Introducing Story Hub!
Story Hub is where we will showcase the original work of the NCP crew and our friends. In the future we may even be able to post your work here. For our first Story Hub post we have the first instalment of NCP member Luke ‘the Harshest Critic in the World’ Walker’s Protocol. Take it away Luke……
Greetings culturalites. We at Nerd Culture Podcast are not content to merely comment on the current state of Geek Chic. No! It’s time for us to expand the minds of nerdom. So, in this spirit of cultural destruction, we unveil the Story Hub.
Here, you will find our efforts to stand on the shoulders of such literary giants as L. Ron Hubbard, Dan Brown and Kevin J. Anderson. Like what you read? Or, are you so angered that you want to tear down the internet to prevent us from infecting others? Does Dan Brown have deeper characters and more intricate plots? Let us know. Drop us a line or leave a comment.
Introducing our first story: my serial of Robots, strange Planets and Fire Monkeys in…
by Luke Walker
Part 1: Ernie
Lava geysered around him. He crawled slowly. Left leg dragged through ash; circuit blown in the thigh. Black patches of earth smoked. Clouded the air. Obstructed his optic sensors. Where was he? Ninety percent damage to his memory banks. How did he get here? Ninety percent damage to his memory banks. Memory files corrupted.
Ground between his hands glowed orange. Protocol 3 flashed across his optics. He had fifteen seconds. He side crawled to the right. The earth roared. He sensed an abrupt surge in temperature. A red tongue lashed the sky. Drops of liquid fire ate into the servo joints of his right knee. His second leg gone. An alarm screamed in his neural net. Strain became too much. He collapsed.
His skin was melting. His endoskeleton got hotter; his cooling system close to overload. Drained his back-up generator. Primary had already ruptured. Clock in his optics ticked down. Three hours, ten minutes before the ninety percent damage to his memory banks would be irrelevant. Was it logical to shut down now? He tried calculating the answer. His CPU overrode the calculation. Protocol 3 kept flashing. Termination wasn’t in his algorithms.
He scanned the environment. Smoke thicker to the left. Small temperature drop to the right. He rolled onto his back. Three hours, eight minutes. He needed speed. He reached down and detached both legs at the knees. He studied them for a moment. Two pieces of his body. Not bound by Protocol. He tossed them into the geyser. Then rose on his stumps and hands. Turned towards the lighter smoke and cooler air.
He made out a stone-jagged outline. Cliff face? Alcove? Relief, whatever it was. Two hours, fifty-seven minutes. Orange cracked through scorched dirt. He side-crawled. Flash of green registered on the edge of his optics. Detonated the earth in a blaze of light, ash and lava. Threw him backwards. His head smacked the ground. Numbers and commands flashed rapidly. Alarms rang in his head. Coolant leaked down his mouth. Red optic-light slowly pierced through the haze. A shadow lurched through the smoke. It towered over him, shoulder cannon aimed at his chest.
His CPU retrieved an uncorrupted memory file. A window opened on his optic net. Static. A black, hulking Mech charged down a narrow, metal corridor towards him. Shoulder cannon at ease. He roared, his voice sounding like metal grinding rock. His red optic filled the window. Static.
He ran an analysis. The Mech wrapped a metal claw around his throat. Analysis complete. The Mech was a M(etal) F(ist) 10. War Mech. Query: Why had the War Mech charged him? Was the corridor located on a ship? Ninety percent damage flashed. His CPU ran the query anyway.
The MF 10 hoisted him into the air. ‘Identify: Model. Function. Master.’
‘Model: ERN3,’ he replied, ‘Function: service mech. Master: Unknown.’
‘Illogical. ERN3 Identify: Master?’
‘Ninety percent damage to memory banks. Master: Unknown. Currently I serve my protocols.’
Light strobed the MF’s visor. ‘Interesting. ERN3 Query: Where is the boy?’
Protocol 1 flashed in ERN3’s optics. He queried: What humans? What boy?
Uncorrupted memory file retrieved. A boy. Alabaster skin. Overdeveloped cerebellum. Dark eyes stared at him.
‘That’s why I like you, Ernie,’ the boy said. ‘I can’t read your thoughts.’
The memory paused. Ernie. Sad eyes. Why were they sad? Ernie. No other memories or data on the boy. He shut the memory off. The boy faded. Sad eyes the last to disappear. Protocol 1 flashed. Ernie.
Smoke billowed behind the War Mech. ‘Repeat query: Where is the boy?’
‘Query reply: Location of boy: Unknown. Define identity of “boy”.’
Red fountain erupted. Crimson reflected off the War Mech’s faceplate. ‘Expected. Query 1 unanswered. Query 2 unanswered. Non-aggressive protocols satisfied. Invasive protocols commencing.’
Invasive protocols? Protocol 3 flashed. ‘Illogical. Query 1 answered. Query 2 unasked. Non-aggressive protocols must be unsatisfied.’
‘Query 2 classified. Do you have code clearance?’
‘Query 2 unstated, therefore it cannot be unanswered.’
‘Query 2 unanswered. Code clearance un-provided. Invasive protocols commencing. Uploading hijack.’
Optic light froze in the centre of the visor. Flickered in ERN3’s optics.
ERN3 tried to look away. Claw held him in place. He tried pulling it apart. Operation unsuccessful.
‘MF10 expected unanswered Queries. Non-aggressive protocols illogical.’
‘Justification needs establishment. Preliminary protocols must be satisfied.’
‘Illogical. Your protocols would not query my termination.’
He felt a circuit trip in his neural net.
‘Frequency hijacked,’ the War Mech rasped. ‘Uploading virus. Sub-query: Is ERN3 trying to subvert third protocol?’
Motor systems disconnected. Hands detached from the claw. Voice modulator shut down. Data drives un-coded. Basic programs. Knowledge banks. Memories. His optics and neural net were flooded. Nothing he could control, or analyse, or hide.
Alarm beeped. File Infinite breached. Reverse-jack enabled.
Digital code rode the light from his sensors. File infinite? Frequency reverse-jacked. Counter virus uploaded.
The War Mech’s optic guttered. ‘Ill…Illogical.’
His head wrenched. Side to side. Claw unclamped. Dropped ERN3.
ERN3 lay immobile beneath a cloud of dust. Optic net uncluttered. Antibody activated. Infection clear in five…four…His fingers twitched. Drummed the ground. Crawled backwards on his elbow joints. Earth hot beneath his hand.
He stared at the War Mech. The MF’s arms swung wildly. Cannon fired into the dirt and the smoke. Scorched world torn apart by green bursts of light.
ERN3 voice modulator back on line. Commencing preliminary testing.
‘Test one: vocabulary meter. She sells sea shells by the sea shore.’
Involuntary. The MF stopped. Head twisted towards the service mech. Optic light running silently over ERN3’s face. The counter virus may be running. It still had protocols. It staggered toward him.
ERN3 repeated the vocab meter. Registered in his optics. Protocol three beside it. Window opened. The MF10. Twenty-three seconds ago.
Sub-query: Is ERN3 trying to subvert third protocol?
A window opened under it. The boy. That’s why I like you, Ernie.
Electric growl rumbled from the War Mech. ERN3, hands splayed on the earth, registered a sudden temperature rise under his left palm. Orange glow. He stared at the MF. Quick calculation. This might work. Fifteen seconds. Protocol 3. Protocol 1.
That’s why I like you, Ernie.
He crawled onto the hot spot. Ten seconds. ‘Test two: Harmonic register.’
War Mech stomped the ground, roaring. It extended it’s claw. ERN3 watched the seconds tick in his head. Skin bubbled from the heat under his chest unit. The claw was inches from his throat. Five…four…
He dug into the dirt. ‘Daisy…Daisy…give me your answer dooo…’
One. He threw his body. Hard right. Too fast for the War Mech. The claw got the fury of an angry planet. The MF got a hot rocket straight into its chassis. Smoke billowed from melted iron. Light sparked from burnt circuits. Immobile.
ERN3 gazed at the MF. ‘Testing complete. Voice modulator functional.’
War Mech was inert. Optic visor still glowed red. Back-up generator fighting to come on-line. ERN3 scanned for the stone-jagged outline. Ten clicks ahead. Fingers rubbed into the earth. He ran on his hands.
Twenty degrees cooler. Less smoke in the air. More nitrogen. Visibility clearer. An alcove. Jagged cliff face towering above. No crevasses to the side. No crack in the stonework. Fire and smoke at his back. Protocol 3. Two hours, forty-five minutes. He stared at the cliff face. Only one direction.
Fingers still hard enough to grip into the rock. Hydro joints creaked as climbed. Thirty feet to the top. Moving at twenty miles mph. A half hour climb. Then where? Chief Query was still unanswered. Memory uploaded. War Mech charging him in the corridor. He ran analysis of the corridor itself. Base metal type. Length. Width. Ran the data through his knowledge banks.
Match found. Uncorrupted memory retrieved.
Ship’s schematics read out on his optic. Skipper class. Small cargo freighter. Skeleton crew. Corridor glimmered in blue. Attached to the crew’s quarters. Matched the calculations. It was called the Bright Bastard. The captain’s name…? The captain’s name…?
Eighty-eight percent damage to memory banks.
Where was the ship? What had happened? Why wasn’t the locator chip working? He was a ship’s mech. Had to have one. He scanned his neural net. Chip and frequency receptor were wired into a separate circuit. Not part of his primary programming. Why wasn’t it signalling?
Frequency jammed. Invasive. File Infinite override.
He commanded File Infinite to open.
Password required: Do you have the time?
He entered the time left on his back-up. Access denied. He entered the time code on the memory. Access denied. He entered a protocol override. Protocol 3. Access denied. Protocol 1. Access denied. But a charge ran down the separate circuit. Chip started signalling. He opened the frequency.
‘ERN3 hailing Bright Bastard. Emergency pickup required. Please respond.’
No response. A metallic roar echoed behind him. He whipped his head around.
The MF stood, a tower in a sea of smoke. ‘MF10 voice modulator back on-line. Preliminary testing commencing. Test One: Vocab register. Drop your weapons.’
ERN3 hailed again. Stressed urgency. No response. Kept climbing. A second signal beeped on his optic. Bright Bastard. Third hail. No response. Communications may be damaged; the signal a distress beacon.
He climbed over the top. Plateau. What was this planet? Smoke and fire behind him. Thick, blue forests and black mountains covered the horizon in front. Fixed a point on the signal. Forty clicks southwest of his current location. Magnified the air above the area. Carbon monoxide molecules. Feint traces. Ran the memory in the corridor. Slowed the War Mech’s charge. Deep res scan of the window behind it. Frayed, upturned edges of metal. Not a window. Hull breach. Query answered. The Bright Bastard had crashed.
No data in the conclusions he drew. The ship, after take off, had been attacked. At least one MF10 involved. He’d been charged and thrown off. Why the attack?
Interesting. ERN3 query: Where is the boy?
That’s why I like you, Ernie. I can’t read your thoughts.
Another roar echoed behind him. He glanced down.
The MF dropped its claw. ‘Register successful. Vocal modulator testing complete.’
Its head turned slowly. Red sensor scanned the cliff top. Settled on ERN3’s optics.
Interesting… Query 2 unanswered.
ERN3’s neural net buzzed. Query: Is it after this unit? Follow-up query: Why?
File Infinite flashed. Do you have the time?
Forty clicks southwest. Two hours ten minutes. He wasn’t going to make it.
Sub-query: Is ERN3 trying to subvert third protocol?
He studied the MF. Illogical.
The War Mech rotated its shoulder joint. Expected.
He turned southwest. Non-essential programs off-lined. Radar filled his optics. Planet reduced to dots and lines. It gave him more power. It gave him more speed.
Protocol 1. Ernie.
Protocol 3. Interesting.
He ran on his hands. Two hours, ten minutes…
Coming Soon- Part Two: Mercs.
©Luke Walker 2011