at the University of Centrum Kath
by Steve M
Yeah, I wrote this. Blame no one else.
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.
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.
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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
“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, 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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?”
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.
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?”
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.
“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?”
“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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
“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?”
“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?”
“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?”
“Are you capable of harming them?”
“Can you kill them?”
“I don’t believe you,” said Zero.
Rusa 1.21937849 then provided proof. Seven times.
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.
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?”
“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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Henry Alpos, Philanthroper
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.
“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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
The Fairness Doctrine
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.
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 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.”