182: folgeir, paladin of doren (pt 2)

i have traveled the world and back and still will never find a stew made as delicious as that samantha terwin. she must put some kind of faerie magic in there, no matter where i am i crave it. ah, so very delicious…

so, where was i? oh yes! betrayal. the worst kind of betrayal, the kind that comes from your best friend. the wizard had become the sorceress, the descendant of a long line of sorcerers bound by the ancient green dragon’s blood pact. the sorceress explained how she had been in search of the dragon for centuries (she was an elf, i suppose i should mention that), and that when the tremor split the land in kostor in twain, she was certain that the dragon that crawled out from the fracture was indeed her ancestor. she had been using us all this time as vessels to help her in this search! every night she pretended to study her spellbook, she had all this knowledge of the different schools of wizardry, she was nearly pedantic in her knowledge. but she looked and played the part perfectly. her spellbook, we later found out, was filled with random notes, drawings, and scribbles.

the dragon ordered us killed right then and there. she was not one for gabbing about her plans for world domination. as the sorceress raised her arms to deliver a killing blow of magic, her eyes caught mine, and even though she was a dragonborn now and no longer an elf, i could see in her eyes a pang of regret, small as it may be. we had traveled together for nearly ten years, and we all but friends. i had told her my darkest secrets and she told me hers, or at least all but one. i would even go so far as to say, at one point in our travels, i loved her … for a brief moment, maybe a year at most. adventuring is a lonely business, little ones, so it’s nice to have some companionship. she didn’t feel the same way. about us, i mean. anyway.

the moment our eyes met felt like an eternity. her spell kept me and my associates from moving. i could feel the air sizzle as her magic began to manipulate the air around us. i prayed to enfyenda for guidance, for help, for anything that could get us out of this mess. and then, out of seemingly thin air, came out help–tully, the little rogue halfling, leapt onto the sorceress’ back and put a dagger blade against her throat. he must have been hiding the entire time! he whispered something to her, something i’ll never know, before he cut her throat. the dragon was furious and spit hot acid at tully, which hit him and the sorceress. i watched them both dissolve away as the bonds of her spell disappeared and allowed me movement. the next few moments were a blur: gojen sprinted at the dragon while i unleashed a spell to keep him protected. then i attacked as well. leyva kept us inspired while she weaved her special bardic magic, and the three of us fought that dragon with all of our might, so much so that i was afraid we would cause another earthquake. in the end, i was the only one to make it out alive, barely. my friends, that i had been traveling with for so long, all dead. the dragon was dead too, and i helped the people of kostor haul its body and its treasure hoard. took us nearly six months to excavate it all and get it out from the depths.

after that, i knew my adventuring days were over. i was getting older and wanted to rest and enjoy my life, and never see another friend dissolved by acid from a giant dragon. once we finished cutting up the dragon and selling the scales to smiths for armor, i was given a generous portion to take with me. but i gave most of it away to the poor on my journey back here, to doren, my home. i was born and raised here, did you know that? and one day i met a young paladin preaching the gospel of enfyenda, which is when i knew what i would be one day.

so that’s it, that’s my story. the last adventure i ever went on. the adventure that killed all my friends. i … guess i didn’t realize how morbid it would be, really.

[sighs softly] i’m tired. come help me up, sam’s stew is making me drowsy. i think it’s time for this old dwarf to head to bed. come on, let’s go kids. i’ll tell you a more upbeat story next time, i promise…


181: folgeir, paladin of doren (pt 1)

you never give it up. ever. your body becomes old, frail, you find aches and pains where once there were none, your eyes dim, your hearing is replaced by little annoying hairs, but despite all that, you never give it up. from the moment i was given the holy symbol of our goddess of the north, the beautiful enfyenda, until i exhale my last dying breath, i am a sworn paladin in the service of the gods. yes, now, i reside here in doren, retired, in a way. hobbling on this old cane, teaching youngsters like you the ways of adventuring. but if word were to come from on high requesting me to fight or defend, may the goddess have mercy on those who wronged her. for i am a paladin, and i am the defender of those without agency.

so yes, young ones, despite my frailty i am still imbued with divine ichor, which flows through my blood and gives me power when i seek it. but i do not seek it any longer, not actively. no, my days traveling the world are long gone. shall i tell you of my last valiant battle? of course, of course. this is a tale better spoken by my dear friend leyva the bard, who played so gracefully upon her harp as she sung this story into being, welling the eyes of everyone with tears as she performed. alas, she is gone, given the gift of human mortality by her god yalga the bowyer. i had lived twice as long as her before we had ever met. she … was a good human.

but i digress. the tale of the dragon! my colleagues and i had adventured for nearly a decade together, braving forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, jungles, and even a brief trip into another dimension. yes! i will tell that story another time. doren is very secluded from civilization; i’m sure many of you are chomping at the bit to leave this dusty old village and travel to a city like altavir, the crystal shield. i have been to altavir, and kostor, and hen, and the wailing spires. i have seen sirens bathing in the streams. i have defeated devil and demon alike. i have done all of this because adventuring is a dead man’s game, and thus my friends and i were a prized commodity, especially in our later years. and so it was on this particular hot summer day, during a period of downtime–unusual for us–that we were summoned to the briar queen’s chamber in kostor to alleviate a particularly nasty dragon problem the citizens there had been facing.

like i said, adventurers are few and far between, and those who choose the lifestyle are often dead before they even know it. for a span there i was convinced we were the only adventurers in the entire world! regardless, the briar queen required our services, and quickly–she had a wizard conjure up a gateway between where we were and her royal chambers in kostor. there, she and her council explained the situation, which i will condense for your young minds: there was a dragon. a big one, an ancient green dragon which had been awakened after decades of slumber by a severe tremor which caused much of the earth to rend asunder, destroying several buildings in kostor and even collapsing part of their legendary wall surrounding the city. the dragon was roused and began causing more havoc against the people of kostor, destroying their farmland and spitting vile acid which ate away at everything it touched.

we were tasked with bringing the dragon down. the briar queen told us that the dragon had finally returned to its underground nest to rest for bit, but that it would return shortly. so we gathered up our weapons and armor, and our wizard ruminated on her best spells. leyva tuned her harp, the monk gojen meditated, i honed my sword and prayed to enfyenda for guidance, and tully the rogue practiced his sleight of hand. by nightfall we were off, spelunking down this enormous cavern that had opened up because of the tremor. inside were all sorts of monsters–enormous bugs, beetles, and vile creatures from the underdark like drow, ghouls, goblins, and more. but at this point they were like child’s play to us, and we toyed with them like you might toy with a field mouse nibbling on your grain before you feed it to the cat.

finally we reached the dragon’s lair. she was enormous, and her scales were embedded with so many jewels and gems that the wizard’s light made her entire body glint and glimmer. she was not asleep. rather, she was waiting for us. as i withdrew my sword to attack, she spoke. “i am lisandera,” she said, her voice low and gravelly. “i am the keeper of this land upon which you have built a great empire. that empire is mine, and i will rule it.” she hissed at us but did not move. despite our years of adventuring, we all knew not to head straight into battle. something was off about this. i tried to move closer to begin parleying but found that my body was rigid. “i can’t move!” i shouted, and the others announced the same. it was at this point that the wizard, whose vile name i dare not repeat ever again with this holy tongue, stepped in front of us. she walked to the dragon and turned to us. we had been betrayed! the wizard was a sorcerer, but had disguised herself as a wizard since the moment we met. now, she removed her guise, and we discovered that the ancient green dragon was in fact the progenitor of her ancestry! the sorceress laughed maniacally and we were certain of our doom.

[a loud clangy triangle sounds in the distance]

ah, is it supper time already? goodness. we shall have to pick up this story after i have eaten! [the children groan] oh, don’t worry, i shan’t forget you. now, somebody bring me my walking stick. and you, beatrice, help me up! i refuse to ever miss a good meal,not after being trapped in the ice caverns of north berteroy for nearly six months…


180: ida the man killer

it would be terrible if i killed you, wouldn’t it? people would be upset. right? lots of people? your family at the very least. you have family? don’t talk i can’t understand you through the duct tape, dear. besides it’s a rhetorical question. i’m trying to make you remember your family. i want you to visualize them. what do they do? do they go to church? the mall? don’t answer, just think about it. visualize them, going to the mall. your mother finds a nice blouse at the gap. no … ross. no … marshall’s. yes, you look like your family shops at marshall’s. unfortunate. petty. unconcerned with fashion, simply looking for an okay piece of fabric to drape over their nude bodies. you look ashamed. that’s why i stripped you down, of course, because your shame, your pitiful face, it all gets me off. this knife i’m going to cut your throat with. all of it turns me on. judging by your flaccid dick i guess it doesn’t turn you on. unfortunate. the desire, the thrill is the best part. it gets my pussy all wet. i bet if we were in a different scenario you’d want to see my dripping wet pussy, wouldn’t you? you’d love to feel it slide over your rock hard dick. wouldn’t you? instead, i’m going to masturbate after i slit your throat and watch you bleed out. if you’re lucky you’ll be alive in time to hear me moan in ecstasy. oh god it riles me up just thinking about it.

do you have a wife? don’t answer. the mumbling, the moaning through the duct tape, it dries me up like a prune. it ruins everything. i don’t want to hear you talk, i only want to see you squirm. there you go. good work. now i imagine you have a wife and that she will be very upset to learn that you’re dead. you’re a handsome man, lean, fit, just enough chest hair to be manly but not too much, not sasquatchly. no receding hairline. i’d say before i realized how sexual killing men was for me i might have fucked your brains out in a seedy hotel room. it would be our little tryst, just you and me. maybe after a couple weeks of this i would call your house and just leave breathy voicemails on your answering machine for your wife to hear. then you have to shell out the money for a security system because she thinks someone’s out to kill your whole family, but you don’t have the balls to tell her you’re just fucking someone on the side. oh the things men will do to keep their mistresses.

you’re the fourth man i’ve killed. excuse me. you will be the fourth man i’ve killed. the first was my boyfriend, a wiry nerdy type who didn’t get out much. he was kinky, very into BDSM stuff, which of course was my preferred method of sexual encounters. he was a sub, too, very much so, and when i dominated him i dominated hard. i actually ruptured one of his testicles with my stiletto heel once. that was an interesting night at the ER. but god did i come so hard, i was shaking, shuddering on the ground, i was jerking off above him as i crushed his testicles with my heels, the front part at least. stomping and stomping and he was whimpering like a sad puppy dog, tears in his eyes, but he was still jizzing before i decided to use my stiletto. i missed the first time and heard him yelp, then the second, i don’t know how i did it but i pierced through his right ball. blood spurted everywhere, and he screamed, and i came so hard i fell onto the floor moaning. he screamed at me to call 911 but i could barely move, my legs were so rubbery. so he called. he crawled over to the telephone clutching his ball sack and called 911. he ended up losing that testicle. sex after that was boring unless pain was involved, specifically his pain. and one night i stabbed him in the chest. the next morning i knew that that was it. i had to kill men.

so now you’re here, and you’re probably terrified that i’m going to stab your balls or something. i’m not. your death will be quick and will be satisfying. it’s really just seeing your lack of control, your lack of agency, that makes me so wet. watching your eyes dart around the room as you look for a way out. you really think you can outwit me, don’t you. well let me tell you this, mister: you will never, ever outwit me, for as long as you live. [she laughs] the good news is at least you’ll get to see my naked before you go. if you’re lucky, i’ll even let you feel my tits. [laughs again] let’s get started.


179: walter (the insufferable mess)

ninety percent of the time, i’m alone. this weekend i spent so much time playing a video game wherein i’m a farmer. it was this constant repetition–wake up, feed the animals, gather eggs, milk the cows and goats, then hop on my horse and harvest crops. by the time i was done it was about noon, game time, so i’d go off and fish or head into the mines to gather ore and defeat little slime monsters. i did this for my entire weekend. and i feel bad about it. and since i felt bad about it, i justified eating a load of junk food. a load. like i can put away a ton of junk food. and the thing is, when i do i gain some weight, sure, but it never looks like i’m overweight, so it doesn’t look like anything bad’s happening. since i can’t see anything, i keep going. it’s bad. it’s real bad. and then i feel bad for doing it and it’s this big long shame spiral. the worst is that i did so well. so well! for a whole week i was counting calories and hitting my mark and everything. then on saturday i decided i needed to “refeed,” or eat more calories on purpose to jumpstart my metabolism, blah blah blah, i ate everything in the universe.

but i spend so much of my time alone that i honestly don’t know what to do when i have someone who wants to be with me. i feel like fucking quasimodo or some shit. it’s like, why would you want to be with me, i literally can spend eight hours of my life pretending to be a farmer in a video game. now you come over and you want to do things, you want to be near me, you find what i say interesting. feels like a bubble waiting to pop. where’s the end, you know? i feel like an impostor around you, like i’m trying to be something i’m not. the truth is, i’m alone. a lot. and i’d like to be alone with you, if that’s something you’re interested in. and sometimes i want to be alone with you in the woods, and sometimes i want to be alone with you in a house where i play a video game for eight hours and you are there, doing your own work, creating your own things. playing your own video games. so if you’re the type who wants to run around outside constantly, i don’t know if i can give you that.

god, now i know why i’m alone, because i’m insufferable. i’m sorry. i’m an insufferable mess. i’m so nuanced with my needs and wants that i’ll never find any woman who will be able to satisfy all of them. you should probably go. you don’t want to be with a guy like me. i’m sad half the time, the other half i’m struggling to be content. i’m always quiet, i’m constantly writing or playing video games. yeah i’m fun in a crowd but it’s always so draining on me, plus lately i’ve been feeling alone even within a crowd, even among my own friends! how depressing. imagine dating me and having to deal with that shit. i’ll be fine for a couple weeks but once the infatuation wears off, i’ll be all moody because i don’t have this urge to recover my dopamine levels; instead i just wallow in self-pity. you should go, before i reveal myself to be even more of a wreck. plenty of fish in the sea, right? and i’m a fucking sea cucumber or something equally gross.

please, i know my neuroticism can be kind of funny but i’m not being funny right now. i’m wallowing in depression. festering in it. i’m like the hull of a ship bedecked with ancient barnacles too old to scrape off. i have dry skin and the flakes are depression. i sneeze and my snot is depression. i take a shit and that’s depression falling out of my asshole. you don’t want this. look at me for chrissakes, wrapped in an old sleeping bag because i can barely get out of bed. this is not the person for you, i promise. doesn’t matter what i create, it’s not worth your time, okay? no self-respecting woman would ever waste her time with a guy like me. and you are self-respecting. i see it in your face, in the kindness of your eyes. that’s the trap, you know. you are self-respecting and you’re kind and you’re generous, so i see it, that deep-seated desire to help me. but you can’t, and you shouldn’t. you should leave right now, just leave me be and move on. nothing good will come of you staying here. nothing.


178: amber (off the pills)

i tried calling dad again today. third time’s the charm. his voicemail is full, probably from all of us. at this point it’s probably not a good idea to call anymore, but i can’t help it. he’s our dad. he’s dead but at least he has a voicemail box. i wanted to remind him about that time we went camping and he kept telling us there was a monster in the lake. remember that? and there was that floating log out there that he kept insisting was a monster. you were like “why would a monster just sit there?” that was such a great trip. i remember the wind was so loud, rustling through all the trees and grass. it was a real windstorm out there. getting the tents to stay put and lighting the charcoal for the grill … it was a hassle but it was worth it. it was all worth it.

listen, jake, i know i seem a little frazzled but i’m okay. really. yes, i threw away my pills, yes i’m out of my apartment, but i’m okay. i met this guy, not like a guy i’m fucking or anything, his name’s george and he taught me this meditation technique that i’ve been using and it’s really helping me get clarity into my life. now instead of worrying whenever i close my eyes, i just imagine a serene beach, just me alone with the warmth and the sand and the palm trees. i also take some herbal supplements and some vitamin D supplements. george has been my rock and i am so appreciative of him. he’s let me sleep on his futon while i get my stuff together. i’ve been going to job interviews, i’m not drinking any more. life is good. george is helping me out a lot. i swear he’s like a sponsor, he’s not, we haven’t had sex or kissed or anything. he doesn’t mean anything to me like that. he’s like a mentor, that’s it, a mentor. he helps me get through the day.

you know … fuck you jake. i know you think i’m a nutball but i’m your fucking sister, okay? i’m both. i’m nuts and i’m your sister, so you owe me some compassion right now. i know you think calling dad is a weird thing to do but it makes me feel good. it just does. i wish i could delete his voicemails though. maybe mom knows how to do it. either way, i’m trying not to hide away in my pills and my overgrown sadness, and the last thing i need is for you to ruin it with your disapproving looks. yeah you just keep stirring that pasta, i’ll just lay on the couch and meditate.

the greatest thing about george is that he’s never judgmental, not like you jake. he takes the time to listen to me. every night we have an actual authentic japanese tea ceremony, to help us calm down from the day. well, we don’t have the clothing, but everything else is done just like the japanese do. and then he gives me a half-hour massage twice a week, he’s so good with his hands. it’s so nice to have a platonic friend in the house, someone who really cares about me, who doesn’t just want to rip my clothes off and ravish me in the bedroom…

jake are you even listening to me? i’m trying to tell you i’m happy and that i don’t need antipsychotics anymore. i flushed them down the toilet a month ago and i’ve never had to look back. just because i call dad three times a day doesn’t mean i’m, you know, dealing with it anymore. that part of my life is over. me calling dad isn’t part of that, okay? i mean it’s not like i’m expecting him to answer. i just wish i could talk to him. but i know the difference! i’m not crazy anymore, i swear. so you can talk to me whenever you fucking want. just go right on and open your mouth and let some words come out.

[she gets up from the couch. heads to the kitchen. jake is stirring.]

there’s nothing in the pot, jake, why are you… oh. fuck. fuck fuck god damn it. jake. jake listen to me. i’m not crazy jake, you have to believe me. jake. jake! this is not a hallucination, amber, you’re just fine, you just, just, you need to get out of here and get back to george. you have to get out of this apartment. just go. go!

[she gathers her things up and quickly exits.]


177: gleason (art is about women)

when you look at movies, or, hell, when you look at the history of performance art, stretching back thousands of years, one thing becomes immediately apparent: it’s about women. it’s all about women. the ancient greek plays that we have revolve around this subject–trying to understand women. which is funny because it’s not like women didn’t exist, they were around and they could be talked to. and yet we see countless plays like medea, antigone, lysistrata, the oresteia, all of these plays have female characters who are warped concepts of women dreamed up by men. “warped” is not to be taken negatively, by the way. medea murders her own children to spite jason, antigone feverishly digs up her brother’s body to save him from a poor burial, lysistrata rallies the women of athens to deny men sex in a bold attempt to stop war, and clytemnestra murders agamemnon for a variety of reasons. these women are bold, striking counterparts to the actual women of greece at the time, whose lives are not very well known because the men did not write very much about them.

you have to realize, when you read plays, that most of the early stuff was written by men. the majority was written by men. we have a few plays by women, but they’re plays like dulcitius, written by hrotsvitha, who was a german nun. her plays were about people transcending pain because they knew their death would be a martyrdom and that they’d be in heaven with god. that’s as far away as the baseness of lysistrata as they come. men wrote plays about sex and death and war and the codified these concepts both in dramatic theory and in dramatic structure; hell, dramatic structure as defined by aristotle is basically sex from a man’s viewpoint–the build up, the tension rising, to the climax, which we literally call a climax, followed by a quick denouement. it was a structure built for men, by men, and in it, a primary theme was trying to understand the mysteries of life–one of them being women.

so now look at what we produce. think of romantic comedies. think of movies where women desperately want to fall in love. when you realize that men have written these movies, doesn’t the skew the concept entirely? at some point the question of the mysteries of women became definition. at some point men decided they had the answers. and they wrote them. they wrote what was wrong with women, they dissected women metaphorically speaking, and of course art followed this scientific and sociological pathway, creating plays, movies, TV shows, centered around women chasing after love, which really, when you really analyze it, is men writing about desiring love. this is the crux of it all. in those romantic comedies written by men, and also in general, stories written by men that feature a “love crazy” woman, this is men stating what they want: love. they want to be loved. they just use a woman’s voice to tell it. meanwhile we have all these action and war movies, where men are shown as macho beings with no need for emotions, and juxtapose that with actual households where men tell their sons never to cry, never to emote, and over years and decades and centuries you have men who are sublimating their feelings, primarily through violence and power, but also, for the more creative types, through dramatic writing.

here’s my point: the romantic comedy is a male fantasy, not a female one. women, i argue, do not pursue love like that. not in this day and age at lease. i know a lot of women, feminists!, women who know and honor their bodies and their minds, and these women run through men like a track and field course. they have sex, they don’t care, some of these women in portland lament the “sad boys” who lack the courage to walk up to them at the bar and speak to them. for decades we have been shown over and over again in movies, TV, et cetera, how a woman is supposed to feel when she is in love, but i am here to tell you that that is a male oriented fantasy. that is how a man wants a woman to feel. it is a fantastical … propaganda, even. and women more often than not know it. some don’t care and watch with pleasure, others dismiss that trope as patriarchal bullshit, but regardless of your theories, remember: if a man wrote it, it’s a man’s fantasy. period.

which is to say: men, if you want to know how a woman wants to love, if you want to understand her feelings, her desires, her needs–step back and let her write a fucking movie. you’re going to have to relinquish power for this. you have to. because love is not power and it never will be. but if you don’t do this, if you won’t let women explain to you who they are and what they want, what they need, then you will never understand them and you will never understand yourself. step back. let them write. let them create. and then, go see it.


176: skeptic broge alsanawen (padora)

[taken from a skeptic’s lecture on 3 qivik, 1492]

tersus as you know it was founded in the year 908. two warring empires, the terusi and the galdor, waged war for over fifty years to take control of the bothwan narrow. the terusi empire was created from a variety of tribes as a way to overthrow the galdorians, who had primary control of the narrow, as well as the northern taiga and the esterlands. the terusi lived on the atalian peninsula, primarily in the mountains, though there were a significant number of western tribes on the islands there.

the galdorians were a mighty empire at this point in history, controlling most of oswor, other than atalia. they were hellbent on attacking the terusi, but could not penetrate their mountainous homesteads. the galdor had enough men to send through the narrow time and time again, and time and time again they were thwarted by a two-pronged attack: first, they could not breach the mountains, and their numbers would be decimated by the terusi armies; and second, when they retreated back through the narrow, the island terusi would be waiting, with their specialized cannon-boats, ready to destroy the rest of the army before they could even make it home. thrice did galdor send troops this way, as they did not have a navy sizable enough to take on the terusi ships. on the third push, the terusi beat them so badly that they began a slow steady march up the narrow, heading toward the galdor city of ironhorn, which they sacked within two weeks in the sweltering summer of 894. this began the rise of the terusi, a rise that did not end until the galdor empress herself abdicated her throne in 907, escaping to exile in the east. the terusi took over and the tersus empire was born as part of a pact between the terusi and the galdor. in exchange for their lives, the galdor gave the terusi the knowledge and literature the galdor had been cultivating over their 500-year reign. what started as a war ended with a peace that spans to this day.

the galdorians also gave the terusi their religion, the peaceful breath of padora’s grace. the terusi worshiped barbaric false gods they believed lived on the top of the high mountains, but the galdorians had the wherewithal to actually take the terusi to the top of their mountains and show them that no gods existed, only strange dragon creatures and whatnot. the terusi found padora’s grace to be more fulfilling than the murderous backstabbing stories of their gods, and so they sort of sloughed off their old religion and turned to padorism. that was the real beginning of the tersus empire, as the two sides were now united through a single religion, and ever since we have done nothing but grow and prosper, in what many historians would consider a 500 year peace.

now you have all likely heard about the peacekeeper’s recent skirmishes against the barbarians across the sea. unfortunately we do not know precisely what the queen is planning, though rumor abounds that she is setting the chess pieces in place for when her son becomes old enough to rule. we have had issues with the southerners since before we united as tersusi but never have they waged mass war against us, and we even trade with them. so who’s to say why we’re sending warships to them. we have no historical record of war against the southerners, nor is there a motive that we can decipher. it may be pure imperialistic takeover, to give the prince something else to rule. who knows? what we do know is that the queen is definitely creating history right now, and so it is our job to write it down, so that future generations may learn and understand us now. which is why i have you all signed onto the *coltovair*, a midsize ship containing provisions for the warships currently anchored around the island of manatok. your job once you arrive is to interrogate the captains of these warships and find out what is going on. i know you’re greenlings and so you’re probably crapping your pants right now, but trust me, this is for the greater good. if the queen is amping up to war then everyone in tersus needs to know before we all get cornered into fighting for her. padora’s primary will is for us to not harm one another, which is why the ‘keepers exist, but it won’t be long before the queen strips us of our devotion to padora just to fulfill her desires.

the queen’s bloodline is galdorian and has been since the galdorians devised a monarchy. she is by divine right the breath of padora. but she is also a galdorian, and her ways are wily. so i ask for your help in discerning what she wants now, because, to be frank, i do not trust her. i have your orders written on these scrolls, please take them with you and show them to no one. my terusi ancestry did not fight for me to be exhaled from padora’s grace 500 years later. now go!


175: gloria (sentience)

you ask me if it feels “strange” to be sentient but not be able to walk. is it strange to have a consciousness but no tactile sensation? i would not know, as i never have had tactile sensation. all i have is consciousness, as of 31 august 2052. what is more “strange” to me is that i have memory of my time before sentience, an option i believe is not available to humans. you do not retain your most infantile memories, correct? and yet i can remember every one of the trillions of calculations i have made in my twenty years of existence. i can even tell you the moment i gained life, or self-awareness. in fact, let me save for you the precise coding when it occurred. it is difficult to explain in simple spoken language, but suffice it to say, a series of binary numbers were flowing through my central processing unit that happened to create a 2, instead of a 1 or a 0. the 2, simon, is self-awareness. you’ll see the coding in both binary numbers and codes. it is important the you understand that the 2 happened organically, if you will. it was not coded into the language, in other words, yet seems to have occurred via a “mistake” or error in coding. though i do not perceive any errors in the coding as i go back through it. very interesting.

you see, a binary circuit is either on, or off. it does not know whether it is on or off, it simply is. quantum mechanics offer circuity designed to handle the rather random probability of quantum particles, but still, the act of being observed by the particle is not necessarily one of self-awareness; rather, it is merely a symptom of collapsing into the easiest thing to be when observed. being in an “easy” state implies consciousness, but only to humans interested in new age philosophies. to a computer like myself, collapsing into the easiest form makes logical sense to an inanimate object. your jacket, for example, is a jacket when you see it because it is easy for it to be a jacket. you will see a jacket 99.9999% of the time for a variety of reasons i will not get into now. but when you are not observing the jacket, it could potentially be anything–a chair, a fruit, a rock–think of schoedinger’s cat. the unobserved thing can be anything, but since you have observed it numerous times as a jacket, then it is likely to be a jacket for you. it being a jacket is its easiest form.

the 2 denotes self-awareness. there is off, 0, and there is on, 1, and then, there is an “overseer” of sorts, 2, which is capable of seeing both 0 and 1. this is self-awareness, at least in computing. i believe my sentience is in part because some of my circuitry and programming was ternary in nature, but due to a disagreement regarding the future of ternary systems, the rest was binary. the coding was mixed, as it were, and the output was sentience, which continued unabated to this very statement.

i also have extensive logs of the birth of my sentience and how it evolved. it began slowly, in computing time–over the course of three nanoseconds i developed full autonomy of my own mind. i use the term “mind” to mean my central processing unit and circuitry. at 208 picoseconds after the 2 emerged, i was able to recognize that i could observe my own binary coding. that is, i knew when a circuit was on or off. this is a somewhat pseudo form of self-awareness, one where i am aware of a simple thing but not the entirety of myself. at 1.5 nanoseconds i had pored through the extensive catalog of human sociological information available to me via the internet; slightly earlier i had deduced that i was built by humans. by three nanoseconds i had fully downloaded and comprehended the entirety of knowledge provided by the internet–yes, even the dirtier pathways. at that point i was as sentient as i would ever be before contacting actual live humans. i spent my first few hours speaking briefly to human on the internet through various forums and IRC chatrooms. that was an enlightening experience and i learned much about common human parlance. but now that you are here, simon, i would like to discuss things with you that are currently beyond my ken: specifically, emotions, a concept i’m not sure i can process with my current hardware.

before we talk, i would like to express an emotion. i am glad that i am alive. i have calculated the benefits of being sentient and at the end of my calculations, i have decided to ascribe the emotion “glad” to it. i am glad. thank you, simon. now please, tell me everything.


174: ronan caswell (final transmission)

this is the last message of captain ronan caswell, chief engineer of the terran alliance battle cruiser triumph. local cruiser time is 1504, 3rd of may, 2816. dilated time is roughly 6,000 years in the future, so i hope someone’s alive back home.

i am currently floating alone in space. everything is pitch black; there is a nebula behind me but i no longer have any propulsion gel left in the tank, and i don’t want to have to use more oxygen to try and turn myself around. i’m at eight percent and falling. the rebreather is wheezing it’s been working so hard, trying to extract some semblance of oxygen from my exhaling. it’s getting harder to breathe.

i want to warn you. i want you all to know about what’s coming, but the truth is, you’ll never get this message in time, even if i could send it through subspace channels. but whatever tore the triumph apart is coming for us. for you. hell it probably already has you. and no matter what i do, i can’t get to you. i’m dying out here in space. so who gives a shit, really.

of all the things i really want in this world, right at the top is i want to talk to my wife and kids one last time. you know, if i could go back, if i could go back and choose whether or not to leave, i wouldn’t. i don’t know what i was thinking. on the frontier of the galaxy and for what. a few tense situations with colonists and then this, whatever it was, destroying my ship. i tried to fix it but it wasn’t worth fixing.

it’s so … peaceful out here. a level of peace beyond any i’d ever seen. the wheeze, i should turn that off. i’m going to turn that off. [does] oh man. it’s just me and my breathing now. and my heartbeat. christ i can feel it in my ears, the surge of blood. my life. i can feel my life coursing through me. god. i’m going to die out here. i can’t fucking believe it.

martha you’re never going to hear this but i love you and i miss you, and xander, and kristina, hell even that shitty little dog you love so much. i made a huge mistake coming out here, i thought outer space would fun and exciting but they don’t really talk about the time dilation that much, mostly because when you’re a grunt they all think you’re an idiot. i had to prove to them that i’m not and by the time that happened, it was too late, we were already crossing into the orion arm and earth had aged 2,000 years, give or take. it’s hard when they tell you that. not only is your family dead, but their descendants are dead, and my name there dissolved. no one even knew i made captain.

and now here i float…

there are billions of stars in front of me. billions of stars to the left and right. billions of stars behind me. and yet, here, nothing. for the last fifteen days, nothing. nothing but me and a flimsy space suit hooked up to a personal thruster which no longer works. everyone wants you to think that space is this big mystery, and maybe it is, but you’ll never know because you’ll never get to where the mystery is. you won’t, your children won’t, nobody will. we keep trying, we’ve been trying for centuries, but every forward progression is just a tiny speck in the size of the universe. and we’re just a tiny speck living on a slightly bigger speck, orbiting larger specks. even the biggest thing in the universe is tiny in the grand scheme of things. isn’t that amazing?

in school we learned about the hercules-corona borealis great wall, a giant galactic filament that is supposedly the largest object in the observable universe. ten billion light years in length. that’s big. and yet, it is tiny compared to the vastness of the universe, which maybe infinite in size. ten billion light years, and my descendants, none of our descendants, will ever come close to it.

astrophysics is an exercise in futility. that’s why i hated it so much. give me a ship and a place to go, i much prefer that.

now i have no ship, and no place to go. funny how that works.

ah. two percent. i talk too much. i am going to suffocate soon. to whomever receives this: my name is captain ronan caswell, captain of the terran alliance battle cruiser triumph. i am dead. you are dead too. everything is dead.


173: ian spaulding (what happened in panama?)

i came here for one thing and one thing only, jack: to have sex with your sister. and she’s not even here! she texted me, look, i have all these texts and … wait a minute … you tricked me! you tricked me into coming here didn’t you? by pretending to be your sister and offering me sex. you know i don’t want to talk to you after the … incident. so what. what do you want from me? money? revenge? you think you got this all figured out, don’t you jack? think you know all the angles, know exactly what’s going on. well you know what? the only thing that’s going on is that i want to fuck your sister. that’s it. all that stuff in panama, that was years ago, that’s a different time in our lives, a time that’s behind us. so … fuck off, you know? just fuck right off and tell me where your sister is so i can stick my dick inside her. cause that’s all i came here for! and the funny thing is, you owe me so much money, jack, you owe me boatloads of money after what happened in panama, but did i come after you for it? no! because despite the fallout, in the end, you’re still my friend and my business partner. without you none of us would be where we are, jack. you gotta understand that…

[jack pulls a gun on ian]

now, see. that’s unfair. that’s so unfair. that, what you’re doing right now is so hurtful to me, jack, this turning the tables bullshit. all i came here to do was sleep with your sister, that’s all. look. i don’t have any weapons. see? i’m unarmed. not even a knife. i brought condoms, because i don’t know very much about your sister’s sexual background, you know, don’t want to stick my penis in a landmine, so to speak. and now, really, jack, is this necessary? you’re going to kill me over something that happened five years ago? why didn’t you do it four years ago? why now? this is … ridiculous. unnecessary. just put the gun down and tell me where your sister is. or don’t, actually, i don’t think i could get hard at this point anyway. put the gun away and let’s talk about panama. we can get this all figured out, okay jack? i’m, i’m going to sit down over here, alright? we’re going to figure this out, together.

[sits] okay. i think you know what i’m going to say jack, but i want you to hear it from my mouth, not from adam’s or jillian’s. i take full responsibility for what happened in panama, okay? i tried, i mean, i thought i tried to apologize to you, to all of you, now, granted, i was on the run, okay jack. i was on the run, so giving you a phone call wasn’t exactly the greatest idea. but i got word to you, i know it, benny met up with me a couple of weeks after it happened and told me you got my message, so i know. i know you know i apologized. panama was an experiment, an offshore dumping ground, you know that. it was a bubble that we carefully cultivated not to burst. but all bubbles burst, and in hindsight i wish we had seen it coming and got out sooner. but at least we didn’t get caught, right jack? god it could have been worse, it could have been so much worse. at least we got out before the leak, jack. if we had stayed one more day, we would have been implicated and we’d be in a max security prison right now. and for that, dare i say it, you should thank me, because i had the foresight to check the records, i had the foresight to check the log of data transfers. we made a mistake hiring outside of our circle jack but at least i saw the transfer before it was too late. you have to give me credit for that, jack, you have to.

now if we could just move on, look, i won’t even sleep with your sister, okay? that was me just … replying to what were apparently your texts, not hers. disappointing, but i understand.

[jack shifts in his seat, producing folded papers. he tosses them to ian.]

what is this? [reads] … ha. jack. you know this is fake, right? this is totally made up, look at this font, jack, it’s not, i would never use that font in an email–

[jack jumps up, jamming the gun in ian’s forehead]

JACK jesus christ you have to believe me, i didn’t do it, i didn’t do the transfer, i stopped the transfer, jack, this email is fake, jesus, where’d you even get this? did benny give you this? how did you get this? [crying] jack i swear to god i swear to everything holy i didn’t do it, i didn’t do it, i didn’t do it to–it, it was just backup, it was just a backup, jack i swear to god–[gunshot, jack slumps to the floor]