How NOT to Save the World (S1 E6)

Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence

T minus 1 year 363 days

Ameohne’e Littlesun waited in one of the government building’s cleanrooms with a giant carafe1 of coffee2 and an aching head. She was not happy with herself, Wu, or the world at large. She was especially unhappy with the clock, which said her current appointment was running ten minutes late. Eleven.

On the other side of the door, Tamrat Tessaro pretended he wasn’t holding off a panic attack. Which meant he was slouched down, tapping his foot, and cracking gum every few seconds. The guard on the door was frustrated and growling. “Take them off.”

Tamrat popped a bubble3 to hide his shakes. “No.” He scratched the side of his head. “Look, the boss man wants me, I came. But if she wants to drag me away from my single day off4 this month, she can take me as I am.”

“It’s a cleanroom.”

“So you clean it after I leave. I’m not taking them off, and I’m not putting on the damn suit. Don’t like it? I’ll go write up my resignation letter.5 Tomorrow. Because, get this, I am off today.”

This argument, and variations on it, had been going on for most of the ten minutes Ameohne’e had been waiting. If she had known this, she would have been even less happy.

Before the guard could rebut, the door of the room opened, and Ameohne’e yelled, “What the hell is taking so–” she cut off abruptly as he saw Tamrat. Ameohne’e didn’t even notice the man’s clothes because her eyes were immediately drawn to the bunny ear headband6, one ear folded down, the other tall enough to Tamrat would need to duck a bit in most doorways.

Tamrat, who usually didn’t pay attention to what anyone was wearing, immediately noticed that she wasn’t wearing a clean suit.

“Tamrat Tessaro?” Ameohne’e asked.

“Evil Overlord?” Tamrat replied, too distracted glaring at the guard to watch his tongue. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, his tawny skin paled and he barely kept from cringing.7

Ameohne’e waved for the guard to stand down and grinned. “And I have the list8 in my office.”

“The List!” Tamrat’s jaw gaped. “You know the LIST!?”

“What self-respecting Evil Overlord9 wouldn’t?” Ameohne’e stepped back, suddenly much more at peace with the world. “Come into my parlor.”

“Said the spider to the fly.” Tamrat slapped his hand over his mouth, then banged his head into the wall. “I have no filter. I’m going to get myself killed. She’s going to throw me out a window because I can’t keep my damn mouth shut.”10

Ameohne’e laughed. The guard stubbornly muttered, “Sir, the cleanroom–”

“Can be cleaned. That’s what magic and modern technology are for.” She turned back into the room. “Oh, and Tamrat, you’d be safer in here. No windows.”

Tamrat followed the chuckling overlord into the room, muttering to himself.

“Alright, Tamrat, your name landed on my desk as someone who is always exceeding the mission brief, looking to build bigger, better, and out of budget.” With the door closed, the cleanroom was completely soundproof. Quiet enough that it usually pumped white noise into the impossible silence. Otherwise, folks working there ended up with unhealthy levels of stress and too many sick days. In that silence, Tamrat’s gum popping sounded loud enough it made him jump.11

“Um, well, yeah. I mean, why do a half-ass job, right? Hey, why is there a cleanroom here, anyway? I mean, it’s not like your manufacturing nanochips or something here.”

“Espionage. The computers here are supposed to be completely disconnected from everything else. Most folks have no idea how tiny a good bug can be these days, but you probably know something of that.”

Tamrat’s jaw dropped open, and he had to catch his gum before it hit the floor. He looked at it a moment, looked around for a garbage bin, then shrugged and popped it back in his mouth. “I mean, a bit, yeah. Not my area, but you have to know something. Still, this is, like, overkill. Or something.” He thought a moment. “I think.”

While Tamrat had been talking, Ameohne’e had been summoning up a holo projection.

“I need an engineer, with a background in spaceship and satellite design, who isn’t afraid to think big.” Ameohne’e pulled up an image, a sphere. Going by the scale notation is was around 6 miles across and had the Greek letter Lambda carved into one side.

Tamrat leaned closer and blinked. “Troy?” he blinked again. “You want me to build Troy?!”

Ameohne’e started to reply by Tamrat kept talking. “Alright, you know the List, so I suppose Troy isn’t too surprising. A bit more obscure.12 Also, you realize the maneuvering systems were shit, right? And the whole giant mirror thing… those kinds of AIs are STILL fiction and probably always will be. Argus we do not have. Also, I don’t think much of his politics.

“The basic idea is doable, I suppose. I mean, hollow asteroid designs as a practical matter go back to the early 21st century. But that’s not what you are looking for, is it?”

He actually stopped this time, and Ameohne’e hurried to answer. “No, it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, giant space station is cool. But I’m more interested in giant space laser.”13

“So why not the Death Star?”

Ameohne’e grinned and fiddled with the hologram controls. “Would you believe I hadn’t heard of it until last night?”14

“How the hell do you know Troy and not–”

The hologram exploded in a shower of sparks. “Also, for all its flaws — in both politics and physics — at least Troy was built with functioning armor and couldn’t be taken out with a single lucky shot.”15

Tamrat blinked at the fizzling light show. “You do have a point.”

He thought a minute. “Given modern technology, a profligate use of magic, and enough money, could probably do something in 5 years or so. Can’t imagine why you’d want it, but every Evil Overlord has to have some ridiculously over elaborate secret base, right?”

Ameohne’e grinned. “Exactly. But you have 18 months.”16

“Whaaat!”17

Ameohne’e ignored his sudden hyperventilating. “There will be bureaucrats over seeing the project. Their only job will be to make sure you have what you need, when you need it. Personnel, money, magic, you name it, you get it…”

An hour later, Ameohne’e and Tamrat shook hands and left the clean room. Tamrat had mostly regained the ability to breathe normally.

If Ameohne’e figured right, it would be about six months before Cheung Bo learned about this little project.18 She was almost looking forward to the Colonel’s reaction. Almost.

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How NOT to Save the World S1E5


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