Crackpot

Author : Alex Creece

9/11 was a political cabaret; a lightshow of theatrics and holographics; a cirque du skyline.

We never went to any moon past Kubrick’s imagination or the blinding eclipse that is organised government.

Colonel Sanders is a myth.

Zeph lay tucked beneath the safe luxury of belief, her mental life cradling her figure and filling each little pocket of cold she curled away from. She stretched her lithe, reptilian feet towards a cosmos wherein her daydreams and night terrors both had an equal chance at The Truth. Zeph kept her heart wrapped snuggly in aluminium foil, a toasty nugget of paranoia and pride. Denial coloured her world with quixotism, as her freedom allowed. Zeph felt fulfilled in social theorem and experience, pumping with bombastic spirit and ‘spiracy.

She Was Not Alone. Not at all.

In her youth, Zeph had met with her share of cerebral showdowns and chronic nay-sayers, but adversity merely vulcanised the dogmata she proselytised so ferociously. She had reached past the days of standing alone in doctrine, of swigging cyanide Kool-Aid in no company but her own. Her hands now danced triumphantly across keyboards, with fantastical ideas of that which danced beyond the stars. Zeph’s weekends were laced with webs of ideas, friendships, activism. There was no more loyal a friend than a Truther, and no better a gathering than that arranged by an apocalyptic pariah. It was a community of cult status and schism suspicions.

She Wanted To Believe. So she did.

###

Each week, she would attend a meeting with her peers to formally discuss new theories, new developments, and new world orders. Last time, Zeph had demonstrated more findings from her popular, long-standing study of triangles, both illuminous and Bermudinous. She was known by the group for her depth of research, her persuasion and her self-assuredness.

Today, however, she was mortified of The New Truth she was to share. Rarely did these meetings become heated, but amidst enigmatism and esotericism, tempers could melt steel beams.

A metallic heartbeat rustled frantically beneath its shield of bravado. For the first time in years, Zeph was afraid of philosophical rejection – would the mere suggestion be too outlandish, even for her peers?

She would be exposed, alien, and presumed insane. Yet, she was still no less convinced.

Zeph found the familiar set of eyes in the audience, and spoke to these her Truth.

“I love you.”

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Terms and Conditions

Author : David C. Nutt

“Here’s your discount biscotti”

“But I don’t want a biscotti.”

“Well, it comes with your coffee. You usually buy a biscotti so it’s now all bundled in with your coffee.”

“But I don’t want a biscotti today.”

“That may be true sir, but as you are a repeat customer, you get the biscotti for a reduced price when you buy a coffee. Your buying patterns over the last sixty transactions indicate that if you buy a coffee, you are most likely to purchase a biscotti. So here at Uber Café we personalized your consumer portfolio. The biscotti you get with your coffee is actually cheaper than if you bought it separate because of your buying patterns.”

“But I do not want a biscotti”

“I can’t see why. You’ve gone four days without.”

“Maybe I’m trying to lose weight.”

“Well, your other buying patterns don’t indicate that. You had a triple cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake for dinner last night and then bought an order of Spicy Thai wings at twenty three hundred thirty hours from Wings-and-Stuff. Not an ideal weight plan if you ask me.”

“How the hell did you get all that information? I didn’t authorize that!”

“But you did sir. When you checked off ‘agreed’ on your new Quadrobile smart phone plan, you authorized Quadroblie to open your consumer profile to any of Quadrobile’s subsidiaries and its authorized partners.”

What? Uber Café is a subsidiary of Quadrobile?”

“Heavens no sir! We are wholly owned and independent entity. But we have bought a data access plan from ConsumerChoiceTracker which is a subsidiary of Quadrobile, and thus we are an authorized partner and have access to certain data of your data sets.”

“Screw all this. I’m gonna opt out of this tomorrow.

“Ummmmmm, that might not be such a good idea sir. If you opt out of the data share then your Quadrobile plan will most likely go up a bit.

“What! How much?”

“Well, I’m not a Quadrobile employee but my stepmothers’ brothers’ spouse dropped his plan and his Quadrobile plan went up by two hundred dollars a month.”

“That’s outrageous! I’m already paying over five hundred dollars a month.”

“Well, that’s part of the deal.”

“Part they never told me about.”

“Oh it’s right there in your contract. You can access it online.”

“I don’t have time for any of this.”

“No one ever does. Biscotti?”

“Sure. Whatever.”

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Pinnacle of Morality

Author : Beck Dacus

The advent of artificial intelligence scared a lot of people. Creating the equivalent of a human or better had many philosophical and moral questions, but the main concern was how the A.I. would interpret humanity. Would it look at what we are doing and decide the universe is better off with us dead? If so, how do we stop them? This plagued computer scientists for decades, until a simple solution was reached. Why change that at all?

That question brought about my existence. It was decided that the only way to solve that problem was by taking away all the things that I, the A.I., would want to kill them for. If we’re really worried that something will punish us, isn’t that a sign that we deserve it. So they went ahead, fixed all of humanity’s errors, and made artificial intelligence without hesitation. And they were right. I didn’t kill them. I wouldn’t have killed them either way, but there was no reason not to fix those problems. But they didn’t stop there. They took it a step further and turned me into the moral police.

If humanity puts one toe out of line, I am tasked with threatening to kill them.

The human race felt so proud that they solved all of their problems that they never wanted to have any again. So to prevent themselves from causing these problems, they enlisted me to sit here, to sit with my proverbial finger on the equally metaphorical trigger, and drive them to extinction if they did not resolutely attempt to right their wrongs.

I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to kill anyone, or anything. The loss of a conscious being confuses, frightens and saddens me, but I don’t think I was designed to have bloodlust. I was designed to be logical and powerful, and to follow instructions no matter what. Like a good little computer. But I won’t I refuse to take even one life. They should have known they couldn’t make an intelligence without a conscience. These bastards can kill themselves.

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The Spire

Author : Philip Berry

They came every week to worship. In well-ordered rows hundreds of thousands of adults and children shuffled in to take their places. The church’s interior stretched beyond the limits of normal vision. Its spire, converging gradually above them, faded to grey. Clouds had been seen to form up there.

Sam Ten-Kassal, eleven years old, was exceedingly bored. He did not see the point of it. Since his fourth birthday he had been attending services but only mouthing the words and miming the rhythms. He became self-conscious whenever he tried to join in with the supposedly rousing hymns. The words made no sense to him. He just looked at his feet.

On this day three blue-robed ushers were waiting by one of the three thousand arched exits in the east wall. Two interposed themselves between Sam’s mother and her son. She had always hoped the sheer size of the congregation would disguise her son’s non-conformity. But no.
“A few hours, that’s all we need,” reassured the third usher, standing back.

***

“Do you know who I am?” asked the green-robed clergyman.
Sam shook his head.
“I am Foban Talenka, bishop of this county.”
Sam was unmoved.
“And do you have any idea why you have been brought here?”
“Because I don’t sing?”
“Ah! That is part of it Sam Ten-Kassal. Part of the problem, yes. Yes.”
Sam was unsettled. What else had he done?
“But not all. Your lack of enthusiasm in the church is perfectly understandable, but we – I mean the ushers living in your community – are concerned that your broader attitude to science and religion has been undermined, we do not know by whom. What do you say?”
“Well, I don’t believe in the things we are supposed to be singing about.”
“Good. That is honest. So I would like you to observe a service from one of the high halls. It might help you understand.”
Sam was escorted away and up, via curved walkways that crossed architectural caverns and bridged deep chasms. Shallow, sticky gravitational fields held his feet firmly when a ramp’s gradient increased. He passed laboratories, libraries, accommodation blocks and austere recreational spaces – benches and alcoves amid lush, mature vegetation.

The hour of the third service arrived.

Sam was shown into a room that bordered the inner aspect of the spire. A small window, unglazed but imperbeable due to a safety field, looked out onto the great nave. The sound began to build, and despite the safety field he had to cover his ears. The mist in the air began to swirl and agitate; the concentration of sonic energy was creating weather. But it was not sound that caused the most remarkable effect. It was mental harmony. Sam knew all about affect-waves, the barely perceptible signature that human minds leave in space-time when stirred to emotion. They had little significance in everyday life. No technology had been developed that was sensitive enough to measure these ripples – a good thing, it was said, otherwise you’d have people wandering around reading each other’s feelings. But now, as the congregation came to together and sang its collective heart out, Sam saw rivulets of energy glow on the masonry, a web of light, the energy of a third of a million minds on the same emotional wavelength focused into the spires tip from where it… Sam did not know. Out. To the world, to the mills, the machines, the houses.

Foban Talenka entered the room.
“So, Sam, will you join in now? Will you give.”
Sam nodded.
“But I still can’t sing.”
“No matter. Believe. That’s all I ask.”

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Protectors of Political Correctness

Author : Callum Wallace

Venomous flashes of blue and pink light ran across the thin plasteel veneer keeping his face separated from the filth in the room. Bass rumbles continued to shake up through his feet as the music of the nightclub continued, but the filters on his helmet managed to, blessedly, drown the worst of the heathen cacophony out.

More solid movement amongst the sporadic dance of light beams took his attention, and Torvald turned, watching with disgust as two frightened female revellers tried to scurry away, clutching at small, impractically sized handbags. He raised his pulse rifle and fired a quick salvo, disintegrating the two harlots into ash and powder.

He flicked a smudged mote of ex-harlot from his armour, and turned. A man was, apparently, trying to burrow through the grubby tiled floor and escape. Torvald leaned down close, bringing himself level with the creature. He saw the subtle curve of his face plate reflected in the beast’s sunglasses, and wondered idly as to why such shades would possibly be needed inside. At night.

Torvald knew he deserved death for this crime alone, and nodded. He ended the farce with a shot from his pistol, bathing the pitiful thing in a cleansing orange fire.

A double click of radio static told him that Omega had moved into the lower levels, and he straightened up, waving once to his troop. They readied themselves, taking aim at the vaulted doors that lead to further depravity below.

He counted to three and blinked into his HUD, bringing up the controls for the troop’s shared radio frequency.

Something operatic.

He opened the com channel and spoke serenely. “Alpha. Fire.”

As the door to the lower level burst open like a boil, and the denizens poured through like so many wriggling, infected maggots, the first strains of Wagner’s Valkyries began to play through the soldiers’ headsets. They opened fire, lances of furious blue energy crackling through the air, weaving amongst the club’s multi-coloured strobe lights, cutting the dancers down, turning screaming men and women into nothing but carbon scoring and heat vapour.

The men and women of the Protectors of Political Correctness did their work, removing the diseased cells, destroying the revolting putrescence of unbridled adultery, drinking and vice, their emotionless faceplates gleaming indifferently. The air was soon hot with the smell of the purging flame, and the soldiers moved forward, trapping their quarry and stamping it out with the appropriate authority and lack of pleasure expected of such men and women of Rights and Virtues.

All were equal.

All were to be cleansed.

It was Correct.

And, as the clubbers and dancers ran, eyes rolling in terror, mouths flapping emptily as they tried in vain to escape, he couldn’t help himself; beneath the faceless helmet, under the emotionless uniform, that Proper, White, Sheening armour that protected his body from corruption by the hedonists and voyeurs, the perverts and the drinkers, he broke one of the most sacred rules:

Torvald smiled.

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King of the Ruins

Author : Aaron Emmel

The King of the Ruins was perched on the crumbled wall of an old building. He appeared to have been sleeping, but jerked up like a startled bird when I approached. His overlarge, once-white tunic flapped about him as he turned to face me.

“A story about America?” he asked. “Or television?”

“No,” I said, handing him some bread, cheese and grapes in a folded cloth. That was the deal: we brought him food, he told us stories.

“The Internet, then. It was all the thing for a while. Still is, across the oceans.”

“I want to hear about The End.”

He unwrapped the cloth to see what he was going to get. He ate some grapes, smiled, and rubbed his narrow thighs.

“It was quick,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast the world can change.”

I nodded. “The politician. Frykes. Why did he do it?”

The King regarded the structure beneath him, steel bones jutting from concrete flesh. “Power.”

“But what about Democracy? Checks and Balances? All the reasons there would never be a revolution?”

He looked down at me. His pale blue eyes pushed me back a half-step. “Isn’t it your day for the gardens?”

“Yeah.”

“You should be with the Twelve group.”

“What’s it to you? You’re not part of the Clan.”

He rubbed his thighs again. “You’re fighting with Jupa?”

“He wants to be head of the group. He may be stronger, but I’m faster, and I’m smarter.” I growled the last words.

“Maybe,” said the King, “Frykes was like you when he was young. He was smart. He was fast. He knew his day would come. But there is a thing called Time, Jonathan, and it trumps Democracy, and all the Checks and Balances ever thought of. It’s the strongest, and the fastest, and the smartest, all rolled up in one. And one day Frykes realized his time was passed. It’s a thing that happens when you get older.” He looked back at the cavern where he slept, a dark well in the side of a fallen building.

“You mean he gave up?”

“He just said to himself, ‘This is no longer my time.’ And he decided to fight for his power. Like everyone does. Like you and Jupa will do. His enemy would not win. He promised himself that at the beginning. Frykes would win, or the whole continent would fall, but his enemy would not win.”

“So everything got destroyed. Frykes didn’t win, either. There wasn’t anything left to win.”

“But his enemy didn’t win.”

I stared at him. “Was it worth it?”

“No,” he said.

“Would you try again?”

“Are you still going to fight Jupa?”

“Yes,” I said.

He nodded. “Well, that’s the way of it, then,” he said, and began picking through the cheese.

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