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Huset, Hiorthfjellet, and the Vikings

Isaiah D

The fog showed no signs of breaking as the longship sliced through it, turning up the bright water at its bow in little ripples, its strakes creaking under the strain of the low, irregular gusts afflicting the fluttering mainsail.  Why, it was so thick Olaf Adrejalsson could have cut a path through it with his axe.  He had a mind to, too.  He smiled slightly as he whirled the double-bladed weapon dexterously before sending it flying into the massive, decorated stempost in the bow, just an inch away from Jørlsson’s humiliatingly flat nose, disregarding that aggrieved personage’s angry growl.

“Och, ye dunderpate-!  Meanin’ it honorably, of course, chief.”

Jørlsson was sore upon the point of his nose – it had no point – and was in constant apprehension lest his over active and unpredictable neighbor should split the ship in half with his volatile cleaver, even if it were his ship and he were its captain.

Adrejalsson straightened himself up with his foot resting on the raised fore-deck in evident enjoyment, and sucked up the fog which sailed through the air.  It was the kind of fog that you could breathe – the kind of bright fog that fills up your lungs with that damp, fresh taste and makes your nostrils dream of snow. 

Olaf turned away and uttered a sigh. 

Only, it had been too long.  Far too long.

In fact, it had been so long, that no one knew just how long it had been.  They had entered the fog just after sailing out, and it had been months now since they had seen the sun.  Once or twice a glimpse of its rays shone through the mist, but never more than that and never for long.  Never for long enough to get their bearings.  Never long enough to get another chance at the sea monster they had set out in pursuit of.  They might have been in that fog for years – decades, for all anyone could tell. 

He passed his hand through the foam leaping up around the bow and pensively lifted and dropped a handful of frigid water.

The helmsman strained his eyes to see beyond the fog, but caught little beyond the glimmering lantern hung on the mast, barely being able to make out the figures of his comrades leaning out over the bow thirty yards ahead.  He stroked his mighty beard with a muttered imprecation in Norse. 

But then Olaf suddenly tensed up, staring out beyond the carved figurehead, and a cold shiver ran down his spine.  Jørlsson stood laughing as he poured a handful of icy water surreptitiously down his chief’s back.

But to Jørlsson’s surprise Adrejalsson did not even seem to feel it, his eyes peeled, his whole body strung as taut as a bent longbow.  He thought- he thought he had spotted something.  What he hardly cared at the moment – it was something, anything!

Continue reading Huset, Hiorthfjellet, and the Vikings

Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 3

1: Welcome to Place
2: Number 877

3: Hiding

The dews that rose and fell in Place carried the months and years with them; and Savannah grew up.  Eleven-year-old Savannah wasn’t tall for her age, but she was healthy and active.  Unit 877 spent a good deal of time sewing up holes in her clothes.

Savannah’s favorite game was hide and seek; none of the children of her acquaintance (and certainly not Paulie-across-the-hall) could beat her in creativity for finding good hiding spots, athleticism for getting into them, or patience to stay in them.  And although Paulie said sarcastically to her mom, “Her Majesty is awful annoying sometimes,” she joined the others in meekly following her lead—so a small generation grew up on hide and go seek.

One day there was a half-hearted rebellion.  “It’s Malcolm’s turn to count,” Savannah had decided, and Paulie grumbled.

“Malcolm likes to play just as much as the rest of you,” Savannah said, taking fire instantly, “and you snobby kids had better let him have a turn.”

“But it’s not fair,” Paulie grumbled.

“What’s not fair?” Savannah snapped.

“Being a Unit’s not fair—not really fair, you know—he can see everything with the security cams.”

“Malcolm doesn’t cheat.”

“He always finds you last,” someone dared to say.

“Everyone always finds me last,” Savannah retorted.

“One time—” Malcolm began.

Continue reading Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 3

Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 2

1: Welcome to Place

2: Number 877

On a dark, humid night in July, human 877 was born.  Off in the underground Unit manufacturing plant, a new Unit was being commissioned at the same time.  But no one celebrates commission day.

Savannah—that’s human 877’s name—didn’t remember more of her first four years than most of us do; unfortunately Unit 877 couldn’t be as forgetful.  It had vivid memories of diaper changes and spoon feeding.  Some Units were handheld devices—there were even a few that snapped around their human’s wrist—but Unit 877 was a fully mobile independent robot.  And there was more to 877’s uniqueness too.  For the first time ever, 877 was equipped with independent AI.  It could make personalized decisions for Savannah, without consulting the data mine unless it chose to do so.  In order to make the personalization effective, 877 had been given every ability to interact with Savannah—talking to her, playing with her, working with her, and learning from her.  Whether this kind of individualized Unit would lead to greater happiness reactions—whether it would be used in perpetuity or end up on the scrap heap—would have to be seen.

Continue reading Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 2

The Absent Banana

Isaiah D

It began on a bright and cloudless morning, as the sun peeked over the far off mountaintop, shedding its glorious rays across the wide forests and dales.  The wind gamboled through the trees and the squirrels and chipmunks which peopled the forest scurried hither and yon with a noise that was noiseless.  Suddenly the dense silence was broken by the sound of a furious clamor, and a horse, steaming at the nostrils and bespeckled with foam, dashed with its rider through the thick woods.  The rider was seated on it with his legs crossed (casually perusing a newspaper he held with one hand and munching on a half-eaten banana which he held in the other) when a low bough wiped him clean out of the saddle.  The court jester plummeted to the ground, newspaper, banana, and all.  Leaping up, he gathered his newspaper, forgot his banana, and rushed after his horse.  But as soon as he was out of sight a figure stepped out of the bushes and approached the banana cautiously.  Stooping down he gathered the remains of the banana, pocketed them, chuckled to himself, and fled rapidly in the opposite direction. 

It was dusk by the time the court jester, having caught his unwieldy horse, lost half of what was left of his newspaper, and gotten as besplattered with mud as his horse was with foam, rode in through the gates of the king’s city.  An hour later he was ushered into the presence of the king and his councilors.

Continue reading The Absent Banana

Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 1

1: Welcome to Place

The Hansberg Project.  That’s how the UN writes it in official papers; but to the inhabitants, it’s Place, and for them, the rest of the earth—the UN included—may as well not exist.

The debris left by an experiment of the fifth industrial revolution, Place is a tightly controlled world of computers and math, where everything is precise and predictable.  Back in the day, it was populated by fifty-nine volunteers eager to undergo a social experiment.  Impossibly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence analyzed each participant and manipulated them by a series of stimulants for their greater happiness, ostensibly at least.

The outside world watched with fascination.  TV news covering the Hansberg Project rated only slightly lower than the race to land on Jupiter.  Not that everyone thought it was all good.  There were plenty of warnings of an army of zombie-like manipulated experimental humans being trained to conquer the world.

At the height of the excitement Paul Hansberg went missing.  Six days later, a janitor found the greatest political force in the world dead of dehydration in a malfunctioned back elevator of the UN headquarters.

After the nine days’ wonder, Hansberg’s colleagues remembered his Project.  Six months of arguing and paperwork later, they decided to shut it down.  No one could agree on who should control it.

They could have skipped the bureaucratic squabbles.  Not only was Hansberg gone, the keys to his Project were gone too.  No one could figure out how to control Hansberg’s AI, not even for long enough to shut it down.

Then speculation caught wind of the fiasco, and rumor had a field day.  Hansberg had implanted his AI with his own dreams of world domination; the zombie army was coming to attack society any day now.  Or, someone inside the project had hacked the AI and was keeping UN officials out for his own nefarious purposes.  Or maybe someone outside had hacked it and was building a zombie army.  Or, the AI was just going about life as usual and the participants needed to be rescued before they died of starvation in their isolated world.

Rumor could have spared itself its ingenuity—no one could get in or out, and that was that.  To the outside world, the Hansberg Project is still a mystery—an unknown blip on the map of earth.

All that happened 99 years ago.  Place is now a world of its own, with a population of 876, completely self-sufficient, governed by a central AI with 876 individual ground units each taking care of one single human from cradle to grave.

Continue reading Malcolm Defroster: Chapter 1

Author Interview: The Tale Behind The Fairy Tale of Zumaro

Rodrigo of Lindsborg, Knight of the Opaque Kismet, is on a quest. When his squire spills the beans about a captive princess, nothing will keep him back from rescuing her… except not knowing which of three identical towers she’s immured in. Once Rodrigo finds that out, he still has to duel Sally Chocolatemuffins’ evil uncle, before he can ride off into the sunset followed by a cartload of all Sally’s… stuff.

It’s the classic story of a brave knight and a captive princess… but Sarah’s The Fairy Tale of Zumaro definitely has its own unique spin. What better way to find out what sets it apart than to ask the author?

Continue reading Author Interview: The Tale Behind The Fairy Tale of Zumaro