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Fork Overboard! (Fiction Piece)

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Zoombie Zoombie's picture
Fork Overboard! (Fiction Piece)
This was a story idea I had while reading Captain Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, with ample help from the "average joe" thread, especially when it comes to Johnny T. Indentured. This is just the opening and is a bit rough, so I hope you're hooked! ### Fork Overboard! By Zoombie Lee Hung Xhao Antwiler the Third, son of Lee Hung Xhao Antwiler the Second – owner of 4% of Direct Action and chairperson on no less than twelve hypercorp comities – had grown up surrounded by slaves and never even noticed. For Lee Cubed (as his friends called him), it was easy to ignore the indentured servants that lived all around him. The fact that they were contractually required to shelter him from anything deemed inappropriate by his father had never reached Lee Cubed’s ears or entered into his thoughts. That was why, a week before his fourteenth birthday, Lee Cube demanded to go to Earth. He sent the request off mentally, and waited expectantly for the world to bend knee to him, even as he lay back on his cushion. The indenture that managed the cushion – a middle aged woman named Page – worked quickly from within her virtual workplace. She adjusted the softness, the firmness, the color and the scent of the cushion to best support Lee Cubed’s body, and wished she had teeth to grit in frustration. Instead, she just thought the same thing she had thought every time before her off-cycle: Only four more years. Four more years. Four more years. As Lee Cubed put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, his request whistled past the AI screeners, who bounced it up to the staff. AIs were well and good for specific tasks, but when it came to making decisions, an indenture was the number one choice. And so, each of the indentures – each of the slaves – met one another in a hastily thrown up simulspace, to discuss the matter at the speed of light, so that their master need not notice a delay. Page – whose simulated avatar was a wire-frame figure with a pink bowtie - a more realistic avatar cost credit, which would have extended her indenture – ran her hands along her bald head. She didn’t feel anything (that also cost extra), and the motion produced no awareness of movement or sensation (again, cost extra). She did it to cling to any kind of corporality. “Earth. The Box wants to go to Earth.” Page had been from Britain. Her slang for Lee Cubed had caught on fast on the Antwiler Compound. Jake Portman frowned. His avatar actually had lips. He had lasted three years into his service before breaking down and extending his contract. In exchange, he could enjoy (simulated) food, (simulated) drink, (simulated) breeze on his (simulated) skin and when his off cycle came, he could enjoy (simulated) dreams. He claimed it was worth it. “He does know about the Fall, right?” “Yeah,” Page nodded. “Even the…the…even Sir Antwiler the Second…” She trailed off. Though she had no face, Page’s posture and tone of voice showed and spoke her anger. The neural blocks on insulting Lee Cubed’s father – or any kind of disloyal thought – were crude and obvious. Page was sure that was an intentional reminder of their ‘proper’ place. “Even HE can’t keep THAT from the Box.” “I should know, I’m his freaking dang stupid gorramn censor-bot,” Takashi muttered. He remained crouched and only half interested in the conversation, surrounded by translucent windows representing his virtual work station. Unlike Page and Portman, his job never stopped. He was twitchy and absent minded, his neural simulation stretched to the very breaking point. Transhuman brains needed sleep to encode memory (as well as a load of other important things), but there were workarounds. They just tended to end up like…well, like Takashi. Takashi twitched and skittered from the side to the side, a crablike motion made even more disturbing by his wireframe body. His fingers flicked out, directing AIs to block that, change this, alter that. Anything that might upset Lee Cubed had to be cleaned, roughed out, gentled. “Well, we could always tell him his father said no,” Portman shrugged. Page nodded. “Who should do it?” Takashi twitched and muttered under his breath. Page looked from him to Portman. Portman looked at her, then at Takashi, then at the plain white space of their simulated conference room. The whiteness stretched out infinitely, but that was just a visual trick to avoid (virtual) claustrophobia. The room had barely enough computing time allocated to it to exist, let alone have breathing room. That was why every twitch Takashi made bumped his elbows against Portman’s shins. “Well…he takes it best from you,” Portman said, almost apologetically, looking at Page. “Sigh.” Page didn’t have lungs to breathe with. “Long sigh.” The simulspace room broke up. Portman returned to operating security – the thousands of cameras, sensors, drones and smart-animals that prowled every inch of the Antwiler Compound – and Takashi returned his full attention to censoring everything that mentioned anything about poverty, indentured servants, anarchism, the Titanian Commenwealth, Extopia, or the Autonomous Alliance. And Page sleeved into the Maid-Pod. The Maid-Pod was a buxom, tall, blond pleasure-pod. A stitched together combination of biological parts and cybernetic mechanisms, designed to cater to anyone’s physical needs. It took a few seconds to download her digitized consciousness from the house’s very private network to the Maid-Pod. As much as Page despised everything that had to do with the Box, she relished the few scant seconds between her sleeving and her having to get to work. For a few seconds, she had real skin. Real feet. The real feel of gravity, tugging at her real clothes and her real hair and her real body. Yes, it was a parody body that made the old feminist literature student in her rage…but it was still a body. The seconds passed and Page adjusted her skirt to (barely) cover her buttocks, then stepped from her alcove, the door hissing open. She curtsied to the Box, who continued to longue on his chair, his eyes glazed over, his fingers twitching. Drooling idiot, Page thought as viciously as she could. Whacked out chucklehead- “Master,” She purred. The Maid-Pod had the genetics for purring encoded into its throat, at great expense. “I’m so sorry, but…the Earth is really quite…it is quite dangerous, even after all these years. So…” For a few seconds, she thought that he hadn’t heard her. Maybe he was playing a simulspace game – a full on virtual reality experience. No, then he’d be thrashing around more. Maybe if he was being just as lazy in simulspace as he was in meatspace… Then Page remembered that the simplest answer was usually the best: The Box was just living up to his namesake and ignoring her for no reason other than he was…well, a box. He blinked, his eyes refocusing. He stretched on the cushion, sighed, moaned petulantly, and then sat up. When Page had been young, only athletes had bodies like the Box: Chiseled muscle and a gorgeous jawline, deep green eyes and perfect brownish hair that always stayed fashionably ruffled. If there was any justice, the Box would be round as Phobos and just as ugly. Instead, he grinned a store-bought grin and said. “Well, my darling Page, that’s exactly the point!” Oh shit, Page thought. She mentally activated the mesh inserts in the Maid-Pod (dumbed down inserts, barely able to communicate with the local network, let alone connect to anywhere else) and sent a ping to Portman and Takashi. PAGE: We have a serious problem. TAKASHI: Nnnyaaahhhh PORTMAN: Come on Page, turn him down, if he actually contacts his father, he’ll let it slide, you know he will. Page opened her mouth to speak – and despite the circumstances, she reveled in the feel of air filling her lungs – but the Box kept talking. “See, I was chatting with Neri and some of my other friends and they agreed with a point of mine: The TITANs are long gone, and the Earth’s orbit is a great place to go for a lark. We can shoot rockets at the defense gird and it’ll be a jolly good light show.” Page’s eyes bugged out of her skull and she felt a twinge at the back of her neck. Her last memory on Earth had been someone jamming a metal probe into her head, to inject her brain full of nanomachines. They had copied every single neuron she had, took a sample of every neurochemical. They had downloaded her soul onto a computer, and then beamed it into space, just to get away from the TITANs. And this…this…he wanted to go BACK because he wanted to throw junk at the indirection grid? “Well?” His voice edged nastily close to irritation. Page felt a cold sweat break out on her face. PORTMAN: I’m on line with his father’s secretary. She says that if it’s in his allowance, we can’t stop him. PAGE: But- PORTMAN: Don’t make me report you, Page. It’s now officially sanctioned, so any disloyalty…. I d-don’t want too, but I will. If I have too. That was another part of the neural programming. If anyone disobeyed, they got reported. Page had once been a few minutes late in delivering drinks for the Box and his party guests. She’d gotten ten minutes of time in isolation for that. Ten minutes of real time…but the simulated environment had been run at sixty times speed, making every second stretch out into a whole minute. “That sounds like a fabulous idea!” Page lied. The Box beamed. “Now…since you are here, why not a backrub?” Page suppressed a shudder and got to work. As she worked, Portman instructed the other indentures that worked directly for the Antwiler estate. Many of them were fortunate enough to not work directly with Lee Cubed. They had boring jobs, yes, but on the other hand…they had boring jobs. They wiled their time away in virtual workspaces, operating cleaning robots, handling supply fliers that brought fresh food and materials in and out of the Antwiler compound. They handled information security for the fifteen different firewalls, patrolled the wild Martian outback that surrounded the compound. And all that got kicked in the head with Lee Cubed’s request. Like many big ideas summarized in a single sentence, it required a billion and a half tiny details that were kicked throughout the indentured network, then on to actual employees. First, credit had to be taken from Lee Cubed’s ample accounts and put toward hiring the starship required to take him from Mars to the Earth. Then credit had to be slipped into the pockets of engineers and technicians, who’d gut the ship’s normal cargo areas and replace them with recreation centers and relaxation areas. New fuel, drugs, and foodstuffs were flown into orbit on shuttle and shot into orbit by mass driver, or raced up the space elevator at Olympus Mons. Then the staff was picked out. Experienced starship crewmembers were hired and had to be collected from around the solar system. They egocasted to Mars, resleeved in bodies provided by Antwiler credit, and signed countless legal documents thrust at them by Antwiler legal AIs. In the end, it took the better part of two months, and some silver lining had come to the much suffering trio of indentured servants: To best serve their exalted master, they would need to be embodied. Even though it was merely a way for Lee Cubed to demonstrate his wealth and affluence to his friends…Page, Portman and Takashi didn’t think of complaining. “Spaceships are…small.” Lee Cubed frowned as he pushed himself along the main spine of the L’Pomme. It had been Anti-Matter Freighter DC-342 before its hasty rechristening. The magnetic capsules that had held anti-matter a mere week before had been gutted and replaced with broad, flimsy decks full of every kind of entertainment that Lee Cubed’s allowance could afford. The new length of the ship was nearly half a kilometer, dwarfing everything but a Jovian Dreadnaught. “Well,” Portman said, bowing his head – he was sleeved in a worker-pod, dressed in a fine smart-tux. “Most starships are considerably smaller than this. But we wanted to be sure you and your…ahem…guests would be properly entertained.” Lee Cubed grinned. “True…they’re going to freaking love this. There is an egocasting facility on it, right?” “Yes,” Page purred. Again, she got the Maid-Pod. Again, she didn’t complain. “It has a full complement of morphs for you to choose from, if this one bores you.” Lee Cubed ran his hands along his chest. “Hasn’t yet!” When his back was turned, Page, Portman and Takashi shot him a trio of venomous glares. Only someone who had never been without a morph could be so flippant. Lee Cubed pushed down the central spine, heading toward the resleeving facility located near the nose of the ship. His gesture indicated that they should see to his things. Page glanced away, muttering something in old Celtic. “W-…What is…that?” Takashi stammered, his eyes almost closing before he caught himself, jerking and flailing a bit in microgravity. He had gotten about twelve hours of sleep, and still seemed completely out of it. “It’s a prayer for everyone whose going without a morph while the Box sticks his fat fingers everywhere he goes,” Page muttered. “Careful,” Portman growled. “Oh, report me. Ten minutes in solitary would be better than…” She shook her head. “Come on,” Portman said through gritted teeth. He started to tug himself down the spine of the ship, grabbing onto handholds and moving with the ease of an experienced spacer. They came to Lee Cubed’s stateroom and bustled about, setting it to rights and readying it for anything he might need. Lee Cubed himself had just arrived at the egocasting facility on the ship. The room was as small as the rest of the stupid spaceship, but at least it had some things that made it worth looking at. He hadn’t resleeved much – he had once egocasted to Venus for a wicked party, but he’d sworn to never go back…Venusian gravity was too high, it made everything harder and less fun. But still, looking at morphs inside of storage tanks was fun. There were only twenty options here, as most people would be shuttling up and thus, be taking their own morphs with them. But there were some friends who were egocasting in. Space travel, according to every single boring, lame, irritating tutor-bot that Lee talked too, took a long time. Even the best engines – those that ran on matter/anti-matter explosions – took months to get from Mars to, say, Pluto. Months! And slower engines could take years just to get to freaking Jupiter. Course, why anyone would WANT to go to Jupiter was totally beyond Lee…everything his Dad said about Jupiter was bad. Something about them being…reactionary. That was the word. Lee shook his head, sliding his hand along one of the tubes. This one held a really rocking sylph morph: A body designed to look as hot as transhuman designers could make. She had silvery skin and a great rack…but really, it was hard to tell how a morph would look until someone sleeved in it and strutted their stuff. An ego-bridge activated, a sudden flurry of motion that made Lee start and jump back. The ego-bridge looked a bit like a big black spider in the nature simulations, but it’s legs split at their tips into masses of hair-like fibers. Those fibers sunk into the head of the sylph morph, and glowing lights flowed along them. As that happened, a few pings appeared on Lee’s mesh inserts. Some of his friends were arriving by shuttle…and one of them was sleeving as the ping arrived. NERI: Yo yo, Martian scum. I’m sleeving up in this hiz hiz house. Lee grinned, even as the ego-bridge slid away from the slpyh’s head, and mechanical arms gently drew her up, out, and set her down on the wake-up-bed. A light shone in the slyph’s eyes and she coughed, groaning softly, batting at the light like a smart-cat playing with a laser pointer. “I didn’t know you were going to try life on the wild side this time.” Lee took his friend’s post-resleeving jitters as a change to squeeze some tit. Neri glared at him, but her arms were too weak to do more than lightly brush against him. “Jerk,” She rasped. “Your fault for sleeving in the sylph!” He slid his hand from her breast to near her hand, offering her a chance to get up. Hey, if she took it, maybe he could trip her too, that would be so freaking funny- Neri didn’t take it. Instead, she grinned. “So, I hope I haven’t missed the party.” “Nah, most of the guests haven’t arrived yet.” “So…” She grinned. “Just us?” Lee glanced at the door. “Hey,” Neri shrugged. “I figure if nothing gets me suited to this sleeve faster than a roll in the hey…I can’t think of it.” “How does one roll in the hey anyways?” Lee asked, his smart-clothes already unbuttoning themselves. “I don’t even know what hey is.” Neri grinned. It was a very good thing that both Neri and Lee had never had sex without helpful guides, and were both too pigheaded to say that it was anything but a flop. At the very least, welcome-back beds are comfortable…
Masa Masa's picture
Re: Fork Overboard! (Fiction Piece)
Nice one dude, some good insights about indeturing and hyperelites.
Zoombie Zoombie's picture
Re: Fork Overboard! (Fiction Piece)
What? What IS this? Is this...another part of the story? ### By the time L’Pomme arrived at Earth, half the party goers had gotten bored, gone home, come back, gotten bored again, went home, and were now thinking about leaving again. And…what was worse, none of them knew that L’Pomme was actually nowhere near Earth. If they looked out the windows, they’d see the sweep of the Earth – shopped to appear more romantic and yet still desolate, carefully modulated by memetic engineers to give the appropriately solemn appearance of a dead homework…without really dampening the partying spirits of the viewers. In many habitats, a memetic trick like that would have sold for thousands of credits. Lee Cubed just thought he was looking out the window. He looked through the swirling clouds of dust, at the gleaming, smoldering craters of railgun impacts, at the bare faced continents, swept clean of life…and scowled. “This is LAME!” Lee Cubed turned to his entourage, bracing himself against the wall, looking from Page to Takashi to Portman. They all looked suitably aghast on his behalf. “I want to go outside the ship. I want to visit the stations!” “You can ego-cast…” Page offered, her voice soft, eyes tilted aside demurely. “I want to ride a shuttle!” “There aren’t any shuttles, we didn’t expect-“ “And this morph is TRICKED OUT!” He gestured at his body. “I don’t want to just leave it behind and take some…freaking Lunar model. They’re so…skinny and weird looking.” He rubbed his shoulders, shaking his head. “They should buy Martian.” Page barely managed to keep the scorn out of her voice. “Well, I-“ “Takashi!” The Box turned to Takashi, who started. “Can you hack into one of those cargo drones? I can ride it.” Page and Portman gaped. Portman’s eyes fuzzed out slightly, sending an urgent communication request to the ship’s com-AI, which had access to a moderately sized Q-bit reserve. The Q-bits were entangled with some other Q-bits, back on Mars…and, faster than the speed of light, the message was relayed. Considered. Relayed back. “Your father has made it quite clear,” Portman spoke with assurance. “You are to make no EVA. The space outside Earth is still too dangerous.” The Box glared at the windows. Then, twitching like a horse in a VR simulation, he turned and kicked off down the corridor, throwing up an entropic stopsign into their AR grids. Portman, Page and Takashi relaxed fractionally, though Takashi remained…twitchy. Lee Cubed tried everything he could think of to distract himself from his frustration. He did petals – freshly crafted and taken in secret, so that no one else would know that he sampled it. That had been fun, he and Neri had swam through hallucinogenic oceans, the nanotech drug tricking their senses into thinking that the world around them had become rife with tentacle monsters, that water flowed from every pore of the ship, and that only by staying close together, could they survive. They ended up somewhere near the center of the microgravity pool, and came out of the petal with the laughter and goodnatured cheering and hooting of the other guests ringing in their ears. But once the high had gone away…Lee Cubed still imagined riding a shuttle out, to see the Earth with his own eyes. So, he threw himself into an orgy. He swapped genders at the resleeving station, then threw himself into another orgy. He puppetjacked some of the smart animals from a VR couch and pretended to be a distaff-greyhound hybrid, chasing around other party guests and barking all the while. And yet…at the end of the day, he still wanted to go OUTSIDE. “I mean, we flew like a whole DAY to get out here!” He whined, his female vocal cords making the whiny tone of his voice even higher pitched and nasil sounding. Neri grunted, as she was busy trying to master a “retro” vidgame that required the use of primitive imputs called a mouse and keyboard. She growled. “Stupid…giant lizard thing…come on!” She groaned as her virtual avatar was thrown across the arena, boneless and dead. “Neriiiiiiiii!” Lee Cubed kicked and turned to face his friend. “You’re not even listening!” “I’m listening,” She muttered. “Just trying to beat this game. This game is dumb.” She threw the mouse and keyboard away, carelessly. “You’re dumb too. There’s nothing out there but a big smoldering rock. Half the people here just came to be edgy and pretend they’re stupid Reclaimers.” “What the heck’s a Reclaimer?” TAKASHI: Master- Lee Cubed grumbled and gestured, muting Takashi’s audio communication. But Neri was looking at him with slightly wide eyes, as if she was shocked. Lee Cubed muttered, “Nevermind.” His eyes glazed, an entropic window opening in his field of vision. Takashi appear within it, standing next to a drone. The lite twitcher - when Lee Cubed and Neri had been younger, they had gotten endless hours of amusement watching Takashi twitch and mutter in the corner. Sometimes, they had sleeved him in a pod just to enjoy the physicality of his movement. Lee Cubed had always relied on Takashi’s firewall support, though, to protect him from the endless terrors of a free information flow (that much, his father had told him about, enough to keep Lee Cubed well and truly scared when he was young, and cautious even now). Now, Lee Cubed had a second reason to think fondly of the twitcher: Takashi was kneeling next to one of the drones, the sleek black missile now looking quite a bit more…jerry rigged. A seat and an acceleration couch had been attached, with a small protective bubble surrounding it. Takashi knelt near it, twitching from side to side. TAKASHI: Finished, finished…in secret too, your…chariot awaits, yes yes! He was grinning like a dog looking for a snack. “Takashi, you’re a BAMF!” Lee Cubed banished the entropic and grinned at Neri. “Come on, lets hit the sleeving center, I want to show you something.” Neri sneered at Lee Cubed, once he emerged from the vat wearing his original morph. “I’ve seen this before. From lots of angles.” “No, you drooler,” Lee Cubed shot back, sliding on some smart clothes, adjusting them to look like a retropunk space suit. “This is just the prelude. Though…” He leered at Neri’s breasts. “If you want to see another angle…” “Hell no, dude, you need to show me something cool before you get another round.” Neri’s face showed she was just teasing…sex wasn’t hard to get with her. But, Lee Cubed took it as a challenge. He guided her through the ship, toward the drone bay. He hadn’t really understood why the ship needed drones, but assumed it was for a good reason . There were five of the deadly looking things, each one firewalled and slaved to a computer that was firewalled even more. Takashi, though, had hacked one of the drones out of that delicate network, and Lee Cubed was able to access it’s AI. It was a simplistic one, but it also told him everything he’d need to know: Loads of numbers and information that didn’t make any sense to him and some flight plan that he ignored. Afterall…if Takashi programmed it, and he’d never lead Lee- Takashi sprang into motion, so suddenly that even Lee Cubed’s oracle implants didn’t help him. Well, they did warn him…but he froze, shocked by the oracles actually turning on. That gave Takashi’s fist time to slam into his head. Takashi screamed in agony, but then leaped for the drone, shouting in Japanese at the top of his lungs. Neri screamed as well, her hands covering her face. Pain. Pain was new. But it also shocked Lee from his frozen astonishment and got him moving. He growled and leaped after Takashi. “You-“ Takashi struck a jerry rigged button on the drone, and Lee yelped, grabbing on tight. His smart-clothes deployed an actual helmet over his head with a loud THUMP, and it took every inch of his somatic control to keep his morph’s fingers locked onto the drone’s acceleration couch. Takashi was screaming and screaming, for he wasn’t firmly rooted either. The drone was leaving behind the ship and Lee was focused on one thing: Beating Takashi within an inch of his worthless life. Lee forced his body to drag himself up…and then he braced himself on the couch. The drone started to accelerate faster, but Lee’s mesh inserts gave him a direct connection. He desperately shouted every basic command he knew an AI would follow. Stop didn’t work. Slow down…nope. Turn back? Nada. Delay! The acceleration slowed, but didn’t stop. Lee settled himself into the couch and before he could do anything, the couch deployed a foam around him, sealing him in tight. Takashi’s face – silently visible through his own smart-clothes helmet – was twisted in fury and despair. Lee opened his mouth…and he wasn’t sure what he was going to say, or how he was going to say it…but his chance vanished. The drone’s delay ended…and it slammed on the acceleration as hard as it could. Takashi was ripped from the side and Lee felt his head jam back against the restraints. Black surrounded his vision. His inserts told him he was pooling blood in the wrong places. Then the acceleration ended, and he floated. Lee looked around with his head. There was no sign of Earth…or the ship…or Mars, or anything. Nothing but stars and more nothing. Lee realized how…big space was. But, hey, he had mesh inserts. LEE: Hey, guys, my servant went twiggy and now I’m stuck on a drone. Need a pickup. Lee waited. Noting. LEE: Guys, I know this is funny, but…I am the birthday boy, come on. Stop it. Nothing. Lee could not even hear the noise of the drone through his suit. Nothing but the sound of his own breathing and the sound of his heartbeat. Thump. Thump thump. Thump. Thump thump-thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthump. His mesh inserts started to play soothing music, and a green indicator came up in his entropic: DON’T PANIC. LEE: OKAY GUYS REALLY NOW Lee whimpered. Okay. Great. Lee tried to access the mesh. He got nothing. He accessed his personal data vaults and there was a load of media, but none of it was that useful. At least…not at first. He sent a query into his own vault…and the query moved from his own storage to the information saved on the drone. The information there was strange and unfamiliar, but soon, a boring as hell technical manual appeared before his eyes and a bored female voice read into his ear. “User’s Tech Manual Passage 2-AB-Tr: If you have been cast overboard a starship and are out of range of any rescue, and believe that you won’t be picked up within the next few hours, you have the following options…” Lee canned the response. Boooooring. But, when he still had no ideas of what to do an hour later and listening to music wasn’t helping his panic, he turned it back on. “User’s Tech Manual-“ “Skip to where I was before!” Lee said out loud. “Option A: If you have medichines, activate your medical stasis capacity. This will increase your chances of survival by several factors of ten. If-“ Lee grinned. Sweet. He had medichines. Top of the LINE medichines, actually. He closed his eyes, pinging his inserts, trying to find the stasis features. He got a suit of options: Dreamstates that he could enjoy, physical conditioning options, all the settings that he could peruse. He noticed, though, that running a dreamstate, or keeping his muscles in top notch state…that took power from the medichines and his body. He regretfully set them off – though, the ‘erotic dreamstates’ sounded really tempting. At the end, the only thing his ‘chines would do would keep his memories and ego intact, even if his body turned to a shriveled hunk. But that’d never happen. They’d pick him up soon. Real. Real. Soon. His eyes closed… And he faded out.