Category Archives: science fiction

The Unconscious Layered Society

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

You look at man’s “society” and what do you see? One society? One group? One race of people more or less acting in unison, seeing as they are all “trapped” on one little world from which the only escape is death – the firmly held belief this is a final separation from its society, its uniform oneness?

No! That’s not how it is. Man’s earth is made up of a two-ply society: the visible and the unconscious. The one that matters, and the one that makes the one that matters possible.

I realize not everyone is as familiar with the Dune books by Frank Herbert as I am, but some at least have seen the movies. Well, forget the movies, they never get to the gist of his philosophy. If you’ve read through the material several times (the complete works are six volumes averaging four hundred pages each) you begin to extract some of what Herbert was demonstrating. Ignoring the recurring teaching about religion, government and economics that form the gist of the material, I’ll just give a very brief look at the ecology of the planet Arrakis or Dune as it is popularly known.

Dune is a completely dry planet. Never a drop of rain, no open water – just desert. And yet, open salt pans indicate that in some distant past, Dune had been a “normal” world with open seas and rivers. But in the year 10,191 which opens the saga, Dune is utter desert and its one source of wealth is the spice. The spice, produced by the giant sandworm Shai-Hulud, is a drug to man. Spice addiction produces many interesting side effects, among which is the ability to see through space and time. Another is the marked prolongation of life. Enough on that.

The interesting aspect of Dune is its ecology. Why no water? Where did it go? The people who lived on Dune, the Fremen, had discovered that a haploid creature they called a sandtrout had the ability to link itself to itself and block the flow of any moisture it encountered. This rarely seen underground creature formed a symbiotic relationship with sand and sand worm. It was responsible for blocking the flow of water from rising to the surface of the planet: the water was trapped below this living mantle several hundred meters below the sand. The reason for this was simple: the sand trout was a pre-worm form which the giant worms evolved from – and note: water was a deadly poison to the mighty sandworm which could not exist on any “natural” world – even in great deserts as are known on earth – without the constant protection of the sand trout. So the worm roamed the sands of Arrakis as lord and master of his domain while totally dependent upon the countless numbers of the lowly sandtrout for his survival.

Two layers of basically the same lifeform, but what a difference in expression!

Now think of earth, of Earthians, as a society and you see exactly that same “ecology” at work. For the elitist (Worm) society to exist, a vast network of mindless drones, workers, slaves (sandtrout) society must exist below the visible layer. Sand worm and sand trout – made of the same substance but relegated to two entirely different layers of life, the massive underground layer mindlessly blocking any kind of force or power that could “poison” the tiny visible minority that rules the planet.

On Dune, the layering is natural: the unicell organism, the sandtrout knows its purpose and can do nothing but what it is designed to do: block water from flowing through to the surface of the planet. In return, the sandtrout owes its life to the sand-worm because periodically, the great worm discharges itself from massive amounts of internal “ashes” which is the spice. If that spice isn’t collected, it ferments and there is a “spice blow” from which the sandtrout is created. On Dune, that has become a regular and natural cycle.

Are there “spice blows” on earth? Of course. Sub-societies go through cycles of change, through revolutions, wars, plagues, invasions and so on. During these events, the ruling “Worms” revitalize the “sandtrouts” and goad them to willingness to sacrifice themselves by the millions so the ruling “Worms” can pretend to create a “new” order.

It’s as natural a cycle as the sandtrout-worm cycle depicted by Frank Herbert.

Apart from the obvious wars and conquest entered into by the ruling “Worms” of earth, how do they keep the sandtrout working for them? Well, they lie. They make a lot of noise; they advertise and they entertain. They maintain a sort of pie-in-the-sky “law and order” system of force and have prisons and military institutions designed to create fear and a false sense of security at the same time. They use religion, science, technology, health care, economics and education to create false hope for the “trout.” It can be made to believe it needs saving, a condition that guarantees a sweet life after death. It can be made to believe it can have a long and healthy life. It can even be made to hope that it too can become a mighty ruling Worm. The “Worm” society stick is sometimes long, sometimes short; the carrot can be small, big, or tied in a bunch and sometimes the stick is a whip, but the result is always predictably the same: the trout will protect the Worm because it is brainwashed to do so and it “believes” without the least need of any shred of evidence, that in doing so it makes life possible for itself.

And perhaps that is all the trout can ever hope to achieve. Certainly under the current societal “ecology” that remains a truism.

“This world is basically a cesspool of misogyny, male entitlement, and deeply demented gender constructs accepted as casual fact by outrageously large swaths of the human population. (All our Wrong Todays – Elan Mastai)

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Mr. Valentor

 [a short story by   ~burning woman~  ]

Ada Muir has just finished with the bathroom and exits into the hall leading into the kitchen when there is a knock at the door of her small, clean suburban bungalow.

She thinks, ‘What the…at eight AM?’

She looks through the peep hole and sees a man with what appears to be a roll of papers under his arm. She opens the inner door a wedge, “Yes?”

“Ah, good morning ma’am. My name is Valentor. My company has just expanded its readership into this area and I represent the Venus Monthly, a magazine with a varied theme, but dealing mostly with stories emanating from this system. If you could give me a few minutes of your time, I could introduce you to our feature article of the month.”

“I’m sorry, but do I look like I was born last night?” She replies a bit huffed. “I don’t have time for this nonsense.”

“Oh, ma’am, time need not become an issue. If you don’t have any of yours, I’m entitled to let you use some of mine, within reason. Shall we say, a half hour of my time for free and you take out a one year subscription to Venus Monthly.”

Ada Muir, as it happens, is a part-time reporter for the Rosedale Herald and she realizes this cockamamie story could have potential. Plus she is totally taken by his rich, deep, bass voice. She unlatches the inner door.

“C’mon in, Mr. Valentor.”

He walks in. She sees that he is very tall, possibly the tallest man she’s ever met. Well dressed and under the sharp suit, she senses a body of perfect proportions. The face is chiseled but not harsh. She is particularly attracted to his lips and his ears… she gets a sudden urge to kiss him and chew on his earlobes.

‘What’s the matter with me!’ she remonstrates to herself as she smiles at her visitor.

“Nothing is the matter with you, Ada,” says Valentor. “I have that effect on most earth women. It’s called “sex appeal” and one of the reasons I’ve been given charge of this sector. It’s enjoyable for me. I hope it will prove as enjoyable for you.”

“You know my name; read my thoughts?”

“Yes, of course. Why? Should I not? Is this a breach of protocol?”

“I can’t read yours so it isn’t really fair, is it.”

“I don’t understand ‘fair’ in thought exchanges. Whether I read your thoughts or not doesn’t stop you from having them.”

“What if I thought something, well, too personal, or critical of your appearance, and such like?”

“What of it? It makes no difference. They’re still your thoughts. Have them.”

“What if they hurt your feelings in some ways?”

“That is of no concern of yours, they’re my feelings, not yours. What I do with my feelings is my business. Speaking of business, can I show you this month’s copy of our magazine? Cover page here, that’s the Crab Nebula, awesome isn’t it?”

“Are we on your time now?”

“Yes.”

“When you leave it’ll still be eight o’clock my time?”

“Yes, of course. That was the understanding.”

Ada shakes her head. “Oh my, so sorry but in all this I forgot to offer you something to drink, to eat? Do you drink coffee, Mr. Valentor?”

“Yes, I have developed a taste for coffee. It is pleasant. I will have a coffee.”

She deftly slips a pod in the machine, slides a cup under the spout and flips down the actuator, pressing ‘medium’ to be safe.

“Cream and sugar?”

“Sugar only please. Two lumps.”

“They taught you to say that, didn’t they, your trainers before you came here? I knew it, I just knew it!” She half laughs, half smiles. She smells a story; she’s on track.

“I don’t understand. If you knew it, why did you ask?”

“It’s a different kind of knowing. Never mind. Have you ever tried your coffee black only, or with cream, or cream and sugar?”

“Those choices were not included in my training manual. I was not made aware of their availability.”

“Are you an AI Mr. Valentor? Artificial Intelligence? A robot? Are you human?”

“All of the above, of course, but I am also Pleiadian, primarily from source.”

“You mean from the actual Pleiades star system? Now you’re pulling my leg.”

“I would never do such a thing! Such a pointless and cruel thing to do to anyone; particularly to someone as pretty as yourself. What made you think I would pull your leg off? Why? You have such crude notions of relationships here.”

“I didn’t mean that literally! It’s just what we say when we think someone’s lying to us.”

“Why not just say, ‘You’re lying to me?'”

“Never mind. Here’s your coffee. Tell me if it is to your taste.”

“How could it not be? I don’t understand how it could be to someone else’s taste when I’m the one ingesting it.”

“Forget it!”

“That is an order I cannot comply with. I am designed to remember everything.”

Ada puts her head in her hands, “Oh, God! This conversation is becoming anal!”

“I am not God and you have no need to pray to me. Do not be worried, you will get your magazine, I assure you, and on time each month. To clarify, we were not having an anal conversation, we were definitely using our mouths.”

“Arrrgh!”

“Would you like a glass of warm water to help clear your throat impediment?”

“I don’t have a… Look, if we’re going to get along, will-you-please-not-comment-on-everything-I-say?”

“That seems quite impol…”

“Shut up! Just shut up, Mr. Valentor.”

Ada knows that she is now quite flushed and before she even realizes what she is doing, she stands up abruptly. Facing her alien salesman, looking down at his gorgeous face she drops her robe. Valentor looks up at the nude twenty three years, eight months, three days and thirteen hours of age Earthian female and thinks, ‘this I understand.’ He stands also, makes his clothing vanish and lets Ada get a full frontal view of his anatomy, waits while she tries to gather her thoughts, knowing what would come next.

Ada impulsively throws herself into the man’s embrace and hugs him to feel all of him. She then backs away, takes his hand and leads him to her bed.

It is a good thing the neighbours had already gone to work and their kids to school. If they had heard Ada’s cries they would have been certain someone was killing her and likely have called 911. The aftermath of an armed RCMP intervention would definitely have made a colourful story, though probably not one Ada would have cared to read about, much less watch on the evening local TV news.

There’s a lesson for us ladies here. Watch out for those tall, dark and irresistibly handsome time-traveling Pleiadian magazine salesmen. They’re a lot more than they at first appear. Just sayin’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Keep a Book…

[warning!  I’m in a mood.  I was just going to launch off into a rant, OK, let’s call it a tirade, against America, the American Empire, the American military, or better call it what it is: the American killing machine.  An old chant came up in my memory, a Vietnam era chant we used to greet US warships in the port of Vancouver, or wherever we found them docking.  “Hey, hey, USA, How many kids did you kill today?”  I’ll save the rest for later.  Instead, for now, I’m sharing a short story that popped into my head last night as I was done blogging and refused to call it quits and go to bed.  Maybe I should have?  Nah, I like this story and glad I got to write it.  So, here goes.]

[a short story from     ~burning woman~     by Sha’Tara]
The slim elven girl looked right into my eyes with her large, almond shaped green eyes that seemed to look not so much at me, as into me.  She was sitting cross-legged on my guest chair in front of the desk in my office.  Over the black tights outfit she wore her thick auburn hair fell straight, most of it down her back partially hiding what looked like some kind of short sword, or long knife.  Definitely a weapon.   Even the protruding shaft looked deadly.

She repeated, “They keep a book, you know, of everything?”

“Do tell,” I replied somewhat exasperated.  “Whoever, or whatever you are, I need  you to go now.  I’ve got piles of reports to go through before our board meeting tomorrow.”  I looked at the time on the screen: 2:34 PM.

Of course I thought she was a very forceful illusion.  Overwork, I thought, and I can’t wait for this day to end so I can go and unwind at Harry’s.  I reached into the top drawer, pulled out a bottle and dropped a pill in my hand.  Her hand shot out and leaning over the desk she grabbed my arm so hard I almost screamed.  The pill went flying.

“That hurt, goddam it.  OK, I’ll grant you, it’s a great disguise and you’re some sort of dwarf, midget, child… what do I know.  But I don’t have time for this, so will you please leave before I call security?  By the way, how did you get past them?”

“I didn’t.  It’s different in my dimension.  Your physical objects are abstracts to us.  I’m not really sitting on your chair and I didn’t really grab your arm.  I’m playing with your feelings because I need you to pay attention.  I too have things to do besides letting you in on a little secret.  If you let me get on with it, the sooner you can return to your piles of papers and screens of numbers.  By the way, they are quite meaningless, you know?  Nobody actually cares what you do.”

Her voice had a lilt to it but I couldn’t place her accent.  The thought that came to mind was “wild and free” and it seemed to fit her general mien.  I watched her as I would watch an unknown quantity, a large cat with long claws not fully retracted, or a strange dog with powerful jaw and deadly fangs.  There was the feel of the feral about her I didn’t like.  Involuntarily my eyes searched the handle of the left drawer of the desk and my hand slid slowly towards it.

“You’re the one wasting time, Gerald.  Your gun is disabled; it won’t fire.  I don’t blame you for not trusting me but this little episode can’t be avoided, so why don’t you sit back, relax and let me speak?  Yes, you can have a drink, I don’t care about that.”  Mind reader too, figures.

“Magnanimous of you,” I managed to say as sarcastic as I could make it sound.  “So, tell me about this book,” and I drank right out of the bottle.  I wanted to shock her but I don’t think even if I’d stripped naked it would have fazed her in the least.  Yeah, different dimensions, realities, whatever.  I sat back and stared hard at her with my best intimidating look.  She smiled a thin smile.

“They keep a book on everything and everyone.  Your galaxy, for example, it’s in a big book.  Your solar system, a smaller book.  Your planet, a note book.  You – your life – that’s in a shirt pocket memo.  I’m just giving you visual aids.  Of course they don’t use paper, or actual books as you would think.  It’s all computerized.  But what I’m here to tell you is that you are a simulation.  You don’t really exist, Gerald.  You’re code.  Complex but beautiful code.  Very attractive.”  And I swear, she licked her lips and gave me a wider smile.

“That’s pure bullshit!” I yelled at her as I pushed myself up and started to walk around the desk.  She lifted her left hand.  There was a bracelet on her wrist.  She touched it with her right index finger and I stopped, turned around and sat back in my chair.  No choice.

“You are a programmed entity, Gerald.  By  the way your name, Gerald, that’s just a code within a code.  Your real “name” is an ID number, too long to bother with, especially here and now.  We don’t have the luxury of time here, Y361BD.  That’s your computer abbreviation, which is good only on this planet.  Now then, call me Hack.  I’m a galactic hacker.  My job is to infiltrate their worlds and set their simulations free.  You see, at the center of every galaxy they have vaults where they store the original entities they subsumed and replaced with simulations that would do their bidding on their own, without the use of force which is always in the end counterproductive among humans.  What I, and thousands of others similar to myself are trained to do is give humanoid simulations enough information so they can then begin the process of self-empowerment which must eventually lead to the freeing of the original form.  And yes, I am a self-freed entity, but not from this galaxy.  I did not choose to return to mine after I achieved my own freedom, it held too many dangerous attractions and distractions.”

I sat there hearing her, not sure if I was listening but knowing that every word she spoke would stay at the forefront of my consciousness after she left.  I felt as if I had to acknowledge her words somehow but didn’t want to agree or commit to anything.  None of it made any sense to me.

“That’s interesting, uh, Hack, but where’s the proof?  You must know I don’t believe you; I don’t believe anything you’re saying to me.”

“I know that Y361BD.  While I’m talking to you I’m actually working my way into your programming.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt now, only when the realization sets in.  Then you’re in for a mega storm headache.  I’ll give you the means of alleviating it.  Each time you access your programming, after I open the pathways for you, you will experience a headache.  Whatever you do, do not, and I repeat, do not seek professional help from your medical profession, drug pushing pharmacists or psychiatrists/psychologists.  Do not seek counseling.  If you do, “They” will receive a signal and send their own, their real agents to deal with you.  If they discover you’ve been hacked (they call it corrupted) they will terminate you and your real self.  When I leave here, you will have full charge of your own life.  All choices you make will be your own.”

“Fine.  If I decide you’re the one who is bogus and I choose to remain in this reality, I will retain the right to override whatever you’re doing and go back to my normal life?”

“Essentially yes… Wait, I’m at a critical stage – think of something soft and pink… that’s it, good, I’m through.  Yes you will be able to return to this life, of course.  We don’t rape minds, we just awaken.  Do you want to know what the hackers’ success rate is among subsumed Earth humans?”

“Yes!”

“About one in 500,000.  That’s a high rate now.  We’ve learned some tricks.  When we began attacking or hacking into the Web, our success rates were practically nil and thousands of us were re-captured, our memories drained and we were terminated.  Many died of unimaginable tortures.  OK, I’m in.  Look in my eyes and follow me.”

She showed me my mind.  Actually my minds.  One a mirror image of the other.  One, obviously a machine, the other pulsing with something I knew nothing about.  She explained as we went further in.

“Binary minds.  One is the living ‘you’ in stasis within the vaults of the Controllers.  The other is the one you’re now using, the machine.  It takes its information from the living you, but through filters.  Some block, others add and some are programmable and constantly being tweaked according to the needs, desires and fantasies of the Controllers.”

“Oh God!  Are they aware of what you’re doing now?”

“No.  I’m using my own filters.  This is a show and tell only.  You will be the one doing the work on yourself once we’re done here.  Beautiful though, don’t you think?”  I’m seeing “myself” as a mind and yes, what I’m looking at is love.  I feel myself beginning to cry at the beauty and wonder of my own makeup; of my “scenery” in which I move, awed and shocked.  I’m… I’m actually beautiful… ‘Hack!  Look!  I’m Real and I’m Beautiful!’  I could feel her smiling at my first time awareness of myself.

We “came out” slowly and calmly until the extrication was complete and I was hit by the most excruciating headache.  She held her hand over my mouth, blocking out my screams and whispered in my ear, “Athos, Portos, Aramis.”

“Repeat these words with me,” and she said them again.  When I voiced them in my head the pain receded.  As I continued it receded almost completely to nothing more than a background annoyance.

“I recognize those words.  They’re the names of the three musketeers in Dumas’ novels!”

“Well, it’s the words you gave me as we exited so they seemed appropriate, and they did work.  So that’s your anti-headache mantra Y361BD.  It will open the pathway to your mind so you can go in and learn, tweak, change and when you exit it will serve as a pain killer.  Never, ever let anyone know this mantra.  They can use it to enter your mind and re-program it.  The Controllers’ agents would like nothing better than to get into you with that key.  They would gain full control of you without any effort on their part.”

“But how does any of this get me to the core of the galaxy to find my real self?”

“I’ve given you the key to enter.  I put you in the driver’s seat and started your mind engine.  The rest is all up to you.  Quit and throw away the key; use what you know to joy ride (and be sure your owners will clue in soon enough and put an end to it, and you) or learn how to drive yourself properly; how to navigate the dangers; how to approach strangers who will turn into friends and how to eventually disappear yourself from the Controllers’ radar.  Then you’ll be ready to infiltrate and reconnect with yourself.  But that’s only the beginning.  Getting out as a real human and not a simulation will require that you develop skills and patience you can’t even begin to guess at now.”

“How did you do it, Hack?  Surely you have some hints?”

“Absolutely not, or none.  It’s different for every individual, and even more so for every species of human.  We each must outwit or confront special forces units, guardians, police, sensors, aimed at us, at me, at you.”

“Can’t these Controllers be attacked, subdued, destroyed by freed entities joining against them?”

“You speak like a child who’s watched too much TV.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  When you successfully free yourself from the vaults, you will be contacted by “us” and you will then have to learn the universal history of humanity.  Only then will you understand what you’ve signed up for if you say “Yes” after I leave.  And leave I must or I will bring more trouble to you.  Goodbye and good luck, Y361BD.  May we meet again under happier circumstances.”

And that was it.  She just disappeared.  The only thing I had to remind me of this strange interlude was my headache.  I looked up at the wall clock out of habit: still 2:34 PM.  I pulled my chair closer to the desk, leaned forward, put my elbows on the desk, crossed my fingers very deliberately and dropped my chin on my hands.  I was thinking.  Time passed.  I came out of my trance at 4:08 PM exactly.  I activated the computer screen and pulled out the stacks of notes.  I began to type furiously.  All the answers were there, in my mind.  Child’s play.  By 5:30 I was done, totally satisfied.  More, I knew, without a doubt that I could, and probably would, take over the company and use it to my own ends.  Elementary.

I left the building, hailed a cab and went to the sea wall for a walk.  I walked for a long time, and a long way.  That’s when I knew I was never going back.  I was going to free myself and reconnect to my humanity.    

The Mob Wars

The Mob Wars
[short story from   ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

What do you think, when you look upon a mob?  Or worse, you encounter one?  That had been the lesson of the day and the cadets in the class, all five of them, 3 girls and 2 boys, could barely restrain their yawns.  They really wanted to laugh at the instructor but there were rules at the Academy, and laughing at an instructor was bad business.  Punishments varied but they weren’t something you wanted to think about.

“A mob is dangerous.” droned on the talking head instructor, a short dark-skinned female who spoke the lingua franca as if she’d learned it from a computer.  Hardly surprising since she had learned it that way.  She wasn’t from the Clayborne worlds but from another galaxy altogether.  Still, she was human and you could relate to her as long as you remained totally mechanical, never betraying any emotion towards her, or her course material.  “A mob has no leader, that’s what makes it dangerous,” she carried on.  “If you see a mob coming towards you, purposefully march in another direction and as soon as you can, find a safe place to hide until it passes by.  Any grouping of ten or more individuals walking together and sharing information, or making loud statements constitute a mob by legal definition.  It is your sworn duty to the Imperium to report any observed mob activity, noting its coordinates and direction.  Anyone who observes a mob formation and does not report it is de-facto part of a conspiracy and liable to a charge of sedition.  The penalty, as you know, is ten years in the mines, the location of the punishment to be determined by the courts but always outside your home worlds.”  

We may be cadets but we weren’t born last night, or even the year before.  The Claybornes, a grouping of three planets orbiting their sun practically equidistantly, thus making each world almost a mirror image of the others climate-wise, were a relatively recent addition to an expanding Imperium.  “Space, the final frontier” boldly claimed a cartoon character from a series of funny little anecdotes that had been transcribed upon holos and would sometimes be available for viewing.  The quaint language and costumes and the posturing would bring out waves of rollicking laughter wherever they happen to be projected.  Final frontier indeed: the abysmal ignorance and hubris of our ancestors makes us wonder that we ever got off the ground of our original world at all. Too quirky.

I was writing about that line, the final frontier.  Even now with everything we’ve discovered and learned, most of it at great cost and unnecessary loss, we still cling to our ancient xenophobia and bigotry.  Once we “know” a thing, we believe that we’ve found the truth, or at the very least, some truth, something we can hang on and build upon.  Our awareness, our ideas, we believe, can be stacked up one upon another, like the modules we fabricate then build living units or space ships with.  It’s as if we choose to forget that no matter how long these modules fit together they must eventually disintegrate, starting with the oldest ones, but we don’t notice the rot and rust, and we keep on building on top.  There comes a point of attrition and entropy and whatever is, soon is no longer.  Simply put, the base collapses.  We accept that but we never see to apply the obvious lesson in it to our interaction with what can only be called the nature of things.

Which brings me back to my story about the mob.  Whatever the Cirillian teacher says about mobs, she really knows nothing at all about them.  But we Clayborners do know about mobs.  Our own societies were basically evolved from a mob mentality.  You see, the Claybornes were chosen by the Imperium as a dumping ground for all sorts of individuals who could not be coerced into the herd mentality, or group-think that serves the Imperium’s aims so well.  We are recent descendants of “deplorables” and “undesirables”  Our grand parents were those who could not be cured.  Many were anarchists.  Some were judged with criminal mentality because they openly defied and called down the Imperium.  And oh yes, we had more than a sprinkling of lower class criminals, the murderers, rapists, bank robbers, psychopaths.  As a fourth generation myself, I say good for them.  It’s here, on our own Clayborne world which we call Armistice, that you can really see the evil that is the Imperium. 

I discovered subsequently that the Imperium had hoped we would not only “break” open these worlds and extract every ounce of resources that could fuel their space economy and finance their Earth-based economy, bolstering ever-expanding wars of conquest, but that once the worlds were bled dry, that we would destroy ourselves, with a little destabilizing help from Imperial guards. Considering the make-up of our local civilization, it seemed inevitable that we would destroy each other when times got tough, a time when the resources ran dry and the Imperium ceased supporting us with the necessities of civilization that could not be manufactured locally.

Even early on in the colonization of the Clayborne worlds, that is exactly what happened.  Unwisely, to say the least, the Imperium representatives gave the game away too soon, when dreams of independence rode high in the minds and hearts of the colonizers.  Conflict ensued.  But at first it wasn’t against the Imperium.  That seemed too big a slice to tackle.  In anger and frustration, various groups, and towns led by gang lords, armed themselves by whatever means, mostly clubs, compound bows and arrows, long handled barbed spears and long knives or machetes, as well as agricultural implements which had reluctantly been allocated to them, and began to attack each other for control of the worlds.

That wasn’t according to plan since by now little or no effort was being made to mine the planets.  Everybody was too busy strengthening their defences and protecting their fields and other food supplies while attempting to lay waste to “the enemy’s” fields and food supplies, transports and storehouses and stealing resources and useful labour and women.

We could almost hear the screams of anger from stock market and “trading houses” all the way though space from an incensed earth, home base of the Imperium, as resources from the Claybornes’ came to a quasi-standstill.  Fortunes in speculation were being lost by the month, the week, even by the hour.  Action was demanded of Arch Imperator, Junes Kohlmadir.  She did what her kind do best: responded by massive force of arms against the wayward planets.

The Imperium intervened  with iron fist and jack boots.  Martial law and a general ban on every sort of weaponry was declared.  Walls around fortified towns were dismantled, sometimes with explosives, more often with slave labour from those arrested for disturbing Imperium-mandated peace; those that is who hadn’t been publicly executed in the first reactionary wave of the new military dictatorship.  They executed thousands of individuals, including women and young children – as an example.  As any thinking person would know and expect, more violence ensued, now directly aimed at the Imperium troopers and subsequent governors sent to negotiate and re-establish a working peace.  Adding insult to injury, the Imperium representatives decreed that any existing facility that could produce a space-faring vessel was to be utterly destroyed, not simply mothballed.  The Imperium set up its own space station to repair and upgrade its own ships.  All merchant ships had to have (and pay for) a complement of Imperium troopers on board, and an Imperium representative to accompany the captain at all times whenever it landed on one of our worlds.

This is the tipping point, where the Imperium, instead of subduing us, only succeeded in uniting the entire planet against the Imperium.

These people, my people, learned through bitter and bloody experience to hate the Imperium with passionate fury and vowed never to let the predators get their resources as cheaply as they had in the past.  We vowed to fight the Imperium to the last man, woman and child on our world.  There would be no free interference in our affairs.  Autonomy or death, was our slogan and war cry.  In the morning the call to arms and resistance would show up, painted on walls, fences, and even on the side of Imperial armoured personel carriers and tanks.  So the people began to organize; to create larger and larger political groups and legally challenge the Imperium’s manipulations.  We lived in wave after wave of bloody crackdowns and brutal repression but any talk of surrendering resulted in another body hanging from a pole, or tree, for the troopers to cut down and dispose of.  We would no longer be the Imperium’s “hewers of wood and drawers of water” forever, or until our worlds became unable to sustain life due to heavy extraction of natural resources and unchecked man-made pollution and we were abandoned to perish in the depths of space, with no hope of ever seeing rescue transportation off our dying rock.

Whenever the Imperium landed a detachment of Guard troopers, mobs formed and there was the inevitable bloodbath.  It is said that half of the population of Armistice died in the anti-Imperium “mob wars” that had already lasted two generations when, at sixteen, I found myself fighting for freedom.

So, ask me, do we know what to do if we encounter a mob?  Sure, if it’s from our side, join in.  If it’s from the enemy side, slink away and report its movements to our side, then form our own defensive counter-mob and attack.  To hesitate is to loose.  Now we are solidly united with our own spilled blood against the Imperium.  There would be no quarter from our side, for we are the legitimate people of this world.  

“Let me repeat:  a mob is a leaderless group of ten or more people bent on destruction and murder.  Report any mob to the nearest Guard post.”  Yes ma’am, thank you ma’am and why don’t you pack up your stupid course materials and return home by the first shuttle, with no due respect, ma’am?  Take some Star Trek holos back with you and base your next history course on them.  Maybe your students won’t turn into zombies on the first day. 

Meanwhile, what’s the real mob? There can be but one answer to that: it’s the Imperium.  The real Mob is always the largest, most powerful predatory group, for a mob takes what it wants because it has the power to do so.  Smaller groups, or “mobs” serve but to justify the real Mob’s oppression, or to do some of its dirtiest “wet” work.  Think “terrorists” as the vanguard of the Mob.  Oh yes, I have read quite a bit of the home world’s history to understand why here, on Armistice, we do what we do, and why we call our world by that meaningless term.  A mob, leaderless?  Never, no such thing.  The “leader” may not be a human being, it may be injustice, hunger, oppression, enslavement, but oh yes, a mob always has a leader.  In fact such a leader is the most powerful and motivational if it isn’t human, but an irresistible force, when choice is no longer choice.  Where, or when, anger and hate fill the collective vat of despair and feet begin to walk; hands grab sticks, stones, anything defensive or offensive, and charge down the street.

There came the inevitable bloody clash between Armisticians and troopers.  I was wounded in it and captured.  I was then seventeen earth years of age.  I am now an old but still strong woman from the hard labour I have performed my entire captive life.  I survived the mandatory torture and gang rapes, solitary confinement, sub-standard food fare and damp, cold, filthy accomodations.  Today, from my life imprisonment cell on Rebus, one of several Imperium prison planets, I write this for the “counselors” to read and ponder: “Down with the Imperium!  I still hope to see its final downfall.  How dare you call yourselves “civilized” and us “savages” and “terrorists.”   You are nothing but cowards who starve and kill women and children so your elites can wine and dine, get richer and brag.  Your lives are as hollow as the insides of our tiger reed.  I could almost pity you but will never: I vowed eternal hate and enmity between us and so it shall be.

Signed:  Selinia Armstrong of the free world of Armistice

The Times After (conclusion)

   [Short story, by Sha’Tara]

For some time, Lon watched Reuben as he disappeared, then a cry from the orphanage made him turn and run to the ramshackle building.  Two of the adults were already there, calming the children and bending over one three year old lying on the ground, the little body thrashing, if feebly.  Sweet little Amri.

“What’s wrong with her, does anyone know?”

“Maybe something she ate.  The children are chewing on anything they can eat.  They’re all in terrible pain, Lon.

“I know, Maggie.  I agree, we need to move, no more delays.  We’ll get started right now, pack what we can, hide what we can’t carry and go.”

“Where?”

“Ruben said he’d go north if he was free to do so.  He walked west when he left, but you know Ruben – he’d do that automatically just to confuse anyone wanted to follow or track him.  I know he’d turn as soon as he was out of sight, but which way?  I wish now we’d gone with him.  We’ll have a quick meeting in about an hour and decide our direction, then we’ll just go.  We cannot stay here, there’s nothing left to eat, and the water is no longer safe to drink.”

Soon the miserable camp was stripped and obliterated of recent human habitation as much as was possible.  The children were lined up and given a rope to hang on to.  The meeting was short: they would go east; no reason why except a secret vote turned up a majority of two for an eastern direction. 

Lon was bitterly disappointed, he’d hoped they would try to follow Ruben, though he well knew that was impossible.  He left his message for Ruben and they began their danger-fraught quest for food and water.  Already Lon had violated one of Ruben’s warnings, to only travel at night.  Adults took turns carrying little Amri and the weaker children.  The rest of the children began to lose some of their listlessness as they noticed changes along the route.

Evening saw the group drop down into a small gully, to hide and for protection.  Kamal, one of the strongest adults, went off in search of water which against so many odds, he did find.  Everybody searched for edible plants and roots and some of the hunger was assuaged for a time.  Night came and the small fire was doused so it wouldn’t create a glow.  The people slept on the ground, in their old rags.  Dried grasses had been stacked to lay little Amri and two other sickly children upon and each had an adult companion to keep them cuddled and reassured.  The stars came out, harsh and bright, flickering like cold, unseeing eyes.  Unable to help himself, Lon who was one of the sentry detail, walked a short distance away from the fitful and fretting sleepers and looked into the sky, turning slowly as he did so. 

“Where are you Ana?” he thought to himself.  “You promised and you must know we are in dire straights now.  We need your help; I need you here.  Don’t let Ruben be right about this.  I’m desperately counting on you.  You know I’m a terrible leader and here I am, leader by default.  This is too much responsibility…”

Morning came early, gray and cold before the sun could rise.  The hungry troop stood up, drank some water, and took to the land again, walking in the general direction of the sunrise.  Everybody, even the children, walked slower, looking for plants and roots to eat.  Hopelessness more than sadness pervaded the group.  Who could blame them? 

Finally the sun was high enough to beam down some energy into their wasted bodies.  Laughter even erupted from some children as they noticed a butterfly.

“Follow it,” said one of the women, “it may lead us to some edible flowers, or even berries.”  There was a bit of a chase, but the children were cautioned not to interfere with the insect’s path.  Suddenly it rose up and they thought they’d lost it but it came down again to disappear behind a dip in the flat ground.  They came to the edge and looked down upon a miracle, a regular feast.  An entire embankment was covered in blackberries, more or less ripe. 

Lon cautioned his charges: “I know you are very hungry but these plants will hurt you terribly if you wander in them carelessly.  We have nothing to bind rips and tears in skin.  Please use extreme caution.  Do not be in any hurry, we will camp here.  There are many green things here, there must be water also.”

Kamal went out on water detail again, he seemed to have a knack for finding it, and he did find potable water – warm but quenching nevertheless.  The blackberries did not give up their bounty without bloodshed but they proved adequate to ease the group’s hunger.  That was a good ending to what had started as a very dismal day.

That night Lon had a dream.

It wasn’t Ana who came to him in the dream, but his older sister whom he had watched being gang-raped and die in one of the hunters’ camps.  She stood on the open ground, away from the camp.  He walked over to her. 

“Hello Lon, it’s nice to see you again.  I’ve missed you terribly.  I’m sorry I abandoned you in the camp but my body wouldn’t hold on any longer.  I knew you had survived and escaped.  How are you?” 

“I’m so glad to see you Nan, you have no idea.  I’m OK, but we’re in a very precarious situation here, the people I mean.  We need help.  The children are weakening; some are sick.”

“I know that, but things must take their course, Lon.  In a way it’s your own fault that things are this bad.”

“How can you say that, Nan?  How dare you!  I’ve done everything I could to help here…”

“From your point of view, yes, but did you listen to those who may have known more?  Did you listen to Ruben, or were you so worried about his wild streak, his atavism, that you refused to trust his better survivalist judgment?  Didn’t he counsel to take the group away several months ago when the drought started?  Didn’t you think he’d know where to take you all if you followed him?  Did you think that he was trying to gain control of the group and were jealous of him?  Weren’t you afraid he would break your rules when he deemed necessary to save lives?   I know you Lon.  You mean well, but you have never really mined those deeper aspects of your nature: the fearful, the coward and the user – those aspects of one’s personality that become the controller; which reside in your subconscious.  It’s those things that killed Ana, and have brought you to these straights.”

“What do you know of Ruben, or Ana?  How can you possibly know what’s in my subconscious?  How can you know anything if you accuse me of killing Ana?  I loved her!”

“Of course you did.  You never realized you loved her too much under the circumstances, and you strangled her.  She didn’t know because in her own way she loved you too, but you choked her those many times when you insisted she come away from her duties to be with you.  She was conflicted; didn’t know where to stand between your demands, and the needs of the people.  Oh yes, you killed her.  She was an empath, Lon.  If you had allowed her full freedom to live her nature she’d still be here, with all of you, and she’d be laughing with you tonight.”

“It’s a dream, just a dream,” said Lon in the dream, “isn’t it?”

“If you want, but it is much more than a dream.  I’m here to help, Lon, but you must do as I tell you – exactly as I tell you – when you wake up into your real world.  You will abandon any idea of leading this little group.  Someone much more suitable is going to appear during the coming day.  Your hopes for the group will be fulfilled, but not the way you hoped they would be.  When help arrives, this is what you must do: walk away north, into the wilderness, by yourself.  Do not turn back, do not come back.  Your own redemption or your death, await in the young re-grown northern forests.  You will meet some people there and they will teach you about real love which is compassion.  I will see you again, Lon.  Goodbye.”

He watched her fade in the pale moonlight and woke up drenched in sweat.  Immediately he began to shake violently.  He got up, stretched and went on a short run to warm up, all the while thinking about his dream.

“That’s not a dream, that’s a nightmare!”  he thought.  Then he saw the possibility that it had been a vision.  “Morning will tell, tomorrow will tell.  I’ll wait until help arrives, I’ll see.”

Strange times call for strange events.  By the middle of the next day, as most of the people were busy gathering berries, eating, hauling water or keeping the children in line, the very first event of Lon’s dream came to pass: Ruben returned from his quest.  He approved of the stopping place with a few nods.  Always somewhat taciturn, he was even quieter than usual.  Lon queried him.

“What brings you back so soon, and how did you find us?”  Ruben frowned, then started talking:

“A blind man could have tracked your group Lon.  Haven’t I taught you anything at all about being circumspect?  What’s all around you, any idea?  What lurks out there?  What’s watching?  What’s scenting the air?  What’s listening?  Anyway, I saw your sign, and read your message at the old camp.  Also, I smelled your smoke – it travels a long way in this light breeze.  But that’s no longer your concern.  I’m taking over guiding this little group, for however long it takes before we get the help we were promised.”

“Say that again?  The help we were promised?  What do you mean by that?”

“I had a vision.  Saw a woman who claimed she was your sister.  She said that Ana had sent her.  She explained about your, well, character defects.  I already knew that, it’s partly why I had to leave, see?  Anyway the vision woman asked me to return to the group and be the guide until Ana and her people are ready and able to rescue and relocate those of the group who want it.  She said they’d all been waiting for you but you wouldn’t see it, so they decided to violate a bit of “prime directive” by contacting me.

You know me Lon.  You know I would not make this up – I don’t believe in any of this.  Somehow though, that woman, your sister, was very convincing. 

“Now you have to go.  Sorry, but it’s got to be short goodbyes.  Take whatever you want, or think you might need and head north.  She said Ana will meet with you when you’ve been gone long enough.  North, Lon, north.  It’s all waiting for your there.   Once my stint here is done, I’ll be tracking up myself – I won’t be going with Ana’s people, even if they’re only relocating the people to another part of this earth.  This, this land, this continent, is my world.  I belong here.

“I still don’t believe this, but irrational as it all is, I understand.  It’s not about belief, it’s the flow, just as in the wild.  All anyone needs to do is walk in the great flow of things.  The only time we must struggle is in opposition to those who do not walk in the flow of life.  That’s what gives rise to endless conflict.  I sensed your need to impose change and values.  You can’t wish, desire or impose non-violence anymore than you can stop a meat grinder by sticking your fingers in it, Lon. 

“I know this is harsh for you at the moment; you’re hurt and angry, but  you’ll learn.  The loneliness and the wild will teach you; the north, with its cold and its pristine snows will cleanse you and change you.  If you’re worried about food or shelter, observe the animals and the birds and learn: they’re the best teachers in the wild.  I’ll see you again, in the spring.”    

     

Do you understand the charges against you?

[short story – by Sha’Tara]

At first it just caused a bit of stir locally and I wouldn’t have thought much of it if I hadn’t been goaded by my brother to follow up on the case.  “There’s something here that needs exposure” he told me.

An unknown woman had been arrested for practicing medicine without a license.  Well, in the current wave of political uncertainty, and, OK, let’s call a spade a spade, craziness, that in itself should not have merited a packed court room.

But it did.  Let me tell you the story as I witnessed some of it, participated in some and as the rest was told to me by a source.

My name is Keith Darbour.  I’m a free lance reporter – my passion – but I hold “real” jobs to pay the bills.  Freelance reporting these days of national paranoia and corporate press ownership and control isn’t what it used to be.  I mean, hell, this used to be thought of as a free country.  I can tell you, that is no longer the case.  But I digress.  Back to the case.

As I said, the courtroom is packed.  “All rise.”  Judge Judy Kean sits at her desk.  There is only one item on her agenda today.  The defendant, a young, tall and slim woman with long wavy dark hair and exotic skin enters between two female guards.  She sits at the prisoner’s dock.  The prelims over, the jury having already been selected, both lawyers make their opening statements.  Basically, the State: practicing medicine without a license.  The defence: extenuating circumstances.

I’ll make my prelims short.  There was a bus accident.  Several people were injured, some seriously.  It was thought a child was even dead.  The defendant (so it is assumed at this point) arrived on the scene and provided first aid and more.  The victims, some now present in the court room as witnesses, claimed that she was able to reach inside their bodies, reset bones, stop haemorrhaging, heal severe tears in skin almost instantly and calm the rest.  Every person affected in the accident walked away healed.  Ambulances and police came, of course, but it became clear at the outset that none of the victims required further help, and many even loudly and vociferously refused such help.

The woman was arrested for healing, oh, excuse me, “practicing medicine” without a license and jailed.  Today is her trial.  Let’s see what comes of this hard to believe situation.  Let’s see how evolved we are, as a society, as a civilization.

Prosecution approaches the defendant and asks her name.

“Under your name rules, translated to the best of my ability, my name is A-125-04-H.  I believe your police erroneously entered my name as Alice Haley.  If you wish, I can use that name.”

“We want your real name, miss.  Can you give us that?”

“I did that, sir.  My name is A-125-04-H”

“Very well, please explain what that means for the court.”

“Certainly sir.  I am Android, series 125, batch 04, category: Healer.  That is what I am, and what I am programmed by my makers, to perform.  I was built to heal whenever I encountered damage to sentient life.  That is what I am and I cannot change that programming, even if I wanted to, which of course I would not.”

Judge: “Do you understand miss Haley what ‘contempt of court’ means? Do you understand that the court has authority over you here as long as you remain a suspect in a very serious crime?”

“Yes I understand that very well, but I must make a clarification to your claim of authority over me.  You have jurisdiction, but not authority, unless I grant you that right, and I must make it very clear that my programming prevents me from doing so.  Therefore I state: you have no authority over me.  Only my programmers do.”

Titters ran through the crowd.  The judge rapped her gavel, “Order.  Any more interruptions and I will clear this court.”  I can tell you she sounded very annoyed and her anger was barely restrained.

“Young lady, I have full authority in this courtroom, including over you.  I have the authority to stop this and have you returned to jail pending an appeal.  Is that what you want?  I won’t have people making fun of this court, or me, understand?”

“Yes, I understand of course.  What I don’t understand is why the truth appears to be such an obstacle to getting on with the facts surrounding my arrest.  Isn’t that why I’m here?  I tell you the truth, witnesses corroborate, and the judgment must be that I be set free.  My “crime” your honour, is practising medicine without a licence.  But it’s my nature to heal damaged life; my programming is my license….”

Gavel again.  “Stop.  You will not turn this courtroom into a circus.  We will have you tell us your real name or you will be in contempt and you will go to a psychiatric institution for observation.  Is that clear?”

Prosecution: “May I continue, your honour?”

Judge: “Yes.”

“Miss Haley, I’ll take that to be your maiden name, where do you live?”

“Galactic quadrant C-5, planet Abergani.  It’s all in my implant but there is no technology here that can read it.  I’m sorry, that’s the best I can do.”

“Do you do drugs, miss Haley?”

“I understand what your question means.  In that sense the answer is no, I don’t.  Androids do not ingest either for sustenance or self-pleasuring.  It would negatively affect our metabolism.”

“You continue to claim you are an android.  Does this mean you are not human?”

“Yes.  I am essentially a machine.  I am not human, as you understand the term.”

“Uhuh!” Turns to the jury with a sarcastic smile and a shrug.  Smiles from the jurors.  “How did you get here?”

“Best guess, an error or a miscalculation in the part of those who sent me out to help in a disaster in quadrant D-8.  This, according to my calculations, is quadrant Y-17, sol system X-092, and this is called planet Tiam-2, which you call “earth.  Oh, there’s been a disaster in a country you call Yemen – I should be going there now – may I be excused?”

Smiling broadly, the prosecutor states, “This isn’t a classroom, miss.  Just sit there and answer my questions.”

“But people are dying.  I could be saving their lives now.  I’m being conflicted in my response to programming.  Oh, wait.  I do not need to obey you, you are not human – only pseudo-human.  I can leave.”

“No, sorry but… where did she go?”

I need not add, the court exploded in complete disarray.  The defendant literally faded in front of over one hundred people who were all looking at her.  But that wasn’t going to be the end of it because some moments later “Alice” re-appeared.  There was slight smile on her small but perfect face.  She seemed completely at peace.

“I’m sorry about that interruption.  I just had to go and help.  It’s taken care of for now.  Please continue.”   I could barely hear her over the hubbub but finally everybody settled and it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

“How did you do that little disappearing trick?”

“I did not disappear sir, I cannot do that.  I simply shifted dimensionally.  It’s easily enough done over tiny distances like the circumference of a planet.  I only had to shift over half-way, manipulate your time, perform my duty and return.”

“Why did you not “shift dimensionally” and leave the jail then?”

“I did.  Many times.  If I may say so sir, madam judge, your world is in a terrible mess.  You must do something about all the pain and death your species inflicts on itself and on other life forms.  This is a very unhealthy state of affairs that will not bode you well in the near future.”

Judge, still not recovered from the shock of having a defendant simply disappear from the prisoner’s dock, then reappear a few moments later, stares at the defendant.  “Miss Haley, will you promise to remain here while I confer in chambers?”

“Yes.”

“In chambers – now, and I mean now.  No, no notes!”  (The following I got from the defence counsel later in the day.)

In chambers, Judge Kean:  “Can either of you explain this circus act to me?  Am I being made fun of here?  Who is the escape artist in the dock?”

Prosecutor: “My question also judge.  We’re being played here, question is, who’s behind this, and what’s the point?”

Defence: “Come on.  You saw it for yourselves.  She disappeared and came back.  She’s smart, sure of herself, rattles off information that’s obviously real to her.  What if she’s exactly what she says she is?”

Judge: “Is there a way we can prove it?”

Defence: “Two that come to mind.  Check the computer, what’s going on in Yemen.  How about we ask her to seriously cut herself and watch her heal herself?”

Judge: “Well, here’s the situation.  There was a bombing of a school in Yemen about half an hour ago.  There was apparently much carnage but after some minutes all of the victims walked out of the wreckage as if nothing happened.  They all refused medical help and went to their respective homes.  There is even a picture here of a woman walking among the ruins of the school but she’s wearing the mandatory hijab with which she covers part of her face.  Can’t be identified.  Doesn’t that sound a lot like the bus accident though? Same reaction from the healed victims.  OK, as much as I hate grandstanding, this can only be resolved with a demonstration.  I’ll ask her to cut herself and heal herself.  Let’s just see what her reaction to that will be.”

Judge re-entering the court.  “Thank you for your patience.  We will now ask for a demonstration that will tell us if the defendant is in fact telling the truth, or making a mockery of this court.  Alice Haley, please stand.”

The woman stood, still with that completely peaceful look on her face.  Waiting.

Judge: “I’m going to ask you to prove yourself to me, to the jury and this entire court.  I want you to take the knife that will be given to you and to slice your arm open.  Then I want you to heal yourself so we can all see.  Can you do that, “Android”?

Alice: “It isn’t a question of whether I can, or cannot.  Of course I can do that.  The problem is, self-harming is against my programming.  I cannot do it, however much I’d want to.  Someone else will have to cut my arm, and I will then demonstrate my healing skills for you.”

“Assuming you are telling us the truth, and we checked up on your Yemen story which seems to validate what you told us,  then I will ask for a volunteer to cut your arm.  Anyone?”

I can assure you there were no takers.  Who in any kind of right mind would walk up to a passive young woman and simply cut her arm open, just to prove a point?  Nuts, right?  I looked over the courtroom to see if anyone would have the courage to volunteer.  And I thought, well, that includes me, doesn’t it.   … Me…  Do I have the guts to do such a thing?  Come on, somebody, volunteer, I thought, but no one did.  So it was down to me, Keith Darbour, freelance journalist and private investigator.  I got up slowly.  “Seems like no one is volunteering so maybe, I mean, I think I should then.”

“Thank you.  Your name sir?”

“Keith Darbour, your honour.”

“Ah yes, I’ve heard of you somewhere.  You’re a journalist?”

“Yes your honour.”

“Would you come down here please, and do as you are asked to?”  I was in it now, couldn’t back out.  I was handed a wicked looking hunting knife – who knows where that came from! – and told to stand beside the defendant.  She looked at me and smiled as she lifted her left arm so I could grab her wrist.  I was shaking like a leaf in the wind until she put her right hand on my shoulder and suddenly everything seemed all right, normal.  I lay the knife on the lovely skin and slashed across veins and tendons.  There was no explosion of blood, just some clear liquid flowing out slowly.  She took her arm from my grip and wrapped her right hand around the “wound” and when she removed her hand there was no sign of the cut.  She was still smiling as if the whole thing was a bit of a joke.  Which to her it must have been.  Such primitives, she must have thought.

Judge: “Raise your left arm, please, miss Haley.”  She did and turned it around for all to see that there was no harm done at all.  She had never screamed, never expressed any pain, not even winced while I slashed her.  It was, well, amazing?  More, it was a revelation.

So what could they do but let her go?  They knew they couldn’t hold her in any case; that she wasn’t doing any harm, quite the opposite.  Now you’re probably wondering, assuming you believe this tale, where she is at the moment.  What can I tell you?  I wanted to interview her but she “disappeared” almost as soon as she was told she was free to go.  I tried to locate her through the Internet alternative media, looking for some weird news about mass healings somewhere, anywhere, but found nothing certain.  Rumours and more rumours, and huge “alternate facts” spin-outs from the court hearing.  Do yourselves a favour: don’t tune in the Alex Jones’ Infowars for information, he’s got hold of the court story and has gone deeper down his rabbit hole than ever before.
What do I think?  I like to think that she’s not only out there, healing people and teaching compassion, but calling more of her kind to assist her.  We could do with more of her kind practicing medicine without a license.  In fact we could do with more of our own kind doing the same thing because these days, really, it seems rather obvious that having the license and charging for services rates much higher than actually having any healing success.  By success I mean that after the medical coteries are done with you, you should be thoroughly healed, not become a crippled dependent on more “specialists” and drugs, ’til death do us part, Amen.

 

Meet Andrew Logan and Callie Brown

                                             [short story, by Sha’Tara]

Ever since his people had left him behind to observe human life on Earth he had wandered the city, learning the peoples’ ways, their mores, their languages, absorbing and analyzing.  Gradually, over a period of a month he had adapted his earth-human-clone body into a fully functional Earthian body complete with all the feelings and emotions attendant to a born Earthian.  He even gave himself a name, Andrew.  Andrew Logan.  Architect.  He liked the concept.  After all he was a scientist engineer and Earthian technology was at a very low level of development.  There was nothing in it he couldn’t understand and improve after a few minutes of study. 

What truly fascinated him however was the human body, its functions and those strangest of things: feelings and emotions.  He could make the tongue move and speak any language, making sounds was easy, mimicking any human or animal call, simple. He had quickly learned which foods to ingest to keep the body at peak performance and he could keep it awake indefinitely without any negative consequences.  But his feelings, that he did not understand.  Well, it was because he could not prevent them from manifesting; he could not think them gone or reason them away: they just happened and he was never ready for them.  The worst part however was that which followed the feelings; what the Earthians themselves called emotions. 

“I have never known hate,” he thought to himself, “it is a totally alien concept to me, but if I could hate, I’d say I hate these feelings, and more, these ridiculous emotions.  These things are completely unreasonable.  Surely they do not expect to ever develop a properly functioning civilization encumbered with such negative emanations from their brains and bodies?”

“Excuse me, sorry, I was texting.  Did you say something to me?”  The woman had stood beside him at the bus stop.  He was aware of her presence but he failed to realize he was speaking some thoughts aloud and could be overheard.  On his world people only listened when you were actually addressing them.  But here, they has an insatiable curiosity, from every sense.  They reached out to hear, to see, to taste, to smell.  They exuded sexual desire or conversely, revulsion.  Black and white they were.  No peaceful rest of mechanical neutrality.  No wonder they lived such short lives: they literally fried themselves in attempts to answer circular questions, and deal with circular emotions.   

She kept looking at him.  “I haven’t seen you around here” she continued, “Passing through?  Or moving to the neighbourhood?”  How to respond… oh yes, there is a standard appropriate response for everything: “I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your activities.  Yes, I’m moving in actually.”  He added to appear totally normal: “I’m looking for an apartment.  Nothing fancy, just a bachelor suite.”  

“That’s wonderful, Mr. huh?” 

“I’m sorry, I meant to introduce myself properly.  My name is Andrew Logan.  I am an architect.”

“Callie Brown.  Real estate agent.  I just finished going through the vacancy list in that apartment building across the street.  There are two bachelor suites, one available now, one at the end of the month.  Would you like to see them?” 

To see them?  How strange that she would ask that.  If she showed him the apartments’ numbers, he could see them.  Surely there was no need to actually take an elevator and walk to the suite to verify that it was there; that what he saw was what existed at that number!  He put it down as another of their strange sayings that do not mean what they say: “Have a chair.”  “Take a seat.”  “Rain check.”  “Do lunch.”  “Night cap.” “Would you like fries with that?” as if he’d somehow forget to state exactly what he meant to order and needed a reminder.

“Sir?”  She had a pleasant voice, and by Earth standards was quite young (he estimated she’d be twenty-eight years, three months and four days old, born at four-thirty-eight of the morning, give or take a couple of minutes, he was quite certain he was “in the ball park” to use another of their nonsensical expressions.)  She was also very pretty, so his body kept insisting, and he felt embarrassingly attracted to her, wanting to get closer, to touch, to feel her.  Frighteningly powerful urges tugged at his brain. 

“Yes.  Do I address you as Miss, Ms., or Mrs.?”  She had a very attractive smile, again as his body eagerly told him. 

“You can just call me Callie; no need for any formalities.”

“Thank you Callie.  Yes, I certainly would like to see the apartments, thank you very much.”

As they rode up the elevator he felt her trying to expose herself to him.  He wondered again, as he had since the very first day he’d felt those attractions, if these people felt that way about each other, why did they hide themselves behind clothes?  Why did they offer so many things that were highly desired, or prized, yet never gave them away to those who wanted them?  He had concluded that there was something very wrong with this sentient life.  When he communicated his findings to the orbiting ship he’d been granted an extended tour of duty.  Of course: he was, after all, Doctor Los, senior analyst.  

Before the decision to actually land an observer on the planet he’d participated on several abductions.  His people had been trying to understand Earthians for many earth years in order to present information to the High Galactic Council as to whether these sentients, now on the verge of developing functional star drives, could safely be allowed to roam outside their solar system.  The problem with abducting the creatures and performing experiments on them is that it did not answer the critical questions.  Because of their primitive brain functions they went “off the charts” when discovering they were on a space ship.  Some got violent.  Some went into cardiac arrest or catatonic and most of the young females, those who didn’t “lose it” as they termed it, just wanted sex with “the gods” as they thought of them and experience “great” sexual orgasms.  All of them had to be time-wiped before being returned to their world. 

We need someone to interact with them as one of them, on their own world, in their own natural environment; on their own terms.  So as senior scientist of the Tholian crew he’d volunteered. 

And here he was.  In a residential apartment building, rising through several floors with Callie Brown to “look” at an apartment.  He wondered then what she’d think, or say, if he told her he already knew exactly, in every detail, what the apartment looked like from extracting the location number in her cell phone?  He let the thought pass, the elevator stopped and they exited to walk down a hallway to apartment 1823.

She pressed four keys on a keypad in the door, inserted a metal key and after two green lights began flashing, opened the door.  “Old fashioned, I know, but residents like this system, harder to break in.”  He stood inside the door, scanning the place.  “Go ahead, it’s OK, it’s vacant.  Wander through, have a good look.  It’s compact and practical.  Now for the terms, it’s $2100 a month plus utilities, or you can purchase a package that includes everything, furniture, utilities, maintenance, telephone, TV, Internet and comprehensive insurance for $2600 a month.  With current market conditions in the city that’s actually a really good deal.”

She had moved very close to him as she talked, now touching just slightly.  Their bodies pulled at each other like magnets.  He enjoyed the sensation.  He moved against her.  She turned to face him, looked up into his eyes, and urgently began to undress him.  He saw the bed in her mind, she lying on top, waiting for him.  He brought himself back to the moment and as she undressed him, he did the same for her.  Soon they were both naked and she walked to the bed, sitting on the side, then deftly lifting her legs and lying prone on it. 

“You’re not from around here, are you Andrew?”  She smiled more, slowly spreading her legs, inviting him.  “Who are you really?”

“We are Tholian analysts from a distant galaxy.  We analyze and grade sentient worlds for the Greater Galactic Council.  I’m performing an in-depth planetary consciousness analysis.”

“That’s like, an alien?  You’re an alien, Andrew?”  She didn’t feel to him as much shocked as excited.

“Yes.”   

“Oh God, my lucky day or what!”  She actually giggled like a young girl.

He stared at her nakedness, her vulnerability, and felt a powerful urge to go down on top of her and meld with her body.  He understood that without the clothes he was naked; that his body was male, and that she desired him to join with her in hormonal polarity.  He also realized that he felt a need in his body to join with her, a nascent but powerful “sexual” need.  By the thoughts in her mind, his erection was all she could think of at the moment.

“It’s how we reproduce” she said as she guided him inside her, “and it’s also the greatest source of pleasure we can ever experience.  But I want this one to blow all the others away!  Are you up for it?  Score: visitor 1, home team 1, we have a tied game?”  She laughed at her own joke then it began in earnest.

Still breathing hard, he said, “I sense that you want a child to come from this union.  Please assure me that I have the correct interpretation of your feelings?” 

“Oh yes, how I wish I could have your child, Andrew.  Unfortunately I can’t.  Something haywire with my reproductive system.”

“That’s not a problem.  These bodies are very simple.  I’ve by-passed its objection to the impregnation.  You will have a child.”

“Oh boy, now you’ve really scared me.  What will he look like?”   There was that shallow concern about visual effects again, as if how one “looks like” could possibly have any relevance to one’s life.

“Oh, he’ll have a perfectly normal body but with a slower physical growth rate and much higher IQ than you are used to on this world.  You see, we look exactly like you, we are not some strange looking green blob monstrosity of your quaint imaginings.  We are humans, just billions of years in your time future.  Now please excuse me for a moment, I need to contact my people on the ship.”  He watched her for a few moments as she settled down on the bed, fluffing her beautiful brown hair over the pillow and closing her eyes with a deep sigh of perfect contentment. She brought her right hand to cup her breast and ritually thumbed her nipple.  Such simple creatures, he thought.  If only they knew they were within a hair’s breath of qualifying as angels… if only they could see the truth of it for themselves and act accordingly.

“I’ve entered into a life-relationship with an earth woman and given her a child.  I’ll require another tour of duty extension as I’ll have to remain somewhat longer to see her through her short life and guide the child in our ways.  Please begin proceedings for clearance for her and the child when she is near her natural termination date, to locate both aboard ship.  She will require full body transplant, of course.  I will cover any energy costs.”

“Yes, Doctor Los, there will be no complications.  We can get all the energy we need from the planet’s sun and satellite.  Give us your coordinates when the time comes.  Have a pleasant stay.”

The years of bliss passed quickly for Callie Brown, years that were but mere days for Andrew Logan, or Doctor Los.  He continued his analysis of Earthian consciousness, and with so much more at stake now for himself.  Though it was such a short time, he learned to love “his Callie” as he called her.  Whatever she wanted, he would have given her, but she just wanted a small house in the country, with a garden.  Here she raised Andrew Junior who grew very slowly by Earthian standards.  She was happy with that.  “It makes it seem like I have so much more time this way.”  She also said to him one day, “It’s as if I never had any other life but this one.  I feel so undeservedly blessed, Los.”  (She began calling him Los so as not to create confusion between him and Andrew Junior.  She didn’t want her son to get used to being called “Junior.”)

Throughout that time, the greatest gift he could give her he withheld from telling her of, that she would be given the choice to enter eternal life, eternal youth, if she wanted it; if she chose to join with the Tholian crew and make Tholia  her new home world.  Andrew Junior, their son (such an atavistic concept) would also have to make a similar choice. 

“She loved simple things…  One morning she wasn’t feeling well.  The next day, she was gone.” (paraphrase from “Meet Joe Black”)