Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2164

Corporal Jones and Private Fredericks are floating outside subsidiary lock 12a of the starboard gun-deck of the dreadnought Backward Nelson. "It's all fucking clipboards now, " says Jones, "I know" replies Fredericks. "Marking things out of 10, ticking off," continues Jones, ignoring Fredericks. "I know," says Fredericks again, but this time quieter. "Still..." and he huffs a quick hot breath, satisfied to see his visor mist momentarily before his suit's scrubbers kick in. He looks down and ticks off another mark on his clipboard, gloved hands clumsy with the egg-shaped pen. "Everything has too much machinery in it." says Jones. "Look at this..." and he holds up the pen. Dutifully, Fredericks looks at the pen. Jones releases the pen and it hangs in the zero gravity. He gives it a gentle push and it falls away. "Watch this". A red light flickers on in the base of the pen, and with a tiny burst of steam it propels itself back towards Jones. "See that?" Fredericks nods, and realises that this is pointless given he is wearing a helmet bolted on to his shoulders. "It'll follow me around until I grab it, and it's little insect AI will get a sugar-buzz. If I don't grab it the little fucker will follow me around until it runs out of water, sulking on broadcast - that so I know it's still there." He plucks the pen out of the (complete lack of) air and Fredericks notices that a muted feeling of loss he has been feeling has just been replaced with a minor clap  of joy - the pen, lost and found, marking its recent drama with short-range telepathed emotions. "Why they couldn't put it on a fucking string I don't know" says Jones. "But then it wouldn't need an AI" says Fredericks.

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