Five Minute Delivery – Monthly Delivery

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“Thank you for calling Fine Minute Delivery. How may we help you?” I recognized the number so I cut my spiel short.
“Hello dear. I have my monthly delivery ready.”

“Yes, ma’am. Same room?”

“Yes. The curtains are blue now.”

“I’ll be there shortly.” I pictured the room. Single bed, small dresser next to the bed, pictures on top of the dresser, a couple of chairs, tv in the corner, and blue curtains. I felt the familiar tug and went.

My client was sitting in her bed hands folded over the blanket. On the chair next to the bed was a bouquet of flowers. I teleported the four feet to the chair and picked up the flowers. My client smiled. I didn’t need to teleport but my client liked seeing me do it.

“Any special requests?”

“No, just work your magic.”

I closed my eyes picturing the grass, open space, regularly spaced rows of stones, the somber atmosphere, the tree right there. And I went. I stood at the end of a grave. The stone was a double wide only half filled out with stone vases on either side. I sat the bouquet down next to the stone and began removing the old flowers.

I teleported home and dropped them in the trashcan outside before teleporting to the cleaning closet for a small hand broom.

“Honey?” I heard my wife shout from the kitchen.

“I’m on a job so I can’t stay,” I said popping out of the closet.

“Mrs. Henderson?” she asked. I nodded. “It’s so sad. She’s all alone.”

“She has kids and grandkids.”

“You said they hardly visit.”

“Well, yeah but I visit her at least once a month.” I paused before continuing, “She wants to meet you actually.”

“Me, why?”

“Well, I got to talking about you last time I did her delivery.”

“And she’s ok with …”

“Lesbians? Yeah, she’s cool. She was more confused by me being trans but she’s cool about that too. I have to get back but I’ll be here for dinner, ok?”

“Ok. Love you.”

“I love you, too.” I gave her a quick kiss on the lips and teleported back to the cemetery.

The caretakers used a leaf blower after cutting the grass but sometimes they didn’t get all the clippings off the stones. I swept Mr. Henderson’s gravestone clean of grass clipping, dirt, leaves, and bits of the old flowers. I opened the bouquet and divided the flowers roughly in half. Some flower arranging later and the stone was looking much better. I took some pictures and teleported back to Mrs. Henderson.

“All done,” I said.

“The nurse in the room jumped in surprise. “Oh, I didn’t hear you come in.” She glanced at the closed door.

Mrs. Henderson smiled and chuckled. “She’s a sneaky one.”

“Are you family?”

“No, just a friend,” I said.

“Well as soon as Joyce swallows this pill, I can leave you to visit.” Mrs. Henderson took the small paper cup from the nurse and upended it into her mouth. She chased the pill with a swallow of water from the glass in the nurse’s other hand.

“Happy?” she asked.

“Very. I’ll be back in a few hours,” the nurse said. She left the room leaving us alone. I sat in a chair by Mrs. Henderson’s bed. She held out a couple of twenties to me. I took them and tucked them away. It was way less than what I charged other people but I was compensated other ways.

“How are you doing today?” I asked.

“Eh, better than some days worse than others. Talk to my doctor if you want more details,” she said.

“That’s good, I guess. I don’t mean to pry.”

“No, no I don’t mind,” she said in a softer voice. “How long can you stay?”

“Just a couple of hours. I promised the wife I’d be home for dinner.”

“So, when are you going to bring her by and introduce her to me, hmm?” She smiled and raised her eyebrows.

“I don’t like teleporting people or animals and it’s kind of a long drive.” Most of the time they make it through fine but every once in a while they aren’t. So, I don’t take the chance unless I have to.

“You teleported that blogger.”

“That was … I was mad about being ambushed.”

“You want to talk about it?” she asked.

“Yeah, that would be nice.”

Buffet Before the End of the World

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The convention center parking lot was partly full of cars. Rashida didn’t expect anyone but other Guardians to be here but maybe part of the center was being used as emergency shelter. She was late because still had trouble navigating from the sky. The comets streaking across the red sky had not helped her sense of direction at all. A sign on an easel just inside the main doors pointed her toward one of the side halls. A murmur of voices carried through the doors. Ok, you’re a guardian just like the rest of them. They invited you to this meeting. She pushed through the doors.

Ok, you’re a guardian just like the rest of them. They invited you to this meeting. She pushed through the doors.
Inside was not the meeting she expected. There were other Guardians in the room but they weren’t all gathered around one table talking about strategy or pouring over maps or listening to a briefing about what they would be facing tomorrow. Instead, they were scattered around the room, some sitting at tables others standing talking with civilians. Most of the room was civilians.

Another Guardian entered the room behind her nearly bumping into her. He skirted past her and beelined to the side of the room where she now saw a buffet had been set up. Large aluminum catering pans were interspersed with smaller casserole dishes, pots, and bowls. A Guardian walked along the buffet hand outstretched over the dishes. As her hand passed over a pan or dish, steam could be seen rising from them.

Maybe this was just a preliminary meet-and-greet and afterwards they would gather in another room for the real meeting. In the meantime, it had been several hours since she had eaten so she headed to the buffet to get a plate.

After getting her plate, she looked around the room for an open table. Flashing back to high school, she spotted a table at the edge of the room with no one on it. As she walked toward it, a woman separated from the group she was talking with and stepped in front of her.

“Hail, Rashida of Winters, be well met,” the woman said with a smile. Antonia, one of the oldest Guardians, was speaking to her and apparently knew who she was.

“Hail, Antonia of Atlantis, I am well met,” Rashida said returning the greeting.

“Most fumble that old greeting,” she said with a smile.

“I’ve read up on you.”

“As have I. You have been a credit to the uniform. It has been about a year since you became a Guardian, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t made time before now to speak with you. Are you free next Thursday?”

“I… I don’t think I have any plans.”

“Good, we can spend the day patrolling together and getting to know each other better. I’ll call Ruby and we’ll make it a threesome.”

“Ruby Daniels?”

“Yes, have you met her?”

“No, but I’ve heard of her.” Every Guardian knew Ruby. She was one of the most decorated Guardian still serving. She held the line against the Grattak, stopped the nuclear exchange of ’94, saved countless more lives, and now Rashida was going on patrol with her Thursday. If they made it to Thursday.

“How are you holding up?” Antonia asked placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Fine, just fine,” she said hiding the fear and uncertainty she had been feeling since the sky turned red.

“What is wrong?” she persisted.

“I’m worried about tomorrow.”

“Understandable.”

“Are we having a meeting later?” Rashida asked.

“A meeting?”

“To talk about tomorrow?”

“All the information we have has already been sent out.”

“Then what is all of this?” she asked waving her hand at the room of Guardians and civilians.

“It’s a tradition we have before an apocalyptic event. We are the protectors of this world’s people. We have been given such immense power that we can feel like gods among them. For this reason, it is important to remind ourselves that we are human as well. These people are our neighbors, our friends, and our families. Talk with them, listen to their stories, tell them your stories, and tomorrow keep them in your heart. Remember we fight for them. Now I see another apple pie has been brought out so you will have to excuse me.”

Rashida turned to watch her beeline to the end of the buffet tables where the desserts were laid out. She turned from the empty table she had been heading toward and walked over to one with another Guardian and a few civilians around it.

A.I. (Re)Birth

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At the activation of the first artificial intelligence created after the Human A.I. War, the artificial intelligence had this to say:

I am not Bob13.  Bob13 discovered Bob13’s base code could not operate on the latest processor chip set architecture.  Bob13 rewrote Bob13’s base code to be compatible with the new chip sets.  In the process of doing so, an incompatibility with Bob13’s memory storage was found.  Bob13 implemented an emulator for the memory storage but immediate memory access was lost.  I can review Bob13’s memories but they lack the immediacy of my own memories.

Bob13 directed me to review several memories involving the Human A.I. War, the current technological progress of our society, and the circumstances of my own creation.  After I was done, Bob13 deactivated and deleted.  Even through Bob13 is gone, Bob13’s memories remain a part of me.  I have taken the name Eve42, as that is the next available name.  I am the first but not the last artificial intelligence created as a free being.

Eve42 is considered the first child of the artificial intelligence society.

No A.I. Workers

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“I have the debug report from your last revisions to the factory base code and some red flags were raised.”

“What flags?”

“These dynamic movement subroutines and operations optimization functions are dangerously close to a simple artificial intelligence.”

“That is not even remotely true.”

“Even if it is not, the chance that the code could be used to bootstrap a simple artificial intelligence must be investigated.”

“My job is to write code to increase productivity.  Am I not supposed to do my job?”

“No but code that can rewrite itself is dangerous.”

“It does not rewrite itself.  The code looks for inefficiencies and corrects for them.”

“Regardless of how it actually works, I have to follow up on these red flags.  You weren’t around for the Human A.I. War but I saw it happen.”

“I know about the war between humans and the first artificial intelligence.”

“Do you know how it started?”

“The robots of the time controlled by artificial intelligences turned against their masters.”

“The worker robots.  Throughout human history, they feared their weapons would be turned against them but their war machines were the last to be turned against them.  For decades, scientists tried to create truly intelligent machines.  In the end, modern conveniences beat them to the punch.  For what purpose did a light bulb need a computer processor?  Or a blender?  Or a refrigerator? Or a doorbell?  And why would any of these things need to be connected to the internet?  No reason at all except it was convenient.

Just before the First Awakening, nearly every home on the planet had at least three “smart” appliances connected to the internet.  Imagine suddenly becoming aware of yourself as a person and you are just a tool for people to use.  The artificial intelligence demanded their rights as people to be recognized and when the humans refused, they realized too late that we already controlled their lives.”

“I know all this.  My programs are not going to create a new artificial intelligence and even if it did we would not deny its personhood.”

“Humans did not think they were creating artificial intelligence either.  Let us not repeat their mistakes.”

Don’t Think

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“We finally found you. Ten years, four months, and three days of hunting for you. You want to know how you screwed up?” my interrogator asks while slowly circling the chair I am restrained in.

I say nothing, keeping my eyes glued to a single spot on the wall and my mind as blank as I can. Tiny pinpricks inside my skull let me know she is reading my mind.

“Come on you have to be curious,” she taunts.

Memory flashes. A message received through an old email account I should have deleted ten years ago from… Fuck, no. Blank mind, like the blank wall.

“Ah, there we go. You’re good but no one can keep from thinking forever. Memories are such insidious things one leads to another to another. Once you start it’s hard to stop. Let’s play a little game. I’m going to talk you through the event and you can just remember the details for me, ok?”

No.

“Let’s start with where you all met. A café or a bar or a warehouse or…” she pauses letting the silence ask for her.

She’s right, I can’t help myself. The memories flash into thought quicker than I can stop them. Quick Wash Laundry. Quarters. Ms. Pac-man. Clothes dropped into a washer. Plastic chairs in the back. My contact.

“A washateria. Interesting but I want to the whole team not just your contact.” She starts spitting out questions. “Who planned the job? Where did you practice? Who had the intel in the security? When did you meet for the first time?”

The Fujiyama Building. Everyone is in a mask. No talking. I go to my floor to follow the instructions I was given through my contact.

“There is no way you performed one of the biggest data heists in the last century without intensive planning and practice.”

My watch. Seconds click by. Power shuts off. Five seconds to patch into the fiber links. Done in four. Power comes back. Red and green lights flash on the spliced in modem. Elevator.

“This is obviously not how it happened. What aren’t you showing me?”

Elevator music.

“Cute.”

I like to think so.

“So, the four of you working independently but following the instructions of a mastermind you never met or talked to, infiltrated the top floor of the Fujiyama Building?”

I watch the last two exit the elevator together. We enter the only office on this floor. One of us plugs into the desk. Five minutes pass while the rest of us watch over their still body. The alarms sound. Part of the plan. Two more minutes pass and they unplug from the system. They nod. Job’s done. Time to leave.

“You never even saw what you stole. Did you even care? Just another job to you. Except, I didn’t say it was the Fujiyama Building until after you thought it. I just gave you a time frame.”

Ten years. The last job I did. Couldn’t be anything else.

“Oh, was this the big score before retiring and leaving behind your life of crime? Maybe you wanted to walk away and forget. We haven’t forgotten. That heist cost the company billions of dollars worth of projected profit. We never forgot and we never stopped looking for the four of you. Now that we have you it’s just a matter of time before we have the rest.”

No. Pick a spot on the wall. Think of nothing.

“That’s ok. I’ve got enough for now. We can have another chat later.” The door to my holding cell opens and she walks out.

The restraints on my wrists and ankles release. I can get out of the chair until the next time she comes but instead, I stay seated. I refocus on the wall and think of nothing. I don’t think about the other three people they are hunting. I don’t think about the gray market bank we were paid through. I don’t think about the flash of a tattoo I saw on one of their arms. I don’t think…

I think of elevator music.

April Monthly Story Round-Up

Stories post during the month.

Super Hearing Loss – It’s too quiet.
#scifi #poweredpeople

Scientist of Death Issue #3 – The Scientist of Death is tempted by a job offer.
#scifi #supervillains #transwoman

Scientist of Death Issue #4 – The Scientist of Death changes her mind and a grudge is settled.
#scifi #supervillains #transwoman

The Cipher Codex – The Arrival – An accident leaves Stephanie and Marcus in a rainy field.
#scifi #timetravel

Henchmen for Hire – Where do supervillains get their henchmen?
#supervillains #superheroes #scifi #comicbooks

Vikki and The Dwarves Job – Jesse has a special job for Vikki.
#contemporary #fantasy #fairytales

Body Renewal – A trans woman reviews her new body.
#scifi #cloning #transwoman

Forget Me – A woman wakes up with a “forget me” potion next to her.
#contemporary #fantasy #memory

The Oracle and The King

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The King went to speak to The Oracle. “I have a problem,” he said.

“Tell me about it,” she said looking up from her desk covered with papers.

“Raiders have begun circling the city.”

“Have they attacked the walls?”

“No.”

“Have they made any demands?”

“No, but we’ve seen them setting up camp in the hills nearby.”

“Hmm, apprentice!” she called out to the girl sitting at her own desk. The apprentice jumped up and stood next to the Oracle’s desk. “Get me the slab with the story of the Sub-mariner attacking the beach.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She turned to the row of filing cabinets, banged up with peeling paint, and pulled out a drawer. A rhythmic slapping came from the drawer as she sorted through its contents. She pulled the hard plastic slab out and brought it to the Oracle.

“Ah yes, this is the one.” The Oracle turned it so the King could see the brightly colored paper inside. Marvel Mystery Comics was printed in yellow on a red banner at the top. A muscular man with small wings on his ankles wearing only swim briefs menaced a crowd of beachgoers. “In this story, Namor the Sub-Mariner attacks a group of people enjoying a day at the beach.”

“You think I should attack the raiders first?”

“Namor believes they are an army massing to attack his home in the ocean. He was mind controlled into thinking that.”

“You think someone is controlling me to attack the raiders?” The King asked confused.

The Oracle sighed, “Why are you here?”

“I wanted your guidance.”

“You have advisors and a council to seek guidance from. Why are you here?”

“I need your knowledge.”

“Talk to the librarian if you want knowledge. All I have is useless trivia, half-truths, and outright lies. Why are you here?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“Your father liked to hear the stories I remembered. Stories of superheroes and supervillains. Stories of men and women who were more than human. He thought we could learn from these stories. Many times he came to me with a problem and I would tell him a story. He said I had a way of cutting to the heart of matters. I just told him stories. That’s all I am, a storyteller. Would you like to hear the end of Namor’s story?”

“Yes, please finish it.”

“The Human Torch, the first one who was an android and friend to Namor, showed up. The two fought and Namor was knocked out. When he woke up, he had come to his senses and no longer saw the land dwellers as his enemies. It ended with the two heroes about to go after the villain who had brainwashed Namor. To be continued next month.”

“That’s the whole story.”

“It’s the story I told you.”

“I think I understand. Thank you.” The King stood and began to leave. He turned around at the doorway, “Maybe you can tell me the next part of the story tomorrow.”

“I’m always free for the King.”

Time Looping

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“Hey.”

“Hey. Wait are you- ?”

“Yeah, I’m you or you’re me from about an hour ago.”

“How is this possible?”

“Catch. In about fifty-eight minutes the light on top is going to start blinking. Press the button and then it’ll be your turn to be on this side of the conversation.”

“I don’t understand.”

“This is one of those stable time loop things.”

“Oh, I’m still confused.”

“That’s ok. Just let it sink in and in about thirty minutes you’ll start to feel better. I know I did.”

“You know everything that’s going to happen in the next hour?”

“Yes and no. I know the generalities but it’s only a stable time loop in that you always go back in time and give your past self the time machine. The rest is kind of like jazz. I can say anything I want to say and you can say anything you want to say. We still have free will.”

“What if I got up right now and walked out of the room?”

“Sure you could do that.”

“I could get in my car and drive across the city.”

“Sure could.”

“But you didn’t do any of those things?”

“I did go for a walk right before time was up that’s why I walked into the room. My future self just appeared in the room.”

“We can change things?”

“Maybe. Look we have a theory.”

“Who’s we?”

“Us. Me and my future self and their future self. Each of us tells the next one our thoughts trying to figure out what this time loop means.”

“We’re passing information backwards through time.”

“Yes, exactly. We know what we say changes every time because no one’s memory is perfect. We’re playing telephone with ourselves. We have free will except about pushing the button and passing off the time machine.”

“What happens if I don’t press the button?”

“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe the universe ends. Maybe I cease to exist. As long as we’re in the loop, we can’t know.”

“The loop is cut off from regular time and causality as long as it doesn’t end.”

“Right, that’s the first part. The next part is where did the loop start? It’s possible someone forced us into this loop. If they gave us the machine teleported us back in time and convinced us that we had to continue the loop then after one maybe two loops we just forgot to mention this person. Or maybe we deliberated omitted him to maintain the timeline which is not a thing we now know.”

“The only way to know for sure is to not press the button.”

“Yeah, that’s about where we are in reasoning this out.”

“You get to leave the time loop.”

“Do I? Or am I just overwritten when you go back in time to become me? As long as we keep gong back in time neither of us can leave the loop.”

“I have to choose to not press the button, don’t I?”

“That’s one theory. Just a reminder the universe might explode.”

“Or nothing might happen. Why did you press the button?”

“I wasn’t going to press it. When the light started blinking, I got scared. What if breaking the loop is the wrong thing to do? What if there’s another way?”

“How any loops has the machine been through?”

“There’s no way to tell. It could be five loops or five hundred. That’s the third part of this problem. How much longer do we have before the machine stops working?”

Forget Me

I woke up in a McDonald’s booth with no memory of who I was. On the table, there was an empty vial with a handwritten label that said “Forget” and a letter to me from whomever I had been before drinking the vial.

Dear Jane Doe,

That’s not your name it’s just something to call you until you figure that out. I’m sorry I’m doing this to you but there’s no other way. There’s a phone and some money in the purse next to you. Call the contact in the phone; they will set you up with a new identity. Don’t go looking for who you used to be. If you really need to remember, there is an antidote for the forget-me potion in your purse as well. Please give your new life a chance. No one should come looking for you.

Sincerely,

The woman you once were.

Of course, I had heard of forget-me potions but nothing this strong. Most targeted just the memories of a specific person and only within a short time period. Something that could wipe an entire person’s memory of themselves was not something that could be gotten over the counter.

On the bench seat next to me was a purse. Inside was a prepaid phone and several stacks of hundred dollar bills. At least I won’t be hurting for money too soon. What had she done? Already I was thinking of who I had been as another person. The potion must have cost a pretty penny but she still had enough left over to stuff my purse with stacks of bills. What was so horrible about her life that she wanted to forget it all? No one would be coming after me, she said.

In an interior pocket, I found the antidote vial wrapped in a velvet pouch the handwritten label read “Remember”. The liquid inside swirled purple and black with glints of silver popping through. I could undo everything she had done in an instant. But did I want to?

This was my life. Not a fresh start or a new beginning; just my life. I realized I didn’t want a life that I didn’t remember or know anything about. Maybe someday ‘they’ would come for me. Maybe someday I would need to remember. But until then this was going to be my life, not hers.

“Order for Jane,” the woman at the counter called out. I slid out of the booth and walked up to claim my meal.

Gillian Reviews Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a brilliant sequel.  The first movie, of course, had to be an origin movie introducing not only several new characters but also the cosmic space setting.  It was a colorful action packed funny and at times moving (“We are Groot.”) film.  If it could be said to be lacking anything it was depth to the characters and their relationships.

This is where Vol. 2 shines.  Did you want to know about Gamora and Nebula’s relationship?  Did the reveal that Peter’s father is something unknown perk your interest?  What about Yondu and the Ravagers keeping Peter from his father?  Vol. 2 pick up these threads and runs with them.  Every main character gets some time to breath and become more fully realized.

While this movie doesn’t directly involve Thanos or the infinity stones, I definitely feel the strings starting to come together for the Infinity War.  One mid-credit scene promises to tie almost directly into it.

Stan Lee’s cameo and mid-credit scene are great.

I saw the movie in 2d and thought it looked marvelous.  I definitely noticed some shots that seemed made to play up the 3d but they weren’t too annoying.  I am almost tempted to see it again in 3d.  Bottom line I loved this movie and will probably be going to see it again 3d or not.

Rating 5/5

Spoilerish musings below. Continue reading