Sometime between September 3rd and September 23rd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

There’s a short article in Wired today about fanfic, with one bit that jumped out at me…

As befits its beginnings, the genre is planted firmly in pop culture’s nerd division. The films most often given the fanfic treatment – The Matrix, X-Men, and Pirates of the Caribbean – wing straight out of dork central.

Well, chalk me up as a pop-culture nerd living in dork central, as my one — and so far, my only — foray into fanfic so far has been a short piece called ‘Glitch‘…and yes, it’s Matrix-derived.

“This is useless, we’re wasting our time here. Let’s go.” I stood up, letting my chair roll back a couple feet behind me. “Dan?” Dan looked up at me, then nodded, getting up from his chair too.

“I don’t think leaving will be quite as easy as you expect,” said our host. He reached out and pressed the button on his intercom. “Could you come in now, please? We’re having some…difficulties…in our negotiations.” The door to the conference room opened, and the two thugs that had ushered us upstairs came in and took positions in front of the door.

Dan glanced at me and rolled his eyes, then shrugged. We’d had to fight our way out of rooms before — it’s not our preferred exit strategy, but sometimes there just isn’t an option. “You know this is pointless, Rourke,” I said. “You can’t hold us here indefinitely. Even if you tried, we’d already called in to the precinct before coming in here, so when we don’t report in, more police will be on the way.”

Rourke leaned back in his chair, tapping the table with his pen. “Maybe,” he said, “but you don’t play this game as long as I have without taking a few risks when necessary. We have a little time, at least, before your superiors start to get restless. So may I suggest, gentlemen,” — the pen stopped tapping as he leaned forward again — “that you sit back down.”

Okay, while it’s not likely to win any awards, it’s not too shabby, either. Feel free to give it a look if you haven’t seen it before.

This is cute — an introduction to CSS-based website design, Matrix style.

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain but you feel it, that there’s something wrong with the web. You don’t know what it is but it’s there like a splinter in your mind driving you mad.

You can see it when you look out your browser window or when you turn on your web tv. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes.

This is the web that you know. The web as it was at the end of the twentieth century.

This is the web as it exists today…

Welcome To The Desert Of The Web

(via WebGraphics)

I got woken up this morning at 9am (thankfully, only half an hour before my alarm usually starts blaring) by the door buzzer. “Package for ya.” Rock on. Hauled myself out of bed, tossed on clothes, and stumbled downstairs.

End result — thanks to Amazon, I’ve got my copy of The Animatrix one day before its official street date. As long as I was awake, and didn’t have to actually wander out to my bus stop until around noon, I popped in the disc.

Very, very cool.

The Animatrix (just in case you didn’t catch my earlier posts) is a collection of nine animated short subjects expanding the universe portrayed in the Matrix films.

My favorite two episodes are Final Flight of the Osiris (incredible near photorealistic animation from the team behind Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and the sexiest sword fight I’ve ever seen) and Beyond (nice animation, and a quietly magical story).

The discussion thread regarding Matrix: Revolutions on the Home Theater Forum is turning up all sorts of interesting tidbits, including the fact that all the licence plates seem to be biblical quotes!

The Twins’ truck on the freeway: DE2852. Deutronomy 28:52 — “They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the LORD your God has given you.”

Trinity and Morephus’ Cadillac on the freeway: DA203. Daniel 2:03 — “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”

Agent Smith’s Audi at the beginning: IS5416. Isaiah 54:16 — “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.”

The following is a short story inspired in part by a dream I had last night. Other inspirations will probably become blazingly obvious as you read. ;) Enjoy — while it’s very likely far from perfect, it was fun to write.


“This is useless, we’re wasting our time here. Let’s go.” I stood up, letting my chair roll back a couple feet behind me. “Dan?” Dan looked up at me, then nodded, getting up from his chair too.

“I don’t think leaving will be quite as easy as you expect,” said our host. He reached out and pressed the button on his intercom. “Could you come in now, please? We’re having some…difficulties…in our negotiations.” The door to the conference room opened, and the two thugs that had ushered us upstairs came in and took positions in front of the door.

Dan glanced at me and rolled his eyes, then shrugged. We’d had to fight our way out of rooms before — it’s not our preferred exit strategy, but sometimes there just isn’t an option. “You know this is pointless, Rourke,” I said. “You can’t hold us here indefinitely. Even if you tried, we’d already called in to the precinct before coming in here, so when we don’t report in, more police will be on the way.”

Rourke leaned back in his chair, tapping the table with his pen. “Maybe,” he said, “but you don’t play this game as long as I have without taking a few risks when necessary. We have a little time, at least, before your superiors start to get restless. So may I suggest, gentlemen,” — the pen stopped tapping as he leaned forward again — “that you sit back down.”

“Oh, screw this,” Dan grumbled. “Come on, Matt.” The two guys at the door unfolded their arms as Dan started moving their way.

I gave a quick sigh, and started after him. “Here we go,” I thought, as Dan took a swing at one of the thugs, and the second started moving for me. The fight only lasted for a few seconds until I got a chance to reach for the doorknob, when suddenly the world seemed to hiccup.

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“This is useless, we’re wasting our…what the hell?” I was sitting in my chair at the conference table again. Dan was back in his seat across from me, looking around the room, as confused as I felt. The two goons were nowhere to be seen, and Rourke was just sitting in his seat with a small smile on his face. “What the hell just happened?”

“Call it insurance, of a sort.” Rourke gestured at the contraption he’d had sitting on the table next to him since we came in. I’d noticed it, but hadn’t given it much thought. You get used to seeing all sorts of oddball equipment lying around when investigating industrial espionage in the tech sector. “A sort of ‘reset button’, if you will. I’ve found it to come in very handy at times.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Dan said. “I was just over by the door, standing over that poor excuse for a guard you’ve got, about to leave. Now I’m sitting here, the guards have disappeared, and you just say it’s ‘insurance?’ What did you do, knock us out?”

Rourke laughed. “Nothing so mundane. The guards are back outside, waiting for me to call them in. If you’ll check your watches, you’ll see that not enough time has gone by for me to have knocked you out, set you back in your seats, and then managed to wake you up again.”

I glanced at my wrist, and sure enough, only a couple minutes had passed since I’d stood up to leave. “Okay, then, what happened?”

Rourke gave a small shrug. “I’m not really sure that I can explain –”

“Typical,” I interrupted, “and convenient. Hell, it doesn’t matter, we’re still leaving. Dan?” Dan stood up, as ready as I was to get the hell out. “Don’t bother calling the goons again, Rourke, we can meet them on the other side of the door.”

As Dan and I strode for the exit, I heard Rourke say from behind me, “Oh, I won’t have to call them again.” I started to open the door…

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“Now I’m sitting here, the guards have disa — fuck!” Dan broke off in the middle of his sentence and jumped to his feet.

I just sat in my chair, staring at Rourke. “This is impossible. What are you doing? What is that thing?” I asked, pointing at whatever it was that Rourke had next to him.

Rourke sighed. “As I was about to say before, I don’t know that I’ll be able to explain well, I don’t entirely understand it myself — but I’ll do my best.” He glanced up at Dan, who was peering around the room, trying to assure himself that it wasn’t rigged. “Would you mind sitting down? I’ll see how much I can explain.” Dan eyed him suspiciously, then sat down again.

“You know that I have an active interest in technology,” Rourke began. “I have several privately-funded labs working on projects — all quite legal, I assure you.”

“Right,” grunted Dan. I nodded — legal enterprises weren’t what had started us investigating Rourke in the first place. Rourke ignored our obvious skepticism, though, and continued on.

“Late last year, I got word that one of my more promising employees had been working on something unusual. Word reached me of a breakthrough of some sort, though the reports weren’t entirely clear as to what. Not long after that, he disappeared.”

“Disappeared?” I interrupted.

“We don’t really know — but I’ll get to that in a moment. May I continue?”

I nodded.

“In any case, yes, he disappeared. We went through his office afterwards and found this contraption, and enough notes to piece together what it did, though very little else. Quite frankly, we were lucky to get what we did — this machine was found in the trash, and he’d deleted everything on his computer. Our data recovery team spent a month reconstructing what they could from the hard drive.

“It appears that our young scientist was suffering from something of a crisis of faith. Not faith in religion, or in any sort of god, but faith in the world we live in. The documents we recovered were a curious mix of scientific theory, programming code in a language none of our other programmers recognized, and philosophical treatises. Normally we would have discounted all but the scientific and programming work, but he had cross referenced everything so that it was all tied together. Unfortunately, enough information was lost that most specifics were entirely unintelligible.

“What we could make sense of seemed to be concentrating on the feeling of deja vu — the unsettling feeling that you’ve experienced something before.”

Dan gestured towards the machinery on the desk. “I take it this all has something to do with that thing?”

“Quite right!” Rourke grinned. “It seems that in all this blend of philosophy and science that he had been working on, our scientist had started comparing deja vu to a form of ‘reset button’, such as you might find on any computer, or on a gaming console. Don’t like how things are progressing? Hit the reset, back up, and start over.”

I shook my head. “But that’s in a computer, in a game. You can’t do that in the real world.”

“Can’t I?” Rourke looked at me. “I seem to remember your getting up to leave this room — twice. And yet here we all sit.”

“How is that possible, though?” Dan asked. “I’m not a game. I don’t have a reset button.”

“Ah, but what if you are a game? Or in one? What if we all are? That seems to be where his research was heading before he disappeared. We’re still trying to make heads or tails of what we were able to discover — his jumbled ramblings would have been written off as insane raving if it weren’t for the quite convincing evidence of this little machine.

“Consider a program, used for testing the stability of a computer or its operating system, that is specifically designed to introduce an instability. Perhaps something as simple as trying to divide by zero, or attempting to write into a section of memory already reserved for the system. Programs such as these exist for every operating system in the world. Some are used benignly, to test a pre-release system to make sure there are no bugs. Some are used maliciously, in order to exploit bugs and hack into a system after release.

“We believe that this device is akin to that second type of program — a ‘hack’, if you will, designed to exploit not some mundane everyday computer, but the very world around us.”

“That’s impossible.” I shook my head. “The world isn’t some program to be hacked.”

“I would have said the same, a year ago. As would our missing scientist, I suspect, before he started this particular line of research. The existence of this machine, though, and its abilities, seem to indicate differently.”

I looked more closely at the contraption. It was fairly ungainly, looking as if it had been pieced together haphazardly, using everything from desktop PC parts to pieces bought off the shelf from a hardware store. Maybe it had been. “Okay, so just what is this ‘reset button’ doing? How does it work?”

Rourke shrugged again. “Unfortunately, we know very little about what it does, and virtually nothing about how it does it. It seems to have a fairly small field of influence — a sphere centered around the device, roughly twenty or thirty feet in diameter. At first we thought it might be a time machine of sorts, but it doesn’t seem to affect linear time at all. Your watches, for instance, will still match any clock outside this room. It merely repositions everything — and everyone — inside its effective radius to earlier states. The time period that it chooses for the earlier state seems to be variable, but randomly generated, though almost always within the rage of three to five minutes.”

“Three to five minutes? But that hardly seems useful at all.”

“True, but as you’ve seen for yourself, it does come in handy. Besides, we think that time periods much longer than that would require a much larger sphere of influence to work with.”

I almost felt like I was starting to get my head wrapped around the device itself, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle the implications of its existence yet. “So anything outside this 25-foot sphere can’t be affected?”

“Exactly. If I were to push one of these chairs across the room and then trigger the device, then the chair would return to where it had been sitting earlier. However, if I pushed the chair down the hall and triggered the device, the chair would stay where it was, in the hall.

Dan leaned back in his chair and put his hands on his head, as if he was warding off a headache. I figured he probably was — I know I was starting to feel a slight twinge trying to take all this in. “This is crazy,” Dan said, “but okay, I’ve seen it work. What I don’t get is how it can work — and where’s that damn scientist? Wouldn’t he be able to answer some of these questions?”

Rourke grimaced and tossed his pen onto the table. “He probably could. Or he could at least give us more coherent theories than what we’ve been able to piece together, if he couldn’t actually answer the questions. But when I say that he seems to have disappeared, I mean that quite literally, and I don’t believe that there’s much chance that we’ll be seeing him again.

“You see, we keep our laboratories under constant surveillance, for security measures. Key cards to get in, biometric scanners, and so on. We’ve been able to trace his movements on the night he disappeared — up to a point.

“He came to the lab just after 11pm. Checked in, and went down to his office. He dumped the device in the trash, probably figuring we’d just toss it as a failed project. He then wiped every piece of data on his computer except for the system itself and a chat program. We have a network record of his logging on to a chat room and having a very brief conversation with someone named ‘Switch’. They asked if he was ready, and he gave them his office phone number. They called him — and he disappeared.”

“You mean he left?” I asked.

“No. If he’d left, we’d have records of him leaving the building. Video tape, access points, anything. As it is, we’ve got nothing. Everything we have says that he should still be in his office.”

“Could you trace the call?”

“We tried that. The call was almost too short to trace, but we should have been able to come up with something. We can’t, though — there doesn’t seem to be an access point for the phone call. It’s like someone patched into the phone system, but none of our technicians can come up with an idea of where, or how.”

I couldn’t seem to make any of this make sense. The pressure in the back of my head was building as I tried to work my way through it all. “No recordings of the call?”

“That we do have,” Rourke said, “though they hardly help. The phone rang, and he answered. A female voice said, ‘Just relax — we’ll have you out in a moment. This may feel a little odd.’ Then nothing. When his office was checked, the receiver was dangling like it had been dropped, and he was nowhere to be found.”

Dan stood up and started pacing across the room. “Okay, I just don’t get it. So you’ve got a mysteriously disappeared scientist, and a magic ‘reset button’. A reset button that does things that shouldn’t be possible. Where does that leave us?”

“That leaves us exactly where we started — though that may not be where we think. Or, at least, where you thought it was when you came in here.”

“What?”

“You came here,” Rourke continued, “accusing me of industrial espionage, and with some entirely unfounded rumors of drug trafficing on top of that. I refused to discuss them, preferring instead to make another offer — one which you refused to hear, and you attempted to leave. Now that you know more about why you couldn’t leave, I wish to make my initial offer known.

“I want you to work for me. I believe that, given the evidence I have presented you with, you two are already starting to suspect what I believe my scientist was working on, and what I am starting to believe myself. That this world is not what it seems. This machine, the program code we found on the computer — they point to another explanation, one that I’m not entirely comfortable with, and I don’t think you two would be comfortable with either.

“An explanation that says that at best, we are in far less control of our lives than we like to think — and at worst, that our lives may not even truly exist.”

“No!” I shook my head, then quickly stopped. That damn headache was getting worse the more I thought about this. “First off, I don’t know what that machine is, but it can’t mean what you’re saying it does. Besides, we’re not about to just walk away from our jobs, from the police.”

“Why not? You do control your own life, don’t you? Don’t you? Or are you so locked into your own little roles that you can’t accept the possibility that there is another answer?” I could feel Rourke’s eyes on me, boring into my skull.

“No. Damnit, no. We’re leaving.” I stood up. “I don’t know what kind of game this is, what you’re doing to screw with our heads, but we’re walking out that door.”

“I’m not going to let you do that.”

“Dan? Come on.” I walked around the table and pulled Dan up out of his seat. He looked at the machine on the table, then at me. “Look, Dan, it’s a trick of some sort. All we have to do is walk out that door.” I turned towards the door and began walking towards it.

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“You came here,” Rourke continued…then stopped. “Ah, and here we are again.”

“Goddammit!” I bolted up from my seat again, and watched Dan slump further down in his, crossing his arms on the table and burying his head in them. “This can’t be real!”

Rourke just shook his head.

My head felt like it was about to explode. I dropped back down in my chair. “Okay, so it’s real. It exists. And, what — we don’t?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Rourke spread his hands and indicated the room around us. “Does any of this really exist? Do we? I wish I had an answer. Personally, I think we must, at least in some fashion. ‘I think, therefore I am,’ and all that.

“The question may be, where do we exist? And in what capacity?”

“And you want us to help you find out? We’re not scientists, we’re policemen.”

“Detectives, to be precise. Which is exactly why I want you to help me. You must have seen some unusual things. Heard rumors of odd events. Unsolved disappearances. Mysterious cases — real world ‘X-Files’ material, if you like. Clues. Pointers. Anything that might explain what this,” he pointed to the machine, “and all of this,” as he gestured around the room, “really means.”

Suddenly, I laughed. “Isn’t it obvious? You said it yourself — it’s a game. We’re a game. You’ve got the reset button right there. I don’t know how this scientist of yours built the button inside the game, but….” I trailed off as the headache washed over me again, when suddenly pieces started to fall into place.

Rourke started to speak again. “Really, I’m not sure it’s as simple as….”

“Wait,” I interrupted him again. “If this is a game — a program of some sort — then there are rules. And if there are rules…then I can cheat.”

Dan lifted his head from his arms and looked across the table at me. “Cheat?”

“Well, isn’t that what that thing is doing? Cheating?” I pointed at the ‘reset button.’ “Like backing up a few steps every time you screw up in a game. But that can’t be the only way to do it.

“Look — to be able to cheat, or at least to cheat well, you have to know the rules, right? You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. So if we’re in some sort of game, program, whatever, then we just need to figure out what the rules are.” I stood up and started to rub the back of my head while I thought. The headache seemed to be centered at the back of my skull, just above my neck, and while rubbing it didn’t really seem to help, it didn’t make it any worse either. Besides, it helped me think.

Dan looked like he was starting to get over the shock of the situation, as he started to work through what I was saying. He wasn’t entirely convinced, though. “How can we do that, though? I mean, if we’re inside this thing, how are we supposed to know what the rules are?”

“Well, think about it. If we’re right, then we’ve been ‘playing’ this thing our whole lives without knowing it. Since we don’t live in some sort of bizarre Super Mario World, what if….” I trailed off for a moment. The headache was definitely centered at the back of my skull now, like an icepick driving into my brain. It hurt, but seemed to help me concentrate, too. “It’s got to be something simple. We’re part, everything around us must be part.

“That’s got to be it!” As the realization hit me, the pain in my head seemed to explode for a moment. I had to grip the back of the chair to keep from doubling over as the wave of pain washed over me — though, oddly, instead of the blinding white flash I expected, everything momentarily took on a greenish tinge. Then it was gone, and as I straightened back up, I realized that the headache was gone too.

“What do you mean?” asked Rourke. Suddenly, when I turned to look at him, I realized that he’d never really be able to understand. What seemed so clear to me now was totally beyond him. He was as surely locked into his own role as he had earlier accused Dan and I of being. He could grasp the concepts, but he would never be able to step through the very door that he had just forced me through.

I looked down at him as he sat in his chair, one hand hovering near the machine on his desk. “You’ll never really get it, Rourke. You want to, and you’re close, but you’re too tied down. Look, you were more right than you’ll ever understand. I don’t know what the game is, but I know the rules — and I know that I can break them.”

I turned to Dan. He was standing up now, too, looking confused. “Are you okay, Matt?”

“Yeah, Dan. You will be too, I think — just not yet.”

“Not yet?”

“Yeah. Look, Dan — this is going to sound really odd, but I think you should take Rourke up on his offer.”

Rourke looked almost as surprised at that as Dan did. Dan looked like he was about to start slugging me. “What are you talking about? We came here to question this guy, not get mixed up in some crazy, science fiction bullshit scheme…”

“I know, I know. But listen to me. Rourke’s scientist stumbled onto a bigger breakthrough than I think Rourke realized, even when he found his little toy. He’s not going to be able to reach the same breakthrough — but I think that you will. Just not today.”

Rourke was starting to look more than a little steamed, as I continued to disregard him. “Oh, and I suppose you’ve made this ‘breakthrough?'”

I glanced his way, then looked back at Dan. “Just kick around with him for a while, Dan. Keep your eyes open. Work your way through all of this. If I’m right, you won’t have too long to wait.”

Dan put his hands on the table and looked down for a moment, thinking, then sighed and looked back up at me. “And what are you going to do?”

“In the long run? I’m not sure. But right now — it really is time for me to go.”

A short bark of a laugh escaped Rourke’s lips. “Haven’t we been through this before? You didn’t leave before, and you sure as hell aren’t leaving now! I want some answers. I want to know what you’re talking about, damnit!”

“I know you do, Rourke,” I said as I turned away from him and walked around the table, passing Dan on my way towards the open window. “Dan — think about it. Give it a shot. I’ll keep an eye out for you, and I think you’ll be seeing me again soon.”

I saw Dan nod hesitantly, then turned to look out the window. As I put my hands on the windowsill, I heard Rourke muttering behind me. “Crazy fool thinks he’s going to jump out the window…I told him he wasn’t leaving…”

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I turned from the window. Dan was back in his seat, and he and Rourke were turning around to look at me. I’d actually felt the ‘reset button’ that time — or maybe seen it. A brief flash when everything around me took on that odd greenish tint again — only this time, I ignored it, and watched the wave pass over me.

“How the hell…?” Rourke actually looked a little frightened now.

“Just another rule to be broken, Rourke. Maybe you’ll understand eventually. For now, though — it’s time for me to break some of the fun rules.” And with that, I calmly stepped up onto the windowsill, paused for a moment to glance down the eight stories to the street below, and then leapt to the balcony of the building across the street as easily as I’d skipped over cracks in the pavement as a child.

I had a whole world to explore, and I had a hunch that I couldn’t be the only one in the world to have realized the simplest truth of all — that rules were made to be broken. I had some friends to find.

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{{
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###About ‘Glitch’###

Okay, yeah, so I’ve had The Matrix on my brain recently. ;) I guess this is my first foray into ‘fanfic’?

About half of what ended up in the story is derived more or less from the dream I had, though the ending is very different. I was intending on just putting the dream to paper, but somewhere around midway through, the characters started taking the story in their own direction.

The dream actually ended with both protagonists escaping by climbing down the outside of the building, while the antagonist (and others in the room) were ‘frozen’ by the reset button (which had more of a time-displacement effect in the dream). Once they reached street level, they noticed other versions of themselves wandering around. At that point, the dream went ‘outside’ to some dialogue dealing with running multiple simulations concurrently, and how the protagonists newfound ability to break the laws of the simulation had triggered another bug that combined all running simulations into one (hence the multiple versions of the main characters), and now all the simulations were going to need to be wiped and rebooted.

I liked that a lot (and it was one heck of a head trip to wake up to), but the story didn’t end up moving in that direction. I’m fine with that, though, as I do like what I ended up with.

Anyway, that’s that. Hopefully you enjoyed it! Questions, comments, words of wisdom, and (hopefully constructive) criticism are, of course, more than welcome.

I can’t believe that nobody has done a “Which OS does the Matrix run on?”.

It’s obviously Windows though.

The following points are quite telling:

  1. Glitches occur in the Matrix whenever you change something.
  2. It is easy to hack into the Matrix.
  3. DRM software built-in tries to rid you of Morpheus.
  4. Microsoft created the Agent software (http://www.microsoft.com/msagent/default.asp).
  5. The User Interface is like having a giant metal spike shoved into the back of your head.

Also the original movie had many windows crashing, a clearly meaningful, if not subliminal, message about the Matrix origin.

BBSpot Mailbag, via Phil