Halls of Frustration
Bill Webb

 The story opens in an unnamed solar system (okay, it was named, but I forgot what they named it) somewhere in the dark reaches of the www.nintendo.com server where the second-or-third annual Interactive Story is formed by the server's loyal subjects under the nurturing guidance of the Cyberjocks (Amy, the cute one; Scott, a big dork..er, cool guy; Mike, another ..er..cool guy; and Travis, an even  bigger dork..er, cool guy). Since the whole damn thing's sponsored by Nintendo the tale starts with actual videogame moguls using their actual names...and a new character is formed, ashes from ashes dust from dust, from the stray bits littering the forum floor. Robert Aran.
Above the new-forged Master of the Universe spin the planets of the (what's-it's-name) system...Corneria, a standard Earthlike planet now overrun by terrorists; Fortuna, an icy planet covered largely with snow and guys dressed like Eskimoes, capable of supporting various humanoids and the hardiest of creatures; and a low-gravity swirl of meteors, dust and debris known as Meteo.
The premise is, a new, highly-useful element has been discovered, Titanium 64 (this was obviously Nintendo's part of the tale :), and it seems everybody wants the stuff. Bad. A team of officials and scientists has been sent out to this system to scout, sample, and report back on their findings. Meanwhile, various secret organizations have formed in an attempt to gain control of and exploit this resource.


 Name: Robert (Rob) Aran
Age: approx. 21
Description:  Brother of Samus that hasn't been lucky enough to star in any videogames, so nobody's heard of him yet. Hoping to make his big break in Metroid64 where his whole story will be told, and perhaps his own ELF-TV sitcom Rob's Planet. Like his kid sister, Rob has been augmented somewhat with the help of some very cool electronics including Duratank (Nothing tanks the copper tank!) energy storage tanks, in-brain radio reciever, computer interface and some other nifty toys.
Story so far:
He has spent most of his earlier life on planets SR388 and Zenon, another planet infested with scary brainsucking creatures, and battling a large assortment of mutant creatures that resulted from a nutty professor's experiment-gone-bad. Returning home one stardate from another succesful mission, he encountered an agent from the now-famous planet Gates (after the Universal Committee of Bugfaced Creatures saved the pathetic Earth civilization from the monopoly of Microsoft Corp., Bill Gates fled to and colonized a planet of his very own). After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate peacably with the agent from Gates, who was sent to capture some specimens for Mr.Gates to create a minion army with, the agent blasted Rob's craft and seriously damaged it. The wounded craft crash-landed on the swirl of debris known as Meteo with its last bit of power, and Rob soon befriended the native creatures. (Needless to say, the unsuccessful agent from planet Gates was dematerialized by his master the instant he received word of the failure.)

[Meteo, and the planet SR388] chatting via GalaxyFone

Rob: ...Yeah, and they need some teams to go explore it.

Samus: So you're saying they found a bunch of low-grav asteroids floating around the Lylat system, they think there are huge reptiles inhabiting it, and they want to send teams of pilots out there and check it out and report back?

Rob: What do you mean think? They've seen tracks and everything. Even I've seen them. At night, I can hear the eerie cries of creatures in the distance. This is some dangerous stuff here. Maybe you'd better stay where you are, on second thought.

Samus: I'd love to be part of it, but I've got problems of my own to deal with over here. Apparently Plumber-boy managed to get himself captured AGAIN, and the Princess isn't going to have nothin' to do with it. So it's up to me to get his tail out of trouble and everything. He keeps calling me from an intergalaxy pay-phone (collect, of course!) telling me that if I don't get here soon Bowser will make him his "girlfriend". I told him, that only happens in prison! Snap out of it Plumberboy!

Rob: Oh alrighty. I was hoping you could come and bring along that nuke-ray of yours in case Planet Gates sends another agent out here to get revenge on me. But if you're busy I can always try Reddog and his gang.

Samus: Wha? agent from Gates?

Rob: I didn't tell you about that? Oh well, maybe next time...

Samus: You don't want them on your bad side. Those guys have some serious connections. ...Anyway, I may join you and the expedition later if all goes well getting Mario back.

Rob: Sounds like a plan. And I hope he's using 1-800-COLLECT. Save up to 44 percent!

 Rob strolled across the rocky surface. "...For a hill, men would kill, why? They do not know. ...", he sang to himself. What's the big fargin' deal about titanium-64? Why are people willing to go to war over the stuff? Sure it's strong and lightweight, but geez, why not just use that formula we got from the Cyrillians? Rob stopped pondering these questions for a moment as he spied a fairly large twelve-legged bug on the ground. Instinctively, Rob's bionic foot slammed down to convert the mandibled creature to four ounces of bug grease. Upon impact Rob was immediately propelled 30 meters into the stratosphere. As he sailed through the sky he thought to himself, "I HATE it when that happens."
 "Enjoying your stay here on Meteo?" called one of his new friends, a tall, odd-looking creature, who witnessed Rob's encounter with the rock-muncher.
 "If you ignore all the wars and fighting, it's a quite restful place. ...One question though."
 "What's that?", the creature replied, watching Rob slam down upon the surface.
 "When d'ya suppose we could get a little GRAVITY around here?"

He awoke to find himself on the cold surface of an unknown planet. In his hand was a smooth, seamless black cube.
He took a few moments to assess the situation. Nothing broken, that's a good sign. A few cuts and bruises, a little blood, nothing to worry about. No bumps on the noggin, that's always a plus. No clothing. That would mean I'm naked. But that's the least of my troubles. Like "Where the hell am I?" and "How did I get here?"...and, "What is this thing in my hand?"
  Just then he heard a voice behind him. "Daddy, there's a naked man over there!"  The boy and his father ran toward him. "Are you all right?", said the father.
"I--I think so", he replied.
The new arrival asked him, "You'll freeze to death out here. Would you care to come with us to our place and have dinner? And maybe I can give you some clothes. A naked guy walking around in this atmosphere would certainly attract some unwanted attention."
"Sounds great, thanks a lot. By the way, what's your name? If I'm going to be wearing your underpants I should at least know what to call you."
"Call me Dr. Dos. And you?"
"I'm...." There was a long pause.  "I don't know."

[that evening]
Dr. Dos and his family sat down with the man and began to feast on a meal of dopefish and a delicious but unidentifiable meat.
 "Well, it would appear that you have lost your memory," said Dos.
 "No, really?" said the man, loosely slapping his hand against his chest. "Well you're a doctor, right? Can you do anything?"
 "I'm afraid I'm not that kind of doctor. Mainly I do research and work with experimental and powerful top-secret gadgets. Actually I'm sort of a mad scientist. Mad. MAD! Crazyyyyyy and a little insane, hahaaa"
 "Honey, I think you're scaring our guest," cautioned his wife. "And stop foaming at the mouth! You do that everytime you talk about your work."
 "Well, the best course of action is to wait and hope your memory returns. Meanwhile, I can show you my latest gadget, a device that can actually read from some species' minds! Unfortunately the code it spits out isn't of much use."
 "Sounds like fun", said the man.
 "Can I call you Ian? That was the name of my well-respected colleague who was killed by a planetary traveler for knowing too much. I know it's not the greatest, but I'm sick of calling you 'the man'."
 "Whatever you want. Ian, the man, Joe Blow... up to you."

After they had finished Dos took "Ian" down a set of stairs into his underground laboratory. "This," he said, "could replace those 1-900 psychic lines forever, if only I could figure out how to use this output."
He removed a rodent from a cage and connected the machine. "This is connected to the rat's visual area." He placed a white card with a black square in front of the rat's eyes and read the screen.

¸ ë3ÀëïÉÃUčìègÿ Àu3ÀéР 0

"As you can see, this data is pretty useless. What do you say tomorrow we take a closer look at that cube you were carrying?"

Rob kicked the side of his crippled spacecraft. "Well, that should do it for this piece of junk. Now for a test drive." Even though he had been stranded on Meteo for some time now, he just now got around to repairing the gaping holes in his wrecked ship and rigging the engine back to working condition. He made the patch for the ship's hull by heating up a pile of titanium-64 rocks and sort of stomping them into a metal sheet. "Now, for a test drive." He inserted his card key and, leaning into the cockpit, rapidly tapped the ignition button before ducking out and scurrying behind a rock. He came out only after the engine started and nothing exploded. "Good," he said. The repair job worked.
  "Onscreen!" said Overlord Gates. "I thought you killed him!"
  "So did I!," sniveled the servant in charge of killing Robert.
  "As you can see," said Gates, stroking his white cat and pointing at the monitor, "he's still alive, and he's firing up that craft of his. You didn't even destroy his spacecraft?!?"
  "Honestly, Master, I thought he was taken care of."
  "Well don't just sit there looking stupid, get out there and finish him!!"
  "I'm on it."
    --back on Meteo--
Robert ran a few pre-flight checks on his equipment, especially his weapons. "A Gates agent could be up there right now, waiting for me. This gutbucket had better be working!," he thought to himself. Just to be a bit safer, he pulled his remote-control Pocket Gooney out of the glove box to fly reconnisance over and around Meteo. While the 4-inch long spy ship surfed around Meteo's orbit looking for trouble, Rob took a few moments to clean off his craft, S.N.A.F.U. (Situation Normal, All [Fouled] Up). Then he moved on to the bumper stickers: "Kiss Me Quick And Do Not Slobber," read the one his ex-girlfriend put on when they were still dating. Finally, he washed the last of the meteor dust of the windshield (the Star Trek viewscreen was part of an option package he decided not to spring for- then again, so was the CD player) and crawled inside, quietly singing a song he heard entitled "Piece of S--t Spacecraft". He lifted off and within three seconds was in orbit.
    --in orbit--
"Agent to Gates, repeat, Agent to Gates. I am now in orbit over Meteo. Target is also in orbit. Proceding with kill. Agent over and out."
  Rob was suddenly jolted to full alertness by his Pocket Stool Pidgeon's alarm. A mid-sized vessel was moving rapidly on an intercept course with him. "Probably Channel 5's shadow traffic ship. Like they need to fly over all the roads to tell you there's another rush-hour traffic jam." He pulled out binoculars for a closer look at the now-visible craft.
Gates. Rob could tell by the unmistakable Planet Gates insignia on the side of the craft: A large foot crushing a serpent, whose fangs were embedded in the heel. Rob recalled the chain of events leading up to W.H. Gates' exile from the planet Earth twenty years ago. He was big and greedy, yes, but nobody really did much to stop him until his proposal to put a huge two-way telescreen in every single Earth home. That and the huge eyeball billboards and "Big Brother Is Watching You" ad campaign. After he bought America's Liberty bell from Taco Bell corp. just to make a point, the people had had enough. Their computers were already watching their every move, Gates' skycams were viewing their shopping habits, hobbies and interests to target advertising to them, and the people were quite angry. Just before he was banned from the planet, he vowed revenge against Earth, all Humans, and anyone who crossed him. He then went far away to colonize his very own planet with clones of himself. He named it Planet Gates.
  Rob saw a large explosion on the side of the Agent's vessel. He quickly tuned his in-brain scanner to some frequencies Gates craft were likely to use. He heard a distress signal from the ship stating that its engines were not functioning correctly, and that its weapons were not working at all. "Allrighty," said Rob, "a sitting duck."
Just then a message came over the public channels: "Agent of Gates to unidentified vessel 'SNAFU', do not move. I am heavily armed and prepared to kill. Both my weapons and engines outpower yours by a wide margin. Do not move, or I will kill you right this moment."
 The agent was obviously bluffing. As a matter of fact the dashboard lie detector Rob had installed was beeping very loudly at the moment. Rob kept his vessel still and tried to act scared.
 "Itchy trigger-fingers, six in all"
 "Inches above my trusty trackball"
 "If one of those fingers should happen to fall......"
BOOOM! went the rocket launcher. After the shrapnel had flew its course and the debris had dissipated, Rob looked at what was left of the enemy ship. He then turned on his windshield wipers, as there were a lot of guts obstructing his view of his work.
 "I've got a piece of s--t spacecraft"
 "It won't go past Warp Six..."
Rob whistled to himself a bit uneasily, darting his eyes around the area looking for potential witnesses and hoping nobody saw him annihilate the Gates agent.
 "...The rockets fire all by themselves"
 "I'll have to get that fixed...."

After breakfast and a brief game of Detach-the-dog-from-the-mailman's-leg, Dos and Ian again went downstairs to the underground lab. "Pretty wierd stuff, eh?" said Dos.
 "Mind if I take a closer look?" Ian took a step toward the device that Dos claimed coukd read some creatires' minds. "Whe do you suppose you'll actually be able to USE this thing?"
Ian got in closer still to examine the wired cap that connected Dos's rat to the machine when suddenly it started beeping, about once per second. "Has it ever done this before?", said Ian.
 "Never. And check out the screen, it hasn't done that either."
They watched the monitor. A dash appeared on the screen every time the machine beeped. After about 30 seconds the screen cleared and the following appeared:

 #8634- humanoid male: current location 945.34973.01>>Fortuna
ECT time 22 hours, 26 minutes: Universal standard time 34.5463.412
Transmission OK
Human host OK
Payload OK
Detonator OK
Human host implanted instructions check OK -executes in 15d 5h 23m 59s

The machine then continued beeping. "What the...fudge?" they said in unison.

The hideously deformed creature materialized on the rocky surface of Meteo. Its enormous curved and slightly hooked teeth gleamed in the dull glow from outer space. Around its neck was a chain bearing a small metal cube- a rugged, miniturized version of its companion on Fortuna. The creature snarled, having a vague feeling that his quarry was elsewhere. The creature peeked into the mind of his target: Cold, ice-covered planet. Taken in by a family there. Safe and warm. Below the surface. I can feel him. The creature's glowing yellow eyes darted, looking for a dark place to hide out. It quickly found a space in a rock crevice and ducked inside, waiting for nightfall.

[somewhere around the same time]
Rob sat in the niteclub and watched as his favorite comedian, George Sinfield, did his next bit.
  "...I am not Cornerian, however, people always assume this because I am thin, in-shape and a fast runner. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I mean, that's quite okay if that's  who you are... but me, I'm not. I mean it's understandable; you never hear anybody say, "Listen, I love being Metean with you, but since there's a thin atmosphere and virtually no gravity, don't you think it's time to lose weight and get in shape? You'll have a lot less trouble getting around." Maybe instead of pointing in the direction of the planet, Cornerians should be identified like, "Say, you know Richard over there? I hear he's a little (huff, puff, huff, puff)"..."Yeah? I always thought he was a little (huff, puff)" "
Rob's laughter was interrupted by an announcement from the bouncer: "Call for Robert Aran, repeat, Robert Aran, there is a call for you on Line 1."
Rob picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"This is Wilhelm Gates of the planet Gates. Watch your back and sleep with one eye open, for you shall die!"

..."Yes, we've been monitoring transmissions on the planet Gates for quite some time now," explained Dr. Dos.
"Why?," Ian asked.
"Well, Things have been getting very suspicious around there lately. As it turns out, they've been performing some strange experiments using Einstien's relativity theories, the latest involving some sort of transporter device.  And rumor has it, by the way, that Einstien is still alive, just abducted by Gates."
"That still doesn't explain how I got here. And that THING on Meteo?"
"My friend, you were one of their experimental subjects. A lab rat, if you will. They were using you and others to test the transporters. Come over here for a sec."
Dos went to the closet, pulled out a wire coathanger and straightened it. He then started to explain the workings of Gates' experimental transporters:
"Okay, let's say this is a line through space", Dos said, holding up the straightened hanger. "This end is your position, and the other end is where you want to go. Conventionally, you would hop in a ship and fly it to your destination, across all this space. But, why bring yourself to your destination when you can bring your destination to you?"
Dos began to bend the rod in a curve, until the two ends touched. "Now it's a very short distance. The device basically curves space in such a way that the two points almost touch, moves you about a foot to one side, and TA-DA, you're at your final destination. The field is shut off and the curvature of space returns to normal."
"Great," said Ian. "But how does that explain my current situation and the creature roaming Meteo?"
"Well, the Gateses got greedy. They eventually built THREE of these things, then got this bright idea, 'Hey, let's run 'em all at once and see what happens!'. At this point they tried various objects in the teleporters; a box of Sharpies, a small ficus tree, a sweat sock. The sock was merely turned inside-out, the ficus became a disgusting puddle of gelatinous ooze, and the Box of Sharpies was slightly demagnetized but otherwise unharmed."
"So the problems most likely stemmed from the fact that these different fields were warping space independently of each other, and each tel could not correct for the distortion caused by the other two, right?"
"Ian, you're one smart cookie," replied Dos. "They eventually wrote a computer program into the devices that would account for outside distortions of space. You and this other test subject, you managed to unlock your cages in the PlanetGates research fortress. Once out, you knew that your only hope of escape was through the teleporters."
"What is now the Thing That Should Not Be, now terrorizing Meteo, was the first of you two to enter a teleporter. The Gateses did not realize it at the time, but there was a bug in the software that was supposed to correct for other warp fields in the vicinity. Your buddy did not fare well. You were the second; from what I can determine, an error occurred during teleport that got you 'stuck' in warped space. The Gateses knew something was stuck, but didn't know what. Thinking it may be one of their own, the Gates leader implanted a type of digital code in your mind that would cause you to basically self-destruct, going absolutely berserk and destroying everyone and everything you possibly can before committing suicide. Then they cut the power and let you fall where you may."
"Holy Snikes!"
"Furthermore, they have absolute control over you now. By tapping the little-known sixth sense common to all Vanians like yourself (I ran a DNA test while you were sleeping), they can implant further instructions via the black transmitter you brought with you here. You cannot be far seperated from this box, nor can it be destroyed, without executing the program and ultimately killing you and many innocent people."

[Location unknown]
When Robert Aran regained consciousness, he was being led up the narrow ramp to one of the many levels by a black and pale-white cyborg. The sound of Rob's metallic boots clanking against this grated support echoed forlornly through the compound as the sounds of low conversation and muffled shouts contributed to the gloom of the dimly-lit chamber. Upon reaching the top of the grated ramp, he was led across another suspended metal causeway, which shifted and swung slightly with every step; then was directed to the left, down another, narrower walk. Looking out over the railing attached to this hanging walkway, Rob got a fairly good view of the entire complex. Looking down, he saw for what appeared to be miles down a seemingly bottomless building consisting of more walkways like this one on various levels. Looking up, he saw more of the same. At the very top of the complex, he saw an immense rounded window embedded in the highest point of the ceiling; the view was of outer space, black and empty. The complex was laid out in the form of a cross, the walkways branching out in four directions from the emptiness in the center. Along the perimeter were row after row of metal doors. These led to narrow corridors which, as Rob soon found out, led to long lines of cagelike holding cells. Everything in the complex was metallic, from the walls to the floor to the sliding shutter that periodically covered the circular window of darkness. He was escorted through one of the metal doors lining the wall. The two segments of the door slid apart with a loud whine and hiss of air, and Rob was hustled inside. Down the long and winding corridor he was half-walked, half-dragged into a dark metallic room, different from the others, and strapped into a metal chair. The cyborg looked at him without a word, then left, letting the door whirr shut behind him. A lone pale-green plant hung limply from a pipe that ran across the room near the ceiling. Five minutes passed.
A bead of sweat rolled off Robert's forehead, landing on the floor with a soft splash that echoed throughout the small room.
Robert was brought to full attention by a soft hum that accompanied the opening of a partition in the middle of the room. Behind it two men, one large and one small, sat in larger chairs with lit buttons lining a pair of panels before them. He recognized the familiar insignia on the mens' garments: A large foot crushing a serpent, whose fangs were embedded in the heel.  He instantly realized where he was upon seeing this. It was the enormous complex on Planet Gates, of which he had only heard in rumors and old stories back on Meteo. He shifted nervously in the cold chair.

  "Robert Phineas Aran..." said one of the men.
"Welcome home. We've been expecting you."

...and...That's why it's called the Halls of Frustration! That's the End! No ending! No, count 'em, NO loose ends tied up whatsoever! Muhahahaha!! You're going to stay awake nights wondering how it all ends, but you'll never, ever know! Hahahahahaaaaaaaaa.....<whump> Yeeouch! <whap> OW!! <crunch> ......
Bill has been clobbered to death by a mob of angry readers. The end.....

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