Yousef At the Ruby Sea

Yousef found a spot on the beach near the water and sat down.  His father’s words echoed in his mind.  He picked up one of the small, purple crystals – millions of them dotted the pink sand – rolled it between his palms, and looked out at the sea.

The ruby-colored water was calm today.  Small waves crashed onto the shore.  Yousef thought that they must have looked like giant tidal waves to the tiny creatures that scurried away as the water chased them up the sand.  The  three moons crossed the blush sky and dim stars blinked behind them.

Grandfather was the first of his family to come.  Yousef remembered a photo that Grandfather had hanging on his wall.  Grandfather told him it was of a place called the Red Sea.  Grandfather would stare into the distance as he told stories of his childhood summers spent at the beach.  Grandfather had loved the beach, but had not lived long enough on this world to see the Great Ruby Sea.

To his right, in the distance, Yousef could see the violet mountains and the low-hanging clouds that never left, floating just below their peaks.  He wondered if his father was right – maybe it wasn’t his fight.  The Zukhani had dominated life here for as long as anyone could remember.  They controlled the lion’s share of natural resources, and were quick to violence to silence even the slightest breath of dissent.

A cool breeze pushed through the humid twilight.  Yousef lifted his face to catch the sweet scent from the fruit trees that pushed their way through the sand behind him.  If Grandfather loved the beach at the Red Sea, then Yousef was sure that he would have loved this place as well.  Grandfather told him of the small boat that he kept moored outside his house.  He would spend the day casting and retrieving his nets.  After a long day on the sea he would return with dinner for his family and with extra fish to sell at market.

Yousef had never seen a boat or a fish.  Father had told him that the Inferites had great vessels they took to sea, and said they could catch the massive rubicons that lived in the dark corners of the ocean.  Yousef didn’t believe it.

The Zhukin had welcomed Grandfather and his companions when they had first arrived from Earth.  It was a long a difficult journey; only a single battered craft had survived the event horizon before hobbling through the atmosphere of Zukhanim and crash landing in the Meadows.  The Zhukins’ search and rescue team had saved all the souls who survived the crash.

A black crab raced past Yousef’s thigh.  Yousef’s arm shot down like a spear and scooped up the crab.  He held it close to his face and smiled as the creature’s tiny legs moved like it was still running.  Yousef popped the crab into his mouth, bit down through the soft shell, and tasted the sweet flesh.  Yes, he thought, if the Zhukin must fight, then I will fight beside them.


Mr. Buttons

“You don’t have enough points,” the receptionist said, waiting a beat before adding, “sir.”  She glared at me then glanced past me to the door.  I could only guess that the beefy security guard standing sentry at the entrance was now striding silently towards me, readying to place one of his paws on my shoulder.

“How many goddamn points do I need?  That guy had less points than me!”  I pointed behind her desk to the closed door.  It had just sealed shut behind Kwade.  He had stepped into the darkness and looked back at me with a sneering sideways grin.    She watched me with pursed lips, clearly out of patience as I kept my arm up, trying to make my point.  Just then I felt a flash pain at the base of my neck and in an instant I was down, supporting myself like an injured football player on a hand and knee, staring at the black wingtips of the security guard.

“Alright, alright!  You don’t need to do that – I’ll leave.”  I stayed there on the cracked tile floor until his grip loosened and his other hand curled under my armpit, lifting me up.  Still struggling to get my feet underneath me,  I was propelled to the front door that slid open with a hiss as I crossed the sensor and onto the sidewalk.  Another hiss as the door closed.  A speaker over the door crackled at me in an authoritative female voice, “Good day, Mr. Buttons.”  I had exactly three seconds to step away from the door before it dumped a torrent of icy water on me.  I stepped away towards the gutter.  I turned around and looked up at the monster that held my fate and the fate of so many others.

It was tall enough to break through the blanket of dark clouds, ancient stonework architecture covered in green moss, broken only by black windows that started thirty feet up.  Retrofitted with modern security doors and military grade glass after the revolution, it had once been a lifeless municipal building; presently it contained the secret to all of our lives.  It loomed over a dying city.

“Good day, Mr. Buttons,” the speaker repeated.  I was not foolhardy enough to stay any longer.  I quickly shuffled away, pulling a thin corduroy jacket tightly around me.  Cool air pushed its way through the building unceasingly, pulling along a cloak of cold, soaking mist.  I tucked my chin to my chest and wondered what to do next.

Modules, Merps, and Orby

I’ve been an operator for a little over a year now.  I operate what is known to the public as an Ambassador.  My Ambassador’s official name is 28105-ORB.  I call him Orby.

It goes something like this.  There are many ways that a citizen can make a complaint about a crime or a quality of life violation.  We’ll focus on an emergency call, let’s say a robbery in the park.  A man has just walked his son to a friend’s house, and is now on his way back to his house.  He decides to take a shortcut through the park.  He is set upon by an unknown assailant, who approaches his victim, knocks him to the ground, then goes through his pockets and takes his wallet.  The man is understandably stunned and shocked, and he takes a few seconds to get his bearings and realize what has happened.  During this time, the robber has been making a hasty getaway, on foot, through the park to his block.

The man simply gets himself to his feet, if he can, or crawls no more than ten feet to a small circle that sits in the ground.  It is an alert module.  It is circular and red, six inches in diameter, and is attached to a web of sensors that connect it to the underground network.  We also have wireless modules, but the response time is somewhat delayed, and for our example in an urban setting, the wired version is appropriate.

The sensor immediately reads the hand of the crime victim and senses an elevated heart rate – indicating a heightened stress level.  It also pulls fingerprints and a DNA sample.  An identification of the man is made nearly instantaneously.  At this point all surrounding sensors are activated within a 100 yard radius and the modules begin pulling DNA samples from any airborne particulates – sweat, saliva, hair, skin cells – and processes them for identities.

The man can speak and tell the module what has happened – each module has a boundary microphone which is activated and will record and whatever the man says.  Language algorithms will interpret whatever the man says and respond appropriately.

Module Response Porters – or Merps – will have been dispatched immediately.  Merps are quick and nimble, brightly colored, lightly armored, upright machines; running on two rubberized tracks, a humanoid torso and head a Merp has two crane-like arms with articulating fingers designed for aiding humans, and high-definition cameras for eyes.  There are porters stationed throughout the city in regular intervals.  They do not move but to respond when summoned by the modules.

The closest Merp will respond directly to the activated module.  The remaining merps will surround the module at staggered 20- and 40-yard intervals in 360 degrees to collect visual information, enhance the air analysis already begun by the modules, and to begin an initial pursuit of suspects if necessary.  Response time is no more than twenty seconds to the initial module.  If suspect pursuit is required, a Merp can command the response of one or more Crisis Intervention Specialists, or CriSpecs, to engage.

The responding Merp – now known as Alpha for case purposes – will locate the victim and instantly determine the proper protocol to execute in the following order: access victim’s memory, render aid, transmit description of perpetrator, determine crime committed, analyze victim’s skin and clothing for trace evidence.

Assuming no apprehension is made on the scene, this is where Orby comes in……