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Old 08-04-2008, 11:25 AM   #91
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami View Post
I find I'm trying hard not to imagine what the pandas are seeing on the PDAs...
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeoffC View Post
Seeing they're all rushing to the beach....

PDA -
Panda Depth Alert...


Are they just sitting and staring, or are they doing something? I picture them uncovering something. And where's the giant panda? It was already hanging around the beach. OK, the PDA's only have address books and notepads. Is there some special instruction written in pandese?
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Old 08-04-2008, 12:51 PM   #92
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The PDA's are all announcing a MobileRead Meetup at the beach. The new Polymer Vision Readius will be previewed. It will be displaying German newspapers: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27327...

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Old 08-04-2008, 12:59 PM   #93
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Under the green dome, Panda-man was staring at the many walls of his inner sanctum, perplexed. The screens showed either empty areas of the zoo, or pandas all apparently heading in the same direction.

"What's happening? Where are all the pandas going?" he muttered to himself. He reached for his control console, and started pushing buttons. "Report! Report! Where are the pandas? What's going on?"

Abruptly, a screen changed to show an operative, in full panda makeup, standing near the beach. The pandas were visible behind him, with more passing him and heading towards the rock outcropping at the beach. "I've found them, sir," the operative said. "They seem to be a bit agitated, but other than that, they're not doing much of anything..."

"I'm coming down," Panda-man announced at once. "Stay there." The operative looked like he was about to speak, but before he could get another word out, Panda-man had cut off the channel. He quickly grabbed his white sport-coat, checked his makeup, and dashed out of the inner sanctum without another word.

An unused taxi was parked outside of the green dome, and Panda-man jumped inside and kicked the accelerator, leaning forward for speed as the golf cart took off at a trotting pace. A few minutes' travel brought him down to the beach, and he abandoned the taxi when he reached the sand. Ahead of him were what looked like every panda in the zoo, all milling about, and occasionally lifting a small electronic device to their faces, then milling about some more. Even the huge uber-panda was there, sitting on the sand and watching the rest of the pandas expectantly.

"Miles! What's going on?" Panda-man bellowed, as he approached a group of operatives that were watching the pandas from a low rock. The operatives looked about at each other in confusion, until one of them, the one addressed as Miles, finally addressed Panda-man.

"You mean... so this isn't one of our experiments? We thought maybe--"

"No, it's not one of ours, dolt!" Panda-man cut him off. "Why would you think it was?"

"I don't know," Miles backed off, and in a moment, held out one of the PDAs that were being handled by most of the pandas in evidence. "It's just that it looked like one of... uh, like something we might... er, uh..."

Panda-man abruptly snatched the PDA from Miles' black-gloved hand, and gave him a final disgusted sneer before looking down at the device. The moment Panda-man grabbed it, something in the device triggered it, and it came on. Although it was originally designed to do only two things, it had been modified (by the simple expedient of changing an internal DIP switch from the "zero" to the "one" position, something fairly common with electronic devices, as it turns out) to do a third thing: Play videos. And when it came on, it immediately began to play a video loop of two pandas fornicating, on a cheap-looking stage that included a backdrop of the beach they were standing on, the angle highlighting the jagged outcropping of rocks nearby, for easier pinpointing of the spot.

Panda-man stared at the mob of pandas in shock. They all seemed to be searching around, like a bunch of high-schoolers looking for some action.

"Stupid clone pandas!" Panda-man spat. Then he turned on his operatives. "Where did these pathetically-produced panda porn-loop PDAs come from?"

Miles shrugged, trying not to blink at all the spittle Panda-man's alliteration had thrown his way. "I don't know. They were just everywhere this morning... the pandas just picked them up all over! Amy said she was going to collect as many as she could, for evidence--"

"Wait!" Panda-man stopped him. "Amy? You've seen her?"

"Yeah," Miles replied. "He and Bob were heading towards headquarters with--"

"Bob? Bob who?"

Miles' eyes went wide. "New guy?"

Panda-man stared at him for a moment... then his own eyes went wide. "Back to the dome, men!" He shouted, and they all turned to head back from the beach. Panda-man paused a moment to spin back upon Miles, who skidded to a stop behind him. "You're relieved of duty, idiot! You're confined to quarters!" Then Panda-man turned and ran off.

Miles stood there a moment, shocked and confused... then a smile crept across his face. "Oh... aye... thank you, sir! Now I can catch up on me technical manuals!"

Panda-man took the taxi, driven by an operative. The other operatives ran alongside. They all reached the green dome at the same time. Panda-man bounded out of the taxi and raced for the door... and was taken by surprise when it did not open for him. He ran headlong into the door and bounced off, colliding with a half-dozen operatives and sending them all tumbling into the grass beside the stoop.

"What the--?" Panda man goggled at the door, then clambered to his feet. H erushed up and pounded on the door, shouting, "Let me in! What's going on in there? Let me in!"

"I'm sorry," a voice emanated from a wall-mounted speaker, "but this publishing house is under new management. Do we know your agent?"

Panda-man blanched (not an easy thing to recognize under the white makeup). "Amy?"
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Old 08-04-2008, 01:50 PM   #94
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Once Panda-man had vacated the green dome, Amy snuck us into the inner sanctum by simply accessing the code-lock and inputting the password, "password." We entered the round room, and as Amy headed for the central control in front of the round chair, I snuck a glance at the many views of the zoo, now dominated by empty streets, and a shot of pandas milling about down at the beach. In one view, a taxi scooted past, and I could clearly see Panda-man driving it.

"We don't have much time," Amy said as she worked over the controls. "You have to get down to the cloning control, and plant the charges. You know the way?"

"I've got it on my TomTom," I replied, calling up my favorites on its screen. At once the GPS device's voice said: "Proceed west, and take the elevator on the left."

"I'm on my way," I told her.

A quick elevator ride later, I was in front of the top-secret cloning lab's door. I accessed the code-panel and input the password: "Money." The door opened with a light hiss. I stepped inside the vast space, which was festooned with high-tech devices and sophisticated medical apparati, scary-looking gestation pods steaming with liquid nitrogen, lots of chrome and white plastic, a few biohazard stickers placed seemingly randomly on walls and other surfaces, and a panda sitting on an examination table.

Oops.

My mission was to destroy the place. I didn't want to destroy any pandas. I thought fast. Remembering that I still had a PDA in my pack, I extracted it, and handed it to the panda. The panda eyed its screen for a few seconds, then put the PDA down, and looked at me expectantly.

"Oh, great," I muttered. "I find the one gay panda in the whole place." Then something occurred to me. "Say... you must be the one that big panda was talking about!" The panda's eyes seemed to focus hard on me. "Yeah, yeah... he's been asking about you all morning, wondering why you aren't at the party... the one on the beach."

Without hesitation, the panda bounded off the table and high-tailed it for the exit.

Sighing with relief, I started to plant my explosives.

Upstairs, Amy was busy transferring evidence on publishing procedures, including those procedures designed to discourage authors from producing e-books, into her own PDA. While that ran, she occupied her time by resetting controls that would shut down the stealth equipment that kept the outside world from knowing about the zoo, and unfreezing its assets, accounts, transactions and back-room dealings from public view.

She was so busy with her work, that she was taken by surprise by a thump heard somewhere outside the control room, followed by a warning light on the console. She looked up at the wall-screens around her, until she found the one that showed Panda-man and a phalanx of operatives, sprawled on the grass outside of the front door. She grinned as she watched them collect themselves, and re-approach the door, with Panda-man pounding on the door and yelling loudly.

Amy finally triggered the front door intercom. "I'm sorry, but this publishing house is under new management. Do we know your agent?"

Panda-man blanched (not an easy thing to recognize on a black-and-white intercom monitor). "Amy?"

"Yes, it's me," Amy replied. "And it's time for your little publishing castle to be brought down around your black little ears."

"No... no! You can't!" Panda-man pushed up to the camera in panic. "Don't you realize we're the only thing keeping mainstream publishing from collapsing completely? We have to maintain the status quo! It's the only way to guarantee profits for all!"

"You mean, for those already in the publishing industry!" Amy snapped. "What about all those budding, deserving authors out there, who just want a fair chance at a literary living?"

"Bah! A bunch of nobodys? Why should we try to make any money off of them, when we already have J.K. Rowling?"

"If you don't understand why," Amy said, "there's no point in explaining it to you..."

"Wait! Wait! Amy... we can help each other! Didn't you tell me once about that travelogue you wanted to write... 'The Entire Northern Hemisphere on One Thousand a Day, Pending Local Exchange Rates'? I can make that happen for you! Just say the word, and I'll have the money in your account in the morning!"

Despite herself, Amy found her hands moving noticeably more slowly across the keyboard as he spoke.

"Think of it, Amy... your name and face, sitting on every coffee table from here to Hong Kong. Your book entertaining millions... hell, billions... at current distribution rates! We'll set up a deal with the Discovery channel... they'll follow you and document your travels! You'll be a celebrity!"

Amy's hands had stopped. "I... could have the money tomorrow?"

"By nine AM! I swear to Macmillan!"

Something changed in Amy's eyes. "And what about the digital rights? Will I retain those?"

"Done!" Panda-man replied. "We'll make sure those little e-books go out at twice the hardback price, no more than a year after printing!"

"Panda bastard!" Amy punched at a red button on the console. Outside, two small doors were sliding open on either side of the front door, releasing robotic attack-armadillos. Amy saw Panda-man and his minions scream like little girls, turn and run from the front stoop, followed by large rolling armadillo drones.

Amy hit another stud. "Get those charges set! We don't have much time!"
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Old 08-04-2008, 02:40 PM   #95
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I finished with the last of the charges. Based on what we'd covered in the briefing, the exact placement of the charges would ensure that no more ilicit cloning would be taking place in this lab. Satisfied that I'd done my job, I patted my hands together in the universally-recognized alternating up-and-down motion that meant I was finished.

Then I remembered I wasn't finished, because I hadn't actually set the charges. Extracting the remote detonator from my pack, I set it for fifteen minutes, more than enough time to get clear, and started out of the room.

(In hindsight, I should have known that that was the absolute last thing I should have done. I've watched a bit of television in my time, after all.)

I headed for the door out of the lab, triggered the lock, and swung the door open. And I was immediately struck by a large, black-and-white wall of fur that hurtled me back into the lab. I bounced of an examination table and tumbled onto the floor, a 200-plus-pound mound of hurt.

I looked up, with the one eye that was still open, and saw the uber-panda breaking through the door-frame and into the lab.

"Um..." I mumbled, hoping to buy me some time. "What a coincidence... I just told a friend of mine to go down and see you..."

At that, uber-panda roared, and charged through the lab at me. Before I could get clear, he connected with another paw, and I went flying across the room, knocking over an incubator before I came to a stop against the wall.

"Ungh... so, I guess he found you..."

Fortunately, the lab was full of equipment that uber-panda had to move, in order to get to me. Unfortunately, all he had to do was swipe an arm, and most of that equipment went flying easily enough. I tried to stay behind the smashed equipment, keeping low, hoping I could get to the exit without him spotting me. I started to make headway, sure I was only a few seconds away from safety.

Then I saw the collapsed framework of the ceiling's block-and-tackle across the doorway, and I realized I wouldn't be getting out that way.

An instant later, and something grabbed my foot. And I realized I might not be getting out at all.

Uber-panda swung me over his head, my own head barely avoiding an impact with the ceiling, and threw me clean across the room. I hit the floor, skidded, and slammed into a table of equipment and beakers that fell to the floor all about me, peppering me with glass and noxious chemicals. When I could sit up, the first thing I saw was uber-panda, walking unerringly towards me with a fierce expression.

This was really not looking good.

He leapt to close the distance between us. In a moment of blind panic, I grabbed at the nearest thing I could find to throw at it... which happened to be a beaker of some bubbling red fluid. I hurled it, and tried to roll away, expecting at any moment the killing stroke. But instead of a huge weight landing on me and a bite-mark the size of a Honda on my neck, there was a small explosion over my head.

It took a moment before I could see through the red smoke that had filled the room... but when I did, I saw a normal-sized panda sitting on the floor next to me. I repeat for emphasis: A normal-sized panda. No bulldozer-sized pandas in evidence. I stared at it, as it sat there and stared at... itself. It seemed to be as surprised as I was that it was now normal-sized.

Then it noticed me staring at it, whereupon it padded over to me, and gave me a big panda-bear hug.

"You're welcome," I said when it finally let me loose. "But we can't stay here. We've only got--" I looked at my watch. About twenty seconds. Yikes.

"Gotta go!" I got up, collected the panda in my arms, and headed for the exit. It took waaay too much time climbing over debris before I reached the door, crawled over the block-and-tackle, and gained the hallway. I bolted for the elevator at the end of the hallway, and was thrilled when I saw it open before I reached it.

"What took you so long--" Amy was saying from inside the elevator car, when she saw me, the panda, and the wild look in my eye.

"No time! Did you find a blue pill?"

"Yes," she replied, eyeing the panda, "but it's not balanced for three--"

"Use it!" I cried, as we tumbled into the elevator together.

Behind us, the explosives triggered. The cloning lab went up, and thanks to the placement of explosives, specific facility-wide systems were also caught up in the explosion. The systems in the green dome went up, and transmitted their disaster through electric and gas lines that networked throughout the village.

As the pandas watched, safe on the beach, the zoo/village erupted like a Quinn Martin production, destroying forever the massive publishing conspiracy that had been the bane of my existence for... well, about four days, all told... but man, had they been pretty extreme days. The green dome was seen to rise straight up as if it was jet-propelled, followed by much brickwork, and strange multi-colored clouds of smoke from below its foundations.

Eventually, debris began to rain down, most of it (to the pandas' relief) landing right where it had taken off, on the ruins of the zoo. One piece of debris was an exception: A door to a certain subterranean elevator, which landed on the beach next to a panda that was looking for an uber-large date...
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Old 08-04-2008, 04:21 PM   #96
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Oh baby, the climax was thrilling!
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Old 08-04-2008, 04:39 PM   #97
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The offices of Fox Television happened to be quiet that day: Obama and McCain hadn't done anything worth even mentioning, hurricane Farouk hadn't yet ruined anyone's day, Britney was staying indoors, and no one even know where the Jolie-Pitts were hanging out that week.

Consequently, when there came a flash of light, a squawk from two voices, and a mighty crash from within a closed office, most of the sixth floor took notice.

A brave accounting assistant approached the door to the office, hesitatingly, as there came muffled thumps and voices from an office that was supposed to be vacant all week... it was her boss' office, and he was out of town. Others gathered round her, to bolster her courage, albeit from a safe distance. Finally, she turned the doorknob, pushed the door opened, and stood back.

Amy and I stepped out, supporting each other--we'd landed painfully atop a teak coffee table, and neither of us could walk without limping--and followed by a small panda bear. The three of us stopped, and stared silently at all of the people silently staring at us.

Amy and I did the only thing we could think of: We did an impromptu soft-shoe number, limp-shuffling for the elevator bay, followed by the panda, which ran around our legs like a show-dog. We reached the elevators, a door opened, and without paying any attention whether it was going up or down, we high-kicked aboard and doffed our imaginary top-hats as the doors closed upon us.

When the doors closed, the accounting assistant muttered, "I hate sweeps week."

We had to dance at four other floors before we reached the bottom, whereupon we quick-stepped through the lobby and, once we were outside, ran like our pants were on fire.

We stopped when we reached a park, where we found a water fountain and washed the paint off of our faces, using our gloves as rags.

"So, that's the end," I said as I wiped the last of the black paint from behind my ears. "Now what?"

"Now," Amy said as the panda helped himself to water from the fountain, "we have evidence of how the publishing industry has been intentionally keeping e-books at bay. We can go to the public, to the authors, and to the media, and expose them for the monsters they are."

"And hope the world actually cares," I added.

"Yeah... there's that," she admitted. Amy regarded me, and a funny expression came across her face.

"What?" I said finally.

"Well," she replied, "for an ex-published author, with no espionage experience, who fell clumsily into a trap, almost got himself killed escaping, was crazy enough to go back, and unlucky enough to fight with a 2-ton panda, you handled yourself pretty good back there."

"Thanks. I think. And may I say that, as I repeatedly got the s**t kicked out of me, I never had better company."

"Thank you," she said, and actually blushed a bit. (Actually, it might have been from my cussing.)

"What will you do now?" I asked.

"Well," Amy replied, "I've got to find work again. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure this is Washington, D.C. That means there are lots of non-commercial editing jobs about, if I can get one. Places where maintaining tight-fisted control over profits is not so vital as commercial publishing. You know... like academic textbooks. And how about you?"

"Mmm," I thought. "Well, all of this might make an interesting germ for a story, given a bit of polishing and embellishment. I could stand some additional research on the subject matter, though." I moved closer to Amy. "Something a good, experienced commercial editor might be able to provide, with the right... incentive. Someone who knows the... intimate details. What do you think?"

And Amy looked at me, with those dark Mediterranean eyes, smiled, and said, "Yeah, good luck with that. Is there a Metro station near here?"

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - for with Amy, I have struck out!



I am not absolutely sure why, but I will be collecting these installments of "6 of one", and making it available as a collected short story on SteveJordanBooks.com. Unless I come to my senses first.

No pandas were harmed in the telling of this story (unless they were particularly sensitive to cussing).

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Old 08-04-2008, 04:56 PM   #98
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Old 08-04-2008, 05:05 PM   #99
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Very satisfying conclusion!
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Old 08-04-2008, 07:18 PM   #100
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A splendid story. Thanks, Steve.
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Old 08-05-2008, 09:38 AM   #101
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After looking back at this material, I've come to realize something: The comments were more of a contribution to the story than I'd previously realized (as well as serving to clarify why I took certain literary directions along the way). Now I'm considering collecting the story, and all comments, to be included as one document. Comments, questions, copyright concerns? (I wasn't planning on reserving the rights to this, BTW.)
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Old 08-05-2008, 09:44 AM   #102
pshrynk
Beepbeep n beebeep, yeah!
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I used the word "the" in one of my posts, so I retain all internation and domestic rights, both electronic and print to the word "the" and expect remuneration in all instances of its use. Otherwise, no problems.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:01 AM   #103
nekokami
fruminous edugeek
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You're in the clear regarding any of my comments you'd like to include. I really enjoyed participating in the process, and I rather liked the way it all turned out.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:03 AM   #104
DixieGal
Hi There!
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You are an off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment writing god. You have a divine right to do whatever you want with your work, heedless of weak mortal copyright concerns.

Edited to remove "the" in order to avoid litigation from Pshrynk. The other "the's" in the comment are part of hyphenated phrases and, therefore, not in violation of Pshrynk's copyright.

Last edited by DixieGal; 08-05-2008 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 08-05-2008, 10:26 AM   #105
Steven Lyle Jordan
Grand Sorcerer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DixieGal View Post
You are an off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment writing god. You have a divine right to do whatever you want with your work, heedless of weak mortal copyright concerns.
(Hmm... where's that "swelled head" icon when you need it?... ah, there it is!)

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