Gaiastan, Chapter 23

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter 2/27/18]

Chapter 23

 

One week passed since Staley liberated D’naia and Indigo and the willing others from their cattle car. They traveled about a hundred kilometers in the winter wildlands during that time, which tested the limits of D’naia’s constitution. They set up camps in the remains of ancient buildings and abandoned motorway tunnels. These countless hideouts were well-known oases to the humate nomads.

The fossilized, structural remains of the ancient empire captivated Indigo’s imagination. He wished he could comprehend the ancient signage, tediously spelled out in a long-forgotten, archaic, phonetic writing style. Neo-cuneiform, the writing technique of Gaiastan, was so much more efficient, Indigo thought.

He thought about the taxidermist who was left behind in the cattle car. She must have eventually succumbed to the elements. Neither the wolves nor the Overman would find her worth the trouble. She undoubtedly held on in the shadows of the car as long as she could, clinging tightly to her Gaians Bible with one hand and her immortality locket with the other. The flame of her locket, glowing with each refresh of her consciousness, would be her only evening light. It would die a day or so after her once hypothermia or dehydration finally stopped her heart.

The tribe of nomads, led by Staley, settled in at sundown within the remains of a stone lodge, eternally guarded by a cement statue of some female goddess of antiquity, perched atop the cliffs high above.

“Is that Diana? Did the ancients worship her?” D’naia asked, referring to the towering idol whose eroded face was emblazoned orange with the last rays of the descending sun.

Indigo shrugged his shoulders. Nothing was ever taught of the ancient religions other than that the only thing they got ‘right’ was that each was constructed around the doctrine of human sacrifice.

In the evening, the nomads were joined by others, swelling their numbers to over a hundred. Indigo was curious about the coincidental gathering and it was then that Staley informed him that the lodge was a rendezvous, of sorts. This added to his distress as he feared the arrival of the hovercraft and Motherland Security at any moment. He could barely reconcile betraying Staley, let alone an entire tribe.

“What are they coming for?” Indigo asked.

“They’ve come to see me, I imagine.”

“To see a spaceman?” Indigo asked. “So do they come because you’re a prophet or because you’re an oddity?”

“All prophets are oddities. But I think mainly they come for a big show.”

There were too many of them gathering, Indigo fretted. One or five or even ten humates, coalescing in the wilderness, was of no concern to the unmanned, atmospheric probes that patrolled the skies. But more than fifty humates might be cause for Gaiastan to send in an entire garrison of Motherland Security who could easily penetrate the nomad’s flint-tipped, perimeter defenses, round them all up, and haul them off to some rendering plant in the east. Even worse, perhaps Gaiastan might just dispense with a messy manned operation altogether and launch a rocket down on their little gathering, vaporizing them all in an instant. It made Indigo anxious. He felt his locket, fearing it was being pinged with locator pulses by the overhead probes at that very instant.

“Don’t worry,” Staley advised, as if he could read Indigo’s mind. “They know we come here. They eavesdrop on our little jamborees to find out what we’re up to. This place is of much more use to them intact than obliterated.”

“So why do you come here, then?”

“Because,” Staley whispered, “They think we’re too stupid to know that they’re listening. The gatherings here are a terrific means of infecting them with disinformation.” Staley pressed his finger to his lips and grinned.

Staley reached into his satchel and produced a strip of jerky. He cut off two pieces and handed one to D’naia and the other to Indigo. They chewed away at the leathery protein, warmed by the campfire, the smoke of which vented upwards through a hole in the roof. While they dined, a number of humates approached Staley from out of the shadows to offer him their gratitude and to shake his hand and touch his spacesuit.

“Peace be with you,” they would conclude before slipping away behind the fire and back into the shadows.

“Why do they say that?” D’naia asked.

“It’s their way of wishing me a safe journey,” Staley answered.

“Where are you going?” Indigo asked.

Staley smiled at Indigo. “For them, I’m taking up their cause. But for me, it’s not really where I am going so much as it is where I am returning from.”

“I don’t follow. Where are you returning from?”

“I’m finally returning from Mars.”

Indigo didn’t know exactly what Staley meant but sensed something bold was in the works.

“Do you know who Joe Hannan really was?” Staley asked, changing the subject.

“He said he was a Gaian… that they revealed too much too soon… and that he left the Paradigm.”

“That’s correct.” Staley’s voice fell back into a low whisper. “He knew too much. He knew everything. He knew how virtual immortality works. He knew how to enter it… how to control and manipulate it. He taught me a great deal in the short time I knew him, a lifetime of knowledge downloaded right into here.” Staley pointed to his temple. “Do you know that there are locket interfaces— kiosks— everywhere… old ones, forgotten access points.”

“One was our undoing.”

“I heard. I’m sorry for that.”

“Is Joe Hannan alive, then? Does he live on in Virtuality?”

“I don’t know. Part of him resides in my mind but I don’t know where else he might have gone. I don’t think he wanted any part of Virtuality. He came to a belief and faith in God. He was prepared for the spirit world and the afterlife.”

“He seemed convinced of it.”

“He showed me many of those kiosks and how to use them. Almost anyone here can take you to one. All they need is power and you can upload any locket there.”

“So we can upload ourselves?”

“Yes. If that’s what you want. But I have another request to make of you.”

“What is it?”

Staley handed Indigo his wineskin and motioned him to drink. Then Staley drank.

“Indigo, you are my only true friend alive in this world. You are my brother, not by gene but by our shared experience. I need you to do something for me. I need you to do this favor for me at any cost although I do not expect it to be terribly difficult. It is a task that will help me to complete my mission. And it will enable me to repay my debt… my debt to you, my debt to my people, and my debt to her.”

“Athena?” D’naia asked.

“Yes. Athena.” Staley drifted back momentarily to the Astarte. It took all of his power of free won’t[1] to shut down his nightmare and return to reality. “It will save my people… these people that you see here. What you do for me is going to help change everything.”

“I’ll do anything for you, Staley,” Indigo declared. “What is it?”

“Here, take my locket.” Staley removed it from his chest and handed it to Indigo. Its glow faded as it was withdrawn from Staley’s brain and source of kinetic energy. “Take this. It is my mind. I trust only you with it. Have one of my people lead you to a kiosk so you can upload my consciousness there. This task, which I entrust to you, will enable me to fulfill my mission. Will you do this for me, my brother?”

“Yes, I will. But why me? Why don’t you do it?”

“Because the Sunstein Agent is coming for me. He comes for me this evening.”

“Then why are we waiting around here? We should go, now. We can slip out into the wilderness. We can live to fight them.”

“I have a deal for him. Besides, you can’t beat them that way, Indigo. Not now, anyway. Bows and slings are no match for hovercraft and energy pulse weapons. They’d annihilate us. No, we have to beat them another way. We have to infiltrate their thoughts, their minds… bit by bit… person by person. We have to slowly, methodically, persistently, relentlessly undermine the Paradigm. This is how they did it, Indigo. This is how they took over. It took them thousands of years but it’s how they did it. They corralled humanity into a single religion, a single science, a single philosophy, a single politic, a single hierarchy of power. They manifested their vision— the human hive mind— over the 3000 generations.

“And now, we will do the same to them, only in reverse, and much faster because our way is the way of nature. Remember, men are not bees, Indigo. The hive is an unnatural order for men. We will undue the hive mind… word by word, thought by thought, deed by deed, man by man. We’ll undue them from the inside like an infestation. At first tiny and undetectable, a single mite, then several dozen, then metastasizing until the infestation scatters all the worker bees and obliterates the hive. This transformation, my transformation will be one of the first steps.”

“So why let the Sunstein Agent take you? They’ll just reformat your brain and use you as a weapon against your cause.”

“My body is of no use in any battle against them. And my body will be of no use to them without my mind. They’ll try to reprogram my brain so that my body will serve their ends but the undermen are smart enough to tell a zombie when they see one.”

“But you’ll be dead.”

“No. I’ll be alive and alive inside of the hive mind.”

“It won’t be you. It will only be a copy.”

“It will be me. A perfect, virtual copy starting from this moment. We are all copies of ourselves, Indigo, copies reproduced every instant, each new version slightly different. Each moment something new is added. You are never who you were the instant before. Who you are at this moment is merely someone who remembers being you the moment before. We are constantly being reborn. Constantly presented and re-presented with the choice of many paths but always with the opportunity to change the path we’re on. My next version, if you can complete the upload, may not be organic but it will indeed be me. And I’ll be resurrected a million times more powerful, free of all the constraints of the physical body.”

Staley stood up and dusted himself off. He reached down and pulled Indigo up onto his feet. “It’s time to complete the mission.” He embraced Indigo and kissed him on the cheek.

At that moment, thunder roared from the heavens above. It was the terrible rumble of a Gaian hovercraft lowering itself down upon the lodge by its retro jets. Staley spoke directly into Indigo’s ear so no one else could hear.

“I know they tracked you here by your locket. I know you agreed to do this. But you are my brother, Indigo, and I forgive you. I forgive you for bringing the Sunstein Agents to me. I know you had no choice. And I need you to believe that I wanted you to bring them. I’m just sorry that it had to be you. It is just how it had to be. Please forgive me for doing this to you… for putting this burden on you. You are my brother and I love you. Now go. Take D’naia and escape into the wilderness. Stay with my people. Complete the upload. I will bargain with Mr. Lever for your souls. You are free.”

Staley turned Indigo around and shoved him towards the door. D’naia followed closely behind and they disappeared into the night. Staley grabbed his space helmet and latched it onto his head. He pulled down the flash shield and switched on the augmented reality.

The hovercraft fired its energy weapons at the roof of the lodge blasting a larger hole into it sending beams and concrete and dust down onto the floor below. The turbulence extinguished the campfire and Staley used the cover to slip out of the lodge and into the woods, navigating by his helmet’s display. He knew where everyone was at every instant.

He climbed a steep path that lead up the cliff, upwards to the base of the giant statue. He was spotted by other fleeing humates who then took up the path behind him, following Staley up, scrambling over boulders and fallen trees and roots, barely able to see in the darkness.

Motherland Security jumped down from the hovercraft, their thirty foot fall slowed by their pulse wave generator packs. Humates who resisted were pulverized, exploded into a mist of blood and bone chips and jellied flesh by the agent’s energy weapons affixed to their helmets at the temples. Motherland Security gave no chase to anyone else fleeing the scene. They were only in pursuit of Staley. They wanted him alive.

Up, up they climbed, Staley’s space suit covered in soot and dirt, his path mapped out before him in his visor. His followers struggled behind with their flint weapons and animal hides. Behind them gained Motherland Security, their agents cloaked in their light-bending, invisible suits, energy weapons armed, leaping along gracefully in five foot strides, aided by waves of inaudible sound. Motherland Security caught the lagging nomads from behind and shoved them to the ground as they passed them by, shocking them into paralysis with capacitors wired into their palms. But those pilgrims dusted themselves off and carried on, undaunted and un-fearing.

A whistling noise pierced the cold dark air as another nomad was atomized.             Staley took to the rock face. He jammed his gloved fingers into the cracks and pulled himself up onto it. Hand over hand, foot over foot he climbed up the sheer wall, aided by the bulletproof, exo-musculature embedded in the fibers of his suit. Down below him it was dark. The dark hovercraft was outlined in glowing liquid crystal in Staley’s visor. He scaled upwards. A slip and a fall down into the darkness would be certainly fatal. He heard the screeching of the energy weapons again not far behind and below. He knew that people were dying. He had warned his followers not to resist but he knew they wouldn’t heed his warnings. They were ready to lose their life for him.

Another handhold. Another pull up. His lungs burned. His heart pounded. A shove up with his legs and he was finally at the top. He grabbed hold of a root and pulled himself over the ledge. He caught his breath at the base of the ancient idol. It grew quiet.

He stood up in the stillness. High in the western sky hung Orion, the hunter, his right shoulder Betelgeuse a dying ember[2]. He removed his helmet and breathed deeply. The air was bitingly cold. He felt its chill deep down into his lungs as he drew breaths of it in.

Another nomad made it up over the ledge. Then another and another. They gathered in around Staley as if to defend him from Motherland Security which was closing in.

“We won’t let them take you,” one declared.

“Do not resist them. Resistance is futile. This is my destiny. Do not interfere,” Staley commanded.

“Your destiny is with us!” called another voice from behind them.

They turned their heads towards the voice but it was too dark to see who it was. The humates began to murmur. Staley sensed their fear of the invisible agents of Motherland Security. The humates were quite willing to die for Staley on that rock but not willing to be wasted pointlessly as if they were cattle in a slaughterhouse.

“Show yourselves!” Staley commanded.

The hovercraft lights illuminated the mountain top. The colossal statue, weathered by the centuries, stood silently gazing south with the crowd assembled at her feet. Motherland Security, bouncing on waves of sound, switched off their cloaking devices. A hundred of them appeared, encircling the tiny band of nomads.

From behind the base of the idol stepped forward the one whom Staley had most expected to see. It was Mr. Lever, bundled up in his oxblood overcoat and derby with ear muffs. Lever so disliked the alpine climate. His pistol was drawn but his hand trembled in the cold air.

“I said your destiny is with us, Mr. Staley,” Lever announced, just before bursting into a coughing fit.

The humates drew in even closer around Staley, brandishing their flint-tipped spears. Staley put his hands on their shoulders and gently pushed them away from him.

“I will go with you, Mr. Lever,” Staley responded, “but only under three conditions.”

“You are in no position to make conditions,” Mr. Lever responded, wiping the bloody mucous from his mouth.

“You will agree to my conditions or I will throw myself over that ledge. You can’t reformat a dead man.” Staley then pressed down the pointed spears of his followers. “Don’t be afraid,” he told them. “They won’t harm you if they want me alive. Lower your spears. Don’t you know that he who lives by the spear shall die by the energy blaster?”

His followers reluctantly lowered their Stone Age weapons.

“What are your conditions, then, Mr. Staley? Please hurry, it’s dreadful up here.”

“My conditions are this: First, you will let my people go, unharmed. Tell your Motherland Security to kill not a single one of them from this moment on. You have nothing to fear by them. They’ll scatter and hide as soon as you take me.”

“I suppose we can abide by that. Send out the order! What else?”

“You will let Indigo and D’naia go free. You will not track them down, ever.”

Lever laughed. “Terrific! That’s already been arranged. What else?”

“You will let them keep their lockets.”

Lever sighed. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he answered, nodding his head. “I’m afraid they’ve forfeited their immortality. I just can’t accept that condition. How about I…”

Staley wasted not one more moment. He pushed his way through the ring of humates and started to coil for a giant leap into the void. Lever immediately sensed Staley wasn’t bluffing.

“Wait!”

Staley stopped just centimeters from the ledge, with his feet sliding towards the abyss and knocking a handful of gravel over the edge.

“Okay. Okay,” Lever pleaded. “That’s not a major issue for us. I suppose we can accept that as well. Just come back. Come back to us.”

“How do you know he’ll keep his word?” questioned a nomad.

“Because he’s a Sunstein Agent,” Staley answered. “They do not break their deals. It’s against their religion.”

[1] The concept of human ‘Free Will’ did not exist in the Gaian era. It was scientistically shown and accepted, without debate, that humans possess only the ability to suppress reflexive action (aka ‘Free Won’t’) and no capability to initiate non-reflexive action (aka ‘Free Will’)

[2] Betelgeuse went supernova in the year 5 BGE (Before the Gaian Era) For a year, the nights of the northern hemisphere were illuminated by what was the equivalent of a full moon. This event was widely thought to portend the changing of the Age and the fledgling Gaian movement capitalized on the superstition.

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter 2/27/18]

A full PDF version is available upon request

Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are greatly appreciated!

Advertisements

Gaiastan, Chapter 22

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

Chapter 22

 

They were ascending, again.

Indigo returned to D’naia in their cattle car. The other humates there remained silent and still, unable to sleep but too exhausted and cold to stir. All of them that is, except for the taxidermist who dozed in blissful serenity beneath her lantern, her Gaians Bible tucked beneath her head, lips quietly muttering psalms from the book of Lovejoy.

“What happened?” asked D’naia

“They took me to see the Sunstein Agent.”

“Did they hurt you?”

“No.”

“So what happened, then?”

“We talked.”

“What about?”

Indigo held back. He didn’t want to tell D’naia that their freedom was bought for the price of a man in a silver suit… and the price of their immortality, too. He didn’t want to know what D’naia’s response would be. To Indigo, D’naia was pure and virtuous. She was a woman of highest cynical integrity. If Indigo was to tell her of the Faustian bargain he had made, he feared she might actually condone it. That revelation would ruin his perception of her and he feared that would poison his love for her.

“We talked about our future,” he answered.

“I didn’t know we had one.”

“Apparently, now we do. That is, if we behave correctly.” Indigo knew D’naia was keen. He knew that she knew that he was holding something back. He awaited her to pounce.

“Does that mean we will live?”

“Yes,” Indigo answered, directly. But he wanted to add, “for a little while” instead.

“What do I have to do?” D’naia asked.

“Nothing. Nothing except be an obedient undermen.”

“And what about you? What do you have to do?”

“It’s difficult.”

“Do you want to ask me if you should do it?”

“No. I need to own this, myself. All I want is for you and our child to live. That’s my only priority.”

D’naia searched Indigo’s eyes in the darkness for some hint of his tribulation. She knew that whatever it was it was something awful. “I won’t ask you about it, then. I know you’ll do what is right.”

The train continued to ascend for another five minutes before it happened. An ear shattering ping followed by a jolt sent everyone tumbling towards the front of the cattle car. Then a sustained, violent buffeting threw the prisoners about the box. Each lunged for the fixed bars and boards and posts and arms and legs and anything else to cling to.

The pummeling worsened, as if the wheels of the train were running on the ties rather than the track. They finally slowed but they could feel their car begin to list to one side. In the darkness, it was not known if they would merely tip over or tumble entirely off the edge of a canyon wall to be smashed on rocks far below. Everyone screamed for their lives as if screaming might right the compartment and save them. And just as the teetering boxcar was about to fall over, it was as if the invisible hand of God intervened. The cattle car righted itself just as they ground to a full stop.

The screaming gave way to hyperventilating and sighs of relief as the prisoners untangled themselves and caught their breath. The oil lantern above the taxidermist had broken and started a small fire but Indigo managed to stamp it out. It was utterly dark, then, with the only visible thing being the deepest blue of the starlit sky leaking in between the wood planks of the roof.

“What happened?” asked one of them, his voice unassignable in the darkness.

“I think the train has derailed,” Indigo answered to the shadows.

The taxidermist groaned somewhere nearby.

“Are you hurt?” Indigo asked.

She answered only with more groaning.

“Where are you? I can’t find you,” Indigo asked.

“Keep away from me you doppelganger,” she barked.

“I’m just trying to help you,” Indigo begged to the darkness.

“You don’t want to help me. You want to possess me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Listen! Listen!” She called out. “They are coming! The savages are coming!”

Someone started to weep in another corner of the darkness.

The taxidermist kept at it. “They’ve done this to us. They’ve derailed us. The savages! The cannibals! And now they’re coming for us. They’re coming! Gaia please help us!”

The others began to whisper and whimper in the darkness.

“The savages! The savages are coming to rip us out and devour us. Cannibals!”

“Shut up, old woman” barked another voice.

“We’re all going to die! They’re going to eat us alive! String us up by our ankles and pull out our entrails and carve off our flesh while we scream! Savages!”

Someone covered the taxidermist’s mouth.

A breeze of cold night air blew through the cattle car. The humates listened for the footfalls of the approaching cannibals outside but there was just the wind, the winter wind, swirling through the trees. And then, as if carried in by the wind, there came the high, eerie howls of wolves that trailed off into a flurry of yips and echoes. The taxidermist let loose a muzzled wail in the darkness. To her, the wolves were an omen. She wailed her deadened wails again and again, the screams stifled by the palm of another hoping desperately that silence might spare them the agony of having their genitals ripped off by savages.

They were out there. They were coming. The wind, the freezing wind, ripped through the cattle car again, chilling their bones. The terrified prisoners prayed for their lives. They called out for the Overman— the ones who would erase their brains— to protect them from the cannibals.

“Help us! Save us!”

A chorus of high pitched yelping and howling and huffing built into a symphony of chaos. The dogs of doom were closing in.

“Why won’t you help us?” Someone screamed.

Finally…

 

BANG

BANG

BANG

 

…came the sound of machine gun fire.

The wolves ceased their howling.

The cool wind whistled again through the slats of the cattle car.

Indigo held D’naia. She was shivering. Her neck was swollen. His blind eyes darted about in the darkness.

They heard Footfalls darting through the ballast just outside the boxcar.

The taxidermist ripped off the hand that had muzzled her and let out a wail, “They’re right outside! The cannibals! Gaia help us all!”

“Shut her up,” ordered Indigo into the darkness.

More footfalls in the gravel.

 

BANG BANG

 

Silence. The wind. The footfalls moved away. The taxidermist growled under her new muzzle. They heard more running in the distance.

 

BANG BANG BANG

 

An iron CLANG.

 

Unintelligible whispers.

 

BANG BANG BANG BANG

 

A squeal of rusty iron…

 

Their car began to vibrate, then move. Yes, it was rolling again. It was still on the rails. Outside they heard panicked voices. Men were scrambling about trying to stop the cattle car, but the cattle car was gaining speed. Men were running through the ballast to keep up. A thump! Someone jumped on but he had no way to unlock the door. The car accelerated. Faster, faster, backwards it rolled down the slope. The occupants watched the silhouette of the guard against the starry backdrop through the cracks in the slat walls.

“Was he armed?” Indigo asked himself.

“Help us! Help us! Save us from the cannibals!” cried the undermen in the locked car. It was of no use. The faceless guard lost his nerve and jumped off, landing with a fading scream of pain, his knee ligaments scrambled upon landing.

Faster, faster and faster they rolled, backwards down the grade. It wasn’t known what was outside. A cliff? A forest? A field? How fast could the car go before it slipped the rail and tumbled off that invisible cliff that no one was exactly sure was there? The taxidermist started to pray to Gaia again.

Faster, faster, faster still. The decent was steepening. Down they plunged into some unknown abyss. Indigo found D’naia and held her close. She shivered silently in his arms.

Faster, faster, faster, faster. The cattle car rolled and its steel frame groaned and shrieked. The wood slats creaked and snapped under the torque. Indigo was certain they would take the first bend too fast and the wooden box would tumble off into the woods and down an embankment and explode into a million shards of brittle pine and steel rivets and femur bones and severed limbs.

The taxidermist threw off her muzzle again and screamed. Its pitch was blood-curdling, guttural, not the voice of an old woman but the voice of a demon. It trailed of as she ran out of air. Then she sucked in a huge breath and screamed again but this time it was cut short by the snapping of pine slats.

Indigo thought of God.

The thought— the idea of a supernatural being, omniscient and omnipotent— if that’s possible— surprised him. “Are you ready to die?” he asked himself.

He thought that very same thing while he was aboard the failing Astarte, but that was different. That was a slow dread of the mortal end brought on by dehydration, radiation poisoning and claustrophobic insanity. This was death coming at him at a hundred kilometers per hour with a screaming lunatic taxidermist adding to the hysteria.

“We’re dead! Dead! Our heaven is gone!” She screamed, after wriggling loose of her muzzle once again. “Oh Gaia, why have you forsaken me? I curse you, evil Mother!”

Indigo, with nothing left to lose, began to mumble a prayer himself…

“Dear God, if there be something beyond this mortal coil, please consider that in my final moment I reached out to you in humility…”

Although Indigo did not pray to be spared, he sensed the cattle car immediately begin to slow. The squealing of the steel dissipated and the snapping of the boards ceased. The cattle car calmed, decelerating, finally easing to a squeaking stop.

Indigo got himself up and put his eyes to a gap in the slat wall. There was nothing to see except blackness. He tried the handle on the sliding door but it remained locked.

“What are you doing?” asked the taxidermist.

“I’m trying to get us out of here,” Indigo answered.

“Stop that! You’ll let the wolves in. Stop!”

“I’ll take my chances out there with them.”

“You’re endangering us all. Just wait. Motherland Security will come and rescue us.”

Indigo pried at a loose board hoping to break it free.

“They’ll be here any minute with their hovercraft.”

“I doubt it,” Indigo replied, after giving up on the board.

“They will. They’ll swoop down like angels and save us before the cannibals get here.”

“So they can murder us themselves?” asked D’naia.

“They are our angels.”

“You give them too much credit,” Indigo answered. “It’ll be hours before they get here, if at all.”

“You speak the devil’s lies.”

“I know what they will do. There won’t be any hovercraft.”

“He’s right,” answered D’naia.

“No one’s talking to you, whore,” barked the taxidermist.

“You shut your mouth,” Indigo answered, “or I’ll make sure to tie you up to a tree out there and leave you to the wolves after I get us out.”

Indigo walked the interior of the dark cattle car, probing the walls in the darkness with his hands and kicking the lower boards with his bare feet. Despite all the creaking and snapping of planks, the walls remained impregnable. He looked up and noticed that a crack in the roof had opened up but he had no way up to reach it. He finally gave up and found his way back to D’naia.

“What was that?” asked the taxidermist.

They all listened intently. Something was again outside the car.

“They’re back!” the taxidermist shouted. “They’ve come for us! Devils!”

“Shut her up,” whispered Indigo.

Something climbed onto the back of the cattle car and took hold of the handle to the end door but the lock held fast. The taxidermist started to hyperventilate. Rebuffed, whatever it was climbed onto the top of the boxcar. Indigo listened to the footsteps as they shuffled lengthwise down the spine of the roof. It stopped at the crack in the ceiling. Two hands reached in through the hole and tore the boards loose creating a portal up through which Indigo could see the stars. Whatever was on that roof was coming in. The undermen in the cattle car backed away into the farthest corners of the cattle car, not plotting any resistance but rather hoping only to be murdered last. Indigo and D’naia held each other again. She had stopped shivering.

A silhouette appeared above, blotting out the starlight. It dropped into the boxcar from the ceiling and landed with a thud in the middle of the floor.

The taxidermist screamed another guttural scream. Indigo clung to D’naia. He could not make out what it was in the faint starlight. He listened and stared with blind eyes.

Click

A white light filled up the person of the intruder. It was a man in a spacesuit which glowed of its own white phosphorescence— a handy feature to have when you are floating about in space, expecting someone to keep an eye on you. Indigo knew that it was Staley which was confirmed when he removed his helmet.

“It’s you,” Indigo remarked.

“You were told that I would come for you.”

“We had given up.”

“You have so little faith.” He turned to the others in the car. “Come with me if you seek life.”

Someone on the outside pried off the lock on the sliding door and rolled it open. Outside were a dozen humates, dressed in canvas and hides and carrying crude weapons. The prisoners each left the cattle car except for one, the taxidermist, who wished to remain behind and wait for her angels to pluck her from the wild lands and haul her off to salvation. Staley obliged her and assured her that no ‘cannibals’ would visit her that evening. He closed the door so that the wolves could not get in.

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

A full PDF version is available upon request

Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are greatly appreciated!

Gaiastan, Chapter 21

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

Chapter 21

Two officers of Motherland Security appeared before Indigo and he was escorted out of his boxcar, walked through the security car, and into to the elite’s coach. He found it to be finely decorated with ornate, carved mahoganies, brass hardware, and plush velvets. The windows were adorned with silk curtains and the chamber was lit by the romantic orange glow of oil-fueled sconces.

Indigo was led to a booth occupied by Mr. Lever who, himself, was adorned in a bright purple dinner jacket. Before him was a setting of fine china. Lever was carefully slicing through a medallion of rare steak with a serrated silver knife, but he stopped halfway through his cut to acknowledge Indigo’s presence. Indigo, wearing only his green overalls, was provided a black dinner jacket and then made to sit in the velvet seat directly across from Lever. Mr. Lever didn’t initiate conversation. He finished meticulously sectioning himself another morsel of his medallion. He placed it into his mouth upon his tongue with the silver fork, savored it, then swallowed with the aid of a gulp of red wine.

“What do you want?” Indigo blurted out.

Lever dabbed his mouth with his napkin before answering. “I thought that perhaps you might care to dine with me?” He asked. “When was the last time you’ve had medallions?”

“Never,” Indigo bluntly answered.

“Oh, right. I sometimes forget that one must achieve a twentieth degree in order to indulge such extravagant appetites.”

“What do you want?” Indigo asked with indignation.

“At least have some wine. It’s a very good Sarkozy… earthy with a seminal quality to it. Here, try…” Lever reached for the bottle to offer it to Indigo.

“No thank you,” Indigo replied.

Lever grimaced as he stowed the bottle in its urn. “So, Indigo, have you seen enough, yet?” He asked as he sliced himself another morsel of steak and placed it on his tongue.

“Enough of what?”

Lever chewed slowly, forty times or so before swallowing. His eyes rolled back into his head in visible ecstasy. He continued. “Seen enough of the real world?” He finally asked.

“What do you mean?”

Lever took another gulp of wine. “What I’m trying to ask you is have you seen enough of the world— enough of the reality of the world, that is— to finally set aside all this unpleasant mind-reformatting business?”

“You are the one doing the reformatting, not me. There’s nothing for me to set aside.”

“May I be frank with you?” Lever asked, after pausing for another long chew. “Honestly? We don’t really want to reformat you, Indigo. Yeah, sure, it would be more convenient to reboot you with a more manageable consciousness, but we really don’t want to do it to you if it can be avoided. So many things can go wrong.”

“So why do it, then? Just let us go. We won’t cause you any trouble.”

Lever took another gulp of wine, then carefully wiped his mouth again with his linen. “You know we can’t just let you go. No one is ever let go. Your disappearance has already given us a great deal of trouble. There are so many questions we’ve had to answer. So many rumors flying around. So much disharmony to quiet.”

“So then what are you proposing?”

Lever smiled as he refilled his glass. “As it stands right now, we have complete power over you. That’s undeniable. The current plan is for you to be taken back to Goropolis where your brain will be reformatted. And that, as they say, will be the end of you… at least you as you have become familiar these last few months.

“But Gaiastan still has a problem, Indigo. You see, your comrade Staley is still out there running around, spreading discord and undermining post democratic society[1]. He is much, much more destructive… much more of a threat than you. He rates as a Class 1 Social Disharmonizer— a seditious felon. Do you see where I’m going with this, Indigo?”

“Yeah… I think I do.”

“Excellent. So I’m certain that I can convince the highers up that the return of one national hero will suffice, so long as it is the least dangerous of the two of you that remains at large.”

Indigo ran his hand through his mullet as he pondered what Lever was alluding too. “So what do I have to do?”

“…You’ll be given a broad degree of amnesty, of course. You’ll be allowed to live as you please with your little savage Indians out there. We’ll remain hands off, entirely, so long as you do not attempt to negatively influence them into acts of terrorism. Be careful not to fill their malleable, frail little brains with too many subversive ideas.”

“What do I have to do?” Indigo repeated.

“…We’ll even let you keep your little companion… and the fetus, too. We’re shrinking the population two percent per year already so what’s one more useless eater to us?” Lever was waiting for the right moment to close the deal. He sensed that Indigo was on the edge, teetering…

“Cut to the chase…” Indigo snapped.

“I’m sure you’ve already figured it out, Indigo. In exchange for you and your companions’ and your child’s freedom, you will have to…” He took another sip of wine.

“What?”

“You’ll have to deliver Staley to us.”

“And how do you propose that I do that?”

“Oh… he’ll come to you, my friend. He has a sentimental attachment to you. All you’ll need to do is remain with him until we can hone in on your position through your locket. We’ll send in a Motherland Security team to snatch him up. It’ll be a simple extraction.”

“And you expect me to trust you?”

“Yes, of course I do. Don’t be insulting, Indigo. Sunstein Agents do not break deals. Besides, it’s really a no-brainer for you. We’re being very generous. If you refuse then you and your woman will be reformatted. The fetus will be raised in a crèche. Perhaps she’ll test well and become her own Overman. Or perhaps she’ll be the vessel for another. It’s difficult to tell right now. But that is the reality of the situation, Indigo. You are simply going to have to trust me. You have no choice.

“Listen to me. We Sunstein Agents are a proud Order with ancient traditions… long-standing, legalistic traditions. We’ve been regarded as many things but never as ‘welchers’.” Lever jabbed the last morsel of steak with his silver fork and placed it on his tongue. He chewed it excessively long, this time, even longer than before. Then he swallowed with an audible glump. “There is one condition, however. There is the matter of your immortality locket. It will have to be surrendered when we finally take Staley. There will be no virtual afterlife for you. When you die, it’s over. That’s the deal.”

Indigo stared into Lever’s pale blue eyes to find only the reflection of himself staring back. He realized each of them was merely a mirror of the other’s soullessness. He loathed himself for what he was about to do. The night of the wildlands rolled by behind the silk curtains of the elite coach. The train was descending again. Lever reached for his wine glass but Indigo stayed his hand.

“I’ll die with her then?”

Lever grinned. “If you give us Staley, then yes, you’ll die with her. You’ll die like your ancestors did. If your end is slow then you’ll die trying to come to grips with the finality of it. Perhaps you’ll find religion or something else to help you come to terms with it. But you will, at least, die on your own terms, with your mind intact. But before you go, hopefully when you are old and your body is wrecked and your mind is eroding, you’ll remember this moment and how we made this deal and you’ll ask yourself if it was really worth it.

“I must say that I do find it all to be very romantic— you two, living out your mortal existence. Death is such an ambiguous concept for the Overman, Indigo, what with resurrection and Heavenly Virtuality and all. But you, on the other hand, you’ll truly die… along with her.

“It’s a bold choice you’re about to make. You could, of course, return with me. If you choose to return then you won’t really be killed in any physiological sense. Both your bodies will live on. All the chemical reactions in your brains will continue as before. You will still basically be you, just you reset to a few months ago. You… with amnesia. You’ll wake up one morning thinking you just got yanked from that spaceship. You’ll be a little disoriented but we can fix that with medication and electric shock therapy.

“But you’re not going to choose that path. You’re going to choose death. It’s fascinating to me considering I will live forever. The only elites ever refused resurrection are the suicides. You’d have to be a damn lunatic to kill yourself when you’re immortal. Perhaps that’s why they don’t resurrect them… because they’re insane. But I digress. You, on the other hand, you will indeed come to know what it means. At least you’ll have your freedom in the interim.

“I imagine we have a deal, then?”

Indigo didn’t have to answer. He knew that Lever saw it in his eyes.

“You look like you want to ask me something,” Lever remarked. “You can go ahead and ask me it. Ask me anything. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Either way, giving you a little forbidden knowledge can’t possibly be of any harm to us. Go…”

Indigo examined Lever’s eyes, trying to find anything that might be revealed there. Lever took another drink of wine and smirked. Indigo took a breath.

“How old are you?” Indigo asked.

Lever chuckled. He was expecting a grand question about the ultimate truth of Gaianism or something else profound. Instead, he got this. “Well, let’s see,” he answered, “I’ve had seven bodies— ‘vessels’, I call them. Oh, and I also did a decade in Virtuality awaiting a suitable host. The decade of the 250s was tight for the vessel market. Turns out, we had culled the undermen herd too deeply back in those days. Do you have any idea how expensive a thirty five year old undermen male with no significant defects was back in the 250s? The prices were outrageous! I have flexible standards, Indigo, but I just will not accept a vessel made affordable by flaws like bad posture or excessive hair.”

“What was Virtuality like?”

“Oh, good question. I’ll answer that, too since you will never find out. The best I can describe it is that it’s like a semi-lucid dream. You can go anywhere in the ether but be yanked out by interruption at any moment. Time is linear but not rhythmic. A year can be as a minute and a minute as a year. The tempo of time is controlled by the processing demands of your virtual mind. The more you explore, the faster the clock ticks, but you don’t notice if it’s faster or slower. Time is entirely relative. There’s no physical pain… unless you like that sort of thing.

“It’s hard to explain but your experiences are not primarily visual or audible. They are more conceptual in nature. More than seeing or feeling or tasting or hearing, you comprehend it all together. All the sensations are there, but their intensity is diminished. None exceeds the others.

“Oh yeah, you get really good at math. The answers come to you like a sensation of shape. Again, it’s difficult to explain. What is the square root of 86,437? It comes to you instantly like a blob of clay that materializes in your virtual hands. You hold a shape and the shape is the answer. You just know it. You feel it, instantly.

“You can meet anyone there, so long as they want to meet you. If they are historical avatars, you know, reconstructions of the ancient dead, then you can meet their virtual copy whenever you like. Avatars are most agreeable although I was suspicious of their authenticity since they are fabricated by scientistic historians.

“Anything, any place that is known can be experienced. Explore the Coliseum as it is today or as it was 2,000 years ago or both ways simultaneously. Dive to the deepest depths of the ocean. Walk on the Moon. But you know it’s not real. The experience is not physical. It’s like sitting in an easy chair and watching it on holovision and never, ever leaving the chair. There’s nothing personal about the experience of Virtuality. Your experience is constructed by the experiences of others or constructed from their understanding of it. Your virtual existence is entirely dependent on what has been downloaded into the ether.

“Ah yes, I mustn’t forget the loneliness.”

“What do you mean?”

“Despite its limitlessness, a physical life is much more fulfilling.”

“Is it the same? Is Virtuality the same for the undermen when they die?”

“No, of course not. We delete most of them. They take up too many system resources. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a wonder to us that they’ve not figured it out by now. You’d think they’d all ask themselves why they have not been contacted by the dead? Ha! Their capacity to rationalize away those things is at the root of our ability to control them. We do resurrect the interesting and intelligent ones in the ether, though.”

“One more question.”

“What is it?”

“You do realize that you’re dead?”

“What do you mean, Indigo? I’m sitting right here before you?”

“You’re dead, Mr. Lever. What you are is just a facsimile.”

Lever laughed. “I’m afraid not, Indigo. I’m very much alive. My heart beats. I breathe. I taste and see and hear and smell and feel. All my sensory experiences have context and they are connected to my past life experiences. I have memories. I can remember my entire life, all three centuries of it, every instant. This flesh and bone is just a suit of clothes, if you will. And when I become terminally ill and die I’ll take another, barring another price bubble that keeps my consciousness in the ether for a while. You are your brain, Indigo. The rest of it is just a tunic of flesh.”

“No. Your mind is more than a brain. You are a soul. And your soul is dead, Mr. Lever. It died with your first body. Whatever you are today has been tricked into thinking it is you.”

Lever let out a roar of laughter which triggered a coughing fit. Lever covered his mouth with his kerchief. It took almost two minutes for him to compose himself. “You see what you’ve done? Look…” Lever showed Indigo his handkerchief spotted with blood. He continued, “How quaint this whole soul concept is. You were raised as a Secular Gaianist, no? I didn’t think you believed in mythology. I like you, Indigo. You make me laugh. You’re interesting. So many of these wayward Overman are so submissive or obstinate or just plain dull. It will be a shame that your memory of our discussion will die with you. I would so look forward to reminiscing about this conversation a century from now after time has healed our current rift.”

“I would like to return to my cattle car if you don’t mind,” Indigo asked.

“Of course,” Lever replied. “Be ready to go. I have received information that your friend is coming for you. We do intend to allow you to be rescued by him. Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? The medallions are quite scrumptious, the finest long pig I’ve ever tasted— absolutely succulent.”

[1] Post Democratic Society: Authoritarian rule by technocratic elite where voting is a ceremonial formality and elections are held merely for the purpose of manufacturing political legitimacy.

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

A full PDF version is available upon request

Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are greatly appreciated!

Can the Impending Collapse of Russiagate Halt the Slide Toward a Nuclear 1914?

by JAMES GEORGE JATRAS | 02.02.2018

In the period preceding the World War I how many Europeans suspected that their lives would soon be forever changed – and, for millions of them, ended? Who in the years, say, 1910 to 1913, could have imagined that the decades of peace, progress, and civilization in which they had grown up, and which seemingly would continue indefinitely, instead would soon descend into a horror of industrial-scale slaughter, revolution, and brutal ideologies?

The answer is, probably very few, just as few people today care much about the details of international and security affairs. Normal folk have better things to do with their lives.

To be sure, in that bygone era of smug jingosim, there was always the entertainment aspect that “our” side had forced “theirs” to back down in some exotic locale, as in the Fashoda incident (1898) or the Moroccan crises (1906, 1911). Even the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 seemed less a harbinger of the cataclysm to come than local dustups on the edge of the continent where the general peace had not been disturbed even by the much more disruptive Crimean or Franco-Prussian wars.

Besides, no doubt level-headed statesmen were in charge in the various capitals, ensuring that things wouldn’t get out of hand.

Until they did…

Read the rest

The War to End All Wars to End War is featured prominently in my novel Crumbs. Please check it out.

Gaiastan, Chapter 20

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

Chapter 20

The old engine lugging the prisoners puffed its way up and up and up Hegel pass, drawn forward by her growling piston steam engine. Its infernal cauldron, glowing orange, was filled with coal ripped from one of the twenty five massive strip mines operated by the Department of Greenergy.

It was night when they finally reached the summit where the railway carved a slot through snow and ice three meters deep. They then began their decent. The train’s wheels screeched and squealed in the darkness as they tried to grip the slippery iron rails and resist the immutable downward pull of gravity.

D’naia slept in Indigo’s arms, face concealed by the darkness and locks of her silky hair. Her neck was throbbing from the stone. There was one lantern in the car and beneath its glow sat the taxidermist still dutifully reading her Gaians Bible. The others in the cattle car sat huddled in the corners, silent and grim. Indigo recognized one of them as the Hegeltown Ceremonial Manager whom he encountered shortly after his arrival. He recalled how she had then expressed so much pride in having been selected for bureaucratic advancement. So much for one’s dedication and party loyalty, Indigo thought. He wondered what she had done to merit a brain reformat or reclamation.

 

Periodicially, the train’s braking would send a chain reaction jolt through their cattle car which reminded Indigo of the bumps and thuds of the Mars mission, the effect of the Astarte’s forward auxiliary rockets firing intermittently, making the frequent corrections to the space can’s interplanetary trajectory as it raced toward the red planet. By that point in the mission, there were only three astronauts left: Indigo, Staley and Athena.

Staley performed the calculations and determined that there would not be enough oxygen for the Mars landing and a return journey to Earth for the three survivors; one passenger would have to be removed if the other two were to survive. The triumvirate was presented with the challenge of deciding who was going to be sacrificed, but perhaps the more difficult question to be answered was how they were going to decide.

Random selection was proposed and rejected by all three as too arbitrary. Age? Too discriminatory. Technical skill? None of the three were especially skilled, at least not significantly more than any other.

In the backs of their minds, they each silently hoped that Mission Control would scrap the landing and redirect them home. Without a landing, there might be just enough to get the three of them back alive. At that point, with so many of the crew having been lost, what did it matter whether or not they actually walked on Mars?

Between the debates, Staley worked his way toward the back of the space can to compose himself and to think through the possibilities. Perhaps there was a way the crew could fully wrest control of the ship from Motherland Control and return home on their own. But the mathematical precision required to manually thrust the Astarte into an orbit that would catapult them around Mars and back to Earth vastly exceeded the crew’s quantitative capabilities. The likely outcome of their calculus would be a one way trip to the Oort cloud, dooming them all.

Nothing of any brilliance came to Staley until he gazed at the latches of the airlock. How simple it would be for him to step into the coffin-like chamber, seal the door behind him, and launch himself into the frozen, irradiated void. Twenty, maybe thirty seconds of painful consciousness, swelling, burning. His eyes would freeze. Then blindness, hypoxia, and merciful blackout. Then his blood would boil and the bubbles of gas would stop his heart and brain. The oxygen problem would then be solved for the other two. It would be a heroic end for Staley, and Athena, whom he loved, would survive.

But Staley couldn’t bring himself to do it. He lacked the impulsiveness and narcissistic fortitude required to commit suicide. He was ashamed that he didn’t have the courage to die for her. He would leave the fate of them all to some other resolution and he knew he would forever resent himself for that decision.

The crew convened and radioed back to Gaiastan. “We cannot decide how to decide,” was their desperate message.

Their transmission, travelling at the speed of light, took eight minutes to reach Gaia. The technicians there were prepared with a response. The crew on the Astarte knew this because it only took a total of seventeen minutes from their transmission to receive their answer…which came in the form of an order.

“You will decide by a vote. Democracy is the only moral option. Vote for who shall live. Please appeal to your own altruistic nature when casting your ballot.”

The answer did not surprise them.

And so they each took a scrap of paper and wrote down a name. There were no rules of order. They could write any name, and because of this, Staley was convinced that everyone would write their own name resulting in a hopeless tie. Then Mission Control would scrap the pointless exercise in democracy, scrub the Mars landing, and reprogram them for a slingshot around Mars and a return home.

No one looked at each other when they wrote their names on their papers and placed them in an upturned space helmet. When their lots were cast, the trio stared silently at the helmet containing their three ballots. No one was particularly willing to initiate the count that would decide their fate so Indigo radioed Gaiastan.

“We have voted.”

Seventeen minutes later the response came. “Staley, please read the votes out loud.”

Staley reluctantly picked up the space helmet, raising it with caution as if it were filled with nitro-glycerin. Before pulling out the first ballot, he scanned the eyes of the other two. Indigo’s stare was like a dead man’s glare, blank, emotionless. Athena’s gaze was reassuring but filled with tears.

 

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

A full PDF version is available upon request

Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are greatly appreciated!

How the #XFL Can Save Football

The NFL is dying. No, its demise is not eminent. Baseball, for instance, has been dying for 50 years. It’s way past its peak but it has managed to linger on. Football is going the same way: a slow erosion into irrelevance. I am concerned about that because I think it is the ultimate team sport in that it requires self-less, often unnoticed contributions, from unheralded teammates in order for the team to achieve its goal. I also believe it is one of the last remaining outlets for competitive, physical, alpha males. I am convinced that the reasons for the relentless, asymmetrical attacks on football’s safety originate partly in a broad cultural assault being waged on traditional masculinity in general…but that’s a topic for another discussion. It’s a violent sport. Nobody is forced to play it. It’s not for everyone.

No, this is a post about how the XFL might end-run the NFL’s grip on America.

Modern professional football is almost unwatchable. Every team essentially alternates between the same sequence of predictable, boring plays: short timing route pass, quick hitting inside run, short timing route pass, off tackle run, occasionally a long pass to keep the defense honest, and always, always a running back screen on third and long. Every team runs the exact sames plays and formations. Don’t quibble with me about West Coast this and Erhardt-Perkins that. It’s all the same B.S.: 2 wide, 1 slot, 1 back, 1 TE. Every team has the same identity…they are utterly indistinguishable with their utterly interchangeable, utterly unimaginative, utterly risk-averse coaches.

To make things worse, the sport is now dominated, in much the same fashion as the NBA, by a handful of super stars who are afforded the benefit of the doubt on all officiating calls by complicit refs. Like the NBA, if your team lacks one of these stars, your team has 0.00 chance of winning a championship. The star’s team will be bailed out by a suspiciously-timed illegal contact, holding or no-call. It’s almost as absurd as pro wrestling.

To make things even worse-er, the sport has been co-opted by our lamentable political zeitgeist and military industrial complex. The hyper-zealous flag-worship, the obnoxious jet flyovers, and the otherwise McDonaldsified patriotism has become a distraction and even an annoyance. I can’t tell if I’m watching a sporting contest or being recruited for military service or being jingo-ed up for war against the Nazis. Whatever it is, it’s way, way over the top.

If you want to make the pro game compelling again it must be changed on multiple fronts. Here are my proposals…are you listening #VinceMcMahon?

  1. Roll back the rules that enable offensive dullness. Rules like special pocket-passing QB protections and restrictions on coverage defenders have actually forced the game into its current, one-dimensional, predictable design. Take the security blanket away from the offensive coordinators. Force them to find ways to innovate and attack defensive weaknesses rather than just finding a guy who can throw a ten yard out on time. This would force coordinators to consider more misdirection, option, and exotic formations. It would foment an era of creativity. This would eventually challenge defensive coordinators who presently only have to diagram to stop about 5 plays.
  2. Widen the hash marks…dramatically. The wide-side of the field aspect of non-NFL football is a strategic advantage to offenses. It has to be honored by the defense. Without it, the NFL fans rarely witness the excitement of the outside run game. The defense can only be stretched laterally by the eye-roll-inducing bubble screens and hitch passes.
  3. Relax the jersey-number-pass-eligibility restriction. A player can legally receive a pass in the NFL so long as he starts the play in the backfield or as the end man on the line…AND has a number not between 50 and 79 (unless he “reports” to an official as an eligible end). This rule is for the benefit of dumb refs who can’t keep track of who the eligible players are on passing plays. I say dump the numbering rule. Make the refs spend more time tracking eligible players and less time calling holding penalties or illegal contact. It would dramatically open up the possibilities for new strategic innovations. Anyone hear of “A-11“? It would also de-specialize players. General athleticism would become more desired. Hyper-specialization is dehumanizing the sport and risking the health of its freak players.
  4. Radically change instant replay. Instant replay is anti flow. It’s a distraction. It represents an appeal to a pencil-necked, authoritarian bureaucrat, in a secret chamber, to lord over OUR populist, gladitorial game. Frankly, instant replay is totally un-American in spirit. It’s emblematic of the sovietization of the NFL. Here’s what I would replace it with: You can challenge any call. If the call on the field is over-ruled by a panel of three jurists agreed to by both coaches, the ref is given a red card. Three red cards in a season and the ref is terminated…or fed to the lions. If the call is not over-ruled by the jury, then the team who challenged the play is charged with a fifteen yard delay of game penalty to be applied whenever the opposing team would like to apply it. I doubt anything but the most egregious of blown calls would be challenged. But when it happens, the drama will be palpable!
  5. Limit the pre-game. Stretch. Walk-throughs. Anthem. Coin toss. No 400 foot long flags. No ear-piercing bomber flyovers. No smarmy politicians. Make the game front and center. There is a time and place for reflection on sacrifice and duty…it’s not during a game watched for amusement and escape. The NFL’s manipulation of militarism is obnoxious, demeaning and crass.
  6. If you are CONVICTED of a felony, you are fired, forever. End of story.
  7. Dial down all the annoying ancillary stuff. It’s just a distraction. Laser beams, fireworks, dance troops, scoreboard animations, smoke, 1980s heavy metal music between plays… get rid of it. Make the game the spectacle. Halftime is for getting a beer and taking a leak.
  8. Shorten the play clock. Force coaches to become economical in their play calling. The game is way, way too coach-centric. I don’t care that some washed-up player turned power drunk coordinator can sniff a laminated sheet that has scripted every player’s movement against twenty possible defensive alignments for 120 offensive plays. These control freaks think the game is all about them. I don’t want to see these sideline clowns overthink everything. If it’s third and a foot, run QB wedge. These idiots must think there are style points being awarded or something. I find myself loathing the very sight of them. Marginalize them! I’d make huddling difficult. Delay of game would always be a 15 yard penalty. Put the play calling back on the QB and back on the field. Make the game dynamic and real-time rather than the incremental chess match between middle-aged, managerial nerds that it has become.
  9. Limit coaching staffs to 6-8 coaches and a trainer. Limit rosters to 40 players. The over-specialization is stifling the spontaneity of the sport. It’s become like watching task-masters preside over children working in an Indonesian sweat shop. Let the players control the action, not the washed up, self-important egomaniacs on the sideline.
  10. Deepen the end zone to make passing easier inside the ten yard line.
  11. Narrow the goal posts to make place kicks much more difficult AND add another set of wider goal posts for drop kicks. If you’ve ever seen a drop kick, it is an exciting, fluid play that should be resurrected!
  12. And finally, go back to soft helmets. The sport changed with the advancement of hard shell helmets. The hard shell helmet became a tool to use for hitting. It changed tactics and the way offenses and defenses were designed. It also created a false sense of security for players. The prospect of imminent, immediate skull fracture is a much better deterrent to stupidly using one’s head as a battering ram than gradual, incremental brain damage by thousands of tiny traumas accumulated over years. I’m sure that safe technology is presently available.

So there you have it. What do you think?

Gaiastan, Chapter 19

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

Chapter 19

D’naia and Indigo sat pressed together on a wooden bench in a cell with their arms wrapped tightly around one another. The sunlight from the outside was blocked by black paint on the windows. The only light in the cell was provided by two dim oil lamps. Opposite D’naia and Indigo, there sat the old taxidermist woman–the junior warden. Indigo recognized her when she was brought in. She began dutifully reading her Gaians Bible and looking strangely at ease. Perhaps religion does that for people, Indigo thought. He, on the other hand, was terrified but was trying keep up a pretense of strength for D’naia whom he feared was teetering on the brink of an emotional collapse.

Indigo knew that mind-reformatting was the same thing as death, no matter how Mr. Lever framed it. Indigo was not a believer in any spiritual afterlife. Virtual immortality was all that he had hoped for. He was, however, becoming convinced of the existence of a mortal soul— something innate in man that understands right and wrong. Joe Hannan had convinced him of that, at least. He decided that man was more than the sum of his molecules. To erase and reload a consciousness was to murder the soul. Thou shalt not murder.

Indigo had come to grips with his mortality back on the Astarte. The cumulative failures of the Birkelund plasma inducers brought oblivion fully into the consciousness of the crew. They were too far out to have their consciousness retrieved and rebooted so death would be final. When godless mortality and the impossibility of virtual resurrection stared Indigo in the face, he came to fully understand the nature of it. What he remembered understanding was that life is limitless— in any personal sense of experience— because experience and sensation of life itself requires one to be alive. One cannot experience the moment before or the moment after life, so life is without an edge… without beginning and without end. However, he decided, it is best that when the end comes, it comes unexpectedly because the sensation of dread awaiting it would be most unpleasant.

 

The luxury of unexpected death was not enjoyed by the crew of the Astarte. The tick tock of their oblivion clock drove each of the crew to madness on one level or another. Indigo secretly hoped that, if they were in fact doomed, that the Astarte might be struck by a meteor of sufficient size that the self-sealing hull would be irreparably breached and the space can would instantaneously blow itself apart.

Ensign Friederich, himself no longer able to bear the dread, hoped to hasten the final toll of the iron bell by reprogramming the life support systems to gently expel the oxygen. He was discovered by Gaiastan Mission Control which halted his viral program… but it was too late.

 

The taxidermist interrupted Indigo’s lucid nightmare with a chuckle.

“What do you find so amusing?” Indigo asked. “Don’t you know what awaits us?”

“Of course I know,” she answered, as she glanced up from her Holy Book. “Don’t you know that we’ve been selected? We are on the eve of our immortal rebirth. They’re taking us to have our souls downloaded into the Heavenly Virtuality. It’s going to be wonderful to finally be liberated from the chains of this broken, physical body. Look at these hands of mine! They barely work, anymore. Do you know how difficult it is to butcher savages with arthritis?”

“Where did you get your ideas?” D’naia asked.

“It’s all in the Good Book, young woman. Don’t you read your Gaians Bible?”

“I don’t waste my time on fairy tales.”

“Bless your heart and may Gaia have mercy on you. But just listen for a second…. Let me read to you from The Book of Ehrlich, Chapter 9…

 

‘Blessed are the Undermen: for theirs is the Kingdom of man. Blessed are they that mourn for the Earth, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the obedient for they shall be given their rations. Blessed are they who deprive themselves for they shall be held guiltless. Blessed are those who live sustainably for they shall be sustained. Blessed are the true Gaians for they shall receive immortality. Blessed are the Greens for they shall be called the Children of Gaia. Blessed are ye when the polluters defile Her and poison Her and you reap them for Her sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great reward awaits you in Heavenly Virtuality.’”

 

“You can keep your superstitions,” D’naia snapped.

“I’ve eliminated the polluters… all manner of humate demons,” the old woman continued. “I ended their unrighteousness.”

“By murdering them,” D’naia replied.

“Murder is taking the life of a human. One can’t murder a humate any more than one can murder a dog. The polluters are unrighteous and I killed them. I did god’s work and for that, I’ll get my eternal reward.”

“You’re a fool. You’re only reward will be a rendering plant where they turn you into soap.”

“Silence, you demon! I will pray for the redemption of your wretched soul.”

“And I will pray that all of our ends will be quick and painless,” D’naia replied.

Indigo tightened his grip on D’naia trying to signal her to not antagonize the taxidermist anymore.

“Tell her she’s a fool, Indigo,” D’naia plead. “Tell her there’s no God… that heaven is a lie… that Gaia is a myth. Tell her.”

Indigo held his words.

There was finally a knock at the door. Mr. Lever and a codex enforcer appeared and let themselves in. Lever wore his customary oxblood overcoat and derby with a feathery orange boa wrapped around his neck. He immediately burst into a bout of coughing which carried on for two minutes and nearly doubled him over. “A most rotten climate you have, here,” he remarked. “I do hope I am not so unfortunate as to catch a respiratory ailment from one of these sickly undermen, considering my weakened immunity.”

The taxidermist set down her Gaians Bible and fell onto her knees before Master Lever.

“Sir,” she sobbed as she pressed her face onto Lever’s black boots, polishing them with her tears and drool. “I must take this moment to thank you for all you’ve done for us. Thank you so much for choosing us for redemption. Thank you. I do hope I perform the tribulation with grace. Thank you. Oh pray that I may have the strength of Gaia. Thank you oh great master.”

“You see this woman?” Lever asked Indigo and D’naia. “Now this is a woman who knows how to properly humble herself.” He reached down to her and pulled her back onto her feet by her gray, wiry hair. She was sobbing uncontrollably with snot running down to her chin. “Your homage has been noted, Madam. For your act, I can assure you that the release of your soul will be painless.” He helped her back to her bench, picked up her Gaians Bible, smirked faintly as he scanned the embossed cover of it, then politely handed it to her. “And now, my friends, it’s time. It is time to begin your tribulation. You must now pass through the Gauntlet of Repentance where you will be scourged of your iniquity by your peers. Please disrobe. You may keep your lockets.”

As Lever said that, the codex enforcer zapped an arc of electricity from his chattel prod.

The old woman had only one garment left to remove. She yanked her sweat-stained slip up over her girth and off her head and let it fall to the floor. “Sir, may I bring this?” She asked of Lever, referring to her Holy Book.

“Of course,” Lever answered, kindly.

Clinging to her book, the bluish-skinned taxidermist, all hairy knock-knees and spider veins, gleefully scurried past Mr. Lever and the codex enforcer, through the door behind them and into the mob-flanked causeway. The gauntlet roared in abhorrence.

Indigo held D’naia close, covering her nakedness with his own body. She was showing her pregnancy, being four months along, but the hard living and lean diet of their homestead life preserved her slender figure. Indigo sheathed the mother of his child the best he could. Mr. Lever didn’t so much as dilate a pupil at D’naia’s naked body. The desires of high degree Overman were much more esoteric than a mere naked female form could induce.

“I’ll spare you the religious talk,” Lever continued. “We both know that this has everything to do with feeding the serfs their dose of public spectacle… ‘bread and circuses’ as they used to say. The undermen out there would smash the skulls of infants if we told them they were traitors to the republic. They just love whipping themselves up into a furor over traitors. Ha! I’ll even let you in on a little secret. You can take undermen out of their tribe but you can’t take the tribalism out of the undermen. That’s the secret to manipulating them. It’s a beautiful system, I must admit. They’re like little flesh puppets. All we need to do is pull their strings. Nothing to it. Now, if you don’t mind, your cattle car awaits.”

“This will blow back on you. They’ll remember that I’m the spaceman. I’m a hero to them.”

“I’ve already cured them of that, Indigo. Just be sure to move quickly to the train and keep your head down lest someone knock you unconscious.”

Mr. Lever and the codex enforcer stepped aside and directed them through the door.

“Usurper! Liar! Terrorist!” Shouted the throng as D’naia and Indigo passed into Gauntlet of Repentance. The taxidermist marched proudly ahead of them, Gaians Bible clutched to her breast, spider veins stretching and contracting as she strutted through the tribulation of hate and up a staircase and into a cattle car where she was handed a pair of green overalls. Indigo clutched D’naia even tighter, shielding her naked, pregnant body from the frozen air and the mob of psychopaths the best he could. They clumsily made their way through the jeers and spit and stones.

“What did you do to Staley?” One savage screamed from the fray. “The demon drugged him! Indigo poisoned our hero!” shouted another. “Indigo the murderer!” “Look at her, look at the whore!” one shrieked at D’naia. “How does it feel to fellate Satan, himself?” called another.

A stone glanced off Indigo’s shoulder.

“I hope you die a painful death you traitor!” Shouted another who leaned his face into the gauntlet to scream it directly into Indigo’s ear. “Behold the humate maggots!” “You thought you could get away with it!” “They’ll boil you alive!” “Kill them now!” “Let us at them! We’ll kill them ourselves!”

Someone hurled another stone that hit D’naia in the neck. Indigo covered her head with both arms and pushed her faster towards the boxcar.

“Humate scum!” “Animal!” “Capitalist pig!”

Up the scaffolding and into the cattle car they stumbled, receiving their green overalls. They hid in the sanctuary of a corner. D’naia kept her head buried in her hands and nestled her freezing body into Indigo’s. The codex enforcer, egged on by the rioting serfs, started jabbing his chattel prod into the car, shocking the prisoners indiscriminately. Indigo positioned himself over D’naia to protect her from the volts and the cold the best he could. The car door slammed shut to darkness.

[Previous Chapter]

[Next Chapter]

A full PDF version is available upon request

Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon are greatly appreciated!

Jordan B. Peterson Routs BBC4 Maoist

#FakeNews was in full hyperbolic mode when it interviewed Jordan B. Peterson on BBC4 on 1/16/18.

Here is the exchange that captures the essence of why anyone who “uses” dinosaur news is a hopeless useful idiot:

Smug Interviewer: “Tell us about the lobster.”

Peterson: “Well that’s quite a segue. Well, the first chapter I have in my book is called “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back.” And it’s an injunction to be combative. Not least to further your career, let’s say, but also to adopt a stance of ready engagement with the world and to reflect that in your posture. And the reason that I wrote about lobsters is because there’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the western patriarchy and that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. And I use the lobster as an example because the lobster–we divulged from lobsters in evolutionary history about 350 million years ago–common ancestor. And lobsters exist in hierarchies and they have a nervous system atuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin like our nervous system. And the nervous system of the lobster and of human beings is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with socio-cultural construction, which it doesn’t.

Smug interviewer: “Let me get this straight, you’re saying we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters.”

[queue the rim-shot]

Are you kidding me? Is this what passes for “journalism” these days. Unbelievable.

I find myself totally mesmerized by #JordanBPeterson.  Although I still despair, he gives me hope.

Here’s the full interview: