Tropal pubbing

I tapped against the near-field registrant with my wrist and heard the affirming beep in my ear, white noise vie-framed to the acoustics of jaw bones, and began a composition.

“Computer,” I said, “give me a story, seven simple, native, token three; Damsel in Distress; Hoary McGuffin; Redemptive Villain; Ice Cream in Two Scoops. Encoding: hm — make it a mix of like, Space Opera 25 without the lame clothes, something closer to Memoir 8.”

The output flashed against the vis. I changed some fonts and scrolled around as it loaded. At the end, an interactive map of sprinkled points unfolded over the pretty receptionist and the other mainframe patrons, and I slid opacity to view my work.

Pubbing a tropal is simple: after the outline comes the details. It’s like filling in blanks of nouns and verbs, but scaled up to literature and natural language processing. A sub isn’t cheap, but the most prolific authors abuse the jacks and push a dozen simp-forms a week. That adds up.

They used to rewrite specific phrases to put in their own touch, but after a while it makes more sense to produce impressions than preserves. Some people prefer print, but clutter-culture and room-rates make the endeavor an exercise in vanity.

Vicarious extraterrestria

It took seven California suns, but on Mars I earned the certification for the implementation and maintenance of drones.

That let me stay inside, in recycled air, while electric voices swerved in and out of transmit.

I had built the logic prover on Earth, and those frameworks earned my keep in the foundations beneath. After the first month, debugging a neural net is impossible. You retrain it and hope for scientific behavior.

Mistakes and requests filled my inbox twice a day, streams of missed functions and complaints. Those were on good days, when the bandwidth was friendly. I submitted my fixes and hoped the others would be patched. At some level, coding was repetition and reinvention.

The drones floated in the mines and sampled everything. They tasted rocks and smelled the air. They breathed the dust and exhaled exhaust. We lived through them.

Future janitors

I had to wake Ebe.

“You’re a citizen now,” I called, moving to open the blinds. A button press and the metal slats jet open with breezing ease. “Remember?”

“I swore to build bridges,” he mumbled, grasping his pillow.

We were presently in our IT suits and heading out to the rails. Through the tunnels, D– droned in our heads and let us doze-walk the way. Sweat misted our masks and the rubber sapped our souls.

“Maintenance is glory,” she whispered, amplified in our seed-sets.

“Maintenance is glory,” we replied. The light widened as we ascended, and forward to our role in the great Immi.

Among the philosophers, there were the bakers and the chefs, and beneath them the disciples of recipes. We cleaned and recycled and knew our place.

The store where people go to channel over

I made my way to Insp with the meter near green, an electronic ticket that tracked my hands arcing in blank night beneath fluttering rain. The last drops plopped on my head as I pushed into a tinkling bell.

The store sold draped shadows and sharp-edged boxes, and thin books with grasped titles: Axioms of a Framework. Iambic Hymns. Seven Grand Arguments. Catching the Muse.

“Haady,” spoke a silhouette shaded above an amber lamp. He put aside a glittering cylinder and rested a cloth above it. “Help you?”

I approached the counter and held up my ticket. The inks were bright, new as Revi had made it, best he could with the fluoro for which I had bid. Stranger faiths had elected a no-rep newbie to a height a step higher by providence. Now it curled along its slender wire-spine, half-rolled as it had been in my pocket, but dry despite.

“I’ve got my ticket,” I said, creeping toward the orange hued man. “It’s close now. I was wondering if I could make a purchase.”

“How long?” he asked.

“Tomorrow will make it two weeks,” I replied.

“Two weeks,” he said. “This is all I got.” And he brought the cylinder back to the light. It was a small telescope.

“That’s it?” I asked. “You can’t muse with that.”

“Son, you’ll be lucky to make it that far. You walked in with a dribbled paycheck. What were you expecting?”

“My own muse,” I exclaimed. “Been nothing like what I’ve been expecting, and I’ve waited so long as I can. You know how I’ve bent words – I hammered them out and put them all care-worn in pages. I believe them.”

For a second, he said nothing. Then:

“And what did you write?”

“Anything important’s got layers,” I started. “And relationships are fundamental.”

He rolled his eyes – or that’s what I felt like he had done.

“Last time I went this long, I wrote about all the girls I never got to know,” I continued. “This time, I want Insp. She’ll make everything easy.”

“Take it or leave it,” he said, sliding the thing forward. The ticket vanished in his hands and he walked into a back room. The rain stopped and the awning dripped.

I gazed through the telescope and saw crimson threads. They swam in an ether of trolling wisps, murky snakes of beige, cream and gray.

And no hope came to me, or upon me, or beside me: it was merely me.

Tomorrow, Muse, when I wake – unfurl in me a burning map and grant me one of your quickened keys. I shall show loyal words and not abandon them. Fourteen days have nearly passed; I have marked each one. Now it is my due: let this be a good start!