Author : Andy Bolt
WELCOME, Chip Winkler, TO STORYWEB 9.0! PLEASE INPUT LITBASE:
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea
LITBASE FOUND! LAUNCHING . . .
Enrique was mindswiped by the storybot as he dangled from the 93rd floor window of the Kentaka building. He was a little preoccupied rewiring the entire structure for atmospheric transdigitization, but he always liked contributing to storyweb.
GREETINGS, Enrique Mendoza! YOU HAVE BEEN RANDOMLY SELECTED TO CONTRIBUTE TO TODAY’S STORYWEB TALE BEGINNING:
The old man had gone eighty-four days without taking a fish.
PLEASE INPUT LINE:
Fighting the tide in his fully submersible XLJ thermodynamic subship, the old man deployed a series of fish-seeking nanobaits with attractive carbon fiber lures.
LINE REGISTERED! THANK YOU, Enrique Mendoza!
The storybot found Mindee Walsh as she was on her thirteenth shot of semi-intelligent Nuevo Tequila. Her boyfriend had just dumped her, and she was out doing her best to erase the memory of his face. It took her twenty minutes to notice the blinking prompt in her right eye.
And he was miserable because nobody loved him and he was probably going to die by himself all miserable and sad and miserable!
LINE REGISTERED! THANK YOU, Mindee Walsh!
Billy Watson was playing Slaughterhouse 5000 on his quantum box. He was assaulting his way through the chainsaw laser level when the storybot caught up to him. Reading over the first paragraph distractedly, Billy found himself focusing more on the arterial spray of lupine aliens.
Then the dinosaurs in helicopters attacked with their acid guns! “Let’s get carnivorous,” said the old man.
LINE REGISTERED! THANK YOU, Billy Watson!
Marion Day was in the middle of her forty thousand word dissertation on interracial relationships in postcolonial sub-Saharan Africa.
I would like to unsubscribe please.
LINE REGISTERED! THANK YOU, Marion Day!
Milton Wilks, an anal-retentive librarian from Greenbrier County, was alphabetizing his coupons.
That’s right, thought the old man. I’d sure like to unsubscribe from this rain of hydrochloric thunder lizards, if only that were an option.
LINE REGISTERED! THANK YOU, Milton Wilks!
For the rest of the week, the storybot bounced from person to person. The old man fought off the dinosaurs, mused on the nature of human existence, fell in love with a woman who turned out to be a zombie, then a robot, and then his sister, had crab cakes and fine wine on the Parisian seashore, traveled back in time to kill Hitler, unsubscribed from six separate situations, violated seven copyrights, fell asleep in the sun, denounced the president, praised the president, committed suicide, came back to life, and finally, grew himself some gills and went to live with his true love, a mermaid person from Zeta Beta VII.
By Friday, the story had ended and bounced home. In his office, Chip Winkler smiled at his work.
“Perfect!” he cried.
Two months later . . .
GREETINGS, consumers! THIS SUMMER: A MAN. A SEA. THE MERMAID WHO LOVED HIM AND THE DINOSAURS WHO DIDN’T. WILL HE DEFEAT HIS ZOMBIE ROBOT SISTER IN TIME TO BE WITH HIS TRUE LOVE? WHICH WILL GET HIM FIRST, HITLER’S LEGION OF CYBER MONKEYS OR HIS OWN NAGGING FEELINGS OF SELF-DOUBT? THE HUMAN SPIRIT WILL BE EXPLODED OFF ITS HINGES. THE OCEAN JUST GOT EXISTENTIALLY DEADLIER.
THIS SUMMER: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Inspector Jeffery Lastrade greeted Philip Homes and Bruce Wattson at the entrance of the Metropolitan Police Headquarters in downtown London. “Thanks for coming on such short notice,” said Lastrade as he pumped Homes’ hand. “I desperately need your help. I’m at my wits end with last night’s murder of Regina Moriarty.”
“I thought it was an iron clad case,” remarked Homes. “The BBC reported that surveillance holocameras record Robert Moriarty vaporizing his wife whilst they were strolling in the park.”
Lastrade escorted his guests to the interrogation room, and paused. “Let’s just say that the case has become… complicated.” The door whooshed aside to reveal two identical suspects sitting at a table.
“My Lord,” exclaimed Wattson. “Twins!”
“Not quite,” replied Lastrade. “They’re both Robert Moriarty, but one of them is a time traveler. I need Professor Homes’ help figuring out which one is the actual murderer.”
“I say throw them both in jail,” suggested Wattson. “After all, they are the same person. What difference does it make which one actually fired the phaser?”
“I can’t imprison an innocent man,” pointed out Lastrade. “Only one of them committed the murder. The other may have known nothing about it.” Lastrade turned toward Homes. “Do you think you can figure out which one is the murderer?”
“Without a doubt,” Homes confidently stated. “It’s a simple matter of eliminating all that is impossible. Then, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. According to my experience, time travelers always create unambiguous inconsistencies it the fabric of space-time. By asking these gentlemen a series of probing questions, I will be able to irrefutably expose the Moriarty that doesn’t belong in this continuum. Then, through sheer deductive reasoning, I will be able to…”
“Confound it Homes,” interrupted Wattson angrily. “Why do you always insists on seeking a complex solution when a simpler one is readily at hand? I can solve this mystery in two seconds.” With that, Wattson drew a small phaser pistol from his coat pocket and blasted a one-inch diameter hole clean through the right hand of the nearest Robert Moriarty. The injured man clutched his smoldering hand and collapsed to the floor screaming like a banshee. Meanwhile, Wattson rhythmically bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet, smiling proudly.
“Good Lord, man. What have you done?”
“What?” questioned Wattson. “Surely you see that I’ve solved the case. Why, it’s obvious. Do I have to explain my simple solution to the Great Phillip Homes? Look at the right hand of this Moriarty,” he motioned toward the un-shot Moriarty trembling at the table. “There’s no scar. The Moriarty that I shot must have been the one from the future that committed the murder. If I had shot the one from the present, this one would now have a scar on his hand.”
“My dear Wattson,” said Homes as he confiscated the phaser, “you use reason like a politician uses the truth. What made you conclude that the time traveler came from the future? The past is the more obvious choice; there are far fewer paradoxes. You may have just shot the Moriarty from our time-line. Furthermore, it has yet to be proven that the time traveler is the actual murderer.”
“Oh, [cough]. Well, perhaps I may have been a bit hasty,” Wattson reluctantly acknowledged. “In that case Homes, if you don’t think you’ll be needing my assistance any longer, I shall wait for you in the pub. Good day, Inspector Lastrade.” As the emergency medical team burst into the interrogation room, Wattson unceremoniously scampered out the door, and down the hallway.
Author : Bill Lombardi
He had been awake for seventy-two hours – twenty-four spent in an acclamation unit. His legs hadn’t adjusted yet and he had trouble standing, so he sat at an unshielded viewport in the common area looking off into space, sipping from a nutrient pack. His stasis pod had failed. According to the AI, the overall damage it had sustained was ‘catastrophic’. Not just for the unit, he thought. Jon Merritt was an engineer and the damage was beyond his expertise. He was lucky he wasn’t dead. He stretched he legs, trying to work out the stiffness. It seemed to make them worse. Getting up slowly, he limped to the habitation module. The crew consisted of six: Daniel Hahira – captain, Adair Quinn – first officer, Billy Dillard – helm, Aria Lopez – navigation, Doc Mercer and himself. Six stasis modules – no backups. Jon leaned against the doorframe of the hibernation chamber. The indicators on five of the pods cycled periodically, flashing green. Their occupants faintly illuminated by the glow of the access panels above each one – except for his, the sixth – open and dark. He thought about waking Quinn, but he wasn’t ready to do that just yet.
A few days past and he felt better. His legs cramped less and he had beaten the AI at backgammon, two out of three games. It wasn’t until the seventh day while in his cabin rereading the last transmissions received from his family before the Arizona had passed out of communications range that it hit him. He couldn’t go on like this indefinitely. He decided that he would wake Quinn in twelve hours.
“What do you mean I don’t have clearance?”
“Only the captain and first officer can override stasis protocols.”
“Gary, this is an emergency. I can’t go back into hibernation. You know this. So, override and wake Quinn.”
“I can not, Jon. The protocols prohibit me from doing so.”
“And in the case of an emergency?”
“Standard procedure is to wake the engineer.”
Jon sighed. “I am awake and that’s the problem.”
“Do you need my assistance with anything else?”
He wanted to throttle the AI. “Yes. I want you to wake Quinn.” There was no response. He slammed his fist down on the console and getting up, went forward to the bridge. Slumping into the navigator’s chair he folded his arms and looked around at the silent command center. All systems were at minimal for the long trek across space. He thought about waking the first officer without the assistance of the AI, but there were too many things that could go wrong and he couldn’t compensate for them without help. Jon was looking at the Nav console when he noticed the lifeboat ejection system. He sat up straight. Of course, he thought. He would have to take one of the lifeboats offline in order to activate it and create a tether, but he could do it. Jon moved aft to the Evac compartment and went to work. After a while he was able to release LB-1 and prime it. The door popped open with a hiss. It would take about twenty-four hours for him to get prepped for stasis and then another three hours for the sleep cycle to complete. He just hoped that once he jettisoned, the magnetic lifeline would hold. If not it wouldn’t matter either way. He’d never wake up again. And that had to be better than spending seventy-five years alone with Gary.
Author : Alec Ow
My parents always told me the Cold was a gateway bug. All throughout middle-school and for most of high-school I was pretty clean. Then I saw one of my friends coming to school with the sniffles.
He didn’t really try to hide it from anyone, thinking back now it seemed like he was wearing it like a badge with pride. I have to admit I got a little curious so I asked him about it. The whole time he was talking about how it makes you feel the world differently, how it numbs your senses. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would put themselves through that willingly. I laughed it off as just a bunch of rebellious teens trying to shake their fists at authority.
It wasn’t until I tried it that I started to understand. Having been without disease for innumerable generations, Humankind had lost touch with what it was to be mortal. Having humanity’s essence backed up in the central database ensured that death was only a temporary condition. There was a movement a few generations back where a bunch of death seekers got together to find the wildest way to die. They got it all wrong, when one dies only the moment before death is felt. It wasn’t a very long high.
When death is trivial, everyone’s a god. When everyone’s a god, the concept of a God is lost through dilution.
My first time at a bug party was pretty wild. The wildest bunch was probably the STDers. Something about adding sex to the equation definitely made everything seem so much more taboo. I took my hit of de-immunizer and hit up a double dose of the common cold and a shot of influenza then finished off with an accelerator. We hung out all weekend in a daze. It was the first time I’ve ever really felt human.
I think I should wrap up this journal entry soon before my Alzheimer’s kicks in. It reminds me of what my parents used to say, about how the Cold is the gateway bug. I still remember my first time being submerged in the culture. I saw one of my friends coming to school with the sniffles. He almost wore it with pride…
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
As I flew through the Rio Bravo Corridor in western Texas, the town of El Paso rose above the horizon. I banked northward and began a gradual arc to align my ship with the Juárez Flyway. I descended to 100 meters and throttled back to 50 kph. The streets appeared to be deserted. I knew that I was taking a big chance returning to Earth. But, I was willing to risk death to be with Felina. If all went well, in two days we’d dock at my hideout in the badlands of the asteroid belt, assuming we could avoid the Rangers. I spotted Rosa’s Cantina on the left, and picked out a landing bay on the upper level. After touchdown, I powered down the ship’s reactor and popped the canopy. Sensor readings were clear. I unbuckled my harness, and began to climb down the exterior of the ship using the “holds” along the fuselage. When my right foot touched the ground I heard a deep metallic voice from the shadows behind me, “Don’t turn around, Robbins.”
Damn, an android, I realized too late. If the bounty hunter had been human, I might have had a chance. Humans can be bribed, or out-gunned, but not a ‘droid. Using the lowest power setting on my implant, I mentally instructed the ship to arm the port thrusters. Hopefully, the ‘droid was too far away to detect the low intensity transmission. It was a desperate move, but if I could knock it off balance for just a fraction of a second, I might be able to reach my blaster.
I could see the ‘droid’s distorted reflection in the polished skin of my ship. I watched it approach, weapon drawn. When it walked in front of the thrusters, I transmitted the command. At the instant the thrusters fired, I spun and reached for my blaster, but I was too slow. I felt a deep burning pain in my side as the ‘droid’s neuronic disrupter hit its mark. The agonizing pain spread to my back and legs, and I collapsed. Stars exploded in my eyes when the back of my head hit the tarmac. I could taste blood as my universe convulsed. The ‘droid stowed its disrupter and stood above me, making sure that I was neutralized. It picked me up by the front of my flightsuit and pinned my back against the fuselage of my ship. “Your running days were over, Robbins,” it said as it placed a neutralizing collar around my neck. My next stop would be the Rehabilitation Facility in San Angelo, where I would get a mind wipe and a “Correctional” implant; one that would force me to serve humanity for the rest of my life. Most outlaws ended up as Rangers, where we’d be used to hunt down our compadres. No, I concluded with conviction. I could not allow that to happen. It must end here. I forced the relentless waves of pain from my mind, and focused on my ship’s master control console. I ordered the computer to bring the reactor on line, and to initiate an immediate self-destruct sequence.
Seconds later, I was looking into the ‘droid’s bloodless “eyes” as the ship’s reactor began to whine to a deafening crescendo. Its mechanical irises spiraled open as it realized what I had done. I managed a half smile as I spat, “See you in hell, ‘droid.” The last image I saw was the relatively dark silhouette of my shadow across the ‘droid’s back as it attempted in vein to escape the antimatter explosion.