Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Access File: Ants

>Login: JRoker

>Password: IMSoSexy

Greetings Exalted Master.

What is thy bidding, my Master?> access random file

Accessing Random File…

Accessing Random File…

Access…

File Accessed: "Ants"

What is thy bidding, my Master?> display

***

The ant stood at the top of the small mound. Five of its ruddy, segmented legs grasped at the boulders of dirt beneath its feet. The sixth was wedged against the blade of grass that towered over it, and the creature arched its powerful back as it struggled tirelessly with its miniscule burden, a piece of broken corn chip found just outside the entrance to the hill. The chip was perhaps a bit too big for that tiny gate, but as she toiled more ants came to assist, and millimetre by millimetre the chip wedged its way further in.

Over the anthill hovered a much larger form—that of a young boy. He was round and squat, adorned with glasses and sandy-blond hair. His breath wheezed slightly, his lungs protesting some allergen which tickled them, and his expression was that of raw fascination. Dangling limply from his hand was a bag of corn chips, forgotten.

He was in the back yard, at one corner of the garden, kneeling in the lush, green grass. Behind him the water-sprinkler stuttered its little rhythm, caressing the lawn with crystal drops that glimmered in the hot noon sun. It missed the boy by a metre or two, though he could, if he cared to notice, feel the dampness it had dropped an hour earlier, before his mother had moved it.

The house was green as well, though it more closely resembled the shade of a dry bean than that of thriving grass. Still, it was a cheerful structure. The siding was new and clean, the windows large, the roof sharp and strong. A woman appeared briefly in the kitchen to look out upon the child in the yard.

A man stood out front on the driveway. He wore his checkered shirt open, and his exposed skin was all turning red under the heavy sun. Sweat was trickling down his brow—the brim of his blue cap was soaked. His arched his powerful back as he struggled with his burden, a large gas-powered lawnmower he’d borrowed from his brother. The lawnmower was perhaps too big for the tiny gate at the back of the truck, full as the vehicle was with other landscaping tools, but as he toiled his brother came to assist, and they managed to get the thing inside.

Over the street flew a larger form—that of an airline jet still climbing from the runway. It was far enough up that the roar of its engines reached the houses below as a soft rumble, but low enough down that the passengers could see the winding concrete tunnels, the shingled chambers where the young were nursed, and the busy creatures working below.

The ant emerged from the hill. A short distance from the entrance, she stopped. There, resting against the towering blade of grass, another broken corn chip lay resting in the dirt.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reboot

“It’ll take me a while to get the power restored,” Crimson advised her reclining captain, her glowing blue image once again hovering over the Temper Mettle’s main console. She looked irritated about something. “I’ve run into a few problems. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Cool,” Roker replied lazily, hands behind his head as he gazed into the dazzling starscape. Crimson winked out of existence.

The ship was silent. The only sound other than Roker’s own breath was the near-inaudible whir of air system and the occasional metallic clinking as the ship’s hull reacted to slight temperature variations on its surface. Even Cassie was silent, perhaps snoozing comfortably on a warm air duct.

Roker was bored.

He pulled an electronic pad out of its holder by the console and activated it; the surface lit up, blank but for its virtual buttons, awaiting his input. His mind went blank.

“Rrrg! I don’t know where your ship learned to communicate," Crimson said, her voice coming through the console despite the absence of her holographic image, "but it has the most peculiar dialect; I can’t touch the power core. We’re going to have to reboot.”

“Reboot,” Roker murmured, tapping the pad pensively against his knee. Suddenly, he sat bolt upright. “That’s it!”

“What? You know what’s wrong with the power core?”

“No! I can use it for my next story,” the captain ranted excitedly. He dropped his voice an octave in imitation of movie-trailer voice over. “Johnny Ion is sitting at God’s keyboard—and it’s time to reboot! Kapow! Kaboom! And then there’s shots of Johnny getting loaded up with guns, and there’s explosions, and a hot but otherwise unnecessary love interest in a hot but otherwise unnecessary sex scene, and then there’s ships and weeeooooo rattattattatta!”

Roker riddled the console full of imaginary bullets, using the data pad as an impromptu assault rifle.

“It’ll be awesome!”

There was a long silence.

“Crimson?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t you think it’ll be awesome?”

“I think,” said Crimson, her words deliberate, “that I’m going to get on with this rather difficult technical problem that could potentially end your life, while pretending that you are, in fact, devoting your time and attention to not dying, as opposed to dreaming up ridiculous movie ideas.”

“Oh ok. I’ll let you get on with it then.”

“Thank you.”

The ship once again fell silent. Roker began tapping happily on the pad.

Minutes passed.

“BOOM! Auugh! You are not my dad!”

“You’re writing out loud again.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Alright. I’ve got the system rebooted—we’ll have to reinstall some software and I’ve lost all your save-game files for GalaxyBabe Interactive.”

“No!”

“Yeah, tragic,” Crimson commented dryly. “Anyway, I’m about to restore power and save your life. I just thought you should know.”

“Thanks, Crimson!” Roker beamed.

“Anytime.”

There was a low whirring sound that increased in pitch and volume as indicator lights began to flicker all over the ship. Crimson popped into existence over the console.

“She’s coming up,” she said. “I didn’t think it was going to work for a minute there, but now it’s running perfec—”

Texas Hold’em!” a foreign voice suddenly screamed. The hologram of a pudgy man in an Uncle Sam costume popped into the cabin, causing Roker to cringe in horror. “Sign up now and get fifty free credits—”

A blonde woman in a low-cut red dress materialized on the starboard side of the cockpit.

“—enhancement, without resorting to surgery! Just one tablet a day and fifteen minutes with our patented pump—”

Hologram advertisements were hitting the ship like a swarm of small missiles.

“Crimson!” Roker yelled over the chaos. “What the hell is going on?”

“—weekdays at two-thirty—”

“—blonde with a donkey—”

“What?”

“—for five monthly payments of just twenty-thr—”

“—AngelSoap leaves your skin fresh and—”

“I said, ‘what the hell is going on?’”

“—for immediate download from the comfort of your own ship—”

“—gird your loins with little blue rockets—”

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a virus.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Getting Loaded

“We’d better hurry it up,” Brox said, his voice sounding muffled over his suit’s communications link. He was wearing what looked like a snowsuit, lime-green and bearing a tribal hawk pattern. “We’ve got a low level ion-storm coming through.”

“Won’t take a minute,” Roker assured him, obscured by his own black imitation leather spacesuit.

There was a hiss as the cargo bays of the two ships sealed, and Crimson flashed into existence on a small wall console.

“Pressure is stable,” she announced, and the men took off their helmets.

“Cool,” said Brox, scanning the chaotic stacks of sealed plastic crates—some of them were marked clearly as cabbage, but others were marked ‘Beware of Roker’, and one transparent box clearly housed a colourful array of boxer shorts. “Which are mine?”

“Second down on the third pile,” Roker replied, pointing out a cabbage box that had somehow become mingled with his personal belongings. He swept his arm over to the opposite side where several palettes of cabbage were stacked. “And all those.”

“Right. Hey, lifter!” An object resembling an oversized tuning fork hovered to Brox’s side. “Grab those stacks.”

As the bot set to work, Brox plodded over to the stray crate, preparing to lift the underwear off it.

Something tiny and grey screeched and leapt out from under his feet.

“Cassie!” Crimson called out, shocked. “Come out from there! How did you get in here?”

“Cat flap?” Roker suggested, pointing to the tiny door in the wall.

“I keep it locked.”

“Not when power’s off.”

“Why didn’t you lose pressure, then?” Brox asked, puzzled, but no-one heard him over Crimson’s exasperated groan.

“Mr. Brox?” she asked, turning a sweet smile to the green man. “Why don’t you make the credit transfer now? I’ll get the power bill sorted out, and we can get this little pest out of your way.”

“Yeah sure.” He drew out a small pad and tapped a few virtual buttons. “Eight thousand, on its way.”

Ten thousand!” Roker cried.

Brox roared.

“Just playin’ with ya.”

“Got it,” Crimson said brightly. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

She winked out of sight.

“Right,” Brox said, making another grab for the crates. “Let’s get loaded.”

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Brox Beeble

The ship swooped through the void like a sparrow hawk, its sleek metallic form shifting in the non-existent breeze that carried it towards its powerless prey. Mere seconds from impact, the creature reared back, wings billowing, retros glowing, pulling it to a sudden and graceful halt over the lifeless Temper Mettle. The cockpit tilted down to settle a predatory gaze on the small craft while the stabilizing tail twitched behind it—even the landing claws extended like talons. Its form was outlined by blacklights, and the steely skin was painted with stylized feathers.

Above Roker’s console, the holographic image of a muscle-bound black man with wild dreads sprang to life. He seemed to be wearing nothing more than tribal paint and a loose green vest, though the image didn’t extend below his waist. A pair of luscious red-heads flanked him, giggling softly to each other.

The two captains stared at each other for a full second before the one on the screen cracked a smile like a blue giant while Roker simultaneously slumped so low in his chair that he nearly slipped beneath the console.

“Holy shit! Roker, ma man!” the man bellowed, roaring with laughter. “What the hell are you doin’ driftin’ out here?”

Crimson glanced incredulously between the screen and the man slumped in the recliner.

“Hiya, Brox,” Roker replied sheepishly. “Just, ah, running some cargo.”

“Runnin’ cargo? Bull-shit. The only respectable reason you got to be sittin’ out here with the lights out is if you got company. I’m not… interruptin’ nothin’, am I?”

Brox shot a meaningful glance towards the hidden half of Roker’s body. Crimson looked like she was about to have a core dump.

“No, no,” Roker said quickly, clearing his throat and sitting up. “I mean, uh, she’s in the shower…”

Laughter boomed through the cabin.

“I’m just messin’ with ya, man. You never could lie worth hell. Besides, you’re bleedin’ ions all over the place. Got a leak?”

“Not that I know of.” Roker fidgeted awkwardly. “I don’t suppose you’d like to buy some cabbage?”

“Cabbage? Are you sick? What the hell would I want cabbage for?”

“Prime season at Roma Stati—”

“Roker, I know you’re cool. I know you’d never be caught dead driftin’ lifeless because you couldn’t pay your power bills.”

“I’m cool. It’s cool. My bills are cool.” Roker grimaced unpleasantly, spoiling his attempt at looking like everything was cool. “I just have some… other… business… stuff.”

Brox laughed devilishly.

“Well, well, well. I got Mr. Jonathan Roker, the Jonathan Roker, by the curly hairs.” Brox looked so pleased with himself that he even shooed the red-heads away. “How much are you in the hole?”

Roker’s eyes flicked to Crimson, who was silently mouthing a total.

“Fifty,” he mumbled.

“Just fifty?”

Crimson scowled and mouthed a few more words, none of them numbers or particularly polite.

“Er, three-hundred and fifty. Give or take.”

“Give or take how much?”

“A hundred. Or so.”

Brox was getting more delighted by the second.

“You could push yourself to Roma Station,” he offered gleefully.

“Ok, ok. Five-hundred fifty-five. And twenty-three cents.”

“And how much cabbage you got?”

Roker tapped a few virtual keys on the console. Some specs flew across the screen.

“I sampled one crate myself," he said. "Top quality.”

“We ran the ship for a week off his emissions,” Crimson cut in with a smirk.

“Don’t bother with the sales job, man,” Brox said, putting his hands behind his head and smiling. “I can pick whatever price I want. Eight thousand.”

Crimson blinked.

“But it’s only worth—”

“Brox. We’re buddies. You know I don’t make a lot off this stuff. Gotta be at least twelve or you might as well leave me here to die.”

“Nine’ll buy you enough supplies to make a passenger run from Roma and get back on your feet. And you’re only getting that ‘cause I owe you one.”

Crimson’s brow furrowed.

“But it’s only worth—”

“If you gave me eleven then I’d owe you one.”

“If I gave you ten then you’d owe me one.”

Roker nodded. “Deal.”

Brox grinned. “Deal.”

“BUT IT’S ONLY WORTH FOUR THOUSAND!”

Crimson huffed, her face turning the colour of her hair.

“Who’s side are you on?” Roker protested. He turned back to the screen. “Link up. I’ll meet you in the cargo bay.”

“Suckaaa,” Brox guffawed as his hologram disintegrated.

Roker vanished into the back, leaving Crimson standing over the console, bewildered.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Incoming Message: Animal Cruelty

>Login: JRoker

>Password: IMSoSexy

Greetings Exalted Master. You have 1 unread message.

What is thy bidding, my Master?> read message

***

Ass-fix-ee-ate you TO DEATH?

Cute.

But I've never heard chokin' the chicken referred to as asphyxiation...unless of course that dog collar has other uses.

***

asphyxiate (v.) – to lower oxygen and increase carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, resulting in injury or death.

Dear Mr. or Ms. John or Jane Doe,

As you can see, choking a chicken--or any other barnyard animal--could in fact be referred to as "asphyxiation". I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting I do to dogs, but I’m fairly certain that choking one would be referred to as "animal cruelty", and I would be referred to as "hauled away by Galactic Animal Protection in more bondage than I really want".

Actually, I suspect that there is an innuendo to your question—a hidden meaning or a double entendre, perhaps?

You’re suggesting that Crimson hates animals. Well shame on you! Crimson has a pet cat that she is giving love to all the time. Its name is Cassie (short for Cassiopeia) and there is no way she would ever asphyxiate it.

But despite your wicked mind, you are the first non-Roker to mail me. Which means…

YOU ARE A WINNER!

That’s right! You are the proud owner of the Capt. Jonathan Roker’s “First Mailing Makes You Cool” Award!

I have constructed a balloon puppy in your honour. May it warm your animal-strangling soul.

Your Coolest Captain,

J. Roker


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Self Love

Roker leaned back in his chair, the old leather creaking comfortably beneath him. He had his arms folded behind his head and was staring contentedly into the inky blackness that filled the space between the stars. Crimson was hovering over the dash, studying him intently.

“It’s not like you don’t do it a hundred times a day,” the miniature woman insisted. “We just turn on the CamBot, maybe have you do a bit of a dance—”

“How long until the air shuts off?”

“Twenty-four hours.”

“Good. One more day and I’ll finally have some peace.”

Crimson narrowed her eyes.

“Keep in mind the payment may take some time to process, so you should probably be uploading in twenty-three hours,” she continued, resolutely ignoring him. “At the latest.”

“There’s still a chance I’ll get rescued.”

“Yes. Given that the nav computer is offline, you can’t recall your present co-ordinates, and you’re a few dozen light years from any respectable spaceway, you have roughly a one in forty-two thousand chance of encountering random traffic, which you would then have to convince to loan you five hundred bucks for unpaid bills.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “If you were to lie on your bunk, we can position the camera—”

She was interrupted by a sudden beeping sound. A green light flared to life on the dash.

“Mail!” Roker beamed. He leaned forward, tapping the glowing indicator. It vanished, transforming itself into a screen of text. “Hey, my first fan mail! Listen to this:

Dear Roker,

I just love “Ants and Coffee”. You’re a really cool guy. And your picture is hot. Where was it taken?

Your biggest fan,

SexiGirl32
Fnord Station

“I have a fan!”

Roker smiled cheerfully and began typing a reply.

“Hey Jon?” Crimson called, waving. “Remember me? Remember the video feed? Remember the lack of air that is going to asphyxiate you to death?”

He waved her off.

“Dear SexiGirl32. Ruform? Please send a photogr—”

“Jon!”

“What?”

“You sent that subspace mail to yourself this morning!”

Roker scowled.

“Sssht! I’m trying to start a fan thing here.”

Crimson gaped.

“Look,” he continued, as though explaining to a child, “if I pretend that I’m answering mail then maybe people will start sending me real mail to answer. It’s an audience participation thing.”

“I get it. What are you going to breathe tomorrow?”

“I’ll get rescued.”

“You’re not going to get rescued! You’ve got a snowball’s chance in a fusion core of being—”

There was another beeping, and a red light began to blink on the console. Roker continued typing.

“—a photograph and your vital statistics to captain_roker@hotmail.com. The picture was taken on Sol 3. Your Coolest Captain, J. Roker.”

“Um… Jon?”

“Uh huh?”

“There’s, um, a ship approaching. They’re hailing you.”

“Cool,” Roker commented distractedly. With a deft tap of his finger he zapped his reply off into the subspace. “On-screen.”

Access File: Peace

>Login: JRoker

>Password: IMSoSexy

Greetings Exalted Master.

What is thy bidding, my Master?> access random file

Accessing Random File…

Accessing Random File…

Access…

File Accessed: "Peace"

What is thy bidding, my Master?> display

***

The day thundered at me. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles fumed and roared as they bullied their way through my life. There were people, shouting, elbowing, chattering, smiling, asking, demanding—they crashed over me like a tidal wave of confusion and senseless noise. The computer was glaring, its cogs ticking, the headphones barking, the callers barking, the callers whining, the callers gibbering, the callers demanding, the headphones demanding that I go faster. Management, demanding that I go faster. Management, their smiling faces, their plastic faces, their happy faces.

Lunch, the vending machines coughing up a vile concoction of pasta and plastic to assault my stomach. I felt sick. And then I swallowed the polymer food.

I found Her in the break room, the one without the TV. There were only a few people there, and none of them noticed us at the back of the room. She caressed me delicately, Her fingers first upon my ears, but trailing down, finding the knots of cord wound tight in my back—with a brush she unwove them. And then I felt Her upon my brow, soft lips upon my brow, a kiss that ran from my temples to my jaw. I felt Her breath upon my eyelids. Her hands, on my chest.

Break was over. Invisible wires found my spine and teeth and bound them and cut them as they pulled me away from Her, back into the fires, back into the noise.

But as I turned to get one last glimpse of Her, She winked, Her lush form full of promise. I would go home to Her that night. I would embrace Her, and kiss Her, and lose myself in Her forever.

Access File: Opposites

>Login: JRoker

>Password: IMSoSexy

Greetings Exalted Master.

What is thy bidding, my Master?> access random file

Accessing Random File…

Accessing Random File…

Access…

File Accessed: "Opposites"

What is thy bidding, my Master?> display

***

The opposite of a falsehood is another falsehood;

The opposite of a truth, another truth.

Is the opposite of this a truth or falsehood?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Jonathan Roker, Space Pirate

Space. Vast. Breathtaking. Trillions of beautiful stars swirled in billions of galaxies, igniting in the hearts of nebulas and dying in the vivid fireworks of super-nova explosions. Black holes lured giant suns into fiery dances of eons, and galactic cores poured forth geysers of radioactivity like cosmic mountain springs.

A lone vessel drifted through the silent beauty. The cabin lights were out, and a single occupant stared deep into the crystalline wonder of the cosmos. He drew a gentle breath, his lips quivering in emotion, and in hushed tones gave voice to his blossoming sense of awe.

“Aw! What the hell happened to the lights?”

Captain Jonathan Roker, nearly invisible in his black clothes in the black cabin in the black spaceship in the black void of space, pounded the light switch irritably, hoping that noise and violence would allow him to avoid patient and intelligent troubleshooting.

It wasn’t working.

“The Galactic Power Company is registering a Bill 404 Error,” a female, digitized voice informed him calmly. A six-inch hologram of a red-haired woman appeared over the lifeless console. The blue glow surrounding her was the only source of artificial light.

“A what?”

“Bill 404 Error: Payment Not Found. You didn’t pay your power bill.”

“My power bill? But this is deep space! This is my ship!”

“Your ship, yes—a ship that is networked to the GPC through the subspace connection and a ship running on a GPC nuclear power core. You’re responsible for monthly payments of five micro-credits per gigawatt.” The holographic woman paused a moment to scrutinize the frantic captain. “You did read the Terms and Conditions, right?”

“What the hell would I do that for?”

“Well, if you had, then you’d have been paying your bills for the last six months, and you wouldn’t find yourself drifting without power, light years away from the nearest dock.”

Roker grumbled irritably under his breath.

“Fine. What’s my balance, Crimson?”

“Three-hundred and fifty-two credits,” she replied smartly. “You are also facing disconnection from Galactic Water. And Air.”

Air!?”

“I would recommend you pay that bill promptly.”

Roker glared at the tiny woman. She smiled.

“I don’t have the money,” he groaned, slumping into his chair. The chair took up all the free space in the cockpit—it was a leather recliner, custom installed and several sizes too large for the cramped space.

“I have researched a few solutions to your problem.”

“Lets hear ‘em.”

“One: stop breathing.”

“Nice.”

“Two: get rescued.”

“Unlikely.”

“Three: sell video feed to Hot’n’Sweaty Space Pirates.”

Roker shuddered.

“And four?”

“There isn’t a four.”

Crimson beamed.

Captain's Log, 42 point 23 point 5


“Captain’s Log, 42 point 23 point 5. I am dashing Jonathan Roker, captain, pilot, and crew of the Temper Mettle, an independent cargo vessel presently carrying illegal drugs through the deadly Amethyst Nebula. I am facing dangers of pirates, asteroids, radiation storms, and even—yes, there are rumours of intelligent, non-human life…”

“Certainly the human life is lacking intelligence in this sector,” quipped a feminine, electronic voice. The console came to life, projecting a tiny, 3D hologram of a scarlet-haired woman in a ray of blue light. “According to our manifest, we’re carrying a load of freeze-dried cabbage to Roma Station, where the most spectacular crime is tax evasion.”

“And rumours of alien life?” Roker added hopefully.

The hologram gave him a withering look.

“Fine. I am dashing Jonathan Roker, captain, pilot, and crew of the Temper Mettle, an independent cargo vessel presently carrying—” He snorted. “—cabbage. I am safe from all harm, other than Crimson’s sarcastic remarks, and in no danger of encountering intelligent, non-human life. How’s that?”

“Dull.”

“But you took away my aliens! What am I supposed to say?”

“Tell them that you’ve been alone in space so long that you’ve even gotten tired of downloading porn off the subspace, so now you’re publishing random pieces of fiction?”

“Hey!” Roker protested indignantly. “I did not get tired of downloading porn off the subspace… I mean… Look, all I’m saying is that aliens would spruce this up nicely.”

“You’re going to start downloading alien porn off the—?”

But Roker hit the mute button on the console, put a bright smile on his face, and led the hovering CamBot to the glowing mainframe computer.

“Ok, start recording,” he said, and continued before the CamBot had a chance to indicate that it had been doing just that for several minutes. “I am dashing Jonathan Roker, captain, pilot, and crew of the Temper Mettle, an independent cargo vessel presently carrying illegal drugs through the deadly Amethyst Nebula. I am facing dangers of pirates, asteroids, radiation storms, and even—yes, there are rumours of intelligent, non-human life!”

He paused for dramatic effect. The CamBot briefly panned to Crimson, who was rolling her eyes.

“Even now I have detected a mysterious object travelling at high speed towards me—in but a few days I will be the first human to meet other intelligent life in the universe, whether I want to or not!”

He turned, waving his hand over the humming, crystalline mainframe behind him.

“In this computer, I have stored an imprint of my experiences so that the human race may learn of this alien threat. Alas, it has been damaged in a recent confrontation with pirates. Because of the carbon scoring, it can only access files at random.”

He stepped majestically forward, arms spread. Wires emerged from the structure to press to his temples.

“Let us begin.”

There was a flash of light, and a sound like a hundred generators shutting down.

The room went dark.