Flash: The Rising Cost of Automatons

Taendragor Ends Trade Negotiations with Galania

Nosson's skyline.

Business leaders pressured government trade representatives to halt crucial talks.

Breysa Eyon introduced an international petition against discussions aimed at new international treaties. The Eyon Industries CEO and Taendragonian powerhouse of netwabi production brought all talks to a standstill. A delegation of company leaders met in secret over several months to organize the movement. Their message focuses on spirit use and sustained interaction with the gods. Supporters implore resistance toward government intervention and spirit-directed treaties.

Officials granted the industry giant a visit to the trade conference after weeks of delay. Attendants within the meetings cited a concern about bribery and corruption. However, it seems that curiosity won out as the conference leaders allowed the visit.

As usual, Ms. Eyon attended in the latest fashions and with her personal bodyguard. This time, her oft-seen party-crazed tabloid persona was noticeably absent. Instead the young woman presented herself with a stern grace more-reminiscent of her departed mother. Without more than a stilted curtsy, Ms. Eyon presented a signed statement with approximately 150000 signatures. The statement was co-signed by twelve partnering spirit-tech CEOs. Additional signatures were from community leaders across the Taendragor continent. An infodisc, reportedly containing an additional million signatures, was said to represent “additional peoples of Nalan that choose to resist unrepresented choices toward a dark future.”

Delegates from every kingdom, nation, and state-entity were at the negotiations. The visit initially garnered intense scrutiny for its interruption of international politics. However, Ms. Eyon’s position in the market has left an expectant caution toward her presence and the petition’s demands. Analysts discussed the possibility of shared technology agreements that could arise from forced alliances. The petition may be a perfect catalyst for the change long-desired by private-sector markets. However the results fall, industry experts warn that this power-play has begun a larger movement to negotiate directly with world governments. Eyon Industries may be positioning itself toward a takeover unseen in recent history.

From the Company to the World

The Automaton Doctrine, an Eyon Industries internal policy, provides much of the groundwork for Ms. Eyon’s petition. Many tenants are pulled straight from pages of company guidelines. Normally, the doctrine’s audience is intended for participants of high-level acquisition decisions. The Automaton Doctrine sets her political beliefs as a matter of company policy. Every employee attends mandatory training on Spirit Singing and its dangers. Weekly regional briefs include an overview of regional gods and cultural foci.

These company policies have been examined and ridiculed before. Opponents state that the training is useless and dangerously biased. Others feel as if the practice is understandable though a little heavy-handed. Ms. Eyon maintains that the training is crucial for a company environment so steeped in the use of Spirit power. For safety or not, Ms. Eyon is a well-known proponent for open-spirit laws. Her policies have been used to make notable progress against Taendragor’s restrictive practices.

Now, that policy has been rewritten into demands toward an international audience. The petition is outlined in a prioritized list with the following sections of argument:

  • A restriction of government interference in all matters of Spirit.
  • A call for the immediate and complete deconstruction of any wards and netwabi that trap, limit, or otherwise influence the gods.
  • Limit, or end entirely, any practice that knowingly redirects worship toward mortal deification.
  • Destroy any records of true-names, god-names, or Aldyati.
  • Consolidate idolized imagery into one of the four elder gods.

The Cost of Automatons

Outside of Eyon Industries, the largest contributors to the petition are well-known Automaton manufacturers. This has been identified as a key reason for the sudden intervention. Technological limitations have kept Automaton development stagnant for years, and the proclamation of true automation still seems ages away. Researchers have been complaining about restrictive legislation for years, even outside of Taendragonian borders. There is little public research that reveals how legislation has limited the Automaton developers, but recent polls show that popular support is on the rise for deregulation on Spirit Singing.

Advanced Automaton models seem more than capable to serve as household assistants and constant workhouse aides, but the cost of such devices has hardly diminished over time. Netwabi-borne machinery has been developed for the better part of a millennia in most developed state-entities. Despite this, critics argue that their functionality is mostly refined rather than improved. Miniaturization has led to advances in the number of functions available to customers, but these gains are incremental rather than transformational.

These claims, and topics, were discussed in earnest in a little-seen interview with Ms. Eyon several months prior to the meeting. She stated that “…transformation will only arrive when we let go of these power-hungry caches that we have developed. Everyone has them now. Has had them for ages, I suppose. They have to go.”

Ms. Eyon’s opinion on the matter seems to have grown more serious. She left the trade meeting after this brief speech: “I know that you think of me as something of a fluke. I take it, from your rather shocked expressions, that I have surprised you with this bit of seriousness. But let me be clear. We need to change. And I will no longer idle away my time waiting for government to reach the conclusions that we must all arrive upon. Nalan will die if we do not release our control on Spirit. The world needs the gods returned to their natural state. This petition guarantees that.”

Shock and Ambivalence

Galanian Counselor, Deffar Eyresia, disagreed with the intent of the petition and its source. “Breysa Eyon is well-respected for her company’s contributions to the world, but we are not beholden to her whims and beliefs. International law is no place for profit-minded decisions, and the spiritual nature of these demands is an affront to the multitude of religions we represent as an international consortium.”

Counselor Eyresia has been a long-time defender of religious freedoms and has rejected 90% of all bills brought before the Galanian Council on religion. Galania is also home to the world’s leading research institution on netwabi development. There seems little chance that the Galanian Union will capitulate to Ms. Eyon’s demands. It is, as of yet, uncertain as to how the young CEO plans to enact her proposal. Eyon devices are fashionable and well-loved by fans of the company, but Galania markets account for less than 5% of Eyon profits.

Taendragonian leaders were unavailable for a statement on this developing situation.

 

Reporting by Lefon Anterah
Nosson Journal

Flash: Twilight Spider

Talking to Shadows
Issue No. 25231

1 January 1923

Archivists Note:
This letter was published within the last known issue of the infamous “Talking to Shadows” semi-annual magazine. There are numerous accounts from newspaper editorials and, later, news reports themselves, that speak of the Delossi Process, but this has been identified as the earliest credible presentation that someone had identified a rising change of the status quo. Of particular interest is the mention of a group of elders, and their intent to perform some manner of negotiations, but the results of this meeting are so far left to our imaginations. It is, as of yet, unknown whether the writer had a personal acquaintanceship with Madame Delossi, but both were certainly prominent figures in the ensuing period of unrest. They demonstrably knew of each other, but it is inconclusive as to where they obtained such knowledge. Wherever they knew one another from, it is intriguing to discover the initiation of what later became a vicious rivalry that spanned throughout centuries.

Editor’s Letter

A happiest of New Years to the readership. Hopefully, you are waking with a rather minimized hangover. Hopefully, you recall a rather clever use of muffling mentioned in issue 1528. The world should be a tad more tolerable after proper application. Otherwise, let us look forward to these next weeks, these next months, as a time to strike boldly toward the goals that sustain us. Bring in those that deserve our knowledge, build the interconnections of our communication webs, and seek out new applications of those core abilities brought to us by the mastery of talking to shadows. And, most of all, use our capability to strengthen the world and its foundations.

Now, having made mention of the core abilities, it may indeed be time to reiterate those with an emphasis on usage and intent. Surely, the proper use of shadows never strays from our minds, but knowing recent events it is worth an additional moment of thought.

Firstly, it is well documented that some specialists are able to glean combined knowledge from what lingering dead populate all that is cast between light. Importantly, none do this without serious cross-referencing with both the Books of Shadowspeak and public resources. We must all be very aware of the responsibility weighing our shoulders at the possibility of illumination from the past. Even seemingly innocent drivel, from the furthest reaches of time, may have far-reaching affects that are not easily seen by those of us lost in the present.

Secondly, others among us hone that fine ability to pass whispers at the speed of light, or rather as is more apropos, shadow. This tremendous ability has been a most fine aid throughout the millennia. It is no idle boast to claim that our group has saved whole countries, whole continents with the lightning-quick spread of alerts and warning. However, we also spread such information with the care required to allow for misdirection and negate suspicions. It would hardly be of use if we ourselves were not kept safe by our own techniques. Gladly, the rise of radio, of that frightful electron, has made some requirements of this particular skill easier than ever.

Thirdly, though certainly not minimized by the ordering, there are also those upon us with success at visual illusion and misdirection. Notorious for its difficulty to perform, let alone master, it is nonetheless amazingly useful on levels personal, regional, and global. I myself have struggled to build relationships with our departed required for such tasks, but alas those dead to me seem rather reluctant to convince their fellows. Yet, such is the danger of shadow optics. It is beyond reprehensible to lie to those from the beyond in order to convince them of your importance or familial ties. Those bonds we form with the undying must be true and solidly based on reality. Let us never forget the complete loss caused by a simple lie in Rome. There is still little guarantee that the truth of Christianity will ever surface now that the rumors have spread into the hearts of those long passed. Of lesser gravity, but still terribly important, we must never use illusion for such folly as is attempted in mass-hypnotism expositions. Our talents are not those of simple tricks, and the misuse only lessens us and those who follow our creed.

All combined, these are valid and trusted methods of shadowmancy that have been carried forward through generations upon generations. These are the foundations of work that we carry out from day to day. These are the tenants that we nail to doors and uphold with both hands. These are the pillars that build our church.

However, recently it has come to my attention that an elder among our group has claimed a new technique. Please, disregard this dangerous work if you find yourself in possession of Madame Delossi’s essay. Her theories on transportation through shadow have only ever been but wishful glimmers of fancy. Even if possible, though it has been stubbornly disproved time and time again, it is a horrid menacing desire. Entrusting one’s mind and body to such danger, liaising with netherfolk so that life wanders among death, would be calamitous at best. Souls must not breach from one plane to the next, and no protective companionship with the dead will prevent this from attracting the attention of every wraith ever clinging to the edges of Earth’s veils.

Already, I have heard and read of reports from those that have acted on this spurious knowledge. Lives are being lost, friends. A concussive force of darkness obliterated the light in Dallas just last month. Dawn finally broke through just yesterday, but a gloom has set upon the city. Dust storms were engineered to account for such an oddity, but losses of productivity and peace have been unaccountable. Earlier this year, two boys, brothers attending the illustrious Shadow Sept in Eugene, barely escaped with their lives after a nigh-hour attempt that collapsed a butte on itself. Specialists have managed a fine reenactment of mudslides to diminish the abruptness, but several projects have been set aside for months to prevent chaos.

Please, I beg of you, refrain from attending to Madame Delossi’s claims. The rest of the elders are discussing matters of publication standards with her as we speak, and we will surely find a happy medium to settle the unease caused by this tumultuous miscommunication.

As an extra precaution, this issue will have a focus with topics on defensive shadowplay and muffling techniques. As always, take every chance to develop a prowess of mind that does wonders at refining the separation between shadow and light.

Until next issue, may the whispers find you.
– T.S. Canthry

Review: Grimbargo by Laura Morrison

The text Grimbargo and Laura Morrison
Grimbargo by Laura Morrison, cover cropped

‘Jackie’s theory was that a lot of deep thought was the result of pondering death and the meaning of life, and that post-Greywash there was just no urgency anymore to explore those topics, so people just shoved those musings to the back of their brains to rot.’ – Jackie (Laura Morrison, Grimbargo)

Grimbargo is a sci-fi thriller murder-mystery in a world without death. I mean, mostly without death. You see, there’s been one of those: A death. For the first time in over a decade.

Weird, right? Could you imagine what would happen if nobody could die? For years? Years upon years? Well, Laura Morrison does just that. In fact, it’s the core premise that drives this book and many of its characters’ actions. The Greywash, a worldwide nanotech event, has rendered everyone immortal.

As Jackie points out above, the lack of mortality changes things in a world that no longer fears time. Injuries, even death, are just healed away. However, Grimbargo focuses on the aftermath rather than the event itself. Throughout society, people have fallen into a stagnant philosophical pond of meaninglessness. It’s only been a decade, but culture is already starting to get weird. Groups form to test different methods of suicide. The religious struggle to figure out which apocalypse happened to who. Killing a bad driver is almost acceptable. Eating, breathing, and sleeping become frivolous luxury.

Yet this is just background. The world is set, described, and put in motion within the first dozen pages. Plot gallops forward after that friendly hello with world building. One thing is clear from the start, this book will not be boring. Setting, characters, and plot weave together in a frantic rush toward secret plans and frantic escapes. The wild-ride of Saturday-Morning doomsdays pays enough attention to reality to toy with fantastical ideas, but the story lets fun triumph over hard-science. After enough twists, turns, and deaths to paint a maze red with blood, Laura Morrison leads readers to a satisfying ending of farce sprinkled with depth.

Characters

Jackie Savage, on a reporting job, is doing a fluff piece on how people feel about the anniversary of the Greywash. She’s a sarcastic sort, and starts with a glib air toward her fellow undying. Jackie shows herself to be sarcastic, stubborn, brave, and impulsive with a core of distrust and fear of losing control. Most of her actions seem driven by rejecting greater responsibility, and throughout the story she seems to struggle with sincerity to avoid self-reflection. Jackie’s arc consists of accepting a place in larger schemes and surrendering to events outside of her control.

The face of a woman in a nun's outfit.
Grimbargo Cover Art

Docent Jamie Nguyen is introduced giving a tour inside the Women’s Institute of Sciences and Technology (WIST). Risk-averse and rules-minded, Jamie develops as a strong opposite to Jackie’s flippancy while maintaining strength in self-confidence and logic. She lived with WIST her entire life and indoctrination shows in her actions and mannerisms. Pleasantly, Jamie gets a breath of freedom as the story progresses which leads to entertaining fish-out-water moments along with lovely long-term growth. There’s a solid arc leading from timidity toward authority figures to the sensible questioning of even the most well-regarded leaders.

Readers meet most of the cast within a few dozen pages at a more-than-manageable pace. Each of the characters stand-out without having to wonder who they were. The important individuals certainly stick in the mind. Morrison crafts voices that are comfortably distinct per person. However, only the main villain, Lady Airth, is truly unique in tone. She felt like the strongest presence throughout the book. Others, such as suicide-club leader Trigger or WIST conspirator Lady Morse, seem diminished by unfulfilled potential. A reoccurring element of the characters is that they are nearly entirely defined by their actions. Though a strong element of character development, it leads to well-defined individuals only if they have time on-page. The less-seen characters might have benefited from an extra jolt of additional sensory elements.

Plot

The recipe for Grimbargo is not going to take anyone by surprise. Two ordinary folks are caught in a murder mystery that reveals a worldwide conspiracy. However, the roads that lead from start to finish are fun and the scenery is pleasant. The driver, Morrison, enjoys taking both shortcuts and the scenic route. She routinely throws characters into awkward absurdity at their expense but lets that absurdity lead to a splendid cold-storage location for medical samples. Many similar moments were happy detours into silliness and lighthearted philosophical ranting.

Yes, sometimes the plot took a break and got a drink in a bar down in some back-alley locals’ place. At one point, this results in a hilarious discussion about cold-blooded animals that does little to progress the story. But, as stated before, the author seems more intent on having fun and enjoying the journey. It’s refreshing to see characters that are almost stupidly human. Some might find frustration in some of the roundabout developments, but the very nature of the characters being “average” is that they were unlikely to take the most direct route. The result is a surprisingly relatable series of decisions in an insane world.

A ready suspension-of-disbelief is going to be helpful for this story, but there isn’t anything that stands out as an egregious error in the chain-of-events. Some of the character motivations, such as Jackie’s willingness to overcome painful risks, could be strengthened. Still, there’s enough in her characterization to suppose the reasons why. Key conflicts, like a certain plane ride and the departure of the scene’s antagonists, would also have been helped with some tweaking of the deus ex machinery. However, the rationale and understanding are comfortably available without straining through mental gymnastics. The plot is solid and follows genre-honored rules of action and overcoming danger. Morrison’s execution of many moments, such as the main antagonist’s final departure, are grin-inducingly amusing twists of fate.

Overall

Grimbargo is an entertaining action-adventure-mystery that’s hilarious and bright despite some rather dark elements. The characters are either likable or understandable enough to empathize with their plight whether supposedly evil or not. The plot is quick and clear without being boring or predictable. Everything fits in this world, and there are hints of depth behind the sarcastic banter and witty snark. The core ideas, that of death and bodily-autonomy, are great foundational ideas to ponder and work well within a vehicle of immortality through nanobots. There’s scenes and ideas and imagery that are sure to be entertaining for conversations. All-in-all, Morrison provides a delightful escapist sci-fi story of colorful characters that’s easy to read.

Four Stars!

Get it here: Purchase on Amazon
Published by SpaceBoy Books

The Author: Laura Morrison

Clarity and Readability – A star for rating stuff.
Originality and Interest – A star for rating stuff.
Cohesiveness and Setting – ratingStarHalf
Characters and Development – ratingStarHalf
Enjoyability – A star for rating stuff.

*Note: A digital Advance Reader Copy (ARC) was provided to facilitate this review.

– J.A.