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Clocks and Boxes — Part 33: Computer

Alfred awoke slowly and groggily. His mouth tasted sour and his tongue felt like it was made of gum.

"Must have been N on drugging duty last night," he groaned. "Always goes too heavy on the chloroform."

As soon as his head felt up to the task, he looked around. He was seated on a bench in a sunlit park. To his left was an open field, where some men in blazers were having a three-legged sack race, complicated by the fact that they were all running in different directions. To the right was the Huge Evil Bubble, the smooth white surface of which was smeared in mud. It groaned quietly.

"Bad night too, eh, mate?" Alfred said. He fished some biscuits from his pocket and placed them on the ground before the creature, which absorbed them into its body.

"Ah, there you are, F." The speaker was a tall, balding man with a scarf and an umbrella. "How you going, all right?"

"You must be the new B," Alfred said. "What's up this time? Virtual reality? Elaborate but obvious confidence routine? More drugs? Please tell me it's not more drugs. I'm really over the drugs."

"No, this time it's an evil supercomputer," B said. "Oops, I wasn't supposed to say that. Shit. Hang on…"

B walked away, and was lost from sight behind the toilet block. Moments later, a blocky man with a big black moustache strode over, his scarf flapping in the wind and an umbrella over his arm.

"Hello, F," the new B said. "How's…"

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Alfred said, standing groggily and stamping his foot to shake off the pins and needles.

"You might find that your friend, Miss U is already…"

"I said I was coming!" Alfred snapped. "Where's my badge? Who dragged me to where I woke up this time? Was it T? Tell him to be careful. Oh, here it is."

Alfred put on his 'F' badge and, grumbling, followed B through the streets of the suburb to an art deco building that looked like it had once been a cinema. Up a flight of stairs, B rattled in his pocket to find the key to a door labelled S.O.C.I.E.T.Y.

"How does S.O.C.I.E.T.Y. stand for 'evil supercomputer?'" Alfred said.

B shrugged. "If we knew anything, why would we have to keep drugging info out of prisoners? Oh, here it is!"

Inside the room was an enormous 1960s computer, composed of a white box full of flashing lights, a row of reel-to-reel tape drives. A sinister looking metal headpiece, connected to the computer by a long cable, sat on a single-legged plastic chair. In a corner sat U, reading an ancient copy of Women's Weekly.

"That'll be the brain sucker," Alfred sighed. "Hello, U. Captured again?"

"Yeah, why do they keep capturing me to manipulate you?" U said. "By 'you', I mean 'F', not 'U.'"

"I get it," Alfred said. "But I don't know. We’re friends, right, but I'm not planning to die for you and I wouldn't expect you to die for me."

"Ha, no chance," U laughed.

"Look, just put the evil science hat on and let the computer suck all the information from your head, would you?" B snapped. "I'm late for lunch already. Oh, and no feeding in a simple, high-school level logical paradox to make it blow up. Not cool, okay?"

Alfred sat on the chair and put the headpiece on. He took it off again and adjusted the electrodes with their butterfly screws. Once it fit properly he nodded to B. B smirked and, with a flourish, dropped a pack of punchcards into a hopper.

"Soon, we will have all your information!"

"Don't worry," Alfred said, setting his weak jaw. "The computer wants information? I'm from the future. I know what info computers want!"

He picked up the headpiece and put it on.

"What. Do. You. Know?" the computer intoned.

"I'm asking the questions," Alfred said. "And what I want to know is: can I haz cheezeburger?"

"Query: cheeseburger?"

"Epic fail! Harambe. All your base are belong to us."

The computer's lights began flashing brighter. Its reel-to-reel tape banks were running frantically.

"Negative. Logic error."

"Be like Bill. More cowbell! Shut up and take my money. I had fun once and I hated it."

"Does. Not. Compute. If. Hated. Not. Fun…"

The electrodes on Alfred's head were growing hot. His head was filling with static. He had to remember… Remember! And he hadn't been that up to date to begin with.

"Smug Wonka! Distracted boyfriend! Alignment chart of Canadian Governors-General! Why not Zoidberg?"

One of the computer's tape machines burst open. B gasped in surprise as spirals of tape exploded across the room. Through tear-filled eyes, Alfred saw U take the opportunity to fell the man with a well-placed karate chop to the neck. U rushed towards Alfred, but when she touched the headpiece she recoiled in pain at the heat.

Alfred knew he was saved… but would it be soon enough? Either way, he still had one last shot at the computer. He took the chance:

"Kim and Kanye," he whispered.

"Self. Destruct. Process. Initiated," the computer said. "Tell. My. Wife. I. Love. Her."

U had fished a handkerchief from her handbag. Using it, she gripped the headpiece and pulled it from Alfred's head, taking some scorched skin with it. She opened the restraints on the chair -- which turned out to be quite easy to work – grabbed him by the arm and dragged him towards the door. They stumbled down the stairs, coughing as the stairwell filled with smoke. The fire door didn't shift easily, but B staggered up from behind and helped them push. They all tumbled out into the street beyond, and raced away from the building. They were halfway across when it exploded.

"Damn," U said. "Always wanted to do the slow-walk-away-from-the-explosion thing, and now I've missed my chance."

"Why didn't we, you know, die?" Alfred said.

As one, they all turned to see a glowing forcefield that extended around the burning building. Rubble was strewn across the inner circumference of the field. Alfred looked up, and saw the source of the shimmering energy – an enormous flying saucer that hovered over the Suburb.

A door opened in the bottom, and Delia poked her head out. "Hello Alfred!" she said. She looked at U and frowned. "Oh, and hello to you, too."

Next -- Part 34: Ornithopter

Previously -- Part 32: Robbery

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