Tag Archives: Incognitoverse

Flash Fiction: Beta Testers

Thank you again to everyone who helped me with my comment issue here. I’ve written some flash fiction as a reward. It’s set in the world of Incognito, a romance/mystery story I wrote a few years ago. Warning: the original story has NSFW content (m/m sexual content), but you don’t need to read it to understand this flash story.

Beta Testers

Pike draped himself over Nelly’s chair. “Ooh, shiny and new.” The headset looked painfully delicate. Microfilament lines tentacled out from a behind-the-ear clip. Pike reached for the waving transparent threads.

An electric soldering iron snapped at him like a shock gun. “Hands off, puppy,” Nelly grumbled. Her soft shoulders hunched forward and she had her face-mounted display almost touching the exposed chips. The only sound was the whirr of camera lenses shifting focus.

“If I’m going to run errands for Morgan while she’s off on a case, I should get a reward,” Pike whined. He had been waiting hours for Nelly to finish working. He knew she didn’t eat or sleep like a normal person–he had spent most of those hours sitting on her closed stasis chamber–but come on. “Don’t you at least need someone to, to field test that?”

Nelly’s computerized eyes turned on Pike, rendered on-screen as nothing more than dashes. “Keep talking.”

Pike shuffled his feet and rubbed his arms to keep warm. Still dripping wet from the lake, he shivered in Nelly’s cold server room. Nelly made whimpering noises as she applied emergency drying powder to the headset’s circuits. “I’m sorry, baby. You weren’t meant for this kind of mistreatment.”

“Hey, I’m the one who had to jump three stories into a lake after the thief.” Morgan had taken one look at the sparking headset when he wrenched it away from his ear and ordered him back to Nelly. Not so much as a “good work,” either. “This job is the worst.” Nelly only grunted, but he took that as agreement.

Pike gingerly handed over the headset. The microfilaments curled into blackened spirals. “She had a flamethrower, okay? Built into her arms. If I had any hair or didn’t have self-repairing nanites for skin, I would be roasted. Be glad it was me instead of Morgan or Alistair.”

Nelly’s display switched from black to red. The volcano icons in place of her usual zero eyes were an impressive touch, too. He backed out of the room to let her work.

“I have video proof this wasn’t my fault,” Pike shouted the next time he got permission to enter Nelly’s computer citadel. “Off-world life forms with acidic goo are not my fault.”

Nelly snatched the hunk of half melted hardware from him. “Upload the video from the hospital. Morgan just pinged me–Alistair is out of surgery.” Pike fled out the door before she could say or do anything else. He told himself he only hurried to get to his boyfriend’s side, not to escape Nelly.

“What’s this?” Pike held the familiar headset in one careful palm. He recognized it, but after the last time, Nelly had refused to give him another prototype.

“First one off the assembly at Epiphany Media. I sold the finished design to Alistair’s daddy. Made a mint, too, since that video you sent helped it get off-world compatibility certification. Consider that payment for services rendered.”

“But I just kept breaking them. I hardly ever got to use it.”

“Baby, what do you think beta testers are for? And you’re the best one I’ve had. Good work.” Pike fitted the new headset in place. There were worse jobs, he thought.

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Daily Snippet, 1-24-12

I ignored the kick in my stomach from the fear of being arrested, accused, found out. “They obviously don’t know who I am or I would have been hauled in already. They would have cause enough. If nothing else, just because I have your master key, doesn’t mean I haven’t been trespassing in quite a few residences.”

 “Just as you say. They don’t know.” He crossed his arms. “But I am less than comfortable with encouraging further scrutiny.”

 “I’ve been the very model of discretion. That was, after all, the reason you hired me.”

 “Moreover,” he added loudly, “I haven’t heard anything from you on the case. From my point of view, the issue is no closer to being resolved than it was when we hired you.”

from Incognito: the Vertical Street

I’m having fun being really unkind to my characters. Since I’m skipping around and leaving out scenes, they’re not even getting the full force of it. I’m sketching out the whole plot, beginning to end, before filling in the missing parts. So right now, I’m going through the final clues leading up to the climactic scenes. Which means I’m at my most vicious. Friends are in danger, allies turn their backs, and not even home is a safe haven. I’m a mean, bad person and I LOVE it.

The next part up will be the resolution, when the bad guys get their punishment. I don’t even have to feel bad about that part, so things are looking up.

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Daily Snippet, 1-21-12

I admit, the pause that followed surprised me. I felt a little hurt. I had come there with no doubts that Nelly would take us in. She finally said, “Yes, okay, except no, you have to wait while I get a scanner out.”

“Scanner?” Pike repeated.

I grimaced. “Ah. Nelly’s a little particular about what she lets into her personal space. It’s fine. I think.”

from Incognito: the Vertical Street

There’s just something about Nelly that I love. She’s a little bit Sherlock to Morgan’s Watson, even if Morgan is the detective. Nelly is brilliant and eccentric and loyal. She can also be off-putting and amoral and high-strung. She and Morgan have both made a point of carving out lives for themselves in a society that is not terribly kind or accepting of them, but Nelly is far more ostentatious. She wears her weirdness as a badge and a shield and one of those hand buzzers from a joke shop. She also gets all the best toys and who can resist that?

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Daily Snippet, 1-20-12

I started to walk. I felt like a ghost, an unreal observer of everything happening. There was nothing I could do to help. I knew that, the sensible part of me knew that, so I did not run. I walked. I tapped my headset. “Call Alistair.”

The smoke rose up in plumes until an erratic localized wind rushed down the street and sent all that smoke sideways. Onlookers, kept at bay by fire service barriers and a handful of assisting police, recoiled from the sudden choking cloud. Even at a distance, my eyes stung and watered as I listened to my headset ring and ring. No answer.

“Call Pike,” I told it and it started ringing again.

from Incognito: the Vertical Street

Took a couple days away from writing again. I mostly spent them running errands and shopping. Just trivial stuff. It felt good, actually. I guess I needed to get out of the house a bit more. I’m reading a lot of stuff about what I guess qualifies as life hacking. I’m not really sure, which is part of what I’m learning more about. I’m always trying to work out what I’m doing and how I can most effectively and enjoyably do it. I’m always planning and tinkering. I hope to have some cool things happening in the next few months.

About the scene, well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and all that. I’ve written about fire in two other stories, only one of which ever saw the light of day. That’s House of Cats (see links above) and, no spoilers intended, there’s fire. Repeatedly. It’s a thing.

Fire is a thing in my life and it works its way into my writing often. It’s a long story, sometimes even a funny story, but when I was about eight, I spent a couple days trapped on my family’s ranch, where we were surrounded on all sides by a brush fire. There were trucks from two fire departments living with us, making a last stand to save us because we had about twenty horses, eight people, assorted smaller pets, and no way of getting any of them out. I spent those days half out of my mind from all the smoke, barely able to function. (The rancid meat I was accidentally fed [I told you, long story] did not help matters.) The world was ending.

Brush fires remain my personal hell on earth. I am generally a good person to have in most emergencies. I am calm and competent; if I do not have specialized skills to solve a problem, I am at least a help and not a hindrance. Except if it is a fire. If I am in close proximity to it, even if I am far from home, I will become hysterical, sobbing and hyperventilating. If I am home and there is a fire in the general Southern California area, I will watch the news with a focus bordering on madness. It does not matter that half the damn state would have to burn up before it reached me. Part of me is still eight years old and knows that fire will come and eat me.

So. Fire. It’s a thing. It crops up. On the plus side, I really, really know how to write it by now and I love the scenes that use it. Personal demons make the best fiction.

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Daily Snippet, 1-17-12

“Can’t you just kidnap him?” Nelly looked bored with the whole idea. She was never one for restraint, of course, especially if the only reason was social convention.

“I am ashamed to admit that I have considered the possibility.” I kept sipping the same disgusting drink. I felt too lazy to get up for a new one. It was early and I was stuck sitting on my hands while Pike did all the exciting work. I yawned with my hand over my mouth.

Nelly’s false face echoed the yawn before she said, “Well, I don’t believe in shame so–Morgan, what is that infernal beeping?”

from Incognito: the Vertical Street

I’m not being very consistent with my writing. I can make excuses, like, oh, I was having real human interactions with my friend after weeks of solitude. Actually…okay, that might be reasonable. Whatever. Today, Morgan got to have the same chance to talk to a friend. About work, of course, because what else is there? Is it possible that Morgan and I approach our work in some of the same ways? Why, yes, it is. My characters get all my worst habits.

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