Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

The Story of J: Chapter 11 – A Cold Day In…

=====Work of Fiction=====

Previous:
Chapter 10 – Recruiting
Table of Contents Next:
Chapter 12 – Encounter

 

Baleysworld is known primarily for the hard winters and the hard people they produce.  The planet is purported to be the Planet of Origin by the inhabitants of the world which makes them one among hundreds of planets to make that claim.  The planet is home to a particular species of plant that is well adapted to the near-constant winters found…

…The world’s population exists almost entirely underground.  Although the environment is not pleasant, the reasons for the underground caves of steel seems to be rooted in cultural, rather than environmental, forces.  Because of the massive structures that contain the world’s population, sociologists have determined that Trantor, and the planet-girdling city of domes that were built during the first galactic empire, may have been colonized directly from Baleysworld.  Indeed, the structures offer similar architecture…

…The planet is also unique in that the First Foundation’s religious tenants designed to control the technology provided by the home planet were completely ineffectual.  it is widely believed that the planet does not harbor any religious beliefs.  However, speculation is rampant among outsiders as to the source of the planet’s atheism. The great archaeologist Gladia Delmaar was said to have been interested in the planet…*

* All excerpts from the Encyclopedia Galactica taken from the sixth edition FE 1792 Terminus.

 —————————-

“I don’t suppose we could just look up ‘Temple’ in the directory.”  J had said sardonically in the general direction of Agent Leo.

As J expected, the agent responded. “There are no temples listed in the directory on Baleysworld.”

The trio of travelers remained silent and motionless in the small space port on Baleysworld.  The trip to arrive at this distant planet had been long.  The tight quarters on board Exie had not helped.  Unfortunately nobody had thought to plan a course of action while on the trip.

Finally Kat broke the silence. “Well I for one would like to sit down and have a nice meal.  Then we should probably arrange for a place to stay.”

The two men nodded in agreement and then followed as she lead the way to a brightly lit entrance.  She stepped outside, and then immediately turned back around and came back in before the men could feel the frigid air outside.

“I though we were near the equator.”  She said which produced only puzzled looks from her male companions.  “It is freezing out there.”  She looked around for the first time and noticed that there were many shops in the space port, and most of them had heavily insulated jackets and pants hanging in the displays.  “this way” she ordered and then marched toward the closest store.

Half hour later, the three travelers exited the shop and stepped comfortably out in to the cold clad in brand new…agency funded…heavy clothing.  J, Leo and Kat entered a waiting ground car taxi and asked the drive to take them to a restaurant.

The driver didn’t ask for more information, he simply stepped on the accelerator and drove for about 20 minutes. 

If there is one constant in the universe it would have to be the administrative building.  Every planet from Trantor to the most distant and backward has administrative buildings.  The architecture may differ slightly from planet to planet, but the air always conveys the same “officialness”.  The interior walls are always beige with a minimal of decoration.  The people inside are always the same self-important bureaucrats.  The building the cabbie brought them to was definitely an administrative building.

When the ground car was stopped, the back door was openned from the outside.  A person was on the other side wrapped in enough clothing to hide the gender of the individual.  He/She motioned the trio to follow. 

Once inside, the figure removed the coats with the ease of great practive revealing a diminutive man with larger-than-necessary ears that provoked an instant smile from everyone who met him.  His smile was easily displayed as well and he grinned at the three travelers.

The three travelers waited for the man to speak…not sure what was going on.

“Hi, I am the Executive Assistant to Undersecretary of External Information” the man said, without giving a name. “I have been told to inform you that you are looking in the wrong place and to send you on your way.”

“You know who we are?” J said, with maybe a little too much enthusiasm.

“In a way…I was told to tell three travelers from Trantor that were to arrive today quote ‘You are looking in the wrong direction’ end quote.  Then I was to send you on your way.”

“And who told you to tell us this message?”  Leo asked.

“The message came from our police force’s department of external threats.” He said with a small smile.  “And to answer your next question, they are a little on the paranoid side.  They rarely share their sources.

“Now that that is over with, I was wondering if you would like to join me for a bite to eat.”

The three visitors agreed and the small man turned and led them to a public cafeteria. 

On the way, Leo pulled J in close and whispered “He has a practiced mind.  He only thinks what he says.  Either he knows that I am an agent, or he is always careful not to think too much when speaking…similar to a gambler who doesn’t look at his cards because he doesn’t want to give away his hand.  Apparently he is a practiced politician at least.”

 They didn’t walk far to the cafeteria.  Another indication of the “Administrative Building Effect”.  The line to enter the cafeteria was long to say the least.  With people from all walks of life waiting in a raucus organization for their chance to swipe their palm and enter the eating area.  However,  the small man walked to another kiosk where an actual person waited to admit them.  To J’s eyes, the man didn’t identify himself, but the attendant opened the door with respect.

The man lead the group to a small table and sat down.  In front of each table setting was a set of buttons.  The main pointed to each in turn.  “Unfortunately, we have come on a day when there is no choice for the main entre. But, this button will provide you with a tofurky sandwich.  These two will provide you with either chocolate milk make with real milk or a glass of synthapple juice. ”  J Smiled to himself at the mention of “Real” milk…obviously a delicacy on this planet.  He, however, selected the sythapple juice for his sandwich.  Leo and Kat both selected the milk…but the executive secretary to the undersecretary of external communications did not.

The food and drink appeared almost instantaneously from an alcove directly in front of each seat.  J took a timid bite of the sandwich.  It was bland, but somehow gave J a feeling of familiarity.   He savored the dish, chewing each bite completely before reluctantly sending it on to his stomach. When the sandwich was gone he was tempted to ask for another.  But decided against it.

“May I ask you a question?” He asked the government man.  Without waiting for approval, he continued “How many people live on Baleysworld?”

“There are approximately 4 Billion.  Why do you ask?”

“Well, these cafeterias seem to be overcrowded despite their obvious efficiency.  That level of efficiency leads me to believe that overpopulation and greater demand the capacity may be an issue.  But 4 billion is hardly unheard of in the galaxy, and to my knowledge the other planets do not resort to this.” J said gesturing at the relative pandemonium going on around them. “So, I wonder why you have developed this intentional system of overcrowding.”  J had watched the man intently, waiting for some sign that he was impressed by his train of logic…or for that matter that the man was impressed at all.

“To tell you the truth.” he said, with the slightest of smiles “nobody really knows why we have developed this ‘ intentional system of overcrouding’ as you so eloquently put it.  From time to time a measure to address the ‘cafeteria problem’ is put on the ballot.  It is inevitably voted down.  Apparently, it is a cultural thing.” The man stopped as if that answered the question.  “Now, may I ask you a question?” He said and without pausing continued “What is it that you are looking for?”

Kat began to answer, but Leo had grabbed her arm and indicated that J should continue the conversation.  Apparently, although he could not read the practiced politician, he knew J was up to something.

J said “You first.  What are you looking for?”

“I’m not sure I understand the question.”

“You are not an Executive Secretary to the Undersecretary of External Communications.  I would say that you are a man of some importance.  The length of a persons title is inversely proportional to their import ants.  Judging by the way the cafeteria attendant acted when you came up, you are not a man of low import ants.  Therefore, your title should be shorter.  Maybe you are the Undersecretary of External Communications?  Or the Secretary?  It doesn’t really matter.  If all you were supposed to do was to tell us to move along, the, whomever ‘They’ are would not have sent such a practiced politician.  You want something…I want to know what.”

If the man was surprised by what he heard, he didn’t show it.  “My question is simply to address my own ppersonal curiosity I assure you Mr. J.  As for the cafeteria worker, she is my neighbor, and friend.  That provides you with some measure of convenience…as long as I don’t abuse the courtesy she shows me.  I assure you, I am who I say I am.”

“And who is that?”

“I am the Executive Secretary to the Undersecretary -“

“Of External information…yes, you said that.  But you didn’t provide a name.  And, incidentally, neither did we.  Yet you just called me by my self provided name.”  J Said. “If I can not believe that you are who you say you are…which I can’t…Then how am I to trust you when you say that we are looking in the wrong place?”

The man stopped and seemed to think for some time.  J glanced at Leo who gave him a small nod to indicate that the small man was indeed ‘thinking’.

“You should trust me because staying here would be a waist of time. “the man paused just before completing the final word in his statement. “I see that you don’t believe that either.  And the truth is that you may be right to doubt my advice.  I can not tell you who I am.  But I can tell you that I have heard from a reliable source that whatever it is that you are looking for is not on Baleysworld.  Unfortunately, they did not see fit to tell me what you were looking for.  When I told my superior about this fact, he suggested that I take it upon myself to find out what you are looking for, so that we could investigate thoroughly.”  He finished looking down at the table…almost in tears.

“May we speak to your superior?” J asked.

“I don’t see why not.” the man said as he stood. “I have failed in my mission.”

—————————-

The group of four walked back to the administrative building at a slow stroll.  Leo took this opportunity to whisper in to J’s ear again. “He is not faking.  He does think he has failed.”

“He has…he was sent to get information from us, and ended up giving us information.  If he is who I suspect him to be, then I have no doubt that he has about violated his greatest preconception…strange really.  Were you pressuring him at all?”

“No” Leo said.

“It isn’t nice to whisper.” Kat said, interrupting the two men.  They went back to walking in silence.  J continued to think.

The door that the man took them to was labeled…with a name.  ‘Secretariat Delmaar – Secretary in Chief’.  J smiled inwardly.  The doors opened on to a largish office that was piled high with electronic tablets.  Each pile was arranged such that the tablets were stable.  J had the impression that each pile served a purpose that was not apparent to anyone but the one who created the piles in the first place.

The man behind the desk looked up, saw the downtrodden face of the pseudo ‘Executive Secretary…’.  He then started to shuffle tablets around until he found the one he was looking for.  Only then did he acknowledge the presence of the other three people who entered the room.

“Mr. Delmaar-” J started.

“Secretary Delmaar” the man corrected.

“Apologies.  Secretary Delmaar, my name is J, this is Kat and Leo, and we are looking for robots.”  J glanced in the direction of the man who had lead them this far just in time to see a slight smile appear accross his face.  He had not failed in his responsibilities.

 “What is a Robot?”  Secretary Delmaar said, while he continued to read the information on his tablet.

“A mechanical being that was reported to be constructed by humans before the dawn of history.  We have come here because this is one of the oldest planets known to exist.”

Theoldest.” Delmaar said, showing obvious pride. “But I don’t think I have ever heard of a robot before.”

“Those that have heard of them consider them mythical.” Kat said. “But we are convinced that they exist.  We would like your permission to look Secretary Delmaar.”

“Why do you need my permission?”

“Your Secretary of External Information here” J said, indicating the man who had attended to them thus far ” tried to get rid of us.  I assume at your request.”

Both of the bureaucrats paused visibly.  One because J had figured out who he was, the other because J had figured out what he had done.  Finally, Delmaar spoke “I did.  But that was at the recommendation of a reliable source.  I on;y had your best interests in mind.”

“And what if this ‘reliable source’ does not have our best interests in mind?” Leo said. “I don’t think we can take their word for it.  Unless you can tell us who your reliable source is and we can check them out for ourselves.”

“That is quite impossible, we don’t even who who he is.” the Secretary of External Information said. “But his information has always been good till now.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have another direction to take right now.  The trail ran dry before we even got started.  This is our only lead.” Kat said.

“And the robots are not the only thing we are looking for. “J said “Can I ask you a question Secretary…”J said indicating the first man.

He paused visibly, then answered “Secretary Marakison” the man said “Jordan Marakison.”

“Is there an way that you can think of that a human would not be found in the genetic library maintained by the Empire?”

The man pursed his lips and shook his head. “Not that I can think of.”

“Do you agree that such a person could be dangerous to our way of life?  Someone who didn’t exist that is.  They could commit crimes and couldn’t be booked.  They could steal and not be identified.”

“Assuming it was not a computer error…I could see that they should be identified.  But that doesn’t seem likely.”

“I am such a person.” J said simply. 

“But I looked you up in the database…you were there.”

“Did you notice when the record was added?  It was added a couple of weeks ago on Trantor.  I am more than a couple of weeks old.  Therefore, I must have been one of ‘those dangerous people’.  I am trying to find out where I came from so that I can figure out if there are more ‘invisible people’ out there.”

J paused and then continued in a seeming non-sequator. “Have you heard of the Korlog?”

“Yes.” Came the simple response. 

“What if they are behind me?  What if I am some sort of spy for them?  Wouldn’t that represent a threat?”

“Secretary Marakison, you are to provide these people with all the resources they need to find out where he came from.  If necessary, you may also help them to find these so-called robots.”  Secretary Delmaar said, then turned around and dropped the tablet on his desk sat down and went to work.  Apparently, the meeting was over.

Secretary Marakison was surprised.  He had indicated that these three travelers may be helpful in their research.  But Secretary Delmaar had used one of his favorite terms.  ‘It will be a cold day in hell before we accept help from outsiders.’ he had said.  But on Baleysworld, it was always cold.  Maybe hell had finally frozen over.

 

Previous:
Chapter 10 – Recruiting
Table of Contents Next:
Chapter 12 – Encounter
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April 18, 2008 - Posted by | Sci-Fi, Story of J, The

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