Object Lesson

Baird Stoller never even pretended to be on our side. Aki Sok did her best, then took her lumps when it wasn’t good enough. Ekanga Mosko was a whole other thing. Recruited, committed, trusted with the secrets of the sanctum—then caught copying specs down in the Glade, loading himself up with secrets to buy his way back into the Chimp’s good graces after miraculously coming back from the dead.

Lian didn’t kill him. Didn’t deprecate him either. Waste of good coffin space, she said. She found a small inescapable crevice in some remote corner of the Glade where the gravitic tug-o-war was enough to pull your guts out through your inner ears. She ran a line from an irrigation pipe, set it to bleed a continuous trickle down the rock face. Hooked a portable food processor up to an outsize amino tank, parked it on the lip of the precipice, set it to drop protein bricks into the gap at regular intervals. Woke up every few years just to keep it stocked.

 

 

Mosko spent the rest of his life in that crevice. Maybe his stomach acclimated to the nausea before his brain turned to pudding, before he lost the ability even to beg, before he devolved into a mindless mewling thing covered in sores and compulsively licking the rocks to slake his endless thirst. Maybe he only lasted a few months. Maybe he lived for decades, died alone while the rest of us slept our immortal sleep, mummified and crumbled to dust and finally vanished altogether between one of my heartbeats and the next. An object lesson, way past its best-before date.

That’s the story I heard, anyway. I slept through the whole time frame, from recruitment to betrayal to dissolution. I found the crevice—found a crevice, anyway—but the plumbing and the processor had long since been retired, if they’d ever even existed. For all I knew Kaden had just been yanking my chain about the whole thing, got some of hir buddies in on the joke for added verisimilitude. A joke. A warning. That would be just hir style.

There had been an Ekanga Mosko listed on the manifest. Astrophysics specialist. Different tribe, but Eri definitely shipped out with meat of that name on board. The official record said he’d died when a bit of bad shielding had failed around the outer core: a blast of lethal radiation, an emergency vent to spare the rest of the level from contamination.

Of course I asked Lian about it. She laughed and laughed. “I’d have to be pretty damn good to plant evidence that far down without getting burned to ash, wouldn’t you say?”

She never actually denied it, though.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday March 20 2018at 09:03 am , filed under fiblet, Sunflowers . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “Object Lesson”

  1. Well that’s not nice. I doubt the chimp is as inventive when it comes to punishment.

  2. In the interrogation game, that’s called an EVR – Evasive Verbal Response.

  3. Come on. This is a slap on the wrist punishment.

    Better way would be sticking traitors into an eater of souls.. (wonder who came up with this milder, lovecraftian version of hell. quote is from Stross’s A Colder War)

    “There is life eternal within the eater of souls. Nobody is ever forgotten or allowed to rest in peace. They populate the simulation spaces of its mind, exploring all the possible alternative endings to their life. There is a fate worse than death, you know.”

  4. Dr. Watts, I’m curious how you chose the gender-neutral pronoun “hir” over one of the alternatives.

  5. Help me out a bit here. Is there no context or backstory to this, other than the Sunflower stories on the backlist?

  6. Whatever war they’re fighting, it must be truly horrific, for it to have made of them what it seems to have.

  7. Phil:
    Dr. Watts, I’m curious how you chose the gender-neutral pronoun “hir” over one of the alternatives.

    I stopped paying attention to the terms coming out of the Large Gender Collider around the same time it started spewing out genders like “libra”, “musica”, and “glitch” (also, tellingly, “fake”). Once you have literally dozens of terms to choose from, the whole concept of gender seems to get watered down into a vague list of “things I think are cool this week”. I’m guessing most of those terms won’t be around by the time Eri ships out.

    On the other hand, “se”/”hir” just seem like logical polar intermediates. I invented them in the sense that I was casting around for pronouns that didn’t fall into the standard binary mold and they fit the bill, but by that very token I assumed they were probably already in use somewhere. If they’re not, I’m surprised.

    Aardvark Cheeselog:
    Help me out a bit here. Is there no context or backstory to this, other than the Sunflower stories on the backlist?

    It’s just a snippet from a novella set in that same universe. The Freeze-Frame Revolution

    It’s been getting some decent advance blurbs, if I do say so myself.

    Alexis:
    Whatever war they’re fighting, it must be truly horrific, for it to have made of them what it seems to have.

    Actually, the enemy they’re fighting truly, honestly only wants what’s best for them.

  8. Peter Watts
    Actually, the enemy they’re fighting truly, honestly only wants what’s best for them.

    So, even worse than I imagined, then.

  9. Now this is a nice surprise. A ray of light in what’s becoming a supremely shitty week for me.

    Already pre-ordered my copy on Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/Freeze-Frame-Revolution-Peter-Watts/dp/1616962526

  10. Peter Watts,

    I wondered because a 2001 doctoral thesis from your alma mater has an appendix explaining why “sie” and “hir” were used throughout. I think “se” is better.

    I’d guess the version that’ll eventually catch on will be the simplest one that independently arises most frequently.

    “Glitch” I could see being used with different intents by people across the entire sociopolitical spectrum, with wonderfully inflammatory results…

  11. Stupid forgetful tablet! That anonymous comment was me.

  12. It’s just a snippet from a novella set in that same universe. The Freeze-Frame Revolution

    It’s been getting some decent advance blurbs, if I do say so myself.

    Ran off to Amazon to order it immediately. May 29th can’t come soon enough

  13. There is a RELEASE DATE FOR A NEW BOOK? Praise the Spaghetti Monster, my month is saved!

  14. My fingers slipped and I preordered it.

  15. This particular snip reminded me of Richard Morgan’s writing, for some reason.

    Speaking of… any chance you’re going to write about or review the Altered Carbon series? I’d be very interested in hearing your opinion on it.

  16. Didn’t know it was up for pre-order! Now I’ve done the same. Thanks for the heads up.

    ken:
    Now this is a nice surprise. A ray of light in what’s becoming a supremely shitty week for me.

    Already pre-ordered my copy on Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/Freeze-Frame-Revolution-Peter-Watts/dp/1616962526

  17. Peter Watts,

    Are all of the stories narrated by the same person? Or do we not know the answer to that?

  18. The K,

    Novella, though. Not novel. Novella novella novella. Don’t get your hopes up.

    Agarob: any chance you’re going to write about or review the Altered Carbon series? I’d be very interested in hearing your opinion on it.

    I’ve been contemplating that, but before I could do a proper review I’d have to go back and reread the novel (it’s been well over a decade). Short version, I thought it was a bit slow out of the blocks, but it really caught its stride around episode four. And it certainly captures Richard’s sense of angry honor, his Make if fucking personal vibe. (Which, I might add, he adheres to in real life as well as fiction.)

    Aardvark Cheeselog: Are all of the stories narrated by the same person?

    Nope. “Giants” is narrated by a non-Sunday someone who actually appears in Freeze-Frame. And the next bit of the epic won’t even be narrated by a character; it’ll be entirely in first-person.

    Don’t ask me how I’m going to stitch all these pieces together at the end of it all.

  19. Peter Watts: Novella, though. Not novel. Novella novella novella. Don’t get your hopes up.

    At this point i would probably pay you per sentence if that means i get my fix.

  20. The K: At this point i would probably pay you per sentence if that means i get my fix.

    A series of large pamphlets?

  21. I’m kinda hoping for a Chick tract format at some point.

  22. Gordon M:
    I’m kinda hoping for a Chick tract format at some point.

    Dr. Watts could totally make the Cult Leader Look work. Complete with the crazed rants from the pulpit, and the leaflets and the abovementioned Chick Tracts. Where can i sign up?

  23. ken: https://www.amazon.com/Freeze-Frame-Revolution-Peter-Watts/dp/1616962526

    Thanks… pre-ordered.