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Thimbleful Thursday: Zonked

I think the best warning for this one is: This creeped me out.  No body horror but brain horror.

“We have an agreement.”  The woman’s smile was fake.  “You signed the papers, the money has been deposited, and you are ready to comply.”

“Yes.”  Tepha nodded shortly.  “You have my thumbprint.  You have my consent, and I’ve seen the money in the account.”  She put down her Access – the cheapest possible one, but it did show her things like bank accounts.  She’d done the three swipes necessary to take the account out of her name.  She couldn’t touch it anymore, and that was important.

“Good.  Now, I know you’ve probably heard some things about the Procedure.  Half of those are lies and the other half… well. You’ll find out soon enough.”

Considering the things Tepha had heard, that was not remotely comforting.  

It didn’t need to be.  She wasn’t here for comfort.

She sat down in the chair the woman indicated.  She closed her eyes.

“We can’t sedate you for this part, but don’t worry.  Most people lose consciousness very quickly.”

She didn’t know if that was a good thing.  She knew – if half the rumors were true – that nothing was the same after you’d been Zonked.  She knew – if even a quarter of the rumors were true – that it wasn’t reversible.

None of that mattered.

The wires attached to her head.  The pill set on her tongue, a wafer that tasted fakely of fruit.  She felt it dissolve. She felt a sudden jolt of pain. And then…

Then she felt nothing.

“There we go.”  The woman removed the wires and waved her hand in front of Tepha’s face.  The eyes tracked. There was no expression.

“Good.”  The woman nodded.  “Stand up and go through the blue door.  Follow the instructions you are given.”

Zonked people were cheaper than robots, could often still handle independent thought, and the price of feeding and housing them was minimized by their lack of want.  If the woman found them creepy… feeling was not part of her job description either.

The woman who had been Tepha did as she had been told.  There was nothing in her to suggest any desire to do otherwise.


Written to July 19th’s Thimbleful Thursday prompt: Zonked Out

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Kaijune: How Cuute

The worst thing you can say about an enemy is “Aw, how cute.”

Not because you risk offending them – we’re talking someone who is already an enemy, for one, and in this particular case, we’re talking about things that would have to go through a whole translation process to sort that out, because they definitely don’t speak English.

No, because the moment you say cute, you’ve stopped thinking of the thing as an enemy and have started thinking of it as something to hug, to protect, to coddle.

This was a big enough problem when the things the news insisted on calling the Lilliputians invaded.  Well, visited.  They weren’t as small as the ones Swift visited in his Tales, but they came up to about an average adult knee and they were what my daughter called “chibi”: their features looked exaggerated and childlike.

But that was them.  When the rabbits appeared, well, then we had really big problems.

Really, really big problems.

Have you ever seen a grown adult soldier arguing with their officers that they can’t shoot the bunny?  Have you ever seen a tank sat on by a bunny big enough to start nibbling on the flag hanging off the twenty-seventh floor?  Have you ever seen the hairball from a hare that size?

Okay, so back up a bit.

It hadn’t even started with the Lilliputians.  It had started with some sort of humanoid-like grey people with giant eyes, and it turned out they ran an intergalactic tourist agency – I have been told, time after time and in painstaking detail, that they are not tourists, that tourists is a provincial back-water Earth concept, but people who are not scientists travelling to new places to see how they live sounds a lot like tourism to me.  Anyway, the problem with tourism (or splet!clogk, or irri♫arren↓) , as I’m sure anyone who lives in a picturesque place could already tell you, is getting the damn tourists to leave.

So may be the Lilliputians weren’t invaders, and they did go home when we convinced them that their visas had expired, but the rabbits…

Look, nobody even knows if they’re sentient.  They don’t talk to me, they don’t talk to the consul, the Grey Folks aren’t even sure how they got here. But they might be cute and they might be fluffy and now nobody wants to shoot them, sure. But the amount of shit a building-sized rabbit leaves is pretty impressive, and let me tell you, that ain’t cute.


“splet!clogk” and “irri♫arren↓” aren’t necessarily meant to be pronounced by a human mouth but I was thinking that the ! in splet!clogk is a tongue click and the gk makes sort of a choking noise; the ♫ is a whistle and the ↓ is for a drop in pitch. 

Thimbleful Thursday: Vent

Content warning: Barbie nudity discussed, technology/human hybrid


“The trick has always been balance.” Idella Passmore had that dangerous combination of skilled enthusiasm and charisma; the tour group was listening intently, despite having no idea what she was talking about. “You want sufficient technology to retard or stop decay, of course, but people want to be people. This particular model involves a cybernetic torso with a RealSkin(tm) cover. Most of the organs have been replaced, but the brain remains and the heart continues to pump blood. In some cases, we choose to keep the uterus; in some we replace the heart with a technological marvel like our HeartPump2000.” Continue reading

World Building June Day 4-5 History and Civilization

It’s World-Building June!  So I’m building Worlds!  Aerax/Expectant Woods over on Patreon, and Bear Empire and a new thing here!

It’s also June WorldBuilding – so we’re getting two sets of prompts.  After I exhaust the answers I’ve written, I might just default to Inspector Caracal’s questions.

Warning: Long post.

Bear Empire
(The setting for Carrone and Deline, Chased in the Bear Empire)

4. What’s its history? (How did it come to be?)

The legend most often told about the land was that the Bear grew tired of swimming.

That is: There had been a land far to the south, but the Bear was too warm all the time, and the Fox found that its fur was the wrong color all the time.  The Cat was being hunted by the ones that did not care about its mighty roar, and it wanted more trees, and the Lynx wanted some place where it did not get mud in its toes and sticky sap in its fur.  

So they all worked together, and they climbed onto the Bear, who was the largest of them, and they swam and swam and swam.

And when the Bear was tired of swimming, she curled up in a shallow place in the water, and the others curled up around her flanks, and there, the new land formed, both of and for the creatures who had swum so far.

That’s just one telling.

There were several tribes of people who each followed an Animal deity, and that animal’s magic and power.  And after a time, the Bear people decided that they should be in charge of everything, and started conquering.

It is said that they stopped for five reasons:  There was nothing to the north but ice. To the west were the mountains, and the Bear lumbers too much to cross them easily.  To the east was the ocean, and the Bear did not want to make another mighty swim. And to the south was a river blessed by one who had been here before, and they did not wish to dishonor her by fouling it.

And while these things had slowed the Bear down, the other groups had quietly changed their names, and in some cases the deity they gave honor to, so as to confuse the Bear, who was hunting down and consuming only the other animal-totems.

Or so it has been said.

The Bear Empire has lived as it is for about four centuries, and there is a lot that is lost in allegation and history.  Who you ask might change an answer, when you’re going back that far.

What is known is that there were several Kingdoms with animal deities, and now there is the Bear, and that the Bear did unabashedly conquer and conquer… and then stop.

Some whisper that a Bear the size of an empire simply has a very long hibernation period, but within the nation, they say simply “this is the size of the Bear” and believe that that means everything that it needs to.

5. What sorts of civilizations and architecture fill your world?

Ooh, goody!  *rubs hands together*

All right, we’ve already noted the Bear, the Deklegion, the Halorians, and the Carrup… Car… Don’t know which part of that is the nation and which part is the people.

With the exception of the Bear, these nations are a little bit bigger than your average Western European nation.  They vary in specialties, available technology and magic, and in culture.

The Bear Empire, especially the Heart of the Bear, that valley and the surrounding three mountains that make up the capital and the believed-home of the Bear Nation, like pointy architecture.  Everything has roofs that reach up for the sky in a sort of absurd height. They also build in what they call “Winter-Walls” and “Summer walls”; the winter walls are exterior and made largely of doors, so that when opened in “summer” (the slightly warmer season” breezes are aimed properly into the house.  There is a corridor, just wide enough for someone to walk through, between these sets of walls in many cases, although in some it is filled with straw or wood or other such things.

As you move south and towards the mountains, you also get a great deal of in-ground structures, what we would call “earth-sheltered.”  Often this takes the form of a dwelling built in a declivity between two slopes, with the always-pointed roof being one of the only parts visible.  That roof, too, might be covered with moss, so that you end up with just a very pointy-looking hill.

Moving towards the ocean and also southward, the stone that is the predominant building material in the far north is replaced by wood.  You still end up with tall, pointy structures, but they are brown instead of grey, and sometimes built, in dryer areas, of stacked wood covered in a hardened mud mix for the first floor, before going on to boards above that.

The exception to this is temples.

Those are generally built in a round shape referred to as the “sleeping bear”, often in a stack of 2-5 rounds, all of them with an opening in one section.  You enter the Bear through the mouth and exit it the same way.


The Union of Space
(an entirely new setting (probably))

4.  What’s its history? (How did it come to be?)

The United Space of 2407 has been a federated nation for almost 300 years.  Breakthroughs in the mid-to-late 21st century in medicine and technology heralded and were heralded by a series of social changes in which humans, shaken up by a series of catastrophes, became both more interested in worlds beyond earth and, to put it very simplistically, became better people (on average).

The colonies were formed as part of a wave of colonization in the early 2300s and late 2200s after a breakthrough in space travel made other M-class planets not a matter of generations of travel but of months or a couple years.  

Several attempts were taken at colonization, but the first ones lacked any rigorous protocols.  Thus, the University created a study, gained funding, and colonized ten M-class planets with 1000 people each.

At about the same time, several corporations were hoping to lay claim to the vast untapped wealth of these planets — and to the research possibilities held therein.  They, too, populated their own colonies, not collaborating with the University in all cases.

Scribe is a beautiful and rich planet; it is unsurprising that two groups wanted it.  While technically the University group made landfall first, it’s been eighty years, and they landed within a couple planetary months of each other.

5. What sorts of civilizations and architecture fill your world?

Although United Space as a whole is one federated government (simplified overarching laws, a defense military, infrastructure, a basic support system,simplified taxes, and a tricameral system of democracy), there have been several groups which have settled different planets within “easy” reach with the new star drive.

The current legal system of the United Space declares that each planet must obey a certain set of laws and may otherwise be self-contained until they reach the point where they wish to trade with the rest of United Space.

The University colony’s core is built of 3d-printed/”replicated” buildings that all look very similar: nine? blocks of ten houses each are built with interspersed sales buildings, parks, and two stretches of farmland; some farmland still surrounds this city core.

These core buildings are quadplexes; each quad is a 4-bedroom house designed to hold at least 4 adults and possibly 2 children each, so that each quadplex originally held 8 to 16 people.

These houses look very square and tall, with hip roofs and very thick windows.

Outside of that core section, the oldest houses look very similar.  Most of those are built in a duplex style, often with a small courtyard between two duplexes.  Those too are 3D printed, made of a strong concrete-like substance, and like the quadplexes, they have very thick walls, very thick windows, and are three stories and a shallow attic tall.   They all have deep basements, and solar panels provide electricity inside as well as water heating and some house heating/cooling.

Many of the buildings throughout the original colony and both sub-colonies have the same basic look: The winters are cold here, the summers warm, and thick walls help moderate heat changes.  The replicator is available and still functions (it was built to function for 150 years and makes its own replacement parts), and so people still build at least the core of their homes and businesses that way.

However, newer homes often incorporate more hand-crafted materials; while an original house might have hand-carved or at least individually 3D-printed and hand-designed trim around the windows and doors, newer homes go for elaborate trim, wooden and stone decorations, reed tapestries on the outside, and so on.  


Cal Questions, Bear Empire

ENVIRONMENT

4- What kind of day and seasonal cycles do people who live there experience?

The Bear Empire has long days in the summer and long nights in the winter, culminating, in the capital, with the Day of the Bear in the summer (24 hours of sun) and the Night of the Howl in the winter (24 hours of darkness).

Their winter is long (in terms of Earth Months, it would be from late September through early June) and in the middle of it is quite cold.  Their summer is brief and pleasant.

Their growing season, thus, is very short.  They grow a great deal of root vegetables, with oats being their primary cereal grain.

 

5 — what is the weather like?  Is it natural, artificial, or a combination?

The Bear Empire has some very agressive weather.  Blizzards are common in the winter season, sometimes coming super early or rather later in what would be called “winter” by more southern nations.

In addition, storms — sleet, thunderstorms, freezing rain — they are all common, especially in the two months of “spring.”  Those storms can actually be more dangerous than the blizzards. Winter gets cold, yes, but spring will get you freezing and soaked.

Most of the weather is natural.  There are a few corners of the Empire where one of two things will contribute to kinder weather over, for instance, farmland or a particular festival or ceremony:

Magery can mitigate some weather, the sort of storms that come up unexpectedly.  It would take five people working intently to shift a storm so that the weather might, say, rain on a field but not hail or sleet on it, or to make the weather directly over a parade be more mild.

The Blessing of the (I’m going to call them totem spirits for the moment) can sway an entire weather pattern, but this requires the concerted work of many priests of that totem spirit, or many “lay priests”.


Cal Questions, Union of Space

ENVIRONMENT

3- What type of climate does it have? Wet or dry, hot or cold?

Many parts of United Space have technologically-balanced

The University Colony is in a sheltered area. Its weather is more mild than the surrounding area, which tends to be cold in the winter, warm in the summer, and generally windy, whereas the University Colony does not get as hot or as cold, although when it gets wet, it really gets wet.  Its snowfalls can be inches to a foot more than surrounding areas, but its days below 0F are far fewer than the surrounding areas.

The two nearby colonies are set in similar areas, protected by hills and set near wide bodies of water.  

The Company Colony has weather that is neither as cold in the winter (It rarely snows, but it does get rather rainy for a couple months) nor as mild in the summer, with temperatures reaching 100F on a regular basis.  It is not as sheltered as the University Colonies, and it is further from any large body of water – trying to stay away from the potential sight of the University Colony boats.

Questions? Thoughts?  Tell me!

World Building June Day 3: Who?

It’s World-Building June!  So I’m building Worlds!  Aerax/Expectant Woods over on Patreon, and Bear Empire and a new thing here!

It’s also June WorldBuilding – so we’re getting two sets of prompts.  After I exhaust the answers I’ve written, I might just default to Inspector Caracal’s questions.

Bear Empire
(The setting for Carrone and Deline, Chased in the Bear Empire)

3. Who lives in your world?

People!

Actually, that’s a very good question.

I don’t know about non-human sentient races yet.  If they exist, they probably are either completely integrated into society or they live off in their own little corners. Continue reading

World Building June Day 2: Geography

It’s World-Building June!  So I’m building Worlds!  Aerax/Expectant Woods over on Patreon, and Bear Empire and a new thing here!

Bear Empire
(The setting for Carrone and Deline, Chased in the Bear Empire)

2. What’s the Geography of your world?

The Bear Empire is mountainous, with sprawling fields.  It’s the top part of the continent – or if not, everything above it is un-livable, and it probably claims right up to the pole as a matter of course.

The mountains form a border on one side for at least one other nation.  Near the south, the borders are often more drawn on paper than in the landscape, but at least one of them is a wide river prone to seasonal flooding. Continue reading

World Building June Day 1: About

It’s World-Building June!  So I’m building Worlds!  Aerax/Expectant Woods over on Patreon, and Bear Empire and a new thing here!

Bear Empire
(The setting for Carrone and Deline, Chased in the Bear Empire)

1. Tell us about your world, what’s it about?

The Bear Empire is an arctic nation spanning the northernmost part of a landmass and bordering at least one other nation (Dekleg).

The weather there tends towards the frigid in winter and the temperate in the summer. Continue reading

Renovation Fics

These are a few microfics, written to prompts for my Renovations Prompt Mini-Call (which is still open as long as I keep getting prompt).

Claim the Sun

The tree was ancient, the sort of monster that managed to live through a convergence of luck and good soil, best placement and the weakness of her neighbors.  She had sucked up all the sunlight for what seemed, to the younger trees, like miles. And she had, in turn, sucked up lightning blasts.

It had been the last one that killed her, cutting through old scar tissue and toppling her in a  crash louder than any thunder. Continue reading

Exploit

Okay, content warning, I creeped myself out. 

🤖

“Kelly, he’s a person, he’s not a robot, you can’t just – Kelly, what are you doing?”

“So there’s this line of – okay, they’re not robots, but they’re programmed, aren’t they?  They’re the Zero-One-Seven line out of Detroit, and they’re, ah,  They’re beautiful, for one.”  Kelly gestured at the man in question, a handsome, tall, twenty-something dressed in a simple tunic and pants that looked too sterile and antiseptic for the city street.  He smiled back, a wooden expression that did not reach his eyes.  “And they have an exploit in them.”

“Kelly,” Susan repeated, “he’s a person.  People don’t have – they don’t have – really?”

“Really.  And the thing is, he wasn’t purchased – there’s this loophole, you can’t actually buy a person, even someone from on of the programmed lines.”

“Good!  Good, Kelly, that’s awful.”

“But indentures are still legal.”  Kelly stroked the back of the man’s neck affectionately.  He did not move, except his eyes, which half-closed.  “And what’s more, there’s this clause in the programming that is suppose to ensure obedience.  But what it ends up doing—”

“I’m going to be sick,” Susan muttered.

“Oh come on.  They sell these Programmables, they’re supposed to be — well, programmed.  It’s what they’re sold for.  They volunteer.  Anyway.  There’s this thing where they’re supposed to imprint on the person to wake them up, who is supposed to be their indenture-holder.”

“:That’s pretty horrible.”

“They’re programmables, Susan,” Kelly repeated.  “It’s not like they have feelings until they’re programmed in.  Anyway. That means that whoever wakes them up essentially holds their indenture. They can’t be re-imprinted without a full factory reset.

“You stole a programmable human?  A person.  Kelly.  How did you?”

“I hacked a Programmable, using a really obvious exploit in their system.  And those training screens they use?  They have no security at all.  I hacked him, Susan.  And now he’s mine.”

She stroked his hair again, paying no attention to the way his jaw twitched at her touch.

🤖

Written to yesterday’s Thimbleful Thursday’s prompt: Zero Hour.


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Young at Heart

Written to the Thimbleful Thursday Prompt from yesterday, of the same name. 

🖍️

“It’s a cloned heart, freshly made in our lab.”

Dr. Hischa was very proud of the heart in a box. It was displayed like the crown jewels, held up for the cameras and, more importantly, for the patient. “This heart isn’t the heart of a donor. Nobody had to die for it.  It’s your heart — but your heart as it was when you were a teenager.”

The patient, a woman in her eighties, coughed out a laugh. “Hopefully early teens.”

“Had wild teenage years, did you?”  Dr.Hischa remained jocular, but a very observant viewer might have noticed a slight twitch.

“That’s a good word for it. Wild.” The patient chuckled.  

“Well, now you can be young at heart, ah-ha-ha, again.  Won’t that be wonderful?  Now, let’s just…”

Prepping included reams of paperwork; recovery included weeks of testing and physical therapy.  When the cameras once again turned on Ms. Palorin, she was lounging sideways on a chaise, her children and grandchildren eyeing her uncertainty.

“So, Ms. Palorin-”

“Oh, call me Milly.”

“So, Milly.”  Dr. Hischa’s smile was strained around the edges.  “How are you feeling?”

“I have to say, I haven’t felt this good since I was a teenager the first  time.  I feel great.  This is the bee’s knees.  I can run up stairs.  Want to see me do a cartwheel?”

“Mom!”  Her eldest daughter, sporting pinched face and frown lines, threw up her hands.  “Mother, you can’t!  Act your age—”

“-not your shoe size, nyah, nyah.  I know, Catherine.  But right now I feel like acting six.  Or maybe sixteen.  This new heart is wonderful, Dr. Hischa!”

“It’s wonderful that you’re feeling capable of being more active again, Ms. Palorin.  Now, of course, the rest of your body will still require some care.  I do recall from your chart that your broke your hip two years ago, so cartwheels might be a little over the top…”

“Pshaw!  Besides, I said call me Milly.  ‘Ms. Palorin’ sounds so old, and Mr. Palorin has been gone for thirty years—”

“MOTHER!”

“Oh, Cathy, it’s not like it’s not true.  Anyway.  I’m having a blast with this new heart.  I think I’ll go out and see what the kids are doing these days.  What do you say, Susie?”

Her granddaughter, of about the age to be called “kids these days” grinned widely. “Of course!  I can show you the new dances, too.  It’ll be wild!”

“Ms. Palorin, your hip—”

“What? It’s not like you can’t just clone me a new one. And then,” Milly laughed, “I can be young at hips again, too, and think how much fun that will be!”

🖍️


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