Tag Archives: SciFi Short Story

Tag Trauma

“And that’s you, SP all topped up, sir. And to the very top. Big Small Puchases for you, if you don’t mind me commenting. What a jolly number. Don’t get to see that every day…”

Giving the fin operator his kiss-my-ass look, through sunglasses worthy of a much more fancy occasion, Joha urges to get his device back, and out of this smelly place. This fucking so called age of e-money is one big fat e-drag. And currently not e- at all.

Joha is forced to waste time in a queue, in person. Just because one bloody idiot e-robbed a central bank to oblivion, forcing the people to sell their country, thereby prompting a second idiot to e-impersonate a commander in chief, to invade the neighbors.

Yes, losing your country is bad. Yes, having it go to war is worse. But it was just two small armies, with old fashioned weapons. Not even sat strike capability. For a mere two days. A three digit number of victims. A year’s worth of worldwide roadkill. So what?

Fucking clean cash craze, no one needs this. Certainly not Joha.

Waiting for some matron to get done arguing about what would not even qualify as a proper tip at last night’s venue, that’s no job for a guy. His friends wait outside, in his car. They can observe him standing here, like some erectily dysfunctional grandpa. Shame.

Why can’t this bloody bullet proof glass at least be tinted? Age of transparency Joha’s ass!

What is that waffling slime of a fin operator looking at now? Something is happening, on his screen. He should be handing back Joha’s device, they were as good as done.

Dull discomfort of drag morphs into piercing snafu pain. ‘No e-fuckup now, not on a weekend!’ is all Joha manages to think before the fin operator goes:

“Congratulations, sir, you’ve been tagged! You get a say, on education. Oh, and look at this, a one billion dollar budget. You’re so lucky, sir. Don’t get to see that kind of number every day…”

Stunned, Joha barely dares look out once again. His car is shaking with his so-called friends rocking their swivel seats laughing. They’re filming each other chanting. So easy to read their lips:

“Joha has been ta-hagged, Joha has been ta-hagged” goes their chorus. In his own car. His bad luck is already doing the rounds online. News of misfortune travel porn fast.

Joha pretends to listen to the fin operator while weighing his options. There aren’t many.

Attending one of these online jamborees demotes an influencer to laughing stock in no time.

Stupid Dafe of last year’s fame got himself tagged, to weigh in on the worldwide alignment of firearms regulation. Misconsidering the gun topic as cool, Dafe went public pride. In return, what used to be his crowd asked:

“Proud to  spend a full day with mostly old people? Some of them old and female? Not to mention a sprinkling of white snobs? And doing what, in this most disgusting of companies? Oh, you’ll be reading and writing, school-type stuff, and talking about it? You’re so braaave…”

Joha also recalls his own cool contribution to the online lynch mob.

He came up with the slogan ‘Rock the rest home?’ under a picture of an artificially aged Dafe, and he’s no Morgan Freeman, kissing an even uglier white nonagenarian. Most of the 2.2K commenters were less polite. Today, barely anyone recalls there used to be a Dafe.

If he had a choice, Joha would rather come out as gay than attend a bloody citizens-of- everywhere-united-for-the-global-bloody-good-fucking-forum. 

Joha might actually come out as gay, once he will have made it to London and built himself a cool British star DJ life, but this is not the moment for this intricate kind of considerations.

Tagged to attend a fucking forum. On education, of all topics. Shame to the power of shame.

Unfortunately, disgracefully, there is no choice.

Poor Omo2go tried to opt out.

According to rumors, he invested a considerable sum, to get his tag declared a technical glitch and voided. ‘Global food security equality’, that mouthful made him reach for his e-wallet. Under the 2045 zero corruption tolerance policy, Omo2go was sentenced to keep rotting in jail until 2068, and to share a cell with his targets. Who’d want to be in his boxers?

Finally getting his device back, Joha doesn’t return the fin operator’s smile. He’s suppressing a shiver. Not the fault of the air conditioning. Envisaging Omo2go type risk made his ass freeze in shock. Joha has to attend that fucking forum. There’s no escaping the tag.

Takes Joha seconds to prepare the needful on his device. Next, he walks back to his car, his head high, to get rid of the jeering traitors. He flashes the screen at them, casually. Seeing their profiles ready to be denounced as carjackers sends them running, as expected. Joha might have particular reasons to fear prison, but the basic sentiment is widely shared.

Next, Joha tells the car to head for the university.

His mind is all made up. With his street creds ruined, he might as well do the nagging granddad of a high potential grant manager who calls him every other week the favor to resume his physics.

Bye, bye cool life. Hello career. Degree, PhD, CSD.

And if he can keep the flame of his current anger burning, he’ll come up with a big fucking e-blast show stopper. They dared terminate his DJ career. Their fault.

Jerks and Perks

“Now this is rich. Is this still 2119, or what? Ever heard of the age of respect? Feels rather like the new waste age to me. Yesterday, it was stuff that got discarded. Now it’s mind output we’re throwing away. Full speed backwards, futility power to max, is that the idea?

If that is what you’re aiming for, you’re in for a surprise, buddy. Any idea what me getting distracted from making code happen costs, in terms of wellbeing? The future of peoplekind is at stake here. Me having to point my outstanding cognitive abilities at your joke of an occupation, for even one second, guess what that is.

Oh sorry, no guessing, sure. Let me explain: Waste to the power of waste, you misfunctioning nuisance of a you-call-this-a-service? provider. Still too complex? Oh so sorry, let me rephrase: Big-big waste. You’re doing this so to the wrong guy, buddy…”

Stakhay is shaking so bad the gravity mitigation function of his seat struggles to keep up with his momentum. His back goes ouch. This workplace is so tediously unlike the upstairs he longs to visit. Double ouch. The combination of back and wallet pain boosts Stakhay’s anger.

He raises his voice some more to go:

“And now I pulled a back muscle, because of you imbecile. This job is getting more dangerous by the day. No wonder folks barely manage to clobber together their quarterly one hundred hours of desk time, in this savage environment. It’s wasteful, and a health hazard.

Is that what I deserve, to keep things rolling for the average blokes and blokettes? Without me, buddy, no food on the table, no game in the box, no water in the tank. We call that one hydrogen, but never you mind. Unless you want to go about explaining the difference? ”

Stakhay pauses for effect. Just as practiced in that funny interactive skills workshop. The lead coach made him attend, to groom him for even more senior roles that will bring him within striking distance of space flight kind of cash. Stakhay is ready for the apology he’s due.

He gets a bland stare instead. Combined with a hint of a smile. This face adds up to an insult.

Stakhay doesn’t tolerate aggression. Pointing his elbow at the exit, he shouts at the offender:

“Out, at once. Oh yes, buddy, this is an elbow I’m showing you. Oh yes indeed, this is exactly what needs to be done. You asked for it, here it comes. And now you get your lower limbs into motion. Those feet are made for walking, buddy. No idea what the squishy bit in the upper cavity does for a living, but your feet seem to be up to a job.”

The massage therapist seems on the brink of disobedience. It‘s a long blink, even for his kind. In the end, he does leave. As soon as he crosses the threshold to the corridor, the walls starts chiming his personal menial-worker-alert, to spare complextaskers one more encounteremma.

Stakhay is proud of this innovation. With all the support staff cruising the building, it was getting ever more stressful for the top cast to move around.

You want your feeder to deliver your custom grown and cooked artificial protein mix. You want your earplug support to bring and insert what fits todays body mood. You don’t want to meet someone else’s physical needs minder in the corridor.

They used to just be there, when you walked round a corner. Even strong guys like Stakhay got torn. Walk on and risk small talk? Or retreat to safety in loneliness? More fragile complextaskers went off the rail on such occasions, a terrible loss.

One was injured so badly he never recovered. That was a peculiar case. It involved a re-enactment of what last centuries barbarians refered to as ‚kissing‘, with the personal dress manager throwing himself at the victim. A massacre.

Most of the encounters are comparatively benign, but still. Stakhay is proud to have reduced this office‘s hazard score by means of simple implants and an array of loudspeakers.

That‘s creativity, not to call himself a genius outright. Take what‘s there, reassemble, and whoosh, the world becomes a better place. The corridors are safe, thanks to him.

Next, he will come up with a prevention strategy for in-office incidents.

A body kneader addressing a complextasker verbally, instead of just stretching his earlobes for better focus, as ordered, that’s so off. It might have been nothing but a “hi”, but to minds like Stakhay’s, that’s the butterfly triggering the tsunami. He was on the point of…

There. He doesn’t even recall the breakthrough he was making. Gone.

Even one spark of his brilliance getting lost is a tragedy. Mindless destruction, just like in the waste age. And look what they did to the planet? Even space is starting to look positively habitable compared to that hot smelly mess. And Stakhay’s beautiful mind is next.

Stakhay urgently needs his shrink.

If only this particular staff wasn’t so talkative. There’s no way yet to make these work on mute. 

Stakhay shivers under the next wave of envy.

Bloody lucky future folks: Holidays in space and silent shrinks.

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!