63 Top Gun
The events of the day had been tiring for Catherine and she had some bizarre dreams in which she and the others had decided to give up on their adventures to move in a big house together, similar to that of the Blooms. Their apparent peaceful life was troubled every day by Joshua, who insisted on trying to build a giant vehicle that would take them into space but ended causing a massive amount of mayhem in the process. Ultimately, Joshua accidentally made their house fly at high speed and they landed on the moon, where they were welcomed by the locals, who were all a bunch of clowns. Everyone was confused, so the clowns brought them in front of an artifact they called "The Mirror of Truth". Looking into the mirror, she saw herself wearing clown make-up. Her reflection suddenly burst into laughter and told her: "Isn't it silly? Coming so far and ending up in a circus. I hope you're satisfied!" The reflection then took a pie and threw it on Catherine's face.
And that's when she woke up.
She had a slight headache and while she couldn't remember her dream clearly, she knew it was stupid and unpleasant. Checking the time of day, Luna informed her it was a bit past six in the morning. Her alarm was set at seven, but even though she was dizzy, she didn't feel like going back to sleep and stood up. Unlike her, the twins were sleeping peacefully, making her feel a little jealous. No matter, she should check the situation in the house. Joshua hadn't woken her up, so she expected everything to be normal, well, at least, as 'normal' as this place could be. She sensed Joshua's presence, he was currently outside the house.
What could he be up to again? Well, I'll ask him in a moment.
She could have called him out directly but preferred to be a bit more presentable first. She left the bedroom and headed for the bathroom. After relieving herself and putting some water on her face to be a little more awake, she entered the living room.
The first thing she spotted was the television. It was on and the volume was very low, likely to avoid waking people up. No one was watching though. Correction, one of Joshua's drones was actually floating above the sofa in front of the screen. She asked Luna about its nature, it was a transmission rune, like the one used in the Luna Rune Network. Ergo, this drone was acting like a remote camera, transferring the data it recorded straight into the system. Luna also told her there was a second drone in the next room. Catherine wasn't surprised at the presence of the television, she had first learned about its concept from Joshua's demonstrations about the technology from his world. Then, she had witnessed several surveillance screens in the old complex they found. She knew this particular screen was used mainly for entertainment and wasn't surprised Joshua decided to record everything that was being aired.
Curious what else Joshua was recording, she moved on to the next room, the kitchen. She immediately spotted the drone. It was floating over a large white sheet that was covering something. The forms underneath made her uneasy and she immediately pulled the cloth away, revealing the three corpses. She gulped for a moment, yet somehow, she wasn't surprised at all. Still, looking at the drone, she frowned and yelled mentally:
Joshua! What the hell happened while I was asleep?
Oh, you're awake! Give me a moment, I'll be right over there, Joshua replied calmly.
About a minute later, Joshua joined her in the kitchen. He was dressed up bizarrely as usual. He was wearing an overall and had his hands and face covered in grease. He was also playing with a wrench.
"I was examining the vehicle outside. I think we should be able to use it," he told her.
"That's great and all but..." Catherine answered while pointing at the corpses, "Did you kill them?"
Joshua laughed and replied: "I kinda wish I did, but nope. I don't know what's up with those suckers but they were talking peacefully and suddenly broke into a fight about some unimportant stuff and they ended up stabbing each other. As you can see, they improved their score as they all died this time!"
Joshua's face seemed to indicate he was relieved about something. Of course, Catherine couldn't help but be confused about the situation.
"Do you think they'll come back to life again?"
"I would say, it's rather probable."
"I see… Have you figured out what's going on here?"
"Whoever made this place is probably nuttier than me."
Catherine grinned and replied: "That goes without saying, but apart from that?"
"I do have some suspicions. How about we go over them once the others wake up?"
"Fair enough. We'll discuss the matter after breakfast."
After wrapping their conversation, Catherine returned to the bathroom, took a shower and got dressed in her new regalia. When she came back, she saw that Joshua had decided to adopt the local customs as well and had replaced his mechanic outfit for some local clothing. He was now dressed very formally, wearing a tuxedo and top hat. He had also created a walking cane which he was holding in his left hand. He was finishing setting up the table for breakfast when he spotted her.
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Joshua approached her and gently kissed her hand.
"Mademoiselle, you have to admit that despite being imbeciles, these fools know how to dress properly," he told her.
"Aha, I suspected this kind of accouterments would be to your liking," she replied smiling.
"Well, anything would you good on you."
She rolled her eyes and said laughing: "Flattery is not your strong point. A line like this is way too ordinary for you."
"I suppose you're right… Well then, would you care for a dance?" he suddenly told her while stretching his arm forward, inviting her, "Luna, give us a nice tune please."
They were currently in the living room of the house, standing between a table that had been prepared for breakfast and a bunch of corpses while Luna was playing a song from Joshua's world she was unfamiliar with yet sounded very romantic. This sudden invitation was completely absurd.
"Naturally, this a perfect time for a dance," she replied without hesitating.
And thus Joshua delicately grabbed her by the waist and they began to slowly dance. Unfortunately, this moment was short-lived as Joshua woke up everyone in the house as he completely forgot the others who were sleeping in the next room and soon began to yell repeatedly: "Taaaake my breath awaaaaaay!"
After everyone was done eating, they decided to hold a strategy meeting. Joshua decided to take the lead. He stood up, waved his arms around and opened the discussion in an overly dramatic way.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for answering our summons so early in the morning. As you might expect, on the agenda today, we'll discuss the events of yesterday as well as our next steps forward. Now, I suppose you are all dying to know what the hell has been happening lately. Know this: I was probably the most affected by this whole nonsense but nevertheless I managed to find a logical explanation. But first, I would like to hear your impression of our fateful encounter, as having more than one perspective is quite useful."
Having finished, he sat down and waited for a reply.
Cynthia was the first to answer: "I had the impression we were surrounded by the dumbest people of the world. It was so damn awkward. Every time they opened their mouth I had to control myself to not punch them in the face."
Lydia sighed and added: "You always resort to punching things, but I get what you mean. There were times I was wondering if this whole event wasn't just a dream."
Boris remained pensive for a moment and finally transmitted: I suspect their behavior might be related to those "Wipings" they're were talking about. Of course, that doesn't explain how they came back to life.
"I doubt these people were even real," Eric continued, "We clearly saw two corpses vanish out of thin air and come home as if nothing had happened. This felt like a badly played stage play with defective puppets."
Joshua looked at Catherine who had remained quiet for now. She smiled and said: "I think I know what you're about to explain, Joshua. I consulted Luna for information yesterday after we went to sleep. I asked it if their behavior matched any known pattern it knows about our world or Joshua's. Luna gave me two possibilities: 'The Uncanny Valley' and 'The Turing Test'."
"Excellent!" Joshua replied, "I'm glad you're using Luna the way I intended to. You guys should really get used to it, it's pretty useful. Catherine, do you want to explain those principles?"
"I'll leave that you, I got the basic principles, but you can probably explain them better than me."
"As you wish."
A little robot appeared in the middle of the party. His design was a bit different from Joshua's floating drones, its body had a humanoid-like form with metallic arms and legs and its 'head' was a display. Suddenly, it began waving its arm at everyone while a cute smiling face appeared on the screen. Then it began to execute a goofy dance, which made most people present chuckle a bit. When it was done, it bowed politely then vanished.
It was soon replaced with another robot. This one, however, looked much more like a human being with fake skin and actual clothing. Its face had eyes, a nose, a mouth, hair, and ears, but looking at it, one could immediately tell it was artificial. The robot smiled at everyone and waved its arm at them, then proceeded to make the same dance as his predecessor. However, this time no one laughed, in fact, they all looked a bit freaked out. After bowing, the robot disappeared as well.
"I think this little demonstration will make things clear for everyone. This is a phenomenon in my world was called 'The Uncanny Valley'. When people started creating robots that mimicked human behavior, the first ones were pretty cute. However, as they looked more and more like human beings, something clicks in our brains. 'This doesn't feel right. Even though it looks human, it's fake.' That's what you were all thinking, right?"
"The same impression we got from our hosts last night," Cynthia said.
"So, you're saying that those people are robots?" Lydia asked.
"Not exactly," Joshua replied, "The thought crossed my mind yesterday and I scanned their bodies several times in order to find something abnormal about them. But nope, they have regular human bodies. I could see their organs working just fine until the moment they died. However postmortem, there were a few oddities."
"The bodies gave no odor off" yesterday, despite being in such a state for a few days," Catherine remarked.
"Correct. Also, as soon as they got stabbed in their dumb brawl yesterday, their blood stopped flowing. Normally if you stab someone, you're up for a river of blood and it's a pain getting it off your clothes. But in this case, we can kill those losers without worrying about dirtying ourselves," Joshua added.
"Also, they do tend to disappear suddenly. Normal corpses don't do that, only spirits like Lord Joshua. You sure you never met those people before? Their level of craziness should be up your alley," Eric suggested, laughing.
"My dear Eric, please do not put me in the same basket as those people. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid. As for them being spirits, it's not possible either. Remember, when my body gets 'killed' it gets dispelled, it doesn't lay around for days. The same thing happened when we fought the Hydra, once one of its heads got damaged it just vanished and it reformed a new one … Wait a second."
Joshua stood up and dispersed his body. His spirit form floated around the room for a moment and without warning, he put his arm through Eric's head. Since it was currently immaterial, it went through smoothly and Eric was unarmed, although it did look somewhat creepy.
"The hell are you doing?" Eric asked angrily while moving his head out of the way.
"Even when it was in body form I couldn't traverse the Hydra since its body was made of spirit energy," Joshua explained while marching towards the corpses, "So it's actually very simple to verify your suggestion."
Arriving in front of the bodies, Joshua kicked them. Even though he was in ghost form, his foot hit the mark and one of them flew slightly upwards.