Lewis and Susan Jenkins



Web Log  and OTHER CONTENT         Updated 2019.07.26 
 

BONUS for those who've gotten this far:

I agree with Steve Martin's comment that "writer's block" is an excuse writers use to justify spending time at a bar. Instead, I usually spend time telling my middle sister about my current story at breakfast---my treat. It always works. But I can only use it early when she's hungry. A bunch of other things usually work. If one doesn't, another will. No one's interested in what works for me, though. When I tell other writers, they say, Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's get a drink.

Now I have science on my side. The best article I've ever read about beating writer's block is by Estelle Erasmus in the Sept 2019 issue of Writer's Digest (Page 8, for the eager. Page 75 for the thirsty.).

Just Do It!   
Machines all follow the laws of physics.  Until now. 
Are thinking machines allowed oopsies?
Where does harm begin, and who defines it?

First pages from the D.O.A.R. Sequel
        ( Currently titled  Diary Too )


PART ZERO.

                                                    Chapter 0. Put

                                                                                                             [ Day 0.03.02 ]
      The noise of battle raged. He padded along a smoky hall, gripping his .45 with both hands like they do in the movies. He’d already been shot twice; maybe that was good.
        Stay relaxed. Look nervous.
        Shafts of light played against sounds of a running fight. Shouts, cries of anguish—and laughter—echoed with sizzling twangs, cracks, and bangs as if a time warp had merged sci-fi battles, a gangster war, and a gunfight at the OK corral.
        But look like you belong, he reminded himself. Fake reality.
        He grunted at all the contradictions.
        Keep moving. It doesn’t matter how many times you get shot now. Just get to the targets.
        He shifted his gamer’s vest to a less irritating position.
        The idiots. I told them two would be one too many.
        From behind came a muted gritty crunch. He whirled, raising his weapon. A security guard faced him—hand on holstered taser, but no vest or laser gun. Take it easy.
        He put up his hands as if to surrender, then gave the universal signal for silence by crossing his lips with the barrel of his plastic .45.
        The guard said, “Hi, Neil.”
        They exchanged smiles.
        It’s working.
        Striding past, the guard whispered, “Watch your back.”
        The mistake was to think about it. By the time he turned to look, he’d been shot again.
        This corner should be the atrium.
        …Damn. The Machine, raising a plasma weapon, materialized through the haze and rolled toward him. It looked like a vaguely humanoid robot driving a dishwasher, but it still had a tablet screen for a face. He aimed.
        Its blaster winked before he could fire, and the shooter bleated, “Trust your feelings, Neil.”
        Neil fired anyway. His weapon gave a hollow click instead of the sick but reassuring blam. He ducked past the machine toward the next stairwell as his weapon re-armed. A peek behind showed the machine backing away with blaster pointed at him for another shot. This time he managed to dodge, but as the machine swiveled around the corner someone else shot him. He dashed up the stairs toward a target.
        At the top, he waited. A voice from the shadows urged, “Now.”
        Good, he thought, looking up at a security camera aimed a bit wrong. He eased into its usual field and fiddled with a door lock. He was in.
        Everything looked as it should. Do it and leave.

 
        Neil cracked the door open and used a gadget to glance each way down the hall. Move. He slipped away, using his blaster to stuff an edge of shirttail under his belt.
        At a familiar grunt from the shadows, he breathed without moving his chin, “Done.”
        “They’re on to you,” the shadows whispered.
        “How—?”
        “Shut up and get out. I can’t do any more.”
        “Yeah, let the others—”
        “And take everything away.”
        The sneaker hurried on.

 
        The hall door to the shipping dock opened with a wham. Neil looked up from his desk. “What the…?”
        A man dashed past and disappeared out the Receiving door.
        “Hey, you!” Neil called. He looked at his own patterned shirt.
        Seconds later, a company security team barged through the hall door. One man planted himself between Neil and the Receiving door. The other demanded, “Where were you?”
        “I don’t understand.” Neil protested. “I’ve been here.”
        “Not all the time, though.”
        “No, I did hit the head.” [1]
        “Yeah, we checked,” said a third guard, coming in. “Nothing good in the restroom, Sarge.”
        “Where is your gaming equipment,” the sergeant demanded.
        “What equipment? I didn’t play.” Neil smiled nervously.
        “Don’t give me that. You were in the hall, dressed as a gamer. We have video.”
        “But I didn’t play.” Then he remembered. “I did see someone run past that might have looked like me. He had a shirt like mine. And a gym bag.”
        The first guard came close, showed his cell phone, and whispered, “Sarge, this is Neil. The guy I saw earlier had to be an impostor. His teeth were all the same.”
        The sergeant ordered the outside door locked and bared, and suggested strongly to Neil that he talk with The Man and The Machine. “I’ll show you the way.”
        “The way” included a half-hour wait at the company’s security desk while Doctor Little digested his AI machine’s report of the laser tag game. It was lively reading although Doc was the only one to read it before the sergeant brought Neil to them.
        “Dr. Little? TM2?” the officer said, ushering Neil into the boss’s office.
        “I’ll be brief,” the boss began. He watched his employee’s face without appearing to be careful about it. TM rolled to a better spot and watched Neil’s face with obvious care. “…But I’ll need you to be open with me. Okay?”
        “Okay.”
        “How could the intruder have known what clothes you were going to wear?”
        The clerk got flustered but did not appear to be inventing a story.
        “I don’t know… unless…”
        Man and machine waited for the rest of it, which Neil appeared embarrassed to admit. “Well,” he mumbled, “… I don’t have a big wardrobe…”
        No further relevant data came to light in the interview.

 
        “Do we buy that, TM?” Doc asked when Neil had gone.
        “Yes,” said the machine. “I have just examined my own Data Matrix and scanned a few security videos. He wears the same sorts of things on about a nine-day rotation. It appears that he has duplicates of some shirts and slacks, and his other clothing is similar. Anyone familiar with his routine could assemble a matching collection. He may wear different things in the evenings and on weekends. Do you want me to check?”
        “No. It’s too late...
        “Nothing stolen?” Little commented, fingering the machine’s report. “I find that hard to believe.”
        “An inventory of prototypes and other sensitive materials shows correct, Doctor, and no sensitive files were accessed during the game.”
        “I’ll bet they did get something,” said Little. “Whatever it was, it was small. Does IMINT[2] show what it could have been? Archive all records of this day. We need to check it in detail.”
        “If they did not get anything, Doctor, there is the other possibility. I shall check that as well, but it naturally takes more time.”


[1] “Hit the head”: military slang for visiting the restroom, the loo, the W.C., etc.
[2] IMINT: Military jargon for Image Intelligence, i.e., the analysis of images for clues.



Copyright © 2002-2019, by Lewis Jenkins. All rights reserved.

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