Friday 13 May 2011

The Automatic Marlboro - Section II, sub-section (a)

The Automatic Marlboro is a science-fiction novelette told in twelve parts, posted serially by me, your sprintime-fresh host, Cheeseburger Brown. This is the fourth installment.

1a|1b |1c|2a|2b|2c|2d|3a|3b|3c|3d|3e

Connected stories: Simon of Space, Life & Taxes, Tim, Destroyer of Worlds

And now, the story continues:



The new guy is a girl.

Worse than that, she's a polymath. She's bossy. She's taller than either of us and knows it, too. Her teeth are too big. She seems pretentious, or if she's not she's faking it.

"Air Marrowman," she says with deliberate emphasis as if it were a brand name. "Class of the turn of the century, summa cum laude, winner of the Felix Mathematics Prize for my work on active numeral condensation schema under Wilderton and Hung, current Vavilov candidate for my research in fungal-crystallographic substrate engineering. I'm saying it now to get it over with -- don't anybody be touchy."

Pulse tries to affect a smile. "I'm P --"

"I know," she says. "I've reviewed your files."

Pulse leaves his hand dangling unshaken as Air breezes by to tour the rest of the lab, her unruly tangle of hair leaning this way and that as she cranes her head to take in the details. She frowns at everything she sees. "Zhang-style electrostatic clamps? Hopelessly obsolete. Look at those old magnetic isolation channels -- awful! And the only word for this field-twisting apparatus is...sad." She turns around and put her hands on her hips. "Well boys, it looks like we've got our work cut out for us."

Pulse crosses his arms. I shift uncomfortably. "What do you mean?"

"We've got to turn this place around," says Air. "Just as active number matrices can be reduced, there exists a set of condensation schema that can be applied to the system of this lab. Optimization, boys -- that's the name of the game. I'm excited about it. It's obvious this place needs some tuning."

"Well, technically, I'm the project's principal --"

"Oh of course, of course. Sure you are. That's not changing. We wouldn't change that, Marlboro. I'll be needing your nod on every tweak, your signature on every form, your breath on every wand. I'm going to be able to count on you to help make this place better, aren't I?"

"Well, sure," I stammer.

Her grin is weird. It's like a horse. I think it's worse than a Zorannic smile. Pulse and I flinch. "This is going to be great," she gushes. "I've got so many ideas!"

We can't wait to leave...
To read the rest of this story, buy it now from Amazon for just $2.99!


SaintPeter said...

"Air breezes in" . . cute.

I bet she's smelly too!

SaintPeter said...

Does anyone else occasionally get weirdly forwarded to some sort of fiction web-ring? It happens about every third time I visit. The back button doesn't work, either. It seems like someone is being irresponsible with ads somehow.

Looking at the numbering system . . kinda confusing . . is there a practical reason not to have parts 1-12, straight up?

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear SaintPeter,

I haven't heard any other reports of such activity from the ads, but to be on the safe side I have temporarily disabled ads on the blog. I'll look into it when I have more than thirty seconds to spare.

The confusing system is a result of several factors: 1) I like it, perversely; 2) its what happens when a three-chapter story becomes a 12-chapterettes story but where the author still sees a meaningful division between sections; and 3) Stanislaw Lem.


Teddy said...

The same thing has been happening to me sometimes. And it's about every third time, so yeah, problem is with website, not browser. The numbering system is a little weird, but I've read one too many FAA works in my day so I'm pretty much just going with it. There was a pretty clear delineation when the new chick came in it seemed, as well.


Cheeseburger Brown said...


Hmm...if you're still getting it then it isn't likely the ads, as I turned them off hours ago.

Is Blogger itself somehow poisoned?

(I'm not seeing the behavior myself on Snow Leopard or iOS.)

I'll look into this more when I get back to the old schoolhouse. Now river-side, awaiting a banquet-burger.


Teddy said...

I'm not still getting them, but the problem was happening over the week or so preceding. No worries, I think you got it, it's been fine lately (the past dayish that you've had the ads shut off)


Sheik Yerbouti said...

I have experienced that behavior on a number of occasions; hopefully the problem is gone now.

Oh, these poor saps.

Today's captcha: "adshac"

Appropriate, no?

Cheeseburger Brown said...

I've found the source of the problem, and it was code from one of the webrings this blog is a part of. Since I was unable to get anywhere in terms of troubleshooting with them, I quit the ring.

Problem should now be solved for good.


Mark said...

Finally able to comment. Liking these characters (always a strong point in your stories) and the goings-on herein. I'll get caught up soon.