Sun Squad – Yuppers

Stuck in a stutter
Fear the fallen utter
Nonsense in senseless death

– The Coming of the Condemned

In the black of space, a ship fell quiet. About fifteen minutes before the sounds of shouting, running, slamming, and gunfire echoed along the hull.

I hid shamelessly. I technically passed basic combat training some ten years before flying into the black to study and never used it since. As a scientist, I didn’t even carry a stun gun.

I’d heard of pirates out in the black. People figure the law won’t find you if you fly far enough. Those people live by plundering vessels and leaving them stranded. I thought we’d been raided, so I’d just lay low until they took all of our supplies and left.

I thought it was pirates before the silence. The silence didn’t make sense.

Then a murmur started. It echoed and vibrated across the hull. It was the sound of a house fly from Earth, circling around. As the sound grew louder, I thought of a hornet’s nest. I moved towards the sound, thinking of investigating, thinking there might be a mechanical failure. I froze when I detected a human quality to the sound. It was like a word being stuttered on the same syllable over and over. Maybe it was a recording the ship’s computer was accidentally playing back, caught in a loop. Maybe there was a system failure. I backed up again, trying to be patient, resigning to wait hidden in my lab.

It wasn’t long before I grew restless again, the unnerving noise echoing around the corridors. What if it everyone was evacuated? What if I’m the only one left here? With the systems failure, heat would deplete along with the oxygen, and I knew I’d freeze before I suffocated. I’d die alone because I was a coward.

I couldn’t sit still. Maybe I could fix it. I turned away from the corridor I’d seriously considered going into and went back into my lab. I sat at a terminal easily, even in the dark I knew my lab, my home.

There was no power. How could the computer system be making those noises without power? Was only this terminal down? What about the backup systems?

I reached under and pulled off a large panel, exposing the wiring. I crawled my way in about a half of a foot to find the connections for power and flipped a switch to manually engage the backup power systems. My terminal switched on.

From the new light I could see vague shapes coming from the corridor I was standing in before. I stood and inched forward. The shapes were moving in the same stutter of the buzzing noise. The shapes looked like human figures, but the movement were jerking and repeating.

As I began to see it clearer it was like a stiff dance, forward a half step, back a half, forward a full two, back another half step… It seemed robotic, but their faces were getting close enough to make out in the dim light.

Their vacant eyes were wide and blinking in the same stuttering cadence. I recognized some of them. It was the crew and not one of them looked alive.

Single file in their eerie march they came forward, not responding to anything I said. Their minds were gone or being controlled. I looked around my lab to hide. That was the only exit. I squeezed myself into the panel with the wires in desperation. Under and inside the terminal, I pulled the panel back on after me. With their vacant stares, unseeing and unintelligent, I was hoping that they wouldn’t be able to pry the panel off.

By some luck I was right, but they didn’t leave. They mill about outside stuttering, day and night without rest. I don’t know how long I’ve been in here any more. The background noise blurs together in a meaningless cacophony. It’s possible I’ve gone mad.

If I’m still sane, someone still might find this terminal I’m tapping into from the inside out. Someone might download this log and make some sense of it.

If I weren’t facing a slow death, madness, or whatever malady has befallen my crew mates, this might have been funny. Sometimes the sound is like “yup yup yup” as if they are agreeing with me.

Doomed, “Yup yup yup,” They agree.

I know the crew is either dead or one of those things outside. I won’t leave. Whatever my fate, I won’t become one of them.

This passage comes from a recording on one of the first ships that were found. It is the first recorded encounter with The Condemned. Though the ship was also found contaminated with Type Two and Type Three Condemned, it appears that in a single case one of the crew was able to avoid immediate detection and transformation.

There was a decomposed body found in the panel below the terminal. The cause of death appeared to be self inflicted electrocution. From the estimated time of death, the woman would have long since died of dehydration, and leaving would have surely resulted in her joining her crew as one of the Type One Condemned.

From here on the Type One were known as Yuppers in reference to her log. Though suspected, this allowed us to discover that Yuppers are attracted to noise and sound, but are unable to reason or perform motor functions other than moving towards its source.


– Compendium of The Condemned

Live It

Stagnant.
I wait for the universe to unfurl for me and
nothing,
blood curdling, sitting, watching
trying to see the moment,
but it’s gone.
Seizing pretty sayings,
trying to remember what or why
so I can make it come back to a
‘if I knew what I knew’,
but I’m only hurdled forward.
I know I was forewarned,
but I still thought that mortality meant
I could do it tomorrow.
Tomorrow.
Tomorrow is never today,
is always a blank page,
a clutched fist,
an active mind,
unsure how to hurl itself onto the page
and make something worth making.
Take heart while you
take your bliss.
Write fiction as if you
don’t live it.
Live it.

Team IT: Characters: Craig Johnson

Now that you’ve seen some of these characters in action for a couple scenes, let’s get to know them a bit better. You can also find out about characters in the stories posted here by visiting the Characters tab on the top navigation bar. Click here to see all of the Team IT postings.

Craig Johnson
Age: 29
Astrological Sun Sign: Capricorn

Craig has worked for Computer World, your one stop IT service and computer sales shop, for a few years now. Somehow, Craig is still convinced that one day, some day, the work will be finished so that the team will have time to work on other projects. Every time he makes progress with this goal, customers, the big bosses, sales, or marketing throw him a curve ball and they go back to being back logged. Craig figures all they need to do is band together and get a “system in place”. Most of his efforts are thwarted by the bosses that own the company as they have ideas of their own about what those video game playing slackers can do. They love to load on more work, almost as much as sales and marketing likes to try and pass their work off on the IT Team.

Craig is the self-designated liaison between Team IT and the bosses, for more reasons besides no one else wants to do it. When he speaks, they give him some measure of respect. He threatens to quit about once a month and the bosses will usually back down just enough right as Craig is ready to ride off into the sunset. Craig would like to be left to just manage the team, though the Team has other ideas on the subject, especially Sarah who thinks of herself as the team’s muse. Regardless, there is too much work to be done to just be a supervisor to jump in on only tricky cases. He’s a hard worker, but avoids being on the phone as much as he can get away without his teammates getting angry.

Craig used to work “for the government” and that is “all he is allowed to say”. Most of the team suspect he is just embarrassed about his last job which was probably at some big box electronics store. Sometimes they wonder, though, as his knowledge is pretty extensive for someone not yet thirty, especially when it comes to slapping together spare computer parts “just to get the damn thing working already”.

Craig has a fondness for organization. He loves wikis and has a bunch of them set up for team usage. He also adores Excel spreadsheets that list and compare data.

Craig is single and has a hard time with dates though he’s quite good looking. He’s been accused of being boring, controlling, and uptight. He’s extremely logical-minded and likes things to be clear, cut, and dry. Craig worries about his lack of luck in love as thirty is right around the corner, though he’d never admit it to any one on the team.

Team IT: O Hai World

To go with my last post where I outlined a system of classes and abilities, I’ve now written a scene where people from normal our every day world find themselves in the world where these abilities exist. I used some characters from a little thing I’ve been working on (but haven’t posted yet) where there is a team of techies who work in the basement of a store and repair shop called Computer World. These techies at Computer World are somehow expected to single-handedly support all of computer technology and operating systems. This is because people who buy computers from here (many of them custom built or fixed by the team) also buy a tech support contract with them. In addition, the sales people in the store above know nothing about computers (like something out of The Website is Down: Sales Guy VS Web Dude) and have little care or respect for the basement dwellers who struggle to keep the customers after the sales people sell them what they don’t want or need. A post with some of their antics, trials, and all will follow at some point.

I wondered what would happen to them when thrust into this other world that is likely in the books they read and video games they play, and here’s what came out of it.

======

“So, people come to this school and… what chose a class like a job?” Ben asked.

“It’s not so much people chose a class as it chooses you… Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it’s already part of who you are, you just don’t know it yet. The Test just lets you know what your abilities are and what your focuses should be to develop yourselves into skilled soldiers.”

“If we have any abilities at all. You said there were some people who came out of the test with nothing,” Craig pointed out.

“Correct…. and then there are those who come out with less than nothing. The Test is not something people take lightly. It can scar or even kill you. Even if you come out on grid, you may be a different person after. But really, the test brings out who you really were before and shows your potential for success and failure. Some face that better than others… and some cannot face that at all.”

“That explains why not everyone does this. The abilities people have here are amazing…” Angus had earlier watched a class they had passed in absolute awe and more than a little bit of longing.

“So there’s more to it than getting a focus, and getting abilities. People see things and learn things about themselves… How exactly does that work?” Ben asked.

The teacher smiled lightly, as if addressing a novice pupil, “People don’t generally discuss their own test. It’s very personal. And, we’re not entirely sure how or why it works. It’s a ritual handed down that takes twelve of us, a representative of each focus, to perform.”

“So, it’s magic?” Bill asked.

“Not exactly magic, as that only covers the powers of one school. It’s all the powers combined, drawing to the surface the aptitudes of a person. It also draws forth truth and weaknesses as well. People may face their demons. Or… there are people who have claimed remembering nothing at all after wards.”

“…and we have to do this?” Bill asked with a bit more urgency than he meant to.

“If you want to stand a chance of survival, then yes, you do. Even if you reject your role, it won’t stop The Others from finding and killing you. They know you’re in this world now, and that very fact is a threat to them. As it is… you won’t have much time to train. I dare say, the test is the least of your worries, and the greatest of your chances.”

It hung in the air, the unsaid. It was unlikely we’d all survive to see home: our own world again. We were brought here for a common cause tied to the fate of this world and had to follow it whether to help or just to get back to where we belonged. Each of us knew we were more than a little overwhelmed, and by looking at each others’ faces we knew we weren’t alone in that sentiment. We were all plagued by a combination of worry, doubt, and amazement. I doubt we’d all handle it well, thought Sarah, if handled at all any time soon.

“So we should all take the test as soon as possible,” Sarah announced.

“Won’t we be safe here, though? All of these skilled people here… and you and the other teacher pwned them Others, or whatever, pretty good,” Bill was grasping at straws.

“Them?” he chuckled lightly as he pounded his staff on the packed earth, “That was but one of their Masters. They have their own schools, their own soldiers, and many more to send after you. If you stay here too long… we’ll all die. We sent some Masters ahead to prepare the way for when you do get sent off. We sent messages to those we trust to create more than a few red herrings, but I’m afraid even the most optimistic we can be is that you’ll get a few weeks here to prepare.”

“Well, I don’t get it. Why us? What’s so different or special about us? I mean you have to understand, we come from a world where we’re a bunch of lazy asses,” Craig was trying to explain away reality like Bill was, but with a little more confusion than urgency, “We go to work every day and sit in cubes and work on computers. What the hell do we have that these guys, some of who have been training since they were in diapers, don’t?”

“I don’t know,” admitted the Master, “and I know little of your world. All we have are the prophecies. These prophecies were left by the same people who left us the ritual of The Test, so I expect they have some powerful truth to them.”

“There’s a lot of room in these prophecies for us to be offed,” Sarah sighed, “If nothing else, we are smart and we do work well as a team, guys. Don’t be so quick to give up.”

“Another thing I don’t get is why only half of us are here, and why this half,” Craig said as if trying to argue that this was a dream he was waiting to wake from.

“Good point. With the other five of our team here, we might have had a better chance,” Bill paused, “This is not good.”

“I don’t know, would you rather be dealing with customers?” Ben asked, when no one answered, “It was meant to be a joke.”

“How soon can we do the test?” Sarah wanted to see what kind of chance they all had as soon as possible, but without getting that bit out of the way, there was no way to know.

“Wow, you’re in a hurry,” Angus smiled as if this was part of some cosmic joke, “Can’t wait to cast Magic Missile, can you?”

That gave the group a bit of a laugh, except for the Master who furrowed his brow in confusion, but didn’t say anything.

“I want to cast… magic missile,” quoted Ben in a geeky voice. There was a pause and a bit of tension release before the group turned serious again.

“We need to know what our own as well as each others’ strengths and weaknesses are as soon as possible, to work as a team in this,” Sarah pointed out, “Like right now we know to go to Angus for a Linux question or Craig for anything to do with daisy chaining crap together…”

“It’s a good point, we need all the time we can get to train,” admitted Angus, “It’s not like ya’ll are like me, doing martial arts in your spare time.”

Sarah didn’t continue the point as she was mentally beating herself up for not exercising more.

“No, we can’t all be as awesome as you, Angus,” Bill said in his sarcastic, good-natured way, “Some of us were stupid and played sports in our spare time instead. If only we knew our life would turn into a freaking Narnia book.”

“Word,” Angus said with a short chuckle like a hiccup.

The Master continued leading them down a path in what the rest didn’t realize was confused silence. They all seemed to speak a common language, and yet it was times like these the Master had no idea what flowers had to do with chains or what sort of animal a Linux was. He chalked it up to cultural differences and figured that in spite what Craig had said, they were knowledgeable, skilled people who would all have strong focus once they had done The Test. If people were lazy in their world, he figured these people who were brought over were an exception.

It was probably better that he didn’t know a IT tech support team for a computer repair and reseller was their one hope for winning the war and continuing existence as he knew it.

Stranger than Fiction

This morning, on my way to do ‘the mail run’ before work, I almost hit a bird in the road. The thing that was odd about this was not that it was an animal in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that it was me in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The weird thing was the location: East Hartford Ave. Uxbridge, MA

Matched with the type of bird: peacock.

I knew it was the beginning to another odd day. I knew this not because I am a reader of omens and portents. I knew this because life has become an interesting and unexpected thing.

By now I should expect the unexpected. I have a job where just when you think there is some sort of routine, something new and different that you’ve never seen comes across your plate and stares at you with beady little eyes. Add this to the rest of my life. I have weird, vivid, often horrifying dreams. Coincidences and dejavu are constant. Is it more strange to feel like whats happening has happened before, or that both Ezra and I met after not seeing each other since February (and years before that meeting) both wearing Metallica shirts and admitting we weren’t ‘really big Metallica fans or anything’.

I wonder about writing fiction sometimes and the length people go to make it seem realistic. With the odd occurrences that happen on a day to day it occurs to me that we wouldn’t know what realism was anyways. Reality often feels surreal, and truth really is stranger than fiction.

Last night I dreamt about telling someone at work that I just had a dream about them, since in the dream I dreamt having that dream.

I also dreamt I was a super-long pole arm bearer for some feudal post-apocalyptic oriental army. I was captured by the enemy feudal lord when he tricked me into thinking I was close to defeating him. It was simply a ruse to get me away from the rest of the army and capture me. When I tried to escape, no matter how far and fast I went, there was a large-as-a-house warrior waiting to bring me back to my prison. There was nothing to do at this prison but sleep and play strange card games I was bad at.

I can only spend so much time on the epic stores my subconscious undertakes. Life is constantly weaving a strange tale of its own. Instead, I spend my time dodging peacocks.