Valper Traahnik versus the Lowest Common Denominator

Evidence of the Decline of Civilization.

The world unity protesters had devastated another world capitol. Gloomy economic reports filled the airwaves in a winter of discontent. Malaise was far from Valper Traahnik's heart at the time of his first encounter with the robots from the future. The guild, as they wanted to be called, came here from the future to prevent what they called the demise of the fitted standard.

Valper could only speculate as to what these creatures wanted with him. He was busy doing something else when the quest began. The quest for the unmentioned things. You see, a manualist is in search of the unmentioned things. That's just how it was done in those days. But why robots from the future?

They often spoke of themselves in the third person. They often spoke about a presence called Fred. Fred lived in days past. Rule number one was "try not to freak out." Rule number two, "appear to be cool." This is harder than one might imagine when confronted with floating vacuum cleaners that can pass through walls, but that's how these critters appeared to Valper. The robot in charge had a crusty emblem that read "Wizard Deluxe Model", and showed no visible means of support. It just sort of floated and puttered above the ground.

The gig in New York would kick off the first leg of the tour of North America. Lameoid black clad tattoo clustered serfs helped carry boxes and road cases from the van. All the equipment was set up now, and only Valper and the club's soundman sat there waiting for the others to return from going to eat. At first, Valper thought the sun was getting brighter outside, but the glass began to bubble inwards and he could see the "Wizard" model immediately. The other two contraptions that flanked it were shaped like thermos bottles, and made a whirring sound that seemed to come from all directions.

"Do not be afraid," said the Wizard. "We have come from the future to guide you away from peril, and to predict what shall come."

"What shall come," said Valper as he staggered backward a bit.

"What shall come is before you now. We serve for one man."

"Is this some kind of cleaning service?"

"We are of the guild de les ordinateurs. Our task is to mention the unspecified. Does this not fit in with your plans?"

"Actually, I was just going to eat before the band gets back. What the hell are you anyway?"

"You would call us robots. We would strive to humbly perform our tasks in peace."

"What tasks?"

"The task of ensuring the longevity of the Fitted Standard."

"What is that?"

"We can only tell you it is good, and that you will like it."

"I see."

"Do you really?"

Valper got lost in the tangle of sentences, wondering who said what. Then it occurred to him that he must be asleep and that he must be dreaming this. "Are you guys here to do anything in particular?"

There was a long pause and then the smell of something, a rush of sounds, and then blackness.

The little man in the box was not pleased. Valper told him about the vacuum cleaners and the window and the "fitted standard," but where had the past two days gone? There was nothing missing, no broken window, and no head in a bag. Nothing. If it weren't for his total lack of involvement in any wrongdoing, Valper would have surely ended up sealed in a pit of his own filth with a pain amplifier. Thankfully they didn't get Tony!

Tony said, "I'm starving in here. I called and called you, but nobody came. I got stuff to do. I can't be distracted like this you know."

Valper looked down at the little box containing Tony, "I just don't know what happened. I feel out of sorts about this."

"I can't be bothered with your petty moods and sloppy behavior. I’m going to be up all night over this. I wont sleep a wink, but you’ll be snoring like a banshee, you will."

Valper closed the little door, and covered it with a throw rug. Nobody noticed anyhow.

The phone rang and it was some gurus from California. It seemed they had emailed a solution to the latest problem and were concerned that nobody had gotten back with them as to whether it worked or not. Five minutes is a long time to some people. They treated Valper like some kind of king, only because they had heard of his reputation before all this. Valper was this guy who came up from nowhere and did things that were never considered before, and with good results. He was born in the Chinese zodiac sign of the rabbit, the luckiest of all signs. "It must be true," he mused, over a hot cup of Coffee. "These cats recognize game."

While Valper was patting himself on the back, his cat jumped up on a keyboard and added a few random characters to some program that had been in the editor for a week. It would autosave soon, and probably go unnoticed until someone tried to compile it again. Black cats tend to do that according to Tony.

In amongst those random characters, Valper could make out the word PARSNIP clearly, which reminded him that he was actually quite hungry, and there was some "salad in a bag" in the refrigerator.

Copyright ©1998, Robby Garner. All rights reserved.