8FOLD: Journey Into # 13: The Five Graph Trap!

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 20 22:33:07 PDT 2010


   A year ago, Shaka Zoom took over the world for the third time.  His
rule lasted nearly two whole days-- surprisingly long in the world
domination game; the second iteration of his holographic "Shaka-
troopers" kept the world's conventional militaries occupied and the
general populace properly frightened, while his handpicked baker's
dozen of elite black capes took care of the various four-colour heroes
who insist on making their presence known whenever someone attempts
to, let alone succeeds at, taking over the world-- took care of them,
that is of course, for only nearly two whole days and not a moment
longer.  His thirteen black capes defeated, his holograms blipped out
of existence, the opulent glass minarets of his upside-down Reflected
Palace shattering into sand as it was violently pulled right-side-up
through the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Shaka Zoom
himself only evaded capture because he had planned for it: planned for
the possibility of it all coming down about his head, planned on the
appropriately rag-tag group of costumed adventurers pushing their way
into his meditation chamber, designed its floor to crack along a pre-
determined fissure which would throw those heroes off balance but
leave him standing and close to the escape hatch, programmed a pseudo-
random algorithm that would make him impossible to follow while still
eventually bearing him to his new secret Antarctic base, and, finally,
through one of his many dummy corporations he inserted the long-
distance virally-amplified signal required to awaken his mutant
sleeper agents into the opening cinematic of a certain Triple A multi-
platform console title, the long-awaited third in a highly profitable
and critically-lauded franchise, that will have its midnight release,
after two delays which he himself has ensured will take place, on the
very eve those sleeper agents will develop the cochlear nuclei they
need to hear it (some ten months from today).

   Always ten steps ahead, that Shaka Zoom.  Plans within plans, a web
of contingencies and feints that are nearly as impossible to
comprehend as they are to predict.  Proclaimed as the world's greatest
mind, and not just self-proclaimed, at that.  His nemesis Fahrenheit
Man often said that if only Shaka Zoom would apply his mind to some
altruistic end, to curing disease, eliminating hunger and poverty,
inventing some technology that would benefit mankind, he would be
remembered as one of history's greatest men, instead of being reviled
as its would-be slave master.  It was just like Fahrenheit Man, that
blinkered simpleton, that reactionary scold, that stiff near-sighted
dullard, to consider the two things mutually-exclusive.  No, only
Shaka Zoom has the brains to see that the two impulses were one and
the same, that the only way to usher mankind into that hypothetical
golden age was to destroy the broken systems that allowed the strong
to prey on the weak; the only utopia that could ever be could only be
under the yoke of a benevolent dictator; of the five percent of the
population that was worthy to rule, only Shaka Zoom was willing.   Or,
at least, he had been.

   That was yesterday.  Today, he changed his mind, and not for the
first time.  Like all the times before, he awoke with an unbecoming
sense of melancholy; he regarded the future not with the joy of the
hawk or even the fright of the hare, but with a bizarre alchemy of
apathy and despair.  All these plans: why was he even making them?
The weight of his failures bore down upon his heart, and though he
knew in his brain that he was in fact no failure at all, that he was
merely playing the long game, his plots nested and knotty, even the
soundest argument was of no utility, as was often the case when the
cranium made war with the cardiac.  This predictable battle would
consume him for a few hours or days, and then his doubts would pass
and his brain would assert its rightful dominance, zig-zag-zig. This
time, however, it was different; this time, his brain and his heart
found themselves in complete agreement.  For as his mind turned his
knowledge to wisdom, and his wisdom into understanding, he understood
that once he had achieved complete rule over the globe, he would not
hold onto it for long.  Longer than a few days, certainly, as his
ultimate plan would humble the heroes once and for all-- perhaps even
long enough to put into place the system of reforms that could save
the world from itself, with Mother Africa restored to its place as a
Mecca of cultural and military might.  But he would not live long
enough to hold it all together, or to give one of his heirs suitable
instruction; Shaka Zoom is old already, grows a year older every time
the earth completes its orbit around the sun, as does every man.  His
brain, aided by the Supreme Alphabet and Supreme Mathematics, follows
every plan, every timeline, every possibility, meditating intensely on
the problem for six solemn hours, and when he is done, he is faced
with the reality that his efforts will be truly futile.  He will never
bring about a meaningful and lasting utopia, and, indeed, his short
and curious rule might inspire such hatred and derision that it would
deter future generations from following that same path.  Better to not
succeed, so that his work might not be unduly tainted, so that another
might see the example of Shaka Zoom and follow it without the petty
prejudices of history.

   The problem, of course, is that his brain and heart will not be
allies for long.  His doubts will pass in time, and his heart will
grow covetous; deviously, his thinking would twist to support the
fanciful premise that he has enough time after all, or that he might
even find a way to conquer death.  He knows himself, knows his
covetous heart, and knows that he is weak enough to follow it.  No
matter what resolutions he makes today, no matter how he might try to
sabotage the plans he has already set into motion, he knows that the
day will come when he will want it so badly that he shall commit
himself to its path anew, with results disastrous for both himself and
his dream.  He knows that he cannot trust himself to be strong in the
future, just as an addict, committed though she might be to cast off
her affliction, will once she is in the throes of withdrawal wither
and weaken and succumb.  No, Shaka Zoom cannot trust himself, and so,
while his will is still strong enough to do it, he must trap himself.

   The point of his death trap is not to kill-- for he could not bring
himself to end his own life-- but to contain with the threat of death:
try to go outside, Shaka Zoom, and the laser wall will electrocute you
to a stain; try to send for a henchmen to free you, Shaka Zoom, and
these machine gun turrets will do the rest; try to activate your army
of on-the-grounds Shaka-troopers, and they will rend you limb from
limb.  But it is not as simple as that, for if Shaka Zoom knows
himself, he knows himself to be devious.  Faced with those lasers, he
would find a way to deactivate them, and so he must find a way to keep
them active.  Armed with the knowledge of how he powered those lasers
so that they couldn't be deactivated, he would find a way to interrupt
the power source, and so he must find a way to intercept his future
self.  He must anticipate his own every move; he must look for the
loopholes he knows he will look for.  If there is an answer to the
problem he is constructing, if he makes the slightest mistake now, he
will exploit it then, his brain driven to unfathomable levels of
cunning and complexity by his mad and desperate desire for world
domination.  He knows that the more time he spends considering a
problem, and the greater the pressure, the craftier he will get, the
more things will come to light; the ordinary and seemingly harmless
will become devastating once within his grip.  He must be more
brilliant in this week, this day, perhaps even this hour, than he's
ever been in the past.  And indeed, more brilliant than he ever could


The problem with being the sort of chap who sometimes fusses over a
story for weeks and months is that all that fussing isn't conducive to
finishing a story in a timely manner-- that is, say, before a high
concept contest deadline.  Having missed the last deadline for
precisely that reason, I said, to hell with it, it's gonna be a little
messy, but let's get the damn thing done this time around.  Having
just finished proofreading said story, I'm not too deeply unhappy with
it; I think the idea's reasonably clever and the ornate execution
somewhat appropriate for such an ornate thinker.

This story doesn't only reflect the death trap theme in its substance,
but I also consciously trapped myself formally in writing it by using
The Five Paragraph Strait-Jacket, as we used the standard format for
both essays and creative writing back in high school.  Granted, I
adhere more to the letter of it-- five and only five paragraphs, each
with a clear theme or idea-- than to the spirit-- sentences with
triple digit word counts not exactly being concise-- but there you
go.  (The Five Paragraph Strait-Jacket is also what inspired me to
make my villain a Five-Percenter, so I think the form also influenced
the substance.)  I might try writing a more "traditional" five
paragraph story in the future, partially just for the hell of it, and
partially because it did reign in my natural tendency to over-plot and
over-develop and just plain bite off more than I can chew.

Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed it.

Also: I decided to drop the ellipses from the series title.

Also also: apparently, accordingly to that wildly inaccurate textual
analysis website, this is written like David Foster Wallace. Well,
that's better than Joyce, that's for damn sure.


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