Thursday, 27 September 2012

Episode 14 – Back to work.

So the holidays were over. Everyone was looking tanned and relaxed.

Apparently there had been a time when people went on holiday and didn’t get sunshine; before the birth of the World Weather Management Bureau. Now you just looked at the weather schedules and picked a location and a time when the weather suited you, so ironically you didn’t really need to go anywhere, although you had to put up with crowded parks and beaches - unless you went to Luna of course. 
(see episode 8).

A few small wars had broken out deciding which countries had sun, and when, (clouds and rain could never be eliminated completely, just moved around) but Artlie-Saturn had had quite a lucrative time preparing bids and proposals for some of the key players. 

Travel companies had bought early rights to the weather schedules and marked up the sunny periods accordingly, until they realized people were staying at home for their own - free and predictable - sun. 

Things had settled down now. It generally rained weekdays, at night, over the larger food production areas and over Ireland.

There was a new brief on my desk. From CleverCode Inc. for the development of a new HoloService. The brief was marked For Your Eyes Only.

Dorid saw me pick the file up. I read the title. “Online Hair and Beauty Sculpting” 

I read it again, and noticed the whole office was looking at me.

“It’s straight, Art,” chipped in Dorid. “CleverCode have created software for people to get online haircuts. They want us to sell it to the cosmetics industry.”

I must have looked incredulous. 

"Online haircuts!?"

He frowned in concentration and began reading from his crib sheet...

“The subject submits their live vSelf Hologram and the software scans it and codes a haircut, based on their shape, and styled to the parameters they set. They can also dye it and blow-dry it.

There are a number of template styles to choose, or the subject can design their own. They need to purchase a miniature RoboHoverCutterDrier (or RHCD) that executes the procedure at their end, in realtime. This mirrors exactly the activity of the virtual cutter/drier at the CleverCode server end, as it executes the procedure round the subject's hologram. The subject ends up with the style they want; cut, coloured and dried without leaving their apartment, or the beach, or the office. Because it’s based on a live transmitted Holo, the cutter isn’t phazed even if the subject moves about,”

“but surely…”

“There are about a hundred layers of security protecting the coding and the patent, or else anyone could copy the software and run it locally. The cosmetics company buys a license from CleverCode and will, presumably, also use the live customer interface to push their own products.”

“This I gotta see…”

“There is a trial link on the brief, but they’ve told us not to use it yet. We’ve got to come up with a name and a slogan.”

Dorid did the face that said there was a joke coming “If it works, we'll all be millionhairs.”


The Brainstorm

Friday after lunch, I had the office gathered round, Dorid had tuned in and was appearing virtually – I think he was still down the pub, and he was practically bald, so probably wouldn’t contribute much – although I noticed he had fiddled with his Holo settings and had given himself a full head of hair.

I threw up a spinning airborne image of the business end of the product, the RHCD. “Ok guys, you all know the product, you’ve had a heads up (I paused for nonexistent laughter) and a few days to read the brief, - whaddyathink?”

Nepty perked up first, “Can we try it out, Art? I’m well up for a free haircut,”

“They’ve told us not to yet, I think they’re being a little over-secretive, but I’ve signed an agreement, so no.”

“I’ll be happy to test it for us? Give me some personal insight into the product from a practical perspective and enlighten me to the commercial potential of the first twenty-third century online cosmetics service?”


She pouted and stuck her tongue out.

I went on, “Let’s start with the name. Remember we’re creating an argument for cosmetics businesses to improve their service and extend their reach by offering a new online service,”

I set my iPear to record.

Jupe put his hand up, cynical as ever, “How about ‘Shear Madness?’”

“Very funny.” 

“..Hair Force?” offered Striton,

“Better, but we’re kinda missing the online bit,”



I could hear their grey matter whirring… “The product name is important – say VirtuTrim -  but the tagline needs to sell the idea. Let’s remember what’s in it for the cosmetics company; They have protected rights to a product that lets people tune in from anywhere in the world, anytime, and get beauty treatment, whilst the company pushes its other products and also makes a profit. If it works, it’s a real money spinner. 

Nepty got it, “ So; VirtuTrim - for spin, win, win?”


“How about…?” Alto paused for thought  “..shorten it to vTrim, and say… ‘vTrim - shear promo, sure profit?”

Dorid’s hologram got involved (I noticed his hair now cascaded over his shoulders)… “Tune in, trim up?”

“It’s good, but we’re not selling to end users. The cosmeticists will have their own promotion for the product…”

“HairLine, or maybe ManeLine for… err… bottom line?”

“iClip, you ship?”

Striton jumped up, “iHair!, then we say ‘Get aHead, get iHair’?”

People seemed to like iHair

“iHair - A bit off the top, a lot on the bottom?”

Dorid spoke up again “iHair - here, hair, and everywhere?” (he now had a purple Mohican)

“iHair - Cutting edge promotion”

Nepty seemed to have lost interest and was staring intently at her screen…

I looked up at the virtual clock..

“OK guys, that’s probably enough to be getting on with. I think we’re close, I’ll get the ideas down and pitch them on Monday. I’m outa hair (tsk), have a great weekend.”


Monday morning. Unusually, Nepty was in first. She seemed a little furtive and ignored me when I asked her to put the kettle on. She spoke to me with her back turned…

“So what was your favourite tag for the online haircut product, Art?”

“Morning Nepty, I trust you had a nice weekend. Well, I quite like a play on your idea, ‘vTrim - your spin, your win.’”

On the verge of tears, she turned to look me as she pulled off her wig. She had no hair, a blue cross-hatch pattern on her forehead, a livid scar running down one cheek, a cut lip and an eyepatch.

She whispered, “Yeah, well how about ‘My head, your horror story’?!”

I decided to make my own coffee.

To be continued


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Episode 13 – Olympics 2212.

Eric Prenderghast wasn’t happy,

'For God’s sake Art, we’re not after consumer customers!'

'..but the ad speaks directly to…'

He leaned forward, jabbing his finger..

'Talk about bad taste! Have you no morals? And who’s stupid idea was it to put PlasiMetal wings on the damn pigeon?!'

'Well, that was my idea, but...'

I noticed that, unlike most people, Eric wasn't wearing the obligatory London 2212 Olympics 'Pigeon Pin' badge in his lapel.

He sat back. 'Well, you can tell Dorid that, when I next see him at the Cheroot Club, I’m going to stick his inflated invoice where the sun doesn’t shine and, talking of which, if September’s adholo doesn't reflect our business a little closer, you may also want to order yourself a prosthetic ar…'

Before he finished the sentence, Eric severed the vMeet connection and his hologram fizzled out.

'Jeez Art, that sounded heavy.' Offered Nepty helpfully.

'I think he’d had a bad night.'

We had launched PlasiMetal’s new AdHolo campaign that morning, and Eric had just seen it.  

As well as being cheap, incredibly light, strong and pliable, - a natural material for hovercars - PlasiMetal was also being used to make the ‘blades’ that were powering several Olympic athletes into gold medal places.*

*Modern, powered prosthetics had been outlawed in sport, since Roger ‘Rocket’ Rogerson broke the one minute mile - and his neck - back in 2196. But PlasiMetal was inert, so its use was permitted. It was also so effective that there were rumours that foreign athletes were deliberately having amputations to further their careers.

And PlasiMetal had just received the 2212 Clever Stuff Medal from the Modern Universe Polymer Pursuit of Excellence Trust.

So I was (had been) quite proud when our design team created a 30 cm, 3D, 'blade-runner' AdHolo Olympian that shot out of targeted prospects’ screens to run around their desks, followed by a glowing 3D slogan, (pulled by the omnipresent pigeon) that said:

“PlasiMetal - The medal winner that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.” 


I flicked my iPear on, to see what was happening in the 2212 Olympics.

- Top news item was that the Association of Beach Volleyball Players had insisted on a ban on pirate holo transmissions. Some seedy ‘men's clubs’ were offering ‘personal’ sessions where the better looking players were isolated and their holograms unknowingly performed ‘solo’ in front of groups of ‘excited businessmen’. This 'creeped out' the players, to the point where they were threatening to pull out of the tournament if something wasn't done.

- Hover traffic to the Olympics had been much lighter than expected, since many had opted to visit the games as avatars. - You could now wrap any of the stadia right around you at home, and still experience - and help generate - a real atmosphere. (Each booked seat had a 3D projector, a microphone and speaker, so every visitor had a virtual presence at events where they had a ticket, even if they didn't turn up.) 

- Another part of France was claiming to be part of Great Britain to share in our medal success. BigMex were complaining, now that it had been squeezed into third place in the medal table.

- Yet at the same time, France was moaning at the startling success of our AntiGrav cycle team. They said the geared fans that drove our cyclists forwards were non-regulation, even though they were actually manufactured in France. (These propellers, it turned out, were also made out of PlasiMetal. I pondered momentarily on a new campaign to appease Eric…“Peddled across the world”…”The fast track material for manufacturing success”… “Discover PlasiMetal, you’ll be a fan too”…?)

- Also on the subject of AntiGrav; Queen Jessica was recovering well after her AntiGrav pack malfunctioned as she dropped into the opening ceremony at Olympic Park.


Dorid strode into my office. It was great to see him again. Especially as the Olympics still had a week to go. His pigeon pin gleamed, but I thought he looked tired.  

'Just popped in to pick up my MagniLenses - thought I’d say hi,'

'Beach Volleyball again?'

He looked a little embarrassed,

'Err, no actually. I’m watching the Dolphin Dressage event, down on the New Serpentine. The Brits are doing spectacularly well with the new frictionless saddles. You going?'

'No, I’ve got to come up with a new campaign for Eric at PlasiMetal.'

He sat on the corner of my desk, threatening my personal space, arms crossed, frowning in sympathy, 'Didn’t he like the last one?'

'You could say that, I hope for your sake that his last invoice wasn’t printed on a sheet of PlasiMetal.'

As Dorid left, a late news item popped into my iPear. 

Headlined “Pirate Peepers Potted – Police Pounce at Private Party,” There was a murky shot of several middle aged men sitting in the dark, round a glowing hologram of Brenda ‘The Body’ Boddigan, our latest Beach Volleyball hopeful. 

Looking closer, I could swear I saw Eric Prenderghast’s leering face through the clouds of Synthihale Cigar smoke, just behind the nubile Brenda - and, wait a minute, wasn’t that Dorid beside him? 

The text went on to say that two 'punters' had managed to evade capture, but the police were taking 'prints from pervert's lost pigeon pin.' 

I shouted after Dorid '..and if you run into Eric, tell him his pigeon came home to roost...'

To be continued.

(and it's a new site too!)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Episode 12 - The company day out.

So it was early July and the company day out loomed. We’d been discussing what we were going to do since the last company day out and the consensus was that nobody in the company (except me) wanted another day in BrightTown*.

It wasn’t so much that someone nearly died last time (Nepty’s prosthetic stomach had taken beautifully and she was now back on solids) or that Striton was still being shadowed by a holostalker that appeared beside his bed at night. It wasn’t even Dorid’s exclusion tag that stung him every time he went within ten miles of BrightTown.

They said it was more to do with ‘Culture’.

“So what’s not cultural about the Maritime Experience?” I asked.

“Well, I really don’t think they had laser cannon in the Napoleonic wars,” said Jupe, “..and if they did, I still don’t want to watch bits of virtual French sailor flying all over the place, even if it’s me shooting the cannon,”

“You said you enjoyed it!”

“A bit. But that was only because I’d had some of that ‘Rim’ stuff”

“Rum” corrected Striton.

Dorid chimed in “Also, July 18 is the only day we can do, and the weather bureau have a rainstorm set for mid-day all along the coast.” He added quietly, “My exclusion tag’s been revoked now anyway, so it's not that.”

“Why don’t we just go into LanDanTarn*?” said Loci

Silence – especially from me - LanDanTarn was expensive…

“We could eat at that new Welsh restaurant, ‘El Boyo’, - that’s cultural - and then take the new HoverBoozer over the city, you can hire HoverPacks and fly like a bird right over Parliament House and along BigRiver”.

With hindsight, the alarm bells should have started ringing right away. A bunch of drunk designers and holotechies, two thousand metres over a universe heritage site. I suppose we had had a reasonably successful year, and they deserved a little fun, but….

Dorid got in before me, “Sounds great. Striton, book it up!”


Two weeks later, although the sun was shining, and we’d had an extensive, expensive and entertaining lunch at ‘El Boyo’, it didn’t seem like such a great idea…

I had a stomach full of SheepMeat and Shepherd’s Folly LeekBeer. I was standing in a gale beside a HoverBoat (The 'Floaty Boaty' - fashioned to look like a Victorian pub) wearing an AntigravPack, looking down at a 2,000 metre sheer drop.

Nepty whizzed past, doing at least twenty K…

“Come on Art, you big….” Her words were snatched away in the high wind.

I held my breath and pushed off.

To be honest, it was quite good fun to start with. A beautiful clear day, LanDanTarn stretched out underneath, the whole area was now a HoverCar exclusion zone, so the air was clear and fresh and you could see for miles.

Your wrist band was hard-wired to zero elevation, on a plane with the HoverBoat, so you couldn’t rise or fall, and you only really travelled in two dimensions. In principle you couldn’t upset the wealthy folk underneath. 

By putting your arms forward it changed your centre of gravity and you speeded up. You slowed by putting your arms backwards. So if you just pushed your left hand forwards that side pulled faster, taking you to the right (a bit like an old HoloVid I’d seen of SuperPerson)

A surrounding energy field protected your head, so you couldn’t collide with anything too hard, at the same time the field kept anything you lost or dropped within your ‘envelope’, protecting the ancient buildings below. The AntigravPack was set to return you to the 'Floaty Boaty' after 40 minutes.

It should have been safe and almost foolproof...

After shooting around like manic, shrieking seagulls for a few minutes, we settled into type...

Dorid and I flew sedately side by side, admiring the ancient buildings below, the old and crumbling ‘PickledCourgette’, the rebuilt ‘SharpBit’ and ‘YellowBirdTower’, gigglingly following a couple of seemingly unattached ‘Beefeater’ waitresses on their break.  

Nepty and Jupe had clearly enjoyed more of the Shepherd's Folly than the rest of us. They were repeatedly flying towards each other, interlocking opposing arms as they collided, like in an old folk dance, to fly off spinning and laughing.

Alto had discovered how unbelievably fast you could go by putting your legs forwards too. No mean feat, it took all his yoga skills and he had to use his belt to tie his legs forwards against the slipstream. He shot off like a human nautilus.

Not sure what Striton was doing, but he cruised past slowly fiddling with his wrist control. He was wearing his smartass techy expression.

Tanto had found a way to hover, stationary, whilst reading his tablet on advanced HoloCode.

Forty fun-filled minutes later the AntigravPacks brought us, in various states, back to the HoverBoat;

Nepty and Jupe had suffered one particularly hard collision, causing Jupe’s wristband to fly off. Although the wristband couldn’t leave his envelope – so he didn’t fall – he summersaulted round it uncontrollably for ten minutes and had been violently sick. Luckily the same envelope had kept this in too, protecting the good people of LanDanTarn.

Nepty had tried so hard to help Jupe that their envelope fields had combined. The packs brought them back in, pressed firmly together in a sticky cloud of semi-digested Welsh food and drink,

Dorid was in love again, and planning his next divorce,

Tanto had discovered a way to create an edible (but vegetarian) Hologram.

We watched Striton far below, being pulled out of BigRiver.

…and we still haven’t heard from Alto.

At least no one died - probably.

To be continued…

*Late in the 21st Century, regionalists and marketeers decided that many places were losing their ‘unique identity’. New names were created to try and retain the regional accent (like LanDanTarn, Liverpule, Glarsgee), or following sponsorship by local industry (BrightTown, for instance, had attracted funding and jobs from Acme Lighting Co., BurningHam had acquired a distribution centre for BBQ Inc. and Bristol’s and Arsenal's councillors were vying for the attention of underwear designers.)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Episode 11 – June 1st 2212

Looking forward to an extra day off after the weekend for Queen Jessica’s 100th birthday. I had decided to stay local, the skylanes already hummed with jammed up families’ cars on perpetual hover, all desperately trying to make the coast to see the water change. Some bright spark had found a way to polarise sea water so it looked like a patchwork of union flags, and it was being turned on by Queen Jess at 9.00 tonight, right round UK island. The Scottish Republic and the New Gallic Consortium had complained, but they would always find something to moan about.

Thought I might use the break to check out the HoverBike showroom. Virtual testdrives were fine, but I wanted to know how they really cornered, and I'd heard the braking was a little fierce.  

Nepty’s cheery hologram interrupted my thoughts, her face glowed in the air to my right, “Good news Art, Pluto wants a vMeet in 10 minutes.”

I sighed. It was 16.50 on Friday before a public holiday, but he was one of our biggest customers, so when Pluto Harkinnon wanted an audience…

“Thanks Nepty - No really, thanks...” She stuck out her tongue and her 3D image fizzed out.

Pluto ran BlastM2Bits Security. Its rather draconian methods had attracted bad PR lately, and the corporates were being frightened off from using his products. I quickly reviewed our latest BlastM2Bits Adholo campaigns - Pluto could be rather uncompromising and he would expect quick answers. 

To be honest the last two campaigns did look a little, well, violent. But I was still quite proud of "LectroGrid charges trespassers more." and I quite liked "ThiefTat- the security solution that leaves the competition green."

Pluto’s vSelf shimmered onto my visitors chair bang on 17.00. His florid face looked about to burst, and without an introduction he got straight into it…

“How are you supposed to run a security business when lilywhite, over sensitive, politically correct morons are taking over the world?!”


“They’re now saying our products aren’t humanitarian, that I care more about effectiveness than ethics!”

“I have to say that there have been….”

“Worse, they say that I’m a sadist! That I look for profit in people’s misery, that I’ll do anything to turn a fast buck!”

“That seems harsh…”
“I’m really a very caring guy. Yes, OK, LectroGrid can be a bit fatal, but if people ignore the warnings they can expect to get fried! And it’s not like ThiefTat ever hurt anybody…”

(ThiefTat basically gave its victims an all over luminous green tattoo that took a month to fade.)

“And now they’re even complaining about FrightNite™! For Hades’ sake, people are only blind for a couple of hours!”

He started to simmer down, looked at the floor and took a deep breath…

“Anyway Art, we’ve got a completely new product set for you to market, and no one can complain about this one...”

I grabbed a notepad, “Thanks Pluto, shoot…”

“OK, so my R&D people are using NOA, it's totally benign - so that should please those damn...”


He looked up at me with a smile, as if revealing a secret,

“Neural Orientation Adjustment.” He leaned forward in his chair, I could see he was starting to get excited. He spread his hands.

“It’s a belter. If someone strays into an excluded area without permission we fire a Neural Interruption Beam that makes them forget what they are there for. We can then imprint all sorts of false perceptions.”

“Like what?”

His smile broadened, “Ha! We’ve had tremendous success with subjects who are convinced they are on fire or drenched in acid, they just run around in circles, screaming, until the cops arrive…. and you should have seen the way this guy flipped around when he thought he was a fish!”

“Hmm… I look forward to writing copy for this….”

“…and we tried this one where we convinced a trespasser he had glass feet, - wouldn’t dare move from the spot! Just whimpered for two hours,”

He was just getting warmed up..

“When there are two intruders the solution is even better, we can get them to start fighting, it’s hilarious!”

I held up a finger.. “Sorry to interrupt Pluto, but doesn’t this leave the victims permanently scarred?”

“I’m not with you,”

“Well, whilst I accept there needs to be a deterrent element, instead of frightening these people into deep psychosis, why can’t you just convince them they are in the middle of a slow dance - if there are two of them - or that they just need to get home because they’re late for their tea?”

He considered my suggestion…

“But if we do that, I won’t make nearly so much from the recordings on vTube. The one with the fish guy went viral in 20 minutes!”

(To be continued)


Monday, 30 April 2012

Episode 10 – April 30th 2212

Back from Luna - not the best break I’d ever had (see episodes 8 and 9) but change is as good as a rest, and I did have a healthy orange glow from the Luna sun (some wag had left a bunch of satsumas on my desk)
Trying in vain to get through a week’s missed iPear messages, a flashing reminder holo to the right of my vision told me I had a meeting any minute with Miris Kaufmann from Emulife. I’d never heard of him, I didn’t know about the meeting, and knew I’d have to blag it.
Nepty’s Vface holo appeared in the air a moment later. “Welcome back Art, your 10 o’clock is here, Miris and Luca Kaufmann. Not a Vmeet, I'm afraid, it's live and I’ve…err… shown them to the boardroom.” I thought she looked a little strange.
Miris was a tall, stern, intimidating old man in a dark suit, long grey hair and beard, dark eyes, yellow fingers. His companion was very short, younger, better dressed, but pale, with a weird glazed expression, and he moved awkwardly. He also ignored me when I reached down to shake his hand.
I started talking, a little uncertain of my ground. “So, err…Miris. Obviously I know about Emulife. How do you think Artlie-Saturn can help you?”
He looked mildly pleased that I knew of his company – I didn’t really. His small companion slowly turned to look up at me. Miris sat down, Luca remained standing, his eyes just above the boardroom table. 

“Well," said Miris in a deep, slightly accented whisper, "I am glad you appreciate the work we do at Emulife, and I am looking for an agency to help me further our cause and develop our programme. But let me start at ze beginning…”
He tented his long fingers and composed his thoughts for a minute. Luca just gazed fixedly up at me – it was a little disturbing.
“Time was that people framed 2D images, called photographs, as a memory of loved ones after zey had passed on, sometimes they erected statues that had been fashioned to look like ze deceased. Then with the advent of holograms, you could have your loved one preserved as a 3D image, you could sit zem in their favourite chair. You could even play a 3D record of zem talking and moving, recorded from when they were alive.”
“That’s right,” I interjected “ And then they developed a way to programme the holo’s to move and respond to stimuli. So you could basically feel that you were communicating with the deceased. But didn’t CHEC have a problem with that?”
“The Clinical Health and Ethics Committee are fools,” Miris spat bitterly, his face clouding over.
He recovered his composure, coughed, sat back and spread his hands. “Anyway, the principle of interaction with images of the deceased was established, and largely accepted by forward-thinking people.”
“But some people called them Zomb…”
He silenced me with a quick chopping gesture, “Ve don’t use that word.”
I'd touched a nerve, Miris’ companion slowly shook his head once, still staring up at me. He made me feel a little scared, in fact I wanted to get away. Miris continued as if nothing had happened.
“Now. Let’s go back to ze late twentieth century. In that time a great visionary called Gunter von Hagens invented a technique for preserving biological tissue, called plastination. On their death, willing subjects could be frozen in time and perfectly preserved. Unable to decay, impervious to time itself, ” He had a strange light in his eyes, his voice rose…
“I realised that, with CHEC’s reluctant acceptance of the animation of a deceased persona, the way was clear for me to take Von Hagen’s brilliance a stage further,”
I didn’t like the way this was going. Luca nodded once and continued to stare up at me unblinking, Miris carried on like he was in a trance, talking to himself, looking right through me…
“The problem with the polymer zat Von Hagen created was that it was inflexible, brittle. I, however, was able to pioneer a technique to re-nature the polymer using a special neutron bath, making it pliable, yet self-repairing, strong, supple and beautiful.”
He was breathing heavily, his eyes shining…
“So we saturate the recently deceased tissue with the polymer, subject it to my neutron bath and let it reform. Then we apply ze animatronics, the sensors, the servos, we re-engineer the cadaver to respond to instructions and stimuli, to simulate breathing, to move. In short we give it life. Life.”
So my worst fears were justified. I looked down at Luca… Miris focused on me again, he leaned forward, his voice rose to a crescendo…
“Yes my agency friend, you finally see Luca Kaufmann here for what he is! An example of the pinnacle of my art. The apotheosis! He is my deceased cousin, dead for over 12 months, yet there is no longer any smell, and you see how real he looks, how he moves..?”
He paused, not breathing, eyebrows raised, waiting for me to speak, his passion ringing in the air.
Shaken, I replied…“But he is a little stiff.”

(to be continued)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Episode 9 – the flight home.

I was flying back from Luna on my own. KB was spending a few cycles with some Luna estate agents.  Loony estate agents more like. Bright orange from the dome-filtered sun, and bulked up with lurid weighted suits to keep their bones and muscles strong through long periods in the reduced gravity.

They looked like a bunch of gaudy teddy bears – kind of ironic, as they were all depressed. They said it was because of the parlous state of the Lunexpat property market. The downturn followed recent studies (which they refuted) about the negative effects of long-term one sixth G on brain function – apparently it led to depression. 

The shuttle from LunaPort3 up to the relay hub was uneventful.  Just the usual periods of weightlessness when the acceleration came off, before you adjusted to the hub’s rotation. A couple of kids were being sick, but I’d had my EasyG™ pills an hour before, which would also see me through the midway spin about 3 hours into the flight, when we reversed the ship for deceleration into Terra.

I was looking forward to the six hour flight back to Borri Syland Spaceport, to catch up on some recent HoloVids™. I’d acquired a set of the latest neural projectors and a hooky copy of ‘MoleWars’. I didn’t hold with science fiction, which was becoming increasingly popular. Too far fetched for me.

Only a one hour delay leaving the hub, caused by RoboZaps vaporising a path through scattered debris from an inbound Aurelian ore freighter. Coming back through the outer rim it had apparently been holed by a lost hundred year old survey drone and it was travelling with a cloud of spilled payload.

There had been a lot of that lately. The tree-huggers were worried that we kept colliding with nomadic aliens. I’d seen a news report that clearly showed a weird green mess mashed into tangled wreckage on the nose of a docked Sportship.

I was shown to my couch and was pleased to see I’d been put next to the most attractive (albeit slightly orange) woman that I’d seen on this trip.

As I settled in, primed the couch to my shape and adjusted my straps, I put on what I hoped was my ‘interesting, clever and approachable’ face. “Hi there,”

“Hi there,” she said boredly, without raising her eyes from her iPear™. I noticed she had the latest iPearV8 - probably a designer.

“Art,” I held out my hand, “I see you have the new iPear8 - any good?” She looked at me for the first time. She really was very nice, quite sophisticated, if a bit snooty.

“I guess." She smiled and shook my hand. Expensive scent. "Wanda."

“Hi Wanda. I understand the V8 lets you create your own holos on the fly?”

“It might well do, Art. I just use it for reading novels – you a designer?”

“That’s right, I run Artlie-Saturn. It’s a B2B agency, so you might not have heard of us. We concentrate on making things like waste management, high-tech and security systems exciting – takes a different skill to other design. We get deep into the products and turn technical features into business benefits.  You might have seen our HoloAds for Plop Technologies, BlastM2Bits and TimeTravelTech?”

“No, I don’t think so,” She looked sad for me, sad that she hadn't heard of our biggest clients. I was running out of material that would interest a non-designer.

We detached from the hub with a jolt and about 30 seconds weightlessness, until we cleared our bay. The thrust cut in and G was restored. Automatic shutters dimmed the incoming sunlight, the moon shrinking behind us, I continued...

“Yes, it’s not like designing clothes or interiors. We need design skills of course, but we have to go further, including our brains in the process – we need to understand the product and the needs of the audience and address those needs with product benefits, presented in an interesting way. Our message needs to strike against customer indifference and open their minds to a dynamic sales message. That takes technical knowledge and copywriting ability. It's more than just design.”

“Ahh,” - I was losing her.

“Take a look at the inside of this cabin – yes, it’s been designed, but on a very basic level. There’s no real skill. Just bright colours, lots of leaf patterns - presumably in the naïve belief it will help people forget there’s a vacuum out there -  and a bit of steel on the edges to make it durable. To be honest my 8 year old kid could do it in her lunchbreak.”

“I see,”

I realised I had been doing all the talking, “Anyway Wanda, that’s enough about me. What’s your line?”

She gestured around us with her hands “I design spaceship interiors,”

(to be continued)


Friday, 2 March 2012

Episode 8 – Art takes a break

I’d spent 2 days trying to come up with a campaign for TimeTravelTech. Not only did I have no faith in the product – other than its ability to spread secretaries a little thinly (see episode 7, below) – but it also seemed to have little commercial application.

Lee Fyu Choor had reacted badly to my suggestions about branding and marketing his invention as a paté maker.

I knew that the techno market wouldn’t thank TTT for mending broken components as it took away their aftersales. (TTT’s solution could send broken items back to a past, i.e. unbroken, state). Anyway, the power usage was so phenomenal you would only use it for repairing expensive Skoda HovaCar parts – and they never broke.

I’d had enough, my brain was full, I needed a holiday. And not a VirtuBreak either. An hour spent on a sun-kissed, scented couch surrounded by whale noises, holos of impossible women, pterodactyls and unicorns always left me feeling slightly deranged.

So I accepted KB’s invitation to join him for a few days golf on Luna.

It’s different to golf on Earth. The clubs are six times as heavy to compensate for the reduced G but the ball is not, so it travels further and stays in the air forever – pampering already over-inflated golf egos. Which is why it attracts the rich and greedy, who all dress like Gautamalan pimps and develop a weird orange colour from the dome-filtered sun.

I hadn’t played golf on Luna, but I’d been there before for a seminar and knew the shuffling, loose kneed walk that helped you stay in proper contact with the ground. And I remembered the dry eyes you got from the processed air.

I have to admit though, as I stood lightly on the Tee in one sixthG, looking down the first fairway at the exclusive Copernicus Crater Club, a fertile green oasis under the glittering crystal dome, I actually started to relax.  My MediWrist showed my stress factor was almost down to 5.

I turned to KB, “Would you believe, my doctor actually told me I shouldn’t do golf..”

“Played with you too, has he?”

“Seriously though, I’d move heaven and Earth to play better,”

“Well try not to move Luna, its orbit is already wobbly thanks to that shuttle crash last year.”

We were teeing off in front of the bar, the orange Lunex-pats and golf groupies were all out on the terrace, sunglasses, shorts and expensive drinks. The odd white face showed recent arrivals and a smattering of VirtuSelfs that were still on Earth, but had Holo’d in for a lunch meeting. I thought I saw Dorid in there too, no doubt bored and seeing what I was up to.

We were a bit late to the tee and the hovering starter bot was winking ‘play’. With a gracious smile, KB let me Tee off first.

I set my HovaTee to 32mm, turned it on, and once it was set I put my ball on it.  The bar all seemed to be watching me, so I knew I needed to perform. I took a backswing with my driver… and found myself flat onto my back.

The bar all howled. “Spinner! Spinner!”

KB smiled as he helped me up. “Tsk tsk. Art, you gotta watch your balance, the club weighs more here in relation to you, so it’s easy to pull yourself over on the backswing. Have another go, swing slow, keep your head still and put proportionately more effort into your downswing…”

Red-faced, I lined up and took a stance. My next shot, I actually connected, but the ball went straight up, to shouts of “Domer! Domer!” from the bar, and my through-swing tipped me over again.

I sat on the ground, and looked up at KB. After a second or so the ball landed (relatively softly) on my head. The bar howled as one. Then we got drenched by a shower of condensation that my ball had dislodged from the dome.

I looked down at the pretty little lake, shimmering by the Tee.

“I think I’ll drown myself KB,”

He grimaced sympathetically, “I don’t think you could hold your head down long enough”

(To be continued)