Friday 20 May 2011

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

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

Please be advised that I am off on holiday tomorrow, so the telling will be taking a one week hiatus since I can't expect Internet service where I'm going. Discussion can continue unfettered as my brother will be moderating blog comments on my behalf. (Thanks!)

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, without further factual blather, the story continues:



Professor Logos Cuthbertson lectures to his left on symmetry breaking cascades and to his right on Green-Kubo relations in the context of active number gauge implosions. Between pronouncements he briefly faces forward and lets his data-dancing eyes fall on us. "Marlboro Siemens," he says. "Pulse Debugger-Smith. Yes?"

"Marrowman is a monster," hisses Pulse. "She's officious, arrogant and politically hysterical."

"We might have a personality conflict on our hands, sir," I interpret.

Pulse crosses his arms. He says, "It would probably be best for everyone involved if she were put on immediate academic suspension, barbecued, poisoned, then fed to herself."

I kick him under the desk.

The professor takes a question from the left-hand audience -- some undergrad's shy squeak in his earpiece. The professor scowls, shakes his head, colourfully laments the shortcomings of youth, recasts the equations and then snaps his head to the right to assign a series of readings. He faces front to say, "Has the optimization programme yielded results, boys?"

"Yessir," I say quickly, throwing a pie chart into the air. "Significant savings."

The professor shakes his head curtly and scratches at his nose. "That's a poor way to shrink your staff allocation. Have you tried skewing the budget by inflating costs?"

Pulse gapes. "Is he saying we should be more wasteful so we don't qualify for a staff of three anymore?"

"I'm not sure that would be fair, sir."

"It's a perfectly academic solution, Siemens. Devastate your expenses and you'll be in a position to jettison the woman. Have your years in this institution taught you nothing about getting things done?"

"That's brilliant," says Pulse, standing up and gathering his jacket. "Problem solved."

I remain in my chair. "It just seems kind of mercenary, professor."

Professor Cuthbertson seems faintly amused. "This is a question of human resources not morality. Seldom do the two align, Siemens. You're Terran -- you should understand that better than most."

I drop my eyes. "Yeah I guess that's true."


I've worked all my life to achieve the indignity of being an immigrant. My parents were sterilized in exchange for the right to accompany me to here, to watch me prosper in a new and better society, to dote over grandchildren more genetically excellent than themselves. Voyeurs, they were meant to be, as I galloped into a glittering future among the select.

But for the most part the select are a bunch of sphincters...

To read the rest of this story, buy it now from Amazon for just $2.99!


Sheik Yerbouti said...

Dang. I've said it once and I'll say it again: you, sir, are a masterful creator of characters.

Also, it's good (though disheartening) to see Marlboro waking up to the reality of the culture around him. Probably not so hard for him to imagine Air's conjectured tragedy now.

Enjoy your time away, CBB.

Teddy said...

I didn't see Pulse falling for her too, although it makes perfect sense. I was practically giddy when their professor told them how to get rid of her. Of course, now, they'll be working not to rid themselves of her but of each other so that there's no competition for her affections. I doubt she'll be interested in either of them.

I do foresee a possible happy ending though: They inadvertently destroy their budget so effectively that TWO people must be gotten rid of, and it's them. They realize they were fools for letting a woman come between them (bros before hos, neh?) and make fast friends again as they prepare to enter *DUN DUN DUNNNN* THE PRIVATE SECTOR!


SaintPeter said...

I never saw it coming. Never. Caught me flat footed. Loved it!

My guess: They are so inefficient, trying to do away with one another, that they Zorannics end up coming up with their own maintenance facility just to get away from the lovesick, sandbagging youth.

Verification: Keentail - that would be my name if I were a furry. I'd be a fox, of course.

SaintPeter said...

D'oh, checking the checkbox.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

I'm not sure what i've broken but comment notification via email seems to be busted.

Bro: if you're reading this, for time being logging into Blogger "manually" seems to be the only way to see or moderate comments right now.

My net access is very spotty, but I'm trying to check in when possible.

CBB on the beach

gl. said...

very dramatic ending this chapter. and then i thought, "wait. they have roses on ares?"

Cheeseburger Brown said...

The prescience demonstrated in these comments is remarkable this time around. Either I should be more deliberately confusing or the themes here actually make some manner of sense. One or the other.

Therefore I am reluctant to say much specific for fear of spoilers.

I would like to point out, though, that the question that occurred to g.l. indicates to me that she would probably, if she cared to try, have a very difficult time trying to convince anyone she wasn't clever. Incisive curiosity is cool.

Indeed, there are roses on Mars -- and thus soil and thus ants, and algae and phosphorus and about a golybillion sorts of microlife without whose support we would surely die. There is taste, too, and horticulture and competitive growing contests and every kind of human passion from romance to avarice. Symbols of fertility can have a long shelf life.

I meander. Forgive me. It's too hot to think straight here.


gl. said...

oh, cheeseburger, you flatter me.

but your comment makes me re-imagine Ares (and the whole solar system). it's weird and fun to discover/dismantle my preformed scifi ideas about space colonization thanks to the the cheeseburger universe.