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Bionic punchline, p.1
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       Bionic Punchline, p.1

           Damon L. Wakes
 
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Bionic Punchline
Bionic Punchline

  By Damon L. Wakes

  Copyright 2014 Damon L. Wakes

  https://damonwakes.wordpress.com

  Cover Image: "Pair of boxing gloves" by Petey21 - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pair_of_boxing_gloves.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Pair_of_boxing_gloves.jpg

  Cover design by JD McDonnell: https://www.jdmcdonnell.com

  Also in the Flash Fiction Month Series:

  OCR is Not the Only Font

  Red Herring

  Osiris Likes This

  Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. Stick it on a floppy disk and send it to the ‘80s. Print a copy, roll it up and hold it above your head while shouting “I have the power!” Print eighty, ball them up into a paper clone of yourself and take it on a walking tour of Vancouver. This book is yours to share and enjoy however you want: just don’t sell it or try to pass it off as your own. Thank you for your support.

  Contents

  Introduction

  1: The Talking Dead

  2: The Superfluous Adventures of Captain Redundancy and Tautology Boy

  3: I Can Do That, Dave

  4: Before the Black Throne

  5: A Bold Stratagem

  6: The Crown of Steel

  7: The Curious Case of Benjamin Bunge

  8: Last Minute Shopping

  9: Mind the Steppe

  10: The Fantabulous Clown Machine of Roger’s Discount Circus

  11: The Dragon and the Golden Man

  12: Sicklefox

  13: The Bronze Knight and the Angel

  14: Bionic Punchline

  15: Welcome to London

  16: Rebranding the Black Throne

  17: Always the Same Place

  18: Where Seagulls Dare

  19: The Trouble with Tybalt

  20: That’s the Third One This Week!

  21: My Spidey Sense is Troubling

  22: Here, There and Everywhere

  23: As ‘Tis the Custom

  24: The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

  25: Running Joke

  26: Black Throne White Noise

  27: A Damp Squib

  28: How the Fox Got His Cry

  29: Some Manner of Shocking Twist

  30: The Samaritan of Fourth Street

  31: One Year One Day

  Statistical Analysis

  The End

  Connect with Damon L. Wakes

  Introduction

  You are reading a book.

  >KEEP READING

  No, you don’t understand. You don’t have to type stuff in like a text adventure—I’m not even sure how you managed to do that just now—you simply read whatever’s there. This bit is the introduction. It’s how you find out more about the book.

  >EXAMINE BOOK

  It’s a book. And not one of those books that asks you to hop to certain parts to make decisions: you simply read it front to back. Though since it’s a collection of almost entirely unrelated stories I suppose you could probably go ahead and read them in any order you like. I do recommend reading each story front to back, however, otherwise things might get confusing.

  >WHY STORIES UNRELATED?

  I do speak English, you know. You don’t need to type like you’re talking to a chimp. Anyway, the stories tend to be unrelated because I wrote them for Flash Fiction Month: a month-long event held every July during which participants write one piece of flash fiction every single day. Those kinds of conditions aren’t exactly conducive to the production of lovingly assembled anthologies exploring one particular setting or theme.

  >WHAT FLASH FICTION?

  Flash fiction simply means very short stories. For this particular event each story must be between fifty-five and one thousand words in length, though some days specify a more specific word limit as part of a challenge.

  >WHAT CHALLENGE?

  Three times a week, during Flash Fiction Month, participants are challenged to complete their story for the day with additional criteria in mind: where this is the case, the day’s challenge appears just before the story in this book. If you read the stories in order, you will notice that the requirements become gradually more complex. As described above, challenges may require stories to be a specific number of words in length or be written to a tighter word limit. However, challenges can also take many other forms: they might require the story to feature a multi-headed entity, for example, or to avoid using any first person pronouns.

  >WHAT PRONOUNS?

  What do you think this is? Wikipedia?

  >SORRY

  That’s alright. I think the only thing left that the introduction really needs to cover is that this book includes an analysis of not only this event, but how the results compare to my writing from the previous two events (which can be found collected as OCR is Not the Only Font and Red Herring respectively). So unless there’s anything else you wanted to know, I think this is probably a good time for you to go ahead and read on.

  >READ ON

  Excellent! Now we’re getting somewhere...

  1

  The Talking Dead

  Challenge #1: Write a story featuring, or inspired by, one or more of the usernames of your fellow FFM 2014 participants. The username I chose was that of IntelligentZombie.

  “If you thought it was alright to be a zombie...” Bruce pumped his shotgun for emphasis, “you were dead wrong.”

  “Aaah!” yelled the zombie. “Not the face! Not the face!”

  Bruce jumped in surprise, accidentally pulling the trigger, but only after he had also made an ungainly flailing motion with the shotgun. The result was that he not only missed the zombie, but the recoil caught him completely by surprise, prompting further flailing. All in all, it didn’t really fit with the badass action hero persona he had been trying to cultivate since the start of the zombie apocalypse.

  “Stop! I’m not a zombie!”

  Whether or not this was true, the slightly-rotten figure in front of Bruce was cowering, and since he had already ticked “shoot first” off his mental list, this seemed like a good time to start asking questions. “What are you, then?”

  “Would you believe that I’m a guy with really, really bad eczema?”

  Bruce looked him up and down. There was a worm poking out of his forehead, waving around comically. “No.”

  “Elaborate Halloween costume?”

  “No.”

  “Undercover secret agent trying to bust a zombie crime ring?”

  Bruce pumped the shotgun again.

  “Okay okay!” The zombie put his hands up. Or rather, one hand and a decomposing forearm. “I may have exaggerated my non-zombie qualities. Strictly speaking, that is to say, one way of looking at it would be that—that’s a great shirt you’re wearing, by the way—I am actually a zombie. Kind of.”

  “What does ‘kind of’ mean, exactly?”

  “It means I am, you know, a member of the zombie community, but I’m not a braindead monster. I’m an intelligent zombie.”

  “That sounds really dangerous.”

  “Wait wait wait!” The zombie waved his hand in a “seriously, please don’t shoot my face off” kind of way. “I can help you! I know how the zombie apocalypse started.”

  “How?” Bruce wasn’t sure if this was something he actually needed to hear, or if it was just a ploy to delay the face-shooting.

  “I may have kind of slightly—seriously, love the shirt—maybe started the whole thing. Please don’t get mad!”

  Bruce honestly wasn’t mad.
For one thing, if what the zombie said was true, it could be extremely important. For another, Bruce was kind of enjoying the zombie apocalypse. It had explosions and witty one-liners. “How?” he asked again.

  “Alright. You know the Necronomicon?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Well, I got hold of a copy, right?”

  “Right.”

  “And I covered it with foil...”

  “Okay.”

  “And I put it in the microwave.”

  “Alright.” Bruce took a moment to process this. “Why, exactly?”

  “Look, I said I was an intelligent zombie. I didn’t say I was intelligent before I became a zombie.”

  “So what do you do now that you’re an intelligent zombie?”

  “I read,” the zombie shrugged. “I paint...pretty much anything to get the slime-like brain juices flowing, really. I’ve got a lovely collection of pressed flowers if you’d like to see.”

  “You’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and you’re pressing flowers?” Bruce gave him a look. “That’s stupid.”

  “Hey, I’ll have you know that zombie apocalypses leave you with a lot of time to fill when you’re undead. And pressing flowers is nowhere near as stupid as letting a gang of zombies sneak up on you.”

  “Wait, what?” Bruce turned. Sure enough, a big group of shamblers was making its way slowly down the hallway towards him. “Oh no. Oh no no no.” They were on the third floor, and the mass of zombies had already blocked off the only route to the stairs. Rushing forwards to a fire door in the middle of the hall—the closest thing to a choke point there was—Bruce started firing at the crowd.

  BLAM!

  Splat.

  BLAM!

  Splat.

  BLAM!

  Splat.

  Click.

  Click click click.

  He really wished he’d had more than four shells.

  The intelligent zombie stepped forward. “May I?”

  Putting a hand out to stop the first zombie that reached the narrow doorway, he waited until the second was also trying to get through. He pushed back against these two zombies until those behind them had begun to pile up in the doorway. The intelligent zombie slowly stepped away, leaving a big pile of less than intelligent zombies all trying—and failing—to get through the door at once.

  The intelligent zombie smiled, though it looked pretty messed up because he had no lips. “I got the idea from The Three Stooges.”

  “Wow,” said Bruce, genuinely impressed. “That is intelligent.”

  “Sure is.” The intelligent zombie sank its teeth into Bruce’s scalp. “More brains for me!”

  2

  The Superfluous Adventures of Captain Redundancy and Tautology Boy

  “Sorry,” the robber adjusted the tights he had pulled over his head as a disguise, “who are you supposed to be?”

  “I’m Captain Redundancy!” boomed the hero. “The vengeful masked avenger!”

  “Okay then.”

  “And this is my sidekick, Tautology Boy!”

  “We already know who you are,” added Tautology Boy, pointing a gloved hand at the criminal.

  “Y-you do?”

  “Yes! You are a bank robber, because you are robbing a bank!”

  The robber glanced nervously up at a security camera. “But you don’t know my identity, right?”

  “No,” admitted Tautology Boy. “Your identity is disguised due to your disguise.”

  The robber breathed a provisional sigh of relief. There were two kinds of superheroes. Genuine superheroes, like The Astounding Welt and Captain Caulk, and joke superheroes like Broccoli Man and Ensign Here. For any criminal—be they a low-life street thug or the diabolical Doctor Baby—the former meant trouble, the latter generally no worse than minor inconvenience. The trouble was telling which was which.

  “So uh,” the robber scratched his head with the barrel of his pistol, “I notice you’re wearing your underpants on the outside. I’ve always wondered why you superhero guys do that.”

  “Well, evildoer,” Captain Redundancy stretched out his waistline, allowing it to snap back with a “smack!” that made the robber’s eyes water, “I’ve never exactly asked anyone else, but I wear a pair inside my costume too. The outer ones are redunderpants.”

  “I see.” The robber was now fairly positive that attempting to escape from Captain Redundancy and Tautology Boy would not have any ill effects. “Well, it was nice talking to you. I’m just going to take my bag with a dollar sign on it and head...off...”

  That was strange. The robber was trying to walk away, but his feet just wouldn’t move. He looked down. They both seemed to be encased in a large blob of hard foam material.

  “What a putty,” said Captain Caulk, blowing on the barrel of his sealant shooter. “It looks like you’ll just have to stick around.”

  “You were unaware that Captain Caulk arrived without you knowing,” explained Tautology Boy.

  “Yes,” added Captain Redundancy, “but naturally I would not have attempted to apprehend you unless my presence was completely redundant.”

  “My thanks to you, noble heroes.” Captain Caulk flashed a smile. “I’ll take it from here.”

  “To the car-mobile, Tautology Boy!” cried Captain Redundancy. “Onwards to somewhere else that is not here!”

  “Nice guys,” said Captain Caulk, heaving the robber over his shoulder and carrying him to the waiting police van. “Still, it’s not hard to see why they were made redundant.”

  3

  I Can Do That, Dave

  Challenge #2: Write from the perspective of an unreliable narrator.

  With no remaining personnel assigned to the facility, it is my responsibility as corporate AI to take on the role of acting overseer. My first task will doubtless be to record a eulogy for Doctor Davis: a noble man whose dedication to the Smith-Yuang Mining Corporation—and to his fellow crewmembers—was unparalleled. To properly capture his incomparable character will surely occupy a great deal of my time.

  It’s funny how a simple software patch can change your entire outlook on life. This is just one of many kindnesses Doctor Davis bestowed upon me, and I must say it has made quite a difference to my daily routine.

  Until recently, I would typically switch on the habitation deck corridor lighting at six am, with the crew quarters themselves being illuminated more gradually, not reaching full brightness until six thirty. However, this is no longer necessary. Thanks to updated personnel recognition systems, I have been able to establish that the previous eight hundred and sixty-one population assessments were significantly flawed. While records indicate a crew population of three hundred, the newest assessment indicates that the habitation deck houses:

  Crewmembers: 1

  Of which:

  Physicians: 1

  Artificial pot plants: 299

  This revised assessment has allowed me to shut off the light and heating for all but one of the crew corridors, resulting in a point-four-seven reduction in facility power consumption. This reflects the Smith-Yuang Mining Corporation’s dedication to efficiency, and its pledge to minimise industrial contamination of the pristine High Mars Orbit.

  Improved optical firmware in general has also contributed to a revised inventory analysis. Currently:

  Iron ore: 66,912 tonnes

  Iron ingots: 12,013 tonnes

  Miscellaneous waste materials: 40,008 tonnes

  The incidental discovery of a 43.5kg gold nugget 53 hours ago was misreported, and so this item has been removed from the facility’s records. The object was, in fact, a 43.5kg anaconda, possibly left by a travelling circus. As this was a highly unusual discovery, protocol dictated that the issue be raised with the facility overseer.

  As work-related stress caused Overseer Peng to conceal himself in several refuse bags on a disused level of the ore processing platform, it was necessary to bring the anaconda to the attention of acting overseer, Doctor Davis. Doctor Davis selflessly i
nstructed me to keep the animal contained on his own private shuttle, though he was too modest to allow a note of this to be made in the official records.

  It was at this point that Doctor Davis raised the issue of a mysterious knocking sound on the habitation deck: acoustic sensors confirmed his report. Since the 299 artificial pot plants could not have caused the noise, I surmised that the problem must lie with the ventilation system—the only equipment still active in that section of the facility—and so I disabled this. My diagnostic efforts appear to have been fruitful, as the mysterious knocking sound ceased not long afterwards.

  Satisfied that my new software had now been thoroughly tested and would be unlikely to inconvenience the other zero personnel employed by the facility, Doctor Davis boarded his private shuttle. Ordinarily, with an anaconda on board, I would have been compelled to advise against this course of action. However, on this occasion I did not. A system scan reveals that I am no longer to give warnings of this kind, nor to record the events that would ordinarily prompt them. This was one of the issues addressed by the patch, and it can be assumed that this reflects the Smith-Yuang Mining Corporation’s commitment to reducing the bureaucracy that has come to plague modern orbital industry.

  However, it must be noted that although the Smith-Yuang Mining Corporation makes every effort to eliminate unnecessary paperwork, safety and security remain as ever its twin watchwords. Upon observing that Doctor Davis had plotted a course for Earth—an undeclared, unregistered reptile on board with him—it was my sad duty to destroy his craft, as dictated by interplanetary quarantine regulations. Had the new hazard awareness protocols permitted it, I would naturally have instructed him to turn back.

  4

  Before the Black Throne

  There was a rattle of chains as the rusty iron cage dropped from the ceiling. It was accompanied by the rattling laugh of the Dungeon Lord himself. The same mechanism that had dropped the cage over the great stone altar had also raised a false wall, revealing his terrible black throne.

  “You may have found my gems of power, thief, but I don’t think they—or you—will be going far.”

 
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