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  #1001  
Old 09-20-2010, 02:55 PM
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Poor Grace. And poor Daffodil.
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  #1002  
Old 09-20-2010, 05:12 PM
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One of the journalists who had attended the American veterans' memorial event in Onitsha, Nigeria, was a young woman called Reltseotu Smith, whose parents had given her a name derived from the made-up alien language in a popular science-fiction movie of an earlier decade. Reltseotu had been born seven years before that movie had been made, but her parents had been such enthusiasts for the new language that they had _changed_ her first name from Rebecca. The change at least had the advantage of compensating for a last name of Smith. Reltseotu's parents had ended up getting sentenced to Self-Esteem Centers amid the turmoil of America's own renaming; but she herself had escaped from forced reprogramming, thanks to the influence of a slightly older woman who was a rising star in politically-correct streamcasting.

So now Reltseotu was a direct employee of Neutron Invincible, host of the TV talk show The Glance, which was the one program regularly streamcast on _both_ the Oneness Channel and the Collective Network.

Very early on the morning after the day of the ceremony, which still was the previous night back in the Diversity States, the young woman was awakened in her hotel bed in the capital of Nigeria by the signal of an incoming holophone call. (One reason for her to be in this hotel was because it was the only one in Nigeria which provided 3-D communications to guests.)

The appearing image of Ms. Invincible said "Good morning, Relly!" to the flesh-and-blood Ms. Smith, after which the return hologram of Ms. Smith asked the flesh-and-blood Ms. Invincible, "What can I do for you?"

"You already _have_ done something good for me, dear: you created interest in a new story. Audiences over here have already watched your on-site report of that barbarian ritual--and what great color it is, that the event was held at the New Vatican! We can make all sorts of insinuations from that!"

"Um, Neutron, you didn't actually _tell_ people that it was literally AT the New Vatican, did you? Because it wasn't."

"Might as well have been. Remember, kid, it's the emotional _associations_ we're going for. Catholic Church: all about hating whoever's different. Old United States armed forces: all about _killing_ whoever's different. They cook together well in the same wok, and our viewers will eat up the mix."

"You're right, I see what you mean. But anyway, what is it you need me to do now?"

The celebrity hologram smiled. "Easy: keep on the story. I called you this early just to make sure you _don't_ leave Nigeria. I need you to produce plausible dirt on these American expatriates. If any of it is factually true, so much the better. Enough white males were attending the ceremony, that you should have no trouble convincing our audience that Nigeria, and probably some other African countries like Uganda, are in imminent peril of being taken over by an invasion of white male Nazi Catholics."

Reltseotu had not been in the business long enough to swallow such fabrications as easily as someone like Rhoda Gardner could do. "But, Neutron, the current Pope is a dark-skinned Brazilian, the next Pope will almost certainly be an African, and every Nigerian government official I've spoken to tells me that the Americans here are model citizens who never start any trouble!"

"Who cares what _they_ think?" snapped Neutron. "What matters is what we _want_ the proletariat over _here_ to think. This is an opportunity, Relly. I know you can do this. You'll need to keep me in the loop on how you plan the story, but you can mostly act independently. Give me my evil Christian white supremacists, and the Pinkshirts and I will be happy."

When the call was ended, Reltseotu sat in bed for awhile. She was not yet thinking about the best schemes for making the Christian emigrants look like the flesh-eating zombies in an old horror movie. She was thinking about the fact that, during her childhood, the African nation of Congo had been suffering from colossal and protracted violence. She had not learned a thing about this until her first trip to Africa as an adult....because American media figures like Neutron Invincible had intentionally refused to make a story of the events in Congo. The reason why they had stayed quiet about Congo (as Neutron had admitted to Reltseotu some weeks after hiring her) was because the violence there had consisted of _black_ people killing _other_ black people. There had been no race card to play, thus no agenda value in the story.

Reltseotu did at last begin planning how she would go about inventing white-supremacist boogeymen to menace poor Nigeria; but she could not feel as much enthusiasm for it as her boss clearly felt.

Last edited by Copperfox; 07-30-2012 at 01:59 PM.
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  #1003  
Old 09-20-2010, 05:32 PM
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Reltseotu?! Poor woman. Although I'd prefer a name like that to "Neutron Invincible."
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  #1004  
Old 09-21-2010, 04:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenburne View Post
Reltseotu?! Poor woman. Although I'd prefer a name like that to "Neutron Invincible."
It is quite the name. At least it's better than Daffodil.
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That is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
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  #1005  
Old 09-21-2010, 06:17 PM
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Let me unfold a bit of back-story for you here, in case I never find a place to fit it into the actual narrative. The name "Reltseotu" is actually a word meaning "artist"--in the "Na'vi" language of the "Avatar" movie. I imagine that the parents of the young Reltseotu Smith were "Avatar" fans, but were also believers in Christ. Their changing of their daughter's name from "Rebecca" would have happened in or around the _present_ time, as in September 2010 when I am writing this post. The Smiths would have seen what I see: the increasing tendency for society to pretend that taking a stand for Jesus is "hate speech." So they tried to give their daughter a sort of protective coloring, by changing her first name from a Biblical name to a pagan-fantasy name--very much as Esther in the Book of Esther underwent a change from her original name of Hadassah. It's true as I say above that they were "Avatar" fans, but also true that they were thinking of their child's future.

Reltseotu has benefitted pragmatically from the re-labelling; it was part of the reason why Neutron Invincible was able to keep the Pinkshirts away from this girl she had taken a liking to. But Reltseotu has not shown much gratitude to her parents for trying to safeguard her; it is also in the back-story that she has never bothered trying to communicate with them in their imprisonment. Like Odette Galloway, however...she can still be redeemed.

Last edited by Copperfox; 09-21-2010 at 06:20 PM.
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  #1006  
Old 09-21-2010, 09:34 PM
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Chapter 33: Gills for the Guiltless


The portion of Wyoming NOT included in the Enclave was like a letter C, enclosing the fenced-off part that bordered Nebraska and South Dakota (though the slant of the Continental Divide caused the southwest corner of the Enclave to be rounded off more than the northwest corner). Ownership of the non-Enclave areas of Wyoming was divided between the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains Federal Districts, the former having the larger share in terms of perimeter length. The Fairness Party had been determined to maintain a land buffer between the Enclave and the former state of Colorado that had been annexed by Aztlan, as well as to keep Yellowstone National Park (with its supervolcano) outside the reservation, AND to give the exiles no part of the Rocky Mountains in which they might be harder to observe with satellites. It was at a northwesterly point on the curved dividing line of Wyoming that a town existed which was the only entirely new settlement built for exile habitation _since_ the Enclave had been planned.

With an ear for intentional incongruity, the Undersecretary of Sustainable Energy had furnished the name for this town: Frontier Plaza. Personnel of her department, and of the Overseers, operated a communications and air-surveillance station here atop one of the foothills, with the mountains in plain view. This was one federal site inside the Enclave which had a purpose _other_ than controlling the exiles and generating electricity; it was part of the limited early-warning network which remained to the demilitarized Diversity States. Exiles--particularly ones employed by Life Quality Incorporated and the Federal Consumer Merchandise Service--had been allowed to settle near the station, so as to provide various amenities to the government workers. Frontier Plaza had, if anything, become a livelier community since this year's invasions of D.S. airspace by Aztlano fighter jets. Among themselves, the station personnel did not have to pretend that the Aztlano aggression had been in any way "provoked by Texan racism."

No exile had been told whether the early-warning station possessed any kind of _weapons_ that might be used if Aztlano aircraft overflew the Enclave with hostile intent.

At the end of this Friday, which was his first full day of acquaintance with Henry Spafford and Gabe Ellison, Bert Randall rode with them into Frontier Plaza. Gabe was greeted by a fellow black man, who was quick to express interest in the cougar hide that Gabe had with him. A barter deal was struck on the spot: a case of canned vegetables, a large box of matches, and two new pairs of undershorts for the cougar hide. "Things I can't exactly pick off a tree," Gabe remarked to Bert.

"What will your friend do with the hide?" the Australian asked. "Use it as a decorative rug, since you left the head attached?"

"That's exactly what he'll do. He's got a tiny taxidermy shop in the back of his house, so he can fix it up right. Then he'll sell it to the first federal worker who's interested. You'd be surprised at how many of the Overseers and Energy workers love to own hunting souvenirs."

"What, a rare novelty, because of all the no-animal-products rules outside the Enclave?"

"Exactly," said Gabe. "They decorate their living quarters like hunting lodges; but only the high-ranking ones can get away with taking the furs and things with them when they transfer elsewhere. Just as only the upper class can get away with eating meat on the outside."

"I'm glad you're _permitted_ to transact business, without them telling you that you're compromising the integrity of the Grange. Henry, do you have anything to sell here?"

"No. Unlike certain evil bourgeois capitalists, I'm here _purely_ in my Granger capacity." The Apache grinned at his African-American comrade, then looked at Bert again. "I expect to pick up more letters from folks here, to take to points east. Some of the letters are likely to be for persons in or near Sussex, so if you want to send one to anyone there, I could carry it also."

"Thanks," Bert told him, "but I'll just phone back there if I need to. What you can really do for me is to return my horse to the family I borrowed it from. This riding's been fun, but I mustn't keep the horse for too long, and I plan to ride a train after this."

Henry suddenly asked a question: "Mr. Randall, is education the _only_ thing you do research on? Since education is viewed in the D.S.A. as a way to form new conformists, do you ever think about studying _other_ things that create or enforce conformity in America? Like the activities of the Overseers?"

The young man's expression had grown intense--more like a brave on the warpath two hundred years ago, than like the laid-back type he normally was. He seemed even to be forgetting the hazard of being overheard in a place like Frontier Plaza.

Last edited by Copperfox; 09-20-2011 at 02:20 PM. Reason: Correcting a darn typo again
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  #1007  
Old 09-21-2010, 09:41 PM
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It seems odd that the Chinese would want the Diversity States de-militarized, but at the same time allow for its Pinkshirts and Overseers to so completely control everyone with high-tech weapons. They must have a lot of confidence in the stupidity of American officials.
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  #1008  
Old 09-21-2010, 09:56 PM
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The thing is that quantity and power of weapons permitted them are limited. Much earlier in the story, I noted that the particle beams possessed by the patrolling Overseers can only shoot a few times before having to be recharged at one of their bases. And though I didn't add this at the time, you can take it from me that the power level per shot is such that effective range is limited. Probably at any distance greater than a mile, the most an Overseer particle beam could do to you would be to give you a sunburn. The Chinese, by contrast, would surely have particle beams which can fire many times in quick succession, and whose blast could fry a hundred men into bacon strips _twenty_ miles away.

Those surplus Russian airplanes which the Texans are working on as defense against Aztlan will be mounting somewhat stronger beam weapons than what Overseer motorcycles carry, but still "weak" enough that the Chinese permit them. Even though the Chinese government made possible the creation of the People's Republic of Aztlan, they don't want Aztlan to be able to make trouble without restraint--especially since the remnant of the Chinese mafia has begun collaborating with the Aztlano gangs.
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  #1009  
Old 09-22-2010, 04:04 AM
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Saturday morning in Casper saw Cecilia Havens and her daughter Harmony visiting Miguel and Tilly De Soto. Miguel by now had made his commitment to Jesus Christ clear and emphatic, and was as ready to die as anyone had any right to ask a cancer patient to be. Which was a good thing, since Dr. Torvill now expected Miguel to be around no longer than another six weeks.

The good doctor had succeeded in scrounging a third oxygen tank for Miguel's use. This, too, was a good thing, since Miguel's failing lungs now needed a heavier flow of oxygen, thus using up each tank sooner. In view of electrical-utility stinginess, multiple homes had been furnishing electricity for the oxygen separator and pump; on weekends, this meant the Havens residence and two others which had weekend electrical power. Tilly, and the helpers who took some of the burden for her, had seemed never to get any break from refilling one tank while the other was in use, until the additional tank was delivered. The new tank even had a larger capacity than the first two, so it had promptly been designated for nighttime use. With this tank on the lighter flow setting for when Miguel slept, Tillie could now count on at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep each night for herself (or whoever acted in her place) before a change of tank was necessary.

"Good morning, Miguel," said Cecilia, once Tilly had brought her and Harmony to the sunny room where the newspaper man spent his daylight hours. "Are you _still_ working on those memoirs?"

"Sure am," he wheezed past his cannula. "Ulysses Grant had cancer, too...but he didn't let it...stop _him_ from writing memoirs...And he was writing by hand...just like me." Miguel was putting on paper many anecdotes and reflections from his long experience as an anti-Communist Cuban; he considered this work his supreme flashlight beaming into the night sky. Only a few persons knew that he was composing this grand indictment against collectivist government and the persecution of dissenters. He still did some of the editing and a bit of writing for the Wyoming Observer, chiefly to conceal the fact that a separate project was his real priority now. The brunt of the newspaper business was being handled now by Eric, Cecilia and Harmony Havens. (Terrance would have been capable of contributing text also, but he had too little time to spare from manual labor these days.)

Miguel and his few confidants could not say when there might be a chance for the memoirs to be read by someone who would profit by their content. There would be no launching this manuscript on arrows over the perimeter fence--especially not since the ominous rumor had spread of some exile in the Nebraska Sector getting killed while making an escape attempt, right near the place where Miguel had pulled his crossbow stunt when he still had the strength.

But he had to try to pass to others what he had learned in his life; and with his new-found faith in Jesus, he was now adding a few Biblical points to what would otherwise have been a purely political tract (albeit a truthful one with worthy messages). His longest single dissertation on a spiritual theme used his wife as the illustration of Proverbs chapter 31, lavishing deserved praise on Tilly for her faithful efforts to help him in his ordeal.

"We had a phone call from Kim," Harmony told the De Sotos. "She told us enough about those foreigners visiting the house to make a great article. I have an outline for it; Tilly, maybe you would have time to check it out."

Tilly answered minimally, not because she didn't welcome the input for the Observer but simply due to fatigue: "I can do that."
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Old 09-22-2010, 04:56 PM
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Cecilia and Harmony spent the next two hours performing miscellaneous housework for Tilly that Tilly had been unable to make time for because of her husband's needs. This was something Cecilia had done plenty of during several years in which she had been a hospice volunteer in Richmond. They finished by preparing lunch for Tilly and Miguel, a lunch which the couple would eat by themselves after the two helpers had prayed with them and left.

The dying Miguel and the careworn Tilly were glad enough to let Cecilia lead the prayer. She covered intercessions for the needs of others they cared about, before coming to the subject of her two friends themselves. Her eyes leaked fresh tears as she prayed:

"Lord, Your Word says that our times are in Your hands...and that it's better to enter Heaven with a damaged body, than to have an intact body but be lost for eternity. We thank You so much that Miguel is Your child now, and IS headed for Heaven; and we ask you to comfort Tilly, and reward her for her faithfulness and love to Miguel. But still...God, I don't want You to have to say that we had not because we asked not. With all the things Miguel has learned from a long lifetime, he could be _such_ a fisher of men...if You would be pleased to let him _stay_ in this world for more time. I mean, time with life and health, not still suffering! So although Your will is sovereign, I am _asking_ You, even this late in the day, to _heal_ our friend. Actually, genuinely to heal him, to _destroy_ this thief which is robbing him of life and robbing us of his fellowship! Please, Lord, let Miguel BE with us, to help gather the fish into Your heavenly net! In Jesus' name, amen."

Miguel said nothing; but Tilly caught Cecilia's eye and hoarsely echoed, "Amen."

When the two Havens women began the walk home, Harmony was deep in thought. Suddenly, around the halfway point of their walk, the young Chinese-born woman stopped in her tracks and grabbed at her head, as if trying to prevent an idea from escaping out of her brain.

"Fish! That's it, Mom--fish! Mom, fish have _gills!_" Now her hands changed to waving wildly in the air between herself and her startled mother.

"What are you talking about, sweetheart?"

"It's an answer! Gills!" Harmony flung her arms around her mother, who was the person she loved most in all the world. "Mom, God put that fish part in your mind when you prayed, so that I would remember the gills! Gills! My report, two years before we were exiled! Gills! Don't you remember?"

Then Cecilia did remember. Harmony had written a science report about current progress in creating prosthetic gills for persons doing aquatic work--such as beach lifeguards, so that they could not themselves be drowned by the struggles of drowning swimmers they were saving. One point Harmony's paper had covered was that fish out of water could still breathe for a little while because the moisture still in their gill flaps would absorb and dissolve surrounding air--and that the latest artificial gills were likewise designed so they could be made wet and also give benefit even while the human wearer was _out_ of the water.

"You mean, gills for Miguel?" Cecilia gasped, hugging her daughter back as the thrill of a new possibility took hold of her too.

"Yes! Gills! Mom, you know the excuse the bosses give us for not helping Miguel: the only cures that would work for him would involve computerized technology, and they 'have to' keep computer technology away from us exiles. But it _must_ be possible for a set of gills to be transplanted into Miguel's neck by an operation that _doesn't_ depend on any computers! It's only losing the use of his lungs that has him close to death; if he had gills, they would put oxygen in his blood without his lungs! It wouldn't actually cure the cancer, but it could give him months more, maybe years more, of meaningful, active life!"

Mother and daughter squeezed each other in a shuddering of hope for their suffering friend. Of course, as any Buddhist might have pointed out, to have hope also meant to fear disappointment. "Harmony, we mustn't tell the De Sotos yet."

"I know, Mom. False hope's the cruellest thing there is. But we _have_ to try to find a way to make this happen!"

"Your Dad has as many helpful contacts as any exile in health care can have. You know he'll do what he can when he hears this idea." Cecilia gently tugged at Harmony, and they resumed walking.

"Yes, I know Dad will do as much as possible. But maybe there's another possibility besides. Do you remember the saying 'God does all things for each'? Maybe God had Miguel in mind when He planned for that Chinese man to visit the Enclave. Dad says that when Beijing sneezes, the Rainbow House offers its own sleeve as a hanky. If that man Yang would ask the triumvirate to let Miguel have gill implants, since it wouldn't really be asking them to change any stated policy, I'll bet they would agree!"
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