13. She’s so sharp, sharper than cheese

J. Geils Band—So Sharp

Charles is working on a draft of a new blog post. He’s not sure where he’ll post it and not at all sure it will be received positively wherever he posts it. This one’s hot, he thinks. I need to talk with Chip about this before I post it. He texts Chip, who says, “Come on over to my office.” Chip throws on his jacket and walks across the street to Chip’s office.

“’Sup, your Dudeness?” Chip asks when Rita ushers Charles into the office.

“I’ve written this blog post about the interactions of really smart people, especially those who are eternally the smartest guys in the room.”

Chip replies, “Or gals?”

Continue reading “13. She’s so sharp, sharper than cheese”

14. I am so into you, I can’t get to know the nurse

Atlanta Rhythm Section—So Into You

Edie and Charles went to an amusement park and got on a Ferris wheel ride where the cabs spun on their long axes. Partway into the ride, Edie couldn’t take the disorientation and said, “I’m going to barf.”

Charles grabbed the wheel that controlled the spinning of the cab and constantly cranked it to keep the cab upright throughout the rest of the ride. His arms and shoulders were on fire as he struggled as the ride continued for what seemed like forever. Throughout the rest of the ride, Edie howled, “I’m gonna barf! Oh, my God, I’m gonna barf!” Continue reading “14. I am so into you, I can’t get to know the nurse”

14. The truth is lost and maybe never to be found / Like the shadows of my panty line

Kamelot—Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)

Charles is dreaming.

He meets Sigourney Weaver secretly in the back of a cruddy coffee shop, far away from the windows. They are involved in some sort of illicit undertaking, a plot, a heist, or something similar, and they quickly leave the shop, then walk the streets quickly, aimlessly.

Finally, in a large gathering in a roomy house, Sigourney takes Charles and another plot member each by the hand and winks, leading them into a corner of the huge living room, which is dominated by a king-sized canopied bed. She means to take them both to bed, but there are children all around in the living room, clamoring for autographs from Sigourney the star. Continue reading “14. The truth is lost and maybe never to be found / Like the shadows of my panty line”

15. Blow up the world with strange magic – Trial

ELO—Strange Magic


Jeannie D’Arcy, wearing a long wrap-around skirt, a white peasant blouse, jeans jacket and desert combat boots, walked into the coffee shop and ordered a soy salted caramel mocha. She also grabbed a pack­aged vegan blueberry banana muffin. Impatiently, she sat down in a booth to eat the muffin and flipped open her iPad, settling it into the groove of her Bluetooth keyboard.

That damn Harlon, she thought, as she gathered her wavy auburn hair into a ponytail. Son of a bitch is on my last nerve. Continue reading “15. Blow up the world with strange magic – Trial”

16. Blow up the world with strange magic – Apprentice


At four o’clock, Jeannie packed up her stuff and got ready to walk back to her car. As she got up to go, she realized her right ankle hurt. Bending over to examine it, she saw a little cut that still bled a little. OK, that’s pretty freaky! That’s where Lady Zhurong nipped me with her sword! Jeannie’s brain seemed to lock for a moment. What . . . the . . . fuck, she thought. She shook her head and shivered. There’s no fucking way, no fucking way. I must have scratched it on the edge of the booth or something. She hurried out of the café onto Hayes Street and headed south.

She’d parked on the bottom level of the underground garage in a remote corner be­cause she figured she might have to change in her car. She got into the car and dug around in the suitcase in the back seat to get her slinky sequined black dress and her black heels. She pulled the dress over her head and wriggled out of her peasant blouse. Then she squirmed to get the dress over her long skirt, which she then pulled off. Ditching the combat boots and grabbing her black purse (which contained her little black Remington RM380), she strapped on her heels. Finding her makeup bag, she did her lips and lashes in the rear view and patted on a little powder. Continue reading “16. Blow up the world with strange magic – Apprentice”

17. Blow up the world with strange magic – Acquisition


Weeks went by, with Jeannie still living with Juston. They kept separate beds but spent most of their spare time together. Juston told Jeannie more about Chaos Magick, and even had a few mage friends over for dinner. Jeannie went to Magic Universe drafts but didn’t play any games, afraid that she might inadvertently use her magic to win. MacAllan got the federal contract, and Juston hired Jeannie to be the AI team lead.

Both of them were at a loss as to how Jeannie could control her power. Jeannie, for her part, was so paranoid about accidentally using magic, that she carefully examined all her reactions to other people, hoping to tamp down her emotions. When stressful situations came up at work or with other people, Juston would helpfully whisper or text her, “Foolish Chaplain says chill.” Continue reading “17. Blow up the world with strange magic – Acquisition”

18. Blow up the world with strange magic – Mastery


In the weeks following, Jeannie spent a great deal of time pondering the problem of broadcasting her power. It’s not like it’s a radio message, she thought. I can’t, for example, just take over the AMEBA array to broadcast healing worldwide. I need something with greater reach.

One day, Jeannie asked George, a co-worker, about some classified technology that she thought could help the project. Continue reading “18. Blow up the world with strange magic – Mastery”

19. Blow up the world with strange magic – Healing


Jeannie released the army of chatbots at the height of international tension following a gruesome live beheading of five journalists in Syria. The bots swarmed through the NSA machine out onto the myriad networks to which the computer was connected, especially the social networks. They were targeted at all manner of dark behavior, from organized terror networks to lone-wolf terrorists to garden-variety extremist trolls.

Once latching on to a target, the bot engaged the person in dialog that incrementally steered the conversation toward an examination of the subject’s reason for living. Often a subject would break off the communication before the end of the process, so each chatbot could assume different identities and personalities to keep engaging with the subject. Continue reading “19. Blow up the world with strange magic – Healing”

20. Blow up the world with strange magic – Integration


Jeannie realized she was reaching the edge of her ability to continuously digest the tremendous flows of information the chatbots were generating.

I need a better inter­face, she thought. Perhaps I can enlist other senses. There’s only so far I can push my visual and auditory abilities. I need to engage my full sensorium. Despite the surge of power she fed on from the generation of empathy, she was exhausted. She tried to think of new ways to assimilate the information but drew a blank. She decided to ask Juston for help. Continue reading “20. Blow up the world with strange magic – Integration”

21. Blow up the world with strange magic – Immersion


After two months, Jeannie’s suit was ready for a fitting. Jeannie showed up on a Saturday and noticed that the lab was empty. Andrew said, “I sent everybody home because they need some R&R, and because you’re going to need to get naked again.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Jeannie said. “Tell me what you need me to do.”

“Well,” Andrew said, and then paused. After a moment, he proceeded. “You’re going to need to rub a special conductive oil all over your body. Without the oil, you’d have a devil of a time getting the suit off. You can apply the oil everywhere except your back. I’ll have to check you all over before we try on the suit.”

Poor Andrew, Jeannie thought. The things he does for science: Staring at naked ladies and trying not to get hard. “OK,” she said. “Give me the bottle and I’ll lube up.” Continue reading “21. Blow up the world with strange magic – Immersion”