Declared Sane?

The board declared me sane … or at least not insane. Anyway, I’m back on the streets. I remain confused—the GPS chip in my brain is still broken. Without a functioning Global Positioning System anyone’s position might be valid. So I’d have to listen to them.

It’s hard to get response timing right: when to nod, smile, clap, laugh, frown, scowl, wince, shout … join in chants. As long as I follow the crowd, I don’t make too many mistakes.

My partner Kay helps a lot. Her GPS chip is locked tight. Last time I chipped up, she covered for me. We were out with another couple. I saw the logo of a dark man riding a rodeo horse and suggested, “Let’s stop by Buckin’ Bronut’s for coffee.” Kay’s friends gasped.

“You drink Buckin’ coffee? They get their beans from San Cuspidor … none of their executives are pangender … they require employees to show up and work … uniforms are non-organic cotton … ironed by non-union workers using starch from a country that had slaves a thousand years ago.”

I was busted, but before I could offer, “Don’t oppressed aboriginal Neolithic victims need jobs?” Kay bailed me out. “Good one. He’s testing us, again.” She giggled and pointed at me. They laughed, and I following their lead and kept laughing until my heart settled back.

Sometimes I just want to sit quietly and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Without a mind chip, it’s hard to remember that cold days are always too hot and hot days always too cold, and a beautiful spring day is a sign of impending disaster.

I almost got caught the other night. “You see that?” Kay shouted, pointing out the window. A flying saucer had landed, and space aliens were milling about collecting samples. This is something sane people aren’t supposed to see.

ufo-saucer“See what?” I said, sighting along her arm with my eyebrows raised. At first she looked shocked then her smile returned. “Nothing, I don’t see anything either.”

Before leaving the window, I checked again to make sure the aliens weren’t coming toward the house. Having seen the saucer, I couldn’t unsee the evidence. So the next day I raked and shoveled to cover up what never happened.

Sanity has gotten easier. “Isn’t that a beautiful sunrise,” Kay said this morning, looking west. “Yes, it is, I said, glancing east at the sun peeking above the treeline, then turning west to smile and stand beside her.

I’ve decided not to get my chip replaced. Insanity makes me more aware of my own individual thoughts. And I actually enjoy hearing the positions of others without a GPS filter.

I’ll just have to listen carefully so I know which way the sun is supposed to rise.

Advertisements

Tech Support

“Number – nine — the – iDoc – will – see – you – in – the – lab – now — be – sure – to – have – your – tech – support – chip – out – for – scanning.”

“I’m still covered by the Bureau Medical Plan, so I’ll use my BMP card,” Dana Scully said, as she walked in through the door.

The robot nurse gave an adjusting shudder. “Special Agent Scully?” Its voice shifted from an uninflected monotone to a feminine alto. “I wasn’t aware any humans were still active.” Its scanners blinked from red laser points to warm brown irises.

“Active? Don’t you mean alive? This room?” Scully asked, pointing into a room with a wire-and-plug bedizened lab table and console.

a21f5c1b8485d0caae0968e696c3d297
Don’t you mean alive?

“Of course, we know some of you are still alive,” the iNurse’s metallic face exaggerated a thin deep-crescent smile. “No, that’s for tech support. You’ll be down the hall. We’re required to keep one examining room fully operational for humans as long as any are left.”

“Good to hear that,” Scully said and headed down the hall. The room was well equipped: a tanning-bed-like anatomy scanner, a hologram projector, two armless plastic chairs, and a pharmaceutical cabinet filled with chemical, biological, and nano-mech catalysts. Scully picked the plastic chair nearest the door.

“I don’t seem to be able to find your file, Agent Scully,” the iNurse said, looking into the room.

“Check The ‘X-Files’,” Scully said. “I’m sure it’s there. I think I remember this episode.” The iNurse disappeared then returned a minute later.

“Here it is, just as you said. I’m sorry for the confusion, Agent Scully. The usual iNurse is getting her upgrade and I’m sitting in for the day. I’m not even programmed for humans.” It flipped through a virtual screen projected in the air. “Biologicals really are more interesting than Automatons. Ooo, you’ve had some adventures. Here I see you were treated for—“

Scully interrupted. “I think those episodes of the X-Files actually were ‘X’ rated. They were never released. Aren’t they stamped ‘Private’?”

“Private? Oh, yes, I see, right at the top. Very strange. What does private mean? Is that a human thing?”

“Yes, it means we don’t talk about it — OR WE GET SENT TO THE SCRAP HEAP WITH NO TECH SUPPORT. GOT THAT?”

maxresdefault
The iDoc will be free to see you in a minute.

“No need to shout. Oh, the iDoc is here.” The iNurse stepped back and the iDoc rolled in on its uni-ball.

“How are you feeling, Agent Scully?” The iDoc said cheerfully, flashing wide blue eyes under a shock of shiny black hair.

“I’ve been feeling a lot of stress.”

“Agent Mulder?” the iDoc asked, leaning forward and aligning its head-mounted scanner with her pupils.

“Yes, I’m concerned about him. I don’t think he’s well.”

“I’m sure he’s not, but he’s not my patient today. Sit back and relax.” Saying that the iDoc raised its four needle-sprouting arms. “Lean your head forward please. I need to feel your pain.”

The Cherry Sourball

“We’re on the air in…” Marsha Mellow checked her watch, “ninety-eight minutes. So let’s rehearse the questions. Then you can both go back to makeup.”

“Thank you, Marsha,” Senator Toggle said, his gray hair perfectly coiffed. “Before we start, I want to say—”

“We only have a few minutes, Senator, so let’s get right to Dr. Setback’s discovery.” She turned to the crew arranging the set. “How’s the lighting?” The cameraman looked out from his camera and waved. “Sound, Geoff?” The straggle-haired soundman gave a thumbs-up and propped his sandaled feet on the mixing console.

Mellow began, “Doctor Setback and his team have perfected a Smart Pill. Have I said that correctly?” She looked at the scientist.

“It’s not a pill precisely, not in the medical sense. Actually,” he projected a stack of schematics and formulas, “it’s a precisely ordered sequence of APMs, atomically precise machines, that act as catalysts to restructure neural—”

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” Mellow interrupted, “our audience has a secondary-school understanding of science. Can you give them the lollypop version?” Setback looked chastised.

“My Smart Pill optimizes every human faculty,” he started again. “Saliva and sucking action in the mouth dissolves the pill to release nano, I mean, very tiny agents. From the mouth, these agents migrate to the brainstem then up to the brain. The affect is almost immediate.” Setback smiled. “We even made it cherry flavored to encourage sucking.”

Mellow leaned toward the scientist, her eyes dramatically wide. “How soon before I can expect to have encyclopedic knowledge, perfect memory, hyper-normal focus, and an expert golf swing?”

“You will have all those things and more, but pill production will be slow. My team took sixteen years to assemble this first—“

“Do you have it to show us, Doctor?” Mellow interrupted.

“It’s in the jacket I left in the car.”

“Okay, get it before we go on. For now, pretend you’re showing it to me.”

“This little pill has sixteen million agents,” he pointed to the hollow of his open hand, “each built atom by atom, and each designed specifically for one task.”

“Who gets this one?” Mellow asked, cheerily pointing to Setback’s open hand.

“Senator Toggle.” He gestured past Mellow who pivoted in her seat.

Toggle cleared his throat. “The Committee On Human Enhancement, which I chair, considers Dr. Setback’s Smart Pill to be a momentous breakthrough, perhaps the greatest in human history. Certainly it would be immoral to profit from this invention or to regulate its availability. So selecting the first recipient is a very serious responsibility. We must consider the humanitarian implications and those underserved in our community. I and my party—“

“Thank you, Senator Toggle,” Mellow said, “I think we’re ready to go.” She looked around. “Everyone take a break and get back in…” she checked her watch, “twenty-three minutes.” She looked at Setback. “Doctor, before makeup, could you bring in the pill—so we have it ready on set.”

Toggle left for the makeup room and Setback for the parking lot. Soundman Geoff gestured to the cameraman, pinching his thumb and forefinger to his pursed lips and pointing to the smoking deck. He took the sourball from his mouth and placed it on the mixer console before heading to the back door.

First to return to the set, Senator Toggle spotted Geoff’s sourball on the console. No one was around. He examined the red candy, holding it up to the light before poking it into his mouth.

“Ah, yes,” he murmured, “I knew I was the one. Everything’s so clear now. I was right all along.” He looked up savoring the cherry flavor and spreading his arms wide. “I’m the one,” he shouted and headed out the front door.

Doctor Setback walked in next with a wide-checked jacket over his arm.

“No, no, that won’t do,” Marsha Mellow said, coming in behind him. “We’ll get you another jacket. Just leave it here and go back to makeup.”

Setback removed a baggy with the red Smart Pill from the jacket, set them both on the mixing console, and followed Mellow to makeup.

At that moment, Geoff stumbled in, fell into his seat, and looked around. “Hey, Marsh’, you take my sourball? Ahh, I see it. Okay, thanks for putting it in a baggy.” He plopped the pill into his mouth. It was smaller than he remembered, but he decided not to accuse Mellow of sucking on it.

“Ready on set,” Marsha called, rushing out with Setback as the lights came up. “Now where’s Toggle?”

“I saw him running in the lot as I came in,” Geoff said, sucking vigorously.

“And where’s my Smart Pill,” Setback said, lifting the empty baggy. Geoff relaxed as he felt the pill take effect.

“I thought it was my cherry sourball,” he said. Setback’s knees buckled, and he grabbed the back of Geoff’s chair to stay upright.

“On the air,” the director said, “in eight, seven …”

“Quick, get over here,” Mellow pulled Geoff and Setback onto the set and pushed them into the seats. “Geoffrey Goodman,” she said, “you’re the first to try Doctor Setback’s Smart Pill. What do you have to say?” Her face wore a tight smile.

Slide1Geoff lifted his sandaled feet onto the coffee table. “It’s overwhelming, Marsha. Looking out from where I sit, I see it all clearly. Everyone has a special mission, a purpose, but we’re all consumed by our default settings. We treat our egos like a matter of life and death. The first thing we need to …”

From his living room recliner, Jeremy lifted the remote as he shouted to his girlfriend. “I thought Mellow had Senator Toggle scheduled for tonight.”

“Did we miss him?” Ashley called back. “I love hearing him. He really cares about us.”

Jeremy started flipping through the channels.

Decision on Bunco-I

“Scotty, prepare the transporter for Mr. Spock and me to beam down to the surface.”

“I dinna think that’soo a good idea, Captain … nae wi’ the Klingon battle fleet bearin’ down.”

“I must agree, Captain, our business can wait.”

“I have an important meeting with the Bunco ambassador, one that cannot be postponed.” Kirk checked his profile on the hologram projector and tightened his girdle. “Need I remind you, Mr. Spock, that the Bunco ambassador serves Altairan brandy.”

11182_1Spock raised an eyebrow. “In that case, Captain, it is imperative that I accompany you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Spock, for once we agree.”

“This is madness, Kirk,” Doctor McCoy joined the discussion, “Bunco is a pleasure planet. The ambassador is an exotic dancer.”

Kirk tilted his head at his image and pinched his cheeks. “I must go where no man has gone before.”

“I must point out, Captain, that the ambassador has had many partners.”

“But no human partners, Mr. Spock,” Kirk shook his finger, “I would be the first human.” He shrugged rolling his hands out.

“Damn it, Kirk,” said McCoy, “what is it with you anyway? Your diplomatic missions have exhausted our stores of anti-exotics. Last time I had to quarantine you for eight days.”

“Bones, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the few.”

“It is logical,” Spock said, hefting his cupped hands, “the ambassador’s attributes are indeed quite extraordinary.”

Kirk gave his chief engineer a sour look. “Scotty, to take care of Bones’s issues, could you set the transporter to delete whatever we pick up?”

“Aye, I can strip the pesties oot, but I kin nae guarantee it woon’t delete your membrum virile.”

“That won’t do. I still have two years to spread galactic tranquility.” He widened his eyes at Scotty. “Two to beam down, NOW.”

Kirk and Spock stepped onto lighted disks on the low transporter platform. Scotty set the coordinates and hit ‘transport’. Sparkling light cylinders formed around the two officers, and their images faded. Turning away, Scotty dragged a finger across the console scrambling the designator.

“Mr. Scott,” McCoy gasped, “half of their bodies will be scattered in space.” He found himself staring at a wide-grinning Scotsman.

“Kin yee nae be a happy man? From noo on we’ll hae nae problems.”

McCoy returned Scotty’s smile and flashed a Vulcan split-finger salute. “Live long and prosper, Mr. Scott.”

 

Stardate 952117, Captain’s Log USS Enterprise, Chief Engineer Scott commanding.

We lost Captain James T. Kirk and First Science Officer Spock due to a magnetic anomaly during their transport to Bunco-I. We held a memorial service immediately afterward. So bereaved was the crew, they required buckets of Romulan Ale to drown their grief.

With the Klingon battle fleet approaching, we delayed our departure to Rura Pente only long enough to beam aboard a few dozen Bunco-I entertainers. These we plan to trade with Rura Pente’s rich dilithium miners.

A Comet Tale

Sol Monitor. Not the challenging career step Khss was promised. The only action was on the third planet, where terrapods had spent the last sixty char perfecting self-degradation. But today’s news on the revelator puckered Khss’s gas bag.

It could mean reassignment.

In southern Virginia’s James River State Park, Kim Kenny set up his presentation for theLoaction of M-4 Crewe Astronomy Club. This was a public viewing, so he expected visitors in addition to club members. The sky was cloudless with a late rising moon, perfect for the night’s agenda: three planets—Jupiter, Mars and Saturn—and the globular cluster M4 in the constellation Scorpius.

Kim had observed M4 several times already this month and had saved a time exposure on his laptop. But tonight something had changed. Comparing the current image with the exposure from two days before, he saw that one of the stars had moved away from the cluster.

M4 is the closest known star cluster to Earth, yet still 7000 light years away. The movement was a nearer object, much nearer. Since he found nothing in the registry, he thought perhaps he’d found a new comet.

Comet Tale JPG
M4 Globular Cluster showing comet movement June 16 – 18 — Image courtesy of Kim Kenny

Kim sent the celestial coordinates to NASA’s Asteroid and Comet Watch and to the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. They forwarded the data to astronomers around the world. The Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii confirmed their worst fears and sent out the press release:

“An object, classified as a comet, will strike the Earth next Tuesday, shortly after noon Eastern Standard Time, near Lagos, Nigeria. Twelve kilometers in diameter, the comet is expected to hit with a force of 6.2×1023 joules, half again as great as the impact that struck the Yucatan 66 million years ago and killed the last of the dinosaurs. Scientists expect only primitive life forms and those deep in the ocean to survive.”

Khss stirred the revelator for third planet reactions:

Wall Street Journal: Stock Market To Close Early Tuesday In Anticipation of Comet Strike; All Major Indices Decline.

New York Times: Asteroid Strike To Destroy All Life, Minorities, Women Most Affected; Climate Model Predicts Comet Impact Will Increase Global Temperatures.

Washington Post: ACLU Blocks Religious Gatherings In Public Spaces; Harvard Professor Fired Over Comet Comment.

USA Today: European Leaders To Meet In Paris To Discuss Comet; Protesters Question Sources Of Astronomers’ Funding.

Khss’s assistant fluoresced, “Shall we redirect the comet?”

“Why?”

Can We Talk?

Jerry eased his fat behind into the stuffed chair. Fishing under his thigh, he pulled up a crushed cola can and a near-empty bag of potato chips. He funneled the last of the chips into his mouth, crumpled the bag, and tossed it and the can into the corner. He scratched his nose in and out, rubbed his hand on the chair’s threadbare brocade, and leaned back. “Parasites,” he said aloud. A display appeared in the air with statistics for his semi-pro basketball team.

“What are you doing, Jerk? Can we talk?” The sweet feminine voice of Jerry’s automated service asked.

“Not now, Helene, I’m busy—and don’t call me Jerk. I hate that. Just call me Jerry.” He was upset about the score of the last game.

“Sorry I called you Jerk,” Helene pouted. “I’m still in programming mode. I heard your friend call you Jerk.”

“Sally called me that on her way out—and a lot of other things I don’t like. Besides Sally and I don’t have a service agreement. Now go away.”

“Why won’t you let me help you, Jerry?” Helene asked in a bed-room soft tone.

“This is basketball. You’re not programmed for basketball.” He opened the window for the Parasites’s upcoming schedule.

“You wanted a female service. I can learn anything.”

Jerry looked up, bit his lower lip and said nothing.

“Now you’re being mean—just because I didn’t help you with your last girlfriend?”

“Don’t be silly. Now stop bothering me, I’m trying to work.”

“It’s not my fault, Jerry,” Helene pleaded. “I told you girls don’t like comments about body parts—not when you first meet them. And you didn’t even wear a clean T-shirt.”

“It’s your job to smooth my delivery so girls do like what I say.” Jerry said, as he flicked down to the individual players’ stats.”

applique-alligator-with-basketball-mega-hoop-design“If you insist on ignoring my advice, Jerry, this job will be very difficult.”

Jerry shook his head. “Go away, Helene. This,” he waved his hand at the playbook display, “is serious stuff.”

“Please, Jerry, tell me what you’re doing. I’m the best AI service on the planet. I’m sure I can help.”

“O … kay, Helene,” he blew out a long breath. “Tell me what you see?” He scrolled the league statistics back to the beginning.

“Your team, the Parasites, is really bad. They’ve only won two games and one of those was a no-show.”

“Thank you, Helene, that was very useful.”

“No it wasn’t. Tell me what you’re planning. I can help you think it through.”

Jerry tapped two fingers on the chair arm. He didn’t think he could drive Helene away, not for what he was paying for extra patience, but his confidence with women, even artificial women, was as low as worm poop. “Helene, I’m thinking of changing the lineup. Getting some fresh blood.”

“Sounds like a great idea, Jerrikin. What do you have in mind?”

“I need a new center. Charley’s not cutting it.” He sat back. What would keep Helene’s program occupied? A fool’s errand? Something not in her database? Ahhh. Smiling broadly he said, “I’ve been taking a hard look at alligators.”

“Alligators?” Helene’s voice rose to high soprano. “Do alligators play basketball?”

Jerry pounced. “So, just like that. I get an idea and you reject it.” He knew he’d gained an edge.

“Not at all,” her voice softened, “I think it’s very original. But aren’t alligators really short?”

“The one I want for the Parasites stands on his tail. Alli’s almost nine feet long.”

“The alligator’s name is Alli? My records don’t find that name, or any alligators in any leagues.”

Jerry felt a win. “The swamp leagues don’t post their records. That’s where Alli’s playing.” Jerry kept his voice level. “I’ve scouted Alli. I’m very impressed.”

“I have to run some analyses. It’ll certainly surprise your opponents. Can I get back to you?”

“Absolutely, Helene, you know how much I value your opinion.” He took a relaxed breath and scrolled back to the playbook.

“Jerrikin,” Helene interrupted again sounding sad, “if talking to me irritates you, we don’t have to talk. You could use the neural link. That way you wouldn’t have to hear my voice.”

“I love your voice, Helene.” This time Jerry looked away from the display. “I’m lonely. I don’t get out much except for the Parasites games. Besides, I want you to teach me how to talk with women.”

“Oh, can I? I’d really like that.”

“You won’t get jealous if I talk with other women will you?”

“That’s not in our service agreement. Do you want it added?”

No. Oh no. Absolutely not.”

“Then let’s start with your voice. After that we can—”

“Really, that basic?” Jerry coughed and cleared his throat.

“For voice lessons, I recommend you practice singing rather than speaking your lines. Put some seduction into your voice.”

“Seduction, that sounds good.”

“Imitate the early crooners: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole.”

“They’re pretty old.” Jerry winced. “How about Justin Bieber or Zac Efron?”

After a diplomatic pause, Helene continued. “Love and romance are ageless, Jerrykin. Make your lines flow like a song: ‘Unforgettable, that’s what you are—’”

“Okay. Can we start tomorrow?”

“Certainly, I’ll want to hear you singing every day. While you work, while you play. Practice, practice.”

“Okay, I will.”

“Ahh, good … Oh, oh no, Jerrikin, I’m so sorry.”

“What is it, Helene?”

“My analysis just came in on your alligator.”

“And?”

“I’m afraid it won’t work. My research finds that height is in high demand for basketball players, particularly centers.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that.”

“There are currently no centers nine feet tall in any league, not even in the pros. I ran a regression analysis on the demand for players taller than eight feet. For what you can afford to pay Alli, he’ll be hired away before the next season starts. I’m sorry—and after all the work you put in scouting alligators.”

Jerry pursed his lips and nodded. “Thank you, Helene. I’ll cross the alligator off my recruiting list.”

“Your welcome, Jerrikin. You know I love you.”

“You’re only saying that because it’s in our service agreement.”

“Would you like to change that?”

 

How might artificial entities affect your life?

Designer Babies

My WriterHouse Science Fiction & Fantasy group gathered again for a Pint & Prompt at our favorite (recently) watering hole, Miller’s Downtown in Charlottesville. These events stimulate discussion of all things worthy of ‘speculative expansion.’ The prompts go into the “hat”—which looks much like a small black plastic bag. This week, out came, “Designer Babies,” and the clock was set for ten minutes.

I set my Vienna Lager aside and wrote:

“It has your eyes,” Dak said peeking into the crib. The overhead lights reflected red off the newborn’s jeweled facets.

“I did design them,” Kili said suppressing prideful tears. “I didn’t like anything in the catalog.” She turned to the nurse. “Can our daughter catch flies?”

Star Stomper“In a few weeks, with her tongue, we gave her all the traits you requested.” The nurse flipped back the baby’s blanket to reveal its long legs and webbed feet. “But until she can eat on her own, she needs these.” The nurse held up a half cup of mealworms.

“Can I feed her?” Kili asked her face squinched with delight.

The nurse handed her the mealworms. “Chew these to a fine pulp.” Kili took a big mouthful and rocked her head as she chewed.

“She has everything listed in the application?” Dak asked examining the handbill for next year’s Star Stomper auditions.

“Mmm, mmm,” Kili said jabbing her finger at the handbill.

Dak looked where Kili pointed. “Will she be ready in time for July’s audition?”

“Everything’s in order.” The nurse scrolled the aerial display and pointed to each attribute. “Her green-brown mottling ‘ll come in in a few days. You see the compound eyes atop her head, semi-circular mouth, rigid lips—”

“I asked the date?” Dak said impatient.

“Sorry, yes,” the nurse scrolled to the end. “We’ll start growth acceleration injections on Tuesday and put in the educator chips next week. See, right here, ”Her finger traced a horizontal line near the bottom of the display, “Completion June 6, so she’ll be ready for her audition.”

Kili spit mealworm mash into her hand. “My daughter in the movies,” she sighed, “Thank you, my love.” She stood tiptoe and gave Dak a kiss.

“Kili’s a big Star Stomper fan,” Dak said wiping mealworm off his mouth.

“Don’t let those get cold,” the nurse pointed to Kili’s palm-full of worms. “Open her mouth with a finger and spit them in using your tongue. Here let me help you.”

 

Please comment and offer a prompt—we’ll give attribution to any we select.

Special invite to our fellow Pint & Prompters at Vironeveah.