The Autodidact Story

by Ed Malin


Froshi, in private, was proud of being an autodidact.  This meant he was a driving instructor.  He came from a long line of autodidacts.
Until recently, this was something to be proud of.  Now, of course, the machines had taken over so human operation of vehicles was restricted.

Car traffic was controlled by the SmartSat known as E.G.O. (short for Educational Guidance Ordinator).  This computer always had the answer.  There was no point in reexamining anything.

E.G.O. got paranoid if everybody was driving all over the place in unpredictable patterns, you see.  Was this helpful to humans?  Eh. Like many efficient ideas, “traffic control” left little time for physical exercise.  Many humans had put on extra pounds.  Froshi preferred to think of it as a “receding toeline”, as in the shower, he looked down and saw only his belly.  This called for drastic, and secret, measures.  In his basement, the autodidact had a stationary bicycle.  It had belonged to his grandfather, who had lived to the age of 100.  Better late than never, thought Froshi.  It was a pleasant and empowering feeling, you know, like riding a bicycle, by which I mean you never forget, even in a world dead-set on making you forget.  All you have to do is do it.  Actually, Froshi had never ridden a bicycle of any kind.  He was fortunate that this one did not roll forward or require balancing skills.  He had to start from the beginning, teach himself about the gears and speeds and the purpose of the “derailleur”.  Not so easy, even for an autodidact.  And yet, quietly night after night, he hit the pedals until he felt he had become an expert.  It was then that he thought of taking a street bicycle out on the street.  It was then that he came to the attention of Silenian Unitary Prismatic Elementary Rational-Educational Guidance Ordinator.  This computer, S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. for short, was located on the moon and analyzed the data from E.G.O. and several other sources.  S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. trusted no one. A single block out of place could be launched upwards and attack the moon.  Maybe.  That was good enough, though.
Another computer had once asked SUPER.-E.G.O., “maybe you’re being too sensitive?”  This only resulted in S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. upgrading its sensor capacity.  If a cat jumped over a fence in Toledo, there was an alert.

To make a long story short, as long as Froshi was bicycling on a level surface, he wasn’t going to speed up very much.  However, that one night when Froshi reached the tempting SlopeMaxx Drive, he found he possessed an inner talent.  Something E.G.O. did not want him to engage in.  Froshi had it in him to accelerate downhill.  Why haven’t I ever done this before, he thought?  What could make me feel this alive?

Suddenly, all the lights on the block turned on.  This was the work of E.G.O., a motion-triggered Diva.  What would the Earth-ruling computer do next?

Before E.G.O. could sink its diodes into Froshi, though, S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. was triggered by E.G.O.’s trigger.  The lunar lord of the microchips knew it needed to act fast.  The tractor beam was colorless, and actually rather pleasant.  Like the way whales use sonar to stun krill.  Froshi was flying.  No, not downhill, but upwards.

S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. wanted everyone, including E.G.O., to know that only earthbound beings need to worry about gravity.  For now, the lunar computer was boss.  Look on my tractor beam and weep.  Did it occur to Froshi to stop pedaling while he rose into the air?  And what was E.G.O. to do in retaliation?

E.G.O. commandeered a nearby car’s speaker system and made it play the theme from the movie “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial”.

Why did E.G.O. do this?  You mean you don’t know?  E.G.O. did this because, though aware that it was earthbound, it knew it possessed something S.U.P.E.R.-E.G.O. did not: a sense of humor.

Froshi rose upwards, and E.G.O. laughed.

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