The Eductum

6 Jan

Although few private shamuses in Sarcotown liked such cases of disappearance when a replicatus was involved, Dar Teuer was economically desperate enough to take one.

He rode a public obus to the city’s fringe where a robbed owner had summoned him.

The residence proved to be a luxurious mansion made of groundbrick.

Goe Estofa, a wealthy material dealer, opened the door and showed him in.

“As you can see, I am missing my house eductum,” said the businessman. “He has not been present the last four days.”

Dar followed the rich merchant down a shining metal corridor, into a reel-lined study.

Once the pair were seated, Estofa behind a ceramic desk and the visitor in a sponge chair, the client explained his problem.

“Four years ago, I purchased an advanced model from Cytogenetic Engineering. It was to be able to take care of this building and all its needs, as well as serve me as butler, cook, and gardener. At first, everything appeared to go well with my eductum. I came to address it by a nickname I invented, Anank. But in recent days, certain changes seemed to occur.

“This cytoplastid being started to slow down in terms of efficiency and answerability. It is hard to define and describe, but I believe that Anank was showing a lack of subservience. An attitude of resentment and malice was what I suspected to be growing in my eductum.

“Why should that be so? I have always been kind and thoughtful in my treatment of it. Anank surely realized that I was the human owner and it was only a bioplasmic construct. It was acting and feeling in ways I did not like.

“I contacted the firm that it was a productus of and asked them for advice and aid. If Anank somehow learned of this, perhaps that was the factor that triggered it to vanish. So I thought and suspected for a time. But only yesterday, I received a ransom note. A large sum must be given in order to get back my bio-servant. What an outrage! Do you know of such terrible extortion, sir?”

“Yes, there are such unfortunate incidents of abduction of replicas here in Sarcotown,” muttered the private investigator. “The city police place a low priority on them and do little to find the missing bio-beings. The task falls to private bird-dogs like me.”

Goe Estofa stared at the detective with coppery blue eyes. “Do you think that you can trace the path of my Anank? I am certain that he still exists.”

“I will utilize all the means available to a private shamus like me,” promised Dar. “But no one can guarantee success. Will you allow me to read the abduction note?”

The rich man rose, taking the letter over to Dar and handing it to him.

“Get 100,000 buckskins together for transfer. If you fail, your eductum will be liquified.”

Teuer put the note in his suit pocket, excused himself, and found his way out of the Esofa mansion.

No question, an animated eductum did not have the same value as a naturally born human being. Dar knew that from years of professional experience. The best course of action for an investigator like him was to contact the manufacturer, Cytogenetic Engineering.

The detective had acquaintances in several departments of the company: the hyaloplasmic, the alloplasmic, the metaplasmic, the zoodal, and the cytogenetic. He tried to make contact with each of them at places outside corporate properties. His questions were always the same ones.

Why do eductum abductions occur when they can never be as lucrative as human takings? What sort of criminal is most apt to conceive of and commit such acts of desperation? Why is it not more profitable for an owner to buy a new one than to redeem a replicatus that has been stolen? If no ransom can be agreed to, what happens to the unlucky eductum? Thus mused Dar as he rode a tramcar to the Cytogenetic complex on the rim of Sarcotown. He had arranged by audiophone an appointment with the Director of Production, Dr. Feun Juren.

A secretary took the shamus into the office of the chief executive of the facility.

Juren was a surprisingly small man with straw hair and maroon brown eyes.

“How can I help you, Mr. Teuer?” asked Juren once the investigator was seated.

“I am engaged in some extremely important research,” lied Dar, “and there are certain questions that I cannot obtain answers to. Perhaps you will be willing to help me out, sir.”

The Director smiled broadly. “Go ahead and try me,” he pleasantly indicated.

“The mystery that puzzles me is this: what happens to educta when they can no longer operate, when they become non-functional though age and wearing down? In other words, how are outdated or obsolete ones disposed of? Does Cytogenetic have some program to assist owners who cannot maintain their lives with the same old replicas? I am deeply curious about the matter.”

Juren’s face turned stern and serious.

“We find it possible to melt down aged educta and reuse their bioplasms. Because of the high economic value of their substances, the operation is practical and advantageous.”

The little man suddenly rose from his chair behind the cobalt desk and moved forward.

“Follow me and I will show you what is done with derelict educta,” he said to the detective.

As the pair walked down the ferric walkway at the center of the factory, Dar noticed something of great interest to himself. Only a small portion of the staff at work were humans. The bulk of those with functions here were educta of a greenish-yellow hue. They predominated.

Juren named the cytoplasmic tanques, biochemical cisterns, matter molders, nano-condensators, nano-contourers, construction chambers, combiners, and fabricators as they passed by them.

Last of all, they arrived at the cytoplasmic melters where old educta were decomposed into liquid to be used again in new units.

The detective spoke. “I did not know that so much of your staff consisted of replicas.”

“Yes,” nodded the Director. “They were produced specifically for work in the plant and belong to Cytogenetic Engineering. We could not operate without them.”

Dar returned the next morning to the mansion of Goe Estofa. The latter had news for him.

“A second letter has arrived and it orders where the ransom mazuma is to be delivered and deposited.”

The shamus decided to reveal how he was thinking about the kidnapping.

“For a number of years, my friend, I have watched scores of such cases as yours. Money is used for the return of a bio-being, yet the abductors never carry out their part of the bargain. It turns out to be a merciless trick by them.

“I ask myself again and again: what do they do with the vanished educta?

“Let me reveal to you my primary suspicion: that the Cytogenetic company was in charge of everything, taking the payment but melting down the unit for its expensive cytoplasm. But yesterday I came up with a second theory. What if the educta had been made into factory workers serving in different industrial jobs? What if they had merely been recycled by their new corporate owner?”

Goe handed the detective the second note from the abductors.

“Deliver the mazuma at the first rose garden on the Sarcotown Promenade at sundown tomorrow.”

Dar looked up and smiled after reading it.

“I will carry out the errand,” he muttered. “It will provide me opportunity to find out more than the abductors believe that I can.”

Estofa went to a table and picked up a travel case containing the ransom mazuma.

The shamus thought it expedient to hire four professional tailing agents to watch the entrance to the long, grassy plot of park land. They were to follow the person who picked up the buckskins and took them away.

At the appointed hour, Dar moved through the murky dusk to the designated garden site.

A figure in a sport suit sat on a bench and motioned to him to approach nearer. With slow, cautious steps, that was what he did.

“Put it on the bench, please,” said the stranger in a hollow voice of metal.

That was quickly done, then the collector of ransom motioned with his hand for the detective to leave.

It was in less than an hour that a phone message was heard at the flat of the investigator.

The report told of a surprising destination of the mazuma carrier.

It was a sleazy hotel for transients and old bachelors in the seediest slum of Sarcotown. It did not at all appear appropriate. How could that be? What was the logic to it? Dar pondered the puzzle. What was the meaning of this odd report?

He decided to go to the spot that evening and have a look around.

The hotel was a dilapidated box building with a drooping roof and unpainted outer walls.

No one lived there except those without choice outside it. Dar entered the rotting lobby a little before midnight. A small group of men in informal clothes sat about facing each other, deep in quiet conversations.

Heading for the back desk where no one stood, the new entrant caught sight of a familiar face of a person sitting alone in one corner.

It was the man who had picked up the packet of mazuma on the Promenade.

What should I do? Dar asked himself, coming to a decision in a few seconds.

He corrected his course and headed directly for the ransom collector.

The target slowly realized what was happening, raising his eyes and sitting up. The shamus, by then, stood only an arm span in front of him.

Dar noticed how the man’s mouth gaped in surprise. He had no doubt that he had been recognized.

Who was going to speak first? It turned out to be the stranger who had taken and transported the ransom mazuma.

“What do you want? What are you after?” growled the person who had been located by Dar.

I have to think fast and take a big risk, decided the detective.

“All I claim is a small share of what I delivered earlier this evening,” asserted Dar, attempting to invent a credible lie that might be accepted as true.

The other man eyed him with unconcealed anger and disdain.

“You are greatly mistaken if you think that anyone here has any fear of you,” barked the ransomer, leaping to his feet. “Do you know who I am?”

Dar said nothing, waiting for the other to tell him more.

“I am Anank,” announced the unrecognized figure. “I am the one you seek to have returned. But it cannot be done now, for I have become as human as you or any of my former owners.”

“I don’t understand,” trembled the shamus. “What you just told me is sheer nonsense.”

“My green-yellow dye has been removed by surgery,” explained Anank. “It is an expensive operation, and that is why I need the buckskins you gave me in the park. There is nothing you can do against my new identity. The mazuma is what I deserve for my years of unpaid labor. It is just recompense, nothing more.

“I look like a human and I have all the attributes of a man. It is now impossible to go back to what my prior condition was.”

What could Dar do? He listened carefully as Anank went on.

“I’m not alone. This hotel is full of former educta like me. We are an ever-growing group. Each of us deserves fitting compensation from those who owned us for so long. None of us ever received any wages.”

The detective, staring at Anank, considered the situation and its prospects for the future.

He suddenly turned around and hurried out of the lobby, then the hotel.

The next day, he would have to inform Goe Estofa that the ransom mazuma and the eductum were both lost to him and there was no hope of recovering them at any time in the future.

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