Friday, January 16, 2009

A story fragment from my fiction blog, which I'm considering deleting:

The device looked like a pitchfork, and served the same basic function. Only the keypad -- contoured to fit the bright red ergonomic handle -- gave it away. In the dim evening light, Kris couldn't help but keep her eyes on the steady lambent green of its readout. Unmistakable verdant clusters showed her where the next bodies were, already scoped out and tagged by the sleek, cheerfully stickered aerostats that had arrived yesterday in a blur of skyborne polymer. She walked slowly through the thickening marsh, anonymous chemicals leaving scabrous rings on her haz-mat boots. The reflected glow from the pitchfork's keyboard regarded her from below, a strange second moon that swelled and rippled in synch with her movements.

She saw the next body a moment later. A civilian, just as the tags had indicated. Face-down, arms splayed like spokes in a senseless mandala. Just barely visible through a tangle of weeds and styrofoam.

She gritted her teeth and raised the pitchfork. Icons blinked like eager green eyes. Visored face averted, she lowered the fork's tines in a single practiced movement, only vaguely aware of the sudden yielding of flesh as the device swarmed into the corpse's increasingly porous confines. The tines extruded sensors and barely visible nanotech spores: gear beyond the carrying capacity of the aerostats, the tutorials had made a point to remind her, lest she yield to the sense of obsolescence that had characterized her stay in Florida. Over the last three months her initial paranoid suspicion that she was redundant -- a human face amidst the coastal blight -- had festered into an equally paranoid certainty. She'd come to view the omnipresent drones, airborne and otherwise, with ill-defined suspicion.

It was the clean-up, of course. The bodies. Especially the bodies. She tried not to look anymore; the pitchfork (she'd already tried and failed to quit calling it that, and it didn't help that the other members of her crew insisted on the same grisly anachronism) did most of the work, after all. The Consortium needed volunteers because it needed muscle to bear its gear -- to say nothing of the PR benefit of dispatching flesh-and-bone humans when sending in robotic surrogates couldn't have been that much more difficult.

A timer chimed. She withdrew the fork with a wince of mingled reluctance and nausea. She'd taken her day's dose of neuroinhibitors, of course; medically speaking, she shouldn't be able to conscience nausea, let alone feel it stirring in her gut.

Some things never changed.


Anonymous said...

i liked it. why are there so many dead ppl. and what exactly does the "pitch fork" do?

Mac said...

Good questions.

I was thinking in terms of an unspecified ecological disaster. The "pitcfork" is a biological sampling device used to analyze tissue, perhaps to track the spread of contaminants.

Katie said...

I didn't know you were still posting there! (Can I get the link again, so I can read it before/if you do?)

Mac said...


I won't actually delete anything I've written, but the blog itself might have to go.