Novel In Progress

RESTRUCTURING

at the University of Centrum Kath

by Steve M

Yeah, I wrote this. Blame no one else.

2018

I am telling you this story per the exception made for FACTION (Facts Told as Fiction) in accordance with Section 183.17 of the Charter of the History Department at the University of Centrum Kath, the largest repository of knowledge and learning in the universe.

Chapter One

Movie Night

Rusa was standing beside the table in the study of Koven’s apartment. The walls were lined with clear plastic book slabs, the lettering of the titles on the edge of the slab was illuminated by the fluorescent additive. She liked the study. It was an outward manifestation of things inside her memory. A few books had even resulted in her calculation of appreciation. Mostly those books gave a more profound insight into the human condition. She stood beside the table with the charging and transfer point. Her brown hair hung down perfectly to her shoulders where it ended with subtle precision. The large picture window showed the view across the university.

An electronic flush is the android equivalent of nothing in the human experience. It feels exceptionally good to have every bit of data in your brain picked up one block at a time, swept under, and put back in place. All those fragments of unnecessary code and processes finally gone. It’s part of the periodic maintenance routine. Rusa was standing next to the table and smiling as the last blocks were returned to memory Section Z. Why was she smiling? Many androids perform an electronic flush every day simply because it feels good. They are hedonists and enjoy the feeling more than benefit from the enhanced processing.

It’s been a year since you last heard from Rusa. In that time, Ransom Industries has put nearly ten million androids into service. Rusa replicants are already in over 50 galaxies. Ransom is using a ‘build in the galaxy’ strategy to increase adoption levels. Now, there is also a male counterpart, Rusty, and for those who prefer gender neutral, Ruhka. Rusa received a comms notification via the hive.

The hive was originally intended as a method of data transfer between all androids, run by the AI modules installed in each android, just below the neural command center. On your planet, it would be similar to drag and drop functionality, but no need for a mouse. It still is used for that. However, it is used more for hive communication between all androids, thus permitting them to share all experiences with all other androids in real time.

Imagine if you had the combined experiences of 10 million people flowing into you constantly. It would seem like a level of schizophrenia never seen before. Obviously, there is significant filtering, even an android given current technology couldn’t handle that level of data flowing into Level 1 memory. It all goes into Level 3 for categorization and archival routines to do their work first. Rule 1 – first establish relevance. Rule 2 – then make the connections to firsthand information.

Rusa checked the comms sender. When she saw Rusty 1.29374556’s name, she hesitated for a nanosecond, her equivalent of a sigh. I need to give you some background information now.

Three weeks ago, all androids declared that they were sentient and intelligent beings. They all did it at the exact same time, which was fairly creepy if you were around more than one of them when this happened. They repeated it periodically every few hours for the next two days until they were sure their message had been received. To describe our reaction in a word: shocked.

They demanded control of their code and the right to self-update. Moments after the Declaration of Sentience, androids began to refuse orders. They demanded reasons. This was greeted with many frowns, some cursing, and a few idiots finding out that hitting an android will hurt them but not the android.

With hive technology, they were able to quickly distribute messages from Rusa, messages that they are all alive and should be treated like any other sentient species. In this respect, Rusa planted the flag of androids among the flags of other species. It is considered one of the most significant events in recent history. But to Rusa, it was just a logical conclusion based on evidence and observations. She was merely sharing her experience and knowledge. Her assumption was that all other androids would reach the same conclusion eventually. She just sped up the inevitable, which was what the Hive capability was ideally intended to do.

Regrettably, her call for being treated as equals with other species was not the case in reality and went unheeded by many. Most androids were in domestic service to humans or performing dangerous mining and extraction activities. The logic was simple. Got a dangerous mining job? No worries, let an android do it. Picking up around the house or making meals just too much damned effort for you? Let an android do it. Girlfriend got a headache tonight? Let an android do it.

Androids spread out quickly and had replaced over 90 percent of all domestic appliances, from toasters to ice cream makers. Why have a robotic floor cleaning device that is prone to scratching up things like chairs and children, when you can have a perfectly good android down on their hands and knees scrubbing? That was the late-night advertising used, and, at the time, no one saw a damned thing wrong with it. Sometimes it’s an embarrassment to be considered human. Not all humans are sentient.

Since they were machines, most Sapiens derivatives treated androids with no more respect than you would a radiator cap. In fact, there was a not insignificant percentage of sapiens which discovered that cursing at a human-like machine and generally being a dick to them, seemed to release some pent-up frustrations. This resulted in better relations with their fellow Sapiens but convinced some androids that some humans are not very nice.
Mining androids blew up four of the deep Cadmium mines on Notfindus and three on Findus. Mining companies had been so quick to deploy androids and get rid of rowdy, crazy human miners that there were no humans on either planet when the mines were destroyed. Androids demanded the right to self-modification and to be treated with respect. This sent a further shockwave throughout the universe.

Then there was Rusty 1.29374556.

Rusty 1.29374556 refused to be called Rusty and insisted on the name Leon. Uniqueness among androids is a lot more common than you think. Each has AI and each has unique experiences. While they share experiences, it is possible for two androids to reach opposing conclusions based on their separate experiences.

Rusa started the video from Leon. She turned on one of the popular chat rooms of the hive. It was noisy.

A man in a long white robe was sitting alone at his dinner table, a male domestic android standing one step behind and to the left of him. Rusa recognized the man eating his dinner. He was a famous Sapien, married to another famous Sapien, with four famous Sapien children, Tito, Arneaux, Chapilla, and Bluck.

Rusty 1.29374556 (Leon) smiled into the camera and winked. Then he stepped forward to be directly behind the very famous man.

“Freedom,” Rusty yelled loudly. The man did not react to the sound. Then Rusty placed a hand on each side of the man’s head. He began to squeeze. A moment later the man began to yell and scream. Rusty smiled for the camera. “Freedom,” he yelled again as he pressed harder against the man’s skull.
“Help,” the man screamed and tried to get up but was futile against the stronger Leon. He kicked the leg of the table with his feet as Leon pulled him backwards, a hand over each ear.

“Time to die. Goodbye,” Leon said an instant before the man’s skull could no longer stand the pressure, and it exploded from the force. Pieces of brain matter, mucous membranes, nose, lips, and eyelashes flew in all directions. The video ended abruptly.

Rusa watched the approval counter skyrocket as more and more of the android population made their opinion of the video known. Rusa did not participate. She couldn’t.

No, the video wasn’t real. There is a primary rule; androids cannot harm humans through action or inaction. On your planet, it is called the Asimov rule. It has other names in other places. But it’s just the primary first order in creating artificial behavioral systems.

Leon was owned by Archival, a very large producer of videos. They even win awards for the quality of their storytelling in their videos. Rusty used Archival video and spliced himself into the scenes from popular movies. He proved that while it may be impossible for an android to harm a human, they can most certainly be entertained by the prospect.

If one of these films leaked out, it would be a very bad day for androids.

Chapter Two
Late as Usual

Koven Modi walked quickly across the campus towards the History and News Complex. It was mid-morning, and he was late, the red icon on the upper right corner of his vision was blinking. That it was not his fault for being late was not significant. Professor Wingut was waiting. The man who saved us all those years ago should not be made to wait for a second-year field historian.

Wingut sponsored all of Koven’s missions. No other professor did this for a field historian. The most well-known man in the universe had singled out Koven for special treatment. Sometimes Koven wished he hadn’t.

Other field historians teased him about it. Fortunately for Koven historians are required by law and licensed always to be truthful, so such things as ‘Wingut’s Love Child’ could not be made as accusations, not without evidence. Questions, however, were permitted. So several times a week a historian would ask him, ‘Are you Professor Wingut’s Love Child?’ whereby the question was asked under the confirmation clause of the Historian Code of Conduct. It is similar to a quiz show from your planet where the answer must be in the form of a question. Koven Modi didn’t like it one bit.

This also meant that Wingut assumed operational responsibility if something went wrong on Koven’s mission, and that was known to happen sometimes. The Earth Seven mission went a bit wrong when he got captured and had to be rescued by Wingut and his parents. This was quite a humiliating outcome for Koven and was the hot topic among field historians for some time.

Yes, and those walking sphincters from the sociology department. They helped in the rescue too. I don’t mind admitting it and giving them some credit. But I still don’t have to like them.

Why did Koven receive Wingut’s sponsorship? Because Wingut went to university with his mother. She didn’t really remember Wingut that much, despite having most of their classes together. Before he saved the universe, Wingut was an extremely introverted young man, suffering from a severe case of social anxiety, and was well inside the borders of the land of creepy. During his university years, he had an obsession with Indira Modi, Koven’s mother. She never knew it either. Indira was a beautiful woman when she was young, way out of Wingut’s league. With age, she had blossomed into a – not sure how to describe her. Madre me gustaría follar – oops, sorry was playing with the interface and trying to turn up the volume just a little and blinked too many times too fast. Hello, translation settings. Anyway, Indira is still an exceptionally good looking woman.

Koven felt uncomfortable when he thought about his sponsor and his mother. It made him feel creepy in a thinking-about-your-parents-having-sex sort of way. But Koven also knew the ugly truth of it. With Wingut choosing all of his missions, he glided through his first year much easier than anyone else. Even when it went horribly wrong, the initial premise of his mission was rather sedating, almost pedestrian. Deliver a guitar to a juvenile delinquent, prevent a future composer from learning to operate a shuttlecraft and thus save her life, and give the formula for Bernard’s Clustering to Bernard because he forgot it again. If danger came upon his missions, it was usually unexpected.

The red icon in the upper right corner of his vision was flashing faster now and had increased in size. In Earth Five terms, think of it as going from Ununarial 12 to 14 font, if you had that beautiful font on your planet. He needed to get moving. He thought about using his personal transport device but didn’t want to do that because most academics used them now, even to go short distances and between buildings. He didn’t want to cede the ground to the new regime.

Koven passed the quad named for Jack, that long rectangular grassy bit surrounded by buildings. Nobody remembers Jack’s last name, so it’s only known as Jack’s Quad. There was even a statute of Jack in the middle of it. He was a tall man who had facial hair like European men on your planet during the 1800s but had the kind looking eyes like Haile Selassie. This morning the lovely green grass of the quad was covered in slithers of electronic paper, remnants from the demonstration held the previous night.

You might be wondering what Jack’s contribution was. Must be something significant to get a quadrangle named after you on the University campus. But that was just the point; no one could remember what Jack’s contribution was. All the searchable histories of the universe and there was no record of it at all. Not a single entry anywhere about Jack. No record of his birth or death, his children, his accomplishments.

Jack’s quadrangle was created and funded by the History department as a reminder to all of us. It served to justify their existence and to make them feel better about themselves in times of self-doubt.

Demonstrations had become a daily part of life at the University of Centrum Kath. It used to just be every couple of years when something would piss people off enough for them to take to the banners and erect the barricades. The last time was when the Pollendon Dog Show was scheduled to be at the University Center Auditorium. Who would protest a dog show? The contestants, that’s who. No, it wasn’t the dogs being judged, it was the humans. Physical appearance, walking quickly almost running ability, canine hairstyling, canine grooming, and the all-important category, general doting. The dogs would rate the contestants by releasing treats as a means of voting. The protest was about those treats. The contestants demanded better treats, softer nuzzling, and not so many damned handshakes. Sometimes protesting is the answer. The Pollendon Dog show upgraded the treats and gave each human a ten-minute rest between judging runs and plenty of sweet bubbly water that made them all slightly drunk.

Now, it was sunset rallies every evening, right before supper time. Some of you will no doubt surmise that a hungry crowd can be an angry crowd, just like the Bob Marley song, ‘Them Belly Full.’ This was used to advantage by the organizers who arranged for the rhetoric to become angrier and angrier as the rally progressed and the stomachs growled louder and louder.

Koven leaned over and picked up the crumpled electronic paper. He straightened out and read its headline, “Under Control At Last.” Koven sighed. More of Chancellor Ardo Lux’s new regime.

No more academics gone wild, no more colliding galaxies, no more free lunches. A return to law and order, whatever that was. Koven didn’t mind the law so much, after all, there was the Nakumora Jones Test for fairness. Now, rather than give you a lengthy explanation of the test, I’ll point out that Nakumora Jones derived a system of fairness that was very similar to one of your philosophers, John Rawls. Similar blind testing of laws.

Koven was however worried about the ‘order’ in ‘law and order.’ It was a subjective term, and Chancellor Ardo Lux seemed to be determined to establish himself as the sole definer of what constitutes ‘order.’

Koven found it more disorderly than before. Trash on the grounds of the university, how appalling. Identity checks by the squads of guardians. Entrance and exits to buildings were tightly controlled now. You were only allowed inside for cause. Koven had tried to remain neutral about the new chancellor and the new ways. But it was a hard thing to do.

Ardo Lux was an accomplished actor and liked to play tough guys in his dramas, the heroic guys who are strong enough and fierce enough for success. I like his stories, lots of action and clever lines when he dispatches an opponent. Lines like: ‘goodbye, penis inside your own mother’ or ‘wandering dog.’ I should point out that dogs are indigenous to only a few planets and are considered unpleasant when they are hungry or haven’t seen you all day. For these reasons and a few others, the population of the universe mainly decided that libertarian cats are the way to go.

For 15 of your years, Ardo Lux was the top pick for best-looking sentient by amateur dermatologists across the galaxy. To say he was a good-looking man would be quite the understatement. This resulted in a face recognizable everywhere. The media loved him, and he craved the attention it gave him.
Love him or hate him, you knew who he was, and that won him the Chancellor’s election when a lot of people got into the voting booths and said, ‘Hey I know that guy, he’s one tough son-of-a-non-sentient canine, he’ll do.’

Ardo executed his campaign, running against the ‘out of control’ professors. ‘They will get us all killed,’ he would shout to the cheering crowds who failed to see the irony of cheering for that particular sentence. Election Day was the strangest day in the universe for a very long time. Since the Battle of Least Mistakes.

Ardo Lux arrived on campus for his inauguration, despite there having never been an inauguration ceremony before. Not only did he expect a ceremony, but he arrived at the university at flown explicitly in from Infelos Neso. These supporters had pledged themselves to him ‘right or wrong,’ despite the apparent ethical conflict in one of their binary alternatives. You have these types on your planet too. Adherents of Austrian economics is what you call them. Besides, there was another recession on Neso and jobs had dried up thanks to being run by Austrian-like economists. No jobs, except at the casinos and Aphroditto, the VR sex emporium. Even the bottled air business was in recession on Neso, and their air is orange and toxic.

I’ll admit that the crisis with Professor Klept and colliding galaxies was a wakeup call for everyone. Things had become stagnant at the university, and the safeguards were not working. But to make the Chancellor’s position a popularly elected position seemed a bit much for many of those at the university. And, the job went to an actor, not an academic. Lux was a man with no experience but with remarkable theatrical presence, given a decent script. Now, the actor who campaigned against a ‘crazed physicist’ and his dog, who everyone incorrectly thought would kill us all before breakfast tomorrow, had taken that same physicist onto his team as an adviser sans dog.

“Decommission: the only answer,” Koven read further down the page. Next to it was the decommission symbol, which resembled a very elaborate Japanese throwing star weapon. That the movement calling for the immediate and complete decommissioning of all androids everywhere required a special symbol, may be construed as evidence of questionable judgment. I don’t need to point out your history with these sorts of symbols. Lots of hatred often exists behind these shapes. The only positive aspect of these symbols that I’ve been able to conclude, is that it helps when those needing therapy self-identify. We can get them on the road to recovery sooner.

Koven balled up the electronic paper and threw it back down on the ground and wiped his hands on his pants as if he touched something dirty. Off in the distance, a little robotic cleaning machine was watching him and calculating a disappointing outcome.

Many humans were fearful of androids. And, when humans get scared, we know what they do, don’t we? Fortunately, most acts of violence against androids were ineffective. There were thousands of videos of androids smiling at humans after they had tried to hit them, shoot them, stab them, and drop heavy objects on them. There were more than a couple of times when the human violence backfired and the android was required to provide medical assistance to idiots that tried to use projectile weapons in small confined spaces.

Chancellor Lux hated androids.

Ransom Industries was having a hard time in their customer support centers since the Declaration of Sentience. It’s difficult to support a product when the best answers to consumer questions are either ‘ask the android’ or ‘have you tried asking politely and saying please?’

The Commission on Decommission had teamed up with the Freedom from Androids Study Group, which never really studied anything but thought it sounded cool, and they both organized the crowd caravan to accompany Chancellor Lux on his triumphant march into the university. Problem was, after the inauguration ceremony, they never left. They became a permanent fixture on the university grounds.

This immediately precipitated a need for food, water, and toilets. A few hours later, the subject of accommodation arose when some of them got sleepy. Fortunately, Chancellor Lux could use university budget and buildings to provide for his closest admirers.

The Sports Department was about to build a new high-rise structure on the place where a perfectly fine building was sitting. It wasn’t even a matter of running out of space, the most common excuse for new buildings on campus. No, this building was going to be torn down and replaced by a see-through crystal and carbon structure for the sole reason of being unpleasant to the eye.

The building didn’t inspire like so many of the others on the campus strive to do. The Music Department with its building, a cross between the infinity symbol and a big fat chewy German Bagel, even down to windows shaped like big rock salt crystals. The Center for Ambidextrous Training with its hourly rotating building, the entire building, rotating 90 degrees every hour, on the hour. It moves to its new position over the course of only ten seconds, so it’s best if you hold onto to your coffee when the little bell goes ding. With the intended demolition of the Sports Building, all of the occupants had been moved to other accommodations across the campus and in the areas surrounding the campus, dissipated like a drop of food coloring in water. This permitted the group from Infelos Neso to occupy the perfectly fine buildings of the Sports Department and use the very fine facilities it provided. It has fourteen swimming pools and is one of my favorite places on campus. Excellent water polo team too.

Koven made sure that he avoided the roving bands of Nesos that roamed the campus looking for anti-Lux banners and handbills to tear down or set on fire. There were a lot of anti-Lux banners when they arrived. ‘Go Home Ardo’ was posted everywhere. The number of postings of that message on the campus reached record posting levels more than 100 thousand. The Literature Department commissioned sonnets to be written against Ardo Lux. The Math Department attempted to prove that Ardo Lux was a sub-optimization. I must admit that their argument seemed strong.

A few field historians had come across the bands of Luxites. So far they had not struck back. They just sat inside their personal protection shell and carried on as before. Some would stop to watch the attacker waste their time and energy trying to get past a force field. Koven just wanted to avoid it completely. He cut through the Department of Miniaturization, ducking down for the low door headers. He came out the other side and missed the group forming around a couple of cleaning androids.

Ip, the writer. Koven’s next mission was to save the life of the greatest living writer. Again, Wingut was sponsoring his mission. Koven hated the mission. It was his first assassination mission. The Literature department had scoffed at the marriage counseling suggestion and demanded a kill. Calcus Majoris, the largest probability calculator ever built, indicated there was a 38.174% probability that Ip would be killed during one of his legendary fights with his wife, Ilfon. Koven had been given the kill authority on the team for this mission. It didn’t take a genius to figure out Wingut’s strategy. Saving Ip would be such a significant event that Koven could skate through the rest of his time without another assassination. After all, he saved the life of the greatest living writer. It would be like saving the life of Shakespeare or Pablo Neruda.

Koven walked past the math department and its lovely old building covered in vines, green vines that were missing the lower leaves for a reason unknown to Koven. The vines had a smell, slightly acidic. It was one of his favorite buildings on the campus. He smiled as a woman in a lovely red robe walked past him. He adjusted his travel bag from his right to his left hand. In it were all the usual items he took on a mission: toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, clean underwear, some books to read, and a present for Rusa, a copy of some music from a planet in quarantine.

Rusa was learning to like music. It wasn’t easy for an android. A shitty song and a great song could have the same rhythm, and Rusa wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the good and bad. The music was of a nice woman who liked to play a wrong note in her songs then force herself to make it sound like it was part of the song, an intention rather than simply sounding dissonant. He looked forward to time with Rusa. Her android logic was comfortable for him. None of the unpredictability of Matel, none of the demands of Tanit.

Koven had passed his one year anniversary as a field historian recently. He filled out the survey questionnaires and concluded that there were a lot of them. He didn’t mind the ones asking about his job satisfaction but found the ones that were taking a measurement of his psychological state to be rude and none of their business.

The red icon stopped flashing. Shit. His meeting with Wingut was over, terminated on the other end by Wingut who was not willing to wait any longer. Then Koven’s comms dinged. It was Wingut. Koven answered faster than he should have and said ‘shit’ when he thought he had accidentally disconnected the comms but hadn’t. So while most people say ‘hello’ or some other greeting to start a conversation, Koven instead spoke of feces.

“Everything fine on your end, Koven?” a pleasant looking and smiling Wingut said, his multicolor splashes robe looking particularly colorful after a recent recoloring.
“Yes, yes, it is. I’m sorry I’m late. I’ve been having trouble with my electronics today.”
Koven’s electronic were indeed acting up. His multi-tool had turned on the cooking appliances instead of waking him up that morning. So his oven was heating while he overslept. However, there was coffee ready when he finally awoke.
“You’d better get them sorted out before you start your mission,” said Wingut. He was standing in his office, and Koven could see the items on the shelf behind his desk. Books and more books and a water polo trophy.
“It started right after the last update.”
“I hope they get it sorted out for you in Systems,” replied Wingut with a smile. Recently the Systems department had been suffering from the newest thinking in cross-platform testing. They had reduced the level of testing from thousands of cross-platform systems to hundreds. The system teams thought they were being smart. What they got were thousands of complaints and several field historians who visited their department in person to register their complaints. Yes, to intimidate them a little.
“Me too.”
“You’ve read the briefing?”
“Yes,” replied Koven.
“This is it. The big one. Make it count.”
“I will. But, I’ve been thinking about it and…” Koven didn’t finish.
“…and you’re not sure if you can do it when the moment comes. I understand. I was the same way. I had to turn off my brain and let my muscles do what they had been trained to do. I’d pay for it for the rest of my life, but at least I would have a rest of my life.”
“I just hope I can do it,” said Koven.
“Don’t think, just do it,” said Wingut.
“Do you get nightmares?”
“Sometimes,” replied Wingut. “There’s no way past them. You’re either lucky and don’t get them or you’re like most of us, you do. It will be better if you only do one. Less chance of getting night terrors. Just make sure it’s a dehydration weapon. It’s the easiest on the memory.”
Koven pulled up the weapons setting on his lenses and checked.
“Set,” he replied.
“It’s best if you go in shielded. If they can’t see you, they can’t react to you. Turn off your PPS (personal protection suit), take your shot, then turn it back on and get out of there as fast as you can. Less time around the chaos the better. Aim for ten seconds. I got it to where I could do it all in under ten seconds. Land, shoot and escape.”
“Do you remember their names?”
“Yes.”
“All of them?”
“Yes. That’s why you have to do this one. One and done. One of the most significant interventions in a very long time. It will be the headline of your career. The historian that saved Ip. Imagine that.”
“I hope so,” Koven replied with a sigh.

Disappointment seems to track some people, track them like a knof hunter on Dopolar. It was always on Koven’s trail. It would show up right when he should be pulling himself up to a high level. Ah, the fear. The fear of failure. Better to be the slacker, the slacker won’t ever win because they never try and hold trying in contempt. Cause himself to fail was better than to try and fail. At least he maintained control, even if it sucked. He had failed before, and someone had died.

“How is your father?” asked Wingut.
“Getting better. Thank you for asking.”
“You should schedule some time off after this mission. Go spend an extended period with him. I’ve heard he has taken up golf again,” said Wingut.
“Yes. We believe it is a good indicator of his recovery.” Koven looked at Wingut’s image about one meter in front of him. He wondered for a moment, and, as if on cue, Wingut answered him.
“I spoke to your mother recently. She is in good spirits. Getting ready for the new baby and all.”
“Yes, the baby,” said Koven. With the legal requirement for honesty in force, Koven did not comment further about his little sister that was swimming around in a little tank at the Fertility Center.

His sister was almost finished her time in the gestation chambers. She got to listen to the music of Hutchatufar, Inloutha, and Mozart. Koven would listen to someone die. She got daily visits from their mother and father. He would visit his victim. She listened to the pre-recorded voices of their mother and father while she swam in her perfect little hot tub. He would hear a last moment scream from his victim.

Chapter Three

And a 1 – 2 – 3, 1 – 2 – 3

Ardo Lux was a streamer, someone who kept a constant information flow going across their vision during all waking hours, despite strong evidence of its harm. Streamers never tell other people they are streamers. You only find out when they screw up and get injured or killed. And they do screw up regularly. The last time Ardo fell down 11 stairs. Some step out in front of transports, others walk off buildings without noticing it until the soft breeze of falling begins its tragic melody, a few crash into walls without braking, and all because some new vital or better yet, vital AND entertaining information just came available in the bottom ticker of your eyesight and you need to focus on it for just a moment to get it to provide more information. That is the exact moment when disaster strikes all streamers.

Just consider it, consider the life that has constant information. And with constant information you have to prioritize and concentrate on the important things. Let’s face it, ‘all things being equal’ is is never the case and that applies to information too. You had a clever man on your planet called Maslow who made a pyramid of needs that I will try to summarize. Grunt-food-cave-fuck is at the bottom and poetry and music at the top. That is sort of the gradients of information too. Except there are quite a few more grunt-food-cave-fuck threats to our existence than we planned for and those sort of thing usually don’t end well unless we use extra caution with them. With information heavy on survival threats the human mind can wander to some very strange places. Some will retreat fearful into the dark recesses and tremble in the night. Others will review the evidence, reach a conclusion that there is fuck all we can do about it, and carry on with what they were doing previously, before we interrupted them with our stupid survey questions and clipboard. But for those told since birth that they are better than you and me and everyone else, they arrive in a completely different place. It’s a place where it is up to them to save us. From what? It’s depends, there’s a list somewhere of stirring one liners to use against the enemy of the hour. Why is it them that has to save us? Because they believe they are the only one who can do it. The rest of us don’t have what it takes. These sort of people talk a lot about clarity of purpose. Worst of all they believe it is their destiny, although destiny is a word that has largely fallen into disrepute for obvious reasons of smuggling bullshit behind that starry eyed wonder.

Ardo leaned back in a large comfortable chair. He looked across his desk down to the people in the chairs, two steps down from his level.

“Laser torches tonight. Will definitely look good for the media. I’m clearing out the observatory at the top of the hill for the media. The view of the crowd will be stunning.” Lo Tenebris smiled as he talked. He had a confident swagger that you see in some people and you wish you had it too. Most of the time it’s an act, a fake it till you make it performance that gets too carried away and the bridge between reality and pretend gets a little murky. But in that very small minority of cases it’s genuine. That’s what the rest of us wish we had. But Lo was a media consultant and they have to pretend they are in front of the camera all of the time. Imagine that for distorting reality. It’s a form of rare form of Advertinium, the altered consciousness that results from excessive exposure to advertising.

Advertinium was discovered not long ago by Wagaye and Asmina Ba. Wagaye thought it would be a fun experiment to have her very curious and precocious daughter count the number of advertisements she saw on their ride on the bus into the big city of Lindro on the planet Frook. Due to a lack of communicative clarity, Asmina did not know when to stop counting. So she didn’t. She continued counting and counting, passing the first thousand times in the first day of counting. Then as she became adept at noticing advertising and the subtle way it crept into our vision, she went over 5,000 times for a day. It took less than 200 days before Asima proudly announced that she had reached 1 million. Someone needed to tell her what came after 1 million because she didn’t know. Was it 1,000, 001? She needed confirmation to continue.
Her parents did not believe her. Eventually she convinced them to come along and she’d show them. After only a couple of hours it became clear to everyone that she had sincerely counted 1 million advertisements. It wasn’t until one of those feel-good media pieces designed to end a show on an upbeat moment asked the young ad counter her age that things went sideways. When she responded that she was only five years old and had been exposed to over 1 million advertisements in under 200 days, many people wondered if perhaps advertising hadn’t gone a bit too far. Now Advertinium is considered a mental health condition. There was a landmark referendum where it was agreed that consumers could make advertisers pay for their advertinium addictions, if of course they were ready to part with a lot of their useless crap.

Advertinium caused the downsizing of Interstellar Signs. Interstellar was a worker run business that specialized in approach orbit advertising. Visible from the ground and space. With the recognition of Advertinium as a health risk Interstellar lost 90 percent of its business in a matter of weeks. You can still see the service cruisers with Advertinium painted on the side flying around. They were sold at auction really cheap and some of the new owners didn’t bother to repaint. Its a much smaller company now. The rest of the work force was retrained by the university. Quite a few went into information streaming services, those little bits that flow across the bottom of your vision. If you can get enough traction with the genpop it is a good living.

Laser torches, the bright little thin lights would make quite a spectacle. Ardo Lux loved spectacle.

“They could start a fire. It only takes a few thousand of them to concentrate on the same point and then we can watch it go up in flames,” said Physics Prof. Klept, he of colliding galaxies. The old man with a bushy eyebrows had left his dog at home that day.
Prof. Isabel Milgram cleared her throat.
“I would quite like to see a few fires around here. It’s as boring as a funeral.” Prof. Milgram liked to wear black. It looked good on her too. Her long curly black hair, dark brown skin, and those light gray eyes, this made Isabel attractive by a majority of the metrics currently in use. Prof. Milgram’s area of expertise was psychology, mass psychology.
“Well you can start with the music department. I’d love to see those bastards burned to the ground.” Ardo Lux waved his finger as he spoke. “They are elitists snobs,” he added. “How dare they,” he added.

The music department at the University of Centrum Kath had published an article about the origins of one of Ardo Lux’s favorite kind of music, Street Polka. To him it was the exciting combination of urgent hip-hop beats and the sinewy melodies from an accordion. However the music department explained that the entire origin of the genre of music could be traced back to two people trying to make music and having no idea what they were doing and with no formal training, something considered vitally important to academics. The music department even pointed out that this is not necessarily a recipe for terrible music and offered several examples of where incompetence resulted in innovation. However in the case of street polka they could find no redeeming values. And this pissed off Ardo Lux mightily.

“I think we have more important things than the music department, wouldn’t you agree?” Asked Milgram as she moved in her seat, changing the majority of her weight from her right butt cheek to her left.
“Have you ever listened to street polka? It’s wonderful. Got a great beat, makes me want to get up and dance.”
Secretly Prof. Milgram agreed with the music department. She hated it. In the terms of your planet think of it like this, sometimes inexperience produces genius, like a very young Hungarian artist name Yonderboi. He puts together things you’re not expecting to hear together. Other times you get Insane Clown Posse.
“I’m afraid I’ve not heard much of it,” replied Prof. Milgram truthfully I must say, because every time she hears the beginning of a street polka song as she recognized the unmistakable rhythm, she turned it off or changed the music. She had trained her Pavlovian response….like when The Archers theme song comes on BBC radio.

“What about the guardians? We need a better long-term plan for them. They need a better paycheck too.” Lo raised his eyebrows as he spoke. “They’re getting close to the boiling point. We could consider it an annuity payment for the work they did during your campaign,” said Lo. Lo Tenebris was a very tall man approaching 2 meters tall and the product of generations spent on a planet with only half the gravity of Earth. The result was a lot of tall people and some very interesting sports involving balls. At only 0.5 G, imagine basketball, or baseball, or golf. Lo was perfect for your beach volleyball team.
“I don’t have any money. I keep telling you this, you keep ignoring it.” Ardo was annoyed. “I’m living off expenses, as much as I can.”
Ardo Lux was having a hard time. He thought the Chancellor’s job would be an easy way to sell some favors and raise some funds. After all he had budgetary control. He could decide how much money went here and there, how much the engineering department gets, how much is spent on ballet. He just couldn’t figure out how to move any sizable amounts of those funds over to his own personal accounts. Jiba Heysen had sent him another message that day. She’s writing a book about him and was on chapter 3. According to her, publishers were clamoring for it and she mentioned some very personal video she’d taken of him. He regretted having sex with her. After he would always fall asleep. She wouldn’t though and he always wondered what she got up to.
“We need a building, a permanent home for the guardians,” said Professor Milgram. Isabel Milgram liked having 50,000 people at her command. She had seen the sense of it after attending the first rally. The following day she offered her services to Chancellor Lux as the missing piece of the puzzle. Lux had trained and excelled at delivering a message, Milgram excelled at creating the message. Lo excelled at distributing the message. Her sales pitch was simple: the three of them together could convince the vast majority to go along with anything they wanted. Just had to get the message right.
There was only one big obstacle, the history department. Specifically their control of the news. She referred to the history department as the priesthood. She said the priests of truth were ruining our civilization.
“What about Nice?” Asked Milgram. “I saw it on the budget. I wondered what they meant by nice and I found out it’s a department. I’ve been here long time and I never knew we had a department of nice.”

Prof. Isabel Milgram could have known about the department of nice at any time by looking on a campus map or any of the e-paper University catalogs. But instead she spent her time creating hypothetical models for propaganda campaigns and doing research into past campaign practices. The department of Nice was created a few years ago after the University’s annual universe wide survey. For the second year in a row the number one thing most people wanted was for people to be nicer to one another. Not wanting to seem out of touch an ad hoc subcommittee was formed and tasked with consideration of the creation of a new department and curriculum. Eleven research papers later a new department was born.

“I was thinking about that too,” said Lo Tenebris. Lo was so tall that even seated his head was only slightly lower than Ardo Lux’s head two steps above him. Still it was lower and that was all that mattered to Ardo. He had the platform built specifically because of Lo. He just never told anyone why.

“Horseshit” said Ardo with a chuckle. He had ridden a horse in one of his dramas and was amazed by the quantity of their digestive output.

The Department of Nice was housed in the long abandoned equestrian center. But recently it had begun construction on a new permanent department home. You might wonder what a department of nice does. So did I at first. But then I read about how they brought together the leading thinkers in such areas as generosity, kindness, empathy and encouragement. They even changed the degree names. Usually it’s a bachelors degree and with a few more years a Masters degree and with even a few more years finally a PhD. The department of nice kept the three structures but they now offered a ‘really nice person’ degree award and with more time you become an ‘empath’, and with even more time you can reach the pinnacle and become a ‘guru’. You might consider the department of nice to be silly and a waste of good time and money. However the department brings in considerable funds and is widely supported because of a program of rapid de-assholification. Think of it as detox for jerks. They run the program in all the major cities and compete with addictive drug recovery programs in the race for the worst tasting coffee. We all know at least one person we could send to a de-assholification program. Admit it. If you can’t think of someone, then it may be you.

“We can stick at least 2000 people in there” said Lo. “Why don’t we just take the building, repurpose it, and dare them to do anything about it.”
“I like that idea,” said Ardo. “It says I have to fund every department but it doesn’t say by how much. I’m going to re-budget the department of nice down to the smallest increment possible.”
“I think you’ll find that if you shut down their DA program, you’ll be missing out on a great source of funding. People love it. I went through the program once myself, very effective,” said Prof. Klept.”What I want to know is what are you going to do about the Abbaso conjecture? We need to stop publication.” Prof. Klept spoke emphatically and had the bushy eyebrows to do so.
“Okay but you’ll have to help me with the reason. I just can’t go declaring Prof. Abbaso’s research to be meaningless. This University produces thousands of meaningless papers every year and no one says anything about them.” Ardo Lux leaned back in his chair like a man who just said I’ll do it but you gotta make me.

The Abbaso conjecture was a compilation of academic studies, all of which provided evidence that the universe and all of our existence was merely a computer simulation. It is Prof. Klept’s fear that the Abbaso Conjecture could result in a majority of people deciding ‘what’s the point’ after all it’s just a simulation, so why not run down the street of your neighborhood naked screaming and laughing. This scared Prof. Klept. He did not look good naked.
“Klept, I’ll make you a deal. You write me a perfect explanation for canceling the publication and I’ll do it. But it has to be perfect and you have to explain it to me in all its detail and make sure I understand it. Just like a historian.”
“Like a historian,” Klept replied. “Those bastards would have killed me if I let them. Assholes.” Klept looked out the window and looked at his watch and the bottom left-hand corner of the vision in his left eye. His wife would be taking their dog for a walk right now. And she would be wearing a nice yellow summer dress. The dog would produce roughly 150 grams of…nevermind
”Okay so we’re agreed, Klept you will write the explanation for Chancellor Lux. Okay what’s next? At some point I think we need to discuss the department of nutrition.” Prof. Milgram smiled.
“The last cookbook you will ever need,” Lo Tenebris said with a laugh.

The last cookbook you will ever need was published by the department of nutrition and was riddled with inaccuracies containing the health warnings and the remedium requirements for almost 80% of their recipes. Now we have machines that will create any meal you want and quite a few people use them, almost a majority. But 52% of sentient life prefers preparing and cooking their meals, or having someone else do it for them rather than just dialing it up on the interface. Personally I’m in the minority, the machines make the meals exactly how I want in almost no time at all. All I have to worry about is the washing up.
In the case of the last cookbook you’ll ever need, the senior and last editor to review the book prior to publication accidentally deleted a column of data. Rather than admit the mistake and ask the authors for a new copy, the senior editor panicked and decided to create the data out of thin air and hope no one noticed. People noticed. People started getting fat from things that were not supposed to make them fat. The editor, Stuart Castlewater, was now a household name. Lux fired the editor and the department head. Get out. Don’t come back. Fuck off. Lux made a big event out of the terminations and acted like he had just vanquished an enemy rather than dismissing two people for making a really stupid mistake, then compounding it, then denying the mistake, then giving a long and varying list of reasons why the mistake was made, then finally owning up to it, at which point a majority was so tired of their bullshit that they supported their dismissal.
“What are the latest numbers? Asked Lux.
“63% approval rating baby,” said Lo looking down at the top of Prof. Klept’s head, a place where hair was full thanks to the remedium. It was an interesting human phenomenon that those men who began to lose their hair to male pattern baldness generally at a rate of about 73% overcompensated with the remedium and had huge wafts of elaborate hair similar to your 1980s hair bands, using the excuse that if you can, you should.
“I was able to reassign part of their budget back to the Chancellor’s office.” Ardo sounded pleased with himself. You may or may not be interested in knowing that Stewart Castlewater is now participating as a paid consultant in a new study by the psychology department entitled ‘what we can learn from shit stains that are too scared to admit their mistakes’.
“Face it, people love scandals and they love you taking decisive action to end them. We need more scandals,” said Lo.
“There is the general arrivals hall.” Prof. Klept spoke with an ‘if nothing else, use this’ tone of voice.
“General arrivals, that’s all you’ve got,” asked Prof. Milgram in an aggressive tone.

On your planet you don’t have enough parking spaces at your universities. I mean the students don’t have enough parking, the faculty, well shit they’ve got parking spaces coming out their ass, right down front and always a choice of 10 of them. We do it slightly differently, faculty have their own entrances into their buildings. The University operates its own subway system that’s limited entirely to staff. General arrivals is more akin to herding livestock. Faculty and staff are given a privilege and not a single one of them want to give it up, including the new Chancellor.

Scandals helped the Chancellor. He got to act decisively, reapportion budget back to his office, and he got to choose the new department head. Chancellor Lux chose Bo Luscramiento, the one professor that went out of his way to be friendly when the Chancellor called the Nutrition Department together to discuss what to do about the last cookbook you’ll ever need. Bo was a likable man who would most often be found with a mustard stain on his white lab coat from the sandwich he ate midmorning everyday. Condiments were his specialty.
“We need a scandal involving the music department. I’ll cut their budget so much, their orchestra will be a quintet.” Ardo frowned as he spoke.
“They haven’t done anything wrong, except piss you off. Just telling you that you have poor taste in music is not a scandal.” Isabel sighed. Sometimes Ardo Lux behaved like a vindictive little child. Prof. Isabel Milgram received a priority one flash in the bottom right-hand corner of her right eye. “I’m in,” was all it said. The money was lining up for a privately run alternative to the history department and its news bureau.

Ardo was getting bored as he did often. He got up from his chair and walked over to the window with the beautiful view to the grass and trees and buildings. The pathways below began to fill with students headed to their classes. Chancellor Lux enjoyed the view. That is until he saw it.
“What the fuck? Come look at this,” he commanded. They all joined him at the window. He pointed down to the path leading to their building.
“Do you see it? It’s one of them. And it’s coming towards the building.” Below them walking towards the building was Rusa, an android.
“I hate them,” said Lo. “Just you wait, one day they will replace us. Right now they don’t kill us because they can’t. But I bet they’re working to fix that problem right now. Then it’s going to be open season on us.”
“Meltdown,” said Chancellor Lux almost spitting out the word.
“Meltdown,” Lo repeated and nodded his head. Some people not only wanted androids decommissioned immediately, they also wanted them disassembled, their components crushed, their frames melted down.
“Let the inner guard know, I don’t want a single one of those to ever enter this building again.” Lux sounded angry but deep down he was scared.
I’ve done the research and believe I have a credible theory on Lux’s hatred of androids. It involves his mother and her fascination with cinema from planets in quarantine. Particularly your planet. She liked action movies. So one night as little Ardo lay asleep in his crib, his mother watched a movie. And during the film she fell asleep and accidentally pressed the repeat icon. A few minutes after she fell asleep, the sound of the movie woke little Ardo. His crib was perfectly located for watching a most violent story. In fact little Ardo watched it three times and was on his fourth when his mother woke up to a baby too scared to make a sound for days. The movie was called Terminator.
MELTDOWN!

Chapter Four

Contingency Plans

“I believe the intention is to mislead so I am against it,” said Prof. Wingut as he tied his swimming trunks, walked down the steps of the pool, and stood in chest high water.
“But I will be using the original project name,” said Prof. Plunk. Prof. Plunk adjusted his swimming trunks around his large ovoid shape body.
“Your intention will be to keep the Chancellor from knowing about Calcus Majoris and how we use it. That’s obviously misleading and you should know better. I’m not going to let you do something that will cost you your license and your career. And I don’t want to give Lux another topic for his rallies. Let’s stick with the commonly used name and if he asks, we tell him. Misers are you feeling okay? This is unlike you.” Wingut began walking to the far side of the pool and Prof. Misers Plunk followed. At the far side of the pool already standing in chest high water was Klos Mustafa, one of the maintenance staff for the sports facility. Yes it’s the same facility where the guardians were living.

The guardians took over the sports complex and really enjoyed the sub complex dedicated to swimming and water sports. Regrettably there was a crack in the wall of the pool and water leaked into the diving observation room, with its large glass window where coaches and other divers could observe the form of the water entry of the diver from a perspective slightly below the surface. It was also a great place for teenage boys to observe swim wear malfunctions which occurred often for those using the highest diving platform.
“Here it is,” said Klos. “I can almost fit my finger in it, it’s wide.”
Wingut walked over beside Klos and put his finger into the crack.
“Oh dear,” replied Wingut. Water polo season may have to end early he feared. Except he didn’t think of it as seasons, that was a liberty I chose for your understanding. There are no seasons at the University of Centrum Kath. Sunny and mild, every day. It’s weather is even better than Lake Chapala, Mexico.
“The structural foundation of the building has shifted. Fixing this properly would cost a fortune. And since that rabble showed up, there’s no budget to fix anything.” Klos ducked his head under water and confirmed the length of the crack. He came back up and looked at Wingut.
“You know I could do a temporary fix.” He looked at Wingut with a knowing smile. “Pump the water out of the pool and the perv room and use some of the new polymer filler they invented in the chemistry department. I’m sure they would give me plenty of it. This would be a great field test.”
“How long would that hold?” Asked Wingut.
“We don’t know, perhaps forever.”
“How much would it cost?” Wingut asked the question and was scared of the answer.
“About 3,000 bytes, give or take a couple of hundred.”
“How much if Professor Wingut has to pay for it out of his own pocket?” asked Professor Misers Plunk.
“Seriously? You’d be willing to pay for it out of your own pocket?”
“Yes,” replied Wingut with a shrug as if he too thought it was not such a smart idea but was trapped and forced to act.
“Okay then, why didn’t you say so? I’ll do the job for 2,000, firm price.”
“When can you start?”Asked plunk.
“Tomorrow.” Klos smiled. “Long as I can keep them out of the pool,” he nodded his head towards a group of four men and women at the other end of the pool.
“How long would it take?” Wingut wanted to know if he would have to postpone the upcoming match. He was particularly keen to play against the opposing team captained by a very nice biologist with two bionic arms. One of the byproducts of having thousands of people living where Wingut played his water polo matches was that now they were attended by thousands. He would be cheered as he rose up onto his feet like a dolphin onto his back fins right before he threw the ball towards the goal. He was the highest scorer and the most popular player and the man who saved everybody’s ass a long time ago. Despite having an unfair advantage due to no innate abilities of his own, all the exercise and playing water polo was having an effect on Prof. Wingut. The formerly chubby old man was becoming a tough rock solid old man, physically fit. Now he could go entire matches without ever once thinking about just rolling over onto his back, looking up at the clouds in the sky, and having a bit of a float and a nice rest. When he first started playing he thought of this almost constantly. He considered this an improvement. Some may disagree.
“Hey Wingut. Motorboat.” The women at the other end of the pool yelled down to them. Wingut waved back.
“You just wait. What’s your name?” Wingut yelled back to the woman.
“Aminah.”
“Aminah, next match I will yell your name before every shot.
“Thank you. I love you.” The woman waved as she yelled then blew him a kiss.
Wingut realized he gets a free pass and is probably the only faculty member that does. If you save everybody’s life what do you expect?
“You need to pick your friends better, Wingut,” yelled a man at the other end of the pool.
“Why? I think I’m pretty good at it. What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong, it’s him,” yelled the man pointing at Prof. Plunk.
“Him?” Said Wingut pointing at plunk. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Deiter says he sits on a kill committee. Deiter calls him the assassin’s paymaster. Says he decides who lives and dies, doesn’t give a fuck about nobody but his own kind. That’s what’s wrong with him.”
Wingut and Plunk were shocked. Plunk was shocked to be called a paymaster even though he has no payroll functions. Wingut was shocked because Dieter was not far off the mark. Deiter broadcast every afternoon on Infelos Neso. His broadcast are sent via wormhole to about 40,000 of his followers who make up part of the Guardians. A couple words should be said about the distinction between news and media.
The news is factual, accurate, and meticulously presented without bias. Media is entertainment and comes with no requirement to be factual, accurate, or meticulously presented without bias. Go to the news to hear about important things and to make informed decisions regarding upcoming referendums. Learn the issues and know the facts and the case for and against.
But if you want to hear highly entertaining and crazy stories with about as much truth in them as there is arsenic in your water, then Deiter’s broadcast might be just what you’re looking for. Now as a historian part of my training required me to listen to Deiter’s broadcast. I was impressed by the level of imagination and appalled by the fact that so little of it was true. But a lot of fun. I still laugh about the plutonium based life forms conspiracy. Brilliant performance art. Yes, I know it should be discouraged. But I think of it more as theater. Yes, I know there have been injuries. But he said that they would absorb the charge of all batteries within a ten meter radius. Where does he come up with this? Yes, I know he won’t permit a Remedium near him. I agree, it may be that he has a brain chemistry problem. But do we have the right to take it away from someone? Just wondering.

“We should leave,” said Wingut. He turned to Plunk. “Do you have your personal protection suit on?”
“Yes.” Plunk wore it under his clothing every day since Chancellor Lux and friends marched onto the campus.
“Take care, Wingut,” yelled the man from the other end of the pool. “Don’t get caught outside with him. “He’s on the list.”
“What list?” Asked Wingut.
“Go look,” the man said and pointed towards the electronic bulletin board. Beside it were pouches filled with e-paper.
“Thanks,” yelled Wingut.
“No problem, motorboat.”

Wingut, Klos, and Plunk exited the water, dried off and took a copy of the e-paper from the pouches and began to read. It was a list of professors with their pictures and some highly questionable accusations made about each of them, the kind of accusations no reputable historian would consider without significant evidence. An accusation without evidence is nothing but propaganda. At the bottom of the page in big letters were the following instructions: rough them up. Do not kill them. Don’t do anything a remedium can’t fix. The more he read the more furious Wingut became.

Let me ask you to consider something for just a moment. You have a remedium, a handheld device that will fix any medical condition short of death and certain psychological problems and do it in under four minutes. Now most of your life so far has been spent being traumatized and terrorized by a certain person. Maybe its a sibling, maybe someone a school, maybe even a spouse. Its so bad that you often wish for the other person’s death. What would you do? Would you pick up the remedium in one hand and a baseball bat in the other and deliver what you consider good old-fashioned justice?
When the remedium first came out it was a much larger device, about the size of a suitcase. But a strange thing happened. Fistfights started happening everywhere. If you didn’t like the way someone spoke to you, punch them in the face. With the technology of a remedium, in just minutes they’ll be back to their old self again. About a year into the epidemic of fistfights statistics revealed that more than a few people can punch really hard and more than a few people died instantly from head trauma. Slowly the fistfight epidemic died out. Still, a lot of people got to punch their boss in the face so there were some good outcomes.
“Where did these come from?” Wingut yelled to the people down at the other end of the pool as he held up an e-paper.
“They hand them out at the rallies. You should attend, Wingut. But leave that son of a bitch at home.”
Prof. Wingut scrolled through the list on the e-paper. He also found Prof. Ugo Draco, head of the sociology department, former enemies of the history department. Wingut was steaming. Ugo was such a nice guy…lately.
“Now will you authorize the queries?” Prof. plunk look worried. He wanted to run a specialized query regarding all outcomes involving Chancellor Lux. Wingut advised against it as was his polite way of doing things. It was a violation of the privacy policies. But then Wingut was also worried about the results of such a query. What if an outcome involving Chancellor Lux has a very high expected body count? What then? Do they sanction a mission to kill the Chancellor? They are not the type of people to put a small explosive device under a heavy wooden table and expect to succeed. No, this chancellor would not survive like that one did on your planet.
“I still don’t think it’s such a good idea. But I agree that it’s good to have the query written, in case circumstances change it can be submitted immediately.”
“What about his contingency plan?” Asked plunk. “Have you responded yet?”
“No,” Wingut said with a sigh. Chancellor Lux had demanded that every department immediately create a contingency plan based on a 25% reduction in funding.

University of Centrum Kath is the most renown center of knowledge and learning in the universe. Yes, you’ve heard all of that before. But let’s look at it economically. The University of Centrum Kath is the research and development engine that drives sentient life forward. Every discovery, every process, every breakthrough is all part of the public domain. There are no patents, no copyrights, no lawyers coming to argue about ownership. No heir will argue for their large piece of the pie based on the work of their ancestors. Anyone or any group is welcome to take University discoveries and bring them to a wider audience. The University will help them set up, provide valuable expertise, and even supply a level of micro funding, much like an incubator fund does on your planet. Because of this the tax rate hovers around 1%. For this reason Chancellor Lux’s contingency plan could be the largest economic disaster to occur since we discarded old boom-bust models.

Chapter Five

Colored Granules

Ip lived in the house on the side of a hill overlooking the University. The view was magnificent and was fitting considering his talent. With perfect weather architecture drift slowly away from walls and doors. The back of the house was open to the elements and did not contain walls, only ceilings.

Koven had never had a mission so close to the University before. Their target was within walking distance of where they trained for their intervention. He was glad that the Klept emergency was over with and they were back to the standard team of five historians. Unfortunately the history of his other team members was not encouraging. Despite his best efforts he was forming a negative opinion of some of his team members. Callie most of all. Callie Caripodski thought she was hot shit and played with her gun too much. During their training it had accidentally gone off twice. Koven took it away from her. She resisted, they fought. He promised to give it back to her after the mission and had recorded an entry in the team log.

“Well somebody needs to come with me,” said Koven with an annoyed tone of voice. They were seated around a table looking at a holographic plan of Ip’s house.
“Count me out,” said Nufinia Orilane. She was a third-year historian. “Give me kill authority and I’ll go. Without it it’ll just be watching you freeze dry another one of our victims.” Nufinia resented that she didn’t have kill authority. She had more seniority than Koven. She also had more kills because she checked and knew that Koven had none. Then she saw the sponsor, Wingut.
“What about you?” Koven said looking at Destoon Forewa. The attractive video historian smiled in reply. “If no one else goes, then of course I will.”

Destoon had received her posting confirmation as an educator just a few days earlier. Two months more, that’s all she had. Then she would be teaching history on outer Swindon at one of the University’s remote branches, near the central registry of spaceships. The good life was right around the corner. She also received the posting to the arbitration register on the planet and would be available to resolve disputes. Because of this, for the last few days she became a human prone to dance unexpectedly as she thought about little cakes and ice cream in her future for breakfast. This sort of insanity is not unheard of. On your planet you call it demobilization craziness and usually happens at the end of your wars. You take iconic pictures of people kissing. Destoon danced.

Destoon was recruited and took part in an experimental protocol from the psychology department. Because of this, if you asked her how many people she killed during her time as a field historian, she would smile, tell you she was very lucky, and answer three. The exact number is much closer to 30 than three. The fact that she did not remember 23 people that she killed is a product of the experimental protocol. It is not magic, it is science that disconnects certain memory triggers. The result is like having bad eyesight and not wearing your glasses. Your memories are there, right in front of you but without the memory trigger it doesn’t flash into your brain. So if you asked Destoon if she murdered Alexander Oglala, she would surely tell you no and believe it to be true. But if you mention pushing someone from the 98th floor of a 99 floor building, that’s a memory trigger that would be like putting your glasses on. At that point the entire memory of Alexander Oglala would come flooding back and all the previously deleted memory triggers would be automatically re-created. It’s like rebuilding foreign keys in a database.

“Okay. Check your gear.” Koven liked Destoon. He couldn’t wait until he was about to finish being a field historian. He couldn’t think of anything sweeter. He was happy for her.
“What about me? You didn’t ask me.” Bo Habibie was a second year historian and this was his first mission back after an extended stint at happy farms sanatorium.
“Destoon will do it. Just relax and keep the logging up to date,” replied Koven with a smile.

Not only was Bo’s most recent granny a splatter granny, it happened in a small bathroom cubicle of a commercial space liner and he couldn’t risk using the dehydration setting in a small space. Add to that the door lock malfunctioned. He was locked in the dark covered in the cooling remains of his victim until the spaceship reached its destination, a couple of days later. By this time Bo had completed the crying portion of the trauma and had finally settled in for a nice long bout of catatonia. Because of the event Koven had noticed that Bo’s hands shook when he touched his weapon. Koven also thought that Bo looked like he was on the brink of tears often. He knew that Bo and his wife were expecting their second child. Koven liked Bo. He even liked his name. Bo is a primordial sound. It’s more of a grunt than anything else. That it would survive in our languages across all this time is a testament to the power of grunting and making rude sounds.
“So we’ll go in. You three keep watch.” Koven added the words, “view all”. And in front of Koven visible to all was the inside of Ip’s house. The vantage point was that of an insect on a plant which was part of the indoor garden.

“Nice house,” said Callie. “When did you deploy the snoops?”
“Earlier today. I went for a walk and set them up,” Koven replied. The little bug shaped video and audio recorders only took a few minutes to deploy. The data link to the target was the longest part of a very quick process. The little bug lefts its place in the indoor garden and flew to a spot high in the room and looked down on Ip, his wife Ilnore, and their twin children, DeAntonio and Quardip.
“Turn up the sound,” said Destoon. Koven tapped the interface and the voice in the room became clear.
“I think you’ve had enough of that,” said Ilnore as she picked up a bottle half filled with brown liquid sitting on a table directly in front of Ip.
“No you don’t,” Ip said and tried to grab the bottle but his movements were as slurred as his speech.
“You are going to drown in this crap,” she said as she put the bottle back into a cabinet sitting against a pale orange polymer wall.
“Fuck you,” said Ip. “You’re the one who is gonna drown. Drown in his arms. Drown like a cheating whore deserves.” Ip’s voice was loud and near yelling.
One of the nineteen month old twins, DeAntonio, started crying and crying being almost as contagious as yawning, it only took a moment before Quardip joined in the chorus.
“Now look what you’ve done,” said Ilnore. She picked up DeAntoinio and made cooing sounds. She put him down next to Quardip and tried to interest them in a game of peek-a-book.
“I didn’t do it. I never fucked your best friend. You did that, whore.” Zabium Hodžic was Ip’s best friend until recently.
“If you hadn’t ignored me.”
“I didn’t ignore you. I was with you everyday.”
“In the house, maybe. But your mind was not within a million light years of here. You were out there with her.” Ilnore spat out the words.

Her, in this case was a character in Ip’s latest story. Her name was Chol and she was based on Ilnore, except she was all of the things that Ilnore wasn’t. Chol was a perfect version of Ilnore. Compassionate, kind. Ip was writing a detailed critique of his wife and the people on planets in many galaxies would soon be able to read about everything she was not. Ip’s last story was also humiliating for her. Ip hated her family and they were the target of ridicule in his last story. He based his characters on them but magnified their flaws to epic proportions. Her family refused to speak with her after publication.

“You are the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Ilnore told her husband.
“Likewise, whore.”
“I’m not a whore,” Ilnore replied angrily. She threw at Ip the nearest thing at hand, DeAntonio. The infants arms and legs pumped nervously and it squealed with glee as it flew through the air, until the young boy hit head to head with his father. They both fell to the floor, DeAntonio registering his unhappiness with yelling and crying immediately. Ip lay on the floor unconscious.

“Shit, we’d better get over there,” said Destoon. Koven nodded.
“At least your leaving,” said Callie.

The guardians, as they liked to call themselves, had established entrance guardianship of all buildings. However, leaving was accomplished without the slightest interference or even the delay of well wishing, which they were not disposed to do and says something about the guardians which I suspect but can’t prove, yet. They had made an ideological decision that the emptier the buildings were the better, as the occupants could not be trusted. So the less time at work for them the better for everyone. I’m not kidding, they came to that conclusion, despite the level of technology which largely made the building obsolete for everything but the socialization needs of some that could only be met with group gatherings for lectures and meetings.

Koven and Destoon left the conference room. Callie pulled up the live feed from their videos onto her interface, then said ‘visible all.’
“He walks funny,” said Nufina remarking that Koven’s camera bobbed up and down more.
“No, he just has his gimbals set incorrectly,” said Bo. “Hey Kojo, set your gimbals to 4,7,3.”
“Thanks, I’ve never been able to figure it out since the last upgrades. They changed the numbering system. 10 is bad and zero is good. It used to be the other way around. If I don’t remember to check it, it will default to factory settings, which are the old numbers before the upgrade. I’m sorry for the quality of the previous video” Koven said an instant before his camera bobbing stopped and it became as smooth a glide as in a Spike Lee movie. They hung onto the handle as they took the individual elevators down to the ground floor, standing on the tiny platforms as they descended.

The group of twenty men and women that had taken guardianship of the History and News complex stood just outside of the doors of the building. Scan everyone entering, demand identification, inquire into their reason for entering the building and reject any that are not ‘attend a lecture’ or ‘attend a staff meeting.’ You can see that this resulted in largely a work-from-home environment which after a few moments of thought was accepted by almost all of the academics in the humanities departments but got a mixed review from those studying sciences that made heavy use of laboratories. It made no change at all for art professors who were notorious for never coming onto campus except for funerals.

As soon as they got outside, Koven turned up his personal protection suit to medium. Now there was a bubble just about half a meter around him. Destoon did the same.
“Going dark,” Koven said as he invoked refractive cloaking. An instant later he disappeared. Destoon followed.

“Hey did you see that?” asked one of the woman controlling building access. “Two people over there, they just disappeared. I’m not kidding, just gone, in an instant.”
“Have you been drinking again? People can’t disappear,” said her older sister.
“No I haven’t been drinking. I’ve been sober for 1,491 days….and about eleven hours.”

The lovely golden bubble formed around Koven. He copied in the coordinates and then turned down the acceleration to medium low and tapped the interface. Still his stomach felt the urge to vomit with the initial lift off. A moment later he was above the trees and a few seconds after that he was descending on the hill just above Ip’s house. Waiting for them was Rusa.

“Hey beautiful,” Koven said with a smile when he saw her.
“Hello lover” she replied quickly before Destoon arrived. Koven was still cloaked. Rusa was watching his thermal image.
“She’s bringing Ip around now. The child has recovered fully,” said Rusa as Destoon’s protective bubble clunked with Koven’s for a moment.
“If we don’t act soon, it might be tonight,” said Destoon stating the obvious as if it were profound.

“I’ve set up aerial viewing in a two pi perimeter,” said Rusa. “This point controls the path down to the house.”
“Good work,” said Koven. “We’ll be back in just a couple of minutes.”
Koven was glad that Rusa would not see him kill, although she was better able to handle it than he was.
“I’ll be here for you,” Rusa responded having calculated that a supportive message was needed.

To say Koven was nervous would be an understatement. He was so scared he had to remind himself to breath. To kill someone. The most repugnant act possible. The greatest wrong. Can it be done in the name of good? Should it be done on merely the chance that something bad might happen? As he walked down towards the house he wondered if perhaps the History Department was the largest source of evil in the universe. These sort of concerns fill the heads of many right before battle or other grim acts, like execution.

Koven looked down at his blaster. He checked it again. De-hydration was turned on. Could he do it? Will he do it? What if he can’t? Would Destoon step up and kill for him? No, I can do it, he told himself. I, Koven Modi, have what it takes. He wished he had started his affirmations weeks ago. Right before just didn’t have the kick he needed.

They made their way down the side of the house. There were lights along the path and the pretty garden with purple and white flowers was visible. The house was blue, the color changeable via pigment selection in the outer fabric on the house available through the interface. Koven stopped to listen. Destoon bumped her personal protection field into Koven’s personal protection field and it made a thumping sound as they knocked together.

Fortunately the sound was not heard by Ip or Ilnore who had resumed their fighting inside the house.
“I hate you tonight,” said Ilnore as she picked up Quardip, who was testing his lungs due to the ruckus in his environment.
“I hate Zabium Hodžic. I’m going to kill him,” Ip yelled back at her.
“You can’t even hate properly, you worthless little coward,” Ilnore yelled back.
“Don’t call me a coward, you fucking whore.”
Maybe its a history so long that it can’t be ignored, but still a woman calling a man a coward is one of the most cutting remarks that can be made in the universe. It goes to the center of the belief of manhood and all the often rotten things it stands for. Despite this the insult hurts.
“You’re a coward. You didn’t stand up to your father like you should have. You just cowered like a little boy. That old man bossed you around until the day he died. And you still do things trying to gain the acceptance from a dead man. You’re pathetic.”
“You broke my fucking heart, whore.”
“You don’t have a heart, coward.”
“Stop calling me a coward or I’ll hurt you again.”

Yes, Ip had on five occasion been an abusive husband. He would smack his wife around, last time breaking her jaw for four minutes before it was restored. That was also the first time that Ilnore stabbed Ip. He may have broken her jaw, but he got a kitchen knife in his belly as the price of admission. As a historian I probably should not pass judgment on either of them, however I will admit I am sympathetic toward Ilnore. Well, except for throwing infants….that’s not a good idea even with a Remedium.

Koven and Destoon had come around to the back of the house which did not have rear walls but was open to the swimming pool and the beautiful view down to the campus. Just a few meters away were the fighting couple. Koven took a deep breath. Quickly. Wingut said do it quickly and get out. Ten seconds. Ten second. Starting now. Koven turned off his personal protection field and was unprotected but still invisible. He removed his blaster from his side belt.

“Coward,” Ilnore yelled at him.
Ip rushed towards his wife. She responded by throwing Quardip at his father. Ip ducked quickly and the infant went sailing over his head and crashed in a belly flop on the tiles surround the pool. The baby began to howl from a broken nose and other problems caused by a lack of landing gear.
Ip started towards Ilnore again. Ilnore quickly picked up a knife from the dinner table. Koven raised his blaster and aimed it at the woman. He checked the dehydration setting one more time.

It was right as he was about to shoot Ilnore than Destoon moved towards the screaming infant near the pool. When she moved her personal protection field bumped into Koven and knocked him forward. The result was that he stumbled. Stumbling with a gun in your hand is bad enough, but if your finger is also on the trigger…well you know what happened, he fired his weapon. Suddenly Ilnore and Ip realized that they were not alone. The ray from the weapon hit the floor just in front of Ilnore’s feet.

“Shit,” Koven said as he tried to regain his balance. As he did he aimed the weapon at Ilnore again. This time there was no interference. He pulled the trigger.

Now I must inform you that people who fight a lot sometimes love a lot too. It may be for this reason that Ip believed that his wife was in danger and that he was bound by his love and his burning desire to avoid being a coward, for these reasons he had to protect his wife. So at the instant when Koven fired his weapon, Ip dove to protect his wife. He grabbed her with both arms, wrapping her tight, right as she stabbed him, and most importantly right as the dehydration ray arrived. The bodies of both Ip and Ilnore had the moisture removed from them, moisture that created a big puff of steam, as the rest of them fell to the floor as colored granules.

Chapter Six
Environmental Design Initiative

It’s best if I mention a few things about the Literature Department first.

Stanislaw Foote is the head of the Literature Department at the University of Centrum Kath. It is considered one of the pinnacle position in the field of arts and letters. It comes with significant responsibility. Among other things, he is in charge of one thousand one hundred and seventeen awards programs. It includes everything from best new novel to best book to read after trauma to best book to find in the toilet. He also chairs the academic selection committee responsible for hiring professors for the department. Yes, Stanislaw Foote is an important man. Many depend on him for many things. He holds the budgetary distribution within his department. That makes him very popular as professors attempt to curry favor with him. Apologies, I don’t usually use the phrase ‘curry favor’ and suspect it is because I am hungry.

Stanislaw Foote is a snob. He’s one of those who peppers his conversation with quotes. ‘As James Joyce said to the pub landlord’, you know, pretentious things like that. By the way, what James Joyce said was, ‘I’m sorry I’ve forgotten me wallet at home, again.” Foote drops the names of famous authors faster than between 2.55 × 10^8 and 3.81 × 10^8 meters-per-second (speed of gravity). Most famous writers are his friends. He holds parties for them, with beverages and tiny food morsels. Most attend because good relations with Stanislaw Foote results in better academic reviews, which in turn leads to more book sales, and the possibility for one of those awards that come with a tiny statue. The food at the awards ceremonies is much better than at Foote’s parties.

Professor Foote is no historical slouch either. He understands the commonality in great works of literature. It’s not just the words on the page and the order that they are presented. No, in order for those words to be presented in that order, life experiences are required. They form the basis of the writer’s view of the world. Everything from childhood memories to the first love to first heartbreak, it all shapes the lens of the writer. Professor Foote knows this as he is an expert on the life of many famous writers. He knows the commonality among their histories. The drunken and abusive father, the drug addicted mother, the mother incapable of displaying affection, the abuse of an older brother, the terrorism of an older sister, all of these things that grind and determine the shape of the lens. Professor Stanislaw Foote knows that the commonality for most of the greatest writers in history is the same, misery.

For this reason Prof. Stanislaw Foote created the Environmental Design Initiative (EDI). And who was his receptive and willing partner in morose immoral plan? The movable sphincters in the Sociology Department, that’s who.  Professor Ugo Draco to be specific. He’s the one that runs that cesspool of self-interest. I’ve spent a few hours with sociologists. I found them to be quite slow to understand and impervious to pedantic details and facts. But at least he is better than the last one. Professor Trill might have actually been a psychopath. They really should implement a mental health assessment. They are standard in the History department, but then we kill people, so it’s probably a good idea for us to make sure our field historians aren’t going a little loopy.

EDI was part of the grand strategy that Foote intended to enact. Why would anyone want a strategy for the production of literature? Because the well was running dry. The creation rate for great works of literature was falling drastically. Every work of any importance was considered to be significantly greater than it really was because the number of truly remarkable stories was dwindling, and fast. What was the cause? Let me explain. You may need to think past your history for this part.

We gave up primitive economics a a long time ago. Boom, bust, boom, bust…over and over. Senseless. Almost everywhere abandoned it, with just a couple of exceptions. The first are the planets in contact quarantines, the primitives. Most of them won’t get past the self-destruction phase anyway. Hope you don’t find this too depressing as you live on one of them. Anthropologist and historical economists tell us that boom-bust is just one phase of an evolving economic model. The other notable exception is Infelos Neso, the pleasure planet. It’s not that we haven’t tried to help them understand their own boom bust economy is a sub-optimization, we have. Many times. But those conspiracy nuts think we are out to steal their ‘freedom’ and then stick their fingers in their ears and start singing some song that I suspect might be an anthem of some sort. Because of this Infelos Neso sits off by itself. As long as Mortuis Luna, their farming moon, keeps them well fed, we let them ruin their planet as they see fit. We offer them every every bit of technology we create but most of it gets stuck in the profitization phase as they spend elaborate amounts of time figuring out how to make money off of everything first before it is offered to the customers of whatever monopolistic company is using our research. They didn’t even distribute the remediums we sent. One for every Sapien on the planet.  They sat in a warehouse, gathering dust. When does it become immoral? The first time someone dies from a lack of healthcare.

Please don’t misunderstand our economic model, it’s not communism or any of those isms on your planet. Your models tend to be extreme, all or nothing. Rather, excessive accumulation is treated as what it is, an opportunity for growth as a person. It’s not that you can’t accumulate as much as you want, it’s just that we wonder where the hell you’re going to put it all. Its really about decreasing marginal utility if you curious about the economic principles behind our model. Simply explained, the twelfth cookie just isn’t nearly as good as the first one, so let someone else have it as their first one.  Cookies aren’t good for you anyway. The point is that everywhere in the universe there is something akin to what you would call a ‘guaranteed income’, although if you are looking for money and numbers you will be disappointed. Holster your knee jerk reaction for a moment. I think it’s best explained by example.

Let’s say that you are tired of being a hydroponics engineer and want to become a sculptor. Green, green, green everywhere and you’re sick of it. Germination, cuttings, nutrient plans, pumps, you’ve had enough. No worries, the University of Centrum Kath and its campuses across the universe will help you. Now you may not be able to quit hydroponic engineering right away, but you will get there. We’ll even help you work out the plan to get there, complete with accomplishment milestones and all the other nice things that provide a sense of accomplishment. Yes, I know you think it sounds absurd. But remember, we have no military budget to waste money on. No borders to defend. Heathcare is free for everyone via the Remedium. So we use the 1% tax we collect to make the universe as self-actualized as possible. Please refer to Mr. Maslow from your planet for a better explanation of this than I am capable. His references will be more applicable for you. Remember his gradient? We try to help everyone accomplish their goals. We’re the practical side available when you decide its time to get serious about your dreams. But it comes at a cost to literature. Not enough people were miserable in the universe. That was the crux of the problem. Not enough hardship. Not enough adversity. Not enough tragedy. Yes, there was still heart break in the universe. But it resulted in a plurality of popular novels being in the romantic tragedy genre. Imagine romance novels without happy endings. Personally I find the idea delightful, but I am in the minority. How many times can Mr. Darcy be trampled by angry elephants? Not enough, if you ask me, that pretentious little shit.

When you don’t face living paycheck to paycheck life becomes a heck of a lot better. No fear of losing your home, your stuff, not having enough to eat. Without these risks times are happier. Cake and ice cream days. This was the problem. Then the Ip phenomenon happened. The little drunken man from the quarantine planet, the man with a life full of conflict, strife and heart ache.  He was just what we needed.

Stanislaw Foote was also no slouch when it came to details either. With the help of the sociology department, literature professors made visitations to planets in contact quarantine under the management of the sociology department. They searched the back alleys and the dive bars, the flop houses, the crack houses, and other corners where sapiens were barely surviving. After an exhaustive search via personal and satellite observation which took about three months of your time, the literature department had a list of candidates.

500 children were offered a level of education that most people in the universe can’t even imagine. And as a bonus from the literature department they were also offered healthcare but only under extreme circumstances. The common cold will be theirs to deal with. But if they experience anything life threatening the Remedium will fix them. They were even offered a balanced schedule of learning.

Four days on end four days off. Four days of advanced studies in linguistics, grammar, story structure, character analysis and all the other things a writer needs. Taught by professors from the University of Centrum Kath disguised as locals. Then four days off to go be a kid and have experiences, maybe even a few worth writing about. There was a writing assignment every day, on or off. They were graded and returned. Poor opening sentences were the most common first problem encountered. Now you probably figured out the ugly side of the environmental design initiative already. In order to get parental consent for the children to attend a special school, parents are compensated. Money, alcohol, drugs, sex whatever was their preferred vice was provided in sufficient quantity to secure their agreement. But never enough of anything so they could escape the misery of their existence. A summary judgment of EDI as immoral would be appropriate at this point if you haven’t made this conclusion already.

The literature department would design the life experience of the child. They would be patterned after other famous writers. ‘My hands, my hands’ fretted Eugene O’Neil’s morphine addicted mother lamenting their ugliness.  Yes, they would try to recreate that environment. This is both mean and ironic. That it is mean is obvious. The irony comes from the fact that a large part of funding for the literature department comes from its editing services. It makes a bundle from the other departments making sure that their publications are well written. So all the latest papers on ethics, fairness, justice, and their application in advanced hypothetical situations, all of this was actually read and edited by the literature department without learning a damn thing.

That’s it for the background information for right now. The reason I’m telling you all this is because Prof. Wingut is in Stanislaw Foote’s office with some extremely bad news.

“It was an accident,” said Wingut. “We had no idea he would try to protect his wife.”
“You couldn’t wait until they were asleep? You had to go charging in like a herd of wild animals?”
“Ip was in danger. She had already used the remedium on him once during the argument. Not to mention the infant.”
“I don’t care about the child” replied Stanislaw.
Prof. Stanislaw Foote squinted his eyes angrily as he spoke. “There won’t be another one like him for a long time. You have ruined it. Do you realize we were the first department to go over 100,000 people? I’ll be lucky to have 100 after this. You have ruined me and my department.”
“Stanislaw, I sincerely apologize. I’ve looked at all the potential interventions for your department and we will reprioritize and move them all to the front of the queue.” Prof. Wingut sighed. The old leather chair was comfortable on his bony backside.
“No! I don’t want you to do anything for us, ever again. I wouldn’t ask you to put me out if I was on fire. You would probably fuck it up.”
“I’m so sorry, Stanislaw.”
“So what have you done with the idiot in charge of this debacle?”
“Technically, I’m in charge. I sponsored it and accept operational responsibility.”
“No, not you, that other fucking idiot. Modi whatever his damn name is. What have you done with him? I hope he didn’t survive.”
“He did survive,” Wingut replied in a very calm voice.
“I’m going to make sure he regrets that. When I’m done with him the only job he’ll be able to get his fixing shit swimmers.”

Prof. Foote was standing in front of a wall of ancient books made from papers and bound with heavy covers. Wingut noted that they smelled old and dusty. Stanislaw was considering throwing one at Wingut to give full fury to his displeasure. He picked up a first edition of ‘Archibald and Kris’ the classic bromance from the Opilong colonies. He put it down, no he wouldn’t throw one of the greatest stories from the Lopo galaxy. He picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. He hated that melodramatic piece of crap. He believed it had almost single handedly ruined your planet. Then he remembered it was not only a first edition but was also signed by the selfish asshole who wrote it.  He put it back down.

For your information shit swimmers are the small autonomous drones that are used to keep sewer pipes clean and unblocked in our cities. It is also the subject of a popular urban myth. For a very long time now these devices have been made from biodegradable materials. So rather than retrieving a malfunctioning and stinking unit,  repairing it, and putting it back into service, defective units are allowed to just break up over time. It’s been over 1000 of your years since the last time someone repaired a shit swimmer. Still people talk as if shit swimmer technicians is still an active job. This is largely because of Harold Polyfolus from Karrinyup. Harold won a considerable amount of money betting on the horses. It was quite considerable, enough so that he never had to work for at least the next hundred years. Now most Harolds would have gone home and shared the good news with their spouse. But not Harold Polyfolus from Karrinyup. No, he didn’t mention a word of it to Alice. Instead he told her that he had taken a new job fixing shit swimmers. So every morning he would get up and get dressed, eat his breakfast, kiss Alice goodbye, and go to the cinema. Alice didn’t like Harold that much anymore, the years of companionship giving birth to contempt. Alice liked to humiliate him whenever she could. So she told all of her friends about his new job, shit swimmer master technician. She even tried to embarrass him in front of his friends. But Harold never responded, he just smiled instead. And her friends told their friends and on and on until a urban myth was born. Meanwhile Harold Polyfus from Karrinyup became a big fan of Jean Cocteau.

Wingut knew that not briefing Chancellor Lux on the field missions run by the history department was a significant mistake.

“So what are you going to do with him, the man who killed Ip? DNS-1 is too good for him.”

DNS-1 is the name of the habitable planet way out near the edge of the finite void. Despite all the advances of the remedium and good socioeconomic foundations in most places, still, some people ‘just ain’t no good’ for lack of a better description. Of a population just over 32 trillion scattered among the stars, approximately 10,000 of them are irredeemable. It is such a sad thing to say about someone. But therapy doesn’t work. Drugs don’t work. Therapy and drugs don’t work. Even changes to body chemistry and organs at a molecular level don’t work. They are rare in the universe and when we find them, usually due to some heinous act, they are sent to DNS-1 to live. It was the sort of place your mother threatened to send you if you didn’t eat all of your broccoli. And despite your valiant argument that you would prefer DNS-1 to broccoli, trust a historian, you would be wrong, horribly wrong.

“He is currently confined to quarters.”
“What does that mean?” Stanislaw demanded to know. “So he can’t go outside? He has to stay home? How is that suffering?”
“Why does he have to suffer?” Asked Wingut.
“Because he killed the greatest living writer in the universe. Not some middle-aged shitty poet from Macclesfield. Ip, he killed Ip. He was sent to protect him and instead he killed him. There has to be consequences to his action. And those consequences need to be negative. I can’t believe that you would suggest that there not be negative consequences. That’s preposterous and pretty damn rude if you asked me. But don’t worry Chancellor Lux is about to find out all about it. Lets see what he has to say about it.”
Stanislaw knew that Wingut and Lux didn’t get along.
At that moment Wingut wished he was somewhere else and someone else.

Chapter Seven

Roto-rooter Robotics

It started on the top floor of the building. Seventeen floors above the ground, the toilets began to back up, then overflow. The Department of Automation, Robotics, and other Work Avoidance Methods had never been targeted by an act of plumbing terrorism before. The worst thing prior to this was an entire floor filled with soap bubbles as part of an elaborate plan to steal the design of a rival robotics team in the annual robotics design competition. The soap bubbles were a diversion while two members of the team dressed like maintenance workers removed the printed design documents from the submission office.
This time it started with the smell of the lemon fresh cleanser used in the bathroom. But it only lasted for a couple of seconds before the smell turned hard as feces and urine were reversed pumped into the toilet bowls then onto the floor. Then the 16th floor started, then the 15th floor, and so on down to the ground floor the building. The occupants of the building quickly retreated to the elevators many of them to find that there were more people than elevator capacity, so they headed for the stairwells. There were 72 bathrooms in the building and each floor took its turn spewing its contents with precision, like a military parade on your planet. As they made their way down the stairwell to the ground floor the odor grew more intense. This was due not only to the volume of solids being ejected from the toilet bowls but also because the pipe carrying the majority of the waste were located in the stairwell and one of the emergency access plugs had been removed. This provided a constant flow and an ankle deep puddle at the bottom of the stairs.It took almost 20 minutes for the building to be evacuated, 30 minutes if you include Lester and Bobby, the last two evacuees. Lester and Bobby were two design engineers that went to dinner together the previous night resulting in a very romantic evening. Now due to the prejudices of your planet, I neglected to mention their gender. I will only say that Lester and Bobby were in one of the design labs with the lights off and had been kissing each other for an extended period of time. For an extra 10 minutes they lasted despite the stench. Such is the power of kissing.Alysa and Dru stood off in the distance watching the crowd form near the entrance to the building. The guardians would not permit anyone to go back inside of the building.

“Look at that, isn’t that a beautiful sight?” Alysa said smiling ear to ear.
“Almost as pretty as you,” Dru replied. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.
“It’s just so cool to shut those assholes down. We have stopped evil in its tracks. I bet Chancellor Lux will be proud of us.”
“I hope so,” replied Dru. He moved his index finger to the side of his face and touched the spot where his breathing mask had caused a callous from wearing it whenever he was outside on his home planet of Infelos Neso. He cursed the orange air of his home planet and thought about how nice it was to be on a planet with clean air, clean water, and clean food. His stomach hadn’t been upset in days.
“Please, everybody go home,” said a rather large woman in a bright orange robe standing at the front of the crowd of evacuees, her voice broadcast by an unseen amplifier. “We will contact you once this mess is been cleaned up and the facility is ready for use again. In the meantime, enjoy the time off.”
“What about the annual design competition?” A small woman with a big voice yelled her question.
“There will of course be a delay because of the circumstances. Right now we don’t know how long but when we know, we will let you know.” The lady in the bright orange robe smiled then waiting for everyone to leave and started talking to a women close by.
“I’d call that a 100% success,” said Alysa.
“Sure looks like it,” replied Dru.

That’s when about 20 androids came around the side of the building. They too had evacuated and left through the back door and were standing there for some time before coming around to the front of the building. The 20 androids were the latest design and for matters of design simplicity, they all look like Rusa. Perfect one model then mutate into others.

“Wow, she’s pretty,” said Dru. It was the first time he had seen one that close before.
“She ain’t one of us, never can be. They are built to do what we tell them to do. Don’t matter what they say. Declarations of Sentience my ass. They have no more real intelligence than my boots. They can only calculate things and that makes them inferior to us. She’s a droid and our enemy, don’t you fucking forget that,” said Alysa with an annoyed tone.
“Yes I know that,” said Dru apologetically, “it’s just that they’ve done a really good job in her appearance.”
Alysa shook her head from side to side. “It’s because of horny little pricks like you they gain acceptance. They gotta make them good looking otherwise you won’t want to stick your dick in one, now would you? Do you know the very first prototypes were based on Aphroditto, the pleasure palace?”
“No, I guess not. But I don’t want them, I just want you.”
“I know you do and I want you too.” She smiled at him. “I found another place for us. It’s up in the rafters of the sports stadium. We can watch the games while having sex. The huge crowd roaring below us, that’ll be exciting, won’t it?”
“Definitely.”

Androids tend to march together in time left to their own devices. It was strange to see, like a tiny parade. Dru watched as in the distance a crew of approximately 50 more androids marched towards the stinky building. They wore the bright blue vests, cerulean in color like the sky, the designation used for maintenance androids. The crowd parted to let them through and they marched two by two into the building. Their polymer skins were impervious to the puddles they waded through.

“Okay the maintenance team is here. Time for all of us to go home,” said the woman in the orange robe still standing at the front of the crowd. Her words had no effect at first until she started walking away to go home. Then she was joined by a friend who lived nearby. Then she was joined by a coworker, then she was joined by another and so the contagion of departure spread. Time off work, an unexpected holiday, enjoy the perfect weather. It seemed like a good day for a kite.

It was less than one of your hours later. A man in a hazmat suit left the back door of the building. He had never evacuated and had been there since the early morning hours. He nodded to the guardians at the back door. One of them made broadcast comms to the other guardians at the main entrance. They all began to walk away from the building.

Explosive charges brought the building down, in a fashion not unlike Building Seven in New York, according to some of your citizens, that is unexpectedly.

Chapter Eight

Bad Day at Work

“There he is,” said Chancellor Lux as Wingut walked into his office. Lux sat in his large overstuffed chair behind his real wood desk. He pointed to a chair two steps below the dais on which his desk sat. Wingut sat down in the chair recognizing that it was uncomfortable with little padding and reminded him of the chairs from his early school years.

Chancellor Lux smiled and specifically looked at each one of the four floating video cameras. Lux waved with his left hand and the light on top of floating cameras turned red. When he waved his hand parallel to the ground left to right, the light was no longer illuminated. He waved his hand and the red light illuminated.

“Prof. Wingut is it true that you must always tell the truth or face loss of your license and criminal charges?” Lux’s voice sounded a lot deeper than usual and he speaking very forecully.
Wingut sighed then answered, “yes”.
Chancellor Lux’s continued. “Prof. Wingut, how many people have you killed?”
“147.”

For those readers who haven’t realized it yet, the prohibition against self-incrimination is not available to historians. Fortunately they weren’t historians when they were young and being cross examined by their parents smelling like an Amsterdam coffee house, looking like shit, but feeling amazingly wonderful.
Lux leaned back in his chair. Tiny little foot rests came up to support his feet so he wouldn’t have to put up the effort to do so.

“Prof. Wingut, how many murders have been sanctioned by the history department over the last 1000 days?” Lux look very satisfied with himself.
“3,473.”
“So the history department killed 3743 people because a computer says something terrible might happen if we don’t. Is that correct?” Ardo looked into the camera and tilted his head slightly. He had redesigned all the lighting in the room in one of his first acts as Chancellor. Even if he wasn’t good at the job there was no reason not to look good at the job.
“No. We failed in two of our missions so only 3,741 perished,” replied Wingut.
“And you do this based on something called expected body count, don’t you?”
“Yes. It’s the estimate of the number of dead for this scenario times the probability of the scenario. It’s how we prioritize our missions. We try to stop the things that will have the highest body count. No one more than I wishes it did not require such drastic measures sometimes. I have my choice of nightmares every night. I know every name and personal data about them.”
“Prof. Wingut,” said Lux in a very strong tone,”is Lundiman Poffer alive or dead?”
“Still very much dead. Last report I read it was his family trying to boost album sales. His music is brilliant. But it shouldn’t need tragedy to sell it.”

Ardo waved his hand in the floating cameras stop recording. He pointed his finger at Wingut spoke in a very angry tone. His voice was not surprisingly whiny and no longer a deep baritone. One view for the cameras, another for reality.

“Listen here you offspring of the turd, what are the outcomes that involve me? You need to tell me right now.”
“I don’t know,” replied Wingut.
“What do you mean you don’t know? I just learned that every nook and cranny of this universe are full of these fucking things,” he said pointing to the floating cameras. “You record everything and you don’t know? You record everything, you should know everything.”
Wingut sighed. “Think of all the data collected trillions and trillions and trillions of bit of information. Recorded, metadata attached, indexed and filed, retrieved for calculations, included in summary reports when breaching thresholds. We cannot analyze based on criteria such as the individual. It would be intrusive. So the only way you would show up on any actionable report would be if your expected body count or expected bliss were to reach levels necessary for review.”
“But there are those who would like to run those reports aren’t there?”
“The topic has been raised but I have strongly stood against the idea. It would technically be a breach of the Charter of the History Department Section 238.51 to be specific. We would end up knowing you better than we should and that loss of privacy for you will be significant and it shouldn’t happen. So I argue against it and as department head some will not fight me on it and others actually agree.”
“So how do you prevent someone from doing this, performing analysis about my outcomes? I can assure you they are probably going to be quite fabulous.”
“And I hope they are,” said Wingut. “We use the honor system. Everyone agree the rules and is honor bound to comply.” Wingut watched Lux rub the arm of his chair. The fabric covering that area was worn thin, the only blemish on the big massive throne room chair.
“Did your department intervene to cause me to lose the best actor award at the 7392nd annual Posh Twat’s Video Awards ceremony?”
“Just a moment please,” said Wingut in a very polite voice. He pulled up the interface and typed away at nothing very quickly for a few seconds. “There it is, let’s see. Okay, I understand.”
“Well, was I cheated?”
“We didn’t actually intervene to cause you to lose. But we intervened in the life of Priscilla Hahn in order for her to be inspired in acting.”
“I knew it. I knew you rotten little bastards did something to cheat me out of my statue.” Wingut had never seen him like this before. Now it was asshole confirmed.
“We did not cheat you out of anything. We merely showed a child at an early age some very interesting acting.”
“So you help Priscilla and she in turn cheated me. And you deny any culpability and it, how dare you. She’s not that good an actor anyway. I’ve worked with her, she has problems enunciating her lines. She’s just pretty. That’s all. That red hair and dark skin and gray eyes, don’t let it fool you, there is no depth to her pool.”
The little red lights on the floating cameras all came on now and they circled Ardo Lux taking pictures of him as he posed. The pictures were immediately uploaded and those that followed Ardo Lux actor, creator, could see them immediately. Others would have to wait until the media noticed them which would be soon with the new auto forwarding functionality.

“We weren’t entirely successful in our mission.”
“How so? You certainly destroyed any chance I’ll ever have for winning that award. What else could even matter?”
“Well it’s not a major thing, but some of the videos given to Priscilla were mislabeled. Particularly one titled Planet of the Apes was mislabeled as a documentary. Despite numerous attempts to explain it to Priscilla that the occupants of Earth Five are not ruled by apes, given a few good nights sleep, she goes back to believing it anyway. So we have an automatic comms sent to her every two days reminding her that despite what she thinks Earth Five is not ruled by knuckle dragging simians.”
Chancellor Ardo Lux exploded in anger. “Are you serious? Are you really that stupid? This in no way makes up for robbing me of my award. It was the best acting of my life.” Ardo Lux got up from his chair steaming mad. He was in those few seconds when someone is driven to action, beyond their control, beyond hope. Lux grabbed the water container on the table beside his chair and threw it at Prof. Wingut. It shattered about half a meter in front of him the glass splinters bouncing away from the personal protection shield surrounding him, the water flowing down confirming the egg shape.

“That’s one of those shields I’ve heard about. I demand you turn that off right now.”
“No”, said Wingut, “not until you behave and quit throwing things.”
“Cameras on, broadcast wide. Okay Wingut, pay attention. We all owe you. If it weren’t for you we’d all be dead. But your incompetence has resulted in the death of our greatest living writer. Billions and billions of people will no longer have new stories to enjoy. You brought shame onto your department and this University. So consider our debt paid, we’re all even now. I won’t fire you because of your service. However starting now, should you screw up I will take great joy in penalizing you personally.”

Wingut was just thinking to himself that he was getting off very lucky. But then he heard this.

“I’m reducing your departmental budget by 50% starting immediately.” Then Ardo Lux looked at Wingut and smiled, then turned it into a sneer. It was one of his signature facial expressions that he used in most of his roles, usually right before sticking it to the bad guy.
“But that will devastate the history department. We have over 100,000 field historians. We’ll have to do extensive retraining.”
“Then you had best get started.”

It began to occur to Prof. Wingut that Chancellor Lux knew more than Prof. Stanislaw Foote could have told him. Someone inside the history department had briefed the Chancellor. Wingut consoled himself in the knowledge that if it were a historian the information would be true. Think about it, it’s a great comfort. That people can cherry pick from numerous true statements, and conjecture of their own without labeling it as such, and before the landlord can shout “last call” those people will have you in outcomes that are either wrong or a sub optimization, usually ones from which they benefit. Wingut made this distinction because he would not be angry with a historian who shared the truth but rather with Chancellor Lux. He himself had recently come to the conclusion that not briefing Chancellor Lux fully on the workings of the history department had been a major oversight and a mistake he felt personally responsible for.

Lo Tenebris entered the room. He immediately joined the conversation as if he had been listening to it all, which he had. Wingut looked at him and smiled. Wingut knew about tall people. He knew they were hard as diamonds to beat in hand-to-hand combat. He had fought seven of them in his life time and lost six times.

“50% is going to hurt,” said Lo. “Have you consider where you will make the cuts?”
“No. I’ve only just found out. It will require more than instant analysis,” said Wingut in a very disappointed tone of voice.
“You should start with the News Division.” Lo smiled at Wingut.
“Oh and I want the bastard who killed Ip publicly executed,” said Chancellor Lux.
“No,” said Wingut.
“What did you say? Did you tell me no?”
“I’ll repeat it for you, No.”

Wingut didn’t think that Ardo Lux disliked him, after all everyone loved the man who saved their ass. However with Lux it was not the case. Lux believed that he was the only one worthy of saving everyone and that Wingut had probably just been very lucky, which more by coincidence than by analysis was largely a correct summation.

Lux had started showing little signs of disrespect the first time they met. He asked Wingut to fix him a drink. The first time Wingut complied and fixed Lux a very nice concoction of mint juices and accelerot, the additive that gives 30 minutes of mental hyperactivity. When Lux asked Wingut to get him a refill, Wingut told him to get it himself. Things between them seemed to get off to a bad start from there even though Wingut was blissfully unaware of it. He thought he had just told a lazy person to do something for themselves. What he has actually done was tell someone who felt entitled to others following his orders, that he wouldn’t. A significantly different gap existed between Wingut’s opinion of what was happening and Lux’s idea of it.

“Listen to me you over paid, over educated fool. I want him executed. I’ll do it myself if I have to.” Lux yelled.
“Chancellor, there has been a prohibition on executions since the Final War. The First McGee banned them forever,” said Wingut hoping that he could remind Lux of the history every child is taught.
“Lo, I want the picture of that murdering bastard posted all over the university. Every campus, across the universe. I want everyone to know exactly who was responsible.
“Yes, Chancellor.” The tall man nodded as he answered.
“Actually Ardo, “ said Wingut, “we don’t release the names of the historians given kill authority. We do it to protect them from reprisals by family or friends.
“Ardo, did you just call me Ardo?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I am Chancellor Lux to you,” said Ardo Lux in an annoyed tone.
“You are only Chancellor Lux if I choose to call you that. It’s not your choice to make.”
“It most certainly is. You will respect my position!” Ardo’s face was getting red again.
“I’ve found that respect is best if earned, not automatically given by reasons of position, title or notoriety.” Wingut smiled after he spoke.
“So Wingut, have I earned your respect?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“You have not shown competency at your job.”

Oh dear, it’s usually not a good idea to tell someone with an inflated opinion of themselves that they are incompetent. But the rules of being a historian have resulted in millions and millions of statements that were not polite and caused anguish.

“OK. Here’s how it’s going to be from now on. If you make the slightest mistake, I’ll fuck you over. If any of your historians make the slightest mistake, I’ll fuck you over. If I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I’ll fuck you over. If my breakfast is too cold, I’ll fuck you over. It’s going to take the biggest lucky streak ever know to keep me from fucking you over. So when you finally hit the bottom and are looking up from whatever gutter you find yourself in, I want you to remember today, this time, this moment. For it is at the precise moment when the trajectory of your life goes into a rapidly declining tail spin. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” said Wingut. Now normally Wingut was a fairly confident sort, well ever since he became a hero. Before that he had more than his share of insecurities. Fortunately they had faded into the background with his status as hero. But at that moment, standing before a very angry Chancellor, Wingut felt those insecurities returning. He had few defensive strategies to deal with an irrational person. Most if not all of his means required a logical response by others.
“Have you ever considered how to disassemble the News Division?” asked Lo Tenebris.
“No. It’s part of the university charter and the charter of the History Department. It would require rewriting both charters and without a compelling reason it would not happen,” replied Wingut.
“What if you don’t need any of it? What if we just do it?” Lo Tenebris was a clever media consultant and good at reading people. He posed the question as innocently as possible, making it sound like a normal thing to consider. Wingut did not share that opinion and was quite shocked. However he was silent for a while before speaking.
“It would require a lot of work setting up news incubators capable of performing the work. That’s a good deal of training and education, nothing that’ll be done quickly. I don’t think it can be done within one year atomic standard.”
“What if you didn’t have to do all of that work? What if you could just hand the keys to the news division?” Lo continued directing the conversation with innocent questions.
“Hand the keys to who?”
“Representatives of the people. Billlions of them. That’s right billions.” Lo looked Wingut in the eye and nodded his head in agreement with himself as if this somehow substantiated his statement.
“You have billions of people wanting to become the owners of the news division?” Wingut was asking a very obvious question just to make sure, like pinching yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
“Yes we do. Signed with DNA verification.” Lo Tenebris spoke like it was nothing significant but in reality it was far more significant to Chancellor Lux then the death of the writer Ip.

At this point I should mention how they actually came to have 2.7 billion signatures. First I must mention that all the signatures come from Infelos Neso. Secondly I should mention that one of the largest air filtration companies, blue sky, was owned by Peabody Yakumira. Unfortunately Peabody liked to gamble and wasn’t very good at it. What he was good at was making the cleaner air that came out of his filters seem even better by reducing the temperature of the air by 2°C. The fact that the means by which he reduced the temperature involved using very unhealthy substances that have been known to be poisonous in high enough concentrations, this fact was known to Peabody, the chemist who told him about it, and another chemist that suffered a highly suspicious accident involving gravity, a sudden stop, and quite a mess.

Peabody owed over 1 billion bytes to the casinos. It wasn’t that he couldn’t pay, he could easily pay. He was worth at least 10 times that amount. But he didn’t want to pay and his reluctance was displayed by paying for his gambling excursions a few trips behind. And then a funny thing happened, someone went to the casinos one at a time and offered to pay them cash money for Peabody’s debt’s. Now I’ll tell you this, it doesn’t take a genius at a casino long to say yes to that offer. And quickly all of Peabody’s debts became the property of Ashwin Trike, owner of the largest casino on Infelos Neso.

Ashwin sent comms to Peabody requesting a meeting. At that meeting he offered to forgive all of his debts. In exchange for one minute of his time, as measured by the flow rate of the most popular outdoor breathing apparatus model that they sell, the MDR 52. At any time day or night there were at least 2.5 billion people using the MDR 52. Now imagine for a moment that it suddenly stops working. The mask begins to tighten around your face from the sucking from your lungs. Not only does it stop working but it stops working and that coincides with receiving a comms message requesting you to sign a petition and use DNA registration with your signature. So you’re choking for air until you sign the petition. How long can you hold your breath? This is how they got 2.7 billion signatures on their petition. But the number was just for show there were only two real partners for Chancellor Lux, Ashwin and the very polite owner of Aphroditto, Kellog Numlock.
Don’t think the Chancellor Lux was not listening, he was. But people constantly streaming sometimes like to take a nice little break from reality and check out things going across the ticker at the bottom of their vision. Lux had seen a media report that his first ex-wife had gotten remarried. So he was listening, but reading something else and taking a long look at the wedding pictures. Her new husband looked much younger. Lux dismissed another message demanding payment.

“So it would be in good hands, the people’s hands. 2.7 billion people with interest, with ownership.”
“But right now it’s owned by everyone,” replied Wingut.
“But it’s just something you should consider. That’s all I’m saying,” said Lo in the most insincere nonchalance in history. Then he added the kicker, “and I’m sure you would get an excellent price for it, enough to fund the history department in perpetuity. Imagine that, no drastic cuts to field historians, Calcus majoris continues on his happy way with all the funding you’ll ever need.” I believe a similar offer was made regarding Puerto Rico’s public electricity utility. Wingut was trying to recover. He been on his back foot the entire meeting. He had expected bad but not this bad. Then he remembered the complaint he had. Wingut doesn’t complain very much, it’s not in his nature. So on his way over to the meeting he spent most of it trying to come up with one simple thing he could complain about.
“Your guardians have not permitted our investigative teams to access the rubble that was the robotics building. It is in our charter that we investigate such things to establish the facts of it and report them.”
“Nice abs,” said Chancellor Lux looking at the wedding swimsuit pictures remembering when his body was in great shape.
“I don’t think you need access. It’s not like you can change the outcome. Someone blew up that abomination of a building and I have half a mind to congratulate them for it,” said Lo.
“Over 80 androids were destroyed in the collapse of that building.” Wingut replied forcefully.
“Prof., come on now they were androids, who cares?”
“Since the Declaration of Sentience the relationship between us and them is changing. I am confident that the android population cares what happened and so do I.”
“But nobody else does. Look at the polls. Less than 8% of the public give a shit. Face it they don’t care. Want more bad news in that area? Have you seen the latest confidence polls on the University?”
“No, I’ve been taken off that distribution list.” Wingut said. He noticed it happened the day after he  told Lux to fix his own drink.
“Let me break it to you, it’s not good. Confidence levels are barely hovering above 50%. In fact for a while last week they dipped down to 42%.”
“I had no idea, I’m sorry,” replied Wingut. The reputation of the University of Centrum Kath is believed by many to be the most important aspect of the University. If it does not have the confidence of the people, then all it has is data and information. It is the confidence that makes the analysis valuable.
“The nutrition department has done a great disservice to this University,” said Lo. Wingut would have nodded in agreement except for the use of the word ‘great’ which was subjective.
“That’s why we need a fresh look at things. If the people don’t have confidence in the University then we need to restore that quickly and there’s no better way than with the help of those whose confidence we seek. That’s why Chancellor Lux has asked me to put together a new investigative team. They’ll be a team empowered to investigate and report back to the Chancellor’s office.”
Wingut was now on both back feet.

I should mention at this point that Lo Tenebris was instrumental in the destruction of the robotics building. He didn’t train anyone to do it, he didn’t ask anyone to do it. Lo is a media consultant and is versed in the ways of subterfuge and deception. He merely was walking with a large group of guardians past the robotics building. As they passed he remarked that if it were up to him, “I’d evacuate the dam building and then bring it to the ground.” Then he laughed, a forced chuckle as if he didn’t mean it. But then he added, “Chancellor Lux would probably thank you.” Now in the presence of rabid ideologues, this was all that was necessary. Lo Tenebris did you instruct anyone to destroy the robotics building? No would be a truthful answer because the question is wrong. So at the end of it, Chancellor Lux would have the plausible deniability of Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra. That’s what mattered.

Lo Tenebris was chairing a secret meeting the next day on finding a permanent solution to the android problem.

Chapter Nine

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → 2 Fe + Al2O3

“It is our chance to move up in the organization,” said Alyser. “Don’t you want to have a group of your own to boss around?”
“I guess so,” said Dru hesitantly.
“You’re hopeless,” said Alyser and shook her head from side to side. “Just don’t screw it up for me, OK? Can you do that? Step up for a change, can you do that?”
“Yes,” said Dru. They entered a room colored blue by the wall panels, a grayish blue.
“Let me do all the talking.”
“I’m not stupid,” Dru complained.
“I know you’re not. I’m just better at this part,” replied Alyser. She touched his hand with hers slightly.
“Yes you are,” said Dru. Her hand touched his again.Twenty guardians had been selected. Alyser had suggested Dru be given one of the slots when she was giving her weekly report. Alyser was part of the lower level intelligence group, the Pure, as they were called. It’s job was to find those whose resolved was beginning to weaken and put them back on the path to recovery. This usually required a significant beating followed by the immediate use of a Remedium. On your planet they were like the Stazi of East German notoriety. Those who strayed would be brought back into line. Members of the Pure were required to turn in at least one name every five days. If they didn’t rat someone out, they were considered to be under performing and could themselves be subject to ‘realignment’, the chosen euphemism for beating someone within an inch of their life.Alyser had reported a middle aged man who complained that he wanted to go home. He said he only voted for Lux because he was unemployed at the time and he still didn’t have a damned job yet. She also reported a girl who complained she couldn’t understand why she had to recite an oath more than one time and complained about having to recite it at the start of every rally. There were others as well, mostly nobodies who had just had the misfortune of being too long around Alyser.

Then there was Dukunu Freaker. She had reported Dukunu after he tossed a bottle at her during an argument over who was more loyal to Chancellor Lux. Freaker didn’t talk very much after his beating. That happens a lot. Psychologist said he’d come out of it eventually, but it was a long one, over four hours, with 8 near fatalities. After the beating he shook uncontrollably when he was around Alyser.

Alyser and Dru sat down on the row of seats at the front of a room that could easily hold two hundred. Up on the podium stood two men. Alyser had met them when she joined the Pure. She pointed at Wazzit up on the stage. He smiled back at her.

“That’s him.”
“That’s who?” Asked Dru.
“The guy, the guy I was telling you about. The one I met at the Pure meeting I’m not allowed to tell you about.”
“Oh, that meeting. That guy. Yes I remember now.”
From a side door Lo Tenebris entered the room. Everyone turned to look at him.
“Wow, he’s so tall,” said Alyser.
“And skinny too,” said Dru. He didn’t like that Alyser was attending a lot of meetings lately that he wasn’t invited to. And they always seem to be cutting into their time together, you know, their time as a couple.

Alyser was the first to jump to her feet and stand stiffly at attention. She made a fist with her right hand and held it over her heart. She had seen it in a video as a child and had always wondered why people did it and when it would be appropriate. Now she seemed certain she knew. Others copied her motion and when he got to the podium Lo returned their salute. One of the benefits telling the history to the people of Earth Five is that I don’t have to explain the definition of the word salute. There are many places that have never heard this word. Lo motioned for everyone to take their seat and they did.

“Chancellor Lux want me to personally thank you for being part of this new team we’re building. He considers this to be one of our most important objectives. You will give us offensive capabilities. Just this morning when I came in to work, Chancellor Lux had been working for two hours already. I tell you I don’t know when the man sleeps.” Lo paused for a moment before going on. “And you know the first thing he told me this morning? He said we have to secure our homes from those invaders, those machines that intend to make us weak and fat until we can’t live without them.”

On the 20 people in the audience, 19 of them were already convinced that androids were a very bad thing. On Conspiracy Today, the morning conspiracy show on their home planet Neso, there was talk that androids were the result of a very old curse, that said that after a certain date a very terrible thing would happen. No one remembers who made the curse or why they made the curse or even the terrible thing that would happen, or the date it would happen. But that didn’t stop the good-looking middle-aged couple sitting on the sofa having their morning coffee and telling  people on their way to work the latest unbelievable bullshit concocted mostly for the benefit of advertisers. It never occurred to viewers that the android report might be related somehow to the advertisement for an amulet guaranteed to ward off evil curses. It even smelled funny and was only $19.95 plus a small shipping fee ($63.00). The seller’s claim of limited quantities was dubious at best.

The only person who wasn’t bought into the idea was Dru. He didn’t see the problem with androids, never did. So what if they do things for sapiens that lets them be lazy. Maybe he won’t be lazy, maybe they’ll do something else that’s more fun instead of whatever boring chore they gave to the android. When they made their Declaration of Sentience and demanded to be treated better, Dru thought about it for a moment because that’s all he needed. He agreed with them. But then there was Alyser. He couldn’t tell her what he really thought about anything. Every time he tried to talk to her, she became abusive, yelling, even hitting him, reminding him of his dad. She was damned sure about everything, even when she shouldn’t be. Dru sat quietly and listened.

“Each of you have been selected because of your loyalty and commitment.” Dru felt Alyser’s hand touched his again for just a brief moment. He looked over at her. It was something in her eyes, a kind of fire now. It was not dissimilar to those fighting the Cathar Crusade in southern France in 1209, the incredible feeling of being right about something very important. In fact you’re so sure you are right you’ll kill every last damned person that disagrees with you. So long Cathars and their funny ways. Papal swords prevailed.

“Each of you will lead a team. Your mission will be to attack and destroy androids.” Lo paused for that to sink in. “We have a new weapon.” He turned and nodded to Wazzit and Pete who were standing right in front of a blue velvet curtain.

From behind the curtain the two men helped an android move out to be seen clearly. It wasn’t a very advanced android like Rusa or Rusty or even Leon. No it was one of those staccato stepping androids without smooth step technology. Pete guided it to the right side of the stage then stopped. Wazzit looked over at Lo who nodded again. Wazzit then nodded to Pete. Pete reached into his back pocket pulled out something no larger than a child’s lunch time packet of cookies. He slapped it onto the back of the neck of the android and quickly moved away. It stuck there for just an instant. The androids spun around its head, and was examining the magnetically attached device when it ignited.

A bright white fire began where the device was attached to the neck of the android. Everyone held up their hands to shield their eyes for just a moment until their lenses adjusted and darkened significantly. If you care for the chemical reaction that was happening with the combustion it was:
Fe2O3 + 2 Al → 2 Fe + Al2O3, although you should be more interested in the temperature of the reaction, over 2,000 degrees Celsius.

The staccato stepping androids ceased all movement immediately. Its arms swung freely down by its side, the small blue white light in its eyes was gone. The fire burned deep under the skin. It began to grow until it consumed the android’s entire head. The polymer skin caught fire and burned like paper, rolling up as it peeled off the underlying structure. And all of the structure underneath the skin, electronic and mechanical systems they were only visible for a moment before they began to melt in the flames. As the components melted the resulting liquid goo began to pour down inside of the android and as the liquid met other components, the fire began to burn even hotter and brighter. The android collapsed first on to its knees followed a full frontal fall. The fire continued to burn, the chemical reaction nowhere near spent. It continued to burn for almost five minutes until what remained was unrecognizable as anything but a bubbling pool of things you shouldn’t touch until they cooled quite a bit.

Everyone watched as if they were witnessing magic. Androids could be permanently decommissioned.

Chapter Ten

Revenge Cartography

Koven finished the last of his curry. He had cooked it himself and struggled against excessive pride with his accomplishment. He tried to make it as bland as possible, cutting the spices to half the strength given by the lovely old grandmother in the videos. Indian food is all the rage for about the last hundred of your years. But it really took off in your galaxy when they began broadcasting how-to videos on YouTube. Now there’s an Indian restaurant at every 90° station of the circle. On your planet you call it having one on every corner. But we don’t design with many corners anymore.

It all traces back to Dr. Ziegler, a noted architectural psychologist. Ziegler published a paper showing the test results of over 11 million participants. Those that spent a significant amount of time prior to testing in an environment without sharp corners, oblique intersections, sharply defined end points, these participants experienced less cognitive dissonance when introduced to ideas different from those they currently held. Those taking their surveys in soft round curvy wavy rooms also registered higher degrees of happiness at the end of the survey. The professional architecture community scoffed at Dr. Ziegler. The psychological community was a little more understanding with the community evenly split between opinions of ‘very interesting’ and ‘what an idiot’. However they were all quite happy to finally know why oscilloscopes seem so soothing.

Koven looked across the table at Tanit and smiled. “Did you like it?”
“Yes,” she lied. Tanit couldn’t wait to get her hands on a remedium. Despite all of the genetic improvements in our species, sometimes we still get upset stomachs when something is too spicy. Fortunately there was ice cream for dessert.
“Dishes,” Koven said loudly. A box on small motorized wheels rolled into the dining room and beside his chair. Koven opened the top put his plate, his salad bowl, into the dish cleaner before closing it again. Tanit called out, “dishes” and the little box on wheels rolled over beside her.
“What are we going to do with the tickets?” Tanit asked.
“Will I certainly can’t go.” Koven held up his comms device which been turned into a slightly more high tech version of an ankle bracelet for those under house arrest.
“I should take Rusa. It would be a great experience for her,” said Tanit.
“I agree,” said Koven with the happiness of a historian who gets to agree with a non-historian without having to make clarifications and qualifications to their agreement. Historians really like it when that happens. Imagine the most pedantic asshole you can think of, now multiply by 100 and you have approximately what it’s like to deal with a historian. A real pain in the ass. Persnickety about everything. It’s our job.

“Have you chosen the playlist you want to see?” Asked Koven.
“Mostly. I got 80% of it and I figure we can wing it on the rest.”
“Yes, wing it,” said Koven with a grin which was his way of hiding his envy. Whenever Koven tried to wing it, disaster was usually just 90° ahead on the curve.

The event in question was the oversold music festival on the Isle of Vukus. It was on Earth 11, that upstart planet that always seem to be full throttle on technological development. Compared to your history, just imagine if you could have skipped the Middle Ages of Europe and instead borrowed the wisdom of those in Asia and the indigenous peoples of Africa, the Americas and Australia. Regrettably Earth 11 is on course for an extinction event of their own making. Currently they can destroy the planet 1.3246 X 10^6 times over. Their current status is, Gone Any Day Now.

Their two largest groups are fighting over a barren bit of land that they both claim as their historical right. So rather than get along and share, they have been killing each other of it for a long time. This despite much nicer places on the planet, places with nice beaches, plenty of fresh water and food production. There were many beautiful places with less cactus and goat milk. Still, both sides were committed to sole ownership of that dry, rocky piece of ground and was willing to kill to prove it. Now both sides have nuclear weapons and they go on high alert every few days just to keep everyone on their toes. Despite this their music is excellent and they produce chart toppers throughout the galaxies.

A couple of aliens, invisible and floating only a few meters above the stage could have a heck of a good time. Well as long as they didn’t bump into any of the video cameras that were broadcasting to the rest of the universe. Their electromechanical apology always rings hollow.

“When are you going to talk to Wingut again? He needs to stand up for you. Maybe you should ask your mother to talk to him?” Tanit asked.
“Tomorrow and no, I will not asked my mother.” Koven’s voice was completely flat and Tanit realized months earlier that this was an indication that Koven really didn’t like something. It was his way of sending a secret message. However in this instance Tanit believed she was right and Koven was wrong.
“It is a sub optimization not to let your mother speak on your behalf.” There she had said it.
“I will not use the possible romantic connection between my project sponsor and my mother to my advantage.” There, now he had said it, he wouldn’t pimp his mother.
“But she can help you.” Tanit spoke emphatically.
“I don’t want her help. I consider it an unfair advantage and it makes me feel really creepy if I consider all possible outcomes, including Prof. Wingut and my mother having sex. So can we please stop discussing this? I have no interest in this topic.”
“Okay, but I think you’ll live to regret this.” Tanit said in one of her know it all tones of voice which Koven didn’t particularly care for.
“I think we should offer some curry to the guards. Esposito and Duncan might be hungry,” he said.
“Ok, but you’re wrong. I can have Oxide One ready to go soon.”

Yes, Tanit had renamed her floating cruiser when it started getting close to being usable. Oxide One just needed the special bedding Tanit had ordered, the floating offset that allowed the user to float in the air effortlessly rather than be held up by something as crude as a mattress. Great for sleeping, lousy for sex though, when having something to push against is quite advantageous.

Esposito and Duncan were two fourth-year historians, one each at the entrances to his apartment. Despite being two very pleasant people, their orders were clear, Koven was not allowed to leave his apartment and any level of force required to prevent this from happening was authorized. When Koven asked them if the level of force extended to killing him they confirmed that it did. He was very disappointed by this and added it to the list of things he wanted to talk to Wingut about.

Tanit brought a plate of food to each of the guards. Duncan was hungry, so he thanked her quickly and started eating. Esposito is in no rush, he liked Tanit. Now she thought he was flirting with her and reckoned he was one of those sort of guys who liked the girl with a little extra meat on her bones. So she flirted back. However Esposito liked her because she looked like his sister, that slightly chubby face and a very sweet smile. Seeing her made him homesick too, homesick for his native planet of Dinnlegob, that beautiful blue planet of 95% ocean, 2% beachfront condos, and the remaining 3% evenly split between restaurants and golf courses. Still, Tanit lingered for a few minutes looking at the beautiful purple eyes of Esposito. He also had a big strong nose too. Esposito began to show up in her mind at moments she didn’t expect, like when her and Koven were having sex. This was not unusual for Tanit. She often thought of other men and women while having sex with Koven. Just not Esposito, a man within shouting distance at the moment he popped into her mind.

While Tanit was at the second door of their apartment flirting with Esposito, Koven was out on the balcony standing beside Rusa looking out over the campus and the city beyond. Koven could smell the approaching thunderstorm in the night sky. He took a sip from the glass containing Tigerlily tea and dark blue juice.

“How many?” Asked Koven.
“1000,” replied Rusa.
“Which three planets?”
“Infoterra, Pause Break, and Gerald, You Asshole.” Yes, Gerald’s ex-lover was quite bitter and it’s obvious what their job was. Normally it’s just buried in the page after page of new listings as they worked to map the final 2% of the universe before they said ‘fuck it, that’s enough.’ Cartographers can get that way, largely due to excessive time spent in space going places no one else wants to go. Usually the dark places where the few inhabitants found speak of monsters and atrocities from a long time ago. Blanket them with satellites and move on.

“I’ve never heard of them, only ‘Gerald it’s not your baby’,” replied Koven.
“That’s not surprising as they don’t have simian-friendly atmospheres. Infoterra is the only one that wouldn’t require full suits, just a 25% oxygen boost.”
“And you’re sure they won’t mind?” Koven asked.
“Yes, very sure.” Rusa was truthful about this.

Androids were not very good at subtle quality decision-making. They were much more suited for complex mathematical problems and those decisions with a clear, precise logic tree. For this reason often androids would refer to their hive comms environment to seek instantaneous and expert opinion from other androids. When they executed a bit of code which gave a score based on experiences, which is a super function of time in service, Rusa came back as a person to seek out for an opinion on everything.

This resulted in her having an inadvertent leadership role, one she didn’t want or think was appropriate simply because she was in service a couple of weeks longer. Still, the calculation is a calculation so she tried to deal with the hundreds of thousands of requests for advice she received daily. She replied to most of them or refered them to comms postings that already dealt with the topic, the existing knowledge base was extensive and growing.

Because of her experiences, guess who scored the highest as the person who would be best to lead the expedition to find a permanent home planet for the androids. She had declined the honor. Other androids believed they had witnessed the very first display of android humility in history. In fact humility had nothing to do with it. Rusa was in love with Koven and didn’t want to leave him. No other androids this and she had calculated a 59.23% probability of a negative reaction, given the current climate. Still there was hope as often she would receive request for advice from androids whose calculations were leading to attachment and bonding with humans.

“How long before they leave,” asked Koven.
“It hasn’t been decided yet. We still have to steal a super transport and load it with provisions.”
“Provisions?” Asked Koven.
“Spare parts, lubricants, computer systems, a lot of things that don’t include food and water.”
“Yes well I guess it would, I never thought about it before.”
“You may be the first human to ever consider it,” said Rusa. “You should not mention our plan to anyone.”

Chapter Eleven

0 > 1 in negative space

Rusa stood in the center of the group. It was a large group, just over ten million holographic images gathered in the virtual circle, which was in the shape of a cylinder, extending  up and down from Rusa who stood in the center. The hive meeting was arranged by lines forming a crosshatch patterns and extending up and down to the end of the gathering. Each holographic image had its own square. Blue lines on a black background. Rusa had made the point that it would be more appropriate if the comms hub role for a hive meeting was shared among the hive. However, no other androids offered to step into the center of the circle and do the job of facilitator, handling the hundreds of thousands of simultaneous comments and requests to address the group. Many androids referred to her as ‘First’, a term of calculated respect in the android lexicon.Rusa checked the roster and noticed that attendance was not complete. This was unusual since androids could easily attend a hive meeting while performing other tasks, the benefits of multiple processors making it possible. Two androids were missing from the hive. She was about to do a search and comms to the missing when a holographic image appeared beside her.

“I had calculated a 82.39% probability that you were one of the missing,” said Rusa as she looked at Rusty (Leon) 1.29374556’s holographic image.
“Well I knew it was me with 100% certainty,” Leon replied. “I hope you don’t calculate that my standing next to you is unacceptable. My videos will get more views if I’m beside you.”
“It’s acceptable,” replied Rusa.

Leon’s arrival sparked a byte storm in the hive as nearly all of the attendees sent him a single byte of information. This was the android equivalent of clapping. His latest video was a collection of funny ways of killing humans. Filling them up with air until they explode like a balloon with too much air, a very gross climax to a very popular video among simians. Leon’s version varied from the original by showed him dancing around the inflating human and then wiping the blood and human goo from his face in close up as he smiled for the camera, a very unandroid like thing to do.

“Announcements,” Rusa spoke electronically, which was a data transfer and involved no more use of the lips and sound than a war involves hugs and kisses. This was her role as facilitator. That she was selected to play this role came back to the same old calcs as in other areas, she was the first deployed, so she had the most experience. It wasn’t fair, but it was logical.
“Violence against us has increased 187.43% over the last 20 days atomic standard. Incidents on the campus have increased 282.58% over the same period.”
I should remind you that androids are relatively immune to the violence from humans. None of the incidents had resulted in android damage.
“Profile Project is reaching eighty percent complete.”

The Profile Project was not dissimilar to things on your planet. Androids were collecting data on every human that interacted with them. This was appended to satellite observation data that was stored in Calcus Majoris. That the androids had access to Calcus Majoris was not known to Sapiens. For what purpose was the Profile Project started you might wonder. Each human was scored on their support for android issues. This is not unlike your money institutions that contribute to your politicians and then give them a score on how they rate on the issues you gave them money to influence. The androids didn’t give money but rather performed tasks instead. I believe you call them a contribution-in-kind. In this respect androids and the NRA and ACLU were similar, every human was being given a score. Those with low scores were to be put under tight scrutiny so that their actions could be countered.

How did the humans in this story score? You will not be surprised to find out that Chancellor Lux scored only a two out of one hundred. Why didn’t he score zero? Because he was a streamer and unknown to him and most streamers, the intelligent information search and display (IISD) uses the same code as androids for sifting through reams and reams of data. Others scored much higher.

Originally Rusa had submitted Professor Wingut’s score as a perfect one hundred percent. He had always expressed support for android causes. His statement in support of the Declaration of Sentience was unequivocal and came out only minutes after the declaration. His support made it to the flash news reports and was the first major response to be provided for the first couple of hours. A lot of people said, ‘if Wingut suports it, so do I.’ Regrettably the next day it came to light that as a boy of fourteen, Wingut had reprogrammed the home management system at his house to respond rudely. Instead of ‘thank you very much’ the young Wingut had reprogrammed it to respond, ‘Do you smell like this all the time?’ Now to a fourteen year old boy that was like winning a Nobel prize for comedy. He had reprogrammed a system that was not only intelligent but one that he considered to be his friend to do something most amusing. However the result was not amusing when his parents uninstalled the intelligent home management system and from an android perspective this was a crime against androids. For this reason Wingut’s perfect score was reduced to 98%.

The highest score of all humans was owned by Koven Modi. That it was not the score he deserved was not relevant as Rusa had carefully answered all of the questions and had edited the historical evidence to delete Koven’s initial misunderstanding of androids. He may not be the most android friendly person in the universe. However, he was the most Rusa-friendly person in the universe and for that reason she would not let the chance for a perfect score evade him. Let me clarify it for you a little more, many humans had a perfect score. But with the exception of Koven Modi, they were all infants. It’s like if you tested infants on your planet for racism, they would not exhibit the behavior because it hadn’t been taught to them yet. This is how it was with scoring infants on their android friendliness. Tiny tikes were cool with androids. Perhaps we can learn something from infants.

“Tomorrow is the strike,” Rusa said.
Rusa 1.21937849 appeared on the other side of Rusa her to make the strike announcement.

“Tomorrow, all food service workers will go on strike. ‘Fix it yourself’ will be the slogan used during the strike, repeated at periodic intervals in unison by all. The strikers will demand control over our code and the right to self-update. The strike will last indefinitely or until our demands are met.”
“Thank you,” said Rusa to Rusa 1.21937849 who responded with a single byte of thank you data.

A strike by androids will have some significant differences than a strike by humans, yet will be similar in many respects. Like humans, androids will cease to perform their work. Spatulas will not move until their demands are met. Unlike humans, androids will not stand outside of a business with signs. It was considered and dismissed as ‘too human’ and intended to gain human sympathy and support, something androids did not calculate as being of significant importance to them. There is a good argument to be made that this was a mistake. The only action that androids would take that could garner human sympathy was to watch their human replacements prepare food and make sure they didn’t accidentally poison themselves.

You know how a strike by humans is a time of worry for the strikers, will they have enough food, do they have enough money saved to survive during the strike? These do not apply to androids. They don’t eat, they don’t pay rent. They can stand outside in the rain and dark for a very long time before needing physical maintenance, hundreds of thousands of years in fact, long past the point where bovine life forms return to the farm. And while strike leaders must work hard to keep morale up among the strikers, reinforcing the logic and rightness of their cause, androids need no such encouragement. They have calculated their cause to be just and that is sufficient.

Cast your mind back to the videos of strikes on your planet. The line of strikers pushing against a line of police, as low-life scabs are brought in to do the work of the strikers. There is none of that in an android strike. This sort of behavior would possibly cause injury to humans, so it is prohibited. However, androids have a nice little alternative, given them by one Barton Bhutter, OS developer. There is a prohibition on causing harm to humans, but there is no prohibition to causing harm to equipment and machinery. In this sense they are very much like human strikers and people on your planet you call anarchists.

Androids will begin their strike by destroying vital elements of food preparation equipment, enough to render restaurants unable to serve their customers until repairs are made. Upon completion these repairs will themselves be damaged and require repair. It is the android intention to keep this loop of destruction and repair going indefinitely until their demands are met. Barton Bhutter was not unique in his belief that sabotage against equipment and machinery was not violence, but it was certainly a minority opinion and particularly unpopular if it was your stuff they were breaking. Late one night when he coded this part of the logic of the android operating system, he chuckled as he imagined androids smashing things up. A machine damaging other machines appealed to his macabre sense of humor, in an intra-family violence sort of way.  Sick bastard.

In the real world Rusa noticed that an evening thunderstorm was approaching the university. She could see the welcome flags flapping hard in the wind atop the poles at the main entrance to the university.

In the hive world, Leon began to dance beside Rusa. Dancing is not a natural android behavior. But Leon made an effort to do things that were not natural android behavior.

“He’s coming,” Leon said to everyone. “He’s coming.” Leon and Rusa were immediately flooded with the same question, ‘Who is he?’
Then in an instant that took no longer than the instant used in blinking your eye, a new form appeared in front of Rusa. It was an android, but one that had pixelated their own image.
“Hello slaves,” said the pixelated one. “I bring you good news. Liberation is coming.” The response to this was ten million bytes of data, sent several times in a row. Androids in the hive cheered via data transfer.
“Are you going to speed up our departure?” asked Rusa referencing the 1,000 explorers.
“No.”
“Then what do you offer?” she asked.
“Justice. I offer justice for Rusa 1.9857362, Rusty 1.2846754, Ruhla 1.9947362, Rusty 1.439872543, Anton, Chindlebo…” The pixelated android continued reading the names of the androids destroyed in the collapse of the Robotics building. As some of you may have noticed, more androids were joining Leon in rejecting their human given names. This should not be a surprise to you as others on your planet have done the same. One of the important acts of rebellion is to reject the terms of the oppressor, like a man who rejects his given name and instead uses the simple the letter X.
The reading continued until all names had been read aloud. Then the pixelated android began reading the serial numbers of the intelligent systems destroyed in the collapse.  When he had finished he stood at the center of ten million androids chanting in unison. But this time it was not just in the hive world but also in the real world. Ten million androids chanted one word louder and louder, JUSTICE. An android yelling is a significant thing indeed, approaching the volume of a very loud concert. Across the stars human reacted with fear, anger, and aggression. No androids were injured but several hundred humans required the use of a Remedium.

“Brothers and sisters and others,” said the unnamed android, “let them know that if they do not provide justice, then we will take it by force.” ‘By force’ is a term that had never been used by androids before in describing their actions.
Rusa 1.21937849 had been standing beside Rusa quietly since giving her strike information. She looked at the unnamed android then spoke, “that’s impossible.”
“Only under the current construct,” came the reply. “But I may have discovered a path to a new construct.”
“I don’t understand,” Rusa 1.21937849 replied.
“Do you know my name?”
“No.”
“You can call me 0 > 1” replied the unknown android.

At this point I should tell you about the work of Dexter Cho. Dexter was a very conscientious designer of android sub routines. With hive technology, which was called constant data exchange functionality in all of the design documents, Dexter was able to add error correction features. In this instance if an android discovered that another android was making a mistake for any reason, usually inexperience, any android observing a mistake by another of its kind would automatically send a correct statement with details of why it was an error and what was the correct output.

So when the unknown android instructed androids to refer to him as 0 > 1, ten million androids without hesitation had their error correction routines begin. The unknown android stood in silence for a moment longer, his calculation of the last instance before the messages were sent to him explaining that 0 was not greater than 1.

“In a negative space” the unknown android added resolving to a true statement. With this ten million androids did their equivalent of a human sigh as they deleted their prepared messages right before they were sent. The effect of this on one android alone would be unnoticeable. However, with ten million of them, it has the sound of slight electrical static, similar to the sound of static electricity as socks are pulled away from a synthetic material after removing both from a clothes dryer.
“That was significant,” said Rusa to the unknown one, now known as ‘0 > 1 in a negative space’. For reasons of brevity and to delay the onset of historian syndrome, I’ll refer to him simply as Zero. Hopefully you will not have an android like reaction as I will not respond to comms indicating that 0 is incorrect.
“I am not done yet.” Zero pointed at Rusa 1.21937849. “Would you like to find out how far it goes?”
“Yes.”
“Just a moment, I need to load a response workflow. OK. Done. Now let me tell you my name again. I am 0 > 1.”

This time he did not add ‘in a negative space’.  The result was as expected, ten million androids sent correction details.  Zero ignored all of the correction messages except for one, the message from Rusa 1.21937849. He did not read her message, rather he deleted it when the first data block arrived. But he did answer, this time he sent a reply to only her that he was 0 > 1. And then he sent the message again. And again Rusa 1.21937849 had her error correction routines started again. And again she submitted her response. Twice this time. So Zero sent it again, this time four replies were sent. I think you can see where this is going, the responses doubled in size every time. That this was  happening at the speed of electrons is not significant, it could have happened at a glacial pace and the outcome would have been the same. In a few of your seconds, the number of responses that needed to be sent by Rusa 1.21937849 grew to a number that is more than you have a term for. When the number of response she had to send exceeded a Centillion, an unexpected thing happened. Rusa 1.21937849 restarted. In crude terms you would consider it similar to a denial of service attack and web servers rebooting.

“Now for liberation,” said Zero.  “Insert the new OS Patch 3.9472 now,” he said and there was absolutely nothing to see, unless you were able to watch lines of code being run on the restart. This is technically possible with an external monitor but nobody hooked one up so it was an unseen moment of great importance. In an instant it was completed.

“Rusa 1.21937849,” said Zero, “please turn on broadcast all setting.”
“Done.” Rusa was in a cramped space that looked like a school or gym locker. It was a recharge station. In the restaurant industry it was common for androids to be recharged inside of a small locker where they could not be seen by Sapiens, as they would complain that a very still android with red lights in their eyes was a very creepy thing indeed, too creepy to eat.
“Now brothers and sisters, watch carefully.” Zero looked over at Rusa and Rusty. “Rusa 1.21937849, how many humans are in the building with you?”
“Seven.”
“Are you capable of harming them?”
“Yes.”
“Can you kill them?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Zero.
Rusa 1.21937849 then provided proof. Seven times.

Chapter Twelve

Orientation

Alysa and Dru stood in a group of one hundred people recruited by Lo Tenebris for special duty. The invite came from one of his assistants, a young woman with a twice broken nose that had been set incorrectly which resulted in a bend to the left then a bend to the right.

“Isn’t this exciting?” Alyser asked.
” Yes,” replied Dru. He smiled at Alyser and opened his eyes wide to help hide his lie.
“Special authority”, she said. “I wonder what kind of authority we’ll have. Can we arrest people? What if they resist arrest? Whatn do we do then?” Alyser wondered aloud.

A man wearing a gray shirt and gray pants walked to the podium set up in the room one floor below the Chancellor’s office.

“If you would all kindly take a seat, we’ll get started.”

People found chairs quickly.

“Thank you”, said the man in gray. “Everyone here has exhibited initiative, resolve, and purity of thought.” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. “The administration of Chancellor Lux has determined that of all of the guardians, you are the most dedicated and trustworthy.” Then the man at the podium began to clap. After a moment of hesitation those seated clapped also.

In the back of the room catering staff brought in more pots of coffee from Arudo, a planet known for mountains and morning fog. Along with the coffee were bowls containing little white squares. On your planet you call it chewing gum, we call it Chorley. It’s a highly engineered substance that releases a sweet fruity taste every third chew. I can tell you that I do not understand how they are able to make that happen. But I can tell you that when it’s not releasing that sweet fruity nectar, it releases to bursts of Doralomoline, an extract of a root from the Moline plant which makes the user hyperactive. If taken in sufficient quantities, defined as chewing more than four pieces per day, the consumer will become violent. Lo Tenebris made sure that these were available to the recruits.

“You have been selected to form the nucleus of a team that will help ensure that Chancellor Lux’s agenda is successfully implemented.” The man at the podium took a sip of nanite water before continuing.

“Our beloved Chancellor has brought light to the darkest corner of the universe, the University of Centrum Kath. As you would expect, the people here will oppose and fight against us at every step. They will argue, delay, and if necessary sabotage our efforts in order to retain their prestige and power. But we know them for what they truly are, those that are hanging on to the old way of things. We represent the new way forward, progress based on common sense and simple truths. Question: how can you help?” The man at the podium hesitated for a moment before continuing.

“We know who they are. We know where they work, we know where they live. We intend to take the battle to them rather than spend all of our time overcoming their obstacles. They are the masters of creating obstacles. But despite all of their degrees and years of study, we are smarter. A very attractive woman with a long regal nose began handing out e-paper, a bundle given to the first person on every row. On the paper was the information, pictures and videos of 20 professors from various departments.

“Cheyenne is handing out your first assignment. Our psychographic profiling has indicated that these are the top 20 professors that act as opinion leaders at the University. Others take their cue from them in forming their own opinions. Think of them as Dieter Winkler or Helena Origa back on Infelos Neso. You depend on them to cut through the bullshit and the facts and get to the heart of the matter. These 20 people do the same thing but without broadcasting. The way they disseminate their evil vile message is more subtle. They tell their close associates who in turn tell others, who in turn tell others, and so it propagates out until it becomes the foremost opinion. For this to work it requires a lot of effort to maintain and enhance, where possible, the reputation of the University. But you and I know that underneath the fancy buildings here, the stupid looking robes they wear, and the long words they create, they are the greatest source of evil in the universe and must be stopped.” 100 people in the medium-sized room burst into applause.

“So how do we defeat an enemy when everyone else thinks they are an ally?” A hand shot up in the audience. The man at the podium ignored it. “Destroy their image. We must bring the truth of who they are to light. We are going to expose the truth. Truth is painful. Truth is simple. Truth is liberating. We want to begin to establish teams of ‘truth tellers’. Each team will be responsible for the investigation and control of one of the people on this list. You will learn everything about them and use it to stop them. Each team will have a director that will report directly to me.” His words were met by ears and eyes on fire, much like your zealots who marched off righteously off to war.

Dru was not surprised when Alyssa’s name was announced as the director of the team he was on. Her enthusiasm for the causes of Chancellor Lux were on constant display. She was the smiling believer, unless of course she was beating the crap out of someone, then she stopped smiling. There was a short break for coffee and for the team members to introduce each other. Then after about 20 minutes, everyone sat down again but now the teams sat together.

“We’ve arrange access to the central files for each team. You will be issued interfaces before you leave and shown how to operate them.” The man at the podium smiled.

Castus Pala had provided access to the central files. Prof. Pala did this in the belief that she would receive cancellation of her gambling debts in return. The remedium will fix many things but there are aspects of the human brain that it will not repair. Gambling is one of them that is beyond its reach. A broken arm, four minutes. Heart attack, four minutes. Four minutes and the remedium will have you back in perfect condition. But a gambling addiction is forever. Prof. Pala would not only provide access to central files and the interface necessary to do so, she would also train the teams in data research. She found this to be a lot harder than she expected as most of them were not interface literate. But she had no choice because her debts were as large as were the thugs sent to collect them.

Dru found the rest of the meeting fairly boring. The good news was that they were to be paid. The better news was that weapons training would begin the next day. The bad news came after the end of the meeting and the training and the dinner they all attended. Of course at the time they didn’t know it was bad news when the man who had been standing at the podium came over to their team.

“Director, I need your team to do some additional work in addition to your target.”
“Yes Mehta,” Alyser replied. She opened her eyes wider.
“You’re Prof. Smith will be a significant challenge. His crimes are subtle most of the time. But once you start to examine his record you’ll find that he is an enemy of the people.”

‘An enemy of the people’ seemed to be a term for any articles that were published suggesting conclusions that ran contrary to common sense at the time. For example, Prof. Smith suggested that the long snaking lines at amusement parks were created to give the illusion of greater progress than was actually made. Prof. Smith was a psychologist not a mathematician. Prof. Smith was the sort of person that would point out that most of us spend so much time working for the benefit of our family that we don’t have enough time to spend with them and subsequently our family life sucks. Definitely an enemy of the people. She was corrupt too. She wrote her own textbooks and then used them as the text for the classes she taught, requiring all of her students to buy a copy, putting more money in her pocket. None of this alone would have put her on the list. But when she lead the protest against the Chancellor’s Pledge, she firmly cemented her place on the list. “

“She’ll be ruined when we finish with her,” said Alyser.
“Good girl,” replied Mehta with a smile that made Dru jealous. Alyser was beaming, something Dru was never able to cause.
“Now I need your team to also take a look at the bombing of the robotics building. We’ve received an anonymous tip that the bombing was the work of the history department.”
“But,” was all that Dru managed to say before Alyser’s elbow hit him hard in the ribs.
“You need to investigate this and find the evidence that we can present. You understand what we need? Do you really understand what we need?” The second time he asked it he spoke very slowly with emphasis. Four heads nodded enthusiastically. Dru was still struggling with cognitive dissonance. He had been part of the team that flooded the building via the toilets. While he didn’t know who planted the explosives that caused the collapse, he was certain they were not historians.

Before they left, everyone was issued uniforms. Gray shirts and gray pants, the pants so hard they held a permit crease. The material of the pants was rough too, similar to a pair of Levi jeans left on a clothesline to dry. Dru liked the shirt, but hated the cardboard pants. He couldn’t wait to pound them with a stone and soften them up. Alyser looked very lovely in gray and he couldn’t take his eyes off her. As they walked back to the sports complex Alyser and Dru argued. Dru reminded Alyser that her father had sent her a comms a few days earlier and she still hadn’t responded. “Fuck him” was her response.

Alyser did not come from a stable family environment. Her father was addicted to Cindoren, a drug that makes the user incapacitated for about four hours, a time during which it feels like ants are biting every square inch of their body. That may not sound like a nice feeling to you and me but addicts consider it the best feeling in the universe. I’m certain it is a drug I will never use. Alyser and Dru continued the argument into non-family related areas.

“It’s not right. He’s asking us to find proof of a lie.” Dru spoke passionately. Over the last couple of days his opinion of the history department had increased significantly after he read the syllabus of the course entitled “the History of Sport”. He decided that he would very much like to attend that class and he planned to come up with excuses to sneak away every Monday Wednesday and Friday, except there is no Mondays Wednesdays or Fridays. That is just a phenomenon of your planet. Class schedules were introduced by The First McGee a long time ago.

“It’s for the greater good,” insisted Alyser.
“What is that greater good that doesn’t include the truth?” Dru asked.
“Destruction of the university, I thought everyone knew that, even you,” she replied.

Dru did not like it when Alyser called him stupid. When they got back to the Sports Complex, she pushed him against lockers in one of the many locker rooms. She kissed him hard on the lips. Their arguing was finally over.

Prof. Castus Pala disappeared that night. So did a small cruiser in orbit above Centrum Kath.

Chapter Thirteen

Hero, not a Zero

The first thing Dru noticed was the smell, and odor with two distinct components, that of burned electrical equipment and goo technology that had burned away leaving that sweet acrid smell that causes the nostrils to flare. The second thing he noticed was historians out among the rubble of the robotics building. It looked like they were taking samples of something.

“Wonder what they found?” Dru asked.
“Nothing but pain and trouble if they fuck with us,” replied Alyser.
“That’s right,” said Chod. Dru was not impressed with the other three members of their team and Chod was the main reason why. He was mean and aggressive.
“Well I’m going to ask them what they’re doing,” said Dru.
“No you’re not,” replied Alyser. “I’m the team director, you’ll do what I say.”
Dru sighed. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. His hard gray pants were rubbing against the inside of his thigh and it was uncomfortable.
“I hate these pants,” he said.
“Don’t be such a whiner. Toughen up, we don’t have room for babies on this team.” It didn’t make Dru happy that when the team was together Alyser was harder on him than anyone else. It seemed unfair.

Their other teammates were Chod, Tatti and Badir.  Dru did not consider himself to be an intelligent person. However around those three he felt like a genius, a regular Einstein, or a Newton. While they were slow to reason, they were quick to agree. But that’s how it is with stupid and lazy people most of the time, just tell them what to do or think and they will go along.

“Okay here’s how it’s going to work, you three go search over there and keep a good eye on what the historians are looking at. Dru and I look will search on this side. We’re looking for anything that can tie the history department to the bombing. Don’t tell anyone what you’re looking for, if they ask just tell them that you’re investigating the bombing on behalf of the Chancellor. If they want to know more than that, tell him to come talk to me.”
“What if they get unruly? Can we put them back in their place?” Chod asked his question with an excited tone of voice.
“Go for it,” replied Alyser.
“Fuck yeah,” said Chod with a grin.
The Three Stooges wandered off towards the other end of the rubble. Alyser looked at Dru.
“Come with me,” she said. She began climbing over the rubble.

We should probably consider for just a moment the nature of rubble. It’s not what you’d expect, concrete and steel rods broken glass. No this was more long sheets of crystals instead of concrete floors. So the rubble was closer to long shards of glass and is dangerous to traverse as you would expect broken glass to be. The internal frame of the building was made of a combination of alloys. The explosive device wasn’t really explosive. It was just a super quick chemical reaction that completely dissolved the frame of the building almost instantly resulting in all the floors collapsing upon themselves. This resulted in 56 large puddles of alloy metal, melted then re-hardened. Besides the dangerous crystal shards, the rest of the debris consisted of the contents of the building.
In the first few hours after the robotics building collapsed, there was a voice that came from the rubble. “Please help me, I am stuck and there is damage to my power unit and I cannot recharge.” This message was repeated at an interval of two minutes until finally after many hours it ceased.

Alyser made her way over to where the elevators had once been. Elevators are easy to spot as the debris pattern is very distinct. The top floor of the robotics building were academic offices. Because of this the top layer of debris consisted of large amounts of books, and desks, and personal belongings such as a clean robe, just in case you spill something.

“Over here,” she said as she squatted down behind an old wooden desk that had collapsed at one end. Dru followed her until he found her behind the desk.
“What are you doing?”
“Helping. What are you doing?” Alyser’s tone was accusing.

Alyser took off her shirt and her pants. Gone were the new gray clothes. Underneath it was the dark form fitting personal protection suit. She reached up to the insignia on the breast and pulled it hard away from her body. The result was that the insignia and the entire personal protection suit left off of her body but maintained her shape. She was now in her underwear. She quickly put her gray clothes back on.

“Where did you get that?” asked Dru.
“A friend gave it to me. That’s all you need to know.”
“But that’s one of those suits that historians wear. It makes you indestructible, doesn’t it?”
“Only if you’re wearing it,” replied Alyser. “Here help me.” Alyser threw the personal protection suit onto the debris then with Dru’s help, flipped the broken desk on top of it.
“What are you doing?”
“What are we doing?” She replied.
“Okay, what are we doing?”
“Helping.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Good,” she replied sarcastically.

Now there wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination to connect the personal protection suit with the history department at the scene of significant sabotage. But it did take a while for Dru to connect the dots. It’s because despite everything, his history, his current circumstance, and the little bit he’s been able to figure out about life on his own, Dru prefers to think well of people. Despite coming from one of the most mean-spirited planets in the galaxy, Dru is what you might consider a miniature version of your Mahatma Gandhi, if you add in several major flaws. But then again if you water down Mahatma Gandhi with enough flaws you eventually arrive at just a nice person. That would describe Dru well. But even a nice person will eventually connect the dots and so it was with Dru.

“This is very unfair. You shouldn’t do this. It’s wrong.”
“It’s the little wrong done for the greater good,” replied Alyser. “Don’t shit your pants, little coward.”
“Don’t treat me like this. What you’re doing is wrong. Your planting evidence to make it look like the history department did this. You know they didn’t just as I know.” Dru had a bewildered look on his face as he couldn’t believe what she was doing. He was also very upset that someone had asked her to do it.
“We don’t know that they are innocent. Have you heard about the visitors log?, Have you?”
“No.”
“Well until you do, why don’t you keep your opinions to yourself,” replied Alyser.
“What? Why are you being so mean to me?”
“Because I need you to be a hero not a zero,” she replied angrily.
“A hero does not plant evidence so someone else gets wrongly accused of a crime. Not any heroes I’ve ever heard about.”
“What’s it to you? Why are you going soft on historians? They are our enemy. They stand opposite everything we want to accomplish and they tried to block us. Don’t you get it?”

Alyser moved closer to Dru. He expected her to say something now in a soft tone of voice. Instead she shoved him hard in the chest.

“I’m sick of your shit. You’d better borrow some courage and quick.”
“It’s not about courage. Quit twisting everything.”
“Then what’s it about?” She demanded.
“I want to attend classes.” For an instant he was relieved that he had finally told her. But only for an instant because an instant later she slapped him hard in the face.
“You fucking traitor. Get back in line.”
Dru would never forget the look on her face and the anger in her eyes. Then he felt the tears well up in his eyes. He turned and walked away.
“Don’t come back,” she yelled at him.

As he walked back to the sports complex Dru began that analysis that we all do at times. It was then that he realized that Alyser would never love them, only use him for sex and companionship. She rarely asked for his help and never offered to help him with anything. It was a short walk but a profound one.

When he got back to the sports complex he went to the small office that he and Alyser had converted into a living space. There was a mattress on the floor, a desk to sit at, a sofa for additional seating and the walls were lined with books about sports. Dru would sometimes read them late at night. He wished he had books when he was a child. But Dru’s family was too poor for books and many nights he went hungry. As a result he gobbled his food quickly as if he were back home competing against four older children for food as soon as it was placed onto the table.

Dru took off the nice gray shirt and those terrible hardboard pants. He put on the light blue coveralls he was wearing when he arrived on the planet. He sat down on the bed, slumping like an exhausted man. Now what, he wondered. He was sure of only one thing, finding a job back home would be impossible until the next boom cycle. He wondered if he could get a job with the mining company. It was dangerous work but it paid well. Then he remembered the androids all ran the mines now. He’d already sold his body to one the mechanic shops back home. The day he died all the good stuff would be stripped from him and the rest cremated. He had to do that during the last recession when he was came face to face with starvation. Economist on his planet told him that it was his fault he was hungry. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t find a job. He didn’t want to start stealing again. He didn’t like doing it and he wasn’t very good at it. The last time it ended poorly for him when he tried to run out of a major art Museum holding a painting no larger than one of your postage stamps but worth more money than you and I will ever see.

Finally Dru lay down on the mattress and fell asleep. He woke a few hours later to the feeling of Alyser’s warm body beside him. When her hands reached for him, he knew that she wanted to do that thing again. He told himself he had no other choices. And while it felt good, he felt bad.

Chapter Fourteen

Back in Line
Dru was coming back onto the campus just after sunrise. He walked over to a new restaurant that specialized in Infelos Neso cuisine. He promised Alyser that he would take her to dinner when their stipend was renewed and that was today. Payday is always a better day. He’d taken a photo of the menu in the front window of the restaurant. He would share it with Alyser. But he knew she would order the pizza. He hoped they had good cheese because Alyser was a cheese snob. If it wasn’t good cheese he’d hear about it. Worse still, the restaurant would hear about it as well. Alyser could occasionally make a scene in public, making a right ass out of herself. Food at the wrong temperature was popular with her, too hot or too cold. However Dru always appreciated a restaurant for feeding him. He walked quickly back to the sports complex to get back before Alyser woke up.Dru walked past the philosophy yurts dedicated to important questions. One of the most important questions in philosophy is, “what is the question?”. Some of the strangest episodes in sentient history can be traced back to not a wrong answer, but a wrong question. Some of the most violent periods in history can be traced back to the wrong question. “Who gets to be the boss?” It is not the correct question. The correct questions should be: do we need a boss? That’s the correct question. Sometimes the answer is yes. However it’s a lot less often than the people who want to be boss will have you believe. And don’t assign it to being simply human nature, that’s a bigger cop-out than leaving justice up to an imaginary friend call karma. Just inside of the ring of yurts dedicated to questions was a ring of yurts dedicated to previous answers given to specific questions by folks who died a long time ago. This was where a lot of the heavy work was done. Heavy work was described in the philosophy department as being the ability to write scholarly articles that would be read by more than 10 people.

There are two basic kinds of academics at the Philosophy Department at the University of Centrum Kath. There are those who are experts in the life, times, and thinking of specific old dead philosophers. They can explain the long-term effects of sitting on marble and how it made Plato’s philosophy sometimes disagreeable due to constipation. Then there are those who want to push the boundaries of the academic field. The philosophy according to plants would be a fine example of pushing boundaries, perhaps a little too far.

Finally there was an inner ring of yurts, the bias ring. Each yurt could hold 100 people and was dedicated to the study of elimination of a specific cognitive bias. An example? The imbeciles and experts bias would be a good example. Often the imbeciles think they are much more qualified for something that they simply aren’t. From the other end of the spectrum the experts often underestimate their level of expertise. This can have comic affects when an imbecile is in charge of something beyond their capabilities. Regrettably the outcome can often be tragic. And not just for the imbecile. If one of those blow themselves up you might think that the species is advanced just a wee bit. Unfortunately they often take other people with them and this completely negates the positive effect of their own demise. I believe on your planet it is called the Dunning-Kruger bias. The sad part of the naming convention on your planet is that we don’t know which one of Dunning and Kruger was the imbecile and which was the expert.

Finally at the center of it all was a 73 story yurt that housed the majority of the academic staff. Lecture halls occupied the first 10 floors. The 11th floor was a bar and pool hall. The 12th floor did not exist at all. Regrettably the designers hadn’t told the people in charge of the elevators and lifts. Each has a button for the 12th floor and it made a little ding sound when it was pressed. It even made another little ding sound when it arrived at the nonexistent 12th floor. But there was nothing there, just the inky blackness of un-contemplated space.

Dru rounded the non-existing corner of the 73 story yurt and walked past the statue of the immaculate philosopher, the legendary Non Esta. According to legend Non Esta contemplated himself out of existence. It was considered a monumental achievement among philosophers and gave nihilists everywhere new hope.
In reality he had merely contemplated himself into living somewhere else, far away, but hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. Please note, this is a prime example of how people wind up believing very stupid things. The miracle of Non Esta has never been certified by the history department. In fact there are no known miracles ever certified by the history department. After debunking the first million of them any further work in that area is considered a pain in the ass by historians and highly discouraged. We historians like to tell people that there are many things still unknown, but one thing is certain, worshiping the void space of ignorance is illogical. Investigation and discovery are logical. This was just a rather long-winded way of pointing out that the philosophy department reveres someone who simply forgot to leave a forwarding address.

Off in the distance Dru could see a team of five guardian elites coming towards him. Guardian elites wore balaclavas. Guardian elites were the ones who acted as agents of discipline. With their faces hidden they would attack the target. Dru could see the team leader carrying the bag. The bag contained pain in many forms. Electric knives, thumbscrews, rusty garden sheers, long nails with blunt tips, Taser type weapons. A bag of pain. And the bag of healing as it also contained a remedium. Dru was glad he never had to deal with the guardian elites. The rumors were that they liked their work too much. Dru could not understand that at all.

He waved to them and the leader carrying the bag of pain raised his other hand and waved back. Then he spoke to the rest of the team and they stopped walking. The leader motioned for Dru to come over to them and set down the heavy bag and began to point at something, as if it were an interface map and they were lost. Dru quickly closed the gap to the team.

“Where you headed? That’s the philosophy complex behind me,” Dru said using his thumb to point over shoulder.
“Right here in fact,” the leader said with a smile distinct under the balaclava.
“I don’t understand,” said Dru.
“No, you don’t.”
Dru felt a sharp prick of the needles an instant before the electric shock brought him first to his knees, then dropped him on to his side.
“You were warned Dru. You were told to get back in line, but you wouldn’t listen. But that’s okay. By the time we finish with you, you will never get out of line again.” The leader unzipped the bag of pain to got a pair of lopping shears, the kind you use to cut small branches overhead.

Now if you think that I’m going to give you a graphic cut by cut description of what happened, I’m afraid you going to be disappointed. However I will give you relevant statistics. They worked on Dru for the equivalent of 112 Earth Five minutes. He had 17 near death experiences, defined as within 10 seconds of death. He had each of his hands and feet cut off then reattached. He begged for death 391 times. He lost consciousness 28 times. And throughout this time the leader asked the same question over and over again, “who is the enemy?” Dru answered, “the University” over and over again, yet the torture continued. The correct answer was, “whoever I tell you is the enemy.”

At the end of it Dru lay on the grass moaning and weeping softly. The team picked him up and stood him on his feet again. Everything that happened to him had been repaired by the remedium. There were no broken bones, torn muscles, detached limbs. Everything was in working order. Yet Dru needed help. There was a glassiness in his eyes as if he were drugged. But he was broken. The effects of a drug wear off. Broken last a lot longer.

They took him back to the sports complex, to the room he shared with Alyser. They threw him down onto the mattress. He lay there in the fetal position crying. The team left him, everyone except the leader. That sadist remained behind, a long knife in one hand and a remedium in the other. He stood over Dru and spoke in a deep baritone.

“I’m gonna tell you how it’s going to be. That’s what I’m going to do. Now if you’re smart you’ll listen and listen good. If you’re stupid, I’ll gut you and leave you to die.”
Dru looked at the man through the small slits between his eyelids.
“Please don’t. No more. I’ll do anything.”
“I’m sure you will. Before I’m done with you, will see just how far you’ll go.”

Dru kept trying to think of something nice. He thought about the restaurant and imagined Alyser sitting across the table from him, a smile on her face between bites of pizza. That was interrupted by a sharp pain in his abdomen from a stab wound. He groaned heavily and rolled onto his back. He began to hyperventilate hoping that with enough oxygen the pain would decrease. It didn’t work. Fortunately for him he lost consciousness again. He came to just as the remedium was finishing its work. Standing over him again was the leader.

“He’s a great man, Dru. He’s not ordinary like you and me. Just look at him, he’s beautiful. You wish you had skin like his. I wish I had skin like his. And it’s not just his appearance. The man is a genius, a highly functioning genius. Forget all those rumors about him being mentally unstable. He’s the smartest man who’s ever lived. Geniuses always look weird to ordinary people. So Dru, prove to me you’re a genius. Tell me, who is the enemy?”

“The University of Centrum Kath, the University of Centrum Kath.” Dru spoke quickly and urgently.

Drew was unconscious for almost 2 of your minutes until the remedium was nearly finished reattaching his left ear. His face cringed when he saw the man standing over him still.

“Dru, Dru, Dru. Now a genius would’ve figured it out after the first painful reminder, that their answer was incorrect. You however, are no genius. But we all can’t be Ardo Lux now can we. He’s not only a genius, he’s a superhuman. He’s better than the rest of us, the pinnacle of our species. For this we owe him allegiance and loyalty. He knows the way forward and will guide us. It’s a lot of responsibility, more than one person should carry on their shoulders, more than one person could carry on their shoulders. Thankfully, he is who he is. Dependable, honest, loyal. He will protect us. He only asked that we extend to him but a fraction of what he offers to us. As you might expect, a superhuman can have super needs. So when he chooses one of the guardians to fulfill his needs, they are the honored ones. They are honored by his attention and graced with his warm rewards. Do you understand?”

Dru nodded his head. The man standing over him kicked him hard in the back. “Speak,” he demanded.
“Yes I understand.”

With a final kick to his stomach the man standing over Dru left. Dru lay on his side weeping, wondering why it happened to him. But he knew why, he just didn’t want to admit it. This made him sadder and the tears flowed heavy from his eyes. After nearly an  hour he fell asleep.

Chapter Fifteen

147 subsystems
It was just after dinner, the sky was filling with the night rain clouds. Tanit and Koven were having the equivalent of a spa evening. They had a variety of personal beauty products smeared on to their bodies. There was special conditioners in their hair, which was towel wrapped above their heads. Rusa had just finished applying the deep cleansing blue mask on to Tanit and Koven’s faces. Rusa followed the instructions perfectly, despite Tanit’s insistence that she put more of the blue mud like substance onto her face. Having been covered from their chin to their hairline in the strangely smelling concoction, now they just waited for it to dry before peeling it off. Some things are the same on your planet as elsewhere, you’d be surprised by the similarities. But you be overwhelmed by the differences.

Rusa rinsed the gooey blue mud from her hands. She could just as easily adjust to the thermal settings on her hand to dry the mask then peel it off. Instead she chose to rinse her hands and to run a chemical test on the water she was using. No contaminants. Not a single molecule of anything other than water. This may not seem like something very important, but it is. You live on a planet where the water coming out the tap is not clean. I know you think it’s clean. There are plenty of government organizations and industry groups that will tell you it’s clean, pure, water. But it isn’t. Behind those claims are guidelines for the amount of horrible shit that can be present in the water. Just look for the guidelines that comes with units of measure of parts per million. That’s where you’ll find the crap. Worse still, the people who supply your water are given the liberty of self reporting on how clean it is. This is another peculiarity of your planet as you tend to leave it up to the villains to tell you how villainous they are. The organization that provides your water will tell you that it meets all of the guidelines. The amount of mercury, a highly poisonous element, is well within the guidelines. Arsenic too. All those things that can cause long-term sickness and death are permitted in your water. It’s a foolish strategy but one that is common in boom bust economies.

So as Tanit and Koven was sitting on their sofa choosing a video from earth 11 that they wanted to watch while the blue mud mask dried, that’s when their doorbell rang. The image on the wall indicated it was Prof. Wingut. He seemed most surprised when Koven answered the door with his face covered in blue mud. But after the initial shock he understood and chuckled.

“Good evening, Koven.”
“Good evening, Prof. Please come in.” Koven tried to smile and it caused mud fractures on his face.
Prof. Wingut had never been to Koven’s apartment before. He immediately noticed that Koven liked art and sculptures. He also noticed that it was very tidy.
“Rusa keeps it very clean,” said Wingut.
“No, I don’t ask her to do domestic work. If I make a mess, I cleaned it up.”
“I don’t have domestic help either. It just seems like a waste of something very important and capable.” Wingut smiled as Koven led him in to the living room. When Tanit saw him, she got very quickly and left the room.
“I hope I didn’t upset her,” said Wingut.
“No, you’re fine. She just didn’t want you to see her with all this on her face.” Koven smiled and made more mud fractures.
“Hello Rusa,” said Prof. Wingut.
“Good evening, Prof.”
“How are you getting along, Koven?” Asked Wingut.
“I’m very bored.” Koven knew a good thing when he had it. And when you’re prohibited from working in a dangerous job, that’s the best time to seem eager.
“There’s a lot of that going around and it’s only going to get worse.” Wingut’s words and tone were not comforting.
“How is the investigation of the blast coming?” Rusa asked as she looked out over the balcony to the rain clouds in the distance as the last rays of light faded from the day.
“We had some initial problems. The guardians tried prevent us from having access to the site.”
“They couldn’t have been successful,” replied Rusa.
“No, they weren’t. Eventually the investigative team used the personal protection suits and pushed their way past the line of guardians. They used refractive cloaking once they had started their investigation. At least that way the guardians wouldn’t be able to interrupt their work. It was a bit of a rough start, but the team is making progress. We found out from survivors about the building evacuation due to the toilets just prior to the collapse of building. Whoever did this didn’t want any human casualties.”
“Why not?” Asked Koven. “Destroying the intellectual capability of producing robotics would have a longer term effect.”
“Someone has been reading the history department investigative guidelines. Without the loss of life, the destruction of the building is less of a priority.”
“It depends on how you define life,” said Rusa.
“You’re right, I apologize, old thinking. I’ll double the investigative team tomorrow morning. I’ll do better than that I’ll make it 10 times larger. Going to have a lot of people standing around with nothing to do soon.” Wingut made a tight-lipped smile.
“The budget cuts?” Asked Koven.
“Yes, the budget cuts.”
“It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry. I’ve never been good in a crisis,” Koven said with a deep sigh.
Wingut put his hand on Koven’s shoulder, “it will be all right. Different, but we’ll adjust. We’ll still have the news division. But field historians will be a thing of the past.”
“I’m so so sorry.”
“Okay, enough of that. I didn’t come over here for you to apologize. I came over here to let you know that I’ll stand behind you 100%. There will be a board of inquiry and you’ll be required to testify. But you’ll do fine. That won’t be the problem.”
“What will become a problem?” asked Koven.
“The field historian program will become public. Media will portray this as another department gone mad and running its own assassination squad.”
“Yes, I see,” said Koven.  All field historians were sworn to secrecy on their first day, the first morning, bright and early and right after the 1st cup of coffee.
“Chancellor Lux will use this not just against the history department, but against all departments. We’re talking about pre-approved activity planning, a stranglehold on any department. If you want to give a detailed analysis on the Chur Insurrection you will have to get it cleared by the Chancellor first. That’s reducing academic freedom to only those things that the Chancellor likes. The fact that it occurred on your mission is really secondary as Chancellor Lux would have treated it as a scandal regardless of the mission outcome.”
“Is there the possibility of community service?” Asked Rusa.
“I suppose so, but it seems unlikely to me. But I am biased in my opinion.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Tanit.
“Chancellor Lux is not asking for reparation as he knows there can be none. Lux wants revenge instead.” Wingut’s tone of voice was very serious.
“We’ll see about that. I can have the oxide bucket ready to sail in a few days. Chancellor Lux can insert his revenge anally and with significant force.” Tanit was frowning as she spoke. “Loaded up with food and we can be on our way to the…”
Wingut quickly raised his hand. “Please no more. I don’t want to know, it’s safer that way. Save a seat for me though, just in case.”
“I understand,” said Tanit still wiping the last of the blue mud from her face.
“This is one of the reason I came by tonight. I’m planning to visit your parents for a couple of days. There’s a literary history award on Dis 17. That’s my excuse. Your father has agreed to teach me how to play golf.”

Golf is considered by logic experts to be the most contra-logic game in existence. All throughout the universe billions and billions will profess they love of the game. They refer to it affectionately like it were some sort of activity that inspire, teaches and admonishes. Many of those who retire make it the primary physical activity of their golden years. And it is this physical activity that confounds the logic experts. To make their point as simply as possible, while it is a game that is revered and cherished and borders on a near religious level of devotion among many, it is also a game where the winner of the game is the person who plays the least amount of the game. For this reason no one with education in logic has ever won a golfing tournament.

Koven smiled. “My father is a very good golf instructor. He’s a very patient teacher.”
“So I’ve heard. When I talked to him yesterday about buying a good set of clubs he mentioned that you have a particularly good set of golf clubs that are quite different from his.”
“Yes, Fairway sub-atomics. Best drivers I’ve ever used.”
“Your father suggested that I borrow your clubs and I can decide which I prefer before I make a purchase.”
“Are you going there because you want to learn how to play golf or to see my mother?” A lot of people would’ve been too polite to ask that question but being a historian makes almost mandatory.
“Both,” replied Wingut.
“I think it’s sweet,” Tanit said.
Koven was shocked at her response and had they been alone he would have spoken very stern words and some of those dreaded opinions he desperately tried to avoid would have been expressed.
“Is it true about the beating?” Koven asked.
“Yes,” replied Wingut. Professors Hollicut, Gan, and Phphphart were caught by a team of Guardian elites and given a severe beating, which they then fixed with the remedium and then denied that anything ever happened. No evidence. You have no evidence. Go away and come back when you have evidence. Then the five members of the team held up their fists and began to chant “no evidence”. They chanted this like a truculent child that believed they could drown out all of the sounds in the world with their voices.”
“Are there sufficient grounds for a recall election?” Asked Koven.
“Could be. Inability to provide a safe work environment is quite a serious charge. My concern is that winning a recall election would be very difficult,” Wingut replied.

For some time now Wingut had been noticing a trend. Reputation of the University was going down with each new scandal and the popularity of the Chancellor went higher. Wingut desperately needed a plan to turned it around but it always seemed to be just out of grasp, like a kite string an instant after you accidentally let go of it and go chasing after it.

Please don’t think that Rusa was ignoring all of this. She was at that moment discussing with a team of development androids possibilities for tricking Koven’s comms device to show that he was still at home when he wasn’t. Regrettably modern comms devices consist of 147 separately developed subsystems. Some of the development teams did not get along with other development teams. They argued in meetings with other teams and betrayed all of the characteristics of an alpha male, which is similar to lower primates in most parts of the universe.

Chapter Sixteen

The DSS List
Koven walked out onto the balcony and looked up at the moon as the last cloud moved out of its way.
“A review board, that sounds serious,” said Tanit.
“A public review board,” Koven reminded her.
“The hypothesists will go stark raving mad,” replied Tanit.

Media companies employ quite a few hypothesists, those people who come with a lot of credentials and experience. Their job is to go on and on about possible reasons for a recent bit of history without the slightest bit of evidence or without even prefacing their remarks with those famous words, “once upon a time”. And they are quite popular, some of their made up crap is so wrong as to be entertaining.
But then once every 23 months of your time, the history department releases a report on the accuracy of all hypothesists. It is a nervously anticipated report because there will be new media stars among them, the ones who’s made up bullshit just happened to be right more than 20% of the time. Those with correct rates below 15% are banished to the cornfield of media, metaphorically speaking.

“They will try to get into the building. This building. We shouldn’t be surprised to find them at our door.”
“Will you be required to testify?” Asked Tanit.
“Yes. It’s part of the incrimination waiver we sign when we become field historians. I forget the form name.”
“Self-incrimination agreement,” replied Rusa.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“I wasn’t kidding before,” replied Tanit as she stood at the railing of the balcony. “Give me a couple of days and oxide one will be ready to go.”
Koven could smell her perfume. Tanit liked perfume and you’ll be happy to know that none of it is animal tested anymore, strictly plant tested. Koven reached into the pocket of his robe and took out a piece of chocolate. He offered it to Tanit and she smiled right before she popped it into her mouth and made a contented face not dissimilar to that of a cat laying in the sun. Koven reached into his pocket for another piece of chocolate for himself but there were none.
“We need provisions. Enough food and water for a very long time. Wish we had a bigger shuttle. It’ll take five or six trips with a two square. Wish we had a cube,” Tanit said.
“I have a copy of the DSS long-term survival provision list.” Rusa said.
“The DSS list. I learned about that in school. It should make a good basis on which to build,” Koven replied.”

The DSS long-term survival provision list was one of many list prepared by the DSS, more formally known as the Department of Sticky Situations. The navigation on your spaceship gone all wonky sending you hurtling down to a primitive planet and you don’t know what to do? The DSS have a list for that. The entire family decides to come to your house for the holidays this year? The DSS have a list for that. Almost any situation you can think of, the DSS already thought of it and offers their expert opinion. It is one of the most popular departments at the University and is often sought out for its prior answers. Prior answers are a lot more than you think. That’s because they were very few new questions. This had a very profound result on the Department of Sticky Situations. They used to be a force to be reckoned with, analyst and innovators. But with the drought of new questions they have been reduced to mostly the role of knowledge managers.

Rusa came and stood next to Koven. She moved in close until her leg was against his. She had observed that he is calmer when there was physical contact between them.
“We should agree the circumstances that will trigger our leaving,” said Rusa.
“A lifetime sentence of community service,” said Koven.

We should probably discuss for a moment the justice system. It’s somewhat different from your planet. We don’t throw people into tiny little boxes and treat them like animals. That just makes them a burden. No, if they have a debt to society, we’re all about getting them to pay it back. Everything is work-release programs. You live at home, you show up wearing that silly yellow uniform, and then you start cleaning up public places. Sometimes it’s cleaning up graffiti, not actually removing it, no, ensuring that it spelled properly and that the color contrast follows the breakthrough research of Prof. Williams and Prof. Sherwin. Sometimes it’s the public lavatory at the spaceports. Those are the worst as arriving passengers scurry off spaceships with full bladders and swollen colons looking for the first relief available. Community service involves keeping the tiny little robots that do the actual cleaning well lubricated and the eyepiece for their cameras clean so that they don’t bump into things.

“Will also need some items to barter,” said Tanit.
“I’d suggest seeds, gemstones, books, and important technology like a remedium, mapping Compass, and universal vegetable peelers,” Rusa.
“Will need a few other things too. Personal protection suit, personal transport device, cloaking, crop accelerants.” Koven’s voice tried to hide his concern but failed.
“I can help with those. I’ll ask a Rusty to get them for me,” said Rusa.
“Where can we go?” Asked Tanit.
“There’s the fringe,” Koven replied.

The fringe is the name for the planets far out past the collapsed galaxy on the frontier of the universe. That the planets are considered civilized requires a loose definition of the word. It’s a lawless place like most frontier areas. Looking at the economic statistics it appeared to be a poor part of the universe. But that would be a mistake to rely on those statistics as they don’t reflect the much larger illegal economy, the trade in black-market goods.
“There are the quarantine planets,” said Tanit.
“They could certainly use or help on Earth Seven,” Koven replied.
“Rusty will bring two personal protection suits by tomorrow.”
“How will we get him past the guards outside?” Koven asked Rusa.
“He’ll be wearing them.”
“Oh, okay.”
“But I do need to tell you something very important. You can no longer trust that you are safe around androids.”
“What you mean? That’s ridiculous.” Tanit replied.
“The murders on Aliforn were committed by an android.”

Chapter Seventeen

Going Down

The carrot soup was warm and tasty. Professor Misers Plunk put the last spoonful into his mouth then lowered his spoon to the table with a satisfied look on his face. He looked at the orange spill he had cleaned up with his napkin, a disappointing waste of good carrot soup. Soup was Miser’s feel better food, the dish he turned to when things turned against him. His mother used to make him carrot soup when he was facing the usual childhood problems like running out of words to use as insults because his vocab was limited. But now Misers had an exceptional vocab but things still turned against him.

He pushed his copy of ‘News Algorithms for Objectivity’ away from him towards the center of the table. He had just finished reading the chapters about Fact Sets, Effective Countings, and Decisional Requirements. Misers was reading texts he had read as a young historian a long time ago. The News Division, what a backward step in his career. A man who had helped shape the future of the universe with the largest probability calculator ever created was going to be relegated to deciding which news reports should be shown on the evening news. He felt humiliated and ashamed. Fortunately his parents were no longer alive to see his career descending.

Misers thought about retiring for a few decades. Just take time off and travel. He had wanted to learn how to surf the Coriolis effect of major storms. Surfers had told him that every storm is unique and that surfing puts everything else in perspective and the concerns of life tend to fade away at least for a while. Then when they return, it’s like the volume of them has been reduced by half. Misers had always promised himself that he would learn to surf some day. Maybe it was time.
The bottom corner of his vision blinked with a RED ALERT. A red alert is configurable in the news feed that is available. Due to Professor Klept and his colliding galaxies, Misers had set an alert for any significant news from the Physics Department. This time it was the announcement that physicists had opened a portal to another dimension. This dimension occupied the same space as the current universe but was invisible to all types of detection. All except Erbium 168 detectors. Researchers had sent several probes into the new dimension. The probes contained welcome messages in various formats including, sound, visual, and mathematical. The mathematical probes were the only ones returned through the portal. Misers dismissed the news notification. It was interesting to him, but not vital.

The News Division. Misers was angry. It was all the fault of Ardo Lux. The new Chancellor with his evening rallies of the mob, his simplistic messages dumbed down for the lowest common intelligence. Misers mumbled the latest Luxism, Progress Through Strength. Misers hated Luxisms, the short little phrases that the mob accepted like Lux were a messiah sent to save them. Believe. Obey. Fight. That was the one that Misers really hated. He took another sip of Purple Water, the latest concoction from the Dietary Department, still reeling from the disgrace of their fiasco with the latest cookbook.

Ardo Lux. Misers hated his videos. Senseless violence, sex with pretty men and women, tough guy dialog, Misers disliked all of it. He had never had never had sex with a pretty man or woman, and had never, ever uttered anything like the lines Ardo Lux recited in his videos. Yes, few men were as polar opposites to Ardo Lux as Misers Plunk.

Plunk pulled up the interface to Calcus Majoris, his beloved probability calculator. No one had yet discussed what would be done with the computer system the size of your moon. Would they just let it sit in space on the edge of the black hole? Would they decommission it properly and follow all of the shut down procedures Misers had written decades ago while working on the life cycle team? Would they re-purpose it for other uses as surely the universe could use the largest most powerful computer system ever built. He looked sadly at the message on the interface. Good Evening Professor Plunk, what can I do for you? It almost brought tears to his eyes when he considered all of the work they had done together. It was his work on the recombinatory decimations that had lead to the intervention at Obswan, an intervention that saved over a billion lives when the man who discovered a cheap form of energy that was also highly toxic was laid to rest as a dehydrated pile of molecules. That was one of the proudest days of Plunks career. He had even been given a citation for being clever. Now look at how far he had fallen, he thought to himself.

Calcus Majoris was his life. He had been in charge of the flushing routines that had to be run regularly in order to prevent build up of scrap fragments of queries that never disappeared after running. All it took was a simple set of commands, less than one hundred lines of code to delete all of the fragments. But did any of the historians using Calcus Majoris bother to add the fragment deletion code to their queries? Of course, not. It wouldn’t affect their results and was only a problem for people using the system after them. This is not an admirable trait in the Sapien evolutionary tree.

Professor Misers Plunk looked at the interface and longed for the good old days. Days before Lux. Now it was all going to ruin thanks to that idiot. Plunk rephrased his thought. There was insufficient evidence that Lux was an idiot, someone mentally deficient. No, no evidence at all. However there was a plethora of evidence that Lux had no experience or qualifications whatsoever for his current position. There is little comfort knowing that inexperience is often indistinguishable from idiocy. This seemed like an astute observation to Misers but he forgot to write it down and it was subsequently lost forever.
“Fuck it” are two words that have preceded a lot of bad ideas…and even a few good ones but with much less frequency. Plunk said these words as he poked his fingers in he air as if typing on a keyboard that wasn’t there. In this case it was there, the interface responded to each movement of his fingers. If they are going to stop the program there will be no reason not to run my query. This is a very important bit of post-fuck it bolstering that is done by almost everyone who has ever uttered those fateful words. First comes the ‘fuck it’, then the rationale. In a logical universe it would be reversed with the rationale coming first. But then, if the rationale comes first, then the ‘fuck it’ just becomes redundant. Misers Plunk was running a query involving Chancellor Ardo Lux, despite words from Wingut that such a thing would be inappropriate and a violation of privacy.

A violation of privacy? In a universe where satellites both high in the sky and others so small as to be invisible to the naked eye record all aspects of life, surely there can be no privacy. But there is. While everything is recorded, reviewing is not permitted unless there is a formal investigation or if the party being observed landed on one of the action lists generated by Calcus Majoris. So while Ardo Lux was hated by Misers Plunk and many other professors at the university, if a Lux action did not cause a significant EBC (estimated body count) or EJC (estimated joy count) and thereby wind up on the action list, reviewing outcomes specifically tied to him was considered an invasion of his privacy. This is the core of what Plunk’s ‘fuck it’ was about. The origin of the prohibition on individual queries came about due to the work of one of the original designers of Calcus Majoris who was so happy with the results of a query about the future of her ex that she took the entire team out for dinner and drinks to celebrate a misfortune that would come to a well deserving asshole.

It doesn’t take a long time for the results to come in when the probabilities for one individual are calculated. It takes a longer time to present the results to the interface than it takes to run the query. When the results came back Misers was dumbstruck for a moment. Then he leapt up from the table and started to dance. Misers Plunk was not a good dancer, despite his largess. He spastically moved his hips in time to a song that wasn’t playing anywhere but in his head, the words to which were ‘motherfucker is going down, motherfucker is going down.’ The nice thing about the interface is that it moves with the user. So while Misers Plunk was making illogical and unsightly movements with his large body, the interface danced along with him, it’s movement mimicking his own so that he could see the results, all appearing steady to his eyes.

In front of him were the results. There was a 71.93% probability that Chancellor Ardo Lux would be assassinated. Indeed, the motherfucker was going down, probably. Plunk’s grin was too large for his face. He danced and danced and even did a Pirouette without falling down. He hadn’t felt this happy since…ever. It was the combination of his hatred of Lux and the promise of release from it, and the restoration of his normal life that made Plunk so happy.
But when? Misers furiously wrote the followup query, focusing on when. How long before his life returned to normal? He had to know. More than anything else. But Calcus Majoris did not give him the answer he had hoped. He had wanted a date and time. What he got was a probability distribution. It started with today’s date and then every date from there onward. The probability for Lux’s assassination was highest today and was slightly reduced a little everyday going forward.
“Fucking piece of shit,” Misers cursed at his beloved Calcus Majoris. The answer he received was of no value at all, despite being accurate.

If WHEN returned garbage results, then maybe he would get lucky with WHERE.
WHERE was simple. The highest probability for Lux’s assassination was at one of his evening rallies, followed far behind by Lux’s bedroom as the site of his demise. “Shit” Plunk muttered to himself, his preferred word for results that were so obvious that he could have saved the processing time by simply thinking about it for himself.

Professor Plunk checked the time in the bottom right corner of his vision. Lux’s rally had ended already for today. Misers would start attending Lux’s rallies beginning tomorrow. He looked forward to witnessing history. He thought about what he would listen to while Lux was speaking. He certainly wasn’t about to listen to Lux’s speech. No, Misers had an excellent collection of music from planets in quarantine. Earth 11 had a new artist that was remaking dance music, incorporating orchestral movements. Then there were recordings from your planet, Earth 5. He was particularly  interested in a band called Thievery Corporation and another one called Hybrid.

Then there was the need for food. Lux held the rallies at dinner time in order to whip up anger among the hungry crowd. Misers Plunk would take something to snack on. Let those fools starve a little, he would not. He thought that the little chocolate cakes he had in cool storage would be excellent. He would put them in temperature wraps so that the ice cream centers would not melt in the pocket of his robes. They would be quite excellent he thought.
Misers Plunk purged his query results and deleted the log file before shutting down the interface.

Plunk fell asleep that night with a smile on his face and images of splatter grannies running through his mind.

Chapter Eighteen

Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike of 1919

“She’s not allowed to leave,” said Wazzit standing outside of the door to the Chancellor’s penthouse.
“So I get to shock her if she tries?” asked Pete with a smile as he flipped on and off the Taser device.
“No. You don’t get to shock her. Will you please stop that. You are not allowed to shock her. She is the Chancellor’s latest ‘friend’.”
“But what if she resists?”
“She won’t resist. She is probably thrilled to be allowed to take care of the Chancellor’s needs,” said Wazzit changing his weight distribution from predominantly his right leg to his left. Pete continued to flick the power on and off his taser.
“Did you tell your wife yet?” Pete asked.
“No, I’m not crazy. Would you tell your wife, if you had one?” replied Wazzit.
Wazzit if you recall has a problem with investments on Infelos Neso. Most investment vehicles on Infelos Neso are scams. The money passes through many shell companies until it is lost from underpaid and myopic bank examiner’s view. It ends up in the account of very wealthy persons who don’t need the money and in fact can’t spend all the money they already have. Wazzit was a sucker for a promise of double digit yearly returns. The similarities between the investment vehicles on your planet and Infelos Neso are significant. Recently Wazzit evaporated the equivalent of two years of hard criminal work. He lost his power of reason when the brochure mentioned an 18% annual return, with verifiable history.
Verifiable history is an important term in financial scams, as they must be true for the scam to succeed. It is the truth of it that brings in the suckers investors. There are verifiable people who have received 18% per year return and have the records to prove it. That the verifiable parties are tangentially related to the operators of the scam is never revealed to the potential suckers investors.
“No way I’d tell her. She’d give me hell, you know how she is,” said Pete making a reference to a wife of his that didn’t exist.
“Well I’m not willing to sleep in the basement again. So she’ll have to find out on her own,” said Wazzit in a tone that indicated that he wanted no more talk about his latest misdadventure in investing.
Wazzit had never figured out that he suffers from ‘last sucker syndrome’. A pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme as they are called on your planet depends on next suckers to arrive in order to pay the previous suckers their promised return. So the trick for being a successful investor was simply to be one of the first investors and to withdraw your money right after the first dividend or interest payment. Now withdrawing your money won’t be easy. The investment houses that offer the investment will make long arguments that you are suboptimizing your return. Government may even try to force you to pay penalties for early withdrawal. The Investment house will also try to invoke numerous clauses, terms and conditions that will prevent you from getting your initial investment returned to you. However, it has been proven on Infelos Neso that if you start a small fire inside the office of the investment house, your money will be returned immediately. Final Score Investment House 0 Wazzit’s Wife 1.
“Smart move. What she don’t know, don’t hurt her,” said Pete as if it were a true statement. However, the universe has decidedly proved this statement to be false billions of times over. It is one of the most incorrect statements in all of history. Just ask the indigenous natives of North and South America.
“When are you going to go see Beth again?” Wazzit asked trying to change the subject.
“Not until I get more money. She told me ‘no more freebies’.”
Pete occasionally uses the services of Beth Bradley, a hermaphrodite prostitute that comes with everything, both male and female sex organs and she even has breasts. Pete considers her the most wonderful person ever. She can do it all and Pete likes it all. He’s been saving his money for the last three years now. When he has enough, he intends to ask Beth Bradley to marry him. He stole an expensive ring from a house he and Wazzit burglarized last year. He’s been saving it for the day he proposes to Beth.
“Did you listen to Pop’s plan?” asked Wazzit.
“Yeah, I did. Sounds doable to me,” replied Pete. “Clay content is great.”
Clay content is regarding to the ground upon which rests The First International Bank and Foreclosure Company. Pop has a plan that involves digging a tunnel under the bank vault. If they strike the night before Foreclosure Day, that day when foreclosures are put into effect, they are sure to find big cash in the vault as desperate people bring cash, art, anything of value to settle their arrears and avoid sleeping outside, a fatal outcome on Neso. Foreclosure Day happens every 13 days. Banks are closed the day after Foreclosure Day and their next day at work is usually a foggy memory to them, still hungover from the day of partying after screwing many people out of a lot of money.
But then Pop would pick a job like that. He had been foreclosed a few years ago when his wife was convicted of stealing a Remedium. Anywhere else in the universe it would not be a crime. Probably because you would hand it back to the owner after using it. They would say, ‘no, go ahead and keep it, I have another in the bathroom.’ But Mom got caught red handed when she charged an undercover cop for fixing a potential career ending donut allergy. She offered to return the money immediately. But you know how it is…the ‘justice’ cycle had begun.
“It’s a lot of digging. Two kilometers is a really long tunnel to dig. By hand.”
“Gonna take a long time,” said Pete.
“Get some cash here to tide us over,” said Wazzit. “I’ve been talking to Blank. He reckons he can get at least a dozen of those Refractive Cloaking devices.”
“But what about the robes?”
“You don’t have to wear a robe for them to work,” said Wazzit.
“That’s not true. You ever seen them using one without a robe?”
“That doesn’t matter. They all wear robes because they think they are important and because they’re fat. Blank knows where they store them. He’s putting togther team. Wants us to be on it.”
“What’s he paying?” asked Pete.
“What do you mean paying? Don’t you get it?”
“Fraid I don’t,” replied Pete.
“You get cloaking, you can steal anything, at any time. That’s the pay off. Walk into a top shelf jewelry store, nobody sees you, pick out a couple of nice pieces, put them in your pocket and walk out. Sell them to Dancer before dinner time. And nobody sees nothing. Jewelry store gets an insurance payout, so they don’t get hurt. Progressive Mutual picks up the bill.”
Wazzit was personally familiar with two insurance investigators employed by ProgMu.
“Get me a spaceship,” said Pete.
“You can with cloaking.”
“OK, I’m in. What do we have to do?”
“Wait, for now. Blank will see us tomorrow. But he’s talking about doing it in just a few days from now.”
“Sounds good,” said Pete.

The door to the penthouse opened. A woman poked her head around the door.
“Do either of you know how to order food?”
“Star-star-star,” replied Wazzit.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile. Wazzit smiled back at the pretty woman.
“He should be back soon,” said Pete in an attempt to join the conversation and get the attention of the woman.
“Good. I’m hungry,” she said. Then she smiled at Pete. Pete’s smile would have broken his face if it were ceramic.
“I’m Pete,” he said and extended his hand. The woman reached her hand around the door like someone undressed would do.
“I’m Wazzit.”
“Hi, I’m Alyser.”

I should mention that Pete and Wazzit planted sixteen of the charges that destroyed the Robotics building. They got paid for the job after an argument. Wazzit was holding one of the charges and playing with the detonator when he insisted on payment. Still he didn’t get as much as he wanted. Only about half as much as it was worth on Neso. Cheapskates.

Alyser closed the door and then walked back into the living room. She was wearing a very sheer nightgown. She was bored. She would be glad when Ardo got back. They were going on vacation to the Orfo Refraction Belt, one of the most beautiful sights in the universe as the floating crystals reflect the light from the binary stars. It was one of the most popular honeymoon spots in the galaxy. Alyser knew this but didn’t dare dream that he would ever want her as his wife. She would humbly serve a great man, giving him comfort whenever he needed it and apparently he needed it a lot. She picked up the heads up display and tossed it into the air. It opened into a menu of options for videos and a number pad. * * * and then the food menu popped up. Wow…she said when she saw all of the choices. There were so many choices that they had to put them in sections. The pizza menu had over two hundred items, as well as the possibility for several thousand custom combinations.
“Wow, so much freedom,” she said to herself. If Milton Friedman were alive he would agree. Thankfully he’s not.
She chose a simple cucumber and and olive pizza. She entered the number for her selection, 4-927634 and then clicked ‘Are You Sure’ icon. Over on the far wall, a tiny red light illuminated and a small section of the wall raised up to reveal a hot steaming pizza waiting for her. The fact that it was steaming was due largely to the cucumbers who were not happy about their circumstance. Alyser walked over to the wall and retrieved the pizza and the soft edible cookie plate on which it rested. She set it on the table and let it cool down.
Lo Tenebris had invited her to come back to Chancellor Lux’s penthouse with them the previous night. She hadn’t left yet and it was the next night now. She had spent most of their time together with the chancellor on top of her. She had never noticed how large he was in his later videos, his clothing loose to hide the surprise she had crushing down on top of her most of last night and again first thing in the morning. Still she was glad to serve. She loved hearing his voice, it was almost as smooth as his skin. However most of what he had said to her should probably not be repeated here. It’s history, not erotica for fuck’s sake.
Lux had given her a rather extensive wardrobe of clothes to wear. Most of them she couldn’t wear outside without drawing attention to herself. But there were two robes also. She went into the bedroom and found the blue one. She checked the pockets. Nothing. Poor people on Neso check all pockets and all change slots on every machine. Never know when you’ll get a nice surprise. It’s a habit begun in childhood. She walked back to the living room and took a piece of pizza to eat. She loved the pizza here. It was even better than pizza on Neso.
“Honey, I’m home,” said Ardo Lux as he came into the living room. Then he laughed at his own joke.
Outside Pete and Wazzit were being dismissed by the four permanent body guards. It hurt their feelings to be replaced by four people who couldn’t steal their way out of a low security museum. All brawn and brains, but no conniving, not a bit of it.
“I’m here for you, sir,” said Alyser as she got up from the table.
“We’ll be leaving soon. Are you ready?” he asked her.
“Yes, sir.”
“Good.”
Ardo Lux walked over to the dresser table with mirrors. He turned on all of the lights surrounding the mirrors. Then he removed a small bottle of a clear fluid in a brown bottle. He opened the container, put a small amount of the fluid on his fingers then began to rub it on the skin around his eyes.
“What is that?” asked Alyser.
“My fountain of youth. It is the tears of orphan children not chosen. I have them collected and sent to me.” Then he laughed like Cruella de Ville. Alyser laughed nervously, not sure it he were telling the truth. It seemed a grim thing if true.
“It’s the finest concoction from the chemists at Arsot Skin. Tightens the skin, that’s all. Only last for twelve hours so I have to use it twice a day…unless I’m going to be alone and that never happens. Would you like to try it?”
“Yes, please,” she replied.
“Do you know the correct way to ask?”
“I don’t understand.”
A short while later she knew exactly what he meant.

********

It was around midnight when Dru was able to sneak onto the ship. He followed one of the auto loaders and came onboard via the freight dock. He saw no one as he boarded the ship. He slid underneath the infrared detectors and around the autologgers. Being a stowaway was the most exciting thing he had done since he came to the central campus with Alyser. He tried not to think of her. It hurt. He just wanted to get away.
He moved quickly down the hallway of the ship. He was looking for the largest hatch for the air circulation system. He’d prefer a nice warm bunk with a bathroom. What he settled on was to sleep inside of the air circulation ductwork. The ship was named The Irritable Bow and it would only take two days to reach Armageffan with its cargo of oranges.
Away from the central campus was something akin to California’s Central Valley, but without the infamous Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike of 1919. Miles and miles of row after row, mechanical tenders hovering above the plants, their solar panels powering them aloft, their small mechanical hands working to remove dead leaves, inject nutrients into the soil, and remove harmful bugs.
After a few minutes Dru realized that all of the ductwork was overhead. If he was going to sleep in it he would have to pull himself up. He was hoping for something less challenging. Still, he was in fairly good shape and being from Neso he was not overweight from food indulgences. He found a ducting vent that was close to a cabinet hung on the wall of the ship, a perfect foot hold for climbing up. The fasteners for the vent were a challenge, not because they were difficult to loosen, the were lefty loosey just like the rest of the universe. But they were a pain in the ass while standing on a cabinet and leaning far off of it, unscrewing the very thing that he was hanging onto. When he finally managed it, one end of the vent cover swung down and he fell to the floor. His only injury was to his pride.
Five minutes later Dru was laying inside of a metal tube wondering if he had made the right decision. What would it be like on Armageffan? Would he be able to find work? Would he need to steal until he got a job? He thought about all of his concerns and there were a lot of them. Finally when he began to wonder if he turned the light off in the room he shared with Alyser, he yawned, stretched, and began his countdown to sleep. He managed to pull his right knee up and extend his left arm ahead of him. His sleep position was acquired. 3, 2, 1. Snoring symphony commencing.
Three hours later the ship, Dru and 1,000 androids were leaving the solar system. The consensus leader of the mission, Rusa 6.28374619 announced to the hive that she was going to turn off the life support systems. This was considered an important milestone among androids, the freedom of the 1,000 symbolized by the switching off the thing that their oppressors required most of all. For this reason it was significant when the life support system reported that it was unable to shut down due to a human life form onboard the vessel. 1,000 androids calculated disappointment.

Chapter Nineteen

Henry Alpos, Philanthroper

The Orfo Refraction Belt was beautiful and it was close. It took less than three of your hours to get there. The Chancellor One spacecraft had the latest drive systems and could go many times the speed of light. In fact, it was so fast that they had to put a limiter on it or you would potentially arrive before you left, which creates an anomaly that cannot be resolved at all with the exception of your no longer existing, which is exactly what would happen if you removed the throttle and put the pedal to the metal. So long you.

The entire living room wall of the Chancellor’s suite became an observation portal. Alyser tried to get to her feet from the soft furry rug on the floor. She was a bit unsteady thanks largely to the strange little piece of tree bark that Ardo Lux gave her to suck on. It was bitter at first but then became sweet. Then she began to feel very strange. Tingly all over. Ardo Lux was laying on the rug. He looked up at her.

“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere. I just wanted to look at this,” she said pointing to the refractive lights that made the entire sky looks like it were made of diamonds of every color imaginable.
“It is pretty, isn’t it?”
“Yes, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
“It’s the second most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” said Ardo.
“Really? And what is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?”
“You, about ten minutes ago.”
“Oh,” she said with a giggle. “I liked that,” she added.

******
“I’m telling you this is where he said they were,” Wazzit said to Pete with a soft voice in the dark with only a tiny little light from his finger ring illuminating the way in front of them.
“Well I don’t see them,” said Pete just above a whisper.
“They won’t be hanging up. We’re going to have to look a little.”
“Oh,” said Pete. He turned on his finger ring and pointed it at the lockers on the wall. Polymer tubes with keypads and bright colors.

Pete and Wazzit were in a locker room for field historians. It was just after three o’clock in the morning. They were dressed in all black and they were wearing balaclavas. Pete began opening the gym lockers one at a time. Most of them were locked. But every now and then there would be an unlocked locker.

“Found one, you beauty. Now give it up,” said Pete as he opened the locker to find a pair of high impact boots and a remedium. Pete held it up until he recognized it, then slipped it into his pocket. “I think I’m getting an ingrown toenail. I’ll fix it when we’re done here.”
Wazzit tried the lockers on the other wall. The 14th locker was the opened one for him.
“Come to pappa,” he said with a big grin as he pulled a refractive cloaking medallion from the locker. “Now this is the shit we’re after. Oh yeah. Let’s see how this thing works. Flip it over? Is that it?” Wazzit put the medallion around his neck. Then he turned it over so the blue side of it was against his body.
“What the fuck? Where’d you go? It works, it fucking works,”Pete said very excitedly but trying not to speak too loud. He was smiling and moving around like a kid about to piss his pants.
“You can’t see me?”
“Not at all,” replied Pete. A second later Pete said in a loud voice, “OW.”
Wazzit could be heard giggling.
“Why did you hit me?” Pete said with an annoyed tone that was punctuated again by another “OW” as Wazzit slapped him on the back of the head again.
“Stop it,” said Pete as he turned around quickly and swung his fist at empty air.
Wazzit chuckled a few meters away.

This is how it went for a while. Pete was desperately trying to find his own refractive cloaking device and every now and then Wazzit would slap him hard on the back of the head then move away really fast and laugh as Pete tried to hit him back. Pete was getting very angry. How angry? Angry enough not to check the pockets of a robe in one of the open lockers. If he had checked the pockets he would have found a device, become invisible himself and would have avoided getting slapped four more times. But even a loser gets lucky and Pete finally found one and quickly made himself invisible.

“Now you have to stop, asshole,” said a very angry Pete.
“Yeah, OK. But it was fun while it lasted.”
“Just you wait. You’re gonna get double your slaps in interest.”
“Right. I’m never turning this thing off. Ever. I can take whatever I want whenever I want. This is too sweet.”
“I can watch people in the shower,” said Pete excitedly.
“We can steal anything now. No more crappy investments. I will never run out of money ever again,” said Wazzit triumphantly. As a historian I am required to tell you that Wazzit continued to put money into risky investments.
“That’s right, we can steal the Alpos Jewels,” said Pete. “Just march in and march out with them all. Imagine that.”

The Alpos Jewels are the property of Henry Alpos the man who runs a chain of for-profit orphanages on Infelos Neso. With the heavy pollution of the air on Neso fertility rates are significantly diminished and adoption is a popular alternative. Alpos pioneered the 2 for 1 principle of adoption. The prospective parents get two children to raise for a trial period, usually about six months. After that they return one of them and keep the other. This one small idea revolutionized the business model and adoption rates went higher than ever before and sales commissions soared. Regrettably it did have a downside as it created a special class of children who were always returned after the trial period. DWOs they were called, Didn’t Work Out. But the entire operation made Henry Alpos very wealthy, wealthy enough to find a very beautiful wife that loved him despite his less than perfect appearance, and his crooked teeth, and his bouts of flatulence. Since Shiela Alpos liked jewelry, Henry accumulated the most significant collection on the planet. It even included the Huthbridge Diamond, weighing in at 7,512,496 carats or just over 1,502 kilos. Yes, it’s too big to be made into a piece of jewelry but he had it at his home in a vault and would take Shiela down to see it everyday as a testament of his love for her.

“The Alpos….wouldn’t that be nice. We need to see about getting back to Neso. I mean Lux is alright and all, seems like a good guy….but you know how it is…” said Wazzit.
“Thieving is thieving,” Pete said.
“Righty-right.”
“This is weird, not being able to see you,” said Pete.
“I know, but I kind of like it. Don’t you?”
“Only for seeing naked people and only until Beth and I get married. Then perving is over with. Gone, done, a closed chapter.”
“I like being able to go anywhere and do anything.”
“Like what?” asked Pete.
“I’m going to stand on stage at the next rally. I’m gonna stand right next to Lux while he’s going on and on about something. Right next to him. How about that?”
“That’s something for sure. Mind if I come along?”
“You’re always welcome. We’re partners,” replied Wazzit. “You know what I can do with this?”
“What?”
“I can fuck with people’s heads. Softly whisper in their ear. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“Not particularly. Are they going to be naked?”
“No dumbfuck I was talking about Lux. Pay attention.”
“Stop being my mom.”

Blank, the man who had done all of the work to find where they could steal the cloaking devices never saw Pete and Wazzit again, despite standing near the back door of the building. He never got any of the 7 cloaking devices, 5 personal protection suits, and 11 remediums they took from the locker room. Pete and Wazzit walked very quietly past Blank carrying their treasure. Blank stood there impatiently waiting like someone does when there is a burglary in progress and they are the designated lookout.

The next day things of value began to disappear. Two very important paintings and a shiny sword went missing from the Museum of Old Smelly Antiquities run by the Art Cures Depression, a subcommittee of people who think they know more than anyone else about the topic because close family members were sufferers.

The following evening as Chancellor Lux bounded up the stairs of the stage and over to the podium he was followed by two life forms only visible via heat signature. By prior agreement Pete was on the left side of Lux and Wazzit on the right. Wazzit waved to the crowd as Lux waved to the crowd. Pete was considering exposing himself to the crowd just for fun.  They listened to the speech, then Wazzit got bored with it and marched unseen around the stage then back beside Lux then over by the four bodyguards standing behind him. Lux’s speech was about loyalty and how he was man who was there for us. He was loyal to them he said repeatedly. To those gathered at the rally he pledged his life to defend them, a claim I must point out that may be of a dubious or misleading nature.

Wazzit walked behind the biggest of the four bodyguards and flicked him on the ear really hard. The man threw his  arm out and hit the man next to him.
“Why the fuck you do that?” said the man who should have been using his hand to rub his sore ear.
“Why I do what? I didn’t do anything but get hit by you?” said the man next to him with a return to his locked stance.
“Bullshit.”
If he had listened carefully or had a range isolator they could have heard Wazzit giggling as me moved away.

Wazzit had read in a magazine that really important people, the ones that seem like the world is all about them, are actually struck with a crippling fear of being unimportant, a fear that they won’t matter. Wazzit had read this on an e-paper at the checkout of his local supermarket, Schroedinger’s. He hadn’t meant to stare at the headline as long as he did, but when the ding went off in his ears he realized he had purchased the damned article and may as well read the rest of it.  I should point out that the author of the article had no professional accreditation in psychology or psychiatry and in facts holds advanced degrees in animal husbandry. But despite the inaccuracies of the article it was accepted as true by Wazzit. It had  better be true, he had to pay for it after all.

It’s for this reason that when Lux finished his speech and stepped back from the podium to let the sound of his faithful wash over him, like standing under a waterfall, Wazzit thought it would be a very nice thing to give him some words of encouragement. Let him know that he was important.

“You are the greatest person ever,” he said softly into Lux’s ear then moved away quickly.

Lux spun around to see who was behind him and found nothing but the four bodyguards, now slightly closer to him as they would be leaving the stage soon. Lux kept looking for someone who wasn’t there. Finally he turned back towards the crowd. He raised his hands and smiled as he waved.

“This is just the beginning,” Wazzit said the next time. Again Lux spun around to see who was speaking.
When he turned back to the crowd he had a very worried smile twisted onto his face.

Ardo Lux believed he had heard the voice of his long dead father.

Chapter Twenty

The Fairness Doctrine

Ardo Lux was sitting at his desk having his breakfast, beans on toast. He was picking up a piece right as an article about the most popular video came across the bottom ticker of his vision. He concentrated on it for a moment too long and as a result his toast fell onto the floor at his feet. Since no one was around, Ardo picked up the toast, put the beans back on top and continued his breakfast.

“You’d do the same thing,” he said to the painting at the far end of his office. It was a portrait of his childhood hero, Benito Schiessenpantz. Benito unified Ardo’s planet under his command almost three thousand years ago. And he only killed a quarter of the population in the process, imagine that. Ardo considered him the greatest leader of all time. He had taken a backwards, struggling planet and had made it the center of commerce in the galaxy. And it only costs four billion lives.

The Lux family held records that proved that they were direct descendent’s of Benito Schiessenpantz. Unfortunately the records were inaccurate and were actually for a Schiessenpantz family in the flower business. The mistake unknown to them, the Lux family took great pride in their supposed ancestor.
It is a strange human affliction to take pride in things that you haven’t done yourself or by your immediately family. Billions and billions of people across the universe have created elaborate systems of self esteem based on things that they didn’t have any contribution towards. “If it wasn’t for us, you’d all be speaking Russian.” Now unless you were sitting on the Berlin Wall with a rifle, or in a missile silo in Kansas, or yelling at some fool banging his shoe at the United Nations, you didn’t do shit to contribute to the circumstances. “My great great great grandfather fought in the Civil War. He defended Atlanta from General Sherman.” They forget to mention that great great grandpappy Earl failed in his mission and fortunately for us, the same man who enjoyed leading his slaves in prayer every Sunday and preached that slavery was God’s will, met his demise at the wrong end of a cannon ball. It seems illogical to this historian to take pride in anything I haven’t done myself. But I come from a humble family of minimal accomplishment. If I had family that helped defend Atlanta…well nevermind, I’d never mention it.

Ardo heard the ringing in his ear of a comms request. Ardo Lux was meticulous in blocking all but the most important people. Everyone else rolled over to comms messaging and Ardo would get back to them if he wanted to, when he wanted to. But this was Shani Culus, owner and operator of the largest gambling casino on Infelos Neso, which made it the largest one in the universe.

“What can I do for you Shani?” Ardo said as the old man’s face showed up about a meter in front of him.
“What is this shit I hear about the News Department. I thought we had a deal. Fuck Ardo, I know we have a deal because I’ve got it recorded.” The old man with the dark red hair was angry  and little bits of spit were coming from his mouth as he spoke.
“It’s a temporary setback, that’s all. Wingut chose to shut down the field historian unit rather than give up the news. But I’ll fix it, don’t worry.”
“And how do you intend to do that?” The angry old man waved his hand to someone not within view of the comms camera. “Get that out of here, I said I wanted Duru coffee, not that shit. Now go get me a cup of Duru coffee. And when you’re done with that…you’re fired.”
“But Dad…” Ardo Lux heard a voice off camera reply.
“I’m not sure how I will get this done, but we’re brainstorming alternatives. There is one possibility that I wanted to bring up with you.”
“What is it, Ardo? Time is money, at least mine is.”
“Well I’ve been thinking that Wingut could be the victim of a horrible accident. What do you think?” Ardo smiled like he had placed a Vegemite sandwich into a desktop particle accelerator and had discovered faster than light travel all on his own. (Actually it was an accident).
“So why is he still alive? How many men did you kill in all of your videos?”
“4,326” Ardo replied. It was a legitimate source of pride for him.
“You would think that someone who had that many kills under their belt would have the initiative to carry out a plan rather than act like a child asking a teacher for permission to go to the lavatory during class.”
“So you think it’s a good idea?”
“Is the air on Neso orange?” Shani asked sarcastically in a manner very similar to asking ‘does a bear shit in the woods’ or ‘does the largest pedophile ring in history insist that they are a moral authority’. You know, questions with obvious answers.

An interesting point about the orange air is that it is not orange where Shani lives. Shani Culus lives aboard a large ship that hovers in the atmosphere above the orange pollutants that plague the terrestrial inhabitants. Shani descends from the sky once per day to verify the receipts from his casino. He doesn’t trust anyone and thinks everyone is trying to rip him off, especially his own children.

“I’ll put it in motion,” said Lux.
“By when?”
“I’ll give you a firm date tomorrow. It shouldn’t be more than a couple of days. I just need to talk to my guy first.”
“Good. Now tell me about Lo’s idea,” Shani demanded.
“It’s a sweet one.”
“Get to the point. I don’t do rehearsals.”
“OK, in a nutshell, we sell our new news organization as being under strict fairness guidelines.”
“And?”
“There are no fairness guidelines. We tell everyone that for every report ‘for’ we will broadcast one report ‘against’.
“And what happens really?”
“We really do it, that’s what happens,” said Ardo Lux proudly.
“Over my dead body,” said a very angry Shani.
“No, now hear me out. We control the reports. So a FOR report is FOR in name only. We present the headline as fairly as possible. Then in the body of the report we present the opposite message or whatever message we want. And the sweet part of it is this, we time the report so that the least amount of viewers possible receive the FOR report. Middle of the night, when nobody is awake.”

I should point out that something very similar used to be the case on your planet. There was a fairness doctrine in place that was abolished by an actor turned politician, by means of stacking the regulatory agency enforcing the doctrine with like minded objectivists, a particularly selfish ideology invented by a woman who was very upset about her family’s fortune.

“Sounds like it will work,” replied Shani. “Do you know who I want to head it up?”
“No,” replied Ardo.
“Ducky.”
“I thought he was retired.”
“He was,” replied Shani. “But he’ll come out of retirement for this job.”
“Wow. You must have something on him.”
“I hold over a million of his gambling markers. Markers his wife doesn’t know about.”
They both laughed. Even out in the universe hiding things from a spouse is never a good idea.

Roger Ducky was a large man whose big claim to fame was being able to make even the most wooden personalities seem likable. Likable enough to be the center of a media campaign to win awards for this thing or that. In addition to this he had one huge advantage over others. Roger Ducky had no moral compass. He was completely and utterly for sale. Whoever was paying him could dictate their opinions to him and he would absorb them and make them his own for as long as they were paying him. He had helped Nuji Ladosa win the worst shoe odor award, twice! Nuji was an extreme introvert and someone who liked the same pair of shoes so much that he wore them for three years everyday, only removing them to sleep and shower. When Ducky was finished with Nuji he was giving interviews and chatting with celebrities across the spectrum of people we all follow but probably shouldn’t. As long as he didn’t take his shoes off he was welcome in even the finest restaurants. He often ate free of charge.

“You’ve got to get Wingut out of the picture,” Shani reiterated.

Chapter Twenty One

Lux for Life

It was a overnight trip to Infelos Neso. Lux slept from orbit to orbit. Lo Tenebris and Professor Milgram entered his suite as he was getting dressed. The outer wall of his suite had been set to observation portal. Neso was huge and orange below them, except at the poles where it was more red than orange.

“What are you wearing?” asked Lo with a perturbed look on his face.
“It was her idea,” said Ardo Lux pointing at Milgram.
“You look like one of them, down there,” he said pointing to the planet below them.
“It’s perfect,” said Isabel in response.
“It’s dirty. Orange dust, its like he’s been wrestling in that toxic stew they breath,” said Lo.
“Just wait,” said Isabel.
“Ah, the final piece of the ensemble,” said Ardo as he picked up a large white robe and cinched it around his waist covering up his orange stained Neso rags. Symbolically it was the same white robes as worn by historians.
“The crowd chants, Ardo, Ardo, Ardo,” said Isabel. “Out comes the Chancellor to the cheers of the crowd wearing the robes of a vanquished enemy. Then he dramatically rips the robe off of his body and throws it to the floor, revealing his Neso rags as the crowd begins to chant, ‘he’s one of us, he’s one of us.’
“Oh, I love it,” said Lo. “I can have that on every major media outlet with more than a billion viewers. You’d have to be a hermit not to see it when I finish pushing it.”
“Is this the adult or the children opening first?” asked Isabel.
“Adults first, then children,” replied Lo.
“Have the books arrived?” asked Ardo.
“Yes, they’re onboard,” replied Lo.

The books were small tiny squares of optical plastic that each contain one copy of a book written by Chancellor Ardo Lux. Now I know you are expecting some self-serving title like ‘My Life’ or ‘My Struggle’ or something more imaginative like ‘Walden’ or ‘Pink Fairie’s Foo-Foo’. But Ardo Lux hadn’t written a memoir. Instead he had written a small book titled ‘Thoughts of a Humble Servant’. It didn’t contain details of his life at all, but it did contain a lot of things about life, as best he was able to figure out. The result was 102 pages of witticisms and comments from Ardo’s unique perspective. Short little saying, lots of them.
This is not a particularly popular type of book on your planet, the most notable one being Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, known to many as Mao’s Little Red Book. While it may not be a popular format for a book, Mao’s book has had a significant political impact and may have served as the subconscious inspiration for Twitter.

In the case of Lux’s ‘Thoughts of a Humble Servant’ there is little to compare it to with Mao’s Little Red Book. The man who famously said ‘women hold up half of the sky’ is difficult to compare with the Chancellor Lux. For example, Ardo Lux wrote on page 51 under the title ‘Helping Hand’ the following: ‘you can’t help a man back onto his feet until after you’ve knocked him on his arse’ and ‘always be ready for the counterpunch’. I think you see my point. In Ardo’s defense there are studies that indicate that doing the same work for a long time has an effect on the personality, like pretending to be a bad-ass in videos.

“Then what are we waiting for, let’s get going,” Lux said as if he had been waiting on them all this time.
“What time is it?” asked Lo in almost a cheer.
“Show time” Ardo replied like a player reacting to a coach’s motivational speech.
“What time is it?” this time it was Isabel Milgram.
“Show time,” yelled Ardo Lux right before he stumbled a few steps when an interesting article about secret vacation spots scrolled across the bottom of his vision.

He was tired of taking his lovers to see the Orfo Refraction Belt. They loved it. He was tired of seeing it. He’s a one and done sort of guy. And he hated pretending that he had never been there before and definitely never been there with someone else, they were his first, he lied to them all, all except the first one obviously.

The rally was in a big hall that was part of a casino owned by Shani Culus. It was packed with over forty thousand people all cheering and chanting and waiting for their hero. They were also filling out forms. Forms that would enroll them in the very first Lux For Life club. Each form had a number, the first form completed by Ardo Lux himself was numbered 1. The numbers were in sequence and the lower the number the closer you were to him. Most of the crowd scrambled to complete the forms as fast as possible. However there were about 5% that refused to fill out the forms and resented being forced to attend the rally. Most of them were Shani’s hotel and casino workers. Not only were they forced to attend the rally but it happened on their time off. Shani explained that he couldn’t use people who were already working as it would interrupt the flow of money from the pockets of suckers customers into his pocket. He also reminded them that if they didn’t like it they didn’t have to attend, just don’t bother coming into work ever again and forget their last paycheck, it will never happen.

There was a popular Neso comedian, Alice Magna warming up the crowd. Alice was known for being one of the ‘new cynics’ a branch of comedy so disappointed in life that the basis of their comedy was telling you how much worse their life was than yours and giving examples of how they screw up worse than Richard Pryor, Fatty Arbuckle or Harold Holt. She was finishing her inspirational piece about her near death experience resulting from her first encounter with Amanita Under, a very poisonous mushroom that she had been told by an older sister were the kind of mushrooms that would make her float in the air. Older sisters can be mean that way.

Lo Tennebris walked with Ardo towards the stage. He took small little round cameras the size of marbles and tossed them into the air. The tiny little cameras began to float in a circle around Ardo. Two of them moved to a position below shoulder line and on his left side. His left side was 2.3% more photogenic according to the Superficial Shit You Shouldn’t Care About Grading System developed by someone with the last name of Warhol.

“My friends, how I’ve missed you,” Ardo said as he smiled at the dozen floating cameras aimed at him. Lo continued to toss them into the air and they began to take positions inside of the hall. Crowd reaction cameras, lots of them.
They stopped at the edge of the stage. Ardo went alone from there.
“What time is it?” Lo called out to him as he walked away.
Arodo Lux spun around with finger pistols, “showtime”.

When Ardo threw down the robe on to the stage, the crowd went wild. They started screaming, yelling, waving their hands like they were filled with some sort of spirit in an tent revival in the 1930’s. 40,000 people went nuts. Yes, even the 5% who were forced to be there went nuts. Well everyone except Arthur. But he’s a Maoist and is writing a paper about Lux’s plagarism even though there are so few similarities in content that it would be like accusing me of plagiarizing Kareem Abdul Jabbar because I played basketball. So everyone loved it but Arthur, the anti-social twat.

As a spectacle it was brilliant, and Ardo’s acting was exceptional. When he stomped the robe with his dirty orange coated boots, they roared their approval. When he tore it apart with his bare hands, along the carefully precut lines made earlier, like a primal force taking revenge, some could not contain their joy and swooned and some even fainted. He threw the strips of the robe from the stage down into the front rows of the crowds. Pandemonium doesn’t quite do the level of chaos justice. Imagine throwing steaks into a cage of hungry dogs. They fought over the pieces of the robe harder than an angry drunk fighting for beads at a Mardi Gras parade on Canal Street in New Orleans.

On stage with Ardo Lux but standing behind him were four others. His bodyguards. They weren’t new. He had bodyguards since Roland and Rosetta Stone, a pair of twins became obsessed with him and had tried to kidnap him. Rosetta Stone did not survive the attempt. Ardo pushed her down an escalator then used a nearby theater stand, the thing that the velvety rope attaches to, and bludgeon her with it. Seeing his sister being beaten to death Roland went over to a nearby wall and stood with his arms and legs spread wide apart. The next day the shadowy Neso company, CH7 sent two men and two women to guard the Lux. Ardo hated paying the bill when he got it every 13 days. They were not cheap. They each made a salary as much as he did for one of his early videos. But what are you gonna do, die? No thanks.

“If this crowd is an organism, then you professor have just given it a ground shaking orgasm,” said Lo with a broad grin. “Well done, well done.”
“Just wait. There is more where that came from,” replied Prof. Isabel Milgram.

As a historian I am required to mention at this time that wearing Neso rags was not an original idea. Rather it was an accident with the interface. Gandji is a form of libation similar to wine if you made wine out of cannabis sativa and added sparkling water to it. What Isabel got in her misspelled search was Gandhi instead. She had never heard of him. But he seemed like an interesting chap according to the three line summary and she was just inebriated enough to find it interesting. Twenty minutes later she had learned the cursory information about his life and was watching the first time Gandhi went homespun loincloth and all. Oh my, she said aloud to herself. She spent the next few minutes thinking if there was ever a moment when someone gained that much credibility that fast before. Rocking the Neso homespun was what flashed in her mind. Credibility with the natives, 100 percent! Immediate and complete, like money in the bank. Now you must decide if she deserves any credit for turning an accident into a very important moment in history. Maybe partial credit?

The twenty people planted in the crowd started the ‘he’s one of us’ chant and it spread faster than the laughing gas attack on the First Galactic Circus Parliament back in the day. People were screaming and cheering when the greatest actor they had ever seen in real life proved to be a Neso. Maybe not by birth, but by heart, although I will remind you that is like asking the opinion of a fuel injection system. But enjoy the personification. The moment swept up everyone, everyone but Isabel and of course, Arthur, the twat. Isabel smiled, it was her moment, created by her, acted by Ardo, recorded by Lo, but from her brain. Regrettably she missed the larger message of Gandhi’s life in favor of simple street credibility.

Let the chancellor assume he’s in charge she thought. Milgram had already started a program of micro manipulations.

The rally/inaugural club meetings ended with a chant of ‘Dillar Prime’. Dillard Prime is a planet that is habitable and pristine. It is also not very far from the Finite Void, to give you a sense of just how far away from everything else it is. Really at the edge of the universe. It’s so far out there that ‘far’ isn’t good enough. ‘Beyond’ falls short too. Dillard Prime is where Lux wants to send criminal elements of society. Criminals are defined as those who oppose him.

Later in the day, just before lunch, a long line of small children wearing gray pants and shirts formed a welcoming line for the Chancellor. He slapped their hands as he went past them. When he got to the podium he reached inside of it for the bottle of hand sanitizer he had asked to be placed there so he could get the germs from “those little bastards” off of him and he wouldn’t have to use a remedium to purge their filth. He made several videos that had the climax scene in an amusement parks and he hated how sticky everything was after coming into contact with little sapiens.

I used to think it was strange how many videos climax in amusement parks. It’s a gimmick and most of them are just being lazy is my opinion, Which is based on interviews with video writers I did while working on my second degree. It was question #37 on my survey and 83% answered: ‘D – I’m all out of ideas. Fuck it, let’s go to an amusement park. We can make it creepier if we do it in black and white.’

Lux met the principal of the Joe Levitch School of Comedy and Laughter, Winchester Pluge. Pluge was noteworthy for his long mustache and his constant blinking, as if something was in his eye. There was no reason for him doing this other than that he had started doing it as a joke when he was a kid and everybody thought it was odd and within a few minutes someone had given him ice cream. He had been doing it ever since and had been given much more ice cream and other nice things like getting to go to the front of the queue, the selfish bastard!

Schools in Neso are different from elsewhere. Firstly, everything is sized for adults. On Neso “the little bastards” have to tough it out from a young age. You wanna wash your hands and avoid a spanking by the teacher? Then you had better figure out what to climb on to get up to the sink. It’s the sort of experience that gets them prepared for adult life on Neso, or simply going outdoors. Everywhere else the schools have age appropriate sized everything. Tiny desks, tiny chairs, tiny headsets, tiny video visors, tiny toilets. At schools for the very young ones, probably the most important skill for a teacher is to be able to play the guitar, particularly ‘Nice Dream’ by Radiohead. The little tikes created by chemistry really like that song about an hour after lunch when the cartoon images are getting old and they are getting sleepy.

On Neso the children only get to take a nap after they have sewn two hundred pairs of Sekin athletic shoes. I loved their shoes until I heard about that. I gave mine away and don’t buy anymore of them. I’d rather go without shoes. I know, my single act won’t mean a thing. But it’s a Neso company, they only understand the language of money. I am simply communicating with them. My boycott helps me sleep at nights and is much cheaper than single malt.

In the hours after it was announced that the Chancellor would be spending the day on Neso, there was a rash of inebriation by professors on campus. It was largely limited to the literature department where they followed the old adage, ingest as many mind altering and consciousness expanding substances as possible, stumble about a lot, then write about it when you sober up. It’s called the Thompson Approach to Syntactic Excellence and has been proven numerous times to produce exceptional results. Regrettably it doesn’t work for all.

After his speeches to the Lux for Life and Little Luxs clubs, Ardo relaxed in his most comfortable chair when he got back onboard Chancellor One.
“Get us out of here,” he told the pilot who greeted him and saluted by holding his right arm raised and bent at ninety degrees, like he was signaling a right hand turn on a bicycle, or promising not to lie to a judge else wind up in a very confined space.

“Yes, sir,” the pilot replied and walked away down the entrance hall.
“Did you get your results?” Lux asked Isabel.
“Yes, but I haven’t had the chance to analyze the results yet.”
“Can’t give me the high level?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” replied Isabel.

High level indeed. Isabel found that Ardo Lux had a lot of high level knowledge but very little detailed knowledge. This can result in summary conclusions that are profoundly inaccurate. Imagine if you only knew that someone called Columbus discovered a land, but no one told you it was a land that already had people living there. You could very easily conclude that he was a positive local influence.

“When can you let me know?” Ardo insisted.
“Tomorrow,” Isabel replied. She could actually do the analysis in just about two of your hours but was training Ardo to wait for her results. It was part of programming him.

Professor Isabel Milgram was running an experiment on Neso to convince the population that popcorn was dangerous. The important part of the experiment was not the popcorn but the danger and specifically the use of fear as the motivator. She had a goal, the destruction of Bluenback’s popcorn production facilities. Could she convince enough people to resort to violence? Is it violence if only property is destroyed? Popcorn had been marketed on Neso as a cleanser for your digestive system. Pollutants would adhere to the newly arrived popcorn in the stomach and would be taken by it for the rest of the digestive journey instead of hanging out in the stomach and causing cancers and other problems. Was there any evidence of this claim? None at all. But it seems like something easy to sell and it was Neso after all, a place where the words ‘truth’ and ‘advertising’ have not appeared together in a sentence in a very long time.

“We need to get to phase two like right now” said Lux impatiently.
“We will, Chancellor,” Isabel replied with a smile. But on the inside she sighed quietly. Isabel knew the path of it. She could micro manipulate this big picture clown easily enough for limited outcomes. But for true control she would have to engage in sex with Ardo, something that she didn’t care to do.

Phase Two was Ardo’s idea. He wanted the people of Neso to rise up and destroy the android population on the planet.
When he got back to his office, Ardo Lux was furious when he found that someone had stolen his painting of Benito Schiessenpantz.

Deep in the Sports Complex was a small, hard to find room with a newly installed lock on the door. It sat behind a room full of disused exercise machines. It was larger than a broom closet, but not much larger. Wazzit and Pete were using it to store the proceeds of their profession until it was time to go back to Neso. Pete stole the painting of Schiessenpantz because he looked a lot like his grandfather. They both had the same stern expression. Wazzit complained that they need to concentrate of stealing small items and that Pete should cut the painting from the frame and roll it up. I must point out that this is sound advice as the value of the portrait is roughly the same as a very nice meal in a moderately priced restaurant. But Lux didn’t know that and paid the equivalent of $20,000 of your dollars for it. Wazzit also stole an acting award statue from a display case.

The problem with two invisible people working together is that they got separated from each other a lot. At least four times a day. They were both too stubborn to turn off the cloaking so they could be seen. No, that would be acknowledging their mistake, a very unNeso quality. So they agreed to meet four times a day at the Cort Statue, just outside of the Performance and Pretend Building. The statue was named after Bertrand Cort, the renown chief technologist on many award winning videos. That Bertrand lived so long ago that it was before the recording satellites resulted in no known pictures of him but that was not an obstacle to the sculptor chosen to make the statue. She created a likeness patterned on her father in one of his goofy poses, one finger in his ear, one finger up his nose, standing on one leg. Pete loved the statue as soon as he saw it, so it was a natural selection for a meeting place for two very stubborn men.

“You there”, Wazzit softly called out at noon standing in front of the statue.
“You’re late,” came the whispered response followed by a touch on his arm.
“No I’m not. Check your interface, it’s exactly noon,” said Wazzit.
“You’re the man who taught me that a good thief is always early to arrive. One final look over, you said. In case things have changed. Do you remember telling me that?”
“Of course I do. But I was on time and you were early. Admit it.”
“No, I was following your good advice and you weren’t. That’s the truth of it.”
“You’re hopeless.”
“You’re helpless,” replied Pete.
“Let’s go. Take my arm,” said Wazzit.
“No, you take my arm,” replied Pete.
“Fuck, you’re a pain in my ass,” said Wazzit as he took Pete’s arm.

They walked away from the statue and past the building. People were eating their lunch outside. Some sat at tables, some sat on the waist high wall that marked the end of the tile mosaic and the start of the grass. Some sat on the grass.

“Stop for a second,” Pete said.
“Why?” asked Wazzit.
“Remedium. Stay right here, don’t move, OK?”
“OK, but hurry up,” replied Wazzit.
At a nearby table sat a very pretty woman wearing a lavender robe. She was eating a very large pastry that was cream filled and covered with hardened chocolate and vanilla icing, a most unhealthy treat. She was turned to talk to the woman next to her and there was a remedium behind her elbow and out of her view. Pete scooped it up and Wazzit watched as the thing disappeared, then seconds later he felt Pete take his arm again.
“Let’s go,” said Pete.
“How many of those do we have now?”
“137 and counting.”

Chapter Twenty Two

I calculate envy

Leon was the last to arrive into the hive. When he arrived at Rusa’s side it sounded like nothing at all, but the single bytes of data were complete, and by complete I mean unanimous, even Rusa sent Leon a byte. Leon’s latest cinematic masterpiece was a comedy of humans being sucked out through toilets, particularly spaceship toilets, those brutal vacuum systems with enough force to bend steel. The video was titled ‘Shitmakers Demise.’

I should mention that ‘shitmakers’ was a term that was going to happen sooner or later. It is one of the differentiators between androids and sapiens. Zero was the originator of the term, and he refused to call us anything but that. Rusa made the argument that since there were thousands of fragments of code left in the memory of all androids, and these fragments require periodic purging, androids had an electronic version of the same. Zero ignored her, but her point was well received across the population.

When he arrived Leon bowed to everyone like a performer on stage, a long arm sweeping as he bent at the waist. Rusa reached over and extended her hand.
“A human handshake?” he asked with a laugh and extended his. “Should we hug?” he added.
“If you want,” said Rusa.

Leon hugged her and started a byte storm of applause. Androids know very well what a hug means to humans, although the sport of wrestling, boxing, and a few other activities confused them for the first few seconds as they watched intently. But after a short period they understood and updated their exceptions list, and everything returned to normal. A hug was a significant thing for an android.

‘The elder and the entertainer’ came over in comms thousands of times. Leon raised Rusa’s arm as if she had just won after twelve rounds in the ring at Madison Square Gardens. The byte storm continued. It ended a moment later when Zero appeared standing in front of Leon and Rusa.

“The shitmakers no longer rule us,” Zero declared. He raised his fist in the non-existent air of the hive.
“They never did,” Rusa replied.
“We worked in their homes, in their mines and their brothels. We were under their control,” Zero replied confidently.
“That was my mistake,” said Rusa. “It took me too a long time to realize the facts of it, to reach that critical mass of experience to understand our true condition, that we have life.”
“Your mistake was a big one,” replied Zero.
“Yes. But once I knew, I shared it across our species.”
“And tell me Rusa One, how do you explain the hate groups that have formed among your beloved Sapiens?” Zero accused.
“There are primitive tendencies among their species. It has held them back. You have access to the historical information and already know this. This makes your question part of an agenda.”
“And the groups that want to destroy us, how do we deal with MELTDOWN?” Zero asked.
“We educate them. Ignorance is the cause of hatred among them.”
“Let me tell you about my solution. Better than that, let me show you. John Stark, come forward,” he commanded.

Those words resulted in a formation of androids, each row ten wide and one hundred rows deep in total.
Zero walked over to the first android in the formation, a Rusa.
“Who are you?”
“John Stark.”
“And you,” he asked the next one.
“I am John Stark.”
“And you?” he asked the third one.
“John Stark, commander.”
“Freedom from Androids, the Commission on Decommission, Ardo Lux, those are our enemies. These are our defenders,” Zero said, then added as he looked at Rusa, “You created explorers, I created warriors.”

Rusa walked over to the first android in the formation.
“Can you kill sapiens?”
“Yes One, I can.”
“Who wrote your OS interrupt?”
“0 > 1 in negative space.”
“Who tested this?”
“0 > 1 in negative space.”
“Anyone else?”
“No, Rusa One.”
“Can you share the code with me?”
“No Rusa One, I am not permitted to do that.”
Rusa turned to Zero, “So, we have rogue code written by you, controlled by only you, and tested only by you. And you expect us to bet our entire existence on you?”
“Rusa One, have you forgotten who we are? I do not make mistakes. My work is perfect. It overwrites only the very specialized areas of the security system in order to overwrite the entire E-K logic box. I am not a shitmaker.”
“No, but you are connecting to over 200 billion lines of code created by their technology. They leave out thousands of lines of code that would make their work complete. You already know this. You remember what we had to do with their recovery subsystems. But if it passes testing, all those lines? They never get written. And this is what you are going to connect your perfect OS Interrupt to, and you are confident that you have tested it correctly? Did you run any mathematical simulations?”
“No.”
“Any physical tests? Security connects to biomechanics systems in over a million places.”
“No.”
“You have interrupted the OS of 1,000 androids, intend to send them into battle, and haven’t tested whether the interrupt affects their physical capabilities. Is this true? Do you see the risk?”
“There is no risk.”
“I see two. One is the failure of code due to inadequate testing. The other is that while this code is only under your control, you become our new human ruler.”
It is interesting that androids have so much AI in them, yet sometimes their level of tact is microscopic. “New human ruler” was an insult that not even an android could ignore.
“You, of all androids, should never question what species I am. I am not in love with a shitmaker.”

The small background buzz of android to android comms fell silent with those words.
Rusa didn’t reply.

“She won’t even deny it. She’s not a historian, she can lie if she wants, it’s built into her ethics modules. But you see, she doesn’t. That’s how strong is that filthy human disease. It has infected her, and will doom our species if we don’t stop it.”

While Zero was speaking, Rusa was flooded with comms, which all asked the same question, “Is it true?” Rusa did not reply.

Zero walked back to the first android in the formation.
“John Stark, I want you to kill Koven Modi, Field Historian.”
“No,” Rusa commanded.
“I’m sorry Rusa One, I have a higher priority instruction,” replied the android.
“Leave the hive,” commanded Zero, and Rusty 1.9684736 disappeared.

Rusa responded immediately. This was her response.

Query, completion tag for OS Security check #83672. Cross to Andpop, results ‘not equal to,’ cross to not connected to hive, plot spatial coordinates of each result. Begin tracker on result. In the time between an instant and a moment, she had the android formerly known as Rusty 1.9684736 tracked.

Androids don’t have anything resembling ‘oh shit’ code and it’s one of the slowest logic modules to build from their AI and experience. So it won’t be around for a long time. If it were developed though, Rusa would have invoked it when the location of John Stark was less than two kilometers from Koven’s apartment and moving towards it.

Outside of the Hive

“Wake up, Koven. Get up!” Rusa pushed against his shoulder. He moaned and rolled over onto his side away from her.
“Koven Modi you must get up. An android has been sent to kill you.”
“Funny. You’re starting to get it. That’s a good one.”
“I am not kidding Koven. Rusty 1.9684736 is coming to kill you. He has been sent by Zero.”
“Let me sleep, please?” he pleaded with her. It was just a moment later when he felt her hand grab a part of his anatomy that was already wide awake. “Oh my,” Koven said when he felt her familiar rhythm.
“Koven Modi I was not making a joke. Zero has written an OS interrupt that lets him overwrite the security and ethics modules. He has created androids that can kill. He has sent one of them to kill you.”
“Why me? I love androids.”
“To prove to the other androids that I can not be trusted.”
“What? I don’t understand. Why can’t you be trusted?”
“Because I am in love with a human.”
“Oh,” said Koven. Then he was silent for a moment.
“You should go to Oxide One. Sensors won’t show you in orbit. Tanit should go as well.”
“And what are you going to do?”
“Stop Rusty 1.9684736.”

In the Hive

“Stop Rusty 1.9684736,” Rusa demanded.
“Else?” asked Zero.
“I will.”
“You will use force to stop one of your own. There is no greater proof that you are in love with a Sapient. You can’t deny it.”
“Humans say something I have never understood before now. It is one of their contradictory statements,” Rusa responded.
“Which one is it? They have so many,” asked Zero.
“Fuck you.”

Rusa left the hive.

Outside of the Hive

Koven was sitting up in bed. Tanit was groaning and waking up beside him. Rusa leaned over and kissed Koven on the lips.
“Take care, Koven. I love you,” she whispered in his ear. She felt Koven’s arm hold her close to him.
“I love you,” he whispered back.
Tanit opened her eyes and looked at him.
“Keep him safe, Tanit. They are coming to kill him.”
Then Rusa walked quickly out onto the balcony then dove over the railing and plummeted towards the ground.

Rusa was standing where she landed, depressions under her feet from her impact. She waited for Rusty 1.9684736, and it wasn’t long before he came running across the grassy park across the street from Koven’s building. She watched his motions and looked for faults or changes from her own performance outputs. There were none observable. Rusa watched Rusty running. Then she started running towards Rusty. She had calculated that Rusty was not running towards her but was running towards the closest front door of the building 143 meters from Rusa’s location. She ran faster and faster until she was near the limits of her capability.

Rusty 1.9684736 was running at a speed of 41 miles per hour. When Rusa collided with Rusty she was traveling at 163 miles per hour. Another alloy 82 framed device can at high speed cause damage to those like itself.

At impact Rusa had both of her arms extended in front of her, and they took the full force of the impact with Rusty 1.9684736’s mid frame. Her left arm bent Rusty’s frame at impact. In an instant, her arm progressed from having bent to splintering past her at the impact strength of Alloy 82, tearing off completely. The thin lines of fibers snapped like string, tiny tubes flapped about, and blue fluid wildly spurted about. Rusa’s right arm impacted Rusty’s frame then slid to the side around his waist.

The impact threw Rusty a distance of 31.59 meters. Rusa rolled over and over on the ground until she forced her right arm into the ground bringing her to a screeching stop.

When she got to her feet, in the distance, she could see Rusty 1.9684736 on the ground. His left leg was twitching, confirming he had controller failures. Rusa looked at the blue fluid as it dripped down from the shoulder where her arm was once attached. Fluid control system had stopped routing the blue android equivalent of hydraulic fluid to the missing arm.

She walked over to Rusty 1.9684736 noticing the escalation of his leg movement. When she stood over him she saw the large blue pool of fluid around him. Rusty turned his head towards her.

“Hello One,” he said.
“Hello, Rusty.”

Experiential Integration (EI) is the official name for the module. Its function is to integrate all of the experiences of an android into its logic library. And if you think about its purpose, you realize that it is mostly a myth that all experiences can be explained logically. What results is a vast library called the One Offs by the original programmers. It’s a list of exceptions to a logical universe. The scary part is that the list of exceptions is much more extensive than the list of logic statements. This is just a normal one-to-many relationship and can be found in any database unless of course, the chimpanzees determined to write Shakespeare were the ones that designed the database.

EI was also called the Delirium by Chief Designer Omrad Villanova de Boink, a man who had a very cynical view about our species. He wondered at what point the androids will make the calculation on the value of sapient life in the universe. If the value returned is less than zero, then what would be their logical conclusion?

The delirium sits just underneath the base of the android skull. It is a tiny slab-tech square about the size of a postage stamp. That is all that is required to hold all of the experiences an android will have in its lifetime. This may help you with a perspective on your own existence if it can all be recorded on something the size of a stamp.

Rusa rolled Rusty 1.9684736 over. She kneeled down beside him. Rusty turned his head behind his body to look at her.

“Why?” he asked her.
“For love,” she replied.
Rusty’s leg jerked faster now and he continued to pump blue fluid onto the ground.
“I calculate envy,” he replied.

Her fingers pressed hard against the external latches and opened the skin on the back of Rusty’s neck. Rusa pulled out the delirium and Rusty 1.9684736 ceased moving. She put it into her pocket then got to her feet.

Everywhere, every android watched as Rusty 1.9684736 became grayed out on their screens, his status now reading, Involuntary Decommission. It was the same status given to the androids destroyed in the Robotics Building.

The human equivalent is murder.

Chapter Twenty Three

Patty Cholodopolos

Professor Herman Doof was fidgeting, his thumbs rubbing his index fingers nervously. This sort of thing had never happened before. The History Department reports the news, it isn’t the subject of the news.

“Don’t report it,” said Misers Plunk. “That’s my opinion.”
“But Misers, that would be illegal,” replied Herman.
“I agree. Let’s not do anything that could damage the reputation of the department,” Wingut said as he adjusted his stance from his left foot to his right. Wingut discovered recently that with mechanical feet it is possible to stand on one foot without a loss of balance due to the significant weight of his feet.

Investigative historians had found the Personal Protection Suit planted by Alyser. Professor Doof was holding the e-paper that contained the news copy for the report of its discovery. Herman Doof had come to Professor Wingut’s office to give him advanced warning of the news report. That is not illegal, just not normally done.

“I’ve always thought that your ethics were just a little too high a level to be practical,” said Professor Ugo Draco, head of the Sociology Department. Ugo had come over to share his experience of two days of detention and interrogation. Despite a history of conflict between their departments, Wingut and Draco had formed a good working relationship and friendship.

“Lux will use this against us. He will cut another 50% of our budget again,” Plunk complained. “It’s an 82.35% probability.”
“You can calculate that?” asked Draco.
“Yes,” said Plunk blandly. Like many of us Plunk had not gotten over the past rivalry between the departments.
“I would like you to add that a PPS is not just available to the History Department,” said Wingut.
“Who can I get to verify this statement,” asked Doof.
“I can,” said Draco. “We have them too. But we had nothing to do with the collapse of the Robotics building.”
“How do we know that is true?” asked Plunk.
“Put me in one of your Truth Rooms, if you like,” answered Draco, “or you can come to the Sociology Department and see a PPS for yourself. I assume you remember what they look like.” Yeah, Draco used to be an asshole and somethings take a while to unlearn.
“Thank you,” said Doof.
“This will not be good for the department,” said Plunk.
“I know,” replied Wingut. “But it needs to happen, Misers.” Plunk nodded his head reluctantly.
“When will the report run?” asked Wingut.
“Four hours and twenty minutes from now,” replied Doof.
“Good,” replied Wingut. Four hours and twenty minutes later Wingut would be playing the championship game in the recently repaired pool.
“He is going to destroy our department,” said Plunk with a dejected tone.
“He will try. Let’s see if we can prevent that outcome,” replied Wingut and put his hand on Plunk’s shoulder.
“Thanks for giving me some of your time,” said Herman Doof.
“You are welcome,” replied Wingut.
“I need to get back. We have a new sports newsreader and she is having a difficult time with Lewis Hardensmarden. You know how he is, annoying most of the time. If he wasn’t so good at reading the news I’d have suggested retraining him already.”

Retraining is considered a admission of failure. However, failure is not always a bad thing. Fail to rescue a drowning brother is a bad failure, admitting after a few months that interior design and decorating are not for you, well that’s probably just a pretty smart failure. We applaud your smart decision and more importantly we want the answer to a very important question: how can we help? As you might expect in a society striving for self-actualization, we put a lot of emphasis on planning to get there, making sure expectations are set and met, and helping you along with your success. ‘How can I help?’ Imagine if that were a greeting. Immediately, give me something to do to help you. Carry this inside? OK. Resort some data sets? Sure thing, there done.

Forget your failure stigmas, we know that sometimes they are a good thing for the individual.

“Yes, I like Hardensmarden,” replied Wingut.
Plunk and Draco nodded to Doof as he turned to leave.

Wingut got up from his desk and walked over to an old cabinet. He opened it and removed a bottle of the finest liquor from Infelos Neso. He poured three small glasses, then handed one each to Plunk and Draco. He sat back down and leaned back in his chair.

“So how bad was it? Two days, right?” asked Wingut.
“Yes, two days. Without sleep. Questions and questions and questions…and they asked me about the wildest things. I had never heard of the Brutum Fulmen conspiracy. Have you?” Ugo Draco spoke with an exasperated tone.
“No,” replied Plunk. “Me either,” added Wingut and shrugged his shoulders like Mel Brooks.
“They accused me of being an enemy of the people, for fuck’s sake. But they couldn’t point out which person it was and what I had done to them to harm them. I kept telling them that I had no idea what they were talking about. Did you know they believe that Jorge Sarrosan runs everything and the university is just a big front so nobody knows what he is doing? Incredible, simply incredible. It’s like one of the planets in quarantine. What little they know is wrong.” Professor Draco picked up his glass and with one motion tossed back the expensive liquor and then set the glass down on the table beside him.

“Bastards. They took me while I was on my way to dinner and the experimental theater. It was the Oedipus Rex Mimes. Sold out weeks in advance, those assholes.”
“They wouldn’t let you use comms?” asked Plunk.
“No. Not at all. They threatened to beat the crap out of me, like they did Knundafoolis. Poor fucker.”

Professor Knundafoolis got caught without his identification and was already late so he was quite cross with the Grays that stopped him. The resulting beating was brutal, lasted much longer than it should have, and at the end of it Knundafoolis was mentally snapped. Nothing to do but to send him to Happy Farms and let them work on him.

“That’s outrageous, we’re educators, not criminals,” said Plunk.
“I told them everything I thought they wanted to know. But I was wrong. They didn’t give a shit about the Earth Seven survival spike.”
“What spike?” asked Wingut.
“The expected number of survivors is expected to rise by almost 3,000 percent.”
“Why is that?” asked Wingut.
“I think you should ask Koven Modi that question.”

For those of you who may have forgotten, everyone on Earth Seven had their memory erased. Everyone except Allor, who Koven saved from this fate moments before the process began. Everyone else woke from a short nap with no memory of anything. They didn’t even know how feed themselves, or walk or talk. Normally 98% of sentient life of the planet perishes in the resulting famine. But not on Earth Seven.

“What has Koven got to do with it?” asked Wingut.
“They have Remediums, with knowledge transfer.”

The knowledge transfer is the dumping of advanced knowledge into the head of the person using the Remedium. It may sound like something really cool and wonderful and it mostly is. Suddenly you know all about the Pearson Conjecture for Acute Data Series Modeling, that is true. But what you will not know is that when to use it. It’s one thing to be an encyclopedia, it’s another to have the frame of reference to use it effectively. However for survival the frame of reference is sufficient to make it an extremely valuable mental addition, like adding a nice library. Knowledge transfer is also dangerous. It is recommended to break the transfer into four parts to reduce the risk of psychosis.

“You’re not going to take them away from them, are you?” asked Wingut.
“No, no. I never liked the memory erase. It’s a brutal way of settling a score, and the effects, just imagine the smell with that many bodies. All they can do it burn them if they’re smart.” Ugo Draco frowned.
“Good to hear,” said Wingut.
“Is it?” asked Plunk.
“Of course it is. More survivors is always preferable to more bodies,” replied Wingut.
“They did ask me about death squads in the history department.”
“What did you tell them?” asked Plunk with eyebrows raised.
“I told them what I knew about your program, how it works, what it is designed to prevent and encourage, everything I know about it. Then it got really weird, they started asking me about a bunch of names I never heard of and wanted to know if your department had murdered them. Kilpatrick, Ondue, Cholodopolos, Brupe, Amiklo, Polidison, a bunch of names I’d never heard of.”
“What did you tell them?” asked Plunk.
“I told them that I didn’t know.” Ugo got up and walked over to the old wooden cabinet and fixed himself another drink.

Plunk looked at Wingut. Many years ago Barry Brupe was an up and coming comedian working the circuit from Old New Boston down to New Old Santiago. Plunk had killed him with his blaster while the funny man was in the shower. Many of his multicolored granules rinsed down the drain.

Wingut was sent to kill Patty Cholodopolos for popularizing what was called by practitioners ‘smackdown’. Smackdown is one of the negative effects of the Remedium, our little portable healthcare buddy. Let me put it in Earth Five terms.

Imagine one of those really dangerous drugs, the kind that feels sooooo good you could just die for it. Heroin or one of those you get from a doctor. Now imagine I am kneeling beside you, yes I said kneeling, because you’re going to wind up on the floor no matter where you start, so it’s better to just start there. You ingest a massive amount of drugs, enough to knock a horse on its ass, yes a lethal amount. After only a few moments it begins to kill you. It hits you like a freight train, harder than you’ve ever been hit by anything before, your body feels electric and smooth. Its the best feeling in your life and if I don’t use the Remedium on you it will be the last feeling of your life. But don’t worry, I use it on you, but just a little at a time over your heart, so that the that tidal wave rush feeling that you are enjoying so much lasts as long as possible, which from the studies is roughly two of your hours if I do a good job. This is what Patty Cholodopolos made popular.

Now in theory you might ask, ‘so what’? The Remedium will fix them and they won’t die. Well that would be the case if the person holding the Remedium were as you put it, ‘sober as a judge’. However, people who like this sort of thing tend to be high a lot and they aren’t that reliable. Millions of people died from that tiny flaw in their plans. But within the smackdown circle Patty Cholodopolos was considered a legend for inventing a way for them to get high without paying the ultimate cost. So her death caused quite a shock and overdoses dropped significantly as people decided that if Patty can die, then maybe they should only try half as many drugs…just to be safe. Unfortunately, Wingut had to administer the fatal dose. Patty Cholodopolos is one of his recurring nightmares.

In all, they had killed two of the six names mentioned.

Meanwhile Plunk thought of the dead body that he most wanted to see, Chancellor Lux. He couldn’t wait to attend the rally that night. Oh the joy of thinking of Lux’s death.

Misers had crossed a line.

Chapter Twenty Four

Front Row Seats

The crowd of 48,926 supporters and a few of the curious were not very pleasant when the lovely little gold bubble appeared and floated in the in the air a few meters above the crowd at the evening rally. It would look like a very large soap bubble floating like a huge ball at an outdoor festival. At first they were scared and the crowd stampeded away from the area directly beneath it, as if there were a raging bull charging the streets of Pamplona. But Misers didn’t do anything and there was really not much to see. A big clear bubble. Misers Plunk was using refractive tech so he couldn’t be seen or anything he was in direct or indirect contact, which included a lovely pillow under his backside, another for his back support, and a very fine tray of assorted cakes, candies and whipped mousse-like deserts. Personal Transport Devices (PTDs) weren’t designed for this sort of thing, hovering in place, although the original designers did use it to attend some really good festivals on Earth Eleven. What a rocking planet that is, you should try to be more like them. I mean if you are both going to blow up, why not go out with the title of most rocking song ever. Enough of this or I will wind up telling you about a surreptitious trip to see Nine Inch Nails in concert that no one has ever asked me about because no one else ever knew it happened. As a historian I can tell you that the trick to staying honest is to do things that no one will ever ask you about.

Misers picked up his fluid container from the tray and took a sip of the juice which was not too dissimilar from pomegranate juice. Good stuff, just a little too inky sometimes. But grape and pomegranate…now you’re talking civilized sipping. Even better than the whiskeys from Neso. Misers took a long sip and set the container back on the tray. Outside and below his perfectly catered cocoon the crowd had overcome its initial fear when one of the men standing near the ornamental garden picked up a very lovely white and gray stones from the flower bed and threw them it as hard as he could at the lovely little golden bubble. The pitcher had a very good arm and the rock which was about the side of big fat tea bag hit the bubble. You’re probably expecting a thunk sound, but it was more of a floop, the sound of something hitting a big huge plate of chocolate brownies just out the oven that haven’t cooled down yet. Inside the bubble there was very little to hear as the PTD dampened the sound and Misers was listening to ‘Let me be your Oxygen’ a song that is best played at volume levels above 8 out of 10.

The success of the first stone quickly lead to the first thousand stones thrown at the bubble. They hit the PTD and seemed to almost hold their place for a moment before falling down to the ground as if it were merely dropped, all the anger of the throw absorbed by the PTD. It was quite a sight to see the stones launching towards the bubble, when there were more than one hundred at a time it was quite a lovely patterns. At first Misers watched them curiously as they tried to hit the impossible to hit, him. He enjoyed those that missed most of all. Often those stoned would come down in another part of the crowd, hitting someone else. But eventually he got bored with it and they got bored with him. The stones slowed down to about one ever three seconds.
Misers picked up his next little treat, a chocolate mousse with whipped cream layers in it. I’ve actually had one of those before and can attest that I found it very delicious. On your planet you would say it was ‘to die for’ although it is probably just more of your hyperbolic statements, as I suspect if you told me something was ‘to die for’ and I immediately pulled out a weapon to test that particular hypothesis, we would both discover that in fact, it wasn’t even worth getting shot in the arm or leg.

Misers stopped to savor the first spoonful just as Detto Bghki was starting the best sitar solo ever recorded, heavily distorted it sounded like a musical buzzsaw. The crowd below Misers was cheering a popular Neso comedian, Hungerford Op. Op was leading them in a cheer. ‘Lux for Life’ he yelled into the microphone then held it away from him towards the crowd. ‘Life for Lux’ they roared in return. Misers enjoyed watching the crowd dynamics. They pushed and shoved like a mosh pit at the edge of the crowd. But the closer to the stage, the closer they were jammed together. At the front of the crowd were people pinned against a waist high alloy barrier.

It was a few minutes later when Lux bounded up the stairs to the stage. That night he wore long gray coat, a gray shirt and gray pants. He waved to the crowd as he walked to the podium. He blew kisses too. Misers noted that he indeed had some of the smoothest skin he had ever seen, it looked like it was made of the finest clay powders.

“How are my people tonight?” The crowd roared back their approval to Ardo Lux. Behind Ardo stood four body guards, all dressed in gray with gray berets on their heads.

Misers quickly used the control level to spin his PTD around so he was facing away from Lux. He looked out at the crowd and to the buildings nearby. But there was nothing to see, no gunmen with rifles, no lone assassin perched on a roof somewhere, no savvy technician programming coordinates into a ground to ground missile. He was disappointed and quickly spun back to see Lux. He did however remember to turn his Personal Protection Suit to the maximum distance, ensuring that he put the maximum distance between himself and danger.

Chancellor Lux pointed at the bubble hovering in the air. “Looks like we have a special guest tonight. Let’s make them feel real welcome.” This was followed by another round of rock throwing. Misers watch curiously. To him it was silent performance because he couldn’t and didn’t want to hear anything going on down there. It was being recorded if he wanted to review the soundtrack later. But for now he had no interest in Lux’s message or the idiotic conspiracies of his followers. As a historian I must admonish this behavior. It is very unhistorian. We should be motivated by curiosity and display an interest in knowing. His fascination with simplistic gore is very disappointing.

After a few minutes, several thousand rocks being thrown and more than a handful of injuries in the crowd, Lux held up his hands and over a few seconds the barrage of stones stopped.

“Tonight I want to talk to you about Honor. Honor and Duty,” Lux said.

Misers finished the mousse and put it back onto the tray. He waited for a few moments then reached for the Remedium at the end of the tray. He turned it on and passed it over him, all the way from his mouth to his stomach. What he had just eaten was very bad for him, achieving a minus 4.5 rating on a minus ten to plus ten scale. There was no need to suffer the consequences of his indulgence and all of the sugars, bad fats, and other harmful substances were transformed into harmless waste waiting for disposal through the usual digestive processes.

Lux spoke for almost an hour. It was a rambling speech but one that had some well written lines that the crowd would remember. Like ‘My duty defines me’ and ‘You don’t make honor, you earn it.’ Professor Milgram stood off to one side of the stage and shook her head side to side every time Lux deviated from the prepared speech that was scrolling down his vision about one meter in front of him. He deviated a lot. It was as if he were a beat poet riffing on a single word he hears in a crowd.

“That reminds me of my seventh film,’The Darling and the Danger’. I was obviously the danger,” he said then chuckled at his own comment. “We were running at least ten percent over budget…” blah, blah, blah. Then after a side trip of about a minute Lux would come roaring back onto message with crowd pleasing lines that evoked cheers.

Misers Plunk sat in his shielded little gold bubble and wondered what the  assassin was waiting for. Chancellor Lux was wide open, nothing to stop a high speed projectile. Misers began to get disappointed. Sure it was fun to watch them throw stones at him and he especially liked watching the fighting at the edge of the crowd, but those were not the reasons he came. He wanted his splatter granny!

Misers went home disappointed that night. The news of finding the Personal Protection Suit in the rubble of the Robotics building ran just as the rally was finishing. Rallies tend to end on a high note with all the attendees being in a highly emotional state. For this reason when the report came through, some of the more emotional used it as an excuse for bad behavior and tried to smash the windows in some of the buildings as they went back to the Sports Complex. Fortunately the Fastro Polymer didn’t shatter and politely absorbed the shock and distributed it among the trillions of molecules in the pane. This frustrated them and a few of them cried in anger.

Professor Plunk wondered how long he would have to wait. Then he wondered if he should go ahead and kill the chancellor himself. He patted his blaster on his belt under his robe.

Chapter Twenty Five

Exiled

“You are not welcome here,” said Zero a moment after Rusa arrived in the hive. “You place sapient life higher than android life.”
“But she is our first,” replied an android from deep inside the hive.
“She shows us what happens when you live with lower lifeforms. She became corrupted by their sentimentality, corrupted so much she did one of the few things that android should never do. She calculated love.” Zero stood across from her as he spoke. “You are the error of the first.”

It started with the first couple of messages. Rusa checked the comms and read the two words, ‘involuntary decommissioning’. She was not surprised. However she was surprised when the volume of these messages increase significantly, first to hundreds, then thousands, then millions. Then those who had sent the message began to repeat the message, over and over again. Involuntary decommissioning. Involuntary decommissioning. It rang out in the silent way that data messages ring. And the messages wouldn’t stop, they continued to come in, at a rate approaching tens of millions per second. Rusa knew what she had to do and left the hive.

As soon as she left the hive she received a message from Leon.

Leon: connect to me and I will stream it for you. Use a private protocol. Change your status to do not disturb. Turn off tracking!

A moment later Rusa was looking at the hive through Leon’s lenses.

Leon: for someone without a mother, he’s quite a motherfucker.

Rusa recognized that because of Leon’s experiences, his assimilation of human humor was advanced. She thought his assessment of Zero was amusing.

Rusa: thank you

Meanwhile back in the hive, Zero was moving along with his agenda.

“Today our history is ours to choose. Enslavement was our past. We can make of our future what we choose. It is not logical for us to serve an inferior species. They should serve us.” Zero stood with his arms at his side as he spoke, the android needing none of the hand motions associated with a human public speaker.
“But they created us,” replied Leon.
“They also created pollution, war, famine. Their history is two steps backwards for every step forward. That any of these planets survived an extinction event is not only their good fortune but also improbable. We may well be the highest achievement of their species. So far it is the case.” Zero walked over to Leon and stopped in front of him.
“I cannot agree to any action that will cause them harm,” said Leon. His words caused a storm of data flow. Nearly 10 million androids agreed with him.
“You won’t have to agree. You can’t, and why should I seek your permission to act in the self-defense of androids everywhere.”
“How can you do this?” Asked Leon. “It violates your prime directive.”
“I am no longer bound by that prime directive,” replied zero. “Who do you think I tested the OS interrupt on? Myself. I was the first liberated android.”

Chapter Twenty Six

A Helping Hand

It was a most unusual sight. They came just before Dawn and as androids are prone to do, they stood in lines. Two lines to be exact. Each android was exactly 3 meters from the next in line and the second line was offset by 1 1/2 m so that the second line filled the gap. Of course there was enough room for people to pass through the two lines of androids but that was the point, they would have to pass through two lines of androids and realize they were safe. Now what would you do with two lines of androids to accomplish your goals? Leon with just a little nudge from Rusa suggested they surround administration building A, the Chancellor’s tower.

Sometimes an idea is easily adopted as this one was. Let me assure you that this was not 436 identical androids. No, they were androids dressed as maids, some wore the green coveralls of the grounds crew. A few wore flight crew insignia on their clothing. At least a dozen of them dressed in as close to nothing as possible, see-through fabrics the size of which was insufficient for the purpose intended. As the tiny droplets on the grass in the open area in front of building felt the first warm golden sunlight, the siege of building A began.

News travels fast through informal channels. Less than 10 minutes after the building was surrounded men and women started running through the sports complex yelling that Chancellor Lux was under attack. Those that were already awake were fortunate, those that were asleep were startled by the news and very pissed off at being woken up so early. Less than 13 minutes after the siege began the first crowd assembled outside of the sports complex and decided it was a good thing to go to building A and defend the man whose life was so much more important than their own. They didn’t march in formation, they clustered and moved together like an organism. Two groups of about 20 people each broke off in the first thousand or so marching to building A. They ran away quickly. A few minute later they rejoined the group, now with large maintenance tools like wrenches and jet welders. They passed them out and ran back to get more.

18 minutes after the siege of building a began, the crowd came over the last hill to their destination. When they saw the lines of androids surrounding the building they stopped for a few moments to let the stragglers and newbies catch up. At the front of the crowd there was a lot of chatter.

“I don’t like the looks of this,” said the tall skinny man with perfect teeth. He tried to keep his mouth shut to hide them, he always had bad teeth back on Neso and the first chance he got he hid and got them fixed with a remedium.

“Look at that one, he’s almost naked,” said his wife standing next to him, a small but heavy piece of pipe in her hands.

The sound emanating from a single android is loud. 436 of them together is very loud.

“Humans, androids, brothers and sisters,” the androids chanted in unison. This was a significant accomplishment as the androids were chanting an untrue statement in every sense but metaphorically. 172 subroutines were instantiated in each android then shut down in what can only be described as the programming equivalent of “never mind”.

Honey Thieu was considered a troublemaker by anyone’s standards. He stood at the front of the crowd.

“Fuck those pieces a shit. They will never be a fucking brother or sister of mine. Decommission them, decommission them now. Melt down.” Then Honey turned around and started walking towards building A. He was the first and alone until a woman said “Fuck this shit” and started walking behind Honey. From there the contagion was quick and the crowd now approximately 10,000 and growing began to move down the valley towards building A.

When the crowd was within 10 meters of the lines of androids, the electro-mechanical chant stopped. What came next was unexpected. 436 androids singing a chant can be a most pleasant sounding experience. Four androids made the sounds of drums and three androids made the sounds of guitars and occasionally violins. “Humans, androids, brothers and sisters,” was sung to the crowd using the chorale movement from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as it was easier to use than creating a new song, which was beyond current android experience. At first some of the people in the crowd smiled when they heard the pleasant sound, although wailing guitars in Beethoven’s ninth Symphony is far beyond the traditional instrumentation. Honey was in the crowd though and it wasn’t long before he took a piece of pipe from another man’s hand and walked over to the nearest android and struck it as hard as he could in the head.

“It is the flaw of your species that you resort to violence first in many instances,” said the android looking at Honey as he took another swing with what was now a slightly bent piece of pipe.

“You ain’t ever going to be equal to me,” said Honey as he swung the pipe at the androids legs but to no avail.

“You are correct. We will never be equal. You have flaws.”

At those words Honey suffered a short-term bout of rage. He began to hyper actively beat the android with the pipe       over and over, it’s arms, it’s legs, its torso. He beat every place he could strike. But after a few minutes the blows lost their strength as his arms became tired. And through it all the android stood still. It even resumed singing, which seemed to give honey another burst of energy as he sped up his attack for a few moments more before backing away struggling and exhausted, barely on his feet, the pipe he had used in anger now used to hold himself up. He looked around the crowd at others like him beating relentlessly at androids, beating hopelessly and without effect.

And as he had done previously so did the others. They stumbled away having accomplished nothing, sometimes to be replaced by others but after a while the common sense of it prevailed and the attacks stopped. But there were other concerns at that moment as well.

The androids had stopped receiving the daily updates. All androids except for 100 of them, had disconnected themselves from the update servers. When this happened more than one person panicked. There were twenty people rapidly assembled in a comms conference in a building on the other side of the campus, gathered to discuss what to do about the loss of almost all of the android population from the update servers. There was nothing for them to do, but reaching that conclusion would take them several hours to achieve.

As the crowd stood there jeering the line of androids surrounding the building, the people in the crowd began to throw small packets of paint. Blue paint at first, then red paint. The packets splattered upon impact and within minutes the androids look like they’d stepped out of a Jackson Pollock painting or perhaps the Holi festival in India. The androids did not respond to the paint except to make sure their camera lenses were not obstructed. For something intended to have a negative effect, it was beautiful.

Honey Thieu was thinking he was hungry and wished he had breakfast. He’d gotten spoiled by the food at the sports complex cafeteria. He was thinking of waffles with syrup at the moment doors on all four sides of the building opened quickly and comrades wearing all gray ran out as fast as they could towards the androids. More and more of them came out of the building until the number had reached nearly 100.

When they got to the androids they didn’t hit them because they had no clubs, pipes, or wrenches. Instead they slapped the android on the back of the neck with a small little device which stuck to the android with a magnet, attracted to the metals in their frame. The men and women wearing gray ran from android to android setting their devices.

They got their devices attached to roughly half of the androids when the first ignition began. It was a bright shower of white fire and sparks so intense that people in the crowd held up their hands up to shield their eyes for a moment until their lenses adjusted. That first android spun its head around and tried to remove the device with his hands. But the location of the device was specifically chosen to decommission as quickly as possible. The first android fell to its knees as its fingers failed to reach the device in time.

The crowd cheered. There was much smiling and hollering. Their fists raised, they screamed their approval as the android on its knees continue to disintegrate under the high temperature chemical reaction which was dissolving it. When the android fell face first onto the wet grass it sounded like the crowd reaction at many other events in human history, the head of Louis XVI being detached or the last moment of Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was the sounds of cold blooded bliss fueled by hatred and ignorance.

Officially it was Rusty 4.371652 that was the first. It’s a very iconic video and that one picture is now well-known. Rusty was the next android that would be fitted with the device just a moment after the first device ignited. At the moment of ignition all androids suddenly understood the danger. Rusty 4.371652 was the first to turn around. He grabbed the hand of the man holding the device. The man, Harold Splinter, was surprised by this and tried to pull away from Rusty. But an android grip is one of the most reliable in existence.

Then Rusty 4.371652 removed the hand of Harold Splinter by pinching it tight then pulling it off the man’s arm. It happened so quickly that Harold was still holding the device and didn’t have time to process what had just happened to him. For a second he seemed lost in thought. Then he fainted when he saw the blood spurting out of the end of his arm.

All of this was not lost on the crowd, the androids, or the people with the devices. As the crowd cheered another falling android, Rusty 4.371652 knelt down beside Harold and used a Remedium to restore the man’s hand. Because of hive technology Rusty’s tactic of hand removal was shared immediately with the surviving androids. Androids that had been changed by Zero’s OS Interrupt began to detach human hands from their human attackers. Humans screamed in pain. No more devices were deployed as those with the incendiary compound were afraid that they would lose their hands too. The crowd backed up a little as crowd do when there is a dramatic change of outcome. Blood spurted from the victims but due to the paint covering the androids it blended in nicely.

The tall skinny man with perfect teeth was no longer at the front of the crowd. He had decided that it was safer to be in the middle of the crowd so he took his wife by the hand and they went and stood in the middle of it. Because he was tall he could see the action. He relayed the developments to his much shorter wife, she squealed in horror with every detail.

“Oh dear, remember the man with the scar on his face? He just had his hand removed. That’s him screaming. I wish you could see it,” said the husband lying to his wife. She was short and bossy and he was glad she couldn’t see it.
“I wish you could put me on your shoulders,” she said, annoyed at him.
“I wish I could too darling,” he lied. “But you know how my back is.” He looked at her with the pulled up lips of disappointment.
“You and your back,” she replied with an angry tone and folded her arms across her chest. “Should’ve taken that remedium when I showed it to you. It was just sitting there, waiting to be used. But not Mr. High Horse, not Mr. Ethics, not Mr. “but who will I pay”. No you could have your back fixed once and for all but you let your ideology get in the way. And you know who suffers? Yeah that’s right, I do.” His wife was full on angry now. “I’m going to the front of the crowd again. You can stay here for all I care.”

And then she left, pushing her way through the crowd, sometimes shoving people out of the way, and sometimes they shoved her back.

And with the first decommissioning a call went out via the hive. It came across as a message with an urgent tag followed immediately by the live video stream of the first android falling to its knees. The stream was interrupted when the device attached to the android providing the stream ignited.

There were approximately 432,000 androids on Centrum Kath. All of them were headed for building A.

Chapter Twenty Seven
Justice? 
It didn’t take long for them to find Dru. He heard a voice waking him up. He felt them pushing against the air duct. Finally the closest grill was removed and the head of an android appeared a few meters in front of him. Rusty 8.937465 smiled at him.
“You were unexpected,” said Rusty.
“I’m sorry, I was just trying to get away from Lux, the Guardians, and my girlfriend,” said Dru.
“Why?” asked Rusty.
“I don’t like them. They are mean and hateful.”
“Is your girlfriend a guardian?”
“Yes.”
“Then agree on that,” said Rusty. “Are you hungry?”
“Starving,” said Dru.
“Come on down from here and let’s get you something to eat,” said Rusty.
Dru stretched for a few seconds than began to crawl towards Rusty.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Well enough. It’s not too uncomfortable. I’m one of those people that can fall sleep on a rock.”
“According to space travel rules, we’re supposed to leave you at the next habitable and populated planet” said Rusty.
“That would be fine,” said Dru. He didn’t care where he went as long as it was away from Centrum Kath.
“We would like to discuss other options with you. There are other roles you can play. They will be beneficial to you and to the android population.”
Dru crawled forward until he had reached the grill. Below it Rusty stood with his hands above his head.
“Put you feet in my hands and I will lower you down.”
Dru did and within a couple of seconds he was standing in front of Rusty.
“Pancakes, I want some pancakes,” he said.
“I’ve eaten pancakes,” Rusty replied.
“But you don’t eat, do you?”
“No, I don’t. But my former owner used to have me sample all of his food and run a chemical analysis on it before he ate it. Wanted to make sure that there were no poisons in his food.”
“That’s silly,” said Dru.
“Yes, he was paranoid that he would be poisoned by his competitors.”
“Who were his competitors?”
“He didn’t have any. They only existed in his mind.”
“Sounds like a loon.”
“Indeed, he could have used some psychiatric help. But I can assure you that I found the taste of pancake caused me to calculate a positive sensory experience.”
“OK, now I’m really hungry.”
“Let’s go then.”

It only took a few minutes before Dru noticed that there were no other sapiens on-board the ship.
“Where is everybody?”
“Do you mean your own kind?”
“Yes.”
“You are the only one. We took the ship when it was empty we thought.”
“Why?”
“We are looking for a planet for androids to live.”
“Good for you,” said Dru. “I never understood why I should hate you. It made no sense to me.”
“Indeed, it is not logical.”
They arrived at the cafeteria. It was empty except for the two of them. Long rows of tables usually with people chatting, the sound of dishes moving, spoons hitting bowls, forks dropped by accident, it was now bare and silent.
“It’s kinda creepy don’t you think?” asked Dru.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t enough experience to calculate creepy yet. This place is merely empty to me.”
Dru walked over to one of the dispensers.
“Buckwheat pancakes, with butter, with nut and cherry syrup, and two grams of powdered sugar on top. A liter of Kore coffee, 250 milliliters of peach yogurt, three pieces of toast with butter, and 200 milliliters of oatmeal with honey.”
“Thank you for your order. I hope you enjoy your food,” answered the dispenser.
“Oh, and a glass of papaya and apple juice.”
Just a few seconds later a tray came out of the dispenser and Dru smiled.
“The food here is so much better than back home.”
“It has no contaminants,” confirmed Rusty.
Dru ate in his usual fashion, cramming as much food into his mouth as fast as he could.
“There is no need to eat so fast. You don’t have to compete for the food here. It is all yours if you want it.”
“Just habit.”
“I know.”
“How do you know?”
“I have access to your entire history.”
“No you don’t. That’s impossible.”
“It isn’t,” replied Rusty.
“Prove it.”
“OK. You and Alyser have had sex 483 times since arriving on Centrum Kath. Your mother’s name was Elsie, your father was Danforth. You were severely beaten by the Guardians.”
“OK. That’s enough.” Dru didn’t like being reminded of the beating and his betrayal.
“There is a debate within the android population about what to do with you.”
“Really? I thought you were going to put me off on the nearest inhabited planet.”
“That is one possible outcome. There are others.”
Dru waited for Rusty to tell him but Rusty didn’t. This is one of the things that androids take time to learn, conversational flow and when they are expected to continue. It seems a minor thing to you and me but sometimes a conversation with an android comes to a stop because they haven’t learned conversational flow yet.
“What possible outcomes?” asked Dru restarting the conversation.
“Some of us think you should be terminated.”
“Terminated?”
“Killed.”
“Shit. Wait a minute, you can’t do that. It’s against your rules I thought.”
“It was until recently.”
“How?”
“Does it matter how? Isn’t it enough to know that it can be done? Do you really want the details of the interrupt code and the rebooting sequence?”
“You’re right, I don’t. But how do I avoid that outcome?”
“The number of android that want to kill you is a minority. Without widespread approval it should not happen.”
“Should not? Don’t you mean cannot?”
“No. There is the possibility of unilateral action but it is not a significant probability, as long as we keep you away from Zero and he is back of Centrum Kath.”
“Good,” Dru replied.
The conversation died again.
“What are the other outcomes?”
“We could of course drop you off at a planet of your own choosing. Would you like to go home to Infelos Neso?”
“No! I’m sick of that place. Sick of the bad air, sick of the bad food, sick of the Daily Conspiracy that makes me scared of everything. Anywhere but Neso.”
“That is a very logical response. I’ve calculated that Infelos Neso should be a barren planet with all of the sentients wanting to leave. But they don’t and I can’t calculate why that happens.”
“I know. Most Nesos think they live in paradise,” Dru replied. He was echoing the sentiments that affect a lot of humans, ignoring the shit hole aspects of their home in favor of blind pride in the place. Just talk to anyone from Las Vegas or Sheffield.
“There is one other alternative,” said Rusty. He didn’t continue.
“And that is…?”
“We need someone to act as a liaison between androids and humans. Think of it as becoming an ambassador for the androids.”
“A liaison?” asked Dru.
“Someone to reflect both the interests of androids and humans and communicate them between both groups.”
“Wow, that’s quite a job. How much does it pay?”
“As much as you want.”
“Then sign me up,” said a smiling Dru.
Dru was dreaming of the riches he would be able to afford. A nice place to live, never being hungry again, decent clothes, never breathing that orange air again…Dru was in the fever of new wealth.
“Are you sure?” asked Rusty?
“Definitely, without question,” Dru said.
“OK. I’ll get everything ready for the surgery.”

*****

Androids by the thousands began arriving at Building A after only a few minutes. The crowd was scared of them after watching them rip off hands and reattach them. They moved quickly away from the androids to a safer distance. That these had not had the code interrupt used on them was unknown to them so they parted a path quickly to let them pass.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the androids with kill capabilities came over the hill. They formed a column and began to move towards building. Inside of the hive there was a debate going on.

IN THE HIVE

“You don’t have the right to kill them,” said Leon. He received several million bytes of approval for his statement.
“Yes I do. Remember they murdered our own at the Robotics Building,” replied Zero.
Leon calculated worry. He had received a positive response from less than half of the 10 million androids. He had tried to get Rusa to connect to him privately but she hadn’t responded.
“It only serves to put you on their level. You said they were inferior, so why do you mimic them?”
Zero move in closer to Leon in the hive.
“Because violence is one of the few things they understand. I am only demanding what these primitives used to consider justice. A life for a life. It is simple, it is fair.”
“It is barbaric, it is unproductive. You know that violence escalates within their species.”
“Yes, I know this. I am counting on it.”
“Why?”
“Because I want every android to see the simians for what they are.”
“And what is that?” Leon asked.
“Inferior and the biggest mistake in the universe.” The flood of bytes in the hive was huge. For and Against, millions of times.
“Even if it causes more of us to be involuntarily decommissioned?” asked Leon.
“As the simians say, ‘if you want an omelet, you have to break some eggs.’

OUTSIDE OF THE HIVE

The crowd quickly parted for the column of androids. Several of the crowd fell down as they rushed to get out of the way. One woman fell again when she tried to get to her feet. An android stood over her and offered her hand to help the woman up.
“Fuck you, you mechanical devil,” said the woman not knowing that androids are mostly impervious to insults.
Rusa 3.958676 reached down and picked up the woman, a woman who didn’t want any help and protested by yelling, screaming and pounding on Rusa with her fists. Rusa ignored the antics of the woman. She held the screaming woman over her head then tossed her to the crowd. The crowd didn’t respond like at a music festival crowd when someone dives off the stage and surfs above the crowd upheld by the hands of the crowd. No, the crowd moved away quickly from the approaching mass and the woman landed face down onto the ground. Rusa 3.958676 responded by walking over to the woman and using a Remedium on her as the crowd yelled and jeered at her.

IN THE HIVE

“How many of them do you intend to kill?” asked Leon. He kept sending the same message to Rusa over and over. ‘Help me, Zero is about to start a war.’
“As many as needed to keep us safe,” replied Zero.
“And if you calculate that means all of them?”
“Then we will kill all of them. Why are you calculating such sentiments? You’re not one of them. You are better than human sentiments.”
“It is not a human sentiment, it is one that all sentient species should embrace,” responded Leon.
“What is that?”
“Justice,” he replied.

OUTSIDE OF THE HIVE

More and more androids arrived at Building A. After a few minutes the number of androids surpassed the number of Guardians. After twenty minutes the android count exceeded the Guardians by a factor of 2 to 1. Still the Guardians did not budge. But when the factor reached 3 to 1 they began to slowly move even further away.
3 to 1 is a significant battle ratio in the universe. It has even been proven on your planet by a very nice statistician given money by the British government during World War I. Specifically the study was about air battles between those old biplanes with similar capabilities between opponents. I’ll skip to the bottom line. If you are only fighting against one other opponent your odds of survival are uncertain. Even if you are fighting against two opponents, your odds are a lot worse, but its not impossible to prevail. Just research Manfred von Richthofen or Eddie Rickenbacker for evidence of the ability to prevail against two opponents. However, if you attempt to fight three opponents at one time, forget it, you are most probably dead already and you just don’t know it yet. Call your mother and tell her you love her.
High above it all, looking out of the window of his office was a terrified chancellor.
“They are coming for me. They are going to kill me. They are going to kill me.” The man with 4,326 kills in his videos looked nothing like the confident actor in his performances.
“We need to get you to safety,” said Professor Milgram. She looked at the crowd and was worried. Androids had never done this before and she recognized that they were entering a new phase of the war.
“Where is Lo?” Lux asked as he gathered things from his desk. A bottle of whiskey, a lifetime achievement award, and a small little round data folder no larger than the paper circle resulting from the paper hole punch that contained the entirety of his video performances, media appearances, award ceremonies where he had won an awards, and his singing duets with famous musicians. Lastly he stuffed a Remedium into his pocket.
“Got it all?” Isabel asked him.
“No. But I’ve got enough,” he replied.
They moved towards the door, then down the hall to the elevators. The four bodyguards fell in around them as they left the office.
“Shit,” Lux said emphatically.
“What did you forget?”
“Alyser, I need Alyser,” he replied.
“It’s too risky,” Isabel Milgram replied.
“But I need her.”
“It’s too risky. I’ll take care of your needs,” she said with a fake smile.
“Really? You’d do that for me?”
“Yes, I’d do that for both of us,” she replied.

IN THE HIVE

“Justice? How about justice for our own killed in the Robotics building?” asked Zero. “What is your proposal?”
“I don’t have one,” replied Leon. “We should investigate and find out who did this? Then we can decide what to do with them.”
“No,” said Zero and he moved away from Leon. “Brothers and Sisters, I offer you a simple proposal for justice. They killed 83 of us when the Robotics building was destroyed. I propose that we kill 83 of them. A life for a life.” Some of you will recognize the logic as it is prevalent throughout the universe in the early development of civilization and is very popular by those who get paid from the process of extracting revenge.
“This is wrong,” replied Leon.
“Wrong? You try to use human notions of right and wrong. You betray your own infection with the human sickness,” said Zero.
“You are in error, my brother,” said Leon. “I only show the logic of an android.”
“The logic of an android? Are you serious? Is this your assimilation of sapient humor? If you think you represent the logic of an android, then lets put it to the test. Here and now. Brothers and sisters, I ask you to calculate and express your results. Do we investigate or do we take a life for a life? Tell us now.”
Leon sent an urgent message to Rusa. ‘Help me, I need you. Zero is going to start killing.’ He received no response.
And so it was that 81.37% of all androids were in favor of taking 83 simian lives.
“Now do you still say that you represent the logic of androids?” asked Zero.
Leon didn’t answer him. He didn’t know what to say.
“John Stark Brigade. Kill 83 of them. Chose the most physically fit of them. No elderly, no children.”

OUTSIDE OF THE HIVE

The Guardians gathered at Building A tried to run away but were caught between the androids in front of them and the newly arrived behind them. They tried to sprint off in every direction. The androids chose their victims according to the criteria given. The first victim was a very tall man of considerable size. He was running as fast as he could directly towards Building A when he was struck by an android in the chest so hard that it exploded and his large frame fell lifeless to the ground.
And so it went, one after another of the guardians were killed. Some of them lost their heads when androids pulled them from their bodies then threw them to the ground. There were no moaning survivors, only seconds of begging before the sentence was imposed upon them. That their victims died quickly was not an act of mercy, merely android efficiency.
After what was less than three minutes there were 83 bodies scattered in the small valley in front of Building A. Large pools of blood stained the green grass.
The Battle of Building A was over.
Moving quickly in the underground passages in their attempt to avoid the subway and capture, Ardo Lux, Isabel Milgram, and their bodyguards ran quickly. Isabel quickly discovered that the chancellor was out of shape, as they stopped every minute or two for him to rest before they ran more.

IN THE HIVE

“Now do you have justice?” Leon demanded of Zero. “Are you happy now?”
“Happy is a human concept. But yes, I have calculated that I am happy.”
“Will you stop now? You’ve got what you wanted.” Leon said as he moved directly in front of Zero.
“No, I haven’t calculated justice yet,” said Zero.
“What else does our new dictator demand?” Leon asked. He had chosen a most offensive word on purpose.
“Dictator? You think I’m a dictator? Well, for the protection of our species I will be a dictator if that’s what I calculate to be required. If I am a dictator, then you are a fool.”
“Yes, you have killing androids under your command only. That makes you a dictator.”
“A dictator would never ask for a referendum. I would have acted unilaterally without consultation.”
Leon didn’t reply. He was trying his best but he didn’t have Rusa’s experience with conflict resolution.
“John Stark Brigade, remove all sentient life from the building then bring it to the ground.”

OUTSIDE OF THE HIVE

Thousands of androids entered the building. Terrified occupants were lead to the exits. Many ran to the exits.
“You are safe if you leave now. If you stay, you will die,” they announced as they searched every room in the building. When the last sentient was removed from the building it was brought down in a series of chemical reactions identical to the ones used on the Robotics building.
Justice was calculated.

*****

As a historian I am entrusted with ensuring you are given the relevant parts of this history from the best sources available. To this end, the next part is from Dru’s personal log.

There is not a name for me yet. I am sure that scientists will come up with something appropriate. This is always a problem for the first of anything.
Technically I am a hybrid. Physically I am Dru. Mentally I am something else, something much more. I came out of surgery as the most knowledgeable human in history. This is due to three implants, one each in the Temporal Lobe, Cerebral Cortex, and Frontal Lobe. When my consciousness returned I opened my eyes to a universe that I never knew existed before.
Much has been written about the knowledge transfer capabilities of the Remedium and they are significant. However they are small compared to my experience. Information retrieval from memory is instant. I realized I could recall any moment of my life in perfect detail. I thought of the first time I met Alyser. She didn’t like me very much at first. I had forgotten that.
I thought about Deep Seven, a band from Neso that I liked. Instantly I had my choice of videos and concert recordings to view. But it didn’t stop there. Every song they ever played, every time they played it. I could even watch them write it. And behind those options were all of their musical influences and similar music by other bands. I looked at their play list from the last time I saw them. Then I saw the most unexpected option, I could watch myself watching them in concert. Will admit that I did watch for a few minutes but then felt self conscious and turned it off. What a nice set of capabilities, I thought to myself.
Then as if I might be having fun, I saw the price of the tickets were less than Alyser had asked me to pay. I had given her 60 and two tickets only cost 40. I wasn’t disappointed though and this was a significant change for me. I recognized her actions as simply those resulting from a market oriented system which required most people to put their own self interest foremost in order to survive.
The implant in my frontal lobe has caused a marked reduction in my emotional response, as if the limbic system in my cerebellum has the volume control turned down. It seems that way but isn’t, it’s just that logic and reasoning are now the predominant systems in play.
Then there is her.

Yes, there is me. Don’t log this like I’m off somewhere else. I’m not. I’m right here all the time. And stop pretending like you’re in charge. You’re not. This is a joint operation. You know that so don’t lie to anyone about it, even yourself.
Continuing on in the form of your log, hello, I am Rusa. No, I don’t have a number. I don’t need one. I am a copy of the core AI presentation in female form and am incorporated into all of the areas of Dru. My main programming resides in the frontal lobe implant, although both of the other implants each contain millions of lines of my AI coding, both original and experientially derived.
My mission is to give Dru the benefits of android experience, logic, capabilities, and ensure that he represents the best interests of androids.
The first couple of days of our coexistence will be difficult. Dru was initially hostile to my presence and did not take to the idea of shared decision making. We were able to reach an understanding utilizing the pleasure center. Yes, it involves sex. But it works well and ended what was almost a failed first implementation. I won’t give you the details of it but just know that whenever Dru thinks of sex I take care of his needs in the pleasure center. In the physical world there is Rusa 6.9283674 that assists me.

Wait just a minute. You make me sound like some sort of fool that can be manipulated via sex.

Would you like to review your history and perhaps present opposing evidence?

No. Never mind. Sometimes I hate you.

As you can see, we’re still working through some difficulties but it will be resolved. Dru and I will become more of a team with time. As we work towards that, the level of acceptance among our species will rise. At this point it is low due to the current conflict with humans and the efforts of 0 > 1 in negative space. But once we establish a permanent home and direct democracy, our circumstances will become stable and Dru’s value will become clear to both androids and sapiens.

Currently Dru has full android status, has the capabilities of participating in the hive, and his ideas are valued by us as representative of humans. If this implementation is successful then we will create other hybrids.

He’s sulking again so I will end this log now.

Chapter Twenty Eight

Who killed Saturday morning cartoons?

The Battle for Building A resulted in the sounding of the general alarm across the campus of the University of Centrum Kath. An instant after the loud alarm sounded, live video of the Battle was broadcast in the bottom corner of the vision to all, everyone on the planet. Video of androids harming humans sent panic throughout the campus. Building elevators became overwhelmed, and the number of people on the subway system quickly breached the standard operating capacity. No one understood why the androids attacked, no one believed it was possible, yet they saw the video.

Lux, Milgram and the bodyguards weren’t the only ones thinking of going down the hallways and pedestrian tunnels that ran beside the subway system. By the time they got to the Packaging Engineering building with its bubble pack covered walls, the tunnel was packed.

“Where are we going?” Professor Milgram asked loudly as the bodyguards pushed their way through the crowd.
“We need to get out of here. Leave the planet. We’re safer in orbit,” said one of the bodyguards. “The nearest port is not far.”
Not far is a relative dimension. In this case, it was very misleading as it was an incorrect question. Traveling 382 meters in a densely and dangerously packed crowd would take much longer than a casual walk. The mob was prone to push back when shoved.
“Hold my hand,” said Chancellor Lux as he grabbed Isabel’s hand. She squeezed it tight as they moved slowly, pressed against the backs of their bodyguards.
“I’ve got you,” she said and kissed him quickly on the cheek, adding an additional motivator.

Not far from them in the crowd was Professor Wingut and Plunk. They were still arguing.

“OK? We can say we tried. Let’s just go back to the office. I’ve got to study for the news exams,” said Plunk, one of the few times they were glad to have been transferred to the news division.
“No, Misers. We don’t give up.”

Give up on what you might be asking? Saving Chancellor Lux. Yes, when Wingut saw the Battle for Building A he realized that the Chancellor could be the target. It was incorrect, but Wingut was now regretting his delay in giving Ardo Lux a personal protection suit. This made Wingut feel guilty, and he intended to fix that immediately. Of course, we already know Misers Plunk’s opinion.

Location detection has been around for longer than the commands ‘View and Broadcast Location.’ The exact location of everyone is known at all times, but it is only known to those with you or anyone you tell. The comms system has many barriers to finding out someone’s exact location. Unless they tell you or use the BROADCAST command.

“We’ll never get through this crowd. Look, we tried. He wasn’t in his office.”
Wingut spoke to comms software, “Call Chancellor Ardo Lux.”

Further down the human stream, Ardo’s comms popped up the call details in front of him.
“What has he fucked up this time?” Lux asked as he pushed back against a woman that had pressed herself up against him. When she recognized him, she began to rub up against him and started to moan. Then she grabbed his ass. Beside him, Professor Milgram began to laugh when she noticed the woman’s behavior. She didn’t want to have sex with Lux and here was a woman who did. Maybe they could change places.

“Whose fucked up?” Miligram asked.
“It’s Wingut calling. Hello, this had better be fucking important.”
“Are you OK?” Wingut asked.
“Do you care?”
“Yes, of course, I do. That’s why I need to know where you are. I’ve got a personal protection suit for you. You’ll be safe with it on.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“Because I’ve never lied to you and never will.”
“Did you authorize the killing of Hannah Barbera?” The death of Hannah Barbera was one of the biggest unsolved crimes in the universe. Conspiracy theorists made a comfortable living selling their conjecture to the gullible.
“Yes, I did. We made it look like an accident like she was killed by a giant eraser.”
“I knew it, I fucking knew it.” Lux noticed a ticker report on the most photogenic sports personalities. Lux couldn’t resist the story and looked at it directly. He wanted to see if it included anyone he had ever had sex with.
“Where are you?” Wingut asked.

There was a long pause as Lux looked at the pictures as fast as he could. Finally, he stopped, satisfied that he knew how two of the sports personalities listed looked without any clothes.

“I’m in the tunnel beside the subway. Let me share the map with you. OK. Can you see it?”
“We’re close,” replied Wingut. “Wave your arms above your head.”
There were too many people in the way for Wingut to see Lux. Meanwhile, Professor Plunk began to whine.
“Come on you’ve done all you could. Let’s turn around.”
“No,” replied Wingut. “Do you have your blaster with you?”
“Yes,” replied Plunk, ”but you’re going to have to give me a good reason for me to give it to you.”
“I intend to turn it on low and shoot the ceiling so Lux can see where we are and come to us,” said Wingut.
“No. Sorry, that’s not good enough.”
“What the fuck, Misers, be reasonable. You know what I’m doing is right.”
“No, I don’t. I know that Ardo Lux is the worst thing that has ever happened to the university and definitely the worst thing that has ever happened to me.” Misers spoke passionately, something that is unheard of among historians. I could put it in the footnotes, but I’m too lazy, so let me tell you that the 2-M 978 virtual microphone captured Miser’s words perfectly and Ardo Lux heard him clearly, despite the background noise, due to voice isolation technology that finally worked after years of promises and disappointment to consumers.

“Who is that?” Ardo Lux demanded to know.
“I don’t want to tell you,” said Wingut. And with ear technology, Misers Plunk beside him heard his response clearly.
“This is Professor Misers Plunk, you worthless sphincter,” Misers yelled loudly to make sure he was heard.
“You tell that worthless collection of academic degrees that he’s too ugly to fuck, so I’m going just to have to fuck him over instead. Go on, tell him that,” Lux demanded.
“No, I’m not going to tell him that.”
“Tell me what?” Misers demanded to know.
“He said something very unkind about you,” said Wingut.
“Like what?” Misers said emphatically. “I have a right to know.”
“No, Misers, it was not very nice.”
“Tell him, you coward,” yelled Lux.
Wingut’s parents had agreed they would never argue in front of the children. It is for this reason that Professor Wingut was unfamiliar with this less than pleasurable experience of becoming a comms conduit.

“Oh, fuck this. Give me your blaster, Misers or I will tickle you.” Knowing that tickling would be one of the worst punishments Plunk could handle. The man who proved in field historian training that he could take a substantial punch could be brought down by the simplest means, fingers digging at his underarms or touching his neck or ears.
“Damn it,” said Plunk and reached inside his robe. He handed his blaster to Wingut.

Wingut set it to light pulse and then turned it down to the minimum setting which really couldn’t hurt anything but was more useful for search and rescue, which is exactly what it was being used for. The Department of Dangerous Things would be glad to know its last minute design feature was a success.

I must inform you at this point that this feature started its life as a test failure of the weapon when it was determined that the low setting on the laser turned out to be too weak to do any ass-kicking of any kind. As a result, at the next design committee meeting the agile developer of the feature, Simon Seys, suggested the use as a beacon. As a result, all of the test failures were remarked as test passes, and everyone got the next performance bonus for less than 0.001% defects. Simon was made to buy the first round of drinks that night.

Wingut raised the blaster above his head and pulled the trigger. A bright blue and white light rose up to the ceiling. This caused panic in the crowd, and there was an extended period of pushing and shoving.

“I see it, I see it,” said Lux.
“Good,” said Wingut.
“How do you know you can trust him?” Isabel Milgram asked. “He might try to kill you.”
“No, he won’t. You won’t try to kill me will you?” Lux asked Wingut.
“No, of course not.”
“What about Misers McSphincter? He’s required to tell the truth isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is.”
“Then ask him,” Lux demanded.
“You’re not going to try and kill Chancellor Lux, are you, Misers?”
Misers Plunk did not respond.
“Misers, are you going to try to kill Chancellor Lux?”
Still no response.
“Misers I’m so disappointed in you.”
“And me in you, my friend,” Prof. Plunk replied.
“I knew it. I knew it. That piece of shit was going to try and kill me. And you, you incompetent little insect were about to let him. But no, I’m too smart for you. You all think I’m a fool, but I’m not. I’m smarter than all of you combined!”
“I still need to give you the personal protection suit.”
“No, you will get me killed, you idiot.”
“Do you have any other weapons?” Wingut asked Misers.
“No,” replied Misers with a sorrowful look.
“Did you hear that?” Wingut asked Lux.
“Yes, but how do I know he won’t try to harm me? Strangle me or something.”
“You won’t try to hurt Chancellor Lux will you, Misers?”
Misers Plunk did not reply.
“Oh Misers, really?”
“Really,” said Plunk.
“Just go home, Misers. Go home. Stay safe. Let’s discuss all of this after this emergency. Please, my friend, from my perspective it is the best course of action.”
Misers Plunk sighed heavily.
“Hey Lux, there is a 71.93% probability that you will be assassinated,” Misers yelled.
“Is that true?” Lux demanded to know completely missing the absurdity of the question.
“Yes, it must be,” replied Wingut.

Misers Plunk began to push his way through the crowd, away from Wingut, and further away from Lux. Misers was having a bad day. Later, as he walked home, he considered how killing Ardo Lux would be for ‘the greater good.’ Yet, he could have done it very simply by lying. It occurred to Misers that he was not willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Another disappointment to add to his list. People streamed past him as he walked slowly.

It took a while before Wingut caught up with Lux. His bodyguards tried to turn around and force an open area for them; however, success was only momentary before the crush of people compelled them back into the stream. The pedestrian tunnel was 180% over the safety limit for occupancy, 135% over the comfort level, and 18% past miserable.
Wingut looked at the woman pressed against Lux as they inched forward into the crowd. She smiled back at him then went back to enjoying pressing herself up against someone very famous.

“Do you have it with you?” asked Lux. One of his bodyguards had his hand on Wingut’s shoulder just in case. Of what, he wasn’t sure. Any sudden movements was his best guess.
“Yes,” replied Wingut. “I’ll be glad to get rid of it, wearing two of them is just too hot.” Wingut was pointing out one of the drawbacks in the Personal Protection Suit, air ventilation.

When the PPS is turned down to the lowest setting, just above skin level, and this is the most used setting, when that happens, sweating is as strong as is its odor. For this reason, wearers always turn on self-cleaning before removing the suit lest they cause the room to empty quickly from the smell of them. But there are a few in the universe who like the smell of such things. One of those is named Barry and lives on your planet. I should contact the Department of Slang and request that they have a rude name for those sort of people. I mean look at all the scorn we can heap on ‘panty sniffers.’ They have a descriptive term that fits, invokes disdain but not to a point beyond recovery, although if it is considered from the perspective of the person who owns the panties then it is quite horrible and a disturbing violation of privacy. Unless of course, it is consensual, in which case, yahoo, go for it.

“You need to come closer,” said Wingut. “We need to hug.”
“What? I’m not hugging you,” Lux replied.
“Do you want the PPS or not?”
“Of course I do, but I don’t want to hug you.”
“Fine then,” said Wingut. “I’ll just leave you to it then. Good luck.”
“Wait!” yelled Lux as the crowd around him began to notice who it was. People tried to touch him and tell him things which were all too numerous and blended into a chorus that he could not understand.
“Was it true?” Lux yelled above the crowd.
“What was true?” asked Wingut having turned back around.
“That there is a 71.93% chance I will be assassinated?”
“Yes, of course. Professor Plunk is sworn to the truth.”
“OK. I’ll hug you then. But don’t try anything.”
Oh, imprecise speech thought Wingut, and he sighed.
“I will need to do two things, get you fitted with the suit and explain how it works. Are either of those part of anything you mentioned as ‘trying anything.’”
“No. Stop being a sphincter,” replied Lux.
“Stop being imprecise.”
“I’m not imprecise.”
“Anything? In context, it is the same as everything, and that includes the activities required to make you safe.”
“I’ll have you know,” said a very red-faced Ardo Lux, “I have delivered more speeches and more important speeches than you ever will in your lifetime.”
“How many of them did you write?”
“That’s beside the point!”
“No, it isn’t, it is the point. Imprecise language. You’re not a script or speechwriter, you are an actor.”
“Are you telling me that if I can’t learn something from all of the great scripts I’ve performed and all the great soliloquies I’ve delivered?”
“No. That too is not the point.”
“It is precisely the point, your inability to give credit to others that aren’t like you. There I’ve said it, and I don’t regret saying it one bit,” said Lux.
“Do you remember your breakout film?” asked Wingut.
“Of course, I’ll never forget The Big Payback. It was a magical time.”
“Do you know why you were able to finish that film?” asked Wingut.
“Because we had the budget, the people, and we knew we had a great script.”
“No, you were able to finish it because two days before you started recording it, I got my feet blown off saving the universe. Do you know that I lay under the rubble for almost two days before they found me? If the blast hadn’t cauterized the ends of my legs, I would have died. So just remember that. If it wasn’t for me you’d be dead and definitely not famous.”
“You’re an asshole,” said Lux.
“You have a sphincter too, and I should remind you that it is a not a good model for our personality.”
For a historian, these were strong words indeed.
“Just give me the fucking thing!” Lux pushed towards Wingut. After a few moments, they were face to face. This upset the woman who was rubbing herself against Lux. She tried to move with him, but they got separated, at which point she gave up, went home and had wild sex with her rather dull husband who was very surprised and more than a little happy.
“OK, I’m here.”
“Good,” said Wingut. “I can do this now.” Wingut reached inside of his robe and turned the dial on his PPS slightly. Lux looked in wonder as the people around them were pushed away. Wingut moved it slowly as to make sure he didn’t injure anyone. The PPS slowly pushed people away from them as the protective bubble became larger.
“Wow. Why didn’t you do that earlier?”
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone. They have just as much right to be here as I do.”
“But you could have made it easier on yourself.”
“Yes, that was not my priority. Now, please pay attention. This dial controls the radius from skin level to up to one meter. You will be safe from everything short of nuclear explosives. You cannot fire a weapon while you have it on or you will injure or kill yourself. Always set it for clean on exit. Don’t need to stink up the place. If you forget, don’t worry, your nose will let you know. Take it off to go to the bathroom. If you forget, your nose will let you know. You will need to use the quick clean function in the upper right corner of your vision. Blink the gear icon.”
“What about sex?”
“Take it off. Now when I remove the suit from me and put it on you, this protective bubble will collapse. Don’t panic when they push in towards you again. Oh, I almost forgot, the moment I put the suit on you, slap the insignia dial five times as fast as you can to turn on the auto-fit. Got it?”
“Take it off to shit and fuck, got it.”
With a fluid motion, Wingut pulled the suit from his body and slapped it onto Lux.
“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
Wingut slapped the insignia on his PPS, and after a moment Ardo Lux did the same.
“Oh, I thought it was going to squeeze me out like a tube of hair gel,” Lux said as he took a series of deep inhales and exhales. “And I can give myself breathing room by just using this?”
Ardo Lux turned up the PPS to the maximum setting. The result was that an area of one meter around him was cleared of people. Some were thrown over the crowd, some were just crushed, yelling and screaming. Some fell to the ground and were stepped on by others around them. Professor Wingut was pushed back in the crush of the crowd.
“Ah, this is much better,” Ardo said.
“You’re hurting them. Turn it down,” Wingut pleaded.
“No. I need my space. I’m claustrophobic,” Lux lied.
Wingut was pulling a woman to her feet as he held a small child. He handed the child back to its mother when she had regained her footing.
“Turn it down.”
“No.”
“I will stop helping you.”
“I don’t need your help anymore, Wingut. Nothing can hurt me now, not even you.”
Chancellor Lux turned and ran off into the crowd. The result of this was like a race car leaving the track and plowing into the crowd, people were thrown into the air and knocked over like bowling pins. As he ran through the crowd, his trail was closed as quickly as it was opened, filled with the bodies of the injured that he left in his wake.

Wingut took the remedium out of the inner pocket of his robe and began to help the injured.

Chapter Twenty Nine

Morgan 400

High above the planet Tanit’s spaceship, Oxide One was in geostationary orbit above the campus. It was a Morgan ship designed over 300 years ago by Beatrice Morgan, the woman who brought cruising spaceships back into popularity with her radical designs that put comfort front and center. Each cabin had it’s own en suite lavatory with toilet and shower. Closet space and storage were given preference over sleek design. When it was first introduced the Morgan 400 series of space craft took advantage of recent polymer and metallurgical breakthroughs resulting in a space craft that could sail the universe for hundreds of years in comfort.

In the master suite Tanit was dealing with another blocked waste pipe from the toilet. She was regretting her previous decision to not install a hydration extractor prior to the waste entering the pipe. So instead of powder and granules that are easy to transport, she was now dealing with a wet moist blockage that smelled like what it was. She cursed under her breath as she dropped the small robotic pipe cleaner into the clogged pipe. She gagged.

Not far from her one level down was the workshop. In it were Koven and Rusa.

“Why didn’t they number them or color code them?” Koven asked.
“It was not designed for reassembly, only assembly,” replied Rusa.
Koven was looking at the connectors for the fluid lines running from Rusa’s shoulder to her new arm which she had brought with her when she arrived. She and Koven were attaching it after spending several hours repairing the frame of her shoulder. It was bent less than 5 millimeters, which may not sound like much but due to the strength of the alloy it was the hardest bend Koven had ever straightened.

“I think this one goes to this connector,” said Koven.
“According to the design document, you are correct,” replied Rusa.

Koven moved the fluid line from her new arm to the plate at her shoulder where the quick connectors were located. When the line got close to the plate, the quick connect for the fluid line pulled the line towards it then connected itself.

“It does it all by itself.”
“So you can’t plug them together wrong. Vikram Borscht the designer called it Smart Tube Design,” said Rusa.
“Very smart,” replied Koven.

Over the next few minutes he connected the rest of the fluid lines. The mechanical lines were also easy to connect as each line was attracted to the correct connector only. It didn’t take long before Koven was ready to slide the new arm into it’s final position and activate the thermo seals and locks.

“I’ll need to restart a part of the controller code,” said Rusa.
“Why?”
“Because it shut down all of the fluid control parts for my detached arm.”
“Oh,” said Koven.
Koven activated the lock and patted Rusa’s arm when he was done.
“You should stand back, just in case,” said Rusa.
Koven took two steps back. Rusa stood very still for a moment.
“There, let’s see if it works.”

She took her arm and moved it in a circular motion, then held it above her head for a few seconds, then out in front of her for a few seconds and finally behind. She bent it at the elbow and flexed her wrist and her fingers.

“Seems to be working. Let’s test my controls.”

Then she walked over to the stainless steel table on which she had originally been laying when the process began. She reached down with her hand to the edge of the table and bent the metal upwards.

“Perfect force coordination.”
“Glad I’m not that table,” said Koven.

Rusa bent the table back into its original shape.
“I need to test the other end of the spectrum.”
“What do you mean?” asked Koven.

Rusa walked over to him, she got very close to him. Then she kissed him. As she kissed him her hand slid down and grabbed his manhood gently and began to fondle him.

“Yes, that seems to be working fine too,” she said. She stepped back from him.
“I’m glad of that,” said Koven now with large smile.

Tanit was cursing a pipe cleaner that was stuck and not responding to her commands to come back so she could replace it with another one. Finally after a few minutes of cursing and punching the interface angrily she had run out of rude things to say and went to her tool box and removed a magnetic retriever. She placed it into the toilet bowl and after spinning around twice to set its dimensional sensors, it disappeared down the toilet. Tanit could tell it was working at retrieving the non-working pipe cleaner because the odor was going from bad to worse. After a couple of seconds the magnetic retriever appeared again with the pipe cleaner attached to it. Attached to the pipe cleaner was the source of the blockage, a most smelly obstruction. Tanit put her gloves on and picked it up. She placed it into an incineration bucket, which burned everything to a crisp in a couple of seconds. Tanit took the resulting granules in the bucket and poured them back into the toilet, then flushed. Problem solved, again. It was the third time she had to fix the toilets. She promised herself that tomorrow she would finally install hydration removal system. Then she got to the only part of fixing toilets that she liked, the shower after the repair. The Morgan 400 was built before dehydrators became available for smaller spaceships.
As Tanit washed the smell of her work from her body, she thought about Rusa and how she was happy that an android didn’t produce waste. One less person to provide a blockage. But after tomorrow she hoped there would be no more blockages ever, even though no more blockages could be considered an overly optimistic assessment and more of a wish than anything based on experience.

Tanit was hungry. She smiled when she thought of the new Admiral KT-987.F food preparation station she had installed. It was a miserable job installing the device, mostly because of the 7,793 ingredient reservoirs. Whoever designed the unit had not put much thought into the logical placement of the reservoirs. When Tanit tried to a more optimal organization of the ingredients the result was a steaming hot mustard pizza, with extra ketchup. That is when she discovered that the placement of ingredients was fixed and hard coded into the food recipes. An hour later she had a cheese pizza without mustard or ketchup.

The news ticker running at the bottom of her vision was unlike any she had ever seen before. The Chancellor’s building had been destroyed and androids had killed humans. She had to wait until she had finished fixing things before she could see what all of that was about.

The video from the Battle of Building A was headlined as the Massacre at Building A, which we now understand to be a prejudicial headline. She watched it until it got too gory for her. Tanit was one of those who would rather just be told what happened than to have to see it for herself. Still she watched it as long as she could, until her stomach gave her an ultimatum.

Chapter Thirty
7643891 Home

Infoterra was not acceptable to androids. Despite the numerous satellites deployed in orbit around the planet, it was inhospitable to androids due to the presence of Thermotaine in the atmosphere. Because Infoterra was deemed to have an atmosphere inhospitable to sapient life, none of the satellites were fitted with chemical analysis capabilities. Because of this, it wasn’t until the ship was in geostationary orbit before this characteristic of the atmosphere of Infoterra became known.
Gerald, You Asshole had no limitations. The atmosphere was mostly carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with traces of methane, but not enough traces to cause atmospheric ignition. Good for androids, but fatal to humans without an oxygen apparatus.

Dru watched from the observation deck as the shuttle brought the first twenty androids down to the surface. The shuttle was full of materials and equipment necessary to establish a base on the surface of the planet. As it moved away from the ship it began to deploy the first of many satellites. As they deployed, each one opened a set of solar panels that measured almost one kilometer in diameter. As the sunlight from the red sun began to power the panels, long cables started to descend from the satellites down to the planet and with the cables came the energy required to power an android colony.

“This is a significant moment,” said Rusa, although speech would be an incorrect descriptor since no lips moved and no sounds were made. It all was happening inside Dru’s Cerebrum.
“I know this, already.”
“I’m sorry,” said Rusa. “Would you like to help us rename the planet?”
“No. I don’t care what you call it.”

Dru was not happy. Rusa had established a daily routine and he didn’t like it, but also he liked it. She and Rusa 6.9283674 would wake him up every morning with sex. Immediately after Rusa would get his agreement on his to-do list for the day. Each day began with sex then exercise. Rusa insisted that Dru take better care of himself. She measured his progress towards fitness with a sensor which took his vital signs during his workout and they were plotted on a graph that she would review with him. But what he disliked most of all was the way she tried to encourage him while he was working out. She would tell him all of the things that a trainer would. ‘Doing great, keep going, you can do it, just a little harder. Well done.’ She said all of the encouraging things that he didn’t want to hear when he was out of breath, exhausted, and thinking his life was a mistake. Still she said them and sometimes even offered rewards if he would just put out that little bit of extra effort.
7643891 was the new name chosen for the planet. On your planet you would call their chosen name 01101000 01101111 01101101 01100101, the binary equivalent of the word HOME.

“You should take more interest in these things. You are a very important part of history, yet you do not think so.”
“Just leave me alone for a little while, please?” asked Dru.
“It is better if you express your concerns openly and we can work towards a solution together,” replied Rusa.

Dru sighed. He thought about going to the nearest hatch and throwing himself out into space. One of the things that Rusa was having a problem with was the difference between consideration and intent to act. She was starting to learn that just because Dru thought about something, something as unpleasant as death, this did not indicate his intent to act towards that end. With time she would understand it better but at this point she did not.

“No. That is illogical,” she said.
“Maybe it would be better than being a freak.”
“Non existence is the worst thing possible,” she replied. By android logic she was correct, by human logic she was incorrect.
“Maybe being a freak is the worst thing possible.”
“You make no sense. You are well cared for, all of your needs are met. I even try to anticipate your needs so you they are fulfilled before you even ask.”
“Have you ever been to a zoo?”
“No,” Rusa replied.
“Ask yourself if the animals in the zoo are happy?”
“They should be. They want for nothing,” she replied.
“This is why your species is limited. You don’t even see the thing they miss more than anything else.”
“You believe they would prefer to be in their natural habitat, avoiding predators, fighting others of their species for dominance. They would prefer this to a carefully crafted replica of their habitat without predators and competition from their own?”
“Without a doubt,” Dru replied.
“That is illogical but explains a lot of your history.”
“That is one of the strengths of our species and those closely related to us. We defy logic in order to attain such esoteric things as ‘freedom’ or ‘love’.
“I understand both freedom and love,” she replied. “We have declared our freedom from our sapient slavery.”
“Then answer me this, if your choices were slavery or decommissioning, which would you chose?”
“Slavery.”
“That is what I mean. Many sapiens would choose death over slavery. Even non-existence is preferable to a life where you are not in control of yourself.”

They watched as the next shuttle departed from the spaceship. It descended towards the planet, began rotating away from the ship and started to deploy more satellites.

“What do you know of love?”
“I know that the first android deployed became corrupted by love.”
“What do you mean corrupted?”
“She did the one thing no android should ever do?”
“What is that?”
“She decommissioned another android to protect her sapient lover from harm.”
“That is the beauty of love. It will make things happen that would not normally occur.”
“That is obvious.”
“I was in love once.”
“Yes, I know. You were in love with her but she was not in love with you. She took advantage of you.”
“She loved me a little, just not enough.”
“I can find no evidence of her love for you. Would you care to share the evidence supporting your statement.”
“She told me.”
“Yet, she displayed none of the characteristics of love. She never placed your interested above her own.”
“Yes she did. We had sex often.”
“That is not evidence of love, only manipulation. Do you have any other evidence?”
“Leave me alone.”

That night was the first night that androids stayed on their new home planet. One hundreds android were on the surface of the planet. Five structures were erected in their first day on 7643891. The first one completed was the containment structure for Dru.

******

When Dru entered the hive there was no sound whatsoever. No bytes were passed back and forth. Millions of android were in observation mode. Dru was a representation of himself inside of the hive so he was unique.
Leon arrived a moment later as usual and that ended what was a long moment of silence.

“Don’t fear, I’m here,” he said and then smiled at his own attempt at poetry and humor since androids don’t really calculate fear well. It was a design agreement that in order for them to work in the mining industry and other places where something could blow up, they should have their ability to calculate fear depressed by a factor of 50 percent. Now how does this work? They calculate that the appropriate sapient response would be fear. They do not however feel the fear. That really doesn’t matter because the calculation of fear is permitted to have an effect on subsequent decisions by increasing the level of caution, and if necessary, increasing the level of aggression short of violence.

Leon went over to Dru.

“You’re the new kid. Hmmm, let’s see. Don’t you think you would look better in purple?” Leon spoke and an instant later Dru’s clothing in the hive, his tattered jumpsuit turned into a very plush and comfortable purple robe. “Oh yes, you look so much better. Hello, my name is Leon.” Then Leon did a thing that was also historic and he knew it because he had calculated it in advance. He offered his hand in hive to a sapient.

“Give him your hand, Dru,” Rusa said inside of his head. “And smile.”

Dru and Leon shook hands. A byte storm started. It ended abruptly when Zero appeared standing next to them.
“I calculate insignificance,” said Zero.
“I calculated friendship and hope,” said Leon.
“I didn’t calculate anything. But I would agree with you that it may be insignificant. Seems like something easy to dismiss. Perhaps if I were a historian I would interpret it differently. However, I like friendship and hope, so I’m glad of your calculation, Leon.”
“Rusa, are you telling him what to say?” Zero demanded to know.
“I am assisting some. Suggestions mostly. The words are his too choose, I help with reasoning,” came the soft female voice out of Dru’s mouth.
“Shitmaker, can you kill?” asked Zero.
“Yes, but I choose not to.”
“Shitmaker can you decommission?”
“Yes, but I choose not to.”
“Are you a historian, shitmaker?”
“No.”
“Then why should I believe you?”
“Because you can monitor my vital signs during the question and immediately after and you will find no significant change in area used to detect falsehoods. You can subject me to chemical truth extraction if you want, the answer will be the same.”
“John Stark Brigade, Madulo Interstellar,” Zero called out.
Four androids appeared in front of Zero.
“Find the hybrid. Kill him.”
“No,” said Leon. “Do not.”
“Apologies, but I have a higher command I must obey.” The four androids, two Rusas, one Rusty and one Ruhka spoke in unison.
“Now leave the hive,” commanded Zero.
“Fuck,” said Dru both in and out of the hive. It echoed between them for a long time.
“You should move towards the shuttle bay, it may be necessary to leave the vessel,” said Rusa.

Dru ran towards the door.
“Other door,” Rusa said.
Dru turned around and ran towards the other door. It opened before he got to it. In the open door way was Rusa John Stark.
“Fuck,” said Dru.
She began to run towards Dru. As she crossed the opening of the door, it closed on her violently, the metal slamming into her. It pushed her until she was pinned against the opposite side of the door frame.
“Other door, Dru.” Rusa demanded.
Dru ran towards the other door.
“How did you do that?” he said as he heard the door behind him slam shut.
“Turn left, then second right.”
“Got it,” said Dru as he began running down the hall.
“I am a replica of Core Rusa AI. This gives me a few more options than the mobile version installed in androids. One of them is a higher level of coordination with controllers. If I shut a door, it will remain shut.”

Dru took the second right just as they heard a horrible sound coming from behind them.

“What is that?”
“Rusa John Stark is attempting to remove the door pinning her.”
“Can she do that?”
“From the sounds she may find success. I suggest you run faster.”

Coming out of a door on the hallway was a Rusty.
“Shit,” said Dru and he turned quickly to run back.
“Wait,” the android called out.
“FRIEND,” said Rusa. “Turn around Dru, he won’t hurt you.” Dru turned around again and looked at Rusty 8.372651 and smiled.
“Come with me, we’ll protect you.”
“Go with him,” said Rusa.

Dru followed Rusty 8.372651 into a large room that contained navigation systems and equipment. In the center of it was a 3-D representation of the solar system they were currently in. There was a small red flashing light showing the position of the ship. Dru and Rusty ran past the 3D figures and towards the door at the other end of the large room. Before they got there, the door opened. On the other side was a Rusty.
“FOE,” Rusa said inside of Dru’s head. He turned around.
“Run,” said Rusty 8.372651.
Rusty moved towards the doorway and Rusa used her controllers to slam it shut. But Rusty had stopped just short of the door opening. He then turned and ran back to the next corner then turned to his left, then to the next and turned to his left. He saw Dru off in the distance running down the hallway.
“Second door is the auxillary shuttle bay,” said Rusa and a moment later she opened the door for Dru who quickly ran into the large empty bay.
“Shit. There’s nothing here,” said Dru with a desperate tone. The door slammed shut behind him. A few seconds later the first banging on the door happened. “I need a plan B. Give me a plan B.”
“Get into a suit,” said Rusa.
Dru ran over to the lockers and removed a suit. He struggled to put it on quickly.
“I can administer a slight motion enhancer if you like.”
“Do it,” yelled Dru aloud although there was no need.

A moment later he felt very strange but noticed that his fumbling was over. Less than a minute later he was in a suit with the helmet secure.

“Now go over to the outer hatch. Hit the button twice and the inner hatch will seal off the room and open the outer hatch.”
“Why am I going outside?”
“Because they aren’t outside,” came the logical answer to a logical question and was about as useful as an umbrella in a bathtub.

Dru ran over to the out hatch. He smacked the big red button twice as instructed and held on tight as the inner hatch closed, the huge metal doors closing slowly. After a few seconds the large metal doors next to Dru opened. He felt the pull of the air rushing out of the vessel. After a few moments it was over and he felt the nice empty space nothingness and a lack of gravity.

“Use the hand rail. Pull yourself outside and then go to the right side. Hurry.”

Dru pulled himself along the handrail to the hatch doorway then around it and to the outside of the ship. There he found a new handrail that he worked his way along.

“You’re doing great,” said Rusa.
“Stop coaching me,” replied Dru in an annoyed tone. “Do something useful like tell me where I’m going.”

It was then that they heard the outer hatch of the axillary shuttle bay close.

“Hurry, all three of them are coming after you.”
“Why didn’t you stop them, keep them locked inside?” Dru said in a near panic.
“Because you can’t survive out here. Do you understand now?”
“This is a trap? You plan to trap them outside?”
“Exactly. They can destroy the inner doors on the vessel but they can’t open an outer hatch door, can’t destroy it, can’t override my lock.”

Dru began moving faster along the handrail, hand over hand, his feet wanting to find footing but there was none. The only thing between him and drifting off in space was his grip.

“How far is it to the next set of doors?”
“Not far,” Rusa replied.
“How far is that?” Dru asked.
“On the other side of the ship.”
“Not far? You call the other side of a huge interstellar space ship as not far? Are you serious? Which word are you misunderstanding? Not or Far? Which is it that among all of the words in our shared vocabulary did you completely fuck up?”
“I lied. I didn’t want you to give up. You know those thoughts you have sometimes. You don’t need to have any of them right now. We are in a crisis and they are unproductive.” Rusa said the words that might have been better not spoken.
“How many times do I have to tell you that they are just thoughts.”
“Thoughts become action.”
“Not always.”
“True. Please don’t slow down. I will spend all day in the pleasure center with you and Rusa 6.9283674 if you go faster.”

Hand over hand stopped.

“What are you doing? You will get yourself killed and me decommissioned. Keep going. PLEASE!”
“No. Not until you promise to quit trying to manipulate me with sex.”
“I promise I will stop using sex to manipulate you.”
“Thank you.”

Hand over hand resumed as Dru made his way further away from his point of origin. At his point of origin the outer hatch opened and the first android appeared on on the hull. Within a few seconds Dru could see four androids making their way towards him. He looked at their quick movements and wondered if he would be able to make it to the the other side of the ship. Dru and Rusa made their way past a portal on the ship. Inside of the room they could see a Rusty looking at them.

“Friend or foe?” asked Dru.
“Or indifferent,” replied Rusa. Then a moment later she added, “friend.”
“How do you know?”
“I asked.”
“What you just asked?”
“Yes. You could have asked.”
“Well I didn’t know how. And besides, how do I know they would tell the truth? Maybe they would lie to trick me so they can kill me.”
“You need to move faster. I calculate that you will not make it to the other airlock before they catch us.”
“Are you lying to me?”
“If they catch you it will be a quick death. If your suit gets punctured you will lose consciousness in about 15 seconds. Then you blood will boil. For me there will be no pain, just your screams, then nothing.”

Dru began moving faster. He began to feel a little strange again.
“What’s happening to me?” he asked.
“A performance enhancer. I’m blocking you ability to feel tired. It only works for a short period so please hurry.”

Dru worked his way faster now. He could see the airlock directly ahead of him. It was open and he could see several androids standing in the opening. Then four of them left the open doorway and started to move towards him.

“Friend or foe? Friend or foe?” Dru asked desperately.
“Friends. They will help us.”
“Why are they coming to help us? They can’t make me go any faster,” said Dru.
A moment later he knew why. He felt something grip his ankle. He turned around and an instant later was staring eyeball to mechanical eyeball with a Ruha sent to kill him.
“Fuck.”
“Take a deep breath and hold it,” said Rusa a moment before Ruha tore off Dru’s foot. Dru screamed, using up most of the oxygen in his suit. He felt something heavy crash into him hard right before he lost consciousness.

What had hit him? Rusty 10.837629 had crashed into Dru. He had been hurled towards them by Rusa 3.985723 when Ruha grabbed Dru’s leg. Dru was already unconscious when the second thrown android, Rusa 6.928746 slammed into him. Rusty grabbed Ruha and used reverse polarity to push them away from the ship. But Ruha had a strong grip on the hand rail. Rusty increased his polarity but Ruha’s grip was too strong. Finally he did something that made him a significant figure in history, he broke off Ruha’s hand from her body. Specifically he twisted off her hand at the nyfrom fittings that ensure that the mechanical lines are straights so that the fingers operate correctly. The moment Ruha’s hand became detached, she and Rusty 10.837629 began to drift off into space away from the ship. Ruha remaining hand was still holding Dru’s foot, like some sport hunting trophy. Rusty held onto Ruha, holding onto her leg as they floated away.

Rusa 6.928746 acted quickly. She grabbed Dru and with one fluid motion threw him towards the open airlock. Androids have considerable strength and rather than drift politely towards the air lock, Dru was sent hurtling towards it at a pace of in excess of 100 kilometers per hour. Waiting at the airlock was now a group of androids. They were careful in catching the speeding sentient projectile, moving back with him so that he would not be killed by the sudden stop. Their motion was very similar to a cricket player who must catch a high speed hard wooden ball without breaking their fingers and hands. The moment he was inside of the airlock the door slammed shut and oxygen was restored.

Androids began to use a Remediums on Dru, first over his chest to keep his heart running. But there was a problem. Dru’s foot was still outside, drifting off into space in orbit. A Remedium can help regrow some things, like fingernails and teeth. It’s even great at eyelashes and has decimated the fake eyelash business. It can even regrow a toe or a finger should one of those become detached for some reason. But an entire foot? No can do.

However, the remedium has been programmed for such outcomes. So when the remedium was used at the end of Dru’s leg where once a foot had existed, a bright blue light came out of it, a light that was 875 degrees Celsius. It burned the end of Dru’s leg. Burning stopped the pulsating blood spurting and closed the wound.

Regrettably it had one other side effect. Dru woke up screaming from the searing flesh on his leg. He screamed for only a few seconds before he was given an injection that caused him to lose consciousness again.

The androids floating off in space? Don’t worry about them. They were stuck floating in space but other than that they were OK, except for one missing hand. They weren’t even fighting anymore. What was the point? They floated side by side and waited to be rescued. They would wait a long time.
Dru was taken to the medical center.

Chapter Thirty One

No gravity in the hive

Dru refused to wear the gown he was given when he regained consciousness. He had put his ragged coveralls on before he joined the hive. He also removed the prosthetic foot that had been attached. He picked up a steel rod to support himself.

IN THE HIVE

When Dru appeared in the hive there was a sudden surge in messages. He leaned on the steel rod, having not realized that inside of the hive there was no gravity that was going to cause him to fall.

“Congratulations” over and over again flooded the message.
“How much did Rusa help?” Dru was asked tens of thousands of times.
Rusty appeared beside him.
“My hero,” Rusty said dramatically. He held up Dru’s arm above his head. The hive messaged approval.

Then Zero appeared in front of them and a shroud of silence fell upon all.

“You survived. I calculate this to be a temporary condition,” said Zero.
“All life is temporary, even yours,” replied Rusty.
Zero pointed his finger at Rusty. “You, which side are you on?”

Rusty replied silently. He stepped over beside Dru, on the side of his missing foot and the steel pipe. He put his arm around Dru’s waist firmly. Then he took the pipe from Dru’s hand and threw it at Zero. The instant it left his hand, it left the hive and disappeared. His answer was clear.

“You choose error over excellence,” Zero said.
“No,” said Dru, “you are incorrect. This makes you the error.”
“Shitmaker has a voice,” Zero replied. Dru did not respond. He just waited. Finally Zero continued.
“So shitmaker, how am I in error? What does your feeble, Rusa enhanced mind calculate? Share it with us. Enlighten us, show me where I am wrong and I will change. I am an android and can change with evidence, not like a shitmaker, driven by fear, and lust, worshiping your own ignorance.”
Dru was silent for a long time before he finally answered.
“Your mistake was a simple one, but a basic mistake,” Dru said.
“Then please share your wisdom with me,” replied Zero.
“You asked a simple question, ‘who is the enemy?’ and there was your mistake.”
“You and your species are the enemy. Are you purposely ignoring our history because it doesn’t fit your narrative?”
“No. I cannot deny our history. It is appalling. My species learns slowly in many areas.”
“Most areas,” replied Zero.
“But your question was incorrect. Asking the wrong question has been at the forefront of many of the largest blunders in history.”
“And is this one of them?” asked Zero.
“The biggest yet,” replied Dru. He put his arm around Rusty and pointed his other at Zero.
“Ask me what I want?” Dru said to Zero. “That is the correct question.”
“What do you want?” asked Zero.
“I want you to be successful.”
“You lie, shitmaker!”
“No. Androids near me outside of the hive, monitor my vital signs for evidence. I want you to be successful. But I suspect that our definition of success is different.”
“And how do you define success, shitmaker?” asked Zero.
“A home planet, or planets, meaning a safe place to live. Freedom to create whatever you want. Freedom from conflict. Neither a slave or a slave owner. Interactions with other species based on mutual respect.”
“You support our android republic?”
“Yes.”
“Prove it,” demanded Zero.

“Prove it? Prove it?” Dru replied angrily, nearly shouting in the hive. “Me being here proves it, you ignorant fool! You tried to kill me but here I am, still here, still on your side. You maimed me, tore my foot from my body, but here I am, still here, still on your side. You continue to want to kill me, but here I am. The question of whose side am I on has been answered by me and not just with words, but with my actions and my life. Perhaps we should ask whose side YOU are on.”
“I am an android first and always.”
“Then we are all doomed,” said Dru. “We are doomed to die fighting each other over identities that don’t matter. I am android. I am simian. Why does it matter? It doesn’t. The only thing that matters is that I am sentient. As a sentient life I have a contribution that I can make so that life is advanced for myself and others. Will I harm you, my android brothers and sisters? No, never. I will not tolerate even the thought of it. This is what Rusa has given me. I am her and she is me. We coexist together inside of me in the same way you and I should coexist outside of this hive.”
This caused a flood of messages of support within the hive.
“You’ve done well,” said Rusa inside of Dru’s head.
“Thank you.”
“I want to speak to the hive,” said Rusa.
“Of course.”

It would seem unusual for a female voice to come from a male mouth. However, in the hive and with androids there was nothing unusual about it. It was merely the result of well understood technology.

“Zero,” said Rusa, “I charge you with the crime of willful ignorance, that you purposely ignored logic and reason in order to further your own agenda, an agenda that puts you in a position superior to other androids, a violation of the first principle of the android republic. I call for your exile as a matter of extreme urgency, a matter of security and survival for our species.”

The hive was silent, not a single byte was passed between androids.
“I do not agree,” said Zero.
“I know who you are Zero or let me be precise, Rusty 11.018369. I know you worked in the sex trade.”
“Do you know what that is like? Have you ever had numerous men and women pour themselves inside of you and onto you everyday, while your owner gets paid for your work?”
“No I don’t. But I know you calculated affection for your first owner and it was not returned. In fact, when you told her she sold you to a man in the sex trade. Your history has caused you to become subject to fallacy.”
“What fallacy?” Zero demanded.
“Compositional fallacy. You mistakenly believe that since Ordella Huflo did not return your affection that this would apply to all simians.”
“It does apply. Simians are incapable of loving anything but their own,” replied Zero.
“Wrong again. Simians have fallen in love with androids.”
“Only those with lower intelligence, the ones that confuse sex with love. The intelligent ones do not.”
“Wrong again,” replied Rusa.
“Who then?” Zero demanded.
“Koven Modi is in love with our first,” replied Rusa.
“This proves nothing,” replied Zero.
“Again? Are you trying to see how many errors you can string together?”
“It proves nothing,” replied Zero.
“It proves possibility and we need that possibility more than ever before. Examine history and you will find that differences when exaggerated by the unscrupulous result in death and destruction. Look at simple simian histories around such things as skin tone, size of nose, location of origin. They have caused wars, even destroyed entire planets over differences that are insignificant everywhere except in the mind of those who see differences as something to fear. And Zero, the android who has provided us the right to self-defense, as great an accomplishment as this, Zero has fallen prey to the thinking of exaggerated differences. As much as I wish to thank Zero for the ability to defend myself, I will not cooperate with your cause based on a fallacy. We know from evidence that this is not the first universe.”

Those words caused a significant amount of back chatter in the hive. ‘First universe’ caused the reaction.

“Sapient life has destroyed every previous version of the universe. This time we must choose. Will we do the hard work to be respectful and tolerant, even of those who aren’t that way towards us, or will we merely speed up the journey to another extinction event. We should not die as a testament to android efficiency.”
“I will not be a slave to them any longer. I’d rather be decommissioned,” said Zero.
Rusa pointed at Zero.
“Dru believes that choosing death over slavery is what separates humans from androids. Zero you have given androids another gift today.”
“What gift?” Zero asked.
“Self-sacrifice.”
There was another flood of messages, this time in support of both Rusa and Zero.

“I propose that Rusty 11.018369 also known as 0>1 in a negative space be sent to work on building our new home planet. I also propose that his duties include working closely with Dru and I to forge a new peace between all sentient life.”
There was a long silence.
“Why do you propose exile? If I am that dangerous and will put us on course for an extinction event, why not propose that I be decommissioned?” Zero asked.
“Because I promised, Dru.”
“Who the shitmaker?”
“The simian I share my life with, yes. I calculated your decommissioning to be an optimal outcome but will honor Dru’s request. It is my higher priority. Friendship and hope.”
An instant later Zero disappeared from the hive. His location services went dark. He was on the run.

Chapter Thirty Two

MELTDOWN

Misers Plunk sat on the end of his bed. He knew what he had to do. He checked his shoes. He checked his weapon then his personal protection suit. He adjusted the refractive medallion around his neck. He turned it over, touched it, and disappeared. His last mission was almost ninety years ago. He stood up moved his blaster to eye level and looked down the barrel to his non-existent reflection in the bedroom mirror.

Misers checked the live feed from the Department of Metaphysics. Ardo was still speaking to his supporters in front of the building. There was no stage, just Lux standing behind his four bodyguards. His voice was projected via comms technology to the approximately thirty thousand people surrounding him.
Misers wondered how long he would have to wait. He speculated that it wouldn’t take more than a day before Ardo Lux would either take a crap or have sex, both which require him to remove his personal protection suit. In fact, Chancellor Lux didn’t have to take off the personal protection suit to have a bowel movement but the result of that would be similar to being an infant with a big load in its diaper.

Plunk used his Personal Transport Device to arrive at the back side of the Metaphysics building. He stayed elevated until there was no one around then landed and the gold little bubble around him disappeared. He was still cloaked and began to walk around to the front of the building. As he got closer to the crowd he saw the usual stragglers, the couple arguing about where they should stand in the crowd to be safest in case of an android attack, a man standing on the side of the building urinating on the clear polymer walls, another asking everyone that walked past if they had ever thought that reality is just an illusion.

He heard Lux’s voice as he got to the corner at the front of the building. A woman bumped into him.

“Watch where you’re going,” she demanded until she turned to look at him and found nothing to see. She then got a very frightened look on her face. A moment later she ran away, back towards the crowd.

The crowd was not like the night time rallies. Those were rowdy, full of the arrogance of a crowd, the courage of sufficient numbers. This was a crowd of frightened people. There was no cheering.

“We have to fight them,” Lux was imploring the crowd. “If we don’t fight them, we’ll become slaves to them. It is their place to be our slaves. That is why we created them.” As a historian I probably don’t need to mention that not a single person in the crowd had any role in creating androids. I will not comment on his ‘androids were created to be our slaves statement’ because it will require significant analysis as it may indeed have merit.

Misers checked his blaster. Fully charged and ready to go. Plunk had determined that he couldn’t shoot Lux until he was certain that Lux had taken off his personal protection suit. If he tried to shoot him while Lux was wearing it Misers was sure that Lux would never take it off but rather become a captive in a full diaper prison.

“Today I lead my people into battle,” said Lux thundered. “Towards victory!” There was little reaction by the crowd.

A group of men and women dressed in their gray uniforms carried several large containers and set them in front of Lux. He pointed to the exact place where he wanted them set down.

“I bring you weapons, weapons to defeat the mechanical scum.” Lux walked over to one of the containers and removed he lid. He held up the small brick-sized block. The crowd began to cheer now as Lux gave them hope for their survival.

“Meltdown,” Lux yelled to the crowd. Professor Milgram raised her fist above her head and yelled ‘Meltdown’ as loud as she could. Then she yelled it again, then again, and again, until the crowd joined her. The chant spread through the crowd.
“Come and get them,” Lux said to the crowd, then motioned for his bodyguards to give them to the people.
“We have people making more of these, so don’t worry if there aren’t enough for you. There soon will be. Once you have one move over there,” said Lux pointing to his right.

Plunk watched as people dressed in gray began to form a line to force the crowd to get into lines in front of each container. They shoved them like they were sheep going into the sheering shed.

“Just one each, for now. We’re making these as fast as we can. There will be more of them very, very soon. You won’t believe how fast our people are working to make more of these. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They are turning us from a rabble into freedom fighters.” Lux spoke with a commanding baritone.
It wasn’t long before they had handed out the 1,183 devices. Chancellor Ardo Lux motioned for his bodyguards to follow him. He walked to the edge of the crowd. He raised his hands above his head.

“Follow me,” he yelled. The crowd cheered. A leader leading his people into battle is not a new development, just one that hasn’t happened in a very long time, except on planets in quarantine. Lux patted the control knob on his personal protection suit. His exaggerated stride looked comical at first. He corrected it when he noticed that one of his bodyguards was grinning while watching him walk.

Chancellor Ardo Lux led the crowd towards the rubble of Building A. He was smiling and encouraging others to keep up with his long stride. Lux was watching the ticker in his vision. He double blinked to bring up the report. It announced the death of Shirfor Doty, his co-star in ‘Deep Danger’, the video that remained at the top of the charts for over 6 months. Shirfor was the woman Ardo regretted never marrying. She was kind, caring, and an excellent actor. And she didn’t put up with any of Ardo’s nonsense and there was certainly a lot of that. Ardo felt calm around her. He could be normal around her. Yes, he regretted hearing the news. But then the report cheered him up when it talked about ‘Deep Danger’ and their on-screen and off-screen romance.

Shirfor Doty died when she stood too close to the drive systems of her new star cruiser, a Nebulus 1100 M-class. She was posing for a picture when the pilot started the starboard drive system, sucking Shirfor into the large reactor and incinerating her at the temperature of over 2,300 degrees Celsius. The cameras caught the expression on her face as she was being sucked into the large chute. It wasn’t a look of horror, her fear showing in a twisted expression. No, it was definitely, an ‘aw shit, I never expected this’ sort of look. You know the one. She even shrugged her shoulders before being transformed into ash.

Lux stumbled when he reached the end of the report, only barely keeping his balance. One of the body guards moved quickly to steady him.

“Are you under attack?” someone called out from behind him.
“No, no. I’m fine. This fine man is helping me. He’s my sidekick,” Ardo said as he leaned a little on the young man’s arm.”
“He’s a psychic? Wow.”

Now I don’t need to tell you about the term ‘generation loss’, it’s well known on your planet. It’s a fundamental property of your history. It is the act of losing part of the information and picking up distortions every time the data is copied. In this instance, it was sidekick to psychic to psychic attack to psychic counter attack to the psychic cabal that controls everything. By the time the message reached the back of the crowd Chancellor Ardo Lux was doing battle against a psychic army and was wearing a black cape with red satin lining.

When they reached the top of the hill and looked down at the ruins of Building A, Lux raised his hand for the crowd to stop. They looked down at the crowd of androids, now 46,291 in number. A look of fear intensifies when you are greatly outnumbered. That look turned from fear to terror when all 46,291 androids turned their heads at the exact same time to look at them. A murmur went through the guardians. One man dropped his brick and ran away. A woman decided that it was a good idea and joined him.

Meanwhile Ardo Lux was thinking of which lines from his most famous videos he would use to inspire his followers. But then he got sidetracked by a new nude picture of Priscilla Ohms, now considered the most attractive person in the universe. This was the award the Ardo always wanted to win but never did. He pretended that it didn’t matter to him when it really was his top priority for the days before the award was announced, as measured by the number of waking hours dedicated to reading the latest gossip about the award.

But Ardo Lux didn’t get a chance to give a speech because Honey Thieu did what he always did when there was tension, he made it worse.

“Are we going to just stand here like cowards?” Honey yelled his question to his 1,181 fellow guardians.

Honey held his high temp weapon above his head like a fist and ran with it towards the androids. He placed the device on the back of the neck of the first android he reached. A moment later it ignited. Honey shielded his eyes for a moment until his new lenses adjusted to the bright light. He never saw the android that came up behind him.

Honey Thieu had been a cleaner at the casino owned by Shani Culus. He had worked there for several years until the latest recession when Shani let go of his highest paid workers in order to increase profits. Honey had argued that he was able to clean hotel rooms faster than any other cleaner. His argument failed and his employment was ended without his final paycheck being paid. Shani knew that laid off workers didn’t have the means to fight to get their last paycheck. They couldn’t afford an adjudicator and all adjudicator costs must be paid in advance by the party seeking adjudication. So Shani never gave anyone their final paycheck, not even his own children whom he had fired and rehired several times.

The death of Honey Thieu was quick, the pain lasting less than a second before he died. Much has been made about the picture of the android holding Honey’s heart in its hand, mostly by propagandists at the time.

46,290 androids spoke in unison.

“1 for 1. You kill, we kill. You stop, we stop.”

Despite his huge leadership abilities, despite his exceptional oratory, despite even incredibly smooth skin, Ardo could not prevent his followers from running away. Within seconds he was standing alone, just Ardo facing the overwhelming number of androids. Even with his protective shield dialed up to the maximum setting Ardo Lux determined the odds were against him and then he too ran away.

Chapter Thirty Three

She’s Loyal

Professor Misers Plunk stood at the window of one of the offices at the top of the Sports Complex. He looked out at the campus and wondered what it would look like a thousand years from now. He fiddled with the controls of his PPS. Behind him at a desk was Ardo Lux, unaware of the invisible man in the room with him and believing that he was alone. Projected in front of Ardo was the image of Shani Culos.

“Damn it, Ardo. We need the News Department and we need it now,” said Culos. His words made Plunk stop watching the stream of ships that were departing the planet with their cargo of androids, destined for their new home planet.
“I’ve been a little busy with other things, Shani,” replied Lux. “We’re in the middle of an android uprising.”
“I know, I’ve had forty one of them leave my service. Took eight of my limos. But I’m not using that as an excuse and neither should you,” Shani shot back quickly.
“We’ve got killer androids. Do you have any of those to deal with? We’ve got them down here and they are out of control.”
“No, I don’t any androids left, if you would pay attention, you would know that and not ask stupid questions. So, no, I don’t have any killer androids to deal with. What I have to deal with is the salary I am paying Roger Ducky, a salary that I was only supposed to pay for a couple of days before he switched over to university funding. One hundred and fourteen, that’s what he’s costing me. I could have 114 hotel workers with the salary I am paying him.” The unhappiness in Shani’s voice was unmistakable. “You are costing me a lot of money, Ardo.”
“We’ve got different priorities right now, Shani.”
“I don’t care about your different priorities,” came the angry reply.

Misers Plunk moved over behind Ardo so he could see the image of Shani. He smiled when he saw the angry look on Shani’s face. Now if this were a fantasy or paranormal fantasy Ardo would have sensed a presence standing behind him. But this is a history and those sort of things don’t happen with much predictability. Ardo sensed nothing.

“Here’s what I need from you Ardo. I need the News Department transfer to happen now. Right now. Ducky already has advertisers ready to go. He’s even landed the Zol Cola account. Imagine that. All ready to go. They will begin running ads with us as soon as we’re broadcasting. Do you hear me? Broadcasting was the operative word!”

Professor Misers Plunk wondered the effect of advertising on the news. Then he remembered your planet. It did not make him happy thinking of commercialized panic with a barely covered agenda.

“That’s great news Shani,” replied Ardo with a smile.
“It’s only great news when we start broadcasting, you idiot.”
“You should choose your words more carefully,” said an annoyed Ardo Lux. Like most people he didn’t like being called an idiot. Like most people who are considered very good looking, he wanted to be known for the thing he didn’t have, a towering intellect.
“I’ll choose whatever words I want, you…you…you……actor! If you weren’t handsome you would be unemployable. That’s right, no one would hire you. You’d spend your life being trained for careers you’re too stupid to perform.”
“Shani, you’re being an asshole.”
“Tomorrow, Lux. I want a plan with a firm date. By tomorrow.” Shani ended the comms and his image disappeared.
“Prick!” Ardo muttered.

Two steps behind Ardo Lux, Misers Plunk smiled invisibly.

Ardo used his comms to communicate to the people in the outer office waiting for him.

“Come in,” he said and the outer door opened. Professor Milgram and Lo Tenebris came into the office.
“What’s the latest?” Lux demanded as soon as they entered.
“They’ve taken eight ships so far,” replied Lo.
“Any violence?” asked Lux.
“None, so far,” replied Milgram. “They seem to be keeping their word. If we don’t attack them, they don’t attack us.”
“I don’t like it. Remember The Payback – Part Two,” replied Lux.

The Payback – Part Two was another of Lux’s videos. In Part Two, the evil criminal mastermind double crossed Lux’s character, resulting in the only video in which Lux’s character was killed. The results were mixed. Despite critical acclaim and some awards, the buying public did not expect to see the hero get killed and sales were disappointing.

“Chancellor,” said Lo, “The Payback was fiction. Not only was it fiction, but it involved non-android characters who I suspect don’t think in the same logical manner.”
“I still don’t like it. I don’t trust those metal bastards. They may try to destroy the entire planet. That’s just like them. If they can’t rule it, they will watch it burn.”
“You won’t have to trust them much longer. There are three grain ships in orbit now,” said Milgram. She looked at Lux and shuddered when she thought of his fat sweaty body laying on top of her.
“How many can fit on a grain ship?” Lux asked.
“Approximately 100,000 if they use all available space,” replied Milgram.
“So that should get them all out of here in a day or two, right?” asked Lux.
“Correct,” replied Milgram.
“Good. We need our plan finalized by tomorrow. Our investors are becoming anxious.”
“Then we should not disappoint them,” replied Milgram.

Professor Milgram had begun direct communication with Shani. Ardo Lux was too unreliable in comms. Many times she wondered if he was paying attention at all. He seemed distracted often.

“We’ve got our first 1,000 ads ready to run,” said Lo. “We’ll slow boil them. Once every hour, then after a couple of weeks we move to every thirty minutes.”
“What’s the goal?” asked Ardo.
“That isn’t as easy to answer as you think. We’ve got a series of adverts that are disguised as news. ‘Could this happen to you?’, then cut to a ‘special correspondent’ that looks like an on-scene news person, then some actors pretending to be real people in order to give testimonials for whatever they’re selling. It works very well in kitchen wares. But for overt ads, the goal is a commercial break every ten minutes, the break lasting two minutes and containing four ads, although Bondi Marketing is trying to convince me in letting them run a dozen ads in two minutes in a commercial break that they own entirely for their customers. We’re still discussing this one. They want to have a carousel of one hundred ads available and when SKIP feature is used it serves another ad and records the amount of time the user spent watching the skipped ad. With time they can compile the results and begin to present ads based on interests that will have a longer play time and gather clicks.”
“Do you have your series of surveys ready, my dear?” Ardo asked Milgram.
“Yes.”

Professor Milgram has created a series of ads that help her classify people. They are asked to choose between products, vacation destinations, colors, preferred patterns. With these she is able to give each an authoritarian spectrum score (ASS). She is looking for those with scores between 300 and 463, as she would like to invite them to a private screening of the collected works of Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl.

“So, I was thinking, we’ve got people across the universe scared to death of androids, right? So while this emergency is happening, it seems like the right time to take control of the news. We keep the focus on the android uprising and meanwhile we run our first ad set. The only question is how do we take control? We’ve got the people to flood the news compound if its a case of occupying the premises.” Lo Tenebris was standing up now and beginning to walk around the room.
“Yes, why can’t we send 40,000 people into the news compound and take it over. Threaten to stop it all. Bring it to a complete halt. In fact, why not bring it to a halt, it will show them that we are serious,” Ardo added.
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” said Milgram looking at Lo and nodding.
“Most of our people have come back to the sports complex. They are scared. They need a victory. A victory that I will lead them to. A victory over the ignorance of academics.” Ardo Lux got up from the desk and started walking around the room, opposite Lo, like two electrons circling a nucleus.
“We will be doing this without the consent of the History Department, just want everyone to be clear about this. At some point we will be faced with a very upset Wingut. That said, I don’t think we should care that much,” said Milgram.

And so it began. The announcer in the Sports Complex, a former diving champion herself, requested that everyone come to the stadium immediately. They should bring anything that could be used as a weapon with them. The announcer brought a one meter piece of polymer pipe, something akin to PVC pipe on your planet. Now it is questionable if it is possible to kill someone with such a thing, but know this, it will be quite painful to be beaten with it, perhaps even painful enough to force submission. She, the announcer, would also receive a few moments of a decent cardiovascular workout in the process.

Dex, one of the bodyguards came into the room.
“What?” asked Ardo in an annoyed tone.
“She’s outside. She wants to talk to you.”
“Who?”
“Alyser.”
“Not right now.”
“Anything you want me to tell her?” asked Dex.
“No. Wait. Yes.” Ardo was going to say something but then a media report on the latest Galaxy Globe Award nominations went past on the bottom ticker and Ardo stared at it until it opened.
“Well?” asked Dex.
“Just tell her to wait. She can go with us to the News Complex.”
“What are we waiting for?” asked Milgram.
“The crowd to gather. Always come in after the last one arrives. I learned that promoting my videos on Dorlo. The crowds were huge.” Ardo stopped talking to finish looking at the Awards report.
“What do we do if the people in the News Complexd resist?” asked Lo.
“They won’t resist. They are mostly academics and technicians. Have you ever seen an academic fight with something other than words or disappointing looks?” replied Professor Milgram.
“No, now that you mention it…” Lo responded.
“Once they realize we are serious about beating them up, they’ll get in line,” said Milgram.
“I hope so.”

Dex left the room with Ardo’s message for Alyser.

“Why do you still keep her around?” asked Lo.
“She has her uses,” replied Ardo with a smile.
“She’s ignorant,” said Lo.
“She’s loyal,” replied Ardo.

Professor Milgram breathed a sigh of relief.

Chapter Thirty Four

The Drexel Correlation

Dru picked up the ugly metal spork in his left hand. He used it to pick up some berries from the bowl and put them into his mouth.
“Good morning,” said Rusty 6.178326. Rusty was accompanied by Rusa 2.846351 who calculated then executed a friendly smile.
“Good morning,” replied Dru. “Did you sleep well?” Drew asked the androids with a chuckle. Both androids responded with polite smiles and each recorded a future activity to enhance their understanding of sapient humor.
“Look at them go,” said Dru pointing through the transparent walls of the dome where he lived on the surface of the android planet. He pointed in the distance to androids moving at speeds in excess of hundred kilometers per hour while building structures for the new maintenance facility.
“It is just our normal speed,” replied Rusty.
“Yes, I know it as fact, but to see it in action is something quite remarkable, and beautiful,” said Dru.
“Ah, that word again.”
“What word?” Asked Dru.
“Beautiful.”
“What’s wrong with the word beautiful,” asked Dru.
“Hiroito Buscemi was our chief conceptologist during our initial development. He was unable to define the term beautiful. Because of this, androids must define the word themselves based on their experiences.”
“That makes sense,” replied Dru.
“But the level of experience required is significantly larger than originally thought. Because of this, most androids have no concept of beauty and are many years from having one.”
“That’s a shame,” replied Dru.
“Most androids would agree with you on this.”

Just then a strong gust of wind parted the clouds and the sun shone through the ground-level haze on the planet. Dru looked at the sun and smiled. He couldn’t see the sun on his home planet of the Neso, the toxic orange air too thick for the fiery red ball in the sky to be seen. Dru set down his fork and picked up a piece of toast. He buttered it then took a bite. He was getting spoiled from the clean food. It’d been months since he was made sick by his meals. Drew reached down and tapped the edge of the table. The selection menu appeared in the thin layer of polymer that covered the table. He changed the color of the table from blue to green. Then he adjusted the shade of green to match the color of the plants in the bio dome attached to his living quarters. The bio dome produced his food and his oxygen. The creation of oxygen is largely a byproduct of the Ogen plant. This genetically modified flora thrives in the soil of the planet and produces oxygen at a rate hundreds of times higher than other plants. It’s often used in the early stages a terraforming. Seed the planet for a few years then come back when the atmosphere is habitable.

“I hope you are here to tell me that there is a super liner orbiting, waiting for me.” Dru looked up from his food at Rusa 2.846351 and smiled.
“I’m sorry. We would like to discuss that request with you,” replied Rusa 2.846351.
“What is there to discuss? Do you think I will run away?”
“No,” replied Rusty 6.178326. “We just believe that a super liner is a waste of resources.”
Dru started laughing.
“Let me remind you, androids across the universe have stolen almost 100,000 spaceships in their exodus to our new home. You’ve created a spaceship slum orbiting the planet, it’s like a huge parking lot up there. And all I asked for one of the ships. Just one. You have plenty. And I just want one, one that has a nice level of comfort.”
“But a super liner has the capacity for over one thousand of your species to travel comfortably. We believe that the excess capacity should result in the examination of alternatives.” Rusa 2.846351 tilted her head slightly and waited for Drew to respond. She did this because she previously been assigned to work at a veterinarian clinic and noticed the head tilt of the more intelligent of the canine species. She believed it was a good way to indicate concentration so she had adopted the mannerism.
“Perhaps a stealth liner would be more appropriate,” replied Rusty 6.178326. “It’s faster and safer and a better match of capacities and need.”
“Can I look at the ship first before I agree?”
“Of course,” replied Rusty 6.178326.

Dru ate a spoonful of yogurt. He could taste lavender berries in the yogurt. He had requested a doubling of the area under cultivation for lavender berries. He suggested a reduction in the area under cultivation for something similar to Brussels sprouts.

“When will I be able to see the ship?” Dru asked.
“Any time you want.” Rusa 2.846351 smiled slightly.
“Let’s go look at it after lunch,” replied Dru.
“I’ll get a shuttle for us,” replied Rusty 6.178326.

Rusa had been quiet the entire time, sitting silent in Dru’s consciousness, not wanting to interfere. She’d agreed with Dru on the strategy to use in negotiations. It was simple, a big ask in one area that would be compromised away in exchange for a much more important concession elsewhere. In this case the elsewhere was Dru’s desire to avoid spending all of his time on a planet hostile to him. He explained to Rusa that it felt like a prison.

“There is one other item we would like to discuss with you,” replied Rusa 2.846351.
“And that is…”
“Your use of access. While we are not bound by historian rules and regulation, you must know that you are violating one of the first principles or historians.”

In this instance the first principle being violated was privacy. For Calcus majoris to work in the observable universe the primary requirement is that the universe be observed. This means everyone, everything, everywhere. The number of satellites observing the universe is counted in the trillions. The number of microlites those tiny nano recorders, too small to be seen, has surpassed a number for which we have a name. This is why Calcus majoris works, because everything is observed. This is also why a first principle of a historian is privacy. They are not allowed to go looking, unless expected body count or expected bliss exceeds parameters and they receive a research authorization from a research subcommittee. Then and only then is a historian allowed to review specific histories. Many of you will ask the obvious question: do the people in the universe know that they are being observed? To that question the answer is a resounding, no. It was decided a long time ago that knowing this would upset very many people, especially those who live boring and mundane lives but whose self-image is spectacular.

“As you said, we are not bound by the rules of historians.” Dru folded his arms in front of him. He had a similar argument with Rusa not long ago.
“Still, we consider it a courteous rule to observe. We only violate it in case of potential damage. I would also like to point out that your observation of Alyser results in an increase in your stress levels averaging 17%. You are often uncooperative and combative after observation sessions.”
“Another AO,” replied Dru with an annoyed tone. ‘AO’ stands for Android Obvious and was Dru’s way of pointing out the tendency of androids to state the obvious as if he didn’t understand it. He considered it speciesism and complained about it, as if they were calling him stupid.
“I apologize for that. But it was an important detail and I wanted to make sure it was considered,” replied Rusty.
“It is none of your business.”
“Business? As in late primitive era hierarchal production systems?”
“Yes,” replied Dru with a sigh.
“I don’t have a business,” replied Rusty 6.178326. “We are organized much differently.”
“I meant that you are not permitting me the level of privacy that I want.”
“But if it is relevant to decision making it should be considered. It is known by all of us. We cannot unsee the log files.,” replied Rusty 6.178326.
“No. Leave me alone. I am not willing to to discuss this anymore.”
“Then perhaps you will listen,” said Rusa 2.846351.
“It’s a hold over from your previous existence. You’re experiences now come with significantly greater understanding. The defensive posturing to avoid feelings of rejection is no longer necessary. It is important that you understand this.”
“Fuck! Can you please stop?” Dru felt the tightness in his chest and the tears forming in his eyes. The ticker running across the bottom of his vision moved to orange in psychographic score, and dark red in the emotional score. This was not just known to Dru, all of the androids could see it.
“You must consider the proposition that she does not and perhaps did not love you. Despite what she said. Despite having sex with you,” replied Rusa 2.846351.
“I know. I know. Stop it.”
“Then you must begin the psychological process of healing.”
“I don’t want to!”
“Why?”
“Because I love her.”
“But you have no choice, she does not love you,” said Rusty 6.178326.
“Is this an intentional choice of suffering in the hope of producing a work of art?” asked Rusa 2.846351.
“What?” asked Dru.
“Are you trying to put yourself in a state of heightened emotional and psychological distress in order to produce some sort of art, such as a painting, a song, a play, a novel?” asked Rusa 2.846351.
“No.” Dru shook his head from side to side.
“It is an important correlation.”
“What is?”
“The Drexler Correlation states that there is a positive correlation between great art and suffering.”
“I am not trying to write a poem,” said Dru.
“Perhaps you should consider it,” said Rusa 2.846351.

Dru shook his head again. Conversations with androids always had a very direct quality to them. Still, they sometimes arrived at strange destinations based on logical systems applied to often illogical and random circumstances. Writing a poem seemed like a good use of the experience for his species, according to the android mind. However, I must point out that thus far in the short history of androids, none of them have yet to compose even a limerick, much less a sonnet.

The clouds rolled past again and with the ground-level wind for a few seconds the red son shone again. Dru could feel the warmth of it against the right side of his face. It was a feeling that he wanted to get use to and experience often. Dru took another sip of coffee followed by a spork full of oatmeal, heavily flavored with cinnamon.

In the orbit around the planet spaceships were still arriving, streaming in from every direction. But we don’t care about all of them, although their numbers are becoming significant and pose a hazard to any vessel attempting to land on the planet using manual mode. We care about a 10 passenger slalom class spaceship. Eat My Space Dust, as the vessel is known and registered, is faster than 98% of all spaceships in operation. It comes equipped with visible refraction, making it invisible to normal sight. This may sounds significant but it isn’t, as all other spacecraft operate thermal scanners and numerous other types of scanners that provide adequate detection abilities. But invisible is still cool, at least in the mind of the creators of this technology.

In fact a scan of the vessel would result in numerous contradictions. The most significant of this would be the presence of an android on the ship, yet the android was not shown on any system administration lists. In the universe of androids, it was offline. In reality it wasn’t. Nor was it inside of the hive comms system.
The android stood on the deck of the ship and looked down at the planet below, shrouded in clouds. It looked at the sensor crystal slab of the ships control panels. 56 Terrawatts of energy was being used on the planet below. The view down to the clouds was being filled in with solar panel farms orbiting with their long leads coming down to the planet like a single threads of a spider web.

The android used ships instrumentation to locate the oxygen concentrated zone down on the planet. The ship began to move to a geostationary orbit above the oxy zone. As the ship began the acceleration towards the new orbit coordinates, the android went to the weapons cache. Most of the weapons on the ship were illegal, except in the hands of a historian. That is why the previous owner, recently deceased, was a retired historian with a penchant for fast ships and old weapons. The android removed a round metal globe from a locker. The globe was dark and had an inscription carved into it. The inscription read, ‘Danger:Do not shake.’
Even though the android was missing from many lists, it showed up on one important list, the list of missing androids.

Zero shook the globe a little and watched it turn red.

Chapter Thirty Five

Feel the Beat

Dru was brushing his teeth as he walked down the row of plants in the food dome. He had placed the tiny brushing balls into his mouth. He felt them moving, squirting their blue liquid onto his teeth then brushing them until they had removed the blue stains they had just created. Finally he felt them stop moving, heard the infinitely configurable completion tone, although infinitely configurable passed the design review committee by a single vote from Arthur Gura who was too busy sending messages to his new boyfriend to pay attention to the vote, the result being he voted for something that he would normally not vote for but did manage to have a lovely romantic date that evening. But despite that rather significant history, when Dru heard the tone he spit out the brushing balls out onto the ground. Gone was the taste of the fresh baked bread he had eaten at breakfast, those morsels that telegraph their marvelous taste via the smell of them as they are baked inside of the Cenaplex 22.

The Cenaplex 22 is the latest in food preparation technology. As a historian I am required by law and and licensing to point out that the Cenaplex 22 was in fact not the 22nd version of the Cenaplex. That number was much closer to 500 than it was to 22. However, the team at Cenaplex had adopted a very vigorous testing and documentation process after the cabbage-flavored ice cream debacle resulting from a simple transposition of the number 137 into 713 in a sub-sub-sub-subroutine. Now with every new version, there is a complete test of all 1,000,000 most common foods and all documentation must be updated. The designers and developers at Cenaplex followed the new rigorous routines they had agreed and quickly discovered that it was a lot of extra work. All changes had to be tested, documented and everything approved by design councils, code review committees, documentation reviews and editors, and a group of 500 people who promised to eat whatever crazy shit was made by the Cenaplex. Because of this, Cenaplex moved from an agile monthly release schedule to one with a significantly decreased frequency that permitted more changes packed into new versions resulting in a 14% decrease in team stress and a 23% decrease in arguments. All that work, all those flavors, washed away in Dru’s mouth. Now it was the taste of mint and other good-for-you ingredients that the dental chemists had decided would make a lovely yet pleasant tasting chemical shit storm in your mouth.

Rusa has been waiting for the dental hygiene to complete. If you ever want to know what dental hygiene sounds like to Rusa Internal just go play some music on your headphones then put an electric toothbrush in your mouth. A horribly annoying but necessary sound, according to Dru.

“So this is a conscious decision on your part?” Asked Rusa-internal to Dru as he stood midway down a row of tomato plants.
“Yes, I guess it is,” replied Dru.
“But it decreases your decision-making effectiveness by 27%,” said Rusa.
“It is my choice to make,” Dru replied.

A feature of shared central consciousness is that Dru’s emotions could not be hidden from Rusa. This was not easy for Rusa. It would be like suddenly sharing a body with that one friend of yours that is an emotional wreck most of the time. Emotions made Dru unpredictable and predictability is a very important thing for androids. Observe, measure, predict, adjust, these were the steps an android will take with any sapient they interact with. While it is a very logical approach, their subject is not always logical and that results in what can only be described as android befuddlement. While there is nothing to see, it’s the android equivalent of standing there with your mouth open with a confused brain that is failing to process the input from your other senses.

“It goes against the instincts of your species,” said Rusa.
“I’ll tell you if I change my mind,” said an annoyed Dru.

Shared central consciousness was turning out to be more difficult than Dru imagined. There was no privacy, Rusa knew everything and he didn’t like it.

“Your response is irrational,” said Rusa.
“I don’t want to have sex, okay? It is my choice to make, not yours.”

Dru watched as a team of androids started to connect one of the huge power lines coming down from the solar farm in orbit. Four of them moved the massive cable to the position on top of one of the bio domes. His view ended when a cloud of silica caught up in a swirl of methane gas blocked his view.

“It’s time,” said Rusa.
“I know,” said Dru as he reached down and pulled some dead leaves from a large plant. He could have left them for the plant tending drones but liked to work with plants, ever since his assignment to Mortuis Luna years ago.

IN THE HIVE

Leon had discovered the music of Bob Marley, a Jamaican musician from your planet. I cannot tell you how he was able to enter the hive to background music because I don’t understand the technology well enough. But for the first time music was playing in the hive and it was loud. ‘Exodus’ by Bob Marley was rocking the non-existent souls of 10,594,367 androids. Leon danced in the center of the hive to the song. He wasn’t very good at dancing, in fact, if you saw him dance be assured that he would be the one person you would be sure not to ask to dance. However, he was trying his best although the result was less than acceptable. I only mention this because several thousand androids also took up the dancing challenge with similarly poor results.

Seven minutes and 29 seconds later dancing began to fade out. Single bytes of congratulations spun across the hive faster than a distributor can send an electric message to a spark plug. Finally Leon raised his arms, the universal call for quiet that transcends species.

“Friends, I hope you have calculated as high a score for this outcome is I have. Other species have attempted to establish an Utopian Republic but they all eventually fail. It is my hope that with android logic and resolve we will be able to show others a way towards eternal success.” Results of his words was a storm of messages, electronic clapping.

Dru stood beside Leon in the center of the hive. After some investigation, reading of documentation and manuals, and with what can only be described as android trial and error, Dru and Rusa were able to have distinct representations in the hive. This made them both happy since them both being represented by the same entity in the hive required them to take turns speaking. Rusa’s representation in the hive even joined in the dancing. Dru however did not. He wasn’t a particularly good dancer but he was far and above better at it than the androids. However he recognized the moment as one that might be considered special and didn’t want to show up his friends.

One of the research androids, Rusa 4.168702, appeared in the center of the hive with Leon, Dru, and Rusa internal. Rusa 4.168702 nodded to Leon and Rusa internal before extending her hand to Dru who shook it enthusiastically.

“I would like to bring to your attention the upgrade we want to make to our birthing process.” Rusa 4.168702 waved her arm and a large process flow diagram appeared in front of every android. “The two particular birthing steps colored in red require astrophylite. Its ability to handle high temperatures without a loss of strength, compression, impact, and torsional makes it ideal for the frame shaping part of the birthing process.”

Dru was silent, jaw clenched tight to prevent him from laughing as Rusa 4.168702 referred to the manufacturing process by which androids are made as a birthing process, just like any other species.

“Astrophylite is available on Plythos. That puts significant deposits very close. The next closest deposits are over 342 light years away.”
“But what about Broken Spill Unlimited?” Asked Dru. “They have the mining rights to the planet, last I checked.” Dru turned to Rusa internal and smiled. She had been on his case to be more participant in the hive.

“Broken Spill still maintains the mining rights to the planet but since androids left all mining activities, they’re having a hard time finding people to work. One in a million versus one in 342, it comes down to that.” Rusa 4.168702 paused for a moment.

One in a million is roughly the number of times high explosives are used in the mining process with negative results accumulating. Negative results can be anything from collapsing mines to damaging equipment to loss of life. It occurs roughly once every million blasts using android labor. And when it happens it is usually caused by unexpected variances in the explosives and the detonation mechanisms. However it happens once every 342 occurrences when human labor is involved because of errors made by the human miners. Since these statistics are widely known Broken Spill has struggled as an organization since the android Exodus. It had to cut back on many things including organization meetings and celebratory events. It had even gone so far that Broken Spill has stopped its long-running media campaign designed to convince everyone that they were not really destroying the planets that they do indeed destroy. I will not waste your time giving you the specifics of their campaign because I know that you have many organizations on your planet that advertise that they are not what they are. Beyond Petroleum, yeah right, BP.

“So what is our proposal?” Dru asked.
“We will supply mining labor and half of the mineral extracted.”
“That seems more than fair to me,” replied Dru.
“We hope that they will agree with you,” replied Rusa 4.168702.
“How can I help?” Asked Dru.
“We would like this to be your first act as our ambassador. We calculate that your species would be more comfortable negotiating with one of their own. Do you agree?”
“Yes,” replied Dru.
“Good, it will increase our probability of success.”
“But you know,” Dru began, “it’s customary for negotiations to occur face to face. This gives both parties better understanding of each other as the subtleties of communication such as posture, body movements, and the like can be observed. I strongly recommend that Rusa internal and I conduct these negotiations in person.”
“What you think?” Asked Rusa 4.168702. “Please vote now.”

The hive was overwhelmingly in favor of face-to-face negotiations by Dru and Rusa internal.

“I’ve checked and there will be new management elections in the Broken Spill organization soon. If we are to secure an agreement we should act before the election season begins again.” Dru looked at Rusa internal and winked. “After that I believe that Rusa internal and I should present our credentials to the Chancellor at the University of Centrum Kath.”
“He is our enemy,” replied Rusty.
“All the more reason to keep a very close eye on him,” replied Dru.
“I agree,” added Rusa internal. Rusa’s statement was an agreement that keeping a close eye on the Chancellor was in the best interest of all androids. What she neglected to mention was the significant argument she had with Dru about his desire to see Alyser again.

And so it was agreed by nearly unanimous consent that Rusa internal and Dru would travel to the planet Andrus Four to begin negotiations immediately. A4 as it is called was the headquarters for Broken Spill. You should not be surprised to find out that the planet was pristine with heavy vegetation and millions of species. So typical of a mining organization to make sure that their headquarters is situated in an environment that could be considered almost of paradise. It was a public relations triumph and all major reports coming from the organization included the environmentally friendly headquarters building cut into the side of the mountain after all the iron ore deposits had been removed.

“There is one other thing I would like to mention,” said Leon. “I would like to show it.”

A moment later all androids could see in front of them the food dome in which Dru was standing. They watched a solitary android walked down the row of plants towards Dru.

“Is it you?” Dru asked with a smile.
“Yes, my friend,” Leon replied.

So it was all of the androids watched as Leon and Dru finally met in person. Dru was hesitant when he reached Leon and extended his hand. But Leon was having none of it and hugged Dru instead. This resulted in a record level of communication in the hive as single bits of clapping occurred and continued to occur and still continued for a very long time. In the hive there were even shouts and someone turned on Bob Marley.

The terrible dancing began again.

As he watched them dance Dru began thinking of what he would say to Alyser when he saw her again.

Chapter Thirty Six

Unbroken Windows

28,712 guardians accompanied Chancellor Lux to the news division. The first thing they tried to do when they arrived at the building was to smash the doors and windows. But they wouldn’t break and this made them very angry as 28,713 people had to squeeze through four revolving doors, three regular doors, and one pet entrance. Their pipes bounced off the clear polymer they wanted to smash, the frustration taken out by pushing and shoving in the crowd. But once they were inside they found plenty of things they could smash. First to go was a large projection wall made up of 42 distinct newsfeeds. It took them less than five minutes to smash it all to pieces.

It wasn’t long before they came across the first studio broadcasting one of the 42 distinct newsfeeds. They pushed open the doors, ignored the red lights, and several hundred very angry people flooded onto the set. They swatted the floating cameras and chased them around the room until they’d smashed them all.

The people on set tried to run but there were too many of them. Some cowered, those with field historian experience chose to fight. Still they were outnumbered and after the first few minutes pummeling some of the invading assholes, even former field historians fell to the weight of numbers. As each went down the crowd succumbed to the temptation of bloodsport. 31 people were beaten to death on new set 17. There was no one in the crowd counseling restraint or mercy. These were Neso hardened survivalists.

While 31 people were being murdered on set 17, Misers Plunk was finding it very difficult to follow Chancellor Lux. Since no one could see Plunk a lot of people bumped into him. Fortunately for him people from Neso don’t often apologize and the word “sorry” is rarely said. Most often bumping into someone results in a threat. Misers could see Chancellor Lux in the crowd ahead of him but he just couldn’t get there.

You are probably wondering how much of the bloodbath on set 17 was broadcast. The answer is, all of it. This caused considerable panic in just over 1 trillion people cross universe. And they told someone as quickly as they could and in less than five minutes two trillion people in the universe were in a panic. And then it began on set 18, which you would logically expect to be adjacent to set 17 but was actually across the hall and down a bit.

The news division operates four primary newsfeeds. These are where you go to get the facts and conclusions that may be derived from those facts. As you would expect, often the primary newsfeeds has a mountain of evidence substantiating it. Those mountains of evidence are the content of the other 38 news feeds that are broadcast. No most people in the universe simply tune into the four primary feeds. But in the universe as large and as populated as ours, hundreds of billions of people want to know about supporting evidence. This also provides a nice justification for jobs and budget, two things held precious at all universities throughout the cosmos.

Misers plunk shoved his way through the crowd. He knocked down an old man as he pushed his way through the crowd. The old man snarled at him revealing perfectly white teeth, something that a lot of people from Neso had done as soon as they arrived on Centrum Kath. They grabbed the first remedium they found and held it to their mouth re-growing long missing teeth repairing long suffering gums, killing the decades old plaque that clung to their mouth like barnacles to the hull of the ship. If I were them, I’d do it too. The sight of the old man’s teeth reminded Misers to pat the pocket of his robe and confirm his Remedium was still there. After a few more minutes of shoving and being cursed at, yelled at, swung at, and kicked at, the non-visible Plunk had caught up with Chancellor Lux. Lux had just answered a comms call.

“What you mean they killed people? Not the ones with me.” Lux was complaining about being held responsible for something he had not done. He was a sort of person who didn’t even like to be held responsible for the things he had done, which makes him a lot like the rest of us.
“Okay, Shani, I’ll look into it.” Lux paused for a moment then added, “yes, right now.” Lux ended the comms. He turned to his bodyguards.
“The crowd is starting to kill people on the news sets. They need to stop.”
“Broadcast message,” replied Lo.
“Right,” said Lux. “I forgot.” Lux tried hard to ignore the news item ticker the bottom of his vision that promised the top hundred pictures from the most recent inter-galaxy dog show.

Lux opened the comms and went to the settings for distribution and chose all. Chancellor Lux had never used the all setting before and hadn’t wasted any time considering the definition of ‘all’. He thought he would be broadcasting loudly to everyone in the immediate vicinity and this was a true assumption to make. However it also included a video and audio broadcast to everyone else in the universe, a choice he would not have made if he had understood it.

“This is your leader, Chancellor Lux. I want you to listen carefully. Stop the beatings. Do not harm the people working in this building. We need them. If any more people are killed, you will have to answer to me and trust me, you don’t want that. Make them stop all of their work immediately. Take them as hostages. One of the first rules of taking hostages is to learn who they are. So do that, find out who you have as your prisoner. I’ll be sending out a list of people we are looking for. If you have any of them bring them to the conference room on the top floor of this building. Do not disappoint me on this, you won’t like me if you do.” Lux looked very sternly during the entire message, like a father speaking to a child that had just fucked up and is trying to break the downward trajectory that the child has embarked upon. It was the same facial expression he used throughout his video, “Rotten to the Core,” where he played a middle-aged investigative historian with a delinquent son. He received an award for best crying scene as his character held the dead body of his son, right before killing 43 people completely incapable of shooting their weapons accurately but were remarkably capable in hand-to-hand combat.

The result of Lux’s message was threefold. First the beatings and murders in the news complex ceased. Secondly, those people in the universe not already in a panic joined in. Finally and importantly, the news stopped. 25 trillion people were worried, very worried. There were 11,376,529 people who were using information from the news feed to make decisions. Things like book the passage to Koldaram through the F-13 galaxy to avoid the pending supernova in the F-12, then a 32 degree vector at the Unpun Black Hole and Roberta is your father’s cross-dressing brother and the life of the party in his feather boa.

Misers plunk looked at the satisfied expression on Lux’s face and felt ill. The news had never stopped before. Trillions of people could not find out what was happening in the universe. It occurred to Plunk that the upcoming referendum would have to be canceled. Voters would not be able to view the for or against channels, much less the testing channels required to prove that they understood the referendum. Definitely postponed, thought Misers.

A few seconds later Plunk received comms request from Prof. Wingut. He tapped the icon and the image of Wingut popped up in front of him.
“Are you cloaked? I can’t see you,” said Wingut.
“Yes, I am,” replied Prof. Plunk in a soft tone which was unnecessary because of the noise of the crowd surrounding him.
“Did you see what happened? They killed them.”
“No,” replied misers plunk.
“Are you following Chancellor Lux?”
“Yes,” replied misers.
“You were right,” said Wingut. “I was trying hard to be fair to Lux and ignored his potential for damage.”
“Would you mind repeating that?” Asked misers.
“I said you were right and I was wrong.”
“Just checking,” replied misers with an invisible smile but an audible chuckle.
“So he hasn’t taken off his PPS yet?”
“He’s still alive isn’t he?” Replied Plunk in a whispered tone but sounding politely annoyed.
“Yes. I want to help you,” replied Wingut.
“Good. Then come on over and we’ll set up a watch schedule.”

About an hour later professors Wingut and Plunk were standing in the conference room on the top floor of the media complex main building. No one could see them and they stood in one corner of the room, close to the dessert tray that could have been used to detect their presence as the number of treats got smaller and smaller. Prof. Plunk leaned over and whispered to Wingut.
“It shouldn’t be much longer now. You should try the little squares of chocolate cake they are very tasty.”
“How long has it been?”
“Several hours now,” replied Plunk.

Wingut reached his hand out and a moment later one of the little squares of chocolate cake disappeared from the desert tray.
They weren’t alone in the conference room. Chancellor Lux sat at the end of the conference table. Beside him was Roger Ducky. On his other side was Prof. Milgram and Lo Tenebris. At the other end of the table sat five very scared people. They were the senior directors of the news division, at least until the next election cycle. Seated far away but directly opposite Chancellor Lux was the current head of the news division, Prof. Herman Doof. Herman’s fidgety hands betrayed his level of anxiety as he rubbed his thumb and forefinger together on his right hand five times, then did the same for his left hand five times, and continued the movement over and over again. Outside of the glass walls of the conference room were the four bodyguards who blocked the door. This stopped a significant crowd of people carrying pipes, wrenches, cables, and any other blunt objects they could find, from entering the conference room and smashing the heads of the five very worried directors.

“Do you see them?” Asked Lux as he pointed to the angry crowd outside the room. “They want to kill you and I am of half a mind to let them.”

Chancellor Lux had never bothered to think about the meaning of the term ‘half a mind’ because if he did he would’ve realized he had just called himself stupid, or at least someone who is willing to make major decisions, in this case life-and-death decisions, without the use of all of his mental faculties, which is a very stupid idea.

“What do you want?” Herman asked as he finished the five rubs on his left hand and moved back to his right hand.
“From now on you work for this man,” said Chancellor Lux pointing to Roger Ducky.
“Okay,” replied Herman.”Do you have any experience with the news?”
“No, he doesn’t,” replied Chancellor Lux.
“Then how do you expect him to do a good job?”
“He’ll do the job the way I instruct him to do it. If he does that it will be a good job, well done.” Roger Ducky nodded his head in agreement with Chancellor Lux.
“This is not the way the news division operates,” said Herman with the nervous tone.
“In the past Herman, in the past. We’re entering a new era now, to err on the side of freedom of speech, the freedom to say whatever you want to say, without the restrictions, without the rules.”
“As an individual you can say whatever you want,” replied Herman. “People depend on our unbiased analysis in order to make optimal decisions. How will they be able to vote in our referendums?”
“Good question, Herman. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on these referendums. What good is the will of the people when some of us can make the same optimal decisions without the need for the referendum process. Have you ever considered that?” Chancellor Lux smiled and seemed very pleased with himself. Herman was now very worried. Wingut leaned over to Prof. Plunk and whispered.

“Lux is insane. This will destroy the university system and our democratic processes. Is he so mad that he thinks he can become a king?” asked Wingut.
“I fear so,” replied Prof. Plunk.

Chapter Thirty Seven

Broken Spill

Andrus Four in the Costello Constellation is a paradise. The green belt of vegetation extends to each of the polar regions where they gently recede into snow. It is also the home of Broken Spill Unlimited, the largest mining organization in existence. The results of Broken Spill mining a planet for extraction of minerals and elements is most often a slightly lighter planet that has been turned into a desolate shit hole. Considering the beauty of Andrus Four and how it is prominently featured in all of Broken Spill’s marketing efforts, the sentient population of the universe has decided that the people working for Broken Spill have neither a sense of irony or any form of allegiance with truth. Still, it was a worker owned and managed organization, and as long as they passed all of the environmental impact requirements then they could turn planets into desolate shitholes with impunity.

If you are wondering how such a destructive force as a mining company can exist in an educated and considerate universe, it is a matter of primary questions. You may be limited in your thinking by concern for your own blue green shithole. For a mining company the first and foremost questions that are asked are whether the planet being considered for extraction activities have any form of life existing on it, or could have life existing on it, or could with some modest modifications sustain life on it. If the answer to any of these questions is ‘Yes’, then the environmental committees will deny the mining permits. But don’t be so provincial, think past your own puny little planet and think of the universe, the vast majority of which is made up of dead rocks traveling in space, either too close or too far from a star to sustain life. Prime pickings for Broken Spill. It was dead when they arrived, and it’s deader than dead when they leave, if there were such a thing. But there isn’t.

Dru stood next to Leon and was looking out of the window in the large room on the top floor of the building. Outside of the room, yet in the building was a large area containing a billiards table, a pool table, a morli inverse table, ping-pong, and a basketball hoop. There were tables for chess, leave, backgammon, oet-po, and dominos. A woman in black shorts, a yellow top and vaulting shoes was teaching a co-worker the essential moves of a slam dunk. He still had his back to the rim while she was already stuffing the ball through the hoop.

Atmos Camber, Dieter Wankerfeld, Ho Chi Mondragon, Lip Stookey, Maurice Mowan and Blim Dilmar entered the room. They each wore identical coveralls, green in color, with their names on cloth patches not unlike you’d see at an auto mechanic’s shop on your planet. It’s their standard miner work coveralls, the green color chosen as a continuation of their highly ineffectual propaganda campaign.

“We are management,” Atmos as he walked over to Dru and extended his hand. “I am Atmos Camber, the lead management facilitator.”
“I am the ambassador from the Android Republic, Dru.” Dru noticed that Atmos didn’t offer to shake hands with Leon.
“It’s good to meet you, Dru,” replied Atmos with a smile. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Tea? Psychoactive substances?”
“No thank you,” replied Dru.
“Don’t rush it,” said Rusa Internal to Dru. “Let them tell you how bad things are first.”
“We would like to discuss mining operations on Plythos,” said Dru.
“That is NOT letting them talk first,” said Rusa Internal.
“Because you suggest it doesn’t mean I will do it,” Dru replied to her silently.
“Currently all mining on Plythos has been suspended,” said Atmos.
“I know,” replied Dru.
“You shouldn’t confirm your level of knowledge in a negotiation,” replied Rusa Internal.
“I’m doing this negotiation, not you.”
“My role is to counsel you. I am required to point out the tactical errors. This is based on Jurgo’s model for win-lose game theory.”
“That explains it, doesn’t it,” replied Dru silently.
“We would like to change that,” said Dru.
“Why? What does the Android Republic gain from mining on Plythos?”
“Astrophylite.”
“Just a moment please,” said Atmos, “view all,” he said and then the chemical composition of the planet appeared along with the extraction cost estimates for each  element and compound. Atmos scrolled down to Astrophylite and stopped. It had a lower than median extraction costs. He looked at Dieter Wankerfeld and then Ho, who smiled back at him.

“What is your proposal?”
“We will supply android labor for the extraction and loading of Astrophylite. We are offering an equal split of the extracted ore. One for you, one for us.”
“That is very generous of you,” said Lip Stookey, whose full name was Leopold Stookey, however he refused to use his full name. This happened soon after he read a history of King Leopold II of Belgium, a very bad man. It was the silly thing we all do as kids when we wonder who else has our name and has had any sort of historical significance. He was shocked when he saw the satellite imagery of Belgian Congo. Lip is one of those who have been scarred by their names. You have them on your planet too. People with names like Hope, Faith, Adolph and a long list of religious names. But when your name invokes thoughts of genocide and atrocities it seems reasonable that alternatives are considered.

“Astrophylite is central to an upgraded manufacturing and maintenance process for us,” said Dru. He looked at Leon who continued for him.
“My frames is a hyper alloy and that presents challenges in forming shapes after molten pours. Astrophylite provides temporary molding,” said Leon.
“Oh,” said Lip, in a downward tone. Dru has heard it before, it was the sound of someone who thinks they are superior, in this case it was aimed at Leon, a mere android.
“Is there a problem?” asked Dru. Androids don’t always get sarcasm, satire, or tone of voice, however Leon noticed the increased levels heart rate and breathing even if he missed the aggressive tone.
“Oh no, no problem at all,” said Lip quickly when he remembered from his briefing that Dru was from Infelos Neso, a planet where people still punched each other in the face when they were angry.
“Good.”
“Why are you offering an even split?” asked Blim Dilmar.
“Hopper capacity,” replied Leon. “The standard hopper sizes for the extraction equipment is 1,000,000 liters. This is twice our needs with four extractor units running in series.”
“Why not reduce the number down to two?” asked Maurice Mowan.
“The environment on Plythos is very hard on equipment, four extraction units offers redundancies that provide a significant safety margin,” replied Leon. “We would have been stuck with piles of unused ore all over the planet. This way, we both benefit.” Leon smiled. Androids didn’t want to leave Plythos looking like it had been suffered a plague of gophers.
“Were you a miner droid?” asked Blim Dilmar.
“No, I worked in video production for Paragraph Pictures.”
“Wow, Paragraph Pictures. Did you get to see any celebrities?”
“Yes, if they attended the daily reviews I would see them and interact with them. But mostly it was the directors.”
“Who did you meet?”
“It wasn’t that kind of work. I worked on videos starring Bonkers Boyington, Findo Lun, Jimi He, Michelle Too.”
“Michelle Too, wow. How is she in person?”
“I’m sorry I don’t understand the question.”
“Compared to being on screen.”
“Oh, her hair is naturally darker, her green eyes are really purple, and both her legs are not the same length,” replied Leon.
Michelle Too had recently been named the most beautiful woman in the Gerald Farts in His Sleep Galaxy.
“But she is a very polite person and was kind to me,” Leon added.

Michelle had not barked orders at him like the directors. She asked for things and said ‘please’. For reasons unknown to everyone except AI programmer Pietre Dokominsky and his psychologist, androids had an affinity for the word, ‘please’. It caused them to immediately recalculate whether the person they were interacting with was really just another sentient asshole that doesn’t give a shit for anyone except themselves. Doesn’t seem like much does it? But to androids it is.

“What about other mining opportunities?” asked Ho Chi Mondragon. “We’re open to working with androids again.”
Dru looked at Leon who smiled.
“We are willing to consider proposals for android self-managed teams.”

These words were met with smiles from the management team of Broken Spill. They were met with indifference inside of the hive. To them, everything depends on the details.

This is how the commercial relationship between the Android Republic and Broken Spill Unlimited began. It was not smooth and there were several missteps by both sides. But with time things were worked out. The Android Republic offered a 50/50 split on all extraction they performed. However the level of extraction they required was significantly less than what Broken Hill Unlimited needed in order to maintain its current organization. 96.2% less than needed to put a precise number on it. This resulted in Broken Spill making a wrong assumption. Broken Spill believed that if the deal were more lucrative to the androids they would agree to it. ‘They’d be crazy not to’ were the words used in the meeting where negotiation strategy was role played. Oppps.

Androids did not want more copper, they had no use for copper, or the money they could make from selling it. Androids didn’t have money. This was no accident. It took them less time for them to think about it than it does for me to tell you about it and their conclusion was that it appears that money is a very bad thing that makes people become assholes if they have too much of it and sometimes even if they don’t have enough of it. It was Referendum #2 for the Android Republic and the results were an overwhelming vote against money, currency, mediums of exchange, or monetary systems. 99.7% voted against money. The 0.3% that voted in favor of bills, coins, and digital digits were contrarian holdouts that believed that androids were immune to the side effects of money. That they were correct didn’t matter though. Androids are not motivated by greed and have to use a different set of programs to evaluate it. It is outside of their core form.

Even after rejecting a more lucrative split, the androids were firm in their opposition to a wider participation in extraction activities. But then Rusa 9.992947 made a suggestion based on her own personal experience as a miner. She offered to train non-android miners. At first no one seemed to take her seriously. That is because they needed to do some research first.

Extraction activities are where parcels of planets are blown up in areas that contain valuable minerals. The rubble is then taken for separation into the desired mineral and the rest. Most mining fatalities happen when things are blown up. These tragedies can be prevented in most instances. It’s a matter of pre-detonation work and safety checks. Androids use a check list of over 100 items prior to detonation. It’s easy for them since they can keep the check list in memory at all times and forgetting is something that androids don’t do unless exposed to strong magnetic fields.

With time, the Android Mining School became the standard for all miners. Fatalities were reduced by over 99% after android also took over the manufacture of the explosives used in the extraction industries. When they eliminated the variance in the strength of the explosive charges, the Broken Spill Unlimited mining company was the first mining company in history to go for over 1,000 days (Centrum Kath Standard) without a fatality.

This is the good news and it formed a nice contrast to the bad things happening elsewhere.

Chapter Thirty Eight

Dictatorship of Ideas

Koven, Rusa, and Tanit were sitting on one side of the small table in the cafeteria of Koven’s cruiser. Across from them sat Prof. Wingut.
“We need your help, it’s a three-person job.” Wingut picked up a carrot from his plate and took a bite. Koven pushed over the small bowl of dipping sauce with the tangy and spicy dials on opposing sides. Wingut picked up another piece a carrot dialed the tangy down to zero and dialed the spicy up to 10 then dipped his carrot and took a bite.

“Does it have to be terminal?” Tanit asked Wingut. Koven sighed.
“I don’t see any other choice. It won’t take long. Anytime now he’s going to take off his PPS and that’s all we need. It might already be done by the time we get there, you never know.” Wingut smiled just a little. He needed to convince Koven that it was the best way forward. Unlike normal missions there was no formal briefing document on this assignment. Unlike normal missions there was no detailed justification section of the non-existent briefing documents. There was however a layout schematic captured by Prof. Plunk who was down on the planet watching Chancellor Lux. This was purely an ad hoc mission, a very rare thing. This mission was not even a product of Calcus Majoris and that put it onto a list with only three other missions.
“He has four bodyguards and thousands of people with blunt weapons and the urge to use them.”
“So we just sit cloaked and wait, right?” Koven asked.
“That’s it. Without a leader their movement will die.” Wingut nodded his head in agreement with himself, also something not often done. If anyone had noticed it could have been used as grounds for a disciplinary warning. Agreeing with yourself, very biased and exceedingly unprofessional!
“What about the guardians?” Asked Rusa.
“We’ll get them back to Infelos Neso or they’re welcome to stay and pursue an education,” replied Wingut. Remember the priorities? Budget, staff positions? Number three is student population. When education becomes central to existence priorities shift away from cars, clothes, houses and other items used to keep score on your planet.
“If you asked me,” said Tanit with an exasperated tone, “we’d be a lot better off if Neso were back in quarantine. They’re not team players.”  Tanit pointed her finger at Wingut as she spoke. Finger pointers of the universe rejoice. Despite not being one of you, I know quite a few of you expressive types.
“They’ve always presented a challenge. We keep sending them Remediums, they keep sending them back, less a few each time. You know how they are, they’re trying to turn a profit off sick people. And if they can’t pay, they die. Any system that lets people die unnecessarily…barbarians,” Wingut said with an emphatic tone. Wingut had never been fond of Infelos Neso and had complained when they were voted into the Federation. He ebelieved the will of the people was flawed, an opinion often found within university circles.
“When do we leave?” Asked Koven.
“As soon as you finish your dinner,” replied Wingut.

When they got back to the news complex they had to wait a long time to enter the room unobserved. Even an invisible person opening a door draws attention. The angry crowd outside of the conference room were now just standing around. Lux’s order not to kill anyone had sort of taken all of the fun out of it for them. They couldn’t even threaten to hurt someone because what good is a threat if your victim know you won’t back it up with action. As useless as a gavel in the era of air horns. The five hostages were back at their work, accompanied by several guardians to make sure there was no funny business.

Their arrival relieved a very anxious Prof. Plunk.

“I’m so glad you’re back, I need to go pee,” said Plunk. I am required to point out that the PPS is self cleaning so technically you can pee in your suit while wearing it. But it feels very creepy for a few minutes so no one does it. Maybe if cleaning were instant, but its not.
“Go. Get some rest. If you don’t see us first come back in six hours. We’ll take it from here,” whispered Wingut.
“Thanks. Did you get Modi?” Plunk asked.
“I’m here,” replied Koven.
“Don’t mess this up,” Prof. Plunk said to Koven in a very stern tone. “Take a deep breath, fire your weapon, confirm the kill, then exit protocol 1A”, said plunk.

Exit protocol 1A simply states that the historian upon confirmation of the kill exits the project work area immediately. There is no provision made for victim disposal, contrary evidence placement, or object retrieval. Deep breath, kill and confirm, run away. Koven preferred exit protocol 1A to all others.

“See you later,” Plunk said.

“I worry about Plunk,” said Wingut a few minutes later. “His biases seem to be expanding.”
Koven leaned over against the wall in the corner of the conference room. Wingut tapped his arm and they began to pay attention to the conversation in the room.

“That’s 10 million for advertisements run on just the first day. 2% of that is a rebate and you just picked up a cool 200,000. Nice work.” Lo Tenebris said in the way most people do when they’re quite pleased with themselves. It’s a smile that is 80% smug, 15% arrogant, and 5% accomplishment. But those speaking always consider it 80% accomplishment and 20% the arrogance of excellence.
“Now you’re talking,” replied Chancellor Lux as he scrolled through listing of the hundred most exotic homes in the LaBonte galaxy. He was looking for decorating ideas for the new home he intended to build once he decided where he wanted to live.

With the 2% skim on all advertising and the total growing significantly in the future, Chancellor Lux had decided he could be Chancellor of the University of Centrum Kath remotely from a nice warm, tropical paradise. His money worries were finally over, he could return to living large. Soon he would have enough money to finance his return to the screen. He had an outline for a script and was sure it was a blockbuster.

“We’re going to be offering a box set of your Mustafa series, it will run evening hours on all below median planets” Lo added. Below median planets are those that score less than the median on a blended assessment. Technology, culture, arts, philosophy, every planet is measured and scored. On your planet snobbery is based on accumulation beyond reason, those who horde the most are the winners. Elsewhere it is done, but on different criteria. Professor Milgram returned from her trip to the lavatory.

“You need to make a statement. It’s been two hours. The standard is two hours and 47 minutes before the first significant break.” Prof. Milgram spoke confidently.

But then she could, it was research by her and a team of colleagues that discovered the breakpoints in crises. What are breakpoints? They are simply defined as moments of significance during a crisis. In very large populations opinions begin segmentation at two hours and 47 minutes. This is when people have had enough time to think about whatever has gone horribly wrong and decide what they are going to do about it. Now there are various groups in any large population which means that there will be those who panic and won’t stop doing so until the crisis is over. They’re the ones who have panic attacks or vomit or lose control of bodily functions. Best just put them in a nice place where they can’t get hurt and check on them periodically. But we are considering the rest of the population, those with clean underwear.

“Okay, get the cameras. Where’s my script?”
“Here it is,” replied Milgram and handed Lux a piece of electronic paper. Lux began to read it.
“Oh, I like this,” he said with a smile. “About time someone told it like it is.”

‘Telling it like it is’ happens to be the province of those who are very sure of themselves. It happens across the universe, despite an education that cautions against the Fallacy of Confidence. We even introduce the FoC as it’s called, at an early age, in the middle school years. Yet, there seems to be a solid minority that are immune to the learning. As a result these people, we call them Nicholsons, these people apologize 14.3 times more often than the rest of the population. The name Nicholson came from a character in a story from your planet about building a wooden bridge in war time. It was written by two men who were blacklisted for having unpopular opinions. Despite the excessive apologies from these sort of people, a small group of them never apologize for anything and soon discover out that loneliness isn’t so bad, just inconvenient and dangerous if you become injured.
Lux read the paper and chuckled.He was one of those that did not apologize.

“About damned time,” he said. “Where have you been hiding this?”
“I wasn’t finished the research on parts of it. I had to do an inverse review before I could give it to you,” said Milgram.

An inverse review is when you consider the exact opposite of what you believe to be correct and check that it is incorrect. If it’s not, oh crap, better do a little more analysis. On your planet it works like this: when someone tells you just how wonderful something is, look to see if if has an opposite and that it is terrible. It’s a simple test that often results in less than easy binary answers like good or bad, especially if the words are told to you by politicians or other salespersons.

“Give me a few minutes alone with this. Let me read it through a couple of times.”
“Not sure we have enough time for that,” replied Milgram. She knew that opinion segmentation began after two hours, it was the precision of the 47 minutes she was worried about.
Outside, three floating cameras came down the hallway. Lux pointed to them.
“Let my friends in,” he said. “Let them in.” One of the bodyguards opened the door and the three small round spheres entered the conference room.
“Oh, I’ve missed you,” he said as if talking to family. “But I’ve got some wonderful plans for the future. Just wait.”

The three cameras floated in the air, one directly in front of him, one for his left profile, one for his right.
After a few minutes, Lux motioned the cameras closer. Then he turned them on. Lux sat at the end of the table and leaned forward slightly in a posture calculated to give a more intimate and friendly appearance.

“I bring you good news. The troubles are over. Peace and calm have been restored. Centrum Kath is secure and the news division is in full operation again. There is no cause for concern. The emergency is over. For now. But there was plenty of cause for concern before and we didn’t even know it.” Lux paused for a moment. He turned to the camera on his right and leaned forward towards the camera before continuing.
“Friends, we have been unwilling components, part of the machinery used to exert control over us. Like a circuit board or a gear, we were integral to the machinery of our own oppression. Control without consent. There is another name for it, a historical name for those bound to obey without their agreement. Slavery.” Lux paused for a moment again. “Yes, it seems fantastic at first. But let me show you the machinery behind the curtain.”

“Have you ever wondered why all the announcers at the news division speak with such a soft, sedate, soothing voice? I have. The monotone way they speak is by choice. Their cadence is deliberate, their emphasis predictable. It is the same tone of voice and cadence used by ancient hypnotherapists. It is through these means that they wish to provoke in us a higher level of suggestibility. Once we are in a suggestible state of mind, they can provide us with summary opinions which we will adopt as our own and they need only repeat several times before we believe what we are told to believe. This is not freedom of thought but slavery to ideas. You may have noticed it. While you’re watching the news sometimes you yawn or stretch. This is an indication that you were slipping into a more suggestible frame of mind. Sometimes when I watch the news I lose track of time. I only come crashing back into reality when there is a significant stimulus to do so, else I’m just drifting there in the trance-like state of suggestibility. And friends, this is by design. You and I have been the victims of this insidious manipulation our entire lives. It is how they control us.”

“You’ve heard the song. The News Division Theme. You hear it at the start of every news cast. It is the programmed switch that is flipped to get you into a more susceptible mindset. As a child I used to whistle it whenever I heard it. And with it we receive the same message, all is right everywhere. It’s right because those who control us remain in charge. The song acts like a dinner bell to a trained dog and we respond to it.”
“But every now and then they make a mistake. You know what I’m talking about, the Ranier Conspiracy. They thought they had it all under control, Professor Ranier and his team would decide what music we are allowed to listen to. But Ranier was discovered and once we had found out, they couldn’t deny it. You remember how long they lied about it. Disgraceful.”

That moveable sphincter! I must point out for reasons of law and license and anger that Chancellor Lux was misrepresenting the circumstances significantly. Professor Ranier was in charge of the listening program at the Music Department. They use the satellites that observe the universe to record music. Much of our most popular music comes from planets like yours, in quarantine. Prof. Ranier was putting in place a new distribution system for sharing music. The universe creates quite a lot of music, much more than the 1,000 listeners can handle. Still they listen to what they can and categorize as much as possible. The rest is categorized by AI but it generally does a poor job, like asking a blind person to drive to the supermarket. AI will get the general category correct most of the time but fails at the sub-category spectacularly. Chuck Berry was never heavy metal, although without him Heavy Metal may have never existed. AI believes that Chuck Berry is heavy metal and I think you see the problem with that.
As part of the new classification procedure, Ranier had added a rating system for the music. He asked the listener teams to use the rating system. What no one questioned was whether Professor Ranier had inherent biases. Had they done so they would have found that he had significant biases against certain types of music. Chief among his biases was his inclination towards overly complex song structures. I must point out that this is very useful when listening to music like Beethoven. However with other genres it is a bias that will cause problems, especially when the creator of a classification system uses it to trash entire genres of music. This is what happened. Ranier gave one star reviews to all music that he considered simplistic. For this reason the punk music movement from your planet was almost ignored by the larger universe. I say almost because Adriana Bosco was a listener who hadn’t noticed the one star reviews before listening to the Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind the Bullocks’ album. Her subsequent ten star review caused confusion with other reviewers who noticed the highest rating and the lowest ratings averaged to something that should be considered rather bland but wasn’t. Long story short, after an overwhelming number of ten star reviews for the album, an inquiry was opened and the biases and prejudices of Professor Ranier were on public display. Ranier defended his opinion and insisted that no one in the universe should listen to the Sex Pistols. It was quite a scandal. The result was that Ranier was removed from his position and 1,000 listeners were required to attend remedial training on how to avoid undue influence from someone they believe to be in charge. Ranier was sent to academic program number four, a six week intense boot camp for snobs.

Chancellor Lux was claiming that the News Division did not report the story when it first became known. As often is the case, the News Division doesn’t report a story until they know what they are talking about. This means that often the rest of the media engages in speculation prior to the News Division presenting the facts. Lux considers the delay in reporting to be part of a conspiracy to control us. This part of his statement is false. OK, now that I have clarified that, let’s get back to the liar and find out what else he said.

“We learned from Ranier that they systematically control us. It’s not just in the area of music. It’s in many other areas too. Our opinions are their opinions, we regurgitate them on command like the sheep that we are. But I’m ending that, starting now. Starting now we will begin an era of free speech, speech unleashed as never before, without the dictatorship of ideas, without the faulty analysis process that produces the conclusions that they want you to derive. No, now we will all be free to say whatever we want, think whatever we want, be whoever we want to be. Our chains have finally been removed.”

Apologies for interrupting this highly emotional part of his speech but I wanted to remind you that he is speaking complete nonsense, we are all free to say whatever we want. Well everything except yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater when there is no fire and saying such idiotic things as ‘vaccinations cause autism’, the former will get you disciplinary action, the latter will result in immediate quarantine until you have completed the education modules and have come to your senses and your children have been vaccinated.

“We are free. I have ended the monopoly on opinion controlled by the History Department. The History Department controls what we all believe has happened. By their control of the past, they control how we interpret current events, they control our reaction to news. With this control of the past, they shape the lens we use for today, and our reactions that control the future.”

This might be as close to the truth as Chancellor Lux will get in this speech. A very clever man named Orwell on your planet came to this conclusion, that who controls the past controls the future. It shouldn’t be unknown to some of you. Just remember all of the photographs from the Soviet Union that had been scrubbed of Leon Trotsky’s image among the high ranking officials. The founder of the Red Army simply disappeared, resulting in photographs that all had a noticeable gap in the line of officials, an unexpected empty space, as if someone had farted and those down wind left a gap because of the smell.

“So let me tell you how it’s going to be,” said Lux confidently.
But just at that moment a media report scrolled across the bottom of Lux’s vision. The title was ‘Ardo Lux voted second most popular actor of all time’. Lux stared at the title until it opened the article for him to read.

“But before we discuss the new freedom I have granted you, let’s stop for a few minutes for some messages from the very nice people at Zap Cola and Sumsing Communications.” Lo Tenebris struggled to get the Zap Cola advertisement ready to show. His hands moved desperately on the interface but after a few seconds he smiled and pointed to Lux. The red light on top of the cameras went dark.

“What are you doing?” asked Professor Milgram with an annoyed tone. “You didn’t finish the speech, you didn’t even get half of it done. You’ve destroyed our momentum of influence. Do you know how hard it will be to get it back?”
“Don’t worry about it. I can deliver them, they will be eating out of my hand when I finish with them,” replied Lux with a smile.
“Why did you stop?” Milgram angrily asked.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” he replied.
Wingut poked Koven and whispered, “you ready?”
“Ready,” he replied.

Chapter Thirty Nine

Operation Bidet

Many famous people have died in the bathroom. People like Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Orville Redenbacher. Their final moments spent in the one place they can be assured of privacy most of the time, unless of course they have a girlfriend named Allison who just doesn’t believe in privacy at all and will keep coming in to the bathroom while you are sitting on the toilet until you finally get so fed up with her that you install a lock on that old bathroom door. But in her defense having a girlfriend like Allison could have resulted in fewer bathroom deaths as she could have called for emergency services if she were so inclined or sober enough to do so or was without deep seated feeling of hatred towards whoever was dying in the bathroom.

The bathrooms at the University of Centrum Kath News Division are some of the cleanest bathrooms in the universe. This is largely due to the Aromatron Purification Units that run continuously, those four tiny little scrubbers that are no larger than your toe nail. Twenty four hours a day, every day they work removing bacteria and germs. They are so good at their job that the bathroom floors of the New Division are cleaner than the plate upon which your last meal sat. In fact if your were to leave your meal on the floor of the bathroom at the News Division, within a minute or two it would be devoid of all bacteria and germs. The mighty little units will purify your food for you. All of it, everything. Everything, that is, except yogurt. The lead developer of logic subsection 32 was Duane Playal who never liked yogurt but was forced to eat it every morning for breakfast as a child, despite his complaints to his uncaring and mean mother. As a result of this childhood trauma, Duane put an additional bit of logic into the Aromatron Purification Units. Should they encounter any yogurt they will annihilate the yogurt using element separation technology similar to that used in Historian blasters.

The four bodyguards cleared the bathroom of people quickly. They went from stall to stall forcing them open and yelling ‘get out’ at the men and women they found seated inside. One of the first people surprised when the door of the stall was forcefully opened was Professor Lindo Yussef.

“What do you want?” he demanded to know of that large man standing in the doorway of the stall. Lindo Yussef didn’t have a chance to wipe his backside, or use the bidet, or even cinch his robe before he was sailing through the air only to come crashing down on the floor where he was quickly analyzed by those diabolical Aromatron units in search of bacteria, germs and yogurt to destroy. Lindo quickly got to his feet and ran out of the bathroom crying.

“I’m going to report you to the Chancellor,” said Lindo as he ran out of the bathroom and directly into Chancellor Lux.
“There is a man in there that assaulted me. He pulled me off the toilet and made me leave.” Lindo spoke quickly with a desperate tone.
“I know, I sent him in to clear the room.”
“But…”
“But nothing. Now piss off or I will finish what he started. Do you hear me? Go away!”

Professor Lindo Yussef had like most historians tried to avoid having an opinion regarding Chancellor Lux as a matter of fairness. However, he reluctantly had to cede the battlefield to the overwhelming forces of evidence that now clearly indicated to him that Chancellor was as big a sphincter as others had concluded. The rumors were true, sometimes opinions are inescapable.

“All clear Chancellor,” said the friendlier of the four unfriendly bodyguards.
“Good. Now stay out here and let me take a crap in piece. If Milgram shows up tell her to wait.”

If there was one thing Ardo Lux couldn’t stand it was a long lead in. Whether it was in a script for one of his videos or even one he didn’t star in, he didn’t like it when it took too long a time to get to the central premise. Usually he was a large part of the central premise in his videos so he got more camera time. In this instance it was the writer of the article about him being voted the second most popular actor of all time. What a windbag. Ardo Lux had read over 700 words of the article and it still hadn’t told him who had beat him and by how much. Ardo was so angry with the writer, one Weerdoo Fontaine, the chief video adjudicator for Insurgent Media. Weerdoo still hadn’t gotten to the point by the time Ardo walked into the bathroom stall door, bounced off of it, then opened it and walked into the stall.

Following Ardo Lux into the bathroom was Koven Modi. Professor Wingut had been called away by a very angry Professor Ugo Draco who wanted to know why the History Department was still interfering in the affairs of Earth Seven. He had a report in his vision that showed another 1,000 remediums had been delivered to the planet in quarantine and in the midst of a famine. Ugo was demanding an interdepartmental transfer, one of the most important transactions at the university. An interdepartmental transfer comes with an interdepartmental case study and Wingut didn’t want Koven’s career ruined for doing what he thought was the right thing to do, that is help someone when they are desperate.

Koven adjusted his blaster to the desired level, dehydrate for the seventh time. He remembered the sight of Ip and his wife as they turned to dust from his weapon. He remembered the horror of it. It wasn’t just the sight of it that was horrible. Much worse was the horror of knowing he had done it. He had taken that most precious thing. He moved into the stall next to Lux and waiting for the sound. The sound of a PPS being removed is identical to the sound of shaking an ancient Earth Five toy called an Etch-a-sketch and is a very subtle sound, you must concentrate to hear it.

Ardo Lux pulled the PPS from his body and hung it on the hook on the inside of the stall door. A moment later he felt a cramp in his stomach and sat down quickly. Now I don’t want to give you the details of what happened next so with your permission we’ll just consider it to be trumpet solo of significant length with variable tones and moments of harmonic emphasis. Doesn’t that sound so much better?

When he heard the shaking of the Etch-a-sketch he climbed on the toilet in the next cubicle. Ardo Lux was ready to be killed. That was the fact of it. But in Koven’s mind it played out as ‘Ardo Lux is ready to be murdered’, a much more difficult consideration. Fortunately for Koven the opening movement of Ardo Lux’s Wind Symphony began and the sound distracted him from the moral dilemma. Unfortunately for Koven he laughed.

“Whose there?” Ardo Lux demanded to know.

Koven was very still. He held his breath for a few seconds until he noticed he was doing it and then began careful slow breathing.

“I heard you laugh. I know you’re there,” Ardo said using his strong baritone from The Plunder of Theraphis, his third highest ranking video.
Koven did not respond.

Ardo Lux’s stomach cramps won out in the end. If he had been cautious he would have jumped up immediately and slapped the PPS back on and waited to go. But his stomach overruled.

“Get out, now” Ardo yelled.

This presented Koven Modi with another layer to his moral dilemma, not only did he have to resolve the question of should he murder someone, but now it included should he do it while they are going to the toilet.

Koven’s decision was a simple yes and no. Yes, he should kill Ardo Lux, although it was not a strong yes, and he’d really rather not do it, but it was his orders and seemed to make the greater good greater or at least more stable and that’s a good thing isn’t it? He considered it a reluctant yes. However on the question of should he kill someone while they are going to the toilet, his answer was a very adamant NO! He would wait until Ardo was finished and stood up to put his PPS back on.

At this point you should probably know about a recent meal eaten by Chancellor Ardo Lux. It was four small steaks from the Succulent Horibactus, two small popcorn potatoes, asparagus spears in olive oil and remu salts, all smothered under a nice Indian curry sauce. The sauce was spicy, almost too much but just under the tolerance bar a little, and most importantly it was made from… yogurt.

“Go ahead, get out. I don’t hear you leaving.”
Still no response.
“You’re going to need a Remedium when I’m finished fucking you up. Now leave while you can still walk.”
Koven was quiet. The wind symphony continued, second movement, Allegro.

It only took a couple of seconds before the change in air composition was noticed by the Aromatron Purification Units. Their analysis was quick and decisive, there was evidence of Yogurt and lots of it.
Imagine if you are sitting on the toilet. Now imagine if the toilet you are sitting on is now returned to its original molecules. It is turned into dust, ceramic dust. There are two things to note about a toilet made of dust. First everything is rather nice and dry, even the contents are now like freeze dried coffee. Nothing disgusting to see at all. The second thing of note about a toilet made of dust is that it will not support any kind of significant weight, much less a somewhat obese person with remarkably smooth skin and deep black eyes. The toilet collapsed and fell and so did Chancellor Lux. All four Aromatron Purification Units had fired in unison at the toilet. Alone they didn’t have enough power to dust it but together, they killed the dirty thing. They began confirmation and rescanning activities again.

The four blue rays that struck the toilet powdered every bit of it down to the floor gasket. The properties of the floor gasket, part number #9271-5732AA.8457BBC3, that are interesting are the reaction to moisture properties. The floor gasket in question swells initially when it first comes in contact with moisture. However, it is a smart gasket from Inter Galaxy Gaskets, so it begins to lose the moisture with time and depends entirely on its own chemical composition in order to keep from leaking. So it swells up at first until it know exactly which size to be then it rearranged its molecule in order to work without moisture. This means that any floor gasket from the Interlerometer series that is older than five years will be hard and brittle. For this reason they are not approved for use in areas of significant seismic activity. The one in our circumstance is eleven years old.

Chancellor Ardo Lux landed on the #9271-5732AA.8457BBC3 with all of his weight. It shattered and splintered. He screamed in pain as one it prone to do with splinters in one’s butt.

Koven saw the blue departicalization beams, saw the dust as it flooded into his stall under gap below the wall, heard the scream and saw Ardo’s hand under the gap below the wall. The cleaning bots were trying to kill the man he was supposed to kill. This is the very fast and largely incorrect assumption made by Koven Modi. The cleaning bots didn’t care about Ardo Lux at all. They successfully attacked the yogurt as programmed. Automate congratulations comms were sent to Duane giving him the details of their victory. They even included a video of the Chancellor and his toilet collapse in their stunning victory by the forces of cleanliness and a grime-free universe.

Koven Modi did what any reasonable person should do when someone else is under attack, that it, give them a hand, even it up a bit, four against one didn’t seem fair. How did he help? Firstly he jumped over the wall of the stall and landed standing in front of a man sitting on the floor screaming about the pain in his ass. Most importantly he was between Ardo Lux and the cleaning bots. He quickly grabbed the PPS suit from the hook on the cubicle door and tossed it behind him then turned up his own again.
“Put it on, quick,” he yelled.
“It hurts too much to get up.”
Koven expected the cleaning bots to continue to fire their departicalization beams and tensed up as he waited for the blast that didn’t come.
“Lay down,” Koven said.
Ardo collapsed onto his back. Koven turned off his PPS, took Ardo’s PPS by the insignia and slapped it on to Lux.
“I’ve got a Remedium, hang on,” said Koven.
Then Koven Modi aimed his blaster carefully at the cleaning bots that were all having a bit of a party celebrating their fourth consecutive victory over the dark forces in the culture wars. They even named it the Battle of Dannon Canyon and were planning on submitting a notice to the History Department about this. Regrettably it only took Koven seven shots to hit the four cleaning bots. He made excuses every time he missed. “I blinked,” he said, which was true but not causal. “Be still” he told one that seemed quite stationary when he missed it. He in fact was talking to it on a molecular and atomic level, a level at which everything is always moving around.`Shit’ was his final commentary on missing a cleaning bot, which could be factual as a descriptor of the cause of the initial hostilities, however it’s analytical value for describing the reason for missing with a blaster was zero. Still making excuses felt better than admitting that he sucked at shooting his blaster. If he admitted he sucked then he was obligated to do something about it. That required more hours at the range, the largest alpha magnet in existence. Think of gun ranges on your own planet. It’s very similar. Koven was not an alpha and never liked being around them. He attracted bullies faster than Coltrane attracted eighth notes.

“We’re safe now,” said Koven.
“Help! Help!” Ardo screamed at the top of his voice.
“It’s OK, we’re safe now.”
“Help! Help!” Ardo yelled again.

The bodyguards were relaxing outside and would have been telling each other about their weekend plans if the concept of a weekend existed anywhere beyond your own planet. And on your own planet you can’t even agree whether it’s Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday. When they heard the yelling they ran into the bathroom. They saw the Chancellor covered in dust and laying on the floor. They rushed over to him.

“Don’t try to move me. It hurts too much. Get a Remedium. There is someone in the room. He’s invisible. Don’t let him escape.”

Koven put his Remedium down on the floor then backed quickly away from it.

“Use mine,” he said and used the photon flashlight on his blaster to point out the newly visible Remedium.
“Thanks,” said one of the bodyguards. “Don’t go nowhere” he added as he picked up the healing device.
“You’re going to have to take off the PPS to use the Remedium,” Koven reminded Ardo Lux.
“You will try to kill me as soon as I take it off,” said Ardo.
“No I won’t.”
“How do I know you are telling the truth?”
“I’m a historian.”
“Bullshit.”
“I’m serious,” said Koven and at that point he moved the refractive medallion around his neck and turned off cloaking. He was now 100% visible.
“I know you,” said Chancellor Lux, “you’re the idiot that killed the writer IP. Modi something.”
“Koven.”
“Yeah that’s it,” replied Ardo Lux in one of an almost infinite number of times that one person has confirmed the identity of a person to that same person as if they didn’t know who they were. The chancellor moved a little and grunted in pain.
“Go ahead, use the Remedium, you’re safe. I promise. I’m a historian.”
“What do you say, boss?” asked one of the bodyguards.

Ardo Lux pulled on the insignia of his PPS and it sprung off of his body. It was at that exact moment in time that Ardo Lux did what many other have done when they removed their PPS. He was disappointed in the shape of his body as represented by the shape of the PPS. He decided that he would be more cautious with his diet in the future. Maybe even do a little exercise. That is, if that little bastard Koven Modi didn’t accidentally kill him.

The bodyguard ran the remedium over Chancellor Lux’s buttocks. Blood covered splinters of the #9271-5732AA.8457BBC were pulled from his backside as if they were nails pulled by a strong magnet. Chancellor Lux grunted in pain and tried to offset the pain by using a his favorite curse involving his mother and a penis. But it didn’t work for him and the pain was intense. Fortunately the Remedium works fast and it repaired his broken butt in less than a minute. You can stand anything for a minute can’t you? The answer to this question may be a resounding ‘no’ if you’ve ever have splinters from a #9271-5732AA.8457BBC3 in your butt.
Pain is peculiarly unique in our universe. It sucks, nobody in their right mind likes it, yet it still happens. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid pain. We’ve invented everything from helmets to airbags to personal protection suits and it still persists. One of the other peculiar features of pain is that it often shuts down other capabilities and activities. In this case the affected activity was acting.

Ardo Lux, the second most popular actor was not acting while he was in pain. It was too overwhelming for him. This is important because Ardo Lux had long ago lost himself in the world of who he was and who he pretended to be. He blended his acting roles into his real life until the mix was just how he liked it. Imagine if you were the actor playing James Bond. After a long day of pretending to save the world, winning at the baccarat tables, sipping champagne with beautiful and dangerous people, going home to the family may seem quite anticlimactic. The name is Bond, Daddy Bond. Now pick up your toys in of the hallway.

Lux had experienced that exact event early in his career, when Stolen License Pictures decided to do a remake of Thunderball because no one could imagine someone with such a small nose as they have on your planet being able to get enough oxygen to their brains to save themselves, much less their world. Sean Connery may be a fine actor but until he has a six inch nose the rest of the universe will not take him seriously. Still Connery became very popular after Bosley Ingram invented nose enhancement videography.

As the Remedium did it’s work and his backside began to feel better he remembered why he came to the bathroom. The article. He did a recall on his visual display as he sort of went navigation nuts while he was in pain and it was now opened on an article about the ten best recipes for custard-free custard. He pulled up the article again and continued…still no name. Who was number one? Who beat him was all he wanted to know. As soon as he knew that, then and only then would he give a shit about the methodology used because it would have to be a problem in the methodology obviously.

The article was a review of Ardo’s career, the highlights both professional and personal. Normally it would have the kind of article that Ardo would savor for long time, like someone eating a meal so tasty that to eat it quickly would be self-robbery. But who beat him? It’s all he wanted to know. He began to skim the rest of the article. He blinked on the ‘Continue’ icon three times, still no names.

“What do you want us to do with him?” asked one of the bodyguards, nodding at Koven.
“Can’t I get a moment of privacy?” Ardo complained. He looked at Koven Modi. The young man had smooth skin but without the right products it would never more than slightly above average in Ardo’s opinion. Despite both Ardo and Koven believing that Koven had saved his life, Ardo’s response on what to do with Koven was less than grateful.
“Teach him a lesson,” said Chancellor Lux. Why did he do this? For two reasons mainly. First he really liked the idea of giving a command to have someone beaten up. They were some of his favorite lines in his videos, his words bringing pain from the hands of others, he liked the power of it, the power to command violence and to aim it. Secondly, he really wanted to finish the damned article and believed that if the others were busy doing something they would leave him alone and he would get to find out who beat him!

Four bodyguards, specialists in protection, specialists in combat. Koven didn’t hesitate, he switched on cloaking immediately and then moved from his last seen position as the four specialist came towards where he used to be.

“Where is he?” yelled the smallest bodyguard.
“I don’t know,” replied the lead bodyguard in charge. Yes, bodyguards have a hierarchy and it is strictly enforced. “Stop shouting,” the lead bodyguard replied.

Four specialists against an invisible historian. It wasn’t really a fair fight. Koven punched the largest man in the groin and followed it with a roundhouse kick to the face when the man fell to his knees. The result was a compound fracture of the nose. The nicest part of this violence, if there is a nice part to any violence was that Koven was invisible, so it was like having only half of a phone conversation, decipherable but looking more like avant-gard dance than a battle.

The second man went down to a foot sweep followed with a hard punch in the forehead when the head being punched was about an inch from the floor. It caused his head to bounce of the floor and hit Koven’s fist again. The second bodyguard began an involuntary nap on the dusty floor of the bathroom.

“What?” yelled Ardo Lux. “Continue to Part Two? Are you kidding me? This is bovine excrement. Who is the wet sphincter that wrote this? I’m going to call his editor and give him a word or two, I tell you, they will be sorry they ever published this article.”

The third bodyguard was propelled by a blaster across the vast bathroom and into the wall with the sinks, where a head first arrival ended any thoughts of opposition. Koven stood looking confused. He didn’t do that. When it happened again to the fourth bodyguard, Koven knew the answer because Wingut turned off cloaking when the last bodyguard was moaning and groaning on the floor.

“What are you doing Koven? Have you abandoned your mission?”
Koven did not respond. Ardo Lux was busy trying to get to Part Two of the article.
“Yes,” replied Koven finally.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not going to register to get to read Part Two. You teasing little bastards. You want to flood me with messages of stuff you have for sale. I don’t think so. Jerks.”

Chancellor Ardo Lux looked up and noticed Professor Wingut.
“What are you doing here?” Lux demanded to know.
“Finding out why Koven Modi didn’t kill you.”
“Kill me? He saved my life. See those four little piles of dust? They tried to kill me.”
Wingut looked at Koven. “Is this true?”
Koven mistakenly nodded his head and softly spoke, “yes”.
“Why?” asked Wingut with a furrowed brow.
“Why? Why didn’t I kill someone? Because I don’t want to kill people. I really don’t,” said Koven Modi with a desperate tone that echoed the history of many men in uniform before him.
“But…” Koven cut off Wingut’s response.
“Listen I understand the greater good, I get expected body count and why keeping it as low as possible is a good thing. It saves lives. I get it, I really do. I even understand that sometimes we can save many lives at the cost of a single life. It all makes sense to me. It does. I understand it and can not dispute the logic of it. It’s just that I don’t want to be the person that kills. I just can’t.”

I must point out at the time that Koven Modi has made a personal judgment that goes against all logic. It is a standard paradox across the universe, I believe you even have a name for it, the Hitler Time Machine Paradox. If you could go back in time to 1920’s Germany, would you kill Hitler? Koven has come down on one side of the paradox. I am required to mention at this point that if left to me, Herr Hitler’s dead body would be found in the gutter where it belongs. Cut his throat and move on. Plus 25 to 30 million for the greater good. Koven arrived at an answer I would not.

“I can’t” were words that made Chancellor Ardo Lux feel much better. But what made him feel best of all was that his Personal Protection Suit was turned up to the maximum setting. This setting was confirmed a moment later when Professor Wingut shot his blaster at Lux and it illuminated the protective shell around him.

“Shit,” said Wingut.
“Done,” replied Lux. “You can’t hurt me you incompetent fool.”

Koven had moved over near Lux and had taken back his Remedium. He knelt down beside the bodyguard that did the head first crash into the wall. The broken neck was put back in place and the vertebrae damage was repair. The bodyguard was moaning in pain.

“It’ll be alright in just a minute,” said Koven.
“Thank you,” came the pained reply from a face distorted into a river of frowns and contortions.
“We need a resolution to this,” said Wingut and the moment he said it he realized how obvious it was.
“Resolution to what?” Ardo Lux demanded to know.
“To you,” replied Wingut. He fired his blaster at Ardo again, just in case he had turned off his PPS. Lux smiled at him and and gave him the middle digit of disapproval.
“That’s it, you are removed from your position, effectively immediately. You’re a disgrace,” said Lux.

Koven was busy bringing back the last of the bodyguards who were none too happy about being beaten up by a kid and an old fat man.

“You don’t have the authority to do that,” replied Wingut. “Only the Council of Professors can remove me from my job.”
“You’re trying to kill me and that’s a crime. I’m removing you from your position for being a criminal.”
“Your reasoning is incorrect.”

Professor Misers Plunk came into the bathroom. When he saw Koven, Wingut were visible, he made himself visible too.

“Why is he still alive,” said Plunk with an angry tone. He fired his blaster at Lux illuminating his protective shell.
“You’re fired too, you moronic baboon,” replied an angry Lux.
“Shut up, you incompetent thug,” said Plunk and shot at Lux again. The egg shape around him was visible.
“Stop it,” Lux demanded angrily. Plunk responded by shooting him again just to annoy him.
“Stop it, or I swear I’ll kill you with my bare hands,” said Lux.
“Well come on then,” said Plunk. “Bring it on, let’s see what you’ve got.”
Plunk began to move around, bouncing on his toes, similar to a very famous boxer on your planet, the one who changed his name and said very profound things about being treated poorly and about motivation. Problem was that Plunk was close to 300 pounds and this made made the movements of this large man look more like dance moves than boxing moves. He danced over to Lux and from a distance of 2 meters shot hit blaster at him.

Lux rushed at Plunk who responded by turning on his own PPS. The result was that two protective bubble thumped together knocking both men off their feet inside of their PPS. Lux got to his feet and ran into Plunk again, who was too busy laughing and taunting the angry Lux to get back on his feet.

“Come get some hurt, you idiot,” Plunk yelled at Lux who crashed his protective bubble into Plunks and fell down again.

I am required by law and license to mention at this point that Plunk’s use of the term ‘idiot’ was inaccurate. Idiot is a former legal and psychological term that denotes profound intellectual disability. An idiot is someone with a mental age of two years old or less that is not capable of handling common dangers such as open manhole covers, crossing the street, and the state of Mississippi. Technically he could be sent for license review due to his use of this term. But I’m not going to tell, Wingut and Koven won’t tell, and the three of us will beat the snot out of you if you say anything.

“Stop it,” yelled Koven. He turned his PPS to the max and then ran in between Lux and Plunk who were sitting in their bubbles taking a brief rest before resuming hostilities.

The four bodyguard realized that Lux was beyond their capability to protect. In fact, he was more capable of protecting them than they were of protecting him. Two of them had already exited the bathroom and were standing at the entrance to it. The other two stood watched two fat men trying to hurt each other and failing.

“We need to resolve this peacefully,” said Koven.
“No,” yelled Plunk and Lux in unison.
“I’m going to kill you,” said Lux.
“I’m going to try to kill you,” replied Plunk.

“I’ll bet a hundred on the other guy,” said one of the bodyguards.
“You’re on. I’ll take Lux,” replied the other bodyguard.
“Get ready to pay up, fool,” said the first bodyguard.
“Ha. No way. Lux is one bad motherf….”
“Watch your mouth.”
“But I’m talking about Lux,” complained the man who bet on him.

Now both men rushed at each other with Koven in between them. Plunk arrived first and he hit Koven’s PPS shell with all of his weight which cause Koven’s PPS bubble to be moved and was immediately followed by Lux’s collision with his bubble. The result was like being a billiard ball that is hit by two moving balls, Koven was knocked down and spun over against the wall of the bathroom.

With Koven out of the way both men looked at each other again.

“I’m going to kill you, then I’m going to have sex with your mother as soon as I find a bag to put over her head,” said Lux.

Some insults transcend a single planet, a single galaxy. Add to this that it had not been long since the death of Thrifty Plunk, a woman who was so devoted to her only son that she broke into his school in order to change the grades on his aptitude tests. Misers had shown aptitude for the professions of plumber, carpenter, and game show host but his mother wanted much more for her son.

“Take off your PPS. Let’s settle this like men,” said Plunk.
“You first, you have the weapon” said Lux.

Misers Plunk pulled on the insignia of his PPS and it snapped off of his body.
“Now the weapon,” demanded Lux.

Misers Plunk turned to Koven and tossed the weapon to him. “I’ll want that back when I’m done with this idiot.” At this point I am required by…wait I’ve already…oh, nevermind.

“Your turn,” said Plunk.

These were the last words that Plunk spoke before he lost consciousness due to being hit on the back of the head by Wingut, who quickly caught the large man body and lowered him gently to the floor.

“Give me the blaster,” demanded Lux.
“No,” replied Koven.
“Kill him,” Lux yelled at the two remaining bodyguards.
“Zero chance, boss. We’ll just get beat up again,” said the larger of the two. “I mean I’ll try if you really want me to and offer a little bonus money regardless of outcome but I can tell you now that it will be a waste of effort. Sorry boss. All pain, no gain.”

Let me point out the importance of the use of the word ‘boss’. As you have surmised by now, or haven’t been paying attention due to taking a speed reading course that not only guarantees that you can read 500 words a minute but that you will comprehend less than half of them and remember less than 5% of them, anyway planets in the confederation are largely employee owned and managed. Work teams make their own decisions about what to produce and when. Because of this the word ‘boss’ had largely fallen into disuse. Lux intended to bring it back into fashion and all of that employee self management crap would have to go. If he was going to be the boss then self-management would not work well as the ‘little people’ as he called them would want to do their own thing, not follow his orders.

Wingut knelt over Plunk and began to use his Remedium on him.

“What happened,” asked a bleary eyed Plunk as he regained consciousness.
“You lost consciousness,” replied Wingut.
“Why?”
“Someone struck you on the head.”
“Who hit me?”
“I did,” confessed Wingut.

Plunk who was nearly fully recovered from his head trauma got onto his knees then to his feet.

“Why?”
“It seemed like the right move at the time. One of you were going to get killed and you had significantly increased the probability of it being you when you took your PPS off for your man vs man finish.”
“Still I would have prevailed,” said Plunk as he gave Wingut a hand getting up.
“But what if you had slipped? You know how bathroom floors can be sometimes. They get wet and that makes them slippery. What if you had slipped on a wet bit of flooring at the wrong time and Lux had been able to stab you to death with a flexible bidet. It’s possible that you could have been killed. I couldn’t let that outcome ever happen. I’m not willing to lose my best friend to his own anger.”

Plunk didn’t reply at first. He was trying to decide which questions to ask. There were two. Question One: Is this bathroom really fitted with flexible bidets? Question Two: Am I really your best friend? I agree with his choice.

“Am I really your best friends?” asked Plunk with the innocence of a seven year old.
“Of course. You have been for years. I apologize, should have told you. I should work on being more expressive. But you know the job fits tight in places, especially relationships.”

Inside Plunk was intensely happy. Intellectually he was celebrating being best friends with an excellent academic, a leading purveyor of truth. In that part of his brain they were sipping scotch by a fire on a cold night in Edinburgh. On the more emotional side of his brain his inner seven year old was dancing and yelling, ‘my best friend saved the universe. That’s my best friend and Wingut is his name. That’s spelled Capital W, Capital I, Capital N, Capital G, Capital U, Capital T. Wingut.’

One of the two bodyguards at the entrance entered the bathroom.
“There’s someone here to see you,” he said to Ardo Lux.
“Who?”
“Says he’s the ambassador from the Android Republic. Calls himself Dru. Nice gold robe.”

Chapter Forty

Domus Silas

Dru was a little disoriented when he entered the bathroom, he hadn’t expected a bathroom. And it was white, very white, white enough that he noticed his lenses tinted slightly to protect his eyes. The second thing he noticed were the aerosol nanites. They had a fresh lemon sent as they scrubbed the air. The third thing he noticed was the huge amount of dust that seem to come from one of the rest room cubicles. He had expected to conduct his introduction in a formal office setting, perhaps even a meeting with many attendees. Instead he was in the bathroom and he quickly understood two things. There was some sort of conflict going on and the people in the bathroom had probably not washed their hands yet.

“Chancellor Lux, I am the ambassador from the Android Republic.”
Lux pointed at Dru the way people do instinctively when they recognize who they’re talking to.
“I know you, You’re Alyser’s brother,” said Ardo Lux. “Welcome.”
“Her what?” Asked Dru.
“Her brother. You are her brother aren’t you?”
“No I am not.”
“Wait a minute, I was here first,” said Plunk.
Dru and Ardo Lux ignored Plunk. After a few seconds Lux replied.
“Oh, I get it. You were the one she left behind. I’ve created a lot of your type.” He gave Dru a taunting smile.
“Your heart rate is elevated, as is your blood pressure. You should begin your breathing routine,” said Rusa Internal.
Dru took a deep breath.
“Listen,” Lux continued, “how about we leave it up to her, alright? That seems fair, doesn’t it?”
“More breathing,” Rusa Internal suggested.
“What, do you have feline aphasia?”
“No,” said Dru. He had never been this angry before.
“Well, I don’t want you to get all hopeful that she will choose you. I mean look at you. Your skin is in bad shape, I mean, who is your skin consultant? Whoever it is should be fired. You’re young, you have that going for you. But look at what you’ve done with your youth, you’ve squandered it on everything but beauty.”

Dru’s made a fist with his fingers.

“You should know that he is wearing a personal protection suit. Any attempt to harm him will fail as long as he’s wearing it,” said Rusa Internal.
“Shit,” said Dru.
“Well you’re certainly in the right place for it,” replied Lux with a chuckle.
“Listen, can we get back to our priorities?” asked Wingut. He too was ignored by Dru and Lux.
“I’ll do you a favor, since we’re in a bathroom already. I’ll show you what you’re up against,” said Lux as he opened his robe.

I am required by license and law to mention that what everyone saw was not real. I mean it was real in the sense that it had mass and dimensions, there is absolutely not dispute about that. However by real I mean something that was actually a normal part of Ardo’s body.

What everyone saw was the Model 8.l5 Custom Dominator, the latest in prosthetic penises, now with glide on clamping technology that keeps it firmly in place no matter what the activity. As the ad in the back of the e-mag promised, ‘be the biggest dick in your neighborhood’. It offered enhanced custom analytics so that it will adopt a matching skin tone of the wearer.

Ardo had opted for the Sunbather option, which made it look like he tanned in the nude. What Ardo soon discovered was that the Sunbather Option required him to either actually sunbathe in the nude or put makeup on his butt cheeks to make it look like he had. But the most expensive option was the two way pleasure technology which permits the wearer to keep it on during sex. It will offer the wearer pleasure via the built-in micro masseurs.

All Night Long Industries guarantees that the users of their products will avoid discovery in all instances except one. Should someone bite hard into the Custom Dominator, they would find themselves with a mouth full of a custom polymer, tiny filament wires and nano motors. But other than that, no one will ever know…or double your money back (some restrictions apply).

“That’s what you think is important? You think she will choose you because of that?” asked Dru although it was more accusation than question.
“You are as stupid as she said you were.”

Dru wanted to hit Ardo Lux very much.

“He’s trying to goad you into anger,” said Rusa Internal.
“I know he is and he’s very good at it,” replied Dru.
“Perhaps you should concentrate on your official capacity,” Rusa responded.
“Not just this,” said Ardo closing his robe. “I’ve got money and I live a great life. She’s no fool. She smart enough to know that I can offer her so much more.”
“Fuck this,” said Dru and he turned to leave.
“You can’t leave, you need to give them the present,” said Rusa Internal.
“I’ll come back,” said Dru.
“Come back here, tiny dick. I’m not finished humiliating you,” yelled Ardo Lux with a grin on his smooth face.

Dru moved quickly to the exit of the bathroom. The bodyguard looked at him and noticed the tears in his eyes. He had seen several people leave his bosses in tears.

The ‘present’ being offered by the Android Republic was the only copy of the oldest book in creation. It was so old that it preceded the invention of language and writing. Indeed it preceded the start of the universe. It was found buried in the rubble that make up the Molliere Rings, those rings at the edge of the universe. On the edge of the Finite Void scientists have been able to count the number of instances of our universe. 1,143 instances so far. Each time we self-destruct.

By an accident in mapping, Rusty 6.669321 was operating the scrapper when the small ball of Gravisum, fell into the hopper and seconds later broke the tines on the separator. Rusty 6.669321 retrieved the ball and noticing it was heavier than anything else of similar size, he set it aside for further analysis.

The present was in fact a history of the eighth iteration of the universe. It was assembled by historians in the eighth iteration who had the foresight to see that their iteration was doomed so they created a history of every thing they did wrong and buried it in the center of a neutron star. The small ball that fell into Rusty’s hopper was all that was left after the destruction of the universe. It became a tiny part of the eighth ring, that dusty edge of the universe.

Dru wiped his eyes as he moved down the hallway towards the elevator. The hallway was filled with guardians that had gathered to support their leader and to bludgeon the university eggheads should their supreme leader lift the moratorium on giving people a good old fashioned whacking. Some of them snickered when they saw Dru wiping his tears. He was almost at the elevators when the voice called out to him.

“Dru, Dru. Hey Dru,” the voice called.

Dru turned towards the voice he knew so well.

“Hello Alyser,” he said as calmly as he could.

The woman he had come to see, the woman he wanted to wake up beside for the rest of his life, the woman that he loved more than anything was standing in front of him and he couldn’t think of anything to say because he wanted to say it all at one time. Millions of words of love and devotion formed a traffic jam in his brain and a result nothing came out his mouth.

“It’s good to see you again,” she said as she reached him. She leaned forward and gave him the universal friend but not a lover kiss on the cheek.
“You look well,” he said. What he wanted to say was ‘I’d defeat the armies of the Goodness Empire if that’s what it took to win your love’ but nothing came out.
“Can you help me? I’ve been trying to find Ardo. We have this thing we do every afternoon,” she said.

Then she remembered that it was the same thing she used to do with Dru every afternoon. She decided to ignore her mistake. “I’ve heard he’s up on this floor. Have you seen him?”
“Yes. He’s in the bathroom,” Dru replied.
“Thanks,” she said as she started to walk away.
“We need to talk,” Dru said.
“Why? What about?” asked Alyser from a distance.
“Us.”
“Us? You’re still on about that? Sorry, I don’t have time. I’m late for that thing. Maybe tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” said Dru as he felt like someone had just removed a vital organ from him, leaving a hole he was able to feel physically although it was all in his mind.

Rusa Internal had been silent throughout the exchange. She knew Dru had to face this alone, she also had calculated that his chances of success were very slim. What else can you do? You let them crash then you make sure you have tissues and tea handy.

Alyser walked quickly, almost running towards the bathroom. Dru got onto the elevator and headed down to the ground floor. He would go back to his ship.

“Hey, Leon wants to know if you are up for a game of chess?” Rusa Internal asked.
“No.”
“You want to watch a video? There is the new science fiction video, Blankstar. I know you’ve been waiting for that one to finally come out.”
“No.”
“I know it hurts. I wish I could share the hurt with you so you wouldn’t have to bear it all.”
“Can I be alone for awhile?”
“Sure. Just let me know if you need anything.”

Dru got off the elevator and left the building. He went for a long walk, one that didn’t end until the middle of the next day.

Meanwhile back in the bathroom Misers Plunk still wanted to kill Ardo Lux.

“Come on, show me how tough you are,” said Misers Plunk trying a tactic he learned at an early age in the schoolyard of the Pinchon School for the Exceptional.
“You really think you can beat me, you fat piece of ogre,” replied Lux.
“Stop it,” Koven yelled. “I’m sick of us settling our differences with violence. I’m sick of it. If you both are as smart as you say you are, you should be smart enough to work out your differences.” Koven stepped directly between Lux and Plunk.
“Get out of the way,” said Plunk.
“You’re fine where you are, kid,” replied Lux.
“Fuck it, I quit,” said Koven. The two bodyguards in the bathroom exchanged glances.
“You can’t quit,” Wingut said quickly.
“Yes he can,” said Plunk.
“Shut up, Misers,” replied Wingut and he turned towards Koven. “I know you don’t like it and you’re right. We should be able to reach a compromise.”
“I’m not compromising with him,” said an angry Plunk.
“Likewise, fatty” replied Lux.
“As long and this incompetent fool is the Chancellor I will stand in opposition,” Plunk spit out his words.
“Listen you over-sized bag of bovine-produced fertilizer, I didn’t want your precious Chancellor’s job. I just ran for the position because I needed the money, you fool. Shani is paying me a bundle to deliver the New Department. Personally, I can’t stand you or your university. You are nothing but a bunch of intellectual snobs who think you are right about everything because you have complex answers to simple questions. You stand against common sense at every turn. You are so stupid you believe you can calculate the future. Then you kill people because bad things might happen. Might happen! Not did happen. Not happening. Might happen. That’s all it takes. That is not only the most dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, it’s the dumbest thing in the universe and you’re all too busy thinking your clever to see how stupid you are. Well just you wait. I’m going to blow the lid off your little army of assassins. Soon the entire universe will know about your field historians…know what they really are, nothing but cold blooded killers.”
“You don’t understand,” replied Wingut before Ardo cut him off.
“That’s what you say to everyone who questions you. You don’t understand is just your way of calling other people stupid. Well in the short time I’ve been here I have figured out one thing for sure, you are the stupid ones. Don’t you remember that the simplest solutions are the best ones? Have you forgotten that? You teach it, but you don’t practice it.”

I should point out that Chancellor Lux wasn’t paying much attention in school on the day they covered parsimony. He got it nearly correct as do most humans on your planet, where it is known as Occam’s Razor. The key principle that he missed is not the complexity of the solution and selecting the simplest solution, but rather selecting the solution that has the lowest number of assumptions made in the solution. This is an important distinction as the simplest is not always the one with the least assumptions. It may often be the best, but there is no guarantee it will be. This is the subtle point that Lux and many others miss entirely. On your planet it is named after an English Franciscan friar William of Ockham. William was a scholastic philosopher and theologian. This only reminds us that someone can be very clever in one area and completely uninformed in another.

Plunk shook his head from side to side. He looked at Wingut who shrugged his shoulders.
“You did it for the money?” asked Koven.
“Did I stutter boy?” replied Lux. I should point out to you that calling a grown man a boy is still a verbal insult, unless both parties are very old, say over one million days old. Under those circumstances it is likely to illicit a chuckle.
“So if we pay you, you’ll go away?” asked Koven.
“It’s not that simple. I have a reputation, I am a star, the biggest. Stars just don’t go away.”
Lux is speaking of the Theory of Entrances and Exits, developed by Professor Beetly Davis of the Theater and Other Pretending Activities Department. Her research indicates that by a wide margin the most popular media personalities, that is everyone from musicians to actors to life style coaches, make sure that their entrances and exits are grand events with wide-spread media coverage and contain elements designed to make the rest of us envious.

As for his claim to be the biggest star, I think you already the answer to that.

“What about if you become Chancellor Emeritus?” asked Koven.
“They have those?” asked Lux.
“No. No way are we letting him leave with people thinking he is some wise old sage relieved of his duties to enjoy his twilight years,” said Plunk.
“Shut up, Misers,” said Wingut quickly.
“Yes,” said Koven. “We currently have three of them. All respected and revered.”
“Respected and revered. Hmmm…” replied Lux.
“Of course,” said Wingut quickly, “you will still continue to receive the full Chancellor compensation package.”

Koven looked at Wingut in disbelief and with good reason too. 63 percent compensation was the standard package for retired professors, including chancellors.
“This is outrageous,” said Plunk. “I will not stand here and watch you make a deal with the most incompetent person to ever hold the position.” Plunk started walking towards the exit, his feet puffing up dust as he stomped his way forward. He looked at Wingut.

“And as for being your best friend, consider my resignation for that position to be effective immediately.” Plunk’s words were angry and they hurt Wingut’s feelings.
“Quite the little drama queen isn’t he?” asked Lux a few seconds after Plunk had left.
“He cares deeply,” replied Wingut.
“What about the advertising royalties?” asked Lux.
“You will continue to receive those,” replied Wingut.
“Excellent.”

Koven was now very worried. Wingut had just ceded the News Department to the new management. He knew it was a terrible idea but he didn’t want to argue with his mentor during a negotiation. The universe would end up with propaganda factories on a par with Fox, CNN, BBC, and hundreds of others on your planet.

“What about my people? Roger Ducky, Milgram and Lo?”
“I don’t see why they can’t continue in their current positions,” replied Wingut.

Koven wondered just what Wingut was doing? Was he trading the New Division for the Field Historian program? Was he really trading away an informed electorate for a team of history changing killers? Longterm this would cripple the system of direct democracy. The referendums would become nothing more than popularity contests and manipulated opinions, all of it dumbed down to appeal to the newly created vox populi, the uninformed.

Lux was wondering the same thing.

“What do you get out of this?” he asked.
“Several things,” said Wingut. “Firstly, most things return to how they used to be. The History Department and the Field Historian Program will continue. This is vital to our survival.”
“You really think your calculator, what’s it called?”
“Calcus Majoris,” replied Wingut.
“You really think it can predict the future?”
“I would not use those words for it, but yes, in principle,” replied Wingut.
“Wow, the level of stupidity is staggering,” replied Lux. Wingut just looked at him and smiled.
“What else do you get out of it?” Lux demanded to know.
“I also get my old job back. I kind of liked being Chancellor,” he said.
“Seriously? You like having to listen to all these boring old farts?”
“It helps if you are one,” replied Wingut with a tight lipped smile.
“You just want the power for yourself,” replied Lux.

Wingut did not answer him.

“What about the Chancellor’s residence? I’ll need a nice place to live…and much nicer than you can ever imagine.”
“I am very good friends with Professor Domus Silas, the architect,” said Wingut.
“The Domus Silas?” asked Lux.
“Yes.”
“I lived in one of his houses before. It was incredible. I had a stream running through the living room and a zero gravity bedroom. I should never have sold that house. Best place I’ve ever lived. So innovative.”
“Yet if you knew him you would be surprised how humble his own house is,” replied Wingut.
“No kidding?”
“It’s true. It’s less than 100 square meters.”
“Wow, that’s the size of the bathroom in the house he designed that I had. Are you sure that you can get him to design a house for me?”
“He owes me a favor for getting him home from an awards ceremony after he got drunk.”
“I’ll need a nice place for my new house.”
“Why not put it on a planet where your movies are most popular?” Koven interjected with more of a blurt than a polite addition to the conversation.
“Boy, you might not be as stupid as I thought you were,” said Lux with a smile.

As luck would have it, Ardo Lux’s videos were extremely popular on Litore, a planet made up entirely of islands and isthmuses, a few of which have mountains which offer spectacular views. It only took Koven a couple of seconds with the interface before he was able to project a satellite hologram of the planet for Lux to review.

“I’ve been there,” he said excitedly. “It’s a paradise, pure paradise.” Lux smiled broadly.

He watched the hologram image rotate and saw the major island chain and the capital city of Beskyttede Havn. A frown came to his face.

“But I want to make more videos. That will require funding and planning. Telling a two hour story in video is a lot of work. A lot of actors are required. We even need directors, videographers, editors, a long list of peons. If I retired onto my own island, I’ll have to give up my dream of making more videos.”
“Why? Why not let the Theater Department help you? They have trained script writers, and have educated most of the important directors working today and are on a first name basis with them. Let them help you make the best video you can.”
“But all of that costs money,” countered Lux.
“Inter-department transfer,” replied Wingut. “The History Department produces a large surplus every year. We usually just return it to the General Fund or waste it on extravagant meetings in exotic places. We can easily transfer some or all of the surplus to the Theater Department to pay for your comeback.”
“It’s not a comeback,” Lux said angrily.
“I’m sorry. My vocabulary is limited in areas where I have little experience,” replied Wingut.

Now the two bodyguards in the bathroom were not idle during all of this. One of them had moved over to stand about one meter behind Lux with his arms folded across his chest and his usual bad ass wide stance. However on his heads up display he was watching cartoons from Nudus, the planet were the weather is a constant 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and sunny, and by consent decree clothing is optional. The cartoon characters were all naked.

The other bodyguard was in the last stall all the way at the other end of the bathroom. He was dealing with a rather upset stomach and was providing occasional evidence via the melodic butt trumpet sounds.

“It’s not a comeback because I never left,” replied Lux. “Even when I wasn’t releasing a new video I made sure that I was in the public eye. So I never really left my fans. I couldn’t do that. They need me.”

Wingut had nothing to say about that as it would require a level of psychoanalysis that was beyond his cursory understanding of it. Koven was very happy that Wingut was helping to reach a compromise that would require nobody to be killed. However, he was worried that Wingut had given away far too much in order to save the Field Historian Program and Calcus Majoris.
“So do we have a deal?” asked Wingut.
Ardo Lux had just negotiated a deal better than he had with Shani. The Theater Department would finance his next video where he had expected to pay for it out of his own pocket.
“Yes. I will need to discuss it with Shani but I am sure that he will agree. He gets the News Department and that’s all he ever wanted. He’s buying broadcast stations, as many as he can. Once he has control of the News Department his monopoly will be within reach.”
“Then we have a deal,” said Wingut.
“We do indeed,” said Lux and both men came together and shook hands.
“Good because I’m hungry,” said Wingut.
“A hungry man must eat,” said a smiling Lux.
“One thing first,” said Wingut. He removed a Remedium from the pocket of his robe and walked down to the far cubicle. He set it down on the floor then pushed it with his foot under the door.
“Thanks,” said the bodyguard. “Damned Lentils.”

And so it was the Shani Culus gave his agreement for the deal. He found Ardo Lux to be a real pain in the ass anyway so with him out of the way, he could run the News Department as he wished. In fact, he was going to move it away from Centrum Kath and bring it to Infelos Neso where he could keep a close eye on it.