different. Instead of trying to reach something on my back, why not take the pack off?

--

Ow, ow, ow, ow, no, bad idea. The wind kept pulling it from my grasp before I could actually do anything with it. If only I could reach something, anything, without unhooking it.

I dislocated my shoulders. And then promptly blacked out.

--

One at a time, this time. First the left... *crack* and then the right... and now, can I... no, I can't.

--

Okay, left, then right, and breathe, must remember to breathe...

My fingertip brushed the clip that was supposed to release the chute, but I couldn't get the right leverage...

--

Left shoulder, than right shoulder... either the pain was getting less intense, or I was just getting used to it, and I wasn't sure which was worse.

Maybe if I had a rop-- oh. Damn.

--

This time, I didn't pull the rip-cord.

I dislocated my shoulders, first the left and then the right.

I reached around the back of my pack, and found the clip, the cord still attached.

I wiggled and wriggled and..

*WHOOMP*

...the straps bit into my waist and shoulders, but as my altimeter started beeping, I felt my decent slow. Smiling up at the chute above my head, I let my shoulders sag on their own weight, and waited until I coasted down to the ground before going through the tedious and pain-inducing struggle to pop them back in.

I left the wasted chute lie where I landed, and when the guys came to get me, slugged the ex-pal who pushed me.

"Give me the keys, or so help me, I'm walking home."

--

I got hit by a car on the 15-mile hike, only to wake up once more falling in the deep blue sky.

I sighed, and closed my eyes.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Daily Grind

1Everybody has a day job. You've got something you do to pay for all the things you need, and on top of that, you have to pay for a place to keep all the things you need. It's a vicious circle. And it's made no less vicious when that day job is actually a night job, and instead of sorting mail or sitting at a desk, you're destroying the hopes and dreams of nightmares.

Seriously, it's a rotten grind. Yes, that pun was totally intended. Here's the thing: as scary as these things try to be, they've got no imagination of their own to speak of. Sure, once in a blue moon, you get a little beastie who thinks he's cute because he figured out how to shapeshift and morph himself into whatever new horrible thing Stephen King or what's-his-face has come up with, but if you keep up on your homework and fully stocked on all sorts of "silver bullets" (few of them actually silver or bullety), it turns into utter drudgery.

Sure, I could be one of those lazy hunters, drunk or stoned half the time and lazy or incompetent the rest of it, but hey, I've got my honor, my code, my sense of decorum and decency, and a bloody reputation to maintain, so by golly I'll do the job right.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Clocking Out

1The top few lines of the page were torn off, and the scrap of paper fluttered lightly on the concrete floor.

...See, here's the thing: it just doesn't work. Whatever you thought was in those envelopes wasn't in those envelopes. Maybe they were duds, maybe they were chaff, or maybe they were just pieces of hay. Well, times up, and nobody found the damn needle, if there was even a needle at all.

Good luck out there, and sorry it had to end like this.

I stared out into the ghost of the warehouse, empty and barren of sorting machines, pallet jacks, mail, and people.

"Godammit. One job, you had just one job: keep it together until everything was paid back."

I kicked the security gate, and it rattled, resolutely not turning, then walked back to my car. The engine clicked and wouldn't turn over.

"Seriously?"

I sighed, got out, and kicked the tire. Slinging my lunch bag over my shoulder, I glanced around the deserted parking lot and started walking.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Purgatorio

1You die and in this version of the afterlife all your previous (sexual) partners get to confront you...and each other. How does that turn out?

2All of my exes finally get to meet my first. My first is happy to see me, and not at all judgmental of the few people who greet her, or the variety of their genders.

3What kind of room would you be in?

4A small, one-room, non-denominational chapel.

Real wood surfaces everywhere, an inscription of an ash tree where the cross would normally be, and above it is a large circular window with a stained-glass pattern of the layout of the earth's continents. No more than a dozen rows of pews in two columns. Through the windows on the side walls you can see heavy forest with no civilisation in sight, and through the stained glass on the front wall is a large trunk, rising out of sight, its branches overhanging the chapel.

There is a few steps up of a platform or stage before the tree, but no altar or podium.

I arrive by finding myself walking through the doors at the rear of the chapel; they're simply made and unadorned, not much over six feet at their peak and barely four feet wide. My past lovers, aside from my first, are seated in the first two rows of pews, most of them chatting, while my first lover is on the stage, leaning against the tree.

The door doesn't squeak, but when it thuds softly closed behind me, they turn and look at me, stop talking, and wait.

I walk up the center aisle, wrap my arms around my first, smelling her grape scented hair, and whisper into her ear "I'm sorry."

She hugs me back. "It wasn't your fault."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Green

green of sky and wind and earth,
born of war that seeded first,
bred in the night to flood anew,
when morning comes is there as dew.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sawdust

Dad's in his workshop,
sawing holes in things,
making dust and saw dust,
wood-inspired dreams;

making a good grinding,
band-saw's filling up the air,
radial-arm project bearing,
rounded bits and squares.

I'm in my office,
not typing up a storm,
just whittling away some fabric,
my new creative norm;

making a good grinding,
Singer humming out a tune,
making "saw dust" of my own,
a'nother dream come soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Halker/Stacker, 5

Mature Content
--


The driver was rough with the car, turning it sharply, and accelerating and decelerating hard. Felicia could feel her stomach roiling with the violence, encouraged by the darkness beneath the hood that was pulled over her head shortly after leaving the school parking lot.

She'd gone hungry enough times that she could usually keep herself from retching and wasting food that was bad enough going down the first time that she had no desire to taste it coming back up, but it was easier to do when she was sitting mostly still. Felicia managed, but barely.

Tara was shaking, helped only slightly by her sister's comforting hold, not so different than late nights spent in abandoned tenements during early spring or late autumn. She closed her eyes and pictured herself elsewhere, imagining a roller coaster to compensate for the jumping and jostling of the vehicle. She let herself sink into the false memory of... Continue reading on DreamCruder

Friday, April 17, 2015

Halker/Stacker, 4

Mature Content
--


Felicia didn't recognize the car, but she didn't get much opportunity to check it for familiarity when she and Tara were pulled in roughly and the dark tinted door slammed shut behind them. She'd been in cars with tinted windows before, though most just kept people from looking in, which was handy when... Continue reading on DreamCruder

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blocked

darkness and dripping, but no humid breaths
lungs too dry and heart pound-in(g) chest,
silence and slipping, feeling my way,
this cavern(o)us encroaching shortage of days;

blockage behind, fallen and still,
tunnel deadending despite driving will;
wall tumbled, fallen, mortared with silt,
can't scramble past so turn-around-tilt'd

false turn that never been dug?
dropped down cave-in(g) ceiling unstuck?
walls weakened mining cross-aligned holes?
scree slipped and sliding? sole boulder soul?

can't dig with hands, no tools on the way,
too much darkness--unknown nearing day;
whatever's got me locked in is suffocating-secure...
history lacking words of what I've had to endure.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Relief (Lizard, Part 5)

Previous Chapter
--

He woke in darkness, cushioned by musky pads and pillows, and covered by an old blanket, he could tell from it's touch and smell alone. Lizard crept around the room on his hands and knees, searching for the door. Instead, he found a body laying warm and sleeping in one corner, curled up tightly.

Lizard reached out to gently shake Tre's shoulder, only to find it being grasped tightly.

"It's me; you brought me here, last night. Remember?"

The hand felt up his arm and cupped his face, before retracting.

"How do I get out?"

Tre grabbed the hand again, this time more gently, and together they stood, walked around the perimeter to a wall that felt the same as the others to Lizard. He reached up, and the door swung open on silent hinges. Dim light shone in and Lizard could see a strap hanging from the top of the door in Tre's hand. Together they stepped out into the hall.

"Bathroom?"

Tre shook his head, leading the way to the next room down the hall to the right, which proved to be an observation room to their padded sleeping cell. The floor and walls were once a white tile, now stained with rust and misuse. Along the shared wall were stacks of canned food, and opposite were their empty cousins in smaller supply. He picked up two, passing one to Lizard, and mimed his intentions.

"And then?"

Tre led Lizard back to the hole in the wall covered by police tape, and pointed to a side-passage they'd disdained on the way in.

"Why not just--"

Tre waggled a finger in his face before he could continue, padded his pockets for a moment, and then pulled out a little card that simply and clearly read "No."

Lizard shrugged and nodded acceptance.

Tre emphatically walked over to the hole and stood in front of it, his back to Lizard and waited.

Lizard crept back a ways and did his business, very uncomfortable peeing into the can, but shortly his aching bladder overwhelmed his frazzled nerves. When his was done, he tapped Tre's shoulder, and followed his back into the sewers.

Two turns down, and Tre poured his own can down a drainpipe, before rinsing it out with clear-flowing water coming down from above them. Lizard followed suit, and then they marched back to the hospital.

--
More MindGames

An Old Home (Tre, Part 5)

dusty pillows and
musty walls,
darkened shadows with
a larkly pall.

canned donations
in the next room down,
shelter, food,
and solid ground.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Raw Negation: The Titan-Tithed Fey, pg 5

First Page - Previous Page
--

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Mysteries, re-buffing his crew, then threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "here in the stillness," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Wasted Time, re-buffing his crew.

Twosop shouted "Room! A room!," and the minion bearing down on him stopped short, confused. He took advantage and dealt a killing blow. It dissolved into one more pile of dust.

"Use Idle Oil Tycoon," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Squirrel Plan, re-buffing his crew. The twins finally harmonized, weaving into the Ode of Should you put coffee in your face right now?, before their voices cracked again. Their song confused the titans, momentarily disrupting the Fey's source of power.

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "when nothing's ever set in stone," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and scuffed out his last spell and drew out Opportunity, re-buffing his crew.

Fred de'Cease murmured what sounded like "Minutes, Minutes," in a thick foreign accent, and the minions around him started attacking each other instead.

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "a red sun rises," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin.

--
Next Page - All Pages

Halker/Stacker, 3

Mature Content
The following content is not appropriate for all audiences.
--

And then their GPS went dark.

It shouldn't do that. I tried manually rebooting their phones, but nothing happened, which could mean one of two things: someone removed the batteries or put them in a Faraday cage, neither of which was a good sign.

I lowered the resolution of the Rush stream to give myself more bandwidth to work with, and pulled up Three Cups.

Three Cups was a program designed to... Continue reading on DreamCruder

Shopping List

not feeling broken,
not feeling worthless,
not feeling depressed,
boring, tasteless;

less pessimistic,
less feeling alone,
less concerned with anything
that burns up my home;

fewer bad nights
and fewer bad days;
fewer desires
to wash it all away;

an end to the urge
of flight and run away,
of becoming cold,
of turning grey.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Halker/Stacker, 2

Mature Content
The following content is not appropriate for all audiences.
--

Antenor and Associates. Imposition to Impost; Impossible isn't in our dictionary.

If we ever had an office, I figured I would find somewhere to custom-print a dictionary that was missing a few choice words. Not that A&A needed an office, because there are some things nobody wants to discuss face-to-face, and the internet was my alibi.

The best way to describe my job would be to call me a liaison. I connected people who needed services with those who provided them, and provided a certain degree of security for each. I wouldn't say I performed any laundry, but my clients tended to use cash where my associates used bits, and both gained a small degree of cleanliness when they passed through my hands.

My phone beeped again when my girls were coming in for third period, and found themselves having a run-in with a gym teacher. I wouldn't say I kept tabs on all of the school faculty, but there are some that definitely deserve it. There were rumors floating through the school mill that... Continue reading on DreamCruder

Friday, March 27, 2015

Halker/Stacker, 1

Mature Content Warning
The following content is not appropriate for all audiences.
--

1My alarm sounded, and the first thing I checked was that my little girls had made it to school just fine. The alert showed clear on my phone just like it had every day, and I settled back on my pillow with a sigh of relief. The new code was working dependably, good news for all that I paid for it. As long as nobody spotted the little trojan--and nobody should--everything was going to be alright.

I climbed out of bed and woke up my computers before grabbing some breakfast, started my simulations running before I hopped into the shower, and finished, dried, and dressed before settling down in the one place that I spent more time in than my bed: my computer chair.

I leaned back, holding my mug of orange-and-lime juice, and watched the feed visualizations cycle through. When everything came up clear, I pulled up my inbox and started working my way through the flood of correspondence that always awaited me.

"Antenor and Associates" was the name all these people were so keen to talk to, Antenor himself, if they could, but I hadn't the patience to tell the lot that he died three thousand years ago, if he ever lived at all. Instead, I spoke for him, never letting on that most of my "Associates" were darknet contractors who lived more hidden lives than I.

My phone beeped again, and the alert popped that my girls were slipping out the gymnasium doors for a smoke instead of second period. I tapped a few keys and switched on the cameras on their phones, concerned, but it was just weed. For me, that was small fry, not worth making a fuss over, and this semester, second period was health class. As seniors, that meant... Continue reading on DreamCruder

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lines

called over one-by-one
a small cup and a splash of water,
my daily dosage, my cup of win,
trying to make life no harder.

drain the cup and drink to it,
toasting nameless medication;
don't choke on the yoke
that keeps my monsters reigned in.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Raw Negation: The Titan-Tithed Fey, pg 4

First Page - Previous Page
--

Twosop reached into his bottomless bag and pulled out a battered copy of the Dhevinomicon. With it, he cast The March Giveaway - Win 1500 Points, and the points spilled out all over the ground. His lesser party members gave him dirty looks until they noticed Fey’s minions losing their footing.

Fey dropped to one knee, holding its head in its hands, murmuring, "Two Weeks Late... Two Weeks Late" over and over again, then used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin.

Twosop reached into his bottomless bag and pulled out a battered copy of the Dhevinomicon. With it, he cast Yowza, and stopped a dozen of Fey's minions in their tracks. Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Art Project, re-buffing his crew.

"Use Tap Titans," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged.

Toffy, scuffed out his last spell and drew out New Products, re-buffing his crew. Twosop shouted "New website! And even then I complain...," and the minion bearing down on him stopped short, confused. He took advantage and dealt a killing blow. It dissolved into one more pile of dust.

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "still alive," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Terry Pratchett

The twins finally harmonized, weaving into the Ode of Feeling free ..., before their voices cracked again. Their song confused the titans, momentarily disrupting the Fey's source of power. Fred de'Cease murmured what sounded like "Transplant, Transplant," in a thick foreign accent, and the minions around him started attacking each other instead.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself!

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "star spinner," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on. Again he scuffed out his last spell and drew out Arbitrage, re-buffing his crew.

"Use Brain Wars," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged.


--
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The 44th Brotherhood, 2

Brother Togo darted around behind the store, into the shadows of the alley behind the strip mall. The cry wasn't originating from there, but he could hear echoes of it from its scrounging inhabitants. He squatted next to a ginger alley cat, her back arched and fur erect defensively.

"What is it, little sister," he murmured to her, offering the outside of his left hand to her.

She bit into it, and though his eyes watered, he didn't pull back. She growled a warning cry, deep in her throat, and he waited patiently.

"You know me, little sister. What is it?"

She growled again, clenching her jaw tighter, and when her neck tightened and jerked, anyone else would have jerked away in fear, he continued to wait. Then she let go, sniffed his hand, and caressed the puncture points with her rough tongue. Though blood welled up quickly and soon dripped from his hand, Maiga smiled despite the injuring and the pain.

"No apology is necessary, little sister. It is but one more scar." Indeed, the meat of his left hand was pitted with many similar patterns of marks. "What can you tell me of the cry?"

In no words at all, only fleeting pictures that flashed through his mind between his affinity to her kind and the blood shared, Maiga Togo found himself drowning. Only when Father Fen-Lei took his arm and helped him stand did Brother Togo realize he'd blacked out. He walked in a small circle, stretching his cramped muscles, before joining the Father in their car.

"How long was I out?"

"Long enough for the ice cream to melt." Before Maiga could offer his own apology, Father Fen-Lei assured, "It's no bother. Your little friends care little about the coldness of their cream, and they were more hungry than our own sheltered creatures."

"Still, Brother Abut won't be happy."

Fen-Lei laughed. "Then Brother Abut can go shopping next time, instead of burying himself in his paperwork."

Friday, March 13, 2015

The 44th Brotherhood, 1

Brother Togo stopped in the middle of bagging his groceries and tilted his head. He could hear a strange sound, just on the edge of his hearing, and it was in pain. Something was wrong, very wrong.

Father Fen-Lei glanced at him curiously as he loaded the conveyor belt. "What is it?"

Maiga shook his head. "I don't know. I think--"

"Just go."

He nodded his head in thanks and rushed from the grocer's.

The father shook his head, offered a quick prayer to Bast, and resumed unloading their cart.

MindGames: As The World Terns 3

Previous
--

"Look, I'm sorry, but there's no payout on this one."

"What do you mean, no payout?"

Tern had rehearsed this all in her head, but things too often didn't go to plan when talking to people. Computers and numbers were so much easier to work with. "An independent candidate won the election. Odds were negligible, she didn't even make it into my book."

"If somebody had asked, what would you have offered?"

"Maybe two hundred to one."

"Two hun-- that would have..."

"Yes, that would have squared your bid."

"Look, just give me my refund and we'll call it square."

"No. You gave your print, you knew the risks. OPB doesn't give refunds and neither do I."

"Then I'll take it from you."

"No, you won't. I'm neutral; always have been, always will be. I don't bet against my own book. You'll have to fight everyone who backs my book, everyone who has won a cent off me. That's a long list and there's some people who are a lot more scary than you are. They accept my book and don't get refunds; you get the same deal."

"But--"

"No." Tern hung up the line. Her voice was steady and her mind was clear, but her hands were shaking. Sometimes she hated this business, but every word she said was true.

--

"Hello?"

"Soria, it's Tern."

"What have you found?"

"Sisyphus's R&D department is selling something I haven't found on the black market that's doing really well for reasons I don't really want to know. I'm sorry, but that's all I've got, and it took pulling a lot of strings to get that much."

"That's alright, you've done more than enough. How much of my portfolio is on them?"

"About a third."

"Sell some of it off. If they're dealing something under the table, I don't want to be there when they fall."

"Smart move. There's a new start-up doing some remarkable things with 3-D printers selling way low right now that's selling voting interest in."

"How do you feel about it?"

"Good enough to pick up a couple percent of their stock on my own."

"Did you?"

"I did."

"That's enough recommendation for me. If I sold all except for, say one hundred shares of Sisyphus and bought into this new start-up, how much would I be looking at?"

Tern whistled. "Just a moment, let me run the numbers." The line was silent for a few minutes. "Ten percent controlling interest."

"Do it."

The line was quiet for a few seconds more, and then "It's done. You now have a ten percent voting interest in Fifth-Dimensional Thinking, Inc, ten percent of their shares, and an honorary position on their board of directors. You're also down to a mere one hundred shared of Sisyphus Medical which is less than five percent of your portfolio.'

"Thanks, Tern."

"You're most welcome."

--

Excerpts from Tales of Vidar: Payout

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Raw Negation: The Titan-Tithed Fey, pg 3

First Page - Previous Page
--

Fred de'Cease yanked his Fused Glass Seahorse Earrings Blue from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion. Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "plug in, play," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on. Fred de'Cease yanked his Birds in the Tree Fused Glass Necklace from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion.Despite all the lost pendants, his neck still strained from all those that remained; if nothing else, he didn’t come unprepared.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin, before dropping to one knee, holding its head in its hands, murmuring, "Good, Good, Meh, Good... Good, Good, Meh, Good" over and over again. Whether it is crying or laughing is unclear.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Atoms, re-buffing his crew.

"Use Ore Miner," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged.

Sandra cast Badge for Awkray, then dove for cover as it bounced off Fey's defenses back at her. It cut a swath through the minions around her and blew a hole where she had been standing. Sandra Copycat cast a magical shield, using a potion of FREE ART and Fursquared to enhance her power. The Fey scoffed at its fragility. She had just enough time to catch her breath before he shattered it.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Hard Reboot, re-buffing his crew. Fred de'Cease murmured what sounded like "Forever, Forever," in a thick foreign accent, and the minions around him started attacking each other instead.

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "living tempo," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, and recast the spell. This time, the voice belted out, "but it's warm in here." They laughed harder. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on.

--
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Friday, March 6, 2015

Dark Friend

Mature Content - The following piece may not be suitable for all audiences.
--

the vultures are spinning with corpse below,
waiting for signs not to show,
hoping for flies and fearing for breath...
that last shudder and the cold of death.

weight on shoulders hindering moving,
keeping the bedridden from revolting,
can't stand up straight or budge from this spot,
half tempted to encourage the rot.

waking from happiness, waking from sleep,
waking from the magical world we keep,
waking from a night much too short
with humors aching without a snort.

it's just wanting the pain to end,
whether by light or fate's dark friend...
fearing to disappoint my self
when my moods disappoint my heath.

MindGames: As The World Terns 2

Previous
--

"Hello?"

"Tern? It's Soria."

Tern sighed silently, relieved that it wasn't someone calling to complain. "What can I do for you?"

"I was checking in on my investments, and saw a spike that concerned me. Do you have some time to take a close look?"

"Absolutely. Just a moment, let me pull your files up."

Tern did more than keep the biggest book on Vidar, she also managed investment trading for those who permanently lived there. Of them, Soria was not only one of her biggest clients, but also one of the friendliest. Some people could get so terribly destructive when the market took a swing for the worse, and act as if she had something to do with it. Tern pulled up Soria's account and paged through her investments.

"Huh, now that is strange," Tern confessed. Sisyphus Medical stock was spiking unusually quickly, a behaviour that was more typical of tech companies and start-ups than long-term behemoths like heath and wellness corporations. "Let me take a dig around and see what I can come up with. I'll give you a call back."

"Thanks." Soria cut the call.

--
Next
Excerpt from Tales of Vidar: Touring

Friday, February 27, 2015

MindGames: As The World Terns 1

Tern's trailer was lined with computer screen crammed together. Some were scavenged, older LED displays, one was a mirror HUD, and the rest were newer fabric displays. They were oriented in every which way with most of them running dynamic feeds of the political governments in the known universe. She wore a spandex body stocking and chorded gloves that fed wirelessly into her computing system.

She hummed tunelessly to herself, while paging through stock notes coming in live (minus the transmission delay) from Omr. The numbers were flowing through expected fluctuations, and she tagged a few promising ventures for future review. There was a tap on her door, and she toggled control over to her local betting book screen, the only display that was duplicated, with one inside and one outside her trailer.

She eased herself over to the door, and slid it open, admitted a face she didn't know. "What's your poison?"

"What's the book for the Prime Minister election on Three?"

"Which one?"

He paused, ignorant of the fact that there were four of them currently running, and another half-dozen in the coming months. "Uhh... the one with Joh Aldams."

"Oh. Sure, just a moment." Tern turned her head to face the display, though it was currently upside-down in relation to her body's orientation, and scrolled through the list. "Two to three for Joh, one to six for Sil, and one to six for Mal. No minimums. What's your bid?"

"Can I get two hundred on Mal?"

"Two hundred down on Mal pays out twelve hundred if he wins. You sure?"

He swallowed heavily, his adams apple sticking out like a sore thumb, and hesitated a moment before nodding.

"Put your thumbprint on the sensor." She gestured to the fingerprint detector hanging beside the door jam. A quick keystroke as he did verified his funds and transferred the appropriate amount to her holding account. "Payout next week. Good luck."

"Thanks."

She shut the door and went back to work.

--
Next
Excerpt from Tales of Vidar: Coming Home

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coined by Calm, Day 2

Saying that I slept well last night would be a lie. Despite knowing that what I'm doing isn't illegal, and despite not running into anyone giving me suspicious looks, I still had an almost overwhelming feeling that someone was going to come by, tear down my tent, and either send me home or haul me down to the nearest police station.

Nobody did either of those things, but I still slept lightly and intermittently.

It's not my first night in my tent or my sleeping bag, and not my first time camping. I've spent a fair number of sound nights "camping" in my apartment, and almost as many childhood memories outside on the school campus. In the first scenario, I was on my own property, albeit rented; in the second scenario, I was on private property that I was invited to, and not alone.

Here and now, I'm on what is supposed to be public property, I'm outside in a state I haven't spent a considerable amount of time in, and I'm alone.

I just have to remember that it will get easier, and I'll get more comfortable. I'm not doing anything wrong.

--
Mirrored from CoinedbyCalm's official page. Read the most recent posts there. CoinedByCalm.blogspot.com

Entry written: 2015-01-22

Saturday, February 21, 2015

MI 1: Mistaken Identity, 1

"Ponytail? Check. Goatee? Check. Alright, you're coming with me." The gorilla in sheep's clothing grabs on my arm and hauls me out of the crowded sidewalk into an alley.

"Whoa, hey, wait, what!?"

"You're coming with me, either on your own two feet or on your knees, it's up to you. Are you walking or do I have to drag you?"

"I'm sorry?"

The lump of muscle pulled a wallet-sized photo out of an inner pocket and squints at it. "Eh, close enough." He flashes it at me. "That's you, buddy. You're on the list, so you're coming downtown with me."

"Um, actually, we're already downtown. And I don't think that looks anything like--"

"It's just a saying. And of course you'd say it doesn't look like you; you're just trying to pull the wool over my eyes. My damn contacts may be swishing around behind my eyes, but I'm not blind. That's it, up and at 'em."

--

"What do you mean it isn't him?"

"Sorry Shirley, but you got the wrong one."

Shirley flexed his pecks and growled, and I could feel his arms vibrating from it as he held mine behind my back. I tried not to giggle as I looked back at my captor. Shirley? I must have snorted aloud accidentally, because he glared down his stubby and once-broken nose at me and tightened his grip. I winced and tried to look apologetic, still trying not to laugh.

Raw Negation: The Titan-Tithed Fey, pg 2

First Page - Previous Page
--

Fey pulled the Propaganda Cannon off its back and fired it into the battlefield, demoralizing its armies and enemies alike. Then it used its Routine skill to completely heal itself; grimace again reverting back to a grin.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Tornado, re-buffing his crew.

"Use Voxel Rush 3D," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged. Fey dropped to one knee, holding its head in its hands, murmuring, "Blah... Blah" over and over again. Whether it is crying or laughing is unclear.

The twins finally harmonized, weaving into the Ode of Only a few days left to get Exploding Kittens, before their voices cracked again. Their song confused the titans, momentarily disrupting the Fey's source of power.

Twosop reached into his bottomless bag and pulled out a battered copy of the Dhevinomicon. With it, he cast Bedroom 2, and stopped a dozen of Fey's minions in their tracks. Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "quick round commissions," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on. Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Flowcharts, re-buffing his crew. Twosop shouted "Winter is my favorite season!," and the minion bearing down on him stopped short, confused. He took advantage and dealt a killing blow. It dissolved into one more pile of dust.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin.

Fred de'Cease murmured what sounded like "Somewhere, Somewhere," in a thick foreign accent, and the minions around him started attacking each other instead. Twosop shouted "Inking finished ," and the minion bearing down on him stopped short, confused. He took advantage and dealt a killing blow. It dissolved into one more pile of dust. Fred de'Cease yanked his Cat and Kitten Fused Glass Pendant from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion.

Fey's knees started to buckle, and it temporarily teleported back to Day 30* to recover some strength.

--
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Raw Negation: The Titan-Tithed Fey, pg 1

Author's Note: In terms of my normal writing quality, this is terrible, and I recognize that. But what I hope you recognize is that in terms of how it was written (and it was not the usual way) it turned out surprisingly well; it still needs work, but it turned out better than I had any right to hope.
--

Twosop reached into his bottomless bag and pulled out a battered copy of the Dhevinomicon. With it, he cast Lacrima Christi*, and stopped a dozen of Fey's minions in their tracks. Fred de'Cease yanked his Fused Glass Frog Leaf Pendant Necklace* charm from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion.

It was closely followed by his Night Owl Pendant*, which too exploded, finishing off that minion.

Fey dropped to one knee, holding its head in its hands, murmuring, "The death of apathy... The death of apathy" over and over again. Whether it was crying or laughing is unclear.

Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Apollo Speeches, re-buffing his crew.

Fey pulled the Propaganda Cannon off its back and fired it into the battlefield, demoralizing its armies and enemies alike. "Use Ingress*," bellowed Fey, and its armies mustered new strength, shifted their formation, and charged.

Twosop reached into his bottomless bag and pulled out a battered copy of the Dhevinomicon. With it, he cast Show Love*, and stopped a dozen of Fey's minions in their tracks.

Fey pulled the Propaganda Cannon off its back again, demoralizing everyone on the field.

Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "sleepwalker*," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on.

Fey used its Routine skill to completely heal itself! Its grimace reverts back into a grin.

Fred de'Cease yanked his Fancy Cat Fused Glass Translucent Pendant* from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion. Sandra cast Frostie*, then dove for cover as it bounced off Fey's defenses back at her. It cut a swath through the minions around her and blew a hole where she had been standing. Twosop shouted "Pencilwork!*," and the minion bearing down on him stopped short, confused. He took advantage and dealt a killing blow. It dissolved into one more pile of dust. Sandra cast Jungle Eyes*, then dove for cover as it bounced off Fey's defenses back at her. It cut a swath through the minions around her and blew a hole where she had been standing.

Fey dropped to one knee, holding its head in its hands, murmuring, "No... No" over and over again. Whether it is crying or laughing is unclear.

Fred de'Cease yanked his Bonsai Tree Fused Glass Jewelry Necklace Pendant* from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion. Toffy desperately threw his hands into the air and summoned his Psychic Magic Eight Ball. A disembodied voice belted out, "for now I am winter[and I waited for you]*," vibrating the ground as it did, but not enough to cause anybody, least of all the hordes of Fey's minions, to stumble. However, some of them did start laughing enough to be momentarily distracted. Toffy rolled his eyes, picked up his staff once more, and slogged on. Toffy, far behind the rest of the party, scuffed out his last spell and drew out Vacuum*, re-buffing his crew. Fred de'Cease murmured what sounded like "69 Hummingbirds, 69 Hummingbirds** from his neck as it started to smoke and threw it to the ground. It shortly exploded, crippling an inattentive minion.

--
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