They repeated the tests daily. Sometimes the diagrams would be broken apart and he would have to construct them from pieces; other times they would be missing a component and he would be asked to draw it in with the first thing that popped into his head. He worked quickly, treating the exercise like a Rorschach test — any answer was as good as any other. At the end, they would ask him to identify the object. His guesses seemed juvenile. A molecular structure for a fabric that tightens on impact? An advanced replication module for elemental isotopes? He was given a partially drawn picture of a series of shifting chromatic disks. He knew it was missing vital parts; he picked up a drafting pencil to fill in the holes.
What is this? he had asked. Just psych tests, smiled one coat. Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers. Then why was Chandrasekhar repeating this test, day after day? Chandrasekhar hesitated, putting down the pencil. I’m not sure what to do here. The tech had told him to take his time, then got up and left the room. Chandrasekhar mouthed a word to himself, just a wild guess. The next day his time had been split between the spatial tests and time with an enthusiastic therapist intent upon discovering whether there were any blocks in his consciousness that might prevent him from doing his job as intended.
His supervisor was making it clear that the organization considered him extremely valuable, that they were very unwilling to let him go. He stressed the service he had done in the past, the service he could still offer. Perhaps you’d consider coming back as an independent contractor. read more…
technique one of the doctors had taught him for managing pain. It was part of his regimen, along with physical rehabilitation and daily mitylpropicin. The drug had dulled his pain while sublimating his consciousness, pushing him underwater. He had weaned himself off it while hiding the symptoms from the people around him — not as well as he thought, apparently.
No, he didn’t need more time. The man reached under his desk and pulled out a report, pretending to peruse it in detail. Let’s talk about your evaluation.
The evaluation. The doctors had subjected him to a battery of tests from the moment he awoke from his singular dream: physical response; limb strength; pain threshold. The implant tests reminded him of his first year at Acquisitions. His control was as accurate now as it had been then — the tiny ceramic sensors had been recovered or reconstructed perfectly. Everything had gone well. The worry he had sensed from the lab coats that he would have to retrain his muscles or lose feeling over parts of his body dissolved as he progressed through the tests. He felt the strength in his body, as capable and useful as it had ever been. If it hadn’t been for the pain and the dream, he could have imagined that everything was just as before.
Then came the psych tests. read more…
only to Nevada — they are yours. When VIG came looking for them armed with ultra-masers and gravplates, they found them in rectangular fields of stone: sliced platters of raw earth, meters-thick and hundreds of meters wide, floating freely and moveable with an infant’s strength. When the shadows of the great monoliths fell over fields as they worked their way to the Atlantic, even VIG’s money could not prevent the legal battles to come. Did the minerals need to be extracted on site to be licensed in Wyoming? Was the state of Maryland entitled to taxes on the products of the quarrying? Even as the plates slid into place along the underside of the factory, people decried the raping of the landscape, or worried about rock plates falling from the sky onto their roofs. Not in my sunshine.
Another argument: deliberate cities have no soul.
At the mid-point of the 2050′s, half as many people were leaving VIG / Powder Heights every morning as came in. Early housing had reflected new growth architecture; clean, modern and efficient. With the advent of ultra-maser quarrying, it became just as cost effective to transplant blocks of pre-existing homes as building new. Swaths of historic homes, still embedded in the bedrock of their foundations, floated in from depressed locations; locations where they would have been torn down to make way for cheap condos, or gone derelict, argued proponents to those campaigners who termed the process urban removal. Despite the negative connotation, some cities even paid for the privilege of letting Anders repurpose their heritage. The permanent population swelled. read more…
Here is one argument: cities are grown, not built. The great metropolises of ancient and modern day were not deliberate or rationalized; they existed as confluences of human requirement. Settlements near rivers had fresh drinking water and nutrient flooded fields, not to mention mercantile influence. A town situated on a hill commanded the countryside, atop desert tablelands or inside a star fort nestled amongst intruding forest. “Planned” cities, from Brasilia to Fordlandia were not living entities, they were monuments of hubris. But hubris doesn’t deny success: Fordlandia is buried in acres of jungle, while Brasilia is the fourth most populous city in Brasil, and by all accounts a lovely place to visit.
The roots of New Atlantis lie in the 40 mile corridor that separates Washington, DC from Baltimore, MD. The term corridor is fairly accurate. In the 2030s, the suburban towns housing workers from both cities were split by the asphalt ribbon of I-95 and an oft-delayed maglev high-speed rail line. That maglev line shuttled more commuters than all the local rail lines combined. DC had its Metro and Baltimore had its Light Rail; in-between, there was nothing to stop for but an airport and Fort Meade. read more…
He casts a glance over the seats in front of him, staring at a sliver of 17-D’s profile. Her left hand is busy straightening the pleat of her skirt. Wald catches a glimpse of purple on her ring finger. Too far away to be sure, but Wald thinks it must be multiple amethyst stones — definitely not a solitaire. Possible that it could be a vintage piece, but more likely it was just a decoy.
You are the most suspicious person I have ever met, a friend had once said. They had been out at a trendy bar with a large group, and he had just asked her if it was working. Is what working? she asked. He had pointed out the ring on her left hand ring finger. Unless you got engaged without telling me — I take it you are trying to avoid attention? She had shrugged and said, I suppose. The ones I’m avoiding don’t pay enough attention to notice the ring. It had been a sad day in Wald’s life when he realized that most of the people he met had those rings; the day he had first correlated the lack of a ring with eligibility.
Had he been that suspicious before he had started the job, or had the job taught him that? He thinks back to previous positions, but they are hazy, from another life. He struggles to recall how long he had been at this job. Day-in, day-out. Hands on keyboard, headphones on ears. Music kicking like an EKG pulse — reassuring him that he was still a little bit alive while he sifted through 99% meaningless data, searching for that important 1%. It’s not that I’m suspicious — I’m just looking for reasons. read more…
The Thread | The Corridor | The Past
Wald is free; he has escaped. Why don’t I feel free? thinks Wald. He looks at the bodies around him; the oppressively low curved ceiling; the frayed thread belt securing him to his seat. Ignoring current circumstances.
Seven days ago, Stephen had handed in his letter of resignation. His boss had tried to talk him out of quitting immediately. Take a week off, think about it some more. I’ll give you a call on Monday and we can talk it over. People get the wrong impression about government contracting jobs — sure, half of it is just putting warm bodies in chairs, but real work has to be done. That burden gets split among the workaholics and the naturally competent. Finding capable replacements is tough.
Throw in a security clearance classification and the task becomes exponentially harder. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem: can’t get a classified job without clearance, and can’t get clearance without a classified job. It’s no wonder that the government hiring process is a farcical construction.
I don’t want to think about work anymore. I don’t want to think about airplane seats and numbers going up and down. read more…
music playlist generators; optimal traffic pattern solutions; optimal Go solutions; meteorological predictors; power station regulators; statistics packages; language interpreters. They were a subset of human ingenuity, distributed plugins with a standardized interface for relatively dumb clients to use and forget on the fly. They were as diverse as human need, and worked as well as humans designed them to.
A few hydrogen atoms were out of place in the vacuum of space. The Boots woke and fell back asleep, waiting for more data.
It was a quiet time aboard the ship, a cycle without adjustment, and everything was copacetic.
More hydrogen out of place. The sample size was tiny, and the difference had not risen to statistical relevance. Another smack on the snooze button.
Boots cycled, and pre-empted the plan to run maintenance cleaning. Astrogation dictated a slight change in course based on the trail, and the ship complied. It was now being forced to navigate based on unreliable data, though it did not express worry. The maintenance cleaning was allowed to kick-off, and the computer slept.
The Boots woke, made managerial decisions and fell back asleep, as it did every picosecond; its passengers slept and dreamed.
needs met, do we still not want? Where is the absoluteness of joy without the pole of hate and loathing by which to measure it? This is a Heaven without men, surely, and for men there is no Heaven. Carsten disputed the existence of Paradise while promising its coming, drawing on Genesis: Paradise is the tree of God’s seed — the moment of God’s action — which has not yet come to fruition. Paradise will be the moment when the unfortunate collusion of circumstances becomes bright with the predestination of the first possibility. read more…
refund on unread copies of their editions. The benefit was small, pennies on the dollar – much less than the rising cost of production – and the subsidy phased out quickly for high circulations. It was also difficult to cash-in on, as the vendors had to demonstrate that the editions were made available and not purchased. This narrow window allowed Carsten to produce a set quantity of literature and make money, whether anyone saw the inside or not. Certainly, amongst those purposefully marching in and out of clicking subway stiles, Carsten’s works were not widely read. In the 2020s, The Rapture had fallen out of favor for more popular forms of Armageddon, ones that connected with their audience and offered near instant gratification.
In 2024, looking for a way to connect with his audience, Thomas Carsten invented and patented a networked high-speed printing device enabled with a high resolution camera. As pedestrians passed in front of the camera’s eye, the device searched through databases of public profile images and incorporated that person’s details into his latest tract. An instant horoscope of customized spirituality: personalized, often ludicrously inaccurate, and a little too real to the right person. read more…