Another day in hell.
Matthew pushed open the glass door, staring bleary eyed at his phone.
“Sync complete,” said a pleasant female voice.
He stopped in the doorway and took a breath. Sweet, pleasant air lolled around him. The old security guard at reception nodded in greeting
“Matt, how you doing today.”
He waved Matthew through.
Matthew walked. The corridor rose gently underneath him, becoming a glass umbilical that parted the crisp, green lawns surrounding the building proper. His phone rumbled in his pocket, handling all the automated requests and scripted tasks he’d set up. He paused at the door, detecting the faint sounds of music, then swiped himself in.
Rows of racks laid before him, circling a central control station. The hum of a thousand servers lulled him as the gentle strings of Vivaldi excited him.
“Spring, uh in E major?”
“You’re getting sharper, Matt!” An older man emerged from the rows, his pockets stuffed with spare parts.
“Oh hey, morning Steve.”
The technician leaned on one of the earthing rods. A faded nametag hanging onto his turtleneck read CEO
“I was just putting a few optimizations in on Block C. You could give me a hand, or did you want to check status from the panopticon first?”
“You’re rewiring the HPC clusters?” Matthew pulled out his phone and scrolled through a list of success messages
“I figured why not? Your test worked so well, we can get the entire Block converted across today.”
Matthew rubbed his hands together “I can’t wait to start.”
Matthew lurched upright, the screen coming into focus in front of him. Where- oh right. Another day in hell.
“What?” he snapped.
Daniel appeared on the edge of vision “Thought you might want lunch.”
“Yes, No. I mean, I’m very busy.”
“I can see that,” Matthew was always impressed by Daniel’s ability to accept lies. It was probably why he did so well here “But I snagged leftovers from a meeting.”
Matthew jumped up “Let’s roll,” he spared a glance over the other desks but Steve and Kobe were gone.
Daniel led the way to the meeting room. He even held the door open for Matthew. There were indeed muffins on the table. However they were not alone. Amelia sat facing the window. A lowly intern, she’d yet to perfect the thousand yard stare. And at the head, Farah, one of the ambitious young project managers.
“After all I’ve done for you. Traitor!” Matthew fled.
Daniel stepped inside with a pained expression “I tried.”
Amelia watched as Matthew flew down the corridor, collided with an analyst and yelled an apology. She turned back to the meeting. Daniel, resigned to the madness, dug into the muffins. Their project manager Farah was preternaturally calm “That went pretty well. You were supposed to give him the requirements deck beforehand though.”
Daniel shrugged “He would have known something was up.”
Farah tapped on a conference phone “M… M… what’s his extension?”
“He’s ex-directory. You know IT. Amelia has his number.”
“That’s for emergencies,” Amelia said protectively.
“Amelia,” Farah leaned forward “Let’s do a little roleplay.”
“The building is on fire. Can I have the number?”
“Remember we’re roleplaying. You, Daniel and I are writhing in agony as fire consumes our flesh.”
“It burns.” said Daniel between muffins.
Reluctantly Amelia produced a dog-eared note.
Farah smiled “The first rule in business is knowing how to deal with people.”
She dialled the number and switched to speaker phone.
Back to the hell that spawned ye!”the voice sounded slightly out of breath.
“Matthew, was it? This is Farah from Projects. I was told you have just the skills we’re looking for.”
“No, I don’t know anything about that and I’m busy with a priority incident!”
“I already cleared the time with your manager. You’ll be released from all ongoing maintenance to work with us.”
“Satan is the father of lies.”
Farah nodded to Daniel. He cleared his mouth of crumbs.
“And as for you Judas! I will see you-“
“This is just a scoping exercise, you won’t be required to give concrete estimates.”
There was a long pause at the other end of the phone
“I want that in writing.”
Amelia realised she should probably be taking notes.
Wait, let me recheck the title. 2312 is not this year's round-up of what I played but a book title. I've not read lots of books this year, snacking rarely between mealtimes. However this was probably the one that stuck with me. There's an amusing divergence between books and games. If I said I hadn't finished a book and tried to review it, I'd be laughed out of town. Yet some games are downright unfinishable, with bugs out to here or gameplay that loops round like Finnegan's Wake(which I promise to review as soon as I finish it). Anyway, no more digressions. It's time for the review.
Continue reading "The Year in Review: 2312"
The Age of Heroes was ending. Metal screamed across a twisted landscape. Spirits fluttered in their lantern cages as Edward sped along the highway. Overgrown fields passed him by. Scorched battlefields, Collapsed buildings and places fouler still were background to his quest. Born of steel, his steed spat fire as its wheels devoured the ancient road. Edward patted the arcane beast’s flank, looking ahead to the past. Skeletal spires split the mauve sky. Englitch had forged their cities from black steel, though never so black as their hearts. The beams of ancient searchlights roved the skyline. They had for a thousand years, as they would for a thousand more. Their infernal contractors bound in perpetuity. This was more than some demon haunted ruin. This was home. No wonder Edward wasn’t happy about it.
Continue reading "God save us from the Queen"
The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. --André Breton
Space was important. there’d never been space in Vienna. Space provided room for ideas to grow.
Charlie unlocked the door, slipping the key back into his pocket. It was the ornate one Sable had given him the morning they’d met.
”You look like someone who needs space.”
He’d followed her, the little tramp and his darling. He’d sketched her across the street, up the stairs into the empty room above the pottery store. They’d talked about the war, about Manchuria, about her cafe. They’d gotten closer and closer. And then she’d left.
“Don’t worry, just drop the key back when you’re done.”
Continue reading "Manchurian Tramp 2"
A rainy prelude
No one went thirsty in Pascolo. A throat going dry had only to open its mouth. Not that this fact was appreciated. Travellers crowded under the overhangs outside the city wall, edging each other out for the dry spots. Labourers rubbed shoulders with traders, heroes with vagabonds, though few could tell the difference. There was a begrudging acceptance among the crowd, everyone hated the weather. Beggars were the only ones that dared the rain, going from group to group in search of a stray crust or a pitying noble too much coin. A pair of them walked along the edges, rain running through the holes in their caps, bare feet slapping off wet stone.
“Scuse me. Can you spare a bite?”
The old man looked up from a bowl of rice, leaving down his fork. He sniffed loudly.
“Why don’t ye get a job and earn it.”
Continue reading "The Sinking City: Rainy Prelude"
Rin Melior waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were demons in the castle. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Baron Parva were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway.
Rin was a honourable samurai for fourteen years. When he was young he watched the bushi and he said to dad "I want to be on the banners daddy."
Dad said "No! You will BE KILL BY DEMONS"
There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the alternate demi-plane of the castle he knew there were demons.
"This is Parva" the sending crackered. "You must fight the demons!"
So Rin gotted his celestial blade of the heavens and blew up the wall.
"HE GOING TO KILL US" said the demons "I will shoot at him" said the demogorgon and he fired the magic missiles. Rin path of warred at him and tried to blew him up. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill.
"No! I must kill the demons" he shouted The sending said "No, Rin. You are the demons"
And then Rin was a kitsune.
(Copyright ShadowWolfXVI forever)
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man. - Romans 1:22-23
Night was still waking. A golden halo merged with the orange lamps of the city. The city itself did not mind. Basking in the late summer heat it lived and loved as it had always done. Couples strolled beneath the lamps. Revellers chased one another across car wide streets. Only the alley behind block C was unlit, a pool of shadow amidst an orange land. It hid a lonely pair of eyes gazing up at the apartments.
Continue reading "Iconoclast"
Daniel was busy designing the new customer engagement system when it happened. To be fair it was his own fault. He’d accepted the invite on the basis that while Steve droned on about optimizing paradigms Daniel could get the work done. And so he’d packed himself into a room with about seven managers and stole a scrap of tablespace. He knew none of them, which meant they were too senior to be important. Unfortunately he hadn’t gambled on it happening. He didn’t even notice until Steve said “Dan?”
Daniel glanced up from his rapid response complaints system at two rows of quizzical faces. “Sure, it’s doable.”
Steve smiled “And with the new 666 link, we should have the hard copy before lunchtime.”
The managers nodded to each other knowingly.
Daniel’s office honed instincts flared “Sorry Steven, could you restate that in laymen’s terms?”
Steve swelled with pride at the thought of being too technical for someone “We agreed we need the hard copy of the previous version’s project plan so we’re going to send you over to archives to retrieve it.”
Amelia was making coffee when she heard the scream. Round the corner she found security holding onto Daniel. A group of managers filed past, whispering to each other. Steve came last “Same time tomorrow, we’ll do a full review of today’s minutes!”
Daniel struggled to break free “Not again! Please not again!”
“Did something happen?” she asked, sipping coffee.
Steve noticed her “Don’t worry, it’s a perfectly normal reaction.”
“He’s going up to Archives tomorrow,” Steve winked “It’s on the northside.”
“My family is from Swords.”
Steve never let a bad joke slow him down “Fancy an all-expenses paid company trip?”
Amelia considered his sharklike grin. It had to be better than making coffee..
Continue reading "The Redcrosse Knight"
The restraints tightened as the man on the bed stretched forward. “Let me tell you a story.”
There sat in a far off place a lamp post, the only one of its kind. Underneath it gathered three characters. They hailed from different worlds. A scholar, of proud bearing and rich dress, came from the highlands to the north. A farrier travelled up from the south, he reeked of iron and dung. Last, to round out the cast, was a bonepicker. Where she came from nobody knew. They gathered beneath a burning gaslight on a warm summer night. They gathered to tell each other stories, of truth, of fiction and between. For just as one was honest so was the next a liar. The farrier always went first. He told his tale thusly.
Continue reading "Gaslight Tales"
Two days lost
The city was the desert. Yllen understood that now. She sat in ruins of a bazaar, its walls collapsed by time. The midday sun burned in the sky and forced all travel to a standstill. Except for the hiss of sand, there was no sound. This fact refused to make sense. People were noisy. Especially her people. She should have heard Krud’s bellows or Gundrea’s girlish scream. She should have heard boots striking the earth. Hell, she would have given anything for the bandits to attack again. Anything for a reminder of human contact.
She swallowed, tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth and let her eyes close stretching the edges of awareness. There beneath the sand’s hiss, she heard a chirrup. Her eyes opened slightly and she crawled toward the sound. She caught a glimpse of a dark body almost three inches long, its legs rubbed together, producing another chirrup. Yllen exhaled slowly. She pounced on the cicada. The insect slipped from her sweaty palms, flitting toward the shade. Yllen chased after it, catching it on the second stride. This time she ripped the wings off, hanging onto it as her stomach girded itself. It didn’t taste that bad.
Continue reading "Dust n Bones 9"
Charlie stared at the ceiling. He turned away again to sip cold coffee. He ordered his brushes, fixed his tie. Anything to avoid the blank canvas in front of him. It was 3pm. At 3.15 Frau Riefenstahl would arrive, probably with soldiers. She would demand to see his progress and he would show her the blank canvas. Charlie reached into his sketches, pulling up crosses and pentacles, all useless. He doodled a perfect circle in the margins of one, then crumpled it and threw it away. He put his hands over his eyes and recoiled as his fingers came away with greasepaint. He’d dressed up this morning and Nguyen had laughed.
Continue reading "The Manchurian Tramp"
Ger just lay there and soaked in the warmth of bed. Only when he was good and ready did he sit up in confusion. This was the part where you said
“But it felt so real.”
His phone said 2:30am. He debated his options, staring up at the dark ceiling. He could just go back to sleep, forget about the dream. The ambulance siren decided his fate. Swinging out of bed he fixated on the sliver of light peeking beneath his bedroom door door. He was going to tell someone about this dream.
Continue reading "Reprisal for a Dream"
“Are you serious?” Mavati’s voice punctured the background noise of the station.
Somewhere in the curved walls hummed a fan, recycling air through their haven from the void. She looked up. Hidden behind a mysterious black orb she could feel the camera’s watchful eye.
The answering voice was halting, pronouncing a series of words rather than sentences “For your own safety we watch. Every moment of the day you are known. Should you stray we will help you back to congruence.”
She rolled her eyes “Alright.”
Holding up a pad she made a few remote adjustments. There was the tiniest of changes in the decibel levels. It would have taken a sharp ear to hear the camera shut down.
Gen stood before the door. He was thinner than most Zedzen, with spindly limbs sprouting from an oval body. His shieldlike head looked the larger for it; its contours swept back over his body. He regarded the controls with black on black eyes, chilling in their expressionless gaze. Reaching out he ran his lanyard over the scanner. The light flashed red. With delicate fingers he punched a rhythm on the alien keypad and swung his card over it again. This time it glowed green. The door slid open and he stepped through on three legs. He half-turned, beckoning to Mavati.
Continue reading "Exhibit A"
It was at the end of the age of heroes on a brisk autumn morning that Edward descended upon the settlement of Ketchiwan. His invasion force consisted of an old man and a teenage girl. In his defence the girl was pretty handy with a broom.
Ketchiwan was a dirty little town. Herds of cattle thronged the streets, yelled at by poky men with heavy rods. The smell was overwhelming, what could you expect from nervous cows. It was enough to make Yllen’s eyes water. Today was market day and the topic of conversation was money. Everyone they passed argued over money. The herders complained about the price of a head. Fur clad hunters swore at steak-necked merchants. It seemed to her that the very town was at war, all for a couple of coppers. She travelled in Edward’s wake. The thin, pale warrior rarely had trouble with traffic and those dumb enough to stumble into his way were treated to a whack of his stick, be they man or beast. Gundrea was somewhere, sometimes to her left, sometimes behind. His cheerful chatter merged with the cacophony.
They reached one of Ketchiwan’s squares, more of a circle, occupied by a dead tree laden with trophies. Here the hunters boasted of their kills and displayed the tongues of basilisks or fangs of smilodons. Among these men were legends of their own and Yllen was drawn to listen. However her attention was commanded by Edward, his eyes black pools beneath his helmet.
“Do you feel it?” he growled.
Yllen tested the ground with her feet “No.”
“She calls from beneath the earth, an ancient turning in her sleep.”
Yllen listened. Perhaps there was.
Gundrea’s hand landed on her shoulder “Did you hear that? Oxtails three a piece! We could eat meat tonight for that money.”
Edward sighed and Yllen shared in his distaste. She turned to regard Gundrea, his expression fixed in a vague amiability.
“Can’t you hear it?”
Edward planted his stick into the dirt “We have arrived, old man.”
Gundrea nodded “I guess this is goodbye.”
“You’re a fool and I hope someone throws you off a cliff.”
Gundrea chuckled “I’ll miss you too, lad. It’s been quite a time.”
Edward faced them, coldly inspecting Gundrea. He spoke to Yllen.
“That you follow him speaks to your patience, to say nothing of your other qualities.”
Yllen felt her cheeks redden but there was something going on she wasn’t being told about. “Are you going?”
“This was our agreement, your master and I. As far as Ketchiwan.”
“We could go further.”
Awkwardly Edward patted her head “Stay safe.”
She glared at Gundrea “Why is he going? We could go on with him further.”
“Could, but I ain’t keen on being mildly eviscerated.”
Edward patted his stick “My travels from here will be far too dangerous for a child.”
“What about a warrior?” Yllen brandished her broom in what she hoped was a threatening manner.
“I will hear no more of it,” and that was that. It was hard to argue with Edward. His face screwed up until he looked about to cry.
Yllen looked sullen a moment but brightened as she thought of a last request “Before you go, could I at least have my own demon?”
Gundrea navigated away from the square, avoiding the animal masses. Yllen lagged behind, stroking the small furry body in her hands.
“Are you really going to keep that?”
“Edward said it could be my demon familiar. He knows the world’s secrets.”
Gundrea counted the ramshackle huts “It’s a rat.”
“It’s better than a broom.”
“Hmm, can it make us money?”
Yllen held up the rat, staring deep into its rodent eyes “Can you?”
Gundrea grabbed her arm, pulling her toward a building not so much built as grown from a collection of lean-tos. He pushed in the door and entered an inn, or to the locals a beerhole. The floor was a mixture of boards and vomit. Two workmen slaked their thirst with watery ale. The seats were tree stumps and the counter barrels with a board across them.
Gundrea made his way on over “Top of the morning to ye, lass!”
Only Gundrea could have gotten away with referring to the woman behind the counter as a lass. Anyone else would have been furniture by now. Indeed she reached for a chipped axe, left casually beside a barrel.
“I’m here to see your bossman, Vagolo the Knave of Knaveton.”
Her hand grasped the axe “Dad’s been a dead five years.”
Gundrea boggled “Whaat, Old Vaggy? Did he at least go out armwrestling a bear?”
“Diarrhoea,” she said, flatly.
Gundrea’s mouth twitched “What a sod. Did he happen to mention any buried treasure ‘afore he died?”
“Forget I mentioned it. But I remember you now, missie. Vagolo always went on about his daughter.”
The woman’s brow peaked and Gundrea hid a grin.
Yllen ended up fetching sawdust, helping to lay it on the floor and cleaning the back rooms, what few there were. By the time she and Gundrea were done it was late afternoon and the inn had gone from a hideous pit to at least a presentable one. Gundrea had regaled the tender with tales of her father in the idle moments and by the end she insisted on not only putting them up but even paying them ‘for her old dad’s sake, now about this buried treasure’. So it was in that late afternoon with the bar slowly filling up Yllen found herself with nothing to do. And Gundrea, apparently so good with people, made his first mistake of the day.
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What it's all about
This is the Devpit, where all my ideas, projects and thoughts end up. Have a dig and find something that interests you.