- Bradley Flowo, Jonn McRoss, Parham Ruofythgie: middle school students
- Jenni Flood, Elisabeth Dextrose: high school students
- Melissa Reardon, Charles Eagelton: NSF employees
- Strange little child
- Strange alien creatures
- Strange man: Ninjorph
- Scooter and Foster: dogs
It is mostly set in a small Iowa town and in a digital world.
Chapter 1: The Friends
Bradley Flowo was walking home from his public middle school, with his best friend Jonn McRoss when about half way there Jonn’s dog, Foster turned up. Foster kept wagging its tail and tried to get Bradley to throw sticks for it, but eventually the dog noticed that the boys were not going to engage in the normal after-school routine. They were apprehensive and didn't feel like playing.
Jonn was the second-smartest in school, behind the Principal. As they walked through an intersection, Jonn looked up the street to the right. He had been in that intersection a thousand times, but somehow that street looked different...unusual, new. Jonn wondered if this was the opposite of déjà vu...seeing something that should have seemed familiar, but for some reason it was not recognized.
Without thinking as much, Bradley suddenly imagined that the street was a possible way home. "I think I see a short cut," said Bradley, a bit frightenedly. He briefly wondered: how could there suddenly be a shortcut across town that had never been there before?
"No, that street would take us to Parham's house," said Jonn who also sensed something wasn’t quite right.
Parham was a former friend of theirs until fifth grade when their friendship ended because Parham had enrolled in the state's experimental distance education school, which caused the boys to no longer see much of each other. Even as they thought about Parham they noticed Parham walking along the street with his dog, Scooter. Scooter was a mixed breed, and she was the sister of Jonn's dog, Foster. Scooter and Foster started licking and sniffing each other, but the young humans felt that their intimate contact was JUST a bit Icky and not OK.
Parham said "Hi, guys." It was the first thing he had said to either of them since eight months before, when they had still been in elementary school.
"Hi, Parham, we’re looking for a quicker way to get home," said Bradley.
"Just go to Northside," said Parham, pointing up the side street.
Everyone knew that Northside was a dangerous place where murder, burglary, and poverty were all at unusually high rates for Iowa. Jonn thought about the fact that his aunt's friend was killed there, but worse was to come. "Umm...we don't like risks" said Jonn.
"Plus we're not armed," said Bradley .
Jonn was a pacifist, and Bradley didn't like violence, but believed in self defense.
"Don't worry, I got a pocket knife, I was heading that way anyway," said Parham, who was obviously assessing the risks more carelessly than he should have been.
Jonn and Bradley followed Parham and Scooter towards Northside and right away they met up with Jenni Flood and Lizzie Dextrose. Jenni was in high school and years before had been Bradley's babysitter. Back in those days she had been a nerd, but now she was more concerned with texting than with textbooks. When the dogs started jumping up on Jenni and Lizzie and licking their faces (remember they had just licked and sniffed each other) the boys told the dogs to stop, but in spite of this the girls liked the dogs and they all continued along together.
They had no idea that they were now walking next to the main building of the NRC, a place where secret research projects were carried out, often using the unsuspecting residents of Northside as the experimental test subjects.
Chapter 2: The Lab and ...
There in the alley stood a strange little child who looked like a girl. Parham was the first to reach her and he asked if she needed help or anything, but the child just said that they should follow her. Unusually, the dogs respected the little child and didn’t jump on her or play up in any way. The group closely followed the child when she led them into what looked like, from the alley, the run-down back storage room of an old movie theater. However, once inside they saw that the room was equipped as a modern electronics laboratory.
"I was once part of this hard drive until I was made whole,” said the child, who was almost certainly a girl...or something that thought this was what a girl should be like. She was pointing to a piece of computer equipment on a bench in the lab. That particular piece of equipment looked like a hard drive that had been ripped out of the computer that was on the bench. Unconnected wires dangled from the drive and the device rack of the computer.
Jonn tried to be clever and understand what the strange girl meant: she was part of a computer hard drive? He couldn't imagine what she was trying to suggest and he quickly stopped trying to make sense of what she had said. Anyhow, there were too many interesting things to see in the lab. Most of the equipment was mysterious and unrecognizable, but the computer seemed perfectly recognizable as a computer, maybe a PC on steroids, even though it had frosty liquid nitrogen lines attached to it and nothing that looked like a display screen.
"No. Not try. Do. You will fix it," said the child, as if giving a command instructing Jonn to fix the computer. For the past year, groups of adults had been doing test runs with the equipment. After the last session one of the test subjects had started tinkering with the computer. It was an embarrassing lapse in mind control, and rather than call the hardware technicians over from China to make minor repairs, it had been easier to send out a telepathic search for the most technically competent human in town, who turned out to be a middle school student.
Jonn began plugging in wires and whatnot. Following the video cables that came from the computer, Jonn suddenly realized that there were two giant display screens attached to the computer, each showing video images of the inside of the lab. As soon as he plugged the wires from the hard drive into the computer there was a loud hum and the display screens shifted their content to what looked like part of the Second Life virtual reality, but it was a rendered view of the lab. Finally he found a keyboard with many numbers and letters, but most of the characters on the keyboard looked like they were not from any language familiar to Jonn. He turned to his left and now noticed that in the space between the two display screens there was a set of chairs that were equipped with a very modern looking sensory/digital virtual reality game interface.
While Jonn had been working on the computer, the young child who looked like a girl had guided everyone else to the chairs and explained to them that she once was part of the computer until she "fell" out. She said that sitting in those chairs would take you into the computer. Oddly Bradley, Parham, Jenni, Lizzie, and the dogs all trusted her, and by the time Jonn finished fixing the hard drive's connection to the computer, everyone was in a chair and ready to go into the computer world.
Jonn hurried to the last available chair and sat down. Bradley was sitting in the chair closest to the computer, on his left was Jenni, to her left was Parham and his dog, to their left was the strange girl and to her left were Jonn and Lizzie with Jonn's dog nuzzling Lizzie.
Chapter 3: The computer world
As soon as Jonn sat down in his chair and let his head be engulfed by the sensory interface devices he felt himself fall into the computer world. When entering that world they seemed Transformed and they all yelled, "NO!"
Upon landing, Bradley had a red uniform and Jenni was in pink and Lizzie seemed to be in a tasteful shade of pinkie violet, then Parham was in a yellow dog uniform and the strange child in an orange uniform. It took a while longer, but, finally Jonn landed with a blue uniform and a black watch. He had been delayed while being equipped with the watch, a device which showed them their location within the computer world and which had little colored bars, the length of which measured their health.
Jonn looked at Lizzie and she seemed to come across as neat in her uniform, then Jonn squinted and looked again and Lizzie looked more like a clown in a faintly ridiculous pinkie violet circus costume, then Jonn squinted and looked yet again and Lizzie looked more like Jonn’s dog Foster with a silly pinkie violet frill round its neck that was like frills that circus dogs sometimes wear. Jenni saw that Jonn was looking at Lizzie and got just a bit jealous. Jonn tried not to think about what was odd with Lizzie.
"Where are, bark, we?" asked Parham and Scooter together in their one body.
"In the hard drive's desert domain, the Warper Zone, that’s where I started my life in this form,” said the girl.
“Did you exist in any other form before?” Jonn asked, looking smart in his white uniform that included an old-fashioned black tie that was tight and high around his neck. The child just put a finger to her lip and smiled enigmatically. Jonn soon stopped asking questions that were out of context for the game world.
"So, how do we get out?" asked Jenni, who was enjoying the pink costume.
"You leave at the Water Warper Zone," said the strange girl, "there should be a green button on each of your costumes, you press it to adapt to the weather, it'll go away when you hit it again."
“I don’t want to leave yet,” insisted Lizzie and the two girls started a fun fight.
“Can I bark join in?” Parham and Scooter asked together, then Lizzie gave Jenni a few playful nips the way a dog does. Jenni didn’t like that and broke off the fight, so Parham started a fun fight with Lizzie instead, at first they played like humans but gradually they became more and more like dogs playing together. Parham and Lizzie tried to sniff and lick each other the way the dogs had earlier but their clothes got in the way, soon after that the human part of their dual nature took over again and both broke off the fun fight in revulsion.
"Much better, it was hot in that thing," said Jonn, glad to be out of the heavy suit he had first been clothed in.
"I looked hot in that thing," said Jenni, disappointed by the change.
"I want my pinkie violet uniform back,” said Lizzie Dextrose and there was another
"Oh really! I thought that only girls could look hot," said Parham, then the girls stopped fighting and both smacked him in the face.
"If you want to injure anyone you have a laser blaster of your color and a silver sword when you hit your purple button right under your green," the strange child said.
Everyone pushed their purple button and experimented with their battle gear.
"Oh thank you. But what’s the Silver button for?" said Bradley.
"My watch says it will set up a tent with food and beds inside," said Jonn.
They each set up a tent and went to sleep. It was hot out so the boys pressed their green button and then took off their metallic armor and shirt. The girls did the same thing (they had bras under their leather armor).
When they awoke, a swarm of strange alien creatures appeared around the half-dressed group.
What's next? Will they stop the creatures, will they be ripped to shreds, will this strange child's name be found out, will a new character arrive, will we find out the reason it’s called No.? Yes, all this will be found out in the next two chapters of No.
Chapter 4: The alien world
“Ah!” Bradley exclaimed excitedly, “These are the aliens that want to take over the world! We’ve got to stop them and save humanity! This game’s really cool.” He reached for the purple button that should have got him weapons but he’d removed his armour and it wasn’t there anymore. John reached for the purple button but couldn’t find it either.
“No,” the strange child said, “These are the aliens that WILL take over the world.” Then suddenly they all remembered why they had all yelled “NO!” and they all yelled, “NO!” again.
The strange child explained, “We’re from Eta Carinae. When we first decided to settle there we thought that Eta Carinae was a cool star...big...impressive, but Eta Carinae’s stopped being cool. Our star’s now flashing like an electric light bulb that’s about to blow, it just can’t keep steady any more, and Eta Carinae could explode at any time so we decided to come here. We’re taking over this planet and you’re going to help us, two of you will even have super dog senses to make you better fighters.”
All yelled, "NO" though Lizzie and Parham may have been barking like terrified dogs.
”Stop saying, ‘No’ all the time, it gets boring and makes you look like circus clowns. Anyway you simply can’t stop us, we’re hundreds of millions of light years ahead of you in science and technology, err I mean we’re hundreds of millions of ordinary years ahead of you, I never can master those puny Earthling languages. Wait a moment I’m in the body of a girl just now, I mean I never can mistress puny Earthling languages. Anyway we’re ahead of you and that’s what matters. You would like to do the same if you could wouldn’t you? Look how you love to play Space Invaders and those types of games.”
“Space Invaders is old fashioned," Jonn pointed out.
“Let us out, we want to go home!” Jenni pleaded and Lizzie had certainly changed her mind, she didn’t want to stay either.
“Yes, we want to go home.” Bradley added imploringly. Parham Ruofythgie whimpered, then howled like a dog.
“You’re not getting to the Water Warper Zone or getting out till you’ve completed your military training, then you’ll help me take over the world,” the alien told them matter-of-factly.
“You’ll never get us to help you!” Jenni tried to look decisive as she said that and hoped she didn’t look ridiculous with only a bra on top.
“No, we’ll never help you,” added Lizzie, she growled dog-like and looked as decisive as she could with only a bra. The boys agreed they would never help the alien.
“Wait till I get mind control back on,” the alien sneered. The army of alien creatures that surrounded the humans mustered up and prepared to give the children their first military lesson.
The humans all realized that they’d followed a little girl without question and they’d agreed to enter the computer without question...the alien could make them do things against their will and better judgment.
“NO!” the children all yelled repeatedly, gradually as the alien mind control started to work on them again they stopped yelling.
Will the children escape mind control and stop the alien taking over? Does humanity have any future except as mind controlled slaves of the alien? Will the authors avoid using every well known sci-fi cliché that comes to mind? Find out in the fifth and last chapter.
Does that fifth and last chapter leave you unsatisfied? Do you feel a deep, yearning for a more plausible way to end way to end the story? Here's an alternative ending.
- We have to guess whether the alien was telling the truth.