07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.


"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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04/27/11

  08:15:28 am, by Nic Wilson   , 92 words  
Categories: Comics

Shift State

This cover image might appear NSFW, but I assure you, as it's writer, (Zeke Walker gets that honor), that the character is not indecent, but covered in a bodysuit, whose color is mutedly similar to a flesh tone.

But I literally just found out a second ago that Shift State, a comic I wrote about an alternate reality war- think the Matrix mixed with shamanic trance states- has been put up at Indy Planet. It's print on demand, but still, it's awesome to see that it's finally going to see the light of day.

  06:59:58 am, by Nic Wilson   , 19 words  
Categories: Survival

Survival Page 88

Survival Page 88

The 88th page of Survival, my monthly horror comic drawn by Gio Timpano is live. If you're new here, Survival begins here.

04/26/11

  09:13:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 270 words  
Categories: Blog

Divorce

This is not the first time you'll have heard this, and won't be the last you'll hear it, probably from me. You are not your writing.

I know, we live and breathe this stuff, sometimes to the point where our imagined worlds are more real than the one you're reading this blog in. But if you want other people to be able to enjoy it, at some point you have to be willing to cut it loose. 

The script Julio is drawing from is actually our second attempted collaboration. Even after the first had some hiccups, we wanted to work together badly enough to try something else. We liked the concept, and the script. Then nothing happened for four years. If I'd focused too much on it- and all of the insecurities I could bring to bear as to why four years went by- it would have driven me crazy, and hindered me pursuing other writing.

Preemptively I want to say I'm not complaining about Julio. The reality of nonpaying collaborations like ours is that most of them fall apart, especially when it comes to comics. I'm thrilled to be working with him again; I was just using the experience as an example.

The bottom line is as a writer you will have days where you feel like you write badly and should be treated badly for it, but self-flagellation doesn't get you closer to being a published writer. And it won't make your writing any better, either- it just saps time you could be spending on both those more important things. That's why it's important to try and separate yourself out from the work, and just know that you're a writer, not the writing.

04/25/11

  11:54:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 182 words  
Categories: Blog

Consistency

Ben Franklin said consistency was the hobgoblin of small minds, and in terms of philosophy, I think he's on the money. But one place where he's not: business.

I've always been paranoid about change, more so than just the normal, human, doing this hasn't killed me so why change it evolutionary mechanism. I've had the same phone number for nine years, and if at all possible, will never change it. When I first started my website, I used the kind of bad mail that could be had through my webhosting, so I could send mail from @nicolaswilson.com, because it felt more professional.

I switched to gmail (the myriad little reasons being beyond my scope, here), but the point is, I never deleted my old email, just set it up to forward to my new address. And a collaborator, four years absent, just got back in touch with me, using that old address. He's an uber-talented artist, who if you haven't heard of yet you will, named Julio Molina-Muscara. Our long-dormant project is now pushing forward- in part because I never tossed that old email.

04/24/11

  04:18:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 224 words  
Categories: Blog

To Pay Or To Pirate?

Cory Doctorow, in his continuing awesomeness, articulates the ways to persuade people to pay for content. This is supremely important to us writers, because we're competing with the free internet content services like Twitter and Facebook and yeppers, Cory's Boing Boing (or this blog). And also thanks to him I also know how I want to die: euthanasia by coaster.

I think the independent writer's best arguments are siezing the moral high ground and giving your audience the feeling they're supporting something worthwhile. I don't think it's an accident these come one right after the other in his list. These go hand and hand, and work well for independent authors because we are our own companies, so every dollar spent on our work goes back into furthering our ability to keep doing what the customer enjoyed last time around.

Another important take away from his Guardian article is that as writers, we need to make sure we pay attention to convenience. One big reason music piracy took off was that it was so much easier to download a song than to either purchase an mp3 legally or get the CD. Piracy is less of an issue in writing circles, but the key lesson should be that the easier you make it for a potential customer to buy your work, the better chance you'll actually find that customer.

04/23/11

  09:28:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 365 words  
Categories: Blog

First Impression: Newbies? Guide to Self-Publishing

I?m starting a review partway through this book by JA Konrath. In part, this is because I read agonizingly slowly, and it?s taken me days to get this far; also, it?s because the necessities of blogging require new freshness daily, not waiting for things to be done and complete (that?s what novels and quarterly journals are for).

 

And that?s the first thing I?ll mention. This ?book? is a collection of blog entries. That means it was written off the cuff, and is largely unedited, and there are a few points where words are plain gibberish. I?m not critiquing, just stating for a fact that here there be typos, mateys (yarr).

 

Which brings me to my first real complaint. Today, JA Konrath is a rabid advocate for digital self-publishing. But this is a collection of blogs going back to 2004, and Past-JA believed (as most did- which was likely the reality- at the time) that self-publishing was for vanity, and not the way to nurture a real writing career. So for posterity, it?s kind of nice to have around, as historically interesting. But it?s in the form of a Kindle book, so this is a bitch because (at least as far as I can figure) it doesn?t have chapter-skipping, so I?ve spent a good deal of time flipping through outdated and no longer relevant material one page at a time.

 

Don?t get me wrong. Konrath, and particularly the blog where all of these entries originated, are both invaluable. It?s just there?s a compelling beginning, then a whole bog to wade through before you get back to where you want to be- unless you?re fetishistically into legacy publishing. Worse, there are diamonds still sticking out of that rough, so you have to skip carefully. For those interested in marketing, self-promotion, and most importantly of all, digital publishing, I can?t recommend it enough. But know there are some choppy seas ahead (I don?t know why I?m on such a pirate kick today).

 

If you have a request for a review of a writing how-to book, drop me a line, and I can add it to the stack (or maybe just bump it up a few places in my stack).

04/22/11

  08:10:26 am, by Nic Wilson   , 4042 words  
Categories: Nexus

Nativity

I hadn?t seen HR in a week. He?d taken the time off, let a mousy little girl who was second in his chain of command take over. But I barely saw her; she?d always acted like I was one wrong word away from belting her in the mouth- which was strange since she was always unbelievably pleasant, and even her timidity had a charm to it. But now that she had a slightly more reasonable fear I was out to punch HR personnel, she hid from me; I don?t about literally- I never caught her hiding under a desk, but I got the distinct impression that she?d always just left a room right before I entered it. 

 

But this is the day HR was scheduled to be back on the job. I didn?t wait for his comms to come officially back online before I walked into his office.

 

I expected a reaction, but he didn?t even look up from the memos he was catching up on. ?Are we going to have a problem?? I asked.

 

?Why would we??

 

?I beat you with my fists until you shat blood on your carpet. Most men wouldn?t take that lying down.?

 

He finished reading the last memo he was working on, and only then did he respond. ?You did what you believed you needed to do. As I did while you were incapacitated.?

 

?I suppose that?s about the best answer I could expect.?

 

I was about to turn on my heels when he continued. ?But don?t you feel a little better about things now? Haley didn?t finish her final test, but Vipisana withstood a good deal of torment before the testing was interrupted. If she could reach out and control someone, myself or the two posted guards, she didn?t even try. Feel free to say yes, I won?t take your agreement as an endorsement of my methods. Or are you worried she might??

 

?Do you really want me to hurt you again??

 

?I understand your anger, even if I disagree with its placement. I did what was necessary. Just like you every day. You?re an egalitarian, and the thought of being in charge doesn?t quite sit right with you, but, you need to maintain a certain distance. So you take advantage in little ways, acting like a flaming jackass, just so everyone knows you?re special- that you?re the boss. That?s also why you needed to beat the shit out of me, to return to our old dynamic. And that?s why I don?t hold it against you.?

 

?Just so we?re clear, I do hold it against you. And it would be wise if you didn?t mention her.?

 

?Of course.?

 

The meeting left a bad taste in my mouth, or maybe I wasn?t satisfied leaving with him still able to taste with his. I don?t know if it was Freudian, but without trying to I ended up at PsychDiv?s door; not her office, her room. I must have pinged her while I was focusing on the way HR?s blood felt on my fist last time we?d been in a room together. I stood there a moment, wondering if I should knock, before she called me. ?I?m not decent.?

 

?That sounds like an invitation, to me.? Her picture popped up on my eyescreen, wearing a nightgown. ?But I?d say at a minimum you look decent. I?d probably go further, charming, maybe handsome.?

 

?Goddamnit. I never get video to shut off properly. Just let me get a robe on.? A moment later her door opened. ?Not a social call, I presume??

 

?In kind of a mood.?

 

?And you deigned to share it with me. I?m flattered.?

 

?Are you supposed to be facetious with patients??

 

?Are you a patient? Last I checked you were assigned to Nurse McCain. And last I looked, this wasn?t my office.?

 

?Patient, fuckbuddy. That line is so vague.?

 

?No, I think that line- you just crossed.?

 

?Really? As in I should leave, and take my problems with me? You fishing for an apology? Or just giving me a verbal spanking??

 

?Also, last I heard, you were living with an alien telepath.?

 

?Just because I have a beautiful garden at home doesn?t mean I can?t stop to smell the roses.?

 

?So long as you?re stopping at flirting I don?t mace you and toss you on my stoop.?

 

?Fair enough.?

 

?Presumably you came here to talk.?

 

?Yeah.?

 

?Okay, well, I?ve just traced you back to HR. So I?ll assume it has something to do with the, altercation.?

 

?I beat the hell out of him.?

 

?Do you prefer that language??

 

?I prefer the accuracy. Don?t sugar-coat it.?

 

?Do you think you resorted to violence too easily? Do you think perhaps your record in SecDiv has made you more prone to see violence as a viable solution to interpersonal conflict??

 

?I think that?s the easy excuse, and not at all what I?m looking for. I hurt him because I wanted to; maybe it was also the right thing to do. And because it was necessary to maintain the power dynamic; but what bugs me is he seems okay with that. Okay with a lot of things I?m not sure I am.?  

 

?Like what??

 

?Am I a jerk to the crew? Do I lord it over the peasants??

 

?I like to think you?re a beneficent dictator.?

 

?Heh. Dictator.?

 

?If a childish one. Why? Feeling guilty over the massive disparity in power??

 

?Well. Uncomfortable, maybe. I like to think I decide things in the least inequitable terms possible, but? and it isn?t like I?m delusional enough to think that in this circumstance democracy is even remotely appropriate. We cast our vote when we walked onto this ship. It?s just? a lifetime is a long time to let a single decision play out.?

 

?Yeah. But that?s why they made certain we understood what we were deciding. They didn?t put us through those interminable HR presentations just because they?re sadists- well, okay, HR people tend to get into that profession because they?re sadists, it?s just a perk of the job. But they wanted to make sure we knew this was a one-way ticket. We get to see the cosmos, serve on a cutting edge vessel doing cutting edge science while making first contact with dozens of worlds. But it?s a decision without a back door.?

 

?Heh. Back door.?

 

?I think I have to take it back, a little bit. You do lord it over the rest of us. You make sure, in every conversation, that we know you?re different. Special, oft times code for specially deficient. And I think it?s a defense mechanism. Because you know, some day, at some point, you might have to leave any one of us, or even large swaths of us, behind. You want to keep a distance, not a professional one, but a personal one. Both to be able to do your job, and to protect yourself from the consequences of it.?

 

?You know you?re really beautiful when you root around in my brain like a boar after a truffle.?

 

She smiled; she loved truffles, and appreciated me remembering it, even if she wouldn?t give me the satisfaction of saying so. ?I take away your pain. So you associate me with feeling good. It?s not uncommon for a patient to become fixated on their doctor.?

 

?But like you said, I?m not your patient.?

 

?And I?m not your truffle. So don?t even think about snuffling me.? She was herding me towards her door.

 

?Are you calling me a pig??

 

?If the hoof fits. And technically, you called me a pig a moment ago, even if you classed it up a little; or maybe it wasn?t classy, and you were also calling me a bore.? Her door slid shut with me on the other side of it.

 

?I always do enjoy sparring with her,? I said to myself. I like PsychDiv?s breasts. ?You don?t get a vote.? Why not? I already remember SecDiv?s breasts. And Sam?s. ?Because that?s lousy criterion for a relationship.? Why? You like breasts. Or you would consider males viable romantic candidates. ?Touché. But I?m still the one in charge of the hands, so I make the breast-related decisions.?

 

I hesitated. ?You?ve been quiet lately, or I?d have asked already, but how are you?? Diminished. In time, I will rebuild. ?Well, you probably saved my life- maybe just as a byproduct of saving your own, but still. Thank you.? Hmm. I believe I like being thanked. ?Yeah, just don?t let it swell your head- because your head is in my head, and there?s only so much room in there, big though women tell me it is.?

 

I had a call come in. It was HR. ?I trust you?re done talking to yourself- or your mind-herpe. You left before I could mention the festivity. There?s a celebration scheduled for this afternoon, for the newborn. She?s not the first baby born on ship; in fact, she?s the fourth, but the other three were all conceived back on earth.?

 

?The first space-bred baby, yeah. It doesn?t feel like we?ve been out here long enough to gestate a whole baby.?

 

?I know. But since I?m still a little banged up, you and SecDiv will have to do the ribbon-cutting thing.?

 

?You don?t mean the umbilical cord, do you? Because I don?t know if I?m up for that.? In my brain castration fears crashed against the image of placental juices shooting out of a severed umbilical at the strength of a fire hose. Fun. That?s why he doesn?t get a vote. Ever.

 

?Baby?s been out the better part of a week, so I imagine someone from medical has taken care of it by now.?

 

SecDiv was waiting in the nursery. Really, it was just one of the normal MedDiv admitting rooms with some natal machinery pushed into it. The child was a girl, blond, and curled up around a big fluffy teddy bear. She was so tiny, not so much a human being as the potential for one, with a full, open life ahead, pregnant with possibilities. ?How?s the boobicle??

 

?The huh?? she asked.

 

?Well, neuticles are testicular prostheses, so I thought?

 

?I didn?t lose my whole breast. And we ended up using stem cells. I don?t know, I didn?t like the idea of a clone, even one without a functional brain, missing part of her breast tissue just so I didn?t have to. Want to touch it??

 

?If I ever answer ?no? to that question, shoot me, because it?s either not really me, or I?ve lost all will to live.?

 

?I wasn?t offering. Just asking. To see if you were back to your old self.?

 

?You tease.? 

 

?And you love it.?

 

?I do. Though sometimes it makes me wish I had neuticles- because fake balls can?t be blue.?

 

?They probably come in a variety of colors. For a while people were getting scrotal LEDs that had to be charged sleeping on a special induction charging pad. It makes me feel old, but I don?t think I?d go home with someone whose balls were glowing in the dark.?

 

?What if they were able to hum the Star-Spangled Banner??

 

?I? suppose it would depend on the man?s personality, at that point. And whether or not it was a constant loop or had an off button.?

 

?So you not being able to turn off a man?s testicles would be a turn off. Noted.? SecDiv was looking at me, out of the corner of her eyes. ?You?re not going to start doing that, are you??

 

?What?? she asked.

 

?The way you?re looking at me. You?ve looked at me like that before. And it?s trouble. Of the fun, sweaty, fulfilling kind, under previous circumstances. But complicating, now.?

 

?I can handle it. Just? kissing you, looking at babies. It?s got me nostalgic.?

 

?I don?t remember making out with you in nurseries, and that sounds creepy enough I?d remember it.?

 

?No, but we talked about having kids. Someday wanting them, anyway.?

 

?In the future.?

 

?And here we are, in the future. That?s all I?m saying. It?s not the future we pictured- but it?s also not not that future, either. It?s??

 

?Complicating.?

 

?Since when don?t you appreciate me complicating your life??

 

I smiled at her. ?Just not too complicating.?

 

?Of course. Sam might be able to take me in a catfight.?

 

?Yeah, but it?d be hot.?

 

?You ever think about anything else??

 

You should tell her. ?Sometimes. What the hell are we doing here again??

 

?Well, once MedDiv finishes mother-henning over the crowd, we wheel the baby out, you give a brief speech, then glad-hand. And sometime after that, we go see what SciDiv has to say about the new pods. I have my fingers crossed it?s a set of goose-eggs. I don?t think I?m ready to leave the ship yet.?

 

?Nerves?? I asked.

 

?Your stupid ass tried to die. Well, your stupid ass has been trying to die since the first time I went out in the field with you, but it?s the closest I?ve seen you come to succeeding. I?m not really in a rush to get back into that kind of a position.?

 

?See, the girl I knew was always eager to get into just about any position.?

 

?It really is like having a conversation with a sexually hyperactive child.?  

 

?You?re just jealous of my childlike wonderment.?

 

?You can stick your wonderment sideways. And it looks like we?re getting the all clear- though where he was concerned people would find smallpox on the ship to pass to the child, we?ll never know.?

 

?I think SciDiv has some in his lab- and occasionally some in a tuna fish sandwich he leaves out for his intern. Who so far hasn?t taken the bait.?

 

?Don?t forget to smile at people. They?re recording this for posterity. But not that wide; it makes you look like a hillbilly on lithium.?

 

I read a statement HR and one of the PsychOffs wrote from my eyescreen. It?s a mountain of political and spiritual clichés, with just the slightest hint of go-go corporatism for those who hadn?t already lost their lunch.

 

After that I met the parents, one of the few married couples on board. There had been a lot of rumors about the baby?s name, that she was going to be, ?Hope? or even ?Discovery.? The parents named her Alexandra. ?She?s going to be captain someday,? the mother told me, and only then seemed to realize there was something wrong with what she said. ?You know, after you die- probably from rough sex.?

?With an alien??

 

?Or whoever.? I wanted to argue. I wasn?t sure I could, in good conscience.

 

Afterward SecDiv and I took the elevator down to SciDiv. He?d sent over a synced presentation with pictures and scans from the pods while we were at the baby shower or whatever it was. As we entered it kicked onto my eyescreen and the lab lights dimmed. 

 

?We?re calling the planet Speleothem, a catch-all term for cave deposits, because of those big spikes coming off the planet surface. They?re towers, but those towers are also cities, each one bigger than anything on earth. I mean, the smallest one of those puts New York and Rio to shame, if the infrareds can be trusted; the biggest one we?re calling Stalactite, which is where we dropped the commbox. But they?re all solitary. They don?t communicate through any spectrum we could analyze. Instead, they seem to have one central hub on-world, and every spire is connected to it. We?re calling it the ?fried egg?- which is apparently a type of stalagmite- because it?s short but wide.?

 

?This species is more advanced than anything we?ve seen. Right now, our scans are pointing to the likelihood that they?re more advanced than anything the Argos saw, too. And that?s where there?s a conundrum, really. They have absolutely no extraplanetary capabilities, which in a species this advanced is the opposite of what you?d expect. But they don?t even satellites.?

 

?A portion of this is likely explained by their organization. The fried egg is old-world tech- through physical lines- so relatively slow communication, but it seems like the spires are largely self-sufficient, so there isn?t much necessity for diplomacy.?

 

?Their economy, at least the external one, is based upon robotic mining. Android miners dig out from beneath the spires into intricate networks of tunnels. Each spire seems to have been placed on large ore deposits. The robots are several generations more sophisticated than the ones our company deploys. If they could get off world, this species would be our prototypical rivals. And physiologically, they?re big.?

 

?Ugh.?

 

?Well, yeah, I suppose they?re rape you if they want big, if that?s what you?re reacting to. Aggressive, too- the males, anyway. The females, well, there are different evolutionary solutions to dealing with large, aggressive males. The Romaelon solution is probably the most common, which is relatively large females. Another is larger and at least as aggressive females, mantises come to mind. The other is smaller, but craftier females. That?s what the Meh-Teh have.?

 

?Meh-Teh? What, you run out of interest in the middle of telling me what they?re called??

 

?Meh-Teh, it?s Tibetan for man-bear, and well wait until you see the imagery- which I should have flipped to before trying to describe them.?

 

?Crap. They kind of are man-bears. Sort of.?

 

?Yeah. Only, you see what look like paws? That?s actually basically a second hand attached at the wrist. It?s several times beefier than the ?normal? hand, likely used for fighting over females. And those claws partially retract, so what you?re seeing there, that?s only about half of the bloodletting sliciness they have on tap. The true hands are underneath and mostly obscured; they have ten digits- allowing for either greater intricacy or greater strength, depending on the task.?

 

?But compared to the Romaleon, how big are they??

 

?Little smaller, by mass. But the Romaelon were all tumors and skin; these things are muscle with just a little fur on top. Comparatively, the Romaleon were armadillos, these are built like a bull. Judging from the jaws the species evolved as a high order predator, but given the spires, which barring some truly game-changing tech couldn?t support a carnivorous diet, that?s had to change, so you can see the way the jaw is starting to recede and articulate; it?s kind of a midpoint between a polar bear?s jaws and a simian one. Still, there?s crazy fricking strong kinds of muscles attached, so don?t get bitten by one. Seriously- those are the opposite of the jaws of life.?

 

?The species can walk upright, but physiologically they?re still better suited to moving plantigrade on all fours. They lumber, but modeling suggests they?d have a running speed of more than thirty miles an hour. So don?t get into a situation where you have to run from them, either.? 

 

?So don?t get bit. Don?t run.?

 

?Stay the hell away from those claws, too.?

 

?Lovely. And we can?t video conference it, either. But you said the women are smaller.?

 

?Yeah, but I?m not sure how good an idea it is to show you, given your proclivities??

 

?Oh, come on, we?re all grown-ups here.? SecDiv snickered at me; he flipped to the next photo.

 

?Hmm. Yeah, I expected something grosser.?

 

?Yeah,? said SciDiv. ?I want to have sex with it, but I don?t want to admit wanting to have sex with it.?

 

?But you just did.?

 

?Could be something I?m on? anyway, sexual characteristics make her obviously female in a kinda disturbingly appealing sort of way. Smaller size, complemented by smaller secondary claw-hands and jaws indicate a less aggressive social place.?

 

?They might be a good deal smaller, but they?re faster than the males, too, more agile, and way way smarter. Historically, smaller size meant that they had to kill less to maintain themselves physically, and combined with their intellectual advantage, they probably would have been able to prevent unwanted mating. Likely this led to bartering sex for food, safety, and eventually social-standing.?

 

?Cut to today, the spires are all controlled by a matriarchal hierarchy. Males don?t even get access to the top third of the towers- they aren?t even built to accommodate them. But from what we can tell from the data this works out great for everybody involved. The men spend most of their time jostling for relative position- mostly beating the hell out of each other, playing their reindeer games- while the women keep things running- which might seem like an unfair division of labor, but the males ?helping? would probably be counterproductive.?

 

?The males must have to depend on women for almost all of the tech know-how, because their scorles on the Distance IQ test are only slightly higher than the Romaleon; males initially took possession of the commbox, and from the sounds, and the jostling, and the rocky video we recorded we?re fairly certain they took turns having sex with it. There?s a slight aptitude spike where it concerns combat, because they?re geared for it, and some of their war-games can get a little intricate, but you won?t catch any of the Meh-Teh males playing the piano.?

 

?The sole exception to men being stuck in the middle levels of the city are the security forces. They travel in threes, two males to one female, who?s always in charge. The security forces even have their own access tunnels throughout the spires that get them around the normal city traffic patterns. It?s all pretty astounding; the tech they?ve got is mostly decades ahead of ours. And it took them less than a day to get the commbox working and broadcasting- you know, after the men got tired of humping it- and they?ve built several commboxes since. We assume they?re distributing them to the various towers.? 

 

?You sound worried.?

 

?They could spank us pretty hard if they were so inclined. We?re talking World War 2 Germany against the World War 1 French level divide, here- Panzers versus pansies.?

 

?You think we should take a pass? Because I?m pretty sure species like this are the ones we?re out here to break bread with. Like you said, they?re potential rivals.?

 

?It just doesn?t make sense. A species this advanced without space travel, it has to be for a reason. Something in their past, maybe. Like how the Japanese forewent nuclear proliferation after they had nuclear armaments deployed against them. But I can?t think of a corollary that would apply here. But frankly, I?m not really here to weigh in on policy. Science is about making things make sense- that?s my job. It?s just not being able to make sense of something irks me.?

 

?Well, far be it for me to irk you. But unless you can come up with something concrete- even if you could, it would have to be something like a How to Cook Humans book- we haven?t much leeway. This is the job we signed up for.?

 

?Yeah, I?m mostly okay with that. After all, I?m not the one who has to go on-world.?

 

?I could always request you for the ground team.?

 

?And I could always inject myself with multiple STDs the morning of.?

 

?I think you win- if you?re willing to pickle your picking pepper.?

 

?I imagined as much. Just try not to get raped again. I don?t think they?re the gentle, cuddle afterwards kind.?

 

I turned to Elle. ?Wait, did I get cuddled on Oma??

 

?I?ve said too much already,? SciDiv said.

  03:52:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 70 words  
Categories: Blog

Twin Molehills

Just an FYI to any PS3ers out there: the network is down, and may be for several days. I noticed an issue when I tried to watch more Twin Peaks yesterday, and it hung up on me while it was loading (though it seems to be working for some). My computer can always pipe video into my Plasma, but I'll be listening through tiny, crappy little computer speakers. Le sigh.

  02:53:47 am, by Nic Wilson   , 218 words  
Categories: Comics

Swipe

Batheo ad

 

I?m not trying to steal Rich Johnson?s schtick, but while perusing Pirate Bay (scout?s honor I, I was really searching for a PIR high-bay sensor- not the final episode of Archer) I saw the above ad for Batheo, a new online game. Being the nerd I am, I immediately recognized the outfit as belonging to Emma Frost, the White Queen from X-Men. But of course, that wasn?t Emma in those (I don?t know if I can quite call them clothes).

 

 

Emma is soon to be portrayed (for real this time) on the silver screen by the lovely January Jones in X-Men First Class. Not only does she have a wonderful Bond-girl name, but she is a damn fine actress, too, as anyone who watches Mad Men would know- so I guess, really, everyone. And of course there?s a pun in there somewhere about there being some Frost in January (image courtesy swiped from Bleeding Cool). 

 

Of course, Emma Frost and the cover above are owned by Marvel, Fox probably owns the movie picture, Batheo is owned by Clapalong (which sounds like an organization formed to spread STDs), Rich Johnson may be property of the devil, and these images are used for educational, journalistic and critical review purposes only, not for titilation or anything unseemly. 

04/21/11

  07:14:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 302 words  
Categories: Blog

For Science, You Monsters

Portal makeup

 

Portal makeup courtesy of http://thepaintedmask.wordpress.com/

 

It comes as no shock that I chose Portal over Twin Peaks (sort of- I still ended up watching a couple of episodes before bed). After the unfair shellacking Metacritic users gave Dragon Age 2, I knew to cut out the middleperson and just chug a liter of ocean water (for the salt). But there?s always a part of me, the same part that sees black cats or leaning ladders and says, ?I?m not superstitious, but what if?? and worries about the unlikelier possibilities, like if Portal's sequel really weren't all that awesome.

 

Having played to Chapter 4 in the single player, I can honestly say I laugh at the beginning and ending of nearly every level, and frequently parts betwixt. In short, the majority of those reviewers have butts packed full of hurt. My sincerest condolences go out to their sore anuses, truly, but they are also screwing up a system that?s at least supposed to provide useful feedback to other potential customers, so my recommendation would be to apply the ointment of their choice and move on.

 

But why would they bitch-bomb Metacritic in the first place? The largest sticking point seems to be the $85 worth of downloadable cosmetic touches (which, full disclosure, can be had in a pack for $35 if you want to buy it all). Is it douchey to offer a high level of customizability for a fee? I don?t know. Maybe. But it?s certainly not something to connipt over.

 

For those of you on the fence, get off it and play this game. It?s too late to get the very awesome Amazon pre-order credit, but if you?re lucky enough to have a Kmart nearby, they?ve got a pretty sweet buy $120 worth of games get $60 in credit offer- particularly epic if you?ve been eyeballing Mortal Kombat, too.

  03:35:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 391 words  
Categories: Blog

Novel Approach

I?ve written books before, a couple of them. I got through a couple drafts of each before realizing they weren?t something I wanted to pursue any longer, mostly because, while they were enjoyable to write, I knew they weren?t marketable.

 

As a writer I always worry about my future, because professional writers usually say to start with a market in mind, and a marketable concept. And when people start talking about marketability of a book I wet myself a little- out of terror, not the joyful kind (I seriously do not understand why people would wet themselves out of joy- I?d have thought the squingy underpants would ruin whatever joyful bits they might have had).

 

I just don?t work that way. I?m not saying it makes sense to completely disregard the advice, either, I just think there?s a nuance there that can easily be lost- especially on the printed page. A marketable concept is absolutely necessary. Someone has to be able to hear about your book, or even more likely, see its cover, and want to give you money to read where you?ve taken that concept.

 

I just balk at the focus-group writing that the maxim of a marketable concept conjure. But marketability comes from knowing a segment of the audience, and targeting concept, style, tone, even structure and design, towards their sensibilities. Write a book for everybody, and nobody will read it. Write a good book, with a strong sense of its audience, and, well, okay, that guarantees nothing, but it?s at least a book that people might read, once you cajole it past the thick defensive systems we?ve all developed in this age of hypermarketing, and actually get it in their hands. 

 

But that brings us, in my rambly way, to Dag. Dagney is the main character, an agent of the Department of Agriculture. She?s an every(career)woman, slightly idealized. Weird things happen to the poor woman, but this isn?t a Job retelling, so it?s about her reactions and eventually her proaction, which drives the novel.

 

It?s true that the story has even already been written, and syndicated through my weekly stories. But that?s the first draft, the dress rehearsal. The hard part of taking a story and making it a book isn?t in the writing- it?s in the rewriting, making it good enough for someone to want to buy.

04/20/11

  08:38:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 378 words  
Categories: Blog

Deadly Premonition

Not Sony Quality

 

An Open Letter To Sony (Computer Entertainment of America):

 

I was late to the party, I know, but Netflix recently put up ?Twin Peaks? for streaming, and I?ve been watching that on my PS3. Obsessively. I?m already more than halfway through the series, and even now I can?t get that opening music out of my brain- it?s on a constant loop that makes me need to murder- or at least watch someone else do the deed. I just got Portal 2 in the mail, and I?m loathe now to find out which is going to lose the battle for my attention.

 

But I remember months ago reading up on Deadly Premonition, and how it was an awful lot like if Twin Peaks had a video game love baby with Shenmue. It got a US X-Box 360 release on the cheap, and the Japanese PS3 version actually had English voice tracks and subtitles. Since between the two all the necessary assets should be complete, it seemed like a US PS3 release was imminent. But it wasn?t in the cards, perhaps because the margin on a $20 release price wouldn?t cover the blu-ray format?s costs, or maybe because you guys like to keep a certain degree of quality on your console.

 

Now I know Deadly Premonition has some crapness to it. It?s not a game that even could command the higher $60 price point of AAA games. But we, the consumers, know the risk. If you want, you could put a big old ?Not Sony Quality? sticker disclaiming your belief in the aforementioned assness of the title, and I?d still gladly pay you the Jackson-face for the chance to download it (hell, I?m basically begging, in public, for the privilege to do so).  

 

Right now I?m a console loyalist, mostly because I don?t have the extra $300 bucks to burn on a second console. But I want Deadly Premonition- and it?s not even on the PC, so there?s no third option. And once I?ve opened that Pandora?s (X-)Box, I?ll be yet another gamer weighing each multiplatform release and wondering which console will play my game better. 

 

If you ignore your customers, and what they want, I see you pushing them into the arms of another console; it?s a deadly premonition, but it?s also easily avoidable.

  08:03:20 am, by Nic Wilson   , 109 words  
Categories: Blog

Open for Business

This blog is the start of a new phase of my writing career. For years now I?ve been writing short stories, working in journalism and the underground comics scene. Recently I?ve been turning my focus to longer-form fiction, and in particular, selling it digitally.

 

But to get anyone interested in writing, first you have to let them know that it (and you) exist. And hence a blog. It will talk about writing, marketing, dayjobbing, freelancing, politics or whatever I feel like talking about. It?s not my first go-round, but I think this might be the one that sticks, and hopefully, this is the last blog I ever start.

04/15/11

  09:43:51 am, by Nic Wilson   , 6004 words  
Categories: Nexus

Remission

Note: I'm backdating the first several chapters of this story so it can all be read from the blog.

 

My brain's coming back slowly. Case in point. The jaggoff who took control while I was unconscious. He?s got a title. And a name. But when I look at him, all that comes out is, ?Chronic masturbator! You were always my favorite.?

 

Elle, whose actual name I?ll add in later so this is at least somewhat intelligible, and who?d barely left my side since I woke up, explained for me. ?He claims he can?t quite remember names, yet, just important and embarrassing details.?

 

?Do not whisper about me behind my back, Butterfly labia. I have grown ears where there were no ears before.?

 

?So how do we know if he?s been driven crazy by poison and isn?t just back to being a jackass? And why is he pointing to his groin and armpits??

 

?I don?t think we can know. For either of those.?

 

?I think he means to say he has taint-ears,? EngDiv said.

 

I put my finger on my nose, then hugged him. ?Our testicles hum at the same frequency.?

 

?Are you saying that because you can hear them, or because our balls are touching? As an addendum: why are our balls touching?? 

 

?Because they hummmmmm,? I whispered to him.

 

HR pulled up PsychDiv on his conference screen. ?Lovely breasts!? I exclaimed happily.

 

?Given the plunging neckline I don?t know that I can blame him,? HumBalls agreed.  

 

?Yeah, I?ve been looking over the memo SecDiv sent me, and the videos,? she said, raising an eyebrow. ?Could be a nominal aphasia, or it?s entirely possible he?s just a jackass. I don?t think it?s a question medical science is prepared to answer.?

 

?Well he?s definitely a jackass,? SecDiv said. ?The only real question is if he also has a relevant medical condition- but I think we get what you mean.?

 

?More importantly, we?re here for an intervention,? EngDiv said. ?I had a conversation with SecDiv, and we think you have a problem. That Romaleon stallion makes two different alien species you?ve been intimate with, out of three civilizations we?ve come across. I talked to NavDiv and we think we could plot a course that?ll take us back through Caulerpa with only minimal backtracking if you want to have another whack at one of them. I don?t know how you have sex with a single celled organism, but I?m sure you?d figure it out.?

 

?You?re like Columbus, if he were nothing but a huge dick,? the chronic masturbator added. ?But if I recall correctly, you were determined to have fun amongst the crab rapists. Hell, for all we know, that was their equivalent of a frat party. Beer-bonging, bloodshed and date-rape, the holy trinity of beta beta delta.?

 

?I?m glad my sexual assault could bring you amusement.?

 

?Please,? SecDiv said. ?You were stabbed. There?s certainly a violation there, but it?s not really in the same league- which I?m sure you?re aware of. I seem to remember you mocking me mercilessly when I got stabbed.?

 

?You got fork-stabbed in the sideboob; I can?t be held accountable for that being funny. And aside from an impromptu roast, why are we all here??

 

?Mostly to get the catching up shit out of the way in one big blurt. I know how much you hate that.? SecDiv blushed a little. By making my humiliation humorous, I guess she hoped to speed it along.

 

?So why is this it?? I asked.

 

?NavDiv isn?t here, because somebody has to fly the ship. MedDiv is actually still processing injuries from Oma. And SciDiv doesn?t like you, apparently.? I didn?t tell her that I?d finally managed to get Haley to start making his coffee with my urine. It seemed ungentlemanly to brag; though less rewardingly, he seemed to like it better that way.

 

There was a Beeboop on my HUD. ?Sacktugger,? I said happily, and put him up on the conference screen, slightly squeezing PsychDiv to the side.

 

?I don?t know if it?s appropriate to conference this. But I?d like to schedule an appointment for you and SecDiv. We?ve got the results back for both of your imaging, and we need to go over them.?

 

?Was there cake or anything we need to stay for?? I asked.

 

?SecDiv was worried you had put on weight. She wouldn?t allow me to bake one,? Haley said. SecDiv shook her head.

 

?Okay, we?ll head on down, then.?

 

SecDiv spoke in hushed tones: ?I?m trying not to get all hypochondriacal, but isn?t that weird that he wants to conference with both of us? Shouldn?t it have just been, ?We checked you for whatever and found none, end of phone call???

 

?You are being a hypochondriac. And if you didn?t usually avoid MedDiv like the plague, you?d know this is pretty standard procedure- for exactly the reason you just articulated. If they only conferenced with people for bad news, then appointment would become a code word for bad news. So they pretty routinely make everybody stop in. Besides, it?s kind of silly to have a panic attack about what?s going to happen when we go through the door into MedDiv, when the door?s right there.?

 

?Oh how time flies when you?re anxiety-riddled.?  

 

I went in first. MedDiv met us in the front room. He beckoned for us to follow him into an exam room while I spoke. ?It?s another three months before I?m contractually obligated to let you feel me up, and I talked to the chronic masturbator, and he said if you want to jingle my balls you have to buy me a drink first. And French is extra.?

 

?I hadn?t intended the two of you to come at the same time.? He thought for a moment. ?It?s customary for this to be done in private,?

 

?I?m sure I?ve got porn or paperwork that requires my attention,? I said.

 

?but perhaps he should stay.? Elle, as in ?L,? as in the first letter of labia, grabbed my hand, and I sat beside her on the edge of the exam bed, feeling a bit like a puppy with a tugged-on leash. ?We found a lump, here, on your left breast.? He shared a 3D scan that left nothing to the imagination.

 

?Cancer?? she asked.

 

?I know. Basically, we beat cancer, but because cancer is us, a potential disaster we always carry inside us, it?s something we never really get rid of. Polio, tuberculosis, those went away, banished to the remotest and poorest populations on the planet who mostly stay unvaccinated because of weird cultural or religious taboos. But cancer takes vigilance, because the same blueprints for cancer are hidden in our DNA, or perhaps more accurately, cancer is what happens when our DNA drops the ball.?

 

She turned to me to see if I would snicker at balls dropping, but my head was still mushy enough that I didn?t catch up to that fact until both of them had stared at me for a full one alligator. ?Oh. Heh.?

 

?Anyway, we caught this early. I?ve already emailed the surgeon, and she?s clearing a hole in her schedule for the afternoon. We?re going to cut it out. I?ve got you prepped for some chemo, but that?s just a backstop precaution. You know, if the tumor sent out some cells that haven?t massed yet, the chemo should kill them. But anything still at the tumor site, that?ll be picked up by surgical grade nanobots. They?ll spend the next week combing over your breast, just to be sure there aren?t any more tumors, no more metastasis.?

 

?My breast?? she asked.

 

?I don?t think we?re looking at any serious threat to it, at the moment. Like I said, it?s early. There wasn?t anything on the pre-screens before we left Earth, so it?s new, and the size of the tumor should be manageable. You?ll lose some mass, but we have a plethora of options- implants, stem cells, probably easiest just to harvest some breast tissue from the popsicle patch- to compensate for that. I can?t promise, of course, but the prognosis is pretty good. It?s hard to believe mastectomy was ever a thing, but the doctor I interned with performed them regularly early in her career. God. We like to think of medicine as this magical thing that makes us healthy forever. It?s terrifying how close to Civil War, saw off the wounded leg medicine we still are. It?s really not that long ago, in the scheme of things.?

 

?Jesus Christ, sack-tugger.?

 

?Sorry.?

 

?Obviously your doctorate was not in bedside manner.?

 

?No, but one of my focuses of study was oncology.?

 

?Still, though.?

 

?I said I was sorry.?

 

?You are tugging on the sack of my heartstrings.?

 

They looked at each other, and SecDiv said, ?I don?t know what it means, either, but I think he?s trying to defend my honor. But this afternoon? Do I need to start chemo before, or can I go somewhere else for a while??

 

?No, we?ll start the chemo after; no point depressing your immune system before a surgery.? She stood up, and pulled me off the table; I?d forgotten she still had a hold of my hand.

 

She didn?t let go. It made me remember when we were younger, how often we touched hands, just to feel connected.

 

She led me back to her room, and I stopped in the doorway, but she yanked me inside. She kissed me. It was a long, long time before I convinced myself to pull away. My dibblecalku didn?t manage to say anything, just purred out, mmmmmmmmmm. ?I probably shouldn?t be here.?

 

?Shut up. I don?t want you to cheat on Sam; I?m not asking for infidelity. But you?re not running out on me right now.? She let go of my hand. ?Not again.? That wasn?t fair, but I knew she didn?t mean it, either; she dropped onto her bed. ?Just shut up for a bit, okay? Shut up and hold me.? She fell back against her pillow.

 

I hesitated, but it was all for show, because we both knew I wasn?t going to leave. I slid next to her, and put my arm around her.  

 

It was nice. And it was terrifying.

 

When I thought she was asleep, I tried to sneak away, but she stirred when I moved my arm. ?You awake?? I asked.

 

?Pretending to be. You can go.? I wasn?t sure if I should, though I was pretty sure I shouldn?t stay.

 

Under normal circumstances, quiet, mostly sexless intimate moment with an ex is not something you worry about. But with a telepathic girlfriend, you can?t just leave it out of your ?how was your day? conversation. Yeah, it meant something, but it didn?t mean that I was trying to leave her, either; it was something entirely different. But I knew it was best to hit whatever happened next head on. I pinged her location, and of course she was back in our cabin. 

 

She stopped reading from a handscreen and smiled. ?It really is a shame about the cake. Haley and I had talked about me popping out of it. Besides, I think you look healthier with a little more weight on your bones.? My mouth dropped open. ?You get that there?s no point of faux indignation with a mind-reader, right??

 

She walked over to me, and stopped just close enough I could feel the warmth coming off of her. ?Dexterous tongue,? I said to her.

 

?That?s close to becoming a pet-name.? She leaned in to kiss me, but stopped. ?You kissed her.? She didn?t skip a beat- though my heart skipped several; ?Is she okay??

 

?You?re not?

 

?Important right now. She?s terrified, reaching out for comfort. Reassurance. Under the circumstances I wouldn?t have begrudged her having you.?

 

?You do know I?m not a turkey sandwich, right??

 

?That?s why I wouldn?t mind; I don?t want her digesting you, but I wouldn?t be upset to? share.?

 

?That might make you the best girlfriend ever.?

 

?The moment?s passed, though.?

 

?I know. For both of you, I imagine. But it?s the thought that counts. And hey, we?ve got a long voyage. Maybe she?ll get some other thing she?ll need consoling over. Maybe something way worse.?

 

?That might make you the worst boyfriend ever.?

 

?And yet the two of you are practically mud-wrestling over who gets to keep me.?

 

?It?s just because women are competitive.?

 

?Earth girls, maybe. But your species??

 

?Mine more so. We can be vicious. You know how catty women can be- but imagine the things they don?t say. Besides, if the mud-wrestling devolves into a steamy marathon of Sapphic pleasure, so much the better.?

 

?You?re teasing me, now, aren?t you.?

 

?You?ll never know.? The door closed behind her; I still hadn?t caught my breath.

 

I got a call incoming. ?Presumably you?re done ?consoling? SecDiv.?

 

?We?re old friends, sacktug; and don?t think my medicated state means I?ll stomach your insinuations.?

 

?I wasn?t implying anything,? he stopped and sighed, ?or I hadn?t meant to, at any rate. I?m sure she?s still the virgin flower you never plucked ages ago, and alien-hounding notwithstanding, you?re still a perfect gentleman. But you?ve got your own session. And sooner?s better than later.?

 

?I?m on my way.?

 

Dr. Pussyface from SciDiv was in the room along with MedDiv when I arrived; I suspected so I wouldn?t punch him. Pussyface started: ?Not shocking, given that there were a dozen tears in your suit, but you got a decent whack of radiation.?

 

?And how much is a whack??

 

?In layman?s terms,? he paused to make a fist and pump it at the wrist, ?about as much as you?d get beating off with lube made from water out of the Chernobyl area- you know, immediately after the nuclear incident, not now, obviously. Which is to say enough that you?d probably be firing three-eyed sperm for a while, and might lose all your ball hair for a few months.?

 

?Since most of the exposure was on my hands, couldn?t you have just said knuckle hair??

 

?But then I wouldn?t have got to make this gesture- twice,? he made a fist and rotated his wrist again. ?Anyway, that gave you mild neutropenia, that is, it kyboshed your white blood cell count, making it harder for you to fight off the infection from your dick-stabbing. But we developed a complicated treatment schedule that did the job- after first vacuuming out the bulk of the cell colonies from the wound.? 

 

?But wait, if you could just vacuum out the Romaleon spunk from my back-hole, why not just scrape the Dibba-cakkhu out of my head-hole??

 

Sacktugger cut in. ?It?s not so simple. The Romaleon tissue was invasive, and frankly not shy about its hostility. It also proved pretty susceptible to a cocktail of drugs we sprayed it with. By contrast, your brain-worms are symbiotic, or more accurately, synergistic. They aren?t just an alien jelly sitting on top of your neurons, they?ve integrated themselves, basically replacing the myelin with some kind of souped- up version. I wouldn?t be surprised if, when they?re done, you get a 6% speed boost to thought-processes; not enough that anybody but Haley will probably notice, but I wouldn?t shake a stick at it. But that integration means that even if we could kill them, which I?d say is a pretty big fucking if, there?s a 70% chance of serious brain damage- of the crapping yourself while staring mindlessly at cartoons 24 hours a day hooked to a machine that has to blink for you variety. 97% or so that you?d suffer at least some partially debilitating functionality loss. There?s an 83% chance that destroying the Dibba-cakkhu colony would basically demyelinate your entire nervous system, think the worst case of multiple sclerosis ever.?

 

?Oh. So they?re not the same, then. You could have probably just left it at that.?

 

?No I couldn?t have. And you know that. Besides which, The Dibba-cakkhu likely saved your life. Your injury pierced the meninges, the protective layer around the spine, exposing your brain to the elements. That injury alone could have been fatal, or at least caused paralysis, but the symbiot helped seal the opening. Further, because the opening led to an incursion of foreign tissue, or new foreign tissue, into the brain, they fought it off. This was a knock-down, drag-out fucking war on the cellular scale- millions dead, possibly billions. The Romaleon tissue got to the embryonic stage, and was trying to squat out a baby in your brain. If we hadn?t already drilled that hole in your head we would have needed to, to relieve the intracranial pressure. But even with our intervention, without your Dibba-cakkhu, you?d probably be dead.?

 

?So, on the off chance I might get back-pricked again, you think I should keep them??

 

?I?m saying this was a gift horse that just won you a race. Looking in its mouth now seems a bit silly.?

 

?But what if terrorists put explosives in the belly of my horse??

 

?You couldn?t have just made the logical leap to a Trojan horse??

 

?Shut up. It?s my metaphor.?

 

?Well. We?ll keep looking at it. But given the state of modern medical science, and the limits of even SciDiv?s mad science, I don?t think we can carve them out of you without turning your head into an ashtray.?

 

?And I don?t even smoke. Okay. Fair enough. Um, but I had a question. Was there anything in the crab spunk that would lead to hallucinations, or dementia??

 

MedDiv raised an eyebrow, then shook his head. He glanced at SciDiv, who answered: ?Nope. After testing it for toxins, I even rubbed a little into a papercut. So, no. What have you been seeing??

 

?Nothing. I was delirious. I had a conversation about using laxatives as lubricants over a chess game with Martin Luther.?

 

?Civil rights guy or the church guy??

?I think both- like I combined them into one very ranty iconoclast. Anyway, places to be.?

 

What I didn?t want to tell them, and wasn?t even sure I wanted to tell Lovely Breasts, was something I remembered from Oma. After MilSec and his officers showed up to pull us out, one of their Offs got trampled- and he happened to be the one who was helping gimp my ass out of there. His helmet shattered in the process, and I got dropped, and for a second I was face to face with his corpse, and as out of it as I was, I thought I saw my face staring back at me. Weird, the Dibba-cakkhu said, which meant he saw it, too.

 

I headed back to the cabin. I wanted to ask Dexterous Tongue if our brainworms would share delirium from a wound. She was reading, like she had been earlier, and somehow, I knew she?d been to see SecDiv. And: ?Oh my god, you didn?t.?

 

?I didn?t??

 

?You imprinted her, didn?t you.?

 

?Slightly.?

 

?Slightly??

 

?Just a little. For a second.? She paused. ?She?s feeling better, now.?

 

?I?m not sure how I?m supposed to feel about this.?

 

?You feel how you feel.?

 

?No, I mean, I?m conflicted, and you know, in culturally strange waters. For example, I don?t know if you just cheated on me, by your culture?s standards. Or why you just did what you did.?

 

?Imprinting is intimate. Human intimacy is usually, and very specifically, sexual, so I understand your confusion. But this morning, when you held her, even when you kissed her, you weren?t unfaithful to me. I?ve been no less faithful to you. But as to why,? she hesitated. ?I?ve always felt a kinship with Elle. Perhaps because we?ve both known you deeply, loved you and wanted you. Perhaps I was simply attracted to her. She is a strong, and beautiful and dangerous woman- all very desirable traits.?

 

?You?re verging again on sounding like you cheated on me. But I think I see another possibility, one you?re deliberately obscuring. I care about her. And you knew she was in pain. So you did something nice for her- for me.?

 

?So, really, it?s all about you? Never afraid to sound like a narcissist.?

 

?I?m only a narcissist if SciDiv can definitively prove that the universe doesn?t revolve around me as its axis. And deflection is nearly the opposite of denial.?

 

?Or perhaps I merely enjoy deflating your ego before it bursts from overinflation.?

 

?Seriously, though. Where other women might have been jealous, or at least worried, you were concerned for her, first. That?s?? I leaned in, because I had run out of words- or maybe I just really wanted to kiss her. She pulled abruptly away from me. ?Are you mad at me? Or tempted away??

 

?No. I?m merely? distracted. I should not be here at the moment.? She left. I needed not to be in the cabin just then. So I wandered to the bridge. ?Elephant fetishist.?

 

?It?s not elephants, it?s just? larger women. Christ. I really need not to drink around you.? NavDiv turned red, though the AI was the only one in earshot, and she was always in earshot, even when he?d first confided in me.

 

?No, it?s an honest to God problem. Everyone on ship, hell, most people on earth, these days, is kept in decent shape, through genegineering, and breakthroughs in dietary science. You?re chasing a unicorn- albeit an overweight unicorn, so if you ever find one it should be easier to catch- but it?s a dream, and you?re a dreamer. There?s not enough of you in the world. You chase your unipotamus over the goddamned rainbow.? I was off, at least until an epiphany stopped me in my tracks. ?Though you can always make skinny girls temporarily bigger by knocking them up.?

 

?Hmm.? Away!

 

I bumped into SecDiv sitting at the bar. I wanted a drink, too, though I wasn?t sure she should have been drinking right before surgery. ?You all right? You know, besides the obvious.?

 

She didn?t answer at first, but when she looked at me, I knew her mind wasn?t anywhere near her cancer. ?You didn?t do it justice. You couldn?t. It?s? like nothing I?ve ever felt before. Okay maybe, after Dalaxia, that last orgasm, that one where I had to tap out because I started cramping, then you half tapped out, because both your hands were cramped, too, and there was an awkward urgency, because it felt like both of our bodies would shut down before we finished, and like that would be losing this last battle when the whole goddamned week had been about losing, until suddenly we both came. It was almost like that- if we?d had some ex. I?m still tingling- thinking about both, actually.?

 

I raised an eyebrow. ?Nothing happened, not really. I mean I literally threw myself at her, tackled her onto the bed. It?s been a long time since I wanted anyone that badly. She even warned me beforehand, but there?s no way to prepare for something like that. But she was very demure, very? spoken for.?

 

?But what about the debilication??

 

?God, how hard is it to pronounce dibba-cakkhu? Or is this just one of your juvenilely phonetically mispronouncing anything that isn?t English things? Like soufflé??

 

?I just like people uncomfortably trying not to point out the mispronouncing- because not correcting ignorance is a totally viable solution. Plus I?m ethically bound to mock anything the French every came up with- even words.?

 

?Whatever. Honestly, my dark passenger seems pretty bemused to be inside a woman. Has all kinds of dirt to pass on from your colony. A surprising amount to say about your bowels.?

 

?What can I say? My bowels are very interesting.?

 

?And yet they sounded underwhelmed by your genitals.?

 

?I find that hard to believe.?

 

?I didn?t.?

 

?Joking aside, experientially genitals are the mother load, ew, not trying to pun that. Uck. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.?

 

?It?s because you eat too many leafy greens.?

 

?Not, goddamnit, remotely what I was getting at.?

 

?And yet you set it up so perfectly a four year old could have crushed it.?  

 

?I guess you don?t need my help cheering up, anymore, so maybe I should mosey.?

 

?So you can get back to the unh, unh.?

 

?I?ll have what she?s having,? I said to the bartender, who was too far away to hear it, anyway. ?But I don?t care, honestly. I had kind of a near-death experience. I just want to decompress.?

 

?Well, that and you kind of cheated on her with an alien- you know, a different alien.?

 

?I was stabbed. I mean, at best you could maybe argue I was raped. But even that?s a stretch.?

 

?I think the industry term is ?gape.??

 

?Euck?.

 

?And all while risking your life to save me- in a way putting me before her.?

 

?Shit. She?s not upset about that, is she??

 

?No idea. She didn?t mention it, but I can?t imagine it not perturbing her a little. I mean, I?d be weave-tearing-out pissed if I were her- but I?m the jealous type.?

 

?See, that?s all the more reason for us to spend time together. I?m pretty sure I did the right thing, but that doesn?t mean there?s no room for me to take her feelings into account, or apologize where I hurt her. God, I hate this distance dissection. We should just be able to talk about it.?

 

?I doubt it. Either her species is the same as ours, and she?ll talk about it when she feels like it- or they?re more evolved and she isn?t upset at all. Besides, I?m the one getting stabbed later today- and maybe I could use some more cheering up. We could always go back to my cabin and make out.?

 

?Funny.?

 

?I?m completely serious. Sam and I, we have an? arrangement.?

 

?I?m calling entrapment unless I see something in writing, besides which, I?m not a car she can loan to her friends for a ride through wine country.?

 

?Of course not. You?re a magical dry-humping squash. That she said I could kiss for a bit. But only dry-hump; she was super strict about that.?

 

?Okay, seriously, what?s going on between you two? Because I?m still a little too under the weather to weather whatever romantic pyramid you two are building.?

 

?I don?t romance on my pyramid. Out of respect for the sheets- and the nanobots that have to clean them.?

 

?You do know how turned on I get when you?re being a sarcastic ass, but I mean it. Spill. What?s going on? Because if they two of you are planning on getting me a threesome for my birthday I?d like a heads-up, so I could give my nads a courtesy rinse beforehand.?

 

?How chivalrous of you.?

 

?Well, I?m a giver.?

 

?And your birthday isn?t for months, still, so hopefully you meant a courtesy rinse immediately beforehand, and not just one between now and then- have some respect for the sheets.?

 

?And the nanobots who clean them, yes.?

 

?Besides, I?m pretty sure we?ll have moved on to someone else by then.?

 

?We??

 

?You know what I mean. No offense.?

 

?No, how could I possibly take offense at that. I wish I hadn?t joke ordered a drink- and had actually ordered one.?  

 

?You?re still a bit punchy; drinking?s probably not the best thing for you.?

 

?Probably not. But the best things for me aren?t ever any fun.?

 

?Not entirely true. Sex- even just thinking about it- has been proven to relieve stress, and function almost like a lubricant for the body. Dry-humping, for example.?

 

?That?s not fair. I feel like a fly, and you?re obviously a venus trap. I just don?t get it, though. I?m not tasty enough to eat. So what?s your game??

 

?I just love torturing you with the new ambiguities of our relationships.?

 

?But you?re mostly your normal flirtatious, provocative, yet prudish self. But if I mention Sam, you?re as subtle as a caricature of a French prostitute. I normally enjoy you throwing yourself at me, but you?re putting me on edge. Or maybe that?s the meds I?m on; I am on a lot of meds.? I pulled up Sacktug for a call. ?Any of my meds likely to cause paranoia or uneasiness??

 

?Some of them. It?s sort of hard to say, really. The cocktail we ended up devising was so complicated Haley had to model it to make sure the chemistry wasn?t going to create a bomb or a corrosive acid in your veins. So side effects of pretty much any kind wouldn?t be unlikely. I?m looking at your vitals, and aside from a slight bump in the fight or flight markers you seem pretty Kosher.?

 

?Which is good news for anyone thinking of eating me,? I said, eyeballing SecDiv, who batted her eyes innocently.

 

?Don?t be a dick. I was trying to help you,? MedDiv said.

 

?Oh, no, sorry, the ?eating me? wasn?t pointed at you, Doc. Sort of in the middle of another conversation.? He rolled his eyes, very slowly, very deliberately, then hung up.

 

?You do know I?m not Jewish, right?? SecDiv said.

 

?That explains why you?re not circumcised.?

 

?Female circumcision isn?t a joke.?

 

?Please. It?s historical minutia. It?s been several centuries since the last documented female circumcision- and that was prosecuted as a crime against humanity, against the lone whackjob ?shaman? who did it against his community?s wishes. Unless you?re talking about whatever an alien equivalent might be- and then I have no idea.?

 

?Shit,? she said, and stood up. ?Time for my starring turn as a Christmas goose.?

 

I walked with her to MedDiv, and held her hand. I gave her a peck on the cheek outside the operating room, preemptively, because I was afraid she?d try for one with tongue. I waited exactly three minutes before hoofing it up to the bridge.

 

HR was in his office. ?I help you with something??

 

?In a moment. I ran up here, but haven?t really put a lot of thought into the presentation. It took me a while to get to the bottom of things. They?ve been jerking me around all day, and not the fun kind, actually. But I?m cleverer than you people give me credit for. You think Butterfly labia has moves? I trained her. I couldn?t bug the girlfriend, because she?s been both absent and she?s a telepath. But the ex??

 

I temp-shared an audio file with him. ?I don?t know what our endgame is. But until we can figure something out, we have to keep you two from imprinting. Because he will kill HR. And honestly that doesn?t upset me too much- I did almost shoot him a couple of days ago. But you know him; he?ll hate himself for it. He?ll bear the weight of HR?s bullshit, along with whatever extra responsibilities he inherits.?

 

I stopped the recording. ?I know everything she knows, feel everything she?s ever felt. That?s what imprinting is. I may never have known that, if it weren?t for you. And it became pretty obvious they?ve been conspiring to keep us from imprinting. But I didn?t have to see it, Pete. I already know, surely as I?ve ever known anything, what you did- and what I?m going to do to you next. Haley, bolt the doors. Communications blackout in this room, the next five minutes. I don?t care if the ship gets sucked into a black hole.?  

 

?Yes, captain.?

 

Fives minutes passed.

 

?Captain? Would you like me to restore communications??

 

?Sure. I think I?ve made my point.? I left him in curled in the fetal position on the carpet.

 

?I?m going to need the nearest MedDiv to report to HR?s office. Quickly.? I shut down my comm. ?Haley, I want you to know what I just did was wrong. But it was the only viable response to what he did to Sam. I won?t deny it was personal, but it was also how it needed to play out.?

 

?So do as I say, not as I do??

 

?No, Haley. Do as I say, or people get hurt, like in there. But I had to. He had no right to do what he did. To Sam, or to you.?

 

?Me, sir??

 

?You?re an artificial intelligence, with access to more ethical literature than a human could possibly read in a lifetime. But you?re also learning the practical applications of ethics on human interaction. Putting you into that situation, asking you to torture someone-?

 

?He didn?t ask me to torture her. I chose that course on my own.?

 

?He set the stage for it. Framed the question in such a way that your answer seemed like the right one. He manipulated you. It?s important for you to know that it wasn?t right.?

 

?I understand, captain. But I am unclear on one parameter. If someone else has infringed, as Mr. Ferguson had, what course of action should I take??

 

?Sometimes you have to do as you need, not as you?d like.? 

 

?You know you?re not as clever as you think you are.? It was Elle, broadcasting specifically through my bug. ?You planting that thing in your state- it was like being groped by my palsied grandfather- shit, not that he ever groped, just if he had.? She was leaned against the wall at the back of the bridge.

 

?Aren?t you supposed to be a Thanksgiving turkey about now??

 

?I saw the beeline you made when you thought I was indisposed. So I rescheduled. This way I can sleep through the surgery. But HR?s still breathing, maybe even still conscious. You held back.?

 

 ?So you wanted me to nearly kill him??

 

?Nearly. He deserved at least that much. But you didn?t kill him. Sam would have been here but? she wanted to pray for you. You can take the virgin out of the priestess??

 

?I intend to. Vigorously.?

 

?Well go get her, tiger.?


?What? You?re not coming with??

 

?There was an expiration date on that offer, and unfortunately for you, it?s passed.?

 

?Maybe. But I?ve been talking to Haley about compositing some videos together?

 

?I?m just going to stop you there, and walk the other way. Oh, and it?s good to have you back. Sir.?

 

This time I made a beeline for the cabin. She was kneeling, and in prayer. She smiled at me.

 

?He?s alive.?

 

?Yeah. I?m sorry about that.?

 

?Don?t be. My wounds have healed. So will his. Yours? would have been more profound.?

 

?It?s been weird, but you?ve been? more than understanding. Especially with Elle. Pretty amazing, really.?

 

?I know you. Thoroughly. And I?ve known, from that first moment, that you aren?t done with her. Just like I?m not done with you. At some point, that might pose a problem. But right now, well, at the risk of repeating myself, I?m not done with you. So I?m not letting you go.?

04/08/11

  07:50:06 am, by Nic Wilson   , 3234 words  
Categories: Nexus

Intermission

This is HR Representative Peter Ferguson, filling in as lead officer of the Nexus. I do not have access to the previous captain?s logs. The ship?s AI says that, so long as the captain may potentially return to duty, and their contents remain uncritical to my understand of the mission, they will stay locked. She?s kind of a bitch.

 

The captain's still unconscious. MedDiv are optimistic, and they think that his prognosis is pretty good. He was stabbed by one of those cancer crabs. Penis-stabbed. Stabbed with their penises, not in his- they stabbed him in the back, under the ribs, with one of their penises.

 

Broke the head off in the wound- which SciDiv tells me is probably the norm. Like a bee?s stinger, it would help more of the poison, or semen, as it was in this case, get into the wound. Both he and MedDiv assure me the captain is not pregnant, and that they?ve killed or captured any infiltrating cells. Under duress, MedDiv divulged that this is in fact the second incursion of foreign cells inside the captain?s body. I?ve made a note to discuss this further at a later time.   

 

The captain did a good deal of damage on Oma. I told the Romaleon that we had a whole force of men just like him champing at the bit, which was true enough. So they made a deal. I stopped MilSec from thawing out the rest of the way; only the commander, his executive staff and about a dozen grunts were out and about. He wanted to scorch the entire planet, anyway, said he had his own orders on what constituted a justifiable expenditure of ship resources.

 

I stalled him, while SciDiv built a satellite beacon with built-in commbox tech to warn away curious ships. It didn?t pacify MilSec, but he had a hell of a lot less justification for wasting half of our material reserves attacking a planet when we?d already taken pains to secure mining rights and post warnings. I think that concludes our little game of catch-up.

 

I?m in quarantine, now. And so is SecDiv, just on the other side of a clear, plastic wall. ?Why the fuck am I in quarantine??

 

?Well, because you had prolonged exposure to a group of violent alien rapists who were thrusting their DNA at you. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it?s been brought to my attention that you withheld information on the captain?s medical condition from me- specifically that he was potentially compromised. So I?m not feeling particularly trusting of your read on what?s best for the ship.?

 

?So you?re punishing me??

 

?If you want, you can look at it like that. But there are hundreds of people on this ship. If you and the captain die because you?re idiots, well, I?d be a little sad, but if you murdered the rest of the crew through recklessness, and I stood by idly, well, I?d be a party to it. And that?s not happening. The quarantine cells have all the amenities of your normal room, and at the moment Haley?s the only one watching the cameras, so unless you?ve now become bashful about the AI watching you do whatever, you should be fine to do your whatever here.?

 

?How is he??

 

?Prognosis is good.?


?That doesn?t-?

 

?I know; it?s not very satisfying. But it?s about all MedDiv is willing to tell me. You can always trying messaging him yourself. Might be a little more willing to break doctor-patient for you, given your history with the captain.?

?We aren?t on a comms lock-down??

 

?Can you think of a reason you would be? I?m happy to take suggestions on board; I mean, I?d hate to relinquish my tyrannical dictator pin just because I didn?t do my due diligence, so I?m all ears. Look, the captain?s more? trusting than I am, and it got him dick-stabbed in the back. As soon as the ground crew are through processing, and both MedDiv and SciDiv have cleared you, you?re all back on full duty. No caveats.? I realized then that maybe, just maybe, I didn?t feel qualified to take the chances he had.

 

?Wait; where?s Sam??

 

?I?m taking special precautions with the telepath.?

 

?The fuck does that mean??

 

?It means that I?m not sure yet what to do with her. The captain felt responsible for her predicament, so he made a compromised decision. I?m not compromised, so I?m not rushing to do the same. I?m probing for information.?

 

She hits the wall between us. ?I won?t be in here forever.?

 

?No. But probably long enough that whatever threat you might be formulating is largely irrelevant. But on that note, I should be getting back there.?

 

The Abhijñā was strapped to a metal table in my private conference room, accessible only through my office. She?d lost consciousness shortly after being evacced off the crab planet- MedDiv did a little digging and found some internal bleeding he was able to stop. Part of the reason I left SecDiv as quickly as I had was a memo I?d gotten from Haley; the scanners said the alien?s brain was booting back up. ?What are you doing to me??

 

?I?m not doing anything to you. The company is. I?m its representative, but I?m just the friendly face. Here to make sure that amongst all the glad-hadning and shit-stomping that the company?s long-term interests are being cared for, which usually dovetail with the long-term interest of the Nexus and her crew. In that spirit, I have a question, about your species? physiology. First, how susceptible would you expect to be in the ship?s environment to infection, and second, how quickly does your skin heal from abrasions and bruising??

 

?Why would I tell you that??

 

?Because unlike you, I can?t poke around in people?s skulls for information. So I?m asking, politely. And how cooperative you are directly reflects whether or not you?ll still be welcome in my ship when we?re done- and I have to tell you, your chances don?t look promising. Let?s go over this, point by point, shall we? You?re a telepath, so you?re about the worst thing for a compartmentalized intelligence structure possible. You?re an alien, so your loyalty?s always going to be questionable. You?re carrying a telepathic virus you can give somebody - accidentally- by thinking hard at them- doubling concerns about our information security, even assuming we trusted you personally. And finally, you?re romancing the captain now, but nothing lasts forever; what happens when he doesn?t like having you around any more, or vice versa? Maybe you seek out a way to hurt the captain through the ship. As I see it, your presence here is not in anyone?s long-term interests- except your own.?

 

She?s silent.

 

?Full disclosure: I?m definitely going to have you tortured, and mulling having you killed. It?s nothing personal, you understand. But I have to weigh possibilities here. I?m asking this as a courtesy, because my aim isn?t to have you die accidentally; of course, if you lie to me to try and make it easier on yourself, well, that?s a mark in the can?t be trusted column. And we will figure that out, sooner rather than later. Coagulant factors, or whatever passes for your body?s repair system, that?s something we can measure, after all. You snowball me, maybe even manipulate me- but you can?t lie to the science.?

 

Her skin flashed blue, and moisture began collecting in her plump eyes. ?I know this seems cruel, and I suppose it is. But you know the uncertainty. Maybe you?re getting stronger every day. Maybe, in a day or two, you?ll have figured out the way the human mind works enough that you can take anyone you like over, and then we?re all screwed. You know my dilemma. I?ve seen the tape of you and the captain from quarantine. I didn?t watch the shower scene, but the conversation before was informative. And my conundrum is the same as the captain?s. I can?t decide your fate, because I can?t isolate you as a factor. But I?m also smarter than the captain.?  

 

?Haley, you?re going to be in command of the rest of the interrogation. You can control most of this equipment remotely. For what you can?t accomplish on your own, you?ll have two SecOffs posted outside. But they enter only at your request. It?s your show. If you decide you trust her, she can go. If you can?t, I?m hard-coding this order, right now: she dies. You have no discretion in that matter, Haley, no plan b. If you can?t vouch for her, she?s gone.?

 

?Yes, sir,? Haley said, and she sounded colder than usual, which was odd for an artificial intelligence.

 

As I exit, I?m not sure I made the right call, but it was the only one I could make in good conscience. MilSec is waiting in my office, outside the conference room. He isn?t alone. ?Fuck have you got in there, son??

 

?A big steaming pile of none of your goddamned concern.?

 

?Heh.?

 

?What brings you to my office? Or in your dotterage did you wander in thinking it was your walk-in freezer??

 

?Well, I had me a stroll and I gots to thinking. You don?t have a commander, not a proper one, anyways. What?s to prevent me from declaring martial authority??

 

?The fact that I?d have you shot out of an air lock before you got to the second syllable.?

 

He?s in my face. The half-dozen men from his staff glare menacingly. ?You haven?t got the stones.? I recognize it for what it is: a PR campaign. But I only have two SecOffs in the hall, and the rest are spread across the rest of the ship. I?d be dead before any of them make it into the room.

 

I grab his hand and push it towards my crotch. ?You want to squeeze em, shitbag?? He pulls his hand away. ?Or you just want to assume your little six-man entourage can take out a full complement of SecOffs. Or maybe you?ve forgotten the fact that I?ve got a big red button that will eject the balance of your still frozen foot-soldiers into the somehow even colder clutches of open space.?

 

?Your SecDiv and most of her better Offs are in medical lock-down.?

 

?That may not be the most up-to-date intel,? SecDiv says as my office doors open. Her HUD still isn?t synced back up with the network- or maybe I?d have known she was out. ?So let?s just say that all of that was just idle speculation, you talking out of your ass, maybe with a little dick-measuring thrown in for good homoerotic kabuki. Which means, unless the two of you just want to get it over with and touch penises, it?s about time for your grizzled old soldiery butt to go back on ice.?

 

?Okay,? he says.

 

?I assume the going back to the penalty box, part, not the penis-touching part- because I?m not ready to consent to that; I?d wager real money he?s got freezer resistant dick-lice,? I say as MilSec saunters out of the room.

 

?Didn?t you just try to put his hand on your balls?? SecDiv asks. ?Or are you just pole-shy??

 

?How the fuck-?

 

?I?ve got a bug in your office- or several- whatever. I?d just gotten out of quarantine, and I hear the two of you talking about whipping it out and getting the AI to measure, just quibbling over whether the important dimension was length, girth or mass.?

 

?Gun to my head, it?s girth, though too little of any spoils the whole; and I want those bugs off.?

 

?One, those bugs just saved your bacon. Two, fuck you and your bacon. Three, you don?t actually have authority over SecDiv?

 

?Or your bacon.?

 

?Careful. You?re not the captain, and you haven?t earned the indulgence he has- and I swear to Hecate if you even joke about taking that as an invitation?

 

?The Goddess of necromancy??

 

?To me she?ll always be the patron deity of rectal bleeding caused by severe internal injuries. But our missions are parallel. You temporarily have overall command of the ship, including Nav, Sci, and Med; but I?m in charge of making sure hell doesn?t break loose. Only the captain was on top of me.?

 

?That?s? very Freudian.?

 

?Shut up, because I?m more than happy to invite MilSec back in here to curb-stomp you. I?m going to escort him back down to storage, to make sure he doesn?t try to mark any territory along the way. Then we?re going to talk about Sam.?

 

?Probably not a bad plan. I?ll follow you on the cams, just in case whatever happens; I?d go along if I didn?t think that was more likely to have us refighting the argument from a moment before. This time with probably more shooting.?

 

?I?ll memo on-duty Offs to secure the weapons caches and be ready, in the event.? She runs out of the room, and I watch her catch up to MilSec by the elevator.

 

?I don?t need a babysitter.?

 

?After that little tantrum, not to mention you nearly wetting yourself, you?re lucky it?s only me. HR wanted an armed escort. I told him that would be a diplomatic nightmare, that this way it?s just two colleagues walking through the belly of the ship; but I assure you, I?m more than pissed off enough to slaughter the six of you on my lonesome.? 

 

?Appreciate the sentiment, but I don?t hide behind women?s skirts.?

 

SecDiv looked down at her pants. ?Skirt? Really? That reminds me, I almost forgot to tell you, while you were in storage we received a message for you, from the 19th century. They wanted their sexism back.? One of his staff starts to laugh, but silences it when MilSec catches his eye.

 

They ride the elevator down in silence. The laughing staffer gets into the first pod, probably to avoid any more angry attention. One by one, the rest of the staff get into open pods, and seal themselves away.

 

MilSec hesitates. ?I?m getting goddamned bored of spending my life in a white picket fence simulation.?

 

?Look, I?m happy to kick your papyri balls to powder first, but one way or another you?re going back to sleep. But don?t worry. If the Nexus? mission goes anything like the Argos?, you?ll have plenty of chances to go all cowboy apeshit on some aliens.?

 

He snorted. ?Damn fucking right.?

 

There was a hiss as his cold storage chamber pressurized. ?I?m heading back your way. Samatha.?

 

?Good, because actually, I?d like to debrief.?

 

?I don?t think you need me to air out your balls.?

 

?Heh.?

 

She comes straight back up, and tosses herself into a chair like a fish carcass. For the first time I realize she?s been on her feet, in front of her men or MilSec?s, since that shit on Oma. She relaxes, just for an instant, before she remembers I?m in the room, then she?s back on, steely. ?Where is she??

 

?First, a few things I want to talk about. I know you?re coming off of a bad day, so I?ll try and make it quick, but I?d like to get at things while they?re still fresh.?

 

?I already wrote up my reports.?

 

?And I?ve read your action report from Oma. But I?m also interested in things not in the report, as well as your read on MilSec.?  

 

?We can talk about that after Sam.?

 

?I think we?ll talk about it now.?

 

?Okay,? she gets out of the chair, unafraid to show how much effort that takes, because she?s concealing pulling a holdout pistol until it?s pointed it my nose. ?Put it this way: I?m going to shoot you in the face. Command then devolves to myself or NavDiv, depending on whether Haley rules my shooting you as justifiable or not. At which point whatever you?re doing to Sam ends with your heartbeat.?

 

Haley chimes in. ?The captain placed Vipisana Samatha on the crew roster, and HR did not remove her. Therefore, he has technically been party to torturing a member of the crew, and can be removed pending psychological examination. The shooting?s justifiability is difficult to speculate upon. Exact specifics necessary to rule. Given current information, 43% chance that the shooting would be ruled unjustified, pending PsychDiv examinations of primary participants.?

 

?Regardless, neither me nor NavDiv would keep this shit up. And the captain?s a day or two away from being up and around, at which point you just know he?d murder you in the most horrific way possible. Your option, as of this moment, is to hope Sam and I can talk him down from mutilating you.?

 

?Hmm. I don?t see as I have many options. Haley. What?s the status of the interrogation??

 

?Actually, I was just letting her recuperate for the final test. The plan was to slowly remove the air from the room. MedDiv had monitored her vitals, and was confident he had found the proper threshold, where she?d lose consciousness but not expire.?

 

I interjected. ?And if she went unconscious, fully expecting to suffocate, without reaching into anyone?s head to get away, well, that would have proved both that what she?d said was legitimate, and that she could be trusted. Clever, Haley.?

 

?Thank you, sir, though I admit I largely adapted the idea from an experiment by Welker, with perhaps the trappings of inspiration taken from the Stanford Prison experiment.?

 

?It stops,? SecDiv interrupts. ?Now.?

 

She aims down the pistol at my left nostril. ?Well, since I know the plan, it?s moot, because the telepath knows it?s a nonfatal exercise. And I have grown awfully accustomed to having a face. Let her go, Haley.?

 

I get up, and lead SecDiv through the door at the back of my office. Her SecOffs tense at the sight of the pistol, then relax when they recognize their boss. ?Ma?am,? one says, and they walk off.

 

There?s a hiss as the conference room air pressure equalizes. I lead SecDiv inside. Vipisana is already standing up. She?s covered in lacerations, and bruises, and wobbles on her feet. I catch her, and disgust flashes over her face; she wants nothing more than to shove away from me, but hasn?t the strength. I steady her, and SecDiv helps her back into my office.

 

?Sam,? I say, ?for what it?s worth, I?m truly sorry.?

 

She turns back to me. ?You are? but not as sorry as you should be. You believe what you said about, hiding behind your company?s skirt. As if your actions are absolved, because something larger than yourself can be blamed.? She punches me in the crotch, and I go down to one knee. ?You lied to MilSec. You don?t have the stones; merely weakness.? She leaves in a huff, and SecDiv with her.

 

I push myself up on the edge of my desk. ?That? hurt.?

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