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TomMartinArt's picture

Servants of the Last Man

By TomMartinArt in Teleport Us

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Aboard the decadent utopian planet-ship DOMINA PRIME, mankind has quite happily gone extinct. The programs left behind must find a way to honor their departed masters. 


coraline's picture
coraline is reading World War Z February 28, 2013 - 11:24am

I really enjoyed this. I particularly liked how well you created a stereo-type of all the typical roles one may wish for in their lives.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 1, 2013 - 6:44am

Thank you!

James England's picture
James England from Wilmington, North Carolina is reading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins March 1, 2013 - 11:23am

Definitely a fun little read.  I thought the conditions and description of the deceased last man were especially interesting through the various lenses of the AI personalities that knew him best.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 2, 2013 - 4:37pm

Thank you very much!

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On March 2, 2013 - 11:52am


You maintained a wonderful sense of melancholia throughout that I enjoyed. I love the respect that you imbued the AI's with, along with their respect for deceased humanity. More importantly, I love that you made the AI's fallible; they were as imperfect as their creators, yet making them the embodiment of different forms of love was such a cool and unique touch. Well done.

Not that it's terribly needed here, but I was always curious as to what happened exactly to mankind. If I read correctly, did they volunteer to be hooked up to the Daydream device? It makes sense then--as you pointed out--that there would be no one left to reproduce or conduct basic maintenance. I just wonder if there would've been people who had elected not to do that--that life's finality is probably its greatest value. This is just me injecting my thoughts into the work, and not suggesting a course of action; you story works fine as is. Maybe it's a compliment to your work that it compelled me to think of these things, so bravo.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 2, 2013 - 4:46pm

Thanks very much! The Daydream is like the entertainment center of their time- it's everything, it's limitless escape. There's no reason to come out. They didn't die of that, but of discovering direct pleasure center stimulation. Based somewhat on this: An important thing I tried to avoid is that that should be a cautionary tale. I think if you could achieve a constant state of bliss, that may be worth dying for.

I imagine that there would be luddites not going into The Daydream, but this is so many millennia past when it came out that the stigma of new technology has worn off. Kinda like how you can't find anyone these days who won't use a toilet or watch a movie. Eventually everyone plugged in and got over the uneasiness. I've got friends who wouldn't go into a VR cybersleep like this. I'd go immediately.

Thanks again!

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On March 2, 2013 - 5:14pm

I read that article; I even entertained writing a story for TU utilizing it, but I think you turned out something better than I could have. 

I don't think not wanting to live out being plugged into a bliss machine makes one a luddite. I don't fear or reject technology; my issue is a more philosophical one involving relinquishing your autonomy to technology. I think I'd have to not know I was being plugged into it, but then again, today's been something of a shitty day, so I would probably plug in right now without a second thought if I had the chance!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 4, 2013 - 8:05am

Damn it. Damn... I try, but i can't... Where is it? This won't do. I need another thumbs up. 

One thumb up is not enough. I can't really say for sure how many you would get if i had more to give, but it would be a great many thumbs indeed. 

This story is inspired. Flawless. You make me jelaous. In fact, I want to hit you over the head with your thumbs up. Damn you for being so talented.

A simple premise, but told with such variety that it is pure bliss to read. I tried writing an A.I. character, but now i feel like a failure. 

Ok, gushing ends here. I hugely enjoyed this story. It makes me scurry away into the great big mound of unread stories in search of more hidden gold like this. Thanks for inspiring me. 

I feel like writing YOU a check for 300 bucks. 

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 4, 2013 - 2:08pm

Wow, thanks man! Very much appreciated.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 4, 2013 - 4:28pm

I really enjoyed your story. It had good pacing, interesting ideas, and a lot of excellent details.  I felt for these AIs and I liked the ending a lot. 

The only thing I noticed that gave me pause was that you seem to have framed this specifically for males.  I understand that you focus on the last person, the last man.  However, when you refer to mankind in the larger sense you still reference the companion as inherently female. Or maybe I just read through too quickly.  It didn't ruin anything for me, but I wondered about it. It might make sense to make that companion a bit more fluid in terms of gender and sexual orientation options.  If all of mankind tunes into the Daydream it should be tempting for all. 

Other than that, it seemed believable to me.  I liked the parts with the command prompts and the butler's adherence to his role.  Very cool. Nicely done! 


TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 4, 2013 - 5:32pm

Hiya- that was something I was going for throughout, but fell short because I couldn't figure out how to bring out the gender stuff without having two separate specific people. Any of the AIs could be any gender (or gender combination) but I couldn't figure out a way to bring it up without feeling forced, y'know? I did manage to put a bit in there: "I was his and hers, their boyfriend and girlfriend, their husband and wife." 

I also played with the idea of having pronouns for humankind capitalized, like Him, His, etc... to give it more of a sense that the AIs are solemnly worshiping a god, an ideal, and to separate it from Adrian himself. I backed away from that at the last minute.

So in short- I definitely agree, but couldn't figure a way to crowbar in a less male-dominant perspective. Adrian being a dude that defined his reality and all that. Thanks!


Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works March 6, 2013 - 2:00pm

Wow. Damn good story.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 6, 2013 - 5:07pm

thank you!

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne March 6, 2013 - 5:29pm

Superb. Absolutely f'ing wonderful. The dialogue, the characters, the world building, the plotting, the pacing, the structure, the premise and on and on and on. I haven't read many of the Teleport Us stories but this is the best of the bunch thus far for me.

My only incredibly small issues were these two...

(1)  The only line in the whole story that felt wrong to me was this one: "The dependant was selfish that way." And by "wrong" I mean not perfect. You do an amazing job of letting these characters - the AI - speak for themselves. I think that's the only reason this line feels remotely flat to me.

(2)  Also, this line "Humankind had been drifting through the nebula for some years as they slept, smiling in their DNAccS pods." pulled me out of the story and made me question whether I understood what was happening up to this point. I figured it out almost immediately and its not necessarily a bad thing to keep your readers challenged and on thier toes. Just a tiny hiccup but I thought I would point it out.

I'm only over here reading this because I was a fan of your WAR stories. You did not disappoint, man. Thanks for writing and putting this out there.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 6, 2013 - 5:36pm

thanks very much! yeah, i was worried about the density and whether the timeline would be clear as i went through everything. Glad it cleared itself up. i really could have used an exposition device, but everything would have felt like a cheat. thanks again, and pardon my keyboard's crapped-out shift keys!


Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures March 7, 2013 - 10:14am

This was great. A really melancholy piece that made me keep thinking about it after I had finished it. The more I thought about it the more sad I got thinking, wow, mankind died in that story. Holy jeepers thats depressing! I dont say any of this to say anything bad about the story, honestly this was one of the more flawless stories I have read on here. Thumbs up doesnt do it any sort of justice, bravo to you for writing such a beautiful story and being so damn talented! 

This is one of those times where it was very much my pleasure and good fortune to have gotten to read this story. Thank you for submitting it. Great job.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 7, 2013 - 11:30am

Thank you! What's weird is that I don't find it depressing at all. I mean, I see this as mankind having reached the best possible conclusion and taking a bow in dignity. That's me though, I don't see this as any sadder than one of those best-case-scenario funerals. Cheers and thanks again!


Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures March 7, 2013 - 1:05pm

Its fascinating how everyone reads something differently isnt it? I didnt think it was depressing when I was reading it but as my mind continued to process it, it seemed so sad to think of humans just being done. Of course, this is from the perspective that now it seems to soon. Many thousands of years into the future? Maybe its just the right thing that needs to happen. Either way, thank you for a great, thought provoking story!

Rob Pearce's picture
Rob Pearce from Cambridge, England is reading Lots of unpublished stuff and short story collections March 8, 2013 - 3:40pm

I... well... it's odd. Part way down the first page I was beginning to want not to like it, for being a bit too... I don't know. Vague. Arbitrary. Unlikely. Not My Thing. Oh, and a couple of proof-reading errors.

But it grew on me. Sure the whole backstory is unbelievable. Sure the so-called utopia is my idea of decay into hell. Sure the AIs are a bit stock and familiar. But none of that matters.

The sense of melancholy, expressed through a repetitive pattern of ultimately bland platitudes delivered by artificial stereotypes... it ought to be naff but actually it's beautiful. It's one of those cases of all the wrong ingredients making the most wonderful whole. It's poetry in a far more poetic sense than most of what passes for poetry.

I salute you, sir.

Kate Bosco's picture
Kate Bosco from Natick, MA is reading The Passage by Justin Cronin March 11, 2013 - 8:25pm

When I came to the eulogies, I thought "Oh, this is like some sort of future fable." Then I thought, "Oh, I hope this TomMartin guy isn't psychic." :P

I think that the simplicity of the prose and the repetition in the dialogue is a good match for your piece. It brings to mind the old-school scifi short stories that were my favorite parts of assigned reading in grade school. That's not at all an insult-- the nostalgia only heightened my enjoyment of the story. I can't think of anything else to say that hasn't already been said by someone else. Thumbs up!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 11, 2013 - 8:47pm

When I came to the eulogies, I thought "Oh, this is like some sort of future fable." Then I thought, "Oh, I hope this TomMartin guy isn't psychic." :P

You lost me. Eh? Meaning you're hoping this all doesn't come to pass? If so, I'm DYING for this to happen. Nigh-immortality, you're a living god, you live in a perpetual state of chasing your whims and falling in love and that's BEFORE the invention of a constant stream of bliss. That's me though- I want to spend my old age adventuring and dating Molly Ringwald.

Thanks for the thumbs-up!

Jeff Whatshisname's picture
Jeff Whatshisname from San Francisco is reading Oliver Twist March 12, 2013 - 1:10pm

This was a very well thought out, enjoyable story. I like seeing the machines get some playtime, for once.



TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 12, 2013 - 3:38pm

Thank you!

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 12, 2013 - 7:38pm

Such a sentimental story. I loved how respectful the AIs were and how each of them described how much they were needed and loved by this man. Although it was sprinkled with melancholy, my overall feeling after reading it wasn't that it was depressing, but almost heartwarming. Yes, mankind is gone, but there is almost a bittersweet whimsy in the end. Really well done. The story has lots of heart.

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 12, 2013 - 7:44pm

Thanks Melissa! 

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 12:43pm

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 12:44pm


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 16, 2013 - 5:28pm

I've voted thumbs up, because it is good. But not to my personal taste. Don't expect them all to be, and don't expect every story to be re-edited in my favour, even if I was the Last Man. Here are my thoughts.

This reminds me of a story were robots find no orders coming down to them, so go in search of a last man - a hermit, to tell them what has happened, who on being found immediately starts bossing them around.

It's more than a bit mawkish - for me, and doesn't have the bitter end of the one I'm thinking of, which perhaps would have served it better (perhaps they go back to waiting - patiently - for someone - something else to serve...). But then, I do write under the name of HappyEndingNotGuaranteed ..

There's an inconsistancy, as well, when they are talking about serving the last man, the butler says he only did it for a short while, but the companion and authority and dependant knew him better. So why would a man living in an ai daydream, dispense with the butler? And why is it only the butler who knows about the DNAccs? Fortunately, the human brain balances itself - it deadens the reaction to stimuli, whether pain, or pleasure, or even what happens when you stare at one colour too long (those optical tricks scientists like to do). And I don't see why DNAccs and DayDream are incompatible, even so... But that's nit-picking.

The DOMINA PRIME aspect is as someone else has mentioned, a bit of a distraction. Could easily be set on Earth. Since it's not Earth, I have to assume there are other DOMINA planets out there, so this is probably NOT the last man. And - of course - anything planet sized is going to need some umph to send a casket containing the last man into the nearest star.

Overall, it's a well worked piece, though not a classic story - by which I mean it doesn't have a conflict and a resolution of that conflict. I've absolutely no idea how you would shoe-horn such a thing into this imagined world, nor whether you should, but these are the things that detract, again, for me.

The next one, perhaps!




CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 19, 2013 - 8:32pm


It's late. I'm tired. Too tired for in-depth critiques or discussion of craft.

Suffice it to say after a full day of working and a night of writing copy, your story was just what I needed to relax and escape. You've created a fully realized world of nuanced emotion and clarity that projected me into a far future I could easily see myself having been a part of (before becoming extinct, of course!)

Well done, thumbs up, and easily one of the best submissions I've read so far.


TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 19, 2013 - 9:52pm

Thank you very much!

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 21, 2013 - 10:46am

Excellent work!  A Requiem for the race of Man.  There are only two things that I can think of to suggest:

  • Add a first line indent to your paragraphs.  They all seemed to blend together when I was reading.
  • On page 4, the phrase "They winked out of the cemetery." Seemed unnecessary to me.  It tripped me up for a second when I read it.  Not sure why exactly, it just did.

Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this!

Keep at it!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 22, 2013 - 9:53pm

The paragraphs didn't have an indentation?? I could swear I put that in. Otherwise, thanks mister! ...Or miss, I don't rightly know what you are.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 22, 2013 - 6:28am

I really liked the melancholia you load the story with. True utopia is hard to write, but I think you did a brilliant job here. There is a lot of sadness here, yet it really isn't a sad story. As has been mentioned several times, the observance of the AI's is a nice touch, and these are very good characters considering that they are meant to be archetypes. My slight issue is with the amount of breaks you have in the story. The flow would be better without as many (it's only 4, but still breaks the flow on what is a pretty short story). I skimmed the section on DNAccS and had to force myself to go back and re-read it. It doesn't really do anything for the story, though that is just my opinion. I did enjoy this though, and it's definitely a thumbs up from me!

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 22, 2013 - 9:51pm

Thank you very much! I don't disagree about the number of breaks. I noticed it on an editing read-through early on.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 25, 2013 - 10:31am

Tom - 

This was great! It felt both epic and personal at the same time. I think the "technology" bits of it could use just a bit more description (I had a hard time picturing the hub and a few of the other "physical" places. Also, the ending left me feeling disatisfied; I wanted to see the programs have a little more angst, I guess, while they grieved. Not just the sadness that they showed, but more of a "what now" moment. I liked that they decided to repopulate the Daydream, but it just seemed like a decision that came too quickly.  However, on the whole, this was great - well written and gripping. Thumbs up!


TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA March 25, 2013 - 10:34am

Thanks Christa!!

Joseph Nassise's picture
Joseph Nassise from Phoenix is reading Too many books to list May 13, 2013 - 9:35am


In general, a well-written piece and I'm glad I had the chance to read it.  The exercise had three requirements related to it - a dystopian or utopian setting, the use of plausible technology, and the use of a non-human character - and you delivered on all three counts.

Your writing is clear and concise.  You have an easy style and a solid capacity for description with minimal language, which is a handy skill to have, especially for short works.  Your characters were certainly stereotypical, but, then again, they were intended to be, so its hard for me to comment one way or another in that regard.

However, I'm not a huge fan of the story overall for the simple reason that the driving conflict of the story - what the AIs will do now that the last man is dead - isn't very compelling.  There aren't any major stakes driving the action of the story nor is there anything that forces the characters to grow and change.  The butler AI decides to act after the death of the last man, but had he chosen not to, the entire premise of the tale would have fallen apart.  What I am left with is a quant little vignette that doesn't deliver any kind of emotional attachment or experience for me as the reader.   Had you ended the piece with the line "He watched it go for a long time" I would have had a slightly better reaction, as there is some emotion attached at that point, but the rest of the text, particulary the pat ending, robs the piece of even that small impact.

-Joe Nassise

TomMartinArt's picture
TomMartinArt from Amherst, MA May 13, 2013 - 1:50pm

Well this was fun.