There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not attempt to adjust the screen resolution. We are controlling your browser. For the next one thousand words, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and… erm… see. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your computer, mobile phone or generic tablet device. You are about to participate in a great adventure… well, great-ish. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from my slightly unhinged inner mind to… The Outer-ish Limits.
“Computer, end program.”
Mike wasn’t quite sure what had made him say those words. He was so frustrated with the day he was having and it was like he was trying to be funny and deny reality, but there wasn’t even anyone around to hear his words. It was one of those days. A delivery company had left dozens of garden gnomes on his front lawn, and he hadn’t even ordered them. Then that idiot who throws a paper on his lawn each week that he doesn’t even want had broken several of the gnomes with this week’s edition. The damn things had gone down like dominoes. Mike sighed, and the ironic words just slipped out from his lips…
“Computer, end program.”
With a slight whooshing sound, the world around him disappeared, to be replaced by a large, plain room with lights on the walls in a grid pattern. Over on one side was an odd-looking door, with a control panel beside it. Mike’s heart was starting to pound. What was going on here? He walked over to the door, his legs feeling slightly wobbly. At his approach, the door slid open. Tentatively, Mike looked through the door, to see a brightly lit corridor beyond. A man was running along towards him. He looked familiar. He look like… well, he looked quite a lot like… Mike.
“Mike, what are you doing?” The other Mike looked frustrated and a bit worried. “You’ve got several decades still to go before your next shift. You know you’re supposed to wait until somebody’s with you before you end the program. It always causes disorientation for a week or two.”
“What…” OK, so how was he going to end that sentence? Mike was in such a state of shock and confusion, he could barely even speak.
“Yes, of course, you’ll have a lot of questions. You had better sit down. Computer, chair.”
“Oh, damn this glitchy system. Just hold on a second Mike. I need to call up technical support.” He took a device out of his pocket that looked a bit like an old flip phone that only old people used any more, and spoke into it. “Mike, this is Mike. I need some help with Holodeck B. The player has switched it off without a save point and now it won’t even generate a chair for me… oh, OK, hold on a second.” The other Mike pressed a button on the panel beside the door and the room went dark. “OK, I’ve done that. What do I do next. Oh, I see, I turn it back on again.” He pressed the same button again, the lights came back on, and a chair materialised out of nowhere in the middle of the room. “Thanks Mike, you’re a star.” The other Mike closed his flip phone and put it back in his pocket.
“Is everyone here called Mike?” asked Mike.
“Yes, of course,” said the other Mike. What else would they be called? Mike thought for a second…
“Well, John maybe?”
“Why would we call somebody John, when they’re quite obviously a Mike? Oh, I see. Sorry, you’re still confused. Let me explain. Go and sit down before you fall down. You’re the Chief Engineer on Starship Mike IV. You belong to the Mike clone batch, just like we all do. You serve under Captain Mike, and First Officer Mike. To comply with gender equality in the workplace laws, there’s also Michaela on comms, but I wouldn’t go talking to her unless you have to. She’s always grumpy. Who wouldn’t be. She’s basically just a Mike in a skirt.”
“I was at home, though, my home, in…”
“Yes, yes, I know, but that’s a game. Everyone gets a century of leisure time every ten millennia. You were just enjoying your century off. It’s only natural for you to be confused, if you will go and play that silly historical game where people used to live and die in the blink of an eye. Don’t worry, your memories will return soon enough. A month, at most.”
“But this is all just like a sci-fi series.”
“Well, you would think that. Blame Mike, who wrote this program. That guy’s got no imagination. When you watch a sci-fi show in the game, he just puts in bits of the real world and makes stories out of them. He’s got too much time on his hands since he retired, if you ask me, and no imagination. Who wants to sit watching a box with picture of spaceships on them. Talk about a busman’s holiday. You couldn’t get a more boring show. It’s just what we do every day. But hey, Mike, you chose his program, so you’ve only got yourself to blame. Now, next time I’m off work, I’m playing that one by Mike who works in exterior window cleaning. The things he’s seen when he’s been working! It’s no wonder he managed to come up with a program like that. It’s gonna be a hell of a century when I play that one! Anyway, you can’t restart your program now. You didn’t make a save point before you stopped it, and the damn system just crashed anyway, so you might as well take it easy in your quarters for the next few decades before you have to go back to work.”
There was a distant sound, that didn’t quite seem to fit. A sort of wheezing… groaning…
“Er… what kind of work do I have to do, exactly?” asked Mike.
“Chief Engineer… of waste facilities.”
“What does that mean.”
“Well, Mike, you fix toilets when they get blocked. But never mind, only ten millennia of that, and then you’ll be on your next break. Life’s too short, eh?”
“Computer, end program.”
The voice sounded oddly familiar. The other Mike faded away, along with the holodeck and the corridor, and Mike found himself in a small, empty room, strapped to the chair he was sitting on. In front of him stood a tall man in a long coat and scarf. He took a device from his pocket, and the straps holding Mike a prisoner snapped and fell to the floor. An alarm started to sound.
“Sorry I took a while to get to you,” said the mysterious man, “I had some trouble with the guards. Do you know, I think this is the first planet I’ve ever visited where they don’t actually like jelly babies. Never mind. I hear they’re quite humane here and give the prisoners something to watch to stop them getting bored. Was it a good show?”
There was the sound of heavy, footsteps, coming closer to the prison cell.
“Time to go!” announced the man in the long coat. “Don’t just sit there, Mike. Back to the TARDIS!”
We now return control of your computer to you, until… well, probably never, when the Control Voice will take you to… The Outer-ish Limits of the Junkyard.
Happy Birthday, Mike. RP