Posted by Rich Magahiz Sat, 14 Sep 2013 22:02:00 GMT
Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 30 Aug 2013 01:03:00 GMT
Istvan, that crazy drunken abuser, proved he possessed no survival instinct once again by running towards the beamspitter. Anyone else would have taken the nearest flitter in the other direction and prayed that the thing would not get a radar lock on it, but maybe it was some romantic streak or just an urge to suicide that came out at moments like this. For my part, I was sprawled in a slimy puddle with a dislocated knee, no aid at hand, so all I could do was spectate and hope that I blended into the background.
The beamspitter was running wild, causing immense destruction to abandoned industrial equipment and innocent blacktop, but making no move to shoot at the tiny human figures in its field of fire. Maybe Istvan noticed this also, or maybe he just didn’t give a shit. Given the amount of shrapnel being thrown up where the bolts were landing, it wouldn’t take an aimed hit to take a man out. He didn’t have a helmet or a flak vest, just a grimy leather slicker. I was hoping he had a pocket rocket holstered or a clutch of grenades which might conceivably catch it at a weak point. Maybe he could distract it while one of the armored vehicles came in to knock one of its knees out. Ouch.
But then I saw something spool out from his flailing hand at a wild angle, coiling like a silk ribbon but weighted at the end like a bolo. It clanked against the broken concrete and I thought for a wild moment that Istvan was going to be yanked off his feet, but it bounced back up into the air. In all it was just a few meters long although it looked as long as the shattered boulevard itself to me. It was probably the shock, the mangled leg winning out over my overtaxed brain, halfway into a swoon, yet the sheer audacity of what this man was doing also had something to do with what I perceived by stretching the limits of what could happen and what could not. This man was nothing short of every action figure I’d ever imagined.
I cannot say for sure what happened after that, because, as I say, I was pinned down too far away amidst all the smoke and confusion. My ears heard something that made my guts clench even though I did not then and do not now have the words to say what it was. I surely think Istvan got to the marauding form, though I have no proof of it, and something makes me believe with all my being that it was a heroic moment. It wasn’t long before another set of heroes gathered me up at their own risk and amid my own considerable agony to a place where I could receive treatment, so I did not witness what they say happened to that beamspitter. Nobody has a tale of what happened to Istvan, whose description has led only to a blank stare whenever I question those who claim to have been there. All that is left is a battered steel hook one of those bystanders pressed into my hand, without explanation, which I keep on the corner of my desk now to try to remember that day with something approaching objectivity.
Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 29 Mar 2013 11:29:00 GMT
The man without a country pulled the hood of his parka closer while a synthesized voice droned into his left ear giving a GPS track. The Alaskan taiga around him had been scoured clean and flat by stinging crystals of ice originating somewhere over the Kamchatka Peninsula, so over this featureless plain he plodded kilometer after kilometer through darkness. The faceted structure he was making for was tundra-drab, just a few shades lighter than the clouds dense with moisture that crawled over the horizon. Knowing with altered senses he was the only warm-blooded creature for fifty kilometers, not even a polar bear sniffing about his trail, he had no need for stealth then. All he needed for his errand was endurance.
When he got to his destination he circled around to the side where the airstrip was paved atop the permafrost. Clipping a few strands of razor wire, then up and over the fence, he hurried towards the door set beside a large bay. He couldn’t take a chance on whether they might have set up a few drones to deal with visitors, so the best strategy was to crack the place open as quickly as possible, with a minimum of fuss. Ignoring the biometric and RFID readers, he produced a cold chisel along with a compact hammer and did enough damage to the hinge side of the door that he was able to slip in after maybe ten minutes. Though the facility was mostly unheated, the contrast with the out of doors still required him to spend a half minute to reorient his senses. Calling up the site plans, he found his way inward toward the central command center.
This next door was locked, displaying considerably more security than the outside perimeter. For what he needed, however, explosives would not do. From inside his parka the man pulled a nylon bag containing a dense cube the size of a die, one side marked with minute gold traces like a circuit board. This side he fitted against corresponding contacts on the door at about waist height where he could feel a slight depression. He had to wait only a second for a click. Stowing the unlocking mechanism, he stepped a few steps up into the tracking center.
There were four compact consoles around the edges of the room and a central horseshoe-shaped operating position. A large display flicked on with a map of dozens of satellite tracks projected against a globe seen from above the pole, each one with identifying codes attached. The man sat down at the central console and uncapped a fibre bundle that had been running down his right sleeve, plugging it into a mating receptacle. Now he could breathe. There was no need to issue commands, even if there had been a keyboard or touchscreen there.
While he waited for the all clear the man considered the words of a song that had been running through his mind all through the long trek up to this place: pigeon flies, heaven flies, a hat flies, my heart flies. At that moment, though, he changed the sense to say that the man waited, heaven waited, a bear waited, the planet waited. It only took a quarter of a satellite orbit, though, to get the chime in his earpiece telling him he could unplug. But before he left, the man pulled a crisp white envelope from inside his parka and laid it neatly on the tip of the horseshoe where no one could miss it. He took no special care with fingerprints or skin cells, now or at any other time during his operation.
By the time he was back at the outside door, an unmanned quadrolifter was squatting on the airstrip, churning the snowflakes into dust. The man strode toward the unlocked hatch, and if a tune running through his head, and if his pocket held a passport, these were those belonging not by law but by mere convention to his beloved, broken non-country.
Storm – Envelope – Cube – Chisel – Satellite
Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 08 Mar 2013 13:00:00 GMT
We packed our instruments and our guns on the curious low canoes employed by the natives and made our way westward from Manaus, thinking only of the words of the spirit talker who refused to come with us. “It is not for mortal men,” we were told by our translator, “and to go there is to go to your deaths.”
It’s not as though we hadn’t heard that before. The Colonel, of course, was well accustomed to maintaining his wits when exposed to extreme danger of a violent sort. My own travels, while not quite so filled with strife, have seen me shaking of a pestilence or recovering from broken limbs or wild animal maulings more than I care to recount. We didn’t pass along this dire bit of augury to the savages who accompanied us in exchange for the white man’s gold, else we should have expected to have reduced the expedition from dozens to just the two of us, which would have been damn inconvenient. For if we had accomplished our goal of reaching the high seat of the cloud jaguar, with all the precious pieces of ancient starcraft our guides have indicated would be waiting there, we would properly need two or three times as many of us to bring back the precious artifacts to the outside world.
We did not really believe there was any great peril waiting for us there, isolated in the cloud forest away from all the known bands of cannibals, and high enough that we could begin to stop worrying about the anaconda and the panther. “Cloud jaguar” we believed to be a ceremonial title, perhaps mistranslated from some dead tongue employed by the original builders of the stronghold. The extreme remoteness of the place was its chief peril, but we were well stocked not only with medical supplies and ordinary provisions but also with several excellent examples of the gunsmith’s art, which rarely left our hands or those of our trusted foremen.
As we paddled up the tributaries of the Amazon, higher and higher, my concern began with the curious dreams that occupied my fitful sleep, in glimpses of half-remembered visions at first, but eventually drawn-out epics that would leave me thrashing and calling out in the night, according to my fellows. The predominate image was that of a great bird, green as a ripe melon and as large as a pony, which bore down on me from what seemed like many directions at once, its curved beak and slashing talons missing my skin by a mere hairsbreadth. To touch its gaudy feathered breast would mean certain destruction, for its feathers were tipped with a substance toxic even at a distance, transfixing those around it with a fainting numbness that soon led to coma. I was fleeing, on foot, on horseback, and finally at the last moment cast out in midair to escape this avenging spirit. As I fell from the jagged cliff I would see the seat of the cloud jaguar nestled among the spines of granite and it would suck the breath clear out of my lungs.
This was generally when the Colonel would be shaking me by the shoulder to awaken me. He was a gruff old gentleman at the best of times, but these outbursts of terror, two, three times a night would cause a look of concern to cross his face. I would be breathing heavily, trying to gulp down all the air I could, while he would be saying “There, there, Reverend, steady yourself now, there’s nothing here to trouble you, my lad.” By and by I would return to my senses and it was with immense gratitude that I would thank my traveling companion for his evident concern.
By this time the draft of the canoes would be too much for the little stream we were following, and we arranged to transfer the expedition’s supplies to a string of burros that will bring them and us up the steep mountains looming up into the perpetual tropical rainclouds.
As the thick South American air of the lowlands gave way to the bracingly cool temperatures of the mountain paths some of our bearers started to grow restless. Mind you, these men were chosen not only for their stout backs but also for the sturdiness of their temperaments in the face of an expedition few have ever contemplated, yet these native folk took on a wide-eyed, furtive look with much whispering after sunset when the tenuous shadows closed in. Some of it might be attributed to my own nightly distress, which had become common knowledge to all, but I could tell that it was not simply apprehension as to what evil spirits my own heart contained that weighed down the steps of our band. As for the Colonel, he never gave word nor sign that the approach towards the end of our journey was anything but an emergence into a blessed realm. I always considered that his spirit was forged in the same smithies that produced the heroes of the ancient epics, so pure was his focus upon the ultimate outcome.
One day we reached a rocky ledge that presented a splendid vista back over scores of leagues of country we have traversed by expending much sweat, and to a man we paused and looked back at the green immensity. The air was perceptibly thinner now, and we would often joke that the ideal traveling-companion now would be one that is half-angel. Our stopping place was by no means a summit, but merely a gentle undulation of the foothills of the steep escarpments of grey granite we could see before us. The head of our guides I could see now unwrapping one of the cheroots he habitually clasped between his jaws and allowing a few bits of tobacco to fall to the ground. I questioned the man, whose name was Quimeno, on this, and he demurred initially, but eventually confessed the need to make an offering to the cloud jaguar here in this place that gave him some ritual feeling. I was by no means put off by this heathen notion, seeing in Quimeno a fellow who recognizes the insuperable powers against which a man must strive in order to make sense of himself as a man, even though his structure of belief is not organized along Christian lines.
I smiled at Quimeno and said, “I do hope your token is accepted by the powers watching over this place and helps to preserve us.” I knew he understood by the gap-toothed grin he gave me in return and the way he clasped my hand then.
That night was the first night of the birds. Soot-black in the camplight and perilously close to our naked faces and hands, the multitude swooped down at us as we slept and startled the light sleepers with the sound of their wings through the mountain mist. As the Colonel and I were in a tent, we were among the last to be roused by the commotion, and yet we could hear the sound like scythes through high grain and the excited whispering of our guides. As usual, I was racked with my own personal woes, so the Colonel peeped out through the flap and witnessed the source of the wonder himself. He did not want to endanger either of us by opening the tent flap any wider, he explained to me later, but what he was able to see in the fitful illumination of the abandoned campfires was enough to corroborate the fragmentary testimony of our fellow expeditioners, what was left of them by morning.
For we awoke to find that half of our native bearers had fled, many of them without what little belongings they owned. I could not for the life of me understand how any man could have run pell-mell down such a steep trail without risking a plunge down a fifty or hundred foot slope.
“Well, perhaps some of them did just that, Reverend,” said the Colonel, “not as though any of us will ever rightly know.”
I kept quiet about my own personal demons then, thinking of the broken bodies of men who had just the previous morning walked beside me. Even though my winged tormentors were five foot long and green as tree snakes instead of crow-sized and -hued but eerily silent I did not care to compare the capacity of each type to induce a panic. Besides, there was plenty of real work to do, to sort through our various burdens and leave behind what could be spared for lack of bearers to hoist them. Our scientific instruments and the journals in which recorded our experiences were sacrosanct, but everything else including the stores of food we had carried all this way at such great effort were no longer considered strictly essential on our final push.
As we built up heaps of our provisions by the side of the mountain path the topic of our conversation turned to the very raison d’etre of our expedition to the seat of the cloud jaguar itself. For me, even in my weakened and febrile state, it was really not a matter of debate, for I had announced my intention to bring the secrets of the builders of the mountain fastness to the Western world and I would do so or perish in the trying. Gradually, however, I came to understand that my fellow explorer saw things in quite a different fashion
“You understand, my dear boy, that I find myself weighing the benefits of attaining our goal, which I acknowledge freely to be monumental, against the laudable and entirely reasonable advantages of avoiding what appears to be a foul curse laid up against any who would take up this challenge.”
“Why no, Colonel, this is utterly the first time such a consideration has entered my mind. Because our wilderness camp was beset by sooty birds of some sort by nightfall, you conclude that we proceed in a godforsaken path now?”
“Not only that, but also the loss of the major part of our natives, and the repeated night terrors that visit you, which even you cannot deny smack of some spiritual warning, am I not correct? How much more misfortune is needed before a rational man must conclude that whatever vows he has taken to accomplish some deed must be withdrawn precisely to retain the honour one once had?”
I set down a cask of spirits overly forcefully then and saw a trickle leak out onto the granite. “Really, now, if you would have me think that continuing on to unlock the marvels we had sworn to free from thousands of years of silence is a matter that brings shame upon the two of us, I do not know that I very much like what is being insinuated.”
He took me by the shoulder then. “There now, perhaps I am expressing myself poorly. Nobody’s saying that it’s a matter of sin to reach the place, even despite all the warnings we’ve had. Just that after a certain amount of sacrifice may be called for, a sensible person may well decide to pick another battle, that’s all.”
I took him by the hand then. “Come, I do apologise. It is my weariness and the lack of air making me talk. Only say the word about our unsuitedness to do what others have tried and failed, and I’ll meekly follow you back down, I will. But make a compelling argument based in reason, that’s all I ask.”
The other man stood then for quite a long moment without reply. His eyes were twinkling when at last he looked back up at me and murmured, “Nay, vicar, it is my lot to follow and yours to lead. So lead on!” Gathering our sacks and the few guides we still had with us, we resumed our march up into the dazzling South American mist.
Some hours later we were interrupted in our climb by the fall of white flakes that eddied around our heads. Snow, virtually at the equator, no longer the far-off prominences we had glimpsed between the trunks of trees towering over us.
“We have now entered into the cloud,” said I, and as soon as I did so I wondered whether the Colonel would suspect me of having slipped into my delirium. But his look was kindly instead and seemed to acknowledge the same wonders that had arrested my steps.
He puffed his breath heavily as he started to say, “Aye, the true land of the cloud jaguar,” but then suddenly stopped. For mingled with the whiteness there came once again those shapes of blackness that had beset our party once before, birds by the hundred driving past us like a strong wind. We flattened ourselves against the bare rock now crusted with ice, as a mortal terror gripped all our hearts. From a corner of my vision I saw the things rising up out of a cleft in the mountain, whirling now round and round us, and it was as though my companion’s words had summoned them up by name.
Beside the two of us was a man with a look on his face I had never seen before, his eyes rolled up into their sockets and his mouth twisted into a rictus without sound. It was Quimeno who had not abandoned us when so many of his fellows had panicked. I was about to call up some words to steady his nerves when I suddenly came to think that his expression actually looked less of horror than of transcendence, with his arms outstretched toward the source of the dusky swarm. Dimly I understood that this man was here for his own reasons, and not because he had been bound to us white men.
Crawling now, with a rifle in his arms, the Colonel was creeping around the slope toward the fissure. The snow was adhering to the back of his uniform in patches. I gathered my courage and pulled myself over the broken ground in similar fashion, hoping that we would find shelter away from the weather and from the uncanny black birds in that outcropping. What we found instead was a marvel we never could have imagined before: nestled in the living rock was a sculpted form hewn from the basalt in the shape of a great cat of the mountain, great yellow cabochons the size of soup-bowls set for its eyes. Settling back on the stones surrounding this apparition was the host of thousands of birds our arrival had disturbed. Dropping off to either side was a sheer expanse of loose stone which induced the strong sense of vertigo in me, recalling as it did my fever dreams and the sensation of menace.
“Colonel Fenton!” I called, and the rock face echoed my voice back at me. “Stay where you are, for the love of God!”
But it was already too late, as I witnessed the icy slope beneath the man crumble into dust, and I saw him falling, falling through the air speckled with snowflakes and his khaki form disappearing from sight. I felt a hand at the back of my neck, Quimeno was clutching me as I fought with all my strength to reach my comrade, but I was too weak and filled with grief to resist him then.
Sci-Fi Satire – The Rainforest – A Difficult Choice! – A rare bird – Mankind’s imperative is to discover
Posted by Rich Magahiz Wed, 27 Feb 2013 00:57:00 GMT
The Lance raised his cutting laser over his head for emphasis. “Open this gate before you make me cut it open!” The weapon was heavy, however, so he ended up resting its butt back on the asphalt while he awaited an answer to his ultimatum.
The answer came in the form of a swarm of chrome beetles which dove at Lance from all directions. He lifted his laser and flipped up the safety, then keyed the switch. A thin red line came out of the front of the device, but this was merely the targetting laser. Then the main banks came on and the invisible cutting beam started the work of slicing the doors off of their hinges. All the while, the chrome beetles dove at his eyes and exposed skin, causing a great deal of discomfort, though nothing fatal.
The Lance kicked the heavy gates, which twisted a few inches. He knew better than to batter them with his shoulder, which he instinctively protected after having had to go to physical therapy to treat for several months last year. There was a gap up at the top of the left hand jamb wide enough for him to stick one of the power packs off of his belt into. He flattened himself against the concrete to one side, waving at the beetles buzzing around him for one, two, three long seconds. Then with a loud fizz the pack split with concussive impact, cleaving the gate completely free on that side and knocking about a dozen of the mechanized bugs to the ground from the shock. The Lance strode forward and through the gap and the rest of them did not follow.
What he saw didn’t measure up to the tales he had heard of the legendary Titanium Order and their secret city, for the view cut off only another dozen feet forward in a featureless wall. The Lance said a bad word and stomped his heavy boot. “Aw, man, am I going to have to cut through this entire mountain? This is so incredibly frustrating I can’t even express my dissatisfaction!”
At this, the stony appearance of the wall started to shift to a milky opalescence with a glow of its own. A glowing vertical line taller than he was ran down from the ceiling, though whether it was being projected onto the wall or was coming through the wall was not entirely obvious to Lance.
“Hello? Is there someone in charge of letting heroes through here?” he bellowed. He was inclined to think that the line would be useful to him mainly as an indication of where to cut, but he thought he’d try sparing his cutter if he could, hoping he could logic his way in. Nothing happened.
He put his cutter down and laid his hands on either side of the glowing stripe to try to feel whether it was about to swing open. A dense forest of symbols in half a dozen colors crowded the space around each of his hands, all different sizes and shapes, some of them blinking and others rotating. A message, obviously, left here by the Titanium Order, but how was he to decipher it?
Lance flexed his fingers against the warm surface, hoping that the two sides would simply slide apart with a little coaxing. The symbols on either side shifted along with his hand, in a manner similar to the way the chrome beetles had swarmed around his head when he moved, but the wall itself was fixed. The shapes were like nothing he had ever seen before and the sheer profusion of them made his head swim. There was some kind of pattern here that responded to his touch, but how did it work?
He lifted his fingers away from the wall but the colored shapes remained. Lance fumed, thinking of the time he’d already wasted on the road here and how long it would be to make his way back. These stupid intelligence tests were just the kind of thing that sent his blood pressure through the roof, and wouldn’t it just be the typical kind of thing a lost civilization of mechanical geniuses was going to throw up in his way. That was the main thing he hated about this line of work, having to deal with conceited little nerds who hold all the keys and dole out little scraps here and there to lunkheads like him.
Just then he noticed a pattern in the dancing symbols. Here, a rotating red squarish blob, there a stationary yellow squarish blob. On the left, a circle with a splotch, and on the right a slightly squashed roundish thing with its own splotch. This was all too familiar, from web portals and banking sites and comments on blogs: the Titanium Order was putting up a CAPTCHA to weed out the less intelligent from entering their domain!
“Well, screw that,” Lance growled, as he grabbed up his cutting laser and thumbed it back to life. He hated CAPTCHAs with an undying hatred. Soon, the red beam and the murderously powerful invisible one were trained dead center on the dancing display.
Out went the lights, with the first pulse of energy, and something popped overhead. The Lance instinctively dodged to one side, losing his grip on the cutter and straining one of his bad knees. He looked up and saw a hatch in the ceiling deposit a grapefruit-sized rubbery green object where he had been standing. Its surface was alive with bumps and tendrils and what looked like tiny pincers, and as it sprouted a set of stubby legs, the adventurer backed away from it.
“Whoa, stay right there,” he stammered. “Whether you’re a bomb or parasite, I’m prepared to drill you where you stand unless I get some damn answers.”
“Your device is discharged,” the green ball said in excellent English. And so it was, completely dead with all the happy lights out.
Lance said something in non-standard English, then “Did you do that? Because if you broke it, by God, I will sue somebody!”
The green ball propelled itself right between his feet, much closer than Lance preferred, then said, “It is what happens to those who try to break in to this city.”
“Wait a minute, are you from the Titanium Order? Because I have some business to take up with you guys, if so.”
“The Titanium Order is long gone. I represent the guardian of this city of theirs and can discuss the terms of your business.”
“Yes, my business,” said Lance, “This will only take a minute.”
“It will,” said the ball, “if you’ve properly registered on the Titanium Order website.”
The Lance made a face as if he’d been insulted. “Of course I registered, long before I headed out this way in the first place.”
“In that case, you should have known how to make your way past the portal without resorting to violence.”
Lance frowned. “Are you telling me that there were some instructions I was supposed to see?”
“There were. At the end of the user agreement.”
“On the user agreement? Nobody reads those.”
“The stupid ones don’t. That is when I have to get involved in the process.”
“I did bring my confirmation number,” said Lance, as he pulled out a piece of paper. He didn’t know exactly how to hand this to the rubbery ball-shaped guardian, so he just dropped it on the floor between them.
“One moment, please. You’re here for a so-called Molsovan Muttonhead Amulet, number 3734929?”
“That’s right, an amulet, it’s for…”
The wall he’d shot with his laser split vertically, revealing a small grey box on the ground. Through the gap, Lance could see a vast dome enclosing slender towers with filamentary bridges draped between them, bathed in a pastel light. His mouth fell open. He bent to pick up the box, then took a step towards the delicate vision.
“Sorry,” said the ball, “we can’t allow customers in back. It’s the rules.”
“Don’t you need to verify who I am? Why I need the thing? Run a credit check?”
“No, it says in our records that everything was filled out on the web form. Plus we’re post-scarcity here and have no use of your funds.”
“Sorry about messing up your gate, though.”
“My advice is: next time, read the user agreement.”
Lance opened up the little box and checked that the amulet was the way his employers had described it to him. There was a little paper label tuck in back of the bauble, which reassured any doubts he might have had. He had no way to check whether the thing would defeat the plague of black centipedes that was overrunning the autonomous collective, but, then again, that wasn’t his problem.
He picked up his cutting laser. “Say, do you guys have a place where I can plug this in before I go?”
- The capital city of a lost civilization
- Artificial Intelligence
Posted by Rich Magahiz Sat, 18 Aug 2012 21:02:00 GMT
year of contact
wall of puddingstone she’s calved a cairn
a serf’s ransom
we kill first?
drawn by our drowbells: throngs of sea bats
see, the autarch’s
the tempered belljar whence sins ooze up
Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 16 Mar 2012 16:15:00 GMT
the last man
on Phobos – eyes full of
Uploaded by Aitor Escauriaza
Posted by Rich Magahiz Sat, 10 Mar 2012 19:13:00 GMT
they left us nothing
the city streets
Uploaded by mugley
Posted by Rich Magahiz Fri, 09 Mar 2012 18:34:00 GMT
his hands dripping
Uploaded by gene mcdevitt
Posted by Rich Magahiz Tue, 28 Feb 2012 15:29:00 GMT
of blue-black smoke – the crow
quits her branch
Posted by Rich Magahiz Mon, 27 Feb 2012 17:23:00 GMT
Mount Fuji looms
the silent owls
sing the sweetest
brambly pink sober
owls sputtering crestfallen
pure cheeky songbird
Posted by Rich Magahiz Sun, 26 Feb 2012 15:55:00 GMT
blintzes of bronze
the abs on