Chapter 12

I am not by nature a spiritual person. True spirituality, I believe, requires a certain innate compassion which I patently do not posses; which fact you can readily observe by noting my complete disregard for the wellbeing of my fellow humans. A desire to completely subjugate all living things, while certainly the apparent goal of most forms of organized religion, is nevertheless the direct antithesis to the sort of compassionate nature required to achieve spiritual fulfillment, in my opinion. But since total world domination is my stated goal, crushing all will and resistance out of people must necessarily be a part of the process. This is where it gets complicated. People with strong religious beliefs, particularly those who adhere to faiths with strong dictatorial guidelines, are easy to crush into quivering blobs of obedience. Spiritual people, on the other hand, have a dismaying reserve of inner strength which allows them to retain some sense of self in the face of horrifying circumstances. So in practical terms, it's better for me when religious groups ramp up the intolerance and zealots start slaughtering all the decent, spiritual people and save me the trouble of having to deal with them later. So, with this in mind, I created a collection of shimmering white winged robots and sent them out to be the subjects of the occasional miraculous sighting, including a few random smitings of religious institutions just to stir up confusion. It was quite amusing.

Alexander caught me in front of the television snickering over the breathless reporting of a big-chested and big-haired journalist describing the latest mysterious event. He frowned. "I thought you didn't believe in miracles."

"I don't."

His frown turned suspicious. "They said it was an angel."

I nodded, still snickering. "With big white wings."

"I heard these so-called angels are only a little bit bigger than men," Alexander noted. "Isn't that a little small for you?"

"Creating mechanical winged flight isn't easy, you know. I had to go small scale."

He glared. "So it is you!"

I realized he was annoyed. "What's the matter? These robots are far less destructive than my usual ones."

"You smashed a church!"

"It was empty at the time," I pointed out. "And I've been very even-handed. I destroyed a synagogue and a mosque earlier in the week."

He folded his arms and fixed me with a stern glare. "Father says it's better to stay out of religious matters."

"But the press is fantastic!" I exclaimed. "Angel sightings are the number one search topic on the internet."

"But no one knows it's you!"

That gave me pause. Alexander made a good point. It might be hard to take credit for the mayhem if I let it go on too long. "All right. I'll have my robots cause a major catastrophe so the superheroes have to get involved. That should help."

Alexander put a hand over his face. "That's not what I meant."

I stared at him blankly. "What do you mean?"

"I think you should just stop."

"Stop?" I mulled that over. It was sort of a foreign concept. Normally, I program my robots to destroy something, turn them loose and never expect to see them again. The angel robots were more covert, and while their programming allowed them to act independently, I still kept in touch with them. I scratched my head. "That doesn't make sense. I'm trying to cause social disruption."

"It's not right to use religion against people," Alexander said. "You should stick to indiscriminate slaughter."

I rubbed my chin. "I don't know. I've been having only mixed success going that route. I wanted to try something new."

"It makes me uncomfortable," Alexander said. His lower lip stuck out in a little-boy pout, but his big-boy pheromones flooded me with lust. It was a disturbing combination. He lowered his chin slightly and opened his eyes wider. "Pretty please?"

I have to tell you that interpersonal relationships based on uncontrollable lust put one at a considerable disadvantage. I completely forgot what we were talking about and pounced on him. I ripped off his clothes in a frenzy of animal heat and pounded him until I exploded into orgasmic ecstasy. But this was Alexander, so of course it didn't stop there. He yanked my shirt off my shoulders without unbuttoning the cuffs and used it to tie my hands behind my back. Very effectively restrained, I could do nothing to prevent him from shoving me onto my knees, mashing my face into the carpet, and pounding me even more relentlessly than I had pounded him. It was cathartic.

Afterward, he lay on top of me without untying my hands. "So, are you going to stop using the angel robots?"

"I really don't want to waste all that hard work."

"Thomas!" he whined rather plaintively. "It's a bad idea!"

It was quite unusual for Alexander to have such a strong opinion about my work. I decided to relent, partially. "All right. I'll send them to China to destroy the Great Wall. That will bring in the superheroes and the angels' robotic nature will be exposed."

He wrinkled his nose. "I suppose that's ok."

So after dinner, I went down to the lab and sent off new programming. While my robots could fly on wing power alone, they also had jets to allow them to travel between distant locations quickly. It would take until morning for all six to assemble at the designated location, so I set an alarm and took Alexander to bed.

In the morning, I settled in front of the television to watch the fun. My angel robots were equipped with plasma cannons to allow them to smite evildoers with satisfying destructive force. When used on the mostly stone and sand construction of the Great Wall, they produced a satisfying explosion. Within a half-hour, my robots had destroyed several miles of the wall, but with only the Chinese army fighting back. Not a superhero was in sight. Irritated, I called Astounding Man.

"Albert, where the hell are you?"

"At work, where do you think?"

"What are you fighting?"

"I'm not fighting; I'm at the fabric store."

I sighed with exasperation. "Aren't you watching the news?"

"What news?"

"The disaster in China!"

"What is it? Earthquake? Flood? Mass suicides?"

I gritted my teeth. "Angels are destroying the Great Wall!"

"Oh, that. Not my department."

"What?"

"I don't get involved with religious disputes. If the Christians have issues with whatever religion the Chinese are practicing these days, it's not my problem."

"Albert," I choked out, "do you actually believe in angels?"

"Well, I hadn't…"

"They're not fucking angels!" I screamed into the phone.

Albert was quiet for a long time. "They're robots?"

"Yes!"

"Aren't they kind of small?"

"Goddamnit, Albert! Get your butt over there and destroy them like you're supposed to!" I slammed the phone down. "This is ridiculous!"

Several more miles of wall were gone and dozens of tanks lay in smoldering ruins. A group of intrepid soldiers had a bazooka and launched a projectile at an angel. The robot turned on them. I have to admit it was pretty impressive to watch the way it flared its beautiful white wings, flew down to face them in its shimmering gown of Teflon mesh, and obliterated them with a blast of plasma from the palm of its hand. Alexander gave me an accusing look.

Albert must have made some calls, because a band of second-rate Chinese superheroes showed up ten minutes later. The fight was pretty lopsided. I started to feel bad. Several hundred miles of wall were destroyed and the superheroes had not even managed to destroy a single angel. I finally couldn't stand it. I picked up my cell phone and called the robots. "Angel flight, abort. Return to heaven." As one, my angel robots swooped into the sky and flew away, switching to jet mode when they were at altitude. The hapless superheroes began to cheer and congratulate each other. I rolled my eyes in disgust.

Alexander glared at me darkly. "Where is heaven?"

"North Dakota."

"And what are you going to do about that?" He pointed at the television, where the image was slowly panning along the smashed ruins of one of the world's most famous landmarks.

I felt a twinge of guilt. "The Chinese are accustomed to repairing the wall."

"Not hundreds of miles all at once!" he declared angrily.

"I'll, uh, send some financial aid," I said helpfully.

"And equipment and supplies."

I stared. "You expect me to fix it?"

"You broke it!"

"But you were the one who said it was ok when I suggested it!"

He scowled. "Only because you said superheroes would show up."

"How was I to know they wouldn't?" I threw up my hands in exasperation and called Astounding Man again. "Albert, who were those idiots? They were completely incompetent."

"It's not my fault. I hired them off the internet. They had good reviews."

I slapped my forehead. "You hired superheroes off the internet based on reviews?"

"Everybody makes mistakes," he said defensively.

I had to bite back my instinctive retort. "Alexander expects me to fix that damned wall now. I'm sending the bill to Superhero Headquarters."

"What? We don't have that kind of money. And you can pay for it out of pocket change! What's more, it's not our fault. If those had been giant angel robots, I'd have been all over it."

I rubbed my eyes. "Fine! I'll take the blame for this one, but I'm very disappointed in you, Albert." I disconnected and tossed the phone away. "What a disaster!"

Alexander was right. It was better to stay out of religious matters.