A science fiction story about the end of the world, love, money, blogging, technology, and everything else.
Episode One: The heart of a hero
Episode Two: Love hurts
Episode Three: God speed your love
Episode Four: Two hands ain’t good enough
Episode Five: Part One: Rape of the Sabine Women
Episode Five: Part Two: Rape of the Sabine Women
Episode Six: Everything counts in large amounts
Episode Seven: Love Never Fails
Episode Eight: Princes of the Universe
Episode Nine: Technobohemian Dreams
Episodes and/or related writing are published on this blog – most Mondays and Wednesdays. Please subscribe to this blog to get a reminder when the next episode is published.
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Snap, The Power
The Book of Carrot
Book One: Principal Virtues
Chapter One: Love is a battlefield
Episode Ten: It’s getting kinda hectic!
No iese fun fara foc.
There is no smoke without a fire.
A Romanian Proverb
The white Rolls-Royce returned to the entrance of La Boehme – one of Bucharest’s better restaurants.
The driver got out and opened the door for the barefoot man.
“You know, we can be friends, John. We have lots of things in common – more than you can imagine.
Did you know that we’re business partners?” said the barefoot man, pointing back and forth between himself and John.
“I want to thank you personally for signing on with the commercial development of Cismigiu.
We’ll make a lot of money with that. That is – if the real world doesn’t end anytime soon.
And Cristina – isn’t she a keeper! I bet you won’t find anyone like her – not in the whole wide world. It would be a pity to lose her…”
The barefoot man put his hand on John’s shoulder. John took a step back and let it fall back to the barefoot man’s side.
“Protect her from harm, John.
That’s what being a man is all about. Protect and serve the people whose names are written upon your heart…”
The barefoot man got into the Rolls-Royce.
Leaning out the window, he had one more thing to say to John.
Fuck the rest. Because everyone else who will not be mine – they can hang, beg, starve in the streets…”
John rejoined the celebration inside, but he didn’t remember what was said or why people laughed.
He only remembered that Cristina had cut her lip on a chipped water glass.
Marian and her father were asleep in the guest apartment upstairs – they had called when they went to bed.
Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It had started playing as they came up the stairs – John had set the music from his phone on their way home.
Inside the door, John pressed Cristina against the wall and put his mouth on hers. He kissed her ear lobes and her neck as he unbuttoned her gold shirt and she, his. He unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down as he kissed her flat stomach. She ran her hands through his soft, fine brown hair.
Cristina unhooked her white, strappy, crochet bra and he met her unbound breasts with his mouth. She kicked off her gold-tone heels.
John pulled off her jeans and then her white, crochet skirted thong, lifted her onto the console table in the entrance hall, and they made love.
After Cristina had fallen asleep, John slipped out from under her and went to work on tomorrow’s blog post for Hachi’s blog.
What matters most to you is what you do everyday.
You can make excuses about why you have to do what you did today (or yesterday), but if your heart is empty (or half full), your big problem is you.
Are you doing the things that you say matter to you?
Are you living large – as large as your heart desires?
[Picture of Hachi sleeping]
[Caption: Do not disturb – leave a message at the beep]
John recorded a reading of the post, then uploaded the text, pic and voiceover. As soon as he could, he snuck back into bed.
“I missed you,” she whispered in her sleep.
John smiled as he closed his eyes and Cristina pulled her body partly over his.
The nuclear meltdown siren went off; it was his 5am alarm. It was time to take Hachi for a walk.
John slipped on his new K-9 Zeus eyewear. The rims, lenses, bridge and thick temples were silvery – a color characteristic of the Iridium and Osmium alloy used in the eyewear’s exoskeleton. They don’t scratch, break, or bend out of shape even if a tank rolls over them – Lumi had explained.
It was also why each pair of K-9 Zeus eyewear are customized to the owner’s face and head – the fit had to be perfect out of the plant. In John’s case, they had to create a 3D image of his dimensions based on two dozen pics they had pulled from Hachi’s blog. In fact, what John hadn’t known when he sent his proposal was that he had been pre-selected as a beta-tester.
Quantum computers were embedded in both the lenses and temples – that’s what Lumi had told John.
John slid a slim, silvery brick into his right front pocket. Inside it was a quantum data center with a super flawless, diamond memory structure based on 12, one karat, diamonds. The brick also contained an adamantine-shielded LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactor) and a quantum teleportation projector.
John waved to Elena, Hachi disappeared into Cismigiu, and John’s thoughts turned to the barefoot man.
The existence of the barefoot man had only exacerbated John’s fears and anxiety. It had also made the problem potentially unavoidable and more complex in John’s mind.
The things said by the barefoot man suggested to John that the barefoot man, himself, was trying to manipulate the future – just as John endeavored.
Worse, the barefoot man seemed to have an upper hand in this game of foresight and futures. He knew, for example, that he would meet John at the restaurant. John had no idea that the barefoot man would be there.
That’s why John didn’t bash his head in with the empty bottle of champagne.
John had sensed that doing so would only fuel the kind of unlikely probabilities which selected toward an unforetold and, obviously, worse outcome than the future John anticipated.
John didn’t want to feed an unmanageable ballet of black swans in which competing plans collided with unexpected and terrifying results.
Maybe, John just needed more information to figure this all out to his advantage. Maybe.
There were no easy or obvious options – this much John understood.
What did John know about the barefoot man?
John knew that he was involved in Noah’s development project. He knew there was a Rolls-Royce – one of perhaps only a dozen in Bucharest. And John knew that the barefoot man had eaten at La Boehme – possibly more than once.
Lucky for John, La Boehme was a holding of a company directed by John’s father – he’d get something on the barefoot man, credit card information, business card, something…
Lumi’s image appeared – without notice – luminously transposed on the landscape of John’s view. She was smoking a cigarette. The image was slightly transparent and appeared to be bounded by an invisible box.
“You’re up early, John!”
“Um, what’s this?”
“This is VRP – Video Radio Protocol. It’s like a video call but it’s an encrypted, peer to peer, video protocol between K-9s.”
Lumi took another puff.
“I like your pajamas. The smiley faces are, um, totally hot,” John said.
The image zoomed to frame Lumi’s head and shoulders.
“Jet lag?” John asked.
“Yeah, so anyhoo… this how we are going to crash course you into your K-9s…
I’ll be monitoring and interacting with you whenever you wear them. If you need privacy, you just have to say, “Sarah Jane,” and this mentor program will be suspended until you say, “Cheers, John Leeson.”
You a Dr. Who fan too? John asked – he was pleasantly amused.
“FYI: I’ll be able to see and hear everything you can see and hear. Or more,” Lumi explained.
“More importantly, I can launch applications and help you figure this all out faster than any tutorial could. Questions?”
“How do I search? I want to ID a Rolls-Royce model,” asked John.
If K-9 could do half the things that Lumi had described to him, figuring out who the barefoot man was, what he was all about, and John understanding his antagonist – it was going to be a cakewalk.
“What did Sun Tzu say about excelling in triumph?” John said out loud to himself.
The text appeared in John’s field of view.
“Anyone who excels in defeating his enemies triumphs before his enemy’s threat is real.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Sixth Century B.C.)
“What did Sun Tzu say about knowing your enemy?”
“If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
– Sun Tzu
Concurrent to the first text, a transparent window appeared in the center of John’s view with search results. In addition, the window containing Lumi’s video image moved above the search window. Next to Lumi’s window, a box of 12 square application icons appeared. At the top and bottom of John’s view, a dashboard appeared that resembled mobile phone and desktop operations.
John felt like his IQ just jumped up 100 points. His thoughts turned to the problem at hand.
Just like in the game, triumph was only certain when he knew his enemy – be that enemy a zombie, an NPC, or a PC. Or a barefoot man.
That’s how John had won the PVP (Player versus Player) tournament to a player far better equipped than himself – not to mention his opponent’s PC had greater physical power and skill.
John had studied both the PC and the person playing the PC. In the case of the PVP champion, the player’s weakness was his flair for useless demonstrations of bravado. The player always took a moment to stand in contempt of his victim – before the kill.
John was sure that opportunity would come up and that’s when John went for his own kill shot.
“Wow…” John whispered.
“Yup,” replied Lumi.
John looked at one of the search results and a window opened up below the search terms with a site identifying Rolls-Royce models by pictures.
“Pretty intuitive, huh?” Lumi said and took another puff.
“Amazingly intuitive!” John replied.
“YES!” John shouted.
John found a match: 1985 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Centenary. It was a limited series of 25 cars.
“I want vehicle registration information for a 1985 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Centenary in Bucharest. Can K-9 do that?”
“Working on it,” said K-9.
“Was that you, Lumi?” John asked.
“Nope. That was K-9. K-9 talks. Cool – huh?”
“Thank you, Master,” replied K-9.”
“There are no 1985 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Centenarys registered in Bucharest or Romania.
“Um, John. Be careful what you ask K-9 to do.
To illustrate the warning, I have to tell you that K-9 just hacked several government databases to complete your request. While a K-9 hack may be untraceable in most cases, repeated attempts will increase the risk of an attack being tracked back to you,” explained Lumi.
“I feel smarter, faster and like…”
“Like you got the power?” Lumi asked and laughed.
“K-9 is the new breed of tech – it’s what we always wanted and expected from technology. It is what we all felt in the promise and temptation of technology. We all want to be better – in a way that we can immediately feel and appreciate.
K-9 extends our intelligence and potential beyond our own preconceived limits and reach. It changes us.”
“I just need you to understand one thing, John,” Lumi said after a pause.
“K-9 does not have a conscience. It doesn’t make moral decisions. It has no sense of discretion or consequence. K-9 does can not judge whether your request is right or wrong, good or evil, or whether or not the answers that it gives you – help or harm.”
Lumi took a long drag on her cigarette.
“Take great care when you ask K-9 to do. Be certain that you need and want to know the information that you ask K-9 to fetch, discover or compute. Consider the consequences…
Our first beta-tester filed for divorce, shot his 2 year old daughter in the head, mailed a fatally toxic inhalant to a dozen colleagues at work (killing eight), and committed suicide within 72 hours of his completion in training.”
“I’m so sorry…” John whispered. “That must have been really hard on you…”
“The second beta-tester is currently serving a 25 year sentence in a federal penitentiary for hacking into several highly classified private and government networks in search of irrefutable proof of alien contact and technologies. If he hadn’t gone for the downloads – they prolly wouldn’t have caught him.”
“That’s why the Zeus model will be discontinued. We’re working on dumbing Rex down, the commerical model, and I think we’re almost there.”
Lumi took a sip of coffee and popped a chocolate bon bon in her mouth.
“So, John… who are you trying to ID?”
“That guy from last night. The one with the white suit. The man without shoes.”
An image of the barefoot man and his companion appeared in John’s view. They were sitting at their table at La Boehme.
“This man?” asked Lumi.
“I was wearing my K-9s when I entered the dining room of the restaurant, last night…”
“Awesome!” John replied.
“Building a 3D profile of the man’s face and head from the video…
Now I’m searching public images for a match. This may take a minute,” explained Lumi.
“Anything else you can think of that could narrow the search?”
“Let me think…” John replied.
“Emerson Magnetic Properties – he’s involved with virtual real estate devlopment. Also – he had an American accent, so I’m guessing he’s a U.S. Citizen…”
“James Arthur Ray. That’s your man,” said Lumi.
“You searched the entire internet in a minute?”
“Not really,” Lumi replied and giggled. “But that’s all I’m saying.
“Hey, this is interesting, John. Listen up. Intelligent, my company, has a file on Ray.
Apparently, he’s named as a liaison for a military contractor that is working with the Romanian Special Forces and the U.N. Peace Keepers.
Name of the contractor: Blackwater Romania.
Blackwater Romania ordered 100 BG101s- Intelligent’s lowbrow batte gear corollary to K-9 technology. It was developed for Spec Ops and Military Intelligence. It’s kinda scary looking too.
The BG101s have a skull face mask that attach to a half-head ballistic combat helmet with a NIJ Level V protection. In other words, the BG101 can resist shots from high powered rifles, armor piercing rounds, and some super velocity rounds. Unlike K-9s, the BG101 is more of a combat-hardened communication array than an intelligence modifier. It resembles the Harley Davidson Skull Half Helmet that are popular with Harley fans.”
A picture of a BG101 appeared in John’s field of vision.
“50M: paid in full and paid one year in advance. Looks like delivery was made last month.”
John felt sick to his stomach. The dream came back to him. Cristina’s murderer wore a BG101.
“James Arthur Ray is a principal, officer, or board member of 100 companies, globally…
From aerospace technologies to – get this – your zombie game. Talk about A to Z!”
John was silent. He threw a pebble in Cismigiu lake and watched ripples of silver light spread across the water. An orange and black speckled Koi (Japanese carp) poked it’s mouth above the surface – expecting fish food. She was a big, beautiful fish – almost a meter long.
At that size, she might be 100 years old, John thought to himself.
“You still there, John? Hellooo…
Are you ok?”
Lumi hacked into Cismigiu Park’s security system and searched for live feed of John.
“Peek-a-boo – I see you…”
“Huh?” John said.
“I see you moping at the edge of the lake,” Lumi told him.
“Remember how we talked about too much information?”
“Do you want to tell me why Ray is so interesting to you?” asked Lumi.
John felt dizzy and disoriented, thunder boomed in the distance, and everything went black.
When John could see again, he was holding Cristina in the bed of a Ford F450 truck. He felt Cristina’s warm blood soaking into his jeans. She reached up and touched John’s face.
“Forever and always…” she whispered to him.
Then Cristina closed her eyes and exhaled profoundly.
The future was already changing. But not enough! Just not – fucking – enough! John thought to himself.
He closed his eyes again and opened them. Again, he saw the Cismigiu lake. The big fish leapt with a splash and disappeared into the depths.
Lumi had been quietly watching John standing there. But she noticed something different. She zoomed in and it looked like his jeans were soaked. And it looked like blood was running down his white All Star high tops.
“Are you bleeding, John?” Lumi asked with concern.
John looked down at his blood soaked Jeans and wiped his tears away. He clenched his fists.
“I can do this,” John said to himself with a hardened jaw.
John adjusted his K-9s and he heard Russian spoken on the Park’s public announcement system…
Next Episode: The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Part One
All Rights Reserved by Stan Faryna
21 October 2012