The Heplion Contingency – part 7

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Chapter 7: A New Job

 

A sharp ray of sunlight pierced the office when Jekh tugged down on the blinds to look outside. They squinted at the harsh spotlight shining on their eyes from just above the horizon. Go figure, they thought. They get to live in a place where they know where the sun is all the time… and they still choose to face it. Hiding the sun with their free hand, they looked down on the city. A neat grid of perpendicular lines, all diagonal to the sunlight. Looking toward the night, they confirmed what they had already noticed about this city – no windows facing the sun. None but this fool, they thought. Is this crew as bad as the last?

“I like the sunlight,” said a voice coming from the door. Jekh turned to see a dark-skinned human with a thick mane of black hair crowning her head like a halo. “Most people hide from it, but I like to be able to face it. Bring everything in here into light. Plus, it reminds me of home.” She extended a hand. “I’m Dorella Moranthil, head of recruitment here at the USIC.” More

The Heplion Contingency – part 6

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Chapter 6: The Contact

 

“Gelondan Midnight,” Root said, slapping a credit plate on the counter.

The barman, an older, dark-skinned fellow, examined the plate for a bit. A. NAMKRATIPAR, it read, right under the First Bank of Kaldur account number. He picked it up and disappeared into the back of the bar, wordlessly.

Minutes later, as the young woman was sipping her drink – a pitch-black concoction clouded with thin wisps of white – a stocky, tan-skinned man, chain-link armor peeking out from under his overcoat, sat beside her. She couldn’t see past his forearm, as her hood was up and her head was down… but she didn’t really have to.

“Any trouble?” he said, with a deep voice, just loud enough to be heard over the sounds of the loopball game blaring on the holocaster in the middle of the bar. More

The Heplion Contingency – part 5

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Chapter 5: At the Security Office

 

“Dang! Where’s he off to now?” The middle-aged security guard, clad in light armor, squinted at a round crystal screen mounted on a swiveling base.

“Dunno… they’re both moving way too fast to keep up!” his younger but higher-ranked colleague said, as he turned the screen around to adjust the field of view.

“There, boss! They’re standing still now!” the guard pointed excitedly.

“Got it!” He adjusted the screen, putting their target near its center, and turned a knob to zoom in. The two figures on the screen were talking, although no sound was transmitted to the device.

“I wonder what they’re… whoa! What was that?” The older man was wide-eyed, leaning closer to the screen for a better look. More

The Heplion Contingency – part 4

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Chapter 4: The Interview

 

The emptiness of the space around Nimban was unnerving. This was no mere darkness like the alcove where it had been previously hidden; in fact, there was some visual input, a faint rainbow shimmer coming from all directions at once. No, what was around the artificial brain was much worse than darkness; it was nothing. Nothing to be seen besides the background glow, nothing to be heard, and while Nimban didn’t bother trying its other senses, it knew they’d come up empty as well, because nothing else existed in this hyperspatial pocket it had been stuffed into. Rather clever, actually, it pondered. I’ve no way to connect to a mind that’s in another dimension entirely, which means she’s safe from me… for now. Out of options for the moment, Nimban carefully pondered its predicament, and the many possible configurations of conditions that could have made it happen.

About an hour later on the outside (and less on the inside; Nimban had a good grasp of the temporal distortion involved), a rift opened above the thinking device. It rapidly extended its telepathic senses outward, but found nothing. Then, as if to answer the question of what had opened that aperture, something flew into view with a loud buzz, obscuring the lamp-light shining in from outside. As the newcomer squeezed into the opening and descended into the hyperspace pocket, Nimban had a good look at it: an oval brass chassis, with a few psychically-active crystals inside for power, six clockwork legs, two pairs of silken wings supported by articulated brass stalks, and a pair of thin brass covers for the wings, giving it the look of a large mechanical beetle. A drone, most likely, remotely controlled via psychic link. More

The Heplion Contingency – part 3

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Chapter 3: Beneath a Red Sun

 

Jekh struggled against the discomfort, trying in vain to catch some rest. Their bunk wasn’t bad at all – psychically-generated insta-barracks tended to come well-furnished – but the armor chafed against their rocky skin at odd angles. Their chest and hip plates were neatly stacked on the ground, but arms and legs took longer to armor up than the customary three minutes’ readiness, so they stayed covered up, and ached.

God damn that fool to the shadows, they thought. It was Colonel Athadon’s idea, outfitting all the troops in the same standard-issue platemail, all neatly patterned like a proper army. In Jekh’s long experience with deniable-assets mercenary work, Athadon’s company, Evrand’s Chosen, was the only one that didn’t let soldiers pick their own gear, resulting in a haphazard battalion that looked like a band of raiders or pirates. And if that wasn’t enough, whatever ignorant clods that were in charge of inventory thought human-standard armor was just fine for an eblian such as Jekh. Sure, the general size and shape were more or less the same, but when it got to details – slightly different proportions, muscles in all the wrong places, and dear God, why do humans have such skinny arms – wearing that thing was a nightmare. More

The Last Voyage

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Mr. Khoury awoke to the sound of his phone alarm at six A.M. sharp, as he had done for near on forty years. After tapping his phone’s screen to check the time (which was always the same, but he checked it every day anyways), he proceeded to the same lonely routine he’d been following for a few years, since his dear Rachel passed away. A yawn, a stretch, an eye rub, a belly scratch, and then on to the early-morning meds, faithfully on his right-hand nightstand, along with a small bottle of water. As he sat up and slapped the light switch… the lights failed to turn on.

“Huh?” he muttered, still groggy, and patted the wall where the switch was supposed to be. Not only it wasn’t there, but the wallpaper felt entirely unfamiliar, and it was also at that point that he noticed the strange headboard behind him.

“Where am I?” The morning light softly filtered by the curtains (wait… wasn’t it winter?, he thought) showed an environment that was at once foreign and entirely familiar from his past days as a sales representative. A hotel room, he realized. Where am I again? I don’t remember this trip. More

Demographic Analysis of the Technological Singularity Timeline

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Being highly interested in the concept of a technological singularity, I’ve often wondered how far off that is. A lot of people have of course weighed in, based on the rate of technological development in the world… but something seems off about that approach. Main problem being, between Moore’s Law and many informational structures in place already today, we should either have crossed that point by now, or should be nearly there, and that’s certainly not the case.

Then it hit me – our main bottleneck isn’t technical, it’s human. (This comes from a career in government work, where I’ve realized just how obtuse the people in charge of managing everything can be – and from observing the private sector, it’s not much better, outside of the tech industry.) So I decided to plot who’s how old at each point in time, based on what sort of technology was around them in their formative years, and as a consequence, how comfortable they are around each kind of technology, and how fully they can realize that potential. More

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