You Want It Darker.

 

Modified from “toa-lagara”

They plummet head-first, dragged down by a hundred kilograms of improvised ballast. Asante chokes, jams his mouthpiece into place; coughs seawater through the exhaust and sucks in a hot lungful of fresh-sparked hydrox. Pressure builds against his eardrums. He swallows, swallows again, manages to keep a few millibars ahead of outright rupture. He has just enough freedom of movement to claw at his face and slide the defractors over his eyes. The ocean clicks into focus, clear as acid, empty as green glass.

Green turns white.

Seen in that flash-blinded instant: four thin streams of bubbles, rising to a surface gone suddenly incandescent. Four dark bodies, falling away from the light. A thunderclap rolls through the water, deep, downshifted, as much felt as heard. It comes from nowhere and everywhere.

The roof of the ocean is on fire. Some invisible force shreds their contrails from the top down, tears those bubbles into swirling silver confetti. The wave-front races implacably after them. The ocean bulges, recoils. It squeezes Asante like a fist, stretches him like rubber; Tiwana and Acosta tumble away in the backwash. He flails, stabilizes himself as the first jagged shapes resolve overhead: dismembered chunks of the booby-trapped gyland, tumbling with slow majesty into the depths. A broken wedge of deck and stairwell passes by a few meters away, tangled in monofilament. A thousand glassy eyes stare back from the netting as the wreckage fades to black.

Asante scans the ocean for that fifth bubble trail, that last dark figure to balance Those Who Left against Those Who Returned. No one overhead. Below, a dim shape that has to be Garin shares its mouthpiece with the small limp thing in its arms. Beyond that, the hint of a deeper dark against the abyss: a shark-like silhouette keeping station amid a slow rain of debris. Waiting to take its prodigal children home again.

They’re too close to shore. There might be witnesses. So much for stealth ops. So much for low profiles and no-questions-asked. Metzinger’s going to be pissed.

Then again, they are in the Gulf of Mexico.

Any witnesses will probably just think it caught fire again.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday February 06 2017at 07:02 am , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

22 Responses to “You Want It Darker.”

  1. Is this from the Welcome to the Zombie Corps thing? Regardless that’s some intense writing and some pretty neat art to boot

    What poor sod gets saddled with Metzinger for a name though

  2. It used to be only the Cuyahoga River populating the list of “flaming bodies of water”. I can attest, though, that as recently as 1977, people swimming off of Galveston frequently had to cut tarballs out of their long hair. Interestingly, the tarballs tended to float a few inches below the surface, so catching fire down there wasn’t too much of a problem… but you would still see a lot of dogs that had to be partially shaved after being allowed to swim in the Gulf.

    Great stuff, as always: builds a picture and makes it move. I hope we see the final version out there, soon.

  3. I wish it was longer.

    Metzinger is a cool name, but not when you use it. Reference too obvious.

  4. Love it, can’t wait for more.

    Well, I guess I can, since I have no choice, but I don’t like it and eagerly await an announcement of some kind that at least signals light at the end of the tunnel.

  5. Niiice!

    Peter, when is your next book or story being released? Anything in 2017?

  6. Well, I just discovered a couple of hours ago that this particular story sold. It’ll be out this year.

    Also hopefully a novella set in the Sunflowers cycle, but I’m behind schedule on that one and besides it hasn’t been officially announced yet.

    Also part of a black metal opera about fish on Mars. But that’s been even less officially announced.

    And something else that if it doesn’t come out this year it’ll probably come out next, but if I announce that I’m in breach of contract and they can extraordinarily rendition me to one of those reactivated black sites the CIA is rebooting at Trump’s behest. (Yes, we are going along with the fiction that they were ever shut down in the first place.)

  7. Awesome piece and news.

    Think my minor nitpick is squelched via the semicolon in paragraph 4 sentence 5. Wasn’t sure “He” beginning sentence 6 was clearly Asante, but think the semi-colon rather than period refs us back to him even though the other two are mentioned after.

    PS: The black sites were moved to ships in international waters. Trump just wants torture broadcast on its own cable channel to distract from all the theft he’s coordinating. 😉

  8. Peter Watts: Well, I just discovered a couple of hours ago that this particular story sold. It’ll be out this year..

    Congrats! Am I the only one still holding out false hope that this will be tied to the Rifters in some way? It has water! I know you want to move beyond that and probably view it less favorably these days, but that will always be my first Watts encounter. Starfish still has some of the most human moments in your fiction to date.

    Also hopefully a novella set in the Sunflowers cycle, but I’m behind schedule on that one and besides it hasn’t been officially announced yet.

    Oh I do hope you follow up with this. You’ll forgive me for saying, but I believe this to be your best setting. I hope you end up putting that novel length Sunflowers bit out at some time. The Chimp is a great character. It’s like Star Trek, except with Cato the butler from the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies occasionally trying to kill you.

    You haven’t updated in some time. I hope you’re doing well health-wise.

  9. Hmm, “extraordinary rendition” is a noun phrase. Wouldn’t the corresponding verb phrase be “extraordinarily render”?

  10. Congratulations! Is it for the Submerged anthology? That’s the first thing that occurred to me as I saw the fiblet.
    I’ll be looking forward to it, as well as the other stories! The Mars thing sounds intriguing in particular.

  11. BMK: Is this from the Welcome to the Zombie Corps thing?

    Yup. Asante is actually the Diallo character from that earlier fiblet; I changed it when one of my expert consultants told me the name “Diallo” hails from the wrong part of Africa.

    What poor sod gets saddled with Metzinger for a name though

    Well, Metzinger, for one.

    mcz: Metzinger is a cool name, but not when you use it. Reference too obvious.

    You think that’s bad. There’s another character in the same story called Saks.

    DA: Am I the only one still holding out false hope that this will be tied to the Rifters in some way?

    I hope so. Because it isn’t, and I’d hate to disappoint more than one person at a time. If it’s any consolation, this is from the Blindopraxia universe, and contains a cameo by Jim Moore. Back when he was only a Lieutenant.

    DA: You haven’t updated in some time. I hope you’re doing well health-wise.

    Hey, when I’m not doing well health-wise is when I write some of my longest posts. Mainly, though, I’ve just been busy with all this other stuff. Writing a good crunchy science post frequently takes me over a solid day (what with research and everything), and I just haven’t had the time lately.

    Julie: Is it for the Submerged anthology?

    Nope. It is for a themed antho, but I should probably wait until the editor actually announces it before going into that kind of detail.

  12. A contemporary and I were discussing the fact that at least two generations of US citizens have no memory of the Cuyahoga River fire in 1969. (I was a mere broth of a lad of 25.)

    It seems like we will need another one too frighten the non-progressive part of our population to revive the Environmental movement

  13. http://i1.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/000/574/moar-cat.jpg

    sunflowers stories… bring em on

    hummm is there more blindopraxiaverse in the pipeline? ( i do want to see you oneup the weirdness of the setup done in the first two and in the process give us a satisfying description of the end of the baseline world, you cut it off at the beginning of the baseline extinction and the outcome is implied instead of explicit… well either that or i need a reread of a translation to my native language… might do that anyways while we wait…)

  14. Another excellent fiblet. Very glad to hear that it sold and looking forward to the anthology later this year.

    Also, how are you feeling? Did you ever get a satisfactory answer to your recent mystery illness?

  15. ken:
    Also, how are you feeling? Did you ever get a satisfactory answer to your recent mystery illness?

    I’ll echo that sentiment

  16. Dr.No: hummm is there more blindopraxiaverse in the pipeline?

    You mean, other than this? Just the last novel, which is still mainly a gleam in my eye.

    Still, if people keep soliciting stories from me, there’s no reason I can’t stick some of them in the same timeline. There’ve been four so far already.

    isioisi: Did you ever get a satisfactory answer to your recent mystery illness?

    I did not. Everyone remains clueless. I’m still tending toward polymyalgia rheumatica, despite the lack of serological confirmation, because all the subjective symptoms line up. Also because those symptoms are subsiding on their own; right now I’m pretty much back to normal except for my shoulders, where enemy forces have dug in and are making a last stand. Reach for a mug of coffee at the wrong angle and the pain shoots across my body like a border guard breaking a humerus— but that’s a damn sight better than my whole body seizing up. PMR is supposed to get better on its own in 1.5-3 years. It’s been only eight months, but then again, according the people who monitored my bout with flesh-eating disease, I’m a fast healer.

    Probably due my chronic and ongoing exposure to high-energy unicornions.

  17. Peter, I think your symptoms fit really well in a diagnosis of polymialgia. If you want I can send you a review on the topic; it’s from uptodate, a database that is accessible only to MDs…at least I think so. I consider that a for of payment for the starfish cycle : ) I just finished reading it and loved it!
    If you are interested I can send a copy to any e- amil adress you like….well sort of, I cound’t actually copy the document, so I pasted it on an Oper office file, but it’s just fine.

  18. angelo: If you are interested I can send a copy to any e- amil adress you like

    Thanks, Angelo, I’d appreciate that. Just go through the rifters.com contact form; you can attach the paper directly in the unlikely event it’s under a megabyte. Otherwise just drop a line and I’ll get back to you with another email addy.

  19. Why are you teasing us like this, WRITE ANOTHER BOOK DAMN YOU.

  20. The last two sentences do so much in terms of worldbuilding; I’m impressed with how you drop hints here and there and the setting just comes to life and expands with every detail. I was hooked by the last piece, but now, knowing that Jim Moore will show up, I’m even more excited. Learning more about the WestHem Alliance — especially about the military zombies — is what I look forward to (“Get the Facts. Then Enlist.” — I was under the impression that zombies were alive humans on autopilot/Off Switch, but now it seems that the older generation was a different kind of animal…)

    Peter Watts: It’s been only eight months, but then again, according the people who monitored my bout with flesh-eating disease, I’m a fast healer.

    I hope that your fast healing will do the job again and I wish you a complete recovery!

  21. Gah:
    Why are you teasing us like this, WRITE ANOTHER BOOK DAMN YOU.

    I’m trying. Novella first.

    Lukasz: I was under the impression that zombies were alive humans on autopilot/Off Switch, but now it seems that the older generation was a different kind of animal…)

    These guys are definitely the prototypes, but only two of them are literal resurrected corpses. Still, Moore’s appearance kind of throws them for a loop:

    — and realizes, in that moment, what it is about Moore that strikes him as so strange.

    “We’ll be prepping your better halves with the operational details en route.”

    It’s not what is, it’s what isn’t: no tic at the corner of the eye, no tremor in the hand. His speech is smooth and perfect, his eyes make contact with steady calm. Lieutenant Moore doesn’t glitch.

    “For now, we anticipate a boots-down window of no more than seven hours—”

    Asante looks at Tiwana. Tiwana looks back.

    ZeroS are out of beta.

  22. Peter Watts: It’s not what is, it’s what isn’t: no tic at the corner of the eye, no tremor in the hand. His speech is smooth and perfect, his eyes make contact with steady calm. Lieutenant Moore doesn’t glitch.

    Poor bastards. That makes me think, that there must be recruits who glitch so much that they can’t serve or even survive on their own, horribly injured without even setting foot on the battlefield.