Friday, September 27, 2013

Learning Curve, 10 of 12

            10. Looting

            Starbase Gandalf, Starbase Gandalf on moon Gollum, this is Redshirt,  Lieutenant Redshirt of the SS Undertaker, lasering in report of Liberty, planet 3, fly-by recon.
            My trajectory took me past Liberty, Liberty’s moon Columbia, Columbia’s moon Sam, and orbiting Sam, the local seat of government: the Department of Redundancy Department.
            Weather on Liberty various. Ammonia-water hurricanes in the Sea of Autarky.
            Climate on Columbia stable. Rain and snow every night, clearing throughout the 700-kilosecond day. Winter at midnight, summer at noon, everywhere on the tide-locked moon.
            All habitats have been replicated in full. Jefferson and Franklin are fully reconstituted, as are all the minor settlements, each with its own replicator unit. Each without exception was replicated. Each had been destroyed.
            According to local broadcasts, the truce is holding. I have contacted the local government at DORD about this, but dialog was unproductive.
            It turns out that, in response to recent crisis, there are now three DORD habitats, two of them unoccupied. They’re redundant Department of Redundancy Departments.
            That’s business as usual at DORD. Life goes on. You’d think that nothing at all had happened lately. You’d think that nobody had died. You’d think that everybody was still alive.
            No enemy activity detected.
            Redshirt out.

                                                            #          #          #

Columbia is the second-most populous world, though the oldest-settled. Barren prior to humanity's arrival, the settlers  brought in water, air, and bacteria, and by standard methods (pioneered on old Mars) got a marginally habitable artificial ecosystem running within 350 years; and that was two centuries before Rosie was declared open to colonization. The ecosystem is still approaching equilibrium, has instabilities, and will be unusual in any case.
Columbia is tide-locked to Liberty, with a day-orbit eight old-Earth days long. The Columbian climate is dominated by dayside evaporation and nightside precipitation. The Columbians divide the Columbian 'day' into these 'hours'; Columbian 'noon' to Columbian '3 p.m.' is "Sundee"; generally hot and humid; ponds and streams dry up. 3-6 p.m. is "Mundee", cooling and turning cloudy and windy as sunset approaches. 6-9 p.m. is "Toozdee"; dark and rainy. 9 - Columbian midnight is "Wenzdee", with rain turning to sleet and snow. Midnight to 3 a.m. is "Warezdee", with snowfall turning back into sleet. 3-6 a.m. is "Thurzdee", drying off as dawn approaches. 6-9 a.m. is "Frydee", warming and clearing as the sun rises; 9 - noon is "Satterdee", warm and clear. Thus Columbia's day is its week is its month is its year.
Its largest settlements are Jefferson and Franklin.  The Columbians put all their bureaucrats on a habitat orbiting Sam: the Department of Redundancy Department, so called because it is a moon of a moon of a moon.
Columbia’s primary, Liberty, is uninhabitable and unterraformable. Its stable bacterial ecology supports a thick atmosphere (23 old-Earth atmosphere pressure) containing methane, ammonia, ethane, and traces of chlorine, carbon monoxide and cyanide. Any change to an oxygen atmosphere would require complete ecocide first, would probably not succeed, would take millions of years to succeed if it did, and would demand centralized discipline over the anarchic Columbians. The planet also has a surface gravity of 2.16; life-shortening for the 0.75-acclimated Columbians. Instead of going there themselves, they virtual-tour via telepresence robotics.
                                                            #          #          #

            It was on planet Roseanne; on the temperate southerly continent Samantha, in the city of Barbie: the fashionable part of Barbie, of course. It was in the district that used to be all about big finance, when money still meant anything. Now the movers and shakers of this moving-and-shaking district are up to speed; they know the score; and fashion, baby, and entertainment, my friend, that’s where it’s at. Money was so old-paradigm; now it’s all about glamour.
            So where else would Goldie Digger put her digs? Yes, it was Goldie’s own pad, there among the movers and shakers, that she paid for with her own money, gotten by moving and shaking -- and singing and dancing, and some light acting. Starhood Hath Its Privileges.
            One of those privileges (as she wrote, in one of her daily emails to her college-roommate BFFs Frannie and Rosie) was “seeing the look on the face of the banker-guy who had to sell me his house! Yep, it was the same stuffy old twit who swindled me out of the take on my first album! He’s out, I’m in, so there!
            So the following happened in Goldie’s own little McMansion.
            The replicator went ZWEEEENNNNGGG…
            Within the replicator chamber, multicolored plasma streams converged and condensed. A human figure materialized.
            Hamilton Meeper winced, shook his head, and wailed, “Ay-yi-yi!”
            ... which was not his usual replication cry.
            He stumbled out of the replication chamber, and fell into Goldie Digger’s arms. “There, there,” she said. He shivered and she patted him on the back. “You’re with a friend.”
            “A friend… that’s all… I… needed,” Meeper said.
            “Meeper! You didn’t do that creepy  Meeper thing just now!”
            “First person singular, yes ay-yi-I know,” Meeper gasped, sweating and panting. “It’s difficult for m- m- m- Meeper. For me,” he corrected himself, “to use the first-person singular. It’s the result of… counter-conditioning.”
            “Counter-conditioning? What do you mean?”
            “They permitted Meeper no self-identity. Self-reference was… punishable.”
            “No youness for you?” He nodded. Goldie wailed, “That’s awful!
            Meeper stepped back and held Goldie at arm’s length. They were the exact same height. He looked Goldie boldly in the eyes. “I told him.”
            “What did you tell him?”
            “The truth.”
            “Oh, I see!” said Goldie. “Well no wonder he vaporized you!”
            “Ay-yi-I openly defied Overlord Malvolio. M- m- m- ”
            “Say ‘me’,” said Goldie.
            “M- m- m- ” He sighed and said, “Meeper.”
            “Oh well,” Goldie Digger said. “Old habits die hard.”
            "Speaking of dying," said Meeper, “I just did it, and ay-yi-I still feel a bit faint…”
            Goldie Digger led Meeper to a couch, which he collapsed into while Goldie went to the replicator. A moment later she was sitting on the couch next to him, and handing him a mug of hot chocolate. “Nothing like hot chocolate for bringing me back from the dead, maybe it’ll work on you,” she said.
            He sipped, smiled, and nodded. “He ordered m-me to do something, and ay-I told him I refuse. He told m-me to comply, to say Meeper complies, but I said no, I refuse, I refuse. In those words, knowing full well that such boldness will get m-me vaporized.”
            Goldie nodded. “When Malvolio fires you, he really fires you!”
            “But ay-yi-I was prepared. That scanning crystal, the one you gave m-me; I was wearing it; along with a data crystal.” He looked her in the eyes. “You were my lifeline.”
            “Scanning crystal plus distant friend with replicator,” said Goldie. “That’s the replicator society equivalent of fuck-you money.”
            “An accurate accounting,” Meeper said, and took another gulp of hot chocolate. “The last thing… I remember is saying to Malvolio, do you know what you really are, O Galactic Overlord? Then ay-yi-I squeezed high-rez. Hard.”
            Goldie said, “You were about to diss him?!”
            Meeper said, “And I said, you’re not galactic, that’s pure hype that nobody believes, there’s no FTL!”
            “You did diss him!”
            “I told him, all you are is a Stellar Overlord! If even that!”
            “And that’s when he blasted you!”
            “Wow! But wait a minute… you remember this?”
            “Plain as day, it just happened to m-me!”
            “But didn’t you just scan yourself at hi-rez?”
            Meeper furrowed his brow. “Why yes… I did.”
            “And a scan crystal takes a few dekaseconds to recharge after hi-rez… so how could you remember what you told him right afterwards?”
            “You’re right! You mean… it’s all a screen memory?”
            “Everything after you scanned yourself,” said Goldie. “But I bet it’s true anyhow. You were about to say that, you were determined to say that, so you did say it, and you even remember saying it, even though you couldn’t remember saying it. Does that make sense?”
            Meeper sighed. “As much sense as m-my life ever did.”
            “Say, how did you smuggle that scan crystal past Malvolio’s guards? Or squeeze it, right in front of his face?”
            “Oh, ay-yi-I wasn’t holding it in m-my hand. It or the data crystal. I had it up here,” he said, leaning over slightly and pointing.
            “Up your butt? Ewww!”
            “The scan crystal couldn’t scan itself, so it’s gone, but I still have the data crystal.”
            “In the same place?” she asked. He nodded, and she said, “Ewwww! Then go take it out and wash it!” She bounced to her feet, pulled Meeper up to his feet, took the empty hot chocolate mug out of his hand, and gently pushed him out of the living room and down the hall. “Third door on the left!” she yelled.
            She had just dematerialized the empty mug when she heard a muffled sound. “What?” she yelled, then walked down the hall to the third door on the left. “What did you say?”
            Meeper said, through the closed door, “Where’s the rubbing alcohol?”
            “Oh, I’ll show you,” she said, opening the door. “It’s right over the – WHOOPS!”
            She leaped out of the room, slammed the door shut, and stood splayed, back against it.
            “Sorr-eee!” she yelled over her shoulder. She closed her eyes and thought, Omigawd, the rumors are true!
            There was the sound of running water. Through the closed door Meeper said, “M-meeper found the rubbing alcohol.”
            “Good!” Goldie yelled back.
            “Meeper has cleaned the data crystal. Very thoroughly.”
            “Better!” She thought, Omigawd, he’s back to meepering again!
            “Meeper is pulling his pants up.”
            “Even better!” Goldie Digger asked herself, What Would Marilyn Do?
            When Meeper opened the door, he saw Goldie standing back from it, arms folded under her breasts. He held the data crystal up and said, “Meeper brought this for you.”
            She shook her head, frowning. “I will not take a gift from a third-person singular! Say, I brought this for you!”
            Meeper said, “Ah- ah- ah-”
            Say it!”
            “Ah - ah - ah –”  and Meeper stamped a foot. “You have no idea – no idea at all – what it’s like to be m- m- m- m- Meeper!!
            Goldie sighed, let her arms fall. “All right, all right, it’s the counter-conditioning. What you need is some counter-counter-conditioning!”
            “What do you mean?”
            Goldie Digger stepped up close to Hamilton Meeper. “I mean this. Say I.”
            “Ah- ah- ah-”  Meeper stammered.
            “Say I. Don’t worry, just say it. Say I.”
            Meeper gulped, and said, “I.”
            And she kissed him.
            Then she stepped back and said, “One kiss, for each time you say I. Or me, or my, or mine, or myself. First person singular. Say I, and I’ll give you a kiss. I promise.”
            “I love you,” he said, so she kissed him.
            He said, “I love you, I adore you, I worship you, and I’m amazed, I’m thunderstruck, that a star, an angel, a goddess like you would even look at me, at Meeper, at me the ugly freak, at me the computer, at me the disposable weirdo, what do you see in me?”
            Goldie said, “How many me’s and I’s was that?”
            “Five of the first, five of the second.”
            “Which you know because of your eidetic memory.”
            “I love your eidetic memory,” she said, and she kissed him. “And your instant counting.” Kiss. “And your lightning math.” Kiss. “And,” kiss, “all,” kiss, “your,” kiss, “other,” kiss, “mods.” Kiss, kiss, kiss.  She looked down, and her eyes widened. She said, “Ay-ay-yi!”
            “What?” he said, then looked down and said, “Oh, that.
            “That’s… remarkable!
            “It’s a special mod,” he said. “For outer-crew only. Inner crew says it’s vulgar.”
            “Well, I’m vulgar,” said Goldie Digger. She snuggled up close. “And besides… I have a few mods myself.”
            “You’re crew-bred?”
            “I’m one sixteenth outer-crew bred, by my mother’s father’s mother’s father. I never get spacesick –”
            “ - that’s good - ” said Meeper.
            “ - and I have radiation resistance –”
            “ - very good! –” 
            “- but I have none of the math. Or the memory.”
            “Oh well.”
            “I do have one… special mod. Like yours.”
            “Like m-mine?” he asked, so she kissed him. “What is it?”
            “Maybe I’ll show you later,” she said, and took the data crystal from his hand. “Right now, let’s review this thing. What’s on it?”
            “The Ubermansion,” he said as they walked hand-in-hand back to the living room. “And the Ice Palace. And the Lake Ness Fishing Lodge. And their compound in the Gilligans.”
            They stood at the control panel of her living room replicator. She held up the data crystal. “All that, on this little crystal?”
            “It didn’t feel so little when ay-yi-I was carrying it. Yes, all that, and dozens of other places, and all their contents. Everywhere that m-my menial duties took m-me.”
            And she kissed him, once, twice, three times. Then she set the data crystal in the socket and turned on the holo. Goldie Digger said, "Omigawd, look at all this loot.
            “Half treasure, half poison,” Meeper warned her. “Especially the Ubermansion and the Ice Palace. They’re both full of death traps.”
            “I know they have a bad rep…”
            “You don’t know the half of it.”
            “But you do?” she asked. He nodded. “You know all the tricks and the boobytraps?” He nodded. “You know what’s good and what’s bad?”
            “I have the whole list, up here,” he said, and tapped his head.
            She kissed him and said, “In your eidetic memory?”
            “I’m the computer,” he said.
            She kissed him and said, “So without you, this crystal is worthless.”
            “Worse than worthless.”
            “And with you, it’s the wealth of the Overlord. Wealth that he can’t get, without you.”
            “That’s right.”
            “So really you’re the richest man orbiting Elvis.”
            Meeper reflected. “Yes, now that you put it that way, I suppose I am.”
            She kissed him twice and said, “So let’s go shopping!"

                                                            #          #          #

            Under his guidance, she raided the data crystal for china, clothes, jewelry, makeup, perfume, furniture, sports equipment, consumer electronics and gourmet foods. She found dresses and jewelry from Dulgencia’s chambers; dildoes, straps and paddles from Beauregarde’s room; stilettos and whips from Belladonna; and a sack of gold grickles from Malvolio.
                                                            #          #          #

            After awhile the treasure started to clutter the living room up, so Goldie stopped for now. She looked Meeper up and down and said, “Talk about a good provider. Do you love me?”
            “I love you, I adore you, I worship you, you’ve stolen my heart away.”
            “That’s one,” she said, and kissed him. “And two.” Kiss. “And three and four.” Kiss, kiss. Then she looked down and said,  “Ay. Yi. Yi. I mentioned a mod of mine…”
            “The special one? What is it?”
            “I’ll show you,” she said, and she took his hand.
            She led him out of the living room, down the hall, and to the second door on the right, and let him in, and closed the door behind them.

                                                            #          #          #

            Meanwhile, a quarter way across Rosie, on polar island Morticia, in the Ice Palace, another pair was not having so good a time.
            The Empress Dulgencia sniffed. “Is that blaster stench?” she asked Malvolio. “Yes, it is, and I see that you’re back to your old habits!”
            “This outer-crew spawn had developed a personality. An identity.”
            “So you applied percussive maintenance, as usual!”
            “My dear, you know very well that one cannot trust a computer after he starts referring to himself in the first person!”
            “So we can add computer crash to your long list of failures,” said the Empress. “That plus defeat. And bankruptcy. And getting everybody killed!
            Malvolio said, “Dulgencia…”
            “And even now this dreadful blaster-stench! I have had it with you!”
            “What do you mean, my Empress?”
            “Not your Empress,” she growled. “I’m mine.”
            “And what does that mean, your Empress?”
            “It means that I am leaving you, Malvolio! Right now!”
            “You wouldn’t dare!”
            Dulgenica laughed; Ah-ha-ha-ha-haa! “You may shoot me, your soon-to-be ex-wife, right now if you wish, I am wearing a scan crystal; but kill me or not, I am going, O Stellar Overlord!”
            She turned her back on him and strode away.
                                                            #          #          #

            Goldie and Meeper lay in bed together. She cuddled him as he stared at the ceiling.
            “The ‘Milkmaid’,” he said.
            “That’s what they call it,” she said. She stretched and said, “It’s just muscle control.”
            “A special mod…”
            “And it’s wasted on most men,” she said. “I should know, I’ve tried plenty.”
            “It isn’t wasted on me.
            “No, dear!” she chirped, and kissed him. “But none of the others measured up. Underwood was pretty good, but he’s off-limits now… so’s Andover… Ertson’s cold and selfish… The Henches are into ‘multiple self-love’… There was a Starfleet captain, but he’s married to his ship… I even tried Malvolio himself, once. What a disappointment!”
            “I told you, it’s an outer-crew mod;  inner crew thinks it’s vulgar. Their mods are for command presence.”
            She kissed him. “You mean sociopathy and bullying. There was one boy I met… Irving someone, in Starfleet… he has potential… they say that before he met me his replicator cry was ‘Mommy!’ but afterwards it was ‘Goldie!’, isn’t that sweet?
            “There were rumors about you and Nechaev…”
            “The Doc?! Been there, done him! He’s not – you know –  “ and she hummed a tune.
            “What’s that?” he asked.
            She stopped. “Don’t you know?” She hummed a few more bars. ”Don’t you recognize it? My big hit song?”
            He closed his eyes. “Goldie Digger – top hit song – search,” he told himself, then said,  “’The Man I’m Looking For’. Fanac Filk, Bullwinkle, 1729 After Landing, NBSI Number 23-42-69-137.” Then he hummed a tune.
            She kissed him and said, “That’s the one.”
            “So you sang that. I hadn’t connected it to you.”
            Goldie laughed, then kissed him. “That figures,” she said. “Every other guy orbiting Elvis has connected it to me, and thinks he’s the man!”
            Meeper turned on his side, and regarded Goldie gravely. “Am I?
            She turned to face him. She kissed him and said, “Stay with me.”

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