"You're nicked!", Inspector Longone bit at the crooked philosopher, and cuffed Dr Hölin while the brave Mr Ximpson hid behind a floor lamp until the danger had passed. The villain knew his game was up, and did not resist. Once in custody and awaiting his trial, a lawyer was assigned to the bent doctor. Mr Hart, as the jurist's name was, tried as hard as he could to defend the wicked criminal. As all lawyers, he knew his right from his wrong and was an honest and decent person into the bargain. But even the intelligent Mr Hart could not save the felon Hölin from the ultimate penalty of law; life hard labor in the iron mines of Mars.
Martian days were tough for convicts. First, a one-hour compulsory lecture by Joe Dwight, prerecorded at the Torch of Good Taste. No one moved a muscle or spoke a word for the full duration of the well-tempered grandfather's gripping poetry, after which their gags and straps were removed and the relieved inmates rushed into the mine for fifteen hours of backbreaking labour.
Dr Hölin though was not the type of person to resign himself to such a regime. In his daily 8.6 hours of spare time the doctor managed to build, from pieces of scrap iron smuggled out of the mine, a cyberman. Once Dressed, it looked exactly like a miner, although it had a tendency to mumble things like, "Good quiescence... but that Drive... and where's the tie-in to Von Neumann? Hm..." Each day after the Joe Dwight lecture, which the good doctor didn't want to miss for the world, he sent the philosophical cyberman into the mine and sneaked back to his cell to work on his new book, tentatively called "A Philosophical Approach To Cybernetics". As one sees, the cunning philosopher wasn't beaten yet!
- - -
Longone and Ximpson were enjoying a magnum of Steinbeck at Chez Maxim. "Love those deserted streets of N.A.! Look how peacefully Judas River meanders through the Big Pear..." "Couldn't agree with you more, Kev'. That Big Sweep of 2018 was a stroke of genius! All the street scum, the crooks, the Drug dealers, the junks, the homeless..." "...the unemployed, the teenage mothers, the cripple, the blind, the poor..." "...they were all crammed together in an old Mars shuttle and blown off to the red planet..."
"Or so they were told! But how tragic that, just outside the Earth's grav pull..." "...the board computer freaked out and..." "...and set course for the heart of the sun!!" Thundering laughter made other dinner guests and funicular clients look up. "And would you believe this computer had been programmed by none less than the eminent-but-aging eugenicist, the laureate Professor Raymond B. Kettle..." "...who was subsequently fired from his job and sentenced to do five years of community service in a home for the poor mentally disabled unemployed teenage pregnant!"
"This funicular still amazes me each time I see it. A cable-lift attached to the Sculpture of Freedom! Brilliant!" "And how did they make a cable so strong and elastic!? Imagine! It connects two sites at varying distance without breaking and yet carries dozens of passengers!" "And believe me, there is some variance in distance between this Torch and the Moon Hilton!"
"Apparently it's based on an old idea by C. Arthur Klark, originally meant for geostationary satellites. I wonder if the 'Prophet of the Space Age' will have foreseen himself actually one day being transported by a similar hookup to - how 'they call it? 'New Colombo'? " "Ah, the correctional institute for aging pederasts on the dark side of the moon, you mean?" "Boy, has he regretted his 'coming out'! "
"And picture this: some dude actually hooked a man-Driven contraption to the cable and pedaled himself to the moon in 127 days! Later said he could 've done it in 126, but delayed to 127 because 'that's 2 to the 7th minus 1'. Had to come straight down to Earth afterwards in the same machine, as the bouncer of the Moon Hilton wouldn't let him in; after four months of pedaling and sweating he stank like a wood pussy I tell you. Besides, he couldn't remember his astrological sign when the good bouncer asked for it."
"This bouncer sure knew his trade! How come you know all these details, Longone? Been moonlighting again?"
"At the Moon Hilton?! How on Earth..."
"And who was this pedaling idiot anyway?"
"A John Cageman. A harmless fool. Reckons himself a genius, but a cucumber can beat his M-78 score."
- - -
As the evening sky turned violet, Dr Cageman pedaled his ultra-low recumbent to Fifth Avenue and set the controls for the Torch of Good Taste. A last glance at the orange sun, the cratered moon, and he pushed his back into a perforated black seat and accelerated towards the Sculpture of Freedom at a rate that made birds sing in Dopplerian glissandi. Just as he passed Japanvillage in top gear at 127 km/h, he pushed the hidden button and held his breath.
As the sun turned red, Dr Whence parked his machine against the balustrade and climbed the spiral staircase to the platform. Twelve minutes were spent silently observing the setting sun and the two moons. Then the doctor spoke.
"Welcome to our monthly meeting. Hope you enjoyed the Earth's final sunset. Nothing beats a good apocalypse, that's what I say. Six hours to impact; Beelzebub's coming down at 20535 meters per second. So better be the hell out of here by midnight. No one lives to see the sunrise of April 4, 3556. Fear not, all able and righteous have been evacuated. And the left-behinds - liars, thieves, robbers, murderers, child molesters and bad editors - have been drugged and will not awake ere their last sleep comes. This solution has been preferred, for economical reasons, to attempting to destroy or divert this almost moon-sized asteroid."
"Thanks for your introduction, Dr Whence. Let us now backtrack a little, for the sake of the uninitiated. It was in the year 1996 that someone named 'Paul Cooijmans' conceived a then hypothetical 'Giga Society', for candidates scoring IQ 196 or higher on his tests. The six of us qualified during the next fifteen years. Although Cooijmans' tests had done a good job selecting the world's superior minds, we agreed in one thing about the man himself: a dangerous moron. Considered himself a God, but a gherkin could top his W-87 result."
"Luckily, if I may continue, Dr Which, we unraveled the secrets of time travel shortly thereafter. We decided to call ourselves 'The White Brotherhood of Time Lords', and chose our founder to serve as a medium to leak selected bits of data to the past, so as to help humanity to come to terms with its fate. We constructed a wormhole to the tip of Paul Cooijmans' pen, and thus controlled his writings. We made him our World Teacher; our Messiah or Redeemer if you like. Our Christ."
"And obviously, Dr What, we had to take care that our past selves would not become aware in advance of their - our - Time-Lord-ship. So we assumed pseudonyms: Dr Why, Dr Where, Dr When, Dr Which, Dr What and Dr Whence. Who would ever suspect the true identities behind those names? Even Paul Cooijmans - until we passed his tests - was unaware of who we were. Imagine! He thought he was making us up in his satires! Didn't realize for one moment we were actually moving his pen, holding it by the tip, instead of him writing down his fantasies! Look at him up there at the end of the wormhole, sitting at his desk... A complete prick! Still writes with a fountain pen - one with a nib, that you fill from a bottle - while the rest of the world is going digital. Drives editors mad with handwritten stuff, when everyone else sends floppies, printouts or e-mails. Uses India ink would you believe! Let's have fun; to prove we control him we'll make him write 'MORON' in square brackets, right now."
[fear not dear reader, on the highest level i'M cOntROlliNg them, p.c.]
"That'll eliminate any doubts one might have as to who is in charge here. And it'll be clear by now we Time Lords like a good laugh. That's why we pass our teachings on in the form of satires. Oh, poor Max Limpau, Kevin Langdon, poor International Society for Philosophical Inquiry... How they went over their heads when they saw our materials! And the best thing is they blamed Cooijmans! Didn't have a clue it was coming from us, let alone who we were. And poor Paul Cooijmans... thought he was writing in India ink... but we added the vitriol!"
Civilized laughter in the observation dome.
"When push comes to shove though we mean well. So perhaps it's time we end this mean satire and send the message of Love and Light to Paul. Make him see it's better to have a friend than an enemy. How delightful... with tears in his eyes he will realize the pain his biting irony has caused in the IQ community... at night he'll cry his pillow wet with sorry. He'll apologize to the tormented Max Limpau, the devastated Kevin Langdon, to all the other sad victims torn within inches of their lives by his horrid lampoons. And there will be happiness again, and the world will be a better place."
"Oh, if only this could be true, Dr When! If only! How beautiful..."
"On the other hand, Dr Where... we could also decide to have us some more fun..."
"And make Cooijmans go on with his humiliating parodies, you mean?"
"Well, just a tiny bit, every now and then... After all, is not the etching ironic always better understood by the imaginative than is the weak soft-headed drivel?"
"Is not a carpet best cleaned against the pile?"
"Did not Kafka say, 'One should read books that bite'? "
"So... we continue our present policy? All agree?"
"That's it then. Dr Whence, will you do the honors? Remember: just one small drop of sulfuric acid in Cooijmans' pen suffices to keep his ugly cutting satires going for a full year, so don't overdo it!"
"Trust me, Dr Which, I know what I'm doing. Here it goes, right down the hole... Oops! Damn!!!"
"You fool, look what you did!"
"You spilled the whole bottle in the wormhole...!"