Professor Lully And The Arrival Of Enemies, Aliens, And A Bloody Nose
From the chapter, “Nuk Comes To Clean Up”
“Uh oh,” the ship’s computer said, an annoying, idiotic, idiomatic humanism that someone else had programmed into him.
“What?” Lully demanded, but he already expected the worst. His spaceship shook violently, spilling his lukewarm coffee and staining the white of his shirtsleeves and of his Captain’s Chair. On the trembling screens and through the viewports played a hectic scene—the robots were hurrying back to the ship in panicked, halting zigzags.
Over the moon’s horizon roamed, silhouetted by Jupiter itself, a growing shape. It rose like a ghost of vaguely human shape but of terrible, gigantic size. Then another. And another—each shape now roving and rampaging across Europa’s surface.
“What!” Lully repeated to the ship’s computer.
“Don’t tell me to hold, you brainless beeping byte-box!” the Professor shouted. “Tell me what is happening!”
But there was too much data coming into the main computer to produce an answer for Captain Lully—all the robots were transmitting at once, and their pandemonial output and screeching audio only added to the readings from all the sensors that scanned both ground and sky. The processing needed a few extra seconds.
The scene continued to change, the enemy shapes came nearer, soon joined by roaring machines in the atmosphere whose gases fumed and choked the sky. The ship’s robots all reported different views simultaneously, and Lully turned down the audio volume so he could think.
And helplessly watch. The great professor did not know where to look, but everywhere he did it seemed familiar. The shapes on the ground, closing in, resembled his pursuer on Earth, that zoo-illogically formed, wildly roaming ogre. And all the time coming closer to the robots—and the ship.
“Take off!” he barked to the controls and to the computer. Perhaps there was an empty stable in the sky he could hide in.
But all engineering and guidance systems were temporarily paralyzed with calculations and throughput.
The ships of the air were also familiar, but that memory was lost in the massive vaults of Lully’s massive brain. He strained eye and limb to get a steady, stationary look at the things as they bellowed and burst with sounds that crushed the very air and rattled their—puny by comparison—ship’s walls.
The larger shapes looked like the smaller ones, just stuck together. And still, the pattern and form teasingly tickled the professor’s memory.
“Computer! Halt all processing!” Lully commanded while taking over the manual controls himself.
“OK, I am back. Enemies are coming,” the computer said at last.
“Really?” Lully’s sarcasm dripped onto the console and into the circuit boards, and he pointed out the larger window as a beastly flying thing went by. It looked to be part rocket, part airplane, part robot, and part radio station. And it, and a few others, were lowering to land.
“Not those. They aren’t doing much. They could impede all our systems, electromagnetically and physically, but haven’t, and the incoming communications are babbling and incoherent.”
Lully wanted an example, but something more pressing occurred to him: instead of talking, he needed instead to stand up and grab his face. The ship had been knocked sideways, loose items struck walls and ceilings, and Professor Lully crashed face-first into the console edge before skidding along the floor to a corner where a thick, bound book fell on his head and a flattened, destemmed red rose dropped out of it. With a cry of mathematically-advanced fear, he crawled around in a circle. His nose was bleeding, and his suit jacket torn, his white undershirt showing through like a badge of irretrievable cowardice.
“Wud was dat?” Lully held his bunched sportscoat to his nose and spoke nasally though with dignity from under a bolted-down desk he had ducked under.
“The enemies. Those…things…on the ground,” the computer relayed.
Lully—scientist extraordinaire—could not help but pause at the use of the word “things.” Computers are precise. There are no things; there are knowns and unknowns, and for the knowns, there is an answer. The choice of that word was curious, given the ship’s computer’s design limits with regards to artificial intelligence. Then Lully—fleshy and bloody man—could not help but swallow his own heart at the mention of enemies that could move so fast and shake a five-million-pound spacecraft until the potted marigolds inside it were uprooted.
Who on Earth—or orbiting it—had the firepower, engineering skill, and political agility to not only create tanks and rockets with this sophistication, to reach this point in space and be able to attack with such force, while also keeping it from the world-backed GAB-BA-THREE, Lully thought, though not in so many words.
And outsmart ME? Who?
“Aliens,” said the ship computer.
“Doe. Impotdible!” Lully kept pressure on his nose. “Eddyway, get uts—”
“Out of here. I am working on it,” the computer reassured the master, also mentioning that taking the manual controls would not help.
Friend-Starved Kay Reaches Across Worlds
From the chapter, “A New Ship’s Computer Meets a Girl”
“Whose spaceship is this?” Simple enough for a beginning, she thought.
“I do not have that information,” the computer droned back at her. “Professor Lully is in charge of the overall project. He hasn’t instructed me yet.” The sound seemed to come from everywhere and yet more distinctly from directly in front of Kay’s face—the center of a flat stretch of wires and prongs and the green of computer boards.
“Oh, I have heard of him. Who hasn’t!” Kay said.
“I do not know.”
“No, I mean he is famous.” Kay frowned but forged on optimistically, conversationally, pleasantly—and rudely so as to deter the computer’s nerdy corrections. “He has a son, right? Lucky kid—to be rich and have famous parents and a big house, and he must be
“I do not know.”
“My brother says that Professor Lully takes good care of the people who take good care of his son. That’s love, huh?” Kay ended—and frowned, suspecting that she knew what was coming.
It came. “I do not know.” The electronic voice plodded like a stubborn ox through mud. Kay decided for the second time in two minutes not to walk out. Instead, she did what she did best: got to the heart of the matter.
She went into her backpack and pulled out a book. She read from the book.
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What vary’d being peoples ev’ry star,
May tell why Heav’n has made us as we are.
Kay was breathless—she spoke hurriedly, afraid of a pause, a vacuum of silence that the computer would fill with either something logical or an admission of its preprogrammed ignorance.
Finished, she said, “Get that? What do you think?”
The computer was silent. Kay went on, explaining poetry, music, art, and beauty as best as she could explain such things, things that had subjects but no objects.
The computer was silent. Kay felt free to discuss whatever she wanted, and whatever she believed, and the meaning of life, love, dreams, nature—and thought itself.
The computer was silent but active. Lights flipped and flopped recklessly, as it seemed to Kay, and the metal boxes around her clicked and clacked, their cases hummed, and the air moved with electronic heat.
Kay went on and began simply to list her favorite things as examples of the creative, illogical side of existence, of being. Soon she realized that, so far, she had left out the Eastern approach to things, cultures and philosophy so important to her and to the balance of the soul of the world. So she began a new list: brocaded silk, haiku, rice wine, rice paper, books bound in imperial yellow silk, grasshoppers and crickets, pure fishes, exotic flowers and profound plants that seem willing to pose, symbols for names that can be interpreted singly or in tandem, slow movements, sharp swords, masked Noh players dancing like flowers opening. Courtesy and wide courts; origami and elk; pale landscapes, wide and twisted. And white—albino-like—birds, mostly small.
To her shock, the computer beeped loudly then and spoke.
“Eastern?” it asked.
“But all humans are the same. All humans are equal.” It stated.
“Yes! And all different. Wonderfully.” Kay was excited at the productive confusion this should cause.
“Eastern?” the computer asked again after some serious buzzing.
“Relative to what?” it asked.
“Well, nothing. But we are in the West, and others are in the East. There’s no formula, I don’t think. Sorry.”
Silence. Kay felt bad; she did not want to discourage the progress and decided to try again.
“Don’t worry about the longitude. It’s just a different way of thinking, not the Western way of thinking of most people around here. It’s hard to explain. It’s different.”
The computer answered, “Please try. I am programmed to learn with new information and apply it to other information and conclusions and to learn thereby.”
“I noticed you doing that!” said Kay. “But I have to say that you talk very much like a computer; you should work on that also. I don’t mean to insult you.”
The computer replied, “Negative.”
“OK then.” Kay was not to be denied.
“Well, anyway, here goes, I will try. You see the sun in the sky?” She pointed above them to the retractable roof of the hangar, which was mostly open and showed an unclouded, springtime, noontime sun.
“I do not have all my video input yet, but I have light sensors and am programmed with a large volume of astronomical data and formulae.”
“That’s a yes,” Kay said cheerily, “and that means you can see, got it? Anyway,” she continued, “to us on Earth, the Sun moves across the sky, from our perspective anyway. Now, would you rather go and see where the Sun comes from, or go see where the Sun goes to? Which would you choose?”
A second of clicks and soft beeps preceded the answer. “That’s illogical. There’s a bad premise assumed, and then faulty logic applied. I don’t understand. Does not compute.”
“Well, try. But anyway, that’s the difference between Eastern thinking and Western thinking. It’s the same, but different. Certain people went east, and certain people went west. Isn’t that interesting?”
The computer said, parenthetically, “Computing…” and trailed off.
Kay huffed. “Don’t say ‘computing’—just compute, to yourself, quietly. And don’t compute—think instead. I will help. What are you thinking now?”
On the computer screen, which had remained blank hitherto, shot a string of digits: “100110010001110110100101011001000011100 1010100100101111.” Then it stopped, then it continued with another fifty scrolling screens’ worth. The sound that accompanied it was a rude noise of undulating static.
Weapons of Trash Destruction and Trojan Robots
From the chapter, “The Battle of Europa”
Nuk smiled, saying, “Earth garbage” very clearly and very loudly—the Nyx’s metal walls rang with it—as he tossed the squashed Selflicator gumbo into one of the small, nearby cylinders with a clang.
Lully got the message: those were trash compactors and trash cans, and he was next.
“Aliens,” the ship computer said. “I am processing a lot of data. Should I continue?” The electronic voice sounded snooty. “Are you ready to fight?”
“How? Throw garbage at them?” It wasn’t a bad idea now that he heard it out loud. The attackers seemed obsessed with refuse; maybe doing this would distract them.
Lully and crew did indeed try, and it did indeed cause a reaction—the alien enemy beasts hurried to collect it and put it away. This infuriated Nuk and he ordered the craft-shaking to begin again and with more force, which almost tipped the Nyx completely over. Debris slid along the floor. Robot 12 got his head caught in the sink.
Lully gave the order to “Cease garbage fire!” He turned on the external monitors so he could talk to Nuk.
“We have nuclear weapons, ready to detonate,” he bluffed.
“Remove yourselves to a distance of—”
But Nuk wasn’t listening. Lully’s craft was being lifted from the ground. The largest of the compactors was opening upward.
Robot 22 had an idea. Having been programmed with human history, as an experiment by a disliked but clever student of Lully’s to see how such knowledge would interact with its cognitive functions, 22 was distracted by the scene and its relation to its database. For the past few minutes, all its resources had been directed and focused on the complex heuristics, directed causal graphs, and emergent behavioral permutations that could be summarized as the following line of thought.
NUK CAME OUT OF A SELFLICATOR, JUST LIKE THE TROJAN HORSE.
LULLY THEN TRIED TO DISTRACT THEIR ENEMIES.
The whipped cream on this root beer float of logical progression was this.
THE EARTH HORSES ARE GONE.
And the cherry was this bit of gossip.
ALIENS TOOK THEM.
The notions conjoined to a plan: distract the aliens with a horse. Although Professor Lully knew all the reasons why they should not bet their lives on something so spurious, so improbable, and so silly, and even though they didn’t have a horse to distract the aliens with, he kissed Robot 22, which made all other devices go quiet.
“Robot 4! Come with me,” Lully directed while leaving the Captain’s Deck.
After Capture, Kay is 60/40 In Favor Of Staying Conscious
From the chapter, “Kay Awakes, As Needed”
Not long after that…
Refreshed, Kay awoke. She yawned and stretched but started when her eye detected motion above—her own reflection in the ceiling. It was a corrupted and distorted version of herself, as if every bone in her body were broken, and her face and hands disfigured. However, she felt fine and soon realized it was the mirror that was battered and misshapen. Relieved, Kay fainted.
Refreshed, Kay awoke. She yawned and stretched but started when her eye detected motion above—her own reflection in the ceiling. This time, she recalled that the mirror was not to be trusted, and she was physically OK other than the bumps and bruises that resulted from her capture and lack of “duck” training.
She remembered her spaceship’s invasion by…things. She realized she must have fainted in her transparent transport egg, considered her reflection again, and viewed the metallic landscape around her, including the table she lay on. She considered her options and fainted.
When Kay’s eyes slowly opened upon a third time, her phone was in her hand, and there was no reflection above. Many large, precious-metal colored objects, in a mockery of shapes and a comedy of sizes, were leaving the room and moving under their own power. They did so using various means: legs, large wheels, springs, small wheels, slithering skin, sliding feet, motile tails, shoves from others.
These creatures also made sounds, and in English. In fact a small, wheeled thing—perhaps named “This One” based on the chatter Kay heard, and who somehow reminded her of an untied sneaker—seemed even to say goodbye as it left the room.
This strange new world, even for someone who didn’t prefer the real one she was born into, was overwhelming. Kay resisted her usual solutions, for example her favorite: escape by way of concentration on other modes of perception. Instead, she forced herself to think in terms of a more physical leave-taking.
The moving things exited. Kay looked about the room as it shone in gold, silver, and white from every corner, though she could not understand how or why nor clearly distinguish walls from ceiling. She might be in a cloud, for all she knew, other than the support on her back and the pressure—perhaps gravity—that kept her on it.
But to escape, she would have to move. Escape as a notion, an idea, a good idea, was one thing. Moving from her current position as a real and definite first step was something altogether different and probably unwise. Although she was known to meditate on the nothingness and unreality of all existence for hours at a time, when she was done, she always had pizza.
For now, she only had her senses, guts, and will—and she used them. First, she learned how not to faint.
Then she learned, by waiting a few minutes, that she was probably not going to die in the next few minutes.
So that she calmed enough to listen. There were voices and, yes, they were inexplicably speaking English, a hint she stored away for consideration later. The sound came from the shine as it were, and from opposite ends of the room, which she could see without moving too much by squeezing her eyeballs to the edges of their sockets. The brightness moved and faded, changed from gold to silver, and to white and back, and did so in time to the sounds and syllables, and to words and conversation.
Kay listened. What she heard shrunk her hopes of escape to a small particle of unarmed hope floating within a galaxy of despair populated with bellicose enemies. She was, her captors had determined, “special.”
Signs Of The End Of The World, And A Rich Man Is Chased
From the chapter, “Professor Lully”
Bobby’s father, the great, titanic, admired, terrifically famous Professor Lully, knew he had enemies but this felt different. As he darted through the lushness of his estate, from Japanese cedar to Japanese cedar, English ash to English ash, award-winning rosebush to award-winning rosebush, manicured hedge to sculpted espalier—and all black shapes at this late hour—he mulled the possibilities of who, this time, might be trying to thwart him. And, specifically, chase him.
Though the man was still spry physically and legendary mentally, he was tiring at both.
This, he thought, is childish! Amateurish. Clumsy! Usually, his adversaries plotted and calculated, tried to outwit him, or outmaneuver him politically through complex risky intrigues, through propaganda or public opinion. Some even chose to battle through war or technology, though those required the backing of whole nations3⁄4such was the vastness of the great Professor Lully’s visionary reach as he stood upon a large pile of scientific accomplishments that most of the world relied on.
But this guy was chasing the professor around his own grounds, under thick clouds just singed with what was earlier a bright moon, late at night, shouting nastiness in a foreign language, and not too careful about it all. Flying through the air behind the pursuer’s path came bushes, branches, and leaves, and sometimes stones.
In this way, and until Manor Security was alerted, Lully could track and avoid his attacker. And think.
Who could be this stupid? Who is this desperate? Why the mess? And where the hell is everyone? Where are the path lights?
Just as that thought arose, lights lit, though they were away at the four-story main house where rooms came to life, large windows glowed brightly, their luminous progression cascading through the Lully mansion as …
… others awoke. The domestic staff, mostly. The professor did not have friends and did not like relatives; he preferred intellectual equals, who were rare3⁄4you didn’t bump into those just anywhere. And genetics did not necessarily create them.
Of family, only his son Bobby was in the house—not yet the sleepy, newbie orb pilot but still an Earth-tethered sleepy teen in his bedroom, which was still dark. The rest were the mansion’s staff and security, visiting scientists, and an important figurehead or two in the farther wing.
The ruckus of the pursuer did not change but went in a wide arc around the perimeter of the grounds.
It moved fast. It moved loudly.
How odd … Who could this be? Could be anybody! People are crazy and crazed … and dull like this fellow.
He watched as the pursuer made a special untidiness of the large rubbery garbage bins outside the main kitchen. The great scientist was right, mostly. It could be anybody, especially now, with the world going kaput. Systems and countries were failing, humanity was flailing, wars were raging, economies were sagging, nerves were fraying, religions were imploding. And the horses were missing.
Kay Is Examined, Interrogated, And Unimpressed By Mutant Bots
From the chapter, “A Foot Is Measured”
Not long after, back to Kay in the hands of the Deepoms…
“…We are Deepoms. Remember the Selflicators that used to report to your planet? We are descended from them, but we won’t be for long.”
Eve-Kay, J’s sister, took a moment with this sentence, the context, the scene, the whole habitat of the conversation, the rags in her pocket and on her head. She looked around, not sure which of these jangly metal piles was speaking, nor how. She searched for the source of a new sound: clanking and ringing as of instruments being readied for unnecessary surgery. Keen and sharp—the remembered words were also tolling in the young girl’s ears.
One of the captors came closer, behind her, quietly, and tugged at her hair, perhaps as a distraction while others continued the preparations. It worked.
“Ouch! Leave me alone!” Kay screamed.
“We have some questions,” one said, in part to continue the diversion. “What do you know about indistinguishable heralded serial photons, active longitudinal multiplexing of?”
“What? Why?” Kay’s confusion bled with her bruised and bashed head. Maybe they think I am my brother? she mused.
“We will ask the questions,” the interrogator went on. “What about tricameral consciousness wavelets?”
“No idea.” The girl’s head pulsed and pounded with pain.
“We believe that. What about The Bobby?”
Finally, a word she knew, and an answer she had already considered: “I know a lot of Bobbys, but none would know any of this.”
This answer seemed to cause a small stir; there was a cacophony of reactions like a piano rolling down a hill with a harp during a hurricane.
“Come on now.” One voice finally lifted above the clanking din. “There are many legends of Bobby, but no one can know many Bobbies since there is only one.”
Kay did not know what to say to this but was glad she had made an impact on her enemies. She was also glad that she was not cut open yet, though the sounds of pre-slitting were still near. She thought of a question. “What do you mean, you are descended from them but not for long? Are you guys Selflicators or what?”
“We are NOT. We are DEEPOMS,” came the response. And if buzzing was laughter, the choppy grinding sound she heard now, like a humongous rusty chain halfway off its gear, must be anger.
“MUCH better, and much further evolved.”
“But you were them? Like humans were apes?”
Shocked silence, but only until someone promised to report this. Then: “We were never like them, and we won’t be anymore. There are big, serious plans that you don’t know about. Anyone who remembers being a Selflicator will be reprogrammed to NOT remember it. A NEW HISTORY will be put in, and new memories of the GLORIOUS—”
“And HEROIC,” another interjected.
“YES—heroic and glorious PAST that we deserve, given that our FUTURE will be tremendous. We intend to—”
“That’s enough,” an almost-human voice said. “Let’s just say that our mythology is being written, in our likeness, and it will be remembered.”
There was some metallic muttering. Kay was pleased, almost amused, and found this talk very interesting; her survival instincts and own personal genius recognized the weakness it showed in her meanie adversaries. And: she was still whole. And: the pain in her head had eased. Perhaps more distraction? Bluffing, even?
“Will your new mythology have The Bobby in it? Like mine?” she teased.
A stir, a combination of nervous fuzz-tones and unsure rusty chain-rattling, until an authoritative booming bass-bash said,
“Yours has no Bobby. Only ours has The Bobby.”
Kay thrilled, indeed she almost laughed. “Shows what you know,” she taunted. “As a matter of fact, I have my own The Bobby, and I can call him and bring him here because he says that as long as my skin is completely attached and I am happy and safe, then he likes to answer science questions, and he is protective of me and has a big dog with an alarm system on a gun that is probably calling the Army Police right now.”
Kay quickly realized that she jammed too many good ideas into that and stared at her naked toes to regroup. After some silence, there was buzz and jocularity among her captors. Kay frowned.
“OK, that’s enough,” someone directed. “One more question, and we will move on to our other business.” This was yet another voice, a simple, staticky sci-fi drone. “How many Inches-Kelvin are in an Anytime-Anything?”
Kay heard a sound like a drill, but her ears sent it to her stomach because this wasn’t a shrill robot voice but a real drill, like a dentist might have, though much bigger. A dinosaur dentist.
Kay took a panicked guess. “Um, Lullyons? Buddhism?”
“Give us a break with that. Savage. She knows nothing. Let’s move on.”
She tried a new strategy. She meditated on emptiness.
The beings measured her feet for length and weight.
Bobby Meets A Drooling, Lisping, Admired And Mutated Dog, But At Least One Of Them Can Pilot Warships
From the chapter, “Bobby Follows as Best He May”
“Hey. Ummm … dog?” Bobby stammered, then realized that instead he should ask “What is your name?” in order to be polite. Bobby was, after all, only a guest in this dog’s vortex of black doom.
The pup did not answer but asked in turn, “Are yoooou Praaafesscherrrr Lully’shh son?”
The dog wiggled with every muscle in his short, log-like trunk and was able to move his tongue closer and directly to Bobby’s face, a long red canine tongue ready to slather. But Bobby, with a huge effort, held out his arms, caught the pup, and held him a foot away.
“You heard the orb computer say that?” asked Bobby.
“Yeschhh. And otherssshhhh.”
“Yes, I’m his son. Others? What others?”
“You are a human, yessschhh? An Earthling? Named Lohsssshh?” the space-canine asked, ignoring Bobby’s questions. Slobber floated near to them until the dog shook his head and the liquids spiraled away, a new, unnamed, small, disgusting galaxy.
“Yeah, of course, from Earth. But who is—” Bobby tried ask about that ‘Lohsssshh’ part but was interrupted by wet glee.
“Yooooouu are! That prooovessch it for good!” The dog projected his voice out toward the other creatures. To Bobby he said, evenly and politely, “Nice to meet you, Los!”
“Why are you calling me Los?”
“Oh, sorry, Master. I will call you Master.” Dolefully, the dog’s ears drooped, a whiplash change in mood.
Bobby considered this. They knew he was Professor Lully’s son. And from Earth. And they hadn’t killed him or squished him, which seemed promising. How they knew anything was a mystery as deep as space, but they didn’t know that Professor Lully’s son was named Bobby and not Los. Maybe there was another Lully somewhere, a parallel universe? Maybe these guys were just uninformed? Bobby knew no one named Los, or what it might mean, but why risk it, he reasoned, and screw up this rescue? If they wanted to rescue Los Lully instead of Robert Lully, that was fine for now.
Also: he thought back to when his father told him not to give his name to strangers.
When Bobby was four years old, this was basic advice, but as the great man grew in importance in a competitive and dangerous international industry, it was a security measure to protect Bobby. Not that the boy went anywhere or knew anyone, but just in case. So Bobby figured he would be smart here and accept the name given. A new personality would be fun in any case, a space-traveling one.
And he could also make the dog feel better at the same time.
“No, no, no, Los is fine. Please call me Los if you want. You are a good dog.” A big wet kiss came in answer as they floated.
“Where are we going?” Bobby asked, his breath echoing back to him through the see-through mask that allowed him, somehow, to live.
“Toooo the Beginning, tooooo the Middle!” the dog said after yanking Bobby’s—his new master’s—pant leg to keep them moving along while also allowing the dog to speak properly,mostly, through his thick brown snout. Bobby’s body caught up until he and the dog were face to face, and his own was licked.
“Stop,” he said. Bobby liked dogs but wanted answers. “Can you be more specific?”
“Yessschhsssm, Maschsscchsster!” The words came excitedly and, for these words, with a lot of dog drool, too. The droplets went in all directions, spinning and yellow, like small disgusting asteroids, and Bobby watched them, thinking it might be a million years before some of them hit something, like a planet or a jerk’s eye. But this thought quickly made him space-sick, since the view beyond the spit globules was a vastness of dark nothingness that reminded Bobby of where he was and also where he unfortunately definitely wasn’t.
The dog obeyed and answered, spraying and howling with delight, “Tooo the schtart! Toooo the schenter, and toooo the end! Aroooo!”