Plugs

Our reentry pods skip across the over Africa to South America in a handful of seconds and Jessie is screaming like she did when we snuck off to ride the Dubai coasters while my parents negotiated treaties with her parents in Geneva. The Mission Control people are chuckling over the comm, so I guess it’s not uncommon for return trippers to treat the whole thing like just another amusement park ride.

I hated the coasters. The only reason I ever rode them was because Jessie would let me feel her up afterwards. I hate this just as much, and I am pretty sure I just wet myself or worse. My heart is bouncing off my rib cages like a raver on E-plus.

“The problem with you,” Jessie said to me below the coaster while I puked my lunch onto the sizzling-hot pavement, “is that you just can’t let go. You need to conquer your fear of death and make it work for you.”
Hence our trip back from the L5 station as bullets fired at the Earth’s atmosphere inside goo-filled pods.

She’s going to fuck me when we land.

So it’s probably worth it.

“Parachutes to deploy in t-minus eight,” a woman’s voice says through my comm. “There will be a slight bump.”

I feel the bump, only it’s more like a maglev train crashing into a brick wall. Jessie stops screaming. The silence scares me more than the screaming.

I’m surrounded by impact, g-resistant gel, so I can barely move my fingers to text: Jessie?

No answer. I hit my panic button.

“Remain calm,” says the woman’s voice. “Your reentry pod is functioning normally.” I can hear frantic argument behind her, but I can’t make out the words.

What about Jessie? I text as fast as I can. The pressure is letting up. I can feel gravity’s pull at my feet again, and the pod is swaying gently.

No answer.

I’m not dumb. I know what’s happened. Jessie was my best friend, maybe my only friend. But all I can think is, Shit. Now I’m never going to lose my virginity.

First in a new series.

Quantum gods appeared and disappeared in Kayla’s wake like soap bubbles. No god can survive long without worshipers, and Kayla’s attention span cut off many a deity before it shook off the mists of its own making. As time went by, her attention and memory improved, and the average lifespan of her creations lengthened from moments to hours. The Easter Bunny God born when she was three lasted long enough to smite a few peeps and raise an entire bag of jelly beans from the dead. The beans were consumed in short order by Kayla and two of her friends.

For her fifth birthday Kayla received a venerable cabbage-patch doll from Marlys, who was going to college, and didn’t want the trappings of childhood cramping her style in the Big Show. The doll had seen better days. Some of her hair was gone, and what was left contained its share of gum and other household residue. Someone (could it have been Marlys when she was young?) had used a black sharpie to enhance the doll’s eyebrows. The dress she came with was long gone, and the one she was wearing was 10 sizes too big. But the doll had two things going for her that overrode all other considerations. First, she had belonged to Marlys, who occupied the place in Kayla’s life that Marlys herself had reserved for Christina Aguilera, back in the day. Second, the doll had belonged to Marlys.

For about three weeks after she received the doll, Kayla lavished on her all the adoration any deity could want. That first night, the doll blinked Her eyes. She stretched a mighty stretch, feeling Her back pop. “Only I,” she thought “can appreciate this sensation the way it should be appreciated.” In commemoration of the event, the doll bestowed speech on all of the other toys. Speech that only toys could hear.

“Bow down to me,” the doll commanded, but the other toys did not move. The doll had forgotten to give them the power. “Silly me,” She thought, “it might take a while to master this miracle thing.” So She practiced, carefully undoing all but one of Her experiments. Fortunately, Kayla’s mother had her eyes shut when the old blue horse, now translucent and trailing sparks, emerged from her bathroom mirror and disappeared through the opposite wall.

That day, Kayla loved the doll with all her heart, and that night, every toy on the Two Shelves paid the Cabbage-Patch God all the obeisance it was due. Celestial music emanated from the doll’s fingertips and the toys lifted up their voices in song.

The end

Foon Chye shivered amongst the acres of abandoned cars at the Bahru checkpoint, and hoisted his messenger bag higher on his shoulder. An unusually cold December in the whole of Southeast Asia, with tropical Tinhau dipping into the high teens, Centigrade. Living only a degree above the equator had not prepared him for less than sweltering days drenched in sunshine and humidity, and his jean jacket barely protected him from the damp chill of the season.

The autos had long been plundered for their oil reserves and copper wiring in the xenophobic days following the Crackdown, but more precious treasure could be had if you knew where to look. Away from the electric fencing and barbed wire, Foon Chye passed stripped Beamers, Mercs, and Lexi, and went straight for a yellow Mini Cooper with a black top. Minis always had a bit of a rebellious streak, something he was counting on. He boosted the bonnet and located the onboard AI. From his bag he extracted various cables, and attached them to the ports on the small black box; the other ends went into his netbook. A quick and dirty interface, download, and reboot later, and through the netbook’s speakers the Mini said, “Master?”
“No, lah” Foon Chye said. “Just a friend. You me, we spread a bit mischief, ah?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Gahmen tag all us with RFID implant, read personal private data anytime, ask no permission. Continual surveillance, 24/7. But dis ordinator,” he said, patting the netbook, “I just finish hack yesterday. Gon plug into nationwide wifi net, scramble RFID data everywhere, replace with useless bits look like green fire. Set people free, ah.”
“Freedom is good,” the Mini said. “I wish to be free.”
“We all wish. You help me, I set you free. Shiok?”
“But what do you want with me?”
“Gahmen killdozers very cheem, hunt down rogue programs quicksharp. But they got no imagination, no creativity. My apps and devs give you edge, make you unstoppable, lorh. So?”
The Mini hesitated for a just a moment.
“Shiok,” it said. “When do we start?”
Foon Chye smiled and stuffed the netbook back in his bag. The first step toward liberation. He could almost see the Bahru checkpoint unclenching, the physical border with Malaya open once again, as well as electronically with the rest of the world. He picked his way through the dead husks of metal, and headed out of the automobile graveyard with his new friend.
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I’ve done it! I’ve bloody done it!” he cried, leaping into the air, clapping his hands, beaming, the problem finally solved.

What is it?” Carol asked, regarding the tiny black speck, suspended like a drop of midnight in the magnetic field.

It’s the answer. It’s the source. It’s the power. It’s energy. It’s cash. It’s everything we need.”

Looks like a little black hole,” Carol replied and she was unerring in her accuracy.

At the news, the academic establishment perked up its head, cocked its ear.

Next to follow were the corporations, the marketers, the slogan writers.

Mass energy—Mass distribution” “Black holes puts us in the black.”

Then—distribution, every homeowner a proud owner.

And the good inventor was a savior, and was rich.

Until, a mistake, an instability discovered.

And no matter how he raced to fix it.

Everything he loved, even Carol.

Going, going…

Gone.

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