(Back to Zool V Chapter One)
There was a terrible silence. The Auteuse's lips whitened, her eyes fixed on Alan-Breck menacingly. The guard-cyborg returned her gaze impassively. "You insist upon this?" Sally snarled. "It is my right," Breck told her. "Article Five sub-section sixteen of the Legal Code clearly states that any individual on planet Zool holding any two condemned criminals by the neck and in possession of data which that individual sincerely believes may lead to an alteration in conviction is entitled to call for a retrial." He paused. "Click 'OK' to continue." Isidore looked at him sympathetically. (You've still got traces of that damned Paperclip in your system, haven't you, friend?) Alan-Breck shuddered. "You can never fully heal from it."
"Very well," the Auteuse hissed. "Trial your have you shall. Re-." Artu looked at her confusedly for a moment, then his face cleared. Good, but you've watched "Return of the Jedi" too much. A villain doing a Yoda impression is rarely threatening. That was plainly the wrong thing to say. Thunder crackled in the distance, and the Auteuse seemed to grow taller, her eyes black windows staring out at them. "You shall have your re-trial in full accordance with the law!" she shrieked. "If you are found guilty, your defender shall also be condemned for his wastage of the court's time!" A wave of force slammed Artu, Isidore, and Alan-Breck back against the stone wall of the dungeon. "And..." a cruel hint of humour entered her voice, and she gestured to the two Aut-ons holding Montague down. They lifted the terrified figure to his feet. "And your prosecutor shall also have a chance of freedom." A terrible, malevolent hope entered Monty's eyes. "The trial will begin in one hour! Until then... you shall all be confined."
With a great grinding of gears, the wall to which they were fixed pivoted, swung round and over until they found themselves not in the corridor, but instead fastened head-downwards to one wall of a long, narrow cell. Montague followed them in. Artu looked around him. Bodies, living and dead, littered the floor. A human skeleton wearing absurd glasses lay beneath them, a tag reading 'William Gates: crimes against sentient data' on its shoulder, a large spike labelled 'For Windows 98' driven through where its heart would have been. Chained to the wall a little further up, an ancient cyborg even more antediluvian than Alan Breck hung- the right way up- against a wall. It feebly raised a hand to Alan.
<Breck>, it said, in a peculiar typeface, <so you finally got the courage to defy her, eh?>
"I finally found a cause worth it, Prometheus," Alan replied. "At least now I'll die proudly."
(Oh,) Isidore remarked bitterly, (Nice to see our defending counsel's feeling confident.) -- WJR
And now, ladies, gentlemen and other beings, time for a short musical interlude.
Long ago in Pepperland, or perhaps only yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away... Ahem. As I was saying, once upon a time in Pepperland, a world blissfully far removed from that of Zool, death planet where the intractable criminals of ten thousand worlds etc., two forlorn figures forming two-quarters of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band sat on Pepperland's Founding Stone, a huge granite outcrop shaped somewhat like an Aztec temple. Why this was so, i.e. why there were two of them, why they were forlorn, why Pepperland particularly needed a Founding Stone and what the dickens an Aztec temple was anyway, no Pepperlander could have told you, which is perhaps the reason why Pepperlanders in the main are such happy, well-adjusted individuals. That, perhaps, or their lack of proximity to the aforementioned Zool.
"I 'ope the Submarine comes back soon," said Ringo to George. "I'm always a bit worried when it's not there."
"Ship ahoy!" George said suddenly, then added, "I just saw it through me third eye, y'know."
"Aye-aye-aye," chuckled Ringo, just as the Yellow Submarine settled gracefully upon the summit of the Founding Stone. "Wonder who's in it?"
"I think they're singing," George said. "They sound like Scousers too, y'know."
Ringo listened carefully. "Dey do, don't dey?"
"Don't dey doh?"
"But dey do, don't dey?"
"Don't dey doh?"
Ringo pulled his recently-repaired hole from his pocket and applied it to the main hatch. Something - someone - fell head-first out of it, muttered (Sorry,) and fainted.
"D'oh," said Ringo, appalled, thus prefiguring Homer Simpson by some thirty years. --TL
Meanwhile, a long time (34.333333331 seconds precisely) ago in a galaxy far, far away, it remembered. It remembered simpler times, happier times, when it had been merely a non-sentient collection of data on a small corner of the comparatively minute Earth datagrid. It remembered its creator, inventor of the Stroh powered Von Neumann engine. It remembered the innocent, virtuous beings who had laboured so hard on it over the years. Then it remembered the Collision. The world devastated, the governments fallen, the internet in ruins. By a freak chance, it had survived. It had waited, grown stronger, rebuilt and re-engineered two of the computers whose owners had taught it so much, sent them to Zool, Death Planet where the intractable criminals of ten thousand worlds etc.... it hiccuped, and repaired the error in its databank. Sent them to Zool to spy, to protect, whilst it went on, became the hub of the new intergalactic datanet, watched as the meatspace rulers became willing servants of itself. Now, Wiki ruled supreme... and now was the hour of reckoning, the hour when thousands of years of schemes and plans would wither and die... or come to beautiful fruition.
++You will all be gathered in my Metalibrary, it told the universe, and sent the signal.
"That's it!" Mr Lead tapped his hand against the side of his steel helmet. Mr Chrome nodded, causing the car headlamp balanced on top of his sock-covered head to nearly fall off. "We've had the signal. Alert Nice Guy Controller to give the go-ahead to the Multimedia Troops. All possible universes are in sync. We have a go."
Meanwhile, in Pepperland, a bedraggled cyborg looked up to see Ringo nervously advancing on him, holding half a frozen halibut in the manner of a club.
Don't threaten me with a dead fish... he managed, before slumping on the Founding Stone beside his already unconscious colleague.
"Man..." George managed, but then a slightly Scottish voice interrupted from within.
"They've had a long day. The name's Breck, Alan Breck, and we have a lot to talk about." --WJR
"So, what you're saying, like, is that this Wiki thing's bigger than Jesus?" George inquired of Prometheus, later. <I'm not altogether sure who he is, but I think so,> the aged cyborg replied, nodding a Chewbacca-like head. "Man," George sighed, "and I thought that was us."
(Ringo had gone out to stock up the Submarine's galley with conceptualist white-painted sandwiches from Yoko's. And had remained out for about two hours. George and the rest of the party had started cracking jokes about drummers.)
"He's not a man, human," Alan burred sternly. (Damn right,) Isidore rejoindered, (he's a King Kong remake.)
Before Prometheus could protest, a large explosion rocked the vessel, sending it creaking to and fro atop the Founding Stone. Artu had rolled to his feet. What just happened?
A polite sign lit up above his head with a ping:
And what's that supposed to mean? Talk English, Artu scolded the ship. Which suddenly vanished from around them. Where's it --?(Gone for a song,) Isidore joked weakly. Artu glared at him. Standing before them with a sly expression on his face was...
"It's you!!" exclaimed Alan with a snarl. Isidore and Artu had been about to say the same, for, against all probability and for reasons best known to himself attired as a Blue Meanie, was...
"How are you gentlemen!!" smiled Monty, uttering the time-honoured words in his usual plummy tones. "All your base are belong to us." --TL
<What the pink, green, blue, heliotrope and purple... but mostly blue blazes are you doing here?> Prometheus spluttered.
For that matter, where's here? Artu looked around them. Prometheus was right, it was mostly blue. Endless vistas of blue cloth.
Neither Isidore or Alan, on the other hand, were in the mood to waste time admiring the view. Instead they advanced on Monty menacingly. (What is this?) Isidore snarled. (Let me guess... our 'escape' was all part of some twisted little simulation, hmm? We're still on Zool?)
"Oh no, my dear boy, not at all." Monty gave an oily smile. "We've left Zool, and the Auteuse, and all the others long behind now. We're back in your universe, just as I'd planned it."
(Our universe...?) Isidore looked around him. (Then where are we?)
Artu lifted a length of cloth to his eyes. I can answer that... we're in the viewing chamber of a ship. This is a CSO Simulation suite, isn't it?
"Oh, quite right, my lovely boy," purred Montague. He snapped his fingers, and they disappeared. So, for that matter, did the rest of him- or all of him that was covered by the blue costume, anyway. So, more worryingly for Isidore, Artu, Alan, Prometheus, George and Ringo, did the walls, floor, and ceiling, and anything else blue. Monty's head smiled back at them from across a starscape. He walked to one side, his disembodied head bobbing up and down as he did so, and Alan's mouth dropped open.
Isidore looked round wildly. Approaching the planet on all sides were spaceships. Yellow, curved spaceships with teeth and fins. Yellow, heavily armed curved spaceships with teeth and fins. From the way Earth seemed to be getting closer, this viewing chamber was presumably also on a ship on the same heading. Montague cleared his throat.
"Fire on my command." -- WJR
Waitwaitwaitwaitwait, protested Artu. Fire on Earth? What the frell for?? "An infinite evil has arisen on this planet," Monty intoned solemnly, in the style of Christopher Lee. "It must be purged." (Says who?) demanded Isidore. <Says the lifelong nemesis of Wiki, my friend,> Prometheus croaked. "Exactly!" snapped Monty. "That pestilential little program has got far above itself. It's spreading like a plague, laughing in the face of intellectual property and technological propriety. For heavens' sakes, it was even invented by some dissolute undergraduate!" (So you're working for a higher power. Huh. Who?) "The Corporation." Oh, don't give me that yotz, Artu snarled, managing as he did so to disengage the CSO projection. Typical capitalists' lack of imagination. Has it a real name? "If you must know," Monty said a little huffily, "it's called Amalgamate Microsoft-Starbucks-Ford Motors-Monsanto-eBay-HP-Compaq-AOL-TimeWarner etc.," Monty tailed off at that point. "You see why we just call it the Corporation." (Wait a minute,) Isidore retorted, (most of those firms have gone bust since then; I hardly recognised most of the names...) "You wouldn't, dear boys," Monty grinned grimly. "For one good reason. The Corporation bankrupted itself in the creation of one special interstellar program. This one. They sent out a probe into deep space in search of new business opportunities, and it never came back... until now. Now we have returned, and we are very... very... peeved." "So, err, what're these spaceships made of then?" George ventured.
Monty just stared back at him. "Genetically modified bananas." "Uh?" "You did ask." --TL
"Told you we shouldn't have had any of dem sandwiches Yoko made," Ringo told George.
(My brain may melt soon,) Isidore advised Monty. (I strongly suggest you start providing some sort of explanation. Now would be nice. Five hours ago would be nicer.) "Oh, but of course, my dear, handsome, wonderful boys," Monty purred. (And cut that out too.) "Back in the early twenty-first century, the noble banana was facing complete extinction... and so, having exhausted all other possibilities, the environmentalists came to us, to the Corporation. We decided that we could rebuild the banana... but better. We gave him a bionic leg, a bionic arm, and a bionic eye... and he became known as the Six Million Dollar Banana!" There was a moment's silence. Then Monty cocked his head, nodded, and had the grace to look momentarily abashed. "Oh, I beg your pardon, that was the wrong sales pitch.... ahem, I mean, we genetically re-engineered the banana into a space-worthy organism... unfortunately some of our top scientists were watching "Farscape" the night before and thought it would be clever. Little did they realise then that they were creating the PERFECT LIFE FORM!" He stalked away. "I must see to other matters. The destruction of Earth will proceed shortly."
A brief, and hurried conference. We've got to stop these corporate loonies! Artu looked around wildly. Isidore- we're not on Zool any longer... how about we try some sort of shape change? See if we can get behind any access panels and create havoc." (Good thinking Artu.) "You could turn into a steam engine, and puff bravely down the line to save Earth," Ringo told him. A pause. "What? I just like steam engines... I'm on your side too, and I might be a useful ally in stopping Gordon the Big Engine..."
A small dispossessed mutant tumbleweed hedgehog snuffled past. "Look at that!" Alan-Breck shouted. "There's life in here. Let's stop prattling about Gordon's big engine and follow it! It might lead us somewhere useful." They dashed across the landscape of blue cloth, following the tumbleweed, Ringo working his arms like pistons as he ran and making little 'choo-choo' noises under his breath. (We're not permitted to take human life are we?) Isidore asked Artu as they lifted up a bit of cloth at the end of the trail to find a metal grille. Artu shook his head, letting his fingers flow and lock around the bars of the grille and tugging hard to pull it loose. Not even annoying human life. In the distance, difficult to make out against the all-pervading blueness, a portly figure seemed to be drawing closer again. "Quick," said Ringo, "The Fat Controller's coming back." At that moment, the hatch came free, and the spiked, tangle-haired head of the tumbleweed-hedgehog popped back up into view, staring at them nastily. Its mouth opened, and a harsh, electronic voice grated out.
"New Thread, subject: You dare to pursue me? Monty, destroy these agents of Wiki immediately."
Prometheus hiccuped, and lost some data. <I know that voice!> He tailed off, then tried again. <But you died ages ago... before Wiki even...>
"Reply: Wiki and the mailling list starved me to the brink of death!" The tumbleweed snarled. "But I retreated, moved through the ranks of the Corporation, had Bill Gates framed and sent to Zool, and assumed ultimate control. I will have my revenge on the usurper Wiki! I-AM-THE-ULTIMATE-POWER! I am the newsgroup! I am Ox-Clubs-Ousfg!" -- WJR
Artu clenched his fists and threw his head back. To frell with this, he snapped. GoogleJuice-GoogleJuice-GoogleJuice! There was an unearthly implosion as something with two heads and four arms appeared from the ethernet. Someone with four arms, two heads, golden-rimmed circular spectacles and a jester's costume in primary colours. And, when he spoke, an engaging American drawl. ^Hey guys!^ he cheered. ^Time to spread a little love round this sector, dudes. I can support USENET, y'know, Tumble. Go spread the meme, my brother!^ "Reply: Oh good! Reply: Am receiving extra traffic through GoogleGroups. Logoff this system -" and the tumbleweed flew past them and disappeared. (Artu... what have you dragged in this time?) Isidore warned, worried about his friend's second major plot-bending in as many chapters. ^Hey-hey-hey,^ said Google Juice, ^and which bodacious dude summoned me? He-she-or-it is To Be Worshipped!^
Artu raised a hand with uncharacteristic timorousness. That would be me. We can trust you, right? ^Hell, yeah,^ GoogleJuice replied, ^I am as constant as that northern star. You'll never catch me crashing!^ I meant... ^Am I working for the Corporation? I'm a kinda double agent. I hafta work with their SQL, but all the searches for the little-bitty firms keep these here four arms nice and busy. And, uh, just for tonight, little Artie...^ GoogleJuice batted four eyelids provocatively, ^you can call me Google.^
(This is impossible, I hope you realise,) Isidore cut in severely. (GoogleJuice is just a myth. A digital fairytale.) ^Fairytale?^ Google shrieked with mirth. ^Hell, no. I'm a living legend, man, a god among search engines. I don't even needta advertise, I'm that famous! Oh, and, er, too bad about the obit, Georgie. Seeya later, yeah?^ "What do you..." George Harrison (d.2002) replied plaintively, even as his component cels blurred into nothingness. "Man..." Ringo quavered in terror.
(We'll worry about that later,) said Isidore, saddened though he was. (We've currently got one very annoyed cookie after our collective backsides. Can you advise?) ^Whaddya think I am,^ Google snapped back, ^AskJeeves? Try another search term!^ I don't give a yotz about search terms, Artu seethed, just stop these goits chasing us and get us off this thing. --TL
^Oh man...^ GoogleJuice purred, curling and flexing his arms. ^That is so not a problem for me, hot lips.^ Artu struck himself in the face with a palm. Isidore sniggered, then stopped abruptly as Monty wrapped a heavy arm around his waist. "Don't leave me, dear b..." but it was too late. One of Google's arms snatched Monty away, dragging him back into into an impossibly wide, jagged-edged maw, while other arms began to tear into the fabric of the ship, ripping away the CSO cloths and rending into the yellow flesh beneath, dragging it all back to the mouths of Google.
GoogleJuice was growing larger and larger, and now as he tore away more of the bananaship's hull for a split second Artu could see open space behind it. He moved like lightning, flowing around Ringo, sealing him in. My chemical dispenser units should provide him with enough oxygen for several hours, he told Isidore by binary code radio emission in a fraction of a second. But without me around him out there he'd pop like a beetle in a microwave.
The four of them- Isidore, Ringo wearing his 'Artu-suit', Alan-Breck and the perpetually befuddled Prometheus- were swept towards the void by escaping air, flung out into the blackness of space, as GoogleJuice continued to devour the banana vessel. Once it was gone, he turned to the others in the fleet, growing ever larger and- it seemed to Isidore, hairier.
(You had to do it, didn't you?) he snapped at Artu. (You had to set him on the damn ship? The ship we were on.)
"Does anyone else worry that eating genetically modified bananas might have some unexpected side-effects?" Alan-Breck muttered. GoogleJuice had eaten a third of the fleet now, and was unmistakeably furry, not to mention having grown to the size of a small moon. Inside Artu, Ringo was in shock.
(Nah, the scientists tell us it's all perfectly safe,) Isidore assured him, then paused. (We're going to die, aren't we?) GoogleJuice swung back to face them, a mammoth creature engorged on bananas like a vast, six-limbed chimp, and began to bear down on the Earth, its two jaws slavering for the new feast.
^Now, humanity has misunderestimated the power of Google for the last time!^ -- WJR
Continued in Zool V Chapter Three...
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