Another Day, Another Blog

December 15, 2007

Saving Einstein

Filed under: ficlet, humour — iamza @ 10:20 pm

It was an accident, so they tried to tell everyone later. Newton, Thorne, and Einstein had gathered in the upstairs library for their bi-annual “Save a Physicist, Save the World” campaign. They’d been waiting for quite a while for their fellow compatriots to put in an appearance. Rutherford was downstairs in the middle of a fencing lesson, being bombarded with foils. And Bohr was outside, circling the house like a lost electron.

Bored, Thorne handwaved a wormhole into existence, and Newton lobbed an apple at the shimmering interface. “He shoots, he scores!”

Unfortunately, Einstein picked just that moment to take a closer look at the collection of dusty books piled on the table in front of Thorne’s wormhole. The apple hit Einstein square in the head, stunning him and causing him to stumble backwards into the wormhole. Then, before either of the remaining men could so much as blink, the wormhole sealed itself up with a barely audible burp.

Newton looked at Thorne.

Thorne looked at Newton.

“Oops,” said Thorne.

The door to the library opened, and Rutherford came in, his face red and shiny, and full of pockmarks where the foils had driven home. “I say,” he said, “there’s nothing quite like a little blood-loss to make one’s head lighter. It’s a good feeling, actually — makes me feel unconstrained by the gravity of the situation.” He paused, and looked around the room. “Where’s Einstein?”

Thorne bit his lip.

Newton coughed. “He, er, stepped out.”

“Well, at the rate we’re going, we’ll never get this meeting off the ground,” said Rutherford, and stomped across the room to the library’s sole window. He yanked the window open, and leaned out. “Bohr! Stop fooling around with those daisy chains, and get yourself up here!”

Newton cleared his throat. “Uh, Galileo called. He’s having legal issues, and probably won’t come. His ex communicated with lawyers, and now Galileo’s stuck in court. The judge is apparently a real hard-ass.”

Rutherford frowned. “So it’s up to the two of you, Einstein, Bohr, and me to save the world?”

“No, no,” Thorne said, with a curiously high-pitched laugh. “Michelson and Morley are coming as well. They were caught up in light traffic, but should be here any minute.”

Just then, the door to the library opened again, and a pale-faced Bohr snuck in trailed by a dozen daisy chains.

“Good of you to take time out of your busy schedule to join us,” snapped Rutherford.

Bohr sighed. “I was going to give you one of my chains,” he said, “but I think I’ll give it to Michelson and Morley instead.”

“Oh, they’ve arrived, then?” Newton quickly interjected, as Rutherford’s face purpled and his mouth opened.

Bohr nodded, then looked quickly around the room. His eyes narrowed. “Where’s Einstein?”

There was a moment’s silence as Newton looked at Thorne, and Thorne stared down at the floor with sudden and intense interest.

Newton glared at the top of Thorne’s head.

Bohr cleared his throat. “Uh, Einstein? Remember him? Crazy white hair pointing every which way but down?”

Newton transferred his glare to Bohr. “He stepped out.”

Thorne covered his downcast eyes with one hand, and mumbled, “Wa-a-a-a-ay out.”

Bohr’s gaze narrowed still further. “Define ‘wa-a-a-a-ay’.”

“Hesteppedinawormholeandisnowquiteprobablylostsomewhereonthefarsideofthe universe,” said Thorne.

“What?” said Rutherford, even as Bohr yelled, “You lost Einstein?!”

The library door opened, to reveal Michelson and Morley standing in the hallway, smiles quickly draining from their faces. “Einstein’s lost?” said Michelson.

“That’s bad,” said Morley. “How are we supposed to save the world without Einstein?”

Bohr frowned. “Well, I suppose we could try recreating the experiment.”

Rutherford nodded. “Excellent idea. Thorne, make a wormhole.”

Thorne looked down at the floor again. “We’ll need an apple,” he mumbled, “and some rope.”

Michelson pulled an apple from his pocket. “I was saving this for the ride home, but you can have it.”

Bohr looked at the daisy chains looped about his feet. “I reinforced these chains with wire,” he said. “Will they be strong enough, do you think?”

Newton looked up at the ceiling, lips moving silently as he did some quick mental calculations. “Hey! It just might,” he said, then stooped down and picked up the loose end of a daisy chain, which he tossed at Rutherford. “Here, tie this around your waist. Morley, run and get a fencing foil from the hallway downstairs.”

“Me?” said Rutherford. “Why me?!”

“We don’t know where Einstein came out. You’re the one of us most capable of defending himself if it’s somewhere nasty,” said Newton in a distracted tone. “Now, hurry up and tie that rope around your waist. Thorne, can you handwave the wormhole back into existen–?”

“Wait!” yelped Rutherford. “What about my foil?”

“What about my apple?” Michelson said mournfully from his vantage point in the corner.

Morley came running back into the library, a foil clenched in one fist. “Here you go,” he wheezed, handing the foil to Rutherford whose face looked distinctly paler than it had a few minutes before.

Thorne gulped. “Now?”

Newton nodded grimly. “Michelson, get ready to toss that apple at Rutherford’s head as soon as the wormhole appears.”

“What?” squawked Rutherford, even as Michelson’s gloomy expression melted into a giant smile.

Thorne waved his hands, and a shimmering blue circle opened just behind the table of books. Michelson’s apple sailed across the room strong and true, and hit Rutherford with a thud. “By node!” Rutherford yelled even as he disappeared in a cloud of bloody daisy petals.

“I love it when a plan comes together,” said Bohr, and smiled.

 

-30-

December 14, 2007

Thought Experiment

Filed under: ficlet, humour — iamza @ 10:34 pm

Michelson! Morley! Leave that laser equipment alone, will you? You’ll hurt someone.

Einstein, stop hitting Hertz. No, he doesn’t have to discuss photoelectric effects and quanta with you if he doesn’t want to.

Maxwell, where did you get that magnet? And the wire? Just put it down before you hurt yourself.

Liebniz, if you don’t put that apple away, I’ll confiscate it. Yes, I bloody well can, and what do you think your parents would say if they found out you’d been tossing apples at Newton’s head all day, anyway?

Marie, Pierre, move apart please. You’re starting to glow.

Damnit, Millikan. What did I say about letting your oil spill all over the pla–

OW! Michelson! What did I say about the laser equipment? No, don’t look at Morley. You’re the one holding the laser, and I’m the one with a hole in my leg. Just, just put it down, and go and sit next to Marie.

Yes, Rutherford, I’m fully aware that gold doesn’t tarnish, but, as I’m sure you’ll agree, gold foil leaves rather a lot to be desired in the bandage department.

Thorne, Morris, why don’t you send that wormhole somewhere useful for once, and fetch the nurse?

Morley, so help me, if you don’t put that laser down right now… No, I don’t care about testing the penetrability of gold foil. Nor, Mr. Kelvin, do I care about the interior temperature of a gold foil-encrusted oil planet when subjected to a blast of electromagnetic radiation from one of Hertz and Maxwell’s contraptions.

Liebniz, if I see that apple one more time, I will stuff it in your mouth, and serve you for Sunday lunch. Clear?

Dear god, when will this day end? No, Davies, that was a rhetorical question. I do not need to know what happens in either the first or the last three minutes of the universe right at the moment.

Einstein, take Rosenberg, and check up on the wormhole twins, would you? And ask them to hurry it up a bit. The room is starting to fade at the edges.

Schroedinger! Put Marie’s cat down, and give her back her radium. No, I will not climb in the box so you can think about whether I’m alive or dead. No, I don’t care that you’d leave out the radium! If you have to think about something, think about a tree falling in an empty forest.

Where is that godforsaken nurse?! Is it starting to get dark in here, or is that just me? Edison, could you turn the lights up?

Morse, Bell, call for help, would you?

I’m just going to take…a little nap….

October 27, 2007

Fate unspun

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 8:12 pm

It feels as though the world is filled with a soft mist that draws in warmth and colour and spits out a steel-cold grey. Imagine, an old woman sitting alone in a tower, locked away from the world, and forgotten. She spins an endless story about faraway places and ignores the cold grey stone and damp vapour separating her from the world only a few hundred feet below.

Fate called in sick one Thursday morning, and destinies everywhere went unfulfilled. And so the spinner sits alone, and she dreams, and in another universe, she is woken by small hands that drag off the covers, and the smell of burnt toast curling blackly at the corners. And in another, she teaches, and in a third she is taught.

The stories unwind and fate has never seemed less important. 

August 21, 2007

Dear brain, please die…

Filed under: ficlet, random — iamza @ 11:45 am

“The problem with lambs,” said Mary, “is that all that gambolling leads to shake-and-break brains.”

Miss Muffet leaned back against the tree trunk behind her, and sighed. “But they look so cute.”

“Cute, yes. Clever, no. Just the other day, I found them curled up in Jack Horner’s oven. He’d promised them a dinner of roast grass and mint sauce.”

Miss Muffet gasped. “He didn’t!”

Mary nodded grimly. “He was just about to turn the oven up when I walked in.”

“Really, that man thinks he can have his cake and eat it, too.” 

August 3, 2007

Criminal Minds

Filed under: ficlet, humour — iamza @ 2:44 pm

“When I grow up,” said Mervyn, his antennae waggling in the light evening breeze, “I want to be a profiler.”

Sergeant John, who was standing guard with Mervyn, scowled. It had been a long shift, and Mervyn’s fanciful asides had not helped to pass the time. “You’re a private in Her Majesty’s Army, Mervyn. You’ll grow up to be a soldier ant, just like the rest of us.”

For a few minutes, the battlements were bathed in blessed silence. Then,  just as Sergeant John was starting to relax, Mervyn said, “Do you think the army has any profilers?”

“Yes. They’re called commanding officers, and you don’t want to get on their bad side. Now, shut up and start guarding, Private!”

Mervyn’s antennae came to attention. “Yes, Sir, Sergeant, Sir!”  

Sergeant John cocked his antenna in a return salute, and turned away. When Mervyn’s antennae wilted shortly afterwards, he pretended not to notice.

***

The war of the ants was in its seventh year when Admiral Clement was found murdered in the Strategic Intelligence Room. Sergeant John had happened across the body during a routine inspection of the military nest, and had quickly called for backup in the form of the AMPs (Ant Military Police). Unfortunately, given that Sergeant John was both the last ant to have seen the Admiral alive, and the first to see him dead, the soldier quickly found himself sitting in an interrogation cell.

“But I didn’t do anything!” Sergeant John said.

“Admiral Clement was alive when you saw him yesterday?”

“Ye-e-e-es,” said Sergeant John, slowly.

“And he was dead when you came back in the early hours of this morning?”

“Ye-e-e-es,” said Sergeant John, even more slowly.

“And did you see anyone enter the SIR between the time when you last saw the Admiral alive and when you first saw him dead?”

“No.” The word echoed loudly in the room, and Sergeant John’s eyes widened. “Now, wait just a minute. Surely, you don’t think I ha–”

“That will be all. Thank you for your co-operation.” And the AMP interrogators got to their feet. “A lawant will be assigned to you shortly. Good day.” 

***

The Queen was not happy, and when the Queen was not happy, nobody else in the nest was happy, either. Pheromones were flying far and fast, and the antennae network was waggling overtime. Only one ant remained still: Sergeant John was chained to his chair at the front of the throne room.

“Why would you do this?” the Queen asked in a voice shrill enough to penetrate the noisy chaos that had overtaken the nest. “Admiral Clement was a great soldier, and a good man.”

Sergeant John looked up at his queen from under drooping antennae. “I did nothing wrong. I was only doing my job. Admiral Clement was already dead when I found him.”

The Queen glared at her prisoner for a moment, then transferred her glare to somebody behind the Sergeant. “And you? What do you have to say?”

“He’s telling the truth, Your Majesty.”

Sergeant John’s antennae perked up. That voice…he knew that voice! He swiveled on his chair, and there, standing behind him was his one-time guard-companion, Private Mervyn.

“And you know this, how?”

Mervyn cocked an antenna. “Well, because the Sergeant doesn’t fit the profile of the killer.”

“And just what is the killer’s profile?” The Queen’s teeth were clenched so tight, she could barely speak.

“Ah, I’m glad you asked,” said Mervyn with a smirk. “This particular killer’s profile is mine.”

July 31, 2007

The Cave in the Rock

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 4:38 pm

 The second child came just as the sun began to rise above the flat top of the mountain. Grandmother Witch sucked in her breath as the child began to wail. “This is not good. Two children born at the same time — this is an evil omen.”

Thandi lay silent, her face streaked with sweat and tears, eyes fixed on the highest part of the thatched roof where the branches curved so that they lay horizontally above the circular mud floor.

Grandmother Witch sighed and began to wrap the children in a brightly woven blanket Thandi had been working on for months. “There will be other children,” Grandmother Witch said, “but these two belong to the mountain.” 

She stood, and gathered the twins to her breast. “There will be other children,” Grandmother Witch repeated softly, hoping repetition would make the words truth.

Thandi remained still, and would not return Grandmother Witch’s gaze.  

***

The spring leapt merrily from the mountainside, darting between trees and over rocks as it skipped towards the grasslands beyond. Not far from the village, no more than half a day’s walk, the spring was split in two by an enormous rock. 

Grandmother Witch eyed the rock warily. When she was a child, her father had spoken of strange happenings around the rock — lightning that sparked near the rock on cloudless days, and the sound of muffled drums coming from within. Her mother had cuffed him about the ear, and blamed the stories on too much Amarula. Still, whenever she was around the rock, Grandmother Witch could feel her skin prickling, and she was reluctant to stay nearby for too long.

So she picked her way carefully but quickly through the stream, and laid the babies on the black surface of the rock. No sooner had she done so than a muffled drumbeat began to sound in time with her heart.

The Mountain Dwellers!

Grandmother Witch cried out and stumbled quickly away from the rock. With one last frightened look at the ominous black rock, she hastened back to the village, and safety. 

***

To be continued…   

June 11, 2007

Not quite Lawrence of Arabia…

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 9:10 pm

Jude had been about to admit the camels were maybe a bad idea, but Toy’s skyward glance and sulky pout had made Jude’s mouth snap shut. It had been like this from the start of the expedition — Jude’s suggestions were greeted with heavy sighs, and Toy’s best martyred expression until Jude backed down.

Well, not this time! The camels were staying, and Toy would just have to learn to live with the spit and the smell and the never-ending noise of jangly bells and huffing.

The camel herder was delighted. “They are good beasts!” he said through a giant smile, head bobbing up and down and eyes glued to the enormous stack of bills he cradled in his hands. “They will give you many years of service.”

From the crest of the dune, the sand stretched for miles. A dry and dusty golden ocean in constant motion, and capped by a sky bleached by the heat of the sun. They’d been travelling south for just under two days, and they were surrounded by desert. The city they’d left behind, with its red sandstone temples and yellow pillars, could have been on the moon for all the traces they could see of it out here. 

Toy wasn’t happy. His camel, he insisted, was staging a coup. He could see an evil twinkle in its eye. It had already passed along its fleas to his blanket, and now it was deliberately mistiming its step so that Toy was almost thrown from the saddle at unpredictable intervals. Also, it stank.

Jude couldn’t argue with the last. All the camels had a distinctive, and rather off-putting, odour. Still, they’d only had the camels for a few days. Perhaps they just needed a bit more time to get used to the smell.

—-

Hmm. Maybe worth a part two?

June 8, 2007

Melvyn goes to the moon

Filed under: elsewhere, ficlet — iamza @ 1:54 pm

Melvyn arrived at Tranquility Base at 14h17 EST. 399 minutes later, he was dead.

The journey there was long and uncomfortable for everyone. Buzz tried to get a conversation started, but it quickly devolved into a tourist-like monologue involving lots of hand-waving and finger-pointing. Michael was occupied with the disengagement routines, and Neil was too busy steering to really take note of their surroundings.

Melvyn, tired of dodging Neil’s elbows and Buzz’s fingers, had quickly retired to the back of the space-craft. The back wall was covered in pipes and wires, but there was an empty space on the floor that was just big enough to accommodate Melvyn’s tiny form, and he strapped himself to it with gratitude.

Melvyn could feel the skin of the craft vibrating beneath him as powerful rockets pushed them further and further out into space, towards a place they knew only through myth and lore.

Luna, land of the crazy and the strange. A magical realm of shadows and secrets, she also offered a promise of hope; surely, once their historic journey was complete, once they’d showed others that it could be done, their people would spread out amongst the stars, and discover the universe in all its glory?

It took three days for their ship to fly from the Earth to Luna. Three days of pre-packaged food that tasted like cardboard. Three days of fluids settling in all the wrong places once gravity relinquished her hold. Three days of endless waiting and little sleep.

Three days of air that smelled of old socks and unwashed laundry, of sweat and grime and damp and piss. Three days of never quite knowing which way was up, or what your foot would hit next.

Three days to travel a distance of nearly 250,000 miles into the galactic wilderness, knowing that there was no way out if things went wrong.

Three days of longing and imagining and dreaming of being the first to touch the surface of a new world.

They landed, and Houston told them to rest and recover from the journey down. Melvyn swore, practically vibrating with impatience, and Neil and Buzz weren’t much better. They locked down the communications, gingerly strapped themselves to eggshell-thin gold foil walls, and pretended to sleep.

At 14h00, Melvyn couldn’t pretend anymore. He got up, and checked his gear, and Neil and Buzz quickly followed suit, and by 14h55, the door was open and they were unfolding the ladder. 

Melvyn went first. He touched the ground, and his feet sank into soft brown dust, and he felt almost normal for the first time in days. There was an up and a down again, and the sky above was black, and the ground below was soft and full of dust and rocks, and he was alone. He took a step, misjudged it, and almost fell; the gravity was so low, he felt like he could fly.

Neil came down the ladder next, carefully putting one foot after the other. At the bottom, he turned, and the wonder on Neil’s face was framed in the visor of his helmet. 

Melvyn smiled. It was beautiful here. He turned away from Neil, and looked at the horizon whose amplified curve reinforced the alien nature of this new world they’d discovered.

Neil took a step. “That’s one small step for a man,” he said, as his foot came down, and he took another, larger, step, “And one giant leap for mankind.” 

Then Neil landed on Melvyn, and antkind’s visit to the moon was over almost before it had begun.

Moral of the story: “Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant…”  

June 3, 2007

Because even spiders like to fly

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 3:50 pm

“Why do I do this?” mimicked Peter as he pulled on his webbing, testing its strength. He shook his head in disgust. “How are you even supposed to answer a question like that?” The web-line was solid, and he grabbed at it with both hands, then launched himself into the night sky. Overhead, the blanket of clouds had been set alight by the yellow-orange of the sodium streetlights below.

He could hear the sirens wailing as they wend their way through boulevards and avenues, and looked down. The cars below crawled like bugs trapped in a glass-and-concrete canyon, headlight antennae feeling out the path ahead, searching for an escape.

A gust of wind grabbed greedily at Peter, and lifted him roughly. It whistled and roared as it tossed him about like a log in a landslide. Peter whooped. He loved moments like this; moments of unfettered freedom when gravity no longer existed and the world fell away, and it was just Peter adrift in an ocean of air. 

Moments when even the wingless could fly.

May 12, 2007

The Chlorophyll Wars, part 1

Filed under: ficlet — iamza @ 7:00 am

The ants had stolen the last of the greenery, and Nolan was not happy. He’d been looking forward to munching down on a bit of chlorophyll, and the notion of having to make do with blue grass instead was not appealing. The other bugs took one look at Nolan’s agitated antennae, and suddenly identified a number of weaknesses in the walled fortress that needed their immediate and personal attention.

“Uh, Sir?” A soldier bug darted into Nolan’s line of view, and skittered to a halt.

“Report.”

The soldier bug took a few prudent steps back. “The last of the eastern defences have been completed. We are prepared for the invasion.”

“Good. Keep the guard posted, and stay at battle readiness. Those wretched insects got into my private stock, an impertinence that cannot be allowed to pass.”

“Uh, yes, Sir.” The soldier bug dipped his left antenna in a salute, and scurried off.

If Nolan observed the note of relief in the boy’s voice, he made no outward sign of it. “Pesky creatures,” he muttered instead, and stomped towards his war office buried deep within the sandy fortifications.

The chlorophyll wars had been raging for many cycles. As a young bug, Nolan’s grandfather had told him stories about the campaigns of his grandfather, and his grandfather before him. Some cycles, the ants proved victorious, others the bugs. Recently, the ants had had an unfair advantage, simply overwhelming the bugs’ fortifications with their superior numbers. But Nolan was determined to change the tide of this war. From the time he first heard the tales of his family’s heroic past, Nolan had decided that his campaign, at least, would succeed where so many others had failed. He would one day win back the chlorophyll for his people.

Of course, with the last of the chlorophyll on the western bank gone, Nolan’s task was looking all but impossible…

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