“Leave me alone!” Amy pressed herself up against the wall. Her fingers, for some reason, were still in her ears. She was crying. They were staring. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to. Just please let me go home. Please, I just want to go home.”
One smiled faintly. “You are home.” And she reached out-
-and then her hand vanished, gone in a hot puff of wind that smelled vaguely of bile. For a moment, the other Von Neumann woman watched her flailing stump of a wrist. Then the wrist disappeared, oozing away into gray fluid that dripped like hot wax down her disintegrating arm. She didn’t scream. She didn’t howl with pain or fear – she just watched as a large figure in a green jumpsuit loped down the hall carrying the officer’s rifle.
“You know what this is?” Amy’s fellow prisoner asked, shouting over the alarm. He primed the rifle again. He was hugely fat, and wore badly scorched prison slippers on his hands. Amy smelled burning cloth. The other Von Neumann women were backing away, now, abandoning their sister who cradled her disintegrating arm close to her chest. Now he stood at the ruined door to Amy’s cage. “This is a wasabi cannon. It’s full of horseradish peroxidase. It eats carbon tubes faster than your repair mods can handle it. You’re gonna die.”
He pointed the weapon straight at Amy’s head. “And now you’re gonna let me leave.”
I also just finished a story I’m calling “Ishin.” It’s about unmanned aerial systems, signal-relaying body armour, and life in Afghanistan after the war(s).
Brandon accesses Tink’s command line and inputs his own hack: ?????==>?==>573. Now she belongs to him entirely, priorities momentarily forgotten, processes un-logged, movements off the grid. He directs her with his finger. She swerves, hovers, waits as Brandon plots safe Euler paths between the school and the nearest teashop – a safe location. When he sends it to her she pounces on the girl’s mobile, planting herself inside the phone, streaming the maps there. The girl nods as the first image pops up. Brandon watches through Tink’s eye, sees the slightly worried faces of the other girls as they look back at the labour pool on the corner, watches their lips move with a mixture of frustration and fear. When Tink withdraws they move forward.
The people here are already so used to the bots, Brandon realizes, that they barely recognize them as surveillance. They are part of the landscape. As in a fairy tale, they have come alive through prolonged use: real dragonflies, real camels, real birds of prey.
For the first time, he thinks that this might have been the plan all along.
Next up is a story I’m working on with Peter and Karl, which we intend on submitting to The Shine Anthology. I’m excited about it, and a little nervous. I’ve never collaborated with anyone before, much less two people, much less two people of such calibre. Lucky for me they’re quite experienced at this, and they always inspire me, and they’ve always taken my work seriously — even when it was in its most embarrassing infancy. I feel a bit like the squishy, melty middle of an otherwise cohesive ice cream sandwich. I asked Peter what he intended me to bring to this trio, and he said: “The twenty-first century.”
I really can’t believe that this is my life, sometimes. Wish me luck.