The wire-watcheroriginal microfiction
— and images —
. . . by . . .
In the overseer's chair in central command, Janice sighed. She closed her eyes momentarily, gathering elusive patience — which attempt failed — and banged a prosthetic fist on the smart-marble side-table. Ever since her most advanced trainees were called away for a colony defense emergency (dratted meteoroid vaporization) she had been stuck with this bumbling fool Gerald manning the midnight wiremanip shift, and with a feeling of uncomfortable impotency, been forced to watch over him from afar as a sort of malignant guardian angel. Her green skin was clammy with approaching midnight, and seemed to absorb, rather than reflect, the multicolored light of the video screens that yawned around her in a semicircle.
The neutral, pleasantly mechanical voice of a watcher-drone startled Gerald, causing him to slice a wire-bundle entirely in half. "May I remind you, good sir, we have a limited supply of precious components; the current stock is meant to last for a fortnight further. At this pace, you will have exhausted our stores in the next few days, and we will be left twiddling our thumbs waiting for the next shipment. I need not explain what that will mean for your further employment options." Gerald frowned and set down the plasmic emanator. "Listen, Overseer Janice, I know my place, see," he proclaimed loudly into the empty room. Picking up the plasma tool with his left hand, he deftly re-melded the bundle he had just botched and quickly laced the intricate web of aerated carbon around it in a sloppy circumference. How do you like them apples, he thought, puffing with pride.
Far away, Janice rolled her eyes as a sardonic smile played on the edge of her lips. Gerald only did his best work when reprimanded, which, though still far below the tier of even a mediocre trainee, at least resulted in a salvageable product. How weak the one who requires dire straits to be even slightly competent, she thought haughtily. Suddenly, a deliciously mischievous thought pushed its way to the front of her crowded awareness, and she fought a powerful urge to play the juvenile prank on her charge that it irresistibly suggested. She barked with staccato laughter, and keyed in the override code to change the successful operation counter to decrease with each completion rather than increasing.
As the unmerciful night dragged on and consciousness turned bleary, her quickening heart turned placid and she began to doze off; the minutes eventually found her head placed tenderly on her knees in an awkward sort of fetal position in her commanding throne. Gerald, conversely, found his eyes opening progressively wider and becoming more and more bloodshot with strained concentration as the workman's area sang with an increasing cacophony of troubling aural-feedback. For the first time, he found his confidence slipping — along with his sanity — as correct procedures resulted in his quota of operations-to-do increasing rather than dwindling. Metallic perspiration began to form on his neck and forehead and dripping onto the work surface, where they evaporated into saline deposits upon contacting the plasmifier. He no longer thought, but only did, and as it seemed to him, operated in a hostile alternate reality akin to a nightmare in which he was in no more control of the motions of his own hands as of the movements of distant stars.
Manic conceptions began to surge into his exhausted mind, delirious with failure. He saw his magmatic skin as if for the first time, and suppressed memories of lime-and-orange flames licking rubble exploded from his subconscious. Janice dreamed fitfully of an illicit childhood that, technically speaking, was not supposed to exist. Clones do not have rights, Gerald's demon-on-the-shoulder pronounced cruelly. Your color is your destiny; your color is your creed. A million voices — feminine, masculine, neutral, robotic, insectoid, demonic, angelic, and alien — went about their brainwashing of a younger Gerald.
In front of him were wires, metal, plasma, dripping sweat, and smart panels: yet in their place he saw women and men in tattered robes trudging through ruins, bizarrely tinted tongues of flame, and forests of ash and smog. His forearm muscles tensed absurdly, gripping the plasma torch so violently the trigger snapped and he dropped the tool on the workbench in front of him, which was stuck in the "on" position permanently. As he quivered with hallucinations, rage, and terror, ugly slag of the melting table began to smoothly flow to the ground and the room filled with noxious fumes.
Janice cried out in her sleep and babbled in a nonexistent foreign language. The overseer-screens increased in luminosity as imbalances in the facility's elemental composition triggered automatic atmospheric transmutations to occur. In her shallow dreaming, Janice was hooded, dark-brown-skinned, and fumbling for the hilt of a rusted blade in a scabbard, with a heavy quiver of arrows on her back. She managed to look to the matted soil to see a bow of crystal with a glowing emerald bowstring inviting her to pick it up. Try as she might, she could not connect the nerve-wires necessary to bend down and retrieve it; even if she had wanted to, she could not decide whether the blade or an arrow would be preferable for the task at hand. In fact, she was not sure what exactly the task at hand even was.
"Fascinating indeed," drawled Novakus, from his hi-tech enclosure all gleaming with ivory, suffused by rainbow light. The two central screens showed Gerald on the left, Janice on the right, with extraordinarily complex geometries and biometric graphs for each off to each side. He contemplated the interpersonal dynamics of his experiments stoically for a few minutes, then subtly frowned. At the press of a strawberry-colored palm-shaped indentation, a rectangular panel slid open, and a DNA-like double-helix of fragile-looking orange and green wires slowly emerged from beneath the white surface of Novakus' omnimerkabah enclosure. His right hand blurred and turned from humanoid to a crablike diamond claw, pulsing with abstruse energy. He snapped the vicious claw in midair needlessly, with great pleasure and eager anticipation — then he rectified his failure with a clean, precise snip.
— by Daniel Pendergraft —
- April 20, 2020 -
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