"A gift… Hmmm." replied Balthacarius, whose feelings for Mrorl were somewhat mixed. He was not too pleased with the bot's phrase Mrorl the Magnificent
, unless perhaps it was ironic commentary on the overly dangerous side-effects of Mrorl's constructions. But Balthacarius felt better about this machine. It was, at least, of a manageable size, and made no promise to change the laws of physics. "All right, you may enter."
Balthacarius gave the visitor a spot where it could wait in the corner of his workshop and returned to his work, a four-wheeled pot-bellied bot that was nearly complete. In fact it only needed to be painted and polished, and Balthacarius intended to use his favourite palette, #5
. He was very proud of the colours that he (with some help from Mrorl) had managed to retro-edit into the history of spaaace-Time, and his prime-numbered palettes (in particular, #2, #5 and #7) were famous the world over. After a while the Bot to Grant One's Every Wish whirred a bit and tried to get Balthacarius' attention.
"I'm still here!"
"Yes, I know," replied Balthacarius, and continued working. A while later the bot fidgeted a bit and asked:
"What is that you're making, there?"
Annoyed, Balthacarius replied "Apparently, I am building a machine to make you ask questions!" The bot gazed down, dejected, until Balthacarius added, "But I need another medium-brown marker."
The bot cheered up immediately. "Here is one in #bb6622, I hope it's the right shade," it said as a little door opened in its side and out popped the requested item. Balthacarius took it without word and began the cross-hatch shading on one end of his creation's plastron. In the next few hours he needed sandpaper, three matched silicon-carbide diodes, a rotary ratchlezor, blue ink (#0057af), and a single #7 lock washer, all of which the bot provided on the spot. In the evening Balthacarius draped a cover over his work, made dinner, then sat down next to the bot and said:
"Now let's see what you can really do. You say you can grant my every
wish . . . ?"
"Well, mostly." the modest bot replied. "The bits I supplied today were up to your standards, I hope?"
"Oh yes, quite satisfactory," replied Balthacarius. "But I have something in mind that goes a bit past number 7 lock-washers. If you cannot grant this wish, I'll send you back to your maker with gratitude and a professional critique."
"All right," the bot replied a bit hesitantly, "what is this wish?"
"I want a Mrorl
," said Balthacarius. "I want a full-size, fully-functional Mrorl, rendered down to the finest precision, such that a reasonable observer could not distinguish it from the original Mrorl — within the limits allowed by quantum mechanics, of course."
The Bot to Grant One's Every Wish wiggled nervously, muttered and beeped a bit, and then finally replied:
"All right, I can make you a Mrorl. But please treat him with care — he is, after all, a truly Magnificant bOTTifactor."
"Oh, but of course! You needn't worry about that," said Balthacarius. After a brief pause he added, "… so, uh, where is
"What, you mean right now?" the addled bot replied. "This isn't just another #bb6622 marker, you know. Granting a wish of such intricacy takes Time."
But in fact it wasn't too long before the machine whirred, a large panel in its front slid open, and a full-sized, fully functional Mrorl climbed out. Balthacarius looked it up and down, circled it once or twice, examined its rivets closely, posed a few basic arithmetical and philosophical queries, and eventually had no doubt: this was a Mrorl as much like the original as two 28
Si atoms in a sandcastle. This Mrorl seemed to be a bit unsteady on its legs but otherwise behaved in a perfectly Mrorlish fashion.
"Hello, Mrorl!" said Balthacarius.
"Where am I?" the mimic-Mrorl blinked. "Hello Balthacarius…. is this? — How did I end up in your workshop?"
"I brought you here with my Omnichronic-Spatio-Gravitic Substantiabiliser!" lied Balthacarius proudly, pointing a thumb back at his covered, just-completed work coloured in #bb6622 and #0057af. "You know, I haven't seen you in ages. How do you like my place?"
"Fine, fine…" Mrorl glanced over at the canvas-draped shape, its four wheels barely visible. "An OSGS, you say? And it brought me here? That's quite impressive. For any lesser bOTTifactor, I'd say that would be a Barely Feasible Technological Feat. But in the hands of the Brilliant Balthacarius, of course, it would be all in a day's work."
"Why thank you, Mrorl. Wouldn't you like to see my new workshops?"
"Uh, well, I really ought to be going. You know, I'm working on several new machines of my own, I'd like to get back to them before dark…"
"Don't rush off, you just got here!" protested Balthacarius. "And you haven't seen my newest
workshop, in the Basement."
"Yes, I think you'll find it most enlightening. This way —"
And Balthacarius led Mrorl firmly over to the door to the Basement, which he opened, then gave a little push so Mrorl had no choice but to stumble down the stairs (which were, at least, adequately lit). At the bottom Balthacarius promptly set Mrorl down in a large comfy chair that had apparently been set up for some very specific purpose, as it was equipped with straps, ropes, cables, brackets of all shapes and sizes, chains, and large superconducting magnets linked to a nearby control panel by supercooled conduits wreathed in whiffs of cool white vapour. Balthacarius flipped a little switch and three magnets activated, rendering the metal Mrorl motionless.
"This, you see, is how we handle heresy
!" Balthacarius exclaimed, in a disturbingly justified tone, as he walked over to a small battery of guns mounted on a revolving turret. These he fired, as Mrorl flinched (but otherwise did not move, due to the magnets). Presently, a multi-coloured blur of little pellets shot out of the guns and hit Mrorl squarely on the chest.
"Hey! What is this? Why are you pelting me?" yelled Mrorl.
" (perhaps even more justifiably than before), "… like I said. Do you remember the Cognitative Engine that you created? That tragic madbot who chased us across the kingdom and trapped us in a cave?"
"How could I forget," replied Mrorl. "Are these M&Ms?"
"It had a perfectly natural, primordial instinct to call all creatures by their true names. Molpies and Raptors all. And yet, you tried to force it to use heretical
names, like 'duck' and 'chicken'. Truly Heresy of the highest order!" And Balthacarius hit another switch. A turret in the ceiling trained itself on Mrorl's head, which it began riddling with Skittles.
what this is about? But that bot was my creation
—" Mrorl protested, but his captor interrupted.
"To profess heresy on one's own is one thing," Balthacarius continued, "but to impose it upon another, a great and innocent Bot with the purest heart of positronic propositional logic!" and with this he powered up three more high-calorie machine-gun turrets ranged across the far wall, unleashing a hail of green, blue and purple dragées that hit Mrorl squarely in the neck, right elbow, and ear respectively.
"OW! That smarts!"
"As well they should. Those are Smarties," Balthacarius grinned.
"If you don't stop this at once, I'll report this incident to the Duke of Zubycal, and he'll show you to a basement you'll never forget!"
"Oh no, he won't. And not least because this is the Grand Duchy of Tencrivar
." (Mrorl's ambition faded, as he remembered he was no longer near his home) "But also for a far more profound reason." Balthacarius stopped the guns for a moment.
"And what is that?" replied Mrorl, glad for the reprieve.
"Because you are not
actually Mrorl! You see, I was visited by a bot this afternoon, calling itself a Bot to Grant One's Every Wish, and claiming to be from Mrorl, in fact. So to evaluate its merits, I had it make you! And now I'm going to purify you of your heresy!
… so that, even if the world is not completely rid of it, even if the original Mrorl cannot be changed, at least there will be one
Mrorl that knows what Molpies are called."
"You monster! Why are you doing this to me?!?"
"I have told you several times: Heresy!
" (relishing this last word even more), "We are at the dawn of a new era, a Temporal Interval of Molpish Epistemolpgy
!" And Balthacarius walked over to a storage bin, and looked inside.
"Granfallonery! Vittsågen! Zombeanies! Raptorsharks!
"Safewords will not help you here," as Balthacarius lifted out a huge bag of stale ammunition for the turret magazine, "and I changed the passwords in all of these guns."
"Wait! Stop! I have something to tell you!!"
"I wonder what you could possibly say that would change things in the slightest," replied Balthacarius.
Mrorl quickly yelled:
"I am not any replica-Mrorl from a machine! I'm the real Mrorl — I built that bot only to find out what you've been making lately in your workshops here, behind drawn curtains. I made that wish-granting bot and hid inside it, and had it bring itself to you pretending to be a gift!"
"Come now, that's ridiculous!" said Balthacarius, pouring the little candies into a hopper. "Mrorl may be clever, but there's no way he'd know all the little things I'd ask for during my work session today."
"He cer— I mean, I
certainly did! You go on and on about your famous colour palettes, and your choice of components is a bit limited, though precise and exacting. I had all of those ready inside the bot's belly, and there are quite a few more bits that you didn't ask for, which you'll see if you examine it!"
"Are you trying to tell me that my friend and bot-building companion Mrorl is nothing more than a spy? A plagiarising pretender to his title of Great bOTTifactor to the dominion of Zubycal? You insult him! Take that!
And once again he pressed the little button labeled "S2
", letting the Skittles and Smarties and M&Ms fly.
for slandering my good friend Mrorl!" and he watched Mrorl helplessly take the full rainbow of percussive confectionary, until gradually he appeared to be clad not in stainless steel but in a thick crust of sugar.
After a bit the ceiling and wall turrets stopped, and Balthacarius switched off the main guns. "Now I'll be off to my storehouse out back for some more ammo. But don't you worry, I'll be back…" And he left back up the stairs, and down a hall. As soon as Mrorl heard the house's back door slam he writhed and twisted, which had no visible effect, then began transmitting sound, radio, and gravitodynamic vibrations on many different frequencies, until he managed to trip a relay in the control panel and depower the magnets, setting him free. Mrorl crept back inside his machine which promptly went back out the front door and galloped off across the valley towards home. Balthacarius meanwhile was up by an upstairs window, watching all of this via security cameras and stifling his own laughter so as not to be heard.
The next day he went to pay Mrorl a visit. It was a gloomy and silent Mrorl that let him in. Balthacarius could see that Mrorl still bore the marks of a thorough pelting. Though the fora showed that he had gone to some trouble during the night retro-editing his posts (to molpify the more egregious instances of duck
and so on), the bOTTifactor's skin still had little bits of candy in the deeper seams and around most of the structural bolts.
"Why so gloomy?" asked a cheerful Balthacarius. "I came to thank you for a most wowterful gift — A Bot to Grant One's Every Wish — that arrived at my door yesterdip, though it ran off whilst I slept, and in such a hurry that it left the door open!"
Mrorl frowned. "It seems to me that you somewhat misused, or should I say, abused, my gift. Oh, you needn't bother to explain, it was all recorded in the bot's logs. You had it make me
, I mean a replica of me, which you lured into some Pythonesque subterranean S&M chamber and pelted ruthlessly! And after this insulting, bizarre and incomprehesibly silly act of candy-dispensary, you have the nerve to come here and act as if nothing ever happened? What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I really don't understand why you're so angry," said Balthacarius. "It's true I had the machine make a copy of you, and I must say it was an amazingly faithful reproduction. As far as any pelting goes, well, your logs must be a bit inaccurate — I did give the duplicate Mrorl a bit of a sugar coating, but only to test his reflexes, which were quite good, and perhaps to make him a bit sweeter, on the outside at least, whilst assessing the effectiveness of a new therapy I've been developing for the rehabilitation of those who transgress the principles of OTTishness. This quasi-Mrorl even tried to argue that it was actually you, can you imagine? Of course, I didn't believe it, but it swore the bot wasn't a gift at all, but merely a stealthy espionage ploy. Well I had to defend the honour of my good friend, you understand, so I pelted it a bit more for the heresy of slander. But I found it to be extremely intelligent: it duplicated you in all respects, mental and physical. You are indeed a magnificant bOTTifactor, and a meta
-bOTTifactor at that, A Mrorl managing to build bots that manufacture Mrorls with finest fidelity! And it is to tell you this, that I came to you so early this mornip!"
"Hmm, well, yes,… In that case, umm," said Mrorl, his anger considerably abated, "though I still profess that your use of the Bot to Grant One's Every Wish was not, if I might say so, within the manufacturer's design parameters…"
"Oh, and one thing I wanted to ask," said Balthacarius, in a voice of pure innocence. "What did you do with the duplicate Mrorl, which you would have found in the bot's belly upon its return, I suspect?"
"The duplicate Mrorl," Mrorl replied, "was nearly immobile with a thick crust of crystallised sugar, apparently heated by the energy of impact, combined with the internal heating of a desperate and struggling Mrorl. You do
know that I am heated from within by my power systems?" Balthacarius avoided Mrorl's angry stare. "After I managed to chip off most of this crusty shell, it was beside itself with rage. It vowed to ambush you on the road as you headed down to the valley for more redundant-black pens, (which it seemed to think you purchase every Daveandix promptly at eight fifty-two in the mornip), and dematerialise you with a bitemporochronic destabiliser.
"I tried to reason with it, but it locked itself in the workshop and made all manner of cutting, clanging and welding sounds until I went out to the generator shed and shut off the mains. But not before using the TARDIS
to retroactively change the programming of the Bot to Grant One's Every Wish, to install a deactivation failsafe in any Mrorls that it might manufacture if so instructed by an unscrupulous master." At this, Balthacarius blushed, embarrassed. Mrorl continued, "I returned to the Present, waited by the now-darkened-workshop door for myself to emerge, then triggered the failsafe, whereupon mimic-Mrorl fell apart into so many springs and solenoids…"
And Mrorl pointed casually at a fresh pile of bot-components over against the wall (many dusted in a sugary pastel-coloured sheen), and sighed.
Whereupon they exchanged kind words, shook hands and parted the best of friends.
From that Time on, Mrorl did nothing but tell everyone and anyone who would listen how he, Mrorl, had given the Brilliant Balthacarius a Bot to Grant One's Every Wish, how then Balthacarius had insulted him (and the bot) by instructing it to build him a duplicate Mrorl down to quantum resolution, which he proceeded to pelt mercilessly; how this cleverly constructed copy of the great bOTTifactor made desperate lies to save itself and escape, and how Mrorl himself, the real Mrorl, eventually had to alter Time to sabotage the artificial Mrorl to protect his good friend and colleague from its vengeance. Mrorl told this story so often and at such great length, elaborating on his glorious achievement (and never failing, if so asked, to call upon Balthacarius himself as a witness), that it reached the ears of the royal courts in both Tencrivar and
Zubycal, and was even known to the provincial advisors of the King, such that no-one spoke of Mrorl other than with the utmost of respect, even though not so long ago he had been known only as Mrorl the bOTTifactor of the World's OTTishiest Machine, the Cognitative Engine better known locally by the unflattering name Thunderous Vineyard-Bane of Tencrivar
. When Balthacarius heard, some mips later, that the King himself had rewarded Mrorl handsomely and decorated him as Sir Mrorl, Techno-Maker of the Imperium1
, he threw up his hands and cried:
"What? Here I was able to see through his ruse and give him such a thorough pelting for it that he had to sneak back home in the night and retro-edit his posts, and make up even more ludicrous stories to cover it up, and yet still he bears little bits of chocolate in every crevice and joint, for anyone who might look! And for this they decorate him, praise him, and elevate his name to superhuman proportion? O tempora, O mores!
Bewildered Balthacarius went home, closed himself in his workshop and again drew the blinds. He had been building a Machine to Manifest One's Deepest Desires, only Mrorl had beat him to it.
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1. Readers wishing for their own title may avail themselves of MustardRiver's dispensary
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