ACTRON: THE END #13 (2019/02/16)

ACTRON: THE END

#13

by Stanley Lieber

The route between Earth and Mars was the same one Tom had traveled a million times during his childhood. He reviewed the highlights with K.A.R.L.

"Sometimes I just count," Thomas said. "It’s a pretty long trip, so sometimes I get up to a pretty high number."

K.A.R.L. couldn’t see the appeal.

"I guess I just don’t have the imagination," he said.

"Hm," Thomas allowed. "Anyway, during the war, Dad wouldn’t let me talk during the flight, so I had to come up with my own entertainment. Counting was novel."

Tom wasn’t sure if K.A.R.L. was asleep or awake. He nudged the entity, who, presently, started to life.

"Uh huh, yes, do go on."

"You could say I taught myself."

"Uh huh, uh huh," K.A.R.L. said.

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ACTRON: THE END #12 (2019/02/15)

ACTRON: THE END

#12

by Stanley Lieber

Thomas hummed along with the slow whine and drummed his gloved fingers absentmindedly on the console. He accompanied the irregular rhythm for some time before he became consciously aware of the low sound in the cabin. it seemed he had a visitor.

Yooouuu refuse to talk, but you think like mad

K.A.R.L. slowly whirred to life, seemingly annoyed at the effrontery of mere existence. He killed the canned soundtrack.

"What are you doing to yourself?" he finally said.

Thomas hadn’t known a K.A.R.L. was installed. Just what he needed: simulated companionship. A perfunctory dose of what ailed him. Well, this could be just what the doctor ordered. A little bump, if you will.

"The coke’s all turned black," K.A.R.L. complained. "No criticism of you, of course, but I can’t work this way. What am I supposed to do?"

So, no.

"I don’t care what you do, but you’re going to do it off this ship," Thomas snapped. He reached for the assisted egress, but mistakenly pushed the wrong button, and the cabin was once again flattened by K.A.R.L.’s animatronic soundtrack.

And even your eyes are new

Thomas’ visor steamed over. Fingers in his ears, he couldn’t push any more buttons.

K.A.R.L.’s assembly clicked, popped, and whirred as he worked through his program. Thomas regarded the choreography as corny. Routine finally completed, K.A.R.L. returned to his original complaint.

"Just can’t score any relief," he said.

Tom was sympathetic, if ultimately unable to help.

"We’ve all had it hard."

Both entities reclined and contemplated the silence of space.

photo by momus

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ACTRON: THE END #11 (2019/02/13)

ACTRON: THE END

#11

by Stanley Lieber

"I’m an idiot," Tom said.

There was no argument from the crew, who were not aboard and thus had no way to respond to his remark.

Tom slumped in his chair. Then he opened another bag of chips. The pattern had become apparent even to him. He watched himself eat the chips and then he watched himself wipe his hands across the front of his shirt.

What was he doing?

Well, there was no one to ask.

His eyes drew to a slit beneath his ruined visor.

Waitaminute.

It was at this moment that Thomas suddenly recalled his childhood. The whole shape of it, a smearing quicksilver ellipsoid, entered and exited his mind like a tadpole shooting across a pond. Yes, like a bullet through his brain.

However, no ripple, no impression registered in Tom’s consciousness.

Unaware of the momentary disturbance, he returned automatically to his chips.

Program continues.

photo used without permission

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ACTRON: THE END #10 (2019/02/12)

ACTRON: THE END

#10

by Stanley Lieber

This time there was no reprieve. Tom closed his eyes and opened his eyes but he was still aboard the ship. He was still thinking about being on the ship.

He was pretty sure.

It was hard to tell with the dead visor. He’d lost the little wrench he used to remove it. Nothing to be done, then, until the ship docked at DET86.

Mars.

It was going to be a long trip. He’d purposely locked the ship into a slow transit. Voice commands disabled, without his visor there was no way to alter his course. It figured. It was very much like him to change his mind only after it was too late to do anything about it.

Space, at this speed, was pretty boring. Forward in time, one click after another. Not quite lateral movement, but it was not at all apparent from riding in the cabin that any advancement was being made towards the secret Martian base. He was boring himself speechless. It was a dead-end sentence.

It couldn’t have been this bad back when he was in charge.

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ACTRON: THE END #9 (2019/02/05)

ACTRON: THE END

#9

by Stanley Lieber

The last time Tom spoke with Piro he was interrupted. When the conversation finally turned back to Tom’s subject, Piro asked him to repeat what he had been trying to say. Tom shouted, "I don’t care!" and stomped out of the room.

That wasn’t quite how Tom remembered it, but nevertheless that was how it happened.

Nowadays Tom was marooned in an isolation cell, solitary confinement, transporting himself to DET86 aboard a miniaturized RAGNAROK shuttle. He’d booked the flight himself, bereft beyond believe at his current status, re: dead relatives.

What did he imagine was waiting for him at the other end of this journey?

Unknown.

He pressed the button on his cell door and opened the tiny observation window. Snaked his arm through the hole, fishing for the exterior door handle.

Let himself out.

The craft was small. No galley. He rummaged under the seats for snacks. Found his stash.

It was going to be a long trip, and he had forgotten to pack entertainment. The shuttle refused to activate his visor, so he was effectively blind. But this wouldn’t stop him from eating chips.

His mind wandered.

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ACTRON: THE END #8 (2019/01/28)

ACTRON: THE END

#8

by Stanley Lieber

The concept of this stable inner core is ancient and tenacious, but it is an illusion.

They all died. As much as he could remember, he was aware there was much (or more) that he had forgotten. Whole people. Entire eras. The continuity was by now completely muddled. No editors.

Piro was gone, he was pretty sure, but his memory of the pirate persisted. Tom found that it helped keep things straight if he p[retended at conversations with his dead brother. He could write him in his sleep, for whatever that was worth.

Tom wrote some stories. His pen was dying. He didn’t really sleep last night. His coworkers were useless idiots. No speakers had enough bass. Nobody was buying his silver hair, except for the people who would agree reflexively with anything he said. His legs hurt.

Shut up.

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REVERSE CRIME 3rd Edition available now in print and digital formats (2019/01/27)

REVERSE CRIME

by stanley lieber

print | kindle | pdf

ISBN-10: 1795012463
ISBN-13: 978-1795012461

  1. THE BEST DUO EVER
  2. UP TO 10 COPIES SOLD, WORLDWIDE
  3. THE CHINESE ROOM
  4. BLACTRON POGROM
  5. A FLAT PLANE OF BLACK WATER
  6. POST-CAPITALIST






ACTRON: THE END #7 (2019/01/25)

ACTRON: THE END

#7

by Stanley Lieber

It was time to dye his hair again.

Tom kneaded the Grisham’s Formula into his scalp and waited for it to take effect. The inevitable sales boost.

Was this stuff affecting him?

Could anything affect him?

Being born had been traumatic enough. now he had to contend with efficiency stats, human resources, public relations, labor boards, local agreements, office politics, quarterly budgets, and the fact that the hair dye recalcitrantly refused to turn his hair completely silver. He looked like a young man wearing an old man costume.

And he wasn’t going deaf. He thought. If anything, his superpowers had intensified as he aged. He was stronger. He was faster. And he was pretty sure his hearing had actually improved. Therefore, he could only conclude that sound itself had degraded.

His reverie was disrupted by yet another call from Piro.

Which was curious, since Piro had been dead for thirty years.

photo used without permission

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ACTRON: THE END #6 (2019/01/24)

ACTRON: THE END

#6

by Stanley Lieber

Either the sound had changed or he had changed. Nothing sounded the same. He spun the dial up and down the spectrum. So far, 1987 was diminishing returns.

"Tom, you’re senile." Piro laid a hand on his shoulder. The gesture had always annoyed him.

"You’re too familiar," Tom said, and shrugged his hand away.

Contrary to expectation, plugging in the balanced cable had reduced apparent bass response. Subjectively, another hundred bucks down the drain. He didn’t really understand what he was doing, but this didn’t make any sense. He diddled with the connectors to no effect.

"I hate music," he said, to no one.

"It’s not all bad," said the Chrysler Building Classic.

But what if it were?

Tom muted his visor.

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ACTRON: THE END #5 (2019/01/23)

ACTRON: THE END

#5

by Stanley Lieber

That moth had made his escape with auspicious timing.

It transpired that nobody’s job was at risk that day. Nobody had even come in to work. Wrong memory. Tom played it back several times but the details kept changing. in aggregate, though, everybody kept their jobs.

He was a good boss.

He’d kept them all in the Chrysler Building Classic when the New Chrysler Building had gone up, supplanting the original building’s cultural status. (Seventy-seven stories weren’t what they used to be.) Some had grumbled, but he figured eventually the vintage geolocation would come back into style.

They were all still waiting.

Which kept the rents low.

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ACTRON: THE END #4 (2019/01/22)

ACTRON: THE END

#4

by Stanley Lieber

It went about as well as could be expected. Nobody wanted to be laid off. They turned on him instantly.

Dimension Man: "I just don’t see why we’re cutting headcount in a record profit year."

Sonic Boom: "We’ve been speculating about this all day, and boy are my arms tired."

Eva: "I can’t believe I’m even still sitting here."

Super Sonic: [Glancing at Eva] "Let’s go."

They exit.

Raven: "Ha ha. All this because the coke turned black?"

No, that wasn’t it.

Nobody had gotten laid off. You’re confusing it with that other time.

Tom slapped himself.

Snap out of it, idiot.

He tried again.

It went about as well as could be expected. Nobody said anything rash. He was heartened by their expression of absolute support.

Dimension Man: "I figure, they’re not going to cut headcount in a record profit year."

Sonic Boom: "The suits are picking up the bill!"

Eva: "I was sure we were all fired."

Super Sonic: [Snoring]

Raven: "Ha ha. So what do we do with all the black coke?"

And so on, in this vein.

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ACTRON: THE END #3 (2019/01/18)

ACTRON: THE END

#3

by Stanley Lieber

Of course the silver was fake. It had been years since he’d aged. If it were up to him he’d skip the pantomime, but his employees expected a certain bogus gravitas. These days, he dressed like a high school coach working weekends at a car dealership.

Grisham’s Formula always worked. He smeared the questionable paste across his forehead and kneaded it into his hair. Instant stature. They’d think of him as a dad.

For the conference calls it probably didn’t matter. Nobody he’d be speaking with much cared how he carried himself. But for the sake of consistency he kept himself on model. He found it easier to keep track of himself this way.

Now, where was he?

Thirty-six employees were being let go. It was time to make the announcement.

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ACTRON: THE END #2 (2019/01/17)

ACTRON: THE END

#2

by Stanley Lieber

Tom regarded his silver hair in the mirror. The coke had all turned black. Here was an opportunity for a joke, but Tom demurred. He was doing that a lot lately. Demurring. It was not like him to stand around and reflect. But, well, he was just so damn pretty.

Tom touched his fingers to his lips and then he touched the mirror. Planting a little kiss, like in the old days.

The pink triangle badge on his polo shirt illuminated. It was time for the conference call. He finished up at the sink and made his way over to the neutral backdrop. Joined the call.

It was more of the same. He hated to micromanage but he couldn’t help himself. His employees were just so stupid. Stupid enough to work for him, anyway, which he figured entitled them to his abuse.

Nearly thirty years had passed since he had taken over.

He found it impossible to respect any of them.

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ACTRON v5 available now in print and digital formats (2019/01/16)

ACTRON v5

by stanley lieber

print | kindle | pdf

ASIN: B07MVJF1K7
ISBN-10: 1794200738
ISBN-13: 978-1794200739

  1. DOWN IN IT
  2. HAUS' WILL
  3. MEME MAGIC DOESN’T WORK
  4. GRISHAM’S FORMULA
  5. ALIX GRAVES IN MIRACLE WORLD