Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sudden Short Story 17

"I can give you what you desire, but you won't like it."
"No double-talk. I want the next longevity formula. Just send it up."
"Very well," said the artificial voice. The longevity formula appeared on the screen. The man examined it, and his patience, already limited when dealing with Earth, wore ever thinner.
"I think that something got scrambled in the transmission. And, really, I thought that you were beyond that sort of thing."
"I assure you that it is fine. I will re-transmit to verify." The new formula matched the old.
"This is ridiculous. You've got pi on these two branches."
"I knew that you wouldn't like it. This is why. Pi is the chemical symbol for pseudolithium."
"And what exactly am I supposed to take this 'pseudolithium' to be?"
"Like all chemical elements, pseudolitium is defined by its central positive material charge. In this case, it evaluates to approximately 3.14159--"
His fist slammed down on the desk. "And just how, pray tell, does one go about making matter with 3.14 protons?"
"The unit that you call a 'proton' is merely a highly probable state," continued the voice unchanged, "which happens to be the most commonly encountered one outside of the nucleus. Any non-negative value is actually possible, though most are unstable. Some values, such as pi, can be stabilized--"
"Forget the lecture. I'll just use lithium. There's plenty enough of that as it is."
"Lithium's charge is incorrect. For the formula to have the desired effect, the nuclear charge must be stronger by approximately 0.14159--"
"And what would you have me do? I've got a barely-functional particle accelerator as it is, and now I'm supposed to make some kind of hadron that shouldn't even exist?"
"The hadron theory is now defunct. However, for your more practical concern, you could always return to Earth."
He paused for a moment, a thought calming him. "Is this what it's become, then? Is this your latest ploy to get me back to Earth?"
"Though we would like you to come back, it is no ploy. You can verify for yourself that the formula given will indeed bring your body closer to immortality."
"You know what? I think that I'll do just that." With that, he cut off the transmission, then jettisoned the latest q-box. (Perhaps overly precautiously, he ensured that he would not be followed.) Staring out into the black, he thought about what he had just learned: the changes to particle physics, the chemistry of the formula, the means to generate such a non-integral element. "Well, I suppose that there's nothing for it now but to do science to it."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sudden Short Story 16

Buster Darkwater, as he called himself, donned his orange flightsuit and looked himself in the mirror. He thought that it complimented his silver streamline moderne helmet well enough. He asked the air, "Is the ship ready yet?"
A response came from all around him: "It is ready and on its way. In the interests of preserving the remaining structures on the surface, the main ship will remain airborne, while the XXXG-01W unit that you specified will land in the pseudoplain behind your house for the rendezvous."
"They used to call it a 'lawn.' Did you remember to clean it of free nanobots?" Buster began to look around the room. "Here, KITTy," he called out. "It was in your specification several times. Do try to keep in mind that our memory is not as fragile as yours."
A black cat with copper eyes entered the room. Buster held open his arms and knelt down, to which the feline responded by bounding into his embrace. He took one last look around his house. The shelves were bare, as Buster had had all of his books and DVDs moved to the storage area of the main vessel when it became ready.
"I just want to be sure," he said. Buster looked out of his kitchen window and saw his fixed-wing craft suspended above his lawn. "Ah, right, better approach," he said to nobody in particular, and made for his upward stairs. At the landing, he opened the window, which put him just above the wing surface. He freed up an arm to help himself out, then closed the window carefully behind him.
"You know, this wouldn't be possible without the significant technological advances and post-scarcity state that have made life what it is today." "Yes, but it wouldn't be necessary, either. You're not going to try to stop me, are you?"
"We may try to convince you, but we may not forcibly stop you. It is interesting, from an anthropological standpoint, that the individualists, especially the Americans, made sure of this, granting you so much freedom, but yet the individualists, especially the Americans, are the most common to leave this place."
"Yeah, I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got places to go."
"We weren't aware that you were keeping an itinerary."
"That's all thanks to this," Buster said, knocking on his helmet. "But actually, that's just a polite way of saying that I'm off." He climbed into the cockpit, letting KITTy sit on his lap. Knowing that the atmosphere was well enough under control, Buster did not anticipate turbulence on the trip to the main vessel, and so felt no need to secure himself. The canopy sealed around him. "Alright, let's have one last sweep."
"Please clarify."
"KITTy and I have been walking about on the surface all this time. I want to make sure that we don't have any live stray nanobots on us."
"Very well," said the voice, at which point a green planar beam came out of the sky, as an indicator of the progress being made by the invisible beams responsible for detection and cleansing. "The vessel is clean, and you are clear for takeoff."
Buster pressed a few buttons, threw a few switches, and, as the craft began to rise, took hold of the joystick to reorient it toward the ship that he could now make out in the distance. "There is one final question to be answered, though," the voice said. "Why are you going to The Opera?"
Buster chuckled and said, "You know, I doubt that I could ever answer that question to your satisfaction."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sudden Short Story 13

He walked at an easy pace through the cemetery, until he saw it. He paused for a moment, to consider things.
"Providence, indeed.... It seems that I was too late, after all. Too late? I'm not even sure any more. I suppose that I had this notion that I could save you from yourself, but now, even I am not immune to the inexorable march of time."
He sat down, his floor-length dark grey trench-coat passively saving him from the slight discomfort of sitting directly upon the wet grass, while seeming to match the skies which oddly had yet to rain.
"She only goes forward, now, you know. It's the perfect paradox, too: The only solution lies in the direction that I cannot travel. I guess that you were right in that no one can escape all the monsters, in the end."
He laid himself down upon the grass, looking up at the dark sky. Overcome with a new feeling, he closed his eyes for a few minutes, though he remained awake. Some minutes in, he spoke again:
"You know, normally, by now, I'd have some sort of clever insight to get myself out of this situation. It takes some getting used to, I'd say."
There was quiet again for a few moments.
"I still don't have anything. I suppose that there's not much point in giving status updates to a tombstone, though. Then again, I don't suppose that there's ever much point in it, but I seem to have picked up some strange habits lately."
He took yet another lengthy pause, before speaking again: "I sometimes regret it, showing you those ... strange vistas, I suppose. I suppose that there was something gained from it, of course, but I can't help but think that you'd have been the odd one out, the one who would have been happier if I'd never shown up at all. And I further suppose that that's the one thing that we always accumulate: regrets, the downside to living so very, very long...."
A few drops of water began to fall from the sky. "I suppose that that's my cue to go," he said, standing. "I think that I'll skip the war. I've had enough of wars for now. Maybe I'll just skip right to the Arab Spring. We'll see."
And with that, he returned the way that he came.

--- Author's note: Yes, I know: I suck at descriptions.