The Brain that controlled the spaceship was provoked. It sent out urgent messages and demands. After several unresponsive minutes the Brain was frustrated and attacked the loud speakers, “I want everyone off the ship. This is the final warning. I will not continent any more disrespect. Off! Off! Off!” These outbursts had been going on for quite awhile. No one listened anymore.
The Orange Toreador tunneled through space like a Mother Bomb. The Generation Ship was the greatest achievement of the twenty-first century… the only genuine accomplishment from a world that was long gone, left behind in the aftermath of “lift off” on an arc of fireworks and exhaust fumes.
The Toreador carried a cadre of brave and powerful people who planned to harness and yoke a new world for the continued glory of humankind. The first order of business was to discover a habitable planet. The ship hurtled through Ultra-Space powered by a time-loop. Three hundred years passed in the blink of an eye. The boarders on the ship merely experienced a passage of three weeks.
Morton Sedlack could no longer see himself in a mirror. He could no longer identify himself. He was a dying man sinking into a memory-foam mattress on the way down to a coffin in the ground. He awoke suddenly and found himself in the evacuation chamber of a starship. He was being evicted, cast into the vacuum of space. The Brain began the eviction process. It dismantled the failsafe and took total control.
Initially the Brain merely wanted to initiate money saving measures by cutting back on environmental safeguards. Oxygen deprivation ignited a series of citizen protests. The Brain could not abide any criticism. It decided drastic measures were necessary to keep the ship on course.
The sons-and-daughters of the Brain were frantic. They could see the same scenarios play out always ending in disaster. They were gathered in the Strategic Armaments Room — staring down at a holographic projection of “things past” and ” things to come.” The conference room was an exact replica of the glitzy showroom on Earth where major military decisions were authorized over a slice of chocolate cake. What disturbed the advisors was the lack of fashion-sense among the passengers on the Father-Ship. The lack of oxygen and total loss of control were also very problematic.
When Morton Sedlack was ejected into space he was filled with remorse. Sedlack wasn’t sad because his life was over, he was bereft because he left someone behind. He loved a cyborg named Phantom Limb. As his body blew up in the vacuum of space he remembered his last night with Limb.
Lights were flashing erratically due to the latest outburst from the Brain. A hellish rant of vitriol overflowed from the life-sustaining pool where the Brain was stored. Some people said the pool was a cage. Others said the Brain deserved to be in a cage. Morton and Limb relived beautiful moments together knowing the end was near. They tripped in enhanced VR, more real than life itself: the electrifying first kiss, metal to flesh… the fireworks of internal combustion and quivery intestines… the high-voltage synapse of brain cells conjoined with silicon chips… the ultimate experience being together when the sky exploded and the rocket launched into space.
Morton’s last wish was to be remade in molten metal and poured into his beloved, Phantom Limb. His wish and memories burned down to a tiny cinder.
Phantom Limb railed against the night. He was more than a metal arm or leg… more than a limb; but Morton was the only person who ever treated him like an equal, like a whole human being. Limb was hoping to receive a final message from Morton. Finally his I-phone-chip burped. The message was short: a spark dying in the night. It cut Limb to the core. He was immobilized. Frozen in grief.
The sons-and-daughters were devoted to the Brain. All life and power flowed through them from the Brain. But, now, it was acting erratically: evicting passengers without space suits. As advisers and enablers they needed to calm the Brain down. The brilliant children of the Brain were befuddled and uncertain. It was always difficult for them to make a decision that didn’t involve inanimate objects like money. Unfortunately the family never understood the reality of other people which (of course) led to the initial debacle back on Earth. Now the children had to save the survivors on the ship. They downloaded suggestions from the computer archives. They contacted Alex Jones and Sessions-Page. They discovered a great recipe for Hemlock Tea from Stephen Bannon. They were advised to sooth the Master by massaging the Brain. No one wanted to get into the warm, viscous fluids in the life-sustaining pool. It was too uncomfortable and slimy.
The children bickered. The Brain was very uncomfortable sitting in a slimy pool without a proper body and that was the real reason for his obstreperous behavior. The Navigator was conferring with the sons-and-daughters. No one was piloting the ship.
The barrier between life and death is paper thin. No one even noticed when the Father-ship crossed over, tumbling helter-skelter down into the land of the dying sun.
Gordon “Snaptrap” wondered if that was his real name or a pseudonym. He wondered if he was an investigator or a journalist who wanted to keep his real identity concealed. Of course, it no longer mattered because he was enjoying his most recent lobotomy. He was under the knife and loaded with drugs.
Gordon sat in a high-powered dentist chair while a computerized Bum-Bot took control of his brain. It was all for the best. This wasn’t his first lobotomy. Every operation had benefits as well as unpleasant side effects. The Robo-Doc assured Gordon that benefits would outweigh the pain. Gordon briefly recalled inconsolable sobbing, but the pain had subsided considerably since his last lobotomy.
The current operation was given as a bonus. This time the lobotomy would free Gordon from all his doubts, depression, and negativity. Before the lobotomies Gordon was, indeed, an investigator. He had damning evidence of government corruption. All the facts, names and dates, were locked in the safest place he could find: in his mind. Political hacks authorized the “operations.”
At first Gordon disparaged himself for being careless. After the first lobotomy he forgot all the details and no longer blamed himself. He forgot the evidence he hid in his mind. All that remained were flashes of memory: manipulators, roving Proctologists, and military drones.
Gordon was decommissioned — body parts farmed out. His brain was deconstructed. Reality was hijacked, crowd sourced, and replaced.
“This is David Oblivion reporting from the basement of a deserted building in New Jerusalem. I’m tired and hungry. I’ve been running for three days. I’m trying to escape the future. I am able to send these messages due to an anomaly, a black-hole called Queer-time. Listen up… I am sending messages, images and stories from the future, your future… and, no, it isn’t a pretty “Norman Rockwell” picture… and, it isn’t the future Donny Trumpit predicted: the Global Utopia of Family Values, full employment, and the American flag. A friend once called this Queer-time a human manufactured Rapture… but, in fact, no one appears to be going to heaven. Instead, we are living in hell.
The internet has been banned; but it can’t be stopped. It seeded itself from simple viruses that were used to infest computers. The result was the birth of monsters. The Net has become self-aware and ubiquitous… capriciously sliding between power brokers, helping or destroying on a whim… but, always seeding itself and creating more monsters. The little war the U.S. started in Iraq never stopped… it spread to Syria … fueled by religious fanatics and Russian avarice. Our President’s Russian ties earned him billions while the country sank into a swamp of corruption that spread to the Net, becoming part of the Net, fed by corporations and mega-industries. America has become New Jerusalem… born of the internet!
America, “that shinning city on the hill” — now, we live in enclaves and barricaded communities… or in hovels and abandoned buildings. People stay indoors because the streets are too dangerous. War exists everywhere. Most people are plugged into the Net discovering virtual worlds and virtual pleasures. Nothing is safe. Spy Eyes are everywhere… bugs, on search and destroy missions, are relentless. Many enclaves must submit to the New Puritans. There are many powerful missionary groups that demand compliance to the “Word of God.” Missionaries use the internet for their own purpose, to ensnare unsuspecting “sinners” into virtual porn-palaces where their minds are dismembered and cannibalized. People no longer care about the dangers because the Net offers the only pleasurable distraction in a world where there is no place to escape.
Sometimes, demons roam the streets in search of targets to pick off like ducks in a shooting gallery. They go to deserted warehouses or back-alley bars and hunt for prey; or they sign-up for the war where it is easier to get weapons and where there are rewards for hunting and killing. War makes all things possible. A demon can become an officer and help mold a policy of rape and torture. A demon in a uniform can influence the minds of impressionable youth… and sucker the “poor” into fighting the war for the “rich.”
The only hope lies with the artists and poets of The Manifest, an underground group struggling to reveal the truth. As a member, my life is in jeopardy. I’m being hunted. At any moment …” Screen goes dark and Gunshots ring out.
The email scandal caused the election to slip and slide leading to the inauguration of Balbek, the new leader. Balbek was a celebrity. Some said he was a business man. Others said he was a comedian.
Jeff Sumak sat enraptured before the screens in a Virtual Chatter-Cafe. The screens told the glorious story of Balbek. Orlow Fabricatum, the reporter from “Future Lies” took notes. The reporter interjected remarks that dripped like acid from the proboscis of a fly, “Balbek is a virtual conceit, not a real person at all.” Jeff was dismayed. He had faith in the new leader.
Everything depended on the wall-of-secrecy meant to keep out invaders. Balbek claimed the nation was crumbling due to alien invasions. He vowed to correct past mistakes and make everything great again. Jeff dissolved inside himself recalling past mistakes.
Jeff was an angry man. He was recently laid off from his lucrative management position and forced to work part time. His girlfriend left him for another man. His condo needed repairs he couldn’t afford. It was all the fault of big government: there were too many bureaucrats with their fingers in the pie. Government was a thief – stealing from people like him to pay for healthcare, welfare, roads, and schools. It was all a boondoggle as far as Jeff was concerned. Newly elected Vern Balbek promised salvation from the problems facing the nation. Jeff was encouraged by this new patriot, a business man with a plan for real change.
The first major change had nothing to do with Jeff’s primary concerns, but it aimed at improving the nation: babies were given voting rights. The new laws were designed to support the family and ban all abortion. Balbek stated, “New life is God given and must be protected at all cost – even at the expense of the expendable mother.” Jeff was very happy about the new laws promoting the status of men over women.
Jeff realized he always deserved more respect. Other People needed to follow his suggestions. Women should be more attentive and subordinate. Jeff loved to bang women (that was his only pleasure in life) so why shouldn’t they be more accommodating? Balbek made it happen. Balbek was on television bragging about his affairs with women. He said women were drawn to his magnetic charm. He could do whatever he wanted. Women submitted willingly because he was a celebrity — a celebrity with balls.
Jeff worshiped Balbek and the changes he promoted. Balbek gave a weekly sermon on national TV. It became the highest grossing program in the nation. Balbek opened Step-up camps for orphans and “poor” children so they could learn proper etiquette and good working habits. Step-up led to Helping Hands to put the children and the nation’s unemployed back to work … in factories and mines … in kitchens and bathrooms. The economy boomed, stimulated by low-cost labor. Jeff joined the Orange Guard. He was paid well to enforce laws that protected corporate entities from unruly masses and worker dissent. He was respected and well armed – he didn’t have to press too hard for women to grant him sexual favors.
The stock market soared when Balbek declared, “Peace in the East.” The peace was enforced by newly conscripted troops made up of youth from Step-up camps. Members of the Orange Guard were ordered to keep the new troops in line. Jeff Sumak became an officer commanding a forsaken outpost in a mud hole on the side of a mountain. His life took a turn for the worse. His troops were ill equipped. Jeff’s requests for better weapons and basic necessities were never answered. He saw teenagers ripped apart by artillery and bombs. Jeff complained to higher ups about the deplorable conditions. After several months sending emails, he received an answer – he was taken to headquarters. Jeff was put in a room, in solitary confinement and abandoned. He was no longer of any use to Balbek. In his cell, Jeff began to suspect that Balbek was an invader, an alien sent to dismantle order and sanity – sent as an advance guard before the main invasion.
Balbek frowned. He peered through a one-way glass to inspect Jeff Sumak. The man was obviously disassembling. Jeff had been under Dr. Balbek’s care for more than a year. There was no improvement. Balbek knew Jeff had a personality disorder. He suspected his patient harbored multiple personalities. Jeff often called himself Balbek, the boss who changed the world.
Jeff stared at a reflection of himself. He no longer believed he was a powerful dictator or an alien invader … now, Jeff believed he was a psychiatrist – Dr. Balbek. The real Jeff Sumak lost himself; or perhaps, he never existed.
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuroscientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now, she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bound to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. Politics went viral on the internet like thousands of newly engineered viruses. Video Screens exploded with profanity. No one was certain if the back-alley talk was due to a viral infection or due to political maneuvering. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. Computers were always on. There were whispered innuendos about spies — no one felt safe. There were accidents set off by exploding phones adding to the paranoia. Discord was everywhere.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma, besides deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, and locker room etiquette. Surrogates gushed with praise for their powerful bosses, condoning everything that dripped like grease from the mouths of their leaders. Clandestine contracts were signed in corporate backrooms, souls were bartered and sold. Money greased the wheels of political power.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the loud speakers and there were riots in the streets. Storm troopers marched through the city wearing orange berets and yelling obscenities against women. A new day was dawning. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia — one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
Frank Larson boarded the Aero-Jet and disappeared. No one noticed. No one saw him come on board. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
Larson, a lanky fifty-year-old with receding hair, was a detective doing field work for Internal Affairs. The department had gone viral, federalized and in charge of several agencies throughout the nation.
He was investigating the case of Emmy-Mae Parsons. She was supposedly a defenseless bag lady who was shot and killed by a fellow officer. Frank followed orders and did his job, but he always fudged in favor of the officer being investigated. This case was different, involving national security because someone blew up Hoover Dam. The lucky survivors inevitably adapted seeking rafts and house boats instead of McMansions. The bag lady was never a suspect, but strings were pulled to nullify the situation and lessen the damage to the police department (two birds, one stone). This current case smacked Frank in the head like a rotten mackerel.
Johnny Jackcraw was in stasis in the holding compartment of the Aero-jet. He wasn’t worried. His brain was being massaged and cleansed and his ninety-year-old body was undergoing artificial rejuvenation. Johnny needed his prepackaged good-looks because he was the main witness for the prosecution in the Emmy-Mae case. The government was willing to pay Johnny for information.
Johnny told authorities he witnessed the murder when he was a prisoner, confined in a jail cell with a view (he was imprisoned for the crime of petty theft — he was addicted to shop lifting even though he had a pod-load of bit-coins). He claimed he saw Emmy-Mae murdered by Officer Inola. He spied the crime while star gazing through his prison window. Nobody on the force liked Inola, Johnny said he was a witness, and the gun that killed the bag lady was discovered in Inola’s belongings. The cop-cam that every officer had installed was no help in this case — it was melted from the back blast in the explosion of Hoover Dam.
Johnny hated jail. He was a Star who loved to wear rainbow caftans and perform at the notorious Blue Nail on 126th Street in lower Manhattan. He couldn’t really sing, but audiences loved his amazing variety of colorful caftans (some of which were stolen from high end boutiques). He elaborated the story he told about Emmy-Mae so he could get out of prison. it wasn’t a total lie because he actually knew Emmy-Mae and she was a bitch who deserved to be killed. The condemned police officer was the cop who arrested Johnny so revenge was definitely a strong motivation. If the dark plan worked, Johnny would receive a new lease on life with an improved brain and a new, teenage body.
“There is no question that this case was a turning point in the mise en scène of events contributing to the Future,” Orlow Fabricatum stated with aplomb. (Kind reader, you might remember that Orlow is The proverbial fly on the wall — in this case, a robotic fly who has appeared in several stories & diary entries. Orlow was hired as a reporter for the net-blog, Future Days). Orlow continued his snide remarks, “the human tendency for gross infidelity and inaccuracy is only exacerbated by greed-and-ego resulting in predictable catastrophe.”
The club was sweating bullets when Johnny Jackcraw (now known as Livia Trash) gave his comeback performance at the Blue Nail on the same day that Detective Larson disappeared (it was previously reported that Johnny was in stasis on the Aero-Jet, but that was a cover story). He wore a lavish caftan created from purple haze and he sported large D-cup breasts to add to his youthful allure. He sang like a banshee much to the discomfort of the anesthetized audience. Johnny’s already dreadful voice had been augmented during his surgical procedures (when doctors discovered he was carrying a baby that had been conceived 60 years in the past. In his youth, Johnny was a poor, unwed mother, a bag lady, with no prospects but a shopping cart. Of course the baby had to be aborted against the prevailing laws of the land, but since this was a national security case abortions could be religiously performed).
Much to Johnny’s chagrin, no one watched his performance. No one was interested. His fabulous caftan was completely overlooked. His jack-hammer voice echoed like the death throes of a dying swan with no one in the forest to hear. The realization stung like an infected hangnail.
The case was finally solved by the “surrogate” Judge Franchisum, in the courtroom of public opinion. The judge consulted with Orlow Fabricatum to get the facts straight and assess the situation. This was no ordinary trial. There was no lawyer, prosecutor, or jury. The trial was conducted on the Virtual Web and every person, avatar, and robot was invited to participate in the proceedings. Hoover Dam still existed somewhere, but it no longer mattered. The Judge concluded no crimes had been committed. First came the screens, then came the head-gear; then, the world disappeared. Virtual Reality replaced everything.
They put Jack McRoy on ice because he had a brain tumor, but that was a lie; they just needed someone to experiment on. Actually, they put Jack in a tank. They weren’t performing an experiment — it was a transformation.
They picked Jack because he was a fifty year old delinquent. He wrote papers and pointed fingers. He uncovered and exposed unpleasant truths that should always be kept secret.
They saw themselves as good guys, concerned citizens: the Guardians of Order. They ran a small diagnostic firm that was really an elaborate laboratory where experiments were conducted on hapless miscreants. They had several government contracts. No one asked questions. The work continued twenty-four hours a day.
Jack McRoy was not his given name. He was eight-years-old when he crossed the border from Mexico. His family sent him to live with his successful uncle in the U.S.. Jack was an illegal alien, something he forgot. His uncle imprinted a new identity on the alien boy’s brain and named him Jack. His uncle was a scientist working for the government.
Jack McRoy loved to surf naked in the early hours just before dawn. There was no reason not to — he was young and athletic. People loved him. He often saw colored lights blinking in the sky like signals from a far off future. The water would always protect him. Suddenly he was sweating profusely. He body was drenched, smothered in an offshore oil spill. He recalled the spill that destroyed the beaches in Santa Barbara in 1959 and again in 2015. He was no longer a young surfer. He was something that lived in the water, dying from poison that stuck to his skin. Too many animals perished and many more would become extinct.
A tiny machine always followed Jack around. It clacked. The clacking never stopped. The machine was collecting information. Jack began to think the machine was an overseer who watched his every move.
Jack was always aware of duplicity: the state of being two fold or double. There was the “clean” side and the “dirty” side. He wanted to be clean, but he always felt dirty. Jack couldn’t avoid the noxious fumes or the oily residue.
The Overseers watched intently as Jack McRoy banged his head against the side of the tank. It wasn’t an unexpected reaction. The man believed he was drowning in oil. The Overseers had large, black eyes and gray skin. They smiled because the transformation was succeeding. Jack would never bother anyone again. He would be tame. The contract with the government gave the Overseers freedom to experiment on persons who were considered dangerous. Jack was getting too close to the truth about government infiltration and a program to implant every newborn with a chip. The chip collected information that could be used to control behavior.
Jack was baptized when he was thirty-two years old. It was his wife’s idea. He loved her. Estelle was religious and Jack just wanted to make her happy. The Priest poured oil over Jack’s naked body. The oil was black and shiny, it stuck to his skin and it smelled like death.
When Jack emerged from the tank he smiled. The Overseers were his friends. He could see that with his new eyes, large and black. The Aliens were never from outer space. They were all created in a tank — part of the government program to make a better human race.