Tag Archives: SciFi

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.

Match over?

“You’re anyway supposed to have started at age six. To make it into the top, imperative to start early. Real early. Which you didn’t, Lano. To the best of my knowledge, and loads of knowledge there is, with all the jerseys I get to wash these days, over and over and over again, you started at eight. Eight, Lano. Two more than six. You’ll never…”

He should be well on his way to practice. Instead, he gets an earful of this ignorance. She’s got no clue. He’s destined to become the best player the world ever witnessed. That’s a fact. Coach said so. That same Coach who will be mad at him for arriving late. If he misses practice, he might not play on Sunday. A catastrophe, to be prevented at all costs.

Lano considers killing the obstacle. Unfortunately, she’s huge, a mountain of purple velvet home dress blocking the door. Too big to handle, even for the most gifted of athletes. He’s tall, for an eleven year old. But not tall enough, yet.

Killing her would also be considered an overreaction. “You need to learn not to lose your temper, Lano,” Coach said. “You can’t keep blowing up like that all over the place, for nothing. Save that temper for the pitch and your attacking, Lano, and you’ll go far.”

Coach always speaks true. Sometimes, you don’t like what he says, but true it still is. Like with how to kick the ball to make it go not straight. You think “Now that’s bullshit!”, because how Coach tells it can’t work. You still do as told, because that’s how you behave, at practice. And boom, you score. From the corner right into the goal. Coach was shockingly right, like adults never are. Coach is so special. Coach proves you can grow up into something worth being.

“… you can’t just play every day. There’s more to life than balls. Match over, young man. And now, you will sit down at that table and do your homework. And when you’re done, the dishes need washing. Oh yes, the dishes. I saw you, Lano, skipping your turn at the broom. Don’t know how you made your poor little brother do your chore, but you’ll sure as hell do his in return. And when you’re done with the dishes, you go find your dad and check if he needs help…”

Despicable. Trying to keep him from practice, and getting everything else wrong, too.

Fari offered to do the dishes, in return for Lano keeping Haro in check. By age, Haro should be in Lano’s class. His parents kept him at home for three more years, considering him too fragile for school. Now, he’s no longer fragile and does attend. Being one head taller and double the weight of his classmates, he makes them hand over anything he fancies.

Lano told him to stop that, at least with Fari, and preferably with the other kiddies, too. At first, Haro screamed, because he didn’t like his head pushed into the toilet bowl. Lano kept the pressure steady and explained, patiently, how they would repeat this exercise every day, unless first the screaming and next the bullying of the kiddies stopped. He also explained how informing an adult would be a bad idea. Haro is not exactly bright, might have ratted by mistake. Lano’s forceful technique and patient approach worked, just like Coach foretold.

“… so this would be the moment where you drop that sports bag, sit down and get the bloody hell going on that homework. Lano, one more look like that, and I’ll have to tell your dad you rebelled again. You know how your dad won’t like that, and all the good he thinks of that stupid law supposed to prevent one from teaching one’s own kids manners…”

He should have opened the window. Three jumps – desk, window frame, sidewalk. With a little luck, he wouldn’t even damage her bloody vitaweeds. Easy exercise, but only with an open window. Coach is so right, when he insists you also need to think. Mental note always to open that window first thing after coming home from school.

With the window currently closed, there’s only one alternative, a barely feasible option. Pretend to go for the tight right side, making her move there even more, switch directions at the last moment to squeeze through on the left. With the sports bag as battering ram, this might just work. If she catches him, he’s in for serious trouble, but with a match at stake… “No risk, no fun” says Coach. Keeping that motto well in mind, Lano takes the plunge.

He hurt his elbow on the door frame and had to shake of her grip a bit too vigorously, judging by the pitch of her screaming, but he made it out of his room and into the corridor. Piece of cake to outrace her to the front door, open it, close it before she gets there, and run.

He’s really late, because of this stupid maternal interference.

Racing through the heavy traffic on main road, Lano relies on the safety features of the autonomous electric vehicles to clear his path. They have to brake, when confronted with a pedestrian, saving him time. They’ll also record his locator chip information and denounce him as traffic vandal. As a repeat offender, he’s in for some more civic duty. No problem. The artificial intelligence handling minor offenses will look at his profile, identify his football playing as the one bright spot to build a future on and assign sports facility maintenance work. On his last conviction, he had to clean the locker room of the professionals and met Dayé. Dayé! In person! And he posed with him!

If only his stupid skimpy dad made enough to buy him proper bump sole sneakers instead of this second hand shit. It’s just four kilometers, but he can’t keep up his top speed for more than eighth hundred meters before feeling the strain. By the time he reaches the practice pitch, the oomph will be gone from his legs, meaning he might not play on Sunday. All because of that stupid fat bitch.

His team is already on the pitch, all dressed up. Legalistically speaking, they’re not really his team. “Thirteen year olds won’t take an eleven year old as their captain, Lano, you’ve got to understand that.” Coach explained. “They’ll do your bidding on the pitch, because of your temper and skill, but I can’t formally declare you captain. That’s the price to pay, for playing ahead of your age. Tough luck, but I trust you to take it like a man.” Which Lano does, of course. 

Turns out this is Lano’s lucky day after all.

First he gets to rest his strained legs. Coach arrives even later than him because a group of stoned pedestrians blocked the only access road to the posh gated community where he lives. They’re demanding access to drinking quality tap water for everyone everywhere, not just the the upper million. Very extreme radicals, even though it’s a nice idea, when you think about it.

Next, Lano finally performs on his free kicks. He has been practicing on his own, in the dark of very early morning. On the empty plot next to the roaring desalination plant, the only spot where no one minds the noise. And the practice pays off. His impeccable performance confirms he will not only be playing on Sunday, he’ll also be in charge of any free kicks. 

Finally, when they’re nearly done with practice, Lano’s dad comes rushing, daring to interrupt Coach’s closing pep talk. Such a shame, to be blighted by a badly behaved parental.

But the misfortune soon gives way to the brightest of developments:

Coach shouts back at Lano’s dad, not mincing his words at all. About how it’s a crime, a serious crime, to try to interfere with what is obviously a “one-in-a-billion vocation”. And Lano’s dad to go: “One-in-a-billion vocation? Well, if that’s what you think, he’s all yours. Just come get him, better right here, right tonight than tomorrow. Good riddance, and good luck with him.”

And so it happened. The adults did some kind of paperwork, and Lano got to sleep one night at Coach’s home. A really posh place, with thick carpets and all. And the bit about the good tap water got confirmed, but they still drink bottled. The next day, a driver came for him. He was transferred to the Academy, and his career took off.

“One-in-a-billion vocation.” Lano always recalls this moment, to focus. How his first coach said it. So passionate, so one thousand percent sure to be right.

A lot has happened, in the twenty years since.

Lano no longer considers any of the many coaches he has more endured than enjoyed a deity. He’s on excellent terms with his parentals. They had a point, insisting on a life beyond football. He had a point, insisting on this career. Match nil, friends.

“One-in-a-billion vocation.” Lano takes a deep breath, and scores the penalty. Two more goals to go, to get them to the next round. Two weeks from now, he might be a happy man and a World Champion. Or just a happy man. Both options fine with him. Match over?

Black Hat Hack

„I‘ve got it! Listen to this one: „Conventional auto-black turns you tan-wreck? Never again: A new you with Lagos blue.‘ That‘s good. Powerful. Suggestive. We‘re done, team.“

Riba Shi leans back on his lounger, a fluffy white affair. The guru on his cloud has spoken. His virtual reality glove points at the bright future, a larger than life 3D representation of a bottle of their new product taking centre stage. 

Taru Van squeezes the steering wheel adorning her own lounger, a red sports-car. Never no criticism to be uttered in a brainstorming session. Not even when the ultimate poser comes up with the worst slogan ever, and expects you to applaud.

Smile. Focus on doing better.

Let someone else stop that phrase from ruining the prospects of a perfectly viable product.

Not easy, in the fifth hour of a pre-launch meeting that was supposed to last ninety minutes. 

Taru Van normally cherishes the forty second floor view. Today, watching the sun glide into the glittering Lagos Lagoon is insufficient compensation for the ongoing hardship. 

Seven of them steaming, faces gleaming despite the perfect chill.

Production reported upscaling issues. Business as usual a this stage. What works fine for a one hundred liter lab container might not produce the same results in a ten thousand liter tank. Adjustments needed to be made here, there, and at one more step. As if anyone not involved in the actual manufacturing process cared. But it‘s mandatory to pretend to listen, while checking messages or compiling the groceries shopping list for the weekend.

Unless you‘re over-diligent Quality Control. Their representative, the new guy, listened for real. He didn‘t like what he heard and countered with an impromptu thirty minute stand-up. Something about potential shelf life issues caused by all those last minute twists, including a most deplorable one initiated by Financial insisting on cheaper packaging. The scene sent Taru Van wondering if the new guy will last long enough to make it worthwhile to memorize his name.

International distribution contributed unexpected regulatory requirements. Some minor markets have funny ideas, concerning product specifications. Compliance not achievable at short notice, unless additional resources are made available. Proposal to reduce the initial launch scope. Once the product is established in the trendsetting mega-cities, the backwater clients will clamor for access, and the regulators will go flexible. Business as usual, again. And Financial of course demanded additional savings, to make up for the lost earnings from the Americas, the Europes and Japan.

This triggered another angry rant from Quality Control. Absolutely no way for them to postpone the purchase of some expensive equipment. Taru Van noticed how attentively Financial listened. A bad sign. Typically leads to a spreadsheet. First stage of doom. The new guy in Quality Control excels at digging his own grave. Definitely no need for her to learn that name.

All this was bad, and excruciatingly long-winded. Taru Van suffered. But compared to the currently ongoing disaster, the first phase of the meeting was a holiday.

The latest management fad from Cairo has wormed its way into the occasionally cloudy mind of their technically incompetent but extremely charismatic CEO:

„Only creative tasks will retain the best talent. Provide them with the chance to shine, and they’ll stay. In-house all the creative tasks currently outsourced to advertising agencies.“ 

At thirty five, Taru Van has seen her fair share of fads foam up, and trickle back down.

She‘s old enough to recall last century style meetings, with chairs around a conference table instead of a 3D projection area. Her internship at a small health food company led by an ancient eco-warrior taught her more history than twelve years of virtual immersion at school. That boutique insisted on keeping equipment until it broke down. Which chairs and tables do far less frequently than 3D equipment. An obsolete meeting culture persisted.

When Taru Van moved on to a proper job, her new colleagues called her first encounter with a virtual reality glove the best office comedy ever. She had to endure a lot of jokes, until the next generation of devices was rolled out and everybody had to acknowledge that she’s actually quite good at technology. She has survived her share of fads and will survive more.

But middle management sloganeering?! That‘s never going to work.

Oh, good. Klen Fado from R&D is doing the needful to stop Riba Shi‘s stupid phrase.

Taru Van wants to sleep at home tonight. She needs a slogan.

Creativity 101, let your mind wander.

Without personalized loungers, their forebears had to make do with variations in business attire, to express their inner selves. The likes of Riba Shi wore broad, aggressively colored ties. Ladies were provided with slightly more choice. An early Taru Van would have gone business vamp.

A bright red dress, in sharp contrast with her black skin. Flashy, in a cute, outmoded way.

But wearing the usual aluminiumish suit on her sports car lounger, that‘s far more comfortable. Safety and hygiene would also have been issues, with legacy attire. And who‘d dare go without functional garb, when every street corner is plastered with posters reminding citizens: „You like to breathe? You hate to bake? Wear functional, for a good ambiance!“

Creativity 101 strikes. Totally unlike lightening. Taru Van clears her throat and goes:

„Klen Fado, Riba Shi, apologies for interrupting your perfectly fascinating exchange, but how about this permutation: ‚Lagos blue. Wear it. Feel it. Live it.‘“

Taru Van did it. Their faces tell it all. Five displays of relief, one case of badly concealed hatred.

The appreciative comments come flooding:

„Without even mentioning it makes you look like naturally black people? That‘s clever. The lighties are going to love it. Already hear them lying: ‚It‘s a wellness thing, really. Would never aspire to conceal my natural skin color. Not my way. The darkening, that‘s just a side effect.“

„People will wonder, what‘s behind that slogan. We want them to guess. To get them emotionally engaged. And ready for the product they’re about to discover. Sometimes, you need to gate crash. Sometimes, you better sneak in through the back door.“

„What I really like is how we don‘t even deign compare with conventional darkeners. Auto-black, that‘s basically the concept of cooking oil applied to humans. Sick, plain sick. Millions dying too early, because of all this sun-bathing and the cancers it triggers. People don’t want to turn crusty. They don’t insist on premature death. They long for dark. Totally different game…“

Klin Fado from R&D in passionate mode, that‘s going to take a while.

Taru Van has heard it all, many times, and lets her mind wander once again.

She can‘t help wondering how the aliens feel about this scene, if they‘re listening in.

The upper floor neighbors, as they‘re mostly referred to nowadays, are assumed to have access to all virtual reality equipment. That‘s where they show up, once or twice a year.

As dark skinned women, with African or South Asian looks. The scene always unfolds according to the same script: The nightly entertainment of some innocent middle class family gets interrupted by a thirty second statement urging them to make the world a better place: „We have this dream…”

Same exhortation, for fifty years. The world obviously isn‘t a good enough place yet.

Despite the substantial efforts triggered by the persistent neighborly interest.

The aliens never threaten to use force. But signals scientifically certified as coming from one and the same very distant spot are scary. Even more so when there is exactly nothing, no potential source whatsoever, at that spot. Not even according to the most advanced instruments.

Superior technology taking an interest in local affairs, that’s not negligible.

Governments, supranational institutions and charities dutifully devised policies. And a global multitude of individuals decided not to end up on the wrong side of the upper floor neighbors. Showing off receipts for donations and diligently paid taxes replaced conspicuous consumption as status symbol. And everybody suddenly longed to be black.

That obsession with skin color strikes Taru Van as odd. The aliens manifest themselves as black women. Why the craze about just one of their properties? It’s perfectly possible that being female beats complexion. But global opinion, men and women alike, went the other way.

Taru Van’s father always entertains family gatherings with the anecdote of his first skin darkener client. A regular customer at his convenience shop, a lady with not so dark skin, had bought one tube of lightener per week for years. One day, she suddenly asked if by any the chance the opposite would be available. Preferably without having to sunbath, because heat caused her discomfort. From one week to the next, she had switched aspirations.

„… if you take the numbers seriously, sunbathing in public should be prohibited. We did it for smoking, we did it for unassisted driving, we wouldn’t dream of allowing anyone to operate an internal combustion engine outside of a carefully ventilated museum,…“

Klen Fado‘s voice turns shrieky when passion strikes. Unpleasant. Has to be endured.

A mind has to think. Taru Van tells hers to contemplate a really weird scenario:

If ever the upper floor neighbors turned out to be a black hat hacker exploit, would people switch back? After so many years? Would anyone dare display lack of respect?

Taru Van has endured so much white whining, about black privilege and presumably denied opportunities, she’s sure certain she’d never walk that road. Not even if she experienced actual, verifiable discrimination. Claiming special treatment, that’s so undignified.

Silence? Klen Fado done? A nod from Riba Shi? All is well that ends well – dinner ahead.

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.