Sariel turned to him with amused interest. “You have a tale you wish to tell us?” she asked.
Chess took a deep breath and tried to organize his thoughts. He had not yet had time to analyze the idea that had just leaped into his mind, but perhaps he could work through it now.
“Lilumei,” he began in a halting voice, “of course, had great sympathy for her creations, the humans. And she could not sit back and watch as only the strongest life forms survived in this world. So…” He cleared his throat and went on more confidently. “So, she began to do more than just converse with the humans. Now, she began to counsel them. She told them that humans did not need to be subjugated to the whims of gods; instead, humans could improve the world for themselves.
“She knew that her favorite human friend was ambitious, and he only grudgingly deferred to gods.” Chess glanced at Ileana. “So she focused on him, hoping he would lead some of the others.”
Chess saw Ileana shift, and he quickly added, “She had the best of intentions, of course. She wanted to improve the general quality of life for every person on earth. She convinced her friend that humans had the potential to control the world, and that they could do a better job than any god could. And, to support her argument, she reminded him of the many things that humans had already achieved.
“And so, with Lilumei’s guidance, the humans stopped trying to be obedient,” Chess explained. “Lilumei’s human friend, in particular, had some big plans of his own. He had heard rumors about the existence of some weapon, created by wizards, that might enable mastery over the elements of the earth, and he went about gathering information on where that weapon might be. He got others to work with him, and even to follow him. In time, with Lilumei’s counsel, humans came to dominate the earth. They achieved dominion over the animals, and the elements and metals of the earth. And soon, even the ocean and the sky bent to human power.” Chess raised his eyes to meet Ileana’s gaze. “Eventually,” he concluded, “the power of humans on earth equaled or surpassed the power of the gods themselves. And when the gods noticed this, finally, and became angry, the humans stood up to them without fear.”
“Do the humans go to war with the gods?” one of the boys asked eagerly.
Chess shrugged, adopting a thoughtful expression. “Maybe we’ll find out in another story.”
Afterward, when the children had scattered and only the three of them were left sitting on the ground, Sariel turned to Chess with mirthful admiration. “Devious boy,” she commented softly.
Ileana’s expression was blank, but Chess could tell that she was thinking furiously.
“Look,” Chess explained, “there’s a strategy game that I used to play back in civ. Each player acted like a character in this sort of adventure story.” He hesitated for a moment, feeling the familiar reticence and self-consciousness that always came when he first told others about the game. “We, uh, well, most of the time, we tried to work together and use our skills to achieve whatever our goal was. But sometimes,” he continued, “especially when we came up against an enemy that was really strong, we looked for ways to get our enemies to weaken themselves by fighting each other.”
After a long silence, Ileana said, “So, you’re suggesting that I play on Tez’s ambitions. But, whereas Lilumei thinks that her human friend can actually do something good… my aim, on the other hand, would be to get Tez and Razor to battle each other, eventually.” She closed her eyes, as if in pain. “And the ‘good’ that would come from this would be the destruction of Razor’s entire operation.”
Chess nodded slowly, knowing that he had just proposed that she betray the man she loved. But, he countered silently, none of these people were being terribly honest with each other, already.
“And the chaos that might ensue here if factions start battling each other?” Ileana asked.
Chess thought for moment. He considered Tez’s obvious ambitions. He also thought about Woolf, the arms dealer whom Razor considered to be a squatter on his property. “It might happen anyway,” Chess answered grimly. And then he remembered what both Woolf and the various older ladies who ran businesses throughout the hallways had told him: that they had been free before Razor moved in. “And anyway, this place is no utopia,” he added.
Continued next page...
Ixta: What better way to destroy your enemies than to let them destroy themselves?
- Doctor Who: The Aztecs, Season 1 Episode 27 (1964)
Travel back in time to about a decade ago: I had just finished researching an extensive paper on cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that travel between cells in the body and help the cells communicate. Basically, they are sent out by one cell to tell another cell to do something or to stop doing something. They are important in perhaps all bodily functions, and are especially known to be important in the immune system. The immune system, as we know, is fairly important for everyone who has a body because it helps us fight off diseases, cancer, and other bad stuff. The immune system can also over-react on us, attacking our own cells and causing auto-immune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
One section of my paper focused on some of the then-new medications that blocked the actions of cytokines. These medications held great promise for helping people with painful inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Funny enough, though, one sentence in my paper: “however, these proteins have other functions, some of which may yet be unknown, and therefore the side effects of blocking them might be too dangerous to approve their use,” translated to a very real situation only a few months later. Turns out, my friend Mary had started taking one of these new medications and found that it relieved a lot of her arthritis pain. Unfortunately, while she was happily finding relief, some other patients were developing serious infections because the drug was pretty much doing what it was intended to do: suppressing their immune systems -- but not just the over-reactive part of their immune systems. Instead, it was suppressing everything, so that they could not fight off bacterial threats that most of us, with healthy immune systems, don’t even notice. The company that produced the medication apparently only focused on the one function that could make them money. The other stuff was relegated to the fine print of possible side effects. The result was that the drug was recalled and Mary could no longer get it. Seriously, if ever I wished for some good comprehensive scientific research that led to a useful solution to a problem -- instead of to false hopes and more problems -- it was definitely then.
And speaking of creating at least as many problem as it solves, corporate-funded research has another worrisome trend that is beginning to take hold in university research as well: the rush to patent every discovered process, molecule, diagnostic test, and even snippets of human DNA that are significant in diseases.
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