Friday, December 19, 2014

The Rescue Of A Dixie Warbot

The first time I met Aaron - my first day on Alterra - I walked into the store next to mine in the frontier strip mall. It was a hundred times the size of my corner space. I saw outdoor gear, clothes, tents, ropes, sleeping bags, survival accessories, cook stoves, cook wear, lanterns, hand tools, motors, generators, power tools, knives, machetes, axes, explosives, guns. Guns. Lots and lots of guns.

"Sporting goods?" I asked at the counter, shaking hands. “ Wilderness experience?”

"Estate management", Aaron answered.


Meat is how Alterra makes money. 

Alterra is a world about like the Earth back in the Miocene. Big mammals. Big. Pretty much everything elephant-sized big. And so? Big predators! Lions the size of rhinos. Wolves the size of bears.  Bears the size of, well you get the idea. Humanity found itself about halfway up the food chain. Again. 

But all the money is in the meat harvest. Those delicious mammoth steaks and giant ribs and meat bits aplenty are what Earth wants. If you are on Alterra, being a cowboy, hunter, trapper, herder, zoo worker, or manager thereof, is what you want to be about. 


“So when Nixon allowed Texas to secede, the state of Texas emigrated to the planet Texas?” asked Mr. Merkin.

“That’s right. Through the Houston Astrodome Portal” I answered. “30 million of them at least.”

(I’m teaching a class in consistent histories because the wormhole network is preternaturally dimmed down and I can’t earn without it. This teaching gig is charity from the colony, and a college credit class for my fellow unemployed).

“A good part of the South went along.” I continued, and swept my hand across the map of the continental United States of America. 

“Basically? The Confederacy. Henry Kissinger negotiated an amicable divorce. Most every berg from the Mason-Dixon line on south was now chocolate city.”

They stared at me.

“All the white people left. Most of them. There was still a big waiting line, when Houston lost power. Wormhole collapsed. When contact was regained, there was nothing there. Empty space.”

Ms. Murka raised her hand. “A Lost Colony?”

“The first! Of many. Lesson there? Don’t turn the wormhole off!”


“So, but then we get in contact with them again! But, you know, spooky action at an instance, and the Confederacy is 10,000 years in the future.”

“And that’s why the giant Texan warbot terrorizes us and tries to infest us with mechanical bacteria??” asked Ms. Murka.

Yes, Nancy” I sigh. “and I’m sorry, but we are working on that”. 


Aaron and Claire Willis are my next store neighbors in Spiral City, on the planet Alterra, galaxy NGC 6264, almost half a billion light years from Earth. 

I think it’s unusual to love your neighbors, but I do love them.

Claire is the station master at the wormhole. Everyone loves Claire. She’s gorgeous. Vivacious. Superlative. 

Claire and Aaron have three children. Craig, out East, carving out the meat empire. Aaron Jr. studying on Earth. Cory, the baby, captured me from the start. She might as well be my daughter. Aaron is, well, what isn’t he? Scrounger? Fixer? Hustler? Mayor?

Did I mention they are black? Is it important? It shouldn’t be, but now it is.

“You two do realize you are both black, right?” I asked. “The only black people out here? On this here uberweisse planet?” 

They looked at me and smiled... and continued to smile. I frowned...finally I figured it out. 

Willis. Brontoburgers Willis. Dinoburgers. The Willis Clan owned the best quarter of this here uberweisse planet. My new neighbors are trillionaires.


Edward Hopper, the giant robot from the Empire of Texas, had tried to infest Alterra with miniscule mechanical creatures. 

The plan was to give him - and by proxy the Intergalactic Empire of Dixie - total control over every living thing on the planet. 

It didn’t quite work out because of the Kraken. The Kraken are big furry alien octopus monsters that are a billion years ahead of humanity. The Kraken had unleashed a virus on Alterra months before Edward Hopper unleashed his mechanical plague. The virus disabled the mechanicules as they were spawned. 

Why the Kraken didn’t just stop Ed from doing all that shit to begin with, I don’t know.


It was all that President Nixon had hoped, but not how he planned. It wasn’t the inner cities and rural poverty districts that depopulated. It was the Great White Flight into the cosmos. 

The last, and greatest, liberal welfare project ever.

Nixon did what he could to steer folks he wanted gone. Along with the Northern Cities, wormhole stations were set up in Knoxville, Baltimore, Birmingham, Baton Rouge, St. Louis, New Orleans. The black and brown folk did not leave. They took jobs instead. 

It was the biggest economic boom in American history. Huntsville was and will be Rocket City, but Detroit became Nuclear Rocket City. KC, Mo? What don’t they do there? Oakland, Memphis, Cleveland, Toledo humming on government war production budgets, cranking out yolk for all those interstellar zygotes.

Ah, but then things went sour.  The start was a news leak of wormhole dumping, toxic garbage and radioactive waste dropped into deep space. Almost cost Nixon the reelection. Well, that, and the lost colonies, and the space deaths, and Spiro Agnew, and country club black markets and profiteering, and... but you know, cosmic irony, Nixon gets a second term.


It got on week twenty of the wormholes all dimmed down. The colony had broken into the warehouses: older technology pulled out that did not use electricity. I used the darkened store for sleeping between odd jobs. It was a sloppy mess. Aaron walked in, looked about with a smirk.

“Bachelor Man!” he sang out.

“Hi Aaron.”

"Are you still in contact with Ed Hopper?"

"Not recently. But as a matter of fact, he came to me in a dream last night."

“So? Well! Meteor Bay? South-east shore thereof?”


“Jimmy Mungo was down there yesterday. He tells me he saw something weird.”

“When can we go?”

Aaron smiled a million watts. “Now!”


Jimmy Mungo’s name wasn’t Jimmy Mungo. Jimmy Mungo was Howard Pogue, originally from Melbourne, Australia.


The Convergence is that entendu of superpositions of the universe where humanity survives.

The Convergence is abstracted out of a very shaky holographic gestalt, but there are set points.

Contact with the Kraken is one. It gets the Convergence rolling.

Only Nixon can meet the Kraken.

Jimmy Mungo piloted the electric airplane over Meteor Bay.

Aaron’s daughter Cory was his co-pilot apprentice. Aaron and I sat in back with drinks. Aaron poked me and pointed down.

“Gorgeous!” I nodded.

It was gorgeous. Meteor Bay seen from its north cape, the green water to the west tracing to the thinnest of arcs. To the south, the water turned blue again, and it looked like a new sea off to the east, but no, its the bay. The crater.

We hugged the coast turning east, flew over sandy islands and reefs, approached the shore of a peninsula. The blue water turned green again.



“Cool!” cried Cory.

“Fuck” I said.

Down below us was a city of giant fungi. Square miles of skyscraper sized mushrooms. A forest of nickel clad toadstools below this canopy. Stalks of liquid metal. Pearlescent and oily white superellipsoids floating or perched about like bird blimps and popcorn. Surfaces of fine china and soot carpet the floor of this rain forest, this factory, this rain forest, fading east and up to a monotone.

In the center, big red brick smokestacks a quarter mile high, gills and stone veils crawling down them. Once belching out billions of tons of mechanicules, now quiet. And wouldn’t you know, a speck of gold tinsel waving at us, a tinkerbell on shore. Edward Hopper. 

Jimmy Mungo pressed the plane close to shore and landed on pontoons. We cast up on a spit less sparse of the eldritch living machine growths. Edward Hopper, resplendent in gold imperial, waded over to tower above us. 

I was scared, in front of this giant mechanical war god, his vast citadel arrayed around me. I feared for my life, but I was also very angry.

“You! Asshole! I shouted “Fucking! Asshole! Cocksucking! Motherfucker! This is bullshit! Bullshit! This ends today! Okay? You prick? All this shit! Just leave us the fuck alone! Please!”

“Mr. Hopper?” Aaron asked, holding his palms up. “What do you want?”

“Well, it’s more what you need.”

“I get it.” Aaron turned to me “He is a dick, isn’t he?” He shouted slowly to Hopper, “What do you want?” 

“Respite. Healing. In case you haven’t noticed...” Ed Hopper indicated his golden body. Up close, Ed Hopper was not so resplendent. The gash on his thigh, received from Kraken claw, had not healed. 

“Jesus Ed!” I commiserated, turned to Aaron and muttered “This is a limited time offer”.

“He is correct.” Ed said, “I am slowly rotting from the inside out, and this citadel as well. Only a week at best before we die.”

Aaron grunted. “And what bargaining chip do we have? How can we help you?”

Hopper pointed at me. “He can call off this curse.”

Aaron frowned.  “Why should he? You’re a bully. You’re a monster. You’ve terrified everybody with your antics. Everyone.”

“I was only trying to help.”

"Oh, easy, then” Aaron laughed. “Go die!”

“Okay, hang on” Ed Hopper held up his hands. “You need electricity, Mr. Mayor. I can’t build transmission lines now. I can send batteries up to Spiral City right now”. 

He clapped his hands. Five cold iron things lurched forward. They were 55 gallon drums with dunce caps on top and four War of the Worlds tentacle legs attached. They stumbled in a drunken walk, leaning and swaying side to side.

“What are those tipsy things? I asked.

“Those are.. tipsies. Each can pump out ten megawatts per hour for two weeks. Plug and play, or hack away. It gets you back on the network today.”

Well. I don’t trust you, babycakes. We sure as hell don’t trust your freaks” Aaron replied. 

“I can do more. I can build more animals. Mineral or elemental refinement. Mining robots. Transportation. Warriors. To protect you from the big predators.”

“It still sounds like an army you want to build, Ed."

"I really mean well. I'm trying to help.

"No. No, thank you.”

Ed Hopper slumped down dejectedly.


“...Ah, son of a-!” I caved, old softie that I am. “If I can heal him, I have to try.”

Aaron stared hard at me. “Whatever, man.”

“Edward Hopper, do you renounce Satan and all his works?”

“ I do.”

“Heh. OK. Edward Hopper! Do you want to be healed? Do you want to rejoin the bliss of You robot brethren and sestren? Do you?  Get on your knees! Get on your knees and pray to the furry octopussies with me!”

Edward Hopper got upon his knees, and clasped his hands, and I did likewise, and we prayed. We prayed to the furry octopussies that my friend Edward Hopper and all his servants and all his works be healed.

 And it was so.


We’d found some wood and set it alight. Dinner followed. We settled down around the merry fire, Cory leaned against her dad. Jimmy tossed logs and poked the fire. I drank heavily. Edward Hopper a seated statue, nickel plate handsome in the firelight. 

"If this were a story?” observed Cory “This is all just stupid."

“Oh, don’t just say stupid. How is it stupid?”

“Nothing has really changed. Right? Mr. Hopper started out terrorizing you guys. Now he’s indispensably terrorizing you guys. And the other stuff?” smiled Cory, 


“There is no point to it. And what was with that praying to the aliens miracle? Really?” 

I thought a bit, and said, “In this boundless universe, there are bound to be beings that are like gods to us... That doesn’t mean we should worship them. Prayer isn’t the same as worship, hon”. 

“I know that.”



“Well then, on to the next story.” 


  1. Well, I reread this last night, and it is mostly awful. Not as awful as the last story, so there's a trend. I really should give up on trying to write fiction, but, hey, I'm kind of compelled to, and maybe someday the trend will be a good story. One can hope.

    1. I have your resolution. Request that readers smoke a doob before they read this.