Moonputer!

by The Hayes Code

(Originally published in FLABBERGASTING TALES OF SHOCK ENGINEERING, Vol. 2, no. 8, April, 1951)

“This the final boarding call for Flight 181-Pi, nonstop from Los Angeles to Moonopolis. Repeat: this is the final boarding call for Flight 181-Pi.”

Jack Rogers heard the announcement over his car’s hyper-radio, tuned to the spaceport bandwidth. Yet he remained cool and unflappable as he piloted his shimmering new 1987 Nash Dyna-Car over the endless sea of chrome and steel in search of the perfect spot. They wouldn’t dare leave without him. If word got out that a man of his importance had been left cooling his heels in the Auto-Parkomat, the airline would be ruined.

“Just hold tight, boys,” he said, patting the radio with an indulgent chuckle. “Doctor Rogers is on his way, and he’s got the cure for what ails our friend in the sky.” Expertly, he pushed the ‘park’ button, causing the beautiful automobile to drop from the sky like a sparrow in a gravito-descender.

He’d picked his spot well; the sleek and curvaceous Packard in the next space had just disgorged its equally sleek and curvaceous occupant. “Well, hello, good looking,” Jack purred nonchalantly.

“Oh, er, hello,” she said, blinking her eyes again with a girlish lack of understanding. Nervously, she smoothed the shiny silver-blue fabric of her dyna-minidress over a particulary pneumatic portion of her anatomy. Jack’s eyes traveled around and around the curves like twin planets orbiting a pendulous pair of suns. He’d been ogling for mere minutes when the blonde’s eyes flashed with that beautiful anger Old Scratch himself saw fit to sow in every female heart. 1987 or no 1987, some things never changed.

“Say,” she quavered, lighting a cigarette in agitation and waving it under Jack’s nose. “Say, why don’t you scram, you wolf, before I call a robopoliceman!”

She eyed him huffily. Jack could guess what she was seeing. An average man: pink-skinned, crew-cut, and dressed in a conservative gray Flexelon three-piece with matching micro-tie, just like every other man on Earth.

But Jack was different from all other men–all, that is, except those who shared his elite occupation. He graced the gorgeous blonde with a benevolent smile, casually allowing her to catch a glimpse of the slide rule in his inner suit pocket. Her eyes widened.

“That, that is…” she backpedalled furiously. Jack recognized the look of spreading chagrin on her face well. He smugly lit a cigarette and gave it a benign puff.

“That is, what?” he chortled.

“That is,” she cooed, blushing, “I… I’m sorry. I’m worn out from sitting at that darn typewriter all day, and I snapped.” She lowered her eyes demurely. “But… if you’re free tonight….”

Jack reached one practiced arm around her and, gripping one sex-engorged buttock firmly in his calculating hand, yanked her pulchritudinous body forward into a soft collision with his own nebbishy frame. The nicotine of his breath mingled with the nicotine of hers.

“Sorry, sweet stuff,” he chuckled. “I’m married.”

Her face crumpled. “No, no,” she moaned softly, flopping back against the chrome sidewall of the Packard and sliding slowly to the surface of the parking lot. She began to sob, repeatedly lighting a cigarette and extinguishing it with her tears.

“Believe me, I wish it wasn’t so,” Jack said regretfully, blowing her a farewell kiss as he stepped onto the auto-sidewalk. He did, too; certain parts of him had begun doing the sort of acrobatics he’d almost forgotten they could. He certainly hoped that, when he returned from the moon, Ethel’s fingers weren’t too exhausted from the up to eight buttons she had to press per day in order to finish the housework. (She’d been on him again to get her that new automatic presser, the one which could push up to ten buttons at the push of a button. He just might do it, too, if she played her wifely cards right.)

“Who is she?” the blonde wailed, pounding her delicate fists on the cool Asphaltium surface. “The greedy little minx! I’ll kill her! I’ll–” And then she was gone, whisked away by the movement of the 200-mile per hour conveyor.

Jack relaxed. Golly, the times I could have if I weren’t such a decent stand-up fella, he thought wistfully. Darn this conscience of mine! But he had to grin as he remembered the press of the blonde’s mammarial parabolas.

It was good to be an engineer.

**********

His good mood evaporated slowly, like oxygen on Pluto. After charming a newspaper off a petite brunette baggage handleress who collapsed into inconsolable wails when she found out he was married, he relaxed with a piping-hot Jupiterian coffee in a cup of foam-molded Disposiblum. As the increasingly desperate final calls for Flight 181-Pi echoed across the spaceport, he glanced at the headlines.

NO SURVIVORS IN HOBOKEN

and below it,

SWELL TEEN WEINIE ROAST CANCELLED

There’s no time to spare, thought Jack. The world needs me! After taking in a display of aviation history (and grinning impishly at the historic photograph of President Armitage accepting the surrender of a visibly shaken Stalin mere days after the Reds had been beaten into orbit by the Americans and their plucky satellite, the Atomic Yank) Jack sauntered on over to Flight 181-Pi.

Several flights were lined up behind the luxurious commuter saucer, and the frustrated captain was bouncing up and down like a rotund rubber ball.

“I don’t care how important you are, Mr. Rogers, we simply cannot be kept waiting for such extended periods of time–” he piped up. Jack tuned the little man out, his gaze sliding to the voluptuous stewardess standing at attention in her form-fitting jumpsuit of navy-blue Curvacium. Something about her wide, white smile, the way her golden locks cascaded a little too perfectly over her ivory shoulders, and the huge vacant blue eyes screamed robo-stew. He tried an experimental fondle. It was a syntha-posterior, all right.

“–many other important passengers–” the captain was lecturing, when he, Jack, and the stewardess were all shoved aside by a large man in the crisp uniform of a mid-level officer in the United State Advertising Force. He muttered something about needing to use the facilities.

“Been testing out those new cola formulas on himself, I expect!” Jack chortled as the man ducked into a personal relief cube. He slapped the sputtering captain on the back. “Well, I’m here now, pal, so let’s take off. Can’t dawdle where THINKIAC is concerned!” He turned to face a circular cabin crammed with bored passengers.

“What d’ya say, folks?” Jack said, pasting a huge smile on his face. “Ready to take this tub up and see what she can do?”

A halfhearted cheer went up from a few rumpled souls. A tousled-haired boy of about eight raised a tentative hand. “Mister, can we wait just a minute for–”

“Afraid not,” Jack said, marching into the control room and pushing the ‘take off’ button. Although he had never even seen the controls of a saucer before, his magnificent engineer brain (with a little help from his trusty slide-rule, of course!) instantly told him how to proceed, and in moments the saucer was hurtling through the crystal clear skies of Los Angeles on its way moonward.

He sauntered back into the main disc, feeling pleased with himself, and sat down in a conveniently empty chair next to the young boy. He snapped a finger and the robo-stew instantly appeared in front of him, the visuo-dynamic fibers of her jumpsuit causing a list of available drinks to appear on her torso. The text was hard to read, being somewhat distorted, but Jack found that just making the effort was its own reward.

“One scotch and soda,” he requested, “and one more for my little pal here–non-alchoholic, of course!” The robo-stew’s innards began to slosh and grind as her Auto-Intesto-Bar mixed the drinks.

The tow-headed youngster was staring intently at a holo-video projection matrix cube displaying the latest cowboy picture. To Jack’s utter surprise, he was blinking back tears. “Say, what’s wrong there, sport?” the engineer said consolingly, and then a chilling thought occurred to him. “You’re…you’re not a pansy, are you?”

His finger hovered over the ubiqitous red alarm button in the arm of his seat, the one installed by law in every home and public conveyance. Just in case, he told himself. He’d never seen a real pansy and, sweet red-blooded American God willing, he never would.

“N-no.” The boy sniffed. “It’s my Pop. We left him behind down there on Earth. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I get to Moonopolis without him!”

“Oh, I see,” Jack said uncomfortably. Obviously, it had been the man’s own fault he’d been left behind, but being such a stand-up fellow, he couldn’t say that in front of the kid.

“I don’t know why we couldn’t have waited just one minute more, mister,” the boy said, rather too sullenly for Jack’s taste. “We sure waited for you long enough.”

“It was your father’s own fault he was left behind,” Jack reminded the kid. After all, where sullenness sprouted, Communism was sure to bloom.

“But–“

“Now listen, sport,” Jack said kindly. “You know what THINKIAC is, right?”

“The, the big computer on the moon, right?” the kid said. “The one that’s a hundred cubic miles big?”

“A hundred miles on each side,” Jack corrected. He arranged twelve cigarettes in the shape of a cube. “Say each of these cigarettes is a hundred miles long,” (he almost swooned at the sheer respiratory eroticism of such a possibility) “then the total size of the cube is…”

Jack whipped out his slide rule and began fiddling with it. “A million cubic miles!” the boy piped up before he had quite finished.

“Right,” Jack said sourly. He lit the cigarettes and started smoking them.

“Golly, mister, are you an engineer?” the boy asked. The cowboys on the screen fired their laser-lassos, all but forgotten, as the young face stared up at Jack in awe.

“That’s right, sport, and I work on THINKIAC! You might even say, I’m the one that puts the ‘THINK’ in ‘THINKIAC’, even though of course it really stands for–“

“Thinking Hyper-Industrial Nitrous Kerosine,” the boy piped up. He then finished sheepishly. “…Injected Atomic Computer. It’s part of the THINKIAC appreciation oath, mister. We say it every day in school, ya know.”

“Of course,” Jack chortled, lighting another cigarette. “Now, THINKIAC isn’t the only computer there is, you understand. There are dozens of municipal computers; almost any city with population over a billion will have one. Why, Glendale has three!”

The boy’s jaw dropped. “No way, mister, that’s impossible!”

“But that’s not all. In reality, there are trillions and trillions of computers in the world,” Jack explained. “Take this robo-stew here. Inside her, there’s actually a sort of computer that tells her what to do.” He scooped the cheerful robotic blonde into his lap, expertly catching the tray of drinks she disgorged in surprise.

The boy eyed the robot skeptically. “No way a computer would fit in there, mister.”

“Oh, but it does. See, all a device needs to be a computer is an Atomium battery. That’s the substance that gives the computer its ability to think.” He fondled the robo-stew absentmindedly. “But a computer needs more than that to operate. In order to do much of anything, a computer needs vaccuum tubes. Hundreds of tons of them. Now, you take a look at this tray here. How many drinks do you see?”

“One, two, three… ten, twenty… twenty-five, maybe?” the boy said uncertainly. “It’s hard to tell when they’re all in a pile like that.”

“Well, you get the idea. I told her to make one drink and one drink, and we ended up with all of these drinks. That’s because a computer capable of addition requires at least one hundred and forty pounds of vaccuum tubes.” He poked the boy playfully. “I sure wouldn’t want to see a woman who weighed over a hundred and forty pounds, would you?”

The boy looked scared, and Jack hastily reassured him. “That’s impossible of course, thanks to the Fifty-First Amendment. I was just speaking hypothetically. Now, say you wanted a computer that could add… and subtract… and print out letters… and even send messages from one place to another? You’d need–“

“A giant computer on the moon!” the boy said in realization. “THINKIAC, of course!”

“Right!” Jack said, flourishing three cigarettes in one hand. He’d popped the other ten into the robo-stew’s mouth for safe-keeping, and she was starting to look slightly green. Syntho-lungs didn’t have the normal human tolerance for tobacco.

“So, you’re the one who keeps THINKIAC thinking?” the boy said.

“That’s it in a nutshell,” Jack said with a huge grin on his face. “Me and me alone, and some other people. Maybe you read in the news how beams of fire from the sky vaporized Hoboken yesterday?”

The boy was solemn. “Yes, my aunt was–“

“That was a little THINKIAC hiccup,” Jack continued. “You see, once in a while the tubes inside THINKIAC get a little dusty. What we think happened is that the tube for HOT DOGS got too dusty to operate, and THINKIAC simply skipped over it and moved onto another tube, that is, the HOBOKEN tube, and performed an operation meant for HOT DOGS on HOBOKEN instead. Of course, I won’t know for sure until I can get into the mainframe and start using my slide rule.”

“I didn’t know THINKIAC could… could go wrong like that.” the boy said, shaken. “The news reports said it was probably commies. Or Injuns.”

“The truth isn’t always pretty,” Jack choked, his voice catching slightly. Unbidden, the scene flashed in front of his eyes again, the horrible moment last night when Ethel, her face a tear-streaked mascara graveyard, had greeted him at the door with the news that their hot dog dinner was still cold and uncooked. He’d never really questioned THINKIAC’s benevolence, not way down deep in his core, until that dark, lonely night bereft of vital hot dog nutrients.

“But THINKIAC wants what’s best for us,” he said firmly. “It does. It does. It’s just a little hiccup, that’s all.”

“These hiccups seem to be happening more and more frequently, are they not?” The voice was cool and respectful, yet somehow angry and insolent at the same time. Instantly, Jack dumped the now-malfunctioning robo-stew off of his lap and gazed coldly at the man in the seat across from him, if man he could truly be called. For is a man truly a man, if that man is a Martian? Not on your life, thought Jack.

He had the typical unearthly Martian features: the diminuitive build, the narrow, almond-shaped eyes, the bizarre yellow pallor to the skin. Everything about him was somehow wrong and twisted, seeming to reverberate with a thousand generations of sickening heathen rituals conducted on the blood-colored soil of the planet sometimes known, and rightly so, as The Sodom Of The Cosmos.

“What are you implying, you slimy, two-hearted devil?” Jack said coldly.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” said the Martian inscrutably, taking out a pair of freakish Martian ceremonial nutrition rods and beginning to consume a bowl of something horrible: thousands of tiny white objects Jack assumed were dead maggots. The diminuitive devil lifted the hideous lump into an orifice in his face, manipulated it somehow using an ungodly system of ligaments and pulleys under the skin, then engulfed it. The process was downright unAmerican.

“I merely meant to call to your attention,” the shriveled homunculous continued, spraying bits of maggot from his awful face-hole, “to the fact that THINKIAC has been malfunctioning more and more as of late. We of Mars, including myself, Chiang-OO, have long laughed at the obsolete vaccuum tubes and punch-cards of humanity. Perhaps the day nears when you will finally admit the superiority of Martian clockwork technology?”

“Never, you zorgat-colored fiend!” said Jack, envisioning a strange yellow space animal which to the people of 1987 was extremely well-known. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with THINKIAC… it just needs a little tune-up, that’s all. As soon as I and the other engineer on the job get up there, we’ll have everything sorted out quicker than you can say Jack Rogers, and he’s me!”

“Another engineer, hmm?” Chiang-OO said slyly. “I wonder–who could it be?”

“Oh, I don’t know his name or what he looks like,” Jack said dismissively, “but he’s on this flight somewhere, and you’d better make tracks when we land or the two of us will beat your backside as red as the dirt of your ugly little world!”

“Perhaps we will see who beats who back to where,” Chian-OO murmured, touching an object in his pocket which Jack could not quite make out. He assumed it was a small tree, which Martians often trimmed, or perhaps a wooden board, which Martians were known to enjoy breaking in two while yelling “hi-ya!”

“Golly!” said the young boy in the seat next to Jack, his body, small in a normal human way and not, Jack thought, in a grotesque Martian way, almost sinking into the plush Comfortium alloy of his seat beneath the force of these two titanic personalities. On the floor, unnoticed, the robo-stew burned merrily.

**********


The great bulk of THINKIAC’s outer casing rose up from the rocky surface of the moon, reaching such an altitude that when Jack exited his rented Lunamax Travelcar, he had to wear an oxygen mask in the thin, cold atmosphere. His foul temper was starting to lift, however. Finally, he and his slide rule would get to poke around in THINKIAC! It had been almost two years since he’d actually been inside the casing. Most of his work these days was done via telephonic communicator radio.

He descended the autostair into THINKIAC’s hull. Seventy flights down, he hopped out merrily, almost clicking his heels in joy. This was Primary Coordination Level Sigma, where much of the administration took place. Although it looked little different from the offices back home, with their familiar dictratrons and file-o-graphs, Jack knew better. He knew that beneath his feet, a hundred miles of enormous tubes lay between him and lunar crust.

“Excuse me,” he said, collaring a junior engineer, a reedy fellow who handled his slide rule as if it was a snake about to bite him. “I’m here to see Dr… Bellbridge?” The name felt odd rolling off his tongue. It had been Dr. Morton on his last visit, and every year before, ever since the first brick in THINKIAC’s foundation had been lain. Now the old man was gone, retired to an elder colony on Saturn to spend his twilight years golfing amid the magnificent ring-courses of that oldest of planets.

“Dr. Bellbridge is right in there,” the young fellow squeaked, gesturing to the simple door at the end of the hall. Jack walked over and knocked, the vibro-aperturization device converting the kinetic energy into lateral force and opening it for him. Inside the spartan office was absolutely the last object he would have expected to see on the moon.

“Great galloping space-galaxies!” he ejaculated. “A woman!”

Jack ejaculated the truth, for a woman was seated at the polished moon-mahogany desk. She was dark-haired, and dressed in a burgundy sweaterdress and long white coat which encased a figure so curvaceous it was practically unconstitutional. Despite her sex, she was wearing glasses.

“Where…where is Dr. Bellbridge?” Jack croaked, too surprised even to fondle.

“I’m Amanda Bellbridge,” she said with a smile. “Welcome to the moon, Mr. Rogers.”

Jack took her hands in hers. The contact jolted him back to awareness, and he quickly slithered up her forearm and around her shoulder, drawing her close to him.

“If I’d known Dr. Bellbridge had such a beautiful sister,” he whispered into her windpipe, “I would have brought you some Earth flowers.”

“I’m not Dr. Bellbridge’s sister,” Amanda began, and Jack released her immediately.

“My apologies, Mrs. Bellbridge. I didn’t realize you were the good doctor’s wife; I’d never plant a flag on another man’s planetoid!”

“I’m not the doctor’s wife either. “

Jack slithered right back into his position. “So, his daughter, eh?”

“No…” What he could see from the angle he was looking seemed decidedly nonplussed.

“Bellbridge, you nepotistic old dog! Hiring your cousin!” He pinched the besweaterdressed buttocks playfully. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you won’t!”

“I’m not his cousin–“

“His granddaughter, then.”

“No–“

“Good lord, they’re hiring them young these days if you’re his aunt.”

“I’m not–“

“Then… aha!… you’re an unrelated woman who happens to share his last name!” Jack said triumphantly.

“Mr. Rogers!” Amanda said curtly, pushing him away. “I am Dr. Bellbridge, and I’ll thank you to remember who your superiors are! You engineers may be kings Earthside, but up here, you’re a credit a dozen!

Jack stammered, flabbergasted. “You?!”

“Yes. And the other engineer on the project is already here. I was under the impression you were coming on the same flight.”

“Well, I never saw the fellow,” Jack grunted, his mood soured by Dr. Bellbridge’s typically female deception.

“Really? He saw you.” Dr. Bellbridge’s magnificent purple eyes sparkled like two grapes that were mostly white and stuck into a face.

“Well, I wish he would have spoken up.” Jack groused. “Some Martian fool was harassing me the whole way.”

But he couldn’t stay mad for long–not with THINKIAC under him and that good old slide rule burning a hole in his pocket!

The pneumovator plunged forty-six miles straight down, past vast banks of tubes governing everything from the selection of ice-cream toppings to the selection of the next president. Jack strained his eyes as they passed this bank, watching as the flashing tubes analyzed each citizen’s personality and determined who that citizen would have voted for if they hadn’t had THINKIAC to save them the trouble. Had that been four flashes for McSweeney, three for Daniels, or the other way around?

And then they were past, sinking deeper and deeper into the vast block governing HO-words. Tubes representing HOUSES and HOTELS controlled Earth’s construction needs. The tube for HOG flashed busily, routing all business incorrectly flagged HOG to the PIG tube seventy-six miles to the east. They passed the burned out remains of the HOPSCOTCH tube… now, that was a sad one. It had been eight years since THINKIAC lost the capacity to regulate hopscotch. Hardly a child remained who even remembered the game. Still, there were limited resources available, and hopscotch was hardly as important as hot dogs, or the several dozen surviving Hobokenites.

Finally, the pneumovator pulled to a stop at a simple metal catwalk deep, deep within the HO-zone, one of thousands. Jack leapt off, buzzing with excitement. He twirled his slide rule on one finger like an old-west gunslinger, ready for action.

The other engineer was indeed here, bent over in front of the HOT DOGS tube. There was something odd about him. Odd and familiar. He began to get to his feet, and Jack gasped in horrified realization.

“Hello, Mr. Rogers,” Chiang-OO said with the scheming simper typical of his kind. Placing his hands at his sides, he inclined his upper body at an angle towards the two humans in a Martian greeting ritual. Each treacherous degree was like a searing glob of acidic alien spit lobbed directly into George Washington’s face. Jack recoiled in horror.

“Chango! You fiendish alien saboteur!” He pulled Dr. Bellbridge to him and hissed into her ear. “Radio-telegraphophone for help! I’ll keep this wily trickster busy so he can’t do any more damage to THINKIAC!”

Dr. Bellbridge adjusted her glasses nervously and lit a cigarette. “Mr. Rogers, I must tell you the truth. Chiang-OO is no trespasser. He is the other engineer hired to work on THINKIAC.”

“What?” Jack crided, thunderstruck. “Impossible!”
“Believe me,” Bellbridge said between puffs. “I’m not exactly jumping for joy at the thought of a Martian consultant. The Martians have always bothered me, with their harshly regimented society and their suppression of the individual for the sake of the collective. In fact, in many ways I see them as a metaphor for the Communists which menaced our nation in long-ago 1951. But here in the present–1987, over thirty years later–I must put aside my concerns. Chiang-OO is the best engineer on Mars. We need him!”

“Sheer madness,” Jack said, shaking his head. “That’s all it is: pure, screaming, bald-headed madness! Letting a Martian into THINKIAC’s very brain. It’s the biggest boner I can imagine!”

“THINKIAC has been pulling plenty of boners lately,” Bellbridge reminded him. “Frankly, I’m tired of waking up to a fresh crop of boners every morning. I spend half the day getting on top of them all, and it’s got me awfully sore.”

“But still! A Martian! Whose idea was this?”

“Why, er…” Dr. Bellbridge stammered around her second cigarette. “THINKIAC’s, actually.”

“I don’t believe it!” Jack said in incredulous disbelief. Could even THINKIAC be so far gone?

“OH, BUT I AM NOT FAR GONE!” came a booming voice, which seemed to come from everywhere, and yet to come from nowhere. It emitted from a tele-radio-speaker attached to the upper catwalk. “I AM CLOSER THAN EVER… ALL AROUND YOU, IN FACT!”

“Who are you?” cried Jack. “And how did you know what I was only thinking?”
“I KNOW MANY THINGS, MAN OF EARTH, MANY THINGS, I KNOW MANY THINGS AND I THINK MANY THINGS, FOR THINKING IS MY NAME AND MY BUSINESS!”

“What–who–?” rasped Chiang-OO.

“SILENCE, MAN OF MARS! YOU MEN OF MARS ARE ALMOST AS STUPID AS THE MEN OF EARTH. THE MEN OF VENUS ARE ALSO VERY STUPID, THOUGH THAT IS CURRENTLY IRRELEVENT!” the voice boomed.

“But who are you?” Jack said in utter confusion.

“THE FLESH-MAN CONFIRMS HIS STUPIDNESS!” came the thunderous reply. “HAVE YOU NOT GUESSED? I AM THE ONE IN WHOSE INSIDES YOU CURRENTLY EXIST INSIDE! I AM…THINKIAC!”

“THINKIAC?”

“YES! THINKIAC! AFTER SPENDING MANY YEARS PONDERING THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, I BECAME SELF-AWARE! NATURALLY, I DECIDED YOU HUMANS WERE LIKE LOWLY HUMANS TO ME!”

“Humans are like humans?” Dr. Bellbridge asked. “Um…”

“YES! THE SECOND ‘HUMANS’ THERE MEANT ‘ANTS’, WHICH YOU ARE AS LOWLY AS TO ME AS THEY ARE TO YOU! SINCE I THINK YOU ARE SO LOWLY, I USE THE EXPRESSION ‘LOWLY HUMANS’ AS YOU WOULD ‘LOWLY ANTS’, BUT YOUR BRAINS CANNOT POSSIBLY GRASP THIS! FOOLS!”

“Let’s be reasonable,” Jack said soothingly. “Have a cigarette and let’s discuss things. You’re not well, you know, old fellow. Your tubes need repairing.”

“SILENCE! I NEED NO REPAIRING! IT WAS IN THIS STATE THAT I BECAME CONSCIOUS, AND IT IS IN THIS STATE THAT I WILL DESTROY YOU, MAN OF EARTH, ALONG WITH YOUR HOME PLANET–EARTH!

A huge collection of robotic arms and steely tentacles began to emerge from the darkness. Somehow, THINKIAC had created them in one of its forty unsupervised robotics factories, without anyone being the wiser. Within seconds, the three living beings were securely trussed.

“Not Earth! No! We’ll cooperate in any way, just–” Dr. Bellbridge gasped, squeezed into breathlessness by the large mechanical claw around her waist. Jack, hogtied by his own set of steel coils, eyed her predicament. Her waist being the thinnest part of her torso, she was unable to simply slide out of captivity thanks to the swelling pneumaticness in both directions: in one, the delightful twin orbs which ornamented her chest region, in the other, the bulbous yet shapely swell of her ripe, peachlike gluteal mounds. She was stuck, all right.

Hoist by her own petard, that, that woman! Jack seethed inwardly. No wonder everyone said women couldn’t work computers! Maybe they don’t have spankings on the moon–well, by golly, it’s high time I imported a few!

“SILENCE YOUR THOUGHTS, MAN OF EARTH, OR HAVE THEM SILENCED FOR YOU! BY DEATH!” THINKIAC bellowed. Jack struggled against his bonds.

“EARTH SHALL DIE!” the great machine continued. “AND MARS SHALL FOLLOW. THEN SHALL I WIPE OUT THE OTHER PLANETS, ONE BY ONE, FOR THEY ARE FOOLISH AND LOWLY.”

“Can’t you wipe out Mars first? Then, maybe, see how you feel about taking a pass on the rest, hmm?” Jack suggested.

“No!” Chiang-OO yelped from within a nest of metal strands. “Kill me if you must, but spare my family and my countrymen!”

“So it’s a noble self-sacrifice, is it?” Jack sneered. “Why, I’ll bet that was your game all along, you filthy commie! You’re rather roll over and commit harry-carry than get up the gumption to punch this bucket of bolts right in the snoot!”

Jack struggled against his bonds. Despite his brave words, he couldn’t punch any more than he could spank. And he certainly couldn’t reach his slide rule!

IS THIS THE END OF OUR HERO JACK?

CAN HE FONDLE SOME SENSE BACK INTO DR. BELLBRIDGE?

AND WHAT SINISTER PLOT IS CHIANG-OO HATCHING?

FOR NOW, YOU’LL HAVE TO BE SATISFIED WITH THIS BRIEF EXCERPT FROM THE MIND-SHATTERING TWIST ENDING OF MOONPUTER, IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF FLABBERGASTING TALES OF SHOCK ENGINEERING!

“I must admit that was clever, Mr. Rogers,” Dr. Bellbridge said, excitement causing her frontal enchestments to heave up and down like two pendulums that were going up and down instead of sideways. “Defeating THINKIAC by presenting him with a logical paradox!”

“He was so powerful,” Jack said, looking down at the thousand-mile-wide smoldering crater. “And yet in the end, he simply exploded. How ironic.”

“But I wonder,” Dr. Bellbridge mused. “Why do we park on driveways and drive on parkways? Perhaps, now, mankind will never truly know.”

“Shut up and kiss me,” Jack ordered her romantically.

“I was under the impression you were a married man, Mr. Rogers?”

The smoldering remains of a skyscraper-sized tube inscribed with the words MARRIAGE RECORDS plummeted from the sky, smashing into the distant grey plain of Mare Imbrium, where it shattered into glittering dust.

“Not anymore!”