Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sequel to "en passant"

You may remember En Passant. This is a sequel to that story. It is currently unedited, so I refine it later, but I thought I'd post it since I feel bad for not upating the novel for a few days.
Probable Crime

As I moved my rook into position, I couldn’t help but gloat a little, “You see that, old metal-mind? You only have three moves allowed you before checkmate. And I can already see all of them.”
I deserved to gloat, I felt. Just months before, I had been introduced to this game, which hailed from the ancient Earth empire that had preceded the rein of the great and terrible Tsan-Chan, who was, as far as the fog as history tells us, one of the last great rulers of Terra before Earth became unfavorable to humanity and fell under the dominion of the Coleopteron race (colloquially known by many humans as smart stink-bugs, or simply stinks). Nowadays, humanity is of course spread throughout the milky-way, and almost completely under the dominion of the House Roy ale, which is under dominion under the ones-who-are-not-to-be-named, who are, rumour has it, under the dominion of the ineffable great Great Ones—much speculated about entities that run the pan-galactic empire I and my partner serve in a law-enforcement capacity, albeit at the lowly level of “humanoids, unasended.” In other words, everybody is a slave to somebody, or something, but the lines get a bit fuzzy. Most people say it’s always been this way. Smith, being the dangerous—yet ingenious and therefore tolerated—radical that he is, disagrees with this. I envy his optimism on one hand, but in my darker moments I can’t help but wonder if these are the delusions of his largely-artificial, old, and no-doubt malfunctioning brain.
But enough history lessons, I’m digressing…
While I found chess exceedingly boring at first, I soon got better at it, in no small part due to the cerebral-restructuring constantly catalyzed by the probation-implant in my brain, but also because said implant and detective Smith both insist on it so damn much. Of coarse I can successfully tell Smith to leave me alone, but the implant is much more insistent, and it controls my flow of endorphins, so naturally I tend to follow whatever suggestions it slips into my mind. I had a come to a point where I understood a great deal of the higher-theory behind the game, and was naturally proud of my accomplishments. I had even started to find my games with Smith interesting.
Smith, in his natural and infuriating way, simply looked off into space. “Yes, I see, there are only so many choices, and they are all pre-determined…”
At that point, general Servius, all flustered tentacles and teeth, barged into our suite. “What are you proto-forms doing?” He said in a tone that I interpreted to be outraged. “Smith, you and your associate are detectives are you not? Have your feeble-minds failed to grasp the importance of this case? A relation of the queen’s consort is dead!”
Smith smirked and rolled his eyes; an expression I think he knew he knew could afford to do because the enraged Forbian before us could never interpret what it was supposed to mean. Then Smith raised his right arm at a 45 degree angle, palm outward, and extended a pinky beyond what would have been possible had he not a cybernetic limb, we had been well-advised by a learning module that this was the proper gesture to calm a member of general Servius’s temperamental species. It interpreted as something akin to “please be not alarmed, I have taken no food from your fermentation pit, and I feel kinship with you.”
Servius seemed to flail a little-less.
“You see, your eminence, I and my partner here were engaging in a metaphorical mental puzzle-solving activity, not unlike the Fenyman diagrams that led to the Carson diagrams that allowed humans to first solve the formulas that helped our humble race to envision space-time flight.
Servious’ tentacles and spines moved in a way that the implant gave me an impression was meant to be interpreted “I see that you have an egg-sac for me. Let me drop my genetic material into that.” The general then said, “Humans, I find it hard to contemplate how your infuriatingly simple minds work. If it were not for your special status, I would eat any zygotes you harbored at this very instant.” I never found out what a zygote was, and the implant never bothered to tell me.
Our “special-status” was somewhat due to not too long ago proving something that everyone already knew but few dared to test—and incidentally, what we found when we defied the empire and bagged a criminal that time should not have let us was still a classified, if well-known event—, that paradox was not a threatening force. That being said, Halatia IV was currently under quarantine and observation, while detective Smith and myself where regarded with curiosity by the higher species (especially the scientists) of the higher species of the Malfactean kingdom in which we resided. So uniquely were we regarded, that we had been invited to a special gathering by the aforementioned relation to the Malfactean queen’s consort, one Shaddam Sics, who had boldly announced a new type of computer that could tell the future.
Smith and I had originally been invited due to our tangential relationship to the paradox case, in addition to our status as servants of the local monarchy and the Empire as a whole. Shaddam, using the vast resources available to him as person of his world-crushing status—and if you think that is impressive, you may do well to study the quarter-galaxy-wide influence of the queen sometime—was on the verge of completing his giant-computer located on a planetoid orbiting Sirius. As our ship had fallen out of space-time and descended to the planet below, Smith, well-traveled though he was, and I both let out gasps at the size of the computer. It was well visible as taking up the majority of the space of the subcontinent on which it resided, and as we explored its environs, little canine creatures ran all about seeing to the maintenence of the thing. Of course, most of the size was simply for show. In an era where things as small as the implant in my head contained worlds-spanning encyclopedic knowledge, a computer this large was so huge as to be almost laughable. But as a learning module on our ship had explained, the computer was also meant to be a grand monument to the queen’s splendor. In addition, the hyper colliders that helped the computer make it’s incredible calculations where encompassed in the very rings that orbited the planet, and many of the spires of the city-computer of “Nuelo-Novack” that we now wandered through were designed to help receive transmissions from those rings.
But two things had prevented the throngs of important people that arrived to witness this event from seeing the computer in action. For one, Shaddam had merely predicted the completion of his computer, which was still at an indefinite state; and two: Shaddam had been murdered shortly after the welcome reception held for the illustrious event, eaten by a hoard of nanobots slipped to him via an anonymous present. Naturally, Smith and myself had been derilicted with the duties of detecting the perpetrator of this dastardly deed, as we were at close and available law-enforcement officers of a special status (though I must admit I don’t think anyone ever knew what to make of us two humans and we got stuck with the case because the more important life forms present where too busy squabbling with one another). And so it was that general Servius, the same loathsome entity that had commanded us to solve the murder, was now standing before us expecting a solution. I almost giggled at how silly it was that a couple of humans, that very same detested and ill-considered race, were now charged with fixing everything. I almost laughed, but I thought the implant seemed to be rather testy under the circumstances, and I didn’t want to endanger my fix. Later I would realize that Smith and I were being expertly put into the positions of expendable scapegoats to take the fall if the investigation proved unfruitful.
But for now I was filled with importance and braggadocio mirth. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I and Smith have a reputation of inter-planetary detectives extraordinaire for a reason. After this brief respite to gather our mental facilities, I was planning to shake-down the crowd.”
“What does this mean?” asked the general.
“What it means,” Smith hastily and politely replied, “is that my partner plans to use his telepathic talents to aid him in determining guilt. I myself need to talk to Shaddam’s lead technician. Can this be permitted?”
Servious seemed to consider this, then said, “Very well, but remember your places.” With that said he emitted a sudden squeal that made us jump and left the room.
“Be careful, partner.” said Smith quietly. “We are dealing with intrigue on a pan-planetary scale. One false move and these, venerable nobles will have us drawn and quartered, or worse. Never underestimate their abilities to think up tortures over the slightest perceived insult. Don’t let yourself get caught scanning anyone’s mind.”
“No worries partner,” I said, still dangerously bold. “I learned a thing or two working a crowd during my previous occupation.”
“Oh lord.” muttered Smith. “I’m just glad the implant prevents you from petty-thievery and griffs these days.”
“That hurts,” I said with a smile. It was time to get to work, so I made my way into the crowd. I interviewed those nobles that I could get to cooperate with me. I interviewed the strange dog-men that slaved about, and interviewed the brain of Ferix Mu. The general sense that I got from dialogue and what little I could glean from their minds was that one Ergot Rux, another lesser relation of the royal lineage most the most likely to have committed the crime. After a while, I made my way to Ergot himself.
Ergot was of the same stock of horrors that populated the royal line; in other words, hard to describe in human terms. They had things that appeared to be humanoid organs, and they had other things that were mysteries. In addition, due to their unique physiology, Ergot’s species seemed to absorb a lot of the light in their immediate area. I talked to the maw that I guessed was the auditory communication organ.
“What do you want, human?!” Came the bass voice.
“I hope that you could expedite my investigation,” I stated as calmly as I could.
“I haven’t the patience for this. My beloved cousin has died!” Ergot had been Shaddam’s cousin indeed. The rumor I had gleaned was that he had cuckolded Shaddam with Shaddam’s third wife, and Shaddam had most likely found out. Ergot stood to benefit greatly in the event of Shaddam’s death, and he was already starting to order some of Shaddam’s servants around. “Where is the lead technician? We must see the work of my illustrious cousin completed!”
“Sir, I am a detective under her majesty’s conscription, and I really must have my questions answered if justice is to be ser—“I didn’t get to complete my sentence, due to a tendril of Ergot constricting me with sudden force.
“I am Ergot, scion of the many-faced mother! You dare to accuse me?! Such insolence cannot be! I will now summarily execute you for your impetuance, human!”
At that moment I expected to die, and even my implant said many expletives in my head at once, but suddenly came the shout: “Let that mortal go!”
Everyone’s head (or other major sensory organ collections) snapped to see that it was the lead technician who had uttered these words. He was standing next to Smith, and extending a green, mucus-covered hand.
“You dare to order me?!” said Ergot incredulously. “Know you not that with the death of my beloved cousin, you and this entire planet are now under my dominion?”
“Let him be,” said general Servious, much to everyone’s surprise. “Smith and grand technician Po, what have you found. Release the human, Ergot!” Reluctantly, Ergot put me down.
“Let me explain,” said Smith. “I have found without a doubt that someone at this distinguished assembly is the murderer!”
A shocked murmuring ran through the crowd.
“I’ll spread your constituent elements from here to Corpus Infinitum!” Howled Ergot, as if he alone had been implicated.
“A grave charge,” said the general. “What evidence have you to support the claim?”
“I think,” said Smith, “that the grand technician Po can explain better than I.” Smith motioned for the bulbous-headed scientist to start speaking.
Po began an explanation, “Despite the setback of our lord’s death, we have completed the work of the future-prediction computer. Now, it so happens that this computer works on the principal of temporal self-consistency. The computer predicts the future by determining the probability of events exactly. If an event would disrupt the space-time flow, its probability is effectively zero, and therefore it will not happen. To put it in layman’s terms, it only tells us exactly what will happen, and nothing else. Unfortunately, the data outputted by the computer can only be expressed as a “yes” or “no,” but the computer can never be wrong.”
Ergot growled, and then said, “So what? How could a computer that can only tell us the future. Help us solve this crime? You are wasting our time with this silly talk.”
“I disagree with all respect. For you see, detective Smith will now make a statement concerning the guilt of the murder…”
Po motioned, and Smith said flatly, “The murderer is Ergot.”
Ergot seemed enraged from what I could tell by his howls, growls, and soggy-yet-angry sounds, but the general motioned for him to stay calm. “Explain at once Po,” said Servius, “for these are serious charges to come from such a lower life form!”
Po continued calmly, “The computer will now make a simple prediction, as it’s first ever function. The question I will pose to it is rather simple: ‘Will detective Smith be proven wrong?’”
Without warning, the computer-structure around us hummed to vibrant life. Strange aura-borealis like illuminations jutted down from the rings of the planet, which were faint blue against the ruby skies. It was all rather breathtaking, and many of the dog-things that populated the planet looked to the sky and howled, only to be beaten sternly by their taskmasters. After a few minutes, the spectacular phantasmagoria about us died down to a dull roar, and I heard a small sound, like a bell, emit from the main console that Po and Smith stood before. A strip of paper was ejected by some strange organ on the computer, and Po read pensively.
“Well, what does it say?” asked the general.
“In relation to the question of whether or not Smith will be discredited, the computer says ‘No.’”
“This is an outrage!” Cried Ergot. “It is I should be in control of this sector, not my simpleton cousin! Surely you all agree with that! Yes, I killed the whelp, but he was weak, he did not deserve what he had! Do you know that I cuckolded his mate? For three hundred years, right under his pseudo pods!”
Servius had had enough, and he ordered the guards in his entourage to detain Ergot. Luckily, I had managed to sneak away by this point and was well out of range when Ergot went into a berserker fury. Thankfully, only three guards died that day before he was subdued.
Once back in the cabin, I could see that Smith was acting rather self-confident. “You think you’re so smart,” I said in a jesting manner. “But I know when you figured out the case.”
“Oh, pray tell,” said Smith.
“I know for a fact that you researched the workings of the future predictor in depth before coming here.”
“Quite true.”
“But it seems to me that you didn’t realize how it could be applied until our game. Just like our last case, the simple game provided you with a metaphor for the solution. You weren’t exaggerating to general Servius when you described it with similar terms. Once you saw that your moves were predetermined in the game, you realized that such causality spreads to real life as well. That we all have a path determined by the rules as well as where pieces fall.”
“You’re doing excellent,” he said with a smile.
“You also realized that if the machine could be completed, all you would have to do would be to make a simple prediction. Naturally, you chose the most obvious suspect, one oozing with guilt, but having the resources to avoid detection through evidence. You’re gambit paid off.”
“Very apt.”
“However, there is one thing I must take derision to.” I stated.
“There is no way that you’ll be able to continue using this simple game to determine your actions in these cases.”
“Indeed. That’s why I was considering taking up another ancient Earth game. Go, perhaps… Well, shall we finish our game?”
“But we both know that you’ll only lose.”
“There are some things, my young partner, which one is destined to do.”


Thank you for the nod. I like the way that you write, clay. Coarse needs to be changed to course. But surely, you can think of some way of introducing indeterminacy into the argument. After all, to state that all is pre-determined and leave it at that would... jejune, would it not? After all, it is more fun if there is room for debate, interpretation... do you know what I mean?

By Blogger Cantwell Carson, at 5:22 AM  

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