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.

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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

Eleven Worlds: The Book

Step into the worlds of nine authors and their eleven stories… stories ranging from the mysterious to the absurd to the hilarious… stories set in days already gone, when Viking longboats ruled the waves… stories of an era yet to come, when discovering subterranean matrixes is all in a day’s work… and stories of a time that—fortunately—will never come, when pumpkin pie monsters announce their intention of taking over the world.

Follow the heroes and heroines as they battle fierce dragons, discover groundbreaking nutritional tips, or just find out why life is worth living. Thrill to the tale of the heroic Knight of the Opaque Kismet, shudder as you read the adventures of the feared pirate Nebuchadnezzar Pearl, and laugh when you discover why buying a country cabin in winter might not be a good idea.

If that hasn’t piqued your interest, let me just remind you to keep your eyes open for the bridesmaid who knocks over a can of green paint… for the London policeman who loses all his speeding tickets… and for the pilgrim whose life is turned upside-down when he first tries ice cream—or wait, maybe there was another reason? That was the important one, anyhow.

Don’t miss these eleven stories!

Emerald Isle – Green plays a prominent part in this story as the hero rescues six princesses from the dragon’s domain, eventually breaking the spell and freeing the heroine, Erin, to be a happy frog once more.

Breaking the Ice – Mr. Tonto tries out life in the country, and is surprised to find that he likes it. That is, he liked it until he realized he was being dogged by a disgruntled former client. Frightened by a seemingly violent threat, he disappears to the city. When he returns, will there be anything left to salvage?

Squashbuckling! – When pumpkin pie armies invaded New York City, Johnny Tyrell did the logical thing: hide. But that couldn’t save him, and he was caught regaling himself with his favorite Chilean chili peppers. It was then that he discovered that those same chili peppers were the only weapon capable of destroying the invasive pies – and the only question left is what dollar bill Johnny Tyrell’s face should go on.

Eye of the Pearl – Nebuchadnezzar Pearl, most feared pirate of the seven seas, has his eye on the Pearl. Follow him and Captain William Sparr as they battle it out with swords, cannons, and earth-shaking dice. Nebuchadnezzar may have the upper hand for a time, but Captain Sparr has an ace up his sleeve… the Necklace of Souls.

Miss Nutrition – Follow the protagonist as she runs into Miss Nutrition at the donut shop, and learns amazing nutrition facts she had never dreamed of!

Unearthing Kabal City – Chantelle Norcross, homicide detective, unexpectedly becomes involved in unearthing a deadly plot – all revolving around the top secret information on a missing computer chip. Royce Henning has his hands on the chip and is trying to plug it into his massive underground plant, but Norcross and her friends are only one step behind.

The Bobby’s Stolen Speeding Tickets – Frank Kliforth is the perfect dashing young London policeman, with a sharp eye for speeding cabs and omnibuses. Imagine his dismay when the contents of a whole briefcase full of speeding tickets disappear! Follow him and Detective Grey as they roam the streets of London to investigate a trio of suspects.

Maid of Honor – Derick and Marie’s wedding day approaches, and preparations are in full swing. Or in full smash. Marie’s maid of honor scrambles to fix one disaster after another.

Windswept – Priestess and Power are virtually synonymous in the old Viking settlement of Sørvagur, and Eira would like to keep it that way. Taking advantage of an incoming windstorm, she sets afoot a plot to discredit the recently-arrived Christian missionary, but affairs spiral out of Eira’s control as he stands firm, and the wind begins to threaten destruction.

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.

A Life of Sadness Turned Into a Life of Shock, Surprise, and Hilarity by Something Turning Up – Chelsea, an average young teenager, is suddenly pulled out of her box when a 17th Century pilgrim appears in her living room. Between laughs and adventures, Chelsea’s depressed outlook on life cheers up as she and her dad try each in their own way to solve the anomaly.