The Iron Writer Challenge #21
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open
Joseph Conrad Bracket
An Electric Flying Bicycle
An obscure Black & White Television Drama/Comedy
When Humanity Becomes Irrelevant
A. Francis Raymond
“There’s more to the doppelganger program than simply creating a replica of yourself, sir. It’s a subset of the Atlantis project which is a subset of the Grand Colonization project, sir.” Simon escorted Sir John Crantor, senior member of the council, through the laboratory. He cast a sideways glance at Crantor, “But you knew that already. Sir.”
Crantor was the last of the council to walk through Simon’s lab. The rest had their doppelgangers created sometimes six or seven times over already.
Crantor remembered they named it the “doppelganger project” for a reason. It was more palpable than simply calling it another cloning project. As if Simon was reading Crantor’s mind he said:
“But we’re not creating a simple clone. We take the best of you and the best of your ancestors and create someone, that while bearing an uncanny resemblance to yourself, also possesses a unique mix of intelligence and creativity.”
“Something the Atlantis project has lacked,” said Crantor.
Simon smiled and motioned Crantor to a seat. He waved his hands over the table top and a hover screen appeared. Crantor looked at Simon in profile. He looked eerily familiar.
“And it doesn’t have to be an exact physical replica,” Simon continued. “Many of the other council members decided it was less disturbing if in addition, eye color, hair color and even skin color changed.”
On the screen, a video displayed several people in clunky hovering contraptions, predecessors to modern modes of travel.
“This would be the most interesting of your ancestors, sir. The inventor of the electric hover bike.”
Crantor nodded. He was familiar with his family line and knew his doppelganger would include this and the man who created an ancient black and white television show called “Run For Your Life.”
Running is what Crantor wanted to do right now. As the senior member of Project Atlantis, he didn’t think he should be any more hands on. But with failure imminent, stronger measures had to be taken.
Project Atlantis was the classified arm of the Grand Colonization. Settlers had stumbled upon ancient, human-like civilizations on several worlds that appeared to have simply disappeared, “in a single day and night of misfortune,” the original report read. Revitalizing these “colonies” to take advantage of the existing infrastructure was the only way colonization would succeed.
Doppelgangers looked human, but they were partly robotic. With twice the intellectual capability of humans, ten times the strength and endurance, they were needed for sophisticated “grunt work.” Initial objections included concern that more doppelgangers were created every month than babies. Creating a more capable version of a human being in almost no time at all seemed… unnatural.
Crantor wondered when doppelgangers would truly outnumber humans. Five or more created for every human who was duplicated over the last year added up to a lot of pseudo-humans to keep track of.
“Where’s your doppelganger?” he asked Simon.
Simon waved his hand and the viewscreen went black. “At some point, it becomes irrelevant, doesn’t it, sir?”
Old Boy Network
Dani J Caile
Thomas was surprised to see an old man covered in dust and cobwebs coming through a secret door in his office’s bookshelf.
“What the…? Excuse me?”
“I’ve finished! I’ve finally sorted out those problems. Episode 5 is ready!”
The dusty old man threw a screenplay onto his desk.
“Excuse me? Episode 5? Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Who am I? Who are you?”
“I’m Thomas Thimbleton, scheduling and programming. And you?”
“Roger Cribbins, writer, ‘The Corridor People’.”
“Who? The what?”
“Roger Cribbins, ‘The Corridor People’. I know I’m a little late with the re-write but there were a few problems I had to iron out…”
“’The Corridor People’? Is that some new ‘Office’ spin-off? Hang on a minute, I’ll check.” Thomas checked his database. “ Late, you say? You’re 47 years late.”
“Oh, really? I am a bit peckish. Mmm, I’ve lost a bit of weight, too. Do you happen to have any sandwiches, by chance?”
“I think… you’re well over your deadline on this one. But saying that, as I can see from here it was a good series. So, I’m all ears. What have you got?”
“Oh, it’s fantastic! I’ve set this episode on the mysterious and unknown island of…Atlantis!”
“Yes, it’s a mythical island, not many people know about it in popular culture yet…”
“You’ve been locked away for too long, Roger. Back in 1966 maybe, but now…”
“Anyway, one of the characters, Kronk, discovers the mythical island and also a secret spiritual chamber where he meets his evil doppelganger whom he finally defeats in the closing scenes.”
“Well, I don’t think anything to do with Atlantis has any audience ratings potential at the moment…”
“What? It’s all the rage!”
“No, it isn’t.” Thomas picked up the screenplay. “What else is in this? Does it include any cooking?”
“Any gardening, perhaps? Or DIY?”
“DIY? What’s that? Err, no, at least I think not.”
“Any computer gadgetry?”
“Yes! In the final scenes there is a chase sequence on futuristic, fantastical, electric flying bicycles! That would need some incredibly difficult special effects, of course.”
“No, it doesn’t. We can do that now. Three Czech engineering firms created a working prototype quite recently. It was all over the net.”
“Really? The net?”
“This isn’t so futuristic anymore, Roger. Let’s have a look at you…well, you’re not gay. Are you a Christian?”
“Err, no, I’m with Crudential.”
“Well, I’m afraid that your screenplay doesn’t meet the present demand from our audience.”
“Oh, I see. Shame. Sorry, but what was your name again?”
“Thomas Thimbleton, Thomas Thimbleton junior.”
“I thought so! I went to Eaton with your father, old Snotnose.”
“Don’t you mean Thomas?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Thomas.”
“Why didn’t you say so earlier? I tell you what, come back next Monday. I’ll have the contracts all ready by then.”
“Super, fine by me. See you then, dear boy.”
“See you then.”
They sealed the deal with the usual secret handshake.
Land of the Dobieganger
Dobie was honored when he was chosen as the first person to ride the new Czech invented electric flying bicycle outside of the testing chamber. At least, he liked to think it an honor and not just because his father was a famous inventor. But, seeing as that was the last thing he could remember before being trapped in this alternate world, it was a shady sort of honor. No one liked to think of themselves as a lab rat. Option B was the Gods had stuck him down for hubris and that was why he was in Atlantis. In fact, he preferred Option B as an explanation because it seemed mythically appropriate and was more comforting than Option C; that Dobie had just finally lost his mind. Also, he didn’t actually know if it was the same Atlantis of legend. The residents just called it Atlantis which was hardly proof that it was The Atlantis. In any case, he refused to accept being trapped in his own Land of The Lost and was determined to escape today or die trying.
“Pretty slick contraption there, Mister. What’s with the fans?”
Dobie turned at the edge of the cliff and did a double take. The man in front of him looked exactly like Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island. A younger version, but the same man right down to the oversized ears and dopey grin. And maybe it was a trick of the light but he looked almost…grey.
“I’m Maynard. What’s your name?” Gilligan’s doppelganger asked.
“I’m Dobie,” he replied, shaking the stranger’s hand.
“No, Dobie. My dad named me after his favorite TV show growing up, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis?”
“Huh. Never heard of it,” Maynard said and scratched his head—exactly like Gilligan would have done. Dobie tried desperately not to stare.
“I’ve never actually seen it either. Black and white. Before my time,” Dobie replied faintly. “Listen…you lived here long? Why is this place called Atlantis?”
Maynard pointed at the bike.
“Can I have a go at it?” he asked as if he hadn’t heard Dobie’s questions.
“I suppose, but it doesn’t fly anymore.”
“Fly?! Bikes can’t fly, Mister. You knock your head or somethin’?”
“It’s just been invented. Took it for a test ride and somehow I ended up here. It runs on batteries. But the Lab will be wondering where I am so—”
“What kind of batteries?”
“Dunno. Probably somewhere between a bored housewife’s Hitachi and a car battery,” Dobie joked.
Maynard scrunched his brows and his mouth parted slightly.
“Nevermind,” Dobie said. “Anybody ever tell you, you look exactly like a young Bob Denver?”
Maynard mounted the bike and turned. His face had transformed with a sneer. “It’s short for The Atlantis Project. Your dad traps his favorite things like in a snow globe.”
“So long, sucker!” Maynard shouted as the bike soared off the cliff.
On second thought, Dobie decided…Option C did have a nice ring to it.
Guy Anthony De Marco
Breathing heavy, Joseph pumped the pedals of his aerobicycle harder to clear the trees at the top of Rocky Ridge. Virginia followed close behind on his six, staying in formation despite a large flock of crows erupting from the branches in droves.
“We have to hurry, Ginny!” said Joseph. “I can hear the train coming!”
Even though Virginia was riding a doppelganger of Joseph’s aerobicycle, she wasn’t out of breath. She weighed far less than her best friend, and it didn’t take as much energy to keep aloft. “I can hear it too,” she yelled over the props. “We only have a few minutes to derail it!”
The train popped out of the tunnel that cut through the ridge, belching a steam and coal dust cloud so dense that Joseph had to bank hard left to avoid it. Virginia flew straight through, emerging with wide black streaks on her face and clothes.
Joseph almost panicked. “Ginny! I thought you were done for! Drop your grenades in front of the train or we’ll never get your little sister back from those dastardly kidnappers!”
Virginia pedaled harder and tilted the props forward. She reached into the woven plastic basket attached to her handlebars, withdrew a soft and wormy apple, then dropped it. The apple drifted down and impacted the polished brass smokestack, making a big pulpy smoosh while the other half bounced off into the dense bushes alongside the track.
She pulled up hard and circled back to Joseph, who had just landed roughly in a small grassy clearing. Deftly dropping next to him, she pulled a fresher apple from the basket, took a big bite, and said, “Well, so much for Charlotte.”
Joseph burst out laughing so hard, even Virginia had to crack a smile. “Yeah, that’s true. You have to learn to lead more when you drop those grenades. You did better this time.”
“Yeah, but not good enough.” Virginia tossed the apple to her friend, and he took a bite right next to hers. “What evil will we be preventing tomorrow?”
Joseph chewed for a bit, and then grinned. “We’re going to the beach in the morning with my Uncle Scott. I foresee Charlotte getting kidnapped by wicked mermaids from Atlantis!”
“Wicked mermen, you mean. I’m going to be the skipper of that giant submarine from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” She began to pedal, speeding up the propellers while slowly rolling forward. “Let’s see how Atlantis likes a depth charge dropped right in the middle of their town square!”
Joseph spun up his blades, falling behind Virginia’s aerobicycle. “They have an impenetrable dome! It’ll bounce off.”
“No, they don’t! Or better yet, I’ll race you to the barn.” Virginia pushed herself hard, and Joseph fell further behind, huffing and puffing while whining about Atlantis’ pending missing defense.
“Last one there gets to kiss my fictional sister on the lips!” she hollered. “Tongue and everything!”
Virginia laughed as Joseph’s wailing “eeeew, that’s gross” caught up with her.