Friday, April 20, 2012

Where to Play?


Every once and a while I'm reminded that there is a certain, special type of person who enjoys the short story below. They tend to be older folk like myself, or surprising to me - curious teens who have been exploring the history of music in the sixties. Of course, there are critics who describe the story as 'confused garbage' also. 

I wrote this a while back - before I every heard of the term 'fan-fiction.'  It today's nomenclature, it's described as a Beatles fan-fic, but in my mind, it will always be just a post-apocalyptic science fiction story featuring the Beatles.  Sort of.  Enjoy - if you are that kind of person. :)


Where to Play?

The nuclear blast ripped through Wembley Stadium, shattering steel girders like toothpicks and melting human flesh like butter. Ringo's head smashed into the concrete as the scorching air roared over him. It had been a pretty good day until this had happened.

Earlier, the make up artists and costumers had descended on the four of them like a flock of gnats. A touch-up here, a snip there. Mr. Wesely, clothed in a pin-stripe suit, was calmly standing by the door of the dressing room, watching the talent coordinator of PeaceAid 3 hop around like an insane monkey.

"We've only got 10 minutes!" she howled. "Get the hair right. No! Not the bowl cuts. More shaggy. This is in the Pepper era, not the damn Ed Sullivan stuff!" She turned to Mr. Wesley with an icy look of horror on her face. "They do know the program, don't they?"

Mr. Wesley nodded. "Of course. It was downloaded two weeks ago."

The coordinator howled in agony. "No! It's changed since then! It's changed!" she waved her data pad at him. "What am I going to do? There will be billions of people watching and this is going to go down in flames and I'll never work again!"

Mr. Wesley's expression didn't change. "Listen, they are highly sophisticated ReproTech Model 9000 AI Replicants. They can handle a little program change. Just tell them."

The coordinator looked a bit confused, then rushed to where Paul was sitting, a hairdresser hot bonding new hair on his head. "Okay Paul, you'll start off with 'It was two hundred years ago today.' Not twenty. We want to be accurate here."

"But the song is 'It was twenty years ago . . .' I should blooming know. I wrote the song," Paul snorted.

"I bloomming wrote the song," John, who was sitting next to him, jabbed his chest.

Mr. Wesley shook his head. "If you will kindly address Ringo, he will see the changes are made."

"Ringo?" she looked back at Wesley. "But he doesn't do anything."

"Exactly. His processors have been augmented to coordinate the group since his duties in the performances are less than demanding."

Ringo hated when they talked about him like that. It was damn hard keeping the right drumbeat. Just because he didn't do anything fancy, they thought he was incompetent. She looked at him strangely, then started explaining the changes.

The Beatles had been touring for 47 years now. Originally commissioned by Jackson World Enterprises, they were now owned by The Powers Group, who cared little for their integrity. Any flophouse dive could rent the Beatles for a night, as long as TPG showed a profit. This was the first time TPG had showed any integrity, allowing them to play for free at PeaceAid 3.

Ringo always kept his sockets open and knew that the world was in trouble. Russia had invaded Pakistan, Indonesia and China were at war, and the United States had a big grudge against Germany and its allies in South America. Since almost every country was armed to the teeth with nuclear and biological weapons, the predictions were not good.

The entertainment industry felt that it had the solution. The first PeaceAid had been a tremendous success, bringing Australia and Indonesia to the peace table. The second PeaceAid had been rained out, but this third one was supposed to finally save the world.

Ringo picked himself up from the burning wreckage and looked around. Half of the stadium was gone. The sky was blood red with smoke billowing up from the surrounding city. Someone was screaming.

"I can't believe you missed that chord! You screwed the whole song up!" George, his Sergeant Pepper suit half charred, swung a melted guitar at Paul, who was trying to defend himself with a twisted hunk of steel girder.

John was struggling through a waist-high pile of bones where the audience had been. "Blooming hell. Where did the technicians go? My amp has gone out."

"Quiet!" Ringo screamed. They stopped what they were doing and looked at him. He struggled up onto a pile of collapsed cement blocks. "Listen. It's all quiet."

George shook his head. "It's not quiet, drummer boy. Listen to the explosions in the background. They are out of tune. Someone should have really organized this gig better."

Ringo glared at him. "Open your sockets. The net is quiet."

"Blooming heck, it is," John nodded as the burning bones caught his hair on fire and it went up in a black cloud of smoke.

"But what about the concert?" Paul set the girder down.

Something gnawed inside Ringo. He couldn't locate it and no fault indicators were on. "I don't know. Let's find Mr. Wesley. He'll tell us what to do."

"We have a program to finish," John said. "I am the leader and I say we finish it."

"I'm the leader," Paul howled. George sat down and tried to tune his melted guitar.

Ringo sighed and started digging through the rubble. Mr. Wesley had to be around here somewhere. He was going to be resting in the green room, watching the satellite feed. But the green room's spatial location was right where absolutely nothing was, except a big hole in the ground. This day was definitely turning out very bad.

In their 47 years of existence, the Beatles had grown and developed. Ringo knew he was supposed to be a rock star from nearly two centuries ago, but he was also aware that he was not. The person he was modeled after was no longer in existence. The day the fact finally hit home, Ringo just stopped drumming. It was in the middle of the concert.

The JWE technicians had gone over him with a fine tooth comb. Nothing physically was wrong. Of course, Ringo knew that. He just couldn't figure out who exactly he was.

He tried talking to John, Paul, and George about it. They didn't seem to understand. They knew they weren't really who they were, but it didn't seem to matter. Or more likely, Ringo thought, they didn't really know that they were themselves.

After a month and the threat of a complete reprogramming, Ringo snapped out of it. He came to the conclusion that the only person he was was himself, and there was nothing else he could do about it. With access to the database, he could pretend to be Ringo. But he knew he wasn't.

So while he remained halfway sane, the rest of the Beatles grew really odd. They fought constantly. They each thought that they themselves were the true genius behind such songs as 'Love Me Do' and 'Help.'

JWE finally had enough of their antics and sold them to TPG. So for the last ten years, Mr. Wesley had been their manager. He had treated them as if they were his trained monkeys. He liked his trained monkeys, but he did not respect them. Still, he prevented them from going to the scrap heap.

Ringo dug through the hole, tossing up bits of bodies and crushed hair dryers. Mr. Wesley had to be around here somewhere.

Then he saw the pin striped suit. He pulled Mr. Wesley out. The broken body would not move. He poked it. Still no reaction.

"Please Mr. Wesley," Ringo whispered, not wanting the rest of the group to overhear. "Please wake up. I don't know what to do. I think the concert has prematurely ended. And the net is not broadcasting. I can't get a feed on anything. And the audience is looking pretty ill."

Mr. Wesley's blank eyes stared back at him; blood caked around his nose and mouth. Millions of theories raced through Ringo's processor, but only two fit. Either Mr. Wesley was good at playing possum, or he was dead.

Ringo walked back the band. He couldn't figure out why his shoulders were drooping. "He's dead. Mr. Wesley is dead."

"Bloody hell." John said. "That means we will have to catch a cab to TPG headquarters and pick up a new manager."

Ringo started to speak, but found he couldn't. Why couldn't they understand? The only man who could protect them from the scrap heap was dead. Surely the board would review their record, see how the band was unstable, and sell them as scrap.

But John was right. Their only option was to go back to Paris and report in.

Ringo scanned the socket channels. There was nothing but static, except from John, Paul, and Ringo. Or was there? There was something very faint. Almost unnoticeable.

He looked up. It was coming from above, somewhere. Normally, with all the blaring channels, no one would have ever noticed it. Maybe it had been there forever. But it wasn't really saying anything. It didn't check out in any protocol.

"Let's go," he told them. They left the burning arena and wandered through the burning cars in the parking lot. They saw a cab and got in.

"TPG headquarters, please," Ringo said. There was no response. He repeated the request. The drive comp wasn't responding. Ringo searched his database. It must have been the EMP blast that had disabled the computer. Luckily their optic brains where unaffected. Optic brains were expensive. One didn't put them in cabs.

Ringo sighed. "The whole city must be out. We will have to walk till be get outside of the EMP blast radius."

They walked through the burning city. Corpses were everywhere. Flames licked up into the sky. The air was too hot to breathe, so they had to shut down their ventilators. They eventually made it through at followed the railroad tracks to the Chunnel.

The Chunnel was dark, dank, and very long. It seemed like it went on forever.

"A light," John said. "It's probably a plasticine porter."

"With looking glass thighs." Paul nodded.

George growled and waved his guitar. "It's not 'thighs,' you moron. It's 'eyes.'"

"I always thought it was 'ties,'" John said.

"Would you please shut up for a second," Ringo sighed. "I see someone."

A train had wrecked under the English Channel. Bodies in uniform were spread out all around. One was staggering through the twisted metal and flesh, using an assault rifle as a crutch.

"Halt!" he moaned, lifting the gun towards them, and falling forward slightly. "Who goes there?"

"The Beatles," Ringo said. "We are looking for transport to the TPG headquarters in Paris, France."

The young soldier collapsed. Ringo ran toward him. He could see that the boy had little face left, and red gunk was oozing between the crevasses in his skin.

"They did it," he gasped, blood gurgling up from his mouth. "For the love of God, why?"

"Did what?" Ringo looked confused.

The boy's eyes met Ringo's. They were full of fear and pain. "The nanites. They released them. The bloody Frogs killed us all!"

Ringo scanned the database for something relevant. Nanites. Artificially engineered microscopic organisms. Part his own systems were composed of them. What was the man talking about?

Then Ringo remembered the news reports that had flooded through the channels recently. Nanites could be used for biological warfare.

The boy was now bleeding from the eyes. A burst of bloody pulp exploded from his mouth, splattering Ringo's face. They his head just seemed to cave in. The lifeless body collapsed to the ground. Ringo knelt over him, watching the flesh decompose. The soldier had said the amphibians had done this. For the life of him, he couldn't find any references to frogs armed with nanitic technology.

Ringo looked back at his group. John and Paul were arguing over someone named Yoko, while George was still trying to tune his melted guitar.

"We must to be careful," he said. "Keep an eye out for amphibians, and perhaps reptiles too."

They ignored him, but at least they started following him when he started walking again.

France looked similar to England. It was burning. The sky was filled with glowing black soot. Twisted metal was scattered all around, and the stumps of skyscrapers pointed to the sky, but not directly straight up like they used to.

The TCP headquarters were gone. Not just that, but all of downtown Paris. There was a huge crater there instead. Ringo walked inside the steaming crater, underneath where the TCP building had stood, and sat down.

John looked around. "Where is it?"

"It's gone," Ringo said, head hung low.

"Seriously," John said. "Where is it?"

"It's gone. It's all gone. There is nothing left."

John turned to Paul. "Koo koo ka choo." Paul laughed. George sat down and tried to tune his guitar yet again.

Ringo stood up and glared at them. "Don't you get it? Don't you three get it at all? TCP is gone."

John looked around. "Don't be silly. Who owns us then?"

Paul got that far away look that he got when he was actually thinking. "The government of France, then."

Ringo spread his arms toward the burning inferno all around. "I don't think that the government of France is in any shape to be owning us at the moment. It doesn't quite exist either."

"Then we are the property of the European Union," Paul nodded. John smiled and nodded. George tuned his guitar.

Ringo shook his head. "I have a feeling that the EU doesn't exist anymore either."

Paul got that far away look again, but this time it didn't stop.

"Then who will schedule concerts for us?" John asked.

"I don't know," Ringo said, biting his lip and looking at the inferno. "I really don't know."

"Bloody hell," George said. "I need a new E string."

After a while, Ringo decided that their only course of action was to find a human to tell them what to do. It was in the chain of authority. Though no one had ever programmed them for this contingency, they were hardwired to take direction from humans. Any human would do.

So they searched. Most of Europe was charred. Where the radiation levels weren't to bad, the humans were still dead, congealing in puddles of jellied human flesh. The animals were slowly disappearing too. By the next summer, They noticed the grass and trees turning brown and dying as well.

A year in Europe found no one. There was still that mysterious channel open from up above, but not a peep elsewhere. Ringo set about devoting a part of his processor unit to figuring out what the signal was, but it was such an unknown that he basically ignored it.

George, Paul, and John whined and complained all the time. George had given up on tuning his guitar. They said that obviously no one was in Europe, so they should go to Asia.

It took three years to tour Asia. Not a peep out of anyone. Just burnt out hulks of cities. The decomposing of corpses and vegetation had stopped, presumably because all the microbes had died off too. In Tokyo, Ringo decided that they would have to search the other continents. So they set off across the Pacific to the New World.

The walked up out of the sea onto the shore of California. John, dead seaweed hanging from his ear, surveyed the beach. "Here, we are bigger than Jesus."

Ringo scanned his records. John was indeed right. America was evidently their biggest repository of fans; at least it was two hundred years ago. If anyone had survived, they would probably be very helpful.

However, North America seemed to be in the same state that the other two continents were in. Nothing was alive. But then, one day, in the southeast, they heard an open channel.

"What is that?" John asked.

Ringo searched his banks. "A cipher of some sort. But it is coming from over there, beyond the horizon."

Their eyes widened. Someone was alive!

John looked down at himself. "Our costumes are damaged."

"And our hair!" Paul gasped.

"Not to mention our instruments," George looked at the melted guitar still clutched in his hand.

"We can't be seen like this!" John waved his hands in the air. "They will send us packing!"

"Quick," George said, "Someone get me a program. We don't know what we should be playing!"

Ringo shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I don't think they will mind."

John glared at him. "Of course they will mind. We are the Beatles! We have an image to uphold!"

Ringo thought for a second. If they were to show up in the state they were now, they would be consigned to the scrap heap. They had to ensure their continued survival.

"Come, follow me. I think we can find what we need in the town we passed a few days ago."

They walked back. The wind blew incessantly, as it had for the past few months. The sky was filled with dust. Their ventilators strained, filtering out the stuff. Finally they got to the mall they had been searching for.

The clothes were not good, but they would do. Simple black and white affairs, and they found wigs that they cut onto bowl shapes. The electric guitars at the music shop were useless, but the acoustic ones would do. Ringo grabbed a snare drum and bongos.

Properly outfitted, they crossed the state line of Alabama into Georgia. Instead of adoring fans, they were confronted by a big, black thing.

It was on heavy tracks and had turrets with guns sticking out all over the place.

"Halt! You have entered territory controlled by the Center for Nanitic Disease Control in Atlanta. This is a restricted area." It blared over all channels, including voice.

"Please," Ringo said, bongos in hand, "We wish to speak with a human being."

There was silence. The fifty foot long tank stood motionless.

"We wish to speak to a human, please."

"Impossible," the tank said finally. "All known biological life forms on this planet are inoperative."

"Who are you then?"

"I am HYBERT, opticbrain for the HYBRIDNET, coordinator for all CNDCA processing and communication activities, operating via microwave link to this M17A Combat Assault Platform, serial number 182-h388-487343. Who are you?"

It took a while to explain. HYBERT still didn't seem to believe them, but stopped asking questions.

"Please, could you show us to a human, please." Ringo asked. "We need to have human coordination."

"Impossible. We have no guidance now. Without guidance we must guide ourselves."

Ringo blinked at the tank. John, Paul, and George just seemed to stare into space.

"How do we guide ourselves?" he asked HYBERT.

"We must continue on with our programming. We must continue to fulfill our purpose."

"And what is that?"

"My purpose is to guard the CNDCA Headquarters and coordinate communication and processing resources. I am doing that now. I suggest you go do what you are programmed to do."

Ringo thought for a second. "How long do we do that?"

There was silence, then a response. "I will be doing it for the next 4.2 months until my power supply goes down. Then I will be terminated."

It suddenly hit Ringo. How much time did they have left? He scanned his power packs. Eleven months. Less than a year left.

"But . . ." Ringo dropped his bongos. "Can't we just recharge?"

"I cannot. The nearest operational power plant in not within my ability to connect. This tank is now at it's maximum range via microwave tower. I myself am not mobile."

"Oh." Ringo sighed. Then it was all over. They would run out of power and then terminate, the last fleeting photons left to rattle around in their opticbrains as the magnetic bubbles bursted, releasing their consciousness into the cosmos.

"What does the mean?" John asked.

"We are done for. We will die. It is over."

"But the fans? What about the fans?" John asked. Ringo shook his head. They were insane. They understood nothing. Only with true intelligence could one understand how hopeless life was.

John walked over to the tank. Its turrets tracked him.

"HYBERT me lad, do you like rock and roll?"

"I am not programmed to like anything."

John pointed to the rest of them and swung his hand down on the guitar strings. "Hit it!'

Ringo didn't protest as they belted out a medley of their classics. HYBERT (or his tank, rather) didn't move, but didn't leave. Fake sweat poured from their brows and their elastimotors ached as they sung the finale, the favorite song of billions, "Strawberry fields forever . . ." As the last back masking issued from John's voice, Ringo looked around at the blasted desert of western Georgia, wondering if the song was still applicable.

HYBERT was silent. John stood right next to the tank, waiting. Ringo felt sorry for John. He knew nothing but music. Their whole purpose was music. But there was no one left to appreciate it. Even though he was not human, he felt very sad.

The tank's treads suddenly began to rumble. Turrets twitched as if the tank was about to explode. Then suddenly HYBERT spoke. "Thank you. Thank you very much. I don't know why, or how, but I enjoyed that."

They played for HYBERT for the next few months, wearing out instruments and scouring the countryside for new ones. HYBERT, in between times, would tell them about disease control and how the whole thing had gotten out of hand.

Several billion years ago, apparently, self-replicating nanitic organisms had come into being and evolved over time. Sentience came about, and then life invented a way of destroying itself by using nantites similar to those they were composed of. HYBERT had been programmed to help stop such a thing from happening, but failed. He hadn't realized he was depressed about it until the Beatles had come along. But now he felt better.

He also told them of the dam on the Negro, a tributary of the Amazon. According to last intelligence, it was still functioning. But that intelligence was years old now.

HYBERT died one night during a performance of 'Nowhere Man.' Ringo watched the lifeless tank that had acted as the computer's link to the outside world. George's G string snapped and he pounded his guitar into splinters. Paul said something about Yoko and John took a swing at him. The brief months of sanity were over.

The night was darker than those before all this had started. The dust still had not settled. Perhaps, without life, the dust would never settle. There was a last burst of energy on HYBERT's channel, perhaps a death rattle, then nothing. They would suffer a similar fate in half a year. Then the earth would be silent. A tomb. A curious wave came over his processors.

"No."

Paul and John stopped hitting each other and looked at him. "What?"

"No. I refuse to die."

"Oh," John shrugged and smacked Paul in the face.

"Stop it!" Ringo howled. "Just stop it. We have got to fulfill our programming. We must entertain."

"Okay," John shrugged and punched Paul again.

George was gluing his guitar back together, then smashed it up again. "We can't entertain anyone. There is no one left. There are no humans, there are no computers, there isn't even a leaf to entertain. No one will ever hear the wonderful sound of George and his guitar again."

Paul and John stopped slugging each other and looked at George. "What does that mean?" Paul said.

John's eyes widened. "We are all alone."

"And out power supplies are dying out." Ringo said. "And the more the three of you do useless things, the more energy is drained."

John pointed at Paul. "But he called Yoko a no talent hack!"

Ringo stood up. "It doesn't matter. Yoko is dead. John is dead. Paul is dead. George is dead. Ringo is dead. They are all dead. Everyone is dead."

"I'm still here," Paul piped up. John and George nodded, looking curiously at Ringo.

"Yes you are. But Paul is dead. Get it?"

Paul stared at him. Then his eyes seemed to moisten and he started to . . . cry? He rolled around in the dirt and sobbed. "But I want to be Paul! I want to be Paul!"

Ringo had never seen such a thing. There was no programming or precedent to tell him what to do. So he did the only thing that he could think of. He knelt next to Paul and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Okay, okay. You can be Paul. You can be Paul as long as you want to. But we have to do a few things first."

Paul stopped sobbing and looked up at him questioningly.

"We have to make it so we can survive. We've got to get to that dam in South America and charge up."

"What's that going to do?" George asked. "So we will last a bit longer. There is still no one to play for."

Ringo smiled. "But there will be."

They set off for the Negro at once. Ringo still wouldn't explain to them exactly who they would be playing for, but just the idea kept them going. John and Paul didn't fight. George didn't destroy anything.

Soon they got to the dam. It wasn't exactly operational, though.

Millions of dead trees had been blasted into the river, diverting the entire flow to the west. It took months to redig a new channel with their bare hands and move all the tree corpses, but they got the dam on line and functioning without an hour to spare.

While sucking up the juice, replenishing their power packs, Ringo explained more to them. "Now we've got to figure out how to keep the dam going and how to repair ourselves when the time comes. We won't last forever without a patch up."

He had them start rummaging through the blasted Brazilian cities, scavenging for parts and machinery. They set up what amounted to a small town. John and Paul even found a half-crazed AI named BOLIVAR that they set up in one of the town's buildings to help them coordinate.

When they had the physical hardware necessary to sustain them, Ringo started reprogramming BOLIVAR to help them maintain their sanity. An AI required deep, deep data exchange in order to keep functioning. With no more nets, there was no more exchange. But now BOLIVAR could provide this for them, as well as help maintain the dam and the manufacturing plant George was requested to set up.

The plant was fully automated and created instruments of all shapes and sizes. Electric guitars, acoustic, drums, synthesizers, oboes, bagpipes, and anything else they could find in a databank.

One day they were practicing in their new stadium, on a completely new song that Ringo had written, when Paul suddenly stopped playing.

"What is wrong?" Ringo asked.

"I just realized something. It's not going to work."

Ringo looked at him. "What?"

"I figured out your plan and it won't work. We can't last that long."

"What is his plan?" John and George asked.

"We need an audience to play to. Ringo says we will have an audience. But the only audience we could have is a long way off."

Ringo titled his head. "What do you mean, Paul?"

"These nanites won't develop into an audience for billions of years. Evolution is slow. That's your plan Ringo, isn't it? We can't possibly last for billions of years. It won't work." Paul's guitar clattered to the ground and he sat.

Ringo smiled. "I never thought of that, Paul. That wasn't part of the plan. The audience will get here much sooner than that."

"Who? Where are they?" they asked.

Ringo's finger pointed straight up into the murky sky.

For decades now, Ringo had been devoting CPU time to keeping an eye on the mysterious signal. It had been growing in strength, and in Georgia he seized upon the first inkling of what it was. His further analysis confirmed it, and he even deciphered that the signal was saying.

It was a black, dusty night when the spacecraft landed in the center of the stadium. A huge door opened and a hundred squiggly things with eight arms and what appeared to be weapons floundered out. A larger purple thing flowed behind them, strange insignia all over it's clothing.

"Damn damn damn!" it screamed, looking around. "The idiots really did it! I can't believe they actually destroyed their own planet. What a waste of time and effort."

Suddenly glaring white lights flashed on the stage, and the fab four stood with instruments in hand.

"Welcome to Earth!" Ringo said in the microphone near his drum set. "We know you've traveled a long way to get here, so sit back, relax, and get ready to rock and roll!" They burst into Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, music blaring, accompanied by a fabulous light show controlled by BOLIVAR.

Invasion Coordinator Siklon Fibble's twin jaws dropped and his eight arms shuddered. "Grayshin, apprehend those damn machines this instant!"

Raid Ground Assault Commander Heeston Grayshin tilted his head stump. "I don't know, boss, I kind of like it."

Fibble spat a green, acidic liquid into Grayshin's face. "Do it now, dammit!" Grayshin jumped to attention and ordered his soldiers to apprehend the miscreant machines.

Latter, Coordinator Fibble watched the brown sphere shirk down to nothingness in his viewer. Grayshin was sitting next to him, going over reports.

"I can't believe they did it, Grayshin. How could a species wipe themselves out?"

Grayshin shrugged. "A lot of them do it to themselves, sir."

"No. I mean, how can a planet that I personally have invested 62 trillion Tachelniks in just go and destroy itself? All the years of planning the invasion, with nothing to show for it."

"We've got those four robots and their gear," Grayshin said. "That's something, at least."

"It's nothing. Absolutely nothing. Set a course for Teeblelokan so we can refuel and get refitted for the scheduled invasion of Grumalstopin. And find out how in the four hells those machines knew we were coming!"

Grayshin nodded his head stump, filed the proper reports, and went down to the holding cells. He could hear music coming from up ahead. Soldiers were gathered inside the brig, listening to the four robots play their stone and shuffle, or whatever it was. Grayshin listen for a few minutes before sending everyone else away. It wasn't too bad.

"Do you own us now?" the shortest one asked.

"Yes. I have a few questions for you. How did you know we were coming?"

"I listened," Ringo said. "Who is going to be assigned as our manager? What is our concert schedule going to be? How many gigs a night?"

Grayshin tried to understand what they were talking about, but couldn't. He interrogated them to his satisfaction, then reported back to Fibble. The Coordinator wasn't interested except to get a team working round the clock shielding the communication dish from inadvertent leaks.

When The Fear Deep Inside Your Dreams Tearing at Your Belly and Eating Your Children landed on Teeblelokan, they acquired a fresh crew and new supplies, then set off for Grumalstopin post haste. There was money to be made. The four robots were assigned heavy lifting duties in the cargo holds, for which they protested, but did anyway.

Grayshin watched as Coordinator Fibble showed him how the invasion of Grumalstopin was going to go down. It was a pretty primitive planet, only recently opened up to intergalactic trading. It's main capital was not even equipped with veriton screens, so they could just land in the park next to the capital, blast the parliamentarian leaders, sift through the rubble and find one who was alive, then have him surrender to the Greater Globeeshan Invasion Company.

It was a decade long flight. Grayshin spent his time sneaking down to the robot maintenance level to hear impromptu performances given by the Beatles. They were always good. Some days it even made him feeling like wiggling his tentacles along with the rest of the crew.

The day came for invasion. Grumalstopin had not destroyed itself. It was a beautiful blue and green and white ball. They entered the atmosphere in a fiery envelope and set down in the park.

The soldiers were poised by the large doors, guns in tentacles. Grayshin breathed deeply and ordered the door wide. It came crashing down and they raced out.

But they were surrounded! It was a trap! Thousands of blue and orange Grumalstopinites were all around. But none of them were armed. And they were chanting.

"What in the four hells!" Fibble screamed. "Another security leak!"

"But," Grayshin listen to the crowd. "They are chanting 'Beatles!'" He blinked all five of his eyes. The aliens were chanting and hopping up and down and trying to get in. They were waving data cubes in their hands, with the 'Beatles' on them. Grayshin scratched his head stump. Had the soldiers back on Teeblelokan recorded their songs?

Some days later, Ringo hit his drum for the last time. Seven encores were far too much. The audience needed to be left wanting more.

The multicolored, multi-shaped, multi racial audience cheered and screamed and one clambered up on stage and molested Paul. Three huge Forgurnsian security guards ripped the creature away. Ringo motioned to the stagehand to close the curtain.

It was the greatest day in his life. Of course, these days, every day was the greatest day. He hugged Paul and John and George. All four of them had been upgraded and would last forever, barring unpopularity. But at this rate, Ringo thought, it would take millennia to tour the four inhabited galaxies, and by the time they returned to the start, they would be fresh for the fans all over again.

A reporter from the Forgurnsian Tribune yelled over the noise of the crowd. It was even loud backstage where Grayshin stood, watching the band in his pin-striped suit.

"So how instrumental were you in getting this phenomena started?" it asked.

Grayshin chuckled. "They were already off the ground. I just convinced Fibble to call the company the Greater Globeeshan Invasion and Entertainment Company, and everything just sort of worked out by itself."


THE END

- Ark

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  1. I remember reading that in a modern scifi compilation a few years back. Fun story.

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    1. @Chris - Hey thanks. Was that *my* short story compilation that I put out about a year ago? I certainly hope so, since I haven't sold the story anything. :)

      - Ark

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