“You will love Paul for the rest of your life,” said the all-knowing, forbidden, ancient computer buried at the heart of the ancient, decayed Lampa Rampa Boulevard, floating a mile and a half above the recently renewed ancient world of old Earth.
“I knew it!” Virginia said. “My love, our love, is real! And it will last forever!”
The storm that has been brewing in the distance for a while was now getting dangerously close. The wind ruffled the couple’s hair and recreated historical cloths.
“Can I try?” said Paul. He wasn’t sure whether this was skepticism, a concept to which he was only recently introduced by his recent mandatory hypno-education, or just plain curiosity.
“Of course, my love,” Virginia said. And so he did.
“You will love Virginia for the next twenty one minutes,” the old computer said.
Virginia and Paul looked at each other. They knew that they were doomed. Not even the mighty lords and ladies of the Municipality, the all powerful elite governing humanity in its entirety, could be of help. For even the brightest are powerless before the simple computation of fate.
They spent the next twenty one minutes alternately crying, fighting, making up, and dutifully loving. Eventually the storm arrived and the wind took them, and nothing remained of them and their love.
An indeterminable number of years had passed without incident. Then another young and unsuspecting couple came to visit the old forbidden computer hidden above the clouds. Their names were Arthur and Mercy, and they were destined to love each other for the rest of their lives and for the next twenty two minutes, respectively. Crying in shock and horror, they spent that duration groping blindly, attempting to get off Lampa Rampa Boulevard. The broken road was full of potholes, and eventually Mercy slipped into one. Arthur held her hand for the entire long, short way to the ground below.
The next couple to arrive, who knows how much later, had their love destined to eternity or twenty three minutes, whichever came first.
More years and iterations passed. Eventually, slowly, word of this recurrence reached, by some convoluted way, the ears of the mighty lords and ladies of the Municipality. They sent two of their own to investigate: a woman and a man who were, deliberately, as far from loving each other as possible. And perhaps, as some of their lofty colleagues put it, the mighty Lady Orange and the cruel Lord Jest were the furthest from love itself.
As they reached the broken stretch of road surrounding the lair of the ancient computer, another storm was brewing in the distance.
“Well,” said Lord Jest, “here were are. Let’s turn that thing off.”
“You will love Annabelle for the rest of your life,” the ancient computer said.
“No I won’t,” Lord Jest said. He gave the lady a nasty smile, acknowledging the improper usage of her first name, enjoying it, to her annoyance.
“You will love Rodney for the next one hundred and twenty six minutes,” the computer said.
Now it was the lady’s turn to smile.
“Enough!” Lord Jest – Rodney! – said angrily. “Let us destroy this abomination and be done with it.”
“You will love Annabelle for the rest of your life,” the computer said.
“How tiresome,” Lady Orange, Annabelle, said.
“You will love Rodney for the next one hundred and twenty seven minutes.”
Both lady and lord drew their weapons, thin quasi-metal shafts cunningly embedded into their light, monomolecular clothing. No non-augmented human had even seen those weapons drawn and lived to tell the tale.
“You will love Annabelle for the rest of your life.”
“I hereby declare you an unregulated thinking machine,” said Lady Orange, facing the old computer one last time, “and as such – forbidden.“ Justice demanded formalities to be kept and observed under all circumstances. “Therefore,” the lady added, “you are requested to turn yourself off, after which time you shall be decommissioned.”
“You will love Rodney for the next zero minutes,” the computer said.
“Zero?” Said Rodney, Lord Jest, that is, quickly and suspiciously, right before the old computer exploded.
In the years to come, the heap of rubble on the ground, a mile and a half under the giant hole in the now utterly forbidden Lampa Rampa Boulevard, would become a preferred destination for young lovers. On certain summer nights, one could see the moon trough the opening in the clouds and in the road above them.
And the remaining ladies and lords of the municipality, mighty as they might be, thus learned of the dangers of integer overflow.