Sunday, 5 February 2012

Bobo, Chapter 20

Bobo is a novella-like literary structure, as whipped up from things I found around the house by me, your McGyver-like host, Cheeseburger Brown. This is the twentieth installment.

eBooks Update: I tried to make the Kindle editionof
Simon of Space free, but Amazon wouldn't let me. So it's 99 centsinstead. I know most of you have already read that one, but I'm putting it out there so you might send the link along to a Kindle-wielding friend who hasn't read it but might like it, or whatnot. I have restored the original cover. The web version remains free.

For those of you outside of the Amazon ecosystem, four of my novella-length titles are now available at Smashwords. Scroll down to find versions of
The Long Man, Night Flight Mike, The Bikes of New York and Tim, Destroyer of Worlds in all of the popular non-Amazon ebook formats.

Meanwhile, the legend of Bobo carries on...

Oscar looked up from his desk to watch himself pace.

The office was makeshift. His jacket hung from an intravenous fluids stand. His coffee steamed from a urine sample jar. He sat in a wheelchair. A cigar smouldered untended in a kidney-shaped vomit dish.

Suddenly he growled, "Will you stop that infernal pacing!"

His double looked over, brow raised. "You want me to take a break, sir?"

Oscar nodded. "Take a break. Take a nap. Take a pill. I don't care -- just give me some peace."

The window opacified and the double left. The show was over. Oscar pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long sigh. This vigil was killing him.

He was just screwing the top back on his secret flask when someone knocked abruptly on the door. He looked up, licking his lips in prelude to an angry objection. But the door was already opening.

Oscar slammed the desk drawer.

The woman was tall. Her robots closed the door softly behind her. Her robes were impressive and expensive, if somewhat severe in cut. She approached the desk and looked down a long nose at him.

Her eyes were hard. This was no amateur. Oscar stood up to the stranger's level. "Won't you sit?"

"I won't," she said. "It is a poor habit. It achieves only corpulence."

"Ah. You're from Ishtar. Charmed, I'm sure."

"Swallow that snot, politician. This conversation represents the fulfillment of your aspirations and you will do as you are told."

"I beg your pardon?"

It wouldn't be fair to say she smiled, but something changed in her expression. "Difficult as it may be to fathom given your facile transparency, your so-called movement has found the momentum it needs to win the day. The standing government will be dissolved. There are consequences to that."

She snapped her fingers. Oscar's robots wilted, torsos hanging limp from their rigid waists, arms swinging slowly to a rest. Oscar took a startled step backward, running into his chair. "Is this an assassination?"

"No," said the stranger. "An education."

He narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?"

"I am Ishtari Julia Roboticist. I have come to discuss your mascot."

Oscar's eyes widened again but he mastered his expression quickly. "I've heard of you, naturally. Your reputation is panstellar. But I had no idea...that you were so attractive."

"You cannot flatter me, politician. You nauseate me to try."


She straightened. "You are to tell me why this Bobo unit lies in a human hospital. You will refrain from filigree in your speech, and focus exclusively on the most relevant facts."

"What does an Ishtari care about Eridian affairs?"

"You are ignoring my directives," said Ishtari Julia Roboticist. "Do not force my robots to resort to physicality."

Oscar cleared his throat. "There's no need for threats. We are civilized people both, aren't we?"

She said nothing.

Oscar glanced over at her robots. He sat down in his chair and took up his cigar, puffing it to life. "You're being needlessly unpleasant. That's your culture, I suppose. You should understand that I'm not really a politician. I'm a professor. I just happened to write an influential book at an opportune time. As Bobo's proxy I stand in the limelight only by happenstance."

Ishtari Julia Roboticist sniffed. To the robot on her left she said, "Break a finger."

Oscar held up his hands. "Wait, wait, wait. I have a point! Won't you listen? I'm trying to tell you what you want to know." He gave her his best smile. "Please, let's be reasonable."

"Lies are intolerable," she said.

Oscar's finger sounded a muted pop as the bone split. He yanked his hand free and held it with the other, eyes pinched shut in pain. His breathing was ragged. His face was red. His beard was mussed.

"How much do you know?" he hissed.

"Continue your account."

Oscar managed to puff on his cigar with a shaking hand. "Bobo lies in a human hospital because the people love him," he said. "They would not stand to see him without dignity, strung up in a repair shop. They seized him and took him here. I've had my office moved to this ward so I can sit vigil over him, just like the crowd outside that window."

"Who attends to the machine?"

"No one. Bobo attends to himself -- at least so far as we can discern. He's unresponsive but he's put up a security screen around himself. It is the opinion of my robotics advisor that he has entered into the robotic equivalent of a coma, for the purposes of self-repair."

She raised a brow ever so faintly. "You will explain how the robot was damaged."

"He was shot. By a random lunatic."

When Oscar had recovered from having the next finger being broken he said, "My staff found him, that crazed junkman. He already hated Bobo. The arrangements were easy."

"You disposed of Bobo so that you yourself might assume his notoriety on behalf of the reform movement."

"Yes," said Oscar, cradling his wounded hand. "I admit it," he said huskily with a nervous glance at the robots flanking him.

"This new popularity has won you the leadership of the party."


"You intend to lead the new government after the election."

"Yes, I do. And damn it I'll be good. I really will be." He trailed off, eyes unfocused at the window, then turned back to her. "I'm going to level the playing field. Come hell or high water, I swear I'm bringing those Zorannic bastards down."

"You are not an advocate of robot rights."

"You're right. I'm not. It's human rights I care about."

Ishtari Julia Roboticist's mouth twitched. "You agree that Bobo must go."

"I pray for it. If he dies the election will surely be mine."

She offered him a wan smirk. "The election will be yours. I am not speculating, but rather informing you."

"Tomorrow is voting day."

"A formality. You will form the new government because Ishtar allows it. Our legal advisors will help you draft the legislative steps required to unseat the Zorannic machines here on Eridu."

"And what must I do in return?"

"Release the robot to me," said Ishtari Julia Roboticist. She spread her arms. "Nothing more."

"You want Bobo?"

"I do."

Oscar let a smile spread slowly over his lips. "I'll consider it."

"I will take him now."

"You won't. Go on -- I've got eight fingers to go. If you want him so badly, and I can tell that you do, you'll take him when I say and you'll take him on my terms. I can have parliament without help, you Ishtari dog. If the reformers are denied the mandate the people will riot. Mark my words. Whether by grace or blood I'll rule Eridu tomorrow."

"How dare you?"

"You've overplayed your hand, you reeking anus. Get the hell out of my office."

She did. Oscar quickly used his good hand to open his desk drawer but realized immediately he had no way of unscrewing the cap of his flask. Oscar glowered. He tasted bile. He kicked the drawer shut and stabbed at his watch, roaring for security. When two agents from the security firm arrived Oscar had one beat the other, and then vice versa. "You're fired," he said when both men were bloody.

Next he used his watch to contract on credit for a quintet of elite personal bodyguard robots, and asked for them to be built to order with upgrades that promised to deliver the cutting edge in violence: poison, fire, and unfettered physicality.

Nurses arrived to heal his fingers but Oscar waved them away angrily. "Not until after the press conference, you ninnies," he bellowed, dabbing sweat from his brow. "You don't stumble on good luck like this every day."

He ordered the guard on Bobo redoubled, and in a fit of anti-diplomatic combustion insisted that the entire hospital be, until further notice, off-limits to offworlders. His secretary brought him a little white pill and some water. He gingerly fed his injured hand through his sleeve and shrugged on his jacket. "Make-up!" he called. "Worsen my pallor!"


SaintPeter said...

Well, I guess I was right about the man in the yellow jumpsuit being a patsey. I just don't know what the outworld lady is up to. I should probably remember the planet names, but I don't.

Anyone out there that can enlighten me?

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Epsilon Eridani is the sun of Callicrates, right? That's the seat of the human empire (from whence the Queen rules), whereas Ishtar is the seat of Zorannic authority, more or less. Someone from Ishtar is working from the inside to take down the Zorannics.

Does this mean Oscar was just visited by Cassandra herself?

Are his security guards under some sort of math-induced Compulsion to obey him, or are they just that compliant?

So many questions, and we still have no idea how many more chapters are yet to come. Fascinating.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Oops; my mistake. Looks like Eridu is the world on which this story is taking place... I think.

Either way, Oscar is quite confident. Chekhov's Roboticist needs to make another appearance.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear SaintPeter,

Aren't planet names a bitch? Frankly, I have the same problem with streets.

In what can only be considered a sidebar to this story, let's discuss whence and when. Hold on, let me pour myself a glass of something so I can stall and think about it a minute.


I think it should be fairly clear at this post that we're post-Solar. Now sometimes I don't remember what I have and haven't yet put into a story, or what stories I've told my brother aloud and forgotten to write down, but at any rate I hope you remember Brother Phi from SIMON OF SPACE. I'm pretty sure he covered most of the basics about three arks leaving the Solar system just ahead of sun exploding. While two of the arks made it safely to their intended destination at Epsilon Eridani, one of the arks lost its way and ended up at Alpha Centauri. Some centuries after worlds were founded at both stars, the civilizations encountered one another again when travel technology had improved to the point to allow it. From that point on the Centauric worlds (Ishtar and Eridu) existed as part of the larger panstellar structure of governance, but retaining their own distinct culture.*


* (If you're Canadian, you might compare the situation to the "two nations" concept of the hot, sweaty confederation between the francophony and anglophony here at home.)

The Centaurics are the odd fellows out in the galactic neighbourhood, but since there's great historical and religious significance ascribed to Centauric institutions -- seen by many as a kind of throwback to a more classical human age -- no one is prepared to force their conformity. Never the less, I don't doubt that members of planetary parliament from Centauric planets probably get dissed by snobby officials from more flashy and economically thumping worlds, like those at Nsomeka Star or on the capital Callicrates or rich old Tenigretta or what not.

It's hard to be revered for your authentic and classical culture while standing accused of being backward. I bet a lot of Centaurics felt boxed in by their position. The tourists and the pilgrims have certain expectations, and it must be hard to turn away from that despite pressures to modernize and adopt the ways of the majority civilization. How can you improve the living conditions of people conditioned not to change?

So if the Ishtari parliamentarians feel ensnobbulated by the dominant panstellars, I imagine they're likely to rationalize their position in the galaxy by assuring themselves that they are, in fact, better than somebody. That somebody is their sister world of Eridu, which has rotten weather and crappy beaches and long winters and high unemployment.

If people are frustrated they'll gravitate to a voice that offers an apparent solution. Who's to blame? I'll tell you: it's those bloody Zorannic stalwarts. They won't share their power, and the people live in their shadow. Fomenting a "reform" movement under such conditions is easy. So the reform movement on Eridu has cast a villain, and expends its energy impressing the intelligentsia with important manifestos and position papers from respected professors of historic universities. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it's more than hobby than calling for most of them.

But then here's Bobo. He's a nightmare, but he violates the status quo.

In this respect he is a jewel. He is an anomaly that might serve as a wedge for change, however repurposed after the fact.

Like moths to a flame, the powerful are helplessly attracted to exchanges of power. That is why Ishtari Julia Roboticist has made Oscar's business hers. That's why who forms the government on the most backward of the backward worlds is somehow important to the Ishtari -- they crave adjustment of the standing situation.They may even crave it so badly they would tolerate chaos as a transition.

Anyway, so the planet is called "Eridu."

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Sheik said,

Are his security guards under some sort of math-induced Compulsion to obey him, or are they just that compliant?

They are desperate for work. On a world with chronically high unemployment, people will make great sacrifices in order to stay attached to that source of livelihood. Depending on the current economic climate in your geographic region, you may have noticed this effect personally.

Even if we were to put that aside, I would argue that people might go to extraordinary lengths to retain their position when they work for the would-be prime minister. I heard Nixon once made a secret service guy put his dick into a dish of crab salad intended for the Chinese. Did he do it? Of course he did. Dude wanted to draw a paycheque come Friday, like us all.

Also, nice job on filling in the locations in answer to SaintPeter's comment. I should've have bothered with all that typing when I could've just scrolled down and seen that you'd already explained the context.

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...


s/I should've have bothered/I shouldn't have bothered


SaintPeter said...

Actually, your comment is epic and very informative. Although I had to re-read it about 4 times to actually get the information I wanted. I really apprecaite that you take the time to explain, it only increases my enjoyment of your work.

I think I get it now -
Ishtar: Neighbor planet of Eridu, where our story takes place. Natives look down on Eridu.

I was concerned that I had missed a SoS reference (which I may very well have). I think someone pointed out previously that Captain Teng was from one of the mentioned worlds, but I could be confused.

Sheik Yerbouti said...


Ting's homeworld is Reull (which, like Ops, is known for its anti-robot sentiment).

The current situation is a bit like the dual-planet relationship in Idiot's Mask -- of course in that case, things had gotten so bad that the system was eventually shut off from the Panstellar gate network. Given the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing happen here.

Nobody's commented on the existence of Oscar's double, or what that means. At first I thought we were dealing with a clone, but upon a second reading, I believe he's just a stand-in for more dangerous duty (a la Dave, or The Great Lorenzo in Heinlein's Double Star.


Thank you for the additional culture/history lesson.

I can't wait to see what happens to Oscar's movement once Bobo wakes up from his "learn how to control everything on the planet" coma.

EMHMark3 said...

"Worsen my pallor!"
That's just awesome.