Friday, August 5, 2011

Old Man's Will

Dirty panes scattered a dismal light across the basement floor. It was lucky the French Quarter occupied high ground. Before the rigs ran dry, incandescents would've lit the space, but instead Jorge's men worked to feed the living computers before the light failed. Tourists -- who knew why they came here after the world failed -- and dead-enders occupied the stretchers in manufactured comas.

"It won't work."

Jorge looked away from the stretchers. "It's got to." Old man didn't have a right dying and leaving his only wealth encrypted. It was said some places out west still had power, solar and wind, but why leave his home for the desiccated places climate change had regurgitated. The French Quarter's humidity bred spores so thick they qualified as vegetables, and at least some of the bayous weren't salted.

"Your dad's money was in stocks and bonds. Worthless these days."

"Not all. Not all."

"Don't matter. The fall came quickly, no one could have preserved computational capacity other than us. You could save humanity."

"Daniels, quit your nattering." Jorge was proud of his second-in-command, but sometimes the man needed to seal his trap. Daniels hadn't seen the spiteful look in Jorge's old man as he took the password key to his grave. Jorge tapped his brow. He had the encrypted message encoded in sleepers, waiting for the key.

A boy, a crisscrossed scar like a caterpillar on his cheek, ran into Jorge's office. "Sir, we've got a key." The boy carried an agar plate with the biomolecular input modules.

Jorge pricked his finger before dipping it into the sample. DNA chains, engorged with microscopic xor gates, mixed with his blood, entering his bloodstream as they consumed the sugars and replicated. Finally, Jorge would have the old man's secrets.

The boy's face whitened. "You'll end up like one of them." He pointed at the stretchers."

"No faith." Jorge wiped the sweat from his brow. He was feverish. "Brainstem interfaces allow me to integrate the data in the key, in the origin message, and all will be made clear."

The room oozed and Daniels caught Jorge. He laid his boss on the desk.

Jorge stared at the ceiling, his old man's memories becoming his, losing himself, feeling the old man's horror as their microbes fed on the world's oil. No, this could not have been his fault. He kicked once, memories consuming him, leaving him comatose.


  1. Memories are a harsh commodity to trade. DNA, though, you might liquidate.

    One minor error - third-from-last paragraph is missing closing quotations.

  2. @John, I'll wait a few years before investing in the memory markets. Thank-you for the error-report, it is fixed now.

  3. Hey, I'm getting shades of The Windup Girl here. (That's intended as a high compliment.)

  4. This is my favorite of your flashes in a while! Got a very near future sense, post oil collapse/market crash, kind of world. Enjoyed the way you integrated the technology into the story.

  5. This is quite a frightening future, and hopefully not one we are heading towards.

  6. Trading in memories can be a risky business!

    Really liked how you brought in oil!

  7. @Loren, Thanks, I can see the parallels when you mention it.

    @Tessa, I got the idea from a photo of a classroom wearing medical masks and somehow this ended up with me taking a leap to biological computers and doing a little bit of research. It's frightening how much they've accomplished with them.

    @SteveG, I'd argue not any more frightening than your little aliens. ;)

    @Sonia, high risk, but that's the only way to get high rewards.

  8. Nicely written piece. The tech / bio mix was very well done.


  9. Small but perfectly formed, as always.

  10. This is a dark and scary future. Poor Jorge almost becoming consumed by his father's memories. Memories are not what they use to be eh. ;)

  11. And he could have saved the world!
    Scary little flash. Well done.

  12. Hi there Aidan -- I love those spores as large as vegetables, loved the feel of 'the end days' you got across in so few words. Plenty here you could turn into something much larger -- immediately my memory computer is intrigued. Very good. St.