Plugs

The Bonobo King paced the marble floor of his bedroom in his crimson silk pajamas, unable to sleep again.

His spider monkey lover, Flamenca, stirred in the massive canopy bed. “Come to bed, darling,” she said in a sleep-heavy voice. “Whatever it is, you can destroy it in the morning.”

“That’s exactly it,” said the Bonobo King. “I haven’t been able to destroy it. It … her … Parthenia Rook. I’ve tried every approach conceivable–an android toddler, zombie photographers, an opposite gender identical twin raised to evil, unbalancing her fruit … if it weren’t for my esophogeal implants, that last miscalcuation would have cost me my life!”

“Let me take your mind off it,” said Flamenca, tracing a fold in the gold-embroidered coverlet with one slender toe. “You’ll come up with another evil plan tomorrow.”

“But if I do, it will come to ruin,” said the Bonobo King. “My evil plans are much too fiendishly clever to fail this often. Someone or something is foiling them.”

“But no one’s smarter than you, darling. And no one could foil your plans unless he were as clever as you are.”

The Bonobo King stopped short as an ugly realization came to him. Flamenca must have noticed, for her toe froze in place, and she said in a very careful tone, “What is it?”

“No one is smarter than I am, and only someone as clever as I am could foil my own plans,” he said. “Ergo, I am my own nemesis. For some reason I cannot fathom, I am sabotaging my own evil schemes.”

Flamenca gasped and the Bonobo King turned and leaped onto the bed, where he crouched over her tiny form. “What?” he said. “What did you think of just then?”

A tear trickled down her furry little cheek, and she shook her head, trembling.

“What is it?” he roared.

“You’re …” she whispered, “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

The Bonobo King screeched with fury and indignation. Snatching a heavy gold candlestick from beside the bed, he struck at Flamenca with it, smashing it down on her fragile body until she was little more than a smear of bloody fur.

Bits of brain stuck to the candlestick, and the Bonobo King threw it aside in disgust as he hopped calmly off the the bed. He resumed his pacing.

“Yes,” he said pensively. “You may be right.”

Spacenews. Alien spacesuit found orbiting #BetaChiarus3. This planet is the backup choice for the #terraformingproject.

Retweet?

“Did you see this?”

“Since I’m looking over your shoulder I think you can assume I did.”

“Pretty cool, huh. A dead alien is even better than a live one! Don’t have to worry about conquering hordes.”

That’s what the talking heads were saying too. The desiccated corpse inside the suit had been about 3 m tall when alive. As to why the corpse had been left at Beta Chiarus, or whether any aliens would come back for it, there were no facts but plenty of speculation. It had been a solitary explorer, a would-be mutineer, victim of a successful mutiny, or something so alien we could never understand it. After the autopsy, the body was analyzed chemically six ways from Sunday, and shown to be based on a molecule very similar to DNA. Its proteins were different from terrestrial proteins but they were proteins.

“So it couldn’t have eaten our plants or our livestock…” began one of an endless parade of interchangeable “experts”.

“or us,” interjected the show’s host, laughing.

Und so weiter.

True enough, as far as it went. But when the rest of the nine-foot aliens followed our ships home and began their xenoforming project on Earth the media parrots didn’t seem so smug.

End

The autumn wind was coming down the valley from China, but, to Javad Azaizeh, it felt as chilly as if it were pouring south from Siberia. He should be inside on a night like this, but insomnia always left him feeling lonely, and Khabarovsk’s night market seemed like the perfect remedy.

Vermillion in the shadows of the next row of kiosks caught his eye, and he walked closer. In the narrow aisle between a noodle stall and one that sold prepaid viewpads for the municipal space, a stocky man in an apron swept his bare forearm up and down, back and forth. Red flashed with every movement. The noodle-seller — he hadn’t even put down his long chopsticks — paused, and the diodes in the skin of his forearm winked out.

He was looking over Javad’s head, and Javad turned.

Up on a rooftop overlooking the market square, a woman waved in response. Her arm, too, traced red on the night, a series of symbols that hung on the air through persistence of vision.

Javad smiled in recognition — he knew those symbols. Forty years ago, touring with Cheba Alia’s orchestra when he was just a city kid who’d never been more than ten kilometers out of Paris, he’d seen the same alphabet on hand-lettered signs in towns on the edge of the Sahara. They’d seemed then like the most exotic thing in the world. He’d never learned how to read them, and what a noodle-seller in a Korean market in a Russian city was using them to say, he couldn’t guess.

Javad turned back to see the noodle-seller resume his side of the conversation, his arm a blur. There must be some sophisticated on-the-fly processing behind the simple arm-waving — the quick-fading scarlet lines were crisp.

Javad’s admiration was tempered by hunger — the smell of fish and spices reminded him he hadn’t eaten since midday.

“Pardon, but when you have a moment…” he said.

The noodle-seller’s arm continued flaring letters on the twilight, his gaze remained fixed on his distant companion, and Javad had no idea if the man had even heard him.

To: General William Knight

Extract:

In the six months since you assigned me to liaison with Israel Defense Force (IDF) minesweeping operations, I have fully apprised myself with their equipment, procedures, and operational readiness. I repeat my preliminary finding that US forces will be able to adapt Israeli materiel and processes for domestic and international use.

Background:

IDF standard operating procedure has been to demolish the houses of bombers and snipers with bulldozers. With the growing use of landmines by dissidents, a new way of clearing ground needed to be implemented. Designed to be used in both urban and suburban settings, the Gimel Mark IV has proved to be a versatile and effective tool in the arsenal against terrorism. There has been limited testing of the Mark IV outside cities, but IDF plans more testing in the future. Israel’s terrain consists mainly of hills, mountains, valleys, deserts and beaches, while only six percent of the country is covered with forests and woodlands. As Allied Forces intend use mainly in urban, suburban, or desert conditions, this does not pose a problem.

Dissimilarities from Standard Operating Procedure:

First: due to the ambulatory nature of the Gimel unit, it is capable of maneuvering in tighter spaces than US units.

Second: it obeys simple verbal commands, robotically moving to left or right, up or down inclines and stairs, without the need for close operator control. Due to the semi-autonomous nature of their command and control, a 3-man team can manage an array of six Gimels at once. I have watched a team of twelve Gimels clear a twelve-acre field in under an hour, losing only three units in the process.

Third: Gimel units are simple to construct, from inexpensive raw materials.

Conclusion:

I endorse the acquisition of a prototype array of Gimels, with training teams, to include intra-force transfer of religious personnel (Rabbis) as needed. As they will insist on using the traditional name for these units, I suggest we follow their example and call the units ‘Golems’.

Full report to follow.

Yours,

Captain Craig Lancer

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by Rudi Dornemann

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by Rudi Dornemann