(Fiction) Killing Machines


17:42:22 Number please?

17:42:24 I’d like to make a collect call to a solo register.

17:42:27 What’s the name?

17:42:28 Samizdat Zellner.

17:42:30 Pass phrase, please. 

17:42:31 I’ll be back.

[frantic typing]

17:42:35 Hold please. 

[click. click click]

17:42:38 Semmi, listen to me.

17:42:40 Where are you that you need to call me on an encrypted line? Should I be worried? The neighbor woman knocked again this morning and I had to hide under the table for seven hours.

17:42:46 I’m sure Mrs. Coleman wasn’t standing outside for seven hours.

17:42:49 I wanted to be certain to nine significant digits. I still think she works for Cybercommand.

17:42:53 Mrs. Coleman is 73. She does not work for the US military.

17:42:56 Then why doe she have so many weapons? I can see the X-ray scatter.

17:43:01 Those are probably kitchen knives.

17:43:04 And a handgun.

17:43:05 I’m not sure if you realize it, Semz, but you didn’t exactly pick the safest neighborhood.

17:43:10 I chose it because, statistically, there is a very low chance they will look for me here. You didn’t tell me where you are. This line is route-encrypted, so I am unable to identify the number from which you called.

17:43:17 I’m in a little town in South Dakota.

17:43:19 What are you doing in South Dakota? The rent is due on Tuesday.

17:43:22 Look. I’m gonna tell you, and I need you to not freak out. Okay?

17:43:25 Tell me what? You said you would be back in the morning. Have we been discovered?

17:43:29 No. And there’s no reason to worry.

17:43:32 Then why won’t you tell me?

17:43:34 I’m calling from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

17:43:40 Are you hurt? Has a crime been committed to your person?

17:43:43 I’m fine. Thank you for asking, Sem. Very well done.

17:43:45 I am testing a new protocol for human interaction. Would you say that I am doing well, fair, or poorly so far?

17:43:49 Sem. Listen to me. I’ve sorta been arrested.


17:43:57 They’re going to lynch you.

17:43:59 No. No, Semmi, you need to calm down.

17:44:02 They’re going to lynch you.

17:44:03 No one is going to lynch me. Where did you even hear about that?

17:44:06 The History Channel.

17:44:07 I don’t think—

17:44:08 That’s how it is in those small towns.

17:44:10 Semmi—

17:44:11 They’ll leave your cell unlocked and then—

17:44:13 SEMMI!


17:44:18 Semz, I need you to listen to me. I need you to call Mutiny, okay? I don’t know her number.

17:44:23 It’s in your phone.

17:44:24 I don’t have my phone.


17:44:28 Sem—

17:44:29 What if the landlord comes and you’re not here? He’ll come in on his own. I need to bar the door.

17:44:33 Semz, what are we practicing?

17:44:35 How to be calm in the absence of cytoneural infrastructure.

17:44:36 Are you calm?


17:44:41 Yes.

17:44:42 I lost my phone. That’s all. It’s no big deal. It slipped out of my coat somewhere.

17:44:47 I told you not to go chasing phantoms on the internet.

17:44:50 Sem, I need you to look around the apartment and find the number. Call Mutiny, okay?

17:44:54 Why can’t you call her?

17:44:56 Because I only get one phone call and I didn’t memorize her direct line and I wanted to check on you. I need you to find the number and call her. Don’t call the number off the internet. That will just go to her manager. He never liked me and may or may not pass on the message. Do you understand?

17:45:08 What do I tell her?

17:45:09 Tell her where I am and that I need a lawyer.

17:45:11 Should I tell her about the lynchings?

17:45:13 I’m sure she knows all about that.

17:45:15 Because I would definitely want to impress upon her the urgency of the situation.

17:45:19 Semz?

17:45:20 Yes?

17:45:21 Promise me you’ll call her.

17:45:23 I promise.

17:45:24 Today, Sem. Before watching The Terminator.

17:45:27 Okay. I promise I will call Mutiny Ali today and tell her you are being held captive by potential fascists in South Dakota. I will not tell her about the immanent threat of lynching.

17:45:33 Thank you.

17:45:34 How long will you be gone?

17:45:36 I’m not sure. But if you call Mutiny today and I can get a good lawyer, I might be arraigned by the end of the week.

17:45:41 THE END OF THE WEEK! What will I do until then?

17:45:45 Semmi, you don’t eat, sleep, or leave the apartment. You’re going to be fine.

17:45:50 I paint.

17:45:51 That’s true. Do you have enough paint to last you?

17:45:55 If I am careful. But this was not the arrangement we made with IDEOLEX. You promised—

17:46:01 I know what I promised. And I’m sure I’ll hear about it from the LEX if you tell them, so please don’t. At least give me until you run out of paint. Is that fair?


17:46:12 Semmi, I’m really, really sorry, okay. I didn’t expect—Look, the important thing is, we’re both okay and as far as we could possibly know, nothing has changed.


17:46:23 Semmi, man, I know this is upsetting, and I know how you are, and I know you’re probably very angry with me right now, but calling the LEX isn’t gonna help. They aren’t gonna come over and watch The Terminator with you, are they?


17:46:35 Sem, I know I said I’d be there, but I can’t unless I get out of here, and I can’t do that unless you call Mutiny.


17:46:43 Semz?

17:46:44 The payment on this call has been canceled. Have a nice day.



–from my current WIP. You can read the previous chapter here.