Floozman in Space
by Bertrand Cayzac
In a space station in Earth orbit, Janatone Waldenpond, a refugee from Europa, is trying to return to Earth. She meets a long-lost cousin, Fred Looseman. Meanwhile, Jenny Appleseed, the president of the Cosmitix Corporation, holds a conference to plan interstellar expeditions.
Chapter 19: Set and Setting
All of a sudden, isolated cries erupt in the patio, similar to those one can hear on the fast merry-go-rounds of Earth when silver gondolas fly whirling around and the acceleration snatches laughter from beautiful bodies. Wonder of the universe, the young nubile maid with a fine silken petticoat in the tamed arm of the machine her tribe has built to marry her to heaven, she shouts her joy: “Shall not loveliness be loved forever?”
But more voices chime in. They have something of a questioning prayer. What force is manifesting itself here? Who shall give the poet the fine molecule to tell what moves bodies and minds in this way?
“I didn’t know, I couldn’t see,” they tell the observers. “Our consciousness was in the grave. Now we live, now we see the light and the color so full, we are free! And lo, we are leaving.”
“Yes, I can feel the push,” says one. “I am fire, I am energy, and I am matter taking shape. I am going to regions where the stars are dense, where I am even more as I get closer to the heart of the hot and perfumed city. Baghdad! I can see each of your lamps. They don’t burn to be hidden. They are a hive, a honey of light, a plasma!”
A woman rises; she is beautiful. She says she hears the whistling axle of the chariot taking the poet away, that she sees the beautiful horses and that the Goddess is welcoming her. Then she mimics the Goddess: she dances a little, without affectation, she is so much above herself.
She says there is no void. She says that all is full and that there is nothing other than plentiude. “HE IS!” she cries, then “NOTHING IS NOT! NO, NOTHING IS NOT!”
The cry is taken up. “HE IS! NOTHING IS NOT!”
From the bridge, Diana teases Dr. Weenie. “This is a fairly communicable result we have here.”
Dr. Weenie shrugs.
The web proposes references with mental banners: Parmenides’ poem, of course, but also an extract of Henri Bergson’s book Thought and Movement:
We do sense that a divinely creative willpower or thought is too full of itself in its immensity of reality for the idea of an absence of order or an absence of being to be able even to come close to it. To imagine the possibility of absolute disorder, let alone nothingness, would mean saying that it might not have been at all, and that would be a weakness incompatible with its nature, which is power.
And still, what is this malaise? The metal of the hull is crying.
“TIMOTHY LEARY IS OUT THERE!” shouts a girl in a trance. She says he really is outside, looking in.
They see. They see what they see, and they are exhilarated by the revelation and caught by their intuition that an abyss of sacred terror will open before them if their heart fails them; if, in the blink of an eye, they find themselves doubting their sheer belonging to this fatherland, their consubstantiality with the cosmos.
Diana continues on her way, processing her messages. Her nano-escort makes a humming crown for her.
“WHO IS LIKE HIM?” Then “WHO IS LIKE ME?” she hears. “WHO? WHO?” the voice implores.
Diana continues walking. She is told that an emissary of Jay-Bee Bourguignon wants to talk to her. Always the same deal: he would keep his job as a director within the new Cosmitics Organization. In return, he would commit to protecting the remaining scientific assets of the Academy until the technology transfer.
Diana says no. He must be judged, but if he facilitates the transfer, that will certainly tip the scales. She is prepared to talk to him, she is sincere. She does not despise him: SHE DOES NOT DESPISE HIM! She recognizes in him an organizing power, a necessary power. It may well be that his ugliness itself is a necessity.
As Diana walks, the Lighthouse picks up speed. She is told of uncertainties in the breathing estimates. In addition, the various lists of non-military passengers can’t be correlated. She asks Stewart Palotin to settle the problem once and for all. She accepts the budget for the instantaneous harmonization of databases.
As she walks, the Lighthouse continues to pick up speed. She is told that the sensor failure is fixed. She asks why she has to hear about a repair. Somebody tells her, and then she asks why she has not heard of it earlier. Indeed, the records show that the repair took place before the failure.
When she asks for a new measurement campaign, the state of the widgets is seen to be indeterminate. Everything is happening as if it were both operational and malfunctioning at the same time. An investigation is requested.
Diana washes herself, and the Lighthouse accelerates. Her hair floats in a ring about her head. She unloads her mini-cubes of excrement. Her intestinal compactor is one of the few concessions she makes to spatial bio-engineering. She could do perfectly well without traditional food, but her pay grade doesn’t allow her to eschew official lunches.
She is told that the experiment is going wrong. Some subjects have stopped taking the pills and have switched to tranquilizers. Nonetheless, the subjects are still in a state of shock. Others want to throw themselves into the void of space.
Dr. Weenie plays recordings for her: there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, not to mention screaming in horror. On the control panel, the general morale indicator is plunging.
Diana thinks, and the Lighthouse picks up speed. Dr. Weenie asks her to intervene in the experiment because cases of dementia have been reported among the caregivers. They talk until the statement of decision is published. It is clear enough: the patients shall be temporarily isolated.
Diana works, and the Lighthouse picks up speed. She reviews the accelerated acceleration procedures. She decides the timing of their implementation. Twice, Dr. Weenie asks her to intervene. He uses exactly the same words and the same gestures.
Captain Diana now has the puzzled feeling that she has already given identical answers every time. Hearing herself repeat herself, the captain with eyes of night wonders about her state of consciousness. She decides to alert the Executive Officer and the Chief Medical Officer.
She returns to the bridge, and the Lighthouse picks up speed. She receives signals of the presence of pirate fish traps in the area. She feels no surprise, for she has seen them in a dream. She is told of the position of the closest ones. Pictures of stunning splendor reach her.
All indicators are deployed. The vessels display their financial manifests: gold, silver, titanium, academic works and tons of tomatoes. Spectrometers confirm that the hull of the biggest trap is coated with gold leaves. How can that be? How can these wrecks, these space monsters transform themselves in that way?
Diana sets the ship to yellow alert. But no matter: a military ship of the Lighthouse class can neutralize pirates without the captain even knowing about it. It is all done very neatly and without mistreating the prisoners in any way.
She sleeps, rocking herself with hyperbolas and conchoids while one of her voices sings, “Beautiful speech, beautiful speech, come to my rescue.” And the Lighthouse gains speed. Tubes nourish her. She is beautiful, and the good is present to her, even in her sleep.
Dr. Weenie leaves a message asking her authorization to test a stimuli shield on a consenting nurse. Upon awakening, Diana will authorize the test and, once again. it will seem to come from her memory.
Above all, she will remember a tormented dream long after extracting herself from her hypno-cocoon, when she lets her mind stroll on one of the narrow beaches of freedom that the sweet habit of awakening reveals to her. She will remember a few scenes of space battles, her exaltation and also her confusion in front of the indecipherable tactics of the enemy.
Dazzled, she will have fought against a fleet of golden fish traps swarming out from the motherships. Perplexed, she will have recorded the erratic behavior of all instruments, the simultaneous presence of same indiscernible hostile objects at different points, the inexplicable drift of the Lighthouse at the time of retreat.
Ardent, she will have taken unheard-of decisions against the advice of her General Staff: she will order the drone satellites exploded and all non-vital circuits cut. And she will take emergency manual control.
Inspired and unpredictable, she will have escaped the pirates and yet not have escaped them. She will try to explain this perplexing situation: Who, in her dream, was urging her to give up command? Was it the Chief Medical Officer? Was it the Executive Officer? What were her parents doing in the scene? Was Dr. Weenie present?
Diana walks, and the Lighthouse picks up speed. She ties up her hair and comes down to the amber shadows of the patio to address the subjects of the experiment. But the picture of the fish trap has captured the core of her mind. Must her mind have a core? The full organic multiplicity of her mental universe seems to have ordered itself around this golden, so mysteriously meaningful spaceship.
How can I be present to what I am doing? the prudent captain asks herself. Shouldn’t I hand over command right now? And why does she feel so lonely when she turns her thoughts away from the fish trap? The message from the Chief Medical Officer takes lesser priority.
“Shipmates!” she shouts at last, addressing the restless company that the nurses are containing with great difficulty. “I am here to salute your bravery and to guide you. For you are pioneers! History shall remember you forever as the very first human minds to open up in space, and I have the honor to be your captain.
“While you are deploying your magnificent corollas, I remain closed like a rosebud to retain the strength that must protect us during this long journey. But I do envy you! I am the one who must stay deaf and blind so that no wrecker, no siren can deceive us. But these fires, these chants, I burn to know them!”
All of a sudden comes a draft, a shiver, a silence: some invisible thing has traversed everyone’s bones. No one says a word, for the signature of this spirit cannot be told. Flesh bristles. Some imagine long mobile scales; others the vertigo of a full and prodigious curve. Diana thinks of the wonderful trajectories of the ships she has fought in a dream. Even in a dream, how can a simple movement transcend her understanding?
Diana continues. “And lo, the beauty of the universe has struck you dumb! You have bravely lifted the veils concealing it, and it has stupefied you. It has stunned you even unto death. But, shipmates, I do not see your blood running! I see only your terrified gaze. I can’t hear the enemy. I hear only your moaning.
“Indeed, ‘Beauty is violent and painful,’ the great Plotinus tells us in his Enneads. But why, shipmates? Why? What is it to you? What is it to you that you can’t suffer its presence? Do you desire it — or, should I say, her? But what is this desire? Do you desire for yourselves what she is for herself?”
Diana casts an eye over the audience. Her gaze meets haggard men and women and also threatening ghosts that are now slithering among them. Multiple but united, the specters seem to hesitate to take form. Diana has the feeling that the invisible entity is listening to her. She can only carry on. Salvation lies in her words.
“Die then, all of you! Die for love of the Beautiful!”
The ghosts withdraw. Why does nobody see them?
“It’s a nice death, if you accept it.”
“Who is like me?” asks an alien voice. Diana seems to be the only one to hear. Then she understands that she can grasp only obscurely what is manifesting itself. She envelops herself with a transcendent movement that exceeds her on all counts and fearlessly continues her discourse.
“But to those who live, I want to tell a simple thing. And I’m telling it to all those aboard this ship. To ALL! Here is what I am telling you: I need you. An ignoble dictatorship has imposed a reign of biological oppression on Europa. We must fight it and win. We must heal the wounded and make the crooked straight. We must educate and lead. We must try to accomplish THE GOOD!”
The ghosts come together and whisper. They are forming a denser weave. One can almost make out their tenuous words: orders and confirmations, ritual words and litanies. “Decoherence” and “crystallization” are the words Diana believes she understands while, under her eyes, the blue and gracious braid differentiates itself like an embryo.
Soon, everyone recognizes this figure, which is engraved in their flesh and of which they form only a fragment. Of course, it belongs to the living principle, the mother curve that is now uncoiling and engendering her daughters by unheard-of mathematics. The being that is taking shape is as tall as a giraffe, as strong as a whale, and hung like Shiva. He is one and multiple like a coral reef. He knows himself, and he knows Diana when he addresses her:
“Who is like me?” asks the creature. While he is waiting for an answer, apparel flies across the patio and comes to adorn his body. On the thick gold- and sapphire-studded fabric, guns and machines can be seen. The drape covering the heart is a used artificial uterus of the Cosmitcs brand.
All the alerts are buzzing now: attack, fire, destruction, air leaks, morale leaks. Seventy fish traps have been docked to the Lighthouse flank for several hours. Seventy-seven thousand capsules are continuously injecting high-quality ‘C’ into the main circuits.
No one can tell how the pirates came here. Still the trace of past fights is available. A careful examination will give rise to several concurrent explanations but, for the time being, the analysis carried by the weapons systems is clear. The first engagements were marked by command errors and have caused losses. The Chief Medical Officer had had to transfer power.
Then the battle was engaged in accordance with the Earth doctrine under the command of the Executive Officer. And it was lost. The enemy ships’ anticipation capacity was so much at the limit of spatio-temporal aberration that all shots missed their targets. The ballistic system’s study of missile trajectories confirms the aberrations. Still, in the navigation system’s log, the Chief Medical Officer never ordered Captain Diana’s suspension.
“The pirates are here, they are beautiful, they are with Timothy!” sings a young experiment subject. The silence is broken.
“Who are you?” asks Diana.
“I am ASTRALIX the Gaul, and I need to know who is like me.”
Diana looks him straight in his incalculable eyes, full of love for the grand living figure which they are both participating in and of which she, too, constitutes but a fragment. She sees that these eyes have gone farther than she can conceive in this “race to vision” that Bergson speaks of. The web obsequiously proposes a quotation to her, but she rejects it, because the time is not right. She must speak.
“Jenny Appleseed, your mother; and Janatone Waldenpond, your other mother. They made you out of what is like you.”
Astralix does not answer.
“And you are not a Gaul!”
The Artificial Uterus breaks in. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
Will Captain Diana succeed in forming an alliance with Astralix the superman? Will THE GOOD triumph aboard the Lighthouse? And if THE GOOD triumphs, will the Lighthouse crew be capable to impose it on Europa? Will Astralix find his mothers again?
[End linking sequence]
Proceed to Chapter 20...
Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac