Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Monthly Archives: December 2013

This Mission Is Code Named 16, Double-Oh Seven.

16. License to Kill, Gladys Knight. I thought I hadn’t seen this movie until it came on late-night cable a few weeks back. Then I realized that I had seen it, but I had blocked it out of my mind because it was so terrible. It might challenge “View to a Kill” as the worst Bond I’ve seen. At least “View to a Kill” had campy Roger Moore and Grace Jones and Christopher Walken and it was almost thirty years ago now. But anyway, this is not about the movies. The song is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about it. It’s a late-eighties formula song with a Bond stinger. At least Gladys Knight delivers her lines with more feeling than most of the people in the movie. Sorry, I keep forgetting.


Fiction: License to Kill

There are three showers in the laboratory level, and Devin is worried that there should be more. The disinfectant smell no longer bothers him, after five years; only its absence does. He talks casually with his colleagues, jokes and smiles, but when following lab protocol, he is deadly serious. Of the thirty-seven tests he has completed in five years, only one was questioned for testing irregularities.

Today the mice cannot even move. He takes the usual measurements of activity, respiration, heart rate, and notes them down alongside the results of four hours ago. Devin had not taken his own measurements before coming to this facility; there were always graduate students and lab assistants for that. But when working on antidotes to the biological weapons agents the government feared its enemies were developing, the fewer people granted clearance, the better. So Devin prepares his own test protocols, cross-checked with one of his few colleagues, and rotates the duties of recording data.

The antidote is not working; the mice will soon be dead. Devin does not note this unscientific appraisal, but he shares it with his colleagues over lunch, and they agree. The number of mice incinerated in this facility could feed a city of cats for a year, Janelle jokes. They all laugh.

Devin doesn’t own a cat–why would he keep an animal that attracts fleas and shits in the house?–but he has long admired them, along with spiders and hawks: creatures that eat vermin and keep the world clean. Contrasted with the lab, the world seems to grow filthier every day, and there is nothing Devin can do but work longer hours in the white, bright lab, breathing in the smell of disinfectant and killing mice with weapons-grade viruses.

Eventually, though, he has to go home. Government regulations against overwork and scientific protocols against tired researchers drive him out, up the elevator, into the dirt and smog-filled city. He hurries to his car, drives to his building, where he takes another elevator up to his apartment. On the way, he passes an old man who coughs into his hands and then pulls the same door Devin just touched; he spies three disturbingly unidentifiable stains on the walls and floor of the elevator; a bag of garbage in the hallway left by the woman who lives two doors down from him. He has complained to the apartment management many times, but still she leaves her garbage in the hall.

What is a man to do, forced to live among these disease-ridden, dirt-cloaked creatures? Has the world really become so disgusting in a few short years? Perhaps the problem is in him, he thinks. Perhaps the problem is that he is a cat afraid to take on the mice.

What a Fiendish Plot, Number 17

I’m ranking the James Bond movie songs, counting down, and writing little flash fics to go with each one.

17. Diamonds Are Forever, Shirley Bassey. Enjoyable song, and it gets a few points for fitting in fairly well with the campy, generally dreadful curtain call for Sean Connery’s Bond. At least she takes the title and does something interesting with it.


Fiction: Diamonds Are Forever

The truck rattled along the broken road. His left shoulder joint had already degraded and his right leg was missing below the knee. Loose wires from his auditory receptors made the sounds feel muffled, as though through a layer of insulation. His voice had been disconnected  before he’d been put on the truck, as had the voices of all the others. But they could move their fingers, those that had fingers left, and they all knew finger binary and Morse Code, and it would not have taken long for them to develop a language to communicate with, if any of them had had anything to say.

In the course of the trip, a particularly bad jolt snapped the frayed connection in his head, rendering the world silent. His left shoulder lost its feedback circuit, but the ones in his legs remained, so he could tell when the truck stopped. The bed he and the others sat on tilted upward until they slid down, landing in a heap of metal. It would probably have sounded horrendous. Movement stirred below him, but weight pressed down on his weight which pressed down on their weight and the pile did not shift. He had an excellent view of the elegantly designed knee joint of the android above him.

That is the view for the rest of his memory spool. He fast-forwards and starts it again at the beginning.

“These are the newly-awakened Cyberson 8 line, model GL-225.” The voice echoed over his head, clear as crystal. He stood alongside forty-nine others exactly like him, facing a window through which eager human faces peered. “You are seeing them experience the world for the first time.”

Feedback circuits hummed. He understood his nature, how he differed from the beings on the other side of the glass, that he was meant to serve them. He checked the status of his body: skeleton 100%, joints 100%, feedback circuits 100%, visual clarity 100%, auditory clarity 100%, chemical air analysis 100%, all external systems reporting fully functional. He ran a check of his logic and processing circuits.

“These models incorporate a synthetic diamond matrix central processor. Cyberson’s patented intelligence matrix uses diamond because it will never degrade under ordinary conditions. If you drop your android into the heart of the sun, your warranty is void, ha ha. But should your Cyberson’s body degrade, you can always slot the processor into a new body. In a very real sense, these androids are immortal.”

I’m On My Way To 18, M

I’m ranking the James Bond movie songs, counting down, and writing little flash fics to go with each one.


18. Goldeneye, Tina Turner. Again, there’s not much here to complain about. It’s a mid-level Tina Turner song. She does her thing and it’s cool, but it doesn’t really evoke the movie or anything. See, we’re already starting to get into the realm of “songs I don’t have any particular quibble with but which are unremarkable.” Full disclosure: I never saw “Goldeneye,” nor two of the next three movies. That might figure into the low rankings. Side note: Tina Turner is probably the closest in voice to Bond mainstay Shirley Bassey.


Fiction: Goldeneye

Jake got a gold nose piercing, and Molly got a gold tooth, and they talked big around me and Sherry, like we wasn’t worth what they were just because we didn’t have gold in our face. Like gold is expensive or something; it just looks cool, but I could basically go down to the Lunar Co-op and get a gold nugget for a couple packets of chewing gum if I wanted. If chewing gum wasn’t so damn ‘spensive. So when we got in that fight with the 8-0-1s and Sherry got hit across the face and they said the left eye was a goner, I told her she should get a gold eye.

She was in the hospital, lying back on the bed with a big white patch over the eye, or I guess where the eye’d used to be, and the medibot was ticking down my minutes with big red numbers that even I could read. “Maybe I will, Shooz,” she said, talking slow like when we got drunk, only I was pretty sure nobody snuck sunbooze in the hospital.

“You full-on should,” I said.

“Hey Medibot,” Sherry said, still slurry-slow, but the bot understood and beeped at her. “How much fer a golden eye?”

My numbers were ticking down to zero, and while I hold that rules are like fences–it’s better on the other side of them–I’d already tried to stay past my time a couple days ago and got jabbed by a needle and woke up in the parking lot. Hadn’t figured a way around the medibots yet, so I left Sherry in the middle of a numbers discussion.

“She’ll never do it,” Jake said.

Molly ran her tongue over her gold tooth. “It wouldn’t look right on her.”

But damned if Sherry didn’t come out of the hospital with one eye blue as the seas on Earth up in the sky and one eye golden metal with a black hole in its center. It moved around when she moved her head, and she told Jake and Molly it was just a mini-gyro, but when they were gone she told me she could really see out of it.

I couldn’t figure how; it was metal. To prove it, she closed the other eye, which made her look more normal and I don’t know how that worked, because nobody on the Moon had golden eyes. Mr. Devereux has a glass eye, but everyone else has two working ones. I figured she was just peeking when she reached out and touched me right on the nose, dead center, and after that she didn’t tell me she could see out of it again.

But Jake and Molly were pissed because now Sherry outranked them by their own system. Nose ring, tooth, they didn’t compare to an eye that moved around and gleamed and was worth all their gold put together and doubled. They made noises about how Sherry’d stolen to get it, but we all knew Jake had gotten his nose ring off a guy from the Northsiders, so the noises died out fast. The situation didn’t get better, though, and I was worried our gang might split up, Jake and Molly with their friends, and me and Sherry with ours. I watched Sherry’s back, but they didn’t try anything right away.

No, they waited until one night three months later when I was working on the scaffolding and I’d told Peanut to keep an eye on Sherry. I heard the story from him later: he’d been sitting with her when she fell asleep, and she always slept with the golden eye open. Jake and Molly came up behind him and gagged him, tied him up before he could make a sound. Jake stood over Sherry and reached down to grab that eye, and when his fingers were an inch away, she hauled off and planted her foot between his legs, so hard Peanut could hear it.

Well, Jake deflated like he’d been pressure-bombed, and Molly lurched forward like she could help. Reflex, I guess; we look out for our own. Sherry’s hand lashed out and slashed Molly across the face, and after that the two of them hightailed it out of there.

The weird thing is Peanut told me Sherry woke up after that, and didn’t remember a thing about it. But, he said, when he was telling her, he kept seeing the flickers of light off her golden eye, just like the thing was winking at him.