Alcoraiden t1_jeg1b3b wrote

It has been two hours, and Akarashk is still lying on his back like a dead thing.

"I told you."

He doesn't reply. His grayish lids have peeled back from all four eyes, both the scaled outer shells and both nictitating membranes keeping their precious water inside. I've never seen him so stunned, barely breathing, as if the slightest flinch would wake him from the dream. The only motion I can see is his unsheathed tongue flicking at the droplets rolling into his leathery mouth.

Well, I'm used to it, and I'm wet. I wrap my arms around myself and shiver. He hasn't even checked in with the orbiting mothership, though I'm sure whatever cameras they have to watch him have the whole crew gawking and laughing in that huff-huff-huff sound I've heard so much of on the way to Earth. Or, maybe they're all shocked, too. The readings on their computers were flailing wildly about how much water Earth contained, and half of them had cracked up at how silly it seemed. The other half was trying to repair the sensor array all the way here.

There were no repairs needed, as it turned out. "Akarashk," I say with a barely restrained laugh, and I poke him with my foot. "You can get up now. I've been reading books in Khri for so long that my head is spinning, and I'm cold, and my eyes hurt from looking at my arm-comp screen." The screen is tiny, and Khri is a tough language to wrap my substantially softer mouth around, but really I just want to get some dry underwear on and show this reptilian creature what a lake is.

His upper eyes roll to look at me, and they glisten in a strange way I have never seen before. Usually, those inner membranes keep them dull and lifeless, but now they look like flowers emerging into spring. The silvery, iridescent sheen ripples in the clouded light.

"This is," and he says a word it takes a moment for me to translate as paradise. "If only it were not so inhabited. We are much too late."

"Yeah, if you guys uncloak yourselves, you'll cause worldwide chaos. But hey, you want to see Lake Michigan? It's one of the biggest lakes on this landmass." I try to speak slowly -- my Khri accent is horrible -- but he clearly gets the message: lots of water. All those sparkling eyes light up even further.

"Yes!" he says with a hurried, informal flap of his tongue. "Show me! Now!"

"Well, it's about a kilometer walk that way." I jerk my thumb off to my right, through the woods.

"Now!" He scrambles to his clawed feet and launches into a full sprint. I laugh and run behind, yelling for him to put up his human hologram before something silly happens.


He completely ignores me and leaps into the lake at maximum velocity, which for a Khrithes is a brisk human jog. Two half-drunk men fishing from a nearby boat give him a double-take, at which point I take a deep breath, whip off my shirt, and jump in after.

It takes a while to convince the two guys that Akarashk is wearing a costume, but I manage. In the end, they putter away while he scoops up armfuls of lake water as if he can hoard it all and carry it home. They'll probably tell others a crazy guy in a lizard suit went swimming, and people will pshaw at them and ignore them, so...good enough? I scan the area for any more boats as he plays like a kid at a water park.

"It's really cold."

"Look!" Completely ignoring me, he turns and splashes water over his head, looking for all the world like a toddler.

"Okay, look. You can't just go running in front of humans like this. Here." I bend down and fuss with his arm-comp, until it projects a hologram around him. Now he looks short but at least human. "You're still swimming in your clothes, but...good enough."

"This is Lake Michigan?"

"Yep. Really, it's nothing special here on Earth, except that it's big." I slop back onto shore and huddle up against the rain. "We have a whole ton of water all over. And yeah, those blue patches when you showed up? That's water, too. Except they're salty, because erosion filters a whole ton of salt into them. We can't drink them without purifying them."

Halfway through that explanation, he clearly stopped listening, as he has sat down in the lake until it reached his skinny shoulders. His scales are puffy and waterlogged, but he doesn't seem to care, leaning back and closing his eyes and spreading out his arms, his teeth all bared in glee and his tongue tasting the sky as if he has died and gone to heaven.


Alcoraiden t1_jeck0m0 wrote

Brian's eyes opened to a stream of incessant beeping. Steady...piercing... obnoxious. Refreshing, somehow? He squinted as his eyes aches, burned with white brilliance. It came from the square on the wall. He knew there was a concept for that, but what it was escaped him.

He was lying in something soft. Crinkly. Warm. What?

Oh...those things they pulled up onto him.


The people who passed by sometimes to sit with him. Family? They were called family! But where had he heard the word?

"Oh, good," said the dancing wisps of smoke twirling over his feet.

He stared through half-slitted eyes. Smoke didn't talk, right? He thought? He opened his mouth to ask who had spoken, but only a dry croak came out.

"Nope, no can do," the smoke replied. The way tiny lights flitted back and forth inside it as the sound rang out, it had to be the smoke. Slowly, he rolled his head to the side, and it felt like climbing a mountain. He winced and heaved a sigh.

"Window," he murmured. "Bright." Window! Another correct concept! But how? Who had told him what a window was? Why didn't he remember?

"Beautiful, ain't it?" The wisps swept over him and formed the outline of a tiny flying boy over his chest. A...fairy. "Congratulations!"

Brian stared. Congratulations? For what? He couldn't remember...but when he tried to push himself up, he saw his weak, ashen arms rise out from the blanket and flop again. His shoulders ached from the slightest motion.

"You didn't ask for physical ability," the boy said with a wag of his finger.


"You've been here since you were a little baby. This is the first time you've been with it enough to talk to me."

Brian coughed faintly and glanced at the stack of machines next to him. Ugh, if the beeping would just stop. He fumbled with the tubes running from his arms.

"I'd suggest not touching those," the fairy chuckled. "But wow, you didn't even remember me. I finally found a dream coherent enough to show up for you."


"Can't. Only you can hear me. But you wanted to wake up with the knowledge of someone your age, so here you are! You'll remember slowly, but the basics should be coming in now."

Wake up? He stared around the stark white room. Wake up...?

"Whoops, almost six. She'll be here soon. Gotta fly! Congrats, you're the oldest guy I've ever granted for!"

He was gone in a soft puff, and Brian stared through the empty air where he once was. Just as he closed his eyes again, rooting through his mind for more words, the door opened.

The nurse dropped her clipboard.


Alcoraiden t1_jdio6ir wrote

Let me give this a shot. I'm an electrical engineer, for context, so I'm more on the hardware than the software, but here goes.

Preface: In an ideal world, a computer would work the same way each time. That's what code and circuits are designed to do. However, obviously, that doesn't always happen.

Hardware answer: All your machines are made of circuits, as you know. The software is running on something. When you transmit data from point A to point B, like when you press keys on your keyboard and signals go flying out to the processor, things can go wrong. Some common issues in circuit design, some of which should be caught by engineers in design:

- Marginal voltages, where you barely have enough juice to run what you're trying to run and any sagging in the power will cause problems)

- Transistors overlapping their switching, where you get "shoot-through" where power connects to ground briefly, usually happens in motor drives,

- Overheating, where electronics change behavior sometimes drastically when hot, and can even melt/fuse

- Not enough static protection, so you can shock it with your finger when you touch it and change the voltages inside

There are so many more. Sometimes your traces on the printed circuit board are poorly matched, so high speed components will sometimes glitch out when they don't recognize a parallel data bus that comes in out of sync. Sometimes your power rails don't come up in the right order. I could write a list as long as my arm of issues that can cause intermittent bugs.

I had to restart my smartwatch once when I shocked it just right that it froze up -- presumably the sudden voltage spike, while taken care of by protective diodes, had caused enough chaos inside that the processor didn't know what to do. But once you drop the power rail and everything goes to 0V (roughly), you can start it up again and now it's fresh. It doesn't remember what went wrong unless you physically damaged a part.

The summary of all this is that there are many parts to a machine that are functioning marginally, such that small random events can determine when it works and when it doesn't. Restarting just clears out the negative effects of a bad run, can allow hardware to reset its voltages or cool off, and starts from scratch for another try. Good engineering will minimize the chance of these random events causing issues, but a few will always get through now and then.

Turning it off and back on again is a temporary solution. As an engineer, I am not allowed to just reboot and let a known bug through. It will show up again later. Bugs are almost never single events, even if it takes a while for them to reappear.


Alcoraiden t1_jd9gheq wrote

It's not much of a communication, it's more of a lack of that. Depending on what part fails, you'll have a different order of shutdown, but essentially death happens when your body can't get enough oxygen to keep its processes going. Either your brain stops functioning and thus the rest of your body doesn't get the automatic signals to breathe and move blood, or your heart is damaged and now your brain doesn't get oxygen and you pas out and die, get the idea. Maybe you lost so much blood that it just can't ferry enough oxygen to your vitals, and they shut down.

Your microbiome (bacteria, fungi, etc in and on you) will begin to eat you. If you die in an open area, larger scavengers probably will come pick at you too. Your muscles will first lock up (rigor mortis) and then loosen over time. Your body will grow cold (algor mortis), and then your skin will discolor as blood pools in whatever the lowest parts of your body are for the position you're in (livor mortis). Your skin will desiccate and retract, giving the appearance that your nails and hair have grown. As your muscles relax, you'll release whatever was in your bladder and bowels at the time. Amusingly, if you have a penis, you'll probably get an erection for a while.


Alcoraiden OP t1_jd64b8w wrote

I am not, in fact, young. I just am naturally depressive and don't need to be cynical on top of it. I try to be the opposite.

People here keep making this about being fleeced. I mean just the little things in life. Like if someone snaps at you, they're probably having a bad day. If they cut you off in traffic, they're probably in a hurry.

If I didn't use my own tip, I'd be angry at everyone all the time.