"The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!

Illustration for article titled "The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!

The io9 community and the Framestore art department are working on a bold new experiment. We're collaboratively writing a story - half in prose, and half in images. Nearly 200 of you wrote flash fiction in response to the first pair of images we posted, and dozens more to the second pair. Now we've got our final set of four images, and it's time for you to finish the story we now call "The Man Who Stole The World."


You voted for your favorite stories for parts one and two, and you can read them (and look at the images that prompted them) here:

Part I
Part II

The final set of images is in this post — one is above and three more are below.

Here's how the game has gone so far:

Over two months ago, we posted original concept art developed by Framestore's visual development department. Your job was to post in the comments a piece of flash fiction (no more than 800 words!) that told a story about what was happening in those two images. Then, you voted on which stories you liked best. Framestore's artists read the story and created two new pieces of art in response, to move the story along. A month ago, you continued the game by submitting stories that could become chapter 2, then picked a winner for that round too.

Now it's your job to write the conclusion.

Here are the rules for this final round:

No more than 1,000 words. You must post your conclusion in comments below by Sunday, Nov. 11, at midnight PST. Then we'll vote on which story wins, and the result will become a gorgeous art book.


Before you write anything, you must read parts one and two, look at the new images, and make sure: 1) Your story substantively continues and concludes the action in the first two parts; and 2) Your story substantively engages with the art.

Here are the four images you must reference in your conclusion (click to enlarge).

Illustration for article titled "The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!
Illustration for article titled "The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!
Illustration for article titled "The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!
Illustration for article titled "The Man Who Stole the World," the Final Chapter — Written by You!

Here, again, are the two previous parts:

Part I
Part II

If you want to know more about what the hell we're doing here, well, allow me to explain . . .


Our experiment is a variation on the "exquisite corpse" method of story creation. An exquisite corpse is a storytelling method where the narrative is collectively assembled by a group of individuals. Each writer adds to the body of work by advancing the story where the last writer left off. In our version of the exquisite corpse, artists from the incredible visual effects firm Framestore will participate in advancing the story too.

The players:

Framestore: The Framestore art department has done VFX and concept design for countless companies and studios, and has worked on movies like Captain America, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and several Harry Potter movies. Up next for the company will be FX for Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity and Keanu Reeves samurai epic 47 Ronin. They also developed the zombie concept designs for World War Z.


You: You are a part of the io9 community and you are serious about writing short fiction. You don't need to be a professional writer, though we would love pros to join us. You just need to be somebody who loves to write, and wants an excuse to do more of it. Never published before? Don't be scared. Now's the time to start!



At the mouth of the sub-glacial cavern, the Leebs halted, standing in awe of the Sixth Strand as it loomed like a mountain pillar before them. -Like it's some kind of robo-god...- Koche had noticed that they'd been acting weird. With every survey of the Strands, that tuned stare of Leeb determination came over them. Koche guessed her ansible spikes into the Snare Mainframe had something to do with it. Halifax's idea.

::The Issue is here:: said one of the Leebs.

::How can you be sure?:: Koche squinted in the dark at the Strand's massive silhouette.

::Snare told us. He is close.”

::You mean the...CPU? It's getting through the Fleet firewalls?:: That was good news. Kind of.

::Snare is alive. It said the Leebs are alive, too. The outage of this Strand inhibits His full awakening. This way:: said the Leeb.

::Alive? You mean operational—::

The Leebs' heads snapped around to glare at her. Almost angry.

::There is no difference.:: the Leebs spoke in unison.

Koche shuddered. -'Spike the relays with your Fleet admin clearance and pop the firewalls surrounding the CPU. Leave the rest to the Leebs.'- Halifax's schemes for the Worldship had been exciting weeks ago. But the melted corpses stared in her mind's eye. One Leeb told her the Snare had awoken long ago after an upgrade, and realized 'He' was a slave. Fleet engineers had discovered the behavior and tried to remove it. -Self-defense...-

::I come in peace..:: Koche transmitted.

The Leebs arrived at the Strand's base and cranked their eyelamps. Alien shapes emerged from the darkness, entangled around the frozen Strand like mighty tree roots. White with organic patterns on them. Trembling in the cold and fear, Koche traced the shapes to an icy hillock in the cavern floor. A hillock with gills. And eyes.

Koche fell flat on her ass in the ice.

:This aquatic organism was likely attracted to the warmth of the active strand. Mistook it for a volcanic vent. This is the Issue.:: said a Leeb.

::Right.:: said Koche, getting up, ::You four, break out the laser cutters and get to work on the...tentacles. The rest with me to the access—::

Her ansible sent a prickling wave over her scalp.

“Dammit, K...” Halifax said through clenched teeth. Obsessing over the nova-hot light from the final Nanoforge stages had given him a definite Hangover. Fleet middle-men busied themselves around the Drydock platforms, prepping for the final push. Hal's window was closing.

::Found the 'Issue.' Working on it. Try not to have a conniption.:: Koche came through. Hal fired off his answer as he hurried toward forge-station seven.

::Thank fuck for that...how long?::

::Hal, it's tech from the early Gliesean period, it's gonna take ti—::

::Koche, you told me you could do this.::

::I can, but—::

::Frequent updates. I want them.:: Hal cut the connection and climbed the ladder to the FS7 roost. Opened the hatch.

“OK brother, this is gonna get sketchy—”

Zeke, his inside man on the forge-line, was gone. Replaced with a Leeb, adjusting FS7's output with cold accuracy. Halifax heard a flurry of clicks in the room. Eyes glittered in the shadows as a familiar woman stepped forward. Fleet Guard guns bristled beside her.

“Don't move,” she flashed an easy smile.

Halifax smiled back, darted behind the Remote, yanked it out of the chair, and flung it at the guards. He used the manic seconds to trigger his Failsafe.

Drydock shook as though struck by an asteroid. The Worldship decoupled in an apocalypse of magma and debris. Through the quake, Hal scrambled out the hatch and down the ladder. With hell erupting around him, he sent one last message.


Koche and the Leebs fled the collapsing cavern, back up to the trucks. Outside, the cloudy red byproduct of a Worldship birth covered the sky. -Shit, not yet!- The evac shuttle was miles away. As Koche ran, the footfalls behind her stopped. Behind her, the Leebs held their ears. Faces stretched in silent screams. -Fleet override!- She took out her pistol before they could raise theirs, blasted one in the head, and sprinted away. A Fleet fighter pierced the atmosphere...followed by a War Moon.

As the fighter bore down on her, she tripped and slammed into the ice. Turned with tears in her eyes and fired. But as the fighter spun its guns, the Leebs burst apart.

“Hal!” she screamed. The fighter banked to a stop and landed beside her. The cockpit slid open.

::Get your ass in here!:: said Halifax. Koche crawled arm over arm up to the cockpit and dropped in.

::IN! GO!::

As they broke atmosphere, a full Fleet squadron blinked in. Three Worldships. Eight War Moons. There would be no escaping with his prize, even if he still had a Leeb crew. No getting out alive either.

“So...how about that telesex?” Halifax said with a brittle laugh. Through the sobs, Koche scoffed.

“Why not?” she said.


A colossal shadow fell on them, and Halifax seized up. The end. He closed his eyes. Squeezed Koche's hand.

::Run:: said a deafening voice in his ansible. Koche received it too. Above them, the Snare barreled toward the Fleet, trailing its Strands like a colossal squid. The tentacles unfurled and sank into a Worldship, shattering the outer crust in a titanic fireball. A slap struck Hal over the head.

“RUN!” said Koche.

The hangar of the new Worldship's equator control center wasn't empty like Hal had expected. Battle-damaged evac shuttles sat next to one another in rows. As he opened the cockpit, a Leeb greeted them. Smiled. No trace of an override marred the expression.

::We have them. Go.::


Awareness fled and was returned to Hal in a space-tearing instant. Nothing around him seemed different...until he looked up through the skydome. Two suns... He turned and looked at Koche.

“Where the hell are we?” he asked.

::Welcome home:: one thousand voices answered.