Friday, October 14, 2011

Cleaning House

The archives around here have obviously gotten rather patchy. I cleaned out most of the posts, including any related to, well, pretty much all of my longer works. They're frankly embarrassments at this point. Hell, they were embarrassments when I first wrote them. This doesn't mean I'm coming back to work on this any time soon, but I couldn't stand knowing they were still up there for people to see so readily.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jobs: the Hunting

Facing a few job interviews over the next week, and I'm literally stressing out so much I'm making myself sick. So, writing is going on the back burner for a while once more. Hopefully I get some work and get started quickly, which will make for an easier time writing for me.

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 7, 409 words

Sitri crossed the campus as if she had been born there, others scurrying to get out of the way of her determined stride. She probably had soft-screen contact lenses or a wireless neural implant and could call up the campus map at will, leaving Sean feeling like a lumbering, archaic dinosaur with his AR glasses despite being the younger of the two.

Eyes followed Sitri, many male (and more than a few female) students staring openly. Her confident poise and the sharp lines of professional dress gave the impression of someone a solid decade older than her true age. Some students muttered to one another as they passed, Wonder what she teaches, and Too late to get into one of her classes? Sean grimaced as one stage-whispered Who's the runt?, doing nothing to hide a direct look.

He looked away and tried to refocus on his search results, but was far too distracted just imagining that others were regarding him, and with such contempt. Sean valued anonymity, something he got too little of. And which it seemed was about to fly out the window, now that he was one of the Goetia.

Doctor Halloran's office overlooked a small greensward frequented by others with more free time than they knew what to do with, an area between buildings that caught plenty of sun and had a few trees off to one side. Sean had enjoyed the relative peace and quiet, once, reading there between classes or idling around online while he lay back in the shade. But much like Halloran's office, Sean rarely saw the greensward anymore; her sole window was half-obscured by an overstuffed bookcase and a shelf full of knick-knacks, with a gauzy curtain that dimmed the fuzzed what little natural light made it into the room.

It was one of the most horribly stereotypical professor's offices that Sean had ever seen, but for the series of flatscreen monitors mounted on the one single wall. Several had screensavers with twisty fractals dancing across their expanses, while others were clearly busy modeling and compiling code. Halloran, squinting at the screens despite the glasses perched high on the bridge of her nose, flew across the very physical keyboard set before her at lightning speed with a loud clatter of plastic on plastic. A sensor and motion-capture rings rested on the desk nearby, ignored entirely. The doctor was a brilliant theoretician and programmer, but in many ways very behind the times.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 6, 407 words

Dropping into a more sedate pace, but with the occasional extra step to keep up, Sean considered the woman he'd been handed off to. A little icon blinked in the corner of his screen lenses, the results of his search waiting unobtrusively since before Asmoday had dismissed them. He flicked his eyes to them and the window expanded across half his field of vision, translucent so he didn't risk running into someone or something while he skimmed the results. The web browser styled window was horribly archaic, but Sean considered it far easier to keep an eye on the world with text rather than a direct feed.

Several hundred results popped up, even after a smart parsing to get rid of coincidental names and redundancy. Sitri wasn't some mere tech or manager, and despite her appearance was less than a year older than him. Sean ran a filter over the results to sort by age, with some of the earliest results only two years old.

The absolute earliest mention was from a school newspaper's online edition, with the lists of students on the honor roll. Several followed, until a final article about the 16 year old who was valedictorian of her graduating class. More results from a small-town news site about a messy emancipation suit shortly thereafter, culminating in a sudden disappearance and issuance of a missing person report. Legal emancipation obtained when she reappeared several months later in the employ of Stellar Dynamics, an aerospace start-up, which was gobbled up the next year by StarGen. No formal post-secondary education, but several papers and one monograph published already on psychological conditioning for long-term isolation in deep space missions, and the validity of weak and strong AIs for companionship in such circumstances.

One pointed entry on a blog called futureWatch (motto: “Making war on the past... for tomorrow!”) noted how the reader could readily tell how invested in the university and corporate-based research structure a reviewer of Miss Valentine's work was, by how vehemently they attacked her work without substantive arguments against its premises and results. The blog also highlighted a recent announcement from Miss Valentine and StarGen that she would be one of a dozen heading for the void within a year as part of a direct test of her hypotheses. Subsequent grumbling mostly came in the form of complaints against her ability to be objective as a test subject. On this, she was heretofore silent.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 5, 419 words

Asmoday's resembled a set of crosses tagged together at their bases in a symmetrical pattern, while the woman's lamen brought to Sean's mind a set of empty candelabra resting in a deep basin. Neither projected names; it was occasionally advantageous to let someone know nothing more than that you were one of the Goetia, not which one.

“Agares, this is...” Asmoday paused for a fraction of a second, so quick that most would have missed it, weighing how to introduce the woman. “Sitri the Prince, Master of 60 Legions, and one of the up-and-comers in StarGen Aerospace. She shall likely be looking down on the rest of us from a very great height within the next few years.”

“Ah. Um. Nice to meet you,” Sean said, offering her PAN a digital handshake. She took it, though only after a brief but noticeable hesitation as if a germaphobe confronted with an actual hand. Their computers exchanged basic contact information, and she nodded with a muttered acknowledgment.

Adeline Valentine. Well, that certainly sounded familiar, though Sean couldn't connect the name and face in his memory. He spun off a search process to dig out details on the name and StarGen, though wondered how famous a tech or middle manager at an aerospace company could be, no matter how bright she was.

“I understand you've got some business to attend while you're here,” Asmoday asked, addressing Sitri. “Take Agares with you, it's surprising how invaluable a native guide and go-fer can be. But I will expect him back in good condition.”

Sitri nodded. “Where do you suggest I start my inquiries?”

Asmoday was already turning back to his work, fingers flying through air. Distractedly, he said, “Try Doctor Halloran. She's the chair of the CS department and heads up the AI research project. If you can get anything out of her, pass it on to Purson.”

“Will do,” Sitri said before walking away, Sean apparently forgotten. He trotted after her, turning a quick glance to Asmoday, but the older man was wrapped up in his own little digital world, fingers dancing.

That he still used a pseudo-physical interface suggested Asmoday was either vastly behind on the technology curve by choice or circumstance – which Sean severely doubted – or, more likely, he already overwhelmed the other inputs with constant use and needed yet another. Asmoday casually shuffled an order of magnitude more data than most any other human could handle with dedication and focus.

Monday, October 04, 2010

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 4, 377 words

He stopped short when he noticed another person coming up the other side of the table, a tall woman with a purposeful stride and an expression of cold disinterest on her fair features. She, for one, didn't seem the least bit perturbed by Asmoday's off-putting aura, and without a moment's hesitation crossed the invisible border that held most back. Asmoday looked up at her approach, betraying no surprise, delight, nor any other emotion. If she was unexpected, he didn't show it.

They looked... good together, Sean realized with a momentary pang of jealousy. She was slender, tall, and very WASPy, with long blonde hair pulled back to accentuate sharp features and icy light-blue eyes. An image of sharp, lean professionalism complementing and complemented by the strong sense of presence and energy Asmoday wore like a cloak. If Sean didn't know better, he'd say the man was the face to the woman's managerial talents.

The two spoke quietly for a few moments before Asmoday's gaze started to drift sideways. So, not something he felt required his full attention. Asmoday's eyes lit upon Sean and he gestured for the younger man to come closer. The woman paused, looking over to see just for whom Asmoday thought it worth interrupting their discussion. She frowned.

“This is my assistant,” Asmoday said by way of introduction. “He has potential, though he still needs to be cut and polished. Call him Agares.” A file uploaded to Sean's PAN, from Asmoday, and opened to reveal a picture of something like a stylized shield with wings. A small text summary explained: it was the lamen of Agares, Duke and Governor of 31 Legions, the symbol by which the demon could be conjured – and the digital nametag that marked its bearer as one of the Goetia, visible only to others of the group via AR lenses like the glasses Sean wore, and to whomsoever they chose to display it.

Sean blinked. Asmoday had dumped a Goetic name on him as casually as he poured a cup of coffee. Sean had no sense up till that moment that he was to be marked as one of the elect. Now, with his own lamen, similar badges appeared over the hearts of Asmoday and the woman.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 3, 403 words

“We may be demons, but we shall be demons of our word. Noble demons. Treat fairly and wisely with us, and you shall get what you desire, but do not be surprised if we lash out at being handled harshly or foolishly. And just as Solomon built his Temple with the Goetia's aid and expertise, so shall ours be invaluable in building the future for our employers.”

Asmoday paused, looking off in the distance for a spare couple seconds to gather his thoughts. “Some of you, particularly within the founding core of our group, have heard some of this before. The rest of you have been invited to hear this for a reason. Each of you has an invaluable talent to lend the Goetia, as well as a personality and views that would mesh well into the group. Most of you are the rising stars in your fields, with knowledge and a certain daring to push your limits, a trait lacking in many others.

“What I am proposing is an economic alliance of the brightest talents in the Solar system, from psychology to quantum physics, marketing to computer science. Think of the Goetia as the most elite of talent agencies, and yourselves as the celebrity power to be managed and supported. Those few of us who have already self-incorporated have some of the highest stock values of any individuals of our generation, and I trust that the rest of you would join us on these lofty heights if you followed suit. I want to put that all that power to work together.

“Think about it.”

The Seal of Solomon faded away behind Asmoday, and the lights rose in the room. Asmoday sat down at the head of the room's only table and plunged immediately into work on his PAN, while the others present began talking quietly or getting up and leaving. He appeared to type on air, using a virtual keyboard which nobody else's systems had permissions to visualize properly. Even Sean had never gotten a look at how Asmoday set up his control scheme.

Sean rose from his seat at the foot of the table and went to approach Asmoday. It had taken Sean nearly a month to learn to ignore that closed-off aura the older man wore like a shield while he worked, else nothing would get done – Asmoday didn't even seem aware he projected it.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

"Goetia," Symbolism, pt. 2, 368 words

So far as Sean knew, Asmoday had neither boyfriend nor girlfriend – nor, for that matter, any variety of significant other. During a working lunch at one of the little on-campus cafes, Sean had hesitantly commented on a sprightly young woman walking by, only for Asmoday to snap at him for getting distracted. Similar test results came back when using a delightfully muscled fellow in a tight shirt as subject. At this point, Sean was pretty sure that Asmoday just didn't do anything, at least not anything that belonged to the meat world.

Asmoday reached the end of his circuit and spun about to begin pacing across the meeting room once more. He gestured, and a signal pinged Sean's PAN, and that of everyone else watching. A hexagram appeared on Sean's screen lenses, imposed on the background behind Asmoday's pacing figure as if projected on the wall. It was bound in a circle, with Alpha and Omega, Tau, and the syllables of Tetragrammaton arrayed around and within the hexagram's borders. One of the systems on Sean's network helpfully tagged the hexagram as the Seal of Solomon, and offered links to various metaspace sites for further information. He blinked them away, concentrating on what Asmoday had to say.

“Most everyone these days knows this symbol, or something like it,” Asmoday went on. “A binding circle to hold demons and spirits in thrall, so that the mere mortal might command them and bend their expertise to his will. Ancient superstition and absurdity, of course. There's no Hell from which to conjure its denizens. But the symbol remains. The demons remain.” He stopped, looking over everyone with a calm, measured gaze, and tapped his temple. “They remain in here.”

He resumed pacing, hands clasped behind his back. “This is what it would mean for us, to become the Goetia. To assume the public persona of the demons that hide in the heads of others. This symbol,” and he gestured to the Seal, “shows how we may be chained to productive use, but the legends also warn that it is not absolute. The Seal must be handled with care lest the demons get hold of it themselves.