THEY are not out to get you. I am.

Much better now (5 Mar 1994)

Yes, you were right. This is much better now.

When you first came out of interstellar space,
 crying "irrelevant" and "assimilate",  we re-
 sisted you. We wanted to maintain our indivi-
 dual identities.  We fought. We struggled. It
 is good that you prevailed. You were right.
 We were so foolish.

Yes, you were right. This is much better now.

When my friends and neighbors began to change,
 one at a time, I took up arms and fled. I
 punctured the sprouting pods with a gardening
 tool. I found allies, and we banded against
 you. But one by one, my allies fell and,
 eventually, so did I. How stupid of me, wanting
 to remain the incomplete being I was before.
 It is good that you prevailed. You were right.

Yes, you were right. This is much better now.

As the cloud of gritty chemicals fell upon us and
 the bodies began to rise, we grabbed shotguns and
 chainsaws and we struggled against you. We wanted
 to retain our minds-- our brains-- but you came
 upon us in wave after wave. As each of us fell, we
 rose again, to join your ranks. I was horrified at
 your nature-- slow, devouring, implacably strong--
 but it is good that you prevailed. I was an idiot,
 wanting to remain warm and intelligent and alive.
 You were right.

The man I once was had problems. His needs confused
 his activities. He had to consider alternatives.
 Friendships tore at him from every side; commitments
 tripped his every step. No more. Now there is only
 the Cause. There is only control and assimilation,
 infiltration and replacement, pursuit and feeding.
 The man I once was no longer exists. He was an indi-
 vidual, and that is why he had to fail.

Yes, you were right. This is much better now.

Exchanges and Transfers (Date unrecorded)

The contact point is disguised as a BASS ticket-sales outlet. He waits in line as the two high school kids dance about with joy because they will be seeing the Scorpions from somewhere near the butt-end of a crowd of eighty thousand people.

The clerk is not part of the Organization; she knows nothing about it.

"Dark Obsession, playing on the twenty-second at the Shooting Gallery," he says. There is no such band, and no such club, but there's the listing in the BASS computer. The show does not appear in any other list, anywhere.

"Balcony or floor?" she asks, looking at the information on the screen.

He is assigned to recon and intelligence now, so he of course requests balcony. Floor work was too messy; he requested a rapid transfer out of it as soon as he could.

"Okay. That'll be twenty-three fifty including the service charge," she says. "Looks like you're in section C, upper left."

He digs out a twenty and a five and gives them to her. The printer begins to grind and whir as it spits out paper. After a minute, she gives him his change and the ticket. Seat C-22, he sees on the top in his first quick glance. Just as he thought: "receive information from an infiltrator in the enemy's system". The address of the non-existant Shooting Gallery is printed on the ticket; that is where he will receive details for the time and place of the meeting.

"Show starts at eight, doors open at seven," she says as he signs the sales slip. He nods, thanks her, and returns the slip. He leaves, more carefully looking over the ticket as he does so. "All ages," it says. Damn, he hates the ones requiring the help of foreign operatives.

In the BASS outlet, the clerk watches as his grey Audi pulls away and out of sight. Then she takes her break, the Shooting Gallery address fresh and clear in her mind. She makes a phone call.

"Big Joe Hombre's Pizza," says the voice at the other end. She wants a pizza delivered. He asks her phone number. She gives him seven digits; when he looks it up in their computer, a red light begins to blink on someone's desk. The number, if called, will be answered by a nice-sounding old lady who is actually a room-sized machine.

"Huh. No address listed here, but the number is. You move or something?" the guy asks. She confirms it and gives the Shooting Gallery address as her new place of residence. She will be contacted later about time and place. The pizza will never be made or delivered. She thanks the person on the line, who is not a part of their organization at all, and hangs up.

On the other end of the phone, he has recognized the address. There has been a leak, somewhere, and already the enemy has information regarding the pass. He goes on lunch two minutes later. During lunch, he stops by the arcade, makes top score on NOVA-GUNNER, and leaves, as his initials, a six-letter code which would mean nothing to anyone but the eleven-year-old Hmong boy waiting to use the game next.

As he leaves, a man in a grey Audi is watching. A phone call is made.

Re: mariposa mia (17 Mar 94)

Kaite McGrew wrote:
>she never let him touch her spine.
>even when she was asleep she would
>lie flat on her back with right hand
>in a fist under her left armpit and
>her left hand fanned across her belly.

Many years ago, I had a girlfriend just like this.

"Don't touch my back."

We didn't go out very long. She had a lot of odd psychological buttons. Er, landmines, more accurately. Fine, fine, fine, oops, BOOM. Like her back. For many weeks, visions danced through my head. There had to be a reason, right? A scar? A pain? A hideous deformation that would show itself to the pads of my fingers if I encountered it during an embrace?

"Don't touch my back."

I remember a ghost story from my childhood. A newlywed couple. She wears a choker all the time. "Don't take it off," she says. He resists for a long time but one night he cannot resist, and he removes it while she sleeps. Pop, he unsnaps it, and her head rolls free of her body, falling onto the floor. From the carpet, she looks up: "I told you not to ever remove it." Visions like this appeared in the blurs on the inside of my eyelids.

"Don't touch my back."

You are probably expecting a tasty, morbid ending, but this is truth, not fiction, and when I finally tested my visions, I was not rewarded with a nightmare, only anger. She lay on her side briefly, and I ran my index finger from the nape of her neck down her back. She sat upright instantly, elbowed me hard, and left the room without saying a word. Hours later, she finally accepted my apology, but the damage was done.

"Don't touch my back."

Had she, at my touch, split open along her spine to reveal a seething mass of writhing grubs, wallowing in long-dead meat, I would have at least had a niftier story to tell. If you prefer, you can pretend I told it to you that way.

Re: all things must come to an end (8 Apr 1994)

(geoff miller) wrote:
> God bless all of you, and i hope that at least a few of you will sooner
> or later take Jesus into your hearts as i've taken him into mine.  goodbye.

When I collapse on some street downtown someday, they will take me to the emergency room and try to revive me, and the trauma ward team will be suddenly overcome as they open up my chest cavity to reveal the writhing tissue of my cardiac muscle. They will collapse, ecstatic, wiggling with joy, because Jesus will leap from my heart into all of theirs, like some alien bloodworm, a parasite for the all the world to enjoy. Yes, I look forward to the day that Jesus, who lurks within my heart, feeding slowly off my vital nutrients and growing, yes, oh so slowly growing to a length of several inches, so tepid and pale and segmented, his little fangs spitting water and wine, will spread into all of you, and we will be like the thousand loaves-- doughy and full of yeast.

The Evil Place (21 May 1993)

I don't know that I've mentioned it before, but there's an Evil Place a few blocks from my house. Surrounded by concertina-topped chain link fences with huge chained and locked gates. A mound of vine- covered earth in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. Stone stairs lead up to its top from one of the gates. The air is heavy with decay. It smells like old sweat, and human failure. Dark and foul....

There is a drinking fountain there, behind the gate. It is inaccessible. I wonder, often, for whom this fountain is intended. It is made of cemented stone. I suspect the water that flows from it would be dark and foul, like the air. Like the Evil Place itself.

Maps claim it's a reservoir, but I know.

I know.

It tries to make me forget, but I remember.

Bittersweet vigilance (20 Sep 1994)

Cast aside the veil, my little monkey, and look upon the skeleton of the world.

They like to talk about wheels within wheels within wheels, but really it's triangles within circles within squares. They talk about conspiracies, but they are a cog in the machine, too; they are partly responsible. They regret the loss of the plural second person in English. They line their heads and homes with aluminum foil, knowing, all along, as they do it, that it won't work. They lament the death of the little Russian space dog.

Press the needle into the planet's artery and draw out another pint, to be stored away for future need. Run more quickly now; the treadmill has been lubricated and we need the power output. More power output means you can do more. Being able to do more means you can run faster. Running faster means more power output. You can bootstrap yourself to a new level of stress and disorder, my friend. Fasten those velcro running shoes and get a move on.

Drop the veil in place, little monkey; the world skeleton is not for you.

Newsgroups we'll never get to read (29 Mar 1995)

(except maybe for Stevi, bless her little security-cleared soul)
spookshow31 /u/spook44500/News %15 > rn

******** 18 unread articles in now? [ynq]
******** 28 unread articles in now? [ynq]
******** 14 unread articles in now? [ynq]
******** 41 unread articles in now? [ynq]
******** 35 unread articles in now? [ynq]
******** 118 unread articles in gov.funding.area-51.d--read now? [ynq]
******** 77 unread articles in gov.propoganda.television--read now? [ynq]
******** 8 unread articles in gov.propoganda.water-supply--read now? [ynq]
******** 391 unread articles in gov.surveillance.image--read now? [ynq] y

Getting overview file.......

33603 Re: New K-14 image enhancement b*llsh*t!!!
33604 Monte Carlo: Good casino vantage points?
33605 Re: Nightvision photography in combat
33606 Re: New K-14 image enhancement b*llsh*t!!!
33608 Chelsea topless cheltop.JPG [00/03]
33609 Chelsea topless cheltop.JPG [01/03]
33610 Chelsea topless cheltop.JPG [02/03]
33611 Chelsea topless cheltop.JPG [03/03]
33613 K-11: SAfrica riot, 2/14, Infrared [01/01]
33615 K-11: 727 over Sea of Japan, 3/7 midday [01/01]
33617 Re: Fuck you FBI asshole newbie!!! was Re: LESS PICTURES PLEASE
33618 Re: K-11: Armenian troop movements, 2/20 [01/01]
33619 Schwarzennegger in Miami Beach [01/02] Routine surveillance 3/22
33620 Schwarzennegger in Miami Beach [02/02] Routine surveillance 3/22
33623 Re: Fuck you FBI asshole newbie!!! was Re: LESS PICTURES PLEASE
33624 Please repost Claudia Schiffer Cannes pictures!
[Type space to continue]
33991 Nikon 150mm lens expandability?
33992 Good nightvision stereovision with magnification?
33993 TRYING AGAIN: Gere & Crawford sex in Alcapulco 2/15 [01/04]
What next? [npq] f

Are you starting an unrelated topic? [ynq] y

Subject: REQUEST: Kathy Ireland surveillance shots?
Distribution: low-classification na gov

(leaving cbreak mode; cwd=/v/spook44500/News)
Invoking command: QUOTECHARS='>' Pnews -h /u/spook44500/.rnhead

This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire
civilized world, with users of various security clearances. Your message
will cost the net millions if not billions of dollars to send everywhere.
Please be sure you know what you are doing.

Are you absolutely sure that you want to do this? [ny] y

Cold War Logic (3 Jun 1995)

There are three men, all of them ostensibly of your agency. You must give your microfilm to one of them for safe transit to the agency headquarters.

One of them is definitely on the level.

One of them is a double agent, actually working for the enemy.

One of them is a triple agent, actually working for your side but leaking everything that goes through him to the enemy as well.

You have enough sodium pentathol to get a single, truthful answer from one of them.

You dose one of them and ask him a question. What question do you ask to determine to which of the three you should hand off the film?

(Answer to be declassified 24 August 2024 under the National Secrets Act.
 It is a federal crime to export this logic puzzle to a foreign power.)

Doppelga:nger (4 Apr 1994)

I replaced you.

I bludgeoned you from out of the dark and took your life for my own. I would say I am sorry, but I am not, of course.

You were happy, I know. You were enjoying your life. You had no complaints. But I'm having more fun than you were. You weren't doing all that you could.

Perhaps, eventually, I will let you have your life back. But not for a while, and probably not ever. The others would resist. Besides, isn't it much better to just lie there and watch what I do with your life?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Sunburn (25 May 1994)

As he sleeps, she begins peeling the skin off his back, searching for the man she knew. He is different now; altered in some way that he denies and which she cannot identify. But there is something of the old still there-- she knows this. If only she can find it, if only she can dig deep enough. He clusters under her fingernails in little ripples and folds which tear away and form strips, but it is still not enough. He does not stir. The man he once was would have awakened by now; this one lies still, almost dead, except that he is putting out heat like a furnace. His skin has gone from pale to pink to red to deep crimson; it almost seems to glow. Even the bits which pull away from him in her hands carry some of the radiance. It was the sun. Something in the sun did this to him; it encoded something new and harsh and terrible in his skin, and pushed the soft mortal further within.

There is something terrible within the sun and it put something into him. She knows this, and she must continue to tear.

The traumatic life of the very small rabbit (15 Jun 1994)

Fear! Oh, fear! Shadow! Must run! Fear, oh! Might kill!
Run! Noise! Oh, fear! Fear! Hide! Must hide! Oh, hide!
Fear! Oh, big thing! Thing touches! Oh, fear! Run! Oh,
run! Must hide! Fear! Might kill! Noise! Oh, light!
Fear! Might die! Run! Must fear! Must hide! Oh, fear!

Being cool (5 Dec 1993)

inspired in some way by Paul Lord. I no longer remember how.

The first of a new breed, the Cool Chips were a blessing. Everyone agreed on this point. They were Cool. "Let's face it," everyone said, "the whole trend-setting thing is just to quick for flesh. Here today, gone tomorrow, and by the time anyone finds out it's hip, it's old news somewhere else. There must be a better way."

And there was. The labs cranked them out in the billions. They were adaptable. They were multi-purpose. They were semi-sentient. Above all, they were Cool. Get up in the morning, your Cool Fashion Chip would tell you what to wear. The Cool TV Chip would select something for you to watch while the Cool Food Chip dialed up the latest tum-stuff. During the social whirl, you could be Cool with anyone, since you'd just watched the Cool TV Show. Everyone would sit down to a meal of more Cool Food and discuss the latest topics, carefully consulting their Cool Conversation Chips all the while.

It was easy. It was Cool.

The trend-setting speed increase, of course, but the Cool Chips got faster and smarter to keep the pace. No problem. Here, watch this Cool Movie, says a chip. Check out this cafe, says another. At the cafe, everyone is discussing the Cool Movie. You join in. You are so cool.

Leaving the place, you see an unkempt man. His beard is long. You consult your chip, which tells you that bearded and unkempt is not Cool. He is screaming at you.

"They're taking us over!" he screams. "Don't you idiots see that? We can't even choose for ourselves anymore! We can't even make our own decisions!"

Eventually, the Police drag him off and throw him into a car to be questioned somewhere out of sight. Everyone stands around for a minute, consulting their chips. Your chip says it's not Cool to talk about what you just saw. You think for a second about bringing it up anyway, but then you see that nobody else is going to bring it up and you shut your mouth before it can even open.

Nobody talks about it. Everyone goes home to watch the usual Cool TV programming.

As though waking from a dream (4 Sept 1993)

There is road moving beneath me. My hands smell of fishy salt and one of them is clutching a half-gallon plastic container of Yamalube two-stroke outboard motor oil. I have eaten sushi and a Baby Ruth bar. Much time has been spent in brightly-colored graveyards. My girlfriend calls me her mammal and says "I wish we could go on driving forever."

She is not the one who is driving, of course.

Keys (26 Jun 1998)

j h woodyatt <***> wrote:
>You think *you* have a key management problem. 
>Heh. My heart bleeds for you. Do you have any idea how hard it is to develop
>a cryptographically secure shared key management system when the population of
>key sharers is around six billion and counting?

Since when was the spec for DNA modified to require security? Is this another of those fucking feature enhancement requests from the fucking Argentinian Nazis again? Goddammit, Strych, stop taking input from those assholes or we'll never get this thing done. Jesus, I hate those guys and their goddamn Master Plan bug reports. "Wir moechten" THIS and "Wir muessen" THAT! Guess what, you fucking goose-steppers, you don't WANT or NEED anything, okay? Fucking secure RNA transactioning. Logging of all protein inhibition. Custom phages to keep the synapses clean of prion detritus. If you'd stop feeding bits of Der Fuehrer to your fucking fetuses, you wouldn't need prion cleanup, verstehen Sie?

Someone should put all those "master race" people into a camp and gas them, I fucking swear.

Bad Words (28 Nov 1999)

b r e t t <******> wrote:
>For all of this, one word: "love."

Centuries ago, there were hundreds of words for this range of emotion. The seed words of the Greeks-- epithumia, eros, storge, phileo, and agape-- bred amongst themselves and produced offspring who were, in turn, very fecund. And humankind rejoiced in the range of expression they had for these emotional states. We were, generally, a freely loving species; we loved everything and everyone. Like eskimos in snow, we abounded in words for it and we abounded in the very stuff itself.

However, nothing was getting done because of all the love, so the Powers stepped in and demonstrated, conclusively, how most of the things we were enjoying so much were actually just mutant forms of this singular one thing that they pretty much just came up with out of their ass. "That's not <<untranslatable word>>, that's just selfish love", they would say, and another emotional state would be reigned in. Everything we had thought we felt for each other and for the world and for ourselves was, it turned out, apparently just some form of "love" according to the Powers, and the Powers were quite clearly able to describe how love should and should not be dealt with. Love was both something that could be encouraged to be shown for everyone... and simultaneously made into something guilty and shameful. It became the yoke around our oxen necks.

And thus, we were hobbled. Now, we shiver at the thought of Orwellian "newspeak" and nobody remembers that it has already been done to us in perhaps the worst possible way.

Eight Ball of Damocles (7 Aug 1999)

I guess I'm finally getting used to mine, at least. How about you? I guess we're all finally settling in and learning to cope. I still hate 'em, though. I can cope, but that don't mean I gotta like 'em. Fucking things. Why did they have to fall down from the sky and float above our heads, anyway? I mean, for fuck's sake, everyone ended up getting one. At least, everyone I've ever seen, met, or heard of has one. Maybe there's a village of people in Nepal who is lucky enough to have been spared or something, but I bet not-- if there was anyone at all who didn't have one, the news people would have found them by now and plastered it all over the media.

Whatever they are, they sure are shiny. Glossy black sphere. Well, not really a sphere, you already know that-- something black and shiny that's spinning so fast that it looks like a solid ball. Shiny black balls from space or some fucking place. Silent, inactive, just floating there at a consistent height above everyone's heads. Mine. Yours. Fuckin' everyone. Even new babies-- mere seconds after emerging into the world, slap the ass to make it breath, and two heartbeats later, another one drops down from nowhere and settles above the newborn's head.

No wonder the birth rate is dropping. I could never bring a child into the world knowing that one of these things is waiting for it somewhere.

So they finally released some world-wide survey results on "toucher" injuries. It was even higher than they expected-- something like 40% worldwide. I guess news travels a lot slower in much of the rest of the world, so the warnings didn't get around as quickly. Lot more people out there in the boondocks who had no idea that it would instantly disintegrate anything that touched it, who tried poking theirs before someone told them what would happen.

Coulda been you or me, you know. We're just lucky that someone else nearby did it first before we tried it. What a mess.

They've finally got a United Nations reconstruction fund going, too, to rearchitect the world so that it's more suitable for six billion people who have spinning indestructible disintegrator spheres hanging a few inches above their heads. I've been trying extra-hard not to punch any more holes above my door frames and stuff, but it'll be better once everything is readjusted.

What's that? Your uncle passed away? Oh, I'm so glad for you! Were you all present at the departure? How reassuring that must have been, to have watched him breathe his last and then the horrible thing slipped away from his head and rose up and disappeared Up There somewhere. I can't wait until I die, so I can be rid of this horrible heavy thing.

I donated some to the research institute but I don't honestly think they'll ever make any progress. I mean, what do we know so far? They occupy volume but lack mass, they are opaque to virtually everything but they're not solid, they instantly shred anything they touch except each other, they are spinning but we don't know how fast, they remain in a fixed location but we don't know how... We're finding more questions than answers, but fuck it, I'm willing to send in $20 if it will help somebody come up with more interesting questions.

That tabloid article about the woman who had hers drop on her has to be urban legend bullshit. If even one of the fucking things did anything different from the others, it would be the most well-documented event of the century. Remember how much attention was spent in the early days trying to understand why some are larger or smaller than others? Was it some sort of objective ranking of personal worthiness? Was it indicative of some external factor that could be changed or measured? Was it just a fluke?

I'm glad most people have pretty much given up on caring about that now, though. Who gives a shit? Pretty much just the religious nuts. Of course, they think this is all God's judgment or something, too. Idiots. Their numbers are dwindling, of course, because it's really hard to get enthused about a God who has nothing better to do with His time than float weird little black death balls above everyone's heads. Not to mention it's sorta demoralizing to expect stuff like clouds of locust and a darkened sun and earthquakes and a ten-head beast, and what you end up with is this creepy thing hanging over your head.

Maybe we'll figure out some useful stuff to do with them, even if we never understand why they're here. Of course, the first deliberate use I heard for one was as a murder weapon. Unsurprising, really. Pretty damn good weapon, too, though I heard that the FBI has come up with a system for matching the size of the disintegration wounds with individual balls. I guess they're going to do nationwide registration of ball-size soon, because even if they can't stop it or understand it, they're gonna feel like they have to control it somehow.

I guess what pisses me off the most is that feeling of waiting, of expectation. They can't just sit there forever... can they? They've gotta do something, drop on all of us and kill us, or slam together into one giant one that eats the Earth, or something. I can cope with how dangerous they are, and I can put up with the inconvenience of having to scrunch down while I sit in the car, and I can deal with all that basic functional stuff.

I just can't stand the waiting.

Burrough Owl (26 Jun 2000)

outside is crazy makin crazy makin must dig live in dirt live in dark 'cause the topside, it's for fucked up types. sure you can spin on a dime up there but down here we don't even need money in the first place so you can take your sky and stars and all that mystical shit and you can put it where the sun don't shine. no no never mind that, I'm already where the sun don't shine and I don't need your shit down here too. not in my backyard. not in my backyard. don't believe in the topside anyway. crazy talk. must dig. dig deeper, away from the crazy talk. not to hide, only cowards hide, not a coward, just don't want no crazy talk. crazy talk. that's all they do, sky-side, is bigtime all-nuts all the time stuff. schedules and plans and all that walkin around. so busy doin nothin at all. not like me. I'm doin nothin at all and it don't keep me the least bit busy. only people who don't live life need a vacation.