Sushimustwrite told BattleJesus to start a war. “How long?” sushimustwrite asked Mia.
“Uh, fifteen minutes?”
Sushimustwrite nodded her assent and told BattleJesus this. “We’ll start in five minutes,” sushimustwrite said. “That’ll give us enough time to pull up our novels and get comfy.”
They got out their laptops, opened their novel documents, and sat down across from each other on the eraser benches in the word war area. Meanwhile BattleJesus was running around the word war area timing and ending other wars. Mia couldn’t help but smile at this familiar face.
“I hear there’s another bot running wars in here as well,” sushimustwrite said. “They must have gotten Timmy in here for all the demand of word wars. Poor BJ couldn’t handle everything himself.”
“Wait, another bot?”
But before Mia could say anything else BattleJesus approached and said, “Sixty seconds until start of war.” Mia and sushimustwrite readied themselves on the keyboard. Mia pondered what she was going to write in this fifteen minute word war.
A few seconds later BattleJesus stood between them, pistol at his side, and yelled, “Word war start: You have fifteen minutes.”
BattleJesus shot his pistol. Words emerged from his pistol, falling from the pistol toward the ground. One of them landed on Mia’s head. “Ow!” she said as the word bounced off her head and landed on the ground. Prickly, the word read, and Mia knew from past word wars that this was her challenge: to use the word prickly in this war.
Mia looked toward sushimustwrite, who had ignored the word that bounced off her head (edible, Mia saw as it landed on the ground) and was typing furiously. How was it possible to write so fast? She barely stopped to backspace, much less think about what was going to happen next. And her characters weren’t interacting with her at all.
Then Mia remembered that she was one of sushimustwrite’s characters and the whole train of thought that Mia was taking part in stopped right there. Was this the scene sushimustwrite was writing? Were all of their interactions just research for sushimustwrite’s novel?
Mia had no time to think about this; she had writing to be doing instead of musing philosophical thoughts about her presence as a character in a book. So instead she started to type.
Molly showed up then, pistol in her pocket, hair now cut short, and wearing a long trenchcoat. “Let’s do this,” Molly said.
“Whoa, what are you going to do?” Mia asked.
“You know where the zombies are headed, don’t you?” Molly asked.
“No, I don’t, actually.”
“They’re heading into town. Or rather, my parents are headed into town. I’ve gotta go get them.”
Mia and Molly ran into the town together. It still looked like a small city, not quite with the makings of a large city, but large enough that a couple of zombies wandering around was certainly going to be problematic. Molly looked around the buildings, sniffed around, and looked around again.
“What are you looking for?” Mia asked.
“I know they’re around here somewhere,” she said. “But the only problem is that they’re not going to be running on their own brains anymore. That’s what zombies don’t do. Once they become zombies the desire for human flesh takes over. And where do you find a lot of human flesh but at…”
Molly’s eyes lit up. “The orphanage,” she said.
She ran down the road and made a sharp left, barely missing getting hit by a car. Mia would have gotten hit by a car if this were the real world and not a work of fiction, but luckily this wasn’t reality and therefore she lived. Besides, if she died then no one would be able to tell her story.
“The orphanage is the closest place nearby with a lot of humans,” Molly said. “There are a lot of businesses around, but they’re in the downtown and midtown areas. This is a more rundown part of town as it is, and I have no idea what led my parents here for flesh when it’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and they could be eating up eyeballs at the mall. But then I remember they’re zombies and then nothing makes sense anymore.”
Mia scribbled all this down while following Molly’s actions, somehow finding herself taking brief breaks from writing to participate in the action.
What was supposed to be a receptionist’s desk at the orphanage was empty. “That’s not good,” Molly said. “She could be patient two and that’s the best case scenario. For all we know there could be more coming along. She could be patient thirty for all we know.”
Molly walked through the orphanage, sniffing out the vicinity for her parents turned zombies, looking for anything at all that would lead her to them, when–
“WORD WAR IS OVER,” BattleJesus announced fifteen minutes later.
No way. That couldn’t have been fifteen minutes. Mia was just getting started on this part of the story. Molly was still the only real character in the story so far. Who else would show up? Who knew?
Mia did a word count of what she had written in this war. “Four hundred three,” she told sushimustwrite. That was going to be much less than that sushimustwrite had written, however much she had written. Mia knew it. One look at those fast fingers had the answer. “How’d you do, Ms. Fast Fingers?”
“I did warn you,” sushimustwrite said. “But since you did ask, I got 1171 words in that war.”
Mia’s jaw dropped. Almost twelve hundred words? how many words a minute was that again? Could Mia even type that fast when she was typing things out and reading them at the same time, much less making stuff up off the top of her head? “How’d you do that?” Mia asked. “Serious question. I watched you type for a few seconds there and wow. It blew my mind and I knew I wasn’t going to have a chance to beat you.”
“It’s okay,” sushimustwrite replied. “The main thing I think is that yes, I type really fast and have been typing for a very long time. We’re talking typing since I was a kid and playing typing games for fun, trying to type faster and faster. I was probably typing sixty words a minute when I was ten and wanting to get faster and faster. I’d finish my keyboarding assignments in middle school in a few minutes and turn that class into Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego time instead of actual keyboarding. Eventually I learned to write quickly, though that came after years of NaNoing and learning how to turn off my inner editor and figure out what I was going to write in this scene to make the novel suck less as a whole. I’m still working on that last part, though.”
Mia nodded. She wasn’t sure of her typing speed, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t sixty words a minute even as an adult. But typing it at that young age? What was Mia doing when she was ten again? Oh right, reading books. She told sushimustwrite this.
“I read books at that age too,” sushimustwrite said. “Lots of them. I just didn’t start writing them until a few years later. Anyway, that’s how I war, and–”
“Hey!” Sushimustwrite didn’t get to finish what she was saying, for a refrigerator landed in between them, just missing Mia’s foot. “Where’d that fridge come from?”
Sushimustwrite looked around for the fridge-throwing Wrimo. “Weird, he was probably just here,” sushimustwrite replied.
“Who was just here?”
“Timmy,” sushimustwrite answered. When Mia asked who Timmy was sushimustwrite answered, “Another NaNo bot. He has, shall we say, more of a personality, and he’s probably bored now.”
“And BattleJesus doesn’t?”
“BJ is great, don’t get me wrong. He does what he does and he does it well. Timing wars, picking things for you, rolling dice, adding quotes, all that stuff. But he’s not a very goofy bot. That’s okay for the most part, but some folks like a bot that has different functionalities.”
“You mean a bot that throws fridges?”
“Don’t forget the pillows,” sushimustwrite said as a chartreuse pillow flew through the air and hit her square on the back of the head. Sushimustwrite picked up the pillow and tossed it back in the direction it came from.
“This is one strange bot,” Mia said. “Does it even time wars?”
“Sure, but you have to tell it how long the war is and how long until the war in the opposite order as BattleJesus. So for BJ you’d say you want to start a war in five minutes for fifteen minutes. It’s the other way with Timmy. You’d say you want to start a war for fifteen minutes in five minutes. Bots can be strange that way.”
“Is there anything else Timmy can do?”
“He’s doing NaNo too,” sushimustwrite replied.
“Wait a minute. How can a bot do NaNo? Can he even write the words?”
“Narrative technology has advanced quite a bit. But he’s not writing all the novel himself. He writes bits of the novel himself when he gets bored, but other people can add to it as well.”
“Wait, so I can add to it?” Mia asked.
“Of course,” sushimustwrite said. “I can show you how, but that involves finding Timmy first.” They picked up their laptops and bags and went in search of Timmy. What could that bot have gotten to? Mia was about to ask what bots get up to when they got bored, but then she remembered the fridge and the pillow.
They wandered around the word wars forum, passing Wrimos typing furiously and words falling from the sky. None of the words fell on Mia or sushimustwrite, though.
“Are you sure Timmy’s around here?” Mia asked as they wandered toward the edge of the word war area.
“I’m sure,” sushimustwrite replied, but before she could say anything else a robot stepped behind sushimustwrite and picked her up. “Aaah!” sushimustwrite yelled as she squirmed and struggled for freedom but to no avail. The bot then tossed her through an open window into the word war forum. Mia listened for signs of broken bones or yells that might indicate injuries but heard only an “oof” from the building.
Mia ran into the word wars forum. Where could sushimustwrite have wound up? All the threads had windows. Mia peeked into the first one, declaring DORG: Day One Ridiculous Goals. Goals of all sorts filled the wall, signed by the Wrimos who wanted to accomplish them. Some wanted to write five thousand words on day one. Others wanted to write three thousand or seven thousand or ten thousand. A few brave souls went for fifteen thousand or twenty thousand or twenty-five thousand. And then there were the few, the brave, the slightly mad souls going for fifty thousand words on day one, and Mia spotted sushimustwrite’s cursive handwriting crossed out on the 25k goal and then added to the full 50k goal.
But sushimustwrite wasn’t in this room. Mia moved on to the next thread. No sushimustwrite. Mia walked through several other threads before finding sushimustwrite lounging in a pile of violet pillows.
“What happened?” Mia asked.
“Timmy defenestrated me,” sushimustwrite said. She looked out the window and spotted a bot throwing a fridge across the word war area.
“Wait, defenestrated? Why?”
“He likes this sort of thing. The pillows are pretty comfy, though.” Sushimustwrite leaned back on the pillows.
“So what about Timmy’s novel?”
“I think you can figure it out,” sushimustwrite said. She snuggled a pillow. “Just ask Timmy for help. I think I’m gonna take a nap now.” She curled up with the pillows and closed her eyes. Mia watched for a minute before walking out of the forum.
But Timmy was nowhere to be seen. “Timmy?” Mia said. “Timmy!” Mia reentered the word war area. BattleJesus was still running wars in his classic style, but where was Timmy? Mia walked past a couple more Wrimos typing away and was about to give up when she saw a pillow flying across the word war area.
“Timmy!” Mia said as she ran across the word war area. The pillow came from that direction, she knew.
A goofy-looking bot walked past, and Mia chased it. “Timmy!”
The bot turned around. “A challenge for you!” the bot exclaimed. “Make it rain in the next scene.”
Mia pondered this for a minute. “Actually, I might be able to do that,” Mia said. And maybe she could. She hadn’t mentioned the weather at all so far in her novel, but to be fair she had no reason to mention the weather yesterday. Then she realized she was in fact facing a bot who wasn’t BattleJesus. “Timmy?” Mia said. “Are you Timmy?”
Timmy stared blankly at Mia.
“Um, are you okay?” He (or at least Mia assumed Timmy was male, though her identification as Timmy as male based on his name alone was simplistic at best, and were robots gender identified in the first place?) continued to stare back as if he didn’t hear a thing Mia had said.
Timmy still wouldn’t reply despite a few other things Mia tried saying. “Why won’t you work?” Mia asked. “You stupid bot.”
A Wrimo with a Municipal Liaison badge approached Mia and Timmy. “He’s not a stupid bot,” the Wrimo replied, and Mia saw that his name was utoxin. “Okay, that’s a lie. He’s a very stupid bot. He can’t parse whatever you’re saying and translate it into robot speak like we humans can do with regular speech. You just need to talk to him properly.”
“But how do I talk to him properly?” Mia asked.
“You can ask him for help.”
“But I’ve done that!” Mia exclaimed. “I’ve asked for help in just about ever fashion possible but nothing actually worked. Isn’t there anything that can be done to get real lie help from Timmy about getting something done? All I want to do is add to Timmy’s chain novel.”
“Awesome!” utoxin said. “That novel is going to make zero sense at the end of the month, but that’s okay. Anyway, the command to ask Timmy for help is just help. If you say help to Timmy he’ll tell you most of the commands he can do.”
“How do I learn the others?” Mia asked.
“Play with him,” utoxin said. “Watch him in action. Think through what might make him do the things he does. Here’s a hint. He has a thing for fridges.”
“Good. Now use help and see how you can add to Timmy’s novel.”
Utoxin walked off, presumably to work on his novel, and Mia turned to Timmy, who was surprisingly still standing there. “Help,” Mia said.
“Hello!” Timmy said. “I’m Timmy. I’m a bot. I start wars and do other stuff good too. Here are some things I can do and how you can do them.”
Timmy went on to explain how to start a word war with him, how to implement the box of doom, how to set a timer, how to add to his chain story, and how to fetch things.
“Wait, I can fetch items?” Mia asked. “So I can fetch words for myself?”
Timmy didn’t say anything. Instead he stared back at Mia and then started looking around stealthily.
“Wait!” Mia exclaimed. “Chain info!”
Timmy turned back to Mia and said, “My novel is seven hundred twenty-one words long with paragraphs written by twelve different people. My latest paragraph is ‘Timmy must la la la la la sushi la la omnomnom fleeeeeeeeeeeeeep in the greatest era of our time, amirite?'”
“Wait a minute, what kind of novel is that?” Mia asked. “That’s a bunch of nonsense.”
But Timmy continued to say nothing.
Mia thought of what would come next in Timmy’s chain novel. That made no sense at all. Surely she could add something more interesting than this.
“Chain add,” Mia said, then thought her words before saying them aloud. “Fleep. What was fleep? Was it something resembling fleece? Was it a natural substance that was more natural than fleece? Was it what happens when one tries to flee?”
Timmy stared at Mia. A keyboard popped out of its chest, and Timmy typed the words in.
“Thanks!” Timmy said.
Mia smiled. Achievement unlocked: adding to a robot’s novel? Looked like it. She found an eraser bench and continued to work on her own novel.
For those who don’t know, Timmy and BattleJesus are two bots that appear in some Nano chats. BattleJesus is more common in GoodChatting, while Timmy is more common in the Nanochat channels. Timmy definitely has more of a personality (and has a fondness for pillows and fridges).
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.