Dream of A Gilded Planet
Sergeant Viernes is slightly irritated that he has become more and more associated with Dr. Benito Stelfast, not that he’s become best friends with him by any stretch of the imagination, but the doctor knows him on a first-name, casual, momentarily lost-then-recognized basis. The sergeant simply wishes to be among the numerous biospheric citizens of whom Dr. Benito has neither interest nor knowledge, yet the fringe benefits are pretty good… OK, they’re decadent, at least compared to his personal monetary expectations.
When he was initially instructed to inform the good doctor about the death of Senator Falstaff Boyd, a political constituent, the sergeant was noticeably excited. The good doctor is head of the Inter-Biospheric Robotics Council (IBRoC), one of the most powerful men in the quad-dome nation, but Viernes has now visited Dr. Benito on several additional occasions, each time to inform him about the death of another citizen.
Dr. Benito’s serviton knocks upon the doctor’s chamber door. “Sir, Sergeant Viernes has called once again.”
“Is he in the library?”
“Did he say the matter?”
“I wonder who’s died now?”
“I know not, sir. It does seem, however, that he brings sad news with each visit.”
Dr. Benito reflectively pauses before jumping back to reality.
“Please show him into the library where he can wait; I’ll meet with him shortly.”
A few moments passes before Sergeant Viernes is escorted into Dr. Benito’s study.
“Dr. Benito, I apologize for intruding upon your peace, but…”
“Sergeant… Sergeant Viernes. There’s no need to apologize even if you do bring more bad news… you… are bringing more bad news?”
“Another robotic malfunction?”
Dr. Benito Stelfast sits quickly in his leather chair.
Stunned, Benito adds, “Rodney, bring me an anodyne for my headache.”
Sergeant Viernes looks around, confused, “Rodney? There’s no one around but me, sir. I’m Sergeant Viernes.”
“Hm. Oh,” Benito laughs, “Rodney is my serviton.”
Rodney enters the room and bows to the police sergeant, “I hear everything that goes on inside and outside this house, sir.”
The serviton then gives the pills to Dr. Benito who drinks them down with tap water.
“He sure looks human,” says Viernes.
“Your robot, sir. It looks amazingly human.”
“Yes,” says Benito, then he sits silently, staring intently at the floor for a moment or two until he slowly looks up and asks, “Where did this latest fatality occur?”
“It was at the victim’s residential home. Seems like another security robot killed the man then self-destructed.”
“Goddamn it,” Benito hisses. “Same goddamn M.O.?”
The sergeant nods his head.
“You know, Sergeant, this spree of random killings began almost immediately after the beta attack on the Peruvian dome. I’ve had my men working ‘round the clock trying to figure out what the hell’s going on…”
The sergeant feels sorry for the doctor but secretly wonders why anybody would want to get into politics, especially someone like Dr. Benito Stelfast who is not only the leading robotics scientist on the planet, but he’s an elected senator as well.
“It must be hard…”
“You haven’t a clue, son.”
Dr. Benito pauses just barely before resuming, “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I’m lost in a wave of emotion. A dozen random deaths, and we’ve got a major bill on the floor tomorrow.”
“The Biospheric Consolidation Bill?”
Dr. Benito looks up, momentarily stunned.
“Ah, yes,” says the doctor, “I suppose it is in the news.”
“It’s all anybody’s talking about.”
“Really? Hmm. Well, what do you think?”
“Well, sir. I agree with you. I think that the four biospheres that are scattered across the planet should be consolidated into one biosphere. It’d be much safer. The betas have already demonstrated that they are nothing more than barbarians. No longer human. And, personally, I don’t think that the betas deserve the biospheres we’d be abandoning. The domes and the savages should all be destroyed.”
“I agree,” says Benito, “But the bill won’t pass without a bit of compromise. Don’t worry, though, I’ve put in legislation that’ll assure we will always have more than enough weaponry to quell any future uprising from the betas in the Wild Earth Zone.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
“I need just a bit more time. Pass this bill, and then I can devote my resources to solving all these fatalistic robotic anomalies. Four senatorial deaths…”
“That’s five, sir. The one last night.”
“Oh. Yeah. Damn… What was his name?”
“Adam Shepherdson, sir.”
Dr. Benito screams out. Sergeant Viernes looks on in horrific uncertainty until Vanessa rushes in to investigate the violent pneumatic explosion from the darkest recesses of her husband’s emotional center; Sergeant Viernes quietly leaves the emotionally usurped senator in the shrill echoing room. As he closes the chamber door Rodney approaches.
“What the hell was that all about?”
The serviton replies, “Adam Shepherdson is the good doctor’s best friend.”
* * *
Benito awakens abruptly and is instantly repulsed by the smell of his own breath, which wreaks of sour gastro-intestinal bitterness. He orders Rodney to retrieve a mint-flavored liquid breath rinse, which temporarily refreshes his spirits as he sinks deeper into satin sheets, but his head still throbs with intrusive percussive militancy. An intense crash from his son’s room sends him wide-eyed and lunging for nothing as he instinctually reacts to the harsh diapason that invades his serenity like an adolescent chainsaw with Tourette’s syndrome. Michael is playing his flavor of music too loudly… again.
Benito almost runs to his son’s room, and when Michael sees the unequivocal displeasure in his father’s eyes, he immediately turns down the music, but Benito is too incensed to stop; he snatches the boy’s stereo and throws it against the wall. The boy’s lower lip quivers, but he says nothing as his father slowly walks back to his own bedroom where he immediately crashes into unconsciousness.
The dream is always the same, and although he never fully remembers it, Benito always awakens from his sleep with an inescapable feeling of invulnerability:
Standing on a phosphorescent, jagged promontory, a lingering pale yellow light shines between two pink-marble obelisks, erect and primal against an orange and red streaked sky. A dark gray wisp of cloud curls around his ankles like a smoky kitten that then bounds beyond him. Looking over the land that stretches from Mesopotamia to Vienna, he sees hordes of troops amassing victory after victory, leaving victims in a crimson wake of bloody turmoil until he sees all the lands over which he holds dominion, a physical map of his conquests stretching out before his eyes in deferential tribute. Colorfully dressed men and women bow before him, some of which, with the insouciant flip of his hand, vanish into the heavens; others, the more obviously obsequious, turn to gold. Then, as he descends the mountainous platform, the world shrinks into the palm of his hand. He carefully arranges it in a specially made lacquer jewelry box, and he puts the box in a place of honor among his other possessions in a golden vault.