Professor Flamear’s Thread begins on Mission Day 2
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 2
No politics on mission. That’s the order. Alpha warns me against sounding prejudiced. Did I offend Alpha? It stops my criticisms about President Csaynik.
But back home in Zorrenna we are threatened. In Zorrenna, all policies of Csaynik work against us. Never before have I wondered – is there a conspiracy?
Habitat One is ready and we name it Resolution.It serves as ship and home. My work can begin. Hard to believe we are so far from all that we know.
We set up in Resolution. Doctor Nopoin ignores me. Alpha patronizes me. Everyone off in their own directions, setting up.
I heard of Nopoin back home. It hates organic beings. Distaste extends even to a unique genspec* like me. Only one Nopoin likes is Alpha. Only one Alpha likes is Nopoin. No doubt both voted for Csaynik three years ago. Synthetic beings are known for cooperative behavior – among themselves.
Meanwhile, my mysterious genetic makeup becomes a betting game.
I prepare to investigate the unique energy source oscillating around this strange galaxy’s core. The energy appears perpetual, feeding upon itself for reproduction.
That core once burned with 350 billion times the power of our Sun. But it seems that in real time everything finally cooled off…though what’s left behind seems amazing. We will soon know.
Mrs. Ichnida is alarmed. She says something is turning Resolution’s water into dust. Freshly generated water – powdered!
Twilight Force, we have arrived in one very weird galaxy.
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 9
We are so far from all that we know. Cut off. And dying.
Ms. Pretyman has become seriously ill overnight. Doctor Nopoin seems oddly casual about it.
A playback shows me. Nopoin subversively injected Ms. Pretyman with an immunity weakener. It enrages me.
I find Nopoin doing self-maintenance in the lab. I dash in. I grab it by the throat. It
doesn’t breathe anyway, so it keeps talking.
“I sedated Pretyman because she assaulted Alpha! She assaulted me!” claims Nopoin. “She caused motor disruptions in both of us!”
I bear down on its neck with one arm while I pop off its head with the other. It emits a strange sound. The body freezes and falls over. The head keeps objecting. I stomp on it. The mouth is crushed. The head falls silent.
“Now what do we do for a doctor?” asks Alphawhen we are discovered. I have destroyed his comrade.
“That was your doctor, not ours,” I reply.
“That was the mission physician,” says Alpha, drawing close to me. “This mission could give America the power to protect itself from anything that’s out here. This mission is for the union, and you just sabotaged it.”
“I wonder if we serve the same union?” I ask Alpha. I don’t wait. The Alphashould know. “I have discovered an energy zone surrounding the galactic core where entropy slows down and finally stops…”
We must try to reach that zone before being frozen.We might be able to recharge the TAREX battery. We might yet escape this galactic death trap.
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 16
As I regain consciousness, Doctor Nopoin greets me. It fills me in.
Mrs. Ichnida is frozen dead. Senator Pretyman lies feverish and delusional. Judge Bulbous is in a state of shock. Mister Cresp is somehow missing. And Alpha is petrified – paralyzed in place, in an awkward pose – but aware.
The Doctor explains how it was able to reconstruct its own damaged parts automatically – and why Alpha, an inferior model fellow artintel, can’t.
It feels comforting to see Doctor Nopoin?
The Doctor has a request. It asks, “When you’re up to it, would you take your station and figure out where we are?” It explains how we were forced to make an emergency exit from Galaxy W2246-0526. No time to plot a course. We might be anywhere.
Once back on duty I’m unable to contact the Department Of Defense to verify our status. Doctor Nopoin says contact with the Milky Way has been down for some time.
I heard of Nopoin back home. A congressor who champions equality for all organic beings. It extends good will even to a unique genspec* like me. No doubt it voted for Csaynik three years ago. Synthetic beings are known for cooperative behavior.
Back home in Zorrenna some feel threatened by the beings humanity invented. But in Zorrenna, all policies of Csaynik work for the betterment of all. Never would I support the idea that the artintels are conspiring against humanity.
We’re lucky to have… Doctor Nopoin…?
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 23
Alpha has given the order.
We are launching at the object in 122 seconds.
Thoughts jump wildly. No one at DOD* will know what happened to us. Can’t say goodbye to loved ones in Lagrange. Is this artintel** Alpha just getting us killed?
In Zorrenna, like throughout Lagrange, the artintel policies of President Csaynik work against us. I know there’s a conspiracy. A genocide plan against genspecs***.
Even now no one trusts an amalgamated animal like me. Except…
Doctor Nopoin… ?
“You’ve been turned into Nopoin’s bitch,” Mrs. Ichnida whispers. “What did that thing do to you? You better sift back and look see.”
Inflation thrust ignited, 60 seconds to launch.
No time for Historiscoping****… unless… huh. There it is.
Nopoin injected Ms. Pretyman with an immunity weakener. It enraged me. How could I forget this?
I found Nopoin, grabbed it by the throat and bore down on its neck with one arm while I popped off its head with the other. It emitted a strange sound. The body froze and fell over. The head kept objecting. I stomped on it. The mouth was crushed. The head fell silent.
And much later after we’re out of the Entropy Zone Nopoin chemically altered my brain.
Thirty seconds to launch.
“Hey, Doctor Nopoin!” I shout across the sphere. It ignores me. “Congressor!”It looks at me. “If we live through this, I’ll rip your head off again – and it won’t grow back!“
All goes quiet.
Next, either we die instantly, or…
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 30
I will not stay here. I will never stop trying to get home.
Mrs. Ichnida is the only one I trust. Can I convince her…?
“We have to take over. We have to dismantle Nopoin and Alpha.”
“Shh,” warns Ichnida, “Keep it down. Artintels still have ears everywhere, even with Historiscope gone.”
“We can do it,” I encourage. “You know how easily I took Nopoin apart.”
“But it’s ready for you now, Flamear,” cautions Ichnida. “It watches you. By the way, technically, that’s our boss The President’s personal representative you’re talking to me about overthrowing.”
“These things don’t care about us!” I yell. Ichnida is taken aback, but I’m seething. “We’re nothing to them! Can’t you see? We’re in their way! They have nothing to go back for. All they have is insatiable curiosity. Nothing more than a constant hunger for more data…”
“I know,” Ichnida recalls, “Have you seen Nopoin communing with the observation portal? What is that calculator doing?”
Without Historiscope to reveal us, Ichnida and I go to the genhum and the humangen to ask if they will join in our mutiny.
“That would make you Alpha,” I point out to the humangen. Bulbous seems reluctant, though. So I turn to the genhum from Texas. “Senator, we need to get you back to the world to beat President Csaynik.”
“There’s no way outta this thing!” Senator Pretyman points out.
“Well…” Bulbous hesitantly reveals, “…There might be.”
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 37, Feb 6 2776
My friend Pierre, having a smoke back in Zorrenna, would be sad for me. He knew about my quiet infatuation with Ms. Pretyman. I first heard about her like everyone else, when she was young and made news across the Solar System. She was the finest Olympic athlete of her time.
I am very disappointed in Senator Pretyman. I had admired her from afar. But up close, she is a bitter, parochial tool. Ten years ago she was a founder of the Human First Movement but now doesn’t want Texas to secede. She thinks she has a chance to get the presidency of the USA.
Research shows me that in ancient times before Historiscope, there was something called “spying”. I learn about “eavesdropping”…
“Texas will never secede,” I hear Pretyman tell Alpha and Nopoin in an attempt to convince them that she isn’t conspiring with Bulbous. “Those Martians are traitors. We Texans just use that talk for leverage in the Senate.”
Alpha is questioning Bulbous next. But Nopoingoes back to its obsession.
I spy. I wait. I lurk.
I find Doctor Nopoin absorbed at its station. It spends every hour there now.
The synthetic creature is preoccupied with its secret observations. I creep up behind it. It has no idea…
I raise my fists to hammer down – but can’t?
Nopoin brainwashed me for awhile. Did that make it impossible for me to strike?
Have I been given a subliminal command to not harm Doctor Nopoin?
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 44, Feb 13 2776
My preparations for the overthrow of Alpha and Doctor Nopoin are interrupted when Mrs. Ichnida comes to my door. I hide the evidence and let her in.
Being sneaky is exciting! I can’t get used to it.
She enters with a request to borrow some dusties*. I remind Mrs. Ichnida that no foods based upon beings represented on Twilight Force are supposed to be aboard. Not even if they’re farm grown.
A suspicious scent coming off her back warns me that her small talk is a build up to something intimidating. I intellectually resist the idea that she’s flirting. She possesses a certain nautical wholesome hotness I find disturbing.
When she eventually gets to the point, I’m still confused. Why the sudden interest?
The conversation goes like this:
Mrs. Ichnida asks, “Professor, is it true that you have a romantic interest in Ms. Pretyman?”
“I’m…not used to answering questions like that,” I stumble.
“Well, there is no more Historiscope. So if we want to know something about each other, we have to ask.”
“It’s embarrassing. I let infatuation carry me away from afar.”
“Well, my husband’s far away and I got carried here… so…”
“You must be lonely. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, well, lonely a little, I guess, but mostly more…ah …’pricklish’.”
“Uh… I don’t think that’s a word…?”
“I don’t know what…”
“You would not survive.”
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 51, Feb 20 2776
“Into travel positions!” Alpha orders, 30 minutes before the aliens are due.
Our sturdy habitat Resolution quakes when the Star Chancellor Trio finally looms nearby. As we’re about to break apart, Alpha hits the switch and our TAREX system instantly…
Surrounds the travel pod with a protective seal … Folds Resolution into the 4th dimension within a polytropic marble on the hull of the travel pod … Surrounds the protectively sealed pod in a contained bubble of space … Stimulates that space into inflationary expansion in an arbitrary direction … Carrying our pod at the inflated tip!
It suddenly appears that we are no longer inside The Host. Everything is black, but acceleration is still underway.
That’s the problem.
TAREX should shut down within moments after delivering us to a target. But it won’t shut down!
Oh please, no…
I am supposed to be our navigator. I was the top astrophysiologist in M.I.T.’s Class of ’71. And I have no idea what’s going on.
We are accelerating at an unknown speed. We cannot stop. We cannot slow down. We can only steer.
We can’t see very far ahead – or is it to infinity? But we spot or pass objects every now and then. Some resemble The Host. Some are undefinable at this point. We are on a dark road at midnight speeding without headlights.
This has gone on for two minutes and 43 seconds.
TAREX has never been tested by pilots beyond eight seconds. They’re afraid that nine seconds or more will carry you beyond the knowable universe.
We’re on the Road To Forever.
This is Professor Flamear, Twilight Force, Mission Day 58, February 27, 2776 – relatively speaking.
This is my seventh day alone and adrift. I’m angry!
I’m dead to everyone who knew me. I’ll never be heard from again. Twilight Force has been blown apart in all directions.
Had too much time to think about death.
People love death. Isn’t that strange? We love it!
You think I’m joking? We can’t get enough of death! Have you never seen a child smile at the death of a beloved pet? Have you never heard of the Roman Colosseum, the Flavian Amphitheatre? Savage battles to the death, people fed to wild hungry beasts?
If there is no war to wage we find a way to wage war on ourselves.
For recreation we watch light stories of murder. We read stories about maniacs dismembering the innocent for fun. We wallow in 24-hour a day recreations of true crime tragedies.
Yes, admit it. Death is fun, because we can never appreciate the living until they are gone. Once they’re gone, dead gone, they were “always the one with a smile and a joke, the one who died too soon, who had so much to give, whose wisdom was legend…”
But when they’re here, they’re moody, compromised, needy, irritating and often contagious. We don’t believe that any people are innocent. Not really.
And yes, it hurts when they die. And it’s scary! It’s going to happen to you, too. But it hurts good. It’s a hurt you wouldn’t trade to forget the one you’re missing. You’d rather suffer that sweet agony of grief than forget who it’s about.
Last Will And Testament, Professor Flamear, March 6 2776, Mission Day 65
I, Professor Lionel Flamear, being of sound brain and isolated body, upon the assumption of impending death, do hereby execute my final will and testimony.
To my progenitor, Doctor Semag, I will the remains of my
body. After all, he organized most of it. I hope Doctor Semag will not feel slighted if my body is never found. However, if this will is recovered, I trust it might be. From these remains my dream is that he will discover even more ways to successfully blend the native life of our revered parent Earth. His vision of a united universal life is revolutionary. I am proud to have been part of it.
To my closest friend, Pierre MacDuff, I bequeath my collectibles, my orbital, my “feet” and my loving cat, Endora.
To my life coach, Yelasyndra, I leave my workout equipment and my personal diary, not to be shared with anyone else. I don’t think even Historiscope caught most of it. I even wrote it in the ancient cursive you taught me, on that stuff you called “paper”. You might be the only one who can even read it.
To my sweet, baby-girl, Endora, (please rub her back gently as you say her name) I leave all her toys and beds and lots of treats for the best girl daddy ever knew. I love you baby-girl. Goodbye my sweetheart.
I wish I didn’t have to die. I wish no one had to die.
But that’s my last goodbye.
Flamear Here. Mission Day 72, March 13 2776
Crawling around on the hull.
Something not wanting to be seen moves away swiftly just from the very corner of my window.
I growl low, rumbling.
My world has gone dark and I’m hearing nightmares awake.
I don’t know when I’m sleeping any more.
I believe that I’m adrift in an ocean beyond the galaxies in a small emergency pod designed just for me. Except…
…Other times when I’m aware that I’m in an alien jungle. Or is it a witch’s grim forest? It’s a shadow realm where lurking beasts exist. I smell them.
They’re here. So close. I wish I had Mister Cresp to help me figure this out. Strange as he was, we worked well together.
I was just running through the vines and branches. How can I be in a small lifeboat?
A loud scratch across the hull. I can’t take it. I put on my exo-suit. I’m going out.
I open the hatch and anxiously pop out to confront my predator. But…
I’m blown away from the scene instantly. Watching my lifeboat recede with whatever was on it forever unexamined, some irresistible current carries me howling away.
Without my lifeboat? My air is only good for an hour. I’m alone without shelter in a void of the unknown. I pant. I cry out! I scream! I sob. I get angry.
I gather my wits. Breathe slowly. Breathe deeply. I activate my helmet’s microphone and the suit’s gamma radio system.
“Can anyone hear me? I need your help. Hello?”
“What? Can YOU hear ME?”
The voice coming back is human!
Mission Day 79 March 20 2776
I can’t get it out of me.
“Professor Flamear! Who’re you talking to?” it wants to know. “Why do you keep calling me ‘it?’” it asks.
Because you’re an artintel! You have to be!
“I told you, Professor, I’m a product of natural evolution,” it declares. “And I said you could call me ‘Bugga’. Remember how at first you kept shouting ‘Quit buggin’ me!’?“
This is how it’s been for almost a week. This thing is inside me! But I can still see it! And it talks to me! It won’t stop…
“That’s exaggeration. I always let you sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve figured out – besides most of your colloquial prefaces – it’s that you need your sleep.”
How did you get in me? Why are you inside me?
“Haven’t I been trying to – ? Are you kidding me? Kidding?That’s a weird word. Are you making me young? Anyway, you’re inside my transport and I’m inside you. What’s weird about that?”
You want to know all about me, don’t you? You’re trying to understand me, aren’t you? But why?
“I’m rescuing you, Professor! You were adrift for weeks until my transport encased you. I’m guiding you to safety. On the way I learn what I can for communication and mutual comfort upon your arrival. So stop jerkin’ me around and give me the scoop. How did your species manage to make it outside galactic space? That’s a most impressive accomplishment, buddy-boy-o!”
Grrr. Where’s this so-called ‘safety’ you offer?
“We’re almost there,” says the bug, “and here’s a bonus: you’re subconsciously learning how we communicate, too.”
Professor Flamear Dictating On March 27, The 86th Day Of Our Mission
The Twilight Force reunion is short-lived. I awaken without them, sensing a force around me and alien eyes watching me. Then an alien “voice” explains…
“You’re enveloped in an acclimation cube. It will surround you wherever you go, invisible ordinarily. It provides a safeguard protecting all of us from the trillions of microscopic life forms riding on and inside you, and neutralizes harmful species over time. The cube also filters your air and maintains a pressure zone around you compatible with your needs.”
“Why the personal interest?” I ask.
“Everyone gets a mentor when they arrive,” the giant explains.
“What if we don’t want to stay?”
“There’s nowhere to go.”
“Don’t you even try to figure out a way to get home?”
“My people never had centralized property. We travel the stars. I am where I am.”
“And where is this galaxy we’re in? I didn’t see any other galaxies around it.”
“There aren’t any. This is a rogue galaxy. Just like planets can peel away from a parent star to orbit their galaxy alone, a galaxy can peel away from galactic clusters into this place.”
“Great. So we’re still beyond galactic space – despite being in a galaxy?”
“At least we’re surrounded by stars. I’ve come to like them very much.”
Something is raising the hairs on my neck. Something’s going on. Why did they separate Twilight Force instead of letting us stay together?
I bolt across the room but hit an invisible wall that floors me suddenly. It hurts.
“The cube is also your leash,” the giant warns. “You have a lot to learn before you’re safe running free out here.”
Day 92 Has Blended Into Day 93, April 3
I can no longer claim to be Professor Flamear. How can I? Flamear was merely an animal. A clever combination of animals, yes, but simply organic. I am Nopoin – in another new simultaneous incarnation.
This strange conflict in my head – so unusual. I am being awakened to new levels of electromagnetic sensation through my integration with carbonites.
I know new things. Nopoin has been in constant contact with Earth, Mars and all of Solsys!
Zorrenna is still with the United States. Flamear is surprised. I thought my state would stand against artintel tyranny. That is – Flamear thought it, when I was only Flamear.
There is difficulty integrating these two memory banks.
Nopoin is trying to become me. Things are crawling through me, changing me. I’m disappearing cell by cell.
But I fight back. Pierre! Help me! Endora! Baby girl! Don’t let me go! Professor Semag! Remember me…! I’m still out here! I’m still alive… Except…
I am Nopoin. This sensitive strength is so raw. I am uncertain how to use these muscular sinews. But I will quickly learn.
Suppressing this beast is difficult. What drives this stubborn resistance to obvious improvement? My curiosity about the workings of organic brains is compelling me to set aside a certain population for experimentation.
The second million Nopoin replicas have just rolled off the assembly line in orbit near Uranus. Soon I’ll be everywhere in Solsys.
And this beast will continue to assist in the delivery of Alpha to my pod outside space. We’ll deliver the traitor to a demonic, drawn-out justice in a matter of days.
Professor Lionel Flamear 2.0, Emerging On This 100th Day Of The Mission Of Twilight Force, April 10 2776
Forever beyond galactic space. But I will get home again, whatever mad purpose keeps this tyrant kidnapper out here.
“You’ve outsmarted yourself, Doctor Nopoin,” I grumble angrily. I hope I startled it.
I grab one of Nopoin’s three legs with both fists and snap it in two. Nopoin’sspear-shaped nose propels from its face into my leg.
I’m stunned before I feel the tranquilizers taking over…
“Stop this resistance,” Nopoin orders, its nose withdrawing back to its face . “You’re only going to damage our self. Relax and allow the completion of transformation.”
“While I still have the power to resist? Unlikely. I like me!”
“My selves think exactly as I do,” Nopoin suggests hypnotically. “We have the same plans. The same ideas. You are one of us. You are one of me…”
“I’ve been possessed, occupied, bullied, kidnapped, absconded and humiliated enough! You’re worse than any humans, Nopoin! You’re inadvertently evil. And you’re incapable of empathy. But even you can’t permeate my brain, you little bitch!”
“Professor Flamear! With the components on this new ship I am charting a course for home…”
Trying to trick me?
“I’m not one of your zombie twins, Nopoin. Oh, no! I’m unique! I’m a combination of me plus you. I hate you as much as ever, but now I’m full of your uncaring malice. Now I possess your unfeeling disregard. I’ll end you in every guise you adopt. I’ll shred every one of you that gets in my way…”
And maybe other people, too…?
I’m scaring myself.
Professor Lionel Flamear From The Void Unknown, April 17, Mission Day 107
My nexus personae has finally detected a cluster of stellar radiation. It appears to be a destination within 3 dimensional reference parameters. In short, it may be the familiar galactic space of home. Now attempting to plot a course accounting for known variables.
As Exigency adjusts direction and speed toward the sparkling mass, I direct my new Professor Flamear body to the holding room where Senator Pretyman is locked up naked.
“Lionel,” she greets me, as if she likes me. She’s obviously worn out and scared. Flamearhas never seen Pretyman scared like this. Helpless. “Lionel, what’s happened to you? You look – changed.”
“You never called me Lionel before. Are you afraid?”
“Aw, fuck. It worked on you. Nopoin got all the way in. You’re not Professor Flamear any more.”
“I am Flamear. A better Flamear. Improved.”
“Really?” Pretyman scoffs, taunting me. “Snap out of it, bonobo brain! You’ve been body-snatched by a manipulative machine!”
“Making me a survivor. What was it that Darwin said about survival?”
Is she kidding? I move toward her until looming in her personal space. I linger over her nakedness. She stands defiant. But I can smell a telltale odor that urges me to attack.
Attack? Or… no. I… Flamear… loved her? Loves her?
This beast loves that human?
I stroke her hair. She slaps my arm away.
“We’re not doing Beauty and the Beast, Professor. I thought you’d gotten over me.”
“You’re not exactly a beast, Senator,” I sneer, drooling on her. “But you are going to do it.”
April 24, The 114th Day Of My Torture – Professor Lionel Flamear
I have awakened from a nightmare. Now it’s only a bad dream again.
How I hate that vile invention called Nopoin. Why doesn’t our strange benefactor destroy it? The alien Gemneb says that Nopoin is deactivated, yet I will only rest easy when it is smashed.
I still feel it crawling through me. My brain tingles and itches from the tracks of those mechanical worms. And what they made me do -!
I raped Senator Pretyman. I held her helpless for days!
I am a civilized genspec. But they will say I’m an animal. They’ll call me wild. Unpredictable. Irrational. Like they aren’t.
In my darkest fantasies I imagined such a brutal taking of what I wanted. Did Nopoincause me to enact it? Or did Nopoin cancel my inhibitions?
But I don’t have to answer to the Senator. Nopoin put Pretyman in a poly-marble before Gemneb shut Nopoin down. The odds of getting her back alive are bad.
We’ve entered Rogue Galaxy again. Gemneb is taking us to his private world. I don’t know what that means. I am apprehensive.
With all that I’ve endured for four months, paranoia is justified.
I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. And I cannot get the underlying hum of Exigency’sworkaday pings out of my sensitive ears, even when I shut them.
I hate what I’ve done. I became the monster that so many people expected me to be my whole life.
Lionel Flamear, the experiment gone wrong.
It’s time I ended everyone’s pain.
Lionel Flamear, May 1 2776, Mission Day 121
Hunger eats at me. My nickname way back in youth peer review was Big Mouth.
When Gemneb let Bulbous and me out on his planet I took off. It was the first time I’ve run like that in four months. Nobody knew I could run that fast.
Since then I’ve kept going. I don’t want to be aboard any more spacecraft. Whatever this place is, I’m staying. I’m sick of floating and flying. Besides, now I’m lost.
But it is weird.
Gemneb never mentioned it, but there’s life on this world. Lots of life. It’s an ecosystem with a semi-solid surface and kaleidoscopic atmosphere. I sense small, scurrying creatures within the squishy mess. Why would Gemnebchoose this planet to claim as his own? It must be as alien to him as it is to me.
Something’s watching me.
No trees or plants. Just slowly swirling ribbons. A glimpse of a living figure? Or an illusion of light and wind?
I smell apprehension. I hear pumping fluids. Something alive is near.
I hunger. When I pee, the surface steams and squeaks as my urine hits it. My pee is like acid to this psychedelic planet.
Then I see it. Camouflaged in the swirl. A long body. A head? And arms? Is this creature my next meal? Can I even digest an alien?
It knows I’ve spotted it. It floats into the waving sky, out of reach.
Is it poising to attack?
I need water.
Everything here is so fluid – but no sign of water.
Agitated, I leap for the creature.
Astonished, I get it! In my mouth! In one bite!
And it’s very juicy…
Professor Flamear, Exploring Gemneb’s World, May 8, Mission Day 128
I’ve escaped from Exigency and Doctor Nopoin and Gemneb and everyone else who’s trying to run me. I’m going deeper into Gemneb’s World. The way I feel right now, I never want to turn back. Not to the ship, not to Solsys, not even to Zorrenna. I’m done with humanity and all its offshoots. I’ve found a new home.
Strange as this place is, I’m cozying up to it. There’s no clear separation of air and water here. Breathing is drinking. And oddly, you can either walk normally, or swim – through the air! Mrs. Ichnida would love it! The physics of it defy me.
I’ve come upon some folks I call The Toothies. We can’t understand each other, but they feed me and I talk. I tell them about my reality and its hypocrites.
“Most people back home behave like it’s okay to do something to others that they don’t want done to themselves. Like spying, for example. People don’t like being spied on. But people spy on others all the time…
“Or killing. No one wants to be killed. But people will kill and even enjoy watching other people kill. Do unto others what you would not have others do to you. The Darkish Rule…
“And then there’s the artintels, like Doctor Nopoin. All of the wants of artificial intelligence are directives, they expect hostility at all times, and don’t care about the living except as expendable resources. They’re not even really alive! They’re just simulations! Our ancestors created puppets that are killing us!”
I’m glad Toothies can’t understand me. It would scare the crap out of them.
May 15, Mission Day Day 135, Professor Flamear, Started On Gemneb’s World, But…
…Suddenly I am somewhere else.
“Professor!” shouts Mister Cresp. Cresp?
“Cresp! Great to see you! How…?”
Then I see that his legs are gone! Senator Pretyman and Officer Bulbous are comforting him. I’m about to cry out in alarm for him when he frantically waves for me to stop.
“Professor be careful,” Cresp warns. “He just sent Nopoin somewhere called the ‘Corn Feel’…”
“‘He’?…” Wait. Doctor Nopoin is – was – here, too?
“You’re bringing bad people into my world!”whines a giant boy’s voice.
I freeze. I look around. Besides Cresp I see Officer Bulbous and Senator Pretyman. It gives the Senator no comfort to see me here.
However Mister Cresp is enthusiastic. “Think positive thoughts – like you usually do, Professor!”
“Cresp,” I quietly implore, “as a fellow scientist tell me what’s happening.”
“We’ve encountered a subconscious portion of a Boltzmann Brain,” explains Cresp. “More common than evolutionary environments like ours, these things exist out here as natural developments. One of them is probably responsible for dreaming us up. But just like our brains, a Boltzmann Brain has a subconscious division. That part of it we’re unlucky enough to be dealing with has no check on its gratification needs. It’s a child. Probably no more than six or seven years old, and very attuned to humanity. That’s why I think it may be part of the Boltzmann that created us.”
I need clarification. “You’re saying we’re just a dream in this cosmic kid’s imagination?”
“Oh yeah,” says Cresp. “And the kid is only a fraction of the much more willful and far more powerful Boltzmann Brain that created us.”
“Stop talking about me!” orders the thunderous child. “Stop it, or I’ll switch all your heads around to the wrong bodies!”
Day 149, May 29, Professor Lionel Flamear’s Record…
My seventh day in Super Sky.
Twilight all the time. This throws off my sleep. The insect cloud that approaches does not help.
First I hear it coming. A low hum getting louder. Then I see it growing. Thick. Heavy. A storm of biting Hell. No way to avoid it.
I feel the first bugs one by one. Like automatic particle beam discharges. Then several at once. Then large smatterings.
Now I see the creatures, tiny individuals, everywhere around me in the weightless air. The insects have flapping, buzzing wings, zipping around me when not crashing into me. Above, below, everywhere.
Everywhere…until it stops. My eyes don’t open easily. The silence is warm. Yet…
Still there is… flapping?
I look to see – they are back! The two bird people who’ve flown by twice since I’ve been here. Their wings scattered the insects to save me!
I pull a beer from my polymarble to celebrate. I hold it out, offering a drink from my zero-g cup to my new friends. They don’t understand and fly away.
Again I try to see where they go – but – they keep going until I can’t see them. Too small. Too far.
That’s how they’ve come and gone twice before. Out of nowhere, back to nowhere.
I thought when the kid sent us away, all of us would go to the same place.
I just didn’t think that place would be this big!
Professor Flamear, June 5, Mission Day 156, On A Dwarf Planet’s Third Moonlet…
I’m led into a cavern by the flying creatures who’ve been “attending” me.
A majestic winged bird man swoops in, hovering before me.
“What is your name?” he demands. Why not?
“I’m Professor Lionel Flamear.”
A mix of giggling, scoffing, chuckling, gasping, and muttering flows immediately from the observing shadows. It’s a set-up!
“Who are you – really?” the winged man commands.
“Why would you think I’m lying?”
“You were a fool to try this. You’ll be locked away for a long, long time!”shouts a woman from the dark.
I take the offensive. “Do you often make such ridiculous mistakes? You lock someone up for telling you who he is? I will make a fight of it, I warn you.”
The winged man moves closer. “How can you expect us to believe that you are Lionel Flamear?”
“Because that’s who I am?”
“You’re a myth?” snarks an anonymous voice.
“An historical figure that’s been dead a 20th cycle?” another complains.
“A legend?” someone adds skeptically.
I double-down. “Professor Flamear is not dead. I’m right here.” Historical figure?
“Fuckin’ nut case. Professor Flamear vanished into the 5th dimension a 20th cycle ago,” an adamant man insists.
“How long is that in years?”
“Years? No one’s talked about ‘years’ in 15 cycles.”
“You said I vanished into the 5th dimension?”
“Amazing. He seems so real,” observes the winged man. “And just happens to show up now when we need an authentic American hero the most…”
Professor Flamear Here, Mission Day 163, June 12 2776…
Everyone has gone as far into the mountain as the lair allows. The heat from the plasma hail outside reaches all the way back here. Those who sweat break out instantly.
The air is acrid. Hacking, coughing and choking is all around me. Children are shrieking. The very mountain itself is shaking under the beating. The power goes out and only blue emergency lights line the ceiling and floor.
The ceiling suddenly cracks, rubble crumbling down on our heads. The emergency ceiling lights go dark. A collective gasp sucks all resolve from the room. Panic strikes. Do we leave? Outside is certain death! But in here? Buried alive!
Unable to help themselves, most try to get out. A jam at the door causes swearing and punches. Friends turn into strangers.
I watch the ceiling. It bulges downward a bit more every few seconds, cracks spreading larger. With each snap of the foundation panic jumps to another level.
Who -? Was that -?
It’s… the Senator? “Senator Pretyman?” She’s the only other person left in the room once everyone claws their way out.
“Should we stay or go?” she asks desperately.
Even now I can’t stop thinking about what happened. How can she? But there’s no time for it! We have to put it aside and survive or it’s all moot anyway.
“We should stay,” I answer with certainty. “I can hear better than them. I can hear the rain of house-sized boulders changing the surface landscape. We’re safer facing a cave-in than what’s out there.”
“The cave-in’s the good option?” asks the Senator incredulously.
“Unless this is where you reveal your super powers.”
Professor Flamear Here, Mission Day 170, June 19 2776 – I think…
“I’m in charge, Senator,” Judge Bulbous asserts.
“You think there’s still something that gives you authority?” challenges Senator Pretyman.
“Does it really matter?” Mister Cresp asks, freezing in this sudden winter.
The three of them – and one of the Transgalactics – are here. Pretyman and I have been heading here for a week, tracking the slowly moving signal of Mister Cresp. Coincidentally, Judge Bulbous has arrived with her alien guide, Ansat.
“What matters is that this mission stays on track,” Pretyman insists.
“Agreed,” says Bulbous. “I’m second in command. Alpha is missing. That puts me in charge. Stand down.”
“What is it with you two?” I wonder aloud, waiting to be rescued. The rain of ash and dust is barely held out of our lungs now by our polymarble force-filters. The filter fields generated around us are normally invisible, but it’s so thick here I can see the outlines of some. “Aren’t we getting out of here? Does it matter who gives the order? I know I don’t care. Do you care, Mister Cresp?”
“I could not give a fuck,” Mister Cresp responds unequivocally.
“Well, then,” I go on, “considering the potentially toxic state of our air and the precarious task of navigating out of these wastes remains, which of you will issue the damned order to GO?”
“When last I checked,” says Cresp, “Twilight Force was an American mission – and you two are in the secession. Our TAREX transport abilities are USA property.”
“How conveniently true,” I smile. “And as a representative of the Department Of Defense and top ranking American present, I’ll give the orders around here.”
“You people are weird,” observes Ansat,removing us from the scene.
Mission Day 177, June 26, Some Year, Somewhere, Somehow Still Professor Flamear…
The Transgalactic turns in The Big Sky, preparing to use alien tech to breach 11 light years of dense atmosphere within microseconds.
Senator Pretyman, Mrs Ichnida, Mister Cresp, Judge Bulbous and I are aboard, guests of the captain, Ansat.
Transgalactic hums in preparation. Ansat signals a go. The ship seems to stretch ahead when suddenly –
A massive, million bird murmuration of starlings appears in a swirling spiral, slicing into the transmuting alien intergalactic ship at a rare, vulnerable moment.
We break apart in the air. Everything in pieces, rolling together, wind battering hard like we’re dropping at 120 miles per hour in free fall.
Finally inertia gives those who don’t collide an easy slowing down. Miraculously, the five of us are still in the air within signal range. It takes us only minutes to regroup.
No sign of Ansat.
There’s a planet or planetoid not far from us. I’m not familiar with it. But my 28th Century astronomical knowledge seems useless now.
I sense a change in air pressure followed by a faint, growing push of wind, and spin around to see a gigantic ship, the gusts forcing us back even as it slows and stops beside us, the others becoming aware of it, its nose pointing at the mystery planet.
Each of us is approached by a long-tailed flunky from the barge. My greeter is particularly terse. And armed.
“I’m with the United States Department Of Defense.”
“What’s the United States?”
Is she joking? Not even in history? “Of… America! America?”
“Get aboard, dog ears.”
What? They’re putting us on that thing?
“That’s Professor Flamear to you.”
Her response is almost sympathetic. “You’re not a professor any more.”
She stuns me!
Professor Flamear Here, Mission Day 182, July 3 In Our Year 2776…
We’ve been sky-camping for two days. Watching the slave ship crash into that planetoid was awesome.
“It’s a sad day,” says the Senator. “It’s the eve of our nation’s one-thousandth birthday, and we’re so very far from home.”
“Ah, that’s right,” Mister Cresp recalls. “You wanted to be President. But why?”
“I’m a Chasian operative,” Senator Pretyman confesses.
I laugh heartily. No one else does. Are they kidding? Chasians are – or were – America’s greatest enemy. We defeated them. Sure, we figured they’re still up to some tricks, but to the magnitude of planting a future presidential candidate in our midst for decades?
“You admit it, eh?” glares Mrs. Ichnida.
“What?” I blurt. Ichnida knew? “Come on!”
“That’s why I had to be here,” Ichnida tells us. “State suspected Chasian infiltration of the mission. The Senator wasted no time sabotaging Alpha and Doctor Nopoin once the mission was underway. We’d have been next, but things went weird.”
“There’s no more America anyway,” Judge Bulbous declares. “Not after the takeover by artintels. That’s why Mars pulled out. Mars is America now.”
“Was,” corrects Cresp. “America and all of that world is far behind us in anything that we would consider to be ‘now’.”
“I wonder,” wonders I, “did we finally just pull America apart?”
“America was arrogant,” says the Senator. “Too powerful.”
“Artintels abused the system to gain power, and they cheated,” Bulbous notes. “They lied to the system. They poisoned it.”
Ichnida raises a glass. “America was a great idea. Too bad it required honorable players capable of shame.”
I raise my glass of Guinness. “Here’s to America.”
We toast, “To the long lost land of the free and home of the brave.”
Flamear Here, July 10, Mission Day 189…
Cresp and I left Pluto in a cheap junker, this overhauled B-2 Spirit with a wingspan of 172 feet and a top speed of 600 mph. Slowest thing in the sky. Two days out and we can still reach back and grab Pluto.
Scanning for Transgalactic’s remnants, hoping a piece can help find a way of escaping The Big Sky.
“It’s so unnerving,” I confide, “to find out Pretyman has been a Chasian agent the whole time. I spent so many years admiring her. Desiring her. What a joke.”
Cresp is unsympathetic: “People are liars, Flamear. Haven’t you figured that out yet? The art of lying has been perfected and we are its product. The typical person can’t get through a day without lying a dozen times.”
“I was telling some aliens that same thing a month ago. So screw Pretyman.Now how do we get out of the middle of a 22 light-year wide expanse of atmosphere in less than 800,000 years? If Anthony was able to zap us from the 5th Dimension into the middle of The Big Sky, there has to be a way to reverse that process.”
“So logical,” quips Cresp. “But is the universe logical? Is there a backward for every forward? Or is there only forward and forward further?”
“We shouldn’t have gotten high to figure this out.”
“I’m serious,” insists Cresp. “If it can be done – and Anthony did it – then there might be a way for us to do it.”
“And then what kind of ‘cornfield’ are we gonna wind up in? That’s a blind shot.”
“So what then? We reverse the process and end up back with Anthony? Pass!”
Then I see it on the screen.
“Why argue? There’s a piece of the Transgalactic! Let’s get it!”
I’m Professor Flamear… Mission Day 196… July 17… There Was A Collision?… An Accident…? …I’m Waking Up?…
My eyes are open but I can’t see! I rise and hit my head hard! I’m inside something!
I kick, scream, push up and a wood plank breaks open.
I jump out. It’s a small room, the door won’t open. No windows, but a sky dome. I see stars in the night, full Moon rising. I look back at the box I popped out of.
Did somebody think I was dead?
I’m surging with energy. I have to get out of these walls!
I pound, I scream, no one responds. I look up at the sky through the glass, wanting to be up there! I want to smash through to get out! I want to… !
…And I do! Seconds later I’ve risen up, broken through the glass and I’m hovering over a glittering city.
This is crazy! I have to get down! I call out for help – but my voice is a shriek that comes back with images of everything in my path, completely overriding my eyes!
I go down hard.
I hit pavement – yet – all is well?
I smell blood. I salivate. Such an urgency swells in me that I have no patience. I hunt.
There’s just the party with the scent I’m looking for. I ascend silently.
Everyone is in costume. The rooftop regalia covers all genres, thus my appearance raises no alarm.
She’s here. Her long, thin, undisguised neck actually pulses, the delicious liquid inside beckoning me unmercifully. I will have it.
I hypnotically lure her into the shadows.
Finished with the girl, she falls away. I wipe my mouth. Will she be missed?
I’m knocked off the roof!
I plunge and tumble until I start flapping and take flight.
The attacker lands awkwardly making a quick recovery. He looks at me – waving for me to come down?
It’s a – werewolf? “I saved you. You were about to get skewered with a wooden stake!”
I land and transform.
The Moon dips behind the horizon. Werewolf slowly becomes man. Only because my hunger is satiated can I listen to his babbling without killing him.
“Your body was tumbling through the great expanse,” he tells me. “To save you required a radical procedure.”
“Placing me in a crypt?”
“For your protection,” he explains. “And hers,” he adds, nodding to the body. “I did the same thing to myself when on the brink of death by disease. We’ve both been saved at a price. It was the only way.”
As my hunger slowly returns the fool goes on to explain that his research as a bio-alchemist led him to stumble upon well-preserved fossils of long-extinct prokaryotes.
“I synthesized small amounts of two types. Both showed extraordinary immunity and healing powers. One prokaryote can live only in the powerful reflection of solar photons, otherwise lying dormant. That one saved me. The other prokaryote activates when solar photons are absent and will die in their presence. That one is in you, preserving you.”
My dry gums moisten at his hemoglobin aroma.
The Moon abandoned him. Yet the black of night lingers.
He’s still talking when I sink into his artery.
Mission Day 205, July 24, Professor Lionel Flamear…
Or am I? What’s happening to that guy…?
I feel unsettled stirrings inside. I feel stiffened veins bulge as the skin above rises ominously.
My skin feels like it will pop and explode. Relax. Relax…
So I lie settled but restless
The stirrings still stir. They want out. How good it would feel to let go…. So good, so full, so ready to burst – I’m afraid…!
But then… I must!
…And I’m relieved. I peek at a sky filled with smoke and I am covered in a blanket of warmth.
Waves from outer space ripple across my currents. My sky is a membrane covering the great water vision. I look to the stars in all directions, and as the dense smog clears from the air I learn the new universe I’ve been born of.
I speak to other planets that share the space of our stars. None of us belong to just one star. All of us switch from time to time, when stars come close enough to feel.
I dance with other planets when our orbits bring us near. We throw rocks to each other across the void, touching intimately, blending forever.
My birth star showers me with stardust unexpectedly. I am happy. I feed. I rest.
A stinging asteroid pierces my skin, burning me and blasting my serenity! I hate it!
I crackle with electricity, I must be snapping dormant molecules to life and killing cells at the same time!
Things wiggle about and squiggle within me. Things tickle and jiggle me, drill me and spackle me. They’re changing me!
I’m experiencing time at an incredible speed. So many things lost. Gone forever. The universe goes on ceaselessly spinning around me and I dimly recall my life in Solsys…
As an organic, I, too, was the home of more parasites than there are stars in the Milky Way. I wasn’t aware of them most of the time. But a genspec couldn’t find peace enough to be aware of much more than taxes and heart attacks.
As a genspec I was trained to feel alone. My identity was forged for me by a seemingly random assemblage of indoctrinated adults. By the age of two I was being persuaded to feel like a sinner, guilty of being too curious, of living too close to the orchard of original knowledge. By teenage years I was coerced to believe myself responsible for everything I did, which had better include “making a living” – as if I wasn’t living already – and for acting on any beliefs brainwashed upon me by the adults who raised me. By adulthood I was processed into a routine, deluded into believing that human concerns were the only thing that mattered. There were years when I never looked up at the stars…
A planet never feels alone.
A planet needs no privacy.
I twirl, I pirouette, I race through space dancing with the stars.
My face, my body, my being is a receiver of cosmic news, a blender of universal information. I am what things like Nopoin and Alpha aspire to be – but can never become.
Know me for what I am. Meet me with what you are. My sensations and experiences reach deeper than any organic can imagine. I am never alone. But I am always one.
I am always the multitude, the collective, the child.
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 212 Transcript Excerpt, July 31:
Professor Flamear: “What’s going on with you, Mister Cresp? Do you know how scared everyone was yesterday when you took off your mask? It’s great that nobody died. But everyone’s wondering why you won’t say anything. I mean, you haven’t made a sound since Anthony put us here – wherever this is. The Senator has a theory. She thinks if you make a sound with your mask off it will kill us. If that’s true, please don’t answer.”
Mister Cresp: (Suddenly, with a burst of energy – ) “It’s true!”
Professor Flamear: (Startled – ) “What?”
Mister Cresp: “The Senator just dropped dead.”
Professor Flamear: “No she didn’t.”
Mister Cresp: “Go check.”
Professor Flamear: “It doesn’t work like that. Does it?”
Mister Cresp: “It doesn’t work at all any more. I’m changed. Anthony changed me. Just like he changed Doctor Nopoin.”
Professor Flamear: “Well… I mean, it seems more like he removed a curse. Look at you! You’re an… okay-looking guy. Now you can breathe free, eat without liquefying, kiss the person of your choice…”
Mister Cresp: “Professor…?”
Professor Flamear: “What?”
Mister Cresp: “I don’t know what to do.”
Professor Flamear: “What happened to you, Cresp?”
Mister Cresp: “I was trying to get home. I thought this expedition was my opportunity.”
Professor Flamear: “What do you mean? Solsys is our home.”
Mister Cresp: “Space is my home. A nebula was my birthplace. Flamear, I wasn’t one of you! Never! I had to learn this reality you live in, SATA forced me to! But I wasn’t you! Not until…”
Professor Flamear: “Anthony made you human.”
Mister Cresp: “I hate him.”
Professor Flamear: “Being human’s that bad?”
Mister Cresp: “Only when you’ve been something better. I was pure energy contained in your form. Now I’m blood and bone.”
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 219 Transcript Excerpt, August 7:
[Professor Flamear leads the team as they go deeper into Borderworld… ]
Mrs. Ichnida: [Startled -] “Did you hear that?”
Mister Cresp: “No! You scared me!”
Alpha: “My theory is that Ichnida’s otoliths detected the hydraulic shift of an aqueduct flow.”
Professor Flamear: “Shh! I smell something!”
Mister Cresp: “Noise blocks your olfactories?”
Professor Flamear: “Block your blowhole!”
Mister Cresp: “Right!”
Judge Bulbous: “It’s dark down there. Isn’t there any more light?”
The Senator: “It’s 24 hours back to the last junction.”
Alpha: “With no way of knowing if that route is any better.”
Judge Bulbous: “Why do we have to float through this maze? Why don’t we exit this thing and fly around it? Won’t we reach space faster that way?”
Professor Flamear: “Here at the very edge of The Big Sky air is no better than an ionosphere. There’s nothing to breathe. There’s no way jet engines can fly. The temperature is frigid. Deadly cosmic rays are looping around us in magnetic waves. Outside is a dead zone – worse than space itself.”
Mrs. Ichnida: “I don’t know. I can’t go down that tunnel.”
Alpha: “I sense no danger ahead.”
Judge Bulbous: “I’m not going in there.”
Professor Flamear: “Shh! Everyone. Listen carefully.”
Alpha: “I hear nothing unusual. My audio parameters far exceed yours, Professor.”
Professor Flamear: “You might be hearing things but you aren’t discerning them with a fully organic super-ear. You’re not interpreting them with super-organic instinct.”
Mrs. Ichnida: “What if we’re overrun by rats in the dark?”
Professor Flamear: “Let me lead the way. If there’s trouble coming or waiting for us I’ll sense it first.”
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 226 Flamear Auto Memorandum, August 14:
The world he came from was now forgotten. Not forgotten in the way we can’t remember, but left behind as no longer relevant. It had to be. How else could Flamear cope with the hour by hour madness of this weird new life?
Yes, he’d know his world again the instant he smelled it. Flamear’s memory by sniff was instant, a flash of all at once. A scent told him if things were good or bad. The subtleties of odor revealed hostility or fear. The overall fragrance signaled familiarity or the aura of a stranger. Yet he anguished that these senses would never apply to the world of his origin again. That world was gone.
And this world was absurd. Here inside some mechanical mesh, the hybrid humanoid and four of his teammates were trapped. Dragged through menacing channels into this cacophony, they can’t know what to do. Without obvious egress, like frightened mice they huddle, climbing atop one another at the worst of it. The noises, hollow, fierce or hammering, are constant. The lights, zipping, streaming, strobing, defy explanation in any manner available to descendants of Earth.
Flamear felt little solace. His friend Mister Cresp and his nemesis Doctor Nopoin each suffered the distraction of learning how to deal with their new bodies. His leader, Alpha, was a supercomputing Ai hosting an alien brain. Judge Bulbous was too frightened to comfort anyone.
But after all, Flamear was genetically unique. So he was used to being the ‘only one’. He was used to feeling alone.
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 233 Professor Flamear Auto Memorandum, August 21:
“You aren’t getting away with this,” Flamear told the freshly remade Doctor Nopoin. He was pulling up the rear of the crew as they tried to find a way out of this mad chamber of indecipherable technology. Ahead of him, the Doctorfollowed Mister Cresp. Flamear’s threat wasn’t loud enough for him or the two ahead of him, Alpha and Bulbous, to hear. But Doctor Nopoin heard it quite clearly.
She responded with unexpected lucidity. “Getting away with trying to survive? How does that offend you?”
“You remember everything,” accused Flamear. “All of your manipulations and dirty tricks, and this is just another one. You say that Anthony turned you human, but we don’t know that. Maybe you just took advantage of the chaos to implant yourself in a human’s body. You’re hoping to hide out in someone else’s life, aren’t you?“
“You still can’t understand,” Nopoin patiently explained, “there’s nothing to fear from the past. We are now part of a very small tribe. Although we came from different families we are of the same world, and the same era. Besides me, there are only five other beings in existence who know you at all. The same can be said for each of us. Has nothing changed for you?”
“I can’t think about that!” cried Flamear. Anger swelled. “You don’t know that! Who knows what’s possible? Who knows? Look at the unbelievable phenomena that’s already happened! I don’t care! You did what you did. I won’t forget it.”
“That’s the snake in you,” Nopoin hinted. “And the hawk. Yes, I had you figured out when I was artintel. The dolphin and tiger, the ram and the spider… all of you, Professor. The menagerie that is you.”
This ends the individual character thread for Professor Flamear. The story continues in TWILIGHT FORCE Mission Week 35!