â€œSo what about Communists? Can we film Communists?â€ Ted asked as he tapped the pen against the side of the clipboard. He looked up at his boss, who stood next to the whiteboard.
â€œCommunists? Yes!â€ Greg squiggled the word â€˜communistâ€™ on the board with his black marker and turned back around. â€œAnyone else?â€
Suzanne raised her hand and adjusted her glasses as she spoke up, â€œWhat about the Civil War? The south will want to see what happens. We could make a Confederacy week or something.â€
Ted rolled his eyes at the idea as Greg wrote it down on the board with visible excitement. â€œOkay, people,â€ Greg said. â€œWe could only get six of these on the budget, so we have to make them count. So far we have suggestions of everything from nuclear apocalypse to Nazi occupation. Good, good.â€
He capped the marker and spun to face them with a broad smile on his face. Turning to Ted, he motioned, â€œTed, what do our viewers want currently?â€
â€œWell, the fall season of Alternate Reality kicks off with a special on the pioneers themselves. All we have to do is skip our crew over to the reality theyâ€™re changing and have them film it. The whole season should be done before the first episode airs.â€
Before Ted could get proud, Suzanne spoke up, pushing back her red hair in a cocky manner as she addressed the group. â€œHm. Well, the polls say that recent events would do much better in the ratings. Oil-less society, no minorities, catastrophic eventsâ€¦these are the things our viewers actually want to see. I say we start with these simple ones in a sort ofâ€¦ live debut?â€
â€œBrilliant, Suzanne!â€ Greg said as he marked something on his palm computer and cleared his throat. â€œSuzanne, youâ€™ll take head of the project for the introductory episodes. Make sure we pick out some supreme actors. Citizens. Whatever. We need to make sure the audience is captivated.â€
Ted grumbled something as he glared at Suzanne and began to gather his stuff. Greg left the room, late for a meeting with the big wigs, and left the two producers together. Ted rolled his eyes as he slipped the laptop in the bag. â€œNice going, ass-kisser,â€ he said with a cold glare.
The red-haired executive just shrugged. â€œHonestly, do you think people care about the process? They just want to see what happens when Nazis win World War 2. Please, Ted. No one gives a fuck about the techies.â€
The scorned producer flipped her off before leaving to prepare for the next season.
Boromir was off his medication. He was tired of forgetting who he really was.
He had to be careful about the pills. The thick armed nurse at work would watch him swallow them and then stand in front of him as he opened his mouth and waggled his tongue. The nurse would frown at him, her face wrinkling up as she peered into his mouth, and then she would shove him back into the arms of the guards, who would escort him back to his room. Actually, more often, they would drag him back to his cell, his feet fumbling for traction on the plastic tile.
It would take the pills about two minutes to start to break down into his system. If he clenched his throat and heaved, he could throw up the pills when he got to his cell. He hid the pills under a bit of loose plastic tile under his bed, crushing them into a fine powder.
The pills were evil. The pills made him forget that he was a Prince, it made him forget his mission and his people, made him forget how the humans had kidnapped him. The pills gave the humans have power over him. They would tell him his name was Bill or Barry and if he took enough pills, Boromir would believe them.
He had to time everything just right, because an orderly came in to look at him every half hour and the purple pill was supposed to make him sleep.
Boromir had a lot to do.
When he was thrown into his padded room, he would immediately pick himself up and start writing with his finger on the wall. The writing was invisible to everyone else, but without the red and yellow pills, it was messages, communication with his people on the outside. If he concentrated while he wrote, he could send the writing out to them, and they could scroll messages back to him. The messages sometimes looked like shadows on the wall, but Boromir knew better, he knew they were from his people. They were trying to find his location and they were developing a plan to get him out. All he had to do was stay off his meds and keep transmitting to them.
When the day came of their arrival, something terrible happened. Instead of taking Boromir back to his room, where he was going to meet his people, they took him to a holding place and told him they were cleaning his room today.
Moments later, several orderlies came in with a big syringe. They had found his stash of medication and they were going to dope him up, directing into his blood stream. Boromir screamed, and struggled, but the orderlies held him tightly.
If they doped him, he wouldn’t be able to contact his people and they wouldn’t be able to find him. Right now he looked like any other human. How would they tell he was their Prince if he was unconscious. He called out with all his strength as the needle pierced the vein in the crook of his elbow.
There was a crash and the doctor and orderlies were thrown to the floor, but somehow, Boromir remained standing. A glow suffused the room, and three ghostly figures flowed through the walls, turning to him. His people were here at last, but he could feel himself falling, the medication taking over.
“It is me! Your Prince!” he cried, and his people hovered around him, columns of white light.
He reached out for them, and touched the light. It burned his flesh, but it didn’t feel bad, it felt like he was taking off the clothing he hated. His eyes were flooded with light and he ascended, returning home.
“It’s just a brain game,” Aaron assured the dubious Thomas. He grinned, a sly smirk that made his half-lidded eyes seem like they knew something Thomas didn’t. Thomas had always hated that.
“It messes with people’s heads,” Thomas insisted, stubborn. “You’re not even allowed to have them here.”
“They sell them on Mars,” Aaron retorted with a derisive sniff. “Right on the street.”
“News flash. We aren’t on Mars.” Thomas’ frown was getting more sulky, bordering on a pout. “You should just get rid of that thing. If somebody catches you with it, you’re gonna be in trouble.”
“Ah, it’s no big deal.” Aaron played with the small device in his hand, turning it over and over, his smile widening just a little. One finger flicked over the sensitive control strip. “Let’s take it down to the docks and give it a try.”
Thomas opened his mouth to speak, but paused in the middle, a look of vague confusion washing over his face. He was aware of a faint humming sound, more felt than heard, and lost the thread of conversation for a moment while he tried to pinpoint it. Aaron watched for a few moments, then tapped Thomas lightly on the head with a pen, using the hand that wasn’t holding the brain game.
“Hey. Thomas. Let’s go down to the docks and give it a try,” he repeated, watching closely.
“Sure,” Thomas said easily, turning back to Aaron and giving a lopsided grin. “Sounds like fun.”
The talent was stored in glass vials, a class A controlled substance. The FDA regulated it heavily, fining doctors for excessive prescriptions and keeping the drug company on a short promotional leash. This was not to be available to the general populace; in fact, this was not to be known of by the general populace. Talent must be a rare thing. If too many people are talented, talent becomes commonplace and the prescription must be increased. It’s a slippery slope, said the ethics committee. They likened it to heroin, suggesting that an entire society could develop a tolerance for the substance.
There were slight variations in the chemical makeup of the talent serums. The qualities that make a good singer are not the qualities that make a good writer, and the enhancements reflected that. Some raised reasoning, allowing for quicker logic associations. Others weakened the neurological scripts that bound ideas together, easing the creation of symbolic connections for artists. Bodily coordination was enhanced, the capacity for language was enhanced. The serums were not offered to those without promise; they were offered to those who had already demonstrated natural aptitude.
The child’s fingers were light on the piano keys, filling the room with watery music. His rendition was criticized for its rhythm, the hesitancy with which the notes followed one another and merged, slightly off, like unsteady footsteps in soft sand that were licked away by the indifferent sea. This was never a piece about triumph, he told the reporter after the recital. The media criticized him for his unpopular interpretation, but the doctors rejected him for choosing the piece itself. A true artist would have created his own sonata, rather than recycling the ideas of a long-dead composer. It showed a lack of initiative, a lack of creativity. He was not a good candidate for talent.
Everything that can be accomplished has been accomplished already, the pharmaceutical company’s internal memo said. We’ve reached the limits of our natural skill, and true innovation is no longer feasible. In the first-year anniversary of the serum’s release, the company held an internal dinner. The CEO shook the hand of each member of the development team, smiling broadly, proudly. “Congratulations,” he said. “You may be the best artists of the century.”
“I know your face.” whispered the tiny woman as Nathan passed her workstation. He glanced at her cube, where she was manipulating objects in her field. He looked at her field and nodded.
“You do good work here.” Please, he thought, take the warning. He flicked a signal with his left hand, asking her to be silent. Then he noticed the mark on the back of her neck and he knew that she was new and hadn’t had enough time to learn all the hand signs, which were taught in secret, slowly passed from prisoner to prisoner. The tattooed mark told Nathan that the woman had only been here for a few weeks, that she had been arrested for civil disobedience and undermining the government. The mark told him that this tiny bronze woman had two children.
“There are those of us that remember, your movement has not died.” she said, taking one hand out of the field, dropping the virtual object she had been manipulating.
“I’m an overseer. We are criminals. We are nothing now.”
“They say it was you, not Elina who lead the campaign. They love you.”
Elina, the voice of the revolution. Nathan shivered hearing her name, and the memories it brought with it. “Stop.” Nathan begged.
Her voice rose, a powerful alto, ringing in the stone hall. “Isra will be free. The so-called union of planets cannot stop us. The people believe in freedom! ”
A loud, deep voice boomed up from the floor, the computer had caught their conversation “Resident 204-3318, you have been noted for unrelated work discussion and you are hereby summoned for recoding.” The floor beneath the woman became suddenly soft and she fell from her stool. Nathan stepped back from the warm flood. The woman cried out and scrabbled for a handhold, but everything she touched melted under her fingers. She called to him as she sank into the floor.
“They write your name on the city walls! They sing, they are singing! Isra! Isra!” The woman was suddenly yanked downwards, her eyes still open as the floor consumed her.
Nathans cheek was bleeding in his mouth. He forced himself to breathe and when the floor cooled and hardened he turned and left, ignoring the hand signals of the workers around him.
“Tend to your duties.” he said, surprised at how cold his voice sounded.
There was a certain quiet to this planet. The millions of years had led to a malfunction of tectonic waves on Ritus-112. Plates shifted and now allowed the sight of black igneous rock. which spanned the wide crevice at the depths of what used to be a Class 3 water mass.
A being with neither a spine nor eyes could feel as the tools melted through the rock to expose any unclassified organic material. Ritus-112 could sense past the rock, but the effort was one that he had chosen not to take. Soon enough the Illumna would have its answer.
One red stain against a sea of black would spread into the cracks and alert the hovering being. Its skin made of light shifted as its attention gathered towards the area of red. For weeks they had excavated numerous unnatural formations with only a Level 2 category of complexity. Most of the history of the planet had been lost millions of years ago, but some things remained. In the dirt, which had spent cells of radiation injected into most particles, they found the outlines of creatures that once created.
All that were aware of the Illumna knew that any being that had the power to create was something of a wonder, so they sought out any single organic cell that had not been reduced to the living status of the beings on the planet; insentient carbon. Coming upon the spot of red, Ritus-112’s form fluctuated to appear most pleased with the findings.
Already, it had begun to dissect the impure from the pure and to find logic at the speed of existence. The code had been unlocked because Ritus-112 knew it would be simple. A being made up of the models of existence was small, but still holding organic material. While the host specimen was quite dead, a containment receptacle upon its back held the base compound for the creators.
After the code had been unlocked, Ritus-112 began to energize the construction by borrowing from the light-stream. Its essence began to shimmer, then filter through the tools into the droplets of organic material. Soon there would be a rise in the heat to accelerate the replication process. A structure-built form that built amplifications which in turn built perception and awareness.
Before the being had even awoken, Ritus-112 had read its every thought, known its every memory. The receptacle would be called the mosquito, and the creator would call itselfâ€¦ human.