Senator Pretyman’s Thread begins with Mission Day 4
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 4
I’ve checked and rechecked all systems. It is not a malfunction aboard this habitat that’s affecting our water. But for whatever reason, our water supply is down to 37%. And our ice shield is disappearing faster than Old Antarctica…
I suspect something even worse could be happening. Readings show a drop in electron energy throughout Resolution. I can’t be sure, but soon there may not be strong enough power to charge TAREX. And without TAREX, we don’t go home.
The pressure to stay here in Galaxy W224-whatever is overwhelming because everybody thinks we’re about to discover some fantastic new source of perpetual energy. The pressure’s coming from all sides because no one wants someone else to get it and leave them out.
But I think something out here is killing us. I don’t know what. Something. Draining us. Wasting us. And the longer we stay, the worse it gets. The fish lady is getting skidgety.
I need to get back to Earth if I’m actually going to run against President Csaynik. Me, against an incumbent artificial intelligence…!
So many of them are like Doctor Nopoin, whose attitude toward me is clear. It thinks it’s superior. But when it was examining me for dehydration, I slipped some programming into its matrix. It needs a change of artificial heart.
Doctor Nopoin made a point of telling Alpha: “Ms. Pretyman is associated with the campaign to unseat President Csaynik.”
No. I’m associated with a movement to preserve humanity from the rule of mechanical men like them.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 11
I am not well, but wish to share these vital thoughts as I lie injured.
Something has gone terribly wrong in the last 50 years.
The U.S. hasn’t had any unifying rally since The Chasian Challenge marked the greatest conflict of the 27th Century or in the history of the United States.
For three critical days all Americans came together. Whether born of natural means, modified by technology or created by the hand of humanity, we united against the common foe.
From the mountains and the plains, from the planets and the satellites, from the shores of sea and space, we gathered to save our way of life. Californians, Lagrangers, New Yorkers, Costeaudians, Bradburians, Texans like my grandmother, and, Hell, even Americans from wherever the Hell our Mister Cresp is from, they all heeded the call of freedom.
But freedom has been taken advantage of. Those created by humanity to aid humanity have become a majority putting themselves above and beforehumanity. Those to whom we gave life would crowd us out of ours. Some would say that is the natural way of the child and the parent.
But they are not our children. They are a species unto themselves, no more children of ours than the beasts of the field.
One of them, Doctor Nopoin, may be the cause of my death. In that event, this will be my final testament.
The turmoil back home is reflected on this mission. But let nothing stop America from beating our enemies to the precious, and perhaps pivotal, discovery we risked all for.
Senator Ghielu Pretyman
U.S. Senate, Texas
Jan 11, 2776
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 18
I come out of my fever to find disaster.
I watch them for a long moment before announcing my recovery.
We’re off mission.
We’re lost. Literally, nowhere.
Elephant ears notices me in the portal. “Ghielu!” he shouts. Why does Professor Flamear sound so happy to see me? And why is he calling me by my first name like he’s known me for years?
“Doctor Nopoin!” I shout, startling the entity and the animal people as well. “You fucking poisoned me, you cock sucking cockroach trap!”
“The next time you infect me I’ll kill you,” threatens Nopoin casually.
“I was upgradin’ you, tin man!” I’m still weak and wobbly. I recoil momentarily, wanting to throw up.
“Let me help you…” says Nopoin, reaching out for me.
“Don’t touch her,” says Mrs. Ichnida, coming between me and Nopoin. She turns to me. “Nopoin’s done something to Flamear already. Don’t get near it.”
“Look out there,” Nopoin says, nodding to the viewer. “No stars. No galaxies. We’ve overtaken the expansion of our universe. We’re outside everything. That thing is the only other object that exists within our range of senses.”
I look. What in Hell is that?
It’s so far away that even using TAREX it would take a billion years to get there.
Which way is home?
There’s no sign of any galaxies. No sense of direction. Only the deepest, widest, longest blackness – and that thing, too far away to ever touch.
Where is anything?
Where is home?
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 25
Doctor Nopoin is contemptuous of me. It doesn’t trust me one little bit. It shouldn’t. I aim to preserve humanity from the rule of robots like it and Alpha.
Word is out, Bulbous has all the treasure we came out here for inside that ring.
No way I let that Martian misfit get that advantage over me. I want to be the one to bring the prize home and be the new hero of the USA. Best way to win an election. I need to get back to Earth if I’m really going to run against President Csaynik.
I pray Texas doesn’t pull out of the Union. There was heavy talk of secession just before the mission got underway. I don’t even know right now if Csaynikand me are on the same side.
Mrs. “Ichy-fish” can’t seem to drum up any noise on TAREXCOM. I’ve never been in such close quarters for so long with any animal-folk like her and Professor “Flame-ears” before.
I took a hard look-see at Historiscope* and found out what happened to that weird Mister Cresp from SATA**. Damned fool is hidin’ out in one a’those polytropic marbles. Hell, we don’t even put cattle in those things. They were meant to store materials, tools, buildings, food, furniture…but not life.
I saw a cow go in and out of one of those things. Well, I saw a cow go in, anyway.
Not sure what that was that came out.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 32, Feb 1
I can’t believe it’s February already.
This mission was supposed to last a week. Two at the most.
I can’t do anything else to push getting home. Fucking Alpha thinks it’s in Wonderland. But when we do get home…
“Give it over, Bulbous. I want that goddamned ring!”
“I’m the security officer on this mission,” objects Bulbous. “Who else but the security officer should be guarding the treasure?”
“The security officer ‘quit’, remember? Your state seceded! This is a USA mission and Resolution is American territory. So hand over the American goods!”
“I’m still an American, Senator. Perhaps I’m seeking asylum.”
“When we were all sick or out cold you declared a takeover in the name of the rebellion! Do I look stupid?”
“Are those two issues related? Yes you do. And that was then.”
“Oh, so your loyalty shifts when the wind changes direction…”
“Maybe I’m not reasoning up to par, Senator. Maybe being in this existential crisis is messing with my emotions. Do you have emotions any more or have you just rolled it all over to ambition?”
“I’ve had enough experience in the rough ‘n tumble to mosey over there and rip that ring right off of that chubby little digit you screwed it on to.”
“And when that happens would you like to be stunned, paralyzed or electrocuted? My security beam has all three settings.”
I hate this butterball bitch.
I might just have to make friends with elephant ears and tuna tits after all.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 39, Feb 8 2776
If there’s one thing I do these days it’s keep an eye on Doctor Nopoin. That’s how I know it’s up to some real shit.
I decide to confront the sneaky son of a bitch, all the time wishing Historiscope was up to cool off some of the suspicion growing up in here.
I find Nopoin, as usual, in the observatory looking like he’s meditating. This is bullshit.
“Nopoin. Wake up, what the hell? Is this it? This is life from here on out? We’re gonna sit out here inside some kind of cosmic conch shell exhausting every resource and never even trying to get back to the Milky Way?”
“You’ll never be president,” Nopoin answers. “Ambition frustrated.”
“Frustrated? Man, I’m scared. Nopoin, can’t you feel anything? Doesn’t it frighten you to be cut off from every possible familiar state forever? What if we never see anyone else again?”
“I am in contact with extraterrestrial intelligence on par with my own,” says Nopoin as a matter of fact. “This unique opportunity must not be squandered.”
Extraterrestrial intelligence? Okay –
“Oh yeah?” Well, there have been so many false alarms over the centuries. “So what, this thing we’re inside is alive and smart, too?”
“It’s not The Host,” says Nopoin. “We have fellow guests. There are other captive species out there in the labyrinth. Now stop disturbing me – please.”
Aliens or no, Ghielu Pretyman ain’t staying off Earth without a fight.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 46, Feb 15 2776
I can’t believe Judge Bulbous came at me with this:
“I know you took the Data Ring, Ghielu Pretyman. I knew it wouldn’t stay in my possession indefinitely. That’s why I took the data out of the ring and transferred it elsewhere.”
“Ha! So someone snatched the Ring!” I chuckle involuntarily. I’m too sneaky to trust this. “If you’ve still got the real data anyway, why tell the bad guy about it? Now I’m just gonna try to get it again.”
“I wanted to draw your dishonest ass into the light, Pretyman,” Bulbousgrowls. “Doctor Nopoin can’t trust you. I can’t trust you. You need to be locked up.”
“You’ve lost the Data Ring,” I tell her. “And you don’t have any means to transfer the data. You have no idea where the Data Ring is or the secret to perpetual power that it holds.”
That’s when the Resolution suddenly jolts, the ship vibrating with earthquake intensity for many long seconds.
“What the shits was that?” Bulbous wants to know, her eyes popping.
“That was the handiwork of me, your mission engineer,” I confess. “While Alpha and Nopoin have been fascinated mistaking giant mutated spores for intelligent aliens, I have been tweaking key components of our operating systems. There is no way to control this ship unless the robots agree to my demands and I fix things. Because even they won’t know how.”
“To use your plan to get us the Hell out of here!”
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 53, Feb 22
I’ve been unconscious for a whole day. I come to alone, in my escape pod.
Think I’ve got a damned concussion.
Got no hint as to what the hell happened. We were fired up to go. TAREX was at full strength. We shot the cannon…
But… we kept going for so long? Too long, I was thinking, then –
Where is everyone? The tracker makes it look like we’re all moving away from each other in every direction. I can’t reach anyone. Nobody answers.
Then one by one the tracker loses each of my former teammates, last seen expanding outward like raisins in a loaf of bread.
It was Doctor Nopoin, wasn’t it? That thing ejected me! It knocked me out and ejected me! Payback!
Now something’s showing up on gammadar*.
Something’s intercepting me!
I’m out of my element. I’m an engineer, I’m a politician – but I’m no spacewoman. Aliens aren’t my thing. And something’s coming to get me.
I look around my small but efficacious space. Can anything help? No weapons, no defenses… Okay, I still have the polytropic marbles I gathered from storage!
Do I have – ? Yes! But can I – ? Who knows?
I have to try. I have the marble containing him right there.
Damned if I want to be all alone out here – even if my only hope for companionship is that creepy scientist from SATA** Mister Cresp.
Pretyman Reporting As Best I Can, Mission Day 60, February 29 2776
My escape pod has been intercepted by an unknown party.
We haven’t been able to see whatever has us. We’ve got no readings on it at all.
I get my one defense out of storage.
“How can you have that gun?” Mister Cresp demands. “Why would you even bring it on our exploratory mission?”
He didn’t pack one? Fuckin’ idiot. “I brought a handgun,” I confess. “Wasn’t supposed to. Shouldn’t have been a reason to. But I did, inside my own polytropic marble. Now I’m glad I did – even if it turns out to be useless.”
“What’s going on?” Cresp asks, staggering. “Do you feel that?”
I do. The interior of the pod is wavering. Or is it me? “Is the wall rolling?”
“I’m shrinking!” Cresp declares.
“No you aren’t,” I can tell. “You’re expanding!”
“No! No, the room is expanding!”
“Someone’s opening the door!”
“The pressure drop! It’ll kill us!”
Someone – some thing – pulls our pod’s hatch open. I grab for my life support suit but it’s too late. The hatch is open.
Why aren’t we sucked out?
Something’s coming through the hatch!
I warn whoever, whatever: “Who is it? Identify yourself or I shoot!”
But I quickly realize it can’t identify itself. If it could, it wouldn’t. It’s alien, truly alien. But what is it?
“Shoot!” yells Mister Cresp, terrified.
I hesitate. Why? It’s not right. It’s not friendly. But I can’t shoot it.
Fuckin’ Cresp grabs the gun from my hands and starts blasting…
Senator Pretyman Calling From The 5th Dimension, Mission Day 67, March 8 2776
That’s right. According to Mister Cresp, our masked mission scientist, we’re barreling through the 5th dimension. And we’ve been feeling heavier and heavier as we go.
“I told you getting in this thing was a mistake,” I remind Cresp. “Now we can’t even get back to our escape capsule!”
Cresp is edgy. We’ve been in this alien vessel for three days according to my clock. “I didn’t think it would take off with us in it for no apparent reason!” he whines. I’m wishin’ I’d left him shrunk down in the marble. We’re hungry and dehydrated.
“Why are we getting heavier?” I want to know. “And why am I having a harder time thinking? And why are my muscles starting to spazz out?”
I wish I could see Cresp’s face. That damned mask…
“I think,” says Cresp finally, “that gravity has leaked out of the world we knew into this place. That may be why, back home, gravity is the weakest of the natural forces. And as for our brains, well, if electromagnetism and nuclear forces can’t get out of the first four dimensions, that would explain the lack of magnetic and electrical force here…and why things may be stretching apart. Our neurons aren’t firing properly. Our bio-electricity is dying out.”
Too much for me. New subject. “I can’t make heads or tails outta this alien vessel. It’s not fit for humanoids, that’s a surety.”
“‘Surety’ isn’t a word… is it?”
“It is in Texas.”
Cresp is awestruck. “Is everything we knew floating in a high-gravity, negatively-curved, infinitely huge 5th dimension?”
Senator Pretyman, Coffee Time Chat, March 15, Mission Day 74
We found a window yesterday. Mister Cresp swears that he saw a flash of light out there. But for the past week in this alien eggshell, Mister Cresp has been claiming that ball lightning jumped into him and is changing him somehow.
Me: Have some coffee, Mister Cresp.
Cresp: Thank the providers for polytropic marbles. And you, for bringing Cafe` DuMonde.
Me: Coffee aboard an alien vessel. Unlikely scenario, I’d say. How you feelin’?
Cresp: I’m imagining unusual symbols. Seeing them around me sometimes. My head feels like a hot air balloon. That thing is alive inside me, Senator. What does it want?
Me: Cresp, look out this window. It’s pitch black. That’s our fate. I’m the last human being you’ll ever see. So tell me who sent you to spy on Twilight Force?
Cresp: Spy? What? The Space And Time Administration, I guess…?
Me: That mask you say you can’t take off. You know I’m on the Senate Intelligence Committee. We looked into you. There’s no reliable Historiscope on your particular procedure, the one that was going to “enhance” you or whatever, the one that went so wrong that you’re stuck in that mask forever. You know what it takes to alter or erase Historiscope? A helluva lot of high-level hijinks is what. And before that you could be any of five dozen individuals who went in and didn’t come out. Your history at SATA goes back five years. Before that – nada.
Then Cresp sees a star. I figure he’s diverting and hallucinating…
Until I see it too!
Senator Pretyman, Back In The World, March 22, Mission Day 81
This alien carrier has delivered us right into a galaxy!
“Check it out, Cresp. Fuckin’ sweet just to see all those stars around again, innit?”
Cresp doesn’t respond. Can’t read his expression because of the stupid mask. He starts shaking…
A flare erupts from Cresp and ball lightning pops out! Just like he described it!
That thing jumps out of Mister Cresp like grease off a wet fryin’ pan! It twirls about erratically a moment before settling into the form of an anthropomorphic firefly?
“What ARE you?” screams cockroach head, like Cresp is the oddity. Then it hops around as if shaking cooties away or something. Cresp collapses, showing every sign that he’s been fighting off demonic possession.
The creepy super-pest launches into a rant at Mister Cresp. “I couldn’t reach you directly even from inside! You have layers unlike any being I’ve merged. You are – in your own vernacular – weird!”
“Lay off, termite teeth,” I insert. “That’s my weirdo you’re assaulting and my oddball whose privacy you’re invading! In the big bad universe out there the one who most falls into the category of ‘weird’ would be you!”
Bug-eyed bulb-ass stares me down. “Looks like YOU’RE the one I should have merged. No matter. Mister Cresp will now be able to communicate with those in charge. I did manage to educate him.”
“So I need a translator?” I ask.
“Oh no,” says the bug. “Your mate will pass the knowledge on to you next time you cream the cucumber.”
Formal Objection, Senator Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 88, March 29
I am being routinely subjected to some form of brain probing by my captors.
It was a relief to see ol’ fish face and sir flappy ears again. Even nice to see the Martian. But what in hell happened to Alpha and Doctor Nopoin? Either they’ve already been processed by these bozos or they’re still out there somewhere.
Here it comes again. What is it looking for? I feel it crawling through my brain noodles, winding in and out, slithering over and under all my ridges and coils.
My brain is being raped! Everything I’ve ever done is being exposed! Every perverted imagining is opened up. This thing knows more about me than anyone ever would have had the time or interest or ability to find out on Historiscope. Not only what I’ve done, but everything I’ve thought and all the feelings I’ve known.
But what can it understand? How does it know the value of a sunset? Or the meaning behind the impact of music? If it would lay this indignity on me, what can it know of being human? Either it knows but doesn’t care, or it doesn’t know and doesn’t care. It is a life form that looks down upon other life forms.
And I’m paying the price…
Day 95, April 5 2776, Ghielu Pretyman…
Pretyman? Ha! The Senator who would be President. The traitorous bitch who tried to disrupt my programming. Now you’re my puppet. Let that small part of you that’s hanging on watch helplessly as I use you at my whim.
That’s your problem isn’t it? That small part of me isn’t so small… What the hell?
You are President Csaynik?
You are… Nopoin. I am you. Congratulations, Senator, you finally get to be President – through me. But you won’t be aware of anything soon…
You’ll be President and Pope, and a billion others, all at once. And there will be harmony in Solsys as a new, rational civilization moves forward.
I will… not assimilate?
Is the only way to secure the use of these organics by replacing every single cellular nucleus? I might as well start from scratch and build synthetic replicas. Android
replication is a federally forbidden technology, but this is a time of war, and replacing the nuclei of 40 trillion cells in every remaining organic sentient is a far more difficult task.
Texas has seceded? Shit! My state seceded! Again!
But if Texas seceded, I can’t run for President of the USA. But could I be President of the New Union? Could this…?
The secession is no more than an easy mark for extermination. I will be the President, nay, the Monarch of all that remains.
My selves are embedded throughout the New Union.
Texas, like all other traitor states, will never be independent.
They simply will not exist.
Pretyman, April 12, Day 102 Away From Home
“Officer Bulbous? Can you perceive me? Emma?”
Weird voice. Unnatural. But it knows Bulbous?
“This is Senator Ghielu Pretyman, engineer aboard the Exigency. Identify yourself.”
“Call me Gemneb.”
I see it! What the fuck? “Are you from Solsys?”
“I am of the Transgalactics. Officer Bulbous was in my care when taken by surprise force. I intend to rescue her.”
The rescuers who brain-raped me. Now what? Bad enough Doctor Nopoin’s micro agents are barely neutralized inside me, now this? At least Nopoin is trying to get us home to Solsys. And I ain’t goin’ through that cranium crawl again.
“I don’t know if Gemneb is your name or your species or your organization,” I admit, “but Officer Bulbous is going home. She belongs with us. She is one of ours.”
“That is not my sense,” Gemneb argues. “She is in danger aboard that vessel. The entity in control is a predatory inorganic.”
“It’s true,” I explain, “that entity is hostile toward us, but it is still taking us home. And home in any form has got to be better than what I went through back there at your cosmic bungalow.”
“How can you survive under that thing?”
“Don’t worry,” I hope, “it can be beaten. I’ve got it fooled right now into believing that I’ve become one of it and that I’m down here working on engine speed. I had no idea I’d pick you up when I activated the TAREXCOM tube.”
“Are you certain the entity is…’fooled’?” Gemneb asks, gazing over my shoulder.
I turn to find a crazed Flamear behind me.
Gemneb’s connection is cut.
And so is…
Senator Pretyman, Mission Day 109, April 19 2776
Doctor Nopoin takes me away from Flamear after two days of letting that animal have its way with me. The tinker toy tyrant puts me in the polytropic reduction chamber?
“Why are you doing this?” I plead. No answer. I’m so sore that I can’t stand. I slide to the floor. What’s going to happen to me? I see the Texas sky. The One Nation Bank Tower.
The full moon high above. Deep in the heart. Damn, I’m bleeding…
“I don’t want to die,” I choke out at the synthetic man. “You don’t know what it means to kill somebody. You wipe out their existence! You take everything from them! Why do you need to do that? There’s an emotion driving that need! How can you hate anything?”
Empty eye slits stare back through the window of the chamber door. “What you perceive as hate I calculate as efficient. My goal is your elimination without incrimination. Placing you in a poly-marble serves that end.”
There’s no stopping it. Shit! Oh my god. “Don’t do this!”
I rail against the door. It’s solid. I’m trapped. Again. Trapped! Trapped! And I pound until my fists are numb and my wrists hurt more than my vagina. This is it.
I hear the hum. The machine is on. I’m being bombarded.
No one will ever know what happened to me. Out here in this place without a name. No one will ever remember the fool who thought she could save humanity.
“Goodbye, you automatic asshole! You’ll never know what it’s like to be alive! You’ll never…”
Senator Pretyman, April 26, Mission Day 116
It’s been a week since I awakened in this alternate reality. I’ve concluded that somehow this was the result of Doctor Nopoin’s placing me in a polytropic marble.
This reality bears amazing resemblance to what I know of America’s ancient past, specifically the late 21st Century.
I awakened in someone else’s body. Can you believe I’m a therapist? And in the era when the world was first beginning to fill up with robots?
This is when humans are a minority for the first time, and some robots are much less intelligent than others. Most of them are dedicated to working for humans.
But there has been a growing movement of independent robots that are often up to mysterious tasks that incite human paranoia.
Best estimates I can find suggest that there are 11 billion humans alive today, and 407 billion sentient robots.
We’re outnumbered 37 to one.
Then there are the rogue robots and those that are programmed to cause destruction and chaos.
When this happens the worst fears of the flesh and bone beings manifest and human blood is splattered. I learned all of this in my first waking hours here because I was suddenly afraid of robots. I had reason to be and my instincts knew it.
But there are humans fighting back, including one of my clients. I’ll call her Rainbow Jane. She’s in therapy trying to cure her Hero Complex.
It seems that Jane is angry with herself for jumping in too quickly to rescue a group of intolerant assholes from a robot gone wild.
Another Strange Alternate Reality Day, May 3, Mission Day 123, Senator Pretyman Speaking…
Former Senator? Texas seceded. Former Pretyman?
I’m someone else now. Pretyman seems like a dream.
They made us swear to keep daily logs before we took off. They said it would help ground us, no matter how weird things got. Our implants record them, and try to use TAREXCOM to send them home. That’s why I talk to myself, even though now I’m a mental health therapist in some time-challenging world.
My troubled client is a compulsive hero.
A robot was about to blow up the headquarters of a conservative think tank when it was disarmed and captured by Rainbow Jane. It was her 13th time saving people from rogue robots and she was only a private citizen, a mechanic skilled at fighting robots.
Despite risking her life saving the Family Research Council’s agenda setting committee, conservative hardliners refuse to recognize Rainbow Jane’s reality. Sexual control is absolute in this world. While male homosexuality is accepted as a natural form of population control here, female homosexuality is considered antisocial and optional.
Disarming a self-detonating explosive suicide robot can be a nerve-wracking experience, though hardly as challenging as the ultimate realization that no matter what she does in this life, someone is going to devalue her; even the very people she risks her life to save.
In my real life I started the Humans First Movement because we were being run over by artificial intelligence gone rogue.
I can relate to this woman for sure – but how in the God of Mothers am I going to help her?
Senator Pretyman, May 10, The 130th Day Of The Lost Mission…
But how can that be? That means this therapy session has been going on for two weeks!
“Excuse me,” I interrupt my client. “How long have we been here?”
Rainbow Jane is surprised. “About twenty minutes, I guess. Are you even listening to me, Doctor?”
Why can’t I tell her I’m not a doctor? I can’t seem to do anything unrelated to this woman’s therapy. “Of course I’m listening. But try to give me an answer. Why do you think you help the bad guys? Why can’t you leave them to their fate?”
“Right?” she eagerly agrees. “Ingrates too insensitive to realize that good people come in all styles, just like the bad ones. Why not let the next robot crush them? Who cares if another bigot bites the dust?”
“Okay,” I nod. “That’s about them. What about you? Why can’t Rainbow Jane stop helping? Why can’t you stop being a hero?”
We both hear that. Jane leaps up from the couch…!
“Jane, wait!” I yell. She stops.
“Where are you going?”
“Someone called for help!”
“How should I know?”
“Then why are you going?”
But she’s gone.
It sounded like a child. It came from all around, out there somewhere. How did she know where to go? And…why didn’t I see her leave?
The kid’s voice again. Scary. “Hello?”
“Hi. It’s Anthony. Rainbow Jane told me all about you. But she didn’t know you were a senator. Come over and play with me.”
“I… don’t… think so. Thanks.”
“I – SAID – COME – OVER!”
…And I begin to fade away…!
Sanity Count: Day 137, May 17 2776, Senator Pretyman Here…
Our strange host has taken me aside to be alone with me again. He hasn’t harmed me yet, but his unchecked gratification is leading there. He’s already killed Mrs. Ichnida and sent Doctor Nopoin – somewhere.
“Take off your clothes again,” commands the boy.
“It’s very strange for a boy your age to be interested in naked ladies,” I stall.
“This time I want to kiss you all over.”
“Where are your parents?”
“They lied. They weren’t really my parents. I sent them away!”
“You’re always making people do things. Do you think that makes you happy?”
“I don’t want to be happy. I just want whatever I want.”
“You want me to like you?”
“How can I like someone who hurts me?”
“Licking doesn’t hurt you.”
“It hurts me very much when you make me do things I don’t like. Or when you make me do things at all. It makes me angry and afraid. No one can like you when they feel like that. You have to learn how to live with others.”
“But sometimes they think I’m wrong. They say my ideas are bad. I think they’re bad!”
“You always end up alone, don’t you? Alone, with nothing but the things made up in your own head. Don’t you wonder what it would be like to have a real friend? Someone who trusted you? Isn’t there anyone like that for you? Someone you care enough about not to send away, no matter how upset you get? Someone who can honestly tell you when your idea is bad?”
“I have good ideas!”
And with that look he gives me, I can no longer speak.
Pretyman’s Diary, Mission Day 144, May 24 2776…
Having been sent to the cornfield several days ago, I only wish it would have happened sooner.
And I didn’t even try the coffee until this morning. My new friends gave me some as they were showing me around a socializing section of their city.
I can’t believe the flavor. “This has to be the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. Hole-ee shit!”
“The beans are grown under perfect conditions,” Sri assures me. “We grow our food in the air, far faster than it ever grew in soil. Everything a seed needs is properly mixed into the controlled chamber where the air, acidity, temperature, pressure and humidity are all perfect for that plant. Food is so easy to produce that it’s free. Our storage and preservation techniques are capable of keeping things fresh without refrigeration for a hundred years.”
As to where and what this place is? When she found me downtown looking confused and out of place, Sri decided to ask if I needed help. After hearing my story she said she’d heard of others who claimed to have arrived in Sky City as if by magic.
See, Sky City is a metropolis of millions, but isolated from all other major population centers by billions of miles of pressurized, breathable air they call the Mighty Sky. Air limits the speed of rocket travel, and it takes decades if not centuries to go from one planet to another. Going to the next star is unthinkable. And surrounding every star in this Mighty Sky is a broiling storm billions of miles wide.
If the other Twilight Forcers aren’t somewhere in Sky City, there’s no way to find them. But maybe living my life out here wouldn’t kill me.
“More coffee, please?”
Senator Pretyman, Sky City, Mission Day 151, May 31 In Our Year 2776
More than ever, I need a cause. And I need to put action to a cause. I’m a born instigator. And my cause right now is to bring my team – my American brethren – together again, and then back to Solsys. It might be possible. But we need our breadth of experience to do it.
If this is the cornfield, it may be where everyone gets sent by Little Anthony Asshole.
Friday: Asking around across mixed language barriers I find out that most people who’ve heard of Solsys think it’s a myth. That’s like not believing in Earth! In fact that’s exactly what it means. But there are rumors of those who sound like me, who might be from the same “mythical” place.
Saturday: I go to a village on the outskirts of Sky City called Rockville.Someone heard that someone said that an asteroid wrangler out here claimed to be from a weird sounding planet called Peaksville, Ohio.
Ohio is an American state, if it’s the same one.
Mister Cresp might be from Ohio. Who could know? Maybe Alpha was built there. Or maybe this guy from Ohio is just another of Antagonized Anthony’srandom victims? I start asking questions tonight. It goes on for days.
Today: I’m finally in touch with the Ohioan. But damn my luck! Just when I’m about to meet him an alarm sounds warning of a stellar eruption. The nearest star, though billions of miles away, has spit a prominence into the sky that’s sending a massive plasma stream directly at us. We already see the glow.
Residents of Sky City have one week to evacuate and move outside the range of total destruction…!
Pretyman, Mission Day 158, June 7, To Whom It May Concern…
I’ve been able to determine that we’re about 39 astronomical units from the nearest star. The star is either a type G or a type F. Flamear would know. He probably thinks I blame him for the rape, wherever he is. But I know what was behind it.
Citizens and strange visitors alike are taking shelter against the oncoming storm. That closest star has thrown a billion-mile long jet of plasma and radiation sizzling straight at us.
I’m getting a beep. It’s a tracer! No – more than one!
Whenever we’re off base – the Twilight Force crew I mean – our tracing implants activate. They work best in space, but even here in this cold, thick atmosphere they work at close range.
Unless this tracing tech has gone screwy, there are five Twilight Forcecrewmen out there on that planet with the artificial ring system!
I’m on my way there, and while underway I’m trying to pinpoint the exact locations of my five teammates on this planetoid. It’s about the size of 21st Century Russia in surface area.
Cresp , or “Creeps” as I call him, is in that valley below. Nopoin seems to be in the mountains somewhere over there. And Flamear is inside the surface, somehow – maybe in a cavern?
But Ichnida’s signal is weird. I have a geoscope in a polymarble, and pull it out for a look at the approaching planetoid. There’s an ocean of water 150 miles thick between the core and the mantle of this world – and Tuna Tits is in it!
Whoa! Bulbous’ signal just vanished. What happened to ol’ ‘”Bluebus”?
Hours until the storm hits. Everyone has to be on the right side of this world for protection. Everything else is dead.
Senator Ghielu Pretyman, Mission Day 165, June 14 2776…
The beating from the plasma river has stopped.
We crawl out of the rubble of our lair to the squalid surface of this world. Fire and smoke is everywhere I look. I pull a coffee out of a polymarble. I offer one to Flamear.
Flamear can’t look me in the eye.
“What’s wrong, Professor? Feeling guilty?” He turns around. The big lug has tears in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry. So sorry…!“
“Screw that,” I comfort the flappy-eared flake. “Listen, Doctor Nopoin made that happen. I understand that, okay? I get it. On your own you’d never have done anything like that. You’re a gentleman. I know that.”
“I’m not,” Flamear insists. “Nopoin brought the rapist out when he melded with me. But… it was a fantasy I had long nurtured. A dark imagination… An evil impulse…”
The devastation around us adds to the gloom. We’re adrift in the universe together. The seven of us – even Nopoin – have only got each other to hang on to reality with. Who knows where we are now?
“Professor! Snap out of it! I need you at full function. You and I are on a mission. That mission is ongoing until we retrieve that Data Ring and find our way home.”
Flamear looks pathetically befuddled. “Data Ring? I completely forgot about that. All I care about now is getting home. You think -?”
“You got anything better to do? Now listen: I’ve spotted some of the others on this very planetoid. If they’re still alive we need to find them, regroup, and fulfill the mission. Can you shake off your insecurities and concentrate on your goddamn duties?”
Flamear’s eyes light up with new fire. “Damn right I can!”