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Barmy to
the Spire

What's all this barmy stuff?

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Barmy to the Spire

The Barmy Shorts Company Presents
Baking With Unit 25B11
by Tom Bubul

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A woesome tale of baking in Mechanus, a struggling rogue
modron, a moigno, and how they both ended up getting along.

Noone knows exactly why it happens. One day they're marching along polishing the gears in the most lawfully chaotic plane there is, where the gears turn either to the whoa or joy of those living on them, and the next they're off gibbering in Sigil, trying to make spellhaunts. It might be that one wrong blip, that one odd System Error: Redo From Start, it might just be that they get sick of marching along as happy, clockwork gnomes for the plane's highups. Whatever the cause of roguism is, two things are for sure - it's rampant these days, what with the off-key March and whatnot, and the rogues do some bloody strange things once they realize they're individuals and if they want to do funny things, then, hey man, it's my life and I'll bloody well live it how I want, so polish your own gears.

One particular rogue, one Unit 25B11, enjoyed baking after he got corrupted by the madness inherent to the Gears' very nature. When they kept turning after he saw his immediate superior eaten by and invading slaad, that was the end. He stayed in Regulus with his mop, scrubbing mechanically at his assigned gear, but when a Quinton starts to look more and more like a little, square monodrone, "Things Get Noticed By Superiors." In this case, his superiors noticed after a little, barmy old local lady bought a cake for Primus off of poor Unit 25B11. When she delivered it to the local Guvnors' office to bring up to old Primus, they went and checked out the shop she bought it at (after eating it - Primus doesn't like cake), and found a decomposing Quinton. They gave him a decent beating, and declared him a free modron. So there he was, free. He didn't need to keep gear cleaning (which was an embarrassing job for a Quinton to have anyway). He could bake.

But he couldn't bake very well. His pies included all the things he liked eating; oil, grease, washing fluid, scouring pads to remove rust. It was Modronic health food. And it tasted the way a grandfather clock might taste, if you took it off the wall, cut it up, and added salt. Humanoids called him barmy, the parai called him imperfect, Guvnors called him a loophole, Mathematicians an error, and other Modrons didn't recognize his existence. And noone would try his pies. He let out a mechanical sigh.


Elsewhere in the Multiverse's Engine, a subtask of the search for pi was whirling off through the void, pondering, well, pi. A moigno. It blipped happily as it counted the gears, made sure they were turning correctly, and worked at inhuman speeds to find one of the most improbable numbers of all. Then it came to a gear. The gear was green. It was large. It had Hardheads on it.

"Analyze..." a nanosecond passed, "...analyzed."

"[check gearsize(10pi alpha)]..." nanosecond, blip, "...[gearcheck (if [gearsize(10pi-alpha)] then[gearsearch(gearname(bysize(10pi-alpha))])]."

"Searching..." blip. "Error."

"Searching..." blip blip. "Error."

"Failure to comprehend gear of size 10pi-alpha. New search."

"[search colour([ansi(g, pi-alpha])..." blip, confused fluttering, a nanosecond of a stop in the search for pi. "Failure to comprehend gear of [ansi(g, pi-alpha)]. Must find primary function pi. More pi needed for comprehension of gear colour g. Primary function, error. Failure to execute. Terminate."

The moigno blipped, stretched, and snapped in half. One part, the primary pi search function, had no recollection of the event - the other, which had the rest of the moigno's knowledge, whirled off madly - also in search for pi... but in a different way from it's first logical part.


Unit 23B11 tried to lean it's head in it's hands, but couldn't, as it's whole body was technically it's head. It did fall over, though, with it's hands underneath itself, so technically it was a success. Business was slow today. Noone wanted any pie or cake or anything, they just wanted to walk away and go about their business. He wished he could go about his business, but he couldn't, because the other Modrons didn't want him to. So he sat dejectedly, his insides whirring and clicking in a slow, apathetic rhythm with the ticking of his baker's clock.

Then he stood up, because the door gong made it's 'bong' noise.

Floating before him was what he imagined would scare any mathematics-fearing, snot nosed Sigilian student out of their mind. A living, calculating, two dimensional piece of algebra that keeps on changing it's variables. A moigno. It looked around the room, in whatever way moignos look.

The modron creaked to a standing, businesslike stature... knees partially bent, elbows partially bent, wings outward. "Can eeeeye," it creaked, "help you with anything, sir or madame?"

"(I) am pi, searching for pi," it blipped.

The modron whirred it's arms happily and said, "I know how to make pie."

The moigno bleeped excitedly. "Pi is (my) primary function. Give pi."

The modron made a cha-ching noise, as it held a pie out at arm's length. "Five pieces of silver, please."

The moigno blipped. "Not pi. Pir(squared)."

The modron rotated his shoulders in a way that might've been a shrug. "They are?"

The moigno blipped twice. "Pir(sqaured)."

The modron whirred, "Would you enjoy pi-squared?"

The moigno's subroutines organized themselves so as to look like a very strange smile. With a two dimensional nod and blip, it said, "Pir(squared)."

The modron nodded (that is to say, it's whole body rocked back and forth), and said, "Several moments, please."

The moigno, with all the time available to a two-dimensional mathematic equation, blipped happily for several moments.

The modron went back to his stove. He opened it up and slid the pie cutter, a circular, bladed disc he used to cut his massive mounds of motor-oilish dough into perfectly circular pies. He took this disc out of the oven, which was at the time baking, and bent four perfect right-angles into it. He pounded out the curved edges between these angles with his fist, making a square blade. He stuck it back into the oven, and jammed it back onto the gears that moved it up and down to cut the pies.

Several minutes later, a ghastly misshapen pie, square only to the close observer and oozing it's cherry flavoured insides all over the oven and the floor, plopped out of the oven and splotched onto 23B11's serving plate. He made a mechanical grin, and brought the dish proudly to the still-blipping moigno.

"Square pie, 5 pieces of silver."

The moigno flashed and rippled, and five silver coins appeared on the counter, in place of the pie. The modron ate them promptly, and said, "Thank you. Come again. Please do not litter."

The moigno said, "More."


After several weeks of making square pies and eating five pieces of silver per pie from this moigno, the modron grew quite silvery, and the moigno content to just annoy other customers. He found a portal to Sigil, cached in some plating on his left side, and used the money to build a shop. His first pie sold to a Sigilian was his most memorable.

The bleaker marched in wearing a miserable look on his bleak face, like most everyone else in the city, except the Sensates (the drunken buggers), and looked angrily at the pie. "My mum," the words rolled sarcastically off his dark red, forked tongue, "makes circular" he made a circle in the air with his leather-gloved-with-the-fingers-cut-out hand, "pies."

The moigno blipped, "Pir(squared)"

The bleaker turned a glare at the moigno and hissed, "Aww, get outta the second dimesnion, you, you," the words were like acid, "calculator. Pies are definitely circular, I've been eatin' em since I was a li'l kiddie."

The modron kept grinning it's big modron grin, and said "I can make you a circular one in a square shape. That'd work well for both of us."

The bleaker quirked an eyebrow, and rubbed at his scruffy chin. Bits of dirt and a few fleas fell off. "A circular square?"

"Sure," something cranked on the modron's inside, and slight, low carnival music was barely audible from the grates in it's backside, under it's apron, "Look." he took the pie, and spun it in a very fast manner. "Circular."

The bleaker spit on the floor, and rubbed it with a steel toed boot, and struck sparks with the spurs on his other shoe. "Nope, oi wanna real circle one."

The modron tried to shrug, but, like leaning on it's hands, it didnt work. It's whole body mearily bounced slightly. "It's cherry."

The bleaker spit again, and muttered, "I'll take one, but just because it's cherry. I won't enjoy it." He paid his five silvers and took the pie. The store got an incredible influx of business very shortly, and Unit 23B11 finally managed to get things working for him. He found a race of people who did enjoy motor oil in their pies, and didn't mind the occasional metal bit... Sigilians.

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All content copyright 1999 Jeremiah Golden or credited authors.