Apparently I was going to write some sort of stunning entry on the ItemsInQuestion that was going to blow the lid off this entire investigation, clear up the mystery of Flo-U-RID-3's death, and... I dunno, maybe destroy the Commie threat once and for all or something. Or rather, my predecessor was going to write it; as of yesterday afternoon, I was still looking forward to spending today (the next several days, in fact) sorting through our preserved collection of original first-century paperwork to select a few choice (i.e. suitably-cleared) items for display in OUT Sector's BLUE mess hall, as part of our Sector-wide Service Firm History Monthcycle.
But it was not meant to be, apparently; I was awakened this morning by the Computer informing me that my INDIGO status was being elevated to ULTRAVIOLET and that I was to take my previous clone's place in reporting on the Toothpaste_Disaster. I confess, "Five" had been doing fine for so long, I'd forgotten I might (would inevitably!) someday be called upon to step into the White Toga.
After donning the ULTRAVIOLET robes that were already waiting in my Productional Dispensificator, I asked the Computer how my previous clone had come to be terminated. And then the strangest thing happened: The Computer asked me what Security Clearance I was, and-- choking down the instinctive gut response that insisted I was doing something insanely wrong-- I replied that I was, in fact, ULTRAVIOLET Clearance!
And then the Computer said: "That information is not available at your present Security Clearance."
Now, this leaves me facing three highly disconcerting possibilities, in (what seems to me) increasingly impossible order:
Either the Computer was simply mistaken about the Clearance level of information regarding my prior clone's death, which is certainly possible but very rare;
or the Computer does not know (yet) what happened to my prior clone, and was using a Security Clearance bluff to hide its ignorance, which (so I've heard) happens all the time but don't know for sure;
or there is a Security Clearance higher than ULTRAVIOLET-- something like the obviously non-existent GAMMA_Clearance-- which is truly preposterous, and I want to be very clear that I haven't spent any more time thinking about such a thing than it took to me to write this sentence, which I am now done with, so I won't think about it again. Ever.
I will leave further speculation on this anomaly to you, my fellow reviewers; no doubt at least one of you knows far more about it than the rest of us. No, I don't know who you are; you may rest assured that your identity (or identities) died with Knok-5, you nasty little vermin. But I know you exist. And I know you're not done yet. Well, guess what? The Knok-OUT clone family has a few surprises left in it. I wasn't where you thought I'd be last night, was I? That's right. Newsflash: The Knok-OUTs are rarely where the monitoring systems think they are. I may be our newest ULTRAVIOLET but I know how to live at least one more day.
For the rest of you, this will hopefully come as less than a complete surprise: An individual involved with-- perhaps even the individual ultimately responsible for-- the assassination of Flo-U-RID-3 is right here on this very panel of ours. This same individual is almost certainly tied to core aspects of the Toothpaste_Disaster, pulled some very powerful strings to be on this panel, and is currently working very hard to cover up the last bits of truly important evidence before we-- the rest of us, the ones who knew nothing about this inquiry until we were asked to participate in it-- find it and put it all together.
I've come up to speed on a great deal of relevant material, thoughtfully provided in MindRoom format by my predecessor (don't bother asking how; "Five" didn't last as long as he did by giving away any magic tricks, and I'm not going to start). Unfortunately, his last imprint was a few days old and done in haste; he was probably convinced that he was under observation at the time. As a result, all I have are his speculations, not his conclusions; I have a lot of theories and facts, but very little in the way of concrete evidence.
I know very little about what he was up to last night as well; I'm a bit surprised by the fact that at no point did he contact me, to apprise me of his line of inquiry and to indicate that he might be playing with fire. Whatever happened last night, it presumably occurred so unexpectedly that he had no time to message me any last-minute words that would give me necessary clues, or even a #BN9-15/GAG: Don't Go There, Stupid to help me avoid his mistake. Or... possibly he knew his normal, legitimate lines of communication were thoroughly compromised, and attempting to use them would risk exposing me to our eventual assassin. I would advise all of you to be very careful about how you communicate with your downstream clones; I suspect I'm not the only one who's in danger at this point.
And I am quite certain I am in danger: there is nothing preventing me from picking up where my MindRoom update leaves off, following the same trail of evidence-- if the traitor in our midst hasn't cleared it all up-- and finding out whatever my predecessor knew. And, of course, there is the fact of my continued presence on this panel, and our ongoing mission to discover why the Toothpaste_Disaster happened. Someone has a vested interest in keeping that buried, and so long as even one of us is continuing to pry, there will be more assassination attempts.
And so, in the spirit of renewed vigor for life, I will carry on as my predecessor would have, to the best of my ability, for as long as I can, beginning with this entry on the ItemsInQuestion. Unfortunately, I know very little about the Items; at the time of my imprint, "Five" had only some basic facts and half-formed suspicions. I will do my best with that.
There was an unfortunate incident known as the ToothpasteRebellion which occurred more or less immediately in the wake of the Toothpaste_Disaster.1 It happened in CRY and BBY Sectors early in the tenure of our own Make-U-CRY-2. The official story, if I recall correctly, is that the Rebellion began over some sort of limitation on standard dental hygiene rations. This is open to debate: there was evidently some sort of ringleader or instigator2 for the Rebellion who called himself "Batclone", whose motives may have had nothing to do with Baseline_Dental_Health. I do not know anything about this individual, other than the earlier Lexicon entry which suggests a correlation between his non-standard uniform and one of the Items.3 What cannot be denied is that the Rebellion ended with the mass-termination of between ten thousand and one hundred thousand Citizens in CRY and BBY sectors.4
The ItemsInQuestion (IIQ) were found by a standard fourth-series Patrolbot at the height of the Rebellion. There were eight Items, held within a strange folding box5 that had been tucked into the back of a non-functioning, emptied-out communications patchbay in a little-used Transbot Tube evac tunnel.6 Cesium-Spin Dating (CSD) techniques have positively identified all eight Items as being Old Reckoning in origin. The Items were given to a Preliminary Assessment Committee (PAC) to determine what they were, before handing the Items over to a Decisive Implementation Committee (DIC) for further action. A summary of the PAC report on the Items follows:
A 1:6 scale plastic model of a male human with manually-activated striking-arm.
- The bot was in a sealed plastic package, accompanied by nine different sets of uniforms and same-scale plastic accessories.
- Armed Forces battlefield engineer Gee-I-JOE-6 believed this to be an antique prototype for a small military bot that was capable of a wide range of operations. Judging from the accompanying uniforms, these operations ranged from stealthy commando missions in the Outdoors to leading "cheers".
- Gee-I was then given a surprise re-assignment to a Vulture operation; confusion in the orders led him to believe he was to command the unit on arrival, but led the Vultures to believe they were to fire upon the next person entering the room.
A small pink rabbitoid carrying a large percussive instrument.7
Power Services overseer Ann-R-GZR-5 determined that this was a remarkably small example of the Perpetual Motion Engine (PME) described in the Gatzmann_Archives but never before seen on such a small scale.
- Ann-R was then terminated for exposure to Old Reckoning technology above her Security Clearance.
A pocket tool with only two small fold-out implements: a short, dull blade and a screw-like protrusion.
Tech Services multifunctional object assessor Shard-O-NAY-2 believed it to have been used for opening sealed bottles of recreational fermented beverage-- like B3, but less fizzy, apparently.
Shard-O also noted that this is a very significant find that must have been quite old, because pocket tools of any sort were strictly forbidden in the last several decades of the Old Reckoning-- presumably because they have a tendency to turn up sticking out of the necks of individuals who come near them.
- At least, this is what happened to Shard-O.
A paper box labeled "Office" containing several discs (in the standard Old Reckoning "silver" format) of software data.
- Completely expendable CPU software therapist Mike-R-SFT-1, in accordance with the clear and strict protocols for accessing Old Reckoning data, examined it on an isolated computational node-- and good thing, too, as the software was, in fact, highly virulent in nature, quickly bringing the analysis unit to a grinding halt while looking for any possible access to other machines.
- The only processing device the "Office" virus was able to access was Mike-R's own mind, via his optic nerve; he continues to remain in a catatonic state even now.
A cube, each face a mix of colors in a grid pattern
R&D tinkerer Hand-I-MAN-4 discovered that portions of the cube could be rotated in various combinations.
- Convinced that "solving" the "cube" would cause it to open, revealing even more spectacular Old Reckoning secrets inside, he eschewed sleep, food, waste elimination, water, and even eye-blinking in his devotion to working with the Item.
- He eventually died of thirst, having managed to set one entire side of the cube to YELLOW.
A set of twelve discs (in the standard Old Reckoning "mithral" format) of non-software data.
- These were accompanied by a small iconic representation of a hideously deformed humanoid mutant.
HPD&MC armchair critic Holl-Y-WUD-1 reviewed the contents of the discs for nearly fifteen daycycles. His early updates suggest the contents are a virtually complete record of the Old Reckoning vid-epic "World War II of the Rings"8.
His later updates became erratic, babbling about "full-motion video capture"9 and the "beauty of the Neo Z-Land Outdoors". He also seemed to have trouble distinguishing between himself and the icon of the mutant, speaking about himself in the plural. He eventually announced that he had found conclusive evidence that The Computer had been in operation since the "First Reckoning", and that its "baleful all-seeing Eye" was in fact the chief architect of the World War II of the Rings.
IntSec then had him removed from the PAC and re-deployed into Long Term Interrogation.
A printed book missing its cover.
- Internal Security he-man and super-operative James-B-OND-6 read the book and reported that it confirmed something he had always suspected: that males and females are, in fact, two entirely different species, and that (he had now learned) each originates from different planets, neither of which is this one.
- I can only surmise that this obviously-ridiculous premise indicates the book was not a scientific journal (as he believed), but rather a cleverly-laid trap which Old Reckoning security forces used to flush out the proto-Communists that we know, even then, were everywhere.
James-B was declared to have been infected with Viral_Thought_Patterns shortly after submitting his assessment, and had to have his entire mind shaken, not stirred, by Special_Brain_Freshening_Unit_K.
A heavy clamp-bound document titled "Tax Code 2003"
- By far the most massive of the Items, this dense and seemingly endless tome of information was given to PLC master notarizer Hate-U-APR-15, legendary for his knowledge of cryptology.
- Hate-U disappeared almost immediately, his report entry consisting solely of the cryptic message, "Time is Money and Money is Time! He who controls the Power of Taxes controls the Universe! Own you on the Flip Side, suckas!"
Rumors of Hate-U's membership in the so-called Voodoo_Economists cabal are not even worth addressing; no such "shadowy group of high-clearance PLC execs" even exists. Now that I am ULTRAVIOLET Clearance myself, I am doubly sure of it.
I must confess, I cannot for the life of me imagine which of these eight things is the one that was somehow represented on the Batclone's uniform. Hopefully Toothy-U can shed some light.
I am also able to find vague allusions, here and there, to a Ninth_Item, but only in fragmented caches on crashed mirror-repositories. Was there one more IIQ, whose mere description has been eliminated from the extant copies of the IIQ PAC report? Considering some of the staggering implications and importance of the other eight, covering up the existence of a ninth suggests it must have been of earth-shaking significance for life in Alpha... or some extremely powerful individual or organization wanted to keep the Ninth_Item for itself. I will try not to jump to any conclusions about the fact that none of the eight members of the IIQ PAC can be contacted anymore, though an obvious (and ominous) possibility does suggest itself.
The ItemsInQuestion PAC submitted this report to the ItemsInQuestion DIC, and what happened from there... Well, I'm not really sure. There is no record of the fate of the eight Items. I can find no information about the CommitteesDecisionOnTheItemsInQuestion, nor even a list of the individuals who served on that DIC. Again, Toothy-U seems to have heard something about it; I'm sure we'd all be interested in knowing more. (I suspect my predecessor also had some progress along these lines.) The strangely-missing entry on the Decision would be more surprising if it weren't for the fact that someone in our midst is destroying and altering evidence even as it is being uncovered. Did someone submit an entry on the Decision, only to have it intercepted and deleted before being safely and permanently ensconced in this Lexicon? How was their Decision relevant to the Toothpaste_Disaster? It can't have precipitated the Disaster; the Decision occurred at least weeks, possibly months, into the post-Disaster clean-up. Did they uncover something we need to know about? Something that we're being prevented from learning?
There are members of this commission who have not been heard from in some time; I most especially note the rather sudden disappearance of Brush-U, whose intimate relationship with dental hygiene is well-known. Has he been "Flo-U-RID-ated"? Or is he our culprit, now gone deeply underground because his terrible secret is about to come out?
I expect things will have to get worse before they get better. I, for one, finally feel like I have some idea of what we're up against. I wish the rest of you the best of luck, except for those of you who are behind all of this, who I fervently hope to see dragged under a Transbot no less than six hundred meters before being set upon by a wild pack of Canibots powered by malfunctioning R&D micropiles which explode and are extinguished by having the entire Sector above dropped on top of the smoldering mess, crushing it forever under millions of tons of rock, steel, plastic, and obsolete marketing materials.
Your New Buddy in Feverish Vigilance,
1 Actually, I suppose some would consider the "Disaster" to encompass all the minor problems that preceded the peak event, and all the subsequent secondary catastrophes that it caused, so perhaps by some definitions the ToothpasteRebellion occurred more or less in the middle of the Toothpaste_Disaster.
2 Or maybe just a crazed participant.
3 My predecessor's only note on him expresses interest in finding an original copy of the Catastrophe Overview & Mistake Identification & Comparison (COMIC) book regarding the takedown of this individual by Peter-G-UNN-5 and his legendary EDRT, the Legion_of_Ultraviolence. (cf Emergency_Disaster_Response_Teams).
4 The confusion over the exact number stems from Make-U-CRY-2's controversial use of the then-brand-new EZ/Bake Pre-Emptive Bulk Termination Form 553-3/43 instead of the classic F334.97A/40+/zRG7_(Mass_Termination_(T#>40)_Request_Form) which, while generally more accurate as a record document, is a bear to fill out.
5 Eventually identified as R&D prototype BBY-ST-105.335/C, the "Collapsible Stasis Container", which had been missing for almost a year at that point after being stolen by an offshoot of the Romantics known as the "Dungeon Crawlers". The "Crawlers" were disbanded by Internal Security some time ago; none of them revealed, in processo, anything about the fate of BBY-ST-105.335/C, and it was presumed destroyed. It is uncertain how long it had been sitting in the evac tunnel.
6 Little used because the tunnel was GREEN Clearance access-only and 92.7% of Citizens involved in Transbot in-tube emergencies are of YELLOW Clearance or lower.
7 A possible relationship to the Easter_Bunny_Device should not escape attentive readers.
8 A bigger-budget and much-more-successful sequel to the original "World War", which ancient reviews suggest was awfully slow in places. It continues to astound me, the scale on which Old Reckoning civilization decadently mixed business with pleasure, staging global epics that killed uncountable Citizens and then producing beautifully-edited summaries (not unlike our own Documentaries) for inclusion in their Academy of Alexandria. While it's obvious that such unrestrained hedonism necessarily led to their downfall-- and their replacement by the enlightened and wisely-guided society we have today-- I can't help but feel sadness that their violent self-destruction included the burning of the Academy. How many glorious historical events will we never know about, because of its loss?
9 An Old Reckoning technique for interrogation and torture which involved "de-rezzing" the victim into purely digital information. VIOLET Clearance R&D efforts to duplicate this technology have proven, to date, highly expensive and in vain.
X-Refs: All over the damn place
I have a lot to say about the subject matter of this particular entry, but my other responsibilities hold me back from a full exegesis at this time. (And there's the matter of Knok-U's multiple active clones, a practice discontinued for several years now, but that may not be significant to this inquiry.) For the moment, I'll simply note that I've found a heavily redacted Patrolbot Debriefing Form #4-JMU/r4h(Y) in the archives, and I'm pretty sure that it's from the same patrolbot that found the Items In Question. While the exact number of Items has been redacted as well, it's clear that it's a two-digit number. This means that there are at least two Items missing, and possibly as many as ninety-one, though that last seems unlikely given the size of the box in which they were found.
Discontinued practice? News to me! Sure your memory isn't getting all fogged up like the glass on your tank?
Life moves pretty fast these days, old-timer; Troubleshooters in the field can't afford to wait around for a replacement to decant, then get some sort of half-assed on-the-spot Helmet_Of_Education imprinting-- especially with so many defective parts floating around! Not in my Sector, they can't. As soon as you make RED in OUT, we start decanting your backups and sending them down to the Vulture Range, where they quickly pick up the survival skills they're gonna need in this tough world of ours. When the (regrettable, but-- let's face it-- inevitable) replacement call comes in, your next clone is already a lean, mean survival machine who is ready to positively leap at the opportunity to become a RED Troubleshooter. Yes, it means being shot at by any number of dangerous psychotics from time to time-- but that's world's better than being shot at by any number of dangerous psychotics all the time.
Which reminds me: I better decant Seven through Twelve pronto, and ship their asses down to Vultureland to start learning how the world works.
My condolences upon your recent demise. It's not a pleasant thing, dying; thanks be to Friend Computer for maintaing the clone banks that make possible our return to life.
There's a fourth possibility, incidentally, as regards the information on your previous clone's demise: that the information is not available to any citizen, regardless of security clearance, and that Friend Computer happened to choose a misleading phrase - again, something that happens occasionally.
Or, come to think of it, a fifth: Friend Computer had an overwhelming reason to lie to you.
At any rate, I've done some research around the edges of the question, and have managed to ascertain a few ways in which your previous clone was not killed:
- official termination for treason;
- official transferral Outside of the complex;
- official use as reactor shielding;
being slain by the MegaMax TissueSampler 3000.
These events generate enough traces that I'm confident I would have been able to tell.
Unfortunately, most forms of skulduggery leave only very indirect paper trails. But I'll let you know if I can figure anything else out.
Thanks for the update, Err-U. I've managed to coax a little more data out of Friend Computer myself-- "Five" was, apparently, "vaporized to seven decimal places". Unfortunately, this is the first time I've ever encountered the concept of vaporization in association with an objective, quantitative value. Is "vaporized by a plasma generator" somehow more vaporized than "vaporized by being on a fission device when it detonates"? I'm not sure what to make of it, and my CPU friends tell me they're tapped, they're not going to be able to get the Big C to cough up any more info to them.
I hope whatever happened to him was real quick and mostly painless.
Ah, James-B-OND... I always loved to hear of his latest kill or daring deed. He was unstoppable until that little incident with the reactor in Sector TMI... none of his clones were as good as the first Bond.
As for your death, I managed to retrieve security footage of the incident and have taken the liberty of editing out the boring parts. It should be arriving in your mailboxes very soon. I'm sure you'll find it very, um, informative.
My opinion on the number of items is not important. Oh, and the reason you couldn't find much info on who served on the committee is that there was no committee. I was simply mistaken before. Tee-hee. Nevermind about the whole thing. And, Knok-U-OUT-5 probably just, eh, fell into a hole and didn't manage to find his way out. No need to investigate that further, friend citizen. You know how it is around here, treason happens. Or maybe it's like what happened on my favorite episode of When Mutants Attack! - when the mutant attached his fourth tentacle to that Infrared citizen's head, and the citizen's entire head was sucked out through a hole in his left cheek; that was great. Good times, eh? So. Nothing to see here, I'm sure this was not connected to anything important, Flo-U-RID-3 had nothing to do with this, and there was no committee, which made no decision, and no member of which is certainly not pointing a cone rifle at my upper torso right now. Heh.
Well! Sounds like someone's on the HotSeat! Welcome to the bullseye; it just gets hotter from here.
As for the "security footage", Drake-U, I hope that next time you'll make sure it's a little more like a tape of actual data and a little less like a bomb. I'm going to have to promote a whole batch of new VIOLET_Supervisors now. Good thing my "mailbox" is nowhere near my actual location. Others might see this as evidence that you're the shadowy killer behind all of this, but I'm not so hasty to leap to any conclusions. I just think you're an insane, bloodthirsty despot ruling over a blasted, desolate wasteland of a Sector, who has become so bored and jaded by the orgies of blood he normally foists on his own underlings that he occasionally has to try to murder his peers for a little excitement.
I assure you I have not taken the attempt personally.
Well. Not that I have any particular desire to defend Drake-U, given that I do agree with your assessment of his sadistic tendencies, but you may be jumping to conclusions here. Transit records indicate that three packages were delivered to your office via ULTRAVIOLET X-Press just before the explosion. One was from Drake-U, another from Toothy-U-NIX-4 (with an invalid distribution code, oddly enough), and a third from Omega-U-MAN-5. I've no idea which of the three packages contained the explosive agent, if any. But I'm sure that the IntSec investigation will clear everything up soon enough.
Knok-U, if I didn't know how irrational you were being right now, I would take offense! No citizen above Green clearance would be stupid enough to send a booby-trapped package after publicly announcing it, especially one with their own name on it. This is just more evidence that someone is trying to tarnish my good name.
Besides, I didn't send you any packages. I sent it via Email. You know how expensive & time-consuming it is to make hard copies of security footage?
Ah. Well, I'm not reading my Email right now; it's thoroughly compromised. I'm also not answering any InterComs, opening the door, responding to my CellRinger, or taking out my garbage. Just for the next little while. I'm sure you understand my need for caution.
Hmm, how could you forget the package my copy of the records indicate that you sent, Jan-U? Perhaps your genetic profile is need of scrubbing... again.
Sure, I sent a package. But that was a weekcycle ago, it wasn't via ULTRAVIOLET X-Press, and I indicated that I was sending it in my entry to this report. And it was in ZipPaq format, which R&D assures us is verifiable, error-free, and incapable of delivering any explosive device.
Your continuing attempts to impugn my good name irritate me, Omega-U. Therefore, I shall do you the honor of employing one of your own creations: the DebateIsFutileResolutionForm. Enjoy!
Under current regulations, faking the return codes and paper-trail for hand-delivered packages is displeasingly easy for anyone of VIOLET clearance or above - and while they can generally be traced back given sufficient time and effort, the hasty accusations being made indicate that no such time nor effort has been spent.
As such, I second Jan-U's invocation of the DebateIsFutileResolutionForm. Further information on Knok-U-OUT-5's demise should be posted in a more current forum.
I have only just had time to review this entry and the associated commentary. Toothy-U was correct, there was no committee. I should know. I wasn't on the committee with him. Has the location of any of these Items in Question been determined since they were lost?