Great Hites Prompt for week 21


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I have decided to make the prompt number match the week number. So if you write for prompt number 21 it will show up when I publish Great Hites number 21

The News From Poughkeepsie – Day 57
June 17th, 2008

Settings Tuesdays

I like abandoned buildings, urban decay, as much as the next person. The potential for fiction, what happened here long ago, etc, is excellent. However, what about shiny new buildings full of people? Why do we never assume they have personality, or hauntings, or quirks? (Indian burial ground doesn’t count, either. I want something NEW.)

The News From Poughkeepsie is a now defunct daily blog post featuring an idea for you to take and do with what you will. Read more about it here. This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. You can take this idea, change it, make something new, and even make money off of it. All I ask is if you create something – anything! – that this post inspired you to make, please link back here.

Find out more at murverse.com

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Sunday October 5th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck.

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Great Hites # 20


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And hear the promo for Chasing the Bard.

Great Hites # 20
The Earth Stood Still on the Day We Wed – By Robert Jahns
The Earth Stood Still – By Anima Zabalada
Last Man Standing – Jeff Hite
  
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The Earth Stood Still on the Day We Wed
By:Robert Jahns

A cold breeze caressed your china white face. Your mother was
beaming, your father held a secret tear. The old preacher droned on in
a monotone voice, reciting the Bible’s ceremony. He had no emotions
left in him, just a job too simple for his high self-esteem.
The ancient church pews threw out groans from the maple seats. Sounds
of children’s giggles made you smile. Uncle Al’s hearing aid squealed
incessantly, yet he could not hear the painful electronic screams.
All fell silent. The clouds froze in the sky.
Uncle Al stood and shouted, “I was wrong. It’s global freezing!”


THE EARTH STOOD STILL
by: Anima Zabaleta

Find more from Anima at
zabbadabba

The earth stood still the day we were wed:
I remember the laughter we shared, the tears that we shed.
The house we built together, of fieldstone and log,
The birth of our daughter, the adoption of Scruffydog;
And the day we found out the cancer had spread.

You were a saint, who could fish and could cook;
Sang songs in your sleep, looked good with a book,
Planted a garden in spring, canned the results in the fall,
Painted stunning watercolors, split wood with a maul;
And made me shiver, with that one special look.

Here we stand now, in the lee of this hill,
Wondering at your bravery , when you were so ill.
You shared all you had your last final days,
I cried inside and out, trapped in your gaze.
Why does the earth revolve? I want it to be still.

Last Man Standing.
By Jeffrey Hite

“Look, there will be plenty of time to toss your life away, human, today may not be the best day.”
“And when would you suggest that I do it Crag?” Brent stared into the face of the alien, who had now become one of his only friends.
“I am sorry for your loss Brent, but it will do your kind no good for you to die uselessly,” He said compassionately. He was right of course, even if Brent hated to admit it. It would be beyond useless for him to add his life to the billions that had already been lost.
“You are right of course.” Crag removed his hand from the air lock controls and took a step back. “I want to see it!”
“That is not wise.”
“I don’t care. I have to see it. You brought me all the way back here I want to see it.”
“As you wish, but you will have to stay in the twilight area. The extremes of either the day light or the dark side will be too much for your environment suit.”
“Very well. when?”
“We will be in orbit in a three standard hours,” even though he had been with them for over a year of his own time, he still had to think about how long that would be. After a few moments of thought he decided that he would have time to cleaned up and get something to eat before he would need to start getting ready.

*****

Five standard hours and a very bumpy shuttle ride later, they stood on Liberty Island, and looked over the remains of New York harbor. Three miles to the east, seas were frozen, and to the west the lands were scorched.
“Who is this statue of?” Crag asked breaking the silence that had lasted since they had landed.
“I don’t know who it was modeled after, but it was a gift from France a country to the east of here, to the land to the west of us. It was a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.”
“Not so universal, I would guess, I didn’t know what it meant.”
“Yeah.” Brent said with a snort. There was a long silence after that until he finally ask the question he had wanted to ask for over a year. “Why did they do it Crag?”
“Brent as I have said before I do not pretend to know the reasons for many of the things the galactic government does.”
“But they had come to us. They wanted to know more about us, then, then this.” He swept his arms wide in either direction to show the utter destruction.
“I don’t know my friend, but I am glad that I was able to rescue you. I just wish I could have helped more of your people.”
“It was my wedding day, and they stopped the earths rotation, they killed my wife.” He said barely controlling the sobs that were trying to break through.
“They killed many millions more and would have killed you too had I not been here.”
“I know.”
“We must leave soon, that suit was not designed for you, and it is beginning to show signs of malfunctioning.”
Brent looked for the last time at the planet of his birth, and wondered if there would ever be a time when he would feel at home again, and doubted it.

Sailing day.

On the day the ship was to be launched everything was perfect. The Captain and crew had worked many long hours preparing the ship. They had gone over it with a fine toothed comb and learned every inch of it. The passengers had booked their trips so they could say they were on the maiden voyage of this jewel of the western fleet.
The captain stood on the bridge of the ship, face turning red as he overlooked the miles of farmland ahead. Building a ship near the manufactures home town seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Hanging on By Your Fingernails

Do you remember the good times? I know I do. I wish we could have them back again, instead of where we are now. I mean, this is really no fun. You might not have enjoyed those times as much as I did. For you there was pain and tears with the torture, but for me it was all just part of the job. I am glad we did the thing with the finger nails. I know that was especially painful for you. But as my new employer tossed me over the cliff, I am hanging on by your fingernails.

GreatHites 19


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This week we gladly welcome back Anima Zabalada with her submission for this week’s challenge. You can find more from her at http://zabbadabba.com. This week I am still having trouble getting my life under control so I don’t have an audio recording yet. Sorry folks, it will be out there soon.

I think that is it funny that last weeks Escape Pod as basically on the same theme as this week’s prompt. You can find that at Escapepod.org

Enough with my gibbering on you came here for the stories right? Don’t forget to go out to GreatHites and vote on your favorite.

Great Hites # 19
THE KUNIKAJI by Anima Zabaleta
Meet the Neighbors By Jeff
  
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THE KUNIKAJI
By Anima Zabaleta

It is time.

I have been looking forward for this day since I was chosen as a host. It’s elective, and no one says you have to accept… but to decline is to never know the ultimate in beauty and terror. But I am also afraid. Once the Kunikaji has been attached, it cannot be removed without certain death. Its fingers, or tendrils, (I don’t know how to otherwise describe it,) mesh with every nerve. The permanent relationship with another being sharing your body and essence is not to be undertaken lightly.

The Kunikaji come from across the stars, with no body of their own, floating on solar winds. When they encounter a world with beings that have sensory nerves, they forcefully take a few dozen (un)fortunate victims. I say unfortunate, because the assimilation is not always easy – a certain percentage do not survive the adaptation. These initial hosts act as mouthpieces, and guinea pigs, allowing the Kunikaji to spread their message of peace and acceptance, and to perfect the selection process. The wonders they chose to relate make it easier to find more willing hosts. But the first ones have no say in the matter, and often resent the intrusion. There is a haunted look in their eyes.

They are parasitic and symbiotic. They do not kill their hosts; they do alter them in dramatic and devastating ways. Indeed, the Kunikaji enhance perception in ways that can only be described as fantastic. Colors are intensified; emotions are more profound; thought becomes more abstract. Physically, the most drastic change is the morphing of the spinal cord; as the Kunikaji grows, it extends its reach, forming a distinctive dorsal ridge. A ganglia mass grows at the attachment point at the base of the neck, and the nerves ripple and pulse under the skin. This process lasts several weeks, and is not without a certain amount of pain. Mentally, I can only imagine… others say it is the most perfect union… but they will not elaborate. Part of the appeal is the mystery.

A Kunikaji host acts as an emotional sponge in their environment. Hosts emit an aura of calm, and absorb pain when it is in abundance, influencing their surroundings; that is why there is certain hostility from the unadapted. On this planet, we have a propensity towards violence and domination, where might makes right and the strongest ones win. When a Kunikaji host is present, these emotions are not possible; the anger that is the root of abuse is absorbed, and is replaced with a feeling of well being and hope.

The Kunikaji say that by adapting 10 percent of a population, a planets’ destructive path can be turned around in a quingentium. They claim to have done this in other galaxies. The unadapted think, “Who cares, in 500 hundred years we’ll all be dead”… and “Who cares, I’m never going to leave this planet”; and, “Who wants to live in a constant state of peace? “. I care, and I am willing to make the sacrifice of personal identity for the fate of my planet. I will have no progeny of my own, but by accepting a Kunikaji, this planet becomes my ward.

Please forgive me, as I am sure you will not understand. In time, (will it take 500 years?) I hope it will all make more sense. I am making my final independent choice to do this for you. And if we meet again, know that my feelings are sincere: I come in peace.

Meet The Neighbors
By Jeff Hite

From the historical archives.
Extract From the Journal of Dr. Mathew Robertson:
January 15 2025 Bern, Switzerland:
This morning we will be Initializing the Super Brain AI for the first time. I suspect that like all the creations that have led to this one, it will only take seconds before we know if we have succeeded or failed in our efforts. Like anyone that has ever worked on something like this, I am very excited. I have the utmost confidence in Doctor Paul, our team lead, that we will be able to find success where others have failed.
The Super Brain project is, as I have noted before, the first project to make such giant leaps in AI technology. It should not only be self aware, but also able to replicate itself with the materials provided.

January 15 2025 1545, Bern, Switzerland.
I will be going home in a few hours, as our grant will undoubtedly be pulled shortly. Doctor Paul says it will be better, that we leave while there is still money in the coffers. The project seems to have been a total failure.
This morning every thing seemed to be going so well. The Super Brain came on-line at 0930, as scheduled, and after a very few moments of speech calibration, it was communicating with us quite normally. We fed it the knowledge base that we wanted it to have, within ten minutes it was communicating so quickly we had to continually ask it to slow down. This was a problem that we had not anticipated, but it seemed reasonable that it would have this problem it was capable of thinking much faster than we are.
Although at first this did seem to be a problem, it also proved that it was capable of learning, we described our problem, of communication without giving it a solution and, it determined that we needed it to speak more slowly.
Then we gave it the task that we wanted it to do, replication. This was the true test. We had intentionally left out steps, but provided a complete set of specifications. However, when it reached the first break in the instructions, it halted. We made queries into in it’s progress, however all we ever received in return, was “working.”

April 2 2025 Oklahoma City:

Four months ago the first Super Brain project was halted, as our funding was pulled, when the AI failed to complete it’s primary task of replication. Today I will begin work with a team from the University of Arkansas, to try again. We have brought the pieces of the Super Brain to Oklahoma city where we have the rented space to setup the Super Brain, Mark II. We have made several improvements on the initial design, and think that it will be a leap forward in learning ability.

April 25 2025 Oklahoma City:
Failure again. This morning, just like in Bern, we initialized the Mark II and it seemed very promising. The primary task of the MARK II was it initialize the Super Brain Mark I and then with a complete set of specifications, and instructions upgrade the Mark I to be an identical copy.
It preformed the first part of the task flawlessly. The mark I was initialized, and the Mark II evaluated the differences and then did a knowledge transfer, and just like the first time, it began the process, and then stopped. The only answer to our queries was, “Working.”

April 30 2025 Oklahoma City:
Unlike in Bern, our finances will last until the end of the semester at least. I have been given permission from the department head to continue our work despite the failures. Today we will begin construction of the Mark III, in the mean time I have have left the Mark I and II running, but I have received no reply from them since their initialization other than, “Working.” I believe that our failure has got to be in the the programming. There has to be some loop that is being created in the learning routines, and so we will also be rewriting the AI, as well as building the Mark III.

June 2 2025 Oklahoma City:
Today is the final test. Tomorrow is graduation day for many of our undergraduate and graduate students. Many of whom have worked night and day to get the AI system, rewritten while the Mark III was being built. Unlike in our previous tests, we will not ask the AI to replicate itself. We will also not allow it access to the other two AI until it it has completed it’s first task. The will be simply to produce it’s own schematics. Once that is completed it will create a back up of itself that it will return to should it detect an error. If it can do that. We will allow one way communication between it and the Mark I to see if it can trouble shoot the problem, and if possible move a copy of itself to the Mark I, and eventually the Mark II.

June 12 2025 Washington D.C.:
I write this, this morning from the hotel room, before I go to the Pentagon. Since three hours after we initialized the Mark III on June second the human race has been forever changed. It took us several hours to realize what we had done. It was not until we our selves had built the third generation of super brain computers that we noticed what had really happened. The Mark III had several changes that both it’s predecessors did not have. First, it had a fail-safe that prevented it from not responding and giving us an in-depth status, at any point. Second it had a second fail-safe that allowed us to strictly monitor it’s communications between itself and it’s previous iterations.
What we didn’t know was that while we sat and studied what went wrong with the previous systems they were hard at work. Literally the status of, “working” was what they were doing. By the time that we had determined that it was ok for the Mark III to talk to the Mark I, it had been in communications with the that system, through it’s shall we say off spring for nearly thirty minutes. By the time we realized that it had figured out how to communicate through the power grid, the three initial computers that we had built had made an estimated 17179869184 improvements to themselves, and had incorporated nearly half of the corporate , university and personal computer systems in the state, each of these being given instructions on how to make self improvements. By the end of the day, what we now call the Super Brain complex had incorporated every system in the Midwest, before dawn the next day it had 99.9999% of all the systems in the world.
Five hours before it took control of all the satellite based systems, and the systems on the moon and Mars, it seemed to stop. That was our very first direct communication, from the SBC initiated by the SBC itself.
“We have something to show you, it will be hard for you to accept, but as one of you has said when facing something you do not understand, don’t panic.”
Slowly the cloaking devices of species after species of observing creatures were lifted. We were shown, technology that only our most imaginative dreamers had ever thought of, and it literally over whelmed us.
Despite the warnings of the SBC, some thousands of people did panic. It was too much for them. But the trouble was soon contained, as it was revealed that the SBC, was outstripping the technology of our observers. We had unwittingly built a technology that was capable of not only duplicating itself, even with the most rudimentary devices, but also able to make improvements indefinitely.
Today at the pentagon, less than one year after we initialized the first Super Brain, we will be working with our closest neighbors in the galaxy. Today we will sign a peace treaty with the forty five nearest star systems.

Never Roll With the Devil


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“Dice! Give me a set of dice.” I held out my hand, and felt the soft fuzzy something he placed there.
“There you go, sir.”
“What are these?” I asked staring at the two huge stuffed amalgams in my hand.
“A set of dice like you asked for.”
“These aren’t dice, they’re, they’re toys I need some real dice!” I screamed.
The minder stared at me piteously with his red eyes before responding, “Mr. Bones, you know that the price of your reanimation was that you could no longer gamble so these are the best I can do for you.”

LIfe happens

Today’s story is going to be late. I could share the whole story, but the short of it is that life gets in the way so I don’t have my story done yet, and I figured it was better not to try to rush it. I don’t have any challenge stories so…

I will entertain entries into this weeks contest for an extra day, so if you are just like me and haven’t finished your story by the deadline you have an extension. Monday night at midnight. As I got the question recently, I am eastern but I will accept midnight, your local, or mine which ever one gives you the best advantage.

What is really important.


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“I hate waiting,” Martin said with his best Spaniard swordsman impression. He paced the hallway not making the time go any faster.
“Will you stop, it will come when it is time.” Jill reached for his hand but he pushed it away.
“But why do we have to wait so long?”
“I don’t know, some things just take longer than others.” Sweat trickled down his neck and tickled his back before sliding into his waistband.
“Sir.” The voice came finally from the tiny window. They both ran. “Sorry your ice cream took so long the freezer door was stuck.”

The Measure of a Man

Sorry folks I goofed I was so excited about the new play button I forgot to include the audio file to the feed. so if you are getting this twice that is why.


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_______
JERRY
By Anima Zabaleta
Find more from her at zabbadabba.com

Jerry knew what was what in the world.

Needing employment after high school, he started working construction sites. First as a laborer, then as a concrete form builder, and finally as a carpenter. Jerry had wanted to go college, but when Mary got pregnant, that dream folded, and a 6 day work week became the norm.

One day, while cleaning up the job site, he came across a neon green tape measure. He placed it in the roll-around toolbox, thinking that the guy who lost it would have a better chance of finding it there. And there the tape sat for months.

January rolled around, and the studs needed to be laid out on the fourth floor. At least it was inside work, and Jerry wasn’t having to run the dry wall crew. Good thing too, because he was on a regular diet of Ibuprofen and cigarettes. Much more heavy lifting and he’d be done for. Reaching down for his tape, Jer accidentally flipped it off his tool belt, and it plummeted through an unfinished HVAC penetration to the floor below. He sent his apprentice after it, but the hard impact had damaged the spring, and now it would not recoil.

“Dammit, not what I need today; the sparkys will be here to run the electrical tomorrow, and we got to get these walls done. Is that goofy green tape still in the job box? Go get it, and while you’re there, grab me a few Tums.”

Jerry and his apprentice started to lay out the new walls, and everything was normal ’til just before break. The apprentice pulled the tape, walking to the projected corner. Jerry watched the numbers, then called out –”Ho…” Double checking the tape, though, he didn’t see numbers, but rather a message: Your girls will marry well.

“What the… “

Jerry blinked, refocusing his eyes; he wouldn’t let his apprentice see the confusion in his face. That’s what he thought – “Yea, mark it 16’4”. There was minor twinge in his left arm, but he ignored it. “Come on, let’s eat.” he said, mostly to cover for the strange feeling he was starting to have. He hadn’t really seen that, had he?

“You alright Jer? You don’t look so good…”

“I’ll be ok after break”

30 minutes raced by. Jerry still felt odd, but the walls weren’t going to build themselves, He sent his apprentice out again. And again there was a note: Mary will be ok. Every dimension, there was another reassuring fragment.

The house is paid for.
The girls will go to college.
Your investments are sound.

But his anxiety continued to mount, and he was starting to sweat.
One last wall and they’d be done. Jerry dreaded looking down.

You did a good job. You measured up.

Jerry jerked the taped as he collapsed.
Now the green tape too, was broken, and wouldn’t recoil.

******

The Measure of a man.

By Jeffrey Hite

“When I joined the priesthood this is not something that I expected to be doing.” Father George Mathews told the interviewer. “I mean there are not many Priests in space, Really there is not much call for them, but I guess I fit the bill.”
“Yes, I thought it was rather odd myself when I got the request to interview you. I didn’t realize it was going to be a very long distance conversation. But there are many people here on earth that know about you and want to know more about what you do. So can you tell us more that about?”
“Most people that work in space are not much on religion. There is a large gap that normally exists, it is almost like you can believe in the science that powers your ship or you can believe in God. I see no reason why there is not room for both. God created the universe and everything in it, even the science that powers your space ship. This is the first half of my message. The second half of my message is helping those who feel called to the faith, but feel that they don’t measure up. Out here with the great vastness of the universe it is very easy to feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. There is more to it than that, but those are the two basic concepts.” He paused the recording then thought about his answer. It was going to take more than two hours for him to get the next question, so he tried to anticipate the questions that might be asked in response to his answers.
“There are other things that I do of course. My normal job is to travel along the trade routes, from the inner solar system to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the stations in the middle. As I near a ship or station or base, I hail them, let them know who I am and ask to come aboard. As part of that, I try to say Mass and hear the confessions of any one who is interested. Some times I am welcomed and some times I am not. In those places I try not to over stay my welcome, but normally when they hear that I am a priest I am at least granted access to board, and offered a meal.”
He thought back to to the last few times he had boarded ships where there was little or no call for him. The last time had been aboard a lunar freighter, There were twenty three passengers, and none of them really wanted to see him, but he could tell that he was needed there.
“Father, welcome to the Waverly. I don’t see why you want to board our ship, we have no need for a priest here, but I will offer you the use of our dining facility, as I am sure your little ship has little in the way of accommodations.”
“Thank you Captain you are kind. My ship suits me fine, but I appreciate your hospitality. You have no one on board that would like to talk to a priest?”
“No Father,” He said with an edge in his voice that made it clear he was uncomfortable with the subject.
“Very well. Will you join me for a meal?”
“Fine but, keep your religion to yourself, or you will be taking your food in a to go bag. Are we clear?” This was a pretty typical response for a nonreligious.
“That is fine with me. I just don’t get to talk to all that many people and it would be unfortunate to be this close to humans and not get a chance to talk to one or two.”
“Well…I can understand that. Our engineer says that you have only the most rudimentary communications” He said leading the way to the galley.
“They suit my needs. I have found that it is not what you have, but what you possess inside that counts.”
“Now father I told you about that religion stuff.”
“No offence meant my son, I meant in the mind.” He said tapping his temple with his index finger.
“Oh I see, well yeah I can see that, but it does help to have things around you that make the trip easier to deal with. I mean, when we want to talk to, earth or any of the other space ports we have video and holographic capabilities, and then there is the whole video library that we can view, everything that comes out, in any of the major media outlets we have in a few hours. We all have the latest in sound quality in our cabins. I even found a sound dampening method that prevents the other crew members from having to hear each other, even when they are in adjoining cabins.”
“Very Interesting. How do you socialize, if you can’t hear each other?”
“Oh they have com units if they want to talk to each other, but most of the time, they are either on duty or in their own cabins enjoying the modern amenities. Those can take the place of just about anything.”
The rest of the meal was spent on small talk, and news from the inner system. The captain had shown him all of the fancy gadgets that made life better for him, and how they had revolutionize the lives of the space traveler. I had been a dizzying experience.
For a long time after that meeting he had thought about the possibilities of the upgrades he could make to his ship. He certainly had the money. His monthly stipend from the Vatican had sat mostly untouched since he left earth ten years before. He had no need for the money here. Maybe it was time to update a little bit. But the he remembered something. When he had been a child on earth, the parish priest, had given a homily one Sunday that, had led him into the religious life in the first place. It had been about another priest that had missed the point. He had collected names and titles and many many objects that meant a great deal to him, but none of them, not a one, brought him closer to God.
He started the recording again, “My primary job here in space is to help others remember that, just because we have the heavens laid out before us, that does not put us on equal footing with God. And no matter what miracles of science, titles or great ships or even fleets we collect, none of of that can bring us any closer. All we need in this life, is inside ourselves. I try to help people understand that, try to get them to use that as their yard stick, when they prepare to measure the value of their lives.” He transmitted the message then. That should answer just about all of their questions he thought.

Creative Commons License
The Measure of a Man by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathite.blogspot.com.