Which Chip Today

Story #12 for Story A Day Challenge May 2016

12 Which Chip Today (photo by Ken Eckert)

Photo by Ken Eckert (via Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution)

Which Chip Today

Thanks, Dad. Jeremy was grateful, really he was. He stood in front of his walk-in closet, wondering what to wear.

His father, Jacob, wasn’t anywhere around to hear his son’s acknowledgement. He was half-way around the world at some technical conference, something about bringing life-saving technology to developing countries. Jeremy thought it was a good cause, of course, and silently applauded his father, but he had long ago decided to leave the heavy lifting of the world’s problems to other people.

He, on the other hand, would reap the rewards of the heavy lifters like his father. And enjoy every minute of it.

Sometimes Jeremy chose which outfit to wear first, sometimes he chose which chip to wear first. That was the beauty of being Jacob Isaac’s son: all the technology developed by Isaac Industries, Inc. (III) was available to Jeremy at no charge, including – and especially – the Immediate Ability (IA) chip. (His father named it; an unspoken but acknowledged taunt at the artificial intelligence (AI) community.)

Jeremy had to finish college first, his father insisted. Jacob was old-fashioned that way. But with the IA chip as a dangled carrot, Jeremy had no problem attending classes and completing his degree as a mediocre student. He would have had to wait anyway as it turned out, as federal laws were passed prohibiting the sale of chips to anyone under 21 years of age. (They were commonly used in the military at their discretion on members of any age, but Jeremy had no intention of taking that route.)

So, Jeremy mused, what will it be today? He opened the top drawer to peruse his chip collection. Skiing, rock climbing, jazz pianist, oil painting, photography, cliff diver, or one of the others? He had the both the Adventure and Artist sets to choose from. There were lots of other sets he wasn’t interested in (Engineering, Finance, and Airline Piloting, for example); they were all business-oriented anyway.

The downside to this new technology was that young people didn’t want to spend any time learning what they knew could be purchased in just a few years, throwing the education system into a downward spiraling tizzy. Masters and doctoral programs were dropping out of sight like flashlights with drained batteries. Even elementary and high school students were becoming snobbish about the subjects they didn’t want to take, the sports they didn’t want to play. Why bother?

Jeremy checked the weather in Acapulco for the next few days. Partly sunny? Good. Cliff diver it is, then. I can be there tonight and hang out for a week or so. He put the chip in its case and packed.

On the flight to Mexico, Jeremy thought about Life Before The Chip. People used to spend years learning a skill or developing a talent. Now it was available on an insertable memory chip. (Chips were not available for all skills and certainly not in all industries, but more were always in development.) He rubbed the back of his head where the access area was. It took a little getting used to, that extra little blip on his cranium, but now it was a sign of affluence. Anyone who could afford it had one. Or, if you didn’t have the money, you did everything possible to get hired by an industry that used a chip, as the best benefit was an access area paid for by an employer. Businesses got employees with a uniform experience level and employees got to keep the access hardware. It was a match made in heaven.

***

His first morning in Acapulco, the sun rose in glorious color as if it had waited just for him. Jeremy got up early. He was excited about diving; he hadn’t used this chip in a while. He was one of the first people at the cliff.

He stood apart until it was his turn, as a few of the others were glaring at him. They knew he had a chip; the access point was always a dead giveaway. There was a growing rivalry in some sports between the ‘chippers’ (as they were called) and the traditionalists. The traditionalists were not happy about practically anyone being able to buy that which once set them apart, making them elite.

He launched himself off the cliff, arms spread, back arched. The sun greeted him in his flight. It was at the apex of Jeremy’s arc when the chip failed. It gave no warning, no indication; not that he could have done anything even if it had.

His entry into the water was not that of an experienced diver, the others could see that, but they didn’t know why; they knew he had a chip. Underwater, Jeremy was disoriented. He pushed himself towards the surface, remembering from other dives some of what he needed to do. Breaking the surface, gasping, he realized he no longer knew how to swim. (It was one of those things he had chosen not to learn on his own because he knew he didn’t have to; a chip would take care of that.)

He turned towards the small beach, arms flailing in panic. It was early enough that no one was on the beach to notice. Those who had dived before him were already making their way back up the path for another dive. The divers waiting on the cliff could see, but couldn’t help. There wasn’t anything anyone could do.

***

The cliff diving chip was recalled and its sales suspended. After some major rework, a new version of the chip was ready for sale. Warnings were also included about the dangers of relying solely on chips when performing certain activities. It was too late for Jeremy; too little for Jacob.
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Cage Area

Story #10 for Story A Day Challenge May 2016

Where did they go? Who let them out?

Where did they go? Who let out the park staff?

Cage Area

“Sir, they’ve escaped.”

Captain Morgan could barely understand the message due to the static. “Again? Which enclosure this time?”

“3B, sir, the one near the hiking trail.”

Morgan groaned in despair. His ulcer was giving him fits. Morgan gritted his teeth, all three sets of them at the same time. “It’s those stupid park rangers. Every single time I round them up, someone lets them out. I’m going to get those hikers hiding in the bushes. Those camouflaged outfits can’t conceal them forever. Sooner or later I will find them. I will put them in the cage with the park rangers and I will personally transport every single one of them to the Mars base.”

But first Morgan needed his ulcer medication. “This ugly planet. I will be so glad when my tour of duty is up next month.” Morgan went to the freezer, stood in the open door just a moment, thinking of the long, beautiful, dark, freezing nights on Pluto.

It was an easy task for the Plutonian congress to approve the invasion once the earthlings dismissed Pluto as a planet. It was proof positive, in their minds, that the inhabitants of the water planet were far from being civilized. Earthlings needed to be dealt with before they could contaminate the rest of the solar system. It was a very popular military action.

While he was lost in his homesickness, what the captain thought were rose bushes turned into hikers with branches fastened to their helmets. They detached themselves from the hedge, scrambled over to the freezer, shoved him in, and padlocked the door.

Knowing that the other soldiers would think the freezer was ready for transport and would leave it alone, the hikers hurriedly attached the stolen sign to the freezer: “Cage Area For Park Staff Only.”
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Two of a Kind: Fiction Friday

The Friday Fictioneer Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photo.
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Photo copyright Sandra Crook

Photo copyright Sandra Crook

Two of a Kind

Grant saw the dragonfly disappear through the hourglass ring. As a test, he tossed his baseball through. It also vanished. He continued to fling objects through: shoes, toys, erasers, spoons, bolts, toothbrushes, coins. Nothing ever dropped to the ground on the far side.

Tkrnkeee, on the planet Oringjinno, was mystified to find foreign objects appearing through the hourglass ring in his garden. He returned the favor by throwing small items through from his side, fascinated when they disappeared.

As galaxy-spanning pen pals, they sent bits and baubles to each other instead of letters, happily passing their years in distant camaraderie.
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To read other Friday Fictioneer stories based on this photo, select the smiley blue frog.

It Could Be Worse: Friday Fiction

Photo copyright Connie Gayer

Photo copyright Connie Gayer

It Could Be Worse

Look at this! The wire’s ruined, chewed. A piece of it is missing. What sort of entity would do this? We can’t get out of here with a disabled external inertial dampener. I hate this planet.

Sitting on a rock, Rkrrk kept his head down, letting his brother, Krkkr, rant. He was getting used to the rants, as they became more frequent. Rkrrk could almost play the rant recording in his head, even adding on the newest item at the same time as Krkkr did.

I can’t believe you chose this planet – this poor excuse for a planet – for our vacation. ‘Let’s go hiking,’ you said. ‘It will be good for us to get away,’ you said.

It was all true. Rkrrk had suggested that they take a vacation, had chosen the destination. He thought the water planet would be interesting, fun. There was so much to take in: flora and fauna they had never seen before, not in any other system. The Extreme Experiences brochure listed this planet as one with a little of everything. You just had to be in the right place at the right time, it said. The photos featured snow-capped mountains, white-tipped oceans, sandy beaches, majestic redwood trees, flowing rivers, rolling sand dunes, fields of flowers, astonishing sunrises, stunning sunsets. It spoke straight to the traveler’s heart: “What’s not to love?”

What’s not to love?” Krkkr snarled, as if reading Rkrrk’s mind. Krkkr rummaged through the toolbox, tossing screwdrivers and wrenches over his shoulder. Rkrrk stepped back to a safe distance. “I’ll tell you what’s not to love!” Krkkr huffed, dropping some bolts at his feet. “Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, cyclones, lightning, thunder, tsunamis, blizzards, sandstorms. Flying ice balls, of all things! What are they called?

Rkrrk looked over the expanse of the volcanic caldera. He saw the vapors rising, could smell the sulfur if the breeze was just right. And those water-spitting holes. Geysers. He loved the geysers. “Hail,” he said, ever so softly.

Hail, right. Hail. Whose idea was that? The ship is all pock-marked now; dents everywhere. Every single place we have landed on this planet has been a disaster. Did you even think about checking the forecast before we left?

It could be worse, Rkrrk mumbled under his breath, twisting a piece of buffalo grass in his hands. He had enjoyed all the sites they had visited, found them thrilling. On the other hand, Krkkr’s enthusiasm started to wane when they tried to get away from the twisty-wind thing. Tornado, the dictionary called it. Krkkr, a capable pilot, altered their flight path turning this way and that, up and down, side to side, but the tornado jumped from one spot to the other, sometimes behind them, sometimes in front of them, as if it knew their course before they did. Rkrrk had to admit, seeing trees, boulders, and planetary debris swirling in front of them, hearing things hitting the ship, that was a more than a little scary. The vacation brochure hadn’t mentioned those possibilities.

Once they escaped the tornado, they landed here to check the ship, camping a couple of days in the peace and calm of the basin. Now that they were ready to go, they couldn’t. Rkrrk didn’t know why Krkkr was taking it out on him. It’s not as if Rkrrk had chewed the wire.

I just hope I can find a piece of wire to rig up a connection that will last long enough to get us off this hunk of junk. I tell you what, Rkrrk, I am never – and I mean never – coming back here. And you’re not choosing where we go for our next vacation – I am. A black hole rim would have been more fun than this.

Rkrrk decided to remove himself from the vicinity, out of range of Krkkr’s ravings and tossed tools. “I’ll go check the aft hold, see if I can find something we can use.

While Rkrrk was walking around the back of the ship, he saw a small creature with something in its mouth. (Rkrrk didn’t know its nomenclature and didn’t have time to check the ship’s computer.) It dropped something and ran off as Rkrrk approached. Rkrrk’s heart beat faster and his eyes widened. The external inertial dampener wire! Or what was left of it. Still, Rkrrk hoped, maybe there was enough length remaining so they could reconnect the now shorter version and take off.

As Rkrrk reached down, his knees buckled under him and he lost his balance, falling to the ground. The earth shook. Rkrrk rolled over, picked himself up. He looked up, saw – and heard – the mountain side crack, red goop flowing out of the numerous, new slits.

Is that . . . a volcano? Just like in the Extreme Experiences brochure! Rkrrk stood in awe, excited to witness it in person.

The ground moved again, rougher this time. Chasms appeared in the once-smooth field near the ship. Rkrrk saw smoke and ash spewing from the mountain top, lightning flashes in dark, billowing clouds where a clear sky had been just a moment before. Sulfur stung his eyes, his lungs. Specks of ash trickled down, covering everything, everywhere. It was getting dark, hot, and hard to breathe.

Rkrrk ran back to the ship, holding on to the wire for dear life.

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The Friday Fictioneer Challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. My story is much longer than that and I didn’t want to cut it down. As it does not meet the challenge word limit, I did not add my link to the story page. But there are plenty of Friday Fictioneer writers who met the challenge limit and you can get to their stories by selecting the smiley blue frog.

Fiction Friday: Almost Like Magic

Friday Fictioneer Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photo prompt.
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Friday Fictioneer photo prompt. Copyright Kent Bonham

Friday Fictioneer photo prompt. Copyright Kent Bonham

Almost Like Magic

This doesn’t taste so good,” Jonah gagged, his mouth full of blackish, sticky fluff.

You have to eat it all,” Jake said, turning away, barely hiding his laughter. Jake found an old lollipop stick in his pocket, attached the seed pod to it and told Jonah about its “magical” powers. Jonah wasn’t stupid; he was just young, years younger than his big brother Jake.

Jonah’s stomach enzymes woke the alien pod’s microbots. Undetected, they traversed Jonah’s body, tweaking and mending chromosomes, ensuring a long, healthy life for their host. Jake was mostly right: the microscopic technology was almost like magic.
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To read other stories based on this photo prompt, select the smiley blue frog.