19 June 2009

"Kangaroo's First Day with the Eye"

By Curtis C. Chen

It was almost noon before Kangaroo came back to Jessica's office to complain.

"There's a lot of pixelation down the left side," he said. "Is that normal?"

Jessica tapped her scanpad on his shoulder and looked over the data feed from his body sensors.

"Reads normal," she said. "Describe the pixelation."

"It's like a white dotted line. And it flickers." He raised his left hand and rubbed his eye with one knuckle.

"Please tell me you haven't been doing that all morning," Jessica said.

"What?" Kangaroo said, still rubbing. "It's itchy."

She grabbed his wrist and pulled it down. "It takes a full day for the display film to completely bond to your cornea. If you rub it off, we'll have to start all over."

"Can you do anything about the itching?" he asked. "Give me some eyedrops or something?"

Jessica sighed and put away the scanpad to prevent herself from smacking it against Kangaroo's head. "All the drugs you need are already being manufactured in your bloodstream by the nanobots we injected last week. Remember them?"

Kangaroo folded his arms and pouted. Jessica noticed something.

"Ow!" he said as she yanked his right arm straight. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and there was a small lump under the skin on the inside of his elbow—like a cyst, except it was a bluish color and located right above the vein.

"How long has this been here?" she asked.

"What? I don't know. What is that?"

Jessica dragged Kangaroo to the other side of the room and pushed him down into the exam chair. "Sit." She pointed to an eye chart on the wall. "Read the third line down, please."

While Kangaroo squinted at the chart, Jessica pulled on sterile gloves and selected a scalpel. She had removed the mass from his arm before he even noticed the pain.

"Apply pressure," Jessica said, handing him a gauze pad.

She ignored his screeching and took a thin slice off the blue lump. Under the microscope, she saw the spherical cross-sections of countless dead nanobots, shimmering with the telltale proteins that collected their corpses into canary clusters.

She whirled to face Kangaroo. "Have you had anything to eat or drink since the procedure this morning?"

He looked up from the wet gauze on his arm. "Just some coffee."


"Paul's office."

Jessica cursed and pressed a finger to her jaw, activating her communicator. "Security, this is Surge."

Her implant buzzed. "Surgery, Security, go ahead."

"I need an immediate local division lockdown. Suspected intruder with chemical or biological weapons."

After a brief pause, the Security voice said, "Please confirm, ma'am. You want us to lock down the offices of Director, Intelligence, Non-Territorial?"

"Yes!" Jessica hated repeating herself. "This is Commander Jessica Chu, day code gamma five one two. Seal this section now!"

"Authorization confirmed," Security said.

Jessica heard the rumbling of airtight bulkheads in the corridor outside. She dogged her office door, then saw Kangaroo looking at her with a sheepish expression.

"I also had a muffin," he said.



Unknown said...

More More More! I'll spot you another 512 words!

Jeff Allen said...

I'm with Chris on this one. Give me 2^17, maybe even 2^18!

I love Kangaroo. He seems bumbling. I want to know what his strong points that balance him out and make him effective (at what? what's his job?). I sense he'll turn out like Monk, lovable, but infuriating too.

The title is a disaster, but the rest of the story will give you a new title (who infiltrated? how? why? what's the hidden message in Kangaroo's white line -- you know it's a clue don't you?)

Turn it around on the reader in the first few chapters... we find out that Kangaroo and Jessica are on the wrong side, they are inside a corrupt or injust ministry -- the freedom fighters will take them in as they flee. (The underground should be like in Demolition Man, or Max Headroom. Home bio/nano hackers.)

Go Curtis, go! Make a book I can't put down!


CKL said...

Thanks guys. Glad you liked the story! Kangaroo and Jessica are, in fact, two of the main characters in the novel I'm currently revising.

The first draft of Waypoint Kangaroo stands at just over 2^16 words, and I'm going to expand it by at least 2^15 more--that includes adding subplots which involve Jessica and her colleagues at HQ, who have to deal with problems of their own while Kangaroo does his best to keep a large spacecraft from crashing into Mars.

Interested? You can support my efforts through the Clarion West Write-a-thon, and follow my progress on LiveJournal.