“Look, I know, I’m sorry-” Jothan cooed softly, removing the last pissbottle from the floor. His captive roomba continued to shake violently, googly eyes staring accusingly at his roomate/owner.
“I just got into some shit, yanno? Like, You find your tribe, man, and you just-”
“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” The roomba continued to emit a high-pitched whining sound – almost as if it was screaming – and every few seconds it’s IR sensors would detect that it was clear ahead, that it could move – and it would dart forward just an inch before something in it’s circuitry pulled it back into the safety of the corner.
“-yeah, I guess that’s no excuse.” Jonathan sighed, slav-squatting as he rested his chin on his hands, staring at the traumatized robot. “Look, all I’m saying is, is that I won’t let it happen to me again – I promise, this time will be different.”
“Well the bottles are fuckin’ spaced already! Look, see? Look with your sensors already-”
Jonathan sighed, standing up. “Well. When you’re feeling less… whatever you are, you can go back to your hive and refresh yourself.” With a grunt he stretched, letting his back pop from the sudden use, and looked around his living quarters. The food was cleaned, the floor swept (by other roombas who wondered where the first unit was but knew better to ask questions) and mopped, the walls hosed down, new linens and bedding fabricated and the old stuff burned (sleeping on your own dead skin cells is barbaric.) the bathroom decontaminated and the ceiling repainted.
Look when you get into the mood to refresh your place you just go, amirite? Regardless, Jonathan was absolutely certain that he wouldn’t outright shame the entire human race if and/or when a room inspection ever happened… he’d just fail, like a normal human being would. As God Intended.
Jon turned at the sound, his VR station giving the “all clean” audio indicator. His bare feet padded on the tatami linoleum as he walked over to the cleaning dock, and unfastening a few clasps he opened the basketball-sized container. Hollow like a coconut, it’s prize presented itself in shiny backlit LED gamer-red glory; the lenses were washed and polished, the padding was refoamed and pressed, the controllers were micro-abraised clean – the entire thing felt brand new, which was the entire point of doing a thorough deep clean.
Smiling, he turned it over in his hands, the battery indicator flashing a bright and full green on all three peripherals. Starting up a few subvocalized commands he checked his 5KG connection status, answered 1400 unread emails with a sound bite pulled from a robot blocks game made back in pre-contact earth (a simple archaic .wav file), and cleared his admittedly empty calendar once more. A soft ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuu’ tone broke his reverie for just a moment and he looked up – locking ‘eyes’ with the roomba in the corner.
“Uuuu- uuuuuuuuu” it droned, googly eyes jiggling accusingly.
“. . .you know, you’re right. I have been neglecting you since your motherbot left. Come on, sport – let’s go outside and clean the hallway!”
The chatroom was not as lively as it could have been.
I say that not because of any gigantic epiphany – that comes later. No, when you’re an Administrator of an illegal galactic net server node you tend to be the first one out and the first one in. After an hour or so of real time had passed and the threat of the Senate’s botnet discovering the still-propped-open backdoors had passed, it was safe to probe the node once more. Think of it… think of it like breaking into a rarely-used warehouse to throw an underground rave party. Your crew scouts out the location, you note the guard shifts, A few shut doors needed to be propped back open, and barring that a few new doors had to be made. You have to sweep the floors of loose data, loop a couple of the cameras (so to speak) and then alls’ well for the illegal bloc party to start.
All in all, it was routine work, and [Best_at_Tech] was joined by another Admin, and another and another until the relative couple-dozen hackers and script-kiddies had begun to rebuild the server in peace. That is, until they noticed the auto-generated log file. Childlike glee at unmasking a fellow shitposter soon rapidly turned to confusion, and then to deep debate.
[Premonition][@ADMIN]: “[I’ve never seen a prefix like that before.]”
[Thump_the_ground][@ADMIN]: “[It’s not a superuser. That prefix also doesn’t apply to anything in-system.]”
“[I mean, they could’ve changed superuser nomenclature given our new immigrants.]” mused [HotHotHeat][@Admin], automatically re-establishing the firewall from a few overeager server users attempting to crash the party early. “[Could it be someone from the floatilla? Maybe we had a spec-ops boy buzzing here in his free time?]”
“[Eeeehhhh.]” [Premonition][@Admin] said, copying the logfile again and unceremoniously ripping it apart for loose data. “[I don’t think so – they sure as shit don’t leave themselves logged in, and if that’s the case we’d all probably be getting some summons by now for cultural sensitivity and government reparations.]”
[Thump_the_ground][@ADMIN] pulled at a loose thread, idly humming as he scanned the data again. “[Well. It’s new – this UUID hasn’t been seen before on this node. I could try pinging a few of our neighbors, but that’d take hours. Maybe armada, but not INT?]”
[HotHotHeat][@Admin]: “[But if that’s the case, then why not log out? It’s not li-]”
The other admins who were clustered around the logfile – as much as you can ‘cluster’ around a file – stopped their argument at [Best_at_Tech][@ADMIN]’s interjection.
“[Well?]” [Premonition][@ADMIN] said, spraying a few choice emojis at [Best_at_Tech]. “[What?]”
“[Turn… turn on your visuals. [Biffgrass_G7][@Admin] just got that back online.]”
[Thump_the_ground], [HotHotHeat] and [Premonition] paused for a moment as their implants went from a text-only ‘safemode’ to a full VR worldscape. AS there was nothing really made yet – as is the issue for new servers – it was just a floating void filled with a handful of default avatars, floating in no specific orientation and scattered about with no rhyme or reason. In the center of the avatar swarm, standing proudly and gray stood a single, lone human.
“[See, that’s… that’s what I’m thinking too. Like. Ok, so this is our user who got swept, right?]” [Best_at_Tech][@ADMIN] said, the multi-tendriled sunspark motioning to the abandoned avatar. “[And defaults are defaults, but this is a new model [human] that’s a default avatar.]”
“[Ok, so, he’s a [cuddlefucker]? Makes sense for him to be here, I guess.]” [Thump_the_ground][@ADMIN] murmured, the Namptha ball mascot waving his comically large leaves in the nonexistent breeze. “[Also makes sense that he’d be part of the floatilla – I knew their system was full of ‘em, frozen hell it’s probably a requirement-]”
“[N-no. Look.]” [Best_at_Tech][@ADMIN] interrupted again, juxtapositioning the log file data with the avatar data. “[This comes from out-of-system, sure, with new indicators, ok. Might just be a regional dialect, for what it’s worth, but this is a default avatar. Look, see, we can pull the use data here.]”
“[So, a 5D Modeler?]”
“[This realistic?]” [Best_at_Tech][@ADMIN] said, waving her tendril around the human avatar’s face, contorting it into various expressions that may or may not actually exist. “[No. I think not.]”
[HotHotHeat][@Admin] shrugged, the tiny city turning it’s ‘gaze’ to study the default avatar’s data with more scrutiny. “[Alright, so this is a very detailed model – probably done with a body sca- oh. Oh.]”
“[No. I mean, ok, maybe, but no. No way.]”
“[Ok, we can test this super easily. Let me…]” [HotHotHeat][@Admin] concentrated for a few seconds, before rejoining chat. “[There, done. His ID is given elevated permissions. He can pass through the firewall while we’re still setting things up. At best, he knows we know he’s an SOCINT operator and we can start wiping data.]”
“[And if he’s not?]” Asked [Best_at_Tech][@ADMIN], smushing the avatar’s cheeks together.
“Papa. That’s not how this works.”
Ricardo Aleman sat with his arms crossed, frowning at the map sprawled out before him. Around him – and really, scattered throughout the conference room were the rest of the Aleman clan; his wife and mother and his many many children. All of them were paying varying levels of attention to the map laid out on the table; some of the children eagerly adding their two cents as to what possibilities opened before them, some of them lamenting the hard work ahead. Land claims were already going quickly, with some families and companies doing their best to out-bid and out-promise resource extraction and use for what was considered “prime” real estate. This was all fine and well and good – if you’re a clothing designer, you want to be near the other retail shops to try to grab some of that exotic clientele. Ricardo, however, was a farmer. He had no use for Madison avenue storefront property; a simple farm-to-table shop would suffice, and hell, it could even be on the farm. Homegrown food always had a better taste that these kids just didn’t appreciate nowaday-
“Papa. You’re monologuing again.”
“Well then let me do so in peace, Luzita. Honestly, where I picked is perfectly fine and perfectly affordable; 100 acres, a slow, shallow river runs right through it, it’s in a slight valley that apparently doesn’t flood – that’s the good earth. We could set up the machinery within a month and get the rocks out of the soil in a season – if there even are any.”
“Yes, and I get that Papa, but that land’s not for sale.”
Ricardo lifted his hat, running his calloused fingers over his thinning hair. “And why not? What the fuck do I have use for being right up near the city?!”
Luciana sighed, tapping the map on the table. The reactionary cloth switched overlays, parts of the inland park showing up in greens, yellows, blues and reds. “Because there’s no services out there-”
“It’s a farm.”
“-and planet mandate is that all dwellings have to be connected to water, fire suppressant, power, communications and monitoring. That infrastructure isn’t out there, and we’re not planning on building it out there for another decade or two – and that’s not counting the wild animals that lived in the park and have to be relocated-”
“It’s a farm. There are going to be animals. This is what a farm is.”
“Papa, I’m not making the rules here – there’s 50 acres on the same river 30km closer to the city, and we can afford that.”
“It’s bad land.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re not getting your way!”
“I’m just saying that because I know good earth when I see it, and that’s going to be nothing but hardpack and bedrock! Being so close to the city is going to do nothing but spook and stress any livestock we do end up getting, and we won’t be able to plant if-”
“Papa, it’s not for sale-”
“Then we just TAKE IT.” Ricardo yelled, frustratingly sweeping his hand across the map. “All this land is for us, and it’s not being used – because why? Because some city planner I’ve never heard of and who’s never been outside of the four blocks around his apartment thinks he knows best?! Because trying to escape the crush of people at home means we have to pack ourselves in tightly here?! We land on this planet, we take our machinery, we go and we homestead and fuck the consequences! Homesteader laws have to exist out here-”
“Look, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know, ok?! I’m just trying to do my best-”
“Well try harder!” Ricardo growled, sitting back in his chair angrily. “You’re supposed to help us get the GOOD land, the land we can keep forever, that will provide forever!”
There was a pause as both sides caught their breath, and a sense that battle lines would be drawn – and they would’ve been, between parents and children, between father and daughter, between the Alemans and the Silver City Immigration Bureau, if it wasn’t for a well placed cough and the comment that came after.
Mrs. Sofia Aleman quietly, almost as an afterthought and almost to herself, said that she wouldn’t mind living next to a city for once, and that it’d be good for the children to find people their own age. If anything, the comment was simply to the elderly matron sitting next to her than to the table or the room itself, but in the pause of Ricardo’s ego the words carried.
And so Ricardo bought the bad land.
“Whew. Sport, that was one hell of an adventure!” Jonathan said, shimmying out of the 8th century Kimono he acquired during that radiator leak on deck 7. “But I’m glad we got through it all relatively unscathed.
“Beep!” went the roomba, canister filled with dirt and dust from the hallway.
“Yeah, yeah. Wiseass. But you weren’t singing that tune when the shark dragged you into the aquarium tank!”
“Beep!” went the roomba as it found it’s docking station, connecting itself to be recharged and cleaned.
“Ah well. Hey, is it alright if I, yanno-?” Jon said inbetween the wet sucking sounds of the vinyl clown sticker camouflage peeling off his chest and sides. “Cause it’s been an hour or two and I gotta feed the addiction.”
The roomba’s power button glowed, but it’s googly eyes said “yes”. Jon nodded sagely at those wise words and flopped onto his bed, body naturally sprawling out to optimum shitposting position.
Gloves on, visor on, alien-navigation-that-just-makes-no-sense on…
Jon reconnected to the server with a happy little ping, but instead of seeing a horde of shitposters fighting the good fight, there was… nothing.
Just a white, empty void.
“[AEIOU?]” [JOHN MADDEN] said curiously, the white void causing him to lose focus.
“[OH SWEET ALL-GOD YOU EXIST.]”
[JOHN MADDEN] turned towards the voice, seeing nothing but a very tentacly star wiggling at him. “[Oh, we’re doing that kind of shitposting now? Don’t tell me you’re a navfag.]”
“[UH. UH. UH.]”
Jon frowned at the noise coming from somewhere behind him. “[I better not… turn around and see you doing whatever the fuck you’re doing.]” [JOHN MADDEN] warned, spinning to see what looked like an Oddish just… vibrating.
[JOHN MADDEN]: “[What.]”
[Thump_the_ground][@ADMIN]’s avatar blinked, eyes unfocusing as the user behind the avatar scanned through reams of real-time data. “[UH.]”
“[Listen you fuck I’ll go topdeck and fite you.]” [JOHN MADDEN] threatened, ‘kneeling’ to be eye-level with the weird avatar. “[Stop jacking off on-mic. We have – well, had – an entire arena for you to do that in. Speaking of, where’d it go? I had the highscore last time I checked-]”
“[Yeah, no shit?]”
[JOHN MADDEN] furrowed his brow as he was surrounded by various other avatars of odd and confusing design, all of them slowly reaching out and poking him – as if to check that he was real.
“[… look, I’ll be your cult leader but I am going to make it a sex cult and it’s gonna be a weird one-]”
[JOHN MADDEN] shrugged. “[Usually through indoctrination and various forms of abuse.]”
“[No.]” [Best_at_Tech][@Admin] said, changing from a tendril’d sun into generic Karnakian Avatar #189705`60ew0086. “[How… are you, here.]”
[JOHN MADDEN] stared into the eyes of an avatar he’d never seen before – one super detailed, hyper realistic, and most likely based on real-life body scans. There was a pause of all of a few seconds before [JOHN MADDEN]’s body went ragdoll again, a few choice expletives picked up on the mic and the sound of a headset hitting the wall before disconnect.