Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Some holiday reading: The Time to Die Prologue


Realised I haven't posted for quite a while, so here's some writing for you! This is the prologue to the current Tweet RPG adventure, Time to Die - get ready for some neo-noir detective fiction.

I take the steps two at a time, flying up the decayed staircase into the darkness above. Dirty vibrant colours seep in through the smudged windows of the building. A slamming thud resounds down the stairwell, a door flung shut. Neon flashing across my retinas, I draw my Strayer Voight Deadshot .45 from its holster within my coat, preparing to corner my prey.

I reach the top of the stairs, a solid metal door blocking my path.

End of the line.

I reach for the door handle, slowing my breath, readying myself to burst through. There's probably a cross-hair aimed at the other side of the door. Might get hit, might not. Best to be prepared for the worst, ready to act after that red-hot slug of lead has ripped into my body.

Kicking the door open, I advance onto the rooftop, my body taut, blood thundering through my veins. The cityscape looms above, towers of metal and glass leering down, blocking out the night sky beyond.

My quarry stands on the opposite side of the rooftop, a lithe person dressed in black all-in-one climber-suit. A skull-hugging mask covers their face – could be a man or a woman...

I level my pistol at the person, edging cautiously closer. They don't flinch or move, accept for a slight tilt of their head, seeming to express mocking disdain. I move closer.

There's no loud blast of sound or muzzle flash proceeding the projectile. It rips into my body, sending me reeling back, sprawling onto the ground.

My breath rattles around my chest like a solitary data-chip in a beggar's tin. I look down, expecting to see blood spreading out from an entry wound – but there's something else...

The hilt of a dagger protrudes from my torso. I've seen this object before, touched it, held it.

Suddenly, the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.

I've been played for a fool.


A few days earlier...


I toss the knife from hand to hand, the weight of it like the familiar hand shake of an old friend.

“Used one of these during the Middle East Nuclear Crisis – mine had a few more notches than this.” I place the weapon back on its ornamental stand.

“Dr Obadiah helped create the phase-technology inside that weapon,” the young woman utters sheepishly. Her white lab-coat is slightly oversized, her blonde hair bunched tightly against her scalp, her shoes clunky and functional. Quite unremarkable.

“That was some breakthrough,” I comment. “Guys used to tell stories of cutting into the armour of tanks with their blades. The gene-lock on mine played up a lot – wouldn't activate because it didn't recognise me. Just ended up using it like a normal knife.”

The girl doesn't reply.

I turn, casting my eyes over the small laboratory. Coils of wire and components of varying size and shape litter the surfaces, intricate tools scattered amongst the mayhem. The chaos of a genius.

“Will he be here soon?” I ask, breaking the silence.

As if in answer to my question, the door creaks open behind me, a small middle-aged man entering the room. His frizzy grey hair frustrates me – unkempt hair makes my skin crawl.

“The device was stolen at some point in the last twenty-four hours,” the short scientist states with no introduction as he bustles about the lab. “No security footage, no obvious signs of a break-in.”

“Can you elaborate on the function of the device?” I ask, repressing the revulsion and annoyance I instantly feel towards this man, unable to draw my eyes away from the flaky skin on his scalp.

“No.”

“I'm sorry but I really think – ”

“It is a black cuboid box,” the scientist interrupts, “each side measuring about two feet across, with a black rubberised plate on top and an instrument panel on one side.”

I smile broadly at the man, then turn and head out of the door. I haven't got time for this kind of nonsense.

- x -

She catches up with me as I walk out into the grimy alleyway.

“Please, I'm sorry – he's under so much stress.”

I turn, looking at the young woman's earnest face. She could be quite pretty with a little effort.

“Why do you care so much?” I ask. “What's in it for you?”

“He's my doctorate advisor. I need him to sign off on my training, and if he has a meltdown before I get that signature...”

“I see.”

“I'll make sure you get half of the payment up front,” she pleads. “And I'll get you two thousand extra.”

“That's a lot of data,” I say. And I need it. Three month's rent to pay and there's always bullets, booze and food to buy.

“It won't be a problem.”

The door opens, Dr Obadiah stepping out. He shuffles over, watching me beadily.

“Is he going to do it?” he asks.

“Yes,” answers the girl, looking into my eyes imploringly. I say nothing, resigning to surrender. It's a well-paying job. I really don't have a choice.

“Good,” he replies, turning and heading off down the alleyway.

“Goodbye to you too,” I mutter under my breath.

“Thank you,” says the girl, smiling with relief.

“Don't worry about it,” I reply. “Let's go back in – I'll need to inspect the lab.”

She leads me back towards the stairs. I feel a twinge of unease but shake it off like an unwanted embrace. What could possibly happen that I haven't seen before? Only time will tell, I guess...

If you enjoyed that, why not join in with the adventure? The story continues at the start of the New Year - catch up here and follow Tweet RPG on Twitter!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Micro-reviews - The King's Speech, Harry Potter and a few more...

The King's Speech – an inspiring and emotional story, made me feel slightly patriotic and ever so slightly proud of the our monarchy.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – despite a lacklustre opening, this film brings the series to a dramatic and effective conclusion.

Captain America: The First Avenger – had some good moments and performances, but overall felt like a laboriously drawn-out teaser for The Avengers movie.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – interesting ideas and a strong plot, weakened by a couple of cringe-worthy moments. Fans of the series will appreciate it.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – superb British cast, labyrinthine plot and excellent production values. A remake that does the original credit.

Warrior – slightly contrived and very sincere, but has gripping combat sequences and a heart-wrenching narrative. A modern American fairytale.

Disagree or agree with my judgements? Comment below with your own thoughts!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Breaking the radio silence

Many apologies that it's been so long since I've written anything new - I've been absolutely swamped with writing and moderating the latest Tweet RPG adventure, Starfall.

Afraid I still won't be able to post for a while as Tweet RPG is the number one priority for the moment. If you're desperate for some literary stimulation, head over to the Tweet RPG blog and check out all the Starfall articles.

Thanks for bearing with me!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The best music video of all-time!

This is officially my new favourite music video! It combines pretty much everything I love - RPGs, video gaming and Christian progressive death metal! Becoming the Archetype, I salute you!



Saturday, 2 July 2011

Furry's Forest - Short Story

Joni looked up from the ersatz-potato she was peeling as Berry burst into the room, tears streaming down her small chubby face.

“What's the matter, dear?” she asked with concern.

The little girl dropped her school satchel as she ran into her mother's embrace. Joni stroked her daughter's auburn hair soothingly, waiting patiently for her sobs to subside. The tall graceful woman knelt, looking into the watery face of the six year-old.

“What's upset you?”

“My friend Oak, he, he said...” She trailed off, fighting back fresh tears.

“What did he say?”

“He said Furry's Forest isn't real.” The tears won the battle, her tiny body convulsing as she cried. Joni's look of concern slowly morphed into a smile.

“Is that all that's bothering you?”

“Don't laugh at me!” The child's sorrow swiftly changed to anger, her tiny fists clenched, her lip quivering.

“Oh, I'm not laughing at you,” asserted Joni, pointing to her no-longer smiling face, an urgent look upon it. “I just thought it was something more serious.”

“It is serious!” Berry shouted.

Joni took her daughter's hands, easing the anger out of her.

“It's OK, Berry. Next week, we are going to Furry's Forest, for your birthday.” She adopted a mock expression of concentrated thought. “Now which day is that...?”

“Thursday!” Berry's face lit up with excitement.

“So you don't need to worry. If Furry's Forest isn't real, then how could we be going there?”

“I know it's there, I know it egg, eggs...” The small child frowned.

“Exists?”

“Yeah, exists. But, Oak said the trees aren't real.”

Oh boy, thought Joni. She had hoped this conversation wouldn't come up for quite some time.

“Well...” she began, but was saved by the sound of the front door opening.

“Daddy!” cried Berry, dashing out of the kitchen. Joni stood up, straightening out her blouse. Eric strode into the kitchen in his smart dark suit, tie undone, his face tired but still bright and youthful. Berry sat atop his shoulders, laughing with delight.

“Hi Jo,” he said, kissing his wife, whilst Berry copied him, kissing the top of her mother's head. Joni chuckled.

“How was your day?” she enquired.

“Same old, same old. The project's ticking over, but we're on schedule.” He grabbed the little girl off his shoulders, who squealed with happiness. “But right now, me and Berry-Werry have got some playing to do. Lead the way, Princess,” he said as the child pulled him out of the kitchen and down the hall. Joni sighed, turning back to her potatoes.

- x -

“Did our daughter ask you anything about trees this evening?” Joni queried her husband as they lay in bed together, the lights dimmed, the air-traffic rushing past outside the high-rise apartment only a faint insulated hum.

“No. Why?”

Joni turned over, looking at Eric.

“She must have forgotten it. She was in floods of tears when she came off the rail after school. Some boy told her about the trees.”

Eric shrugged.

“She was gonna find out sooner or later.”

“I know, but the week before we take her to Furry's Forest? It could have come at a better time.” She looked into her husband's eyes. “I think you should talk to her.”

“Me? No, no. I'm the funny, happy-go-lucky parent. You're much better at the serious stuff. She wouldn't believe me.”

“Oh, so it's fair that I have to be the one who shatters her belief of there being some scrap of nature left on this planet? I should be the one who tells her that the magical theme park we're going to is just heap of lab-grown synthetics and plastic leaves?”

“Look, maybe she'll forget it for a while longer. We'll wait till after her birthday, then we'll break it to her gently.” Eric embraced his wife, kissing her forehead. “We'll do it together.” 

Joni looked solemn.

“She won't forget.”

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Movie Mini-Reviews: The Adjustment Bureau, Thor & X-Men: First Class

The Adjustment Bureau

Being based on a Philip K Dick short story, I will admit I was surpised that this movie was only 'sci-fi lite' at best. However, as a psychological/romantic thriller,
The Adjustment Bureau is fairly effective. Damon and Blunt do a good job of protraying a couple striving to be together, only to be torn apart by destiny, and the use of New York as a setting fits very well with the narrative. The quasi-religious undertones are a tad contrived, but overall this isn't a terrible flim. There are definitely better Philip K Dick adaptions, but equally there are others that are much worse.

Try this is if you like: The Time Traveller's Wife, Blade Runner, The Bourne Trilogy
Rating: 3/5

Thor

Going into this movie with no prior knowledge of the Marvel comic book series is not necessarily a bad thing. Thor does a really good job of bringing the viewer up to speed with the mythology and background info, without letting it feel exponential or clunky. Although the plot is fairly good, it's the performances that really shine in this film, with Tom Hiddleston deserving special note. Playing the trickster-villain Loki, Hiddleton toys with our empathy, causing the audience to pity him as much as we despise him. Apart from some minor flaws, such as continual and obvious nods towards the upcoming Avengers movie, Thor stands out as one of the best superhero movies this year.

Try this if you like: Iron Man, 300, X-Men
Rating: 4/5


X-Men: First Class

I think it's important to clarify one thing about this film: it is intended to be a reboot - this portrayal of the X-Men characters and story-lines will not marry-up with previous X-Men films. The main strength of this movie is also its main weakness - the subject matter. The film does a great job of telling the origin stories of Magneto and Charles Xavier, but it should have stopped there. Too many other characters are crammed in, and fairly weak characters too. However, the narrative of the movie is solid, making great use of historical events to frame the plot. McAvoy and Fassbender carve out original portrayals of their characters, and Kevin Bacon is an effectively sinister villain (and possibly the only new character with a cool mutant power). Not an awful film - still not sure why all the female characters had to be semi-naked though...

Try this if you like: Wanted, X-Men, Inglourious Basterds
Rating: 3/5 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Friends of Samuelj


Tweet RPG is a free, Twitter-based, follower-defined RPG service, where adventure stories are played by a community of users, each having the chance to alter the progression of the narrative. I recently started this project, thinking it was a innovative way to promote my writing, and would be a fun way to be creative! The first Tweet RPG adventure, 'King Slayer', started on June the 3rd, and is progressing well, with followers easily engaging with the concept. To join in, all you have to do is follow @tw33t_rpg on Twitter and make your choices! You don't have to take part in every voting session, just vote when you can. You are the hero - the choices are yours.

The Neverending Story Project is a venture with the aim of encouraging anyone and everyone to write something. As they state on their 'about us' page, writing is something we all do throughout our daily lives; why not be creative with it? The NeS webpage promotes writers through interviews and posting stories and fan fiction, hosts Twitter-based writing events and compiles three-page short stories by combining the work of individual writers. If you're budding writer looking to get some recognition, or just want to get involved in a fun creative project, then head over to the NeS page. Follow NeS on Twitter - @story_project

Christian Hoagland - Santa Ana Video Game Community Examiner

Christian Hoagland writes a video gaming news and review page, hosted on Examiner.com. A self-confessed avid gamer, Christian charts his love for video games beginning at the age of two, playing the Sega Genesis. He continued this passion through the changing generations of consoles, and has also provided articles for TrueAchievements. As well as collating up-to-date gaming news and reviewing new products, Christian also posts a series of 'Gamer Spotlight' articles, interviewing video game fanatics about their interests, adding a personal edge to his page. If you like gaming, head on over! Follow Christian on Twitter @ExaminerCKH

Friday, 3 June 2011

King Slayer has begun!

The day is finally here! As of 8.00 am this morning, the first Tweet RPG adventure, 'King Slayer', has begun! The votes are coming in - where will the story go?

To join in, just follow 
@tw33t_rpg on Twitter, and send us your choice. Once the voting session has finished, the winning choice will be posted and the next voting session will begin. It's that simple!

There are a couple of gameplay adjustments that you will need to take into account:

  • When encountering an enemy, you will be given an assessment of how dangerous your foe is. For example, you might see '[low threat]' after the enemy's name - this indicates the battle will be fairly easy. Precede according to this information.
  • There may be some situations where you cannot use your bow during battle. You will see '[bow unusable]' in these situations.
Keep voting and see where the story leads!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tweet RPG: Twitter's next big thing!

I've recently been working on a new project involving Twitter, and the time has come for some shameless self-promotion! 

The project is called 'Tweet RPG'. It's a Twitter feed providing followers with the opportunity to play 2nd-person text RPGs as a community, voting on what decisions to make throughout the narrative and thus shaping it's progression.

The first Tweet RPG adventure is due to begin on Friday the 3rd of June, at approximately 8.00 am GMT. It's a fantasy story called 'King Slayer' - you can find out more by reading the prologue on the Tweet RPG blog.

If you've got a Twitter account, follow @tw33t_rpg and get involved!

Monday, 23 May 2011

I am the chosen one!

Yes, I have been chosen. Chosen to start the next 'Neverending Story Project' Twitter short story on Friday the 27th of May! Sorry if I gave anyone the impression that I am Harry Potter - there is a slight resemblance, but I'm afraid I'm just a simple muggle.

The Neverending Story Project is a writing venture that creates stories by getting one writer to start a story, another to continue it, and then a final person to compose the conclusion. They also create stories through the use of Twitter, tweeting the opening sentence of a narrative and then leaving it up to the followers to finish the tale. And my sentence was chosen to start their next story! The sentence is:

"Take the next left," she ordered. I turned clumsily, clipping the kerb. It's hard to drive with a pistol wedged in your side.
Visit their website for more details, and follow @story_project on Twitter to get involved!

Monday, 16 May 2011

A brief update

It has been a busy few months for me, and I thought I'd fill you in on all the events that have been going on. There have been three weddings, two stag events and a new job to take up my attention - so understandably a bit of a hectic time!

It was my brother's wedding in Birmingham this weekend, and my friend Matt's wedding near London a fortnight ago, both of which went really well. I had the privilege of being one of the best men at both of these weddings, which was slightly stressful at points, but so rewarding and worth all the time and effort. Here's a couple of pictures of both the occasions.

Matt and Laura's Wedding - I'm fourth in from the right!
Joe and Ellie's Wedding
Matt's wedding went quite smoothly compared to Joe's - things just wouldn't stop going wrong! Firstly, my parent's car window was smashed outside the church during the rehearsal. Then I came down with chronic stomach issues in the night after a dodgy curry, which kept me on the porcelain throne all morning. Then the chair covers for the reception didn't fit - it was a bit of a nightmare. However, God clearly wanted the day to go ahead, because all these issues were solved by a variety of blessings - a friendly neighbour of Joe's patched up the window with perspex, my mum negotiated a deal for some different chair covers, and through the miracle of Imodium, I stayed corked-up for the rest of the day! In all seriousness though, it was a fantastic day and thoroughly enjoyed by all, I'm sure.

Now that all weddings are out of the way, I can focus on God's most recent answer of prayer for me - a new job! I've been looking for work since I finished at university last year, whilst continuing to work at my part-time job. It has been quite a challenge to trust that God had a plan for me each time another door was closed, but now I can clearly see His purpose in all these things. So, to cut a long story short, I've accepted the role of Communications Assistant at a Christian Evangelical charity based in the local area. The job is initially part-time, three days a week, so I'm hoping to continue doing a couple of days home-delivering to make it a full week of work. It's a fantastic role, making use of my creativity and interests, and will be a great opportunity to serve God.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Graphic: My favourite comics/manga

Disclaimer: These graphic novels are intended to be read by young adults and older. As they contain mature themes and imagery, I would not recommend them to anyone under the age of sixteen.

Akira - Katsuhiro Otomo

Epic doesn't really do justice to the six thick volumes that make up this Japanese classic. Set in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo, the series follows the adventures of juvenile delinquents Kaneda and Tetsuo, members of a biker gang who stumble upon a secret government programme involving individuals gifted with terrible psychic powers. After an encounter with Takeshi, a member of the government experiement, Tetsuo's psychic potential is unharnessed, transforming him into a power-hungry maniac with the goal of reawakening Akira - the source of the explosion that destroyed Tokyo thirty years earlier. The only person who can stop him is Kaneda. Headstrong and cocky, Kaneda has always made Tetsuo feel inferior, which drives him to strive even harder for more and more power.

Akira has everything a great graphic needs. Amazing artwork, some of which is so detailed it could be lifted straight from a technical illustration in some complex machinery blueprint. A vast array of colourful characters populate the world of the story, from the world-weary and resilient Colonel Shikishima to the enigmatic young terrorist Kei, also Kaneda's love interest. The plot mixes the grand themes of political intrigue and natural/man-made disaster with simpler tales of friendship, rivalry and loneliness. As well as being a very serious series, carrying heavy messages about Japan's experiences of nuclear war and natural disasters, Akira has many humourous asides, providing an effective contrast with the serious subject matter and sometimes dense scientific jargon. All in all, probably the best graphic novel I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Still on the subject of nuclear war, but this time across the pond in the United States of America, Watchmen is set in an alternative 1980s, where the existence of superheroes has changed the course of history. America has won the Vietnam War with the help of the seemingly omnipotent 'Dr Manhattan', but as a result the Cold War has escalated to brink of nuclear disaster. The once-loved 'masked heroes' have been forced underground, vilified as common vigilantes. However, the death of Edward Blake, aka costumed crime fighter 'The Comedian', leads his one-time allies to uncover a sinister plot with far-reaching consequences.

Watchmen is similar to Akira in that the novel has a massive scope, its narrative stretching far beyond the realms of a simple superhero story. The structure of the book is interspersed with faux novel entries, news articles and psych profiles, as well as a metafictional 'comic-within-a-comic', 'Tales of the Black Freighter'. Although these elements may initially confuse the reader, may wish to skip on to the next scene in the main story, they serve to flesh out the main narrative, drawing you further and further into the world of the Watchmen. There are some great original characters to enjoy here, such as the unhinged and brutal 'Rorschach', whose ink-blot mask as become an iconic symbol, along with the 'smiley' pin flecked with a drop of blood. Although the story of Watchmen is one that covers world-altering events, it doesn't ignore the importance of the minute human interactions that shape the planet as dramatically as the power of nuclear bombs. Love, friendship, isolation and morality all play a part in this story, making it a serious tale with interesting lessons to impart.

Scott Pilgrim - Bryan Lee O'Malley

Time for something a little less serious. But then again, what could be more serious than winning the heart of the most amazing girl in the world? Even if you have to defeat her seven evil ex's in deadly hand-to-hand combat? This is the challenge that Scott Pilgrim, 23 year-old Canadian loser/martial arts genius, must complete to ensure that the enigmatic and beautiful Ramona Flowers will be his girlfriend. Scott also has his plate full with trying to find and hold down a job, dealing with his vengeful former loves, and playing some awesome bass riffs in grunge/rock band 'Sex Bob-omb'.

As I said earlier, Scott Pilgrim doesn't exactly tackle the big issues raised by Akira and Watchmen, but this doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This comic takes an interesting post-modern approach to story-telling, never really addressing whether Scott's fantastical battles are a figment of his imagination, an allegory/metaphor for his internal emotional struggles, or just actually happening. My guess is that all three are true. In terms of artwork, this comic once again takes a simplistic approach, but in a really lovable and clever way. O'Malley's characters and backgrounds may invoke an 'I could do that' reaction in some, but I'm sure this isn't true in most cases. The real stars of Scott Pilgrim are the characters, who embody all the comedy, confusion and desire that life has to offer - whilst kicking ass across a variety of dimensions. 

Cowboy Bebop - Hajime Yatate and Yutaka Nanten/Cain Kuga

As we return to Japan again, we take a giant step into a future where hyperspace travel has led to humanity colonising the far reaches of the galaxy, with crime springing up at every turn. Step in the crew members of the spaceship Bebop, a group of down-on-their-luck bounty hunters seeking to scratch a living from searching out the criminals the authorities are too busy to apprehend. Led by the distant and carefree former syndicate member Spike Spiegel, the hunters bumble their way through each assignment, mixing danger and comedy in fairly equal measures, making many enemies but also finding a few allies. Jet, a gruff former police officer, Faye, a luscious femme-fatale with an addictive streak, and Ed, an androgynous and youthful computer hacker, make up the crew, each adding another element of madness to this intergalactic journey.

Unlike the previous three entries, the Cowboy Bebop series only has a loose main narrative throughout, with each story working in isolation as well as part of an overall collection. The artwork in both sections of the five books has a fantastic manga sci-fi look, feeling simultaneously recognisable and original. In particular, the character of Spike has a great design, with his epically large hair and trademark scruffy suit, incomplete without the obligatory firearm. Like Scott Pilgrim, this series shies away from the heavy issues, opting for action and laughs - both of which it does well. However, their is an undeniable noir feel to this comic, hinting at the more serious and dark motivating forces beneath the characters' bright and flashy exteriors.

Batman: The Killing Joke - Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Everyone knows the origins of The Dark Knight, how young Bruce Wayne watched his parents gunned down in front of him, that moment defining him as the iconic caped crusader of Gotham City. But what about his purple-suited grinning nemesis? How did he become the crazed master criminal that taunts Batman at every turn? This novel offers one version of the events in The Joker's backstory that twisted his mind as well as his features. In contrast to this tale from the past, Batman must embark on a new diabolical mission; to save Commissioner Gordon from The Joker's clutches, facing a deadly labyrinth of challenges all designed to break Wayne's sanity, with the aim of reducing him to the level of his mischievous and amoral enemy.

Another contrast to place alongside the previous graphic novels and series, this story is only one short story in the Batman canon. The reason I wanted to read this story in particular was that it was cited as one of the influences for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Anything that helped produce the best Batman movie, possibly the best superhero movie, is definitely worth a read. This story is very dark, delving into The Joker's twisted mind. The artwork follows the classic Batman palette, with The Dark Knight in grey and black and The Joker in his vibrant purple suit and shocking green hair, which gives the book a timeless feel. Probably the biggest achievement of this story is to show that superhero narratives and comic books can deal with deep and heavy issues, commenting on sociopathic behaviour as apposed with societies norms and values.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Software Malfunction - Short Story

Desk waited, but not patiently. The screen displayed the 'connecting' image, a picture of a tranquil mountainside with a mirror-like lake reflecting snowy peaks and emerald pines. It did nothing to calm him.
“Come on, come on,” he growled.
The image stubbornly remained present, the spinning arrow icon informing him to wait his turn. Eventually the connection was established, the image transforming into the view of a customer service cubicle, staffed by the obligatory pretty blonde, dressed in casual clothes, her t-shirt emblazoned with the Coresoft logo. The girl smiled sweetly at Desk, ignoring his obvious frustration.
“Hi, welcome to Coresoft customer service, my name's Sandy. Can I take your customer reference number?” she reeled off in an enthusiastic tone.
“3526060,” Desk said through gritted teeth. He knew the number off by heart; he'd had to relay it to four different people already.
“Thank you very much,” sang the blonde girl, her Handroid limb replacements plugging into her computer console, the soft outer shell breaking open, miniscule tendrils leaping out of her fingers, connecting with computer. “What seems to be the problem Mister Tenth?”
At last, Desk thought.
“My Handroids have broken and I need an emergency repair.”
“Could you detail the nature of the accident to me?”
“It wasn't an accident, it was a product malfunction,” Desk snapped.
“Mister Tenth, I must remind you that I can block you from contacting Coresoft customer service if you are in any way insulting or aggressive,” retorted the girl patronisingly.
“OK, OK. I'm sorry,” said Desk with frustration.
“That's fine Mister Tenth,” replied the girl with saccharine sweetness. “So, what happened to your Handroids?”
“I was working online and a cancer cell infiltrated my computer. I tried to stop it but the cell had already infected most of my system.”
“I'm afraid Coresoft can't refund or repair any damage caused by a third-party – ”
“No, that's not the problem,” interrupted Desk. “When I realised the system was overrun I tried to disconnect before the cancer cell made its way into my Handroids, but they wouldn't disconnect. I literally had to rip myself away.” He raises his arms into view, showing the girl the buzzing stumps where his cyborg-hands had once been. The girl's face turned an ugly pale shade.
“Mister Tenth, are you sure you're alright?'
“Yeah, I turned the pain receptors off before I did it,” Desk said impatiently. “How quickly can you send someone with a new pair?”
The girl regained her composure. She studied her computer screen. Desk waited, tapping one of his stumps on the surface of his workstation.
“I'm sorry but because the problem was caused by a software malfunction, your warranty doesn't cover a free replacement.”
“Excuse me?”
“The disconnection program that syncs the Handroids is out-sourced from Delitech. The warranty you took out only covers issues pertaining to Coresoft products. I can reconnect you to Delitech customer service if you want, but to be honest, I don't think they will – ”
“You have got to be joking,” Desk said incredulously.
“No Mister Tenth,” the girl replied seriously. “My contract strictly states that I am not allowed to joke.”
“I was never made aware that I wouldn't be covered in this type of situation,” shouted Desk.
“Did you sign the terms and conditions?” asked the girl.
“Well yes, but – ”
“Did you read them?”
“I probably skimmed over them, but – ”
“I'm sorry Mister Tenth but section three point two, paragraph six of the silver class warranty terms and conditions clearly states – ”
“Alright, alright,” spat Desk.
“Mister Tenth, I don't want to block you but if you continue to behave in this manner, I'll have no choice.”
“OK. I apologise,” replied Desk in defeat.
“Thank you. Would you like me to put you through to your local store so you can purchase a replacement?”
Desk shrugged.
“Doesn't look like I have much of a choice,” he said, looking gloomily down at his broken stumps. “Can't do much without any hands, can I?”
“I'll just reconnect you Mister Tenth,” smiled the girl. The mountainside reappeared on the screen and Desk prepared himself for another long wait.