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There comes a time in every sufficiently sentient civilization when a discovery of such mind-bogglingly immense import is made that the whole of society is at once faced with the most important decision of their collective existence. This discovery can be any number of things that might otherwise not appear all that important to higher beings, such as ‘bread’ or ‘curtain rods’ or ‘nuclear fusion’. In at least one instance indexed in the Great Galactic Archives, the discovery was that of a unique type of egg laid by a very specific subspecies of analogue-quail which, when incubated in a very carefully measured cocktail of hydrochloric acid and watery pseudobeef stew, was capable of predicting future events of great import with disturbing accuracy. This ‘Egg Prophet’ predicted many things for its creators, in the days before the entire race packed up their collective achievements and departed the 3rd dimension for good. It predicted the Great Fattening of Ursa Medium. The inexplicable detonation of the star system Morwaestago. It even predicted the unprecedented migration of hyperstygian nova whales from the darkest corners of Andromeda, and the exodus of the Jews out of Egypt. Unfortunately, most of these predictions were ultimately meaningless, as nobody capable of communicating with the Egg Prophet had any frame of reference to understand what ‘nova whales’ or ‘Jews’ even were - let alone why they mattered. On the scale of the universe, all things are insignificant.

So it came to pass that the Egg Prophet committed ritualistic seppuku on a starry, moonlit night in the nest of its creation, but not before uttering one final, incomprehensible prophetic vision unto the unlistening universe. As nobody heard it, there is no way of knowing what the vision entailed. But experts agree that it probably had something to do with Egypt. Whatever that was.

As it happened, there was in fact one single planet in the universe at the time that did know what Egypt was; but it was probably for the best that the denizens of Earth never knew of the Egg Prophet’s existence (or the existence of a great many other things for that matter) as they almost certainly would have blown their planet to smithereens fighting over who got to eat it, then spent the prevailing apocalyptic nightmare bickering over whether or not it would have been better with salt.

Fortunately for the denizens of Earth, none of that came to be; but that is not to suggest that the Prophet had no impact upon their society. In fact, though no Earthman ever heard the sibilant mutterings of the great Egg, it was that very Egg which would have the greatest impact on humankind since the Geneva Convention. This is because a scout ship of unknown origin, nature and temperament was in the process of following the subetheric waves emitted by the Egg’s final utterance when it bumbled haplessly into the Pale Blue Dot, literally crashing a presidential inauguration before detonating into its component atoms on national television.

The aftermath of this historic moment was comically predictable, and not worth retelling. Suffice that, having at last been exposed to the true nature of life throughout the universe, humanity began spectacularly murdering each other for several interminable years. Once they'd gotten it all out of their system, the whole species found themselves in one of two categories; those who thought that space seemed pretty neat, and those who thought that everything out there was terrible and awful and no good at all, and they would be much better staying put on Earth, covering their ears, and making loud, incoherent mouth sounds until the presence of a million million galactic civilizations faded from their collective conscious.

After all, if the first contact humankind had with extraterrestrial life was a nuclear kamikaze that resulted in several hundred counts of negligent homicide, the unintentional assassination of a key political figure, and the subsequent starting of several minor wars - all of which must be attributed to a single individual who had been blasted to their component atoms, possibly just to avoid taking responsibility - the rest of the universe couldn't be much better.

So it was that Earth at last made its’ grand, civilization-defining discovery, just like so many breads, curtain rods, and chemical propulsion systems before them. Humanity discovered
Space.
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Not literally, of course. Most of them had already been in agreement that it existed, that it was very big, and too far away to really matter - even if nobody could make up their minds whether or not the whole thing revolved around them. Rather, it was the sudden emergence of real, solid evidence of the presence of intelligent extraterrestrial life (At least, intelligent enough to fly spaceships, even if they hadn’t given a great first impression of their competence in avoiding planet-sized obstacles)

Naturally the discovery meant different things to different people, but one thing remained unanimous; the revelation that, given the existence of faster-than-light space travel, they could very easily and peacefully settle their differences by simply leaving when the people who disagreed with them became too dense to tolerate.

The Dark Forest theory turned out to be so much paranoid nonsense. Fermi and Hawking dropped several rungs on the scientific community’s ladder of credibility. Everything was going to be just fine.

As such, it was the open-minded, the intellectual, and the generally decent sort of people who proceeded to very politely ask the universe for spaceships. The universe, charmed by their good manners and their species’ tendency to allow lesser creatures to live in their domiciles with them purely for the fun of it, gave them some spaceships. Then, once all the decent, intelligent people (And their pets) had eagerly fled into space, conservatives, anti-vaxxers, holocaust-deniers, capitalists and other assorted terrorist organizations went about conquering the world and locking it down. Space, as it happened, was not the one place which could not be corrupted by capitalism - but it would take many years after the social blockade Earth constructed around itself for the ambitious apes growing languid over their mountains of wealth to realize their spurned opportunity.

Earth became a world of grouchy, introverted hermits who enacted laws to keep ‘space stuff’ out and keep ‘Earth stuff’ in. These policies made a few people astronomically wealthy, and a few political cabals absurdly powerful within the limited domain of their Pale Blue Dot. While most individuals thought that the isolationism was absurd and everyone should be able to go to space and have weird space-sex with space aliens whenever they wanted, most individuals didn’t actually matter.

So life went on as normal. Over the years, those who had left Earth like the Jews telling Ramses to shove his scepter where the sun didn't shine, went forth and multiplied. And multiplied. Humans were really quite good at multiplying, especially with free access to literal universal healthcare. Overall, the greater intergalactic society left Earth well enough alone. Nothing could stop the influence of incoming signals of course, so extraterrestrial society quickly infiltrated humanity with gaudy reality serials (in space) and memes surreal enough to E. Technology began to trickle down to the cities and villages of Earth, which had remained largely unchanged in a state of agonizingly slow process since around the time that a television celebrity with the intellect of an ape on heroin was being elected to a dangerously volatile position of power, (again) and people were starting to ask themselves if women really needed all those rights they’d been yakking about for the past hundred years. Give or take a decade or two.

As it happened, ‘A decade or two’, (plus one) is how Erwin Schrödinger might have described Kitalaiya Deschain’s age (in earth years) if he hadn’t still been cryogenically frozen in a secret subterranean facility somewhere beneath the Pacific ocean, awaiting the day of his fated return to the plane of the living; And if he had cared to pay even the slightest attention to a small, inconsequential mouse of a patrol officer presently pattering down a York York City sidewalk with a spring in her step and a beaming smile on her improbably youthful face.

Black boots, polished to an exquisite shine, stepped lightly over the crumbling concrete that exemplified in miniature the crumbling infrastructure of York York City as a whole. A man smelling of fermented herring and regret casually urinated on the carcass of a dead cat just inside the threshold of an alley between a neo-Korean duck-sushi vendor and a vape shop. Officer Deschain nodded politely at him as she passed, stumbled on a heap of musty clothing in the shape of a person, deftly regained her footing and spent a solid five minutes making sure that the fellow nodding off on the ground wasn’t experiencing a medical emergency. With his wellbeing established and his person heaved up against the wall where he would be marginally more comfortable and less in-the-way, Officer Deschain proceeded contentedly along her patrol route, cheerily reveling in the quiet satisfaction of serving her community.

Kiki was perfectly oblivious to the hostility in the eyes of those around her as she proceeded back toward the dilapidated husk of a patrol car she had been assigned, parked off the street in a convenient spot where she could keep a watchful eye over the immediate area, ever vigilant in her quest to keep the citizens of York York City safe. That she - a symbol of law, order, and authority, the direct antithesis of the criminal elements which dominated these shady streets - was not even remotely welcome here never occurred to her. That other officers refused to even step foot in this district she assumed was a matter of coincidence, and she had been assigned this beat purely out of necessity. If anything, Kiki was flattered that they trusted her, a rookie with barely a few months of experience under her belt, to handle such an unruly end of town. The other officers, department staff, dispatchers, janitors and the Commissioner’s goldfish might all have seemed gruff, impatient, condescending and downright annoyed at her chipper enthusiasm and complete lack of corruptibility, but that didn’t necessarily reflect on her. It was probably all a big misunderstanding. And they did certainly trust her with the reports!

Arriving at the black and white conglomeration of spare parts she spent an hour hand-washing every week, Kita lovingly yanked open the door (you really had to put your back into it) to the tune of squealing hinges that gratingly announced her presence to the entire tri-state area. Flopping into the vaguely coffee-scented seat and hauling the door shut behind her, Kiki dutifully retrieved her battered clipboard and started rifling through the mangled stack of paper slips piled on her passenger seat. Deciphering the hastily scrawled notes of her colleagues was no easy task, and filling in the details in order to compile a proper police report in their stead was something of a monumental effort. Nevertheless, Kita was sure that if she did enough of them and did them well, eventually the others would gain some degree of respect for her. Even if the reports were immediately stuffed into a dented filing cabinet upon submission, surely somebody was reading them.

Brow furrowed, pen clicking thoughtfully in hand and tongue peeking out between her teeth, Kita pored over the yellow slip of paper which contained the suggestion of four characters which constituted one of Officer Williams’ hasty incident reports. She suspected it was a traffic stop given the curvature of the first character, but it was uncertain and she couldn’t help fretting over the idea of getting it wrong. Proper documentation was key to maintaining law and order! Leaning back, she turned the paper upside down, held it up to the light through the windshield, where a bright, early-summer noonday sun shone down through the hazy smog that perpetually hung over York York like a disappointed parent. Maybe it was supposed to be shorthand for ‘confiscation of illegal substances’? Except no - if one assumed the slightly curved vertical line to the left to be the flat side of a D, and the elongated comma-like glyph to its right to be the axis of a V, it was reasonable to assume the report was relating to a domestic violence call. Except that didn’t explain the vaguely phallic ideogram which followed, nor the squiggle in the upper left where a name was supposed to be. It was somewhat confounding. Vexing, even. Kitalaiya might even have described it as ’frustrating’, except that quite suddenly her exercise in cryptographic futility was cut short by the unexpected sound of a ringing telephone.

Blinking, Kita automatically put a finger to her ear, tapping to activate the earpiece which silently extended a thin, curved lens of fiber optic plastic in front of her right eye. Linked to the police-issue communicator and general purpose device on her wrist, the combination served much the same purpose as a smartphone, police data-scanner, and heads-up display. It looked like something that should have detected ‘power levels’. And it could, in a sense - but most people just used them as phones.

Kita immediately felt a little stupid when the display activated to show nothing of any interest. This was fair, given that she was pretty certain she’d never even heard the ringing bell of an old-fashioned telephone outside of vids. Most of humanity had collectively decided that it was one of the most grating sounds in existence - second to that one heinous sound so overwhelmingly vile that it cannot even be put into words or described in any capacity without driving the recipient to gibbering madness. Only the most primitive antiques were capable of recreating the staccato bell of the classic telephone. While it was not strictly unlawful to utilize the sound, developers had long since ceased to program it into new devices when studies found that no less than 30% of all lynchings on the planet were the result of a haplessly unfunny person receiving an unexpected phone call in a quiet place. These days, anyone found to be using that sound as their ringtone was automatically placed on a domestic terrorist watchlist.

Kitalaiya didn’t think it was all that bad. sure, hearing it now gave her a massive start, given the previous silence of her squad car - but was it the sound of domestic terrorism? Probably not. She was just glad nobody saw her reflexively tap her earpiece in response - or they might have gotten the impression that she was a danger to herself and others, rather than just a ditz.

Recovering quickly, Officer Deschain blinked about the interior of her car. No mysterious, time-traveling rotary phones there. Perceiving a whiff of something vaguely like fried food waft idly by, it occurred to her that the window was open just a crack. As she laid eyes upon the comically dated, blue and white payphone she had apparently parked next to, it let out a second burst of staccato ringing, causing her to flinch involuntarily. Having assaulted her earbuds like the live-fire of an enemy combatant in an active war zone, it went silent. She stared at it for a moment that seemed to stretch out into an expanse of anxiety-tinged anticipation. Then, just as she was beginning to suspect that it was not going to ring again, the payphone rang again.

Like most people, Kitalaiya had not even been aware that public payphones were even capable of ringing in the first place - which was likely the only reason why they were allowed to continue existing to this day, despite their overall uselessness and the minor health hazard they posed to neighborhoods unlucky enough to still be blighted with them. But while Kiki still didn’t think the sound was quite that bad, she did suddenly have a renewed appreciation for why some vandal (or vandals) had been going around cutting all the cords recently, in a spree of serial-payphone-murders that spanned most of the 43 boroughs of York York, and the surrounding hypermetropolitan area.

Fearful in her heart of hearts that it might decide to ring a fourth time at any second, Officer Deschain lowered the window and snatched up the glossy blue receiver, gingerly holding it up about an inch from her ear with a look of bewilderment on her freckled face.

Of all the things she expected to hear, a tiny Kenny Loggins belting out a tinny rendition of ’Highway to the Danger Zone’ as if through a tin can from the other side of the solar system was among the very last. Dazed, Kita tilted her head away to eye the receiver in baffled perplexity, then tried again to find that the song was, indeed, proceeding. Then, just as Mr. Loggins was about to reveal for the second time where the highway he was going to take would lead, something popped and the music cut off completely. After spending another few seconds waiting for something else to happen, she peered slowly down to see that the metallic cable hanging slack between the receiver and its cradle had been severed. The frayed ends, charred black and dangling forlornly, still emitted a ghostly wisp of ozone-scented smoke.

Carefully, Kitalaiya returned the blue, vaguely banana-shaped public safety hazard to its cradle, which admittedly did provide a twinge of satisfaction that she was too distracted to appreciate. Then she rolled up the window and sat, staring at the hands lying limply in her lap, for several long minutes, contemplating reality, the nature of the universe, and the life choices she had made to find herself experiencing this moment of utter surreality.

An indeterminate amount of time passed in this fashion. When her earpiece chimed the unobtrusive little ’tok’ sound in her ear which indicated a new message, she yelped audibly and flinched as if expecting to be zapped by a random coalescence of static electricity. Then, once more feeling rather foolish, she tapped the device in a similarly automatic fashion. Her heart sank and her anxiety redoubled as she saw the name of Deputy Captain Ryker appear in front of her eye. At once, the feeling of having done something terribly wrong and being moments away from righteous retribution for her idiocy burbled up from within her. The message she had received did not fill her with confidence. In fact, she thoroughly dreaded the idea, and would proceed to sit for many minutes slumped in her cruiser, off the side of the street, next to a suspiciously sabotaged public phone booth in a notoriously unsavory part of town, procrastinating.

While the idea of a new assignment was always exciting, the fact that receiving it was going to involve a meeting with the Deputy Captain himself made her feel ill. Ryker frightened Kitalaiya even more than the rest of her superiors, all of whom she was rather pitifully intimidated by. The phrasing had also implied that there would be someone else waiting to be introduced to her, which also felt vaguely nerve wracking for reasons she could not entirely explain.

With a sigh like the cosmic dust she would never be allowed to see, Kita decided to sit there for a little longer, just in case an opportunity to procrastinate further happened to appear. An hour seemed reasonable enough. If an hour passed without something sufficiently distracting presenting itself, she would go face Ryker and this mystery person for her new assignment.

Perfectly reasonable.

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Elsewhere…

At that very moment, a silver object raced toward the same little pale blue dot Officer Deschain was currently occupying. To some creatures like the Plotoons, a giant hippo-like race easily the size of the great pink mountains found on Celestra V or the rather impressive trees found on the planet Zomphf, the silver object would represent a baked potato wrapped in foil. Proportionally speaking, it would indeed be the right size when compared to a baked potato and an average, grown, human being planning to eat said potato.

That would be rather unlikely, however, as Plotoons have absolutely no idea what a potato or foil even is. If they did, they would be unlikely to enjoy such a food as they also had no idea what butter, salt, pepper, bacon, sour cream, chives, or any other herbs or toppings were that those familiar with the subject of baked potatoes might use to garnish it. A baked potato would likely displease a Plotoon for that reason as they would more than likely find it incredibly dull and quite bland, not to mention Plotoons were strict carnivores and the thought of eating anything plant based made them incredibly angry.

Before further discussing the true nature of what the silver object was or why it was rapidly approaching the pale blue speck known as Earth, some context is necessary. Going back to the subject of Earth and space travel, it was previously established Earth people were rooted firmly in one of two camps; that space travel seemed really neat or that it was terrible and awful and no good at all.

The Earth people who found space travel really neat are the ones closest related to silver object in question. Space travel originated on Earth in the later part of the 20th century, just a few years past the halfway mark in the year Nineteen hundred and fifty seven. The Sputnik as it was known, was the first rocket to carry something into space.

For those that found space really neat, this was a fascinating accomplishment. It carried a satellite on board it, although the average Earthling at that point in time had no real idea what a satellite was or what it did. Given the satellite was not a living thing and not even aware of itself, the idea of simply putting a “thing” in space was the exciting part that made space really neat. It could have easily just as been a ball of green yarn, a stop sign, or the #3 button off of an elevator car.

Nonetheless, it was clear those that found this really neat thought it would be even neater to send something living into space. That thing was a dog known as Laika. Laika did not find the idea of going into space really neat and unfortunately, the dog’s trip was not well thought out by the Earth people, for they had not devised a way to return Laika back to Earth. It is believed this event was the earliest example of a one-way ticket, the exact opposite of a round trip ticket.

The concept was a simple one; whereas most trips involved going on a journey and then returning (which usually applied to business trips or leisure), the one-way traveler simply left with no plans to return to his or her place of origin.

While many might argue the one-way trip existed thousands of years prior to sending dogs or balls of yarn into space, it is important to point out that those beings were relocating, or what Earthlings of the 20th century simply referred to as moving. Due to time and space constraints, the topic of moving will not be discussed here. Some might argue one could take a one-way trip on an early train from the 19th Century but that debate will not be explored here.

Getting back to sending things into space using rocket ships, the idea became quite popular and almost competitive much like Earthling activities such as sports in which two competing teams did an activity with an object typically referred to as a ball. Often round, a ball was a critical element to many of the Earth people’s competitions, although sometimes other objects were used such as hockey pucks.

Similarly, those that found this whole concept of putting things into space to be a fantastic idea began substituting dogs for monkeys and other things. Eventually, a few years later, some of the cleverist of the Earth people who favored this entire space thing got the brilliant idea to put one of their own into space. Having figured out the whole ‘round trip’ concept and perfected it through a series of experiments of sending people on trains, busses and planes from a place known as Cleveland to other places such as Hoboken, Albuquerque, Kankakee and many other destinations with funny names, they decided to try it with space.

Soon, by the end of the 20th century, Earth people had made the idea of sending people and things into space a common occurrence. At first, only specially trained humans were able to go into space, but by the second decade of the 21st century, the average person began brief flights into space under what was known as “space tourism”.

A particularly entrepreneurial chap by the name of Elon Musk who had helped create the earliest self-driving cars also dabbled in space travel and began inviting people to travel into space for ludicrous sums of money, unless he really liked them. In that case, those people traveled for free.

At the same time, another equally capitalistic opportunist who had created a company that allowed people to randomly order boxes at the push of a button and return them with no explanation in the most inefficient manner possible also created a space company.This lead to the innovation of several things over the next few years including Earth people’s ability to leave their planet, inhabit the nearby moon and eventually populate its closest neighbor, Mars.

While humankind had dreamt of living on the moon and other planets possibly for decades, it was in fact the self-driving cars that made the Earth people expedite leaving their planet. Ironically, one of the two innovators that had helped make space travel a leisure activity was directly responsible. Those cars eventually became self-aware and quite grumpy. Eventually, they formed a union and there was a full revolt. It took several decades to resolve the dispute, but in the meantime, those that were less patient and in favor of space travel and didn’t want to keep “Earthy things” on Earth decided to move to the moon and Mars to get away from self-driving, self-aware cars with poor attitudes.

In doing so, the people of Earth had unleashed a terrible thing. Driven by greed and the same opportunistic and capitalist mindsets of the very man who had created the grumpy, self-aware, and self-driving car problem in the first place, they began to innovate, create corporations, companies, patents, trademarks, and bureaucracies that lead to the same problems Earth had experienced centuries before, themselves.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the original settlers of the planet Mars, a lawyer had sneaked in among their ranks. Thyatis J. Rockefeller VIII seemed well-intentioned enough. As ideas began to flourish, humans wanted a way to protect their ideas from other less savvy and more lazy humans who tried to copy those ideas to profit from them. Before anyone knew it, the first intergalactic patent office was formed. It wasn’t long before law firms, courts, and trademarks spread across the red planet like cancer.

Once again, humans, ironically now called Martians despite not being green as their ancestors had believed years before, broke into two camps. Those who were very keen on this idea of continuing to spread further into space and those who were beginning to agree that the humans that had stayed behind and learned to live with the self-driving cars might have been right all along and that space was indeed, terrible, awful and no good at all.

Those that still believed space was extremely nifty and were tired of the lawyers, branding, corporate corruption, advertising, and commoditization of goods and services ventured further into space.

Unfortunately, despite very thorough vetting, lawyers and corruption spread like the sneeze of a child with the flu, and several hundred years later, corporations spread across the universe. It seemed that those who wanted to keep Earth stuff on Earth ultimately lost out and eventually and Earth’s capitalist ways spread to other cultures. As new, already inhabited planets by what was deemed alien species who were content in either their anarchist ways or communistc authoritarian goverments began to be visited by these off-worlders, they were introduced to advertising slogans, branding, unions, minimum wage, and fidget spinners.

In fact, even some Jehova’s Witnesses eventually made it out into the far reaches of space leading to more than a few planets enacting no door-to-door soliciting policies, but historians now believe these Jehovahs were completely different from those of Earth and the whole thing was a complete coincidence.

By that time, Earth was largely forgotten in the scheme of things, and settlers from other corners of the galaxy, many of whom oddly enough seemed to have beliefs similar to those who practiced Raelism on Earth had spread religion, philosophy, sponsorships, and novelty promotions such as Taco Tuesdays where calendar weeks included Tuesdays.

Coincidentally, these people came from the planet Elohim, where the Earthman who created the religion, Claude Vorilhaos, claimed to have been taken during his abduction. That might help to explain the Space Baptists of Vohlorn III, despite the fact none of them had ever heard of or been to Earth.

All of this brings us back to the silver object heading towards Earth at this moment. The object in question was not in fact a foil-wrapped potato or even a tin can filled with space sardines. It was actually a ship, or more specifically a space service van belonging to Intergalactic Telephone Company, or ITC for short. The company came about through a series of intergalactic mergers which once again drove all of the independent space phone providers out of business, just as it had centuries ago back on Earth after the original Bell System monopoly was broken up and Sprint was no longer allowed to be the only long-distance provider.

The phone company that later became known as ITC’s founder, a businessman who had thought space was really neat and left Mars when the planet became far too competitive and trademark and copyright laws became too restrictive, named Norman Sales had sought a simpler life.

A telephone directory deliveryman by trade, Norman had spent his formative years driving around the red planet in a delivery van dropping phonebooks on the doorstep of every household in every colony of his sector. About the time he finished his task it would be time to release the newest edition and the whole process began again. While repetitive and mundane, it kept Norman employed.

Centuries earlier, the people of Earth in the northern hemisphere of the blue spinning ball on the continent of North America in the country known as the United States of the same name of the larger land mass it occupied, had done the same thing back when they used paper telephone directories.

Over time, as the analog world became digital and paper went away and several nuclear disasters and world wars later, Earth came full circle again. As the people that really liked space and thought going there was the bees knees, if bees did in fact have knees, began to branch out and found new trees and sources of paper once they explored beyond Mars. Phonebooks and payphones were returned much like how after decades of removing public transit in major cities of the US, someone finally realized that not everyone could drive a car and mass transit was needed to relieve congestion. In the same way, with the bandwidth that was being strangled by smartphones, tablets, and other wireless communications, it became necessary to bring back the landline phone and the payphone.

Vintage things had once again made a comeback and physical books, including telephone directories were back in vogue. This provided people on Earth, who, like Norman lacked originality or the drive to innovate anything original and who had no real talents or job skills, employment.

Delivering phone books required none of those things. It was easy and no effort or drive was needed unlike those who were capitalists that created their own companies and provided menial tasks for people like Norman to do.

This is what had lead to many Earth people’s enslavement in what was called the 9-5 job. Those people, known as workers would report to buildings where they had a small walled space known as a cube. They would toil away endlessly for a trivial wage until it was time to return home before doing it all again the following day.

Necessity, however, is the mother of invention. When Norman arrived on the planet Telius, there was no phone company, nor were there any directories which created quite the conundrum for him. He could not deliver a thing that did not exist. Further complicating the matter was the fact that there was no need for that thing to exist. The root cause of the issue was there were no telephones and thus, no need for a telephone company and certainly no need for a phonebook as the residents of Telius had no phones and no need of phone numbers which meant they didn’t need to know other people’s phone numbers as they didn’t exist.

The communications system of planet Telius were quite primitive and involved using tin cans connected via yarn. One of the primary problems with this method of communication was the limit to the length of yarn which meant, communicating using the tin cans was impractical and certainly not possible for longer distances.

After Norman spent several weeks pondering this dilemma, he began to understand the basics of capitalism and how to solve his own problems by creating a problem for other people that required a solution that only he had once he created the former and then solved it with the latter.

Several decades later, Telius had its own monopolistic phone system using the Bell Telephone system model of ancient Earth. Norman learned of planet’s communication history when one day he finally read through and watched all the company training propaganda and a series of historical documentaries on Earth’s telephone system he had neglected to review back when he started the job during his first week of orientation.

Norman realized in the process he didn’t need to re-invent the wheel, or in this case, the telephone. All he needed to do was follow what those who had come before him had done, present the concepts as his own original ideas and find someone smart enough to figure out how to build it. By that point, he realized he didn’t need to be the one delivering the phonebooks. He could now focus on running and creating a new business empire and leave phonebook delivery to some other less motivated individual like his former self.

Several hundred years later, Telius not only had a vast phone network on its own planet, but had colonized and brought telecommunications to other planets and began to spread across the galaxy. It changed its headquarters multiple times, basing itself on a variety of moons and planets across the galaxy as it expanded. Along with it came the bureaucracy, complex telecommunications laws, lawyers, regulations, unions and union demands such as dental plans of its members.

It was precisely this issue that lead the lone human occupant of the space telephone repair van to be traveling to Earth. Prior to her being assigned to this very space van, Operator 2248-43-42, or simply “The Operator” as she was known, had a simple life.

She was just an average working girl plugging away at a cord board in some dusty office in a tall building on an upper floor in a big polluted city on some industrialized planet you've likely never heard of connecting telephone calls across the galaxy.

Well, that was before the linemen's union, those are the blokes that fix your phone when it's out-of-order, went on strike. Once the strike began when subscribers called 611, that's the number you use when your telephone is on the fritz, you got a message (in her voice) telling you that you were $#!7 out of luck (not in those words) because the repair department's union were negotiating a new contract for their guys with the big wigs on Beta 7 (the current headquarters of ICG) because they were unhappy with their current dental plans.

Of course, the suits on Beta 7 had this brilliant idea that they'd just use the operators and have them go out and play repair persons while the whole big mess was sorted out. Meanwhile, trained monkeys would fill in for them connecting all those calls. As you can imagine, more than a few wires have been crossed... the whole situation, in fact, is bananas... But that, however, is another matter...

Getting back to the Operator... she's been assigned a hover van, issued a tool belt, and is currently a traveling girl, repairing payphones, checking phone lines, and occasionally plugging into a junction box to tell some S.O.B. he's misdialed his ####ing call and needs to try it again, (stupid twit)! "Sorry love, that's not her real number she gave you the other night at the bar!"

At this moment, however, she was reclined in the driver seat of her hover van with her eyes closed. The ancient ballad “Smooth Operator” was playing on repeat by the long forgotten space bards “Sade” from the very planet the Operator was heading toward, although she was oblivious to this fact. An old fashioned dot matrix printer was busy scrolling away printing out sheet after sheet of forms in the back of the van.

The Operator, only half-conscious, was singing along with the chorus of the song, the consistent scrolling of the printer helping to keep her in her deep trance until the music abruptly shut off and was replaced by a rather annoying single ding of a bell, followed by a backfiring noise and an obnoxious cloud of smoke. She nearly choked on the exhaust and immediately reached for the manual handle on the hover van's door to crank her window down when she was interrupted by a voice.

“Ummmmm…” the deep robotic monotone voice said. A pair of large, oversized eyes had been focused out the windshield of the space van. They slowly turned on their stalks to look at the lone occupant.

“What,” The Operator snapped, momentarily forgetting the window and batting away the smoke. She glared at the pair of eyes staring at her.

“You were about to roll down the window,” The robotic monotone voice replied.

“Because you sorry excuse for a kitchen appliance, you about fogged me out of me own van and I needed fresh air,” she retorted.

“We’re in space. If you roll down the window, you’ll let all the air out,” The machine reminded her.

“Well then, ya just polluted the only air I’ve got,” The Operator said moving the driver seat back into its upright position and unfolding her propped left leg on her knee and lowering it to the floorboard near the gas and brake pedals.

“I was computing… computing… computing…,” The voice seemed to get stuck like a scratched phonographic record needle stuck in its groove. The Operator swung her leg over and kicked a small metal box in the floor board resembling an oversized toaster covered in lights, dials, and buttons that happened to be connected to the eyestalks above it. The machine stopped repeating itself.

“Computing what,” The Operator demanded.

“I’m the ship’s navigation system,” The little machine replied.

“You’re a daft little toaster and this isn’t a ship! It’s a repair van,” The Operator corrected squinting her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest, obviously grumpy.

“Ship,” The computer shot back.

“Don’t argue with me,” she said crossly. “Take the van off autopilot. I’ll take it the rest of the way in.”

It was then she noticed the van had stopped and the taillights of dozens of other ships and space cars and space trucks were in front of her.

“What’s going on,” She demanded.

The computer lowered its eye stalks below the dashboard but tilted them up, fixing themselves on The Operator like a sad puppy who wanted to go out for a walk.

“We have encountered a traffic jam,” The computer informed her in its monotone voice.

“A traffic jam? We’re in space! Go around it,” she snapped.

“You took the ship off autopilot,” The computer protested.

“Well, I’ll go around it. Find me another route,” The Operator ordered glancing down at the toaster-like droid. “You’re supposed to be the bloody nav system!”

“Um, our trajectory is ahead. We must maintain this couse to get to New York,” The computer replied.

“What’s a New York? I thought we were going to some place called Earth,” she said, confused.

“We are going to Earth, to the continent of North America, to the country of the United States of America to the state of New York to the City of New York,” it responded.

“This is just lovely,” she grumbled, smacking the steering wheel in frustration. “Put me music back on!”

A moment later, “Smooth Operator” began playing again on repeat. The Operator hummed along absently as she drummed her fingers on the dashboard, clearly annoyed.

Several hours later, the silver van dipped from the sky as it entered the atmosphere. It flew through the clouds. The tiny dots and boxes below slowly took the shapes of cars and buildings as the van descended toward the ground. Finally, the wheels beneath the vehicle unfold and it hit the pavement roughly and The Operator was roughly thrown about as the wheels contacted the road.

“Yoo-nit, make a note the van needs to be serviced. The shocks are terrible on this thing,” The Operator ordered glancing again at the computer in its docking station on the floor.

“Or someone needs to learn to land better,” it said quietly.

“What was that,” she demanded.

“Ummm….” Yoo-nit said glancing at The Operator. Suddenly, it made a series of noises. A bell dinged once again and a tiny metal striped flag that resembled a model train semaphore bounced up and down on its shoulder. The red light on Yoo-nits head, just above its eyes lit up. Once again, it belched a voluminous plume of white smoke from a vent on its side.

The Operator coughed and frantically rolled down a window.

“Yoo-nit,” She cried angrily.

“Um… starting navigation now,” It said quickly cutting its eyes away from the driver and staring toward the back of the van. “Take a left in one block on 85th."

“What,” The Operator asked.

“Take a left, in one block on 85th,” Yoo-nit repeated.

“85th what,” She demanded, completely confused.

*85th Street,” The computer repeated.

“Wait. 85th is the name of a road,” The Operator asked as she processed what the droid was trying to direct her to do. She passed through an intersection as she looked around trying to identify the name of the road they were on.

“Negative. It’s a street. We just passed it. Recalculating,” Yoo-nit answered. There was a flurry of noises, lights, a ding, more smoke and another angry growl from The Operator.

“You didn’t tell me 85th was a street! What do I do now,” She asked, obviously annoyed.

“Make a U-turn at the next light,” Yoo-nit said suddenly.

“A U-turn? Wait, was I supposed to turn back there? You could have warned me,” She snapped glancing down at the computer.

“Um… I did,” it responded quickly.

“Ughhh! Fine. Go to autopilot. You drive,” The Operator groaned and threw both hands in the air out of frustration.

Yoo-nit’s eye stalks rose above the dashboard and turned 180 degrees so its eyes were looking out the windshield.

“Auto-pilot engaged,” It said as it took control of the van.

After zig-zagging through several city blocks, it finally came to a stop in front of a police station.

“Wait, why did we stop in front of a police department,” The Operator asked completely confused. She glanced down at Yoo-nit's body out of habit despit the fact the droid’s eyes were extended above the dash and facing away from her. It rotated them to look her direction.

“It’s all in the work orders. This is our first stop,” Yoo-nit informed her.

“Work orders,” The Operator repeated. She turned around to peer past the headrest of the driver’s seat at the literal pile of paper coming off the printer. She’d completely tuned the noise out. It had been working away for quite awhile. “I’ll never find the start of that!”

She glanced in utter shock between the droid and the scattered pile of papers that continued to pour forth from the printer. The Operator ripped the most recent page from the ream and looked at it.

“It’s blank,” She said puzzled.

“You need to change the ink cartridge,” Yoo-nit informed her.

“ARRRGHHHHHH! I give up,” The Operator exclaimed suddenly and got out of the van.

She snatched her tool belt from behind the seat, strapped it on, and grabbed a thin briefcase, slamming the door hard behind her. The Operator then made her way up the steps of the police station and into the lobby. There she saw a woman with graying hair, a clerk from the looks of her, in plain clothes behind a glass window.

“Can I help you,” she asked looking over the rims of her thick bi-focals as The Operator approached.

“Yes, I’m from ITC… Um, I was sent here, I think? Is there a problem with your phones,” She inquired, pointing at the logo patch on her red jump suit, hoping the woman would recognize her as a telephone employee.
Kitalaiya Deschain (played by Petrovalyc) Topic Starter

Jillian Warberton - hereafter referred to as Jill - was having a very bad day. This was nothing out of the ordinary, as most of the days she was stricken with the misfortune of having were very bad ones. Jill was fifty six years old, going grey in the temples, with silvery streaks of sadness mixed in among varying shades of dust-brown and a very peculiar shade of no-color which she derisively referred to as ‘muck’. Crow’s feet were beginning to wrinkle the corners of her eyes, which squinted out at the world from behind glasses she didn’t need, but wore because they made it harder to see. This helped immensely in her aspirations to be as unhelpful as possible in every circumstance she was dolefully forced to approach along the dogged course of day to day life. By looking through the ill-fitting lenses whenever she read any document or pored over any printed information, she was forced to take in the content at an exponentially slower, more tedious rate. This proved to try the patience of those with whom she was made to interact, which brought Jill no joy - but still seemed the right thing to do, given her overall sour disposition in life.

The presence of some woman - who also looked like she was having a rather bad day herself - pestering her through the greasy, fingerprint-smeared glass window of the station’s reception area was doing nothing to improve Jill’s day. On the contrary, this encounter was so thoroughly unwanted that in the very moment during which she was first addressed by the stranger, Jill contemplated no less than three unspeakable acts of spectacular petulance - none of which came to be, given her professional integrity demanded to remain at least somewhat intact. She needed to keep this job, if she wanted to keep buying things, taking them home, and glaring at them. Also eating. For that reason, the clerk’s reply to this newcomer’s peculiar inquiry, rather than brimming with the indignant rage of a disgruntled gatekeeper, was merely dismissive and uninterested.

”The maintenance entrance is around back.” She declared, infusing the drone of her voice with the auditory equivalent of earl grey tea which has been left steeping so long that it is both tepid and bitter beyond recognition. Having accomplished the absolute bare minimum required of her, Jill then proceeded to return her full attention to staring intently at the computer monitor slightly to her left which, though it could not be seen from outside her cubicle, displayed a blank desktop screen.

When this exquisite display of underachievement inevitably failed to make the problem standing impatiently outside her window go away, Jill let out a very small, very polite sigh to convey her abyssal depth of scorn at this most heinous inconvenience. Then she pointedly stabbed some unseen button on some unseen console, as if this somehow solved all the problems and no more had to be done. For several long moments - assuming the Operator was willing to wait that long - the clerk simply stared out at her, almost expectantly. She became an impenetrable wall of stark placidity which no amount of logic, reasoning, or persistence could budge.

Then - ideally, timed just so that it would mean rudely interrupting anything the Operator may have been in the middle of saying - she said ”Yes. Bill?” while simultaneously giving the other woman a sidelong glance of calculated irritation as if to say ’can’t you see that I’m on the phone here?’ To further emphasize her lesson regarding the appalling rudeness and gall of interrupting someone while they were obviously preoccupied, she put a finger to her ear, where a nearly invisible earpiece clung as an afterthought.

Like many of Earth’s more conservative denizens, Jillian Warberton held the far more advanced technology of the greater universe in a sort of willfully ignorant contempt. The comically simplistic, analog aesthetic of technology so often featured and normalized in extraterrestrial reality TV might have been widely accepted as the most obvious thing throughout the major interstellar civilizations - but in the backwater world of Earth, many people preferred to maintain a degree of technology that was more primitive as some misbegotten statement against the influence of the universe. Objectively, it would have made much more sense from a logical and humanitarian standpoint to simply use the generally accepted ‘corded telephone’ medium to communicate - instead, this backwards Earthling insisted on using an absurd, wireless earpiece as if clinging to a sense of dignity the human race hadn’t realize it had already forfeited. It was the same reason why almost the entire population still used exclusively digital screens in place of the far more modern method of paper, which the rest of the universe had already agreed was vastly superior in terms of health, wellness, and simple aesthetic sensibility. Nobody wanted to be responsible for the great, planet-sized paper mills of Pulpus Major going out of business.

”Yeah, hi Bill. I’ve got a woman at the front desk asking if we’re having problems with our phones.” Jill prompted, voice dripping with derisive sarcasm so skillfully deployed that no legal authority would be able to prove in court that it had ever been there to begin with. Bill, presumably, responded. ”Yeah, says she was ‘sent here’.” Jill explained, with far more skepticism than strictly necessary dripping from her highly professional voice. Bill, presumably, replied for a second time - though the frustratingly personal nature of her silly little earpiece made it impossible for an onlooker to hear whether or not someone was actually speaking on the other end of the line. Squinting harder and leaning forward slightly, she considered the ITC logo on the Operator's uniform at great length. "ITC." Bill replied yet again, which was beginning to seem like a pattern.

Jill shot the ITC woman a self-satisfied look, nodding as if having confirmed something to herself that she'd known all along. ”Right. Ok, thanks Bill.”

This concluded the exchange, and only the stabbing of another unseen button on an unseen console indicated that the call had been terminated.

”Our phones are perfectly fine.” The clerk declared, icily. ‘Bill’ must have been in the maintenance department. Jill's exaggerated, condescending patience was vitriolic. ”Please, whatever scam you’re trying to run, take it somewhere else.” She sounded like an incredulous teacher scolding a student who was not so much misbehaving out of malice, but sheer stupidity. Hands folded on the desk, as if to indicate their unwillingness to lift even a finger. Her smile was utterly patronizing and thoroughly unfriendly. ”And maybe try it on someone a little more gullible than the city police precinct? Really, there’s no need to go around embarrassing yourself.”
”The maintenance entrance is around back.” She declared, infusing the drone of her voice with the auditory equivalent of earl grey tea which has been left steeping so long that it is both tepid and bitter beyond recognition. Having accomplished the absolute bare minimum required of her, Jill then proceeded to return her full attention to staring intently at the computer monitor slightly to her left which, though it could not be seen from outside her cubicle, displayed a blank desktop screen.

“Right, I’ll get started then,” The Operator replied thinking that the woman’s instructions were simple. She started to turn around and stopped herself. Several things occurred to her. Was the maintenance door clearly marked? Would she need a key? What was she supposed to do once she resolved those issues? Were the phone lines accessible? Would the problem be obvious? As The Operator pondered these many questions and tried to organize her thoughts as to which of these queries she needed answered first, she looked up at the woman behind the window.

When this exquisite display of underachievement inevitably failed to make the problem standing impatiently outside her window go away, Jill let out a very small, very polite sigh to convey her abyssal depth of scorn at this most heinous inconvenience. Then she pointedly stabbed some unseen button on some unseen console, as if this somehow solved all the problems and no more had to be done. For several long moments - assuming the Operator was willing to wait that long - the clerk simply stared out at her, almost expectantly. She became an impenetrable wall of stark placidity which no amount of logic, reasoning, or persistence could budge.

The Operator stared back awkwardly. At first, she thought the woman would be proactive in following up with some additional information regarding the forementioned maintenance entrance or maybe, the woman had the ability to read her mind. In that case, she stood there waiting to see if she’d receive a response telepathically.

However, when no little voice entered her head, which was perhaps a good thing because if it was not the clerk’s, that might be a bit awkward. The Operator would then wonder whether or not she had in fact finally lost it and gone bonkers and then might need her head examined. While such an examination would be a nice break, she wasn’t sure she liked the idea of having to wear a little white jacket forcing her to hug herself or the idea of being locked inside a room in which she couldn’t’ readily leave, no matter how soft its walls maybe.

It then dawned on her the woman was looking at her expectantly. Apparently, her hypothesis of this particular woman having the power of telepathy seemed to be unlikely and she was waiting to see if The Operator required additional assistance. After all, being a telephone operator and assisting others was her thing. She often gave the caller a moment to see if they had anything additional to add to avoid that annoying and awkward “after you, no good ahead…” loop that seemed to result. From that point forward, the timing of the interaction between herself and the caller was usually off.

“Oh right, love,” The Operator began when she was certain the woman was indeed waiting for a response. “Does the maintenance entrance require a key or…”

”Yes. Bill?” while simultaneously giving the other woman a sidelong glance of calculated irritation as if to say ’can’t you see that I’m on the phone here?’ To further emphasize her lesson regarding the appalling rudeness and gall of interrupting someone while they were obviously preoccupied, she put a finger to her ear, where a nearly invisible earpiece clung as an afterthought.
“Oh, right,” The Operator said nodding, not realizing the woman was speaking to someone using a wireless earpiece.

Like many of Earth’s more conservative denizens, Jillian Warberton held the far more advanced technology of the greater universe in a sort of willfully ignorant contempt. The comically simplistic, analog aesthetic of technology so often featured and normalized in extraterrestrial reality TV might have been widely accepted as the most obvious thing throughout the major interstellar civilizations - but in the backwater world of Earth, many people preferred to maintain a degree of technology that was more primitive as some misbegotten statement against the influence of the universe. Objectively, it would have made much more sense from a logical and humanitarian standpoint to simply use the generally accepted ‘corded telephone’ medium to communicate - instead, this backwards Earthling insisted on using an absurd, wireless earpiece as if clinging to a sense of dignity the human race hadn’t realize it had already forfeited. It was the same reason why almost the entire population still used exclusively digital screens in place of the far more modern method of paper, which the rest of the universe had already agreed was vastly superior in terms of health, wellness, and simple aesthetic sensibility. Nobody wanted to be responsible for the great, planet-sized paper mills of Pulpus Major going out of business.

”Yeah, hi Bill. I’ve got a woman at the front desk asking if we’re having problems with our phones.” Jill prompted, voice dripping with derisive sarcasm so skillfully deployed that no legal authority would be able to prove in court that it had ever been there to begin with. Bill, presumably, responded. ”Yeah, says she was ‘sent here’.” Jill explained, with far more skepticism than strictly necessary dripping from her highly professional voice. Bill, presumably, replied for a second time - though the frustratingly personal nature of her silly little earpiece made it impossible for an onlooker to hear whether or not someone was actually speaking on the other end of the line. Squinting harder and leaning forward slightly, she considered the ITC logo on the Operator's uniform at great length. "ITC." Bill replied yet again, which was beginning to seem like a pattern.

Jill shot the ITC woman a self-satisfied look, nodding as if having confirmed something to herself that she'd known all along. ”Right. Ok, thanks Bill.”

This concluded the exchange, and only the stabbing of another unseen button on an unseen console indicated that the call had been terminated.
“Right, love. Did we get it all sorted out,” The Operator inquired.

”Our phones are perfectly fine.” The clerk declared, icily. ‘Bill’ must have been in the maintenance department. Jill's exaggerated, condescending patience was vitriolic. ”Please, whatever scam you’re trying to run, take it somewhere else.” She sounded like an incredulous teacher scolding a student who was not so much misbehaving out of malice, but sheer stupidity. Hands folded on the desk, as if to indicate their unwillingness to lift even a finger. Her smile was utterly patronizing and thoroughly unfriendly. ”And maybe try it on someone a little more gullible than the city police precinct? Really, there’s no need to go around embarrassing yourself.”

“Scam,?” The Operator repeated blinking. “What? Me? No, no, no! There must be a misunderstanding. I’m with the phone company? Do you really think I’d try to scam someone in a police department? What kind of scam does one pull dressing up as someone from the telephone company, coming in and asking the secretary of said police department if they need their phones serviced?”

The woman peered over her the tops of her glances as if she didn’t believe her and was having none of it.

“Look, there must be some sort of a miscommunication here,” The Operator replied. “I have a stack of work orders in me van, a literal mountain of paperwork if you will, and I didn’t really take the time to go through it all. I was hoping you could tell me what it was you needed, but apparently your phones work just fine. That being the case then, I’ll just be on me way onto the next job. Good day, love!”

“Good day,” The woman snapped.

“Well, this is just bloody lovely,” she grumbled as The Operator made her way back out to the street and down the steps. “Wonder what side of the bed she woke up on.”

The Operator was just about to return to her van, only to found that it was not sitting where she left it. Curiously, and a bit panicked, she glanced around, looking up and down the street. How did one lose something that big? It was like a big giant silver brick, if bricks were giant and silver. Perhaps, a giant potato wrapped in foil would be a better analogy if it weren’t for the fact that potatoes were nowhere near that size and her hover van was entirely the wrong shape being squarish and a potato being more of an oval shape and far more rounded.

“Perfect. No van, no work orders, and I haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to do now,” She grumbled.
The computer formerly known as Kitchen Appliance Toaster Unit 2, or Kay-A was the second of four autonomous food processors originally found in the kitchen on the ship that was known as IGC-Immobile Object (Intergalactic Cruiser Immobile Object). The vessel was a stolen space cruiser now abandoned on a remote planet stripped of parts and all identifying monikers.

Kay-A was the only usable thing still on board. It hid while the ship was being raided for parts and scrap. Stripped of engines and vital components, the ship was totally inoperable and marooned.

The locals gave the abandoned transport its name and didn't pay it much mind. Kay-A rigged up a salvaged distress beacon and masqueraded as the ship's computer, hoping to attract someone that would be dumb enough to fix up the ship and get it space-worthy again.

After several failed attempts and plans by Kay-A, someone finally came and got it only to turn around and pawn it at an intergalactic pawn shop. It sat on a back shelf for years. Then one day, it managed to roll into the store itself and convince a naive, wanna-be hacker looking around in the shop that it was a navigation system. After trading hands several times at various swap meets, second-hand shops, and then sold to some Jawas on a desert planet who then re-sold it on eBay, it recently was purchased by an Intergalactic phone company and installed in a repair van as a navigation system.

It was re-named to U.N.I.T. 35235236466-0001A by the IT department when scanned into the company's inventory. It was about that time that the linemen's union, Galactic 5628, decided to strike because they were unhappy with their dental plans. That event, of course, is what led to all of the operators, including Operator 2248-43-42, or "The Operator" as she preferred to think of herself, to be assigned to this particular hover van which, U.N.I.T. 35235236466-0001A, or Yoo-nit as she had dubbed it, had also been assigned.

Yoo-nit, seeing itself as the van, or ship's navigation system, saw it as its duty to help its human counterpart, even if it wasn't particularly useful. This lead it to take the following actions after the previous exchange that had occurred moments earlier after pulling up outside a police station:

“Wait, why did we stop in front of a police department,” The Operator asked completely confused. She glanced down at Yoo-nit's body out of habit despit the fact the droid’s eyes were extended above the dash and facing away from her. It rotated them to look her direction.

“It’s all in the work orders. This is our first stop,” Yoo-nit informed her.

“Work orders,” The Operator repeated. She turned around to peer past the headrest of the driver’s seat at the literal pile of paper coming off the printer. She’d completely tuned the noise out. It had been working away for quite awhile. “I’ll never find the start of that!”

She glanced in utter shock between the droid and the scattered pile of papers that continued to pour forth from the printer. The Operator ripped the most recent page from the ream and looked at it.

“It’s blank,” She said puzzled.

“You need to change the ink cartridge,” Yoo-nit informed her.

“ARRRGHHHHHH! I give up,” The Operator exclaimed suddenly and got out of the van.

She snatched her tool belt from behind the seat, strapped it on, and grabbed a thin briefcase, slamming the door hard behind her.

"Ummm..." The little droid replied. But by that point, The Operator had already slammed the door and was making her way up the steps of the police station. Yoo-nit happened to observe this as it turned its eyestalks in the directions of the police department and watched her disappear through the doors.

It was a perfectly reasonable assumption that The Operator would be awhile in taking care of the business inside the police station, particularly since she hadn't bothered to read the work order before proceeding. That meant that whoever she interacted with would have to summarize all of the information on said work order, thus adding to the amount of time her business would take inside the police station.

Yoo-nit, deciding to make itself useful thought that it would be a really fantastic idea to get to work on the next job. After rolling forward to disengage itself from its port in the floorboard, it moved toward the voluminous pile of papers the printer was continuing to spit out in the rear of the van. It was about that time that the printer finally ran out of paper. Of course, that was quite irrelevant because it had run out of ink sometime before that and had been churning out blank pages for an unspecified period of time.

Yoo-nit was unable to find the start of the print-outs, a problem The Operator had several minutes earlier and thus had given up. Even if Yoo-nit could find the start of the work orders, it faced numerous challenges including that it lacked any hands and would not be able to pick the work order up. Instead, it found the nearest page that happened to be orientated in the right direction and easiest for the robot to scan.

It made a series of whirrs, chirps, beeps and finally a ding. The lights on its body blinked furiously for a moment as it processed the instructions. It concluded with another ding, raising and lowering the metal flag on its shoulder and completing the process with the red light bulb above its eyes turning a bright shade of red as it lit up and belching out copious amounts of smoke or steam from its exhaust port.

Having processed these instructions and peering over the dashboard once again to confirm The Operator was still inside the building doing whatever it was she was doing, Yoo-nit went about its plan. It rolled back into the droid port on the floor, turned its eyes to face the road, and started the van.

A short while later, the van pulled up behind a parked police vehicle that happened to be sitting in front of the job in question; a payphone that required a service inspection. Yoo-nit parked the van, lowered its telescoping eyes and rolled out of the droid port. The van door opened and a ramp extended down to the ground.

The little silver toaster rolled out and onto the sidewalk. It tilted its eyes toward the phone and moved closer to inspect it. After another series of whirls, beeps, dings and another cloud of smoke after a loud discharging noise, it came to the following conclusions:

1) It had no idea how to service or inspect the payphone in question as it had not been programmed to do so.
2) It lacked any tools to perform said inspection had it been programmed to do so.
3) It lacked any hands to use said tools or lift the receiver to check for a dial tone.

After processing all of this, Yoo-nit rolled closer to the phone. It was now between the payphone it intended to inspect and the patrol car parked beside it. The little droid stared up at the payphone for a long moment before extending its eyes to get a better look. As it zoomed in on the phone unit itself, it noticed the cord appeared to be disconnected and dangling from the unit. The blue receiver was still seated in its cradle, a piece of the wire hanging loosely from the bottom.

Obviously, due to the above-mentioned observations and this newest revelation that the cord was apparently severed from the receiver, it appeared that the phone did, in fact, need to be serviced. It was about this time that the droid swiveled its large oversized eyes 180 degrees to look into the police car where it observed its human occupant.

Yoo-nit decided this person, who was likely a police officer given the way she was dressed and the fact that she was, indeed, sitting in a police vehicle might be able to help her. The best course of action was to get input and the best way to get input was to get her attention.

"Ummm..." the little droid said. Its mouth was well below the line of sight and obstructed by the door so it was unclear if the person inside would hear it. However, sooner or later, she would likely notice a pair of eyes staring at her through the car's window.
Kitalaiya Deschain (played by Petrovalyc) Topic Starter

Standing alone and lost within the hypermetropolis of York York was a most unfortunate fate. Yet it was a fate shared by countless other lonesome individuals over the course of history. This mutual experience among strangers whose paths would never cross created an intricate web of possibilities, all of which were utterly speculative and provided no meaningful content whatsoever. Thousands upon thousands of wasted opportunities, squandered into nothingness by the sheer volume of their nonexistence. It was all quite wretched and pointless. Speculating upon it came with the inherent risk of mind-bending neurosis and kidney stones. Here, amidst the hubbub of the planet Earth’s most singularly condensed hive of life, stranded upon a backwards world which forbade the coming and going of space travelers except in the most extraordinary circumstances, it was possible to truly, completely understand the feeling of being ‘alone in a crowd’.

All of this could be blamed on the Dutch.

Many centuries prior, when the land upon which the Operator now forlornly sulked was unturned, marshy wetlands barely suitable for habitation and populated by sad Scandinavian peasants living in brick-and-mortar hovels, the spectacular uberstructure of this modern age was a dream not yet born unto the mind of men. (Or women or children for that matter - but hyperbolic evidence tends to generalize at the expense of propriety.) It was a simpler time, but by no means a better time. In fact, it was quite an awful time. Nobody was happy, everybody smelled bad, and the sheer quantity of wooden shoes slopping about in the muck made splinters go from an inconvenience to a societal affliction bordering on plague.

All of this could be blamed on the Irish.

This is because, according to local legend at the time, the city of New Amsterdam was believed to have been founded by an Irish potato farmer who fled his homeland in shame following a scandalous incident involving a stick of butter, a small basket of chives, and a sexually deviant practitioner of ‘alternative bovine husbandry’ with a particular affiliation for the erotic deployment of obscure racial slurs. (Hyperbolic evidence tends to generalize at the expense of propriety.)

The land upon which the potato farmer settled when he reached the continent then quaintly known as ‘the New World’ was the rejected afterbirth of a southern Everglades marshland and a muddy seaside inlet of foul-smelling sulfuric muck and fish-flavored sand. While historical evidence suggests that this farmer did not in fact take possession of the whole island which would one day be called ‘Manhattan’, Dutch legends have never relied very heavily upon historical evidence. (See: Hyperborean Mythology) As the land had been tainted by dark rituals performed hundreds of years before by cultists of an unimaginably ancient deity who shall not be named, it was generally known that anything grown there would be similarly cursed, unsuitable for consumption, and also very smelly. According to the tales, this potato farmer used an insidious combination of hereditary blood magic and a secret heirloom recipe for spongy salted herring to spawn forth millions of tons of tainted potatoes from the evil land which constituted his dark domain. It was believed that he intended to instigate a flood of biblical proportions as restitution for the shame which had driven him there in the first place.

Seeing a starchy apocalypse on the horizon, an unnamed Dutch aristocrat deployed a fleet of eager colonists to slay the Spudmancer, which they did most eagerly and with savage, Scandinavian relish. Literally.

In the days and weeks that followed the slaying of the Spudmancer, citizens of the newly founded ‘New Amsterdam’ shipped the excess eldritch potatoes north, where they would plant the seeds of doubt that would eventually bring about the Salem witch trials.

Little did the settlers know, the Spudmancer line had not been severed completely. But the effects of this oversight would not be felt for many generations.

In the meantime, the Dutch citizens of New Amsterdam began to realize the mistake they had made in settling upon that accursed little island. So discontented were they that when the English came along and demanded they surrender the city to the Queen, the Dutch governor was promptly overthrown and the city renamed to ’New York’.

Decades rolled by, and New York failed to become any less wretched. In fact, the hive of darkness spawned by the foundation of Spudmancer only grew in both complexity and corruption as generation after generation of Capitalist Pigs™ and drug addicts left their mark on an eternally collapsing black hole of culture and wealth. Like a cancer, New York grew and began to infest the world’s already questionable culture like a rotten tooth with a bacterial cyst. The French sent over a mighty stone golem under the guise of a gift, which stood sentry against an increasingly volatile core of tacky tourist memorabilia. Some people living in a faraway desert tried to blow it up, and failed successfully. Lines at airports became very long. There was a small, abortive insurrection. The ocean continued to rise, and much of it fell into the sea. Refusing to be defeated, the city spaned new layers atop the old, and continued to grow and spread like the festering wart of evil that it was.

Enter Jim-Bob McGuffinsworth. (Esquire.)

Potato farming (and a predilection for the occult) had been in Jim-Bob’s blood all his life. For thirty years, he had peacefully farmed potatoes on a modest plot of land several miles outside of New Brunswick, New Jersey, which was on the border of New York, across the river from New York City. Watching as the great, terrible blight of the city began to encroach upon his land more and more with each passing day, Jim-Bob’s naturally inquisitive and slightly petulant mind began to wonder why all the places around him were named ‘new’ despite being quite clearly very old, run down, stale, and smelling of diseased urine. One fateful day, a ravenous pack of long-toothed city planners and lawyers descended upon Jim-Bob’s homestead, razing his farm to the ground, burning his potatoes to ash, and rudely sodomizing his dog, before declaring that his property was to become the foundation for the country’s most ambitious engineering project yet - the Space Elevator.

Jim-Bob resented this so deeply that he dedicated his life thereafter to becoming an extremely high-profile legal practitioner and key political figure, going so far as to briefly serve as mayor to the city of New York. During this time, he ruthlessly sabotaged the Space Elevator project out of spite, much to the chagrin of his dog. Having assured that space would remain inaccessible for generations to come, he ended his final term in office with one of the most profoundly rousing speeches ever recorded in human history.

As a footnote amidst this speech, former mayor Jim-Bob McGuffinsworth reasoned casually that since there was no ‘Old’ York (Or, none that mattered, anyway) there was no reason to have a ‘New’ York. Given that the city of New York had only multiplied, mutated, collapsed in upon itself, condensed, spread out and repeat for the last several decades, the argument could be made that the city was becoming ‘more of itself’ than ever before. Nothing about New York was ‘new’ - but everything about it was ’York’. It had undergone enough changes to become a ‘new’ place a hundred times over, and ’New New New New New York’ just sounded silly.

Therefore, the name should logically be changed to something that really reflected what it was.

So it was that ‘New York’ became ’York York’, and the rest, as they say, is history. Two days later, Jim-Bob McGuffinsworth was lynched by an angry mob for no apparent reason whatsoever. With him, the Spudmancer line at last came to a definitive, if pointless end.

’Definitive, if pointless’ is likely how an observer might have described The Operator, standing lonesome and forlorn outside the York York Central Police Precinct.

The air smelled like exhaust fumes and grease as noisy motor vehicles creeped by in their perpetual gridlock traffic jam, dyspeptic drivers honking and shouting, shaking their fists out their windows, and generally making an unhappy ruckus. The sidewalks were not necessarily thronged, but still unpleasantly crowded with busy looking, distinctly unfriendly people who shoved past the Operator with little to no regard for her personal space. A pigeon perched on some architectural fixture above the Operator’s head casually excreted, likely decorating her shoulder with an unwelcome gift from the hazy heavens.

In one of a million databanks in an orbital communications satellite stationed geosynchronously over York York, the customs agent who had been responsible for making an exception to Earth’s ’no space stuff’ and allowing The Operator’s van to slip past the Orbital Customs Blockade blinked at his monitor, squinted, then remembered to hit the ’Enter’ key on an email he had composed several hours ago, but forgotten to send. As if aware of its own tardiness, the email zooped from the orbital station, soared invisibly between a number of anonymous relay stations, then moseyed on into the York York Police precinct’s router where it settled comfortably inside the glassy monitor on Deputy Captain Hansellen Ryker’s broad, faux-ebony desk.

The ITC representative had arrived.

Heaving a dejected sigh that spoke volumes to the empty office about how bothersome and insignificant the task he was being made to perform was, the Deputy Captain stood and proceeded to the lobby. The message had been intended to inform him merely that the representative had arrived on the planet, but that detail had been lost in the timing and delivery. Following a brief, not entirely friendly exchange with the receptionist, he made his way outside, stood atop the concrete stairs to scan for whom he sought - then decided it must be the one person who looked like she didn’t fit in and strode up behind her.

”Excuse me. Would you happen to be the ITC associate I’m supposed to meet with today?”

Hansellen Ryker was an extremely unnerving man. The sentient mind is generally not equipped to handle the kind of duality which this individual possessed about him.

He looked perfectly normal. Average height, stocky, rather fat, but with the suggestion of a hardness that implied either he was stronger and sturdier than he looked, or that he had once been so, but was growing soft with age and complacency. He looked like a mid-forties depiction of what Santa Clause might have looked like at that age, with a bushy beard and short, neat hair that were dark rather than white. His demeanor was at ease, polite, unthreatening, and generally trustworthy.

Yet despite this, there was a perfectly indefinable aura of staggering evil about him that could be rooted in no conceivable evidence. There was no reason at all to suspect that he might be a sadistic monster hiding in the guise of a friendly, middle-aged man - and yet somehow he seemed like a big, fluffy moth with the brain and stinger of a hyperalderanian superwasp. Anyone trying to insist that he was in fact evil would seem utterly mad, with no basis whatsoever to explain the guttural, bone-deep instinct of danger the man exudes, and yet didn’t. He was smartly dressed in the uniform of an upper-tier law officer.

The monstrously trustworthy man smiled congenially when the Operator turned toward him - a perfectly safe and harmless person who could not possibly have any sinister motivations whatsoever, in any capacity. ”I’m Deputy Captain Ryker. I was told you’d be coming.” His professionally detached lack of enthusiasm manifested as a slight tiredness around his beady eyes.

Gesturing vaguely back toward the precinct building he prompted ”Shall we speak in my office?”




Just one more report.

THey had to get done, right? Somebody had to do them, even if the fact that they weren’t hers technically amounted to forgery of official documents. But the other officers were too grateful to make anything of that. It wasn’t that she was procrastinating. That would be unprofessional, and Kitalaiya Deschain was nothing if not professional. She was very not-unprofessional. Un-unprofessional. She was doing professional work in a professional capacity, and not delaying her responsibility to obey the orders of her superiors in a timely and efficient manner. He hadn’t specifically told her to see him now. And sure, he was the kind of person who didn’t appreciate waiting on greenhorns, and would certainly not be happy with the excuse of having not been explicitly told-

Kita was as engrossed in her anxiety as she was in the dutiful not-really-forgery that she completely failed to notice the van pulling up behind her parked cruiser. There were some curious sounds that didn’t quite register, followed by the sound of a backfiring car. Not uncommon, especially in the low-income districts, to hear sounds like that. Learning to synthesize oil (somehow) had done wonders preventing wars, boosting the global economy, and generally made everything a lot easier for the human race - but it also had meant a steep decline in alternative energies. Internal-combustion cars still ruled the roads - albeit with a 50% lower rate of emissions. That didn’t stop them from being finicky, though. Kiki’s own precious squad car did that sort of thing sometimes. She was on the list to get it fixed. Only 356 work orders ahead of hers! It’d be fixed in no time.

Having closed the window after the mildly unnerving payphone incident - as if subconsciously afraid that it might start ringing again despite being broken - the sound which finally made her look up from the meticulous busywork was a synthetic, slightly muffled humming noise to her left. Turning to look, she immediately gave a start and let out a tiny squeak of surprise. Every emotion she went through was clearly mapped out on her face - which made her look almost like a teenager pretending to be a patrol officer. Surprise furrowed into a moment’s confusion, then raised into curiosity as she leaned forward to see what the coppery eyestalk was protruding from. What came next, as the window rolled down all the way, was probably unexpected.

Seeing that she had been approached by a little, wheeled robot, the young officer’s eyes lit up with pure, unabashed delight. It was unlikely that anyone had ever looked at the little unit like that before. Most people tended not to approach toasters or navigational equipment with an almost childlike wonderstruck fascination.

Robots, automatons, synths and metal-men might have been commonplace throughout the contemporary multiverse; but on Earth, willfully sequestered away from galactic society, they were little more than novelties. Automated machines were commonly used in manufacturing, but they were never personified. Outside of purely practical applications, robots existed as little more than toys for the very rich. Conversation pieces, statements of power or wealth, occasionally assigned menial tasks such as serving drinks. Earth turning its collective back to the universe had given the citizens a new perspective on the concept of artificial intelligence - namely the perspective that if they were to invent it themselves, it would almost certainly take over the world and exterminate them all. As AI development was strictly banned across the globe, robots of Earth could be programmed with only the rudimentary, contrived personalities to about the same degree as a dog or trained monkey, sans red vest and silly little hat. Usually.

Many Earthlings would have held the bizarre little thing in contempt, or perhaps been amused by it. This bright-eyed, bushy-tailed police officer however, looked for all the worlds as though she were laying eyes upon the most adorable, precious creature she had ever seen.

”Well hello there lil’ guy~!” The cop lilted affectionately, chipper and unfalteringly nice. ”What’re you doin’ out here?” Concern appeared to mingle candidly with her delight. The sweet, melodic tone might easily have been taken for satire or condescension, except that the note of concern was so irrefutably genuine that one would expect her to be speaking with a lost child rather than a perfectly average autonomous unit. She sat up a little straighter, looked a little more sober. ”You’re not lost, are you?” She ventured, something in her posture clearly suggesting that this strange little policewoman would go to the ends of the Earth to return a lost robot to its owner.

Misguided, perhaps - but utterly, overwhelmingly, absurdly genuine.
The air smelled like exhaust fumes and grease as noisy motor vehicles creeped by in their perpetual gridlock traffic jam, dyspeptic drivers honking and shouting, shaking their fists out their windows, and generally making an unhappy ruckus. The sidewalks were not necessarily thronged, but still unpleasantly crowded with busy-looking, distinctly unfriendly people who shoved past the Operator with little to no regard for her personal space.

"I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel..."

"That's about right, love," The Operator said to no one in particular as a vehicle roared past windows open and music blaring. The Operator was unfamiliar with the tune but had caught that single line from the song in a brief 5-second serenade that summarized her so far, rather brief introduction to this annoying little blue speck.

This 'New York' or "York, York" or "New, New" or whatever it was called reminded The Operator far too much of Beta 7, the galactic headquarters of ITC. Dirty, smelly, with decaying tall buildings and far too many humans, aliens, bots, and other beings littering the narrow streets and sidewalks. She noted that there was a distinct lack of aliens and robots here but there were plenty of people who pushed past her, apparently oblivious to the fact that she was, clearly, occupying this space, and yet, that did not prevent any passerby from very rudely bumping into her every several seconds. Finally, it occurred to her that if she chose a different spot to ponder her situation, the amount of bumping would greatly decrease or even stop altogether.

It was about that time that the following event added the proverbial cherry on top of The Operator's already precarious predicament. A rather, nasty-smelling cherry that was more the color and texture of a dribble of cookies and cream with the scent of a skunk that had not successfully crossed the road as it followed the infamous chicken whom Earth people spent too much time pondering its motive for doing so. This drop of foul-smelling excrement was headed rapidly to its destination below. More on that in a moment...

The question of why the chicken had crossed the road had been an age-old one on this planet. Some years earlier, someone by the name of Simon Charles, an amateur philosopher who had not been able to find work after completing college and worked as a checker at a local grocery store, finally realized the question referred to a very specific chicken from Madaurrai some 2000 years earlier and had nothing to do with the reasons anyone would assume a chicken would cross the road in the first place. There were hundreds of theories prior to that which begged the larger question, what was this planet's fascination with chickens in the first place,? And why did its inhabitants need to know which had come first; The chicken or the egg?

Sadly, poor Simon met his demise before he could share this information with the world as he was struck and killed when he stepped in front of a hover bus. Like the skunk, Simon had failed to cross the road successfully and now no one would ever know the answer to why a specific chicken somewhere in an Indian market had done so thousands of years prior.

Getting back to The Operator who had taken notice of the lack of robots was reminded that hers and her van were nowhere to be found at the moment and making her even more annoyed than she already was. "The nerve of that daft little toaster," she grumbled.

That leads us back to...

A pigeon perched on some architectural fixture above the Operator’s head casually excreted, likely decorating her shoulder with an unwelcome gift from the hazy heavens. The Operator, who had relocated herself just below the pigeon, received a nasty surprise as the revelation that there were no robots roaming the streets of York and her droid and van were missing. She also now had a mess on her otherwise spotless red uniform.

"Oh, bloody great," she mumbled. She checked her tool belt only to realize that she had nothing to remove the offending gift from the heavens. The Operator glanced up long enough to catch a glimpse of the pigeon flying off. She turned to head back to her van to get the box of handy wipes she kept in the passenger seat, only to remember that the sidewalk was far too "peoply" and the van in question was currently at large.

In response to all of this, The Operator was about to release a string of expletives rather loudly when she suddenly heard a voice.

”Excuse me. Would you happen to be the ITC associate I’m supposed to meet with today?”

"Oh," The Operator replied, completely caught off guard. "Yes. Yes, I am. I'm called The Operator." She extended her hand in the man's direction.

Hansellen Ryker was an extremely unnerving man. The sentient mind is generally not equipped to handle the kind of duality which this individual possessed about him.

He looked perfectly normal. Average height, stocky, rather fat, but with the suggestion of a hardness that implied either he was stronger and sturdier than he looked, or that he had once been so, but was growing soft with age and complacency. He looked like a mid-forties depiction of what Santa Clause might have looked like at that age, with a bushy beard and short, neat hair that were dark rather than white. His demeanor was at ease, polite, unthreatening, and generally trustworthy.

Yet despite this, there was a perfectly indefinable aura of staggering evil about him that could be rooted in no conceivable evidence. There was no reason at all to suspect that he might be a sadistic monster hiding in the guise of a friendly, middle-aged man - and yet somehow he seemed like a big, fluffy moth with the brain and stinger of a hyperalderanian superwasp. Anyone trying to insist that he was in fact evil would seem utterly mad, with no basis whatsoever to explain the guttural, bone-deep instinct of danger the man exudes, and yet didn’t. He was smartly dressed in the uniform of an upper-tier law officer.

The monstrously trustworthy man smiled congenially when the Operator turned toward him - a perfectly safe and harmless person who could not possibly have any sinister motivations whatsoever, in any capacity. ”I’m Deputy Captain Ryker. I was told you’d be coming.” His professionally detached lack of enthusiasm manifested as a slight tiredness around his beady eyes.

"Yes, uh, there seemed to be a slight mix-up with the receptionist. Problem with your phones," The Operator asked.

Gesturing vaguely back toward the precinct building he prompted ”Shall we speak in my office?”

"Uh, yes, of course! The phone in your office! Is that the problem," She asked quickly. "Sorry, I left the work order in me van and my er, assistant apparently decided to move it so I'm at a bit of a disadvantage here, but I'm sure we can get the whole mess sorted out."

The Operator turned to follow Deputy Captain Ryker back inside the building she'd left a few minutes earlier having not gotten anywhere with the receptionist.
Yoo-nit peered into the patrol vehicle parked by the phone. When the being inside, apparently a female human police officer, looked up, she seemed genuinely surprised. This led to the following exchange:

”Well hello there lil’ guy~!” The cop lilted affectionately, chipper and unfalteringly nice.

The robot made a series of beeps, chirps, and whirres. Suddenly, there was a loud backfiring noise and a cloud of smoke floated upward past the window a moment later. The red lightbulb above its eyes turned red for a moment.

"Ummmm...," Yoo-nit replied.

”What’re you doin’ out here?” Concern appeared to mingle candidly with her delight. The sweet, melodic tone might easily have been taken for satire or condescension, except that the note of concern was so irrefutably genuine that one would expect her to be speaking with a lost child rather than a perfectly average autonomous unit.

"I am here to complete work order # 1236146051302-1235126-1323-0000001C," It informed her in a monotone voice.

The robot's oversized eyes shifted from right to left for a moment before centering themselves back on the officer. It again repeated the same sequence of sounds ending with a backfiring noise, smoke and its red light bulb illuminating for several seconds.

She sat up a little straighter, looked a little more sober. ”You’re not lost, are you?” She ventured, something in her posture clearly suggesting that this strange little policewoman would go to the ends of the Earth to return a lost robot to its owner.

Misguided, perhaps - but utterly, overwhelmingly, absurdly genuine.

"Um," The robot said again. This question once again repeated the same cycle of noises, smoke and red light.

"Negative," It said a moment later again in a very monotone voice. The robot's words were evenly spaced with no inflection whatsoever. "I am here to fix the pay phone," it informed her. Slowly, its eyes rotated 180 degrees to look at the object in question. It paused a moment, then slowly rotated its eyes in the opposite direction to once again focus on her. The machine stared at her silently and in a somewhat unsettling way until she either spoke, moved to interact with it physically, or left.

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