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Ten thousand years of Roboshrub.

Fangs for the memories.

In today’s state, Roboshrub Incorporated is an entity entirely devoted
to the execution of what normal people would refer to as “bad ideas.”

It was the creator’s original idea that all concepts, whether
useful or not, contribute to the global subconscious level of progress
for the human race. Therefore, we contend that no idea is an unfit
idea, and vow to act on each and every one of them.

Roboshrub Inc.
Public Communications Department

Changes may not fully take effect until you reload the page.

For your insolence, I condemn you to...

Suffer the Fate of a Thousand Bees!
(Before they go extinct)

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Heritage Appreciation Day

"The time has come," begged the reader, "To tell us the tale of thine bloodline. Does not the sun shine upon us now, as it did upon our fathers, and our fathers' fathers? Our fathers to the third power? And so forth?"
This is true.
A deadly power struggle has erupted, between Dolelectro the Quite Evil and Onestar the Incompetant. But once, friends, this company belonged to my family.
This company was a kingdom.

"Father, give me a mouth!"

(If this were a televisory broadcast, and not a blog post, you'd see a big swirly special effect NOW, as the past and present melt together.)

"Ach, now," said the farmer, "I'll strike ye a deal." About him lay a look of defeat; no corn had grown in his field for lo these thirty years. His wife and daughters were rail-thin, and their cottage had no walls.
"We'll take two hundred peices of eight, and ye'll be paying the good lord's tax."
The wizard's face split in two, so unwordly was his grin.
"Old Farmer Poorman, you've got yourself a deal," he said, spitting upon the barren ground, "But I shan't pay you in peices of eight. Nay, we'll use Euros."

"They'll be popularly accepted in a few thousand years!"

The deal was struck, and Old Farmer Poorman and his twelve daughters left the countryside of Yoreland for the seashore. The wizard built his tower upon the lord's town, and grew to love the villagers of Yore. It pained him to see them starve, year after year, and so one day he magically rengineered the cornseed.

The magic corn didn't grow for very long, either, because crop rotation had yet to be invented and the soil was too drained of mana. But one day, a mouse laid paws on some cornseed and devoured it. Verily, no sooner had it finished than a hawk dove upon the vermin and devoured it. The villagers, who hadn't eaten in generations, threw rocks at the hawk and chased it off. Its wing was injured, and it alit upon the mountainside, where a lion pounced upon it. Then the lion suffered from a heart attack, died and decomposed.

"He should have laid of ye olde salt'n'gravy sauce."

The next day, at the very spot where the lion died, a bush sprung up. It lived happily, for many seasons, until the speck of green was spotted against Yore's red and brown pallet. The first man to reach the scene was Herbal Shanks, and he opened up a circus with the bush as the main attraction. "See the amazing green thing!" said his sign. "Only ten euros a head! Twenty for children!"

"Come one, come all, to Shank's fabulous find! It slices, dices, and even cures cancer!"

Mr. Shanks was forced to issue a refund, however, when the magic shrub lifted its roots, entangling a small child. The villagers formed an impromptu angry mob, but the bush tapped into the small child's brain, who calmly explained that the shrub was just reacting to the negative attention bestowed upon it by the crowd, and that the real villan was society.

Boy and bush became the best of friends, and the child's body grew up to become great and strong thanks to carrying his blossom buddy from place to place. The years flew by, and soon, he was a mighty warrior.

"In the name of the spoon, I'll punish you!"

He probably vanquished a dragon, or some such, but when the moment came, the shrubbery claimed all of the credit. The lord of Yore proclaimed him an angel from heaven, and knighted him "Sir Robert Shrubbe I." The men and women of the village rewarded it kindly, and eventually the knight married the lord's daughter, Emiliscaria, who happened to be a pigeon.

And that, dear friends, is the story of Robert Shrub.


The Seeds Of Maddness

It was winter in the summertime,
and yet I saw no snow.
Each unfurled leaf a mite of spite,
the garden gnomes a guiding light,
as you already know.

The count was in his counting house
eating all the honey.
What, you think he carries cash
and has a polymorphic ring-tone stash?
Or were you trying to be funny?

The toast beacons once again
to all the brave and true:
“Who will quest forth
beyond the porch
for my enchanted glue?”

Abe Lincoln was the first in line
for this most sacred quest.
“Give me your hand,
and understand,
before you stands the best!”

Once there was a time when
before the die was cast,
One would deign
to rule and reign
with ten feet in the past.

Rules, like jewels and threads and spools
are nothing if not neat.
But mapping out the universe
in streaming telepathic verse
is where the mind’s complete.

So who or what forgives those
who boil off the stew?
You know the ones,
with fake ray-guns,
who drink the bitter brew?

The ones who dance before they crawl,
the ones who set sail east?
Whose cooking pales
in log-base scales
to those who bake with yeast?

I saw a master painter
on her canvas yesterday.
She drafted out a sunset,
handed me an amulet,
and sent me on my way.

And that is why the summer sky
this cold Octember night
is streaked with hues
of crime scene clues,
all dancing on the blight.

Each snide riptide is ten feet wide,
where hidden cat scientists play.
“The testing stops,”
their Provost chops,
“when all the dogs are stray!”

Melting in the frozen sun,
the snowman throws the switch.
The people gather near the docks
to reset all their household clocks;
the mainframe pops a glitch.

Verily, I must admit
that four times one is two.
No, that’s plain wrong,
so bang the gong,
we’ll start the game anew.

It was winter in the summertime,
and yet I saw no snow.
But where there’s hope
and rope-a-dope
the seeds of maddness grow.



Beam Aboard!

For over three days, it has been the lifelong ambition of Roboshrub Inc. to expand its borders from the salty waters of creative writing and the sandy banks of art to the snowy forests of web design. We hope to accomplish a fourth of that with our new feature blog template, Time To Teleport.

"It's... beautiful!"

And this could all be yours for ten easy payments of $1,000,000,000,000,000 (American). Make all checks, cheques, chalk, caulk, and scrap metal payable to the the Stottlebottom Memorial Anti-Water Initiative.




I one day thought I’d ill-invent
a word as dumb as “cromulent,”
used only by the corpulent.

So with a little effort dealt,
my brainpan thus began to melt,
split synapses a sanding belt,
each burning thought a painful welt.

And out of that psychotic vent
there came a word all mangled, bent;
its mere existence begged, “repent!”

Yet over time my word did flow
throughout the land, from high to low
until the scholars did bestow
upon my word unearthly glow,
raising it hither, too and fro,
a bar above the status quo.

It reached up high and shone with glory
like a dolled-up British Tory
and echoed of an ancient foray
into the wilds of pre-history.

What price charge I for magnificence?
Honor, my friend, for my reverence.
But if in your benevolence,
you seek to award a recompense,
you’ll find I question your competence
’cause who’d love such an abhorrence?

You’d think after the decades spent
perfecting my word so as to prevent
a misunderstanding of what I’d meant,
that you would be more... indulgent?
“Why was this word so poorly wrent?”
you rudely ask; you must relent,
for it’s the best I could present
in haste at that exact moment.
Besides, the word is transcendent;
bright beaming outlook translucent,
smooth contours simply gradient.
The best that words can represent.
Why, it’s just so Effulgent.



Your litter
grows at a rate not
unlike the golden ratio.

-Nick LeCompte



This Ain’t Yer Pappy’s Voyage

Moonlight came in through the window and lit up the room. It was a grand, glorious April night, and I was lookin’ forward to an evenin’ of communication with me ancestral spirits. As a level 9 member of the Order of Psychic Buccaneers, me mental prowess allows me ter commune with beings on other planes o’ existence. I was all settled in, me spirit map out and ev’rythin’, and then came a knock at me cabin door.

“Captain Hazari Metabeard?”

I looked up from me map. A pungent aroma of rotten fish and burning hair wafted into me nostrils. Yarrr, what a stench! The next thing I knew, I be face ter face with some kind o’ creature from right outta me nightmares. A gigantic insect, ’bout 4 and a quarter cubits in height, outlined by a thick blood-red exoskeleton. The shock of it drove me from me plane of higher consciousness, which be quite painful for someone as attuned to the cosmic strings as I.

“Put ’er there!”

“Wretched beast!” I screamed as I pulled out me cutlass. “What manner of creature be ye?!”

“Ha ha,” the thing clicked through its jaw-like pincers. “I assure you, my good fellow, you have no need to arm yourself against me. I am but a simple traveler, far from my native land. I heard,” and then it paused to click its jaws a few times. Then it began to advance toward me. “Human language is so... verbal, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, I heard that you sometimes ferry people around for a small fee. Is this accurate?”

“People, yes. But I don’t think ye’re people. Now skip the pleasantries, demon. Why be ye... here?”

“Oh, you wound me. I ‘be here’ to inquire, my good sir, if you would be willing to provide me transport to the Ant homeland, Phylogenua, in exchange for a trifle or two?”

I stared at its quiverin’ antennae. Reachin’ out with me pirate sense, I called out to the other psychic captains ter see if’n they knew where this so-called “Phylogenua” be. An old sea dog off the coast o’ Singapore was quite knowledgeable in this area; he’d been there a few years ago, an’ was willin’ ter sell me directions for one o’ me crew’s kidneys. As soon as the information on Phylogenua popped into me head, I knew there’d be trouble.

Demonstrating the much-maligned pirate sense.

“In case ye don’ know,” I laughed at the ant, “there be not one, not two, but nine catagory 5 hurricanes between us and Phylogenua.” His face, if ye can call it that, turned into what might be a scowl.

“I’m sure a little wind and water is no match for your cavalier wit and-”

“Don’t try to flatter me, ye six-armed ground-beast!” I blasted at ’im. “I ain’t afraid o’ nothin’, but on’y a fool or a madman would put ’is crew through that kind o’ life-threatenin’-”

“I will give you one dollar.”

It had been three days since we left the safety of land and the comforts of me favorite haunt, the Salty Psyche, for the untested waters o’ Phylogenua. Already I lost half a dozen o’ me crew to the merciless, unforgivin’ sea.

I was almost taken meself, by the deadly cuttlefish.

“Cap’in, I think our ‘guest’ has overstayed ’is welcome,” chirped me first mate, Porter Orvall.

“Arrr, I know, Porter. But I already divvied up the dollar he gave us among the crew. That’s over four cents per person! If’n ye want ter take the on’y source o’ sustenance they got, be me guest. Indeed, Porter, mayhaps ye’d like them to dance fer their food. Har dee har har. What a riot.”

His gray eyes suddenly misted over with an emotion I knew well; already I could hear the synapses o’ his brainpan clicking into place, the familiar scent of fear and anger that be all too common among we pirate types drifting twixt me nasal cavities.

“Get a hold o’ yerself, skippy!” I hollered right in his decrepit face. The old man had no right to think that way. “Maybe on a regular pirate ship where thought means nothin’, ye can get away with thinkin’ o’ mutiny, but here on the Sand Reaver, we don’t take kindly to errant thoughts!”

He rubbed his grizzled face.

“Cap’in... I don’ know wha’ came o’er me!”

“It be the Antman, Mr. Orvall. It be the Antman.”

“Now put down that toy train, an’ get back ter work!”

The voyage was more than a bit arduous. Aye, it gave “arduous” a whole new level of arginuity. Storm after storm battered the Sand Reaver across the span o’ the western Pacific, and by the time we landed on the desolate shores of Phylogenua, I was the on’y one o’ the crew left alive. Just like last time.

“Well, we be beached but good,” I grinned at the Ant creature as it scampered down the side o’ the ship on its sticky segmented feet. A more hideous sight I’ve ne’er seen. “And there be bite marks on the hull. Bite marks shaped like yer mouth.”

“Excellent, Captain.”

It pulled out some kind of plastic bag from the folds of its exoskeleton and started eatin’ what looked like a pre-digested dog. Sick.

“‘Excellent?’ Listen to me, ye overgrown giblet, the ship is beached, and me years o’ psychic intuition tells me it were ye what done it! How’m I s’possed ter get home?! Tap me heels together?!”

“Oh, Captain, no. There will be no need of that, for we are close to the Phylogenuan capital.”

“The Devil’s Nest,” I murmured, remembrin’ a little somethin’ o’ insect civilization from me days as a scribe on the S.S. Pillburton.

“Yes, and at the Devil’s Nest, we have teleporters that function to within .01% of Star Trek efficiency.”

What luck!

“Your ambassador has returned!” cried me insectoid companion as we approached the great wall of the Devil’s Nest.

“Open the gates! Yes, I mean you, Roy! Do some work for once!”

As we entered the city, me companion shed ’is blood-red exoskeleton, revealin’ a slightly smaller version of hi’self.

“Why did ye jus’ throw off yer skin?”

“This is my peoples’ true form.”

“But... it looks almost exactly like what ye-”

“We do it for tax purposes.”

I gazed over the city. It be the most beautiful sight I ever laid me eyes upon. Gold, as far as the eye could see! All kinds o’ jewels and gems dotted the streets. The self-styled ambassador led me through streets of giant ants until we reached a great spired building. As I walked through, I felt a tingling sensation throughout me body, as if all the psychic energy illuminating me soul was on fire. How gradient!

“Er, uh... Mr. Ambassador, is it? I’m wonderin’ how far off this teleporter be.”

“Oh, it’s just a little further. By the way, are you allergic to... honey?”

“No.” I didn’t like where this was headin’.

“Good! Humans rarely are. Now, before I introduce you to our Queen and teleport you home, I’d like you to wear our ceremonial... visitor... outfit. You don’t have to take off anything you’re wearing now, just let me pour some honey on your scalp... and your hands look a little dry. I think you might need some of our ‘teriyaki gloves.’ I hope you’ll abide by our customs,” he drooled.

No. This wasn’t gonna end well at all.

“And could you try to tenderize yourself? That would be great.”

“Uhhh... I’d like to see yer teleporter before I do that.”

“If you wear our honey suit, I’ll give you another dollar.”

The honey suit was a little sticky, but the Queen was a delight. We prattled on fer hours, her tellin’ me about how she took over the colony in an armed coup, an’ me tellin’ her ’bout me psychic piracy. Turns out me companion the ambassador was one o’ the Queen’s top drones, scouting out potential colonies and signing treaties with neighboring species.

“Oh Captain, you simply must try these aphids!” said the Queen of all Ants.

“No thanks, milady. It’s been fun gettin’ together with ye guys, but I gotta get back to port an’ buy another ship with the countless booty I made here.”

“You mean the dollar I just gave you?” piqued the ambassador.

“No, ye fool!” I screamed, causing the party to grind to a halt. I walked up to the man an’ looked up right into ’is bug eyes. “The two dollars ye gave me. Remember, I be the last survivin’ crew member; all me shipmates’ shares o’ the first dollar ye gave me is mine now!”

We all had a good laugh over that for a few minutes. Then the royal guards showed me to the teleporter room. I waved good-bye to the Queen and ambassador, and with a shimmerin’ glow an’ a high-pitched chirp, I was gone.

Using me two dollars as seed money, I managed to commission the construction of the Sand Reaver II, and pay off several of me outstanding tabs at the Salty Psyche. Yup, it be all thanks to the two dollars me old friend the ambassador gave me...

And all the treasure I plundered from Phylogenua. What? I’m a pirate!


The Day The Scones Fought Back- Chapter 4

“Fat Camp”

“You can’t come in he- urk!”

“I am a United States Senator, and I can go anywhere I want to, junior!” bellowed Senator Ninja at the young secret service agent he held by the neck about six inches above the ground. The agent was taken aback, suddenly realizing his folly as the martial arts master/congressman cut off the circulation to his brain.

Also, he ninja-slapped him for good measure.

“Of- of course... Senator Ninja! I... urgh... I’m sorry for the inconvenience, sir!”

Senator Ninja threw the agent against the adjoining wall, knocking over a glass case of children’s popsicle stick houses.

“Don’t let it happen again, or I might get angry,” he sneered. “and when I get angry I eat. Do you want the most prominent senator in the United States Senate to get fat, boy?”

“No sir!” barked the agent weakly as he rubbed his throat.

“Good. Because I’m very self-conscious about my weight problem, citizen.” Senator Ninja’s eyes started to tear up. “You have no idea how hard it is to keep in shape when you’re my age and you have a job that requires you to be inside all the time. I’m a ninja, man! A ninja! I crave excitement!”

Most ninjas have weight problems due to their love of fried chicken.

And with that, the door to the senate chamber burst open. Vice President Dick Cheney stepped out, wearing a fez and carrying a tire under his left arm.

“Senator Ninja! The office of the Vice President has need of your services once again!” he screeched in his Wyoming drawl. Wyoming is such a nice place, Senator Ninja thought to himself. Then he suddenly had an epiphany.

“Dick,” he started, his eyes beginning to swell once more. “Dick, I’m a senator, right?”

“Yaaaarrrr! Ye be a senator,” said the Vice President in a mock pirate timbre.

“Then... who am I representing here?! What state- what- where am I from?!”

“Who am I?!”

When Dick Cheney heard this, he whipped his head around to the injured secret agent who was still stroking his neck.

“Leave us!”

And with that, the young man jumped up and used his government sanctioned rocket boots to exit via the ceiling. “Oowwwwww...” he cried as he flew off into the night.

“Why’d you go and do that?” cried Senator Ninja. “That... was—sniff—my best friend! I was finally—sniff—connecting with another human being!”

“Enough of your theatrics,” belted out Cheney as he tore the glasses from his face in a dramatic manner. “You were right. Sadly, the scones have indeed returned.” He paused a moment to let that sink in. Senator Ninja stood there crestfallen, then looked up at the gaping hole in the ceiling.

“Yup. That’s a gaping hole, all right.”

“Who’s paying for that hole?”

“What hole? I see no hole.”

“But the-”

“The taxpayers, Senator Ninja.”


Cheney pulled out a small envelope from his right front pocket. It had a sick rubbery look to it, and was a pale mauve. He handed it to Senator Ninja.

“Here are the directions to our outpost in northern Canada. May the force, like, totally be with you, dude.” said Cheney in a faux California valley girl voice. “Ch-yeah!”

“I won’t miss that,” said Senator Ninja under his breath as he tore open the letter. He pulled out a single piece of paper; there was nothing written on it. It was completely blank.

“Hey Cheney, this- Cheney?”

The hallway was empty. The only evidence Cheney had ever been there was a lingering aroma of cheap cologne and bird shot.

“I’ll say this for him; the man knows how to make an exit,” came a voice from the far end of the hall. Senator Ninja swiveled a full 180 degrees, bringing himself face to face with the source of the vocalization.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.

“Hello there... Tom DeLay.”


Feral Robots

We’ve all heard the legends: children, left unguarded, unprotected, out in the wilderness. They get raised by animals, such as wolves and in the case of Tarzan, gorillas. “But that’s just fiction,” you say. Right? Dead wrong. There have been hundreds of recorded cases of children being raised in isolation. Most of the time these poor whelps cannot develop the means to communicate and assimilate into society at large. Few humans realize that robots also have a similar problem, but it goes much deeper.

“Now just what is he getting at?”

A feral human is merely a terrible waste of potential. But a feral robot is a danger to every living thing on Earth; they aren’t your run-of-the-mill cutesy “Robbie the Robot” types. These are wild, bloodthirsty beasts of burden that should be kept away from children. Rampant computer viruses produced the first batch of feral robots during the 1980s. The LandoVb 1.0 caused three dozen robot dog prototypes to go insane and wreak havoc over northern Tokyo. Unlike feral humans, robots become utterly unreasonable and unstoppable. They also have a powerful taste for human blood, which in their delusional state, they believe to be motor oil.

Don’t feel bad, he has insurance.

Feral robots are drawn to men with beards, for they see Santa Claus as their master. Of course, the Claus’ have taken advantage of the poor insane robots, forcing them to work in the so-called “Santa’s Workshop” facility at the North Pole. We’ve sent expeditions to check the operation out. It’s a total dive! The place is a sweatshop, and the feral robots are all being paid far less than minimum wage. We weren’t allowed in, so we’re relying on accounts given to us by the elves displaced by the new workers. Robots and elves don’t get along, and the sudden employment of hundreds of feral robots during an elfin union strike has only exacerbated the hostility between the two quasi-species. I sometimes wonder how Santa can sleep at night, knowing what he’s done.

Santa really shouldn’t offend anyone who has to dress like that every day.


Exit Strategy

As you may or may not know, my dreaded foe, the mighty OneStar, has begun to move his Armada Automata into striking distance of the Roboshrub Incorporated headquarters. Only a true military genius could find a way to gain a tactical advantage on a building that exists outside of space and time, and OneStar is sadly the greatest genius I have ever encountered. He is as ruthless as any robot, with the royal blood of a French king.

He’s the reason puppies die.

After a ten week campaign to besmirch his good name, the Roboshrub Incorporated leadership network (henceforth referred to as the “hive”) decided that the best way to approach the Armada Automata would be by creating hidden corporate bases on worlds outside OneStar’s jurisdiction. The Hive’s presumption here being that OneStar is deathly afraid of space travel. Despite my initial misgivings, I openly embraced the interstellar exploration and colonization/corporatization initiative after I was hand-picked by the Hive to lead the expedition.

I totally claimed a planet today.

The world my team has decided upon has a breathable atmosphere, which we consider a plus as most of our customers/serfs enjoy breathing oxygen. It has been named “Elim’s Hideaway” after minor Star Trek: Deep Space 9 character Elim Garak, played by Andrew Robinson. Roboshrub Inc. did not receive permission from either Paramount or Mr. Robinson to use a derivative of their character, so it’s entirely possible that the planet will revert to its original name, “Sweat Sock 5.” The Hive has decided to put off any action regarding the imminent invasion of the Armada Automata pending the proper naming of the planet, which is technically a moon.


Unbirthday Blues

Do you have any idea how many unbirthdays are in a year? Roughly 2,184,000,000,000. (You can do the math yourself. Six billion people times 364 days. But leap years don’t count. I never recognize leap years.) So when I held my unbirthday party last week at a Chuckie Cheese’s in rural Kentucky, I knew I would need more than statistics to back up my claim. Anyone could have walked in off the street and claimed it was their unbirthday. You only get a free pizza if you can prove that the day in question is not your birthday, which is extremely hard given the fact that all my birth records have been classified, along with the contents of my report to Congress on the effects nuclear waste might have if buried beneath random parks.

That’s the government for you: always cutting corners.

Anyway, that’s when I remembered that I’m a top-tier official at Roboshrub Inc. I have access to thousands of grams of documents that aren’t meant for mortal eyes. Normally I would only use my power of bureaucracy for evil, but this was personal; anything that jeopardized my unbirthday party would be eliminated within the full extent of the law. So I got to work, forcing the various drones at Roboshrub Inc. to pump out the greatest movie ever made. It was a stroke of pure genius on my part, for who would expect me to take the most complicated and inefficient route to achieve my ends? But it worked. After weeks of shameless promotion and scathing reviews, I had a summer blockbuster broadcasting my beautifully crafted face all over the silver screen.

I had to put on 800 kilotons to fit into that outfit.

Perhaps I should explain my gallant plan. You see, by making myself the most famous sentient being in the nation, my birthday will become common knowledge. The result: even the soda jerks and cheese fiends at family fun centers would know when my unbirthday is. Ha! None can dispute the sheer brilliance of that plan!

The day after the big premiere, I stumbled up to Chuckie Cheese’s. I pulled open those so-called “doors” and dragged myself in with a horrific groan. As I looked up, I saw the tattered remnants of what was once the cafeteria.

The whole building was empty, and it looked like a tornado blew through the place. All the chairs were overturned and the ceiling lights were flickering; I heard a puppy whimper under a pile of tangerine crates. The poor creature was trying to gnaw off one of its legs for sustenance. The pitiful canine was almost through the tendon when I scooped it up. “You have nothing to fear, young one. I’m taking you to the best doctor money can-”

That was when the lights started flashing and every one of my friends and relatives and fans and co-workers and enemies jumped out at once. “Happy unbirthday!” they screamed at a temperature of exactly 75 decibels. I was so overjoyed at the response by my extensive fan base that I signed autographs until midnight. We partied so hardy that day that hobos still talk about it to each and every passersby on railroad boxcars. For my voice, they use a combination of Gilbert Gottfried and Joe Pesci. At least that’s what I pay them for.

And a very merry unbirthday to you, you fool!


Sand Smuggling

My first encounter with a sand smuggler occurred when I was a teenage sorcerer. It was the mid-90s, around the time I discovered the art of demonic magicks. School had just let out, and I was walking home. What? You thought I’d take some kind of wizard train, like in Harry Potter? This isn’t Harry Potter! This is real life. It wasn’t a wizard school, either. It was a regular old public middle school. And I didn’t study sorcery, I studied algebra and geography. Being a sorcerer is more of a hobby than a profession until you get to college; then you need to be licensed with the state... but I’m going off on a tangent, aren’t I? Anyway, I was walking home from school that fateful day, and I saw this grimey figure stumbling around in a darkened alley. “Hey kid,” came a raspy voice from the shadows. “You want to buy some... sand?”

“I sometimes sell sand by the seashore.”

“Sand?” I asked, a twinge of excitement in my voice. “Yes, sand,” he continued. “I’ve got a whole box of granular materials here. Sand, silt, granite, basalt... the list goes on and on, kid.” I struck up a conversation with the enigmatic man, only to discover that he was an arenologist, one who studies the science of sand. I called him “The Sandman,” and he quickly became for me what after school specials were for kids who didn’t have an unnatural obsession with sand. He told me glorious stories of his exploits across Europe and Asia, how he went to the most exotic places and collected samples of the world’s most elusive sand. I came back every day to hear more tales and to buy large quantities of sand, which I would incorporate into my spells and potions that required sand. And the colors! Each individual grain of sand shone as if aflame; even the most beautiful rainbow pales in comparison with the grooves and patterns of sand.

He told me of his trek through the Sahara to sample the sandy banks of Ghana.

Then one day I went to hear the ending of a delightful tale describing the Sandman’s fight against the entire Russian army for a cupful of Siberian mountain sand, only to discover no trace of the venerated sage. I felt so betrayed, as if everything I ever pretended to believe in was a lie. Later that night, I heard on the radio that the government was cracking down on people who moved sand across international boundaries illegally. But the customs duties on sand were too high! I could never afford to buy sand legally!

Smugglers moving “precious cargo” across the border.

But the government didn’t care about my horrific experiments, or what they could eventually lead to. The War on Sand was to be the nudge I needed to become part of the seedy geological underbelly of North Überhaven. I set out to avenge my friend and being justice to the masses... by bringing unlicensed sand into the country.

And who would suspect such a lovable scamp?

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had a thriving operation running. Over a thousand kilos of pure feldspar was moving across the Mexican border every ten minutes. But my biggest supplier was the Hawaiian syndicate. They practically destroyed Kure Atoll to fill their quota. Once my thirtieth birthday rolled around, I realized that smuggling exotic and beautiful sand from around the world was good for my bank account, but I wasn’t having fun anymore. So I faked my own death and started over as a pool boy in downtown San Diego.


Product #6946-43n “Puppy-Powered Cars”

April 10, 2157: Greater Colorado Islands

The world is a barren wasteland. The ozone layer burned off decades ago, exposing all life on Earth to deadly solar radiation. Mutant carrots are the dominant form of life, roaming the planet, crushing all other lifeforms beneath their leafy heels. “How could it come to this,” you ask one of the elders in your bio-dome’s infirmary. “How could humans, the most intelligent species in the known universe, end up living in loosely-connected subterranean chambers? Do you remember... the sky?” She takes her eyes up off the ancient text she’s reading, and stares off into the wall. A medbot hovers by and administers a dose of tricolbalzene, sending her off into a deep sleep. You turn to leave, but a hand grabs your arm; your spin your head quickly, and see the elder’s eyes fluttering.

“P-- p- Puppy-Powered Cars... We thought we were gods...” she sighs, collapsing into a crumpled heap.

This is the future of humankind. Bleak, yes, but tax-free.


October 31, 2016: Dole Campaign Headquarters, Kansas

“We’ve taken a hit in the polls,” said Rick Anonymi. King Evil Robo-Bob Dole turned his metallic skull around to face the subordinate, a look of malice and rage pervading his visage.

“What do you mean ‘a hit in the polls?’” Robo-Bob Dole spat as he tilted his head to indicate utter disgust. “Is this a Halloween prank? Because I’m not laughing, Rick. The election is two weeks away. I don’t need this right now.”

“Well sir, the recent heat wave has been connected with first generation Puppy-Powered Cars, which were produced by your company-”

Never associate me with that gaggle of fools,” Robo-Bob Dole stated flatly. His face grimaced at the very mention of his humble beginnings.

“I’m a hundred times the robot they were!”

“Still, they’re going to make it stick on you.”

“They can try,” groaned Robo-Bob Dole as he pulled his bulk to the large French doors that opened out to his mansion/campaign headquarters’ garden. “but Puppy-Powered Cars are still the safest and most fuel-efficient vehicles out there today. What harm could a few degrees a year do?”

He took a nano-cell phone out of his pocket.

“Here,” Robo-Bob Dole said, tossing the phone at Rick Anonymi. “Get Karl on T.V. He was part of the original project. Just get him to say it’s perfectly safe.”

King Evil Robo-Bob Dole folded his robotic hands behind his imposing carapace.

“Sir, there’s also the matter of the Djibouti tablet. A more modern translation-”

“Nothing will keep me from the presidency, Rick. Nothing.”

“If I can’t have the presidency... no one can!”


March 31, 2006: Ronald Reagan Memorial Convention Center

“Hello fellow concerned environmentalists,” I spoke into the microphone. The crowd quieted down to a murmur as everyone quickly looked up to the podium. “Today marks a new age in human and transhuman development. We no longer need to worry about global warming, as Roboshrub Incorporated’s brand-new Puppy-Powered Cars produce none of the greenhouse gases that damage our planet’s delicate biosphere. Because at Roboshrub Incorporated...” I paused to pull out my guitar. “We care about all the little animals. We care about the little critters,” I started singing, tripping a few chords up. But it was enough to stir the convention into song.

We rock because we care.

“Can I see you for a minute,” came a voice through the radio implant in my cybernetically enhanced brain. Karl again.

I’m in the middle of a song, I transmitted back to him telepathically.

“This is extremely urgent,” he pleaded.

“Hey everybody,” I called up mid-riff. “I have to take care of some eco-business, but don’t you go anywhere. I’ll be back soon to explain how Puppy-Powered Cars will save us from inevitable doom!” And as I walked offstage, I could hear the crowd chanting my name. Finally, ten years, almost to the day, after I first heard about Puppy-Powered Cars, I was within spitting distance of becoming the sole supplier. It would change the world, and enrich me to no end.


“Karl, is there something you needed to tell me?” I asked in the comfort of my authentic Llama-skin armchair.

“We tried redoing the tests again, but we keep getting more of the same. And I’ve done some more translating, on the tablet.” He shifted uncomfortably. “We need to cancel the rollout.”

“Karl, have you learned nothing from your years as Chief Product Debugger?”

“But I was never Chief-”

“Answer the question!” I screamed, all attempts at civility out the window. It was now or never.

“I can’t in good conscience allow you to put my name on a product that’s capable of what the tablet and our best testing indicates. I’ve already sent a copy of the Olio Report to the feds.”

I balked. “Impossible!” I bellowed. “That report was destroyed...”

Pulling out his enchanted wand, he produced a series of papers out of thin air.

“Here is your ‘destroyed’ report,” he sneered. “When word of this gets out-”

This report could change the course of history.

But he stopped as he saw my smirk.

“What are you smiling at?”

Now it was my turn to be melodramatic.

“Congress already knew about the Olio Report the day it came out.”

“But... who sent it to them?!”

“Ha ha ha! Who do you think helped get them elected in the first place?”


November 3, 2004: Roswell, New Mexico

“What do you have for me today, Karl?”

Karl Überdale put his report down on my desk and looked me in the eyes. I knew that look. There had been a breakthrough.

“Have you managed to find the-”

“Yes,” he interrupted me with a gleeful fleer, “we found the problem with the pulmonary valves. All we needed was a simple reroute. The project is now...” he held his breath for a minute to let the tension build. “five months ahead of schedule.” I let out a sigh of relief. I had been so very worried that the project was falling behind again, but this latest status report was very promising. At our current projected rate, the Puppy-Powered Cars would be ready to roll out by next Spring.

“Very good. Keep me informed of your progress.”

“There’s one more thing,” he chirped. What could he possibly-

“One of the prototypes burst into a fireball of methane and chlorine. It also let off some chemicals we haven’t been able to identify yet. Dr. Olio recorded the whole thing on DVD and video.” I stared at him.

I also made a face and went “Uh-whaaaaaaa?!”

“Why would it do that?”

“I... don’t know,” he admitted. “It matches nothing in the blueprints, or in the tablet. But the tablet’s a little sketchy in this area; it would probably be best to send another team to excavate the site, in case there’s more information. To really get to the bottom of this, we may need to delay-”

“There will be no more delays!” I bellowed. The Puppy-Powered Cars were supposed to have been out in early 2001. If we waited any longer, the auto market would be eaten up by hybrid cars and we would have wasted a decade of resources building an unmarketable product. “No more excuses! I’m going to see to it that the market is saturated with Roboshrub brand cars by the middle of next year, no matter how many corners we need to cut!” I walked over to my office refrigerator and pulled out two Dr. Peppers. “I came to you because you were the best, Karl. Don’t prove me wrong.”

“There will be no more delays!”

The next morning, all evidence that a Puppy-Powered Car burst into a ball of flaming gas, as well as Dr. Olio himself had disappeared... as if by magic.


March 29, 1996: North Überhaven, New York

“And now, without further ado, I present for your viewing pleasure, your future product line,” beamed a young Karl Überdale as he unveiled a rather extensive list of far-fetched ideas to the posthuman entrepreneurship council. Each product was accompanied by a rough sketch and a description. The council was on its fourth day, and yet no posthumanist faction had come to dominate the conference. Yet. Walking over to the young graduate student, I picked up one of the index cards at his station and turned it over in my cold, metallic, robot hands. Puppy-Powered Cars. “Are you,” I began with a tinge of disbelief in my voice, “suggesting that one of the illustrious members of this council build a product out of puppies?

“Not at all,” he balked, noticing that the other councilors were beginning to withdraw from his booth. “I’m not proposing we make cars that run on puppies. I’m proposing we make cars that are puppies.” That struck me as a little arrogant, but I was willing to let that pass. I’ve seen Überdale’s record. Straight A’s and a magical science major to boot. I didn’t know him very well, but I was willing to bite.

A grad student with an ego the size of a dumpster.

“Why would anyone in their right mind want a... a puppy car?” I belted out in a demeaning scoff. His face flushed bright purple, and he pulled down a projector screen stapled to the top of the booth. There were some pieces of construction paper taped to the screen. I could see that he’d put a lot of work into this particular invention. “As you can see,” he began in a prideful rant, “each one of my Puppy-Powered Cars will combine the heart and soul of the lovable puppy with the harsh efficiency of an internal combustion engine. The result will be a car that runs on pure spunk and produces no greenhouse gases.”

And it gets 400 miles per kilometer!

I was shocked. What a brilliant idea! I hired him on the spot and used that design to win the convention’s long-coveted “Future Returns” trophy and over ¥100 million in prize money. “Karl,” I said at the end of the convention, in the parking lot, “you’ve got a bright future over at Roboshrub Inc.”

“Thanks. But you should probably know about this tablet I found a few years ago during an archaeological dig...”


September 22, 1990: Djibouti, Djibouti

Karl wiped the sweat from his eyes. The sun was beating down on him, and he’d already exhausted the expedition’s supply of clean linens and pop tarts. I wish I’d gotten some Dr. Peppers at the refinery, he thought to himself. But despite the lack of comfort, Karl Überdale knew he was lucky to have been the one chosen for the dig. His archeology professor had been none too encouraging, but Karl’s grades were so far ahead of the pack that old Dr. Worthing had no choice but to let him in on an excavation abroad. So naturally, he stuck Karl with one of the least promising, most far-removed sites imaginable. I’m never going to find anything here, Karl’s inner pessimist kept reminding him. I’m going to spend this whole year digging through a million years of mud, and then Dr. Worthing’ll have a field day-

A clanking sound derailed his train of thought, sending it careening off the track of continuity and into the abyss of astonishment.

“What the...?!” Karl exclaimed, grabbing his dusting rag. It was big, whatever his shovel had struck.

Only those who don’t value their sanity go digging.


“Well, Karl, aren’t you quite the success,” grated Dr. Worthing. The old man had flown in to see the opening of what Karl had described as “the most important find in human history.”

And here it was, a perfectly cylindrical container about the size of a couch. The outside was jade colored and covered with strange marking of unknown origin.

“What language is this, Professor?” asked Karl innocently, knowing full well that it was unlike any previously discovered human language. Worthing wasn’t taking the bait.

“What language do you think it is?” Worthing quipped, putting the squeeze on Karl.

“Well, from what I can gather, this circular glyph over here is an indentation. There’s one on both ends of this thing, but I haven’t been able to push them both at the same time.”

He gestured to the other end of the cylinder, and motioned for Worthing to put pressure on the strange tab-like indentation. As soon as he did, there was a strange humming noise, and a flash of blinding orange light.

This won’t end well.

“Gha!” screamed Dr. Worthing, jumping back as if struck by lightning. The light immediately faded, exposing the contents of the cylinder to both observers. It was a single square tablet, about a fourth of a meter in dimensions. Karl bent down slowly, holding his breath. Picking up the tablet, he looked at it for a minute, turned to the professor, and laughed.

“All our problems are over!”


“Look here,” beamed Karl. “It’s a diagram for some new kind of organic vehicle! I surmise,” he began, “that thousands of years ago, there was a human civilization that surpassed today’s world technologically. Unfortunately, rapid changes in the planet’s climate proved too destabilizing to maintain a functional society.”

He pulled out what Dr. Worthing thought was some kind of oaken stick, and traced the markings on the tablet with it.

“Knowing that their culture wouldn’t survive intact, they stored information on their most precious invention in a time capsule for future generations, namely us.”

“That’s a very outlandish theory, Karl.”

“Yes. But whoever fully realizes these plans will have saved human society from a fossil fuel crunch thirty years from now. A pity you won’t be there to see it.”

And with that, Karl whipped the oaken stick out at Worthing.

“Bolenix twillban poppinev!”

Dr. Worthing was enveloped by a translucent green field which instantly contracted. Three seconds later there was no trace of him. Today the world has lost a fool, thought Karl with a look of bemusement. There was never a real future for me in archeology anyway. Now, to translate this little money maker...

Relax, he wasn’t vaporized. He was teleported to primordial France.


65 Million Years Ago: Bunker Prime, Urani Province

“We’ve planted a copy of the capsule in our Rathmanen stronghold, General,” barked the eager young commander.

General Pantos Kstaar reeled up from the tactical display. His ears perked up for the first time in weeks.

“Excellent, Commander. When can we expect full infiltration?”

“As you are no doubt aware, General, the Saurians have used A-19 missiles to wipe out half our bases. There’s no guarantee that they’ll find any of the capsules.”

The disheartening report confirmed what Kstaar already knew. This race of Dinosaurs was the greatest threat the Kenine Empire had ever known. Within the first year of contact, the Saurians had systematically obliterated every Kenine city with populations over 10,000, including the 400,000 year old capital of Rurfeth. Saurians rarely took prisoners.

The vicious Saurians.

“Commander. The war is going badly for us.”

“General, with all due respect, you-”

“Listen to me, man! We’ve lost 90% of our people! The colony on Kenine One has been destroyed in such an explosive manner that the planet’s moon was hurled out of orbit and its very rotation was reversed. Our Empress is being worked to death in the Saurian diamond mines. There’s no way we can continue waging war against the Dinosaurs.”

“But what of Project CL-8000? We’ve been working hard these last two weeks, distributing capsules to every one of our bases.”

“Those capsules contain tainted information that will lead to the Saurians’ destruction. Our scientists have invented a machine that uses Kenine DNA to create a clean burning reaction. The device, however, is unstable and will end up spewing chemicals into the atmosphere which will destroy the layer of O3 that surrounds Kenine Two. Our species will survive, barely. The Saurians will be unable to adapt, the putrid reptiles that they are.”

“And if they don’t find any of the capsules?”

“The we must hope that the Furren Expedition manages to successfully steer a meteoroid back to Kenine Two. We should survive either way.”

Kstaar pulled a bottle of Minn out from under his desk. From the look of the label, it was a good year. He poured two glasses and handed one to the Commander.

“Victory for the Empire!”

“Victory for the Empire, General.”

“To the Empire!”