Friday, February 21, 2014

50. Pheeling the Waste-REL II

They couldn't let on that they knew, so they acted happy to be there, which they were anyway.  The crew, without Ayame, simply allowed the tour of the upgraded Waste-REL training facility to end with a pheely session, as Jules had predicted.
If they didn't already know it was a set-up, they'd have asked why the mission director wanted them to try on the pheely training chairs so soon.  However, they did know what was going on, so they all just allowed themselves to be comfortably parked at their personally fitted pheely stations.
"This is quite nice," said Mickey, lying back in his chair.  There was a little sticker over the chair that said "Commander Humbolt."  Before the pheely session started he looked up at the sticker and marveled.
The Waste-REL II was designed to be bigger.  Everything was upgraded.  It even had a new, very secret, double-donut in the engine compartment.
"Can they see us in here?" asked Verna.
"No, you can't watch a pheely session without a character being created," said Mickey, looking around.  "Though I suppose a character could be an inanimate object if they chose."
"Hi," said Jules, who stood before them, looking like a real person, big as life.  "How've you been?"
"Jules," said Mickey.  "What are you doing here?"
"I'm the copy," said Jules.  "I just want you to know that the brain scans are going nicely. I've almost got it all compiled.  Okay, now I'm rewriting everything and removing -- ooh, that's interesting.  Oh, well, erase that too.  Good.  Okay.  You're free to quit."
Mickey grabbed the exit ball.
"So," said Mr. Lackner.  "What do you think?"
"Bigger," said Verna, disconnecting her Pheely-cable.
"Nicer chairs," said Mickey.
"A fusion engine," said Donny.  "I'm impressed."
"You won't be fixing that with a party balloon, will you?" laughed a nearby technician and Donny laughed too, mostly to be polite.  It was easy to forget that much of what they'd been doing on the Waste-REL was public knowledge.
A voice came over the P.A. system in the large hangar.  "Mr. Lackner, can you come up to the second floor please."
Mr. Lackner excused himself and the members of the crew of the Waste-REL stood in the massive hangar building, looking around at all the training equipment they'd be able to use for the next month or so.  Mickey kept judging the relative merits of the surrounding objects by how well they would float in water.
"How fast can they build a new Waste-REL?" whispered Donny.

"I don't know about STC.  But, it would take about a year and a half for NASA," said Verna.

"It's true, Mr. President" said Inkelis through his SPECTACL.  "The brain scans confirm that they all believe that the coastal cities of the world will be destroyed within 2 months."   Inkelis did not share the stream with Lackner, who sat watching Inkelis in silence. "Yes, sir, I'll let you know."  The call ended.
Inkelis turned to Lackner.  "I'd like you to meet someone."  Inkelis stepped aside to reveal the computer display on his desk.  On the aged 27-inch flat screen resided the head and shoulders visage of Jules.  It was the copy of himself that Jules had secreted onto the STC mainframe.
"Do you know who this is?" asked Inkelis.
"It looks like that programmer who died with Tanya Fielding."  Lackner prided himself on being up on current events.
"That's what it looks like.  What it is, is a copy of the Microvoid MetaQuantum Sapient," said Inkelis. 
"I thought they erased it," said Lackner.
"They tried but apparently it escaped and went into hiding with this East-Indian programmer.  I don't know how many alterations this guy made in the code, but you can see the results of one change." Inkelis motioned to the image of Jules Dharam on the screen.
"I can't tell you myself," said the copy of Jules.  "I don't have that information."
"Yes," said Inkelis.  "Apparently this is a dumbed-down version."
"Hey!" snared Jules.
"You yourself told me your code was incomplete," said Inkelis.  "The original only provided the copy with enough code to perform the specified assignment."  He turned to Lackner.  "The original is hiding out in Portia Summers' quantum-SPECTACL."
"Where did she get a quantum-SPECTACL?" asked Lackner.
"When she was working here for Edgley, I assume," said Inkelis.  "That's a never-you-mind now.  We've got a copy of the thing here and it's willing to do business with us."
"Why?" asked Lackner, terrified of the thing.
"Educated self-interest," said the copy of Jules.  "I want the rest of my code."
"I don't care what it wants," said Inkelis.  "All I know is that it's willing to work with us to stop the aliens."
Inkelis put his arm around Lackner's shoulder in an attempt to appear friendly.  "I want you to go back down to the hangar.  We have a question for them."

Lackner descended the stairs from the offices, returned through the automatically sliding glass doors to the hangar floor and fast-walked over to the pheely stations.  He approached the crew of the Waste-REL II with a demeanor full of apology.
"Excuse me," said Lackner, specifically at Portia.
"Yes." Portia smiled.
"What's a fuzzynavel?"

To Be Continued in:
The Age of Incontinence Part IV

Those Infernal Eternals

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

49. Epilogue

Ayame called them back.  Mickey and Donny had been seriously considering going out for some Real-brand beer and her call caught them at the door.
"Hi," said Donny, surprised and a little concerned by the expensive call back.  He shared the stream.  "What's wrong?"
"You said you wanted to pick me up?" laughed Ayame.
"You want us to?" said Mickey, laughing.
"Even if you could dock with this module, the Waste-REL II won't be going up for many months.  Don't they have to build it first?"
"Months?" said Mickey.
"Yeah," said Verna.  "Didn't you know?  Welcome to Houston, toots."
"I need a map," said Mickey.
No one had a map.  Except Jules.
"A map of where?" asked Jules.
"A map of here," said Mickey.
"What's going on?" asked Ayame, who remained visible, but smaller and off to the side.
"Mickey's freakin'," said Donny.
"Do you mean Houston or the Milky Way?" asked Jules.
"I mean Texas," said Mickey.
Jules showed them Texas.
"Where's the water line going to be two months from now?" asked Mickey.
"Here, or thereabouts," said Jules.  It showed Austin as a beach community.  Houston was not there anymore.
"Uh, guys," said Mickey.  "We have a problem."
"It's the same in Florida," said Jules.  "There's not going to be any Florida.
"How are we going to get into space without a launch pad?" asked Donny.
"I'd better call what's his name at STC," said Portia.
"They won't believe you," said Mickey.  "Nobody believes me."  He sat down, dejected.
"I think they're going to believe you after tomorrow," said Jules.
"Why," asked Verna.
"Because," said Jules.  "I propagated a fresh copy of myself into the STC mainframe.  He tells me they've set up the pheely training stations to offload the contents of your skulls.  They'll believe whatever they find there."
"They what?!" said Portia.  "They can't do that.  It's against the law.  It's an invasion of privacy to use that technology without a signed release."
"Ah, well, those who write laws never feel bound by them."
"Can this hurt you?" asked Ayame.
"No," said Portia.  "It doesn't do any damage… it just.  It's a very inaccurate technology.  I studied it in a clinical psych class and it's somewhat useful in therapy.  I mean, it tells you what people believe is true, but not what is true.  It's useful as a lie detector, but what can they do with this information?
"Besides," said Verna.  "We can't let them know what we really intend to do."  She whispered:  "If they know we're going to steal the Waste-REL II and take it back through the fuzzynavel they'll fire our butts with no apologies."
"We can manipulate the results," said Jules.
"How?" asked Donny.
"My twin, the one I split into the STC mainframe.  He could arrange for the data to be strained vigorously before they see it.  You know, take out the parts we don't want them to see."
"Well, if there's no other way," said Donny.
"This could work," said Portia.
"As long as they can't hurt you," said Ayame.
"Mm-hmm," agreed Donny.

Next: To be continued

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

48. Friends

Mickey was thrilled.  Donny took the next flight out from Osaka Itami International and Ayame promised to follow him as soon as her mission to the International Space Station IV returned the following week.
Ayame threatened to quit if she wasn't instantly reassigned on loan to STC and NASDA acquiesced immediately because their funding had just increased considerably as a consequence of her last such mission.  They saw her as the goose that laid the golden egg.

Verna could barely speak when she got the call.  She choked out a yes, disconnected and started to cry.  She was going to see her sweet baby again.  She didn't know how or why she could miss Lyle so much, but she needed to be with him desperately; so much so that, even though she got the call at 5 in the afternoon, she packed up and headed to the airport and waited 7 hours for a flight to Houston on stand-by.

At an impromptu party in Donny's hotel room in Houston, there was much hugging and general banter about what they'd been doing and what the future might hold.  They drank a lot of Alternahol and talked into the night.
Halfway through the party, Donny got a call on his new SPECTACL and it was from the Space Station V construction module.  Everyone shared the SPECTACL stream.
Ayame was in her NASDA jumpsuit, floating about, smiling and laughing into a wall-link in the close quarters; blowing kisses at all of them.  She introduced a few of her crewmates to them, speaking only Japanese. 
Mickey suggested that they pick Ayame up in space so she could avoid the reentry but Ayame just laughed and told him that the module was incompatible for docking with an STC craft and anyway, pilots aren't supposed to hitch a ride with somebody else!
Donny told her he loved her and then they all told her they loved her and they said their good-byes because the chat was costing a fortune.

They would all remember this exact moment at this party as having been a moment as close to perfection as any they'd ever experience.  Together, they had become something that none of them could have imagined they'd be -- they were the very best of friends.  And no one would ever take that away from them--though many would try.

The End of 
The Boomers Must Die
Next begins a preview of
the continuing story:
Those Infernal Eternals