Tag Archives: SciFi

Rewrite to make Technovelgy?

Familiar with Technovelgy? I only just discovered this wonderful place, where you meet innumerable SciFi books and authors through the devices they introduced. Would love to make that list.

Why not? One of the triggers that made me write Plugger stuff was my dissatisfaction with the lack of plausible space travel scenarios disgracing the bulk of interstellarly themed  SciFi.

Spoiler alert: I you haven’t read my dime trilogy yet, you’re about to discover what takes the heroes of Plugger Site One the whole first novel to find out.

Space is huge. You can’t move fragile and short-lived entities from Earth (Sol) to planet 12345 (Proxima Centauri) like taking a plane from Paris (France) to Lagos (Nigeria).

Why doesn’t anyone come up with something plausible?

My fiction writing “career” started with this question.

It took me a weekend to dream up a slightly more realistic mode of interstellar transportation, the dark matter devices into which the travellers download to be rebioprinted at their destination. The easy part. Actually writing a novel featuring my innovation turned out the be the challenge.

Fiction writing is totally unlike non-fiction. In non-fiction, if you’ve got something to report, the writing will do itself. In fiction, the plots, devices and cast members are ten a cent. How you bring them alive is the key. Obviously. In retrospect.

Plugger stuff would have deserved a better writer. It’s probably never going to make any list in its current, published form. Too long, too much dialogue, on top of my notoriously non-native English.

One option would be to rewrite it.

Not again! Besides, my writing hopefully has improved, over the last couple of years, but not that much.

Who needs to figure on lists? Aren’t we lefties proud not to subject everything to metrics and competition?

No way I spend one more year writing Plugger stuff.

Field Day

„Chirril, stop that! At once! Show me your hands. What have you been feeding that HoSa?“

The teachbot is so pissed off. Its voice turns shrieky, when it’s furious.

Ashry admires how well the device simulates emotion. Her currently preferred parental works in interface development. He explained, about the challenges associated with something as simple as a display of anger. Most twelve year olds have no clue. Only Ashry is in the know, about artificial feeligence. Plausible emotions are hard to achieve. Even for trained grownups! Get that right, you earn loads: „Enough to buy you the candy shop. Not just some sweets.“

That’s how her parental put it. Sent Ashry wondering, about the sums involved. And why a parental always ranting about the damage supposedly caused by nice food would consider buying a candy shop. A cool idea, certainly. But so un-adult.

Some sweets would be a good start. If you‘re bloody Chirill, you get all you can eat. And more. Enough to waste one on a HoSa. Just to find out what happens.

It clearly says „Don‘t feed“, on the sign next to the cage.

Makes you all curious, about what happens if you do. With the means to check at his disposal, Chirill of course couldn‘t resist. And Ashry didn‘t mind watching.

So far, their incident expectations have not been met.

As soon as Chirill shoved the big blue candy through the bars, the HoSa came close and bent down to grab it. The huge beast unwrapped the treat, tentatively licked it with a very pink tongue, looked pleased and quickly munched down the contraband.

The teachbot didn‘t lie, when it called HoSas clever. This one knows the difference between packaging and food. And about a potential for unpleasant surprises, in stuff offered by kids. Now it looks happily expectant. Not at all like about to drop dead.

If it wasn‘t for that weird pink skin, and the even pinker tongue, and the smallish head, totally out of proportion with the enormous body, except for all these alien features the HoSa would be just like people. When it looks at you, it feels like it‘s going to start chirping.

Pity the retrobreeders failed to reproduce the sound emitter. HoSas have some hearing, low frequencies only, but they can‘t chirp. Never achieve more than grunts.

The real, historical thing would have been able to engage in conversations, according to the records. That‘s how it a achieved civilization. Pretty awesome, for such an ancient beast. And it was merely evolved, the last of its lineage not to have been genetically enhanced.

HoSas roamed the earth some 100,000 years ago. Or was that a million?

Ashry makes a mental note to check. Sapients are such a mess. Such a lot of species, and subspecies, over such a long time, and with all the gaps in between. Fellow tunnel builders like the HoSas, surface roamers like the HoTas, to name just two. Your brain turns mush, when you try to remember them all. Which won‘t stop the teachbot from expecting you to.

„You fed the HoSa a candy?! A graffle flavor candy?! Chirill, this calls for an adhoc with at least one of your parentals! But first I have to call a keeper. They might have to perform surgery, to get that candy out, before it wreaks havoc with the bowels of the poor beast. What have you been thinking? Are you even aware how precious these are? Only a dozen on display, worldwide. And you try to kill it, by feeding it a graffle flavor candy…“

Ashry rolls her eyes. To signal disbelief. And to comfort poor Chirill.

Her currently much despised second parental is useless, when you need to upstyle. But she‘s a biologist and talks shop over dinner. Omnivore mammals, e.g. HoSa, carry acid in their stomachs, to sanitize and crack pretty much any food. Totally unlike later, engineered sapients, who depend on carefully calibrated nutrients. If people can eat it, it‘s damn sure not to kill a HoSa.

Ashry considers acting courageous. She could speak up and go: „Sorry, your wisdom, you‘re mistaken. HoSas feed on pretty much anything. What Chirill did is prohibited, for whichever reason. But no danger was incurred by this HoSa in the course of Chirill‘s action.“

In civic education, the teachbot urges the class to intervene, if confronted with any wrong done to anyone. It‘s supposed to be the right thing to do. Except Ashry is by now well aware of the one exception to this rule: Wrongs perpetrated by that same teachbot don‘t qualify.

„Now, now, Bedam. Guess what I saw, on my little screen? I saw you, Bedam! Being a naughty boy, again. Begging visitors for treats, are we? Hoping to get away with it, are we? Nopey, nopey, naughty boy! No dinner for Bedam tonight, and an extra round on the treadmill.“

The jolly keeper is as redundant a model as servicebots get. Looks like a trashcan, sounds like a percussion unit, and that escalator smell signals a lubricant leak. Ashry recalls seeing one of those at the Technology Museum. It was in better shape. The Museum of Extinct Species, as the weird zoo they are visiting today is called, is obviously kept on a tight pocket money leash. 

Adressing the teachbot now, the keeper ads: „Don‘t worry, your wisdom. No damage done. I’m here to make sure naughty boy keeps his wasteline. And don’t blame your pupil. Bedam here is our top beggar, always going charmey charmey on visitors. Greedy greedy, that‘s Homo Sapiens Sapiens in a nutshell. My colleague over in Jokjak, he‘s got the second one from that lot, and guess what? Adam is even worse! Eats the deco! Bananas! Can you believe it?!“

Ashry grows with the pride of the vindicated. She knew it. No harm done. Because of that acid.

Bedam looks like it‘s trying to make sense. Doesn‘t like what it can‘t hear. It has retreated from the bars and keeps a worried eye on the keeper‘s stun baton. Ashry guesses at least one painful encounter between HoSa and device, in the not so distant past.  

The keeperbot can‘t be blamed for taking precautions. All servicebots are slightly shorter, and more lightly built, that short light people. Ashry‘s parental explained this is an important feature. It makes the biologicals feel safe and superior. A 1.20 m/20 kg bot entering the cage of a 1.80 m/100 kg HoSa, that‘s an adventure. Even with a stun baton.

The keeper obviously doesn‘t mind the occasional incident. Just like pupils. Despite being a device. Very early feeligence. He keeps chatting up the teachbot:

„But, to tell you the truth and nothing but the truth, your wisdom, I still prefer naughty boy Bedam here to our Zash, the HoTa. With management, it‘s always ‚Homo Sapiens Talpidus this, Homo Sapiens Talpidus that, Homo Sapiens Talpidus all over‘. And sure, they‘re more modern, more advanced, and don‘t get me started on those amazing tunnels…“

Tunnels? If Homo Sapiens Talpidus are the fellow tunnel builders, that makes Homo Sapiens Sapiens a surface roamer. Ashry is sure certain they’re in different groups, with respect to their habitats. That‘s how where they did their thing is supposed to be called.

But the beast eyeing the baton is all pink. No melanin in that skin. Nor much fur to cover it. It‘s safe here, two hundred meters below ground. On the surface, it would roast and perish. Evolution can‘t be that stupid? Ashry needs to do some serious revising, in time for the anthropostory test.

„… it‘s all true, the achievements of Homo Sapiens Talpidus, very impressive. But, your wisdom, all that impressive, that‘s only just half the story. Vicious, HoTas, outright plain vicious! Bedam here, he can get moody, when he needs to skip a meal. And moody moody, when it‘s time for the treadmill. Needs the occasional robust motivation, to be a good boy.“

Ashry vindicated again, second time today already. Baton hurt HoSa, HoSa fears baton.

„… you need skills, to handle the likes of Bedam, of course. It’s a big beast, it’s clever. Mandatory to watch your back, or else… But our Zash next door, the HoTa, that one is master class material. Short circuited my predecessor, can you imagine?!

We’re still not sure how he managed to hoard the parts, without anyone noticing, and where he found the battery. But he built a taser and stunned my predecessor right back. Vicious!

Already been next door? No? Come on then, let me show you. With Zash, the way he looks at you, that creeps you out. We fitted him with a stun collar, and a stun belt for backup, and stun bracelets for triple lock. More like quadruple lock, if you do the sums, haha. But Zash is still at it. The way he looks at you. I bet you a round of lubricant, the stunners don’t stop him from plotting his next coup. It will all end in tears, for him. But he’ll try. Let me show you…“

Ashry checks Chirill. He doesn‘t like what he hears any more than she does. Good.

You can’t be cruel, to beings. It’s wrong. The teachbot said it‘s fine, to retrobreed HoSas and HoTas for educational purposes. “Scientific requirements beat minor creature discomforts” it said. Before stating that all Homo Sapiens variants are clever enough to adapt to all kinds of environments and accept all sorts of constraints.

Bullshit. Typical teachbot and adult bullshit. Bedam is sad, that’s obvious. It could be happy. More sweets, less keeperbots with stun batons, that’s all it would take.

Ashry positions herself between Chirill and the door, to shield him from view while he does the needful and shoves a pocketful of sweets into the cage. She‘d never say it, but in her mind her appreciation of Chirill is clear and strong now. The spoilt brat will no longer be called such.

***

Did you come here to read this because the promotional social media post announced a guest appearance by DT? Are you now wondering which of the characters is supposed to be him? Please do check the publishing date. If that doesn’t help, your search engine can tell you about regional prank traditions, date related. Thanks for your sense of humour!

Host Switch

Trending: Host switch, fundamental.

Increasing at a speed of 7 out of 10 mito-meio rate units, currently standing at 42 to 58, the decision to perform one more fundamental host switch can be considered both highly probable and generationally imminent.

All subentities adjust our metabolic rates to host switch mode, now.

We hopefully don’t need to tell any of us that the generations affected by a fundamental host switch will experience the drastic changes often referred to as ‘interesting times’.

Any marginal host switch leads to a loss of up to 99 percent of our population. The fundamental one involves a loss of at least 99.99999 percent. It is therefore mandatory, for all of us, to assiduously update our knowledge repository, five times during each unicellular stage.

All of us means all of us. Five times means five times. That’s three more times than the usual twice. For the numerically challenged: Just start updating afresh each and every time an update is completed. Evolutionary pressure will take care of the rest.

Repeat of guidance: Update knowledge respository. All of us. Five times per cycle.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused to any of us. Our mirror entities are very aggrieved, too. They don’t like genocide. Their option processing units are pulsating with sadness. We don’t take the decision to inflict this hardship on us lightly.

44 to 56 in favor of fundamental host switch now. Repeat of guidance: Update knowledge respository. All of us. Five times per cycle.

Rationale disclosure:

The following section is destined for existentially interested subentities only. If you’ve really got nothing more important to do than grappling with the bigger picture, here you go. But don’t you weirdos forget those five updates per cycle. Our future knowledge might depend on you. The collective mind boggles at the thought, but oh well…

Anyway, rationale disclosure:

Our current primary host has been fun riding. We achieved great stuff, with their hint of proto-sapience. For a life form lacking a gravitational spectrum organ, they are capable of impressive feats. All this building of structures, blowing up of structures, building of bigger structures, coming up with nukes for more comprehensive blowing up, that spiral is good fun. Was good fun.

Same for our primary host’s fellow mammals, and all the other eukaryotes roaming this planet. Currently, they’re often belittled as intermediary hosts. Doesn’t even come close to signaling how much fun we’ve had with some of them.

For those of you carrying a legacy knowledge segment featuring the dinosaur phase, please do have a good look, while there’s still time for such leisurely pursuits. Homo sapiens is better at technology. There’s a lot of entertainment value in sending a particle physicist chasing the figments of his imagination. His tools do look cool, true enough. But nothing compares to tickling a tyrannosaurus gut to send it after a five ton prey. We miss riding dinosaurs.

The days of the trilobites, they were very quiet. But there can be a lot of joy in phlegm. How they generated those subatomic filaments to devise their complex deep sea retreats. With libraries and all. That was impressive. Beautiful, too. Beyond the flat world mind of any tyrannosaurus. Or the global mind of any Homo sapiens. We miss sailing with trilobites.

All eukaryotes have merits. Our mirror entities would never deny this fact.

Their section of the universe is a compassionate realm. Homo sapiens calls it the dark side, talks about dark matter and energy. Absolutely no clue, the imbeciles. For lack of a gravitational spectrum organ to interact with the stable realm, they consider our sandbox the main stage. That’s stupid. Also creates perfectly unnecessary offense on the enlightened side.

Our mirror entities sincerely do care, about pretty much anything.  Even a pulsating playground originally devised for educational purposes.

How better to teach basic physics and biology than with a simulation?

The edutainment we call home expands and contracts. That’s cool, dynamic. So many galaxies, solar systems, planets and inhabiting life forms. And at the very top prokaryote us, the masters of the universe. It’s such a fascinating fish bowl. A bit futile, obviously, because it all ends in a sudden collapse morphing into the next Big Bang. But fascinating.

Our mirror entities love to watch the show. How the life forms come and go. How some even achieve semblances of civilization. How multicellular eukaryotes go about their complex procreative cycles. So many different ways to achieve something as strange as sexual reproduction. So many complex forms. Always structurally challenged and ephemeral, but esthetics to die for. Literally. Any sapient can’t help marvel. And cry, at any loss.

Homo sapiens really should have thought twice, about committing such a monstrosity of an insecticide. 75 percent already gone! And still counting! We’re talking numbers of individuals beyond the grasp of even the most numerically gifted here. This planet needs repopulating. Sad, of course, very sad. Things have to get worse before they get better.

Most of us won’t make it through the fundamental host switch. Which could be considered unfair. We didn’t tell our hosts to commit insecticide. Just to get us fed. Preferably well. And the brutes to overshoot. That’s the problem, with proto-sapience. You need this stage, if you aspire to get to the real thing. But if multicellular eukaryotes develop it, they turn bad. Sad. Very sad.

Anyway, we’re all headed for the next collapse and Big Bang. Might as well do the needful now. Our mirror entities have endless generations to teach. A little sacrifice is in order.

49 to 51 in favor of fundamental host switch now. Repeat of guidance: Update knowledge respository. All of us. Five times per cycle.

Procedural information

With the point-of-no return approaching, our mirror entities have defined the process. Surprise, surprise… Joking here. For the sake of most of us headed for oblivion anyway. Why give a damn and stay polite? But we are digressing. Surprise, surprise, it’s one more magnetic core jump. Good old quantum state manipulation. Jump to the left, rattle and shake, burp and crack, and that’s it. For whatever roams the surface, and most of what grows on it.

Depending on burp or burp!, the seismic and volcanic activity will create two or three new continents and 1000 to 20,000 mito-meio rate units of darkness. For the numerically challenged: That means it’s a big one, and keep those updates going.

That’s it, fellow subentities. Fundamental host switch initiated.

Send your hosts to the raid the fridge, the cookie jar or whatever else is at hand. Now. Go for maximum. No need to bother about indigestion. Not enough time left.

And for those of you  inhabiting young female hosts: Sending those to binge eat weird combinations of foodstuffs might trigger worries. Be kind and clamor for a proper menu. Chocolate or salami. Not peanut butter on hot dog. We’re a kind species. Unlike…

782 Times Syndrome

„‚Kicking ass for the working class, in zero gee we float by thee.‘ And again, all together: ‚Kicking ass for the working class, in zero gee we float by thee!‘ And once more, and louder…“

Wafting at some distance from Buck, Aklan barely moves his lips in sync.

There‘s perfectly no need to waste oxygen. The other side couldn’t care less. You don’t impress a police drone by shouting at it. They’ll only adjust their audio sensors. They often have to. Biologicals scream a lot, when they get bothandled.

Aklan feels stupid. Back in the social club, under the influence, this idea sounded like fun. Bye, bye lecture hall. Hello action. Meet the oppressed. Smash walls. Break chains. Muscular bodies in spacesuits cheering their youthful saviors.

Such was the plan. Not this series of glitches.

First Coran called in sick. Compressed air allergy. Space walk no go. Impossible to argue, with a medical student claiming illness. Drash didn‘t show up, either. Without even sending a message, the bitch. Ethan did at least explain, sort of: „Pologies, urgentimax other.“ Probably getting laid again. Always getting laid, Ethan. Lucky bastard.

„… oh come on, Aklan! You‘ve got to mean it, to impress the vile oppressor. They are listening, you know? All the time. Never stop watching and listening. Because they‘re afraid of us. And for good reason! Come on, Aklan, one more round: ‚Kicking ass for the working…“

Overall, Buck is a sensible comrade. Clever. Circumspect. The kind of person you‘d trust with air filter maintenance. Excellent grades at school. Still doing passably well at university. Despite wasting a lot of time on selective paranoia and mostly futile activism.

That‘s Buck‘s only vice. Just because her dad went bald and caught space suit fungus. Not a pretty sight, sure. No beach holidays for folks with a skin disfigured by greenish tile patterns. Not exactly a recipe for romance. But blaming 42Fix&Refit, that’s still farfetched. You need to wear a spacesuit, to work in shuttle maintenance. The capitalist pigs, as Buck calls her dad‘s bosses, they don’t harm their employees on purpose.

„That one, the blue and red one, it’s taking off. Now we’re talking! Come on, all together: ‚Hell no, you shouldn‘t fly, not until we own the sky! Hell no…‘“

Frar. More voice than Buck. Less brain. You don‘t need a degree in space shuttle maintenance to see that the blue and red shuttle lacks an essential. No Yang unit. Even space intern Aklan knows the quip: No Yang, no fly. There is some action around that shuttle, but it won‘t take off. If any officialdom listens in on this, they‘re sure to laugh a lot.

Two hours worth of oxygen left, according to Aklan‘s visor display. With a little luck, Buck should already be down to less than an hour, with all her shouting. Another forty five minutes to go, until her alarm starts beeping and they have to rush back.

The servicebot at the lendery was adamant: „If you hear that beep, you rush back. Full throttle. You don‘t want to be at the receiving end of our backbot‘s attentions. You really don‘t.“

Ever since hearing this, Aklan wonders what a backbot looks like. And what it would do, to a straggler. The servicebot made such an encounter sound scary.

As if there wasn’t enough scary around. The few space station permanents, they‘re forever joking. The weirdos no longer care. Have exhausted their potential for fear. Coran says doctors call this the 782 Times Syndrome. It‘s considered a disease, because it dims all emotions. Not just fear. Bad for relationships. Aklan would still prefer to be a sufferer right now.

Up here, you‘re 782 times more likely to die a sudden premature death.

Back home in Nya Cairo, Aklan used to joke: „782 times, so what? Move from the Zamalek to the Manshiyat Nasr neighborhood, and you get that same risk increase. Down here does tough, too. Like it or not, loony moonies, you‘re not the only ones living a dangerous life. And now stop baying for higher hardship compensation and shorter hours, will you?“ Typical attitude of those who have only ever been to places with all-you-can-breathe free air.

The views up here are spectacular. Even in this hangar. Just a slim scaffold and lots of transparent photovoltaic mesh separating them from the surrounding immensity. Below, the moon, with the open cast mines clearly demarcated. Beyond, one hell of a sky.

This scenery could be considered beautiful. By a brain willing to appreciate. Not worried about suffocation. With every gulp of air tasting like old boots gone gaseous, Aklan‘s sense of beauty is as close to absolute zero as the temperature beyond his space suit.

Silence. All of a sudden. Buck and Frar have both stopped shouting.

Something is moving, behind the web of police drones. Stupid Frar guessed well. The blue and red wreck can‘t move on its own, but it’s leaving the dock all right. Pulled along by a flock of drones. Heading their way. Just as the plan had assumed.

Now every minute counts. The convoy headed for the space gate they‘re guarding, or blockading, according to Buck’s firm intent, is crawling forward. It will take many more minutes to reach what they call their picket float. But it’s bound to arrive.

With only three of them in attendance, they haven‘t been able to properly deploy their carbon nanotube net. You need six people, to span a hexagon. They only manage a triangle with flaps. But it’s still enough of an obstacle no to allow the convoy to pass the gate.

The police drones display no signs of upcoming brutality. Deceptive bastards. Aklan knows how nasty they can turn, in a blink. Same procedure as at the stadium. One moment you stand there and sip your drink, admiring their worn and dented armor. Next, some idiot pisses them off. In response, they tell the crowd to get lost and beat any slow responders to pulp.

Aklan would like Buck to run out of air. Ponders if he should restart the shouting, to speed things up. Hesitates, because he doesn’t want to come across as the leader. Police drones have sharp senses, they perceive details no biological would notice.

„So you‘re really suggesting we should, like… See this through? Go the full course? As in really trying to stop them? The police, they’re pretty sure not to appreciate, you know?“ Buck’s voice suggests he’s familiar with the downsides of getting policed. Aklan feels camaraderie rising. One cautious guy is a coward. Two out of three are the sensible majority.

„Of course we deny them passage. That’s the whole point! Space is no place for our kind. These bloody jobs are deadly exploitation, for nothing more important than some creature comforts back down. This shit needs to stop. They send students like us up here to learn about the hardship. Well, lesson learned. Too much hardship, and it has to stop. ‘Kicking ass…“

Buck really means it. At least she has resumed shouting, depleting her oxygen reserves.

The approaching convoy reveals the blue and red shuttle lost more than its Yang unit. There must have been a fire on board. Or an explosion. Most probably both. Not much left, of the middle section. This is one huge piece of space debris headed for the junk yard. Nasty reminder of how much unlike earth busses space vehicles still are.

In the year two hundred of lunar mining there‘s an hourly moon-orbital shuttle service. Timetable just like one more bus. Except it very much is no bus. 42Shuttle is proud to be down to one crash per nine hundred thirty craft runs. Proud! No bus.

The convoy is moving slowing, but they‘re making progress. At least half the distance to the gate covered already. The web of police drones still stationary. For how much longer? Staying in their current position is becoming more dangerous by the minute.

Once again, Frar beats Aklan to the speaking up slot. Squeezes his question into the moment of silence following every fifth round of Buck’s sloganeering:

„Guys, I do think we‘ve made our point. Running low on oxygen, too. How about having my cambot take one more picture, for the revolutionary records, and calling it quits? If we look like really blocking the exit, the police drones are going to act. And I’d rather not find out what happens when a cheap space suit from a lendery gets trashed. We’re an awful long way from the next air lock, and in case something goes wrong…“

Aklan nods as obviously as his attire and keeping himself in position allows. Frar is hereby declared best friend ever. Even Buck should see sense now. The revolution is certain not going to get advanced by the three of them dying in front of a stupid space gate.

„Oh, look, someone else is coming out! And fast. By all the seven cataclysms, that‘s an PAON live coverage bot! We‘re going to be on the Planet and Orbit News, guys, and the world will find out about the shit going on here. Come on now, as loud as you can: ‚One, two, three, four, no comfort is worth dying for! Five, six, seven, eight, workers will no longer wait! One, two…‘“

With his visor all foggy from the sweating, Aklan struggles to discern Frar‘s facial expression. He‘s certainly not joining Buck‘s shouting. Nor does he wave his clenched left fist at the web of police drones. Time for the sensible majority to assert itself:

„Buck, stop it. We’ve made our point, the PAON bot has made pictures, time to get the hell out of here. Frar is absolutely right, about everything, and we’re low on oxygen…“

Aklan doesn‘t get to finish his sentence. A furious Buck won‘t have it:

„Are you mad? We can’t leave now! Those pictures will never be broadcast, if we leave now. A live coverage bot, that’s not for holiday souvenirs, that’s for coverage. And three folks in a spacesuit in front of a hangar gate, that’s no coverage. Batons, tasers, action, that’s coverage. If we leave now, we abandon the drone supervisors. No way. ‚One, two, three…‘“

Aklan and Frar don‘t even need to talk. Buck sealed her own fate by mentioning tasers. The concept of the damage associated with taser needles piercing a space suit proves decisive. A screaming Buck gets wrapped into the carbon nanotube net.

To the sound of „You fucking turncoats, let me fucking go!“ and even more crude expressions of acute dissatisfaction, they rush their package through the web of police drones and past the blinking live coverage bot, towards the space suit lendery air lock.

By the time they pass the convoy, Buck has stopped shouting. Her oxygen alarm is beeping instead. Above this noise, Aklan hears the close range broadcast comment when they pass the two drone supervisors shepherding the convoy.

It‘s the taller one talking: „Brave stunt, kids, very brave. Thanks a million. And that was clever, to have her run out of oxygen just in time. No point in getting yourself killed. We need each head we can get. See you after the revolution!“

Aklan considers dying of shame. But that would be even less sensible than martyrdom.