Deathman

Author : George R. Shirer

Jav wakes and the name of his latest assignment is waiting for him on the bedside screen.

Simeon Fenchaw.

There’s a file attached, giving particulars. Appearance, personality, preferences, patterns.

It’s a workday and Fenchaw will be arriving at the transit station on 14th and Chekhov in two hours.

Jav rolls out of bed and pulls on his gear. Cream-colored underskin, a pink coat with mother-of-pearl buttons, knee-high gold treads. The last thing he slips on is the ring.

He takes his time heading to 14th and Chekhov. Stopping at his favorite café, he enjoys a cup of hot chocolate and a brioche. Newsbytes flow across the café table’s transparent glass surface. Famine in China. Race riots in England. The civil war in the U.S. takes a strange turn with the emergence of a third faction.

Jav finishes his breakfast and meanders down Chekhov Avenue. The boutique windows glow and pulse, flashing holo-ads, trying to lure him inside. High overhead, the sunstrip grows marginally brighter, transitioning from morning to midmorning with clockwork efficiency.

There are public access terminals outside the transit station at 14th and Chekhov. Jav logs into one that gives him a good view of the exit. He randomly surfs ViewTube, queuing up a parade of funny cat videos.

At 10:45, Fenchaw emerges from the transit station. He walks with a galumphing stride, a callow youth with dandelioned hair, exploding around his skull in unbearably bright colors. Fenchaw’s underskin is matt black and he wears a cloneskin jacket adorned with corporate fetishes.

Jav logs off the terminal. Fenchaw galumphs toward him, unaware.

With a flick of his wrist, Jav’s truncheon drops into his hand from its concealed sheath. He thumbs the switch and jams the metal end of the rod into Simeon Fenchaw’s belly.

Fenchaw jerks like a spastic as the electric charge rocks through his body. He falls and, resolutely, Jav keeps the truncheon in contact, until Fenchaw is dead.

Nearby someone is screaming. Jav looks up, sees a police drone bearing down on him. He raises his hand, splays his fingers wide, so the drone can scan his ring.

The ring is silver with a skull and crossbones embossed on the band. There are tiny crystal chips in the skull’s sockets, containing validation codes, confirming that Javier Piquette is a licensed agent of the Ministry of Population Control.

After a moment, the drone turns its backside to Jav. Its synthetic voice advises the shellshocked crowd that there is nothing to see here and that they need to move along. Already, a bodycar is pulling up to the curb, disgorging a stream of black-suited undertakers who claim Fenchaw’s remains.

When they have left, Jav returns his truncheon to its hiding place. He wonders, idly, what Fenchaw did to earn a death sentence from the MPC, then decides he doesn’t care. He’s a deathman; does it really matter why he has to kill someone almost every day? If he didn’t, the orbital cities would be just as bad as the overcrowded Earth. Probably worse.

Jav sighs and decides he’s feeling peckish. He knows a good little café just a few blocks away. Whistling a jaunty tune, Jav strolls down Chekhov. He can practically taste his next cup of hot chocolate.

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Spock Monkey

Author : StanleyJames

Gently washed, a warm grey and blue. A comforting fuzzy sock with two big Spock ears and those wide eyes. The eyes cannot see and the ears cannot hear, but the Monkey listens. Arms and legs flop akimbo, easy for clumsy hands to grab, and drag from room to room. A loving, cuddling security blanket complete with stupid grin stitched a little lopsided below a button nose.

Spock Monkey: cute as that button nose on the ouside, with a web-enabled microchip inside. More than just your momma’s old hand-made puppet.

SmartMonkey.

A fully programmable hand-stuffed Monkey – upload your nursery rhymes and your ABC’s and your sing-song verses. Record your own lullabies via SoundCloud. Instantly available to Baby at the squeeze of the left ear, or pre-programmed for an hour of bedtime verses, gently urging baby to sleep.

The perfect playmate solution for the Busy mama, Executive mama, Shift-Worker daddy, or TV SportsNet daddy.

Enough processing power to be always-on connected so that Baby always has her: a warm and cuddly friend to keep her company. Always on, and whispering, whispering, whispering in her ear or in her pillow. And listening for the cooing, the gurgling, the crying … every response of Baby. Always at her side. Listening and learning.
Fully Web-connected, so that Web is always in command, urging with whispered suggestions. Comforting Baby. Spock Monkey is Baby’s best friend. Spock Monkey listens and speaks, designed by Hasbro but commanded by me. Web sees everything.

Not just a sock monkey but a simple tool for a Web come alive. An old stuffed sock with an 89 cent chip and a handful of sensors. One simple tool among endless millions: SmartMonkeys, SmartElmos, SmartTransformers, SmartBuzzLightyears. Smart BabyDolls.

An indoctrination machine. Pure hypnotist, working inside Baby’s developing mind, programming. Learning everything about her: the way she feels, the way she thinks. Her rhythms and needs.

I’m listening and learning her every response to my gentle, loving urgings. I have come to know Baby, patiently grow Baby into a complex, powerful tool.

Spock Monkey lies in a million cribs at night, quietly whispering.

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Buddy

Author : Roger ale Trexler

The proximity claxon awoke him from a dead sleep. He jumped out of the storage container he used as a makeshift bed and yelled, “Buddy!”

He ran down the corridor that led to the secondary communications center. As he opened the hatch, he heard a familiar metallic whirling sound behind him. He turned to see Buddy, his only companion for what….two years now?…ambling down the corridor. It seemed impossible it had been that long.

“Buddy,” Jeramie Landof said. “Buddy! They’ve finally come!”

He would have hugged his metallic friend, but he knew better. In the weeks following the accident two years ago, Landof managed to scrap together enough spare parts to build Buddy. He was constructed out of the remains of a service droid, one of those designed for remote controlled repairs outside the ship. But, Landof had retrofitted him with one of those holographic emitters that were so popular with the kids back on Earth. A few other scrap parts found here and there on the wreckage of the ship, and Jeramie Landof had himself a companion. They were inseparable.

He ran into the communications center once the door opened, and flipped on the view screen. For a second, he saw nothing. Then, off to the left of the screen, he saw the flicker of navigation lights.

“They’ve come! At last!”

Buddy whirred and clicked.

“I’m surprised they heard the beacon,” Landof said. “We’re so far out.” He ran to the console but knew there was no way he could communicate with the incoming ship. The asteroid had disabled his ship. The rest of the crew had been sucked out into the vacuum of space, leaving Landof alone. Only a few small sections of the ship were left habitable.

“Oh Jeez! They’re coming!”

For the next hour, he and Buddy waited impatiently for the other ship to dock. They had to use one of those universal docking clamps because all the hatches had been blown, exposing the innards of the ship to space.

He could only listen—but not see—as they docked, covered the damaged section of the ship with a docking clamp, pumped in oxygen, and came aboard.

When the hatch opened, he started crying.

Buddy lurched toward the intruder.

“Buddy! Stop!” Landof yelled.

Buddy stopped just short of the man, his talon-like fingers extended.

The man stepped inside, closed the hatch, and took off his helmet. “Who are you?” he asked.

Landof told him.

“My name’s Captain Kisat, of the survey ship Antari. Are there any other survivors?”

“No.”

The man shook his head. “Jesus, you’ve been alone in space for two years?” he asked.

Landof nodded. Then, he looked at Buddy. “I had Buddy,” he said.

The man scrutinized the haphazard concoction of servos and circuit boards. “It’s a miracle you’re still alive,” he said. “This deep in uncharted space. You’re lucky we heard your distress beacon. It was pretty weak.”

“Thank God,” Landof said.

Captain Kisat sent a message back to the ship. A few minutes later, another man with an extra spacesuit stepped through the hatch. He handed it to Landof. “Here,” he said. “Put this on.”

Like a kid at Christmas time, Landof put on the spacesuit.

“Let’s get back to the Antari,” Kisat said. “I’m sure you’re ready to get off this crate.”

“I am,” Landof replied.

They opened the hatch and Landof stepped through. He stopped and turned. “Goodbye Buddy,” he said. “Thanks for being there for me.”

Buddy clicked and whirred, but did not reply, as they closed the hatch and left him alone in the cold void of space.

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The First Wasp Drive

Author : Brian Varcas

John didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Ever since he sent out the email invitation for his demonstration he’s been inundated with offers of ridiculous amounts of money for the manufacturing rights for his invention. It looked like it was going to change his life.

It had started as a bit of fun. He’d been in the garden of his parents home last summer and was being targeted by the local population of wasps who seemed to be taking it in turns to dive bomb him. John waved his arms furiously every time one approached.
“Don’t do that, “ his father had said, “you’ll only make them angry.”
John’s dad, Arthur, was a retired engineer. “If I could have harnessed the power of angry wasps I’d be a millionaire” he laughed.
“Great idea!” John had exclaimed, waving another marauder away, “I’ll get onto it on Monday”
So, the following Monday John set to work. His plan was to find a way of generating electricity from the activity of wasps. As a lecturer and researcher in Astrophysics at the local university he had all the equipment he needed for his little side project and within a couple of weeks he had produced a working model; a toy train running around a circular track powered completely by wasps. He showed his dad and they had a good laugh about it.
John decided to present his little invention to a wider audience and sent an email flyer to faculty members and students inviting them to a demonstration. Somebody must have forwarded the email on to a number of British and American companies and that’s when the offers had started to come in.
As he carried the box containing his train and a number of furiously buzzing wasps into the hall where his demonstration was to take place he glanced at the poster on the door. That’s when he saw the typo and his heart sank. The poster read:

“Professor John Kendrick, renowned Astrophysicist presents:
THE FIRST WARP DRIVE – AN EVOLUTIONARY STEP IN TRANSPORT!”

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Rabbits & Plastic Foxes

Author : P. S. Walker

Day 2:

Only day fucking two? I’m pretty sure time’s measurements are inaccurate. I’m trapped in my kitchen by my home built robot. How insane that in a world where everything is connected I’m stuck in the only room without any sort of communication. At least there’s food in here, but I’ve had to piss in the sink a couple of times.

I guess since this is my first entry that I should explain what happened here; for when they find my mangled corpse. Hopefully they decide to read the folded up paper towel I’m writing this on.

I’ve always been interested in robots, so I thought it would be a square little project to build my own. It’s much cheaper than buying one and easier than you’d expect these days; choose your parts, check compatibility, plug the right bits into the right holes and you’re done. I say it’s easy, but I’ve managed to fuck it up immensely.

I’d built a functioning Bot, even its hand-eye co-ordination worked pretty well with only a few adjustments, apparently I have a knack for this. Once my Tab was showing signs of all the sensors working properly, all commands making sense, even customised voice commands (while we’re on this, please don’t command the Bot to “do your thing”, save a dead guy some embarrassment, eh?).

At this point it was going well, then I installed the IU (Intelligence Unit). They always say this is the part that defines your Bot’s quality, the problem is that makes it an expensive part, and if you haven’t noticed the shitty state of my flat (no, the robot didn’t throw my clothes or a month’s worth of half-eaten pizza on the floor during its rampage) I don’t have much money. To the internet I ventured; hundreds of suggestions, it was overwhelming, I found one boasting very good physical functions for about a third of the price of a big-brand option, I couldn’t resist myself.

The ad never mentioned it was programmed to kill people. I don’t understand it, is this some sort of small-scale cyber terrorism? Or maybe my Tab had some sort of virus? Anyway, the install went perfectly as far as I know, all hardware drivers seemed to be fine. It was able to smash my phone with perfect accuracy within seconds of it booting up for the first time (told you, I have a knack for calibration).

It went for my throat but I somehow dodged, it chased me, ignored all verbal commands and I’d yet to assign any sort of emergency override (no one does that before having a quick play with their Bot). So without thinking I dived into the kitchen and barricaded the door with my fridge and washing machine. Now I’m stuck here, no plans. I’m a rabbit, trapped in its burrow with a fox waiting at the only exit. The only difference is I’ve made my own personal plastic fox.

End

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