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Old 07-30-2008, 04:26 PM   #46
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Ah. That's more like it. A chase scene!
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Old 07-30-2008, 04:59 PM   #47
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I proceeded through the village/zoo, my progress unimpeded by pandas... except occasionally, when I found a line of them blocking a particular road or fork. It did not take long, before I had the distinct impression that I was being herded somewhere. Yet, despite my best efforts to either pick a specific direction, or take turns at random, those panda lines appeared again and again. At one point, I considered jumping over a line, but the pandas seemed to sense this, and began to agitate in such a way that I did not trust my ability to evade them.

Then, I noticed a way out of this rat's (or panda's) maze: I quickly darted into a stand of trees, and found myself moving through a forest. The pandas did not see me enter, nor did I encounter any in the forest... maybe I could cover a significant distance through town, and lose them.

I trudged through the forest for ten minutes or so, wondering exactly how large the forest was, exactly. What I wouldn't have given for a TomTom! Every so often, I'd stop, and listen for pursuers, but I heard none.

Then, as I came through a small stand of bamboo (leeks... whatever), I looked up, and confronted the giant panda! The moment I entered the clearing, he spun about, saw me, and roared in anger. (What was he mad about? As I recall, he's the one who won the fight with the taxi...) I turned and bolted, and a frightening crashing from behind confirmed that he was after me.

I was far enough ahead that he couldn't see me, and he was making too much noise to hear me. Nonetheless, despite numerous twists and turns, I could not lose him. I was close to panicking... if I reached the end of the forest, and out into the open, he'd surely close the gap between us and take me out. What now?

I almost didn't notice my foot landing on something metallic. I looked back over my shoulder, and skidded to a halt to see what it was. It looked like a hatch, embedded in the ground, and mostly covered in leaves. I could see it was about man-sized, which meant giant panda wouldn't get to me in there... but was it open?

I tried it, and sure enough, it opened with a loud creak. A renewed roar alerted me to the panda's proximity... he'd heard the creak, too. That settled it. Without a moment's hesitation, I opened the hatch, dropped down inside, and closed it behind me. I heard loud thumps from above... the panda trying to get inside. But I had a respite, for the moment, from him.

Now, to figure out where I was...
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:04 PM   #48
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Pandas roar?? I was pretty sure up till now that pandas did not roar. Now, I'm starting to wonder. No .... still pretty sure that pandas don't roar.

However, is there any chance there'll be at least one armadillo down that hatch??
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:29 PM   #49
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Pandas roar?? I was pretty sure up till now that pandas did not roar. Now, I'm starting to wonder. No .... still pretty sure that pandas don't roar.
It was just its tummy. It was hungry. Really scary sound. Did you actually believe all that the press saying all they eat is bamboo?

Now hutch up and pass a bag of pop-corn. It's getting crowded in here...

Last edited by LazyScot; 07-30-2008 at 05:34 PM. Reason: dratted mis-spellings....
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:54 PM   #50
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It was just its tummy. It was hungry. Really scary sound. Did you actually believe all that the press saying all they eat is bamboo?

Now hutch up and pass a bag of pop-corn. It's getting crowded in here...
OK .... fine .... it was its tummy. Sheesh ... here!

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Old 07-30-2008, 06:01 PM   #51
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OK .... fine .... it was its tummy. Sheesh ... here!

Have you not heard of the willing suspension of disbelief? What sort of education do they have outside of Scotland, anyway....

Oiy! I'd asked you to pass a full bag of popcorn. If you keep shovelling the stuff in like that you might be mistaken for a nice tuck-filled panda snack..

:Smiliewithbagofpopcornshovedontoitshead:
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Old 07-30-2008, 06:06 PM   #52
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Have you not heard of the willing suspension of disbelief? What sort of education do they have outside of Scotland, anyway....

Oiy! I'd asked you to pass a full bag of popcorn. If you keep shovelling the stuff in like that you might be mistaken for a nice tuck-filled panda snack..

:Smiliewithbagofpopcornshovedontoitshead:
Have you not read the thread about how it's almost impossible for me to willingly suspend my disbelief?? The one about how one author put the constellation of Orion high in the night sky .... in JUNE?? Or, the one about the author who opined that factor 8 deficiency hemophilia was caused by a lack of PLATELETS??

And, if you don't go get your own freaking popcorn, you are going to look like an armadillo reached right down your throat and pulled your insides out.
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Old 07-30-2008, 06:24 PM   #53
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And, if you don't go get your own freaking popcorn, you are going to look like an armadillo reached right down your throat and pulled your insides out.
There are times when I really wish my disbelief wasn't suspended. The image of other vital organs being suspended is not nice..

I know what a squirrel can do to me over a bunch of seeds, so I don't rate my chances against a duck-billed armadillopuss...



<tries to become invisible whilst eagerly awaiting next episode.>
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:28 PM   #54
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Much like the green dome, the hallway I found at the bottom of the hatch was an anachronism... all modern lines, hidden fluorescent lighting, and plastic-looking walls. It ran in one direction, and as the only other place to go was back up to the giant panda, I started down the hallway. Along the way, I noticed signs lining the walls at intervals. They were old advertising slogans: The pause that refreshes; Finger lickin' good; Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet; It's not how long you make it, it's how you make it long; It's the real thing; Just do it.

The hallway finally emptied out into a larger room, subdivided into spaces by large partitions. Most of the partitions had something attached to them: One of them I saw had a map of what looked like the Zoo. Another one sported a wiring diagram that was wholly incomprehensible to me. And a third had an autographed portrait of an old man. I could not read the signature, but the name printed at the bottom of the photo read: "Fritz Lang." The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place it.

I moved past that partition, and into a sci-fi moviemaker's wet dream. There were the most incredible pieces of machinery everywhere, with lighted boards flickering with tiny lights, lights that seemed to run around the boards in choreographed patterns that repeated every few seconds. I saw flashing electrodes, bubbling beakers, spinning wheels, steaming pipes, and moving geometric shapes. Everything was kinetic in that room, nothing failed to do... something. Some equipment gleamed in shining metal and plastic. Other pieces looked grimy with oil and age.

I stepped past this section, and found a small desk with a glass top. The desk had a viewscreen protruding from the top, and a smooth plastic panel embedded in the desk's surface before it. I tapped the plastic surface, and the screen lit up with a screen saver... a tiny icon of a panda, bouncing from side to side on the screen. I smiled. The desk was like one big, fancy computer.

Looking past the computer, I saw a wall that seemed to have pictures of types of food embedded on it. I looked closer, and realized that it was some kind of food dispenser. I tried touching an image... a pear... and the wall started flashing telltales and whirring. A panel slid back, and a small shelf extended with a plate of... what looked like baby food. It did smell like a pear, though. I decided to pass for now.

Just then, the room exploded in noise... loud klaxons, like a Star Trek red alert warning, but incredibly loud, forcing me to slap my hands over my ears. Thinking I may have triggered an alarm, I started to head back for the hallway, hoping the noise would stop. My back-tracking brought me back to the sci-fi hardware room, and there I stopped.

On one piece of machinery, I saw a series of lights, flashing in a circular sequence that surrounded a single blue button, about the size of my fist. Above the button, a readout sign flashed: "Emergency! Emergency! Press this button to restore normalcy!" All the lights on the other pieces of machinery were flashing frenetically, enough to give someone an epileptic seizure, or at least a blinding headache. And between the lights and the klaxons, I felt a doozy coming on.

I didn't know if it would work... but in helpless desperation, I slapped at the button. To my surprise and relief, the klaxons stopped, and the lights went back to their previous harmlessly-kinetic patterns.

"Now... see how easy that was?"

I spun about. There was Panda-man, smiling at me as he removed two foam pads from his ears.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:15 PM   #55
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“Congratulations!” Panda-man said. “Your actions were quick and decisive… bravo!” He extended a hand, which held a bag of popcorn. “Have some?”

“What is all this?” I asked suspiciously.

“This?” Panda-man looked about the room. “This is our legacy, my boy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about fiction,” Panda-man replied. “Specifically: Science fiction.” He gestured around the room with the popcorn bag. “Welcome to the future!”

"This?" I glanced around. "All this cheap theatrics?"

"Exactly, my boy! The cheap theatrics of the future! Sound and light shows, designed to impress the masses into thinking something important is going on."

Panda-man gestured at a partition. "It's all his fault, you know." I looked: He was indicating the old man in the portrait. "Fritz Lang," he answered my unspoken question. "The man who gave us the movie Metropolis."

"Metropolis? Wasn't that an old silent movie?"

"Oh, yes, that it was," Panda-man stated. "It depicted a futuristic city, a utopia above, run by slaves at bone-crunching machinery below. Lang created the first imagery to depict futuristic hardware... flashing lights, kinetic elements, oil, steel, glass... as well as depicting a deep, dangerous mystery far underground. He showed machines that could destroy, if not for the people who needed to maintain them on a constant basis. He showed mysterious leaders and mindless drone workers, stages incomprehensible to newcomers. No one had done that before him. His imagery became synonymous with science fiction."

"And you," he stated, "have proven yourself worthy of carrying on the legacy."

"What are you talking about?"

"Why, the button, my boy!" He waved at it. "You hit it! Without hesitation! You didn't examine the wiring diagram, or go online to see if you could figure out what was going on, or call tech support... you hit the button! Just like a movie hero is supposed to! You have proven that the iconic cinematic programming is established within you. As long as you stay down here, you can maintain the harmony of the Zoo by pressing that button whenever the alarm goes off!"

"Oh, f**k that noise!" I snapped. I am not staying down here and pressing any stupid button for you! I had enough of--"

"Yes?"

My mouth positively fell open. I suddenly realized what was going on. How it was inevitable that I would find myself here. "Oh, no! I'm leaving! I'm going home!"

"Are you forgetting the panda?" Panda-man smiled amiably. "I don't think he's going to allow you to leave."

I cast about desperately, trying to figure out what to do. I was beginning to see things I hadn't noticed before... things that looked familiar to me. Things that I remembered from my office...

Where I had just resigned...

"No..." I snarled. "No!"

"Yes?"

"No!" I struck out, smashing Panda-man in the jaw, and he tumbled to the ground. I towered over him, my every limb screaming to hit him again.

"Do you know what it took me to get out of there?" I screamed. "What it took to stop writing the crap? The same kitch-y stories? The same cardboard characters, starships and aliens? I could have created masterpieces! High concepts that would have the literary gods weeping at my feet! Weeping!" I kicked Panda-man while he was down, not striking any vital parts, but eliciting a painful grunt from him nonetheless.

"But all they wanted was... the damned crap! They wouldn't let me write real stories... they wanted... rehashed versions of Wagon Train and Gunsmoke episodes, with ray guns! They wanted centerfolds in green makeup and torn miniskirts! They wanted explosions... with stupid expanding halo-things around them! They wanted... they wanted..."

I had run out of steam. I hadn't realized it had happened, but I was on my knees next to Panda-man, my eyes burning with tears. All I could make out were the movements of swimming lights and washed-out geometric shapes, all around me... surrounding me.

"Yes," Panda-man was saying. "We know. We know why you resigned. We just needed to hear you say it."

"Please," I pleaded with him. "Don't make me stay here... with all this! I don't want to be trapped by all this junk. I know there is... so much more! I need to be free of it! I need to be free..."

"Ah," Panda-man nodded. "So, he is not ready for this Zoo, after all."

"No, he is not."

I looked up, to see the Greek girl kneeling down next to me. She took me by the shoulders, and smiled kindly. "This is no panda. We cannot bind him by panda rules. We must release him."

"Yes," Panda-man agreed, standing. "Yes, we must." As I wiped my eyes pitiably, the girl helped me to my feet. I found I couldn't stand to look at the hardware in the room... it was becoming too strong a reminder of everything I'd sought to escape. The girl, sensing this, turned me away from the hardware, to face Panda-man. As I watched, he reached into his pocket, pulled his hand out, and extended it, palm-up, to me.

"I want you to take this blue pill..."
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Old 07-30-2008, 10:25 PM   #56
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Bravo!

But I say skip the blue pill, and just walk out through the nearest wall. They're all in your own head, after all!
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Old 07-31-2008, 08:41 AM   #57
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Sheesh,
you lot in the background - shhhh,
some of us are trying to concentrate on this -
bet there's another 'twist' coming up....
bet's on all the pandas are really armadilloes that have lost their armour...

No - I know - they're pieces on a univerally - sized chess board....
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Old 07-31-2008, 09:51 AM   #58
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Okay, here's the situation: My parents went away for a week's vacation, and they left me the keys to the brand new Porche...

(Oh, wait. Different situation. Rebooting now...)

When I started this, I fully expected others to take up the storytelling and take this into unexpected directions. Little did I expect everyone to sit back, grab their popcorn and wait for me to keep going!

Anyway, you did, and pitched me a few things to add to the ride, so I kept writing on-the-fly (and trust me, that's hard to do... little buggers just try to buck you off!), mindful of the fact that I'm actually in the middle of other projects, and didn't have too much time, and finished the story that I started. (Roll--I say, roll credits, boah.)

Or... did I? (Pause--I say, pause credits! Pause, boah!)

Anyway, I'll keep free-associating until I get the knots out of my neurons. But I serve fair notice: This is not pre-scripted, and I don't know where or when it's all gonna end.

(Okay, boah, put--I say, put on reel two.)

***

I looked at the pill suspiciously. "What's it supposed to do?"

Panda-man smiled. "Nothing. It represents a choice. When you take it, you will find yourself waking up, in a wonderful new life, in a wonderful new world!"

"I see," I said. Hesitating another second, I finally popped the pill in my mouth. "See you on the other side," I said to Panda-man.

Then I turned to the girl. "How 'bout a kiss, before I forget that I ever met you?"

"That's not--" she started to say, but I had already pulled her close and planted a good, wet one on her. Having caught her completely by surprise, and she being a woman, she struggled, of course, and when I finally let her go, she glared at me and started wiping her mouth violently.

"Tsk, tsk," Panda-man was saying in the meantime. "Taking advantage of a nice girl? That hardly seems like you--"

He paused when the girl coughed, then wrapped her hand around her throat. "Now, now," Panda-man said, "don't be so melodramatic, girl! He's not all that bad-looking, after all. Maybe a tad overweight..."

His voice faded when he saw how green in the face she was getting. A moment later, his eyes popped, and he looked from me to her. "Oh, c**p..."

He had finally figured out that I had forced the pill into her mouth when I'd kissed her. And neither of them looked too happy about it. In fact, I wasn't sure who looked more panicky, Panda-man, or the girl with the pill down her throat. The question was answered, however, when the girl unexpectedly spun about and grabbed me! She'd wrapped her arms around my neck, and her legs around my torso, pinning one arm before I knew what had happened. And before I could free the arm, or dislodge her with the other one... the world sort of blinked. Everything around me went flat, like it was all a paper sculpture that someone had collapsed back to a single page, and an instant of time suddenly seemed to stretch out to infinity.

It seemed, in the instant between seconds, that somehow I heard the voice... no, more of an echo of the voice... of Panda-man, saying: "Hmph. She never hugged me like that..."
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Old 07-31-2008, 09:53 AM   #59
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Holy crap, Steve! Just how long is your tongue?
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:03 AM   #60
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Scotland
Device: Cybook Gen3 , Pocketbook 302 (Black) , Nexus 10: wife has PW
Keep goin' Steve - don't let us stop you....will you be offering a book version at the end or do we have to make our own copies (with your conivance and agreement - of course)...
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clouds of enlightenment

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