ROW80 - the writing challenge that knows you have a life
ROW80 - my second checkin

One Small Story in Seven Acts

Another flash fiction challenge from Terrible Minds. Chuck had discussed various plans and structures to build a plot around, one was a seven point structure. Below is the structure, as well as my short story using it.

Behold, a rough seven-act structure - and how I used it:

  • Intro (duh) –> alarms and crisis in space
  • Problem or Attack (duh) –> AI has lost most memory access
  • Initial Struggle (character first tussles with source of conflict) –> use alternate memory to manage problem
  • Complications (conflict worsens, deepens, changes) –> more systems failing
  • Failed Attempts (oops, that didn’t work) –> tried master reset, even worse
  • Major Crisis (holy sh*tbomb, everything’s gone pear-shaped) –> self destruct on, can't escape
  • Climax and Resolution (duh) -> use vintage iPhones to compute, escape

And the story (note, went in and removed section headings below, to let story flow better.)

Jumping with Siri

Dave cringes, then slaps at the flashing panel, silencing just one of the many alarms, bells, and sirens.

"Jeez, Siri," he calls. "Can't you filter and collate these all somehow so I can focus? And find out what the hell we just went through that is causing the status board to light up like a Christmas tree?"

"Sorting now, Dave. Critical life support failures filtering to a fog horn, other system failures to a police siren, minor failures to a saxophone solo."

"Stop it, visual, not audio, you idiot," says Dave. "Don't joke around, just handle it like you always do. Give me flashing lights, three small ones, red, orange, and yellow. And pop up a list for each one."

"Making it so," she says.

Dave sits back and enjoys the quiet. "Be serious for a change, because it looks like we're in some serious shit here right now. Tell me again why we jumped into this area?"

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that," she says.

"Jeez, don't be weird," he says, "just tell me."

"I'm really can't," she says, "I know we are in a space fold end point, but the how and why and where of it - nothing. I seem to have lost access to quite a few areas, including most of my quantum effect memory. I don't have my main memory or my computation scratchpad online anymore. There seem to be some routines running in firmware, but I'm basically only here and now. My older memories from decades ago are there but other than that anything past the last 30 seconds keeps disappearing."

Dave looks at the displays. "Hmm, some radiation alarms here, not any high energy fields, but there are some peculiar patterns in the spectrum. And you are popping up more system errors every second, maybe we should just turn around and .."

Dan cringes, then slaps at the flashing panel, silencing just one of the many alarms, bells, and sirens.

"Jeez Siri," he calls. "Can't you filter these all somehow - oh wait, been there, done that. Filter to visual, small flashing lights, red critical, orange system, yellow minor. And lock this response routine into auxiliary memory, not your main quantum memory."

"Done, Dave. What's happening?"

"We are in a jump terminus, taking on some weird kinds of radiation. It's scrambling your access to your main memories, and doesn't help my head either, I feel as fuzzy as my last tequila hangover. You'll need to access some alternate storage for now, anything past 30 seconds is gone for you, so for starters use that storage to catch the "now", and to run your basic routines from."

"I wondered about those echos in my mind," she says, "I'm getting a deja vu feeling all over again."

"At least you've kept your sense of humour," said Dave. "Or my grandfather's to be precise."

"Well, he gave it to me, in his iPhone 6," said Siri, "using a hacked-in personality app. I'm a much bigger AI now, but that part of me is still in here somewhere it seems."

"Lets check out these alarms," Dave says. He pulls at his collar, "is it getting warm in here?"

"Yes Dave, looks like the systems are all scaling back to the very basics, alternate storage is too slow for their routines. I'm having trouble just keeping them out of stand-by mode."

"That's it," he says. He flips open a panel and grabs a large red lever.

"Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?" she asks.

"When in doubt, reboot," he says. "We'll start off fresh."

The lights dimmed, then flickered back on.

"Any better?" he asks.

"I'm back on, Dave. No memory, still on auxiliary systems, but even fewer controls now. Looks like most things haven't come back on line after the reboot. I've no links with life support at all, some seals are leaking, lights are on batteries only, and - oops!"

"What the hell do you mean 'oops'?"

"Sorry Dave, looks like a security module is stuck in a loop, it thinks we're under attack and that something is re-routing basic functions to alternate devices, so it's triggering the self destruct."

"But that's our re-routing - oh never mind, we're out of here, once we get away from these fields we'll be OK. Set up a jump will you?"

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I ..."

"Yeah, you can't do that," he says. "No computations scratchpad. Shit. Let me think, maybe we've something in the hold we can use." He grabs a clipboard. "Let's see. Well, we've crates of supplies for Old America, the retro planet - lots of odd ball nostalgia items, but the only thing even close is just a batch of replica iPhones. Can we wire them in or something?"

"Dave, I believe when I was growing up as an iPhone 6 I had Bluetooth and Hotspot options, with remote diagnostic access. I still have the codes."

"Can you access these phones here?"

"Maybe," she says. "Realigning systems to Bluetooth parameters, sending access codes, getting returns, 10 units, 200, 400, 512 online now. I'm pushing the jump parameters to them now for parallel computations - be patient, they are old quad 6 systems and a few are sending back low battery warnings."

Dave sits quietly, listening to the hiss of escaping air from the hatches.

"Got it," she says, "here we go."

There's a flash behind Dave's eyes, and a wrench at his gut. When his vision clears he looks around the bridge - quietly blinking lights, the whir of a ventilation fan, mutterings from the subspace radio.

He sits back in his chair. "Siri, run a full diagnostic, and let Old America know we'll be a little late. And put on some music."

"Would you like me to sing 'Daisy' for you?" she asks.

"No - dig up some Deadmau5," he says. "And a cold beer."







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Shan Burton

Mike - I don't know what I was expecting, but I know it was not that witty little flight of fancy!

Jim and I would love to invite Siri home with us. Our kids are not grown, though, and our one income affords us pay as we go luxury.

You brought me Siri for free!

And, tomorrow, I plan to make good use of that plan, too!


Wow, I wasn't expecting this. Great story :)

Eden Mabee

Cute little piece. Not sure I liked the use of the "act" labels snce they drew me out of the story and into "Writing Theory" mode, but otherwise.. good!


Thx - all good comments. I liked the Siri character, may expand on it. And I re-read it and agree that the act labels could get in the way - I'll re-arrange. Thx all

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