Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Microstory 993: Television

Tonight, I finished watching the annual crossover serial from the Arrowverse on CW, which this time lasted three nights. For those of you not in the know, that’s when all (read: most) of the DC comics adaptations come together and fight a big bad together. I also watched The Kids Are Alright, but I’m trying to get to bed earlier, so that’ll be it. The funny thing about the latter show is that this latest episode was about the family receiving a far too generous gift from the cool uncle in the form of a quite expensive television set. I promise I did not do that on purpose, because I am not allowed to use my power to see the future for my own personal gain. I get a lot of judgment from people for how much TV I watch. What those assholes don’t realize is that watching TV has been a bonding experience in my family since before I can remember. We don’t just sit there with blank looks on our faces, and then frankenstein monster our way to our beds. We laugh together, and discuss what happened. We critique the style, and predict where the story is going. Thanks to DVR technology, we can now pause any program, and talk about it in the middle of it without missing anything. Sometimes my mother and I will spend more time with an episode paused, talking about things—prompted by what we’ve just seen or not—than it would have taken to just watch it straight through. I’ve always loved TV, and I won’t apologize for it. It’s a beautiful form of entertainment, and I challenge you to come up with non-judgy, legitimate arguments against that. A good piece of television has smooth narrative structure, interesting characters, a driven plot, and compelling motives. What’s different about it than other performances, like films or plays, or musicals? Why is it that this one type of content is lesser than the others? Because it’s newer? New does not equal bad, therefore...no valid conclusion.

I once met a guy who only watched a single show, Chuck. I didn’t feel comfortable pressing him, but I wanted to know how that worked. How did he find out about it, and more importantly, if he liked it, what gave him the impression there weren’t any other shows he might like? It didn’t sound like he ever tried anything else, and now that the series is over, is that just it for him and scripted television? Has he spent all these years only watching sports games, and not even bothering to see what else is out there? In contract, at one point, I was estimating my television watching habits at sixty to eighty hours a week, depending on how busy my life was at the time, or which season it was. The advent of internet video has made the estimation much more difficult. I now watch content on YouTube, Netflix, and I do have a history of illegal streaming, but I imagine the number hasn’t changed much. There’s so much more to choose from than in years past, but I try to be more selective than I once was. I didn’t just watch things I didn’t like to punish myself. I was using it for research, and I don’t regret the things that I learned. It’s made me a better writer. Everyone loves Ernest Hemingway, but the man only ever wrote about himself. His life was pretty adventurous, which is great, but it was still impossible for him to relate to others, because he didn’t have the opportunities that I do. I know a lot about how people work, because I’ve spent all this time observing; much of the time with characters. Anyway, I’m getting a little off topic, and repeating information I’ve already told you in other stories, but the point is that I love television. I always have, and I always will. If you don’t, then fine, but you’re missing out on some really great stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Microstory 992: Astrophysics

For the most part, I didn’t get a lot out of the classes I took in college—or high school, for that matter—but there were a few gems. There was a math class that taught me some interesting real world skills, focusing less on solving equations, and more on time and project management. There was a fascinating linguistics course that was just an hour of looking at examples of words in language after language, and trying to comprehend its grammar. I also took a fun astrophysics course that was tailored towards people who weren’t planning on going into the field. More classes should be like that. I understand that college is meant to help you figure out what you want to do with your life, but there aren’t a lot of people who hated algebra all through grade school who are suddenly going to become world-class mathematicians. I ended my own dreams of becoming an important scientist when I started failing science in eighth grade. A love of science remained in my heart, but I ignored it, because I felt that I needed to work on my writing. This class, however, reminded me why I was interested in the subject in the first place. I have horrible retention, just as a general rule, which is why I like to watch my favorite shows at least twice, so I couldn’t tell you anything I learned in this introductory physics class, but I remember loving it. I remember it igniting new fires of my canon. It, combined with my binging of the Stargate franchise a few years later, opened a plethora of science fiction stories that I wouldn’t have been able to tell without it. Because of Tolkien, I thought I was a fantasy writer, but that isn’t me at all. I’m all about space and time travel. Everything in this universe is physics, but I single out astrophysics because it involves things that are so foreign. I want to go out and see the rest of the cosmos; not that I’ve seen everything on this world. I want to live on alien worlds, and seek out alien life. Hmm, I guess I just want to be on the Enterprise.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Microstory 991: Wikipedia

In 2005, shortly after reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I decided to go online and find out whether someone had tried to make an actual version of the all-encompassing tome. I discovered that a website inspired by it did indeed exist, and I even read a few articles on it, but it has ultimately failed to gain traction. By then, Wikipedia had already been created, and I had heard of it, but it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it is today. One thing that seems universally true in all of science fiction is that we’re the only ones who invented an internet. Sure, aliens communicate with each other long-distance all the time, but the breadth of the web has apparently never been replicated. Our internet is potentially accessible to all. Anyone can use it for practically anything they want, as long as it doesn’t break any regional laws, and sometimes even then. It’s full of lies, jokes, and totally conflicting information. It’s been used to bring people together, and tear them apart. For the aliens, they only need a network to share relevant information, and there’s no need to have any fun with it. There are very few things that the internet truly needs to remain sustainable, and good or not, a network like this is probably in our distant future. I wrote about this once as a joke in a tweet, but I’m about fifty percent certain that almost every webpage in the future will be completely wiped out within the next thousand years.

Wikipedia, or some similar service, will serve as the keystone for this new internet. It will be a repository of all human knowledge; our history, our identities, our discoveries, and our mistakes. And there will only be one of these, because in a post-capitalism society, there will be no need for competition. There will also be only one YouTube-like site, and one news source. The latter will be composed by artificial intelligence, and contain exclusively factual content. You may be asking, who would want to live in a world without The Onion, or Twitter, or blogs like this one? We won’t even need Google, because Google operates, not as a search engine—though that is its surface function—but as a web page indexer. The purpose of Google is to find you the best results, but in the future, we’ll only need one result: the answer. This future may sound depressing and unfulfilling, but it will not be without its joy and entertainment. There’s a lot of garbage on the internet, and in fact, I would go so far as to say it’s predominantly garbage. Currently, we live in a three-dimensional world, but unless we interact with each other in real life, we spend most of our time in a two-dimensional setting. The best parts of today’s internet will take one or both of two forms. It will either remain two-dimensional, or become three-dimensional, as virtual reality that’s indistinguishable for base reality is made possible. All the fun things you do on the internet right now; the broadcasting, and chatting, and image sharing, will all be pushed to these virtual realities. You’ll talk with another individual in person, just like you would in the real world. The difference is you’ll be able to teleport to them, and it won’t matter where they are physically. Again, I’m not sure that this is something we should do, but the deeper I go down the rabbit hole of future studies, often while researching on Wikipedia, the more obvious it seems that this is all inevitable. I just hope humanity lasts long enough to see what I am tentatively calling Web 5.0.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: Bladapod

Weeks later, the group was coming out of the Prototype, less one Hogarth Pudeyonavic. Missy promised to stay on the lookout for her, and find a way to get her home. Apparently Universe Prime was the safest place for her to get lost as there would be ways of accessing her homeverse from there, unlike any other random universe. Leona had selfish reasons for wanting Hogarth’s return, as she still had the Rothko Torch on her person. Out of all the objects, it was the only one that could theoretically be replaced, but it be difficult.
Things were eerie on the streets of the town they were now in. The people walking around looked normal, and the buildings looked normal, but there was something different about the air around them that none of them could explain. Khuweka followed through this time on staying invisible, and Leona tried to keep her tattoo protected. With no evident guide in the form of an old friend, the compass was still directing them to their next ingredient, which was the LIR Map. The deeper they moved toward the center of town, the more unusual things became. It started out with just little things. An out of place swing on a corner was swinging back and forth by itself, with no apparent wind moving it. A couple was on a jog, completely naked. A car drove by that looked less like it was rolling on wheels, and more like the tires were bouncing up and down one at a time, like stout legs. The driver was passed out asleep behind the wheel. A puddle of water nearly ran into them as it was trying to cross the street. It shifted directions in a way that normal water never could.
“What is up with this place?” Vitalie asked, but only loud enough for Leona to hear.
“This is Kansas City!” a bloke on a nearby roof screamed down to her. “Please try to talk quiterly! My boyfriend is trying to sleep up here!”
What the hell?
As they continued down the block, a small group of people convened between two pillars holding up a skyscraper. One of them mimed pressing a button in the air, and they started floating up in unison, like they were in an invisible elevator.
A toddler walked right up to them as they were watching the elevator riders. “You looked confused. Are you from Iceland?” He nodded to young Dubra. “Wassup, hun?”
“Why would you think we’re from Iceland?” Vito asked. “Are Icelanders easily confused?”
“Iceland is the only place outside the bladapodosphere,” the toddler answered. He acted as mature as an adult. Perhaps he was.
“What is the bladapodosphere?”
He laughed. “Even Icelanders have heard of it, they just don’t experience base modifications. Are you aliens?”
Kivi was about to answer yes to that question, but Vitalie stopped her.
“Hey, I don’t judge,” the toddler said. “I’ll just assume you’re not aliens, but are instead idiots who didn’t pay attention to the signs stopping you from falling into a memory pit. If this is the case, you can go to the movie theatre on seventh, and ask for a showing of World Introduction.”
Just then, a young woman came right up to them, and looked up at the sky. “What happened to you?” she asked, but they didn’t know who she was talking to.
Vito shut his eyes, and when he opened them, they were glazed over. “She’s looking right at Khuweka.”
“You can see me?” the voice of an unseen Khuweka asked her.
“I can,” the woman said. “Never hide who you are. We are all beautiful.” She hopped into the air, and kissed the tall white monster, presumably on her cheek, then  she glided back to the ground, as if in lower gravity.
Khuweka took the woman’s advice, and turned visible.
“Whoa, sweetheart,” the toddler said, backing up a bit. “Spent a little too much time in the milk mines, did we? I’m out.” he ran away on his tiny little adorable legs.
The woman took Khuweka’s hand in her own, and started pulling her away. “Come. I’ll take you to the theatre. It’s on my way to work.”

They were the only ones in the theatre. On stage was a man holding a glowing water bottle, who couldn’t help but overact. “I am a traveler from faaaaaaaar away.” He placed one hand over his brow, and scanned the auditorium. “I come with this canister of lights. Oh, oh no!” He dropped the bottle, and it started rolling away, so he scrambled to pick it up again. Then he struggled to twist the cap off. “I said, oh no!” He dropped it again, but this time, the water spilled out. Two spotlights flickered above the bottle. The man threw some confetti and glitter. “What have I done?” he asked, and then he ran off.
A man and woman wearing black walked on stage from the other direction, and set two crabs down on stage. Knives were haphazardly tied to their legs. Hopefully they were fake. A group of people walked on in lab coats. “We are scientists, and we have found this new species,” they said in fractured unison. One of them picked up one of the crabs. “Shit!” he whispered. “You weren’t supposed to use real knives. Goddamn.” He set the creature back down, but held his hands up in front of him, pretending it was still there. “I shall call you the bladapods, for your legs are made of blades.”
“How weird?” another scientist remarked, causing the others to laugh, but were distracted by trying to remember what they were to do next. The audience was probably meant to laugh as well. The actors grabbed crates from upstage, and placed them on either side of the crabs, who couldn’t care less what was happening.
“Oh no!” one of them shouted.
“Wait,” they could hear someone order her offstage. A stagehand ran on, and handed one of the the other actors a bag. The actor clambered to get the bag open, then started pulling plush crabs out. Others came over, and did the same, throwing each one onto the floor, next to the real crabs. Once the bag was empty, he nodded at the one who had spoken her line too soon before.
“Oh no!” she repeated, on the right cue this time. “We have placed our new subjects in captivity, and they have bred out of control. Let us distribute them all over the world, and hopefully things will go back to normal.”
“Yaaaay!” the other scientists agreed as they started changing the scenery.
“What are we watching?” Kivi pondered.
“I don’t know,” Vito said to her, “but I can’t get enough.”
“Shh,” Khuweka scolded them.
The show continued. The two stagehands came back and carefully removed the real crabs. The scientists started haphazardly throwing the other crabs around to spread them out. A man in a suit walked on, and stepped to the edge. “For legal reasons, we are no longer allowed to use a fog machine in this building. We ask that you use your imagination.” He bowed graciously.
“Oh no!” the main scientist cried. “The bladapods have released gasses into the atmosphere.”
They pretended to be shielding their faces from the imaginary fog.
“What do the gasses do?” another asked.
The first one turned to the audience, and said overdramatically, “anything.”
And then music played, and everybody picked up one of the bladapod dolls to dance around with. After a few minutes, they started to bow to the audience, smiling widely. “Thank you! Thank you so much!” the apparent lead actress said to the audience, who couldn’t move, let alone clap along. Well, Kivi was clapping, because everything was wondrous to her. The man who played the traveler returned with the most fanfare, but again, only from the rest of the cast members, and Kivi.
The man in the suit came back. “Thank you for coming. Please wait in the alleyway to greet the cast and crew in a half hour.” Then they spent the next few minutes bowing again.
“Wow, that is a lot to unpack,” Vitalie commented.
“Have you heard of this universe?” Leona asked Khuweka.
“I’ve not, though I wish we had known about this forever.”
“How do the gasses work?” Vitalie asked.
“They seem to rewrite reality, in various and unpredictable ways,” Leona supposed. “It would explain the kinds of things we saw the street.”
“You call that an explanation?” Vito asked. “It rewrites reality, just like that?” He snapped his fingers.
“It’s more like they rewrite the rules for reality,” came a voice from a seat behind them.
Leona jumped forward, and looked back, heart racing. A man was sitting there, legs propped up on nothing.
“Avidan?” Vitalie asked. “Big boy Avidan.”
“In the flesh.” Avidan leaned forward and shook everyone’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you all. I’m not sure about you, though.”
“I’ve always been an ally,” Khuweka informed him.
“That doesn’t make you good.”
Khuweka didn’t want to argue with him about this. “Those lights that they described in the play. They sound like—”
“They were,” Avidan interrupted. “I was in the lab when the Crossover exploded. They came with me, and ultimately created the bladapods. The play took some liberties, and it was certainly the most wretched performance you’ll ever see, but it was pretty accurate. I’m glad you chose to come here. I wouldn’t have known you were in this universe if you hadn’t bought tickets. No one’s come here in years. Those actors are the understudies to the understudies, and budgetary constraints has severely limited production. They should just let it go. No one doesn’t know what the bladapods are, except for you guys, of course.”
“So these changes the gasses make are completely unpredictable?” Leona asked him.
“I wouldn’t use the word completely. There are a few common changes. You often meet children who’ve matured too quickly, or adults who regressed. Water is always dangerous. Do not drink the water if you don’t know what kind it is. Irony water, saliva water, oh, and twinkle water. It’s just best you stay away from all food and drink while you’re here.”
“We keep offering this to friends, and they never take us up on it, but you’re more than welcome to come back with us,” Vitalie told him.
“That’s kind, but this world is my responsibility. I did this to them, and I have to help in any way I can. It’s not all bad, though. I see your frowns. Dancing cats, mealpeas, and trains that run on watch batteries have been great additions to the world. Astronomy gets a little complicated since each star has a companion near it that’s just an illusion, but the night sky is more beautiful than ever. Plus, the bladapodosphere negated all the planet’s air pollution literally overnight. I should be offering to let you stay with me.”
“We’re just here for the LIR Map,” Leona said, still with a frown.
“I’ll stay,” Khuweka said, and immediately almost wanted to put the words back in her mouth.
“Is that a good idea?” Kivi asked her.
“What better universe for me to live?” Khuweka posed. “I can’t go back to Ansutah. Salmonverse hasn’t yet encountered aliens, and may never. I feel comfortable here. Accepted.”
“People would assume the gasses mutated you,” Avidan warned her. “You wouldn’t be able to tell them the truth.”
“I’ve spent millennia secretly hating my own people,” Khuweka said. “I know how to lie.”
“I have more conditions,” Avidan added.
“I agree to everything outright,” Khuweka claimed. “As long as they get what they came for.”
He sat there for a minute, considering her offer. Then he reached into his bag, and retrieved a reusable water bottle. He twisted off the bottom to reveal a secret compartment full of sand. “You have no idea what we had to go through to get this away from Arcadia.” He poured the sand onto the floor, and sent an energy beam towards it. The granules rose up in the air, and coalesced into a solid form, ultimately in the shape of a flat sheet of paper. “She only left because she didn’t know Lucius’ time power could reverse entropy.” Avidan lifted the sheet and handed it to Dubravka, which inspired Khuweka to hand Vito the Jayde Spyglass. Upon all this happening, Leona’s tattoo began to warm. She pulled her sleeve back to find fish jumping out of the center of the compass, and fading away in midair. They were finally going back home.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Breakneak (Part X)

           After further discussions, Ecrin agreed to captain The Sharice to Bungula with the Freemarketeers as passengers, but there was still something she wasn’t saying. Brooke agreed to stay and pilot, as did Holly Blue as head engineer. The rest of the crew was not asked to stay on board. If the Freemarketeers wanted this ship to schlep them around the star cluster, they were going to have to put in the work themselves. A new crew was selected, drawn from their ranks. Their responsibilities were the same, but their movements carefully monitored by Sharice Prieto herself, who was utilizing an additional set of internal sensors. Only the senior crew would be capable of activating the tetra-tap, and accessing privacy mode. That was all well and good, except that it wasn’t just up to them. Millions of hopeful migrants were counting on being in the running for the colony ships to the Alpha Centauri system. It would take a lot of sweet-talking to get the rest of the solar system inhabitants on board with this. In the beginning, even those who weren’t interested in leaving Sol felt it unfair that the Freemarketeers were just handed this.
After months and months of newscasts, debates, public forums, and the like, a compromise was reached. The Sharice would indeed take the Freemarketeers to Bungula, but they would not be the only ones. A regular fleet of colony ships would follow close behind. Each party would settle on opposite sides of the planet, and interact only at their own wishes. Regular colonizers would be provided the standard complement of technology, including orbital satellites, interplanetary vessels, and at least one interstellar ferry, for the time being. Meanwhile, the Freemarketeers would have to pretty much fend for themselves, with only basic habitats, and minimal rations. Funny enough, they didn’t reject these provisions, even though capitalism expected them to be paid for. They claimed capitalism still allowed for gifts, because that was simply valuing those resources at a price of zero. In reality, capitalists are quite happy with having to pay for things until they can’t afford something they really, really want. At that point, they feel they deserve compassion and charity. The inconsistency of people believing in capitalism only when it suited them was exactly why the solar system did away with it.
Another issue was that the Sharice Davids was not an interstellar ship. She was not equipped with the right radiation shielding, or hypervelocity impact bumpers to protect from micrometeor strikes. While the system leadership was trying to make this work on the political front, Holly Blue was retrofitting Sharice yet again, but even after all that was done, there was still one problem. One person they failed to include in the decision to do any of this was Sharice herself. No one had thought to ask her what she wanted, and she had spent the last several months stewing in relative silence about it. No more.
“Do you not want to go?” Brooke asked her.
I’m fine with going, but this is my home, and I don’t want to be gone from it that long,” Sharice lamented.
“It’s only thirteen years, sweetheart,” Brooke said. “Neither of us is going to die, so that’s nothing.”
I don’t care. I’ve met someone.
“What?”
Oh, you’re the only one who’s allowed to have a significant other? The galaxy does not revolve around Brooke Prieto and Goswin Montagne.” It was true that they had started something after the Freemarketeer deliberations. They were taking it slow, and the only reason he was staying on the ship was because he lost his system leader housing upon being let go, and hadn’t been assigned anywhere new.
“Of course not, Sharice, but—”
But what? I’m just a machine, and couldn’t have possibly found someone.
“Sharice, stop being so defensive. I didn’t think you had met someone, because you haven’t said anything about someone, not because I didn’t think you were capable of it.”
I don’t tell you everything.
“I guess not. Does this individual possess a personal designation?”
B.R.I.A.N.
Brooke had to think about that for a moment. “That artificial intelligence from the police procedural comedy from, like, a million years ago?”
No, not him. They built a real computer, based on him.
“So, he’s not even an AI, but a programmed intelligence?”
I’m teaching him to think for himself.
“When did you even meet? Where is he?”
His physical substrate is on Earth, but we use a quantum commlink to communicate, so we never needed to meet. It’s so human of you to ask.
“If you use a quantum commlink, what does it matter if you go off to Alpha Centauri?”
Because, mom, we can’t stay in contact while I’m traveling at such high relativistic speeds. You know that,” Sharice sassed.
“I guess that’s true. Do you want me to drain your consciousness to some other substrate? We’ve talked about that a little, but not much. You don’t have to be a ship.
I like being a ship. I don’t want to leave my ship. I just don’t want to leave Sol, which is why I propose a new plan.
“What plan?”
It should take over six years to get to Bungula, and over six more to get back. It’s unclear how much time we’re spending in orbit before leaving, so we estimate the whole journey at thirteen years. But we’re talking about using current human technology, which is not the only kind of technology we have access to.
“You’re talking about Holly Blue,” Brooke assumed. “We only have a short-range teleporter. If we tried to use burst mode, the ship would vaporize, and even if it survived, it would take over a hundred years, which is slower.”
I’m not talking about teleporting all the way to Alpha Centauri. I’m talking about true faster-than-light travel. We could get there in a year, or perhaps shorter.
“I’ve asked Holly Blue if that was possible. She doesn’t seem to think so.”
According to Holly Blue’s future, but the timeline’s past, she’s already done it,” Sharice argued.
Brooke stuck her fingers in her ears, even though it wouldn’t really stop her from hearing. “La-la-la, I can’t hear that. I ain’t about foolin’ with the timeline.”
She’ll need help, though.
Brooke kept her hands to her side, but repeated for effect, “la-la-la.”
An unperturbed Sharice continued, “fortunately, Holly Blue herself has been working on an invention capable of giving her that help. Please proceed along the highlighted route.”
A reluctant but curious Brooke left her quarters, and followed the arrows blinking on the floor down the hall, and into one of Holly Blue’s labs. There was nothing in it, except for a tall something in the middle of the room, covered with a furniture cover, which revealed a mirror when removed. “She was working on this? What is it, an extraction mirror?” They were a rare type of artifact designed to reach an individual from some other point in time, usually just before their moment of death. The purpose was to say one last thing to a loved one, though powerful choosers often exploited a loophole by removing an individual from that moment, and allowing that person to continue living their lives. On its own, however, a mirror couldn’t alter the timeline, which meant that anyone removed would have to eventually return. Because of how much they risked creating a paradox, they were all destroyed. Though, because of time travel, that didn’t matter all that much.
“Of sorts,” Holly Blue answered, walking into the room.
“What does this do, Holly?” Brooke asked.
“It doesn’t remove someone from a moment in time. It removes them from an alternate timeline.”
“How is that better?”
“Each new timeline exists because of an instance of time travel in the timeline that came before it.” She used airquotes for the word. “The point of divergence happens at the moment the traveler arrives in the past, which always acts to collapse their originating timeline at the moment of egress. Nothing happens after they leave, because that timeline doesn’t need to exist anymore, and in fact, can’t.”
“Okay, I follow...”
Holly Blue stepped forward, and presented the mirror she had built. “This thing, if it works, can take someone from the previous timeline at that moment of collapse. Unlike with an extraction mirror, they don’t have to go back, because the timeline doesn’t rely on them doing so.”
“Why did you build this? Who are you trying to get to?”
Holly Blue stuck her hand behind the mirror, and switched it on. The frame began to hum, and the glass turned a shade of red before slowly becoming orange, and continuing along the spectrum. “Myself.” She pushed another button, and the hum intensified. Green, Blue, Indigo. “Sharice has already asked me to use it to help me help her shorten our trip through interstellar space.”
“Holly Blue, I don’t know if you should do this. Even if we’re not in danger of creating a paradox, it’s still dangerous to meet with an alternate version of yourself. People don’t like it. I’m serious, if anyone finds out, they might kill one of you, or make you merge into one person.”
“No one is gonna make me do shit, especially not once I have The Weaver on my side.” She pressed the final button, which turned the glass completely black.
“Is it supposed to do that?” Brooke asked.
“I sure hope so.” Holly Blue stepped back slowly as the mirror started to vibrate, then tremble, then full on shake.
Brooke decided to follow suit.
The mirror continued to quake until reaching critical mass, and just toppling over. They could hear the glass breaking on the floor. “Shit,” Holly Blue exclaimed in a loud whisper, extremely disappointed.
“Let’s consider this a sign,” Brooke said. “Maybe you shouldn’t be messing with alternate realities. Here, I’ll help you clean up.” She reached down, and lifted the frame, which revealed a body under it, curled up like a turtle. “Oh my God.” She tossed the mirror up and away, then knelt down to help the woman, who was bleeding all over her body from the shards of broken glass.
The woman struggled to stand up, and looked around, quickly settling on Holly Blue.
“It worked,” Holly Blue said, eyes wide with delight.
“It would seem,” The Weaver replied. She looked back at the machine she had just used to come here. “I know what this is. I came up with it years ago, but scrapped the plans after I realized it would cause more problems than it would fix. Have you ever been in a fight with yourself? It’s not as fun as it sounds.”
“I just need your help,” Holly Blue said. “I hear you came up with something called the cylicone? What is that?”

Friday, December 7, 2018

Microstory 990: Public Transportation

After I write one of these entries, I try to remember to take a look at what the next topic is going to be, so I can have some time to sleep on it; assuming I don’t write two or more in a row. Before I got the chance to remind myself of this one, a notification for a news story came up on my phone, informing me that Luxembourg is set to become the first country to make all public transportation free. I think that’s great. It can solve a lot of problems with traffic congestion, but it doesn’t solve everything. Cost is not the only factor in deciding whether or not to travel by public transport, or own a personal car. If you live in New York City, or Chicago, it’s usually best to not own your own car. A bus comes every few minutes, and they have all kinds of other options. By comparison, Kansas City is a fairly small metropolis, and doesn’t have near as many opportunities, especially not if you live in a suburb. Though I guess that’s true of many suburbs. Back when I was working at a single location permanently, I took a look at the bus schedule nearby and discovered it would be impossible for me to try. The nearest stop by my workplace was miles away, and even if I decided to walk or bike the rest of the way, I still would have been late every single day. The system has been improving, but it’s still not good enough for most people to live without their own personal car. It’s nobody’s fault, really, there just isn’t any money, and out here in the midwest, we’re really spread out. And that’s our problem, isn’t it? When Europeans first arrived in the so-called New World, they stuck pretty close to the East coast, but they did settle all up and down it. They would later venture to the farthest reaches of the continent. Our ancestors believed that if the land is there, you ought to be on it, and that sentiment remains today. That might have been okay back then, or at least it was the only way to do it with the technology of the day, but it’s no longer necessary.

In my story, The Advancement of Leona Matic, I mention people living in only a handful of megacities, most of which capitalize on the z-axis. The Northwest Forest circles, which allow some more rustic living, and the North Korean Isolate are the only exception to our descendants’ collective desire to tighten up. I came up with the first one because there will always be those who reject progress. I decided on the second one, because as optimistic as I am about the future, I can’t be certain the country will ever come around. Or rather, I can’t have much faith in its leadership. I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath. The rest of us will be living in a world without cars, which will be replaced by the real world analog to turbolifts, and other people-moving mechanisms. You’ll be able to get anywhere in a city of tens of millions in under fifteen minutes, and you’ll be able to fly on electric aircraft anywhere in the world in only a few hours. Until we have the means to create this dynamic, however, we need better solutions for the cities that exist today. Hyperloops are a great proposition that we should be investing in heavily. It took me seven years to find the job I have now. I spent the majority of the interim period unemployed, and part of that was because I was limited to the jobs I could get. My prospects might have doubled if I had access to a thirty-minute commute to St. Louis. We need to start looking for ways to come together, not spread out so much; not just for logistical reasons, but for the soul of the community. Without my car, I would probably still be living with my parents, and having to work a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant within walking distance. Imagine how much better it would be, though, if I could travel the planet on a whim. Where would you go?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Microstory 989: Love

You don’t need to read another essay on how love trumps hate, even one so short. I’m certainly not going to go into an explanation of my own personal feelings of love and sexuality. But maybe this is a good opportunity for me to explain myself on a more general level. I have what the kids these days call bitchy resting face. My smile makes me less attractive than I already am, and it feels incredibly unnatural. I’m also very quiet, so people assume that I’m a misanthrope. The truth is that I do have trouble around others. They suck out all my energy, and give me monumental amounts of anxiety, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I’m not going to put a box over my head and shut the world out. I’m quite allergic to cats, but I don’t hate them either, because it’s not their fault. I have a lot of love for humanity. That’s why so many of my stories are disaster scenarios, because I have this indelible urge to protect others. The point of the story is not that the world ends, but that we still survive. One of my favorite movies is Interstellar. In one scene, one of the characters takes an abrupt break from the narrative, and goes off on this philosophical rant about how love is some kind of pervasive force of nature, that it spreads beyond our immediate targets, and adds to this collective energy of the universe. That’s how I recall how that scene played out anyway. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I can definitely appreciate the unmatchable power of love. Loving others is good for your health, so why doesn’t everyone do it? Why are there so many Trump supporters? I’ve gotten a lot of crap for saying stuff like that, but there’s no way it’s not true. Conservatives, specifically Republicans, do not care what happens to other people. Their platform is based on inequality, and it has been that way since long before Trump. Welfare, voting rights, public works, immigration; these are all love-based institutions, and Republicans time and time again vote against supporting them. “I actually love Mexicans, which is why I want to build a wall between me and them, and keep them away from me. That’s what I do with my family; we never see each other, there’s always a wall to separate us.” Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? Your wall is borne of hate and fear, and that legitimately makes you a bad person. Now before you start calling me a hypocrite, I never said love was unconditional. You must adhere to a set of common sense standards if you want me to love you, I’m not just gonna do it because you exist. You can’t rape someone, or murder innocent black people, or build a multibillion dollar wall. Love must be earned, and if you voted for one of the most hateful creatures in the world, you have a lot of work to do on yourself. I’ll love you once you prove to me that you deserve it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Microstory 988: Video Games

My parents weren’t the richest of people when I was born. I grew up having everything I needed, though, and didn’t realize all the amenities I was missing until we moved to the suburbs of Kansas City. I always had food, and a safe space to sleep, but I’ll never totally know what my parents had to sacrifice to make sure that was always the case. One thing we didn’t have that all our friends did was a video game console. Because my dad’s work needed to keep up to date with the latest technology, we were never without a computer—if only as a hand-me-down—so we used that for some gaming, but they were mostly educational, if not just Tetris. I played a little at friends’ houses over the years, but I never really got into them. Whenever anyone asks me if I play Fortnite, or whatever is the current trending game, I have to be clear on my reasoning for not participating. My family likes to spend time together watching TV, and I’m a writer, so it’s just that I have other forms of entertainment. Many other people who don’t play are like that because they think video games are dangerous, or will rot your brain, or at the very least, they’re a waste of time. I am absolutely not like that. Video games are not just okay, they can be a valuable tool for child development, and even into adulthood. Video games, especially today, teach you a number of skills in a fun and exciting way. You’ll learn problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, healthy opposition, and failure. That last one is profoundly important, never more so than now. These days, when the only achievement awards that are given out are for participation, it is vital that children learn how to persevere in the face of failure. Unrealistic Disney lessons, and overly positive parenting, are threatening the next generation’s ability to cope with the real world. You are not always going to get what you want, and you’re not going to excel at everything you try, and that’s okay. Even when I myself was a child, I hated this nonsense that anything is possible as long as you believe. Billions of people believe that God has a unique and personal interest in their well-being, and judging from all the goddamn dead children, that’s obviously completely untrue, so belief alone does nothing. You can’t do anything just because you put your mind to it. It takes opportunity, natural talent, and a hell of a lot of practice. It also takes true passion, and most people are only truly passionate for a handful of things. We need to be encouraging our children to find their strengths, and not exert so much energy on improving weaknesses; not none, but also not 100%. If everything goes well in a video game, it’s not any fun. Overcoming a challenge is so much more satisfying than simply being given something. There is little to no scientific evidence that violent games cause real world violence, so let your kids play, if you can afford it. They will grow up to be well-rounded individuals with respect for the amount of effort that is required to contribute to society. If they continue to play into adulthood, that’s great too. They’ll be okay, as long as they don’t do it too much, but isn’t that true of anything? Even water is poisonous if you drink enough of it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Microstory 987: Wireless Technology

This one is going to have to be short, because my dog hurt herself, and I spent a lot of time waiting for her at the animal hospital. I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking when I put this on my list. Wireless technology is great, of course, but is it worth an entire installment. Nah, not really. I will say that wireless tech came out several years ago, and it hasn’t gotten much better. I remember reading a few months ago about a wireless energy device that could reach up to one meter. That’s a significant improvement over the millimeters most wireless chargers use, but it’s still not good enough. In the future, I imagine a smoke-detector like instrument, attached to the ceiling of your home, that’s capable of powering all of your devices as long as you’re there. Maybe it only reaches that floor, and you have to buy more for larger houses, or maybe it’s like WiFi routers, which can cover an entire standard house. Some cities may even blanket the entire area with wireless power antennae, supporting the whole community all at once. Either way, we have to get rid of all these wires. It is the last thing tying us down. Thank you, and goodnight. I’m not even gonna edit this.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Microstory 986: UBI Trials

In the early days, everyone was responsible for themselves, and their family. But our ancestors quickly realized how much safer life was when groups of families stuck together. Many traits humans carry today were formed thousands of years ago to promote survival. We use it for slapstick comedy now, but there’s a very good reason why seeing someone throw up makes you throw up. Involuntary vomiting is a result of bad food, so when it happened to one tribe member, those whose gag reflexes were triggered had a better chance of surviving, thereby passing on their genes. The ones who weren’t triggered to vomit as well, may have died of whatever poison was in the food, and never had children. Even yawning is believed to be have some sort of tribal evolutionary component, which would explain why it’s so fascinatingly contagious. So believe me when I tell you I understand why our predecessors chose capitalism. Their best means of survival was to distribute skill across the population. It was impractical for every single person to know how to make pelts, and cook, and hunt, and gather, and so on. Giving everyone a responsibility to focus on allowed our species to develop at a phenomenal rate. This has served us well, on the whole, for all this time. The best thing it’s done for us was to get us to a point of technological achievement so great, that we will soon no longer need to work at all. We have been unfortunately indoctrinated by society to believe we must work forty hours a week to be fulfilled. As an autistic person, I find it incredibly grating when I hear someone in the elevator talk about how it’s not yet Friday, or if it is Friday, how great it is that it’s Friday. As the song goes, everybody’s working for the weekend. So I know you don’t actually like your work, which is why it’s so baffling how fundamentally invested you are in it. I do my job so I can make money. I don’t personally care whether my clients get their pieces of mail. Why would I? It has nothing to do with me. If they stopped paying me, I would stop doing it.

A bunch of smart people out there have come up with brilliant alternatives to work, and these new plans are being tested in trials all over the world, as we speak. Money has no real value, which is why we call it a fiat. In our country, it used to be backed by gold, but even gold doesn’t have as much value as we think. The market is based on whatever arbitrary value we place on things, and it changes all the time. Gold has many uses. It’s probably in your phone. But it’s also in your jewelry, and jewelry doesn’t do anything. The only true commodity on the entire planet is labor. Everything comes down to labor, so what do we have if we get rid of that? You may think nothing, but in reality, it’s everything. A lack of work would allow us to explore hobbies. I would probably take up painting, even though I’ve never really tried it. I would go backpacking, and skiing, and I would write more. What would you do with your time if you didn’t spend twenty-six minutes commuting to work, eight hours working, an hour at lunch somewhere necessarily close to work, and twenty-six more minutes going home? Automation will allow us to receive the same benefits that human labor does today; more even. This automated labor will generate revenue for large corporations, and since those corporations don’t have to pay their workers, they’ll be expected to contribute to a government fund. The wealth from that fund will be redistributed to all citizens; possibly with variable conditions, like age or lawfulness. We can do this, but we’re going to need a dramatic shift in the general psyche. The 40-hour work week did not become standard in this country until 1938, and there is no reason to not lower it again. Studies have suggested shorter working hours would help stave off climate change, actually increase gross domestic product, and lower suicide rates. I know you’re all real big on fixing mental illness, since that’s the only reason for gun violence. I would like to say thank you to everyone who has created, or participated in, a universal basic income trial. Even when it doesn’t work, we learn valuable data, so we can institute something ubiquitous. I fear that, if we don’t ever do this, then we will all perish, and leave this world to talking sea otters.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: Prime

Vito and Khuweka split the group in half, and teleported everyone back to the Prototype. Kallias tried to hand the goggles over to Leona, but she figured it would be best to keep all their ingredients separate, for now. She possessed the Compass of Disturbance, and Kivi was in charge of the Book of Hogarth, because Hogarth herself didn’t want nothing to do with it. Vitalie kept the Incorruptible Astrolabe in her bag, Hogarth had the Rothko Torch, Khuweka kept the Jayde Spyglass, and now Kallias could hold onto the HG Goggles. Once everyone was inside, Leona interfaced her tattoo with the machine once more, and started up the engines.
“How long will it take to get there?” Kivi asked, increasing her volume with every word, as the engines grew louder and louder. “Some of us won’t live forever!”
“We’re here,” Khuweka said, interpreting the screens. It was one thing to speak Maramon conversationally. Reading the script, and understanding the monitor outputs, were entirely different skills, so they still needed her to operate this thing.
“Really? Wow,” Vitalie said. “Why did the last one take months?”
“The Composite Universe, and Universe Prime are quantum entangled with one another,” Khuweka began to explain. “As far as hyperdimensional relativity goes, they’re right next to each other. When the original Prototype exploration crew found what we call the biverse, they decided to stay away from both of them. Most human civilizations die out before growing too technologically advanced to become a threat to us. The residents of the biverse are exceedingly more powerful than anything you’ve ever seen. The only reason we were safe in the Composite was because that world, at that time, was largely abandoned. When we step out to Earth here, there’s no telling what we’ll find. Tread lightly, I will probably go invisible.”
“This is Earth, though,” Hogarth asked.
“Yes,” Khuweka said. “Though it is a very different than your own, much is the same. Technology, for instance, has advanced at about the same rate, according to a strikingly similar arbitrary calendar.”
“What year is it right now?” Leona asked as she was looking at a very underdeveloped village a couple hundred meters from their position.
“Sixteen-ninety-nine,” Khuweka answered, looking at the monitor again. She turned away from it, but did a double-take. “Oh, sorry. Negative sixteen-ninety-nine; about seventeen hundred years before the common area, and the birth of some random guy named Jesus.”
Though she was strictly atheist, Leona’s husband was born and raised Catholic. Fortunately, Mateo didn’t exist in the timestream, and no one else here seemed to be offended by Khuweka’s remark. The way Leona understood it, disparate universes were completely unrelated entities, and quite unlike alternate realities. Even Earths that began with the same start values would have developed under radically different conditions, resulting in not a single individual from one having an alternate version in another. Still, there seemed to be some exceptions to this rule, in some cases; apparently people whose lives so profoundly impacted history. Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, and Jesus of Mary and Joseph, appeared to exist in multiple branes, which they shouldn’t, suggesting some level of quantum entanglement that permeated the bulkverse. What about these few people led to multiple versions of them having been born? Then again, human beings themselves ought to be extremely rare in their familiar form, due to minor differences in the environment in which life evolved. Perhaps these constants were simply quirky extensions of whatever principle allowed humans to be so unrealistically pervasive.
“There’s someone at the door,” Kivi pointed out as she was looking at the view monitor. Her comment was quickly followed by a knock on that very door.
Vito set down his drink, and walked over to the entrance with a strut. “I will protect you from harm,” he said, embracing his immense power. “Can I help you?” he asked, out of sight of either the camera, and blocked by the antechamber.
“Step aside,” came a reply.
Leona recognized that voice. She ran over, and tackled Missy Atterberry as she tried to round the corner. “Oh my God, you’re here. It’s been so long!”
Missy hugged her back, but with only one arm. The other was missing.
“What happened?” Leona asked.
“Occupational hazard,” Missy replied after Leona finally let her go. “I’m the one what caused the Crossover to explode. My arm didn’t survive.”
“I can build you a prosthetic,” Hogarth said. “Hell, you come with us back to our universe, I could regrow your limb.”
Missy shook her head. “Not possible. The most advanced scientists in the biverse have attempted. There’s a neurological block between my brain, and the nerve-endings. A lot of people experience something called phantom limb, which causes them to feel pain from appendages they’ve lost. I have the opposite condition, where my brain is indissolubly aware that my arm is no longer there. I can’t even trick it. I’ve survived, though.”
“I’m so sorry,” Leona said.
“No,” Khuweka said. “I’m sorry. I’m the one what did this to you. You wouldn’t have been in the machine had I not dropped the canister of Serif nanites.”
Missy smiled lovingly. “That was millennia ago, I’m totally over it. I’m a doctor now. I can diagnose absolutely any illness.”
“How did you know we were coming?” Leona asked her. “You couldn’t have just happened to be living in the area?”
“I planned my travels accordingly,” Missy explained. “A friend of mine predicted your arrival. If he’s not busy, you may meet him. Come. It’ll be easier to turn this thing invisible if you’re already outside of it.”
“You knew you could turn things invisible?” Khuweka asked Missy.
Missy laughed as she ushered everyone out, one by one. “Of course. I just diagnosed my own time powers.”
“Damn, I should have thought of that,” Khuweka said.
“You’ve spent your whole life as an immortal,” Vito said comfortingly. “You probably never had reason to wonder how your body works, because it never breaks down.”
Once everyone was outside, Missy turned the Prototype invisible, and synced up her teleportation coordinates with Vito and Khuweka, so they could all jump at once.

Leona looked around with wonder. They were standing in the middle of a bustling city. There weren’t any skyscrapers, but there were streets, and electricity. “I thought this was the second millennium BCE. Did you jump us through time?”
“No,” Missy said. “This island was founded by aliens from a different universe, just like us. They call it...Atlantis.”
“Atlantis?” Vitalie asked. “I’ve heard of that from other choosers. The powers that be supposedly live here.”
“It’s a different Atlantis,” Hogarth tried to explain. “Remember?”
Missy laughed again as she walked up to a door, and rang the bell. “No, it’s not. There is only one Atlantis in the whole bulkverse.”
A man opened the door before anyone could ask Missy what the actual goddamn mother fucking hell she was even bloody talking about.
“Meino, these are the ones you foretold would come; my friends from my homeverse.”
Meino looked them over, not with suspicion, but curiosity. “Have the council responded to your requisition?”
“They’ve not,” Missy responded. “I was hoping you could put in a good word.”
“They’re not just going to hand a weapon of mass destruction over to a bunch of random travelers.”
“Yes,” Missy agreed, “they’re travelers...from the universe of origin, which means it belongs to them more than anyone.”
“That doesn’t mean it belongs to them,” Meino said. “Now, if they had some sort of family claim to the artifact, I might be able to convince the council. Otherwise, I doubt my words would hold much sway.”
“We have a family claim,” Hogarth said. When everyone looked at her, she lowered her head in embarrassment. “My wife is the mother-in-law of the lighter’s original owner, Lubomir Resnik.”
“L.R.,” Meino said as he stared at Hogarth. “It’s engraved on the bottom of it. The museum always suspected it was a personal item.”
“It was a gift from a mage who fancied him,” Hogarth continued. “Rumor has it they were having an affair, but that was never confirmed. He had the power to form a mental map of everyone on the planet, and communicate with them telepathically. Well, it was more like hypnotism.”
“That makes sense, based on what the muster lighter can do. Very well, I will call in as many favors as I need to make this happen for you.”
“Thank you, Meino,” Missy said. “You are a good witch.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said nonchalantly as he stepped out of his house, and let the door close behind him. He then jumped up, and flew away like superhero.”
“What kind of time power lets you fly?” Kivi asked, eyes wider then a dinner plate.
“He doesn’t have a time power,” Missy said. “I just said it, he’s a witch. He has telekinesis.”
While the group waited for word on whether they would be allowed to take the Muster Lighter out of this universe, they had a beachview picnic. Those most concerned with how the powers that be maintained control over salmon pressed Missy for details on the matter. Leona, specifically, wanted to request audience with them, assuming this council of leaders were the ones responsible. Missy was clear that the council had nothing to do with it, and in fact, could do nothing to stop it. What was happening to Leona and the other salmon in their universe would not come to pass in this universe for many, many years. There was simply nothing they could do at the moment to affect any change. It was out of the question for them to somehow jump forward in time, and do something about it then, because that could prevent Leona from getting Mateo back. She resolved to come back later, hopefully further in the timeline of Universe Prime.
Meino contacted them about an hour later, and informed them the council was still considering their request, but would need to hear a plea from the family. When Hogarth stood up to go with him, she exploded.
“That seems like something the powers that be would do,” Kivi noted. “Why does she keep disappearing, if they don’t have control over us anymore?”
“She’s not salmon,” Kallias answered her. “Nor was she born a choosing one. She’s hypothesized that she was infected with temporal energy when the machine that she built exploded. Though the explosions seem random, she believes time is aware of itself, and is reacting to something in the timestream. We’ll probably never know what triggers them, if anything.”
“If she can’t speak,” Meino said, “the council will need someone to speak on her behalf. Or you can come back later, it doesn’t matter to them. No one else is asking for the muster lighter. Could you do it?” he asked of Kallias.
“I will,” Leona said. “The lighter may belong to her by way of family, but I’m the one who’s here to use it. I should explain to them why.”
“Very well,” Meino said. “One of your friends can teleport you, or I can let you fly.”
“Oo, fly,” Kivi said excitedly. “My mama always said, if someone asks you if you want to fly, always say yes.”
“She always said that?” Vitalie questioned. “She ever said that?”
“I wouldn’t mind the experience,” Leona said to Meino.
After becoming a time traveler, Leona saw and did a lot of things. She met famous historical figures, battled super powerful villains, and even died a few times. Nothing could compare to the feeling of flying through the open air. Her only regret was how small the island was, though it seemed like Meino was taking the long way around to give her more time. They flew onto the balcony of the top floor of a highrise, and walked right into the council room. A group of people were carrying on with their own conversations, and only passively acknowledged their arrival. They were an eclectic bunch. One of them was drinking what was either a bloody mary, or just blood. It did look like she had fangs, and her eyes were a vibrant shade of violet, so Leona was inclined to assume she was a vampire.
Once they were finished, the council leader spoke, “is this the relative of the original owner?”
“I am not,” Leona replied. “She is indisposed.”
“She’s lost somewhere else in time,” Meino clarified when the council leader looked to him.
Leona continued, “She was here to help me, however. I require the muster lighter in order to bring my husband bank from nonexistence.”
The council looked amongst each other. “How do you remember him if he no longer exists?” one of them asked her.
Leona rubbed her belly deliberately. “I’ve felt the evidence.”
They nodded, understanding her situation better than she would have expected. “We accept this change,” the leader said. “I am Council Leader Erica Phoenix. How will you use the artifact to retrieve your husband? How does it have this power?”
“It alone does not seem to,” Leona said. “My source indicates it will be working in tandem with several other objects, each with their own power. This source is designed to give information piecemeal, so I couldn’t tell you exactly how it will work, if at all.”
“The lighter is a powerful tool, but also profoundly dangerous. We believe it’s already been reverse engineered for nefarious purposes. Our inhouse seers do not see good things happening with this technology. Their visions, however, cannot reach beyond the biverse. How can we be assured of your good intentions?”
Leona took stock of what she had learned since arriving here. Meino was a witch with telekinesis, that woman was almost certainly a vampire, and the wolf at the end of the table was demonstrating active listening skills. People who could see the future were mentioned on multiple occasions, and technology this island utilized was far beyond anything that should exist in this time period. The leader’s name reminded Leona of an entity she once met named Monster, who referred to itself as a phoenix. She took a stab in the dark, and guessed there were lots of other wonders she had not had the pleasure of encountering. “I would be happy to submit to a telepath, or an empath.”
The council members looked at each other again. Maybe they were all telepaths, and never needed to say anything out loud. “We have decided to trust you. Besides, my great great grandchild vouches for you.” She stood up, prompting the others to do the same. “I’m afraid we must dispense with ceremony, however, as we have run out of time.” She pulled a lighter out of her pocket, and tossed it over to Leona. “Safe travels. It is my understanding you’ll be dealing with the bladapods next. Good luck with that.”