Larry Ellison Sinks Off New Zealand Coast

Dec. 1, 2151
AUCKLAND–Eccentric software trillionaire Larry Ellison sank earlier today in deep waters off the New Zealand coast during practice sprints for this year’s America’s Cup. Safety officials immediately organized a search, but hold out little hope of discovering and raising Ellison in time to avoid irreparable damage. “The seas are just too rough to mount a sufficiently rapid recovery operation,” explained Royal New Zealand Coastguard spokesperson Greta Oz. “From what I understand, many of his vital systems cannot withstand more than a few hours of submersion at that pressure. We have been transmitting warnings about severe seas for the past week, but Mr. Ellison chose not to heed them.”

Ellison has been a controversial figure in the sailing world ever since his first bid six years ago to become the first human/yacht hybrid to compete in the prestigious America’s Cup. “Larry has always been a pioneer,” points out America’s Cup Executive Director Harry Shaboul. “Some of us thought he was going too far. But, I guess, it eventually had to happen. By getting acceptance from the Board, Larry has paved the way for competition on equal footing between cyborg systems and traditional human crews.”

Ellison has been living as a yacht for the past seven years. In the spring of 2143, after a series of groundbreaking surgeries spanning several months, Ellison embarked upon his maiden voyage along the California coast. Ellison’s organic body, encased in Lucite, suspended in an oxygen-rich gel bath, and wired into the adaptive network that navigates and maintains the ship, was, upon his instruction, mounted as a figurehead on the yacht’s cutwater. “The view is incredible,” exclaimed Ellison at a press conference shortly after his launch. “I feel at one with the ship, at one with the sea.”

“Larry didn’t make it easy on us,” noted Dr. Frieda Umphal, Ellison’s lead medical expert. “He insisted that he be visible as the figurehead, and that he be wearing one of his trademark suits. Working with his tailors we managed to do it for him, to get a suit designed that satisfied his wishes but that didn’t interfere with the possibly indefinite artificial support of his body.”

Through an interface with on-board navigational equipment and servo-mechanical sail and rudder control systems, Ellison was able to sail without a crew. Though satellite arrays kept him connected to world networks, he often enjoyed the more intimate contact he could have with passengers. “It’s a unique feeling, to be able to carry someone, a friend, on your back, or in your body, across the waves,” explained Ellison in a rare interview last year. “I’m often reminded of the story of Jonah and the whale. There’s something divine about the experience, something sacred.”

Reached at his mountain retreat, long-time Ellison friend and rival Steve Jobs expressed his concern over Ellison’s disappearance: “This is tragic. I tried to warn him about this yacht business. I mean, I thought he was going too far when he had that gene treatment to become ‘Japanese.’ Still, he’ll be missed.”

Others have suggested that the loss was avoidable. “There was a flaw in Larry’s design,” explained the leader of his land-based crew. “But it was typically Larry: not afraid of risks. He insisted on storing all of his functions and routines on a central server on board. It helped him ‘identify’ with his new body he said. We tried to encourage him to consider a more distributed model, but he wouldn’t listen. ‘I don’t want copies of myself spread all over the network where any bozo can tinker with them,’ he said. ‘It’s stupid and it’s inefficient. If people want to interact with me they can do it through thin clients.'”

“We’re all very concerned,” notes Dr. Umphal. “And we’re right to be concerned. But it’s not hopeless. His ego was designed to serve as a flotation device.”