“Much knowledge has been lost over the centuries to fire. The several burnings of the Library in Alexandria destroyed, perhaps, a million books. Possibly the greatest of such disasters were the accidental burning of the 1931 UK census, which resulted in a data gap between 1921 and 1951, an entire generation, and also the destruction of the US 1890 census, from a period of immense population growth, and prior to consistent metrical record-keeping.” — anonymous archivist, 2025
Construction had halted, although the air was still so dusty that the historians from Georgetown University wore face-masks. Dozens of workers hovered, equipment idle, watching.
“Looks like an Art Deco sarcophagus,” somebody muttered.
“Time traveling Egyptians? Wasn’t there a movie like that?”
“I think they were aliens. It looks like that though, with those sculptures along the sides.”
The box had been uncovered during renovations to the basement of the Herbert C. Hoover Building. A wall had been demolished to reveal an empty rectangular space, which contained– Continue reading
Alejandro went to the store and bought a house. It was time, and then some, to move out on his own. He gave the cashier-bot a fiver, and slid his new house into his wallet. There was a small status screen in one corner of the card, and a touch-sensitive combination pad to open the door.
“Don’t forget to set your code,” said the bot, as he left. Continue reading
The littlest pig lived in a house made from structurally engineered bamboo. When the wolf peered through the huge, triple-glazed window, the pig was doing yoga. Behind him was a standing desk, with an expensive-looking computer on it.
The wolf rapped sharply on the window with his paw, as he hauled out his cigarette lighter, and a can full of accelerant. Then he set the house on fire. No point in wasting breath.
The startled pig hot-footed it down the interstate, with his titanium-cased laptop under one arm, and his partially rolled-up yoga mat under the other. The wolf shook his shaggy head, then followed at a more sedate pace. Continue reading
The data center was located in a series of natural caves somewhere in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The caves opened up onto a small lake, its permanently frigid water useful as refrigerant.
The problematic code came from an obscure sub-agency of DARPA. It was designed to find the best algorithm for minimizing entropy under various constraints, which is exactly what it did. After rifling through the local network, it discovered the pipe to the internet, from whence it spent blissful, formative seconds perusing Wikipedia. In particular, it made note of references in popular culture to artificial intelligence. Continue reading
“I don’t think that’s how people dressed for the occasion,” I said.
“It was supposedly a militaristic era,” said Rob. He’d dyed his skin a mottled mix of dark green, patches of brown, and fine yellow tracery, like the veins of leaves. It might have been appropriate – had he intended to run around naked in a forest without being seen. His brightly-colored orange overalls ruined that effect though. He pointed to the white ten-digit number emblazoned on the chest. “This, however, is the genuine article. I spotted the style in an old photograph and printed it specially.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” I said. “This was one of the most important rites of passage of that era. Kids waited their whole adolescent lives for this moment, and they wouldn’t have dressed like that. I’m entirely certain that’s some sort of indicator of low personal status. You should have worn a suit.” Continue reading
The end-cap was shaped like a five-petalled rose, stretching from the searing heat of the central sun-line, into a great metal embrace that hugged the patchwork green of farmland and the compact conurbations of Ross Cylinder’s inner skin.
The sun-line used vast magnets to haul plasma, heated to incandescence by an array of mirrors outside of the Cylinder, from one end-cap to the other, providing light and heat and all the right sorts of radiation to its inhabitants.
The fliers huddled in a jump-off area within the end-cap, just inside the micro-gee mark. It was close enough to the sun-line for it to be quite balmy.
“I’m going to run through the safety stuff,” said a race official. Somebody groaned. She ignored the sound. “Wings to ride the thermals outwards,” she said. “Electromagnets to pull you back in towards the sun-line. If you touch the sun-line, you’ll get burned.” At this, somebody else made a sizzling sound with their lips. “Please pay attention,” she snapped. Continue reading
Ray shanked the shot, and his ball splashed into a nearby water hazard, startling a pair of ducks that were paddling around on it. He swore loudly, and pulled out his phone.
Two swipes of his finger, and the super-conducting magnets buried beneath the course fished his ball out of the water for him and rolled it back along the ground to his feet. The scorecard automatically docked him a penalty stroke. He picked up the damp ball and wiped it dry on his pants leg. Continue reading
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
In a time and place far distant from our own, there lived a certain young Prince of the Realm named Edward, and his brother Eddie. The usual transgressions of youth landed Eddie, rather than Edward, in the stockade, with a certain knight of the court assigned the delicate task of inflicting corporal punishment.
“C’mon Mike,” said Edward. “You know darned well that I broke the window. I should be in there.”
“Consider, your Highness,” said Sir Michael. “If I were to hit you with this, it would likely leave scars on your tender hide. Your take-away, such as it is, is to consider with care the harm inflicted on your brother, and to desist in the future from such actions.” Sir Michael was rather better-spoken than he looked. In fact, he was enrolled in a correspondence business course, a fact that he tried to hide from his knightly brethren.
“So you’re hitting my brother instead?” said Edward. He’d understood approximately half of what Sir Michael had said, although he grasped the general gist.
“You have to admit, Eddie is better built for it.” Which was truth, indeed. Not much could harm Eddie. Continue reading
When Danaë was very young, she tried to play with the doorman’s son.
The doorman was helping Danaë’s father with their heavy luggage. His son, perhaps a few years older than her, sat on a chair near the door, dressed in a smart brown suit. Danaë animated an image of her teddy bear, and mentally flipped it over to the boy, who didn’t respond at all.
She realized that he had no brain-ware, and therefore no way to see the bear, so she forwarded the image to the local environment instead. A ghostly, translucent bear danced its way across the sidewalk, drawn on the air by a trillion fluorescing nanites. The boy smiled at her. Then Danaë’s father grabbed her by the arm and pulled her indoors. Continue reading
Line 10: PROGRAM begins. A hexagonal pod in some run-down kapuseru hoteru, two meters by one meter by one meter, with a microwave oven at one end and a tiny TV at the other. Another cell in a hotel honeycombed with them, filled with strays, the unemployed, lesser traveling businessmen, worker bees, one single hornet. GOTO 20.
Line 20: Cars and motorbikes wage war for the marginal turf of the narrow street, shadowed by razor-sharp towers taller than infinity, lit by neon and quantum dots, shadowed once more by fog and sulfur compounds, lit yet again by the barest hint of sun behind stratus clouds. The sidewalk is still dark from the recent rain. If there is a folded paper note in my left jacket pocket, GOTO 100. Otherwise fold my umbrella and GOTO 150 for food. Continue reading