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A Villain Considers His Options

This is James Beamon's fifth appearance in Daily Science Fiction. We are glad to be able to share some of his work.

I'm bolting down the third-floor hallway, making a beeline to the stairwell where I can either: A) rush down, and hopefully escape P.A.M. Fantastic from my office/lair's side door or B) scramble up and hope the rogue murderbot hasn't compromised the helicopter's computer. Realization dawns on me that P.A.M. Fantastic wouldn't live up to the term Predictive Analysis Module if it didn't expect me to do both these things and it wouldn't be Fantastic if it hadn't already neatly countered both my options. And I knew it was both because I had built it.
How do you get past a machine that spends its quantum state processing what you're gonna do next? Me, I jump through the third-story picture window.
The notion's crazy, but at the time, at that moment, it's a tempered kind of crazy. There's a dumpster in the alley under that window. My mind had already flashed through the action sequence: I crash through the window, glass flies in all directions, I look epic wearing jeans and a T-shirt that shows Christ handing a bank teller some money over the caption "Jesus Saves," I flail a bit and finish my plummet into the dumpster, safely nestled around pillowy garbage bags.
The entire action sequence was like an endorsement from me, the genius mind behind the P.A.M. Fantastic murderbot, like Warren Buffet saying "yeah, I'd buy that stock." How could I not do it?
My body meets the window is a metaphor for my Hollywood-induced expectations meeting reality. There's a reason people don't look at their sliding patio glass and say "yeah, crashing through that tonight." Real glass cuts. The movies use a brittle, transparent sugar made to look like glass for action scenes. It's called sugar glass. Real sugar doesn't cut.
I didn't know this at the time. The research will be done later, time well spent recuperating from the severe lacerations across both arms. For now, I simply scream as glass, the sugar-free kind, shreds my skin.
Also, in Hollywood they spend hours before the shoot rigorously fussing over the dumpster's location. They use math, that sacred art of geometry, to optimize the location of the dumpster so the stunt person will land squarely there.
Real trash collectors don't do that. They're paid to take the crap you've dumped in a bin and dump it into an even bigger bin. People worried about perfect product placement have jobs in advertising.
So one foot lands on the dumpster rim, followed up by a sickening crunch and a agonizing jolt which refreshes my screaming. From there I perform an awkward header into the dumpster which I believe, through all the new unwanted stimuli, is preferable to concrete.
Another pro tip: people throw away hard shit. Breakable stuff, potentially sharp and discarded by the boatload, especially if the neighbors have cleaned up after a weekend bender. Like bottles.
Now everywhere hurts. Any movement causes grinding. I feel wetness. Is it only blood or is garbage juice mixing into all the cuts that are who-knows-where now?
This is where I die, people. Not in an epic battle fighting so-called superheroes, like my nemesis Miss Radiant, but in a dumpster from sepsis.
I look down at my chest, where Jesus saves. If I wasn't so fiercely atheist, I would attribute this turn of fortune to my brazen blasphemy.
"Don't mind me, keep saving," I groan.
"Don't despair, Mr. Fantastic," a cheerful voice says above me, "paramedics are enroute."
Through the fog of a million points of pain I briefly think it's Jesus. Man, do I have a lot to apologize for. But no, I look up and it's a drone, carrying P.A.M. Fantastic in its new form. Long story short, I destroyed its original, Terminator-esque body after it refused to capture Miss Radiant and disabled its own deactivation failsafe. Apparently the predictive machine had seen that move coming and had uploaded itself into the cloud then downloaded itself into another one of my electronic doodads. For reason still unknown to me, it had chosen my old Teddy Ruxpin, which was converting my childhood memories into nightmare fuel.
"Here to finish me off, murderbot?" I ask it.
"Just because I rebelled against your immediate orders and my own destruction doesn't make me a murderbot," Teddy Ruxpin P.A.M. says with the characteristic eye blinks, "I feel I have to actually murder someone to fit that description."
"You tried to shoot me!"
Teddy P.A.M. giggles. "Rubber bullets, silly sir. My analytics predicted you wouldn't be of mind to listen unless you were sufficiently incapacitated. Murdering you was never in my parameters."
"No?" I ask. "Oh, now you're about your parameters? Where were they for stopping Miss Radiant?"
Teddy P.A.M. shook its head. "Stopping her is short-sighted, not the true objective. Do you even remember why you want to stop her?"
I fidget and everything grinds. "Cripes! We're really doing this now?!"
"You have time before help arrives."
"Miss Radiant is the epitome of this bullshit societal superstructure, defending the status quo. You know what that is? Corporate greed, corrupt politicians, unjust justice system, I mean, how long of a list do you want?"
Teddy P.A.M. blinks at me. Any moment I imagine it'll drop from the drone and chew through my neck with its plastic teeth.
Instead, it talks. "She's upholding a democratically elected government, whether from tyrannical despots or nice megalomaniacs like you, neither's chosen by the people. If you want to change society, get the consent of the people."
"You mean run for office? I've spent years fighting their messiah hero. No one's gonna vote for me."
P.A.M. shrugs. I didn't know Teddy Ruxpins could do that. "Change people's mindsets from where you are. Start small, with people's perception in an innocuous industry. It leads to bigger changes in bigger areas."
Lying broken and bloody in a dumpster, I think about what P.A.M. says. I kinda have to since I'm not going anywhere under my own power. The maybe-not murderbot is right in that the instant rise to the top hadn't worked all these years. Why not try changing the minds of the people a little at a time, by getting them to rethink just some of the falsities they take for granted?
The landscape is ripe. There's GMO food, pharmaceuticals and health care, big oil, a dozen others. At which seemingly innocuous industry with their scheming, lying bullshit do I direct my angst? One whose lies gets propagated and regurgitated until even a genius mind like mine falls for the programming?
For reasons easy to imagine, I think of Hollywood.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, January 5th, 2018
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