The nobler our intentions
The muddier our words
A self-important man once said
The intelligent are doubt-wracked
While fools are self-assured
I would revise that to
The truth is complicated
And lies are simple

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Oglethorpe’s Multi-Variegated Tyrant Flycatcher (Empidonomus multivarius) holds the record of largest name-to-bird ratio, at 3:1 to 4:1 depending on the font. R. Evans Oglethorpe was actually accused of fabricating the species to take the title for himself, as ornithologist doubted that such a small flycatcher could be so boldly colored–especially Arnold Huntsman, discoverer of Hunstsman’s Dapplebacked Pewee, the previous record-holder. But an independent investigation in Uruguay confirmed the species, and all subsequent challengers, such as Gregson-Williams’s lesser southern semipalmated megapode, have proven to be either misidentifications or hoaxes.

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“I have laboriously documented every interaction. Every moment, every word, every subtle feeling that passed between us. It’s all here, in these diaries, cross-referenced and indexed.”

“It is a very impressive achievement. But why?”

“Are you familiar with the idea of breeding back an extinct animal?”

“That’s when you try to find all their descendants that mixed with other animals, right? And you try to bring out the traits of the extinct thing through breeding?”

“That’s right. But the original thing has been lost, forever; you are merely gathering up as many pieces as you can, in a vain attempt to simulate the whole.”

“I don’t follow.”

“She is gone. These are the pieces.”

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As a result, all of the major zombie TV networks, from ZNN to ZBC to Zomb News, have called the 2020 election in favor of challenger Medulla “Dully” Oblongata. With 306 votes in the Encephalic College, Zombie President-Elect Oblongata easily possesses a majority, and has begun his presidential transition into the Blight House.

However, at press time, Zombie President Brayne had not conceded the election. Instead, Brayne insisted that he had won and that all votes cast for his opponent had been “brainless” and that millions of living voters had illegally “crossed over” to stuff ballot boxes for his opponent. ZNN and Zomb News have not found these allegations to be credible, especially considering that Brayne’s political party, the Mortician Party, gained seats in the Charnel House and Deadnete. This was contrary to widespread polls indicating a Necrotic Party sweep.

In his first remarks as Zombie President Elect, Dully Oblongata emphasized his desire to return to former Zombie President Omerta’s policies. “Rather than the wholesale eating of living brains, we will return to a more measured, deliberate pace of brain interaction,” he said. He declined to provide specifics as to how many, if any, living brains this will involve consuming.

Pundits blame the Red Death for Brayne’s historic loss after only a single term, as it has led to hundreds of thousands of new zombies rising from their graves, filling the rolls with first-time voters who do not support Brayne’s hard-line, zombies-first policies. The Mortician Party in particular has been outspoken in denying that the Red Death exists and branding the new living dead as “illegal decadents.”

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As per the (unusual) request from the Director, the Research Division has completed its analysis into the license plate, “TAMMY 5,” that the Director saw during his commute. As license plate numbers require a fee to the DMV for specific information lookup, and the Director declined to provide this fee (despite paying the Division’s salaries), this report is, necessarily, speculative.

Possibility 1
This is the fifth car owned by a person named Tammy, sequentially. The previous for cars would be Tammies 1-4 in this scenario.

Possibility 2
This is the fifth car owned by a person named Tammy, concurrently. The owner possessed four other cars or motor vehicles licensed as Tammies 1-4. Since the car in question was, quote, “a sucky Chrysler,” this is considered less likely than Possibility 1.

Possibility 3
This is the fifth car registered to a Tammy in this state, with Tammies 1-4 belonging to unrelated Tammies. This is also considered unlikely, as one would expect for Tammy’s middle or last initial to be substituted.

Possibility 4
This car belongs to someone named Tammy whose middle or last initial is S, and “Tammy S” was already taken, leading to the alphanumeric substitution of “5.” One member of the Research Division raised the point that it is, theoretically possible, if staggeringly unlikely, that the person’s actual middle or last name begins with the numeral 5, so that (remote) possibility is duly recorded here.

Possibility 5
One member of the Research Division raised the point that is is, theoretically possible, if staggeringly unlikely, that the owner is, quote “a gynoid of some kind, possibly a sexbot” and that Tammy 5 is, as such, her model designation, with Tammies 1-4 being earlier or collateral models in the same line of gynoids (or “sexbots”).
This is theoretically possible, if staggeringly unlikely, so that (remote) possibility is duly recorded here.

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The jetpack was liquid-fueled, with one tank holding simple water that was combined with a reagent to produce a powerful thrust.

That was all it took for the idea to be planted deep in someone’s cranium.

Within a month, there were catfish delivering mail using a jetpack. Small letters only, at first, and snail spam, but by the time the technology was perfected, they were delivering small packaged up to three pounds.

The problem, as with so many drone-based delivery systems, was simple: hungry people with guns, breading, and a taste for seafood.

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“You see those serrations there, and the imprint on the side of the building?” Rat-Man narrowed his eyes within the cowl of his costume. “That can only mean one thing.”

“Holey cheese, Rat-Man, what could that be?” his sidekick and ward, Mousey, said.

“The most diabolical villain of them all, Mousey: Quarter Pounder. A former mint worker, driven insane by a proofing accident, he is obsessed with our nation’s humble twenty-five cent piece. Since then, Quarter Pounder has been in love with the color, the brilliance, the divine ring of cascading quarters. He welcomes any enterprise that will increase his stock–which is considerable.”

“Masticating molars, Rat-Man! He doesn’t sound very intimidating at all. I mean, quarters? How can you hurt anybody with quarters?”

“Well, he has an impossibly large quarter. And he’s been known to kill people by burying them in quarters–sleeping with Washington, he calls it. And perhaps most diabolically of all, he stole the quarters from a machine where the Rat-Mobile was parked, leading to a two-hundred dollar ticket and fifty hours of community service.”

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The sphinx lolled over like a big housecat, lazily examining its paws. “I’ll tell you what,” it said. “Since you’ve been rather amusing so far, and a good sport, I’ll give you a chance, if you want it.”

“I do,” said Nick. “You know where she is?”

“I do.” The sphinx smiled smugly. “And I’ll tell you. If you answer another riddle.”

“That’s it?”

“This is a super-riddle, the best and toughest one I have. Same rules as always: you get it right, you get what you want. You get it wrong, I gobble you up.”

“I’ll do it.”

“You sure, Nicky boy?” the sphinx said. “I’ll let you walk away now with your life if you want.”

“Yes, dammit!” Nick shouted.

Startled, the sphinx drew itself upright and hissed. “Very well, then. A man performs shadow puppets with the skill of a master. It is shadow puppetry performed in total darkness. Yet you percieve every motion and follow perfectly. How do you do this?”

“That’s easy,” Nick said. “The puppeteer is blind. It’s darkness just for him.”

“Wrong,” whispered the sphinx, licking its chops. “Maybe you’re the one who’s blind, eh?”

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And then, once the negative emotions have been concentrated, they are safely and painlessly extracted and stored. Since emotions, unbound, are inherently dangerous, they are stored in specially-bred laboratory animals.

What kind of animals, you say? Well, it depends. For instance, if the emotion we’ve excised is anger, the ideal storage animal is something very docile: a sheep.

An angrisheep, if you will.

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“It looks like there might once have been a pretty advanced civilization down there, but there’s little sign of it now.”

“Oh?”

“Some ruins, evidence of road networks. Not much to go on.”

“Any life?”

“Microbe-analogs and a few eukaryote-equivalents. Nothing larger than that, the environment is too degraded for it.”

“What makes you so sure there was an advanced civilization, then? Or any sapients at all?”

“There. See this space station there, in orbit? Very cannily placed, very precise orbital insertion. And, according to this, one passenger. Or their remains, anyhow.”

“How long…?”

“Millennia. There’s no way to know how long exactly. But they, whoever and whatever they were, had a ringside seat to the end of their world.”

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