Google+

Jan 21, 2018

Y in the... ?

sleeping together, but interrupted by Langley
I was pleasantly surprised that episode #2 ("This") of  The X-Files season 11 was almost a science fiction story. Rather than science fiction, "This" is a typical X-Files conspiracy fantasy with some Hollywood pseudo-science crammed into the plot by Chris Carter.

Golden Braid: Struggle to Kill the Shark
"This" continues an old X-files Sci Fi theme that was revived in "My Struggle III": some remaining members of the Syndicate are trying to arrange for a select few humans to escape the imminent END OF THE WORLD.

artificial Langley
In "My Struggle III" we were introduced to Mr. Y and Erika Price. Erika shows up again in "This", running some sort of hi-tek think tank, a virtual reality system in which a digital copy of Langley's mind has been kept since Langley's death (see "Jump the Shark"). "This" will remind X-Files fans of the old episode, "Kill Switch".

Jump Again
still got some scoot in her boot
"This" is silly and goes over the top with absurd action scenes that I'll try to forget as soon as possible. The worst part of the episode comes when we are told that Erika Price's mysterious mind-snatching organization can use smart phones to suck the contents of peoples brains into their virtual reality-generating server array. Viewers of the episode are told that inside that virtual reality, the minds of Steve Jobs and assorted rock stars function as digital slaves, solving tough problems for Erika, presumably getting her close to being able to escape from Earth, go into outer space and live happily ever after on a Dyson sphere.

Plus One
in bed together
During The X-Files season 11 episode #3 I kept hoping that they might tie the telepathic powers of the perps to the telepathic powers of William or the characters in Season 10's "Founder Mutation" episode. However, there was little effort made towards having this episode make sense. One hint of logic: maybe these perps were born with the ability to telepathically "push" people towards suicide, but Scully had the power to resist (three cheers for alien DNA).

Karin Konoval
Watching this episode (and all of Season 11 so far), I felt transported back to the 1960s when Captain Kirk had to have a fist fight in every episode of Star Trek. Now in every X-Files episode Mulder has to fight someone and Scully has to lament becoming an aging spinster. Every episode now also has to show Scully and Mulder sleeping together.

Telepathy
a telepathic connection
Did Mulder just get lucky when he stumbled upon the first of the two twin perps? For an agent called "spooky", I'm willing to believe that Mulder has some kind of telepathic ability, maybe an ability to receive telepathic signals from folks like the perps in "Plus One".

Evidence
I have to believe that Mulder and Scully had exactly what it took to defeat the two telepathic perps, telepaths who have been killing people since they first became murderers by killing their parents. Scully, in particular, was able to summon her rationality (just like Spock in Star Trek) and so defend herself (and Mulder) from the two perps. And we have to believe that it was the smokey fire of the Mulder-Scully relationship that ignited a feud between the two perps, distracting them and ultimately making them kill each-other rather than the two stars of the show.

Mulder and Scully are not getting any younger, and it seems like Chris Carter wants us to believe that they are now (finally) both ready to turn to each-other for comfort. The shippers go wild.

The Y-Files
The Y-Files
I previously fantasized about ways that The X-Files might morph into a new existence as some sort of "X-Files the Next Generation" science fiction television series. It looks like Season 11 is stumbling towards a "My Struggle IV" final episode that will show William's struggles and which could easily set the stage for a "Next Generation" X-Files continuation. The rest of the Season 11 episodes might just continue to show Mulder and Scully getting ready for retirement.

Related Reading: The X-Files Season 11 Episode 1
Visit the Gallery of Posters.
 

Jan 20, 2018

A Lost Flame

cover art by Edmund Emshwiller
Theoretically, this blog post is a retro-review of a Stanley G. Weinbaum story called "The Black Flame". However, I'm most interested in the role that Weinbaum played as a link between older style adventure stories and the new literary genre of science fiction that was being created during the short period of time when Weinbaum was actively publishing his stories. "The Black Flame" is a story that was rejected by publishers during Weinbaum's lifetime, but it was eventually published after his death. It is fun to imagine reasons why editors originally refused to publish "The Black Flame".

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame
Weinbaum is famous for his stories such as "A Martian Odyssey" that include alien creatures from other planets. I suspect that I first read "A Martian Odyssey" in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (although it may have been in this anthology). I don't think I bought that book, but I probably read just the first story (which was "A Martian Odyssey") while standing in a book store. I've previously mentioned some stories that I first saw in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume IIA and IIB.

on Mars in 1934, click to enlarge
I still (more than 40 years later) remember my distaste for "A Martian Odyssey". I felt that Weinbaum's depiction of Mars and life on Mars was absurd, silly and at the outer fringes of science fiction. Of course, opinions of what constitutes science fiction vary from person to person. What did people think about science fiction back in 1934?
An editorial from the July 1934 issue of Wonder Stories that included "A Martian Odyssey"


July 1934
This editorial (above) suggests that science fiction is educational and it introduces new ideas that can lead to scientific advances. I'm not sure that those lofty ideals apply to the works of Weinbaum, a man who apparently began a pursuit of an engineering education but dropped out of college. Weinbaum's 1934 imagined account of life on Mars was completely unbelievable by the time I read it 30 years after its publication.

I found "The Black Flame" the be an odd mixture of fantasy, romance and science fiction. It would be interesting to know which pulp magazines rejected the story; it was finally published after his death when fans were lamenting Weinbaum's loss and publishers were willing to alter their standards and publish anything that Weinbaum had ever written.

1949
"A Martian Odyssey" begins with the crew from the first ever expedition to Mars learning about the alien beings who reside on the surface of Mars. After landing on the planet, it is their job to fly around and do aerial photography. In contrast, for "The Black Flame", Weinbaum imagined a future in which giant Earthly telescopes had been able to obtain high resolution images of the surface of Mars long before an expedition was ever sent from Earth to Mars.

includes "A Martian Odyssey"
Of course, Weinbaum, living in the pre-computer age, never imagined that automated spacecraft would be sent to Mars and obtain high resolution images of the surface by means of digital photography from orbit. And certainly "The Black Flame" came closer to reality than did "A Martian Odyssey", which reads just like some old-fashioned adventure story in which white explorers go to deepest darkest Africa, find a man Friday and plunder the precious jewels of the native tribe. I have to say, I feel that "The Black Flame" is a better science fiction story than "A Martian Odyssey", so I need to explain why it was that "A Martian Odyssey" got published and "The Black Flame" got rejected.

1939
I feel that "The Black Flame" is essentially an early story about what we call the "technological singularity", the idea that scientific discoveries and technological advances are coming at increasingly fast rates and sometime soon we will reach a discontinuity after which the world will be completely transformed by technology and will then exist in a new domain, distinct from all previous human history. Today, most people who predict the imminent arrival of such a "technological singularity" usually predict that humans will produce super-intelligent artificial lifeforms who will then dominate Earth and be cognitively as far above we humans as we are above ants. Weinbaum imagined a different kind of future for human advanced technology development, one that I find more interesting than the current craze for shouting "Super-intelligent A.I. is coming; it is the end of the world!".

1969
I believe that the likely reason for why editors rejected "The Black Flame" is that Weinbaum did not have an original idea for how to get his story started. In fact, I can understand if pulp magazine editors thought Weinbaum had inexcusably stolen too many plot elements from other authors. Rather than just write a story about an imagined future of Earth with advanced technologies, Weinbaum wanted to provide a direct connection between his readers in the 20th century and the world that he imagined existing 1000 years in the future. He did this by putting the hero of the story (Thomas, a man from the 20th century) into suspended animation.

Suspended animation
Suspended animation has long been a popular plot element of stories. I was first exposed to the idea of a "long sleep" by the story Rip Van Winkle in which a man drinks something magical and falls into a long sleep.

Han rocket and
disintegrator beams
The story "Armageddon 2419 A.D." (published in 1928 in Amazing Stories) by Philip Francis Nowlan (1888 - 1940) introduced Anthony Rogers, who eventually became Buck Rogers. Anthony miraculously "arrives in the future" just when the Americans are ready to revolt and get rid of the "Han Airlords" and their leader (who is known as "the Most Magnificent"). The "Han Airlords" are invaders from Asia who reside in 15 cities while the defeated Americans still have most of the land in North America. Rogers arrives in 2419 A.D. through accidental suspended animation. The magical mechanism: he gets trapped in a mine with radioactive gas that puts him into suspended animation. In Nowlan's story, Rogers has to fight the Second Revolutionary War in order to liberate the Americans from the Han invaders. I suspect that when editors received "The Black Flame" as a new story from Weinbaum, they could not publish it due to its many plot similarities to Nowlan's famous "Buck" Rogers saga.

big hair in 1953
The closest I've come to buying a magazine so that I could read a Sci Fi story was when I bought a few issues of Omni magazine back in the late 1970s during the period of time when Ben Bova was the fiction editor for Omni. These days, we can download PDF copies of the old Sci Fi magazines like Amazing Stories.

1995
When I first saw the drawing in Amazing Stories of an immortal Jules Verne coming out of his grave (see below), I was creeped out. I suspect that Weinbaum was inspired to sit down and write the first few pages of "The Black Flame".

For "The Black Flame", Weinbaum imagined that an electrocuted man could be inadvertently put into a state of suspended animation. He wakes up 1000 years later, at which point he has been reduced to little more than a dried-up walking skeleton.
the immortal Jules Verne in Amazing Stories
future war: 2419 A.D.
I Died, But I Got Better
The version of "The Black Flame" that I've read is the one published in 1939. I've never seen another version, apparently some 18,000 words longer.

At the start of "The Black Flame", we are provided with a sickening account of the near-skeletal body of Thomas being eroded out of an old cemetery, a thousand years after his death. Thomas Connor was electrocuted as punishment for killing his soon-to-be wife's lover in a fist fight. Weinbaum did not expend much effort providing a fictional science explanation for how someone could survive being buried for a thousand years.

"A Tribute to the Late Stanley G. Weinbaum" by Otto Binder
Masterpiece
In the 1939 issue of Startling Stories where "The Black Flame" was first published, there was also a tribute article written by Otto Binder. Binder wrote that "The Black Flame" might be Weinbaum's masterpiece.

Since 1920 when Arthur Eddington proposed the idea that stars might get energy by fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei, there had been speculation about fusion power. One of  Weinbaum's imaginary future technologies in "The Black Flame" is fusion power, both for industrial use and for powering spaceships. I'd be interested to know if there was any earlier fictional account of using hydrogen fusion as a power source.

In the first page artwork for "The Black Flame" (shown below) there is a triangular fusion-powered spaceship just below the "L" in "FLAME". Also visible on the coin that partially covers the "B" in "BLACK" is the Black Flame herself, who becomes part of a love triangle with Thomas (image to the right) and Evanie (image to the left).


Evanie and Thomas fight to depose The Master (click image to enlarge). Interior art by Hans Wessolowski
Ruler of Earth
The Black Flame is the sister of The Master, ruler of Earth. The Black Flame gives Thomas a ride in her spaceship, but since she only has an hour to spare out of her busy schedule, they only get into Earth orbit. However, readers learn that humans have visited the Moon. Given the availability of fusion-powered spaceships, I was left wondering why there had been no trip to Mars or even more distant destinations.

The center of the universe
St. Louis is the center of the universe. Not only does our hero, Thomas, get buried there, but he "wakes up" at exactly the right time to join Evanie in her revolt against The Master. Evanie's father previously tried to lead an insurrection against The Master, but he was killed for his attempt to depose The Master. AND, as further proof that St. Louis is the center of the universe, one day while Thomas is recuperating from his death and walking on the outskirts of town, the Black Flame, out randomly slumming in the wilds (and first seen gazing lovingly at her own reflection in a pond), bumps into our hero.
Thomas tries to kill The Master.

Mutants
Evanie is the first woman that Thomas meets in the future and he thinks she is "gloriously beautiful". However, Evanie has a dark past: she is part mutant. While trying to genetically engineer immortal humans, several types of mutated humans were created, and Evanie carries some mutant genes. Evanie's mutant genes are supposed to explain why such a gloriously beautiful woman is single and available to become Thomas' girl friend.

The Black Flame and The Master are also mutants: two of the Immortals. There are only about 50,000 Immortals, most of them the nerdy scientists who The Master has deemed worthy of being made immortal. The Master became ruler of the world when his friend, an uber-scientist, discovered the secret of immortality. With his cadre of immortal scientists working for him, The Master has the technological power to rule the world. In this technological singularity story, it is not an evil A.I. that takes over Earth, but the Immortal Master.

The Black Flame takes Thomas for a ride in her spaceship.
Thomas thinks that the Black Flame is endowed with "goddess-like beauty". Eventually Thomas ditches Evanie and hitches up with the Black Flame. However, one limitation of immortality is that it causes infertility. However, (as Weinbaum patiently explains to readers) Thomas and the Black Flame must mix their superior genes and make a batch of babies, so she will allow herself to become mortal again, for a time. The plan: after they've had children, both Thomas and the Black Flame will be given immortality.

drone attack
What about the dumped girlfriend, Evanie? After her revolution against The Master fails and her attempt to kill the Black Flame with a nuclear weapon fails, she decides to live happily ever after with her long-time admirer, Jan Orm, who is willing to ignore her mutant genes.

Why does the Black Flame fall in love with Thomas? After a few good meals, Thomas recovers from his death and regains his normal manly proportions. But "normal" for the 20th century is unusual compared to the small, effeminate men of the future. Also, the Black Flame tries to intimidate and scare Thomas, but unlike the men of the future, he acts tough and unafraid; The Black Flame swoons. So much for the "triangles", both nuclear powered and romantic in Weinbaum's story.

artificial life
In my view, what makes this an interesting science fiction story is the "technological singularity" depicted by Weinbaum. Yes, The Master rules the world, but he is actually a benign and enlightened dictator.

One of the Master's hi tek tools for keeping control of the world is his drone surveillance system. When Evanie and Thomas and their gang of incompetent revolutionaries attack The Master's palace, they discover that their lame plot is known to The Master and their actions have been anticipated. When the revolutionaries storm The Master's palace, the palace guards are safe behind a hi tek deflector field. Evanie and Thomas run off after their coup fails, but they are tracked down by The Master's drones and returned to the palace. There, Thomas tries to shoot The Master as he sits on his thrown, but The Master is also safe behind a deflector screen. By this point, The Master is losing his patience and is ready to kill Thomas, but the Black Flame intercedes to save Thomas; after all, she's bored with her endless life and views Thomas as a manly man from the ancient past who might enliven her tedious existence.

Most people in this futuristic, post-scarcity Earth are happy. Advanced technologies have been used for projects such as irrigating the Sahara desert (image to the left). Nuclear-powered factories provide Stuff to meet everyone's material needs. Only a few malcontents like Evanie want revolution, for reasons that she has difficulty expressing. Thomas eventually develops a man-crush on The Master and decides to move into the Palace and live forever with The Master's sister. It is easy to imagine that Weinbaum, had he lived longer, might have written a sequel to "The Black Flame" in which Thomas and his wife would go off together in a fusion-powered spaceship to explore outer space.

Logarithms
The funniest part of "The Black Flame" comes when Thomas must divulge what he knows about lost knowledge from the 20th century. Here, Weinbaum's engineering education shines through and he has Thomas carefully explain logarithms to an enthralled Black Flame. She gushes, "We must have ten-place logarithm tables worked out".

Related Reading: Weinbaum in an alternate Reality
Next: telepathy
Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.

Jan 14, 2018

Magic Potions

Long before there was a science of chemistry, humans experimented with chemical substances that can influence the functioning of the human body. There has long been a chemical war going on between different organisms, so some plants make poisons that can bind to receptors in the human body. Due to the high affinity of binding between poison and receptor, small amounts of poisons can have powerful effects. Similarly, the human body has an immune system that can respond to the presence of invading organisms. Vaccines can be created that contain chemical components of bacteria and viruses or biologically crippled versions of microbes and the body's receptor-mediated responses to the vaccine will confer protection to any later exposure to the pathogenic microbe.

cryo-electron microscopy (source)
poliovirus-receptor-membrane complex
I first became aware of such receptor-mediated physiological effects back in the early 1960s when I witnessed a large-scale community vaccination against polio. I had no idea what was happening, but I saw many people lined up and we all drank a small amount of liquid containing an attenuated polio virus. This was an effective vaccination strategy because the non-lethal virus that we put into our bodies bound to receptors on the cells of our gastrointestinal tracts, allowing efficient virus entry and virus proliferation. Our bodies first became virus factories then our bodies made antibodies against the virus proteins. With the help of such vaccinations, polio has been eradicated from most of the world.

Before there was a scientific understanding of drug-receptor interactions, the potent effects of some chemicals on the human body was fodder for speculative fiction story writers (see). They were forced to depict the actions of drugs as some kind of magical mystery.

Wizardry
Witchcraft: magical sleep-inducing chemicals.
illustration by Charles Santore
In the early 1960s, I also saw The Wizard of Oz on television (in black and white). For L. Frank Baum's book, The Wizard of Oz, he imagined a potent magical effect of chemical vapors from poppy plants. That magic could put animals (including humans) to sleep. Lucky for Dorothy, her artificial lifeform companions were not susceptible to the chemical released from the poppies, presumably a potent opioid that can activate the opioid receptors that are in brains.

"The Artificial Man" illustration by Frank R. Paul
Fictional Chemistry
I began my 2018 retro-reading with an old story about fictional chemistry and I want to extend the exploration of that theme here in this blog post. I'm intrigued by the idea that my favorite science fiction story tellers such as Isaac Asimov got ideas for their fiction from the stories that they read when they were young. For example, in 1929 Science Wonder Quarterly published a story called "The Artificial Man" by Clare Winger Harris. Asimov had gotten permission from his father to read the pulp magazines that had the word "science" on their covers because "they must be educational".

Edgar Hamilton at work in the chem lab.
Asimov went on to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor of biochemistry. He is famous for his thoughtful stories about "artificial men" (robots) that were constrained by the Three Laws of Robotics. In "The Artificial Man" by Harris, the titular artificial man is an actual man who suffers injury and dismemberment and so he has body parts replaced by prosthetics. Sadly, this bionic man had no restraints on his behavior and he became an evil-doer.

The Diabolical Drug
Published just before "The Artificial Man" was another story by Harris, "The Diabolical Drug" (you can download the Amazing Stories, May 1929 issue from here). The story provides an account of chemist Edgar Hamilton's research on anesthetics (Harris used the British spelling "anaesthetics").

Deela the Scalosian
Edgar has girl trouble. His beloved Ellen is 32 and Edgar is only 26. Because of their age difference, Ellen ignores Edgar's proclamation of his great love for her. Rejected by Ellen, Edgar spends all his time working in the lab.

Timewarp
Everything changes when Edgar makes a revolutionary discovery, which he modestly describes as "the most wonderful potion ever concocted by the hand of man". Edgar's great chemistry discovery has gone a step beyond what conventional anesthetics do. As Edgar explains triumphantly to Ellen, anesthetics weaken the signals sent along axons, but he now has found a chemical that almost completely "decreases nervous energy expenditure" and in so doing, slows the rate of aging to a crawl. Excitedly climaxing right in front of Ellen, he explains that all they need do is inject some of his potion into Ellen. She will stop aging at a normal rate, allowing Edgar to "catch up" and then they can get hitched and live happily ever after. What could go wrong? Ellen has no skepticism and she gushes, "What a wonderful man you are to have figured out so marvelous a plan!"

Stories in Pseudo-Science
As soon as Edgar injects the magic (Harris never provides anything close to a scientific justification for what happens) potion into Ellen, she stops moving normally and, in fact, is now living in slow motion. When she speaks, her voice sounds like a dull rumbling noise. And, from Ellen's perspective, everyone else in the world is now moving supper fast, like Scalosians. So, the drug is "working", but Edgar can't stand the sight of his girl moving so slowly. It gives him the creeps.

So, of course, Edgar goes back to the lab and immediately works to concoct an antidote that will undo the damage that his first drug did to Ellen. Rather than simply find an antidote, Edgar designs a new chemical that has an effect that is the opposite of the first drug: this second drug accelerates you like a Scalosian. Now, Edgar is not a complete dolt, so having learned a lesson from Ellen's horrific deceleration, he cleverly tests his second drug on a cat. After being injected with the new drug, the poor cat moves so fast that it bursts into flames from friction with the air.

2011 edition
Undaunted by the incineration of his cat, Edgar injects himself with a tiny dose of the new drug. After having been accelerated by this new drug, from his perspective, everyone else in the world is now moving very slowly. His new plan is working: by aging quickly, he will catch up with Ellen and shorten the time that she must spend stuck in slow motion. Then bad news arrives. Ellen has come down with the measles and due to her decelerated state, the doctor believes she will have the disease for the next five years. Edgar can't stand the thought of that, so he injects himself with a walloping dose of the acceleration drug. What could go wrong?

Such a large dose of the drug has an unexpected effect on Edgar. He shrinks to the size of a sub-atomic particle. All is not lost, because at this tiny scale, there is an entire world populated by sub-atomic-scale people. Edgar has a merry adventure living among these "Lilliputians", including finding a new girl, Yana, and raising a family. This entire interlude takes place (at sub-atomic scale) somewhere on the floor of his laboratory in a place called "Luntin".

popular drug: nicotine
Edgar learns to speak the local language of Luntin and eventually he is able to make some of the deceleration chemical. Injecting it into his grandson and himself, they return to the normal size of humans and are again moving at the normal speed for humans.

Edgar (now an old man) injects Ellen with some of the acceleration drug and that returns her to normal speed. Happily, Ellen and Edgar's grandson are the same age and they live together in wedded bliss. Poor Edgar, after telling his tale of living in Luntin, ends up in an insane asylum.

editorial blurb for "The Diabolical Drug" ( with no
mention of the drug) click image to enlarge
As is typical for such "superscience stories", Edgar's great scientific breakthrough (the diabolical drug) is never mentioned again (not even by the editor) and is added to the waste heap of fictional scientific discoveries. Even though science got short shrift, Harris wrote "The Diabolical Drug" with a large number of exclamation points, just so that readers were aware of the fact that they were reading a wonderful action-packed adventure story.

In the Ekcolir Reality.
In 1947, several stories by Harris (including "The Diabolical Drug") were bundled together and sold in book form as "Away from the Here and Now". The cover of that book carried the subtitle: "Stories in Pseudo-Science".

It boggles my mind to imagine a young Isaac Asimov growing up and reading stories like "The Diabolical Drug" and "The Artificial Man". However, he went on to not only become a scientist but also to craft science fiction stories that brought an air of greater scientific plausibility to old fantasy themes such as time travel and artificial life.

I'm intrigued by old stories that explored the idea of the very small. In the Exode Saga, I imagine very small artificial lifeforms that are composed of hierions. For Harris to imagine a chemical that would shrink a man to the size of femtobots is amazing.

Foundations of Eternity
I wonder if Isaac Asimov was influenced by "The Diabolical Drug" when he made his time travel story, The End of Eternity. Asimov imagined a kind of space-time bubble (called "Eternity") that existed outside of the normal flow of time. The sub-atomic scale civilization in Luntin reminds me of Asimov's Eternity as a place that people can travel to and from.

Related Reading: Out of the Sub-universe
 One Pill Makes You Smaller
 The Girl in the Golden Atom
Next: "The Black Flame"

visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.


Jan 13, 2018

Let's Make a Genre

1917 in the Ekcolir Reality
In the Ekcolir Reality

"A genre is an understanding of the kind of text that something is." (source)

Stanley needed gas. In 1917, gasoline was sold by many hardware stores in Kentucky, but now it was a cloudy, late-summer evening, a Sunday, and the last two general stores he had driven past were both closed. He was worried that he might run out of gas, but not too worried. He could stop for the night and he had an emergency canister of 5 gallons of gasoline. Still, he wanted to get home a quickly as possible, so he raced onward into the night.

Stanley saw a high, round sign up ahead that said, "Mellon" in big glowing letters. He slowed as he approached the base of the sign and looked down the adjacent driveway towards what looked like a conventional two story house with a gasoline pump in front that was backlit by a glowing porch light. Now he could see in smaller glowing letters at the bottom of the roadside sign, under the larger "Mellon", the words, "We give you gas".

He turned down the driveway and parked next to the pump. Instantly, a gangling youth in a blue jumpsuit appeared and started pumping gas. Stanley got out of the cab, looking for water. On the gas pump was, "$0.25/gallon", glowing in green radon paint. He asked, "Got any water?"

The attendant said, "Use the water hose," and pointed to the coiled water hose that hung on the side of the gas pump. Hearing her voice, Stanley now turned his head and looked again. In the glow of the porch light and he could see that she was a young woman. She expertly worked the pump and the stink of gasoline filled the air.

After he put some water in the radiator, Stanley replaced the hose and found the girl looking at him. She said, "That's two ten."

Stanley couldn't place the woman's strange accent. She certainly wasn't a born southerner. "I'm glad you were here and open this late." Stanley gave her three dollars and she gave him 90 cents change, pulling the coins out of her pocket, along with a white rag. When she stood close, he could tell that she was almost as tall as he was, over six feet. He pointed towards the big glowing "Mellon" sign by the road and asked, "What kind of lighting is that?"

"Neon. When I saw neon signs in France, I knew that they would be the way to go when I started my business." She opened the hood of Stanley's car, hung a little battery-powered lamp from the hood, looked briefly at the engine and then checked the oil.

Stanley was intrigued by the amount of light coming from the small lamp. He could see that the girl's red hair was protruding out from under her cap, which had a red letter "M" on it. "Ah, so that's neon lighting. I've never seen it before."

The attendant pulled the cloth slowly along the length of the engine's dipstick and asked, "Have you ever been to Europe?"

"No. I spend summers on the coast at my grandfather's house. Once I took a train to Miami; that's as far as I've ever traveled. My grandfather just gave me this car for my birthday and I'm driving home to Lexington. It's been a lot more work than taking the train. I'm glad I didn't run out of gas."

"You should have filled up back in Ashland, kid." She slammed the hood closed and carefully folded up the now oil-stained rag. "Tight cylinders. She hasn't started leaking much oil yet." She wiped a dead moth off the front grill before sticking the rag back into her pocket.

Stanley didn't like being called kid. "I'm lucky you were here, but this seems like the middle of nowhere. You get much business?"

The woman shrugged her shoulders. She walked around Stanley's car, using the little flashlight and checking the tires. "I just opened up a month ago." After looking at all four tires, she pulled a soft blue rag out of her hip pocket. "Folks are starting to realize I'm here." She held the flashlight in her mouth, pulled a small bottle out of another pocket and squirted the windshield of Stanley's car. She began rubbing the glass with the blue cloth. Putting the lamp back in her hand, she said, "So this is the new '17 T?"

Stanley was extraordinarily thrilled to own the new car. "Driven right off the assembly line, put on a train and hauled to North Carolina. Almost new; I've already put a thousand miles on her since my birthday."

"Enjoy it while you can, kid, before you get shipped over to fight in France."

Not wanting to admit that he was only 15, he said, "I still have a few years until I'll be old enough to get drafted."

"A big kid like you could get into the war with no trouble. If you volunteered for the Army, then you'd get to see Europe."

Stanley had no interest in war. He was hungry and thirsty so he asked, "All you sell is gas?"

The woman looked at him and smiled, "You interested in buying something else?" She winked at him.

He laughed. "Got anything to eat? Drink?"

She replied, "I have some food in the house." She turned and walked back into the house with Stanley following along behind. She asked over her shoulder, "You like beer?"

"I'll take anything wet." Inside, Stanley blinked in amazement. The interior of the house had been converted into a retail shop. There were shelves and display racks stocked with with a wide variety of items including clothing and food, but also books and magazines. Along one wall was a row of refrigerators with glass doors; inside, cans and bottles of beer sparkled in the glow of more neon lighting. The place smelled of fried onions and an Electrola was playing a Harry Lauder record. Just as they entered, the song came to an end and silence filled the room. Still puzzled by her unusual accent, Stanley asked, "Are you from Scotland?"

The attendant tossed the three dollars onto the counter next to a cash register. "I was born in Australia." She pulled off her cap, hung it on a peg and let her long red hair tumbled down around her shoulders.

Stanley took a cold bear out of a refrigerator that had a bronze plaque "Mellowes" on the steel face above the glass door. He'd never seen a refrigerator like this one. "I'm surprised that you have electricity way out here."

"There's a big coal mine just up in the hills," She gestured over her shoulder, "That has a huge generator. The whole county is getting electrified."

Stanley set the bottle on the counter next to the fancy electric Model 1000 NCR cash register. Behind the counter, on a little table facing the front window, there was a plate of food, apparently the woman's dinner. Stanley asked, "What's for dinner?"

Without a word, the girl went into the next room and quickly returned with another plate of food which she set before Stanley. She put another record on to play, then brought her own plate to the counter. She finally put the three dollars from the gasoline sale into the cash register. For a while they ate, standing on opposite sides of the counter and they each described their favorite foods. The woman explained that there were fish ponds out behind the house. "What you're eating is splake, which I find easy to raise in small ponds."

"You're a great cook, but you don't need to use so many crazy spices on fish."

"I like spice." She ran her pink tongue around the loop of her full lips.

"I can tell." Stanley, sweating, was grateful that a ceiling fan was turning silently above them. "You should open a window. It should be cooling off outside now."

She said, "I like it hot." She went to an electrical work bench in the corner of the room and flipped a switch. Soon cool air started blowing into the house through little vents in the ceiling.

Stanley asked, "Do you have an ice machine out back?"

"No, something better. A Carrier-designed cooling system. With a big compressor and heat exchanger; no need for ice." She said "ice" with great distaste and a little shudder.

Stanley pulled a copy of The Electrical Experimenter off the little display rack to the side of the cash register. "What are you, some kind of electrical wizard?"

"Yes, I am. I studied electrical engineering when I lived in Sydney."

"Wow. You got a degree from...?"

"No degree. You could say I'm self-taught."

Having eaten his fill, Stanley went over to look at the book shelves that were arrayed along the back of the room. Most of the books seemed used and slightly worn, but many were recently published science and engineering textbooks. "Have you read all of these books?"

The girl replied, "I like books." She reached past Stanley and plucked a book off the shelf and handed it to him. "I wrote this one."

Stanley read the title: Hugo's Future: Analysis of Ralph 124C 41+ by W. T. Mellon.

"That was my thesis for an English Literature masters degree program that I never complete. My advisor did not like science fiction." She now spoke from over at the cluttered workbench in the corner. "Hey kid, come look at this."

Still holding Hugo's Future, Stanley joined her at the bench. She pointed to what looked like a cigar box with some wires coming out of it. "This is my car radio kit. A radio that works off of a car battery."

"Car radio?"

 "Yes, but sadly, with the war on, the government is starting to restrict the use of radio transmitters."

There was an electric clock above the workbench. Stanley saw it was after 9:00. "It is getting late." He set the book down next to the radio. "I better hit the road."

She picked up the book and set it on the radio and asked, "What's the rush? It isn't safe to drive these roads at night."

"I have school in the morning."

He went to the counter and took out his wallet. "How much for dinner and this magazine?"

Standing quite close to Stanley, she asked, "Why not stay here for the night?"

"I don't want to miss the first day of school."

The girl said, "Twenty dollars will cover it." She set the radio on top of the magazine, and on top of the radio was Hugo's Future. "That price includes the two-way car radio set and the book. Use the radio to call me; we can chat about radios and the future."

"This little set can transmit a hundred miles?"

"Don't worry, I'll hear you." She pointed at a dial. "Use the 2.2 MHz band."

Stanley pulled a $20.00 bill out of his wallet and handed it to her. "What's your name?"

"Winúŋna. Winúŋna Mellon. And you?"

"Stanley." He thought she had said her name was "Winona", or, with her odd accent confusing the matter, maybe "Whena". Since Stanley had read The Time Machine, by the time he arrived in Lexington he was thinking of her as Weena. He put out his hand and briefly she allowed her hand to rest in his during a gentle shake. He picked up the radio, the book and the magazine, turned and walked out of the odd little store.

Winúŋna followed Stanley out to his car. She clamped the radio to the dashboard and quickly ran a wire from the electrical box into the cab and connected it to the radio. She spun a dial and soon the car filled with music. "That's a radio station in New York. I can usually pick them up this time of night with their signal bouncing off the ionosphere."

Stanley was tempted to find an excuse to stay for the night, but he started the car and drove off with a wave of his hand to Winúŋna. Later he discovered that the radio was solidly glued to the car.

The rest of his drive to Lexington seemed to pass quickly. He had to use his emergency 5 gallon can of gasoline to make it home, not finding another open business along the way that could sell him gasoline. Arriving home late in Lexington, Stanley gave thanks that he no longer lived in Louisville, which would have made for even longer trips to and from the Carolina coast.

The next day, after school he had to give his friends rides in the car. When he finally got back home he set the radio receiver to 2.2 MHz. Hearing nothing, he said, "Hello? This is Stanley in Lexington."

After a few seconds, he heard, "This is Winúŋna. Did you have a safe trip?"

The quality of the radio signal was excellent, but in Stanley's mind he though of her as "Weena", ignoring how she pronounced her name. "There were quite a few deer near the road last night, but I didn't hit any of them."

"Good. Enjoying the radio?"

"My buddy Jack's head almost exploded when he heard music coming from New York. He literally exploded when I told him how little I paid for this radio set. He thinks I lied about the price."

Winúŋna laughed. "You got the 'friend of the family' discount."

"Jack said he's never seen a radio like this. He tried to open the case, but couldn't. He couldn't understand how it runs but stays cool."

Winúŋna suggested, "You two should start an electronics club."

"Electronics?"

"That's a word just beginning to be used to refer to newer devices that use more efficient and small electrical circuit components."

Stanley's sister stepped out on the porch and gestured to him. She called, "Dinner is ready!"

Stanley said, "I have to go." He shut off the radio.

1918
The school year was finally done, and Stanley started off on the highway for the long drive to the coast where he would spend summer vacation at his grandparents' house. He retraced his route and wanted to stop again at the Mellon gas station near Ashland so that he could see Winúŋna. They'd frequently spoken by radio and Stanley had begun fantasizing about spending at least one night with "Weena".

For Stanley, the most interesting part of this past school year was that he had started writing stories similar to Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+. Some of his futuristic adventures had been printed in the school newspaper.

In mid-March, the radio set had disappeared from Stanley's car, along with a chunk of the dashboard, never to be seen again. Soon after the loss of the radio, he'd searched through his room carefully, looking for his copy of Hugo's Future, but he could not find it. On the first day of summer vacation, when Stanley reached Ashland, he turned around and drove west, searching along the road carefully for the gas station. Finally he found Winúŋna's house, but the gasoline pump was gone as was the big "Mellon" sign. All that remained of the roadside sign was a concrete platform, now hidden by the weeds growing along the edge of the road. The house seemed deserted and empty. With a shrug, Stanley gave up looking for Winúŋna and got back on the road, again traveling east towards the Carolina coast.

1923
Stanley was two months from graduating with a degree in electrical engineering. He was taking one last non-engineering course just for the fun of it: an 8:00 in the morning English course for fiction writing. He'd recently had two short stories (adventures about imaginary future technology) published in the magazine Science and Invention.

At the beginning of the semester, Stanley had begun writing a new story about orbital radio signal relay stations. He intended to submit the story for publication, but he decided to also submit it as an writing assignment in his English course. Set in the future year of 1968, the story involved a technology for miniature "hierion circuits" used in radio signal-transmitting orbital space stations. The first draft of his new story had been extensively criticized by the professor, an elderly man who had two years previously been Stanley's instructor in another English course. Stanley and the professor knew each other well, and did not agree on most literary issues. When returned, written in red at the top of Stanley's graded assignment was the statement: "Your fake science is nothing but a distraction from good story telling." Still, Stanley's story had been given a grade of "A".

Stanley had made a few alterations to the story, gave it the title "Orbital Electronics" and mailed it off as a submission for possible publication in Science and Invention.

Three weeks into the semester, Stanley arrive on campus about 7:00 AM, as was his habit. There, in his usual parking space, was another car. It was a gigantic beast of a car, custom built from a Bentley chassis. On the side of the car in chrome-plated letters it said "Mellon 2".  He parked next to the Mellon 2 and walked to the campus coffee shop where he usually ate breakfast. Sitting quietly at his usual table was Winúŋna, sipping hot tea. Stanley was surprised to see her and he sputtered, "Weena?" He looked closely at the girl and was certain it was her when she spoke in her unusual accent.

1923 in the Ekcolir Reality
Winúŋna looked up at him, smiled warmly and said, "Sit down, Stan. I already ordered for you."

Stanley sat down and a waitress brought food to their table. He saw that she had ordered his usual breakfast. He was certain that this was the odd girl he had met six years earlier, Weena, but she looked different. Still tall, but now with different, shorter hair and her facial features were somewhat rounder and altered from what he remembered. "How did you find me?"

She laughed and said, "Nice to see you, too."

"Sorry. It is good to see you. You know, I was really upset when both you and that fancy radio set disappeared back in '18. What happened to you?"

"Did you really expect me to sit there in Carter County Kentucky selling gasoline to farmers?"

"I don't know, that little store of yours seemed like more than a gas station. As I recall, it was half book store."

She said enigmatically, "You were the only possible customer for what I was selling."

"And now here you are again, suddenly appearing out of nowhere."

"Yes, about that... we have a problem."

"We?"

"We're in this together, Stan. Your "Orbital Electronics" story has attracted attention."

"How do you know about my story? I just mailed it off last week. Are you working at Science and Invention?"

"Nothing like that. Listen, Stanley, I'd hoped that by now you would be writing stories like "Orbital Electronics", but there is one problem with the story. Your use of the term "hierion". That attracted Overseer attention."

Stanley had no idea what she was talking about. He asked, "Overseer?"

Winúŋna glanced to the side, checking to see if anyone might be near enough to hear their conversation. "I'd prefer not to discuss this in public." She placed a five dollar bill on the table, stood up and put on a heavy coat that had been folded over the back of her chair. She took Stanley by the hand and tugged. He followed along with her and she led the way back to her car, the big Mellon 2. "Let's go for a ride."

Stanley almost complained about the prospect of missing his 8:00 class, but he could not dismiss his curiosity about Weena and something told him that he could not afford to dismiss her mysterious talk about Overseers. They got into the Mellon 2 and soon she had driven them off campus. Soft music played in the background and she leaned back in her luxurious seat. "Let me tell you about myself."

Stanley was looking at the fancy radio set that was built into the dashboard. "I wish you would."

"I was born in 1857. I was already 45 when you were born."

Stanley shook his head in dismay. "You can't be in you sixties."

She pulled her right hand off of the steering wheel and held it palm side facing Stanley. "Hold on. Please be patient. This gets complicated." She pulled into a quiet country lane and drove off the highway. "I was a writer, living in England. My name was Edweena Arnold. I started having strange visions in 1902, images of alien creatures from distant planets in orbit around far stars. But really, it started much earlier." She now pulled off the dirt road and went through an open gate into a pasture. She parked the Mellon 2 and turned in her seat towards Stanley. She shut off the engine, but the radio kept playing. "You see, I had a visitor, just like you did, when I was still a teenager. Of course, my Interventionist was a guy. He sparked my interest in writing and arranged for me to attend the University of London. I graduated and became a successful writer."

"By 1905, I had written a novel about creatures from another world who were watching over Earth. I called them Overseers. Then I was visited by an actual living, breathing Overseer. She told me that I would not be permitted to tell Earthlings about the existence of Overseers. She took me off of Earth and in terms of the history of Earth, that was the end of my life. My first life."

Stanley felt that Weena was telling her story with complete conviction, but he had to ask. "Do you expect me to believe this?"

She gave her head a small shake. "It does not matter what you believe. Just listen. After I left Earth, I learned about time travel and replicoids. The version of Earth that I had lived in was all erased and replaced by the new Reality that you were born into, a new Reality in which my stories about Overseers had never been published. I don't even know if an analogue of you existed in that older Reality of Earth in which I had originally existed. That does not matter. In this Reality, there was a new analogue of me, a boy named Edwin."

Stanley laughed nervously. "Time travel? Real time travel? Time travel was used to turn you into a boy?"

"The fact of time travel is just a technical detail. What you must understand is that after I died, after the entire Reality of my existence had been erased, a copy of my mind and memories lived on in my replicoid. I was not special in that respect, but what happened next was special and important. My replicoid was given the special task of training and educating a new experimental test subject. The Interventionists were still trying to find a way to inform the people of Earth about the Observers. I had failed to successfully achieve that goal in my first life, but as part of a second chance, my replicoid was given access to the mind of a little girl, born in 1898 and named Winúŋna by her mother. That girl grew up to be me; an odd mixture of Edweena's mind forced into the body of Winúŋna. Anyhow, here in this Reality, it is my job, and that of my replicoid, to guide you through your life. We had planned that you would be the Earthling who could successfully inform the people of Earth about the existence of the Overseers."

Somehow Stanley knew that Weena, or Edweena, was telling him the truth. "You found an odd way guide me."

"For safety, in order to avoid the notice of Overseers, it is best for me not to be in close contact with you. My replicoid could do most of the required guiding of your behavior by means of a direct connection to your brain."

Stanley felt a chill. Sometimes he imagined that he could hear a voice in his head, but he had always ignored that sensation. "He is in my brain? Controlling my thoughts?"

"Almost. You might as well call my replicoid a "she", although replicoids are non-biological artificial lifeforms. She used the Bimanoid Interface to transmit information, entire thoughts and concepts into your mind. You are genetically predisposed to efficiently use the Interface; that's why you were selected by the Interventionists. They had hoped that I could keep you from running afoul of the Overseers, but I failed. Tell me something, Stanley, how did you come to write a story about hierions?"

Stanley tried to think back to the origins of his "Orbital Electronics" story. "Last year I was thinking about protons and electrons and I realized that I could write a story about a fictional constituent of atoms, imaginary subatomic particles that would be discovered in the future. I made a whimsical table of atomic particles, similar to a table of the elements. There were many types of particles in the various rows of my table of subatomic particles. One of these imaginary particles I called the "hierion". About a month ago, when I started writing the story that became "Orbital Electronics", I decided that my radio relay stations would make use of special hierion circuits, not simply electrical circuits."
1923 in the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by Howard V. Brown
Also see this.

"I see. Unfortunately, something went wrong. When I (the original me, Edweena) was taken off of Earth, I learned about physics and there really is a particle with properties like your imaginary hierion. And the Overseers don't want Earthlings to know about hierions. Your story about hierions must never be published and now we have to worry about the possibility that you will be removed from Earth, just as Edweena was."

"You expect me to believe that these mysterious Overseers are after me?"

Winúŋna pointed to the glove compartment, "Look in there."

Stanley popped open the little storage compartment and pulled out a copy of Science and Invention magazine. The cover story was his own "Orbital Electronics". He flipped through the pages of the magazine to the story and confirmed that it was printed as he had written it, hierion circuits and all. He muttered, "This is the issue that will be printed three months from now."

Winúŋna nodded and pointed to the magazine. "That magazine is a warning from the future. I brought it back in time to show you what we must prevent from happening. If your story is printed, in the way you first wrote it, then the Overseers will remove you from Earth and take other corrective action. They will also discover my connection to you, and my value as an Interventionist agent will be terminated. No, we'll have to change the story; go back in time and mail a slightly different version to the editor."

"You can do that?" Stanley objected, "But wait. If all this mumbo-jumbo about time travel is true, then these Overseers must already know the future, just as you do."

Winúŋna sighed. "It is complicated. We humans, Interventionists like myself and even the Overseers do not have access to time travel technology. What I mean is, we humans don't control the time machines. I was sent into the future by my boss so that I could retrieve this magazine. Don't worry about the details. The important point is that we now have an opportunity to take corrective actions, before the Overseers find out about your accidental discovery of hierions."

Stanley put the magazine back into the glove compartment then he got out of the car. He walked slowly across the field. Winúŋna caught up to him and they walked together. Stanley asked, "Strangely, I'm not surprised by anything you have told me."

Winúŋna explained, "My replicoid has previously fed all of this information, all that I just told you, into your subconscious mind."

"So you can make me believe anything?"

Winúŋna laughed. "Well, almost. You are well enough trained in science to resist absolute nonsense."

"But how can I trust you? You Interventionists seem to be in conflict with the Overseers. Maybe they are right... maybe you should not be here on Earth, messing around with my life."

She stopped walking and pulled Stanley around to face her. She now held onto both of his hands. "No. We Interventionists have an important mission here on Earth. We must make it possible for the people of Earth to become aware of the existence of the Overseers and how the course of civilization, how human evolution itself, has been shaped by alien creatures from distant worlds."

Again Stanley had a powerful sense of déjà vu, as if he knew what she would say and then after he heard her words he felt that they were true, or at least, that she believed in her Interventionist cause. Stanley leaned forward and kissed her briefly on the mouth. She put her arms around him and whispered in his ear, "I knew you would kiss me."

They walked hand-in-hand back to her car. She started driving them back towards the city. Madison was still small, less than 40,000 residents, and the university was out on the rural west side of town. And now they seemed to be heading south. He asked, "So, you have been to the future and already seen everything that we will do?"

She shrugged. "Not quite. There is another technology, a viewing technology, that allows us to see into new Realities before they come into existence. As soon as I showed you that magazine from the future, my actions changed the future. My boss has already viewed the possible new Realities and warned me about your likely actions and how the future would change."

"Yes, your mysterious boss. You just follow orders?"

Winúŋna shook her head. "I volunteered for this mission. I believe in the Interventionist cause." She did not retrace the path back to the university.

Stanley was now certain that they were not returning the way they had come from the university, but still, he seemed to know where they were going. In his mind's eye, it was almost a memory... but wasn't a memory of the future called a vision? He asked, "Can your replicoid also tell me about the future? Make me see events that will happen in the future?"

Winúŋna shrugged and asked, "Did you see something?" She made turn and they passed a sign: Forest Hill Cemetery.

Stanley tried to put the mysterious flash of vision that he had experienced into words. "I can see a place where I have never been. You are there and we are happy. In my vision of the future, I think we just made love."

Winúŋna blushed. "You're good. I was not sure that your access to the Bimanoid Interface would allow you to have conscious awareness of the future." Removing one hand from the wheel, she reached out and took hold of his hand. "Do you want to love me?"

"I wanted to be with you from that first day we met. I've spent the past five years wishing I had not lost you."

Winúŋna turned down a long driveway. "Well, it sounds like even your memory of how we met has been reshaped by my replicoid. I asked you to stay with me that first night and you ran off." She pulled into the garage of a large house and the garage door automatically closed. The garage was huge and contained a well-equipped mechanic's workshop.

Stanley climbed out and asked, "Did you build this car?"

She ran her fingers over the fender of the Mellon 2, then pointed to the far end of the garage. "There's the old "Mellon 1", the first car I made. You see, I'm an expert at assembling more than just radio sets."

Stanley mused, "Ya, you assembled my entire life." He asked, "Did you really try to seduce me that first day when we met?"

She nodded. "My boss had advised me to flirt with you. It wasn't easy."

"Why not?"

"Our age difference was a problem. I was sixty years old and you were just a kid."

"I sure didn't know that you were an old woman. I think I was in love with you by the time I got back in my car and drove off into the night."

"Well, my Winúŋna body was only a few years older than you. At that time, I'd already been watching you for a year and I was growing fond of you. Still, I couldn't stop thinking of you as a little kid who I was taking advantage of and manipulating."

"So your boss is some kind of match-maker with a time machine?"

"That's one way to describe the situation." She had slowly walked around to his side of the car. Now she took his hand and said, "Then I watched you for six more years. I watched you start to take girls on dates. I was surprised that you never got serious about any of your little girl friends."

"They never could measure up to you, either in height or intellect. Had I known that my 'Weena' was a sixty-year-old secret agent disguised as a twenty-year-old, I might not have compared other girls to my memory of you." He paused and remembered the book that she had given him back in 1917. "And I've never forgotten the way you used the term 'science fiction' to describe the kind of story that I love. I'm sorry I lost your book."

"Well, that book of mine was never really published. It was just bait that I used to attract you and direct you towards writing science fiction. As a genre, science fiction is still coming into existence. I couldn't leave that book in circulation, so I took it back the same day when I took back that radio set. The price I charged for that radio set was so low because it was only on loan to you for a few months. I could not risk someone cutting open that radio and seeing transistors inside; circuit elements that have not yet been invented. Nor could I risk anyone but you seeing my book about a literary genre that did not yet exist."

"I knew there was something oddly magical about you, but I never questioned your miraculous abilities, not even your alien accent."

"Well, I suppose nothing was left to chance. I still prefer using the old English accent that I grew up speaking as a little girl back in England in the 1800s. Nobody else in the world still speaks that way... at least not the 20th century girls growing up in Kentucky that you are likely to meet."

"I love the way you talk. In fact, I love everything about you."

Fictional Chemistry by Cisco9630 (source)
"That's wonderful, Stanley, and I love to hear you say it, but please realize: our mutual infatuation is not natural. The emotional chemistry that pulls us together was carefully created, manufactured and assembled. I was made to fall in love with you so that I would watch over you carefully and obsessively for years, even decades. My replicoid shaped your emotions and so, you want me, you desire me. I suppose it was my replicoid that looked inside your mind and discovered the image of your ideal fantasy woman."

Stanley mused, "... your changing face..."

She explained, "As an Interventionist agent, I have the ability to reshape my facial features and voice using nanotechnology. I was artificially morphed and crafted into a replica of your ideal fantasy sex goddess. Similarly, I suppose my boss took control of your biological growth and development and made you into the man that you are, someone I can't help view as a desirable mate."

They were still holding hands and she raised his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles. She took him inside and showed him around her home. It was quite warm in the house, so when Stanley started to sweat she hung up their coats in a hallway closet. She first showed Stanley her large basement electronics workshop, but even her first floor living spaces were also full of strange and wonderful devices, including various electrical appliances, including a dishwasher in the kitchen. She explained, "I've seen the future. If I have to live here in the past, I want all of the available conveniences, even if I have to build them myself."

Their tour of the house had ended at the back. The entire back end of the house was mostly large windows, with a beautiful view out over Lake Wingra.

Stanley put his hands on her shoulders, pulled her close and half kissed her lips and half nibbled one. He glanced towards the stairway that led up to the second floor. "Are you going to show me your bedroom?"

She asked, "Don't you have a quiz to take in your next class?"

He did have another class scheduled that day and contemplation of Winúŋna's question brought him back down from the silvery clouds of his soaring emotions and allowed Stanley to stop thinking only of his vision of laying in bed with Weena. He did not care if he missed the quiz. Now that he understood who Weena was, he did not even care if he graduated from college. The course of his life had been derailed.

He said, "Hold on. Stay right here, my love." He ran back to the garage and pulled the copy of Science and Invention out of the Mellon 2. He walked back into the house while flipping the pages of the magazine and reading. He hardly noticed that Weena was gone. The house was now filled with music, some kind of slow, sultry jazz, playing through a set of hidden speakers.

Stanley was completely engrossed in the magazine. He discovered that the text of his story had been changed! He read the entire story, which had now been slightly modified in its details. There was no more mention of "hierion circuits". Instead, the story now included something called "positronic circuits". The cover of the magazine and the title of his story were slightly different: now the story was called "Orbital Positronics". Stanley saw Winúŋna descending the stairs, now dressed in a transparent, silky robe that fluttered and flashed around her lovely body. Once again her face looked like the Weena he had met six years ago, with high cheek bones and full, pouting lips. Stanley waved the magazine at her, "My story changed."

She took the magazine and tossed it aside. She took his hand and led him upstairs. "My mission has almost been accomplished. This new version of the story still has one problem, but the crisis has been averted. The Overseers are much less likely to care about positrons than hierions." She led him into her bedroom and started undressing Stanley.

The bedroom was particularly warm. Stanley ran his fingers through her silky hair and asked, "What is it with you and heat?"

"I don't send much blood to my extremities." She placed a hand on his genitals and asked, "You wouldn't want me to have cold hands, would you?"

He was intrigued by the way she had altered her facial features, but her voice and odd accent were unmistakably those of Weena. He ran a finger across her right cheek and kissed her nose. She was a beautiful sight, but he could not get her words to stop echoing in his mind. "What's wrong with the story now? The modified version reads even better than the original."

She pushed him onto the big bed and impatiently put her hands on her hips. "Are you going to make me explain everything now? I'll make this quick." While she spoke she started letting her robe slip seductively off of her shoulders. "Unfortunately, 'positrons' will become part of Earthly physics in a few more years. If we allow your 1923 story to mention positronics, that will draw too much attention to you... and to me." She lifted one leg up and clear of the clinging, silky robe then spun herself around, showing off her body. "Now, do you want to talk about physics or can we do some hands-on biology experiments?" She let her silky robe slide off of her second leg to the floor and she climbed onto the bed.

Stanley assured her, "You are much more interesting than physics." They both quickly became busy with their experiments and no more discussions of physics took place the rest of that day. Their biology experiments were all successful.

The next day, Stanley woke up at 6:00 AM, as usual. He found Weena laying beside him, watching him. He reached out and caressed her smooth hip. She responded eagerly and they made love one more time. Then when she had enjoyed her last orgasm, she was still sitting on top of him and she said, "Now comes the hard part."

The lighting in the room was very low, but he could tell she was crying quietly. "What's wrong?"

"I was given 24 hours. Now I have to go back and change your story, again. Last time, I let you re-write it and I got in trouble with my boss."

Stanley looked at the clock and saw it was just a few minutes before 7:00. Realizing that Earth's timeline was going to be altered again, he said, "And this time, after you make the Reality change, there will be no need for you to buy me breakfast."

She nodded and tears fell from her face onto his chest. "And all of the past day, our magical day together, will be lost in Deep Time, written over by a new Reality, a whole new timeline."

"But you will be watching." There was hope that they could meet again! He suggested,  "You'll be waiting for me to make another mistake and then you-"

"No!" She shouted and then climbed off the bed. She started dressing. "We might meet again, or we might never meet again. Promise me that you will stop comparing everyone you meet to me. Get married, live your life with some sweet little girl..."

Stanley got up and wrapped his arms around her. "I can't let you go again. Not now. I want you, not some other girl."

She shook her head and kissed him one last time. "You can't have me. You can only have a memory of me, from that first day. I'm your muse, Stanley."

He objected, "Then why allow us this day together, this wonderful day and night that we just shared? " The clock now showed that it was after seven. When had he first seen her? It could only have been a few minutes past seven.

She gazed into his eyes and let a sly little grin bend her lips. "Because I will remember our day together. It is my punishment. I'll be outside of Time when the next Reality Change takes place, so I'll keep my memories of this Reality. And because of the joy we hared this day, I'll always be watching you, intently, hoping that you will make another mistake that I can correct. If you do, I'll get another day with you. So, you see, this has been for me; you'll forget holding me in your arms and loving me. This is just insurance that I will do my job of watching over you." And then she vanished. She had been warm and soft in his arms, then the next instant she was gone. She'd been sent off by her boss to complete her time travel mission and erase their perfect day together.

____________________________________________

crafting the Trysta-Grean Pact
In the Asimov Reality, the Edweena replicoid, existing within the Hierion Domain, collected the memories of Edweena Lynn Arnold (who was the analogue of a man named Edwin Lester Arnold in the Final Reality). In the Asimov Reality, from 1905 -1910, the Edwin analogue (Edweena) published several stories and one novel about the Overseers, which attracted Overseer attention, but under the terms of the Trysta Truce, no corrective action was taken. The term "Overseer" entered into the literature of the science fiction genre, but was otherwise ignored. The Edweena replicoid was sent into the Ekcolir Reality by R. Gohrlay and by working together with Winúŋna, Stanley (the analogue of Stanley Grauman Weinbaum in the Final Reality) was carefully guided towards writing stories about the Overseers of Earth. Under the Trysta-Grean Pact, Stanley's stories about Overseers were eventually deemed to constitute a violation of the terms of the Pact, and in the Buld Reality, the analogue of Stanley was not allowed to write any stories about either positronics or the Overseers. Writing those kinds of stories was a task that was given to other writers in the Buld Reality.

Next: retro-reading - fictional drugs in 1929.

Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.