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Stories of the Lost Immediate

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The choice box [Aug. 12th, 2005|03:08 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Sony Indonesia]
[Voice |Lucille Fole]

Lucille bought batteries with a leftover thousand yen coin and presented herself at Sony Indonesia's imposing black reception desk. The boardroom doors swung open by inches, and closed with a quiet thump behind her. Of the three men behind the desk, she recognized the hiring director, Mr. Mototaka. The second man was a project director, she guessed, looking at his thinning hair, dignified expression, and cheap, rumpled shirt. She could see that the third man's tie must have cost thousands, but his face was unfamiliar.

"Ms. Lucille Fole," said Mr. Shigure Mototaka. "We need your advice on a technical matter." He closed his eyes. She smiled unnecessarily. "You were our manager of development of the EHI imager until six months ago. If you would be kind enough, take a look at this curious device."

She bowed to him. "Yes, of course, sir."

The third man at the table reached into a drawer and set a small silver shape in front of her: two thin plates set almost touching, a handle, a battery pack.

She reached out, turned it over. "It seems to be a holographic projector, sir... It's designed to be handheld, that's a little strange. But aside from that, I don't see anything unusual about it."

"Look closer," said Mr. Mototaka.

She picked it up and gazed at it, holding it out in front of her. "It has no data port. It can't display anything," she said slowly. "Unless it's wireless, or..."

"Do you recognize it at all?"

"Since you called me in... It's a scanner, using a radio-frequency hologram? But an imager would have a data port too, wouldn't it? I have no idea what this is... unless this button on the handle is a trigger..."

"Ms. Fole," he said, clasping his hands and leaning forward, "Six months ago." He frowned and put on a brief puzzled expression. "What happened to the suitcase you had to abandon at the airport? The one containing the lightning ray?"


"We know the yakuza didn't get it. Were you contacted, at any time, by anyone, about this weapon?"

"Sir, it..."

"The crime you committed is not important. I only need you to answer this question."

Lucille sat down for the first time, almost collapsing into the chair, and stared at the floor. "No." She paused to think carefully. "No. We never heard anything about it."

"Ms. Fole, we lost track of it in the airport baggage claim. We believe that someone has the plans and has begun to mass-produce this... adaptation of the EHI scanner."

"These are... You found this on some crook...?"

He grunted. "It doesn't matter where it came from, Ms. Fole. In any case, we are re-employing you to debug this gun. We dislike doing military work, but in this case it has become necessary to maintain parity. Therefore, you will resume your old job, with a salary increase of five hundred thousand yen per month, and your project will be placed under Ordnance. Understood?"

Lucille looked up, eyes outlined in red. "Do I decide if I accept the job now?"

"No. You do accept," said Mr. Mototaka. "I believe we have had a productive meeting."

The man with the expensive tie nodded sharply at her as she left, and she turned around. "Ms. Fole. I look forward to working with you on this," he said, and then in English, wiggling his fingers and grimacing cheerfully: "Shee you... rater, Misu Fole.

"Shee you... rater."

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Old opportunity [Jul. 28th, 2005|07:32 pm]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Floor fifty-five]
[Voice |Lucille Fole]

The floor under her feet shook faintly with the vibration of their rented AC. Even after five months in this cheap and low-profile apartment, she still had a sense she was in danger. So she kept inside, reckless of monotony, and did crosswords and watched television while she waited for the Yakuza to lose interest. Her boyfriend Joseph stayed away most of the time. He had set up a repair shop, which kept his eyes open at least. Things seemed safer and safer all the time. For that reason both of them remained very scared.

Five months into this cage, she had long since given up taking forgiveness except for if she could get a couple hundred dollars together at one time. She took it as slowly as droplets fell from the leaking ceiling, and stretched it out into a week. That was a happy week. Joseph generally backed off again at the end, returning to his piles of crap and cheap roll-out mattress.

It might have felt like a dead end, but she knew better than to take a risk just to feel wind in her wings again. By reason and reflex, she was a careful woman. At Sony they had known all about that. But it was a mistake that brought her here. She had always known that it was her mistakes. And yet she had still believed that some risks could be taken.

As she lay on the bed, her cellphone rang and she picked it up from her dresser. There seemed to be silence on the other end of the line, and then a hoarse male voice said, "Sony Indonesia, Optical Division. Is a Ms. Lucille Fole there?"

She said nothing.

"Hello? Do I have the right number?"

She had never expected that Sony would be the one to find her. Did they suspect her of espionage, that some rival had bought the details of the project she had worked on? It was bizarre to think that they could outreach the Yakuza. She couldn't grasp it, blurry from months of Saturday Puzzlers.

"Ms. Fole?"

"Yes, this is me."

"Ms. Fole, we need you at the main downtown office immediately."


The receptionist hung up and she closed the phone. Was this some baroque trick? If not, how was her job still intact? She hadn't been showing up for work or anything...

She left a note for Joseph and took the next transit elevator to the surface. She wore the one suit that hadn't been left in her luggage. It was beyond her, but, hell, why not hope?

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Khodorkovsky is sentenced [Jul. 21st, 2005|07:52 pm]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

Gots from Deadprogrammer. (Used here without permission.)
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How to Run a Deck, Part 3 and Conclusion [Jul. 20th, 2005|08:39 pm]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Floor fifty-one]
[Voice |Ability Laney]

"Well, Mr. Phillips, it could be one of the original tablets of the Ten Commandments but I'm not quite sure. Now, I have an ammonite to examine so I'd better be getting on with it."

Part two

From a statistical perspective, my conversations with Ackerman the discarded technology geek have a half-life of two minutes thirty seconds.

He avoids uncommon acronyms, which helps a lot, but I tell you this: I know nothing about how mellow the error of a vacuum tube amplifier sounds. Neither can I identify the three vector instructions that the Catalyst 2900 no longer supports except through microcode emulation. I can't tell you what the cosine law is for spherical trigonometry. I'm an English student. You owe me a dollar that I remembered a example.

So much for that. All that happened this time was, we talked a little about reading punch cards, and he soldered together some random scrap metal and solenoids to feed the cards past a scan-beam. I promised I wouldn't need help coding the driver, so he located the office cot and refilled on sleep.

Then I left, meaning by myself. The heat had melted friendship. But where's the danger? The neighbourhood is rough, but I've never been threatened by anyone sane enough. It's damn picturesque, and I don't mean as in live footage of the disaster victims. The windows are huge and the view is one of the most terrifying, ever. How silver the networks of the spider sleep. They touch each other and drink rain.

There is a subtle sense of separation, from the Earth, from the ground, from me and the fact that I grow. The ticket fare for the elevator, ten dollars, isn't any fortune, and no matter what your means there's no way that breaks your bank. But don't you realize it's that you have to pay for it, to make a connection? That Earth itself is on a cash basis?

Yes. Yes, there is a fire escape, always. But do you know already, dear reader, the stairs end at the glass.

The elevator empties out by degrees, until the whole vast platform is left to the ten of us that have business below the ceiling. I walk out onto the pleasant air of level 5, a dingy back corridor, but still a real relief from the sharp edges of the situation above. The breeze is faint and there's a smell of roses in it. It should feel bitter in my mouth, but somehow the farther away I get from the upper floors, the better I feel.

I buy a business magazine at the kiosk run by the Palestinian man and get out onto street level. Thank God I am so far under the sky; it's so much less safe up there. Wouldn't you have thought the same thing? You'd have been wrong, though.

Because I get on the number six bus, along the main downtown corridor. The pastel storefronts that catch the eye flicker past out the window, ignored as I read about Microsoft's New Plan. Someday they'll get off the x86 architecture, I just know it. All the lights on the bus go off, and the glossy pages slip off my lap as I look up. We're drifting to--

The bus punches through a display of plastic flowers and shatters the plate-glass of the windshield into a thousand tiny, perfect cubes. My neck snaps forward against the back of the seat in front of mine, and I lie there for a couple of minutes, pretty far out of it. Then I'm shaken to my feet, and helped out by a couple of ambulance workers. We sit around, all the passengers, looking lost while we wait for the police. Some of us are bleeding, exhausted. Some of us are crying.

Then they took my name, and let me get home by myself. Maybe I didn't take a taxi, though. I just took the same bus over again, so you see how rational I am, citizens. And I fumbled my key in the lock, the bright green keychain tangled in my fingers, and I had to hug my parents, and have a bath, and after that, all I could do was come online and spend the rest of the night talking. To my friends, whoever was around. And finally, when everyone else was asleep, in the silence of the hiss of the fan, writing you this entry. So sleep good!

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Lucy at Sony [Jul. 13th, 2005|07:17 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Voice |Lucille Fole]

The thick yellow directory was the only book left in the apartment. She had left her clothes, her cellphone, and a stash of $300 I found in the Velcro pocket of her sweatshirt. She had nineteen rows of books on three floor to ceiling bookshelves the last time I was here. Four hundred pounds, paperbacks, hardcovers, pamphlets, looseleaf with crude staples, leather-bound in gold leaf, and with just enough time to cut and run as far as she could, she had wasted two hours of her time and carried off every single damn one.

I looked through what was left as carefully as I thought I could afford. I filled my cardboard boxes with a huge quantity of notepaper she had scattered on the floor, and her discs took most of the empty space in my own folder of SOLs. I left the money behind for the police.

I checked inside the television: the cathode tube came off in my hands after a little work, but nothing was there. I searched the ceiling panels, the sofa, her mattress. I was pretty thorough. But somehow it was only by accident that, just leaving for the last time, my pants caught on a nail in the door. Part of it swung open, and I stooped and picked up what had fallen out.

Her telephone book; she had kept it in a secret compartment, and from what I knew of her personality this was not especially unusual. I flipped through the dogeared pages; nothing fell out, but she had written on every page. Made a lot of the book nearly unreadable, with the red gel ink. She had written in the margins in her characteristic cautious, cramped hand, then she had given that up and used all of the page, interlineating the numbers with vague notes that probably no longer made sense even to her. And then she had drawn a magic circle on the map of the city that served as the frontispiece.

She had copied the symbols carefully out of a stained spiral notebook. She'd done the same thing to the desktop globe in my office. She had begged and I had let her, then I had hidden it in the storage closet. It stood there, bisected by thirty-seven red neon geodesics. I never looked at it. It bothered me, that she believed in it, that she acted like this. Sign of bad judgment. That I had hired a mad woman.

I closed it up, put her phonebook in the basket of my scooter, locked her apartment with the key she had given me. Then I drove away down the hall.

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How to Run a Deck, part 2 [Jul. 12th, 2005|03:38 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Up in the sky!]
[Voice |Ability Laney]

Part one

The cargo elevator that runs along the east side of the Laurent Building was as crowded as ever. As it hit the 24th floor, the ceiling of the weatherproofing, the native heat of the equator swept down from the air and ran with little curled feet over the back of all the commuters. The true climate of the day was humid, on the not-quite of rain, and profoundly cloudy through the great gleaming windows of the shaft. We stood in a corner near the double door, away from the centre, and it was still almost tight enough to force us into hexagons.

I'd been over the roof maybe a dozen times, and I still found it intolerable. Katylin, who told me she never crossed the line, she appeared to be in some mild form of shock. Dave seemed nauseous but okay. We waited through the next twenty-five stops, until the elevator slowed to open on floor fifty-one, and then we started pushing toward the door.

This floor — the entire top two-thirds of Down — owes its existence to bad planning. In the early years of this city, it was built just regular: skyscrapers close together, as tall as possible. Then Donald Fenwick at Surface Architecture invented a chrome gray heat coating to abstract the tropical sun away, and everyone dropped like a stone, huddled beneath it like a crowd in rain, crouching under their particolored thicket of umbrellas. Then they added tints and indirect lighting to imitate the real sensation of sunlight, and they shone advertising on the ceiling, and everyone tried to forget the existence of the rest of the universe.

Unfortunately, there were all these inconvenient seventy-floor towers projecting above the comfort zone. Well, let's part them out to landlords, there has to be cheap housing somewhere, and now here we are, and now when we are out of luck, we are up in Down.

Floor 51 is painted green and smells funny. We thanked God we were no longer in the cargo elevator and took a few minutes walking through the carpeted halls to the machine shop. I recognized it by the door and the red paint, "Cell Repair", on the plain wooden sign.

"Hey, Ack!" The dusty room was stuffed with plastic cases, trays of circuit elements, and sharp metal edges, with only two gaps in the junk: one for his air-solderer and digital probes, and one on top of the industrial lathe for a drill, a rotating saw, and other tools less easily classified. The only piece of technology left out was Ackerman, who was on soda break or something.

I picked up half of a holographic lightcouple and received a small shock as I turned it over. It seemed to be a recent part, but the active side had a huge scorchmark. Doubt he could fix that. I put it down on the gutted twenty-inch cube labeled "Thinking Machines".

My good pals didn't seem to want to risk the clutter: they stood in the hall, bored, as I looked through the shop for Ack or a corner of Ack. I finally found him underneath a cardboard box. He was crouched in an ex-military flight simulator, eating corn chips. I posed the problem to him.

Part three

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How to Run a Deck, draft [Jul. 8th, 2005|03:15 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Shinamura Institute]
[Voice |Ability Laney]

"Cream-colored cardboard, ruled with green lines and integers. Some fine-greased retrotech has laid an intricate pattern of tiny square holes across the surface. They are punch cards, a clever puzzle. I lift them out of my courier-style bag and spread them across the table, fix up the ragged rows a little, then put the first one in the library scanner.

"Other students display an interest. Extra credit assignment, fellow future citizens. These are an archaic mode of write-once data recorder. Feel them, be close to them and their clinging scent of hot metalwork. Relax in the healthy simplicity of the visible, the direct. Your rapidly rotating platter, your lattice of magnetization, your spiral optical record, is elegant and reliable and beyond you. Beyond you entirely, beyond your five senses. So: hole? no hole? Crude but fundamentally reassuring.

"The first punch-card has produced a pretty scatterplot of black data on white surface. I save it in my fileshare, put the card back in my neat grid, and align the next one with the scanning head. This is going to take a while."

Which is what the one damn person who got to use the school scanner was probably thinking. I had my own set of punch cards, and my own problems: the whole rest of the day I was distracted as hell thinking how I would get the cards read in. Feeding a scanner - after buying a scanner - struck me as a waste of time and money. I could modify a barcode reader, except I probably wasn't nearly techie enough to do that in a day. After school ended I went down to Delaney Park to see if anyone I knew had any ideas.

They did. They had all had the same assignment. When I got there, right away I saw Dave and Katylin playing Go Fish with their two decks.

"Hey, you also got the same thing? We could share the work --"

Katylin looked up. "Yeah, maybe they're different. We checked," she said.

"Oh. Sorry." I sat on the concrete margin with my legs dangling and watched the game for a polite length of time. "Hey, I have an idea."


"Let's read them with an ad hoc machine. Like an array of pins or something."

"I don't think I feel like cheating, Laney," she said pleasantly; as taught, stated her position and kept out of the argument. Dave was silent and blank, probably because he had no idea who to support.

"How is building a machine together cheating? The teacher was fine with that girl who hogged the school system all fucking day. As long as we run each of our decks independently, it should be on the level." So Katylin thought about that while I paced around Delaney Parking Lot and plotted. "Okay," she said slowly, "so, Laney, do you have something already in mind?"

"Yeah," I said, and paused thoughtfully. Katylin's patience lasted about a minute. "You're not going to tell me, are you?"

"Do either of you have one of those oscillating laser pointers?"

"No, I don't think so," she said doubtfully. Dave took a little longer to decide, "No."

"We better go buy one from this guy I know. Come on."

Part two

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Names of Animals [Jul. 7th, 2005|05:13 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Tower Building, mid-hundreds]
[Voice |Ability Laney]

A gem of a little cafe, the Holder. Cheap, too, for the area; on the other hand, that makes it real expensive for anywhere else in Down, Indonesia. The bagel goes on expenses as I survey the local colour. Tourists, mostly.

For example: just now two grinning Japanese men walk past a woman with highly surgical features. They are carrying between them a case of Asahi that probably cost seventy-five dollars at the airport lounge. The woman isn't looking at them; she isn't looking at anyone. Her hair to millimetre tolerance, her jagged eyebrows, the studied angle of her gaze, all broadcast her status as an object of attention.

There are people, attention is a one-way street. There are people for whom this room, this building, is part of that one way street. No shabby place to be watching them all move by.

I keep my camera hidden under my jacket so nobody gets spooked. The guy in the dress shirt is standing behind the cashier and paying no attention to me, but he's Tower security. He knows it's there. Pull it out surreptitiously, and he catches my eye. Shakes his head, slowly. I put it back. He does information regulation: it all comes in here and none of it leaves, another one-way. Very strict. There are no airports in Down.

"This way up," I think, and a grin hangs on my face for about a second at the feeble pun. Then I sober quick in case anyone is doubting my sanity or my credit rating.

So five minutes pass in Tower, the same as in any other place, but more majestic. Some old reprobate bellies up to the chair opposite me and asks to borrow it. I tell him sure, actually, why not steal it, I'll cover for you. He laughs, which tells me I should watch out. No one has ever laughed at that joke. It doesn't surprise me very much when he makes to sit down right there, at my table, and tries to start some kind of conversation.

This is totally incongruous. This is a business district. If he feels like talking, maybe he can take out his cellphone and raise whoever he wants. Maybe there are six or seven people in this store doing that, having dialogues with the air, performing basically the same social function as bag ladies. Does he think I will date him? He is eighty years old. We talk about stock prices. I politely excuse myself. I get up. He puts a hand on my arm.

Paranoid thought of the day: he wants to get something on my skin! I use the reliable "Excuse me, that's mine," shaking him off. "Are you on any drugs I should know about?"

"I could ask the same thing of you," he says seriously.

"Me, being the complete stranger you are now bothering?" I glance over at the security guy, and he examines the ceiling.

He thinks this should make sense somehow? He thinks I should recognize him, or — oh, shit.

"Bill Gates?" It is. It's Bill Gates. He is eighty years old. Why is he here? Stupid question. "Okay, but do you have to tell me about it?" I ask. He nods: "I have very little time. Every second I take a chance." I grimace. "That's not the topic. Why are you talking to me, personally, rather than someone you paid?"

He smiles vaguely, as if he's forgotten his name, and says, "You're seventeen," (a mediocre guess,) "and you have a blog. Why not."

Yes, dear readers, people can just tell. Or at least Bill Gates can tell. I take out the camera and stick it to my head, while we begin to talk.

( Videopost - Rich Man Goes To Heaven )

I skipped out on him. My last sight was the pale body lying on the porcelain slab. He was sedated enough not to notice my indifference to his fate, or at least not to guilt me. As I came down from the shock-high, I fantasied Imperial Stormtroopers would block my path and recapture me, push my head down, kneel at the urn and kiss the ashes of the shell. But, no doubt things went perfectly, and there he is, superconducting in Heaven... until the money stops coming in, anyway.

So, how long do you think he bought himself? Another eighty years? Ten? A thousand, two? Forever?

You ask me that question? Why, dear readers, don't you know? He has already breathed his last breath, he has made his last human choice: to stop and talk to me. What good is a Laney to a satellite? What good is the memory of Laney?

What good are names of animals?

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Lucille's Withdrawal [Jul. 5th, 2005|04:28 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |Floor fifty-five]
[Voice |Lucille Fole]

Out the window it went, six ounces of whisky and curved-neck glass into the dim and uncomfortable afternoon. "Fuck," I tried to explain, "Doesn't goddamn manage if you get drunk." He had a look on his face like I was a television, as I stalked around the two-bed apartment, and then I clenched my fists, became calm enough for words, and said, "I have been waiting here, with you, four hours for an imaginary hookup." He didn't talk. Playing for time. I am angry.

Is this what I can afford? Why, yes, since you ask. Two dollars an hour, or ten a day, into the fucking repurposed parking meter mounted with three-inch screws on the outside of the door. Every day someone dragged out the door for nonpayment, and threatening the landlord's enforcer with their attorney, which is somehow the icing on the tiny, moist Cheerio of pathetic. Oh. And? Up here in the heat and rain, when I say a two-bed apartment, that is how many beds I can fit into the room. I live here with my boyfriend and his whisky stain. All over his shirt. In the two minutes I wasn't right here.

You've guessed alcoholic, and you're sure he's not fucking six years old? Alcohol is not my drug of choice. Fuck the primordial, depraved ape who discovered that rotting fruit made him drunk. Fuck the protolanguage that he communicated this to innocent mankind with, and the unbroken chain that connects him with me and damn -- damn not having drugs!

Three minutes, late by three minutes. All the fucking time in the world for him to get it and it's me, three minutes late at the airport. That's the margin of failure, gospodin, pay attention. I'm an object lesson. Look.

At my boyfriend, alcoholic, hardware hacker, with a frozen hundred-thousand on his credit card. Or at me, only not like that if you don't want to lose anything, because I'm pissed off: the up-and-coming engineer who thought the Rus-Yakuza would remember a favor.

Turns out that works both ways. But I want to forgive him. I want to forgive myself.


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business as usual at the Long Kiss [Jul. 5th, 2005|01:52 am]
Stories of the Lost Immediate

[Location |The Long Kiss Hello]
[Voice |the bartender (owner?), name as-yet undecided]

The most popular feelie on the 99th floor of my bar is actually a remake of an old two-d ad for a Mexican beer, with the "adjust your latitude" tag removed and the sensoria looped; up to half an hour of just lying down in the sun. There's a vendor out on the sidewalk up there doing good business renting tanning lamps, and I'm thinking about buying into a partnership with him. Below the ceiling, where it's the exact opposite and never rains, the most popular feelie comes from Japan, where a voice actress plays in puddles on her way home from work. Bard Sparrow sang about it, once, after I gave him a freebie, but I can never remember all the words:

Rainy Day KimikoCollapse )

The first customer of the day repeats the chorus with me: It's best to run on a rainy day! We mime raising mugs to toast, and chuckle at each other. What gets me is that the drinkers upstairs repeat the same line. It just goes to show --

"Pour me an Irish Kimiko, would you?"

And so it goes.
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