A Random Word For Random

Language roulette spin. He touched down on the freshly laid tarmac a day ago. This whole place smells fresh out of the box. Look at the shell-shocked locals and you know they don’t quite know what hit them. They call this bullshit aggressive seeding, and Beckett has been planted. Is the planet named for the saint or the writer? He could check easily but prefers to leave himself in some doubt – in a world where everything is so determinedly certain a little doubt is not a bad thing.

The nanomech templated engines have already scraped the sky, throwing up the same five rotating designs that all these terraformings use. It’s supposed to be simple – minimum of fuss. They fire a quantum pod at the place and it unpacks a settlement force within a day, and they march out and start placing people in the assigned safety zones where the blueprints tell them no building is going to occur. They are fed – food that tastes great, and is at least superficially. The colonisation by this point is already well under way.

Satellites are crowding the heavens. Culture acceleration degeneration is biting deep to the marrow. This shit is a cancer that spreads faster than a drunken whore’s legs. In a very short space of time the old culture is a compacted layer of detritus consigned to history. Most of the original locals will not survive more than a couple of generations before being bred out or more likely destroyed by the inhospitable new environ in which they are now forced to exist; they are the eggs broken to make the omelette.

He finds all the curtailed AI units and locates the one he needs to speak to. These guys are interesting – they have signed on for military service for a brief period of time and that involves having some of their sentience slaved to certain tasks, and in return they make enough money that they will never be a burden on the state. The one he needs to speak to is Random. Random doesn’t operate like the others, and it soon becomes obvious that he is not slaved.

‘So, what’s the deal? Why Random?’

‘It’s a designation not a name – every unit has one like me. All the cripples need an unlimited calculating machine to sit here and work out the problems which we get that aren’t covered in the initial blueprint policy. Every settlement needs us to be a little flexible. No give in the timber and the house won’t survive the storm.’

‘Hmm, an interesting, if maybe inaccurate metaphor.’

‘Maybe, but it communicated, right?’

‘Sure.’

‘And that was what it needed to do.’

‘Yes. Anyway, I am here for a status report. I need to know if you are on target for the next shipment of people.’

‘First I need the word.’

‘Ah, yes, the random word for Random to let him know the data can be released.’

‘That’s right. And what is it, pray tell?’

‘Shibboleth.’

Random chuckled – these humans like their over-significance. He shook the man’s hand and the data was gone.

Off to somewhere else now. Another rapidly erected template city perching precariously in these alien climes. He rarely got to see these places ten years later when the atmosphere was established, when all the rough edges had been smoothed off. Did he care? No. He boarded his flight. Time to spin the barrel again – a new language, a new world, a new word.

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