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Outpost Ghost

by BP | Score: 5400

"'Quality characteristics describe attributes that most software benefit from. They can be used on the whole product or for details.'" Ret leaned back in his chair, rubbed his eyes. "Listen to this: 'The whole consists of the details. The quality of the detail is defined by the whole.' Does this make any sense to you?"

Siev had been listening. Not fully. His eyes were on the window, staring out on the murky landscape. A noxious fog had rolled in over night and settled over the bog like a cartoon representation of "this place smells bad." Except in this case that was a fairly accurate description of what the fog entailed.

From the command room they could still hear the constant hum of the ventilators sucking in the fumes. One long inhalation drawing in the natural gas of the planet for storage and refinement. A process controlled, by and large, by machines and their algorithmic overlords.

"'These characteristics are generic, and fruitful, as test idea triggers for any software.' I think it's even worse when it tries to sound appealing." Ret tossed the tablet onto a console board and rubbed his face again, this time with both hands like a trainer rubbing down a piece of human beef before sending him back into the ring. "I just don't understand how anyone enjoys this enough to actually write about it. Let alone do it."

"The universe is run by crazy people. I think Mark Twain said that."

"And what did he say about the rest of us?"

"Probably that we're crazy for letting them."

"Smart guy. I hate him." Ret brought his feet down off the console with bang, slamming his boots into the floor. "I gotta get something to eat. Otherwise I'm going to throw myself into a generator and end it."

"And leave me all alone. You monster."

"The world is run by monsters, didn't you know? You want anything?"

Siev shook his head then went back to staring out at the swamp. Something about it appealed to him. Seven days on the job, three with just him and Ret, and already he was losing interest. At the start it sounded fun. Seven months secluded on a desolate rock, watching gears whir and consoles light up, completely removed from meetings and managers and nice clothes. But now that he was here, the prospect of having to handle a crisis should one arise filled him with a nauseous kind of dread. Fuck up and you're done. The mantra rolled through his head like a prophesy. As if by conjuring the worst case scenario he could some how will it not to happen. Twice already since the administrators left, Siev woke up in a cold sweat imagining the gears freezing. Sirens blared as smoke billowed out of keyboards, screens, cracks in walls. Every time he approached something breaking, completely incapable of fixing the problem, something else went wrong. Another alarm, another grinding of machinery, another problem without a solution.

But out there. Something about the primordial stillness of the planet spoke to him. As a kid he'd loved dinosaurs. Perhaps too much. Had he spent more time studying manuals maybe he'd have a steadier job. But each time he stared out the window, he was reminded of a picture from an old book. A herd of Brontosaurus knee deep in brine, trudging through a swamp not dissimilar from the one outside his window. It's what drew him to the job offer in the first place. Staring at the website, the gentle sway of the moss hanging from the trees, he could almost see them marching through the mist. And he knew.

"You sure you don't want anything?"

Ret walked into the room, an armful of food tucked under his chin like he had just robbed some baffled, picnicking family. A kitchen knife dangled precariously from his fingers.

Siev got and swiped the knife away. If it fell and hit something they'd both be dead.

Fuck up and you're done.

"Sure. Maybe I do need something."

Ret did most of the talking. Like Siev he had bummed around from temp to temp, collecting what meager pay they offered before moving on and becoming an novice in a new line of work. Between the two of them, Ret figured they had enough knowledge to write an entire series of books about how to get started in a given line of work. Which would have been worth it if not for the five dozen versions of that information that currently already existed in about two dozen different formats.

"Every one has already thought of everything." It sounded almost relaxing. Everything has been discovered, so why not sit back and enjoy the spoils. Only no one had gotten the memo about enjoying anything. The gears still turned even though the destination they were bringing everyone to seemed bleaker and bleaker by the day.

"You really think that?" Siev asked, remembering their conversation from earlier in the week. "About everything already being thought of?"

Ret leaned back, his feet returning to their place on the console, and took a bite out of his sandwich. "Sure. Songs, movies, books. Political theories, economic theories, social and cultural theories. It's all been thrown out there. The only thing is getting everyone to agree. Which w

Completed challenges

The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:

Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Words Reach 100 words
Location An outpost
Letter Use the letter N
Words Reach 200 words
Words Reach 300 words
Words Reach 400 words
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Prop Include a kitchen knife
Words Reach 700 words
Words Reach 800 words

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