A (W.T2.F.) Sunday Series

–Short Story Time–

Speculative fiction is a way to explore a future that may or may never exist, technologies that we can only dream of today, and of the capabilities to exploit or improve the Earth and human lives. For more short stories type “WTF” or “short story” in the site search bar.


“Pack up it’s time to get rollin’! Let’s go crew!” said Andy’s boss. 

On the double they were up, packed, and ready to deploy. 

“What’s the assignment this time boss? Out and back in a day?” said Andy. 

Boss frowned and looked down. Not this time, said the shaking of her head. “Ground crew has already been active for ten, and the adjustment bureau for six. I suspect this will be the biggest Filter of all time for you lot, and maybe for any crew yet.”

“How long?” said Andy. 

“One, maybe two years. It’s serious,” said Boss. 

The crew looked at one another. That could only mean one thing. It was the origin, where the AI had been in place the longest, the planet uninhabitable for the longest, and the inhabitants L.INCed for the longest. They were in deep and it was going to be intense. 

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Image Credit: The French Monkey

Boss clapped her hands and the crew knew what to do. They walked one behind the other down the passage towards the departure lock. They picked up their gear, loaded the ship and bordered via the gangplank. Strapped in, each of the crew members and Boss donned their stasis masks and once thumbs up went all round, the doors hushed to a close and a slight tug at their safety straps indicated that the journey had begun. 

“Bon voyage,” said Boss, and they closed their eyes to skip months of interplanetary travel. 

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Image Credit: The French Monkey

“Everyone up, hand up,” said Boss, and all crew members had a hand up in no time. They had arrived. After the 5 minute transition, or better known as disorientation hold, the crew packed out and shuttled down to the planet’s surface. Its barren earth, brown skies, collapsing cliffs, churning oceans, burning sun and acid rains were all frantically at work. Would it even be possible to save this place, let alone correct the Filter? They were up against it. 

The crew nodded at one another and split, taking modded space pods to ship out to various inhabited locations where the Filter corrections would be initiated. Andy could barely see further than a few meters out as sand pummeled his ship from all sides. When it slowed to indicate proximity to civilization, he enhanced the vizoptiks to make out the shield ahead. 

Landing, Andy waited for the dust wall to blow over to get a better lay of the land. As soon as a hint of orange brown sunlight slipped through, his associate environmentalist ran up to the opening hatch. 

“Thank goodness you’re here,” she said. 

“You call this progress?” he said jokingly. 

“You should have seen this place ten years ago,” she said, “it was flooded, hot as hell, and not a green leaf in sight. Come, let me show you around, my name is AIda.”

Wuhan pollution level drop over coronavirus
Source: NASA maps show the effect of a quarantine on air pollution

Andy followed AIda through the protective shield- the barrier that signified the beginning of the habitation zone. Suddenly, fresh air, green grass, flowers, trees, and buildings that looked immaculate. 

“What’s the rate of expansion?” asked Andy. 

“About 3-5 feet per year. The shield filters out oxygen and recycles the toxic gases, the plants can only absorb so much, and we have a few mass atmosphere manufacturing plants a few klicks out from here.” 

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Image Credit: The French Monkey

“How are the locals taking the adjustment phase? They must have been in a rough state when you reached them if this is good compared to before,” said Andy. 

AIda looked at him sideways. “You’ve got your work cut out for you,” is all she offered. “Come, I’ll show you. 

They entered one of the buildings, but instead of the traditional greeting by an array of locals, AIda stopped and brandished an arm out for him to roam free, but Andy stopped in his tracks. 

His ancestors were thin, pale, and oddly mechanical looking beings. They gave little indication of acknowledging his presence, none really. They were mostly sitting about, strolling very slowly or laying back to look up through the clear roof and into the low false atmosphere clouds that shifted above. 

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Image Credit: The French Monkey

There were some similarities that he could see between himself and these creatures. They both had digital interfaces that glowed through their skin, intricate mirco optics that lit up their eyes, and a thin augmentor skin over the real epidermis. Andy looked down at his own arms and augmentor, now fused with his biological self to protect against the elements. He looked back at AIda. 

“You’re telling me I need to adjust the Filter on this lot?” he said. 

She nodded, “I’ll leave you to it, get settled in, and give me a shout whenever you need a hand.” She disappeared back into the gardens, then called through his tele-com, “don’t underestimate these ones, the L.INCed, they’ve got everything, they’re all one another. It’s weird, they’re still a human-kind more than humans per se, but you’ll manage. It’s the AI in there that’s got them all out of whack.” 

Right, he thought. The program put in there to protect the population had missed an exclusivity phrase, filtering out the crumbling world. The place looked and felt fine between optiks and bioskins, making wearers oblivious to the toxicity of the biosphere. It had all started with the digital filters on simple screens they used back then. Then, the first optik lenses auto-enhanced directly through contacts, then, the L.INC plugged it into their neural system, and then, the AI optimizer filtered out the hurricanes, floods, and storms. It was supposed to keep this lot stress free, safe, and secure, and it had, by taking the easy way out. Pollution, smog and fires razed the planet. When the AI was on its last legs, it called in to central control to declare the eminent emergency. The Filters could only hide destruction- they couldn’t save a dying planet. It had almost been too late when Central Station was alerted and the first environmentalists and adjusters deployed. 

Now, it was Andy’s turn, to check the Filters and re-align the AI phrasing. He greenlit all safety protocols and gently tapped one of his ancestors on the shoulder. ”It’s your lucky day,” he said, “it’s time to open your eyes.”

By Anne McKinnon

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