Alvin turned from Cathy to the other three. “That’s it,” he repeated. “That’s it? Correct? That’s it?”
“We would not expect you to be agreeable to our decision, Alvin,” said the Nadrum, “but be aware that your disapproval is not relevant. Now, I believe this session is over. You have been accommodated by being allowed to hear Dora One speak. There is nothing further to entertain. There is nothing further to discuss, there is nothing further to say. We will adjourn now.”
“I have a lot to say!” Alvin yelled, standing quickly. “You’re just going to kill everybody?!”
“Dora One has assessed the situation on Earth and has given us the moral authority to do as we please. Our choice is to ensure the safety, well-being, and continuation of the Grace race. Also, you will not stand while I am sitting until I have given you permission to do so. Sit.”
Alvin sat, slowly.
“I have to say I’m somewhat surprised by your outrage, Alvin,” the Nadrum continued. “Isn’t what we’re about to do, exactly the same as what humans on Earth have always done? Sacrificing one thing for the benefit of the more advanced species?”
“I don’t see you as being more advanced,” countered Alvin.
“No?” posited the Nadrum. “I would disagree.”
“You kill your cows,” said Parma Das. “An inoffensive species. And your chickens, and your pigs, and anything that is capable of trusting you so that you may get close enough to kill it. Explain the morality of that. Explain how our intent is divergent from your own habits.”
“We’re not cows,” said Alvin.
“No, you’re worse,” Parma Das shot back.
“Alvin,” began the Nadrum, “your America is predominantly what is called a Christian country, correct?”
“JM-4 may correct me on this, but doesn’t it say in the book that the Christians adhere to, oh, what is it called,” and she looked to Cathy.
“The Bible,” Cathy said.
“Yes, that’s it. The Bible. Doesn’t it say in the Bible that God, your god, encouraged the Israelites to move to the land of Canaan—oh, and there was a lovely euphemism for that too, what was that?”
“The land of milk and honey,” said Cathy, meeting the other’s glance.
“Ah, yes, the land of milk and honey. And the Israelites should go there and kill every man, woman, and child. Which they did. And this act pleased their god.” She looked at Cathy again. “I’ve got that correct?”
“Yes,” said Cathy. “It’s in the book of Joshua.”
“Why are you helping them!” Alvin yelled at Cathy.
His outburst and anger startled her. She tried to gather herself but was still faltering and hesitant in her response to him. “I’m answering a question. It’s my job.”
“You see,” began Parma Das, with no sense of apology, “we’re just fulfilling a destiny, as you Earth people would. An objection to us doing so, if raised by anyone on Earth, yourself included, would be hypocritical. Don’t you think?” Her smile indicated it was a rhetorical question.
Alvin breathed heavily and absorbed as there seemed nothing else he could do. He turned to Taus. “So, you’re going to kill everyone? You’re going to kill everyone on Earth?”
“Oh, no, no,” said Taus agreeably. “Just America. And just a part.”
“The middle part. That’s the most fertile.”
“And the cleanest,” Parma Das added as a passing reminder to Taus.
“Dora One has allowed us to do this,” said the Nadrum. “Our concern was the morality of it. Now we have no issues with the morality of it, as Dora One has analyzed and assessed your species as not only having no point and no purpose, but are inherently corrupt, and inherently violent, and eventually—if left to their own devices—doomed, as you have just heard.”
Alvin reviewed in a moment everything he had studied about the history of the Earth. He searched for an argument. He searched for an argument that evidenced good overshadowing evil—not that good didn’t exist, but that it surmounted a history of horror. He thought long and hard in the room’s pressing silence. All he could say, mutter, looking down at the floor was, “Dora One is wrong.”
“Dora One is not capable of being wrong,” said the Nadrum. “Dora One is programmed to be objective and logical. Objectivity and logic are incapable of arriving at an incorrect assessment. Ever. On anything.”
No argument was forthcoming from Alvin.
Taus looked to the Nadrum. She nodded. He looked to Parma Das and she nodded as well, both indicating that the session was done. The three began to rise.
“I’ve seen nice things,” Cathy said quietly. She lifted her eyes to the others. “And read them. Altru…altruistic things. And independent thought.” She sat fully upright. “From Unfollow, A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, by Megan Phelps-Roper, page 254: ‘With each new kindness, I understood with ever greater clarity the depths of my ignorance about the world. Clearly, the people writing these words were not demons I had been warned about. They didn’t hate Grace and me—”
“Grace?” interrupted the Nadrum.
“The author’s sister,” said Cathy. “Her name is Grace. ‘They didn’t hate Grace and me, and they didn’t expect us to hate our family. They understood that the same people who taught us to curse Westboro’s enemies were the ones who had kissed our cheeks and tucked us in at night. Though we had shown these people hostility and contempt in their most vulnerable moments, they extended generosity and compassion to us in ours. They empathized with us in our pain and wanted good things for our future. Dustin and Laura, Newbery and C.G., Cora the bartender and Ryan the dealer—I had seen them as exceptions, but it was starting to occur to me that there might be a lot more goodness in the world than I had believed. I’d been so sure that it was filled with hateful, selfish, vindictive people, and I had never found so much hope in being proved wrong.’”
The three stood stonelike, surprised, taken aback, as well as nonplussed by this impromptu and unsolicited uttering.
“And you recite this for what purpose?” challenged the Nadrum.
“Megan Phelps-Roper had assessed and judged,” said Cathy. “Then, given more time, she reassessed, and reversed her judgment. Perhaps given more time, Dora One might do the same. Perhaps Dora One didn’t have enough time to complete its objective assessment.”
“JM-4, this author of yours is reversing a previously determined judgment due to its human emotion,” Parma Das said sharply. “Both initial judgement and reversal are invalid given the inherent fallibility of its assessor. That renders it a non-issue.” She both wanted to be less dismissive but at the same time make sure the argument was over, and so stoically tossed in, “But thank you for your input.”
Cathy looked to the floor, then back to them, uncertain of herself. She glanced from one to the next, then stopped on Parma Das. “Cathy,” she said simply. “I am Cathy.” Then in respect added, “Ma’am.”
No sign of displeasure shown in Parma Das’s face as she stared back at Cathy, at her proudest accomplishment—JM-4. Outwardly she remained still and calm, but within she was startled and confused. She had a sudden and unexpected sense of loss. But then the confusion dissipated, and the loss dissipated, slowly, slowly, drifting away further, then further. “Yes, of course,” she said quietly. “Cathy.”
The three turned and walked towards the door behind the table. Once the door closed behind them, the hologram would disengage. The conversation would be officially over.
“Wait!” yelled Alvin, standing now abruptly.
“What?” asked Taus, turning back.
“Sit!” Alvin yelled. “Just sit!” Alvin had realized that pleading and begging had no effect, so he chose to opt for aggression in order to get their attention and hoped it wouldn’t blow up in his face. This proved successful as the three returned to their chairs, however sloth-like. ‘Point for me,’ he thought. ‘Part one accomplished.’
The Nadrum clasped her hands in front her. “Alright, we’re sitting. What?”
“Are you sure you’ve thought this through?” Alvin asked.
“Positive,” said the Nadrum. “Anything else?”
Alvin began pacing the room. He was not rushed. He thought before speaking, knowing he at least had their attention—for how long, remained uncertain. He turned back to them. “You’re gonna destroy everything, at least the middle part of America, right?”
None of them responded as this subject had been already covered and so they took it as a rhetorical question.
“Okay, fine. Destroy everything. Kill all the people. But you know what? If you kill all the people, and level the whole area, you’re going to kill all the bees at the same time.”
“Bees?” asked Parma Das. “What are bees?”
“Bees,” said Alvin. “You know, bees. Little bees.”
“No, we do not know,” said Parma Das.
“I didn’t think so. Bees are little things, little flying animals, and they go from plant to plant, from orchard to orchard, from flower to flower, and they pollinate things.”
“What is pollinate?” asked the Nadrum.
“I have no idea. I mean, I can’t explain it. But it’s this thing they do. It’s like sex with plants or something. I don’t’ really know. That’s not important. But they have a symbiotic relationship with everything that grows. And what they do is make things grow. They make fruit grow. And if you kill everything, you’ll end up killing them too, and you won’t have fruit, and you’ll all die of rickets!”
“Are you making this up?” asked Taus.
“No, it’s real. And you need to take it under advisement. Also, given your plan of destruction, have you considered what sort of a desolate wasteland you’re going to move into?”
“We understand that there will be a need for rebuilding following our initial plan,” said the Nadrum.
“Yeah, well, it’s gonna be shit city. You’re gonna have millions of dead corpses to deal with and then the cholera that’s going to explode from that. That’ll probably kill you before you get a chance to have rickets.”
This was disquieting news for the three at the front of the room. They looked to each other waiting for somebody to offer a counterpoint, but nobody did.
“You can avoid this,” said Alvin.
“How?” asked the Nadrum.
“Okay. They’re awful—we’re awful, and weak, and violent, and self-serving. Fine. Don’t kill them—help them!”
“How?” asked the Nadrum. “And why?”
“Why? Because it will serve your interests. How?” Alvin thought for a moment. “Human beings react to only one thing. Fear. They don’t change or do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. They don’t adhere to moral philosophies out of respect for the teacher or because it’s the moral thing to do. Their responses, and their opinions, and their actions, are driven solely by fear. You,” he emphasized, “are scary. Use that to your advantage. Take over.”
“What do you mean by take over?” asked Parma Das.
“Don’t destroy Earth—run it. You need to let Earth know, or at least America, that you are an unopposable threat. They need to know this before you even show up. That being the case, you need to provide a demonstration. And that demonstration needs to make them afraid to react. And they have to know that this demonstration is coming from an intelligent entity. You need to send a message, and it needs to be clear.”
“Like what?” asked Taus.
Alvin thought for a moment. “Can you shut down the Earth’s electrical grid so that everything stops moving and functioning except for hospitals and airplanes in flight?”
“Of course not,” said Taus.
“Okay, I didn’t think so, but I wanted to give it a shot. Forget that. You obviously have some sort of weapons that are weapons of mass destruction, otherwise you wouldn’t have concocted this whole thing to begin with, right?”
“Correct,” said Taus.
“Okay. How close to the Earth can you get, to target and strike your chosen objectives, without being attacked in return?”
“Oh,” said Taus, “that would not be difficult. We have the capability of focusing on a target from, oh, from your hundred thousand miles away.”
“Good,” said Alvin. “And with what accuracy can you target from that distance? What degree of error is expected?”
Taus needed to mull it over, not being an expert at their weapons systems but still having a reasonably good comprehension. “Within a hundred and fifty mett sokal.”
“In English,” Alvin said. “What is a hundred and fifty mett sokal?”
Taus turned to Cathy for a translation.
“Three and a half feet,” Cathy said.
“Really?” Alvin said, impressed. “That’s perfect. The idea here, is to blow something up. It must be significant. And at the same time pointless. Useless. And the destruction must send a message. Now, you can’t hurt anybody. And when I say anybody, I mean even a single person. And you can’t destroy anything that will negatively affect the daily process of the Earth—it can’t affect the economy, or the police, or hospitals, or data systems of either the government or private institutions. It has to clear, it has to send a message, it has to be violent, but do no harm.”
“What did you have in mind?” asked the Nadrum with a challenging degree of sarcasm. “What might this perfect target be which does both harm and no harm at the same time? Tell us, please. We’re most intrigued.”
And Alvin thought, ‘What the hell do I have in mind?’ He couldn’t come up with anything off the top of his head. It was such a great plan, except for the fact that it had no resolution as to how to do the first part.
“I don’t know,” said Alvin.
“Mm hm,” said the Nadrum, and she prepared to leave.
“Give us one day,” Cathy suddenly said.
Alvin was struck by the reference of ‘us’.
“Define day,” said the Nadrum.
“One Earth day,” Cathy responded.
“Fine,” said the Nadrum. “You have one Earth day to provide a suitable target, one that fits your seemingly impossible parameters.” She leaned forward. “And then what?”
“Once you’ve made clear your presence, and your ability, your threat,” Alvin started, but he was getting stuck because he was formulating his plan second by second at the same time he was relating it, “you have to been seen,” he concluded. “Earth has to see you physically—but in a way you’re not threatened, and, um, understand you’re a real…thing.” That gave him a measure of confidence. He paused for a response, taking a timeout to try and figure out what the next part was.
“How?” asked Taus.
Alvin searched for a simple answer to a complicated problem.
“In the truck,” Cathy said. “The transporter. Bring them here in the truck camper.”
“Bring who here?!” the Nadrum demanded.
“The president!” Alvin blurted. “The American president.”
“Are you insane!” Parma Das yelled, rising. “Do you think this is a game! A joke?!”
“It’s possible,” Alvin replied, now more calm and confident as he saw the concept further reveal itself. “Human beings act on familiarity. At the university, I have a history teacher I know fairly well. He knows me, he trusts me, at least I think he does, enough anyway. It would not be difficult to entice him to come with me, with me and Cathy, to the transporter. Once we get him there, and in, we go.”
All three people behind the table wanted to ask how? but they were still trying to figure out what the point was of getting a history teacher to the ship so they didn’t bother asking how? since so far this plan still seemed pretty stupid. But Cathy caught sight of Taus wrinkling up his face and brow and felt the need to jump in.
“Humans are easily intrigued,” she said, “especially if given the opportunity to see something nobody else has. It makes them feel singular and special. Magicians know this. P.T. Barnum too. It’s just a matter of teasing them into the tent.” She looked to Alvin. “Right?”
“Right. And nicely put.”
“What are you talking about!” said the Nadrum. “What tent!”
“The tent with the tattooed lady,” Cathy said. “The four headed albino from Timbuktu. Little Egypt and her famous Dance of the Pyramids: She walks! She talks! She crawls on her belly like a reptile! Just one thin dime, one tenth of a dollar. Step right up, folks. She can whoop your ass at arm wrestling. You can even use two hands. You still won’t win. Isn’t that amazing? How does she do it? Why, she’s just a little girl. She must be out of this world. Now climb into the magical and mysterious truck camper that takes you to see the aliens from outer space that blew up your precious though presently yet to be determined object.” Her voice shifted from barker back to her relatively normal self as she glanced at Alvin. “I think we could pull this off. I think I could be a big help here.”
“You’re the star attraction,” Alvin replied.
“Is there something wrong with her?” the Nadrum asked Parma Das.
“Oh, no,” responded Parma Das, not entirely sure herself but at least wishing Cathy would rein it in a bit and be less colorful at the moment.
Alvin went from Cathy to the other three. “So, bring him here. And show him around. Show him everything, especially the Armada, and the fighters. We then return with him to Earth, Cathy and me, and we go to the head of the history department. My teacher tells him what he witnessed, here, and takes the head of the history department to the transporter. Curiosity and trust already established. We return. You then show him. Next is the president of the university, who trusts the head of the history department who is backed by my history teacher. They come, they leave. Each person who comes is then a stepping stone upward. We continue to move upward in social importance, each connection, each step, being a bit higher than the last. The president of the university contacts a senator, the senator contacts the governor, the governor contacts another governor, then a third, then the three contact the secretary of state, and then the president. Then the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because they’ll need to stand down when you actually do show up. They’re the ones with the weaponry. Because that’s going to be the issue. Getting them—and the president—to not react, because they’re terrified of doing so, if you want everybody to survive and not have a hellhole as your land of milk and honey. It’s just a matter of building blocks based on social rank and trust. Like knocking over dominos. All it requires is patience, which you have a lot of, apparently.”
“Alright,” said Taus slowly, “they don’t react. That’s what we want. Then what?”
“Negotiate a settlement for the Grace. All four hundred thousand. But keep a contingent of fighters or…whatever it is you have that is capable of destroying the Earth, here, distant but ready, should there be a need. Maintain an unending threat. That’s the Grace’s security, for those who then are to inhabit Earth.”
“How and where do the Grace live?” said the Nadrum,
“The American government has no end of resources—well, if pressed, and of course here they will be. Habitats for the Grace can be constructed. Not just shelters, but a city, and systems. All can be organized and laid out to whatever requirements are needed. You’ll dictate that.”
“And if they balk at such accommodations,” said the Nadrum, “if they choose not to adhere to your grand plan and grand design, what then…Mr. Zaronsky?”
“Kill them,” Alvin said.
“And you’re fine with that.”
“Sure. I’m trying to save them; if they’re too stupid to be saved, I can’t help that.” Alvin took stock of his momentary glibness and more seriously added, “I see no other options, actually.” And he didn’t, given the alternative which was the Grace’s initial plan.
“Alvin,” Taus said, leaning forward on the table, “you said run it. Run Earth? Run America?”
“Both. America first, then the rest of the Earth. One will follow the other.”
“Who will run it?”
Alvin looked to Judy Dench in the middle. “The Nadrum, of course, as queen, as she is now, with the two of you assisting.”
There was a long silence as everybody involved let this entirely new, rather dicey, though not disagreeable concept sink in.
“I have a question,” said Parma Das, and her face was firm. “Where?”
That question needed no further details as its intent was clear: Where will all the Grace live? Alvin thought for just a brief moment. “Wyoming.”
“What is Wyoming?”
“Very open. Very few people there now. Fertile. Spacious. Coal extraction is foremost in the country, so there is industry, and consequently dependence on whoever is running it, which would then be you, thus making you ever an indispensable necessity, as well as dangerous, which is an ideal combination. On Earth we call this win-win.”
“What’s coal?” asked Taus.
“Crap that makes stuff go.”
“What are the negatives of Wyoming?” asked the Nadrum.
“It’s snowy and cold,” said Alvin. “Not always, just most of the time.”
The three of them behind the table looked to each other. “I don’t really see that as a problem,” said the Nadrum and the others nodded agreement.
“Internet connection is probably not very good, though,” Alvin added. “You’ll probably need to install dishes to get TV.”
“I don’t know what any of that is, so I assume it can’t be very important,” said the Nadrum.
“The Internet is a system of information transmission,” Cathy politely informed. “Dishes are satellite dishes which would bring in the signal.”
“Am I addressing you?” asked the Nadrum.
“No,” said Cathy, who then reflexively—and irked—widened her eyes and turned her face away, which in hindsight would have been better done in reverse—turning away and then widening her eyes—so as not to be noticed.
“Did you just roll your eyes at me!” yelled the Nadrum.
“No ma’am!” Cathy responded, quickly coming to polite attention. “I had a thing in my eye.”
“Yes.” She squinted and performed an impromptu facial exercise to support her claim, then returned to her standard countenance. “It’s okay now.”
The glare from the Nadrum to Cathy was uncomfortably long for the latter. But then the Nadrum broke off and returned her attention to Alvin. She rose. “Very well,” she said. “You have one Earth day. Provide an appropriate target and we’ll take it under advisement.”
“No,” said Alvin. “I’ll—we’ll—provide a target, and then you will follow through. There would be no further discussion.”
“Don’t push yourself forward with me, Mr. Zaronsky,” the Nadrum said with quick and calm confidence. “It will serve you poorly.”
“I’m trying to help you. I need you to trust me.”
The Nadrum considered it, though, she didn’t like being contradicted, let alone by this Earth thing. “Fine. Pick a target, and we’ll follow through with your plan. Also, I find you annoying. Just so you know.” She looked at Cathy. “You too.”
Alvin and Cathy nodded to her appropriately and walked to the door and departed.
The Nadrum turned to Parma Das. “I’m not sure I care for her.”
Parma Das was unsure if this was an off the cuff remark or a threat and it froze her momentarily. Unable to determine which it was, she nonetheless said, “She’s fine,” turned and left.
Cathy and Alvin sat on the floor of Cathy’s bedroom. Their backs were against the side of the bed. They both sat cross legged—toe under knee and knee under toe, with one person’s knee or toe spending most of its time in contact with the other’s knee or toe. Either in their laps or strewn about them were all the books Cathy had with pictures of Earth, which was more than most people have of pictures of Earth. They flipped the pages of their respective books.
“How about the Sphinx?” Cathy asked, not looking up from her book.
“I like the Sphinx.”
She flipped some more. “The Taj Mahal. It’s just a tomb. It’s also a bit excessive for just one person’s tomb.”
“It has visitors.”
“Maybe we could find out what the visiting and non-visiting hours are.”
“Maybe. But what’s the message? We hate India? We need something big. Global.”
“Oh,” Cathy said, looking up from her book. “Satellites. They’re in space. If you blow them up, nobody will get hurt.”
“I thought about that, but I wouldn’t know which ones to blow up. I don’t know who they belong to either. We might blow up a Russian satellite and make the Americans real happy. Also, we don’t know what the negative effects would be. Well, I don’t, anyway. Or how it affects the Earth’s stability.”
Cathy exchanged her Wonders of the World for a National Geographic book. She began flipping through then had an unrelated thought, paused, and looked up at nothing in particular. “Alvin, I don’t think you can die from rickets.”
“How do you know?”
“I just checked.”
“Human Diseases by Marianne Neighbors and Ruth Tannehill-Jones.”
A reflex caused Alvin to glance at her bookshelf, then try to remember when she got up to go look at it and wonder why he hadn’t noticed. He quickly disengaged from the project realizing that she had simply—just now—checked her head. “Okay,” he said.
“I think it’s interesting that somebody has the last name of Neighbors, don’t you?” she asked.
“Yeah, but the singular Neighbor would be better.”
“Oh, yeah, I agree.” She returned to the National Geographic book and flipped some more. “How about the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica? It’s on the verge of falling apart anyway.”
“The idea is to not speed that process up. Also, what would the message be?” Alvin asked.
“We have the power to destroy your penguins.” She flipped forward a few more pages. “How about the top of Mount Everest?”
“I don’t think anybody would care.”
“Okay, how about all of it?”
“That sounds time consuming and messy and is just going to inconvenience the Indians and the Nepalese. We need something that causes no harm, doesn’t inconvenience anybody, but gets everybody’s attention—America’s anyway.”
“I don’t know how you’re going to find something like that. If its absence doesn’t matter, then why would anybody pay attention?”
“I don’t know,” Alvin said, exasperated, acknowledging her point, wondering if he didn’t get way in over his head with this particular concept. But then he suddenly looked up. “Wait, what did you say before? About the Taj Mahal?”
“I said the Taj Mahal. I’m unclear on how to further elaborate.”
Alvin’s brain started taking over, or more specifically his memory. Movie night. Movie night with Rika. “Big Ben,” he mumbled. “Mars Attacks! Big Ben, flying saucer over Big Ben. Then the Taj Mahal. Washington monument. And then, and then—”
“I’ve got it. Call Taus and Parma Das. I’ve got the target.”
Cathy dialed them up on the wall communicator while Alvin stood before the screen. She then pressed her back against the wall so as to be unseen.
“Are you hiding?” he asked.
“Yeah. I think I’m in Dutch.”
“Where do you get these terminologies?”
“Y’all? In Dutch? What are you, a civil war veteran from Alabama?”
“I think Parma Das is mad at me. I think the Nadrum is mad at me. Actually, I’m pretty sure about the last one. Don’t let her know I’m here.” Cathy breathed quickly. “Oh, dear me, I think I’m getting palpitations. Mercy.”
“Yes, Alvin,” said Parma Das as she appeared on the screen.
“I have the target.”
“What is it?”
“That head thing in America?”
“We could do that. Is Cathy there with you?”
The jig’s up, Cathy thought. “Yes!” she announced, way louder than was necessary.
Parma Das rolled her yes. “The two of you come here tomorrow at time fourteen and we’ll discuss further details. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it,” said Alvin but then had an afterthought. “Also take out the Crazy Horse memorial seventeen miles away. That way you won’t leave anybody out and you’ll be seen as an equal opportunity aggressor. It’s also equally hideous and stupid and just a giant head.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Fine. Two targets, five heads. I’ll need you to assist on the coordinates of both targets. See you tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
At what in South Dakota was Thursday at three a.m., aboard the Mela, much higher up, five Grace technicians sat at a long table in a line. Each registered affirmation that they had their targets when called upon to do so. Alvin and Cathy, the Nadrum, Taus and Parma Das, along with twenty-eight other Grace were present, some just observing the moment, others assisting in a technical capacity at other tables and monitors.
“We’re ready,” said a Grace to the Nadrum as he stood behind the five primary technicians.
“Very well,” she said. “Begin.”
Each called out their firing, three seconds apart. “One fired, two fired, three fired, four fired,” and finally, the Grace aiming at Crazy Horse seventeen miles further away, nine seconds later said, “Five fired.”
The projectiles fired were no larger than a golf ball. But they impacted their targets at twenty-seven thousand miles per hour. The splattering was complete. Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Crazy Horse were obliterated in an instant. All that was left was two mountains, just like they used to be, though, a little more rubbly around the base.