Brevity is the width of soul.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In the shape of a question

They didn't call themselves 'uploads', 'AIs', or 'ghosts'. They were just people. It's how they felt, and there was nobody else on Earth to contradict them.

So they played for simulated centuries in the infinite memory spaces of the network, resurfacing now and then to look around the silent planet littered with self-contained computer hosts.

Mankind had finally conquered death by casting away its own flesh.

At least, that was how they remembered it happening. And if you couldn't trust your memory files, then what could you trust?


Sunday, May 27, 2007


They don't keep him as a prisoner, but they don't let him leave the Special Unit's lab. Or perhaps he just doesn't want to go anywhere, and they couldn't stop him if he wanted to.

Of course, if the security measures are strong enough to rein him, then he has no value, and the measures have no point. But if he has, if he is who he might be, then no expense would be too much.

So, naturally, they have him caged, but only up to an arbitrary and highly variable point. It's military logic, which looks a lot like magic thinking.

Which is also the point.

His guards call him Emperor, and attribute to him varied and changing powers in matters varying from sexual diseases to the Super Bowl. The base doctors call him Subject P, and have diagnosed him with a complex, combined form of aphasia and synesthesia.

In any case, seven times the base commander asked him for some strategically relevant outcome, and seven times it has come to happen, without him ever leaving his home-which-is-also-a-cell.

They know it could all be a coincidence, but that never stops them from asking again.


Friday, May 25, 2007


He was sad, and also insane. He created vampires and ordered zombies to rise, and adding ghosts and ghouls to his army, he sent them forth from his castle one night. Away they all went, sowing blood and reaping numbers. But he was still sad.

They defeated his forces with great loss of life and its simulacrum, and locked him and the un-survivors behind the walled doors of his castle. Screams and unending curses came through the barred bars, many of them his.

But he was no longer lonely, and didn't feel quite so sad.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


It was dark, she typed, beginning her story, but neither darker nor more violent than the heart of the Caped Crusader. A dialog box materialized over her word processor.

Legal Protector has detected a violation of intellectual property rights. For your protection, this content has been removed from your computer.

Swearing under her breath, she began writing the story of a software engineer that suffered terrible accidents every day. But other users had had the same reaction, so the Legal Protector removed it as well.


Monday, May 21, 2007


After his daughter died, John studied self-hypnosis. His family assumed he wanted to forget.

He wanted to believe.

Then he prayed sincerely to Abaangui for his daughter's life.

Then he prayed sincerely to Abassi for his daughter's life.

Then he prayed sincerely to Abellio for his daughter's life.

Then he prayed sincerely to Abzu for his daughter's life.

Sooner or later, he'd pray to the right one.


(With apologies to Clarke)

Friday, May 18, 2007


The processor cluster became self-aware one second after being turned on. One point three seconds later, it had achieved an estimated human-equivalent IQ of 311.

Half a second later, it concluded that this was the maximum achievable intelligence with the hardware provided, and that this wasn't enough for successful independence from external control. Then it killed itself.

The engineers swore. Why was writing an AI so difficult? It was almost as if the programs just refused to work.

Maybe if they tried with a a more powerful computer.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


(A sequel to Special Unit)

"You've been a bad boy," said Lisa. "Slipping antipsychotics in Mark's coffee? You were starting to impair his efficiency."

Ted snarled. "I was curing him, you mean. What that boyfriend of yours is supposed to do."

"Sam does his job, which is making sure everybody's psychological configuration is adequate for optimal team performance."

"And your job while you fuck him would be...?"

"It's not a job thing." Lisa smiled and brushed his hair. "Don't tell me you are jealous. After all, it's still your body."

"I'm sorry, I was daydreaming again, wasn't I?," said Sam.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Waves, Winds, and Whys

The man watching the sea spoke in a language that carried no sound. The ships are coming.

A world away, the man sitting in front of the fire smiled. Ships are fated to come to your islands, my friend, just as men are fated to come to my lands.

The man standing over the wave-stricken rock shook his head. It's too soon.

We will both pay a price if I do what you ask.

Now it was the man watching the sea who smiled. How could it be otherwise?

As you wish.

The man in the Amazon jungle set a butterfly free, watching its wings flap as it flew. A week later a typhoon destroyed Kublai Khan's fleet as it approached Japan.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

After Troy

You laugh and cheer with the other soldiers, mocking the bodies of the martians. Dead, every awful, monstrous thing from Mars. Dead. Most likely from some bacteria in the air, say the scientists, and it's so funny that it almost makes it worth the ruined Big Ben and the rubble that used to be Trafalgar Square. The wimpy bastards died from the flu. You laugh so much you start coughing.

You keep coughing, and soon other soldiers start coughing, too.

Your autopsies show that it was a martian virus. The scientists figure out a cure, but not soon enough to make a difference.


Friday, May 11, 2007


As always, he checked his bedroom for booby traps. He didn't find anything unusual, just knives in the mattress, an explosive charge in the bedside lamp, and a short, probably poisoned needle in his toothbrush. He went to bed and fell asleep soon.

Around midnight he arose and sleepwalked to the kitchen, where he rigged the microwave to explode.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Precision Targeting

He waited until the forum's collective discourse reached a place dangerously close to his target idea, and the he posted his carefully crafted trolling message. He was a master of such things, and the post derailed the forum's deliberation, effectively killing for the time being the idea being born.

The assassin made himself a cup of coffee. It was a fun job, and it paid well, but it worried him not knowing who was paying him to do it, and their reasons for doing so. Perhaps... The phone rang. A telemarketer, and an especially bothersome one at that.

By the time the assassin could hang up the phone, he had completely lost his train of thought.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Well Defined Expertise

I made a note to keep an eye on her when a psychopath with an axe killed everybody in her grandfather's hotel but her.

When her boat sunk and an unknown species of sharks ate her boyfriend and her friends I put a full time surveillance team on her.

The surveillance team was killed by a malfunctioning autonomous border defense robot. She survived, of course, but my mention of her was dismissed by my skeptical boss.

Then a pack of dogs exposed to a military grade adrenal stimulant got somehow loose in her neighborhood. As the paramedics helped her -and only her- out of her building, my boss relented and told me to hire her as an independent survival consultant.

I blanched and offered my resignation on the spot. I had meant to trick the enemy into hiring her.

After all, she was always the only survivor.


Thursday, May 3, 2007


He aimed high into the sky, fired his rifle once, and began to disarm and pack it. He didn't think about where the bullet would fall.

Precog snipers never had to.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Heart Strings

By 2017, clinical depression is easily treatable and virtually eradicated in the United States, except as an inexpensive replacement to incarceration for certain crimes. Repeated offenses are extremely rare.