|Back to Index||Written June, 2000|
|"Now you see that evil will always triumph - because good is dumb"|
|- Dark Helmet, Spaceballs|
This story is unlike any I have ever written before so it requires a brief preamble to explain what the hell is going on. If you were a party in some strange way to either its formation or a previous effort set in this completely wierd version of reality then you might want to skip to the story itself.
This story is also the first short story I have written divided into chapters. There are actually 8 if you count the prologue and epilogue though they are obviously quite a bit shorter than the ten-page marathons that pepper Point of Origin and Infinity2. I mention this fact simply for its value as trivia and not because it in any way should affect you or your (no doubt tenous ;-)) grip on the universe.
First things first then: this story is set in a universe that I cannot take the credit for devising. Minds far more distracted and ultimately detached from reality than I had a role in creating it. I have added, twisted and genuinely corrupted the entire idea and for that I am moderately sorry.
The central characters involved here are the maths (purple, furry, tree-dwelling amphibians from the planet Arith). Important members of the maths people include pi, who I'm told was busy saving the word from evil mitochondria while I was writing this. I have introduced my own main character named 'Eee'. If you don't understand the slightest thing that has been said in this paragraph then you are either a) sane, b) not a mathematician but unfortunately, as many very reputable studies have shown it is not possible to be a member of both groups.
If you don't know the first thing about maths then some of the stuff in this story will make no sense to you at all. This is normal. Just try to hold on and it will all work out in the end. Probably.
If any of the other maths had been present at the meeting, they would have immediately have realised the true audacity and horror of the plan. As it was, they weren't. The council of the maths had only the barest of suspicions brought to them by a maths who, let's face it, just wasn't quite pure. So they did what the council mostly did when they found something which they think they possibly should do something about but genuinely can't be bothered to put in much effort.
They sent for Eee. Eee (spelt 'Eee' but pronounced 'e') was the maths' second most prized operative. He was also highly intelligent and along with his sidekick Two (sometimes, but not very often, known as Double-Oh-Two) he set out immediately for the one place where they had a chance of foiling the Moments of Inertia's plan.
The year was 1066 AD.
Given their limited manpower (very limited), limited resources (incredibly limited), limited time (no one knew how much of this they might have but it seemed reasonable to assume that that it was pretty limited) and limited mobility (the maths starship that had brought them to Earth had rapidly ascended back into the heavens and they found that after travelling twelve thousand light years the final few kilometres would have to be attempted on foot) there was only one way for Eee and Two to stop the Moments of Inertia. They would have to locate one of the modules, and guard it.
This task was made somewhat easier by the module-locating equipment they were carrying (there was only one existing device and by burying it under a small rock near a stream on Arith the maths had succeeded in keeping in out of the sect's grasp). The device (it was named a silliboos - pronounced 'syllabus') looked suspiciously like a small paper booklet but was in fact crammed with delicate microelectronics. Operating it was an acquired skill.
Eee flipped through the pages and proceeded to concentrate desperately a small paragraph for several moments. Then he looked up. The silliboos twisted in his hands. "That way!" he declared.
"Sure?" Two asked.
"Certain," Eee confirmed. "Let's go."
They were clearly walking across a battlefield. Dead bodies trailing streams of blood that pooled in gruesome puddles were strewn across the land, discarded by the souls that once had occupied them. There was no one alive to witness two purple tree-dwelling amphibian maths as they strolled carefully through the carnage, being careful not to slip on the piles of disgorged intestines.
"Here," Eee announced eventually, pointing with a purple tentacle at one of the bodies lying on the ground. A herald's banner was lying in the mud nearby, dark stains obscuring what it once had read. The man Eee had pointed to was slightly better dressed than the others, his armour slightly shinier, his undrawn sword encrusted with a bright jewel. There was a broken wooden arrow protruding from one eye.
"I don't see the module," Two remarked.
Eee folded the silliboos in half and stared at the shadow it cast on the ground. "It's no longer here," he remarked grimly. "We're too late. We'll have to try to stop the next one."
"But hang on a minute," Two protested ignorantly. "Why can't we just jump back a few hours and keep doing that until the module reappears."
Eee spent several moments deep in thought, contemplating a suitable answer. "Are you a hideously sophisticated artificial Mind in command of a giant starship cruising around the Galactic Empire?" he eventually asked.
Two looked a little puzzled. "Er, no," he said.
"Are you perhaps a conglomerate of super intelligent scientists whose minds have been joined in a permanent meld to create the most frighteningly powerful problem solving machine ever created?"
Two looked a little more puzzled. "Er, again no."
"Do I take it then that you don't hold a doctorate in advanced Multimatics, the science of space, time and the twenty-seven dimensional multiverse in which we live?"
Two was forced to abandon puzzlement in favour of perplexity. "I'm pretty sure I would remember a thing like that," he replied.
Eee nodded carefully. "Then don't ask that kind of question," he said suddenly. "The answer would probably drive you insane."
"Believe it!" Eee twisted the silliboos, performing a miraculous piece of origami that saw the booklet transformed into a small swan. "Hold on," he added as space and time swirled around them. His next words were lost in the abyss of nothingness that surrounded them. "We'll try again in a thousand years."
…and landed in the middle of Lords cricket ground. The sight of two purple tree dwelling amphibians scrambling across the grass to the spectator stands may have somewhat distracted both the crowd and the England cricket team (who were currently fielding) but it was the least of their problems.
The entire event went completely unnoticed by the television commentators who were busy explaining in great detail and with the aid of huge numbers of white lines added to frozen shots from the last ball how if it had been just slightly to the left a bit it might have been an LBW.
The spectators were mildly surprised to see the two purple maths but cricket spectators are not a particularly excitable bunch and they didn't really remark on it. As soon as the two maths had found themselves seats they threw a European Union field around themselves and vanished from the public perception. The South African batsmen, currently holding a score of 556-1, were spending so much time looking smug that they missed the entire affair.
The European Union field was a product of one of the strangest collaborations in the history of science - between high-energy particle physicists and political spin-doctors. What later came to be known as the EU effect was first noticed as the second millennia since the birth of someone who, although obviously not the son of god (see above) was still clearly a fairly nice person (whether this is sufficient justification to have a calendar system based on his birth date is an open question). It was discovered that anything relating to the EU was practically invisible. People just ignored it. News items could start 'a major scandal involving the Prime Minister of France and his pet fish has erupted in the' but as soon as they got to 'European Council of Ministers' or 'European Parliament' or anything similar the public just tuned out.
It was soon recognised that this was potentially an incredibly simple and powerful way of making things basically invisible without all that tedious mucking around with anti-gravity lensing to bend light.
The high-energy particle physicists finished off their plans in a few years and the designs were handed over to a dedicated team of quantum mechanics who spent several months arguing about whether the device could be said to exist yet or not and whether any of them actually counted as 'conscious' observers and then built the thing.
The maths soon learnt of the European Union field and appropriated it for their own ends. Unlike the high-energy particle physicists (who were essentially a heartless lot) they anonymously tipped the quantum mechanics for their work.
"It's definitely here," Eee reported excitedly.
"Then it hasn't been taken yet!"
"No," Eee repeated. "It's still here…somewhere."
The silliboos (which was rapidly becoming rather crumpled) was quickly smoothed out and Eee began to reassemble it into an origami paper clip. It is doubtful why anyone ever bothered to devise an origami paper clip since by the time you had constructed it you had run out of paper to clip anyway but this is one of the lesser mysteries of the universe.
"It's there!" Two shouted, spotting the slight glint the module gave off.
Eee, still struggling with the eighteenth fold, looked up. "Where?"
"Look - it's one of the bails!"
Eee stared. Sure enough, one of the bails was glinting ever so slightly in the sun. It had to be the final module.
"We're not too late!" Two rejoiced.
"We might still be," Eee warned him, "we'll have to wait until the game is over before we can move in and grab the module."
"Why?" Two demanded. "We have our European Union field. Why can't we just move in and grab it."
"Because it would just disappear in the middle of the game!"
"So," Eee struggled for the words, "it just wouldn't be cricket, alright!"
They sat in sullen silence, watching as the South African batsmen paused to converse about the weather right in the middle between the two wickets while the England fielders desperately tried to figure out where the ball had gone to. The score was just about to pass 600-1 when a surprisingly well-bowled ball from an English player smashed into the wicket.
"That's out!" The bowler screamed enthusiastically. He had been bowling for well over three hours without the hint of anything even vaguely close to this and he was going to make sure he fully exploited it. "Out! Out! Out!"
The umpire nodded gravely and the South African, who had been just one run short of his tri-centenary, wandered slowly and mournfully off the pitch.
Too late, Eee realised what had happened. "That wasn't the ball!"
"What?" Two asked in astonishment as his partner took off, jumping across chairs and running across the pitch.
"That wasn't the ball!" Eee repeated when Two finally caught up. "That was Sphere!"
They reached the wicket a few seconds later. There was no sign of Sphere. There was a bail missing.
"There!" Two shouted suddenly, pointing into the distance.
Sphere was climbing up the entry ramp of a maths spaceship - it had been parked just inside the boundary all along. Eee and Two could only see it now that they were intently concentrating on it - the European Union field surrounding it was exceptionally intense.
Eee and Two scrambled across the pitch over to the small ship and Two slammed the button that would open the hatchway.
"No!" Eee called out. "Don't! He'll be expecting that. Our only chance is to go back with him and accost the entire sect when they're not prepared for it."
Two looked sceptically at the small spaceship. "I don't think there's room for us to hide in there," he remarked sceptically. "At least - not well."
Eee cast an integration spell and the ship shrunk in front of their eyes to a quarter of its previous size.
"How is that supposed to help?" Two demanded.
"Come on," Eee shouted, in no mood for explanations. He grabbed his friend's hand and pulled him into the ship's newly available fourth dimension.
On the edge of the cricket pitch at Lords a small maths starship shot into the air with a whoosh, leaving a darkly burnt circle on the grass. Five thousand people briefly noted the event but it was basically a problem for the European Commission to deal with and not worthy of their attention.
"Do you have the module?" Kane demanded to know as soon as sphere came rolling off the ship.
Sphere handed Kane the cricket bail from Lords. You might find it difficult to imagine how a sphere without any arms or legs can hand anyone anything but I assure you it is possible if you have the correct training. Indeed, you might also wonder how such an limb-less being could even manage to control a spaceship but at this point I would remind you that curiosity killed the cat and we'll leave it at that.
Kane turned the bail round slowly in his hands. On one side the letters 'M4' were burnt into the wood. "Excellent." Kane laughed. He had been practicing his evil laughs and was quite pleased with the way that this particular one came out. "Come," he instructed Sphere. The two sect members disappeared into a tunnel.
Eee and Two waited for a few minutes and then extracted themselves from the fourth dimension, thanking the great right-angled triangle that neither Kane or Sphere had seemed to notice that the ship was a quarter of size it had been when it had left.
Eee began to fiddle with the silliboos again. In his haste he accidentally ripped through a corner and had to spend several minutes trying to stick the device back together without any form of glue.
"We know the way," Two pointed out, drawing Eees attention away from his fruitless attempts to persuade the paper fibres to be friends again.
Eee looked up to see his friend pointing down the tunnel Kane and Sphere had disappeared down.
"I hadn't thought of that," Eee said quietly. He dropped the broken silliboos onto the ground and the two maths ran along the tunnel.
After a few minutes they reached a new cavern. The entire membership of the Moments of Inertia met them.
On the floor a pentagon was stencilled in bright red, the ultimate symbol of evil to the maths. Each side of the pentagon had a module placed on it (you don't want to know how this worked). The Moments of Inertia were clustered around the four modules bowed in deepest and most reverent respect, performing the final activation ritual. This basically involved flipping through innumerable sheets of paper covered with complete gobbledegook and noting the occasional thing in a small answer booklet. From time to time someone would be required to jump to their feet and scream something on the lines of 'Nooooo! Not the chain rule!' or 'Ahhhhhh! An oblique impact question!' but Eee and Two stumbled across them during one of the quiet moments.
The four modules glinted seductively on the floor. Only Kane stood between the two maths and their objective.
Unfortunately Kane was now brandishing a rather large gun. There are some guns that are designed to look happy - water pistols shaped like an elephant's trunk, for example - but this was not one of them. It was dark black and intermittently studded with all manner of horribly sharp spikes. The muzzle ended in a large opening and when Eee stared into it he saw a darkness far greater than any he had ever witnessed before. It was unquestionably the ancient and almost forgotten calculus gun.
"Eee, Two," Kane said quietly, "So good of you to join us for the ceremony."
Eee and Two stopped dead. "It's good to see you too, Kane," Eee managed to say in his best having-a-gun-pointed-at-him voice.
"It's pronounced 'Cane'!" Kane pointed out in rage.
Eee looked puzzled. "It's the same sound!" he yelled back.
"No," Kane articulated, waving the calculus gun to emphasise his point, "it isn't!"
Behind them the ritual was still proceeding and Cone choose this particular point to leap into the air and scream "Pllleeeaasseee not the vector product!' at the top of her voice before sitting back down.
"You're too late Eee!" Kane exclaimed. "Much too late!"
Eee drew himself up to his full four feet of purple height. "My full name is Eeet tex," he said solemnly.
Kane thought for a minute. "I can see why you chose to call yourself 'Eee'," he eventually said.
"I'm glad you do."
Throughout this somewhat pointless conversation Two had been slowly edging around the room, trying to get behind Kane and wrestle the calculus gun from his grasp. He was only about half-way there when Kane spotted him.
"I don't think so Two!" he yelled and fired one bolt from the calculus gun. Two yelped and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Eee stared in disbelief at the air now occupying his friend's former position. "What did you do to him?" he demanded.
Kane laughed evilly. In this opinion this was not as good a laugh as he had managed back at the spaceship but since he would very soon be unleashing the most awesome evil the universe had ever seen he felt that he could allow himself some leeway. "He's been differentiated," he declared. "He's been reduced to non-existence."
For the first time since he had entered the cavern, Eee began to really think. The calculus gun was a legend, a myth, a story. Up until now no one outside the Moments of Inertia known exactly how it worked but Eee now did. He laughed, not an evil laugh but a full chuckle that rose in intensity to a brilliant peak of humorous sound before dying off. He took a step towards Kane.
Eee was thrown backwards half a metre by the impact and stumbled to keep his tentacles on the ground but stared defiantly at Kane and took another step forward.
Kane looked on in disbelief. Eee seemed immune to the differentiation beam. He fired again. Again Eee was thrown back but began to advance unharmed.
Kane switched the weapon to auto-fire. The calculus gun began to fire once every quarter second, blasting Eee backwards.
The maths struggled to maintain his footing (tentacling is not recognised as a suitable word for this type of situation). He pushed himself forward but it was like trying to climb up a waterfall, he could make no progress against the storm of energies assaulting him. With a bit of experimentation he determined that he actually could move sideways but this wasn't going to get him any closer to the modules.
Eee edged painfully over to the spot where Two had been differentiated and with almost the last of his energies he cast an integration spell.
Two materialised and fell coughing to the ground. Eee shielded him from the calculus gun with his body for the few precious seconds he had.
"I'm sorry, my most purple friend," Eee murmured (for the maths 'most purple' approximates very roughly to 'oldest' but can also in other situations mean 'most trusted', 'dearest' or just 'estate agent'). As the multiple impacts of the differentiation beam began to overwhelm him Eee bent down and ate his friend.
Too late Kane realised what he was planning and struggled to switch off the auto-fire. Eee screamed in victory as he seemed to explode, growing geometrically with every blast of the gun. Kane tried to point the gun away but Eee's body was expanding too fast. The blasts continued to strike and with each hit Eee doubled in size.
In a completely undignified although perhaps justified ending all the members of the Moments of Inertia were crushed against the walls of the cavern. Eee let out a brief laugh of triumph before he too was squashed to death.
Buried deep with the folds of Eee's enormous purple flesh the calculus gun continued to fire.