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A creativity game

Here is some random stuff I have stumbled across in the past week, which I was hitherto unaware of, and which may or may not make it into a future work of near-future fiction. Can you think of a short story plot that uses any three of these four things?

(Note: when playing "think up a story around these objects" extra credit is awarded for characterisation and transparency, i.e. for believable human beings interacting plausibly with these gizmos in a manner that doesn't strain credulity within the reference frame of the narrative.)

a) The Helikopter-Streighquartett by Karlheinz Stockhausen; to be performed by a string quartet, each member of which is flying in a different helicopter.

A performance requires: four helicopters, each equipped with a pilot and sound technician, television transmitter and 3-channel sound transmitter, and an auditorium with four columns of televisions and loudspeakers, a sound technician with mixing desk, and a moderator (optional), as well as the members of the string quartet. The piece focuses on the simple idea of a string quartet, with the rotor blades acting as a second instrument, with microphones placed so the helicopters may blend with the instruments themselves, whilst the instruments remain louder than the blades.
Yes, this composition has in fact been performed and there's a free podcast of part of it available via iTunes.

b) The HK P11 underwater pistol. What it says on the label: a pistol, for shooting underwater. It looks like a modern version of the old pepper-box revolver, minus the revolver side of things — the barrels have to be reloaded back at the factory. Fires special dart-like bullets; maximum effective range underwater is around 15 metres.

c) Elastration. (Link is Not Safe For Squeamish Males.)

d) An "internet of things" camera — more succinctly, a tiny Arduino board with a compact camera and an Eye-fi card (so that any images saved to the card get uploaded via wifi to ... well, wherever you configured it to send them).

93 Comments

1:

Says something about familiarity that I had to follow the elastration link to figure out it's something I've done every spring for 20 years...
(grew up on a sheep farm)

2:

Finally, the fish in that barrel can shoot back!

3:

So, you're taking my suggestion about us devising plotlines, with the winner suing you for plagiarism! If I were you, I'd include a EULA in the above text

4:

That helicopter quartet video is in fact not the kind of thing that will change your life forever, sadly. If I had just three words allowed to explain it, they would be "pointless art wankery".

5:

Oh, I don't know about "pointless" -- it significantly raises the threshold for art wankery to be notable, doesn't it?

6:

I think it's going to be PAINFUL for someone - whatever it is.

7:

>>>So, you're taking my suggestion about us devising plotlines, with the winner suing you for plagiarism! If I were you, I'd include a EULA in the above text

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/05/faq-fanfic.html

I don't think you'd be able to sue Charlie. See the link above. If he allows to use his stuff with "serial numbers filed off", rest assured he'll do the same with yours.

8:

It's one of those things that city folk can be completely unaware of, while country lads and lasses like you and me just take it as part of the background.

And at least it's less messy than one other method. The one where someone just bites them off.

9:

One character is a rancher, which ropes in the elastration pretty easily. He owns a pretty vast sweep of land that extends all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. His sister is killed in a car accident, and next of kin, he's now raising his niece, a city-philic technogal. This isn't a fish out of water story, though, because our rancher isn't a luddite or anything. He's actually running a pretty modern free-range ranching system complete with a wireless mesh-network and RFIDs in the cows. This is where the Arduino camera comes into play.

Well, some drug runners are using his land as a right-of-way, connecting to his property via submarines (later on, this will tie in with the P11), and our niece character notices this- and then notices that the smugglers are also leaving a bag of money under certain marked locations, and hey- her uncle is picking them up. The areas covered by his mesh network also lay out routes for the smugglers- basically, from the instant they touch land, they're able to be in constant contact, enabling JIT routing of massive drug shipments. Essentially, with uncle's help, they've built a modern global supply chain for drug trafficking, complete with demand modeling. Advanced modeling runs on an SAP instance, hosted in Sweden.

Well, the smugglers get into another sideline without running it past uncle- people. In and out of the country, sometimes on bad terms. Some government TLA gets involved, still thinking it's all about drugs, uncle wants out but can't, niece becomes leverage and has to defuse this situation through a combination of gumption and technosavvy.

Pad it out to a thousand pages of cul de sacs and technological rambling, and it could easily be a Neal Stephenson novel.

10:

Also, I should make it explicit, the gun is part of a climax that takes place involving the submarine.

And we can work in the Helikopter-Streighquartett as a bonus, because we can easily throw in a music nerd character, and it could easily be our niece, although I think she's probably more into noise rock. The ranch will probably have a decentish sized staff, so these characters don't exist in a vacuum. Heck, we could give the drug smugglers a dangerously exotic leader, who fetishitically collects unique records (and heck, if he's making millions with drugs, maybe he's eccentric enough to try and have Helikopter-Streighquartett performed for him).

11:

a,b, and d sound like some laundry-inspired hunt and chase. Someone swimming underwater armed with the pistol, away from arduino-internet motes, and shielded against everything but Streighquartett-radar

12:

Here's a go for three of them:

Our protagonist is a freelance blogger in a nation with a questionable government; perhaps a nation that within recent history went through a fairly violent transition but despite initial optimism a stable, democratic (as in actually democratic rather than the Russian variety) government has yet to form and there is a large amount of tension between various factions.

One of said factions has recently been investing money in lots of public art projects, ostensibly to attract (through elaborate advertisement) foreign investment. Our protagonist suspects that the latest outlandish project, the purchase of 4 reconditioned/demilitarised apaches, is a smokescreen to cover some sort of corruption.

In the process of enquiring our protagonist is kidnapped by some unnamed thugs who tie him up and leave him wearing an elastration band over night. In the morning they remove it and threaten that if he doesn't drop it they'll put it on and leave it on until it drops off.

Undeterred the protagonist continues but a bit more prepared. Next time they come for him they confiscate his cameras/phones not realising that the SD card in one of them is uploading their torture and confirmation that something is indeed going on. The helicopters are going to be used to round up protesters as per some corrupt/authoritarian movement. Thus facebook revolution 2.0 is started.

For an added bonus include a scene where the protagonist partakes in an underwater hunt with the gun; another example of outlandish "art" activities designed to get prestige, tourists and business.

13:

BTW the first underwater pistols deployed were by the Russians:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPP-1_underwater_pistol

14:

Elastrator.
At last, a new nickname for my ex gf.

15:

Re: HK P11

I see someone else has been reading The Register today. Very disappointed you didn't mention that Lara Croft used one in the first Tomb Raider film though, and while wearing a wetsuit too :)

16:

What we don't know here is which near future?
Is this set in mundane Scotland, or does helicopter music open a gate into Miriam's or Bob's alternate universes?

17:

It is but a hop, skip and jump from that Register article to the ASM-DT underwater assault rifle ...

18:

Hmmm. Maybe there's some creative, non-ball-withering "Maker" / McGuyver use for an elastrator.

19:

You should put the Helikopter Streichquartett (note the 'ch' instead of 'gh') into a situation in which it is even remotely plausible and has a chance of being musically pleasing: a dream.

So, there is that farmers boy growing up in Alice Springs, helping out on the farm. Of course, in that place you're not talking about thousands of mooing cows and bulls locked up in feed-lots. Cattle is grazing out in the bush, helicopters and motorcycles have long taken over the horses duty of caring for the cattle.

But caring for cattle alone is like living in Alice Springs, challenging, but uninspiring in the long run. After finishing school, a business trip to New Zealand with his father ended up with him working on a sheep farm. Thousands of kilometers away from home, moo and milk were replaced with meh and wool. Boredom got the better of him. But plastering your facebook page with surrepitiously taken pictures of the fallen-off tails and genitals whose bloodstreams have been squeezed off with rubber bands not only makes for very little amusement in the long run, but is also making you lose friends fast. Not even doing the same thing live, loading up pictures of black, shriveling testicles as the sheep are running past him.

Also, the nightmares that gave him were exquisite. Pictures of his old Australian home, his New Zealand job mixed. Helicopters performing all the aerobatics it takes to drive the cattle through the bush into the pen, at first a hint of music, then ever more clearly the ride of the valkyries, blasting from loudspeakers on the helicopters (wherever those came from), driving the bulls into a frenzy - which was fine until he realized that he wasn't a camera and a bull was charging towards him stomping on his, soon to be black and shriveling, testicles...

He stopped taking those pictures after that night.

20:

All four in one story you say? Here we go:

A spy scuba diving underwater gets an auto txt from his internet cam. The txt has a picture of an elastration in progress that his friend thought would be funny to hold up to the internet cam, knowing it would get sent to his scuba diving spy friend. Scuba spy, disgusted, accidentally squeezes the trigger of his HK P11, which shoots out of the water, into the rotor one of the Streighquartett helicopters, causing it to crash into the other 3 nearby helicopters, killing all involved. Scuba spy, none the wiser completes his mission and buys his friend a beer for the amusing shenanigan.

Well, there she is. You asked for it.

21:

Beat me to it. I was going to comment on the Lara Croft use of an underwater pistol. I think there's an AK variant that fires underwater, but as with all underwater firearms, the range is quite short and it requires specialized ammunition.

Amazing, isn't it, how limited our underwater weapons really are? After torpedos and depth charges, the options narrow drastically.

As for the others, when you get to the qigong involving attaching weights to testicles, give me a buzz.

22:

All I can think of is the obvious one.

Bob and Mo get tapped for a semi-covert helecopter assault on a rogue Deep One breeding an army in a lake near Loch Ness. They use the The Helikopter-Streighquartett (more properly the Hubschraubergestützte Kräfte-Streighquartett, developed to provide airmobile OCCULUS units with counter-posession capabilities), live mixed by Bob, to subdue the hostiles. Proof was gathered by seeding the area with tiny spycams, which dump data into the databanks of Laundry cars that drive by.

They can't kill the Deep One or its progeny (they're related to a high ranking Deep One ally), so they are forced to subdue it with tranquilizers, and castrate it and the offspring.

Twist occurs, and Bob is fitted with an elastration ring. Mo is awesome, and saves him =)

23:

Stockhausen Remembrance Day, some hundred years in the future, terraformed Mars or the like. Borrowing a bit from KSR and from Schismatrix for the setting.

Prot. plays a part in the helicopter Streichquartett that is given for ghis day. Prot. plays violin and is member of some elite mars heli force. She has a sicrit mission: to elastrate John Carter, president of Mars, father of some dozen children, on the verge of becoming dictator, with the backing of his numerous family.

The Stockhausen heli streichkonzert is her big chance to get near Carter and to apply the rubber bands. Chases and classical encounters happen.

The whole thing is photographed and narrated by the internet of
thing camera drone, starting with frame #1.


24:

So posting this where I am, I can't help but go Lovecraftian with this:


Stockhausen was once quoted in regards to the 9/11 attacks as saying "Well, what happened there is, of course—now all of you must adjust your brains—the biggest work of art there has ever been. The fact that spirits achieve with one act something which we in music could never dream of, that people practise ten years madly, fanatically for a concert. And then die."

Well, it turns out that he could dram big...bigger than anyone could have guessed; for the avant-garde style and musical genius for which he was famous came not from the the flesh and blood of the famed composer, but from subtle pulses by day, and by nightmarish visions in his sleep; all of which ushered forth from Great Lord Cthulhu who lay dreaming in his dead city beneath the south Pacific. His greatest piece "The Helikopter-Streighquartett" was recognized immediately for what it was by members of the John Cage Trust (merely a cover for those who saw the truth in the earlier musician's blasphemous works): the key to waking the sleeping god and ending the reign of man.

Members of the trust who at the age of six were inducted into the inner circle of castrati through ritual elastration stirred to action now that the stars were at last right. They have boarded helicopters, and are on their way to the south pacific to play the chords and sing the terrible verses which will end the world.

The only hope lies in an aging ex special forces member turned music critic who was abandoned by his nation decades ago on psychological grounds for theories relating to this very topic. having wasted his prime years, been thrown away by his country, and having existed in near poverty for decades; our hero has seen the signs, and after years trying to himself that he was wrong, gathers his meager resources... diving gear, a HK P11 underwater pistol (a purloined memento from his service days), and what little hard evidence he had. He embarks on a journey to prove his life worthwhile and to stop the plot which threatens all mankind.

26:

So can I finally threaten my scuba-buddy with my underwater pistol while he self-elastrates, filming the whole thing on my eye-fi card, while a quartet of helicopters provides the soundtrack?

I loved this post and the comments. The world is more wonderfully horrible than I could have imagined. :)

27:

Which in turn reminds me of this book (which I have indeed read) -- the autobiography of Doddy Hay, another barking mad Brit of similar vintage to Commander Crabbe, except I believe he actually lived to retirement age (which, on the face of it, is rather unlikely for someone whose chosen post-military career was ejector seat ballast test pilot).

28:

A near-future police procedural:

DI Jones is called when a body of a man is found in his mistress' home. The man has been castrated (but this is not the cause of death). police in the future are decentralized: there is no police station. Detectives patrol a small beat in a car outfitted for mobile connectivity. They use their camera phones to tag and identify clues for cases, uploaded to a secure police-net cloud where consulting detectives in the online community help sort out the data. The ballistics for the dead man come back identifying the cause of death as gunshot at close range by an HK P11 underwater pistol. Though the victim was dry when he was found.

The trail leads Detective Jones to a Christian identity Cult who uses elastration as a method of curtailing sexual impulses. He identifies the deceased as a high ranking member of the clergy in his local chapter. No one in his church knew he had a mistress, of course and they'd like to keep it that way.

Turns out the killer is a member of the deceased church, who found out about his mistress and killed him out of jealousy. Used the HK P11 to frame an immigrant squid farmer named Alexander Chu for the crime (inland flooding from global warming has opened up opportunities for seaside communities to begin innovative farming under the sea to produce food and biofuel from algae and kelp).

29:

Or keep it neat and pithy and it's a modern-day Nancy Drew.

30:

The Elastration Channel.

A network of autonomous networked cameras is transmitting graphic footage of animal castration around the world...

31:

Dinner suited super-spy (charming, thuggish, or old with comedy sound effects, take your pick) blags his way into the performance of the Helikopter-striechquartet being performed at an arms show (preferably in a made up eastern european country) by the minions of an evil european accented psychopathic weirdo. He uses the internet enabled camera to take pictures of various secret doo-dads, before being captured by baddies henchmen. baddie gloats, tortures superspy using elastration device (if using old comedy superspy insert scene of rubber band pinging off special elastration pliers into henchman's eye during inevitable escape). superspy escapes (from superyacht with moon pool in bottom for nefarious minisub purposes) chased by frogmen, steals underwater gun off the dozy work experience henchman, shoots rest. reports to cantankerous boss, who reams him out for not completing mission. superspy smugly points out that when baddie stuck eye-fi card in computer it transmitted all baddie's data to computer concealed under wig/down cleavage of ethnically diverse sidekick. all back home for tea, medals and consequence free sex with enemy agents.

There we go. the most blantant and obvious scenario possible. i dare anyone to get more blatant and obvious than that!

32:

"Hmmm. Maybe there's some creative, non-ball-withering "Maker" / McGuyver use for an elastrator."

They're widely used behind glider (and, I assume, other light aircraft) instrument panels to help seal pneumatic tubes to the spigots on instruments for things like pitot and static pressures. I'm not sure they're much use in that application, mind you - they never seemed to me to apply that much force on the pipe.

33:

(Told from the point of view of professor teaching a criminal psychology class based on the uploaded materials described below. The story focuses on deconstructing the mental state, and reasoning of the insane yet strangely relatable/pitiable main character. )

After escaping from an asylum; an elastration fetishist/radical anarchist life-logs (via a personal area net attached to his clothing/effects) his attempts to assassinate the congressman who passed the anti genital-mutilation law that led to his decade long confinement. The event, from his rambling monologues about the injustice of his situation, to the planning, to his ultimately failed attempt to castrate and murder his target during the cacophony of a Helikopter-Streighquartett performance are automatically posted to a YouTube for the world to see after the events took place.

34:

Does this remind anyone else of saturn's children? I can't quite place my finger on why though, possibly the way the unseen tester is questioning her in a sort of threatening manner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM2Rkqvd5uY

35:

I think it could be a Laundry novel as well - The arduino cameras are medusa enabled and deployed all over the UK in unexpected/hidden locations - including some mobile versions - inducing terror and feeding some heinous lovecraftian horror. Elastration is used on a tentacled being - however it has the outcome of creating new, small versions of the nameless horror instead of castrating it. The nameless horrors can be lulled into a catatonic state by the Helikopter-Streighquartett where they can be killed using the underwater pistol. There would be a lot of grim details about the terror being induced on the local population - but nobody would want to shutdown the interwebs.

36:
He's actually running a pretty modern free-range ranching system complete with a wireless mesh-network and RFIDs in the cows...

Actually, my brother and I just built one of those. For songbirds, I recall. Chickens are next.

Welcome to the unevenly-distributed present,
Aaron

37:

I can easily tie in sinister underwater weaponry to the security operations surrounding the Olympics, and elaborate helicopter-symphony performance pieces would scarcely qualify as a warmup to the Opening Ceremony.

But I think it's time for me to back away from the keyboard and turn off the Internet when I've started thinking of a campaign to get Elastration elevated to admission as a competitive Olympic event.

A team event.

And you really, really, don't want to think about miniaturised Internet Of Things devices providing an all-angles immersive-experience future media broadcast of *that* event.

I'll be spending August 2012 in the frozen wilds of Canada: thank you for not asking.

38:

Here you go. Four paragraphs.

"I was contemplating my nerveless right hand, now purple and smelly, certainly in the last stages of dying if not already dead, when I heard the whirring of Magda's propulsion system, modulated to play Wagner's “Ride of the Valkeries,” as she buzzed over the house. When we first met the sound had been terrifying, both because it's so damn loud, and because I had been wearing dark skin for most of the previous month as part of a protest against the racism that doesn't permeate 23rd century society anymore, but now I knew the noise as something similar to a human humming her favorite tune. And it wasn't a positive reference to Wagner, but a passing reference to some old 2D thing she'd liked once, back when she was working as a covert ops drone to pay off her manufacturing fee.

I took my left hand out of my pants – honestly, I hadn't even noticed I was touching myself there – and made sure the cam-bots in the entrance hall of our house were turned on and ready to track my beloved. I had been watching the amputee channel, so I turned the main video wall to something neutral, moving slowly so the respect I show my lover by not watching porn while she's around wasn't turned into something comedic when she edited the footage. Once upon a time, my frantic efforts to remove a ligature and get dressed before she made it in the door had shown up on NewCube and caused our first major fight.

I was calmly exiting the room when the old wooden door crashed off it's hinges and flew across the room, embedding itself in the antique drywall across the room, (we were definitely going to have trouble with the antiquities board again) followed closely by an antique piece of what appeared to be Iranian manufacturing gear.

“Honey, I got the contract” she screamed, the ancient robotic arm flailing against the ceiling, “I'm performing Helikopter-Streichquartett at the New Atlantis Suicide Festival!”

I ran to her, doing my best to avoid the big new piece of gear, and hugged her chassis one-handed as she lifted me briefly off the ground. “That's wonderful!” I shouted. Actually, I'd read about it on a news-feed earlier in the day, but I'd learned long ago that Magda needed to see lots of enthusiasm or she got depressed and started thinking about all the people she'd killed during her military career.

Tomorrow I'd give her the Heckler Koch HK P11 I'd ordered as a celebration gift, but for tonight it would be just her and I and... she somehow got the giant antique to stay still for a second and ran a manipulator down my nerveless right hand. I watched it caress the skin and of course felt nothing. Then she lost control of the big antique and a nut-driver of some kind started spinning and I was flying across the room and there was blood everywhere. I thought briefly of the YouCube views this latest malfunction would generate, then fell unconscious."

39:

The Elastration Channel. Part 2

A network of autonomous networked cameras is transmitting graphic footage of animal castration around the world...

Meanwhile police surveillance drones are being hijacked and recruited into an Orchestra with the intention of disrupting the London olympics opening ceremony with a flash mob orchestration of Helikopter-Streighquartett for Kazoo and Swannee whistle....

40:

Jim Smith: "...police surveillance drones are being hijacked and recruited into an Orchestra with the intention of disrupting the London olympics opening ceremony with a flash mob orchestration of Helikopter-Streighquartett for Kazoo and Swannee whistle...."

You have no idea how much I'd love that to come true...

41:

Jonathon GreenJim Smith: "...police surveillance drones are being hijacked and recruited into an Orchestra with the intention of disrupting the London olympics opening ceremony with a flash mob orchestration of Helikopter-Streighquartett for Kazoo and Swannee whistle...."

You have no idea how much I'd love that to come true...

Oh I think I do. Write what you feel and all that.

42:

An agent of a collection-agency, bent on collecting his pound of flesh by elastration if necessary, is imprisoned by a mad composer. The agent gradually becomes sympathetic with the composer's radical concepts, in a case of... Stockhausen string/drone!

They go on to push the boundaries of musical experience using the underwater pistol. And elastration.

43:

In an artist's cooperative on a sheep farm in mid wales, a night of drinking between friends goes a tad awry. A robotics artist (adapting the helicopter quartet for an indoor performance using computer controlled quadrotors), his farmer brother, and his theatrical propmaker/armourer boyfriend (making P11s for the west end debut of Seaquest DSV, the musical) find themselves in a game of elastration roulette with a struggling performance artist.

Little do they know that the building has been filled with a network of hidden wi-fi enabled cameras, webcasting the whole event to a network of castration snuff fetishists in a last ditch attempt for the artist to get funding from the Welsh Artists for Neutering Council. Will they survive the night, balls intact?

44:

Several millennia into the future, Padraig Ó Púca is a time skater, one of a small number of unlicensed time travellers who journey illegally back into the past to recover valuable objects for a fee large enough to buy a small planet. Padraig is a lovable rogue who depends on his quick wits, great charm, good looks (in case you haven’t guessed, he’s Irish), and time-skating skills to elude the Time Guards and bring back the objects his employers want.

He has been hired by the evil and sadistic Plutokrat of Fortress B-189/16 to recover four sets of ancient objects.

1. The Plutokrat is an ancient music enthusiast. He is also a purist who wants to hear this music played on the original instruments. He hires Padraig to collect all the period instruments necessary to perform the Stockhausen piece accurately.

2. An armoury’s worth of fully loaded HKP11 Underwater Pistols. The Plutokrat is planning to invade the Waterworld and add it to his collection of personal planets.

3. An “internet of things” camera. Despite many references in the written record to this object, no known exemplar of it exists in the future. Its addition to the Plutokrat’s personal museum would make him the foremost collector of his time and allow him to exact revenge on his chief rival, the Grand Councillor of Fortress D-14/a/92, who recently outbid the Plutokrat in an auction of an original iPhone 1.

4. One thousand elastrator rings. I have led too sheltered a life to imagine what the Plutokrat wants with these, but it’s undoubtedly not for the squeamish.

After many scrapes and near-captures not to mention vigorous sexual escapades whose descriptions skirt the boundaries of permissible pornography in your local jurisdiction (Padraig has a partner in every time zone), Padraig accumulates all the objects. But being the honourable thief he is, he also manages to foil the Plutokrat’s plans to perform the Stockhausen piece, invade the Waterworld, out-collect the Grand Councillor, and do whatever he is planning to do with all those elastrator rings.

45:

Mo is kidnapped by "death eaters" with her violin, and forced to participate in Helikopter-Streighquartett being performed over Loch Ness. Death Eaters know that her playing will open a portal to bring through their demon god (which will be televised by mobile cameras.)
Bob, in the meantime, contacts his almost demon lover from the depths who supplies him with an HK P11 underwater pistol and transport to Loch Ness. Unfortunately, the pistol works best underwater, and he misses. (He can't shoot down Mo's helicpter anyway.)
Mo, however saves the day, because her inspired playing opens a very narrow portal, which happens to match exactly the dimensions of the elastor which she carries in her violin repair kit.
Enter demon....

46:

As Anton Pavlovich Chekhov wrote: never have a HK P11 underwater pistol in the first act unless you intend to use it by the third act.

* "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky), 1 November 1889.
* "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." From Gurlyand's Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521.’[1]
* "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." From S. Shchukin, Memoirs (1911)

47:

That's a bit like saying that hired killers in your movie should not talk about what a quarter pounder burger is called in France

48:

"server error"

49:

I forgot to indicate that Padraig is travelling back to our near future, which allows commentary on our current predicament.

50:

Seems that when I post, and get a server error message, I have actually been successful in posting.

51:

unfortunatly the music _is_ going to be performed at the olympics…
and climbers used to use those elastic bands to keep their extenders/slings under control (before you got branded ones)
so perhaps some perhaps some 'working at height (IRATA)' persons get 'useful idiot'-ed into some kind of security paranoid high above the stadium this summer

not sure how the gun fits in unless there's a second unit in the Aquatics Centre, but panoptics never go a miss in situations like this

52:

At 120, Ella Strator his an old woman. She has been known, in the midle of the 21st century as "the body art", all her body, heart, ears, eyes ... etc had been wired in utero with a total internet of thing, because when she was born was the extrovert era and her parents wanted her to have a life-log. By the way, her real name is Juliette Casanova (parents ! never trust those with a curious sense of humour). But things went wrong and her embodied internet had been hacked before her birth and her whole life has been seen by everyone on the planet : a star is born ... She became "the cutiest thing on earth, followed by millions, the rule 34 occured and ... she was followed by much much more persons... So she decide to be an artist, lerned to dance, sing, perform, play string and piano. And she became very rich as every second of her life was public.
But month by month her internal internet was older and older she could not update it and finally was forbidden. Her last performance was a helicopter streichquartet where the four musicians and the pilots had been wired like her.
Now she is just an old lady, although much richer than most and she wents out of the hospital for her 4th ageing cure when it occurs to someone that her internet of the body could be very interesting indeed (for example to know her credit card number) if old kind of laptop (you know, the ones before quantum electronics) could be found.

(once again, excuse my english, I am not a native speaker)

53:

forgotten, not forbidden (sorry)

54:

Second try after an error message:

This one is my favorite. It sort of cheats, using a facile method for tying up the objects, but at the same time it's eminently readable and both the hero and the vilain are interesting sorts.

But you know, though I liked that story I don't find those four objects really that interesting. I would have been more excited by stuff like this:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/03/new-diesel-electric-hybrid-ferries-are-a-seagoing-first/

and also, potentially net-connected cyborg snails like the ones being developped in Potsdam NY, and also the South African army's G6 howitzer with a V-LAP projectile and also Volvo's YCC, or Your Concept Car, a prototype Volvo hatchback car designed entirely for women, by women.

55:

The answer to your question is YES. Simples!

56:

I admire the ovaries on Stockhausen. If Jerry Pournelle had done the same thing y'all would be praising him as a mad genius. Aviation! Scope and spectacle! Sense of wonder! I love the crazy happy pretentious stuff of our time: there's so little of it.

The first, third, and fourth seem obvious enough for a near-future thriller. Off the coast of Dubai, the underwater luxury hotel the Domdaniel plays host to the Emirate Bienniale, where the up-and-coming artists and scientists from the world's six power blocs come to meet, exchange ideas, and cavort in the sun...

57:

First, *second*, and fourth.

58:

Elastration and music -- and no one has yet brought in castratos?

59:

No apologies necesary! That works just fine as flash fiction.

60:

Carlos wrote:

If Jerry Pournelle had done the same thing y'all would be praising him as a mad genius.

I already praise Jerry as a mad genius. Don't you?

61:

I already praise Jerry as a mad genius. Don't you?

Being familiar with Jerry's effusions from a USENET-like forum, I don't. He clearly has regular Troll blood transfusions ...

62:

Ex-farmer, though my father dropped the livestock at around the time I started primary school, so I know what the elastration stiff looks like, and the size of the rings, and such. Anyone who would even think of this as kink-friendly is stupid to the point of insanity.

Interesting point about the P11: partly because of the barrel-cluster needing to be reloaded at the factory, it sidesteps a great many forensic tests. But you would leave a paperwork trail: "So you have four barrel-clusters according to the factory, but can only show us three. Interesting..."

(Speculation: could 3D printing make something strong enough for a single use? Might be multi-stage, with hand-work needed for electrics, and a mounting shoe made separate to the barrel-block, which is reinforced with a carbon-fibre jacket before the two assemblies are bonded together.)

I'm thinking that the string quartet could be re-worked to use naval helicopters with dipping sonar, to be performed for an audience of uplifted dolphins. During the performance there is a murder, and the story is told through the life-cam record of the investigator. Think about the 1947 film Lady in the Lake.

No, I can't really make a story. Nothing about motive or characters or plot details. But there are certain conventions about Hollywood actresses in underwater movies which keep distracting me.

63:

Sounds like a supervillainess to me!

64:

Ref #48 and #50 - I've had a 500 error too, but actually been successful in posting.

65:

Ref #64 - Another 2 x 500 errors, 11:33 and 11:37, both times when using "reply to" functionality.

66:

The Elastration Channel.. Part 94

...something about underwater guns and synchronised swimming...

67:

Hmm, the server logs don't show anything obvious that's wrong. I will note that there was a flurry of errors around 4:30am, GMT: what seems to have been happening is the CGI script that posts new comments is not completing in time to satisfy the Apache server.

I suspect the system is getting flaky because of the spam surge -- we're now receiving multiple spams per minute. (The 30 day sin bin contains nearly 58,000 spams -- but the surge is only a couple of weeks old.) The spam gets filtered out automatically, but the program you use to post a comment fronts onto a MySQL database and I suspect the bastards are overloading the server.

68:

I am the Elastron. I am not your god.
I am descended from you, and exist in your future...
yada yada yada...

69:

Bungee jumping assassin uses performance as cover and suffers horrific accident?

Nah, I got nothing.

70:

That sounds entirely plausible; stripping out narrative what we're getting is Error code 500, an Apache version number, and advice to contact you with that info and the fault time.

This message may well throw another one since it's a reply.

71:

So it didn't!

72:

Keep going folks, your contributions are hilarious!

73:

The obvious option is an assassination scenario.

Prime Minister Strauss is attending, well, let’s be generous and call it a symphony. It has, as part of the show, a live acrobatic performance taking place above a massive pool. Cirque du Soleil performers leap from platforms, spinning wildly as they plummet, only to spring back into the air the instant they graze the surface.

You’d think audiences would have grown bored of wire work by now, but the faces being funneled down the fiber-optic cable that peaks surreptitiously from the lapping waves say otherwise. Seated cross-legged at the bottom of the pool, not quite ignoring the way my weight-belt pinches my newly fleshy hips—so much for the myth of the elegantly aging male—I thumb the camera’s screen, directing the lens to pan left.

The audience members seated in the first few rows are not, by and large, familiar. Strauss, his wife, and Michael Weng-McCarthy who is shouting some pleasantry in his Distinguished Guest’s ear, I know. But the model clutching a purse that’s twice her size, the red-head in the pinstripes, and the two kids perched on the edge of their seats three rows behind my target weren’t in the report. (This is not an oversight. Operational awareness is only advantageous up to a point.) I tap the camera’s touchscreen, hit the thumbnail shaped like a radio antenna being zapped by lightning bolts, confirm that I want to transmit, confirm it again, and wait.

Lights pulsate in time with the thrum of the helicopter rotors being piped in through the speaker banks, three-story-high towers that stand like sentries around the perimeter of the arena. The racket—sorry, music—is muted under the four meters of water that separates me from the surface jumping in time with the thwap of the blades. Down here the cello sounds reedy, but every note sends ripples coursing across the waves like a dozen Loch Ness Monsters surfacing for a bite. And with every note, the patterns change.

There’s no way I’m going to hit what I’m aiming at through all this shit.

“Got it,” says Mike. As usual, he’s talking through a mouthful of burrito—extra salsa, hold the lettuce. “Target confirmed. Three minutes to lights out. Keep sending ‘til two-fifty.”

I see myself draw the HK P11 that hugs my thigh like a tumor, and fire. See five rounds, vicious little steel darts, speeding toward the surface of the pool. Watch them get shoved off-target by the musical seizure in full-swing above, then slam into Miss Pinstripe, little Timmy, and even littler Willie before, at last, one flies true. The spray of blood as each of them topples, and screams I can barely hear.

“Oy,” says Mike. “You listening?”

“Yeah.” If I’m lucky, the P11’s five rounds won’t actually kill five different people. Maybe I’ll only hit one bystander, or two. “Copy. Two-fifty-two ‘til go.”

That’d be about par for the course, these days.

74:

It was said to be the latest hype. At least according to the SICKRR, the Society for Indochina Conflict Khmer Rouge Reeanactment, but then, it was logical they'd say that, right? Fortunately, or unfortunately from the POV of a Darwin Award advocate, some obscure French astroturfers had elastrated the whole enterprise by banning anything over a comparative power of 50 microtons of TNT and making sure any references to French colonialism were either absent or stressed the positive effects of said colonialism on the local population, especially the prostitutes. Funny how puritan people who opposed any call for decency in journalism as 'politically correct spiritual fascism' could get.

Though with those zany crypto-'nouvelle droit' guys hosting the event, you never knew if they rooted for the Vietcong torturous reeducation team because they were fighting for the nationa..., err, ethnopluralist cause, or for the My Lai GI Joe squad because they saw gang-raping peasant girls as some kind of deconstruction of gender discourses and 'international communism', guess after a few hours of mental wanking to their hidden masters it all made sense, it never did to me.

And so there I was, lying low in the carefully crafted jungle, forced to listen to a infernal Pseudo-Neo-Folk version of Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartett (arranged for bagpipes) since somebody thought the original Wagner was inappropiate nowadays. Rumor had it our new euroconservative overlords thought he was too celestial to be defiled in this, or that it was meant to celebrate the open nature of their palingenesis. Well, they surely didn't know what they were celebrating, but as Umberto Eco had said, "combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge, that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism".

Personally, I guess it was more that even those dittoheads understood that after the incident with the black leather trenchcoats, it was best to keep a low profile and wait till the world had enough of Dirty Hippie Liberal protestors brandishing their portraits of Pol Pot, if Jello Biafra sang about the guy, he had to be cool, right? A side effect of this was security had tightened up, so the original plan of using some riverboat became obsolete. I'd never liked it and wasn't impressed by our strategists' logic that they wouldn't expect us to keep to the original plot that much, but that's what happens when the revolutionary elite has to go for failed movie buffs in search of recruits.

In the end it had been the inability of evil itself that helped us, as pointed out by one of our theology bachelors, another groups somewhat more frequent in our groups than in the general population. You see, even if obscenely rich, thanks to decades of inflation our hosts were not that rich, at least not anymore, and you can only bomb, flame and roll over your jungle so many times till your jungle doesn't look like jungle any more. We slipped in with some gardening crew, and it was not too difficult to get lost; there was plenty of unexploded ordance lying around, which also meant pay was quite good.

In whole there were about 7 people undercover in the area, but most of those were more with supplies and medical backup; the team directly charged with the core operation were just two, me and Bernhard.

Bernhard was one of our more practical movie buffs and LARP nerds who had qualified for this suicide mission by macgyvering an old optical mouse into an ArduCam and using it in his legendary 'borrowing' of his chiefs unaltered StarTrek DVD collection, which betrayed the technical knowledge and general lack of LIFE[tm] that was central to the operation. Even now, a cloud of mobile ArduCams served as our security parameter, with some of those armed for a crowdsourced surveillance and assasination system (the algorithms of the fool and troll proof voting system had gotten our game theorists the Moore price by the Anonymous Foundation).

"I still don't see why they didn't just send in a UAV." he said on evening, losing round after round of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock against his tablet's desktop avatar. "Or two. Or three."

"Wouldn't work". I said, hoping to leave this hellhole before the LARIAM turned me into a jibbering paranoid, "Army surplus SKINNY WARLOCK make sure the target is inside of 100 km of a radio event horizon. Vis-Laser Satellite Comm works for our somewhat stationary devices with good weather, but with real-time remote control, no way."

Funny thing, lecturing my technician about this, but then, it was mostly show; today was my turn to repeat the arguments he told me yesterday repeating my arguments the day before yesterday repeating his arguments the day before the day before yesterday etc.

"And then, they could always say we photoshop, err, gimped it.", I added, improvising something new.

"And they couldn't with this plan?" he asked, countering my innovation.

"Well, at least you didn't have to dive into this catacombs yesterday." I groaned, remembering swimming in the darkness, naked except for the night vision contact lenses and a HK P11 underwater pistol.

"Though of course old baldy was out partying, but he still left some of the elastrated Milan Ultras he keeps
for security." And a strange sight they had been, fat and balding like their vile master. Starting with some freak cockring accidents, eunuchs were big in the Byzantine court business again.

Bernhard kept quite. I shuddered when I thought how close to the Violation of the Natural Order that was our target I had been. But it was too late to be squamish, and we had to finish our plan and shoot Silvio "bathes in questionable stem cells" Berlusconi. With one of our ArduCams. Even if we turned blind or mad in doing so.

75:

Even if we were certain we wouldn't make it out and be sacrificed to the carnal urges of the undieing Unspeakable.

At least we could transmit the pictures of the vile one defiling some not so innocent female bystander and hope some viewers were sturdy enough not to despair but take action. And go to some international tribunal to declare silvio a violation of human dignity.

76:

The opening ceremony at the Olympic swimming venue is rudely interrupted by a flash mob of zombies - real zombies - who emerge from the pool. Fortunately, the guards for the pool are equipped with HK P11 underwater pistols and manage to dispatch most of the zombies before they leave the water. Because the guns cannot be reloaded, however, some zombies escape to sequel-land.

Forensic investigation headed by Inspector Liz Kavanaugh reveals that the zombies all are wearing elastrators and carrying ArduCams. Analysis of their cell phone records reveals the zombies are all participants in the online game Spooks2, and have been contacted recently by Spooks Control.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the Olympics kickoff is being marked by a performance of Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartett. Kemal, of the French Men from Onkle, hearing of the connection to Spooks, is convinced that British Intelligence has been penetrated. He uses the helicopters to drop his team onto the former nuclear bunker used to host Spooks. In the sub-sub-basement of the bunker, he discovers a pentacle.

Tied into a chair in the center of the pentacle, is a creature, one with green snakes for eyes. The creature bears a distinct resemblence to ....

77:

My houseguests, professors from Australia, Denmark, and England, cited this thread in a paper they were writing on Creativity and the Evolution of Ideas. You rock!

78:

... whomever. The cloak of the Official Secrets Act has descended. There was no raid; there was no discovery.

Kemal, however, knows he is vindicated; that British Intelligence was penetrated, literally. He personally saw the stake driven through the heart of the non-discovery. He also noticed a constriction around the creature's neck, as if it had been garroted. Could it have been double jeopardy?

The investigation, choked off at Edinburgh end, moves to the swimming pool. The ArduCams contents are encrypted with a single pad key, so are unreadable. But the pool has been drained and embedded in the tile design is another pentacle. This likely leads back to the bunker, as the dead zombies, ex-Spooks, are all from Edinburgh. Kemal and Liz begin searching the net for strange appearances.

There are no more zombies, but in the US there are rumors of strange materializations, of angels and one report of a sighting of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, at a Romney campaign appearance just before the Illinois presidential primary.

79:

PART II of my post above:

“I don't understand how this accident happened,” said the public-order drone. “Is your significant other abusing you?”

I sighed. The damned fascists never understood art, and this one was so shiny and new... “It's an art thing,” I began, “Madga is doing-”

“Her art broke three ribs, gouged a six centimeter cut into your torso, and knocked you across the room?” The drone asked, programmed skepticism dripping from it's speakers.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted-” I tried again.

“So now I'm the bad guy?” the drone complained, “according to our records, this is the eleventh time you've required medical care because the goddamn post-traumatic warbot you live with has-”

“It's a study in dadaist ambulation.” In my opinion, the law has not caught up with the fact that injuries, even injuries which once were life threatening, can now be treated completely by drones that get to your house in less than a minute and inject you with tame cancers that cure everything. “She even has her own NewCube channel. Magda attaches old technology to the hard ports that used to carry her weapons load, but she doesn't load in the drivers and other control software. It's a study in bot-mediated childhood and the purposeless of mechanization.”

“Are you insulting me?” the drone asked.

I sighed, thought of a dozen things I shouldn't say, “Of course not,” I told it. “I draw and paint – with pencils on canvas. Magda experiments with old technology. She accepts my urge to experience the limits of ordinary humanity, including human creativity, and I accept her need to merge with ancient technology. It's part of being in love.”

“I think you guys have a sick relationship, but the records indicate that even when she's been arrested you have refused to testify against her. I'm going to give send my v-card to your phone. I hope you'll come to your senses and call me before you get hurt again – or before you hurt her, or even kill her, in self-defense.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Can I show you out?”

“No,” said the drone, “I still have to talk to your girlfriend.”

“Wife,” I told it, “AI marriage is legal in this jurisdiction.”

“It shouldn't be.” said the public-order drone. Was the thing human piloted, or was this some kind of AI chauvinism? Didn't the idiot realize that a dozen cameras were recording our conversation? I thought about suing, but decided that playing the martyred human on the Internet would be a lot more profitable. Whenever the public order drones showed up, page views went through the roof, and this would be no exception. I lifted my right arm and looked at the hand, which the public-order drone had not cured, which begged the question of who he/she/it was playing to. If we could get to the sex quickly enough, the page views would pay our bills for the quarter...

After my hand had fallen off and Madga had cauterized the stump – she gets off by jacking into my cerebellum and vampirizing the pain, while I get aroused by the sight of my severed, rotting limb – she told me more about her contract.

“The festival organizers want to take things to the next level,” she said, “that's the hard part.”

“What do you mean.”

“It's not enough for them to have Helikopter-Streichquartett performed at the festival. They want it performed on Apache gunships.” The piece had originally been written by a human composer named Stockhausen, one of the first experimenters with mechanical music, for four helicopters and a human string quartet, and at the time, depending on which critic you read, it was either "a magnificent work of aural brilliance." or “another idiocy engaged in by the poster boy for clueless German experimental composers.” The piece had been forgotten for a couple centuries, then been revived by AI's built on a drone chassis. Naturally an AI with an appreciation for art could modulate the speed and tone of it's own lifters, sometimes to a very beautiful effect, and Helikopter Streihquartett had become a classic. Imagine your country's national anthem, performed by The Beatles, with backing from The London Philharmonic, and you've got some idea of the significance AIs have attached to the piece.

“So replicate them.”

“Oh no,” Magda said, “that's not possible.”

“Why not?”

She cleared her speakers in a little blast of static. “Humans wouldn't understand.”

“I'm sorry.” I gazed soulfully into her camera eyes, “Was I being chauvinistic?”

“No dear,” she told me, “just a little ignorant. Imagine that you were dancing to human classical music, and I told the conductor to replicate the Stradivarius.”

“Oh” I said. What an idiot. I hadn't been a chauvinist, I'd been a Philistine. Art was everything to my Magda, this was true, but the public-order drone's comments about Magda being post-traumatic weren't completely off base either. The constant attempts to dada-ize the hard points where her weaponry had once been attached, to make the network ports which had controlled those weapons completely useless, even comical – there was some pain there. To keep the pain from hurting so much, that pain had to be converted to art, and the art had to be recognized as transcendent... It was my role to be the very intimate audience and foil for all this and I'd screwed up. Maybe it is a little sick, but how many brilliant women will put up with an amputation fetish? The sick goes both ways, and so does the love.

“An old Apache has a very special instrumental tone,” Magda told me, “and there are only six left. The festival currently has access to one of them, but the organizers really want to increase AI participation, so they thought that if we could get four of them into the air at once...” I got it. This would be a major coup, and every AI who claimed any artistic sensibility at all would have to show up.

“So how do they plan to get three more?”

“They're hoping the Smithsonian will cooperate. If they give up one of their machines, everyone else will too.”

I laughed. I couldn't help it. Both the current occupant of the White House and her wife believed very firmly that robots were planning an uprising, and they wouldn't allow any technology more advanced than an abacus into any secure space within the US Government, a policy which was driving Magda's relatives, who'd been part of the US National Security apparatus for three physical and seventeen software generations, completely bugfuck nuts. Two generals, a colonel, and fourteen major analysts had to hover outside the Pentagon and jack in remotely to get any work done.

“It's not funny!” Magda protested. “This is art!”

“I'm sorry,” I tried to stop laughing and couldn't. “You want the US Government to donate at least one valuable antique to play the Robot National Anthem during a suicide festival? I do assume you're aware that our current president has just sent Congress a proposal to make the Three Laws mandatory.”

“She's an Asimovist cow,” Magda snapped. “And you're not much better.” She rose up and hovered above the combination landing-bay/bed where we spent our evenings. “I'm going outside to plug myself in for the night.”

“Honey,” I wailed, “I didn't mean it that way. You know me better than that.”

Unfortunately, she was already heading for the door, muttering “Exterminate, exterminate,” and cussing in Blodget, a programming language composed entirely of error codes.

80:

My daughter wants to illustrate this. Charlie, you've really touched a nerve. I'm having a ton of fun!

81:

The spammers were excited; they had been invited to attend a performance of the "Helicopter String Quartet".

Little did they know that it was a cunning plan by author Charles Stross, his moderator team and his regular commentator pals to to gether them all in one place so that they could be elastrated or executed with HK P11s. The whole performance was to be filmed with "internet of things" cameras pour discourager les autres.

Ok, not brilliant but I've used all 4 items, and I'm sure that at least some of us are smiling at the thought of this happening for real!

82:

Bahula Pandaveswar thumped the console and watched the red light, which kept glowing obstinately. Either the circuits were glitching again, or they had lost heating and ventilation. She tsked and put a frequency through to the station commander, Air Marshal Balara, who picked up on the third buzz.

"What is it?"

In English, of course. It's 2049 and English is still the *least* politically divisive language for a national Indian programme.

"It's Pandaveswar, sir. We've lost critical life support systems, and the standard diagnostics haven't located the problem."

"So? It's the wiring, again. Have Saraali check it."

"He's doing it, sir, but..."

"Captain?"

"Sat Nav debris, sir: it could be external."

A sigh. "Alright, Pandaveswar, take a walk."

The line died.

Bahula rubbed her eye sockets, relinquished systems control to Saraali, and kicked out from the consol towards the airlock chamber. She'd started out as an ambitious cadet in the IAF, where she was flying military helicopters by the time she was twenty-six. Her specialty was the RAH-88 Sauk, a dated and declassified American stealth-helicopter with rotor blades that could attenuate so precisely as to blast out symphonies for the airshow crowds or float silently over Afghani insurgents. She'd been made redundant because of the prohibitive costs of maintaining such an aircraft, but had been given a space agency commission based on her physical fitness, mental discipline and because she'd managed to come out squeaky in three separate, wide-reaching corruption investigations. (She'd even been critical in having a certain Air Chief Marshal's uniform kitted-out with recording devices, which automatically uploaded their contents at particular hotspots, making him a mole in his own investigation).

Now she was sticking her head outside of a space-borne tin-can trying to see if a bit of satellite debris had managed to miraculously knock-out their critical systems, instead of just outright blowing them in half. She finished fitting her suit and performed a re-inspection as the airlock cycle started up. Built for a tall man, it bunched up in places but was easy enough to maneuverer in. Unlike with the NASA suits, it allowed her hands to grip and her elbows to bend: the benefits of compromising on safety.

Bahula flicked her helmet lights on as she ventured into low earth orbit. The planet hung to her left, casting its shadow over the station, its lit cities peaking out at her from cloud-cover. In the dark, she couldn't pick-out anything that wasn't less than two metres in front of her.

She patched through to systems control. "Saraali, I need some flood-lighting out here."

Numerous LEDS and a few more substantial lights dutifully sprang to life around her, as Bahula spotted a figure straighten up twenty metres along the hull.

Bahula stared.

"Saraali, get Balara, there's a man on the wing!"

"Bahula what are you talking about? Stop messing ar--"

"Saraali!"

"--"

Radio's jammed, Bahula thought. They'll be running diagnostics for half-an-hour before they decide to check up on her. Breathing heavily, she started making her way to the black-clad astronaut. There were no markings on his suit, but it looked distinctively NASA. Fitted, yet bulky.

But why would an American be running a sabotage job on India's "Premier Research Satellite"?

Bahula unclipped a modified Heckler Koch P11 from her belt, a Cold-War era underwater pistol which the AIF had managed to source cheaply, and pointed it towards the transgressor. He moved slowly, bending down to finish his work. If this guy is benign then killing him might be a diplomatic incident, but if he isn't then she might become a fatality in a national disaster. Behula pulled the trigger, and sent a projectile past the astronauts shoulder. The shot also gave her a little backwards momentum, but she was expecting it and it doesn't take her long to recover. Half the reason she carries the P11 is to give herself a directional kick in case she comes unstuck in space. By that time, though, the astronaut has whipped out something that looks like a pizza-cutter, and sent a spinning disk past her abdomen, ripping a seam in her suit.

She's venting, but the suit is pocketed so it's nothing like instant decompression. Bahula takes two steps forward, ducks down, and fires again. This projectile ricochets off the bulkhead and dinks her enemy's helmet, shattering it slightly, so they're both facing suit-integrity problems. She reclips the pistol to grab a pair of elastration pliers and cinches a band over a tuft of suit, reducing the air loss to give her a few extra minutes. The astronaut, meanwhile, has stuck a gluey patch over his helmet, keeping it intact but obscuring his vision. His next two shots are blind, and miss by inches. Of her next four, two don't. She pinches her suit like a stitch, and makes her way over to the inspect the damage, as two streams of blood are pitching out from the magnetically-locked astronaut's sternum.

[Apologies for any technical, cultural or editorial errors. I'm mad tired, y'all.]

83:

As an aside, I had a chance to apply an elastrator to a lamb's tail and tackle as a high school student. I was a day-student at a boarding school, and agricultural science was on the menu as a subject, but the fifteen-year-old me chickened out on performing the deed and a classmate took over.

Older students were allowed to go at the testicles with a knife (you make rugged cuts to the tubes so they'll clot, because a clean cut will bleed-out the animal). One country student, notably, did the deed with his teeth: they make a cut which heals over quickly, and it's appreciably faster when you have four-hundred lambs to debollock in a single day.

84:

"...of angels and one report of a sighting of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, at a Romney campaign appearance just before the Illinois presidential primary."

In matters of possible occult occurrences, the Laundry has jurisdiction. Mo is the only operative who has relevant experience in America, that increasingly strange land. She is immediately ticketed to Tampa, Florida, USA to infiltrate the Republican Party convention.

She knows she cannot bring her HK P11 underwater pistol, since it will not pass airline or convention security. She can however, bring her violin, its repair kit and a stash of Arduino enabled cameras. Mo has no delegate's pass, but by virtue of calling everyone "Ya'll" and carrying her fiddle, she is able to join the country music group scheduled to open the convention.

As the group warms up, a disturbance erupts near the candidates. Several men wearing coveralls inscribed with a large green eye, break through security, grab Mitt Romney and attempt to drive a stake through his heart. With a directed blast from her trusty violin, Mo subdues the assailants. Subsequent interrogation of the would-be assassins reveals they are supporters of Newt and believe they were instructed by an angel to remove the "Anti-Christ" Romney so that the imminent rapture can move forward. Shaken by the exhibition of hate, Romney withdraws his candidacy, as does the now discredited Gingrich.

Rick Santorum becomes the anointed candidate of the GOP. Mo, as the heroine of the convention, is designated a super-delegate and allowed to cast the decisive vote confirming Santorum. As his first act, Santorum announces that the GOP will henceforth be known as the POG, the "Party of God"

85:

Walter Koenig entered the room, and placed the loaded H&K P-11 on the mantlepiece.

"You won't believe some of the shit fans give me as presents", he said.

"Cool!", said Wil Wheaton, snapping a pic with his auto-blogging camera. "Can I have it if you don't want it?"

"No way, kid", replied Koenig. "You wouldn't believe what that's going to fetch at auction. Leave it alone or I'll cut your balls off. With rubber bands".

86:

"Won't believe" .. "Wouldn't believe"

-Writers tend to avoid re-using phrases in close proximity, but it happens fairly often in actual spoken dialogue. (That's my excuse)..

87:

Forget about the grammatical structure ... " and placed the loaded H&K P-11 on the mantle-piece. " ? ....

'loaded ' ? ' Loaded ' with what?

And there again, and as Dialogue ? ...

" UrBane The Mage Murmured 'Google - MantlePiece ' and .... ' About 9,310,000 results (0.28 seconds)' curled lovingly about his Adversary. "

88:

Emboldened, and despite Mo's advice, Rick decides to press his anti-pornography campaign. He declares that every citizen will be mandated to carry a life-log camera which will regularly upload its contents to an anti-porn screening website. Uncharacteristically, when asked at a press conference about his opposition to ... Santorum demurs.

A non-Obama super-pac immediately attacks Santorum as a stooge of the Vatican, and trumpets the church's latest efforts to shield child abusing priests. The pac asks, "Will the church mandate its priests to carry the life-log as well?"

In an unrelated bulletin, the Vatican announced a new ceremony to reaffirm the vow of priestly celibacy. Though no details were released, the announcement noted that priests who had renewed their vows could be identified by a black ring on their wedding ring finger. Unconfirmed reports suggest that since the announcement was rather rushed, the rings will be made of rubber, rather than the usual gold.

Intrigued by Rick's soft pedaling of his usual position on cloning and invitro fertilization, Mo plants her array of Arduino cameras in Ricks office.....

89:

Well, it's Walter Koenig's gun, so of course it has to be loaded. (with 7.62 drag-stabilised darts, I'd guess).

Having now checked the origin of a term I'm unsubtly referencing, Koenig should have hung it on the wall rather than putting it on the mantlepiece.

Act 2.

Later that day, Wheaton - now alone - was performing Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streighquartett in miniature, using four Chinook micro-drones he'd brought from Comicon, his iPhone7SW (the poorly-received Wozniak design) taking the part of the string quartet.

He had a brief moment of doubt - Is this art? Is this a reasonable thing for a grownup to be doing?, when two guys came through the door with guns.

90:

Because of the disagreement about the anti-pornography campaign, Mo resigns her position as a special consultant.

Several weeks later, the Washington Post publishes a sensational expose by Woodward and Bernstein, stating that POG candidate Santorum is intimately involved in a plot to kidnap a Merovingian virgin (the supposed descendants of Mary Magdalene), and to impregnate her with a clone derived from DNA taken from the Shroud of Turin, thus producing the second coming of Christ by virgin birth.

In an exclusive interview with the New York Times, Santorum denounces the story as an invention of the Islamo-liberal president. In response, the Obama campaign releases the president's DNA profile proving that he and his Kenyan ancestors are a match for the Lost Tribes of Israel, who were forcibly converted to Islam. Simultaneously, the Washington Post releases YouTube videos of conversations between Santorum and unidentified persons, presumably representatives of the ultra-Catholic Opus Dei.

Though the new GOP candidate, Ron Paul, says government and religion have no place in private matters, he loses by a landslide. President Obama announces a unity of religions tour and plans to visit Salt Lake City, Austin Texas, the Vatican and Mecca immediately after his second inauguration.

91:

Back in the UK, Mo relaxes at home with Bob and begins to catch up on news provided by her custom aggregator.

The Olympic commission investigating the accident at the swimming venue concluded that the site was built over an illegal toxic waste dump. The surviving poisoning victims were helicoptered to a private sanatorium on the South coast of England for treatment and are doing well.

In Scotland, Hayek Associates have announced the promotion of Elaine and Jack Barnaby to the position of co-CEOs after an unfortunate hunting accident befell the former CEO, Barry Michaels, while on a scuba vacation.

Best-Selling author Dan Brown has announced a major copyright infringement suit against science fiction author Charles (Charlie) Stross. However the process server attempting to deliver notice of the suit filed a missing persons report with Edinburgh police after finding the apartment door ajar and the residence empty.

The police have no official comment, but neighbors say the police found the apartment empty except for a high-powered computer attached to an uplink antenna on the roof, and several internet enabled cameras. Next to the antenna was what appeared to be a zeppelin mooring tower. Apparently the apartment was professionally sanitized, with only DNA from hundreds of cats remaining behind. No one saw or heard the occupants leave, but neighbors report a helicopter roar, accompanied by strange music several nights ago.

Confidential sources in the police department say they are investigating internet purchases of high mileage volvos mentioned on the author's blog as a possible escape vehicle. More speculatively, some officials are examining the possibility that the "author" is in fact an AI (artificial intelligence) known as "antipope.charlie". It is unknown if this is even possible, but they note the author's "obsessive" writing about AI, his recent blog discussions (and his most recent novel) about evolving anti-spam software, and his blogging about software aimed at emulating natural human conversation.

Blog participants scoff at this speculation, and assert the disappearance was engineered by his wife and marketing manager, Feòrag to build "buzz" for his upcoming visit to Eastercon, the UK science fiction convention.

92:

Took some liberties, but mehhh....

Prologue:

A group of internet makebloggers prepare a performance of a variant of the Helikopter-Streighquartett using five helicopters. All goes well, until 4:33. Then one after the other, the helicopters fall from the skies.

Act 1: Our hero, a rookie journalist, is sent to report. The investigating authorities are flummoxed - as far as they can tell, there is no sign of sabotage. The hero recovers an internet of things camera from the wreckage. Interestingly, it's been jury rigged to recover full video with sound. He brings it home and puts it into playback mode. As the clip reaches 4:33, everything starts to fall apart around him.

Act 2: The hero survives the rubble of the building, and realises the truth - embedded in the signal is a resonance frequency for a type of screw found in a large majority of the world's products. He hastens to the blogger's webmaster - he must stop the webcast! But the webmaster reveals that this is the whole point. He wants to destroy the world by broadcasting the resonant frequency all over the world via the internet. He threatens the hero with a HP11 (recently featured on his website), suggesting he would torture him by Elastration if he does not hand over the device. (Insert discussion of the plausibility of such torture here)

Act 3. In a stirring fight scene, our hero manages to wrestle the HP11 from the bad guy. But the bad guy calls in his goons, who emerge with guns. The hero tosses the HP11 into an aquarium and puts his hands up, and hands over the device. The goons look it over, and realise it's been playing for 5 minutes, but was masked by the terrible music the bad guy was listening to. They shoot at the hero, and their guns explode in their hands. The hero retrieves the HP11 from the aquarium - the distortion effect of the water saved it from the resonance effect. The day is saved! The bad guy grimly implies he has a backup plan.

Epilogue: As the hero drives back, his car passes a wifi hotspot, and the memory card inside the camera begins to sync....

93:

The ocean air raises goose bumps on his skin as the many lacerations on his back and chest start to itch. His ankles are wired, like his wrists, to the chair and have seemed to have become cold blocks loosely attached.
Waves slap beneath the weed coated steel mesh as he refuses to think why they might have put him below the tide line. Through barely open eyes he peers at the tiny bauble roughly wedged into the piers pile and then duct taped. Somewhere, some sick bastard is sitting in comfort watching him suffer, a web camera and a wireless card in a lunch box.
Funny how the tiniest ray of light seems to catch his attention and hold it while he waits for death. Even as the sound of steps heralds pain if not immediate death, he watches motes of dust gyre. Even the clang of items being put down takes not one iota of his attention away, only the light being eclipsed by a looming figure breaks the spell.
The figure slaps him with a jovial grin, no rest yet Jimmy my lad, you have to perform one last time for your admiring audience. He gestures with an exaggerated wave of the arm at the unwinking eye of the camera, you are to be an object lesson to others who would steal from the company my boy.

He steps back and the fact he is wearing a wetsuit confirms at least one fear, then the light so friendly before, has fallen onto a collection of vaguely threatening items. A chrome pair of pliers with a rubber band on the end and a black revolver with no barrel. The grin goes wide and bright as the line of your gaze shows puzzlement, he puts a finger across his lips and says ooh too early dont give the game away to those at home just yet.

Water starts to lap at the chair and weirdly music begins to play, there we go boy now you can start to talk to your audience. Blood and teeth bubble out down his chin blackly as the duct tape is ripped quickly off his face. He coughs weakly as he tries to clear the mess sobbing and hanging from his broken face. The music has got closer and closer carrying with it the sound of helicopters and spray pushing into the space underneath the pier.

Now lets get this party started, he brandishes a K-Bar style knife with a flourish to the camera and quickly cuts a flap into the bottom of the chair. The chrome pliers are quickly scooped up and demonstrated, these my friend are something a Maori I know suggested after I had trouble with a demonstration once before. His grasping hand crushes the testicles eliciting a grating scream as he pulls down pushing the band over both those and the penis releasing the elastic band.

The knife flashes again leaving just the rubber band and a ragged stump. Before I used this I had a guy faint from blood loss and he missed the good part. A kind of sobbing scream wracks his victim as he struggles at his bonds and his genitals hit his chest with a wet splat.. Now the music seems to thrum as if the helicopters are bobbing along with the tune of the music they are projecting. The music is like a full body experience as it thrills through like something not real.

Water laps at the stump, a cold sting as the legs join the extremities in the seeping cold. The shivers become uncontrollable and he screams kill me, you fuck kill me now. The slap brings warmth and a fresh spray of blood, pay attention, see this. The gun like thing is pressed into his eye, this fires a dart that will go through 15 metres of water, because I am moving away from just here. When the tide reaches your chin is when the factory above us empties its fish guts into the water, this attracts sharks. This is when I will shoot you in the legs, the audience cant see it but your fresh blood is just the catalyst for a frenzy.

His head dips into the water leaving just the baleful unwinking eye of the webcam for company. The music fluctuates with the swirling of the wind and the waves.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 14, 2012 3:47 PM.

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