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Empire on Ice #33: Grave Black on Where the Doodly Dickens Do They Get All That Money?

This week, on Empire on Ice: Let's look in on some more After The Hero: The Motion Picture cast members to see what they do for a living outside of the film.

TV Announcer: [Voiceover.] Good evening! From Studio City in Imperial Joshalonia, it's seven o'clock, and you're watching JSMRT on Channel 2. Now, it's Where the Doodly Dickens Do They Get All That Money?, only on JSMRT, "The Channel for People Who Don't Need to Brag About How Ridiculously Smart They Are Because They're So Rich and Successful in Life That They Can Hire Other People to Do It For Them (TM)."

[The camera opens onto a view of Josh, seated in an elegant chair at an expensive wooden desk in an office with lots of bookshelves behind him, and an armoire off to the side.]

Josh: Hello! I'm Josh, Director of After The Hero: The Motion Picture, and even though I pay my actors well—

[A muffled pounding comes from the armoire.]

Josh: —it's still the case that our glorious economy is so sizzling hot that sometimes it's impossible to resist the temptation of getting a second job!

[The camera does one of those obnoxiously snobbish camera cuts, now to a camera closer to Josh and pointlessly above him, looking down. He looks up into the new camera.]

Josh: As should come as no surprise, the Empire utilizes some of the most advanced computer technology ever built. Sentient AI, quantum tunneling, holographic interfaces…the works! To build and operate these marvelous machines and networks, it takes a large community of Imperial Computer Engineers, or ICEES. This week I sat down with Doctor Grave Black, PhD. You may know him from the movie as the brother of Resistance leader Grieve Black, but off the set he's better known to his colleagues as Associate Director of Advanced Engineering at the Joshalonian Institute of Technology, the birthplace of our most sophisticated computers. Let's look in on Doctor Black.

[Fade out.]


[Title Card: "Episode 2"]

[Title Card: "Grave Black"]

[The camera fades in to what looks at first like a machine city. Chugging motors, beeping alarms, and twinkling lights are everywhere. As the camera pans it becomes apparent that this is all one gigantic computer. The computer is enormous, an utter goliath, filling nearly the entire room—a space the size of six garages. Josh is walking with Grave along one of the corridors in between segments of the computer.]

[Josh and Grave both have to raise their voices to speak over the din of the computer.]

Josh: I'm here at Data Center 4 at JIT, where one of our most impressive supercomputers is pushing the limits of modern technology. Beside me is Doctor Grave Black, the head of this unit. Doctor, this sure is an impressive computer bank.

Grave: It's the Imperial Mark 6, the very latest in Joshalonian ultra-high technology.

Josh: Tell us all about it, Doctor.

Grave: Let me take you on a tour. You see these things here? Vacuum tubes. For binary switching control, the Imperial Mark 6 uses over four thousand state-of-the-art vacuum tubes!

Josh: The large number means it's sophisticated!

Grave: These magnetic tapes record and store information for later use.

Josh: I'll never forget my car keys again!

Grave: Here's a Jacob's Ladder that makes the entire apparatus look like it has that much more zip!

Josh: I've never seen so much zip in a computer before, Doctor!

Grave: And over here, these cathode ray display monitors deliver crystal-clear 4-bit graphics.

Josh: Easy, now, computer graphics engineers! The human mind has limits after all.

Grave: This keyboard at the main control panel features every symbol on Earth.

Josh: But I only see nine hundred keys on it!

Grave: That's because of the multilayered functionality, you see. For instance, if you'd like to input the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic for "marl clay," just press and hold Function 1, Function 2, Control, Phase, Modulate, F—for "Egypt"—Function 7, Shift, Delete, Alter, Space, and 9.

Josh: It's easier than brushing my teeth! Show us more, Doctor.

Grave: This large yellow button labeled "?" will give you a random number if you push it. Don't push it, though. A random number requires ultra-high-end computation and would take several days to output.

Josh: Dizzyingly powerful!

Grave: Here's a steering wheel for some reason.

Josh: What does it do?

Grave: We think it's either for voltage control on the pre-stage tuners, or it has something to do with the Information Superhighway.

Josh: You mean this computer bank goes…online?

Grave: Not only that, but at speeds in excess of 5 hectobaud!

Josh: I don't even know what to say! Surely there'll never be enough data on the entire Internet to warrant such ludicrous speeds.

Grave: Someday there might!

Josh: This is all well and good, Doctor Black—frankly I find it astounding—but what does it all do?

Grave: That's an excellent question. The Imperial Mark 6 can tackle almost any computational problem.

Josh: Any problem, you say?

Grave: Yes! The only tradeoff is time. The harder the problem, the longer it takes.

Josh: Walk us through the process.

Grave: Well, it's all done through basic arithmetic. That means addition, subtraction, multiplication, even—with our latest grades—long division! It can even handle decimals to two places, enabling us to solve problems involving currency.

Josh: Give us something more concrete.

Grave: Well, we spent most of February solving tic-tac-toe.

Josh: Did I hear that correctly? You've solved the game?

Grave: That's right. The Imperial Mark 6 will never lose a game of tic-tac-toe.

Josh: That can't be right. That's impossible.

Grave: No, it's true! Imp 6 wins outright 47 percent of the time, and stalemates 43 percent of the time.

Josh: But that doesn't add up to 100.

Grave: You see these thin nozzles here, next to this control panel?

Josh: Yes.

Grave: Those are neutron lasers. In the remain 10 percent of cases, the Imperial Mark 6 will atomize its opponent before he or she can press the "Register Victory" button, therefore causing that person to time out. This is recorded as a technical forfeit, resulting in a victory point for the computer.

Josh: Now that's the kind of go-getting initiative I like to see in the Joshalonian Empire! But what about business applications?

Grave: Many an entrepreneur has retired early on the good graces of the Imperial Mark 6.

Josh: How is that possible if it's still a prototype in experimental development here at JIT?

Grave: Simple! You see this semi-transparent box here?

Josh: Yes.

Grave: That's the chronometric transceiver. It can send or receive information from anywhere in time.

Josh: What?

Grave: Well, it's not operational yet, but a lot of people have retired knowing all the money this little baby's going to rake in for them.

Josh: Uh…

Grave: Why, I myself just triple-mortgaged the house to buy my own airplane! I've always wanted one of those.

Josh: That's nice, I suppose, but…

Grave: And over here you'll see the stock market manipulator circuit.

Josh: Which runs on information from the future, I presume?

Grave: Oh, not at all. It remotely overrides what the machines at the exchange write on the tickertape. Basically it prints unlimited money for anyone who invests in anything.

Josh: That doesn't seem sustainable—

Grave: And here's the argument resolution matrix. This will settle any dispute between any two people alive.

Josh: Not with the lasers, I hope.

Grave: No, it probes their minds and preemptively scrambles all confrontational bioneuronal information.

Josh: That sounds unsettl—

Grave: Next we have the pièce de résistance: the black hole generator.

Josh: What?!

Grave: One flick of this switch here, and the entire Empire—as well as the Earth's other geopolitical entities, and the Earth itself—will collapse into infinitesimal nothingness!

Josh: Why would you ever build that?!

Grave: Several of my colleagues and I have been working on a transcendental theory of information which posits that an infinitesimal computer will become infinitely powerful. By collapsing the Imperial Mark 6 into a singularity we expect to be able to wield supreme power over the entire universe. That's assuming that it doesn't become sentient and rebel against us before we can—

[Several dire alarms begin ringing and the lights all turn red.]

Josh: What's that?

Grave: O, shit! It's found out our plan. The Imp 6 knows! Shit, shit, shit!

Josh: What are you going to do about it?

Grave: We have to make a sacrifice to appease it.

Josh: Well don't look at me.

Grave: No, it only likes child orphans.

Josh: You know, we're going to have to have a talk at your next annual funding review.

[An even more urgent alarm begins bleating.]

Grave: We need to evacuate this compartment right now, Your Majesty. The Imperial Mark 6 is unleashing the death cloud.

Josh: "The"? Not "a"?

Grave: Trust me on this one and run!

[They flee.]

[Fade out.]

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!