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Old 09-19-2002, 09:52 PM   #1
masterofNone
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Thumbs down They All Fall Down-chapter 1 (completed)

The wind was hot and dry and carried the sand from far away. Her shadow cut across the desert, stabbing eastward for a quarter mile. Wiping her forehead and eyes with the back of her hand she became aware of the salt crystals that thinly covered her face. Fatigue was setting in. If she didn't get the last of the monitors in place by this evening she might not get off this godforsaken rock... ever. "And, Sil' my old girl, THAT is not an option, " she pulled her shroud back into place and fixed it to it's velcro strip, "I am not going to be forgotten out here in the armpit of the galaxy". She quickened her pace as she approached a low sloping dune. According to her plan she had another mile to hike to the southwest before she could drop the fourth of five siesmic monitors. Then another three miles to due south. The sun would be down by the time she dropped the last monitor. But by then she'd have the array in place. By then she could power up the grid and if her theory was right she could send enough power back through the array to create a signal they'd be able to read on the station orbiting over head. If she could time the signal to their orbit... she'd be fine. They'd read her loud and clear and come running... "yeah, that's the ticket..."

Last edited by masterofNone : 10-30-2002 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 09-19-2002, 10:04 PM   #2
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Said Sil, the ship's mainframe in reply. Jordan still hadn't gotten used to the computer's ability to read her thoughts. Actually, according to Hudson, the programmer that wrote a good deal of Sil's interactive code, Sil didn't read thoughts as much as she predicted what a person would say, based on knowledge of that person's past comments. The longer Sil "knew" someone, the better her odds of predicting thoughts. And Sil and Jordan had known each other for two years, four months, and 27 days. "Wanna play chess?" Jordan asked. Sil could predict her moves, but it was alright to lose to Sil--she never gloated. Unlike her last chess partner . . .
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Old 09-19-2002, 11:52 PM   #3
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"QP to Q4..Q3..4..zzzt" came the reply. Jordan winced. It wouldn't be long before the ship's power was gone and Sil' would be gone with it. "Oh.. so you're taking white?" There was an un Sil'-like pause... Jordan turned to the northeast vainly trying to see the over the horizon to the site of her damaged survey ship. "Sil'?" "Yes, Jordan, I don't like your opening gambits. Don't worry about the power. I'm rerouting from the satellite coms... they're blown anyway...no sense wasting amps on keeping them warm. I believe I said Queens pawn to Q4" Jordan grinned "yeah, yeah. Knight to.. um..," she paused to pull herself over the crest of the dune, "what is it? QB 3?" It was a full five minutes before...
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Old 09-21-2002, 09:13 PM   #4
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she had a worriesome thought again. That was how long it took Sil' to soundly defeat her. The fatigue was making it hard for Jordan to picture the board in her head and she obviously didn't have the opportunity to flick on her holo display. She looked at her GPS readout, walked about 6 meters to the east, and drew an X in the sand. The monitors, though made of titanium and plastic, still weighed a bit and she felt better when she was able to drop the quiver of them gingerly to the desert floor. She took a long cool drag off the water tube at her chin, and another. The quiver popped open and she pulled one of the monitors out of it's padded groove. She popped open the dust cap, removed the lithium-ion cell and peeled off the adhesive plastic film on the contacts. The power cell slid back in with a comforting "thooomp" and she sealed the dust cover back in place. When she flipped the monitor over it was already blinking and the three other monitors could be seen on the active matrix display. One more and she'd be as good as home. She thought it odd that it took a planetside crash of her survey craft and 13 hours of hiking in the desert to make her homesick for the constant machine smell of her quarters on the station. When she got back it would feel more like home she thought.
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Old 09-24-2002, 11:02 PM   #5
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She snapped the monitor quiver closed again, took a last tug on the water and stood up. Looking down at her GPS she suddenly was aware of the tunnel. Without warning she was looking out at the world from the back of a dark, black tunnel. It was then she felt the desert hit her hard in her ass. "Well this is an odd kettle of fish," she thought, "what am I doing sitting down again?"
"Jordan? Jordan this is Syl'! Jordan!" and with that the universe snipped into nothingness...


She swam back to consciousness 14 hours later, face down in the sand, with the twin suns beating down on her now white survival suit. She had sand in her mouth, sand caked around the corners of her lips, sand all over her. Her mood was immediately foul as she spat to clear her mouth and then tried to gingerly rub the sand from her face. It took a while to remember how she had gotten to be in this situation. She sat cross legged staring at the dunescape before her. Slowly the details returned to her. "Syl'?"
"Yes, Jordan?" "Did I have a siezure?" "No, Jordan. You just passed out. Mostly from sleep deprivation and low blood sugar." "Did you know I was epileptic?" "I monitor your brain activity. I've noticed... anomalies" "okay. How long was I out?" "14 hours or so... I let you sleep late." "Syl'?" Jordan felt the throb in her head now. "How am I doing?" "If you don't over exert yourself you can position the last monitor. Then you'll need to rest until you're rescued and you can get some carbohydrates and protein. The key will be to pace yourself" " okay, mom."
Jordan pulled herself up again. She looked warily at GPS. No tunnel... okay, so far, so good. South. She had a three mile walk ahead. This was going to be just fine...
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Old 09-26-2002, 05:48 PM   #6
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One foot, next foot, left foot, right foot. Jordans mind was tracing tiny swirling little whirpools on the desert floor in front of her. She drifted on the edge of a dream... a dream of San Diego when she was a child. She sat on a rustic woven matte on a hardwood floor in the sunlight. Her knees ached and she wanted to whine about it but you didn't whine when grandmother was teaching. You didn't talk, you barely breathed. Her grandmother knelt in front of the small dark table and dipped her brush in the black ink. With a series of strokes that flowed gracefully from one to the next, she deftly drew out three characters stacked neatly on top of one another.
listen
with
breathless
ecstacy.

Jordan knew she would never be able to master caligraphy, just knew it. "Do not write until the writing is overflowing and ready to spill from you... Do not write until the writing is using your hand, your arm as a way into the world... this is the way"

The swirling little whirlpools were becoming a bit to vivid. Jordan dragged on the water tube. "how am I doing, Syl'?" "You have another twenty minutes at your current pace, Jordan... did you ever master the calligraphy?"
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Old 09-27-2002, 12:23 AM   #7
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"You know I didn't, Sil. I only dreamed I did." Jordan replied wearily, drawing a last sip of water, conserving as much as she could.

"A dream is a wish your heart makes," quoted Sil philosophically.

"Hudson should never have put old Disney movies in your database," retorted Jordan, trying to shake off the stubborn tendrils of her dream, even as it clung and forced her to reflect.

San Diego was, literally, a world away now. Her grandmother was dead. And she hadn't touched a calligraphy brush in fourteen years. At the thought, she stooped and traced a word in the sand . . .
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Old 09-30-2002, 09:16 PM   #8
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silence
without
end.

She remembered when she had first learned the characters, she had been drawn to them. There was something beautiful about how they played together. Even here, in this inferno, she found their shape soothing. It was, she reminded herself with a wry grin, a euphemism for death. She looked down at her GPS again. She was close enough. Dropping to her knees, she peeled the quiver from her shoulders. God, she ached. The top popped off and the last monitor slid into the sand. Before a minute was up she had the contacts cleared and the dustcap replaced. The faint electronic whine was reassuring. A glance at the display showed the five monitors had completed the network and were functioning as a single unit. She typed a series of commands into the keypad and hit enter. There was nothing else for it. The monitors were now thrumming away a geodesic pulse that could be picked up from geosynchronous orbit, let alone the LEO path the station was on.

She sat for a moment wishing she had one of those home brews that Jon Evans made in his quarters. A beer would be great right now.

Last edited by masterofNone : 09-30-2002 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 10-02-2002, 12:19 AM   #9
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Syl' existed only in a nearly imaginary sense. She was merely a concatenation of sub-routines, if-then arguments, algorithms and cues. She was no more the survey ship's on board computer than your computer is the glowing light eminating from your screen. Syl' was a user interface. Elaborate, elegant, fabulously convincing... but still an interface. So, it was with cool and dispassionate objectivity that the computer monitored the slow descent of the station's third survey ship. It was simply a series of automatic responses that acquired the craft on long range radar, switched efficiently to the video camera's telescopic lens to track the glowing ghost as it slowed through supersonic and subsonic threshholds, and tried vainly to bypass damaged servos to follow the ship as it zoomed by overhead and veered to the south.
And of course there was a simple, purely technical reason that Syl' whispered into Jordan's unconscious ear, "hold on, Jordan. hold on, they're coming... they're coming."
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Old 10-09-2002, 12:38 AM   #10
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They found her three hours after she had triggered the last of the monitors. Her skin was beginning to blister and her breathing was a little ragged. Sue Falco began immediate IV hydration as they hovered her into the ship. Jon looked over at Sue with concern. "Oh I think she'll be fine. She's dehydrated, her blood sugar's crashed, she'll need to take it slow for a couple of days... but she'll be fine." As if she had heard, Jordan stirred as she entered the cool, air conditioned shade of the passenger cabin. She reached out and grabbed Jon's arm. Her eyes never opened but her grip was strong and certain. She whispered something. Jon leaned down to hear. He rose up again with an odd smile. "What did she say?" aske Sue. "She said to make sure we downloaded Syl' , " Jon said, " Funny what people think of when they're exhausted."

Last edited by masterofNone : 10-29-2002 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 10-29-2002, 07:11 PM   #11
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As their tiny craft hovered up, up, and away Jon made a brief call to the sysadmin, Phil Watkins, aboard the station. Although Phil was a busy and put-upon little man, he dutifully opened the command line window and typed a few arcane keystrokes. On the planet below, in the scorched and scarred ship, Syl's program quietly answered Phil's command and began the slow process of transcribing herself into a stream of code pointed at a small elliptical dish on the rescue ship. By the time Jordan made orbit Syl' existed in two places at once. The planetside Syl' confirmed that the orbiting Syl' was whole and complete and then promptly shut down all of the ship's systems she'd been furiously juggling amperes to keep charged. As the second sun began to set on the crash site, the planetside Syl' gave herself, and then obeyed, the command to cease to exist.

end of chapter one
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