Small Filters
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Small Filters

Dragon Glass

‘Nothing to be done about it now’

Merry and Keen lay slope-sided on the sheer glass branching out from the 300th floor of tower 3. From here they could see off to the sun and the villages of the west. Like small mountain ranges in the desert. The cliffs, valleys and peaks, embalmed in light.

“Any minute…”

Colour flickered as the sun dwindled. Fusion unashamedly yielding to darkness and then neon.

“Here it comes” murmured Merry under her hood.

Three villages lit up in absolute. Every tower and cone, oblong and pyramid.

Three million souls. Manufacturing districts. Entombed in a soft red glow.

“God no! A consumption field!”

A wave of obsidian ruptured the sky, catching the last sunlight like a glint in it’s eye as it poured towards the earth. For a moment it seemed to float above the villages. Pausing, perhaps to reconsider. Then, as if angered by its own hesitation, flung out three heads on shards of lightning.

Piercing the fields in each of the villages simultaneously, the dragon drew breath. Fire, then darkness.

Then nothing.

The sun was gone now. When it rose tomorrow, it would shine on a desolate plane. Only the great governed city of Sabi remained in this territory. All outlying villages had been consumed by Marr-Kett. Surplus from the equatorial alpine regions had ruled the people here redundant and so their resources were repurposed. Likely to build more villages further south. Closer to the ice line. They would be occupied quickly there.

For Keen, the only thing more terrifying than death by consumption was climbing down. Merry had led her up here and onto the narrow stretch of constructs overhanging the observatory to avoid the usual fee, claiming “It’s easy sis! I do it all the time!”. But she was 9 years old with an underdeveloped sense of vulnerability. At 15, Keen knew enough to be appropriately terrified.

“Did you see how fast it moved!”

“I did” She responded dryly. “But I’m thinking more about the bit before that.”

She held out her hand for her sister as they reached the end of the glass and began edging along the support beam.

“Which bit? When it was thinking?”

“Well…” Keen paused at the entrance to the maintenance shaft. “You go first”

The lights of the city were in full colour below. Holographs a hundred, sometimes two hundred feet tall wandered the spaces between towers while every surface blazed and screamed at every sensory target it could identify.

Inside was peaceful. Soft yellow, like the moments before sunset, dripped down from the top of the shaft as they began their climb.

“I can’t help wondering…” She continued. “Why would it pause to think?”

Merry gave a puzzled look. “Maybe it thought it made a mistake”

“I don’t think so” She trailed off as she spoke.

‘AI’s don’t make mistakes’ she thought.

***

“What was that?” The CEO of Rainforest Corporation bellowed over the vcom.

“A minor accounting error” came the tepid response. “Our analysis of the previous quarter for bio-organic polymer printing in settlement 257 was off by 0.8%”.

“You mean we could have kept it?”

“Yes but it was too late not to act. Would have raised questions. Much simpler just to wipe all three and start fresh somewhere with a more efficient supply chain. The nano swarm recovered 99.7%”

There was a murmuring of voices.

“But what about the error? I thought the treasury had upgraded.” came an unrecognized voice.

“Sorry…Uske Lonm, CEO, Qspace Inc”

“They have, but the technology is imperfect as you all know. With the economy growing at pace, the calculations have become extraordinarily difficult. Making these calls quickly and decisively is the only way we maintain hegemony. Losses are shared proportionally, as are profits, but we must, at all costs, be seen as equal victims. Strategic sacrifice is our only option.”

There was a rumble of agreement.

“May I remind everyone, that since the Diffuse Market Intelligence came into service, not only have your profits increased, your lives are now your own. Your plebs believe you share a common enemy. People are united. We are united”

He paused to clear his throat.

“…and in absolute control.”

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The Belligerent Optimist

The Belligerent Optimist

Sociologist, Social Entrepreneur, Sci-Fi nerd.