Endgame

The Amazing Occasional Cortex is the best thing to happen to American politics. Her entertainment value trumps even Trump. I hear the senior Democrats plan to get rid of her ASAP because she’s too dim even for a career in politics. And she’s giving away the game.

She’s also quite pretty when she’s not doing the bulging eyes and catfish mouth thing. Dimmer than a five watt light bulb, even so.

I once bought a five watt (tungsten filament) light bulb when I was a student. I put it in the central light in the room I occupied. I swear the place got darker when I turned it on. The gloom level it gave was most delightful.

Occasional Cortex has rediscovered something science was bilking money for back in the 1990s. An impossible project with just enough hints of vague promise to keep the funds flowing. I wasn’t working on it but I was there.

I’ll try to keep to layman’s terms and not don the lecturer cap here. At that time I had just switched from working with ruminants to working with pigs. It was the time I developed the artificial pig gut so I could experiment without messy animals getting in the way. I still have its final incarnation, it’s in pieces in the garage. I doubt I’ll ever run it again though.

Anyway. A ruminant (cows, sheep, goats etc) has four stomachs. The last of these is a proper stomach like we non-ruminants have. Number 3 is for the lecture hall, I won’t bore you with it here. The first two are usually pretty much combined into one big fermenting bag. It doesn’t digest anything from the animal’s point of view but it digests things animals can’t digest. Namely, grass and other plant materials that would pass straight through us undigested.

They do this because the rumen, that big bag, is loaded with a massive population of bacteria and protozoa. My PhD was on the rumen protozoa, mainly Dasytricha and Isotricha, incidentally. Also, while I was doing my PhD, someone else discovered that the rumen was home to the only anaerobic filamentous fungi known at that time.

Back to the point. The thing about that rumen is that it is almost, (but not quite) totally lacking in oxygen. It is the perfect place for methane-producing bacteria to thrive and they do. Big time. You think you fart a bit of methane? Pfft. If dragons were ever real, they were cows with spark plugs in their noses.

So, in the 1990s, there was much funding available for reducing methane production by cattle. It can’t be done, of course. Mess with that microflora and you’ll show a result but when you stop meddling, it just goes back to its natural balance. Keep meddling and the cow gets sick.

The thing about ruminants is that they don’t have a single essential amino acid requirement in their diet. The bacteria and protozoa in the rumen make them all from grass and the cow digests the bacteria and protozoa later. You can, it is true, feed a cow urine-soaked newspaper and it will survive. Carbon source, nitrogen source, its rumen microbes will produce all it needs. However, it needs that microbial population in balance. If it goes out of kilter the animal can get lactic acidosis or bloat, both of which can be terminal.

I did have some fun back in those days. I had found methane-oxidising bacteria in pig guts. Yes, I was pressured in a most unfriendly way into handing those results to the cow meddlers and I put up just enough resistance to let them think I cared. Pig guts (like human guts) have way more oxygen than a rumen, relatively, but it’s still not much. Those methane oxidisers, which require oxygen, were growing incredibly slowly and having no discernible effect on the pig’s methane production. They had no chance in the rumen but it was fun to watch them try.

Later I ‘leaked’ ammonia oxidising bacteria to the same group. They are real, but again, they aren’t doing much in a low oxygen environment.

The only way to reduce the global production of methane by cows is to… kill all the cows. This is obvious and has been from the beginning. It will make no difference unless you kill all the wildebeest and deer and rhinos and antelopes and moose and reindeer and every other herbivorous animal on the planet. Oh, and you have to drain all swamps and estuarine sediment areas too. But reducing methane was never the point.

It’s incredibly silly anyway. Cows can live on grass, we cannot. Huge areas of land won’t grow anything but grass. Turn them into croplands and without many, many tons of artificial fertlisers they will grow… only grass. You grow meat animals or nothing at all on those lands.

The point was, as Occasional Cortex makes clear to even the dimmest of voters now, to stop you lot eating meat. It was to make you drain away your energies on tofu and beans. That’s going to reduce methane production? Really?

Man made climate change is a load of cobblers. We all know it, even those who promote it know it. If Al Gore really believed it he wouldn’t live in a mansion that lights up like a planetary Christmas tree. None of them really believe it. It’s just part of the plan.

The sun is entering a Maunder minimum and real science has known this was coming all along. They were scared to say anything because denying the ‘man made’ part is a career ender. Even those who tried to warn everyone always qualified it with ‘but man made global warming will continue afterwards’.

No it won’t. Most of you will be dead afterwards. Why do you think they are so keen to move people out of the future nature reserve called Africa and send them North? A Maunder minimum will kill them even faster than it will kill us. People adapted to tropical climates are not going to last long when the glaciers start to roll again.

It’s happening faster than real science expected. Sunspot activity is dropping sooner than expected. You don’t have 20 years before it hits, it’s already started. That polar vortex is just a taste. Hence the panic to move the Plan forward faster now.

So if you have been preparing for a meatless warm future, well good luck to you. I have many years of fishing skills and know how to set a rabbit snare, and how to prepare a rabbit and cure the skin for later use. Oh I haven’t done that for decades but it’s really not hard once you know. I’ve been getting ready for cold, no electricity, no mains water or sewage, and a meat based diet based on what’s likely to be left around here.

The Plan has been no secret for a very long time. This particular ‘conspiracy theory’ has been, quite literally, set in stone and put on on public display. Still, many deny it.

Many poo-poo it even now. However, most of those who scoff are avid fans of Bernie Stalinders and the Occasional Cortex and all the free stuff they promise that will be paid for by someone else. They are listening, not to the voices of reason, but to the voices of madness and disaster.

One of those voices is now telling them the links in the Plan.

I think the Democrats will get rid of her sooner rather than later. But I hope she stays for a long while.

She’s the best laugh I’ve had since the Benny Hill show.


Hawaii at 100

Okay, I have finally finished with ‘Norman’s House’ and loaded it up. It has passed all the checks and the eBook version will spread soon. I’ll push it once the Amazon listings combine. Details are here.

The eighth Underdog Anthology is now open for submissions. Since we are not getting visited (parents again) until April 4th, I can set the closing date for submissions to March 25th, and I can be a few-days flexible on that. It’s the Spring (Beltane) anthology, details here.

Right, that’s the work stuff done. Now it’s time to get the popcorn, pour a good sized drink, sit back and marvel at the madness of the world.

I read recently of a man in India who plans to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. I have also noted that several American states now allow abortion up to the point of birth. Soon they will give new parents a one-year cooling off period, during which they can bring the child back for extermination if it keeps them awake or if they just change their minds. Oh I know, it sounds flippant, but I’m really not joking. There will be many counsellors on hand to help change their minds during that first year too.

It sounds horrifying but people will accept it because it’s all part of the plan. As is your child sueing you for bringing them into this world without their consent. Read Orwell’s 1984, if you haven’t already, and see what your children will be able to do to you in future. Heck, they can do it now.

This post isn’t about those things.

If I live to be 100 I am going to Hawaii. I won’t go before then but if I get that old I am definitely going. It’s quite a few years away yet and given that I have lived, and continue to live, a life that should, by all modern medical propaganda, have ended in 1985, it’s a long shot.

Still, as I said, I will not go there before I reach 100 because I won’t be able to buy any cigarettes there until I reach that age. I will definitely go there when I reach 100 because I’ll make a fortune. I’ll buy cigarettes and sell them individually to the 90-year-old senile delinquents on street corners. (tip of the heavy hat to Zaphod on Twitter for this one)

The idiots in charge of Hawaii are concerned about – a potentially strong backlash from tobacco companies.

They are not at all concerned about any kind of effect on existing smokers. Fuck ’em. Nor on any small retailers who rely heavily on the profits from cigarette sales. Fuck ’em too. The tobacco industry could write off the whole of Hawaii and their balance sheets won’t notice the difference. Hawaii’s corner shops will notice the difference very quickly and Hawaii’s smokers will, if they have any sense, be packing their bags right now.

Oh I know, smokers, eh? Who needs ’em? Wouldn’t the world have been so much better without the likes of Churchill or Einstein or Brunel? We could have been so much better off under the virulent-antismoker vegetarian Hitler. So all the smokers leave. You won’t miss them. You’ll have your new Righteous overlords looking after you and if you think it stops with smoking…. you really haven’t been paying attention.

If it goes through, and considering the current lunacy gripping the world I won’t be surprised if it does, I wil visit Hawaii in a little over 40 years. But not before.

I’d better start saving though. The way cigarette prices are going, that pack will cost me more than the flight to Hawaii by the time I get there.

Killing Babies

First of all, thanks to everyone who gave advice on marketing. I can see it’s not going to be easy, but you guys have probably saved me from spending a fortune in the wrong places. Yes, I did say all book stuff would go to the blog on the new site but, well, catch-22… I needed advice on publicising a site that’s new and unknown. Asking for advice on that site would have been futile, even though that’s where that post properly belonged.

While I’ve been messing with a new site and Farcebok page, a lot more weird stuff has happened. Notably, the laughable demand by the EU that Venezuela have ‘free and fair Presidential elections’. This, from the EU! None of the top brass of the EU are elected, they are appointed. And they have the cheek to criticise another country’s elections? I think they need to cut back a little on swimming in the wine lake.

The big one, for me, was the news that New York, rapidly becoming the New California, has decided to allow abortion up to the day before birth. Vermont, apparently, is about to do the same.

Disclaimer: I have never been involved in an abortion situation and have no close links with anyone who has. I can’t imagine the kind of thoughts going through the heads of those involved but I’m sure it’s pretty damn traumatic.

That might mean I’m not ‘qualified’ to speak on the subject, in the modern smug-bastard put-down language, but I’m going to anyway.

I don’t like abortion as a concept. That does not mean I am ‘against’ it. It does not mean I’m going to camp out outside abortion clinics and wave a banner saying ‘Down with this sort of thing’. It does not mean I am going to demand abortion be made illegal. It means exactly what it says. I, personally, don’t like it. That’s it. No hidden messages.

I would, in fact, be very much opposed to making abortion illegal. It will just drive women to dodgy backstreet abortionists. No, if it’s going to happen at all, let’s at least leave it in the hands of properly trained medics.

These days we have contraception in many forms. Here in Scotland, the contraceptive pill is free and if you go into the doctor’s, you can help yourself to free condoms. Really. There is no excuse for ‘accidental’ pregnancy.

There is, of course, rape. In that instance, abortion is a woman’s only sensible option since our idiot lawmakers have decided that a rapist has parental and visitation rights of any child that results from their violence. A ludicrous decision that only ensures the raped woman will be pushed towards abortion. Otherwise she has to endure regular visits from her rapist. By law. There are divorced dads who don’t get that right.

Still, an unwanted pregnancy should, at the least, be visible three months in. New York’s law means that even after the woman has felt the baby moving, even after the time when a premature baby has a very good chance of making it, she can choose to kill that baby.

And let’s be clear. At that point, it’s not a foetus any more. It’s a baby. Sure, it’s still inside the woman but it’s fully formed and will likely survive a surgical removal. What then? Do they let it starve or put it down like a dog? It’s going to die in a way that these same people would not allow to happen to a violent criminal. In fact, these same people oppose the death penalty with ‘right to life’ slogans.

In the UK there is a continual push to extend the time allowed for abortion. I think it’s currently at 29 weeks, I might not have that figure exactly right. It’s considered that the developing child is not self-aware at that point and I have to admit I have no idea when a developing foetus becomes aware. I would say though that if it is moving, there is brain function – but I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’ any more than I claim to be brainless in any other field.

New York, and now Vermont, has taken it to the extreme. Or have they? Is this the final point in this branch of Righteousness? They have no final point in any other branch, so why here?

In a few years, will you be able to take your noisy toddler for euthanasia? A few decades more and your basement gamer 30-year-old who won’t move out or get a job… can you send him for organ donation? Well, why not? You can, right now in New York and soon in Vermont, terminate a perfectly healthy, fully formed baby on a whim.

If you have followed Righteous behaviour in every other field they have played in, you know there is no end point to any of their demands. Why would there be one here?

Expect ‘Retrospective Abortion’ in the next few years.

The End Times

The world still hasn’t ended yet. I hope it ends before the expiry date on my popcorn.

As I’ve often said, I have no religion of any kind, not even atheism. I have absolutely no interest in persuading anyone to my view of the afterlife, this life, past lives… or anything else.

I have, however, always been interested in religion. Not in whether it’s true or not, nor in whether I should consider joining up. No, my interest is in where it comes from, and why so many people fervently believe something that cannot be proven because there is no mechanism for testing it.

How would science go about testing God? Omnipotent, omnipresent – so you can’t have a ‘definite no-God’ control area. Where is your null hypothesis? That everything arose by pure chance? Well, is that a null hypothesis or an opposing theory? And how do you go about testing whether anything in biology, geology, elsewhere did not arise by chance when the alternative is not visible, tangible or measurable? There is nothing to test.

Try testing prayer. Let’s say you get an effect. Does that prove God, or does it prove Jung’s ‘collective consciousness’ at work? Did the healing come from a God or directly from the people praying?

If someone performed a verifiable miracle – did God do it, or did that person exhibit some unusual paranormal ability? There is no way to prove that God exists. You either believe or you don’t. I don’t.

I know, people say I should believe as an insurance against being wrong. If I said I believed I’d be lying. I’d be faking it, as so many already do, to avoid being ostracised or worse by the religious community they live in. If there is a God, he’s likely to be much more pissed at me for faking it than for being honest about not believing. And God would know I was faking it. Faking it would mean lying to myself, to everyone else, and, ultimately, to any God who might be watching. As insurance policies go, it’s a dud.

All religions, including the new Church of Climatology, have a doomsday scenario. The end of the world. Do as we say, live as we tell you, or you will be damned on Judgement Day. Yes, Climatology is a religion. It fits all the criteria.

Climatology has seized on the Christian Armageddon version, in which the world is utterly destroyed forever and all humans are dead. The Christian one is preferable in that at least some survive and get taken up to Heaven. The Climatologist’s Green God just kills everyone.

The big question is – when? When does this all happen? The Jehovah’s Witnesses once set a date of about 1919 (my memory could be a couple of years off) and the world didn’t end. Although the First World War brought it to an end for millions of people so maybe they weren’t entirely off the scoreboard with that one.

There have been quite a few dates that have been set for Armageddon and all have passed uneventfully. God won’t give a date, as Death himself once explained.

So it’s all guesswork. Anyway, not all religions have such finality to the end days although pretty much all of them calculate those end days as being very close. For some, and there is a consistency between several of their legends, the end is not an ‘end’, but a change. A big change, a not particularly comfortable change, a change few will survive, but not the utter destruction of the planet.

The survivors will not have pink hair and arms like pipe cleaners. It’s that sort of change.

I have for some time been interested in the ‘yuga’ cycles of ancient India. Now, I know it is fashinonable to think of India as being under British subjugation as if it didn’t exist before Queen Victoria’s time, but there has been a quiet civilisation there for a very long time. They do not seem to have been an expansionist civilisation, they aren’t recorded as being like the Greeks and Romans and many others who were so bored with their own countries they felt the need to invade someone else’s. India has been invaded many times throughout history but they showed no interest in invading anyone else.

There is an interesting, if long, article by someone who has studied the matter in detail. The full yuga is 12000 years and there are four sections to it. Well really it’s 24000 years because there is a decline then a rising of humanity through the cycles. We are currently in Kali Yuga, the very bottom of the cycle, a time of barbarity and chaos. It’s nearly over.

Each of the yuga sections is 2700 years with a 300 year transition period (which is what Tessie Maybe will sign us up to over Brexit if the daft tart has her way). Here is the timeline he has calculated:

So we are leaving Kali Yuga and moving into the transition period into a new and better period, if this is correct. However, the transition period is always nasty.

Basically, natural disasters and the collapse of civilisations. Well, we are about to enter a Grand Solar Minimum which will make a mockery of all those ‘climate change’ energy bollocks, and civilisation falling apart? Look around, it’s happening.

Do I believe this? I believe nothing. I look at data and try to make sense of it. I do, however, believe that a lot of human knowledge of the past has been lost. How and why thjat happened I don’t know.

I have watched a lot of YouTube videos about pyramids. Not just the ones in Egypt. Most of those videos say ‘humans could not have done this, it must be aliens’ because we would struggle to build with that level of precision now.

But what if we could in the past? It is true that the Egyptians with their meticulous record-keeping left no clue as to how they built the pyramids. Maybe they didn’t build them. Maybe they found and adopted them. There was a plausible theory that the Sphinx originally had a lion’s head that was re-carved to a pharoah’s head and the proportions bear this out.

The Greek civilisational collapse mentioned in the graphic above was so bad they had to re-learn how to write. It wasn’t just the Greeks, it was global. Nobody would remember who built the pyramids and many other complex structures and nobody would remember how they were built.

I have to consider this as possible. It’s certainly, in my view, preferable to ancient aliens who came here, built huge stuff and then just pissed off home. It seems more plausible that humanity in the past developed skills that were subsequently lost through a global catastrophe that set us back to the stone age. I mean, if a big solar flare hit the planet tomorrow, what would happen to the infrastructure we have built now? How would future archaeologists interpret a fossilised iPhone?

Do I need religion for this? No, I just need an accurate historical record and if the human race is blasted back to living in caves and going ‘ook-ook’ every 3000 years, any historical record beyond that is going to be suspect.

But you know, when you look at the world around us now, and you match it to these old text cycles, it’s hard not to think ‘here we go again’.

If there is a God, it seems he does have a reset button for the planet after all.

Mayhem, and story ideas

I have spent most of the evening (and early morning) watching weird shit on You Tube. For this I use Google Chrome, because there is a YouTube adblocker available for that browser. These conspiracy theory vids are riddled with adverts and they usually start right in the middle of someone’s sentence. Look, guys, nobody is going to watch your ad if you interrupt so often and so inconveniently. We’re going to use Chrome and see no ads at all.

Okay. So, I was looking up ways to end the world and destroy humanity. Purely out of academic interest, you understand, and to get story ideas. Nothing to do with building any kind of doomsday machine nor with finding out the best place to drop a nuke to set off any kind of hypothetical chain reaction. Just looking for story ideas.

I won’t link to the videos, many of them are crap and a lot of the narrators have very dull monotones. They aren’t hard to find.

Tonight’s foray into the minds of the mad concentrated on Antarctica mostly. It seems there is a hell of a lot of stuff buried there. Well, it wasn’t always at the south pole and it is well known that forests, dead animals and even lakes are under all that ice and snow.

But pyramids? Okay, I can work with the idea of pyramids in Antarctica. I have read plausible theories that the Egyptians didn’t build the pyramids or the Sphinx because despite keeping detailed records of most things, they never mention construction of either of them. They could well predate the Egyptians. It might not be very likely but it is at least possible. Of particular interest is the proportion of the head of the Sphinx to the body. It’s much too small, odd for a people who were so precise in other building. As if it was originally a lion sculpture and the head was recarved.

This is all by the by. Pyramids could be on Antarctic soil but most of that is under ice and snow. A lot of ice and snow. A mile or more thick in some places. For a pyramid to be poking out of that requires a scale of constructiion that would have sunk into bedrock.

I have heard about alien bases under Antarctic ice, secret entrances, mysterious statues (again with the mile of ice problem) and more. A lot of it is clearly bollocks but some of it does make you think ‘Well, could be a plausible story idea at least’.

That’s the thing about fiction. It has to be plausible. It has to make sense. Real life has no such restriction but if you want to write a story, it has to have a logical reason for everything.

There is talk of a pre-human race sunk under the ice, who were advanced in intelligence and a lot like the scrawny ‘grey’ aliens we hear about. They were, apparently, flash-frozen. Instantly, Didn’t even have time to put a hat on.

Impossible? No. Unlikely, sure, but not impossible. There is also talk that those under the ice are the fallen angels from the ‘forbidden’ Book of Enoch. It’s not all that forbidden. I have a copy. It’s on Amazon. That one is stretching it since a God who runs the universe can surely find somewhere out of the way to put them.

How could they be flash-frozen? Well, there is a real theory on catastrophic pole shifts. Basically, if there is a blast of a magnetic storm from the sun, polarised so north is down from our perspective, it will try to force the little magnet of our planet to align with it.

The crust that we live on floats on a semi-molten mantle. Land masses move around on it. Not very fast, but they do move. However, friction means they are not dashing about like Italian drivers and bashing into each other all the time. It takes a very long time for a land mass to go anywhere.

If you are going to have a catastrophic shift in the land masses, you need another event, apart from a magnetic storm, to happen at the same time. Something that lets the crust move fast over the mantle. All of it, not just a bit of it.

That event could be a snapping of a subduction zone, a long one, ideally the Pacific plate.

Could it happen? Well let’s see. If that subduction zone is already under a lot of strain and ready to pop, and a magnetic storm hits that tries to force the poles to move, it could actually happen. The sudden increased pressure from the storm could make that plate and others give way. Bang. Massive earthquakes, mega tsunamis, the crust starts to roll and it could all be over in a week. The theoretical locations of the north and south poles would then be about 40 degrees from where they are now.

Antarctica would be back in the tropics. Meanwhile pretty much all the rest of the world has been well screwed back into the stone age. All electronic records are gone and the archaeologists of the future will have to work with whatever they can find – probably mostly gravestones since we don’t carve much else in rock now – and translate our long forgotten languages as best they can.

Has this happened before? Maybe. I’m rather more concerned about whether it might happen again. This time we have a lot of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. Having that lot all blasted at once would be very bad indeed.

The best way to destroy humanity would be to drop a line of nukes off the east coast of America just as a solar magnetic storm hits. That should get most of them and the radiation from busted nuclear reactors should finish off those who don’t die of internet deprivation.

This is all just for information, of course.

There was one more story idea. I watched a video where the (rather well spoken) loony insisted all the moons of Saturn were in fact spaceships. The ‘proof’ involved boosting the contrast to show high contrast rocks.

I mean, okay, manipulating Saturn’s rings into a frequency transmitter sounds like fun but who wants to be the one driving a spaceship around Saturn for several thousand years?

The theory is good but good luck finding volunteers.

There was one fun part though. Iapetus, one of Saturn’s moons, does indeed resemble the death star from Star Wars. It resembles it a lot.

What if an ancient race used it to blow up the asteroid planet, then left it parked around Saturn in case Earth’s apes needed a slapdown in the future?

Now that could be a fun story…

Madness

I’ve been busy with some intensive book preparation lately. I know there are two books on the way in and the next anthology starts mid February so I took a bit of time to finish one of my own. It actually was pretty much finished, I just hadn’t realised it. All it needs now is final editing and a cover.

Well, I said at new year that 2019 was going to make 2018 look sane and so far I have not been disappointed. The insane asylum that is Public Health wants to put us all on rations to combat an obesity epidemic that does not exist. Sugar ‘allowance’ was quietly halved a year earlier so that now we can be accused of consuming twice the ‘allowance’.

They did the same with booze ‘allowance’. It dropped from 20-something units per week to 14 and they act as if that was the rule all along. 14 units? That’s breakfast!

Notice also the sly change from ‘recommendation’ to ‘allowance’. ‘We recommend you have this much’ has become ‘we will allow you to have this much’ as if we are children.

There is also the use of ‘limits’ on all kinds of things. Well I have my own limits, thanks. I know my limit for whisky, if I plan to do anything more than groan into my coffee the following day. I know my limit for bacon, it’s when I can get no more in.

Incidentally, they’re all having a go at bacon, aren’t they? ‘Science’ is now telling us that we’ll get The Lumps from even seeing it. PETA are having a big anti-bacon drive. Again. Oh they are against all meat consumption but particularly bacon. I wonder who they are appeasing?

Have they not seen the lunacy and violence caused by bacon depriivation all over the world? If they want a placid and easily controlled population, taking the bacon away is going to have the opposite effect. The evidence is clear for all to see and in this New Science of correlation = causation it cannot be denied.

Sometimes, as with asthma and smoking, a negative correlation proves causation. It’s a very flexible thing, this New Science. It always proves exactly what it’s paid to prove.

We are now in Dry January and also Veganuary. A month with no booze and no meat. If I follow that I will have worked out how to destroy the planet by mid-January and will have done it before February dawns. Fortunately for the world I am ignoring both of the silly things.

The Dry January will have a lot of adherents among those who don’t drink much but went way off the rails at New Year. They will have a days-long hangover and a month off will sound like a good idea to them. Also, most people are broke in January having spent December’s pay, at least, in advance over Christmas. So cutting out the expense of booze will appeal to them.

I did not get pie-eyed at New Year because I had to drive on January 1st. Scottish drink-drive laws are now at a level that make the Prohibitionists gasp in awe and the police have always been on high alert for any erratic driving around this time of year. I wasn’t going to take the chance. So I did not have the massive hangover of the booze noobs and I budgeted Christmas so I didn’t end up broke.

As for Veganuary, hahahaha! Most of those smug idiots trying it won’t last a week. They’ll pretend they did while sneaking a ham sandwich when nobody is looking. Veganism is a lifestyle choice with the accent on choice. It will never work when it’s forced on people, they’ll just eat each other. Starting with the herbivores.

Incidentally, while writing this, I heard about another one. ‘Januhairy‘. So now I have to cut every hair on my body and some of them are hard to reach. Thanks for that, idiots.

I really can’t wait for Fuckituary.

It’s the early hours of the 5th of January and already 2018 looks sane. This is just the beginning. This year’s lunacy is going to have even the Dreadful Arnott saying ‘hang on a minute…’ Defying it all is going to be a full time job.

Meanwhile in America they have elected a House of Representatives whose only policy is ‘get Trump’. Health, services, running a country, screw all that. They are going to target one man and impeach him whether he’s done anything or not.

The rest of America, well you have to get along as best you can. Your government is busy destroying itself.You voted for it.

The Amazing Occasional Cortex is going to be a lot of fun. She wants to ‘tax the rich to 70%’ even though many of them are Democrats. I expect George Soros will find a way to quietly get rid of her.

The UK tried that in the 1970s. France tried it more recently. The result is always the same. When you hammer taxes on to people who can easily afford to move away, they move away.

You don’t just lose the tax. You lose what rich people spend in shops. You lose the jobs that make the things rich people buy and you lose the businesses they run and the jobs that those businesses were providing. So you don’t just lose the rich bastard you hated. You now have a lot more people on welfare to take care of with a massively reduced tax income.

I’m all clear on tax. I don’t have to pay any more until January 2020. I don’t pay much anyway because I don’t earn much. But if I pay tax at 20% and provide no more than a trickle to the Treasury, and someone on a million a year pays 20% tax, then they are putting in £200,000 a year to the Treasury. How is that not ‘paying their fair share’?

In fact they put in a hell of a lot more because the bulk of that is taxed at the higher rate. I have paid higher rate tax twice and I don’t like it. So I deliberately don’t earn enough to do it again. Work hard, boost your business, end up working for half pay because the government has taken the other half. Why bother?

This is why Leg Iron Books now has a 70/30 split on profits in favour of authors and also why that split will get bigger for the authors if business really takes off. I do not want to pay higher rate tax. I really don’t need that much money. There’s no point, money isn’t even a real thing now. It’s just numbers on a screen. There is nothing backing it up.

And, when the socialists have taxed all the rich people out of the country, they’ll come for the rest of us. Don’t have a big savings pot. They’ll steal it. Eventually they run out of other people’s money and… it wasn’t real socialism.

Yes it was. That is what socialism does. Every time.

Five days into 2019 and the insanity meter has broken its needle already. There is so much more to come.

I am so glad I live way out of town. It’s going to get nasty in there.

Waking Santa – a Christmas Tale

A tale of Christmas yet to come. If you’re new here you’ll need to catch up on where this story came from. First this one, then this one.

Those two now appear in Underdog Anthologies 4 and 5, and the one you’re about to read is in Anthology 7.

Yes, these stories are following a pattern and leading somewhere. Somewhere that isn’t all that nice. It’s a reflection of reality, when you sit back and consider it, but hey – this is just entertainment. It’s Christmas! (he says, smoothing his green fur and waiting for it to be over).

Without further ado, here’s this year’s instalment.

Waking Santa

“The snow is stopping. We should go.” Betty turned her gaze back to her tablet. “They might not have traced us yet but if they have, they’ll be able to send the drones now.”

“Just a couple of minutes. The download is almost done.” Alan visually checked his connections into the breached cable they had dug up, under cover of an open-sided white tent. “Anyway, it’s still Earth Hour. They’ll mostly be standing out in the woods and hugging trees that don’t even know they’re there.” He let out a guffaw.

“It’s not funny.” Betty slapped his arm. “This is seriously dangerous. As long as we don’t bother them, they ignore us. We are taking a big risk here.”

Alan took a breath and blew out condensation into the cold air. “They don’t ignore us. They can’t find us. If they do, we’re dead. The only way to find out what’s happening in the cities is to take a risk. Besides, it’s Earth Day, and after Earth Hour most systems will be shut down.”

“The civilian ones.” Betty stared at her tablet. “You know full well the government never shuts down.”

“I know. We nearly got caught last time. Still, we need to know how they are progressing in there and whether they are a threat to us.” Alan checked his screen. “Twenty seconds and we’re done.”

“You were out with Pete last time. What do you mean, you nearly got caught?”

Alan waved his hand. “Oh, it wasn’t a big deal. The drones were sent, we had six minutes to finish the download before they arrived and we were out of there in two.”

“You know a capture of any of us means a total pull-out, right?” Betty’s eyes widened. “Shut everything, take what we can carry and run. Find a whole new place to live. That’s a big deal. A very big deal.”

“Don’t worry about it. We didn’t get caught and we won’t this time. Download is complete.” Alan shut down his laptop and disconnected it from the exposed cable. “We leave the canopy. It’ll take them that little bit longer to find our breach and every second counts now.”

“Drones are activated. They’ve noticed us.” Betty tapped at her tablet screen. “Seven minutes. Let’s move.”

Alan folded his laptop and placed it in his shoulder bag along with the cables. “Seven minutes is plenty of time. Come on.” He grinned at Betty. “This is fun, isn’t it?

“You’re insane.” Betty took the lead. “Hey, won’t they just follow our tracks in the snow?”

“You go ahead. I’ll follow.” Alan picked up what Betty had assumed was his walking stick. He pulled a lever and extended one end into a rake, laced with strips of cloth. “Drone cameras are low resolution. They won’t be able to see our raked-over tracks and they’ll be busy hunting for the breached cable. Which they also can’t easily see because we’ve left a white canopy over it.” He lowered the rake to the ground, behind them. “They’ll have a precise location and waste time scanning and re-scanning it. We have time to get well out of the way.”

“You’re so fucking complacent.” Betty trudged through the snow, her tablet now stowed inside her thick jacket. “You don’t seem to realise how dangerous this is.”

“I know exactly how dangerous it is.” Alan’s voice lost its humour. “I’ve done this dozens of times, at all times of year, and we’ve cut it very close more than once. This is one of the easy ones.”

“Easy!” Betty snorted. “We have seven minutes to get clear before the sky is full of drones and you think that’s easy?”

Alan’s sigh didn’t make her turn. She was focused on getting away from what had just become a target site.

“The information we get is important.” Alan said. “And yes, it’s a risk. A big one. But they only ever send one drone to hunt for us and that drone always concentrates on the breach point. This time it’ll take them seven minutes to get here and we’re four minutes from cover. This really is one of the easy ones.”

Betty let out a gasp of disbelief. “I never want to be your watchman on one of these missions ever again.”

Alan laughed. “Nobody ever does.” His tone became serious. “It matters though. I’m the only one hacking into their systems. I take out someone different every time because if I can’t do it any more, or I get caught, the rest of you need to know where the access points are.” He paused. “If I take out the same person every time and we both get caught, it’s over.”

“Oh great.” Betty scowled at the new snow before her. “So I’m expendable.”

“No.” Alan spoke quietly. “I am. You, Pete, Stan, Eddie, Helen, all the others, are the ones who will replace me when I’m not around any more.”

“Huh?” Betty stopped and turned to face him. “What do you mean?”

Alan motioned her to keep moving. “We can talk about this when we’re safe. Let’s get inside.”

Betty scanned the fresh snow in front of them. “Where’s the entrance? I told you when we arrived, we should have marked it.”

“Never mark anything. It gives a drone something to find.” Alan pointed at her hands. “Where’s your tablet? It has a map that makes use of their GPS system to tell us exactly where we are, and where the access hatch is.”

“Can’t they track it?” Betty pulled out her tablet and turned it on.

“Yes.” Alan waved her concerns aside. “But we must be very close. It should only be on for a few seconds. It’s a risk, but pissing about here while there’s a drone on the way is a far bigger risk.”

“Okay. The access hatch should be about five metres that way.” She pointed to her left. “And it’s starting to snow again so we’d better hurry.”

Alan was already probing the snow. “Found it. Time to turn off anything electronic.”

Betty shut down her tablet then helped him shove the snow aside with her hands. They cleared just enough to get the hatch open and dropped into the darkness inside.

Alan lit an LED flashlight, pulled the hatch closed, spun the wheel that held it closed then jammed his rake’s handle through the wheel. “If they managed to trace the GPS signal, this should slow them down. The new snow will hide our tracks, hopefully before the drone arrives.”

“How can you be so calm? I’m terrified.” Betty hugged herself.

“You develop a certain fatalism after you’ve done this a few times.” Alan picked up the sticks wrapped, at one end, in pitch-soaked cloth, part of the return-journey items they had left here, and struck his lighter. “You just know that any mission can be your last. So every time I get home, it’s a great feeling.” He grinned, lit one of the torches and handed it to Betty, then lit another for himself. Then turned off the flashlight and pocketed it.

He hefted the bag containing the rest of their supplies and started along the rusting pipe. “Come on, we have to get the hell out. We have new information to take home and this whole trip is wasted if we get caught.”

Betty followed. “Why don’t we use the LED torches? We used them on the way here and they have plenty of charge left.”

“No electromagnetic radiation. Nothing. Not so much as a battery powered watch. We know their cameras are crap, we’ve downloaded footage that shows them getting worse over time, but we also know they are very advanced in RFID and in detecting electrical fields.” Alan turned to smile at her. “So we go all caveman on the way back.”

“You really think they can spot the EMF of an LED?”

“No idea.” Alan turned into a junction in the pipework. “In this game we take no chances. No markings anywhere, we can use the computer map to get here but to get back…” He took a piece of paper from his jacket. “We go old style.”

Betty took the paper and unfolded it one-handed. “What the hell is this? It looks like a computer map drawn in pencil.”

“That’s exactly what it is. I hear that, in the days before GPS and satellites, they had to make these by measuring distances on the ground.”

“Oh come on.” Betty followed Alan as he turned into another pipe. “How are you even making these turns? There’s nothing on this paper to tell us where we are.”

“I’ve done this trip so many times I don’t need the map any more. This is for you to follow. Call it on-the-job training.” Alan stopped and faced her. “Can you tell where we are on that map?”

Betty stared at the paper. “I don’t even know where we started from. How the hell do you work this?”

“It’s best used with a compass, but those don’t work in these steel pipes.” Alan took a pencil from his pocket and marked an X on the map. “This is where we just came in. Remember the turns we made?”

Betty shook her head. “Compass?”

“More olde worlde stuff. Don’t worry about it.” Alan smiled. “So, where do you think we are?”

 “Um…” Betty put her finger on the X and started moving along the lines.

“Wrong way. Not your fault, there’s nothing to orient yourself with here. Try again.”

Betty treated him to her best withering glare, then looked at the map. She moved her finger along the lines, traced two turns and said “here.”

“Yes.” Alan punched the air. “You’re a natural born map reader. Okay, we’re heading here ” he placed another X “– to a bit that looks like a blank wall. There’s a panel on the left side, press it and it pops open. Type in 5794 and the wall opens.  Always remember to close the panel before you go through.”

“Okay. I think.” Betty marked an X where they were on the map now.

“Right, Let’s go, and try to keep track of where we are on the map.” Alan started walking.

Betty followed. “Why are you showing me this now? Shouldn’t we be running?”

“We are in old steel pipes. If we run, the noise we make will echo through the whole system. Slow and quiet is the best way now.” His shoulders slumped a little but he kept walking. “You need to know this stuff. Everyone who has been out with me has one of those maps and knows how to use it. So when the day comes that I can’t do this anymore, there are plenty who can replace me.”

“You mean when you get too old?”

Alan half-turned his head, enough that Betty saw his tight smile. “I hope that’ll be the reason,” he said.

Betty followed him around a left turn. She marked the turn on the map, thinking about how her opinion of Alan had changed. He might seem irresponsible, even reckless, but he risked capture every time he went on one of these missions. She pursed her lips. She had been wrong about him. Everything he did was calculated and precise. It just looked random.

An echo along the pipes broke through her thoughts. A long slow groan, a bang, a rattling. They both froze.

“That can’t happen.” Alan’s voice quaked. “Drones can’t do that.”

“What is it?”

“Something broke open the entry hatch.” Alan grabbed Betty’s hand. “Where are we on this map? Right now.”

“What the hell does that matter?” Betty looked into his eyes and saw the raw fear in them. “I…” she touched the map. “Here, I think.”

“Good.” Alan reached into his bag. “Here, take my laptop. You’re younger and faster than me. You take the first left, the second left, then the second right turns, Open the panel, press 5794, close the panel and go through. I’ll catch up.”

“You want me to leave it open for you?”

“No. Always close it. I know how to open it when I get there.” He pressed the laptop into her free hand. “The information in here is what matters now.”

“But… what is it? Who broke the door open?” Betty clutched the laptop and felt her knees tremble.

“They sent more than a drone this time. Not a human, a machine. The one they only use on Earth Day.”

Echoing along the pipes came a heavy thump, then a deep, resounding ‘Ho ho ho’. The jingling of distant bells sounded but it was hard to say where they came from.

Alan closed his eyes. “Send not to ask for whom the bells jingle.”

Betty’s eyes widened so far it hurt. “He’s real? Green Santa is real?”

“Yes. Get going. I’ll be behind you but don’t look back and don’t wait for me. Get that information home. If I fall, do not – do not – come back for me. This is more important than either of us.”

She saw, in his eyes, a primal terror. A caveman faced with a tiger when all he had was a stick. She knew, in that moment she knew, that he was going to fight razor tooth and slashing claw with a stick because it was all he had to defend the thing that mattered to him. Betty turned and ran, her map now crumpled alongside the laptop in her hand, her blazing torch flaring behind her. First left, second left, second right. The map was in her mind and her imagination charted her progress.

Behind her, Alan’s footsteps and heavy breathing followed. She knew he had no need of the map but still she worried. His footsteps slowed, he was falling behind. After the second turn he was no longer in sight, only his wheezing and staggering footsteps told her he was still moving.

The bells jingled louder. Betty remembered the tales of her childhood, tales she thought had been made up. Send not to ask for whom the bells jingle. They jingle for thee. Nobody who heard them ever lived to tell, but stories said there had been one, long ago. Betty prayed to a God she half-believed in that she would be another.

Second right. The last turn. Ahead was the blank wall, the end of the pipe maze. Behind her, Alan’s footsteps stopped. His coughing echoed along the pipes. He was already too old for this game.

There were other footsteps. A steady, measured tread that gave the impression of a large man, or man-like thing, casually following. Something that never tired, never rested. No matter how fast you run, you have to rest sometime. Green Santa just keeps going.

Betty took two steps back along the pipe. Alan had told her not to go back but could she really leave him? She looked down at the laptop. Alan was right. If she lost this, it had all been for nothing.

The heavy footsteps stopped. Betty held her breath. They had no electronics switched on. All the Green Santa had to track them with was the flicker of their torches and if he couldn’t see that from his current position then his only option was to listen. To wait until they made a sound.

Betty turned, very slowly, and watched every step she took towards the end wall. She avoided every bit of debris, touched nothing that could make a noise. She had nearly reached the wall when the echo of Alan’s stumble came through the pipes. He must have tried the same trick, and failed.

“Ho ho ho.” The humourless laugh bounced along every pipe in this maze. The heavy footsteps resumed, faster this time.

Betty dropped her torch to the ground near the wall and used its light to find the faint outline of the panel Alan had told her was there. She pressed it, the door popped open and she hastily pressed 5-4-9-7. A red light came on but nothing else happened. Betty’s fingers shook. What did I do wrong?

Five. It started with five. Betty pressed five. She closed her eyes and thought about what Alan had said. It was linked to the map in her mind. First left, second left, second right. There were no ones or twos in the number. Her mind recalled Alan’s face giving her the directions. Open the panel, press 5794. That was it. Betty pressed 7-9-4.

The light turned green. Betty closed the panel. There was a soft click and a section of the wall swung open. There was light beyond. Betty glanced back, hoping to see Alan following. Instead, Green Santa’s voice boomed along the pipes.

“Well, it seems you are on the naughty list. Now you have to come with me.”

Alan’s voice followed. “Just kill me, you green metal bastard.”

“Oh no,” Santa boomed. “Naughty people have questions to answer.”

“I have nothing to…” Alan’s voice choked off, followed by the dull thud of a falling body.

Betty stifled a scream, but it came out as a squeal.

Santa fell silent for a moment then called out. “There is another naughty one here.” The stomp of his footfalls resumed. Betty stepped through the door and closed it as quietly as she could. Its lock clicked softly into place.

Betty placed her ear to the steel door. The muffled stomping drew closer, accompanied by the jingling bells. She clenched her teeth. Could he just smash through this door? The footsteps stopped.

Her body shook like leaves in the wind. Somehow she forced herself to silence, despite the tears rolling down her cheeks. Eventually the footsteps resumed but going away, getting fainter.

Betty let out a long, quiet sigh and sank to her knees, still clutching the laptop and the crumpled map. She knelt there for what felt like eternity before she finally looked around at where she was.

It was a corridor. White and clean with striplights along the ceiling. This is not where we started from. What do I do now? The map held no clues, it ended at the door she had just come through. She stared along the corridor, one way and then the other, but both directions seemed identical. Which way should she go?

A buzz, a hum, a rattle… familiar sounds. Betty stared along the corridor until a battered electric car came into view. More like an oversized child’s go-kart than anything else, it trundled along at a sedate pace towards her.

Phil sat in the driver’s seat. His face showed deep concern as he stopped alongside her.

“Alan?” The question needed only that one word.

Betty shook her head.

“Get in, quick.” Phil let her settle into one of the rear seats before turning the ramshackle machine around and setting off. “This is evac time. We have to get the hell out of here now. Don’t blame yourself because nobody else will. It was bound to happen one day.” He shook his head. “What happened? How did Alan manage to get blindsided by a drone?”

“It wasn’t—” Betty’s voice cracked. She cleared her throat. “It was Green Santa. He followed us into the pipes and caught Alan.”

“Shit. I can’t radio ahead. They’ll be scanning the area for signals now. I wish this heap of junk could go faster.”

“I think he killed Alan. I heard him fall.” Betty’s voice trembled.

“No way. Santa always takes them alive and Alan will talk. Oh, he will resist but they’ll make him talk.” Phil’s body shuddered. “They have very persuasive ways.” Phil turned his head. “You heard him fall, you say? Green Santa didn’t see you?”

“No.” Betty felt a tear slide down her cheek. “But he heard me, and I heard the bells.”

Phil whistled. “Wow. You’re only the second one in history to hear those bells and survive. You just became very, very important.”

“Me?”

“Since Dawn died all those years ago, just after we ran from the cities, it’s been harder to convince the young about Green Santa and the jingling bells.” Phil shot her a sly glance. “You didn’t believe it, did you?”

“No, not really. It all seemed a bit too weird. A robot they only use on Earth day? Why wouldn’t they use it all the time?”

“It’s fear. It’s how they control people.” Phil turned a corner. “For this one day they want everyone to turn off the power in their homes. They could do it centrally, but getting people scared enough to do it themselves – that’s real control. Green Santa is the enforcer for that specific control. And there are more than one of him.”

“How many?” Betty had found it hard to believe in one Green Santa. Was there an army of them?

“Nobody knows, but he’s struck in multiple places at once so there are certainly more than one.” Phil brought the vehicle to a halt beside a plain white door. “Here we are. Let’s go home and then leave it as fast as we can.” His mouth grinned, but his eyes were full of sadness.

Betty climbed out of the makeshift car and picked up her bag, Alan’s laptop and the map he had given her. “I don’t get it,” she said. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen this corridor.”

Phil moved to the door. “Oh it’s quite a labyrinth down here. Very few people know all of it. We only know the parts we need to know. So if any of us get caught, they can’t get the whole floor plan out of us.” He tapped on the door.

“Do you know it all?” Betty wondered just how much more her mind could take. Green Santa turns out to be real, then there are lots of Green Santas, and now her home was getting bigger around her.

“Well that’s the thing,” Phil said. “If there’s more I don’t know about, I don’t know it’s there. So maybe I do know it all or maybe I just think I do because I know more than some other people.”

Betty shook her head. “Forget I asked.”

Phil tapped the door again. “Come on. This is no time to be asleep on the job.”

The door swung open. A wide-eyed Terry stood there, with a much older man behind him. Grey, wrinkled and holding on to a cane, they both recognised him at once.

David. One of the few remaining of those who had originally fled the cities to found this colony. He was originally known as 23-David, his city designation, and the stories he had told about life in the city were hard to believe.

David spoke. “Come inside. We are already packing to move. Abandon that vehicle, we have no time to dismantle it.”

“You already know?” Betty blushed at the awe in her voice. “How?”

David pointed his cane upwards. “Hidden cameras in the ceiling. No point keeping them secret any more, now we have to move. They don’t have sound but Alan’s empty seat was all we needed to know.”

Terry ushered them inside. “Sorry about the delay. When I saw Alan wasn’t with you I went to alert David and the others. We just got back to the door.” Behind him, at his desk, his monitor was blank. “It’s all turned off now. We’re running silent on electronics.”

David laughed. “Yes, they are getting their Earth Day power-down in here too this year. They’d love the irony, if they had any sense of humour.” He shuffled to another door. “Come on. Bring the laptop. While we pack up, I want to see what Alan found.”

“You’re going to turn it on?” Betty clutched the laptop to her chest. “They might trace it.”

“We’re going to the Faraday cage. I gave instructions that it should be dismantled last.” David made surprisingly fast progress for a man whose legs seemed to no more than shuffle.

Betty leaned towards Phil as they walked. “What’s a Faraday cage?”

“It’s a big metal mesh box connected to earth. EM radiation from a laptop won’t go through it.” He motioned her forward.

The cage was only large enough for two but the mesh sides meant they could see and hear David while he started up the laptop and opened the files Alan had downloaded. His breath came out in a hiss almost as soon as he read the first few lines.

“This does not look good,” he said over his shoulder. He read further, fast, flipping screens and scanning the contents. “Oh this is very bad.” David shut down the laptop and closed it. “We’ll study it in detail later but just scanning it was bad enough.”

“What is it? Are they coming for us?” Phil’s fingers twitched.

“They are now.” David stood, opened the door and handed the laptop to Betty. “Take good care of this. Don’t let it get damaged. We’ll have to make copies of those files but there’s no time to do it now.”

Betty accepted the laptop and put it carefully in her bag. “What do you mean, ‘they are now’? Weren’t they before?”

“Oh, in a half hearted way, yes. They had hunts, they considered them sport, and they’d send armed drones out to kill us if they found us, but mostly they ignored us. That old drunk, Kim Jung Kerr, left most of the running of the cities to his sidekicks and they were pretty useless. They couldn’t co-ordinate a drunken night in one of Pissed Harry’s brew rooms.” He started towards the main hall where the evacuation gathered.

“So what changed?” Phil walked alongside.

“They finally left the old drunk in his mansion with an endless supply of wine and the lazy bastards let computers control more and more of the way their society works. We all know how computers think.” David tapped his head. “They don’t. They follow programs and they use algorithms to perfect the efficiency of those programs. Efficiency. Not humanity. Computers care nothing for that.”

“I’m not following this. Computers run the cities?” Betty’s head swam with too much information, too fast.

“They do now.” David pursed his lips. “People always placed too much faith in their computers. They thought artificial intelligence was real. It isn’t. You start a program and you give it algorithms so it can adapt – but it’s not a living thing. It can only adapt within the constraints of the original program. It cannot think up something new.”

“You’re losing me too,” Phil shook his head.

David stopped. “Okay. You were born here, you didn’t see the cities. You’ve heard about the genderfluid rules they had when I left, yes?”

They both nodded.

“And you didn’t believe a word of it, did you?”

Betty and Phil glanced at each other. Both blushed.

“I don’t blame you.” David resumed walking. “It sounds fucking crazy and it was. It was intended to be crazy. It was set up so people would demand an end to it. Computers, programmed by likely psychopathic morons, found a solution and applied it. Computers do not debate, they don’t ask opinions, they just implement what they were programmed to do.” He took a deep breath. “Everyone in the city is now neutered at birth, Except the breeding class, the elite. They produce all the children now and they select the best for themselves. The rest are surgically adjusted into worker drones. Like ants or bees. And they don’t even know it’s happened.”

Betty stopped walking. “That can’t be true. People would revolt.”

David stopped and faced her. “You’d think so, yes. Our people would for sure, but revolts, even talking about it, were so deeply crushed that all of us who would have revolted simply left. The rest, well, they got what they wanted. Someone else to run their lives for them.”

Phil wrinkled his nose. “So really, we can fight off an army of neutered weaklings, surely?”

“That’s not what they’ll send.” David’s eyes hardened. “They use people as workers, there is nobody in the military. That’s entirely computer controlled and it’s big. Very big.” He waved his hand at their protests. “Not to fight an enemy. To keep their people in line.”

“So why should we worry?” Betty said. “If they use their military on themselves, we don’t matter to them.”

“We are not talking sense and reason. We are talking computers. Give it a problem and it will try to fix it by any means at its disposal. It does not care about consequences or collateral damage. It is focused on one problem and what happens to the rest of the world does not matter.”

“This is getting scary.” Phil glanced at Betty. “Will they use nukes?”

“Unlikely,” David said. “Somewhere in their databanks will be information on what happens to electronics in a nuclear blast. Deleting themselves will not be an attractive solution.”

“So what then? What can we expect?” Betty felt for the laptop in her bag. It seemed less benign than it had before.

“When we tapped in before, humans would have seen it, humans would have sent a drone, found nobody and given up.” David paused. “Computers do not give up. You know those old scary stories about zombies? We still have some scratchy DVDs of zombie apocalypse films.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen them. Spooky, but you’re losing me again.” Betty blinked a few times and looked at Phil.

“Me too,” Phil said. “Zombies are walking corpses. Not computers.”

David continued. “What’s scary about zombies, even though they are slow, is that they never give up. Never stop. Never rest. You can easily outrun a zombie but you have to stop sometime. You have to sleep. While you sleep, the zombie is still going. Catching up.”

“So what you’re saying is that the computers are going to trail us like zombies?” Phil’s nose wrinkled.

“With a slight difference.” David looked them in the eyes, one after another. “Computers are a bloody sight faster than zombies. Welcome to the real zombie apocalypse.”

“Why? What did we do?” Betty’s lip trembled.

“We hacked in. Alan’s downloading of those files triggered a defence response – not from people this time, from the computers. This time they won’t give up.” David sighed. “We’re going to be running forever, and we brought it on ourselves.”