Gortan Peter Mephet-Galleho stood outside the Lunar Space Administration Building, staring up at its aluminate and plastic spires, admiring their smooth and shapeless beauty.
It reminded him of his forefathers as he looked up at the floating energy globes hovering in the dark, starless expanse over the dome of the Administration and realized that his great-great-great grandfather had helped to formulate the Settlement Council plans that would designate the space to eventually construct the landmark, pinnacle of system-wide travel structuring and tourist trap for those who would come from as far as the outer ring or the settlements beyond Neptune to view the Administration’s museum to the history of space travel. If only they could see it now, that Settlement Council of 3142, as they drew up the documentation that would set in motion a series of local ordinances and claims that led to a French lunar landholding being seized, one of the moon’s many great craters being filled in and supported with a webbing of styrocrystine growthrods, and this great monument to the power and glory of the United Planets Of America being assembled over the following 16 hours. And here it stood, 157 years later, a testament to the permanence of the U.P.A.
According to his neurogram, the High Header Of Space Movency, Greek Talwet-Orosco, had scheduled an important in-personage consult at 26:49 on Fourday morning. He would have a 5 mark window in which to meet about the unspecified work-related task that the Safety Board Commission Staff Mandate had loaned him to the Space Administration for, something that apparently was of such a securized nature that the thought-send was out of the question and he couldn’t be veeped of his mission order.
Gortan was a full 62 marks early due to a mix up in the orbiter timetable and a particularly speedy slider ride. It had been a good seventeen years since his last lunar stop, usually only pausing in orbit for a changeover drop-flight to the Earth mines or to head on to Venus, so he stood outside for a few moments, admiring the breathable non-atmosphere of the moon, its inky, starless blackness sucking up all the artificial light being thrown off by the glowing exteriors of habs and supps and eats all around the busy course than ran by the Administration.
Having paced the large flat expanse of white plastic tile that marked the Administration’s luxurious 400 square foot courtyard, he left the other blank-eyed tourists behind and entered through the large, soft membrane that separated the exterior from the large foyer inside. An Administration representative sat in a crane-chair near the front entrance with a semi-transparent headglobe on, undoubtedly reging a great amount of data traffic while handling the various neurograms and thought-traffic that would need rerouting throughout the building’s systems, as well as routing guests straight on to the proper meets and keeping the flow of offworld rats in the historical area to the right and out of the Administration offices. To a certain degree, it seemed very retro. No one used crane-chairs anymore except to show off how antique their hab was, but Gortan knew that it was a museum and even this was part of the historical tour.
It was too early to deal with the headglobe rep, so Gortan figured he would take the tour like the rest of the rats.
He exited the foyer room and went into the side room with the rest of the offworlds. There were relics of the past exhibited on tastefully neon-colored stands around the edges of the winding and curving room. But, first, everyone stood in a corner by a synapter for the introductory presentation. Gortan mentally signed the appropriate liability forms and licensing information with his signet, wishing he had checked his network before he started the tour. He was expecting a report from Steiner-Mophaganan and an emotional transfer from relateds.
A bright flash of thought burned in his head and all he could see was a man in a dark shellac leaning on the edge of a hoverdesk, assumedly to show how folky and landlocked he was.
“Hey, shits. I’m the simulacrum of Alpin Dougal Mc-Sevensten, 142nd Commission Chief of the Solar Group Administration Leadership. I’m vidding this for thought-modeling here on UPApetus, moon-home of the United Planets Of America.” The constituary always went for the folksy types and their “motherfuck Charlie” way of old-timey talking. Gortan had voted against every rat from the inner system that had run for Commission Chief, but it always went to them anyway, with their old-fashioned dark body shellac and non-invasive implant schemes. “You might remember me from historical brain-pushes in early-life incubator synapting… Though I won’t hold it against you if you slept through that part!” The thought simulacrum laughed for too long at his own joke. “One hundred and sixteen years ago, I helped put out many initiatives and introduced forms that led to the creation of the historical programming you experience today. My Leadership Faction, though it no longer exists after the Jupiter Orbiter Time Rift of 3101, helped to excise as much information as could be collected about early life from the detrital layers of Earth not already severely mined out. And, today, you will see life, both before and after the Dark Space from which our society still rises today, through the records and objects of long-went years. Thank you, shits, and face-first.”
The droning presentation over, the feed between Gortan’s eyes and brain recommenced, leaving him staring at the other rats and the blank corner ahead.
Before he eyed the room, he’d check in with messages, so the brain-chatter commenced with his uplink and a series of thoughts dropped into his brain, including several late neurograms well-wishing his trip. He braindumped Twitter and received a long string of half-thoughts squealing nonsense into his cortex.
The tour group scuttled toward the exhibits and Gortan followed, shuffling through the thoughts of his friends, coworkers, and robot celebrities, responding to a few before linking to the first synapter, hanging over a decaying portrait on a shining pink pedestal. “The U.P.A., before leaving Earth, had a President that presided over it. This picture is of one of its most important Presidents, John F. Ritter, who sent the first explorers to the lunar surface, when not having his antics recorded onto primitive, two-dimensional vid-captures watched on surfaces instead of thought-linked into the brain. He was best known for his antics with his multiple concubines and his aversion to being found sexually relating to them by a father-figure landholder he was indebted to.” Whatever picture had existed on the flat substance it was printed on was more or less destroyed. “It is said that President Ritter was assassinated by some other Earth group known as the Socialists, possibly through an organization known as Catstro Oil. The Socialists were known to be made up of such corporate countries as the MySpace and the Twitter Corporation, which still exists today, though is no longer part of this rouge Socialist organization.”
The next exhibit was in surprisingly good shape, almost recognizable despite being crushed and rusted to the core. “Much like our sliders, on Earth humans used self-guided transports on four-wheels that burned decaying animal extracts to power their motion, in some cases going as fast as a pheoron! This model of moving device was known as a RAV4, obviously an acronym for the project code by which it was created through legislation and ordinance.”
Already growing bored, Gortan checked his inner chronogram and saw that he had another 15 marks remaining, so he passed the time by looking at a device called a “banana” that was grown on trees and used as a weapon and archaic masturbatory device, as well as viewing a thought-model of what it was like to walk through a city and some of its habs during the 21st and 22nd century. While intriguing, it was all a bit depressing for Gortan and he wondered how far man might have come had it not been for the G17 Event that set mankind back seven centuries technologically and erased three of Jupiter’s moons from existence.
Enough marks suitably passed, Gortan made his way to the rep in the headglobe by the entrance.
He was allowed through the passage without being absorbed, so the rep, though disinterested, has appropriately gene-marked him with access classifications required to see the High Header.
Thought navigation guided him to the correct membrane, which allowed him inside. He stood in a three foot by three foot space for a mark until he had been appropriately scanned and a voice in his head told him that the High Header was ready to see him. The wall in front of him softened into membrane and he stepped through.
The High Header awaited him, sitting on a hover seat, hanging in mid-room. “Oh, Mer Mephet-Galleho, please rise.” A hover seat rose from the surface of the plastic-slick floor, cupped Gortan’s pelvis and carried him into the air. “Can I offer you a Snickers?”
“Right yes. It’s been a mark in the Rift since I’ve had a Snickers. My father used to bring them home from trips to Triton on business.”
High Header Greek Talwet-Orosco placed a tiny rectangular bar into an injector cup, placing the device to his eye and releasing the needle that lanced through to his ocular nerve, transmitting the sharp feeling of the Snickers into his brain.
The device floated to Gortan and he injected the rest of the bar, feeling the painful, manic sensation that left his eyes stinging and his genitals vibrating for marks afterwards.
“My time is short. We have a remaining three marks.”
Gortan nodded. “Right yes.”
“I did not neurogram you to speak to me.”
“Aware. But you will speak to another, who has coded mission work for you. He is a High Header for the Nonexistent Covert Tactical Agency. He will accuate at sector B17, outside the C19. The location is llama fields. You will be advised.”
Still Gortan didn’t quite understand what was going on, as the Safety Board Commission Staff Mandate never offered staff to the Nonexistent Covert Tactical Agency under any circumstances. U.P.A. legal convention and custom prohibited it under all circumstances without consent from the current U.P.A. Commission Chief.
The High Header gestured goodbye. “Marks up. Pout.” A bubble extended from the floor, absorbed Greek Talwet-Orosco from his hover seat and shot him through the roof, heading quickly to whatever meeting he had at 26:55.
Gortan stood in the middle of a flat, dusty landscape. The slider had dropped him off and sped on its way. Any covert meeting would need to be out of the thought-scanning scope of prying brains.
In front of Gortan stood only a pile of alpaca carcasses, being scooped by a hoverlift and carried to some faraway disposal place.
In the distance, herds of llama still stood, wandering around a pinprick of light that stood motionless above the ground some distance away. Gortan squinted but could not tell what was happening. He liked to stay well-away from the less-travelled parts of the grid and sector B17 was proving to be that kind of place.
There was a whoop and a flash and the closest llama fell. The others grew wary and scattered but, whoop-whoop-whoop, they continued to fall.
Gortan saw the flashes were coming from a hobbling thing that wasn’t quite a robot and wasn’t quite a man. It saw Gortan as well and hobbled toward him.
Gortan hoped to Quidlo that this wasn’t the High Header and that he’d scuttle off before the real High Header arrived.
A metal face with a grill for a mouth and no discernable eyes spoke to him. “You here for the llama?”
Gortan looked around. “No.”
The thing stomped with spindly limbs, not flesh and not shellacked. Its wider torso was wrapped in something Gortan couldn’t identify and the flashing device that destroyed the llama was held in its right metal fist, a long tubular metal thing that Gortan had never seen before.
“Far out for someone not looking for llama.”
“I have a meeting out here. Hopefully this mark.”
“Not with. Don’t know what you’d meet at in this place. Nothing but llama and Rojar.”
“I. Rojar. Here for the llama.”
Gortan gestured widely toward the landscape of murdered creatures blocking the grey, dusty horizon. “What’s this? Why come for llama? What use?”
“Followed the llama. My mess, sad to tell.” Rojar knocked on his covered chestplate with his left grabber, a thick hollow sound ringing out in the stillness and llama noises. “Man in here, but part machine. Designed for lunar llama herd protection. Clone llama for meat and milk production.”
“Why would anyone eat llama? Never heard of.”
“Not here. Sad to tell, from another dimension. My dimension, clone llama on lunar for food. Breed like crazy. Out of hand. My dimension, six marks in future.”
“Six marks in future and we eat llama? Posster. Fucwitch.”
Rojar seemed unsurprised that Gortan didn’t believe his story. “Six marks in future, different past.”
Rojar pointed toward the hovering light. “Dafuct space tear. Incident ripped a hole. Llama wander through. More of here than back there. U.P.A. pays to clean up. I fix llama mess and maybe go back to my dimension. Or vacation to outer ring, maybe next system.”
Rojar huffed a blast of static. “Back to work.” Hobbling back toward the scattered herd, he blasted several more down with a whoop.
Three marks later a membrane bubble bounced from the sky, landing in almost slow-motion and melting a man that was obviously a High Header right in front of Rojar.
“Right yes, High Header. Gortan Mephet-Galleho of the Safety Board Commission Staff Mandate. Is highly irregular, if legislated at all.”
The High Header’s shellac was thick, bright and adorned with obviously deadly implants. “This action is signet and notary by Solar Group Command and the Commission Chief’s staff.”
Gortan didn’t say anything and the High Header could see in his eyes that the meaning wasn’t lost on him.
“The Commission Chief himself requires your duty. Your service for the Safety Board Commission will give you the perfect op to tune the Mars settlement where the pro-corporate rallies are taking place and check all data for code violations and non-compliance with ordinance. Scans will be just as required to perform covert breakage of corporate holdings for U.P.A. Commisions by providing the documentation required.”
“Break regulations and ordinance to destroy corporate holdings for U.P.A.? Posster. Never get Commission Chief documentation for Covert Tactics.”
The High Header handed over a sheaf of paperwork, signetized, documented, scanned, and numbered, ranging from the necessary Safety Board movement forms to demolition paperwork to improvement modification forms, already stamped and coded to allow any action to be undertaken. Gortan had full course to put his signet to action.
“This my mission?”
“Mission sim; disrupt and eliminate Dr. Shoal’s and Mifflin corporate holdings to prevent revolution on Mars.”
Gortan nodded, unsure if he could even handle such a mission.
The membrane formed again and the High Header of the Nonexistent Covert Tactical Agency bounced away, his final words chirping in Gortan’s thoughts. “I was never here. We never spoke.”