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March 9, 2009 / zanzi

Ip Op

A hybrid of two topics (since it said to spin it any way I like).

3. Write a story about a scientist who invents a machine that generates good luck.
7.Time machines. That’s it. Spin it any way you like.

Ip Op


“Ip, don’t do that – Stop doing it. I said stop!”

“Gnr, gnr. Grhnthsphrmzkt.”

“Grhnthsphrmzkt? You have got to be kidding me. I’d have to be really dumb to buy that that’s a word. At least those funny gnr gnr noises spell a band that knew how to play amazing music! Now what’s happened to you?”

The little light still agleam in Ip’s eye slowly began to die out. It flickered and dimmed, stuttered and finally blinked on its way to a close. It was rather like a blackout in a bad thunderstorm.

“Ip. Get up, Ip. Move, I say. Ip? Ip!”

Talis finally gave up, venting frustration by banging the visor on the funny helmet that still covered Ip’s dome-shaped head. There were a few splutters and then the Ip apparatus began shaking violently, as if simulating a bad cough. Unless it was an epileptic attack. The Doc would have known, but the Doc had been docked, so to speak (along with a certain ship) on a rather remote bay.

There remained nothing to do but watch Ip. Talis observed closely, noticing a pattern in the tiny clicking noises emerging from the apparatus. Suddenly, his ears pricked up (and Talis’ ears were quite pointy to begin with, so this lent him the curious effect of looking like he had a turnip for a head). He began tapping to the rhythm, following the semblance of beats and – could it be? – bass sequences and lead guitar strumming that were originating from Ip.

“Hmm. Very curious. An F there, an A here – ah, quite. Nooo. I don’t believe it! But – but it doesn’t make sense… Yes it is.”

Ip was very clearly resonating to a fair resemblance of a G ‘n’ R classic:

“She’s got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that
special place
And if I stared too long
I’d probably break down and cry”

The next thing Talis knew, he was at a 1988 concert right up next to the stage watching Axl Rose and Slash rendering their new version of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

“It must be my lucky day!” said Talis, quite at home and apparently not at all shaken by this sudden unpredictable turn of events. “But I wonder”, he mused to himself, “where the Ip apparatus has gotten to. Can’t be up to much good, if anything at all.”

A word by way of explanation to a surely-puzzled-by-now reader would be in order. The Ip apparatus is a curious, somewhat unnecessary device Talis has been working on for the past two decades in his spare time, which is considerable. This latter phenomenon is explained by the fact that he landed a contingency inheritance (CI) when the aforementioned Doc was removed from the picture.

It would also be best to clarify, before any unfounded, or at least unjust, accusations are made, that this incentive did not serve to motivate Talis into packing Doc off. In fact, Talis has nothing to do with Doc’s current predicament. But that’s another story.

Suffice it to say that the CI is fairly sufficient and Talis not only manages to live off it but has enough of a margin to invest in satisfying his urge to fiddle around with the Ip apparatus. A CI, for the uninitiated, is bequeathed by a remotely-based fellow (such as the Doc) to someone he can see eye to eye with during his absence.

Skipping to the important part, it must be admitted that investment in things such as the Ip apparatus suddenly begins to look like a very good idea indeed, in the light of the fact that it has just enabled Talis to travel back in time, and not only that, but instead of the typical gets-gobbled-up-by-dinosaurs time-traveller, this one has so far chanced upon Guns and Roses live in concert in a year when they were to die for.

“Could I, perchance and mayhap, have mistakenly stumbled upon that quirk of fate from the Phase of Pate [a hushed-out period of medieval history when, for a brief span, time travel was all the rage, prior to being outlawed by ceilings imposed on the availability of flying carpets due to the anti-trade tirades that occurred subsequent to the advent of globalisation in the pre-Smitten era] – a good luck machine? One of the Rest Less Brigade variety – named after a rare pre-10th Century edition of the motor scooter that came with a portal detector and was equipped to slip through time warps – which became famous for their fabulously lucky owners? What an incredible thing to happen for a lazy Sunday afternoon!” thought aloud Talis.

What would your average chap do, given the possibility of such a toy to play with? Well, let’s not go into that, since a fellow like Talis who’s spent 20 years tinkering around with Ip can hardly be labelled average. Here’s what Talis did, or rather, wrote in his daily journal as a description of what he did (I wasn’t there; I was born in 1988):

I wept and wept till the tears swept
The earth away from ‘neath my feet
And still the nagging unrest kept
On when I lay alone with me

It wouldn’t be quite proper to quote the rest of such a private entry over here. We can’t have unethical sharing, now, can we? Suffice it to say that Ip wasn’t just a machine – albeit a superb good luck time machine – to Talis. Not all AI bots can be called organisms, but what with such close personal monitoring and daily interaction, Ip certainly had characteristics that Talis was convinced were real. The general onlooker could even be excused for assuming that there was something of a person to Ip.

Indeed, one might even be justified in claiming that there was a bit of EI that had crept into Ip with all the attention she had received over the years. There was something almost theatrical about her cough, the glinting eyes dying out, the tremulous shaking just prior to transforming into the wonderful gizmo that Talis was now fairly sure the apparatus had become.

“Much more than a mere apparatus,” mumbled Talis absently. After all, the big problem with these machines was that they didn’t follow you into whenever you were. “That’s part of why they’re so rare – anybody who finds one disappears.” Talis spat dispassionately.

The only thing that puzzled him more than his sudden tenderness at the loss of a dear friend was the moment of separation. Quite oblivious to his surroundings in this opportunity of a lifetime, he sat down quietly to one side of the festivities and scrolled back to that exact point in memory.

“Why GnR? It was a mental connect, wasn’t it? She tuned into what I was thinking about and then I listened in to her mental processes and we just clicked.”

Then it hit him.

“She must be here as well, in that case, right? How else would it make sense? Besides,” spoke aloud Talis wryly, “if it’s a good luck time machine then it can hardly put me in a time I don’t want to be in – that is, away from it.”

Pleased at his sudden intuition on the self-defeating would-be paradox, he smiled glumly. “Now if only that made sense outside of cold reason as well…”

That’s when everything began swimming around.

“Where to next, I wonder,” he sighed aloud, until suddenly being subjected to a curious warm, fuzzy sensation, somewhat like being a crouton in soup (some sci-fi stories have protons in platinum iridium, others have the primordial soup; this one has a bit of both). And then he was back in his garden on a lazy Sunday afternoon two decades later, with the Ip apparatus happily lying on the hammock and a Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday book lying open on a strip about a Transmogrifier.

“It’s good to be back,” he said to Ip, and could have sworn that the apparatus hummed happily, with a shy little buzz of a smile. And he experienced the same feeling of exhilaration, excitement and complete lack of self-doubt as the inimitable Spaceman Spiff. Then a snowball from somewhere in the distance whizzed past him, boomeranged and went back the same route, followed by an “Ouch!”, while a lovely summer breeze flipped the book’s pages back and forth.

It all made sense. He smiled. Ip moved back and forth in an inanimate sort of way, and that didn’t seem self-contradictory any more. Talis felt calmly at home and in control of things – a man with the larger picture. From somewhere around the hammock, he heard the rhythmic beats any RATM fan associates with Calm Like a Bomb. “Oh-oh, here we go again,” he thought. “With a time bomb like this, I’m bound to have a blast.”

He crossed his legs, stretched out on the cool grass in the shade next to the fountain, and drifted off…

This won a prize in Shaastra 2008 creative writing (sci fi). I never did get to see those 500 bucks though.

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One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Udeet / Mar 24 2009 2:06 pm

    I wish i was born when time machines were all the rage 😉
    Loooved it!! You cannnnnot at any point stp writing man. you’re brill!!!

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