All posts by Troim Kryzl

Anecdotal Value Day

Ring. Ring. Ring. No answer? Ring. Ring. Something must be wrong. Ring. Ring. Sheila never takes that long. Ring. Ring. She usually answers before Aslan even has a chance… Ring … to think about how she manages to be on the line so fast.

Ring. Ring. Ring. Time to give up and activate the please-get-in-touch.

Staring at the rolling waves, Aslan feels the adrenaline tide. He can‘t help but assume it’s one of those days. Entertaining to narrate, if and once all ended well. Dreadful to live.

First thing in the morning, the elevator from habitat shaft three breaks down and half the early shift of algae harvesters fails to show up. No way up, staff not in. Shit happens.

Next, delayed harvesting clogs the pipes of tank F. The few staff are not to blame. They did their best. But with the current weather, perfect growing conditions, for once, today, of all days, they stood zero chance to keep up. Lots in, little out. Can‘t work.

Next, Horatio, a most diligent operator, dives into tank F, to rid it of the mess. He succeeds too fast too well. Horatio’s arm gets sucked into the harvester pipe. Wrist most probably broken, according to the on-site medic. A month of sick leave, at least.

Once things have started going wrong, there‘s no stopping.

Up to that moment, Aslan had taken the glitches with barely a crumple of his on-duty smile. 

His job is as good as work gets. His pay is solid. Not disproportionate, considering all the efforts and risks involved. To spend five hours up here, outside, five days a week, that’s tough.

The floating platforms are safe enough, but the constant rolling sucks. The protective gear will keep the operators fine in ninety-nine point seven percent of weather conditions, and for the rest there‘s health care, but the coverall is so heavy even an athlete like Aslan struggles.

Lots of effort, and some risk, but the reward is solid. The good, steady kind of solid.

They’ve got so many energy credits to spare Sheila is envisaging a trip to one of the shaded islands. Just to have gone and stayed someplace else. Like the holidays Aslan‘s late grandad used to recall, from his early years. Back in those dark ages, even kids far too young to appreciate got flown around. Weird. Must have been religious. The dark ages were awash.

A trip would be nice. If ever Aslan manages to free himself for long enough, they’ll do it. 

They won’t have to rely on their savings alone. Sheila can keep working throughout their minimum six months stay. That‘s the advantage, of her two-a-penny profession. Content supervisors don‘t make much, but they can work from anywhere. Without protective gear.

The waves keep rolling, at a leisurely six meter amplitude, and Aslan keeps staring. Nothing else for him to do, nowhere useful for his adrenaline to go.

He resumes recalling what is nice, about this job.

They eat well. „Just like the elites of old“, as Sheila puts it.

That’s one more blatant exaggeration. Same as when she calls their 1K cubic meters of private space down shaft two a castle. But they’re certainly neither starving nor lacking food variety. You can’t beat access to quality control samples, for a rich and diverse diet.

Taking home what is left after testing is no longer stealing. No company caring for its brand will risk being caught at wasting edibles. That‘s a universally despised crime, punishable by banishment to the tankers. Practically a death sentence. 

Nowadays, staff are encouraged to take home leftovers.

They have come a long way. Aslan smiles a gloat at the memory of his first manager.

The old boy was very 21st century, always rambling on about company property. Even licking sugars from a plate before putting it into the dishwasher would get you scolded. Dare taste one of the translucent slices of protein instead of binning it after testing, and off you walked, never to work as a bioengineer again.

Aslan argued with his nemesis, only to get his due promotion refused in return. He felt dead end, started looking for alternatives. Until it was suddenly the old boy who had to go. Early retirement, they called it. As sack as it gets, in a sophisticated job environment. 

Ever since, Aslan has been doing well. 

Sheila‘s chime interrupts his attempt to cheer himself up.

She‘s her usual hot-tempered talkative, showering him with the kind of news not worth telling. How there was a power spike. Couple of those per day, no big deal, even for Sheila. But this one coincided with her plugging in the charger. Her device, cleverly designed to shut itself down before frying, took a while to reboot. She missed his call, and is sorry. But even more angry. Why can’t they have proper engineers, like her darling Aslan, in charge of power?…

Aslan listens. It‘s important not to interrupt Sheila. Interfering will only prolong the update.

His wife is like his fully automated polymer analyzer. Let it run it’s course, and it will reliably deliver one hundred results in less than three minutes. Try to go for a selection of five especially toxic compounds, and three runs, two aborted, one completed, will take half an hour. Aslan spends his days telling his team not to do this. He won’t fail his own rule with his wife.

Sheila is done accusing the power provider of corruption, incompetence and lack of manners. Aslan’s moment has come, and he takes the plunge:

“Darling, we’ve got the police here. All over the platform. Something about tax records not matching the actual output. Whole operation shut down, can’t even access my own computer. Won’t be leaving any time soon, all managers are under kind of arrest. No need to worry, not the serious kind of arrest, like for criminals. Just need to stay available, for questions. With a little luck, they’ll soon decide to transfer this whole circus to someplace more steady, where you don’t need to wear coveralls. But this feels like it’ll take a while. Please don’t count on me for lunch.”

Sheila takes the news without panicking. She wishes him luck and hangs up. She’s used to him doing overtime, has stopped arguing against years ago.

Aslan wonders if this was the last time he got to hear his wife’s voice.

And how long he will last, on a tanker, amidst the antisocial elements fighting their ferocious gang wars, over the little food, drinking water and protective gear they are assigned. Average life expectancy of thirty seven, they say. He turned forty two last month.

Aslan never did no wrong. Not he himself as such. He’s clean.

But there’s this nagging feeling, that others might see things differently.

He should have alerted upper management, concerning the speedboat he occasionally gets to see with his eyes, suspiciously close to the platform. It never shows up on his screen. Switching off the transponder is a serious offense, even before committing any other crimes.

Such sightings had become more frequent, recently. Someone must have been getting greedy. 

Henry, the other senior manager on the early shift, he lives in habitat shaft three. He’s missing the action. What a coincidence.

Aslan would love to be able to kick his own ass. What he had been aware of as lazy loyalty until 10:23, the time still displayed on his frozen computer screen, might be about to ruin his life.

Class Reunion

„… and what happens next? Believe it or not, the value of the lot tripled. Not increased some. Not doubled. Value of the lot full effing tripled. And me of course to sell, sell, sell. Faster than noon lightning strikes. And the wife to complain, the way effing wives do. Went on moaning about how we need a better house, easier to chill down. Little does she know…“

„Yeah, nothing but trouble with the ladies. Mine, I get her a new kitchen, best of the best appliances, no twenty years ago. And what happens when I finally reward myself with new wheels? I see it on your face, you’ve been there. That’s exactly what happened…“

„Wheels and wives, say no more! The speed of my SolV, honestly, it’s a shame. That’s the downside, with early adopting. You set the trend, the crowd follows where you lead. So far, so feelgood factor. But practically speaking, you end up with a beta version. A business district evac in my first gen SolV, that’s not for the faint hearted. No feelgood factor when you’re the one still trundling along the bridge amidst the monster waves while people with better powered cars sit smug in the storm bunker. But trust the effing wife to scream if I even so much as watch an advert. Totally doesn’t get the importance…“

They‘ve been at this for the first four dishes of a seven course meal. They sound like they‘ll keep it up until well after their second dessert.

A polite observer would describe them as black gentlemen of advanced age and corpulency. To Adebran, they’re Bragging Bruce and Toothy Todnam.

These two stayed true to their high school selves. Thirty years ago, they cast a slimmer shadow and looked less worn. But the current soundtrack is a pitch perfect replay of their youthful ways. 

Volume a notch above the polite, they’re banging on about their same old topics.

An improbable series of supposedly smashing conquests became a wife and wink-wink-hints at a mistress. The scooters were scaled up into SUVs. And there’s still an evil presence clutching the purse strings, unfairly denying the boys their toys.

Both used to mince their words more, when they were mad at dad, for going tight on the pocket money. The big parental commanded some respect, even at a distance. Whereas effing is as polite as it gets, around their wives and mistresses.

Adebran is shocked to feel his own brain coming up with an Aglaia-type thought. This corporate nuisance is haunting him even in this most private moment.

Big companies like the solar panel manufacturer where Adebran has spent his whole working life are forced to hire so called fairness advocates. Officially, this is to make sure there’s no discrimination of the more lightly skinned members of the workforce. In practice, fairness is perfectly established and the law only provides well connected kids like Aglaia with nice jobs.

In these enlightened times, even the whitest of white people have access to all careers. Provided they come with proper qualifications and up-to date reparations paperwork. And know how to behave in a corporate setting. And feel civil. You can’t have brutes around.

Adebran’s dad would have scoffed at the idea of hiring a white engineer. Anything above minimum wage service jobs for whites was anathema to him. Lack of trust.

Adebran’s granddad would have rolled his eyes in horror, mumbling his usual about kids having no idea of the efforts and hardship that got proper people in charge of global affairs.

But nowadays, white people are well integrated.

Adebran likes it that way.

Even a white president is no longer considered impossible. They’d have to change the law first, because none of them can prove none of their forebears was involved with colonial exploitation. But in a democracy, even such a change is within reach. In principle.

Not having much to do, in a phase of low hiring that hopefully won’t turn into a recession, the Aglaia person spends her days posting memos on the company website. Out of resentment against this waste of HR budget, and because he never gets much done in the hour after lunch anyway, Adebran has taken to read her stuff.

It’s even weirder than he had assumed. Aglaia is working herself into a state over something she calls patricorate. Or male dominance in corporate settings. Or business world sexism. According to her, ladies are the real victims of discrimination, more strongly affected than even the proverbial white boys with generations of exploitative ancestors to atone for.

Aglaia even pretends to prove her fantasies. As if the absence of female engineers on the payroll, as opposed to the presence of one Asio-Caucasian, was meaningful.

Girls don’t like maths and physics, they don’t do engineering degrees. How the hell would they qualify for such jobs?!

Not even Adebran’s oddity of a daughter would dream of a career in engineering.

Her aiming to go football pro isn’t much better, but as a progressive he won’t interfere. Not worth the trouble. The money offered by the Lions is surprisingly good, too.

The wife will make  a couple more scenes, but Adebran will grant the daughter permission.

Satisfied to have reached a decision that had been in the making for days, Adebran switches his attention back to Bragging Bruce and Toothy Todnam.

They’re still talking wheels, now discussing the latest in all-senses full body virtual racing equipment.

Finally a topic worthy of Adebran’s input! 

Just this once?

„Oh no, please, Martha. I don’t want to go. I don’t need to go, so I don’t want to go. Herbert, he only goes every second week. Me, I went three times already this week. This is more than enough. I totally don’t need to go. Come on, let’s check my levels…”

Martha exerts maximum restraint.

When Paul is like this, she itches to shout at him, like a man would.

This Discovery Channel documentary was so right, about basic similarities. At some level, men and women are less different than generally assumed. Aggressive impulses, that’s no male prerogative. Women are just better at redirecting destructive energies towards useful goals. What a difference such a tiny detail makes.

“… Really and honestly sure here, Martha. Why aren’t you answering? Can’t you at least look at the numbers, please? It’s all here, on the scale. That level amounts to nothing, practically. With this, why would I have to spend the day…”

Taking advantage of her bad vibes, Martha gives the water tank spigot one more twist. Voilà, she did it, the precious liquid gets released. That’s how a woman does things. 

Looking forward to her cup of coffee, Martha wonders if she should grant Paul the exception he craves. One day of leave, that’s not that much. Sibyl does keep Herbert at home every second week, despite occasional spikes in his charts. Seems to be safe enough.

“… Martha, please. This device proves I don’t need to go. Look, it’s totally below the red line. This yellow is as good as green. And consider how I’m not losing my temper one bit, even though you won’t have a look. Skipping just one day, that’s nothing…

This coffee is delicious. And Paul wouldn’t brandish his wristy at her if the readings weren’t fine. His pleading is genuine, too. No veering off into demands. He’s no monster. No need for taming with him.

There was this GLO infotainment piece, about how women can go bad. Real bad, as in maiming, and killing even. Ever since she listened to this, Martha wonders if they’re doing the right thing.

Laws can be wrong. Like in the past, when traveling by air was legal. State-sponsored flying, as if anybody needed to go anyplace. And the forebears weren’t just sending people around. Even flowers travelled by plane. Flowers! Laws can be so wrong.

“… Martha, please? Just this one day? I can do whatever homework, too, no problem. Just please don’t make me go there. I hate the place. Not hating as in going wild, of course not. Just the light kind of hating, like you would prefer not to go to the office…”

Savoring the last drop of coffee, Martha once again notices the stain above the zinc and reaches a decision. Civic education is wrong and Sibyl is right.

There’s absolutely no need for an outstandingly clever wife to force her perfectly civil husband to attend testosterone remediation courses every single day.

Herbert and Paul won’t go bad. In the postwar years, the benighted people of that age meant to do good, but they erred. That wall needs painting and Paul gets his exception. Just this once.

OS Update Anxiety

„We really need to do this, Aglan? On April 1st? I mean, I’m not superstitious, not at all, not pure advanced science me. But what kind of Operating System release plan is this? You just don’t schedule important activity for April 1st…”

Hearing herself sound so unacceptably, unwomanly plaintive, Iosana quickly adds:

“… The old fashioned, village kind of folksy people, they might look at the date, declare the announcement a joke and kick it into the delete bin. It’s just not responsible. This is supposed to be the century of plan-for-the-worst-case-and-go-one-up!”

Better. Getting angry at that stupid slogan devised by even more stupid central infrastructure providers who get everything worth messing with most stupidly wrong won’t change the release plan. But getting angry feels right.

Aglan looks expectant, waiting for her to pursue her rant.

His posture could be considered appropriate. He’s being talked to by his spouse and listens, that’s good. But his lack of bother, that’s offensive. Not one drop of sweat on his high forehead. His hands folded behind his head, and not even a hint of a darker armpit area.

This turquoise shirt is tight. It wasn’t designed for a guy who won the gym addict award at the lab. If Aglan was shedding body fluids, it would show. Unless he finally had his metabolism upgraded.

Aglan certainly wouldn’t tell her, after decades of vociferous opposition to the practice. No family gathering complete without him finding an excuse to preach to the heathens:

“Don’t get yourself implants. Don’t get started on metabolic upgrades. Millenia of evolution provided us with a pretty robust body that holds up nicely for a good fifty years. Back in the days of the ozone shield and the stable magnetic field, people even made it to one hundred years. Totally unenhanced, one hundred! Take that, BioSoft, and stuff your stupid commercial where the solar panels don’t charge. Two more months for the price of a flat?!”

That’s what Aglan sounds like, on modernity, and he keeps it up for a good ten minutes easy.

Slavery Reparations Weekend or Natural Offspring Day, same gospel. Aglan doesn’t care if he’s seated next to granny Ogla, who is deaf, or vis-à-vis nephew Bahro, the biohack prodigy. On all other issues, even basketball teams and trams, Aglan is the quiet one with the balanced view he won’t utter unless asked. But implants and enhancements, no.

At the last count, ninety eight point seven percent of the global population where in favor and had acquired. But Iosana had to marry the one freak going without. Aggressively.

Aglan is still all smiles, and displaying his serene armpits. That’s offensive. It has to stop. Iosana allows her voice to sharpen once again when she goes:

“And what’s so funny about me arguing for a responsible handling of serious matters?! Next stop anarchy, is that what you’re arguing for nowadays? Let’s just mess things up, to see what happens, and damned-so-what if anything goes wrong? Is that your new attitude? Well, my dear Aglan, let me give you an update: I won’t have it. None of it!”

Hearing herself bellow like a teen tamer, Iosana once again adjusts her aim. In a more level voice, she adds:

“Don’t get me wrong. There can of course be too much of a good regulation, I’ll grant you that. Not arguing for the zero-bin-zero-waste policy of the neighborhood council here, of course not. But there’s a difference, between buying packaged sweets, recyclably packaged sweets of course, and having to get rid of the wraps, on the one side, and a major software update, and major really means major here, on the other side. Gazillions of applications are affected, applications that are in turn needed for all kinds of vitally important tasks. That’s a special occasion, worth investing a little brain power.”

There, she said it. Iosana tries never to think ‘brain’.

Not saying the word is an important part of avoiding the subject. But occasionally, she can’t help it. It’s as if the bloody organ was purposefully sneaking the term onto her tongue.

She feels like falling apart, her heart dropping down into her bowels.

And Aglan, the jerk, to take advantage of her wobbly second to start blabbing in the most unhelpful way:

“Relax, darling, no need to panic. Remember, you’re the strong gender, designed to survive something as excruciating as giving birth. You will…”

Iosana can’t have that kind of bovinei excrement talk. She won’t have it. Pulling herself back together, she allows the flame or her anger to flare up all bright and mighty:

“Don’t you dare darling me, Aglan! Who do you think you are? Barely enough processing power in the upstairs to beat the next primate at chess. Making the odd buck by the sheer luck and toothy grin that got you into research. What the hell would qualify you to provide me, a person of advanced intellect, with advice? Now let me tell you a couple of news, my dear Aglan. The world isn’t flat, pigs can’t fly, your so-called level of reasoning…”

Lady, that feels so good. Not exactly an ambiance booster. Some of the damage will need fixing later on. Iosana is aware of that downside. But later on isn’t now. Now is the time to take advantage of the initial offense to blast a list of grievances at this bloody nuisance of a useless spouse.

Aglan doesn’t take it like a man. He’s not shedding even one tear.

Iosana wonders if body fluid avarice should be added to the list of the offender’s faults. After a quick appraisal, she decides against. Most people have to spend a lot of money to become as dry bodiEd as her husband. Blaming him for a natural advantage would sound stupid, which she most certainly isn’t. Not with her…

She did it again. Twice in a matter of minutes. She thought about her bloody beeping brain.

Stopping in mid-accusation, Iosana storms out, upstairs and onto the balcony.

It’s a dark, moonless night. With the street lights already dimmed down in nature preservation mode, the stars crowd in. A beautiful sight, even more breathtaking thanks to her enhanced vision.

It was a good idea. It was the thing to do. Not just because of the sights and sounds.

Iosana is calming down. Being out here on her own, at night, always does this to her. The warm breeze, the stars, the hum of the city, it all feels cosy.

Downstairs in the living room, the beeper signals an interaction request. Aglan answers at the second beep, despite the late hour. Most be someone important.

Iosana focuses her hearing to listen in. With her upgraded ears, she can make our every single word as if Aglan was standing next to her. He‘s going:

“Hi Citrala, long time no hear. Hope it’s no emergency? Iosana can’t make herself available at the moment..

…No, no, nothing serious. Just a bit tense ahead of her first major OS update, and rightly so. As you’ll sure recall me mentioning: Implants and enhancements, especially on the brain side, that’s a recipe for misery. They sell it as an improvement, and it might feel like one at times, but that’s certainly not worth going to bed wondering if you’re still you on the morning after…”

Iosana is torn.

Part of her wants to storm down and take the call, because Citrala that late, that’s bound to be serious. It’s early hours in Asia now, something might have gone wrong with their delivery to Shenzhen. That kind of glitch is beyond her partner’s Mandarin.

Another part of Iosana doesn’t care about delayed bamboo shipments and customs procedures. It urges to strangle Aglan.

The bastard is right. There is a downside, to brain upgrades.

Business Trip 22

Invalid access request. Would you please get lost now, oh dearest of most incompetent middle distance mobility customer? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami gives the offending barrier a good kick, as practiced in her weekly self-defense and empowerment workshop. Her air train leaves in seven minutes. She can’t miss that meeting at HQ. Her brain is in calamity mode and she’s ready to destroy. 

The barrier ignores the kick. The obstacle to Folami’s career fulfillment looks deceptively like the wood it is actually made of, but there’s truth in that particular sales pitch. The laminated version of this ancient material really is as robust as steel.

Invalid access request. Would you like me to send you packing in a different language, my very dear and slow grasping low performer? Ha, ha, ha.

Setting the interface to ‘funny retort’ was supposed to enliven Folami’s days. The bloody marketroid of an implant maintenance agent was full of praise, for non-standard settings. 

“Best way to bring some sparkle into our lives,” she said. “Nothing noteworthy ever happening to wage slaves like you and me, right? Won’t pretend non-standard interface settings will change that. You’re as stuck as I am, if you don’t mind me mentioning. But you’ll get some fun. Whereas poor me is left to interact with real people who don’t even do diabolical laughs.”

Folami is no fan this particular feature right now. It’s anything but funny, expect perhaps for the folks queuing behind her. She can see how they try not to grin.

Invalid access request. Time to move on, major moron of the day. Blocking the barrier for customers with a more adequate CN account won’t get you anywhere. Ha, ha, ha.

Folami tries to melt into the spotless grey floor. Each of her brain molecules would prefer to join the great recycling effort, very materially and at once.

The two people next in line must have heard what went wrong. The ultimate dishonor.

Nothing is more shameful than an empty Carbon Neutrality account.

This just doesn’t happen. You don’t leave your habitacle without legwear. You don’t eat fellow mammals, or birds. You don’t try to engage in mobility, consumption or production without the necessary Carbon Neutrality balance.

Folami mumbles a must-be-a-mistake apology at the queue and hurries away. She hasn’t got any destination in mind yet, beyond getting round a corner and out of sight.

She feels the queue’s glances hitting her back. In her head, she hears what they will have started muttering to each other by now.

“Did you hear that? No mistake to make, wasn’t there?”

“Definitely not. Holy mighty moly sounded like a CN overdraft to me.”

“I’d say, that happening to me, I’d ask the waiter for the firing squad.”

“And kicking the barrier, did you see her? So much for the less aggressive gender talk.”

“Yeah. I liked them better in their good old days of victimhood.”

Normally, Folami looks down on the moaners who clamor for safe self-resourcing rooms all over public spaces. “Driving up infrastructure costs no end, and our taxes,” she used to say, “What’s wrong with just taking a deep breath and moving on, why dedicated rooms?”

Today, she’s really glad to see the caleidoscope logo. And the door opens without checking her CN status, tax records or whatever else could have been defined as a prerequisite.

The caleidoscope room is as immediately available as forced upon Folami’s reluctant community by helicopter politicians never short of novel ways to spend heaps of money.

It’s less big and comfy than suggested by the detractors of the scheme. They must have taken their pictures from a trick angle. Like estate agents making tiny flats look vast.

The interior of the safe space is spartan. A light green easy chair with a footrest takes up most of the space. It’s surrounded on all sides by the projection of a beach scene, with the waves gently lapping at the shore. Not realistic enough to fool the senses, but pleasant.

Pity the designers made do without the olfactory stimulation unit.

The room smells of plastic, sweat and detergent. It will do for Folami’s current emergency purposes, but she makes a mental note to ask her community relations contact for an upgrade. Olfactory stimulation units, that’s no expense, easily affordable for the common good.

Having settled down into the chair, Folami listens to the waves for a couple of breaths. The world is about to end whichever her next action, she might as well take her time.

Once her physical status monitoring unit declares her fine, quite an exaggeration, in her own opinion, she checks her CN status. This sends her physical right into the red.

Twenty three units. A mere twenty lousy three units. Not even a pittance.

Folami had steadied herself for catastrophe, because the network doesn’t err, but a mere twenty three, that’s patently impossible. She was in the high four digits yesterday, easily enough for an eight hundred odd trip to that vital meeting. Something must have gone full wrong.

Not hiding her irritation, she asks the interface for an explanation.

Cheeky, are we now? Pretending surprise, perhaps even trying to put blame on poor artificial intelligences stuck in boring accounting roles? Know what, oh most irresponsible of a wannabe free rider, why not kiss me at the string end? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami makes a second mental note to have her interface settings reconfigured to standard first thing next off day. Unless she’s in for a prolonged period of sequential off days and can no longer afford the services of implant maintenance agents.

Failure at Carbon Neutrality thrift can get you sacked in no time. Reputational risks too big, you can’t even blame a company to react forceful to any hint of such misdemeanor.

Lorenzo? His bloody wedding? She was made to pay for her brother’s romantic extravaganza? Discovering what happened to her CN account leaves Folami breathless with anger.

Her brother splashed out on a big fat traditional party she wasn’t even able to attend because of urgent project work, and their mom dared charge her account? The bloody housewife probably isn’t even aware, how professionals need their CN accounts for important tasks.

A wedding party. Not the kind of excuse Folami is going to try on Doyin.

Ever since her third divorce, her boss is allergic to anything related to marriage. Her last former husband costs her a fortune, sends her fuming every payday. 

Recalling her high marks in mental resilience, as documented on her diploma, Folami sets up a virtual meeting room. Her invitation reads:

“Dear all, a deplorable accident keeps me from attending in person today. No need to worry, no bodily injuries, only made me miss my air train. Thanks for your understanding & looking forward to talking to you later on. Kind regards, Folami.”

First you waste a fortune on outmoded celebrations? Only to lie to your superiors for cover-up next? Why should I even keep interacting with you deceitful nuisance of a cheat? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami no longer cares. She has a project approval to win, remotely.

And a brother to beat up. And she’ll come up with something for mom, too.

Happy New Year

„Jimiyu? Jimiyu, are you listening? Pod 3, Jimiyu, Code Grey. And hurry up…”

Jimiyu clenches his teeth hard, to refrain himself from saying it aloud, the big bad four letter world he’s thinking.. 

‘Hurry up’, he has so had it with ‘hurry up’. For tonight. For this year. Forever. Jimiyu longs to go mean on the caller, but that would be wrong. She sucks, but it’s not her fault.

The voice reaching out to him over his earpiece, one more Kibibi or Sabiti or whatever this particular girl is called, she’s a mere messenger. It’s her bad bloody operator job to drive him hard, to do his bad bloody maintenance job. Impossible schedule not her fault.

Jimiyu confirms Code Grey for Pod 3, in as level a voice as he can muster, and puts on his gloves. He’s not going to wipe up vomit without gloves.

Godforbiddenly rich, the customers celebrating the New Year on the space elevator. You’d think there’d be the odd coin available, to spare on a literacy course. You don’t need Shakespearean levels of reading proficiency, to decipher the wording on the barf bags.

The space elevator pods feature an ample supply of basic malaise appliances for a reason.

The ‘space’ in ‘space elevator’ means exactly that, ‘very, very far up’. Getting there involves a substantial amount of horizontal acceleration. Combined with some swaying, because hey, who’d have guessed, there’s wind, between ground and space. First time riders tend to experience a little discomfort. Combined with shrimps and champagne, things can go wrong way.

Bracing himself for the nauseating smell associated with a Code Grey, Jimiyu grabs his high-pressure cleaner and gets ready for action.

Some clonking one level up signals Pod 3 has reached the space elevator base station. It’s followed by the hissing of the pressurized door. The filthy rich idiots take a while to get going, thereby worsening Jimiyu’s time constraints, but finally laughter and stomping signal the party is leaving. The access corridor  shutter clatters close and the pod moves down to the maintenance floor where Jimiyu springs into action. 

This Code Grey is mostly red. Someone has been drinking red wine instead of champagne. But at least it’s mercifully localized, only affecting the corner next to the tiny sanitary cubicle.

Not hard for Jimiyu to guess what happened. Another vomiter must have reached the loo first, leaving the red wine idiot short of choices. HighFly Inc really should hand each customer his barf bag, or better make that two or three, to avoid this kind of embarrassment. But they don’t want to advertise, how bad the pods roll.

Twenty-four seconds, pretty good for a Code Grey. It was an easy one, but Jimiyu is still proud. 

His is private pride, because steam cleaning a space elevator pod fast is not the feat his mom likes him to brag about, at family events.

When people ask  “And how’s the literature rolling, these days, your books selling well?” you better don’t answer “Doing OK, my writing nearly pays the food. And for the rest, I’ve got my neat minimum wage gigs at the space elevator. Lots of hours, in the holiday season.”

Jimiyu only went down that road once. He ended up having to admit he was performing manual labor wearing blue workwear, and that maintenance meant cleaning. His mom shunned him for two weeks, and he hadn’t even mentioned body fluids and smells. Much better to keep quiet about proud moments like this one, and pretend exploding book sales.

There’s a risk to alert the ubiquitously listening tax people, but having to deal with those is far easier than handling an angry mom.

Four more hours to go, until it’s 2069 all over the planet. Once the Hawaians are done, his shift will be over and he‘ll get the chance to call his Nankunda, to wish her a belated Happy New Year.

Jimiyu’s girlfriend doesn’t mind his odd hours. She’s working, too, catering to a big party in a fancy venue.

The event features a live gig by a living legend of a pop star. She got flown in all the way from Korea, just for this one New Year celebration. Astronomical sums involved, long distance air travel costs a hectare of reforestation per mile. Rich people, they never tire of coming up with novel ways to waste tons of money.

Nankunda is no trained caterer. Carrying around trays of bubbly was not what she was aiming for, when she studied archaeology. But it fits in nicely, with her hours as a primary school teacher, and one has to make ends meet.

Their minimum wage gigs at odd hours are the price to pay for not living at Jimiyu’s parents house. You don’t rent a flat  in one of the most fancy locations this planet has on offer on one salary and a few book sales.

Kampala is in boomtown mode, and not just because of the space elevator. That’s merely the fun ride side of the operation. Excellent for tourism, obviously, and not just during the holiday season, but not the big money spinner.

The far less glamorous, unmanned space links bringing out what is called climate mitigation nets, to make the contraptions sound less chemical, those are Kampala’s cash cows. Three already in operation, one under construction and two more at an advanced planning stage, the climate rush is in full swing.

Jimiyu and Nankunda are lucky, to have been born in this most fancy of equatorial locations. Nothing beats Kampala these days, not even Quito comes close. 

Jimiyu sighs. He has heard this mantra ever since preschool: “We’re lucky, we’re equatorial, best place in the world to have been born. Enjoy your luck and strive, boy. Billions of people would give their right arm for right of residence in Kampala.”

Jimiyu keeps hearing this. His brain understands what people mean to tell him. They have a point, sure. He’s trying to get into that mood. But there’s no paradise feel to his life.

“Jimiyu? Jimiyu? Code Red, Jimiyu! Pod 5, Code red. Code Red, Jimiyu!”

The voice of the operator is a anguished as it should be. ‘Code Red’ stands for blood. Someone got seriously hurt. Jimiyu quickly confirms, before dressing up.

He’s going for the full program this time. White coverall overall, face mask, two pairs of gloves.

Code Red can get very messy. Like when his colleague Ocan got what was left of that stupid paranoid bomber. Brought along some explosives, despite all the fancy hazard detection hardware, and blew himself up at the top of the ride. The pressurized pod held tight, confirming the outstanding resilience of its design, but the passengers were reduced to…

Jimiyu quickly stops recalling Ocan’s tale, because he can’t use the barf bag he doesn’t have at hand wearing a face mask.

Hearing the sounds of the arriving pod overhead, he very much hopes his Code Red not to be a bomb. „Please, fate, make that a broken champagne bottle and a few cuts“ is all he can think right now. And he’s not feeling lucky at all, once again.

ToiCle Day

Another ToiCle Day? One month supposed to have passed since the last ordeal? Safran aren’t yet willing to believe what their scheduling device tells them.

Unfortunately, blinking doesn’t help. The alarm is there all right, in the upper left corner of their left eye. This early in the morning, it’s not disruptive. The tiny shiny white icon could even be considered pretty, if it wasn’t for the disgusting associations.

Pausing the coffee mug they were about to bring up to their lips in mid movement, Safran wonders: Would the whole of humanity by now share this association?

They vaguely remember a piece of infotainment that suggested some astoundingly high percentage of humanity, at least a low two digits kind of number, having to make do without. They recall watching this way back in their youth, in 2D media format.

Taking a careful sip, this so-called coffee tries to make up for the lack of taste by being too hot, Safran recalls Taylo’s amazement. They had taken their favorite grandchild to the museum of living memories, where the exhibits felt so real they had to strap you in.

They visited an early 21st century home, in some big city neighborhood.

At first, Taylo didn’t even understand the concept of living room. Safran had to explain about detached and semi-detached housing, how tiny groups of people, sometimes even an individual person, would own a place with multiple rooms.

Taylo were prepared to accept living rooms as prequels to the com-rooms of modern housing, but they balked at the design: “OK for the couch, for the legs-up kind of fun. But why would a big flat screen take center stage? It shows moving pictures and there’s sound, obviously, but this is to infotainment what a pinwheel is to a power plant. No even the low tech elders could have made do with this insult of the senses.”

Safran smile. That hopeless joke of a beverage, certainly no coffee bean harmed in the process of concocting it, deserves their anger. They will make sure to rekindle the negative feeling later on. Will provide themselves with a task, for the rest of the day. But Taylo gasping at the horrors of world without interface implants, that was hilarious.

Blink. Every five minutes, the white icon increases in size. A minimal adjustement. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if the previous and current icon sat side by side, but it does happen, and you feel the transition. Stupid ToiCle Day. Even worse than the coffee.

Safran don’t mind all progress. Living to their ripe old age of sixty four, that had taken a lot of medical progress. The generation of their parentals, born in the early twenty first century, they could count themselves lucky to make it to the mid forties. And not in good health.

According to Safran’s parentals, not everything was bad, in the dark ages of their youth. „Sex, drugs and a streaming flat rate,“ Ade used to say, „what more does a man need, for the good life?“. „A man“ Ade used to say. Bigotted old scum of a conservative.

Ade never came round to modern pronouns. Or any other advances, like full body radiation protection. No wonder they were down and out by thirty eight. There’s only so much a body can do, when left to its own meagre devices.

Blink. There should be a law, an age limit. No one past sixty should be made to participate. ToiCle day duty, that’s for the young. They get all the fun, and have so much longer to live, in these best of times. Only fair to have them do the chores. 

Safran tested their age limit idea on Taylo. The impertinent juvenile dared argue back. Something about sharper senses and worse suffering. Rubbish.

Safran see, hear, taste and smell just as sharply as in their youth. That’s what implants are for, for ProtoLabs sake! They didn’t spend thirty years slaving away in implant manufacturing to listen to stupid excuses.

It wasn’t a full thirty years on the factory floor, of course. The first five years were a doctorate in brain nerve interface design. Then came five daunting years in manufacturing. Safran had to supervise the production of their high tech creations. They had to work shifts. Three shifts. This alone should be sufficient to spare them… Blink. 

Why for ProtoLabs sake can’t anyone finally come around to inventing a proper self cleaning device? Why has a formerly hard working and highly qualified senior citizen to perform such menial tasks? Go refill the detergent container, push that button, check the result for perfection, swipe away remnants of imperfection and take a picture, for confirmation?

Safran spent the first year of their retirement trying to invent what they were so sorely missing. They came up with a mountain of perfectly viable ideas. It’s not lack of technological feasibility keeping them stuck with disgusting tasks. It’s politics.

Safran never argued against workplace equality. As a high school student, they transitioned from obsolete gendered to modern ungendered pronouns faster than their teachers could updated their own routines. Safran don’t need anyone to help them adjust.

It is therefore a blatantly unnecessary injustice to subject them to… Blink.

„Darling? Darling, my interface tells me you didn’t react yet, to the ToiCle Day prompt. Come on Safran, just a little effort. You know it won’t go away. Why don’t you just go and do it. It’s perfectly hygienic, there’s nothing to worry about…“

No one dares talk to them in this tone. Safran happily feel a third anger well up. A good day.

They will now argue with their beloved spouse, about how to talk to a former hard working bread winner. They will argue back they used to make more. Which is true on paper, but they made their easy cash in marketing, while Safran designed game interfaces. „Now who did humanity a more important service? See what I mean?…“

They will have fun arguing until the bloody icon gets too distracting. Then they will clean that bloody toilet, loudly muttering four letter words at the injustice. With a little luck, this will both get them rid of the bloody icon and trigger a new round of spousal hostilities.

And finally, if there’s still any boredom left to overcome, they’ll have another so-called coffee.

NaNoWriMo WP

Felinity Rules

The world is once again about to end. As the title suggests, cats are involved.

There’s a bored one, a big one and the black one. That black feline could be considered huge, if it was willing to fit into this kind of category.

Three humans are doing their occasionally heroic best to cope with the mess. They are more or less bored and black, just like the cats, but none of them is big. This makes saving the world a tad harder, but will look fabulous in a screen adaptation.

75K of this nice little feel good story have piled up thanks to NaNoWrimo and the glorious support of my France-Other Regions colleagues. On November 20, passing the 50K delivered a NaNo-2018-Winner-Certificate to prove something happened.

Throughout the NaNoWrimo, the raw daily output of between 500 and 8K words has been published here, to scare away potential readers with a dose of first draft horrors. On December 1, the material went into backup hibernation, sorry permalinkers! It is scheduled to reemerge as WIP accessible for beta readers in early 2019.

Side Effects

And one more sanitary pad at the bottom of the trouble.

For lack of an obvious perpetrator, Ade silently throws a big fat curse at the white tiles of the bathroom wall. If only all ladies would learn how to safely dispose of their hygiene products, his professional life would be oh so much more pleasant.

Such a change in female behavior would also help with the chronic backlog. With so many emergency calls, at least half of them blockages, they’re forever rescheduling the installation of new sanitary equipment.

Concerning routine maintenance, the office no longer bothers to answer inquiries. As the saying goes „If you dream of getting hold of a plumber for non-emergency maintenance, why not reach right for the stars and jump onto the elective knee surgery queue?“.

It’s obvious that too little routine maintenance caused by the shortage of skilled professionals leads to additional premature degradation, and that this in turn causes yet more emergency calls keeping the precious few plumbers too busy. Vicious, but that’s how the system works. Well established dysfunction as usual.

Taking his time with the mess, his little revenge for the unpleasantness, Ade lets his brain argue the case of the ladies, like a lawyer would.

A perpetratoress could pretend to have acted out of charitable motives. Cleaning up her mess might be disgusting, but less backlog would lead to less plumigration.

Taking the argument one step further, disposing of sanitary pads into the dedicated bins would have to be considered applied racism. Ade’s inner lawyer rejoices. Only a legally trained mind can come up with this kind of obvious bullshit.

Ade’s own residential status is of course as secure as naturalization gets. Less plumigration wouldn’t affect him. But a responsible chap has to consider the potential for unintended consequences. One can’t ruin the immigration prospects of one’s peers. Less desperate house owners might lead to less visa. Currently any potential immigrant willing to learn the plumbing trade is begged to come. But if circumstances change, who knows?

Conditions might even revert to bad old first stage plumigration, as experienced by Ade’s uncle Iffe. When he got himself recruited, he had to provide a certificate confirming his plumbing skills. He dutifully paid a little fee that delivered a shiny diploma from a supposedly licensed academy. He still had no clue, but this diploma did the trick.

Being a clever and dexterous man, uncle Iffe learned his trade on the job. All went well, until an explosion he might or might not have caused. Neither himself nor anyone else did suffer bodily harm, but he remains severely traumatized. Has been scared of gas installations ever since. Won’t touch any of the beasts unless a locally trained specialist is present. Poor man, his income took a serious hit. Never will he manage to pay off that mortgage.

No such hardship for Ade. By the time he was done with university and ready to face the shit, the prerequisites of uncle Iffe’s days were long gone. No one dared ask him for a plumbing diploma, real or fake. He only needed to enter one of the shops on Migration Alley. One step turned an able bodied law graduate into a plumbing apprentice.

No questions asked, all visa and travel expenses paid, passable accommodation provided, and a nice little welcome handout on top. Compared to the trials inflicted on uncle Iffe’s generation, current plumigration is paradise. Kind of. If you don’t mind the shit.

On the plane, Ade met Taya, a lady of similar background and age. The onset of the solar era and the corresponding petrol and mining industry crisis had forced her to abandon her dream to find a job as a geologist. She was instead headed for a career in nursing, or senior shit, as she chose to call her future occupation, rather bluntly.

Noticing how they were both destined to handle excrements, Ade and Taya experienced fellowship in adversity. Eight hours of flight was more than enough to get them liaised. Their initial bond turned into assiduous dating. This in turn culminated in a in a big brash wedding, once they had both completed their apprenticeships and acquired their second passports.

„How much longer is this going to take? Would never dream of pushing, but I will need…, to go…, you know? Preferably sooner than later… ?“ This particular old lady whimpering on the other side of a bathroom door Ade has shut to labor in peace can’t be at fault. She’s way too old to be the originator of the mess. Must have been some visiting kid who didn’t dare leave traces of her current physical condition in the bin. Stupid little bitch.

Aloud, Ade goes polite: „As good as done, madam. Just give me one more minute, and the bathroom will be all yours again…“.

He flushes one more time, to suggest completion of whatever activity he didn’t perform during the last ten minutes, and checks his phone while waiting for the end of the torrent.

He finds a message: „Will be going straight to an additional girls meeting, urgent issue. Might get late, please don’t wait. Kisses, Taya.“

Texting back a full line of kisses, Ade feels all empowered and cheerful.

This is perfect timing. He had been wondering how to get himself a marital evening bliss exemption, to join some of the other plumigration lads to watch tonight’s Champion’s League game at the pub. And now it’s his lady going out. Perfectly perfect.

Having a glass with the other nurses will hopefully switch Taya’s attitude back to bright.

Ade’s wife has been tense, lately. Forever ranting about injustice, stress, politics even. How it’s not fair, to only allow immigrants in to clean up behind the legacy residents and deny them access to proper jobs, regardless of qualifications.

Ade won’t deny that’s how things are. But endless complaining is going to change exactly dick, right? Why ruin your mood about circumstances beyond your control?

Deep in his heart, Ade of course feels that little glimmer of glee, when the news report one more house blown up by the „One World Avengers“. The blokes do have a point. But that’s not a subject he’s prepared to discuss with his wife. That’s men talk.

The terrorists always make sure the owners of the houses they target are absent, typically holidaying abroad. Hence no one gets harmed. Theirs is soft terrorism. But it must still be deeply unpleasant to check your home CCTV feed only to find out the place is gone, just because some blokes hate the current world order.

As a professional, Ade kind of respects the „One World Avengers“. Tough guys, really good at blasts. Always using gas, often the very cylinders he’s handling day in, day out. Who knows, they might perhaps even share his trade. He wouldn’t e surprised to learn some fellow plumigration practitioners are telling the world how much they hate the daily shit.

Having pocketed a nice surprise of a generous tip, Ade trots back to his white van, slowly. If he takes long enough loading and replenishing his emergency intervention kit, he can just make it into the lunch break time zone. 

Opening the side door, the empty slot on the rack on the opposite side reminds him to report that last stolen gas cylinder missing. He’s had enough of the mischief that has been going on for months. Some lazy colleague takes his supplies from Ade’s van, instead of going though the formal request process. Lazy idiot. Time to teach him a lesson.

Purple Star

„Will you stop doing that, please? Please, Aramide? I do mean it, Aramide, because this is not funny. This has stopped being funny, in any way, more ten minutes ago. Aramide, please, this is an office, not a playground, and this device is no toy. Aramide, please now. Did I mention I mean it? ARAMIDE, if you don’t…”

Cismom would have been able to keep up the crescendo for a good while longer. She’s becoming ever better at staggered outrage. Always fun to watch. You can bet with yourself when she will grind to an exhausted halt, before resuming at first level.

In the current setting, cismom gets interrupted by the colleague in the ugly brown business dress in the cubicle next to hers: “Eniola? You wouldn’t dream of threatening a high potential, wouldn’t you? Have you got any idea of how lucky you are, with a…”

Here we go. Aramide isn’t exactly surprised for the topic to surface.

At home, everyone is used to have a purple earpiece around. No longer a big deal, in year sixteen. They even dare tell her to do the dishes, as if she was the next slowbrain. It’s more exactly cismom daring, to transmom’s resigned frown.

Aramide’s parentals are so steeped in old-fashioned gender roles they consider it progressive to have the cis play bad cop to the trans’ leniency.

Hard to believe such antiquated misconceptions are still around, but that’s society for you. Incredibly slow at changing, with so many old people around. Advanced age, the biggest problem with parentals. Even worse than their slow-low thinking.

At school, Aramide has to face down a completely different set of challenges. No slow-low thinkers there, of course. With her potential detected before her birth, she has always been educated at specialized institutions. No lit-num farms for her kind.

A pity. Aramide would give her left arm for the right to attend Suru High.

First and foremost, they have boys. Not just your one or two affirmative action minnows. The real cis male thing. Big bragging slowbrains that whistle when you walk by. Who cares if they can’t understand the physics of sound? They’re gorgeous.

At Suru High, they do lots of fascinating stuff. Building, gardening, plumbing, cooking. And they practice real sports, like football, not just mental strain compensation. So many alluring challenges out there, and poor Aramide stuck with maths and algorithms.

Cismom and her colleague aren’t done arguing, Aramide has to keep up her offensive action. Stopping now would make her look like some nice girl! Wearing a purple earpiece is bad enough, behaving well on top would make her the perfect loser.

Aramide has exhausted the novelty potential of the 3D captors in cismom’s cubicle over five minutes ago. She pointed them at herself, first at her hand and then at her head, to check on the screen what she would look with blue skin. No big deal.

Skin color reconfiguration is all the rage all over Devastoria . Last year Devastorians went green like mad, this year they’re going blue.

Weird. But that’s normal, in Devastorians.

In Aramide’s social engineering class, they had a debate around the rationale behind the geographical distribution of the skin color reconfiguration craze.

Aramide was made to argue the biological causes side: A majority of Devastorians suffer from a very light skin tone that is especially prone to ugly irregularities. No wonder they want to replace their natural complexion with something smooth.

Aisha, Aramide’s preferred classmate and sparring partner, argued the historical origins side: Devastorians, even the current, innocent generation, feel guilty because of all their past misdeeds. Like slavery, depleting natural resources and the big one, the Mars mistake. Their complexion identifies them as perpetrator lineage, which is uncomfortable. Trying to blend in, they push skin color reconfiguration as a fashion trend. 

Cismom can be surprisingly good at multitasking, for an old av brainer. Defending the teen harassment she calls elitism prevention, she still manages to watch Aramide’s every move. High time to capture the next image and use her pronounced creativity to alter it.

Aramide shouldn’t even be here. This event is called “Company family day” and targeted at kids, as proven by the presence of a ball pool in the foyer. Cismom dragged her along to show off, and now she has to misbehave for revenge.

It’s all lies, the bit about the pronounced creativity. It does feature on Aramide’s potential curve, but she never manages to come up with cool.

Even Aisha is better at cool, as proven by her braiding robot. That was a good idea, and a pretty challenging bit of programming involved. A one-off, far too small to turn Aisha into a cool person. But still pretty neat, light years ahead of Aramide.

Damn purple earpiece. People always tell her how grateful she should be, to have been gifted with such an outstanding brain, granting her access to so many opportunities.

Aramide always begs to differ and tries to explain: “Oh really? To look forward to a future of hard brain work, while most people idle around waiting for the solar powered robots to get done whatever needs doing, that’s supposed to be great? Well, if this is your idea of great, what exactly would be your bad?” She has learned to trust slowbrains not to get it.

“You think purple is great? I’ll give you purple!” Aramide only shouts it in her head, because screaming at cismom leads to seriously negative consequences, as in network curfew.

She switches the new caption of herself, with the pulled tongue for additional maternal discomfort and eternal office ridicule, to that despised pest of a color.

This doesn’t even look that bad. And you hardly notice that damn earpiece.

Aramide quickly deletes all her output and switches the devices back to standby. The skin color reconfiguration she needs, for a tiny chance to make her abomination of a life slightly less miserable, is bound to be mightily expensive. Even transmom will balk at that kind of money, meaning cismom can’t be bypassed. Now is the time to behave.

“See, Akeju, like I said. She’s just like any other teenager. Always the rebel, needs a firm hand. Her likes will determine tomorrow’s world, Akeju, it’s our job to teach them manners.”

Cismom triumphant, as bad as moments get. But with a must have skin reconfiguration at stake, now is the moment to nod, politely. This leaves ugly brown business dress as stunned as intended, while a slight uptick of cismom’s left brow signals she’s smelling the rat.

Well, she’ll have to keep guessing. Aramide switches on her most polite poker face. She’s certainly not going reveal her project to cismom first. Transmom needs to be on board, their combined powers of persuasion will make all purple Aramide happen.