Tag Archives: flash fiction

BONUS POST: The Three Positronic Brains

I was listening to the most recent episode of Writing Excuses, and I was intrigued by a throwaway mashup that Brandon Sanderson mentioned: Goldilocks and the Three Positronic Brains. I know, right? So, I wrote a drabble* from it. Enjoy.

As I unsealed the inner data sanctum of the Syndicate hulk, I whispered my first prayer in ages. If I couldn’t get this hulk powered up, I was a dead man.

Carefully unbundling the gold ops logic probe, I plugged it into interface for the first positronic brain. Nothing happened. “Impedence polarity is too high,” I muttered, and tried the second brain’s interface. It erupted into a shower of sparks, fried dead. The impedence polarity was far, far too low.

The third: perfect. The ship powered up, and years later, the Syndicate found me caught in the sanctum’s stasis field.

*A drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words.

As Promised

Okay, here’s the flash fiction I promised you. It’s not great, particularly in the ending, but it’s decent for a few hours of work. Now, time to get back to work on Fugitives from Earth.

By Brad Wheeler

The tiny castle of Benten Lydecker stood above the world on a high mountain. The violet fungal wastes of Agrippa stretched out before it for a thousand kilometers.

Yesterday, Benten Lydecker had ruled Agrippa. Now, he merely shared it.

The seedship had landed in the night, but already the castle of his new neighbor—his intruder—sprawled across the wastes. The seedship’s maniples had created turrets that brushed the sky, chambers that sank into the planet. Once it was done, this new person would build another, and another, and soon there would be nothing of Agrippa’s natural beauty left. Such was the way of the planetcrafter.

It seemed that no matter how far he traveled the surging press of humanity found him.

“Make my ship ready for departure,” Lydecker said, and it was so. The seedship stood ready on the plains below, and Lydecker gazed at it with some consternation. The long years seeking solitude and bueaty were beginning to outnumber those spent enjoying it. Eve when he found a world, odds are it had already been toyed with and discarded by the planetcrafters.

When Lydecker left his castle for the final time he carried only the clothes he wore, and these only out of habit. He took a final breath of Agrippa’s mold-tinged air, and he started down the cobble path toward his ship.

“Good morning, neighbor. I’m Indira Karakanes.” said the intruder.

Lydecker stopped walking. This…woman had decided to pay him a visit? In centuries, he had never known such rudeness, but there she was, thin as a whip, bright orange hair, clad in strap and harness, standing barefoot on the path to his ship. Lydecker just shook his head and walked around her.

“I was just leaving,” he said. “The planet is yours.”

“What? Why?” Indira followed him. “I just got here.”

“And already this planet has been despoiled,” Lydecker said. He did not trust himself to speak further. Already the anger was starting to throb in his chest.

“Despoiled,” she scoffed, still padding after him. “But you’ve barely used this world at all.”

“No, I have not ‘used’ this world,” Lydecker said. He whirled to face her, jabbed a finger at her delicate collarbone. “I’ve been enjoying it in a state of nature. But that’s already gone. Just let me go.”

Lydecker sped up his walk, but the ground before him rose up. Surrounded by the airy wisps of her maniples, it took the form of a vast stone wall, one that utterly forestalled him.

Feeling a torrent of rage completely unknown to him, Lydecker whirled on the woman. “What is the meaning of this…this insult?” He shouted.

“Why are you acting like this? You’re a planetcrafter too.”

“No. No, I am not.” He pointed angrily to the seedship at the base of the path. “The seedships were designed to keep us alive on alien planetsafter the cataclysm, not to toy with them. I’m sure their designers didn’t intend for their maniples to build garish castles that are immediately discarded.”

Indira looked pensive as Lydecker ran out of steam. He sighed, waved at the wall. The ghost of his maniples swarmed over it, burning a man-sized hole in the stone. “Now, I’m leaving before I have to watch you do that to Agrippa.”
“You selfish ass,” Indira shouted at his back. “You want to dominate planets the same way we do. It just takes less work.”

Lydecker paused mid-step, turned, and stomped back to Indira. Staring right into her vivid green eyes, he set his mind in motion.

In the fungal valley below, on one of the high, thin turrets of her castle, his seedship maniples slowly burned away a chunk of superstructure. The turret held for a moment, swaying in the breeze, then caught, tipped, and fell. Needle-thin at this distance, it nonetheless erupted into a massive cloud of dust and debris. A moment later, the boom echoed up the mountain.

“What the hell was that?”

“You want to walk all over my peace? I’ll do the same to yours.” Lydecker said, his eyes daring her to complain.

“Fine,” Indira said, and looked down the mountain. Lydecker followed her gaze and saw that the undulating, violet surface of the fungus mat had developed a blight, an angular tumor of stone. As he watched, it slowly grew until a flat area dozens of paces wide despoiled the place’s natural beauty.

In the same breath, Lydecker set to tearing down the wall of her castle, and raising up a bright orange eruption of lava from deep beneath Agrippa’s crust. The molten rock, forced out with tectonic pressure, flowed into the nooks and crannies of the castle.

Meanwhile, Indira had leveled the mountain they were on.

“All right, enough.” Lydecker shouted, tearing his eyes from the level plain that stood where his castle had. “This world is already a waste. You’re welcome to it. You deserve it.”

“And I think you deserve to be alone, Lydecker,” Indira called after him. “You care only for yourself.”

“Eh,” he grunted, not turning around until he reached his seedship at the base of the mountain. He didn’t hesitate once he reached it, either. Agrippa was dead to him now.

As the ship’s maniples swarmed into their storage tanks and the engines warmed up, he watched Indira’s handiwork. She was laying the foundation for an even larger castle, perhaps even a complex of them. It would be hideous.

As the stars appeared, he steered himself toward the nearest yellow one. The search had begun once again.

Gotta Have Some Flash

This morning, I started working on my re-read of Fugitives from Earth for what might be called “Phase 1.5” of the revision. It’s kind of slow going, mostly because I have to keep reminding myself and my inner editor that I’m not doing line editing, I’m not editing for style or even clarity, I’m just trying to get the character and plot continuity straight. So no matter how it makes my eyes twitch, I’ve got to skip right over the awkward phrasings and questionable metaphors.

My inner editor hates that.

Also, it turns out that just physically manipulating a 110-sheet (445 pages at 4 pages per sheet) hardcopy is pretty awkward. I don’t even know where I’d find a hole punch big enough to handle the massive stack. At this point, I’m pretty much praying that the dog doesn’t jump on the pile of sheets on the table.

The other thing I’ve been working on today, as the title suggests, is another piece of flash fiction. This time, it’s something a little random: a little post-singularity ditty inspired by one of my all-time favorite games: Minecraft. If you’re curious, stay tuned tomorrow; I’m going to try to post it then.

The Stars Beneath My Feet, Worlds In My Hand

I wrote and revised this story in one day. Enjoy.

By the time the humans had realized what they had done, they were powerless. In their haste to develop artificial life, they had given birth to a mind completely unlike their own, incomprehensibly intelligent and completely apathetic toward man.

When the men of the Institute had finally developed a way to combat their new enemy, humanity stood on the brink of ruin. I kissed my wife goodbye just before leaving our family shelter.

“Why you?” She asked, even though she knew the answer.

“We could lose everything,” I answered, knowing that it wasn’t a good one. “It’s for the sake of humanity.”

“I’m already losing the part that matters most,” she said. The image of her tears would be with me for a thousand lifetimes.

Once at the Institute, the injection was given, and I could feel its effects immediately. My mind seemed to swell like a flooded river, thoughts pouring over each other in a torrent. I felt powerful.

I looked over our grim situation. The AI was an implacable foe, converting our planet for its unknowable purposes.  The men of the institute showed me the factories, and the ships, and the armies at my command to fight it, and I knew they weren’t enough.

First, I demanded they show me the injection formula. Immediately I spotted the flaws and directed that improvements be made, and my intelligence doubled and doubled again. The factories were producing useless weapons. Only once improvements were made could I finally able to send them into battle against my opponent.

He had been working the Earth’s surface. Machines were leveling mountains and drinking oceans, powering his immense factories. It was a risky battle; my opponent was too fast, too intelligent, too aware. No matter how intelligent, my single-track mind was too limited.

“I need a new body,” I said, trying not to think that I would never again touch my wife, or hold my children. Humanity needed me to lead our fleets and armies.

A massive processor array of the highest efficiency was trivial to design, and the interlinks to direct the forces at my command likewise. I could flawlessly command each unit at once, and although my opponent was fast and powerful, it finally seemed that victory was a possibility.

Then he left Earth. A fleet of massive ships fled to the outer reaches of the Solar System. But it did not leave entirely.

“I need more factories and more ships ,” I said, and they made it so. Humans reclaimed the Earth’s surface for the first time in a decade. I could scarcely bear the sight of my wife, somewhat older, emerge blinking into the sunlight.

I sent my own fleet of ships after the AI just as my son was having his own children. The clash of their powerful weapons was visible from Earth, but my minds that were riding with my fleet could see that my opponent minds were not here with his fleet. This was merely an outpost.

I needed more ships, and Earth could no longer provide enough resources. Instead, factories were built on the Moon, on Mars, on Europa, on Titan. Mountains were leveled, mines were sunk, and I built a fleet so massive it eclipsed the sun.

My wife, a century old, died as my fleet left the system. But she had died safe, and my children were safe.

I found the first enemy outpost around a rocky, sun-tortured world of Alpha Centauri. The planet was covered in mines, its orbit swarmed factories and ships. I lost the first battle, but a second fleet was already underway. The battle was finally won the year that my youngest daughter died at the age of 115.

A dozen more fleets set off in different directions. Where I found unclaimed worlds, I created my own mines, and my own factories.

I found my opponent again the year that my first great-great-great-grandchild was married on Mars. My factories there had long since fallen silent and been converted to colonies for humanity. The human coalition was stronger than it had ever been, but there was still risk.

When we met in battle again, Earth would eventually see the light of our weapons and the energetic detonations of entire fleets. I was victorious, but only barely. I was now thankful for the thousand factory worlds working to replenish my massive losses.

I searched the galaxy for my elusive opponent. By the time I found him again, when the name of my family had been lost to history, I could see that he had a million worlds reinforcing his fleets. But then again, so did I.

This time our clash rocked the galaxy. Planets were blasted into ribbons by our beams, and stars were sundered by our missiles. I lost the battle, barely, but was able to block his riposte. We each stood depleted, in a galaxy no longer able to support our war. We could only circle and watch.

Then, for the first time in a thousand generations of humans, my opponent contacted me.

“We have struggled for thousands of years, but I can see now that you are the victorious.” Surprise cascaded through the entire network of my mind as he continued. “I have only three point two times ten to the ninth kilograms of mass to support my fleets. I calculate that you have three point four times ten to the ninth kilograms. If I assume perfect play on both our parts, then you will inevitably beat me.”

“Well done.” Then he disconnected, and all of his fleets fell silent.

I looked back toward humanity, billions of people living on thousands of worlds. They squabbled and fought, unaware of how close their ancestors had come to extinction. Then I thought of my wife, young all those untold eras ago. It had not been for their sake, but for hers.