Two days ago, I was called into Overseer Q's hexagram-shaped office. The walls are covered with mirrors, which, with the compounded reflections, made it difficult to tell if Q was actually sitting behind his great, polished mahogany desk or was really off in some corner of the room. This effect, along with the abruptness of the summons--I had been deep within the Sub-Vaults of Oldness, taking inventory of the vintage breakfast cereal collection when he called--made me uneasy.
"Flatlander," he said, a half chewed beef jerky stick dangling from one corner of his mouth, "we have a situation."
"What now?" I asked, worried that my week-end tickets for the big mime convention in Toronto would go to waste. I'm just crazy about mimes.
"The boys down at Cyborg Detection say their instruments are going haywire. Seems that a terminator-class assassin-bot is at large somewhere in this very building, but they're having trouble getting an exact bead on the thing."
Fakiegrind security is ever vigilant.
"Sure it's not just a malfunction -- like that time the Smart Toaster went ballistic and had our censors convinced we were under attack by a fleet of errant remote-controlled electric typewriters?"
"I think we still have the Correction Fluid Repulsor Cannon we rigged up for that one somewhere in Secret Weapons Storage. Quite the false alarm. But no, we've checked and rechecked the systems and there seems to be no error: an assassin-bot has managed to infiltrate our headquarters and is even now walking amongst us, waiting for the opportune moment to strike!"
Gripped by the urgency of the situation, I realized that the charming antics of the mimes would have to wait. "We've gone over the protocol for this before. Seems we have a Code Maroon on our hands. We must be very subtle and interview each and every Fakiegrind employee on the premises, cleverly administering the Android Detection Test ™ under the guise of a series of seemingly innocuous and routine job performance evaluations. As soon as we find the android, we slap on the protective goggles and WHAM! tear the sucker apart with the particle disruptor beam hidden in the water cooler."
"Well," and here Q stopped incessantly worrying his beef jerky stick for a moment, making me even more uneasy —we've actually already initiated the Code Maroon protocol."
"So...where's the android? I bet it's Stippleton. That guy's always creeped me out."
"Stippleton's an oddball, but he's the best digital cryptographer specializing in 80s sitcom distortion that we have. Without him, deep space would already be flooded with "Eight is Enough" reruns, causing a premature summoning of the Televiperians of Sarbo'oon 5. Humanity isn't ready for that yet. But Stippleton came out clean. Problem is, we've gone through the entire staff roster —including the janitorial crew and the ornamental hermit we've been letting stay in the west maintenance corridor..."
"And every one of them came out negative. Even the nasal scanner didn't pick up any traces of non-organic life."
"So what are your saying?"
"What I'm saying isn't easy, but I might as well just come out with it." At this Q took the mangled beef jerky strip from his mouth and started nervously wrapping its now pliable sinews about his left forefinger. "What I need to ask, Flatlander, well...have you ever taken the Android Detection Test™ yourself?"
I was taken aback by the insinuation that had suddenly materialized in the air before me, like some kind of alien life form on a wormhole joyride. But I kept my cool.
"Q," I said, "I wrote the Android Detection Test™ —as well as the extremely popular Android Detection Test for Dummies. How could I possibly be one myself? "
Q, and all 50 000 of his reflections, was watching me very intently now. "Well, the boys at Outlandish Plot Generation have been running some scenarios through the monkey room, and have come up with a few dingers. Like, perhaps you are not the real Flatlander at all. Or, perhaps — and this is even a more chilling thought — perhaps the Flatlander we know and secretly mock has actually always been an android. Perhaps you had the Android Detection Test written for you and implanted in your cerbo-circuits by you lord and master The Xister!" It was then I noticed that Q was brandishing a small particle disruptor ray, pointing it in my direction. "But if you are truly the real, organic, Flatlander, then you won't mind stepping into the Foolproof Cyborg Detection Screening Cubicle that the boys at Dept. H have recently perfected."
With the flick of a switch, a small cabinet the size of a shower stall had risen from the floor of the office. Q was motioning me towards it with the barrel of his ray gun.
"Q," I said, "don't be a fool! With all the mirrors in here we'd both be atomically disrupted if you shoot off that pistol. And besides, I can't possibly be a cyborg...I love mimes! I read poetry! I take long walks through shopping malls. I'm nice to dogs!"
"You'd be surprised what a good personality stylist can do with behaviour code these days. And these mirrors are tinted, they absorb disruptor rays, not reflect them. So, kindly step into the cubicle."
"But this is absurd! I built this blog up from nothing! I'm the reason there even is an overseer Q! How can you accuse me of cyborg-hood?!" I could tell I was getting angry by the strange music that always drifts into my head in such moments: Styx' rock-opera masterpiece "Mr. Roboto". Q advanced towards me--or was it just his reflection? Fearing the power of his ray gun, I slowly back away, until I suddenly found myself enclosed in the infernal Android Detection Device.
The door to the thing slammed shut. Immediately, lights began to flash and tiny motors made whirring noises behind the glass walls of my prison. I felt a searing pain in my head and almost blacked out, except that rather than losing consciousness, my mind was flooded with images. It was like watching a series of home movies in which I was the star, but they weren't scenes I was familiar with. Was that Xister and Spirella?! I threw my arms before me to fend them off...but they weren't attacking me, they were laughing! Laughing and sharing a picnic lunch on the strawberry-coloured slopes of some alien landscape; laughing and joking with me about some plot hatched against Fakiegrind that went off particularly well. And was that Dr. Flavour's hijacked time machine parked in the background? It made no sense.
Wave upon wave of images washed over me, images of deceit, subterfuge, and sabotage carried out against friends and co-workers, trusty employees of Fakiegrind Corp., and the unsuspecting blog readers whom we had all taken an oath to entertain and protect. Suddenly the horrible thought dawned on me that perhaps these diabolical scenes were my memories after all. Perhaps Q's machine had dissolved some barrier in my mind that had been shielding my Flatlander consciousness against knowledge of my own secret identity, my actual, terrifying existence as none other than Fakeigrind's arch-nemesis, the nefarious robot and master of disguise Maskatron!
With that I actually did loose consciousness. I awoke staring into a blinding white light, and thought for a moment that I was approaching the great skatepark in the sky. But as my eyes adjusted to the fluorescent lighting of Dept. H's laboratory, I found myself staring at my own face, a curved, vacantly-gazing shell peering back at me from atop a metal table beside the bed to which I found myself bound. What manner of mad sorcery was this? My own face stolen, torn from my head! Then Dr. Flavour came into my field of vision, his normally placid and somewhat bemused expression replaced by one of mild malevolence.
"So." Said Dr. Flavour, "You have wakened. See now the face of your true identity." And, as he brought a hand-held mirror suddenly before me, I stared into a bewildering network of pulsating circuitry and blinking LCD displays. In place of eyes were insect-like faceted domes of dark plastic, and instead of a mouth I saw a horrible circular meshed speaker covering.
At that, I let out a high pitched shriek that actually shattered the mirror into a thousand pieces; shattered, too, the metal bands that bound me to the tabletop. With augmented, cyborg strength, I leapt from my bedding, vaulted past Dr. Flavour and knocked two hapless guards out of the way. The sliding steel door to the lab crumbled like tinfoil under the strength of my robotic appendages, and I weaved my way through the labyrinthine corridors of Dept. H's underground facility with a speed too great to allow for apprehension.
I didn't know quite where I was going, spurred onwards by the robotic equivalent of instincts until I saw the familiar doorway (disguised as a magazine rack) to the Vaults of Oldness. Yes, I would hide in the Vaults. No one knew them better than I. Within their hoary, winding recesses I could evade my perusers for days, months even, until I could hatch some better plan for liberation and the destruction of the odious blog known as Fakiegrind. But what was I saying?! I created Fakiegrind. I loved that blog! It was the digital archive of all that was near and dear to my (robotic?) heart. How could I think of destroying it? Better to throw myself into the inferno of one of Steeltown's great smelting pots than erase my beloved blog. But then, the Xister and Spirella must be made to pay! They used me like a pawn. I would keep myself alive long enough to extract revenge against my former masters. But could I resist my doomsday programming long enough to complete this new directive?
Sitting amongst a stack of old comic books in the Vaults of Oldness, my mind was awhirr.
I guess you just never know in this life. Two days ago I was the respected C.E.O. of a world-class, multi-level blogpost generating firm. Now I was a fugitive robot assassin, hunted like a dog and cowering in the recesses of the Vaults. Maybe this was just another of Overseer Q's outlandish pranks. Or maybe I'd fallen into a parallel universe of deviant design. Or maybe it was just another Steeltown Saturday night, with two channels on the TV and nothing better to do than spin a yarn on the 'ol blog. Unable to come to a suitable conclusion to the quandry, I reached up behid my neck and, flipping off the transformer, fell into a deep, dreamless void of consciousness.
...But then, after what could have been countless ages, I did dream,
only I couldn't tell