Reset

By Margaret Karmazin

 

“How long has the program been running?” asked Han.

“Two and a half thousand rotations, give or take,” said Roen.

“How’s it going? I’ve been so busy elsewhere, sorry.”

“Nicely, though there is the problem of reproduction. It’s always preferable if they can maintain that on their own. Other than that, their existence is relatively peaceful, just small squabbles here and there, occasional down on the floor tussles and some long term grudges, but no serious bloodshed.”

“Form of government?”

“A queen, elected for her lifetime or unless she abdicates or becomes incapacitated. She chooses helpers; others are elected. She holds court to hear matters of general interest and problems and with the counsel of the helpers makes legal decisions. Things generally run smoothly. The culture is mostly agrarian.”

“What do you want to do about the reproduction issue? And I’m just curious – how are you handling it now? I mean, how do the inhabitants imagine they become pregnant?”

“A variation on the usual. The females are implanted. They believe that certain foods and spiritual practices cause this to happen.”

“Hmmm,” said Han.

“Well,” said Roen, “if I want the population to be physically self-sustaining, there is only one way. I will have to introduce males.”

“You will indeed,” replied Han. “Reset the game and let me know how it goes. I’ll return in a thousand or so rotations.”

 

* * *

 

“How’s going?” Han asked. “You look a bit worse for wear.”

“Not well,” said Roen. “I’m wondering if I’m really suited for this kind of work. You know I’ve had my doubts all along.”

“Nonsense. How do you think we all started out? Now rerun the game and show me what happened.”

Roen obeyed.

“Well,” said Han. “I see what you mean. Introducing the males certainly changed the scenario. Didn’t take longer than ten rotations for the trouble to begin.”

“Well, sooner than that, actually,” said Roen.

“Minor things, fighting here and there,” observed Han. “However, rape and murder and all the more serious stuff took a bit longer.”

“And you can see how it all degenerated into mass murder and general mayhem. They call this ‘war.’ And they always claim they have a good reason for it.”

“Yes, I see. On the brighter side, there’s been a lot of building.”

“There is that. Look at this small city in particular. They’ve installed plumbing and rather excellent bridges. It’s pretty incredible.”

“And hospitals, I see,” said Han. “What did they do for illness before males and hospitals?”

“Don’t be fooled by the hospitals, Han. Their existence does not necessarily imply an improvement in healthcare. You wouldn’t believe the brutality and sadism that goes on in there. As is usual, the males have established a hierarchy with any attending females at the bottom. Since they have created a rigid class structure, they only treat those they consider on the top with a good degree of care and the rest, those they call “the lower orders,” they basically use for experimentation. They perform surgery when it’s unnecessary and often just for the pleasure of showing off.  While a few lives have been saved, many others have died early deaths for no intelligent reason whatsoever. The females are often appalled but have little power to change the system.”

“How did the females maintain healthcare before the introduction of males?”

“They used herbs, poultices and various psychological/spiritual practices. Lives were saved, though many were not. In the ideal society, a combination of yin and yang methods would be applied but–“

“If things were ideal, Roen, which they never are. Do you want to reset?”

“I’m not sure.”

“How about I return after a few hundred more rotations and then you can decide?”

Roen agreed, though without feeling much confidence about anything improving.

 

* * *

 

“The males have invented vehicles with combustible engines,” Roen reported to Han when he returned. “Factories are spewing waste products into the atmosphere and we know where that ends up.”

The sight of Han was most welcome; it was lonely working by oneself.

“I see,” said Han, looking around at the ongoing game. He and Roen were able to stand anywhere inside it, unseen by the participants.

“The wars have accelerated with thousands more murdered or maimed.  Primitive flying machines have been used in one case.”

“Anything positive to report?”

“Surgery and dental work have improved with better anesthesia and more lives saved, though the numbers do not match up to those killed in wars. The females weep to lose their children. Males have invented numerous laws to hold females in the males’ idea of their proper place, using fabricated religious rules. No matter what the religion, this is the result – subjugation of females.”

“And homosexuals? Or anyone else who does not fit into the dichotomy?”

“They are ostracized or even executed.”

“Are the females accomplishing anything much as far as the improvement of living conditions?”

“A few, yes, but their accomplishments are claimed by the males they work with and the public rarely hears about it.”

Han looked at Roen long and kindly. “You miss the days when-“

Roen sighed. “Oh, I do, I do. I can’t help it. It was so pleasant to watch my first creations and occasionally take on one of their forms to join in. To lie on the grass with flowers in my hair, stroking a cat, sipping spring wine. My inhabitants weren’t perfect – they were way too accepting of a lack of technological progress though they did make achievements in what some might call “magic” or the manipulation of natural processes. They kept things so …”

“I understand, Roen, but as you know, the whole point of birthing these civilizations is to see them grow and thrive on their own, not to keep them as pets.  If you feel this current one is not working, then I suggest you reset and start over.”

Roen was silent while mulling this over.

“I will return in five hundred rotations,” said Han. “Do not grow discouraged. That’s an order.”

 

* * *

 

Roen hated to admit defeat but he knew when he was licked. After making a few adjustments, he reset everything. Back to square one, but this time he introduced males as physically smaller and weaker than the females.

He watched this new scenario with excitement, though after a while he experienced some degree of disappointment. When Han arrived, he was almost afraid to give his report.

“I sense a reluctance to begin,” noted Han.

“Well,” said Roen, “I admit I’m feeling lukewarm about the situation.”

“Go on.”

“The females, in general, love and even adore males of their choosing, but reproduction runs at a slower pace than in the first reset. Females tend to run their own societies with males as second-class citizens as long as the males involved remain peaceful and somewhat passive. Since I did not remove the natural tendencies of the males, even thought they are physically smaller, a high percentage of them still strive to dominate each other or whomever they can, therefore creating the usual volleying for position whether females are involved or not.”

“And so….” encouraged Han.

“Since the physically larger females are less likely to allow themselves to be controlled either physically or emotionally by the smaller males, and since in some cases, they just tend to ignore or exclude them from important roles in society, the males often form groups of their own with infighting and then fighting with other all male groups.”

“How bad is this fighting? Are you referring to actual war as in the last scenario?”

“Yes. In a few cases, they used serious weapons and ended up burning villages uninvolved with the disputes.”

“Killing females again?”

“And the peaceful males who live with them.”

“Let me ask you this: what were the main occupations of the peaceful males?”

“Farmers, livestock managers, scientists – for the time period, of course – we are speaking here of a still primitive and mostly agrarian society but with small cities developing; architects, town designers, builders and inventors. Some doctors and artists.”

“How is that different from how peaceful males behaved in the first reset?”

“These do not dominate the females. They are not much involved in politics.  The females don’t permit it. Should they try, they are told to leave and eventually locate the all male tribes. In some cases, these tribes kidnap smaller women and hold them captive as reproductive slaves. Their lives are, as you can imagine, hell.”

Han sighed. “What do you plan to do?”

Roen’s attitude had, Han noted, changed some. More experienced now, he was not so afraid to dive into the project and get his hands dirty. “I’m going to reset,” he said with some confidence. “There is no other option.”

 

* * *

 

Han, having issues of his own, did not return until more than a thousand rotations had passed. “I’m so sorry,” he told Roen. “A huge upheaval occurred, universes subjected to turmoil and reversals. I would have come sooner but it was impossible to get away.”

Roen didn’t seem perturbed. He wore the preoccupied look of a well-engaged professional. “I have it all going now, though it might be too soon to know if this new reset is going to work.”

“Tell me about it,” Han said.

“I just finished another reboot – you missed what happened.”

“I’m really sorry,” repeated Han.

“I am not trying to cause you to feel guilt. I just wanted to tell you what happened before I performed this new reset. I think I’ve got it now, but you need to hear what occurred in reset number three.”

“Do tell.”

“Well, I introduced normal sized males but with a female to male ratio of 4 to one. This kept the males somewhat in line as far as governing went but created other problems.”

“I can imagine,” said Han dryly.

 

“The males had to be shared for reproductive purposes and the females didn’t like it. They grew quite testy. Certain higher placed females in society hoarded males for themselves and their daughters. As a result, those males grew either conceited or exhausted and depressed. Few were allowed to develop their own interests and many tried to escape into the wilderness. Some enjoyed the pampering but those were few. A society that tries to keep any of its members down and unable to expand on and develop their own interests will just not work.”

Han smiled. “So, you’re just starting reset number four? What do you have in mind this time?”

Roen smiled. “Are you ready?” He was obviously pleased with himself.

“Quite,” said Han.

“There appear to be different mentalities in males, what could be called Alpha, Beta and whatever on down the range. I’m not sure what you’d call those who don’t do much of anything, just sit around drinking or smoking something in front of huts or general stores. There are always a lot of those around, but of the ones who contribute to society in a larger way, it boils down to Alphas and Betas.”

Han nodded.

“Well, I am resetting to a scheme that will contain an equal amount of females and males but the males will all be Betas.”

“I like that,” said Han. “Would you mind if I stick around a while and watch how this goes?”

“Not at all,” said Roen. “Perhaps while we do so, we might drink or smoke something while sitting in front of a hut?”

Han laughed. 

 

* * *

 

 After a few hundred rotations, Han, who currently was enjoying a cup of mead while disguised as his avatar, noted to Roen by a rigged up communicator device, “Have you noticed that the less intelligent females are frustrated? Apparently in past resets, they have been most attracted sexually to Alpha males, or possibly males who imagined they were Alpha, and now those females can’t find any? The Betas just don’t do it for them.”

Roen, currently disguised as an old female weaver, whispered into his communication device, which was attached to a bag of magical charms he wore around his neck. “Yes, that is definitely noted. While some Betas will use less intelligent females for sexual amusement, not many wish to mate with them permanently.”

“Consequently, those females are not reproducing much. When they do, their female relatives often support them, but they often enjoy no steady mates, male or female, which is not conducive to a healthy family life.”

“So,” whispered Han after taking another sip of his mead, “you’re predicting that eventually less intelligent females will die out? I have a question: wouldn’t the less intelligent females, even when mating with a Beta male often produce less intelligent males, which in turn might turn into Alphas?”

 

“I have,” said Roen, “set things to weed out those genes. But if a strong Alpha male should appear anywhere, I will remove him from the game. After a while, they will cease to appear.”

“And you will have a world of intelligent females and Beta males.”

“Yes,” said Roen.

 

“I do have a question.”

“I’m sure you have many,” whispered Roen in his old woman weaver guise. “Some people have seated themselves next door. I can listen but not speak so well.”

“Let them think you’re a crazy old woman who talks to herself,” joked Han. “My question is: when intelligent females and most likely intelligent Beta males run society, what would happen should a threat appear from outside? I mean, since without Alpha males, there wouldn’t be endless wars and destruction, who would lead to defend the society militarily should that threat actually call for war and destruction in return?”

“Good question, Han. But I’m not worried. You must realize that Beta males took part in great numbers in all the wars they were forced into and most likely often arose to leadership because of their steady, sane way of handling things and their quiet manner of using their brains instead of being led by testosterone. Who, do you imagine, in my first reset, unobtrusively built the ships and other vehicles that carried the explorers or warriors? Who, do you think were the ones quietly working in their studios on their inventions or painting their masterpieces? Mostly Betas, I am certain. And do not fear that a Beta will not pick up his sword should he need to in order to defend his family and land. Also, do not imagine that the females will not fashion extremely cunning weapons should the need arise. No worries, my friend. I believe this society is in good hands. Indeed I almost hate to leave it.”

“But leave it, you shall, Roen. I am a proud teacher and you have graduated.  Let us pop out of the game, if we may, and I will tell you what’s in store for you next.”

“Next?” said Roen quite out loud, causing the women next door to look at the crazy weaver and whisper among themselves. Carefully, Roen gathered his belongings and stepped inside “his” little house from where he would vanish completely and the ladies would spend the rest of their lives wondering if the old weaver had been a witch.

 

* * *

 

Han and Roen met in their space as usual, far above the game, which was now running quite satisfactorily. “You may return to check on it now and then but in the meantime, Roen, your next assignment is ready.”

“Will it be similar to this one?” asked Roen with some trepidation.

“In some ways, quite similar,” said Han. “Though I have upped your difficulty level. This game will involve three sexes and five forms of intersex. Have fun.”

 

Margaret Karmazin’s credits include stories published in literary and national magazines, including Rosebud, Chrysalis Reader, North Atlantic Review, Mobius, Confrontation, Pennsylvania Review, The Speculative Edge and AnotherRealm. Her stories in The MacGuffin, Eureka Literary Magazine, Licking River Review and Mobius were nominated for Pushcart awards. Her story, “The Manly Thing,” was nominated for the 2010 Million Writers Award. She has stories included in several anthologies, including STILL GOING STRONG, PIECES OF EIGHT (AUTISM ACCEPTANCE), ZERO GRAVITY, DAUGHTERS OF ICARUS and SPACE BETWEEN STARS. She has also published a YA novel, REPLACING FIONA, a children’s book, FLICK-FLICK & DREAMER and a collection of short stories, RISK.