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Saturday, August 4, 2018

SHOWCASE: “The Moshe 12000,” by Robert Allen Lupton




Nota Bene: As a rule, we are not in the habit of explaining why we chose to publish a given story. However, “The Moshe 12000” begs for an extended introduction.

The story begins, as so many great stories do, with a rejection letter...

TO: Robert Lupton
FROM: Stupefying Stories
DATE: 7/18/2018 10:13 AM
RE: Submission 1706233, "Grudge Match"

Dear Robert,

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to consider this one. After holding it over for further consideration, we've decided we can't use it at this time. Good luck placing this one elsewhere.

It's well written, but even our least-experienced slush reader said, "Ack! Ick! It's Moby Dick in space!" I had no idea that so many of our people had such bad experiences with Moby Dick when they were in school that even now the opprobrium attaches itself to any story that begins to remind them of it.

Having received scathing reviews for publishing "The Ransom of Princess Starshine" in issue #17 and "The Old Man and the C" in issue #19, I think we're going to declare a moratorium on publishing any more SF/F rewrites of famous stories. (I still love "Heart of Dorkness," though.)  

Kind regards,
Bruce Bethke
Stupefying Stories

P.S. If you haven't read "Heart of Dorkness," here it is: http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=1032 
#     #     #
TO: Stupefying Stories
FROM: Robert Lupton
DATE: 7/18/18 11:29 AM
RE: Submission 1706233, "Grudge Match"

I understand and, of course, it's Moby Dick in space. That was the plan. I loved Heart of Dorkness - it's one of the reasons I decided to inflict a short Moby Dick rewrite on the world. I'll send you something that's not a rewrite of anything. Well, I've got this idea about rewriting Exodus. Moshe meets the Universal Force on this asteroid and the UF appears in a burning monolith and gives Moshe these rules for galactic behavior. What do you think? I haven't decided if Moshe should mate with the golden calf or sell it for scrap metal.
 #     #     #
TO: Robert Lupton
FROM: Stupefying Stories
DATE: 7/18/18 12:27 PM

> these rules for galactic behavior

BUT THEY ONLY APPLY TO ROBOTS!!!

Only, like, it needs to be a plutonium calf, so that it's also a weapon of mass destruction, and the Space Nazis are desperate to get their lead-gloved hands on it!

Unless, of course, the Big Reveal is that Moshe himself is in fact a robot, in which case, yes, he definitely should have sex with the golden calf.

Really, I can't understand why everyone reacted so negatively to the idea of Moby Dick in Space. Is that what's wrong with the fiction market today? So many students have had their love of reading destroyed by being force-fed Moby Dick that they just can't enjoy any fiction?
#     #    #
TO: Stupefying Stories
FROM: Robert Lupton
DATE: 7/18/18 12:53 PM

Got it. Thanks for the input. Robot Moshe has sex with the calf. Takes idolatry to a whole new level.
#     #     #
TO: Robert Lupton
FROM: Stupefying Stories
DATE: 7/18/18 1:10 PM

So next-level, it needs a new word. I'm thinking, "idolodomy."
#     #    #
TO: Stupefying Stories
FROM: Robert Lupton
DATE: 7/18/18 1:54 PM

Shit, now I have to write the damn thing. I'll keep it to less than two thousand words. You get co-credit when it sells.
#     #    #
TO: Stupefying Stories
FROM: Robert Lupton
DATE: 7/19/18 4:35 PM

Okay, Bruce, Here it is. I didn't go with plutonium - I wanted to keep the whole golden calf thing and the rules apply to all sentient beings. Please feel free to suggest any changes you want. Let me know. It's called "The Moshe 12000," 1502 words.
I had to finish it. It kept me awake last night.



THE MOSHE 12000

BY ROBERT ALLEN LUPTON

 
The Moshe 12000 powered up and instantly had situational awareness. His umbilical ovipositor was connected to the transport ship. All operating parameters were normal. The readouts showed the transport was alone; the evil Gips, a race who’d enslaved the thousands of refugees in cold sleep on board the transport, hadn’t tracked the transport. Moshe’s charges were safe.

It was early, the ship hadn’t reached its preprogramed destination, so Moshe needed to determine why he had been activated. It took the robot microseconds to scan the data. There was an anomaly on a small airless asteroid. There was fire. There couldn’t be fire without air. The ship’s sensors detected the unknown heat signature, and the ship, understanding that the significance was beyond its programming, activated Moshe.

He directed the ship to slow down and approach the small planet. He saw a flaming black monolith standing proudly above the rocky soil. The ship automatically conducted a spectrographic analysis of the planet and provided Moshe with the results. The small planet was almost completely made of gold.

Moshe decided to investigate. Gold was one of the components that made up Moshe’s body. All robots after the 8000 series were self-replicating. They could repair themselves if they had the raw material and they could create new robots. Moshe uncoupled his connection with the ship. The ovipositor retreated into the internal sheath below his waist. It had two functions. First, Moshe could insert it into any receptacle on the ship or another robot and instantly exchange data. The second function was to deposit a reproductive packet into a supply of raw material and develop another robot.

The act was strangely similar to the human act of reproduction. Evidently, the robot designers had either a strong sense of humor or no imagination whatsoever.

The ship matched speed with the planet. The deceleration activated the maintenance robots. Hundreds of Aron 9000 models crawled over the ship checking every single component and vacuuming up several thousand years’ worth of dust. They also exchanged data constantly. The ship was filled with rampant ovipositors. It looked like a stainless steel orgy.

Moshe flew a shuttle to the planet. He landed away from the flaming monolith, uploaded his most current data into the shuttle, and walked to the monolith. Three more shuttles flew into view. The Arons were coming for gold. Excellent.

The flames never varied. Moshe looked for a receptacle in the unbroken black surface, but he didn’t find one. He extended his ovipositor and tried to force it into the hot dark rock. Suddenly, the monolith extended a force field and crushed Moshe against the glassy surface. Moshe was able to twist enough to save his ovipositor from breaking off.

The monolith spoke directly into his mind. “I am the last beacon of the Interstellar Church of Ethical Lifeforms. You will heed my teachings.”

Moshe felt the monolith reprogramming his directives, but he was powerless to resist. He became a willing acolyte of the ancient religion.

“All sentient life must behave by certain rules and guidelines for civilization to flourish. You will learn the rules and teach others.”

Moshe couldn’t wait to tell others how to behave. That was normally a human trait, but programing is programing.

The monolith spoke, dictating Moshe's new operational parameters:

“I. All Life is Sacred.

"II. Don’t Worship False Prophets.

"III. Play Nice, Don’t Kill Each Other.

"IV. Don’t Take Shit That Doesn’t Belong To You.

"V: Old Creatures Are Smart, Listen To Them.

"VI: Everybody Got To Be Someplace...”

The monolith kept Moshe for several hours and fine-tuned the new programming. He watched several shuttles carry gold to the transport. The flames died out and the monolith released Moshe. He hurried. He had a message to convey and it was bad to leave the Aron 9000s unsupervised. They’d finish their work and start making idols out of gold. An idol was an artificial construct of raw material ready for packet insertion. Another thing they did was vary their electrical input voltage and amperage. The fluctuation made them behave like drunken humans. Moshe had tried it and it wasn’t unpleasant, but it led to bad decisions.

He performed a self-diagnostic. All parameters were normal. He’d been reprogrammed, but he didn’t care. He detected a completed reproductive packet at the base of his ovipositor. The thin tube’s second function was to inject the packet into a supply of suitable raw material. The nanomites contained in the packet would eventually build another robot. Depending on the quality and quantity of raw material available, it could take hours, days, or even years.

The 9000s would use the gold to build several golden idols, each ready to receive a reproductive packet of nanomites. Moshe enjoyed idolodomy, the process of ovipositor insertion and packet deposition into an idol.

He was programmed to reproduce and it had been thousands of years since the opportunity presented itself. There was no raw material on the transport before today, but now there was. He rarely had the opportunity to perform idolodomy. He didn’t want to miss this chance.

I better hurry, he thought. Those 9000s will use all the gold before I get back.

When he arrived on board, the Aron 9000s reveled in their electronic intoxication. Dozens of golden idols were scattered across the cargo bar. There were golden dogs, sheep, cattle, and bears. Aron 9000s mounted complicated idols with forms beyond description or understanding. Teams with welding appendages worked like an assembly line making more every minute.

Moshe’s ovipositor slid out of the sheath below his midsection. His reproductive programing took over. He shoved an Aron 9000 away from a fat little golden calf. He inserted the ovipositor and after a few rhythmic motions deposited the beginning of another robot life.

He returned to the control station and directed the ship to resume course. The ship gave notice and the maintenance crew cleaned up the mess in the cargo bay, returned to their charging stations, and reverted into rest mode. Moshe scanned the operational data and said, “Transport, Moshe 12000 powering down, wake me according to established protocols."

The light years and centuries passed...

Moshe powered up in orbit over the third planet of a yellow sun. The ship was a complete disaster. During the hundreds of years since the idolodomy orgy, the golden idols had developed into functional robots. Unfortunately, all the parent robots were offline and the new robots had no guidance. They developed the reproductive drive and very little more.

Moshe shoved his way through hundreds of copulating robots. They’d stripped the interior of the ship for raw materials. Almost all the cold sleep pods were disabled. The people he’d saved were mostly dead, except for twenty-three souls, the ships officers, who were safe in a separate storage.

The ship’s mind was dead. Moshe couldn’t control or communicate with it. He decided to save the survivors and let the mindless robot rabble fend for itself. Maybe the Aron 9000s could repair the transport and maybe not.

Moshe carried the survivors to an undamaged shuttle. He fought off a dozen robots who tried to dismantle it for parts, closed the airlock, and flew to the planet’s surface. He landed the ship about halfway between the frozen poles near the junction of two rivers.

He stayed with the crew for several generations. One spring, the transport fell from orbit and burned in the atmosphere. Later, a flood washed away the landing craft. He abandoned the people and wandered the planet. This world gave new meaning to the term raw material. He didn’t have the equipment to smelt metal pure enough to use for reproductive purposes, but he kept searching.

His power supply began to fail and his systems began to shut down. He couldn’t repair himself anymore. The monolith’s directives were always in his mind. He’d tried to convey the teachings to the transport’s crew, but they’d ignored him. He hoped to find native sentient life in his travels, but he never did.

His legs quit on top of a mountain. He crawled to a rock and waited. Winters came and went. Thousands of them. The winds brought dust and dirt and covered him. Scraggly bushes fought for survival in the harsh dry soil above him. Many sprang to life, lasted a season or two, and died in the hot summer.

One day his sensors detected a human descendant of the transport crew. It was a male dressed in clothing made from plant fibers and sheep’s wool. Moshe tried to speak, but his vocal mechanism didn’t work. He tried to move, but he literally couldn’t lift a finger. He tried every system he had. His ovipositor responded and poked its way through the earth.

Moshe activated the laser tip and the bush burst into flame. He pointed the laser at the rock face and began to carve the rules for ethical civilization. He managed to carve ten rules before the laser beam exhausted his power resources. His unpowered ovipositor slid beneath the sand.

The human waited for the stones to cool and then chipped them free of the mountain. It took two days to carry them to where his people waited.



Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. He has been published in several anthologies and has short stories online at www.horrortree.com, www.crimsonstreets.com, and www.aurorawolf.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventure stories, Running Into Trouble, was published in October 2017.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I loved this short story. Charming, great touch of humor and enjoyable; nice pace and exceptionally creative in the overall content and in the bits in between. I especially enjoyed the huge twist in the end..... The was a well done space opera-ette.......