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Old 07-31-2008, 11:29 AM   #61
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Maybe they end up in the land of the armadillopuss? Who, instead of imprisoning them, think they are gods?

Isn't it nice to have an on-call author to entertain us?
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:59 AM   #62
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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!
Unless it falls on the floor and lands next to a fish. You can always trust the blue one next to the fish.
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:01 PM   #63
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:04 PM   #64
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Maybe they end up in the land of the armadillopuss? Who, instead of imprisoning them, think they are gods?

Isn't it nice to have an on-call author to entertain us?
The duckbilled armadillopuss come from a long tradition of Buddhism. We do not believe in "gods." We will probably think they are really large bugs and try to eat them. Except that ... well, it wouldn't be a very Buddhist thing to do to a guest. So, we'll probably wait around till they die of old age ... then we'll eat them.
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Old 07-31-2008, 12:14 PM   #65
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The duckbilled armadillopuss come from a long tradition of Buddhism. We do not believe in "gods." We will probably think they are really large bugs and try to eat them. Except that ... well, it wouldn't be a very Buddhist thing to do to a guest. So, we'll probably wait around till they die of old age ... then we'll eat them.
I had no idea that the duckbilled armadillopuss had such a philosophy. Please, enlighten us more concerning their culture and traditions.
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Old 07-31-2008, 01:34 PM   #66
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An eternity-long instant later, we were somewhere else. I was immediately aware of the sensation of falling, and I cried out in alarm... so did the girl, who was still wrapped like a python around me. But as it turned, out, our fall lasted only about a second, before we landed on a divan, bounced off of it, skidded across a coffee table, and finally came to rest on a pastel-pink rug.

Once we'd come to rest, the girl unwrapped herself from me. I started to say, "What the f--" when I noticed a black wingtip next to my shoulder. I looked up, following the leg attached to the wingtip, until I got to the top, whereupon I saw a man in a red uniform looking down at us.

"Please," he said, "we run a respectable place. If you must do that, for God's sake, get a room!"

We sat up, and I looked around. We were apparently in a hotel lobby. I looked at the man standing above us. "Ah, sorry," I said, standing up and helping the girl to her feet. "We just wanted to test the comfort of the furniture. I think we'll try another place." Gripping the girl by the bicep, I led her outside.

And was almost blinded, the moment I stepped out. It was apparently pretty close to noon, and the sun beat down on bright pastel colors everywhere, giving the eye no place to look that was retina-safe.

Now, I said, What the f**k happened? Where are we?"

"Looks like Miami," the girl stated. When I turned to look at her, she nodded at the sign above the hotel we'd just exited... it said Miami Arms.

"And exactly how did we get here?"

"By overloading the subspace shifter," she replied.

"The what?"

"The damned pill you made me swallow, you jerk!" She yanked her arm out of my hand, and gave me a cold look. "We're lucky we landed on dry land!"

"No frickin' way."

"Yes frickin' way! The subspace shifter is designed to shift you to another place upon ingestion. It was keyed to your body weight, and set to take you to a secure cell in Guantanemo if you wouldn't cooperate."

"Gee, thanks."

"Only you force-fed it to me, and since I'm lighter than you, it could have sent me to the Moon, for all I know!" She squinted around. "So I grabbed you, to add weight to the shift, knowing that we'd at least manage to stay on this planet."

"Assuming you're serious about that Moon stuff," I said, "for what it's worth, I wasn't trying to kill you. I just figured it would put you to sleep... like your maniac boss told me it would!"

"If I'd worked for him," the girl stated, "I would've jumped with him."

"Well, you don't work for me."

"No... I escaped with you. Now that I've abandoned my post, I'm in as much trouble as you are."

"All I wanted to do was quit my job!"

"And you should've known better!" I stared, having no idea what she was talking about. "You dummy... don't you realize the secrets you know? About the publishing industry? All the bogus procedures, back-room dealings, false-front boutique houses... all there to keep the 'unclean' at bay, all the outsiders who want to get into publishing and make it big as the next Tom Clancy!"

"You've gotta be..." And suddenly I remembered the conversation we'd had earlier, when I thought she wasn't making the connection. The shoe really was on the other foot.

"You're seeing it now, aren't you?" she said. "They can't let you tell the mainstream media how the publishing industry really works behind closed doors. They can't let you leak the word to every e-book writer and blogger out there. There's no way they'll let you live."
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Old 07-31-2008, 01:48 PM   #67
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Cue the dramatic music...
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Old 07-31-2008, 01:55 PM   #68
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I had no idea that the duckbilled armadillopuss had such a philosophy. Please, enlighten us more concerning their culture and traditions.
Better left to another time and another thread. We also prefer to remain a little more mysterious than the noble panda.
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Old 07-31-2008, 04:12 PM   #69
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Ooh! The Author's Protection Program! A secret identity! Backpack! Backpack! (Sorry-- got carried away there. A few too many episodes of Dora the Explorer when my younger daughter was learning English.)

Do they have squirrels in Miami?
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Old 07-31-2008, 10:54 PM   #70
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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.
...
Yeah, I always hated that my parents would only give me the keys to the veranda when they went away. I mean, I really liked just leaning back into the rocking chair and watch the world pass by, but most of the time they kept me locked up in the saloon.

Cheers,
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:49 PM   #71
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We had started to walk, while we were talking. Before I knew it, the girl was suddenly grabbing me by the arm, and dragging me into a small store.

"We need to lower our profile," she said as we stepped inside. She was already taking off her black gloves, making her white suit look much less incongruous in the process. "Apparently no one in the hotel saw us 'pop' in, so we lucked out there. But they'll be looking for us by now, and the cities have eyes.

"I'm going to get a change of clothes," she concluded. She looked me up and down. "You should buy a new shirt. And find a baseball cap or something." And before I could reply, she whirled and headed down the aisles, quickly grabbing a few articles of clothing from the racks and heading for the changing rooms.

I didn't know how good the city's eyes were, but I had to admit, she made sense. I browsed a men's shirt aisle until I found a touristy shirt that looked like it would blend in for Miami. A Jacksonville baseball cap topped off the new look nicely. I paid for them at the counter with most of the cash I had on me, and changed into the shirt while I was still inside.

A noise behind me alerted me to my fellow fugitive's arrival. She had slipped into a pastel-colored dress and high-heeled sandals that displayed her... charms, but no more than the average Miami girl. Still, she'd blend better with that than the white suit and black pumps, which she had already ditched somewhere. She paid for her dress and shoes with cash, and a moment later, we were back out on the street.

"So... what now?" I asked. "Are you serious about someone looking for us?"

"Oh, yes," she nodded, scanning the street carefully but unobtrusively as we crossed the street. "Especially you. If the wrong people get ahold of you, they could find out enough about the secrets of the publishing empires to penetrate their defenses and do significant damage. Some budding authors would kill for that chance."

"And how do you know so much about it? Were you part of the empire?"

"Yes, right until they brought me in to keep you quiet. Mind you, I didn't know that at the time. I thought I was being sent to wine and dine a congressman. In hindsight, I should have known I was being set up: No one wines and dines congresspeople any more. They just send them gift cards."

"Gift cards?"

"Ever seen an American Express Plutonium gift card?"

"No."

"And you never will, either."

"Okay..." Something else occurred to me. "So, what did you do? In the empire?"

Without meeting my eye, she said, "I was an editor."

"What's your name, anyway?"

Now she looked at me. "Ailuropoda Melanoleuca."

"Yow. What is that, Greek?"

"Latin. You can call me Amy."

"Thank God. So, Amy, where are we going?"

"I know Miami," she explained. "There's a safe house near here... a used bookstore."

"There are still such things?"

"Not many," she admitted. "That's why they'll help us."
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:28 AM   #72
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The bookstore was, as I expected, one of those truly anachronistic-looking places, a decades-old storefront on a side-street, with their name hand-painted to the plate glass, and the sight of what had to be hundreds of thousands of books crammed into the space of a downtown Kyoto efficiency apartment. Amy pushed the door open, ringing the inevitable bell poised above the door.

Inside, a bearded, severely overweight man sat behind a counter covered with books and magazines. He was reading a magazine himself... looked like F&SF to me, from what I could see over his protective book-shield... and barely looked up when we came in. "CanIhelpyou?" he mumbled out, his eyes already back into his magazine before the last syllable came out.

"We're looking for a book," Amy said simply.

"Good call," the man responded. "We've got a few of those."

"This one is by John Drake," Amy stated. "Memoirs of Portmeirion. Sixth edition."

She paused, and waited while the proprietor slowly lifted his eyes from his magazine. He regarded us both cautiously, while trying not to look cautious. "I have that, but it's the one with the abridged ending."

"Does it have a red cover?" Amy asked.

"That's the one," the proprietor nodded at the clearly coded exchange, slowly climbing down from his stool and starting around the counter. As he moved from his seat, I could now see the small computer he had on the counter behind him. It was like a laptop, but much smaller, and made of white plastic. I'd bet it was a great PC for portable work... it looked ultra-mobile. He tapped a single key on it as he walked past, and I heard what sounded like a deadbolt being pulled at the front door.

He looked at me. "Author?"

"Yeah."

"Poli-sci? Espionage?"

"Science fiction."

He winced. "Idealist. Won't know what to watch out for. They'll catch you in less than a week."

"Or not," Amy told him, looking at me. "He'll have an editor's help."

The proprietor looked at Amy. "I see. Okay, then: Let's get going."

He led us through the bookstore... how his bulk managed not to knock over half the books he passed, in those narrow aisles, I will never know. We took a few turns, until I was honestly not sure which way the front door was. Then he stopped in what looked to be an old closet, surrounded by books.

"Get in, get in," he urged, and waited until we were all in that tiny space, chest-to-chest-to-chest. (Take your own mental picture... I'm not going there.) Then he reached up to a tiny chain, hanging from a bare light bulb set in the ceiling. He tugged the chain six times, then waited. Six seconds later, the floor started to drop, the books that had been residing on it somehow staying in place, hovering above us as we dropped past them.

We descended perhaps thirty feet down before we reached bottom. It was almost pitch dark when we stopped moving, but immediately a light snapped on, revealing an old city service tunnel. The proprietor alighted and started down the tunnel. Amy followed him. I shrugged and followed along.

"Haven't had anyone down here in awhile," the proprietor started talking as we continued along. "Thanks to better laptops and encryption software, more of our authors have been able to work on-the-run, instead of hanging down here."

"Don't tell me," I said. "You've got a secret subterranean cavern set up with PCs, and dozens of secret writers recording classic books before they are lost."

The proprietor looked back at me, glancing at Amy for confirmation. "Dude... where have you been? All the classics are already in multiple e-book formats! You never heard of Project Gutenberg? Or the Darknet?"

E-books... Amy had mentioned them earlier, and I knew what they were. Project Gutenberg I'd never heard of... much less the "Darknet." Feeling like I was out of my element, I shut up and kept walking.

The tunnel was long... we may have travelled three city blocks, though we made some turns along the way. Then we came to a closed door on one wall. The proprietor put his hand onto the bricks to the right of the door, and after a moment, a lock snapped open. He pushed the door open with a mighty creak, and entered, beckoning us to follow him.

I still expected to see a dank, damp room with a boatload of kids at ancient PCs, cranking out who knew what kind of propaganda. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found myself walking into... a Starbucks.
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:31 AM   #73
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Old 08-01-2008, 10:38 AM   #74
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hush - pipe down - sheesh - some of us are trying to concentrate on this...
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Old 08-01-2008, 11:06 AM   #75
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Nooo! Not Starbucks! It's poison, deadly poison, I tell you! Uh oh, the secret coffee police are gonna get me!

(I haven't been able to get a good cup of joe since the lobby coffee shop was hostilishly take over by Starbucks on 7/1/08.)
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