Monday, September 23, 2013

Learning Curve, 6 of 12

            6. His Little List

            Starbase Gandalf, Starbase Gandalf on moon Gollum, this is Lieutenant Redshirt of the SS Undertaker, lasering in report of Capone, planet 6, fly-by recon.
            My trajectory took me past ice moon Hoover. All quiet. Then I passed within 666 kilometers of Capone surface, over astrobleme Eliot. Ice volcanoes Lanski and Corleone are dormant; Soprano is erupting.
            Methane monsoons at the North Pole.
            No life signs of any sort. I counted two abandoned ice-mining operations.
            The ice giant is lifeless, stark, and beautiful. Magnificent desolation. 
            No enemy activity detected.
            Redshirt out.

Roseanne, a.k.a. “Rosie”, is the most populous world. It has:
Four seas:
Tropical: the Sea of Beeyess, the Sea of Ennen.
Polar: the Enbee Sea, the Aybee Sea
 Six continents:
June, Edith, Harriet, Carole, Samantha and Donna.
 Four large islands:
Icy polar Morticia, temperate Debra, tropical Lucy, and equatorial Louise.
The Isle of Lucy is an island continent, just north of the Gilligan Archipelago on
the Sea of Beeyess.

Rosie has features such as the Wilma Mountains, the Marge River, the Jane Jungle and the Blondie Desert. The highest mountain on Rosie is Fred, one of the Wilmas.

Lake Ness swarms with Nessie lake monsters; a species of giant worm, a Rosie native, the most advanced survivor of the 'mild' terraforming. Its favorite prey is the Gefilte; a skinless, boneless, blob-like filterfeeder with limited mobility and an electric defense. Another native is the Ludefisk, whose defense is its foul taste. Near the lake is a chain of caustic sulphur hot springs; the Untouchables.

Rosie’s capital city is Kitchener, on Edith, the largest temperate continent. Other cities: Lysol, Mattel, Barbie. Lysol, on tropical June, has solar energy as its major industry. Tonka, on northerly Donna, is the manufacturing center. Barbie, on temperate southerly Samantha, is the financial center. However, replicator economics may force Lysol to switch to tourism, Tonka to sports and universities, and Barbie to fashion and entertainment.

Galactic Overlord Malvolio’s arcology, the Ice Palace, is on polar Morticia.

College towns:  Keane University is in the town of Pokey Oaks, Peabody Polytechnic is in Wayback, Miskatonic University is in Lovecraft, Starfleet Academy is in Roddenberry. There is also the Brooks Institute, Cotter College, and Solomon State.


            It was on planet Roseanne, on continent Edith, in Kitchener, within the Ubermansion.
            Within the replication chamber, streams of multicolored plasma converged and condensed. A human form materialized.
            Overlord Malvolio winced, shook his head, and yelled, "Curses!"
            The Empress Dulgencia sniffed and said, “Your usual replication cry.”
            The Princess Belladonna wailed, “Oh, Daddy!
            He snapped, “What happened this time?” Malvolio stepped smartly out of the replication chamber. He was always quick to get back on his feet after resurrection.
            His wife said, “What do you think? Your daughter and I alone survived, and we fled here, to our Ubermansion.”
            “And my men?”
            “We have replicated them for you, dear.”
            “Thank you, dear.”
            “You are welcome. It is just as well that we left the Ice Palace. The place simply reeks of blaster smoke. It just hasn’t been the same since you narrowed all the ventilation ducts.”
            “A security measure, my Empress.”
            “Yes, yes, no more dreary rebels scuttling through them like mice! But that awful burnt-meat stench isn’t due to just that, or even all the battles. It’s your tantrums.”
            “I have to discipline my men, Empress.”
            “You have abandoned all restraint, dear.”
            “I don’t have time for this,” he said. “I must consult the Doctor.”
            “To plot your revenge, yet again? He’s in that playpen he calls his lab.”
            “Then I go.” And he went.

                                                            #          #          #
            Dr. Tesla Nechaev’s lab was well-lit and well-ventilated. It had halon fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and a fire hose. Its Bunsen burners were bolted down. This was on the Doctor’s orders; for he had learned the necessity of these precautions, several bodies ago.
            Doctor Nechaev was at a lab-bench, scribbling something in a book. Next to him, and stationed on the benches and wall niches, were Jacob’s Ladders going ZZEEET, ZZEEET. Dr. Nechaev rose to greet the Overlord.
            Malvolio said, “We must take action.”  The Jacob’s Ladders went ZZEEET, ZZEEET.
            “But of course,” said the Doctor. “What do you have in mind?’
            “I think that – “ Malvolio paused. The Jacob’s Ladders went ZZEEET, ZZEEET. “Must you run those damn things? Turn them off!        
            Doctor Nechaev flicked a switch. The Jacob’s Ladders went silent.
            Overlord Malvolio said, “What are those noisy, useless, ozone-producing toys for?
            Tesla Nechaev said, “My assistants.” He shrugged. “For some reason the Henches like Jacob’s Ladders.”
            “Well… they do make a statement,” Malvolio conceded. He paused and said, “We have to make a Statement. Something dramatic. Something… memorable.”
            Nechaev said, “But the massacres are no longer having any effect.”
            Malvolio said, “Is our Ultimate Weapon still being tested?”
            Nechaev said, “No, the graviton emitter is fully operational. It is continuously pre-charged, and its targets are continually recalculated.”
            Overlord Malvolio said, “Good! Finally! Nobody ever conquered the world with a device in beta version! Maintain it in readiness.”
            Nechaev said, “Do you intend to use it any time soon?”
            Malvolio said, “That’s on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know,” and left.

                                                            #          #          #

            Overlord Malvolio took the elevator down to his Ubermansion’s sub-sub-sub-basement. There he went down a corridor, through an airlock, past a checkpoint with retinal scan, past another checkpoint with keypad, and down a spiral staircase.
            The big red neon sign over the doorway read MASTER CONTROL NEXUS. Malvolio strode through the doorway, put his hands on his hips, and looked around.
            All was in order. There were the banks of computers, bleeping, chirping, spinning tapes and blinking lights. There were the dozens of work-stations, all facing away from the door. There were the wall-sized screens, displaying a constantly-changing stream of data.
            And there was the control panel with the big red SELF-DESTRUCT button. Malvolio smiled and he stroked the soul-patch on his chin. He looked up, and there was the blaster, aimed to incinerate anybody stupid enough to push the big red SELF-DESTRUCT button.
            He went to the big black egg-shaped chair at the center of the room. He got in, leaned back, and rested his feet on top of a panel, pressing buttons at random with the heels of his boots. It made no difference, none of them controlled a blessed thing. But the tapes spun, the lights flashed in such pretty colors, the panels bleeped and chirped… Malvolio said to himself, “You’d think that all these computers had to be doing something important…”
            The Overlord smiled.     
            “Next, the real control center.” He got up and left the decoy control room.                         
            Out the door, up the staircase, through checkpoints and airlock, up the elevator, and down the hall to a door marked ‘Janitor’. Inside were brooms, cleaning supplies, a sink, and another door, marked ‘Sewage Overflow Containment’.
            Behind that door was a small, dimly-lit closet with a card table and a folding chair. On the card table was a book, and also a laptop plugged into the wall.
            He opened the laptop. It blinked on. Its screen read, “Password to Weapons Control?”
            Malvolio said, “Andover’s a bachelor. He’ll never guess this,” and he typed Dulgie.
            The laptop blinked, then showed a list of weapons systems. Malvolio scrolled down to the bottom to click on ‘Graviton Emitter’. The laptop’s screen read, “Password for Ultimate Weapon?“
            Following the same logic as before, Malvolio typed Belladonna.
            The laptop blinked. Then its screen read, “Display target menu?”
            “I’ve got a little list… They’d none of them be missed…” he sang. He clicked on ‘Yes’.
            The laptop blinked, then displayed:

            MY LITTLE LIST

            On Elvis, luminary: no settlements.
            On Marilyn, hot gasball: no settlements.
            On Roseanne, rock:                              Kitchener
                                                                        Ice Palace
                                                                        Pokey Oaks
                        On Dan, moon of Roseanne:      Touchdown
                                                                        Starbase Alpha
            On Liberty, large rock: no settlements.
                        On Columbia, moon of Liberty:  Jefferson
                                                                        Babe Ruth
                        On Sam, moon of Columbia: no settlements
                        Orbiting Sam:                            The Department of Redundancy Department
            On Crowley, medium gasball: no settlements
                        On Dobby, moon of Crowley:     Potter
                        On Gollum, moon of Crowley:    Starbase Gandalf
                        Orbiting  Frodo, ring-moonlet:    Samwise
            Orbiting planetoid Batman:                     Robin
            Orbiting planetoid Superman:                 Lois
            Orbiting planetoid Pikachu:                    Meowth
            On Multivac, large cold gasball: no settlements.
                        On Arthur, moon of Multivac:     Rama
                        On Isaac, moon of Multivac:      Trantor
                        On Robert, moon of Multivac:    Podkayne
                        On Larry, moon of Multivac:      Starbase Wu
                        On Verne, trailing Trojan:           Starbase Nemo
                        On Welles, leading Trojan:        Tono-Bungay
            On Capone, large iceball: no settlements
                        On Hoover, moon of Capone: no settlements
            On Murphy, small iceball: no settlements
            On Blackegg, stellar companion black hole: no settlements
                        On Loser, small rock: no settlements
                        On Terminus, small rock: no settlements.
                                                                        All of the Above
                                                                        None of the Above

            Malvolio shook his head. “After centuries of colonizing, we’ve barely touched the Elvis system!” He clicked on None of the Above; for that was the only way to exit the program.
            The screen read, “Are you sure you want to fire on None of the Above?” He clicked Yes.
            The screen read, “Firing on None of the Above.”
            Then it read, “Firing sequence complete. Have a nice day!”
            The Overlord closed the laptop and picked up the book. Written on the front cover, in his own hand, were the words ‘Learning Curve’. It was his death-lesson book, and it was time for him to write in yet another death-lesson.
            But first a review. He looked fondly at the first entry:
            “If the rebels manage to trick me, then I will make a note of what they did so that I do not make the same mistake over and over again.”
            He thought, Ah yes, those were the days!  Malvolio skimmed through the rest of the text, flipping past pages crammed with the writings of previous copies of himself. He read:
            “My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.”
            “Shooting is not too good for my enemies.”
            “I will not gloat over my enemies’ predicament before killing them.”
            “When an enemy says, “Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is about?”, I will first shoot him, and then I will say 'No'.”
            “When an enemy is caught in one of my death-traps, I will watch and wait until it finishes its work before l Ieave the scene.”
            “I will never say, 'Yes I did it, and you will never prove it to that old fool.' The odds are, that old fool’s hiding behind the curtain.”
            “I will never utter the sentence, 'Before I kill you, there is one thing I want to know'.”
            “I will never utter the words: 'No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!'”
            “Despite its stress-relieving effects, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. Too distracting.”
            “I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant power supplies and control panels. I will also carry at least two fully charged weapons at all times.”
            “My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I will not accidentally stumble.”
            “No giant robots. They’re low performance at high price.”
            “I will not kill the messenger. Good messengers are hard to come by.”
            “I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting; so I will never agree to let an enemy go free if they win a challenge, even if it is rigged and my advisers assure me that success is impossible.”
            “If my advisers ask, 'Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?', then I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.”
            “If an enemy runs up to the roof, then I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. Nor will I engage with him at the edge of a cliff. And a fight in the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is right out.”
            “If I am eating dinner with an enemy, put poison in his goblet, and then have to leave the table for any reason, then I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.”
            “If I decide to hold a double execution of an enemy and an underling who failed or betrayed me, then I will execute the enemy first.”
            “My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door, and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.”
            “The gun turrets of my Ubermansion will not rotate far enough to direct fire inward.”
            “My equipment will not be activated by a lever that someone could trigger by accidentally falling on when fatally wounded.”
            “I will not employ robots as agents of destruction if there is any possible way they could be re-programmed, or if their battery packs are externally mounted and easily removable.”
            “I will not force two of my enemies to fight each other in the arena.”
            “I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.”
            “The hallways of my Ice Palace will be well-lit. Every room will have a fire extinguisher.”
            “If I burst into rebel headquarters and find it deserted except for an odd blinking device, then I will not walk up and investigate; I will run like hell.”
            “All repair work will be done by an in-house maintenance staff. Any alleged ‘repairmen’ who show up at the fortress will be escorted to the dungeon.”
            “I will not wear long, heavy cloaks. Nor will I have long fingernails, or a goatee.”
            “My force-field generators will be inside the field they generate.”
            “My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. I will not construct walkways over them.”
            “I will never place the key to a cell just out of a prisoner’s reach.”
            “I will never bet double or nothing.”
            “All of my robots will be waterproof.”
            “All of my computer systems will have firewalls and virus scans.”
            “My security checkpoints will require passwords, physical keys, and biometrics; that is, something you know, something you have, and something you are.”
            “I will never say, ‘This one is mine!’ and engage in a hand-to-hand struggle with an enemy or one of his allies.”
            “When I say to an enemy, ‘we are very much alike, my friend,’ I will remember that even if we are much alike, I am still not his friend.”
            “I will not employ devious schemes that involve my enemy’s party getting into my inner sanctum before the trap is sprung.”
            Overlord Malvolio read that last entry and sighed. He thought, One death for each of these little lessons! They add up, they add up… how long has this war been going on?
            And what about this time? Malvolio gritted his teeth and wrote:
            During an escape, I will not stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.”

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