Monday, May 25, 2020

Lidia's Dream

Monday, February 10, 2020

All the many ends

I can’t tell you how instantaneous travel from, and to, any point in the universe works exactly. It’s pretty complex and has to do with quantum entanglement, blah blah blah.
That’s not my job.

My job is investigator, of sorts…

Have you ever wondered why in all the universe we appear to be utterly alone?
In the vastness of space, how is it, we are the only intelligent life?
The answer is simple. To be short, it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy its self.
Daily, we build the engine of our own destruction.
We invented radio, what? Less than a hundred and fifty years ago? That’s the length of time we’ve been sending out the message that we exist to the universe. A universe that is close to fourteen billion years in age. Compared to that second number the first number is incredibly small. Nothing more than the briefest blip. And in that time we already hold in our hands the power to destroy ourselves.
It seems, that’s all it takes. One or two hundred years from the birth of tech to possible destruction.
Bluntly, there’s no one out there because they’re all dead.
Dead, by their own hand, countless ways.

But we have a chance. In learning how others achieved their end, we can hopefully avoid our own. Thanks to the invention of instantaneous interstellar travel, we can visit those many corpse worlds. Learn all the ways they destroyed themselves and then, make a concerted effort not to go that way.

More often than not it’s war.
My first job was investigating the end of a species that destroyed themselves through war.
The Salacs of the planet Oxellia.
Even from orbit, we saw that large areas of Oxellia were pockmarked with the telltale craters left by explosions that we’re so sadly acquainted with on our own planet. Only these were much bigger than I’d ever seen. Craters you could fit a city in.
They’d used nuclear devices on themselves. But it seems that, on this world, their atmosphere had a little more oxygen in it than ours, and one day they dropped the big one, the chain reaction didn’t stop, that ignited the atmosphere and on that day, they all died.
The hardest part of that job was surveying the regions not ravaged by war.
Like on so many other worlds, we found that their streets and buildings bore a striking, and worrying, similarity to our own. Except, in this case, in scale.
The Salacs, were small in stature. A third the height of you or I.
Carefully picking our way through their widest streets, it felt, for all the world, like we were children walking amongst toys. All drained of colour by the covering of dust left by the eon between the day their clocks stopped and the day we arrived. They were perfectly preserved by the vacuum of space for the near million years since their destruction. The Salacs who had asphyxiated in the street lay covered in dust but those sat in there toy apartments, or in their toy cars were protected from the dust and sat as they did so long ago. The true horror was, they were… cute. Funny looking fuzzy, colourful, creatures. Long dead toys in a long dead toy world. Adorable, if it weren’t for their hollow eye sockets that haunt me still to this day.

The Hanosh of the planet Paraull were a war like species but profligate too. Reading their history books and watching their dramas, kept on a magnetic ribbon that was somehow impervious to time, we learnt that, for many generations, the birth rate kept pace with the death rate and an equilibrium was held.
Eventually, and sadly though, great advancements in the field of robotics were made. The Hanosh being the Hanosh, they built robots to fight, what proved to be, their final war. The robots were so efficient, all Hanosh everywhere were killed within six of their years.
The robot factories were automated though, so continued to produce robot soldiers for a number of years after that. Across their globe a lifeless war raged without rage. A new equilibrium was held, with the factories producing robots as fast as the robots could, mindlessly, destroy each other.
Eventually, fifty two years after the last Hanosh died, the last robot stood in victory but not victorious. It was not triumphant. It felt nothing at all. No joy at winning. Not even relief at conflict ending. For it was just a robot set with a task that was now done. Its task complete, it simply stopped and stood waiting for a new command, for the hundred years it took for its battery to loose charge.
In all that world, it was easy enough to find. It was the only thing standing.

War is very much the favourite way for civilisations to bring about their own ends, but there are other ways…

Our closest neighbour, just five short light years away, winked out of existence barely a hundred thousand years ago.
Odd to think that if our primitive ancestors had built a radio instead of a spear they might have heard the last transmissions of the Pennals of the planet Bacurn as they lamented the passing of their once great culture.
Their end came about through great advancements in medicine
A cure for all ills, their ultimate undoing.
A universal panacea was discovered. A simple pill to cure every known sickness, both physical and mental. Often a Pennal would take the cure for a common virus only to find it curing undiagnosed mental conditions too. In a generation they became uniformly happy and well. In another generation there were no doctors, as the cure healed too, even the most grievous injury.
Then by the third generation, when doctors were but a memory in the idilic utopia they’d made, a new virus rose that the cure could not kill. Historically it took four of their years to train as a doctor.
Every Pennal was dead in two.
We have the universal cure now. It sits in a fridge in a secure location back home. From time to time it’s used to save a great leader or a leader of industry from certain death. It’s administered without their knowledge though. Lest the secret get out and lead to another world without doctors. 

The Jayhans knew full well their destruction was at hand and did nothing to stop it.
They were a race without emotion. No hate or love ran between any of them. Only cold logic. They cared only for themselves. Young were abandoned at birth to fend for themselves. Which they did well. As their industries rose it became clear that pollution from those industries would one day make life on their world impossible. They did not care. The end was generations away. By which time they would be dead. Having no love for their offspring they continued to pollute. What was best for the individual was worst for the group. But the Jayhans were only individuals. They didn’t even have countries. Though murder was common place and even legal, they’d never had a single war, as no Jayhan could rally another to any cause. Eventually they consumed or spoiled every resource available to them, and as the last Jahan died they lamented nothing.

The pursuit of a perceived perfection was the undoing of the Chaluns. They abhorred aberration. Among them were the six gills. Chaluns with gills split into six rather than the normal five. The day came when their kind were expunged from the race. But then a new aberration became apparent. The blue backs. They’d always been there. The blue backs themselves had helped eradicate the six gills. It was only once the six gills were gone that the hideous nature of the blue back became apparent. Then, once the blue backs were no more, the Chaluns saw how lazy and mistrustful the ridge browed in their midst were. After that, the filthy light eyed. Then the twelve toothed, and so on and so on. It was only ever after an aberration was rubbed clean from the race that another aberration, that had always been there, became obvious. It took hundreds of years to perfect the race. Made possible in the end with advancements in medical science that made it possible engineer deadly viruses that would attack only the aberrant amongst them.
Finally the Chaluns were perfect and uniform, but also they only numbered nine and all of them were male.

Tomorrow we investigate a new dead world.
Unlike the more common tripedal, like ourselves, this species is bipedal.
The humans. Of the planet, Earth.

We’ve yet to know what proved to be the cause of their ultimate end, but early indications show that they may have tried a host of ways.

Friday, September 6, 2019

I May Cry

A short film I wrote!

I May Cry (short film) from Blank Space Films on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Why

Here's the first four pages of a 78 page thing I hope to find a home for. Enjoy.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Making a page

I write and draw the Numskulls for The Beano.
Here's how a page comes into being...
Firstly I'll sketch out a page in a note book.
A5 is best as the small page stops me from getting too wordy.
This is an example of a rare page that went well.
That is to say the rough made sense and had the right number of panels.
Most of the time it isn't this smooth and I have to attack the thing with scissors.
If a page is too short the best place for extra material is at the start or middle as you've often thought of a good ending and you don't want to take from that with more stuff after the climax.
So It's often the case that, with the help of some sellotape a messy jigsaw of a page is somehow arrived at.
It's messy and readable so needs to be redone because no editor alive would be able to read it.

So I re-draw the page.
This is also a good opportunity to trim the words. Say the same with less words if possible.
Then it's sent to the editor, hopefully to be approved...

 Once approved it's time to draw the thing!
 ...and in house the dialogue etc is put on.

A little word about drawing.
My scripts are hand drawn. "straight to ink" two years ago they looked like this...

Now they look like this. That's how two years of drawing a lot will help you.

Monday, December 11, 2017


“Gonk!” Said Gonk droid, in surprise at finding himself on his side.
Despite their shape, due to their large internal gyroscopes, Gonk droids are almost impossible to knock over.
“Gonk!” he said again, but no one answered.
He’d gone off line in the store cupboard, standing as usual. How was he not standing still?
Gonk looked around. He was lying on his side on the ceiling of the store cupboard, and the place was a mess.
“Gonk!” he exclaimed. How was he on the ceiling? And were was all this water coming from? And why was that also pooling on the ceiling?
Gonk suddenly realised the ship was upside down.

“Gonk!” he called to ship.
“Gonk?” Ship answered. “Is that you? You need to check on the crew. Slate, Faine and Blane aren’t answering.
“Gonk?” Gonk asked.
“We crashed, dummy!” Ship answered, “What do you think happened!?!”
“Gonk? Gonk?” Gonk asked.
“No, it wasn’t the Empire.” Ship told him, “We were leaving Tosche Station when pirates tried to jack us. They holed the hull so we couldn’t escape to space. Blane shot them down, but not before I was too badly damaged to stay airborne.”
“Gonk.” Gonk told ship.
“How?” Ship asked. “I thought you couldn’t knock a Gonk droid over.”
“Gonk.” Gonk answered.
“We’re upside down!” Ship exclaimed. “I just assumed… my sensors are off line. I’m blind.”
“Gonk.” Gonk said.
“We can’t be,” Ship answered. “Tatooine is a desert planet.”
“Gonk.” Gonk pointed out.
“I’m telling you there isn’t enough water in all of Tatoo…” Ship paused.
“Wait a minute, let me check something.” Ship said then instantly continued to say. “We have a fuel leak. That liquid you mentioned isn’t water. It must be fuel. It’s going down quite quickly. It’s leaking up into the ship because the ship is upside down.”
“Gonk?” Gonk asked.
“Yes, but thats the FTL drives.” Ship informed him. “The normal sub-light thrusters still use a liquid fuel.” Ship informed him.
“Gonk.” Gonk said.
“I don’t know.” Ship answered. “Where are you?”
“Gonk.” Gonk answered.
“Wait.” Ship said. “Let me try something.”
The door closed.
“Did the door just close?” She asked.
“Gonk.” Gonk told her.
“Good.” Ship said.
“Gonk Gonk Gonk!” Gonk exclaimed.
“I know.” Ship said. “But Gonk droids float. Once the room floods you’ll float, your gyro’s will self right you, I’ll open the door and you can search the ship for the crew.”
“Gonk!” Gonk exclaimed.
“I’m sure you do float.” Ship answered, “I have memory of Blane saying Gonks float.”
“Gonk!” Gonk pointed out.
“Well I’m sure this was one of the few things he was right about.” Ship tried to assure.
By now Gonk was half submerged.
“Gonk.” He said.
“Well I didn’t think you’d have 100% buoyancy!” Ship said curtly, “All you need is five or ten percent buoyancy.” She estimated, “That should be enough to get you upright I think.”
“Gonk.” Gonk said.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” Ship said, “Just don’t make any sparks or the fuel will blow us all into a million, million parts.”
“Gonk.” Gonk said.
“Hey,” Ship conceded. “I know that might be a tall order for a walking battery, but do your best.”
Gonk always found the analogy that he was a walking battery offensive. As he was, in fact, a walking generator. Something that, he felt, was a parsec away from just a simple battery.

Gonk was now almost totally submerged by the highly flammable liquid.
“Gonk.” Gonk pointed out.
“I’m just going off what Blane said.” Ship said, “I don’t have detailed files on Gonk droids.”
Gonk was now under fuel. He was a generator droid. His only function was to generate electricity and he was fully submerged in highly explosive fuel.
He shifted slightly. He did float! Well… not so much float as weigh considerably less when submerged. In normal gravity he would self right from anything up to a 45 degree angle. His gyro’s were that good.
He tried to self right. Whirred his gyro’s to their maximum revs and managed a 15 degree re-right before his feet caught on the floor (ceiling).
He could stand! He could do it once the fuel was deep enough.
“Gonk!” He told ship.
Ship was delighted.
The fuel was now at least three feet deep. He tried again. Span his gyro’s to the max, then beyond excepted safety levels… and… stood up!
“GONK!!!” he shouted. “Gonk! Gonk!”
“Great!” Said ship, “ I’m going to open the door. Just stay stood up.”
“Gonk.” Gonk said.
The door opened and the fuel drained out. Except the for the last eight inches, because the door didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling. Which was now the floor.
Gonk didn’t like the way the lighting in the hall was flashing and he didn’t like the intermittent buzzing sound either. It looked like a short somewhere, and the ship had a lot of fuel sloshing around.
Gonk looked at the eight inch high threshold he now had to step over.

“Gonk.” He said to ship.
“Which idiot designed you!?!” Ship shouted. “Well how much can you step over?”
“Gonk.” Gonk told her.
“Well that’s just great that is!” Ship complained.
“Gonk!” Gonk told her.
“Actually, most astromech droids can fly.” Ship informed him. “They have little jets that come out of the sides.”
“Gonk.” Gonk pointed out.
“Good point.” Ship admitted.
“Gonk Gonk.” Said Gonk 
“Alright!” She exclaimed. “It’s not a competition! Look around. Is there anything we can use?”
Gonk looked around.
“Gonk.” He said.
“Really?” Ship asked, “I feel like we’re so close.
“Gonk, Gonk… Gonk!” Gonk realised.
“Go for it!” Ship encouraged.
Gonk waded through the fuel to one of the lockers. The handle was pretty much at the same hight as the panel his visual sensor and diagnostic panel was set into. Could it be that easy? He walked into the locker door and leant forward until his panel was tucked in just under the locker handle. He pushed up, which would have been down if the locker were the right way up and the locker opened, and the spare grav-plates tumbled out, into the fuel.
It was about time something when his way.
With his feet, Gonk shuffled one of the three inch thick square plates towards the door. He stepped up onto it. Then tried to step over the threshold. He was still an inch short. He looked back to the other grav-plates lying under the fuel. He needed to stack one on the one he was standing on and butt another up to it to make a makeshift staircase. The problem was he had no way to pick a plate up to put it on top of another.
He turned back to the threshold and tried again. This time leaning back to his maximum 45 degrees he stuck his foot out. It only just met the top of the threshold. He stood on tip toes to get extra height and pushed. Managing to scrape his foot over the step. Suddenly it dropped down the other side and he fell out onto his face.

Gonk had managed to get out of a cupboard.

“Gonk!” Gonk told ship.
“Excellent!” Ship exclaimed, “Make your way to the cockpit. They were all there when we crashed.”
“Gonk.” Gonk informed her.
“How are you on your face!?!” Ship exclaimed.
“Gonk, Gonk.” Gonk said.
“Un-bel-ievable!” Ship shouted. “What happened to it being impossible to knock a Gonk over?”
Gonk felt sad. If he’d been an early EG6 model he would have had a front manipulator arm which would have been really useful right now, but he was a GNK model and some design genius had decided he didn’t need it.
He tried to think. If you’re a Gonk droid how do you get off your face?
He waved is little feet about bit. That didn’t work. He span his gyro’s and waved his feet about and still didn’t move.
He cursed his designers. Other droids had jets in their legs. Some had grappling hooks they could shoot out. Lot’s had arms. Actual arms! BB units were balls. There was no wrong way up for them.
Another thing his designers hadn’t thought to give him was much in the way of brains. The first twelve years of his existence he’d had less intelligence than a womp rat. Faine had boosted his intelligence nearly a year ago. Doubled it. She could do anything. Unfortunately double IQ still wasn’t exactly genius, because he’d started out so low. He thought and thought and thought.
And he had an idea!
“Gonk, Gonk, Gonk!” Gonk said.
“Why didn’t I think of that!?!” Ship exclaimed, and Gonk flew up to the ceiling as ship turned the grav-plating on the floor above him on and the artificial gravity the ship normally used in space pulled him up into the air. The fuel in the hall sploshed up to the floor too.
Gonk crashed into the floor that was now the ceiling and found himself back on his side. Looking up the hall to the flashing, buzzing light. The short was just round the corner. The whole ship could blow up at any moment.
“Gonk. Gonk. Gonk. Gonk.” Gonk told ship.
“Okay, Ready when you are.” Answered ship.
“Gon…k!” Gonk shouted, ship turned the plating off and Gonk fell as he whirred his gyro’s to max.
He self righted mid-air and landed on his feet.
It was by far the most acrobatic thing a Gonk droid had ever done.

Gonk had managed to get out of a cupboard and stand up.

Filled with pride, Gonk walked along the ceiling which was now the floor, towards the cockpit.
“If we’d thought of turning the plating on earlier you could have just walked out of the cupboard normally.” Ship pointed out.
“Gonk.” Said Gonk.
The cockpit was smashed. It looked like the ship had been driven into a vertical rock face. Crushing the front of the ship.
Slate and Blane were dead. Faine was unconscious, bleeding badly from a head wound.
“Gonk. Gonk. Gonk.” Gonk told ship. Then to Faine, “GONK!”
Faine didn’t wake. Gonk nudged her with one of his corners, and said “Gonk.”
She was lying in a couple inches of fuel. Despite the continuing leak it wasn’t getting any deeper. Which meant it was draining away somewhere.
Gonk nudged Faine again. “Gonk?” He asked, but she didn’t reply. Gonk loved Faine the way a pet might love its owner. She’d boosted his IQ. He’d been looking at her when she’d activated the extra processing power. When he’d woken up.
“What’s happening?” Ship asked.
“Gonk.Gonk.Gonk.Gonk.” Gonk told her.
“You need to get her out.” Said ship. “I could explode at any second!"
“Gonk.Gonk” Gonk told her.
Gonk nudged Faine with a corner again. She stirred and groaned.
“Gonk!” Gonk urged her.
“Faine! Wake up!” ship repeated.
“Whu? What… What happened?” Faine asked. Then started coughing.
“We crashed!” Ship told her. “There’s fuel everywhere. You need to get out before I explode.”
“Blane? Slate?” Faine asked between coughing.
“I’m sorry Faine,” Ship said. “They’re dead.”
Faine tried to get up. Her coughing got worse.
“Gonk?” Gonk asked.
“It’s the fumes from the fuel.” Ship told him. “A stray spark could even ignite the air.”
Faine couldn’t stand. She could hardly breathe.
“Gonk.Gonk.Gonk.” Gonk asked.
“Yes, I can do that.” Ship answered, “I do it anyway when we’re on low gravity planets.”
“Gonk.Gonk.” said Gonk, and ship brought the grav-plating on line above Faine, but only at ten percent power. The gravity above her pulled her away from the planet slightly, making her weigh less. Ship turned the plating up to twenty percent. Faine could really feel it now. The fuel around her could too. In the lower gravity it sloshed around more and more and started to form into a hump.
Gonk had turned his magnetic feet on so wasn’t going anywhere.
Eventually Faine was in a micro gravity. It took almost no effort to stand.
“Gonk.Gonk.” Gonk told her and she lay across him.
“I think the hatch is open.” Ship told Gonk, “You should just be able to walk out.”
“Gonk. Gonk.” Gonk told her.
“No. Leave me.” Ship answered, “You’ve stayed too long already.”
“Gonk.” Gonk told her.
“You’re being ridiculous!” Ship told him. “You’re not a shock trooper, you’re a Gonk droid!”
“GONK.GONK.GONK.” said Gonk.
“He’s right,” Faine said, “Take me there, Gonk.”
With Faine lying on Gonk, Gonk waded through the fuel to Ships core. With everything she had Faine managed to pull Ships core. A cylindrical object about the size of a flask pulled from the wall.
Slowly Gonk turned and walked out, with Faine lying on top of him. Faine holding ship’s brain.
As Gonk slowly trudged away the ship behind him finally blew. He walked from the explosion. He didn’t run and didn’t look back. Because he couldn’t run and was incapable of looking back.

Slowly, in the baking heat Gonk walked through the desert. He saw rocky region in the distance, and made for that in the hopes that he could find shelter there.
“Hold it!” Someone shouted to their right. Faine twisted her he’d to see who it was and Gonk turned the ninety degrees he needed to see.
From the looks of him he was a space pirate. Going off his considerable injuries he was one of the pirates Blane had shot down.
Did he want revenge? Did he just want to steel Gonk and Ship’s brain? Gonk didn’t know.
Gonk just blasted him with a huge electrical discharge. A blot of lightning.

Gonk had got out of a cupboard, stood up, saved the girls and killed the bad guy.

The suns went down and extreme heat gave way to extreme cold. They found a sheltered area and Faine climbed off Gonk. She was cold so Gonk ran hot. He was a generator unit. Inside his casing he was mostly a fusion reactor. It was easy to generate way more power than he needed, and vent the heat exhaust Faine’s way.

Then Gonk became aware of a few pale lights around them. Out of the gloom droids emerged. Lots of old battered, rusty, damaged droids.
“Beep-bee-boop-bee-weep” One of them said, finishing with a whistle.
“Gonk. Gonk.” Gonk said and they moved nearer. They were running low on power and he had all they needed. Three at a time they attached and drew the power they need for a recharge.
“Beep-dawooop-ding.” An R4 unit told him. “Beep-boop-bee-doop” It continued.
They’d been on a Jawa transport when it had been attacked by Storm Troopers. All the Jawa’s had been killed, and many droids. Including the Gonk that was with them. None of them knew why they’d done it. They’d been hiding in the caves ever since.
Luckily one of them was a medi-bot and it tended to Faine.
Gonk was pleased with himself. He’d done it. He’d saved them. Maybe Ship would see him in a different light now. Maybe he stood a chance with her.

Now that he was a hero.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sad Dog

Monday, August 7, 2017


This future is now.

It were comin’ down like rods.

Hard enough on a bike in the wet, but when it’s comin’ down so hard you can't hardly see…

Yeah, well

Karen had seen some shit, driving, but seein' the guy’s knee bent the wrong way like that still turned her over inside.
She’d got the ping two minutes back, so the scene was still fresh as.

Bike guy was a delivery runner.

His box was on the wet slabs next to his well bent bike. An' proper well bent it were. He were shoutin’ at some woman an’ she was givin’ back equal, then plus double.
Karen pulled up and had to help him in. That didn't matter. He was on her clock since she'd stopped.
“I'll not apologise for trying to help you!” Umbrella lady barked back at bike guy for sayin’ something Karen hadn’t been there for. Karen yoinked bike guy into her taxi. His left leg bent at the knee but the wrong way.

He didn't weigh nothing. Proper tour de France skinny. As she got bike guy in, she asked “What’s her deal?” 'bout umbrella lady.
“Aw, bitch went an’ called an ambulance on me, like I’m Jay Z or somethin’” Bike guy said through teeth.
“I called an ambulance because you need a bloody ambulance, you maniac!” Umbrella lady looked like she were gonna lift off. “Your leg looks like It’s on backwards for Christ's sake!”
Karen swung the bike up on the rack an' pulled bike guy's bag into the cab as the siren from the ambulance started gettin’ proper audible.

Karen did one sharp before the scene turned into a proper scene.

Paramedics see a lot so can be proper staunch an’ since they all got put on commission they’re hungry too. (I wouldn't put it past some to have a bod done jus' for the pick up)

“Hospital?” Karen asked Bike. Bike nodded. “You wanna make that drop first? You'll lose your profit ‘cause you're on my clock but you'll keep your stars.”
“Urrrgh! Forget it.” Bike said “My ratings gonna be worth nish by the time I'm outta plaster. I'll have to start again. Jesus!”

The enormity of a restart dawning.

“Sub ya gig.” Karen suggested.
“Sub it? To who?” Bike replied “Everyone I know got their own rate they're tryin’ ta build.”
“You don't know no one blacklisted?” Karen asked. 
Bike woulda lent forward if he could move. “If you got someone who can run my gig while I’m laid up, they can take all the coin. All of it, if they don't drop my stars. I’ll get a loan for food or somethin’ ”
“He’ll not drop your stars. He got listed for postin’ shit about the system. Not screwin’ up” Karen assured.
“Aye well the system’s shit.” said bike “I got that app that tells ya if what you're gonna post will be unfavoured by the powers.”

“Bloop!” Karen screen notified.

“That’s me.” Bike said “I jus’ gave you the local for my drop. You're not bullin’ me wit your listed guy? He’s for reals yeah?”
“He's realer than you or me.” Karen come back.

Bike’s drop was way out, so he had time to get wistful.
“What was that bitch thinkin’ callin’ an ambulance like that? Do I look like I can afford that shit?” He said lookin’ at the rain through the see through ad playing on the window. The smart ad sensed his pain an' were tryin' to sell him painkillers but he was jus' staring through. Ads are like anything. You see enough an' you learn to see right through.

“My brother fell an’ split his head, out one night. Woke in the ambulance, so couldn't argue the toss. Still ant paid it off. That were years back. Must have only been in there, like, 20 minutes.”
“Aye, I had my girl on 5/9. Went into labour jus’ when it all kicked off. My man was across town an’ couldn't get to us through the shit, so I drove myself.” Karen told Bike “Did for the seat, but what’s a new seat up against a ride in one of them things?”
“You gotta kid?” Bike said “Where's she at now?”
“Home sleepin’.” Karen replied an' sent the feed from one of her screens to the main screen in the back. A baby sleeping in a cot.
“Aw, she's proper instagram ain't she?” Bike cooed. He’d had something. Karen could tell. It were starting to work. Looked like he was leaving agony.
“How many stars you got?” Karen asked
“I got four baby!” Bike exclaimed. “Well, 3.8 but it looks like four on a phone an' that’s what counts. More than enough to keep me busy. An’ I got enough ratings that if some asshole one stars me it hardly makes a dent.”

Karen laughed. “I remember when I first started out. They give you two an’ a half as good will. They’re green, not gold, though so as folk know you're new an’ don't judge an’ give you a break. So I take some suit from Heathrow to out in the sticks. He gets free Netflix all the way an’ I'm all nice. Like, couldn't be nicer and he one stars me! I’d only done a few fairs. It was, like, my first week so I hadn’t built up an average an’ my rating went through the floor! Didn't work for nearly two weeks after that.”

“Jesus!” Bike shouted “Suits, man. He knew what that’d do to you. They think shit like that's funny. I mean. I'm a pacifist but, I mean. I don't wish it on ‘em but when they get deaded like those two the other day I think, well, what do you expect, yeah?”
“Some of them go incognito now, to the office, you know?” Karen said “Try to pass for normal. Pretend they ain't vampires by puttin’ on a hoody, but you can tell they got a suit in that bag. You can see from the shoes, an their nails ain't bitten."
“This is what you don’t get with one of them drone cabs”. Bike said “Proper talk. No chat-bot”. He laughed at a thing that dropped into his head.
“I was pickin’ up near fleet Street an’ one of them new bubble things glides up an’ four suits were set to get in an’ then some legend in black. Like all black. Ski mask an’ goggles the lot, lobs in a foam bomb! It goes off, BOOF! Foam everywhere. I got some on me. It were all over the suits an’ the drone were full! Ha ha! It set hard in, like, five seconds. Christ knows how long it took to dig all that out. I bet it weren't robots what done the diggin’ either. So that's some human work there.”
“It’s guys like that, that mean I still got work”. Karen said.
“I won't touch anythin’ that uses drones. I'm staunch like that. One of them things wouldn't have picked me off the street like you did”. Said Bike. “I’m against ‘em deadin’ suits, like I say, but every drone some active shoots down I see as a gig for me. Deadin’ drones ain't terrorism it's job creation is what it is”.
Bike shifted slightly trying to get some comfort.
“I don't know no actives, but I’ll send a drink to anyone who puts a drone down.”

Karen had her eyes on the road. She’d forgot the baby feed was on the big screen in the back.

“D’you think there’ll be any jobs at all when your little un gets big?” Bike asked.
Karen sighed. There weren’t no way to know what the future had coming. It had taken more than Karen ever thought possible.
Taken shit she’d never thought could be took. An' you bitch an’ moan an’ say you can’t take that ‘cause it ain’t right.
An’ the powers say there ain’t no law against it.
Not no more, least.

So they say it's right ‘cause it’s legal.
But now you’re thinkin’ legal ain’t got nothin’ to do with what's right no more.
An’ if legal ain’t right, then illegal don’t seem so wrong no more.

If all the jobs did go to the bots Karen’s baby would need to live on the rob if she wanted a life with more than nothin’. (Unless somethin’ changed but nothin’ ever changed ‘sept for the worse.) Forget legal an’ illegal go with what feels right. Get your own code to live by.

Draw your own lines.
Cross those lines least you can.

Unless it all collapsed an’ folk gave up on money all together. Wasn’t like there was much money left to give up on anyhow, what with most the world's money in those eight bank accounts.

Bike was out now.
Karen took the baby feed off the main screen. They were at bike’s drop so she made it for him. The girl on reception hardly looked up. Jus’ saw the box an' pointed at the drop point.

Getting back in the cab woke Bike. “Hospital?” said Karen.
“You make my drop? What time is it? Took a slice when I were splayed on the street. Took another half when you was rackin’ the bike ‘cause the first slice weren’t touchin’ the sides”.
“I made your drop.” Karen replied.
Bike gave his screen scrutiny. “Who was it on reception? Tall an’ pink hair or short an’ blue?”
“Shit man. Half the time she don’t even rate. Some won’t pick up the ping for them no more ‘cause of h…”
“Bloop!” His screen notified.
“Ha ha! Yes! Four stars! Every higher than average equals a higher average.”
“How long you been on a bike?” Karen asked.
“Three years now. It ain’t so bad, keeps ya healthy till it kills you. Nearly got me today, but not quite. Were only meant to do it for a month or three. Till something turned up... You’re so done by the time you’re done though, you just flake. You eat, have a can, then it’s the next day. An’ you’re sayin’ tonight when I get in I’ll find something. Before you know it by the time you got your stats over to somethin’ better they’re thinkin’ What’s a bike guy wanna work here for? An’ there’s you in your slot for life till a bot comes an’ has it off you without tryin’. Bot don't gotta interview an' bow an' scape an' their posts clean. Bot's just get given jobs. My Dad’s well militant. Would def be active an’ listed, if his heart weren’t killin’ him. He’s got stories though. When he started out some, din't have a facebook or twitter. An’ that were alright. It was okay not to, an' it weren't suspicious. Then he says it started so you went for a job an’ they’d facestalk you. An if you were lookin’ like a bad fit they’d slide you by. But then it got so you had to have an account. If you din't they could look in your life and see if you fit. So then everyone’s gotta have a face if they wanna get booked. He did alright though. Had a job an’ everythin’ for years till a bot put him out on his arse.”
Bike went less wistful, more wrathful.
“His heart’s killin’ him now though an’ we got no house to sell so that’s that in'it."

The baby woke the second the food van went an’ rear ended them, but didn’t cry.

Karen was out the cab immediate. It was still comin’ down like rods. She popped the boot an’ pulled her girl outta there. Fetched her back to the cab an’ set her safe on the seat, then pulled a bat outta nowhere an’ went to bray the van or the driver or both but stopped.
The air come outta her again.
An’ she got back in again. She pulled a seat for her up from the passenger well an’ strapped the little un in an’ cried for six seconds. Then sucked it back down, an’ did off.

The air were proper thick in there. Wet off the rain an’ thick so as it’s hard to speak. What with all the feels an' all.
Bike had thought the kid were at her place. Maybes not with anyone. Which ain't right but hard to blame. Now it was clear they had no place.

Well why wouldn’t they be placeless? Bike didn’t know anyone his age who weren't placeless.

He were half placeless himself. Split his sleeps between a few places. A couch in Hoxton. A hall near Kings Cross. Under some stairs in Brixton. He found if he kept it to three nights then off an' he left a bit of wage or a slice, no one got rubbed the wrong.
Bike's dream were near the same as Karen's. The hope was to scrape the coin for a van. Then do it nice inside for living. You can even get a toilet in there if you can find a spot parked over a grid, but an over grid spot is rare these days.
That weren't too wrong in his head for the grown, but kids, he thought, aught to have a real roof. Even with his knee bent back, the pain he felt were for Karen.
He knew the powers had it all set so as there was no way up an’ out.
No one had a job they had gigs.
You didn't work for them. you worked for yourself, even if you only worked for them.
So you weren’t on the inside.
An’ there's no way up the outside.
The stairs are inside.
An’ saving weren’t a thing. The coin was set so low as food was an issue so thinkin’ about out else were out.
An’ her man was listed ‘cause he'd said what weren't right, weren't right.
Bike had that thing on his phone that gave him warns when his posts would list him. He knew others who had bots that socialed for them. A stream of lies to make ‘em seem like the perfect worker. Soon it’d be the case that no one would be writing their own feed. Another layer of bullshit. Gettin’ down to real was gonna take digital archaeologists one day.
They got to the hospital an’ Karen unloaded Bike an’ his Bike. She wrote down his ‘tails an’ his stats on a piece of paper with a pen that used ink, to have ‘em but keep ‘em low an’ did one back out into the shit.
Seems Bike’s name was Arnold.

Another long day ended sharp, but it didn’t take long to find a charge spot so there was that. Karen was down to three percent ‘cause she weren’t gettin’ no charge off the sky all day with the rain an’ all. The back seat of the cab slid forward up to the divider and the back dropped flat like a futon. With the back lying flat where the baby sleeps was shown. The underside of the boot painted sky blue with cartoon clouds.
Karen’s man showed. He had food. Paid in noodles plus for keepin’ a sick lifter near the top of a call sheet. (If you say no to a gig you get bumped down the sheet. Too far down an’ you never get called again.)
They fed the baby then themselves. As they ate Her man told her stars was halfway to bein’ money. Karen knew that to be true. If, back after that suit had one stared her, somebod' had said they wouldn’t pay but would five star her instead she’d have had their arm off. She put the VR goggs on baby. So as baby'd have memories of being in the countryside later.

Karen showed her man the rating Bike had give her… Five stars.

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some sort of artist or something. with problems and issues. I draw stuff
All cartoons and original writing ©Nigel Auchterlounie 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012