|Space Energy Missions|
Please, let's not argue over my choice to refer to Ivory as 'human'. True, she did not meet the definition of "human" that is now being enforced by the tryp'At, but she was functionally human, with just a few alien genes thrown into the mix of her all too human genome.
Erkre was a contemporary of Gohrlay at Observer Base in the First Reality. For reasons that will become clear, I'm going to refer to Erkre as "him", although it is clear that all the First Reality Observers existed as hermaphrodites, using the Preland body pattern.
|Original cover art by|
Edmund Emshwiller and Virgil Finlay
|our Reality Chain|
Erkre visited Ivory while she was right at the beginning of her sophomore year in college. Ivory was specializing in the science of molecular biology, but she signed up for an elective course in script writing. Ivory had just taken a seat in class when Erkre arrived and plopped down in the seat beside her. Here is the story as I received it from Ivory.....
Most men thought I suffered from an eating disorder. Appalled by my thin body and spindly limbs, most people would first glance at me and then look away. Erkre was different. And, yes, his name was different.
When Erkre arrived, I had just turned 18 and I was finally beginning to form some adipose tissue. Walking across campus on my way to class that morning I had marveled at the slight sensation of some jiggle in my body. I was fantasizing about the possibility that I might actually mature into a woman. My first glance at Erkre revealed nothing unusual about his physical appearance, but I was startled by how his eyes latched onto me and never seemed to let go. He had an odd accent, and I at first assumed that he was from some distant place like Iran.
With his eyes holding me like a vise, he said, "Hello, I'm Erkre."
I thought he said "Erik". I was not used to guys casually striking up a conversation with me. "Hi." All I managed was a squeaky whisper.
He held out his hand while casually asking, "What's your name?"
We shook hands, his large hand gently enclosing mine. "Ivory Fersoni." Right then the professor began the class and she introduced herself as Dr. Rhyder. I was not really able to listen to her.
At the time, I had no concept of nanites. In retrospect, it is now clear that when he touched my hand a swarm of nanites transferred from his body into mine. Those nanites imposed a change on the functional state of my brain. I was aware of the fact that his skin was smooth. Where our hands touched, it felt like sheets of plastic wrap rubbing their nearly frictionless surfaces together, a sensation I knew well from my mother, but which I had never experience with anyone else. Finally, he took away his hand and pulled an odd device out of his backpack.
I'll call it a writer. It fit perfectly in his hand like a ball of clay that had been shaped to exactly match the contours of his fingers. He started writing in a notebook. I assumed that he was taking notes and writing down what Dr. Rhyder was saying. She was introducing us to the course and was already describing our first assignment. "Arrange yourselves in teams. Imagine that you are on a deadline: you have one week to create a script for the next episode of a television program. Start be selling your story idea to the person next to you."
A new episode of Star Trek. The Enterprise arrives at planet Tar'tron, in the galactic core. A landing party beams down to the surface, near one of the larger settlements. They are met by an Asterothrope: a tall humanoid with long fingers who seems to have anticipated their arrival. Captain Picard and his crew are surprised that the residents of Tar'tron, where there is no sign of advanced technology or space travel, are quite knowledgeable about Earth.
I handed the notebook back to 'Erik' and I asked, "You want to write an episode for a television program from the 60s?"
Erkre nodded. "Yes. What's your idea?" He said it in a challenging way, as if there was no chance that I could come up with a better idea.
I shrugged. "I don't mind using your idea, I love Star Trek. So how do these Asterothropes know about Earth?" Dr. Rhyder arrived behind Erkre. She glanced down at his notebook and read the story synopsis that Erkre had written.
He explained, "Asterothropes originated on Earth and they actively study the progress of civilization on Earth."
Dr. Rhyder complained, "I told you to write for an existing television program."
Erkre nodded, "The pilot episode for a new Star Trek spinoff show will be broadcast next month. We will write the 17th episode of the season."
Dr. Rhyder threw her hands up in disgust, "Science fiction! Just don't write some god-awful story about Captain Kirk having sex with these Asterothropes."
Erkre laughed. "Relax. This story takes place in Kirk's future; he's dead. The Asterothropes are safe from molestation."
Dr. Rhyder moved on. I asked, "Who is this new Captain, Picard?"
"He's right up your alley, if he wasn't a starship captain he'd be a scientist. And you'll like the Asterothropes, they are quite matriarchal. Asterothrope females are twice the size of males. Still, if it were up to me, I'd give most of the screen time in this episode to the hermaphrodites."
Just then, Dr. Rhyder called out, "Okay, class..."
For once, my high-pitched voice carried well and many in the room laughed. Dr. Rhyder said, "Yes, sadly one team is intent on writing about hermaphroditic space aliens." There was more laughter. "From now on, I want you all to work in teams of four. Merge your teams of two and mercilessly drop half of your story ideas." She issued an invitation: "Who wants to put the hermaphrodites out of business?"
That was when I noticed the second Erkre. He was seated behind me. He was saying, "Lori, let's join up with my brother's team."
I later learned that "Lori" was a girl named Lori Sherer, the daughter of a woman who already worked professionally as a writer in Hollywood.
Erik turned to look at his "brother" and Lori said, "Holy shit. What are you, identical twins?"
Erik laughed and said, "Something like that. You should ask our mother for an explanation." He asked Lori, "So, what story idea do you have?"
Lori explained, "I want to do an episode of Mr. President."
I'd never heard of that television program. I repeated, "Mr. President?"
Lori rolled her eyes, "Its a new show on the FOX network."
I'd never heard of the FOX television network. Erik looked at me and chuckled, "Ivory, you'd like FOX. They have a crazy woman doing their flagship late night show."
Lori asked me, "Ivory?" Judging by the tone of her voice she clearly thought that I had a strange name. "I'm Lori."
The second Erkre said, "Rather than try to assassinate George C. Scott, I vote for the hermaphroditic space aliens."
Lori said, "You're throwing away an A. Dr. Rhyder obviously hates science fiction and I've already written half of my episode of Mr. President."
I said dismally, "Your episode." I said it quietly, but Lori heard me.
She flamed me. "Look girly, you've never even heard of the FOX network. I've been writing since the day you started playing with Barbie dolls and stopped eating!"
She would have said more, but then the second Erkre put his arm around her shoulders and said, "You're out-voted, Lori, three to one." I was startled by how Lori's face suddenly became tranquil and her rant abruptly ended. In retrospect, it is certain that Erkre sent nanites into Lori's brain. He suggested to Lori, "Maybe you can write a subplot where the Asterothropes try to assassinate Captain Picard."
Lori said robotically, "Okay."
Erik said, "Here's how we'll do this. We each write the lines for one of the main characters. I'll do Picard's part. Ivory, you can begin by writing the lines for Trysta, the Asterothrope. My brother will write the part of the robot, Data, who has a major role in this episode."
I asked, "There is a robot named 'Data'?"
The second Erkre replied, "Lieutenant Commander Data, a positronic robot and chief operations officer, third in rank under Picard."
I said, "What a stupid name for a robot! They'd never put that on television."
Erik said, "Tune in for the pilot episode next month. Never underestimate the stupidity of Hollywood."
I wondered, "How do you two know so much about this new television show?"
Erik replied, "Think of us as science fiction geeks."
Lori asked, "What part do I get to write?"
The second Erkre explained, "You'll do the part of ship's counselor, a telepathic half-alien."
She asked, "Does this character have a name?"
Erik suggested, "Use your telepathy. What do you think her name is?"
Lori briefly looked puzzled then said, "Troi. Diane Troi."
Erik nodded, "Good enough, Diane. Start writing the scene about when you first make telepathic contact with Trysta, while still in orbit above Tar'tron." Lori started writing immediately. From then on, the two Erkres always called her 'Diane' and the second Erkre was 'Data'.
Similarly, I had suddenly become become 'Trysta' and Erik was 'Picard'. I noticed that Data was writing in his notebook, using a writer like the one that Erik used. I turned my head and watched Erik also start writing. Just then, Dr. Rhyder returned to our group. She read what Lori was writing, but she spoke to me, "Telepathy! Are you really going along with this science fiction idea?"
I'd spent 18 years of life thinking of myself as some sort of alien, forced to live my life on Earth. I was intrigued by the idea of writing the part for this alien, Trysta. I replied, "I hope you won't penalize us for writing a science fiction story."
She shook her head, "I only penalize bad writing." Dr. Rhyder spoke to the whole class and returned to the front to the room, "Good work. All the teams have decided on story ideas. Use your remaining time in this hour to write short biographies of the main characters. Leave those first drafts here on my desk when you leave, then for homework re-write and have polished one page character bios for me at the start of our next class. During the next class session, be ready to decide on a plot outline for your team's story."
The two Erkres and Lori were writing furiously in their notebooks. I put pen to paper and the story of Trysta's life flowed out onto the paper. Somehow, the Erkres were feeding information to Lori and I, using us as writing instruments. When the bell rang at the end of the class period, Erik collected the biographical sketches that we had written and handed in about ten pages of detailed backstory for Picard, Data, Troi and Trysta.
I laughed. "Wait, are you seriously suggesting that we write me into this story?"
Erik explained, "Not just you. Ivory is part of a team that writes an episode of Star Trek about the origin of positronic robots."
Lori protested, "Now wait. Hold on. I know Dr. Rhyder. I had her last semester in another class. She's not going to want us pursuing some egotistical trick like writing ourselves into Star Trek."
Data said, "Well, really this is about me, as an artificial life form."
Picard said, "Quite right commander. With this episode we can break down the barrier that prevents the people of Earth, particularly Ivory, from knowing about the artificial life forms who play such an important role in the history of this world."
Troi gazed into my eyes and said, "I sense that Ivory is not convinced. She thinks we're all being silly by taking on the personas of fictional characters."
I laughed again. "Not true, you three are marvelous! This should be in the script." I pointed to the Erkres, "Data and his backup robot, Data2, and the telepathic Diane Troi have to convince me to start the science of positronics. Frankly, I don't see how you can succeed." I noticed that nobody was laughing but me.
Troi suggested, "Just play along, Ivory. From now on, you are playing yourself; Trysta is back on Tar'tron with Picard. Trysta duplicated Data because one copy of data must be left behind here in 1987 so that you can study him and discover how to start the science of positronics."
Data1 said, "Right. There is a time limit. Troi and I must be teleported back to Tar'tron before midnight."
I couldn't stop laughing. "That's silly. Are you going to turn into a pumpkin if you don't get back before midnight?"
Troi replied, "The real problem is me. Somehow they've taken over my mind. "She gestured towards the Erkres. "If they keep up their control of my brain for too long, they'll do permanent damage to my neurons."
Suddenly I felt a gush of fearful anxiety. I asked Lori, "You're serious, aren't you?"
It was about 9:30 that evening when we finished the script. Lori gathered up the pages, about 150 hand-written sheets. We'd all been using the writers provided by the Erkres and the writing was very neat, still Lori said, "I'll get these to my typist tonight. Dr. Rhyder is going to be blown away."
Erik warned her, "Remember don't turn this draft in until the end of the semester."
I said, "Right. We'll just give her one page character biographies on Thursday." Lori nodded and departed. She wanted to get a typed version of the script and send a copy to her mother. As she walked away, I felt like part of my mind was fading away.
I drained the last of the bear from my mug and asked the Erkres, "So how do you do it? This telepathic contact that linked our four minds and let us create a 150 page story in one flawless first draft?"
Erik said, "We're linked by submicroscopic devices that are inside our bodies. Technology-assisted telepathy. The point of this exercise today was to demonstrate to you the possibilities that are inherent in nanite endosymbionts."
"I sense that you won't tell me who you are or where you come from."
"No, you'll soon forget almost all of what you experienced today. The memories will lie dormant in your mind until you need this knowledge."
I stood up, swaying a bit from fatigue and feeling rather desperate to pee. "Will I ever see you again?"
Erik rose and took hold of my hand. He bowed and replied, "No, this is farewell."
I went and emptied by bladder and by the time I completed that urgent mission, my day of fiction writing was already feeling like a disjointed dream memory. Still, it had been a fun day with the twin Erkre boys. I glanced at the table where we had written our Star Trek episode, but they were already gone.
Lori and I continued working together in the script writing course. By the end of the semester, Erkre was a lost memory. Erkre had never been on the course roster nor had he even been registered as a student. Of course, I never thought to check the school's records until many years later after my memories of Erkre had suddenly been revived by Thomas Iwedon. But that is another story.
Most importantly, by the end of that semester I had abandoned my plans of becoming a molecular biologist and I was established as a science fiction writer. Lori's mother was able to successfully get a watered-down version of our story accepted as a season two episode of the new Star Trek.
Next: X-files in the Hierion Domain
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