07 August 2009


By Curtis C. Chen

The planet screamed, but nobody heard.

José felt the cable wobble in his grip as Master Histian clapped. Histian always preferred to watch the destruction wrought by his weapons from outside the ship. José supposed it was one of the few remaining thrills which the old man could experience firsthand, with his own eyes.

It would be so easy for José to simply release the cable. But that would not be justice.

Long minutes passed before Histian stopped cackling and spoke: "Bring me in, boy."

José hoped it had been long enough. He took his time reeling in the cable.

"Magnificent, wasn't it?" Histian said when they were both inside the airlock. "Such a glorious demise!"

"Yes, sir," José said, sealing the outer door.

"Why must you always be so glum?" Histian asked, scowling. "Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"

José split his face in a fake grin. "Is this better, sir?" he asked through clenched teeth.

Histian's scowl deepened. The inner airlock door hissed open. José followed Histian into the ship, where they both climbed out of their pressure suits and then returned to the bridge.

"Show me the spectrographic analysis," Histian said, settling into his throne—it was too ornate to be called a chair—on the central platform.

The main screen lit up with a glowing array of graphs. José scrolled the display in response to Histian's grunts and hand gestures.

"Interesting," Histian said. "An unexpected spike in the ultraviolet. And that appears to be plasma filamentation." He leaned forward and steepled his fingers. "Tell me, boy, does this mean anything to you, or is it all just pretty blinking lights?"

José curled the fingers of his left hand into a fist. "I'm very happy for your success, sir."

"Of course you are," Histian sneered. "You're going to sneak an extra portion of beefmeat while I'm enjoying my wine tonight."

José kept his back to the throne, hiding his face and biting his tongue.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?" Histian continued. "Do you think I depend on you for everything?"

"No," José said, pressing a button. "Just enough."

The door on the opposite side of the chamber slid open, and eight armored commandos entered. The first fired a barrage of stun pellets at the back of Histian's throne, pinning him down. The second commando launched a police net. The rest surrounded Histian's platform with their weapons raised.

The police net landed on the throne, trapping Histian. The webbing contracted and dug into his pale skin. He cried out in pain. José allowed himself a genuine smile.

One of the commandos stepped onto the platform and said, "Histian Winterfield, you are under arrest for theft and conspiracy to transport illegal armaments across stellar boundaries—"

Histian ignored him and glared at José. "You did this? Why? Why betray your master?"

José walked up to the old man and looked down at him. "You're not my master," José said in a low, quiet voice. "And I don't like you."


Audio: "Mutiny"

Man, that British accent was all over the damn map. Sorry about that. But hey, when you people start paying me for this, I'll start trying a little harder.

And yes, CHRISTIAN - CR = HISTIAN. Because the various ways of representing line breaks are the most visible skirmishes in the religious wars between operating systems.

Music: Vox stems from "When You Go" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.


An Ode to RaceFail2009

In haiku form:

What racial tension?
Friend, all I see around here
are people like me.

Thank you! I'll be here all week. Tip your servers, they're working real hard.

(Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about...)