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Day Two Hundred and Eight: Raven of Industry

December 15, 2011 2 comments

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Okay, why don’t we do another Evil Corporation today (yes, I know – it’s a tautology, but what can you do?). Munin Scientific is a company that specializes in computer components, with a focus on memory. They make storage media, hard drives, RAM, all kinds of things that make your computer work, and they’re constantly pushing the limits of materials and technique. Having said all that, let’s see what the stories say about them:

46: The Big Day

  • It has a very intense corporate culture. In the thoughts of Peter Wach, “Nobody got anywhere in Munin Scientific on forty hours a week. Nobody.”
  • Wach is doing work on carbon pico-crystal arrays.
  • The company issues employees with time-sensitive USB drives. “The drives had to be accessed at least once every twenty-four hours, to ensure security. If they weren’t, then the LED would turn red and the drive would erase itself the next time it was plugged into a computer.”
  • Pete works with Ewan Conwell
  • The Board Room is on the thirtieth floor of the headquarters.
  • The board room has a custom-designed table: “A long table, shiny and black, stretched down the middle of the brightness and made Pete a little dizzy. Embossed in the center of the table, shining under layers of lacquer, was the Munin Scientific logo.”
  • The chief technology officer is Terence Dorshimer.
  • The vice-president in charge of research is Harris Brummitt.
  • The CEO is Ulysses Grodin, “probably one of the most well-known and well-loved CEOs in the country.”
  • Brummit may be from the Southern United States.
  • The security guards carry tasers.
  • Wach is suspected of stealing data from Conwell.

65: Amanuensis

  • Cerbecorp once tried to buy out Munin Scientific. They failed.

98: Back in the Saddle

  • A man named Brant Laidler was murdered on his way to merger talks with Munin.

127: Last-Ditch

  • Wach’s life was destroyed after the events of The Big Day. He lost his job, his home, and his marriage.
  • Munin has Wach’s prototype. It’s locked in a secure locker at Munin Headquarters, in basement vaults designed by Cerbecorp.It’s said to be impenetrable to anything less than a commando team.

So yeah, all in all it looks like Munin isn’t a nice company, but then we know so very little about it. We know that one of their employees designed a fantastic new storage medium, and he got thrown out on his ass for it. Why would they do this? That, sir-and-or-madam, is a damn fine question.

The company is named, of course, after one of the ravens of Odin, father of the Norse gods. Odin was famous for many things, not the least of which was having two ravens that gathered information for him. They were Huginn and Muninn, AKA “Thought” and “Memory”. Why did I choose Munin? Well, after I had used Cerberus for one company, I thought it would be interesting to use another mythological animal. After some thinking and web-surfing, I came up with Munin, which pretty much defined what Munin Scientific focused on – memory.

You might also have noticed that the CEO’s surname is Grodin, which contains the name of the raven-god. Not a coincidence, I assure you. It would also not surprise you, I think, to learn that Ulysses Grodin thinks of himself in god-like terms, at least as a CEO. He is enamored with the life of the AllFather, and has managed to fit his own personal narrative into that mythology.

Granted, it only fits well from his point of view. Odin’s sacrifice of his eye for wisdom, for example, is Grodin’s favorite allegory. The mistakes that he made when he was young were, as he thinks of it, the same as the sacrifice of Odin. The god, I’m sure would disagree.

That said, Grodin has built up an excellent company, mainly by being astute enough to hire the best people. When he started Munin, the focus on memory and storage was no accident. He saw the digitization of media on the horizon and knew that there would have to be a way to keep it safe. The floppy disks of times gone by weren’t going to be enough, so Grodin turned the technical knowledge he had, teamed up with Brummitt and Borshimer, and built their company. Now you have to work to find a computer that doesn’t have Munin Scientific technology in it somewhere.

Of course, it must be remembered that there were two ravens on Odin’s shoulders. So what about Huginn? Well, that ties into the project that Wach was on and why he got axed from it. It speaks to Grodin’s need for godhood. If it works, it’ll change the world, and you’ll know about it as soon as I do.

Story Ideas:

  • The Huginn Project

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Day One Hundred and Nine: Mystery Man

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The only life I’ve ever lived is my own, and nothing will ever change that.

I’ve come to grips with it, really. I think I have. When my brother was dating, he was a poor black woman, a single mother and an eldest of five daughters before he finally got married to a girl who studied human sexuality because a cousin had felt her up when she was ten and she’s never been truly comfortable around men ever since then. Something about that resonated with my brother, and there must have been something in his life that she liked, but I have no idea why.

Which is, come to think of it, kind of the problem.

The women I meet get frustrated with me because I can’t understand them. At first we talk, we smile and exchange pleasantries. Then she takes out her Memory and offers it to me, and that’s pretty much the end of the date. A real man, a whole man, would do the same, and they would spend a few minutes plugged into each other. They would know each other inside and out, soup to nuts, warts and all, and then decide if they wanted to stay together. Their Memory, and the microscopic robots that recorded every instant of their existences, would be all they needed to know about each other. If they thought it could work, then it would be off to the city hall to register. Otherwise they’d shake hands, split the bill and be on their way.

I sweep floors in a bar for a living. I could do more, but most jobs require that you hand over your Memory so they can decide if you’re a good hire or not. Some guy from HR takes a look at what you’ve done from birth until five minutes ago and makes the decision right there. It’s a perfectly reasonable decision, There’d have to be this whole process of interviewing, like they did when my great grandfather was just out of college, and that was never really reliable. People could lie, they could put up a good first impression to hide glaring flaws.

Not anymore. Now a quick assessment can be made and the risk is next to nothing.

All that means a guy like me isn’t going to get hired for much more than what I’m doing now. I have no Memory, at least not one that anyone else can see. When I was a newborn I nearly died because my body rejected the nanobots. My parents told me later that it was rare, but not unheard-of. “Your brain is defective,” my father said. “You’ll never be a full member of society.”

That was probably the most intimate conversation I’d ever had with him.

My boss calls me “Mystery Man,” and I cringe when he does, but it’s true. Without the hardware that everyone else has, no one can know who I am.

The weekly news was on as I swept up. The anchor, Ellis Cerrano, was very popular at the Life Library – my boss had been him several times, and I think my mother had a subscription. The big story was a criminal trial, something that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. There was no point to committing crimes anymore, at least unless you were absolutely sure you’d get away with it. If the police caught you and subpoenaed your Memory, you were convicted. The whole trial process took less than half an hour from arrest to conviction. If by some misfortune you were innocent, you were back on the streets with an apology and a small sum for your troubles.

I leaned on my broom and watched Cerrano breathlessly tell the story to the world of the criminal mastermind Nuseto KoyKozy, the man who had managed to anonymously steal millions from the richest people in the country. He kept it up for five years, hiding behind aliases and managing to never give up his Memory to anyone. In the end, though, he was tracked down, caught, and his Memory acquired by the police. Within a few weeks, all of the stolen money he had hidden away would be retrieved and returned to its rightful owner.

“Damn shame,” a man said. I stood up straight and looked around. A man in a white suit was standing at the bar, the only person there in the middle of the afternoon. He looked over at me and said it again: “Damn shame.”

I just went back to sweeping. The afternoon was a dead time, but when dinner rolled around, the place would fill up and I’d have a lot more to do.

“I’m talking to you, big man,” he said. I looked up and he was looking at me.

“Me?” I said.

He laughed, and it was a mean laugh. “No, jackass. The broom.” He stood up, his hand outstretched, and I flinched. “Of course I’m talking to you,” he said. He reached down and took my hand. “I’m Tyrone Nikaido. And you must be the Mystery Man that Ibaino has told me so much about.”

I didn’t like the name. I especially didn’t like knowing that my boss talked about me. I took my hand away. “My name’s Narr,” I said, and went back to sweeping.

Tyrone watched me for a little while, his hands in his pockets and his lips pursed as he examined what I was doing. I started sweeping the same spot over and over again, and I could feel him watching me. I could have just hit him with the broom, but then I’d be out of a job. In jail, maybe. Probably.

“You are a unique man, Narr,” he said. I didn’t look up. “There are some people – some very interesting people – who would love to meet you.”

“I don’t want to meet anybody,” I said.

He shrugged. “But they still want to meet you.” He leaned towards me, his voice dropping to stage whisper. “The man with no Memory.”

I dropped the broom and started walking to the back. Inside, I was cursing myself. I’d have to move, get a new job, start the whole thing all over again. I wanted to cry.

Tyrone grabbed my arm, spun me around and looked up at me. “Don’t be stupid, kid,” he said.

“Let go of me.”

“When I’ve had my say.” He led me to one of the booths and had me sit down. I kept glancing around, waiting for my boss to come in and blow up at me, to remind me that without him, I’d be living on the streets.

“You’re a unique man,” Tyrone said again. He glanced over at the TV, which was still playing samples from KoyKozy’s Memory. “That guy did well enough, but it was his Memory that got him, in the end.” He looked back at me. “Once they have that, the game is over. The cops have all the evidence they need to convict, and you’re spending time being reprogrammed.” He said it with a sneer, and I could understand why. There was only one real punishment for crime these days, and the Memory made it simple: re-live the lives of those you wronged. Over and over again until the state was convinced you’d learned your lesson. KoyKozy had wronged a whole lot of people – he’d be spending a long time in rehab.

“A man with no Memory could go a long way,” Tyrone said. He stared at me for a while, to let it sink in.

I didn’t need a while. “I’m not a crook,” I said, standing up. “And I’m leaving.”

Disappearing wouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t have much. All I’d have to do was find another job that barely paid my rent, another landlord who didn’t care who lived in his place. Another city where I could vanish and not be noticed.

I stopped in the doorway and clenched my fists. I knew – I knew – this was a bad idea.

But.

Tyrone was grinning when I turned around. He hadn’t moved from the booth. He was just waiting there like he knew what I would do. My feet dragged as I walked back towards him, and the smile on his face never faltered. I closed my eyes and let out a breath that seemed to have been in my chest forever.

“What do you want me to do?”

Day Thirty-four: Saudade

June 24, 2011 1 comment

It was a feeling too big to hold on to. Every time I tried, the fingers of my mind would slip, like trying to hold onto soap in the bathtub. It was right in front of me, all around me, inside and out, but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t handle it, make it make sense. I had lost everything. Everything. How do you hold on to a concept like that?

The fire department arrived about two minutes after I made it out. Those two minutes stretched into eternity, an eternity where I could see and hear everything I had ever worked for, everything I had ever loved, burn and die. In my mind, I saw the flames eagerly devouring hundreds of books, falling from their shelves as their pages fluttered through the air like the wings of brilliant birds. Books I had read and loved, books I had yet to read. The fire annihilated them, one at a time and all at once.

I remember the neighbors holding me down on the lawn as I screamed and tried to get in.

The rocking chair that my wife’s mother had left us. Solid oak, hand-carved by her father. It was the chair in which my wife had sat as a little girl when she learned her letters, when she read her bible. It was the chair I sat in when our little girl wouldn’t sleep, or our boy wanted to read. It was the chair I sat in on that last night, when the love of my life left this world. It was rendered down into char, stripped and eaten alive.

The fire department arrived in a flurry of noise and light. Three trucks, bringing flashing red brilliance to the night and an order where there was none. The flickering of the flames was brought to heel by the oscillating red brilliance. The aimless wandering of neighbors was undone by the men of great purpose who came to fight fire with water. They turned their hoses on my house, and kept others ready in case the fire spread.

Photographs in the dining room, all in an old Macy’s shopping bag that my mother had given to me. Some of them went back to the late 19th century, images of stiff and uncomfortable people trying to leave their mark on the world through this new and magical medium. My great-great grandmother, in her youth, was a woman of vibrance and mischief, a woman I never would know. If the flames didn’t get them – and I was sure they did – the water would seep in, find them, and insinuate itself. The moisture would warp and twist and inflate the photographs, and if anything at all was left, it would be only a piece. An eye. A hand. The top of someone’s head.

I sat on my lawn, as close as the firefighters would let me get. The night had turned cold, perhaps just in comparison to the waves of heat coming off the home I would never live in again. I was in my pajamas and my coat, the only thing I could grab on the way out. We had played that game, my wife and I – what would you save? And in my head, in the peaceful security of a glass of wine in the living room, I had mapped it all out. Despite the impending certainty of destruction, I would calmly and carefully gather the items I needed – wallet, phone, the bank book – and the items I treasured – the photos, my first edition Mark Twain, our wedding album.

I had none of those. Escaping the house was gone from my memory, erased in a moment of madness and terror. I had myself. I had the clothes I was wearing.

That’s it.

The lady from across the street brought me cocoa. I took it, and I think I said thank you. I sipped it as I watched my house burn. All that I had been, all that I was, was gone. Up in smoke.

So I remembered. I thought of the house, of each room. The living room we repainted three times because the green we thought we bought wasn’t the one we had in mind. The bathroom where our son almost drowned when he was three, where I pulled him back from death on a floor tiled with flowers. The bedrooms that we went back to night after night. The bed that we slept and fought and loved in. There was a cabinet door in the kitchen that didn’t shut right. A chair in the den that we couldn’t move because it would reveal the wine stain on the carpet. The huge dinner table that hosted Thanksgiving every year. That framed painting that our son did in college that a team of wild horses wouldn’t get me to admit was terrible.

It was all there, in my head. In my memories.

I sipped the cocoa. Several other neighbors had come by, asked if I was okay. I may have nodded. The firefighters were shooting water into the upstairs window, into the bedroom that our daughter defiantly painted black when she was in high school. While her mother and I were on vacation, of course.

The house was huge, in my memory. Room enough for decades. For armies of people. Everything we had was in there, somewhere. The feeling of the rag rug in my “study,” the smell of the incipient mildew in the basement. The hum of the refrigerator and the sound of rain on the skylight. It was all there, and bright, and real.

I sat on the lawn. I watched my house burn.

And I was at home.