Warren Murphy: Profit Motive

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    Profit Motive
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It seems like a good idea at first--a bacterium developed to consume oil spills at sea. But when the bug mutates, threatening to convert all the petroleum in the world into wax, Western civilization is suddenly up for grabs. And a lot of slimy characters are determined not to let it slip through their fingers. Which is where Remo and Chiun come in--that is, until the Master of Sinanju cuts out ... joining the opposition. It seems that black gold generates a lot of the yellow kind and someone's offering to send a little something extra to a certain Korean village ... Remo's left in a real bind. And with his mentor bent on wiping out all that the ex-cop stands for, now, more than ever, it looks as if the Destroyer and CURE are nearing the end of the road ...

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THE DESTROYER #48: PROFIT MOTIVE

Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy

For Les Wolf. A gentleman and glorious ... and for the awesome House of Sinanju, P.O. Box 1454, Secaucus, NJ 07094

Chapter One

He gave up eating veal because they kept the little calves in small dark pens until slaughter. Then he gave up eating all meats. Any killing was wrong.

He would not buy products from companies that also made war material. He joined peace marches and sang songs of brotherhood.

He avoided crushing ants under his shoes, and on the day he created the most remorselessly destructive enemy ever to threaten the human race, Norbert Peasewell refused to slap a mosquito drinking on his right forearm.

"You know, I always used to automatically slap them because they made such a welt after drinking your blood. It was the automatic response of a human chauvinist," said Peasewell. "But you know, they have as much right to life as I have."

"Norbert," said his wife, "we are the only family in Silicon Valley that's living on food stamps. You could go to work for any computer company in the valley and make at least sixty thousand dollars a year."

Norbert watched the mosquito drink off his forearm. He noticed the precise design of the body, how the legs, like artist's sticks, formed a delicate and precise platform for the small winged body, which plunged its drinking instrument into Norbert's giving arm.

Perhaps, thought Norbert, he was really put on earth to supply mosquitoes with food. How did anyone know otherwise? Why did personkind always assume any-

1

thing not servicing it directly was valueless? Why did personkind assume that it alone was the sole purpose of all creation?

The only reason, concluded Norbert, was that bugs, lizards, and snakes lacked political power. If someone could organize mosquitoes to demand their inalienable creature rights, then no white American male would out of hand murder them so freely.

"Norbert, I'm leaving you," said his wife. "I'm tired of living on food stamps. I am tired of watching other people eat meat. Yes, Norbert, meat. Red meat. Animal meat. A hamburger. With ketchup, Norbert, I'm leaving."

"How will I get lunch?" asked Norbert.

"Maybe the mosquito will share his with you."

"Hers," said Norbert. "Only the female mosquito drinks blood, mainly for the eggs. It's their nourishment."

"Well, I'm going to get my nourishment. I'm the one who's been doing the shopping, getting the food stamps, cooking the food, fighting off the landlord, hoping someday you'll return to computers. No more, Norbert. I'm leaving."

"Did you leave any celery and tofu salad?"

"No, Norbert, I did not."

"That means I'll do without lunch?"

"Yes, Norbert. Just like all those starving Africans and Asians you sing songs for and march for, all those people who used to eat until they were liberated, Norbert. Those people. The hungry ones. The wretched of the earth, Norbert. You can maybe now sing a song for yourself."

"But computer firms make military equipment," said Norbert.

"Computer firms make money, Norbert. We are the only family in California with a Ph.D. in the philosophy of advanced computer science which lives off food stamps, in a welfare shack. Norbert, I thought you would snap out of it. I thought it was a phase you were going through."

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"I told you, I was reaching for the basic me."

"Yes, but you're such a hypocrite, Norbert, that I thought it would pass."

"No," said Norbert Peasewell. "I am dedicated to forming a more perfect universe with my presence in it I hunger and I struggle; though my body be wracked with death and pain of oppressors' bullets, I continue to struggle on."

"I've heard that song before," said Norbert's wife, and as she left, Norbert told himself that if his co-partner in life was going to try to lead him into antilife responses, he would let her go happily. He would endure whatever there was to endure, knowing that he was part of a great Ufe movement of the universe.

That was at 11:55 A.M.

At noon, the horror struck him.

There was no lunch on the table. At 12:05 p.m., Norbert Peasewell vowed he was never going to suffer like this again.

He hitchhiked a ride to the center of Silicon Valley, that section of California where most computer work is done, and with beads dangling around his neck, ambled into a reception room that looked like an art gallery. It was 12:45 p.m.

"Work. I need work," gasped Norbert. "Anything. Guided missiles. Napalm. Baby incinerators. Genocide. Mass murder. Whatever you need. I'll do anything."

"What're your qualifications?" ;

"Ph.D. Stanford, advanced philosophy of computer science."

He got the job. It was not unusual to hire someone who looked as if he had been living on mescaline for a month. Most advanced computer scientists had their own idiosyncrasies. If one of them came up with just one good idea in his lifetime, he could justify the employment of a whole laboratory.

But when Norbert started work, it was 1:07 P.M. He had been more than an hour without his lunch.

Crazed Norbert could think of only one thing. Total 3

revenge on the world that had done this to him. He would never be hungry again.

Norbert understood that one needed money for food, and so obsessed by this was he that he isolated the one thing that created money. And that was profit.

Being a research scientist, Norbert had great freedom in his laboratory, and he decided to isolate all the wisdom about making profit, earning money, increasing wealth, and compile it into one single body of knowledge. He would re-create that profit-making motive.

But when he did, the program he was creating started to define itself. By itself. For this was a new generation of computer technology he was working on, programs that helped shape themselves.

And without Norbert's help, his program determined that while many businesses made a profit, profit was really only a by-product of some other product. The purpose of these businesses was to create goods, and profit was there only to make sure the businesses survived. These goals of secondary profit were weeded out.

Norbert's program was plugged into a time-share with a stock brokerage house. Norbert's company paid for this time-sharing.

But almost immediately, Norbert started getting items without ordering them—small condensed readouts from banks, governments offices, oil companies, personnel departments, metal brokerage houses, the London Stock Exchange, the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the profit and loss statement of the Bank of Dubhai.

Norbert Peasewell tried to stop his program from feeding off these centers of information. On his control panel he typed in instructions to his program not to feed off other computer banks because the sharing costs would be astronomical.

Norbert's message was not accepted.

It was 3:45 p.m., and Norbert had not eaten since 4

breakfast, and now he was facing being fired. If his new employer saw these time-sharing costs, he would be canned, and he would have to wait another whole day to get another job. That was an evening without dinner and a morning without breakfast.

Desperately, Norbert tried erasing the whole program, but it wouldn't erase. It transferred itself to another computer. Norbert tried deprogramming the program. It wouldn't deprogram.

Norbert thought for a moment of unplugging every computer in the center. That could cost millions, but the time-sharing he was running up might cost even more.

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