by Stu Gillam
Are we really just inhabitants in an advanced alien race's version of Sim City? SciFi fun.
As It Was Written
By Stu Gillam (aka Mantis)
Outside the learned halls of the Carmethogon Institute, a methane storm raged with brutal force, ravaging the landscape upon which sprawled the magnificent city of Progamethon.
Chief Artistic Director Agjulon hovered five feet above the structured marble floor, which lay not flat, but rather worked into an expansive sculpture revealing an artist's rendition of the region's tectonic structure. It had been etched out in painstaking detail to represent all the myriad points of elevation inherent to the area's topography.
This floor was not made for walking, nor for the placement of furnishings and equipment. Its purpose was to astound, in majestic artistry, those who viewed it from above. Everything contained in the room was hung from the ceiling on thick cables of braided carbon fiber which flickered like tinsel whenever the light of the three suns could penetrate the dense methane clouds and lance the interior of the room.
He hovered in front of a large, shuttered window that was positioned precisely within the room to afford a grand view of the spiraled towers and clusters of buildings that formed the skyline of spectacular Progamethon in the valley below.
His penjub - the bulbous sphere of flesh which comprised the rounded bottom of every Condmarian body, and housed the electro-magnetic organelles developed over the eons to facilitate the Condmarian's evolution in locomotion from walking to hovering - glowed softly with gentle pulses of incandescent light. This glow shown through the ornate robe he wore and back-lit the impressive design of finely latticed filigree which decorated the hem of his garment.
At this stage in Condmarian evolution, the penjub had been refined to the point where the lower appendages had become redundant, and now only sprouted as mere vestigial artifacts, withered stumps of purposeless flesh. Although, they were not completely purposeless, as their distinct sensitivity to touch had, over the course of time, qualified them to develop into notable erogenous zones for both male and female alike.
Gazing out the window as he pondered the circumstances of Cluoman's newly ascribed code, debating in his mind the probable outcomes this design might entail, he did not really see the swirling winds churning violently outside the window's thick glass; how they were bending the authmithos trees at ungodly angles and up-rooting diodac and routina shrubs en masse, nor the parade of refuse caught upon the winds blowing fast across the city below. The pelting of methane crystals scouring the foothills surrounding the city and making a cacophony of clattering sounds against the window pane went mostly unnoticed, as did the tones of greys and tans that prevailed to paint a canvess of foggy, sepia sameness, turbulent and worrisome.
"I don't like it," grumbled Agjulon.
"What's the problem?" asked technician Cluoman.
"I don't know. The code just doesn't feel right. The more I think about it, the more I get the sense that if this new code is implemented, the flow of our darling Earth's progression will... I don't know... stagnate." He turned to face Cluoman, looking for consensus, but found none.
"Sometimes," he continued, "if we're not careful, our inputs can make the algorithms become rather rambunctious. We're here to steer, my dear Cluoman, not infect. It's not pretty when the algorithms work up a head of steam in the wrong direction, and when that happens, well... you know the difficulties." He dipped low in his hover for a moment and then bounced up and down in ever diminishing lengths, indicating irresolution on the subject. Soon he settled back to the normal height of his hover.
"I'm not sure I follow you." Cluoman, although vastly possessed of expertise in his niche, was not able to look ahead - to see the branching evolutions that may occur, to evaluate what 'coursing developments' could arise when his code was run and set in motion. Rather, his job focused on preparing the syntax of the code based on Agjulon's and Prepotus' vision, and tending to the demanding intricacies of the algorithmic pathways, which were of paramount importance to their program. In other words, the technical grunt work. He left the more heady determinations for the direction and outcomes and progressions to the more imaginative Agjulon, or even the petulant Prepotus - when that scalawag found the time to grace them with his presence.
"Stagnate?" asked Cluoman, breaking his attention away from the squiggle of code squirming across his screen and looking at Agjulon. His penjub, floating above a depiction of Mt Yarolich on the floor, flashed in quickening pace from behind his equally impressive robe. In context to the situation, this conveyed inquisitiveness to a Condmarian's eye.
"Hmmm...." Agjulon stiffened, debating the merits of his supposition, battling his doubts.
Agjulon had a keen affinity for the algorithms, a kinship, as if they were nothing less than the tempermental offspring born of his loins. He understood their deliberations, felt their moods, and did so in a way nobody else on the team could, not even Prepotus. Agjulon could sense how they would choose to react, could decern when temper tantrums were likely to arise, or when glorious fits of beauty and creativity were prone to explode on the Earth World-program upon their input stimuli, the course corrections, the little nudges of code he and his team injected at key points in the program to influense and stabilize the simulation's progression.
They'd discovered early on that without the addition of course correction code at important junctures in the simulation, it would bog down when run. The algorithms tended to begin running wild and trip over themselves, overheat, and result in an error, crashing the program. These input stimuli were needed for things like life expectancies of important 'Specials' - those simulated individuals who stood out in the program apart from the masses of simulated lemmings - or influencing the outcomes of major conflicts in the progression of the generated Earth history. These input codes had the effect of re-setting the algorithms periodically, making them run smoothly. But these course corrections could and would affect the tone of subsequent algorithms, and that's where Agjulon's and Prepotus' mastery and artistry came into play.
In a moment, Agjulon managed to stamp out the doubts, electing to rely on his intuition. This sudden decisiveness touched off a pandemic of confidence within him, and it surged in both mind and penjub alike, the latter beginning to strobe brightly. Clarity began to coalesce in his mind. "Darkness!" he almost shouted, "Indeed, Cluoman, darkness... this is our problem."
"Darkness. Evil. That is what will become if we settle on this new code of yours at the direction of Prepotus, and steer the algorithms towards a victorious Hitler. And we both know how things will devolve if we allow evil to reign. Such a boring, sad progression... don't you think?"
He didn't wait for an answer. "Such stagnation! Evil always has a way of stifling the program, right to the final cycles... dispite what Prepotus thinks"
"Don't you remember what happened when we acquiesced and determined to let Caesar Augustus Germanicus live out his decrepit, filthy life straight on to old age?"
Cluoman scoured his memory. "Oh yes... Nero. Prepotus' stellar creation," he quipped sarcastically. Cluoman chuckled loudly, the gelatinous film enveloping his exposed jaw structure making wet, slapping sounds that echoed throughout the room. "I didn't think even Prepotus could conjure up such debauchery and madness in a Special."
"Yes... well he did, and it is regrettable how we relented to his urging. Do you remember the mess that ensued because of our giving in to his demands - that Nero should live out a full life and die of old age?"
Agjulon bounced up and down a moment before leaning toward Cluoman to initiate a slow drift over to his colleague. He hovered by his technician's side and peered down upon the lines of code, remembering the utter debacle of having to re-write so much code in order for the algorithms to kill off the fiendish Nero early on and prevent the calamity of chaos which erupted throughout the coursing developments as a result of him living to the ripe old age of 86.
The intricacies of the algorithims never failed to amaze Agjulon, where something so seemingly irrelevent as allowing a particular Special to survive - or not - could have such a vast infuence on the outcome of the simulation.
He remembered how the program, when run through it's paces at that early stage of development, had calculated to transform their precious Earth into a world corrupted by a stagnated mish-mash of evil and brutality. This course was never ending, as the algorithms would have it, leaving Earth's history to sustain in this way, this uninspired, stark, living-hell kind of way, no matter what course corrections they added, and which held right to the conclusion of the program. A failure by any means, as far as Agjulon was concerned, where none of the presumed intrinsic artistry and colorful creativity of the little humans could take root and blossom - the very outcome for which the project was commissioned by the Carmethogon in the first place, was it not?
At least that's how Agjulon understood it. And if he was mistaken about that - or had subconsciously deluded himself about the issue, as was his modus operandi when things did not go his way and justifications were in order - he knew quite rightly that's exactly why it should have been commissioned. He simply would not, could not, see it any other way. In his heart, he felt strongly that this project, this massive and expensive undertaking, must result in an up-lifting of the spirit; must be a shining beacon of grace and beauty, where love overcame, and peace held sway in their simulation upon the completion of the algorithms final cycle. Prepotus did not agree, and Agjulon was really only left to guess at the desires of the Carmethogon's elders. But Master Sencious, the team's leader, was a Condmarian whom Agjulon felt shared his views, for the most part - someone he felt, at the very least, he could influence.
Agjulon was no fool. He intrinsically understood that for anything to overcome - in this case, a paradigm of love, creativity, and peace (simulated though it may be) - there must be adversity. This was why he was accepting of the dark, savage bent only Prepotus, like no other, could inject into their program. Devoid of all malevolence, and absent some representation of the forces of darkness, there could be no ultimate triumph. Whatever flowery and touchy-feely outcome that came to define the closing of Earth's history, would fall flat, be underwhelming and uninspired without adversity.
And while Agjulon's and Prepotus' and Master Sencious' and the Carmethogon elders opinion may differ as to what should be on display through this project, one thing was absolute and understood by all: That the Carmethogon's direly drained coffers be replenished upon the awed and bedazzled Condmarian masses who'd eventually line up for miles around to witness this magnificent work of art - and pay for the privilege! For the project to end up being even remotely close to underwhelming would be a failure by all accounts, where word of mouth could eventually spell the end of the Carmethogon's last chance for creative funding. And so, Agjulon was compelled to put up with Prepotus, more so for his own selfish desires for artistic expression than anything else.
But Prepotus' Nero, thought Agjulon, was one who's code should never have been compiled as a Special, but rather left to the algorithms to adjust his life as a lemming. Or, at least, when they determined to inject Prepotus' horror into the program as a Special, should have been coded to be struck down in his relative youth, to commit suicide, as Agjulon had recommended from the beginning, the very code to which they eventually reverted to.
"Good Codec, do I remember!" Cluoman grimaced. His penjub bobbled from side to side. "We had to go all the way back to editing that Homo Erectus female to fix that mess... what was her name?"
"Yes, that's right. All the way back to little Lucy to begin the edits necessary for leading the algorithms to result in lecherous Nero's suicide. My Codec, the amount of work Master Sencious put me through to fix that mess was beyond the pale of cruelty. I must have aged twenty zones by the time my frazzled mind worked out the re-write."
Cluoman looked up at Agjulon, who bobbed gently up and down beside him and looked far off in thought, absentmindedly tapping a finger upon the gel at his jaw.
"And you were no help, Agjulon! I can't forget how stridently you urged Sencious to allow you to defunct Prepotus' Nero. I remember hovering there, sweating at the prospect of all that work. My brain began to go numb with grief when I determined the extent of work the re-write would entail... and all of it laid in my lap, thank you very much."
"Come now, Cluoman... who was it who sat up nights with you, assisting you, gathering your meals, cleaning your gel emissions and consolidating your code?" Agjulon continued poking at his slimy chin, speaking with only half his brain, far more concerned with the algorithms.
"Granted. But still..."
"And who presented you with the lovely Gestina, to comfort your aching penjub?"
"Ah yes... my sweet Gestina. No one could attend to my leg nodules quite the way she could." Cluoman glowed from jaw to penjub, remembering the high hover and elongated penjub of his favorite whore.
"Ahem... but still, Agjulon, you caused me much grief by leaning on the Master the way you did to make those changes. Sometimes I think you all take me for granted."
Agjulon's hand dropped away from his jaw, dripping a drop of gel onto the depiction of river Lukomon flowing through fertile valleys below him, his focus reverted back to the discussion at hand.
"Cluoman, do you not remember the progressions? Do you not remember how sad and stagnant, how dark and uninspired the coursing developments became as the algorithms began to shit out those boring, demonically bent cycles? All because of that insipid Prepotus' Special being able to live out a full life of debauchery. Nero... what an abomination!" He wisked away from Cluoman back to the window where the dreary conditions outside better suited his mood.
"Well... yes. But..."
"But nothing. Direct your ire at Prepotus, not me."
Cluoman knew Agjulon was a sensitive sort. It came with the territory of being one of the artistic forces behind the project. And while he also respected Prepotus for his vast imagination and his technical understanding of how the algorithms tended to flow, it was Agjulon whom Cluoman ultimately looked to for guidence and friendship.
"Calm yourself, my friend," cooed Cluoman. "I think I'm beginning to understand what you're saying about this darkness issue. Fortunately, I have not made any extensive progress into the code to influence a victorious Third Reich. Actually, I'm glad you have caught this as soon as you have. The re-write should be rather painless in comparison... I think.
"But... the Allies? Don't you envision problems in coding for their probable victory? We've made Hitler very powerful indeed. His Wehrmacht is eating up Europe, if I recall our latest test run of this module... and Prepotus has developed quite a few Specials in Hitler's scientific roster. They're bound to develop exceedingly powerful weapons which will cause problems for us if we determine to code for an Allied victory."
"Don't you think my Specials have any merit, dear Cluoman? After all, I've given you Patton, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Zhukov to play with. It should be second nature for you to tinker with the algorithms and afford them with sufficient means to overcome... no?"
"Hmm..." Cluoman looked at Agjulon with admiration. "Well, my friend, come to think of it, you have out done yourself with the Patton Special... such a mean 'son of a bitch'." Cluoman loved using the colloquialisms generated by the algorithms as jargon for the lemmings and Specials in their program. "But what of the impressive skill quotient we've programmed into the Wehrmacht's Battle Lemmings... to say nothing of the Specials we've added to their General Staff? Prepotus' Rommel is an unrelenting force!"
Agjulon's hand returned to the goo at his jaw, his penjub strobing the distinct pattern of excitement. "Just send in the Russians... we'll destroy the Third Reich with numbers, if nothing else."
Now Agjulon's penjub changed from soft yellow to pastel blue, and glowed smartly as he hovered with prideful abandon. Sometimes his brilliance amazed even himself.
Cluoman began to fret again about the impending work load, as algorithmic calculations and formulae and symbols began to churn within the machinations of his remarkable mind. "We mustn't forget the Japanese, Agjulon. Remember, they're Master Sencious' work. A fearsome force, that bunch... you remember our test run of Iwo Jima, don't you? Certainly a victory for the Allies... but at such savage cost!"
"Let me think on that, my dear Cluoman. I've been working on a certain Special whom I think we may be able to implement at this juncture.
"I've named him Oppenheimer, Robert Oppenheimer. He's with the Americans... and he tinkers with atoms."