Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Intermission: Tom Cruise and War of the Worlds

It’s time to take a short break in this ongoing Science Fiction story to tip our hats to a remarkable situation that is taking place right now, involving some of the greats in Science Fiction, both old and new.


H. G Wells, one of the grand-daddies of sci-fi, wrote War of the Worlds in 1898.  That’s a long time ago for a sci-fi story that is still interesting and relevant.  Like Jules Verne, another 1800s sci-fi writer, Wells was able to predict the future well enough to write stories that are still fresh and always interesting.


More modern names in Science Fiction include Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, who created the latest version of the H.G. Wells story.  Spielberg, who directed the first (or fourth, as the case may be) episode of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and other great stories that step outside of life encapsulated in this time and place, paired up with Cruise to make Minority Report a while back – a great Sci-Fi story by the master Philip K. Dick.  Cruise is very strong in action and adventure and has shown an affinity for Sci-Fi stories.  Now they’ve done it again.


War of the Worlds is perhaps the greatest Sci-Fi movie of the year. 


In the pre-release hype, Cruise was a guest on a number of talk shows.  To add fuel to the fire, he found a new fiancée, Katie Holmes (who had a starring role in the latest Batman film – which is arguably a Sci-Fi vehicle too).  Then there’s the fact that Tom is an outspoken Scientologist, and like many Scientologists, he’s an outspoken critic of psychiatry.  (Ironically, Scientology was started by L. Ron Hubbard, also a famous Sci-Fi writer.)


The interesting part of the story is the attack on psychiatry and the use of psychiatric drugs.  In this writer’s opinion, this is the first time these drugs have really been questioned on a broad scale.  People haven’t thought about this before.  The transition to psychiatric drugs was natural, from the life-saving antibiotics and vaccines in the mid 20th Century.  Psychiatry is after all a medical profession.  Isn’t it? 


The answer to that question is about as close to Sci-Fi as you can get in real life on this planet.  It seems that psychiatry is a “medical profession” because it was planned that way, so they could borrow from the legitimacy of the medical profession.  To do this, some of the fathers of modern psychiatry started requiring a medical degree.  But although psychiatrists are trained as doctors, they aren’t really the same thing.  They don’t have any real provable diseases, no biological proof for their claim that you have “ADHD” or any of the hundreds of specious syndromes they label people with before they start drugging them and billing them.  But in the most blatant and bare-faced lie in modern times, they actively promote, even in TV ads, that drugs help people with depression because it is caused by an “imbalance in brain chemistry”.  As near as anyone can tell, this story is made up from nothing, and has no proof or backing whatsoever. 


McDonalds got sued because they said they had reduced trans-fatty acids in their French fries when they actually didn’t – although they were going to and had a new cooking method ready to distribute to their stores.  Big Wall Street firms get sued because they juggle their books a bit, although what they did is arguably legal.  But psychiatrists simply make up a story, say it with a straight face, and no one calls them on it!  At least not until Tom Cruise.


Actually, that’s not the whole truth.  There’s been a hue and cry about psychiatric drugs for some time.  One of the leading voices has been the Church of Scientology, through their social action group Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights.  CCHR has been screaming for decades that psychiatric drugs actually make people crazy, not sane, and that they are the biggest single factor behind the sharp increase in school shootings, workplace violence, and other odd suicides and homicides. 


It used to be that a murder would be investigated based on a “motive”.  Who had something to gain from the death of the victim?  Who was going to get some money?  Who was being blackmailed?  But in today’s world, there is a new type of murder.  It’s the 12-year-old kid in South Carolina that blows his grandparents’ brains out with a shotgun, then burns their house down.  Or the kid in South Dakota that walks into his classroom and kills 10 people, including himself.  Or the kid in Oregon who kills his parents, then classmates.  Or the mother in Texas who drowns her four small children, one at a time, in the bathtub.  Where are the motives for these killings? 


The common denominator for these senseless murders is the perpetrators were on psychiatric drugs.  And even more odd is the fact they were being given these drugs to improve their sanity.  But they went crazy and started killing people after they took the drugs, not before. 


But until Tom Cruise brought it up, the whole world was just quietly, blindly going about their business, maybe troubled about these recurring incidents of senseless murder and suicide, seemingly without motive, but not really looking at what it’s about.  What could H.G. Wells have made from a situation like that; a whole planet of people being sabotaged by the high priests of mental health, the psychiatrists?  The sanity of our school systems being undermined by the very men we pay to bring sanity.  The lives of our children and loved ones being ended by people who are under the influence of drugs – not street drugs, not heroin, but prescription drugs made by big drug corporations and prescribed by “doctors”?  It’s an amazing situation. 


And that doesn’t even address the suicide risk with these drugs, which is even greater – to the point that the FDA has issued a second warning about the possibility of suicide.  Bravo to Tom Cruise and to all men who question rather than take everything at face value.  It is people like this that will make the difference between a future where we can live in safety and security or a Brave New World of psychiatric drugging and labels.


That being said, we’ll get back to our own story next week. 



Posted at 04:38 pm by redman
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Saturday, April 02, 2005
Time Shifting

Jane said nothing. She served the food and sat down on the couch, holding her plate. She was eating the food, but showing mild disdain – poking at it and inspecting samples she impaled on her fork before ingesting them.

“Did you eat in another century before you came to dinner?” asked Harm sarcastically.

She looked at him darkly. “I’m just not sure what I’m eating,” she said, “There will be series of scandals in a few years about the content of some prepared foods, but I don’t remember the details.”

“Did a lot of people die from eating it?” asked Harm.

She hesitated. “I don’t think so…” she said, “But I think it had some kind of cumulative health effect. I don’t remember. Besides, I don’t eat the quantity you do. Do you realize most humans don’t burn the quantity of calories you do? In extended space travel, people eat very little. You know that, don’t you?”

“So traveling in a time machine is like extended space travel?” asked Harm, still with an edge.

“I don’t use a ‘time machine’,” she replied, “This isn’t an H.G. Wells story… Well, in a way I guess it’s a time machine.”

“How does it work?” asked Harm.

“Although man didn’t realize it in the earlier part of the industrial period, ‘time’ is a part of the physical universe – not a ‘fourth dimension’ or something separate,” she said, “It is in the same category as dirt or rock or iron, or any kind of solid, liquid or gas. It is also in the same category as energy, such as electricity or nuclear power. You don’t have any problem with the idea of being able to manipulate those parts of the physical universe. Why would you have any trouble with the notion of manipulating time?”

“Those are interesting words,” said Harm, “But how does it work?”

“I’m not really sure,” she replied, taking another bite.

“Oh, this is great!” said Harm, “You got some kind of pop science excuse for how it is possible but no details! All sizzle, but no steak. That’s convincing!”

“How does nuclear power work?” she asked, “Do you know?”

“Well, they dig up… plutonium? I guess? Or do they make plutonium? I think they dig up radium – or uranium… Maybe plutonium is what’s left over. No, that can’t be, because they talk about ‘spent plutonium…’” Harm stumbled.

“You don’t know the specifics of all the technologies at work in this sector, do you?” she said, “Is it a surprise that I don’t know the science behind time change? I’m not a scientist.” Harm was silent, slightly confused as he drew the analogy.

She went on, “I do know I go into a room, and it is sealed up well.” She stopped. “Actually, before that, they work out the coordinates in time and space. The coordinates are an exact point in the universe, regressed from present time – or future time to you, but present time to me when I step into the machine.”

“Everything in the physical universe is always moving, relative to every other thing –from the nuclear level, where even the parts of an atom are spinning around one another, to the interplanetary level, where whole galaxies are moving around relative to other galaxies. So they have to find a place by regressing. That’s the word they use. They select a point in two ways: First it is known mathematically in present time – that present time, not this one, if you know what I mean. Secondly, it must also be known historically, i.e. we know what was there, regressed to a certain time. For instance, the steps of your town hall are still there. Or I mean they will still be there in my time. We also know that they were there in your time. So we can regress the position of those steps to the target time, and I can go right to them. Of course there can be some trouble if I try to show up on the steps at a point where somebody was walking up in the exact time and space where I am trying to arrive. There were lots of accidents in the early experiments. But now they’ve worked it out well. There are probes of small particles that precede me – or whoever. These particles are so small that if they arrived in something other than thin air, even in the middle of a human body, they would simply be an insignificant particle in that mass. These particles – they are a bit like what you call nanotechnology, they are very sophisticated – then come back and report the chemical makeup of the point where they arrived. This chemical makeup should be air, of course. If it is anything else, it aborts the transmission. Actually, though, the machines are advanced enough now they try a little to the right and left, a little before an after with subsequent probes. They know the difference between a brick wall and a human body, so if, as in my previous example, we’re talking about landing on the steps of city hall it runs into a body, it tries again a few seconds later. If it’s all clear, that’s when I arrive. If it hits some huge unknown phenomenon after a few tries, if it hits something really solid, like brick or stone, it aborts altogether. But that doesn’t happen much anymore. They have mapped things pretty well. Oh, I almost forgot – the nano-particles also bring back a 360-degree picture of the place where they arrive, so the operator makes a quick scan before releasing me. Even if it’s “air”, I wouldn’t want to arrive with a lot of people around – or anybody at all, really. So if the operator sees that it’s all clear, he releases me. Then when I do arrive, there are nano-particles just before me that automatically make micro adjustments to the settings. I have to be somewhat prepared – I usually fall about an inch or two. At least I think that’s how far it is. It’s a little like arriving at the floor you select in a very fast elevator going down that stops suddenly.”

“When they first discovered this technique, it was a very high-risk operation. It still is dangerous if we try to go to a time and place we don’t have mapped. But today with our nano advance spies, we can map a time and place pretty well before we risk sending a human there,” she said.

“Can they send a gun?” asked Harm, “Or a car?”

“They sent my body, didn’t they?” replied Jane. There’s not that much difference between a human body and a gun or a car. But there is a severe weight factor – or I should say mass factor. Bigger things require far more resources than small things. That’s why the little nanos can get in and out in seconds while I’m actually enroute and alter my path. It takes a few minutes for me to arrive.”

“But since you ask, yes I can bring something other than a body. In fact, I brought you something,” she said.

Somewhat startled, Harm look up at her.

“This is a communication device,” she said, proferring a small package. “We have to implant this under the skin in your neck.”

Harm looked incredulously. “How big is it?” he asked. He could see he was looking at the package, not the device.

“It’s not big,” Jane replied. She opened the small package. Inside was a metal chip that looked like the end broken off a sewing needle. Harm reprehensively considered having metal sliver somewhere in his neck. “Okay,” Harm said, “It’s small, but it looks like it would hurt to put that thing in. Are we going to use an anaesthetic or something?”

“It won’t be necessary,” Jane said, “You aren’t aware of our nerve threading technology.” Harm looked at her. “You know about the use of needles in acupuncture. If an untrained person pushed needles like that into you, you’d be in agony. But by knowing exactly where to put the needle, an acupuncturist can do you a lot of good, and there is no appreciable pain.” Harm continued to listen. “The later advance on that was the ability to thread things between the nerves. Pain – feeling, in fact – is caused by nerves. There are a lot of them, but they aren’t everywhere. You can go between them. Once we were able to map the nerve structure in 3D, we were then able to create insertion devices that could put something like this between the nerves.”

Harm stared. “I can believe there is space between the nerves, but that thing looks large enough to smash a few nerve endings, much less go between them,” he said.

“Oh it’s not really solid,” Jane replied, “It’s like mercury. It’s a sort of liquid.” She picked it up on the end of a fine pointed knife. It rolled off. Harm was amazed that exposure to technology he had never seen was beginning to seem matter of fact – a part of the experience of talking to this – woman from the future?

Jane pulled out a device about 25mm (1”) square. She dropped the shiny liquid drop in the box and pressed it on a place in the front of Harm’s neck. “Hey, my jugular is right under that thing,” Harm objected. Jane quickly pulled the box away. “Thank you,” said Harm, “Put it someplace else.”

“It’s already inserted,” Jane said, as she put the small box in her bag.

Posted at 01:26 pm by redman
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Sunday, February 27, 2005
Jane Again

Harm had stumbled through the press interviews, showered, changed, and exited through a little-used back way from the stadium.  He was alone for the first time since he entered the stadium earlier in the day.  He had on his dark glasses – the ones he never wore when he was around the press – to afford some hope of anonymity.  He realized he had not made concrete arrangements to meet again with “Jane”.  He wondered if he would ever think of her as “Jane” without the quote marks.  He knew somehow that the name was a pseudonym. 


He arrived at his building.  He was hardly aware of how he had gotten there.  McAsh waved him in diffidently.  Could it be that McAsh didn’t follow the sport?  Harm had noticed before that McAsh’s reaction didn’t seem to be influenced by wins and losses.  As close as their relationship was, it seemed McAsh would have mentioned something if he was aware of the win over the rival Carvers.


When he entered his room, he knew she was there.  She walked into the parlor from a back room hallway.  She was wearing a jump suit again, this time in a very electric pink.  It was several seconds before he wondered how she had gotten in again.  He realized he hadn’t asked her the first time – now he did.  “How did you get in?” he asked.


She smiled but didn’t answer directly.  “Your game went well,” she said. 


“As you said it would,” he replied.  He tried not to seem miffed.  She didn’t register any negative reaction.  “Yes,” she said.  He realized he was uncomfortable with the idea that someone knew his “future”.  It played havoc with his idea of free will. 


She sat down on the couch, throwing one leg over the arm.  .  He felt like he was in the presence of a jinni[1].  “What are we doing for dinner?” she said.  Harm was struck with utter amazement.  “I haven’t invited you to dinner,” he blurted out, then tried to repair the remark, “But I really don’t mind…” 


She went on as if he had said nothing.  “Do you like hock soup[2]?” she said, “I brought some with me – it’s in the fridge.” 


“How did you get in?” Harm persisted, saying nothing about the soup.


“I use time and space coordinates,” she replied, “If you travel in time – to use an expression that doesn’t really describe the process accurately – you have to appear someplace as well as some time.  We have developed the technology to do that with great accuracy.  I simply put myself in your apartment.”


“How did you get the soup?” he said.  “I ordered in,” she replied, “McAsh sent it up.  The boy who came to the door didn’t have any reason to think I shouldn’t be here.” 


“What did you use for money?”  He was unwilling to give it up.  He was trying to force the entire experience into a pigeonhole that agreed with his view of reality; trying to clean up the loose ends.  “I took it from your dresser,” she said, unabashed.


Harm was still nonplussed.  His hesitation was obvious.  “Jane” moved to the fridge and put the soup on the counter.  She poured into two bowls.  (Harm noticed she reached immediately into the correct cupboard for the bowls, without looking around in the wrong ones first.)  She poked each bowl with the chowfire[3] set at 80C., and set them on the table.  She went directly to the flatware[4] drawer (once again selecting the correct drawer without error) and extracted spoons.  Then she went directly to the right place and pulled napkins. 


Harm quit resisting the situation and fell into it.  “What do you want?” he said, adding “…from me,” as an afterthought

[1] Jinni – A playful spirit – based on old Earth Islamic mythology.

[2] Hock soup – a soup not unlike earlier Chinese won ton soup, but with different artificial protein sources.

[3] Chowfire – A device that looks like an old cooking thermometer.  It has replaced most other heating systems for food.  It is set to a temperature, then poked into the food.  It works very quickly and heats the food evenly to the desired temperature in seconds.  80C. is 80 Celsius – approximately equal to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

[4] Flatware – cutlery or silverware.  The term has long since replaced the older term “silverware” as the use of silver in the production of flatware has long since been abandoned.  Newer plastic substances are as hard as metal, holding their shape and finish better than stainless steel, but they are not cold to the touch.

Posted at 10:32 am by redman
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Thursday, February 17, 2005
The Game

Harm played with nervous energy at first.  His coordination was heavy-handed and choppy.  He was surprised when the bamball passed within inches of his knee traveling at full speed.  He would have easily taken the risk of playing that close to it, but because he hadn’t intended to do so it startled him.  He realized he was not playing under control.  He began to settle down and run the game instead of letting the game run him. 


He got the bamball twice and lost it twice, but each time he controlled it better.  He felt his wind coming on.  The next time he got it he immediately slammed it directly at the goal.  In slow motion three different Carvers dived at it, each missing in turn.  Harm had his first goal.


No sooner was the bamball back in play than Jarcon caromed it off the Carvers famous Forward Beener Natz and into the goal.  The Venturis were already up by 2-0. 


Harm tried not to think about the predictions.  He tried to simply play the game.  But the awareness began to grow on him as the game progressed.  When Hadlitz was hit hard, he thought the spell might be broken; Hadlitz was supposed to get hurt, he remembered, but not until he had made two goals.  Hadlitz laid still for what seemed like an eternity to Harm, although it was only seconds.  Then he got up and asked off the field.  But not “carried off the field,” Harm noted.  He hardly had time to ponder this before the ball was back in play.  The next substitution saw Hadlitz come back in.  He was playing hurt – Harm could see it in his eyes.  He was also playing angry.  Manhandling two Carvers, Hadlitz fired the bamball directly at a Side Man near the goal.  It looked like his intention was to hurt the player, and it did.  But it also changed direction and slammed into the goal.  Harm wondered whether Hadlitz had any intention to make the goal. 


It was 3-Zip, Venturis.  The Side Man limped off and play resumed.  Harm found the ball left alone in the area of the still-disoriented replacement Side Man and fired it in for his third point. 


He knew things were progressing according to the predictions of his mysterious new acquaintance, but it didn’t hit home for him till the Carvers got their first goal from Back Runner Jack Spedler.  Spedler!  He was to score both of the points for the other team, Harm recalled.  Harm realized he was distracted as he almost walked into a crash trap play[1].  Until now, he had been able to integrate the experience of watching the prediction come true – it had at least nominally been under his control, so he was aware of a dichotomy where he might have been either “causing” the prediction to come true, or he might have simply been experiencing some kind of fate.  But it was still within a digestible range until Spedler scored.  He knew he had nothing to do with that score.  Or did he?  He almost walked into another crash trap play.  He willed himself to refocus on the game. 


Harm’s resignation was complete by the time Ingot hurled one over the top.  There was one more goal to go – by Hadlitz.  Near the end of the game, Hadlitz made it – on queue. 


The clock was wearing down.  Suddenly the game was over.  What was left of the crowd was applauding and Harm was walking off the field when it hit him:  Hadlitz was still playing at the end!  He remembered Jane’s prediction.  He was fascinated to observe the confusion he was experiencing.  He was slightly desperate about the incomplete prediction.  He realized he had never consciously taken a position on whether he wanted it to come true or not.  He was just observing, he told himself.  But there was something wrong with the idea that Hadlitz was still on his feet.  Harm wondered whether he wanted Hadlitz to be hurt!  How could he be experiencing this kind of disappointment about Hadlitz’ apparent well-being? 


In the locker room he looked around for Ingot and Jarcon, but they weren’t there.  The room seemed empty.  He emerged from the shower as several of the players straggled in.  “Where have you been?” he asked Ingot. 


“I was helping Hadlitz,” he said, “He collapsed.  He was playing hurt – I could tell.  He fell down as he was coming off the field.  It looks like he might have a couple of broken ribs.”


[1] Crash Trap Play:  Any set-up play where the intention is to lure an opposing player into an angle where two or more players from the opposing team prevent his movement while a third fires the bamball directly at him, with intent to injure.

Posted at 06:17 am by redman
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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The Assertion

Harm was intrigued.  Her story was crazy, but she was sexy and the game was too much fun.  “So why are you here?” he asked. 


“I don’t know where to begin,” she said, “I’ve been sent to handle a situation in the past that has had a negative effect on our time.” 


“Cool!” Harm egged her on. 


“You don’t believe me yet, do you?” she said.


Harm didn’t know whether to answer directly or play the game.  He decided to be blunt.  “No,” he said.


“I got that,” she replied, “We’ll go forward more slowly.  Did I tell you what the score is going to be tomorrow?” 


Harm didn’t speak.  He couldn’t bring himself to say no, but he wasn’t going to say anything else.


“Seven to two,” she said, “Seven to two in favor of your team, the Venturis.  The Carvers will get only two goals, both by Jack Spedler.  You will make three of the points for the Venturis.  The other four will be made by Jarcon, Hadlitz, Ingot and Hadlitz, in that order.  Your goals will be the second, the third and the seventh.  Hadlitz will be hit hard and carried off the field.  It will be his third rib on the right.  It will be broken.”


“Just a minute,” Harm replied as he pulled out a recorder pen. 


“Don’t bother,” she said.  She opened a recorder on her belt and threw him the data module.  “There it is.  Check it out tomorrow and I’ll see you tomorrow night.” 


Harm was confused.  He looked down at the module.  It seemed like she was making a precise prediction and expecting it to prove she was from the future.  But to Harm it was too much like the dove flying out of the magician’s hat.  There had to be something unseen; some sleight of hand.  He looked up and started to speak, but she was gone. 

Posted at 06:28 pm by redman
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Tuesday, August 03, 2004
The Dinner

She seemed uncomfortable with the menu.  He wasn’t sure why. 


“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked. 


“Yes, I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m just not used to the food.” 


“I recommend the swordfish,” he said.


“Don’t they farm those in the chemical vats?” she asked. 


“Well… I don’t know much about fish farming,” Harm replied, “It’s the way they’ve always done it, I guess.  I’ve never heard any special news about fish farming.” 


“No, it’s not the way they always did it,” she said.  “On earth, they would catch the fish directly from the oceans with hooks or nets.” 


He turned slightly pink.  Of course that was true.  “I didn’t really mean ‘always’ in the cosmic sense,” he said, “I should have said, ‘for a very long time’ instead of ‘always’.”


“They don’t do it any more in my time, either.” she said, “Those chemical vats are disgusting.” 


“Do they catch them from the oceans again?” he asked with disbelief.  He couldn’t believe he was even asking the question.  It was an insane concept.  There weren’t enough oceans to feed the people on this planet.  And he didn’t like the fact he had been sucked in, even a little bit, by her story about her futuristic origins.


“No, that would not only be inefficient, but impossible in today’s environment,” she said, “they run larger tanks with clean water instead of chemically treated dirty water, and the fish have been engineered to mature more rapidly, so the yield is about the same per unit of water as it was with the chemical tanks. 


Harm had never thought about the possibility that a standard method of food production might be so flawed – if indeed it was.  He acknowledged her, but privately wondered whether her facts were right.  A clever person could dream all this up.  He realized she could be doing nothing more than remaining in character as a traveler from “the future”.  Of course the food would be different. 


“I understand they used to farm cattle and pigs, too,” he said, trying to be conversational. 


“Yes, they did,” she said, “But the system you use here is still the same in our time.  We genetically generate beef and pork and many variations of meat in cubes.  It’s always perfect.”  They punched in their orders on the tabletop menu.  “I’ll tell you why I’m here,” she said.

Posted at 07:14 am by redman
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Tuesday, July 20, 2004
The Interloper

She was waiting in his apartment when he got home.  He had no idea how she got there.  Maybe the doorman McAsh had let her in.  He could see why.  She was a walking wet dream.  She was standing, not sitting, in the corner of the room.  She was carrying nothing, had nothing in her hands.  She was completely relaxed, wearing a perfectly tailored jump suit.  It was light blue.  He meant to ask her how she got in; but he didn’t care enough to say it.


“Hello, Harm,” she said. 


He returned the greeting.  He couldn’t decide what to do next.  For a moment he was caught by the irony.  On the bamball field, his decisions had to be instant and had to be right.  In life, he wasn’t usually equivocal.  But for some reason his tongue was tied.


“Do you have something cold to drink?” she asked. 


He said yes and moved to the kitchen area.  He made water with ice, and a twist of Flavorburst[1].  She took a deep draft and motioned for him to sit down. 


He wasn’t quite sure why he was embarrassed to do so.  He felt like a kid in the principal’s office; or a boy with a babysitter.  But he sat down.  Finally he realized he couldn’t analyze the situation because he had no data.  “Who are you and what do you want?” he asked.  His equilibrium seemed to return as suddenly as he said it.


“You can call me Jane,” she said. 


“What are you doing here?” he rephrased the earlier question. 


“I’m here for an important reason,” she said, “but we’ll get to that.  How was practice?”


He instantly decided there were ways she could know he was coming from practice.  But he started to worry.  He didn’t see why he should, because he was twice her weight and strength.  But he had seen enough nurses with needles to know you can’t rely on your size and strength to protect you from everything.  “Practice was fine.” He said, “So let’s ‘get to that’, to use your phrase.” 


“I’m not from now,” she said. 


“You mean you’re not from here?” he asked.  Her jump suit was unlike anything he had seen.


“No, I am from here – near here anyway,” she said, “but not from now.” 


“You mean you’re from the past?” he asked. 


“The future actually,” she said. 


“That’s cute,” Harm replied, with disbelief, “So am I gonna win the game tomorrow?  You should know all these things, shouldn’t you?  I assume in your world all this stuff has actually happened, and you know the whole story.” 


She registered amusement.  “It’s not engraved in stone,” she said.  It is possible to change the past, as surely as it is possible to change the future.” 


Harm thought it would be wise to throw this girl out.  He couldn’t help the idea it might be some kind of a setup.  He considered calling the doorman.  But he didn’t do it.  “Have you had dinner?” he heard himself ask.


“I’d love to!” she exuded. 


Harm told her he would change and be right out.  When he left the room, he felt uncomfortable about leaving her alone.  She looked sane, but her story was goofy.  Was she a groupie?  He didn’t get the feeling she was dangerous.  But he was going to watch her like a hawk.

"You are going to win tomorrow," she added, almost as an afterthought.

[1] Flavorburst:  A genetically engineered fruit that is related to lemon and lime, but packs a considerable wallop, and has been tweaked to agree with the tastes of a maximum percentage of people.  Originally there were several varieties, but only one sold well.  The rest disappeared, except from boutique stores.

Posted at 02:14 pm by redman

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
The Drill

Bamball practice was exhilarating after all. 


Harm remembered the times when he was sick and had to stay home from school as a kid.  It was always a bit intimidating on the first day back. 


Returning to bamball practice after getting a new body was similar.  Everybody recognized him instantly.  Nobody mentioned the slight differences in the new body.  He began to work it hard. 


He was surprised to realize it was already in pretty good shape.  A month in the hospital had hardly given it time to grow cobwebs.  His genetic make-up was athletically superior.  That’s why he was a bamball champion.  His metabolism and muscle tone were naturally at high levels, and he had never been dormant for long enough for the system to soften.


He experienced some breathlessness and slight nausea about halfway through the wind sprints.  He stood aside and gathered his wits.  Not bad for the first day out, actually.  His times were close to competitive levels.  He regained his equilibrium and joined in the scrimmages. 


The bamballs used in scrimmage were called “soft balls”.  They actually weren’t soft, because it wouldn’t have been real to practice with squishy bamballs.  But they were breakable.  If they hit hard, they would crack into many small pieces instead of hurting – or killing.  Assistants on the side would throw a new bamball in and the pieces of broken bamballs littered the field like so much crunchy plastic packing foam, squeaking beneath the feet of the players. 


A big vacuum machine picked it up after practice. 


Harm wondered why they didn’t play with the soft balls in competition.  What was the use of breaking and killing bodies?  The game was actually more fun in practice than on game day.  It wasn’t the anticipation of the big game – it was the apprehension of getting hit by that ball.  He always got that butterfly on game day, then pushed it back. 


In the meantime, he made the most of practice, developing his skills, so he wouldn’t be a victim of the bamball on game day. 


Today his step was a little slow.  Not bad, but not quite up to game level.  He executed a hard turn, and noticed his body didn’t do quite what he expected.  It came around, but it was tired.  The ball missed him by inches.  Then another drill player caught it and it came back the other way.  He ducked, but the reaction wasn’t quite quick enough.  He caught the ball full in the forehead, and it splattered noiselessly into a hundred little pieces.  Detroine had thrown the ball. 


Harm suddenly saw red.  He was outraged.  He tried to figure out why, but he couldn’t grasp the reason.  Before he knew it, he was pounding on Detroine’s face as teammates were trying to pull him away.  Detroine’s nose was broken, and blood was pouring on the ground. 


Harm snapped back under control.  His teammates were screaming at him, trying to hold him away.  He suddenly relaxed.  What had he done?   He stopped resisting and he was dragged back several feet, then his friends let go.  Jackman, a big man, stayed between him and Detroine, but it was unnecessary.  His rage was gone. 


He had never done that before.  He remembered how he was when he was hit by practice balls.  He would laugh and scream epithets good-naturedly at the man who threw it.  But not this time.  What had happened. 


Harm pushed it back and went on with practice.  But on the way home, he started to think about it again.  Why had he lost his temper?  What was going on?  Was there something different about this body? 

Posted at 02:37 pm by redman

Thursday, June 03, 2004
The Outside World

Harm walked out and experienced the rush everyone has always had going outside on a nice day after an extended period of being cooped up. 


The hospital room had become cloying, suffocating.  The air felt fresh and smelled good.  He picked up a ride on a shuttle going past the front.  His clothes fit perfectly, he thought.  They were the same size clothes – in fact the same clothes he had owned for several bodies now.  The match was close enough they didn’t even require tailoring. 


He thought about the strange character of bamball – the sport that killed players’ bodies.  It had become popular after the perfection of the body-substitution technique that had rocked the medical world and the culture.  A small bit of genetic material could be fashioned into a “duplicate” body, and the ability to move the spirit from one body to another had been perfected.  Death was still possible, but if you replaced the body before death, you could just keep on getting another one and another one, ad infinitum.  What a concept.  And it had played right into the changes in the bamball rules.  The sport had quickly become the sport of the age.  Like the gladiators of ancient Rome or the bare-knuckle boxers who dueled to the death in the 1800s, or the football and hockey players of the 1900s, the bamball players had become the rage of the age. 


Harm had on dark glasses, and he hoped his hair was different enough to avoid detection.  He had turned down the chance for an orchestrated escape from the hospital to avoid the press.  He knew the pressmens’ antennae would go up if they sensed a celebrity-style exit through the back of the hospital, complete with a dark-windowed limousine.  They would know what was going on.  Instead he simply wore his own casual clothes, and walked out without a thought, as if he had come to visit someone.  He didn’t even tell the people on his floor exactly when he was leaving.  He just left without luggage and walked out the door.


Now he was on the shuttle and no one had spotted him.  It was too easy.  People riding this shuttle knew they wouldn’t see a big star like Harm in the seat across from them.  So they didn’t. 


He arrived home in less than 20 minutes.  The first person to recognize him was the doorman, McAsh.  “Hello!” sputtered the surprised doorman.  It obviously made his day to see Harm back from the hospital, once again in playing fettle.  Harm spent an extra few seconds with him.  McAsh had been an ally.  As the doorman for his building, McAsh was in a position to do a lot of good or a lot of harm – no pun intended.  He was the first defense for Harm’s privacy in his own unit. 


Harm went to the elevators and up to his room.  Tomorrow he would go to practice with his team.  He wasn’t sure if he was looking forward to it or not.

Posted at 04:27 pm by redman

Saturday, May 22, 2004
The Nurse

He looked up from the sports scores when she walked in.  She was the pretty one that had so discretely come on to him earlier.  He forced himself to give it serious consideration.  She wasn’t bad.  He struggled to get the bigger picture.  What kind of rules might exist in an institution like this?  What would he be committing?  What would she be committing?  There was nothing personally holding him back.  But in a hospital that trained the nurses to be so distant, wouldn’t intimacy be a violation of some kind? 


That question went through his mind at light speed.  It was a fully formed thought by the time his head came up, and his libido was already fighting to push it back down.  He looked at her with interest. 


She had the same distant manner; but that hadn’t stopped her before.  She put the tray down.  He wished he were standing like he was the first time she came.  The signal had been the brush when she brought him to the bed.  What was he thinking?  He was in a body barely two weeks old, in a hospital room with people going in and out.    He tried to remember; would he have tried something like this before?  There was always a difference between bodies and the way they affected his attitude, but was he being influenced by this different body?  Would this potential misadventure have interested him before?  He felt slightly out of control for having the urge at all.  But he knew that wasn’t going to stop him. 


She leaned over to give him his treatment.  He realized there was nothing wrong with lying down.  She leaned against him to reach across.  He pressed back.  She recoiled.  Maybe he had come on too quickly.  He replayed it in his mind.  It hadn’t been that forward.  It might or might not have been a come-on.  She shouldn’t have reacted.  The push back hadn’t been insistent.  It had only been an opportunity.  He looked at her face. 


It was different.  Was this the same nurse?  Yes it was.  She looked afraid.  She had been distant the first time; distant in the way she was trained to be.  But she had been anything but afraid.  Was something different?  He looked at himself.  He seemed fine.  Was it the uneven eyes?  He glanced in the mirror.  No, it couldn’t have been.  Even he had become used to that feature.  She hadn’t been frightened before.  Why would she be frightened now? 


He wanted to drop the idea; to sit back, close his eyes and accept the treatment.  How many more of these did he have?  He must be about to the end of it.  He couldn’t help himself; he would try one more time.  He opened his eyes and looked at her face.  She saw it.  In a tiny lightning bolt her eyes darted at his, then back to what she was doing, then away.  Like thunder following, the pan dropped to the floor.  Something was wrong.


Had he mistaken her the first time?  Even so, why was she frightened?  He hadn’t given her enough cause to be frightened.  His discrete advances had been so underplayed they could have been ignored if it was her purpose to do so.  He couldn’t be the first male that had reached sexually, regardless of who originated the concept.  He knew these nurses were trained to maintain an attitude with zero emotion in any situation.  These were the same nurses that attended the body transfers.  That had to take a strong stomach.  Somewhere, the rotting flesh of his previous body had been carried off and incinerated.  She was a surgical nurse.  Her past had to include things that required more confront than a man looking her in the eyes or pressing a shoulder into her stomach. 


He wanted to ask her what it was.  But that would have broken the discretion.  He hadn’t really come on to her.  She hadn’t really come on to him earlier.  It was all a breath in the wind.  He wondered how many treatments he had left.  As she picked up her tray to go, he started to ask.  “Nurse?” he said.  She paled.  She left the room without acknowledging his question.  He no longer thought it was a fluke.  She was afraid.  Of what?


He was ready to get out of this place.  He went back to the sports scores. 

Posted at 04:11 am by redman

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Bamball is an intergalactic sport played by most advanced stellar systems. This sci-fi blog describes the drama and excitement surrounding the sport and the many different sides to this story.

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