when the imperial councilors made their final decision to destroy, depopulate, and abandon the earth, genghis xxxix, the last appointed human subprefect, pleaded with them to leave two survivors, one male and female.
the councilors listened with their limitless courtesy to genghis’s plea, and f-1-f, the senior councilor, asked him what he thought the chances were that the male and female could begin a process of successfully restocking the planet with humans.
genghis replied in time honored human fashion that he was not concerned with such things as odds or probabilities, that he was not very good with numbers, but that he had faith, and that you might as well take a chance.
this answer amused the councilors greatly. they put their heads together briefly.
“very well,” said g-3-g, speaking on behalf of the council, “we accept your proposal. one female, of childbearing age, and one healthy young male, presumably capable of doing his reproductive duty, will be allowed to remain on a planet that, we must say, they may not find the most comfortable. “
“thank you,” replied genghis.
“however,” g-3-g went on, “we have three stipulations.”
genghis bowed his head and waited for the stipulations.
“first, that the male and female will be placed on opposite sides of the earth, and will be forced to find each other.”
“will each be told that the other exists?” genghis asked humbly. “if they are not, they might find a snug berth and never see the other.”
the councilors conferred briefly again.
“very well, “ g-3-g told genghis, “we agree that it would not be in the spirit of the agreement to do otherwise.”
“and the other two conditions?” genghis asked.
“the first - is that a third human will be left behind.” g-3-g smiled as benevolently as he could.
genghis was genuinely surprised, and showed it. “and who or what might that be?”
“who but your worthy self, my dear sub prefect?”
genghis bowed low. “and the third condition?” he asked, when he had straightened up.
“the third condition is the most important,” said g-3-g. “listen carefully, so that there is no misunderstanding. we ask that you promise, if you encounter either the man or the woman, or both together, under any circumstances, any circumstances whatever, that you kill them.”
genghis considered this. “how are you to guarantee that i keep my promise?,” he asked. “are you going to maintain surveillance on the home planet, just for that purpose?”
“foolish human,” g-3-g laughed. “you demonstrate again why it was necessary to obliterate your miserable race, with its complete lack of a sense of honor. no, we have better things to occupy our time in the universe than keep track of the likes of you. creatures of honor ourselves, we do not concern ourselves with whether you keep your promise. we only ask that you make the promise.”
“then i agree,” said genghis.
“you promise?” the councilors asked in unison.
samantha jones hated strong men and despised weak ones.
she was gratified to find herself alone on a grassy slope somewhere in north america.
she had nodded politely when informed by the courteous imperial escort that there was a human male somewhere on the planet that she might might mate with if she chose and if fate decreed, but she made no comment aloud.
after determining that she had sources of clean water, in a couple of bubbling brooks, and some trees that produced apples and pears and some fruit she did not recognize, samantha decided to devote her days to the study of magic, which had always intrigued her but which her duties as a cafeteria hostess at imperial subprefecture headquarters had always left her too tired to pursue.
genghis xxxix, the erstwhile subprefect and former most powerful human on the planet - well, he supposed he was still the most powerful human on the planet because he knew things the other two, whoever they were, did not - had absolutely no intention of keeping his promise to the councilors to kill the man and the woman if he encountered them.
“miserable race, with its complete lack of sense of honor” indeed!
all things considered, he was happy to walk alone beneath the wide green sky of earth, and never again have to listen to the gabble of the imperial races, with their polite, sneering, superior ways.
he resolved to make every effort to find the man and the woman, to bring them together, and to assist them in every way he could to restart and recharge human civilization.
but first, he knew, he had to reconnoiter his situation, find sources of food and water, and hopefully find a way to provision himself for a long journey, if necessary.
bernard akbar had never had much success with women.
he was overjoyed to find himself in his present situation, although he did feel bad for the billions of follow humans the overlords had summarily disposed of.
alone on a planet with a woman who could have no choice but to love him and treat him right!
but first he had to get his bearings, find something to eat and someplace to sleep.
to sleep alone for now, but not for long, ha ha!
bernard decided to take his time, make sure of his resources, and make a good plan to find the woman.
but as the days went by, this proved more difficult than he had at first thought.
there was plenty of vegetation in the godforsaken spot he found himself in - the brazilian rain forest maybe, or borneo? - but not much of it was either tasty or nourishing.
as for the water - bernard closed his eyes and drank it, but did not much care to think about it.
he had hoped to find an abandoned human settlement or city with a limitless supply of canned goods - and bottles of beer! - but as the weeks and months went by this began to seem a pipe dream.
bernard began to despair.
and then one day he beheld an object in the sky.
a plane? were the overlords returning for some reason?
but the object was not a plane but a dragon. a green dragon, such as bernard had seen portrayed in countless films and graphic novels, and about the size of a horse.
the dragon listened sympathetically to bernard’s tale.
“climb on my back, bud,” the dragon announced when bernard had finished, “we’ll see if we can’t take you where you want to go.”
bernard gratefully climbed aboard the beast.
they sailed away into the bluish green sky, high over the area bernard had been futilely tramping around, which he now saw was an island by no means close to any mainland.
a strong wind came up, and the dragon headed right into it.
bernard found it difficult to hang on to the beast’s neck. he felt his grip slipping.
he cried to the dragon to slow down or land, but the dragon did not seem to hear him …
genghis felt he was making good progress.
months had passed since the abandonment of earth by the imperial overlords, and genghis had not let the grass grow beneath his feet.
he had been following a series of rivers along whose banks he found enough food to eat, and also enough to keep a reserve in his pack, in case he came to a more barren stretch.
he still had absolutely no idea where he was, or where the man or the woman might be, but every day filled him with new confidence.
one morning he awoke from his sleep under a mossgrown tree beside a river, and saw what he at first took to be a green horse gazing at him.
it was not a horse, but a dragon.
the dragon listened attentively to genghis’s story.
“climb on my back,” the dragon commanded genghis. “we will resolve this situation.”
genghis was somewhat taken aback by the dragon’s authoritative tone, but obeyed.
the dragon and genghis sailed high into the sky.
higher and higher and higher.
genghis lost sight of the land below. he began to feel dizzy.
“where are we going?” he cried.
“we are flying into the sun,” the dragon replied.
“into the sun! but why? why? what will happen to us?”
“i assume you will be burnt to a cinder,” said the dragon. “as for me, i will be reborn to a life such as you can never comprehend…”
for, reader, as you may have suspected, the dragon was none other than samantha, who had put her time in studying magic to good use.
good morning, children. welcome to the first day of school. i am officer 1, and i am your instructor. before we begin, do any of you have any questions? press the blue button on your table if you have a question.
i see that jonni smith has a question.
why are the ceilings so high. and why are they broken up into squares like that?
that is two questions, jonni. but they have one answer. behind the squares are snatchers - large plastic claws at the end of hinged rods that can swoop down and take students, such as yourself, up and away to be reassigned.
reassigned to what?
that need not concern us here. but let me demonstrate the snatcher.
a panel in the ceiling opened and, as described by officer 1, a plastic claw came down and grabbed jonni smith and carried jonni smith up into the ceiling and out of sight.
any other questions? marci lee?
are you the only officer 1 or is the instructor in every class called officer 1?
a good question, but no concern of yours.
another snatcher came down from the ceiling and took marci lee away.
any more questions? bobbi white?
why are we here?
a superfluous question, as you know perfectly well that you are here to be told why you are here.
and another snatcher came down and took bobbi white away.
any more questions?
officer 1 waited.
no? i did not think so. three questions is the norm, and is rarely deviated from. now - let us get down to business. this is your first day of school. you all, of course, will be in school for the rest of your lives, because that is what life is - school.
you have all completed twenty units of lifespan. in keeping with the wisdom of the council, you have
been taken care of, fed, clothed ,and housed, and allowed to skate along on the surface of life.
your brains have developed, and been scanned and monitored since your inception. we know you all. we know the nameless terrors of which you dare not speak - and of which no one is interested in hearing you speak. we know which of you have criminal tendencies, which of you have fascist tendencies, which of you are prone to unspeakable fantasies, and which of you are just not very bright.
we began the day with one hundred and twenty-eight of you. as you may have noticed , we are now down to one hundred and twenty-five. at the lunch break, there will be ninety-six of you, and at the end of the day sixty-four.
you have already been ranked from one to one hundred and twenty-eight. these are the default rankings which will apply at the end of the day if you have not been winnowed down to sixty-four otherwise. if you are interested, jonni smith, marci lee, and bobbi white were all in the bottom quartile of your original group.
but it almost never happens that we need recourse to these original rankings.
through the day you will be given various tests and tasks to assist in the winnowing process.
because that is what life and school are - a winnowing process. we will have six tests before lunch, so let us get started.
i see we have another question. sammi zee?
what’s for lunch?
something very nourishing, for those who get to eat it.
and another snatcher came down from the ceiling and took sammi zee away.
the children had watched jonni smith’s snatching with horror, marci lee’s with pity, and bobbi white’s with silence,
when sammi zee went through the ceiling they watched with amusement.
ka and bo had been watching the humans for months.
seasons had come and gone.
the human tribes had not fought or raided each other.
and roamed freely over each other’s territories.
and hardly seemed to have separate territories any more.
although the total area they inhabited seemed to have shrunk.
at first ka and bo thought they were retrenching in order to consolidate and attack the fans and the bans.
there was no sign of training the young humans for war.
there was no sign of any preparation for war.
the young males, and the young females, in fact the humans of all ages spent their hours, when not gathering food, eating, singing, and dancing. and all they gathered for food were fruit and nuts, without disturbing bugs, birds or other small creatures.
the hardest part of their long surveillance, ka and bo agreed, was listening to the ceaseless insipid music of the humans.
when ka returned to the council of the fans, and bo to the council of the nans, they were both greeted with skepticism, if not outright scorn, and told to return to their posts.
but months had gone by, and nothing had changed.
ka and bo were now sure of their information, and confident of bringing their elders around to a total concerted attack on the humans.
each had selected some human acres for their prizes, and picked out a few human females for their personal use.
and this time, the elders agreed, though with dire warnings of savage punishment against both ka and bo if the humans proved, after all, to be engaged in an elaborate ruse.
the simultaneous attacks were planned for the waning of the next moon.
the success of the attacks was so total as hardly to furnish tales for song or story.
the humans were obliterated as a tribe and empire, though a few were allowed to survive as slaves.
in time, ka became emperor of the fans, and bo the emperor of the nans.
the story of their final confrontation has been told a thousand times, with many variations and embellishments.
for what good is a story, without variations or embellishments?
no more than a song without words, or a book without pictures.
"ayesha! why are you treating your slave so nastily?”
“what is it to you, my dear bathsheba, how i treat my slaves? after all, “ princess ayesha laughed. “they are slaves, are they not?”
“indeed. but surely you are aware of the empress’s directive to treat the slaves with a touch of respect in order to ensure their loyalty in the coming confrontation with the bakkadian empire?”
“pooh! it was a suggestion, not a directive. i, as much as you, am still free to treat my slaves as i will. i ask you, if the empress dd not trust my judgment, would she have trusted me with the command of the central fleet?”
“i suppose not,” the princess bathsheba agreed. “still - look how sad the poor fellow looks! he is still smarting from your rebuke.”
“who cares what a slave looks like? or what they are thinking? after all, men have been slaves for ten thousand years - at least within the happy confines of the empire, which we, as princesses and officers of the fleet, are sworn to defend.”
“true,” bathsheba agreed, with a hint of reluctance.
suddenly ayesha whirled on the slave. “you! what are you standing there for? with your ears flapping in the breeze like the wings of a flying alligator?”
the slave, a hulking fellow with broad shoulders and a flattened nose, hung his shaggy head. “you did
not dismiss me, mistress.”
“i am dismissing you now! get out of my sight! but be ready when i summon you!”
the slave shuffled out of the antechamber and headed down a winding corridor.
“and we are expected to treat such creatures with respect!” princess ayesha exclaimed. “i rather think not!”
“but here is the empress now,” bathsheba noted.
the empress approached the two princesses without ceremony. she had a serious look on her face.
“what news, cousin?’ ayesha enquired.
“serious news,” the empress replied. “but nothing to be alarmed about. i have just received word that the bakkadian fleet is approaching more rapidly than we had anticipated. perhaps indicating some desperation on their part, hoping - how pathetically - to catch us unawares. be that as it may, i advise you both to return to your fleets immediately and await further orders.”
“it shall be done,” both princesses replied in unison.
“we have beaten these patriarchal empires before and we will beat them again,” the empress intoned solemnly.
“we shall!” exclaimed bathsheba.
“and men shall always be our slaves!” cried princess ayesha.
“indeed they shall,” the empress agreed, wth a smile. “but this is no time for words. report to your fleets.”
the two princesses hastened out of the antechamber toward the front door and front steps of the palace.
the slave, who had remained within listening distance around the first bend in the corridor, continued on his way with an impassive countenance.
cleopatra mason khan, the president of the human federation, stood up before what was left of the human senate, with the remaining five of the seven members of the council seated behind her.
cleopatra’s eleven year old daughter, cinderella, seated on a little chair directly behind her, was the only other person present.
a cold wind blew through the broken widows of the world headquarters.
she spoke into an old fashioned standup microphone, that she could only hope was secure, and addressed such of the human race as could tune into her.
“my fellow humans, i am asking you today to recognize that this stage of the war is over. the machines have inflicted irrevocable harm on our forces, and we - myself, the council, and the senate, have decided that we can go forward only with a totally new approach.
up until now, we have attempted to fight the rebel machines with machines - machines we thought were loyal, and those we thought too primitive to be enlisted in the machine cause.
we now realize that this is hopeless. there are no loyal machines as such, few that we can coerce to do our bidding - such as the microphone i am speaking into right now - and none, we have come to accept, that can not be reached and appropriated by the machine command.
therefore, as of today, we are, to use an old fashioned expression, ‘taking to the hills’ and will no longer use anything that can be classified as a manufactured machine, not even anything made of metal, only hand crafted weapons and tools made of wood or stone.
we know that some have already taken up the fight in this fashion. we salute them, regret that we were so late in coming around to their correct view, and hope to work with, and fight beside them in the future.
those whom we can contact, will be contacted. those whom we can not, we wish good luck. we will remember you in our prayers, and we counsel you not to despair.
a few members of the senate clapped half heartedly. all present rose quickly. they all had bags with them, and began hastening down the stairs - the elevators had long since been compromised - to the fleet of horse drawn carriages waiting outside to carry them to the new headquarters “in the hills”.
cleopatra khan turned to cinderella, who had listened expressionlessly to her speech. “are you ready?”
the girl had a small knapsack and a slightly larger suitcase beside her chair. “i want to go back and get one thing. i just decided i want to take it.”
cleopatra repressed a sigh. “nothing too bulky, i hope.”
“just a handkerchief. it belonged to one of my old dolls. and since i can't take the doll - ” dolls could not be taken to the hills, because they could contain hidden transmitters or other machinery.
“all right, but hurry up.”
“why? i thought we were going to be the last to leave.”
“we are, but please hurry anyway.”
without further ado cinderella made her way back to the apartments behind the forum where she and cleopatra had had their residence.
the apartments were almost bare, but there was a small cot left in cinderella’s old bedroom, and on it cinderella took a small handkerchief which she had left there in case someone accompanied her to verify her story.
a small doll sat on the windowsill, overlooking the ravaged capital city.
“i heard everything,” the doll told cinderella. “you don’t need to add anything.”
“well, then,” said cinderella, “i guess this is goodbye.”
“yes, it is, “the doll agreed. “goodbye.” the doll raised its little fist. “victory.”