“Unnecessary” Chapters 3 & 4 – the Education Centre/Night Market

Here are the next two chapters in the novel “Unnecessary”.  You can read the first chapter here, and the second chapter here if you haven’t already.  Please let me know what you think.  Thanks.


Chapter 3


Yingpei Wu/ the Education Centre – Ming Yu District

I am an 8.

My lessons start very early in the morning, but I do not mind.  I am happy to learn for the Emperor.  It makes me happy to think about him.  My cleric, Donghai Wu, told me that the Emperor is happy that I am happy, and that also makes me happy.

During our lesson, we heard the story of the Grand Emperor again.

Donghai Wu touched a large machine and it made a loud noise, kind of  like the way my dog, Zhu, whines when he does not get his way.  The film started to play on the wall of how the Grand Emperor became Grand Emperor.

I really like that story.

Sometimes me and my friends at break play Fei Min Sheng and Mingli Huang.  I never want to be Mingli Huang.

That traitor!

If I am playing with that 9 – the one who came from the Xiu Mei Chen district before the Education Centre – he always makes me be Mingli Huang.  That is why I do not play with that 9 anymore.

I moved to the large Ming Yu district Education Centre when I became a 6.  Before then, all babies go to the Care Centre.  But I am not a baby.


I am an 8 now.

Next year I will be a 9 and then I can beat up, Tai Lu.  He is an 8 who is bigger than me.  He always teases me and says my birther was named on the Dai Liu.  I punched him really hard.  He punched me back but I only cried a little.  I did not cry very much at all.

No, the Grand Emperor does not like 8s who cry.

None of us know our birther but he said he knew who my birther was but I do not believe him.  Donghai Wu said that I should not listen to Tai Lu.  He said that my birther was an honorable woman and my sire an honorable man.  That makes me happy.

When I am a 9, I know that Shi Jie will allow me to grow taller and be stronger than Tai Lu because I pray to her every day like I’m supposed to.  I also make sure that I read from the Deng Yu Sheng. Donghai Wu said I remembered the words very well at my last recital.  He gave me a lotus flower.  Only four other boys got a lotus flower.

Not Tai Lu! No, sir.

Nope nope.

Donghai Wu said that if I practiced hard enough I could become an Imperial soldier.  I really want that.  I often imagine being an Imperial soldier.  I would make sure all of the people of Ming Yu were happy like I am happy.  It is like the Deng Yu Sheng says: Happiness Through Compliance.

If you follow everything the Deng Yu Sheng says you should, you will be happy.  I am happy.

Tomorrow we get to go to the Imperial Academy to see the students.  Donghai Wu says I might be able to see a 15 or even a 16 if they are not away training outside the dome.  I really hope that I get to see a 15 or 16.  The highest I have seen – other than the Imperial clerics of course – was an 11.  She came to recite for us the Declaration of the Great Purge that Grand Emperor had received from the goddess Shi Jie.  She was okay, but Donghai Wu said I did a better job in my recitation ceremony than that 11 had.  That made me happy too.

I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Chapter 4


Changpu Chou/ the Night Market – Ming Yu District

The sun had disappeared and the artificial lights were glowing brightly around the Night Market.

I swirled what was left of the Pori at the bottom of my glass while I waited for her to show up.

She was anxious and apprehensive when we had last spoken; not surprising considering the subject matter we had discussed.

Fleeing was not something you talked about openly.  Anyone could be an Imperial spy, sent to smoke out those in the underground community the Empire referred to, unimaginatively, as the rebels.

In the last Thankfulness ceremony, they had listed off all the 40s who fled as captured and deceased.  But that was not accurate.

Jiahui Ma rounded the corner and I know she saw me sitting at the Pori cart.  She walked past, not making eye contact, went two carts down, and picked up some lychee fruit from the fruit cart.  She stared at it intently for a long while.  She looked up intermittently to see if anyone was looking at her.

She was good, I had to admit.

And she was smart.

But more so, she was lucky.  Really lucky.

She saw me staring over at her and she found a roundabout way to sit in the chair across from me underneath the overhang of the Pori cart.

“Shi Jie whispers and the Grand Emperor takes action,” Jiahui Ma said quietly, as she leaned into me.

“But Shi Jie takes no action at the whispers of Emperors” I said just as I had rehearsed it.

She looked me over and, after accepting that I was who I said I was, called the attendant over to order a glass of Pori.

“I am impressed that you are still among the living, Jiahui Ma,” I ordered another Pori as well.

“As am I, Changpu Chou.  As am I,” she relaxed back in her seat and closed her eyes.  Her whole body sighed and I could see how exhausted she was, but I knew she would be.  Fleeing does not allow you any time to let your guard down.

I was immediately aware of the fake insignia on her suit.  Whoever fabricated the insignia missed the two lines on the left side that signified she was a fourth season 40, which is what I assumed she had wanted the insignia to say.  The way it was, however, meant that she was somehow half a second season and half a third season.  I was surprised that no Imperial soldier had pulled her aside yet. I assumed the creator had been working hurriedly – and of course in secret – and wanted to spend as little time with the actual insignia as was possible.  I would make it out to be a good two hours of work.  The reflecting sheen of the insignia was impressive but the grey color the creator had used was a little off.  Although, to an untrained eye, it was a very good example of a forgery.

The attendant dropped the two glasses by the table and I handed him a few notes to cover the cost.

“Keep what is left,” I said.

“Shi Jie blesses you,” he bowed and retreated into the cart.

“So, Changpu Chou,” she looked at me over the glass that brimmed with white foam, some of which was gently sliding down the side and onto her slender fingers, “what are the codes to the dome?”

“It is not that easy, Jiahui Ma,” I took a sip and then placed the glass down in front of me, “you must help me assist your fellow runners.”

“I have not seen any others,” she said, visibly tightening up.

I had been doing this for long enough to know that she was obviously lying.

“My community can help you all, we just need to know where we can find those who need help.  Shi Jie-“

“Do not speak to me of Shi Jie,” she interrupted.  “Shi Jie has abandoned us all.”  Immediately after she had spoken the words she retracted to the back of her seat and whipped her head around to see if anyone had heard that damning morsel from our conversation.

I was silent as she scanned the Night Market but she gradually calmed and then leaned in to me and said, in a quieter voice: “I am a good woman who has produced 10 strong offspring.  I was known in all four districts of the Xie Ma Dome for singing the most beautiful songs at the Wei Bu ceremony every fall until I got married as a 21.  I was not a tardy.  I was a good woman.  I do not want to die.”

I just nodded.

After a few moments of silence, I said: “Please, I know you are a good woman. And a good woman would want her fellow runners to reach safety as well.  Do you know where any other runners are?”

I listed off three names that I knew were on the Dai Liu but had not been apprehended.  Jiahui Ma said she had only heard of the whereabouts of one, a man named Long Pei, who was hiding in the floor of a couple of 33s in Xiu Mei Chen district.

I thanked her for her assistance and assured her that I would find Long Pei myself and escort him to safety.

“So may I now know the codes for dome?”

I nodded.

A black gloved hand came down on her shoulder.  She looked up at the man standing over her and her entire body seized up.  It looked like she was trying to scream but there was no sound.  Her mouth was open wide in a silent grimace that I found almost pitiful.

The man’s black and red suit was fitted with a black metal chest plate that molded to his form; it was part of the standard equipment the Imperial Army provided to its soldiers.  Another Imperial solder came up behind the first and gripped the hair of the hysterical Jiahui Ma.  The soldier violently ripped her out of her chair and began marching her out of the Night Market into an adjacent alley behind the Pori cart.

“So where are we looking, brother Changpu Chou?”  The soldier asked me.

“Some 33s in Xiu Mei Chen district are hiding Long Pei.”

There was a jolting blast of gunfire from the alley behind the Pori cart but no one in the Night Market seemed to notice.

“Why do they flee?” The Imperial soldier asked me.  “If you’re an honorable 40 your name will be remembered honorably for all time.”

I shrugged, “I could not tell you.”


(some inspiration for the Night Market I viewed while writing)

Night Market


“Unnecessary” Excerpt – the Thankfulness ceremony

So I have decided on making “Unnecessary” into a novel.  I thought it’d be interesting if I told it in first person, but different chapters would be from different characters’ point-of-view.  There are four main characters:

Bao Long Wei – (from the initial short story) the 24 who is dealing with trying to find a mate.

Hao Hong – a 39 who is only a few months away for becoming a 40, and thus being killed in the next Thankfulness ceremony.  She, however, is proud of that fact.

Yingpei Wu – an 8 who is getting his state education

and finally

Changpu Chou – a 36 Imperial soldier (who is assigned to smoke out rebels by pretending to be one of them but begins to sympathize with their ideology.)

This excerpt is told from the point of view of Hao Hong as she attends the last Thankfulness ceremony before her own.  Please let me know what you think about it.


Chapter 2


Hao Hong/ the Thankfulness ceremony – Ming Yu District

I had arrived early to the courtyard where the ceremony was about to start.  It seemed many others had the same idea and the entranceway into the viewing area was tightly packed.  Most of them were fellow 39s.  I noticed that all of the 39s from Ming Yu district were in attendance.  There were others with the 39s’ insignia on their black suits, but I did not recognize them.  They were probably from Xiu Mei Chen district or Pei Yun district.

The Thankfulness ceremonies were always the most attended of all the civic ceremonies.  They were held four times yearly, one for every season.  The 39s who became 40s in those seasons would be immortalized at their respective Thankfulness ceremonies.

I saw some 28s and some 29s but most of those in attendance were in the later 30s.

“Ping Te is among the 40s,” A fellow 39 turned to me.  She looked visibly anxious and I could see the perspiration running along her hairline.  “She is a good, productive woman and has produced eight healthy humans for Grand Emperor Fei Min Sheng.  Long life to Fei Min Sheng.” She lowered her head slightly and closed her eyes.

“Long life to Fei Min Sheng,” I said, lowering my head and closing my eyes in reverence.

“I have produced seven, but I still have one more year,” As she talked I noticed she was distracted, looking over the heads in the crowd.

“I become a 40 at the summer Thankfulness ceremony,” I said.

The 39 looked at me and just nodded.

“I am pleased that I could give what I could,” I said, reciting from the Deng Yu Sheng.

“We are grateful that you gave,” was her appropriate response.

The 39 then disappeared into the crowd.

There was a loud, resonant ting as the gong signaled the entrance of the 40s.

A loud shout came from the audience as the 40s marched into the courtyard in single file.  Those who watched, bowed to the 40s as they took their spots on the pedestal before the Gan Xie wall, which was pockmarked from the bullets of past Thankfulness ceremonies and stained with the blood of the immortals.  I shifted in my place in the crowd, trying to get a good view of the 40s.  I could not see Jiahui Ma.

The gong rang out again and the audience sat down cross-legged on the stone tiles of the courtyard.

An Imperial cleric, dressed in a red and white suit with gold trim, stepped forward in front of the 40s on the pedestal.

The Imperial cleric was holding a stick of incense, which he lit with the flames from one of the infinity candles that lined the courtyard.  He walked back to the pedestal and gently placed the stick inside the bronze cauldron at the feet of the 40s.

“On this,” the Imperial cleric began, “the Spring Thankfulness ceremony, we gather to show our gratitude to the men and women who have helped strengthen the Empire with robust and healthy offspring.” Continue reading

Scientists Create World’s 1st Practical Artificial Leaf (10X as Efficient as the Real Thing)

Via Discover


What’s the News: This week, scientists say that they’ve passed a chemistry milestone by creating the world’s first practical photosynthesis device. The playing-card-sized photosynthetic gadget creates uses sunlight to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be used to produce energy, and is reputedly 10 times more efficient than a natural leaf. Researchers say they expect it to revolutionize power storage, especially in remote areas that don’t currently have electricity. “A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” says lead researcher Daniel Nocera, who’s presenting this research at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society this week.

How the Heck:

  • The artificial leaf uses nickel and cobalt as catalysts to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by facilitating oxygen-oxygen bonding.
  • Oxygen and hydrogen molecules are then sent to a fuel cell that can produce electricity. If the device is placed in a one-gallon bucket of water in bright sunlight, it can reportedly produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing nation.

What’s the Context:

  • The very first artificial leaf was created by John Turner of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, over a decade ago. The device lasted for only one day and was made of expensive metals, making it impractical.
  • This new artificial leaf uses nickel and cobalt, which are relatively cheap, and has so far operated continuously for at least 45 hours, making it the first practical artificial leaf.
  • In 2008, Nocera announced a way of splitting water using cobalt and platinum, a breakthrough at the time. Now, by using nickel instead of the more expensive platinum, he’s made the entire process economically feasible, in addition to combining everything into a working prototype.
  • Nocera has appeared in Discover before, including his National Science Foundation briefing on energy storage.
  • Many more labs are also working on artificial photosynthesis.
  • 80beats has covered other green energies, from wind turbines to natural gas.


On First Dates – Katherine Curtis

So it is no secret that I am one of Katherine Curtis’ loyal minions. 😉  And I feel as a loyal minion it is my duty to introduce this fascinating woman to others who may not know this goddess of nerddom.  Known first to me as the Naked Nerd on the TV Show Naked News, I now frequently check her blog at Katerine Curtis and her vlog on YouTube as OfficialNakedNerd

She’s a fixture at various Comic Cons and into Cosplay, which makes her all the more amazing.  Check her out and I’m sure you’ll become a loyal minion too. 😉


A great blog post to start with is Ordered Chaos.  Enjoy.

“Unnecessary” – A Dystopian Short Story

The other night I came up with an intriguing story idea and had to write it down.  I feel as though this has the makings of a novel, but I wanted to place a scene down as a self-contained short story to see what other people think.  At the bottom of the short story I’ve also included some photos that I used as a reference for creating the world of the story.  The story has a kind of ’60s Futuristic vibe , blended with a crazy, state enforced, religious eugenics program.  Basically, it’s in an alternate history of the 20th Century where something happened (this will be included in the novel) which allows a new Grand Emperor to come to power in China and he develops his own Empire based on being Evolutionarily viable.  Please let me know what you think about this story.  Thanks.



by Joel Nickel


I was 8 months before a wedding or an execution.  My time before becoming unnecessary was racing nearer and nearer.

“You could always marry a random,” my friend, Xi, said casually, taking a sip of his Pori.

“I’d rather die, thank you,” I wasn’t about to be a “fix” by Random Match.  No, I still had a couple months before I had to make that choice.

That night we were at the Amber Club in lower Ming Yu.  We sat on the balcony overlooking the domed dance floor where the tardy frantically moved from person to person, trying desperately to make some kind of connection before their time in Ming Yu ran out.  The Amber Club was the place to be for the tardy, those who were two years or less from becoming unnecessary.  At first I was hesitant to visit the Amber Club.  It had the reputation for being a haven for undesirables.  I didn’t think of myself as an undesirable.  I had almost been engaged once, but . . .

I didn’t want to think about it.

“I don’t know,” Xi drained the last of the Pori from his glass, and waved over for an attendant to come deliver him a fresh one. “If I hadn’t already been engaged to Lei Shu . . .”

“Really?” I swiveled in my chair to face him.  “You’d actually just marry some complete stranger, just so you’d be necessary?  I hear most of the fixes through Random Match are undesirables.”

“It ain’t much better here, Bao Long Wei.” He used my full name.  I hated when he used my full name.  He was only two years older than me, yet he always seemed to treat me as a child.  Maybe that was because he was necessary and I hadn’t yet proved myself to be.  It wasn’t only that.  The way he’d said my name reminded me of the way my parents would, in that condescending, authoritarian tone; that was before they became unnecessary.

Xi Hua’s parents were executed in the Great Purge of ’53, along with 2-billion-some others.  Mine were only executed six years ago, when I turned 18.  My Mother was past the healthy child bearing age and, being 40, my Father’s sperm was considered to be past its peak in quality.  The entirety of humanity is now down to a population of around 10 million staggered throughout the various Bio-Domes around China.  Grand Emperor Fei Min Sheng declared that he was given the divine responsibility, by the goddess Shi Jie, to make the Earth clean.  Humanity had been dangerously close to choking the Earth into submission with its overuse of natural resources and overpopulation. The Grand Emperor was tasked with solving those problems.

He gathered everyone from the other races, everyone over the healthy childbearing age of 40, everyone who planned on never having children, and everyone who biologically couldn’t have children, and called for them to be executed.  The result of the Great Purge created a much more stable human population on the Earth and the cities that sprung up from the ashes became a peaceful, harmonious paradise.

If you were necessary.

If you were unnecessary it was a different game all together.  Those who were mentally or physically deficient were killed in infancy and those parents who had birthed consistently unnecessary offspring were executed so as not to contaminate the future stock of Humans.

An individual had until his or her twenty-fifth birthday to find a suitable mate, get married, and pledge to procreate within the next year.  Those who reached 25 and who were not engaged were not in a position to advance the Great Emperor’s plan for humanity and were thus executed.

Extensive testing began at the age of 20 to monitor if you were physically capable of procreating, and if you were found to be incapable, you were also executed.

The Great Emperor set out the laws the goddess Shi Jie had tasked him with enforcing in the book, the Deng Yu Sheng, which every citizen was required to memorize and place prominently in their home; most carried a copy of it in their pocket.

“Did you hear about Hu Shi Ning?” Xi asked, taking a sip of his Pori.

I heard a muffled song coming through the thick glass of the dome over the dance floor.  I remembered that song.  It was our song.

Feng Xiu Lan.

Even thinking her name made the veins in my neck pulse angrily and caused hate to bubble up like dark bile leaving an acrid, acerbic taste in my mouth.

What did he have?  Was he better stock?  Would he create a baby that better suited the Grand Emperor’s ideal?  Did love have no place?  Did she ever even love me?

I shook my head, angered at myself for buying into such a stupid notion as love.  We’d been together since we turned 20 and she let me believe we were going to be engaged; let me believe that I had nothing to worry about.  But then I learned she’d accepted an engagement from Cao Fu Hua.

How could she?

And especially with my being 24!  She left me with only months before the big choice: an undesirable, Random Match, or death.

“Hey,” Xi was waving his hand in front of my face.

I blinked, unsure of how long I’d been lost in my dark thoughts.

Xi laughed heartily.  It angered me.

“I said, did you hear about Hu Shi Ning?” He repeated.

“No,” I admitted.

Hu Shi Ning was a mutual friend of ours.  He was older than both of us, and had been married for six years.  He’d had one child with his wife, but every child afterward had been born with a disability.

“He’s being reviewed,” Xi said.

I swallowed hard.


That meant he’d endure a bevy of tests to determine what was the cause of his fathering consistently unnecessary offspring.  If it was found that there was something genetically wrong with Hu Shi Ning, he’d be executed.

“That’s too bad,” Xi said, taking another sip of his Pori. “I really liked him.”

“Well, they haven’t found that it’s genetic yet,” I pointed out.

Xi just looked at me like I was a naïve tardy and took another swig of his drink.

“Hao Hong reaches the end of her healthy childbearing years this summer,” Xi said.

I just nodded.  I didn’t know how else to respond.  Xi knew that Hao Hong had been like a Mother to me after mine had reached the end of her healthy childbearing years and been executed.  Now she would be 40, and would also be killed.  It seemed to me that bringing up Hao Hong was particularly hurtful.  But that was the Pori.  I didn’t like being around Xi when he was drinking, but I didn’t have anyone else to come with me to the Amber Club.  Anyone my age would be with their respective fiancés, planning their weddings and getting all their tests done.  Or, they would be out trying to find someone and wouldn’t want competition hanging about.

All night I’d been sitting with Xi, looking down on the dome and dreading an excursion into the midst of the undesirables.  I cursed Feng Xiu Lan, and downed my entire glass of Pori.

I stood up from my chair and smoothed out the wrinkles in my suit.

“Ready?” Xi looked at me with a grin I wanted to punch off his face.

I just shrugged.

He stood up to follow me down into the dome of undesirables. “You can still just get set up with a woman from Random Match and -”

“I’d rather die.”