Unprecedented profusion and speed in the history of the Imperial Democratic Minting and Printing Ministry! Posters carpeted the streets of the capital New Aachen outward to those of the smaller Teutonic villages. But only in the capital was it possible to admire the largest of them, the pride of national factories, which had been continuously snorting vapors for thirty years.
One hundred meters by one hundred meters of linen imprinted with the revolutionary Teuton technique of platinum lithographed daguerreotype and chemically treated inks, new patented colors, the colossal poster emblazoned the facade of the Imperial Mint to commemorate the national pride of the thirtieth anniversary of the New Age. Over It, proud, stern, and threatening, a solitary Imperial Airship confidently oversees the area, exhibiting his glittering golden guns of heaven’s vessel, which are shining through the smoke.
The poster portrays, in a heroic and epic pose, the ultimate machines of the New Democratic Prussian Empire: the Teilweisemenschautomatisiertkrieger, also called, in the common way of speaking, TMAK.
The TMAK oversee and defend the homeland, the newly reclaimed areas necessary to the prosperity of the mild Prussian, Alsatian, Pannonian and Carinthian populations. From the sacrifice of the young men who had given themselves to become the TMAK was born the most amazing of the new and celebrated enterprises that, with the “streben” of the people, had raised the Germanic civilization.
Only partially human, in an intellectual and psychological holdover, the TMAK warriors are invincible, unbreakable, hundred percent efficient, and equally reliable, indestructible, and likely: eternal. They do not know fear, disobedience, but they recognize the pride and love for their country, attachment to the land and to the German people.
Since the TMAK watch over the Democratic Empire, no attack has been suffered, and no actively undertaken defense lost!
They are made from the most advanced steampump technology. Saved of the young man who sacrificed himself for their country, only the residual mind necessary to make a willing, efficient and courageous warrior. The rest is activated by a hydraulic turbine heart that works with sea water. That is, with a virtually infinitive resource.
Their modern gears and universal joints chassis, the ultrahardened steel dorsal pipe, the automatic turbopump cast and integrated under a ten millimeters stainless chromium, vanadium armor rack, their rhodium, titanium ipercarbonates built body… make up what are wonderful, impressive, exciting, machines! So beautiful! They are the pride of the nation, and of Germanic technique! Plastic humanoid giants, over two meters tall, with narrow waist, broad shoulders, athletic, quick, their sight is lost to the future, veiled by technological and dark globally scanning optovision lenses.
In the boundless square dedicated to Germanic Genius and Industry, center of the Empire, in a corner under the megalithic poster, goofily simulating casualness, two strange individuals meet. By the movements and from the clothing, they are unequivocally two high officials of the Z.Z.P., the “counter counterintelligence”.
It is well known that the brand new and Democratic Prussian Empire is inclined to give rather bombastic names to its institutions and bureaucratic organization, as well as having the extravagant habit of repeating the obvious twice, or denying the negative instead. This is seen as a sign of bureaucratic and lexical hypermodernity.
One of the two is huge and fat, the other one is dry and minute, but both are dressed according to an almost ubiquitous fashion among people of such rank, common but characteristic of beaurocrats, as to appear almost a uniform. They wear a long black leather trench coat, and a hat resembling a Borsalino, black copal leather shoes.
The belt around the first man stretched so much it made him look like a robust sausage, or a big black beetle, and on the other one, athletic and agile, but skinny, like a flyweight boxer, apparently it is too large in the shoulders.
People around ran distracted, as if perpetually busy, even though there was no longer much to do in society, but it was considered a good sign of “imperial modernity” to be hectic, to take trams and taxis at the very last moment, running down escalators, climbing on cable cars franticly, using aerostatic balloons, navigating tunnels and bridges, just to exit at another end of the city, without the trip having any real purpose.
The city also uttered constant noises, rattling engines, electrical modulations, puffs and compressions, chirps, flashes, sirens, blinking, or those typical sounds similar to endlessly repeated words in the print shops, as well as smoke and mists, emissions, odors of industrial, chemical or pharmaceuticals products. Mostly it was just farcical scenes, completely ineffective and harmless.
And absolutely everyone, men and women, including those with perfect vision, like two strange characters, wear garish and heavy brass glasses with colored yellow lenses. Everybody pretends to believe the absurd and not at all sincere statement, shared and repeated by any citizen, that they would help to have a “better view of the new Imperial patented typographical colors”.
The two figures stopped one before the other, immersed in the modern smell of turpentine and shellac of the industrial city; satisfied with the state of their splendid building, and after a look at the vertical poster, they throw to each other a “furtive nod”, so evidently obvious as to be clumsy.
The fat man, higher in the administrative ranking, as well as in stature, questioned the smaller man, who immediately straightened, appearing a trained, diligent, orderly, efficient person: the typically commendable, scrupulous Imperial Officer.
-Good Morning, Baldhur, you have the folder with you, is it not true? – the walrus begun, clearing a thick, pasty, voice distorted from the soupy and deep excess of “pork jowl”.
-Certainly, Sir- the other replied, slipping a folder from inside his coat with swift, quick and precise sweeping gestures, and handing it to his colleague. The little man has mindful face, marked by a wrinkle of competence. The human mole takes it, puffing a bit, as if somewhat worried, he was digesting it badly, but without opening it.
With his hands on the back of the leather jacket and looking tall and proud, the flyweight awaits, wary of being asked. –So, let’s see- continued the fat man, almost gasping for breath like a bulldog from the effort to inhale the Pharmaceutical effluvia of the place -we have a problem with a “dispersed” TMAK Unit, as the official version says, while “reclaiming” a rural area for the settlement of Farmer Families of the Empire. Indeed, it is understood immediately to be something more complicated, and that we have begun to search, and to investigate to find out who he was and what has really happened; correct me if I omit something.-
The other one was listening quietly, but carefully.
-The First information was easy to find, since the TMAK are equipped with serial numbers, and, being perfect and indestructible, until today only this one is missing, it is…- and he inquired of the back of a sheet that was paperclipped over the folder -the TMAK AK-478/b15s, if I’m right.-
The other nodded with pursed lips, signalling his attention and participative assent.
-Let’s see the situation, Baldhur, and then you will tell me if there is news, ok?-
He stopped a second, hesitant and suspicious, but giving the impression of not having finished talking: -Because there is news! Baldhur, isn’t it true!? Do not send me to report to the Ministry, and before the Cabinet… without any progress, Baldhur! Right?!-
The other nodded without opening his mouth in the meantime, reassuring: -So, you see, Imperial Citizen, the TMAK unit in his human life was called: Alex Schlekter, Bavarian, entered into service with the serial code AK-478/b15s precisely six months ago, after leaving, by family will, a life compromised by a serious car accident at the age of 26.-
The senior official was satisfied with the prose, but urged: -And do you know something else about him and its family?-
The other, nodding discreetly with acquiescence, clarified in a strong Alsatian accent: -About the family, we know that they are great patriots, normal people, the father a journalist, the mother… a teacher; they would have had a chance to save the boy if they wanted, who would have had a disability, of course, but they preferred the nice gesture of giving him to the Imperial Army of Countercouterdefence and Counterattack.-
The massively fat man started rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
-About the guy, we know that he was a philosophy student, a quite brilliant one, which is… sorry, was devoted to a doctoral thesis at the Imperial Humboldt University, on…- but the scrupulous and dry bureaucrat could not finish the sentence, and the red-faced and visibly upset chief interrupted him to shout, but then lowered his voice immediately, given that they were supposed to go unnoticed: -Damn! How is it possible?! Another philosophy student? I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it, Baldhur! This is a conspiracy?! How to call it? What to think? A curse? We have had three problems with TMAK so far! Only three! This is the third, to be precise! And in the course of over eight hundred thousand units made!-
Baldhur nodded with pride, as it is appropriate in conversations like this one, remembering such results.
-And in all three cases, there are students of philosophy involved? I begin to believe that it is not a coincidence?! There’s no such thing as coincidence! I’m starting to believe that it is something bad in their minds, or at least that their dehumanization process is incomplete, or I do not know what to say. Something would have to be done… I know: “No longer accepting philosophers for TMAK Units!” That should be written in recruitment campaigns! – The small guy seemed to have taken the statement as a funny joke and had a little smile crossed his hard face, the other seemed to have been pleased with it.
-Yes, you are right, Baldhur! How could we ever do such a thing? What will the population think? Statistics already say that the least likely to sacrifice themselves for the Empire are the university students, we can’t also say that we do not want those who study philosophy… especially after the great pomp with which we treat the philosophers of our country, bunch of inept clowns, but it is better to take it easy if we want to colonize the world with our weltanschauung… I do not know what to think! What I do know is that this guy ended up creating a lot of problems and must be rendered harmless! Tell me you already found him, Baldhur, please!-
The other was a bit confused this time, and he seemed to not really know how to continue.
A couple of coughs, maybe it was just the smell of the drug, phenol: -Well, found, found… hem… no! Ahem! Let’s say that we have been able to reconstruct the story, and we activated the Retrieval Unit, but… I want to be completely honest with you, Imperial Citizen, this will not be something easy. I would say that from information in our possession, it will be almost impossible to find it.-
The Imperial Citizen Officer of highest degree, hearing that catastrophic news, took off his hat with violence, squeezing it with one of his fat and huge hands; while putting the other on the back of his head, and turning circles as if he had accidentally stepped on a corn inside his number 54 shoe.
-I Cannot believe it! No! It cannot be true! Baldhur! Do you realize? Baldhur, do you realize what you say? You send me to report to the Imperial Minister and before the entire Imperial Countercountercrisis Cabinet to say that our TMAK unit has a defect! Because, we know… you and I, this is the word! The word is desertion, Baldhur!- He whispered -And we…! We haven’t found it! It is impossible it was destroyed! It is impossible! Who knows where it will be now! Maybe to blurt who knows what, to who knows whom! I will have a heart attack thinking about it!- And he touched his huge elephant-like chest as to prevent an infarction, but without the necessary conviction. The concern, however, had drained all the color from his face this time.
The other seemed to still have the air of someone able to remain calm: -There is no reason to despair Imperial Citizen! Come on! Let me tell you what I know. And then, if things are worse than we imagine, the Imperial counter-propaganda will certainly find a way to correct everything, as always, there isn’t much reason to worry…- The interlocutor had rubbed his eyes this time: -Excuse me for interrupting, Baldhur, you are very efficient, and have always made an excellent job in the Imperial Democratic Services, but this time it is something serious! Stop being silly! You do not become a Great Imperial Margrave making suggestions like that! Maybe you do not realize, but the gravity of this situation is extreme! It is a TMAK! The most celebrated soldier machine, and the most beloved by the population, the pride of the Empire! I am not exaggerating when I say that the Empire, its entire structure and prosperity… the pillar is its TMAK! And we cannot help it now! Well let’s assume that this anomalous ” philosopher TMAK “, has retained its damned insight, so it seems, is not so? Let’s suppose that this one would have the damn idea to talk! To say something! And maybe for once: the truth! A TMAK should not say a word during its infinite career, just do what they are commanded to do. But how can you trust one who has gone and abandoned its mission? If it would tell? What could we do? How could the counter-propaganda respond? “It is a crazy TMAK?”, And how would it be possible? TMAK don’t make mistakes! They are not crazy! They do not go crazy! And, most important, they are HEROES! All of them!
His face was distorted, the sweat dripped while he breathlessly summarized the issues of the case, a vein was now pounding on his forehead. He had made a nod to his colleague to follow him, and began to walk between the vapor and the people, whispering through the side of his mouth: -The families, Baldhur, donate their precious battered children, convinced of what we tell them, that they will live a new life of heroism, to defend peace and prosperity for the population, while contributing to the progress of the world, ending violence, and pursuing the cessation of all human suffering. We constantly repeat our no-aggression policy, the theory of “deterrent force”… This TMAK… you know from what situation he fled… why he deserted.-
The other nodded, worried now, too. -If This TMAK, this… Schleckter, who must still have activity in his improperly dehumanized brain! Damn It! If he will go on and tell people that “the non-aggression” and the “cleaning up” for the settlement of rural families are a lie, and that everything consists of massacring those who previously occupied the area, those whose existence has been largely forgotten by everyone? If people knew that in thirty years of Imperial politics, we were responsible for the disappearance, the death, of over thirty million people, what would happen? What a scandal! Of epic proportions! And this is not even considering all the TMAK enrolled by force! There are not so many donations as we need! And some of them were even healthy ones! There is no “new life”. Here everything stands around hanging with clothespins… but who would have given us five hundred thousand bodies at the beginning?-
His face was dark and serious, but he went on quickly with the analysis: -It is not only the local population, our citizens, that… yes, the outrage could make them waver, though we might be able to contain and extinguish it, but what could happen with the other two continents of the world? They suspect nothing of our operations! Americans do not know that Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and the rest of the countries have no more Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish population, and so on, but only Germanic settlers! Or that Europe as we knew it in the XXI century exists no more! If the they knew? Would they not suspect that our purpose is to assimilate them, after our neighbors? And they would take countercountermeasures? Think Baldhur! Before you minimize.-
The other, this time, was very contrite and serious, he felt like an idiot having made that optimistic and superficial statement. The problem must never be underestimated! He was grateful to his superior for having made him learn so much through work. They took a few more silent steps, everyone minding their own business, passing just below the brand new Museum of Anatomy and Human Robotics.
After a time, the fat man spoke again with his nasal reflexive voice: -No need to despair, either, right now… You haven’t told me what the prospects are on the recovery of the subject; and your eyes seemed optimistic…-
The minute bureaucrat was waiting to finish, but did not want to seem arrogant.
-You see, Imperial Citizen, from what we know, the AK-478/b15s, has ended up deciding to dive! It is the only option it has, after all, if it does not come back to us.-
The other looked at him in amazement: -To dive! In the sea! Are you sure?- His face was surprised, but it seemed that the wheels of his brain began to run in a more positive direction again -But that changes everything! On one hand, we’ll never find it if it stays there, yes! But on the other hand… we can just hope that it will never surface again! Or at least that it will not exit the wrong side of the ocean, to blurt out to who knows who, who knows what, and everything is solved!- he seemed immersed in a new attempt to unravel ideas that flourished in his head: -Baldhur! How long can a TMAK last under water? What are the prospects? You certainly will have done an analysis of the scenario!-
-Of course, Imperial citizen, it’s all in the report. So let’s see- and he pulled out another folder and opened it a little clumsily -A TMAK “lives” in water at perfect ease, none of its functions is impaired or limited; its sea water pump has infinite fuel, after all, and the cooling is assured. The pressure does not affect it, either, even in the more abysmal seabed, it does not need light, is not affected by any marine species. If by mistake a sea creature were to swallow it, it would be able to escape even from a sea creature with a tough belly, opening a path in a reputable time of just five seconds, and using only the basic weapons integrated in it. Do not forget that the AK-478/b15s mounted hypertech assault weapons at the moment of desertion. One TMAK could resist sea erosion in the darkest place, at depth of more than six thousand meters, until… the complete evaporation of the oceans! It will shut down, of course, for lack of fuel… in millions of years.-
The senior fellow listened, admiring so much expertise: -Well, well! I welcome you Baldhur! – He was saying over and over, and this time shrilling like a tenor.
One issue was particularly important at that point: how fast would a TMAK be able to move in water. Baldhur had also calculate that one. A TMAK, being anthropomorphic is not fast; in water it is even more slow, with the pressure it loses a lot of speed. It has to move step by step, sink to the pits, climb marine mountains. Assuming that the immersion point was near the site of desertion, to arrive in America it is estimated he will need at least a couple of years.
The eyes of the fellow lit up: -This is gorgeous! Magnificent! For at least two years we will not have to worry about the revelation of military secrets to the enemy! But just ensure that it will not re-emerge in our country to blurt who knows what…-
The atmosphere was much more relaxed now. –Do you want to know the real reason for my contentment Baldhur?- the fat man opened in a rush, while the other shook his head, a little saddened for not knowing all the secrets known by his higher ranking colleague: -In two years, we plan to attack the other continents and eventually dominate the world as ONE Empire! After this, it will remain only to conquer the oceans, and all the planet will finally be controlled by us! All Over! From forests to mountain tops… to the depths of the sea! There are many ongoing projects with regards to this! Detailed! Beautiful sunken cities and new civilizations, and co-los-sal mining exploitations! The sea will be the last to fall, but it will fall! And our undisciplined soldier will be sent back to a nice revision at the Dehumanization and Conditioning Center, and we’ll see if it will forget his “philosophy” this time.-
Everything was clear! It was time to leave, feeling satisfied. After all, the desertion had occurred only the day before… goodbye!
After a few steps, Baldhur turned and came back, chased the fat man, who was whistling a Bavarian brewery polka, and seizing him by the arm, gave him one last bit of news: -Just now I got a new cablegram from the staff, the dive site was found, it is sure! In Normandy! They have also found the military equipment on the coast! The TMAK has with him only the basic integrated equipment, there is no risk that the enemy will ever analyze our highly advanced sea water steamed weapons technology!- Better so! The Countercrisis Cabinet would certainly be happy! Maybe they would give him a promotion! Even two! Baldhur’s wife of would be happy, the goal of obtaining the title of Imperial Margrave seemed closer than ever.
Meanwhile, underwater, a strange mechanical device made of pistons, levers, and screws in hyperresistant material, was puffing heat like a submarine shower head as he wandered slowly and calmly to the depths around Normandy.
The gyroscopes and mechanical orientation showed him the course to maintain. He had a precise target, Alex Schleckter (he still called himself that), the warm Caribbean seas. He would spend the first part of his new marine life traveling that far, exploring every oddity that the journey would offer; then, he would make accommodation of some reef, observing the blazing colors and the beautiful animals and fish, hidden form the intrusiveness of his Empire.
Alex was perfectly intact! –“Dehumanization”…bullshit!- he was thinking -I Have never had a better idea than getting here! To hell with those idiots! …My parents! A whole life spent saying I do not trust all this damn Democratic Empire bullshit, the “New Age” and any other pompous nonsense born in those untruthful minds, and what do they do? In order to make a good impression with the regime, and sneakily taking advantage of the fact that I’m in a coma for a few days, when I awake, I am a mechanical soldier! They have acted like I never had told them not to give me to the Emipre! I said it many times! War is what we do! There is no “reclamation” of lands, nor “defense of the peace.” Bullshit! Peace is defended with openness and education, not with the TMAK! And in the end, well, I was right! In six months of service, they have only taught me to shoot, burn, kill, bury, nuke. And I had to do it many, many times. Their “Dehumanization”, is just an empty word, a kind of excuse, everyone remains as they were in life, you remember everything! My colleagues as well, I believe. The truth is, saying “dehumanized” gives you the excuse to kill people without reproach. And people in general, they act like they are good guys, but inside they have a great desire to destroy and kill. Now, I want to stay a long time here at the bottom of the sea, on the deepest seabed I can find! I want to sleep with the fish for a while! Then cross the Atlantic, reach the Bahamas, maybe end up in Australia. I want to see the turtles, the whales, the corals… this is the most beautiful part of the world! Where no one can come to annoy you, there is no society, no structure, and no hypocrisy, there are no predetermined roads, because there are no words! Perhaps those imperial megalomaniacs will come to disturb me even here below, but they will never be able to conquer the sea! And they will never tame this ruthless and mouthless greatness! They will create some bubbles, occasionally, to say that they “inhabit” it, or that their technology has made them “masters” of the universe, but it will just be propaganda, falsehoods, like everything else. I wonder where submarine cables pass, connecting continents… how much curiosity to appease, here! None will ever dominate the abyss, ever! That’s part of its charm! In the unconditional surrender that it requires, in its darkness and its leaden weight. Man has no sympathy for the abyss, perhaps, but he is scared and attracted to it at the same time, because man himself is an abyss! And as the philosopher used to say, the…-
About Alex nothing was heard anymore. Neither did he ever know anything about his empire. Two worlds that were no longer in touch.
In his endless journey, he reached the bottom of the world, he saw marvelous things: wonders, creatures, monsters, treasures, so much that he had the impression that he was born again, to be something different from what he had always been on the surface. The sadness for having hurt other human beings passed, but not quickly; he went down to the bottom of a abysmal, dark, scary pit, and there he remained, clarifying his ideas.
Every time he thought he had enough and it was the time to move and climb out from there, he stopped a “bit more”: perhaps it had been only five or ten minutes from when he was sitting on the seabed, and then he stood there, taking more time to think. But he had completely lost track of time, seven centuries had passed the first time he thought he should go up! And yet he had not seen the corals. Who knows what had become of the world and the Empire.