Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sudden Short Story 101

Derek entered the meeting room that his social club had rented that month.  He booted up his metaphorically ancient telepresence device and prepared to see who wouldn't be able to make it this time.  Though the club was down to a mere five official members at this point, they rarely all made it to the meeting, and there hadn't been five members in physical attendance since they had numbered at least six. 
The club's principal rule was wireless-off.  The telepresence device that they kept around had had an RJ-45 port hacked in where the wireless card used to be.  This need to be offline, though, led to rarity of physical presence, and only Derek was there every time.  Members would also be booted off of telepresence if they were seen to be succumbing to online distractions.  Telecommuting to club was a privilege, went the refrain, not a right.  
Derek checked his notifications, to see who couldn't attend.  Steven hadn't attended in over a year, which technically voided his membership.  Danielle's notice was more complex:  Apparently, she wouldn't be able to attend for the foreseeable future, since that was the only day of the month that her guildies were available to do Night of the Wraith-Lord raid-raids, though the principle of raid-raids was never clear to Derek.  Stephanie had sent a reminder that, since she had relocated her sleep-space to Japan, she wouldn't be able to make it to the room, and would almost never be able to telecommute at that time of day. 
Derek took a nap until the meeting was over.  Kevin had never shown up.  

New Year's Resolutions 2016

  • Write 3 blog posts each month:  I'm going back down to 3 this year, so that I can get more done.  
  • Finish 12 books this year:  I've actually got 4 books half-finished right now, which is why I set the goal so high, and specified "finish".  I'm hoping that this will help me figure out a reading schedule that will itself allow me to get more book reading done, as I do so miss it.  
  • Do at least 1 blog post on or before the 14th of the month:  This is something to help me stop stacking these in the last week of the month.  
I might edit this post later if I think of something else, but that's it for now.  

Life Update - December 31st, 2015

If you follow me on twitter, then you may have noticed reduced activity on my part these last two months.  This is largely due to the holidays and some work-related stuff.  I've also been finding, though, that I've been getting more done lately real-life-wise.  I was a bit surprised today, though, to realize that it was already the 31st, though that's partly because some things came up at the last minute this past week that have messed with my schedule a bit. 
Look forward to a new year's resolution post later today.  Also, I've got a story seed that I'll be mulling over in my head while I go run an errand. 
Long-term, I'll probably be less active a little while longer, at least while I get some other aspects of my life lined up a bit better. 

Sudden Short Story 100

The last fully-human specimen was a curious thing.  His eyes could only see in the visible spectrum, and his neurons weren't even enveloped in chitin for their protection.  Human hybrids, of course, varied considerably, and had many improvements, even when they weren't augmentations, but the last fully-human was just that.  He was so old, in fact, that his mind had to be kept intact with a time-wheel, where causation made itself neatly circular over several millennia - long enough for him to forget each event some amount before he encountered it again. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

No 4th Post

Due to an emergency, there will be no 4th post in November.  I can't guarantee that it will be made up in December. 

Video Gaming Changes

It occurs to me that, in the long interval since I last talked about video games here, a lot is different.  I thought that I'd mention something about that, in case anyone cares.
Hearthstone is still my go-to alt+tab option, but I've also found myself playing Heroes of the Storm more than Team Fortress 2.  That said, if I ever get into the Overwatch beta, then that might replace both of those. 
I don't think that I've touched Minecraft in over a year.   I've got nothing against in, but I've got limited time each day, and I don't want to risk getting sucked in like I can so easily do; weekends, when I would have enough time, are when I like to get out of the house, so those are often out, too. 
I've been trying to replay some older games, but I'm surprised at how long sessions of those can be, too. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sudden Short Story 99

When she answered the door, she never expected the man that she saw.  Even less than that, though, she never expected to see the Stradivarius that he held out to her. 
"Legally speaking, a gift has three components," he began.  "First, the owner must state his intent to give it, as I do now.  Second, the gift must be presented to the recipient, as it is here.  Third, the recipient must accept the gift.  Do you?" 
She took it, cautiously.  "This was destroyed three years ago," she said in disbelief. 
"At great expense to the taxpayer, an exact replica was made.  That is what was destroyed three years ago; your grandmother's Stradivarius is still in good repair.  And, I am sorry," he continued, "for having caused you such grief,  but I am sorrier still because I loved you.  If I could have done it any other way, then I would have, but I needed your grief to sway the Senate--"
The president, his Secret Service agents, and the woman that he had both loved and wronged were the only human beings to ever hear the sound of a Stradivarius's shattering over the head of a human being.  She got one more hit in before she was restrained. 
He was the first president to ever be assassinated with a violin. 

Sudden Short Story 98

He went to his library that morning, as he had finished rereading A Tale of Two Cities the night before.  He was considering Dostoyevsky, but it occurred to him that he'd never actually read The Death of Ivan Ilyich, so he took that, instead.  The need for books to be made of paper had long since passed, but he liked them all the same, just as he liked tending to his vegetable garden, even though he could have any meal at any time:  There was plenty of room for controlled environments, after all, even with full-year cycles of staggered growth; since he was the only human left alive, growing them that way wasn't especially difficult. 
He sat outside today, as it happened to be sunny and still.  He had had the machinery stop controlling the weather, since that was boring.  He sat down, stopped, and thought to himself.  He missed them all, really:  every human who had ever lived. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Life Update - October 31st, 2015

So, life's been busy these last few months, as expected.  Nothing's any farther off track than it was before, but I haven't gained much ground, either.  I'm not expecting to get back to Minecraft before 2016, and the great webcomic catch-up is only becoming a bigger obstacle, but there's not much that I can do about that at the moment.  Oh well. 

Also:  Happy Halloween! 

Sudden Short Story 97

"Are you sure about this?" asked the leader, shouting over the din of the wind on the planetoid that they'd managed to hold together. 
"Absolutely not," replied the scientist, "but it's this or nothing.  Worst case scenario, our brains get sprayed across a few universes.  If we don't, then we get crushed into the singularity with the rest of the universe.  Everyone!" he said to everyone that was left, "If you're up for the gamble, put on your helmets.  Either way, we're in for a bumpy ride.  I hope to see you all on the other side." 
They were already putting on their helmets when the scientist put on his. 
"CALIBRATION: COMPLETE" intoned the central computer.  He hadn't bothered with any fancy voice programs, what with the universe's ending at hand.  With the Planck time units counting down faster than his eyes could see, and even faster than the screen's refresh rate, he confirmed that, the specified duration before the end of the universe, the conversion should happen to anyone linked in.  They were mere moments away, their magnetosphere's being held together by another device at the core, which would, itself, succumb soon enough. 
Theirs was the last civilization to ever develop in the universe, barely old enough to know what was happening in time to do anything about it. 
A few seconds before the end of the universe, the brains of a billion citizens on a planet that does not yet exist were penetrated by a hundred needles each.  Two Planck time units before the end of the universe, their fate was decided. 

Sudden Short Story 96

He put the crystal into an empty jar.  "That's enough for this month.  Better get started on the next," he said to himself.  He had to take advantage of the abundance of ghosts tonight.  With the veil between worlds as thin as it was, he could capture enough souls to satisfy his next two contracts.  Then, surely, he would have enough to retire, right? 
Then again, it would be nice to have a safety net.  He could keep at this for a while longer.  After all, he was the best at what he did.  He could find ghosts better than anyone, and he could capture the easy ones without breaking a sweat.  There were always more soulless clients, who needed souls, and they'd easily hire him, so he'd have enough money soon, right? 
He looked again at his jars, and he suddenly wondered why he felt that he needed them, too. 

Sudden Short Story 95

The army of the frozen kingdom stood aside, as the man in the bronze armor approached the king, who sat upon his icy throne. 
"You have destroyed much of the beauty of my kingdom," said the king.  "What is it that you seek?" 
"I seek to restore warmth to the world," replied the man. 
"But why?" asked the king.  "What do you want from us?  I can grant many things in exchange for your departure." 
"The warmth that I bring is not meant as a weapon.  Your kingdom is merely a casualty in my process of restoring warmth to the world.  For the sake of the world as it was before your eternal kingdom rose, I channel heat itself.  I am sorry." 
"Do not think my army a trifle," said the king, and his knights began to lead an approach on the bronze one, but it was too late.  He had already begun to glow his yellow light, and their swords melted away, and then the throne, and then their shields, and then their armor.  The castle itself began to liquefy and recede, and the army fell. 
"You were willing to negotiate," said the man with the untold heat in him.  "I will remember that, and plant a leafy tree in your honor." 
And with that, the king melted. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sudden Short Story 94

"Professor," began the student, after class, as he was putting his materials away. 
"Yes?" he said, hardly looking up at this point. 
"Do you know much about botany?" 
This question was somewhat unusual, as he was a professor of ancient history specializing in migration period Europe.  "I know a little," he said, not letting on just how much he knew.  "Why do you ask?" 
"It's just that I've noticed this odd trend.  Whenever we have class here, the vines on this side of the building are longer after class than they were before." 
He hadn't realized that there were visible effects this far into town.  "Well, maybe those vines just grow quickly," he said, playing dumb. 
"But I have classes in this building Monday and Wednesday, too, but it only seems to happen Tuesday and Thursday.  Since you're here those days, too, I thought that you might know why." 
"Well, that's really outside my field," he said, "It's not like I've measured them or anything, either."  He sought to cast doubt on her observations.  "Maybe you could ask someone in the botany department, though," he continued, maximizing his cover. 
"OK," the student replied, "It was just a thought.  Well, see you next week," she added, departing. 
The professor was relieved, but nevertheless worried:  Was the Wellspring of Life continuing to affect him?  Had they closed the ritual improperly?  He would have to convene with the other Ur-Dren immediately.  

Sudden Short Story 93

In the center of the room, on a raised dais, knelt an angel, its wings spread and raised, its face covered in its hands, weeping. 
"How did you get in here," asked the stranger of the interloper. 
"I honestly don't know," he replied.  "Tell me, do you know what this place is?  There are so many strange rooms...." 
"This is the afterlife, and I am the Keeper.  The rooms are all occupied, so you haven't wandered off.  Part of my job is to keep you out," spake the Keeper, indicating a door.  "Come, this way." 
On their way out, the interloper asked:  "Tell me:  That angel back there, how did it die?" 
"It died of grief - the first one in a long time.  And that was no angel." 

Sudden Short Story 92

The mottled brown undulated along the forest floor, crawling toward the new host that had been offered to it.  It wasn't fast, but the human was paralyzed, just standing there, facing away.  They had been very lucky with this planet:  What were the odds that they'd find a habitable world with a dominant clade with dorsal nervous systems?  The humans were especially advantageous:  Aside from grasping appendages, they had already built an infrastructure that was useful to them - and thus to anyone that they hosted. 
The extraterrestrial alien buried itself under its new host's skin.  This one would do just fine. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sudden Short Story 91

She ran down the city neighborhood streets, but she forgot why she was running, so she stopped. 
Nobody was around.  The air was warm, though the sun was behind some building or other.  She heard a sound, faintly, off in the distance, and began to wonder what it was.... 
"Hey," came the voice of Jason, the boy that she liked.  Or did she?  Didn't she? 
"Hey," she said, somewhat hesitantly, as he ran to her. 
"Did you get lost or something?" 
"No," she said, looking around.  "This is 15th Street, isn't it?  I know where we are.  Do you hear that noise?" 
Jason listened for a moment.  "No.  What's it like?"
She thought for a moment.  "It's sort of... a cry?  Or a long note, like in a song." 
Jason listened again.  "I don't hear anything....  Oh!" he cried out, "The others are waiting for us."  He reached out and grabbed her hand.  Or did he? 
She didn't move.  "Hey," she said, hesitantly again, not budging, "Do you... How long has it been summer?" 
He stopped.  "I don't remember, exactly.  It's been summer all summer, anyway.  C'mon," and he tried once again to pull her along. 
"What did we do this morning?" 
"We can talk about it on the way," he said, but tears were welling in his eyes. 
"And that sound..." she said, her eyes staring off into the distance. 
He put all of his weight into pulling her, but he may as well have been a breeze.  Tears were streaming down his cheeks now.  "Please," he begged, "Just come on." 
She closed her eyes, and it was over. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Life Update - August 31st, 2015

OK, so, I keep forgetting to do Flash Fiction Friday.  Sorry about that.  Also, life's about to get even busier than it has been for the next 2 months, so I really don't know when I'll get back to anything from before. 
I keep thinking that I'd like to finish what I was doing in Minecraft - which I'm sure is many more versions out of date by now - and there's so much more, too, like the great webcomic catch-up, but life's been so busy that I really don't know when any of this will land.  Hopefully, I'll be able to shake everything out and finally get things back to normal. 

Sudden Short Story 90

"I still don't understand," he said to no one in particular, in the place where his mind went every night. 
"Your kindness," said a voice from behind him.  He turned, and was confronted with himself. 
"My kindness?" he asked himself. 
"Your kindness killed her!  She could not stand it.  She was forever torn between the fantasy that you'd written for her and her ..."  Even his other self could not finish the thought. 
And he though that, maybe, he could just never wake up again. 

Sudden Short Story 89

"Sir!" cried out a soldier in a headset, interrupting his CO. 
Ordinarily, Captain Chueng would have reprimanded the soldier, but the battle had only just evened out, and he couldn't risk that it might be important.  He went over to the soldier's terminal. 
"What is it?" 
"Sir, we've lost control of the enemy drones," he said, frantically manipulating flight controls with no apparent consequence, according to the radar.  Flight camera was dark, and the code display indicated that the cracking team was trying frantically to regain control. 
Chueng looked around and saw similar reactions among the other jump-jackers.  "Have you tried nosediving it," he asked as he considered the next move. 
"Yes, sir, and I tried dropping its payload while it was still over barren ground.  I also saw the hacker try to force a shutdown." 
"How long ago were the hackers booted out," Chueng asked into his radio. 
"They're still in," came the voice back.  "Every indication is that the hackers are still in, but there's some kind of super-root that's countervailing every command as fast as they make it, even from batches." 
"Well, if there's a super-root, then why hasn't it just kicked them out?" 
"We've got counter-countermeasures in place, constantly fighting for control.  I don't think that they have spare CPU cycles to-- Wait, no, we're losing them!"  There was a pause, and then, "I don't think that we're going to regain control.  I recommend jamming all control signals and grounding the entire battle." 
"Jam all controls!" shouted Chueng, as the jump-jackers got out of their seats, suddenly knowing that they'd have nothing to do.  "Acknowledged," Chueng said into his radio, quickly, before he lost contact.  He only just realized that the officer with whom he was strategizing had already left to oversee the anticipated mobilization of ground forces. 
"Hey," Chueng said to a straggling soldier - that same soldier, come to think of it - who was still by the monitors, "Remember your training.  When we start jamming, jump-jackers become regular troops.  Grab your--"
"The enemy drones are still airborne," the soldier interrupted, indicating the radar screen, which now had a lot of static. 
The captain peered at the radar, through the static, and saw the blips that indicated UAV-sized aircraft.  They weren't just still on what was left of the radar - they were moving.  Dread suddenly rose within him, and he went running for the jammer array. 
"Cease jamming!  Get our drones back in the air!" 
Soldiers are trained to follow orders.  Two specialists deactivated the jammers while the jump-jackers returned to their seats, to fill any vacancies left by the pilots back home who figured that they had a long break ahead of them - probably all of them.  The lucky bastards didn't have to be in the field because they had a nice secure pipe from home to their own drones. 
"Does anyone back there read me?" asked Chueng over the radio, hoping to get the hackers - or, anyone, really. 
"Yes," came the reply, "we read--"
"We have weaponized AI out here.  I repeat, we have weaponized AI." 

Sudden Short Story 88

"That's a very strange question," she said to the visitor, though she did not know at the time that he was an offworlder.  "Have you really never heard, until now, how our world was created?"
"Strangely enough, no," he said half-honestly.  It was a necessary ruse to tease the cosmogeny out of certain cultures, and these humans were no exception.
"I thought that I'd met all the children, though," she said.  "Who are your parents?"
He was puzzled by her line of reasoning.  "What does who my parents are have to do with the story?"
"Well, I was just curious, is all.  There aren't many children, as you know, which is why I thought that you were here when this world was created.  Ooh, are you from another planet?" 
He laughed nervously.  "You have quite a sense of humor," he said. 
"Do I?  You've never met Kevin, and you're apparently not one of the children.  Everyone would have heard if there'd been a grandchild.  In all my twenty-thousand years here, I've never met you until recently, so you must be a new arrival.  Were you perhaps born in deep space?" 
With that, there was nothing left but to depart.  "You are far less primitive than I suspected, which renders my research up to this point moot."  He bowed and said, "Farewell," and was teleported away. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sudden Short Story 87

He looked out of the window at the rain, as he often did during this time of year. 
"It's really coming down, isn't it?" his wife asked. 
"That's right, you grew up down south, didn't you?" he asked her, rhetorically. 
"Not too far south, mind," she replied. "But I know enough not to be surprised when it rains in the middle of the rainy season." 
"Well, back in my day, January in western Pennsylvania wasn't the rainy season:  it was the middle of winter."  He turned back to look out the window.  "The driving was terrible, but at least you knew what time of year it was." 

Sudden Short Story 86

Q'alya al-Orn was wandering once more through the desert, when he was overtaken by a vision.  From every horizon, a mass of water, so great that it rose above each dune and had no gaps, encroached upon him, until the dune on which he stood, which seemed itself to be rapidly dissolving, was the only land around.  The water was so very deep that he could not see the bottom anywhere. 
Before him, a great alien god sat within the water, its tentacles writhing, lashing out at any ship that dared be upon the water's surface.  A corpse from one of the wrecks floated to Q'alya's island.  "We were glad when it took the deserts," it spake, "for we had more fishing, and we lost nothing.  The deserts did not sate it." 
An enormous tentacle came and took the corpse to the god's mouth.  Then, another tentacle came and seized Q'alya, whose island finally gave way.  As he was raised into the air, he saw nothing but water in all directions.  As he fell into the god's enormous maw, he was engulfed by darkness, which was completed as it shut its mouth. 
Q'alya awoke with an enormous mission before him:  He must somehow find and somehow stop the great alien god from turning the world into an ocean.  He headed toward the nearest city, and hoped that it was friendly to elves. 

Sudden Short Story 85

Propped up against the pillows, he held her as she read.  She dwelt too long on these pages, though, because her thoughts distracted her from reading.  He noticed this, and thought that now might be a good time to ask. 
"May I ask why you were crying the other day?" 
She put down her book, turned into him, and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his chest.  Neither of them expected this. 
"It's because you're so good to me," she began.  "You're loyal and kind and helpful, and you always care about my happiness, even though you don't love me," she said, saying aloud what usually stayed unspoken, "and sometimes I just can't take the contradiction." 
She did not cry this time; she didn't even know why she'd cried the other day, as nothing was new. 
He held her, but was silent; he couldn't think of anything true to say, and he could not lie to her. 

Sudden Short Story 84

They stared up at the stars that night, their futures before them, though they did not know it.  She put on her lip gloss, as she was wont to do, and he, with nothing to do, thought for a moment.  His future came to his mind, unbidden, and to him a thought occurred. 
She put away her lip gloss, leaned back into the crook of his arm, and rested against him, to stare back up at the sky.  But then, spontaneous as couples are wont to be, they kissed briefly, then felt silly for doing only that, but resumed staring up at the sky. 
He could not leave his thought unspoken any longer.  "Hey, tomorrow, do you suppose that we could try it without the lip gloss?" 
"Huh?" she asked.  "But, it's your favorite flavor." 
"I know," he said, before she filled in, but then he needed to fill in.  "But, could we just try without it, anyway?" 
"Sure," she said with a smirk, "tomorrow." 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sudden Short Story 83

He finally saw the forest man, though it was obvious that it was only because he wanted to be seen. 
"You've spent a lot of time in our territory," he announced to the younger man - a boy, really, no more than sixteen by the looks of it.  "I take it that you're after me." 
A crow alighted on a nearby branch. 
"That's one way to put it," the young man replied.  He was slightly winded from ascending a steep slope. 
A crow alighted on a nearby branch. 
"You've come to me as Ursa is taking care of her cubs.  So don't worry," he smirked, "you won't be mauled by a bear." 
A crow alighted on a nearby branch. 
"You're bringing a lot of crows, though," said the young man, as a crow alighted on a nearby branch. 
"Despite what you may have heard, I do not controls most of these animals, though they are my friends.  The army of squirrels is a different matter, though." 
"The what?" 
"Don't worry about it.  What brings you to me?" 
A crow landed on the ground near the visitor.  That one always had been curious. 
"You don't realize who I am, do you?" asked the young man. 
"I haven't heard any news from the city in years.  Are you some kind of child prodigy, who ran up a business empire and needs more land because, really, it's important?"  A crow cawed.  "Maybe you're a grown man who invented a youth serum and now you're aging backwards and you're just plain desperate."  More crows called.  "I honestly don't know who you are.  Who are you?" 
"You might find this hard to believe," said the young man, "but... I'm your son." 
The crows began an absolute cacophony.  The forest man struggled to retain his composure, knowing that the boy was about the right age ... . 
The boy shouted over the din of the crows.  "Do you remember a girl named--" 
"You should get out of here while you still can," spoke the forest man clearly. 
"What?"  The young man was caught by surprise, not expecting to be rebuked so suddenly.  "But, you haven't even heard me out." 
"As I said," said the forest man, trying very hard not to yell to be heard over the crows, so as to avoid seeming even more agitated, "I do not control the animals, but they are my friends.  Slowly leave the area, now." 
Afraid for life or limb, the young man turned and left.  He was miles away before he stopped being scared of every large shadow in a tree branch. 

Sudden Short Story 82

"Yeah," she said in response, trying to play it cool.  "Who'd want someone like that, anyway?" 
He recognized that tone, that waver.  She'd become too human in his time there; she'd become a bad liar.  Or maybe it was just now. 
Regardless, his instant realization took him so by surprise that he sat up and turned away from the river to face her. 
He forgot to hide the look on his face, though, and she read it plainly enough.  She was actually dumbstruck, which was new. 
"No," he said, not wanting to hurt her feelings.  "No," he said, not wanting her to think that he meant what he meant.  "No," he said, regretting what he'd just said, but it came out as just "no, no, no." 
She didn't know how to react.  Her own thoughts were unfamiliar to her.  She tried to fly away, but she couldn't, so she just ran. 
"No," he said, quietly, to himself, as he realized what had happened.  The spirit world hadn't changed him, but he'd begun to change it. 
He wandered off that night, hoping to find a way out, before he ruined everything. 

Sudden Short Story 81

The little girl sat at the bus stop as the #4 pulled away.  Though kicking her feet a little, she had a melancholy about her. 
"Why are you sad," asked a woman's voice. 
"Because I'm waiting for the bus," she said. 
"When the bus arrives, will you be happy?" 
"I'm happy now," answered the girl.  "But, I'm also sad, because I miss my family."  She looked off, down the road, which now wound through bushes and trees and was made of dirt.  She was already losing them, in her mind, and her reason for going.  Tears began to well in her eyes, but she held them back.  "I won't miss them once I cross the hedge, will I?" 
The bus arrived. 
"No," answered the voice. 
The little girl boarded the bus. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sudden Short Story 80

"Alright, men," Colonel Saunders began - she had long ago ensured that everyone was aware of the 'u' in her name - "This is your new favorite target."  A distant picture of the strange alien appeared on everyone's HUD. 
"As of right now," Major Leeds continued, distracted by how much he hated leading briefings, "if you see one of these alone - and they are usually alone - then you shoot to kill." 
Captain Pletcher made sure that he was thorough when he explained things.  "That means no warning shots.  That means that you attack, if possible, before radioing for backup.  You are to report the sighting while shooting, not after." 
"I know that this goes against your training, but it's very important that you remember these things."  Lieutenant Korrapati made sure that his troops understood that these orders were not given wantonly, but also the weight of the situation.  "They are called temporal assassins for a reason.  If you miss, if you wound it, if another sees you, then you will not get a second chance.  They will unmake you.  You will never have existed." 
"There is some good news, though," Sergeant Patariki said as she wrapped up.  She indicated the middle of the creature - it was about half middle, with six long, grasping appendages emerging radially from it.  "Its brain is spread all throughout its torso - I don't have time to mince words with xenobiologists - and it needs the whole thing.  Hit almost any part of this big, inert target, and you've got a dead temporal assassin.  Aim for the middle; even if you're off-center, it should end up dead.  Always look for seconds before securing the area.  Always put another bullet somewhere else in its brain before letting Intel take over; we need samples, but we can't be too careful." 
"Alright, now let's go kill some assassins, while we still exist," Private Jefferson said, per his habit of talking to himself.  He wondered how he got stuck with the job of killing these things.  As dangerous as the things were, shouldn't they have sent more people? 

Sudden Short Story 79

The angle of his nose and of his jawline matched the unique slope of the back of his ear.  Arms crossed, he propped himself up against the back of his chair, with his legs kicked out, though he could hardly be imagined relaxing.  Pressed pants, pressed shirt, he was the living embodiment of a backslash. 

Author's note:  I'm fairly certain that the style of this story is brought to you by my having recently read Kafka. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Update Update May 31st, 2015

Due to circumstances far, far, far beyond my control, I have to make this my 4th post in May, and I have to move the fifth and sixths posts to being in June, instead of in May. 
I can't give much detail, unfortunately, but I am committed to getting those extra/make-up posts in as soon as possible. 

Sudden Short Story 77

She flew in, from over the horizon.  "It's not really star-gazing without any stars," she told him as she landed. 
"There's that star over there," he said, pointing toward the northern horizon.  He was near the south pole, so that was always visible. 
"Yeah, but you're not looking that way," she pointed out.  "You're just staring into the blackness of space." 
"Would you rather I stare into the blackness of your heart?" 
She stuck her tongue out at him, then laid down on the dying grass next to him and took his hand in hers.  "We're the only two who saw it through," she said to him.  "We're at the heat-death of the universe, with our man-made planet orbiting a man-made sun with all the matter left in the universe, and you still have to crack your cruel jokes." 
"Well, there's not much else to do," he pointed out. 
"There's always each other," she said with a grin. 
"You know, I consider puns the cruelest joke of them all." 
"I'm literally the last woman alive in the universe," she reminded him.  "I've also got the better part of ten to the seventh Earth years to work on this," she said, looking at their sun, their timer.  She stood up again, preparing to fly away.  "At least I'm not bored:  I've got a really good puzzle to solve," and with that, she was off over the horizon again. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sudden Short Story 76

The demonologist got off of the bus, and was greeted by a somewhat perplexed woman.  When everyone else had left, though, it was clear to her that he was, indeed, the demonologist, and it was clear to him that she was the one to take him to the suspected victim. 
"Pardon my reaction," she said at last, "but I didn't expect you to be quite so young." 
"You flatter me," he said, "but I'm nearly thirty as it is.  Would you care to lead the way?" 
They began walking down the block leading away from the bus stop. 
"I guess that I just expected a demonologist to be some old man," she said.  "Come to think of it, most people our age don't even believe in demons.  I know that ... ."  She trailed off, not quite sure what to say. 
"I think that I've seen this before," he said to her.  "You were raised some kind of christian - most Americans are, and African-Americans especially - and there are the stories about demons, so you think that you always believed in demons, but you never really took them seriously.  The part of you that acknowledges that also regrets having done so, and has redoubled your faith.  Am I wrong?" 
"So how long have you been a demonologist?"  she asked.  She wasn't really trying to avoid the question; she was just curious how someone could be so experienced at such a young age.  Or did her face just show it that plainly? 
"Oh, almost two years, I'd say." 
Reading her face after his response was not difficult by anyone's standards.  
"Well, it's not exactly a lucrative career," he elaborated.  "I live largely on the hospitality of others, which is sometimes cut short when it turns out not to be a demon - the diagnosis really is the most important part.  If I didn't care about helping others, I could have stayed in my job as an adequate materials engineer."  They arrived at the apartment.  "Which room is it?" he asked. 
"503," she answered.  "You were a materials engineer?" she asked of him, while leading him to the elevator.
"Yeah, and that's kind of a funny story," he said, as they entered.  He pushed the button for 5.  "You see, I hadn't set out to do any of this at all.  I didn't go to college for it, at least.  I was actually studying to go into information security, which, come to think of it, would also have been a lucrative career."  The elevator dinged with their arrival.  "Come to think of it, I'm a very strange man."  He got out and proceeded to look for 503. 

Life Update May 2015

So, once again, I completely forgot about blogging for most of the month.  I remembered earlier this week, but I didn't get to it until now.  I did manage to remember, earlier in the month, while at work, to jot down some sudden short story notes, because they popped into my head, so I'll crank those out tonight.  I need to double-check, but I think that I have 4, which should cover 4 of the remaining 5 posts for this month. 
I've also got a big thing happening this coming week.  I'll say more after it happens.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sudden Short Story 75

She, from the bank of the lavender river, saw him up the slope.  The grass lost blue on the way up. 
"Who are you?" he asked, as if it were the most normal thing ever. 
"Oh thank god," she said, approaching him, "another human being.  Do you know where we are?" 
"Where do you suppose that we are?" he asked. 
"I'm not sure," she replied, hesitantly.  "I've seen some weird stuff out here, though," she continued, scanning the horizon.  "It gives me the heebie-jeebies, to say the least.  Well, which way did you come from?  Maybe we could follow it back out of here." 
"How long do you suppose that I've been here?" he asked. 
"I don't know.  Look, let's just get out of here, OK?" 
But he just stood there, at least for a moment. 
"What would you say if I told you that I, too, was a human who became lost in the spirit world?  What would you say if I said that I had to hide, but could not evade the spirits forever?  Would you believe me if I told you that I found a way to disguise myself among them?" 
And she just stared at him, silently, not running not only because she wasn't sure whether she should, but because she wasn't sure whether it would do her any good. 
"Did you realize that a human can disguise himself as a spirit if he acts like one?  Did you know that spirits are often limited, having specific domains or extreme personalities?  And would you believe that I've survived here, this whole time, because I thought to ask only questions?" 
She remained hesitant, but asked, "So... there's no way out?" 
His resigned expression and his silence spoke volumes.  She looked around, half vainly for an exit, and half in fear of what might come next. 
"And what will you do with this insight?" 

Life Update April 2015

So, life's crazy right now.  I've still got that move coming up (it got delayed somewhat), so I haven't really had a chance to think this month.  I'm going to defer one of this month's posts to May, in addition to the one from March, so May will have 6 posts. 
Oh, and, probably related to the above, I totally forgot about that whole Flash Fiction Friday thing, so there's that.  Well, I've got notes scribbled down for a story, so I'll write that tonight. 
More info after the move!  @_@

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sudden Short Story 74

It's a funny thing, how laws are, but I suppose that it's funny how people are, too.  There are still lights strung up on nearly all of the houses, here, even though it's April.  Last year, most people took their lights down by Valentine's Day, but we don't actually have to until a week after the first melt of the new year. 
It used to be that most people had to take them down before MLK Day, since winter was always iffy at best around here, and the first melt was usually while the calendar was still in the single digits.  But then, of course, there was last winter, when the wind blew in from all directions, and the snow stayed.  It was nice to see the snow, but not so nice to drive through it.  Still, everyone took their lights down eventually, seeing as how it would look downright silly when the snow finally melted and there were Xmas lights up on St. Patrick's Day. 
We complained a lot at Easter.  We were all a little nervous by Memorial Day.  By the 4th of July, we were downright scared. 
Food could still be grown down south, but even there the weather was weird, being always unseasonably chilly, and windy.  States of emergency have been declared damn near everywhere, and most people are quietly abiding, since nobody knows what to do. 
We try to keep peace and order and hope, where we can.  That's why it's nice to live here:  Since the ordinance says that we get to keep our lights up until the first melt of the new year, we're keeping our lights up against the dark.  The law is still being obeyed, to the letter, which helps with peace of mind, and we also get to look at our pretty lights. 
I don't have the heart to tell my neighbors what I've figured out:  We're in the middle of Fimbulwinter, and Ragnarök is coming. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I Owe You a Post

I'm going to put a bonus post in either April or May (not sure yet - depends on life stuff) to make up for the lack of a proper 4th post now.  Normally, I wouldn't do this, but I've got way too much IRL stuff to worry about that now. 

Sudden Short Story 73

He saw them well before they arrived.  Land approaches that did not use the pass below were still impractical.  He met them in what passed for his front yard, on the path leading to his house. 
They stopped before him.  After a moment, they spoke in unison:  "Are you the guru who lives atop the mountain?" 
He paused.  "My name's Steve?  I'm the only person who lives on top of this mountain." 
The visitors looked at each other, not with puzzlement, but with antagonism.  They hesitated, but then spoke in unison again:  "Our world is torn by endless war.  Lacking any ability to negotiate peace, your sides decided to seek the most removed individual to determine the final outcome.  We ask you this question in the hope of ending the war:  Are you a Neo-Thracian or a counter-Neo-Thracian?" 
Steve gathered his thoughts for a moment, and then spoke.  "I will have to disappoint you.  Your war will have to go on as before.  I have never even heard of these things.  I am neither a Neo-Thracian nor a counter-Neo-Thracian." 
Only the envoys' sheer shock delayed their shared reaction.  Both drew hand-held firearms from hidden locations on their persons.  Both pointed their guns at Steve. 
The man was the first to speak.  "You antisemitic racist!" he accused. 
"You despotic fascist," she accused.  "I always suspected that this was a counter-Neo-Thracian media ploy." 
"Don't think that you can fool me," said the man.  As he moved to point his gun at her, so, too, did she point her gun at him.  "You sought to use this encounter to kill me.  'A Neo-Thracian will exploit everyone, at every opportunity, no matter how small,' Zeke 91." 
"Your fundamentalist pedantry means nothing to me," retorted the woman, "It's full of lies, like the idea that you would ever concede peacefully." 
Steve had gone back to his house to make some tea, while the visitors were too focused on each other to notice that he'd left.  He was curious what would happen when one of them noticed that he was gone, but not curious enough to be near them when it did.  The kettle hadn't even boiled when he heard the gunshots.  He looked outside, and then wondered what he should do with the bodies.  The cliff on the other side of the mountain seemed as good of a place as any, but he took his time to think about it.  After all, they weren't going anywhere. 

Life Update March 2015

So here I am, updating on the last day of the month again.  It kind of snuck up on me this time, actually.  I've got a ton of stuff going on in real life.  I don't want to get too much into the details, but at some point coming soon I have both travel and an actual move, so I've been super busy preparing.  I do have a short story idea, so I'm going to write that one tonight, and that leaves me with one other blog post to get to my 4 for the month. 
And yes, this also means that most of April's posts won't happen until late April.  :-\

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sudden Short Story 72

"Hey.  I suppose that you heard the speech last night," said Joe as he entered the department Monday morning. 
"Yeah," replied Mary.  "The whole office is uneasy.  Everyone's got that suspicion that anyone else could be from the other dimension."
"I don't think that we have too much to fear, here," said Joe.  "We're not the military or the FBI or anything.  Where's Dan?"
"He called in sick." 
"What a first day back, eh?  Well, how'd the consultant do, anyway?"  The consultant's last day had been Friday. 
"He did pretty well, actually.  He said that he could improve data fidelity with another layer of normalization.  He said that he even got some of the tables into Codd-Boyce Normal Form." 
"You mean Boyce-Codd Normal Form," Joe said, as he sipped his morning coffee. 
"Well, DBA's not really my thing, but I'm sure that he said Codd-Boyce Normal Form, or sometimes CBNF." 
Joe slammed his coffee onto Mary's desk and ran to his cubicle.  "How sure are you?" he asked, as his fingers flew across his keyboard. 
"Quite sure," Mary said.  The printer started running. 
"Call Nick.  Tell him to cut our internet, have his team start turning off machines and unplugging them from the network, and put every pre-Roger backup tape in a vault somewhere."  Joe grabbed the printed page and ran out.  "I've got to talk to the president - and the president." 
Mary sat down, wondering what to make of Joe's ramblings, when an e-mail appeared in her inbox, from Joe.  It had no subject, and the body was just a link, to Wikipedia's article on Boyce-Codd normal form.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mythology Progress?

I know that it's been a long-ass time since I wrote on the whole Greek mythology thing, but I thought that I should at least announce that I'm also planning on getting back to it.  I'm not sure how much will get done in March, since, per my previous post, I've got an entertainment focus then, but I'm definitely going to work on it at least a little. 
Sorry for the short post, but it didn't really fit in the previous post. 

Sudden Short Story 71

Ours was thought to be a lost cause, back in the day.  Thankfully, tourist groups are just as lax among the supposedly enlightened species as they were back on Earth.  We've managed to sneak enough humans off of the preserve planet to expand our outside population when we need additional or replacement agents.  The fact that immortality can be gotten for cheap handles everything else. 
Working on planets from the lower strata of interstellar society is strange to say the least.  They have an Earth-like quality, though they have far less surveillance, since they actually managed to realize that it's impractical on the large scale.  This works for us:  Not only are the surroundings of a technology level with which we're familiar, but we can work without being detected, so that the Occupants, as we've come to call them, won't know that any of us have gotten loose. 
We've all memorized the Five Century Plan.  The duration is the worst part, but we have to make sure that it goes right the first time; the Occupants will make sure that we won't get a second chance, one way or the other.  As it happens, it's more like four different plans, each a fail-safe against the others.  I kind of hope that we get to the last part, though:  Normally, I'd be opposed to genocide, but it'd be an eye for an eye, and they did take Earth from us, after all. 

Entertainment Plans: March 2015

In case anyone was wondering, I haven't made any Pokémon progress at all lately.  What little time I've spent on the handheld has been on Pokémon shuffle, largely because of its whole heart recharge system.  It's a fine little match-3 game, but I'm not writing to talk about that today.
I realized that, even for my personal entertainment, I won't get anything done unless I specifically set out to to it.  These aren't exactly great aspirations, but I figured that I'd post them here, for what it's worth.  For one thing, I'm hoping to make March be the month that I finally re-play Myst.  For another, I'm hoping to watch some anime.  I haven't watched anime in ages.  I've got one on loan, and I'm hoping to watch any one of a short list of other anime.  (Maybe I'll post details once I decide what to watch.)  Furthermore, in addition to those, I saw the first few episodes of Gankutsuou AGES ago, and saw them again slightly fewer ages ago, but I figure that I can set aside some time and actually watch the whole thing.  (For the curious, Gankutsuou is currently available, both subbed and dubbed, on Funimation's YouTube channel.) 
Oh, and I suppose that I'll have to make some more progress on Pokémon, too.  ;)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sudden Short Story 70

"You're behind schedule," came the voice over the commlink. 
"This from the 'time traveler'," Breaker said sarcastically, with his subvocals.  "Relax, I had to be fashionably late." 
"Grid, what's your status?" 
"Brilliant," said Grid, "That quantum rig's brilliant.  I already own everything.  I'm working on the loop footage for the cameras on the path to the master bedroom.  Just say when." 
"Don't forget to do the other sensors.  White hats are always on duty for these affairs.  Octopus, be ready, I don't want any of the outside guards coming in if this goes foul." 
"They won't even know what happened," she replied.  Noise cancelers were as much a godsend to assassins as chameleon suits. 
"Grid, give me a status on Breaker." 
"He's schmoozing with the guests," said Grid, only mildly annoyed at the degree of micromanagement.  He couldn't complain too much - his job was safest of all, really, being off-site.  "I think that he's trying to extend his network of ... personal contacts." 
"Confidence is a virtue in your line of work, Breaker, but there can be too much of a good thing.  Schweitzer is as paranoid as ever.  You need to have finished your transport before he checks his room.  Please make haste with the lady and resume your duties." 
It took almost a minute before Breaker walked away.  "Relax," he said, "This gave me half an alibi.  I'm off to the washroom, aren't I?  Grid, did you get the guards by the corridor?" 
"I got them.  Both had cyber-eyes, but one didn't have a cyber-occipital, so I'm editing you out of their optical streams live.  Hop to it, I can't keep this up forever, even with the q-box."

Once Breaker got to the master bedroom, he easily found the secret switch that opened the secret passage.  It was an old mechanical, so it was mostly a matter of knowing for sure that it existed.  Within the secret passage, finding the other secret switch was just as easy, though it would've fooled anyone with worse intel - who would suspect a secret door within a secret passage?  It wasn't a door, though:  The panel revealed a palm reader, though Grid had hacked it to interpret any palm as Schweitzer's. 
"I don't believe it," commented Breaker, perhaps not on subvocals. 
"I don't recall writing your belief into the contract either way," retorted their boss for this job.  "Get in, but be ready.  There may be guards on the other end, though I doubt it."
Breaker got into something that he thought passed for a fighting pose, then activated the transporter.  Before he knew it, he was in a darkly-lit facility of indiscernible purpose.  "There's nobody here," he reported, once he'd turned on the satellite link.  It was only just barely powerful enough to get a signal out, but it was necessary, since the facility was off of every grid possible. 
"As I suspected," said their boss, "he doesn't want anyone to know that this place exists, so he hasn't even hired guards.  Now, get the package to the time nexus and get out." 
Breaker found the area containing the time nexus easily enough.  "Boss, it's moving around quite a bit.  How am I supposed to get the package to it?" 
"That's why I put it on a line," came the reply, "It's bound to this location gravitationally, so it and the planet move at the slightest perturbation.  The relative velocity doesn't matter, though, so swing the package around in a circle at high speed and try to get the circle to intersect the nexus." 
"Tell me again why we have to do this?" asked Breaker, as he got the package up to speed.  "Why couldn't you just do it yourself?" 
"To alter a timeline in the past, one must be outside of it." 
"Yeah, but once I change it, how will you get back in?  When you jump in, won't you be a new arrival rather than a native?  Surely that's gonna create some problems for you." 
"You are working with the faulty assumption that I ever left my home timeline in the first place." 
The package intersected the nexus, and an empty loop of string emerged from the other side. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2015

I never got around to finalizing my resolution list for this year, so here it is. 
  • 4 blog posts per month - This is still hard, so I'm not increasing it.  
    • Flash Fiction Friday, the 3rd Friday of each month (with that Saturday as a backup), starting in February - I totally forgot this month, but I had a scheduling conflict, anyway.  
  • Finish first stage of research into Greek mythology - This means something specific to me, but I'm being vague here.  
  • Follow my exercise schedule - The schedule itself might change, as needed, but I've got one currently, and so far I'm managing to keep to it.  
  • Beat Myst again - OK, I forgot last year, but I definitely want to do it this year.  
    • I'm also hoping to beat at least 1 other game in this series.  They're not exactly long, but I've got to get around to doing them.  
  • Beat Pokémon OR/AS - This means beating the Elite 4, but I have, like, no progress on this so far.  -_-
The list that you guys get to see is short this year, but I highly expect to get all of them done this year. 

On Helping Others Find Sites

I was recently reading yet another article on how a site's livelihood - in this case, MetaFilter's - was threatened because a search engine - in this case, Google - made a secret change to its secret algorithms.  Every once in a while, an article like this crosses my path, though I have to wonder how many I don't see because I don't see the tweet, or because nobody in my timeline tweeted or retweeted it because they didn't know about it because it doesn't show up on search engines.  Also, even though I said "search engine" twice, this also applies to social networking sites, though in different ways.  On the one hand, I'm glad that my livelihood doesn't depend on a website (I'm not even currently running any), but on the other hand, it's because of that that it's easy to forget how big of a deal this is to some people. 
I recently tweeted that people should use at least three search engines - unless they can get exactly half of their searches into each of two - and the point of this, really, is to avoid letting anyone get a monopoly.  Google has a higher "household name" stat than anyone else.  Bing is getting traffic from people too lazy to use anything other than IE.  Yahoo is now getting traffic from people comfortable with using FireFox's default engine.  Last I checked, was still trying to trick people installing Java or Flash or something into changing their browser's default to  Even this trickery is understandable, given how much sway Google holds, but even if some other search engine takes the lead, that just changes who the default is.  Ever since search engines got good - prioritizing sites by relevance instead of just listing them - our behavior has changed. 
Search engines, ads, and social media sites are said to "drive traffic" - or not, as the case may be - to any given site.  However, this is sometimes fraught with pitfalls, too, as is the case with facebook.  I'll recap, for those who haven't heard:  A while ago (last year or the year before, I forget), it was revealed that facebook was sometimes hiding updates by people/groups/pages from people who followed those people/groups/pages, unless those people/groups/pages paid money to make sure that all of their followers got to see it.  Of course, since facebook is charging the content creators, most users don't know that stuff is being hidden from them; they're not told that there's a missing update, so they don't know that there's a hole in their timelines.  As it happens, just the other day, someone made a comic summarizing this topic again. 
People have been communicating with each other over the internet for as long as it has existed - that's kind of the point of it, after all.  Social networking sites have been around longer than the name, and even longer than really old ones like friendster, but they were called "forums".  Even before that, though, there were instant messaging services, chatrooms, and even Usenet groups.  Websites exited, too, once they were invented, but the most common ways that people found out about sites was by being told about them, either by their fellow users (even, believe it or not, offline) or by other sites.  (This is back when webrings were still seen on a regular basis.) 
I think that we need to make a point of doing this more, as it has waned.  That's not to say that we need to sign up for Usenet groups or idle in chatrooms all day, but we should make a point of telling each other about good sites, and asking each other instead of relying on search engines.  I don't know exactly the best way to do it, but here are some tips: 
  • Don't assume that someone interested in a topic already knows about <site>.  
  • If someone asks you about good sites/the best site for something, don't tell them to <search engine> it.  
  • Every now and then, <search engine> for <topic>, then skip the first three pages of results, and see if you find any diamonds in the rough.  (If you do, then tell people about them.)
  • Every now and then, go through your bookmarks and see if there's a site that you haven't visited in a while.  If it's still there and still good, then tell people about it.  
  • It's going to be a very long time before people get weaned off of search engines.  Be patient with this. 
As for my part, I'm going to try to occasionally tweet about random good sites when I get a chance.  I'll let you know if I think of anything better.  

An Initial Review of Civilization V

Recently, there was a free weekend on Steam for Sid Meier's Civilization:  Beyond Earth, and I took a crack at it.  I enjoyed it, even though I didn't finish it.  However, it occurred to me that I'd never actually played a game in the Civilization series.  All of the Civilization titles were 75% off on Steam that weekend, so I went ahead and picked up Sid Meier's Civilization V
I've finally finished my first game of it. 
I really quite enjoyed the game.  There's a lot to it, but because of the way that civilizations progress, it's not all dumped out at once.  Also, it's turn-based, so I'm not rushed while trying to learn it.  I did play it on the easy difficulty, but that gave me a chance to make some mistakes during my first play-through. 
I can't wait to play on the normal setting, and probably on a bigger map. 
One thing that I noticed in the design of the game is that, even if one isn't going for a given type of victory, it still behooves one to progress that area, so nothing gets abandoned.  For instance, even if one isn't going for domination victory, it's still a good idea to have a strong enough standing army to defend against invaders.  Likewise, Culture is useful both to make someone else's Culture Victory harder and because it unlocks special abilities. 
It's a short review, I know, but if you want an in-depth look at the mechanics - well, it's been out since 2010, so I'm sure that you can find reviews and wikis on it. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

On the Average Results of Savage Worlds Dice

Something occurred to me the other day, regarding the average results of dice in Savage Worlds.  For those who don't know, in Savage Worlds, each die (with the possible exception of damage dice - I forget) can explode.  For those who don't know what that means, if a die rolls its highest result, that result is kept and then added to a new roll of that die.
Obviously, the minimum result of any roll (except 1d4-2) is a 1, and the maximum result is an arbitrarily large number.  However, what's the average result of any die roll?

Consider a 1d6 roll, the most common roll in Savage Worlds.
Let x be the average result, which we seek.

We're re-using x on the right, since the average roll being added to 6 in the best case is, itself, the average case of a new die roll.  Thus, we can use basic algebra to solve for x:

In this specific case, the result is x = 21/5 = 4.2.  However, I've left the sum to reveal the generalized form.  For a die of size k, the average result is

While I don't think that this is new knowledge, I also suspect that tables are commonly referenced, so I thought that I'd put this generalized form out there.

EDIT:  I had a botched example result; I was thinking of the d8 case.  
EDIT:  I discovered that the fancy math stuff is rendering weirdly on Blogger.  I'll fix it later; for now, you can click on it if it's illegible:  The page where you land will have it (correctly) in about the middle.