“So…” Chess began, once Ileana had grabbed a chair and sat down before the bank of computers, next to him. Now that she was here, he was unsure how to broach the subject. “So, uh, I know when you got outside, things weren’t…,” he dropped the volume of his voice, “exactly like you had hoped. And I was wondering: what was it that you were hoping to do? Join a group of dissidents?” He tried to picture her glaring at him through the hard, weary eyes of the dissidents that he had encountered, and firing upon military camps. He could not envision it.
“I guess that was my intention, yes.” Ileana seemed to smile at her own foolishness. “Could I ever kill anyone?” She shrugged. “I know, I was so idealistic! But I just had to do something.”
“You couldn’t work within the system?” Chess asked, suddenly thinking of his sister and her political activities. Sure, his sister was no rebel, but she was good person. Chess was certain that she would work to make things better, more equitable, if only she got the chance.
Ileana looked surprised at the suggestion. “In government, you mean?” She shook her head animatedly, making her short hair flutter. “The government of civ is so weak. Yes, we tried to work with our representatives, because it was our only recourse. But they have so little power. They rely on money from corporations to get elected.” She sighed. “If the government officials don’t give the corporations what they want, then the corporations back another candidate. You know that, right?”
Chess shrugged. “I never really gave it much thought. Honestly, my parents sort of discouraged us – my sister and me – from getting involved with politics.” He thought of how his sister had insisted on keeping her work on the mayor’s campaign secret from their mother.
“Maybe they were just trying to protect you,” Ileana mused. “I think that it would be tough to try to work within the system. And possibly dangerous, too, if you cross someone powerful.”
“Dangerous?” Chess asked, alarmed and worried for his sister now. “Are you sure?”
“Am I sure? No!” Ileana answered, raising her hands and giving him an exasperated smile. “Am I a politician? I just find it difficult to trust anyone in power.”
“You sound like Isaac Dale,” Chess mused.
“Oh, I listen to him,” Ileana cried, brightening. “I’ve been listening ever since the day! The day they closed the gates,” she explained when he gave her a confused look. And then her shoulders sagged again under the thin t-shirt she wore. “But, even Isaac Dale, with his huge audience, can’t seem to have any real effect.” Restlessly, she turned toward the table of computers and began to fidget with one of the wires. “I had the idea that, once I got outside, I would see what needed to be done. I mean, I would have a much better picture of what was going on. Well, I do… but I’m still useless.”
Chess opened his mouth to speak, but she continued talking.
“I have tried to do something around here, to talk with the people who live in all these buildings, to get a feel for what’s going on with them… but no one will talk to me. They are all so polite, but they will not say anything beyond a little meaningless chatter. Frankly, they seem wary of me.”
Chess thought of the way the hallways cleared out whenever Razor came through. The people here were not stupid or blind: they knew who was close to the “boss man” as Sariel had referred to him.
“It’s because of Razor,” Chess told her gently. “And they really don’t need your help. They all seem to have their own occupations, and their own ways of getting by. But,” he added, his heart beginning to pound. “I know some people who could really use your help.”
Ileana looked at him sharply and Chess felt an instant of cold fear. What if he was wrong? What if she went straight to Razor? He was silent for a few moments, arguing with himself. He and Sariel, and the people in shelter were on borrowed time. He was more certain of that every day. Their activities could not go undetected forever. And, true, he did not know exactly what Ileana could do to help, but she seemed like their only possible hope. And Sariel had taken her own leap of faith in trusting him. So, what if he was right?
“If you can keep a secret, I can show you,” he told her finally.
Continued next page...
We’re all in the same game, just different levels
Dealing with the same hell, just different devils
-Unknown(?), -Big Dog Status by Jadakiss (?)
Because I was trying to write a story about a future time, I thought it might be helpful to do a little research on what scientists predict that our world might become. In a few decades, will we all just sit in lounge chairs 24/7, with our “actions” being exclusively virtual? Given the exponential rate that technology seems to be advancing at, is this not a reasonable assumption? But it’s terribly hard to imagine, and even more difficult to depict. Watch the people in the Star Trek shows fervently pushing buttons as the alarm system screams the red alert. More likely, by that time, they would be working the controls purely by eye movements (the goal that the helmet-mounted cuing systems of helicopter pilots appear to be moving toward) or perhaps with brain impulses (like the implanted electrodes that are beginning to help paraplegics become mobile)… all possibly executed from a great distance, and probably from a lounge chair. How exciting would that be: an entire movie of tense facial expressions? Even what was filmed in the movie Ender’s Game would probably be laughably old technology by Star Trek time. I mean, doesn’t Stark Industries already have that tech, right now?
Tony Stark: (referring to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s stationary computer screens) How does Fury even see these?
Agent Maria Hill: He turns.
The Avengers (2012)
The question of how to set a story against the background of a future world has been explored many times by science fiction writers. And the best sci-fi writers have tended to be scientists themselves, like Isaac Asimov, or at least those who have a genuine and consuming interest in the field, like Jules Verne. Jules Verne was not a scientist, but had such an interest in reading about science and of talking with scientists that he was able to take the information they gave him and apply his own imagination to it. Sometimes this had a self-fulfilling prophecy-effect of inspiring the work of future scientists.
While reading and researching Jules Verne, I was startled to realize that, in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the ridiculous feelie movie, “Three Weeks in a Helicopter,” might be an ironic reference to Five Weeks in a Balloon: Jules Verne’s first book. One title marked the beginning of a journey of real scientific inspiration, whereas the other is a further installment of stagnant pablum for the brain-dead masses. In other words: what might come about if the alpha scientists kept all the secrets to themselves and stopped writing to inform and inspire the rest of the population.
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