A God Called Bruce Pt. 05
Chapter 41: The Horny Tom
Breakfast on the terrace. A turning point. Bruce had arranged the barbeque area in the same fashion as the one in his yard. The banquet table was a bit larger though, easily seating around thirty people.
There was another innovation. One of the new girls was helping him with the cooking, he was obviously teaching her his methods. Three others brought the food to the table. They were dressed in the style of medieval serving wenches, aprons, billowing skirts and bodices that generously displayed their ample charms. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, bending forward at every opportunity to grant even better looks at their wares. There was a lot of giggling and joking around. Breakfast had just become a lot livelier. The moment the food was on the table the girls sat down with us to have their meal.
After the meal the discussion came around to naming the place. Vulcan stood up and pulled a sign out of the air. It was about three by four feet wide and done in the style of an old fashioned English pub sign, with a picture and a name underneath.
The picture showed a disreputable looking huge grey tom cat with enormous goolies, on the prowl, on a yellow background. He sported a horn on his forehead like a unicorn. The sign read Horny Tom. Vulcan fastened it above the front door and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
There was thunderous applause. Gadeirus congratulated him.
"I only made the sign," he said, "the credit belongs to the new girls, they asked me to make it."
More applause; for the girls this time. I guessed this meant we would be drinking in the Horny Tom from now on.
Marge cleared the table with a wave of her hand and stocked it with ice buckets, French champagne and fluted glasses. The breakfast had just turned into a party. To my surprise everyone was very orderly and only drank a couple of glasses. An hour later all were back at work.
Algenon and Frank had moved to another table and were going over some computer printouts. They waved across to me and gestured for me to join them. I did as I was bid.
"We are getting somewhere with sorting out the time line and retrieving the records of the Ancients. Frank made a real breakthrough. I should have seen it myself, but Frank spotted it." Algenon seemed a little embarrassed.
"As you know the dates of the records are updated once every week to the current date. That means that, as far as the system is concerned, there are no records in existence older than one week."
"Yes, I remember that."
"Frank asked me if I had any idea how long the system had been idle. I told him that Endora had said it had not been used for millennia when we first asked her about it. So Frank asked how she could possibly know this if there were no records older than one week. When the question was put to Endora she said she just knew, but didn't know how."
"That's when it hit me," said Frank. "Endora lies about certain things. She is unbelievably powerful, but intuitive knowledge is quite outside her capabilities."
"That is very tenuous proof that she lies." I was not convinced Frank was right.
"On its own, yes. AIs cannot lie, unless they are given specific instructions to give false answers to certain questions. This is the case here. Once I realised that Endora was deliberately giving us false information her whole web of lies became suddenly obvious. The only reason we couldn't see it was because we had never questioned her integrity."
"Give me an example."
"For the system to function Endora has to know where each power spot is in relation to whatever reference point she uses. Now, if you go from Sydney to London that is very easy since the direction and distance between the two cities is always the same on Earth. The power spots however are on different worlds and in different universes where everything is in constant motion relative to each other. For the system to function Endora must compute the precise location of power spots afresh each time they are used. To be able to do this she must compute the movement of the power spot in relation to her reference point at the time in question. This requires unbelievably precise time keeping, and a host of historical data, something that cannot be done in a world that is only one week old as far as she is concerned."
I thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion Frank was right.
"So how are you going to unscramble this?" I asked.
"We have to find the instructions that cause the lies. Once we get rid of these everything will be there, the timeline, the records of the Ancients, everything."
"And how do you propose to go about it?"
"From a maintenance terminal, using a debugging programme. Now that we know what she does it's not all that difficult. We will ask Endora a number of questions. To some the answers will be true, to others false, depending on what we ask. By monitoring her we can find out what subroutine she goes into on questions where she is supposed to lie. That subroutine will not run when she tells the truth. It'll take some time, but it can be done."
"But won't she spot what you are doing and stop you?"
"Unlikely. Monitoring and debugging programmes are transparent to the operating system. If it were not so you couldn't debug."
This was good news indeed. I thanked Frank and Algenon and went to my cabin. I poured myself a beer and lit a cigarette. When I handled Lachesis' cigarette case I remembered I had promised the Fates I would discuss their dilemma with Marge and Kia. Using the case as a medium I called Marge. A short time later she was with me.
"Feeling horny, are we?"
"No Marge, we need to talk. You can have a nookie afterwards, if you like."
"Oh, I like. What's up?"
"Do you know where Kia is, we should really have her here too."
Marge traced a pattern in the air and said something in a language I did not understand. The moment she finished Kia stood in the room. We both gave her some scratchies and got our lick across the face as a greeting.
I explained the dilemma with the fates and how I had promised Atropos to discuss it with them.
"This is not as big a problem as you might think," said Kia. "I can sort this out with ease, if the controllers of the Fates let me."
"You know how to contact them?" I was flabbergasted.
"No, but Lachesis knows and what Lachesis knows I know ... if I want to. I shall go and see her."
With that Kia disappeared.
"Just as well Kia loves us," said Marge. "I dread to think what she is capable of if the situation were different. She is by far the most powerful creature we know of.
"But, be that as it may, you promised a nookie."
A nookie it was.
"You know, Marge," I said to her during our post coital embrace, "you are the closest thing to a wife I've ever had."
"I know. Me and Hera, both. You have two half wives."
"Oh yes, Hera is very much in love with you. You are only the second man she ever had in her life, and now, since she and Zeus have reverted back to being brother and sister again, you are the only one. She still plays with the girls, but then, nearly all the Goddesses do. It's part of what we are."
"I thought all she was interested in was the sex."
"You couldn't be more wrong. That first time, when you were really angry with her and fucked her out of spite, you still cared enough about her to make sure she had her orgasms before you had yours. That was new to her. Zeus fucked her when he felt like it, if she happened to get off while he was at it that was a bonus, if she didn't, he couldn't give a shit, as long as he got what he wanted. To him she was little more than a possession. That is not to say there isn't any affection between the two, but it isn't, and never was, love. It was you who showed her that."
"How do you know all this?"
"She told me. Since you came into the picture she called on me a few times, ostensibly for some sex, but when it came down to it it was mostly to find out more about you. We've had sex before, usually at some hen party or other, never one on one though. We've become quite close. She calls me her sister wife.
"You treat her like a woman, not like the Supreme Goddess. She likes that. She finds it irresistible that you show her respect and affection without subservience. No one else does that, perhaps apart from me. I do pretty much the same now, I've learned that from you.
"Well, lover boy, all that talk got me horny again. Fancy another round?"
Chapter 42: Betty
Next day, after breakfast, Betty asked if she could talk to me for a while. We went to a separate table on the veranda and took some coffee with us.
"I just spoke to Panacea," she said. "She tells me Frank and I can have sex again. It is safe now. You know what that means, don't you?"
I had no idea what she was talking about. She must have seen the confusion in my face.
"You have forgotten, haven't you?" she chastised me. "Remember when we were in front of the mirror after my treatment? I promised you my second cherry then. Can I share your bed tonight so I can thank you properly for all you have done for us?"
"What about Frank?"
"Oh, Frank will be thanking Marge. She has already agreed. She said she will cook dinner for the four of us before we retire to our respective beds."
"You got yourself a party," I said to Betty, sealing the bargain with a kiss.
"Now that this is out of the road, back to business. I need you to do something for me."
"What can I do for you, Betty?"
"I want a video link with the people on the other planet. A big screen, say about six feet wide, inbuilt translators, something suitable for conference calls. There is a conference room in the Horny Tom that holds about twenty people. I want it installed there. The other terminal should be somewhere in the temple. I need this as soon as possible. When the delegation arrives they can stay in touch with home. If we can get it done quickly we can get them used to it before they come here."
"This is a job for Darrin, let me call him."
I called Darrin via Endora and asked him to join us. He arrived shortly thereafter and I explained to him what Betty wanted.
"You never ask for anything easy, do you?" he grumbled.
"If I needed something easy I would ask a mechanic, not a genius."
"Alright, alright. You don't have to butter me up. You can have it this afternoon. I'll get Vulcan and Algenon to give me a hand. We'll have to go with you to install it on the other end, say tomorrow morning, if that's okay."
"Wonderful, couldn't be better."
"Is he always this grumpy?" asked Betty after Darrin had left.
"It's his way. It doesn't mean anything. He is by far the best technician I have ever come across and I have worked with hundreds of them when I was working as an engineer. He is quite a nice bloke actually once you get past his act."
"Pity I can't go with you."
"It's only another two weeks before you're fit to travel. The time will pass quickly enough."
"I know. I just get frustrated when I can't work at my own pace. There is so much I need to know, so much to explore."
At that moment Bruce turned up. I filled him in on what we were going to do. He wanted to join us but I told him he and Marge were needed here. Over a beer I explained that when we had the terminal going I wanted the natives to see a couple of familiar faces on the screen. I figured if I could get them to talk to friends via the video link they would quickly overcome any reservations they might have about the technology.
"Besides," I added, "if, as I suspect, there is going to be a party afterwards you and Marge can port over and join us."
"Now there is a thought," said Bruce, with a broad grin.
I went back to my cabin feeling restless and uneasy. I had not been inside more than ten minutes when Marge turned up. She complained about feeling jittery without knowing why. We were comparing notes when Kia staggered into the room, obviously in shock. Marge put some Cognac into a bowl and put it in front of the little fawn. Kia slurped the lot.
"Thanks," she said after a while, "I needed that. I feel better now."
"What happened, did someone hurt you?" Marge was cuddling the little thing; she was more upset now than Kia.
"No, no one hurt me. I just saw something that really rattled me."
"Can you talk about it?"
"Just as soon as you give me some more of this fine old French Cognac."
Marge giggled and put some more in Kia's bowl. It didn't last long.
"As you know, my intention was to speak to the controllers of the Fates," she explained. "I went to see Lachesis, but kept myself invisible. She didn't know I was there. I could see in her thoughts that they were about to go and get their orders for the day so I didn't ferret around any more in her mind and decided to follow them instead.
"They went into an enormous cave. It wasn't natural, it had been built a long time ago. At the far end there were twelve huge statues, at least thirty feet tall, of hominid creatures, but with facial features like insects. The statues spoke to the Fates, giving them their orders.
"It felt odd. I could not see the thoughts behind the orders, as I normally do. It appeared as if the orders were coming from something other than a living being. I hung around after the Fates left and made a monumental discovery. The controllers of the Fates, the overlords of Earth and Olympus ... are machines!
"Somehow this discovery rattled me to the core. I had real difficulties getting back here. I thought I was going to die."
"I think you ran into a defensive mechanism that was meant to kill you," I said. "What saved you is that you come from a different universe and that your make up is something they hadn't encountered before. That's why you only got sick."
"That makes sense," said Kia.
"Do you think it's Endora who is doing this?"
"It is possible, I guess," said Kia, "but I doubt it. It didn't feel like Endora to me. I think I would have spotted it if it had been her."
"What will you do now?" Marge was worried.
"I shall go to what you call the Deer Planet for a rest until I am completely fit again. I shall be safe and welcome there." With that she disappeared.
"We should tell the others about this," said Marge.
"And how do you propose to do this without breaking your promise to Kia?"
"Oops, shit. You are right, we have to keep this to ourselves. On second thought, we could discuss it with the Fairies. They know all about Kia. We would not be breaking any confidence."
"No. Leave the Fates out of this for now. Kia has a plan. Let's see what she comes up with first."
"How do you make that out?"
"She would have been safe and welcome here. She went to the Deer Planet for reasons of her own."
"You can't blame her for wanting to be with her own kind when she is not feeling well."
"They are not her own kind. Distant cousins perhaps, no more. She told me so. These creatures live on a planet where they have food and shelter in abundance and no natural enemies. Their only pursuit apart from day to day living is philosophy. A planet full of thinkers. Kia will tell them about her problem and see what they can come up with. That's my guess anyway."
"What are we going to do now then?"
"How about you make us some lunch. I don't feel like Bruce's food. Something Italian, maybe. After that I will have a look at where Darrin is at with the conferencing gear and you can start cooking for tonight's party."
"Spaghetti Bolognese with a bottle of Chianti maybe?"
We had our meal and I went to see Darrin. The boys were already installing the terminal in the conference room. Betty was there. She seemed happy with the set up. I was surprised at Darrin. He couldn't do enough for Betty, he actually smiled when he was talking to her. When I asked her later what had brought about this transformation she said: "It's amazing what a little dickrub will do to the grouchiest of men."
I figured Betty would have no trouble integrating into our little group here.
There was nothing for me to do so I went back home. Marge was busy in the kitchen. She had the window wide open. There on the sill was a ringtail possum sitting on its haunches, munching on an enormous strawberry.
"Where did this thing come from?" I asked.
"He comes from our place. Bruce loves possums, he always has a little colony of them around. His name is Didi."
I stuck my hand out and stroked his fur. "G'day Didi," I said, "you are welcome here."
He put his strawberry down, hopped on my shoulder and gave my earlobe a lick. Then he hopped back to his strawberry and continued munching.
"He likes you," said Marge. "He'll visit you often from now on. He's a friendly little fellow. And now grab yourself a beer and sit outside somewhere. You are under my feet."
I did as I was asked and sat on the veranda. I had not been there long when Frank turned up. I was at a loss for conversation, I couldn't very well tell him I was looking forward to fucking his wife. I got him a beer instead. Didi hopped on my shoulder when I went to the fridge to get the drinks and stayed there.
Frank was delighted when I introduced him to the little animal. In no time at all Didi was sitting on his shoulder licking his earlobe. Didi's stamp of approval. The little fellow jumped on the table and sniffed on my beer can.
"I think he wants some," said Frank, highly amused by Didi's antics.
"Who am I to begrudge a fellow Aussie a bit of beer?" I said, went to the kitchen and returned with a saucer. I poured some beer into it and Didi went nuts. He did a little dance around the saucer and started slurping it with relish. When he had finished he sat on his haunches and burped. Frank was in stitches. Didi went over to him and rubbed his nose on Frank's can.
"Want a bit more?" said Frank and poured some more into the saucer.
Again the little dance routine. This time Didi took it slowly. When he had enough he looked at us, hopped off the table, ran across the grass to the nearest tree, ran up the tree and was soon lost to sight.
"He'll be back," said Frank. "You'll never get rid of the little bugger now."
"I can think of worse things," I said.
"So can I," said Frank.
I was again at a loss to find a subject for conversation. On the spur of the moment I asked him: "Do you think Endora is unique?"
"That is a really difficult question to answer," he said after a long pause. "Endora is the result of a long line of technological development, millennia most likely. That during this time rival civilisations developed similar systems is almost a given. Something as huge and as sophisticated as Endora is unlikely to spring up in isolation. As to whether such competing systems have survived, that is an entirely different kettle of fish.
"We know Endora has survived, so we know it's possible. There has to be at least a possibility that one or more rivalling systems have survived too."
"Would Endora know of any rivalling systems?"
"Without question. She would have had to be aware, at least at the time, of competing developments."
"Would she tell you, if there were?"
"I doubt it. I wouldn't ask her anyway at this stage. It might spook her programming and kick other security subroutines in and we would have to start from scratch. We are walking on thin ice as it is. I take it you have reason to believe a rivalling system exists."
"Yes, but I can't tell you much without breaking a confidence I have sworn to uphold. Suffice it to say that I have reason to believe that the controllers of the Fates, and therefore the controllers of Earth and Olympus and God knows what else are machines."
"Actually, that makes sense."
"Think about it. The builders of Endora left to a man for shores unknown to us as part of their evolution. They left us their technology as a legacy, albeit with some reservations. Say there was a rivalling system who did pretty much the same, except they had some civilisations they couldn't take with them, because they were still too primitive. One solution would have been to put some machines in charge to at least maintain the status quo. Better than throwing them to the wolves."