February 2020


The period that came next, after the brief flowering of plenty, came to be known as the Junior Deprivation. Not as serious as the decade-long Senior Deprivation, that had seen whole cities depopulated and kingdoms crumbled, but enough that the people knew want and fear again. Some were grateful that things had not gotten quite so bad; others were fearful that the Deprivation would deepen and there would soon be nothing left of them. They increasingly turned to demagogues and charlatans who promised quick returns to prosperity, or a permanent banishing of the Senior Deprivation.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Welcome to a EFNB 10th Anniversary Week special announcement! While reading my work to write sequel entries, it seems I accidentally posted two entries on February 21, 2010. So I am time-shifting this decade-old entry, originally published 2/21/2010, ahead in time and adding this note for the purposes of consistency. Enjoy a blast from the past!

Violet sighed deeply and leaned back in her chair. The best weekends, she thought, were the ones where you have nothing hanging over your head. Damocles could have had a relaxing weekend if he’d been able to get rid of his sword for two days, and Violet had managed to get rid of hers.

Or so she thought.

The telephone rang, and her eyes flashed in annoyance. “Should have disconnected it,” she muttered, pulling herself reluctantly from the seat and making for the phone line where it met the wall.

The answering machine whirred into action, blaring out a message until cut short by the pulled line. “Violet, did you forget? You were supposed to—”

Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 27, 2010.
The pounding on the door grew louder. “Mr. Orleans? Is everything all right?”

Rich looked desperately back and forth, from the door to the crumpled form of Bernard Orleans in his large leather chair, to the neat bullet hole in the wall.

“E…everything’s fine,” Rich cried out, in his best imitation of Orleans’ aged and irascible wheezing.

“Glad to hear it. Open the door! The shareholders are here for their meeting.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 26, 2010.

“Look, Graham, I don’t expect you to like it, but I do expect you to get it,” Allison said. “We’re all using somebody for something. You’re a smart guy, you would’ve used me to get ahead in your little bookstore before finding somebody your mom wouldn’t mind bringing home. I did the same.”

The .38 was trembling in Graham’s hand. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have left you in the gutter with two slugs from a cop in your gullet.”

“Yeah? Well, now’s your opportunity to do just that,” Allison said. She slid her hands up around Graham’s wrists and pulled the Colt up to her sternum. “Go on, shoot. If you’ve got in in you.”

The librarian hesitated. Allison saw his grip slacken, and with a deft move she plucked the .38 from his grasp.

“Just like I thought,” she said. “The difference between you can me, Graham, is that I’m willing to make things happen, and you just let things happen to you.”

Graham’s hands went up. “Are you going to shoot me then, Allison?” he said. “Even a known communist and ne’er-do-well like me isn’t going to look good dead on your expensive floor.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I have people for that. Charlie?”

‘Bullshit’ Charlie, still in his officer’s blues, stepped out of the shadows, with his friends Smith and Wesson leveled square at Graham’s back. “Thanks for not shooting her, pal,” he said with that infuriating shit-eating grin of his. “You saved me a ton of paperwork.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 25, 2010.

“Yeah?” Tia said. “What I see is that you’ve had two bosses break down when they had to hold your leash. Blame what you want, but they both have one thing in common. You.”

Peg looked through the glass at the still form of her former captain. “Does he talk about me at all?” she said.

“He said plenty before. He said enough. Insubordination. Dereliction of duty. It was bad enough that he ended up on a garbage scow, but to have someone like you as his navigator? He never complained, but it was all there. I read every message.”

Peg hesitated. She felt a burning in her face, a desire to plunge the verbal knife in and give it a rakish twist. It wouldn’t help anything. It never did. But the words were fully formed and tumbling out before she could even second0guess herself.

“Funny,” Peg said. “He never mentioned you. Not even when he was at his most insane and raving. I didn’t even know he had a daughter.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 24, 2010.

“He’s taken the bait. The asset is in his sector.”

Dr. Hirsch pulled a few still frames out of the data stream and blew them up for his colleagues. The incoming data was so voluminous that only the Pearlsea AI was capable of crunching it, but as Dr. Al-Enezi and Dr. Jutanugarn were important members of the oversight board, and thus controlled the purse strings, Hirsch was willing to walk them through the procedure.

Al-Enezi looked at the realtime screen, which had Rich letting Marie Cullen into his apartment, bewildered, from a bird’s-eye-view. “And his reaction will determine the course of the simulation?” she said. “What if he ends it prematurely?”

“We’ll reset if he sends the asset away,” Hirsch said. “It’s happened twice since Pearlsea got underway, and both times a reset solved things.

“Just like my PC at home,” chuckled Jutanugarn. Then, more seriously: “Won’t he notice a reset?”

“Perhaps, but it’s easy enough to isolate and delete that from the encephalon. The stimuli between the donor upload and the beginning of the experiment are controlled by us, after all.” Hirsch brought up a comparison diagram to emphasize his point, though he doubted either of the board members understood it—they were administrators, not working professionals.

“And we’re sure the donors are not going to object to their encephalons being used like this?”

“They signed the waiver and collected the fee. Legal has told us we’re free and clear.”

“Look,” said Al-Enezi. “He’s following her outside.” He pointed at the realtime monitor, where Rich was dutifully abandoning his pizza and following Marie out of his apartment. “What now?”

“We begin with mild uncanny stimuli and increase them as time goes on,” said Hirsch. “The point is to see how long until we have a total encephalon failure.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Welcome to EFNB 10th Anniversary Week! This entry is a sequel to one posted ten years ago on February 23, 2010.
“He abandoned the station,” Peg said. “He abandoned his post. And three people are dead. The company says we have to go after him.”

“Why us?” said Coolidge. “There are others.”

“Nearest corporate corvette is weeks away,” Peg said. “We’ve got leave to take the cutter.”

“You’re not listening,” Coolidge said through gritted teeth.

“Explain it to me then!” snapped Peg. “Because from where I’m sitting, Taylor killed a regular customer and stole his ship, which we look at pretty dimly where I come from.”

“Not our job,” Coolidge said. Then, seeing Peg’s expression, he added, for emphasis: “Let him go.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Next Page »