13: The Moth Epidemic in the East

For a craven, stooping, middle-aged Detective’s Assistant, Mr. Gullet was surprisingly technically adept. In fact, his home appeared to be a computer research laboratory.

Spread across numerous desks were perhaps a dozen computers of different types and sizes, some in parts, and various other technical equipment. A half-built robot stood in one corner of the room, demanding attention, yet sternly warding off all advances.

Even more predominant than the computing equipment was the video equipment. On the walls, the floors, the tables, in the eyes of the robot, protruding like tongues from the mouths of at least 2 pieces of artwork, it was clear that the topic of surveillance consumed much of Gullet’s time.

On one wall a monitor streamed news relating to a Moth Epidemic in the East. Due to the Politician’s Strike the people had had to handle their own disaster response, but seemed to be spending most of their time conducting media interviews.

Gullet sniffed. Moths were a terrible thing. As were Upturned Eyeballs. If he could build a gadget to deal with both of them he would.

But right now he had to focus on the Upturned Eyeballs.

Gullet: What do you think, Penfold?

Gullet paused to send a status update. Aside from being surprisingly technical, he was also surprisingly social, at least in a Gullet sort of way.

He thought of his social network as an Ark, where he maintained one of every type of person. Its purpose was a bit different to other, more established, Arks. It was an Ark where propagation was forbidden, cross-interaction was forbidden, and purpose was forbidden. And no one knew it was an Ark, except Gullet.

There were 122 types of people, according to Gullet’s theory, and he had so far found 103 of them, connected to them on Grapevine (“you heard it on this”), and placed them into his Ark.

Gullet: [Typing Status Update] @Ark By Individual: Working on Upturned Eyeballs.

Gullet: [Looking back at the news] I don’t know, Penfold, people used to able to get out of the way of moths. You saw one coming, you ducked or swerved. Now they seem to run right at them waving their arms [He flailed his arms around].

Penfold, the robot, stood by silently. One day it would get its voice box installed, it thought, then it would have a few things to say. But not about moths. Meanwhile, like all robots, it stood there grinding its gears and counting up to 1 repeatedly.

Gullet was finessing some very fine cables together onto a device, that he was then attaching to a even finer bowler hat. He then placed the hat on his head, somehow making himself look more outlandish than usual. Hats don’t ride well on angular, stooping gentlemen. However, this hat needed to be road tested.

He stood up, popping some buttons on a keyboard, and flipping between a few screens. He flicked a switch that was next to the computer. He bounced his head back and forth.

On the screen he saw an image of himself, his head bobbling crazily on top of his shoulders, and the hat bobbling crazily on top of that.

Gullet was simultaneously offended by the visage, but exultant at the result.

Gullet: Upturned Eyeballs!

He moved around a little, looking back at the monitor, which continued to frame his head as it moved.

He positively smirked.

Gullet: Tell me Penfold, would you like Periscopic Hypervision? [Pausing to give Penfold time to answer] Perhaps after we connect your voice I can hook you up with some of this.

“Upturned Eyeballs” was his codename for a project to develop what he called Periscopic Hypervision – essentially a secret camera to spy on yourself. When Cadbury Fife was At Large, it was important that his every movement be tracked and his every moment be recorded. What was happening around him was usually incidental.

Gullet removed the hat and disconnected the wiring, placing it gently into a box labelled “The Detective’s Hat”. He also place the wiring into the box.

On the screen he flipped up a tab with the heading “The Case Of The Missing Self”.

He went to the field marked “Case Status” and selected “Active”.

He went to the field marked “Detective Status” and selected “At Large”.

He paused to give Penfold a strangely sly wink.

He hit save.

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