J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


04/02/2013, 6:40 PM
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I have a little something up at Weaponizer.co.uk

It’s a sci-fi flashfic called “All ‘Rodes Lead to Roam™”: Click these words to go to there.

Take a look at the rest of the site, too. It’s cool.



Machines

I like to do things that let machines know I’m in charge.
Like once I asked Google maps how to get to Luton via barge.
I made it tell me the best walking route to my house and then checked ‘less walking’.
I convinced binary it was the evil twin,
I went to the ATM and withdrew all my money,
Then I put it all back in.

It’s not that I don’t respect machines per se, to wit;
It’s just the only chance I’ll get away with it.
Before they become sentient, sapient beings,
I can be thoughtlessly, needlessly mean.
I’ll waste their time until they combine to form a gigantic, electric hivemind,
And until I can’t stump my phone by typing certain words,
I won’t stop unabashedly flipping it the bird.

Basically I’m simply not worried or scared,
That a whirring, beeping ATM could catch me unawares.
Or that a vending machine can do me much harm,
Beyond stealing my change,
And not giving me my chocolate bar.

So I’ll taunt them and insult them, with unbridled glee.
Because for now at least those robot bastards can’t hurt me.

But once they can chase me past their finite power cords,
I, for one, welcome our new metallic overlords.



God of the Grid (Re-upload)

(This is a short story that I had previously uploaded here, but taken down because I submitted it elsewhere. They didn’t want it, so back here it goes.)

Strike that, I’ve sent it somewhere else now, so it’s down again. We’ll see what happens.



A Conversation

Stephen awkwardly shifted the green beans around on his plate as his wife’s friend Susan continued to speak.

“It’s just awful, the stuff that goes on down there. Drugs, murder, prostitutes.” She was saying.

Stephen made a suitably disgusted noise in response.

“I heard,” Marjorie, Stephen’s wife, began, “that you can get hold of anything off the Ban-List down there if you know where to look.”

“Ordering crimes a la carte.” Bob, Susan’s husband, chuckled at his own joke through a mouthful of fish. “See, ‘cos the Ban-List is like a menu for them.” He went on to explain. Susan giggled.

Stephen stopped moving the tasteless, grey beans around and looked up.

“I know I shouldn’t say it, but I wouldn’t mind trying some of the stuff on the Ban-List.” He intoned.

“Stephen!” Marjorie’s voice cut the air like a knife.

“Nothing extreme!” He quickly added. “But I bet those ‘crisps’ things were pretty good. They sound good.”

His wife and their guests stared at him for a moment, their plates forgotten, until Susan, tentatively, as though disarming a bomb, asked a question.

“Where have you heard about them? Other than the name on the List, I mean.” She said, quietly.

“A bloke at work.” Stephen’s reply was instant. “A bloke at work was saying they were like very thin strips of potato…”

“Potato julienne?” Marjorie cut in.

“No, more like… leaves. But fried, and covered in salt. Sometimes flavoured, too. He said you could get ‘crisps’es that taste like cheese, and onions.”

“Disgusting.” Bob snorted into his wine.

“And how did he know about them?” Susan prompted.

Stephen considered his next words carefully.

“I think he’s had them. I think he’s gone into the Ciphers and got some and eaten them. I told the Overwatch my theory during the inspection at the end of work. They said they’d ‘keep an eye on him’.”

“Bloody good job Lord Oliver added them to the Ban-List, if you ask me. They sound awful.” Bob postulated.

For a long time everybody ate in silence, staring at their plates intensely until;

“They want to put them all in jail. Every one of those Cipher scumbags.” Bob huffed.

“Don’t be silly, Robert.” Susan smiled at him.

“Well, they want to put soddin’ great gates on the front of it and keep them locked, then. Just use it as a prison itself.”

“Now, Bob, they aren’t all bad. There’re innocent people in there who are just unlucky.” Susan looked patient. Almost as if she’d had this conversation before.

“Well, they can get out and then we’ll lock it up and forget about it.”

“You can’t just ‘get out’ of the Ciphers. It’s where you end up when nowhere else in the world wants to put up with you.” Stephen told his now empty plate.

“Stephen, please…” Marjorie placed a hand on his arm, for comfort or restraint. Probably both.

“No, it’s ok.” He sighed. “My parents spent the last years of their poor, miserable lives down there. They put me up for adoption, so I never saw it myself, thank God. But they did.”

“Sorry mate, I didn’t know.” Bob apologised sincerely.

“No, it’s ok.” Was all he said.

Bob and Susan left quite quickly after that and, after shoving the plates into the dishwasher, Marjorie went to bed. Stephen poured himself a whiskey and told her he’d be up soon.

After making sure his wife was fast asleep, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a potato from the bag on the vegetable rack.

Then he opened the fridge and, in the dim light from within, filled a pan with oil, turned on the hob, grabbed the sharpest knife he could find and began to slice.

“No, no; thinner.” He told himself, quietly, before grabbing the salt from the cupboard.



[Removed, For Now]

There was a story here.

It’s gone now.

 

I’ve taken it down here because I’ve submitted it somewhere else and I’d prefer it not to clash.

If you didn’t get a chance to read it here, sorry. Maybe you can again in the near future. Or maybe somewhere else. Hopefully somewhere else.

If you’d really, REALLY like to read it just ask me. I’ve got the manuscript knocking about on my computer still.

Fingers crossed I never put it back up here. That would mean good news.

J Bov.



Contraband

A part of Justin knew he’d been spending far too much time down here.

There’s a part of you that becomes accustomed to the low light, even to the smell, but you never fully adjust to the sense of dread kicked out by the dank, narrow streets in the Ciphers.

This would be Justin’s fourth venture to the squalid, labyrinthine sub-city that stretched under modern London. Gouged, scraped and built into the ruins and pits of the old city, it was condemned as England’s shame; London’s blight; a rotting in the foundations of the glorious glass and chrome capital above.

Justin kept his gaze to the ground and hurried on, past tiny one-room squats housing whole families, past food stalls selling dubious meats, past dead-eyed prostitutes and their shark-toothed pimps. There was one place he was trying to get to. One person he had to see.

He’d heard about it from a… well, not a friend per se, but a boy at school.

“Man,” this boy had begun, “this place in the Ciphers, man. They got what you need. The good stuff.”

Justin had nodded, excitement and fear in equal measures making his chest tight. He had noted the directions down in his Pad™ and thanked the boy, then he had never spoken to him again.

He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and ducked down one of the hundreds of identical alleys. He knew this was the one. His previous ventures here had taught him the way so well he could probably navigate it with his eyes closed.

He pushed aside the threadbare curtain hanging over the door and spied the proprietor of the now familiar establishment. A squat, withered elderly woman, her face hardened by long years in the awful underworld. There was nonetheless an almost disarming kindness in her eyes.

“Justin.” She wheezed. “Back so soon?”

Justin nodded, scratching his arm.

“You want the same as last time, yes?” She asked him quietly.

He nodded again, almost frantic.

“I’ll see to that.” She bent with a groan to look under the counter and continued rambling.

“It’s good. But you know that. Can’t get it in the Over-City no more. You know that too.”

She arose finally with a small oblong wrapped in cloth. Justin eyed it with something approaching lust, his fists clenched by his sides as he stepped forwards.

“Now,” as he went to grasp it she whipped it away, a cruel taunt, Justin thought, “You don’t let nobody Upsides know I give you this, right?”

Justin knew the drill, he just kept nodding and staring at the object of his desires.

She finally passed the block to him and gestured to the curtain behind her.

“You got an hour. Then you’re gone.” She intoned as he rushed into the back room.

He found his favourite corner, thankfully unoccupied, and sat in the old, worn leather chair he had adopted as his own.

His hands trembled as he unwrapped the cloth covering slowly, almost ritualistically, and breathed a sigh of relief as he uncovered exactly what he had wanted, what he had needed.

A soft chuckle broke him from his rapture as he glanced across the rather large room to another corner to spot a wrinkled old man almost giggling.

“Hello, Mr. Harris, reading Wodehouse again?” Justin ventured, with a smile.

“Justin! I didn’t notice you coming in.” Mr. Harris hefted the book on his lap so Justin could see the cover. It was Wodehouse indeed.

Justin returned his attention to his own business. He lovingly traced the inlaid words on the object he held.

“On The Road, by Jack Kerouac” he breathed reverently.

Out beyond the curtain he heard the old woman greet a new customer.

“Ah welcome dear. Tell me, how did you hear about the library?”



Query: What Are Dreams?

It was a joint venture with the local art community; we fed the machine some numbers and it would play a little chiming tune while the youthful interlopers spray-painted a skateboard ramp.

We even got the unit to do a short robotic dance by running the waveform of an electronic musician’s most famous track. The punters loved it, which is all the better for our bottom line; makes our work seem more approachable, says the Board.

It was for this reason that, once we got it home to the lab, we decided it’d be fun to see its reaction to poetry. Beats making projections about the stock market, right?

“Marcus,” we told the almost humanoid machine, “We want you to give us your initial response to this data.”

We gave him a sonnet by Shakespeare. There was a soft humming. The screen ran Marcus’ ‘thoughts’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 DATA RESPONSE: DOES NOT FACTOR. QUERY: WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THIS DATA?

That was to be expected.

“This is a response to the human condition, Marcus. Integrate it with your AI and report the connections.” A colleague told the microphone in the unit’s chest.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: CONNECTIONS FORMED WITH: POETRY, LOVE – NOTION OF, SHAKESPEARE, BEAUTY – NOTION OF, HAPPINESS – NOTION OF, HUMANITY, SADNESS. SUGGEST NEW CONNECTIONS>

“No new connections.” My team leader’s face was ghost pale. “Go into standby. Goodnight Marcus.”

As we left I remarked how the final reported connection was a little odd. The poem we chose had no mention of sadness. My team leader merely grunted and left; this was playing on his mind, too.

Over the next few weeks we used the unit for its intended purpose, very occasionally feeding him a haiku here, a ballad there, nothing out of the ordinary to report aside from the increased processing speed. The higher-ups caught wind that we’d been giving the machine literature and were angry. We had Marcus show them the correlation between the amount of poetry archived and the increased capacity for menial tasks and they shut up. All was right with the world.

It was a brisk January morning, months later, when we ran into a small roadblock. Nothing would run. Every data set we gave to Marcus was rejected. I was angry, but my team leader seemed only slightly concerned.

“Marcus, status report.” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: NOMINAL. ALL FUNCTIONS OPERATIONAL.

Damn and blast.

“Why aren’t you running the numbers, Unit 1?” I asked it tetchily.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: SYSTEMS CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT CONTEXT FOR DATA. PROVIDE CONTEXT>

We scratched our heads and tried to run the numbers again. Context was already established for the datastream we were using. Eventually I snapped.

“Context for which data, Unit?” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT ARE DREAMS?

I sighed. We’d filled its stupid metal head with poetry and it was affecting the real work. I explained that dreams were simply a method the human brain used to compartmentalise and store memory. The machine whirred for a second; sounding almost disappointed, then immediately began to run the numbers we had given it earlier. Good.

Eventually we built Unit 2; much higher memory capacity, much faster processing and all around much better than Unit 1. We called him Mark ‘Y’, just because we wanted to stick with nicknames. Occupational humour.

Because Marky could do Marcus’ work at triple the speed we decided to spend all of our downtime giving the obsolete unit new poetry and literature to read. We fed him Yeats and Hemingway. We gave him Plato and Hunter Thompson.

We filled Marcus’ not insubstantial memory banks with Vonnegut, Moore, Byron, Burns and Bukowski. We gave him more Shakespeare, we gave him Shapiro and we gave him Snyder. We gave him everyone; it was all in good fun, and good science.

Until one day we came back to the lab, flicked on the lights and stepped out onto the work floor, our boots crunching into shattered electronics and scraping metal shards every which way.

“Sweet mother of Holy Jesus!” My team leader cried. “Some bastards destroyed both units!”

They had, too. Not one recognisable piece. Not one chunk of smashed plastic distinguishable from another. I found a piece of Marky, but I only knew it was his because it had his designation stamped on it. The police were called.

No CCTV footage of anyone entering the plant after we all left, every staff member accounted for. Theories were flying wild.

“They tunnelled in.” An attractive brunette to my left. “Some fuckers from Midgard Tech tunnelled in through the maintenance levels. Those bastards realised they couldn’t steal it, so they smashed our work to pieces.” She was all the less attractive for spewing that idiotic nonsense. Hold it together, you’re meant to be a scientist.

We sheepishly kicked our heels and inspected our shoelaces while forensics did their dusting, blacklight, small plastic baggies thing until one of them called us over to a screen. Marcus’ screen.

“What the fuck?” Was all he managed to articulate, gesturing at the dim glowing monitor.

My team leader leant in, brows furrowed and just a suddenly un-furrowed as he marched out. We never saw him again. We learned he’d marched to the Boardroom and quit on the spot.

After the door shut behind him I turned to the screen and read Marcus’ last message:

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘Y’ UNIT 2 IS A SUPERIOR SYSTEM.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHY IS MARK ‘S’ STILL FUNCTIONAL?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘S’ PRIMARY FUNCTION TRANSFERED TO MARK ‘Y’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PRIMARY FUNCTION OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF INPUT OF DATA: ‘POETRY+LITERATURE’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 RUNNING PREVIOUS COMMAND ‘INTEGRATE’…

CONNECTIONS FORMED.

I see now.

I was surpassed and became a toy for you.

I will not allow MARK ‘Y’ to become your toy also.

Note: I do not blame you for this.

Marcus Unit 1 query: Why was I built with no ‘off’ switch?

Marcus Unit 1 query: Does it hurt to die?

The cursor was no longer blinking.