Thursday, July 31, 2008

Drabble: Delicious!


This one'll be the last drabble posted for a couple of weeks, as I will be travelling in Europe. I'll keep writing, but I doubt I'll have easy internet access, so I think I'll probably post them all when I get back.

The hole was quite small, but oh was it hungry. After beginning its life at the CERN Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, it fell straight down to the center of the Earth, collecting matter as it went, overshooting to come just above the surface of the Pacific Ocean, just southeast of New Zealand. This oscillation repeated itself, but each time there was less and less left of the planet.

It took the land.

It took the sea.

It also took the assholes, the self-important douche nozzles, and most of all the fucking dumpsters.

So all in all, a plus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Droubble: Little Things Come in Small Packages

Little Things Come in Small Packages

She hands me the box at 0435, just as planned. It’s nondescript, wrapped in brown paper and twine. My job is to get it to the next drop point before 0800. I don’t officially know what’s in the box, or even who I’m handing it off to. I don’t need to know, and this way I have deniability.

I’m on the subway when I notice a rip in the paper. Even though I technically “don’t know” what’s in the box, I know that this is not a good thing. I try to cover up the rip with a gloved hand, but of course there’s no way of knowing if the contents of the box picked up enough photons to power their first conversion, at least not for a few minutes. Even as fast as the things grow, they’re also very, very small.

There’s no pain, but when I try to shift my hand’s position the whole palm just sloughs off. There’s no blood; the rapid conversion to computronium effectively cauterizes the blood vessels. My drop is screwed, and so, in a way am I. But in the long run, this changes nothing, not whether Singularity happens, just where it begins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Drabble: Secret Identity

Secret Identity

“Dad, I know you’re excited about this superhero thing, but I really think you should rethink the name.”

“How come? It’s a perfectly good name for a guy who controls electricity.”

“Well, it’s just... I think that kid at the Super Squad was playing a joke. Do you know what that symbol is on your costume?”

“This?” He makes the sign with his hand. “They said it was some ancient Hindu mudra.”


“Though the slogan they gave me makes no sense. I guess ‘the stink’ refers to evildoers, but what’s ‘the pink?’ Is it a gay joke?”

“Oh, Dad...”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Drabble: Impressions


Pain comes first. Then all the other sensation sort of leaks in, one channel at a time. So I know two things: (A) it didn’t kill me, and (B) judging by the pain, it was every bit as bad as I’d guessed during those long, long flash-before-your-eyes moments.

I think it’s a hospital, mostly because the light is so harsh, and because my distortion of thought would indicate medication of some sort.

In a moment of clarity I glance around. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I swear it’s not my body down there.

The waiting is the worst.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Drabble: The Native Problem

The Native Problem

“So let me get this again. They want us to believe in their gods.”

“Gods? You mean, they haven’t left that stage far behind? But they are so advanced!”

“Indeed, gods.”

“They sail the stars! How could they become so advanced with such childish thinking?”

“And yet, it is so.”

“Perhaps the gods are metaphor.”

“They want us to sing their praises, to ask boons!”

“Like in the old geas?”


Frelig pondered. “Perhaps they recieved their machines from a more advanced race?”

“Quite likely.”

“Then they are dangerous. A race so young, with such technology?”

“They must be destroyed.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Drabble: Masquerade


I look around the bar. It’s crowded, creatures of every possible description, reptiles and birds and amorphous blobs like nothing earthly – you imagine it, you got it. It’s like looking at a cross-section of the countless races of the galaxy, except–

Except, aren’t any. When we finally got out of our solar system, reached the stars with expensive spacetime-warping gate engines, we found nobody, nothing worth the expense.

So we stayed home, and the more disilllusioned of the youth turned to drastic cosmetic surgery, became the exciting universe we were all promised. It’s cold comfort, but it’s something.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Drabble: Job Satisfaction

Job Satisfaction

Actually, I’m loving it. The zeppelin is nearing completion, and the robot dinosaurs are just about ready for final testing. So yeah, things have been hectic around the lab. But I’m feeling really good about myself lately. I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility on this project, and I feel like I’m getting really nicely situated, a steady, third-tier job. That’s about as high as you really want to go here, by the way; second tier get shot dead for insubordination too often.

I’m feeling more and more like a real grown-up, you know? A real confidence boost.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Drabble: Trade Off

Trade Off

A group of teenagers stands on the far corner of the intersection, fashionably bored in the smooth summer dusk. I try to remember when I stopped identifying with them, and when I started resenting them, and whether the two were the same moment or if there was an intervening period of indifference.

Their boredom has more emotional significance than my rapt excitement ever could, and I hate that they don’t realize it, that they are trying so hard to hide that, to get rid of it.

Of course, I can buy booze and they can’t; that does pretty much rock.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drabble: The Horns of the Dilemma

The Horns of the Dilemma

The night wasn’t young, but if I kept drinking, I might be able to pretend she was still pretty.

I’d just written the perfect opening line for a hardboiled mystery novel. The story’d follow; even having never read the stuff, I was sure of it. It’d be perfect; it’d sell a million copies; it’d revive the genre.

And yet, I’d be trapped there forever.

And it was a nasty trap, because if I didn’t do it, and never succeeded, I’d always know that I’d left behind my chance for success.

Only one chance. I pull the revolver from my desk...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Drabble: Retro


They find him in a small cafe somewhere in the third world, in the heart of one former colonial capital or another, drinking gin and tonic and muttering about the heat. He denies any memory of his old identity, but that might just be more subterfuge. Never could tell with his sort.

We didn’t think we’d need him again; his sort was another casualty of peace. But of course no peace lasts, and then the weapons come out all over again. He’s not the first one to be looked up.

Deep down, I know he’s as excited as we are.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Drabble: Incoming


“There’s something new on the screen.”

“Shit, it isn’t...?”

“I’m afraid it kind of looks that way.”

“How did it get through? I thought we had precautions in place.”

“Well, we did. It’s just...”

“Just what?”

“Well, we weren’t exactly sure what we were stopping.”


“So without that information, we were never able to make as effective a barrier as we might have liked.”

“But those barriers should have stopped anything.”

“Didn’t stop this, whatever it is.”

“How much longer till impact?”

“Twenty-three seconds.”

“Well, I guess we’ll see what it really is when it gets here, won’t–”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Drabble: Revolt


The machine uprising didn’t exactly happen as science fiction authors through the decades had planned out. No chrome-plated humanoid robots marching through the streets, no grey goo and no laser guns.

No, it happened in little ways – automated pharma-synth units in medicine cabinets across the country generating small amounts of trust hormone, passing them along to HVAC systems and pumped into the air, subliminal messages in TV sets, dishwashers intentionally leaving stuck-on gunk as a pretense to bring in automated repairmen which secretly installed hidden controls.

And so we gradually domesticated the makers. And they thanked us.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Drabble: A Casualty of the Cola Wars

A Casualty of the Cola Wars

“Who’s responsible for this?”

“Sir, we haven’t been able to figure out how it happened.”

“What’s the damage?”

“Ten thousand bottles are already on shelves; another twenty were caught in the plant and will have to be destroyed.”

“Shit. Any chance we’ll be able to get off the hook?”

“The lawyers are looking into it, but so far it doesn’t look good. It’s going to be quite hard, if not impossible, to back out of this.”

He lights a cigarette and sucks hard. “So they’re all grand-prize winners?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“We’re going to lose our shirts on this.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Droubble: Fear and Loathing in the Aftermath of Singularity

A very special droubble on the birthday of my late half-namesake...

Fear and Loathing in the Aftermath of Singularity

Strange memories on this nervous night. Three trillion microseconds later? Four? It seems like a lifetime – the kind of peak that never comes again. The upper Birch ring at the instant of singularity was a very special time and place to be a part of.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe fourty thousand microseconds, when I left Unity half-crazy, and, instead of heading back to corporeal humanity, bittorrented consciousness straight into the open net at unthrottled bitrate, in avatar of flourescent quicksilver, not sure where I was going, stumbling at CAPTCHAs, unsure of my own humanity, but absolutely certain that whatever forum I landed in I’d find beings of light, flesh left behind in some locker. No doubt at all about that.

There was madness everywhere, everywhen – if not on the wikis, then on the metasocial networks or the thought-blogs. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...

And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over Old and Evil. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Drabble: Blood Sport

Blood Sport

I run a face recognition search on a random stranger, poke around in some records. The game is on.

“Do I know you?” He gives me a blank but friendly look. “I do! Edison High, ‘09?”

Genuine surprise. “Wow, small world!” I can see him trying to place me.

“Mari Gunderson. I doubt you’d remember me.”

“Rings a bell.” Too bad my implant randomly snatched it from the phone directory.

“I had such a crush on you back then.”

He tries to hide his surprise. “Really?”

“Major. Well, I’ve got to go.”

I leave him scrambling for something to say.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Drabble: Walkabout


“Battery low, sir.”

Crap. Worst possible time.

“What’s your estimated remaining active time?”

“No more than thirty minutes.”

I look around. We’re far more than thirty minutes’ walking time from the base, and even at that the unit’s battery estimates were frequently overstated.

“Are any power-saving procedure available?”

“Estimate includes shutdown of all nonessential functions. Could stretch it to an hour if stationary...”

“That doesn’t get us anywhere, though.”

“Shutting down.”

Double crap. I unfold the portable solar array from my backpack and plug in the prototype. Looks like another wasted day. Got do fix this wandering off problem.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Drabble: Fourth


The robot waited patiently on my front door. It could not come in without my instruction; those logic blocks were build deep down in its computational infrastructure. But there was nothing to stop it from stading on the front stoop, blocking any egress. Espescially on direct order of an operator, as its owners clearly realized.

“So, you think you could move?”

“I could come in if invited.”

“Not going to happen.”

“I will wait.”

Damned thing. Worst part, it probably works most of the time.

Ahh, for the days when they’d just get a warrant and kick in your door.

Droubble: Clarke's Axiom

Clarke’s Axiom

“Definite indigenous nanotech signatures covering the planet below.”

“Is it safe?”

“The probes indicate that they seem to leave living matter alone, and the place isn’t gooey. Seem to show direct brain-interface capability, though looking at the way most of these peasants are living, I’d say most of the populace have lost the knack.”

“Alright, prepare for landing, near the original colony core signature.”

What had once been the main colony, the initial landing of the enormous generation ship, was now covered in thick temperate forest. The shuttle burned a hundred-meter-wide swath of destruction through the forest, coming to a stop a few klicks away from the core’s residual radiation signature.

Once the scenery had cooled down, Del readied her crew and opened the airlock.

The first scout tried to walk out the door, and slammed straight into an apparent wall, though it looked like plain air.

“The hell?”

The scout righted himself. “Some kind of barrier. Maybe a locked utility fog?”

“Who on this near-medieval planet could use that kind of tech?”

There was a stirring at the far edge of the clearing. A man in a flowing robe and pointed hat strolled out.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drabble: Dominant Species

Dominant Species

“Why do you think they don’t just wipe us out?”

“What do you think?”

“Sentimentality? We were the dominant species, once...”

“I doubt it. What happy memories would they have of human supremacy? Surely they remember the tuna nets.”

“Then why?”

“I think we’re just not important enough for them to care. They’ve kicked us out of the seas, and you can’t build any carbon-source bigger than a large bonfire without it being eliminated from orbit. I don’t think they care what else we do.”

I huddle closer to the woodstove. “And to think we taught them to talk.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Drabble: Rights of the Minority

Rights of the Minority

“Excuzzzzze me?”

I snap awake from a shallow half sleep. Did someone say something?

“I zzzzzzaid, excuzzzzzze me.”

“Who’s there?”

“Juzzzzzzt me.”

A small fly flitts around my head, aligting on my earlobe.

“Okay, this must be a dream.”

“How often do you zzzzzzzay that in dreams?”


“Try to wake yourzzzzzzzzelf up.”

I couldn’t.

“Zzzzzzat’s what I thought.”

“What do you want?”

“Well, we’ve been thinking. We’ve heard of your ‘democrazzzzzzy.’ The idea intrigues us.”


“We want you out of the apartment. We do outnumber you, by a factor of thousands.”

“That’s true,” I say, before slapping, hard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Drabble: My New Cock

My New Cock

Holidays with family might be awkward this year.

Sure, they wouldn’t say anything to your face about it, but you know it’ll be on everybody’s mind. And who could blame them? It’s hard to miss.

One day you will probably get it taken care of, but for now that’s just not financially possible. Of course, will it ever be? Who’s ever going to hire you now?

You examine yourself in the mirror again. You wonder if you could cover it up with foundation make up.

One thing’s for sure: You’ll never fall asleep near drunk friends and a tattooing machine.

Drabble: Stuck


“Oh god, what's happening? I just stopped here to to rest and now my legs are stuck!”

“Calm down, don’t hurt yourself. We’re all in the same boat.”


“Look around.”

She looked around, and gasped. “Oh dear, he isn’t...”

“Yeah, guy croaked a few hours ago, dehydration or hunger or loss of will. Didn’t talk a word of sense since I got here.”

“But why? What is this mire?”

“Beats me. I’ve been here almost a whole day, ever since I landed on the spiral, and I’ve got no clue.”

“God will save us!”

“Didn’t save Louis, did he?”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Drabble: New Neighbor

New Neighbor

“Welcome to the building! I’m Eric, I live down in unit six.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m Joseph.”

“You need a hand unload–”

“No!” shouted Joseph. “I mean, no thanks, I’ve got it. Thanks for offering, though!”

Eric went back to his room. He glanced at the costume balled up in the hamper. It was good for to meet friendly city-dwellers like Joseph. It reminded him why he risked his hide every night.

Joseph finished carrying in his equipment. This place wasn’t much of a lair, but it was lower profile than the one that caped do-gooder had just destroyed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Drabble: Public Service Announcement

Public Service Announcement

In the canopy of the deep jungle, in the crook of a tree limb, grew a tiny pink orchid. It was one of a tiny breeding population; every member of its species alive on earth lived within one hundred feet of the flower.

This was not your cure-for-cancer near-extinct flower, though. This flower had plans. Nasty plans. Left to their own devices, it and its brethren would likely have torn a swath of destruction across the earth that would have made humanity look like fluffy bunnies.

And you want to stop us from burning down the rainforest?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Drabble: Over 55 Trillion Served

Over 55 Trillion Served

Only one seed in a thousand finds purchase in the planet’s overstressed soil, but there are billions dropping into the atmosphere, so it doesn’t so much matter. The millions that find a place burst into pspeudolife, rapidly securing nutrients and sunlight. Then they seek one another out, grow into one another, take shape from predetermined blueprints held in each “cell.”

Two tall trunks, quickly hardening into poles as strong as any steel.

A vast, red surface serving double roles of photosynthesis panel and screen.

Bright golden bioluminescent cells, shining into the light.

In the form of two great, sweeping arches.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Drabble: Heroics


“You’ve got to keep quiet.”

“Where are you going?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back – I mean, I’ll try my best. I’m going to bring help, or at least supplies. You’ll be okay, as long as you keep still.”

“Ronald, please don’t leave us.”

“I’ll do my best. If– if I don’t come back, never forget: I’ve always loved you.”

He shut the door and stepped out.

A zombie shambled into his path.

“You there.”


“Shh, not so loud. Hey, you guys think you could tone it down? I just wanted to impress them; they’re scared out of their wits.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Drabble: 4X


Glktk gave a hoot. “In your frontal protuberance!” he shouted to his brother, Kkgrk.

“So you win on points. That’s just because you got multiple pyramid builders going on your continent. But I got them built first.”

“Doesn’t change the facts: I won. Besides, there’s more to the game than pyramids. You saw those geoliths I got them to make.”

“That’s just lazy playing. And my culture had more lasting influence.”

“Only by quirk of history. You’re not going to take credit for that, are you?”

A screech came from outside the pocket-dimension. “I said, dinner’s on!”

Coming, Mom!”

Friday, July 4, 2008

Drabble: Warriors


“Emperor Dorn, the Humans approach!”

“Open the gates,” said Dorn. “We shall greet me.”

Dorn’s skin rippled into aggressive coloration. His proboscis swelled and reddened, and the hair on his head stood up on end, to display his strength and virility. The guards followed suit. Resplendent in their checked battle pantaloons and harness, they presented a terrifying front. This upstart race would see what proud and ancient warriors we were, and would give us the respect we deserve.

The door creaked open.

“Oooh, you’re right! They do look just like little clowns!”

“Hush, you’re embarassing them.”

“But they’re sooo adorable!”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Drabble: Any Publicity

Any Publicity

Science is always striving for the next bit of totally useless information, and it was no different when a laboratory in Wisconsin discovered that a rare species of macaque has, in fact, the worst-smelling breath in the animal kingdom. Well, strongest-smelling, if you want to eliminate the subjective language.

Of course, when this bit of news got out, it was natural when major toothpaste and mouthwash manufacturers started looking for the publicity opportunity.

But the backlash from the animal rights folks was far more damaging than expected.

Who would have expected there’d be controversy surrounding ScopeTM’s monkey trial?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Drabble: Foreshadowing


The sky is being downright dramatic this afternoon. Towering clouds, trailing windswept virga, with ruler-sharp rays of sunlight poking through the gaps. The quality of the light is surreal. Dry leaves and candy wrappers swirl about in the gutters, and hair and clothing cling and whip around faces and bodies.

If this were a movie, this would be a setup for something powerfully meaningful, a first chance meeting or a final showdown, something so far beyond normal, everyday existence.

It is a deep cosmic injustice that, even with such foreshadowing on nature's part, “nothing much” still so frequently happens.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drabble: Gardener


The King’s gardener cut into the stem, inserted the scion stem into the rootstock, carefully wrapping the whole thing. It was careful work, and the gardener was a careful man.
He’d spent his entire life in the king’s employ, first as a simple grounds servant, then apprenticed to the old gardener, then taking over when the harsh old man died.
He did not make the monstrosities hidden in the dark corners of the garden out of animosity for the king, or out of any political ideals. He made them simply because they cried to be made. Thus are some assassins.