The mermaid looked crestfallen. The Angel felt sorry for her. He decided to speak to her,
“You liked the movie a lot, huh?”
The mermaid looked at him with indifference, shrugged and said, “I’ve never really seen a movie. Not too many television sets in the middle of the Gaelic. Something about bad reception.”
The Angel ventured again, while the others stared at them warily, “So, you’re a mermaid?”
The mermaid played with a ringlet of her blue hair, streaked with green, as she replied.“A siren actually, but whatever. The name’s Sedusa. I eat people who crash in and around Tretch Russ Rocks.” She added really quickly, “That’s my home…well, it used to be.”
But that didn’t quite clear up the looks she was getting. Vlad, who had nearly been fried by her, looked at her warily and decided to keep an eye on her at all times.
There was another set of whirring noises, and a new video began to play. All eyes were back on the screen, except the one eye Vlad was keeping on Sedusa, and both of the undead bird’s eyes, which seemed to be lolling around in its socket. The bird was feeling pretty downcast because in all this while, no one had bothered to ask it its name, which for unknown reasons, happened to be Crexnettle.
The television now showed another scene. The Datumi were heading towards a large array of rocks, gathered in a pyramidal shape, with a laptop placed on top of it. The words at the bottom of the screen explained that it was the cairn of Golego. The raptor gasped, “ I know what this is. It’s the Ultimate Fiasco, isn’t it?” There was another rumbling from Carbon, which they took to mean agreement.
The head Datume had stepped near the cairn and spoke in binary. Vlad was the first to notice it. “Hey, where are the subtitles? Is something wrong?”
Michael replied calmly, as if talking to a toddler, “Well, they can’t just tell you what the Ultimate Question is, can they? The answer to the Ultimate Question would grant remarkable power to the one who possessed that information. Also, peace, prosperity, money, toys and so on.”
The centaur persisted, “So why can’t I know the Ultimate Question? I mean, it’s the answer that’s important, right?” Michael looked at him patronisngly, and then spoke very slowly, “I’ll make this simple. If they told you the Ultimate Question, you’d just answer it, and that would be the Ultimate Answer, right? That’s why they can’t tell you.”
The centaur shook his head in disbelief and looked at the screen again. The subtitles had reappeared.
“Can you answer the Ultimate Question, great Golego?”
The wallpaper of Golego said nothing. But then, there was a great rumbling. The Datumi began to whisper amongst them, hoping that the sound signaled the arrival of the Know-It-All, hoping that he would give them the Ultimate Answer. And in a way, he did.
One of the rocks in the cairn shifted and rolled down very slowly. It was swiftly followed by the rest of the rocks. The cairn collapsed on the Datumi, and the laptop of Golego came crashing down on the head Datume, breaking at once into 42 pieces. The viewers gasped, as on the screen, the dust and rubble slowly settled around what used to be the cairn.
The scene changed. It now showed another younger Datume, speaking to the crowd around him. The subtitles now read, “Golego was a fraud. He has cheated us. He never knew the Ultimate Answer!”
The crowd of Datumi whispered, some in protest, some in secret agreement. One of them spoke up,
“But he always answered all our questions. Perhaps…” “Perhaps you support what he has done. And what did he do? When we ask him for the Ultimate Answer, he kills our brethren and conks our late leader on the head. That is not the sign of a knowledgeable god.”
There were now more noises of support from the crowd. The fiery speaker continued, “This only proves what I believe. That we must never ask questions of a god, especially not Golego. I promise you this, brethren. If we dedicate ourselves to the collection and collation of information, all of us, then we are no less than a god. We must avow to worship no god, but knowledge itself. Are you with me?”
The crowd had by now been worked up into a frenzy and voiced their support in a massive cry of ‘1’. The speaker smiled, but the screen seemed to shift focus onto another face in the crowd, lingering on the outskirts of it. Anger played on this sallow face, marked by a cruel scar running the length of its right side. The face contorted, then moved away.
The screen blacked out again. More words appeared. This time, the Angel read them out, “The speaker was the Datumi leader, Oppence Oars, who spearheaded the campaign to create the Informatrix, a repository of all knowledge, to rival Golego and other gods of knowledge. He was also part of the Datumi government that built the Temple of Morsur Bater to house the Informatrix. The Informatrix, an omniscient supercomputer, was programmed to keep tabs on everything, and pass on its knowledge to each next generation version of itself, whenever it became outdated or its existence was threatened. The Informatrix was the gift of the Datumi, to all who sincerely craved knowledge, so that no one would have to take recourse to asking a god. The only test of worthiness was the ability to find one of the multiple entries to the Temple of Morsur Bater, scattered all over Thrae.”
The screen blinked and a picture filled it. It was of the same face, the scar on the right side very prominent. It was in black and white, and to Vlad, who had some experience with them, the picture looked like a mugshot. The Datume’s hands were up, both his fingers raised towards the camera in a gesture of defiance. The name tag read ‘Zeeken Tesdroi’.
The picture disappeared and more words began to appear. The Angel continued to read them,
“Zeeken Tesdroi was one of a few Datumi who protested the creation of the Informatrix. A fundamentalist by principle and a supporter of Golego, he believed that the Informatrix was an aberration of natural law and was an easy way to put dangerous information in dangerous hands. He was arrested for sabotage of the project. However, the Datumi were a peaceful people and did not wish to create a prison just to house Tesdroi. He was eventually released after all of the locations of the Temple of Morsur Bater were erased from his memory. However, Tesdroi did not give up, and has been hunting the Informatrix ever since.
After they abandoned Golego, the race of the Datumi declined and eventually became extinct. Very few of them have survived to this day, mostly thanks to advances in data transfer technology and cosmetic surgery. Tesdroi is one of them.”
The screen went completely black. There was absolute silence, as everyone in the room absorbed what they had just seen and heard. Then, a gentle thrum filled the room. All eyes turned to look at Sedusa, who had clearly gotten over her fascination in movies and was now brandishing her electric guitar-like weapon at everyone, a deadly vibration emanating from it. She waved it a little to cover everyone, and said, “Great movie. Thanks for the history lesson. But what does some seaweed excrement from that long ago have to do with us being here?”
There was a pause and then Carbon responded, “I was getting t…t…to that.”