Dawn and Night aboard the Foregone Conclusion by Jules

Artist: B

Ziggy pushed himself away from his terminal center aboard the Foregone Conclusion. The long, sticky tendrils that made up his fingers uncoupled from cables that ranged from glossy-new to patched with duct-tape. At his bidding, the screens went dark. Even on a ship with only two crewmates, even with a passcode on the hatch to his room, Ziggy never left his device logged in. He had too many irons in the fire, whatever those were. The expression was part of internet vocabulary but long decoupled from wherever it originated.

Wormy protrusions sucked back into themselves, trying to approximate human hands. Congratulations, you tried, Ziggy told them.

Screw off, they retorted, stretching their red-and-grey lengths to the floor with wet slapping sounds. His “hands” were now wildly out of proportion to his slight frame. Ziggy put a terminal into reflective surface mode and briefly inspected himself. He wore baggy pants, a mesh shirt, and a faded T-shirt that read L48 R4T. Ah yes, he liked that one, and it had been laundered in the recent past. There were no visible stains and the holes were part of the aesthetic. The tinted goggles and gas mask that hid the mosaic of eyes and mouths that now made up his face after years of habitation by the vermicular cluster were already in place. No time to put on the wig. This was the ship crew’s scheduled day off, but he had to hurry.

Ziggy’s room was always lit with low-frequency light, red and infrared. No windows, but they only would have looked out on empty space and points of annoying light that would glare off his terminal and make him feel like he was being harassed. Ziggy’s concept of time was a mosaic of turnover on websites and encrypted databases. They all rotated like their own abstracted planets. Right now he urgently needed information before one of these ticked down to zero.

The vermicular cluster that lived rent-free in his body was never entirely quiet. Many bubble-thoughts were constantly rising through the fluid of Ziggy’s mind. Sometimes the thoughts of the vermiculars were fizzier than others, and now was one of those times. At least this time their collective thoughts were all turned in the same direction. They needed to make a run for the Top Five on their favorite recreational site, and they needed to do it before the next turnover cycle.

The smell of coffee and batter wafted through the causeway. Ziggy paused under the arch of the hatch. The sight of Winston immediately put Ziggy in a conflicted mood. Winston hadn’t bothered to get dressed yet, just grey sweatpants he must’ve slept in. Even in the kitchen, fussing with pancakes, Winston loomed. Just now he was engrossed in turning over pancakes by hand like a psychopath, rather than pressing a button on the fabricator the way a normal person would do. Of course, this analogue weirdness was why Ziggy was seeking him out.

Ziggy’s vision was a kaleidoscope of eyes, augmented sensors and invertebrate brains, so rather than a blur of ink, he  was able to consider the various elements of cooking individually and as a whole.  Eggs, flour, milk. Heat-signature from the cooking-unit. A dry scrape and soft pat as pancakes turned. Winston must have spent most of his pay on the ingredients.

Ziggy was conflicted again. The vermiculars felt simultaneously like he was intruder on a solitary ritual and as though this little scene had been staged. A thought like an ice-chip from his own grey matter: Is it some kind of thirst-trap?  If so, it’d be remarkably ineffective without a camera. The vermiculars frothed indignantly around this perceived unfairness. If Ziggy wanted to make an impression on others, they could — No, it’s not like that — You don’t appreciate — Gghh —

“Don’t stand in the door, you’ll let the cold air out,” said Winston, interrupting Ziggy’s nascent internal argument.

Ziggy refrained from pointing out that this wasn’t a summer day, and the temperature of the ship was uniform. That would have been as tactless as telling Mace it wasn’t late at night during his time off.  Ziggy reminded everyone in his head why they were here. The vermiculars settled back down, much to his relief.

“You come in for some pancakes?”

“You underestimate what I can get from a bowl of fabricator ramen,” Ziggy retorted. He slid up on one of the barstools bolted to the floor. 

Winston selected a single plate. It was robin’s-egg blue. 

For a while the room was silent except for what Ziggy thought of as kitchen ASMR. Breakfast theater. Someone carefully drizzling spirals of honey onto pancakes with a wooden dipper. For crying out loud. The dipper even made a sound when tapped against the jar of honey. Ziggy felt a grudging appreciation. The nature of his hive-mind meant that he was hypersensitive to sounds and sights that were mere effects: vermiculars were not easily tricked by the same quirks and gaps in perception that human brains were, or even human-augmented brains were. The vermiculars’ way of being was just too different. Usually Ziggy smirked at this, knowing saw past the illusory arena where most people lived. So what if he wasn’t fooled? He had a closer relationship with reality than most.

Me and reality, like Mace and his rifle-wife. Actually no, scratch that, nobody is that into reality.

“Okay,” Ziggy began. “I’m a contributor at SomethingGrue dot com.”

Winston thoughtfully cut a triangle out of his pancakes.

“It’s a conspiracy theory website, except isn’t real conspiracy theories. That’s the whole point. It’s an inside joke where we make up the craziest ones we can find and sell them. Make them believable. Almost everybody knows it’s a joke, but we all pretend to take it seriously. I’d say only five percent of our members believe it’s true beyond the time a reasonable person would take to realize what’s going on. You’ve gotta watch out for those guys.”

 Ziggy blinked behind his tinted goggles and projected a screen into the air between them both. The worms could take the illusion apart but most of them were focused on the same goal he was, at least for now.

“Here’s an old, uber-famous one about water contamination in certain bases because there’s too many corpses polluting the space around them. That one even got a movie deal. CorpseWater. That was an epic conquest of mainstream culture. But right now, subliminal message theories are popular. See? Here’s one about messages in ye olde television shows like ‘Lassie’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver.'”

 “What kind of ones do you write?” Winston asked.

Ziggy sighed and looked down at the counter. There was a long silence. “Mace,” he said.


In another room, Mace monitored the weekly late-night show he ran out of Foregone Conclusion. Listeners could join his late-night ambiance from wherever they wanted to call in. He sprawled on his leopard-print chaise lounge. Mrs. Mace leaned against his shoulder, as she always did during their all-night group sessions. He could feel the heat from inside her, telling him that she was just getting started. He ran one hand down the contoured ridges of her barrel. Slow, sensual lights rolled rainbows behind the interface of his terminal, sound-system and mic setup. The colors reflected off the white zebra stripes of the rug.

A caller informed him that there was a new story about the mysterious Casanova from the site SomethingGrue.com. Mace was appreciative of the alert, but not the caller’s take on it.

The caller suggested that this website might be fake. A joke. Mace knew better and he let the caller know it. Maybe some of the stories on that site were far-fetched, but these Casanova exploits had the ring of truth about them and he let the caller know about it in detail. Mace believed in details the way he believed in Mrs. Mace. He believed you could sink your teeth and everything else into those hard-working details, and by the time he was even halfway through offering his perspective, the dissenting caller had disconnected.

Yes, this latest installment struck a chord with Mace.

In a world of ghosts and dreams, in an infernal empire of conspiracy, Casanova fights terrorism and tries to find the truth!

Mace scrolled through the comments section, hoping for clues.

Foggy_Buttons: Is this before or after Casanova and Mrs. President had the swingers’ party with top diplomatic officials that taught a sentient planet how to explore its orientation?

Philosoia: Before this but after Casanova flew his fighter-jet into a black hole, simultaneously discovering time-travel and ending all further possibility of it forever.

SecondHandGentleman: Did they ever get back to their original forms after entering the Chamber of the Morphic Field where Casanova’s psychic prowess was such that instead of being changed into giant slugs to be dried and turned into ready-made seasonings like everyone else, he took it over so he and Mrs. President were able to change their own forms to consummate their love in the weirdest way yet? Remember? They broke the Morphic Chamber. It’s canon.

Librium: Wait just one darned second OP, if she’s Mrs. President, doesn’t that make Casanova the President? What’s he President of?

The Original Poster had replied to that one. He’s the President of Yoloswag, ya weevil!

A fruitless search of the star map for Yoloswag later, Mace let his audience know that he felt compelled to find and connect with this man, Casanova, the only person in the known universe whose exploits and appetites rivalled his own, and who was at the center of so many star-spanning conspiracies, cover-ups, and plots.


  “I change the details and add a plot and now I’m about to crack the top five, man,” said Ziggy. “I just need a convincing kick upward.”

Winston leaned forward.

“Don’t actually kick me in the ass. I need that to sit.”

But Winston only propped his chin on one hand. “I’ve heard all of Mace’s stories you have.”

“Nooo,” Ziggy groaned. “I mean, I know. We both work on his ship, don’t we?”

“Then what’re you after?”

“Don’t make me say it,” Ziggy grumbled.

Winston raised his eyebrows. The vermicular cluster might not get human expressions, but this one was annoyingly endearing to Ziggy’s still-human grey matter: Winston had no idea what Ziggy expected from him.

“It has to sound like it’s real,” said Ziggy. “It doesn’t have to be real but I have to sell it. And you sell it. Selling it is all you ever do, but at this point I’m not sure what it even is.”

Winston sighed. He closed his eyes. Enough time went by that Ziggy thought he might have offended his crew-mate and this was a countdown to an ass-kicking after all.

“Casanova…” Winston spoke as if this were a new kind of pancake topping. He sounded like he had to consider the sound of it and the sight of it ribboning down off the dipper, as well as the taste. Finally: “Okay, here it is. The biggest conspiracy. Casanova is too powerful to be a mere mortal. You’ve already established he was in the military, right?”

“Many times,” Ziggy confirmed.

Winston spoke in a strange, drawling sing-song. “Yeah, so here’s what happened. Almost a thousand years ago, the legend known as Casanova was found beneath the surface of a newly colonized planet. He’d been left by forces older than that. Much older. So old that if they were human, we wouldn’t know ’em. Casanova was made to look like us and set to guard a new government on this new paradise-planet. Pick one of the lost civilizations off the SomethingGrue site and call it Idyll. And he did that. He was the guardian at the gate. Back in those days, he could take down an enemy fleet his ownself. Idyll covered him in honor and glory but that role took its toll. The government of Idyll tried keeping him up as best they could, but you can only do so much with tech that ancient. Once features break, they’re broken.”

“That’s why he has to fly a fighter jet later,” Ziggy guessed. “At first he could fly around in hard vacuum and blast ships apart. Can he have laser eyes?”

“He’s your figment, he can have whatever you want,” Winston said. “He got all the medals there ever were, too. He got a holiday named after him. Why not? As the centuries went by, paradise got larger and there were more conflicts and Casanova’s powers diminished. The day he couldn’t break the sound barrier, he told the rulers of Idyll that he wanted to rest. But there was always one more war to fight. One more assassination or coupe to foil. Casanova kept finding one last grandeur, some feature he could only use once, to save the day. The plot got crazy. His powers were whatever the plot needed them to be, except he lost more of himself every time they burned out. Everyplace he went, Casanova carried the peace of Idyll on his shoulders. He towed the whole planet behind him.” 

“Stop making me feel ways about Ma… Casanova,” Ziggy demanded, but he was grinning in his gas mask. He was sold. He could sell this.

 “Another hundred years went by. The rulers kept promising, only one more, but it was a promise they never intended to keep,” Winston continued. “They had others fighting aside him by then. So there he is, in his fighter jet one last time. Cept it is the last time. His fighter gets blown apart and there he is floating round with the other space debris and he thinks this is it, he never did get to do all the things he wanted to do.”

“That’s how he met Mrs. Ma… President,” Ziggy said. He knew this part. McMurray had told it often.

Winston nodded. “At least, he gave up the ghost inside himself. Mrs. President was part of the mosaic of ancient technology that government had put together and called Casanova. She did not just save him in that moment: she is the line back to what he really is.”

Ziggy did a passable imitation of Mace: “What about, ‘And I made love to that cosmic entity for a thousand years’?

“Watch whatever weird-ass websites you’re into. Fill it in yourself,” Winston said. “Good enough?”

“Good enough,” said Ziggy.

“Get out my kitchen.”


About the Author

I am a reclusive academic, which means I am paid to run my mouth about my favorite research topics. In my spare time I drink copious amounts of coffee and go on caffeine-fueled writing sprees, when I’m not doing aerial acrobatics or sitting in chairs the wrong way. My writing is influenced by utopian science fiction, gleeful nihilism, and psychological character studies. I am returning to writing fiction after years away.


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