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Genie Out of the Vat: Section Five

       Last updated: Friday, January 21, 2005 23:45 EST



    "We need more loyalty. More courage. More military backbone." Thus spoke the plump jellyfish of a General, Blutin, who was officially the head of HAR's army.

    "We had to resort to bribing them with drink. It's the only thing we've found that actually motivates them," said his 2IC, General Cartup-Kreutzler. "We're forced to apply the harshest of military discipline, too. They desert with regularity. It's only the grog-ration that keeps them in the trenches at all. We need you to sort this out and to treble production."

    The colony's chief biologist sighed. "You asked us for some animal that we could uplift with this Korozhet device that would be an efficient killer of the insect-like Magh' invaders. We took one of the best naturally equipped species, that we could breed quite fast. Now... you're telling us fast isn't fast enough. You need more rats. Are they no good as Magh' killers?"

    The two generals looked at each other. Blutin might be the senior, but he always let Cartup-Kreutzler lead. "They do seem to be very good at killing Magh'," admitted Cartup-Kreutzler.

    "Then why are you experiencing such high mortalities?" she asked dourly. "I must tell you, gentlemen, that we simply cannot step up production. Our facilities were never meant to carry the load they are doing now. If anything, production is going to decline as certain irreplaceable equipment breaks down."

    "Er. Well, we've had to execute rather a lot in training," said Blutin. "Slacking. And for military crimes. Insubordination. Desertion. Refusal to obey the orders of senior officer. That's why we want you to improve their attitude."

    Devi Sanjay laughed. There was no humor in that laugh. "Attitude? You want me to change their attitude in my cloning vats! I can't change their nature. You will have to change their nurture."

    They looked blankly at her. "What do you mean, ma'am?" asked Cartup-Kreutzler, finally.

    If there was one thing Devi hated it was being called "Ma'am."

    "I mean you'll have to change the way you train them."

    Blutin shook his head. "We can't do that. It... it's not the way it is done!"

    Cartup-Kreutzler backed him up. "Yes, I must really insist that you leave military matters to us, Professor Sanjay. It's not your field of expertise."

    Devi Sanjay looked at the two generals coldly. She refrained from saying "it's not yours either."

    Mentally, she shrugged. She'd hit brick walls before. In the Shareholders' current panic, they would give their support to these idiots and not to the voice of reason. Before this war, the HAR army had been a rather trivial out-of-the-way make-work place to dump well-connected incompetents. Now, with the Magh' invasion, the Army had assumed a central position in human society. Unfortunately, it had retained its idiots.

    "Well, you're going to have to give up these executions. We can't replace the rats or the soft-cyber units you're... using up." She had managed not to say "wasting."

    "Discipline must be maintained!" snapped Cartup-Kreutzler. "We've got to set an example or the Rats will be far worse."

    She looked dispassionately at the two. No wonder humans were in such trouble. "If I might suggest... Simply remove the troublemakers and repost them elsewhere. Tell the rats that remain that the troublemakers have been executed. From what you've told me, they're in no position to know any different. Tell the reposted ones they've been reprieved. It would give us breathing space here at the cloning labs. And we'll experiment with a different language download on the bats."

    The two Generals looked at each other. "I suppose that might work," said Cartup-Kreutzler reluctantly. "We can send them to areas the Korozhet advisors say are imminent attack zones."

    Blutin looked suspiciously at her. "What has language got to do with it? I don't see why they're required to speak anyway."

    "Language shapes the way you are able to think. For example, Zulu has no distinct word for the color blue as opposed to green. This makes describing the difference between hydrous and anhydrous copper sulphate difficult," she said dryly.

    The two Generals looked blankly at her. She decided to continue anyway. "The microprocessor in the soft-cyber unit 'learns' how to translate thought patterns into words existing within the vocabulary download. This is naturally a little imprecise. The software in the cybernetic unit selects the nearest possible word with impeccable logic. Unfortunately, English isn't terribly logical. It does mean that you can't think of a complex matter which you do not have words for, however."

    A dim light dawned at the end of Cartup-Kreutzler tunnel. "Could you arrange it so that they don't know the meaning of fear?"

    "Unlikely," said the scientist dryly. "It's a core word in human vocabulary. And without the concept you would be even shorter of soldiers. Gentlemen, I've heard your requests," she emphasized that word. "I've told you what can be done. Now, if you'd excuse me I shall see about implementation."

    Without asking their permission, she got up and left. It would be better if she could depart this over-plush office, and this chateaux with its fake military grandeur, without explaining that the Bats would be getting downloads of Irish nationalist folk music and old Wobbly songs.

    Devi Sanjay had joined the New Fabians back on Earth as a young idealist, with many others, planning a Utopia. She'd seen the ideals of her compatriots wither as they became part of the entrenched privileged class. She wasn't young any more. But she, personally, had not quite lost all her idealism. When she'd left Earth, humans had been the intelligent species of the universe. Alone. Special. Now she knew that intelligent life was not rare. There were the alien enemy-the Magh', the alien allies, the spiny beachball Korozhet, and, according to the Korozhet, hundreds of others in this part of the galaxy alone. Evil ones such as the Jampad and Magh', friends like Korozhet. She'd fostered two new intelligent species herself. The army still regarded them as trained animals. Biomechanical weapons. Things.

    Devi Sanjay knew they were wrong. Things stopped being things when they reasoned. And-like the aliens-they would not see the world from a human perspective. Devi had never explained just why she had chosen the species she had, or the language downloads that she had. Her reasons were subtle, and her plans and vision deep. Some of them had very little to do with the war.

    Humans had let the genie out of the vat. Of one thing she was certain: it wouldn't be that easy to put the two new intelligent species back. She'd given the rats some of the most intense and skilled portrayal of human drama and history. Now she was about to do the same, with emotional and revolutionary content instead, to a species that could indeed kill Magh'-among other things.

    What ever came out of the meeting of these three... humans, rats and bats, all endowed with a shaping human heritage, when the hurly-burly was done... would not be in the smug plans of the aging New Fabian Shareholders.



    The rats marched between the shock-stick armed MPs, to face the bored-looking tribunal. The clerk listed their numbers. The officer presiding looked up from the sheaf of papers in front of him. "You are charged with aiding and abetting the enemy, desertion and murder of your human officer. We have affidavits here from the OC commanding and Rat 235645670045, known as 'Dick Deadeye.' Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

    The rats looked in puzzlement at the officers. "We never did any a-betting. Tis a good idea, mind," said Gobbo.

    "Murder?" said Ariel. "'twas pesticide. And that is no crime. We asked."

    The officer ignored her. "We note that Rat 235645670045, known as 'Dick Deadeye,' is deceased. I presume he was murdered to try and cover up your heinous deeds."

    Pooh-bah shook his head. "Humans doth mistake rats morality. But then we find you incomprehensible. He took liberties that he wasn't invited to with Ariel."

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