The phase ships drifted overhead, immense and slow as clouds — rusty clouds, Last Empire surplus that had spent a few decades rotting in a parking orbit around one of the further ring-moons — and flocks of drones flew around, among, and between them.
Coming down from the viewing platform, I missed the last stair. One or more of the ships must have needed its gravity tuned. My feet pedaled around a couple times before I found the ground. The auction wasn’t going well.
“That’s minor,” said my Aunt Artemisia. Her voice echoed over the salt flat in waves as the translators for each group of bidders caught up. “They cleared a thorough inspection by registered engineers. Nothing’s wrong that’ll cost much to fix.”
I could tell that from the way that the Zhrrkians had sheathed their foreclaws they weren’t planning to scratch any bids on their translator pads, and the ecto-projections from the 11th dimension were barely bubbling in their jars, so they didn’t look ready to jump into the bidding fray either.
The phase ships were essentially big hovering rocks, triumphs of solid-state engineering and utter failures of livability. Aunt A. had to drop the starting bid twice, and the price moved sluggishly from there.
“Do I hear nine billion?” Her enthusiasm was “Eight?”
But the auction kept rolling; every time it seemed like someone had won by a few credits, another bid came in. More often than not, the keep-alive bids seemed to come in on the screens hooked to the transdimensional relays. But they seemed to come in just a little too quickly; there should have been more of a lag.
“Fifteen?” said Aunt Artemisia. “Fourteen-five?”
I monitored the input, waited for another lull, another last minute save. It happened twice more before I could trace it, another time before I believed the results: it was the drones. The drones we’d rented along with the auction platform, the salt flats and the airspace above.
I looked up. They weren’t just randomly flocking around the ships, transmitting images. They were looking for something, following some kind of ridges or cracks that hadn’t been in the inspector’s report.
I wondered for a moment why they’d been stalling — surely the weren’t trying to run up the price. Then the first of the phase ships hatched, and the drones helped the vast glowing thing within to emerge into the universe. From then on, we all had far more interesting things to wonder about.
YARAMAZ TURKISH CARPETS
Habitat: Ranges. Prefers city or suburban. Nocturnal.
Designation: See special cautions in hunting.
The above name is a rough translation. They are also referred to as “mischievous flying carpets” in other texts.
Although they bear resemblance to and share the gift of flight with the flying carpets of the Arabian Nights lore, Turkish flying carpets are not inanimate objects imbued with magic but sentient living creatures.
Although not intelligent as say a monkey or a dog they are still highly cunning. The creatures make their homes in carpet warehouses where they blend in and like to sleep during the day. Come dark, they fly out into the night and into the windows of unsuspecting humans, usually children. Through some sort of sympathetic communication that is not yet understood, the Turkish carpet will coax the child onto itself and take it for a wild ride, usually lasting until dawn. It is believed that the carpet feeds upon the thrills of the rider and that the ride itself is not random but somehow linked to the subconscious desires of the host. In 1992 the obese son of one time Monster Hunter Charles Stuyvesant was believed to have encountered a particularly wild Yaramaz that flew him from his Brooklyn brownstone all the way to Hershey Pennsylvania. There is reason to believe that this particular beast perished in a vat of heated chocolate but the police report makes
no mention of the beast, only the child’s unlawful entry into the factory.
In 2009, rumors of strange flying objects in Brooklyn has sparked belief that the so called “Hershey” Yaramaz did not perish at all. So little is known about their mating and reproduction that designating this Yaramaz an offspring as has been postulated is premature.
Stuyvesant’s field notes from 1992 also indicate that the Hershey Yaramaz did not perish in the encounter. Stuyvesant went hunting the creature and tracked it to a carpet showroom on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Stuyvesant thought he had surprised the beast but the carpet salesman who had been on his way out reported seeing the carpet rise into the air and that Stuyvesant went into some sort of trance. He claimed Stuyvesant rode the carpet out the window and into the night. Stuyvesant gave up monster hunting in 1992. His last contribution to the field was to caution that only those “dead at heart” attempt to hunt Yaramaz as anyone else could easily fall prey to their sympathetic lures. Stuyvesant moved upstate and opened a chocolate shop which to this day he operates with his son.
“They recalled the house.”
“What!? What’s wrong with it?”
“Dunno.” Linn said. “It was on the news. 32,000 recalled by NanoBuild. I checked the serial number; this is one of them. And we just moved in!” Her lip quivered.
“Oh honey,” Bell said, taking her hand. “I’m sure it can be repaired. We won’t have to move again.”
She jerked her hand away. “I’ll be in the garden.” She stomped through the kitchen and he heard the back door slam.
Bell looked around. What could be wrong? Shoddy workmanship? He rapped on the walls and doorframes, but nothing happened except his knuckles got sore. He went out the front, walked to the street, turned around and looked back. White frame comfort with nothing out of place.
Bell went back in and sat down in front of the screen.
“On. NanoBuild recall.” Windows flashed; teasers scrolled in and out of view. “That one.”
A blonde, sculpted, talking head. “NanoBuild, the country’s largest provider of quick-grown homes, today announced a recall of more than 30,000 homes planted in the last two years. A defect in instructions has caused some homes to spontaneously resume growth weeks or months after completion. The unwanted growth takes the form of knobby extrusions on walls or ceilings. These extrusions, dubbed house tumors, expand without limit until they fill available space, and resemble broccoli or cauliflower. Biorenovators are scrambling to develop treatment regimes that can be applied without damaging essential elements of the homes. Recalled homes need to be vacated immediately, because cancerous growth could begin without warning and progress extremely rapidly. The Attorney General will issue a statement tomorrow about whether NanoBuild will be charged with a violation of the Safe Business Practices Act. Ironically, Ralph Natter, CEO of NanoBuild, co-sponsored the SBPA when he represented southern Illinois in the House in the early 20s.”
Bell told the screen to shut down, then sat for a minute, stunned. He needed to warn Linn; they had to get out. Just then, something bumped his shoulder. House cancer! Bell jumped up, tripped on the throw rug, and whacked his head on the coffee table.
Linn rushed around the couch and checked Bell’s pulse. Still strong, thank God. She’d never seen him so jumpy. She made him comfortable under a blanket, then stood and stretched. She’d clean up outside and then see how he was doing. On her way out she noticed a bubbly spot on the wall. Have to get that fixed, she thought, but then remembered. The house was no longer their responsibility.
By Jimmy Clark Bragg
4th Period Composition
Duos are better than monos for many reasons. First, duos can do more things at the same time. This is called multitasking. Monos can do two or maybe three things at the same time, but only with two hands and eyes. Duos can do twice as much as that because they have two whole bodies.
Duos have redundancy. If something happens to a mono’s body, and they die, they are dead for good. Duos can lose one half of themselves and still live. They become a mono then, which is sad, but it is better than being dead.
Duos can remember twice as much as a mono. This is useful for geography tests, because duos can memorize and study twice as fast as monos. Duos are smarter than monos.
There are some bad things about being a duo. Duos have to buy twice as many clothes and twice as much food. It costs twice as much to go to the cinema. It can be very expensive to be a duo.
It is against the law for grown-up duos to have more than one job, so it can be hard to pay for the extra food and clothes. To make enough money, duos sometimes have to take dangerous jobs in space.
Worst of all, it is not acceptable for duos marry or date monos, no matter how much a duo boy likes a mono girl. I don’t know why this is true, but my mother says so.
In conclusion, there are some downsides to being a duo, but the advantages outweigh them. I would not want to be a mono for all the money in the world, but I might if it meant I could take Missy Callahan to the movies. She could sit between me and hold my hands. But that doesn’t matter too much. Some day, I will meet a duo girl and we can go to the movies while we do our homework at the same time. That would be even better.