Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sudden Short Story 61

"So you must be the inspector," declared another worker, as he sat on the cafeteria bench across from the inspector. 
"I'm beginning to suspect that you've a crew of geniuses," he commented to the operations lead.  "What gave it away," he asked the worker, "the tie, the clipboard, the nametag that says 'inspector' on it, or the fact that I'm the only new face that you've seen in two years?" 
"A smart ass, this one is," commented the worker.  "Well, maybe your smart ass can figure out how to get some parts out here.  We had to shut down dome B last week due to the fires." 
"Fires?" asked the inspector.  "Wait, dome B shouldn't have even been in use:  It's outdated!" 
"Well, it was cheaper to start that one back up than to keep running oxygen to dome F after corridor F went out." 
"You're gonna give him information overload, Gran," chimed in the lead.  "I was going to go over this after we got him settled in." 
"Hold on," piped up the inspector, "What in the names of the Ennead happened to corridor F?" 
"Fires," said Gran, bluntly. 
"Don't your fire suppression systems work any more?" 
"Oh, they do," chimed in another worker, "On the inside."  This led to some low chuckles around the cafeteria. 
"It's all those hydrocarbons outside," filled in Gran.  "It's sort of backwards here:  Think of oxygen as the fuel.  On Earth, you keep fuel away from oxygen, since oxygen is what's everywhere; down here, fuel is everywhere, so you keep oxygen away from it." 
"Which is what we normally do, anyway," interjected the other worker - none of them bothered to wear nametags, despite regulations - "since we like to breathe it." 
"So what's the problem?" asked the inspector.  
"The problem is the leaks!  We've been rationing our sealant materials for almost a year, and we're about to run out, anyway.  When a leak springs, we bleed oxygen.  When the leak catches fire, we bleed oxygen fast, and have to seal and vent the area just to stop further losses." 
"We eventually started shutting down domes," volunteered the operations lead, "but you can only shut down so many domes before you get close to the quotas.  HQ doesn't like it when we get close to quotas, and I don't want to know what they'll do if we ever go below quota.  So, we do what we can to keep up." 
"Parts shouldn't be failing that fast, though," began the inspector. 
"Now hold your horses," interrupted another of the workers.  The inspector hadn't even seen him leave the table, but he'd returned with a tray of shot glasses filled with clear liquid.  "You've got plenty of time to worry on this trip, and you'll want to ease yourself into it:  We've got a decade of problems down here," he said as he passed the drinks tray to the others to pass around.  He'd taken two, though, and set one in front of the inspector.  "But let me be the first to offer you a drink." 
"Honestly, given the supply problems that you've been having, I'm almost surprised that you're still supplied with alcohol." 
"Actually," he said, sitting down next to the inspector, "that's one of the few perks of this job.  It occurs naturally out here.  We call it 'the rough stuff.'  It's even the source of our unofficial motto." 
"And what's that?" asked the inspector, eager for any information that wasn't about how his job was going to be harder. 
The workers in the cafeteria, glasses raised, all shouted, "THERE'S BOOZE IN THEM THERE LAKES!" 
The inspector wasn't expecting that, but took it in stride.  "I'll drink to that," he said, and joined the others in the pseudo-toast, throwing back his shot. 
"He's going to regret that," commented the operations lead, holding his arm behind the inspector, who instead flopped forward into the table.  "Newbies.  Well, someone help me get him to his quarters.  It's a bit of a hike." 

Sudden Short Story 60

"Captain Crichton," said the Lieutenant, as he entered the captain's office. 
"Formal as always, Binben," commented the captain, looking up from and setting aside some paperwork.  "What can I do for you?" 
"I have a request..." began the lieutenant, before approaching the desk between them and placing the request upon it.  "I would like to leave the opera and return to the earth." 
Captain Crichton did not even deign to look at the request.  "I won't authorize this." 
Binben was genuinely confused by this.  "On what grounds?" 
"I have no grounds." 
"I can always appeal the decision.  And if you have no grounds for refusing me this, then you will likely get a mark on your record."
"I know."
"And in the ten years that you've been captain, five people have asked to go back to Earth, and you've approved their requests without issue."
"I know that, too," replied the captain, rising in anticipation of what might come next.
"But then why won't you authorize my request?" 
"Because you are my son, Binben," returned the captain.  "I know that I cannot stop you, but I can at least slow you down.  There is nothing for us on Earth--"
"And yet whenever we send people back, nobody wants to return.  The only time that anyone has ever come back was when they chicken out at the last minute; nobody actually on the earth ever wants to come out here--"
"And they couldn't even if they wanted to," answered his mother, her rage silencing Binben.  "At this point, there's no way that we could possibly ensure our safety against anyone from the planet." 
Binben was dumbfounded. 
"That part's secret," she said.  "It's above your rank.  It doesn't matter, though:  Nobody wants to come out here, from there.  Honestly, banning anything with code in it from the return trip is probably a more significant safety measure." 
She resigned herself to this:  All that she could do was tell him, and let him decide for himself.  "You're too young, of course.  You haven't seen it.  You weren't there on the last day.  The nanotech on Earth changes people, and for the worse.  You won't want to come back out here because you won't even think of it.  You'll be too busy in the illusory worlds.  And if you do think of us, then you'll pity us, wondering how we could live like this, when Earth is so much better.  And by the time that you might think to somehow leave while leaving it all behind, to visit here despite all of its limits, you won't think it worthwhile - if there even is still a "you" - since we'll all be dead.  You won't want to leave because you won't be you; as far as I'm concerned, those who returned to Earth before you sent themselves to their deaths." 


Author's note:   It didn't come up in the story, but Binben Crichton's schoolyard nickname was "Browder".  You'll get it. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas: It's Highly Addictive!

Curse of Naxxramas, the first content expansion pack for Hearthstone, dropped last week.  They're releasing it over five weeks, so it's not all out yet, but the Arachnid Quarter is out (and free), and the Plague Quarter opened up today (for 700 gold). 
Each quarter gives three decently challenging AIs, beating each of which grants a pair of cards for the set.  Beating all three grants a legendary card (identified as the 3rd boss).  Beating all three also opens up two (so far) class challenges, by which one may earn a pair of class-specific cards. 
However, the real addiction comes from the fact that beating all three bosses of a wing on normal unlocks them all on Heroic, which is a super-difficult setting.  I'm still trying to beat Maexxna on it!  (As an aside:  Counter-intuitively, I found Druid to be the easiest class for defeating Faerlina on Heroic.) 
Must... win... Heroic!... 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Y-Locke's Log: Day 3

Today, there was another delivery girl in the Pokémon Center, this one in red, with a Discount Coupon for me.  The blue-clad delivery girl was there again, too, and gave me a level 12 Vivillon, giving me a full party of 6. 
I began my exploration in the traditional manner, by walking into random people's houses.  One of them taught me about evolution cancellation, though I don't foresee myself making much use of it.  Another, though, gave me a Great Ball, which will come in really handy. 
I found the Trainers' School, where someone gave me some X Attacks & X Defenses to help me on my journey. 
I went to the local gym, but someone was standing before the door.  She offered me rollerskates, strangely enough, but only in exchange for a battle, so I obliged her.  Her Zigzagoon was much higher level than Theodore, so I let my Torchic give it a go.  Two moves later, and Roller Skater Rinka was defeated, and Theodore had learned Growl.  
I spotted a path east of the gym, and gave it a look.  I was promptly challenged to battle.  I used a Potion to keep Theodore up against a Scratch-happy Psyduck, but we eventually prevailed against it.  By the time that the opponent sent out Litleo, though, I was ready to switch out to Sly.  It wasn't exactly easy, but Sly did manage to level up, learning Howl in the process. 
I retreated to the Pokémon Center, but I realized that this route would likely be good training for the gym. 
Right past that first trainer, though, I found some grass, and so I went in to see who might be joining us.  It turned out to be an Azurill, my first Fairy-type.  Since he's a mouse who's blue, like water, I named him Mousea. 
Since I already had a full party, Mousea got sent to the PC box, but I retrieved him when I returned to heal, leaving Vivillon in his place. 
Seeking to test their muster, I went to the next trainer on Route 22.  The Lass struck hard and fast with a Goldeen, and I wound up swapping out Theodore for Mousea.  Unfortunately, his only damaging attack was Water Gun, so I sent out Orion to finish her off.  I put Mousea back out when she sent out a Marill, but I wound up switching back to Orion, anyway.  All three leveled up, though, and Mousea even got a Bubble attack to replace its otherwise-useless Splash. 
I faced one more trainer, with a Riolu, and yikes!  That thing was level 9.  I swapped out Pyrrhini for Orion, and just in time, I suspect.  Riolu's Quick Attack hit hard.  Well, at least Pyrrhini leveled up and learned Lick, which I expect will be very handy, indeed. 
Having retreated to the Pokémon Center after each battle, I decided to lead with Sly for one last match.  It ended up being against a schoolgirl named Mackenzie, who had only a Bunnelby, but it put up an unexpectedly good fight.  I managed to defeat it with only Sly, though, and no items. 
After returning to the Pokémon Center, I decided to call it a night.  The gym could wait for another day.