Naris Borland turned his crate upside down
and set it on the pavement near one of Paseo's Control Towers. "Not you
again," a voice tsked nearby as he put one foot up to stand on the
crate. Naris glanced in the direction of the voice, saw the scowl the
man named Bert was giving him, and promptly ignored it, climbing fully up
to the top of the crate.
"People of Paseo!" Naris cried out. "Your
Bert tsked again, folded his arms
across his chest, and leaned up against a nearby tree as a curious crowd
started to gather around Naris Borland. "Here we go again..." he grumbled
under his breath. All Naris saw were the man's lip movements, but it was
enough to tell what the baker was thinking. Someday, he'll see,
Naris told himself. Perhaps someday soon.
"Citizens of Paseo," Naris addressed his
crowd in a softer tone. "My name is Naris Borland, and I..." He paused
for dramatic effect, then added, "I have given up all use of Mother Brain
in my daily life."
As expected, the crowd grumbled noisily,
and the consensus amongst them seemed to be somewhere between confusion
and amusement. "I will tell you why!" Naris told the crowd. "Would you
like to know why? Would you like to know why I have turned my back on our
"Because you belong in the psyche ward of
Paseo Foundation Hospital?" Bert called from his tree.
"I have turned my back on Mother Brain,"
Naris continued, ignoring the slam, "because Mother Brain will lead
us to ruin!"
Naris was used to giving these speeches,
and so he was also used to the crowds' usual reactions. Therefore, it did
not surprise him at all when half of the crowd disbanded and continued
about their morning routine upon hearing his revelation. "Let those who
can hear, hear!" Naris told the departing members of his audience.
"Believe me when I tell you we have become a lethargic society under
Mother Brain. We, as a people, have become the old, lazy cat who does
nothing bu t sleep in the shade all day, walking to our food dispensers
when we need something to eat, and walking to our faucets when we need a
drink. We don't work anymore!"
"That's Mother Brain's job," someone from
the crowd called out.
"Bravo!" Bert the baker seconded the
notion from near his tree.
"But we can't just sit around,
never doing anything for ourselves!" Naris pleaded as he watched his crowd
slowly disappear. "You, Bert! The revolution can start with you! Do you
Jumping down from his overturned crate,
Naris stepped closer to the baker. He doesn't like this, Naris
could tell. Bert obviously just wanted to stay in the background, being
paid attention to only for his jokes. "The change can begin today," Naris
told Bert solemnly, "if only you'll take the first step."
"And just what would that be?" Bert asked,
much of the amusement previously found in his voice now replaced by
"You can hire me to work in your bakery,"
Naris told him, "doing anything. Sweeping the floors, even!"
Bert threw back his head and laughed, and
this prompted the handful of onlookers still present to do the same.
Again, Naris was used to it. He just ignored their chuckles, and thought
about the thanks they'd one day give him when they learned that he was
right. "And why should I do that?" Bert finally asked, "when
Mother Brain can just send in a custodial robot to do it for
"Because if we start doing for
ourselves," Naris answered, "then soon we'll start thinking for
ourselves again, too."
More laughter, as the last remnants of the
crowd vanished. "I think just fine," Bert threw over his shoulder as he
walked away. "I think you are a kook!"
Naris hung his head low, but not in defeat
-- in temporary setback. So they didn't listen today... he told
himself as he turned, picked up his crate, and headed back for his home on
the outskirts of town. But if I remain consistent and strong, one
day, they'll have to listen.
For the sake of Algo, they'll have to
His home was recognizable right from the
outside. It was the only home in the city without a mini-antenna atop it
to receive signals from the town's Control Towers. With no external link
to Mother Brain, the super-computer could not enter his home and work her
"technological wonders," but that was quite all right with Naris Borland,
for he had long ago removed all computers, food dispensers, and newsbeam
monitors from his home in exchange for a small garden he kept outside,
water from nearby Lake Odin, and books. History books.
Something Mother Brain no doubt did not want the people of Algo to see.
As he stepped through his front door and
into his living room, he noticed a man was sitting in his house.
"Good day, Mister Borland," the
black-robed man greeted, motioning towards another living room chair.
"Please, sit down. Make yourself..." A grin. "At home."
"Who are you?" Naris asked, unmoving from
where he stood two steps inside the front door. Part of him wanted to
bolt for the Central Tower and the Agents within it. Another part of him,
however, couldn't help but wonder... Can this man hear? Is he here
because he agrees with me? Naris searched his memory, trying to
remember if this man had been in the crowd this morning. He didn't think
"I am three things, Mister Borland, but
first... Sit. Down."
Suddenly, Naris's stomach sank. His
muscles tensed, and he made his first subtle move to turn back around
towards his door. That's when two more men -- men whom Naris did
not notice upon entering -- stepped from their hiding places
behind the door and placed their hands on his shoulders. They led him to
the seat Black Robe had asked him to sit down in, and then they pushed him
down into it. With a rustle of their red robes -- identical to Black
Robe's, except in color -- they then moved behind the chair.
"I must say, Mister Borland," Black Robe
began, steepleing his fingers and flashing a smile, "that was quite a show
you put on this morning. What was it? Your third performance in just
over a week?"
"Who are you?" Naris repeated, his heart
nearly pounding out of his chest in fear. "Where are you from?"
"Connecticut," Black Robe answered, "but
we'll get to that later. First, I must tell you that we're all
very big fans of your little presentations. They keep us laughing
for hours, don't they, gentlemen?"
As if on cue, the two Red Robes behind
Naris laughed softly. Black Robe looked up to them and laughed, as well,
before returning his sight to Naris. "Mister Borland, please tell me, for
I must know: what did Mother Brain ever do to you?"
Naris swallowed his fear. If these...
animals were going to hurt him, or maybe even kill him, just
because he refused to conform to the mindless, lethargic Mother
Brain-produced community of tomorrow that Algo currently found itself in,
then so be it. He was ready to die for his cause, and in the end, these
men would have to look themselves in the mirror and wonder how Palmans
could have done such a thing.
"Mother Brain will lead our world and our
people into ruin," Naris answered confidently. "She has turned us into a
slothful, sluggish people. We no longer even think for ourselves. We let
her bar us from our right to travel amongst this star system, and we say
nothing. We let her bar us from sailing through Mota's beautiful oceans,
and we say nothing.
"Well I will not say nothing. I
will not bite my tongue. I will not let Mother Brain slowly
turn our own world into a prison."
By nature, Naris was not a bold man, or a
strong one. In actuality, he was really quite timid. But his cause could
produce a fire in him, as he had never believed in anything more strongly,
and so now, he stood from the chair he'd been forced into. Black Robe
did the same, motioning off the Red Robes and moving to stand toe-to-toe
with him. "So," Naris wanted to know, "what are you three going to
do to stop me?"
Black Robe's dark brown eyes bore into
Naris's own, and after a moment, Black Robe's straight line mouth cracked
into a grin. "Earlier," he began to say, "you asked me who I was, and I
said, I am three things. I, Terrick, and first and foremost, not
a Palman. I am, by your standards, an alien from another planet. Earth,
to be precise."
When one expects another person to
threaten one's life, but when that other person then instead reveals
himself to be an alien, the shock is somewhat of a big one. All Naris
could do to react to the statement was blink his eyes and whisper,
"Second, I am one of the creators of she
whom you despise so much, the Mother Brain," Terrick continued. "And
speaking of her, I think she'd like to say hello."
With that, Terrick brought a small disk
out of a pocket in his robe and placed it in the palm of his hand, which
he held out upright for Naris to see. Suddenly, a small hologram of a
woman, no more than five inches tall, sprang forth from the small disk.
The woman -- clad in some sort of jumpsuit with the three planets of Algo
decorated on it -- smiled and said, "Hello,
Naris Borland. Rejection from any Algoian hurts, but I shall try to mend
my broken heart and forgive you."
"My God..." Naris whispered, trying to
take a step back but running into his chair. "My God..." he whispered
again, his heart beating furiously at his ribcage.
"And third..." Terrick said before leaning
in close to Naris, who still kept his eyes locked on the smiling Mother
Brain hologram before him. "Third," Terrick whispered into Naris's ear,
"I am your executioner."
With that, the two Red Robes behind Naris
ducked to the ground, and Terrick himself took a giant step backwards,
ducking his head low but keeping his right arm outstretched so that the
disk he held in it was level with Naris's eyes.
Despite the words Terrick had whispered,
Naris found he still could not take his sight off of the hologram. And
now... Why are her eyes... glowing? Naris wondered.
The last thing he saw was a flash of
yellow, and then some sort of thin laser beam that seemed to cut across
the entire room.
Then he saw, and felt, nothing, though as
he fell towards the floor of his living room, breathing his last breaths,
he did hear the Earthman named Terrick clearly say, "The change
can begin today, Mister Borland, if only you miserable Palmans
would just roll over and die."
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