Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 4

    You fell asleep???
    I guess.
    No idea. Alright?

    Karlo paused for a minute, staring at the screen, before quickly adding.

    You said you're a doctor?

    He stared at the screen, expecting something more before...

    Well what?
    You're a doctor. Any ideas?
    On why you're fell asleep?
    I don't know? I'm not really that kind of doctor. 
    Sorry. Didn't know. Although now that I think of it, I don't know much.
    Humor me. You've apparently woken me from Cryo, there is no one here, and you just had me wander to a security room to talk to you. So why don't you fill me in on what's going on?

    A loud, popping sound echoed through the hallways and the thick security door. It happened a few more times but disappeared just as quickly as it came; plunging him back into silence.
    "The fuck was that?" he asked absently.
    He glanced back at the door, waiting to see if the sound would happen again.
    It didn't.
    Turning back, he searched the desk and found a computer mouse and started clicking; trying to activate the eight other screens in front of him. While none of them displayed anything useful, he found that his mouse pointer did move to and fro across the ten screens and clicking on them removed the "EREWHON: Butler v.1.32" splash screen in favor of a username and password prompt.
    He'd need to play with that.

    You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just not sure what to do. Dr. Lethe began.
    Given what you said, let's start with this: what kind of doctor are you?
    I'm a doctor of Xeno-Biology with a specialization in Entomology.

    "A what?" Karlo asked out loud.
    I study alien bugs. she added, apparently sensing his confusion.
    Got it.

    That hung in silence for a moment before he added.

    So if I passed out because I was dying or something...? he asked.
    I could tell you what bug would eat you. 
    But not why?
    No. Unless it was a bug eating.
    Yea. Still, it's probably just the cryo. Humans weren't exactly meant for cold storage. It does all sorts of weird stuff to the system.

    He glanced down at his hands again. Were they shaking or was it his imagination?

    I'm sure you're fine. she added quickly. 
    So...are you one of those people that has all the bugs on the board with the pins and stuff? he asked. 
    What? Like taxidermy beetles? 
    Is that where you stick a needle through a bug and stick it to a board?
    A dead bug, yea.
    That's probably it.
    I do have a few of those, I actually got my first one when... typed out before suddenly being deleted. It was quickly replaced with "Yes, but sorry. We don't really have time to talk about that.
    I'm sure the beetles would be so sad.
    Can you take this seriously for a second?
    Look, lady. I don't really know what I'm taking serious at this point so I'm just riding it.


    Right. Shit. Sorry. Just woke up. Of course. she typed quickly.

    Is everyone you know so cryptic or are you just special?

    POP! POP!

    Hang on. he quickly added.

    Getting up in the crowded little security office, he shoved the office chair to the side and reached the door. Much like the exterior, there didn't seem to be a door handle. Just that same security panel on the side with the same damn red light. 
    He tried knocking on the door. Then trying to pry it open. Then tap on the security pad itself.
    Unlike before, it didn't open.

    Is everything ok? was waiting for him when he sat back down. 
    No idea. Heard something weird.
    Popping sound a few times. Couple of em were loud but no idea what they were.

    For another extended moment, there was no response. Then...

    Don't leave the office. Is the door locked?
    I don't know. Can't even open the damn thing. Why?
    You probably heard gunshots. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 3

    Karlo closed his eyes and fell backwards.
    His fall was cushioned by the soft grass and the loamy soil beneath him.
    He was on the side of a hill and the sun was glowing overhead just as it started to dip towards the horizon. The smell of trees and grapes was heavy in the air and floated over him in wafts of warm breezes from the nearby vineyard. In the distance, he could just make out Krapina through the hills.
    If he really wanted to, Karlo could make his way over to Krapina and join his friends and family. They were all attending the Festival Kajkavske Popevke like they do every year but this year he just couldn't muster the interest to join them.
    He had too much on his mind.
    He was thinking about everything that happened. Everything that he'd been told.
    Only a few days before, he'd been told about an exciting new prospect. A reidite mine had just been dropped on the "moon" of Proxima and they were looking for people willing to risk their lives for some serious money.
    Karlo thought he was just one of those people.
    He had to laugh though.
    Proxima didn't officially have a moon that astrologists ever agreed upon. Instead, where the mine had been dropped was on an asteroid that seemed to maintain a relatively standard orbit around the planet.
    Thought it was technically name ISO-83256a, a few of the people he'd spoken to had taken to calling it "Paradise Valley" for some reason.
    All the same, the idea of riding a trillion tons of rock hurtling around the Centauri B solar system sounded both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
    And then there was the money.
    "Hey there, mister. This spot taken?"
    Karlo opened his eyes again to find his sister, Miljenka, standing over him. She was wearing a big smile along with her summer dress.
    In response, he patted the soft ground next to him.
    "What're you doing all the way out here? I thought you were going to join us at the Festival." she said, curling up next to him.
    Miljenka was his little sister by several years. Despite this though, there had always been a huge size difference between the two of them. She had always been exceptionally petite; taking after their mothers side. At a whopping five foot tall and ninety pounds soaking wet, Karlo liked to make jokes that a large bird or a strong gust of wind would carry her away one day.
    He, on the other hand, was well over six feet and heavily built from years of day labor.
    As such, with no husband or boyfriend yet, his sister always seemed to take comfort in hiding under his imposing shadow.
    "If that's the case," she would tell him. "You better keep me from flying away."
    A pang of guilt hit him as he looked down as his sister.
    God, he was going to miss her.
    "I was just thinking." he offered in response.
    "About your trip?"
    "Yea." she echoed somberly. "Me too."
    That sat in silence for a minute. If he strained his ears, he could just make out the music from the Festival over the gentle breeze.
    "You okay?" he finally asked her.
    "Mmmhmm." she said with a small nod of her head as she gently nibbled on her bottom lip.
    "Come on, mali rotkvica. I know that look."
    Realizing what she was doing, she quickly stopped and pulled away slightly.
    "How long are you going to be gone for?" Miljenka asked quietly.
    "A few years. My contract is officially for five. One year to get there. Three years working. Another year back."
    She watched him, trying to muster a small smile but failing.
    "If you really think about it," he quickly added, "It's really only three. I'm getting paid two years salary to be asleep."
    Miljenka chuckled a little.
    "Only you could get paid to be so lazy, krumpir."
    "It's not like I'm going to go do real work." he shot back.
    They both laughed and leaned back onto the grassy hill, staring up at the slowly dipping sun. A few sparse clouds were drifting like torn cloth across the bright blue sky.
    "I wish it was only three." she said softly.
    "I know, mali rotkvica. I know. But Earth is running short on opportunities these days. Especially if you don't speak English or Chinese."
    "You know English." she shot back.
    "OR if you don't want to be some snob wearing a suit and handing out pink slips to actual hard workers."
    Miljenka shrugged at that and then sighed.
    "Mega corporations are dumb." she said.
    "Yeah." he agreed. "They are."
    They sat quietly for a few more minutes, simply watching the world drift by, when Miljenka finally pushed herself to her feet and stood up.
    "Well, come on." she said, the fire and steel that Karlo felt defined his little sister quickly seeping back into her. "If you gotta leave, we're not spending our last Festival in five years on some hill."
    He glanced from her back to Krapina in the distance.
    "Besides," she quickly added. "I'm sure mom and dad are wondering where we are."
    "Yea, alright." he said, reaching up to take her hand.
    Bracing to pull himself up, he took her hand, pulled hard, and tore her arm off.
    In surprise, Karlo just stared at the severed appendage in his hands. It was still gripping him tightly but it had come off clean at the shoulder. There was no blood. No sign of damage. It was just...not on her anymore.
    "Come on, Karlo." she insisted again and seemed to offer with an arm that was no longer attached to her body.
    He stared at her and then at the limb.
    The hand was twitching. Grasping.
    "Karlo?" Miljenka asked, a look of confusion on her face.
    She seemed completely unphased by the fact she was missing her arm. Or that he was currently holding it and that it seemed to be trying to grab at him.
    The hand was moving. It was grabbing and crawling up his arm. Going for his throat.
    His sister was smiling reassuringly.
    He tried to throw the thing away. To pull it off of him. To get away.
    He screamed, tearing at the monstrous thing on him. The piece of his sister. It had moved up his arm past his shoulder while she just stood there smiling. Its fingers were closing around his neck and...
    Karlo shot up in the chair screaming. The room was dark and musty and a bay of computer screens in front of him showed nothing with the exception of a command line on one and a text messaging box in another.
    The last messages were frantic.

    Are you there?
    What's going on?
    Hey? Karlo???

    "Come on Karlo! Answer me please!" the panicked voice of Dr. Lethe came through over the loudspeaker.
    She sounded like she was sobbing.
    "Yeah, yeah. I got it." he said to no one in particular

    I'm here. he sent to her.
    "Oh god! Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou." he heard over the speaker; quickly followed by, "What the hell just happened?"

    Turn off the mic. he typed.

    In response, there was an audible click and the microphone static cut out above him.

    What was that? she demanded.
    I don't know. I guess I fell asleep.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 2

    The security room was smaller than he would have liked, but he entered all the same.
    He could barely stretch out his arms without hitting some set of buttons, blinking servers, glowing monitors, or half a dozen other technical apparatuses that he really didn't understand
    Maybe the room was actually larger, but as it stood, he couldn't imagine more than a single person fitting in the tight space semi-comfortably. 
   A single office chair, high backed and squishy with extra padding, sat directly in the center of the high space. Its well worn leather and small tears here and there showed a subtle impression where many hours of someone's life had whittled away watching the monitors in this room.
    He shook off the the thought and sat down.
    He had to admit: it was a pretty nice chair.
    Behind him, the security door slid to a close with a soft whoosh and the click of a lock.
    Glancing around, he looked from screen to screen, trying to figure out what exactly he was supposed to even do with this equipment. He knew what he was looking at. Keyboard. Computer. Monitor. Server. Biometrics scanner. Video camera. Speakers. But he didn't completely remember how to work them or, much less, what he was supposed to do.
    Who the hell was that woman?
    Even if he remembered how to use the equipment before him, he had no idea who he was trying to contact.
    It all made his head hurt.
    The speakers chirped loudly, coming to life in the eerie silence of dust and whirring machines and making him jump.
    "Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me? GodIhopeIgottherightchannel...Please. Please be the right channel. Hello???"
    The young woman sounded nearly as panicked as the first time he heard her. Once again, she seemed as though she were half talking to him and half to herself. Or perhaps someone else?
    "Hello?" he responded, looking expectantly from monitor to monitor for some kind of sign that he was doing something.
    None of them seemed to react. With the exception of a black screen flashing a white cursor in the bottom left corner, all of the other screens had "EREWHON: Butler v.1.32" plastered across them and that was it.
    "Ok. Ok...Breathe. It's alright." The woman continued on although the man wasn't sure if she was talking to him or herself. "It looks like you should be in the security room. At least, I can see a silent alarm going off in there. So it's either of them."
    Her shaking voice betrayed her swelling when she said the word "them".
    "Look. If you can hear me, there should be a mic in there. Say something."
    "Something." he responded before smiling to himself.
    He knew it was ridiculous for some reason, but it felt satisfying to respond like that.
    All the same, the woman waited without hearing. Until...
    "Alright, nothing. So here's what I'm going to try. Look at the monitors. You should see me typing on one of them."
    In tandem, one of the monitors blinked to life; changing from the fabulous EREWHON splash screen to some sort of text box. It displayed an ever growing string of nonsense that resembled "SADGASHGASDJGKSFGDIFBBAG" like someone was just banging on a keyboard.
    "Can you see it?" the woman asked frantically.
    "Yea, I can see it." he responded with growing exasperation. "I can see it."
    Hesitantly, he reached out and grabbed the keyboard. His memory seemed to be returning more and more with each passing moment; perhaps as his brain thawed, he wondered to himself. Tapping one of the keys, a patented "A" appeared within the text box below the woman's line of gibberish.
    "OHMYGOD!" she screamed so loud that he grabbed his ears. "YES! YESSS!"
    The man clutched his aching head for a moment before reaching back out for the keyboard. To his surprise, the words flowed naturally from his fingers and actually was easier than speaking.

    "Jesus Christ, woman."

    This elicited another frantic scream of joy and he could swear he could hear her jumping up and down and banging things wherever she was.
    "Yes! Yesyesyesyesyes!" she cheered again. "Ok. Ok. Here we go. Can you hear me?"
    As she spoke, she typed.

    "Can you hear me?"
    "Not technically, but yes." he shot back.


    He could hear her cheering again over the loud speaker.

    "Ok. I'm gonna turn off the loud speaker for now. We can talk through here."
    "Ok." he agreed and heard an audible click followed by silence. 
    After a long moment, he typed again. 
    "Hello?" he asked. 
    "Sorry, Mr. Nadohs. Was just getting everything turned off."
    "Mr. Nadohs?"
    "This is Karlo Nadohs, isn't it?"
    "I don't know."
    "Why don't you know?" 

    The words were simple and logical, but he couldn't help but feel as if they were a touch incredulous.

    "I just don't." he shot back.
    Another extended moment passed in silence as Karlo stared at the blinking text screen. He was about to ask if she was still there when she began typing again.

    "It must be the cryo freeze." she said.
    "Cryo freeze?"
    "Yea. You were cryogenically frozen for the trip. All of the miners were. You don't remember?"

    Karlo stared down at his hands as if they would somehow provide him a response to the hundred questions that just entered his mind. All that stared back were soft, pink pudgy things with a hint of callous.

    "I just said I don't."
    "I suppose you did." the woman agreed before quickly adding. "Sorry."
    "No problem. Can you tell me what the fuck is going on though?"

    Another pertinent question. Another long gap of silence.

    "No. I don't think I can." slowly scrawled across the screen followed a moment later by. "But I'll try."
    "Ok. Let's start with this. Who are you?"
    "Oh! Sorry. My name is Dr. Mara Lethe. Nice to meet you. :)" 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Uncanny Valley - Part 1

    The sounds of electronics waking, gas hissing, and alarms blaring brought him to consciousness.
    He was cold inside as if he'd been frozen for an eternity and even in waking couldn't be warm. He couldn't feel anything. His limbs and fingers refused to work how he wanted. They were heavy as lead, tingling only ever so slightly with a faint buzz like electricity.
    Leaning forward from his metal coffin, the previously sealed tube, Adam coughed hard.
    It did little to help his condition, but at least he was still alive.
    His eyes didn't work though. His vision was bleary.
    Where am I?
    He could vaguely recall a brief moment of people standing above him. He had been on a table: cold and hard. Who were they? Doctors? Surgeons? Someone had been working on him but he couldn't remember how or why. He remembered the hot, bright lights and the sensation of their hands digging around in his chest.
    Tenderly, he reached up and touched where he remembered those hands had been. He found nothing. Not even a scar.
    No wound.
    Had it been a dream?
    Above him, a speaker chirped to life.
    "Hello? Hello?! Can you hear me?" the voice of a terrified young woman called out.
    The man jumped, gasping in surprise at the sound over the loud-speaker. His numb hands latched onto the sides of the tube and he gagged in shock.
    The woman continued overhead unabated.
    "Oh please don't be dead. Please don't be dead. Please don't be dead." she rattled frantically over the sound of someone tapping ferociously on a keyboard before suddenly. "YES! You're alive! He'saliveyou'realive!"
    The man's breath hitched in his throat and he found himself staring up at the loud speaker. His vision was clearing but he couldn't process what was happening.
    "Can you hear me?" she asked, her voice softening but still high strung. "If you can hear me, please say something. Please?"
    For a long minute, he thought about that request. How does one speak? Something about lungs and a tongue. A breath and a thought. He coughed twice more before the words formed with little coherence as to their meaning.
    "H-H-Here. I'm h-here."
    No response.
    "H-Here." he tried again. "Hello?"
    Still nothing.
    He was trying to form the words again, to think what to say and how to say it, when the loudspeaker again chirped to life.
    "I can hear...something. But it's not really coming through. It's just static." the woman said, her voice hollow through the speaker as she, once again, seemed to pound away on a keyboard. "Something didn't go wrong did it? No? No? Ok. Ooookay."
    She seemed to giggle almost hysterically before turning her attention back to him.
    "Ok. Just give me a second to think..."
    The man stared at the loudspeaker for a few moments more before looking around. The room he was in was sterile and empty, devoid of anything warm or human even in appearance. Nothing but machinery; hanging tools, dangling wires, medical tables, and more. There were a few other large tubes like the one he had woken up in, but they all appeared empty.
    He was just about to climb out when he heard the woman return.
    "Ok. I got it. If I remember right, there's a little security office down the hall from the recovery lab. There should be a mic in there. We can try again when you find it."
    "Okay." he agreed, though he wasn't sure why since she'd already said she couldn't hear him.
    Weakly, his limbs still heavy, the man pulled himself forward out of the tube.
    It was only as he stepped out onto the tiled metal floor that he finally realized he wasn't as cold as he thought he was. The floor was. Not only that, but wasn't wearing anything.
    "F-f-fuck." he rattled out hoarsely, his teeth chattering involuntarily.
    Glancing around the rather spartan room, he saw very little in the way of anything helpful. More wires. More tubes. More bits and bobs of electronics and gizmos that he had no hope of ever understanding. Things and stuff. Medical equipment and robotics.
    However, as he padded across the icy tile floor wondering if he would be the first person he knew of to freeze to death in a naked and alone in a hospital room, he found small box of various garments in a cupboard near the front.
    Hospital pants and gowns did little to offer much protection, but they were still sealed and sanitary. He threw on several sets of both followed by two pairs of non-slip socks that he found in the bottom of the box.
    All in all, the layers made him look a touch ridiculous, but they at least helped him feel more like a person and less like a meat popsicle.
    Hesitantly, he exited out the only door in the room and, despite any creeping thoughts of monsters or aliens waiting to spring, he found himself in a perfectly ordinary hallway. There were a number of doors in either direction and the hall to the right curved out of sight a couple dozen yards away but that was it. With the exception of a small plastic sign, there was nothing that stood out.

<---                     Assembly
<---  WetWear Integration 
Security                      -->
Management               -->

    Following the sign, the man made his way down the right hall.
    Many of the doors that he passed were labeled with letters and numbers. "AH-321" and "AH-322" went up sequentially on one side while "R-5" dropped down to "R-1" before he reached the curve in the hall. Just around the bend, a heavy set door that stood out with its black and yellow striped frame and "SECURITY - AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY" blazoned in small, blocky letters stood out from the others he'd walked by.
    Only one problem...
    There was no door handle.
    The man walked up to the door and simply stared at it. How was he supposed to open it? There was no handle or any other obvious means to pry it open. The door itself was set into the door frame and was likely made of heavier stuff than he had in him. What was he supposed to do?
    He glanced around the empty, seemingly endless hall to no effect. There didn't seem to be anyone around.
    "Hello?" he called out in vain.
    No one answered.
    It was then that he saw the security panel set into the wall. It was slim and recessed into the metal, but stood out by its jet black coloring and small, red LED that glew brightly even in the fluorescent glare of the hall.
    And, as he stared at it wondering what even to DO with this knowledge, he watched as the red LED turned green with a soft chime. The door slide open with a woosh and inside a bay of computer monitors lit up.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Please be Safe - Hurricane Irma

Hello Lovelies,

I was working on the first entry to the 'Uncanny Valley' novelization piece (for helping me build the game), but I couldn't rightfully find the will to finish until I tapped this out.

Right now, my fellow Americans, literally millions of Floridians, are being pounded by one of the worst storms known to man and the worst hurricane to ever hit the United States. Millions are without power. It's getting dark. The winds are tearing apart the countryside, devastating homes, and have already killed a number of people both through direct damage and through attrition by emergency services being unable to save them.

Please. Be safe.

It's unlikely that any of the men or women being subjected to this will read this until afterwards, but I really do wish you the best that I can. The millions of people that will be without power will be experiencing a different beast all together when they are trapped in darkness with the hurricane pressing in. While I'm a fan of things that go bump in the night, when you don't know whether that bump is something that's about to tear through your home, that's a level of fear I don't want wished upon any of you.

Not only that, but Texas, Cuba, the Caribbeans, and more have already been devastated by these events. Texas by the recent Hurricane Harvey and Cuba, the Caribbeans, and many more island nations by Irma. Millions more have been rendered homeless, jobless, carless, and have been stripped of their worldly possessions after days of torture by the onslaught.

What am I asking here? What am I saying?

Please. If you're in the storm. I beg you: stay safe. If you've been hit by the storm, know that there are men and women that are here and will try to help how we can. And for those of you watching this on the news like me, I ask that you take a minute from your day and see if there's anything you can offer for these people. If you can give your time to go and help these ravished communities, that's amazing. If you can give money to help them rebuild, that's wonderful. If you can give blood to help those hurt, that's fantastic.

And again, if you're in the storm...please be safe.

I know this is far from my normal post and more of a ramble, but I've been watching this footage for going on twelve hours, not to mention the destruction in the Caribbean and Cuba, and my heart goes out.

If any of you know charities or way to help, please share. Additionally, if you intend to give blood, don't forget that blood has a shelf life and while giving at the time of crisis is wonderful, giving a month later is even more helpful.

Oh...and Hurricane Jose might be right behind it...

Please be safe everyone.

- RB

Friday, September 8, 2017

Updates on What's to Come

Hello Lovelies,

I considered trying to put this on the Twitter account but realized it would just take too long with the character limit. So, with that said, there's a few things oncoming.

First and foremost, I know that the stories regarding Braum Stormforge were relatively well received. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed it and, as such, I'm going to be continuing to do little 'adventure tales' regarding Braum's life on the road. So keep your ear to the ground regarding that.

Secondly, in that same vein, I intend to fill out and release a "character overview", i.e. a list of character generating questions to help me personally get to know exactly who I'm dealing with. Recently, I've been encouraged by my beautiful wife (as she is want to do) to try and expand my capabilities and horizons. While the original topic at hand was regarding making my characters more relateable and interesting in my stories, it gave me pause overall. You should be seeing something very soon with regards to a more character driven story (namely in the vein of my normal writing style, i.e. monsters and horror)...but more on that to come.

Last, but certainly not least, with regards to the game I've been working on, code-named 'Uncanny Valley'. I've run into a little bit of a roadblock when it comes to working on it because I simply can't seem to wrap my head the dialogue issue. As it stands, it's not the coding that's stopping me, but the writing (yea...didn't expect to run into THAT). The dialogue feels very hollow and false and I think it's because I'm unable to picture the world around it and really what's going on.

So I'm going to try something different.

As already mentioned, I'm intending to do bits and pieces of the Chornicles of Braum. However I think I'm also going to try to novelize things for Uncanny Valley if for no other reason to help me visualize everything that's going on. Story board doesn't seem QUITE like the right terminology and it's definitely not going to be a permanent product (although I guess what is), but I feel like having it written down novel style like I'm used to will make me more comfortable to explore the world around the characters. Obviously there's no way for me to really explore ALL of the dialogue options in one shot, but I feel like this will, at the very least, let me wander through the primary story.

At that's it for the day Lovelies. I hope you enjoyed and expect more to come very soon.

- RB